Sunday, 30 May 2010


Here's a left-over experience from Santa Fe that I want to share. Most of the story is obvious--bicycle camper and his dog. I engaged just briefly because he was stressed about approaching bad weather--told me he had mostly walked from Deming, NM to here (350 miles) in 3 weeks--(about 17 miles per day)--was enroute to Las Vegas, NM--(though his gear tells me he is a full time drifter--takes a while to get this organized)--needed to find a sheltered campsite--I was no help, but I gave him money and wished him well. The encounter touched me more than most and I didn't know why--He has a sustainable lifestyle with comfort equipment. Now that I reflect, it's the cheerful, faithful, trusting dog that moves me. It finds itself hitched to a dubious star. But the bond between the two was strong--each seemed to know how much it needed the other. The dog rides, he said, when it gets tired--and to illustrate he merely pointed to the cart--the dog immediately hopped in. I later told myself to cheer up about their situation--The dog gets fed-- has a companion and is not bored like a yard dog. Together they have a lifestyle and in the cosmic drama play a role as indispensible as Napoleon.
Now back to Tucumcari, NM---loved this sculpture celebrating the highway of song. Of course I intend to have a close look at the wind turbine.
The facts--most notably that it can power 400 homes.
Look at this mural closely--Isn't it marvelous--could hardly see where mural ended and real sky began.
Here was the stunning surprise--this is one of my favorite people--Brenda--who taught me the basics of computering--in a single week--and is ever helpful when I'm stuck. I never know where she is--sometimes when I call, she's in Chicago--Or Portland or South Carolina--she commands a huge diesel powered mega motor home ---whisking her at whim anywhere on the continent. So I called her to get an update on her whereabouts----INCREDIBLY SHE WAS JUST A FEW BLOCKS AWAY. We were both stunned and celebrated a chatty reunion.
--found myself singing to this scene--"Oh give me land, lots of land----Don't fence me in---let me wander over yonder neath the western skies...."
Stopped to walk all around a strange and dying town named Nara Vista-The big feature of which was---a considerable collection of old cars. Hundreds of ugly KEEP OUT signs marred the experience, however, and I had a brief clash with the collector--whose disposition matched the signs. Notice that someone has apparantly reacted to all his negativity by smashing the police car's window. ("What you resist---persist"---Werner Erhard)
While looking at all this--heard a loud repeated clanging sound--went to investigate.
It was this railroad crossing signal gone crazy---clanging and lowering the bar every 30 seconds. Its been reported for a week now--this gentleman explained--no one came to fix it. Getting through required a zippy timing that the locals had mastered.
Now, Ill cross a 70 mile slice of Texas on Hwy 54. I have Dodge City, Kansas in my sights but will take a few days getting there. On my distant horizon is a gathering of WIN friends in the famous Flint Hills.

Thursday, 27 May 2010



I go to Silver city to reconnect with a mentor---the guy who got me doing this--(blogging) He suspected I would like this creative outlet and made me his project for a few days. I was reluctant--but he drove me down to the verizon store and tapped his foot while I dithered. Finally, I said yes to the air card that gives internet access almost anywhere. (cost $60 a month but oh is it worth it) $2 a day connects me with the whole world's wit and wisdom. Then he patiently trained me to blog. Brenda (more about her later) trained me to upload pictures and voila--I'm a blogger--"shouting my raucus yahoo across the rooftops of the world". (Whitman)
Sometimes a tiny push can be a very big favor.
AND HERE HE IS---doing something he does well--taking pictures---BUT will not allow his own image or name to go public---- a superb blogger--- you will enjoy checking out: (a keen, observent mind)

One day he took me to a Falconry meet up. Here's the largest of them all--a golden eagle--imagine having it hunt rabbits for you. (couldn't resist the flag as a backdrop)

Then I went on to Sandia Casino in Albuquerque to intersect for a few days with another old friend. This casino is super generous with its free parking, cheap food, and other goodies.

