This week’s The Daily Post challenge is Landscape. Here is my landscape shot.
This week’s The Daily Post challenge is Landscape. Here is my landscape shot.
A few months ago I bought a flower bouquet because it contained what looked like some pretty white flowers tinged with green. On closer examination I wasn’t sure if they were flowers. I asked the cashier and other customers if they knew what it was. None did, and I stated my doubts that it was a flower. One women replied with complete assurance that, of course it was a flower. When I got home I did some research and discovered that it was a type of ornamental cabbage. I took some photos of the cabbages. I used one as my photo of the day (POTD). I’ve included a photo of a green and white cabbage and one of a purple cabbage.
I didn’t take care of the bouquet and all the plants withered and died. Now I have a collection of beautiful, dried leaves of purple and tan. Below is a slide show of some of the dried leaves.
The superbug described in Maryn McKenna’s book is MSRA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus). It is resistant to many other types of antibiotics besides methicillin. Superbug focuses on the history of MRSA. Other types of bacteria are also becoming resistant to antibiotics. This suggests the possibility that sometime in the future there will be no way to treat bacterial infections. In “Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future”, an article re-printed in The Best Science and Nature Writing 2014, McKenna describes what such a future might be like. One of the great benefits of antibiotics is that
Infections that had been death sentences – from battlefield wounds, industrials accidents, childbirth – suddenly could be cured in a few days.
In an post-antibiotic world, such infections would again become death sentences as would infections from more mundane causes such as everyday cuts and scapes and insect bites that we tend today to ignore.
Without the protection offered by antibiotics, entire categories of medical practice would be rethought.
All the following are done with high risk of infection and are feasible today because antibiotics are avaible to stave off infection. Without antibiotics they might become to risky to use.
Life for everyone would become much more risky.
Before antibiotics, five women died out of every thousand who gave birth. One out of every nine people who got a skin infection died, even from something as simple as a scrape or insect bite. Three out of every ten people who contracted pneumonia died from it. Ear infections caused deafness; sore throats were followed by heart failure. In a post-antibiotic world, would you mess around with power tools? Let your kid climb a tree? Have another child?
Agriculture will have problems in a post-antibiotic world. Agriculture that depends on antibiotics such as industrial rearing of cattle, pigs, chicken, and turkey will be more expensive. Antibiotics are also used intensively in shrimp farming, fish farming, and growing fruit.
All is not completely bleak. Recent developments give hope that a post-antibiotic world may not inevitable. The January 14 issue of The Telegraph reports on the first new antibiotic discovered in 30 years, teixobactin. Teixobactin
has been hailed as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the fight against the growing resistance to drugs.
Teixobactin has been found to treat many common bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, septicaemia and C. diff, and could be available within five years.
. . . the new discovery offers hope that many new antibiotics could be found to fight bacterial infections.
. . . bacteria will not become resistant to Teixobactin for at least 30 years because of its multiple methods of attack.
We’ve been in the midst of a blizzard all day, so I’ve not ventured out of the house.
The subject for my photo of the day is a coaster made of plastic beads sewn into a fabric circle. The beads are tan, but look to be a different color because I light-painted them with a green light stick and a blue light stick and used my macro lens.
Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. History has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.
I found the above lines of Obama’s speech of yesterday compelling because I feel that there is already too much “trust me” in government today, even in the Obama administration. There was a lot of “trust me” in Obama’s speech, although if the initiatives he suggests are implemented our privacy will be greater than it is presently. Our Founding Fathers were not trusting people. They thought that no one individual should be entrusted with unrestrained power. That remains the one of the key foundations of a society that abides by the rule of law. Stalin’s solution to the trusting of individuals was to execute, deport, or imprison anyone who he thought threatened his power. He did his best to concentrate all power in himself. In our system, power is dispersed widely and I think it has always been seen as a threat to our way of life when one sector grabs too much power, whether government or business.
. . .the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer and your smartphone periodically.
Again, I am glad to see this stated by Obama. But at the same time I read of the idea of allowing private organizations like Google to store metadata about our phone conversations instead of the NSA or other government organizations. I would much rather trust the government not to misuse such metadata than I would trust a large corporation.
I listened to the speech with mixed feelings. Still too much “trust us”, but moving towards a better situation than exists today.
I was involved in a 365-day, photo of the day (POTD) challenge for 2013. I missed a day about ten days ago so I cannot complete the challenge for 2013.
I took photos yesterday. Two days in a row that I took a POTD. I hope to get back in the swing of things and start again on a 365 day challenge. Over the last year and one month I’ve missed about two weeks of POTDs. I have just decided to once again take up the challenge.
