Images by John 'K'

Life as seen through my lens…

Category Archives: Random Rants

Life is a Journey…

The Journey, originally uploaded by Images by John ‘K’.

I don’t know the origin of the quote “Life is a journey, not a destination”, but it is something that not enough people “get”.

I used the quote in this image to highlight the fact that if you don’t pay attention to what is around you as you go from A to B you miss out on a lot of good stuff that is all around you, but there is more to this quote as you stop and think about it.

For anyone that drives, you’ll know that to be someone that journeys safely, you need to find a balance between watching what is ahead, and keeping an eye on the stuff that is happening off to the sides so that you can react to it if needs be. Good drivers learn to watch for signs that are indicative of possible problems all around them, and are prepared to react accordingly, without being distracted by things that might cause them to rear-end the car in front of them.

Life should be treated like that too, and yet as with many of the drivers on our roads who don’t seem to grasp what they should be doing, many people go through life so focused on a little spot in front of them (personal gratification) that they are oblivious to things around them that will not only help them reach that little spot on the horizon, but that will help those around them too.

We have too many distractions on the road of life that stop us from enjoying the journey. The trick is to work out which of those distractions are important and which should be ignored.

Is the fact that a selfie taken at the Oscars broke Twitter really important? Should you be aware that radiation from the Fukushima disaster is going to hit the California coast in about a month? Do you care that something is wiping out the population of starfish on America’s shores, or are you more concerned that the dance moves of a former child music star are going to damage the morals of our children?

As a society, if we are going to see this shared journey become a memorable experience, and if we are to have any hope of seeing future generations make journeys of their own, we need to make sure we know how to interpret what we see on this journey and react appropriately to the hazards.

That big illuminated billboard with a picture of that nice shiny BMW that you think you’d like to own is a total distraction that stops you from seeing the child that is just about to cross the road in the path of your car. Pay attention to what matters as you make your journey and everyone might actually live to see what is at the destination of their own journeys!

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Surprise me…

Last week saw the passing of my 50th birthday. In the run-up to the day I had the usual probes about gift ideas from certain family members, but as there really isn’t much I actually wanted to receive, apart from a couple of specific suggestions, my response was “I don’t know, surprise me”.

Well, they certainly lived up to expectations, but not in the best of ways. My 4-year-old granddaughter was the only one who really seemed to get it. She (bless her), knowing I liked Star Wars and was partial to the odd game of Angry Birds Star Wars chose a plush Angry Birds Star Wars toy, wrapped in Star Wars paper. and in the few days since my Birthday we have had fun hurling it at one another.

I won’t pick on my wife – she has her own challenges right now, and at least she had the thought to latch on to the one piece of photography gear that I said I needed and to claim that as her present to me.

My daughters though… well I know that two of them live back in the UK and budgets are tight, but did I even see a card from them? not yet! I know in this world of the Internet and Facebook people think all that is needed is a nice message on your wall and that is “good enough”. Well perhaps for acquaintances that’s OK, but for your parents, for their 50th Birthday? Surely you make a little bit of an effort?

As for the two that live here with me (yes, still WITH ME – that’s a whole other rant that I won’t get on to now), what did I get? A movie (but I had to tell her which one) and a chunk of money that I can put towards “whatever I want”. Not wishing to sound ungrateful, but what I wanted was for those close to me, those who I have managed to think of something meaningful to give to them every year since they were born, to use a few seconds to think of something meaningful and special to give to their dad on his 50th birthday. Heck – if a 4 year old could manage it, they have no excuse.

As you get older it’s the thought more than anything else that matters, but I guess ultimately I got what I asked for. I asked for them to surprise me, and they certainly did, just not in the way I was expecting.

Half full or half empty

I know I’ve been missing in action here for a while now. I struggle to come up with something worthwhile to say, but every day I don’t post here I feel a little more guilty, so this is as much to ease my guilt as it is anything else.

