Fear Feeding

Sunday’s aborted night-time trail adventure was rescheduled for last night, so armed with the camera and a storm-free sky overhead, I headed off to meet Jax and her little daughters for eight.

It was right around sunset as we arrived at the trail so the brief light from a lovely sky was soon no more than a memory as we shuffled ahead through near-complete darkness.

There was a rising moon but its light was muffled by some clouds that it chose to stay behind. So we quickly became reliant on the flashlights that the ladies had.

For my part, I had a flashlight in my pocket but was planning on using the camera flash unit to capture anything that needed to be photographed.

While that initially worked, after just four or five flashes for some reason it became non-functional and nothing more than a dead-weight mounted on top of the camera. I haven’t figured out why, just yet. But will later. I had just put new batteries into it, so it can’t be that.

In any event, for the rest of the trail I relied on the lights of my co-adventurers or of the one in my pocket. It turned out to be a badly-handicapped photo-journey, between the lighting inconsistencies and my own inabilities to steady a very heavy camera assembly in my right hand, lighting the subject with my left, and relying on the auto-focus to be able to figure out what I am trying to shoot. I know that was an overly long sentence … sorry! But there was a lot going on.

The end results were pretty poor and all the poor shots have been duly buried, never to see the light of day again. But the images that have made it onto the end of this blog are decent enough to make someone think that I knew what I was doing.

Apparently, I don’t.

But as much as images are a big part of my life story these days, they were truly a secondary element to what was really happening last night. Eagle-eyed Jax and her two wing-ladies opened up a world of detail for me that I would surely have missed, had I been there on my own.

There were bats, toads, spiders, beetles, moths, and crickets … all setting about their nocturnal business. But for me, at least, the main attraction was the awesome collection of stick insects that worked their way across the tall grasses and shrubs.

I would never have even seen one, yet there must have been at least ten pointed out for me to study and shoot. These are amazing and such gentle little creatures … I just wish my images could have done them justice.

My senses were completely satiated by the time we returned to the start of the trail and I needed not another victory to make this night one for the memory-bank. Yet, Jax managed to find a little green preying mantis clinging to some grasses off the trail and so I got a couple of decent shots of him too.

They are all there for you at the end of the blog. I hope you enjoy.

I was in such good company, so I wasn’t fearful on this little adventure. But normally the thought of walking in near-total darkness in a habitat like this might have made me a little nervous. Stepping on living creatures and face-planting into spider-webs are just a couple of reasons, I guess.

But last night I trailed five or ten yards behind the ladies for much of the journey and there was no such worry.

Anastasia and Kallista are 7 and 5 respectively and they walked forward unabashedly but carefully. In fact, it is the “carefully” part that really gave me the idea for my blog today.

They have been brought up in a household that not only respects nature, but loves it. There is no fear regardless of what creatures they might encounter (although one of them did say she hoped we didn’t come across any wolves) and their willingness to softly pick up and love even the most humble of creature was truly inspiring.

There were discussions about what our favorite insects might be or animal might be and there wasn’t a single “eww” factor as they both had such a nature-harmonious character that they recognized the role of all. Which is really quite remarkable for such young minds.

They have obviously been nurtured into this mindset by a mom and dad that are themselves at one with the world we live in. And it was wonderful to witness up close and so personal. If I had any eww feelings at all, they would have been shed quickly out of a feeling of ridiculousness, trust me.

And I realized something last night. Something that these two young ladies have, that many of us do not.

By having no eww feeling and by having an appreciative understanding of the roles of each creature in the circle, they have developed a respect and love that makes them excellent guardians of their natural environment.

There is no possibility that some creature might be crushed, hurt, or even disparaged. Certainly not by these little ladies.

All of us start off in the world with a clean-slate when it comes to interaction with the world around us. When we establish a fear, or an eww factor in how we respond to any creature, it changes how we relate to that creature.

When we develop a superiority feeling over any creature, we become hunters or abusers. Their feelings or well-being become collateral damage in how we run our lives.

Children absorb their fears and phobias from the environment we create for them. We feed these fears by reinforcing stereo types like killer sharks, killer whales, and even killer bees.

When they see us fish or hunt, they immediately understand that prey are lesser beings than us.

Bonding time between father and son where fishing or hunting is involved establishes an ingrained disrespect for these “lesser” creatures. This act of cruelty becomes associated within their minds as a good memory of time with their dad. And, as they likely revere their own father, they would outrightly reject any such argument as the one I am making.

Footnote: Sport preying on creatures is very difference from hunting or fishing for sustenance. And I honestly see nothing wrong with that. But when the killing of another creature is done for any reason other than survival and sustenance, then I have a big problem. Sorry.

Oh wait. No. I am not sorry.

