Saturday, October 27, 2007

NPR - When age catches up with you

I had my annual physical recently. While I still have to take the blood test, you know the one you can't eat for 12-plus hours before so they can get your "baseline" values. I have a great physician. The first questions she asks when she sits down to discuss what's happened over the last year is, "So, how is your life going?" And if you've had any tests from specialists, she'll actually explain the whole results than read the summary. Not that you can fully understand it, but she'll interpret.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about some of those problems I've slowly felt get worse over the recent years, you know those after turning 50. I realized that what I, and I suspect all of us, thought was a new problem was really an old one which has simply caught up with me enough to be in the forefront of my consciousness. And they're not just something you get over and are back to normal, they're the new normal, and anything else is simply that they're not significant or you're not noticing.

And I guess that's my point, how much do we tolerate the accumulation of our genes, epigenomes, environment, experience and health. That's the choice in our life after 50. We don't run as fast or as often, and sometimes we walk a little more during those runs. And we just try to keep even with our weight training, building muscle isn't in the cards anymore, just staying level. And the hiking gets less often with longer days of rest.

And the number of pill bottles we look at every day increases, ever so slowly, if only for short periods, but some are for the rest of our life. And some you take as a precaution, as the doctor says, "It doesn't hurt." That's the reality we all face as we age and when we pass the point of diminishing returns, meaning, as my dentist says, "You don't get better. We can only keep things from getting worse."

So the alternative is what? It's the one thing I keep asking myself when I start to become a couch potato, I can get better or get worse. It's my choice and down the road I'll discover the worse was exactly that. While the better isn't necessarily better, meaning it's working longer and harder to stave off the inevitable, it's keeps you alert and active. And you really appreciate the off days when the muscles hurt. You have an excuse to just sit.

It's why instead of running I've learned to enjoy long walks, 6-8 miles and working up to longer distances. I'll eventually get back to running, something I've done for 30 years, but until then, I take my backpack and camera to places on rural roads. And there's always a Starbucks to justify the destination.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

JMO - Rights and protections

I've been only kinda' following the progress of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) through Congress, especially after Representative Barney Frank decided to withdraw the inclusion of people with gender identity in the Act. This is sad because it drops protections for a group of people in our country that really need the protection from discrimination. There are many reasons for this, and while some larger corporations are implementing new policies on workplace protection, the vast majority of transpeople don't work for those companies.

This is important since the cost of a transperson's transistion is expensive as most health insurance carriers don't cover the costs of medical treatments necessary or required for a full transistion, and the costs of legal, personal and other expense associated with a transistion are staggering. This easily starts at $20-25,000 and can easily be $40-50,000 or more. Many transpeople simply can't afford it and often live in less than a full transistion, putting the biggest, and the most important, expenses into the future with hope.

This is why transpeople, who are otherwise just as normal as everyone else, need the protections, to simply live and work in the world like all of us. And it's the misinformation that has prevaded the media and many people's understanding of transpeople, see Lynn Conway's Web page of successful transwomen. And I've already written about the differences between gender presentation and gender identity.

Anyway, I'm deeply disappointed by the withdrawl of transpeople in the new ENDA. It's clearly discrimination of a marginal group of people who will feel even more marginalized as the gay and lesbian community will have their protections, leaving transpeople out on the street wondering what happened. You can hide being gay or lesbian in your employment, and while many transpeople pass as their (mind) gender, you can't hide being a transperson because the legal requirements to change your legal sex will out you to your employer.

But my interest here is the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the ENDA. I read the republican and religious right's view of it (sorry, no links to those who oppress people). They miss the point of their argument by an old fashioned country mile. They should know better, but they're simply using political rhetoric than truth and reality. It's NOT about rights, it's about protections.

And that's the issue. It's not violation of any part of the Constitution or Amendments to extend protections to homosexuals and transpeople. It's done for the rights and protections of a lot of other groups in several ways, but mainly to provides rights in their employment and protections against discrimination. "And?, you ask.

For one there are rights for women to get maternity leave and men to get maternity-care leave. There are rights for people to get family sick leave to care for other members of their family for short-term and longterm health care. This is a right of every employee and companies have to ensure they provide the minimum without either not employing them for potential time off, denying employees the time off, or firing them for taking the time off.

For another there are protections from work and workplace discrimination for a variety of reasons. You can not hire or fire a woman for simply being female and the potential for becoming a mother. You can't fire women for becoming pregnant and having a child. They can't discriminate against the disabled and must provide ways they can be a fully functioning employee. You can be fired for harrassement of someone's race, ethnicity and sex/gender.

So, adding sexual orientation and gender identity is a normal extension of these protections in the ENDA. These groups deserve the protections. It's about all of us, the whole human diversity in this country. Anything less is unconscionable for an elected representative of the people. We deserve better and they deserve to be and act better. For all Americans, and especially transpeople.

There are no boxes on a job application or an employment record asking if you're, (a) hetereosexual, (b) homosexual, (c) bisexual. But there are boxes asking if you're, (a) male, (b) female. And if your birth sex is different than your gender, you are stuck having to explain. Or you lie. If you are already an employee and want to transistion to change the box you checked, you have to come out to your human resources office and likely every other employee where you work.

That's the difference. A transperson is facing our societial norms about sex and gender. They often present themselves differently, such a cross-dressers, gender-queer and others, but tranpeople want to live fulltime to become physically and legally the gender their mind identifies as. It's not a hard thing to understand and really accept. Unfortunately some don't easily "pass" as their gender, and make people uncomfortable. They often suffer the consequences of this throughout their life.

While transpeople have now been included in the Hate Crimes laws, many don't want to see the reason to extend it to normal life. But as it now stands House Resolution 3685 will show what Congress really thinks of transpeople. The truth of someone's values, when it comes down to the real decisions, isn't what or who they include but what or who they exclude. So, why are tranpspeople not people?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

NPR - I'm amazed

I'm amazed how fast and easy life can get out of control or way off track, and you're sitting at the desk or the computer terminal, with the stuff you had planned to do still there and the list of things to do unchecked. Life simply got away from you and took you so far away you forgot much of what you wanted to do. And even for weeks to months. Life is like that.

