Ant on Glass

“It’s just men and ants. There’s the ants builds their cities, live their lives, have wars, revolutions, until men want them out of the way, and then they go out of the way. That’s what we are now _ just ants.”
― H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

Ant Lion Pits

This morning I was sitting in a break area waiting for my cup of water to boil in the microwave (to make a cup of coffee in my AeroPress Go) and started looking around (the water boils faster if I don’t look at it). There is a large, high window, a window-wall really, that opens up into a green space atrium.

As I looked at the window I noticed an ant. A single ant, wandering around on the glass, on the outside. I watched the ant for a while, roaming aimlessly, waving antennae. It was windy outside and the ant struggled to keep its footing on the smooth vertical glass – but the surface  wasn’t all that clean so there was enough to hold on to.

I checked around to see if there was a column of ants but there was not. This one was all alone. The window is on the third floor and the ant was over my head, a good forty feet above the nearest ground in the atrium below. The ant was moving around but trending upward, away from the ground and, I assume, the colony.

The more I watched the more I felt sorry for the ant. An ant only has meaning in terms of the colony – a single ant is nothing. The ant was lost, alone, a long way from home, and moving with difficulty in the wrong direction. I know how that feels.

There is nothing I could do for the ant and little bubbles started to appear in my water so I went off to make my coffee.

What I learned this week, February 26, 2021

Zen-like Christmas decorations, Waxahachie, Texas

The Zen rule for becoming happier: Change one thing

1. Start very small.
2. Do only one change at a time.
3. Be present and enjoy the activity (don’t focus on results).
4. Be grateful for every step you take.


Crepe Myrtle trunk in the snow

Train Your Body to Work Out—or Just Hang Out—in Colder Weather

So you hate the cold.

With coronavirus surging, restaurants and bars closed and the homes of even friends and family off-limits, does that mean your winter social life is doomed?

No, according to a host of scientists, professors and trainers who are experts on the physiological impact of frigid weather on humans. Adapting to cold isn’t fun— who loves to shiver?—but it’s possible, scientists say. And as a bonus: Cold, like exercise, makes you healthier.


Window washing job I couldn’t do
Downtown Dallas, Texas

The computers rejecting your job application

A professional journalist, I had recently applied for a new job, and for the first part of the recruitment process the publisher made me play a number of simple online games from the comfort of my own home.

These included having to quickly count the number of dots in two boxes, inflating a balloon before it burst to win money, and matching emotions to facial expressions. Then an artificial intelligence (AI) software system assessed my personality, and either passed or failed me. No human had a look-in.

I wondered: is it fair for a computer alone to accept or reject your job application?

Welcome to the fast-growing world of AI recruitment.


The Window at Molly’s, the street (Decatur) unusually quiet, with notebook, vintage Esterbrook pen, and Molly’s frozen Irish Coffee

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Mojo Coffee, Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
(click to enlarge)

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Display at main Half-Price Books, Dallas, Texas

The Use and Abuse of ‘They’

Journalists and essayists in recent years somehow formed the impression that the academic study of English grammar is partitioned into two mutually hostile tribes: descriptivists and prescriptivists. Both are portrayed in cartoonish stereotypes.

The descriptivists allegedly think that anything uttered by English speakers is ipso facto good English and can never be erroneous. So if people sometimes say, “It’s in the, the . . . the hall closet,” we must deem that correct, and posit noun phrases with three definite articles in a row. This insane view is purportedly associated with the political Left.

But the other tribe seems just as deranged. Its members won’t change their minds about the sacred edicts of grammar regardless of evidence. No matter how many great writers may have committed some solecism, they say, it’s still wrong if the rules of correct grammar say it is. This view gets tagged as conservative.

Water Off A Duck’s Back

“-Hey, listen,” I said. “You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?” I realized it was only one chance in a million.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas

I watched the ducks go about their start of the day routine from a bench along the water at dawn. One ritual was to repeatedly duck under the water and rise up – letting the water run off their feathers. Like taking a little duck shower.

Morning Has Broken

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
—-Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) (born Steven Demetre Georgiou), Morning Has Broken

Sunrise, Boston, Massachusetts

I was way too tired. We had finished work the day before (a long, tough week) and treated ourselves to dinner at an Italian Restaurant in the North End (Ristorante Limoncello) some pastry (Modern Pastry shop, Mike’s was too crowded – line was down the street) and a drink at the end of the hockey game (The Black Rose). Then, when I settled down in my hotel room I discovered that HBO GO was on the TV complimentary and, against my better judgement, I watched the episode of Game of Thrones I had missed because I was flying the previous Sunday. It was getting too hard to avoid spoilers.

