Who to Help and Who to Kill

December 31, 2016

Volunteering

Because we adjuncts are so poorly paid at Pima College, I have pretended that I’m getting twice the pay half of the time, and the other half of the time I’m volunteering.  But I continue, even though I meant to completely retire. When the head of the department, at the end of the semester, said that one of the instructors for the Writing Fundamentals class had bowed out, and asked if I would teach another class, I said yes.

senior-transI’ve also decided that I need to help more than my students.  (Did connect on of my students last semester to Helping Hands for Single Moms, which provides scholarships and services for single mom college student families.)  Shall be going through orientation for ICS (Interfaith Community Services) – Helping Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Stay Safe and Independent, as a Senior Services Driver – providing transportation to doctor’s appointments, the pharmacy, the grocery store, etc.1

I know that it’s more than the transportation, but the companionship. When I had done Christmas at Primavera1, which has a temporary shelter for the homeless south of town, (with my mother and possibly my children – it was years ago), we were asked not only to bring food,  but to sit and listen to their individual stories.

Sure, this is through a church group, and most of you know that I don’t go to church, as I can plainly see that if there is a god, he or she doesn’t micromanage, or we wouldn’t have such horrible natural disasters, wars, diseases, and overpopulation, so prayer does nothing.  But if churches, synagogues, mosques want to help others, I’m all for that.

Charity

I believe that I got ripped off.  A few months ago a couple of young people at a table outside Lee Lee International Supermarket were asking for contributions to ChildFund International Guardian Angels.  The brochures were glossy and the pitch sounded legit.  But they said that I had to sign up for at least $30/ month to sponsor a child.  They took my email address to send the receipt, and since then I have gotten at least two junk emails a day for EnhanceMind IQ <EnhanceMind@nd1.kndrako.site>, Military Flashlight <Military@nd1.kndrako.site>, Choice Home Warranty <Choice@clouacierl.xyz>, and so on.  It took me a while of tossing them into the Junk Email folder to realize that I should Block them.  (Done.)  But after three months I tryied to cancel the money being taken out automatically on my credit card by ChildFund, and hadn’t gotten an answer since my email on December 18, nor a returned call from a message I left (with an actual person) on December 22.  Finally, a chirpy woman called on December 27 to say that yes, they’d cancel but wouldn’t I like to give only $10 a month.  Apparently that had always been a choice, but it was not given to me.  I declined.  Here is a lawyer’s take on the charity:

childfund
The ‘Kids Wish Network’… has doled out less than three cents for every dollar contributed over the last ten years. $110 million donated by people thinking they were helping sick kids has gone into their own pockets. Another $4.8 million has gone to the founder and his consulting firms. It’s rather shameless that on their own website they claim 100% of donations to “Kids Wish Network’s Guardian Angel Fund will go directly to supporting our kids through our services and programs.” I sense some lawyerly dissemination there. Do they mean the donations go directly to the kids, or that they go to their companies which operate the charity and ‘support’ kids? That second interpretation is MUCH different from suggesting the money goes straight to the kids and I suspect it’s what is actually going on.

The strange thing is that apparently watchdog groups think a legitimate charity should spend about 35% of donations on direct aid. If you’re good enough to really pick a great name, throw together a great website with a link for donations, and then get some great pictures of sick or hungry kids (remember Sally Struthers and the Child Fund?) you can operate a legal money-making machine on a grand scale. If you keep your overhead low you should have no problems tossing a few dollars here and there to real charitable causes to get close to the 35% guideline and stay off the bad list. I mean, hey – if you bring in $200,000 this year you can spare $50,000 if it goes to a soup kitchen or something. Of course running one of these fake charities really depends on your ability to stomach all that ripping off of well-meaning people who think they are trying to help some dying three-year old kid in Africa. But if you can do that then you are in business.3

Who to Kill

Interesting article: Self-driving cars are already deciding who to kill.4  I thought I had already written about the trolley problem, an ethical conundrum, but I can’t find it in any old blog.  This from Wikipedia:

trolley_problemThe general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the most ethical choice?

So the programmers of the Autonomous Vehicles have to decide who to kill:

The most well-known issues in AV ethics are trolley problems — moral questions dating back to the era of trolleys that ask whose lives should be sacrificed in an unavoidable crash. For instance, if a person falls onto the road in front of a fast-moving AV, and the car can either swerve into a traffic barrier, potentially killing the passenger, or go straight, potentially killing the pedestrian, what should it do?4

“Poetry”

NPR discussed Ring Lardner this morning.  He wrote poems about when each of the boys were born. His wife insisted they name Ring Jr. after himself, so he writes,5

When you are christened Ringworm, by humorists and wits
When people pun about you, till they drive you into fits
When funny folks say ‘Ring, ring off!’ until they make you ill
Remember that your poor old dad tried hard to name you Bill.

