Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

May this first few days of your new year start slowly and carefully like the kindling of a winter's fire as you ease into that favorite chair.  May the only noise filling your mind be that of the snap and pop of logs surrendering to the fire as you also surrender to getting a year older and accepting the challenges and rewards of the year to come while you turn away from the challenges of the year just past.  Each year brings new exciting growth for both you and I.  May that cup of cinnamon tea or glass of brandy warm your insides as the flames grow and glow to warm the outside of your model 2015 body.  May your goodbyes in 2014 sweetly release the resolve that you will keep the gentle memories and forget the pain; pain which could only be felt because you cared about something and were not an empty soul.  May your greetings to 2015 be honest and welcoming and forgiving for whatever is ahead.  There will certainly be wonderful surprises if you open your heart to another year.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Down Side of Living Global

Some new global things to ponder as we enter 2015 and to encourage you to make it a resolution to get your head out of the sand.  Yes, the bright sunlight is painful at first, but the power of seeing is good for you.

The Good(?) side of the economy:
The fall of oil prices due to increase in fracking products and natural gas deposits in the Western world has given our economy a shot in the arm.  Travel and shipping of products is falling making it easier for those on budgets to spend money elsewhere, perhaps on food!  It means certain small businesses can turn better profits.  It means the market will rise for some time maybe with the DOW breaking 20,000 in the coming 2015... in some part due to cheaper energy.  This is a good thing, except that it is pushing conservative Congresspersons to argue for more fossil exploration in our national parks.  If you have not visited a fracking treatment site, you have no clue.  This is a good thing except it has environmental side effects that are certainly tragic and potentially more tragic as global climate change is not just an inconvenient truth, it is a dangerous truth.  Another side effect is it is one cause for the Russian Ruble to tumble.  We are happy for that evil person, Putin, to get this comeuppance but this shove means there is always a fall back somewhere.  Like HERE.  It is a global economy after all.  Pull one thread on this web and others feel it.

The bad side of the messing about where we should not:
We are winding down and ending our War in least that is what they tell us.  What a sticky tar pit we have entered.  The cost in money?  It is anyone's guess.  Some say $800 billion, a low-ball estimate.  Others say it has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest.  Money your grand-children will have to pay.   I think the Bush administration predicted the cost would be about $50 million to $60 million dollars.  Ignorance is bliss, but if you are Dick Chaney, you are making lots of money for your grandchildren, so perhaps it is all in how myopic you are.  And what did we get for this?  Where is Iraq now, 13 years and more than 2,300 troop deaths and over 13,000 wounded later?

"Ali Allawi, a former minister of trade, defense and finance, and author of two books on Iraqi history, agrees. "There is so much up in the air," he said. "There are the trappings of a functioning state, but it is like a functioning state lying on a sea of Jello...The ground is so unstable and shifting.""

Kurdish business tycoon Sirwan Barzani, a nephew of Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, sees this as a moment to advance his people's nationalist dream and take his country back to 1916!  Back when another developed nation meddled.   "They asked about my plan," Barzani told Reuters in a military base on the frontline near Gwer, 48 kilometers (30 miles) south of the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil. "I said, 'My plan is to change the Sykes-Picot agreement'" –" a reference to the 1916 agreement between France and Britain that marked out what would become the borders of today's Middle East."  He goes on to describe the situation we leave..."Iraq is not real," Barzani said. "It exists only on the map. The country is killing itself. The Shi'ites and Sunnis cannot live together. How can they expect us to live with them? Our culture is different. The mentality of Kurds is different. We want a divorce."  Clearly our Western marital consultation skills are shiiite!  No pun intended, just trying to be polite.

And the Shi'ites?: ""We are like a sinking ship. Whoever gives you a hand lifting you from the sea whether enemy or friend, you take it without seeing his face because he is there."  The sheikh's changing perceptions are shared by other Iraqi Shi'ites. They once viewed Iran as the enemy but now see their neighbor as Iraq's one real friend. The streets of Baghdad and southern Iraq are decorated with images of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."

Ignorance is artificial bliss, and unless you know this, we will follow other well-meaning or ill-advised or corrupt leaders into other wars.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Battle for the Heart of Mankind

I saw "The Hobbit. The Battle of Five Armies" this past week over the holidays.  It is exactly what the title says it is, so I should not be surprised if I thought most of it was special effects and war ad nauseam.  If it is true to the author of the story, that might be why I never finished reading The Hobbit as a book so many years ago.

It did get me thinking about art and commerce and why the two cannot wed and are continually in a battle for leadership, one a quiet warrior with ideas as weapons and another warrior with dollars to be used to bludgeon the artist.

Then I remember this National Book Award speech I saw a week or so ago.  I have not read her works, but now I want to.

The link follows:

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Wish for You

My original Christmas card to you.  Please forgive my editing of Luke, but I think that was a typo in the Bible.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


The title above is for my husband.  That describes him perfectly.  I am far more complicated and no one would ever give me that title unless I was well into my second bourbon and soda over the holidays.

As I wrote in the prior post we headed to the museums in the city.  I selected only the 'special' exhibits in the art museums because I had seen the ongoing ones months before.  I did stop at the Museum of Natural History to see the photographic exhibits.  We had seen the wildlife winners a while back but did not have time to stop and see the exhibit of Wilderness Forever Photo winners.  So, this was our second chance.  I had viewed the photos online because I do link to a number of photographic sites.  The photographers ranged in age from young to old and professional to amateur.  Each photo was more breathtaking than the last.  While I spent time studying composition, lighting and clarity and read the details on the wall, I lost my husband!

I turned 180 degrees scanning the floor.  There I saw his bald little head at the end of the hall in front of the canoe-in-the-sunset-on-the-boundary-waters photo.  That had captured his imagination and he, in turn, had captured an audience for the story of his canoe tale!

I waited patiently at the end of the hall, snapped a few more photos, and then sighed and leaned against the entryway.

He was in his full glory and they were enchanted.  At times like these I think of how rich we could be if he was a tour guide.  I also think that if I die before him, I will not have to worry about him being lonely!

The story did not end with this photo because as they drifted away and he and I were looking at another photo down the line about five minutes later, the lady on the far right came up to me and smiled and asked if she could ask my husband just ONE more question!  He does have that baby boomer appeal, I guess.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Celebrating a birthday weekend.  I am not big on birthdays anymore.  I am just happy to be healthy each year.  I was big on birthdays when I was younger...much younger.  Then there was a decade or so when my birthday was an afterthought by those I love because they were so busy with the holiday season.  Now my birthday is a hit or miss event.  My daughter is headed to Hershey Park for a tour of the Christmas decorations and a visit with Santa with her kids and her good friends.  My son "may" be on his way north to spend the holidays with his wife's family.  Therefore, Hubby was feeling guilty and booked one night in the city for the two of us.  We can tour the decorations on the mall and tour a museum or two, which really is fun for me and an 'OK' activity for him.  We are also eating somewhere(?) nice for dinner.  I will keep you posted.

Weather is going to be cold and sunny tomorrow, but rainy the next day, of course!!  Outdoors tomorrow and indoors to museums on Monday is the agenda

The photo above was one I took from the Kennedy Center last spring.  The view is of an area only blocks from the Saudi Military Attache's Office, the American Institute for Research, the Ritz Carlton, a number of embassies, and naturally, a Starbucks.   Such a dangerous and magical town is our Capital.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

13 things I have learned on my trip down technology lane--Thursday Thirteen--Late

Information for those who are thinking of reviewing their entertainment viewing.

  1. Push one tiny button accidentally on your fancy amplifier and nothing works.
  2. If you discover which button was accidentally pushed, everything works.
  3. Streaming TV over the Internet to your big screen TV works fairly easily.
  4. Streaming TV over the Internet is sometimes (a little) jerky depending on your service provider.
  5. Streaming TV over the Internet does give you access to lots of channels, some of which you have never heard of.
  6. Streaming  TV over the Internet does give you access to most of the programs but not all.
  7. Streaming TV over the Internet does have some premium charges depending on the provider and is not all free.
  8. Streaming TV over the Internet is cheaper than cable.
  9. If you have an expensive sound system putting the dongle in your TV means that sound will not go through your nice side speakers but routed through your smaller TV speakers.
  10. Using your laptop for other things while streaming TV does interfere slightly with reception.  (I never tried using a digital phone or tablet.)
  11. If you have "triple play" cable the ID that appears on your TV screen when the phone rings will not appear and you have to get off the couch and see who is calling when you are streaming.
  12. My particular Chromecast dongle setup must be plugged into electricity which removes the lovely wireless look.
  13. Hulu is good for TV shows and Netflix for movies, so before I talk to cable I am going to have to subscribed to one or the other of these and test them.
In answer to my reader's questions:  There is ONE alternative to my cable company, but it runs the same bait and switch on costs.  I live too far for antenna reception.  I, like many of you, watch only about 5 channels off and on, none of them premium channels, and I scroll past hundreds of others.  I have a son who is a sound engineer and if I begged he would come down and help BUT he is currently fighting the flu, lives over an hour away, and has a full time job which requires the longest hours just before the holidays.

