Category Archives: Random Thoughts

A Very Good Year, All In All

Welcome to Texas (Kathy’s Photo – I was driving!)

I know not everyone is able to share this sentiment, but from my perspective, 2021 was actually quite a fantastic year.  I admit that we were quite fortunate to have not faced a lot of the trials that impacted others.  Luck, circumstance, perspective and attitude make a huge difference, of course, as do flexibility and acceptance.  Kathy & I are happy, positive people with a good outlook on life, a sense of adventure, and it doesn’t take a lot to make us happy.

Evening light at Sandy Bay in Rockport, Massachusetts

What matters to us most are three things: (1) are we healthy?, (2) are our family and friends healthy and safe? and (3) can we pay the bills?  The first two have gotten a little complicated lately, but we deal. The “New Normal?”  Nah, that’s just Life.  And in the words of (Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon made famous by) Mr. Sinatra, “as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream. But I don’t let it, let it get me down ’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around.”

The town of Oatman, Arizona is famous for its wild burros (and tourists) roaming the streets. A Route 66 attraction.

This is not intended to be a political or philosophical post, but I think what gets a lot of people down is that they pay too much attention to shit that doesn’t affect them.  Kathy & I remain peripherally aware of current events, just enough to know what big things are happening in the world.  We spend very little time on (anti)social media, stay mindfully aware of and avoid the hysteria boobytraps that lurk there.  Yes, we’re aware of all the boogeymen (and boogeywomen?) out there, but for the most part the idiot politicians, celebrities and bazillionaires (real and imagined) have very little direct impact on our life or our happiness.  And hand wringing about things that are out of our control is pretty much pointless.  Play on!

The Motel Safari on Historic Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico

We’ve traveled, mindfully and – where necessary – carefully.  We drove over 22,000 miles, visited 12 new states, met some new friends and caught up with some long-time friends.  We even took our first cruise in nearly 2 years.  And I took over 16,000 photos – not quite as much as 2000 but almost!  Some of the precautions and protocols inspire a forehead slap or an eye roll.  But if it needs to be done to do what we want to do?  Roll with it and move on.  Complaining about it just makes you look like another idiot – not the image we want to present to the world.

The Blue Swallow Motel on Historic Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico

So anyway, I took some photos.  I don’t generally feel the need for a “My Year In Review” retrospective, but it is sometimes interesting to go back and look at what I saw and aimed my camera at.  I don’t try to a “Best Of” or even a “Favorites” post, because as we discussed on Joe’s Blog a few weeks ago, the selections tend to change every time we look.  I’ve long contended that for most people the quality of the memory is more important than the technical quality of the photograph.  Which is why you see so many cell-phone-out-of-car-window photos, selfie sticks and other various head scratchers.

The “Cadillac Ranch” near Amarillo, Texas on Historic Route 66

I chose a group of photos that show my year.  I didn’t even limit them to 21 (as in the year 2021).  Some of them are pretty good technically, some of them might even be OK artistically.  But mostly they say, I was here and this is what I did/saw/felt/experienced.  And ultimately it doesn’t get a lot better than that.

Kathy & I send our sincerest wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy, amazing and fulfilling 2022!

Night time in Rockport Harbor in Rockport, Massachusetts. Pardon the noise – ISO 12,800!
Our first view of the rocky Maine coast on Dyer Point near Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Early morning in Boothbay Harbor, Maine
The Maine coast off Ocean Point near East Boothbay, Maine
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse near Bristol, Maine.
Waiting for sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine
Fall foliage along SR 112 near North Woodstock, New Hampshire. In White Mountains National Forest
White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Freezing conditions at the top of Mount Washington, New Hampshire
“Welcome to Roswell” art installation. Roswell, New Mexico
Prada Marfa is a permanent sculptural art installation by artists Elmgreen and Dragset, located 1.4 miles northwest of Valentine, Texas, just off U.S. Highway 90, and about 26 miles northwest of the city of Marfa. The installation, in the form of a freestanding building—specifically a Prada storefront—was inaugurated on October 1, 2005. The artists described the work as a “pop architectural land art project.”
Big Bend National Park in Texas
Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine, at the Easternmost Point in the continental US
The Very Large Array at the
National Radio Astronomy Observatory near Socorro, New Mexico
Titan Missle Museum near Tucson, Arizona
Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, New York
The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, on the estate of George Eastman
Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona
Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument near Coolidge, Arizona
Hoover Dam from the
Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
over the Colorado River in Nevada
Nassau Harbour Lighthouse at the entrance to the harbor in Nassau, Bahamas
Hackberry General Store along Historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona
Burma Shave sign along Historic Route 66 approaching Seligman, Arizona
Historic Route 66 in Seligman, Arizona
My very first view of the Grand Canyon. From Grand Canyon Village near the El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Desert View Watchtower area of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Lawrence Lowell Telescope, which was used to discover the planet Pluto at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Arizona
Wukoki Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument in Arizona
Twin Arrows, an abandoned roadside trading post located along I-40 in Arizona between Flagstaff and Winslow
Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona
Riding the Sandia Peak Tramway to an elevation of 10,378 feet.
Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Sunrise on the beach on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
The Narragansett Towers along Ocean Street in Narragansett, Rhode Island
Morning along the river in Mystic, Connecticut
Historic submarine “USS Nautilus” at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut
Map of US-60 through the Salt River Canyon between Show Low and Globe, Arizona

Prescience?

Breakwall in Burlington Harbor, Vermont

“Once, man turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free.  But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.

Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind.”

Frank Herbert’s Dune, 1965

I’m currently reading the first of six books in the Dune series.  Why watch a movie when you can read a 500+ page book, right? 😉  I was particularly struck by this quote when taken in context of the world we live in today.

I started this book years ago  as a teenager and couldn’t get through the first few chapters.  It’s a different writing style than I had become accustomed to reading Asimov, Heinlein and Bradbury.  It took me a while to get into it, but now that I’m over halfway through I think I’ve gotten the hang of it.  Will I read the rest of the series?  Likely, but no rush!

The Value Of Time

Post-sunrise light at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine

“Three weeks ago, I found myself sitting on the banks of Hudson Bay, a stone’s throw from the Arctic circle, waiting for a polar bear to wake from his slumber. One can wait a long time for a polar bear to awaken. Several times, our group of photographers asked whether we should move on, and several times the answer was, “You don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.””

Most followers of this blog are already familiar with David duChemin.  He gets a little preachy sometimes, but more often than not his words of wisdom are quite wise.  In his most recent blog post, For Stronger Photographs: More Time, he writes about the difficult but valuable need to be patient.  To take the time for something to happen.  To make the time to be in the right place for something to happen.  Its a lesson for all of us, photographers and non-photographers alike.

I’ve said numerous times that the most valuable thing I have learned from photography is that it is nearly impossible to be in the perfect spot at the perfect time.  For that to happen even once is unimaginable, but to expect it over and over again is foolish and unproductive.  There is always a better sunset, a better wave, a better expression, somewhere.  But we don’t know where or when, so the best we can do is be where we feel we need to be, or make the best of wherever we are.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not generally a patient person.  But in waiting for a cloud to cover the sun, or for a wave to crash on a rock, or for shadow to spread evenly over a waterfall, there are times when patience is rewarded.  Slow down, look around, and don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.

Photographic Memories

Church Street Craft Festival in Waynesville, North Carolina

How many times have we seen it – a group of people taking pictures of some interesting scene or event with their phones, then showing their screens to each other as if to show off what they saw.  But did they actually see the scene itself, or are they experiencing it only through their pictures?  Will they only remember an event by looking at it on their phones?  I wonder.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
Hudson’s Seafood, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

When our kids were growing up, back in the dark ages of film, camcorders were becoming “the thing” among cool parents.  Dads walked around school events with their “mini-cams” on their shoulder, documenting the events like a White House cameraman during a press conference.  Kathy & I resisted, preferring instead to experience the events through our eyes and remembering them in our memories.  We have still pictures, sure, but don’t have boxes and boxes of videotape that will never be watched.  But the memories are precious and remain in our minds.

