Absurd religious objection to right to die

Well the fundies imposed their religious views on others, yet again, by killing SB128 in California. Where’s my religious freedom (as in freedom from religion) in all this. What about my strongly held views, don’t they count as much as ancient myths?

Do a religion I reject have the right to tell me how I may end my life? It’s my life, not theirs! Why do they believe they get to decide that very personal issue for everyone else? If they want to define it as sin for their gullible members, fine, but they have NO right to define it for me.

This is what is so utterly rotten about the concept of “religious liberty”. It’s never about a believer’s liberty to do as they wish; it’s about believer’s ability to force and coerce their beliefs through power of law on others. This is so insane to refer to this as freedom. They can have the freedom to do as they wish, in their lives, but they cannot have the ability to suppress my freedom.

If I chose to die I do them utterly no harm (in fact, one less anti-theist in the world would be good for their cause). So I sin, that’s my problem, not theirs. And I totally reject any of their premise, especially that a sky-man I don’t believe in wants me to suffer for an ancient sin I didn’t commit (and most likely none of my ancestors did).

So religinuts, keep your hands off my body and my rights.

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Let’s finish it: Sanders vs Trump

I’m tired of these fake elections where both candidates attempt to demonstrate they’re more centrist than they really are in order to fool the low-information (“undecided”) voters. The U.S. is now fully polarized between oligarchy and populism, so let’s just settle. Let’s take the two most extreme candidates and let them slug it out, winner-take-all.

I’m perfectly happy for the Repug to win because then a true oligarch like Trump will just grab what little money the 0.1% don’t already have – end Social Security and Medicare. Most Repug voters are old and simultaneously more elderly benefit most from social programs – their cognitive dissonance of wanting government handouts for themselves but not for anyone else is a ridiculous hypocrisy (full disclosure: I get Social Security and Medicare myself, having paid for it during my entire working life). Let’s end science and go back to quackery (that will get rid of lots of old folks, to use acupuncture and reiki instead of science-based medicine). Let’s end the EPA and dump whatever toxins business wants, anywhere, anytime, they will get rid of lots of folks. Let’s end minimum wage and overtime and OHSA altogether so all those confederate flag pickup drivers start losing jobs and body parts in the name of economic freedom. And then to hell will the Constitution, let’s let xtian law take over and get a good religious war going in this country as well as gobs of foreign crusades we can’t afford. Yep, that’s the Repug idea of paradise. And let’s do it or stop talking about it and the vast majority of Repug voters will get exactly what they wished for but it won’t matter because they’ll be dead soon.

But then the rightwingnuts would say if Bernie wins and brings in the leftwing paradise we’d be days from communism with health care for all, but all the docs will leave the U.S. so they can get better pay (I wonder where they think they’ll go) and all the hospitals will close down (that’s a good way to make their stockholders rich; these bluffs always amuse me). And business will be completely stifled with environmental regulations (well, that’s one way to cut greenhouse gas emissions). And the banks will be broke in an eyeblink when they no longer get the handouts from the Feds and yes they’ll play chicken with the American public, just as the German banks are doing to the Greeks, and guess what, the 0.1% will lose a lot more when the Dow shrinks back to 1,000 than the people who know how to leave on a cooperative and barter economy. Yep, leftwing paradise would begin to undermine the crass commercialism in the U.S. (I bet wine prices will plummet) and the 98% (the 1.9% mandarians who serve the rich get a bit more screwed) will have some setbacks (the bottom 50% will never notice) and the U.S. GDP will shrink as global capital goes running for a place to hide (have fun in China or Russia, Goldman Sachs).

Either scenario is moderately awful but one scenario is survivable. The rightwing paradise would be short-lived when finally all the low-information voters realize what voting Repug actually means instead of believing only darker-skinned people will get screwed (bye-bye 450ci pickup, have fun with your confederate flag on your bicycle). And then there will be a revolution. It’s happened so many times in history it’s ridiculous we don’t expect it. Louis XVI and Czar Nicholas demonstrate what happens when the rich finally take everything. Then the U.S., 10 years after this final showdown, goes either fascist dictatorship (the most likely) or communistic dictatorship (not very likely). The economy will have shrunk to 10% of current levels so we can’t afford more military spending than the rest of the world combined so quite a few less wars. The 0.1% who move to Dubai will have to ask – who’s going to protect you there? Of the 0.1% who stay here will have to ask do you have enough money for your private army and can you trust them? (They should note all these military coups in other 3rd world paradises). So then we waste 50 until whatever revolutionary government collapses and then if there is anything left and/or if we learn anything from history maybe we can start over and this time decide corporations aren’t people and we should actually have a democracy.

So NO to Jeb! and Hillary who will pretend to care about people instead of banks. NO to Repugs who claim to care about reform and Dems who claim populism for rednecks. ┬áLet’s slug it out: end the banks, end religion, end tax breaks and accept the temporary consequences; or end all safety net (including mostly for Repug voters) and get a few billionaires even more billions (temporarily until the economy collapses). Let’s do the experiment and collect the data: which version of paradise is actually better.

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Added coverage on Wabash; Left a tiny gap

Given it gets rather hot and humid on the Wabash Trail in summer I didn’t expect to do much more of it until fall. But it turns out there was a geodashing dashpoint just two miles away from a trailhead for segment of the trail I haven’t covered yet. So I and SO did a short hike (limited to her speed and endurance). It wasn’t the most planned hike so I neglected to record in my handheld GPS the furthest point I had previously reached and thus we turned around about 120m before connecting to previous hikes. So here’s what this looks like:

Wabash9

The blue segment is the 4.5 miles we did yesterday. Since the Trace goes through a tunnel under Iowa Highway 2, my tracklogs, both going and coming, were interrupted and I had to combine three logs (fortunately I can access MapSource on my old laptop, new Garmin software doesn’t have this feature) to have a 4.5m total segment. But you can see the small gap we left that would have only taken minutes more walking to fill.

Shenandoah is far enough that driving there for a quick hike is a bother. There are several gaps to fill. The small segment (magenta) crossing 184 is the town of Imogene. I started a previous hike (north to Malvern) north of Imogene so there is a gap to close. And there is a longer gap to fill (the trace is twisty, not straight, so longer than it looks) between Imogene and Shenandoah. So maybe my next hike (if I can get cool enough day) is to fill the gap north of Imogene, extend my tracklogs south of Imogene (part of the way to US59, still leaving a gap) and maybe go back to fill the tiny gap southeast of Shenandoah. If I pull that off I’ll only have two remaining gaps all the way from Council Bluffs to south of Shenandoah.

Already I’ve done 83 total miles on the Wabash with about 45 miles (approximately, don’t have any way to measure) out of the total 63 now covered (at least in one direction, sometimes both directions, sometimes with some overlap between different hikes).

But summer conditions are less ideal for hikes. When I started this hiking project it was still winter and everything was dead along the trail. Then my spring hikes had a lot of wildflowers, but now in pure summer there are few flowers so it’s a green version of the winter brown hikes.

Let’s look for a couple of pictures:

Wabash27JunStart

This is a small vineyard (yes there are grapes, even wineries, in Iowa) near the start of the hike (the southeasternmost point on the blue track on the map).

Wabash27JunMiddle

And the trace about the middle of the blue track on the map.

So it was a nice little hike, too bad I didn’t prepare better and thus close the small gap so I don’t have to return to do that (we turned around about 750m from the intersection of 200th street, so easy to get there again).

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Assisted Suicide

I’ve felt, for years, this is the next battle between reason and religion here in the U.S. and in fact it has expanded from the pioneering movement in Oregon now to five states and I predict it will be the majority of states (certainly the blue states) in another decade or so.

