Curmudgeon.  Andy Rooney was one.  And I am one.


Andy Rooney used to complain at length on how difficult it was to get the tops off of things and get at what lay beneath the wrapper, or cap, be it peanuts, a soft drink, or some other snack.  He was usually on an airplane when he would find the wrapper from hell, the packaging that would bring forth a vicious onslaught of words.


I am not on an airplane.  I am in front of my computer.  And I am about to complain about several things, but first, let us look at the definition of the word.


One of the first definitions of said word is ´a miser,´ an “ill tempered and surly person.` The dictionary, or thesaurus, goes on to say a bad tempered or cantankerous person.  An old person who is often in a bad mood.  WikiHow has a tutorial telling anyone that reads it how to become a curmudgeon, the only problem is that they do not use any old people.   All the characters are young. Some of their tips. Do NOT go with the flow.


What am I going to complain about here?  Well, let´s start with the telephone.


One of my pet peeves throughout the ages has been recorded messages, or the lack of a real, live, human voice when talking to no one in particular on the telephone. To register for something or other, press one.  To listen to a recording telling you what an idiot you are, press two.  To give up hope, press three. To hear this message again, press four. And, to speak to a live, human being, go away.  You won´t get that here.


These are just some of the options available on the telephone these days.  This message kungfu exists in Brazil as well as in most “civilized” nations.


I tried dialing 135.  Actually, I succeeded in dialing 135.  That put me in contact with INSS, where a litany of recorded messages awaited me, none of them with a real human being on the end of the line.  I was so rattled by the time I had hung up (I only lasted half a minute, if that) that I needed to sit down to collect my thoughts. Why, oh why, do people do this to one another?


Moving on to other things, let us complain about never getting a straight answer from anyone.  


I know, I know, you are probably thinking why cannot I get a straight answer out of Rick?  But I am thinking why cannot I get a straight answer out of Holt, my brother?


I asked him several times, in at least two seperate emails, if he had gotten my letter from Brazil (which was addressed to Patty, his wife, which I sent more that one month ago).  He chose to ignore this question and focus on more important concerns such as his upcoming trip to Arizona. I also sent Patty an email with the same question. Since she has basically never checked her email in her life, I am willing to wait until the cows come home to get my answer, which will probably never come.   


This, in light of the fact that I have received emails from him noticeably frustrated at the inability of his younger brother to respond to such and such a request.  It is as if all the world revolves around Holt.


And last but not least, Wendy and the boxes.  This takes the cake.


It seems that the people at the post office in China are really getting their money’s worth regarding Wendy and my boxes.  It turns out that the address wasn’t detailed enough. They need a more detailed address. I told Wendy that the address that I gave her was the most detailed one that I had.  Did she want driving instructions? Does she want an address from the bottom of the sea? What does she want, exactly? Who put her up to this? Why me? I just want my bloody boxes.  Boxes, boxes, boxes. I just want my bloody boxes.


Tomorrow is the magic day.  She will send the boxes tomorrow. So she says.  We have been there before.


So, this is the address which she says is not detailed enough.  I replied that it is a very simple address, and a very good address to boot.  


Rick Ruffin

C\O Holt and Patty Ruffin

403 Atlantic Ave.

Santa Cruz, CA

95062, USA


So, I spelled it out.  I told her that I am Rick Ruffin, and the owners of the house are Holt and Patty Ruffin.  I went on to say that the name of the street is Atlantic Avenue (two blocks from the Pacific, but I am not here to debate the nature of things), and the house number is 403.  I told her the city is called Santa Cruz, and the state is California, and the zip code is 95062, and the country is, roll the drums please, United States of America. But what I sent her, for perhaps the tenth time, was NOT DETAILED ENOUGH.  Beats me. It really beats me.


And so, I am a curmudgeon, and rightfully so.  Life has made me who I am.

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There IS an American University in Afghanistan? Amazing.

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Shades of Burning Man

20160709_231617Flyer of festivities available at Wild Market, July 11th, Hualien, Taiwan, 2016.

Wild Market I heard about because one of the founders is a Japanese (Mario, a name as Japanese as they come) fellow who is staying here at Amigo’s Hostel in Hualien. He, along with another Japanese fellow I like to refer to as “George and Lenny,” because they remind me (physically, at least) of the two characters in Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, although the similarity ends there. Mario, the short guy, looks like some sort of storm trooper out of an old WWII movie (he is vehemently ANTI-war, however), and the tall one, I think Izo is his name (but I am probably mistaken) is simply crazy and wild and was last seen wearing a loin cloth and leading a dance ensemble on the stage of Wild Market.