1https://www.icstucson.org/
2http://www.primavera.org/index_flash.html
3https://lawyerrant.wordpress.com/favorite-scams/fake-charity-scam/
4http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/technologyinvesting/self-driving-cars-are-already-deciding-who-to-kill/ar-BBxI6mq?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=mailsignout
5http://www.npr.org/2016/12/31/507595363/lost-journalism-revisits-the-golden-age-of-ring-lardner

Santaland

December 23, 2016

xmas-colorsStarted this two days before Christmas, then got busy.  (Photo of Tucson’s Christmas colors.)

It’s not even close to beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  The desert outside my window is in shades of tan, grey, chartreuse (Pantone 362 – the palo verdes), and a turquoise green (Pantone 374 – the prickly pears).  But after our rain the past few days, the clouds got snagged on the mountains, so Mt Lemmon probably has snow.

david-sedaris-as-elfAt least I’m not tired of Christmas carols yet.  Did not even step into a mall. Tried to find a kid’s toy at Target and got frustrated. Plus I don’t even remember what cheery music they were playing.  So got a couple of gift certificates and ordered everything else online.

But what made my day today (so far – I shall be making Christmas cookies with the kids soon) was hearing David Sedaris read from his Santaland Diaries on NPR this morning.  (Photo here of author David Sedaris in his actual Macy’s elf costume.)
http://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=506475364:506687049

La Encantada

I thought it would be nice to take the kids to see the lights at Tohono Chul (Holiday Nights, A Million Lights!) the weekend before Christmas, but it was pricey ($16 apiece, for six of us), so my fake-snowdaughter suggested seeing La Encantada’s “Enchanted Snowfall”, which was free.

Enchanted Snowfall will take place in the gorgeous Tucson Lifestyle Courtyard at La Encantada… delicate sprinkles of snow will cascade to the ground and fill the shopping center… keep toasty with hot chocolate from Williams Sonoma.
http://www.arizonafoothillsmagazine.com/tucson/tucson-travel-and-leisure/1561-la-encantadas-enchanted-snowfall.html

Don’t ever do this!  There was one Christmas tree, “artistically” decorated (read sparingly), and some garlands on the second floor handrails.  The “snow” was made of soap bubbles, which did not fill the shopping center, but made us cough.  The free hot chocolate was in 4 oz paper cups.  And there were three women with screechy voices, singing Christmas carols into a not-very-good sound system.  (Photo of me, my daughter, and granddaughter, taken between coughs.)

Cookies

img_6643 img_6644img_6642This is always fun, but having seven people (my son was in from out-of-town too) in my daughter’s kitchen was cozy.  We made walnut kiefel, pecan butterballs, chocolate spritz, and peppermint cookies, as well as the decorated sugar cookies.

img_6640 img_6638 img_6635I took a plate of the cookies to my next-door-neighbor the next day, and heard a bit of gossip about the neighborhood.

CAS Holiday Party

bear-grassThe TMA Contemporary Art Society Holiday Party was a couple of weeks ago at Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which is housed downtown in what used to be a fire station.

creosoteThe current show, Aranda\Lasch and Terrol Dew Johnson | Meeting the Clouds Halfway,  is quite nice.  Terrol Dew Johnson is a Tohono Oodham basketweaver, and this new work blends traditional Native  American craft with contemporary design.  (Benjamin Aranda and Chris Lasch, who collaborated with him, are architects, http://arandalasch.com/, as well as artists.)  The show runs through the end of January.

Terrol’s favorite is the endless knot with creosote (top right), but I liked the hanging one done with bear grass.  His work is in permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., and the Heard Museum
http://nationalbasketry.org/artist-profile-terrol-dew-johnson/, so it is quite pricey.

Christmas Day

My daughter and her family drove up to Fountain Hills (northeast of Phoenix) on the day before Christmas, to exchange gifts with the inlaws, so the grandchildren already had a surfeit of toys, but with Santa’s presents, their parents’ and my presents, there were enough toys (and clothes, and books) for all of the children of Gabon.

But everyone seemed to like their gifts.  My granddaughter liked the hamster T-shirt (she has a pet hamster), the cat liked the boxes, the middle grandson liked his bicycle helmet with a Mohawk, the youngest can’t be pried away from his Pretend & Play Cash Register, the decor was fun (including the fake fire in the fireplace), and the breakfast (my daughter’s traditional sticky buns), dinner (scalloped potatoes, roast, veggies, mostly prepared by my son), and dessert (rum cake, with whipped cream) were fab.  All in all, one of the more successful holidays.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

img_6675img_6676img_6666

img_6654img_6650

Last Minute Xmas Gifts

December 18, 2016

mouse-slippersMost of you know that you can buy slippers to look like animals, or “bear” feet, or even Dory slippers1, but here are a few more interesting ones.2foot-shoes

fish-sandals

grass2

A couple of years ago for her birthday I gave my daughter a pair of grass flip-flops (left).3 Too weird for her.mouse-mouse

 

Then there is the mouse-mouse.4 Thought to give my son one,  but as he has to kill mice in his epigenetics lab, I figured it might be A Bit Much.