It’s simple. This is the only way out of the demographic mess we’re facing and baby boomers, but especially their children who don’t want to pay for them, will look at this issue pragmatically and move forward on it.

This is particularly relevant to me personally, at the moment, as I just faced the issue that my 100YO mother was forced to leave her home to managed care. My parents were both professionals and made reasonable income but as children of the Depression they were very frugal and so accumulated a reasonable chunk of assets. So the outrageous cost of managed care is something that can be managed with my mother’s assets, at least for about five years (imagine spending 100 years of savings in just five years, before this, due to pensions and some mineral rights my mother was still saving until just a year ago).

It’s very depressing for me to handle all this as my mother is mostly blind, mostly deaf, incontinent, now immobile, and somewhat in pain. Yet she is otherwise healthy and cognitively sound (so she knows what is happening to her and is very depressed about it). She constantly talks about how she wishes she could just die, a common refrain of the very elderly (now that I am “elderly” I make the distinction of old and very old). But she doesn’t want to die and would never do anything to bring it about. In fact part of why she is still alive is that she shuts herself in and studiously avoid the chance of picking up a disease; someone who actually wanted to die might hang around people, esp. lots of children, hoping to get their final illness. So saying you want to die and actually doing something about it are very different things.

So this will be a new political battle that pits the religinuts against everyone else (let those who fight against suicide pay the $10k/month it costs as the alternative). Reversing abortion (where they’ll win) and fighting gay rights (where they’ll lose, although they’re now thinking of other tricks to stop that Constitutional Right as well, even out and out disobedience) has occupied their political effort, but assisted suicide is just sitting there in the near future. I believe both a large fraction of the baby boomers (faced with the prospect of a long life expectancy, but a much diminished quality of life) and their children will look at this issue differently than the previous generations (where, frankly, it wasn’t much of an issue due to more primitive medical care).

Here in a Nebraska, one of the reddest of red states, some clever political maneuvering allowed the votes to eliminate the death penalty, even enough to override the veto of the tea bagger governor. Why? The proponents to eliminate did it for moral reasons, but they got the rest of the votes on the expediency of not wanting to pay for it. It’s more expensive to execute someone than it is to keep them locked up so the state will save tax money by no executions. The rightwingnuts here didn’t change their views of loving executing people (just like Texas) but they didn’t want to pay for it. In essence the moral opponents of death ┬ápenalty have done the same thing as anti-choice crowd, not outlaw it (until now), but make it unpractical, as red states are doing with every sleazy trick to eliminate the Constitutional Right of choice.

So as baby boomers get older (and more decrepit) and sick (with no chance of full recovery) and more aches and pains and limited mobility and wasting diseases I think baby boomers (most of them) will decide, at some point, quality of life is more important than quantity. After all it’s my life and if I want to end up who has the right to stop me (except some antiquated religious ideas designed to keep people living in misery instead of ending it). With the rise in “nones” (as religious designation) the moral momentum will shift to right-to-die rather than obeying ancient dogma.

But it will be the kids who put this over the top. The simple fact is that end of life is very expensive. Medicare and Social Security are a lottery (i.e. insurance). Some don’t get back what they paid in, some get back more than they paid. With better health, that balance will be upset, not enough people dying to use their unused funds to fund the living. I’ve always made the comparison to car insurance. I’ve paid my premiums for over 30 years now with no claims, obviously I’ve lost my money (but had peace of mind). But would I rather have an accident with injuries, even deaths, just to get my money back? No thank you. I’ll pay my premiums and still hope to never make a claim.

So this is how the system works. Everyone pays, some don’t get anything (or much) back (the people who die young) and others get more than they paid. Fine, only one ticket wins the lottery and gets a lot and zillions of people lose a little. But the numbers have to balance for this to work. If too many baby boomers survive into the years where their expenses start rising and too few young people have the economic opportunities we baby boomers had (a booming and more equitable economy, without the race-to-the-bottom lowering of incomes for most kids (a kid is anyone just a bit younger than me, i.e. most of the population)). It doesn’t matter about the politics (which the Repugs brutally want to renege on promises, even repaying the money they took out of the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for tax cuts for the rich). The numbers just won’t work. The young people can’t afford to pay for the increasing number of old people.

