LONG, RAMBLING POLITICAL & ECOLOGICAL POST – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango —Anyone (Technically) Can Win

These last 2-1/2 years with El Trumpo Magnifico as our Fearless Leader has made politics a lot less fun than they used to be. I’ve always been a bit of a political junkie. I love watching elections, reading about who won which debate. I even love the long debates with silly rules and far too many people. Following elections, I am constantly charmed by how quickly every candidate will break each promise made on the campaign trail.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have pulled away from the pack in most national and early-state polls over the last month.

It should not be surprising that those three candidates have risen to the top of the field of more than 20: Biden, Sanders, and Warren are the three contenders who came to the race with a national political brand, and they have used their campaigns to hone their messages with a clarity that none of their competitors have. — Los Angeles Times

This time, it’s not nearly as much fun. There so much at stake. Literally, our life and death in this world — culturally, politically, and ecologically — is dizzily spinning on the edge of nothingness. If we get it wrong this time, I’m not sure there will be time to turn back.

I don’t mean only picking a candidate who can pulverize hizzoner at the polls, but a candidate who isn’t going to abandon every promise as soon as he or she is in office based on who has the swing vote or the big money. Or both.

It’s going to come down to Bernie, Biden, or Warren. It’s obviously going to be a three-candidate race. Even though I find the ideas from other candidates interesting, they should seriously be considering running for another office. How about SENATOR?

BERNARD SANDERS

I think Bernie, great ideas notwithstanding, looks like his heart is going to explode. If I was his mate, I’d be dragging him to a hospital for a serious physical. Garry thinks his head is going to blow up. I think he’s about ready for a massive heart attack.

I don’t think he can run this country, at least not long enough to accomplish much. Maybe if he picked the right (young and healthy) running mate? But we don’t vote for vice president. Overall, I think Bernie’s time came and went. He has grown old fighting the good fight, but he needs to let others take over. As a retiree, I can assure him that once he gets over his passion to fix the world, he’ll enjoy it. He can do what Garry does: sit in front of the television and yell at the guys now doing the job he used to do.

JOE BIDEN

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., aka “Joe Biden,” certainly has the credentials. One of the reasons everyone picks on him is how long he has served and how many decisions he has had to make. Some of them may not have worked out the way he thought they would, but he has done surprisingly well for a long time.

Photo via Newscom

He has a record to attack, which is something most of the nominees don’t have. For good or ill, he has come through some pretty rough patches in life and he’s managed to come out of it a decent, thoughtful, intelligent human being. While he isn’t my personal pick for President, I would not be unhappy if he did become president. He’s a lot smarter than people think he is. He’s forgotten more about our political system than most of the erstwhile candidates ever learned.

He can do it well, especially if he picks a high-quality cabinet composed of capable people who he then allows to do the job for which they were hired. He has a lot of dedicated years as a man who cares. I don’t think he owes a lot to the big corporate groups. I hope not, anyway. This is information which is hard to unearth.


FACTOID TO REMEMBER: Yesterday, I got a call from what I assumed was our local cop shop looking for donations. At the end of the call after I explained we were too poor to be giving anything to anybody, he said he was part of a PAC and donations are NOT tax-deductible.

Watch out. They suddenly talk very fast when they get to this
part of the shpiel.


ELIZABETH WARREN

Finally, we get to my pick: Elizabeth Ann Warren. She has been our senator for some years now. I like her.

She’s a thinker and a planner. The reason she has answers for everything is that she has thought about the questions and found some answers.

Is everything on her agenda going to go exactly as planned? Of course not. No one’s “plans” are going to go exactly as stated. Because once you get into office, there are all these other people you need to work with to get the job done. No one gets it done alone — not counting our current moron-in-chief. He’s not getting anything done either, but he’s giving everyone high blood pressure while not getting it done.

I believe that within the realities of Washington D.C., Elizabeth Warren will get as much done as anybody could. It won’t be easy. It won’t be a quick fix. She will do the best she can with the people in Congress, the Senate, and lord help us, the Supreme Court. She’s got wonderful credentials including the ability to teach. I think that’s one of the reasons she makes such a good impression as a nominee. She explains information in a way that everybody can understand. She doesn’t make it simplistic or stupid. She doesn’t act like we are stupid. She simply cuts out the technobabble and uses words that anyone who isn’t stupid will understand.

Is she going to reach “Trump’s Base?” No one will reach them. They are not reachable. Personally, I thought Hillary Clinton’s “deplorable” was a pretty good description of those morons. But Fandango had a point. She should have just called them assholes. Fewer syllables are better — and wouldn’t it be great to see all those people walking around in T-shirts that say “I’M A REPUBLICAN ASSHOLE!” It would go well with their MAGA hats.


Make no mistake. This is not going to be an easy fight.

China and Russia are still working their butts off trying to skew our elections and I’m pretty sure our current administration is giving them all the help they need. Everyone — and I do mean EVERYONE — has to get out and vote. We need to show the world and prove to ourselves we care about this world and our place in it.

The problems we face are national, but also universal. Many of them we caused ourselves. We have never properly dealt with immigration and never taken our environment seriously. The information about what’s happening to our climate is not new. I was working on it when I lived in Israel and working at The University of Jerusalem’s Environmental Health Laboratory. Even in a little country like Israel, we couldn’t convince the kibbutzniks and other farmers to stop using nitrogen-based fertilizer.

It’s not that nitrogen per se is bad, but in an arid zone (Israel’s climate is very similar to Arizona), without heavy rain to “wash” the soil, nitrogen collects and seeps into the aquifer and ultimately poisons it.

Israel poisoned its aquifer while I lived there. It wasn’t a powerful aquifer. Most aquifers are fragile and you have to be careful what goes into it if you want to drink it — or even use it for watering crops.

I am told, though I have not seen them, that Israel is finally, building big desalinization plants, something David Ben Gurion had on his list of top 10 most important “issues to be dealt with” in Israel in 1948. It only took 50+ years to get to it.

Here, in Massachusetts, all our water come from an aquifer. The Blackstone watershed is a major player in our water supply. We’ve got a pretty healthy aquifer, but it’s one aquifer. When someone says (I have heard this too many times to count): “I can do what I like with my water because the well is on MY land,” he or she doesn’t get it.


The aquifer belongs to everyone. If you use too much water or weed killer or chemical fertilizer, you endanger the water we all need. Your water is my water. My neighbor’s water is your water and his neighbor’s water belongs to you, me and everyone else. 


We live and die together on this planet. Whether or not we personally hate each other, we still absolutely positively MUST cooperate in keeping our water drinkable, our air breathable, and our land free of poison.

Aquifer in action

Did you catch Trump explaining that we had to get rid of low-usage light bulbs because they make him look orange? Really. He said that. They don’t make me look orange, but he says they make everyone look orange. He really is a jackass.

LET’S GET TOGETHER AND ASSIMILATE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango —Assimilate

Weren’t we all supposed to assimilate? Wasn’t that one of the big items on the agenda of the constitutional convention? Gee, I guess it’s hard to have genuine assimilation when you slaughter all the natives and have black slaves, huh.

I think maybe we got that whole bit wrong.

Just saying.

Well, this is the 400th anniversary of slavery and it’s neverending remnants in America. There were, I’m sure, fine people on both sides, but the guys with the guns and whips were officially the “better” guys. I was trying to find out the exact day and month, but no one seems to have noted it anywhere, so we can just call this the “400th Birthday of our Grand Democratic Experiment.”

Landing of Negroes at Jamestown from a Dutch Man-of-war, 1619. In this image, the Dutch sailors, who have captured slaves from a Spanish ship, are negotiating a trade with the Jamestown settlers for food. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Talk about disheartening. I remember the big battle of the Civil Rights movement. Whatever else he did wrong, Lyndon Johnson was a hero on that one. He burnt every favor owed him to get that bill passed. He twisted arms, threatened people, probably black-mailed them too. But he got it done and they said it couldn’t be done.

What I find so horrifying these days is how quickly we’ve managed to undo whatever previous good works we achieved. Just 2-1/2 years and we’re right back in the soup. I thought laws were LAWS and once a law was a law, you couldn’t casually dismiss it.

I was wrong.

Assimilation. Right. Well, MY life is pretty well assimilated. How’s yours going?

THEY DON’T CALL THEM FILTHY RICH FOR NOTHING – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Guileless but white

For all the right-wing evangelists, have any of you noticed that at no point in the Torah or the Gospels is there any mention of race or skin color? Nor any mention of superiority based on color, either.

It’s not that there was no such thing as color. Some people were dark, others much lighter. Especially in the Mediterranean area, colors vary quite a lot and no one seems to care.

Why do we care? What makes us so special? What makes white people superior? We aren’t better farmers or better people. We are cruel, vicious, and willing to destroy the world while guilelessly sitting on a fence saying “who me?”

Why is it important to be “white?” Were the Sphinxes built by “white people?” Not unless the Eqyptians have done some serious color shifting. How about the great Mayan and Aztec pyramids? They weren’t white either.  All the palaces and temples in India were built by brown people as were those in Tibet and other areas of Asia. No white folks there, either.

How about the Great Wall of China? A lot of white people building that one?

So other than our greed and cruelty to those who are different than us, what makes white people special? As far as I can tell, nothing. We invented a lot of technology which hasn’t done the world any good and is in the process of doing it permanent harm.

So as we sit around, guilelessly acting as if we are the world’s great innocents, ponder who has done the worst things to most people. Who has done the most slaughtering? Who has the biggest butcher bill to pay?

You guessed it. White people. Now we want to take over the world because we haven’t done enough damage.

Why not? We’ve been trying to do that for hundreds of years. We might get there yet. I’m not sure what kind of world we will be taking over or if there will even be a part of it that remains safe for humans to live.

We can be proudly white in a world of horror.

NUDES ARE FOR GROWNUPS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Nude

Once upon a time, before the 24-hour “news cycle” where basically they repeat the same stories 24 timed each day, you knew by the clock when news would be on and could settle down to watch the day go by.

News is nudes.

Today, by the end of the 24/7 schedule, everyone can recite da nudes in their sleep. Used to be around six or seven in the evening, with a final lap at 11 pm, right before you went to sleep. Now, nudes show up everywhere. Sometimes so early in the day you think maybe you are hallucinating.

Dali – 1928 -Nude

Also, TV administrators figure sometimes (especially on a not-very-exciting news day), they want to agitate viewers enough to throw things in frenzy at the telibizion. Most people don’t really throw things. Telibizions are expensive.

I only  have about 10 minutes of news watching in me before I want to break a lamp over someone’s head. Often, my own,

No wonder nudes are considered “for the over-13 crowds.” It’s very disturbing!

COUNTRY GARDENS BETWEEN STORMS – Marilyn Armstrong

AMELIORATING AND JUDICIOUS WILD PLANTING OF FLOWERS IN THE TINY TOWN OF UXBRIDGE

Our lawns are essentially wild,, too. I can’t turn on the hose because that pipe broke a few years ago and I haven’t figured out where to attach the new hose, (there’s a spout somewhere, but where?) — and so the hose is still in its original box in the basement.

Watering is hardly an issue. We are wet enough for several thousand lawns.

In the spring, the back lawn is covered with dandelions, wild violets, and Mayflowers. I love the yellow and blue combination. I won’t let anyone cut it until after they have all died back. Half our “front” garden is full of Asters, Columbine, Spiderwort, Solomon’s Seal. and Daylilies culled from the roads and woods. Other than the Roses and a big old-fashioned white Rhododendron that came before we moved in, all the other things we planted disappeared.

I think we have ONE remaining tulip and an azalea that’s too shady to bloom much. About twice a year, my son mows everything and hits the giant forsythia with an electric hedge cutter. Otherwise, it is what it is. Wild thing overtaking wild thing. Right now, it’s Jimson Weed with its bright purple berries (it came out of nowhere, but we have had a lot of birds and they bring seeds).

Jimson weed

We rarely go into the garden for recreation but we do occasionally hang out on the deck which is falling down. The bird feeders will go back up at the end of the month. I can’t wait until November. I want my birds back.

The dogs own the front yard and it looks like a site on which they shoot missiles. Garry cleans the pathway to the house, but otherwise, it’s pretty ripe. The other 4 acres are woods. These days, almost entirely oak behind the house and a 50-50 mix of sugar maple, oak, and our one and only decorative tree, the Japanese maple culled from my cousin’s crop (he has many).

This year, the wild grape vines are covering everything and growing insanely fast, too. As is the Bitterroot which is a transplant from somewhere else. Not on this continent.

There are a few miniature Korean lilacs I planted 20 years ago and are growing, but I have trouble finding them between the bigger trees.  Our only, very beaten and battered (and aging) lilac that is the size of a medium-size maple still throws up a few flowers. I need a very long lens to find the few we get and those are way up at the top of the tree.

Few people have much in the way of gardens. It’s dark from the canopy of oaks which shade out most other trees. We had ash and maple and we do have a fair growth of sassafras — but only along the edge of the woods.

A million kinds of grasping vines fighting for dominance. The rain has changed that. Last year it was wild morning glory which at least had a few flowers, but this year, it’s those huge grapevines. They have grown so tall they cover some of the mid-size oak trees.
I have ONE really well-grown maple right in front of my house which I treasure because it’s the only place on the property (other than the Japanese maple) that gives me real color.

Sunshine and oak trees

The deep green of the oaks become a golden bronze late in the season (November, usually) and the few remaining Ash change to bright yellow — usually now — but the rain has changed it so there is NO color anywhere.

At least I don’t have to worry about mowing because there’s no lawn. There was — for a single season — a back lawn after we had our backyard flattened and seeded, but the following year, after a wild and crazy winter of blizzards and brutally low temperatures, the wildflowers came back and the grass gave up.

It’s easier in the country. No one expects a big floral show (but a great ripening of tomatoes will bring admiring neighbors from near and far), so if you have a few daffodils and daylilies, that’s fine.

Everyone has one or more dogs. If you listen, you can always hear one barking. Occasionally, in the evening, they all get a good solid group bark going. It’s the Canine Earphone Collective. Free. No devices needed. That’s how dogs keep in touch, pass along the gossip, and let all the other canines know what’s happening out here in the never-ever lands beyond the city and suburban borders.

Back — now nearly 10 years ago — when we had our three long-eared hounds, they would sing in the morning. How I miss them! None of our current generation of dogs sing. No idea what DNA created El Duque , but the Scotties only sing if other dogs begin the chorus. Then they will yelp during appropriate moments in the finale.

INSTIGATE A PERSONAL SEARCH FOR WEATHER-RELATED HOME DAMAGE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Instigate

I don’t have much time today — heart doctor followup in a few hours.

This has been an exceptionally busy week with doctor appointments for either Garry or me for every day, not counting Labor Day. Plus, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with our house.

Damaged gutters from falling branches

As we drove to the doctor yesterday, I was looking at all the houses as we passed and realized that every vinyl-sided house appeared — on one or more walls — like ours. Even houses that began the year in near-perfect condition were obviously rain-damaged. Even cedar shakes are soaked through, dark and wet looking — which means the walls behind them are wet too.

The whole house looks kind of like this. The green mold is dampness and rain

We are not going to be alone trying to get our so-called insurance companies to pay for the damage. There has been a calamitous amount of storm damage this year. Are ALL the insurance companies going to claim it’s “just” normal wear and tear? Even homes that were normally perfectly maintained look beaten.

This looks exactly like our house. Same color vinyl and everything

From as far away as Alberta (Canada) to Arizona (where it doesn’t rain!), to parts of southern California, reports are coming in that this has been the rainiest period anyone can remember — and most of the people saying that are not kids. They are our age, a little more or less.

Foundations break apart from the never-ending rain

I got a letter from the insurance company promising to send an adjuster one day soon. Except the adjuster came and went last Friday. Good to know MAPFRE is right up to date! If they don’t even know they already sent an adjuster, I can be pretty sure they haven’t even looked at our claim, much less done anything with it.

When the trunks of the trees and the earth are wet enough, trees fall

The good news? The adjuster said that the damage is confined to just that wall and is NOT spreading to the rest of the house — and that he was able to measure for actual water which means damage is very recent.

For all of you who haven’t yet taken a good look at your houses, maybe this is a good time to do it. Instigate a family investigation of every part of your house, from the roof to foundation. Look closely at everything.

The weather isn’t going to improve and I wonder if any place is going to be safe after a while. When you get down to it, our houses are only permanent for as long as they want to be. If the weather keeps getting crazier, no one’s house is going to be secure unless it’s on top of a hill and built from natural stone. Even castles have rooves, siding, and foundations that can be water-damaged. Many already have been.

Then, there are plagues of insects that appear. We have never had a plague (two, actually) of lethal virus-bearing mosquitoes until this year. We’ve had a few bad ones that came up on vegetable trucks or cars, but not like this summer. They too are part of the changing climate.

When the trees get sufficiently soaked through trunk and root, they collapse. It’s all mud with nothing to hold them firmly in the ground. Crops won’t grow in mud, either.

Hard not to notice something bad is going on underneath, but insurance can’t see it

And now, as they track Dorian up the coast, so far they are predicting it will mangle parts of the Carolinas. With a little bit of luck, most of the worst of it will miss our area — except (naturally) a lot of rain, wind, thunder, and lightning. What a shock! We haven’t seen (sarcasm font start here) much of that.

Climate change.

Is it legal to yearn that Mara Lago will blowdown or sink during a category 5 hurricane? Can we at least hope that he who has brought so much trouble on us will reap the whirlwind? Surely something wet with howling wind is bound to hit him.

I get a little thrill merely thinking about it.

RAW OR JPG? WHAT’S YOUR FORMAT? Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Raw

All of my cameras, including my pocket-sized cameras, are designed to shoot either jpg, which is the standard publication format for graphics on the Internet — or RAW, which is strictly data, but can capture subtleties of detail, color, and texture of which jpg is not capable.

I have always been advised to use RAW because it produces finer detail and gives you more room for advanced processing.

I don’t use it.

I did try it in the beginning when I got a camera that could handle it, my first Olympus. I was underwhelmed. Sure, you could process for those fine details, but since I wasn’t printing my pictures or publishing them in a book, the difference between RAW and jpg was invisible to most viewers and RAW files take up a staggering amount of room on ones hard-drive.

Red-bellied Woodpecker with a very pointy beak (jpg)

I finally asked a few people I knew well what they did with all that RAW data? Surely they didn’t try to store it on their computer — or even back it onto a hard-drive. Each raw image was at least triple the data quality for an equivalent jpg. The answer was the same, often a slightly ashamed and embarrassed “I don’t use RAW … there’s no point when you are using a computer and not printing.” Or, alternatively, “I transfer it into jpg then dump the RAW files.”

It turns out I was far from the only shooter who just couldn’t see substantive advantages to using that much memory. Memory may be cheap at the moment, but they will make changes to it and suddenly — again — we will all have to buy entirely new external back-up devices because the industry changes constantly.

Worse, RAW data is always changing. For me, that additional step of having to transfer the RAW into a processible image was one step beyond my time constraints. If I was doing this professionally, maybe.  But maybe not. I rarely — if ever — have images that profoundly out of normal range to work with and since I overshoot everything anyway, I always have another, a nearly identical image with which to work.


All these are jpg images.


For those of you who have grappled with this RAW versus jpg issue for years, there are tons of articles about it all over the internet. But consider how much time you already spend processing and ask yourself if you have the time to do that much more processing on top of what you already do. Get back to me on that. I’m genuinely interested. I doubt I will change how I work, but I’d like to know how other people feel about it.

So I don’t shoot RAW. Sometimes, I have a guilt reaction about it. Maybe I should be using the format. “Everyone says so.”

Except that everyone doesn’t say so. Everyone thinks everyone else is saying so.