“The breadfruit does not come like it did before. Before there were four, five times for breadfruit during the year. Each a different kind of breadfruit. Maybe only one month in the year no breadfruit.”
Nena looked out wistfully towards the now vine covered hills .
“Now no breadfruit, not like before,” pausing in thought before continuing, “No one took care of the trees.”
Two days later I am alone in Mesen, surrounded by a green sea of Merremia peltata vines held up by primarily by Cheilocostus speciosus, a useless wild ginger relative. Merremia lays like a tarp covering everything in the valley. There are tall structures under the tarp, perhaps a coconut over there, maybe a breadfruit tree there. The carpet of vines extends down the valley and out towards the bogs. As far as I can see there is only Merremia.
Underneath the choking tarp the trees are weak and under attack by termites and opportunistic diseases. A single remnant lime tree bears a single lime fruit, a last effort to reproduce under the heavy mantle of vines.
The land is sick.
In the homes down along the oceanside road pots of Oryza sativa cover counters. The residents consume a short grained starchy variety of Oryza, a variety that only briefly satiates one and then one is quickly hungry again. The Oryza spikes blood sugar levels. Their bodies respond by spiking insulin levels, but they quickly develop insulin resistant autoimmune diseases.
The people are sick.
Both the land and the people are dying.
I look out at the sea of vines and tangled thickets, touch stone, pick up my machete, and start swinging. I will lose this battle. As surely as the residents have lost the culture of the land and are now are losing their lives, I too will not prevail.
If prayer is asking, meditation is listening. Although meditation is perhaps optimally accomplished in remote isolation, that is not always an accessible possibility. Amid the bustle of an active environment, modern day smartphone apps and headphones can be helpful for the solo neophyte.
These meditation apps, however, tend to be network connectivity dependent. Offline capabilities may be limited or none.
Taking a couple of the market leaders, Calm and Headspace, into an offline environment rather quickly reveals whether the program designers considered disconnected operation.
The free version of Calm has a scenes feature that operates offline along with offline timers and downloadable meditation music. Calm remains functional in an offline environment, although preloading of scenes must occur prior to heading offline.
The free version of Headspace, however, appears to have no offline capabilities. Headspace is a collection of streamed sessions rather than a set of meditation tools and meditation support platform.
Offline and disconnected Calm has some potentially useful capabilities, Headspace does not.
Thirty-five millimeter film had an aspect ratio of 13.5 to 9. The world was seen through a 3:2 view port, 36 glimpses per roll.
1997 brought me a Sony digital camera shooting only at an 12:9 ratio, perhaps better known as 4:3. Two decades of the slightly wider 35 mm film ratio left the resulting photos feeling horizontally clipped. Where the horizontal dimension was held constant, as in a blog, the image felt disproportionately tall.
When the wearable digital cameras I had come to prefer offered 16:9 ratio images in camera, I shifted to the format immediately. I understood that the 16:9 ratio was actually just a cropping of 12:9 on some of these cameras. I was actually throwing away image on the camera’s CCD sensor.
Over the years, however, I had shifted away from editing photos and moved towards ensuring that what was in the view frame was what I wanted in the final image. I wanted to see the 16:9 frame, and the lost pixels were meaningless when my target destination was social media. Nothing throws away more pixels than social media.
Computer monitors were also catching up with my camera preference, with 16:9 monitors becoming a default ratio. During the summer of 2017 I came to realize that in a classroom where students were accessing an online textbook, using an online graphing calculator, and simultaneously completing assignments in an online learning management system, the students needed a 21:9 monitor.
Short of switching to a panorama mode or cropping in editing software, 21:9 is not available in the wearable cameras I prefer to tote around. For me a camera has to be able to be strapped to my body for a seven mile run or a three mile joggle. My photography is of some instant that I find myself in, some now; unplanned, unprepared.
My vague awareness of the use of ratio, and preference for particular ratios, caused to me to sit up and take notice that the videographer for a recent video was shooting in 24:9, a ratio I had not seen used this way before. The effect was interesting, creating an almost pseudo-panoramic look to the video. There were shots where the videographer was almost trying too hard to use the 24:9 format.
The four cameras set up left and right almost seems to be a deliberate desire to fill the frame, as if an attempt to justify the extreme letterbox choice.
Shooting at 24 x 9 would be interesting if available in camera. One can get close by clipping off a panorama, many of which go well beyond the 24 x 9 ratio. Human vision feels to the user to have a wider span horizontally than vertically. This makes sense for a terrestrial animal for whom most threats were in the horizontal plane. While there is no fixed human eye aspect ratio, functionally human vision is somewhere between 1.5:1 and perhaps 2:1. This puts everything from 13.5:9 to 18:9 in the sweet spot for mimicking human vision.
The 29 x 9 image above cannot actually be seen as one has to turn one’s head to take in everything from the Terminalia catappa on the extreme left to the sign in front of the A building (off-camera) on the extreme right.
Even more extreme is this 33 x 9 aspect ratio image that spans nearly 180°. Both of the panoramas distort the reality available to the human eye. Even the 24 x 9 ratio leaves the viewer with a sense of a clipped vision up and down, but then perhaps that was part of the director of photography’s vision for the video. A sense of being vertically trapped, hence in the video the escape from the prison was up a ladder into the sunshine.
Someday perhaps the bulk of images will be viewed in virtual reality equipment that will provide a full spherical image virtually surrounding the viewer. One will be able to look in any direction from the location of the image capture. In that age aspect ratio will no longer have a meaning. Until then, photographers will get to choose the ratio of the frame for their images.
Share what you are seeing with those you know who would also want to see what you are seeing.
Today the college gathered to remember Professor Lucia Donre. Every organization has their own ways of honoring a fallen comrade, and today the college engaged in the college’s own rituals for loss. Being there was so very important, being there for each other, being there for her family. We stop for a death, we pause, we commune, we console, and for a moment we hold each other.
We speak centrally of remembering perhaps because faculty are, in part, engaged in remembering the knowledge gained in a field and sharing that knowledge with a new generation of learners. Education is an institution devoted to not reinventing wheels. Although faculty publish, not all of their wisdom resides in publications. A loss of a fellow faculty member is a loss of a beloved colleague and a loss of knowledge. A light that shined brightly is lost.
In the small island world here, faculty and their families are interconnected. We know each other’s children. We socialize together, we meet and eat in the same handful of restaurants. There is only one college on the island. Lucia’s older daughter was student in a class of mine. A younger daughter is a friend of my own daughter. We are perhaps all the more keenly aware that we are mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. We know and care about those who feel the loss most directly.
We are left with only our cherished memories, the joys and sorrows shared. We gather and reshare those stories, reshare the love Lucia brought into our lives.
The sakau cup passed up to Sahngoro and back down to the peitehl. The cup then went up to Rohsa and back down to the stone. Then the cup was passed to me, and again back to the stone. Others were called to the cup. With each round, each of us received a cup. One round, one person, one cup. I have no rank in U, and yet I sat in a place honor sharing the same ngarangar with a king. One for one. There is a deep sense of equity and of sharing, whether one is young or old, we share a single cup. No one is excluded. Ever. This sharing with all, young and old, regardless of rank, is a core social structure here. Respect, yes. Honor, yes. Rank, yes. With sharing and inclusion. No one left out, no one excluded, no one left behind.
An event tonight excludes some by policy due to particular details of the event. This has generated talk among those excluded. Exclusion runs deeply against the grain of the nature of a culture where everyone shares as equitably as reasonably possible in all things across all ages and all titles, where every event from a kamadipw to a mehla is attended by all ages, genders, and ranks. The event might be seen from around a peitehl as being distinctively foreign, almost painted in the hues and tones of a long gone era – an era when clubs for foreigners excluded the local population.
Halloween 2017 landed on a Tuesday night. 515 pieces of candy were on hand, including, as done last year, a 330 piece bag of Hershey Kisses for costume-less trick-or-treaters and a 185 bag of a selection of Hershey products for costumed trick-or-treaters. Candy lasted only until 7:54, perhaps our earliest run out. Numbers were up, with 445 recorded visitors. But those counts will have missed some. Unique this year was the mega-groups. One group of 60 costume-free children and another group of 61 costume-free children were the largest groups, eclipsing the previous record of 52 set in 2015. 2016 saw no group larger than 35.
Blurry, but dark and no time to compose, focus, shoot. Perhaps better blurred: these are some of the costume-less trick-or-treaters. One cannot fault these youngsters, their families likely have a budget that is too tight with too many other demands to acquire costumes. And the masks are a step up, many come with only their school backpack and no mask, nothing.
