Monday, 29 September 2008


I got hot in Sedona–cast my eyes 20 miles north to the Mogollion rim (7000 ft) and 20 miles south to Mingus mountain (7,500 ft)–chose to go south, heeding my own poetic advice about cool:
Where the Cool Is

To all who sizzle at a hundred three,
Come to the mountains and camp with me.
See on your road map the color green
Shows the mountains cool and clean.
For every thousand feet you climb,
Four degrees are left behind.
Keep on climbing and it’s for sure,
You’ll find the perfect temperature
Somewhere between the heat below
And the chill of mountain snow.
Find a spot near aspen trees;
Let God cool you with his breeze.

I paused to appreciate again the premier ghost town of Jerome, a superbly preserved mining town of 450 artist, shopkeepers, restauranteurs and lost souls built on the side of a steep mountain. Every house has a 40 mile view of Verde valley. Once 15,000 people lived here mining the richest vein of copper in the world. How rich was it? A hundred pounds of ore yielded one pound of copper. That’s 48 times richer than copper mines currently operating. Not surprisingly, most of the copper needed for wwII came from here.

I engaged a lost soul, (once prosperous lawyer, got ill, lost everything, now living in his van) got the story—and a bonus–a tip for a terrific camping spot just out of town. So great was it that I stayed 2 nights. The mine Manager came by got charmed by the stealth camper and stayed awhile to give me the facts quoted above. He lives in the house visible across the way. Great view!

Still a bit warm Wednesday, 9/24/08, I decided to go to the top of the mountain at 7,500 ft. Scenic drive up with something over 1000 curves. (locals tell this with pride) Quizzed a trucker enroute who told me where the “magic spot” was. I settled in near the 20 or so transmission towers “invisible to all” and I’ve been here 5 nights in forbidden comfort with 5 bar reception.

4 days in, I got to see a hang glider leap into space and amazingly rise up to 10,000 ft on thermals. Two different types of gliders launch here as the picts show.

Thursday, 25 September 2008


What Branson, Mo is to country music, Sedona, Az is to the new age movement. The physical environment is spectacularly beautiful and the emotional ambiance almost equals it. Goodwill, peace and optimism are in the air. Everyone seems agreed: a good thing is happening here!

I settled myself more or less downtown in a tire store parking lot. (closed sat nite and all day Sunday–perfect. Weekends are especially easy for stealthy campers)

Met a beautiful lady in a bookstore and ended up spending the afternoon and part of the night with her in a conversational marathon. Later, I’ll do an essay on this remarkable exchange because something important is illustrated.

Downtown Sunday I engaged all sorts of people on all sorts of subjects. Talked real estate with a speculator.(house prices range from 1 to 2 million–but are now down 25%) Talked new age doctrine with a shopkeeper, art with a gallery owner. Especially enjoyed the statues scattered around town–the best municipal offering I’ve ever seen. (if only Diana were here to take a decent picture of them) The statue of Sacajewea roused me to lust.

Sedona became a new age Mecca in a self-reinforcing spiral of popularity like Branson.

Here in Summary is what New Age religion is about: It is a mixture of numerous religious and philosophical ideas–an emotional response to inadequacies of secular culture and discontent with traditional religion. (Happily) It has no holy text, central organization, membership, formal clergy, dogma or creed. It’s a free-flowing spiritual movement–a network of believers and practitioners sharing somewhat similar beliefs and practices. It does not threaten our liberty like Christianity does.

Especially in turbulent times, people head for two extremes: fundamentalism and personal spiritual experiences. New agers tend to cluster around metaphysical book stores and spiritual teachers. Here’s some relevant statistics:

8% of Americans believe in Astrology
7% believe crystals help healing
9% believe tarot cards are a reliable base for life decisions.
25% believe in a non-traditional concept of God
3% believe that each person IS God
20% of religious believers are new agers–the third largest religious group

As you can see–we’re talking millions of people. They are nicer than Bible thumpers and represent a counterbalance to them. They will help save us from theocracy.

