flowers, humor, love, music, photography

Daylily & Chicory & Nat King Cole

Photographing wildflowers in my yard inspired new lyrics for a song about a couple “too young” to be in love.  While the original sweet lyrics came true for some couples, I did not marry young.  I still like that song’s lovely music and calm questioning of what “they” say, so I am glad to have lyrics that fit my situation.  Wish I could sing.

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haiga, haiku, photography

Optimists, Some w/o Neurons

Being rooted makes plants easier to photograph than animals, but plants do twitch with the breeze and ruin careful compositions.  Cautiously optimistic, I shoot repeatedly and hope a few images catch the air’s calm moments.  This post’s haiku and images suggest that sometimes optimists win.

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haibun, haiga, haiku, humor, photography

Henley’s Indomitable Trees

One of the few nineteenth century poems that move me is Invictus by William Ernest Henley.  The poem’s spirit of unflinching defiance can be expressed in more contemporary ways.  (Henley’s way is still good.)  After one very contemporary way inspired by trees, we end with a quick riff on forms and freedom in poetry.
 
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© pivden | 123RF Stock Photo

An Oak Flips the Bird
|Storm splinters tree trunk
|and gets one-finger salute.
|Tree can still leaf out.

 
 
 

Henley’s indomitable trees are not all oaks.  On a short walk to see whether the oak that had flipped the bird could still leaf out, I saw a weeping willow that did not weep and a sugar maple that was not sweet.  Shrugging off storm damage, they both just leafed out.

 
 

 

IMG_5119_840x630

 
 

Quick Riff on Forms and Freedom

 

While not so terse as a haiku, Henley’s Invictus is about as direct and succinct as formal nineteenth century poetry can be.  I don’t feel expected to forgive contortions or digressions motivated more by adherence to an elaborate form than by the topic at hand.  Invictus sings, and part of the appeal is that its form does not feel like a burden.

In poetry and elsewhere, adherence to forms and rules is looser nowadays.  That’s a mixed blessing.  Robert Frost was basically correct when he said

Writing free verse is like playing tennis w/o a net.

Tho people often try, U can’t get good poetry by sprinkling obligatory line breaks on bad prose.  But there are some good poems in utterly free verse.  Here are links to a few that I saw while working on this post:

How To, humor

Trust, But Verify

Ronald Reagan’s remark about arms control is not an oxymoron, as I learned while coping with the discovery that my phone-friendly blog was not so friendly after all.  Able to handle mobile calls with a simple flip phone (and unable to type with my thumbs), I had seen no reason to have a smartphone and had trusted the WordPress previewer to warn me if a blog post would look bad there.  But then I bought a smartphone.
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Until recently, I used a desktop computer for all my online activities.  I surrendered to modernity in 2021-05 and bought a smartphone with a stylus that would make hunt-and-peck typing tolerable in short stints.  Now I use the new phone about 1% of my time online and have backup for coping with hazards like extended power outages.

Aware that many people do use their phones the way I use my desktop, I am careful to preview my blog posts as they would look on a phone.  Previews cannot be perfectly accurate, but I leave some pixels of wiggle room whenever I want everything in a line of text on my desktop to appear as a single line on the narrower screen of a phone.  The WP previewer displays a plausible phone rendering, and I change my draft as needed to make posts look OK on both desktop and phone.

Wanting to get used to my new phone w/o accidentally buying junk or installing malware, I installed my usual browser (Firefox) and browsed some familiar sites, including this blog.  Oops.  The fonts actually used were much larger than what I expected from the WP previews.  My posts were awash in weird line breaks and required absurdly much scrolling.

13204746 - dinosaur and comet, vector illustration

© Evgenii Komissarov | 123RF Stock Photo

I tried the popular Chrome browser and found that it also rendered text much too big.  After much thrashing around, I stumbled onto a simple way to make many of my posts look almost the same on my actual phone as they do in the WP phone preview.  Many, yes.  All, no.  Here is a screenshot of part of a recent post as viewed in phone mode on WP from my desktop:

PerpendicularPreview_phone-on-2014a_2021-06-18_Firefox_Framed

Here is the corresponding screenshot as viewed on the actual phone:

PerpendicularActual_phone_2021-06-18_Firefox_674x399_Framed

Yuck.  After comparing the screenshots, I revised the post to avoid rogue line breaks (and demystify how to access my blog’s widgets) on a phone.  Tentatively, I trusted the WP phone preview on my desktop.  When the revision seemed ready to go live, I switched to the phone, tweaked the revision (by hunt-and-peck typing) as needed to work on the actual phone, and only then hit the [Update] button.  Likewise with the [Publish] button for this post.  Trust, but verify.