The average group size was 6.10, up from 5.27 in 2016 but down from 6.56 in 2015. The large groups were simply outliers. The median group size returned to 3, down from 4 last year but identical to 2015.
This year the run out was “un-managed.” Usually there is a break where the number of candies left makes clear that the house cannot handle the next group. But a large group at run out caused the candy to run out mid-group.
I often explained that the deal is, “You scare me, I give you candy to appease you and make you go away.” This was, in my opinion, the scariest costume of the night. Harley Quinn with a bright smile and the bat of death.
Running time is often a time to think, to contemplate, to reflect, and to plan. Over the years I noticed that the runs which were the most relaxing, and post-run were often the most mentally productive, were runs where I had to focus so intently on my running and juggling that no other thought could be entertained in my mind. Runs where variable, gusting winds would shift my tennis balls in midflight as traffic slid past me. I had to focus only on the immediate instant. These runs were peculiarly relaxing, and afterwards I was filled with new ideas and solutions. Exactly when I hadn’t been thinking about them – when my mind had slipped into a state without random thoughts of anything else other than the immediate instant.
At some point I stumbled on the The Oatmeal and his citing the terrible and wonderful reasons he runs long distances: in order to the seek a void. The Oatmeal cited Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Murakami would note, “I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void. But as you might expect, an occasional thought will slip into this void. People’s minds can’t be a complete blank. Human beings’ emotions are not strong or consistent enough to sustain a vacuum. What I mean is, the kinds of thoughts and ideas that invade my emotions as I run remain subordinate to that void. Lacking content, they are just random thoughts that gather around that central void.”
Meditation is not exactly a mainstream behavior in my neighborhood. As ABC news correspondent Dan Harris has noted, back when I started running, running was unusual. Today running is no longer considered unusual, but meditation is still seen as something different. Harris explains that as science including new research using new technologies confirms the benefits of meditation, one day a family doctor is likely to recommend improving your diet, exercising, and meditation. There are a plethora of videos to help a first time mindfulness meditator get started – talking one through the basics. And as Mipham notes in his book, just as in running, start at an easy pace for shorter distances until you are accustomed to running. Start with brief daily sessions, let your body and mind adjust to meditating. And, at least in my house, do keep a sense of humor and avoid taking yourself too seriously.
I did not become a runner overnight. I became a runner gradually as days of running added up to months, months to years, and years to decades. At some point I went from being a 1970s exercise jogger to a runner. I deeply understand that regular meditation practice over the coming days, months, and years are the path to benefit. And that I might not see the benefits for some time. Running has taught me patience. I opted for starting with shorter duration meditation to start, which keeps manageable working meditation into my daily life. And, just as I am in running, I find I am an evening meditator. Although I am new to the discipline, I already look forward to my evening meditation much as I look forward to a chance to run. For now that is a good start.
My annual social media timeline has seasons. Winter is the season of passings and sad farewells. Spring brings new life and bundles of joy to love. And summer is the season of newly minted nuptial unions. Each June and July my timeline is filled with images of happy young beautiful newlyweds starting the journey of a lifetime. Images of hope and optimism, youthful radiance and health, the strength of the young.
Perhaps I have lived too long in a nation facing epidemic levels of non-communicable diseases often linked to obesity that results from dietary and physical fitness choices or non-choices made during a lifetime. In my age group too many couples are saying their last goodbyes to each other.
In what seems like a short time ago when viewed from where I am at 57 years old, she looked at her future husband and said I do to a youthfully healthy if not outright muscular young man. When she looked at you and said I do, there was an implicit obligation to her to maintain, to the extent the exigencies of time and aging permit, that physique she saw when she said I do.
Perhaps some men have an expectation that their wife should look good for them. I hold rather the expectation that I should do what I can to look good for her. Perhaps I have less hair on my head than when my wife agreed to journey with me, and perhaps I never really had boyish good looks to lose, but I need not arrive in my fifties looking like I might be pregnant with twins.
When you pledge I do to her, pledge also to yourself to work to retain, for her, the physically fit and healthy physique you have on that special day that she said I do to you.
Exercise and physical fitness are not things to put off until some doctor recommends them to you in your forties. Exercise and an active lifestyle should begin from your youth. I began running in 1978. I do not run far nor everyday. As I head into my own fall season of life, my running has helped me arrive at 57 without a veranda over the tool shed, healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and legs with a couple muscles in them.