And while, you're either simply nodding in agreement or shrugging a "Huh", I'll explain. In August I took a hiatus from photography, something I've done throughout my life after getting a camera in the fall of 1969. It was then mostly because work simply took too much time which left little time for much else except the basics of life. Add a marriage and other events, and photography wasn't my priority. I had to find the time for it in the gaps left.

And add to that my lifelong (genetic) Dysthymia, and the passion and spirit for photography just falls into the well, to sink to the bottom like a rock. And it felt like the peebles in your shoe when you can't stop to do anything about it. Eventually sunlight sneaks back into my soul, and eventually I begin to see as a photographer folllowed by picking up the camera bag and working again. It's been an endless cycle throughout my life, my inconsistency in my photography.

And I had planned retirement to provide the time to focus more on learning, or relearning, and doing photography, adding a large format and a digital camera systems. It's been working, and far better than I expected, but not as fast I had thought. That was due to my really bad guess of my learning curve and my learning speed. In retirement, without the pressure of being held to deadlines, goals and plans - just mine - things did a really big slowdown.

The slowdown was intentional. I hate deadlines and always struggled with them in my career. That doesn't mean I missed them, I rarely did. I just prefer to work by milestones than deadlines, letting the work and workflow determine the progress than some artificial date that rarely has any meaning in real life. And every time bosses argued for them, it wasn't hard to defuse their arguments as arbitrary than real.

Anyway, you can see I'm wandering again, something I'm prone to do, and often like to do, in retirement. Well, in August, the trusty, dusty (meaning I rarely wash and especially wax it) van went in for its annual tuneup, and then experience problems from a loose sparkplug which required putting it in the shop several times. And then I had some health issues that haven't fully sorted themselves out - which makes being a couch potato a good experience, especially with Law&Order (any series) marathons on TV.

Every time I got the camera bags out - one for each of the three different systems - life just snuck into the way to the door with the bags. And while I finally got the photographic spirit back, the passion hasn't fully returned enough to pick up the bag and get out the door. Yet, anyway. But ever so slowly, my feet are heading out the door where the camera bags have been waiting.

But that's the reality of my life.

Friday, October 19, 2007

NPR - Epigenomes

I watched the coolest show this week on Epigenomes, the "Ghost in the Genes" on PBS' NOVA show. It's about how genes aren't the final answer to our being, but, as they say, everything is relative. And with our genes, it's relative to our lifestyle on about everything we encounter throughout our life.

The program shows that genes are effected by some chemicals which turns the genes on or off or makes them able or unable to express themselves. This means we can have genes for a number of factors, but if they're not turned on or not available, then we won't see them. They're simply invisible to be used. They've determined that we only have about 25,000 genes, and 98.9% similar to many other animals - meaning 1.1% has to explain the difference between humans and other animals, and the differences in humans.

But they're finding out we have several hundred thousand epigenomes which controls the genes. We're more complex than we could ever imagine. And epigenomes are controlled by the whole array of our environment, such as diet, exercise, work, life, stress, geography - where we live and travel, interactions with chemicals, and so on. We are really dynamic, not fixed by our genes, but changing by our epigenomes.

And since some genes are for the susceptibility or predispostion of something, then you have the epigenomes effecting that as well as the environment effecting the outcomes of the genes themselves. This means you may or may not see the condition, and if you do, then your environment has to trigger it. We are from conception to death, a living experiment.

The epigenomes are dynamic over your life. Some will change as you age, meaning the invisible become visible - why some get conditions, diseases or illnesses later in life, or some become invisible - why some never have or get conditions, diseases or illnesses which occur in their family. The irony is that we just don't know, and until we can get the easy tests, we'll likely never know.

And add to that, they discovered genes understand family history, mostly the father's, but some effects of epigenomes are carried for two to three generations from their environment and experience. And theirs from their family, and so on backward into history. One study proved it's not just what you eat, but what your grandparents ate. And what you eat carries into your grandchildren.

Gives lunch a whole different meaning. You can get more information from the human epigenome project (HEP).

Thursday, October 18, 2007 sold

I read the recent news of my favorite general photography Website,, was recently sold to a domain management company - called a "digital real estate" company, as noted in the news release. There are two sides to seeing this as either good or bad for the owner and the members.

On the side of the Website owner, it's their Website. They built it and have the right to sell it. They've invested a lot of resources in time and money to make it work. To build the user community, develop the Web pages, and establish the reputation. They have the right to capitalize on their endeavor. It's their choice and no one can really say much against it. Or can they?

On the user-member side, we've invested a lot of resources using it and making it better with our words from our knowledge, understanding and experience and with our gallery of images. In short, without the user community the Website wouldn't be what it is, and worth the value the buyer is willing to pay. And many photographers have volunteered their time along with the dues many members have paid to support it.

So, it's not clear it's an either-or situation. And that's the issue. If you follow the history of small Internet Web companies which provide similar services, they usually get bought by other Web companies, rebuilt and resold to even larger ones, like dejanews sold to Google and e-groups sold to Yahoo. Each of these offered the three things buyers want: content, members or users, and technology.

These Websites offer the framework which appeals to companies wanting to expand members or users to other similar Websites, especially to attract ads and marketers. They offer tons of user content which companies can use to attract new or other users. And they offer technology they don't have, and often unique to the Internet, to integrate into other Websites.

And offers two of the three, 600,000 members and 2.5 million high quality images. So, this is bad?

Well, to many serious, professional and commercial photographers, it may since is the best photography Website of any size for this group of photographers to share their knowledge and experience. Adding hundreds of thousands of casual or less serious photographers will increase the number of "newbie" questions and images and the dilution of real professional help.

There aren't many Website anymore for serious, professional and commercial photographers from around the world to share at a level their comfortable with sharing. And many use a Website like for their image gallery because of the ease and professionalism of over larger image gallery Websites. While not a professional or commercial photographer I use for some of my galleries and to see better images to learn.

If becomes diluted with less than serious or professional image galleries, this means many members may simply walk or drift away taking their images with them because of the new photographers, which defeats the reason(s) for the purchase. could become another common photography Website with lots of amateur photographers and the usual overkill of ads.