Here are some of their core beliefs:

Monism: All that exist is derived from a single source of divine energy.
Pantheism: All that exist is God. (so seek God within yourself)
Panentheism: All that exist is God but He also transcends the cosmos
Reincarnation: rebirth after death in a series of lives
Karma: What goes ‘round comes ‘round. Cosmic balance of action and consequence
Aura: A field of force emanating from our body
Personal transformation through certain practices–eventually planet wide transformation.
Special Spiritual places–energy vortexes etc.
Ecological responsibility
Universal religion: like many paths up one mountain
New World order working against disease, hunger, poverty, pollution

And here is what they do:

Channeling: evoking dead people
Meditation–various types of “sit down and shut up”
Divination: foretelling the future
Holistic health practices
Human Potential movement–Seminars etc

In summary, New Age religion is Hinduism with a twist of lime. Of all the religious people these are the most nearly harmless. Since they have no authoritative text, they do not inhibit the natural evolution of ethics. They have a childlike belief in what amount to magic, but they have made real contributions to human well being through practices like meditation, holistic health and through assorted human potential practices. They live and let live–they evolve–I like em!

Sunday, 21 September 2008


Meet Tom, a very interesting Irishman that I met in a field of flowers brightening the high country above Sedona, Az. After traveling around the world, literally, he was drawn toward the spiritual life and not surprisingly toward Sedona. Giving Hawiian massages pays his expenses. We ate a meal together and talked several hours. I asked about growing up in Ireland, about the Irish Republican Army etc. He told me that during that protracted conflict there was no civilian crime to speak of. Malefactors were dealt with swiftly and fiercely by this secret force. I detected some pride in their proficiency, eventually forcing a power sharing settlement.

He was equally proud of Irelands writers, poets, dancers and music. They have indeed charmed the world. He too writes poetry and we exchanged a few verses as we walked the nearby woods.

And yes, he does look a bit like Fabio and knows it. I quizzed him gently about his new age experiences and was pleased at his humility. I find new agers so much more pleasant than fundamentalist.

Thursday, 11 September 2008


When Quizzed by the preacher he stuttered, stumbled then said the question was above his pay grade. It is not above mine! The question he was really asking was: WHEN, IF EVER , IS IT OK TO TERMINATE A PREGNANCY?
Having studied theology, biology and ethics I composed this answer which was published on the front page of The Santa Fe New Mexican, July 31,1994. Here's a summary of the article entitled:


Hidden beneath the abortion and euthanasia debate is a value judgment society is being forced to make: Does human life “pop” or “taper” into significance? Does it “pop” or taper out of significance. Oddly, the welfare of humanity hinges on our choice.

Under the pop theory, human life springs into full significance at conception and retains full importance until the instant of death. The “pop” group wants us to treat with equal respect and resources the newly fertilized egg, the newborn baby, the full grown adult and those very near death. The “pop” group are pro-lifers. They believe a fertilized egg, smaller than a dot, should never be destroyed, not for rape, incest, deformity, inconvenience or population control. This is like believing that acorns are as important as oak trees. Forbidding all abortions, they would spend millions of tax dollars on deformed babies and the comatose dying, depriving the broad middle of humanity of medical care. Preserving that dot of human tissue is more important to them than the good of the world. They would likewise forbid doctor assisted suicide regardless of the patients wishes or suffering. They are wild extremist. They will wreck our world if we let them.

The “taper” group holds thatl LIFE TAPERS INTO AND OUT OF SIGNIFICANCE; that an acorn is not as important as an oak tree. Both human and oak life grow gradually into significance through a long series of organic steps–A newly fertilized egg is not as important as a 27 week old fetus. Likewise, we should not spend as much on folks near death as on our children.

The taper group believes in LIMITS OF EXPENDABILITY–points beyond which even human life is expendable for the greater good. Most societies have limits of expendability whether they acknowledge it or not. Poor societies tend to have narrow limits and wealthy ones broader limits. Nomadic tribes, for example, will abandon anyone permanently crippled. (Often respectfully and with food and thorn fences for protection, but left to die none the less)
wealthy societies can afford much broader limits, caring for the mentally and physically challenged.

What no society can afford, however, is to totally abolish ALL limits of expendability. We cannot afford to extend full legal and resource protection to the infinitesimal extremities of life. Medical cost skyrocket at the extremities of life. We will quickly bankrupt the nation and overpopulate the earth. We cannot take seriously the pro life position that all human life is equally important. Their position is cruel, fanatical, unrealistic and destructive.

So what should be our society”s limit of expendability? The current limit for oak trees is is five inches in diameter (city ordinance–Tampa Fla) and for human embryos up to 26 weeks development. Beyond these points, society prohibits the destruction of oaks or embryos because it offends our sensibilities.