I was a foot fall behind the runner in front of me. Narrow trail. No room to shift left or right. My stride was too long. 2003. High above Honolulu. A trail run with the Honolulu Runners. A runner directly behind me. I had to change my stride and gait to not clip the heels in front of me. Shift my balance. And still clear the roots underfoot. Suddenly something clicked and I was running differently. Smoother, shorter stride with enough lift to clear roots. I was now landing in his foot prints. The stride felt strange and yet smooth. I would play with the stride over the next few days while I was there, and in the years afterward I would still think of this as the Honolulu gait.
I became interested in gaits and stride length, picking up and reading Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running. I continued to follow research on stride and gait as the barefoot and minimal running trend gained steam. I also noted the other direction taken by Hoka One One. Sure, the Tarahumara can run barefoot, but the injuries accumulating among first time minimalist shoe users suggested that not everyone is built for barefoot running. Still, I grokked the logic in going flat. This summer I drank the flavored fruit punch and bought a pair of Altra Provision 3.0 shoes. Zero drop. I opted for the Altra Provision 3.0 as this shoe seemed closest to the ASICS GT 2000 series I had been wearing since the 1990s. Stability shoes with moderate cushioning.
The shoes came with a transition guide that explained proper form – which appears to be strongly similar to the form I encountered in Chi running. The Altra claims to enable better form, and with only a short amount of time in them, I concur. The stride, gait, and cadence changes I have been playing with over the past decade and a half are enabled by the Altra shoes.
The zero drop seems to encourage a flatter landing further forward, as the foot arcs down the heel clears the ground rather than catching the ground as in a shoe with rise. The foot lands flatter, and the extra stretch on the calf does seem to provide more spring back on lifting the foot.
The wide toe box is also different, and yields a sensation of stability on toe off. Wet pavement and uneven sand on wet pavement can be slippery here in the tropics, some shoes tend to slide on the surfaces here. I did not have that sensation with the Altra shoes. Perhaps the shorter, snub nose on the shoes also helps get my foot off the ground a little faster as I lift my foot. The physics eludes my comprehension, but I do seem to be able to move faster in these shoes even when I am not trying to do so.
The Altra shoes are exciting, and my pace was faster than I expected to in a routine run yesterday, overestimating my time of arrival at locations, causing me to have to shift around cars that I met too soon along the road.
When I happened upon what advertisers think I am interested in, I realized that I clearly do not know myself.
I had no idea I was a big griller (our grill is a piece of wire fencing on an old automobile hub) into road trips (going somewhere on a small island is hardly a road trip) with my family (more often solo) in our Dodge Journey (never seen one of whatever this is) with a secret penchant for Liz Claiborne beauty and fragrance products (so secret that I too was blissfully unaware of that side of my personality).
If you tweet, then you can see what advertisers think you want to see too. Most curiously the list misses the areas in which I have recently spent actual money: running shoes, smartphones, ChromeBase, and various Kindle books in mathematics, running, and statistics. Either the advertisers do not know me or I do not know me.
The former is somewhat puzzling. Twitter’s own list of my interests aligns better with my perception of my own interests.
With some quibbles over Reality TV and Romance, and the absences of my running and juggling life, Twitter knows me well. So why do the advertisers misread where my money is likely to go next?
If you also Twitter, you can see Twitter’s read on you as well. Of course this depends on whether you let Twitter study you. Turns out Twitter studies you by default, so unless you turned off the Personalization and Data Settings, Twitter is collecting all sorts of information about you as a Twitter user. I let Twitter run wild with my data. I treat all social media as a public presence with zero privacy. If one wants privacy then one can never use a computer, cell phone, telephone, or any other communication capable technology. Including snail mail. No tech. Period. And one should probably not live on a small island.
Now you’ll have to excuse me as I need to go load up my new luxury Nissan SUV (I have a 25 year old Toyota Exiv sedan that was purchased used) with my Fisher-Price toys (I played with those fifty years ago) and Converse sneakers (I would never buy an athletic shoe I cannot run in) for a trip to the spa (as soon as I find one on Pohnpei) where I am a well known high spender (I have a dollar in my pocket that has to last until Friday). Oh, and, yes, I will be dropping by the mall on the way home to pick up more Liz Claiborne products and jewelry. Just as soon as I find the mall on this island.