Wednesday, 29 August 2012


I INTRODUCE TO YOU CHRIS CARRINGTON----  A real life queen of the road---someone so beautifully adapted to the mobile lifestyle that she could serve as a model to all who yearn to break free of their cocoon and fly. 

4 years ago she began her travels after a 20 year career as a health inspector for the state of Vermont.
The perfect rig for a solitary traveler--a Toyota powered Dolphin motor home that will go about anywhere.  15 MPG --very dependable---cost under $10,000---containing all the creature comforts a sensible person could desire. 
Illustrating the lightweight simplicity of her lifestyle----2 keys!  How many keys do you use?
She agrees to an in depth interview. Her good humored candor amazes me.  She is single--- debt-free---comfortably mobile----frugal--efficient in a hundred ways---computer savvy----financially comfortable---low carbon footprint----smart---sociable, with a wide network of friends---never bored--never lonely---is an atheist--- not superstitious.   I resolve to dig deeper for clues that you might find useful.
Housekeeping--- impecable----bed enough
kitchen, fridge, bath and storage enough.  Stashed somewhere is all the equipment needed for her antique business---including her current crop of antiques which she sells on e-bay, earning about $200 a month. (has tallied more than 10,000 transactions and 5000 positive feedback comments) 
Workspace and dining area.  Electronically she is well up to speed--with solar panels, inverter, phone, mifi for internet access and 2 laptops.
 Yesterday she fixed her truck (check engine light) by unlocking its computer  code.  Today I find her repairing a bike tire.
Chris at age 38----a sensual knockout---but hear me sweet readers---she's more of a knockout now for the life wisdom she embodies---says NOW is the happiest time of her life and that it keeps getting better.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:   After much digging in her history---a theory emerges---how she evolved to such a blessed state:  AN UN-NURTURING MOTHER  persuaded her very early to look elsewhere for nurture and guidance.  SHE CHOSE TO LOOK WITHIN!---and to be her own meaning and morality maker. ( Her ethics are eclectic and extremely functional.)
A second cause of her extraordinary happiness is a HABIT OF SAYING YES TO OPPORTUNITIES.
 something she learned early---by accident---a spontaneous yes---brought such rich enjoyment that she said YES and Yes again---it became a SELF ENHANCING SPIRAL UPWARD:  Yes led to rich experience and more yesses to more richness-etc. ( people who say NO habitually--- spiral downward)
There you have it dear readers---a great suggestion for reaching a blessed life: 1. SELF RELIANCE 2. SAYING YES TO OPPORTUNITIES.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


The contrast of these two meetings in two days with our friends---set me thinking.

This meeting was about fun.  A party with crab legs, lobster tails and all the fixings.  Also light,lively
conversation with lots of laughter.
Next day, this group (plus me) gathered to exchange ideas--to enrich ourselves. We had focused conversation where everyone participated.  I think we all went away feeling enlarged.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Conversations are of 4 kinds:
1. Ritual---(hello how are you etc)
2. Pastime-----cars, sports, gossip,trivia.
3. Work talk
4. Intimate talk----what you really feel---want---think--have done.
I think that intimate talk is the only kind that can stimulate personal growth---the elevation of our being.  I think we all want more than fun---even more than happiness.  We want the satisfaction that comes from personal growth and making a contribution.   

The Seductive Foolishness of a Facebook Phone

The rumors about Facebook making a smartphone have died down -- for the moment.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last month that it wouldn't make sense for Facebook to create its own smartphone.  I'd like to believe that finally put an end to the rumor forever, but you know it's going to be back.  Even when Zuckerberg issued his denial some people claimed he was lying (link). 

People react emotionally to hardware.  The idea of the leading online community making a phone is sexy, and seems intuitively obvious in an age when software giants like Google and Microsoft are making their own hardware.  Of course Facebook is making a phone.  Isn't everybody?

It reminds me of elementary school:

Mom:  Honey, why did you jump your bike off the roof?
Child: (in traction) Everyone else was doing it.
Mom:  If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?
Child:  Yes, Mom, as a matter of fact I would.  Jeez, haven't you heard of peer pressure?

Mark Zuckerberg is young for a CEO, but I hope he's not that young.  I think making a smartphone is one of the most spectacularly stupid things Facebook could do.  Even if the product succeeded (which is very iffy), the distraction and business problems it would create could do severe damage to the whole company.  There are other, much easier ways for Facebook to make itself a power in mobile and to extend its dominance in new areas.  I think Zuckerberg and his troops should be concentrating on those enormous opportunities rather than messing around with hardware.

