February 28, 2023- “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.”- Thomas Sowell

One of the more provocative conservatives in our midst, Dr. Sowell has made a good many outrageous statements about “the passing scene”, but he is correct about a great generality of this life: Everything has a cost, as well as a benefit. The value of things great and small lies in the balance between the two.

My thoughts:

Further, all choices we make have immediate and long terms costs and benefits. Those things which cost us, with fleeting benefits, may be viewed as expenses. Those which have long-term benefits may be cast as investments. For example, a meal in a restaurant has mostly fleeting benefits, unless it also includes the generating or enhancement of a friendship or business deal. The deposit of funds towards the education of one’s child or grandchild should, one hopes, result in both the offspring’s well-being and prosperity, and benefits to society, stemming from the person’s expertise.

The same observations may be made, with regard to social movements. Fascism and the Divine Right of Kings benefit elitist claques, and oligarchies, whilst leaving out the vast majority of a country’s citizens, aside from cosmetic and superfluous economic and social trinkets-including insipid entertainment media. Democracies, which INCLUDE republics, are far messier, but have the potential to benefit all citizens, long-term. Everyone has to GIVE, in the form of taxes, or exercising the vote, or allowing those whom one might not like the same rights as one has. Of course, opposed to both of the aforementioned systems is anarchy, chaos, which adheres to no overt rules, save vengeance, self-aggrandizement and short-term personal satisfaction.

I have seen all three, in this short span of seventy-two years, and can only see the most beneficial trade-offs coming from the patience, perseverance and resolve that come from being an active participant in a democracy-and allowing everyone else the same, including-especially, those whose viewpoints differ from my own.

Yes, everything is a trade-off. This, friends, is why we are given free will, combined with intellect and a moral compass, that we may know what to keep and what to give away.

The Lingering Grind


February 27, 2023- And still they must toil, without consideration for health, education or even safety. They, in this case, are people between the ages of 11-16, minor children under the law, compelled to work by such companies as Kellogg and Hearthside Food Solutions (the purveyors of Nature Valley Granola), Ben and Jerry’s, Ford and General Motors and Fruit of the Loom. They are in such situations because they came across the border, into the U.S., had nothing and fell into the waiting arms of those who regularly take advantage of the dispossessed. These entities have the tacit blessing of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which cries being overloaded with the cases of undocumented minors. Here is a full report on the matter:

Upton Sinclair and Frank Norris, among others, exposed similar outrages in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Then, those who were subjected to exploitation were the children of legal immigrants and rural Americans coming into the cities to work. Their plight, and the muckraking journalists, led to President Theodore Roosevelt crusading for, and obtaining, Child Labor Laws. States followed suit, and by the 1950s, systems of work permits and limits on evening hours were in place, with respect to the employment of people under the age of 18. Sixteen-year-olds can work in most non-farm capacities, in most states, for a maximum of 36 hours a week.

The urge to take advantage of youthful, expedient labour, however, has never gone away in some circles. The swell of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, has given those seeking to cut the cost of employment the perfect opportunity to revive sweat shop and near sweat shop conditions-not only in places like Thailand, Bangladesh, and many parts of Africa and South America, but all over the United States-as mentioned above.

The solutions are multi-faceted: Increasing attention to unsavory working conditions and evidence of exploitation of children and youth; discernment on the part of consumers buying everything from auto parts to ice cream to “health foods”; stiffer penalties for national and multinational companies that are found to be actively involved in such exploitation-and ongoing efforts to aid in the generation of economic opportunities in the undocumented immigrants’ countries of origin. Companies can upgrade, and enforce, their own codes of ethics and crack down on the more nefarious among their management.

The lingering grind does not deserve the support of the public.

A Day of Change-ups


February 26, 2023- With 3 inches of snow on the ground, I found it was not a problem to drive to the grocery store and purchase some vegetables and fruit. Then came breakfast at the American Legion Post-a routine on Sunday mornings. Being faithful to my weight reduction program, I saved the pancakes, freezing them for a time when I can nibble at them-along with the cheese and other items that sit in the freezer as well-and will be nibbled at, judiciously, when the time comes.

Normally, a group of us sit at the same table and encourage each other. Today, two of the other five diners showed up-and were already at another table, with other old friends. So, I joined them and the regular table was occupied, in short order, by five gentlemen who had not eaten breakfast there before. When the regulars left, I stayed for a delightful conversation with some other people, who usually sit on the other side of the room.

