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December 30, 2003

Did I say blow it up? Lets blow it up!

I'm off to the Nevada desert again with a bunch of friends to blow stuff up. We've got even more fireworks this time then before. We've got over 100 mortar rounds just as an example. It will be very cold there, probably snowy, so this will definitely be an interesting trip.

I still have lots to write and comment on, but that will have to wait for tomorrow afternoon when I get back.

Wish me luck!

Posted by wonko at 10:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 24, 2003

Why we spend.

American's are working more than ever before. Most Americans get very little vacation. Most Americans end up using their vacation for non-vacation purposes, or to quickly fulfill their duty to their family. Time is our most valuable commodity. To quote the Book of Worldly Wisdom, "Nothing really belongs to us but time. which you have even if you have nothing else." But what happens when we give all our time to someone else, much as a servant would. Most Americans give their time to work, to make someone else rich.

So there you are, working longer and longer hours, maybe making decent money, but for what? You don't have a lot of free time. Especially after you take care of your home, car, finances, etc... So what do most people do? Spend money. Or rather, buy things for themselves.

The justification goes as follows. "I worked hard, I deserve a reward! I really can't take a lot of time off for anything, so I'll buy a nice car. This car has the added benefit of showing others how hard I work." The trouble is, most of these things are either unnecessary, or something far cheaper would have more than sufficed. Like eating, it makes you feel better. Spending money is a drug like alcohol used to forget a life with little true progress or meaning.

Leisure time, for lack of a better term, is essential to a life lived with meaning. It is in the moments between rushing from goal to goal that we gain perspective on ourselves and where we are going. For many, these moments are too few and far between to have any cumulative value. Its not just that there is more to live than work. Its that, for most, work, while a necessity, should be secondary to life. Who's life? Yours and the people you care about.

Posted by wonko at 08:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tourism spreads the virus.

No I'm not talking about the national flu epidemic, which I have managed to evade. I am talking about our brand of capitalism and social values. Obigabu recently wrote about his trip to Nogales and how it wasn't at all what he'd expected. It was a tourist trap in the guise of a poor mexican town. I live in a beautiful town that has become a mecca for greed for the same reasons. There are lots of places throughout the world that have sacrificed their culture and community values to get a piece of the American Pie.

Tourism breeds Americanism.

In some ways I have mixed feelings about it. I don't fault anyone for taking advantage of stupid American tourists who are usually more concerned with their own comfort than the culture they are visiting. On the other hand, it appears American money is like the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings; Everyone wants it, and once you have it, it tends to corrupt. Once the people of these places saw how they could get money from tourists, they abandoned much of their community and culture for the promise of money.

I admit I am being a little vague and further more, I am not an expert, nor am I in a position to make these comments. Maybe these are just projects of my own cynicism towards the american. Though, I think living in a tourist trap myself, I might be in a good position to comment on it. Mammoth is losing its culture and community very rapidly as cash becomes king. Its sad to see happen and there seems to be no way to stop the hemorrhaging. I've stated before that I believe this country puts money and possessions as its #1 priority, willingly. In this sense, who can blame the Mammothites for being good capitalists. They aren't doing anything illegal. They aren't doing anything a good capitalist would find immoral.

Its hard to look beyond our individual microcosms towards the larger ecosystem when it doesn't appear anyone else is interested in broader views either.

Posted by wonko at 07:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Christmas in Mammoth: Year II

Last year I wrote about my first experience with Christmas in Mammoth. I thought I'd continue the tradition this year.

I began to think about this topic in ernest as I waited in the right hand lane for the light to turn green on the corner of Old Mammoth and Meridian. Once the light turned green, the SUV poorly equipped for these conditions, tried to speed ahead and cut me off so he/she could turn into the Vons parking lot not 30' from the intersection. This move didn't work, so they were forced to cut the person behind me off. I'm not sure what it is about being in an automobile that erases any sense of altruism the driver once held. Watching cars with Jesus Save's bumper stickers park in illegally in handicapped spots, or in the middle of roadways as they complete their important business. It is even more astounding when you consider that all of these people are on vacation, not at work. They are in a hurry for nothing. The most apparent character trait is selfishness. Whatever they are doing is more important than what anyone else has to do. The thought of losing a moment of their precious time to someone else is foreign. One of the most common things I've seen is the person who wants to turn left so desperately, they'll block all traffic until they can do it. They'll just pull right out on the slick roads.