So, what's going to happen? No one really knows except the new owners who make the decision about the changes will go through to become the Website and Web company they want. My personal view is that it's an interim situation, where it will be rebuilt to expand the users and members, add to the image stock, and be offered to larger Web companies wanting to have an on-line photography Website presence.

Lest we forget, it's all about money in and from the Internet anymore. In many ways I hope I'm wrong. It's a great Website for the serious, professional and commercial photographers, and for the photographers like me who can find help, inspiration and wisdom. If it changes from that, it will be a sad day in photography for me, to leave and take my images with me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NPR - Couldn't pass this up

I saw this cartoon the other day in the Wall Street Journal. I thought it was perfect in describing how I felt when I told my boss I was retiring two years earlier than I had previously told him. And looking back it was in an interesting last year and especially last four months. Not something I would recommend but would if you have a boss like I had, all worth it.

And what is the story, if you're interested? Ok, not really, but I'll tell the story anyway. You can just click somewhere else.

My boss, who transferred from the Investigations Section in another (state) office, had almost no experience in the collection, production and management of basic data, and the management and operation of a basic data section with a $3.6 Million budget and 30+ people staff. To say he was in over his head is an understatement, and being about 10 year younger than many Data Chiefs who earn the job is a real understatement.

And add to that since he was under a one year probation period, meaning his boss could simply say he's failed and sent him back to where he came with the minimum of reasons, he spent the first 18 months focused on his boss than his staff, the work of the section and especially our customers. To get the $3.6 Million income we had nearly 60 contracts with about 40 different clients - some were different offices of the same agency.

This is where I was angry and disheartened. I had spent my whole career in basic data, in three (state) offices. I was in the top 3 twice for the job here - along with elsewhere for several places. I had the support and recommendation of regional and headquarters senior staff. You can guess my intent to be a Data Chief, and then to have a my boss selected. And then not see or talk to him but a few times in his first two years.

Needless to say I wasn't alone. All the managers who reported to him felt that way and almost all the working staff who never saw him, wondered what was going on. Well, once he got past his probation to be permanent, he went from being almost an absentee boss to a near-micro manager one. And I have to say, he was "the" best example of what not to do and how things can go wrong."

Am I being too hard? Well, a little, but in hindsight, he deserved it because he didn't think about the job when we walked in the door. He didn't think through his role, the responsibilities to the staff, obligations to his customers - both the public and contractors - and to being a human being. He simply decided he knew better than all the rest of us, and went down the road to tell us, in staff meetings and privately in performance reviews - the latter almost the only time he met with me during my time there.

He never learned to walk around and be present in the work and operation. To just listen, ask and learn. Don't act or decide, just learn and let people do their job. It's not rocket science to be a good Data Chief and a good manager. It's about being a leader, not a manager. And we routinely argued as I tried to explain things to him from my nearly 15+ years there and 10 years elsewhere, and teach him about being a Data Chief.

But he always insisted he didn't need the help and tried to explain things to me. Granted, I'm obstinent at times but I change if persuaded, meaning providing good sound reasons and logic than simply because "I'm the boss." And so at my last performance review he informed me I was getting an unsatisfactory evaluation from some work - one of the five elements. I refused to sign it and appealed it.

The (state) office Chief concurred with my boss, so I was left to go to the region. They sided with me and "instructed" the (state) office chief to reverse the rating, and give me a satisfactory one. Since it embarrassed her for concurring, she refused except to make it a satisfactory with reservations. But I won and signed the acceptance. I had humbled both bosses into the reality of the power an employee.

I took that and my told folks, "Sorry, life wins.", and filed my retirement papers effective December 31, 2005. It was free agency. It's been fun and enjoyable. Not always good or better, but always worth it. It's my life now, no one else. And that's the important part. I would't change it then or now. And it's all still with and ahead of me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

JMO - I am but one vote

But it's my vote. I'm not a typical party-line voter. I'm not an issue voter either, but like everyone, I have my views and interests on each issue, some far liberal, some almost libertarian, and some very conservative. They're not right or wrong, just mine, based on my experience, understanding, knowledge and perspective. So I don't listen to what someone says this or that group says or views an issue. Or about a candidate.

I view candidates in the whole, not just their views, but their experience and history. This means I'm not sold on something in a campaign speech or in a debate. And I judge them often for the lessor of evils, meaning what's least to like about them, their views or their history. It's the balance of the whole person, what I think I like and agree with and what I think our nation should have as representative or leader.

And this will put me at odds with even some candidates I agree with their views. Why? Because I won't vote for an asshole, even if I agree with them. It's also about their personal values and their character. It's why in 2000 I wanted to see John McCain and Bill Bradley with the nominations. That would have been a great campaign to hear the debates, and a tough one to decide, but I would likely side with Bill for his views on war.

And with issues, I'm not much different. Except that on some I will take a radical stand. Really? Yes, and those are?

For one, abortion. I won't compromise that it's a decision between a woman and her physician. Period. She should have all the choices to make the best decision for her life, health and family. But it's not anyone elses' right to restrict her choices or make them for her. Not the father, family, or total strangers who think they have a religious view to do so. I won't back down or compromise.

For another, guns. I'm for gun registration and license. If you list your guns for insurance why not to the police so they know if something should happen. I'm for the ATF andFBI to have the power to do its job in enforcing the laws with dealers, owners, criminals, and anyone having a firearm. We have more guns than people in the US and it's time we did something to stem the tide of violence.

I don't believe the Constitution guarrantees the right to own guns, just the right to have them under certain condiitions within the law(s). We need some reason with guns, from the production through the sale and to the ownership and use. And yes, I'm had and used guns through my life, including my military service, so I'm not coming from nowhere. There's a place for them in our society, but it has to be managed to protect people.

And that's the overriding issue with guns. It's not about guns, but about the violence and deaths from them when there are too many and too easy to get, own and use. It's about the right of people to feel free from violence and free of fear of being killed.

For another, civil liberties and rights. It's time to restore those and get back our privacy from government and corporate invasion into our privacy, along with their obtaining, compiling and selling information about us. We have rights to know who knows what and rights to ensure it right and we can change it. That's not hard to respect, and fair to do.