Hereby let it be known. I am starting out on another 365-day POTD challenge. The first day of this challenge was November 26th. Only 363 more POTDs and I will have met the challenge.
Here are my most recent shots:
I am on the verge of giving in to temptation and buying an HP Chromebook for $279 plus tax. I have absolutely no use for a Chromebook. I would have to invent a use, like being able to use Penzu.com in a coffee shop. But I’m still tempted. Last weekend I was equally tempted but managed to hold out. I could put the money to much better use, either to buy an electric snow blower or to buy another house-cleaning from MaidPro. Both those things are much more important that a Chromebook. A Chromebook for me would be nothing more than a toy.
On days like today, I sometimes strain to think of something to buy. Spending has become too much of a past time instead of a way to get things I need. Here is a question: do I give into temptation if it keeps coming up repeatedly – like buying a Chromebook – or do I continue to try to fight the temptation? I don’t really know the answer. If I continue to be tempted, I will eventually give in, so why not do it and get it over with so that I’m no longer tempted? Because then something else will start to tempt me. Our consumer-driven economy is designed to tempt one into making unnecessary purchases. There will always be temptations, and as long as I have a nest egg I will continue to chip away at it. I once had $150,00 and have been steadily chipping away at it. Now I have about $80,000 and am still chipping. Not all of the chipping has been frivolous. $20,000 for my car. $19,000 to my daughter. $10,000 for taxes. Still, a lot of the money has gone to non-essential items. If there is a silver lining, it’s that I haven’t incurred one cent of debt. I will retire debt-free next year, but with a considerably reduced nest egg.
I have had fun though! Books, CDs, clothing, electronics. I am a good, obedient consumer. Spend, spend, spend.
It is getting harder to take a photo each day because it’s gets dark so early. It’s not fully light when I go to work in the morning and nearly dark when I get home at night. So I have to use artificial light plus a bit more creativity than when I’m wandering about outside and usually find plenty for photo subjects. I got through the dark months last year and I think I only missed one day, and that miss was because I forgot not because it was dark or I couldn’t dream up anything to photograph.
The current theme for Out Of Focus, my camera club is Where I Live. I taking pictures in and around my house, all on my property (actually not mine, I rent a house with a large, wooded lot). My idea is to take a picture using a tripod of, for example, my front porch. Then without moving the tripod I take the same picture using the self-timer, this time with myself in the picture. I’m trying to put some humor in the pictures. I don’t know if I’ve succeeded. Here are the first four pairs of photos.
Here are a few more shots from the last few days.
I stopped at the Valley Bookseller yesterday and bought a copy of Gordon Park’s Choice Of Weapons. I’ve been engrossed with the book and finished it today. Park’s non-fictional autobiography is strikingly similar to the fiction of Walter Mosley. The experiences and histories of Easy Rawlins and his friends and family are similar to those of Gordon Park’s. Both relate the African-American experience in twentieth-century America. I now realize that Mosley does not exaggerate to give his stories impact. He describes in his fiction an actual world; a world that for me, who grew up in a lily-white city in the upper Midwest, was completely invisible. The only way I know about it is through reading, whether fiction like Mosley or non-fiction like Park’s or Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth Of Other Suns.
There are lessons in Choice of Weapons about creativity and success. Park studied his craft. He studied photos of the greats and read their works. When he decided on photography, he jumped right in without giving way to self-doubt or fears. He took risks, sometimes great risks that put himself and his family at risk of financial ruin. He built strong relationships that often were extremely helpful to him. For example, one early friend and owner of a camera shop extended credit and helped Park get the equipment he needed. He was fearless. When he was still a teenager he took a gig playing piano at a house of ill repute even though he had never played in public before. He had the nerve to approach a bandleader at the St Paul Hotel to tell him that he wrote music. He worked hard and practiced his craft. And, he probably had a naturally good eye for photography. When he sent his very first roll of film into a shop for developing, the people at the shop were impressed enough to offer to help him set up a show. All and all, I think that what impressed me most was Park’s lack of fear or doubt.
P.S. There are currently two exhibits in Minneapolis of Park’s work, one at the Mill City Museum and one at Juxtaposition Arts. Choice Of Weapons is also the current selection for the Minneapolis Reads program. I didn’t know any of this before I bought the book yesterday. Then, on the evening local news I saw a story about the exhibit at Mill City.
I’ve discovered and downloaded a fun new app called MapMyWalk. The same group has similar apps like MapMyRun, MapMyRide, MapMyHike, and so on. I can use my new smart phone’s GPS and MapMyWalk to record a walk. I did so today. This is the map that was recorded automatically as I walked. All I had to do was start the app at the beginning of the walk and stop the app at the end. The app records the walk. I can store the route and use it to log the same walk if I repeat it in the future.
