Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Do you know the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel? (Gen 32:24) A strange myth that inspires me with its punch line---seems Jacob, camping all alone, is set upon by a strange being and they wrestle all night. By daybreak Jacob has pinned the angel, who begs to be released. Jacob's answer has become a life theme for me: NOT TILL YOU BLESS ME. When I engage someone like the gentlemen below, I won't let them go till I've gotten my "blessing". (info., idea, insight, inspiration) This is Tom and I "wrestling" in a Northern City. (name withheld for his safety) We had a great time sharing stories---his just astounded me:----withdrew from conventionality after a mind expanding "trip"-- settled into a tiny apt in Venice Beach--selling antiques. Development comes to the area and he is paid $20,000 to move out. He seizes a golden opportunity to buy a busload of old LIFE magazines for $5000---is pondering how to retail them. He distrust Banks--vowed never to trust them---carries the unspent portion of his windfall around with him in that backpack--on the chair beside him---$12, 500.00 He trusted me with a peek-----damned if it wasn't true!

This is Chuck, his splendid house and garden behind him---friendly and helpful-- I settled in just across the tracks and traded stories----He's a school guidance counselor---and here is his "blessing/insight": Modern communication technology is all the rage with high schoolers but is robbing them of the ability to interact personally. Social skills are evaporating because the richness of being to being is supplanted by machine to machine coldness and sterility. He fights back by banishing machine talk in his dealings with them.

As we became friends, he revealed other dimentions---like songwriting and performing regularly with a rock band. Here he sings a special RV song he composed---very good--gave Paul and I a CD of his performance.

Here's a one in a thousand, heavyweight thinker, scientist and Metaphysician. Second person I've ever met who'd actually read THE PHENOMENON OF MAN by Teilard de Chardin and was conversant. We sat by the river watching the kinetic sculptures paddle downstream while speculating on the meaning of life. I suggested that perhaps it was all a cosmic drama--where eternity is adventuring in time. He thinks it's possible that life was seeded here from elsewhere.
I told him about the URANTIA book and community that holds that view.---He gave me his web site and I lost it----If you read this--e-mail it to me.

This is Jack, whom I engaged a few nights ago in the parking lot of an Indian Casino. His grand adventure made the Backpacker Magazine:-----he's retired--polio stricken when he was young and it is now reasserting itself----he's getting weaker---but has chosen to wander around while he's able. Some months ago by accident he shared a campsite with a super athlete and they became friendly. Jack revealed a bucket-list type ambition to visit horseshoe canyon where that guy got trapped and had to cut off his arm to escape. The super athlete (Bryan Smudz---google him--I did) decided to fulfill Jacks dream. Together they undertook a 3 day hike into that perilous canyon with Bryan veritably carrying and rappeling and hoisting jack up down and around the obstacles. What an incredible gift!

Engaging people is more than a hobby for me--It's what I do!---and in large measure it's who I am---because whatever is worthwhile about me, I "borrowed" from those I've met.

Thursday, 24 September 2009


CITIZENS OF THIS SUPERCITY SEEM COMMITTED TO AN UNWRITTEN COMPACT OF HEALTHY OPENNESS AND SOCIAL ADVENTURISM; Friendly folks--ready to play. Like a good-time gang (see N.Y. city "flash mobs") with shared values---turf---even rituals. (see festival of Zozobra in Santa Fe, NM---burning mr gloom) IT IS BELONGING WITHOUT EXCLUSION-----PRIDE WITHOUT PREJUDICE: I wandered the streets of Port Townsend like a puppy in a kindergarten, playing with whomever crossed my path---gardeners, boatbuilders, merchant folks, tourist---all seemed "in on the game." I'm curious---dug a bit--How did this Shangrila come to be? Thanks to Alex( http://www.thirdearproject.org/) and the internet, the "story" emerged. I'll share it with you after showing a bit more of the town. Downtown ----a few blocks long and 2 blocks wide---note the victorian facades---there's good reason for them ---will explain later.

Saturday farmers market nestled among classic Victorian mansions.

High upon a steep bluff not unlike San Francisco's nob hill.
Familiar sight in Port Townsend---musicians everywhere. Failed to photograph a particularly good cowboy yodeler.

Music on the warf---deeply focused on their music.