 

 

Photos I Can’t Look At

world-trad-center
An architect I knew had a huge photo of the guys on the beam on his wall.  I couldn’t look at it.rockefeller-beam-workers-lunch-construction

The iconic photograph of workers enjoying their break whilst perched on a beam 69 floors up was, in fact, just a publicity stunt… taken on September 20, 1932… during the construction of the RCA Building (later renamed the GE Building in 1986).5

A publicity stunt meaning they were 69 floors up, but they didn’t usually eat lunch up there!  Here is a short documentary on it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiYn9d1CAto More of those terrifying photos!

The one in color (above, left) was in an ad in the NY Times Magazine.  Jamison Walsh on the spire of 1 World Trade Center, photo by Jimmy Chin for The New York Times6  Here’s a video of the photographer at the top! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYP95WJmW3o

1http://www.skarro.com/fuzzy-plush-animal-cartoon-feet-bunny-slippers/
2http://www.designswan.com/archives/unusual-and-creepy-shoes-design.html=7pt3M8oPEF9C-M%3A
3https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-ovens-a-dry-heat-too-%e2%80%8f/
4http://www.instructables.com/id/Mouse-Mouse!/”>http://www.instructables.com/id/Mouse-Mouse!/”>http://www.instructables.com/id/Mouse-Mouse!/
5http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2206050/The-picture-proves-iconic-photograph-workers-eating-lunch-Rockefeller-beam-publicity-stunt.html#ixzz4TEdyQIlJ
6http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/05/magazine/new-york-life.html?_r=0

 

Mea Culpa

December 16, 2016

My favorite columnist, Nicholas Kristof, skewered me in his column, The Dangers of Echo Chambers on Campus

We champion tolerance, except for conservatives and evangelical Christians. We want to be inclusive of people who don’t look like usso long as they think like ushttp://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/10/opinion/sunday/the-dangers-of-echo-chambers-on-campus.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fnicholas-kristof&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=collection&_r=0

walking-stickspeak-englishWalking stick on my back wall yesterday morning.  Put my fingers in the photo for scale.

And a cute article a friend had on her Facebook page.

 

 

Satire

Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans

“Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans,” by Andy Borowitz (May 12th)“Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans,” by Andy Borowitz (May 12th) PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA EO/REX/FEATURES VIA AP

MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Scientists have discovered a powerful new strain of fact-resistant humans who are threatening the ability of Earth to sustain life, a sobering new study reports.

The research, conducted by the University of Minnesota, identifies a virulent strain of humans who are virtually immune to any form of verifiable knowledge, leaving scientists at a loss as to how to combat them.

“These humans appear to have all the faculties necessary to receive and process information,” Davis Logsdon, one of the scientists who contributed to the study, said. “And yet, somehow, they have developed defenses that, for all intents and purposes, have rendered those faculties totally inactive.”

More worryingly, Logsdon said, “As facts have multiplied, their defenses against those facts have only grown more powerful.”

While scientists have no clear understanding of the mechanisms that prevent the fact-resistant humans from absorbing data, they theorize that the strain may have developed the ability to intercept and discard information en route from the auditory nerve to the brain. “The normal functions of human consciousness have been completely nullified,” Logsdon said.

While reaffirming the gloomy assessments of the study, Logsdon held out hope that the threat of fact-resistant humans could be mitigated in the future. “Our research is very preliminary, but it’s possible that they will become more receptive to facts once they are in an environment without food, water, or oxygen,” he said.

Andy Borowitz is a New York Times best-selling author and a comedian who has written for The New Yorker since 1998. He writes the Borowitz Report for newyorker.com.  http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/scientists-earth-endangered-by-new-strain-of-fact-resistant-humans

Melania shall not move into White House

President-elect Donald Trump confirmed Sunday that future first lady Melania Trump and their 10-year-old son, Barron, will remain in New York after he becomes president, as first reported in the New York Post…

Melania Trump’s decision to not to live in the White House, at least for now, appears unprecedented. Nearly every first lady has taken up residence there. According to the White House Historical Association, George Washington and his wife, Martha Washington, did not live in the White House because it hadn’t been built yet. Also, first lady Anna Harrison, whose husband, William Henry Harrison, was the ninth president of the United States, never moved into the executive mansion because her husband died one month after his swearing-in.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/reliable-source/wp/2016/11/20/melania-trump-and-son-barron-will-reportedly-stay-in-new-york-after-the-presidential-inauguration/?utm_term=.38a43bb53211

trump-familyConsequently,

Protecting Donald Trump and his family members costs New York City more than $1 million every day, city officials said.

The expenses come as city police have been assigned to Trump, his adult children and his grandchildren, who all live in New York and can receive Secret Service protection…

The steep costs are not expected to dip very much once Trump is inaugurated because his wife, Melania Trump, and their 10-year-old son, Barron, are not moving to the White House, at least until Barron is done with school, CNN Money reported. Trump has also said he plans to frequently return to New York.

NYPD officers are protecting Trump and his family through security posts around Trump Tower and by assisting Secret Service at screening checkpoints.

http://time.com/4579340/new-york-city-trump-protect-money/

Imagine if Melania said, no, my son should not cost the city of New York $400 million.  We’ll (sigh) live in the White House.  Give that $400 million, instead, to the New York City School District to build a new school in the poorest section of the city.  (As if.)

A Scandalous Painting

December 10, 2016

workmenNPR was talking about Gustave Caillebotte last year and his “scandalous” painting of shirtless workmen (back in 1875, when the Impressionists were scandalizing everyone, his painting was called “crude” and “anti-artistic”).  The Academy of Fine Arts in ladiesParis would not take his work, so his pals (Monet, Renoir) talked him into showing with them at the Second Impressionist Exhibition.

The Floor Scrapers (6′ 4″ x 4′ 9″) is pretty nice, but when looking at his works (online, as I am not presently in DC), that are at the National Gallery, I started giggling at this one, Portraits in the rainy dayCountryside, noticing the woman on the left with her iPhone.  He is best known for the painting Paris Street, Rainy Day.

http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/exhibitions/2015/gustave-caillebotte.html

Connect the Dots

December 4, 2016

Climate change is hard to think about not only because it’s complex and politically contentious, not only because it’s cognitively almost impossible to keep in mind the intricate relationships that tie together an oil well in Venezuela, Siberian permafrost, Saudi F-15s bombing a Yemeni wedding, subsidence along the Jersey Shore, albedo effect near Kangerlussuaq, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the polar vortex, shampoo, California cattle, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, leukemia, plastic, paper, the Sixth Extinction, Zika, and the basic decisions we make every day, are forced to make every day, in a world we didn’t choose but were thrown into. No, it’s not just because it’s mind-bendingly difficult to connect the dots. Climate change is hard to think about because it’s depressing and scary.1

This is from (of course) the New York Times, a month and a half ago.  It took me a while to find the 15 connections.  I had never heard of the Sixth Extinction, so I read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.  Had to research the albedo effect near Kangerlussuaq, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the polar vortex, shampoo.  So a challenge to you too.

You might also like to read the entire article, entitled When the Next Hurricane Hits Texas.  Great photo from the hurricane in 2008.

hurricane

The Worst Word in the English Language

…the website of Oxford Dictionaries called off its search for the worst word in the English language before I got a chance to have my say. When the survey was halted — the Oxford folks said that too many people were sending in offensive or insulting words — the word “moist” was in the lead…

I no longer think that the word I most dread in the English language is “maintenance.” That realization came to me not long ago, when I was in my car, by myself, at a red light. Ordinarily, I would have been thinking about the points and plugs of my car…

And here we come to the word in the English language that I now most dread: “Upgrade…”

Here’s how I imagine an upgrade to a computer operating system comes about. In the offices of a tech company in some West Coast loft building, Jason and Justin, two impossibly young-looking techies, are having a desultory conversation after finishing their 10th Ping-Pong game of the day. They’re killing time until the weekly foosball tournament starts.

“You know,” Jason says, “I think most of them are getting so they can find their calendars and their contacts pretty easily.” (“Them” is Jason’s word for grown-ups.)

“Remember how much fun it was to complicate the way to get to contacts on that smartphone we worked on?” Justin asks.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Jason replies. An expression of intense anticipation comes over their faces. They resemble the fraternity boys in “Animal House” just before someone yells “Food fight!” Suddenly, Jason and Justin shout in unison, “Upgrade!”2

I have to agree with Calvin Trillin.  (He’s an American journalist, humorist, food writer, poet, memoirist and novelist.  One of his most famous quotes is, The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.)  Read the entire article – it’s quite humorous.  And see my blog on that subject, when I upgraded.3

Cuba

I have no comment on Castro’s death.  But I do recommend that you read Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana, by Isadora Tattlin.  One of our art group recommended it, and I read it before we went to Cuba in 2012.  You can read my blogs, starting with this one: https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/cuba-day-1/

Work

Shall get a pile of essays on Wednesday. (That supplements my weight training.)  My last day of school is December 16th.  Have gotten to like most of these students.  Shall I miss teaching?  Yes and no.

1http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/09/opinion/sunday/when-the-hurricane-hits-texas.html?_r=0
2
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/books/review/calvin-trillin-on-the-scariest-word.html?_r=0
3https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/computers/

Yes!

December 1, 2016

Charlie Rangel was being interviewed on NPR two weeks ago, but here is the web version from CBS:

Rangel, Boxer Propose Constitutional Amendment Abolishing Electoral College

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBSNewYork) — Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has introduced a bill proposing a constitutional amendment that would abolish the Electoral College.