Anyway, I am feeling much better moving onto the next steps and will stop blogging about this stuff!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

One of THOSE Days

On your LEFT, your RIGHT, your LEFT!

I have never had to get my "ducks in a row" as I never did own ducks.  I imagine it is a challenging task.  I also never understood why a meticulous duck farmer would want ducks in a row.  I also know how hard it is to herd cats although I have never attempted it.  This week has been a week where I would rather be herding cats or getting ducks to march in a line than what I have been doing.

I have been trying to find a plan to wean myself off of our cable company which has not increased my service in any way, shape or form, but has increased the price of my service by 144 % in the last 9 years.  If you follow news you will know that cable companies are some of the most hated service companies in America.  I was told by my children and read on the Internet about a Chromecast dongle being used to access cheaper television shows via the Internet.  I bought the $25 Chromecast dongle as a test before cutting the cord.  I did not realize it would be as hard as getting ducks in a row, although I was suspicious, because this is technology, and when has that ever been a cakewalk?

I spent the first 20 minutes realizing my amplifier did not have an HDMI port like my son's did.  My amp weighs a ton and has a gazillion cords in the back!  I spent another 40 minutes finding the HDMI port at the back of my large screen TV which is high and tight against the living room wall.  One ladder, one flashlight and one extension cord later and the thing was successfully plugged in!  I returned to my laptop and Google Chrome walked me through the App and soon I was able to see any screen that was on my laptop on my TV.  While this meant I had some small success it was not the success I needed.  The Utube videos were not a great resolution but the worst part was I never figured out how to get sound!  Good thing I have not yet subscribed to Hulu or Netflix.  (If you have no idea what I am writing about and your eyes are glazing over right now, please go on with your life and come back for another post another day, because you will not get this time back in your life and I am determined to ramble on.)

I pulled the dongle from the back of the screen, and much to my surprise (hardly) I could no longer get my cable box and my amp to talk to my TV.  I fiddled for an hour.  There are about 10 options each on the various remote controls.  Multiply 10X10X10 and you get the idea.  I am exhausted and now have to call someone to come help and it will probably cost as much as my monthly cable bill anyway.

I felt really defeated because this has been one of those days.

I will not even go into the well water issue that has raised its furry head!

Nor will I dwell on the bill coming due from the outboard motor shop due to the diagnosis of the "cough" in that engine this fall.

These are three items, so I am thinking that if trouble really does come in threes I am done for a while.  Right???

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Don't You Understand Me?

This "Global Refuge Mural" by Joel Bergner 2009 stimulated the words below.

It's the words
Amorphous gems to grapple the mind's ear
It's the words
Building blocks of ideas to stand upon
It's the words
Tripping us in our stilted pondering
It's the words
Piles of them spilling onto the floor
It's the words
Bringing us to our knees in pain
Searching for that perfect one in the haystack
It's the words
Written, not shouted, across the emptiness

Can you understand me?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Admission of Guilt and How the First World Deals with the Holiday

We  I have put up very few decorations this year.  We just got lazy.  We ARE talking about buying some lights for the dock since our neighbors dock looks so lovely all lit up.  But I do love when the house is decorated with boxes from my online shopping and bags of gifts from regular shopping.  I love gift giving...perhaps a little too much.

The only thing in the middle box above was this much smaller box below with lots of brown filler paper.

And, of course, with all the wrapping, who has time to decorate the house?  There will be no one here to see this year anyway.  I still feel a little guilty.  Although I read somewhere that Americans spend 6 billion on Christmas decorations alone?  Maybe to buy their way into heaven?  Nope.  I think it is to show off to their friends and neighbors---some of the time.  More guilt.  What MUST the world think of us when this holiday season is about the birth of a prophet whom many think is God?  Unless you celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanzaa...which also have little to do with spending.  Boy, 6 billion can buy a lot of food!

Our first exchange with loved ones is this Saturday since we will not see them on Christmas.  So shopping and wrapping had to be done efficiently.  That little blue plane on the left was an old decoration that I found that was my son's when he was much younger.  I thought I had given him all his old ornaments now that he has his own family, but missed that one.

Now I am finishing up the other stuff...sending greetings.

