Leap of Faith

Four years ago I was in Africa, celebrating the birthday of this dynamic girl named Faith:

 

I wonder what she is doing now…

That trip was part of a leap in my own life…in some ways more than one and, typical of me, I landed kind of funny. Nothing broken but a little wrenched out of shape with a pulled muscle here and there.

The trip was an impulse…I had visited the village in 2011 and intended to go back in 2013 or 2014 in order to space out our visits. My son and I were part of an organization, somewhat connected to our parish, doing “mission” work in the village. We had visited in the spring of 2011 and James, my son, had spent the fall of 2011, after his college graduation, volunteering as a teacher at the very new Secondary School and managing  several projects related to starting a community library and procuring books and supplies for the school and library, related to the Millennium Development Goals.

Going back so soon was not in our game plan, however, some folks in the group, most notably the woman from that village and her husband were going to attend a harambee she had arranged to support “girl child education”.   I was not particularly interested in the harambee, although I support the idea of funding education for girls and doing so within the community instead of outsiders coming in and dictating outcomes, the politics that were involved left me frigidly cold.

However, the library was desired by the community and needed a boost at that point in time if it was to continue to exist. So I went, along with books and money to buy books selected by young adults from the community.  (I sometimes think that fiction is the only way to tell the truth…someday, if I ever get things figured out enough in my own mind, I may try to write a novella about that “ministry”.)

Since 2012 was my fiftieth birthday year I decided to give myself a short safari as part of the trip. It was only three days, but they were the most incredible days of my life. It was also the reason why I bought my Nikon L120…and subsequently decided to learn more about taking better pictures.

If only I knew then what I know now about using the camera and composition…

The safari was time apart. I went on it alone. While my son accompanied me to Africa he went straight to the village with a hundred pounds of children’s books we had brought from the States, the books purchased and the librarian who had come to Nairobi to help select books.

Traffic jam in Nairobi Kenya.
“The Jam”

The return to Nairobi was to get caught back up in the tangle of confusion that seemed to always be a feature of doing what we did in Kenya. The “jam” is a good metaphor for it. That is what they call the traffic there. The whole city seemed to be near stand-still as people inch along. Vendors walk in among the cars selling newspapers, fruit, etc. We once saw a hand drawn cart passing all the motor cars as it wove in and out of the lanes.

When we got to the village things slowed down, okay “speed” isn’t quite what was happening in Nairobi. Maybe it would be better to say “the stress eased up”. A very few images of “typical” village experiences:

Again, I really wish I had known then what I know now about photography and composition.

One thing I had hoped to do when I started this blog was to explore my African experiences and play with the pictures from that trip. To try and digest the raw experiences and find meaning. I did not plan on that being my last trip, but I have now drifted into other responsibilities and projects.

When you take a leap sometimes you don’t wind up where you expect.

Leap

Am I getting warmer?

This post is a response to Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge: Color Basics, where she talks about warm and cool colors.

After reading her essay and reviewing many pictures, I realized that I do not tend to take pictures that are all warm or all cool. I tend toward taking pictures dominated by cool colors…but I like best ones with a pop of warm, or even hot color.

Here are some all cool pictures:

Here are some all warm pictures:

Here are examples of the pictures I tend to like, cool with a pop of warm color:

Occasionally I experiment with my camera’s settings and here are a two sets of pictures that I took with different color effects, regular, black and white, sepia and cyanotype. The sepia is warm and the cyanotype cool. To my eye the black and white also appears cool.

Grey day on Puget Sound:

Tree peony bloom:

 

It’s a whirlwind!

Does time move faster or do I move slower?

This daily prompt, Thanks, Hindsight,  reminded me of how often this year I haven’t been able to post…no time, no inspiration, no ability to pull things together and finish, or, on re-reading, deciding that the post, whether words, pictures, or both, is not worth viewing (I like to think that the effort itself is beneficial). For every time I hit “publish” this year there are about 3 posts I started and didn’t finish.

This year has been a blur. Everything feels out of control. So far I have made it to all appointments, but there have been numerous “wait, that isn’t this week is it?” events (event isn’t quite the right word, but I am going to barrel on and finish something for once).

When life is as out of control I try to find something to give it structure. This year’s efforts

  • Experimenting with Inkscape, an open source vector graphics program, a little every day.
  • Continuing to try and worm a few words of Chinese into my old, scattered brain, a little every day using YoyoChinese.com (which I have found to be really effective)
  • Working on trying to get my house in order.

My big house-in-order project this year is a remodel that will add a significant amount of built-in book shelving in the living room (something I have wanted for the almost 29 years we have lived here) and totally reworking kitchen cabinets (replacement of existing plus additional). The design is complete and they are scheduled to start de- and con-struction on May 2. That means getting everything out of the kitchen and a largish section of the living room, and creating an ad hoc kitchenette/dining area we can use for about two months (they say it will take 5-6 weeks).

