Category Archives: About Chuq

“Rhymes with Crisco” — Really?

Someone dropped me an email and called me to task for using “Rhymes with Crisco” in my note yesterday announcing my new job. The email could be boiled down to “Dude, really?”

They have a point. It’s trite, silly and rather 12 year old. That was, in fact, the point. Let me explain.

First, I’ll admin: guilty as charged. It’s silly, and supposed to be. I get to have a bit of fun here if I want to.

But it also serves a more serious purpose. I used it for the same reason I use “Mama Fruit” when talking about one of my former employers. And I do that not just because it’s silly — and we all take this stuff way too seriously some days, especially when talking about the tech industry — but because it prevents my comments from being easily found in the search engines.

When I write here I write on a personal basis and not as a formal representative of my employer or any organization that I’m writing about. I learned — the hard way — that you can load your stuff with disclaimers all you want, all it takes is one troll with an axe to grind to choose to ignore that to make your life miserable.

You learn to watch what you say. But I’ve also found you can limit the chances of what you say ending up in the hands of random idiots looking for a fight by managing how you say things to stay away from hot button terms. Like using “Mama Fruit” and “Rhymes with Crisco” instead blah and blah. I’m not pretending this is more than it is — it’s like talking quietly at a party about a topic instead of grabbing the mike from the DJ — but it makes it easier to talk about some aspects of some organizations with less risk of those discussions getting hauled into larger discussions  I want to stay out of by someone trolling specific keywords for content to start fights with.

Effectively, it’s a way to make it easier to talk about some things with you all, the people who normally read this blog without a lot of risk of those comments ending up in some troll fight that I’m not interested in getting dragged into. That’s what this blog is primarily about — sharing and interacting with the people interested in what I say and do. This is just one way of managing the audience that sees some of the comments I make and limiting that audience to people who understand the context.

It serves a useful purpose. It’s a tool I’ve adopted in cases where I specifically don’t want to try to attract a large audience and instead talk more quietly to people already involved with me and this site at some level.

So yeah, it’s silly. But to date, it’s worked pretty well…

15 of the interesting and influential

Every year I try to do a short list of people and sites that I find interesting or that have influenced me significantly in the last year. Here’s the list for 2013. Not surprisingly it’s heavily biased towards photographers. These are in no particular order.

I do hope you’ll take a look and give them a chance to influence you as well.

Looking forward into 2014

Where will 2014 take me? To be honest, I don’t know. I have some plans, but I also expect those plans to change. Mostly it’s about getting started, then iterating until I’m happy with them.

There was a time when I was a serious planner-of-things. I couldn’t get started until I could figure out where the end was and I knew the path to get there. The end result of that is too often lots of planning and not so much actual stuff to point at. It’s taken me some time to learn to be comfortable with going and course correcting along the way — but now that I’ve done it a few times, I much prefer it. The trick continues to be to figure out what to do; more correctly, have a strong understanding of what things NOT to do so you have enough time and resources to do things properly.

This list is always subject to change, but here are some of the things currently on the docket for 2014:

Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. I’ve finally carved out time to go to a birding festival, in a favorite place. As part of this, I’ve put myself on my first pelagic tour, and I’ll be taking a guided birding tour of Carrizo as well as being able to explore the Morro Bay area with some of the local experts. If you’re going to be at the Festival and you see me, make sure you say hello. I’ll be down in the Morro Bay area for a couple of extra days, giving me time, I hope, to shoot the elephant seals again, and just hang out a bit and enjoy the area.

I’m planning a trip to Yellowstone in spring, probably just after Memorial day when the roads are plowed and the park is starting to wake up from winter. The current plan is to take a week and go, just me and my cameras, and see what happens, and spend that time in Yellowstone and the Tetons intensively shooting whatever I find.

Laurie and I have decided our fall vacation together will probably be to the Eastern Sierras for a fall foliage shoot. Way too early to figure out the timing or location for it but it’s something we’ve both been hoping to do.

The blog is going to be busier, as I have a number of writing projects I plan on kicking off. I am hoping to exit 2014 with two eBooks available based on the writing plans in place so far. On top of that, I still want to push the refuge project forward. I have a major worry there, though, in the drought, because even though we’ll get through this winter with water for the birds in the refuges, if we continue to not get rain I’m not sure there’ll be water available to flood the refuges properly next winter. Or for people, either.

And coming to some understanding of the drought and water challenges in the state has caused me to get interested in the “don’t call it the peripheral canal” central valley water tunnel project, a massive engineering beast that may dwarf the california high speed rail project in scope and cost before it’s done. It’s way too early for me to write about the project coherently, other than to say I don’t like what I see and what I’ve read so far reads like the science and research being done for it is scoped to validate that it ought to be built rather than investigate whether or not it’s a viable and needed project.

The scary thing is, I think an argument can be made there is no choice and it needs to be built; the water situation in California is that screwed up and all of the choices are bad ones. Which is why every time I wander through the central valley and see one of these signs all it generates is a hollow laugh:

Congress Created Dust Bowl

I’ve seen the water levels at the various reservoirs this winter, and you can argue politics all you want, but if there’s no water, there’s no water. And if something doesn’t change, we’re getting painfully close to the point where argument about water allocations is going to be meaningless. And it’s hard to feel too sorry for the agricultural interests when they’re planting so many acres in rice and cotton and other water-thirsty crops (but if they don’t, where are they going to be grown? And watered? it’s a nasty, difficult set of problems we’ve allowed to happen….)

So I enter 2014 looking forward to much, but also seeing some significant challenges that may directly impact things I’m interested in protecting, and for which there may be no answers, much less good ones. We’ll see as the year plays out.

And may it start raining soon.