Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Technology Handicap or the Socially Awkward Social Media Apps Are They Better than Old Fashioned Posters?

I used to write murder mysteries, I had a talented group of entertainers who worked with me. We printed posters, we submitted press releases. We entertained.

Fifteen years later, the world has changed. No calling friends or hanging posters. Posters? When was the last time you read a poster you walked by? Think about the faded words just begging for a reader to notice them. Never speaking, never able to say "THIS INFORMATION IS HERE FOR YOU and IT'S WORTH READING!" Not all of it is, but some of it warrants a look or a browse. There are fewer posters. Fewer concrete communications of events.

Everything flows from data, seeded through social media applications. Maybe you match an eye catching photo to the information or perhaps a short video; you pay for an ad to tantalize online, you use tags to catch random internet surfers. Tweet. Pin. Tumblr. Blog. YouTube. Angie's List. Craigslist, Facebook, Etsy, Ebay. Do you have all the apps you need yet to communicate?

Part of my mind sees a cartoon of each application as a different type of communication. Say Craigslist is like a blind date.It  could be a prank or sales pitch but you won't necessarily know until you give it time and focus. It could be a great evening... You never know.

Etsy, handmade unless it is "vintage," think of one of those craft circle groups that gets together weekly and the people you meet there spread the word about products hopefully the same way that old women gossip.

Facebook is like the child who constantly talks too loud and has to be looked at for no meaningful reason. You talk at them, wondering if they ever hear a word you say or if they're tuning you out to stare at a mind numbing game about candy.

Twitter is like the party down the hall. Whoever's drunk and shouting has the lines you hear loudest whether you want to or not.

Pinterest is a hobbyist, so passionate that they constantly tell you all about their favorite topics. Probably seven million different times and ways, to the point where you either have it memorized or you've tuned out.

Youtube is like that person who always has the video running. You tell them to stop, saying not funny or not entertaining. They post it anyways. Sometimes it is interesting, other times it is painful to watch.

With all of these characters in mind, which ones would you want promoting your events or interests? It used to be as simple as printing or writing posters and taking a walk. It used to be face to face invites or postal mailings. It used to be personal. Now it is the choice "share" and which engine do you want to use?

I keep thinking I want a communication tool that doesn't have quirks like socially awkward people sharing an elevator.

I keep sharing on the different engines, listening to their cacophany and wondering what will come next? They have apps designed so that if you want to shout over the proverbial hurricane of internet chatter you have to pay for advertising, to raise and promote the rank of your chosen jewel you want shared or you have to hope that you choose a good enough hook- whether it is a picture or a video or even a catchy phrase that gets everyone sharing and commenting on your post. Probably why the most shared posts are controversial political and religious posts.

Perhaps we could retrain the system. Use it as a tool rather than let it sweep us under. We could tune in and tune out. We could comment on shared posts on small businesses, local businesses, events- even if it's just a "great work" we can also share each other's events and items to encourage others to share as well- to increase awareness and promotion of each other.

Remember, we each can make the choice to promote each other; to give artisans a livelihood by buying the art they love to make. We can watch live shows, we can share pictures and videos to show our friends and beyond why we loved the shows. Since we're stuck with the awkward communication club of applications, why not begin to use them rather than have them continue to use us?

How many apps do you adjust your schedule for? Do you just have to get on at a certain time to access another level in a game or to do another silly survey?

Sitting here wondering if this coming Monday night's Storytelling and Magic at Cup O Karma will have a larger crowd. They are promoting the event. I am promoting the event. It will be an excellent evening, and a correlational study of the impact of social media apps on small venue attendance. My new phone shines in a silver metal sheath, waiting to send out word on what comes next.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wake Up or Lose: Reality of Mine Facing Devil's Canyon

Wake up or lose. Shout out! Be heard, stop being a number and start being a voice. One hundred thousand voices are hard to tune out.

I signed a petition last year to let the government know I do not want Oak Flats handed over to a mine. Over a hundred thousand people signed more than one petition telling the government NOT to hand over mining rights yet they did.

Today I stared at the simple response from the President's Office, it said that he did not support what happened but he did nothing to stop it. He just encouraged the politicians and mining company to play nice. I am not political. I don't care for either team, they both spend more time on appearances then on really working for the good of their districts.

Over one hundred thousand people got ignored.  You can see it on the We the People Petition site.

Take a moment and check out youtube videos from Devil's Canyon Arizona. Look at the Photography of Elias Butler, you can find him on facebook or hiking the Canyon trying to capture every moment and memory he can.

What would you do or say if it was the Grand Canyon about to be placed off limits?

What can you do?

Be vocal. Write politicans and share information with friends. There are Occupists in Oak Flats Campground, support them or connect with them. Tell your friends about Devil's Canyon. Add it to your list of places to go and explore. This is a place that should not be missed on your list of "Coolest places you have ever hiked."
This is about all of us losing an amazing place. It has historical significance to the Apache. It is about whether we are wise enough to say that this view, this experience, is worth more than a mining company's profit. Why are we going to allow a mining company to destroy this for some copper that may be 9000 feet down? There are other places to mine. Leave Devil's Canyon Alone.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Devil's Canyon soon to be lost...

Have you ever heard of Devil's Canyon?

That is what my friend asked as she talked about the hike she found. She talked about the rock formations, the hiking and climbing and potential for seeing ruins. I wracked my brain but had no recollection of the name. It was just a couple of evocative words thrown together that a quick Google search revealed was facing imminent hand off to private mining along with Oak Flats Campground. Why had I only heard of Oak Flats? Was Devil's Canyon lame? No, just obscure.
A View approaching Devil's Canyon, Arizona

We went to explore. It required a high clearance vehicle. When we got to the dirt access road it was a little confusing, it seemed as if we were driving into a mine but it was just a mine you have to go past to get to Devil's Canyon. A preview of the potential future of Devil's Canyon if we choose to apathetically allow one of the most beautiful and unspoiled sights to get neatly handed off.

Sunset viewed at Devil's Canyon, Arizona

Devil's Canyon has historical significance to the Native Americans who live in the area and who's ancestors used the land. They as a group did not hand the land over to our government, the individual who signed the rights to the land away did not speak for or represent all of the people. That individual, given divination into modern affairs, would not have signed had they realized their signature would herald the destruction of a place they highly valued.

It is not okay to destroy Devil's Canyon. Have you been there?

Devil's Canyon view, Arizona

Breathtaking views surround you as you hike Devil's Canyon

We drove slowly up and down the steep dirt road, over rocks and down winding switchbacks. We followed the trail and found a gorgeous canyon. Rock formations more amazing than any human architecture surrounded us. I felt like I was in a natural Cathedral, looking at what the world once was. Beautiful, natural, unspoiled. Lichen, lazy pools of clear, cold water, and red rocks piled like bricks, statues and faces. A playground for adults! We climbed rocks, we listened to the sound of the wind in the canyon, knowing that we could be among the last hikers to do so. What would the wind say if it could?

Another amazing view at Devil's Canyon, Arizona
It would say, dream and live. The wind plays through the canyon without breaking the rocks, cactus and plants grow from every surface they can. Green accents the views in a combination of shrubs, cactus, and lichen patterns almost glowing green on the rocks. Gorgeous. In my mind, I could hear the heartbeat of a drum in the distance. In my heart I refused the image of dynamite and metal mining trucks lurking in the future waiting to deconstruct the sights I was falling in love with for copper.

It was like falling in love with someone you already know is dying; who is fiercely living because they just do not know how to die. How can you tune that out? Why would you?

Spread the word, contact legislation especially in Washington. Let them know that it is not alright to mine Devil's Canyon, Oak Flats Campground or Apache Leap because it is not alright. It would be yet one more black mark demonstrating that we value short financial returns for a company over the natural world. It isn't all about profits. What will be there in the future? A mine or a Canyon? It REALLY is up to you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Everyone has a thousand stories.

Everyone has a thousand stories. Each day of our lives add more stories to the vast universe of who and what we are. Our lives are stories. They are not Youtube videos, lasting less than three minutes with advertisements. They are not pop songs crooned by someone just figuring out that they are alive and that they can do more than write their names in the snow with their genitalia. Some lives are happy, some are sad, some are full of challenge, while others seem to fly by without apparent effort as if those people were launched at birth into a different stratosphere of possibility.
Angela R. Hunt, author hiking the Flat Irons.