My flight was scheduled for eight (though, due to mechanical problems it didn’t actually leave until ten) so that meant I had to get up at five, which meant only a couple hours of sleep. I was woozy in the morning, but was treated to a glorious sunrise painting the buildings of downtown Boston a bright crimson.

Two Days Later

  • It’s even harder to get up at 5:30 on a Sunday than it is on a Friday workday.
  • There are fewer people on a train before dawn on weekends, but there are still more than you would expect.
  • A lot of people that are on the train that early on the weekend look like they are involved in sports. I guess that makes sense. It looked like an entire woman’s tournament (maybe volleyball) was going somewhere south in Dallas.
  • It’s cold before the sun comes up.
  • I estimated that the sun’s disk would rise up in the center of Main Street in Downtown Dallas two days after the official henge date.
  • I was pretty much right.

Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza. This is an HDR image - three shots taken at different exposures and combined with software.

Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza. This is an HDR image – three shots taken at different exposures and combined with software.

A wide angle view of Dealey Plaza at dawn on the morning henge day (or two days later). The brick building in shadow on the far left is the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. President Kennedy was shot on the curved road on the left, almost fifty years ago.

A wide angle view of Dealey Plaza at dawn on the morning henge day (or two days later). The brick building in shadow on the far left is the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. President Kennedy was shot on the curved road on the left, almost fifty years ago.

 

The sun rising in the canyons of Main Street, Dallas.

The sun rising in the canyons of Main Street, Dallas.

I took a lot of photographs in the short few seconds that the sun peeked up down Main Street. I’ll probably post some more as I post-process them.

So now I’ve done it, I don’t have to get up that early and go anymore. Well, maybe not. As I was walking back towards the train, I discovered another spot with a morning “henge” view directly down Elm street, right along the schoolbook depository. It wasn’t as scenic as main street, but had a more “canyon” appearance. Maybe next year I’ll go and shoot that one.

Morning Dallashenge – maybe a couple days early

I am not a morning person and when my alarm went off at 5:15 it took more than a little effort to drag myself out and about. I was worried about the weather, but at the train station I saw stars glinting here and there through the thick city night sky soup and I knew it was cloudless. But as I waited for the train, I saw the telltale glow in the east which quickly grew into the start of a salmon-colored dawn and I began to think I was not going to make it in time.

The train arrived and I climbed aboard, wedging myself in with the morning’s crop of sleepy commuting workers, having to make room for my backpack filled with a camera and my folding tripod across my lap.

It was April 19, the morning Dallashenge. I first came across this concept well over a year ago, when I read about Manhattanhenge – the day that the setting (or rising) sun lines up with the east-west street canyons of central New York. In a city (like Chicago) where the streets run exactly along the points of the compass, the henge date is on the spring and fall equinox – but in cities like New York (or Dallas) where the downtown street grid, for geologic or historical reasons, is a few degrees off-kilter, the dates will fall somewhere else.

Using the very useful website, suncalc.net, I was able to calculate the henge dates for Dallas – an evening henge falls on February 15, and a morning henge on April 19 – at about ten minutes to seven.

In February of 2012, I went downtown in the evening and took some shots of the henge. It was sort of fun. Now I wanted to do a morning “henge” and Friday, April 19th was on its way. For a long time I worked on finding a suitable perch where I could look down the long downtown streets. I thought about the parking garage and the jail, but one day I discovered that there was a walkway along the infamous triple underpass in Dealey Plaza that had a great view down main street.

After some test shots I was ready.

Despite my worries I made it down there in time. I set up my tripod and waited while the sky grew lighter and lighter. I wondered if my calculations were correct. Was I at the right place at the right time?

I was and I wasn’t. The sun did peek up right down main, but before the entire disk came up over the asphalt it had moved off to the side. I think a better photograph might come a couple days later, when the whole disk of the sun will appear over the dead center of the street.

So, maybe Sunday. I’m not sure if I can get up that early on a weekend morning… but we’ll see.

The morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza. Maybe a couple days early.

The morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza. Maybe a couple days early.

Morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza.

Morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza.