Tundra Swans, Yellowstone

Monday, March 30, 2020


I have to admit that I was not a big Gavin Newsom fan before. He never showed me much and I stupidly bought into other people's tropes and opinions about him (rich kid, Getty, Zuckerberg, etc.)

Well that's changing. I listened to the California Governor's midday address today and I couldn't be more impressed with both his words and his actions.

Very intelligent, very sincere. Kind of man we need at the helm in times like this. Bold and decisive. Not the false cartoon I had stored in my brain.

I shudder to think of what would have happened to my state if we had a governor like they do in Florida. We caught a break here when he took precipitous action early rather than too late.

I read once that heroes are made by difficult circumstances, never born. And I think that is true. Leadership is a trial by fire and unfortunately, as we see today in Washington, few are up to the job.

I remember seeing a great documentary on President Chester Arthur on PBS a few years ago. It was excellent, if you can, try to find it and watch. Arthur was part of Conkling's big and very corrupt New York machine and a friend of Boss Tweed. He became Vice President on a ticket with James Garfield and assumed the presidency after James Garfield was assassinated. And people rightly feared the worst. Nobody thought he would amount to a hill of beans. Thought he would carry water for the political machine. But Arthur rose to the occasion and became a very good if not great president and was pretty much loved by all.
"No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired… more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe."
 I am sure that there are heroes among us right now. These are the times in which they are forged.

Almost time.

Somebody gave me this roll of toilet paper last year, sort of as a joke. never thought that I might actually have to use it. Thank you Mr. President. You were made for the roll, er role.

Lots of people looking, like me, rather shaggy these days. Unless your spouse cuts your hair. Mine doesn't. I can wait. Lady at coffee's hair looked too good, so I asked. She goes to her barber's house but he will only cut her's as a favor. I get it.

Have a pitched nerve in my upper back that is debilitating me. Hope it works itself out. Going to try to finish the book I am currently reading, The Stranger by Camus. I know, the Plague would have been more timely. This is a difficult book with a difficult, diffident character, not quite capable of feeling.

Such a beautiful day in Southern California! Perfect weather, my place is looking so good with all the wisteria, will try to post a shot tomorrow.

I was looking around my shop today and was thinking what a shame. I have so many beautiful paintings right now and no one is looking at them. Just a great collection of material, completely invisible.

Joan for John and Fiona

Thank you Joan Baez for playing this beautiful song for its writer. Your playing and singing are still wonderful, it brings a tear to my eye.

Anatomy of a failed shot

Not all of my shots work all the time, many don't, I thought it would be nice to deconstruct a fail for you. Learning experience for both of us. Hopefully helps my humility index.

I scouted a spot on the river I wanted to shoot the other day. Went back yesterday afternoon with Leslie, lugging the tripod and a backpack full of gear. It is a nice little spot where the river takes an abrupt divot. I almost missed the poison oak, got a little on my stomach. The water flows over the rocks pretty quickly at this location right now and I thought it would be a nice spot for a long exposure, the technique that gives you the silky water look that photographers dig.

This untouched shot was a fifteen second exposure at ƒ16, iso 64. Nikon D850 with Nikkor 24 -70, 24mm, a b&w c.p and a Breakthrough10 stop nd filter.

It isn't easy necessarily. You first take a baseline shot without the filters and ascertain proper, normal exposure, than apply a loose formula for the neutral density filter. You focus as best as you can and then screw in your filters which invariably causes you to lose some focus again with lens drift. because you can't see what you have captured in the viewfinder at this point.

I took quite a few shots at different speeds and aperture, from ƒ8 to ƒ22 and up to thirty seconds. Because the sun was stage right, I went up in the aperture (down?) to see if I could grab and play with some sun rays. I did not. But they all are basically unusable, for several reasons.

I had wanted to get the shot in the morning, with the eastern sun behind me and it was late afternoon. The sun was low in the sky to my right, creating uneven color in the sky and undue brightness on the right side of the sky. Would have preferred the sun behind me. There is also some sun flare evident in the shadows right.

Midday shots are always problematic with their deep shadows and cross light.

Now I could certainly lift them but shadows do occur and there is something unnatural about revealing every detail of a scene in natural darkness.

One must use judgement and a light hand.

An even bigger problem is wind. Wind is the mortal enemy of the long exposure, hence the moving branches top left.

Now I could spend hours in photoshop deleting that tree or maybe painting over the sky section but that is tedious and not really my style. Better to go back and shoot it right. Something not right here with light and timing.

I did lop off a few twig shots on this vertical portrait shot to the left. I lightened the shadows too much, do you see how flat and chalky the oak shadow to your right looks?

One more problem I should mention, the circular polarizer filter. These invaluable tools remove glare and increase saturation, very helpful for water. But they are optimally used at a direction of 90° to the sun, my scene is near straight on.