The move would allow future presidential elections to be decided by the popular vote.

“It is time that we do away the antiquated and obsolete Electoral College system. True democracy should guarantee one person, one vote,” Rangel said.

Rangel’s bill is a House companion to S.J.Res.41 — a bill that was introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) earlier this week.1

Animals Run Amok

Runner gets hit by deer.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGwwxD_vD_8

queens-coyoteCoyote, that denizen of the desert, hangs out in Queens, NY.

Squirrel attacks bicyclist.

Bicycle-Riding Chicago Alderman Injured In Squirrel Attack. Howard Brookins had raised the alarm about “aggressive squirrels” wreaking damage on trash cans in his community. The Chicago Tribune reports that two weeks later he was jumped by a kamikaze squirrel.2

finn-recital-2Family

Went to grandson’s piano recital.

 

 

 

 

rusalkaTook granddaughter to the Arizona Opera to see Rusalka, a very dark version of The Little Mermaid.  Definitely not Disney.

 

 

 

 

 

Then dr-strangetook grandson to see the recent movie Doctor Strange, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange, a Marvel Comics superhero, and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One.  I like superheroes.  But Marvel got ‘whitewashing’ criticisms over Tilda Swinton’s casting.  The mystical character is of Tibetan descent in its original Marvel Comics depiction, so Marvel’s casting of Swinton, a white Scottish woman, for the role has generated controversy.3

park2
My daughter had a combined birthday party for all three kids at the park down the street from her house, complete with a jumping castle, a cotton candy machine, and piñatas.  That was Sunday, when the clouds blew over from California, and it grew “cold” (which in Tucson is 57°) and windy, so that all of the candles on the cakes could not be lit at once.  Luckily it did not rain until nighttime.  I will add that it got down to freezing the past two nights.

me-lyn-price2Thanksgiving

As I usually do, spent Thanksgiving and the next couple of days with friends in San Diego.  (Photo of the three of us at my birthday party.)  Great dinner for ten.

 

 

 

 

 

Next me-butterfield-horseday went to Balboa park to see the museums.  First to the San Diego Museum of Art, which was showing Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture.  Then my friend got a photo of me with a Deborah Butterfield horse which was different than her others (dead). My hand is above it as we can’t touch the art. (I have mentioned her horses in many blogs.3)

 

 

 

Aftererik-gronborg3 a lovely lunch at The Prado we were on to the Mingei International Museum.  Here a photo of Erik Gronborg’s living room in Solana Beach, complete with wooden crows.  The exhibition covers…

…Danish-born American artist’s creative life over fifty-five years… this project brings together examples of Gronborg’s sculpture in cast bronze, carved wood, and other media, as well as studio furniture and a comprehensive survey of his ceramics.

Another exhibition we enjoyed was: Layers of Brilliance: The Journey of Japanese Lacquer Tools.

Thatwhite-xmas evening we went to the Spreckles Theatre to see a stage adaptation of the classic film, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.  The plot was from 1954, but the dancing was fantastic!  I would love to be able to kick straight up!

1http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/11/17/rangel-electoral-college/
2http://www.npr.org/2016/11/23/503108904/bicycle-riding-chicago-alderman-injured-in-squirrel-attack
3http://variety.com/2016/film/news/doctor-strange-whitewashing-tilda-swinton-marvel-1201762267/
4https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/denver/
https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/palm-springs/
https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/taking-flight-again
https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/quirky-art/

My life…and the politics continue

November 19, 2016

owlPhotography

My old neighbor and friend, who passed away last December, who used to give me lots of advice on woodworking and lend me his tools, was a serious photographer in retirement.  His goal was to take a photo of every bird in North America.  His widow emailed me to go to Paul Bannick’s talk at Pima College on Saturday.  Paul had been a friend of my neighbor.  So I did.  Now I have to go out and buy $2000 worth of camera equipment (or at least read the manual for my old Canon point-and-shoot).

Marvelous two-hour talk about photographing birds.  I am an inveterate note-taker, so I have two pages of notes.  First find the birds: study their life history, where they are, why they are there, what are they eating, and so on.  Preset your shutter speed depending on their behavior.  Use aperture priority to isolate subject.  Good art – remove everything except what is essential.  Focus on the bird’s eye.  Which is the best lens for the money?  (300mm f/4 telephoto fixed lens for Canon SLR cameras) See dpreview.com  and compare lenses, not cameras.  Shoot raw.  (I know that my brother does.  When shooting in a format like JPEG image information is compressed and lost. Because no information is compressed with RAW you’re able to produce higher quality images, as well as correct problem images that would be unrecoverable if shot in the JPEG format.1)  Shoot in the early morning or late afternoon for the best light.  Then he got into histograms and lost me.

