The Iotas…

One of my first memories of a spoken word was “iota.” My dad said “iota” a lot. I thought they were our neighbors. He later explained that “iota” was the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet, but that didn’t help much. Who were the “iotas”? What did “not one iota” mean? Where they bad people?

Okay, phrases come and go. You only hear “it’s a matter of life and death” on old movies. Who says “writing on the wall” when we’re all on the internet?

Many one word statements continue to be overused generation after generation: “absolutely” and “really” are good ones.

Fad phrases are fun. “Going rogue” was effective for Sarah Palin and Tina Fey.

I don’t like people who use “people” as an attention-getter as in “listen, people” or “okay, people.”

I sometimes say “whatever” when someone is talking too much and there is no point in continuing the conversation—it is more polite than saying “blah, blah, blah” which I have done on occasion. Okay, maybe there is a more tactful way of addressing a vacuous discussion, whatever.

First-Born Brains Are…

Hey, hide my SATs! There’s a new study that says first-borns—yours truly—are smarter than those that follow. Sorry, Sis. Of course, the findings don’t apply in my case and as far as my kids are concerned, I’ll be Solomon and not go there. They can post the truth if they want.

But the point here is that this study was done by social engineers; i.e., two economists with a private non-profit, the National Bureau of Economic Research. If you want a copy of the report—free to government types and journalists—it’s $5. Why not $19.95 in keeping with those late night cable infomercials?

Experts tell me the researchers are simply saying that parents relax with the second kid, that’s why the grades are generally not as good as the first-born’s. Of course, there are exceptions wide enough to drive a semi-tractor trailer through.

As a parent I’d say the key is raise children with good values and the smarts to be employed and happy. You don’t want a 4.0 kid who knocks over a 7-11.

Note to Mr. Economist. The child’s environment goes beyond who is first. Are the parents happy together? Do they have enough cash to make ends meet and to devote proper resources to their kids? Maybe these details are in the report, but I’m not going to fund research that attempts to engineer individual belief systems.

One More Pelican

Following this blog is like driving a little too fast downhill on a winding road–you’re somewhat out of control, unsure of what’s next and worried about the brake job you got at Sears. This will slow you down:

Since I’ve posted on photographing pelicans last week, I thought I add a final touch. If possible, go where the pelicans hang out in large numbers. One such locale is this very unusual spot where the Carmel Bay/Pacific Ocean meets the Carmel River. The river and ocean are usually separated by about 200 feet of beach except in the winter when rains swell the river and it runs into the ocean. Regardless, the pelicans hang out in the river by the beach for a bit before flying to the nearby ocean to catch whatever. They go back and forth throughout the day. So, the photographer simply stands on the beach and waits for this migration. DSC_0411 - CopyThe photo on the left is from Sunday of this week. As I’ve noted before, it is easy to catch the bird on a side view, the underneath shots that accentuate the wing span are a challenge.

If I were showing someone how to take stop action photos, I’d start with pelicans. You simply can’t point and shoot—most of your shots will be slightly out of focus. They are a gliding bird but go faster than you think. Their flight patterns are easy to predict. Pick a point ahead of where you think they will go, get a focal point—wait until you can see them through the lens, then focus again. You will probably only get two good shots before they are out of focus.

Most of my pelican shots are over the ocean, usually with a background of blue sky. The one I took Sunday has houses in the background–makes the shot a little busy but different. Also, when the pelicans fly from the river, they are usually going against the wind which slows their flight and that gives you a better chance to focus properly.

Try to have the sun behind you and hitting the pelican to show off its colors. Too many photos I’ve seen have the bird in focus but on a cloudy, low light day you get gray features, not bright colors.

Photo Tip of the Day

Too often I’ve focused my camera on some wonderful setting of nature and clicked a photo that is exactly what I saw in that sunlit moment: flat with one “eye- draw” in the center; i.e., the center of focus. The photo of this butterfly that I took yesterday was a product of trying to get close before it flitted away—how fortunate that I am able to shoot butterflies in these times of economic uncertainty, political discord and global hatred (more on this in another post). DSC_0202 - CopyThe muted colors on the edges and the elongated shadow on the flower take the eye from the lower right to the upper left with a very small focus–the antenna–in the center. Had the entire butterfly been in very sharp focus, the ride from lower right to upper left may have been interrupted, in fact, it may not have happened other than as an afterthought.

Now, this is a lot of explanation for a simple photo. Here is a shortcut. When doing close-ups I find it best to shoot when the sun is low on the horizon (October is a great photography time on the West Coast). I like to use natural light shadows as a mode of transportation for the eye.

Or, you can skip the methodology and take tons of pictures and hope than one of them is winner.

