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Archive for October 2012

Why I'm Voting No On Question 7

Earlier this week, I was on Twitter (@MidnyteBloom) railing against Question 7 on Prince George's County's upcoming Presidential Election Ballot.  This question is asking residents to vote on MGM Casino having a location in the National Harbor.  Supporters of Question 7 have everybody from long-term county residents, to teachers to local politicians on TV saying how this casino would keep money in the state and how it would go towards improving the PG County school system.

Excuse me for not getting excited over this. 

Apparently these so-called, long-term resident's have no long-term memories because as someone who has lived in PG County my entire life, I know I've heard this all before.  Most recently, when we were asked to vote the construction of the National Harbor. 

Much like this new casino's deal offering to further education and bring 120,000 new jobs to the county, the Harbor's deal was that it'd further education and 30 percent of its construction would be contracted to local,  minority businesses.  In '08 it was revealed that only 4 percent of these contractors found work there. (Washington Post: Minority Contractors Speak Out, 8 May 2008). 

And, as of this year we discovered our county taxes are still the highest in the area, but our school system is still reprehensible. (Please visit my post, Open Letter to Elected PG County Officials for information on our tax situation and Follow-Up: Open Letter to Elected PG County Officials for information on where our school system is ranked). 

So, I meant it when I decried Governor O'Malley for broadcasting that Maryland has some of the best school systems in the country and saying voting for Question 7 will ensure this status.  It's not relevant.  The only reason our state made the list is because of Montgomery County.  Stop misleading and using the people of Prince George's County.  If this casino is to maintain our state's level of education, then please, go convince the people of Montgomery County of this and put the casino there.  But if this issue is really about improving our school system, it's in the numbers, we have more than enough resources to do that without this casino.

Is Better Always Better??

Lately, I've been contemplating the point at which wanting better becomes detrimental.  While I don't have a foolproof formula to identify that point, I have identified three situations that illustrate it.

The first is very straightforward.  It's destructive when a person wants better simply to feel like they're winning a competition with their peers, or worse, wants better because it's what society dictates they should want or lastly, uses better to substitute for a deficiency elsewhere in their lives.  I don't think I need to go into too much more detail here because pop culture is laden with examples.

The second is when what's technically better goes against what's intuitively right.  The best illustration I have of this comes from the novel I'm currently readingIshmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
When the population of any species outstrips its food resources, that population declines until it's once again in balance with its resources.  Mother Culture says that humans should be exempt from that process, so when she finds a population that has outstripped its resources, she rushes in food from the outside, thus making it a certainty that there will be even more of them to starve in the next generation.  Because the population is never allowed to decline to the point at which it can be supported by its own resources, famine becomes a chronic feature of their lives.
What this is saying philosophically it's better to let people starve because it's nature's way of realigning the population with what it's able to provide for.  That by trying to help, we're actually not only prolonging the inevitable, but also making it worse.  That it's better to let everything take care of itself.  But it comes at the expensive of human lives.  Furthermore, it goes against most of our instincts to let others suffer when many of us are living in excess by some standards.  So, where do we draw the line for what's better in this situation??

The last situation I could come up with was when people are convinced that something ordinary is better than it really is.  I was going to cite the beauty industry or Hollywood illusions here, but I came up with something more monumental - literally.  The Leaning Tower of Pisa.  I've always looked at it as a tribute to the beauty of human error and thought it was amazing because it never fell.  But I never really took the time to research it or even really examine it that closely for that matter.  Today, I did.  Looking at the architecture, it's pretty, but there's nothing really unique about the columns and arches that constitute it.  I guess that's because it was designed to be a bell tower.  And to my dismay, it's not still standing by some divine intervention; the Italian government installed anchors and counterweights to keep it from falling because it didn't want to lose the tourism revenue the tower attracted.  I'm not railing against this historical landmark or even the Italian government, all I'm saying is, you don't have to accept something as better than it really is because of how the majority views it. 

And in the broader scheme, the only way to keep from taking better too far is by making a personal decision about what's best for you.
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Nature vs. Nurture? I Choose Nature.

Many people who know me know I've been having some difficulty with my supervisor of the past nine months. One of our issues has been my attendance.
My previous supervisor wasn't a stickler for time. She knew I'm a hard worker with high standards for my work product and that I'll do what it takes to deliver something I'm proud of. Oftentimes, this meant working long office hours, continuing to work from home once I "got off," monitoring my Blackberry on evenings and weekends and working 20 hour days when on business travel. It was not something that was required of me, but because my last supervisor didn't expect it, but was so appreciative of it, it motivated me to work harder to support her as best I could. So we had an understanding, I had office hours of 8:30-5, but she didn't trip if I got in at 9. And if nothing was going on around the office, she'd release me to go home in the evening an hour or two early.
I got spoiled.
When my new supervisor came onboard, she quickly made it clear she wants me to account for every moment I am on the clock. Her reasoning is she is signing my time card to verify I worked 40 hours a week, so she needs to be sure I'm actually doing so. My counterargument: I work more than 40 hours a week, but don't claim it (for overtime or compensatory leave) because I enjoy what I do. Being the low person on the totem pole, we all know the end result. I was informed I could not work outside of my office hours without prior authorization, that I must be in the office from 8:30-5 and that I have to check in when I arrive in the morning and when I leave in the evening - in person if my supervisor is in the office or by e-mail if she's on travel. Tight leash that's contributed to huge amounts of tension between she and I.
Imagine my shock when I checked my personal e-mail last night and had a message from my supervisor asking if I wanted to arrive 30 minutes later than normal today because my check-out e-mail yesterday evening was time stamped 30 minutes later than my usual departure time. I had to stay late to deliver a priority product with a tight deadline. I replied by thanking her for the offer, but let her know I planned to arrive at my normal time because I have another project I'm working on and I wanted to get as early of a start as possible on it.
It has taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get here and I'm under no pretense as to the cause of the offer. This is all an ongoing process that I can't get into online, but it does have me thinking about the nature of people. Initially, I concluded that when left to their own devices, people will do the right thing. Very naive, but in my defense, I had just woken up when I came up with it.
A couple hours and a couple cups of coffee later, I've come to two summations about the nature of people:
1) We love blanket ideas because we believe they protect us. For example, it's easy for my supervisor to have a blanket distrust for her employees. Perhaps she got burned in the past by an employee with dishonest time keeping methods, so now she thinks it's in her best interest to distrust all her employees and treat them accordingly.
2) When left to their own devices, people will do what it's in their character to do.
These bullets are completely juxtaposed because the second asks for us to release our proclivity towards the first; release our tendency towards blanket ideas in favor of handling each person and situation on an individual basis. And perhaps therein lies true human nature - juxtaposition.
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Taking the Charge

