Friday, November 20, 2015

Surprise and Fear

I started this thing way back in the day to write about politics and what was happening in America. Over the years, as I’ve adopted other, newer, social media platforms, The Foggy Dew has lingered with only sporadic updates. Part of this is because of other social media options – God! I’m on Twitter now – but also because I’ve moved into jobs where I am the spokesman for a large organization. Most of you know who I am and what I do and sometimes my personal feelings might not be precisely aligned with my professional responsibilities.

That said, what the fuck is going on with the republican presidential candidates? Seriously, the frontrunner, Herr Trump, just suggested a plan that would require Muslims – even American citizens – to register and be tracked. “Just good management” he said. This type of thinking could cause a dedicated Nazi to blanche a little at first. He also suggested it would be a good idea to shut down mosques.

The other loon in the field, Herr Doktor Carson, agrees treating Muslims – even those who are American citizens – as potential enemies and terrorists is a good idea. Except for the fact that these two are leading the race to the republican nomination, this wouldn’t be so troubling except for one thing: The other 10 people running for the nomination haven’t denounced them and declared these actions to be patently un-American and a threat to the country’s soul and national security.

This is scary. Ideas like these have gained popular support in the form of the republican frontrunners’ campaigns. American’s think it’s OK for the fucking government to track citizens because of their religion. This isn’t just scary, it’s terrifying.

We all watched the events in Paris – and now Mali – with fear and a sickening sense it could easily happen here. Many of my friends are tired of the wars in the Middle East and don’t believe the U.S. has any business re-engaging there (actually, expanding our current operations) for any reason. While I don’t welcome the possibility, I believe the only way to deal with the situation is a mix of extensive humanitarian outreach to show America is that light on the hill…and brutal, ruthless military operations to show its power.

To sum up: Some assholes just need killin’.

A Facebook friend, one who’s always professed a devout belief in god, shared something or other on her feed the gist of which was “I believe there’s an internal revolution coming.” People believe this shit. They are so worried “THE GOVERNMENT” is coming for their religion, their guns, their bacon, their children (via Common Core), their land, their pick-ups and every other goddamn thing and give it to someone with brown skin or a different religion that they advocate open rebellion.

That is what’s un-American.

For the most part, every single one of these people screaming about letting 10,000 poor, starving, terrified, but now vetted and checked and thankful to god and America they’ve finally escaped their living Hell shithole of a country had an ancestor who once found themselves in a similar condition. Living somewhere that for economic, racial, ethnic or religious reasons, they fled the land of their birth, passed La Libert√© √©clairant le monde (the lady with the torch in New York Harbor), and were thankful just to be in America and have a second chance. For example: My ancestors departed Ireland following the First World War. My grandfather worked for the railroad, and my grandmother worked as a maid.

This country was founded by people fleeing religious persecution, never mind it was because they wanted to practice a stricter form of Christianity - hey! kinda like sharia law. So it’s pretty fucking ironic that today’s adherents to Christian sharia would suggest reinstituting the Spanish Inquisition…

“NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four* *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise....”

We, America – waving hands around in an all-encompassing motion – are better than that. We defeated fascism through military might. We defeated communism – OK, the Soviet Union – through economic might and technical prowess (and Russian ineptness and stupidity). We can defeat the threat of religious extremism with a combination of all of these and the addition of kindness to our fellow man. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Long time no pics...

It's been a while, hasn't it? There is a reason for that. Let's just say that I don't feel totally comfortable ranting and raving like I used to with the job I now have. It's not political or anything, but it's public enough that my opinions could be construed in ways I don't want them to. 

That said, here's an opinion I don't mind sharing: U.S. government agencies need to immediately stop supporting the Washington football team in any way. No more fly-overs of military aircraft. No more color guards. No tax breaks for the team, its owner and, just for fun, the NFL. Definitely no consideration for tearing down RFK and building a new stadium there. 

It may not force the owner to change the team's racist nickname, but the government shouldn't be supporting him in his racism. 

All right. Who wants to see some pictures? Thought so. This is a selection from the past couple of months ranging from the Cherry Blossom Festival, to the Clarendon Cup to the Fourth of July. I kinda caught the cherry blossoms at the very end, actually on the very last day since it rained the next day taking all the flowers down. 

This next group are from the Clarendon Cup women's and men's races. 

The picture below is what it looks like from the inside of the corner across from Whitlow's. Not quite a Tour de France selfie, but the ladies were flying by me. 

Now these next two from the men's race are a bit special. I was testing a technique I'd been dying to try. What you do is slow the shutter speed way down - about 1/20 of a second - pick a point and then move with the target. It leave one point in focus and blurs the rest of the shot. It worked, to a point, but I need more practice. 