Pienza, Italy

I just read an article in the New York Times titled “Is the Immediate Playback of Events Changing Children’s Memories?”  In it, the writer recalls a piano recital given by her daughter.  The writer’s mother recorded the performance on her phone, and as the mother went to replay it 30 minutes later, “When I saw my mother’s finger hovering over “play” on her phone, my daughter leaning over her shoulder, I stopped her: “You know what … let’s just let her enjoy the moment.”

Pienza, Italy

I think that sentiment applies to everyone, not just children.  Having a camera with us all the time, whether a “real” camera or a phone, causes our initial reaction to something to be an urge to photograph it instead of just looking at it and enjoying the moment.  It disconnects us instead of connecting us.

It’s an interesting article so I won’t repeat it here, other than the final paragraph:

“It’s been a week since my daughter’s performance. “I can’t believe it’s over!” she says twirling around the kitchen. She knows I have a video of the performance, but, interestingly enough, she hasn’t asked to see it, and I haven’t volunteered it. I think I’ll let us both remember it just as it was that night for now: raw and unfiltered, and from our own perspectives, perfect.”

St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy
St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy

Think about that when we spend our time composing photographs through that little viewfinder or on that little screen.  Remember to experience the world with our eyes, too.  I’ve often told people that the quality of the photograph is less important than the quality of the memory.  And that memory lives on long after the pixels are filed away on some hard drive.

Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy

Thoughts On Blogging – Why I Write

Abandoned buildings along a dirt road stretch of Historic Route 66 near the New Mexico-Texas border

One of the bloggers/photographers I follow is Om Malik.  He recently posted an article titled Future Of Media – A Quick Reality Check that I found interesting.

Hackberry General Store along Historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona

I started my blog back when blogs were ‘cool’ as a way to share my written thoughts as well as my photographs.  More often than not, my posts were a way for me to clarify my own thoughts on a subject, rather than just writing for writing’s sake.  It sort of morphed into – for me at least – an alternative to social media.  Yeah, I’m on Facebook (sort of) and Instagram (sort of) and I have a Twitter account that I never look at.  But mostly I have this blog.  And while I appreciate every person who comes and looks, especially those who take the time to leave thoughtful comments, I would probably do it even if no one visited or commented.  I suppose it is my version of a journal, although one that anybody can read.

Twin Arrows, an abandoned roadside trading post located along I-40 in Arizona between Flagstaff and Winslow
Twin Arrows, an abandoned roadside trading post located along I-40 in Arizona between Flagstaff and Winslow
Twin Guns, an abandoned settlement along I-40 between Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona

The passage in Malik’s post that I found especially valuable is the one where he talks – referencing still another article on the subject – about the distinction between blogging and social media:

Marc Weidenbaum, a music enthusiast and founder of Disquiet.com, expertly captures the distinction between blogs and social. “Social media expects feedback (not just comments, but likes and follows),” he writes. “Blogs are you getting your ideas down; feedback is a byproduct, not a goal.” In other words, one is a performance for an audience, while the other is highly personal, though others may end up finding it interesting. Weidenbaum also admirably points out the difference between blogs and all the suddenly ubiquitous newsletters. “And newsletters = broadcasting,” he says. “Blogging is different.”

Feedback is a byproduct, not a goal.  I don’t write for Likes or Hearts or Thumbs-up, just for me.  I post on Instagram, and while I don’t obsess over whether anyone “Likes” my photos or not, it’s nice when they do.  And a few of the people who follow my Instagram will never read my blog.  And that’s OK.

Hackberry General Store along Historic Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona
Exhibit at the place where the original route of Route 66 crosses the Petrified Forest Road in The Painted Desert, part of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona

Just last night I had someone tell me, “I see your photos (on Instagram) from all these far-off places but never know where you are.”  I explained that I always add the location, you just need to look at the text.  And he replied “well, I just look at the pictures, I don’t bother reading anything.”  Well, OK then.  That’s how people use social media, and that guy will never read my blog.  But I love him anyway. 🙂

“Leaning Tower of Texas” near Groom, Texas on Historic Route 66

New Shoe Syndrome and Other Thoughts on the Vaccine

Train station in Rowland, North Carolina

I’ve gotten a few questions about our experience with scheduling and actually getting the vaccine, and thought it might be helpful to share a few thoughts.