I have hiked the Flat Irons trail three different times in two years. Each time there has been a story or two or three. Some stories are better than others, calling the listener or reader to attend to the challenges and the emotional charge. Suspense, humor, ridiculous risks, these are all parts of a good story.

Lately, as I search for venues to storytell at I am surprised by how many venues do not regard storytelling as entertainment. How many times I have been told "You are just a kid's activity" as if I were a game of Monopoly or a sit and spin toy. Something to disregard with the relief that I am capable of entertaining all ages including the very young, something apparently perceived as less valuable than music, circus tricks, and even animals. As I deal with being told that there is no financial value to telling stories I know that it is not the case. I wish there was a better definition for a professional who not only tells stories but is capable of writing and creating them. I weave your  requests into a story, or I take a concept and I follow the thought trails to see where it leads. I give you the story. I have told thousands of stories, starting as a child getting in trouble. Everyone was a child. We all got into trouble.

I learned to talk my way into and out of trouble, it was a tricky conversation that started like a stream, clear and obvious. Seemingly shallow and shockingly cold.

It usually went something like this...

"Why do you have to carry buckets of water to your dog?" The blonde, ten year old girl asked of the shorter sandy haired girl.

See it started there, and the sandy haired child about to speak- is me. It started there. I didn't say a word yet. Here it comes.

"Don't you have to water your dog?" Pause while the taller girl shakes her head that she does not.
"Well, did you notice that dogs do not have hands?" There is a nod after the taller girl squints at the dog the two girls are walking toward with a full five gallon bucket of water. The water is sloshing out occasionally, getting the girls feet wet; but there will be plenty left for the dog.

"So how will the dog drink the water?" The taller girl asks. The shorter girl stops. Looks at the taller girl.  Blinks a few times as the forces of good and evil within her war in a tired way that demonstrates trouble wins most frequently.

"We use this." The shorter girl looks very serious as she pulls out a squirt gun. "We have to actually put the water in the dog's mouth. They can't pick up a dish with paws." The taller girl looks at the gun, looks at the dog and nods.

"I wondered how they drank. Can I do it? I should learn." The squirt gun is handed to the taller girl. There is a babbling brook of information flooding out of the shorter girl on shooting technique, frequency. There is a flood across the taller girls ears that gives enough confidence that she goes forward with the gun. She squirts the collie who wants nothing more than to lap up the cool water directly in the mouth.

It gets worse. The dog growls slighly.

The taller girl says "What does that sound mean?"
The shorter girl looks very serious, certain the next whopper will be discounted.

"Dogs can't talk, it was asking for more."

Several minutes later, grounded again I sat down. I could not believe what could be believed.

I didn't have to  make this story up. I could have, but it really did happen.

Everyone is a storyteller. Everyone has stories. We live stories, we remember in stories, we dream in stories. We should value those stories. We should do our best to fill our lives with stories we like.

Terry Pratchett died. My favorite wordsmith will put no more words to page. His stories are profound and amazing. Perhaps there would be less war if people put down the books they fight for and picked up more Pratchett.

When you think of people and things that have changed your life profoundly, what comes to mind?

A story.

If I wish for nothing else, it is that you choose to realize that you write your story. You dream your dream. Why limit it? Why hide behind buts, excuses and somedays. If you wait until you retire to live, will you be alive to live? How many lives are lost before someone chooses to unfold and become themselves?

Do you need so much security that you forsake your life for money and safety? We grow when we face uncertainty and challenge? Are you happy? Are you challenging yourself? Are you surviving and growing?

Each day I wake up, I look around and assess what I can do to pay my bills, buy my food; and help others as I go. We are what we have to give. I live without guarantees or a safety net, but I live with friends and I enhance their lives as they enhance mine.

We share stories. We give each other memories and laughter. We are the reassurance we give each other that we ARE valuable and worthy and loved.

In the end, it is what we have.