It was sponsored by the Tucson Audubon Society.  About sixty people attended.  I have to add that I had been in the Audubon Society in elementary school, until I found out that John James Audubon killed the birds before he painted them.  I quit and have not joined since.

Audubon, who was born April 26, 1785, first rose to fame through the 435 magnificent paintings he created for his landmark work, “Birds of America,” which detailed more than 700 bird species and was first published as a series on a subscription basis between 1827 and 1838…

He shot and killed every bird he painted. Audubon was a noted hunter and taxidermist, and much of the money he made during his lifetime was from selling animal skins, a practice that in part helped to fund the printing of “Birds of America.” But don’t assume that he took pleasure from killing the birds he painted: “The moment a bird was dead,” he said, “no matter how beautiful it had been in life, the pleasure of possession became blunted for me…”2

Birthday Smiles

My cousin posted photos he and his wife had taken during my birthday week.  This one of my brother, my cousin, me, and my son.me-dick-aaron-and-hal

I just reread all of my birthday cards and noted that four of the fourteen mentioned some aspect of aging:

  • Is this the birthday when you start asking yourself life’s big questions?  Like, “Why did I come into this room?  I knew a minute ago…”  
  • Woo-Hoo!  I remembered my password!
  • A woman opening a box with “My keys!!! My glasses!  How did you know?!” Hope you get everything you’ve been looking for and more! 
  • OMG I thought I was having a hot flash.  Thank God it was only your candles.

 

trump2No smiles here

Trump University agrees to settle lawsuit for $25 million, NY AG announces

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has agreed to settle lawsuits relating to his Trump University series of real estate seminars for $25 million, the New York Attorney General’s office said on Friday.

The suits alleged that the seminars failed to deliver the education it promised. The deal settles two class-action lawsuits in California and a civil suit filed by Schneiderman.

“Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “I am pleased that under the terms of this settlement, every victim will receive restitution and that Donald Trump will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the State of New York for violating state education laws…”

— The Associated Press, NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.3

Hamilton

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Actor Leslie Odom, Jr. (L) and actor, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (R) perform on stage during "Hamilton" GRAMMY performance for The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Richard Rodgers Theater on February 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

(Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

Many of you will know of the rap musical,  Hamilton: An American Musical… a musical about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, with music, lyrics, and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The show, inspired by the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by historian Ron Chernow, achieved both critical acclaim [winning the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album] and box office success.4  I will note that it is the most expensive Broadway show ever, with the average ticket now going for $1200, and has been sold out for months, through January 2017.  Well, Mike Pence went to the show and the actor who plays Burr (and who is black and gay, in fact, all of the characters are historical figures who were all known to have been white, but they are played by actors of many races and ethnicities, notably black, Latino and Asian5) had a closing plea for him.  This is from the New York Times and contains a video.

“Hamilton,” the hit Broadway musical about colonial rebels shaping the future of an unformed country, took an even more political turn at the end of its performance on Friday night.
With Vice President-elect Mike Pence attending the show, the cast used the opportunity to make a statement emphasizing the need for the new administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump, a Republican, to work on behalf of all Americans…
As the play ended, the actor who played Vice President Aaron Burr, Brandon Victor Dixon, acknowledged that Mr. Pence was in the audience, thanked him for attending and added, “We hope you will hear us out.” “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”6

michellePhotoshopped but funny

1http://photographyconcentrate.com/10-reasons-why-you-should-be-shooting-raw/
2http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-john-james-audubon
3http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/18/president-elect-donald-trump-nearing-settlement-in-trump-university-case-source.html
4https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilton_(musical)
5http://www.hesherman.com/2015/12/03/what-does-hamilton-tell-us-about-race-in-casting/
6http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/19/us/mike-pence-hamilton.html?_r=0

Gotta love this country

November 17, 2016

20,000 People Have Donated to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s ‘Honor’…  Pence, Indiana’s governor and a former congressman, has been criticized by some for restrictions on abortion, Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, said Tuesday.1

trump‘Knife fight’ as Trump builds an unconventional national security Cabinet2  (Ran out of time in my writing class yesterday or I would have pointed out that’s a metaphor and a hyperbole.)  A friend in Denver cleverly commented, I saw where Trump is already treating his cabinet like the game show and firing people.

She also mentioned, last Wednesday, the day after the election, Tonight I meet with Drinking Liberally- then on Thursday, meet with Denver Pantsuit Nation. I hope that we are moved to action!  So of course, I had to look up those organizations.  There is a Drinking Liberally chapter in Tucson.

What is Drinking Liberally?

An informal, inclusive progressive social group. Raise your spirits
while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher.
Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place
to talk politics. You don’t need to be a policy expert and this isn’t a
book club – just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent
frustration and hang out in an environment where it’s not taboo to talk
politics.

