Got Memes?

There were so many wonderful tweets and memes about last night’s debate. How did we manage before the internets??

Here are a few of my favorites:


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Photography Class

It was a gorgeous morning as I made my way through the Desert Botanical Gardens for the first of several photography classes I’ve signed up this and next month. This first one is a 2 day class, and today focused on exposure. I learned some new stuff and had some stuff I knew clarified. For the last hour we were sent out into the garden to work with what we learned about exposure. I primarily focused on working with depth of field.

Here are some of my pics



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Thanks Obama

I just watched a video of President Obama’s remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 46th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on September 18, 2016. It’s his last as President of the United States, and well worth watching the 25-26 minutes video that wordpress won’t let me embed because I’m not paying for this blog space. So go here to see it.

In case you’re like me and would prefer reading the transcript you can find it here.

Here are some of my favorite parts, parts that show both our President’s humor and his passion:

There’s an extra spring in my step tonight. I don’t know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther thing is over. I mean, ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change — none of those things weighed on my mind–like the validity of my birth certificate. And to think that with just 124 days to go, under the wire, we got that resolved. I mean, that’s a boost for me in the home stretch.  In other breaking news, the world is round, not flat. Lord.

* **

You may have heard Hillary’s opponent in this election say that there’s never been a worse time to be a black person. I mean, he missed that whole civics lesson about slavery and Jim Crow and — but we’ve got a museum for him to visit. So he can tune in.  We will educate him.

He says we got nothing left to lose, so we might as well support somebody who has fought against civil rights, and fought against equality, and who has shown no regard for working people for most of his life.  Well, we do have challenges, but we’re not stupid.  (Applause.)  We know the progress we’ve made, despite the forces of opposition, despite the forces of discrimination, despite the politics of backlash.  And we intend to keep fighting against those forces.

. . . So if I hear anybody saying their vote does not matter, that it doesn’t matter who we elect — read up on your history. It matters. We’ve got to get people to vote.

. . . Get people registered to vote. If you care about our legacy, realize everything we stand for is at stake. All the progress we’ve made is at stake in this election. My name may not be on the ballot, but our progress is on the ballot.  (Applause.)  Tolerance is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot.  Justice is on the ballot. Good schools are on the ballot. Ending mass incarceration — that’s on the ballot right now!

* **

A few days ago, Michelle and my mother-in-law and the girls and I, we snuck over and got an early look at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. We looked at the shackles that had been used to bring folks over.  We saw the shacks that slaves had been trying to make a way out of no way. And then, with each successive level, we saw the unimaginable courage and the struggles, and the sacrifices, and the humor, and the innovation, and the hope that led to such extraordinary progress, even in our own lifetimes.

And it made us proud. Not because we had arrived, but because what a road we had to travel. What a miracle that despite such hardship, we’ve been able to do so much.  And I know everybody in this room understands that how progress is not inevitable.  Its sustainment depends on us. It’s not just a matter of having a black President or First Lady. It’s a matter of engaging all of our citizens in the work of our democracy.

It was that slave who said, you know what, despite the risk of a lash, I’m going to learn how to read. It’s Harriet Tubman saying, despite the risk to my life, I’m going to free my people. It’s Fannie Lou Hamer saying, despite the ostracism, the blowback, I’m going to sit down here in this convention hall and I’m going to tell people what it’s like to live the life I’ve lived. I’m going to testify to why change needs to come.  It’s a young John Lewis saying, I’m going to march despite those horses I see in front of me.

All those ordinary people, all those folks whose names aren’t in the history book, they never got a video providing a tribute to them — that’s why we’re here.  That’s how progress is sustained.  And then it’s a matter of electing people to office who understand that story, who feel it in their hearts, in their guts, and understand that government can’t solve all our problems but it can be a force for good.

To experience this incredible new monument, this museum is to be reminded we’re just a small part of a long chain, generation after generation, striving against the odds.  What an inspiration they are.  And what an inspiration all of you are — especially the young people who are here.

That’s why I am still fired up. That’s why I’m still ready to go. And if you are, too, if you’re ready to continue this journey that we started, then join me. Register folks to vote. Get them to the polls. Keep marching. Keep fighting. Keep organizing.  If we rise to this moment, if we understand this isn’t the endpoint, this is the beginning, we’re just getting going, we’re just getting moving — then I have never been more optimistic that our best days are still ahead.

I don’t know about you, but I am sure going to miss this President.

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They Are Deplorable

Hillary Clinton was right. Donald Trump supporters are deplorable. As Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jamelle Bouie, and Judd Legum have shown two-thirds of Trump supporters believe President Obama isn’t an American (following the lead of the Birther in Chief, Donald Trump). Sixty percent have “unfavorable views” of Islam, while more than 40 percent believe blacks are “more violent” and “more criminal” than whites. And if all that isn’t deplorable enough,  twenty percent of Trump supporters think Lincoln was wrong to sign the Emancipation Proclamation!

heiltrumpIt’s becoming difficult to see the difference between the party of Trump and the White Nationalist party, and if the few remaining decent folk in the GOP establishment and the mainstream media don’t call out this ugly truth, they will be responsible not only for the rise of Trump but also the triumph of Trumpism.

If Clinton got anything wrong, it was scale.  Rather than baskets, she should have said “freight containers.”

If Americans are no longer disgusted by racists, sexists, homophobics, xenophobics, and Islamaphobics and don’t see them as  deserving strong condemnation, Trump has already won.

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Monty’s House

Looks like Monty needs a bigger house.


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Winding Up and Going No Where

Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl is a bleak and depressing story set in a future run by calorie monopolies, where genetically modified products and manufactured foodborn plagues have wiped out the food chains, wars are waged for precious seeds, and quarantines for food-borne diseases are a necessity.

Now, some writers—Margaret Atwood and Ursla LeGuin immediately come to mind—can immerse the reader in a strange world while giving us enough to hold onto as we make our way through the unfamiliar. Take Oryx and Crake, for example; the dystopian future gene-splice/biopunk bleakness I encountered was wholly unfamiliar, but within a few pages I was at home there. I had no such experience reading Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl despite the fact that a  world destroyed by climate change, the depletion of natural resources, and uncontrolled spread of GMO spread is familiar enough because it’s the world we’re living in at this very moment. Still I trudged through  page after page of the novel and finished by skimming the second half just because I was determined to get through it.

I read Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife last summer and enjoyed it., so I was looking forward to this book. It won a Nebula and the Locus for Best First Novel, as well as the Compton Crook award, so perhaps I missed something, but I found the plot tedious, the dialogue clumsy, and the central character–”a windup”, or artificial being, who yearns to be human–a sci-fi cliché. The narration was slow, and I had absolutely no emotional investment in any of the characters.


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Great Adventure

(Note: the tour I talk about here and this post are from June 30, 2016, but the wi-fi at the vacation home where we were staying wasn’t very fast and there were up to 12 people using it.)

We’re visiting family in Washington state and as part of our visit we scheduled a whale watching tour. I’ve been so fortunate as to have seen a number of whale species in the wild, but I had never had an opportunity to see Orcas in the wild. Until now.

The tour left at 10:00 am. The sky was gray with overcast, and there was a pretty strong wind. We we’re out for an hour or so when we came across several bald eagles and harbor sea lions, but no whale. Soon, however, we came upon a good size pod of Transient Orcas as we watched the T100 and T100B’s, including the very young calf, as they traveled north. This is an extended family of seven killer whales, spanning three generations–a mom, her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter!   The little one had been born just 4 years ago. There was also a 14 year old bull, and a baby that was so young, born in 2015, that little is known about him/her.

We stayed with the pod for almost two hours, and what a show! We also watched them in an intense hunt and saw a number of  tail lobs as they hunted (our guide thought it was a harbor seal). We also saw celebratory exhibition after the kill with breaches galore.  We followed along as they traveled between hunts, so were able to get a good look at the entire pod and we’re rewarded with a few spy hops.

It was better than I had ever imagined, and I am so pleased they graced us with the wondrous presence.

If you follow this blog you know I bought a Canon Rebel T6i about a month ago to take on this trip. I read and practiced and read and practiced, hoping to get some good shots if I was lucky enough to encounter orcas. Well, I took over 1038 shots during the tour, and I got some good ones (for an amature). I’ll share a few of the best below. I used a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens and set the camera for continuous shots and shutter priority. I shot mostly at 1/1250 shutter speed and set the ISO between 200 and 400 as the light changed throughout the day.

Here’s a 14 year old male T100B breaching in celebration after a kill

Here’s the big boy again spy hopping


And here you can see several Orcas traveling together


And finally, a couple of  tail lobs



I’ll never forget this experience and hope to be able to do another whale watching tour in the area someday.

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