The Process: I’ve mentioned previously how frustrating the registration process is for many of the county and health agency websites.  Kathy & I are fortunate to be registered with the two major health providers in our area, so we were able to use our login credentials to access those sites, which likely led to a slightly better experience.  We ended up with the Moderna Vaccine through Novant Health.

We were fortunate to find any locations at all on the very first morning of our eligibility.  The fact that the one we found was 200 miles away was no big deal for us.  We have the flexibility to go wherever we need to, and it was easy for us to make the trip.

The vaccination  site was in the parking area of a community college near Wilmington, NC.  The approach was well marked, there were National Guard personnel directing traffic into several lines, checking to confirm appointments and providing forms for completion.  The one glitch was that we had pre-filled everything online, but they still had us manually complete paperwork with the same information.  Taking the paperwork pre-filled and printed would not have helped.

We arrived at about 10:40 for an 11:00 appointment, and although the lines looked long, we queued up and were directed to the actual vaccination line promptly at 11:00 (not due to any process on their part, it just happened to work out).  We sat in our car until someone came around, asked us a few more questions, explained the process and handed us each a card with confirmation of our follow up appointments for the same time and day of the week in four weeks.  Shortly thereafter two nurses came up with the vaccine, plunked each of us in the arm, wrote the time on a paper stuck to the windshield, and told us that after the prescribed waiting time we would be released.  We rolled out of the parking lot at 11:30.

Train station in Rowland, North Carolina

The Vaccine: Did we have any concerns about getting the vaccine? None.  We feel strongly that the vaccines have been adequately tested, we trust in the scientific validity of the data and believe that getting the vaccine has a much lower level of risk than not getting it.  Everyone makes their own choice, but we feel that in order to do the kind of travel we want to do, more states, countries and companies will require a vaccination than not and we don’t want to be left out when the time comes.

Train station in Rowland, North Carolina

Side Effects: None really, but it surprises me how hyper-aware we become when we’re looking for something.  I call it “new shoe syndrome” because of how when we buy a new pair of shoes we spend days paying attention to every little twinge or pinch.  We recently bought new tires for the car, and for the first few drives I paid close attention to the sound, feel and ride.  After a while you forget about it.  We stopped at a restaurant for lunch, and while there a guy came in wearing a really strong cologne.  Strong odors like cologne and smelly air fresheners always bother me, so when my throat got a little scratchy I wrote it off.  No big deal.  Our arms hurt for a few days, especially while we slept.  But my left hip is often sore anyway, and since I got my shot in my left arm, I just spent more time on my right side!

Dilapidated building near the train station in Rowland, North Carolina

Eligibility: We’ve read about people gaming the system by falsely answering the questions, crossing state lines to states with more favorable rules or otherwise getting the shot before they should have.  Kathy & I waited for our group to be called, answered all the questions truthfully and lucked into an early appointment.  Could we have waited?  Sure, but why?  Everyone who wants a shot will eventually be able to get one, so it really doesn’t matter when we go.  Could we have gotten an appointment closer to home?  Perhaps, but once we got our appointments I stopped looking.  I read somewhere about local appointments now booking out into May or June, but it doesn’t matter any more.  The owner of the restaurant we had lunch at told us that someone called him the other afternoon to say that they had 15 Johnson & Johnson shots that were going to expire at the end of the day and to send along anyone who needed them.  That happens too, you never know.

I don’t really have a lot to add.  If anyone has questions I’ll be happy to answer them as comments or emails.  Ultimately everyone is going to make their own decision and have their own experience, but I’ll help where I can.

