Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I was watching another music awards show on TV recently, this one to about ten songwriters who have influenced their and other generations of singers who sung their songs and songwriters who followed them. They were talking about one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Kris Kristofferson. Probably few people recognize him or his songs - you should find a compilation CD somewhere to listen to him, and fewer people know his life, especially as a veteran and Rhodes Scholar.

Anyway, one of the persons talking about Kris said his songs were written from the inside out, ones that everyone not only recognizes but finds it touches them. The songs are about the essence of life, our feelings during our experiences. We've all been there, and Kris put it to words and songs. He's written a lot of songs you've heard but don't realize they were written by him, and it's fair to say his singing is unique, meaning it ain't top 40.

But that said, I like his music and singing. And it's relationship to photography? Well, it touches on the words of David Vestal.

David Vestal has been a photographer for many years, and there is no way I can begin to summarize or praise his work and his contributions to photography. I just want to say I'm grateful to him for his column in Photo Techniques magazine. I only started subscribing to PT last year but I've read it for ten years now buying it at newstands when I saw it. My appreciation of his wisdom is of late and his advise to photographers.

Much of what David is writing about is the essence of photography, and, in my view, that a photographer works inside out. A photographer has to be there in the present with their eyes and mind open, with passion and spirit, and the camera ready to do what they see in the scene to capture and produce an image. In short, a photograph is about the photographer, and their visual expression of the world. For you to see.

I know that my photography and essays are only observations on life in my life, nothing more and nothing really great. It's my own realization of being me. And this photo is similar. While many people and photographers love images of waterfalls - and many photographers spend hours trying to learn to get the right style in their images of watefalls - I like the small things in life, and this small creek was one.

It's the ones you drive by almost everyday. And driving on the Westside Road to a trailhead in Mt. Rainier NP I glanced alongside the road and saw this small waterfall. I spent most of the rest of the afternnoon at this place - never got to hiking - and like the rest of the photographers, trying to capture what I wanted. Nearly a roll of film later I could only hope it worked, to which this was the best of them.

What it takes to express yourself from the inside out? You have to have the soul to express, the passion to have the fire, the heart to have and be the love, and the energy to drive the dedication. It's the totality of your being. Well, ok, sometimes, and many times it's not always completely there, but then we all have our moments when and where it is, as the saying from Teddy Rosevelt goes, "Do what you can, where you are, with what you have."

I liked the small rock that just can't grow moss. Sometimes we're all just like that rock.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Why Mondays are cool

Ok, for me anyway. I realized after nearly 40 years of working for someone, jobs and careers, or working for something, undergraduate and graduate school, Mondays aren't the coolest things people like in their life. And in my career I slowly learned to find a way to make it not so bad but setting time aside for getting into the idea of work and working on the workplan for the week and beyond. But since I retired nearly 20 months ago, Mondays are really cool.

I won't say my goals and plans are new or unique - that is learning to become a serious photographer and building it into a small personal business - but I have learned to enjoy Mondays. They are the days I sit down after the weekend and plan the week along with reviewing the month plan to see where I'm at and what I want, and occasionally have, to do. The latter is like last week.

But the important thing is that I don't put the pressure to do or be anywhere Mondays except to free think about my life, my work, and the rest of the world around me. I like to sit on the southeast facing deck and feel the sunshine and the warmth the morning - when it's clear and warm, after all it is the Puget Sound in Washington. To have a complete panoramic view of the southeast overlooking the Narrows Strait with the twin bridges south and Mount Rainier straight through the trees is something I am thankful for in my life.

And I get to sit in front of my really cool - to me anyway - computer and wander around the world checking the news, reading the bulletin boards and forums, writing on my blogs, thinking about places to go to photograph, doing my exercise program, and whatever else wanders by the synapses. I don't go anywhere. I just enjoy my place and the day while taking stock of life and work.

And that's why Mondays are cool.

NPR - Reading Books

I have a small library. I don't collect books per se, but collect books on specific subjects, and even then never more than a few to get a broad perspective on a subject. There are some exceptions for subjects where books aren't common and/or not commonly available, like those specifically on Dysthymia (all of four professional technical ones). In short, my library is a three bookcase set about 12 feet long and about 8 feet high.

My rule on books is that any new books must fit into the existing bookcase. I don't add bookcases or stack books around the place. I have about a dozen boxes of books in storage right now ready to donate or sell as they were read, not relevant anymore, not of interest anymore, or simply boring. I normally collect 6-8 boxes before donating them, but now I have more than I care to even haul somewhere someday. For now anyway.

My point? Well, I'm mostly a researcher reader, from my graduate school days. While a buy a fair number of books, I don't read many books cover to cover, and mostly end up reading about a quarter to half way into a book before losing interest or finding new interests. I always browse several books stores once or twice a week, because I like to get an idea of all the books currently on the "market" - remember books aren't about you reading them but buying them.

I also like to listen occasionally to writer and reviewer - like reading the book review section in the New York Times Every Sunday, and especially Seattle's own Nancy Pearl. Well, the other day she commented that she only completely reads about one book in twelve she starts. And the other eleven get dropped into the ether of never to be read again.

Now that was enlightening because I always thought book reviewers and/or critics actually read a lot of books, and I felt guity for my low rate of completion. Now I don't feel so bad about putting a book down as either bad, boring or stupid, or just something that doesn't interest me right now, as many books get put on a shelf of on-going where I will return now and then to read another chapter.

Anyway, my favorite book of all time is Clarence Glacken's book, Traces on the Rhodian Shore. He was a Professor of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley for much of his career. I attended California State University, Sacramento in the early-mid 1970's where many of the faculty had worked or met him throughout their careers.

The irony of his career is that while there was the pressure in academia to publish, he only wrote and published this one book. He spent his entire academic career researching and writing it, but instead of relying on translations of books or texts to use in his book, he learned the original language and traveled around the world to read the original books and texts. He was dedicated to providing his own understanding and interpretation to the material than use others'.

What more can you say for the value of dedication and devotion? Well, it's a book that will take my lifetime to read, as you can only read a few pages to some of a chapter before I am overwhelmed with the words and ideas. But that not the issue to me, but simply the consistent effort to read it. It's one book I may put down, but guarranteed to pick up soon.

Any other books? Well, a set. In the 1970's I read the normal books environmentalist of the19th century naturalists, but I had the habit of wanting to read the complete works of writers. On the side I read the complete works of Sherlock Holme, but I read the complete writing of Thoreau and others, not just their major book(s). To that end, Linda, my then wife, bought me the complete works of John Burroughs in a 1924 edition set.

This is a really cool set of books. It was printed as the Wake Robin Edition from Wm. H. Wise and Company purchased by a collector in Peckskill, NY (inside jacket sticker). I don't know how it got to a Sacramento used bookstore but I envied it for a long time before Linda secretly bought it as a college graduation present. I've read about a dozen of the twenty three volumes. Some are interesting and some mundane, but overall it's worth the time to get the flavor of the 19th century naturalists.

And so in the end, I don't feel so bad about reading, as long as the interest is always there.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What is wrong here?

I always love a good contradiction. And this is a good example, to me at least, of someone not really thinking through what they're doing. Is a notice of posting no notices also illegal? Does it break the law it advertises similar to if we posted notices on the pole? I always just wonder, can we call to say there is an illegal notice on this pole? Or, after asking us to explan the notice, would the say we didn't understand?

And what about those old wooden power poles pummelled with staples which held notices long since blown away into the world, to fall to earth, be picked up, and thrown in the trash? Did you ever notice no one ever removes their notices which are long since obsolete or past their day. People just staple over them with their new ones, which often makes some interesting scenes and combination notices.

Well, I don't have much else to say about it except it seemed kinda' illogical on its face. Kinda' the small stuff of and in life I like to find and photograph.

NPR - To my brother Greg

My older brother Greg passed away August 21, 1991. It was an eventful day all the way around, as I realized later. He overshadowed me throughout our lives. He was 6-plus years older, the first born. Our parents put almost all their love into him and his future, the rest going to my sister with some scrapes for me, until that day, and afterward I wasn't much beyond a card now and then. His death took the life from our Dad, who passed away just over 3 years later.

We were like the plants. He the bigger noticeable one with all the life to show. I the one finding life on the edge and eventually asked to leave at 19. It wasn't either of us who caused this, it was our Dad who made those decision about our importance in his life and the family, and my Mom who followed Dad. That's all. In our twenties we had our own lives, work and families, but as we grew into our thirties, we broke through the divide our Dad created.

We found being brothers was what we missed and let it almost slip through our lives, never really knowing the other one. Greg was the career one in our family, rising to be CEO of AMC Theater Company before being ousted in a buyout he negotiated. He learned about corporate politics the hard way, and one on his own again, he lost sight of life, to die a few years later from the wear and tear of life. And that's the sadness of it.

While he was a two-pack a day smoker and an alcoholic, he was smart and wise in many aspects. Sadly not with his family. It seems he followed what he learned from Dad, and his three kids turned out very similar to us three, but they're doing far better now as we did. That's life, you cope and get on with it, or decide something else to do.

Anyway, I salute him every August 21st. You see it was the day I bought my 1991 VW Vanagon Syncro, and drove it home to hear the news on the answering machine. The first drive was to the airport to fly to Kansas City for the funeral. The second trip after coming home was to the ocean near Westport south of Aberdeen. For a reason.

We travelled a lot in the world, but Greg never saw the Pacific Ocean. He came close once when he went to LA to negotiate the buyout deal of AMC with the new company. He couldn't find the time to go to the beach and stand there to see the ocean. He always expressed regret about that, so I took some flower from the service to place them in the ocean, and watch them float out to sea. It was all I could think of to do to give thanks for him and being his brother.

You see for many years our Dad tried to make us compete with each other on his standards. We broke from that when he was living in Gunnison, Colorado. He loved living there in the country. His family didn't, so after 2-plus years he returned to Denver and then Kansas City for the family. But I could see it in his eyes and heart, he didn't want to leave Gunnison. While I praised his success, he praised my freedom.

He was locked into our parents. I was set free but mostly disowned. We found our friendship to talk about life, something I haven't done with anyone else. We were totally different but found we were also so alike. I miss him. And I think of May 25, 1997, the day we reached the same age in our life. I'm still here and he's still in our hearts.

NPR - Walking

Thiswas the week I resorted to walking again. I had to put my VW Vanagon Syncro (4WD) into the shop for its annual routine and preventive maintenance, meaning a tuneup, alignment, brakes, and some small stuff. They promised it the next day but ended up needing 3+ days, partly to find and get parts. You see, while most parts for it are still available they're no longer normally stocked parts. So, through the shop's on-line international inventory of dealers, the factory in Germany and third party manufacturers, parts are there, it's just where and getting them here is the problem.

Anyway, while they were doing that, I resorted to walking for everything I need. It turned out that the closest shopping center on the highway by my place through the town where I live is 3 miles away and the town 4-plus miles away, one way. Fortunately it's all on tree-lined rural roads, most with walking and bike lanes. There also is a paved walking and bike lane under the powerline from this side of the Narrows Strait (above photo) to town, but being under the right-of-way, it's open. And with the nice cooler weather of the Northwest summer, it's enjoyable to simply walk along the rode.

And that's what I forget, simply walking. Rebecca Solnit has written a view of the history of walking in "Wanderlust, A History of Walking". I'm still reading it - ok, it's been out since 2000 and I bought it 2-plus years ago. But really walking is what got us through most of human history, and as Little Feat sang, "Feet, Don't fail me now." And so I walked everywhere with my satchel. This limited to what I could carry, but I had food and things, and knew the van would be back in service Saturday morning.

What I realized walking was what I missed hiking. Between my early and late 40's when I wasn't so involved in and with work, I used to hike at least two weekends a month. But slowly to and past 50 I got involved in management, additional stuff in life, and other things, and then simply getting older. Hiking dissapated into short day hikes into picnics. I just forgot what it's like to simply walk, putting one foot in front of the other and your head in the present.

Anyway, at the end of the week I had walked well over 20 miles, sometimes just for the newspapers and a mocha. And while my legs muscles hurt, I plan to do it at least one or two days a week. The pace of being alive is different when walking. You see the neighborhood, feel the weather, and become in the present. Ok, exageration, but not far from the truth either. As the quote - modified from cars to people - in the movie Cars goes, "People didn't drive to make time, they drove to enjoy time."

With walking it's the same, to simple enjoy time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

NPR - Two Pills

I wrote an essay about long road to somewhere and choices we make along the way, with one Buddhist's idea of being-time and the concept of the past, present and future. I take a number of health supplements everyday, and have for decades - albeit it's debateable if some are still working. But I also take two pills which are defining my life.

I put these two pills in my hand separate from the health supplements to acknowledge their importance in my life and make the same decision every day between what I was before I started these pills and where I am going. I'm in the present that moment to decide to stop or continue. I have that choice and make it a choice so I know I'm a conscious, thinking human being and not someone who disguises choices as not choices because it's life or death.

I know I disagree with the many other people who are in the same boat as me and on their own road, their own journey. It's why I've always been a fringe person, standing at the edge looking out and back in to see the group so introspective on their own ideas and values. I'm a Taoist who always looks outward and thinks inward. I don't accept the dogma because it is just that, and often there to avoid reality of being human.

And everyday I put those two small pills in my hand and make a decision. It's sometimes amazing the small things are the most important in a life, and decides so much.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The long road to somewhere

I wasn't sure what labels to use with this entry because it involves my photography, my Dysthymia, my life and my future. Since my retirement in Decmeber 2005 I've been wandering a long road to somewhere, and where it leads I don't know. I describe it to my life coach as highway 50 from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe. A slow, winding, scenic highway with many byways, turnoffs, and side roads going places the signs don't say. I say I'm not turning around or stopping, just going slow and enjoying the journey.

We're all on our own journey in and through life, on the road we choose to wander and be. And each of view our experiences and the scenes along our road. I can't speak for others, and while I can see their journey and road, and see the expressions of their journey, I can only speak for my own journey as I travel my road, and all the experiences, good, bad and indifferent. And even then I can't say I can speak for everything I experience, feel or think. That's the reality of our being, our selective memory of events and scenes.

We all travel the road differently - like Duh! - but, how many of us take notice of the road and trip itself? How many of us are focused on our plans and goals in life along the road and forget to pay attention to the the rest of the world? Why the question?

I'm a Taoist. I like observing life and the world around me. I often get lost observing events, scenes and people. It's one reason I'm a photographer, I like taking images I call walking around photos, what I see as I go through life. For instance I like sitting in cafes watching everyone else. And it's often clear to me people lose the idea of the world around them and the greater world at large.

I'm not one of those folks who follows one religion, belief or philosophy. I look at other religions and borrow some ideas from them to incorporate into my belief system. It's part of being a Taoist, to me anyway, of being open to other ideas. But mostly I borrow from the various forms of Buddhism. There is an interesting article in the Fall Quarterly issue of Buddhadharma, "Being in Real-time" about Dainin Katagiri Roshi's view the Dogen's concept of Being-Time.

The article talks about the impermanence of ourselves and understanding time in our life. And while reading this article I was listening to the NPR story on mammals and hearts about the lifespan of mammals is determined by size. They've discovered the lifespan of a mammal heart is about 1.5 billion beats. The larger the animal the slower the heart rate, and the longer the lifespan.

This worked in humans, given it's about 40 years which has been the normal lifespan of humans over most of our evolution. And the recent development of hygiene and medicine to extend the life of humans, adding about another 1 billion heartbeats. And this relates to the time we have on this earth. We measure our life by events, people, accomplishment, material goods, and so on, when in reality it's simply the number of heartbeats we're given.

The article talks about the past, present and future. The point is the present doesn't really exist, it's an instant between the past and the future. The past is gone and can't be redone and the future isn't known. We can only live in the moment in between the two, the present, the instant we are alive feeling our heartbeat, aware of the whole of the world and ourselves. Only if we are aware. All to often we're not, lost thinking about our past or working on our future.

And this is where I wander from this for awhile and try to be, as the saying goes, "Stand in your own space and know you are there." To feel the whole of the moment around me, and, just maybe, feel the whole of life going on at that brief moment. To be in time, space and being. It's a lifelong struggle for the serious student of Buddhism, and for me, I can hope for a moment now and then.

To stand on the top of the stairs, wondering. Its past and all the people who have walked them and the events that took place. Its future. And what it is at the moment I'm standing there. The light, time, space, life and my presence. To be gone in a moment. The imperanence of our life and the instant I stood there. And capturing the moment as I saw.

And while all those experts sell books that say it's about how we use our time, it's really about our understanding of time, space and being, ours, not just on this earth, but time, space and being as part of the universe - our imperanence. We're here for a heartbeat of time, and then next until we're not.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Olympic Sculpture Park

I wrote about the problems I got into photographing my trip on the Washington State Ferry Walla Walla. That was only part of the things to do last Sunday. The second was Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park, part of the Seattle Art Musuem in downtown Seattle. This park was built into a few blocks of land in the northwest corner of downtown. It was designed to be a park where the public walks around the sculptures with a view of the Puget Sound and the distant Olympic Mountains.

Well, on Sundays parking is free and easily available in the morning hours. You can spend a few hours walking around the Park and taking photos (see photo gallery). They don't allow "commercial" photography and videography, but they don't define what that is, so one day I'll have to ask as I will want to take the 4x5 camera some day. I did see a photographer with a tripod so they allow them with your photography.

The art is also interesting, but the problem is that it's quite confined in the park and surrounded by the development outside the small park. It's hard to get a good background, so you have to live what what the scene and light offers. But it's a good park for the people, especially kids where there is a lot of open space and things to do and see. Simply burn a lot of energy and see a lot of cool stuff.

It's also along the waterfront so you can just walk out of the park into the normal tourist stuff along the waterfront, Pier 70. It's a long walk to the Pike Street Market and the rest of downtown, but you can catch a short taxi or other readily available conveyance.

My only complaint about the art? Well there is this concrete bench with the description, which says, "His design solution is a two-sided all-weather outdoor seat that could be extruded in a limitless number of lengths without losing its recognizable universal silhouette." Well, I don't know about you, but I wouldn't consider any concrete bench comfortable. Some art really makes you wonder, "What is the artist thinking?"

Anyway, it's still a cool park for everyone, and if you plan to visit Seattle, it's worth the walk through the downtown to the Park and the waterfront.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Photo that got me in trouble

This was the photograph that got me in trouble. In trouble with the Washington State Patrol (WSP) no less. And being detained after disembarking from the Washington State Ferry (WSF) Walla Walla. And the story behind it?

It started to be a good day, Sunday August 12, 2007, I drove to the dock for the Bremerton to Seattle ferry which I take once or twice a month. I got there close to the time the vehicles were loading and was directed to park on the starboard side about midship. I got and walked around. I didn't bring the camera out because of a recent incident where I was held by the Captain from disembarking when a tourist reported me taking "suspicious" photos on my usual walkaround on the ferry.

Well, the ferry left the dock, but shortly after that a voice came on the public intercom to announce they were returning to the dock to load some cars. So, this was an opportunity too good to pass up, so I went back to the van and got the camera to photograph this work and do my normal walkaround. I've posted a selection of the photographs.

Well, after that I went up to the public deck with coffee to read the Sunday papers. I returned to the van about halfway through the trip to sit and listen to the radio and watch the trip since I had a view out my window (parked along the outer starboard rail). While there I noticed several workers walking back and forth in the course of their job, but somehow making a "casual" detour to walk by the van and glance inside. Watching them they didn't look any anyone else's vehicle, just mine, so I suspected something was up.

One worker actually tried to disguise his casual trips on the boat, even pausing at the rail to look out, but everytime walked by my van to glance inside. That continued until the ferry docked. As we disembarked I noticed a Washington State Patrol office, Mr. McCulley, slowly walk out into traffic until he was in front of my van. He directed me to a parking spot to "talk" with me. It was clear they thought my photography was suspicious. Again.

The Officer took my drivers license and vehicle tag number to check the information. I gave him my business card too. He asked to see the photos, so I set the camera up so he could scroll through the ~100 images I took. Some time later he returned the camera - none of the images were deleted - along with my drivers license to say it appears to be another case of an overzealous worker, even after all the training the WSP folks provide them.

I don't know what will happen but I suspect there will be a report somewhere. I asked the Officer why would anyone suspect a photographer walking around with $5,000 camera being so obvious taking photos. I said if I was really a terrorist I would be using a camera phone and sending the images to someone else immediately and deleting them, or use a point and shoot with decoy people to make it appear I was simply being a tourist. I told the Officer I've been taking walkaround photos on the ferry and have posted the photo galleries.

What's ironic is several points. First, the WSF encourages photography on board the ferry - check their Website - and asks people to send them the photos to post. Second, there are no signs on the docks or the ships prohibiting photography, nor are there any signs defining what is acceptable to photograph and what isn't. So you can take all the photos you want, but you don't know what will set off some worker who thinks your suspicious.

The problem is that the ferry boats have a lot of video cameras throughout the ship, so you can't get away with anything anyway. I wrote the WSF folks about photography on ferries and if a photographer's indentification card or similar thing was available to show the workers and others I was just another photographer. I haven't heard from them yet.

The problem is that I like taking photos on ferries. They're built with everything clear and obvious so that in the case of an emergency all the workers will know where to find anything and the public will know what to do. The post signs telling everyone about this along with big read markers identifiying all the emergency equipment. It's ok to look at it and maybe take a photograph with a simple camera.

So the lesson? Simply restrict any photos you want to take to the typical tourist ones - meaning on the passenger deck or looking out from the ferry, and not of specific things on the ferry - and not any suspicious one, unless of course you want a nice, friendly chat with a WSP officer after you disembark. They're good folks doing a tough job, but somehow we can't even do anything ordinary anymore without someone thinking you're doing something wrong.

PS.--The story has been updated.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

JMO - Impeachment

I watched Bill Moyer's show on PBS The Moyer's Journal this week which was about the impeachment of both President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Even if you're against impeachment because of the process or your a fan of the President, this show is worth listening to because it has a diverse set of experts, even one very conservative constitutional expert who argues for it. They argue for it for several reasons.

First, while the republicans went through the impeachment proceeding over Bill Clinton's perjury over his sex scandal, the frequent and consistent lying and perjury of this administration, including from the President and his entire staff, is far and away worse comparable to Clinton's, so it's an invalid argument to say they're different and this one isn't right or true.

Second, while Clinton's impeachment was over a personal sex scandal, they argue this admnistration has commited far more grievious acts breaking laws and the Constitution. There is an order of magnitude difference in the violations of law(s) and the Constitution between them.

Third, as one on the show said, "It's not impeachment that is the test of our Constitution - meaning arguing against it - it's the cure in our Constitution." Specifically because it's in the Constitution - written five times - as the cure for a President who think he and his office is above the law and Constitution. This has been tested several times.

Fourth, the situation is similar to the Nixon years, but George Bush is behaving worse than Richard Nixon. The unfortunate side is that Cheney was a part of Nixon's staff and decided to react from that with his arogant behavior toward Congress, the courts and the American people.

Fifth, no matter the time remaining in Bush's term, the process must be done because the next president won't recind the newly gained presidential powers, and we'll have the same situation for the future, the loss civil rights. They argue we need to restore balance between the three branches of government and the American citizens.

And sixth, it's the Democrats who are worse for not starting the impeachment proceedings this year, because they're after their own politics than the Constitution. They need to stand up and do the right thing for the Constitution and the American people. We need to go forward with a new balance of power and civil rights.

And I agree wholeheartedly and if the Democrats don't they won't get my vote for being splineless cowards in the name of our nation and Constitution. We demand they do their job as we elected them.

JMO - Being a liberal

I am a liberal. A 1960's liberal. It's my view of the world, and I am not ashamed to say it. And I am not a democrat or a republican. I make my political decisions based on the issues, and in general I have an old-fashioned liberal view of things, but only when it's appropriate. I have this liberal view on many issues, but will moderate it in the face of reality and pragmatism, and take the view that anything done should be fair and/or equal for the benefit of every citizen.

And where am I a liberal and where not?

On some issues, such as human rights, equal rights, wilderness, environmental protection, education, healthcare, employment and employee rights, national security, international diplomacy, and the role of government in and for the interest of the people and nation, I am an unabashed liberal. It is the role of government to provide for all these things, and it's the role of the citizens to ensure the government has the resources to do this.

And the money is where I'm a fiscal conservative. You can't tax people to death, but the people need to understand that public services cost money. It is the role of citizen to pay appropriate taxes for their income. That said, I don't have a problem with the progressive income tax. And I'm whole heartedly for corporate taxes for any corporation doing business in this country, whether or not they are a registered here. This avoids the situation of corporations being based in foreign countries to avoid taxes. If you earn corporate income here, you pay the government.

And then there are issues where I'm a libertarian. I believe in individual responsibility. This isn't in discord with my other values, it's just that each of us have the responsibility to be good citizens when and where know that we are responsible for our action and we accept the consequenes of those actions, especially if others are hurt or their freedoms inhibited. We have to recognize and honor our role and that role in and with the many.

For instance? Abortion. I have a simple view of some issues, and this is one. It's about the matter of equal opportunity to all choices, and in the case of a woman's reproductive rights, the decision if a woman wants to carry a pregnancy to term or have an abortion is between her and her physician. No one else has rights to interfer with her rights to information and choices, and her right to decide and act. Not even the father.

I am angry to see people, especially men, who argue for government out of people lives and for individual responsibility about taxes, property rights, firearms, and so on, but then decide their personal values on abortion supercede the rights of women to control their bodies and reproductive rights. This is hypocritical and wrong.

And? Wilderness. I believe we have the obligation to preserve some primative lands that hasn't been significantly, and preferably not, effected by man. That's obvious and commonly viewed by many. But I go one step farther and believe we should keep people out of some areas to ensure they are true wilderness. Which means it's not possible in the lower US except in a few isolated places, but it can be done in Alaska. Yes, let's lock some areas away where there are no permits for access. True wilderness before man.

Back to the point. Does this make me weak on national defense or security? No, because you see, being a liberal also means protecting the nation from threats. But different than the shoot first advocates, I think we only shoot when it's clear who is the enemy and who actually attacked us. Then I'm support the fighting any war against them and on terrorism? We need to be selective and focus on protecting this country than being the world's cop on terrorists.

I believe we should have focused on Afghanistan, but only after we had exhausted all options of international diplomacy - but this doesn't exclude any covert activities - and thought through all the choices where we won't get mired into a long occupancy, civil war, or unpopular government of a foreign nation. We have to ensure whatever countries we fight, we do it for good reason and with the appropriate force, and importantly, we the acceptance of the international community. After all we're just one country in this world, and only 5% of its population.

And so in the end, I'm simply a patriot, but one who believes in human and civil rights and liberties, and it's the government role to provide and secure these rights and liberties. It's our obligation to pay for it as good citizens. And that's my definition of being a liberal.

NPR - Running and HELP

Every runner has their own physical and mental preparation for a run and every runner has their own mental process during a run. That's obvious, as every runner has a way of evaluating their run when it's over. I'm no different, even though I'm not a serious runner, running only 2-4 miles 3-4 days a week depending on other things in work and life. And as I get older, it's become harder to run consistently during and over weeks and during runs. For that I use HELP.

My HELP isn't what you think, but an acronym for (H)eart, (E)nergy, (L)egs, and (P)assion. As I run I take mental notes about each of these to see where I am that day and that run. I don't keep running logs or keep mental notes about my runs, but I do keep some general feeling over a week how the runs compare and note on a wall calendar which was run was the best of the month. That's it, and over the months, the memories fade as I focus on the run of the day and the runs that week.

Why these four things? Every runner has their own characteristics about themselves that make their runs good, bad or indifferent. And for me these four pretty much explains my runs and body and mind during the run. And for each there is a reason.

First the heart. I have a heart condition. I had Rheumatic Fever when I was three years old. I had all the symptoms but doctors at the time said children 3 and under can't get it. Go figure, because they treated me for the next 18 years as if I had it. I have a heart murmur and last year a cardiologist found a small amount of damage to one valve. But it hasn't hurt my interests in life except for one thing we found at the same time.

I took one of those 24 hour test where you wear 5 sensors on your chest and a recorder which monitors your heart for the whole period. The cardiologist then said, "Now, go out and run your heart out.", meaning to stress it so we can see it through the complete tests of my life. We found my heart has an extra stimulus connection which races the heart faster than normal and faster than the rest of the body can adapt to.

This causes me my heart to go from nornal rate to over 180 beats faster than normal, in less than a second or two. The cardiologist can't explain it but it does explain why I run myself out of breath at times - my lungs and body can't cope with the faster heart rate. I now have to pace myself in the first one-quarter to half mile to get my heart and breathing in sync and then running after that is easier.

Second energy. I have a slow metabolism, and it's a similar story where I have to get the body to work during my runs where it's circulated the energy the body is using, and not get tired part way into it.

Third is legs. My body is defined by the fitness and condition of my legs. It's the driving force of my whole body. Everyone has parts that are similar, and for me, strong fit legs are it.

Fourth is passion. This is the muddy part of it. It's the whole mindset of me, and like every runner, the reason we run. Some days it's not (mentally) there but the run may be good, and some days you feel good but the run sucked. And some days it all comes together.

After the run I assess these four factors and make a mental note about it, and then get on with life. I don't track my time, distance - this is predetermined because running outdoors on the same course every run with known distance markers, or any of the fancy stuff serious runners do. I used to have one of those fancy heart monitors and watches, but let the batteries wear down in the drawer where it sits.

I just run for the sheer enjoyment of running and being outdoors on a tree-lined rural road. Just one foot in front of the other. Nothing more.

Friday, August 10, 2007

JMO - The draft

After listening to Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks on On Point and KUOW about his book "Fiasco, The American Military Adventure in Iraq", I went out and bought it. It's a very interesting book, a must read for folks about the war in Iraq. But listening today on NPR's All Things Considered and their interview with Lt. Gen. Lute, Assistant to the President on Afghanistan and Iraq, the question of the draft is being considered by the Army and President Bush.

I had a bet with a friend shortly after the war started that President Bush would request Congress to reauthorize the Department of Defense to implement the draft. I bet he would. Remember registration for the draft has never ended and all men turning 18 have to register with the Selective Service. So the database is already there, and I would bet the Army has already activated the resources to start it upon short notice.

It's just the reality of saying the words, "The Draft" to which I don't think the Army and the President wouldn't have a problem saying, because they can sell it as patriotism in the war on terror. I'm not sure any Democrat, and maybe some Republicans, would be very leary of saying the words except to say "No" because they know it's political suicide in the name of two failing war in Afghanistan and Iraq and the 2008 election.

But the reality is that the Army has lowered it's standards so low they have no place to go except the draft. Army will accept non-high school graduates and give you a GED. They will accept immigrants and give you citizenship after a while. They will accept criminals if their records don't include violent crimes, and they will clear your record after a while. And once you're in the Army, they'll offer you tens of thousands of dollars to reenlist. So how much lower can they go?

The upside of the recruiting program. If you graduate from college they will pay off all your student loans when you enlist and finish a number of years. Not too bad because you can become an officer after basic training, and you can save for the GI Bill for graduate school. Hell, I got a BA and MS degrees on the GI Bill, but they didn't pay my student loans because I encurred them after my discharge.

I enlisted in the Air Force after I became 1-A when the University of Denver told me I wasn't eligible to enroll in the College of Engineering in December 1968. They notified the Army who in turn notified me to report for a physical and be ready to be drafted. This was the first year of the draft (1969) based on the lottery of birthdays. My birthday was number about 100, and the Army said they would draft up to number 150, out of 365, so I enlisted in the Air Force in March 1969.

Anyway, I know the draft isn't the answer, especially in a failing war. We saw this in the early to mid 1970's and protests over the war and draft increased each year, until we left Vietnam and the draft was suspended. It's a repeat of this and if anything will activate the ire of the young, it is the draft. They may be the only good side to the draft, raising the stakes for the young to see the reality of serving in the Army, and being injured or killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I will still bet the discussion will be raised by the Army and then the President sometime soon, before the spring of 2008, because we know the surge along and using existing troops, which will have to be extended into the fall-winter of 2008, will not achieve its objective of securing Iraq so we can draw down the troops. A fresh pool of recruits will be necessary, and all the recruiting incentives isn't work. A draft will work.

It will be an interesting discussion. While I opposed it when I was young - before I enlisted - and still oppose the draft as I do oppose the war in Iraq, but not Afghanistan. But I don't have answers for the Army. I didn't like them then and I don't like them now. And I don't like the standards they currently have for enlisting. It's not good for the country and good in the name of patriotism. We need standards for our citizens Army. It's our history and tradition.

And before you go off about me being a 1960's radical, I will say I am, but I'm also a patriot American and will support my country in any good actions, even if it's war. I served my country to earn the right to express my views on freedom. I will not, however, support a President who engages in acts which are illegal or unethical, or who will direct our nation into an illegal war. And then demand more citizens must die using the draft.

If anything else I hope we have a good debate than the political rhetoric we usually get. It's the minimum we need in the debate about our involvement in the Middle East.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

NPR - Getting and Being Lost

That's the topic, getting and being lost, in time and space. Huh? It's like the cartoon above, some days and even some weeks are just that, good. Nothing you can explain or describe except you felt good about the world, life and yourself. It's not like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon for a short time, which everyone should do it in their lifetime, both rims, it's worth the drive to see and feel the grandness of time, but it's like being there continuously for a long time.

It's why there are times being retired from one career and working on another, it's about getting and being lost in time and space. To be, as they say, in the moment, for sometime, not a game but longer. It doesn't mean you constantly feel great, but just the low hum of being and feeling good, and letting the mind wander around the sights and sounds of the world and your life. It's like Snoppy says above.

Why now? I don't know. Nothing I did except go through life. I didn't set out to enjoy this week, but it just turned out that way. And perhaps it's the endorphins from running, which I'm slowly geting back into some consistent schedule and workout. It's the best drug I've found for Dysthymia. I always run outdoors, rain or shine, warm or cold, whatever is out that at the time I go out the door. And often the worst weather or worst feeling produces the best run.

After that it was just the normal stuff of life and work. But the best part, I guess, is being my own boss now and can do things when most people are busy with life for someone else, or themselves if they're self-employed. Since I already have a good income (annuity), I can slow up, browse, wander, talk, read, and so on as I go through life. Time doesn't go slower, just my appreciation of it.

And that's about it, so far this week.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

NPR - Making Choices II

We all make choices many times throughout the day, and all to often not much thought goes into the choice we make at the moment. That's because many choices are simply made without requiring much thought at all, but are simply choices we take for granted as part of who we are or what we do. Some of these choices need to be rethought now and then we discover there are other options or things change which makes the choice obsolete.

And we all make the choices that requires a lot of research and thought, and in the end, we still frame our choices within our own view of reality and our life, the concept of bounded rationality. And sometimes we choose to eliminate all but one and go with that. Huh? We all do that when we make a decision, but not often when we reduce the choices to one then make it our only choice as a non-choice.

So what's the point? Well, I'm arguing against those choices some people make and later say it wasn't a choice. There are some life decisions that some folks will argue that it was the choice or death - meaning it wasn't a decision but something so buried in their being, choice wasn't an issue and that not making it would have resulted in something as bad as suicide.

Well, it's hard to argue with some who believes it wasn't a choice. They simply believe with all their heart, mind and soul. And while you can argue til you're blue in the face, they will simply deny choice was an issue. They often argue it was life or death, the decision or suicide - meaning that if they didn't make the decision to act they would be dead.

I've discussed this with professional therapists, and some believe it's true. But I have a hard time understanding as conscious, thinking human beings, we limit ourselves so much it's a life or death decision. I'm not discounting people with mental problems whos brain and mind simply don't function normally, they are a different situation. I have problems with the rest of us, because we choose to make it a no choice.

And that's my point, subconsciously or consciously we make the choice of eliminating all the other choices in front of us, so it becomes a nobrainer as they say. In some instances I can accept this because our innate being sometimes has an overpowering control of our feeling and thinking, and thus subconsciously removes the choices where there is only one for the conscious to see, and then choose.

My argument is with the life or death folks. Why? Because it's not death as the other choice. Talking with them and hearing their lifestory I don't hear the depression up to the point of the decision that's necessary for a life or death decision. For something to be a choice of life or death, death has to be there in the thinking and feeling, and it's not in their lifestory or their decision process.

It's always after the fact choice to make seem like it was. And I'm being cruel? No, because their lifestory doesn't have depression or thoughts of suicide in it until after the decision. It's used, in my view, as justification than a reality. While I may agree with the decision, I argue it was a choice among many, so make it one you feel good about than the fear of something you don't know.

I know there are people who argue this, and I can accept their view. After all this is just my view of life. I will always accept the responsbility of my decision and the consequences of my actions. I won't put something off to an unknown because it's a handy excuse. And that's cruel? No, I've been there in the deepest point of life enough to know.

NPR - Making Choices

How many times have we stood on the mental crossroads, wondering and thinking which road should we take. Trying to guess the future if we went each one, and knowing we really don't know what will happen except we have to make a choice and walk into the future. In short we're faced with three basic choices.

We can go left, right or straight. You can rephrase this to be up, down or sideways; yes, no or neither; backward, forward or neither; or some such set of words to describe what's there, and what roadsign to follow. And while there may be more than 3 choices, almost every instance can be broken down into three basic choices. We can do what we know, do what we're doing, or do what we don't know.

It's really that simple, it's the road we choose that's the hard part. The decision is usually made with incomplete information, using our intuition, others' advice, and so on, but mostly within the psychological framework called bounded rationality. It's human nature, no one has all the knowledge and information they need to make a decision.

We either eliminate or ignore information or we simply don't have it to use. We reduce the information into a framework that fits the decisions we need to make. And sometimes we reduce the information to fit one decision, which makes it a non-decision in our mind. The proverbial, "I had no choice." But in reality, it's us who do this, making a choice to be a non-choice.

And why this idea? We face them throughout our life and most of the time the choices are obvious and the decision innocuous, meaning, it's just a part of normal life. Nothing important, critical or life threatening. But every now and then, often when we're not prepared or least expect it, we're standing at a crossroad where the choices are major. And sometimes the choices have to turnaround, meaning once on them, we can't change or not without serious impacts in our life.

I had to make this when I retired. I had long thought through the costs, work, life, etc., as best I can, but in the end, there is a moment I have to say, "I'm retiring.", and fill out the paperwork, sign and date it, and send to our Human Resources Office. And we're done, life is what we chose and we have to travel the road we took. And in retirement I'm making more of these as my new life comes on the horizon to meet me with new crossroads.

I often visualize some of these crossroads as walking along a ridgeline when we reach the forks where one roads goes left into a valley we see, one road goes right over a hill into another valley we can not see, and one road goes straight along the ridge onto a hill over which we do not know. And we stand there. Sometimes which road, sometimes looking at a map of information, and sometimes looking at the sky wondering.

But eventually we have to continue walking.

The Learning Curve

There is a line in a song by Robert Earl Keen which goes, "The road goes on forever and the party never ends." Well, it's not exactly the right words I am looking for but it's what describes it very well. In years past, even just a few decades ago, you could continue learning until you decided to slow down or stop learning. The amount of new knowledge was small so that you could take respites and catch up when you were ready.

But not today, as it has been for about the last 20 or so years, with the advent of more and more electronics into our life. So that even the simpliest thing isn't anymore. You see I was there when the first HP calculator was introduced. An engineer in our office paid $400 for one and touted as "the" replacement for the slide rules we used. Little did we know then it was the start of the escalating speed of technology.

And photography was just on the brink of changing. The latest cameras were almost entirely mechnical with electronic light meters. In the fall of 1969 I bought a Minolta SRT-101 with a 58mm f1.2 lens and was off on my hobby to later become a passion, without knowing where I was going or where it would lead me. And large format photography was pretty much consistent from the 1950's with some better cameras and lenses, but mostly what you learned when you started worked throughout your life.

Fast forward to today and it's a totally different world. Almost. Large format photography is essentially the same. You can't change it too much without totally abandoning it. But that said, there are totally digital 4x5 cameras (Sinar) which require a laptop computer to work with it. The focusing and front-back movements are still mechnical (they have minuterized those parts yet to use motors), but the rest is electronic. But you can still use the time-tested straight 4x5 camera.

But that still doesn't change the fact the learning curve doesn't stop anymore. Even with a simple Horseman 45HD you still have to plug your brain and mind in to see and capture image. Otherwise, you spent $4-5 per sheet for some expensive lesson - or worse, WTF moments. It's the choice you make, think or not, and live with the results.

With the advent of digital cameras, computer, photo processing and printing technology, and it's a whole new world where if you stand still you become old in a year or so. Where before you upgraded your cameras every 5-7+ years (some pros still use 10+ year old cameras because the top models have always been supported by the companies past the introduction of new models), now you plan for a 3-5 years life span, partly because the companies simply don't or can't repair them after they've been replaced.

And my point? Well, having retired to pursue photography, I've fallen on the road of the endless learning curve. I'll be learning my computer system and photo processing and printing tools for years, not including upgrades every year or so. I'll be using my digital camera system till it breaks and I have to replace it, but in the meantime it has more features than I can ever imagine using.

And the key is that it's a party, and you can either enjoy the journey or sit by the roadside and watch the rest of the world pass you by.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

JMO- Soldier Poet

This is a touchy subject with almost anyone, the war in Iraq. We all see the news on television, hear it on the radio and read about it in the newspapers and magazines. The problem I've found is that it's almost information overload and hard to get an idea about what the war is really like, at the street level as a soldier and human being.

Well, in my opinion, to get the reality, read Brian Turner's book, "Here, Bullet". You can hear an interview with him on NPR along with some poems from the book.

Please read this book. Read each poem out loud in your mind, to yourself or to others, so you hear the words. Let the words seep into your mind, your heart and your soul. Let it touch you and feel what the war is really like for the soldiers working and people living there. And ask yourself if you could do what the soldiers do and could you live there like the Iraqis do everyday. Everyday.

And then think about your view of the war and what we have done, to our own nation and people and to the nation and people of Iraq. Think out loud and share. Brian Turner deserves all the recognition he can get. There is nothing new here in a way, writers and poets have long been able to describe war better than anyone.

"This is a strange new kind of war where you learn just as much as you are able to believe." - Ernest Hemingway

The 3Ds revisited

I wrote an essay on the 3D's, and while I still agree with it, as I do almost everything I write subject to change, revision and total rejection, I thought of a variation, a corollary so to speak, or write in this case. In this case, it's Desire, Drive and Devotion. These are essential for any work of personal importance, and especially in my photography.

