Archive for the 'Indignations' Category

What Happened?

Yesterday, July 16th, was the 29th day of Ramadan in the Islamic year 1436, or common era year of 2015.  It was a day of great anticipation.  Will we see the moon and end the fast or will it go on for another day?  This Ramadan started without any contention at all!  It was a refreshing respite from all the drama that is usually associated with the starts and stops of the Islamic months due to the confusion about seeing the new crescent moon.  But as far as I could tell, the entire Muslim world began fasting on the same day!  One week into the month, I started looking forward to the end of the month not to determine the if the moon would be seen or not, but to get a handle on if we would face a chaotic evening of chasing down errant reports all over the world.  I researched two primary topics: crescent visibility probability curves and weather history.

The probability curves for July 16th are shown below.  How they are generated is a topic on its own and is based on regression models and requires oodles of data from past sightings.  The more data you have the more accurate the curves will predict the probability of seeing the new crescent.  The curves are broken down into various regions shown by the different colors indicating how easy it will be to see the crescent.  Zone A: easily visible to the unaided eye, Zone B: visible under perfect atmospheric conditions, Zone C: visible to the unaided eye after found with optical aide, Zone D: only visible with binoculars or conventional telescopes, Zone E: not visible with conventional telescopes, Zone F: below Danjon Limit (7°). Click on the image for a larger view.

Sighting Curves for July 16th, 2015

Now before I go on let me qualify something.  I started sighting the moon over 20 years ago.  I have gone to look for it every month.  I have seen many moons.  The majority of those 20 years of sighting were made with no prior astronomical or probability prediction knowledge.  I would always just based the sighting day 29 days later from the previous day I saw the moon.  That is all one needs to know.

However over those years one gets to know what the moon looks like, where it will  be in the sky in any given season, what orientation the moon will have and so on.  Slowly as crescent moon sighting became more contentious I began to bolster my empirical knowledge with astronomical and probabilistic tools.  I also started to teach astronomy, first at the elementary public school level and slowly moving up to higher levels until now at the college level.  Now coupling both the 20 years of empirical knowledge and with some science it is not difficult to predict if the crescent will be seen, especially in one’s own locality.

So as I looked into where the moon might be seen yesterday what I noticed was that the best place on the planet was out in the South Pacific.  Should not be a problem, no one lives on the water.  However South America could have reports.  In the last several years we have had some very strange and unverifiable reports coming from the south especially from Chile.  But most of South America was in the Zone B, and given perfect atmospheric conditions – meaning the skies needed to be totally clear we very well could receive reports from there.  So I looked into the weather history of the region in Chile where we have some contacts that have given us reports in the past.

In the month of July South America is in the midst of winter and in Chile 67% of the month of July is under cloudy and overcast skies.  I did not think a report from Chile would come in this year.  However, yesterday evening, Chile had clear skies!  The interesting result is that Chile had a negative sighting as well as all of South America, except for one report coming out of Bogota, Columbia, and that sighting was with a high-powered telescope.

Why is that important?  For one it was made with a telescope and that does not constitute a valid sighting according to Islamic Law.  Second it was a high-powered telescope.  Why?  If you look at the lunar age of the moon in the best location in Zone A it is only 23.11 hours past conjunction.  And in Zone B, where the telescope sighting was made it was only 19.03 hours old past conjunction. Conjunction is the instant of the birth of the new moon.

A 23 hour old moon is very difficult to see by the unaided eye, if at all.  Here is just such a moon from ten years ago.  The Islamic month was Rajab, and it took place on August 5th, 2005, almost ten years ago to the month.  Click on the image to see it in full.

A 23.5 hour old moon

Last night, the contentions for the sightings did not come from where we expected them, South America.  They cropped up from my own backyard here in the San Francisco Bay Area and a couple other places in California.  In California, the age of the moon was roughly 24.8 hours old.  Not much older than the moon shown in the photo above. In San Diego, it was 24.35 hours old.  In San Francisco, 24.88 hours old.  In the middle of the state 24.82 hours old.  This time of the year, the orientation of the crescent is as shown in the photo.  The limbs should run from about 2:00 to about 7:00 o’Clock on the clock dial.  This orientation of the moon’s limbs changes through the seasons.  In the summer and winter it is oriented as shown in the photo, with some slight variations, while in the spring the lit portion is on the bottom and the limbs point upwards and in autumn a bit more steeper running from 1 o’Clock to about 6 o’Clock.  This is important as we will see below, so keep this in mind.

The sighting curves are based on five parameters that need to be met in order for the moon to be seen easily by the unaided eye.  Those parameters are, age of the moon beyond conjunction, the time between sunset and moonset (known as the lag time), the elongation (a geometric orientation of the Earth, Moon and Sun past conjunction), the % illumination of the moon and the altitude of the moon at sunset above the horizon.  The criteria for sighting a moon with the unaided eye are as follows:

Age: 18 hours

Lag time: 40 minutes

Elongation: 12°

% Illumination: 1%

Altitude: 5°

Let me further qualify what these values indicate.  Neither one is more important than another.  The probability of the moon’s visibility cannot be determined by just one or two of these parameters.  Each parameter needs to be met.  The values given here are the absolute minimum values that are needed for the moon to be seen by the unaided eye.  Now just because the age of the moon is greater than the minimum 18 hours  will not alone make it visible, especially if for example the lag time is less than the 40 minutes.  Likewise, if the moon’s age was, for example, 28 hours old, but the lag time was say 15 minutes or that altitude was only 2°, the moon will still not be seen by the unaided eye, or it will be very difficult at best.

The conditions for the moon shown above from 10 years ago were:

Age: 23.5 hours

Lag time: 46 minutes

Elongation: 11°

% Illumination: 1%

Altitude: 8.1°

With 4 out of the 5 criteria met, and the 5th, elongation, very close, I still could not see this moon with my unaided eyes.  How then did I get this photo you ask?  I had a general idea of where the moon should have been in the sky and I pointed my camera lens in that area and tripped the shutter.  I actually made several photos panning the sky making sure I had sufficient overlap.  I was amazingly surprised to have caught the moon in the photo!

Yesterday in the SF Bay Area, in the same location as where the Rajab photo of 2005 was made, the moon had the following conditions:

Age: 24.85 hours

Lag time: 20 minutes

Elongation: 13.3°

% Illumination: 1.3%

Altitude: 3°

Yesterday’s moon only meets 3 out of the 5 criteria.  The above pictured moon met 4 out of 5 and was still not visible with the unaided eye.  I am not sure how yesterday’s moon was seen.  In the areas where the moon was claimed to have been seen, the same 3 out of 5 criteria as well were met.

Here is the interesting result.  In Chile, where it could have been seen, the criteria were:

Age: 20 hours

Lag time: 46 minutes

Elongation: 11°

% Illumination: 0.9%

Altitude: 9°

3 of the 5 criteria were met and the other two were very close to meeting the limits, and yet it was not seen!

What is more concerning is that the majority of the reports that we obtained by speaking directly to the claimants, did not describe the moon as the moon seen above in the photo of what a moon of this season and timing should look like.  One description given was a line that was flatter, oriented more towards the bottom with limbs more like 4 o’Clock to 7 o’Clock.  Two of the reports said that what they saw suddenly became very bright and shiny when they saw it.

All the of the claimants giving reports mentioned that they saw it very shortly after the sun set, within 2 to 7 minutes after sunset.  One of the claimants, reported that what he and his group saw appeared before the sun set.  Before sun set!

The first question that needs to be asked is does a person engaged in sighting the moon need to versed in astronomy and in particular the details related to the moon?  The answer is no.  I did not have that knowledge when I first started looking for the moon, but with experience these particulars become second nature.  Having knowledge about what the moon looks like in the sky, where in the sky it will appear, and its orientation will serve the seeker in not making erroneous sightings.  Any person can become a skilled moonsighter whether they are an upright Muslim or not.  The character of an upright Muslim is not a shield that prevents erroneous sightings from being made.  At the same time an erroneous sighting made by an upright Muslim does not in any way imply anything about the person’s character.  Inexperience and ignorance of the details about the nature of the moon is what brings about the erroneous reports but does not put the person’s character in question.