Well painted--well named boat--Cruso (as in Robinson?)--couldn't find the owner to ask.
State of the art fiberglass wind-powered, mobile, island. note clever lettering.
Showed this pleasant chap earlier --husband and wife about the age of the boat.
also a common sight here. Traffic waited unhonkingly.
Shady part of the bicycle trail--went on forever--didn't reach the end. I liked it so well that I found the trail group and pitched a bodacious idea to them: Why not build a bicycle/hiking trail across America. They smiled and told me the good news---already underway!! Completed just recently:--a trail across the top of Washington state. Is this the age of Aquairius or what?
I envision such an ocean to ocean journey becoming a rite of passage for young folks.
Some clever fellow invented this interesting 3-wheeler.

OK! You got the picture--pretty town--brimming with clever friendly citizens. Here's how it came to be: 1870's----railroad headed north from Frisco--reaches Tacoma---decision time: West or East side of Puget Sound (look at the map) to a gonna-be world class shipping port. In contention: Seattle or Port Townsend? The smart money speculated it just had to be the latter. The boom was on-- a frenzy of buying and building. The railroad just HAD to come this way---BUT IT DIDN'T!!! ---Went to Seattle. Port Townsend folded like a losing poker hand. Buildings boarded up---mansions abandoned. Like Rip Van Winkle the town slept---for 90 years.
Now the scene shifts to the mud flats of Sausalito, across from San Francisco where alien beings take up residence in derelect boats and structures of an abandoned wwII shipyard. They are the Hippies of course--the clever inventive version of the species, soon "hooked" on low cost living. What Venice (also a mud flat refuge of unconventionality) was to the Renaissance--those mud flats of Sausalito were to the Age of Aquairius. And like Venice, the creativity generated there spread to the known world. In the 70's Port Townsend was discovered--bought up for a song---restored, embellished, appreciated for the magical location that it is. Writers, musicians, flocked here to the HAPPENING. The houses filled--and still they came---squatting wherever---(they called these squatters "shed boys") living low to feel high in this environment.
What have we Learned: That when a CRITICAL CORE OF COUNTERCULTURE CREATIVITY ignites it attracts even more "fuel" in a self -reinforcing glow--that eventually radiates light to the whole world. Demean if you will todays' version of the hippies--we owe their predecessors big thanks.
Where else is creativity glowing: Tubac, Az--Bisbee, Az--Patagonia, Az---Santa Fe, NM--Madrid, NM, Taos, NM--San Francisco, Ca (Of course) and in a new agey fashion Sedona, AZ, Boulder, Co and in a quirky town worth visiting: Crestone, Co-- Just to name the ones I'm familiar with.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


PORT TOWNSEND, WASHINGTON---SUPERTOWN---FOR REASONS THAT MAY SURPRISE YOU. But first I'll give you a short tour---that's downtown--with puget sound in the background.
And as seen from the warf
It's major industry is a paper mill that makes something out of crushed cardboard boxes.
Bicycle lanes and trails safe enough for golden age girls!
And Murals!
Home of the Wooden Boat Foundation. Superb craftsmanship in this wooden skull---so light you could lift it with one hand.
Imagine a town so clamor-free that even deer wander around comfortably--feeding on dandelions!
Inviting locals to sell their wares at Saturday street market.
Even selling speech lessons---How to communicate without criticism, judgement or blame. I went looking for the teachers.
AND FOUND THEM---Alex and Jim-Founder and Instructor of Third Ear Project--based in Port Townsend. Incredibly, my friend Paul walked up at that instant with a playful quibble. Before I could reply, the instructor grasped me and whispered magic words in my ear and had me say to Paul: (observations): "I can see, Paul, that you'd like to clear this matter up." And(FEELINGS):
(he handed me a page listing 100 feelings, like Mad, glad, sad, scared, excited etc and said: "pick one") I did so! Then he whispered: " Tell him YOUR GENERAL NEED " (and he handed me a page listing 100 or so Needs--like safety, freedom, justice, play, truth etc) ---"pick one"---and I did. And Finally he whispered: " now make your request" (Paul, would you be willing to------)
It was hilarious---AND SO OBVIOUSLY EFFECTIVE--- that I wished to whisk them to the middle east. For $2 he sold me the pages he'd been using. If I were lingering here I would take the course----- remove judgement from my personal communication. Check it out:
50's art deco soda shop---perfect.
County building codes loose enough for alternative housing---home in a tank, for example.
Creativity everywhere on display. Here's the first I've seen of a hybrid, recumbent, bike. Note the two batteries and electric motor and pedals.
Street music all over town---a one man band with a digeridu at its heart---I liked his sound.
Town kids love their skate board park--were as good as any I've seen. Extensive layout--had to cost a million.