Bars are democratic spaces – you talk to strangers, you share booths,
you feel the bond of common ground. Bring democratic discourse to your
local democratic space – build democracy one drink at a time…

Drinking Liberally is a project of Living Liberally, an organization which builds progressive communities through social networks and events. Living Liberally also runs Laughing Liberally, the political comedy project; Screening Liberally, a series of socially-conscious films; Eating Liberally, events with good gab and great grub; and Reading Liberally, book tours for progressive authors. Living Liberally is a New York-based LLC, led by a team in NYC and fueled by the energy of hundreds of volunteers and partners around the country.

Drinking Liberally was founded in New York City in May, 2003 by Justin Krebs and Matthew O’Neill. With the help of David Alpert, DL went national in the summer of 2004; and with the work of Katrina Baker, that network expanded to 100 chapters by September, 2005. It is still growing today.3

hillaryAlso, had not known that Libby Chamberlain created Pantsuit Nation to support Hillary  less than three weeks ago, according to the New York Times on November 8.

Pantsuit Nation, a ‘Secret’ Facebook Hub, Celebrates Clinton

Some pantsuits were white, in tribute to the dresses of the suffragists. Others were mismatched or borrowed. Many were fished out of the back of a closet, along with a memory of a long-lost job or a somber occasion.

These suits were redeployed by thousands of American women on Election Day, when taking a photo of yourself in a pantsuit and posting it to the “secret” Facebook group Pantsuit Nation became the digital equivalent of slapping an “I Voted” sticker on a lapel.

“They’re coming in at about 1,000 every few minutes,” Libby Chamberlain, the founder of the group, said of the social media posts. “We have over 20,000 posts that are waiting to be approved. We have dozens of moderators and they can’t keep up.”4

celineThis ad was in the New York Times Magazine.  Would anyone actually wear that diaphanous dress (or am I just showing my age?)

punctuation-saves-lives

My daughter sent me that.

ART

Sunday afternoon the TMA CAS (Contemporary Art Society) group went to the renovated Axel building5.  One of our members is a photographer, and she, Cita Scott, has a gallery space there6.  Love these flowers (and carrots!).  She arranges them, then photographs them.

citacrane-day

This is Crane Day, the weaver.  His Ultimate Cocktail Ponchos are fabulous.7

Nicola Marshall was out of town, but I like her paintings8.

img_6571

1http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/20-000-people-have-donated-planned-parenthood-mike-pence-s-n685076
2http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/14/politics/trump-shortlist-national-security-worldview/
3http://livingliberally.org/drinking/about
4http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/09/us/politics/facebook-pantsuit-nation-clinton.html?_r=0
5http://www.centralbarrio.com/new-gallery-2/
6http://citascott.com/
7http://www.craneday.com/index.html
8https://www.facebook.com/nicolamarshallart/

Everybody knows the good guys lost

November 15, 2016

Leonard Cohen died last week.  Nothing to watch on this, just listen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEQldSi-heE
A friend said that, after he heard of Cohen’s death, he played Hallelujah
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttEMYvpoR-k) the entire day at his office at full volume.  (He and his partner are in a separate building from their receptionist, secretaries, and paralegals, so he only drove his partner crazy.)  These recordings are with Cohen’s younger voice.

Aging

Within the last month my toaster oven broke (which may have belonged to my mother, who died in 2005), my small espresso machine broke (which used to reside at our cabin on Mt. Lemmon when the kids were little, about 25+ years ago), and the frame on my glasses broke (this is the third prescription put in them).  Well, I hope I last longer than my possessions.  Seems ominous.

I also just turned 70.  Had friends and relatives (son! brother! cousins!) visiting for half a week from San Diego, Vancouver, Sonoma, and Denver.  We partied for days and they helped me put on a celebration dinner for 30.  After they returned home, I noticed that my kitchen no longer automatically gets cleaned.  I wake up in the morning and have to face dirty dinner dishes.  Well, that bit of spoiling didn’t last long.

Social Venture Partners – Fast Pitch Tucson 2016

svpWent to a fundraiser last week.

SVP does more than give away money. We amplify the impact of those out to do good in three distinct ways:

  • Connect and engage individuals, helping them make the greatest impact with their philanthropic giving.
  • Fund and strengthen nonprofits, helping them take their vital work for communities to the next level.
  • Invest in collaborative solutions, so those with a common cause can align their efforts and go farther, together.1

astronautFirst, the keynote speaker, Ron Garan, decorated astronaut and social entrepreneur, gave us a great talk, showing us the world through his Orbital Perspective.

Then seven finalists (Fast Pitch Tucson gives free two-month communication skills training … for nonprofits) made three‐minute pitches to a panel of judges and an audience of hundreds of philanthropic, business, civic, and nonprofit leaders, competing to win cash awards.  They started with heart-rending stories.  Two hankies worth.