When I went back to the apartment, and logged onto Zoom, for the devotional which I host, three Sundays each month, I found two of the regular participants also joined-and three who are not usually on the call also logged in. Then, my audio went out, but theirs did not,so they could hear each other-and me, but I was the odd one out. We ended the program prematurely, so that I could go in and find out what Zoom was doing. It turned out that a button had been pushed to mute my audio, when I shared the full contents of my screen. That is something to watch at the next gathering.

The last change-up occurred when I went to the laundromat, and found it locked. What is likely is that the pipes froze, and they just didn’t bother to put up a sign. I will go back on Tuesday and try again.

Changes in routine are good, in that one does not get sclerotic in approaching daily life-as long as the changes do not reflect chaos, which calls for different skill sets.

Speech and Screech


February 25, 2023- I would not recommend canceling “Dilbert”. I will still look at the comic strip and keep an open mind. Just as I do not recommend refusing to read “The Autobiography of Malcom X”, or “Hillbilly Elegy”, “Paradise” or, for the sake of a cautionary understanding, “Mein Kampf” or “The Communist Manifesto”. I might even pick up “The Art of The Deal”, at some point. The First Amendment trusts the American citizen to become educated enough to hear speech, read the written word and ponder the meaning of what is heard and read, through several lenses, if necessary.

I draw the line at sadistic works or those writings dripping with dark energy, but that is my choice. I don’t want to be dragged down a rabbit hole that bottoms out in a sewer pit. If someone else chooses to do that, and comes away unscathed, that person is far tougher than I. I also choose to be discerning, when someone is screeching at their audience. A person who has endured a lifetime of beatings and gaslighting is entitled to some vitriol. Someone who is merely inconvenienced by the advancement of others is not so much entitled. Both are free to talk, but I may tune out the latter, in short order.

I am keeping this short, and will end here. In conclusion, I have oceans of sympathy for the people of East Palestine, Ohio, who are still not being taken seriously by the President. I have no patience left, however, for those who claim he was not duly elected. The former victims should keep speaking out.

When Separation Is A Fallacy


February 24, 2023- The writer and artist responsible for “Dilbert”, a comic strip carried by several newspapers in the country, has announced he is no longer interested in contact with Black people. He says that, in his recent experience, Blacks hate him for being White. Not knowing his specific experiences, I can’t speak as to what he should or should not do. Scott Adams goes further, though, encouraging other White people to likewise shun contact with Blacks, even saying that the news commentator Don Lemon, who himself is Black, has reported problematic experiences, when he lived in predominately African-American neighbourhoods. I can’t speak to Mr. Lemon’s experiences either.

For me, though, I have faced no hatred whatsoever, when visiting predominately African-American “hoods”, or mostly Hispanic barrios, for that matter. The opposite has been true. In one of my first walks in the Southeast area of Washington, D.C., I was a bit hesitant, when walking past a family of three, who were watering and weeding their front lawn. The father was pleasant, and told me not to worry; nobody was going to hurt me. A neighbour girl told her wary little brother, a few minutes later, “He’s a good white man”-while knowing nothing specifically about me.

This experience has repeated itself, many times over, in Black neighbourhoods of Boston, New York, Newburgh (NY), Newark, Philadelphia, Erie, Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. People have either been friendly or indifferent, but not hostile. The same has been true in barrios, both in the U.S. and, years ago, in Sonora and Baja California del Norte. These experiences tell me that separation is not the answer. Open mindedness and understanding of different styles of communication, however, are of the essence.

The same holds true for the idea, recently floated in the halls of Congress, and elsewhere, for a “national divorce”-letting regions or groups of states go their ways-even to the point, advanced by a local resident here, of a total dissolution of the nation-with fifty independent countries as the result-so “each state can follow its own destiny”. To this, I say “rubbish”! Any family, community, county, state (or province, for that matter) can attest to the difficulties resulting from differences of opinion, perspective, world view-what have you. The choices are either work through it all and focus on common ground, or give up and walk away.

We have seen five nations split apart, in my lifetime: Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Sudan and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The first four were hybrid states, pieced together by colonial powers (Pakistan and Sudan) or by the participants in the Treaty of Versailles (Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia). The last one fell apart of its own weight. In none of these cases has the separation been complete and total. The nations arising from Yugoslavia have fought one another and still deal with cross-border tensions. Czechia and Slovakia have managed a more amicable separation and find themselves working together, both being part of the European Union. Pakistan and Bangladesh are both part of the union of South Asian states, their main bone of contention having been their being separated geographically, by India. Sudan and South Sudan are slowly learning the need for economic cooperation, despite their divisions, which are primarily tribal and religious in nature. As for the USSR, central planning and a sclerotic economy still hobble several of its former members-especially Russia. The Commonwealth of Independent States, floated by Boris Yeltsin, was a good idea on the surface, but because it mainly sought to maintain Russia’s dominance, it exists today only in name.