Knowing my luck with predictions, this means Facebook will probably create a phone and make it a huge commercial success.  In that case, you're welcome to come back here in a couple of years and tease me.  But in the meantime, here's why I think the "Facephone" would be a terrible idea, and what the company should focus on instead.

Making a smartphone: The Red Queen's Race

Most people outside the phone industry don't understand how hard it is to make a competitive smartphone.  Mobile hardware is moving at amazing speed, with companies like Samsung packing in new and updated features as quickly as they can.  Many customers are very sensitive to these features.  If you fall even a little bit behind -- say, with a camera that has too low a resolution, or a slow processor -- many people won't buy your phone, unless you discount it to the point where you aren't making any money.

You might be thinking to yourself, "okay, so just make sure you're using the leading components."  That sounds easy, but Samsung in particular specializes in sourcing those new components immediately (or making them itself) and building them into new hardware quickly, all at an aggressive price.  Unless you move extremely fast, you'll find yourself releasing new features at the same time as Samsung is moving on to the next generation.

So you need a hardware organization with close ties to the component suppliers, and with enough money to make advance orders for components that haven't shipped yet.  And you need to hire several complete engineering teams, so a couple of them can be working on future products in parallel while one team brings the latest flagship to market.

All of this is a huge investment.  It's also high risk, because sometimes you'll guess wrong on a component and have to eat its cost.  And at best, if you're wildly successful, all you can do is keep pace with Samsung.  It won't give you differentiation.

And oh by the way, rising competition from Huawei and ZTE in China is probably going to accelerate the process even further.

Then there's software.  A similar situation applies in software, even more so.  Apple and Google are competing to see who can cram more new software features into a smartphone.  For example, Apple adds voice recognition, and Google immediately counters.  If you're not prepared to quickly match all of those features, your phone will end up in the discount bin, the same as if you were behind in hardware.

So to enter the smartphone business today, you need a large software engineering organization creating a huge suite of applications, and updating them frequently.  Plus you'll need to do a large amount of hidden software customization to integrate with the specific features and applications of each major mobile operator.

You can save some of this investment by licensing a third-party operating system.  The choices are Android and...well, Android.  Which is made by your most bitter rival, Google, a company that has shown itself to be willing to manipulate Android to hurt competitors.  So maybe you do like Amazon and build on top of an open source version of Android, one that Google doesn't control.  But in that case you're using software that's a generation out of date, you have to write many of your own applications, and there's still that software integration work with the operators.  You save some time and investment, but not nearly as much as you'd like.

So now you've created a huge hardware and software engineering organization.  You next need to pay for all the parts and manufacturing.  You must create marketing deals with the operators and tech stores (which means hiring a dedicated salesforce).  You need to hire a support staff that responds directly to phone calls and e-mails (something that you, like other Internet companies, don't do).  You have to arrange for repairs and returns.  You need to license a huge range of patents, so Apple won't sue you.  And probably some other details I forgot about.

None of this is impossible for Facebook, but it takes a huge amount of time and investment.  It's not the sort of thing that you can do with a skunkworks team of a few dozen engineers from Apple.  Google, faced with this same situation, decided to buy Motorola.  If you really think Facebook is serious about the smartphone business, then the rumor you need to start is which smartphone company it's going to buy.

I'll kick off the rumors by nominating HTC.

But the real killer problem is that even after you do all of the above, all you've done is make a smartphone that matches the competition.  You still need to figure out what makes your phone so compellingly different that people would buy it instead of an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or the latest Google Nexus thing.

Differentiation cures all

Reading all of the above, you might respond, "hey, all of the same conditions applied before Apple entered the smartphone business, but it managed to succeed without making many of the investments you talked about."  And you'd be right.  The iPhone's success shocked the major smartphone players because they assumed the iPhone's relatively poor hardware specs (no 3G!) and missing software features (no MMS!) would make it an afterthought.  Apple succeeded because the first iPhone's differentiation -- real PC-style web browsing -- was so compelling that for many users it outweighed all the other drawbacks of the phone.  RIM did something similar with mobile e-mail years before, so there is a precedent for shaking up the phone industry with breakthrough devices and relatively low up-front investment.  Maybe Facebook can be the next company to redefine the smartphone.

There are two problems with this for Facebook:

1. You're not Apple.  Although Apple was not a phone company, it was a world-class consumer hardware manufacturer with a fanatical focus on user experience and quality.  RIM had many years of pager experience before it made the first BlackBerry.  Neither company made a tweaked phone; they brought a different set of system design practices to the phone industry.  The iPhone alone didn't defeat Nokia and Motorola, they were beaten decisively by Apple's business processes.  Facebook lacks that sort of process differentiation, especially relative to Google.