Nothing on TV

“Record four shows at one time,” so go the countless ads that reach me through the mail and on TV. I don’t have four shows in total, let alone at one time. I’ve never had four shows, not even three shows at one time. I am straining here to remember the last time I had a TV viewing conflict. Blank.

I do remember when TV was simple: the three networks and a couple of independents. The odds back then were good that at least three times per week you could say, “There’s nothing on TV tonight.” Unfortunately, the odds are still high that you can claim there is nothing to watch despite 200+choices.

DSC_0195But in fairness I have been known to watch three hours of baseball on TV, or the Olympics, the World Cup and other live sports. Although I am an SF Giants fan, I took a photo of the Cardinals—my sister’s favorite team– celebrating last night after whipping the hated Dodgers, 9-0. Go Giants!

The Scarlett SAT

Earlier this month actress Scarlett Johansson revealed in an interview that her SAT score in 2002 was 1,080, a little above the national average for that year. Hey my kids took the SAT around that time and their scores were much higher than Scarlett’s. Hey, kids, where is that seven-figure movie contract?

I have a problem with the SAT, not Ms. Johansson. When I took the SAT, my nose bled all over the math portion—a defense mechanism. I had broken my nose a few times and suffered other sinus conditions that made profuse nose bleeds a regular feature of life. There was no HIV-rule back then, so a blood coated document was simply considered a gross misfortune. I retook the exam months later but don’t recall if I improved my scores. I understand that Ms. Johansson only did half of the math portion as well, but don’t know if her nose bled.

Regardless, I think it was a PR coup for a well-known actress to talk about her SAT score that was frankly average. Hey, average is okay if you do other things/anything well. And we should never be judged by our SAT scores, even GPAs. What counts is what we do with what we have unless, you choose to be bad. Specifically, I’m thinking of a senator from Texas. I wonder how he did on the SAT?

The Wannabe Comic

I was funny, a long time ago, so funny I considered the life of a standup-comic. I grew up rich with material in New Jersey, a show unto itself. If you’ve followed this blog, you may remember the canasta grandmothers. Hey, who can top a story about a grandmother who puts the screws to a nine-year old over a card game with no money on the line? And I had two grandmothers who gamed me. Trust me, there is a funny way to tell this story and many others.

But I lost my humor when I was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1969—from comic to lean, mean fighting machine. Anyway, the interruption of military life is one excuse for why I didn’t end up at a Holiday Inn lounge somewhere off the freeway, playing to small crowds for starvation pay. Hey, no regrets. Like Aunt Irene used tell me when I went looking for sympathy: “Woodjas gatta here”–the Polish version of a universal Jersey saying.

And it just so happens that my grandmother, born in Vilna, Poland, had five vowels in her last name along with the standard “z” and “j” and some other consonants. I was 12 before I could spell it and I still stumble over the pronunciation. And as I’ve blogged before, she enjoyed going to church at 6 a.m. during the week. She also wore black lace-up shoes at all hours of the day. I miss her and those card games. Does anyone play canasta anymore?

Arnold Didn’t Blow Up the Boxes

Tempus fugit for us all, including actor Arnold Schwarzenegger who ten years ago this week was elected governor of California by an electorate angry over politics as usual. People flocked to shopping malls to hear his German—he was Austrian–accent and “ideas” for “blowing up the boxes of government.” But he never delivered on his promised top to bottom overhaul of California’s state bureaucracy.

One reason he fell short is that there was no endgame—something needed when you invade a foreign land, or play winning chess. What did people expect to see when these so-called boxes of government, whatever they were, disappeared in the shredder? Here are some possible answers:

o Rows of empty state-owned buildings, vacated by employees no longer needed.
o Letters from the Franchise Tax Board, California’s tax collection agency, with giant ZEROs under the taxes due column.
o Public schools jammed with students wanting to stay after the final bell to learn more.
o Half-empty state prisons and mental institutions.
o A two-week fire season.
o Water, water, everywhere.

“Blowing up the boxes” was a headline grabbing concept without reality delivered superbly by a veteran actor—it was politics and despite the absence of any explosion, the business of issuing driver’s licenses, fighting fires and incarcerating felons went on.

In California the state constitution requires that the budget be balanced—there is no moving debt ceiling as is the case in the federal treasury. Blowing up the boxes, if that is the aim of those leading the shutdown movement at the federal level could, if carried to the extreme, stop social security payments, VA benefit payments, and other entitlements and that, in effect, might kill some people who need every nickel possible from the government to get by.

I was entertained by Arnold’s blowing up the boxes routine, but the federal act isn’t funny, it’s tragic.

When our country with all the advantages can’t act reasonably, it is damning proof that our democracy is fraying badly. The sin of disparity–the rich get richer, etc.—is on us.

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