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Focus & The Search For Flow

Thinking a bit this weekend about process and goals and methods, priorities and evaluating all of the same. The good news is that I’ve allowed myself (or forced myself, perhaps) to take that time and let my mind wander.

It always seems to come back to “balance” as a lynchpin. When time is tight and deadlines get near, I tend to get ultra focused on the goal. That’s good – but if you get too focused on that goal you can miss other issues and opportunites and get blindsided. Don’t lose track of the big picture. Focusing on landing the plane on the numbers and on the centerline is good, unless you lose sight of the flock of seagulls that you’re about to fly through with negative results.

There’s a thing folks talk about these days called “flow,” where you’re clicking on all cylinders, operating at a higher level, just churning out high quality results like they were flowing magically from your fingertips. I’ve occasionally gotten into the flow, and it is a sweet, sweet feeling. One aspect of it for me is that it’s not stressed or high pressure or tense. When I find the flow I’m relaxed, loose, and totally balanced. Think of a major league baseball pitcher who’s throwing a no-hitter or perfect game and it’s just smooth, like he’s on autopilot and can do no wrong.

But that’s wrong as well. You can’t be on autopilot, you have to have situational awareness, you have to be in control.

Which brought me back to the idea of “focus,’ but in a photographic sense. With my DSLRs, for “normal” photography I often have the camera set to autofocus, which is good and fast and easy most of the time. But I’m finding out that more and more, particularly with things like astrophotography, bird photography when they’re not in a simple location, critter photography where they’re trying to hide like their lives depend on it, then going to manual focus can be critical. Shooting into the shade at the base of the tree with a lizard there trying to look a lot like tree bark can fool the camera’s electronics. Peering into the sunlight and shadows of some lush fruit tree, your camera doesn’t know that you want to focus on that bird-like shape instead of those leaves. And looking at the Moon rising through the pine trees, some sensor and software designed ten or fifteen years ago doesn’t know to ignore the branches and make the Moon as sharp as possible.

This picture and the first one are a matched set, taken seconds apart with different techniques for focusing.

Keep track of your focus, assumptions, and situational awareness. Search for the flow – it’s out there. You can find it.

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Accurate, If Not Acceptable

How does one get the “jet lagged” (for lack of a better term) without ever leaving home?

WTF was coating that apple fritter?

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New Neighbors?

We already have two house finch nests out on the back porch, but they’re hidden well, tucked up behind a pair of outdoor speakers that the landlord had installed back when he lived here. However, we have a lot more finches around than those two pairs. They’re horny and flitting about all year around (they can have a couple clutches of eggs per year) and it looks like a third couple has started a nest.

The nest from two years ago is just to the left of this, two roof segments over. These pair of finches has been checking out all of these little compartments for several weeks, and it looks like they’ve finally settled on this one.

Good choice, with those couple of vines anchored up there, gives them a good base of support to build against. Some of their building material makes me think they found a coffee filter or some other trash to use. NONE of this was there yesterday, but by this afternoon they had a nice bit of construction done.

Later in the day they both came back several times to add on and to scout lookout positions. Lucy (the female) is up in the nest and Ricky (the male) is perched in the vines below the thermometer.

I’ve had a talk with them about how they’re very near the door to the back porch that we use all day long and we won’t bother them, but I don’t know if they got the message. Right now they’re still taking off like a bat out of Hell every time the door opens, just like the two right above that door, behind the speakers.

This may take some getting used to, by all of us.

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Evening Stroll

My watch bitches at me if I don’t get up and move around once an hour. I tend to take short walks around the yard, front or back, or down the block a house or two.

Tonight I noticed that the two street lights that have bedeviled my astrophotography and ISS photos for the last four years are both out. With the twelve day old moon 96% illuminate above it’s still easy to see, but for at least a hundred yards or so between working lights it’s strangely NOT like being in the middle of a huge metropolis.

Think what it’s like out there away from the metropolis and all of those working streetlights, porch lights, cars, stadiums, and so on. I’ve seen it, used to live there, but it’s been so long. LA’s pretty at night, Jim Morrison’s “city of light,” but I miss the dark sky and the stars.

Soon. I hope.

