Friday, August 25, 2023

A Brief Reading List: Exploring Human Intelligence, Consciousness and the Role of Our New AI Partners

In this article I recommend three books that explore the answers to these broad questions:
• What is consciousness or intelligence and how did it spring forth in humans?
• How are machines being engineered to absorb and amplify human intelligence?
• What does it mean to be a conscious human in a world where both technology and its unique form of consciousness (Artificial Intelligence) predominates? 

Fittingly, my co-author in this article is Google's AI tool Bard. I asked Bard to create summaries of each of the books below. Since I have read each book (or rather listened to the unabridged audio book versions) I was able to evaluate the accuracy of Bard's summaries. The bottom line: Bard did a great job! So I've included Bard's summaries below. 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Before we can begin to understand artificial intelligence we need to strip it of the adjective "artificial" and examine intelligence on its own. Harari's book Sapiens describes the awakening of conscious awareness among the homo sapiens and how this awakening has manifested itself in the creation of culture and civilization. He then briefly predicts AI's potential to join or possibly supplant organic human intelligence.

Google Bard's Summary

"Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a book by Yuval Noah Harari that explores the history of humankind from the Stone Age to the present day. The book argues that the unique ability of humans to cooperate with each other in large numbers, enabled by our shared myths and stories, is what has allowed us to become the dominant species on Earth.

The book is divided into four parts:

  • The Cognitive Revolution: This part explores how the development of language and abstract thinking allowed humans to cooperate with each other in ways that no other animal can.
  • The Agricultural Revolution: This part examines the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to agricultural societies, and the consequences of this transition for human health, happiness, and environmental impact.
  • The Unnatural History of Humankind: This part explores the rise of empires, religions, and science, and how these forces have shaped the modern world.
  • The Future of Sapiens: This part looks at the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for humanity, such as climate change, artificial intelligence, and the possibility of nuclear war.

Sapiens is a thought-provoking and eye-opening book that challenges many of our assumptions about human history. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the world we live in and the challenges we face in the future."

The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence

Yes, this book is over 20 years old. However, it was written by a man who has "... written books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism. Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements... " - from Wikipedia 

This book is a foundational text that accurately predicted some AI-based functions that are in use today and predicts others that are yet to come. It's an essential text for understanding the roots of AI.

Google Bard's Summary

"Here is a brief summary of the book The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence by Ray Kurzweil:
  • The book argues that the pace of technological advancement is accelerating, and that computers will eventually surpass human intelligence. Kurzweil believes that this will happen by the year 2045, and that it will lead to a "singularity" where machines will become so intelligent that they will be indistinguishable from humans. He also predicts that this will lead to the development of artificial general intelligence (AGI), which will be able to perform any intellectual task that a human can. 
  • Kurzweil believes that AGI will have a profound impact on society, and that it will eventually lead to the "merger" of humans and machines. He argues that this merger will be beneficial for humanity, as it will allow us to overcome our physical limitations and achieve a higher level of consciousness.
  • The book has been praised by some for its cogent analysis of technological trends and its optimistic vision of the future. However, it has also been criticized by others for its lack of scientific rigor and its reliance on speculation... The Age of Spiritual Machines is a thought-provoking and controversial work that has had a significant impact on the way we think about the future of technology. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the potential implications of artificial intelligence."

God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning

This book explores what it means to be a conscious human in a world where both technology and technology's unique form of consciousness (Artificial Intelligence) coexist. Though the topics discussed are both profound and complex, O'Gieblyn's explanations are easily accessible and anchor the topic firmly in the real world.

Google Bard's Summary

"The book God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning by Meghan O'Gieblyn is a collection of essays that explores the ways in which technology has shaped our understanding of ourselves, our relationships, and our place in the world. O'Gieblyn argues that technology is not neutral, but rather that it carries with it its own set of metaphors and assumptions. These metaphors, in turn, influence the way we think about ourselves and our relationships to the natural world.