Everyone has a thousand stories. Everyone is a thousand tales. Every one with merit and with beautiful highlights. Every one with bits we wish we could edit out or change parts of if only we had paid attention to foreshadowing.

Value stories. Value your lives. I do.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Desert Views and Meditations

Today was at first about driving. Further and further along the road, through worn mountains and angular green desert plants. Past copper mines, faded store signs, and beyond Roosevelt Dam.

We took it slow on the unpaved washboard road. Dust was a cloak behind us, curling slowly back to the road. After what seemed to be an eternity of narrow ridged dirt, we found the Apache Lake Vista.

We decided to make our way to the water and picnic there.
A houseboat came into the bay. Danny went to investigate as it looked brand new, and the guys on it had docked and were taking pictures of it themselves.
Turns out that they just finished constructing the boat. This was it's maiden voyage. Danny properly greeted them by telling them to leave, which drew laughs from both men.

Sadhu was with us on his leash and let me walk him down to the lake. He jumped on the boat and did his own little inspection before jumping off. He had fun climbing and lazing in a large Pale Verde tree like a mini panther.

We also had the luck of watching a couple set up a tent tipi hybrid. It went up quickly and simply. The couple mentioned being able to use a heater in it too. It looked very practical.

I had my headlamp in the car. We left there and took a drive through Fish Creek Canyon. We got out and admired the abundant, gorgeously designed mountains.

We made it to the top of Fish Creek Hill, which seems to wear the title "hill" as a joke like large men called "Tiny."

We stood silently admiring the many patterns surrounding us. Vast empty space and untamed desert landscape in every direction.

The headlamp, a small item that is easily overlooked. Sometimes it can be the difference between a night on a mountain and a night in your bed.

Sunday we faced the Flat irons hike again. We didn't pack heavy. Water, snacks, oranges, hiking boots, warm layer and off we went. Danny packing light means he still has a backpack with two emergency blankets, a rain poncho, knife, spoon, two or three headlamps, toilet paper, and more snacks as well as a first aid kit. His father was a Marine.

We hit the trail around noon. We took our time going up, admiring the many breathtaking views we earned through sweat and tired limbs. We reached the basin and rested near the small pool of water. We were sad that the pool was full of fetid orange peels someone left behind, sadly orange peels do not become orange trees when you put them in water. I wish they did!

There were about twenty people resting in various patches of shade in the basin.

It was a very hot day. Many people were coming down the mountain, sometimes it was like a parade you had to wait for before going forward. I noticed no one behind us. We were the last going up the mountain. We passed the point we had turned back and felt we should reach the top in a little while. Soon, we would crest the mountain. In a short distance we should see the top. I kept telling us this for several hours. My absolute certainty was absolutely found to be preposterously inaccurate although it did help morale the first dozen or so pauses we made.

We climbed higher and higher, up loose gravel and steep hard cliff faces, scrambling up and over large boulders.

Occasionally, exhausted blue trail markers stared at us as we kept going up. We began to run into less people. Many muttered about getting off the mountain before sunset. We were headed for the top. We had a goal and it was going to be met. We were prepared. Well. Danny was. I brought extra optimism, which is never really practical on a strenuous climb.

We made the rim. Two guys were just relaxing at the nexus point, watching others come and go as their trance music played quietly. They nodded as I came up onto the top of the mountain. Babies get a doctor and a nurse, hikers get a couple hippies and their dog. Both suck as much air into their lungs as they can and call out to be heard. No one knows what babies call out, but hikers call to their group an affirmation that the destination is here. It was here the whole time, but now the hikers are here as well. There is a feeling of exhausted satisfaction. Your feet maybe sore, you may be tired and sweat soaked but you climbed a mountain.

It was 5:22 pm as we took a few minutes to enjoy the view from the top. The world spread out below us. Cars moving like tiny bugs, houses just specks with rectangular rooftops. How large we feel our lives are, how important; when in perspective they are not. The issues we weigh ourselves down with are mostly ones we fabricate or give inflated importance to. Wants, desires, drives, excuses all fall away. There are real needs and real skills, luck and experience. You can teach a skill. You can't teach experience.