On paper this year is a big one for my wife and I. We both turn 50 (she does so first), and we also celebrate 30 years of marriage. All big numbers, but at the same time this is “just another year”… another year that we can enjoy life, another year that I am getting to spend my life with the one I love, my best friend, and another year where we will be taking time to enjoy this beautiful world we live in.

It’s also another year we get to spend with some of our loved ones living with us when my wife and I would be more than happy if they could finally manage to stand on their own two feet and move into places of their own. Instead we get to play supplemental parents for our two youngest grandkids, and get to be taken advantage of by two adults that should be capable of living their own lives without us.

My wife and I like to get out of the house and visit places that are special to us – partly because we enjoy doing so, but partly because we want to get out of the house and away from the noise and chaos that we thought we’d seen the end of when our youngest daughter became an adult. We’ve done our share of child rearing. While we love our kids and grand-kids to bits, the constant strain of having them living with us is pushing us close to breaking point.

In a similar vein, I’ve now been with my current employer for 14 years, which means with our economy the way it is I’ve seen that company have to do painful things to remain in business three times now as our economy cycles through good times to bad and back again… Each time I’ve been relieved to have kept my job, but each time I’ve felt guilty when I’ve seen some very good people have to go look for new employment at at time when good jobs can be hard to find.

Other members of our family back in England have seen our moderate success as an opportunity to take advantage too. Knowing we won’t say “no” to a family member in need, we have found ourselves digging deeply into our own contingency funds to help out folks who would rather turn to us to help maintain their over-committed lives than deal with their underlying problems themselves.

… and then there’s my photography. I love taking pictures, and technically I think I am getting better at it – I’m able to capture scenes that I actually enjoy looking at, and that other people enjoy looking at too, but while many tell me I should take this ability of mine to the next level and turn it into a means of generating income, a part of me doesn’t want the pressure, the hassle, and the possibility of failure, and is happy to keep photography as a hobby. Deep down I know I could make something more of it, but while I’m dealing with all the stresses of our home situation while maintaining my current position where I work, knowing that it is my income alone that is really supporting everyone in our house, I don’t want to risk all of that to pursue the possibility of commercial success with my photography… and so I remain trapped as a hobbyist photographer.

Is it bad to feel trapped by my kids and family? Knowing that my life, and more importantly my life with my wife, could be so much more were we able to live it without their constant presence has me feeling resentful towards them – not something I like to admit, but it’s where I am mentally right now.

My life is one where it really should be feeling half full, but right now it feels half empty, and it’s draining fast!

Grounded! :(

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

U.S. Navy Cancels Blue Angels 2013 Performances

The Navy has cancelled the remaining 2013 performances of its Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. The squadron will continue to train to maintain flying proficiency until further notice at its home station in Pensacola, Fla.

Recognizing budget realities, current Defense policy states that outreach events can only be supported with local assets at no cost to the government. This is one of many steps the Navy is taking to ensure resources are in place to support forces operating forward now and those training to relieve them.

The Navy believes there is value in demonstrating the professionalism and capabilities of our Navy and Marine Corps Naval Aviation team, thus inspiring future generations of Sailors and Marines. The Navy intends to continue aerial demonstrations in the future as the budget situation permits.”

(from http://www.blueangels.navy.mil/media/news/20130409_001.pdf)

An unfortunate example of short-sighted knee-jerk economics. The Blue Angels are after all a great recruitment tool, and they draw a lot of visitors wherever they perform, and they are such a great morale boost to everyone who sees them it.

I wonder if the Navy was prepared to take this step if they’ll also cancel all not-essential fleet movements too. After all, if there is no representation from the US Navy at San Francisco’s Fleet Week, they might as well cancel the event… and then the negative knock on effect to the local economy will be even greater.

No more hurting people. Peace.

The sad events of yesterday, the bombing of the Boston Marathon, brought back vivid memories of the IRA bombings of London in the 1970s.