Here's the old friend--who this day chose to wash her amazing dog in a commercial dog wash. She thinks its great fun--the dog does not--Is that a resigned, long suffering look on its face.

Now---things are all better. The lady is a very different breed of cat. To read my take on her click here: To read her take on herself click here:
I wrote two poems about her. Here's the short one:
Bless those who come but will not stay:
They help us give our hearts away,
Then wake up--still free--next day.
Joy outweighs the pain, I say! A one-man rolling menangerie we encountered outside Trader Joe's.

Back on the road to Santa Rosa--where a fierce windstorm persuaded me to hunker here for two days. I amused myself walking this old route 66 town collecting stories and doing research in the library.

Found this interesting---blue pool--a deep natural spring 90 ft deep in the middle and one reason the town was established here.

If I were superstitious. I might think this meant something.--- I pulled over to make a sandwich -- opened my door to see my name. (approximately)

Walked all around the ghost town of Newkirk. Here's a puzzler--this tiny business--in the middle of nowhere was selling figural bottles--what in the world are they?--were they?

I walked the main streets of Tucumcari---found this spot on a quiet side street to camp for the night. I choose my overnight spot carefully--this one beside a defunct business--not in front of anyone's house.

Randy teases: What seemingly was a routine stop before moving on--turned out to offer two big delightful surprises. Which I'll cover in the next blog.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


SANTA FE BRIMS WITH BRAINPOWER! So attractive is this city to the brainy that PHDs will work as waiters just to BE here. Perhaps the greatest of all think tanks--The Santa Fe Institute operates here. Bush and I once dropped in on a local lecture--who should be speaking but Gell-Mann, a Nobel Prize winner, discoverer of the quark. (what the universe is made of) Ironically, the city is also awash in New Age fluffery. Strange bedfellows but it seems to work. It's an insiders town--tough to penetrate culturally. But I had an "IN"--my friend Bushrod--connected me some time ago with the philosophers club, which lead to an invitation to speak to the Unitarians, and again this trip to a group called Journey. That's me all miked up in a small auditorium waxing eloquent on the topic of Whitman and mystical experience. Three very big brains are seated on the right. Of course I'm anxious to engage all three.

And somehow, I managed---here's Bushrod on the left and Chris--head computer geek for Los Alamos Labratory (now retired)on the right. His expertise ranges far beyond computers, however, to politics, literature, love and what constitutes the good life. I had an hour or so to pick his brain. Note the everpresent note cards and pen in my pocket.

I've forgotten what he was explaining here--but when he speaks the whole room listens. I watched him moderate a roomful of philosophers with utmost kindness and effectiveness. How is it that some personalities get so polished in a single lifetime?

This is Jim--another Big Brain kind enough to have lunch with me. He began as an electrical engineer and expanded in several directions---Inventor of a new kind of building material (paper and concrete --house currently being lived in) ---took me to lunch in his self-built electric car---delivers erudite papers on arcane aspects of physics ---but most interesting to me is his (and others) project to re-invent----the church??--no that's not quite it---it's all the good things a church could deliver if it left off the doctrine and superstition and power structure to focus on creative connection and evolving values. Check it out for yourself:

Now I will answer my title question--How to engage a big brain? ASK FASCINATING QUESTIONS. It's a skill worth developing---I have worked on it since that embarassing day in high school when a cute lady said hi to me and stuck around for more---I did not know how to carry a conversation forward and after an awkward silence she drifted away--opportunity lost.


Jim in his shop--look at that complicated gizmo on his workbench.

Asking the right questions uncovered a surprising hobby--writing poetry--he shared some with me. Good stuff--direct--undefensive.

My third Big Brain interview--Bushrod--this one is years long and ongoing. We knew each other in New Orleans 20 plus years ago. Teacher, furniture maker, philosopher--lives in quiet solitude at the end of a road in a house built mostly by himself. His genius is to envision very large projects in a general way---- then in thousands of tiny steps---let the general vision become a specific reality. His house was 15 years in the unfolding--isn't done yet---has built a great shop--hot tub, sauna and his own electric car.
He lives at an effortless pace, building all the furniture and cabinetry in his house--a tiny bit at a time. After 15 years, he's almost ready to paint the exterior.

His veranda-- birds and rabbits come here early and stay late.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Big brains are inspirational people who have polished their intellect. They represent about 2 percent of the population. It is not the data in their heads (an encyclopedia has more) that sets them apart, but a curiosity that feeds on itself , drawing them ever deeper into the mystery of life---stimulating an urge to understand-- and parlay that understanding into contribution. To draw benefit from them, you need not impress them with your wisdom---only ask them fascinating questions. For a clearer picture of such individuals click here:

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Apple, Adobe, and Openness: Let's Get Real

There's a huge debate online about who's "right" between Apple and Adobe in the dispute over allowing Flash on the iPhone. Both companies portray their actions as protection of users and developers, but in reality what they're both protecting is their profits. There's nothing wrong with doing that -- it's what companies are supposed to do. But the only truly innocent victims in this dispute are the people trapped between Adobe and Apple.

Why Apple really doesn't want Flash on iPhone

Steve Jobs outlined his case against Flash in a recent open letter. His arguments boiled down to this:

Flash is proprietary.
H.264 video is better than Flash video.
There are lots of games on iPhone, so you won't miss the Flash ones.
Flash is insecure.
Flash makes Macs crash.
Flash is slow and reduces battery life.
Flash doesn't work well with touchscreen technology.
As an independent development layer, Flash reduces Apple's ability to innovate.

I'm not going to evaluate each of those claims; others have done a good job of that already. But none of Jobs' points except the last one explains all of Apple's actions. Apple has consistently banned not just Flash but almost all independent platforms, including Java, QT, and Palm OS emulators. One of the most poignant examples I've run across recently is Runtime Revolution, which is basically Hypercard brought into the modern era. It's a nifty tool for making prototypes and interactive media products, and its creator had been heavily committed to iPhone as a development target, encouraged by Steve Jobs' public statement that a third party developer could create a Hypercard-like product for iPhone. But Runtime Revolution's CEO killed the iPhone project last week because Apple won't allow the product to run; his story is posted here (link).

The bottom line: Apple just doesn't like other platforms.

I think Apple is sincere when it says it views these platforms as a potential barrier to innovation. But I don't think that's the whole story. Independent platforms also make it easy for a successful developer to port its software to other platforms, like Android or Symbian. This cross-platform porting is something that Apple fears because it's what allowed Windows to catch up with Macintosh.

Here's a list of some major PC software products. Do you know what they all have in common?


The answer: They were first successful on Apple systems, and only later took off in the PC world.

I was working at Apple when this process happened, and I can tell you that it was searing. Apple had invested countless hours and dollars marketing those products as prominent reasons to buy Macs, and then we saw that investment turned against us when the apps were made available on Windows.

Do you think Steve Jobs has forgotten that experience? Look how he started the open letter on Flash:

"Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe's founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new Laserwriter printer. Apple invested in Adobe and owned around 20% of the company for many years. The two companies worked closely together to pioneer desktop publishing and there were many good times. Since that golden era, the companies have grown apart."

Can you hear the resentment? It reminds me of Bill Cosby quoting his dad: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out." I think some of the key folks at Apple remember being "betrayed" by "their" developers, and they are determined never to leave themselves vulnerable to that again. I believe it's Apple's policy to keep iPhone and iPad developers as closely tied to the platform as possible, and to make it as hard as possible for them to move their products elsewhere. I think that's the core reason why Apple won't permit Flash, or any other third party platform, to run on iPhone.