Danny looks at me and for the third time since the basin asks "Why didn't you bring your headlamp?"

For the third time I answer, I thought about it. I did the hike last year, we were down by four. My experience told me unlikely in needing a headlamp. My experience was wrong this time.

We turned and raced the shadows down the mountain. We were careful. Two guys who saw us on the top called out to us, they didn't know where the trail down was. Neither of them had a flashlight. They passed me once we got back to the top of the mountain. They moved liked mercury over the rocks. I hoped they would have the luck they needed.

We took our time, racing in a slower manner. Taking time to breathe, stretch muscles and not to risk our lives recklessly on our descent. Mentally, I bargained with the sun. I understood why the ancients thought it was a god. On the side of the mountain, becoming wrapped in twilight, the sun was the difference between safety and steep drop offs.

We made it a third of the way down before the last red rays sank below the black horizon. The sunset was one of the most beautiful and unnerving I have ever seen. We kept going. Danny asked where the trail was. I led. This was my fourth time walking the trail, I'm usually good after the first time. My eyes adjusted and we slowly moved forward, each yard gained only after I checked for heavy foot traffic. We wanted to stick to the main trail going down. An off shoot could be perilous.

We went slower and slower. Each time we crested a small hill and came out of shadow into nightfall it seemed so bright again.

We reached a point that I stopped. I felt the trail was pestering out and that I'd stumbled onto an off shoot. I requested Danny use his headlamp, thinking he only had one.

He got his headlamp out. I looked and five feet behind him, there was the trail. Ahead of me was a windy off shoot. We were at the backside of the steep climb up and down the mountain to the basin. I knew where we were. Danny recognized the point we had encountered rain and turned around. We were somewhat relieved. With one headlamp we had done the climb up to that point slowly, like two moths slowly circling a light. We communicated carefully, staying focused and neither took a step until their foot placement was verified by the headlamp.

I led. I read the trail. Doubts and fears snaked up. I have lived with them for a lifetime. I pushed them down and kept going down. I could see about seven feet in front of me. Beyond that was dark space. The rock was so steep that you couldn't see it until you stepped forward again. I wanted to sit down. I crouched instead. The path was here. There was no loose rock to read. The loose rock led here, led down. Straight down. We had climbed several straight up points. For every uphill, there is a downhill.

I stopped and stared. My mind played out us reaching a sheer drop off and having to backtrack. No ropes. One lamp. Danny kept me thinking, which kept me leading. He rummaged in his pack and produced a second headlamp. We had two headlamps. It was like finding out you are rich. We had double the light when we used them together. Or we could stumble around more confidently when feeling obstinate.

We reached another steep point. For what felt like a hundred or more steps, we carefully walked down the steepest surface we had found. Where were we? Had I missed the basin? The flashlight beam caught the glint of water. We were at the basin. The basin has the name for the bowl like shape, to climb to the Flat irons you climb the side of a bowl. Picture a giant rough version of your cereal bowl. We climbed it confidently in daylight, cautiously with creeping dread in darkness. It was on that surface that the sole of my boot began flapping, it had come unglued. It vanished in the dark. New boots, kept pristine for years only to malfunction on their first hike. The bottom still had enough padding to be functional, I was mindful of the limited traction I now possessed.

We had done it. We climbed to the Flat irons, we hiked down the mountain staying on the trail and without injury in the dark. We slowly made our way to the parking lot. It was after ten pm. We watched the large silver moon rise as we reached the car.

I've hiked for over twenty years, I felt foolish for disdaining my headlamp. We hike slowly, enjoying the experience rather than marching as if to a final execution. I will have a headlamp tucked away somewhere from now on.

Muscles fatigued and screaming at us that we'd overdone it, we relaxed and enjoyed the drive away from the park.

We were the last human beings on the superstition mountains that night. It was amazing. The night birds and crickets were the only sounds. We sat for a while on the way back and watched the lights of sprawling civilization stretching around the mountain as far as the eye could see. We watched the lights of planes landing and taking off. We saw patterns of red and green traffic lights, watched as red and blue lights converged on a location. It was all soundless and distant. It was all unreal.

