Friday, February 8, 2013


Line of Sight : Chesapeake Bay : Photo copyright: Janet M Kincaid, 4/2008

Space: The Final Frontier...

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who is currently doing a stint aboard the International Space Station, is tweeting photos of the Blue Planet from outer space. This has me noodling an idea for a photo project I may undertake. Stay tuned to this real estate. In the meantime, enjoy Astronaut Hadfield's photos of the place more than 7 billion of us call home.

America: No Longer the Greatest Nation on Earth?

A clip from Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom is currently making the rounds on the Internet. I haven't seen a full episode of the show myself, though it is on my want-to-see list. This clip echoes many of the thoughts I've had in recent years about my home country. Are we really the greatest nation on Earth? Don't get me wrong. I love my country and I'm pleased to be from the United States, but I'm also seriously concerned by what I see and hear in our nation. 

We seem to have lost our enthusiasm and curiosity for discovery. We belittle those who seek intelligence and intellect as elitist. We get our news from sound bites and express our opinions through memes. Our reputation as a people who can be truly compassionate and giving is undermined by our incongruous politics and excessive consumerism. 

Yes, we have been and can be a great nation, but at the moment, I'm not so sure. And the question is, how do we fix it?

First World Problems

And speaking of greatness: living in countries where we want for nothing, how many of us find ourselves put out by what we consider to be inconveniences? The other day, I was bemoaning my desire for cinnamon toast, but I had the wrong bread. 

The wrong bread. The wrong bread?! I had bread. Shouldn't that have sufficed? In some parts of the world, people are lucky simply to have bread, if they're even lucky to have that. And yet, here I sit in my warm, dry, structurally sound apartment with a view of the French Alps, living on the edge of one of the richest cities in the world, complaining about not having the right bread.

Water is Life put together this video of people in developing countries -- places where there is real need. Where poverty, starvation, and disease are the norm -- reading first world problems. Many of them are jarring. Each of them begs us to have some perspective and get our priorities straight.

A Final Bit of Food for Thought, So to Speak...

From Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia: "The notion that we could have a functional planet if people did not eat animals indicates a profound ignorance of ecology. Animals would soon overpopulate the earth... Plant destruction could lead to population collapse. Erosion and soil destruction would follow... With little vegetation, temperatures increase, the rain stops, and the earth is destroyed....

"I would certainly hope that anyone placing animals on such a high pedestal would not spend more on his or her dog or cat than on making sure hungry children in Africa [or America] got fed. This is a litmus test of priorities. Americans spend more on vet care for their dogs and cats than the entire continent of Africa spends on healthcare. As a culture we have Bambified ourselves into foolishness, and it's reflected in our values and day-to-day activities." (Sowing Dissent: Lunatic Farmer Joel Salatin Digs In. Tracy Frisch, The Sun Magazine, October 2012, Issue 442, p 9.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Little Good News Today...

Crack of dawn : Photo copyright: Janet M. Kincaid, 12/2012

Going for something a little more upbeat today: myth busting, award winning photography, survey results, new technology for predicting events, and film!

It Wasn't Scarlet Fever...

How many of you read the Laura Ingalls Wilder series Little House on the Prairie when you were children? My parents showered us with books as children and this was a series I distinctly remember spending evenings with my siblings listening to my father read to us before bedtime. We loved it. Recently, though, scientists have discovered that sister Mary's blindness wasn't caused by scarlet fever, but by viral meningoencephalitis. I love science and research!

NatGeo Kid Photography Winners

Have a look at the winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest for kids. Some of these are really outstanding. I know National Geographic isn't without its faults and flaws, but I love this magazine and the way their work can inspire us all. It inspired me as a child and continues to do so as an adult.

Quality of Life

The Quality of Life Survey is out listing the top ten best cities in the world. Not surprisingly, Washington, D.C. ranks 43. Surprisingly, Vienna, Austria, ranks No. 1. I say surprisingly only because so many people barely give Austria or Vienna a thought. Having lived there, though, I'm thrilled to see this. It is a great city to live in and visit! In fact, I'd love to live there again, if only I could find a job there.

Using the News to Predict the Future?

An interesting article from the Beeb. Predicting disease outbreak is not as cut and dried as it looks. The 2009 pandemic and WHO's declaration of a Phase 6 pandemic certainly brought this to the fore, especially as some in the media accused WHO of manufacturing the pandemic for financial gain for themselves and the pharmaceutical industry. (An accusation that has been soundly refuted by a committee of international influenza experts.) Recently, however, researchers have developed software that tracks news headlines and predicts future public health events.