If I were still working at Apple, I would probably do the same thing. That's not to say I like the policy, because it restricts customer choice and developer flexibility. But I understand the business logic behind it, and the depth of feeling Apple folks have on this issue. To Apple this isn't just about innovation, it's about business survival.

I just wish Apple had been more specific about what was allowed and not allowed on its platform. At times the rules seem very arbitrary. For example, Runtime Revolution is banned from iPhone, but a game creation environment called Game Salad says it is allowed (link). The company claims Apple privately promised that it could continue to run, but won't say what it did to get Apple's permission. Runtime Revolution thought it was following the rules too. A platform vendor is responsible for articulating exactly what developers will and will not be permitted to do, before they invest time and money. Apple was at best sloppy about delivering that information, and at worst it changed the rules in the middle of the game.

Adobe's Flash agenda

So we have Apple trying to keep developers on the farm, barefoot and pregnant. Does that make Adobe the liberator, throwing open the gates and setting developers free? Maybe, but only to the extent that it serves Adobe's own interests.

If you want to understand Adobe's agenda for Flash, you have to look back to 2006, when Adobe bought Macromedia. Just after the acquisition, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen gave a very interesting interview in which he discussed Adobe's plans for Flash and related technologies (link):

Buying Flash "enables us to create an 'engagement platform.' Think of it as a layer or a vehicle in which anybody can present information that could be engaged with in an interactive, compelling, reliable, relatively secure way -- across all kinds of devices, all kinds of operating systems....If we execute appropriately we will be the engagement platform, or the layer, on top of anything that has an LCD display, any computing device -- everything from a refrigerator to an automobile to a video game to a computer to a mobile phone."

In other words, Flash becomes the developer platform, and the underlying OS is transformed into commodity plumbing. Adobe's focus at the time was on competing with Microsoft (the article mentions Apple only in passing and Google not at all), but when you declare war on one OS, you declare war on them all.

I don't think you can blame Apple for feeling threatened by this. (Or Google, for that matter, which has been running its own behind the scenes war against Flash by promoting HTML 5.)

I thought it was a brilliant strategy when Adobe announced it. Unfortunately, Adobe's execution hasn't matched its rhetoric. Four years ago, Chizen said Adobe would quickly merge Flash and Acrobat into a runtime environment that would own the next generation of applications. If Adobe had moved quickly, it might have made its platform into a contender, and the software market might look a lot different today. But the new platform, called Adobe Air, was very slow to come to market, and was focused on PCs rather than mobile devices. Today it has very little developer momentum.

Adobe spun its wheels in the mobile market in particular. It insisted on charging for the mobile Flash runtime for a long time, even though it knew that free runtimes are the key to adoption. And then much of the Adobe mobile team was fired in a series of layoffs starting at the end of 2008. Adobe had hired a lot of mobile industry veterans, and by firing them Adobe created the impression in the mobile industry that it was not serious about mobile. There's a very good discussion of some of Adobe's other mobile challenges here.

Fast forward a year and a half from those firings, and Apple has completely seized the initiative with mobile developers. Now Adobe is fighting a defensive battle just to keep Flash relevant.

There's an old quote attributed to Napoleon, "If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna." Adobe failed to take Vienna. Note to other tech companies: Don't declare your intention to take over the world; do it first and explain later. (By the way, this explains both Apple's strategy and Chinese foreign policy, but I digress.)

Because of this history, I find it hard to feel a lot of sympathy for the troubles that Flash is having. I also find it a bit disingenuous when Adobe says that it's fighting for a "multiplatform" world (link), when the company has said previously that it really wants a single platform, led by Adobe, that runs on top of multiple operating systems.

I'm also amused by Adobe's statements that it has always been a proponent of open standards. Adobe cofounders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke wrote:

"That, certainly, was what we learned as we launched PostScript® and PDF, two early and powerful software solutions that work across platforms. We openly published the specifications for both, thus inviting both use and competition. In the early days, PostScript attracted 72 clone makers, but we held onto our market leadership by out-innovating the pack."