When we grow our children with a real view of the planet we live on and how each creature plays a role…

When we teach each child that regardless of whether the creature in front of them is a gorgeous little puppy or a strange looking invertebrate, they are equal in the eyes of mother nature and deserve our love and respect…

When we teach our children that our interactions with the world around us should be done on a level playing field of respect and awareness…

… that’s when the world will begin to find a balance and humans will no longer be a scourge or parasite, but a genuine team-member within a flourishing world.

For just a while last night, it seemed that I lived in such a world. Yes there were still stories of Barbies and magical caves, but there was a deeper story that played out in front of me and it gave me hope that maybe future generations will give this whole tale a happy ending.

… just a thought.

Peripheral Vision

So, last night was supposed to be spent with Jax and her little ladies on a trail, checking out some night creatures and such. But when we got there the skies above, which had been darkening, began to let loose the heavens.

Torrential rains and loud thunder claps with sharp and cutting lightning.

It all got a bit too scary for the two young ladies, so we called it a night before we had even set foot one on the trail. In truth, we sat there in the car for about fifteen minutes hoping it would pass, but it became obvious that even if it did move on, it was saturating the ground we hoped to be searching along.

So, I found myself back on the road heading home all too early. It wasn’t a failure. No time with Jax could ever be. But we agreed that a tactical retreat was the best move and we promised to return before school restarts.

As I was driving up route 39, the stormy skies were continuing to light up and the thought occurred to me that I should really try to catch some of the lightning.

The problem was that it is a narrow road heavily lined with trees and there really wasn’t a view of the sky that would have worked for me. For six miles it was going to be like that but I resolved to stop when the road hit route 60. I was pretty sure that the road opened up at that stage and all I needed was the rain to stop and the lightning to keep working its magic.

And I was right. There was a small parking lot right at the light where the Auto Zone is. So, I quickly parked and jumped out with the camera, slapped it on the tripod and stood there hopefully.

For the first few minutes, I thought I was too late. There was nothing happening and the skies just stayed dark.

But then for just about five or ten minutes, the skies gave a last hurrah and treated me to some flashes as the storm faded off to the distant west.

I wasn’t sure if I had captured anything and so the drive home was filled with anticipation.

I had only actually taken about fifteen shots, I found out as I went to load them onto the laptop when I sat impatiently back on the sofa.

The moment of truth was with me as I flipped through them and while some were nice, one made me stop and hold my breath. I have attached them at the end of this blog and the last one is thus far my favorite shot of the year.

In this blog I have included it in a cropped view because I suspect most people will view it by phone. The full one is destined for my calendar. But either way, there is so much right about this shot … I was just so happy.

I hope you enjoy.

The joy was still with me when I woke up this morning and I was delighted that I chose to give it a try. To make that stop. Even though the storm looked like it had run its course.

There was every possibility that my stop would yield nothing and on another day, it well might have.

But the whole notion of peripheral vision came into my mind and how no matter where we are heading or what we are aiming for, it is always right to keep half an eye on peripheral possibilities.

Not all the wins in life come from things we aim for. Sometimes they come from something incidental we just allowed to happen.

“Allowed to happen” by being open to the possibility.

And that is really the point of todays blog.

Life should indeed have a course, a plan … a direction that we are following and hopefully one that takes us on the journey we are hoping for.

But a truly successful journey involves leaving the blinkers off and taking in what is happening either side of us. Maybe occasionally even stopping and tasting a little something that is unplanned.

Being singularly focused can produce a certain type of success and some people choose that. They go for wealth or power, career or vocation. And these people often grab the headlines in apparent achievement.

But a life that is totally focused is very likely to be black and white, where success is callously measured and failure every bit as damning as success is rewarding.

No, the correct approach involves allowing a peripheral vision to add the colors of possibilities to our life tapestry.

How could I have known how the camera could enrich my life story, if I hadn’t picked one up twenty years ago. My education is electrical engineering. My expertise was in fiber optics. Yet, my camera opened up many worlds to my soul and broadened my understanding of life and the enjoyment of a less-focused journey.

And that is true for all of us. By allowing ourselves the latitude of slight diversion, we could discover a better path to our journey than the one we had planned.

Our journey is not an interstate designed to carry us to the end as fast and efficiently as possible. It is made up of many side roads and cross-roads. Each one with a view to the side that we are fools not to take in.

In the olden days of horse and carts, they would put blinkers onto the poor horses so that they could only see straight ahead and therefore not be distracted. They still do put blinkers on these poor animals in some situations, although I would strongly argue that it is cruel and inhumane to restrict the vision of any poor creature.

But who in their own mind would willingly go through their one life with blinkers? Yes they would see their own path and destination, but they would miss out on the real color of the one life that they are going to pass through.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that we have peripheral vision for a reason and it involves more than just our eyes.

… just a thought.


I left home yesterday evening full of optimism.

I was heading to a good friend’s house to help her do a quick set-up of her new Sony Alpha and as it was half-way in towards Tampa, I decided to combine it with a sunset shoot at Picnic Island.

The clouds looked ever-so promising high up in a beautiful blue sky and I was pretty confident in getting a good sunset based on all I knew.