For another, freedom. We don't need all the internal security, like airlines and airports with individuals. We didn't need it before 9/11 and we don't need it now. We need to focus on the few who are the terrorists than the citizens making them guility for just being citizens. We're not a fear society but a freedom society. Let's restore that.

For another, environmental protection. I'm a 1970's activist here. The more the better. And even more wilderness with more restrictions to people. Let's leave some lands without access for the future. And let's leave the Artic to the Artic, not oil. There's not enough there to supply the US for more than a few months, so it's not worth the generations of damage for that.

We need to rebuild our entire water/sewer infrastructure, much of it built over a hundred years ago, and we need to build more and better facilities. There is no reason to run out of water, it's a renewable and reuseable resource, so we should and must work to that goal. Enough clean water for people and the environment.

We need to protect the air and work toward a pollution free environment. It's doable with all the technology and even politically viable if promoted right so everyone wins. But it's something we need do to for ourselves, the world and this planet. We can't live long without doing it and it gets bigger and more expensive every year.

For another, land. I'm for land management, and not the individual's right to do anything with their land. We're all neighbors, so let's find concensus to know we won't ruin each other's land or rights. And it's not just a local issue. National, meaning federally owned, lands are ours as a nation, not for individuals or corporations. It should be managed for all of us and if leased or used, paid by the user, but not damaged or reduced in value.

For another, marriage. There's a simple solution. All other requirements the same, people should have equal rights and protections to marry. It's not that hard and it won't destroy anything. It's build communities and people. It's about people, all of us.

For another, the campaign. It should be 3 months for the nominations and 3 months for the Presidential campaign. That's it, and restrict the money to federally provided money with individual donors but not lobbyist or special interests groups. Let's bring back a real campaign than a marketing tool.

For another, health care. I'm for it for everyone, and if necessary some balance between Federal and State programs and Corporations. But I'm for federal guidelines for minimal care within some reasonable costs. And more importantly I'm for tackling the real problem with health care, costs, especially for profit hospitals, HMO's, drug companies, and so on. It's about the health of the nation and its people.

For another, education. I'm not for No Child Left Behind. It was a ruse for privatization with federal money. Let understand our future is our children and their education is the most important thing after their health. So costs are relative but let's not scrimp because it's "too much" when we'll pay down the road in other costs. Let's support schools, teachers and kids. It's an investment in our future.

For another, the death penalty. It's not a reason to deter crime, it simply doesn't do that. But it is to ensure that if you commit a vicious or extremely violent act, the people have the right to take yours. We need assurances in the trial and appeals, but once done to establish wihtout a doubt the guilt of the person(s), then the death penality is, in my view, fair and reasonable. It's only more expensive than a life term because of the legal system. Fix that.

For another, government. Having spent a career on it, I can say it is the best way to run a nation. Not contractors or out-sourcing. The studies have shown government workers are equally if not more efficient and productive, and more cost-effective. And you get employee, individual and government responsibility. I'm against bloated government but that's rarely the case - mostly only for political appointees and their staff.

For another, taxes. I'm for fair taxes. People pay for what they expect from government. Everyone pays their fair share, and if it means more to corporations and rich people, so be it. They got their weath from working people. It's about supporting the nation and all its people. I've never refused to pay mine. And while I'm angry at the mis-management of money by Congress, I'm rarely mad at government agencies. They're doing what Congress wrote into their appropriations.

For another, military. And yes, I served my country during the Vietnam-era. I'm for less military and more efficient for the new types of wars. We don't need to be the largest and most expensive military in the world and spending more than many of the next nations combined. We need to focus on a military that protects us than is the bully in the world.

There are other issues, but I'll address those as I think of them and update this post. And remember it's just my view and vote.

JMO - Our Democracy isn't anymore.

Reading some articles in the newspapers over the weekend I realize - gee, that quick too ("Like Duh!") - we've lost our democracy with our civil rights and liberties. And why do I think this now? Well from the newspapers I read Friday through Sunday, here is what I gleaned our government is doing to us, pretending to trust us but not really.

First, a former senior executive for Qwest communications company said the National Security Agency (NSA) requested direct and unfettered access to the major communications companies' telephone and Internet servers in the country in February 2001, seven months before 9/11. Now, that's the biggest WTF I've read about in some time. The access to wiretap every American wasn't about fighting terrorism, but simply being big brother.

Second, the Defense Department (DOD) has used their legal warrantless letters for background information about military personnel and company employee with contracts with the Defense Department to collect data on regular Americans who don't qualify under their legal authority. About half the letters of request were for non-military and non-contract employees. Just regular folks like you and me.

Third, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has told Canadian Airlines they must turn over the passenger lists of all airlines flying over the US. Now they only have to provide the lists for flights landing in the US, but not for flights from Canada to Mexico, Central or South America. This violates Canada's right to privacy laws and corporate laws for airlines operations. But TSA said they have to comply or face punitive actions.

Fourth, the federal government agencies contract with a number of private companies to collect and compile data on Americans. These companies are immune from laws governing agencies, and as such, have a free hand to do what they want in their work. And there are few if any laws governing what they do with the information or what rights and protections we have for our data in their possession.

Lastly, the President and his Administration have yet to prove the existing anti-terrorist laws are working to protect Americans. All of the agencies involved with anti-terrorist have demonstrated they haven't followed the laws governing the civil rights of Americans - the case of the man in Portland, Oregon who was arrested and detained for two weeks without a warrant, access to lawyers or the courts, and telling his family - his wife and children. He was released and received a settlement and apology but it showed the government's power in the name of fear.

The best example is TSA airport and airline security measures. To date not one person has been convicted and sentenced of terrorist acts on any flight within the United States. Not one! All terrorists are stopped on international flights into the US. And so why do all airline passengers have to be screened and searched and all their check-in and carryon baggage checked and searched? And why are we restricted to so few items now?

And yet George Bush is demanding more powers. For what? If it's not really to fight terrorists, what else is there except targeting Americans. I'm saddened we're on the downward side of civil liberties, rights and protections, and our government will have so much power over citizens there won't be a way to change it. And I don't see any of the poltical parties trying. It's about power and control, and the politicians know it.

