Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

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Human Race

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This image is a sad statement of an unfortunate trait of the human condition, that this would be allowed to happen.

This year, the weather window for climbing Everest was tight and the number of climbers high. So, people lined up like a train of pack animals to make the slow trudge in the death zone to the peak, and this photo showed the result to the world. It’s not the first time overcrowding has happened, but this image is the most dramatic depiction I have seen, and it reveals that the government has yet to take effective steps to stop it from happening again.

It is crazy that so many people choose (and can afford) to do this, and it is sad that Nepal has deemed it worth the overcrowding to maximize income from climbing fees.

Humans.

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Written by johnwhays

May 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Noticing Privilege

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I stumbled upon an article yesterday that gobbled up my attention and hung on to it for much longer than I usually allow most politically charged stories to occupy my mind.

While I was being held prisoner to traffic on Interstate 94 last Thursday, I passed some of the mind-numbing, slow-rolling-brakelights time listening to Brett Kavanaugh’s opening statement and a few Senator’s worth of questions and his responses (“responses” because sometimes they weren’t answers).

Some of what he said, and the raw emotion with which he said it, seemed pretty compelling. Having not had the opportunity to hear Christine Blasey Ford’s session, I had nothing to compare to his version of the issue. I figured he had a lock on the needed votes to be confirmed for a lifetime term on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Despite what I figured, my gut and my intuition were providing me with an alternative take.

Methinks he doth protest too much.

Reading Nathan J. Robinson’s very long and excruciatingly thorough Current Affairs exposé, “How We Know Kavanaugh is Lying” was incredibly validating of my suspicions.

One of the reasons this article was so compelling for me is that most of the evidence presented is taken directly from the words I heard spoken live on the radio. When analyzed in the way Kavanaugh’s statements are laid out in the article, his own words seem to sabotage his defense. Combined with how often he avoids answering potentially harmful questions, frequently with bizarre redirecting responses, my first impression of his pretty compelling argument was completely dashed.

I just don’t know how anyone could in good conscience vote to confirm his nomination at this point. However, given the state of this country’s political situation, I won’t be surprised if those intent on furthering their agenda will do anything to get him seated on the nation’s highest court.

Pondering that possibility yesterday riled me up something fierce. How could they?! It would be a travesty! We can’t let this happen!

That was when I received an insight that privilege was framing my outrage. In my moment of upset over the possible injustice of this man being allowed to serve despite the preponderance of likelihood he is not worthy, it occurred to me how often similar injustices have been thrust upon groups of people throughout this country’s history.

Over and over again. So often that they come to expect it. Why would it be any other way? Why would indigenous people of multiple tribal nations ever trust the US government? Why would women be surprised to find out they weren’t being treated equal to men? Why would people of color be surprised to find out voting district boundaries had been gerrymandered to influence election results against their best interests?

If the outcome of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination doesn’t go the way I think it should, I hope I am able to contain my outrage and maintain some dignity, despite the injustice.

Generations of good people have endured far worse for far longer and continued to hold their heads high and carry on with hope for better days.

I’m all for better days. I’m even going to hope for sooner than later.

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Finding Votograph

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Who’s up for a little fun and games?  I just so happen to know a guy who knows a guy at a local software development firm that created a new opportunity for phone-camera enthusiasts to enjoy some healthily addictive entertainment. My son, Julian Hays, and fellow developer Tyson Acker (currently answering from New Zealand’s time zone) agreed to be interviewed about the app they created called, “Votograph.”

Relative Something: How would you describe what Votograph is to someone who has never heard of it?

Julian Hays: Votograph is a social photo game for mobile devices. Players compete by submitting a photo that matches or somehow relates to a given challenge phrase. Players then vote on the best photo for each challenge. The player whose photo has the most votes when time is up wins the challenge.

Tyson Acker:  Votograph is a platform for all the photo nerds out there that has more of a game focus than other social media apps. You’re not merely sharing your photos–you’re trying to out-do your friends and family (or, in public groups, the entire world!) on a given topic. Users can either join ongoing public challenges or create private challenges of their own; in either case you have a specified length of time to submit a photo and vote for the best.

RS: So, just to clarify, when you say “mobile devices,” will Votograph run on tablets, in additions to phones, but not on a PC or laptop computer?

JH: Votograph is not available on tablets at the moment- only “phones”, or phone-sized devices for now. But it is available on both iOS and Android platforms.

RS: Can you describe how the idea for Votograph originated?

JH: The initial game concept came from DevMode’s owner, John Bailey. He proposed the idea and DevMode began working on the project in our spare time between client work. The project served as a means to learn more about project architecture and to refine our skills.

RS: Do the photographs submitted for a challenge need to be taken in the moment, or can they be old images already on a person’s phone?

JH: For the daily public challenges, you can submit either a photo you capture using the Votograph camera, or a photo from your library. That allows you to use your phone’s camera app if it helps you capture a better photo, or if you want to submit a picture you captured earlier. That also means images you found and downloaded from the internet are fair game. 

If you are creating your own challenge for a private group, you have the option of whether or not you would like to allow existing photos from someone’s library. Sometimes forcing “camera-only” works well for a challenge at an event, such as “Best Mullet At The State Fair”.

RS: What if two people submit the same image? Can we see the other images that have already been submitted to a particular challenge?

JH: That’s another option- by default, the public challenges are “blind” challenges, meaning you cannot see or vote on other submissions until after you have submitted. When you create a private challenge, you have the option of toggling “Allow Vote Before Submission”, which would allow anyone to see and vote on submissions at any time. 

If you choose not to submit a photo, you can still see and vote on the submissions once the challenge enters the “Vote” stage after submissions have closed. Challenges can be set to a duration of 1, 4, 8, or 24 hours. The “Vote” stage would be the final 15, 30 or 60 minutes depending on the length of the challenge. 

So, on a “blind” challenge, it is possible that people could submit the same image or same idea without knowing it. At the end of the challenge, if there is a tie between submissions with the most votes, the win is awarded to the photo that was submitted first. 

RS: If a player has already voted for an image, can they change their vote if a new submission arrives that they like better?

JH: Yes, players can change their vote as many times as they would like until the challenge has ended.

RS: When did DevMode release Votograph?

JH: January 11th, 2018.

RS: How is DevMode feeling about the response thus far?

JH: Interest has been light so far- but we haven’t really had time to put forth much of a marketing effort quite yet. Hopefully we can reach out a bit more and start gaining some more traction. 

RS: I see Votograph as appealing to people who want to take the “perfect” beautiful picture, as well as to those who like the more intellectual aspect of interpreting the challenges in quirky or obscure ways. Have you seen any patterns that reveal one or the other methods have met with greater success in challenges played thus far?

TA: Good question! So far I actually see that as one of the drawbacks of the app: I think users might be discouraged from submitting if they feel like they don’t have a “perfect” photo. We have a series of achievements which attempt to add some positive feedback on multiple levels, so users can feel like they’re accomplishing something without necessarily winning a challenge. But I fear that it isn’t enough to coax some of our more cautious users into increased participation. We still have some work to do in that area.

As for the quirky/obscure angle, I did manage to win a recent challenge with a crude line drawing. So it can be done!

JH: Tough to say- So far there have been a variety of winning strategies. And that has been part of the fun. Sometimes the best-looking photo wins, sometimes the tastiest-looking item in a photo wins, sometimes the obviously-quirky photo wins. It might be too early yet to say which strategy sees greater success. I think the given challenge phrase matters a lot- the quality of the phrase is pretty clear based on how many submissions come in for it. The less interesting phrases certainly do not get as many submissions.

This is probably a good spot to point out users can submit phrase suggestions for public groups- Here’s how:

From the main screen, tap the yellow “+” button in the top right corner. Then, select a Public group from the list. You will then see a text input where you can submit your phrase suggestion. We’ll review it and if it looks good it will get added to the master list.

RS: Can a user submit more than one image to a challenge? If the game were happening instantaneously, like an in-person card game, that question wouldn’t probably come up, but when the challenge lasts 24 hours, there can be tempting opportunities of better shots that arise before time runs out. 

JH: No- once the submission is in, that’s it! One photo submission per user, per challenge. 

RS: So make it a good one! Fair enough. I suppose this would be a fine time to ask how people can get the App and what it will cost. Where can photo-gamers find Votograph for downloading to their camera phones?

JH: It is a free download at both the Apple Store and Google Play Store: https://votographapp.com

We’d love to hear feedback- feel free to send your thoughts to feedback@votographapp.com.

Thanks for the support & good luck to all players! 

RS: Thank you for bringing new fun to our camera-phones and taking the time to describe Votograph to the Relative Something followers. I think I have an idea to submit for a challenge… Wonder what images would be submitted for “Relative Something?”

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Written by johnwhays

March 3, 2018 at 10:18 am

Powerful Stuff

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For the last week and a half I have been doing my best to catch the PBS broadcasts of the 10-part documentary film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, “The Vietnam War.” It is a dizzying experience. Even though the presentation is spread over two weeks, it compresses so much history and so many perspectives into each segment that the incomprehensible reality it depicts leaves me dumbstruck in a foggy haze of then and now.

As often happens for me, the review of significant historical events that happened during my lifetime, especially about those of which I successfully accomplished an embarrassing level of blissful ignorance while they were occurring, has a way of disrupting my self perceptions. I get a real sense that I would have been a very different person in my ensuing years if I had given certain events more of my attention.

At the same time, part of me has a sense that I already am that different person I seem to be imagining. I don’t know how it works. Did I mention it is dizzying?

I was certainly old enough to perceive the war in Vietnam as pointless and unwinnable, and thus developed a negative opinion of the political and military decisions being made that prolonged our participation.

This comprehensive documentary is educating me about details of the Vietnamese struggles for independence, the US fears of communism, and the corruption on both sides of the conflict. I value highly the opportunity to hear the perspectives of participants from the other side, which this film presents.

There is one additional aspect that is contributing to an overwhelming feeling this film is giving me. There are an uncomfortable number of moments when the depictions of the drama that played out fifty years ago (plus and minus) resonates uncannily with stories in the news today.

One example being the collusion by Nixon with a foreign government to influence his being elected. Sound familiar?

How could we ever let someone get away with that again?

I wish I knew.

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Written by johnwhays

September 27, 2017 at 6:00 am

Other Mother

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When I married Cyndie, I officially gained my other mother, Marie. At the time, I had no idea what that was going to be like, but my sense was that it would be good. For the prior seven years when Cyndie and I were dating, I had enjoyed time with her family almost as much as with her alone.

Now, thirty-six years later, I can report that my mother-in-law experience has been infinitely better than I could possibly have imagined.

Cyndie’s mother, Marie, is celebrating a milestone birthday today. This morning we are gathering for breakfast at a restaurant to honor the occasion. This is particularly fitting, because family breakfasts under Marie’s skillful direction have been a priceless treat over the years.

If anyone ever happened to express a preference for something, maybe commenting about how they like their eggs prepared, Marie would notice and remember, serving up a perfect variety of versions every year after to assure everyone always gets what they want.

Marie’s balance of being exceptionally adventurous while also nurturing an organized routine of most activities have added depth, and provided stability, to my life as an in-law. We share enough traits to be in sync often, and clash only rarely.

Probably best of all for me, Marie has a keen sense of humor. She is ever so gracious in allowing herself be the target of jabs, while also being wily enough to play along with ever-present silliness and get in a few of her own pokes along the way.

It’s considered bad manners to reveal a lady’s age, so I will avoid blurting it out in public, but let’s just say it’s a good round number that just might have an 8 in it.

Happy Birthday, my other mom. You are terrific!

Keep up the good work.

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Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

Delicious Program

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I want to shout from the stove top about a brilliant three-part program PBS has dished up, “Food – Delicious Science.” It is a thrilling science story of the food on our plates and the physics, chemistry and biology that lies hidden inside every bite.

The hosts, Michael Mosley and James Wong, are wonderful, both to watch and listen to as they guide this exploration of the fascinating details about the food we eat and how our body reacts to it. Their energy for the topic is infectious and their way of describing the complex science of our everyday eating experiences comes across as a comfortable conversation with a friend.

When they taste things that cause a reaction —both good and bad— their expressions convey the experience so well, I almost need to wince or sigh right along with them.

If you eat food, and I’m betting that you do, this program is worth watching. It is informative, entertaining, inspiring, educational, and will absolutely enhance the entire experience of preparing and consuming the nutrition and fuel we need to thrive.

Be forewarned, viewing this program just might generate an insatiable urge to eat something delicious.

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Birthday Bob

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DSCN4774eHappy 75th to Robert Allen Zimmerman today.

Bob, I would’ve performed more of your songs over the years if I could have mastered the art of remembering all those lyrics.

I’m inclined to agree with pretty much everything I’ve heard from Bob Dylan. Luckily, I started paying attention after all the drama of his transition to using an electric guitar at concerts. By the time I was listening, the songs he was writing and music he was making seemed like a perfect fit.

I avoided all the fan angst.

I always appreciated that he somehow succeeded in performance despite violating everything a choir director would demand from a vocalist. It is a small minority who are able to make imperfection work and not simply sound imperfect. Obviously, the appeal isn’t universal, but based on the number of fans and longevity of Bob Dylan’s career, there is a large majority of listeners who “get it.”

The flaws become the features. I don’t know how it works, I just know that I am drawn to certain imperfect vocalists, and repelled by much of the rest.

Unfortunately, it has never been something I could harness for myself. I never mastered singing with that “imperfect” kind of character to a level that ascended beyond what repels me. I tend to flounder in the “almost there” category most of the time.

As a result, I relish the opportunity to enjoy professionals whose off-center vocalizations are good enough to succeed in the industry. I love the sound of a well-slurred word or phrase, and it makes me laugh to imagine a vocal instructor ever confidently endorsing such a thing.DSCN4777e

It seems to me that the first time I ever attended a live performance by Bob Dylan was 30 years ago, when he was touring with the Grateful Dead and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. They came to town for a show on my birthday and Cyndie bought tickets as a present.

My life-long pal, Paul Keiski, made me a custom shirt for the occasion. Then 4-days before the concert, Cyndie unexpectedly gave birth to our darling daughter, Elysa, which led to Cyndie handing her ticket off to her brother, Ben. Ever since, I have endured endless good-natured ribbing for going to that show without her.

It’s the kind of thing a fan does for troubadour like Bob Dylan. Happy 75th old man!

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2016 at 6:00 am