AAHHH you may be saying---lots of towns have all this--and you're right. These are only tangible symptoms of an intangible AMBIANCE that defines a super city---will try to make this clear tomorrow. Today is a travel day for me ---gotta get moving! Hope to wrap up this topic tomorrow naming a few other supercities and also two evil cities and one haunted to this day with murderers blood.

Friday, 18 September 2009


Let's cross this bridge? Recognize it? Two of the great ones in America----spanning the infamous "Tacoma Narrows". RIGHT HERE ---something remarkable happened--click here to see--http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-zczJXSxnw --I'll wait.

Travel past THREE aircraft carriers anchored side by side in Bremmerton, Wa. No! that's not the supertown. Super is not about size---except at Mc Donalds.
---and settle in with me at an Elks Lodge in the countryside-- My humble trailer nestled between giant rigs---owned by friendy ladies-- Karin to my left and Dodi to my right. That's Pauls' 5th wheel rig to her right. All told, a dozen showed up. (How will I attract a lady with so diminutive a rig?---I don't know---but I do have my eye on a large combo house/horse trailer with lots of room and still possessing stealth)
Off we go to super town---on the bike trail--passing this gentleman on a recumbent version---super comfortable to ride.
---terrific bike trail ---an old railroad bed with a marvelous view.
But wait! A boat yard with lots of world travelers---with stories! I'll mosey aroud here awhile.
Here's one---another codger with a codger boat older than himself. (75 years--all wood)--requires a yearly haul out and re paint. He and his wife--topside--love this old tub.
This one has sailed the south seas. It's also very old--but fit.
----as you can see! It is here for the annual---4th largest in the world--wooden boat show.
But oops! This one dragged anchor during stiff winds last night---spoke to the owner---not distressed---the tide will refloat it---no serious damage done.
I've not revealed the super city yet--have I---nor even showed it to you. I was distacted enroute as I often am---will show it---tomorrow or next day---with an explanation--why it is super. Here's the ferry which may give you a clue. I've been on the road 35 years and boondocked 8000 plus nights--visiting many many cities and towns---and I'm prepared to reveal a half dozen or so supercities--along with this one-- I also promise to reveal to you two evil cities and one that has blood on its hands that besmirches it to this very day.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


Nightfall catches me at the Emerald Indian Casino in Tacoma Washington---parking catawampus (jackjawed) like this to give my satellite dish a clear shot at the sky. (see it between truck and trailer?) The dish travels inside when not in use.
Next day---looking out my window --- I see this..... drama!--- There's a story here I mean to get. Turns out to be phase one of an eviction. Phase two is imminent---I'll wait--

One big reason for the eviction---neighbors unhappy.

'bout these also.

Phase two of the eviction! Poor old lady hobbling around with walker, confused, distressed, worried about her cats and her stuff. Some of these folks are helping her. My heart went out--so I dug deeper into the story:
Contacted Neighbors: Here's the prequel: She lived for years in a tent nearby with her cats. AND THEN---AND THEN: THE CASINO OPENED AND NOW PAYS HER $2,000 A MONTH AS HER SHARE. DESPITE THAT SHE'S NOT PAID HER RENT----AND THOSE CATS!!!!! THEY'VE HAD IT WITH HER.
Contacted tribal officials: YES $2,000 a month for every man woman and child in the tribe. (under 18, the money is put in trust. at 18 they get it all) Some handle their money well--BUT--one teenager blew her $80,000 in two weeks. I'm incredulous at these numbers, so I dig deeper.
Here's what I learned:
1. This casino, one of two that the tribe owns, has over 1400 machines plus table games.
2. Other tribes, less strategically located, can give their allotment of machines to this tribe for a cut of the profits.
3. This one casino earns, on average, $1,000,000 (that's one million) dollars A DAY!
4. The tribe has embarked on an intense Land buying program of adjacent properties.
5. They buy all that they are allowed. Seems the state has mandated a limit.
6. Once purchased, the land is considered part of the reservation and is non taxable.
I drive away thinking: Way-to-go you clever people! Cash in on our stupidity! Buy back America and evict us. THESE ARE NOT THE SAME INDIANS WHO SOLD MANHATTEN FOR $24 worth of trinkets.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Is Apple too powerful?

The new iPod nano is a tour de force, the Swiss Army Knife of mobile entertainment. I'm sure there's some obscure gadget from Japan that packs more features per cubic millimeter, but I've never heard of it, and chances are neither have you. This one's a major consumer product, just in time for stimulating the economy this holiday season. Speaking as a technophile, I want one of the new nanos for the same reason I want a Dremel with 300 different bits: just because.