2.  What possible differentiation in a Facebook phone would be so compelling that it would make the iPhone and Android obsolete?  Almost by definition, an innovation that great is something that I can't imagine today.  Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can, and if so I salute his vision and welcome our new Facebook overlords.

Which future do you want to live in?

The other issue Facebook needs to consider is what industry structure is best suited to its future. 

There's a future scenario in which the usage of the web becomes more and more dominated by smartphones, and in which smartphone users are limited to a selection of apps and websites manipulated by the smartphone manufacturers.  In other words, the web becomes a series of walled gardens rather than than the open environment it is today.  If you believe that scenario is destined to happen, and if you believe the only way to have a role in smartphones is to make your own hardware, then of course Facebook has to make a smartphone.  It's dead otherwise.

But I don't think that's how the future works.  It's not a fixed destiny, it's a set of possibilities.  Our own actions shape the future and call it into being.  The more powerful and persuasive an organization or individual is, the more it can do to shape the future.  And Facebook is a very powerful, persuasive company.

I think the best future for Facebook is one in which the web, including the mobile web, stays open to software-only innovation.  In this world, customers choose which websites and web apps they want to use, without being forced into a particular choice by a hardware manufacturer.  This would enable Facebook to run on all smartphones, keeping the company focused on expanding its network and adding new features and services to it.  In other words, Facebook could keep doing what it does best, rather than pouring money into a new set of skills and gambling that it can out-compete Samsung and Apple on their home turf.
If Facebook creates its own smartphone, I think it makes that open future less likely.  A Facebook phone would encourage other software companies to make proprietary phones, further closing off software openness.  And it would make the other phone companies much less likely to cooperate with Facebook.  Today, smartphone companies will fall all over themselves to work with Facebook.  Even Apple is actively integrating Facebook with the iPhone.  How long will that last once Facebook starts selling a phone?  Instead of Facebook everywhere in mobile, we could end up with Facebook noplace except on the Facebook phone.

Beware the Ides of Flash

Right now, Facebook is so popular that Google can't prevent it from working with Android.  The more that Apple integrates with Facebook, the more pressure Android licensees will feel to match that integration, even if Google discourages it.  But if Facebook were kicked off iPhone, Google would have a much freer hand to disadvantage and exclude Facebook from Android. 

This is my biggest concern about the Facebook phone idea.  The company could easily produce a phone that is just good enough to scare away its other phone partners, without being good enough to dominate the smartphone market.  The Facebook phone could call into being the exact industry structure that Facebook wants to avoid.  That's why I see it as hideously high risk, a bet-the-company move that should be taken only when there's no other chance to survive.
And Facebook has other choices.

What Facebook should do

In ecology, the most successful species are not the ones that adapt best to the environment, they're the ones that reshape the environment to match their needs.  That's what I think Facebook should be doing.  Instead of competing with smartphone manufacturers, it should run a series of integration experiments with them.  Facebook's early efforts in that direction were not very successful (link), but that's why I'd put more resources into them -- there's a learning curve.

Facebook's goal should be to get the handset companies competing with each other to build Facebook more and more deeply into the phone.  How about creating a set of Facebook integration requirements, and a "Facebook Ready" logo for complying phones?

In addition to integrating the core Facebook functions, Facebook needs to bring along the Facebook economy.  The challenge for Facebook is not just to transfer its content to mobile, it's to make available the full ecosystem of third party apps and services that make Facebook so powerful on the desktop.  I know some of the smartphone manufacturers don't want anything that looks like a third party platform on their phones, but Facebook is one of the few web companies popular enough to force it.  Provide the full ecosystem to some phone manufacturers, and the others will be forced to follow suit.

This would give Facebook not just an application on smartphones, but a mobile platform that it can grow rapidly and in new directions, as it did on the desktop.  Instead of competing at the commoditized hardware layer, Facebook can compete at the platform and UI layer where most of the profitability is.  It's the right place for Facebook to fight, but it's all put at risk if Facebook makes its own phone.

Friday, 17 August 2012


Tell the world about our delightful circle of traveling friends.

HOW BOUT THAT? Somehow documentary film makers heard of our caravan----drove here to Lake Heron State Park, NM to interview us----one at a time---and then in cluster.

Meet Michael Tubbs (left) and Aaron----- documentary team based in Stephen F. Austin College--Texas----setting up in my Kitchen.  Terrific professional team---they asked great questions---for more than an hour---gave me the space to have my say. 