And the obligatory Fourth of July fireworks pictures. This year, instead of setting up down by the river, I switched it up and rode my bike to the Netherlands Carillon (right next to the Marine Corps War Memorial). The angle let me get the Capitol in the frame, but it was a bit of a shit show. Packed with people and no where to set up.

Almost. I wedged myself in by some other photographers and set up. I shot about 250 or so pictures using two different methods: A short exposure of about 1.3 seconds, and a longer "burst" method of about 4 seconds. I think they turned out pretty well. 

Hope to be back soon. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Fur-Lough Fotos Vol. 1

As promised, here is the first iteration of Fur-Lough Fotos! I took the opportunity on my unpaid day off to head up to the National Zoo. The weather was beautiful for an afternoon outside, not too hot and not too muggy. An odd occurrence here in D.C. in August, so I had to take advantage. 

I took several hundred pictures, 600 or so in fact, and these 11 are the best of the lot. I have to admit, I was having some trouble with the light. I wasn't totally on my game. I did, however, get to take my new toy - a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens - out for a decent spin. I think I was concentrating too much on using it and not on my settings. 

This first shot isn't from zoo, it's one of the wildflowers in my backyard. As you can see, I was working on close-ups in this set. 

Probably the cutest of the animals at the zoo, the Asian otters were a big hit with all the kids. The otters are Chowder (dad) and Clementine (mom); daughters Pickles, Saffron, Olive, Peaches, Radish and Rutabaga; and sons Pork Chop, Turnip and Kevin. You can guess which one is my favorite. 

Imagine for a moment, just how soft and furry this pile of otters is. They all kinda bunched up in a beam of sunlight and lounged about. Then some went for a swim.

Not all the animals at the zoo live in cages. This bee, and its pals were busy hitting the nectar and spreading the pollen.

This kori bustard strick a noble pose for me. This shot, along with the one of the bee, really showed me what my new lens can do. Crystal clear and sharp as a long as I get the shutter speed and aperture right.

I like the way this turned out, but flamingos have creepy looking eyes. 

A feeling I first had while watching one of the elephants was reinforced as I said welcome to the monkey house. I know that for many, most in fact, of the animals at the zoo, it is a refuge for their species. American zoos are places where species are kept from going extinct. That doesn't mean I don't feel sorry for the larger mammals. I look at the gorilla below, and the orangutans that follow, and know that genetically speaking, they're not all that different from you and me. And I know I wouldn't like spending my life in a cage. But, then again, no one's going to poach this big guy. 

The orangutans do have one advantage, it's called the O-line. The tower the ape on the left is holding onto is connected to several others by cables 45 feet off the ground. The orangutans use these to move about the park if they feel like it. They didn't feel like it on Friday.

This little gator or croc, not sure which, was just lounging about. 

Kinda like with the apes and elephants, I'm pretty sure this big guy would much rather be lunching on something brought down by some lionesses. But his meat/bloodcicle will have to do for the time being. 

I don't know if I was reading some thing that wasn't there, but it seemed to me that many of the larger mammals don't like being gawked at. This was especially true for the apes. It seemed like they made a conscious effort to keep their backs to the humans. I don't know, maybe it was my imagination. 

Not sure what Volume 2 will be, but stay tuned. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

So, July, yeah...

I spent a couple of minutes trying to come up with a way to tie this post to Julius Caesar, inventor of the month of July, but drew a blank. Nothing there. Nada. 

Also, I'd written a bit of a rant about how slightly craptastic this month has been, but after reading it I deleted it. It sounded really whiny. So, instead, how about some pictures? 

These shots were taken last Saturday (July 20) during a short walk around the National Mall between dusk and dark. How do you think our cracked Washington Monument looks as it's being repaired? Not too bad, eh?

I kind of like how the scrim changes depending on your distance and the brightness of the sky. Something I'm sure the designers intended. Except for the first shot, all of these were taken off a tripod at varying ISOs, apertures and shutter speeds. For example: the picture below was shot at ISO 200, f/9 for 1 second. Gives a nice, soft texture to the flags as they wave in the first breeze D.C. had felt in oh these many days. 

While I was concentrating on what was in front of me, the thunder rolled behind me. I tried a couple of different methods to catch lightning in a bottle, so to speak, and none of them worked consistently. I went with a modified fireworks technique - shoot as many pictures as you can - and set the camera at: 200, f/2.8, 0.6 seconds. It kinda worked, but unlike with fireworks, there's really no anticipating lightning. 

Same ISO for this one, but with a shutter speed of 1.6 and an aperture of f/4. 

One of the toughest things I've found to take a picture of is the moon. Unless you catch it right on the horizon, you're not going to get any details. As this picture clearly illustrates. The flags look nice, though.

This picture inspires me to come back one of these days and catch that bad moon rising just over the level of the flags. 

This one really works for me. You get the details of the scaffolding and the scrim, but the lights give it a whole different feel. Like the monument is encased in glass or something. 

Well, that's all for now. I promised some Furlough Fotos in the last post, but a combination of factors has prevented that. Hopefully, this coming week I'll be able to kick off that feature. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

New look, new thoughts...

What do you think of the new look? They say black is slimming...

I figured a little change, a revolution if you will, might spur me into writing a bit more. And, thanks to congress, I'll have a little extra time on my hands until the end of the fiscal year. Twenty percent more time, that is. 

I have a couple of ideas about how to spend some of it, so keep an eye out for "Furlough Fotos" coming soon to a blog near you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On my honor…

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this here before, but I’m an Eagle Scout. Yeah, big surprise, right?

I joined my Boy Scout troop in the first week of October 1980 and went on my first camping trip the following weekend. It was glorious. We were out in the woods, learning to make fire, cooking our own food over those flames, tying knots, using knives and axes – all kinds of manly skills. Later on that evening we all gathered around the campfire and sang songs and had a great time.

I spent almost seven years as a Boy Scout earning my merit badges and the various ranks on my “Trail of the Eagle” as it’s called. I was learned skills and spent time with other boys who enjoyed the same things I did. Many of these skills, I’m sure, will keep me alive while the rest of you are the main course at future zombie buffets.

My troop has a storied history. It honored its first Eagle Scout in 1965 and has honored 169 more young men as of 2011. In 1987 I was the 59th. The list includes seven pairs of brothers – my younger brother is number 66 – and four sets of three brothers – there would have been one more, but my youngest brother never finished his Eagle. Between 1973 and 2011, there was only one year, 1989, when no one earned their Eagle. However, I think that may be because in 1988, 1990 and 1991, there were 25. Twenty-five Eagle Scouts in four years. Think about that for a minute, 25 young men who each dedicated five to seven years to achieving a goal that, truthfully, not many reach.  

Suffice it to say, it’s not easy to become an Eagle Scout.

That said it shouldn’t be impossible for a boy to aspire to that goal just because he may be gay (or doesn’t believe in a god, for that matter). It’s difficult enough in the first place. Boy Scouts of America shouldn’t force young men who are already going through the stress and fear that comes with being different – stress that can and does drive some boys to suicide – to give up the support of their peers in Scouting.

In my opinion, Boy Scouts of America, like other organizations, has been taken over by radically conservative forces. Forces who believe that because someone is gay they are also a predator just salivating at the idea of getting their sons alone in the woods. If I have a son someday, I’d like him to have the same experiences I did as a Boy Scout – they’re an important part of who I am today – but I don’t think I’d allow him to join an organization that institutionalizes hatred.

It’s time for the Boy Scouts of America to drop this ridiculous policy and allow every boy the chance to stand in front of his family and friends as that red-white-and-blue ribbon suspending a silver eagle is pinned to his chest. It’s the right thing to do.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fireworks! Ohhhh! Ahhhhh!

It's been so long since I've posted here it seems like one of the last posts I did was of my pictures from last Fourth of July. Actually, that's pretty close to the truth. Also, there's a strange new interface. Not sure I like it.

Anyway, forgive me?

A lot of you may have seen these elsewhere, but for those who haven't, I present them for your approval. This picture was shot at my standard fireworks setting: ISO 100 at f/8 for 1.6 seconds. Over the years I've come to rely on this setting since it generally produces some pretty good pictures.  

That's not to say I'm afraid to try new things. Since the show was about 20 minutes long, I reset my camera to test the "burst" method I'd read about earlier this week. Using the burst technique, the camera is set to ISO 200 at f/11, but the exposure is set to bulb. In this case, the exposure is about 5 seconds and multiple bursts are captured. 

I kinda like it. 

The rest of these are back to the standard ISO 100, f/8 with slightly varying shutter speeds. I didn't want to rely completely on a new technique.

This final shot was a bit of luck combine with my keeping my head up as I was riding my bike home. I caught a glimpse of the almost full buck moon rising through the pines along the Potomac and had to stop. Even luckier, they were still shooting fireworks over in PG county. All the streaks of light you see at the bottom of the frame are boats heading down the Potomac after the fireworks. It was just like the Queen's flotilla. OK, maybe not.
If you'd like to see more of my fireworks pictures, head over to my Flickr page linked over there on the right side of this page. Hope everyone had a good Fourth, and I promise to try to post more. Yep, I know, famous last words.