So simple answer. Old people need to die. And we’ll accomplish that two ways: 1) we’ll reduce medical benefits (as the Repugs are already trying to kill Medicare, as the CEOs already have done with pensions (promises made and broken), as bankrupt Michigan is doing to its people) so people will die from things that can be fixed, if they could be paid for (and btw docs and hospital, all the inflation you’re getting away with is going to bounce back and hit your pocketbook when the public funding, that you advocate eliminating so you pay less taxes, actually does get eliminated – have fun, you’ll deserve having no paying patients), and, 2) people will choose not to live poor lives and decide to end it. Come on, we all are going to die. What does it matter whether you take you last breath at 101 or 91 or 81. Sure if your life is still good AND you can afford life, go for it. But many baby boomers will pay for their earlier life (bad health habits, busted joints from stupid exercise) will illness and pain as they age. And no matter how much money they made (and mostly spend on luxuries while young as saving is not the virtue it was for the previous generation) you won’t have enough. I don’t have enough for what is: a) my likely life expectancy, and, b) what costs are going to be in the future, even though I inherited frugality from my parents, plus avoiding the Ponzi schemes of Wall Street and so didn’t lose my savings.

So what happens to the majority of boomers? Starting about now, getting to be big issue in another 10 years and a crisis in 20 years. My father-in-law was in a bottom of the market nursing home (still more expensive than the ripoff Long-Term Care insurance policies) and it was awful. My mother is more fortunate but despite good and compassionate care her life sucks (she’s safe, fed, clean, etc., but has no joy in her life). So in another 10 or 20 years when it’s my term it’s going to be way worse (and all the managed care places springing out from quick buck artists who think this is a growing market segment go broke because no one can afford it).

So when significantly reduces in quality of life plus in potentially desperate conditions (worse than any other time in our (baby boomers) otherwise pampered lives, I mean 3rd world kind of conditions) plus all the other things that are going to break (climate change, water and soil depletion, increasing instability and terrorism – what a wonderful future we’ve made for ourselves by deferring hard decisions) life is going to suck for a lot of people. And those people (and their kids, even if they conceal it) will want to die.

I’ve had enough bad things happen I’ve thought about suicide, in fact fairly often. Nominally that means I’m clinically depressed, but I reject that idea. I believe there can be times where suicide is the best (albeit last) options. This is rational not mentally ill. No SSRI pill is going to fix a sucky life. Depression is like pain, it’s telling you something. Pain tells you to stop hurting yourself physically, but sometimes pain is the inevitable product of unsolvable conditions. Depression is telling you to fix your life but sometimes it’s not possible to fix your problems. Optimism is wonderful, but often unrealistic. As I tell my mother when she says she wants to die, “you’re not going to die, at least now, and you’ll just have to adapt”. What if she doesn’t want to adapt. And that’s scary to me. Not only is she unable to consider suicide (for old ideas) she is now unable to do even if she wanted to (trying to starve yourself is pretty tough and that’s about all you can do when you’re fully disabled). So for the rest of us, younger, an assisted and “safe” suicide is the merciful choice.

We see in movies, plus know it’s actually true, that many soldiers kill themselves (rather than face capture and torture), that other people do. Suicide is rising. Now when it’s young kids who just can’t stand the agony of growing up, we should help them. When it’s an old fart, with no chance of reversing their decline and nothing to look forward to, we should help them too, but to end their life. One reason I’ve never made it all the way to actually doing suicide is a fear I’d botch it – the bullet or pills or jump off a cliff don’t actually kill me, but make it worse, surviving, but damaged. We need that safe, certain and humane option.