I give to charities and causes on a year round basis....but I am thinking after reading this post that I need to give some more this month!  Not looking forward to the budget busting bills in January.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

No Explanation That I Can Find

My mornings have recently been perfection, no place I have to be, no appointments to keep, no illness forcing me out of bed to suffer elsewhere.  Yes, there is Christmas shopping to do, but I am 80% done and did it online!  No, I did not take advantage of any sales or use the comparison shopping sites recommended by Consumer Reports.  This year I am being lazy and, yes, the December bills will be hard to pay because of my laziness.  But I digress.

As the day unfolds it goes smoothly with housework, mail, hobbies, interests such as blogging, rest activities and sometimes even exercise.

I go to bed at a normal and routine time with no guilt or unresolved issues, at least none that can easily be identified.

So....why does my mind kick into high gear with endless lists of  "things to be done" and "resolutions to be made" as soon as my head hits that sweet pillow.  Why can I not fall into a snorefest as my hubby so easily does each night?  What Puritan streak do I need to kill?   What sins do I need to repent?  Why is my mind not cooperating when my body is so exhausted?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Nasty Captcha!

According to some readers you can ignore the Captcha word verification window that appears before you comment.  I (and many other bloggers) have word verification off and yet it still appears!  Ignore it and lets see if you can comment!!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Walking in Someone Else's Shoes

Bryan quietly slipped on his right boot.  They were laces, so they would not make the noise that his Velcro running shoes made.  He was trying to be whisper quiet as he wanted to avoid waking his wife and the baby.  Because of the holidays his work schedule now started before the sun got up.  The shoes were new and still pinched on the sides a little.  Bryan forced himself to ignore that pinch because policing the Brinker neighborhood was going to take all his focus today.  As the holidays got closer the crime rate went up on those narrow streets and there seemed to be more crazies.  His partner, Colin, had already started to get angry even before he hit the breaks of the car.  Colin pushed the situation just to get it over with and to get on to the next crazy thug.  The cops at the station thought that Bryan was just too naive in these situations.  They told him he would be sorry one day when he always wanted to give the other side the benefit of the doubt.

Jimar laced his favorite new tennis shoes carefully tightening the turquoise neon-blue laces.  He was going to get to the park early, before his dad came to pick him up this morning.  He knew it was wishful thinking because his dad was always late.  Jimar was excited because he only saw his dad once a month and for just a few hours.  He grabbed his black plastic gun which he took everywhere.  It made him feel safer for some reason and it looked like the ones the big guys in his neighborhood sometimes pulled quickly from their pockets just like a magic trick.

Morty rubbed the sand from his eyes.  One of them was itching more and he knew it was probably infected again, but the free clinic didn't open until Monday.  He moved his stiff joints knowing he had to walk to another corner before that cop came by and banged him on the legs telling him to get moving.  He liked to sit just on the back corner near the grocery store because the housewives sometimes gave him food or change this time of year.  Maybe that fat guy was going to be selling cigarettes today.

(all photos taken from the Internet and Photoshopped to protect the honest)

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Be Kind

I try not to watch much news as the holiday season means even more "crazies," normal people for whom the season is an overwhelming sensory overload to be abated only by some violent or criminal act, feed the headline beast each day.  Ignorance would be bliss sometimes.  Do you remember the time before the Internet allowed you access to any and all the sewage of mankind?  Do you remember the time when you could be shocked by a headline? 

Google "protests 2014" and Wikipedia actually lists them all by year back to 1990.  An interesting demographic picture of our unhappy world.  Do not get me wrong, I believe in peaceful protests to wake up a sleeping population.  I guess it just reminds me that, like war, protesting will exist until all protestors are dead because there will always be something to protest.

Google "2014 wars in the world" and once again Wikpedia comes to the rescue with an article and even a colored map breaking the colors into groups:  Major wars, 10,000+ deaths per year; Wars and conflicts, 1,000–9,999 deaths per year; and finally, Minor skirmishes and conflicts, fewer than 1000 deaths per year.

I tried to Google "miracles 2014" and did not get nearly such interesting links.   Most of the miracles are listed in nature and I do know what a miracle nature can be.

But to leave this post on a more optimistic note and to continue an ongoing movement which occurs always but mostly during this time of year I will send you to this link "Random Acts of Kindness."  There is even a Random Acts of Kindness Week coming up and in the fall the Random Acts of Kindness Day.   Good resources to keep you from going crazy during this busy season and to keep you from making others crazy.  To get started go here for ideas.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

I Do Focus...Now and Again

I have just finished ordering some Christmas gifts online while watching the news on our Public Television station.  I immediately segue into my email which links me to an Australian marketing talk video about digital art works and passive income.  I can watch surreptitiously along with the audience of 20-somethings drinking wine and laughing at the Aussie's jokes.  Almost at the same time a poet comes on TV to discuss her art and because she is black, she says she is pained by this time in our country more public with its racism, finding it hard to write and I hit the pause on the laptop to watch her for a while.  I love poets.  Then I can watch for 15 minutes another lecture in one of the digital courses I am taking.  I am taking two on writing sentences and one on cooking, both things which I have vast areas in which to improve before I die. 

