Posts Tagged ‘choice’

Mother’s Day is Everyday

24 October 2011

Dear J-

As they like to say last week was last week and this week brings new revelations. Sort of, at least. It’s a fancy way of saying that we’re not likely to move to Urbana and its desireable State Street neighborhood, close to the University and Leal Elementary. theVet spoke with the guy who runs (ran) the Toxicology residency program and he stated that the candidate that they were probably going to select already had a DVM and a PhD, as well as stating that he was now retired and they were contemplating rolling the program back because of university budget cuts.

So, there’s that. Yet she’s determined to pursue a residency (that or the GIA) and I encourage her to follow that path as we go through different stages of our life. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: the path that women have to take is far more complex than that for men. When do you choose to have kids? Stay at home? Career or family? That it should boil down to an or choice rather than the and that most men accept without reservation is still telling of society’s roles and perceptions. Doesn’t have to be or, by the way, but the ands all have to sacrifice something, whether money or free time.

Was this where I saw myself twenty years ago? Thirty? Thirty years from now, is figgy going to find herself faced with a similar decision? If timing is everything then it’s problematic at best and downright impossible to have it all: cateer, money, kids. Biology hasn’t kept pace with society, though there’s medical miracles that let you delay the timing. I really should say that I appreciate all the choices she’s made and the sacrifices, too, as it’s not easy and I’ve been gallivanting around the country on tours of duty with the company, leaving her to fend for the two little ones on her own. Yet that’s what culture has conditioned us to believe.

Mike

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Past Perfect

17 May 2011

Dear J-

In retrospect I could have predicted this: low chance of showers this afternoon and cloudy hyet threatening this morning means I could have ridden my bicycle today. And yesterday it turns out I could have taken a ride on the vanpool — if I had spent a bit less time on the exam no one would have known I was late at all. The shoulda woulda games will kill you, though. I used to walk out of exams and compare answers with fellow students, wincing in real pain as they calmly explained some trick or shortcut that could have either gotten the correct answer or saved me enough time for other mysterious questions. It’s true part of that was ego — if you’re the one doing the bragging there’s no end to delight in your own cleverness but you have to take the lows with the highs.

Meanwhile it rubs off on your efforts to be a nominal adult, coloring your envious perceptions of being passed over and imagined slights, making you paranoid that if maybe you’d just done something a little differently maybe that tweak would hagve been enough, right? Maybe that’s the anxiety and conspiracies* talking your ego down or maybe your excuse-organ is so highly developed that blame can be completely deflected away from the primary source — me. There are billions of other people out there** ready to accept the comfortable life I have and so fruitless whining about what could be is the least constructive use of my time I can imagine. Love what you have. Be grateful for more, accept what’s done and can’t be changed. Time is a one-way street.

There may be a hundred things you could be doing instead today; if you are spoiled for choice remember that you had the choice to begin. The choices you make do ripple through, though, as the decision I made last night to stay up a little late was predicated on early and continued rain meaning that id be able to drive, not ride. If you don’t give yourself the time and opportunity to make flexible game-time decisions (and yes, failure to plan and all that, thank you, business cliché aphorisms) then of course your life is going to feel predestined, three Fates spinning threads and cutting when they decide. If you want to feel that power again give yourself the time and space needed to make a calm decision.

Mike

* Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.  I’m just saying…

** in my lifetime we’re expected to hit ten billion, up from six now and (as far back as I can remember) four when I was starting to get interested in the news.

Water Choice

17 February 2011

Dear J-

Going north we pass through the restored wetlands at Del Mar — you climb up a big hill once you’re past Carmel Valley and when you’re back down to sea level you’re at Del Mar before climbing back up to Solana Beach and points beyond. Usually after it rains in the mornings there’s a low fog bank hovering over the wetlands, clnging to the earth like a favorite blanket clutched tight at night. Earth, sea, and sky all merge into a unifed whole and remind us that the promise of spring, daffodils and irises, blustery March and thawing snowcaps is just around the corner. It is the last stretch of undeveloped land until you get up into the Marine base at Camp Pendleton.

Of course when it’s raining hard enough — or mistily enough, as yesterday — you get the disconcerting feeling that someone’s trying to drown us with the air become water and the betraying earth refusing to drain it away (some of the puddles and potholes that form after late winter rains around here, with the ground already saturated, are subject to their own tides, it seems). I remember that first winter spent going back from Boston to Davis where it seemed every time I touched down in Sacramento it kept pouring down, forming my first impressions as a city ruled by rain. Those who’ve moved here recently might say the same even with clouds and mist giving way to sun today.

We grew up away from water, J-, and I wonder if that hasn’t influenced where we ended up. In Davis during rice season they’d flood the Yolo Causeway. I would drive to work thinking I was somewhere amongst the Florida Keys, I-80 a narrow ribbon bisecting water as far as they eye could see. Crossing the campus at Berkeley I’d make it a point to linger on the bridges across Strawberry Creek. Boston and Cambridge are divided by the Charles, and everything I did, photographically, that first year had to do with water water everywhere. We make funny choices unconciously guided by fate or fortune, but isn’t it all always right?