Here are some photos that I took during the walk.
As I was reading Dallas 1963, I was struck by the similarities between today’s political world and that of the early 1960s. Today the conservative right hates the President with an unreasoning venom, and they have hated him from the day he was elected. In the early sixties, the radical right hated Kennedy in the same way. At both times, it has been a type of hatred resistant to any reason or logic. Kennedy was hated for being a communist or a socialist. Obama is also called a socialist, although since the Cold War is over, I think much of what is behind the right’s hatred is racism.
Kennedy put forward a Medicare bill that was resisted with the same arguments that faced Obamacare. The right even talked about death panels in the early 60s even though they were just as nonexistent then as now. Here is what Hubert Humphrey, as quoted by the authors, said in 1963: the “extreme right . . . still see the world in total black or white . . . They are still substituting dogma for creative thought. They are still angry, fearful, deeply, and fundamentally disturbed by the world around them.” The right is no different today except that what was the “extreme right” in the early sixties is now a major faction in the Republican Party.
I’m still figuring out how to use the camera on my new smart phone, to say nothing of all the other features on the phone most of which I suspect I will never use. I used this smart phone today to take this photo of a statue in front of the White Bear Lake library. The other photos are photos of the day from the previous two days.
A few days ago I bought my first smart phone. I turn it on once in a while and wonder what I’m supposed to do next. I see so many people completely absorbed in their smart phones that I feel I ought to be doing something. Am I missing a whole world of experiences. Somehow I doubt it.
I’ve learned a lot about taking pictures on my smart phone. I took some today, most of which were accidental because I didn’t know what I was doing. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that all of them were accidental. One was somewhat intentional in that I knew I wanted to take a picture of a particular subject. But I was outside, the late afternoon sun was behind me, and slanting over my shoulder. So I could not see anything on the phone’s screen – not a thing. I clicked the shutter while guessing what was actually framed. Later in the evening, I discovered that the photo had turned out OK and had captured just what I was looking for, except that I was in portrait mode instead of landscape. A lesson learned: turn the phone horizontally for most pictures. The vertical mode produces a quite narrow picture.
Here are my first smart phone photos:
As I’ve been writing I’ve been drinking Crooked Tree IPA from Black Horse Brewing out of Marshall, Minnesota. A very good brew. And I’ve been listening to Joy Of Life, a funky, Zen, CD of Indian music. The CD is by Karunesh who I think is a German. It’s a good CD. I must admit that I was first attracted to the CD not by the music but by the picture on the CD. The image of a graceful women dancing in saffron and magenta.
I journal using Penzu. I’ve been using Penzu for a few weeks for my most personal, private journaling. It has strong password-protected encryption, so I do not worry about anyone else reading my private journal. I can let it rip and write whatever pops into my fervid little brain.
I love Penzu. I think it is the purest writing tool I have ever used. I mean that Penzu puts up the least interference between my thoughts and the (virtual) paper. A couple of years ago I realized that I didn’t like using pen and paper because I didn’t like the physical act of writing. Besides that, I think my writing is more self-conscious when I actually write on paper. I’ve also used Word, OneNote, other journaling sites and software. Penzu is the simplest, cleanest, easiest. There is nothing in Penzu that is not necessary for just writing; for just getting the words recorded. It also satisfies me aesthetically as no other way of journaling ever has. Hooray for Penzu! Did I mention that Penzu is free?
I should point out that Penzu is not a competitor of WordPress. Penzu is a journaling tool for which it is admirably suited. It is not a blogging tool.
I took photos of only one subject today. I deleted all but one photo. Today is the first day in a long, long time that I have ended up with only one keeper. Here it is.
I recently came across a blog featured on Freshly Pressed called The Unquantified Self. There is also at least one web site on the quantified self. I stumbled on the idea of a quantified self a year or so ago. I was intrigued and jumped right in tracking calories, weight, BMI, dollars, steps, flights of stairs, servings of proteins, grains, fruits, veggies, heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, workouts at the gym, and so on. I eventually pulled back because I felt that there were too many daily tracking tasks that I HAD TO DO. I’ve been a government bureaucrat since 1975, and I have had enough of having to do things imposed by others to say nothing of those imposed by myself. I know that in order to live a healthy, satisfying life that there are things one must do. For me, shortly before retirement, the quantified self movement and the unquantified self blog are helping me to narrow down my “have to dos” so that I don’t unnecessarily overburden myself. Where is my sweet spot of “have to dos”. I use a Fitbit, so I don’t have to think about tracking steps and flights of stairs. I just have to sync my Fitbit regularly – I doesn’t have to be done every day. I have recently started using Mint.com because I have been spending too recklessly lately. The Unquantified Self says that
I have not actually discovered any interesting, unexpected correlations. Whatever I’ve figured out is bleeding obvious: when I don’t get enough sleep I feel crappy the next day. When I eat more calories than I expend I gain weight. Big data, no insights.
I know that I could slash my spending by drinking less beer, eating at restaurants less often, using the library instead of constantly buying books that I don’t keep, buying less clothing. and so on. I really don’t need Mint.com to tell me how to spend more wisely. I also know that I can control my spending more if I use cash and spend only the amount of cash budgeted for a pay period, and avoid using my debit card as much as possible. Again, I don’t need Mint.com to tell me those things. I think ‘ve come very close to talking myself into not using Mint.com.
Here are some more thoughts from The Unquantified Self:
I got sucked into a black hole of obsessive tracking. This blog is my attempt to find my way back to an untracked, uncharted, unmeasured life of audacity and adventure. Less counting, more living.
After my experience with tracking over the last few months, “less counting, more living” works for me.
I again finished Little Green, the last of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series. I first read Little Green and blogged about it two or three months ago when it was first published. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to re-read the whole series to re-acquaint myself with all of Mosley’s great characters – Easy, Mouse, Juice, Feather, Etta Mae, Mama Jo, Jackson Blue. I enjoyed the series better the second time around. The strength of the novels is the characters and what happens to them; how they develop as the years pass from book to book. The mysteries actually – for me at least – are interesting, but not as much as the characters and their development.
I’ve moved on to a Louise Erdrich novel, The Round House. I’ve never read her before. I’ve started because a friend mentioned that she is reading an Erdrich novel. I thought that I should give her (the author, not the friend) a try.
When I started re-reading the Easy Rawlins mysteries, I also decided to re-read the Dave Robicheaux mysteries. I am mentioning them today because Thom Hartmann in his blog says that the author, “James Lee Burke is, in my humble opinion, the best living writer in America. He’s the Hemingway of our generation.” I think there are 15 books in the Robicheaux series of which I probably read about seven or eight. Hartmann refers to one of them, The Tin Roof Blowdown, as “the first truly big American novel that revolves around Hurricane Katrina.”
Last night I finished Max Hastings book on the start of World War I. Hastings writes about the lead up to the war and the months of the war before the trenches were dug all the way from Switzerland to the English Channel. This was when the war was still a war of movement and not yet the trench warfare that would prevail into 1918. Even before the continuous line of trenches was in place, the carnage was terrible, unprecedented – the first example of modern, total industrial war. It must be hard to write about WW I. There is a sameness to the battles and tactics that lead to – I thought – a somewhat repetitive narrative that bogged down in places when describing the experiences of individuals. I’ve read most of what Hastings has written about WW II and never felt that those books were tedious in parts like the WW I book. Still, I hope Hastings follows up this volume with others that take the history through the end of the war. I would definitely read them.
Yesterday I went on a photo trip into western Wisconsin. I spent most of the time exploring the Eau Galle River valley between Spring Valley and Elmwood. I then went on the Downsville, Menominee, and then home. Here is my take.
This afternoon I hiked at Willow River State Park. For the first time I walked every step of the Burkhardt Trail, about 4.5 miles with a lot of up and down. I’ve already gotten in nearly 11,000 steps today.
I took a tumble walking on some very slick, wet rocks trying to get a better angle for a photo. One second I was upright, the next I was down. My first concern was for my camera. I think I heard a crack when I fell so I think the camera hit a rock, but it seems to have survived unscathed. I have a bruised thumb and elbow, nothing serious. The tumble turned a hike into an adventure. I got some good pictures that I will blip and blog.
Here is my photo of the day from yesterday.
Andrew Sullivan has some good words today about denialism.
Some of the current GOP delusions: the deficit is rising (it isn’t); the debt is currently unsustainable (it isn’t); the public wants Obamacare ended (it’s split on even delaying it); climate change has nothing to do with human-produced carbon emissions (it is, according to almost every single reputable scientist examining the issue). Why are we surprised that the people who predicted a Romney landslide a day before he was trounced might actually be prone to believing in things that simply are not true by any empirical, objective standard? That’s the true danger here. Their epistemic closure is now not just threatening them, but all of us.
. . . The GOP is currently threatening not just the core stability of the American economy but of the entire global economy. And the ultimate sign of their craziness is that they deny that – against universal agreement among economists for whom the word “catastrophe” keeps popping up – there is any threat at all.