All of this is made worse by the fact that it has snowed for 2 days straight with no end in sight. Combine this with a town that has almost no sidewalks and you get some dangerous scenarios. Once the snow from the road has been pushed to the sides of the road, affectively narrowing the road, it becomes a dangerous game of pedestrian pinball. It wouldn't be quite so bad if so many tourists didn't just stop in the middle of the road to take care of their business. I don't know how many cars I've seen stopped right in front of the KFC, which is a busy back-road intersection, when there were plenty of spots in the actual KFC parking lot. I imagine they believed it saved them a minute of walking or parking.

Christmas in Mammoth is very much the anti-christmas. Forget about the story of the christ child, this is about greed, self-centeredness, and shattered expectations.

Then again, this is what we get in a society where Christmas vacation may be the only vacation they get where they can spend it with their family. Most of these people have been waiting all year for this and have built up their expectations to an high crescendo. They will almost all be disappointed when they find their dream must fit right along with the tens of thousands of other dreams that try and jam their way into Mammoth every Christmas.

Me? Ba humbug. I'm going to work and stay home. Hopefully this dreadful Christmas season will pass soon.

Posted by wonko at 02:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 22, 2003

Fight the system...

I am continuously bombarded by pressure to adopt a more traditional lifestyle. A lifestyle more conducive to approval by the majority. I feel the stare of others wondering how I can't see it as they do. Wondering how I can be so immature. Hopes and dreams are one thing, but then theirs life. You gotta have a plan, and a car.

Any time you are in the minute minority, you can't help but wonder whether you're wrong. You can't help but doubt. I am a very logical person and tend to view things systematically. I try and see their viewpoint. I really delve into the question my being wrong. At this point, I don't see it. Deciding what you are going to do this minute, this day, this month, this year, this career, this life, should be based on what is best for you, your family, your friends, your community. Not based on pressure to fit a mold you may not want to fit.

Most of the time, it is not that we choose the wrong path, rather that we do not choose at all and as a result, have our path chosen for us. If you do not pick your ideologies and beliefs, they will be set to their default values based on your current time, place, and peers. For most, this involves a notion of some sort of career that allows you and your family to live comfortably while acquiring those things that demonstrate your success to others. Those 'things' are decided by advertising and peer pressure (mostly advertisers). I can't help but see that many of the decisions we make are so counter to anything we would do if we just thought of the ramifications instead of just assuming the system can't be wrong. Debt. DEBT!!! Would any rational person, consciously thinking of the ramifications, buy clothing on credit with terms! I understand that debt doesn't have to be bad, that some debt is good. But most isn't. Most of the time, it is frivolous. Having so many people spend so much more than they have, artificially inflates the mean, spendable money for everyone inevitably raising prices.

One of these overlooked areas is the true cost of acquiring possessions. Almost all possessions require ongoing maintenance. At the simplest level, the more you have the more space you need to store your stuff. But most individual items require some maintenance itself. It gets worse when we look at things related to technology because upgrading to newer, better models of what you have always seems mandatory and sometimes is. You will need to replace your TV within the next 7 years at which point all TV will be HDTV as dictated by the FCC.

At this point I often get labeled as many things I am not. I am not an anarchist. I do not believe all possessions are bad. I do not believe money is evil. I do not believe it is wrong to want your own home or a nice car. What I believe is that we should choose our own path and see how our actions, harmless though they may be, dictate our path. It is not enough to decide on a path, you must support that decision with action. Complacency does lead somewhere, but it may not be where you would choose. So my feeling is that many of those that see me as being immature or unrealistic are themselves a product of complacency. They have adopted social mores by default based on popularity. My actions are merely the attempt at choosing my own values and path based on what I deem logical and beneficial.

What of the consequences to my insubordination? I'll have to get back to you on that one.

PS. Its funny how, when confronted with someone that disagrees with us, we often attribute it to them not having thought the issue through as thoroughly as we have.

Posted by wonko at 10:06 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 21, 2003

Split Negatives

Better late than never. Last wednesday, my roommate Brandon and I borrowed some split boards from a friend who works at another snowboard shop. A split board is a snowboard that splits apart to become two skis in a randonee or tele setup. You put skins on the bottom of those skis and bam! you can skin up mountains in deep powder. Brandon and I had never done the negatives so were a little unsure of where to go. To get there, you go to the top of the June Mountain Resort and drop out of bounds behind lift J7. At this point we ended up farther right than we were supposed to. This brought us down into a valley we had to skin out of just to get back to the path we were supposed to be on. In the end, it took us over 4 hours to skin to the very top of the Negatives which are higher than Mammoth Mountain at over 11,000'. Once there, we were both able to choose our own completely non-tracked chute. Neither of us crossed a single other track in our descent. Once down, we had to re-split the boards and skin back up to June and the bottom of J7. It was a very long day. We left at 8:30 and got back at 4. We were actually worried we might not get back in time for the last lift, but we did. Neither of us had skinned much, so we were both wiped.