Is there anybody else who uses a desktop (or tablet) and has been blindsided by a clash between how things should look on a phone and how they do look?  Here is the simple partial fix I stumbled upon.  Us dinosaurs gotta stick together.

The [Appearance] item appears most of the way down in the menu on the left side of WP site pages.  The click sequence

        [Appearance]
                [Customize]
                        [Fonts]

gave me a chance to change font sizes used to display posts.

Both [Headings] and [Base Fonts] had defaulted to [Normal] size.  I set them to [Small].  While this might make text too small in some browsers on some desktops, I am sure that anybody using a desktop has already gotten used to pressing Ctrl-Plus or Ctrl-Minus as needed.

haiga, haiku, philosophy, photography, tanka

Two Slim Chances

While I have never visited the Galapagos Islands, I treasure a framed print of a photo taken there by Laura Zito, who captured a bright red crab against glistening wet black rock.  What chance have I to see something close to home that looks much like that?  Very slim.  But still

Better Than No Chance at All
|Helicopter seed
|lands on shiny new asphalt.
|No chance to grow here.
|I walk away, then go back.
|I move it to damp bare dirt.

IMG_5145_rot-32.5_crop_840x676
IMG_5153_crop_840x679_WB

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flowers, haiga, haiku, photography, tanka

Sharing

Slow shutter needed.
Daffodil and tulip share
early morning light.
~ ~ ~ ~
There is enough for us all,
if we take less than we want.

 
 

I considered posting my photo wordlessly, with the post’s title as a hint that I have something beyond a nice image in mind.  Too subtle.  Compulsively explicit, I wrote a haiku.  Then I expanded the haiku to a tanka.

I hesitated.  The tanka’s last 2 lines might be too preachy.  Then I read the Gandhi quote in a great collection of images and quotes: Our Beautiful, Broken World (curated by Mitch Teemley).

Thanks, Mitch.  The time for subtlety is long gone.

history, photography, STEM

Beyond Measuring the Earth

Geometry began with practical measurements over moderate distances.  Boundaries of Egyptian farmers’ fields had to be restored after the Nile’s annual floods.  A taut rope between two posts marked where an edge of the base of a pyramid would be laid.  And so on.  This prosaic technology inspired ancient Greeks to create something weird and wonderful.
 

People like Pythagoras and Euclid reimagined the pyramid builders’ rope as perfectly straight (not sagging a little), so thin that it had no thickness at all, and extending forever beyond the posts.  Crazy.  They called it a “line” and found that they could reason about such things, proving new statements by deductions from what they already knew.

Those ancient geometers discovered much that was true and good and beautiful in the imagined world of points and lines, and a few of them took the first tentative steps toward using their discoveries to help answer questions about the experienced world of posts and ropes and much else.  Eratosthenes kept the promise made by “geo”+”metry” when he measured the circumference of planet Earth, even tho it was impractical to try to wrap a tape measure around it.

Modern STEM is rooted in ancient geometry (among other things), and a long hard slog has progressed from measuring the Earth to understanding it.  Our understanding is not perfect and never will be, but maybe it is good enough to help us save the Earth.  From us.  I hope we can rise to that challenge, and that I have risen to this one:

Geometry ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #269

Pythagoras_BlueMarble_840x842

Image Sources

  • The colorful frame around the image is upsized from my much smaller diagram for Bhaskara’s elegant proof of Pythagoras’ Theorem.  The resulting fuzziness of the points and line segments is a reminder that we cannot experience the ideal perfection of geometric shapes.  But we can refer to the shapes when we tell each other stories about what we experience!  (Tho often hard to read w/o wrangling equations, scientific theories are among the best stories we can tell.)  The colors of the line segments tie the image to the theorem’s bottom line w/o using letters that would clutter the diagram:
      a² +  b²  c²
  • The Blue Marble image overlaid on the diagram was downloaded from NASA Visible Earth: The Blue Marble.   Making NASA’s image cost a lot more than making mine.  That’s OK.  It was money well spent.
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language, math, photography

Perpendicular: Upright or Uptight?