Or should I say “based on all I thought I knew”.

Because after the quick stop enroute as I got back on the interstate heading into Tampa, the clouds had become much more threatening.

Gone were the soft puffy clouds that would float above the horizon and give me promise of orange and reds. They were replaced with intimidating and expansive light and dark grey clouds that threatened to swallow all before them and drop some wet-stuff in the process.

Undeterred, I continued the drive and found myself at a near-empty boat ramp and fishing pier with plenty of time for things to change in my favor.

It rained a little and the clouds somehow managed to find the one sweet-spot on the horizon that would create a near-total block of the sunset.

I mean, seriously!

There was lots of blue sky to the left and right but these mischievous gremlins decided Neville wasn’t going to have a sunset memory this evening.

I began to shoot anyway and waited in hope that there might be some lateral movement along the horizon as the sun made its final descent.

But my hope was in vain.

Just as it dropped through the final degree, the sun did manage to squeeze a tiny spray of color across the immediate clouds near the horizon.

So, I guess it wasn’t a total loss.

What am I saying … of course it wasn’t a total loss. Sometimes clouds try their utmost to hide what they think we want to see, but they forget their own beauty in the process. And that, my friends, is what I made the main subject of the evening.

There aren’t any Pulitzer prize-winning shots but I still think they were pretty enough to anchor the end of this blog. I hope you enjoy them.

Based on the lack of numbers there on the fishing dock last night, I am guessing that most people decided the evening wasn’t to their liking and stayed home on the sofa.

But I refused to let the clouds win and sought out success in spite of them.

And that is really was generated the thought for this little blog.

How spite can sometimes be a wonderful motivator, if we only listen to it occasionally.

As children we are told never to act out of spite and the word itself is given many negative reviews by those responsible for raising us.

We are called spiteful and such, as an insult and a put-down that is meant to reduce this emotion from our arsenal. In fact that word in itself is difficult to deliver in a positive way.

And yet we praise someone with phrases like “in spite of” or words like “despite” almost as if they are a negative to the word “spite”.

But they ignore that spite can be a real motivator and many times can be a driving force that takes our achievements to new heights.

“Girls can’t do that” is a centuries-old put-down that many “girls” have spitefully responded by doing just that.

Would they have achieved as good a result if they hadn’t been put down in such a manner? Who knows.

But what I do know is that there are many times where I have been motivated to succeed because someone expected me to fail. Proving someone wrong can infuse us with a drive and energy that would be difficult to conjure up entirely from within.

In fact, when people encourage us by telling us of course we can do something and then we can’t … well it just feels awful. Like we have let everyone down.

Humans rise best to a challenge and spite is a major ingredient to many a successful challenge. Never underestimate it.

Rather embrace it and harness the energy it can give you. Let the clouds pour across your horizon and let the rain fall on your shoulders. All they succeed in doing is making you look for new horizons and so what if you get a little damp in the process.

When life presents us with challenges and obstacles, they only serve to motivate us further and to find new way to succeed or new things to succeed at.

The one lady on the dock last night asked me if I was shooting the sunset. I replied that no, I was shooting the clouds. And I smiled inside, because I knew that my success would happen one way or another despite what the clouds might be attempting to do.

… just a thought.

It’s own rewards

It was still a bit before sunset and the lightning and thunder was playing their symphony outside my living room window.

It was dry and now if it would only get dark, I might have a chance at shooting something.

I grabbed the camera and figured I would head down to the ball fields and maybe get lucky if darkness could come before all the lightning stopped.

I stood there knowing that I was missing my target, but I honestly didn’t care. The wind was about 30 mph gusting at times to 40 or 50 and it felt amazing. It was dry and any mosquito in the area was taking cover from the wind.

For some reason (and I still don’t know why) my camera would not let me preview any of the shots just taken. That’s what I would normally do at the start of a shoot, to make sure my settings were correct. But in this case, that feedback loop was unavailable to me.

So, I turned on my Amazon playlist and just relaxed, breathing in the moment and snapping away. I kept adjusting the aperture on the camera as it got increasingly darker. But other than that, I was blind in the process.

I think in total I took over 200 pics. The first 150 or 160 were in daylight and they were almost entirely worthless.

The first two or three below are from that bunch. Getting only 1 or 2% of any shoot is ridiculous and certainly not what I would hope for.

But once it got a little darker to where I maxed out the aperture and so all adjustments ceased, the good shots started to come in. I think I got about 20 good shots from the last 40 taken.

A 50% yield when it comes to trying to capture lightning is more than acceptable to me. I was thrilled.

I have added them all below in the sequence they were taken and I have a couple of favorites that I think are genuinely special. I will let you decide for yourself what you like or don’t, but don’t forget to zoom in to see the detail of the lightning itself.

Depending on where in the sky it happened seemed to decide what colors it was creating and I suspect it is something to do with the heat or moisture content as to what color it generated.

