THE LONG STAIRWAY …

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I once dreamed that I was climbing what seemed to be an endless stairway to the top of the tower. I knew there were important secrets at the end. Things I needed to know, so I just kept climbing.

When I got to the very top, the stairway ended. I found myself facing a steel door with a sign on it which said “Department of Files & Records.”

The door was locked. I didn’t have a key. A wave of sadness hit me as I realized I would not find out what was in that room.

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I still dream that there are secrets behind locked doors, up long stairways, at the tops of mountains, or buried deep in the memories of long-dead family members. I’m never going to get to that room to see the files and records.

Maybe none of us can go there.

Stairway: Daily Prompt

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT – CEE’S BLACK & WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Hiding or Camouflaged

I have trouble with this as a black and white challenge since I usually won’t use black and white except when there’s sufficient contrast and composition elements to make it “work.” But hey, I’ll try anything.

If I had not heard his song, I would never have found this little Carolina Wren.
If I had not heard his song, I would never have found this little Carolina Wren
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Garry is well camouflaged by the shrubbery.
Water shining in the Blackstone Canal
The Blackstone Canal where it can be hard to tell where the woods end and the canal begins

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The last one is a sunrise in silhouette. But being black and white, you can’t actually tell it’s a sunrise … so I guess it’s a sunrise. In hiding.

HEROES

WHO DO YOU ADMIRE?  


There are real heroes among us. They don’t wear capes and masks. Instead, they wear heavy gear and carry hoses, axes, and breathing masks. They drive big red trucks with loud sirens and in a small community like this one, they are all volunteers.

When the rest of us are running out of the burning building, these people are racing into it. Heroes. Unpaid and underpaid, they are also under-appreciated for the dangerous and vital work they do.

Firefighters-9.11

This classic shot of the firefighters on 9/11 says it all. I didn’t take the picture and I don’t know who did, so I can’t credit the photographer. I would if I could.


Maybe that’s why our retired local fire truck “old number 2” has a place of her own in a field and is regularly visited by her neighbors.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

A DIFFERENT EYE AT THE CANAL – GARRY ARMSTRONG

When two photographers shoot the same scene, it’s always interesting to see what they will shoot that is essentially the same … and what they will see as different.

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In this case, I was able to get pictures from places Marilyn couldn’t go … partly because I’m a bit more agile than she is, but also because she spent most of our shooting time trying to figure out why her camera wasn’t working. By the time she figured out what had gone wrong, it was time to go home. Better luck next time.

I keep it simple. I use the same lens and camera. I’m happy with my Pentax Q7. It’s light, comfortable in my hands. I know how it works. Results are predictable and usually exactly what I intended. Most of the time. Marilyn says I need to make sure I’m holding the camera straight, to take a look at the horizon and align with it. My bad.

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This was a couple of days ago. Late afternoon down at the Blackstone Canal.

WHAT INSURANCE DOESN’T COVER

Seeing.

Hearing.

Eating.

Breathing.


Breathing.

No one covers asthma medication anymore. A while ago, insurance companies universally decided to stop covering medication to prevent asthma attacks. Most of us don’t have the medication anymore.

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We buy emergency inhalers because they cost around $50 — without insurance. The daily medication which would prevent the need for an emergency inhaler is about $500 for a month’s supply. No one I know can afford it, so we don’t have it.

Breathing, it turns out, is not medically necessary.

Seeing.

Vision is medically optional. Most insurance will cover a routine annual eye exam. A few will cover part of the cost of a pair of single vision eyeglasses per year. That’s pretty much it. If you need bifocals, or anything other than one cheap pair of corrective lenses, that’s too bad.

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Chewing.

Teeth falling out? Need a root canal? Tough luck. Your teeth are entirely cosmetic (bet you didn’t know this!) and therefore, are not covered by medical insurance. You can buy private insurance, but it covers less than half the actual cost of most dental procedures (usually a lot less than half) … and it’s expensive. It is never part of standard medical insurance. They don’t cover dentures either.

Hearing.

What?

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No one covers hearing aids, probably because they are extremely expensive. Thousands of dollars and the average lifespan is four to seven years, after which you need another set. If you are a state or federal employee, or you lost your hearing while serving in the military, you are probably covered. If you are anyone else?

I’m sorry. What did you say? Could you speak up please?


Private insurance plans sometimes offer riders which will cover corrective lenses and basic dental work — a cleaning, x-rays, and a filling. Maybe. Not a root canal or a crown.

No one covers hearing aids.

Classifying hearing, seeing, and anything in your mouth as “non-medical and cosmetic” is standard in the insurance industry. It saves them billions of dollars a year … and leaves you with a bill you probably can’t pay.

What’s the solution? Don’t be old. Or poor.  Especially, don’t be both.

IT’S GETTING GREENER DOWN BY THE CANAL

It was beautiful yesterday, one of the nearly perfect spring days with which New England is occasionally gifted. Spring isn’t our best — or even second-best — season.

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It’s usually very short, often going from winter to summer in just a day or two. Sometimes, you barely have time to buy a pair of shorts when yesterday’s 40 degrees turns to ninety or more, with humidity to match.

