Book plug

Following is a reminiscence incorporated into a review of:

Conversational Guide to Backcountry Equipment:
How to choose and use gear and clothing

-by Brad Groves. Lichen and Ice Press – Marquette, Michigan, 2020.

Full disclosure. I have never met the author, but my copy was a gift from his father. Maybe that affects my review, but I think I have given an objective assessment.

If selecting appropriate outdoor gear is of any interest to you – if you’re into backpacking, camping, hiking, hunting, wondering about optimal choices for your bug out bag, even just blowing the snow from a 1,000 foot driveway – you should click the link above. And you needn’t take my word for it, check out the videos.

Brad Groves has written an engaging… well what the title says. It is well and profusely illustrated. The advice on equipment is intelligent and guided by vast experience. Practical details abound. Beginning and experienced backpackers will benefit from Coach Groves advice.

Beginners will want to read straight through. More experienced folks are also likely to find new insights. In either use case it could benefit from an index, or a searchable digital edition.

For example, a book addressing backpacking will necessarily include much discussion of the weight of items. On page 65 there’s a note on the weight difference in two nearly identical down vests – almost half a pound (a lot) – 37 pages later there is a note on the weight of a pair of camp shoes. Avoidable weight is important. Easily finding these examples of how to calculate avoided weight would be nice: I can trade off this weight for this weight for this cost.

I’m a geek. I would have a spreadsheet or two on this.

Without an index you have to RTWT. Which you will do because the writing will hold your interest, but being able to easily collate various references would be useful.

This does not detract from the quality of the content.

My relative expertise in these matters is tiny and ancient, but in my younger days I did a fair bit of backpacking. I still have some of the micro-sized stoves and other ultra-low weight gear popular in the 70s.

Following is a backpacking experience of my own, where weight and camp shoes combined with youth and optimism to override intelligence and experience.

Screen Shot 2020-06-24 at 1.05.38 PMYes, that pack was too heavy… read on.

My most adventurous trip was backpacking on several of the Hawaiian islands in 1975, and the most notable trek of that excursion was Haleakala Crater on Maui.

The Haleakala caldera is essentially an 8,000 foot high desert. There’s a 2,000 foot wall of mountains around it which blocks almost all the 55 inches of rain annually falling on nearby Hana. We needed to carry water for four days. So, everyone started out pack heavy.

I well recall setting off at 10,000 feet at the Sliding Sands Trailhead.Sliding Sands trailhead edit
About a mile in…
Peaty Fran Sliding Sands Trail

…I came to regret a couple of my “gear” decisions.

1- There were four of us – in our twenties. We wanted to have some alcohol along for end of day celebrations. So, in addition to my normal gear (and extra water), I was designated wine carrier. Four bottles. At two pounds twelve ounces each. As noted below, I knew the weight was an issue, but how often do you get to carouse on the caldera of a dormant Hawaiian volcano?

2- I was wearing relatively new boots. Hadn’t hiked in them before, but I’d worn them about the yard and house for a few weeks prior to the trip. They seemed well enough broken in. I did carry a pair of low cut Converse All-Stars as a backup and for use in camp. I wrote off the additional weight as “just in case.”

The first day was a 10 mile long descent of 2,000 feet – over some pretty rough terrain. I exchanged my boots for the All-Stars about half way. Blisters.Duane foot trailI worried about twisting an ankle for that last 5 miles.

On page 82, under “Footwear Height” Groves explains why my understanding of ankle support was flawed. If I was going accept the weight of an extra pair of shoes, I could have had much better ankle support.

While we’re on weight, my first comment after we had camp set up was,
“We’re drinking all this wine. TONIGHT!’

Not that I was naive about carry weight. Fanatic would be more accurate. I trimmed the edges off my maps. I pulled the tags and strings off teabags.

So, the section titled “Footwear Weight” on page 81 is in my youthful mistake wheelhouse, as are the comments on camp shoes under the photo on page 102. If I had had Brad Groves’ book in 1975, I might have reconsidered my boot break-in technique, the All-Stars, and the wine. Intelligence might have suggested replacing the wine with a single fifth of Jack Daniels. ;)

Groves’ advice about weight doesn’t go near the extent of my obsession (which started with a 70s book on backpacking). It is sensible. And professional.

I paraphrase: “Don’t carry unnecessary stuff, and here are some examples of unnecessary stuff.” The reasons for excluding that ‘stuff’ are made very clear. He gives you parameters for identifying ‘stuff’ you need not carry. The edges of paper maps and tea bag tags don’t appear on a list. The list is up to you. Groves gives you good guidance for decision making. With a touch of humor.

Next, I’m reading the section on cold weather boots and gloves, and seeking a balaclava solution that leaves my glasses less fogged: Because my old hands too easily get cold and I have a 1,000 foot driveway I must clear of winter snow.

Conversational Guide to Backcountry Equipment is a very good book, and a fine gift. I should know.

Planet Without Humans

My initial reaction to the release of Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans was bemusement. Sure, it’s tittilating that some far left icon would point out the Green energy fraud. But, I was also conflicted. On one hand, some envirostatist heads are exploding. On the other, I expected an hour and forty minute exposure to an indictment of capitalism by a multi-millionaire who makes shit up.

