Turmoil

August 17, 2019

BW photograph of a section of running water showing the turbulence.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

One media resource that I find to be a useful compilation/analysis of the week’s events is the NPR 1A “Friday News Roundup”, which devotes one hour to U.S. issues and one to the global scene.  The following links are for the week of August 12, 2019:  Domestic and International.

Condensing the amount of current turmoil gives one pause.  The division and hostility between peoples and between humans and the environment paints a bleak picture of the state of humanity.  One of the themes that runs through this week’s stories is the characterization of what it means to be an “American” and how we project that meaning to the rest of the world.  This is encapsulated in the statements made by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Please be sure to read through that entire link or listen to the report.  At one point, acting director Cuccinelli states: “No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American.” It is important to note the current administration’s effort to eliminate birthright citizenship-a position acting director Cuccinelli has supported.

America was, literally and figuratively, built on immigration.  We also have a long history of racism.  Nationalism is also not a new concept.  However, unless one has a 100% indigenous ancestry, then at some point those born elsewhere factor into one’s family history.  It is also vitally important to keep in mind how the U.S. government ended up treating indigenous peoples.

BW photograph a single leaf with holes laying atop a large boulder.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This was also a week that brought further threats to those species already existing on the margins in the form of changes to the Endangered Species Act.  This link highlights the significance of the language being used and the impact of that language with regard to the protections offered (or not).  Despite progress in genetic engineering, extinction still means forever.

BW photograph of a log laying in front of a large rock.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Focusing on those two issues here is not to be seen as a dismissal of the other issues discussed in this week’s “Friday News Roundup”.  There are certainly other issues of concern not addressed in today’s program.  They do, though, place a square focus on how we envision America.  More importantly, they highlight the operationalization of what it means to be an American.  The 2020 election will help decide that.  However, 2020 is still quite a ways off and much can happen between now and then.  Indeed, listen to those 1A discussions and clarify your positions with regard to the topics.  Do the requisite research so as to become more familiar with the complexities of the issues.  One real problem is engaging short-term thinking and egocentrism for the decision making process.

Once something is gone, it is gone.

A confession:  Due to my age and life experiences, I can go down the rabbit hole when thinking about issues that are important to me.  I also only write about issues that are important to me. I certainly know that some do prefer to not be inundated by such content-I, too, need to turn it off now and then.  It is also clear that not everyone will agree with the points of view expressed here.  What I do hope, though, is that folks will take notice and think about the content.  One can only decide how one feels if they are aware of the issues.  Once those thoughts and feelings become clear, then courses of action can be developed.

For me, that sums up the evolution of this blog.  I knew from the start that I did not want this to be another gear-driven blog:  I am not that into gear.  I also did not want it to be a cascade of “pretty” pictures-there are tons of blogs and other media for that.

To tie in the photographs, when I find myself with something to say, I go in search of an image to create that illustrates or serves as a metaphor for the thoughts and feelings in the written material.  For example, the photograph that leads off this post is one of rushing water.  I was thinking about the “Friday News Roundup” and so used a shutter speed that was fast enough to give some “edge” to the water, but slow enough to also suggest the pace of the flow.  Many times, these types of images are made with a very slow shutter speed so as to completely smooth out the water-there are many examples of that technique in other posts within this blog.  Doing that, to me, suggests a sense of serenity, that all is comfortable and well and peaceful.  That is not what I wanted to convey here as I view the current news cycle as one that is quite edgy and moves at such a pace that it is difficult to keep up.  The issues keep coming, blow past, and can leave one with a sense of accumulated fatigue.  At other times, I create an image and then need to think of written content that will compliment the visuals.

Together, it is the interaction between the written and the visual that spurs my creative process.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Take care.

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Hot

August 6, 2019

BW photograph of the sun rising behind a split rail fence.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

July 2019 has been determined the hottest month in recorded history.  WBUR’s Here and Now aired this discussion.

That statistic may or may not get people’s attention, but it is in keeping with a trajectory that has been arising for decades.  Jon Gertner’s The Ice at the End of the World provides an ever-important context in which to place that information:  the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

Take care.

 

Up There

July 20, 2019

BW photograph of blurred clouds on a very windy morning.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today, July 20, 2019 is the 50th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon.

In 1969, my aunt and uncle managed a drive-in movie establishment.  During that summer, my grandparents and I would awaken on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings to clean up the debris left behind by the customers as it was commonplace for people to simply drop their trash on the ground and drive away-the environmental movement had yet to really take hold and recycling was unheard of.  Given the family connections, it also meant that I could go to the movies, I think, for free.  One of the other benefits was being able to sit in the projection booth and watch as those giant reels of film (remember that?) unspooled their imagery onto the screen.

(As an aside, Hurricane (Tropical Storm) Agnes destroyed that drive-in 1972.)

We were there on July 20, 1969 watching The Green Berets, a movie steeped in propaganda as the war in Vietnam was not going well, when it was announced over the speakers that Neil Armstrong had made those historic steps.  While the significance of that moment did not really register then, I remember the clapping and cheers that arose from the darkened vehicles.  It was quite a moment.

Looking up, it is still difficult to imagine what it took to make those steps happen.  For example, watch Apollo 13.  (I have not seen First Man.)  There is a scene where the flight engineers use slide rules to make their calculations.  I had a slide rule and never did learn how to use it effectively.  Today, smart phones have more capability than the computers NASA also used to make the Apollo program as successful as it was.  The average automobile has more wiring and electronics than did the lunar module.  Such capability is taken for granted and there is a quest for ever greater technological advances.

That quest, though, is part of what spurred the space program.  Most importantly, it was also a race to beat the Soviets to the moon-Sputnik was a significant event putting that race into motion.  That the U.S. and Russia continue to be adversaries demonstrates that some things do not really change.  Today, there are several countries vying for a return to the moon-some to use it as a way station on the journey to Mars.

Go outside tonight and look to the moon…imagine…

Take care.

PSYC 101 NOTE:  The ability to remember where one was and what was happening when meaningful events occurred is referred to as episodic memory-more about that here.

Heat

July 18, 2019

BW photograph of the square in Gettysburg, PA on an early, hot, summer morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The last couple of posts have addressed climate change from a precipitation perspective.  Now comes the heat.

The forecast for the Washington D.C. area this weekend is for temps of around 100 degrees, which, if that occurs, will be the first time at that level locally since 2016 as per a weather update from NPR.  Adding in the humidity creates the “heat index”, resulting in the felt experience of 110-115 degrees during this time period.  As such, an “excessive heat watch” has been initiated for the area.

BW photograph of two chairs sitting on the sidewalk on an early, hot, summer morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, NPR’s 1A broadcast this discussion earlier this morning.  This is worth a listen as the various issues related to climate change as a national security threat are presented.  Of particular significance is the degree (no pun intended) to which climate change further destabilizes global relations-please be sure to listen for the number of people that could be displaced due to climate change and the impact of those movements.  That the melting of arctic ice due to climate change is seen as a benefit to some in the current administration, please listen for Secretary Pompeo’s comments, is quite a problem.

When engaging is this discussion, it is important to again stress that this is a right now problem, not just one for the future.  Indeed, given the administration’s position, the future will assuredly present worsening conditions and a broadening of the resultant issues, both of which increase the costs for adaptation and mitigation.  On a related note, it is also important to remember that this is not just a problem for other countries either-please listen for the discussion of Norfolk Naval Base and military training as examples of the impact on the U.S.

Given that we just had a tribute to the military staged by the current administration this past July 4th, one would think that the impact of climate change on the defense infrastructure and personnel would provide some adjustment in the overall view of the gravity of this particular problem.

However, that would require a major adjustment in the thinking on the part of the administration.

Take care.

 

Downpours

July 8, 2019

BW photograph of turbulence caused by floodwaters flowing over rocks.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Today has been the opposite of the weather described in the previous post.  There have been several downpours, and one local station reported that 3+ inches of rain fell in the Washington, D.C. area leading to localized flooding.  Flash flood warnings were issued and motorists were advised to not drive through standing water.

BW photograph of turbulence caused by floodwaters flowing over rocks and around trees.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

These photographs were made during a brief respite from the rain and show Morgan Run, which once again had far exceeded its banks.  Under normal conditions, the water does move along, but not anything remotely like this.  Both the volume and the force of this water evidenced the rationale behind not driving through such flows.  (As an aside, the road takes an overpass to cross Morgan Run, so that would not be an issue here.)  The turbulence in the lead photos was caused by the floodwaters colliding with the very large rocks that are usually highly visible and protrude from the water enough to be quite walkable.

BW photograph of a lone tree partially submerged by floodwaters.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of three trees partially submerged by floodwaters.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The trees that line the bank have had their roots prominently exposed by previous floods-they have been documented in other posts.  As of this morning, all of those trees were still standing.  I plan to go back early tomorrow morning to check as it was again pouring while these photos were being edited and this post was being written.

This kind of weather event, extremely heavy, but relatively brief, downpours are in keeping with the predictions for this area as a result of climate change.  As such, it is expected that this will not be the last of flood photos from Morgan Run and other waterways this summer.

Take care.

Protection

May 16, 2019

BW photograph of a plane flying into a cloud bank.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I fly.  Not too much.  But enough.

BW photograph a plane flying into a cloud bank.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Therefore, the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes and the subsequent grounding of that fleet caught my attention.  (I had had a flight scheduled that most likely would have been on one of those planes for just after they had been grounded-otherwise, I would have faced the decision of whether or not to make that trip.)  Later, there were additional reports about quality control problems at Boeing.  That these issues appear to be related to the efforts to remain competitive with other manufacturers’ aircraft exacerbated the concern.  Yes, statistically I am more likely to be injured or killed on my daily commute than when flying.  However, when planes go down, often resulting in scores of deaths, one takes notice.  Given that it now appears Boeing knew about the issues with the 737 Max 8 in advance of the first crash, one begins to seriously wonder about the company’s priorities with regard to safety, communication with constituents, and quality control.   That the FAA has allowed Boeing to largely regulate itself does not inspire confidence.  More on this point in just a bit.

BW photograph of the cloud bank into which a plane just flew.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

On a related note, HBO is currently showing Chernobyl, which is about the nuclear reactor explosion that occurred in 1986.  I am currently reading Midnight in Chernobyl and have started to watch the series.  What is striking, if not surprising, is how similar the issues with that disaster are to the ones that led to the current problems at Boeing-obfuscation, secrecy, and regulatory concerns are examples.  At Chernobyl, those working in the facility, their families and neighbors in Pripyat, the emergency personnel called to the scene, and anyone/anything downwind of the reactor, paid that price.  The book is definitely worth a read.

While the scale of these disasters are not equal, Chernobyl presented a genuine global risk, the pain of loss felt is a common denominator.

So, this begs the political question:  to what degree are governments responsible to protect their citizenry from problematic business practices?  The relationship between Boeing and the FAA is one example.  That the U.S. was one of the last countries to ground the 737 Max 8s adds to the mix.  For another example, think about the issues presented by Facebook with privacy in general and the 2016 election in particular.  On a different note, what if the governmental practices are the problem?  That is certainly a large part of the issue with Chernobyl.  In the U.S., the current administration systematically gutted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.   There is enough in the Mueller Report and the Attorney General’s summary to be concerned about as well.

With regard to corporate malfeasance, it often takes individuals within the company to step forward and become what are known as whistleblowers.  There are laws to protect such individuals as otherwise problematic, if not outright illegal, behaviour may not come to light.  The Obama administration had a complex relationship with that practice.

If the above is not enough, there is also the content of this interview.  Please listen for the use of the term “whistleblower” toward the end.  Here is a link to the NPR book review of that which is discussed in the interview.

One conclusion to draw from all of this?  Caveat Emptor.

Take care.

 

Biodiversity

May 11, 2019

BW photograph of a feather upon the ground.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Weekend Edition host Scott Simon provided an eloquent commentary about the threat to biodiversity.  Please do give this a read and/or listen.

BW photograph of a bush, a pine tree trunk, and rocks.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There really is nothing more for me to add.

Take care.

Photographer’s note:  the feather above is not from a Seychelles Magpie Robin.