I'm also impressed by the new price point on the iPod Touch. Apple frequently overhypes its announcements, but the $199 price point in the US truly is a milestone that should lead to much higher sales. The improvements to iTunes and the App Store look promising as well, and I'm especially intrigued by Apple's effort to make paid apps more prominent. More on that in a future post.

But the thing that surprised me the most about Apple's announcement wasn't the features of the new products, or the absence of a tablet or an iPhone Lite. It was something Steve Jobs said when he talked about the video camera in the nano:

"We've seen video explode in the last few years," he said, showing a picture of a Flip video camera. "Here's one, a very popular one, four gigabytes of memory, $149, and this market has really exploded, and we want to get in on this."

Think about that for a minute. "There's a big new market, and we want in." Not, "we're creating something new" or "we can vastly improve this category." Just, "we want a cut."

It sounds like something Don Corleone would say. Or Steve Ballmer. But it's not what I expected from Apple.

Now, it's logical for Apple to put video cameras into iPods. A friend of mine worked at one of the companies producing cameras-on-a-chip, and he's passionate about the potential for building vision into every consumer product. It's not just an imaging issue; when the device can see the user, you can create all sorts of interesting gesture-based controls that don't require you to ever even touch the device. Instead of point and click, the interface is just...point.

So it's been inevitable that video cameras would eventually be built into things like the nano. For Pure Digital, the makers of the Flip, this ought to be a tough but normal competitive challenge. The first step is to make sure your camera works better than theirs (check). Next, since music players are becoming cameras, you might want to build a camera that can also play music.

But that's where the situation becomes abnormal. Because even though Pure Digital was recently purchased by Cisco, giving it almost limitless financial resources, it's more or less impossible for its products to become equivalent to the iPods as music players. Not because they can't play music, but because they aren't allowed to seamlessly sync with the iTunes music application.

The issue of access to iTunes has already been simmering in the background between Apple and Palm, with Palm engineering the Pre to access the full functionality of iTunes, Apple blocking that access, and Palm breaking back in. To date I've viewed it as kind of an amusing sideshow, and I didn't really care who won. I figured the folks at Palm had plenty of time in the past to build their own music management ecosystem, but they (including me) didn't bother, so there wasn't any particular moral reason why they should have access to Apple's system.

Apple the predator

The situation with Pure Digital is vastly different, in my opinion. Pure Digital pioneered the market for simple video cameras. It identified an opportunity no one else had seen, and built that market from scratch. In a declining economy, it created new jobs and new wealth, and made millions of consumers happy. It's incredibly difficult to get a new hardware startup funded in Silicon Valley, let alone make it successful. For the good of the economy, we ought to be encouraging more companies like Pure Digital to exist.

But there's no way for a small startup like that to also create a whole music ecosystem equivalent to iTunes. Yes, third party products can access iTunes music. But not as seamlessly as Apple's own products, and as we've seen over and over in the mobile market, small differences in usability can make a big difference in sales. So Apple gets a unique advantage in the video camera market not because it makes a better camera, but because it can connect its camera more easily to a proprietary music ecosystem.

In other words, iTunes is no longer just a tool for Apple to defend its iPod sales; it's now a tool to help Apple take over new markets.

In the legal system they call this sort of thing "tying," and it is sometimes illegal. For decades, Apple complained that Microsoft competed unfairly by tying its products together -- Office works best with Windows, Microsoft's file formats are often proprietary so you can't easily create a substitute for their apps, and so on. I was heavily involved in the Apple-Microsoft lawsuits when I worked at Apple in the 1990s, so I know how passionately we believed that Microsoft's tactics were not just unethical, but also harmful to computer users and the overall economy.

So it's very disappointing to see Apple using tactics it once bitterly denounced, and declaring that it's decided to take over a market because "we want to get in." If Apple can use iTunes as a weapon against Pure Digital and Palm, what's to stop it from rolling up every new category of mobile entertainment product? Where's the incentive for other companies to invest?

I saw first-hand the stifling effect that Microsoft and Intel's duopoly control had on personal computer innovation. PC hardware companies learned not to bother with new features, because Microsoft and Intel would insist that anything new they created be made available to every other cloner. And software investments were restrained by the belief that Microsoft would use its leverage to take over any new application category that was developed.