26 weeks is admittedly a somewhat arbitrary limit. Why not 25 or 27. Perhaps that is when an embryo is potentially viable outside the womb. Nevertheless it is an arbitrary line AND OUR SOCIETY WAS COURAGEOUS TO HAVE DRAWN IT!

We have not similarly established limits of expendability for dying and suffering people. Our failure to do so is causing enormous waste and pain. Almost a third of our medical expenditure is for end-game treatment. Our children and working citizens are outrageously neglected by this crazy misallocation of resources. The health care industry profiteers on our sentimentality.

America must draw a line at the south end of human life as we have done at the north. We must boldly establish limits of expendability–limits that are as fair and humane as we can afford.

To those who shrink from drawing lines, I point out that ESTABLISHING CLEAR BUT SOMEWHAT ARBITRARY LIMITS IS WHAT DEFINES A CIVILIZATION. How fast shall we drive on the interstate? Why not 69 or 71? How much theft shall constitute a felony? At what age shall we allow the vote, marriage or consumption of alcohol? These limits are societies “best guesses”. They are all somewhat arbitrary, but absolutely necessary. We must guess, draw lines, set limits. The alternative is chaos.

Often we reset the limits as when we increased the speed limit. We might yet move the abortion limit back to 22 weeks or so. But to move it back to zero as the pro lifers advocate would be dangerous and cruel sentimentality.

Fanaticism, idealism or sentimentalism can wreck a nation. Fanaticism is wrecking Iran, Idealism wrecked the Soviet Union. I fear sentimentalism may wreck America.

CHALLENGE TO PRO LIFERS: Here's a question no pro lifer on earth can answer honestly :

Suppose a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic and you have only enough time to save a 6 year old child or a petri dish containing 10 fertilized eggs. Which would you save? (yeah--I thought so--
you really do believe that life TAPERS into significence)

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

App stores and APIs: It's the ecosystem, stupid

If you make a web application or mobile platform, one of the trendiest things you can do is add APIs and a software marketplace to it so developers will extend your product. Google is previewing its application market for Android (link), T-Mobile USA has promised a new applications store for its phones (link), and many people I've spoken with believe Microsoft bought Danger in order to get its software store technology.

The idea of encouraging third party developers dates back at least to the early days of MS-DOS, but it was associated mostly with operating systems until Web 2.0 applications took off a few years ago. Google played a big role in that change, by exposing APIs to Google Maps that made it possible to embed maps in other web applications. That helped Google Maps quickly blow past established mapping services like Mapquest, while the installed base of Google Maps extensions made it hard for Microsoft's web mapping product to gain traction.

The drive for web APIs got another big boost when Facebook enabled developers to extend its functionality, driving an explosion of widgets for Facebook that helped it grow past MySpace to become the #1 social network in the US (at least according to Alexa).

The web app people all noticed Google's and Facebook's success and furiously started adding APIs to their products. Today it's unusual to hear about a new web app that doesn't have some sort of API story or future plan to add them.

In mobile, applications have an interesting history. Lately some new mobile players have generated huge attention for their application marketplaces. The chart below shows the one year growth in the developer base for a certain well-known mobile platform:

If you're like most people in Silicon Valley, you probably think that's an Apple iPhone developer chart. But actually it's Palm OS ten years ago, from 1998 to 1999.

Disturbing, isn't it? The idea that a platform could take off like that and then crash and burn...makes you wonder if the same thing could happen to the platforms that are popular today.

And in fact, if you look at the history of APIs on both mobiles and web apps, the failures are more numerous than the successes. If you're a developer trying to pick the right platform to create your apps on, that choice is very dangerous -- you're betting the success of your company on something that has a better than 50-50 chance of failing.

If you work at a web or mobile company creating APIs or an app store, the news is equally disturbing: The odds are that you won't succeed.

So it's very important to look at the history of those failed platforms, to figure out what goes wrong and how to avoid it. When you do that, the answer is pretty clear:

It's the ecosystem, stupid

The success of a developer program is not driven just by the beauty of the APIs or the store, but by how the overall ecosystem works to enable developers to prosper. The two parts of the ecosystem that are most important to developers are the ability to create something cool, and the ability to make money. Coolness gets developers to try your platform in the first place. Most developers, especially the innovative new ones, gravitate to a platform that lets them easily create something cool that will impress their friends. But as those developers get older and more responsible, they eventually get tired of drinking lemon drops with Mark Cuban (link). They need to pay rent, buy food, and do other things that require money. If they can't make money from a platform, they will move away to the next one. So the financials are what makes developers stick around over time.

If the ecosystem breaks down anywhere in the chain, the developer community will eventually collapse. You can see this in process driving the history of some prominent web and mobile platforms:

Facebook. Earlier I said Facebook apps were a success because they helped the company grow. That's definitely true from Facebook's short-term perspective, but if you talk to Facebook developers the story is much more mixed. Some people online say there are lots of ways to monetize Facebook apps (link), but other reports say it's difficult to actually make the revenue come in (link). The online attitude toward this when Facebook's platform launched in 2007 was pretty dismissive. One commentator wrote (link):

The problem of not making money with your app is not a Facebook problem. It's your problem!

That's the right attitude for a developer to take: Control your own destiny. But monetization becomes a Facebook problem if nobody can make money. Developers poured into the Facebook platform like the tide in the Bay of Fundy, but a lot of them couldn't make money and promptly poured back out. I can tell you from personal experience that some are pretty bitter and unlikely to do anything with Facebook again.

Mobile Java's problem was that it's not a real platform. Handset vendors and operators were allowed to break compatibility between their implementations of Java, forcing developers to tweak their java apps almost endlessly, dramatically raising their costs and making it hard to scale their companies. The selling model for Java apps was also seriously broken -- to get prominent placement on a phone, developers often had to cut special deals with carriers. Some of the most successful mobile Java game developers have survived because they're great deal-makers; they figure out how to develop for a big brand that wants to create a mobile presence, or they hook into the promotion of a movie. This business model favors a few companies with the skill and contacts to cut the deals; the current mobile Java world is not an ecosystem that can support huge numbers of developers.

Palm and Windows Mobile both succeeded at first in enabling developers to create a lot of interesting applications. Although both operating systems had technical flaws, they were reasonably open to any developer, and the "write once run anywhere" idea mostly worked. Unfortunately, the marketing and sales model for those applications started out mediocre and got worse over time. There was no software store on device, so users had to go out on the web to find apps. This cut the number of people looking for applications. Those who did look online usually landed in the mobile application stores, which over time took a larger and larger share of the developer's revenue. Eventually, the stores' cut grew to more than 50% of revenue, making development uneconomical for many companies. When sales of Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices failed to grow rapidly, the financial model for many developers fell apart, and the ecosystems faded.

What to look for in an ecosystem

If you're a developer looking to find a viable ecosystem, or a platform vendor looking to build one, here are the things to look for.

How easy is it for developers to create something cool? How powerful are the APIs? Can the platform be programmed using standard development tools? Eclipse seems to be the preferred platform among much of the web app crowd, and it's free.

Is the platform programmed in a language that's obscure or difficult to use? This has long been one of the big barriers to Symbian native app development.

How do applications get visibility? Is the store displayed at the first level of the smartphone? How easy is it for users to navigate the store? Online stores like Handango are notoriously hard to navigate; the user experience is about like walking through a flea market.

Can good apps rise to the top? In some software stores, the developer has to pay for prominent placement on the store. This is incredibly corrosive to the ecosystem. The big software companies with money to pay for placement are often the least innovative. So users see an app prominently featured, try it, are disappointed, and never try another one. If web search worked this way, there's a good chance that the web as we know it would never have developed. The practice of pay for placement is a self-defeating, regressive tax -- it penalizes most the small developers who are most likely to create compelling new apps that make a platform more successful.

Ideally, placement on the store should be based on independent user reviews, so the best new apps can rise to the top naturally.

What are the terms of business? Can a developer bill for an app through the user's phone bill? Forcing people to input their credit cards separately slows adoption of software. Can the developer choose different forms of payment? Developers should be enabled to experiment with freeware and subscription payment systems, just as they do on the web. How much of the developer's revenue does the store keep? The ideal cut is no more than 20%.

Are there restrictions on the application's functionality? This is a sore point for iPhone developers. Apple won't allow intermediate platforms that run other applications. So no Java, no Flash, and no emulators like StyleTap's Palm OS emulator (link). This also inhibits other developers who want to expose APIs within their applications.

What is the overhead for security? Some platforms require applications to pay for a new security certificate every time the app is revised. The cost is typically a few hundred dollars, which doesn't sound like much to a big operator or OS company, but is a huge burden to a small company with several apps. They're basically punished every time they fix a bug, which is very unwise -- you want developers to fix bugs instantly, because that increases user satisfaction and reduces support calls. Basic security certificates can and should be issued automatically by the software store, at no charge.

How big is the user base? This will be a more and more important issue over time. For a developer, the ideal platform would let them sell to the whole base of mobile phone users, not just one brand or model.

Room for improvement

Based on those tests, no mobile platform offers an ideal ecosystem today. Apple probably comes closest at the moment. Here's how I'd grade it:

--Power: A-. The iPhone APIs give developers a huge amount of power, and there was a lot of delighted commentary on the web when the APIs were first revealed. But there is a learning curve for iPhone development; Apple has its own tools and its own variant version of C. And support for some typical OS features (such as cut and paste) is missing.

--Store: A-. The store is built into the device prominently, so apps are easier to discover. And there is a user-driven rating system. Developers can bill through Apple's iTunes system; not as convenient as billing through the carrier, but not bad. Apple takes 30% of revenue, which is not ideal, but is better than the 50% or more cut that burdens mobile app developers elsewhere.

--Terms: C+. There are significant, ambiguous restrictions on what a developer can do on the iPhone. The most onerous terms restrict the ability of developers to add functionality to applications and create software that run other applications. The terms cause a lot of confusion among developers; I'm on a mailing list for iPhone developers where they have been trying to figure out whether they can download content to an iPhone app. The answer: it's unclear as to whether content is a form of functionality, and you should ask Apple's lawyers. That is an incredibly intimidating message to app developers. It feels far too much like doing business with the operators.

--User base: Incomplete. It's relatively straightforward to make money from iPhone apps today because the number of developers is still relatively low. But over time, I think it's unlikely that Apple will be able to grow its user base at the same rate as the developer base is growing. If that happens, life will get much less pleasant for iPhone developers.

The ideal mobile app ecosystem would have the API power of the iPhone and the discovery experience of the iPhone store, coupled with business terms that allow add-on APIs like Flash, Java and Google Gears, all working across a much larger base of devices.

What it all means

If you're a software developer and some platform vendor or web company comes around evangelizing their software store or their APIs, you should evaluate the overall ecosystem they're providing, not just the store or APIs alone. If they haven't thought through issues like billing and discovery, it's a big warning sign.

If you work for a platform or web app company that wants to create a developer community, you need to plan the whole ecosystem and make sure it'll all work. This is especially important for a mobile company that wants to compete with the iPhone store. The way to fight iPhone for developers is to create a superior ecosystem. Apple's weak point is the business and technical restrictions on its developers, and the limited reach of the iPhone APIs. If another vendor -- say, Nokia or Google or Microsoft -- can pair a great store and powerful development with more openness and broader reach, they might be able to give Apple some serious competition. Elia Freedman had some good suggestions on ways to start (link).


PS: Thanks to MobHappy for including my post on smartphone share in the Carnival of the Mobilists (link).

Friday, 5 September 2008



I'm pleased to share this opinion with Emerson and some mornings I wake up spoiling for a fight. The most legitimate enemy I know are religious leaders. So I went looking for a deserving offender. I do not tamper with feeble and tender minded religious folks, they are just “users” and victims of indoctrination. I go after the “pushers” and big time “dealers” of this addictive poison—preachers and seminary professors. I load my intellectual shotgun with my “seven deadly questions” and go hunting. I will use birdshot if I can but buckshot if I must to tell them that they propagate great evil and cruelty.

It is they (and the Republican party) who want to force a rape victim to bear an unwanted child.

It is they who refuse to take their children to the doctor. (Christian Scientist)

It is they who who forbid reasonable birth control and divorce, and discriminate against women and homosexuals. (Catholicism)

It is they who refuse to serve in the army and who will let their children die rather than allow a blood transfusion. (Jehovas Witness)

It is they who want to put creationism in our science classes and religion in our classrooms. (Evangelicals)

It is they who spawned the evils of polygamy and made women subservient to men.(Mormons)

The list is long. I could continue but you get the idea. Most of these religious hucksters go through life unchallenged. Now the 20% of Americans that reject religious cruelty and nonsense are making themselves heard in books such as The End of Faith and Letter to A Christian Nation both by Sam Harris and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. (incidentally Dawkins is on the list of the 100 greatest thinkers—No religious people made the list)

In short order I found my man–he’s pictured above. A small town minister of a Baptist church and with the guile and subtlety of a serpent I maneuvered myself into his office. He is not innocent and I feel no qualms about blindsiding him. I begin the questioning:

1. If you were raised in a Muslim culture by Muslim parents is it likely that you would be a
Muslim, believing different doctrines, ethics and Holy Book? (He lied–said no)
2. Is it true that children are gullible and easy to indoctrinate? (He dissembled)
3. Once indoctrinated, Is it generally difficult to persuade a person to abandon his faith?
(He admitted this)
4. Do conflicting doctrines and religions contribute to world tensions? (He admitted this)
5. Does everyone owe it to themselves to question their childhood indoctrination? (he said yes)
6. If they seriously did so, could ANY of their doctrines be proven? (He waffled–the correct
Answer is no)
7. Do you wish that all those “false religions “ would stop indoctrinating their children? (He
Saw the trap–He said no. “That would be a double edged sword” he said. I smiled–NOW
He Understood the nature of this interview and began a slight tremble. I love this moment.
Christians are rarely challenged on the fundamentals of their faith. Confronted with the real possibility that they have bet "big money" on the wrong horse, they get the shakes.

As a final haymaker I gave him just one of 240 Biblical contradictions (1 Chronicles 21:1 vs 2 Samuel 24:1---Who incited David?) He refused to deal with it. His attitude is the same as the whole evangelical world: "God said it. I believe it. That settles it.

I left shortly afterward, confident that I would be in Sunday’s sermon.
I take this occasion to briefly state my own views.
1. NO ONE knows any ultimate answers to life’s mystery. We’re all guessing. Little harm would be done if we all ADMITTED we were guessing–and compared guesses.
2. All major religions pretend to have access to CERTAINTY. They claim to have messages from God –revelations–Holy Books–Prophets etc. It is the clash of these certainties that create so much hatred, tension and obstruction to progress.
3. Pretentions to MORAL certainty causes religions to interfere with ETHICAL EVOLUTION. Ethics is the slowly changing FABRIC OF AGREEMENT. We have seen the “agreement” change in our lifetime.
4. A redefinition of “spirituality” and “faith” is quietly taking hold. For example:
Spirituality—loss of ego
Faith–trusting your own deepest convictions. I like both of these.
5. We can have community, ritual, moral values and human progress without believing in messages from God.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Conference time

I'll be doing the Grande Tour des Conferences in the San Francisco area next week. Let me know if you'll be in town and want to meet. My contact info is here.

On Monday, I'm speaking at Mobile Web Megatrends in Berkeley. My topics are:

Mobile data: Convergence or divergence?
The press is predicting a clash of the titans as Apple, Google, Nokia, and a host of other players all try to dominate the smartphone market. How is the battle likely to turn out? Will one company dominate the market? And where should a mobile app developer invest?


Apps for mobile devices - What happens next?
Apple's iPhone app store is getting a lot of publicity, and some industry players, such as TMobile USA, are rumored to be working on something similar. What's the future of mobile applications? Will the market grow explosively? What are the barriers to growth? Can a competitor beat the iPhone app store, or is everyone just going to play catch-up?

The speaker lineup is interesting, and I'm looking forward to it.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be at the Tech Crunch conference in San Francisco (not speaking there, just taking notes). On Thursday it's CTIA, and then on Friday I'm an un-panelist at the Mobile Jam Session at CTIA. The folks at WIP have set up some very interesting discussion sessions.

I'll be posting some notes on what I hear, both here and at Rubicon's website.


Don't knock it; It's more comfortable than you'd suppose.

This is my friend Bob who owns a travel trailer but prefers to live in this truck. Here's the interior--mostly self explanatory, but notice the battery, forward right, that powers his lights, radio, TV and vent. The solar panel and truck engine keep it charged. His potty is rear left. He wanders the West camping almost anywhere he chooses. The "lightweight lifestyle" is free and easy compared with the complications of trailer living.

Bob is permanently disabled and receives $620 a month from California. He could not manage if he had to pay rent. He told me a little known "secret" about Ca. compensation: it pays an additional $300 a month if the recipient has no stove.

Some are outraged that taxpayers should give a free livelihood to the mentally and physically disabled. But I think that if we're going to take care of them, this is the cheapest option--give them enough to live on their own. Think what it would cost to institutionalize them: (minimum $2500 a month) Some rage at the Reagan policy of deinstitutionalizing thousands of marginally functional people but I think, with some exceptions, it was a great idea. It's a better life out here in the forest. Institutions treat people as infants and they grow infantile. The forest challenges them and they respond adaptively.