I have gone on too long, but the point is, we are a global family-and not talking, or talking trash, with each other, is going to “make the whole world blind”-as Gandhi said, referring to adherence to the Old Testament, back before World War II. There are people who see a better path, such as activists on both ends of the political spectrum, from South Central Los Angeles and rural West Virginia, who have chosen to work together for the common good. One group’s strength is collective effort. The other’s is individual initiative. There are uses for both.

There is, however, no use for throwing up hands and walking out on the very people who need a person’s individual strength and a group’s unified power. There is no strength in division.



February 23, 2023- The toddler was unequivocal in her expression, as toddlers can be. She wanted one specific item, and only that item-and what was Daddy doing with it, anyway? (He was keeping it safe from being scratched or broken, but minor details get lost in the shuffle.) Once she got the binky, all was right with the Universe.

A good many of us are transactional in our relationships, wanting one thing and only that one thing, from a friend or family member. This is the root of many a conflict, as I, for instance, may not value your binky, the way you do. I may not prioritize sitting by the window, waiting to be called for one reason or another. I also may not prioritize getting in the car and driving back to the place from which I just came, because I missed seeing someone, due to a change in their schedule. What I do prioritize is what helps those who have been marginalized, what brings people together, especially those who have historically been set against one another-even if that separation is due to the egotism of one or another-or both. I prioritize clear communication and the well-being of both individuals and people as a group. I have learned to prioritize my own needs, as well, since if I am incapacitated, I can’t help anyone.

Rant over. The day actually went well, even though an old friend was not available, due to circumstances that were made clear to me, after I got back to Home Base. The snow, en route, was light and did not affect traffic at all. There was some sort of mishap, between Casa Grande and Phoenix, going in the opposite direction on I-10. Traffic heading south appeared to be backed up for nearly six miles. Our traffic pattern was slow, but not backed up, and it took about fifty minutes to go from the southeast corner (Sun Lakes) to the northwest (Anthem) part of Metro Phoenix.

Earlier, I found a delightful little cafe in Patagonia, where I enjoyed coffee and a simple bowl of steel-cut oatmeal. Common Grounds was the site of the family encounter mentioned above, and is a relaxed place, with flexible ordering from the menu. A few others were able to get customized breakfasts, while I was there-and the food is of good quality.

Once checked out of Stage Stop Hotel, I drove to Nogales- taking in Primeria Alta Historical Museum, which offers balanced exhibits on the effects of Mexican history on border towns, the impact of the Buffalo Soldiers camp on life in Nogales and a special tribute to the women of Nogales and their impact. Charles Mingus, the great jazz musician and spiritualist, was born and raised in Nogales, and Mexican rhythms flow through his work, just as Blues and Gospel do. There is also an exhibit on the rancher, Pete Kitchen, and his evolved relationship with the Apaches, particularly with Cochise and his son, Chise.

Pimeria Alta Historical Museum, Nogales

The ties with Mexico are duly celebrated, of course, and in no better form than a triptych of Mexican history by Salvador Corona, who took up painting after retiring from his career as a matador. He covers the time before Spanish conquest, the meeting of Moctezuma and Cortez and the days of Spanish rule.

“Pre-Conquest”, by Salvador Corona
“Moctezuma Meets Cortez”, by Salvador Corona
“Colonial Era”, by Salvador Corona

The life and achievements of Father Eusebio Kino, who founded several Missions, in what is now Sonora, as well as in Arizona, is covered at length here as well. He is best known for having established the Mission at San Xavier del Wac, southwest of Tucson.

Now my transactions are done for the day, and I sit here at Home Base, having driven pretty much nonstop, but at a leisurely pace, from Nogales. We’ll see what, if anything, this storm system brings over the weekend.

Instead Of…….


February 22, 2023, Patagonia, AZ- No matter what one does in this life, there will always be someone who thinks something else should have been done, instead.

I’ve heard suggestions, albeit gentle, that:

Instead of being in southern Arizona right now, I should be back in Prescott, preparing to set up a storm shelter.

Instead of setting up a storm shelter, I should be helping out in understaffed schools.