In the end we're losing our democracy over one act in the whole history of terrorism. And taken out of context and perspective, it's been used to turn our democracy into a police state. Except we're paying the bills.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

NPR - My Nickname

Which was? A friend of mine at work nicknamed me Pathfinder. Why?

When I worked in Arizona for the USGS, I had several areas for my routine field trips. The areas were assigned to each fieldperson for periods of time and rotated occasionally as field people left or the area(s) were hard to work beyond a year. And yes, while the desert is nice, some areas are simply pure hell to work for 1-2 weeks every month. When I arrived in Phoenix in 1982, I was given the northeast, or White Mountains, field trip which included the area from Globe east of Tempe, north to ShowLow in the Mogollon Rim and east to the New Mexico border.

Most of the consists of the Apache Indian Reservation, which consisted of about half a dozen different Apache Tribes within the Apache Nation. There are many other Tribes in the Apache Nation, but they have their own reservation elsewhere in the Southwest State. The field trip area was predominantly the Salt River basin and its many rivers and creeks, but also included some creeks which flowed into the Little Colorado River. After coming from Western Oregon, this was a really cool area to work.

I had the trip for over two years because no one else wanted it. All of the rest of the field people hated winter and this area was cool to cold six months of the year with rain and snow. And it was a long field trip, over a week with nearly three quarters of the time driving. It started two and half hours from Phoenix with one-week plus stays in local motels. No one wanted to be gone so long. But I loved it, and learned to really appreciate the desert.

The Southwest US has nine different general desert zones. The White Mountain trip has seven of these zones, only missing the zones unique to southwest Arizona and southern California, from Tucson to Yuma. I eventually got the southwest field trip, from Phoenix to Gila Bend and into the surrounding desert. It is the pure hell of field work in Arizona. But that's another story. I enjoyed in the winter but not other times.

Anyway, during the accommodating weather we would do our routine annual maintenance on the streamgages. This required two field people (note.--field trips are 90+% solo). During those times, since few other field people had been to these gages, I often had lead the other field person to the gage. Well, one time, showing a new field person who transferred from Kentucky, I ended up getting off the trail several times. At the end of the week, he started calling me Pathfinder.

You see some of the gages are at the bottom, deep in box canyons, and to get to them, you have to either hike upstream from the mouth, or hike along the rim to find the trail down into the canyon to the gage. For the latter gages I would invariably miss the signs - which are usually worn tracks in the dirt or faded signs on bushes - there few if any real trees in most of the area, just the upper elevations.

I often walked by the turn to the gage when I worked by myself but showing the new fieldman, I acquired the nickname. We're still friends, and I'm still Pathfinder. I have to stay on the trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, or I easily find myself not in the right place or going in another direction if and when I don't. And I'm a geographer too. I have absolutely no sense of direction unless I can see the sun, easy in Arizona but not in Western Washington.

I've learned to like the nickname because it describes me in a tongue-in-cheek way. I like wander around life and the world, like this blog. I'm a fringe person and like the wanderings wherever they go, and leaving the leading to others.

Friday, October 12, 2007

JMO - I love being proven wrong

This will be a short blog, and please understand it's partly said tongue-in-cheek and with a smile. It's the reality of being human and being a human being. As the saying goes, "I may not always be right but I'm never wrong." In reality I think out loud, and occasionally, sometimes more, think beyond my knowledge, understanding or experience, and as such, like everyone, not always right.

And sometimes as I think out loud, I know I am probaby far more wrong than right. So, it means if you challenge me with a smile and ask, "Is that really right?", or say, "The information I have doesn't say or prove that.", I'll listen and learn. And that's often my goal, to stretch my world beyond what I know, which requires others to say so.

And that's my point. I like conversations at taverns with pitchers of microbrew and good food. It's that tone and tune many of these essays are written. So, if you're angry, slow down and take a deep breath. Relax, it's just conversation. If you're offended, explain and I'll respond. Remember it's just my view and opinion. If you're hurt, I'm sorry, and if you explain, I'll apologize. None of my thoughts or commnents are meant to hurt anyone.

So, if I'm wrong - didn't I say I'm never wrong, just not always right? - raise your glass, smile and with a wink, say, "Yeah, right."

Take a moment to reflect

Alexandra Boulat - copyright Jerome Delay

I wrote several essays on Alexandra Boulat. She was laid to rest to day at Church of Jacqueville outside of Paris, alongside her father. The emotions expressed by the photography and other communities are hopefully providing some relief to her family, loved ones, friends and colleagues. Few photographers have done what she has accomplished and shown the world.

I hope everyone takes a moment to reflect on her and the rest of the community of conflict and war photographers for their contributions to the world. Without their work, we wouldn't know. It's as simple as that. We would be left with political and propograndist views of conflicts, wars, genocide, and other acts of inhumanity. We wouldn't know the truth. And to that we owe or highest gratitude to these photographers.

And take a moment to thank Alexandra Boulat. For her life and contributions. We should all do so much, and while we know we can't all do that, at least we can honor those who do risk their life for images we see to know our humanity and inhumanity.

JMO - Support all-inclusive ENDA

I wrote a blog on the ENDA and Representative Barney Frank and others' decision to remove gender identity from the Act, leaving only sexual orientation as protected under the Act. I was criticized in my view for not including transvestities, drag queens and cross-dressers because of the umbrella term of transgender to be all-inclusive under gender identity.

Well, while there are laws protecting gender presentation, there are few laws, meaning most states don't have them, protecting gender identity. Gender identity is an established medical condition in the DSM-IVTR and HBIGDA, and gender presentation is only a part of the whole process of gender identity. And while many with GID live for periods of times in the LGBT community as cross-dressers, it does not mean all cross-dressers have GID, and in fact, the vast majority are heterosexual married men usually with familes. Most of the rest are gay or lesbians.

Very few transgender people are transpeople under the medical definition of transsexual. Being a transvestite, draq queen or cross-dresser does not make you a transperson, but a transgender person who presents themselves in the gender different than their birth sex. That's all they do, and don't go through the medically defined process to physically and legally change their sex to match their conflicting gender identity.