We are having a reasonably good spring this year. There have been a few setbacks. The couple of early snows in April did some damage to the blooming daffodils, but I hope not permanent damage. The flowering trees are showing young leaves. Here, in our woods and along the rivers and canal, the trees are in bud, but not leaf. Hardwood — oaks and maples, sassafras, ash and others — are the last to fill out. Mid May, usually, though the maples may be a week earlier this year. Our trees are mostly bare.

The forsythia is flowering. The lilacs are full of leaves, but no flowers yet.

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Soon. It’s lovely today. Warm and sunny and delicious. The earth is awake and everything is greening up.

ANNOYING THE DOGS – THE HUMAN-CANINE COVENANT

I read an article the other day. It announced (with great solemnity and employing many big words and more than a few pie charts) that dogs — our dogs, your dogs, pet dogs — don’t like being hugged. Not merely do they not like being hugged and display measurable levels of stress when hugged, but they really totally hate being kissed and nuzzled.

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The article suggest a pat on the head … and a treat … would be much more appreciated.

Not by Garry or me.

I know they don’t like being hugged. It’s obvious. They stiffen and put their ears back when we hug them. They also don’t like it when I grab their tail and refuse to let it go. That’s what all the growling and head butting is about. You can almost hear them sigh, wondering when you’ll be through with this nonsense and get on to the important stuff, namely distributing cookies.

I told Garry about the study. He said: “Tough. They’ll just have to cope. Because I like it.”

My thoughts exactly.

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Our dogs are disrespectful. Messy. Flagrantly disobedient. They are masters and mistresses of selective hearing. Do I believe for a single moment when we tell them to go out and they stand there, in front of the doggy door, ignoring us, that it’s because they (a) don’t understand what we want from them, or (b) cannot hear us? That if I stand in the doorway calling them to come in that they can’t hear me or figure out that I want them to come inside? Of COURSE they hear me. They know. They’re just playing us.

If they can hear the click when we remove the top of the biscuit container from the other end of the yard, they hear us just fine. It’s a power play.

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Since they persist in disrespecting us, they will have to deal with our periodic compulsion to give them hugs, nuzzling, and the occasional (“Yuck! Stop that you stupid human!”) kiss on their big moist noses. It’s the price they pay for sofa lounging, high-quality treats and silly humans getting down on the floor to play with them.

We put up with them? They will have to put up with us, too. That’s our deal.

It’s a Human v Canine Covenant. I’ve got their paw prints on file.

SHARING MY WORLD AS APRIL DRAWS TO AN END

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2016 WEEK 17


When writing by hand do you prefer to use a pencil or pen?

A pen. Rolling ball tip, please. Medium, not fine or fat. Black ink.

Credit: CC0 Public Domain from pixabay
Credit: CC0 Public Domain from pixabay

While we are on the subject of pens: Please! If the pen is out of ink, don’t put it back in the jar. Throw it away.

Your coöperation is appreciated.

What’s your choice: jigsaw, word, maze or numeric puzzles?

Words.

Do you prefer long hair or short hair for yourself?

I prefer long hair, but my hair prefers being kind of medium.

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My hair has won this argument.

List five some of your favorite blogs.

I am taking the fifth on this one. I like a lot of blogs and bloggers. Some of my favorite bloggers are also good friends and there are more than five. No matter who I named, I would inevitably omit someone out and feel terrible about it. So …

favorite-blogger-flag

 

TECHNICOLOR DREAMS AND GENETIC NIGHTMARES – BY TOM CURLEY

A few weeks ago my old friend Ben Taylor sent me a very interesting link to a story about archiving technologies . The story was about how all of our storage media eventually degrades. Film, tape, CDs, DVDs, flash drives, and so on all decay over time. Technicolor, the company that makes films so, technically colorful, has figured out a way to encode and store media on a DNA molecule! Here’s the article.

Basically, it’s not complicated. All of our media is now digital, encoded as a really long string of ones and zeros. DNA is a double helix molecule made up of four proteins CGAT. Cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine.

teravivos.com
teravivos.com

They can combine in an infinite number of combinations, which is why DNA is such a handy way to store all of life’s genetic information. We also have machines called genetic sequencers that can both read a DNA molecule and build one.

DNA-O-MATIC! web.uri.edu
web.uri.edu

So, what the TECHNICOLOR people did was figure out how to encode the ones and zeros onto a DNA molecule, then build that DNA molecule. How do you play back the material? Build a player that reads the DNA molecule and converts it back to ones and zeros. Burn it onto a DVD and put it into your Blue Ray player.

The cool part is that you can store over 700 terabytes of information on one DNA molecule! Which is pretty much every movie and TV show ever made. The other reason they did this was because they say the DNA molecule is stable and won’t degrade.

But here’s the problem.

DNA MUTATES!!!!!!!

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com
rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

That’s how evolution works!

If DNA didn’t mutate, we’d still be four-legged lungfish crawling up out of the surf, looking up at the sky, land and saying: “Well, this is different. Hey Phil! Come on up here. You gotta see this!”

land fish
youtube.com

Now at this point you could argue that DNA usually mutates when cells reproduce.  Sometimes the DNA copies aren’t perfect and that’s what causes the mutation. But the Technicolor DNA molecules are just sitting in a test tube. They are not replicating.

Technicolor-DNA-Archive-2

That’s true. However — there are other things that can make DNA mutate, like radiation. A stray alpha, beta, or gamma particle could come along, hit the molecule, and knock out a quinine here, a cytosine there. After a while, things could change. Not immediately, but after a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years?

A thousand years from now a group of historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and movie critics could get together to examine a recently discovered cache of late 20th Century movies and TV shows. They were  found buried in a vault archived with a quaint technology utilizing DNA by a long-forgotten company called Technicolor.

theshoreways.com
theshoreways.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: As you all know the discovery of this cache of ancient media has given us an unprecedented opportunity to measure the accuracy of our historical records against actual recordings of history.  You’ve all had a month to watch and review media from the last millennium. What have you found?

SCIENTIST #1: Well, actually some their movies are quite good.  I just watched two fantastic movies, “Ishtar” and “Waterworld”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: Hmmm. Our records indicate they were two of the worst movies ever made.

SCIENTIST #1: I can’t understand why. Did you know that Ishtar was the movie where Betty Davis said “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.!”  It only makes sense since they were all riding camels.  And Waterworld!  At the end, when Kevin Costner helped ET get back to his spaceship? I have to admit, I cried.

HEAD SCIENTIST: I see.  What about “Star Wars’?

en.wikipedia.org
en.wikipedia.org

SCIENTIST #2: I saw the first three movies starting with “The Phantom Menace”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: And?

SCIENTIST #2: They were really good!  And funny! Casting Groucho Marx as Obi Wan Kenobi and Robin Williams as  young Anakin Skywalker was inspired!

HEAD SCIENTIST: And the next three in the series?

SCIENTIST #3: Not so much. Darth Vader and the Emperor win in the end and destroy the rebellion. It was really depressing.  The only rebel left alive was Jar Jar Binks.

twitter.com
twitter.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Citizen Kane”? Our records show that as being one of the greatest movies of all time.

SCIENTIST #4: I don’t know why sir. In the first place somebody named Jackie Chan played the part of Kane. He spent the whole movie kicking people and riding on a sled. But he did do his own stunts!

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Casablanca?”

SCIENTIST #5: Horrible! Ronald Reagan as Rick and Joan Rivers as Ilsa? What were they thinking? No chemistry!

HEAD SCIENTIST: OK, what about television?

SCIENTIST #6: Quite frankly only one show stood out and it was brilliant.

HEAD SCIENTIST: What was it?

SCIENTIST #6: “Gilligan’s Island.”  Orson Welles as the Skipper, Brad Pitt as Gilligan, Marilyn Monroe as Ginger,  Sally Field as Mary Ann, Helen Mirren and John Barrymore as the Howells and  John Wayne as the professor.! Brilliant casting. And who knew Arthur Miller could write comedy!

sitcomsonline.com
sitcomsonline.com

What have you done Technicolor?  What have you done?

MASKED MAN

Who was that masked man? He left this silver bullet.


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“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again! … With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early west! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! The Lone Ranger rides again!”

In this day of superheroes, I want my masked man back. And his horse. And his faithful companion.

I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto racing around my bedroom. Until I got the wallpaper, I was sure he was the Long Ranger … as in “he rode a lot and covered great distances.”

Other girls had Fairies and Princesses, but I had “Hi Yo Silver, the Lone Ranger Rides Again!” Although my walls did not play music, I could hum well enough and I had many a long chat with Lone and Tonto, Silver and Scout as I lay abed in the evening pondering the meaning of life and how I could convince my mother to let me have a horse.

Come back, Masked Man! More than ever, I need you now!

PROCASTINATION – IT’S EARLIER WHEN YOU THINK

Procrastination? It’s not procrastination. Uh uh. It’s enjoying the freedom of unharnessed time. For long time-faceyears, I too was scheduled. Always short of time, but never late. Never missed a deadline. Always left the house early in case I encountered traffic. I used up my time making sure to have enough time.

But time is all in our heads. There’s always time and there’s always no time at all. I put off what isn’t critical, do what must be done now, and the rest? I’ll have another cup of coffee and a Danish, please.

I call and change appointments when I don’t feel like going. If traffic piles up? I’m late. I say “Oops, sorry. Hit some traffic.” The world keeps spinning. No one takes out a pistol and shoots me. Yet.

In the immortal words of Robert Heinlein’s Time Travel Corps from All You Zombies —

Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow

If At Last You Do Succeed, Never Try Again

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Billion

A Paradox May be Paradoctored

It is Earlier When You Think

Ancestors Are Just People

Even Jove Nods.

Priorities are important. I’ll get my leaky valve fixed. In time. I’ll get that book review written. Tomorrow. I’ll process some more of the pictures we took yesterday … later. After coffee. After I read, write and think a while.

There will be time. For the important stuff. Maybe there won’t be time for other things and, well … they just won’t get done. Because my hurrying days are done.