I've seen the light though. A split board is such an ideal setup for trying to get to back country riding destinations. We were able to move so much faster. I can't imagine how long it would have taken if we had had to walk. The snow was pretty deep, if we were walking we would have been post-holing at least 2-3' each step. Now I just need a split board.

Posted by wonko at 07:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 20, 2003

Becoming a home owner.

I'm tired of apologizing for not posting enough, but I am sorry. I haven't posted partially because I've been busy, but also because I knew what I wanted to write about wouldn't be easy.

Sarah and I have been looking into buying a place for some time, but finding a reasonably priced place in Mammoth is tough. We had ruled out buying a house, due to high prices, and were looking at condo's instead. The problem with condos up here is that they all have really high HOAs (home owner's association fees), like in the hundreds of dollars per month. Money you are basically throwing away.

On Monday, the realtor we have been dealing with called us to tell us about a building for sale. It's a duplex with two 3bdr, 2bath units, one of which is already rented. There was already a tremendous amount of interest in the place, so if we wanted it, we had to move fast, which we did. We made an offer immediately. They countered our offer along with another buyer's offer and we responded first. They accepted our offer. What does this mean? It means if we don't back out, we've got the place.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about all of this. I have only begun to really solidify them, but I wanted to get them out sooner rather than later, it already being later than sooner.

First of all, I don't like to be rushed, especially on such a big decision. Being rushed immediately makes me feel suspicious. This is one of the minor issues.
Secondly, the place needs a lot of work. We wouldn't necessarily have to do any or all of it, but I think we would. This would likely amount to a large time and money drain for the foreseeable future. This is a larger issue to me. I have aspirations and ideas on how I want to be spending my time and not spending my money over the next many years. My ideologies lead me to believe that we should pick an choose the responsibilities we adopt based on what will help us as individuals to reach our goals and/or help others around us. It doesn't seem wise to me to adopt responsibility just because thats what you're supposed to do. Given that we would be landlords at this place and that we would probably feel compelled to fix it up, I could see how my responsibility to this place could become sizable.

This brings up an issue I've been meaning to write about, but I'm not sure if this is the proper post to do it in. I have been thinking lately that almost all possessions require maintenance of one form or another. The maintenance may be tangentially related such as needing space to put that something in, or it may be direct, like having clothing that requires dry cleaning. Given what I said above about being discerning about what responsibilities we adopt, I think we should be more careful about what we require, considering the ongoing cost be it time, money, or otherwise. I'll write about this later though.

My third issue is a bit more nebulous. I feel guilty. I live in a very expensive town with 2 classes. Lower class and upper class. There is almost no middle class here. The upper class is represented by second home owners, who cavort up here for the weekend leaving their million dollar home vacant most of the year, and home owners, who's only concern is the appreciation of their property, even at the expense of the townspeople. I have friends, who are older than I, who have worked just as hard as I, who can not even dream to afford a place in Mammoth. Why can I? If we do buy a place, will we too have our vision clouded by dollar signs voting in ways and making decisions which are detrimental to those who can barely afford to live here already. The lower class in Mammoth represent one of the leisure class in the famous quote, "At either end of the financial spectrum there lies a leisure class." They have come here to get away from the pressures of the city. Most of them do not believe money is the source of happiness or that they have to follow the dictated American dream as mandatory service in this life. Most eventually feel the pressure of age and begin to think twice about the role of money in their lives. This transformation is a common, sad one to watch in the individual. It is almost never greeted with gladness, but with melancholy defeat as an inmate returning to server the rest of his life sentence.
When the realtor told us how much the other tenants were paying in rent, we knew they were getting a good deal. The realtor, of course, suggested we could immediately raise their rent. Sarah seemed perfectly willing to do this, to offset what would be a higher cost of living for us. I didn't feel right about it, however. I know how hard it is already in Mammoth, and I have been at the receiving end of a large rent increase. I saw this debate as epitomizing one of my great fears as stated above. Money corrupts. I want to make sure it doesn't corrupt me. Through actions, instead of words.

My fourth issue is unreasonable. I enjoy our current situation. I love where we live, the space we have, and living with our roommates. Its been a great experience. The idea of giving that up to become an owner is a tough one. This emotional issue is unreasonable however, as our current situation won't last much longer anyway. The building we live in has been sold, and our new landlords will likely raise our rent or kick us out.

Fifthly, I am worried about slowing being assimilated into the American dream, which is NOT mine. I am worried about slowly being forced to become a consumer, working hard for someone else, for the right to consume. I began writing another entry some time ago about this issue, but have not completed it. Suffice it to say, I am skeptical about the true need to fit the American mold. I try and view it from all angles. I try and play the devils advocate against myself. What this means practically, is that I try and poke holes in my ideologies and how those ideologies manifest themselves in the act of living. I try and explain to myself that my current beliefs on what is important are unreasonable and that if I do not shape up now and get on the bandwagon, I will find myself left behind later in life. As much as I try, I can not convince myself the traditional way makes more sense than the way I've been steering towards. The only convincing argument I've come up with is that the system is too entrenched to fight and that being right doesn't matter. Because who wants to be right and alone or unhappy, when you could be deluded and content. The best example is the scene from the Matrix Cypher admits he would rather be in the made up world tasting steak than eating gruel in the world he knows is real.

Finally, I just have a bad feeling. I don't know why, nor if it my feeling is reasonable or not. I just don't feel good about it. I'm worried about the outcome and don't know why. I have a hard time trusting my own irrational instinct. Not irrational in the sense of being bad science, so much as I can't back it up with fact or reasoning. This whole thing comes at a strange time for me as an individual as well as for Sarah and I as a couple. Its a huge decision which will affect the next many years of our lives. Its a huge decision we have less than 2 weeks to make decisively. It also comes at a bad time as it is Christmas time, the busiest time of the year for both of us. It will be hard to get inspectors and/or other people we need to verify this is a good purchase.

On the flip side, the price is good for Mammoth. We wouldn't have to pay HOAs. The place would almost certainly go up in value over the next couple years. Our monthly mortgage payment would not be much higher than our current rent payment if would could at least maintain the current rent income the place already has. The place is definitely big enough for us (though it doesn't have a lot of closet space, nor does it have any outdoor storage like a garage.) The place is close to our work and I could still walk to work when needed.

I have to figure out what position I'm going to take. Right now, I'm still not sure.

Posted by wonko at 11:11 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 14, 2003

Back Country Skiing

Today Sarah, Bruce and I skied up to Minaret Vista and dug a snow cave. It was my first time skinning (skiing with climbing skis to enable uphill skiing) and I see the light. It was such an amazingly fast way to travel over the snow. Our first attempt at a snow cave collapsed on Bruce. I was shoveling snow out of the entrance way when *POOF*, there was a big plume of of smoke and Bruce was gone. We did some more work on it and had a decent snow cave after a while. We then made hot cocoa on the snow benches we made. It took a couple hours to get up there and make the snow cave. It was sunset before we started to leave and the views were astoundingly beautiful. Sure was cold though. It was dark by the time we got back tot he car.

Definitely a good time had by all and something Bruce and I will repeat soon. This morning it was dumping and very windy. It cleared up before we had a chance to go unfortunately. Hopefully we'll get the chance to try it in bad weather. Good training.

Posted by wonko at 10:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 13, 2003


Thanks to Obigabu's suggestion, I'm putting my AIM screen name and online status indicator up. If you catch me on, feel free to bing me.

Posted by wonko at 03:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Much to do, much to regret not doing now...

Time passes. Its been a busy week, though I'm not sure what I was so busy doing. It certainly doesn't feel like I accomplished much. I'm sure I actually did do a lot, but the fact that none of it was important enough to recall makes it feel like I didn't accomplish anything. Certainly I didn't accomplish those things that I wanted to and that I would remember. Therein lies the problem. There is so much I want/need to do, then there's everything else. It is possible that there are too many things I want to do for me to possibly get them all done. But I rarely seem to be able to even get started. Clearly I need to manage my time better. Its tough when we look at the correlation between how we spend our time and our priorities. I need to figure out my priorities again and commit to making my time match those.

I enjoy snowboarding and hanging out with friends a great deal. I need to balance that with the other things I am trying to do. I'm bad with balance, especially as it relates to my time.

Even now...

Posted by wonko at 02:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 05, 2003

Turning Tables

It used to be that Sarah got mad at me for working too much and taking my work on vacation with us. It seems the tables have turned. Now, Sarah works too much and takes her work on vacation with us. What does this all mean? As I waiting for Sarah to finish her 2hr phone call with the relief pharmacist to help her make the weekly order, I couldn't help but think of how Sarah had felt as she waiting for me to finish the business conference call I had on our honeymoon. I've changed a lot since then. What can I tell Sarah now? I feel that I should warn her about the perils of completely giving yourself to your work. Even if she does actually help people in her work, she has to attend to herself as well as her patients. Depending on what you are doing, life is either too long or too short. Those with a lot of regret always wonder where it all went. Of course, you usually never regret until its too late. I don't want to end up regretting. To this end, I try and look forward as well as back to try and gain some larger perspective. How will I look back on all this much later? Will I see this period as productive or wasted? Fun is not necessarily wasted, nor always productive. Work can be viewed as either as well. Its not a matter of how much got done so much as how one spent his/her time. Each person has to decide for themselves what they consider productive or wasteful. However, I always remember the old warning, "On their deathbed, no one ever said, I wish I had spent more time at the office."

Posted by wonko at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

Travel as meaning

Going to SF has given me the travel bug again. Travel is more than just having fun and seeing sights to me. Meeting new people, seeing how other people live and think is extremely enriching. While traveling I feel that my time is being used in such a meaningful way. On the other hand, home life doldrums often feels like I am wasting away towards the grave. This trip was particularly damning as I spent my time with people that have traveled a great deal, all around the world. It appeared to me that their travels had made them more open minded to how other people live and think. They were able to adapt quickly to the various situations we got in with an air of calm collectiveness. They had been in foreign places before with the various problems that come with being in a strange place with strange people.

I feel a painful ache to travel before things happen that might increase my responsibilities to a point that travel would be irresponsible. It seems irresponsible not to travel looking towards a future where travel may be impossible. Roundtrip tickets from LAX to London are only $350-$450. Once there, it is easy and inexpensive to move around Europe. There are air fares as low as $20 between nearby countries making it cheaper than taking the train in some circumstances. Europe is only one exotic place where people are different. There are places in the US I feel compelled to visit as well.

While seeing the sights is definitely one of my goals in traveling abroad, it is not the main attraction. As such, I would love to go to places for longer lengths of time, to meet and immerse myself with the people. I'm sure some of you would roll your eyes at this seemingly naive idea, but I can't shake it. I am sure I can find people I know, if by a few degrees, anywhere I'd go. Having that starting point makes it possible to meet other locals and get deeper than going as a sightseeing tourist.

What to do...

Posted by wonko at 05:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Feedback Loops

I often hear that Television is evil. It has always been my position that the Television is an inanimate object that can neither be evil, nor good by itself, it is all what we make of it. My statement is simplistic however, as even I see that the content of television appears to be getting worse and worse. My claim that it is getting worse assumes some baseline of course. I'll say that less and less TV seems to be contributing to society in a positive way while more and more TV seems to be echoing the worst of our society. Many claim that it is the TV (and those that produce its content) that is contributing to the decay of our society. This too is overly simplistic. In reality, the TV is more like a feedback loop that reflects our society as it is, even as it encourages the direction it reflects. This feedback between action, reflection and expectation can be seen in our personal lives as well. We often have an image we desire for ourselves. Which is to say, we have an image we'd like others to see. We do specific, calculated things that we think others would see as representative of that image. In this way we hope they see us in the way we want to be seen. In doing those things and getting our desired response, we encourage ourselves towards like behavior. Eventually, this can change who we really are to be closer to our desired image. In this way our actions can influence our nature just as our nature often dictates our action. If we can identify these loops, we can use them to our advantage or discontinue those that might be detrimental. There is a dilemma that arises as we talk about predicating who we want to be by what we do. We seem to be more socially successful when we are being ourselves. If we are 'acting' a certain way to change who we are, we are not being real until our nature catches up with our actions. We may decide to excuse this temporary lapse in consistency, but like plastic surgery, may continue acting as some desired self even after we reach our previous goal-self. When is it o.k. to project your desired better self by acting out of character and when is it disingenuous and/or wrong?

Posted by wonko at 04:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'm googleriffic!

If you do a search for 'Vons Strike' on google, I appear to be the #2 result. I'm famous!

Posted by wonko at 12:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 02, 2003

As I feared...

When I began the great experiment I foresaw there would be issues. Things were going exceptionally well and I was beginning to think my worries were unfounded. I was beginning to think there wouldn't be negative ramifications to my taking the path of idealism. Well, now I know, and am I'm faced with a serious issue I am completely unsure of and unprepared for that is a direct result in my changing/solidifying my ideologies.

Posted by wonko at 11:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack