Posts Tagged ‘experience’

Flight Plan

4 May 2012

Dear J-

We found out today that flying with kids us both easier and harder than it looks. It was a surprisingly simple matter of getting to the right places early enough to not be rushed, but then it ended up being a monster task to get them to run all of the itchy feelings out of their system. Still I’m less mystified by the process than before and am reasonably confident that we could make it a little further next time.


Next step: getting them through a long day and then a wedding followed by a reception. I’m surprised by how low the ceiling is on the rental car, though, so if I can make it through tomorrow without concussing myself I think we can do anything.



Travel Rules

3 March 2011

Dear J-

I’m proposing something simple for the upcoming trip: travel rules. One for food — no fast food, no chains, no mall food, and no airport restaurants unless absolutely necessary. The last trip the least satisfying meal I had was at a Chick fil-A in the mall. There are ways my body responds to food especially on the road* and I’m slowly learning how to travel correctly.

Next rule: no repeats. No return trips to retrace steps, take the opportunities presented to see new things and take different routes. Of course this means I need to bring along a map which is why the GPS is one of the greatest inventions to throw into my bag. Seize the day, find something new to find.


* Let’s just say that without a steady morning fiber intake no toilet is safe from the wrath my bowels can brew. Thankfully every hotel offers breakfast and every breakfast has oatmeal and fruit.

Internal Music

15 September 2010

Dear J-

I’m waking up this morning with the Beatles’ Mother Nature’s Son on my internal radio for some reason; it’s not as though I’ve listened to it recently, though. So of course I check the various devices littering my bag to see if one of those, maybe, has the song on it, but no luck (given that I only last week figured out how to create playlists, it’s a minor miracle that there’s any music at all). It’s not about what I have with me (I settled on Dance Hall Crashers instead) but the intensely personal nature of music: theVet and I generally agree on the movies we’d like to see (musicals and romantic comedies, which has led to discussions on how I’ve finally entered puberty as a thirteen-year-old girl) and television shows, but there is her music and mine with a great yawning gulf in between.

Part of it has to do with what you associate with those songs: for instance, I have memories of listening to Tripping the Live Fantastic (one of McCartney’s later live concert albums) as the first thing I spun up in my own stereo on headphones — that album’s now inextricably linked with that pride of ownership and privacy. Likewise, I got the Trainspotting soundtrack* album from my brother just before I left for grad school — it’s lumped in with those feelings of loneliness and alienation, being in Boston while the rest of my life remained on the West Coast, struggling with homework and research in those first few months, but filled with a roaring, defiant bravado: hey, I’m just as smart and able as the rest of these punks, damnit.

I wonder if that’s why mixtapes never seem to work as well as you’d imagine: there’s all kinds of emotions that dredge up for me when I play songs and without a shared context, say, the live cover that Dance Hall Crashers did of Tom Petty’s American Girl doesn’t make sense to anyone else in the world but you and me, J-. I don’t trust most reviews, as there’s no way to tell, really, what the reviewer’s personal biases are, but for music? Forget about it; there’s no way the sum of my experiences matches theirs.


* I love soundtrack albums, especially when they’re well-done compilations. It’s the reason that I regard Pretty in Pink as far superior to Sixteen Candles: that Pretty in Pink soundtrack is the best slice of 80s music I’ve ever invested in (and with that said, I’ve been eyeing the Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack, another John Hughes-penned, Howard Deutch-directed effort). They’ve exposed me to artists I never would have otherwise have an opportunity to hear, like Sleeper (thanks, Trainspotting!), Dance Hall Crashers (Angus), and Save Ferris (10 Things I Hate About You).

