Category Archives: Life as we know it

Cassini

Today was the last day of the Cassini Saturn probe. I knew about it but hadn’t paid much attention to the photos. The whole story is quite spectacular, aside from the photos. The New York Times did a little movie (link) that tells the story of the ending. I recommend it to everyone.

Of course, there’s tons of stuff on the NASA site. Here‘s the NASA picture hall of fame page. The Times did a page with 100 images on it that is really staggering. Here‘s a link to it.

It’s nice to have some positive news once in a while. It seems rare these days.

drivers

I was thinking today that this is one of those things that I think about a lot while I’m driving, but tend to not focus on when I’m not. People take really insane risks when they are driving. They endanger not only themselves but others.

I know this isn’t really news and I know that I have a special reason to be upset about it. I also know that nothing is likely to change as long as humans are in charge of driving vehicles. (Motorcycle riders are, if anything, worse. Lane splitting at 50 mph . . .)

Just take a chill pill, folks. You’ll get there at the speed limit.

eclipse

I finally got to the library the other day. I got two books on German history, a book on the airline industry and Seeing In The Dark, by Timothy Ferris.

I thought I had read it before, but I took it home anyway. After I got into a bit, I started remembering the stories of how amateur astronomers have contributed to humankind’s knowledge of the cosmos. The subtitle is How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from Interplanetary Peril.

Ferris tells of his visits to a number of pretty much regular folks who like to look through telescopes on their own time. Each one has a special interest that he or she has parlayed into some notoriety amongst the sky-viewing cognoscenti. Interspersed with those stories are concise lessons on our current understanding of various astronomic objects. It’s interesting.

Since the total eclipse of the sun was news here recently, I offer this quote about witnessing a total eclipse:

Suddenly the sky collapsed into darkness and a dozen bright stars appeared. In their midst hung an awful, black ball, rimmed in ruby red and surrounded by the doomsday glow of the gray corona. No photograph can do justice to this appalling sight: The dynamic range from bright to dark is too great, and the colors are literally unearthly.

I had a copy of Ferris’ The Whole Shebang, but I went in to look for it just now and it isn’t there. I guess I’ve loaned it to someone and I’ll probably never get it back. It had a great chapter about the existence of God. I do have another one by Ferris called The Mind’s Sky that I found used. It’s OK, but it didn’t grab me like The Whole Shebang did.

Speaking of the Sun, I was headed to work today about 7:15 am. The Sun rises late over Pacifica so I wasn’t surprised at the gray morning light. I put my headlights on. What did surprise me was the Sun well over the horizon when I came up over the hill in Daly City. It was blood red and baleful through the smoke that has lain over the Bay Area for two days now. As I write this, the Sun has gone down, but it’s doing a nice job of lighting up the few wispy clouds in the western sky.

Not high art, perhaps, but hopefully a harbinger of cooling breezes by tomorrow. There were no clouds of any kind yesterday. It’s been over 100º F in San Francisco the last two days. Out here on the coast where it’s usually much cooler, it was over 90 in my apartment when I got home. With the front door open and the fan blowing at maximum for the last two hours, it’s down to 88. Outside it’s 85. No one in Pacifica has air conditioning.

showing pictures

Mary Beth and I had our first picture showing yesterday. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped but it was still good for Mom & Dad and Rose to see all of our pictures and hear our stories.

I forgot to bring my packet of souvenirs including my journal even though it was sitting right by my front door. Mary and Jim flew down but took a relaxed approach in the morning so they didn’t arrive at Palo Alto until about noon. Mom had the lunch spread ready to go when we got there so we all dug in and had some good visiting. No one was in a hurry.

I think it was around 2 that we all got up and got serious about showing our pictures. I had loaded mine onto my laptop because it had an HDMI output that I knew I could plug into Mom and Dad’s big TV. Mary had hers on her iPad and also on Google Drive.

The first problem was that the computer wouldn’t talk to the TV. I was using an HDMI cable that I had that I was sure I had used before. I fiddled around with all kinds of settings but nothing worked. Mary wondered if the USB  on the TV would take a connection to her iPad. No, that was no good. The input selector didn’t even have USB. What’s the USB for???

Then I saw another HDMI cable under the TV. That worked! Yay!

Then I had the issue of figuring out what program to use to show the images. The laptop was running Windows 10 but it’s setup to be my work machine so I hadn’t used it to show pictures before. I thought I could just go to the file manager and select the folder and start the slideshow. Not so fast, pardner! I finally got a program going that showed the images from each folder only. I had to exit the program ( I don’t remember what it was called) each time I finished a folder – and I have many – then reselect a new folder and start again. Tedious.

Of course I showed every picture I took, including pictures of flowers and multiple images of essentially the same thing at different exposures. I think everyone nodded off at one point or another.

Finally it was time for Mary to show her pictures. The TV was working well so she logged onto Google Drive on my computer and started showing her pictures. But the videos didn’t work. There was a message about restarting ‘your device’ to make them work. Never mind, now we’re getting short of time.