Calling 90 degrees a “right” angle is a little misleading.  Yes, spatial coordinates should usually be based on perpendicular lines.  But 90 degrees is often just one angle among many, and perpendicular may not be right for the job.
 
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Perpendicular ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #269

 
 

The ceiling should be perpendicular to the wall
(and the wall to the floor).

corner-grn-pink-align_840x639

 
 

Even the klutz who built my house got it right.

DSCN0909_upright_crop_840x533

 
 

The right angle for slicing a pizza depends on
how many slices are needed.

112039533_m_840x784

© sabelnik | 123RF Stock Photo

 
 

Willing to count a circle as a “line” perpendicular to any chosen straight line thru the center?  (I am.)  If so, then spatial coordinates should almost always (not just usually) be based on perpendicular lines.  Want to navigate on a really big pizza?  Use polar coordinates.

flowers, haiga, haiku, photography

Haiga with Several Time Scales

Haiku poems commonly deal with events on short time scales.  In a split second, the frog jumps into the pond.  In minutes, the sunset fades.  In days, the cherry blossoms fall.  How about decades?  How about millennia?  They can show up too, along with the split second that a camera’s shutter is open.
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mums-rock_840x674

Sunlit Moment
|Mums are good silk fakes.
|Rock is real and will outlast
|both mums and viewer.

I dithered over whether to respond to

Scale ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #268

with the material above.  With small differences in format, it was posted 2020-04-17.  Tho usually reluctant to repeat myself, I’ve noticed that bloggers I respect sometimes do repost things they feel are still relevant.  I’ve also noticed that 11 months is quite a while on a cyberspace time scale.

Oh well.  It’s rare that I settle on a combination of angle and settings that I really like before the light fades or shifts.  Seize the moment.

haiku, politics

Cautious Optimism

«Because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick someone else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator.»

~ Raphael Warnock (newly elected US Senator from Georgia) in his victory speech on 2021-01-05

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The first three weeks of 2021 gave me whiplash.

On 01-05, progressive Democrats displaced Trump toadies by winning both runoff elections for Senate in Georgia.  Knowing how badly the Dems had fared in several other Senate races that seemed close at the start of November, I had expected both Warnock and Ossoff to be swept away by a tsunami of dark money pouring into Georgia.  But they both won, by narrow margins much like Biden’s margin in Georgia.

Seal_of_Georgia_840x840

Great Seal of the State of Georgia

On 01-06, a mob stormed and trashed the US Capitol.  The Capitol Police had been complacent while Trump cultists swarmed into DC.  Some of the cops (and some members of Congress) may even have been complicit in the violence that Trump incited.  Yes, he did incite it.  His mild late admonition to be peaceful was meant to cover his ass, not to walk back his continued strident lying about the urgency of radical action to undo a “stolen” election in Georgia and other states that Biden won narrowly.

Voltaire_DJT_840x1038

© Rick Fausto

On 01-20, Biden took the helm of what remains of the USA.  Fortunately, what remains of the USA includes soldiers who remembered what they had sworn to defend and responded to the danger of an insurrection on 01-20 that would be better organized and better armed than on 01-06.  The National Guard was out in force.

BidenNatGuard_840x456

© Getty Images | Poughkeepsie Journal for 01-20

For now at least, civil war has been averted.  Fireworks were the only explosions on 01-20.

BidenFireworks_840x548

© Evan Vucci/Associated Press | Washington Post for 01-21

We are not home free.  That Trump is a fascist was obvious after truly nonviolent protesters were driven from Lafayette Square to make way for a sleazy photo-op on 2020-06-01.  (To some observers, Trump’s fascism was obvious long before then.)  And yet, as Molly Ball wrote in TIME for [01-18/01-25]:

Despite his loss, Trump notched millions more votes in 2020 than in 2016 and spurred unprecedented GOP turnout.  …  The real threat to America may be not that this GOP can’t win elections but that it can.

Whether the USA values constitutional democracy enough to forgo white supremacy and the rest of Trump’s cult will be severely tested over the next few years.  Get ready for more whiplash.

Build Back Better
|With luck and hard work,
|we may yet build a future
|better than the past.

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haiga, haiku, photography

Rainbow Zen

The rainbow images that illustrate haiku here are in an elite group.  (Wish the images were mine.)  The rainbow does not just coexist with whatever else is in the scene; it works with the other elements and lifts a good image to greatness.  A bonus awaits those willing to read the notes and credits at the end of this post.
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Dramatic-Skies-31

Arizona Sky
|Wings gliding past arc,
|high above Mogollon Rim:
|raven and rainbow.

australian-rainbow_450x600

Out of Reach
|Hard fingers rise up,
|trying to grasp soft colors
|as the rainbow fades.

No Pots of Gold
|Seek ends of rainbows.
|You will not find them? Okay.
|The quest is enough.

§: Notes and Credits

While there are zillions of fine photos of rainbows, the images used here are in an elite group.  (Wish they were mine.)  The rainbow does not just coexist with whatever else is in the scene; it works with the other elements and lifts a good image to greatness.

Subsection headings below are also links to pages with more detail.

§§: Harvey Stearn’s Photo of Raven and Rainbow

Click on the link above if U have any interest at all in how dramatic skies can contribute to landscape photos.  No interest?  Click anyway and U will soon have one.  The photo I used comes near the end in a long series of splendid examples.

I first saw this photo as a standout among standouts in a collection curated by Mitch Teemley, whose blog has many great collections alongside funny and/or insightful original content.  The idea of a haiku with what became the last line of Arizona Sky came to mind quickly, but writing other lines I liked took longer.  Much longer.

§§: Randy Olson’s Photo of Termite Mound and Rainbow

I wrote No Pots of Gold and later found this splendid photo to illustrate it (and inspire some haibun prose).  The photo proved to be a gift that keeps on giving; it inspired Out of Reach.

§§: Naturalism in Haiku

Rainbows are one kind of spectrum.  There are many other series rather like the somewhat quantitative R-O-Y-G-B-I-V of rainbows, and sometimes it helps to think of those spectra as rainbows.  Two examples follow.

This post’s series of haiku exemplifies the spectrum of naturalism in haiku.  Like Arizona Sky, many haiku are specific descriptions of a momentary observation.  Like No Pots of Gold, some are toward the other extreme: general expressions of attitudes toward life, with at most a metaphorical reference to nature.  Out of Reach is in between.

There is also a spectrum of compliance with the 5-7-5 rule, which is revered by some and reviled by others.  Like most of my own haiku, the ones in this post comply.  Tho I do respect the 5-7-5 rule, I also wrote a haiku that goes 3-2-5 and a haiku with just 2 lines.  No apologies.

Don’t submit blindly to restrictions on
subject matter and nuances of form,
for haiku or any other kind of art.
Let the rainbows glow.
haiga, haiku, photography, seasons

Hope at Sunrise

Patrick Jennings’ challenge #259 salutes the sun in the great outdoors.  Sunlight is both a source of hope and something to hope for.  The same is true in more intimate settings, and the New Year got off to a good start at sunrise on 2021-01-01.
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Hope ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #259

IMG_4803_840x549

Morning Sun on Winter Wreath
|Bird, bow, and berries
|scatter rays of hope to me.
|Today may be good.

(reblog), photography

Ash Trees and Artichokes

Apart from being plants, they have little in common.  But this particular ash tree and this particular collection of artichokes share a kind of solemn beauty in death.  My images respond to the image and words in Patrick Jennings’ challenge #258, which is reblogged (in effect) at the end of this post.
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ash-closeup_840x630

ash-hole_840x722

artichoke-bouquet_840x1119

© Patrick Jennings | Beauty ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #258

Dead tree & West Mitten Butte_840x560

There is beauty
In all things
Even death

To understand this
Is to master life

To master life
One must master death

haiga, haiku, photography

Seeking Solitude

«You may use my image in your post, or any image you have created.»  So say the rules of Patrick Jennings’ series of challenges.  For challenge #257, I did both at once.  (Details are at the end of this post.)  The image illustrates my haiku about solitude, which is sometimes an aspiration rather than a condition.

Solitude ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #257

solitude-overlay-60_ragged-edge_840x408

Not Alone
|Lonely in the crowd
|and weary of empty talk,
|I seek solitude.

Image Notes and Credits

I was intrigued by the landscape’s azure sky in
solitude-landscape_840x404

© Patrick Jennings

While the sky is fine just as it is, it is also a good place for an overlay with text or another image.

I had already used a downloaded image of a wearisome crowd to illustrate the first 2 lines of my haiku Not Alone:
cartoon people in the crowd

© Igor Zakowski | 123RF Stock Photo
(Image has been cropped.)

I decided to illustrate the whole haiku by overlaying the landscape’s sky with the crowd image, opaque at the top and then gradually fading out of sight toward the bottom.  By the time I noticed that my photo editor does not support opacity gradients in overlays, I had my heart set on the project.  Hmmm.  Overall opacity of 60% in the overlay looks good, apart from the sharp horizontal line at the bottom of the overlay.  Hmmm.  My editor does have enough functionality to make that boundary a little blurry and wobbly, with one eye of Ms Purple Hair left staring at the viewer.

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haiku, photography, seasons

Warmth and Light

Warmth and light are both in short supply outside at this time of year, but the plants in my yard know that relief is on the way.  Winter will end and they will rebound.  My haiku about their resilience can be a response to Patrick Jennings’ Pic and a Word Challenge #255.

Warmth ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #255

green-peek_934x657

daffodil-leaves_934x900

Spring
|After the winter,
|green plants spring back to savor
|warmth and longer days.

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humor, politics, seasons

Pulling a Calf

For late winter (also known as mud season), it was a nice day.  A few half-hearted snowflakes drifted down.  They vanished into the promise of spring wafting up from wet ground that had already thawed.  As I walked past a small farm about 2 miles from home, Everett called out: “Can U give me some help?”
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I knew Everett from his being the part-time mail carrier who sometimes drove my home’s rural route.  He was also a subsistence farmer who had veggie plots, chickens, and some goats who wandered at will despite attempts to corral them.  While the Houdini goats were cause for resigned amusement, the predicament of a cow and her calf was cause for anxiety.

Mama was a small cow whose tryst with a large bull had produced a calf too large for her birth canal.  Mama was lying on her side, with just the calf’s nose and front hooves protruding.  Neither Everett nor I knew how to contact and compensate a veterinary surgeon who might perform a bovine C-section on short notice, but Everett had a plan.

He had tied the middle of a rope around the hooves.  He would pull one end of the rope while another guy pulled the other end in the same direction, straight out from Mama.  I would be the other guy.  There was no mention of the possibility of pulling with a tractor, and Everett probably did not have a tractor anyway.

Rope fraying

© S. Silver | 123RF Stock Photo

Was it thin rope or thick twine?  Either way, it was old and frayed. (Before we started pulling, it was not quite so badly frayed as in the image above.)  As we pulled, I feared that either the rope would break or some boots would lose traction.  Either way, one or both of us would suffer an ignominious pratfall in the barnyard’s morass of mud and manure.

The rope held.  So did our boots.  Mama endured the ordeal with quiet stoicism, as her calf emerged slowly.  Both survived.

My one and only obstetric accomplishment was decades ago, long before the 2016 election saw the USA’s ignominious pratfall into what passes for conservatism nowadays: a morass of mud and manure, with quicksand too.

Along with many others now, I am once again pulling on a frayed rope.  Constitutional democracy has been badly frayed by dark money, gerrymandering, troll farms, and vote suppression.  Will it hold long enough to extract my country from the morass?  (We need two unlikely wins in Georgia on 2021-01-05 to flip the Senate.)  When the future looks bleak, I think back to Everett’s frayed rope.  We pulled; it held.