Moving on, the optimal time of crescent visibility on the evening of a new moon occurs when the the contrast between the moon and the evening sky reaches its maximum.  Two things need to happen for this maximum contrast to occur.  First, the sky needs to darken and at the same time as the sky darkens, the moon starts to brighten.  Maximum contrast takes place at 4/9ths of the lag time.  That is, the lag time is taken and divided into 9 parts.  Then adding 4 of those parts will indicate when the best viewing time occurs.  Last night here in California, with lag times of 20 minutes, 4/9ths amounts to 8 minutes and 53 seconds after sunset.  And for an easily seen moon, with a lag time of 40 minutes this amounts to 17 minutes and 45 seconds.  So, one would need almost 18 minutes for the moon to reach the optimal contrast in the sky for a moon that is easily seen by the unaided eye.  Last night, the moon only had a lag time just slightly longer than the optimal time.  Far from ideal.  At 2 to 7 minutes after sunset, the sky would be so bright and the crescent so dim, that it is nearly invisible at that time.  And before sunset, if the sun itself does not blind the eyes, its brightness will certainly limit anything you can see in the sky near the sun.

We live in a time in which our skies are filled with many flying objects.  Objects that did not exist at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and not for more than 1000 years after His time.  Those flying objects leave many traces in the sky that can easily be misconstrued as the crescent moon to the inexperienced and unskilled seeker of the moon.  Here is a link to a small gallery of photos of just such traces that can easily be mistaken for the moon.  And in fact, many times when interviewing claimants, these are the exact items that they describe to us.  Here is the link

I do not know what those claimants saw on Thursday evening.  I am not accusing anyone of anything.  They saw what they saw and they reported it as such.  They were honest and sincere, and may they be rewarded accordingly by our Creator.

What concerned me in this whole affair is why were their reports not examined with more scrutiny by those who were charged with making a decision about breaking the fast?  There were more details involved than I have mentioned that needed to be addressed.  I and another friend working with me did.  Before we even had spoken to half those claimants who had a report, the decision to break the fast, based simply on that those reports were made, had already been made by most mosques and organizations.  Confusion was rampant all night long.

So what happened last night?  I am not entirely sure.  I was content and certain the moon had not been seen.  My Ramadan did not end last night.  I was not even going to voice my concerns as over the years I have learned this only stirs the drama pot and makes things worse.  That was until I saw this…

A Minion Eid

This is, in a sad and hilarious way, what I feel is happening.  My pressing question though is, the Minions of Who?  Minions of the One Eye, the Nafs…Who?

Later tonight I will be heading out once more to seek out the new moon.  I will of course be photographing it and it will, insha Allah (God willing) be posted here on Organic Light Pan.

I wish everyone, and I mean everyone, a most Blessed Eid, filled with love, laughter, family, friends and joy, and may you receive all the rewards of fasting the month of Ramadan.  May our Creator forgive us all for our mistakes and trespasses and bring our hearts together in love and brotherhood and sisterhood.

To all, Eid Mubarak and Peace!

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I’m Sorry – An Open Letter to Mother Earth

Dear Mother Earth,

I am sorry.  When I think about what we humans have done to you I feel ashamed and embarrassed.  You have been in existence much longer than we have and yet we were foolish enough to take on the role of caretaker, so long ago, but we have proven to be unworthy of such a role.  I guess I cannot take all the blame myself, nor should I really, as when I examine my life and how I have lived it, it has been one of conscience and care.  I am sorry though for how I was misinformed in my upbringing, not by my parents mind you, as they were duped just as badly as I was, never giving thought to how you were treated.  Although there were good people out there trying to correct the wrongs being perpetrated against you, I guess the message they were sending out did not reach everyone or affect them the same way.

I recall as a little boy the television commercials of the Native American man named Iron Eyes Cody looking upon your polluted land, water and air and crying.  Those images and messages affected me very deeply and I have been careful ever since.  Nonetheless, I am sorry for my lapses.  I am sorry for my use of plastic.  I know it never goes away and that it has been stuffed into your belly and chokes your waters.  I am sorry that I never raised my voice against plastic and argued for your sake to my parents who thought nothing of it.  Had I known it was so detrimental I would have.  Now I am at a loss.  Everything comes in plastic and I do not know what to do with it.  No one ever told me that most of the plastic, even the recyclable type, never gets recycled. Nor was I told that the plastic that does get recycled is shipped off to Asian countries where poor people root through it and then remelt it into a toxic sludge that will get reused into something, but not before it poisons them and chokes the air with its noxious black smoke.  For that I am sorry.

I am sorry that as I was being educated as an engineer that I did not connect the dots and see that in the course of using science to make life better for humanity it was making things worse for you.  I am sorry that I did not realize that I could have directed my engineering fervor to find solutions that would make life better for us and at the same time not make it worse for you.  I am sorry for not questioning my teachers about the technologies they were advancing if they would do harm rather than just worrying about how to make them function.  I am sorry for not realizing that the engineering systems I studied were just smaller parts of the whole of your system and that they would affect the whole in ways that we never imagined.  I am sorry that in the course of being an engineer resources were extracted from you to make machines that brought more harm to you than good.  I am sorry that we scientists and engineers have forsaken you for the monetary gains that our technologies can bring.  I am sorry that we scientists and engineers formed alliances with greedy financiers who would rather see a beneficial technology that would be safe for you be put to death if it meant that they could not make a profit from it.  I am sorry that in our effort to extract clean energy from you we develop methods that pollute you beyond belief and that we keep how toxic those methods are to ourselves lest the public rage against us.  I am sorry that we cannot seem to understand that polluting you will kill us before it kills you.

I am sorry that in my current profession as a nature and landscape photographer concerned about your preservation that I have to drive a vehicle to the places where I photograph and to the places where I display the photographs and try to educate people about your importance that consumes petroleum in obscene quantities.  I am sorry that I even have to use petroleum as an energy source.  When as I student, I and team of 30 other students designed and built a car that worked completely and cleanly on solar energy and used it to travel over 1000 miles across the United States that I did not champion such clean energy so that today it might be the norm.  I am sorry that I have to pay taxes that help fund unjust wars against innocent people just so that the oil-thirsty nation I live in can continue to quench its thirst for oil.

I am sorry for the arrogant pursuit of poisonous radio-active alternate forms of energy that just continue to hurt you, us and all living things on your back.  We have no clue how to properly contain its power, or how to dispose of its waste and in our sheer stupidity think that if it is out of sight it is out of mind and does not exist, so we bury it deep inside of you or dump it deep into your oceans.  I cannot seem to understand why we seeing past our own noses into the future and realizing we are just digging our own graves eludes us, and for that stupidity, I am sorry.  Worse yet, we turn to using the waste as ammunition for the guns that we turn on ourselves and spray it all over the land poisoning not only the water we drink but the food that we eat and the dust that inadvertently finds its way into our lungs. We kill our selves and sentence our offspring to gross and unjust deformities that will eventually exterminate all of us, and for that I am sorry.  I find it ironically poetic that you, my dear Mother, will not clean up the mess that we make.  I hope we get the message, but I must apologize once again for our lack of understanding in how to care for the place we live, on your back.

I am sorry for our hubris to think that we have unraveled the mysteries of the genetic code and think that we can change small things to alter our food without it harming the whole of creation.  I am sorry that we produce seeds that do not reproduce themselves and then lay claim on the rights to own it so that we can profit from what the seeds produce one time.  You give us seeds that produce for us over and over in manifold gain without cause or concern for profit.  Your generosity shames us in comparison, and for that I am sorry.  I am sorry for the use of chemicals that kill your life giving oxygen-producing plants and that kill the insects that feed on the crops we grow, teaching us how to share, because we deem them an annoyance.  I am sorry that we use such toxins and fail to realize that once they breakdown into their constituent parts they cause an imbalance in the male-female populations that you so carefully crafted for millenia.  I am sorry that we have failed to learn from your wisdom and generosity.

I am sorry for the insanity that we must exhibit in striving to reach other planets and pondering on ways for us to live there while we systematically are killing you.  Maybe those madmen know we are driving in the last few nails into your coffin and they are looking for a means of escape, or a new place to destroy.  I am sorry that we do not spend our wealth amongst ourselves in preserving the beautiful home you have already provided us.  Maybe someday we will learn.

I am sorry for what we have done to you bringing you to your current state.  You ail today, your fever is rising, and yet we turn a blind eye and deaf ear to your illness because the change will cost us too much financially.  I am sorry for the nonsensical logic that we use to justify the status quo.  It is hilariously-sad to me to see the wealthy trying to hold on to something they will never get to take with them once they die and they fail to use it for the benefit that it can bring before they return to you as dust.  I am sorry for the sad state that humans have devolved to where greed above all else matters most even at the cost of severing their own lifeline so embedded in you.  I am sorry that humans as a whole have not learned how to be as generous as you have been to us for all these eons.  I am appalled that we cannot seem to understand the value of a seed over the value of the fruit bore from it.  For each fruit is of its own, while in a seed lies 70 to 700 times its self in the fruit it will bear.  I am sorry we do not give back to you in the like quantity that you give to us.  It seems that everything on your back knows the meaning of balance except us and for that I am sorry.

I am frightened that as our Mother, you are ready to discipline us with your chastisement for our wrongs.  We do not seem to hear your scolding and I fear it will not be long before the mulberry-switch comes out.

I know your chastisement will be stern, but please have mercy on us.  We are fools and know not what we are doing.

Please accept this apology from me and from those who sign on to this letter as well.  We do care and we are trying our best in a system that has gone completely wrong.

 

Sincerely,

Youssef M. Ismail ~ Organic Light Photography

Tim Gray

Guy Tal ~ Guy Tal Photography

Bret Edge ~ Bret Edge Photography

Michael E. Gordon ~ Michael E. Gordon Photography

Dali Delos Reyes

Mujtaba Ghouse

Alice Gray

Gary Crabbe ~ Enlightened Images

Mark Graf ~ Mark Graf Photography

Floris van Breugel ~ Art In Nature Photography

Terese Boeck

Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill ~ EcoRebbe

Nancy Schwalen

Mary Ann Donegan

Iskandar Soekardi

Ginny Kalila

David Leland Hyde ~ Landscape Photography Blogger

Larry Kimball ~ Pronghorn Wildlife Photography

PJ Finn ~ PhotoMontana.net

Brad Mangas ~ Nature & Wilderness Photography

John Strong ~ Visual Notebook

Mark Fenwick ~ Fascinating Photography

Greg Russell ~ Alpenglow Images

Patty Hankins ~ Beautiful Flower Pictures

Alexandra Mitchell

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Surrounded

As a photographer, I am concerned with producing photographs that are more than just pretty pictures.  I want photos that tell a story, photos that touch the soul, and photos that make you reflect about life, about the choices that we make, about where we came from and where we will end up, photos that invoke awe and wonder.  It is difficult when such work is surrounded by an onslaught of technographers with their ubiquitous cameras in every conceivable device broadcasting a visual-cacophony of mediocre imagery.   All the while they flood the world with claims of artistry and self proclamation of greatness while presenting a mish-mash of cookie-cutter formulaic images of iconic locations coupled with two-bit “Jack Handy” styled affirmations which have nothing to do with the photo its coupled with.  I suppose these affirmations are supposed to make you think they are some deep philosophical thinkers that have figured out life and how to live it. God forbid that we should look with a critical eye upon the work of the greatest photographer alive or that we should question the king of nature as the king traipses about in his kingdom.

Never mind the decades of experience behind the lens, the years of study into the life cycles and natural rhythms of creatures, plants and ecosystems, or the nature of light itself and how it interacts with objects to produce the images we see not to mention the eye itself. Never mind the lifetime of experiences spent trying to understand ones own internal psyche through years of spiritual practice so that one would understand the underpinnings of human as well as animal behavior. Those qualities of the artist are not as important in producing art as the tool used in making that art. A tool, the modern camera in this case, so technologically advanced that the “artist” has no real understanding of how that technology actually produces the images that it regurgitates.

If you sense frustration in my words, you would be correct.  Presenting work that is either to subtle to be noticed or to sophisticated to be understood is becoming exceedingly disheartening.  I produce my work with a discerning eye.  I do not travel around the world looking for and presenting the next amazing unseen before image.  I also do not produce thousands upon thousands of photos every year.  My work is much more an internal examination of the state in which find myself physically, mentally as well as spiritually.  Any person could find themselves in these same states and could relate to them personally.  In times of difficulty and confusion, we all yearn for moments when an understanding into the circumstances that surround us is all that are needed to maintain our sanity.  For me, those moments come visually more often than not, and if I happen to have my camera with me, it is captured in the hopes that others might benefit from that ephemeral epiphany as well.

I photograph what I find appealing and I let the photos find me rather that trying to force the photo I see in my head.  Sometimes I do not know why I make a photo or what that image means at the time I capture it.  Sometimes the meaning does not become apparent to me for years and at other times it is understood even before I trip the shutter.  The photos look “real”, they feel “real” and yet they sometimes border on the surreal because whatever happens to be in the photo was never looked at in that specific way or in that flavor of light or from that certain perspective.  If a photo elicits a question in the viewer then I have achieved my goal.   The question could be as simple as “where is this?” or “what is this?”  The point is that the image has made the viewer think.  My photos are not made to be looked at in passing.  The longer they are viewed the more interesting they become as the nuances of light and detail begin to emerge and objects are seen in them that we would not have seen otherwise even if the scene was observed in person.  Since I do not follow the crowd from iconic location to iconic location, my photos are quite unique and usually buck the trends.

Trends come and go quickly.  They appear out of nowhere and vanish almost as quickly.  What is in fashion today will no longer be tomorrow.  And those who are caught up in the rush of the caprice du jour enjoy a temporal euphoria that sweeps them away into oblivion such that no one can tell where they came from and where they had gone and become nothing more than a blip in our collective memory.  At the same time, those that anchor themselves to tradition, integrity, honesty, quality and style, will find themselves apparently losing out in the race.  However, what is not seen is that while everyone else has been washed away they are still standing, as firm as they ever were and still as reliable to others as they ever were.  That is where true value lies, in that which is reliable.  So, even though you might feel surrounded at times by the world racing around you, take solace in lasting traditions and pay no attention to the flotsam whizzing by.

Spring runoff on Cascade Creek

Surrounded

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Longing For Peace

It has been difficult for me in the last several weeks.  The new moon came and went, and even though I photographed it and made a beautiful composition of it I found it difficult to post anything about it.  I have been thinking quite a bit as well, and unfortunately returned to listening to the radio news and talk shows.  I really must learn to leave that nonsense, however I sometimes need to know what is happening in our world.  Let me tell you… what you hear is very depressing, so much so that it pushes me closer to being a cynic, which is never a good thing.

From the earthquake in Japan and the resulting nuclear catastrophe to the charlatans setting up fake aid organizations duping sincere folks wanting to help to the impending world contamination with radioactive iodine and cesium, the whole thing is infuriating.  We really can’t find better ways to boil water to turn turbines to spin generators to make electricity…really?

Then there is the unfolding war in Libya that is so unfortunate.   It is very frustrating.  But hey, call it support for the freedom fighters and everyone is on board.  Never mind that the citizens of Libya had free housing and free education and health care for everyone!  Now lets drop depleted uranium munitions there as well.  Argh!  We don’t have enough deformed war babies being born in the world.

But wait there’s more.

Let’s tax the poor and give the rich a tax-free pass so that we can turn our nation in to a dysfunctional third world country governed by an oligarchy rather than a democracy.  I could not believe this when I heard it. The top 1% of the U.S. population control 42% of the financial wealth! Huh?

And lets abolish Medicare and Medicaid so that our elders and children who can’t afford health care just vanish so we don’t have to worry about them anymore. And don’t even get me started on education.

Now I could go on and on venting about all that is wrong in the world but that would be wrong in and of itself because it does not do anything to constructively fix any of it.

So instead, in my longing for peace in our world, I asked myself what do we need to do so that we humans can be at peace with ourselves as well as with the world.

I think we need to foster 7 things in ourselves to see change take place in our world: Truth, Repentance, Resolve, Gratitude, Mortality, and Remembrance.

I expressed my thoughts with this short video.  I hope it will make a difference.

If you like it, please share it with your network of friends.  Maybe, just maybe it can affect a change.

Enjoy and as always, Peace!

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The Decisions We Make

Choices

In my senior year in college I was finishing up all of my general education classes, classes that would have normally been taken in the first couple of years.  I was more interested in math and science so I delayed my general ed classes.  One of the more interesting and challenging classes I attended was Philosophy 101.  It was in this class that we were introduced to deductive logic, reasoning and how to argue and prove a line of thinking.

We had a term paper due at the end of the semester, one of our choosing, with professor approval of course (so much for choice).  I was clueless as to what I would write about and try to prove.  Then one day in class the professor spoke on the topic of free will.  She mentioned that past philosophers argued and proved that humans have free will.  This rubbed me the wrong way, and of course I did not agree.  I approached her after class and debated with her that as humans we do not have free will and that I would like to tackle this topic as the subject of my term paper.  At first she was very reluctant to allow me  to work on this topic, insisting that there was no way I could disprove free will.  After a little cajoling she allowed me to write on that topic, but gave me a caveat that I would not  be successful.  Well, throwing the gauntlet down at my feet only kindled my fervor and I set out on my task.

If you are interested in reading that short paper, I think I could find it stashed away in my notes somewhere.  But the basic premise of my argument was that rather than free will, which implies the ability to do as one wishes, what we truly have is merely the freedom of choice.  We can choose whatever we wish freely, from our actions, decisions, preferences and so on.  However, the outcomes of our choices are not in our control, nor do we have any foreknowledge of what the outcomes of our choices will be.  Of course this premise is not as attractive as that of a free will, where we have the freedom to choose, but also, in addition to that, we would know and have control over the outcome of our choices.  My argument did not find favor with my professor and she had notes in the margins arguing almost every statement I made.

Then I introduced the concept of a being that would have complete and total free will and described how such an entity would literally have control over everything and that there could only be one such entity for otherwise the universe as we know it would fall into complete chaos as the multiple entities would be battling for superiority – willing this and that in to being over each other.  I named this entity, for lack of any better term God.  At this point, her comments seemed to dwindle and then vanish from the page.  My final conclusion was that if we truly had free will there would be nothing to stop us for vying for control and becoming gods ourselves.  And since this has never happened and probably never will, free will for us mere humans is a fallacy.

Which brings me to the reason I post this story today.  Choices.  Four years ago I photographed that stoic valley oak in the local hills surrounding the San Jose, CA area.  It was nice but it never seemed to call out to me to do anything with it.  So I decided to just file it away.  Two weeks ago a client requests an image that can portray informed decision making for a website landing page.  Well this photo comes to mind. Continue Reading »

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The Whoas of Website Hosting

Just about six weeks ago my life on the internet came crashing down.  Today having a web presence, especially for a business, is absolutely necessary.  A website not only serves as an electronic storefront open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but it can also serve as a virtual business card, information repository, classroom, and about a million other things all depending on what intent the website owner has.  A website has international reach as well, giving you the ability to communicate anything to almost everyone worldwide.

However behind all the glitz and glamor of being an international internet star, a website is nothing more than a collection of computer files written in obscure languages that relatively very few of us understand or even know how to “speak”, HTML, ASP, PHP, CSS and the list of acronyms goes on.  Add to that the responsibility of maintaining a website and updating it often with new content for visitors and the job becomes almost monumental.  The last thing a webmaster wants to deal with is a downed website. Continue Reading »

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Shooting One’s Self in the Foot

This year in California the wildflowers have been particularly prolific.  It has brought photographers out in massive numbers all looking to capture that unique wildflower photo.  On the one hand it is nice to see people out communing with the natural world.  The problem is that they have no clue how to behave while out there.

The open range land where most of the wildflowers bloom is private land.  Some of it is fenced and some of it is just open range land.  Private property is private property and it should be respected, wildflower heaven or not.  For as long as I can remember fellow photographer and workshop leader, Carol Leigh and her wonderful Wildflower Hotsheet has been an Internet resource for wildflower hunters.  It was user driven with reports coming in almost daily once the blooms started.  This year however, due to incredulous bad behavior of photographers in one particular canyon in the south-central part of the state that is private open range land, one of the land owners made a post on the hotsheet asking photographers to stop coming onto their land, to stop tramping all over the place, tearing up flowers, and warning that if the behavior did not stop further legal actions would be taken!  That was last week.  Well all of a sudden Carol takes down the hotsheet and leaves the notice that is there now.  Not only did the bad behavior anger the owners of the land, it has resulted in losing a fabulous resource that was of benefit to so many.  This passed weekend, I heard reports that the county sheriff was patrolling that canyon now, making sure private property rights are observed.

I have photographed in that canyon before, and yes it is a special place, but come on, you don’t have to trespass to photograph there, and you certainly do not have to tear out flowers once you have photographed them or picnic right on top of them, roll around in them or whatever other nonsense people dream up.

Mother Earth has rights as well.  It is always a difficult proposition trying to photograph the wildflowers.  In the process, some flowers are trampled on.  But we must learn how to tread lightly on the earth.  Even though the Earth seems like a resilient rock, its ecosystem is very fragile.  Even more fragile are the flowers themselves.  They rely on pollination to generate the seeds for coming years.  Trample them, or pull them out before they can secure pollination and there will be no more flowers. 

I do my best to stay on trails or on roadside when photographing the flowers.  However I must admit I do love sitting in the middle of them all, sampling their intoxicating spicy fragrance and vibrant over-the-top color.  When I do, I stay put in one place, I follow my own foot steps back out and when at all possible, I step on bare ground where no flower is growing.  And I encourage all my readers to practice the same when you visit the wildflowers this year.  And please do go out and visit them and be grateful for the bounty that Mother Earth and our Creator are giving us this year, just be nice, so that we don’t want to “shoot our selves in the foot” and never get to see the flowers again.  

Poppies in Antelope Valley

Bed Of Poppies

Peace.

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