Instead of doing my “own thing”, I should be checking with those who could really use my assistance, back at Home Base.

I’m not being singled out, by any means. The President, no matter who he (and someday, she) is has more suggestions as to how to do the job, than just about anyone on the planet. Witness how the zero sum crowd equates the current president’s visit to Kiyyiv with unconcern for East Liverpool, or for the Mexican border. Anyone else in a leadership role has similar experiences.

There is another type of “Instead of”. That is when a planned activity is a victim to changing circumstances, and being graceful calls for other activities to take its place.

Thus, on this journey, the ferocious winds and rain that came here, this morning, nixed a hike to the border, in Coronado National Monument. Instead, I came upon San Pedro House, about eight miles north of Sierra Vista, where I spent last night. A delightful, if less taxing, hike in a loop from the small house to the San Pedro River and back, about 1.5 miles, replaced the planned activity. The winds were not as fierce as they were further south and I got to pay homage to one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southwest.

Here are a few scenes from the privately conserved area.

San Pedro House, Cochise County
San Pedro River, between Sierra Vista and Bisbee.
Willow and Cottonwood, San Pedro Interpretive Trail
San Pedro River, assuming a channel-like flow.
Green Kingfisher Pond, fed by the San Pedro.
Wind-whipped grass, San Pedro Interpretive Trail.
Wooden water bin, near San Pedro House.
Children once played in this cabin, under the live oak.
Secured utility pole, leaning from the high winds, Old Town Bisbee.

After leaving San Pedro House, I headed to Bisbee, hoping to take lunch at High Desert Market and Cafe. It was closed today, so instead I found Le Cornucopia Cafe, just across the street from this temporarily concerning scene, of a tottering utility pole which, as one onlooker put it, could have set all Old Bisbee on fire, had it toppled and set the wires to sparking. The situation was handled swiftly and well. As for Le Cornucopia, their curried lentil soup filled the simple lunch bill very nicely.

Finally, as the wind was still pretty intense and a mix of rain and snow was falling, as evening approached, I came into this old mining town, in northern Santa Cruz County-an area of Arizona that I had not visited previously. Sonoita and Patagonia are picturesque, with the latter having a charming “Old West” hotel. So, here I am at Stage Stop Inn, for the night.

Stage Stop Inn, Patagonia

It always pays to follow the heart. The Universe has yet to steer me wrong.

Nature and Nurture


February 21, 2023, Sierra Vista- The day began, nicely enough, though it was raining in Superior. The rain continued, off and on, while I was taking in Boyce Thompson Arboretum, the town’s crown jewel. I have been here, three times before, but never under cloudy skies or when rain alternated between drenching shower and light drizzle. I was no worse for the wear; nor were any of the seventy or so others, including 57 fourth-and fifth-grade students, who did not let the weather get between them and the bountiful flora-with collections from various arid and semiarid areas around the globe. Starting with our own Sonoran Desert, the park takes in the neighbouring Chihuahuan, the Kalahari, western Sahara, the Mediterranean Rim, the deserts of Asia, of Australia and of South America.

Here are six scenes of nature, taking in its nutrients, on this mid-winter day.

East face of Picketpost Mountain, Boyce Thompson Arboretum
East face of Picketpost Mountain, as the fog is lifting.
Teddy Bear Cholla, rejoicing in the moisture.
Early blossoming camellias
A cardinal looks for food.
A pair of stone watchmen, east face of Picketpost Mountain.

There is much for me to visit, still, the next time I come this way: The Asian and South American desert gardens and Picketpost House, most specifically.

Next up was Biosphere II, the site of an experiment in enclosed living and recreation of natural environments, within that enclosed space. Two teams, each managing a separate mission, worked the space between 1991-1994. The space is presently owned and operated by the University of Arizona, which maintains the site in a good faith synergy with the original vision of Ed Bass and John P. Allen, who themselves were inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s “Spaceship Earth” project.

The site remains the largest closed ecological system ever created. Here are several photographs of the site, taken by my trusty camera, until it ran out of battery.

Staff residences and common building (right foreground), Biosphere II.
Overview of Main Campus, Biosphere II.
View of garden, Central Commons building
Freight Farm-the buildings in which hydroponic farming produces what is needed for the residents to live.
The Lung-which regulates air pressure, within the glass enclosure.
Fog-laden desert scape. This is one of many environments, created and maintained, within the glass-enclosed laboratory. Others include both High and Low Savanna, Rain Forest and Ocean.