Sunday I took some nice pictures of vultures. I was lucky to have driven by their tree just when I did. If one bird hadn’t been coming in for a landing I would have driven right by not even knowing they were there. Lucky? Here is what Twyla Tharp says about luck.
Habitually creative people are, in E.B. White’s phrase, “prepared to be lucky.”
The key words here are “prepared” and “lucky.” They’re inseparable. You don’t get lucky without preparation, and there’s no sense in being prepared if you’re not open to the possibility of a glorious accident. . . . In creative endeavors luck is a skill [emphasis is Tharp’s]
On Sunday I was able to take advantage of the luck that came my way. I was “out there” looking for photo subjects. My equipment was ready. I took the time to make a u-turn and the effort to take the photos. I grabbed the luck of the moment.
Here is my photo of the day. Lately I’ve been working on architectural subjects since that is this month’s theme for my camera club. I’ve unintentionally found myself focusing on steeples. I’ve captured a half-dozen so far. Surprisingly, this one is from a Lutheran church. It looks more like something one would see on a Greek Orthodox church. It is kitty-corner from the State Capital in St. Paul. I suspect that it may not have started life as a Lutheran church.
I finished Bel Canto. The book relates a hostage situation in an un-named South American country. The hostage standoff lasts for a few months. During those months the hostages and their captors, a revolutionary gang, develop friendships and loves. There are no bad guys or girls in the book. The only bad guy is the government. The only personification of the government is one of the hostages. In the end the government raids the house where the hostages are being kept and kills most of the captors who have all – during the siege – become friends or lovers of the hostages.
The novel is one of the best I’ve read about friendship, love, and the power of art and music. Patchett has created wonderful characters of all nationalities and social and political classes all of whom come together while they are confined together to form a large sort of family. Talent, skill, genius, intelligence is not confined to one particular race, class, etc., it can pop-up anywhere as it does in this book. One young, uneducated gang member is a wonderful singer; another is a chess whiz; both untaught. A buttoned-up bureaucrat in a Japanese corporation is discovered to be a excellent pianist, something that even his fellow corporate executives did not know.
Read it. You won’t regret doing so. Four stars on Goodreads.
After breakfast this morning I headed out with no itinerary on a photo shoot. I wound my way on back roads to Marine On St Croix and then on to Osceola. In Osceola I had lunch at Taco Loco, and then headed home to finish my laundry.
As I was driving on Highway 4 west of Marine, I saw a vulture land in a dead tree beside the road. I then saw he (she?) had company so I did a u turn, parked on the side of the highway, switched to my telephoto lens and took a few pictures. This one is the best. I guess even turkey vultures need to do stretching exercises before heading out for a long day of soaring. Actually, I think they were warming themselves in the morning sun. Note how they are all oriented with their backs to the sun. I took about 100 shots today, rejected most of them, but ended up with some keepers.
Yesterday I visited a local nursery and plant shop that does an elaborate set up each year for Halloween. I got a number of decent pictures. I took great editing liberties with some of the more “spooky” shots. I only did some touch up on the more everyday subjects. Here is my photo of the day that I posted on blipfoto.com where I use the nom de net of sore1ste. Below is a slide show with some of the other photos.
Here is a wonderful passage from Bel Canto.
Lacking any real or interesting sins to confess, he [a young priest] offered up the imagined sin of opera one Wednesday afternoon as his greatest sacrifice to Christ.
“Verdi or Wagner?” said the voice from the other side of the screen.
“Both,” Father Arguedas said, but when he recovered himself from the surprise of the question he changed his answer. “Verdi.”
“You are young,” the voice replied. “Come back and tell me again in twenty years, if God allows that I am here.”
The young priest strained to recognize the voice. Certainly he knew all the priests at the San Pedro Church. “Is it not a sin?”
“Art is not a sin. It’s not always good. But it is not a sin.” the voice paused for a minute and Father Arguedas slipped a finger into the black band of his collar, trying to move some of the thick warm air into his shirt. “Then again, some of the libretti . . . well, try to concentrate on the music. The music is the truth of opera.”
We are experiencing a change in weather. A cold front moved over, and it started to rain about ten minutes ago. The weather person says it will rain for a couple days with up to two inches. This after many days of sun and dry weather. Looks like fall has finally arrived.
The photo is of the early evening sky when the front was still off to the northwest – a dramatic, steel-gray band of clouds.
Yesterday I did what was for me a long hike, almost seven miles over strenuous terrain. My Fitbit recorded that I went up 67 flights of stairs; a personal best. I was exhausted and my feet ached, but I’m glad I did the hike. The slide show below contains a few shots of the Nelson Farm Trail.
Here are some more shots from on the trail.