Mike

Day 09: The Fight

1 April 2010

Dear J-

Lots of good fodder today at class; we moved on to the next segment of the course, Conflict Management, and it’s as if my eyes are newly attuned and calibrated to the little giveaways in body language and posturing. There are several important points that I want to mull over tonight and I loved watching the arms unfold as the day wore on; the most skeptical of us were forced to confront our own assumptions and challenge them. There was nothing that we couldn’t have pieced together on our own, but it was powerful to see them explained and reasoned out.

One powerful thing to remember: you have the choice between what happens to you and how you choose to respond to it. React out of the lizard brain that controls fight/flight/fright and you might as well stay part of those packs of animals scratching in the dirt looking for particularly tasty grubs and ants. It’s how we respond, rather than react — once you react, you’ve chosen to give up control of the situation — there is a world of difference in the subtle rephrasing between “you make me so angry” and “I am angry with that action.” Here’s the tricky part: you can’t trust that first instinct that tells us to lash out.

By choosing to respond, not react, you’ll pull the fight off balance in your favor, but it’s your character that determines what you’ll do with that advantage. We’re always asking WIIFM — What’s in it for me? — and I think I’m getting peeks at the end chapters; the class is not called Conflict Avoidance or Conflict Resolution for a reason. I’ve been trained to dodge conflict, to groom harmonious, affliative relationships, but I think I’ve been passing up learning opportunities instead.

Mike

Trade Offs

4 October 2009

Dear J-

Yesterday (and today, I suppose; I wasn’t around) we had jets soaring over the house; the weekend passes unexpectedly quickly again — heck, the whole week swoops by in a blur. Today I got to hang out with virtually the whole crew at work — seeing everyone at 10am on a Sunday is another one of those probable signs of the apocalypse.

It brings up one of those lessons I remember from ten years ago; after we shifted to as many hours as we could eat, one of my friends had the devil’s choice of supporting work versus more time at home, where his wife was pregnant and their four-year-old was acting out in an effort to get more attention. Well, in retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t as difficult a choice as I thought; we have a limited number of hours and to turn them dark in favor of work is no choice at all.

Sunflower Club 2542 -sm

We have a lot of choices; the person I owe my current job to told me that it’s a good thing to be buried in work: the busier you are, that means people know you get things done; yet I come home and there’s a million more things, less important and more significant. “Daddy, put socks on me; up me; go walk Ollie; put on bracelet; that’s a white car.” Weight and time; though the hours hang heavy on my head tonight, does that make for heavier regret tomorrow?

Mike

Hollow Sky

11 August 2009

Dear J-

One of the longer (if not entirely baroque) episode titles of Star Trek (original series) is For the World is Hollow, and I Have Touched the Sky; the Enterprise encounters a planetoid where the inhabitants are living on the inside of a hollowed-out asteroid.  Told of their true situation, at first only disbelief reigns; later as more touch the sky, the word spreads and a new understanding is established.  We all live in our hollow worlds, sometimes never bothering to extend ourselves beyond car, house, or work.  Things are not done for us, things happen to us.  Fatalism becomes an excuse:  was it fated to happen?

I know that I’ve got plenty to do; I know that the reward for doing more is more to do.  Whole careers are built on the chain of increased responsibility and stress — I draw uncomfortable comparisons to a lot of role-playing games here; we grind levels in order to be able to tackle more challenging quests and fiercer monsters.  Your carrot is something that leads you on to the next carrot; meanwhile you continue on your chosen path of destruction and plunder as some nameless hero out to save the world.

There are many different roads to choose, each rewarding in various ways.  Enlightenment and knowledge, materials and wealth, fame, celebration; there is no one right goal for everyone.  Our culture assigns values to each, but it’s ultimately a personal choice of pursuit.  Yet when we touch the sky, or see the ceiling, what do we do next, what’s the next fork in the path?  That first step starts with realizing the situation and accepting it.

Mike

Double Nickel

24 July 2009

Dear J-

Continuing on the car theme, I’m starting to hear proposals on a new national speed limit of 55.  The idea is that when the limit was raised to 70, traffic fatalities and accidents also went up.  The initial limit of 55 was imposed in response to the oil crises of the 70s, and provided a quick way to impose fuel economy improvements; aerodynamic drag scales with the square of velocity — in other words, the drag force on your car doubles for every forty percent increase in speed.  Forty percent sounds like a lot, but it’s the difference between 55 and 77, and I’m pretty convinced that lots of folks out there touch 77 pretty regularly.

55 has reached infamy (pre-Van Halen Sammy Hagar immortalized it in I Can’t Drive 55) as an example of the nanny state run amok, and as one of those laws folks flouted with relative impunity.  Despite regular improvements in safety (side-impact standards, passive restraints, advanced structural designs), injuries and fatalities have risen; even if we discount those numbers by accounting for increased traffic volumes, aren’t we jeopardizing public health with an increased limit?