Biosphere II was a noble effort, laid low by power-seeking and by human conflict. Nonetheless, the University of Arizona is giving the basic mission of the site its best shot. I am at a loss to succinctly describe the physics of LEO. This article may explain the concept, by which three landscapes are created on site.

Superior Rising


February 20, 2023 , Superior, AZ- The day started with heartwarming, and heart-rending, stories of Black artists of the 19th and 20th Centuries and the conflicted reaction of even the most prominent “abolitionists” of the Civil War era to women of colour who showed a gift for artistry. I confess that my blood boiled, hearing some of the stories. Every person deserves encouragement and a platform for prosocial gifts.

In the early afternoon, I slowly and deliberately made my way out of Prescott, stopping at Costco for gas and a quick lunch, in the overflow parking lot, and in Prescott Valley, to purchase nuts for snacking. Then, it was straight to this old mining town, which I had not visited since before COVID hit. The overall purpose, rain or shine tomorrow morning, is to re-visit Boyce Thompson Arboretum. This afternoon, though, I hit upon a rudimentary, but interesting, little walking loop, from Superior History Park, across the highway from Copper Mountain Motel, and northwestward across a footbridge, past Porter’s renovated Bar and Grill, then eastward into the small, but somewhat revitalized downtown.

Walking across the footbridge, I encountered a man walking with his infant daughter, who was just learning to walk and was gleefully taking steps along the metal bridge. I told them what a joy it was to see someone taking her first steps in such a delightful place. Dad lifted his baby girl up and showed her the dry, rocky bed of Queen Creek.

I kept going, past Porter’s, where a about a dozen people were enjoying the patio and several others were visible from the window. There is a fairly new park on the north side of Main Street, Besich Park, with a new pavilion. Where Sun Flour Boutique was, there is now Bella’s Marketplace and Cafe. Where the original Sun Flour Bakery and Coffee House was, there is now Random Boutique, where the curio shop was, and the more upscale Miners on Main in the old cafe section. Around the corner, heading back towards the highway underpass, is Superior Barmacy, also a dinner-only restaurant, with a small mural of the “Indian Wars” on its east wall. Such is Legends of Superior’s Downtown Loop Trail.

Here are some scenes of the trail.

Mining Elevator, Superior History Park
Picketpost Mountain, from Lower Queen Creek Canyon
Queen Creek, from the Legends Footbridge.
Hematite and copper boulder, Main Street, Superior
Besich Park, Superior
Apache Yavapai warriors, (Mural at Superior Barmacy Restaurant)
Queen Creek, from Stone Street Bridge, Superior

The night’s focus was a Baha’i study circle, which I facilitated on Zoom, focusing on social action. It is clear as day that there will be no end to the need for such a focus. For now, and for the foreseeable future, I will offer such acts of service, small and large, as the opportunities present themselves.



February 19, 2023- Jim Morrison once offered the verse, “No one here gets out alive”, in The Doors song, “Five to One”. It became the title of his biography and a caution to anyone who acts as if they are above it all. There is no one, least of all myself, who cannot improve on both inner thoughts and on behaviour towards self and others.

This afternoon, an earnest young woman offered a presentation on “Microaggressions”, small actions stemming from deeply ingrained attitudes-many of which began to take root in childhood. Reflecting back, I recall hearing a racist version of “Eenie, Meenie Miney Mo”-not knowing what the epithet at the end meant, until Mom said she’d wash our mouths out with soap, if we copied our friends’ use of the term again. It wasn’t until Martin Luther King, Jr’s speeches began to be broadcast on the Nightly News that I figured out how deeply offensive the epithet was to African-Americans.

Still and all, behaviours which did not seem to bother other White people DID bother Blacks, and I am grateful that I was called out on them, almost immediately-and told WHY they were offensive. Anything which does not allow for equitable treatment of all people, regardless of their outward features, has no true place in the human fabric. It will take time and patience, both with oneself and with all one meets, to overcome the little affronts, which do add up-and contribute to misunderstandings, and feelings of being aggrieved.

Humour is often used in such faux pas-and the offended person is often asked, “Can’t you take a joke?” The answer, when a relationship has not been firmly established and mutual trust deeply ingrained, is “No”. Humour ought not, ever, be used as a screen, behind which one may toss darts at people who are different. The better option is self-examination, on a daily basis, and increasing one’s understanding of the deeper cultural elements that might lead to someone feeling microaggression directed against him/her.

No one here gets PHYSICALLY out alive, but we can certainly grow our spirits.