In addition the filter fits under the nd so even though in normal usage you can twist it to find the best angle, it is practically impossible when under a pitch dark neutral density filter, hence the uneven sky tones here.

I am going to go back to the river bend soon, both in the morning and at sundown and get some shots from the exact same vantage and see if I can do any better. Will post.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Joe Diffie - Movin' Train

Perfect Storm

"Tis the times' plague, when madmen lead the blind." William Shakespeare - King Lear Act 4, scene 1

I got the first call around noon yesterday A friend who is in a similar but slightly different line of trade, with some points of tangency. "Do we still have a business?" he asked. I'm like, How can you ask me that question, how the hell do I know?  Got another similar call this morning. "What the heck are we going to do? How do we not go broke?"

I don't know. Cry, wail, bleat, scream, knock our heads against the wall might work for starters. You tell me, what are we going to do?"

Client called today, had consigned two paintings to me. I offered to buy them last month, we differed on a fair price, now he wants to take the deal but the old offer is of course, now off the table. Because pretty much everybody I know is burning through their savings and what the farmers called their seed corn at an incredible pace. Me included.

I have an outstanding bill swirling around me that could literally cause me to hurl and lose my lunch in a heartbeat if I gave it more than a second's thought. who is still conducting business today? Who in the hell is not worried financially right now? Some one with damn sure more money and faith than I have, I tell you. What's a poor working stiff to do?

So you know what? I'm not thinking about it, especially on a weekend and especially only two weeks or so into our corona virus, shelter in place and lockdown. There is a time in our lives when you have to sit back and let it all unfold and just surrender. There is not a damn thing we can do about our financial circumstances at the moment and there is no point getting sick over it. Let us give it another week, then get sick over it.

At last count there were approximately 327 million human beings in the United States and they are pretty much all going through the same crap. And with an epidemic that is forecast to take upwards of 200k innocent souls and is not supposed to reach any kind of apex until late April, at least in California, the fireworks may just be starting.

So banish the word security from your vocabulary, it is so 2019. Unless you are one of those rare souls I read about in the paper this morning rich enough to rent out hermetically sealed castles with robot waiters in Ireland or Switzerland, the perfect storm has hit and you better be thinking defensively instead. How about refitting your Mad Max thunder cruiser and polishing the Ben Hur vehicle spikes? Buy war paint.

Hide a few eggs, baking power and tranquilizers, if you are lucky enough to find them, in your safe (currency and precious metals having gone into the toilet.) Sharpen some sticks. Be prepared to defend your home, transportable yurt or the park bench you are now claiming as home by force, prescriptive right and eminent domain if necessary.

This whole descent into thunder dome armageddon has really shown the strength of federalism in this country. A President not willing to give medical equipment to certain governors until they kiss his ass, saying it's not even his job to help the states. Who encourages states to bid against each other. Who tells manufacturers not to sell to certain states. Who bids against those same states for needed equipment and says that the Federal government is not a shipping clerk.  Obviously he's not. He delivered 170 broken ventilators to California yesterday, a big Trumpian fuck you. And Didouche D'Souza asking why the President should help the mean old blue states at all?

Rhode Island doing door to door searches looking for New Yorkers, Florida sealing off both the New Yorkers and the Louisianans. Hawaii shutting its doors. I don't blame the states for having no faith in Washington right now, this is a state's rights wet dream, with a President who says he won't help anyone who isn't nice to him. What use is it to even have a federal government?

It is clearly every man for himself, every state for itself and any national apparatus that we may have thought we had to guard against such a calamitous event was either grossly incompetent or clearly outgunned. Or more probably disabled by a bean counting toadie in some cost cutting move.

Did you ever think it could become this fractured and savage? Or have we been deluded, has our national comfort and security been a ruse this entire time? The feeling that the Federal government we pay taxes to would have more responsibility than this one evidently thinks it does when the shit hits the fan. Because it all feels like it is hanging from a very fine thread right now.

So what do we do? Fiddle? Toast marshmallows? I guess we wait, prepare as best we can, keep an adequate social distance and deal with the after effects when the storm has passed. No point worrying now. Have to let it ride.

Buteo springs

Sunday confession

I wish all of my fellow Americans and fellow citizens of the world the best of Sundays. We always said that we humans would might band together if the alien monster came down from Mars to wipe us out. Funny that the thing that finally got us all confronting the same malady at the same time was a tiny home grown microbe. Band together, we shall see...

I sent out a pretty snarky query the other night regarding the minister doofus in Louisiana who was telling people to come worship with him, at this awful time, in fact sending out a large number of buses so the plus thousand number of worshipers could attend together. My comment was nasty even by my usual standards.

But I also do honestly realize that the great majority of Christians are not idiots like this guy, that as agnostic as I am, I do feel that there is a collective power in at least the mechanism of prayer, to whatever deity you may choose to worship and in whatever manner. And most religious people, of any persuasion, are not congregating today, most of them are as rational as the rest of us, whatever that means, for better or for worse.