Desire is what we need to see what we want to do. We can visualize what we want to do in our life and endeavors. We all experience it and know and feel it in our heart and mind. It is both mental and emotional, but it is when it becomes spiritual and soulful that it encompasses our whole being. Drive is the motivation we have to keep us going. Just as I wrote then that drive is what keeps you waking up in the morning and doing what's passionate to you. Devotion is what keeps drive going. You have to be devoted to the endeavor - namely the force behind the passion.

All three have to be within you or nothing significant happens in your endeavor.

Anyway, just another set of ideas. And the photo?

Well, for one I thought the life ring alongside the orange cone was interesting. Can't we all use a life ring now and then?

And the thing in back? It's one of three fountains in a park alongside the ferry loading dock (where cars wait). You can walk to it from the car-loading area. About every few minutes the fountains go off in a sequence, shown below. I'm not sure where the water orignates. It only lasts a few second, so you have to stand there and wait for the moment when it starts, and then fire away with the camera.

Seeing too big

I'm reading Josh Waitzkin's book "The Art of Learning." It's a combination of a autobiography and teaching lessons. And while it's focused on his life in chess and Tai Chi, it's focused on lessons you can take into yourself and your life. One chapter was an insight into why I struggle and get lost in and with my photography. I like to see and think big picture.

This is why I like to photography my rides on the Washington State ferry when I ride from Bremerton to Seattle on my once a month excursion for errands in Seattle. The ferry ride takes about an hour and drops you off in downtown Seattle just off Alaskan Way along the waterfront. From there it's a drive through downtown Seattle to get anywhere.

Anyway, while on the ferry I like to walk around and take photos - see galleries "WSF" in the list of galleries. I took photos this last Thursday and watched many other passengers taking photos, but Friday's Seattle PI had an article on suspicious tourists taking photos. It's a "Hmmm...", and wonder how they were acting.

Back to the subject. The big picture. I like landscape and nature photos, and looking at the many portfolios I've taken most of the images are of open space scenes. I like to see the "bigger" scenes, and have to force myself to rethink and focus on the small things in the scene. Josh writes about this as "making smaller circles" where you focus more and more on the smaller and smaller things.

He used this in chess when he learned the end game with just three pieces on the board and added pieces as he learned the variations. He used this in Tai Chi when learning body control and movement by focusing on one movement, then after mastering that, added additional body movements. He built the small circles into larger circles or the sum of the smaller circles, one after another.

This is similar to ballet where you learn one body movement, over and over, until you know it without thinking. You're conscious of the movement but your memory and subconscious does the work. This is continued through the life of a ballet artist by practicing the small movements nearly every day in the studio. You have to keep the memory current so you can focus on learning the whole ballet without thinking about your body except to learn the movements in the choreography.

In a way, it's slightly different in photography because you have different elements to focus on. You have your equipment, the scene(s), and your mental photography, the images you see. You have to become instinctively familar with your camera system and continue to keep yourself current. You have to venture into the world not just looking for specific scenes or images, but keep an open eye and mind for new ones. And you have to keep learning your weaknesses and strengths of your images to continue to practice what's good and learn to improve what's not good.

This means to me to keep my eye on the horizon but keep the foreground in view. To borrow the adage, think globally, act locally, I have to think big and small with the eye and mind.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

chasing Swallows

Well, the chicks are grown and flying around. It's amazing how fast they grow once they get to a size they can fly. One day they're all in the nest, sleeping and waiting for food and just a few days later they're flying around, but still waiting for food. And then a few days later, they're flying and eating on their own. It was fun to watch them.

So, now there is a vacancy sign on the nest, reading, "New one room nest to own or lease. Partially furnished. Built 2007. One previous owner. Deck for room or growth. Protected from predators. See Barn Swallow Realty."

And chasing them with a camera. That's the hard part. If you get too close the parents and older siblings start dive bombing you. If you can get closer, the chicks simply fly away. The closest I got was about 15-20 feet with a 180mm macro/telephoto lens. And you have to keep you eyes open as the parents feed very quickly to shoot a sequence of a dozen shots, like below.

I hope they return next year. Maybe they'll be more used to us as neighbors. It's not hard for me to check, the nest is in a corner of my carport.

Heart and vision

I recently wrote two essays on why photography is a struggle for me, and about presence in photography. It's not that I lose presence when photographing, although we all have bad days or days my brain isn't fully plugged in, it's that I lose heart or can't find vision in my photography.

You see those are the two essential ingredients in anyone's photography. And while the best will get by with good or better work on the bad or off days, the rest of us will simply produce crap, or fall below a threshold where we just quit. It's why I have taken hiatuses from photoraphy for periods where I either see something worth photographing but don't have the interest or have the interest but can't see anything.

The former is often overcome by simply taking the camera with him with the hope I pick it up, and after some time often do and get back into the work. The latter is harder to overcome, as you can try and try, but the results just aren't there. I can walk around taking hundreds of photographs, and reviewing them wonder what I was thinking and doing. Nothing makes sense. In large format photography, it's easy, you simply have to see the image before you even open the camera bag, but in digital, people will advise you to just shoot.

Well, that's often not good advice because it can produces a lot of images and make you feel worse than before. But it can help when you produce some good shots or ones that trigger your vision again. It's a gamble, and if you keep an open and objective mind about your work, it does work. Even for me sometimes. I've taken to walking around the neighborhood looking for urban nature images, but don't mind if they don't work.

For me, and maybe for many other photographers, I'm not consistently driven to be a photographer the way many professionals are, and I admire and respect them for their drive. I have lapses of heart and vision, sometimes from my Dysthymia, sometimes from life - something we all can't run away from, and sometimes it just happens.

I do know eventually the heart and vision returns and it's why the camera bags sit ready to go in the office near the door. It's just a matter of picking them up with a list of places to go or an idea in mind. The rest just happens.

And the photo? Well, while we may like seeing this sign on our travels, it's not the one we want to see on the road of life, because someone likely standing just down the road with bad news, and on the path of our passions in life, for they mean we lost the heart that drives our vision.