I’m not going to advocate a return to 55 as a law, though.  It reminds me of the questions your consicence used to ask:  if no one’s around to see it, do you still do the right thing?  Last year when gas hit record highs, folks switched to mass transit, carpools, and slower speeds where they could; this year, we’re back to touting big cars and flaunting overpowered engines.  Apparently the right thing for most is rooted in thrift; so long as it coincides with increased safety, I’m all for it.

Mike

Bike Judge

30 June 2009

Dear J-

Spend enough time bicycling and you’ll inevitably start to judge other bicyclists in an attempt to justify how fast/slow or gear-laden you are in comparison.  My bike is a bit of a pig — as a folding bike, it’s not the lightest to begin with, and then I pile on my lunch, two bottles of water, lights, rack, bookbag (with a camera I need to charge the batteries in, sunglasses, calculator, GameBoy — also featuring dead batteries, wallet, keys, iPod, monocular, and phone).  Dragging my fluorescent-jacketed carcass along means that folks pass me regularly and easily, pointing all the while at the funny guy with no fashion sense.

On the other hand, maybe those are just excuses (fat tires, extra load, indifferent maintenance) for me not to work hard at it — although I’m still pretty sure that I haven’t ever passed anyone on the way to or from work, I have kept up on the hills for a moment or two now and then.  I guess everyone has their priorities which justifies their choices in bicycle and gear; either I’m terrifed of being somewhere, unentertained, or I like gadgets (with the latter far more likely).

One thing I can’t abide is indifference to safety; I see people riding on the sidewalk (crossing the street in the crosswalk actually lessens your visibility to folks behind you turning right, especially if there’s cars parked at the curb), or without helmets (I’ve already managed to ruin a shirt sliding on a shoulder after a spectacular wipeout going downhill; my faith in the indifference of SoCal drivers was not shaken), but this morning I saw someone with an aggressive recklessness.  His bike had no lights, and he was wearing black; the stealth ninja look is good, I suppose, if you’re interested in blending in, but for folks driving around with no coffee in their systems — I almost chased him down (that is, if I could) to offer him one of my lights, at least.  I’m not saying I’m a perfect bicyclist, but I’m still cringing at the thought of the stealth rider, apologizing to motorists on behalf of bicyclists.

Mike

Hour of Life

9 March 2009

Dear J-

Under the sky, tree branches spread their fingers towards the sun; I note with limited approval that the wildflowers are back from last year — pleasant on the eyes, murder on the sinuses.  My attention is once again arrested as I blink the pollen back:  “I don’t want to leave, you know.”

It feels like we’re heading into the clouds and fog again; the trees audibly droop in sympathy as the sun vanishes behind more fragments of our watery planet.  For someone who runs around like mad, finding projects to be involved in, issues to iron out, it must be maddening to be stuck in transition, winding down here and preparing to jump there.  I have to remind myself that when we’ve got careers, we’ve also got work lives that fail to intersect with our personal lives.  The separation of church and state has nothing on work and life;  either we erect impenetrable walls or we commingle those waters in endless swirls.

How far must we travel to understand where we are?  Where does ambition fit into our lives?  How much more do we give to work when we could be saving that energy for home?  The real benefit of Daylight Savings Time is the hour of life you reclaim after work; when does running away become embracing those cold company arms?  And if going is untenable, but staying is stagnating, how do you make that call?  Brave souls make bold choices; we define our world with the people we choose to share our lives with.

Mike

Compact Followup

4 March 2009

Dear J-

I think I’ve hit on the line of reasoning I need to justify (or not, as the case may be) future expenses:  sure, it would be great to have all the advantages of the larger sensor in a compact body, but there’s been nothing — repeat that, nothing — that quite matches up to what I have in mind.  Between the control scheme and operational speed, the good old E-1 keeps soldiering on as my current best solution.  So the question remains what lenses look most promising, knowing that the recession — and the tax man — will be taking a bite out of our money before much longer.  That new Panasonic GH1 looks quite interesting — to the point where I begin to lament my camcorder choice — but even then, isn’t quite there, small size-wise.

For all the time I’ve spent looking over and researching features and details, that’s time taken away from actually shooting or other more pleasurable pursuits.  I’m not getting that time back.  Review sites seem to fall into various traps, either debating useless minutiae endlessly or injecting arbitrary criteria (“this camera was clearly designed by a photographer because it happens to coincide with how I, personally, believe how a camera should act”) that’s meaningless to most of us.  My experience, my resources dictate what cameras come to hand, and it’s told me, so far, that of the ones that have crossed my doorstep, the one I use the most is the one that works the best for me.

Eventually, the one number that doesn’t lie to me is the number of exposures I run through.  I end up taking maybe 150 shots a week, which is nothing for some folks, but me, with my mind still stuck somewhere in film-land, I see that as five rolls, where I used to regularly stretch out one roll a month, maybe.    If practice is the key to getting better, then it’s been a tremendous learning tool.  Some day there will be a compact that does it right — we saw a flood of serious film ones in the early 90s — but we’re not quite there with digital yet.  It takes time to learn how to use any camera, though, and I’m just starting to get the hang of this one, 8 000 clicks later.

Mike