Masks

July 9, 2020

BW photograph of a discarded face mask laying atop tree roots.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Last month, there was another post advocating for the wearing of face masks when in public as a means of reducing the spread of COVID-19.  This has been demonstrated to be effective in that capacity.  However, this continues to be another in a long line of divisive political issues…it is hard to image that responding to a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands has become so politicized.  Nonetheless, here we are.  Some continue the refusal to wear a mask as a demonstration of individual rights and a protest against an overreaching government.   Given that the president of the U.S. refuses to wear one, this should not be too surprising.  (With a nod to sociology, this is a perfect example of symbolic interactionism theory.)  Importantly, the president held an indoor rally in Tulsa, OK recently, which attended by his supporters-many of whom were not wearing masks.  The headline of this report is quite telling-please be sure to read the full article, though.

Viruses do what viruses do-politics are not a concern.  Individual rights are not a concern.

So, continue to wear the masks.  However, please do not discard them on the ground.  If they are dropped and you notice (if being worn, it would easy to tell if it was suddenly missing), please backtrack and pick it up.

Be safe and well.

Appearances

May 30, 2020

BW photograph of storm clouds over some trees.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Photography catches a moment in time.  The above was taken just a bit before the rain began to fall.  Severe thunderstorms were forecast for the area, and these clouds certainly provided the appearance of delivering just that.  However…the storm did not materialize-not that that is a bad thing.  Some rain did fall, then the sky cleared, and the temperature dropped a bit.

Speaking of storms, the 2020 Hurricane Season begins on Monday June 1.  NOAA has predicted a more active season this year.  Climatic conditions are in place to create a bit more mayhem than usual-the linked report explains those factors.  2020 has already seen one named storm (Arthur) that developed earlier this month.

And speaking of weather, such storms add another complication to the COVID-19 epidemic-Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross acknowledges such in the report.  The displacement of residents and the need for emergency services produced by tropical storms and hurricanes makes an already complicated service delivery situation that much more difficult.

There is another connection between weather and COVID-19, one that is articulated in the theory that the coming of summer will kill-off the virus.  This is a concept known as “seasonality”, which is explained in this article.  It is important to also recognize, though, that summer often brings a change to human behaviour that accompanies the warming weather-this point, too, is made in the article.  In other words, there are multiple variables at work here, so it may take some time to sort out what interventions actually work with this novel virus.  Please do give the article a read.

Right now, the sky is clear and blue…there is a slight breeze, and the sun is shining.  Pretty nice.

Be safe and well.

 

BW photograph of a tree trunk laying across a hiking trail.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There was a decent rain last night, so the morning was cool, damp, and a bit foggy.

BW photograph of runoff.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Given those conditions, it seemed to be a good morning to be near some water.  The sound of running water can be quite relaxing and, given the front page of today’s New York Times, it was nice to have a moment to literally step away from the news of the day.

BW photograph of runoff with a piece of paper underneath the water.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Look carefully at the photo just above.  See anything unusual?  Sometimes I deliberately look for trash…in most cases, it is not hard to find (see below).  At other times, especially when I am searching for different subject matter or a different experience, my brain completely disregards what is there-this is a form of selective attention.  For the photograph just above, I was intent on getting the desired composition, which required some artful footwork on slippery roots and rocks.  Once in place, and with the exposure dialed, that image was made.  It was not until I was processing the image that the whitish rectangle at the lower left was noticed…nature does not do such shapes.   From a photographic perspective, there are two points to be made here:  One, once you have your composition, look away from the camera for an instant to clear your head-in other words, turn off the “creative” brain.  Then, look again with the “critical” brain.  (As an important aside, please read this.) Is there anything in the composition that is not wanted?  Two, work the scene with multiple compositions.  I had used a slightly different camera position for some earlier shots, one of which is the second image posted above, which does not include the offending rectangle.  Given that I was not looking for trash this morning, I was glad to have the tighter composition-that is more representative of my feeling at the time, and for what I was looking.  I guess a third point would be that the image could  be cropped to remove the offending object…but get it “right” in camera.

BW photograph of Morgan Run after a rain.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Back to the walk…I continued on until reaching another of my favourite places for photographing running water.  I have photographed this scene many, many times as I like getting a touch of rock in the foreground to anchor the image, while still extending into the distance toward the soft, foggy, light.  The slow shutter speed blurred the rushing water. Quite nice.

BW photograph of a crushed plastic bottle laying atop a rock.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a twisted plastic bottle laying atop a rock.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

BW photograph of a crushed plastic bottle stuck between a root and a rock.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What was not so nice was the trash left behind by others.

BW photograph of a pair of broken sunglasses laying near a root.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It also seems to have been a rough few days for sunglasses…

The conclusion?  It is useful to find ways to relax amid this stressful, stressful time.  Sometimes that also means, literally and figuratively, looking past that which is annoying so as to not spoil the moment.

Be safe and well.

Less?

May 22, 2020

BW photograph of a Morgan Run close-up.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There are connections to be made between air quality and COVID-19.  One is that areas with higher levels of air pollution have experienced more complications from COVID-19 than those with less pollution.  The other is that the decreased travel necessitated by stay-at-home orders has improved air quality…somewhat.  It should not be surprising that with the explosion of online ordering, mass transit of goods has also increased-that means more trucks on the road.  The factory-level burning of fossil fuels has also continued during the travel reductions.  As pointed out in the NPR report, this does provide an opportunity to learn just how much more needs to be done to clean the air than cut back on automobile usage.

Photographer’s note:  the above image is from one of my favourite places to photograph water.  If I were photographing air today, it would have been a relatively blank image of pussy-willow grey overcast.  It is also useful to recognize the connection between clean air and clean water-runoff from hard rains can result in particulate matter contaminating waterways.  With regard to air, though, one generally needs smokestacks, exhaust pipes, or smog-covered cities to visually represent the pollution.  People wearing masks is another, but that is much more the norm now…

BW photograph of a pair of sunglasses left on the ground.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Trash is another matter-it is readily visible.  As a result of the lock-down, I have not been out-and-about nearly as much as is liked.  Still, the few times I have been to my favourite local places, there has been less trash.  Not so this time.

BW photograph of a small Utz potato chip bag left on the ground.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

As restrictions ease, combined with the coming summer and the hopeful decrease in COVID-19, it is anticipated that as more people get out, the trash levels will also, unfortunately, increase.

Be safe and well.

Spring

May 18, 2020

BW photograph of azalea blooms.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Despite all of the badness, it is helpful to recognize that it is springtime…that flowers are blooming, grass is being cut, and birds are singing.  Parks are open or opening, and, as long as folks continue to practice safe distancing, wear masks, and follow whatever other restrictions are in place, being out is good for the soul.

Notice I did not mention that Tropical Storm Arthur is moving up the coast-the first named storm of the 2020 Hurricane Season…which does not officially begin until June 1.

Trying to stay positive…

Be safe and well.

Repeat

May 12, 2020

BW photograph of a lost black glove laying next to a road.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

On Being has this intellectually deep interview/discussion with musician Devendra Banhart.  The topic centered around host Krista Tippet’s and Mr. Banhart’s impressions on how this book provides a useful perspective on the circumstances in which we find ourselves today.  One message they both referred to several times was the passage from the book:  that things fall apart, get better, then fall apart again, only to improve, and once again fall apart (this is a paraphrase).  The conversation explored the ramifications of this concept and how one can respond on a meaningful level.  It is worth a listen for the thinking it encourages.

BW photograph of a COVID-19 symptom warning sign on a medical office window.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Several of the previous posts on this blog described the connection between SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.  Listening to the program reinforced that connection for me.  Pandemics come, go, and come again.  It also (finally) resonated that this repeating pattern is, on a basic level, similar to Nietzsche’s “eternal return”-that one continues to re-experience events until the end of time.  As John Kaag states “…if one’s choices are to be replayed endlessly, they’d better be the “right” ones” (p 74).  “Right” is, of course, a value-laden term.  That is part of what makes the process of arriving at a decision complicated.  This is especially true when the decisions impact the many and not just the one.

BW photograph of an empty college parking lot.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

With regard to COVID-19, there are the competing issues of economic collapse and human risk, which are writ large.  States are beginning to “re-open” in the face of concern over another wave of infections.  Kaag goes on to emphasize that for Nietzsche, decisions are highly personal and that one must assume the total responsibility both for the decisions made and the resultant consequences.

And so…the issue of responsibility.  At the risk of stereotyping (and this is a stereotype-this also takes us out of the realm of an individual and into the collective), here in the U.S. we like to assign blame.  As such, that can become a means by which to avoid personal responsibility-“…it’s not my fault…”  This, then, is also a means by which to avoid taking action.  The politics of the day appear to be based on this pattern.  Indeed, our history is littered with politicians who have not taken responsibility for their behaviour, let alone apologize, until they literally have been caught with their pants down.  Scientific data is dismissed, and when things go badly, there is a search for whom to point the finger and shift responsibility.

Yes, choices must be made.  Those making them must also accept that responsibility.

As an aside, the concepts alluded to in this post most certainly do require further exploration and examination as there is much more that the authors intended with these works.  This search for meaning, for understanding, and the means by which to cope requires cultivation and stimulation.  It is important to gather data and critically think about the applications of that data-to examine past mistakes in order to not make them again…and again…and again.

States are beginning to re-open.  South Korea has some experience and data worth considering.

Be safe and well.

 

Melting

May 2, 2020

BW photograph of water currents in front of a rock.

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

Lost amid the coverage of COVID-19 is this most important report (well, not lost as the link attests).  This is not to say that COVID-19 is undeserving of the attention.  It is, though, another example of how chronic conditions continue outside of public awareness when more acute issues arise.

We really do seem to have a short attention span.  Once SARS dissipated, interest was lost.  Then, along came MERS.  Now, we have COVID-19, which highlighted the lack of preparation for such a pandemic. Meanwhile, the ice sheets have continued to melt and seas have continued to rise.

At some point, it is hoped that we collectively learn that it is in humanity’s best interest to be more forward thinking:  to fully engage in the research and development needed to address emerging pathogens rather than by cutting funding and eliminating programs once the crisis has passed.  To fully commit to funding the R&D to provide the needed adaptation/mitigation options as dictated by environmental conditions.  Climate change has long lacked that necessary attention.

Climate change, especially given the political administrations in place in much of the world and their interest in rolling-back environmental protection efforts, remains inexorable in its effect.

Take care and be safe.

Preparation

April 28, 2020

BW photograph of a number of shopping carts pushed together in at the edge of a parking lot.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In 2015, Bill Gates provided this TED Talk, which addressed the lessons to be learned from the 2014 Ebola outbreak.  Listen for his recommendations for dealing with future pandemics, then think about where we’d be with COVID-19 if these ideas had been implemented.  Contrast that with this history of pandemic planning on the part of the U.S., which goes toward explaining where we actually are with regard to the current pandemic.  Short memories lead to longer lasting problems.

Finally, there is video and text of a recent presidential press conference and the attempt at clarification.

The warning labels on disinfectants are quite clear about the dangers of ingesting them.

Which brings up this extremely important point.  The ability to critically think about issues is a skill that requires nurturing and practice.  Fundamental to that is the need for literacy so one can access info from a variety of sources and have the knowledge and understanding to separate what is truly fact and what is political fiction.  A remarkable comment about our society is that students in Detroit had to finally win a lawsuit to have a “Constitutional right to an education”-please read this. Please also note that this verdict could still be overturned and that is does not address the many other areas in the country with similar educational deficits. It is also important to read the reasons provided for having ruled against the plaintiffs in other hearings. Putting this in the context of those at increased risk for severe complications from COVID-19, and the efforts made at compromising voter rights, creates a powerful indictment of the fundamental nature of our culture.

Be safe and well.

 

Gravity

April 20, 2020

BW photograph of rain clouds framed by trees.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Gravity, literally, keeps us grounded…from spinning out of control and flying off into space.  (Not to mention that gravitational forces keep objects in the solar system organized.)  The desire to escape that pull spurs the fascination with aviation and rocketry-to be in the sky and among the clouds.  (Bernoulli’s Principle makes this possible.)  Pink Floyd says it quite well with the lyrics of “Learning to Fly”:  “A fatal attraction is holding me fast-how can I escape this irresistible grasp?”  That is, of course, taking the words literally.  “There’s no sensation that compares with this…suspended animation, a state of bliss.”  Nice thought, eh?

BW photograph looking across a broken tree branch laying on the ground.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Coincidentally, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have a song entitled “Learning to Fly”.  While they, too, sing about being in the clouds, there is (perhaps) a harder message therein: “…but what goes up, must come down”.  Mr. Petty may not have intended this interpretation, but gravity is, after all, a force of nature.

BW photograph looking across a fallen "Y" tree branch laying on the ground.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That interpretation, though, encapsulates another definition of the word “gravity”:  the word is also used to convey a sense of “seriousness or solemnity”.  We are in a delicate time wherein the desire/need to re-open the economy is being put against the need for continued public safety.   That the U.S. has thus far largely bungled the response to COVID-19 does not inspire confidence going forward.  Lives are at stake and there is much more to be learned.

This is especially important when considering the demographics of those most at risk for dying from COVID-19.  Those pre-existing, long-term, social problems have been accentuated by the latest pandemic.  We have a current administration that has done little to address those issues and a lot to make them worse.  The COVID-19 response must be layered atop that.  A vaccine will not take care of these problems.  One could extrapolate that a future epidemic/pandemic could create similar havoc for those most at risk, which, as we have seen, puts everyone at risk.

To close out, the Foo Fighters also have a song entitled “Learning to Fly”.  Their first verse contains the words “Hook me up a new revolution ’cause this one is a lie…”  It is worth reviewing the platforms taken by politicians with regard to social justice issues and the manner by which they become amplified by social and mainstream media.  That, of course, brings us back to the issue of confirmation and implied bias, topics of this blog on several occasions.  COVID-19, though, makes the problem of having anti-science people in power much, much, more acute.  (The same problem exists with climate change, for example.)

Being a representative democracy, citizens have input in the U.S. as to the leadership.  The manner by which people vote (not to mention who can vote), though, is also being impacted by COVID-19.  Should shelter-in-place and social distancing measures continued to be needed, or re-emerge this fall, what will be the response?  If one has misinformed beliefs about mail-in balloting, then what efforts could be expected should there be a need?

Serious stuff indeed.

Take care and be safe.

 

 

 

Finale

April 18, 2020

BW photograph of a tulip in shedding its petals.

Copyright 2020 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Be safe and well.