The dust will settle and life will get easier: Our pantry is in the unfinished basement. We currently store many of our favorite books, like our Wodehouse collection, and a lot of kitchen equipment (including the food processor and baking sheets) there as well. It will be a slog through our mire of stuff, and probably some stress, getting there. One downside is that I currently go up and down the stairs a lot, I will need to try and make up for that exercise.

Chinese is growing on me and one source of ideas for posts that I never quite am able to finish is human communications. Specifically the differences between cultures and how much that is influenced by language. I hope that when I am housebound as they do the remodel maybe I can pull together some posts on this subject.

Inkscape has been fun. Here are a couple of Valentines I put together after viewing numerous “how-to” videos on You-tube:

 

“The numbing sensation of everything I lack.”

This Is Your Song

From the Brandi Carlyle song Late Morning Lullaby on her album The Story:

…Yesterday is gone now and panic sets in
With a weight upon my chest
and a ghost upon my back
And the numbing sensation of everything I lack…

Even though, on the whole, my life is pretty good, and I know it. I sometimes fall into depression, usually triggered by “the numbing sensation of everything I lack.” Not materially. It is a feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to cope. Other people seem to have so much more energy, strength, stamina and enthusiasm. They also seem able to have tidy homes.

For the last couple of years, a frequent depression trigger is feeling stuck in a quagmire of stuff. I am great at sorting and having it ready to leave, but “it’s not garbage anymore” (slogan for Seattle Public Utilities), so you can’t just throw things away. You have to figure out what class of things they are and take them to the correct place. I have a real problem with that hurdle. A lot of times I just stop but, when I do try, my husband goes through and finds something I put in the wrong bin…making me feel like I can’t get rid of anything. (He seems victorious when he finds things in the wrong place. I think is is because he knows his obsession with garbage is a bit odd and wants to justify it, not because he wants me to feel in adequate…but it does make me feel unqualified to get rid of trash.) So I can’t get rid of anything and he won’t.

 

The book about tidying up I mentioned in a previous post, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, really made me feel it. She seems to measure success in how many trash bags of things to get rid of. But if those trash bags never get gone they just create a “weight on my chest and a ghost on my back and a numbing sensation of everything I lack”. Ancient cities, like Ninevah,  buried themselves in trash. Maybe someday archaeologists will dig out our house. I wonder what they will think.

Slicing and dicing

This post is a study of cropping pictures, inspired by Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge-Week 15. Which is about cropping photos.

I chose, almost at random, a few pictures that are ho-hum, at least in part because there is too much in them.

Boats and birds in Morrow Bay California. Sock vendor in Kitui Kenya Man reading and petting a cat. Young man playing a guitar.

Then I tried a few different crops of each picture homing in on different subjects. (I did also tweak exposure, clarity and color vibrance a bit).

Here are the results (the captions contain my comments):

Boat and birds in Morro Bay, California:

Sock vendor in Kitui, Kenya:

The Empress and her favorite attendant:

My son playing guitar…and The Empress:

In general I think what works depends a lot on the subject you are after and how you plan to use the picture. The pictures I worked with all had too much busy-ness. They were generally better after cropping.

 

Good advice

A quote from this morning’s newspaper:

Arkansas authorities also issued guidelines that they hoped would prevent the spread of the disease, urging people traveling back to the state from countries with Zika outbreaks to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes for 10 days after their return.

The article is CDC confirms dozen cases of Zika virus in U.S. While the article is serious two things made me chuckle:

  1. “Avoid being bitten by a mosquito for 10 days”, as if people wouldn’t try to avoid being bitten. There is also an implied “After 10 days you can go back to your usual carefree mosquito feeding ways.”
  2. While I understand that they are concerned about disease transmission, the following quote might make one think that the risk was to the mosquitoes: “Mosquitoes here in Arkansas can become infected with the virus if they bite someone who has Zika.”

No doubt the quotes are out of context in the article. A wise Arkansas health official probably gave a well researched speech explaining everything well and a reporter grabbed a few quotes from it to make the article fit neatly around the Macy’s ad.

Why do I think that? Among other things they are at the end of the article. We live in a world where we aren’t expected to read entire articles, and perhaps the editors don’t either.

Or maybe I am a little warped…or desperate to find something at least a little humorous when the front page stories included “Five shot at homeless camp” and “Oregon standoff leader arrested amid fatal gunfire”.

Quote Me

Scrubbing bubbles?

What’s the 11th item on your bucket list?

I don’t use buckets all that much. Mostly for cleaning and sometimes for gardening. So my “bucket list” is cleaning supplies, pruners, trowels….

I don’t have the kind of bucket list where you decide you want to do thus and so before you die. I plan to live until I die. That means dealing with regular stuff and taking opportunities that come along. My best life experiences have been things I wouldn’t have thought to do, so I would rather just go along enjoying life as best I can and taking things as they come, but not fearing to try something new now and again.

A cleaning bucket seems most appropriate right now: Cleaning, clearing and tidying have been a big part of my 2016 so far and it looks like that will continue as we have some major work done in the kitchen this spring and summer.

It started with mice deciding to use my car engine as a warming hut.

KSM-20160124-ScrubbingBubbles-01-720pxKSM-20160124-ScrubbingBubbles-02-720pxThen the tree pruning company I use was booked out through the end of March so, in addition to cleaning up the back yard to discourage rodents, I had to prune the trees myself (they can’t wait till the end of March and they have been neglected way too long). I hurt for over a week after I finished, but the real bummer about this is that the tree company chips and removes all of the branches and debris. Unlike my spouse, who said he will trickle it into our regular yard waste pick up…

I go out and rattle the piles hoping to discourage mice, but I am still parking on the street.

Now comes trying to get all of the things we had moved out of the way first for the electrical rework, then for the drywall repair and painting back. Since we had to completely evacuate my son’s room (his ceiling material was so old it disintegrated when they cut through it to rewire requiring us to have the entire ceiling replaced instead of patched). He is coming home for a visit on February 1 so getting that room back into functional shape is a priority. But everything is all mangled up together, we used his room as a kind of catch all since he left for China over two years ago.

It is always nicer to read about things like cleaning and organizing than it is to do them, so, in a moment of weakness, I picked up a copy of the best-selling book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.   I am not saying the author is wrong, I am sure she has some insight (although she looks pretty young and doesn’t seem to have a family). But I think it is naive to believe that you can deal with all of your stuff at once, once and for all. Who really has the time and space to pull everything out, sort it and put it back?

Not me. So I plod along, exactly what the book says not to do. Is one to do nothing because one cannot do it all?
Kick It

What next?

The weekly photo prompt is Alphabet and the picture I took as a header for the daily prompt about Learning Style (yes, a day late) seems to fit. While my thoughts are a bit off the assigned topic, which was how I learn. The prompt seemed relevant since yesterday,  instead of writing, I was reading a couple of articles that, to me, relate to learning. Specifically about how computers learn.

How will a computer learning change things? Supposedly, Windows 10 is heading in that direction so the future is near, or for those more quick to adopt, here. My computer already creeps me out sometimes, when it pops up ads, the same ones on every web site, like they are stalking me.

Sometimes it can be amusing: One time I was stalked for weeks by adds for a hotel for which I had reservations, made through a real live travel agent. A woman I value most highly, although I rarely use her services. I am glad there are still living travel agents for those times when things are new to me and the inter-web, as my son calls it has SO much information that it overwhelms.

I suppose it is comforting that Big Data, while it knew what I was searching for, didn’t know when I would be where. It would have been even more creepy if I suddenly was getting pop-up ads for restaurants and stores beside the hotel with coupons for those specific dates.

I was looking at area rugs on-line a couple of weeks ago. We bought one at a brick and mortar store and I am still being stalked by e-rugs or somesuch (FYI: I don’t recall the name of the site, and there may actually be an “e-rugs” site, but my use of the term is supposed to be generic and is not either an endorsement or criticism of such a business, if it does exist.)

One article, “The End of Internet Advertising as We’ve Known It” by Doc Searls, was about how many people, like me, are getting tired of being pestered by ads that are tailored based on our search history and are learning to turn the ads off. I haven’t learned to do that yet but will be working on it after I finish this post.

Now that massive amounts of long term data is available, they have realized that very few people click on those tailored ads and even fewer actually make purchases.BTW:  I have a suspicion that a significant number of “clicks” are inadvertent, and wonder how many people get annoyed and turned off by the business. How many times have you accidentally clicked on a pop-up add and been sent somewhere you didn’t want to be?

One idea that they are working on is a way to tell the inter-web (again this is intended to be a generic term) that one is shopping for such and such when you want to see the ads and have them off by default, so that a simple search for information on a topic is not construed as a desire to buy something. This would be better for advertisers than having everyone turn the ads off for good. The article calls the idea “intentcasting”. I like this idea, being able to shop, and get information about products when I need something and not be pestered when I don’t need that sort of information.

Some time ago I wrote a post about how it used to be more fun to search the internet. I wonder if some of that fun would come back if it wasn’t so very important for the top results of any and every search to be advertisements.

The second article, “Kindergarten for Computers” by Will Knight was about artificial intelligence; specifically whether and how they could try to make a computer emulate how a child learns. It sounds good in theory…if you want computers that can think for themselves. Before we head too far down that road I wonder if we should consider a different question: do we want to create machines that think for themselves? for us? The article does seem to be based on the idea that we do.

Never-the-less the article, which is very much about learning is interesting.

On a personal level I learn in a myriad of ways. Sometimes one way and sometimes another, but I learn best when I am interested in something. That results in my seeking information about the topic from many different sources: written, videos, lectures, for broader topics I like to take classes where the material is structured and I can interact with other people interested in the topic. If I am interested I take the time to interact with the material, taking notes, experimenting and finding ways to apply the learning day-to-day. I wonder: will computers will ever be able to do that?

Since we use computers so much in so many ways I would encourage you to take a look at the articles. The more we know the more we will be able to learn how to use our tools and the more we can, maybe, shape how our tools use us.

Exploring my world with pictures and words.

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