The book is divided into four parts. 
  • The first part, "God," examines the ways in which technology has been used to create new forms of spirituality and religious experience. O'Gieblyn discusses the rise of artificial intelligence and the ways in which some people are beginning to see AI as a kind of divine being. She also explores the use of technology in religious rituals and practices.
  • The second part, "Human," examines the ways in which technology has changed our understanding of what it means to be human. O'Gieblyn discusses the rise of social media and the ways in which it has altered our sense of self and our relationships with others. She also explores the ways in which technology has been used to create new forms of surveillance and control.
  • The third part, "Animal," examines the ways in which technology has changed our relationship to the natural world. O'Gieblyn discusses the rise of factory farming and the ways in which it has commodified animals. She also explores the use of technology in animal research and the ethical implications of this.
  • The fourth part, "Machine," examines the ways in which technology has become increasingly intertwined with our lives. O'Gieblyn discusses the rise of automation and the ways in which it is displacing human workers. She also explores the ways in which technology is changing our experience of time and space.
God, Human, Animal, Machine is a thought-provoking book that challenges our assumptions about ourselves, our relationships, and our place in the world. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the future of humanity and the role of technology in our lives."

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Sunday, July 23, 2023

Summer Reruns: A Few Entertaining Diversions & Inspirations

Whether you're hanging out on your front porch or inside in front of an air conditioner, long, warm summer days can be a good time to kick back, put your feet up and relax with a few media diversions. Or, if you're more ambitious, it can also be a good time to wax philosophical by reviewing some nuggets of wisdom handed down by the great philosophers and teachers.

Whichever your inclination, you'll find some useful resources below. I culled these from many years of my published articles, each of which took substantial effort to create. So that these don't disappear completely into our shadowy past, I hereby resurrect them as summer reruns. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 29, 2023

The truth is out there! And it's easier than ever to find.

Six Fact Checking Tools that Have Stood the Test of Time

Back in 2018 I wrote an article that included a strategy, links and a PDF reference tool to help you find factual, truthful information quickly. (See: The Truth Finder: 3 Questions & Lots of Links to Help You Distinguish Fact from Fiction.)

Now that we're back in another U.S. presidential campaigning season it seems like a good time to take another look at this article, some of the excellent resources it showcased and a couple of new ones that can help you separate fact from fiction.

I'm pleased to say that all the ones I originally shined a light on in that PDF are still going strong. They are:

Some Excellent New (to me...) Fact Checking Tools

In the 5 years since I wrote that article, I've learned of some powerful additions to this collection. They include: 
  • - Provides reverse image search to determine the authenticity of an image.
  • Google Fact Check Explorer - This is sort of a meta fact checker, with brief summaries of results from many fact checking sources, clearly documented and linked to help you with further research. 
Bonus:  Google Search has added a powerful new feature to help you quickly verify info that appears in your search results. According to Google:  
"Now, wherever you’re searching, you’ll see three dots next to most results on Google Search. Tapping those three dots gives you a way to learn more about where the information you’re seeing is coming from and how our systems determined it would be useful for your query. With this context, you can make a more informed decision about the sites you may want to visit and what results will be most helpful for you."  -- from Five new ways to verify info with Google Search.

My Original 3-Question Strategy for Digging Deeper and Finding the Truth

The Truth Finder PDF Worksheet

My original 3 question Truth Finder strategy presented a systematic approach to the complex process of thoroughly checking facts. Here's how it worked: 


Objective: An accurate depiction of reality.

This question is focused on finding whether an assertion is based on an observable, provable or historically accurate fact.

  • Did congress person Jones accept a bribe from industry lobbyist Smith?
  • Is there a direct link between chewing tobacco and cancer of the mouth?
How to get the answer: Consult any of the fact-checking resources listed above.


Objective: A deeper understanding of an issue.

Sometimes the "truth" is a matter of developing a deeper understanding of all the nuances and shades of grey surrounding an issue, then deciding what "truth" is for yourself.

  • Are e-cigarettes dangerous?
  • Is presidential candidate X beholden to industry lobbyists?
  • Does Obama Care reduce healthcare costs?
How to get the answer: Consult any of the fact-checking resources listed above.

(NOTE: The last of my three questions in your truth quest usually can't be answered so quickly or easily. However, if your question is focused on an important issue or a particularly controversial topic then this question is probably worth spending the extra effort to answer.)


Objective: Consider the source! (i.e., Consider the message creator's unique viewpoint & their credibility.)

Unless you plan to do original research or conduct your own interviews of experts or witnesses, you're going to be forced to trust the websites, authors and media people whose work you are consuming. So you need to answer these broad questions:
  • Does the content creator have a particular agenda they are working?
  • Do they typically represent the same constituency or political perspective or group of advertisers?
And then dig deeper with these questions:

  • What does the "About" page or "Contributors" page say?
  • Who supports the website? (Founders, contributors, distributors, parent company, etc.)
  • Has the site won any awards or honors? If so, from whom?
  • What do advertisers seem to think the site's visitors want? (i.e., What unique points of view or content do the advertisers seem to expect the website/author to provide?)