Awards
$5,000 Tucson Federal Credit Union Tucson Matters Award
$5,000 TEP Power to the People Award + featured in Biz Tucson
$7,500 Cox Charities Award
$7,500 Judges Award
$10,000 SVP Tucson Award

The Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona (not just cookies – leadership development is the core focus of Girl Scouting, offering diverse programs on Science and Technology, Self-Esteem, Career Exploration, Financial Literacy, Environmental Awareness and more) won big, with three prizes. Helping Hands for Single Moms Tucson (a community-based nonprofit that assists impoverished single mom families while the moms are pursuing a college education and financial independence) won one.  Children’s Clinics (a non-profit organization, dedicated to delivering family centered, coordinated medical and health services to children and families with complex medical conditions) won the other.

As they won lots of $, I spread my largess elsewhere.  I signed up to volunteer for ICS (Interfaith Community Services) Care Partners.  (Volunteers in the Care Partner Program work together as a team to assist newly discharged patients from health care facilities to assist them with transportation to follow-up appointments, pharmacy, grocery store, etc. )  And I gave a fistful of money to Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona (a non-profit agency dedicated to assisting low income homeowners in Tucson and Pima County) that friend R recommended.

img_6557Desert Museum

Last Friday was Veterans’ Day, a day off from school, so after visiting my father’s grave, my daughter and I took the kids to the Desert Museum.  The Raptor Free Flight is always my favorite.  This is my favorite shot, but my grandsons and I took a few more, sharing my camera and my phone.

 

 

img_6540img_6558

 

Here’s Why We Grieve Today

A friend emailed me this.  I put it last ’cause it’s too depressing.  But read it anyway!

November 9, 2016/ John Pavlovitz

I don’t think you understand us right now. I think you think this is about politics. I think you believe this is all just sour grapes; the crocodile tears of the losing locker room with the scoreboard going against us at the buzzer. I can only tell you that you’re wrong. This is not about losing an election. This isn’t about not winning a contest. This is about two very different ways of seeing the world.

Hillary supporters believe in a diverse America; one where religion or skin color or sexual orientation or place of birth aren’t liabilities or deficiencies or moral defects. Her campaign was one of inclusion and connection and interdependency. It was about building bridges and breaking ceilings. It was about going high.

Trump supporters believe in a very selective America; one that is largely white and straight and Christian, and the voting verified this. Donald Trump has never made any assertions otherwise. He ran a campaign of fear and exclusion and isolation—and that’s the vision of the world those who voted for him have endorsed.

They have aligned with the wall-builder and the professed p*ssy-grabber, and they have co-signed his body of work, regardless of the reasons they give for their vote: Every horrible thing Donald Trump ever said about women or Muslims or people of color has now been validated. Every profanity-laced press conference and every call to bully protestors and every ignorant diatribe has been endorsed. Every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation Mike Pence has championed has been signed-off on. Half of our country has declared these things acceptable, noble, American.  This is the disconnect and the source of our grief today. It isn’t a political defeat that we’re lamenting, it’s a defeat for Humanity.

We’re not angry that our candidate lost. We’re angry because our candidate’s losing means this country will be less safe, less kind, and less available to a huge segment of its population, and that’s just the truth. Those who have always felt vulnerable are now left more so. Those whose voices have been silenced will be further quieted. Those who always felt marginalized will be pushed further to the periphery. Those who feared they were seen as inferior now have confirmation in actual percentages. Those things have essentially been campaign promises of Donald Trump, and so many of our fellow citizens have said this is what they want too.

This has never been about politics.

This is not about one candidate over the other.

It’s not about one’s ideas over another’s.

It is not blue vs. red.

It’s not her emails vs. his bad language.

It’s about overt racism and hostility toward minorities.

It’s about religion being weaponized.

It’s about crassness and vulgarity and disregard for women.

It’s about a barricaded, militarized, bully nation.

It’s about an unapologetic, open-faced ugliness.

And it is not only that these things have been ratified by our nation that grieve us; all this hatred, fear, racism, bigotry, and intolerance—it’s knowing that these things have been amen-ed by our neighbors, our families, our friends, those we work with and worship alongside. That is the most horrific thing of all. We now know how close this is. It feels like living in enemy territory being here now, and there’s no way around that.

We wake up today in a home we no longer recognize. We are grieving the loss of a place we used to love but no longer do.

This may be America today but it is not the America we believe in or recognize or want.

This is not about a difference of political opinion, as that’s far too small to mourn over. It’s about a fundamental difference in how we view the worth of all people—not just those who look or talk or think or vote the way we do.

Grief always laments what might have been, the future we were robbed of, the tomorrow that we won’t get to see, and that is what we walk through today. As a nation we had an opportunity to affirm the beauty of our diversity this day, to choose ideas over sound bytes, to let everyone know they had a place at the table, to be the beacon of goodness and decency we imagine that we are—and we said no.

The Scriptures say that weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning. We can’t see that dawn coming any time soon.

And this is why we grieve.

1http://www.socialventurepartners.org/tucson/