No one is going to force old people to die. We should vigorously stop that. It must be a rational choice. But we also can’t say wanting to die is clinical depression and therefore not informed consent. So like other aspects of life we now sound policies, argued wisely, without stupid biases or someone else’s religious points of view, candid and thoughtful discussion. We need safeguards against possible abuse, we need dignity and an end to suffering for those who choose that (all these botched executions scare me a bit whether medical suicide would always work, at least painlessly, so maybe we need some R&D for better techniques).

But the whole point is we need a rational policy that is focused on the rights of those who face this issue – to live and not be forced/coerced to do it, to die by their choice. It is not some ancient and obsolete document that should determine my fate. And if the religinut opponents start raising their bogus “freedom of religion” crap, like they’re doing with gay marriage (it’s really their freedom to tell others how to live their lives, that’s not “freedom”, that’s coercion and dictatorship).

So will lawmakers handle this issue wisely. Don’t count on it. In a few enlightened states maybe yes. And based on Nebraska’s example about death penalty maybe even a few red states will do this right too. But we’re going to hear the same old voices we hear on other attempts to impose their religion on others.

So I say to them – put your money where your mouth is. Take compassionate care of me, pay my bills to allow me to live at the standard of living I’ve always had, provide companionship and love and caring. Don’t just force your evil ideas on me. Let me do what I want or you take care of me. And I know you’ll never take care of me, just like you don’t take care of those children you insist on being born and then cut any aid programs to help them. Your hypocrisy screams!

But I think assisted suicide will win. And soon!

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The walk is not about walking

Continuing the exploration of thoughts about why people are (often) driven to take long walks I realize I’ve confused something. I have tied the physical act of walking to the walk itself, the journey, the trial. There is a connection but we don’t do a walk to go walking.

The reasons people are drawn to walks are many, often mostly focused on the social aspect – the strangers they meet (that they probably wouldn’t meet in ordinary life) and the friends they make and the shared experiences, especially bonding together to help each other, in its most extreme the famous “trail magic”. Fine, great motivation, but for me I think that’s only a bonus. It might happen and if it does, fine, but I don’t count on it. Most of the walk is going to be lonely hours of repetitive motion.

And it’s that physical aspect I focused on. When I was training for a triathlon swimming was my barrier. As a child I was actually afraid of water, somewhat carried into my adulthood. But also swimming required physical conditioning I’d never done. As I gradually went from one lap (stop), do another, to multiple laps (I still can remember when I finally did 1/2 mile) I also noticed something else. Swimming mostly puts you in a sensory deprived state, little sound but some water noise, no sense of feel (except aching muscles), no taste (quickly pool water becomes neutral for the occasional swallow you get), no smell (even the pool chlorine becomes invisible after a while), and little to see except the black line on the bottom of the pool. But what is required is synchronizing breathing with the strokes themselves. Breathing is natural on land but it takes a while for it to become natural while swimming, since it is such an artificial way to breathe. But breathing is also such a big part of meditation, so eventually I made the connection. Swimming is a great way to achieve the empty mind state where the body is on auto-pilot and most conscious thought disappears. Thus I also found my swim a great stress detox.

And one aspect of walking is that humans are well adapted for it. No, not so much our body shapes, but what it does to our brains. Walking does hurt and so we’ve developed, as part of our evolution as a species, to drug ourselves, with various endorphins. Not only does these overcome the pain, they calm the mind. Any repetitive exercise with controlled breathing and some pain will create this altered state.

And finally there is the boredom, keep on keepin’ on, seemingly endlessly. But, as is the point of this blog, there are different kinds of boredom. Walking down the green tunnel (as much of the AT is described and also a reasonably good description of much of the Wabash Trace) is only stimulating in the micro, an odd stone here, a strange shaped plant there. In hiking in the Sierra, especially the JMT, the grandeur and beauty, visible at almost every step is different – you’re very visually engaged and often in sound and smell as well. But plodding along, hour after hour, is mostly sensory deprivation.

