Photo101: Home

It begins with Home. This is the first theme we were given for the Photography 101 Bloggers U.

Even in the most challenging environment, in this case the floor of the Kilauea Iki Crater which last erupted in 1959, a seed from the ‘Ohi’a tree, nestled in and began to thrive. It found a home.

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Photo101 Blogging U Challenge

I am very excited to participate in the WordPress Blogging U Photography 101 photo challenge. During the month of November (beginning tomorrow, November 3) I will be posting a photo every day on my blog; the image to be inspired by a different theme provided each day and will be tagged “Photo101.”

This dovetails nicely with my desire to work on becoming a better photographer. With focused practice and learning tips and tricks from other participants, my fingers are crossed for good results.

If you want to follow the challenge on WordPress, you can see all the participants’ submissions by tagging “Photo101” in your reader.

Greetings From the Top of the World

Mauna Kea, one of the five volcanos that form the island of Hawaii, stands 13,796 feet above sea level. From its base, which in 17,000 feet below sea level, to its peak, Mauna Kea rises over 30,000 feet – more than twice the height of Mount Everest.

The volcano’s last eruption occurred over 4600 years ago. It is currently dormant but scientists expect there is another eruption in its future. Although all of us will be long gone when this happens (it could be tens of thousands of years from now) it should be quite a show!

Because of Mauna Kea’s high altitude, dry climate, and stable airflow, its summit is home to over a dozen telescopes. It is considered one of the best locations in the world for astronomical observation.

Other than from an airplane, we don’t usually get to observe clouds from above. The view from the summit of Mauna Kea is incredible – the vista, the clouds, the sunset, and then the amazing night sky filled with stars – and I will always be grateful to have had the opportunity to see it for myself.

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Gratitude: Bloggers and Their Blogs

One of the items on my retirement “To-Do” list is to become a better photographer. I purchased a nice DSLR that I hope will help me take my photos to a level beyond the images I get from my point-and-shoot camera or my cell phone.

Despite—or, maybe because of—all the bells and whistles available to me on my new camera, I still find myself reaching for my cell phone when I want to take a picture. It is so easy to grab it and shoot. I don’t need to think about the correct aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. The results, while not great, are usually at least acceptable. When I pick up my DSLR camera, I feel overwhelmed with all of the possible setting combinations. If I take a photo and I’m unhappy with the result, I have no idea what went wrong. If it comes out well, I am equally perplexed as to how to recreate it.

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Because of some upcoming trips, I feel that I can no longer ignore my “grown up” camera. I really need to learn about its features and capabilities, and what all the mysterious dials and buttons do. I must finally wrap my head around the concept that a larger f-stop number indicates a smaller aperture opening. That a bigger aperture shortens the depth of field, while a smaller aperture will bring the background and foreground equally in focus. That the shutter speed and aperture settings work together to stop or blur motion, or allow photos to be taken in very low light or in extremely bright settings. Yikes!

Where do I go to educate myself? Blogs, of course.

Just as I have favorite blogs with cooking and entertaining information, travel tips, book reviews, opinions on politics and world events, and ones that make me laugh, make me think, or just make me feel as if I’m reading a letter from a friend, I am now reading blogs to help me learn more about my camera and how to take better pictures.

I continue to be amazed at the level of information available in the blogosphere. I am in awe of the generous souls who are passionate about what they do and have worked hard to become proficient, who now take the time to share their wisdom and talent with an unseen universe of strangers. Even if they have been able to monetize their blog, or hope to do so in the future, the information is still free and available to anyone who searches for it. Granted, the content on some blogs is questionable or just plain wrong, but I have found plenty of blogs that are well-written, beautifully designed, and full of information and inspiration.

I don’t know what it is that makes someone want to share so much of their knowledge with others, but I’m very grateful that they do. Because they blog, I have become a better cook and entertainer, I have read books that otherwise I might have missed, I have learned about different parts of the world, and I have had my mind opened to various points of view. I have also “met” quite a few interesting people that I wouldn’t have if not for their blogs.

I know that whether or not I become a better photographer is up to me but I am thankful to those who have helped me gain the tools I need to improve. I consider each post a gift and I am grateful that they placed it on their blog for me to open.

Words Escape Me

Literarily.

I can be having a perfectly normal conversation with a friend when suddenly the next word I want to say will just vanish. Gone. When this happens, I flail around for a moment (hoping my friend won’t see the look of panic on my face) and then usually come up with another word or two that will more or less substitute for the one I’ve lost.

Or, I might be writing a letter, email, text, or blog post (or a report, back when I was working). Things are going great. I know what I want to say and I’m putting together a string of words that convey my intent and that are clear and coherent. Everything is flowing along. Until it stops.

Damn, what is that word I’m looking for?

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Often what I have lost isn’t an especially completed word. It could be something like “inclusive,” or “detail,” or “standards.” It’s often a word that I’ve used hundreds or even thousands of times with no problem. A word I’ve been familiar with since grade school. A word that just seconds earlier I could have effortlessly found floating among my brain cells. But, now, at the moment I need the word, it’s not coming to me.

If this happens when I’m writing, I’ll just type a big red X in its spot so I can come back to it. Usually, a few minutes later when I revisit what I’ve written, I can easily retrieve (OK, I momentarily lost that one) the elusive word, replace the X, and move on. No one is the wiser. Unfortunately, when I’m speaking, my transitory vocabulary lapses aren’t as easy to cover up.

