17 October 2011

The Dark Lord Goes Off-Topic

A post neither about words nor images, more a sort of confession.

Most people probably don't know I lead a double life. Actually, most people don't know I exist, but that's not the point. The point is, of the people who know me, the majority of them have no inkling of my alter ego existence.

As it happens, I am known in some circles as The Dark Lord of the Caspian ("Dark Lord" or "D-LOC" for short). Just why I carry this dread title is, again, not the point. All you need to know is that with it come AWESOME POWERS. We're talking global reach, here.

I probably shouldn't let on, but I'm starting to feel a little guilty. Let me use this pulpit to offer a blanket apology to those I've inconvenienced (or worse).*

Here's the thing. From time to time, I convene working group meetings of colleagues from far-flung locations. I pick a venue, and then we all head there to strategaze about work stuff. Well, when the D-LOC begins assigning dates with specific locations, bad things can happen for the rest of you. I really need to stop toying with the space-time continuum, because here's what can happen:

  • I came to the Washington area in early Feb 2010, a month that might resonate with winter-phobic readers. (Hint: Google "snowmageddon" or click here.)
  • During the spring of 2010, Iceland went "boom" a little bit, to the tune of Eyjafjallajokull, whose name confused journalists the world over and whose ash plumes shut down Europe the weekend we prepared to head to Naples.
  • Early in 2011 I had planned to convoke a grand cabal in Bahrain; we know how that turned out.
  • Barely a month or so later, I almost brought the US government to its knees; I was this close to shutting the government down... Thankfully, I relaxed my grip and Congress came to its senses, acted maturely and deliberately to plan out a far-seeing budget, and joined hands across the aisle to govern the nation wisely. Oh, wait...

(About the recent earthquakes, flooding, forest fires, and hurricanes that have bedeviled the U.S. this past summer, I must disclaim that I had no active part in that. I cannot, however, rule out the possibility that I might have dreamed about having conferences in those specific space-times while asleep. If so, my sincerest apologies.)


I wanted to give the friendlies a sort of heads-up that I might be about to flex again. I've scheduled another meeting in Washington next month, round about the time the US Gov't is scheduled to run out of money again. If you have somewhere else you can be mid-November, you might want to think about it.

The Dark Lord of the Caspian


* Please note, I'm not being political and am not being flippant — or at least not too flippant, I hope — about the genuinely disastrous effects of these world events. I have nothing but concern and sympathy for those affected.

15 October 2011

Shots I Wish I'd Taken: Shadows In the Desert (Steinmetz)

Speaking of shadows... Wow.

Camels, shot by George Steinmetz for National Geographic, Feb 2005
(This particular version borrowed from Snopes here.
Go to Steinmetz's website for more fantastic images.)
Thanks, Karey.

12 October 2011

Strategazing: New Word of the Day Feature!

This post inaugurates an aperiodic Word of the Day feature. Don’t be fooled by the title. It’s more “Word of the day on the day that I post it”. If you actually got a word a day it might get boring.

Our inaugural word is strategazing.*

Strategazing /strætəgezɪŋ/ (noun). A portmanteau word formed from bases strategy and star-gazing (some lexicologists hold the origin of the latter base to be navel-gazing -- either way, the effect is the same). Of or pertaining to the process of thinking big thoughts, purportedly with the aim of implementing them...some day...somehow. (In its purest form, strategazing leaves implementation to someone else.) Often accompanied by blind optimism and a total disregard for resources or timelines required for someone else to implement that big thought some day...somehow. (See also the related Good idea fairy.)
Now go forth and use this word! Impress your friends! Strategaze something up for someone else to make happen and then tell them there's a word for that!


* A Little Light Writing would like to thank the kind sponsors of today’s Word of the Day:

Strategazing is brought to you by the Purveyors of Fine-Ideas-Just-for-the-Sake-of-Purveying-Fine-Ideas.

07 October 2011

Seeing Things That Aren't There

As I scroll through my photo collection, something becomes very clear: I like to capture reflections and shadows. In fact, after tree images, such “projection” shots are probably the single biggest category of shots I take.

[Click thumbnails for larger versions.]