All this occurred to me for a simple reason. I recently broke my exercise bike and haven’t gotten over my reluctance to call in repair, so I’m forced (by my daily need to crank 1000 calories of some exercise) to only use the treadmill (instead of alternating with bike). And that’s hard. A mile on the treadmill may be no more physically demanding than a mile on the trail, but it’s much harder to do. So forced to only use the treadmill, for a while, I decided to, as usual, pick a few numeric goals and so I’m trying to both do more miles in 3 days straight and especially 5 days straight than I’ve ever done before.

But it’s tough. The fatigue, the minor aches and pains, the boredom are far worse on the treadmill than on the trail. And the trail has less distractions. When I rest on the trail I’m still on the trail, maybe seeing and sensing things I didn’t notice while actually walking. Off the treadmill I read or watch TV or futz around the house. IOW, the walking is not a steady break from my normal activities, as a long walk would be, but the walking is just intermittent stretches of plodding along. I spend hours doing it but relatively little of it is the actual walking. So, basically, I don’t get that escape from the mundane and the ordinary that a real walk, day after day, would provide. Sure the multiday trail is repetitive routine too, but it’s not the same routine we normally do.

So my point is that the physical act of walking is just a means to the end, not the end in itself. Walking does have that neurotransmitter effect on the brain, but that only counts when the rest of the environment is thrown in as well.

So I have little choice but to get back to the treadmill now, but unlike a real walk, where I force myself to rest and am eager to get moving again, here in my ordinary environment and activities it’s hard to get back to a treadmill. Too bad training requires it and/or that real trail walking isn’t available every day.

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Why I want to do a long walk?

My posts about modest local walks probably indicate that I have an interest in a real and long walk, somewhere, almost anywhere. It’s been hard to say exactly why so I’ll try that here. In my discussion with others in my life: a) they don’t get it, and, b) they aren’t supportive, mostly for their own reasons. But I can’t get it out of my head and I feel I must find a way to do it.

When I was much younger I did a fair amount of backpacking including some week+ trips. That was easy then, being young, not far removed from college athletics. Not so easy now, but even more compelling. While there are many good (and not so good) things about backpacking the one I remember is the requirement to be resilient and self-sufficient. I never did anything really hard or dangerous, but a few times, if I’d been stupid and not resourceful about solving problems, my trips could have been life-threatening. No I’m not a thrill junkie, but I like the idea, that with minimum assistance and mostly my wits I can do something like that. You appreciate a drink of good water much more when it’s hard to find than a quick trip to the fridge. Lousy freeze-dried food tastes pretty good when it’s all you’ve got. Simply put, in our modern world (and my life in high tech) backpacking was a way to connect with my more primitive nature and inherent human abilities to survive and prevail.

So, for me, it’s the old meme, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. To encounter difficulties, unpleasantness, even dangerous, and survive, and even more so, enjoy yourself is an experience you can’t get other ways.

Due to my nearly three year weight loss kick I’m actually in, perhaps, the best physical shape in my life. The sheer volume of exercise (to burn calories, but also increase fitness) is the most I’ve ever done. But I need a goal, a reason (more than weight control) to push myself to meet the numerous numerical goals I set. And I feel the biological clock ticking – my ability to do something like this won’t last much longer, no matter how much I try. It’s now or never and never is not an option. So, one way or another, for my next year’s 70th birthday I’m going to find a way to do the trip I keep obsessing about.

I face two challenges, one fairly easy to overcome, one not so easy. The easy one is my age and some accommodation I have to make to my body. Nope, no sleeping on the ground with a thin mat and mummy bag – these days my body needs to sprawl a bit. Then there is the nightly nature call I used to be able to ignore. When I left California any chance of quickie backtracking trips (even good hikes) came to an end (but I thank Iowa for the Wabash Trace, at least something). I went stir crazy when I first moved here and threw my backpacking stuff in the car and headed south, ending up at Big Bend National Park and at least camping and a few longish day hikes. But age caught up with me and I even thought my camping days were over. But then I realized if gasoline and car was carrying my tent I didn’t have to get by with a 3lb lightweight backpacking trip, and, oh yeah, even a queen size air mattress. So I realized I could make some changes and still do walks (or outdoor trips) even now. And I can make other changes that may be required but still find a way to get the real essence of a physically challenging adventure.