But what these two gentlemen showed to me was that a bunch of hippies can come together and create a beautiful thing, even if it is 2016. The idea, the thought, is what counts.

I met Li Ning (莉寧) at Wild Market. I did not have to say a single thing twice, and for this I thank her. But our conversation was not simply enjoyable because she spoke and understood English so well (in a country that speaks Mandarin primarily, when you encounter someone like this latch on), but also because she thinks a lot like I do. Therefore, the discussion rolled along like bulldozers run amok, or huge boulders careening down a canyon–with nothing to stop it.

The first thing she says to me is, “Where did all these hippies come from? I have never seen so many hippies gathered in one place in my entire life.”
“Neither have I,” said I. “At least not since Woodstock.” I was referring of course to my lack of sightings of field hippies since the late 60’s and early 70’s, with the exception of course, of the Oregon Country Fair.

“They must be bankers or accountants or have ‘normal’ jobs in the ‘real’ world. Do they act like this during the weekday?” she added.
“Beats me,” I said. “They probably came out of the woodwork just for this occassion.” I was worried she had never heard that expression, but she had.

Somehow the conversation drifted toward the police shootings in America. She knew all about them. “These people are just being killed because they are black.”  I mentioned that anytime you have 300 million guns in circulation, they are going to get used. She nodded her head. We debated how long it would take a crazy person to take out a dozen people with a knife, then realized that that was almost impossible. In any case, we both agreed that America has become a police state.

Then, somehow the conversation moved from guns to zoos. She said to me, “You know, I hear that they are closing down many zoos, especially in South America. Argentina, for example.”
“And Ecuador,” I added.

Then I mentioned that nearby is a zoo.  All of a sudden she lit up and said, “That is the most evil zoo in Taiwan.  They take all the profit they make and use it to build housing developments.”  We did not even get around to discussing the porpoises who perform stupid tricks for treats of raw fish and mostly tired applause from the audience.  We further discussed the ethics of animals living in cages, jail, what have you, rooms with iron bars on the windows, left there to rot away. Then she said, “The news is all bad. The world is weird.”
“I agree,” I said. Then she said goodbye, told me that she was a bit drunk, and would probably forget my name before she got to the next place.

So it goes.

Mario playing a three stringed instrument at Amigo’s Hostel, Hualien, Taiwan, July 11th., 2016.  The name of this instrument is san shin 三線 (Okinawa).


Categories: east asia, taiwan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Supertyphoon Nepartak 

I have not been in Taiwan but 6 weeks and I have already experienced two earthquakes.

Now we have a supertyphoon threatening to stir things up.

Here you can read more.

Or, take a look at this pic taken by Yours Truly, at the beach here in Hualien.  This was taken when the storm was a couple of hundred kilometers offshore.



Categories: Uncategorized, Weather, typhoons, tropical cyclones, waves, wind, surf, rain | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mt. Marathon

This is path of one of the many 4th of July races.  This one takes place in Seward, Alaska.  It is 3,022′ to the top of Mt. Marathon, 3,022′ down.  The race started as bar bet 60 years ago.  Winning time, 41 minutes, 26 seconds. mtmara


And this is one of the woman who ran up and back.   Jo, The Human Hammer.  Good on ya girl!


Categories: Alaska, Mountain Running, Mt. Marathon,, Fourth of July, Kenai Peninsula, Southeast Alaska Scenery, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sailing La Vagabonde


I discovered this  couple–young, strong, good looking and imbued with the sort of confidence that we wish that we all had–by chance surfing the internet one evening.  I think I was on Youtube.

Riley and Elayna are seeing the world by sailboat.  They are privvy to the most spectacular sunsets on the planet.

Originally Riley did not have any sailing experience, but he had some money saved from working on the oilrigs.  He purchased a boat from  a trio of arguing Italians, somewhere in the Adriatic. I think he got a good deal.

Since then, along with Elayna who he met in a nightclub (was she performing at the time?), they have managed to cross the Seven Seas, and are now in the Marquesas Islands in the middle of the South Pacific, in the middle of paradise and one of the most remote places on Earth.  This is where Thor Heyerdahl of Kon Tiki fame went years ago, holing up with wife Liz and a baby pig in a cave while the natives beat the drums of war and threatened to come and get them. I remember him talking about how lush and beautiful his surroundings were, and how the native’s lower limbs were all swollen from elephantiasis.