The Photos: These photos are from the town of Rowland, NC which is on the NC side of the NC/SC line near South of the Border.  They are in-camera JPEGs taken using the Kodachrome 64 recipe from Fuji X Weekly.  The conditions were less than ideal for Kodachrome and look a little warm/brown for my taste, but I’m not sure I got the white balance right.  I’ll try them again under sunny skies and see how they look.  I also shot in RAW and will process those my usual way for comparison.  It’s an interesting look and I’ve been enjoying playing with them.

We’ve Been Shot!

First Covid-19 Shots!

Kathy and I received our first dose of Covid 19 vaccine yesterday.  Getting it involved a trip to Bolivia.  Bolivia, North Carolina, that is! 🙂

When North Carolina announced a few weeks ago that they would be opening up vaccinations to Group 4 (our group), I knew that because it included anyone from 18-64 it was going to be a huge group unless they somehow broke it down.  Well, they did, sort of.  They determined that the first wave would be people 18-64 with pre-existing health conditions, which in my opinion (and the CDC’s guidelines) is just about everyone.  That essentially created a huge group vying for the next batch of vaccine, especially when I’m not sure how good of a dent they’ve made on the 65 and up crowd.  I know all or most of our neighbors have gotten it, but we have a pretty aware and active bunch.

Anticipating a wait of days or weeks, I went online Wednesday morning with my pre-saved folder of websites for the local hospitals and county health organizations.  These websites are extremely aggravating, as most of them require you to enter and re-enter information, only to take you to a page that says there are no appointments available. I don’t know if it is result of poor (or no) user testing or if it is intentionally designed to keep people from continually refreshing multiple pages.  There has to be a better way, but I’m not smart enough to figure it out!

When I went to the website for Novant Health, one of our two large local hospital networks and one for which I already had an online profile, a few clicks took me to a page to show what appointments were available.  There were no appointments available locally, but they were showing numerous appointments available at Brunswick Community College in Bolivia, North Carolina.  Where the @#$%^ is Bolivia, I asked?  Well, Bolivia is a little crossroads just outside of Southport and near Wilmington, in the southeast corner of the state and a little over 200 miles away.  Kathy & I immediately snagged appointments for the same time on the same day.  ROAD TRIP!

Of course it doesn’t take much of an excuse for us to load up the car and head somewhere.  But the promise of a vaccination appointment just two days away was not a hard decision to make.  So we found a motel, an Italian restaurant and a place for breakfast, just like we would do anywhere.  It’s good to have lots of practice. 😉

I’ll talk more about the trip and the vaccination process in another post, but suffice it to say it was smooth as silk.  They automatically provided us with appointments for our second dose in the same place at the same time in 4 weeks, so we’ll go back and do it all over again!

Oh, and we made some photo stops along the way there and back, so that will also be the subject of future posts! 🙂

Food For Thought About Food

Signals stored at a train station in Williston, Florida

Over the last year or so, Kathy & I have come to understand the impact of food choice on nutrition and overall health.  One of the arguments I hear a lot as to why people make poor choices regarding food is that not everyone has access to quality food.  My opinion is that people don’t know how to make good choices regarding food, because they don’t know what good food is, let alone what it tastes like.  Why?  Because the marketing messages we receive aren’t pushing healthy foods.  They’re too often promoting foods which are actually bad for us but are sold to an unsuspecting public as being good for us.  As I like to say, there is little profit in selling (for example) broccoli.

One of the food blogs I follow is Marion Nestle’s “Food Politics.”  A recent post titled “Feed The Truth: Draining The Swamp” outlines a study and paper by an organization called Feed The Truth titled “Draining The Big Food Swamp.”  This paper outlines the influence that “Big Food” has on national politics, which in turn affects the information people receive to make decisions about food.  I highly recommend reading Nestle’s post and then following the link to at least the Executive Summary of the report.

This is important stuff.  And this report only covers part of the problem, as it does not address the influence of pharmaceutical companies on the health care profession.  Drug companies don’t make money off of healthy people any more than food companies make money selling healthy foods.  We could solve a lot of the country’s health problems with a focus on quality food as an alternative to drugs and miracle cures.