Good fences make good neighbors

There's a danger that Apple's behavior will have the same chilling effect in mobile electronics. So I believe Apple should allow any device to sync with iTunes content, the same as an iPod. But not because it's morally right or even because it's legally required, but because it's the best thing to do for Apple. Here's why:

The two biggest threats to a very successful company are complacency and consistency. Complacency is more common -- a company that's very successful starts to relax and loses the hunger and drive that made it a winner. I think we can safely assume that won't happen to Apple as long as Steve is around. But the second risk, consistency, is more insidious -- behavior that's appropriate and accepted for a spunky startup gets punished when a big company does it.

This is what tripped up Microsoft. The same aggressiveness that served it well against IBM got it a series of lawsuits and intense government scrutiny a decade later. Even though Microsoft eventually won those suits, its execs were distracted for years, and it was forced to dramatically change its behavior. It has never been the same company since. I think Microsoft would have been much better off had it proactively adjusted its own behavior just enough to pre-empt legal action.

That's where Apple is today. It has to realize that it's no longer the underdog. It's the dominant company in mobile entertainment, and the fastest-growing major firm in mobile phones. It's already under a lot of legal scrutiny for the way it manages the iPhone App Store. If it also leverages iTunes to take out small competitors, and especially if it's dumb enough to say things like "we want in," it will guarantee unfriendly attention from government regulators -- a group of people who actually have more power to hurt Apple than do most of its competitors.

The Obama administration in the US is making noises about enforcing competition law more vigorously, and look at how the EU is picking on details in the Oracle-Sun merger, allegedly to protect local companies (link). If they'll do all that to help SAP and Bull, what will they do to protect Nokia?

Apple, you don't need the special connection with iTunes to keep on winning. You've already proven that you're much better at systems design than almost any other company on Earth. The huge iPhone apps base is exclusive to you, and that won't change. By opening up iTunes, you take away an easy excuse for regulators to pick apart your business, a process that would be distracting, expensive, and could result in much more dramatic restrictions on your actions.

Ease up a little on the gas pedal, Steve. It's the best way to keep moving fast.


DA VINCI DAYS AT OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY----Celebrating and imitating the spirit of Leonardo. Big rigs camp miles away and pay big bucks. I park here---two blocks from the action---because I'm "invisible"----for the 3 day event. That's the spectacularly beautiful university in the background.
Bet you've never seen this before. And it's for real---and FREE. They take your bike and give you a ticket.
Taken here--unlocked--but under guard. Do you see the great lesson here? (pay attention you libertarians and right wing crazies) The alternative to this system is for EVERYONE to have separate locks.----Here we are POOLING our security for this event. SOME SERVICES ARE MORE EFFICIENTLY POOLED-----LIKE HEALTH CARE.
The centerpiece event is a kinetic sculpture race: Decorative, human powered vehicles capable of moving down the highway, across a sand dune, through a mud bog and down a river. Additionally, each contestant must compose a song about his work and entertain the crowd---the kind of multidimentionally Leonardo is famous for. Here's--the SLUG--one of the simpler creations.
Now this one is complex enough to catch Da Vincis' eye--lady powered and utilitarian. I asked if I could photograph its guts.
Here they are--a massive tangle of chains,gears, pulleys, transmission--linkage etc. Imagine the thought and time involved here----I think it proves something important: Challenges are more interesting than solutions. Prove this to yourself by reflecting on several movies---what comes most readily to mind is the central PROBLEM. Often, in fact, you cannot remember the conclusion.
Thirty or more entrants paraded before the race---from the tiny-----
To the huge---come tooting its own horn. Six hard pumping galley-people propelled this promethian entry. Its operation was via a unique back and forth pedal--cam system.
A "big wheel" toy grown ups could enjoy---fun and fast --AND---ready engineered for the toughest challenge --the river run-------You'll see!
Family enterprise---Is that grandma Clampett hanging off the back?
Next day each machine had a go at the mud bog. Hippypotamous had to be rescued by a gaggle of kids.
Now here's big wheel in his finest hour----no bouyancy problem at all--note the rear paddlewheel.
This little dog melted my heart---she looks so much like Molly that I cried---the owner let me play with her.
This lady stirred different emotions with her provacative dress. I resolved to engage her and succeeded-----
With the assistance of friend Paul who spirited her companion away whirling her on the grass while I got to know miss see-thru. (turned out to be the doctor in charge here)

Promoters of Da Vinci days would be exasperated with my coverage of this event---because I've not mentioned its most important purpose---to raise our awareness--draw our attention to matters ecological. Dozens of booths made clear our wastefulness---offered clever solutions---and positively indoctrinated the kids. I won't bore my readers---most are already on board that train---off the electrical grid---minimal water users--etc.