  • Wikipedia biographies (Or general web search for "[name]: biography").
  • Any awards or honors attained. If so, from whom?
  • Reviews of the author's or producer's body of work.
  • A history of biased, slanted or sensational publications.
  • Membership in particular organizations.

The truth is out there! So take the time to find it.

Whether you need to check the accuracy of a simple assertion or pull back the curtain on something as complex as the "stolen" 2020 U.S. presidential election you have plenty of fact checking tools to help you distinguish reality from fiction. So if you want to help in the war against misinformation all you need to do is 1) select a suspected lie or distortion and then 2) get to work using the tools above to discover the truth and, finally, 3) publicize the truth you find by spreading the word on social media sites, interactions with friends & relatives, etc.

Learn how AI may be able to help.

Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have led to a number of developments in the process of fact checking. To learn more about how AI may be able to help with your fact checking chores, check out these articles:


Sunday, May 28, 2023

One Year Later: How Our Chromebook is Working Out

Windows PC? What Windows PC?

It's been a full year since we've used our Windows PC. Since then we've been all Chromebook, all the time! I use it for research and content creation, my wife uses it for online purchases and financial management and we both occasionally use it for social media, browsing, etc. Last year I documented the research and reasoning behind this decision to switch and the specific Asus Chromebook we bought. (See Secure, Fast & Customizable: Why I Ditched My Windows PC for a Hot Rod Chromebook.)

Living with Our Chromebook

So what's life been like without a Windows PC? In a nutshell, it's been great! Here's a summary of benefits and a single challenge.

The Benefits

  • It's just more peaceful! There are no more breathless notifications from the tech press or emailed warnings about a potential hack of the OS such as we had been vigilantly tracking when we were beleaguered citizens in the world of Windows.
  • Frequent, automatic updates of the ChromeOS pushed by Google which bring up-to-the-minute security protection and a regular stream of new features which are always fun to investigate.
  • Ability to seamlessly use our Android apps and have app data instantly updated across all our devices (phones and tablets).
For example when I have ideas about a new article, I can speak them to my Google smart home speaker and it will add it to my Google Keep "Ideas List." Later, if I'm on the go, I can flesh out the idea by dictating directly into Keep using the mic on my phone's Gboard. When I get home I can kick back on my recliner and use my Samsung tablet to research and further expand the outline/draft in Keep. When it's time to pull in images that will be part of the article and prep them using Google's online Drawing tool, I simply fire up the Chromebook and use its large screen and mouse to work with them. Eventually, when the article is close to completion, I pour everything I've assembled in Keep (and sometimes drafted using Google Docs) into my Google Blogger website, add any graphics I've built then finalize the post using my tablet and my Chromebook. And throughout this process, while I'm using any of these devices, I can see and handle incoming texts/voicemails from Google Voice and emails from my Gmail. In short, my Chromebook is seamlessly integrated into my Android-based workflow! 
My Document Work Flow:
from Phone to Tablet to Chromebook & Back

  • Super fast performance ... Did I mention it's fast.. really fast?! No lags or waits for hunks of software to load. In fact, sometimes I feel like it's challenging me to keep up!
  • Very simple sharing of our Chromebook between two separate, independently secure user accounts. In the morning we both just sign in and we each take turns throughout the day jumping into our own unique, customized desktop and workspace as needed. It feels like we have two separate machines.
  • There's none of that lead weight feeling when I switch to using my computer from using my tablet or phone. In the past my fast tablet and phone apps would help me breeze along doing all sorts of different chores, including making notes and drafting publications. But when I fired up my Windows PC to finalize a document or assemble a bunch of elements into a single graphic, it felt as though I were trying to walk with lead weights on my feet. Everything slowed down and I had to wait for security updates, apps and other stuff to load. It simply took the swiftness, efficiency and spontaneity out of whatever I was doing. Now that particular computer speed bump is gone! My creation process is seamless from brainstorming through finalization.

A Single, Easily-Overcome Challenge

After many years of using TurboTax we had developed the habit of buying the disc, installing it on our Windows PC, updating it with state and local files and then using it to prepare our taxes. But this year that was not possible, since the disc-based version is only available for Windows and Mac machines. Chromebook users must use the online version of TurboTax. While this online version had always been an option, we have been hesitant to use it for security reasons. In fact, we have always made sure our Windows PC was completely offline while we are working on our taxes. 

So this year we had to remind ourselves that most experts regard the Chromebook, with its frequent security updates, as a far safer online machine than either Windows or Mac PCs. And we also reminded ourselves that millions of people are already using TurboTax's online option so their extra stringent security measures are essential to their existence as a business. The bottom line: We took the plunge, set up the account and were pleasantly surprised to find the online TurboTax user interface was pretty much the same as the disc-based version. We filed our taxes quickly and without any glitches!

The Moral of the Story

In sum, our first year with our new Chromebook has proven to be quite painless and has even held a few pleasant surprises. In particular, the Android/Chrome OS interoperability among devices is super convenient. So if you're a Windows user, like we were, I don't think you should hesitate to take the leap to a Chromebook when it's time for that new computer. 

Just ask yourself this question: Do I really have any programs or chores that I can only run on a Windows PC or Mac, as opposed to using online or with a Chromebook? If you have none, then let that old PC or Mac go and get yourself a speedy and secure Chromebook! But do take your time to shop around and get a machine that has the horsepower to meet your needs and the lifespan to receive security updates for the many years that you will probably be enjoying it.

For a deep dive into the technical issues and shopping considerations for Chromebook buyers, see my article Secure, Fast & Customizable: Why I Ditched My Windows PC for a Hot Rod Chromebook.


But don't simply take my word for it! See:

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Friday, April 21, 2023

A Curated, 21-Video Study Guide for Absolute AI (Artificial Intelligence) Newbies: What It Is, Where You Can Play with It & How We Might Want to Shape Its Role in Our Lives

(Images above generated using AI tools Dall-E & ToonArt)


If you're like me, you may be finding that nearly every news story about AI (artificial intelligence) assumes that we already know something about it. I find myself continually feeling like I'm being pulled into the middle of a robust, ongoing conversation. And that drives me nuts! As a former instructional designer and trainer, I know if I'm going to intelligently assimilate this stuff I need to approach it in a systematic way, starting with the basics. So, in the spirit of scratching my own itch, I have combed through bunches of AI-oriented YouTube videos and created a sensibly-sequenced video study guide. And I hereby share it with you!

Think of this as a road map. In it you'll find a selection of relatively brief videos and related reference links that you can follow, as an absolute AI newbie, to build your knowledge of the subject and answer these broad questions: 

1. What is AI (basic definitions, distinctions, etc)

2. How are people using AI? (Including some examples and links to sample tools you can play with)

3. What are the controversial issues related to AI that we need to know about in order to:

  • "see behind the curtain" regarding how AI is entering our lives,
  • control how we use AI and where we let it into our lives, and
  • raise our voices (in an informed way) to help policy makers figure out a path forward for AI in our society.

Note: These resources are not intended to help you become an AI programmer or developer or other AI professional, though they might inspire you to pursue such a path on your own. I'm assuming that you simply want answers to the questions above so you can become an informed consumer of AI outputs.


The Basics: What is AI? 

What is artificial intelligence (AI)? "This animated video describes how artificial intelligence works, where it can be found, and how it influences our lives."



How AI works in everyday life - More practical ways AI helps people in daily life. 


Learn More: 

Some Popular AI Tools & How People are Using Them

What is ChatGPT? OpenAI's Chat GPT Explained -- "What is Chat GPT? What is OpenAI? Who Founded OpenAI? What is Chat GPT Explained? What is Artificial Intelligence? What is Dall e 2? What is Artificial Intelligence art?"


Groundbreaking research in health AI -- "Dr. Alan Karthikesalingam introduces new research on Med-PaLM 2, our exploratory work with large language models to provide high quality, authoritative answers to medical questions."  


6 Mind-Blowing AI Tools for 2023! (don't fall behind) - "... exploring six cutting-edge AI tools that are set to revolutionize the way we live and work in 2023."


Best AI Art generators & AI tools to create better artwork! - "... whether it's Midjourney, Dall-E or Stable Diffusion!"


A.I. Music Is Insane - "From creating completely new compositions from scratch to providing personalised listening experiences – artificial intelligence is revolutionizing how we experience [music]..." 


The ChatGPT Playbook of EPIC Prompts [Caution... Watching this guy's videos is like trying to drink from a fire hose! They're loaded with good info, but it's best to just let the content wash over you and get what you can out of them. Don't try to retain all the details!]  This video digs deep into the weeds and shows a few of the many ways ChatGPT can be used. ("In this video, I break down some of my favorite prompts with ChatGPT.")


Generative AI Is About To Reset Everything, And, Yes It Will Change Your Life [from Forbes...] "Whether you like it or not, generative AI like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion are about to change not only how you work, but how the content you consume is produced. Forbes spoke with a number of leading voices in the AI space to determine both the benefits and the dangers of this next wave of technological innovation, and find out why both tech giants as well as cutting edge startups are racing to grab their share of the market."


How ChatGPT 5 Will Change the World - "What would Chat GPT 5 be able to do? The answers might surprise you." 

Caveats regarding GPT-5:  

AI Hopes & Fears: What Citizens & Lawmakers Should be Thinking About

AI expert reveals his 'single greatest fear' about the technology - "AI expert Dr. Gary Marcus joins CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield to discuss the dangers of artificial intelligence."


ChatGPT: Artificial Intelligence, chatbots and a world of unknowns [from 60 minutes] -  "Lesley Stahl speaks with Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, and others about the emerging industry of artificial intelligence systems people can have conversations with."


OpenAI CEO, CTO on risks and how AI will reshape society - "OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tells ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis that AI will reshape society and acknowledges the risks: 'I think people should be happy that we are a little bit scared of this.'”


What is Technological Singularity? "... Jason Silva explains the concept of technological singularity and how artificial intelligence is nothing to be afraid of."  


Our Final Invention - Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) - An overview of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) in the context of biological evolution.


The Path To Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) - "In this video we focus on if we can reach Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) in the first place and how to get there."  


This Just Changed My Mind About AGI - "GPT-4 can teach itself to become better through self reflection, learn tools with minimal demonstrations... act as a central brain and outsource tasks to other models [and] behave as an autonomous agent that can pursue a multi-step goal without human intervention (Auto-GPT). It is not an overstatement that there are already Sparks of AGI."  


AI That Learns: We're Closer To AGI Than You Think -  [Caution... Watching this guy's videos is like trying to drink from a fire hose! They're loaded with good info, but it's best to just let the content wash over you and get what you can out of them. Don't try to retain all the details!] "Let's talk about AGI  - It's much closer and probably much scarier than you actually realize. In this video I break it down."


ChatGPT Prompts Itself - Should We Fear AutoGPT?  "AutoGPTs the next frontier of prompt engineering... just like people join organizations so they can specialize, learn new skills, and work with others in parallel, AutoGPTs will do the same thing." 


Full 60 Minutes interview: "Godfather of artificial intelligence" talks impact and potential of AI - "Geoffrey Hinton is considered a godfather of artificial intelligence, having championed machine learning decades before it became mainstream. As chatbots like ChatGPT bring his work to widespread attention, we spoke to Hinton about the past, present and future of AI."


The AI revolution: Google's developers on the future of artificial intelligence  "Competitive pressure among tech giants is propelling society into the future of artificial intelligence, ready or not. Scott Pelley dives into the world of AI with Google CEO Sundar Pichai." 


Learn more about these complicated and ethically-charged issues: 


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Saturday, March 25, 2023

A Few of My Favorite Photos

Our unusually wet California spring has kept me indoors much more than I'd like. One long rainy afternoon, while scrolling through my decades-old Google Photos collection, I noticed how many of these nearly-forgotten pictures made me smile or simply pause and think about what they meant to me when I first snapped them and stashed them away. So, before I lose them again in my little corner of the Google cloud, I decided to share some of them with you. I hope you enjoy them.

Backyard Wonders 

My wife is what some might call a master gardener and landscape designer. She's transformed the boring slab of grass that was once our backyard into an ever-changing collection of hardscape elements, decorative plants and produce-yielding greenery. As you can imagine, it's a great place to have our morning coffee! And I've learned to keep a camera handy to capture the various blooms and birds and bugs that seem to pop up out of nowhere. Here are some of my favorite morning-coffee photos.

This dragon fly landed on the bloom of an aloe cactus and just froze there, allowing me to take my time shooting several pics. This is the best and shows the creature's amazing, fragile detail.

One chilly morning I discovered this ordinary garden sage transformed by the heavy dew. What looks like extra fuzzy leaf texture isn't real. It's actually zillions of dew drops!

This perspective-challenging image consists of a juicy, ripe kumquat in the foreground, a fully-loaded naval orange tree far behind it and a 10-feet tall pencil cactus (milk bush plant) in the back left, behind the bird bath. The receding orange colors caught my eye.

Speaking of oranges... When I was a kid, I loved to crawl under the Christmas tree and watch the lights and colors from the ornaments bounce all around the inside of the tree. It was magical. The morning light bouncing around the inside of our fully-loaded naval orange tree often has the same magical appeal as those Christmas tree crawls. So... I crawled inside and took this photo.

