Monday, December 27, 2010


We've had a lot of rain lately, and so I've read a few books. None of them were remarkable, so I'll just list them here.

Trading For a Living by Alexander Elder is an old book offering guidance to the part-time stock trader. Unfortunately, its age renders it almost useless in the context of today's market. OK, to be fair, there are some worthwhile lessons in the book, but none that aren't in almost all modern books on trading.

Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt is assigned reading in many college freshman economics courses. It is one of the seminal works in the Austrian School of Economics. This book was interesting, however I don't agree with all of the messages it offers. While it contains many layman-targeted anecdotes to describe economic theories, they suffer from gross oversimplifications to the point that makes them inconsistent with reality.

The Shibumi Strategy, by Matthew May is an interesting and short book employing a fable to convey many ideas and precepts from Zen Buddhism and Japanese philosophy and apply them to contemporary life. I learned of this new book from Bob Sutton's blog and he highly recommended it. I enjoyed this book. The stubborn rationalist in me is now wondering how and where I might attempt to apply any of its lessons. Here's the author's page for the book.

Next up: The Prince. I've never read Machiavelli's famous book. I have it, but each time I pick it up I get turned off by the ancient grammar and language. So I'll do what I did for Paradise Lost (which posed similar challenges to me). I've downloaded an audiobook version and I'll listen to it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lobotomy Bock

Lobotomy Bock is my favorite beer and I've just learned that it's recently been emasculated! It's brewed by Indian Wells Brewery, a small shop located here near Inyokern. I stop there often to buy some, since the prices are way lower there than at any store. Plus it's on my way home from many of the places I go off-road adventuring.

Yesterday I bought a 6-pack of LB at Whole Foods. It didn't taste right. Something was missing. It tasted very weak. I searched the packaging and labeling and could not find the usual 10.8% alcohol content warning. I googled to no avail. So then I emailed the brewer - and surprisingly I got a reply within a few hours.

Rick Lovett (President & Founder of Indian Wells Brewing Co.) politely answered me by saying that they have, indeed, lowered the alcohol content in Lobotomy Bock. He said they "lowered it due to a lawsuit."

I'm saddened and disappointed. The stuff I bought tastes like 3.2 beer I drank as a kid in Colorado, and which I recenty had in Utah. I don't see how they can honestly still call it a dopplebock. The next time I'm up north, I'll check to see if they still sell the full-strength brew at the brewery. If so, it will remain my favorite beer.

UPDATE: see my post on Jan 29 about finding the full strength version at the brewery.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Little Book of Economics

I just finished "The Little Book of Economics" by Grep Ip. Here's the description from Amazon:

Written for the inquisitive layman who doesn’t want to plow through academic jargon and Greek letters or pore over charts and tables, The Little Book of Economics offers indispensible insight into how the American economy works – or, doesn’t. With engaging and accessible prose, the book:
  • Provides a comprehensive understanding of each aspect of our economy from inflation and unemployment to international trade and finance
  • Serves as an insider’s guide to the people and institutions that control America’s economy such as the Federal Reserve and the federal budget
  • Explains the roots of America’s current economic crisis and the risks the country faces in its aftermath, such as stratospheric government debt, while offering advice on overcoming these threats
  • Walks readers through the basic concepts and terminology they need to understand economic news
  • Punctures myths and political spin from both the left and the right with candid and often surprising insight

While the book is interesting and easy to understand, it glosses over (ignores) a lot of details. The book focuses a lot on the economics management instruments and entities in the US. It might be informative for the average person, I don't recommend this book for anybody who knows a lot about economics.

The author's web site includes blog entries about the economy and current events. Economic dilettantes may find that interesting.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Desert Drive

Yesterday I went for a nice scenic drive. I drove BLM and SCE roads across the Mojave desert to see some peaceful landscapes. For the record, these roads all require 4WD and high clearance.

Trilobite Wilderness Area

Just south of I-15, I left Kelbaker Road to drive a BLM route that travels between the Trilobite Wilderness Area and the Clipper Mountains Wilderness Area. Here's a google map centered on the road. Here's a map where I highlited the road in red.

I only saw a couple golden eagles and one hunter in a camo suit that made him look like one of those USMC snipers you see in shows on the Military channel. Sadly, I did not see any wild herds of trilobites grazing on the scrub.

The road is also a natural gas pipeline service road. Some sections are fun and hilly, as you can see below.

Other sections are sandy.

I came across this memorial.

Skeleton Pass

I just have to drive to a place named "Skeleton Pass." I was expecting a very remote and primitive road, and that's what I found. I did not find any skeletons. Here's a google map centered on the pass. I started at the old Danby town site off Route 66 and returned north on Cadiz Road. Last year I was here visiting the Cadiz Dunes. I forgot to slow down for a big old washout and really bumped the car around. The stupid thing is: this is the exact same spot where I did the exact same thing a year ago.

Powerline Road from Pisgah to Johnson Valley

This road skirts the northwest border of 29 Palms USMC base.
This was a really fun road. There were two sections over small mountains with lots of twisty turns. I would never want to drive that in rain or fog, as I'd certainly go over the ledge road, roll the truck and die. But in sunny dry conditions, it's a lot of fun. Here's a map with the route highlited.

The northern end passes along the edge of an enormous lava field and Pisgah Crater. Several years ago I hiked out onto that lava field to find a crashed military jet.

The next shot hints at the twisty road. I couldn't get the twists into any shot. OK, I probably could if I stopped more, but it was too fun to drive and I didn't want to stop.

The sun was reflecting off the powerlines and it looked a little like Christmas tree decorations.

As expected, the landscape views were great.