Actually, Adobe held onto its leadership in part by building secret, proprietary extensions to PostScript and tying its paid products to them. In an example I saw personally, Adobe's secret APIs in PostScript enabled it to create higher-quality fonts that looked better and ran more efficiently than competitors. As a PostScript developer you were welcome to work with Adobe's low-quality font technology, but Adobe refused to allow any developer to access its proprietary high-quality APIs.

Sounds like something Apple would do, doesn't it?

The real battle

So the real situation around Flash is that Apple won't permit most other platforms on iPhone (no matter how innocuous they are) because it thinks they threaten its survival, while Adobe wants its platform on iPhone so it can set a de facto standard and make money from it. Neither company is really focused on protecting developers or users as its main goal; they are fighting over who gets to use developers to make money.

Unfortunately for developers, this situation makes it more and more likely that the mobile world will continue to be split into incompatible platforms, forcing them to rewrite their programs multiple times in order to reach the broadest group of customers. Theoretically, the mobile browser could become the grand unifier of mobile development, and as I have said before I wish it would (venture capitalist Eric Ver Ploeg makes the case for it here). Unfortunately, the development of those standards has been incredibly slow and political, and after watching that process for years, it's becoming harder and harder to convince myself that it'll ever speed up. I hope it does, but I suspect that one reason Apple's willing to support web standards is because it believes it can dramatically out-innovate them.

In the meantime, Apple and Adobe will continue to duke it out. If Adobe could get customers and developers to boycott Apple products, I guess Apple might be forced to back down. Or Adobe might convince the government to charge Apple with noncompetitive behavior. But I think neither of those is likely to happen. The most likely outcome is that Apple will hold the line against Flash, Adobe will try to run Flash on every other mobile platform, we'll get a lot more posturing from both companies -- and a lot of websites will get rich running Adobe's anti-Apple ads.

Monday, 17 May 2010


I come to Santa Fe, NM every year or two to visit an old friend, to take a break from travel ---to enjoy just sitting-- and this time to-- "get legal"---to register my new trailer, renew my truck and drivers license. Vagabonds like myself discover that this is no small matter---getting legal--because we, in fact have no fixed address--something that society insist that we have. So we do what all people do when faced with impossible demands---we lie. "where do you live?" seems a proper and necessary question for government---but for the two million of us full time travelers it can become a pain in the ass. I have friends who drove all the way to Alaska to get legal. Others make a biannual "pilgrimage" to South Dakota to "get legal". Down there is my legal address--thanks to my friend of 40 years--who makes me welcome and cloaks me with righteousness. See that tiny trailer left of center?--I lived in it for 3 years before selling it to him.
So I come and sit---right there--for two weeks or more.

My friend Bushrod--he eats healthier than I do--with chopsticks no less.

---lets me store my stuff too---that sailboat and that box.----and that's another bugaboo for mobile people. I wonder what others do who have no generous friend.

Bushrod and I have a TONTINE regarding our joint library of about a thousand books---whoever dies last gets the books.


Full time RVers must pretend
To live in a single state,
For every rig must display
A valid license plate.

Never mind that it’s a fib,
A necessary story,
For government’s not invented yet
Our legal category.

So we ask in long discussions
Which state shall we claim.
Oregon’s best if buying a rig
Is your immediate aim.

For it has no sales tax, nor Montana,
Nor Delaware back East.
But when it comes to cost of insurance,
North Dakota’s least.

Its also the state of minimum hassle.
But what about income tax?
If you’re making hefty dollars,
You need to know these facts:

No income tax in the state of Wyoming;
Alaska also has none;
Nor Nevada, Texas, South Dakota,
Florida and Washington.

It’s easiest in Livingston
To become a legal Texan.
And be sure to choose a state without
Those troublesome inspections.

The very worst state for your license plate,
As any full timer will warn ya,
For tax and tag and rig inspections,
It’s awful in California.