The cactus was real. The desert wildflowers; bright yellow, orange and red that seemed to fuel the cricket songs. The stars bright in the black sky. What is real, what do we need? Meditation happens when you hike.

What do we want? What do we justify?
In the end, what determines the value of our lives? Where we go, who we choose to be, what memories we make and share, or profit margins and advertising campaigns? I think it is up to us. I think more people should step out, climb a proverbial mountain. Take an introspective look in and out.

Are you carrying your headlamp? Do you have a clue where you are on life's map? Did you know distances on the map of life are not really measured in dollars?

Meditation is important. There are many kinds of meditation. Tonight I meditate on the death of a friend. Amy Adams, laundress and sharer of wisdom died this week unexpectedly. I found out today when two unfamiliar faces were handing out quarters. I'm grateful that I got to talk with her again. I'm grateful for the wisdom she shared and the stories. My heart goes out to Pat, her husband as well as the rest of her family and friends.

Unexpectedly, life happens despite our many attempts to shape it and force it into our expectations. Sometimes for the worst, sometimes for the better. Sometimes it just is.

The best parts are the ones we get to share together, like two people working their way down a terrifying cliff face in pitch black with one headlamp.

Maybe there was a reason I left it home.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Buddha to Broncos

Imminent chances of precipitation lent us cause to procrastate on facing down the Flatirons again this weekend.

Silver grey clouds covered the sky in a downy blanket this morning. Our host invited us to a ceremony at the Buddhist Temple of Unity in Apache Junction. We decided it would be a great way to start a day.

Outside the the building I saw a small altar with a jade Buddha surrounded by silk flowers. It looked serene despite the gusty day.

We took our shoes off at the entrance and quietly joined the room full of people. The three monks sat at the far end of the room, concentrating on a chant. The ceremony ended to a feast of at least thirty different Thai dishes. Everyone appreciated the variety and quality of the offered food.

We sat where there was room, conversation between strangers slowly kindling smiles. after the repast, we went back outside. Volunteers handed out bundles of incense and small yellow beeswax candles with flowers.

The monks came out and did a blessing, the began a procession that went around the altar three times in a large circle. We each added our flowers, candles, and incense at the altar.

I gave thanks for the opportunity to participate in the tranquil fellowship. Unity. Various ethnicities, all coming together to share in a blessing on a silver sky day.

After leaving the eastern peace we rode west. Right to the Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo. From Buddha to Broncos we exploring the cultures found miles apart, worlds apart-just across town?!

We walked past the bright metal rides, games, and other carnival attractions. We listened to country music on a stage as we passed vendors. From beautiful native american pottery to hats, hats, more hats and homemade soda we perused the range of predictable prefabricated generic sales displays and gifted artisans with high quality hand made wares.

We took our time, we hemmed and hawed. We finally bought tickets. We wondered why we were so slow within a minute of seeing the first competitor rope a calf.

We watched on the edge of our seats as barrel racing, calf tying, and other tests of skill and timing continued. We were slack jawed, clapping with admiration at the various contestants. It wasn't easy, they were all amazing.

Growing up, neighbors had been active in rodeo competitions. Memory brought up some of their stories and awards. Now I had context for the skill and danger. I was relieved to see cowboys in helmets and some padding as the bronco and bull-riding commenced.

It was funny to look at the Superstition Mountains through the cheerful rainbow signs and eye catching lights of the carnival next to the rodeo arena. There was a sea of hats, denim and leather. Waldo would have stood out like the sore thumb in a picture of one hundred hammers.

Thursday night we'd gone to The Hitching Post, where there were several live horses hitched waiting for their wandering riders. The waitress told us it was bull riding night. We had assumed machine, our mistake. Watching the rodeo, I wish we'd have taken a moment to go look. A woman told me of the bravery of the people who tried, it wasn't professionaals that night.

She talked about seeing the children riding sheep. She was impressed. I was intrigued. Sheep riding? After the rodeo, there was sheep riding. Gutsy kids age four and up got to don a helmet and try their hand at a safer version of bull riding. It was cute to watch. The kids were braver at four than some adults ever are!

Well done Davis family, I've always admired your rodeo stories and skills but now I can really visualize them!