None of the photographs are altered. I have only cropped or resized into the section of the sky where the action took place. I hope you find something to like.

It was only when the storm moved a bit far away and the rain started that I called it a night. And on the short two minute drive home, I was proud of myself.

Not because I thought I had gotten some decent images (because I honestly had no way to know) but because I hung in there after that first hour of nothing and managed to still be there when the skies started behaving nicely for me.

During that first hour, I managed to entertain myself and enjoy the whole atmosphere around me, so there was nothing that I had to endure beyond knowing that each was a wasted shutter click.

It was a wonderful experience start to finish and I would definitely do it all again. There was one moment when the evening had turned very dark and there was a huge flash in the sky close by. It was so huge that it momentarily turned the field I was standing in into pure daylight. I got the shot but haven’t included it here. Do let me know if you would like to see it.

But there was a moment (albeit only one or two seconds) where night turned to day and the world almost stopped turning. It was magical. And I was there to witness it.

I know there are many sayings about persistence but the one that springs to mind is that “persistence brings its own rewards” and mine was truly rewarded.

I am not the most patient person in the world, so persistence is something that I have to put effort into.

By that, I mean that in the face of adversity I sometimes have to talk myself into staying with it and continuing to fight the good fight.

It isn’t that I give up. I rarely do.

But I often adjust and find another approach to whatever is not working.

I think this is very much a trait I got from my dad. He would tackle anything and always gave it his all. I never, in the 50 odd years that I knew him, ever saw him walk away from something.

I view that as a strength of character and I try to bring that to the table for each project that I am engaged in.

But, as I said, I often try to alter the approach and exercise a plan B when something clearly isn’t working.

But the thing about plan Bs is that we don’t always have them.

Sometimes, the obstacle or difficulty is outside of our control and beyond our ability to affect it.

These are the moments when we must find it within ourselves to persevere and do or die, however it all plays out.

Because walking away removes all possibility of a positive outcome.

There is no such thing as a tactical retreat in life. There are retreats but they are not military maneuvers … they are simply acknowledgement of defeat.

And there is no acceptable defeat in life.

We may get beaten and bruised and still lose. But we also might win and if we aren’t still engaged in the effort, then there will never be that win. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote: “never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat”.

So the possibility of defeat should never be a factor in our decision to try.

And then once we try something, we need to stay with it. Give it everything and every chance for it to work.

It may not work and at the end of the day we may be wearing a failure for our efforts. But when the failure happens, we need to be still there and take the hurt.

Because if we aren’t there, how could we possibly know the real outcome?

… just a thought.

Blind Spot

It was one of those mornings where everyone upstairs was fed and those in lock down had been fed and released into the darkness.

The Keurig finished its noisy dark offering and all in the world became calm.

I was standing there in the office and all but LOLA were now outside. While the coffee had been filling up in my cup, I had been checking my phone and when I got to the weather app and it said mostly clear, I double checked the time and said “What the hell … I can make it for twilight!”

So, I snapped the lid onto the paper cup, grabbed the camera from upstairs and set off towards the brightening skies at Lake Parker.

I knew it would be a push because I didn’t really have any slop time in the drive. I needed most lights to be green and they were. Those that weren’t, I tried to circumvent where possible and so I found myself pulling in by the boat dock with five minutes to spare.

There were a couple of early morning boaters already in the water and about to head off, so I hopped from the car and began shooting immediately so as not to lose them.

As they pulled away, I settled the camera on the tripod and began to play with some of the manual settings and I was able to see in LCD screen that it seemed to be doing the early sky justice. The colors looked genuine for what my eyes saw and at the end of the day that it what I generally aim for.

If I can get the camera to see what I see, then I feel I am in control of the situation.

Anyway, I have attached a number of the shots and they show the progression of dawn from when I got there until I left. Hope you enjoy!

When I got back to the office and loaded the pictures on the screen, I made a second cup and began to go through them. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor, as you decide which ones you like and which you don’t.

Right from image one, though, I was immediately pissed off. There was a big blurry piece of dirt right in the middle of the picture. Every picture. It was something on the lens and it sat front and center on each picture as I advanced through them.

I was seriously annoyed. Yes, I was able to remove it with Corel Photopaint but that isn’t the point.

A dirty lens is unacceptable. Photography 101 leads off with how important it is to keep your lens dirt free. And I failed!

In situ at the boat dock, I was unable to see it because the screen on the camera is so small. But on my computer screen it presented itself proudly and a dog with a mallet up his ass would have winced at how obvious it was.

I can understand in part that when I got there I was in a hurry to catch the boaters, so that is what initially caused me to not clean the lens, but beyond that, it was all me.

And I realized while angry that this has happened to me several times before. It is occasionally something on the front lens but it might also be specks of dust on the sensor that found their way in while I was changing lenses.

Howsoever it appears, it is the photographer’s job to remove it and these are a habitual blind spot (no pun intended) for my nature shoots.

A combination of an aging pair of eyes, and tiny screens or viewfinders are partly responsible. But you would think after the first few times, I would learn. All it really needs is a solid routine or process that cleanses the lens each time before the first picture is taken.

Why is it that I can’t master that?

In fairness, I tend to get distracted by the excitement of the situation happening around me and this is often the cause.

And that is what made me think of today’s blog topic. Because so many of us have habitual blind spots in our lives and in very many cases we even know about them.

We find ourselves committing the same mistake over and over and it isn’t because we are stupid. It is because we are predisposed to making the error.

For example, 9 times out of ten I will type teh instead of the. It isn’t that I don’t know how to spell teh word. Shit, there I go again. For some reason my ham-fisted efforts at typing have a synchronization problem between left and right hands and my left index finger always seems to win the race.

Thankfully, most programs like this one now underline in red for me that I have made a mistake and I go back and fix it. But it slows down my typing immensely. I have found myself trying to find sentences that I can write that don’t have the word “the” in them. How crazy is that?

In real life, our repeat errors are not conveniently underlined and they often are only noticed much later, long after the mistake has had its effect.

So why do we keep making errors or why are we repeatedly open to enabling the same mistake to happen?

Is it a simple wiring in our brain that is slightly off? Yes, it could be.

But it is more likely that (like me this morning) we become distracted and unfocused by something else that is happening around us to where our brain is fully engaged in that and not in watching out for our blind spot.

I think we can all agree that if we deliberately watch out for our blind spot, it doesn’t happen.

But our brains are semi-autonomous creatures and they makes certain decisions by themselves without consulting us in teh process. Dammit, there I go again.

Our subconscious runs an enormous portion of our life. And as we get older, it seems to run even more. Routine tasks, things that we have done before, get mostly handled without our thinking of them. We drive the same way home without thinking. We eat our meal without thinking. We shower without thinking.

But if we are playing a new game or working on a new project, we take much greater care and the only mistakes we are likely to make are caused by inexperience. Our brains engage.

When we are younger, our brains also engage more because most experiences are new to us.

So the real trick is to try to keep new experiences happening in our lives as much as possible. Whatever age we are.

New experiences keep our brains engaged and also, incidentally, keep life more interesting.

I have found that having to learn new stuff or try new things can be painful inasmuch as they take us out of our comfort zone. But, they are also truly rewarding.

Traveling the same direction on our journey always feels easier and by avoiding the challenge of new things, we reduce our chance of failure. This is why most of us do it.

But they also perpetuate our blind spots. We continue to see things from the same perspective only and repeatedly make the same errors. We either never learn or we learn incredibly slowly.

It’s one of the reason I love hanging out with people half my age. They help steer me in directions that I might otherwise not have gone.

Now if I could just figure out how to keep my lens clean, all would be good in teh world!

Damn, damn, damn … there it goes again!

… just a thought.


Warning: This blog will contain some expletives that may offend. They are an intrinsic part of what I want to talk about today. Please don’t read if you are word-sensitive.

So, I was just walking away from where I had set up at the ball-field, folding up the tripod and heading back to the car. When this guy, who had been parked nearby and watching me for the last ten minutes, approached and asked whether I had gotten any decent shots or not.

I muttered something about how I always seem to find something even when there is nothing and I was pretty sure I got one or two that made the evening worthwhile.

So, I powered back on the camera and showed him the little LCD on the back of the camera as I thumbed through the last few shots.

“That is so dope”, he said when we paused on one that he particularly liked. And I thanked him.

There really isn’t anything special but what I got is at the end of the blog … just some sky views. Enjoy

It was only when I was in the car on the way home that the particular word he had used played around inside my head.

I intrinsically knew that he meant that he liked it, even though he used a word that meant anything other than good in the world I grew up in.

So, the thoughts that ran wild inside my head (eventually forming this blog) were along the basis of words and their meanings and their uses and about how all this changes over time and perspective.

For example, to begin with … when I was growing up, the word “dope” meant some kind of gentle idiot. Someone who might be borderline retarded or at the very least, someone who was very slow on the uptake.

It was given as a mild insult and never intended as a compliment. Think about the Disney character Dopey in the seven dwarfs. Yes, he was portrayed as lovable and sweet, but certainly not someone you would use in a phone-a-friend-moment to handle a difficult question.

Yet now we normally reserve its use as a statement of something being excellent. We also use the same word as a slang name for marijuana, but I think that probably has its origins in how it make the person feel or behave, once under the influence. Hence, back to its original meaning.

In Ireland we use words to help color what it is we are trying to convey. So expletives become a part of everyday language and no one takes offense. The word fucking is merely an adjective that emphasizes whatever other word that follows.

“That guy is hot” becomes “that guy is fucking hot” as we try to stress how good looking we think they are. The word “fucking” has no sexual connotation and is absolutely not meant to convey anything negative.

I remember thirty years ago an incident where the differences between Irish culture and American culture slapped me in the face and gave me first proof on how word-sensitive Americans are.

I was working at the time in fiber optics for an American company and I headed up their marketing and sales activity in Europe. So they had me based for a couple of years in Ireland at their production plant in Limerick.

My fellow director, John, headed up the production team and he was a stellar manager. His production team completely outperformed his American counterparts.

So, when we got bought out by a publicly traded, NY based corporation, their team of executives made a beeline for our facility to talk to both of us and see for themselves the better functioning part of the company they had just bought.

Five senior executives, all wearing dark pinstripe suits, all white guys in their sixties, gathered around the conference table in Limerick listening to our assessment of our European business. CEO, COO, CTO, C-whatever-O, … they were all there.

I stood up and gave a presentation on the ins and outs of everything to do with the market. They all seemed suitably impressed and the CEO thanked me for my words and then turned to John.

“So, John, we’ve heard some of the difficulties of marketing these products into Europe. What are they like to make?”

“They’re a right fucking cunt” he said as he got to his feet.

The silence that sucked all the energy from the room, seemed to last forever, yet was probably no more than a few seconds. The looks on the faces of all five senior executives was precious and truly begged for a camera to be present in order to capture it. But that capture was left solely to my own brain.

John’s background was that he was a farmer. And I have no doubt that many an Irish cow gets called a cunt, as they drag out the rounding-up process or refuse to comply smoothly with the milking process. So, when John use the word “cunt” he was only trying to convey how difficult the process of manufacturing these components were.

And the “fucking” just before it? Well, that was just to deliver the typical Irish exaggeration to what he was about to say.

I don’t remember the rest of the presentation going very smoothly, after that, in all honesty. But wind the clock forward a few months and I was promoted and brought back to corporate headquarters in NY to head up their global fiber optic marketing efforts, while John was mysteriously let go … despite still having the best fiber optic manufacturing operations within the company.

I drew my own conclusions why.

Yes, Irish people use words to color their expressions and that made me examine a little more closely how other cultures use their words in different ways.

For example, American english is rife with examples that shows we use lazy words here. If there is a shortcut to take we take it. We drop the “u” in color or flavor … why? Because we are too lazy to write it out correctly in the first place. Americans avoid complex words and make up their own versions as they go along.

For example when I heard an American president speaking on the world stage using the word “normalcy” a number of years back, I nearly died of embarrassment for him being so ignorant. But then I looked around me and I was the only one embarrassed. Everyone else thought it was a valid word.

The correct word, by the way, would have been “normality”.

On the opposite side of the Atlantic, the English choose their words to create a class structure. The wealthy or political will routinely use complex and obscure words that even I have to look up in a dictionary.

And anyone who knows me, knows that I am a wordsmith.

When they deliberately choose obscure and multi-syllabic words, when a simple four-letter-word would have done … well, frankly, they are trying to look more intelligent than they likely are. Morons using big words can sometimes appear intelligent to morons that don’t.

Words that change meanings over time are accompanied by words that change meanings over geography. This further confuses the story.

I remember a few years back, an American friend upon returning from a trip to England related her experience when she cut her foot and really struggled to find a band-aid. Only to eventually find out that they were called plasters in that part of the world.

But some different meanings can be wildly offensive. I remember many years ago in Ireland, a young lady friend being completely horrified when a car pulled up beside her when she was walking along a country road and the occupant (an American, no doubt) asked her if she wanted a ride.

Right now all you Americans reading this are going “What is wrong with that?”

Yet, in the 1970s in Ireland, the word ride meant fuck. So, you can imagine her response. I will never forget the signs that I saw at the DC area railway stations that had two separate areas of parking. The Kiss & Ride, or Park & Ride. Yes, I took pictures and sent them home to Ireland to my friends.

Yet some people deliberately hijack words in order to mislead. Recent times here, certain folks took the word “patriot” and decided to use it to define their own viewpoint. If you are a nationalist, a republican, white, god-fearing, gun-rights advocate, anti-abortionist, then you are a patriot. If not, you hate America.

Word-piracy is an evolving practice that began several centuries ago, by all accounts.

Right wing extremists have become expert at using normal words designed for one purpose being used to target or taint people or belief systems different to their own.

For example, the true meaning of the word “vermin” was a type of animal or pest that was dangerous to food and crops and likely carriers of disease. Rats, for example.

Yet, in the written media of the 16th and 17th centuries, suddenly certain type of people were being called vermin in the written press. Typically this was the poor or indigent.

By the time the twentieth century arrived, that word was applied to Jews. And in its application, it paved a way in everyone’s mind for a solution to the problem … extermination. Sure, isn’t that what we do to vermin?

So, what I noticed is that media as a platform enables word-piracy on a serious basis. From the nazi posters of vermin to patriot web sites of the right wing extremists, we continue to use words that influences the masses.

Such influence can make kings of dotards, as long as they are willing to peddle a lie that is big enough.

But at the end of the day, it important for us to reject the role of words in labeling or defining people or viewpoints. We have to look beyond the words being used and only see the colors of the emotion being conveyed.

If these are the same colors that you have in your mind, then fine. But if not, then they must be rejected out of hand, regardless of what words were being used in the conveyance.

See beyond the words. Pull back the curtain and look at the sentiment being expressed. That is where you will find truth.

Words lie.

… just a thought.

Noisy Neighbors

Dateline: July 3rd, 1776. Lakeland issued its declaration of independence from Britain.

Following Lakeland’s lead, the rest of the country followed suit and the rest is history.

What on earth is he talking about now?

Well, that is the only excuse I can imagine for the city of Lakeland to have its celebration of independence fireworks display last night. And not to be outdone, apparently the intelligentsia in the Itchepackesassa community just north of the city, followed suit.

This sneak attack on wildlife caught creatures throughout the area totally by surprise and rumors are that they were routed by our brave men and women armed to the teeth (if they had any) with firecrackers and smoke bombs.

Villainous raccoons, depraved possums, and treacherous squirrels ran for their lives when faced with such overwhelming firepower of our valiant troops. Their winged forces fled in flocks (try saying that one fast three times without stumbling) as our victorious pride shone brightly in the early evening skies.

July 3rd will forever go down in the annals of history as the day we humans showed creatures across the planet, that we are the boss. Forget the burning northwest, global warming, and impending hurricanes, we mercans have proven once again that we can bring any planet to its knees.

Grand Wizard Billy-Ray Duke (Bubba, to his friends) said last night that any psychological damage to the slave pet communities was purely collateral damage and not intended. He also pointed out that there is a buy-one-get-one-free deal now at Bubba’s Puppy Farm, should any of the slaves need to be put down due to any resultant PTSD.

OK, OK, I am exaggerating slightly. But seriously … WTF!!!

Even our cats overnighting within the protection of our four walls ran scared as the quiet evening sounds were decimated by the explosions and bright lights that shattered the serenity.

Poor Beauty stayed under the bed for a good hour.

And what about wildlife?

With no bed to crawl under nor walls to hide behind, they obviously hid in fear for their lives hoping for their survival.

I confess that I did grab my camera and step outside for a few minutes to see if I could capture from my driveway any of the “action” around and I have added some pics at the end of the blog. Hope you enjoy.

But it did all raise a recurring question in my head about the role of humans on the planet and how we abuse our dominance, all in the name of fun.

There is no doubt in my head about how beautiful some of these fireworks patterns are. They create wonderful designs against a dark sky and they definitely are responsible for many ooh and aah moments that echo throughout the night.

In many artistic and creative ways, they bear witness to how inventive and creative humanity is. And I applaud that.

When we as humans entertain ourselves or express ourselves in ways that hurt or intimidate other creatures then we are saying our entertainment or expression is more important than the well being of other creatures.

And I have a tough time swallowing this.

As a species I can completely understand that our own well-being can outrank the well-being of so-called lesser creatures. This runs hand in hand with the whole evolution and survival of the fittest that Darwin correctly described.

Our own superiority in many ways catapulted us out of the food chain and into the role of dominator on this planet. And until we destroy it or are invaded by a superior species, we will continue in that role for the foreseeable future.

But with this role comes a responsibility. A responsibility that has to recognize the needs of other creatures.

And their needs MUST be given a higher priority than our wants.

Once our own needs are satisfied, our wants take over and we aspire to do things that create, enhance, or entertain us. We are fully entitled to do that.

But we are not entitled to place any of these wants on a higher level than the needs of other creatures. Just as we would not accept any of their wants overrunning our needs.

So blood sports for example …. they are without justification. Talk about population control vs culling. Talk about how fish don’t feel pain like we do. Create as many excuses as you want. But none are a valid justification.

Killing for food is justified because it satisfied our needs. Killing for fun is not. I think a lot of us recognize that a measure of our humanity is how much we reject their arguments.

But our humanity has to extend beyond the killing and hurting. It needs to accept that the general well-being of creatures is also something that is a need and therefore over-rules our wants. Taking away their environments, or (like last night and tonight) causing stress and fear within vast tracts of the natural world, is completely unacceptable.

Five or six years ago before I fully understood the impact of them on our non-human cohabitants, I bought a box of assorted fireworks. But I had this realization before I lit the first one and that box has sat unopened in my laundry room since purchase. They likely will continue that way unless they one day spontaneously combust and burn my house to the ground.

Yes, I would love to experiment with them now that I know how to control my camera better and I think I could get some very cool shots.

But frankly, the coolest of my shots doesn’t justify a single moment of fear in the smallest of creatures. Nor should it.

… just a thought.

Downtown Risks

I learned a little something about myself today.

My life isn’t in its best groove these days and while there are certainly some wonderful moments that I am able to enjoy in this groove, the main thrust seems to be rather poor.

Now there are many people in far worse grooves than mine, so I shouldn’t complain, and I won’t.

We all now that life is a pendulum, sometimes swinging up and sometimes down and we don’t really get to decide much about which swing we are on at any one time.

I think the trick is just to hold on to the pendulum and ride out the downward swing, safe in the knowledge that one day it will swing up again.

Today wasn’t an early start. I sleep with the bedroom door open these days and Rocky mixes with the other three babies during the night. This means he isn’t in a rush to wake me up at some ungodly hour to let him out.

His infiltration of the cat pack (Marty, Marcy, and Beauty) has been slow and at times stressful. But, it certainly is reaping its rewards. I am loving the change.

So by the time I got up, gave these four their breakfast, and then released and fed the five down in the office, I was only thirty five minutes to twilight.

Normally that fact alone would have swayed my decision and steered me to Lake Parker but I grabbed a black coffee (lifeblood at this time of the morning), hopped in the car and raced towards Tampa.

I was in the car on the interstate still trying to decide my destination. I might be able to get to Ballast Point, or maybe Lakeshore Blvd. Davis Islands was a bit closer, but that place was gawd awful when I last went there.

Decision making has always been a good skill of mine. I can rapidly analyze and make a committed decision faster than most people I know. Sometimes I am right, others not, but I will always make a decision, regardless.

So, racing due east at about 80 miles an hour, I ran the timing permutations in my head and decided I could make downtown Tampa and find that spot near the TV station on the bank of the Hillsborough River, that I had found once before.

And with any luck at all I would be there in time to catch twilight.

It was a good decision, as it turned out. I got there in time, set up the camera and got some neat skyline shots against the twilight-blue skies before they paled out.

The only struggle I had initially was with the lens fogging up, as it went through its temperature adjustment from inside to outside. I even left one of the foggy pics right at the start below, as it was kind of an interesting effect.

But the shots came out great and when the skies began to brighten a little, I walked over to Kennedy Blvd and along the bridge there, just west of Ashley Drive.

Anyway, I hope you like the little selection at the end of the blog.

I was back on the interstate before the sun even broke the horizon, heading home to beg forgiveness of the kitties that I had locked out in the wet darkness.

It was while driving home that I did that learning I mentioned initially.

There is a picture of the sun breaching the clouds at the very end and it was taken at 90 mph in the fast lane as I sped home. It isn’t going to win me any awards but I just couldn’t ignore the beautiful scene I was driving into.

I am not sure if the highway patrol officer would have accepted that as a valid excuse had I been caught, speeding, window down, left hand on the steering wheel while right hand is holding the camera out the window taking pictures.

Frankly, other than witnessing an alien invasion, I am not sure any reason would be accepted for such reckless behavior.

But that’s what I learned about myself. The reckless bit.

Because twenty minutes earlier, I had been crouched down in the middle of the road on Kennedy Blvd, resting on the yellow lines that divide eastbound from westbound traffic. My clothing was dark colored and I darted in and out of the roadway to take some shots in between traffic bursts.

At the last attempt, a passerby commented that I really needed to be careful. “Hey buddy, you shouldn’t do that on your own. Man that is dangerous.”

And he was right. Those photos didn’t even make the cut for this blog. So, they were nothing special.

What I realized is that the less happy I am in life, the more risks I take.

When life holds no real joy for me, I am more prepared to lose it.

These many months now, the decline has been quite noticeable and my risk taking quite measurably increased.

It isn’t so much that I want to die, it’s just that I don’t really care about living that much any more.

Is this what happens to us all as we grow older? Does life lose its joy-based reason for living it?

It is quite possible that the pendulum will swing back up sooner than later or perhaps that I will die before the upward motion. I don’t have any control of either.

It is an old saying that “hope springs eternal” but I am not sure that is always true. I think we can reach a point where at the very least our hopes diminish and this is very likely why old people can get to a point where they comfortably give up life and fade away.

With nothing to look forward to, what is the point of hanging on?

I am not for a moment advocating for suicide. I think that is something that in almost all cases is a bad choice.

But I also think that a realistic view of life proves out the differences between a young life and an old life. And the main difference between both is not just the physical changes to this vessel we experience life with, but is actually the diminishing hope for a better future.

When your race is run, it takes hope with it. Unless you convince yourself that there is life after death, then your hopes die with you. And so, they should.

Death is a totally natural end to a life. For every beginning, there is an end.

It doesn’t need to be feared and it cannot be avoided. It should make us no sadder than arriving at the end of a good story. Part of you might want the story to continue, but you’ve already heard the story and now you must accept the ending.

There are those who reject the story and seek an alternate outcome. One of everlasting life. There is no more feverish a search for god than among older people who fear death.

But death need not be feared. Admit it or not, the only thing worth fearing is life. And when you stop fearing or lose interest in what life has to offer, then you take more risks.

… just a thought.