Still Life
Three Stooges
Reflecting on Elegance

I used to shoot stacks of chopped wood compulsively. I never met one I didn’t want to immortalize as a priceless and unique little rectangle. Ditto for steps and stairs...couldn’t pass a staircase without snapping it. Even as I pressed the shutter release, I knew it was not the photo I imagined. But *click* went the shutter.
I no longer feel compelled to shoot these subjects. For some odd reason, many many stacks and stairs look alike. Exbhibit A:
It’s not that they don’t sometimes make great images; I’ve simply found that my compulsion to snap them rarely produces “keeper” shots. Now I’m a little more disciplined with those subjects.
Woodchuck Challenge
With reflections and shadows it’s different. I not only shoot them compulsively, I notice them everywhere. And here I can say I’ve never — well, almost never — met a reflection or shadow photograph I didn’t like. They’re all keepers! (Someone else’s eyes might glaze over, but I prize every such shot...)

Intruder | Newport | Almost
Montblanc | Berlin Abstract | Kadett | Market Fountain (clockwise)

Reflecting on Reflecting

What’s so special about reflections and shadows? For me, I think the key thought is projection. These projections refer to something in the physical world, but they aren’t themselves the objects. It’s the fascination of visually capturing something that isn’t really there. When we look at a reflection or shadow, we’re seeing a sort of ghostly suggestion of the original. It’s not even three-dimensional, more like a painting or drawing traced by light on a more physical canvas of water, glass, or a wall.

And it’s a painting that changes constantly, maybe never to repeat itself exactly...


Windows II
Windows III

04 October 2011

Welcoming Buildings Redux

Some time ago I posted a series of photos highlighting my penchant for taking shots of buildings from imposing angles. Here's another, from a recent whirlwind stroll through downtown Bruges.

I chose the title to juxtapose the function of the church with its welcoming demeanor. This is Sint-Salvator (Holy Savior) Cathedral. It definitely screams "C'mon in!"

Peace and Love

02 October 2011

Tide for a New Post

Yes! I've heard the calls: "More! More!" So to keep my family safe from the clamoring mob, I've decided it's time to pay more attention to this blog.

And what better way to start out than by reflecting on the word "time"? Because I've been doing that lately. It could have something to do with Kid Number 1 returning as a third-year university student. It could have even more to do with Kid Number 2 entering as a freshman, of all things! Or it might relate to the changing of the seasons, or having my father visit us for the first time in a long while.

Nah... It's because I've been chewing on the Dutch word for "time": tijd. The -ij- diphthong is pronounced something between the English long i (as in "eye") and ay (as in "hay"). [Go here and click the play button to hear it.]

I began thinking of the word "tide", wondering how "tide" becomes "time" in languages that are practically kissing cousins. Then it hit me: the German word for "time" is Zeit (pronounced "tsite"). Bingo! Zeit = tijd = time.

At the same Zeit this following thought hit me: We have archaic words in English relating the -tide suffix to "time", such as "Yuletide" for "Christmastime". And then... and then...

(Follow me, patient reader, on this voyage on the tijd of discovery...)

Thinking of Yuletide brought me to "tidings of good cheer". Tidings are "news". So then I wondered how you got to "newsings" from "tidings". Cue the next slap on the head: The word for newspaper in German is Zeitung, literally "timings". [Special contest at the end of this post.*]

If tijd / Zeit are related to our English "time", is "time" in English related to our word for the comings and goings of waters along ocean edges? Seems clear that our use of the word "tide" for the four daily highs and lows must come from their regularity, thus allowing us to measure time.

So, thinking that English "time" and "tide" — in addition to waiting for no one — are closely related, I rushed to my OED, to find:

tide (n.): O.E. tid "point or portion of time, due time," from P.Gmc. *tidiz "division of time" (cf. O.S. tid, Du. tijd, O.H.G. zit, Ger. Zeit "time"), from PIE *di-ti- "division, division of time," suffixed form of base *da- "to divide, cut up" (cf. Skt. dati "cuts, divides"). Meaning "rise and fall of the sea" (mid-14c.) is probably via notion of "fixed time," specifically "time of high water".

time (n.): O.E. tima "limited space of time," from P.Gmc. *timon "time" (cf. O.N. timi "time, proper time," Swed. timme "an hour"), from PIE *di-mon-, from base *da- "cut up, divide" (see tide).



* Contest: A special prize for the first person who leaves a comment on this post drawing another blatant connection between newspapers and the English word "time". Or Russian, and doubtless countless other languages...