Here are some links to their growing internet presence.  Youtube

Here is a link to a site where they try to raise money for adventures to come.

Then there are all the other social media sites, which are listed on the right side of their Facebook page. And, there is the attendant media publicity.

What this couple has going for them is pretty much a little bit of everything.  Elayna is simply a great presence.  She is as charming as they come.  She is a cook, videographer, first mate, musician, sailor, storyteller and much, much more.  Plus, she is the loveliest woman you will ever lay eyes on.

Riley is the modern-day swashbuckler, a man with a moustache and a bit of a profile of a pirate.  He has the unique ability to catch fish, sail a boat, chart a course, haul up the anchor, ascend the mainsail, reef the main, scrub the hull free of algae and clams, float the spinnaker, and tackle a million other tasks that come his way daily.  He even has the ability to make one walk the plank, although I am sure he would never do that.

The only task he seems to have problems with is getting his parts delivered to the next port.   Elayna admits that they have little luck in getting parts delivered to the next port of call.

But probably what endears me to Riley the most is his inner desire to become a writer.  He devours books, including a hugely thick novel by one David Foster Wallace.  I hope he understands it because I don’t.

And, he has a blog, here on WordPress.  May the force be with him.

Categories: Riley and Elayna, Sailing Around The World, The Vagabonde, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Pharma Has a Conscience?

According to the BBC, Pfizer, producer of almost every pill known to doctors throughout America, will halt the sales of all drugs used in the process of lethal injection.  They are doing so, they say, because they are in the business of saving lives, not taking lives.

This is great news.  Study after study has shown that the death sentence does little to deter violent crime.  All it does is prove that we, as human beings, have forgotten, or refuse to apply, the concept of forgiveness.

So, perhaps big pharma has a conscience after all.

And, Switzerland, home of Pfizer, long on the receiving end of the USA’s wishn to financially control the world (international banking comes immediately to mind), is also saying to the USA, “Fuck You.”

The drugs are: pancuronium bromide, potassium chloride, propofol, midazolam, hydromorphone, rocuronium bromide and vecuronium bromide.

Categories: Pfizer,, pharmaceutical companies, Worldwide Health, | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life is about Living

Living the Dream… on a Budget!

Source: Life is about Living

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Opioid Addiction

There was recently a Town Hall hosted by Anderson Cooper of CNN.  The topic was opioids (what killed Prince, so they think), and how quick doctors are willing to prescribe them in order to keep pain manageable.

The whole show had a very strange, almost circus like appearance, perhaps because of the nature of its participants (there was this mom who brought her brain damaged son along, who sat next to her as she recounted how he became addicted to opioids, had an overdose, and lost part of his brain function), but more so because of the content of the show . A lot of the content was basically much too bizarre to believe.  For example, while America has 5% of the world’s population, it accounts for 80% of all opioids consumed.

One man gave a harrowing account of being in the hospital and being given fentanyl, when his chart explicitly stated that he was not to be given such painkillers.  And then there is Rush Limbaugh, everyone’s favorite talk show host, who used to rail about lengthy jail terms for drug addicts, the whole time taking oxycontin by the handful.

But the main thing that all the guests and experts failed to address is the pressure that the pharmaceutical lobby must exert on the American people.  Pressure that keeps large sections of the population addicted to prescription drugs.

Now that I have read several John Grisham paperbacks, I realize what snakes lobbyists are. They have really made this world a much worse place for everyone but themselves, and their corporate clients.



Categories: Anderson Cooper, CNN, Health Care, Painkiller addiction, pharmaceutical companies, Worldwide Health, | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lip Balm Guy

I saw this man on TV last night.  His name was Burt, and he had a long beard.  He used to sell honey on the side of the road in New England, until he picked up this hitchhiker who made him famous, and earned him a lot of money.  She earned even more money for herself.

Burt was an interesting character (he died several years ago at the ripe age of 80, in spite of both his doctors telling him he would live to be 100).  He eschewed complexity and embraced simplicity, choosing to live without the creature comforts known to most of us.  For example, he lived in the north woods in a simple cabin with a wood burning stove, no internet, no TV.  He had a dog, however.  Had two at one point.  Labs. He was told they were quite special.  They were.  Especially to him.

The name of the company started by the hitchhiker, and featuring a not so beaming (rarely did he smile, or show emotion, except when crying about his dogs) Burt on the label was Burt’s Bees.  You can look it up.  Better yet, watch the film.  It will tell you more about this guy than I will.


Categories: beekeepers, entrepreneurs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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