Mary and Jim had to time their activities so that they could be back on the ground in Auburn while there was still daylight. When the issue came up, Mary was about halfway through her pictures and it was 5:30 already. They needed to leave by 6. Oh, too bad about dinner! Then some of my images that were on Google Drive started showing up along with Mary’s. What?? She soldiered on and we got through at 6 exactly. Rose and I had picked them up on our way down but we wanted dinner so I ran Mary and Jim up to PAO and came back. 40 minutes round trip.

The four of us had a nice dinner on the patio and we left a little after 8 but the whole day had seemed way more rushed than I liked. Teresa is going to want to see everything as will Jane so we’ll likely have a chance to do it again. On our drive to the airport, I suggested to Mary that we consolidate our better pictures on Google Drive in a special folder for showing. I don’t know what we can do about the videos. There’s work to do.

I left the original HDMI cable in the trash.

chaos

I finished my library books, so this morning I needed a book to read while I ate my cereal. My eye fell on Chaos, by James Gleick. My copy is from those heady days in the late ’80s in San Francisco when I was buying science books often. It’s one of the few that have survived to stay with me and I’m glad it has.

I remember reading it several times and feeling that each time I understood a little further into the book. It’s not technical, in fact it’s written with a high sense of drama. Today, with fractals and Mandelbrot sets seemingly old hat, it’s fun to go back and feel some of the excitement that accompanied the discoveries of non-linear systems, or chaos.

Gleick’s writing is beautiful. Here’s one quote from the Prologue that struck me today: ‘ . . .  chaos is a science of process rather than state, of becoming rather than being.’

Every once in a while, I go looking for a book that updates the state of chaos science but there aren’t any. You can find dozens of theoretically non-technical books that try to explain string theory or quantum mechanics but nothing on chaos. Hmmm . . .

photography

Despite publishing many of my own pictures here, and speculated on my future activities as a retiree, I haven’t written directly about my own photography.

Until now.

I’ve listed photography as a hobby many times in the last 40 odd years. In 1976 I went to Europe with the Blue Saints Band and carried my trusty Kodak 110 camera. The pictures I got, however, were very disappointing, especially compared to some others on the tour who had 35mm cameras.

I had a job so I had money for a real camera. I got a Pentax MX with a 40mm standard lens. It was one of the new generation of ultra compact 35mm cameras. (The Olympus OM-1 was the archetype.) I think in my first year with that camera I took about 700 pictures. That doesn’t sound like so much nowadays but then you had to buy film in batches of 24 or 36, then have it developed, before you really knew what you had. None of this checking the screen moments after you take the shot!

So when Tim said he was going to go out to Pedro Point this afternoon, I brought my camera. One feature of my photography in recent years has been my focus on small scenes. I’ll use the telephoto on a flower right by the trail to crop out the context and create a photograph that is nearly abstract.

Here’s an example from today:

When I took that photo I had a flashback to many years ago (1978, actually) in Dutch Flat where I took what might have been my first nature close up. Take a look:

There was precious little sunshine on the Point today. Being a typical summer day the fog was rolling over the ridge. Here’s today’s mob at the summit, 600 feet above the Pacific Ocean and Linda Mar:

Here’s another one from today:

Just before I was going to publish this post, I looked at the category list. ‘Family’ is good, but shouldn’t photography have a category? ‘Life as we know it’ doesn’t really work for this. I think I’m reluctant to make the focus of this blog photography because there is so much on the web and it is so easy to steal. I don’t have any grand illusions of the value of my pictures but I’ll just use them as support for my words.

trip planning

I’m starting to get serious about my upcoming trip to Germany. I talked to Mary yesterday and we agreed to talk tonight when we’re both able to concentrate better. (She was driving home and I was at Mom’s.)

Today I picked up a Michelin guide to Germany at the library and brought it home. I didn’t check the due date but it may be that I could just take it with me . . . Don’t lose it! There are lots of interesting things to do there. I was sort of blasé about it before but now that I’ve looked at the book, I’ve got lots of ideas.

Bernkastel and the Mosel River valley are no brainers. I always wanted to go back to Trier which is at the west end of the valley. Leni’s party is near Bonn so Beethoven’s birthplace is right there. The Rhine River valley south from Bonn is beautiful. The cathedral at Cologne is a must. There’s a wonderful Roman-German Museum right nest to the dom. I’d love to be able to go back to Aachen and see the throne of Karl der Grosse again. Wilfried and Elisabeth are near Baden Baden so that is a must.

Mary wants to see Neuschwanstein so that is near Munich where Andreas and Luisa live. I’d love to be able to show Mary the upper Rhine valley from Freiburg to Lake Constance.

Mary wants to go fast on the autobahn but I’m not sure how or where it would work to do this. We’ll consult with Wilfried. He and Elisabeth will be picking us up in Frankfurt and it’s a 2 hour drive to Bonn. Maybe he’ll let Mary drive for a bit! I believe they are joining us for the Sistergold concert which is 3 hours from their home. That will likely be a drive too.

Lots to think about!

quotidian

It’s a real word. I’m sure of it. But I’m not going to look it up. I want to riff on it based on what I think it means.