Hitchcock's Wife

Dame Helen Mirren stars as noir filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville. It's the first time Mirren and co-star Sir Anthony Hopkins, as Hitchcock, have ever done a film together. (That fact alone is astonishing! How is this possible?!) I'm excited to see this film and to see the woman behind some of the greatest films of our time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Precipitously Speaking...

Precipitous : Gorges de la Diosaz : Photo copyright: Janet M Kincaid, 7/2012

When Twitter Goes Rogue...

I read what I should see as a disturbing article about a volatile recent exchange on Twitter. I say "should see" because I've been blogging and reading the news online for a number of years now and I've been using Facebook for about four years or so. While I am often gobsmacked by some of the comments people leave on blog posts, in online news comment sections, and on Facebook, I'm less and less surprised by the lack of manners, etiquette, and intelligence displayed by many commenters. Perhaps it's more disheartening than actually surprising.

In fact, I confess that I have not been immune to leaving inappropriate comments or expressing opinions that were hurtful to others. In the last election cycle alone, I'm pretty sure I burned a bridge or two with some friends I value. I regret that and it has made me pause and think more about how I want to interact via social media and how I wish to be publicly received. 

Which is why I struggle with the idea of using Twitter. In an effort to stay professionally relevant as a communicator (writer, editor, photographer, comms-go-to person), it's one of those things more potential employers are looking for on résumés. And yet, I have no interest in experiencing the kinds of exchanges like Clara Jeffrey at Mother Jones (and many others) recently experienced.

Our inability to exchange meaningful, well-thought out, constructive dialogue is what shocks me most, I guess. I have no problem with a differing opinion. But when the conversation devolves into ugly name calling, death threats, and foul language, the battle -- whatever it may be or how we may feel about something -- is lost.


The Dart of Love1 That May Strike

Meanwhile, over in Great Britain, Parliament has voted in favor of a bill that will legalize gay marriage. The bill is strongly supported by Prime Minister David Cameron, despite heavy opposition within his own Conservative Party.

Meanwhile, the Church of England, in a pique of irony not lost on the rest of us, is balking at legislative attempts to redefine marriage. Apparently, they have failed to remember their own sordid, start-up history? I think this meme captures it well, don't you?

1. Henry VIII in a letter to Anne Boleyn in 1528. Boleyn was Henry's raison d'être for severing ties with the Catholic Church. She was the second of what would eventually be six wives.


Extending Rights to U.S. GL Servicemembers

In related news, the U.S. Pentagon is about to begin extending some domestic partnership benefits to its gay and lesbian servicemembers. The benefits are limited by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), though, and initially will only include a few things like base privileges and relocation packages. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on DOMA in the coming months. If the court strikes down DOMA, the Pentagon will then be free to extend the same benefits to its gay servicemembers as it does to its straight ones. This follows on the heels of ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the State Department's extension of benefits under recently retired Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


Richard A. Herman: Who?

Richard A. Herman died recently. "Who?" you may ask. Precisely. Seems that's how he lived his life and wanted it. In the meantime, he was a millionaire who bequeathed his money to a few charities and the arts in D.C. I love this story. It's the quiet, unexpected kindnesses that often make all the difference.


If You're Happy and You Know It, Fake a Grin

Seems the GOP still doesn't get why it isn't winning over the hearts and minds of American voters, but seems they've decided if they do it and say it with a smile on their faces and in a happy voice, we'll all see their brand of the light and elect them to absolute power across the land. Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) may be right. The GOP really may be "the party of stupid."


P45: Making SmartCar Look Safe

Finally, from Slate, this bit on Jeremy Clarkson's P45 car that makes you look like a Transformer. It also makes the SmartCar look like a highly fortified tank by comparison! The scariest bit is, he actually takes this thing out on the dual carriageway, as the Brits call highways. The video is good for giggle. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Omit Needless Words, Omit Needless Words, Omit Needless Words

Mont Blanc as Rothko : Photo copyright: Janet M Kincaid, 2/2013

Years ago, I was a prolific, verbose blogger. Long entries were my forté. With the adoption of the time suck known as Facebook, I found myself engaged in truncated prose.

Cleaning up this blog's side nav bars the other day, I clicked on every link I had for other blogs or sites I visited in my previous blog reading and writing days. I discovered several things: 1. Some blogs no longer exist; 2. Many bloggers, like myself, tapered off writing in 2009/2010; 3. Those who are still writing are writing lengthy pieces; and 4. I find my attention span for long pieces isn't what it once was.