As a child growing up in the south of England I was frequently taken to events and exhibitions by my parents. On one such trip when I was 12 we were visiting the Ideal Home Exhibition in the Olympia Exhibition Center on a busy Saturday in March 1976, and there were some 20,000 people in the exhibition hall when an explosion went off.

I was on the second floor near the escalator when the bomb exploded. The noise was like nothing I’d ever heard before, and the screams that followed it haunt me to this day. As soon as the bomb went off, the exhibition staff, knowing something was wrong, moved to evacuate people from the building as quickly as possible via the nearest stairs or escalators, which in my case meant down the escalator to the first floor, and then out by the nearest emergency exit.

I can recall the carnage I saw at the bottom of the escalator as if it only happened yesterday. There were security staff doing their best to try and hide the scene from the exiting guests, but the cries of pain from the bloody victims, some with missing limbs, was inescapable. We only found out later the extent of the devastation – Facebook, Twitter and the Internet didn’t exist then – we had to rely on radio and TV reports and newspapers, but there was international outrage when the world found out that more than 70 people were injured, with a number of the injured losing limbs, but no-one was killed. It could have been a LOT worse though.

The bomb, hidden in a plastic dustbin on the first floor of the complex near an escalator, was placed to cause the maximum number of casualties, and while no-one died, the devastation was real and shocking. This attack was also the last of a run of publicly targeted terror attacks executed by the IRA that spanned three years in the ‘70s – the public outcry and increased security that followed led to a break in their hostilities (or at least the ones that targeted the English public).

Unlike the Boston bombing, the perpetrators of the 1976 attack were quick to claim responsibility for the blast – they were fighting what they believed to be a war of independence, and wanted the world to know it was them.

Dan Lampariello / Reuters

David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe

The Boston bombs were also designed to cause maximum damage to any nearby people. You don’t pack metal balls, bb-gun pellets, and nails into a metal container (believed to be a pressure cooker) that will explode into hundreds of pieces of razor-sharp shrapnel as the explosive charge detonates, and place that in a garbage can close to a crowd of people at the finish-line of one of the world’s premier marathon events if you don’t want to see people get hurt… badly.

This image from a Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security joint bulletin shows the remains of a pressure-cooker bomb that exploded during the Boston Marathon, the FBI says.

The people (or person) that did this knew what they were doing and what the impact would be to those that were around the bomb when it went off. But unlike many terrorist acts planned and executed by organizations with a clear agenda, this one doesn’t quite fit the same profile. The explosive devices used were crude, using readily available items and utilizing a design that can be easily found on the Internet if you know what to look for. Over a day later and there has been no-one claiming responsibility.

The timing of the attack seems to be more than coincidence though. On Patriots’ Day, and at a time when the American Congress is actively debating increased gun controls in the face of recent mass murders from people using more conventional firearms, there are some that are speculating that this is a brutal, bloody, and very real demonstration of one of the arguments that those against increased gun controls frequently use…

The argument goes like this… “If someone is determined to hurt or kill people, they don’t need a gun. There are more effective ways to maim and murder lots of people. Taking away guns won’t stop someone who is bent on mass murder.”

The Boston attack serves as a vivid demonstration of this argument.

Bruce Mendelsoh / AP

Whatever the justification in the mind of the person (or people) responsible, the attack, in the words of President Obama “…was a heinous and cowardly act.” he said. “And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism. Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror.”

Quoting Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee… “There are a lot of things that are surrounding this that would give an indication that it may have been a domestic terrorist, but that just can’t be assumed,” and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the bombings don’t appear to be harbingers of “a broader plot.”

Whoever is responsible, there is hope that the many thousands of people who have stepped up to help the investigations by providing their photos and videos of the event might have captured images of the perpetrators, and with the expertise and diligence of the investigative team it is hoped that we don’t have to wait too long to see those responsible for yesterdays horrendous attack get the justice that they deserve.

In the words of one of the three victims killed in yesterday’s attack (Martin Richard, 8)… “No More hurting people. Peace”

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(image shared to Facebook by George Takei)

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” – Mahatma Gandhi

John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe