Dave's Journal, July 2011
Well. I have a new domain name [davesjournal.net] and a new server going for these journal notes. Which reminds me that this site is 4 years old this month. Incredible ! I remember thinking "Let me try blogging for a few weeks and see what it's all about". That was 4 years ago, when I was just about to retire. Jees !
"City Lights" (1931 silent movie, Charles Chaplin) . . . I watched this yesterday for the first time ever. A very funny, very beautiful movie, that deserves all the high praise it gets. I was surprised at the kind of shy femininity that the hero (Charlie Chaplin) has. Much much different that post-John-Wayne movie heroes. In a way that character reminded me of Buster Keaton's "The General".
Still messing with the Nikon 50mm lens and an extension tube to do very close close-ups. Not easy . . . all controls have to be set manually and you focus by moving the camera in and out and the depth of field is EXTREMELY shallow, but you get these very cool results, when you hit it. Here is todays bug picture. I actually banged a flash on that one, but set the flash at -1.7 so it didn't overpower the ambient light. I hate flash, but this one worked. Here is one of a micro-sized fly on a blade of grass: fly on grass
Okay, enough chatter. I have files to edit and ftp across the internet.
July.04.2011 . . . . I don't believe the amount of BS I have spewed onto these journal pages in the last 4 years! Am trying to clean up "davesjournal" files for the new server, and am overwhelmed by this mess of stuff.
The Alfred Award
My view of politics in America today . . .
Notice that the two guys are not politicians. That's ½ of the country there on the left and the other ½ on the right, blaming each other's political party and battling to "win" the next argument or next election. Then it starts all over again. An endless football game.
I understand why the guys who wrote the US Constitution refused to create or to include the concept of political parties when they formulated the federal government.
I do most of my praying on airplanes, specifically just before take-off and landing. Technically, take-off is the most dangerous part of the flight, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that, when catastrophe strikes, the safety of the runway is behind you. Landing is dangerous because you are at very low speed and the plane can barely fly and if anything does go wrong there is no altitude to give the pilot a few minutes (while the plane is in a freefall) to fix whatever he needs to fix and land safely.
Another time I pray is when I am out of beer, or think that I might be out of beer. Usually I say something like "If there is only one more beer downstairs, I promise never again to . . . to . . . kill another whale . . . no . . . never again to club a baby seal . . . no . . . no . . . (I struggle with the credibility and the sincerity of the promise) . . . I got it . . . I promise never (well, at least for the rest of the week) to park illegally or block an intersection of speed past a school zone.
This doesn't always work, and I sometimes find no beer left downstairs, and I go whaling or seal hunting just to show God that "Hey, I wanted to make a deal, remember?".
Why, you well ask, do I bring this up? Well . . . because today, I think that God listened and weighed the balance of the possible outcomes and yikes, after a hot hot morning of yard work, I found a forgotten six pack of Redhook Ale downstairs.
The whales are safe, the seals are safe and I am ever so happy.
A $6,000 Lens
Mike sent me this cross section of a Leica lens. It is a seriously impressive array of precision parts made of brass and steel and glass. It is the wide angle "tri-elmar" lens that zooms in 3 steps - 16-18-21mm f/4 (in 35mm format).
I got curious and went to B&H website and (when it is in stock) they get $6,000 for it.
It's not a picture of anything
Hopefully, this will not read as "professorial", but rather as just a record of something I have recently learned.
In my quest to understand "what makes a good photograph?" and "what makes a work of art?", I have been pushing myself for the last year into casually studying Art, specifically painting. I understand now that painting is far far more demanding than photographing, that painters do not stand at an easel one day and knock out a masterpiece (they make many sketches and preparational paintings and even revise their "final" versions, sometimes over many years.
But I really want to talk about "abstract" painting, that I did not understand or appreciate at all a year ago.
"What is that?", I asked every time I looked at some abstract work.
Well, I have learned that, most often the answer is "It's not a picture of anything. It's not like a classical painting of some scene or a photograph of something or someone."
It's not a picture of anything . .
A man was killed by a grizzly this week in Yellowstone. That was a tragedy and I am not here to make a joke of. But . . . the US Forest service offers this guidance to hikers . . .
Fall to the ground and play dead. Lie flat on your stomach, or curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck . . . . If the bear continues biting you long after you assume a defensive posture . . . fight back vigorously.
My Cousin, Maria !
That's her right there jumping out of an airplane.
Crazy kid !
The Debate About the Debt Limit
It's been argued to death over and over again for decades. It's partisan politics bulsh#t!
A short snippet from a Christian Science Monitor article . . .
Opposition to raising the debt limit is a partisan issue.
Republicans are doing the squawking now because there is a Democrat in the White House. But back when there was a Republican president, Democrats did the squawking. On March 16, 2006, one Democratic senator in particular denounced George W. Bush's request to raise the debt limit. "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure," the senator thundered. "Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. . . .. Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren."
That senator was Barack Obama, and he, along with most Democrats, voted against a higher limit that day. It passed only because almost every Republican voted for it, including many who are now among the strongest opponents of a debt-limit increase.
Happy 21st Anniversary, Dave & Debbie
Grizzly Warning (update from the US Forest Service)
Our Family Gathering, 2011
Truth is that I can't remember exactly what year it was (I was in California acting useless and youthful), but our Family Gathering started after my dad's mother passed away, and people wanted to get together every year for a party. (It's been about 43 years, to put it in the ballpark.) Originally 99% of everyone was in Brooklyn, but over the decades, now only about 20% of us live near NYC. The rest of us are in Florida, Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Connecticut and Massachusets (and for sure I forgot someone, be kind and forgive me for that).
Let me back up a paragraph and point you to my web page about my grandparents, all of whom came over to the USA from Italia: A Page for my Grandparents.
For one reason or another (not the least of which is that I am reclusive and not a real "party guy"), I have never hosted one of these parties, but at last year's Gathering, emboldened by my cousins and much alcohol, I signed up to host the party for 2011. Well, it's come and gone this past weekend, and it wasn't nearly as traumatic as I expected to be the host.
I know that some of them will be reading this, so I won't gush about how wonderful they are (or shovel out the juicy gossip about any of them), but (allowing myself a short phrase) they are genuinely wonderful people.
The day after the party, we set out to Boston for a walking tour. The air temperature topped out at about 1200 in the shade (can you say "hot" ?), but it was a great day and we had fun.
The day after the day after, Mike, Chris, Catherine and I had enough moxie to do another Boston walkabout, but we stayed in and around cool, breezy Boston harbor and it was ever so peachy. I did get to see very interesting parts of the harbor area (near the US Constitution) that I never knew about, (locks and Charles River water pumps, etc etc), and take a great ferry ride for $1.75 !
Well . . . Deb is crashed in the bed (for probably a week), Lexi is sitting here on my desk and I am draining a pot of coffee into my mouth while I type. (Life is Good, they say.)
My party and post-party snapshots are here: Dave's Party Pictures
Finally . . . Love to all my family.
from the New Yorker . .
I didn't want to do much today except read and putter in the yard and act as retired as I deserve to act, but a little voice (that sounded hautingly like my mother's) said . . .
Me: Do what?
And . . . todays Nikon catches were dragonflies . . .
Back in Nov2010 (check my journal page that month), I joined an internet writing challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I wrote and wrote and wrote and got to maybe 15,000 words before I threw in the towel. But I did get down the core of my next short story (which will be called "The Sandman's Last Dream" if I ever finish it).
To motivate me to keep it rolling, I am going to "publish" scenes, as I polish their wording. These will be in random order, as I jump in and out of the editing as I desire.
Here is the scene regarding "At The Algonquin". You should first read up on who the Sandman is here: The Sandman
Trying to help Jim L. get into photo editing, I need to do the impossible - understand how Apple computers work (specifically "i-photo"). This will be my annual Apple headache.
D is off to the spa. I am off to cut hostas down. Here are the koi, as of 5 minutes ago . . . Fish Pond
My dominant feelings to day (it is wickedly hot and D is at work) is that I wish I was working. Part time. Something at least moderately interesting where I don't have to talk and listen to people to be good at the job.
But, truth is, I'm 66 and mostly deaf and out of the job market now for 4 years, so the likelihood of that is zero,. When I get to that thought, I block the conflicts out of my mind and learn to love retirement and the fact that I am very lucky to have the day-to-day life that I have, so thank you, God, before I get shipped out of town.
→ . . . → . . . →
Butterflies, cont'd . . .
Today, I trekked to a semi-nearby butterfly emporium. Filled with kids, retired guys (whose wives were at work today), grandparents and families on vacation. More cameras than you ever saw in your life.
Very pretty place and the butteflies are everywhere and are not afraid of anything and even land on you if you stand still. That's one of them on my shirt there.
The roof is opaque glass so it diffuses the light beautifully and you have to work very hard NOT to take a pretty picture.
I got one that I liked and added it to Cafe/Gallery#3.
Zorba the Greek
I never saw the movie, but I just finished this wonderful book. Great story, very well written (obvious that it is written in Greek and translated). Fascinating look at life and of course an inevitable and sadly human ending.
Very glad that I read it and was sorry to see the book come to an end.
It's 101F air temperature in the shade on the North side of the house. Add to that the radiative heat transfer from sunlight (H may be everything, but R is important sometimes too), and today is a wonderful opportunity to save the planet by way of solar cooking.
Also . . . newly collected scientific evidence may appear to suggest that people who are going to eat hotdogs anyway may believe that eating hotdogs may be good for your soul. I pretty much believe this, because I am dying to spread some mustard on these babies and wash them down with that bottle of Wachusett Summer Ale that's sitting over there !
From today's News . . .
Late Friday, a senior GOP aide said House leaders had "no idea" how to craft a plan to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit that could win approval from the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-led House. Talks were underway between Boehner and Senate leaders, but House Republicans continued to object to a developing Senate strategy to authorize Obama to raise the debt limit through 2013 without explicit congressional approval.
Boehner was clear about the reasons for his decision. The White House, he told reporters at his own news conference, "insisted on raising taxes."
→ - - - → - - - →
My opinion: The national debt was created by previous "conservative" administrations (do the homework) who borrowed the US into this massive debt because they refused to raise taxes on very wealthy (and politically powerful) people. It's time to pay the devil and raise the taxes of everyone who has been benefitting by the "tax breaks for the rich" to pay off the debt.
The federal government spends it's budget on Social Security, Medicare and The Military (again, do the homework). Everything else is microscopic. The R's want to reduce these payments because their rich friends don't want to pay the taxes to support SocSec or Medicare. This pot of steaming BS all boils down to that.
Footnote: The average Social Security payment made by the federal government today to a retired person is $1177 / month.
Social Security is not Part of the National Debt
Actually, Social Security is not part of the "national debt" that Washington is debating. SocSec is a cash flow system that does not add to debt owed by the USA. The SocSec system "pays as it goes", through taxes, and does not borrow money from anyone. It is currently in very good condition and is projected to be so for the next (at least) 25 years (one projection says it's okay for the next 65 years!).
I found this excellent report on SocSec (kind of long, but loaded with the real numbers): Soc Sec Report. It's full of great stuff. Pages 23 - 30 talk about the cash flow and when (if) it will turn negative. The projection is that the system will have to raise contribution taxes in 2036 to keep up with payments. Until then, the SocSec system will "pay as it goes" through existing taxes.
Certainly, it is a taxing cash flow system, but it has nothing to do with the US government debt. Reducing SocSec benefits and the SocSec tax will have no effect on the $$$$$trillion debt.
From the CSM . . .
Well, it's Sunday morning, and I am tired of complaining about all things political. What else was in the news this morning? . . .
Ah, here's a goody:
June was the 316th month in a row that had a higher temperature than the 20th century average.
"This is all your fault ! "
I am pretty sure that the impending federal deficit / economic meltdown is causing the very negative feelings I am having last few weeks. Plus the drop in my 401(k) reserve, plus the health insurance fiasco (ongoing) that I am in, plus the surprise hearing aid expense.
On top of that I am reading Richard Russo's excellent novel, "The Bridge of Sighs". The storyline is a wonderful (and epic) Russo narrative of life in a small town. Yesterday, the pages dealt with an older couple whose life had wound down to a small apartment crowded with their old furnishings (from the house they lost to back taxes) and sudden health care costs that wiped out their savings, and it pretty much rang my anxiety bells, so that I stared at the ceiling a lot last night (instead of sleeping).
Strange it is that I face most of my anxieties (real and imagined) at night.
So, I have come to the realization that "it's happening". It's not "going to happen someday", it's "happening now".
The inevitable is happening. It happens to everyone, why not me ?
(Well . . . that finishes that cup of coffee.)
Click on the image to go to a very neat visual reality thing of the space shuttle cockpit. (Boy don't those seats look comfortable ! )
I am swearing off all news websites and all negative emotions about anything . . . for the rest of the week.
In fact, I am going to plan out The Adventures of August to get me out of the funk (look it up) that I am in. A full month of global escapades to pick up my spirits.
A buddy sent me some stuff about the new Boeing 787. Got this picture of it in flight. I am really impressed how much those wings bend (upward) and twist (leading edge down) during flight. They are not metal, the wings are a composite material that is very strong and very flexible, so they bend and twist a lot. They designed the wing so that (as it becomes airborne) it flexes into the position they want it to be for flight.
Also found a neat photo of the local Mach number (a computer simulation). Neat techy stuff (I'm getting all nostalgic, now).
Turns out that Jim L. (Joanne's Jim), buys, restores and sells classic "muscle" bicycles, and he sent me pictures of his latest two. He writes . . .
"This is a 1968 Schwinn 3 speed Stickshift Runabout. This bike is 100% original and looks like it's just out of the box. I'd love to find someone with an old stainless steel camper and stage this bike next to it for a cool pic."
"This is my 1999 Schwinn Krate Yellow Submarine contest bike. This bike is a bit rare.....1 of 60. It was created for a contest when Sony re-released the Beatles Yellow Submarine movie back in 1999. The two framed pics next to it are the contest entry form and a letter from the Project Manager at Schwinn who had the bikes created by a bike shop in Colorado. "
(Click the thumbnails for larger pics.)
1970 (71 ?)
That's Loretta sitting on the fence.
Chihuly Exhibit at Boston MFA
Very fascinating glass artwork. Big pieces ! Here is the official web page. Here are a few of my pictures. The stuff is very other-worldly. If you were alone in the rooms, you would get spooked by the "feeling".
I Know I Promised, But . . .
I promised to stay away from political news for a week, but I failed miserably this morning as I clicked into the Washington Post website. There is an op/ed column titled Why are we in this debt fix? It's the elderly, stupid., and I had to read it. Here is some of the opinion . . .
We've had dueling budgets with differing mixes of spending cuts and tax increases. But we've heard almost nothing of the main problem that makes the budget so intractable.
It's the elderly, stupid. . . . . .
Older Americans do not intend to ruin America, but as a group, that's what they're about. On average, the federal government supports each American 65 and over by about $26,000 a year (about $14,000 through Social Security, $12,000 through Medicare).
The essential budget question is how much we allow federal spending on the elderly to crowd out other national priorities. All else is subordinate. Yet, our "leaders" don't debate this question with candor or intelligence. We have a generation of politicians cowed and controlled by AARP.
My commentary: The USA is at the end of its "hour in history" (as all great nations come to eventually), and what has brought America to this point (according to the "stop spending" people) are the old, retired people sucking the blood out of the American economy. The problem is not the two undeclared wars that we borrowed to fund (!); it's not the US corporations that pay ZERO taxes (like General Electric !); it's not the oil companies who drill OUR oil out of the ground and make bzillions of dollars selling it back to us at godless profit; it's not the infinite greed of powerful "money people" who over-stretched marketplace credit, manipulated and plundered global markets into a depression; it's not self-serving, corrupt politicians who sold our country to the profit-takers. It's us old people, who get an average Social Security check of $1177 / month (that's the latest number). That's what's wrong with America, the old people.
Footnote: "The average retired person gets $12,000 / year from Medicare." That is statistically correct, but most people will mis-understand that, and think that everyone on Medicare gets $12,000 / year and that is not anything like correct. Most people on Medicare get less than $1000 / year to pay medical expenses. (I just paid $4000 for my hearing aids and Medicare gave me absolute zero for that - it came 100% out of our retirement savings !). A very small percent of old, sick people need expensive treatments or care, and they may get $100,000 to pay for that. Thus, the "average person gets $12,000 /year". We need to be smart when we hear comments like that.
(This will not make you feel any better . . .)
Putting the country's financial position into perspective, The Financial Post's Matt Hartley reported this stunning factoid Thursday night: Apple has more cash than the U.S. Treasury.
That's right. The Treasury Department said Thursday that it has an operating balance of $73.768 billion, compared with the $76.156 billion in cash that Apple recorded on its latest earnings report.
Who Shot Rock and Roll ?
More and more people are asking . . . "Is Birmingham the new center of iconic American culture?". The answer to that question gets an answer from the BMA with it's Summer show on R&R photographs. Check it out for yourself: Who Shot Rock and Roll? (If you go this weekend, say hi to Bob and Ramona ! ! )
Global Education Update . . .
(Or . . . "How the greatest country in history flushed itself down the toilet.")
At Catherine's insistence, I am bugging out of my life for the month of August.
I am off on some adventures that I never took in my real life. Don't know if I will get them all done in one month, as (in my assessment) I have a lot of missing ground to cover, but I will do the best I can to venture out there into the world that I never experienced.
So . . . for the next month . . . no political - social - religial (?) - financial - personal - ?al rants or ravings. I hope to be able to post some photos and stories here in my journal from wherever I wander this month (I am bringing my little netbook with me, plus six cameras and a trunk full of lenses, three bottles of ink and six pads of Staples "silky-silver" leatherbound notepads (deluxe edition, of course)). Debbie made me promise to write to her ocassionally, and I agreed, but when you're in the treetops of the Peruvian jungles, where exactly do you mail a letter from, Deb?. But I promised anyway.
Postscript: I wish all my compatriots in the US the best of luck with the debt BS, but being a "free citizen of the Earth" for August, it's not my F#^%ing problem anymore.
page written by Dave Leo