So today that means some trek where I can overnight and eat without worrying about the weight of my pack. And there are lots of possibilities for that. At first, after seeing The Way I was fascinated with the Camino de Santiago, but now I’m not so sure (a little too easy, definitely too crowded). I haven’t found any treks in the U.S. one can do unsupported or without backpacking, but in the more densely populated parts of the world, esp. those with a trekking tradition (and as a concession to age, safe) there are still choices. I’m sure I can find one.

So my challenge, esp. as I’m probably fit enough (and could train more if I need), is getting “permission”. I’ve got a couple of people in my life who are strongly discouraging me from doing this. The simplest (but hardest to solve) is my 100YO mother who panics at the thought I’d not be a phonecall and 10 minutes away. Well, for 20 years of her retirement she toured in their RV without being tied down – don’t I deserve a little of the same? And for 15 years I have been “on call” most of my days. So the guilt trip she does may be hard to overcome, but I don’t accept the notion that with my limited time to do this I should “wait” until she’s gone (she’s in great health so by that time I might not be able to walk with my steadily increasing joint wear).

Then there’s my spouse who is irritated that I’d want to do a trip that doesn’t include her. She can’t (and doesn’t want to) do a long walk, so therefore it’s reasonable to her that I have to compromise my interest to find something we can do together. Well: a) we’ve done lots of trips together, mostly with her agenda, and, b) an easy car trip with short walks I expect to be able to do for decades more, but the clock is ticking on a long walk. She perceives my interest as “selfish”, but: a) maybe it is, but don’t I deserve, after 70 years a little for myself, and, b) forcing me to do trips that only meet her requirements is a little selfish too.

So it’s easy for me to reject these guilt trips people are laying on me as unjustified. But that said, it’s still rather hard to go against what they’re saying.

So to do a long walk is going to have a high price for me (even including financial) and so it had better be worth it and not just some fantasy I have.

So why do it?

Some people like the treks for the people they meet, both locals along the route and fellow trekkers. Sounds good, but there are lots of ways to get that experience (car camping in Wyoming gets a lot of that, or even a foreign trip, even if from the window of a tour bus, at least partially). So that’s a bonus, but not my main reason.

No, my reason is simple. I wish to test myself. I want the trip to be hard enough to challenge me, but not kill me (or some serious outcome, mugged, injured, kidnapped, etc). I want to prove, not to anyone else, but to myself I can do this. My backpacking trips remove some of the romance and I know longish trips have their problems – getting dirty, some injuries, bugs, bad sleep, bugs, sunburn, etc. It’s not all wonderful. Nature is trying to kill us (or at least suck our blood) all the time. To survive takes resourcefulness. Even such a civilized trip as the Camino is still a bit of ordeal and bad things can happen. So while I’m not a thrill seeker, OTOH, I want a bit of pain and suffering, and to prevail. To overcome my own laziness and weakness and keep on keepin’ on. No, I’m not going to thru-hike the AT or PCT, but I can do something harder than any routine thing I’ve done. And at the end of each day there is no car (or bus or train) or motel (maybe a hostel) or fancy dinners – no just the basics, water, safety, self-medical help (or emergency help), some place to sleep, some place to eat. Just enough. Sure I like “luxury” trips too – last year’s trip to Santa Fe (via Wyoming and Utah) was fine. Clean beds every night, good places to eat – nothing wrong with a trip like that. But it’s too easy.