Aaron inside Laurie's rig---he's 6 ft 4 in--and it shows here. The ladies soon had a nickname for him: HUNKOLA!

They pitched their tent and stayed the night.

Laurie in her hammock---not the least bit camera shy.

And I thought they were going to move into her famous "casbah".

Laurie was thrilled when the film maker asked to use the song she wrote for my birthday 'Between The Highway and Wind' in their documentary. See the behind the scenes shooting, mis-takes and all of the filming of the song here: 

Chris being interviewed.  She has an awesome story---I hope to tell it soon--a life of adventure---And she is better adapted to the road than anyone I've met---including me.

One day during a group conference in my rig---they asked to film it.  We obliged.

Then I took them down to meet our Mystic-in-temporary-residence Wayne Wirs. ( ) who lives (appropriately enough) in the nearby boondocks
Regretably he chose not to be interviewed---a shame because he is superbly articulate about his take on life.

Laurie serenades our guest in early morning song.

And after it's all over we gather to share impressions.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience---felt that the filmmakers were fair in their inquiry.  We all look forward to its screening --perhaps early next year.  Thanks to Bob Wells for the origional contact and for championing this lifestyle. ( )

RANDY COMMENTS: I told the camera that our caravan is designed to connect a special breed of traveler we call a hero journeyer (from the Joseph Campbell book HERO OF A THOUSAND FACES). People who feel called to wander into the "unknown" in quest of  adventure, personal fulfillment and expression.( Synopsis here )While we often travel alone we suspect that temporarily connecting can do wonders for our individual experiences---such as mutual inspiration ---multiplying our information---effectiveness --etc.
I believe that we hero-journeyers can create an entirely new culture----the pattern of which could be useful to the next million heroes to take to the open road.  We believe that "knotting up"---tribalizing----coming together is a basic human urge and need.

UPDATE: IN A FEW DAYS WE WILL BE LEAVING LAKE HERON STATE PARK AND MAKING OUR WAY TO EAGLES NEST STATE PARK, NM.  All who are interested in our venture are welcome to visit us there. 

Thursday, 9 August 2012



 that his friends played.  When he left his principality in quest of  spiritual answers----it was a band of monks already living in the forest that befriended him and no doubt brought him up to speed about the essential questions: the nature of existence and how best to navigate in it.  Eventually he received a lightning bolt of an answer (the 4 noble truths) and hurried back to share it with his friends.  They accepted the new insights and worked with Buddha to make his message GO VIRAL.  It spread around the world and blesses all who receive it to this day.

I AM NOT ENLIGHTENED-----HAVE NOT BEEN STRUCK BY A THUNDERBOLT OF INSIGHT but I take as my mission to call together  for a time --personalities who are on a "HERO'S JOURNEY" --"forest dwelling friends"--if you will --to collectively discover THE MIDDLE WAY OF RELATING WITH THE WORLD  (balancing solitude and society)

 My conviction is that everyone on a hero's journey has lightning bolt truth within them---and that it emerges in bits and chunks in the normal course of living.  I intend to gather up this wisdom---organize it and hand it to the world. (as I did with the Oracle:  )

 My second conviction is that  Hero journeyers---engaging each other---in a conducive environment ---TRANSFORM --into super hero journeyers---(much as ordinary grasshoppers who engage in clustering-- transform into super-grasshoppers---bigger/stronger/bolder) (or as rocks in a tumbler polish each other)

I am learning how to bring Hero Journeyers together and how to facilitate their engagement---from the Heroes themselves.

Here's a brief pictoral update of our doings.
We are settled on beatiful Lake Heron, NM
We go on occasional expeditions---this day to a spanish village church for it annual festival. An interesting experience to see the local folk bond in doctrine and ritual---celebrate in song.  I thought how wonderful this would be----the bonding---ritual and all---IF WE COULD JUST LEAVE OFF THE DOCTRINES.  They are unnecessary---unprovable---divide humanity. Can you see Laurie boldly participating--(she always does) and privately 'honing' it to fit her own philosophy. 

Afterwards the villagers march in solumn procession.
to the fiesta site. Lots of fun--great dancing.

One day we decide to settle an important issue: Are Oreo cookies better than their Wal-Mart imitation---Great value brand.  The bets are made and Ginger agrees to administer a blind taste test to three of us. I'm betting you can't taste the difference---and GV is $1 cheaper.

Mark goes first ---eyes closed---is this tidbit--the real thing or not?