And my point? If Congress wants to include all transgender people in the ENDA, fine, but don't exclude transpeople because you're confusing them with transgender people. Transpeople need inclusion because of the problems they face in their transistion to be protected from employment discrimination, violence and hate crimes, and other problems they face in their life during and after their transistion. Their problems are far different than mere gender presentation and worthy of their own protections.

While I applaud many LGB groups supporting an all-inclusive ENDA, I'm outraged some feel the transcommunity should stop riding their coattails. Since the early 1990's the transcommunity hasn't and has independently fought for inclusion in ENDA. And by the way, transpeople have helped you throughout your struggle, as well as the CD community, some of whom separated themselves from transgroups because they didn't want to be identiified as transpeople or separated themselves from the LGB community because they're straight.

As for the vote as Representative Franks says, who cares? We all know the President will veto it and Congress can't override his veto. So why not send the message to be all-inclusive and let him veto a real bill. Or are you afraid of being identified with transpeople to your voters? It's not just about the votes Mr. Franks, is it? Or else you wouldn't have dropped transpeople so fast to win the vote of the LBG voters. You jettisoned the transcommunity too fast to be just a votes issue.

Representative Baldwin is right, it's all or none. And while I make the distiinction with transpeople from tv's, dq's and cd's, I'll go along with an all-inclusive bill for gender presentation as part of gender identiy. It's not, in my view, right or true, but it's worthwhile. Clothes should not be grounds for discrimination. It's as simple as that. But in the end, it's just my view and opinion.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Three P's

I got to thinking - which my friends always warned me was dangerous because they didn't know if my thought or idea would fly around or fly off, the physics of the forces on the mental process to produce substance in space and time. About perspective writing the essay on Alexandra Boulat. The photo of her taken by an another photographer inspired me sitting in front of my computer watching a bright red to orange to yellow sunrise over Mt. Rainier and the whole southeastern sky.

Ms. Boulat was a super talented conflict photographer, and I hope everyone takes a moment to think about her, her images and what life means. I prefer the design and emptiness of our world, finding views that you see but don't pay attention to, and the camera is the ideal tool to sort it out and find the image that presents something different. Ok, it's an ordinary image, but I like it - hey, I took it. Anyway, back to the thought.

Three things a photographer needs, and I love them in bunches of three's of the same letter, something to catch the mind. It's about perspective, presence and peace of mind, all of which resolves into time and space and the one thing that makes it all work, light. As they say, it's all about light, all the rest is what is at that place at that time. And the photographer has to be there.

A photographer needs a perspective about their life and work, and about themselves. It's about how they see the world and their place in the world. It's the innate sense of being and expressed in the doing, the photography they do and how they go about it.

A photographer must have a presence. Sound obvious to be there and aware. But a photographer must have their mind fully engaged and present in to the whole, their work and themselves. It's the saying, "Stand in your own space and know you are there.", and don't forget the camera.

A photographer must have peace of mind. Ok, it's a Zen thing, but photography is a lot about the merging of Taoism and Zen Buddhism, to keep the mind focused on the world, the scene, the image, the light, and yourself. It's about, as they say, finding the zone and being in it to work and get the image(s) you want.

Ok, statements of the obvious. What photographer wouldn't subscribe to this view? Well, how many have come back from a shoot or photo op, or just out wandering with their camera, have other things on their mind or say, "I don't know, it didn't come together."?

Monday, October 8, 2007

A photographer's perspective

When I read about Alexandra Boulat I went searching for information on her short life. I found this image without a photo credit (credit added from comment below), so it's obviously by another photographer at a checkpoint somewhere in her travels. You can read about her on the VII Photo Website.

Photographers are a quirky bunch of people. Each one belongs to a group of similar photographers, usually by the type of photography they pursue and present to the world. Conflict photographers are in a class and value by themselves. And yes, I truly believe this. Who else when being personally searched and her equipment thoroughly inspected turn to the camera and smile with a sense of humor you see in her face?

These men are serious and everything there is serious. You don't (pardon the expression) fuck with these people or you will know what happens in no uncertain terms. But within the framework of it, Alexandra finds the humor of the situation to smile. While I can say I've had my taste with authority in my photography, it pales by a lot with any one of her experiences. I would be too cautious and anxious to stand there, especially with a smle.

I prefer the quiet solace of nature, more specifically Mount Rainier NP. The trails have very few people, and none with automatic weapons and armored vehicles ready to shoot and kill when necessary. And only rarely people in camoflage uniforms, such as the paramilitary people I met in the deserts of Arizona when I worked there with the USGS. But I will add they are spookier than soldiers.

That's because military people, generally, have orders and rules to follow in engagement and the use of force. Private paramilitary people don't and hearing gun shots ignites the senses - yes been there, done that. And while I've met some walking in the desert I've never had an encounter with them like Alexandra routinely did for her work. I give her far more courage than I'll ever imagine, let alone know.

Even in the street photography I also like to do, it's always in the daytime in cities where I'm not too far from the public. I'm not an extreme street photographer either. They're also their own group dedicated to the city environment and people. And occasionally their experience is not that different from a conflict photographer, just the place and events. It's the old adage, it's still about humanity or inhumanity, whichever is the situation.

And that's the beauty of photographers. It's the respect we have for the passion of our craft which inhabits the spirit and soul of every photographer that counts. It's the one constant, and each of us do what we can to do what we want. And the rest is just the world we live in to be there. It's our perspective, and hopefully with a sense of humor. After all, what else is there?

NPR - Being alone

I read about the recent research on loneliness and the immune system where the reseachers found it's partly genetic - loneliness that is, and it inhibits the immune system to fight diseases and illnesses. That's somewhat known, but the genetic part isn't. But that said, and before you confuse the two, loneliness is not the same as aloneness. To borrow a quote, "The difference between aloneness and loneliness is like being broke and being poor."

The writer Anneli Rufus has a great book on the subject, "Party of One". You can find more about Anneli at Wikipedia. Her book examines and explains people who like to live and be alone. It's their nature and it's not abnormal, and in fact, many loners in history have made significant contributions to the rest of the world. For you see, many activities, like writing, photography, and so on requires people work alone and be comfortable with and in themselves being alone.

I write this because the confusion still shows up in the news and people still seem to be getting it wrong. The life of an alone person has many advantages.

Life. Many people like living alone. We've all read the studies of single people and we've all read the psychologists preach it's unhealthy and single people really want the comfort of companionship. In short, they're selling hype to sell books. The percentage of single people has been increasing for the last 20+ years, and very few seem to regret their choices. It's the freedom that being and living alone provides people.

People. We all interact and engage people in our lives. It's the reality of being in the world. Whether it's work and life around work, or your life, even if you're independent and just go through life living and working. We can't survive anymore without meeting people in the ordinary events and places in life. Alone people aren't any different, people are just as important in our lives as anyone else's life. It's just they don't feel adicted to have the around all the time.

Friends. No one doubts friends are nice to have. But sheer numbers of friends doesn't make you a better person, it's also the quality of those friends. Some people just like a few good friends they know and trust. They don't mind social situations, but often talk to just a few or migrate to a less crowded area of the party or scene. It's their nature, they're satisfied and comfortable, so don't fret over them.

Loved ones. All alone people have had loved ones in their life or have loved others throughout their life. They're no different in that respect, it's as long as they understand their aloneness. And some people find that a strong value in a relationship, so they can focus on the things important in their life without the guilt of the other person(s) feeling left out or lonely. It benefits both in the relationship.

Ok, enough about the what in the person's world, how about the person?

Being. This is the tough one since being is simply being comfortable in, with and by yourself. Yet, many people have the internal makeup that either crave or need company or companionship. Being alone is something they dread or fear. Most people don't mind being alone for periods of time, but usually not for long. And some at the opposite end of the spectrum prefer being alone. We're all part of the human diversity and eveyone is normal.

Doing. This is the other half of being. We are and we do. It's that simple, most of the time. Other things get in the way, but this is about who we go through life. Many professions, endeavors and activities require people being alone while they work, it's just some prefer to do this for almost everything they do that doesn't require human interaction. And as noted, creativity often requires it.

Personality and temperament. These and genes are the factors that determine comfortableness when being alone, from being totally comfortable to terribly lonely when being alone. Despite what many may think, it's not about confidence, in fact probably the opposite. Being alone requires the confidence to believe in yourself by yourself. There are some people who will challenge themselves to do something alone, but alone people don't necessarily need the challenge. It's a part of them.

And how it's sometimes seen or expressed?

Creativity. Many people are far more creative by themselves, just letting their minds wonder and wander, to see all the iterations and follow all the paths of ideas. This doesn't mean they don't like to talk with others, to hear the ideas, views and experiences of others, to add to the whole of ideas and to bounce their thoughts or ideas off others. It's just they trust themselves. Sometimes it's not productive, but then innovation isn't efficient or always effective, but in the end, it usually produces.

Silence. Don't confuse people being silent with wanting to be alone. The ability to desire to converse and ability to easily converse with others is a personality trait. Many alone people are easy to meet and greet, and have conversations with. Most, however, hold the more serious ones to their close friends. You might find many alone people have interesting views and insights into the world, often with a quirky sense of humor.

So, in the end, if you see someone alone, don't assume they're lonely. They may just like being alone. And if you think they want to be alone, maybe they like the conversation, they just like going home alone afterward. And if you like their company and companionship, be patient and understanding. Something everyone wants out of life.

NPR - Go through life barefoot

Well, sometimes. I've written about my walking adventures from problems with my van. And living 3-4 miles from the nearest commercial center only leads to walks down rural tree-lined roads. In our part of the country we try to make room for bikes and people with special lanes when and where we can. Otherwise it's the soft, rain-soaked rocks and dirt alongside the asphalt. But it's still nice to depend on feet.

It's a whole different pace of life, not just how you go, but what you can carry back home. But as life would have it, there is one rule with walking, and we've all read and heard it:

Wear good shoes!

I keep saying this being an occasional hiker for several decades - I have a great pair of hiking boots. And I have a few pair of lightweight boot-shoes. I love walking, and once I find my pace, I feel I can walk forever. Or at least until the feet decide differently, and hence the barefoot logic.

Well, last week's walking caused a few small blisters which are normal and heal fairly quickly to keep on walking the next day or so. But as I get older or forget to walk a lot for awhile, the blisters get larger or worse. And that's what happened Sunday walking to get Sunday papers and a coffee at Starbucks.

The Starbucks is a five minute drive, which is my normal routine, but I decided to walk since I was only going for papers and coffee - a doppio con panna if you must ask. About a half mile short of Starbucks the feet started to hurt. As they say, not a good sign. At starbucks I took off one shoe to find a real old-fashioned silver dollar sized blister opened and red on one heal and a small, beginning one on the other. I found some band-aids to cover the worst one and headed home. But alas, it was not to be.

But a good thing is that the county, city and utility company built a bike/walk path for 2+ of the miles home, so I took off the boots and walked barefoot. It's an interesting experience walking 3+ miles barefoot. Something I wouldn't recommend unless your feet are ready for it. The smallest peeble can be felt. Each step reverberates up your spine. And I got a blister on the base of my heel.

Such is life. I walk barefoot in and out around my home. I just haven't walked for the distance barefoot. But it was worth experience and may do it more. We evolved with good feet for walking, and develop minimal shoes to keep from hurting the soles of the feet too much, like sharp objects and extreme cold or hot surfaces. And for the most part, barefeet work pretty good if not pretty - who's feet are anyway. They're form and function over beauty.

Anyway, sensing the world through your feet is interesting. It keeps you aware of what's immediately in front of you.

JMO - Children aren't political fodder

What don't the Republicans understand that children aren't political fodder? What don't they understand about supporting the families in this country? We're spending $2 Billion per month in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $Billions more for the Department of Defense, so the difference in the State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is pennies in comparison. Almost every governor, including republican ones, want the program with the funding. They're getting swamped and overwhelmed with costs - unfunded mandates - Congress has been pushing to the states under Bush's "conservative" spending philosophy.