And even my camping trips to Wyoming are “too easy”. Once campground reservations on the Internet became possible, now they’re mandatory. My favorite campground, certainly my favorite campsite, is impossible to get into without reservations. So that means a strict schedule, nothing spontaneous, so all the other roads are not taken since if it’s Tuesday that means site X and Thursday is site Y. Again, not a bad trip, but not what I want. I want some uncertainty and definitely not a fixed schedule (except maybe the plane flight on each end of the trip). My ideal trip would have my minimum living requirements readily available no matter what path I took.

I’ve only made a few trips to Europe and then to Japan and China (both business, a little sightseeing) so there is a lot of world out there I’ve never seen. So why go through the trouble and expense of a trip to see just a few hundred miles. Well, simple, I’ve done the rush-rush, more cities, more museums, more sights to see, more food to sample type trips, and so seeing a small part of the world one footstep at a time is what I’m looking for. So what if I’ve taken the time/cost to get to Germany and all I see is one river and a few towns; it’s the experience, especially including I do (most of) it with my own power.

So hopefully I’ll get my wish. All I can do at the moment is stay on the treadmill and keep doing the Wabash (all to keep up my walking fitness) and continue to scan the Net for the trip that finally might come together for me.

Wish me luck.

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Thinking about homebrewing

I had a lot of fun learning to do bread baking so moving on to cheese or beer is a natural. Cheese looked a little too hard so I checked out homebrewing. It’s way more technical than bread (good, I like that part). But it requires a lot more equipment and makes a bigger mess (with the mostly patient significant other only sorta tolerates, i.e. mess in the kitchen).

So I found a good local homebrew supply store and even took one of their classes (got to sample some homebrews while standing around waiting on boils) and it was fun. I figure, based on my experience with bread, however, I won’t be content just to do the easy brews with malt extract and will either move on to all-grains or nothing, so I know I’m in for acquiring a lot of equipment and supplies.

But my biggest reservation is the same I have for bread – too much product. Naturally I got interested in bread about the same time I also went on major weight loss (now maintenance) project and while bread isn’t that bad for calories, good bread I want to eat (and therefore too much) is. Beer would be even worse. My fresh bread with no preservatives was mostly bad after a day or so (yep, froze some, but not as good as fresh) so a lot went to waste. That’s not a big expense but I hate being wasteful, esp. on something where many people don’t have any. Beer has a longer “shelf-life” but still even the minimum home quantities I’d make would be way more than I can consume (that is assuming I don’t want to get fat again). And many of the people I know either don’t drink or don’t like craft beer (amazing, why would anyone waste calorie budget on tasteless megabrew stuff, but that’s what they like).

And another major issue is the relatively long time between production and consumption (usually minimum of four weeks, could be as long as a year). In bread I’d try experiments and have the result to taste in a few hours or a day or so. And in the few fails I had I didn’t mind feeding the bad bread to the birds. But throwing out five gallons of beer where the ingredients cost $30-50 and I spent many hours and several days making is not appealing.

Home brewing sounds like a lot of fun, especially if one also gets involved with other beer. I can quickly exhaust anyone’s patience talking about bread so talking about beer would be worse, unless, of course, it’s other beer fans who like sharing beer trivia. Fortunately I live in a place with good homebrew supplies, multiple brewing clubs, some homebrew fests and competitions. But the flip side of that is there is also fairly good retail variety so the amount of calories my weight budget can allow is easily met by purchases. Plus within a day’s drive there are numerous craft breweries to visit.

So I’m still debating this but I have a birthday coming up so maybe that will be on my wishlist.

btw: I find it amusing (and silly) how nutrinuts are all worried about GMO. Message – neither barley or hops have ANY GMO, so get over it. GMO has turned into this bogeyman that people don’t even understand (yet fear), but at least you nuts could get your facts straight about what’s in beer (admittedly some megabrews might use corn or sugar, so go get craft brews that don’t; even wheat beers have no GMO since there is no GMO wheat). So if you’re going to be scared about something, at least find out the facts and stop being scared of imaginary product.

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