I’m not too concerned that this affliction indicates an early-onset of dementia or other age-related brain deterioration. Although it has gotten a bit worse over the years, I’ve had this problem for as long as I can remember. I’m sure it’s one reason I’ve always preferred writing to speaking. It’s much more comfortable to deal with a big red X than it is to experience the embarrassment of becoming suddenly mute as my brain goes searching for the word I’ve lost, or, failing that, to find a reasonable substitute.

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Possibly related, but not quite the same, is my tendency to get “right” and “left” mixed up (best not to ask me for directions) or, sometimes, “yellow” and “pink.” I am fully aware of what each word means, I just say one when I mean the other. Or, I routinely forget the name for something. When I was working I had a brain stall every time I tried to find the words “case study.”  It’s a term used often in my profession but one that, for some reason, I had trouble with.

Now that I have retired and no longer need to make public presentations or utter the words “case study,” I have found that this personal peccadillo has become less of an issue for me. Fortunately, many of my friends are retired too and are less of a hurry to get anywhere. They are perfectly content to pause the conversation while I go rummaging around my cranial attic for a word that has escaped my grasp.

I, in turn, smile and nod when they go on to tell me the same story they told me last week.

The Klondike Big Inch Land Company: A Tale of Puffed Rice and Deflated Dreams

My two brothers and I are very lucky to have been raised by loving, involved parents who made sure we were well equipped to become successful adults. They made sure we studied hard in school, ate right, and we were encouraged to get plenty of exercise by playing outdoors with our friends.

But, they realized that all this may not be enough. Just having a good education, eating a healthy diet, and rocking at Kick-the-Can and Hide-and-Seek would only get us so far in the world. We needed something else, something that could give us the financial wherewithal to fund our dreams. Some parents might have purchased savings bonds for their children; others might have invested in Disney stock.

Our parents bought us land.

Well, they didn’t exactly buy us land. What they bought were boxes of Quaker Oats brand Puffed Rice. This wasn’t just any old cereal, mind you: nestled inside each box was a Deed of Land granted by the Klondike Big Inch Land Co. Inc.; specifically a deed for one square inch of land in the Yukon Territory.

Yep, I became a land baron before I was out of diapers.

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When I was old enough to truly appreciate the significance of my Deed of Land – not only for its tremendous future dollar value, but also for its ability to make my best friend jealous – I put the document in a protective plastic sleeve and placed it among my other valuable possessions. I occasionally brought it out when I wanted to dream of my future wealth or I needed to up my cred among my friends, but, for the most part, it remained tucked safely away until the day I would lay claim to my land and the prosperity it represented.

Given the significance of the document, I’m not sure how it managed to lay forgotten for many years until it was discovered when I was going through a box of childhood stuff.  There, along with my grade school class photos, Troop 202 Girl Scout sash, and Presidential Physical Fitness Award patch, was my Deed of Land.

Holding the slightly yellowed document in my hands, the dreams began again.

Maybe, over the years, someone discovered oil under my inch. Or, miners had unearthed a lucrative vein of gold running through it. Or, perhaps a developer had mistakenly built a shopping mall on my land and now I could claim a percentage of the total value (including back interest, of course). If land size inflated in the same way currency does, that square inch would now equal a whopping 8.7 square inches. Certainly that Deed of Land extracted from a cereal box many years ago would be worth a sizable sum today. Oh yeah: my ship had just come in!

Before contacting an attorney or hiring a wealth manager, I decided to do a quick Google search to get some idea of the volume of money that would soon be flowing my way. I also wasn’t quite sure where the Yukon Territory was or the location of the closest airport since I knew I’d have to venture up to the Great North to assert ownership of the square inch that was rightfully mine.

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Only it wasn’t… mine, I mean.

It was all a gimmick. What has been called one of the most successful ad campaigns in advertising history was a gimmick designed to encourage kids to pester their parents into purchasing Quaker Oats brand Puffed Rice cereal.

Back in the early 50’s, a brilliant advertising executive, Bruce Baker, developed a promotion tied to a popular Quaker Oats-sponsored radio show about Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and his trusty dog, King. Mr. Baker convinced Quaker Oats to purchase 19.11 acres on the west bank of the Yukon River for $1,000. The company divided the land into 119,870,000 square inch parcels and printed over 21 million Deeds of Land. Each one was individually stamped with a unique lot number – mine was L-595729 – and placed in boxes of cereal.

The promotion’s success went way beyond the company’s wildest dreams.  Pretty soon boxes of the bland, unexciting cereal were flying off the shelves.

Unfortunately for the millions of us now-graying kids who once dreamed of one day laying claim to our square inch of rugged paradise, the Quaker Oats never formally registered the land. The company determined that it would be a logistical nightmare to register the deeds to millions of children. Even if it could be done, it would have cost the company a fortune.

Not only do we not own our square inches now, apparently we never owned them.

To add even more insult to injury, the Klondike Big Inch Land Co., Inc. was dissolved in the 60’s and the Canadian government repossessed all the land for nonpayment of $37.20 in property taxes.

Years ago, a Quaker Oats spokesperson explained that “the deeds were not meant to have any intrinsic value, but rather to give the consumer the romantic appeal of being the owner of a square inch of land in the Yukon.”

Yeah, tell that to my lawyer.