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Working Class Rose

Looking at some of the other roses that have been blooming in the last week, many are to me the equivalent of beautiful actresses or models. They’re the epitome of beauty and grace, hovering on the edge of perfection. They’re like the champion dogs at Westminster, meeting the standard established for “roses.”

This one didn’t give me that vibe.

The vibe I got from this rose is “working class.” This is the rose that isn’t going to be spending any time on a pedestal, being admired for “perfection.” But for all of that it’s no less beautiful, no less aromatic, no less stunning in its subtle colors and enormous ball of petals.

This is a “Rosie the Riveter” of roses (yes, I did that on purpose), getting the rose job done and getting it done well, without worrying about any extra effort on useless style points. It’s big, it’s brash, and it will kick your ass (and cut your fingers) if you don’t give it the respect and admiration it deserves. This rose didn’t come from Beverly Hills where the beautiful people lounge, it comes from Philly and has a nine to five job and the attitude to go along with it.

I love this rose!

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Do Foreign Directors Make Watered Down Versions Of Cool American Films?

What might spark such an odd question, one might ask?

Back in the early, early days of pay television in Los Angeles, probably even before HBO or Showtime, when the “premium” or pay-TV came on an over-the-air channel that was scrambled, with about eight hours of service a day, I saw a Brazilian film called “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.” In short, a woman marries a red hot lover who gambles and drinks and finally dies, then marries a boring but reliable doctor. The second husband takes good care of her, but the sex sucks and he’s dull. Then the ghost of her first husband appears, always naked, and complicates her life considerably.

There was a reason it was shown at midnight on an encrypted channel. I loved it.

“Dona Flor” was made in 1976. In 1982 an American film came out called “Kiss Me Goodbye,” starring Sally Field, James Caan, and Jeff Bridges. (James Caan is the dead husband, you can figure out the rest from there.) They don’t even try to say that it’s not a re-make. The original screenwriters get credit on the American version as well.

But after watching them both… Why?

It’s not a terrible film. The talent is decent, it comes across as a perfectly serviceable, odd, screwball comedy. It has moments.

But the original film was fantastic!

Tonight “Kiss Me Goodbye” is on some cable channel or the other, there’s nothing else on, so I’ve got it on as background noise. (The honkin’ big TV also helps keep the room warm.) But it just bugs me that it’s so watered down and bland compared to the original. Thus the original question.

Do foreign directors make versions of “The Godfather” without all of the violence? Family friendly versions of “Kill Bill” with everyone using water guns instead of swords? Somewhere is there a French or Brazilian version of “Full Metal Jacket” starring a former children’s show actor?

Just curious.

Watch the original, it’s got to be available out there somewhere these days. NSFW, but much more satisfying.

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Brighter Days Ahead

Physically and astronomically, at least. The political and social aspect of “brighter” are much more uncertain.

But erase us from the planet in an eyeblink and the rest of the biosphere in the Northern Hemisphere will merrily go onward toward June 21st with each day getting more hours of daylight.

The winter solstice is three weeks behind us, the Christmas lights are off and it’s a bit darker out there for that.

The moonlight waxes and wanes from night to night and that porch light can only do so much. Orion can guide our way, but we’ll have to bring our own inner light to our actions and attitudes.

Be kind. Be aware. Be responsible.

Get fully vaccinated. Wear a mask. Stay away from indoor crowds. Socially distance.

Be intelligent. Stay out of the cults that seem to be fracturing our society.

Be an adult but hold tight to a childlike sense of wonder.

Balance maintenance of a healthy skepticism with an open mind driven by facts.

Have fun.

Enjoy life.

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Bob & Weave

It was chaotic, it was over full, it was stressful. But at least there was a plan.

Then things changed. And now, it’s chaotic, it’s hectic, it’s stressful. But there’s no plan at the moment.

It will be fine. I’m not the one who is having issues. No one’s dying. At least, not today and not anyone I know. It’s just a bit…disorienting.

EGBOK! Everything’s Gonna Be OK! And it will.

But for the moment it’s one step at a time. Literally.

When I was a kid and we lived in the Kansas City area our house had a fairly steep in half of our back yard. There was a chain link fence at the bottom, to keep me and my siblings in I suspect, not to keep others out. My dad worked with computer drum drives on mainframes and would occasionally bring home one of the shipping containers they were transported in. They were cylindrical, heavy, thick cardboard, about four feet long, about three feet in diameter, a little bigger than a trash can.

We would cram three of us in there, sort of like tennis balls in a can, then roll it down that hill. It would pick up some pretty good speed, then slam into that fence. We would tumble out, always dizzy as hell, sometimes bruised, always giggling and laughing and trying to run back up the hill to do it again.

Today feels a bit like that, trying to run back up that hill while super dizzy and a bit bruised and banged up.

There’s less giggling and laughing, but I’m trying to keep my sense of humor about it all. So far, so good.

But I really would prefer not to do it again.

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Happy New Year 2022

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Welcome, 2022!

No resolutions – it’s a lousy way of making changes in your life that you want. If you need to eat better and drop ten (or forty) pounds, you’ll do it when it’s worth it to you enough to make the changes. If you want to start training for that marathon, you’ll do it when you want it enough to find a program and stick to it. If you want to start learning a foreign language or writing that novel or taking flying lessons or whatever else it is that you’re longing for, you’ll do it when you’re ready. Like, really, Really, REALLY ready. Not because someone else is telling you to.

Been there. Done that.

FYI and TMI, I dropped that weight years ago, wouldn’t hurt to drop a bit more. Ran those marathons, would sort of like to run a faster one. The point being that I speak from experience. Until your “Come to JESUS!” moment comes, you’re just raising your blood pressure.

You know what changes are needed. You probably know why you want to make the changes. If it’s because society tells you to, you’ll either realize that society’s right and you’ll do it, or you’ll realize that society is an asshole and you’ll tell it to take a long hike off of a short pier.

But that’s you.

I hope that in 2022 you get some clarity and find the strength and courage to do what you need to do. It’s hard. It’s worth it.

Remember the Litany Against Fear from “Dune.” This shit is scary. But you’re far stronger than you think you are.

Balance.

On the one hand, it is all up to you. It’s up to you to overcome the fear, get started, get back up when you get knocked down, and get to the finish line.

On the other hand, there is always help out there when you need it. We’re all just too scared to ask for it or take it when offered. More stupid fear. We think we’re alone, but we’re not.

Good luck. You can do it.

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New Year’s Eve 2021

Well, here we are, the last 90 minutes of 2021, at least on the West Coast.

Proving that 2021 is still trying to rack up points to win the award for Worst Year EVER, on top of COVID and all of its variants, and the GOP, and the brush fires, and the climate change, and on and on and on, we got the news that Betty White, beloved actress and comedienne supreme, died just seventeen days short of her 100th birthday.

This year is going to need to be strangled hard and have a stake driven through its heart.

On the other hand, as my SIL said, “What did she know about 2022 that we don’t?” Yeah…

Looking for some light in that tunnel, specifically some starlight and Christmas lights, I figured out tonight how to get my annual picture of Orion over the house with the house lit up with Christmas lights. It used to be easy with Orion high in the south and the house facing north:

From 2007.┬áBut that was the old house, and the “new” house (coming up on three years!) faces west. So I had to change the angle a bit, go stand in the middle of the street for a few minutes (what a stupid way to end up in ICU that would be on New Year’s Eve!), and end up with a huge freakin’ telephone pole in the way (nothing a chain saw wouldn’t solve).

A 1/2 second exposure. The urban forest with utility poles, streetlights, and wires everywhere.

A one-second exposure. It might not be art, but it is what we have.

To top it all off, I yoinked some muscle in my back this evening doing nothing more strenuous than sneezing. It’s a good thing that the alternative is worse, because this getting old crap is a pain in the ass.

With all of that said – Happy New Year to you all! I hope that you are all safe as 2021 ends and 2022 begins. I beg you all to continue to be careful, both with politics, our changing world, and especially the diseases threatening us. We still have a way to go and every indication is that the next few months (the “fifth wave”) will be brutal.

Be kind.

Be smart.

Take care of yourself.

Take care of others.

We’ll get through this together.

Happy New Year!

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