Not exactly. Crony capitalism is the symptom here. The real problem is human beings.

If you’ve been paying attention to the windmill and solar panels flimflam, you won’t find very much new about the Green energy con men, though it is devastatingly presented, and many people won’t be aware of the details. The feature that has catastrophic global warming skeptics talking about the film is its condemnation of the corrupt public-pirate partnerships which Moore erroneously calls capitalism while eliding the fact that without the government’s “Green” subsidies this bullshit would stop immediately. Be careful about enjoying the ‘split’ on the Left. Because, while Green energy is a scam, that isn’t Mr. Moore’s end game.

The novelty of a far left critique of the Green energy cabal wears off fairly quickly. The film carefully sets up a no win ecological dilemma only to be solved by drastic reductions in human population and impoverishment of those who remain. Except for Extinction Rebellion leaders, of course, who will still be compelled to fly about in private jets making sure we conform.

Planet of the Humans is an extended public service announcement for Extinction Rebellion, whose goal is to reverse the industrial revolution. And, more broadly, drastically cut human population, “Corona is the cure, humans are the disease.

Now, ER has distanced themselves from this (bad PR), but it’s right in their wheelhouse, and isn’t a new or controversial idea. It’s simply an update of Malthus (1798), Paul Erhlich (1968), The Club of Rome (1972) and the Duke of Edinburgh:

“In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation.”

-Prince Philip speaking to Deutsche Press Agentur in 1988.

The radical depopulation message is not expressed directly, but it is left lying face up on the table as our only hope. Yes, Michael, Big Green is a bunch of lying profiteers whose ruinous solutions to imaginary problems are magical thinking – which some of us have been telling you since forever – but that doesn’t mean we don’t already have a well developed technological solution for your CO2 concerns.

I’ve never seen a better argument for nuclear power plants. Nukes solve the CO2 ‘problem,’ create high paying jobs, provide secure energy, save destruction of wild places, strengthen the grid, are less expensive, cause less ancillary pollution than ‘green’ energy, and are an actually sustainable power source because we can recycle and reuse the fuel – even create it – as part of the energy cycle.

That nuclear power goes entirely unmentioned in a film calling out technological advancement as futile proves my oft stated point: It’s not about wildlife or CAGW. ER admits this. It’s about white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, racialism, Eurocentrism, hetero-sexism, and class hierarchy. Like every other Leftwing intersectionality cult: It’s about the power to dictate how, where and whether you live. Gretchen Whitmer is showing us the trailer here in Michigan.

I did learn one thing from the film; that radioactive waste from mining rare earth metals necessary for solar panels and windmills is simply spread over the desert, despoiling the ecosystem. So, even the nuclear waste argument from the anti-nukers fails.

I did laugh out loud at the company name the narrator used for the corporation formed by Al Gore and David Blood (Goldman Sachs’ Asset Management head), but this film is not a joke at the expense of the Left. It would be good if it resulted in the disappearance of the Green energy extortion industry, but Mr. Moore’s preferred policy replacement is far more draconian and portends a huge increase in human suffering.

Phoenix Falling

Joaquin Phoenix is a sanctimonious ingrate.

“We’re talking,” said Joaquin Phoenix as he accepted his Best Actor award for “Joker,” “about the fight against the belief, one nation, one race, one gender or one species has the right to dominate, control and use and exploit another with impunity. I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric worldview, the belief that we’re the center of the universe.”

We may be talking, but not coherently.

What’s with the conflation of nations, beliefs, races, genders and species, aside from the fact they’re all nouns? And, I’m not sure where “impunity” figures into it.

For simplicity, let’s just examine “species.” For millions of years every species has been ready to kill every other species. We’re the only species to have done anything about that, and not just for our own. In fact, we’re the only species who can muster any angst about other species.

You can argue that we can do a better job (as we continually have) of maintaining a pleasant and safe environment – but we can do that precisely because we’ve exploited the natural world. We have not done so with impunity. We have suffered immensely.

Mr. Phoenix’ disdain for humanity is exceeded only by the natural world’s indifference to humanity. His worldview might profit from reviewing the history of, oh, subsistence farming – an occupation to which the envirostatists and eliminationists would have us return. Call it equality of outcome for all species.

Contra Mr. Phoenix, we should celebrate our success in moderating the natural world. That’s actually what the Oscars are about. His very profession is unimaginable without the wealth we wrested from nature. He wouldn’t be collecting an award for his existentially trivial efforts in the universe he proposes. He’d have been eaten, died of malaria, or starved to death.

The universe is apathetic toward us, but we are still close enough to its center to electronically transmit, into the comfortable homes of millions of people with nothing better to do; a ceremony staged by an industry that wouldn’t exist without the immense labor and intelligence of millions of human creators and consumers. A ceremony, moreover, to hand out trinkets celebrating expertise in make-believe; in a bright, climate controlled theater filled with healthy, wealthy humans; in a city unimaginable a century ago; in a world where environmental improvements go hand in hand with accumulation of wealth; and where poverty and hunger are well on the way to elimination.

Mr. Phoenix stood on the shoulders of billions of human creators in order to tell us we aren’t doing it perfectly. Have him get back to me when he’s got coronaviruses singing Kumbaya.