I’ve settled for New Mexico,
Cheap for this land sailor.
For minimum bucks, one can buy
A permanent tag for your trailer.

So declare a state that fits your needs.
Though regrettable and uncouth,
We tell necessary lies until
They let us tell the truth.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


WHERE THE FIRST ATOM BOMB WAS DETONATED I was a hundred miles away when I learned that TWICE A YEAR THEY OPEN THE GATES to let the public visit "trinity site". (Sat Apr 4 2010). I "saddled up my horse" drove there arriving at the tiny town of San Antonio, New Mexico after dark, parked for the night here on the outskirts. (notice how other boondockers like to park with "their kind")
Next day I detached from my trailer and got in line outside the gate. Young soldiers checked our drivers license and gave us directions for the 17 mile desert trip.
That's it on the horizon at the base of the mountains.
The very spot where a new era began. The bomb was atop a hundred foot steel tower--which was of course evaporated by the blast. The ground is a slight bowl of 4 or 5 acres, now fenced in. They've scraped away the top layer of glass-like radioactive material called trinitite.
Grass grows just fine here--despite scare stories that the area would be sterile for generations.
They go to great lengths to prove that the area is safe--lending anyone who ask a geiger counter.
Here's what it looked like.
Pictures line the fence showing the blast at several milliseconds intervals.
An aerial shot after the blast.
And the newspaper headlines when the truth came out.
They feel strongly about about this stuff. Went to see what it looks like.
Here it is--they will let you photograph a sample of it.---it's slightly radioactive.

Randy Philosophizes: The bomb? - on balance, a good thing or bad? And dropping it on civilians to terrorize the emperor and the Japanese Military into surrendering? Good idea or bad? Ethical or unethical? Easy questions for me: On balance a good thing---and its mega destructive succesor, the H bomb--also a good thing. And yes, dropping it on 100,000 civilians was a lesser evil than sacrificing a probable million american lives invading Japan. Fanatics must be dealt with decisively. Only the soft minded and sentimentalist fail to see that these awesome weapons actually promote peace between major powers by making wars unacceptably destructive for both sides. It's counterintuitive and paradoxical but nevertheless true that Fear of nuclear war has brought the major powers to an approximate sanity ---slowly we will empower the UN to preserve the peace. THEN we can get rid of nuclear weapons.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


WHY NOT CAMP RIGHT HERE? I ask myself that fairly often. It's what my old travel companion, Arnold Eckland, would say when we motorcycled through Yucatan--He wasn't picky--could be comfortable anywhere, cornfields, schoolyards, gravel pits, banana plantation. He convinced me! Now when I'm ready to camp, my first consideration isWHY NOT HERE. Above is the ghost town of Steins, about 10 miles west of Lordsberg. I considered staying the night but the nearby railroad dissuaded me---too noisy.
Drove on to the visitor center in Lordsberg and settled in for the night. This guy driving a 1950's era bus parked beside me and explained that someone in San Diego had given him two of them. With just a change of oil, fresh fuel, some hoses and a battery they had both cranked right up and ran perfectly. He would ship them to Germany for total restoration--they are highly prized there.
He was ecstatic about the interior--perfectly preserved he said.
Soon he was gone and these trucks moved in. Noisy, Noisy--so I moved away a quarter mile to this vacant lot and slept peacefully. Next day I experienced the town--museum--ate lunch with the seniors and started toward Silver City.
Got this far and stopped--I suddenly realized that it's cold in those mountains back there. (Silver City elevation 7000 ft) So I asked myself Arnold's question: What's wrong with RIGHT HERE? And so I camped right there---in great comfort--enjoying the scenery--connected to the whole world by satellite radio, satellite tv, cell phone and internet access ---thanks to those marvelous solar panels that power my lifestyle. I could camp here indefinitely if I wished. We boondockers in the West are surely among the freest people on earth!