And an Overdue Intermission.

Taking a break from running with scissors. Marbles relocated; they all seem to be there... Maybe. Or maybe I...
When you finally put down the scissors you’ve been running with, make sure your marbles are all in the right place.

When I moved into the new place, I was surprised how easily I slept. If I sat down too long, or lay down, that was it – asleep.

My immediate problem was how counterproductive it was when I had so much to do. I’d scheduled a vacation, the first real one in 18 years, where I disappear for a while – but I hadn’t realized how much I needed it.

The only way I got where I am today is through hard work and discipline. If that meant working at getting a job, or working at fixing something, or working on writing something – code or otherwise – that was what I did.

I didn’t have to like it. I just had to do it. That seems a novel thing in this day and age.

Imagine the changes he has seen
We go where we must, when we must, regardless. Or we stay where we are.

 

You find the parts you like and those things keep you going even when you should have stopped. The world accelerates inexorably with technology, allowing so much more to be done and most people are so busy that they don’t wonder where all that time technology saved them went.

Over the decades, I have been the one that people came to when they needed something done, like my father before me and like his father before him. It’s what we did. It’s what they did. It’s not so much what I do anymore – the world has beaten and battered me enough. The same people who I helped chose not to help during those times, extricating themselves by absence and poor excuse. Since I looked around and never saw them there, they have found I have made it official.

I, for one, feel better.

Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?
“Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”

The world measures us by such things and inexorably squeezes. It takes effort to push outwards and grow, or we become the measurement of our failures. To be measured by greater failures is all we can do to grow.

Growth is tiring. Failure is tiring.

I’m exhausted.

Failures are how you find successes. Fear of failure is fear of success; we focus too much on success and do not cherish our failures for the learning experiences that they should be. Success is simply the change we get from expending our effort.

Life shortchanges us at times.

I’ve pushed hard on every front for as long as I can remember. When I drove myself to a hospital some years ago, they admitted me, poked and prodded me and decided my heart needed some love. They ballooned the arteries, they stented me, and under my threat of an Against Medical Advice (AMA) form, they released me after 3 days. On the fourth day, I was at work dealing with a manager who told me I had to make up 24 hours.

Those doctors had told me that my body was suing for divorce, that I couldn’t keep going as I was going, and so on. I listened to an extent. I got better – angioplasty certainly gets you going – and eventually left that job. People who didn’t know all of this would be surprised to know how physical I have been in the years since, and how much I accomplished by brute force and force of will given that medical history. But, again:

I didn’t have to like it. I just had to do it, and I had to do it well.

New Smyrna Beach Sunrise 12-21-2014
I won’t be here. I’ve been here before.

That too, now, has run it’s course.

It struck me that over the years I have done so much for so many with so little that I am not sure exactly who I am anymore. I have done what I have had to do, but that is not the definition of me – a poor measurement where my successes have been discarded and my failures my measurement.

And so it is I close myself off until after the first week of next month, to figure things out, to disappear, to recharge… and to find other things to fail at.

See you next month.

Beyond a Camera.

Blue-grey tanager [thraupis episcopus]I’ve made the time to go through my Flickr collection of photos to pull out some of the better ones for my FineArtAmerica page and my Zazzle page – something I had planned to do once I crossed the threshold of 20,000 images.

I’m down to 13,000 after a few days, having culled those that no longer matter or simply didn’t make the grade. It gave me an opportunity for me to look at what I had done and where I’d been over the years, something that we sometimes take for granted, and also my own motivations for photography. I didn’t set out to become a photographer.

Vegetables at Mon Repos marketSo why did I take all these pictures? There are different reasons. Writing on the web does better with pictures, and I couldn’t afford to buy the rights to the images I would have wanted to use – Creative Commons has helped me with that, thank you – but there were less images available online for free almost 20 years ago. To make matters worse, I’m probably one of a handful of people who managed to fail Art as a class (I failed Student Orientations for similar reasons).

So the early photos I posted online were guided by that – I’d take a lot of pictures and upload them because I thought I could use them for writing at some point. Some I did, most I didn’t – and image quality with the elder, lower class cameras I used just didn’t age as well as I hoped, with few exceptions (some are here in this entry).

From top to bottom - blue-grey tanager, yellow oriole and palm tanagerWhen my father died in 2005, I had a slightly better digital camera and had taken up my father’s habit of feeding the birds – and I studied them, their behaviors, and found some comfort in those  things as a distraction from the mess his Estate was, and the fact that the lawyer in charge of doing things was as efficient as stoned molasses moving uphill on a cold day. In a way, it kept me sane. And when I got the opportunity, I got a better camera and did better.

This Revolution Is For Display Purposes OnlyAnd all during this, I remained Nobody Fugazi in Second Life, wrote an eBook through O’Reilly that is now dated and useless, and was also looking at textures for prims in Second Life. Since I lacked graphic abilities beyond straight lines, a budget to afford software or copyrighted images, I pushed forward in that regard too. So, a lot of images of would be textures and a lot of images of my forays in Second Life that were no longer relevant were culled – Second Life is really a novelty now, where once it paid my bills.

Handful of bird peppers.The world changes, we change… and through all of this I had accidentally become a passable photographer. I say that because I noted that there were less and less bad images I uploaded over the years between the good ones.

People were asking to use my photos through Flickr, even NASA at one point, and I was letting them use them. A lighthouse picture paid me for the rights to what I considered a really bad photograph of the lighthouse in Port of Spain. I came to realize that the good photographs weren’t always what made the money. Pictures I have taken of bush-fires appear in textbooks in the Caribbean and some other places. I was actually making money with some really bad photography.

Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday at Presentation College Reunion (2010)And people and companies were actually using my pictures without permission, in contexts I did not agree with – so I had to battle over that, and I never let them pay me after their abuse as a matter of principle. Anyone who takes something without permission and tries to pay for it when they get caught is someone I don’t want to be associated with. But now, I found myself a guardian of something that I never expected to have, and I began to understand better how it feels when things you are emotionally invested in are taken without permission. It made me look at artist’s rights differently. You’ll note that I don’t have cheesy copyright notices on my images – I have my own methods for finding things that work well enough without destroying images.

Sloths gone wild! Arlene the Sloth gets her bearings as the humans leave (3)And during all of this, I traveled. I met other human beings in different places as I grew myself, and found humanity is generally mundane except for a choice few. But the creatures! The stories of the humans!

And so I stretched a little further even as the camera became less of a tool and more of an extension. Not a great extension, mind you, but I was learning through experience… and ultimately staring at some really bad photographs, most of which I have culled.

Other things became apparent. I have an aversion to photographing people – perhaps fodder for another post.

New Smyrna Beach Sunrise 12-22-2014And once it became an extension, photos started getting better.

So much better, in fact, that I sold prints for a while in Florida, bought some more updated equipment based on what I needed of an extension, and my photography got significantly better.
But if you ask me what I do, I won’t say I’m a photographer.

Nope. I still say writer. Neither pays well, but when I look back over the years they have become constants in a life of change.

I’ll be taking a break for a while… but I will be back after a relatively short retreat.

Define #Home.

homeI stayed my first night in a place that I actually own and pondered what ‘home’ is. I’ve worked decades toward this end.

‘Home’ is an ethereal concept for me. In college, in the military, at work, people often ‘went home’ for holidays.  I was already, I thought, ‘home’, because where else would I be?

Sitting in the new place, I wondered why I did not yet feel comfortable. There was a feeling of incompleteness, a void yet not an emptiness.

It was quiet and still and new. ‘New’ has never been a problem for me, my life has been about ‘new’ – change has been a constant as I wandered from place to place, living out of bags,  adjusting here and there. I always knew where my towel was.

Yet in that first night I could not understand why it felt so different. I slept well, and when I awoke it still seemed un-home.

Weeks later, having almost completely settled in, I know what it is – because it is home now.

It isn’t the things I moved in, it isn’t the furniture. It isn’t the people who come over because no one has and very few will. It’s because I did not have a writing nook, a place where I could sit and feel right enough about the universe to write what was on my mind. It was also the quiet, and the lack of intrusion on my thoughts by some incessant noise, and more importantly, the worry of it happening.

It was an anxiety of sorts, a feeling that the other shoe had not yet dropped – and the last place I rented on the ground floor certainly had a lot of shoes dropping above.

Home.Home is where I can write, where I can read in peace, and where I am comfortable – and the latter has taken me time because there’s no disruption. There is privacy, an air of security that I’ve never had, and a feeling of standing on solid earth where before life required sea legs. I worry a bit of this last thing, but venturing out in the world allows my sea legs to maintain themselves.

Home is where I don’t need the metaphorical sea legs, where the noise created is my own…

And where I finally finished this post I had begun writing 2 weeks ago.

Pre-dawn Thoughts.

I see so much of what I used to be in the world, shadows of myself anchored in self-perception. I see very little of what I could be in the world.

The options narrow. We learn things. We decide whether to continue doing things.

Every now and then, we notice a breath we take. More often, we notice we exhale.

We move on – or we stay where we are. If we stay where we are, do we face the same way, happy with the view, or do we look around? Are we circumspect?

Is reality a wave you ride, or does it slam you into the sand and rocks below?

Why am I asking all these questions?

I have no idea.

Why are you trying to answer them?

I need coffee.

Tough.

scar tissueIn youth, we try to take our measure of the world.

Every year, an ocean of youth is dashed upon a shore, trying to affect some change or the other, violent upheavals against hard rocks.

In time, that energy wanes, and maybe those rocks are changed a little – so little, in fact, that you can’t see the change. A crack here. A piece of stone there.

Sometimes, because of the work of generations before, a noticeable change happens and that generation thinks that they were responsible for it when, in fact, previous generations loosened that jar and made it possible. They don’t care. They’re young and will take the credit, just as a new politician will take the credit of previous administrations manifested during their new role.

The latter think that they are tough, standing on the shoulders of the scarred generations before, ignorant of how they got there and the sacrifices it took.

That is not tough. When you have the luxury of scarring yourself rather than having the world scar you, you are not tough – you are privileged, and how you use that privilege determines what future generations have to stand on.

When the world doesn’t scar us, the balance is broken, the third Law ignored, and the next generations will pay the piper because the third Law cannot be ignored.

Peanut Butter

Eye see!Decades ago, a 14 year old version of me was going to secondary school while working in my father’s print shop.

It certainly wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t lucrative, and it wasn’t easy. The print shop was downstairs, and as soon as woke up in the morning, it was the walk to school. It was a hard walk through a hard neighborhood in a uniform, with the usual heckling of someone going to a prestige school got when walking through such a neighborhood. They didn’t really know me, they didn’t have to know me, they just saw what I represented and rolled with it.

In time, they would find a mistake there as surprising to myself as to them, but that’s another story.

I’d get to school, and of course, I never did my homework so the first order of business was to get the homework done for the classes where I would get in trouble if I didn’t. Sometimes that meant actually doing it, sometimes that meant copying, and sometimes that meant finding a creative excuse… or sometimes, simply manning up and saying I didn’t do it.

At lunch, while everyone else hung out, I had to walk back home – allegedly for lunch, with a stepmother who couldn’t be bothered to have much there unless my father was going to be around – so I made do, often with peanut butter or cheese. I’d walk back to school, get to class, and the cycle continued until the final bell rang – and off to home and the printshop I went, with a few of the older kids riding around with their friends giving me a hard time for walking in that neighborhood that they could drive through, even slapping the back of my head as they drove by, protected only by a sedan moving faster than I could. Then I got to the rougher parts of the neighborhood, where I steadfastly pushed on through the other side of the heckling.

At home, I would change and get down into the printery. If receipt books had to be numbered, I numbered them; it was all very manual. If I was lucky, I could spend some time on the computer – I rarely was. And until dinner, whenever that might happen, I ate, fed the dogs and if there was an emergency job – I was back down in the printery.

The printery was a solace. A therapy. And it was, despite the economy and despite my father’s trusting and drinking nature at the time, the source of my clothing and my food.

But there was a 2 week period where it did not provide anything because my father took a big risk and lost. The shelves were empty, so I took some money – a few dollars – and went and bought a small jar of peanut butter.

That’s what I ate for 2 weeks. I rationed spoons of peanut butter. I don’t think anyone really realized what I was doing – everyone was so busy with their own self-interests. It was a hard 2 weeks, keeping up appearances as above.

Hungry all the time. Unable to concentrate in class. That jar of peanut butter lasted the first week, and there was no change, so I cut back my ration because I didn’t know how long it would last. As it happens, at the end of that week, I had 1/4 of a small jar of peanut butter left when the shelves got stocked by my father.

That hunger at that age is something that I held on to, and has driven me over the years. And I thought of it, strangely, as I was packing some things into the new place…

And saw the jar of peanut butter.

Hail The Drunk Alchemist.

A rocket lifting off is an amazing sight not just because of the light and smoke, or the piercing of our atmosphere. Underneath that, there’s this Newtonian law. The Third Law.
ICESat-2 Launch (NHQ201809150015)

For every action force there is an equal and opposite reaction force.

Granted, there are so many other factors involved in a rocket launch, but the basis for almost all of it is that third law a drunk alchemist, who got hit with an apple, came up with through observation.

The photograph quality of this particular rocket is pretty stunning too.