Memorial to gun violence

St. John Baptist Church in Columbia recently installed a powerful memorial to victims of gun violence in the greater Washington, DC, area. On an embankment behind the church are simple frames, and on each frame is the name (if known), age, and date of death of those killed with a gun in 2014. The resulting display is striking.

Victims of gun violence 2014
Panoramic view of the display memorializing victims of gun violence in the greater Washington, DC area in 2014. Click on image for a larger view.

As Columbia, Maryland is a suburb of Baltimore, presumably the memorial includes Baltimore, Washington, DC, and the area in between. But no matter how you define it, the field of T-shirts is quite moving. The range of ages, from the very young to the very old, is also sobering.

Memorial to gun violence in the Washington, DC area
The stark simplicity of the memorial is stilling: these are shirts that will not be filled, and in many cases the shirts are for victims many times too young to wear an adult T-shirt.

My thanks to the St. John Baptist Church for taking the time and effort to remind us of what we have lost.


Reaching your limit

We allegedly live in an age of plenty. Is that limited edition toy sold out? The manufacturer will make more. Grocery store out of your favorite brand of yogurt? Wait a day, or if you are impatient, go to another store. True, the air is getting dirtier, our oceans are full of garbage, and much of the country is in a drought, or suffering from long-term effects of polluted surface water and underground water. But aside from shortages of air and water, limits are things that humans overcome; we’re quite good at it, when we devote the effort.

Some limits, however, are ill-timed. When you are on a trip, taking photos of dragons and samurai and alien spacecraft (honest), you do not want to run into limits:

iCloud Storage Is Full
As a guess, this means that I single-handedly filled all of Apple’s iCloud storage service with just my photos, videos and whatever else I was saving in iCloud Drive. And apparently I can solve Apple’s storage problems by simply pushing the blue link at the bottom.

There I was, thousands of miles from home, with the air full of smoke, surrounded by very polite people (not really; at the time, I was a couple hundred miles from the nearest city, in a very empty part of the world). And, if I’m reading the language correctly, I had managed, on my own, to completely fill Apple’s iCloud storage service with my photos, videos, and whatever else I was putting in iCloud Drive (cumulus? cirriform? cirrus? cirrocumulus? cirrostratus?).

Fortunately, I could apparently solve Apple’s iCloud crowding by simply pushing the link at the bottom. I could upgrade storage, eliminating Apple’s congestion. Exactly why I would want to move Apple’s storage uphill was not immediately clear; weren’t clouds pretty much uphill already? Or possibly this was an indirect reference to Sisyphus, forever pushing a stone up a grade.

Then I thought: an upgrade traditionally means more work. When your car encounters an upgrade, the engine must work harder, and you burn more gasoline. If you are walking or biking up an upgrade, you tire more quickly, and may give thought to turning around and finding a nice chair to sit on. Why would I want to make storage more difficult?

Ultimately, I did not press the link. To be honest, with all the forest fires in the area, the sky was saturated with smoke. It is entirely possible the clouds were not full, but simply blocked from my view. I will think on this; I’m not a meteorologist.

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial at night

Officially, the Memorial at the edge of Arlington National Cemetery is the United States Marine Corps War Memorial. Virtually everyone on the planet, however, refers to it as the Iwo Jima Memorial. Cast in bronze and dedicated in November 1954, the Memorial depicts the rising of the Stars and Stripes over Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945, during the Battle of Iwo Jima, by five Marines and one US Navy corpsman.

United States Marine Corps War Memorial
United States Marine Corps War Memorial, better known as the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Though I’ve passed by it countless times, the Memorial is usually surrounded during the day by an almost impenetrable blockade of tour buses. There are few non-automotive methods of reaching the Memorial, as it is not near a Metro stop or most other visitor attractions. The parking lot on the circular drive around the Memorial is quite small, and the tour buses make them hard to reach, assuming they aren’t full.

Solution: visit in the middle of the night. Admittedly, this presents some problems, as taking a “normal” picture is difficult without light. Flood lights shine on the Memorial, but floodlights on dark metal makes a photo quite challenging.

The solution: patience, and a tripod. Or in my case, a monopod, which is one-third of a tripod. There are quite a few visitors even late at night, as you can see in the animation. Some of these drove up in cars, but even more arrived by tour buses. Apparently, night-time tours of DC are quite popular, overlooking for the moment that the Memorial, and Pentagon, and Arlington National Cemetery are in Virginia.

The flag raising not only inspired the design of the Memorial but also the design of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, as a quick glance at the roofline will show.

Someday, I hope to stop by during the day.

Colorado gets a boost from Google Photos

Google Photos has recently been greatly revamped, offering “unlimited” storage of photos in “high quality,” or up to 15 GB if you upload original photos. “High quality” is pretty darn high, so I experimented by dumping a bunch (several thousand) photos into my account.

But that, as with many things Google, isn’t all. Google also has an “assistant” that does things like automatically create photo “stories” from photos, and “animations” from groups of photos that were taken over a short period of essentially the same scene. The “animations” are really animated GIF images (which are in turn a series of images saved as a single file), and the results can be startling.

Here are some animated GIFs of a recent trip to Colorado. All of these animated GIFs were created by Google Photo’s “assistant,” without any editing from me. In fact, I didn’t even ask for them; the “assistant” picked out photos and created them without any effort or notice from me.

Air Force Academy main chapel
The United States Air Force Academy main chapel.
Baby diving ducks at Mt. Evans
Baby Bufflehead diving ducks in Summit Lake, near the peak of Mt. Evans.
Japanese garden at Denver Botanic Gardens
The Denver Botanic Gardens have any number of different styles of garden, including this Japanese garden.
Fountain, Denver Botanic Gardens
A nice fountain at Denver Botanic Gardens. It was startling to see water in Denver, and greenery.
Flags at the Colorado Freedom Memorial
Flags flying at the Colorado Freedom Memorial. The name is a bit awkward, since it apparently is honoring the memory of freedom.
Butterfield horse
The Denver Botanic Gardens were hosting a display of sculptures of horses by Deborah Butterfield. Most of the horses looked as if they were made of driftwood; this sculpture looked like scrap metal. Highly original.
Exterior of US Air Force Academy chapel
The outside of the US Air Force Academy chapel. You can see that, as one visitor noted, it is “nothing but simple triangles.”
United States Air Force Academy Jewish chapel
Underneath the main US Air Force Academy chapel is a small Jewish chapel.

Western Pacific dragons and other real creatures