But it's not working. We're far deeper in debt since 2000, and will spend almost $1 Trillion on the wars in Iraq and Aghanistan. We're spending far to much on our military, more than many of the next nations in the world combined. And the spending for non-discretionary programs is less than 10% of the total federal budget. And the war funding is the very deficit spending Republican approved when they controlled Congress under Bush while touting fiscal conservatism.

I am tired of the Republicans touting the money for homeland security and fighting terrorism, much of which can't be found or found to have done what we paid - remember the taxpayers are footing the bill for all these programs. And it's clear to me the Republicans, and especially those in the Bush Administration, are treating citizens, us the very voters and taxpayers, as suspected terrorists. Really? To whom is all this TSA and airport security focused at if not citizens? How many "terrorists" have been captured and convicted with all these programs? At what price?

And children? While they're used in many countries for a variety of purposes not appropriate for children, it's not appropriate here in the U.S., and it's clear to me we're underfunding the very future of this country by denying and/or reducing fund for programs for children, such as health, fitness, education, college, jobs, savings, and on and on. That's where our money should go, not paying to them to be soldiers, many of whom are coming home permanent disabled or in coffins, for political ideology in foreign countries.

So what don't the Republicans understand? Or do you really care about Americans? Or is the truth that they only really care about their own wealth and their political friends?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Alexandra Boulat

I read today about the death of Alexandra Boulat. Don't know her? Neither did I. How many international photojournalist do you know? I don't know many, but see the work of many in passing. Do we pay attention to the photographer when we see photos that move us?

I normally don't, but this is another in reminders to make sure I do. Take a look at some of her images. I can only say she and her work make me feel less than honest and less than someone I could be. Why don't we, the public at large, celebrate these photographers? They risk their life to give us images to make us think and act. And do we?

The numbers of photojournalist who have died in war zones in recent decades is staggering, and many more have died in Iraq as all sides have targeted them for their work of capturing and sharing the honesty and reality of war and those effected by it. We owe so much to them we haven't begun to realize it, and likely we never will.

Thank you Alexandra Boulat. I am sorry your life was so short. You could have shown us more of our humanity. Next time you see war photos, thank the photographer who stood there with their camera with the personal vision to be there and share with you.

JMO - Arguing for something

In a recent conversation I had with somebody, I have come to hate the assumption people make that arguing for something is arguing against something else, usually the opposite. This doesn't mean it isn't, but it's not a fair assumption to make that it's always the case. I like discussions and debates in the old fashioned sense of a conversation arguing for or against something with people arguing the opposite. Sometimes I like to express my perspective for something leaving the rest as it is, just there, and not arguing against it.

And why this point? I'm a Taoist. I accept that the whole array of views exist for any issue, and all issues have the array of views for, against and both with the issue. And every issue has facets that makes the issue, and the views, less than absolute or clear. Everything has realities that fuzzies the whole view of any issue. All you have to do is pick one and read all the perspectives on it to see the array from the extreme for to the extreme against.

What I dislike is people who assume positions when you present your view from your experience, understanding and knowledge of the issue. And we forget sometimes, they're just opinions, like everyone else's, and nothing more. Mine is just mine, and worth the same as yours, nothing more or less, just one in the many. And it's far from perfect, with my experience, understanding and knowledge.

I love learning in discussions. All you have to do is ask with a smile, "Is that really true?" Or sometimes I'll express my view as a question, wanting to know more or hear other views. I'm curious. So why do people stand there, or sit in a tavern, with angry looks and think you're against the opposite or their view? What don't they understand about, "Lighten up!" It's only a conversation.

And there are times I have a position that is extreme, along with not really liking to hear other views. I'm human, and have some views - ok, opinions - which are extreme, but I realize it's just mine. I know it's extreme, but I will always express it with a smile because I know I'm just one of many, along with my opinion. So why do people get so upset and sometimes angry with me? Why to they assume things I haven't expressed?

I don't know. But before you hit the send button or open your mouth to express your anger, think about sitting on the other side reading or listening to your words. How would you feel?

Friday, October 5, 2007

NPR - When Life hands you a coin

This wasn't a good week in one respect. My poor VW Vanagon Syncro had problems. It actually stared about a month ago when I took it in for service, some routine work like the annual tuneup and some nonroutine work like the brake system. It ran fine for about 3-plus weeks when one morning going up a hill the whole van began to shake. I pulled over and did a walk around inspection, but couldn't find anything obvious.

This lasted a few days, and trying to think through some ideas (thanks to the folks at Yahoo Group) before I looked underneath it. When I did I found a loose sparkplug wire. The van ran fine reconnecting the wiire, until, that this, earlier this week when it really began to missfire. So I parked it so it could cool off. Lesson one with cars, don't do work on them after driving them awhile - they're very hot! Something fingers and hands don't appreciate.

Anyway, checking things again I found two sparkplugs loose, one barely loose and one so loose it almost fell out in my hand. It was about to blow out completely. It was simply fried. The threads were so burnt it wouldn't thread back into the cylinder head. So, it was walk to the autoshop (about 3+ miles away), after calling of course - how many stores have sparkplugs for these, and back. Replacing the plug, and checking the rest of them, the engine ran rough but better.

So I let it sit overnight, and this morning it was fine. I drove to the shop where I had it serviced. They gave me a new sparkplug and offered to pay for the spare I bought and my time, but that wasn't necesssary. They've been good over the years. I just told them to have the mechanic pay better attention next time. The new plug works fine and the van is back to normal.

As I have noted in another essay I live 3-plus miles from the nearest town or across the bridge to a city, and the nearest commercial center, with the downtown of my small town 4-plus miles away. And this is the same to public transportation to anywhere else. It's life in the rural areas near a city. But walking always reminds me that life isn't always driving and getting somewhere faster than your feet can move.

And living in the Northwest, the walk is along rural roads with trees, sunshine - and ok rain being the Northwest, and few cars trying to run you over. You can simply walk and enjoy the time seeing life at a different pace. And you get a different perspective about the rest of the world with all the cars going everywhere. While you know your dependence on your car, you know the freedom of being without one, something most of the people in the world already knows.

Anyway, my point? While trying to make sense of things, it simply occurred to me that when life hands you a coin, remember it has two sides.