I have a bad habit of visiting the sins of the few on the many, it makes for an easy, lazy argument to pick on the outlying dolts. I got a letter from a great Christian friend the other day that simply said; we are not robots.

Very succinct, four words. He is of course right, not every person of faith is a brainless idiot. I know that. And I must say that the majority of my close Christian friends are far more tolerant than I am. After all, they put up with me. And my profanity. We don't always agree politically but it doesn't mean we have to be completely divided.

So let me just say, if you are spending this Sunday in intense prayer, thank you and have at it. We need all hands on every available oar and I am sure that prayer won't hurt right now. In fact it might help. Bless you all.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Tom Tomorrow

...the wheels have stopped

alternate take

Lou Orrantia

I was bummed to read that my old bud and boss Luis "Lou" Orrantia recently passed away. Lou was one of the most important teachers and mentors I have ever had in my life.

My father, Amos Sommers, had a long career building houses in San Diego. He started with American Housing Guild in the early fifties. His own company, Sommers Development, built for many income levels, from modest single family FHA homes to some of the nicest neighborhoods in San Diego, from Alvarado Estates to Del Cerro Highlands.

My dad's first superintendent was a man named Cliff Hitt. Second was a man named Roger Soper. Both of these guys were very competent, very tough men, very good at what they did.

The super built the houses, my dad got them approved and secured financing. He used the great architect Dale Naegle for conceptual architectural plans and Bob Young Engineering and Alvarado Engineering for civil engineering and design work, respectively. Lou worked for Alvarado and when Roger left, my father hired Lou as a Vice President / Project manager and he became responsible for construction. They were a very good team and had a very successful operation. They built a lot of good projects together, fought a lot of wars.

Lou was a legitimate artist as a designer, a very talented man. A big man, a star baseball player at San Diego High in the 1950's. Knew construction and design inside and out. Great draftsman. He forged wonderful relationships with our sub contractors. A great boss who I respected very much.

I came in as a young laborer and then became an assistant superintendent and finally a project manager. Lou taught me everything I knew and put up with a lot of crap from me at times. I was not in the best place as a human being back then and he treated me like a son and tried to direct me to the proper road. I just can't begin to tell you what he meant to me, for a big stretch of my life almost a second father. We played racketball, we drank together, told dirty jokes, he showed me what it meant to be a man in some ways. Turned me on to menudo, to good tamales. He was a good man, a good father, good husband and a good catholic.

At some point things went south on a big project and my dad and Lou severed their relationship. I had to pick up the pieces and it was a very tough time. Last I heard Lou was working for Caster and then building stuff in Reno. I tried often to find contact info for him but never could. Because he meant a lot to me and I wanted to rekindle our relationship.

Saw his name in the paper and had to say something. All of my love and condolences to his family.Would love to tell Buzz and Amos but they are gone now too.

Robby's Garden

Red tailed primer

Since we are only weeks away from having little red tailed hawk babies in the new nest, perhaps we should brush up a little on our knowledge of the species.

Red tailed hawks (buteo jamaicencis) normally mate for life. The gestation period for the eggs is between 28 and 40 days. I figure our current clutch has been set on for about 18 days at this point. The number of eggs is usually between one and four but I have personally never seen more than three young hatchlings in my long viewing experience and it is usually two. I think there is an innate genetic "knowledge" about how many birds can be successfully sustained by the habitat. Eggs are laid every two to three days and the final group is called a "clutch." First laid, first hatched. Young birds are called an "eyass." Pipping is what happens when the young chick first breaks out of its shell. Female raptors of all kinds tend to be larger than males, including this species. Red tailed hawks start breeding when they are around three years of age, the time it takes for the species to reach maturity. The hawks get their eponymous red tail after their second year. It takes about two weeks for the chicks to sit up in the nest, about four weeks to stretch their wings and exercise. The development of the necessary muscles and wings for flying is called fledging. More on that and other hawk stuff here. They usually leave the nest after around six weeks, at which point the young start to capture their own prey. The parents will continue to supplement their diet for several weeks. The oldest known wild red tailed was found to be near or over thirty years of age. In my experience, at least locally, red tailed tend to favor sycamores for their nests while red shouldered like eucalyptus and conifers.Unlike Coopers hawks and red shouldered hawks, red tailed tend to only eat mammals, reptiles and amphibians, so you don't see them at your feeder.
The young birds like to hang out on relatively low dead branches and structure initially. They often go through a very geeky period while losing their white baby feathers. When they leave the nest, they are usually gone forever. Red tailed hawks come in a variety of color patterns or "morphs" and are segregated into fourteen separate subspecies. The western population is mostly what is termed B.J. calurus and comes in a light, dark or an intermediate shade called rufous. Calarus is further divided into two sub species, Canadian or Northern Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis abieticolus) and Saint Lucas Red-tail (Buteo jamaicensis lucasanus) a disputed species from Baja first taken and described in 1859.

As I am sure you can tell, I am getting excited about the prospect of new chicks!

Latest shots

I'm really not quite sure why I am attracted to birds? I have been drawing and photographing them since I was a young child.

Never particularly liked owning them, honestly find them a bit smelly in the house and have never forged warm reciprocal emotive relations with them, although we had a parrot and a macaw as a kid.

I believe it is honestly the artist in me, their beautiful feather symmetry and gorgeous neck set itches some compositional lobe in my brain that obviously needs scratching. And I love how their feathers diffuse sunlight, if viewed at the proper angle.

I found a greater egret rookery in Del Mar yesterday. It is nesting time and all hands were on deck.

I sat on a bench and watched the huge beauties do their work.

Such elegance of form!

Earlier I had been scouting around the Del Mar Public Works building for the yellow crowned night herons that I heard were there but I unfortunately couldn't find one. Flew the coop.

I did find one black crowned night heron but he was sleeping high in a tree and didn't look particularly thrilled that I had woke him up from his nap. Sorry!

As I said yesterday, it wasn't a particularly noteworthy day, photographically speaking, didn't ever put on the better lens, which I had in the boot. Was content to enjoy myself and take it all in.

Liked watching the long billed curlew strut and fly around, another pretty bird that I don't see all the time, not being much of an ocean shorebird guy.

A nice full display.

I watched the nest building for a while longer. My god this is so much better than being cooped up inside with the news or an electronic instrument.

Not much more to report. Saw a red tailed on a wire on the way home in a mondrian like composition. Have a lot on my mind that will have to wait, principally the similarity between climate deniers and covid 19 deniers. Have this image of the latter confronting the reaper with the scythe and trying to tell him with last breath that it is really no worse than the flu. Which I might add, we currently have a vaccine for.

On my way in this morning I noticed a coyote digging for something off the roadside in the wet dew and the high grass. He was largely unconcerned with me. I rolled down the passenger side window and took a couple shots through the car. The iso was very high, 5000. Noisy, not perfect. But he was certainly a pretty guy. We'll take it.

Neighbor Todd came face to face with a beautiful grayish colored bobcat the other day. He said the beautiful spotted cat arched his back and hissed at him, then took off. Tail like a deer, he said. Rumour has it there is a mom and two kittens around his neck of our woods. Hope I get to see another one soon. But I do have an idea for a photograph I am going to take tomorrow, weather permitting. Need to bring one more piece of equipment home,

Friday, March 27, 2020

Poop talk

"Controlling cleanliness around bowel movements is the earliest way the child asserts control. The fact that we are all now losing control creates a regressive push to a very early time. So, I guess that translates in the unconscious to 'If I have a lifelong supply of toilet paper, I'll never be out of control, never be a helpless, dirty child again.'"
Andrea Greenman, President of the Contemporary Freudian Society

Sweet Paisan

I loved the story in USA Today about the doughnut shop in Rochester, New York making doughnuts with the likeness of National Infectious Disease director, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Donut Delight, which has been operating since 1958, is currently sold out of the confections, which have gone viral nationally. (Should I say an immunologist's cupcakes have gone viral?)

Shawn Dowd - Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
They have such an early Americana feel to them, really cool, I like the red and blue sprinkles. Very old timey.

Dr. Fauci and Governor Cuomo are currently polling higher nationally than anybody else in this crisis and Italian Americans are rightfully proud of him, as are the rest of us Americans.

The full dinner pail was a McKinley campaign slogan in 1896 and 1900

From the owner:
“He is calm, knowledgeable and he’s comforting during a time when our country needs it. He is inspiring to listen to. He is one of America’s heroes during this challenging time. Plus, he is a Paisano! We wanted to honor a great Italian American who is on the front lines in fighting this pandemic.” Salvator Fantauzzo
I think all Americans are grateful that Dr. Fauci is there, one of the few apparent adults in the room. Where would we be right now without him?

I guess he got into it with Trump today regarding the Malaria drug. Hope he manages to stick around. What a great cupcake! I would buy one.

And a well meaning copycat in Wisconsin is already making Fauci cookies. More the merrier. We need a hero right now.

Be well

Cardiff Kook - Hayne Palmour IV - UT
In this time of mortal crisis people have to be careful not to prematurely forecast their imminent demise. It can get quite embarrassing when the end doesn't go exactly according to plan.

Leslie has a friend on Facebook right now who is facing a bit of a quandary, having initially cried wolf on the Covid thing and now too sheepish to fess up and admit that the test results came in and that she is currently copacetic. Curtain calls are always difficult.

I should know. I have written my own eulogy dozens of times. But life has this way of rising up and thwarting the best laid of exits. So we have to be smart and sparing about such things. People quickly tire of the drama. So die already.

I have been largely in isolation this last week with a couple of minor pops into town for provisions. Had a good friend get too close and I freaked out yesterday, actually got myself sick with imagined worry. Everybody, friend or enemy, is under scrutiny these days as a potential host and carrier.

I went down to the medical center this morning for a cancer immunotherapy treatment. Gloves, masks, wipes and purel ready. Don't touch anything! Place was devoid of people, many lights were off, waiting room was empty. I got whisked into a room and a nurse I had never seen before asked me to take a urine test.

She came back a few minutes later and asked me if I was feeling okay? Fever, tired, pee smelling funny? Cough? I asked her what was up and she gave me "the look" and said that we had had a dip, whatever that means. "Wait here, I am going to get the doctor."

Now I am starting to plotz a little bit. A dip? The doctor came in and explained that I had an infection of some sort. It will take approximately five days to culture to understand its true nature, she prescribed some antibiotics. I'm guessing probably no big deal. But no chemo or immunotherapy for me this week, whatever I was brewing inside would kill any potential benefit.

Now I have had uti's before and hope that this is maybe your standard garden variety urinary infection. Which I hope that it is, not having a ready date scheduled for a personal swansong.

Because there is a lot of nasty shit lurking around this world these days, as I am sure you have heard, and as I have said before, I seem to have a target on my back for such things. So shoot me, I'm either oversensitive or paranoid. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

In any case, I am going to take my medicine and continue to lie low. Wait for further instruction. Try not to let my mind wander too much. Because it doesn't take much for this fertile imagination to start wondering what is up?

I drove over to Bread & Cie afterwards so that they could make good on the seeded corn rye they accidentally shorted me two weeks ago. And noticed that there was a half empty (half full?) catheter laying in the doorway.

I informed them when I walked inside that some awful miscreant had dumped his piss bag outside the door. Hardly sanitary.

Barely ruffled a feather, I don't think they pay them enough to jump up and deal with the detritus that must be present down there off Washington in Hillcrest on a daily basis. It was still laying there when I left. Now we Fallbrookians tend to frown on leaving our biological hazards around in front of our shops but we are admittedly a strange bunch.

Afterwards I drove to Del Mar and birded the area near the Pubic Works building, the San Dieguito River and the San Elijo Lagoon. Nothing special but nice to be out in the cool ocean air with the birds. Will see if I captured or caught anything notable tomorrow. And in about five days.

People, not pawns

I'm not wild about the governments in either Iran or Venezuela. But I have no hatred for their people. And so I applaud Senator Chris Murphy for his profile in courage, speaking out against sanctions against these beleaguered countries during this time of global pandemic. Iran has over 30,000 cases of Covid - 19. While the incidence numbers right now in Venezuela are relatively small at present, doctors and humanitarians there fear the worst. The Venezuelans and Iranians, like much of the rest of the world, are undergoing a medical crisis right now and our sanctions are making it extremely hard for medical aid to get through.
“Helping these nations save lives during this crisis is the right thing to do from a moral perspective, but it is also the right thing to do from a national security perspective,” Murphy wrote in the letter sent Thursday to Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “By allowing our sanctions to contribute to the exceptional pain and suffering brought about by the coronavirus outbreaks in both nations, we play into the anti-Americanism that is at the heart of both regimes’ hold on power.” The letter was co-signed by several Senate Democrats, including Chris Van Hollen, Tim Kaine, and Patrick Leahy.
Don't punish the people right now for the sins of dictators. Let's not play politics with their lives. Murphy wrote an excellent opinion in the Washington Post on the subject of Venezuela in January. Today he wrote on Twitter that it hurts both our national security and our moral standing when our sanction's policy results in innocent people dying. I agree.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Louie Shelton

I hadn't even heard of Louie Shelton until very recently. I discovered him on YouTube while listening to Monkees music. He is the guy really playing when Nesmith is supposed to be playing. It is said that this Wrecking Crew member is on more hit singles than any other guitar player in the world. According to Wikipedia these include Marvin GayeSimon and GarfunkelStevie WonderBoz ScaggsGladys Knight & the Pipsthe Jackson 5Neil DiamondJohn LennonBarbra Streisandthe Carpentersthe Mamas & the PapasGlen CampbellElla Fitzgeraldthe Partridge FamilyJames BrownDiana RossOtis SpannWhitney HoustonJoe CockerKenny RogersHenry ManciniDave GrusinQuincy JonesLalo Schifrin and Victor Wooten. He played the guitar solo on Lionel Richie's hit "Hello" and Boz Scaggs "Lowdown."

An incredibly fluid and talented player. Very humble. Check out more of his stuff. Guy can play it all.

J.H. update

I posted a coronavirus fact sheet an hour or two ago, supposedly from an infectious disease doctor at Johns Hopkins, but have since taken it down. Although all of the facts seemed helpful and accurate, I see that it has recently been on Facebook in the Philippines and need to get additional corroboration before I let it run.  Don't trust anything. It made a slightly inaccurate statement regarding protein and DNA that got me wondering about it. If it turns out to be square I will certainly repost. I apologize for not previously fact checking it. It has not shown up on SNOPES although a really bad phony Johns Hopkins letter did. This is the second time in the month that I receive something from a friend of a friend that might prove to be crap. Please do not send me things written by friends or friends of friends unless you actually know them. We shall remain vigilant.

Doug works at a hospital in New York. He recommends we watch this video from a very knowledgeable Covid - 19 Doctor there, David Price. It is long but I learned so much from it and so will you. Give it a listen. On empowering and protecting your families. Dispels many myths, will make you feel better.

Fox host says she knows people are dying but the bigger problem is that she can't get her nails done.

Obviously this Corona denier's faith wasn't strong enough. Or as Leslie said, "Hey, do you believe it yet?"

Thursday hot links

Lots of interesting things coming across my email today. I could editorialize more of course but I don't think it is really necessary. Read, process or even discard at your convenience and according to your own chosen personal political and/or religious beliefs.


but please note, they're working from home.

DHS wound down pandemic models before coronavirus struck

Juliette Kayyem, a senior DHS official in the Obama administration, praised the quality of the NISAC reports she received when she was at the department, and criticized DHS for being “singularly focused on border enforcement” under Trump at the expense of properly planning for other threats, like a pandemic.
“We should not be surprised that a department that has for the last 3½ years viewed itself solely as a border enforcement agency seems ill-equipped to address a much greater threat to the homeland,” she said.

British epidemiologist revises projected virus toll in a good direction.

Good news. U.K. deaths could be under 20k or less.

No, the US has not tested more people in 8 days than South Korea did in 8 weeks

That can't be true. The President just said that we did.

G-7 failed to agree on statement after U.S. insisted on calling coronavirus outbreak ‘Wuhan virus’

We seem to pick unnecessary fights whenever we can. Now I have been bagging on China for years, the Uigher imprisonment, the totalitarian crimes, Prison labor, the South China Sea expansion, Trump loved the guy because they were a hole card with the North koreans and they bought so much American product. Now we get sore at them. So reactive and reflexive we are. Same assholes they have always been. 

Hello, Mr. Darwin?

EPA suspends environmental laws during virus outbreak.

Oh that makes a lot of sense.

the laws must change

trailer, hops field

The day was July 29, 2012. Dusk, obviously. The setting is the old hops field at the end of the road, with Brian's old busted up trailer as a focal point. The sky was the eeriest thing I can ever remember in the valley, almost a cumulus mammatus formation with a lot of strange glow. Twilight zone.

I was using an antiquated lens and a low res camera. I notice now that my settings are ƒ4 at 1/60th iso 400, which leads me to think that I was probably on an automatic setting. I would never dial in something like that today and have no idea why I picked ƒ4 even back then?

There was something about the whole tableau that was definitely spooky and foreboding. A palpable apprehension. Hope it still comes across.

Gaseous news from uranus.

Bruce Hall thinks I am juvenile. And he's right. But this still might be my favorite headline of the week. And it's not like I am making it up. From Space.
Buried inside data that NASA's iconic Voyager 2 spacecraft gathered at Uranus more than 30 years ago is the signature of a massive bubble that may have stolen a blob of the planet's gassy atmosphere.That's according to scientists who analyzed archived Voyager 2 observations of the magnetic field around Uranus. 

Nobody light a match. And whoever named the damn planet in the first place should have known what was coming.

In somewhat more mature and also very good news, James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner man from England, invented a ventilator in ten days that is now going into production. Kudos to him.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Tore my mind on a jagged sky...

The drummer is the great, late Mickey Jones, who had a notable career, first with Trini Lopez and then playing with Dylan and the Band on the 1966 tour after Levon Helm quit. Dylan loved his drumming. Later he became a very successful actor. The rest of the band were former members of the New Christy Minstrels, as was Rogers, who was a pretty competent bass and double bass player. Jimi Hendrix once remarked that this was one of his favorite songs. Glen Campbell played the lead guitar solo on the original single. Terry Williams plays the excellent telecaster licks here. The song was written by Mickey Newberry in 1967 and is supposed to be a warning about the dangers of taking LSD. Rogers older brother was the psychedelic record producer Lelan Rogers, who worked with International Artists and signed and produced such notable Texas bands as the 13th floor elevators, Red Krayola and Bubble Puppy. He also worked with the Texas blues artist Lightnin' Hopkins, producing the record Free Form Patterns.

I am a friend of Bill W.

I got this note from my good friend Bill this evening, a shopkeeper in the Bay Area.

When I was a little boy in northern Minnesota my dads' family was salt of the earth. My grandfather worked in the iron mines and grandma raised 6 kids in a home with no indoor plumbing. There was a pump in the kitchen to draw water for cooking and bathing. Hot water was heated on a wood stove.

       The out house was about 100 yards away. It was a 2 seater to accommodate emergencies. The toilet paper was a Sears Roebuck catalog. In the winter it was often 20 below zero (not wind chill but actual temperature displayed on thermometer.) You made sure you had to go before you committed. 

      Thankfully a lot has changed many times over since then. One of the changes I faced was competing against an internet which was given tax free status for years at the expense of brick and mortar stores. 

     So now there's no toilet paper.... all I can say is.... feel free to wipe your virtual ass with your virtual catalog. 

Bill W.

Greasy Heart

Wednesday waxing

Many of us are starting to go nuts with this homebound thing. I'm sure that it is even worse for those of you with children. After over thirty years together, both my wife and I will tell you that we don't do so well with 24/7 proximity. We now stay out of each other's way as much as possible. She went into town today for a while, I stayed home. And I managed to stay away from the refrigerator, a personal achievement. Many of us are spending way too much time both eating and on our electronic instruments, blogging, facebooking, texting, tweeting, whatever, like teenagers. I overslept this morning, then felt very blase. I decided to wash my hair with my wife's clarifying shampoo but don't think I achieved any additional understanding whatsoever. I finally threw my hands up this afternoon and decided to go take a hike down on the river. My body was rebelling from its slothful indolence, crying for movement. Felt so great to get outside, even if it was cloudy and cool. I saw a trail yesterday when I was walking and footnoted it for future travel. Went back today and found a whole new piece of river. Which I plan on going back and photographing tomorrow if the weather holds. You see, after having lived next to one for three decades, I can tell you that a river's shape and configuration basically changes with every strong rain. Every year it's a different river. I had a nice little dimestore epiphany while I was walking as well, that this global and national timeout was a perfect opportunity for us all to work on our personal "stuff." Great time to try to get your shit together so that's what I'm trying to do. Didn't see another soul. Was a big day for the blog, several thousand new visitors. Crooks and Liars picked me up on their Mike's Blog Round Up, the second time this month but this is the first time ever that I didn't submit a blogpost, they found it on their own, reading me. Imagine? I really appreciate it. I have received three comments from the anonymous angry guy that I subsequently deleted, who says that I am a fake and feels chapped that I require that he or she sign their comments. Can't please everybody, Ken is wondering if I have sufficient ammunition, I think I do. Worked out deals with both mortgage companies, have tried to be responsible. It will really help. Leslie made an interesting dinner, a Sri lankan coconut cashew chicken with broccoli and jasmine rice. She loves that sort of thing, I am okay with it it was good.Tell me, what is the weirdest thing you have found yourself eating while you have been stuck at home? I am craving cheesecake again. Must find some soon. We are totally covered except for cheesecake and I would do Sara Lee at this point if forced to. After all, these are difficult times. The world may now require another psychedelic explosion, a blowout to the psychic cobwebs. As a red blooded patriot, if called, even though it's been many years, I shall do my best to do my part. Like riding a bike...
I have been listening to a lot of Jefferson Airplane music lately. Some people think they are just an outdated sixties anachronism but I love both their music and political message which may just be coming into its own fifty years into the future. One of the more overtly political and revolutionary bands, quite courageous, really. Kantner's early lyrics painted a prescient picture of a blows against the empire acid tinged dystopia that predated the cyberpunk ethos of novelists Gibson and Sterling by a good twenty years, not to mention the current reality. Wonder what Paul would have to say about today's goings on? I bet plenty and he wouldn't be preaching that we need to get the machine back up and running, no matter what the cost in human life. The late Marty Balin got sore and left the band because he had such a high range everybody thought Grace was singing and it was often actually him and he wasn't getting enough credit, they had such beautiful harmonies together, I also love Paul's off key voice and I think I like Jorma's electric playing with the Airplane even better than his Hot Tuna stuff. Unappreciated but he had a unique string attack like nobody else. Nice and jangly. Now so many of the members have left us. Spencer, Marty, Paul, Signe, Skip, Joey, Papa John. A smart, powerful band. Maybe the world is finally ready for them. If it's okay for you to still listen to that Chopin guy I can still listen to the Airplane. Try it. You'll laugh so hard you'll crack the walls.

Essential services

Many governors and mayors, including my own governor, have shut down all but "essential businesses" during the Corona virus crisis. While states, cities and counties are free to make their own determination of what is deemed essential, the Department of Homeland Security has released its own determination which can be found here.

My county has issued these rather loose guidelines for what is deemed essential, including:

  • Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores
  • Restaurants for take-out, delivery or drive-through
  • Pharmacies
  • Banks
  • Laundromats/laundry
  • Hardware/home improvement stores

What has not been deemed essential? :

  • Dine-in restaurants
  • Bars and nightclubs.
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Hair and nail salons
  • Entertainment venues
  • Public events and gatherings

Now that has not deterred the gym on the corner from being open, I've noticed a bunch of cars there every day. Maybe they are practicing the utmost caution in social distancing? Who knows? And there are quite a few other shops in my little burg that obviously don't feel that the rules apply to them. Need a car radio installed? Little streak of anarchy in Fallbrook. No one tells us what to do, apparently.

It looks like it is a nationwide problem. You know how you become an essential business? I guess you declare yourself one, read this article at today's Huff Post. You think that California Closets provides critical essential services? Well, it appears they do. Ditto JoAnn Fabrics, Guitar Center, Dillards, GameStop, Carvana and Michael's Arts and Crafts Store. If mom doesn't get her silk flowers the country will surely fall apart. People are not obeying the directive or not the spirit of the order in any case. Modern day carpetbaggers.

And I am sure we are all getting bombarded with the same type of opportunistic email messages, from people that pretend to know and care about you but really just want to sell you something:
Covis 19 virus alert - We at Johnson's Widgets have the greatest concern for you and your family's health during this time of national pandemic. So please know that if you order a gross of said useless thigamjigs now, for only $9.99, we will make sure that they are shipped to your door with the utmost of care for your hygiene and personal safety. But you must buy now. Because we care.
The Covid virus is obviously just an entreaty for a sales pitch for some enterprising merchants. Getting a lot of daily messages about art offerings from big art concerns like Heather James. And lots of creditors assuring me that I can still pay my bills online. Last thing anyone wants to do right now is buy expensive art or redo their closets. Or pay bills. People need to back off. You can start churning again in a couple weeks, after we have killed off all the old people.

BigDave told me about this interesting link, the Kinsa thermometer health fever map. Smart thermometers are getting their results mapped nationally. While not exclusively showing Covid 19, this gives you a very good idea where illness cluster problems are appearing, New Your, New Jersey, Michigan, Florida, New Mexico, Louisiana and Colorado are all trending.

I was there on 10/31/91, when Ken Kesey uttered these prophetic words that always bear remembering and repeating.
Don't forget that in any given situation, there will always be more stupid people around than smart ones.

Smartest man in the USA

A plane with 5 passengers on board: Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, The Pope and a 10-year-old schoolboy. The plane is about to crash and there are only 4 parachutes. 
Trump says I need one: "I’m the smartest man in the USA and am needed to make America great again." Takes one and jumps. 
Johnson says, ‘I’m needed to sort out Britain’. He takes one and jumps. 
The Pope says, ‘I need one as the world needs the Catholic Church.’ He takes one and jumps. 
Angela says to the ten year old: "You can have the last parachute. I've lived my life, yours is only just starting." 
The 10-year-old replies: "Don’t worry, there are 2 parachutes left. The smartest man in the USA just took my school bag.”

*thanks to Bob DeGoff for sending this one over.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

"I'd rather have my country die for me."

I learned a new word today in the Reader. They were interviewing big crowds of millennials down in O.B., carrying on as if nothing was happening, who now apparently refer to themselves as Yolos, as in You only live once.

Cheap vacation

I know that I promised you a Hawaiian vacation but I'm just not feeling it right now. I think I would prefer to stay in the heartland, closer to where the deer and the antelope play.

Hope you won't mind revisiting Yellowstone and the Tetons and the surrounding area instead. Places I really want to visit again, hopefully off season. We can go look at pretty sunsets some other time when I'm in the mood. You'll save on sunscreen.

who doesn't love Morning Glory pool?
As always, when you are done reading I ask that you click on a picture to view them all fullscreen. And pick up your trash. Some of the early shots are really low res but who cares?

Ken and I were really lucky to shoot pictures of this cub and her mom. We had been looking for grizzly bears for several days and Pat had gone off to do his own thing.

Her name was Snow. Leslie and I saw her and her mother Raspberry eighteen months earlier when she was very young. Ken and I ran into them again on the last trip.

My photo partner has a thing for pronghorn, antilocapra americana. After finding this beautiful male at the National Elk Refuge, I can see why.

I wrote about the species here on the blast quite a few years ago.

The problem with Oxbow Bend is that when the light hits the aspens just right, you would swear that the colors were fake.

There is clear and then there is the clarity you might find if you are lucky on an icy morning at Schwabacher's Landing.

I have never processed this particular shot of the lovely red fox Leslie and I saw by Yellowstone Lake. Not sure why, never looked at it until just now.

But how could I ever forget its beauty?

I am reprocessing all of these shots. I am smarter and better at what I do now than when I took them.

This shot of Mammoth Springs has always been a favorite, specifically the rosy hue of the mineral deposits on the scalloped shelves. Shot kind of reminds me of a Thomas Moran painting, especially when I goose it up, which I have not done here.

Wind in the willows plays tea for two.

Think I can ever forget making the acquaintance of this marmot? I think not...

 a badger wandered by one afternoon in the Lamar Valley
A baby black bear cub trying to figure it all out.

Hope you enjoyed the short trip!

Who knows where we might land next?