Showing posts with label The Signal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Signal. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

6/25/19: The Signal To Noise Ratio and A Digital Pretox

How does someone whose life is based online digitally detox? Good question. Let's find out; here's how it's going to start.  Should be a hoot!



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Monday, January 29, 2018

1/29/18: He Is Risen!


Please update your iTunes and Google Play subscriptions to download future episodes.  

Stitcher: Coming soon
The rebranded X-Pod returns! Toddstradamus discusses his return to podcasting, social media, misguided consistency, fires his opening salvo at political religions and bilateral extremism, synapse pruning and The Useless Shit Epiphany, and establishing a solid signal to noise ratio. He also lays the foundation for exposing The Talking Dead and creating a more sophisticated media consumer while weeding his garden of that pesky Green Tea.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

7/5/17: Springfield, VT - Steinbeck Screaming (Video)

This is the first of two distinctly different parts making up this Wednesday (7/5) in southern Vermont. The trip begins "taking me", again, and its course has nothing to do with my silly "plans" (ha!). Again. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized it quite yet. Funny things, expectations! Perhaps I'll just pack the book next time.

Part of the after-the-fact debrief is here. In the meantime, have some fun at my expense. I did! 

And drive your damn cars!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

7/4/17 (2): Colcester to Waterbury, VT - Amy & The Beacon



Bob dropped me off in comfortable territory: a large rural Mobil station that happened to be alongside US-7, the road with whom I’d begun the trip almost a week before, and a short walk from I-89.

Mostly out of habit (I had Subway and plenty of water from earlier), I took a lap around the store to see if I wanted anything and caught the attention of three kids whose age I couldn’t judge. They could have been anywhere from 15-21. Seeing the backpack, they said something to each other then the brave one asked, “Are you just out traveling around to see what’s out there?”

“Yeah. Pretty much. Somethin’ like that,” I chuckled without bothering to break stride.

“Whoa. That’s like…inspiring.”

Friday, June 2, 2017

Updating the Operating System: γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Reworked and updated excerpt from Navigating the Rubicon (9/2009)




The Trailhead

I've never written much publicly on my lead-up to this personal Odyssey. I always say it began in August 2004. In 2005,  I read a biography on Jean-Jacques Rousseau which introduced me to  the idea of unfettered commitment to truth and the phrase Vitam Impendere Vero which loosely translated means “truth before everything, even at the cost of death."

Friday, October 21, 2016

10/21/16: Primm, NV - Signal Acquired

Stop me if you heard this before, but I woke up. Cold. Around 4:30. Familiar? Thought so. I'm sick of typing the same embarrassing anecdote in this space. Just go cut n paste this part from the four previous days. Cool? Good.

I rolled out of nest as the sun rose around 6:30 then spent the morning establishing a little routine: sitting at a stool inside the Flying J charging and writing.

I also rediscovered the beauty of Subway's 12" cold cut combo. Eat half in the morning. Half later on. Food? Done! And thank God. Planters and cheap beef sticks were getting really old! I appreciate the low cost, but I'm almost afraid to ask: What animal tastes like that, Matador? Nevadan Desert Snipe? Manbearpig? Or was that something trapped, caged, and butchered beneath Groom Lake?

**Related Fun Fact: Area 51 now shows up on Google Maps . #TheMoreYouKnow #TheTruthIsOutThere**

Thursday, October 20, 2016

10/20/16: Jean, NV - Tuning In; Bugging Out

Another cold night turned into a surprisingly chilly day. The winds kicked up and, despite the sun, temps hovered in the upper 60's all day leading to a surprisingly comfortable hoodied Wednesday.

I woke up around 7:45, packed up the gear in a much more efficient fashion, and proudly found myself back at my spot by 8:15--only to discover that nearly all of the trucks were already long gone! In that annoyed moment, I resolved to be awake earlier, much earlier, if I found myself in Jean again Thursday.

The primary theme of the day was set the night before as I lay writing in the nest. "Digital Detox" once again. Presence. Being "here". As I was writing, I found myself hypnotically looking up at the moon and Orion...then back down at my phone as I finished a blog post. I found that almost silly while, at the same time, tried how technology has changed and I needed to adapt; learn to use this connectivity as a tool rather than a habitual crutch.

For much of the day, I sat there with the phone off. No music. Nothing. And in a pseudo meditative state. Completely immersed in where I was and what I was doing. My observational senses heightened because my attention wasn't fragmented between " here" and everywhere else. It was almost intoxicating as I found myself remotely connecting with people from beneath my shade tree. Looking beyond the thin, often judgmental "appearance" veneer as people walked by, pumped their gas, or walked in to get their snacks and drinks.



It's hard to explain, but the general feeling was empathy. And it was borne from having forged a tangible human connection with the "real" world. I remembered this from my other trips, but back then I was typically preoccupied with getting somewhere. Not today. Today, again, wasn't about my personal selfish mobility. It was about really "seeing" people and re-focusing my eyes on the reality of humanity. The trip's personality was beginning to show itself. And, yes. Today, I was the Truck Stop Philosopher. And content with that.

Get On Your Bad Motor Scooter & Ride!

Around mid-afternoon, three loaded down motor scooters, complete with trailers stuffed with gear, pulled into Terrible's. I was fascinated! These guys had taken the bicycle touring idea and adapted it to scooters! I had to check this out!

I slung on the pack, walked over to the gas pumps, introduced myself, and asked what they were up to. They were three guys from Las Vegas in their 20's who were planning an extended scooter tour . This was a little trial run to test things.

My people! They had the explorer's "what's really out there?" mentality and were setting forth in their little motorized ships to see for themselves. With an intense, optimistic sense and embracing of adventure. They'd seemingly embraced the "Live! Now!" notion and I loved them for it. Their almost uncontrollable excited energy was contagious.

When I told them what I'd done since '08, they had a few tactical questions about what to bring, etc. My advice: Dont make my mistake by overthinking. Just go! Don't fucking worry about it. You'll figure your own method out along the way and almost immediately.  In fact, that's part of the fun. Take too much if you must. You can always get rid of it along the way. Overlook something? Get it later.

We chatted at the gas pumps for at least 20-minutes and exchanged social media info before they left, and a large part of me wished I were tagging along. I was excited for them and even slightly envious that they were at the beginning when everything lying ahead was an exciting, invigoratingly nervous mystery! They were "alive"! And, as with the night before, I was struck by the intense reminder of "why I do this".



Meeting these guys, and being able to keep in touch moving forward, tempered any potentially pesky dogma surrounding Digital Detox. They were playing the role of returning to The Cave to show the Upper World to those still chained beneath. Even if it was unintentional and via Instagram.

No. Selfishly hoarding these experiences in a personal vacuum was certainly not the answer. One could effectively argue that the act is the height of self-centered narcissism. Not everyone "can" do this. (The day's empathy at work.) If you can even slightly help these folks by allowing them to experience these moments and insights, even second hand, why wouldn't you?

As these young men sped away on their scooters, I made friends with my smart phone. This thing can be a positive asset if it's "used" and not "using" me.

Shortly thereafter, I walked up to a NHP trooper and asked him to clarify the state's hitching law. What I learned? That the only part of hitchhiking that's illegal: raising your thumb! I could sit at the I-15 exit ramp. I could have a sign. I could even WALK the fucking interstate! I just couldn't...hold my thumb in the air. 

Really?

"What. The. Infernal. Fuck?"

Time to Go

Looking back on it, my useful time in Jean came to an abrupt end when these scooters sputtered off. That was what I needed, and from that point forward, I was first being gently nudged along. Then not so gently.

People always implore me to "be careful". I've never had trouble with rides. At ALL. It's always the seldom seen other travelers, "Rainbow Family" Dipshits, or occasional homeless dude that wigs me out. West Virginia in '12 for example.

Early in the evening as I was listening to the Cubs-Dodgers again, I was joined at my little desert Oasis by a desperately sketchy and disconcertingly nervous little road rat who spent much of the evening scampering around hunting and harassing disinterested truckers for rides. It was as though someone had methed-up his Newports. Think: overly aggressive panhandler. Of course he stopped over long enough to bum a smoke and use my Sharpie to make a sign. Then he vanished to the ramp to try getting to Primm's Flying J that night.

I hoped he'd have some luck, but unfortunately he didn't and would reappear shortly before I decided to bed down and prepare for an early Thursday.

"Just great!", I thought.

"Now I'd have to sneak back to my spot then lie awake in my rocky little dirt nest to see if Tweaky McBallsuck found me."

Plus, I was sure that, in the interim, he'd ask for another smoke simply to use it as a segue to tell me all about how the cops keep trying to frame him. Or how "that lyin' bitch fucked him over". They almost always do. It's fucks like this that makes life more difficult out here from top to bottom. At least the stories are good.

Thankfully he vanished. I don't know if he got a ride or what, but once he went behind the truck stop, I never saw him again. No complaints there. I did lie awake for a bit but, after the events of being found the night before, I was mindful of being overly paranoid while still not being careless. I set the alarm for 5am and dozed off, on top of the bivy again, around 11.

I woke up at 4:40. Cold. Again! I packed up in the dark, it was still an hour before sunrise, and got to the parking lot around 5:15. I was still a bit late. Several of the trucks had already left. I drew up an "I-40, 70, or 80" sign determined to at least try my best to catch a truck and get moving. No luck. Not even close.



Around 8:30, I was looking at my phone trying to connect with Scooter Guys, when a shiny little black sports car occupied by a couple of young black guys pulled up to my spot beneath the tree...and asked me, with excessive, contrived politeness, for money.

I laughed. Obnoxiously. Out loud.

"Really? You're asking ME for money? If I had money, I'd be on a bus!", I lied.

"What's a bus?", the driver answered.  Without a hint of humor or irony.

Then the passenger took over. He looked me up and down and immediately I knew where this was going.

"That's a nice jacket. Nice boots. Saw that phone. We could just come back and take all that shit. And your wallet, too."

Again, I laughed as the car began slowly driving off. The passenger said something to the effect of "see ya later" as they turned right toward I-15. I looked him dead in the eye and smiled as if to say, "Yeah. Maybe I'll see you, too", then eyeballed them as they got on I-15 north back toward Vegas.

Well, shit. Yup. Definitely time to go.

I drew on the events of the past two nights and didn't let paranoia rule the day. I was pretty sure that they were just punks looking for an soft, gullible target and had failed. Otherwise, they were poor excuses for thugs!

Nevertheless, I couldn't be certain.  So, I waited for 15-20 minutes to see if they returned, went inside to grab some beef sticks and water, then walked to the I-15 southbound ramp. My pesky decision was suddenly made. Fuck everything to do with dealing with Las Vegas. I was going south. At least as far as the next exit, Primm, where I knew there was a Flying J.

The only question? Would anyone stop? I was bolstered by the fact that it was only around 9am and I had never been completely shutout when I'd spent a full day actually hitching.



I drew up a sign for Primm, then sat for nearly three hours. Right about the time I began wondering if this was the day I'd finally get shutout, I looked over to see that a minivan had pulled over and was backing up on my direction.

My first ride was from the most unlikely of sources. And far more than a positive counterbalance to the morning's silliness...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Useless Shit Epiphany

Ask any mildly observant chum who’s chosen “traveling” over “tourism”, and they’ll probably tell you how it’s filled with an abundance of experience-driven lessons, insights, and odd occurrences. “Trail Magic” it’s often called. Once you’ve felt it, the trail comes alive. And you’re either freaked out or hooked. My blogs are filled with these tales. I’m most certainly hooked!

But, while peering into the depths, I have a maddening tendency to miss the blatantly obvious mermaid frantically waving right in front of my face.

This is from my very first travel post, in May 2008:

“…about 1/2 mile down the road from the drop off I had a LONG list of the extra crap (like electric clippers) I had in my bag that I simply did NOT need! Lesson: stick to the essentials! Comfort items become uncomfortable on your back, and slow you down!”

Today I realized that there's a monumental, powerful lesson in these quickly scribbled words. One that, despite being in plain sight for 8-years, I completely missed. And, it was literally (proper use!) the very first "lesson". Even if it is one I’ve had to repeatedly be reminded of since!

It’s like clock work. First day of every trip: I find that I’ve overpacked out of the “fear” that I’ll leave something I’ll “need” behind. Then,  once I’m out there, I start bitching to myself (usually) about how I’ve brought too much as the added dead-weight makes my little comfort items very uncomfortable!

That's great, Todd. But, what makes your repeated, short-bus-silliness “monumental”? 

For the last few years, I've been struggling to develop a consistent, all-encompassing metaphysical philosophy, with tiny degrees of success. Finding cohesiveness in that is hard enough on its own! But I’ve also been trying to completely reconcile who I was in 2008 and 2009 with who I am now; trying to “pack everything” by tying every obscure lesson, detail, and insight from the last 8-12 years perfectly together into a very limited space, rather than just picking out the practical, useful parts and stowing the rest. I’ve been cognitively, and often emotionally, hoarding. And, completely missed the obvious connection and lesson of that very first day: "pack only what’s needed and what fits. Forget the rest!"

But, Self! What if I ‘neeeeeeed’ it??

"Have it sent. Or, you know, just pick it up along the way. Dumbass."

Back in 2004, when radio went Stage 4 and this massive self/species exploration began, the foundation was  Thoreauian: simplify, simplify, simplify! Figure out what's real and essential. That kernel led to the backpack. And, it’s taken this long, and perhaps Mr. Mushroom Voice triggered it, to realize that people, ideas, and philosophies fall under the “Get rid of that which doesn’t fucking matter to make room for that which most certainly does” insight. And, that it's nearly identical to the one I had literally (proper use!) 15-minutes in to my travels:

Unburden yourself from this useless shit, you silly fucker!

It’s the precise (if slightly less profane) abstract equivalent.

Before the "useless shit" epiphany. 60-65 pounds!


**"Trail Magic" Diversion:  I left my phone in the car and Chris graciously drove back from Denver to deliver it that first night. I was mercifully able to "unburden myself" almost immediately. Was it...The Universe? Did Jesus playfully pull my phone from my pocket? How DO they make marshmallows....

So, now I’ve begun the process of sorting out what I brought home from the last 8-years and remains useful for the next epoch's expedition. Setting my extra abstract “stuff” aside to clear room for the essentials. In this metaphor (and you should just get used to metaphors right fucking now), it’s become the process of finally separating the useful ideas, methods, and people from the warm creature comforts and incomprehensible ghosts. And letting the rest of my past’s clutter just lie. Unsorted, uncategorized, and boxed up in the closet. Although I’m sure I’ll find I’ve brought too much. Again! I can’t seem to help it.

Not everything you have can, or should, be taken on every expedition. In fact, that’s one of the main points. Nor can every idea, experience, or person tag along thru each epoch, chapter, or phase of life. And thats okay! There’s no mutual obligation to be universal or permanent. That’s growth. That’s evolution. Otherwise, you’re hoarding. And, unless you’re life is stagnant and stationary, that quickly becomes an impossible load for even Sancho’s trusty mule to carry.