It’s what my life has been the last nearly two weeks. In a way, though, it’s been longer. My trip with Jeremy was fraught with meaning but it was really just quotidian for me. I mean, I planned it, and I did it. No muss no fuss.

Visiting with Rosalie shouldn’t have been quotidian but it kind of was. Jeremy was away and we did some stuff. It was nice but it never seemed unordinary.

When I got back, I took  the CueStation class for three days, then spent an afternoon and evening in Santa Clara (after going to the dentist to have a broken crown fixed), then I had a long day (15 hours) at work, then I drove Rose and her sister Leigh and Gavino’s other grandmother to Pollock Pines for his birthday party. Then the next day I did laundry, then went back down to Santa Clara where I hung with Tim and his family. Then it was Monday and Tony Bennett at Davies. That was another long day. Tuesday I met Tim’s family along with Julian at Davies where I showed them around the whole building. Then I did another Tony Bennett show followed by a load out. Wednesday I went to Alameda for a haircut, followed by lunch with Leti and Hal, followed by dinner out with Rose for her birthday. Today I was back to work at 8 and just got home at 10:45. Tomorrow I get my permanent crown at the dentist and go back to work in the evening.

So there hasn’t been much time for reflection. Tonight the featured artist was a woman named Rhiannon Giddens. A classically trained singer from North Carolina, she became interested in the folk music of the area she grew up in after graduating from Oberlin. She has a band and some Grammy’s so I suppose I should have heard of her but I hadn’t. She sang Summertime and a Kurt Weill song that were sort of ordinary. there was a gospel number before intermission that was cool but in the second half she sang a song she wrote about a slave woman who was sold but her child was not, so they were separated.

I found myself weeping in the darkness of the light booth. Then she sang a song about the four little girls killed in the Birmingham church and I wept some more. Where did that come from? My life was moving along more or less under control and suddenly these couple of songs unhinged me completely. Loss of a child, of course. I’m quite sensitive to that for obvious reasons, but the sight of this young woman standing up there delivering this message almost defiantly was moving in and of itself. Seeing Sarah in the orchestra behind her made it even more intense.

I suppose, compared to a year and a half ago, I’m ‘better’ at handling this. I was able to remember that I could be heard through the glass if I got too loud. I was able to get it together enough to bring up the bow light at the end of each number. By the end of the show I was back to my quotidian life.

After tomorrow I have some days off. I will try to write more here and work on my new jigsaw puzzle. I did get one started the other day. It’s a scene from Yosemite Valley.

Denise

One of the great joys of being back in San Francisco to work is the people I get to work with. I apologize ahead of time to my colleagues in Sacramento. The reasons I did not enjoy my time there do not reflect on you, they are mine only.

Case in point is Denise. I’ve worked with Denise many times over the last eight years. She has a specialty within the world of sound people that dovetails with mine so we sometimes get on the same jobs. Today she told a story of her being told to slow down because she was working too hard. We all laughed, because it is so Denise. She is always thinking ahead and always taking the responsibility of action. I’ve been lucky to have her as my #2 in SoundBox for the last two years.

She had shown me her art quite a while ago. It’s not dramatic, it’s full of subtlety. She told me what ‘ATC’ meant long a go and I don’t remember now, but I think it means pretty small, like post card size.

Just a few months ago we were talking and she mentioned her web page. Web page?? You mean like a blog? Well, sort of. She writes a little, but mostly it is just images of her art. I invite you to take a look at it here.

The Pianist

When I got divorced, I let go of many things from my married life. One of those things was having a lot of books near at hand. Moving from a house to an apartment involved a lot f downsizing and I realized that books could be had at the local library. It wasn’t the same as having them in my living room, but it was good enough.

I kept my science fiction books, my Apollo books, some baseball books and a few music books. Among my music books was a water-damaged copy of The Pianist by Wladislaw Szpilman. Some may remember this book from seeing the movie of the same name. In fact, we only got it after seeing the excellent movie.

I actually got it out before I left, but I didn’t open it until Saturday. I’m not sure why I had it in with the music books. It really has very little to do with making music. It is the story of a musician, though. A Jewish pianist, caught in Warsaw when the Germans came in 1939.

I’m including this as a Zach story because I associate this book with Zach. I don’t remember where I was when I saw the movie, or who was with me, or where we got the book, but I remember Zach telling me he had read it and at the time it surprised me. The printing is 2003 so Zach would have been a freshman or sophomore in high school. I believe he even had it in his room although I don’t remember that for sure either.

So somehow I associate it with Zach and I was thinking of him when I picked it up. He was moved enough by the story to keep it near him. Perhaps he even read it more than once. If he kept journals in those days, I haven’t seen them.

Reading it myself now, I am struck by the thought that evil is everywhere. Here in America we tend to have the belief that we are morally superior to everyone else in the world. When someone does something odious in the political world, we often brand him or her with the epithet of Hitler. I try to remember that Hitler didn’t kill all those people by himself; many people did his bidding. Szpilman’s story is told in simple, unemotional prose. The most horrific things happen. They are done by Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, even Jews.

They could be done by Americans. It could happen here.