Turns out you can tell the difference---And the winner is: Laurie of course.

One day I took my friends to the legendary Lito's Ballroom to see the  Shoes of mystery---(for some photos and my take on the place click here): I've commented previously about Ginger's fascination with abandoned shoes--photographs them for an upcoming book.  In reality I have no idea why these hundred or so shoes are piled here---Is it related to the collapse of the building? Anybody out there know?
Laurie seized the opportunity to create a youtube video of  her singing a song
 in the ballroom cleverly entitled Standing room only. 
Saturday's from 1 to 4 pm musicians entertain patrons of the Three Ravens Coffee house.
Meet our newest friend Chris---who explored the countryside around Tierra Amarillo one day--treating me to a senior citizen lunch.  She has led an astonishing --adventurous life that she has allowed me to share with you on another occasion.

On my birthday--my friends throw a party for me---This is Ginger---ever-resplendent--bringing goodies.

Center is a new friend Libby--camp host--Texas gal.  On the left is Jim Jaillette, blogger and author--fellow caravaner.  Then singer/songwriter, Laurie---Then Guru/blogger/author Wayne wirs--then Ginger.  Almost hidden is Mark---captain of the magnificent Blue Bird motor home You've seen.  Then Chris our newest friend.  At Jim's suggestion---everyone told the first time they met me.
And wouldn't you know it---Laurie wrote me a song: "Between the Highway and the Wind"
ginger laughing randy crystal best.JPG
Ginger made this lovely rainbow pendant for me.
This is Wayne Wirs--clean shaven---Blogger extraordinaire--a real American Sadhu--who drops by occasionally---always delightful--at peace with the world and its maker.  I've challenged myself on occasion to summarize his views.  Better yet check him out for yourself.  His latest work is---surprisingly---a diet book---with a--spiritual slant that I'm finding to be painless and effective.  Here he is 30 pounds lighter than when I last saw him.  Says he may drop 30 more.

It says:
If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy.
If it weremerely challenging, that would be no problem'

But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world
and a desire to enjoy the world.
That makes it hard to plan the day.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I know what he means---Trying to improve the world requires creative thinking and writing and acting.  I make an effort because  I'm not satisfied to merely amuse myself---I bet you aren't either.  The people I know who are on a Hero's Journey --care about the well being of the world and search for a way to make a difference for the better.  Our caravan has a fairly modest goal (in my opinion) that we hope will go viral: We want people on a Hero's journey to freely connect and share their being and their views and experiences with other Journeyers.  An empowering protocol for these path crossings is what we are working on.  

Thursday, 2 August 2012



WE THE MOBILE MILLION living lives of abundant simplicity-- know how to liberate millions from needless drudgery, ease stress, increase happiness, simplify life, open up a million new jobs, improve health, diminish fears and consumption, stimulate wonder, activate creativity, connect with supportive friends.

Marshal your wits / resources and take to the open road! JOIN US!
We are already out here---a million strong---waiting to welcome you.

We live marvelous lives at an amazingly small cost-----you can too---we will guide you.

We have disconnected from the electrical grid---but not from the electronic. We are powered by the sun

We are learning new forms of friendship----to connect without confining---to inspire without interfering.

We claim the continent in our travels--"enjoying the land but owning it not"----"letting the night overtake us everywhere at home". (Thoreau)

Millions of you already have enough money and do not know it---you are working out of habit/false fears/conventionality / greed / materialism / ignorance.  You can (currently) strike out on your journey for $500 a month or less.  "Time is the currency of life" (Laurie Theodora)  and you may be wasting it.

Early and long freedom is the appropriate fruit / gift of the industrial revolution.   Pluck--eat--it is delicious.

You want to go on a hero's journey. (perhaps everyone does---: " HERO OF A THOUSAND FACES" by Joseph Campbell)  You yearn for simplicity, mobility, adventure, connection, self discovery / self expression.

You cannot know your own wonder until you wander.

You will likely reinvent / revise-- your religion / metaphysics / philosophy--- in your travels.

In your travels you will come to know yourself ----seeing yourself reflected in all that you meet.

"All you ever wanted to do was contribute" (Erhard)----and you will find valuable clues in your travels about what you wish to give.

You will learn to easily / gracefully ----connect and disconnect.

You will grow --amazingly---as you absorb traits that you admire in others.

You will face "demons" and "dragons" ---endure dark nights of the soul---be lonely at times----and somehow----triumph---learning something valuable.

And Then--when you feel the urge--- you will return and share with those you left behind what you have learned.

And the cycle will be complete.