Youth Attitude

19 October 2009

Dear J-

“Build a bridge with us,” sound the sibilant whispers, “build a bridge to the future.”  That does it; when even my dreams stop making sense, I snap awake to hear the radio blinking its merry way through some small hour.  What is it about bridges lately?  Though I may dream of one spanning San Clemente Canyon along Genesee like some concrete snake, that’s mainly out of the laziness that attacks me every time I think of heading up and over from  the bottom of the canyon.  I’ve admired bridges as some unknown pinnacle of the civil engineer’s art, lofty concrete spires and impossibly delicate latticework, ever since we were tasked to build balsa bridges in school — apparently, the more elegant the structure, the less sturdy when dealing with wood and glue.

Yet the future does bear some thinking about; we build bridges to make travel easier — quicker than a ferry or detour, if not as picturesque, perhaps, those means seem to be going the way of stoplight highways — so how would a bridge to the future work?  Nothing I do will make tomorrow come any faster than twenty-some hours from now, but getting things done today saves me from doing them later, I suppose.  Perhaps it’s preparation that gives the illusion of precognition; the more ready you are, the better the anticipatory actions.

Maybe this is how it starts, me getting old; it’s a mere question of attitude.  Remembering my first job we used to laugh about how young I was — twenty-three and convinced, as usual, that I’d always be young.  Youth has many attributes, mostly positive, but also a touch of the untested, the callow, the inexperience and bravado taking action in rash leaps.  It’s wallowing in the pits of the past, dawdling on the bridges leading behind that make me feel old; when I face forward, I’m as young as everyone.


Level Up

29 April 2009

Dear J-

When we say that we want to make things better, we really mean that we want things to be better for us.   Try to be altruistic — I’m teaching you for your benefit, let’s say — and anyone can twist it back on you:  you’re only teaching them to cut down on the number of calls and requests for help you get going forward.  It may not be perfectly selfish, but if the goal is to cut back on the time spent on the phone, there are lots of ways to do it.

I do make a lot of assumptions throughout the course of the day; one of them happens to be that I can ignore my phone calls, at least for a while, but I suspect that’s something that’s seriously going to come back on me.  It doesn’t help the person waitng for a call back, either; they just end up getting impatient or annoyed, or trying to get in touch some other way.  Own the issue, close it in such a way it remains closed.  Though it may seem helpful to do things for other people, all you’re doing is depriving them of a chance to learn how.

At some point, then, you have to evaluate — perhaps even constantly evaluate — how effective you’ve been.  What do you use as the yardstick?  Can you compare results  from the past?  There are times that I think of role-playing games and the grind of experience points and levels; although your character goes up and gets bigger and badder, donning the Excellent Armor of Excellence +4 with the Vorpal Sword of Slaying +3, all that means is that you keep pace with the monsters you’re trying to slay:  the battles don’t become easier, and your character dies just as often.  Put simply, you get better and the target keeps moving; where am I today, is the target closer or just rising faster?


Ripple Layer

12 April 2009

Dear J-

Our actions ripple out into the world; whether the consequences are unintentional or not, we recognize that we take responsibility for our decisions and accept all that’s implied.  Well, unless you’re in politics; then it’s the other guy’s fault.  For as much talk of personal accountability as I hear bandied about, there’s a ton of folks out there who’ll hasten to add that their hands were tied and caveat away any real teeth they might have had.  I suppose that there are subtle points I miss here — you can’t keep everyone happy, and if you try, you often end up making no one happy — but I can’t help but think that folks are smart enough to admire honesty.


Right now life is pretty simple; there’s yes, and there’s no.  figgy makes suggestions that we’re under no obligation to consider (though most of the time, they end up fulfilled — we’ve got a pretty good read on that kid by now), and she goes to various (hopefully enriching) places with us without much complaint.  It’s a gradual process, an accretion of experiences and learning where we teach each other; layers upon layers of gentle days pass.


Experience Anxiety

19 December 2008

Dear J-

Is there a word for the social terror that overwhelms you at the slightest mention of a birthday party?  When I was roughly seven, any hint of impending festivities would set off natalphobia alarms in my head, to the point where I’d send my brother to face that party-hatted firing squad in my stead.  When do we decide that the outside world is a terrible place, full of suspicious strangers and folks whose only intention is to eat your brains, your delicious tender brains?  (I know, in the back of my head, that we were getting delicious cake instead but you never know what guests may be subjected to).

I don’t believe that we’re born wary; I watch figgy wave and flirt with folks, though, and it’s clear she has preferences:  not too comfortable with strange women, and not comfortable at ALL with the guy last Saturday who came up and shook her hand as she was strapped into the high chair.  She bore this last one gamely but at the extreme end of her range, scrunching into a corner of the chair.  Otherwise she’s amazingly resilient and confident; does she not know differently, or does she just not care at this point?

We mature at different rates, I guess; we learn abstractly and we learn through experience.  Birthday parties are usually filled with games, not the cannibalistic undead; but not all strangers are benign, either.  How does she learn now?  She watches with an alert keenness; she imitates, she understands simple spoken commands.  “Want to go out?” is met with her running off to fetch her socks from wherever she’s managed to fling them.  I’m torn between protection and permission; experience and exposure war with isolation and insulation, but doesn’t it just make it that much more tempting?


Shallow Field

16 August 2008

Dear J-

Saturdays seem to turn into photo days, for whatever reason, so let’s talk about f-stops, you and I.  F-stops follow the progression they do because they express the ratio of diameters; at f/1.0, the effective diameter of the lens matches the focal length.  Thus a 50mm f/1.0 (and they exist, at you-gotta-be-kidding-me prices) has a 50mm effective diameter.  At f/1.4, your diameter is 1/1.4-th of the focal length.  It makes more sense when you consider it this way:  since the area of the opening determines the gross amount of light transmitted through the lens (ideal lenses, here, and with modern multi-coatings, transmission ratios are pretty high); thus since area varies with the square of the diameter, it’s actually the square of the f-stop you’re interested in.

Hence, a f/1.0 lens transmits twice as much light as a f/1.4 lens, and thus you can derive the f-stop full stop scale (f/1.0, f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32, f/64, f/128, etc.) by taking the square root of the 2^n sequence (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.).  Consider it for a moment and it starts to make sense.  If you close down the aperture one full stop (f/1.4 to f/2.0, say), you have to double the shutter speed (1/30th at f/1.4 to 1/15th at f/2.0) to make an equivalent exposure — you show the film (or sensor) half the light, for twice as long.  All else being equal, why wouldn’t you keep the aperture as wide as possible?  Well, for one thing, lenses aren’t necessarily designed to be run wide-open, and often hit their optimum performance one or two stops down.  For another, aperture controls depth of field; low f-stops (big apertures) give shallow depth of field, which is useful for the Martha Stewart style of product photography, or if you’re trying to draw attention to one thing over another.

Isn’t it ironic, then, that in real life, opening yourself up to new experiences actually widens your depth of knowledge?  I’ve been reading about some guy out there who has some kind of beef with Democrats; he coauthored a book for the Swift Boat Veterans, blamed by some for torpedoing Kerry’s campaign in 2004 (someone please explain to me again how two draft dodgers came out looking more virtuous than a veteran, especially representing a party that prides itself on supporting the military), and he’s at it again with Obama fear-mongering.  Sadly, it’s not about the accuracy of the message, simple as it is in photography — if you’re using shallow depth of field techniques, make sure you focus on the right thing — but how repeatable the lie.

I remember from debate there were two sources you wanted to use for definitions, each useful to the affirmative (making a case for change) or negative (keeping the status quo) side.  And, depending on the side you had to argue, the standard reasons went like this:  affirmatives wanted to use a “common” dictionary like Merriam-Webster because it was the most reasonable to the greatest amount of people; negatives chose Black’s Law Dictionary because it was the most precisely focussed definition.  Neither was the best answer all the time, and you needed to carry around both, because you didn’t know what side you’d be asked to argue.  So it goes in life, so too in photography; develop your skills and make sure you use the right tools when needed.