What I'm wondering personally is, who's still blogging? Why? If you're no longer blogging or you blog in fits and starts, why? Is this medium no longer relevant as a conveyor of ideas and opinions?

Monday, February 4, 2013


Reflective : Plitvice National Park, Croatia : Copyright: Janet M Kincaid, 6/12

Not a lot of news today. At least, none worth posting. The photo above, though, I love. It's one of my favorite pictures from our trip to Croatia last summer. 

That's all.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Two Sides

Early Rain, Reflecting : Photo copyright: Janet M Kincaid, 12/12

There are always two sides to every story or issue. It's part of the nature of being human and interacting with humans.

I may not agree with or fall on the side of an issue in the way some people would like, but the beauty of democracy is, we can each have an opinion about something and they can be opposing opinions. What I always hope for in a debate is healthy respect. I may not agree with your stance, but I respect your right to that stance and I'm willing to hear you out. Doesn't mean I'll change my stance, but it also doesn't mean I'm closed off to the possibility of changing my opinion.

That said, the Washington Post was full of all kinds of good, opposing-viewpoint reading today. (Opposing viewpoint meaning, may or may not reflect my opinion. For those that don't, though, I still find value in them, because I believe it's important to understand the opposing views of others. It's the only way we'll arrive at meaningful opinions and dialogue, in my humble opinion, of course!)

In Rhode Island, not far from the devastating mass murder of 20 children and six teachers in December, lives a man who blogs and owns guns. This is his story. He used to be a car fanatic. Now, he's all about guns. P.S. When did America become a country that is afraid of its neighbors and the apocalypse? We claim the corner market on Christianity and tout ourselves as Christians, but are we really going to be so Christian as to shoot the man who tries to steal our bread a la Cormac McCarthy's The Road? The mere thought depresses and saddens me.

Meanwhile, in Russia, people are trying to do good and help each other out, but the government of Vladimir Putin is wary and wants to ban volunteerism. Those who grew up in the grip of Communism are affronted, because they still believe the government should provide everything. A younger generation is realizing the power of social media and lending a helping hand. Must one prevail over the other or can both work for the common good of humanity? Certainly we see the benefits of both in places like the U.S. Surely Russia can make it work, too, nyet?

The issue of gay rights continues to create waves in the U.S. In the current immigration debate, there's some question whether gay foreign nationals married to U.S. citizens should, like their married heterosexual counterparts, be allowed to apply for visas in order to stay in the U.S. Of course, the Left says "Yes" and the Right says "No". The Obama Administration is caught, it seems, between two constituencies that put it in the White House: Hispanic voters, for whom immigration is a serious matter; and gay voters, for whom equality is a serious matter. Will the President have to throw one group under the bus in favor of political expediency and a win?

In a similar vein, the Boy Scouts of America are considering lifting their ban on gays and lesbians in their vaunted ranks. Some troop chapters of the BSA have taken a stand and are already inclusive, but others refuse to budge until an edict is issued from HQ.

Switching gears, it seems nowadays what was once called cheating is now called collaboration. Or, have we all at times been collaborating and were told we were cheating? Should these Harvard students have been suspended or should they be rewarded?

Finally, get out the Kleenex. This next story is a five- or six-tissue read. I'll let it speak for itself: Spend one, last, perfect day with your dying dog.

That's all I've got for today.

Oh, wait. No, there's this: GO NINERS! And happy birthday, Mom!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pre-Owned and Creaky

 Fly by the Wire : and Mont Blanc : Photo copyright: Janet M Kincaid, 12/12

I'm getting old(er). I'll be 45 this year. Things are starting to creak and I end up with pains from innocuous things like sleeping. For example, I woke up yesterday with a sore right shoulder. Last night, while getting out of bed to get a drink of water, I did something to further aggravate the shoulder. It's everything I can do to type this. I think I've pinched a nerve or dislocated something. The bummer is, I'm right-handed and currently have a very limited range of motion in my shoulder, which makes doing things difficult. At the very least, I have a whole new appreciation for one-armed individuals.

Without health insurance coverage at the moment, though, there's little I will do about it except try to spend the weekend engaged in minimal activity. I even cancelled dinner plans with friends, because pounding out pork shoulder to make schnitzel seems impossible and may make things worse. If things aren't better by Monday, though, I guess I'll drag myself to the doctor and pay out-of-pocket.

Anyway -- enough about me and my woes. Remember my mention of the Super Bowl yesterday? Tomorrow's game in New Orleans won't come cheap to anyone. America's obsession with this game results in some pretty big outlays. An article in USA Today gives the math. The 47th annual Super Bowl by the numbers.

And, getting back to the matter of illness, it seems this year's influenza outbreak is particularly vicious. One journalist takes a sarcastic, but slightly hilarious tone about this year's epidemic as it plays out in Washington, D.C. Here is Scenes from the Illiad: Flu outbreak causes epic tales of woe across Washington region.

That's all I've got today. It's all I can manage with my gimpy shoulder. Here's a painful toast to all of my one-armed friends out there. You know who you are! xo

Friday, February 1, 2013

Readable Round-Up

Full Moonset above Crozet, France : 29 December 2012 : Photo copyright: Janet M Kincaid

It's February. That's a good thing. February means we're heading into the downhill from dark, dreary Winter into warm, welcoming Spring.

Okay, maybe I'm jumping the gun a little, but the days are getting lighter again and the temperatures are fluctuating slowly upwards. 

My job search continues, but I gotta tell ya, I've had enough of being jobless. Seriously. And, I've said it elsewhere, but job searching sucks. Still, I persevere and am confident I'll find something, either on my own or through the kindnesses of friends. 

Speaking of whom, chapeau today to friends Everett and Natasha for sending me two possibilities. I appreciate all of my friends and former colleagues who continue to keep me in mind and send leads, ideas, and encouragement my way. It is received with gratitude and depths of affection beyond measure. 

I've been up since 6:00 AM, which means I have been reading and have lots to share. If you're interested, here is a brief selection. Click and read as you want.

Johns Hopkins hoping to revive east Baltimore neighborhood on its border

It's Super Bowl Weekend in the U.S. Next to Thanksgiving, it's the biggest eating holiday in America. This year's dust-up will feature the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. In the Raven's hometown, Johns Hopkins University is directly involved in urban renewal in East Baltimore -- the section of the city wherein their world-renowned campus lies. It is an effort worth watching and one that hopefully bears replicating in other urban, suburban, and rural areas.

 Shootings keep gun debate firing; gamers deny cupability

In the last 72 hours, shootings have continued to headline the news out of the U.S. The murders of an attorney in Arizona, a district attorney in Texas, a student in Chicago who only last week participated in President Obama's inaugural festivities, a school bus driver in Alabama (and subsequent hostage-taking of a 5-year old), and a student in Atlanta have all occurred with rapid fire succession and continue to underscore the need for sensible gun control measures in the United States. 

All of this has been unfolding in the midst of testimony before Congress by gun rights and gun control advocates. The National Rifle Association (NRA) continues to clamor the loudest for Americans to retain the right to bear any and all arms. Meanwhile, those seeking reasonable restraints on certain types of guns and the ability to sue manufacturers in an effort to make guns safer are thwarted by NRA-backed legislation that prohibits litigation against gun makers. If we can regulate the safety of automobiles, fertilizer, air transport and travel, and alcohol, why not guns? It only makes sense.

In the same debate, the entertainment/games industry decries its role in gun violence and the mental health sector asks gun control advocates and legislators to exercise caution and thoughtfulness when considering laws targeting the mentally challenged and gun rights.

Positive News is Also Nice, Say Readers...

In other, lighter news, today is World Hijab Day -- an effort started by New Yorker Nazma Khan to foster understanding among Muslim and non-Muslim women about wearing hijab and destigmatizing what is seen by many as a tangible symbol of the oppression of women.

Also from the Beeb, an article on why some countries regulate naming. The very thought in a place like the U.S. is anathema to America's cherished First Amendment Rights (freedom of speech) and would never fly, but in many European countries, there are specific rules about who can be named what.

Not to be BBC-centric, but this article also caught my eye, because No. 5 in this list mentions the Italian Futurists -- a group of forward-thinking artists, writers, and architects from the early 20th century who included people like my partner's great-grandmother, Ruzena Zatkova. If you enjoy articles about how writers and thinkers from the past conceived the future, this is a fun read!


Today's news round-up is brought to you by the letter F and the number 28. Have a great day, friends!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Puddle Time

There are so many fabulous things to love about this video. Take a moment. It will make your day, guaranteed.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Crime and Forgiveness

This incredibly powerful article that appeared in today's New York Times magazine is powerful and begs the question, is it possible to forgive a heinous crime and can it play a role in justice?

Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?