NO VIRTUE IN VICE

I don’t have much in the way of thoughts about vice. I’m not even sure what it is any more. This morning, in one of those online chat things I do these days in lieu of actual conversations with customer service people, I discovered that “LYING” is only lying if I do it. If they tell me something that is completely untrue and I believe them, it is a misunderstanding. So when they said “We are fixing this and should have a solution soon” and they really meant “This is the way it’s going to be and we’re not going to change it. Ever.” And I believed them, it was my misunderstanding rather than their outright lie. I would normally have categorized it as “vice,” but give the state of the body politic and all the crap I see in the news, I’ve decided telling the truth versus lying is no longer meaningful. If I say something without any basis in fact and claim it’s the truth, but you later realize it is not the truth and, in fact, bears no relationship to truth as anyone understands it … it’s just a misunderstanding.

So how can there be vice if there is no truth?

Fortunately, there still is AD-vice, which is free. Sometimes, it even contains a particle of useful information. I hesitate to suggest that it might also be true because … well … you know … what IS truth?

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As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place. I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will make movies I like. I’ve stopped trying to like “new” music, most new TV shows. Or hoping to remember the names of new “stars.”

Some stuff gave me up. Some people gave up on me. Other things, just slipped away. In the end, it’s the same.

So. Now. If anyone asks me how or why I have given up whatever it was, virtue, vice, or anything, I tell them it was for religious reasons. No one ever asks what I mean by that. But just so you know  …

It doesn’t mean anything.

It’s a misunderstanding. Not a lie. Just a way to end the conversation. No one wants to offend me by asking for details of my beliefs. They might turn out to be embarrassing or bizarre. Thus my all-purpose answer to everyone is “on religious grounds,” “for religious reasons,” or “on the advice of my spiritual counselor.”

These powerful words can make any conversation vanish and I never have to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s similar to (but entirely different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!” 99.9% of the time, this does the job. Test drive it yourself.

I’m fine. For religious reasons.

VICE | THE DAILY POST

SHARING MY WORLD – AUGUST’S OVER!

SHARE YOUR WORLD – AUGUST 30, 2016


List 2 things you have to be happy about.

It’s the end of the month and we aren’t completely out of money.

It’s not (quite) as hot as it was last week. Or the week before.

If you could take a photograph, paint a picture or write a story of any place in the world, what and where would it be?

I can’t comment on places I’ve never been or am unlikely to ever be. How do I know how I’d feel about it if I haven’t been there?

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So, from among the place I have been, I would love to go back to Jerusalem with a camera. When I lived there, I didn’t have a camera most of the time. I’m so sorry to not have pictures from those years.

This is notable largely for being unprocessed.

Of the places I have been with a camera, Arizona wins, hands down. Desert. Mountains. Cactus. Landscapes from every western I’ve ever watched. What’s not to love?

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In the meantime, I’m pretty happy taking pictures right here. Home or nearby. We have some lovely scenery.

Should children be seen and not heard?

I firmly believe no one who has had children could ask that without laughing hysterically. As if we actually have something to say in the matter! Hah!

List at least five of your favorite first names.

When I was a romantic teenager, I wanted to be called Delores. I thought anyone who had that name had to be beautiful.

Otherwise, just call me Maggie. I don’t actually have another three favorites. I’m okay with almost any name that isn’t obviously awful. I have trouble understanding parents who give their children dreadful names sure to get them teased in school. What are mom and dad thinking?

A final thought. Name your child something easy to spell — without a crib sheet. An entire lifetime of no one spelling your name right is exhausting.

FAIRIES – JUDY DYKSTRA-BROWN

This just tickled my fancies while confirming my long held belief that those little people are messing with me, hiding my stuff, and stealing my socks!


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Fairies


When we go to bed, they sneak in
and loll about on the chair cushions,
combing their coarse straight hair,
leaving traces we’ll brush off with the lint brush, blaming the cat.

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They mine the refrigerator,
looking for wine spills or crumbs of cheese.

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The more intrepid jump on the rubber pillow of the sink squirter,
starting a slow drip they can drink from like a water fall,

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then make the long trek into the cave of my computer room,
their eyes on the precarious towers of books.
They give each other a hands-up
onto the power key of my computer,
then all jump in sync to turn it on.


Read the rest of the story: Fairies

EXPERT ON MYSELF

I know a few things. Along the road of life, I’ve done a bit of reading and studying. Like many writers, I’m a generalist. I know about this, that, and the other thing. A good deal about some stuff, a little something about lots of stuff. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge ought to be good for something.

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I’m an expert at just one thing: me. I know my body. The strange way it works. I know what I like. I’m good at knowing what I would like, given an opportunity.

To illustrate my point, this is the story of a lens I bought — and why I’m passing it to another photographer who hopefully will get more use of it than I have. Call this: Photographer, Know Thyself.

In November 2013, I bought the Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I used it once, to shoot a “lighting” at a museum the next month of December.

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That set of photographs are among the best night shots I’ve ever taken. The Panny 20, as it is fondly called, is a sharp, fast prime lens. Slightly wide-angle. Perfect for people who like to do street scenes, especially at night. It was the first lens recommended to me after I got my Olympus PEN E-PL1, I think (not sure) in 2011. Close enough. 

The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive (it’s not cheap now). Especially for me. I was even more broke five years ago than I am today, which is saying something.

Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were fewer lenses available in 4/3 format back then; this one had a great reputation. Except — I didn’t think I’d use it. At 20mm (effective 40mm), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond. It’s not flattering as a portrait lens. Not unflattering, but not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of your friends or dogs.

Dancing in the dark heritage museum

I don’t do much street shooting. Mostly, I shoot landscapes and casual portraits. I didn’t feel this lens would be the one I’d reach for as I headed out the door. I like longer lenses for portraits and wider ones for landscapes.

Eventually, I gave in. I bought it. Used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, ready to go. Always the lens I think I might use, but never do. For “normal,” I use my Olympus f1.8 25mm. If I’m going out and don’t know what I’m going to shoot, I take a camera with a long zoom so I’m ready for whatever pops up. At home, my favorite lenses are the Olympus 12-50mm (macro), the f1.8 45mm, and the f2.8 60mm macro.

What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t. No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to be know what I suits me. I’m not a newbie testing the waters. As a photographer for almost 50 years, I know the types of pictures I take.  I’m not particularly thrilled by “normal” lenses in the 40 to 55mm range. I never was, even back in the dark ages when I was a newbie photographer.

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Unless you’re just starting out in whatever, trust your instincts. Save your money for things you will love. Whether photography equipment, computers, food, clothing, or a vacation … go with your gut. Leroy Jethro Gibbs always does … and we know he is always right.

Where you are concerned, there is no better expert than yourself.

EXPERT | THE DAILY POST

BLACK & WHITE SUNDAY – TOWERING

From PaulaBlack & White Sunday Challenge this week has towering as a theme. Towering can be a building, a person, a mountain, or a tree. Or …

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“Towering” is relative. In our small town, a church spire is towering. On Boston’s Beacon Hill, six stories is a tower. In downtown Boston, the sky is the limit … and maybe, not even the sky.

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I de-saturated these two photographs of the Prudential Tower in Boston, but left a hint of color. The Prudential Tower changes colors depending on events and weather. Each night of December 2015, the tower was a different color. This specific night was December 13th, lit in support of the Rett Syndrome Association of Massachusetts. The color was purple.

If you’d like to see all the colors of the month, you can follow this LINK.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO EDUCATE A CHILD by ELLIN CURLEY

In an effort to improve public education, many mayors, including New York City Mayor Di Blasio, have converted inner city schools into “community schools.” This is the first time I’ve heard about community schools and now I feel much better about the future of education in the U.S.

A community school, according to an August 7, 2016 NY Times article by David L. Kiro, is, ” … both a place and a set of partnerships with local organizations intending to deliver health, social and recreational supports for students and their families. The idea of a school that serves as a neighborhood hub holds wide appeal.”

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In poor neighborhoods, it apparently takes a village to educate a child. It’s almost impossible for kids to learn when they are dealing with health problems, ranging from hunger to vision problems to chronic asthma, learning problems, psychological issues or even major trauma at home. These programs address the needs of the whole child. They create an atmosphere in which kids can learn and mature into responsible adults. To that end, community schools provide breakfast and an in-house clinic to provide medical, dental and psychological services. There is also a staff of social workers to train teachers how to counsel their students and give them the emotional advice and support they need.

The success rates for community schools has been awesome. In one school in New York City, kids entered 9th grade reading at a 3rd grade level, 25% of the students were classified as special needs and 20% were learning English as a second language. Nevertheless, compared to other demographically similar schools, this school’s rate of absenteeism dropped 15.4% and the graduation rate went up 8% in two years. These rates are now close to the citywide average.

In other states the statistics are just as impressive. For example, in Massachusetts, one group of community schools managed to erase 2/3 of the math gap and ½ of the English gap between their schools and the statewide average. In addition, their drop-out rate was cut in half.

You might be thinking that these programs must cost a fortune and put a real burden on state and local governments. However, studies show that these programs more than pay for themselves in the long run. The adults they send into the community actually save states and cities a huge amount of money because these students have lower incarceration rates, better health and less reliance on welfare programs. The NY Times article comments that if the community school concept “ … were a company, Warren Buffet would snatch it up.”

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This seems like a no-brainer to me. Massive social and personal gains are achieved in the long run with little or no net cost to the government. The problem is that money still has to be allocated today to establish community schools and the benefits can’t be seen for several years. Short-sighted politicians probably don’t want to allocate this money. And there may not be a lot of pressure on them to get behind these programs because so many voters don’t care about the underprivileged.

If it were up to me, all schools in poor areas would be converted into community schools. Maybe if we contact our local and state officials about this issue, we can raise awareness and maybe make a difference. This is a worthwhile cause so I will definitely try.


NOTE: Ellin and Tom are out to sea. Literally, on their boat, so she isn’t ignoring your comments. Connecting from the boat is difficult, but she’ll be back soon!

THE FUTILITY OF WORRYING ABOUT WATER

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The entire state of Massachusetts currently holds a status of extreme or severe drought. We’ve had less than 5 inches of rain here in central Massachusetts. Areas around Boston and northward into New Hampshire have had an inch less … around 3.75 inches. That’s very little water. Dangerously little water.

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If you’d like to see an interactive “drought map,” here is a LINK. Other states in New England are also dry, but as far as I can tell, Massachusetts is overall, the most dry, although there are areas of New Hampshire, Maine, and New York which are also very hard hit.

For inexplicable reasons, the river has more water in it than it did last year at this time. Maybe whoever controls the water locally decided to give our fish, fowl, and other wildlife a chance to survive. Last year, they had nowhere to nest, and pretty much no food in the dry ponds and rivers.

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I love the river and I miss the birds. I haven’t seen a goose, a heron, a swan, or even a duck this entire summer. Not in the spring either. I suppose they have all — sensibly — flown away to places where they stand a better chance of survival.

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Ironic, isn’t it? Half the country is drowning in floodwaters. The rest? We’re drying up. Burning up. As I see the first tropical storm of the year heading for Florida, I can’t help but hope it stays a mere storm and brings its precipitation up our way. We really, really need some water.

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There is, I might add, nothing more futile and frustrating than worrying about the lack of rain. You can’t do anything about it. Nothing. We have zero control over weather. Fretting about that over which we have no control is mind-destroying.

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Nonetheless, I worry about the well. And the aquifer. I have nightmares about drought. Because if our well goes dry, we have no other water source. Neither do our neighbors.


AND THIS JUST IN (Literally, it just showed up in my email):


This is a message from the Uxbridge DPW. Due to the current drought conditions and health of our water supply, the Board of Selectmen voted to increase the water restrictions effective August 23, 2016 to a full ban on nonessential outdoor water usage. The ban on nonessential outdoor water usage are in addition to and supersede the prior restrictions that were recently enacted and will remain in effect until further notice. Examples of non-essential outdoor water uses include the following:

• Uses that are not required for health and safety reasons.
• Irrigation of lawns via sprinklers or automatic irrigation systems.
• Washing of vehicles other than by means of a commercial car wash, except as may be necessary for operator safety.
• Washing of exterior building surfaces, parking lots, driveways or sidewalks.
• The use of handheld hoses for watering vegetable or flower gardens, shrubbery and trees.
• Filling swimming pools.
Any person or entity who violates these restrictions will be fined according to General Bylaw Chapter 336 Water Conservation, Section 9. If using well water for irrigation, there must be signage indicating “well water in use” clearly visible from the street.