I count birds at the feeders briefly each Wednesday and Thursday intermittently throughout the day for Cornell University and note that today I saw two Towhees and then grab my telephoto to catch the way the sun hits a leaf and take that photo to manipulate soon.

I just finished reading "The Goldfinch" novel...not at all what I expected.  What did you think of it?  Do you know Fabritius?   Do you like his work?  Hold that thought, I have to go load some Christmas CDs.  It is the 4th and I have not even started listening to Christmas music!  Oh, I see the folder where I need to create a file of photos for my Christmas card...not sure at all which ones reflect our 2014 the best...there are so many....

Yes, I am compulsive and rapacious about what is left of my life.  I love so many things and jump from one to the other, rarely giving them the time they need to congeal as complete thoughts before some other idea crosses my mind.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Tree!

Still thinking about posting the kids holiday photos because I am not sure who reads this blog and while I think family and friends do not...I will never know.  Also not wanting to spoil their card if someone does see this early I will hold off posting.  I also think that creepy people steal photos from the net and I do not want to be a tool for that!  So below are some photos from the tree decorating process that we undertook the next day after Thanksgiving with faces hidden just enough to get you in the mood for the Christmas Season and remind you of the little ones that shared the season with you at one time.  My son-in-law made it clear I was NOT to post these photos on FB with his bed head...LOL.  This guy is model handsome and needs to get a grip!

The youngest is going to be a rock star...!  Do you remember those times (if you celebrated Christmas) when you would study those ornaments as if never having seen them before or as if we had found touchstones to a life long ago?

This little pumpkin above had her hair done for the Christmas card photos the day before this was taken, so her "bed head" is somewhat tamed in this photo!

And the eldest who is so close to my heart.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Wake-Up Call!

I did have a lovely Thanksgiving with both kids and their families.  I DID eat only 2 tablespoons of everything (heaping tablespoons) but this included turkey, gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, half a roll, roasted Brussel sprouts, broccoli cheese casserole, green bean casserole, and blue cheese pecan app spread on two crackers!  This is a lot of calories.  I also had a piece of pumpkin pie at the end of the meal!

While up at daughter's house my son-in-law mentioned he wondered if I could come back up on Saturday to take some family photos.  They did not have time this year to drive the four hours up to their friend's (the professional photographer) house and he wanted to get his annual family photo shoot done so that they could order Christmas cards.  (da-da-da-da-da)  That was my heart jumping a bit.  Son-in-law is Mr G-Q.  He is also very particular about the appearance of his family to the point where he gels his boys hair before they head out to school and makes them change if he does not like the outfit combination.  Talk about setting a high bar.

The professional photographer they use is great!  She really knows her stuff!  So, this hobbyist is going to have to up her game.  Taking photos of flowers and mountains and streams is not like taking photos of your loved ones that they want to send out to all their friends.

I tried to be calm going back up on Saturday afternoon with my best lens...not a portrait lens and my batteries charged and a tripod (which we never used).  I was so nervous I did not bring my back up camera. 

Before we got there I called and told them that they had to pick out the site near their neighborhood, mentioned we REALLY had to get going before I lost the late afternoon light, and checked over my camera for the millionth time to make sure I knew the settings.

We did get a great place with a bright red train cab and an old wood building for background.  I had less than an hour to shoot, five faces to get in focus and with the best expression on all and light changing every second or so as heavy clouds moved in across the sun.  Yes, you can shoot on cloudy days, but late afternoon sunshine on a winter afternoon is much better. 

100 shots (photo) later and I head home to work on my images on the computer.  This is a wake up call for me.  I see my strengths and weaknesses right from the start.  Composition is pretty good, I usually can see the problems with setting.  I still have trouble with DOF when using this lens.  Couple this with a moving three-year-old and no light deflectors or light discs or assistant and I had no idea how this was going to turn out.  Since I do not charge professional fees, they at least would be saving some money!

How did it go you might ask?  Well I am sending 31 images that I have photo-shopped just a bit to their dropbox site and we will see what they think.  If they like them, I might show you one or two.