I’m officially relaxing my stance on something I firmly believed. I was recently having a conversation with a friend about how I believe myself to be slightly quirkier than the average person, but not too far off base. And then, my contact lens fiasco happened.

I was at rehearsal last week when I started having trouble with my contact. I rubbed my eye and it simultaneously became a casualty and something much bigger – it became the burster of my bubble.

About five minutes after I lost my contact in the nether regions of my eye, I found it – well half of it, I’m still not sure what happened to the other half - freaked out, left rehearsal and proceeded to drive home with one contact lens. Did I mention I’m legally blind??

I successfully made it almost home - I was about five minutes away - when I encountered jaywalkers. Jaywalkers at 10:30 p.m. when I’m down one contact and have no depth perception.

As I’m relaying this encounter to my friend, the only thing I can say about the entire fiasco is, “at least if they were going to jaywalk, they could have done it under a streetlight.” To which I received a response along the lines of the fact that there really are no rules to jaywalking.

So this experience and the conversation that followed made me realize I may think in different terms than other people. More specifically, my expectations for people are realistic, but also skewed. In this instance, I know people are going to jaywalk, I don’t fault them for that, but if they were going to be illegal, they should have been safe about it.

I guess the moral of the story is, we’re imperfect beings, but we should strive to be perfectly imperfect.

By the way, no jaywalkers were hurt in the making of this story.
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Hoping It's Truly Darkest Right Before Dawn

The past couple of weeks I've been bouncing between feeling like everything's on the brink of coming together for me and feeling like life has never been more of a mess.  The ironic thing is, both extremes are rooted in me, for the first time, not having a plan.

Scary as shyt to admit this because I've always had a plan.  My success thus far rests largely on that.  So now what??

I'd be lying if I said I haven't attempted to resort to my usual tactics of coaxing destiny's hand.  But I'm tired.  And furthermore, what's the point of me studying about developing intuition if I'm not going to put my skills into practice?? 

Right now my intuition is saying, chill.  Take a little time to go with the flow.

And it's with this that I'm struggling: learning to completely relinquish the reins and trust that what's for me will come when the time is right. 

At the same time, I've been enjoying this newfound understanding that sometimes I just need to let things be what they will.  It's freeing to admit that no matter how much I plan and/or try to do the right thing, it won't always give me my desired result.  The most I can do is prepare myself to receive and be worthy of everything good I've been desiring.

So, maybe this is all really just a lesson in patience.  Because while I'm good at working and sacrificing when I can see the timeline for achieving my goal, I don't do so well with the unknown.  This, perhaps, is my darkness.  Once I loosen my grip on it, I think my dawn will finally break.  The best part is, I think it's all within sight.
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Quartz Crystal

So, after 33 attempts, I was finally able to capture the effect I was going for.  The backstory is that I'd purchased some quartz crystal beads and I wanted to photograph them being illuminated.

Initially, I thought this would be so easy as to place the beads on a scarf and place the scarf over a flashlight.  But the scarf ended up either providing too much filter, this made the beads too distinct, or not enough filter which made the beads look like a glowing mass (not distinct enough). 

After a couple failed, filter readjustments, I decided to bring the light in from the side of the shot.  After doing this, my biggest challenge was holding the camera still enough that the image didn't blur (I was shooting in the dark with no flash).   The end result is still out of focus, but it captured the illumination effect I was looking for and really, after a long day at work, I didn't feel like dragging the tripod out to ensure a perfect shot.   

I also decided to see how the effect would translate into monochrome.  This is even more out of focus than my color shot, but it was enough to  show me something would be lost in translation.

New Ventures: Photography

Back in May, I wrote a Memorial Day post in which I  mentioned my desire to post photos I took with my new camera on a weekly basis.  Needless to say, I've fallen short of that goal.  In part because I'm still trying to learn the camera and oftentimes I visualize the way I'd like to capture a photo, but by the time I figure out what setting to use, the moment has passed.  I think it's something of a perfectionist nature within me.  Something that I need to get over so I can allow myself to actually play with and learn the camera and so improve my skills. 

I'll try to do better, but in the meantime, here are two of my favorite shots from the Baltimore Aquarium - both of jellyfish.  To see the full set, please visit my flickr photostream.

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