This is an extreme close-up of our bougainvillea's long-lasting colored bracts (modified leaves) and one of its short-lived, tiny white flowers. Most people see these plants as giant bushes heaped with color. The bracts come in red, purple, pink, white and all sorts of hybrid shades. But those tiny flowers are always white and frequently overlooked. So I hereby feature one!

Sometimes the early morning sun sneaks up behind a bloom and showcases its overall form and delicate veins. Such was the case with these backlit beauties. Left: red vriesea bromeliad. Right: red canna lilly.

Nature Pushes Back

(Above) Our nearby wetlands often look like this from late February through May. These "daisies" are found on bushes that can grow up to 7 or 8 feet tall. Rabbits and foxes are in there, as well as blue herons and egrets. That "private property" sign and border fence don't mean much to these hardy flowers. They will pretty much go wherever they please!

This stop sign is at an intersection along our local bike path. The landscaping crew who maintain the path have worked hard to cut back a bougainvillea bush growing at its base. The bougainvillea had other ideas. This stealthy and determined plant managed to snake its way up through the hollow sign post and burst out the top.

This is what's left of a breakwater near a local beach. It's about 15 feet tall and formerly was a wall of solid steel with rocks piled on both sides and a big wooden beam on top. Such breakwaters are set up perpendicular to the ocean to help prevent beach erosion. I've been watching this one deteriorate for several years now. Once a mighty man-made wall, it's now almost completely gone. The tide pool rocks at its base are covered with barnacles, mussels, crabs and a starfish or two hidden deep in crevices. The ocean will soon reclaim this spot entirely.


The photo above is an accident. My intent was to sneak up on a large flock of grounded seagulls and capture them clumped together watching the waves. As I knelt and focused and held my breath to click my picture a rowdy dog came from out of nowhere, startling them into mass flight. At first I was angry at the dog. But when I saw the results, I realized that this was one of my best photo accidents ever!

This pair of mallards and their reflection creates an amazing visual symmetry. Like so many photos of members of the bird family, they are as much about form and composition as they are about the content of the image.

A young heron resting between meals.

I'm often struck by how casually birds seem to intermingle. Here a heron and a pair of egrets hang out together watching ducks and coots. No segregation here!

This is one of several burrowing owls that live in the dunes along the bike path near the ocean. These guys seem to enjoy watching bikers passing by. I guess they're confident of their ability to fly away if bothered. 


Okay, a confession... I have a mild obsession with pelicans. And I have taken way too many pictures of them to show here. But if you'd like to see some of them, check out this video and this pelican-philosophizing article: A Lesson from the Humble Pelican: Find Your Unique Mission, Then Soar! 

And finally... another kind of "bird." I walked past this soaring bird of paradise that appeared to be trying to escape the confines of its yard. There's something dramatic about this bright flower on a pure blue field of sky.


Below are some favorites that I couldn't fit into any particular category. 

That's me (left) walking in the Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert at over 16,500 fee elevation in the Andes. I was in South America to teach a PM Basics workshop for some of the ALMA team based in Santiago, Chile. [ALMA stands for Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array — In other words, it’s an array (collection) of radio telescopes (66, to be exact!) that was under construction in the Atacama desert.] My client/scientist host (right) decided to take me to the "high site" before the workshop to provide some perspective on this crystal-clear sky-viewing location which hadn't had any measurable rainfall in over 400 years! We visited this spot at sunset to hear the rocks and sand creak and crackle as the cold of night fell upon them. It was amazing!

This man is an artist in Santiago, Chile enduring an outdoor market where he is trying to sell his creations. He personifies the problem many artists face: It's much more interesting to create art than it is to try to sell it!  

The sun ducks behind a palm tree at a secluded local beach. At moments like this the Pacific ocean can feel like it's on the edge of the earth.

An overcast day at the beach can be more interesting visually than a sunny day. Such lighting highlights the steely grays and blues and shiny reflections on the rocks. 

Here are a couple of shots of the "superbloom" near Lake Elsinore, CA in March of 2019 following an unusual wet rainy season. Miles and miles of poppies blanket the mountain slopes and hillsides.

Amaryllis flowers everywhere! We lit a backyard fire in honor of our own amaryllis superbloom!

A couple of amaryllis close-ups showcase their bee-tempting stamens & pistils.

Just a small sample of the many, many flowers my wife keeps going in our colorful back yard.  Here are (top left) our short-lived clivia, (top right & bottom left) our ever-blooming canna and (bottom right) our red bottle brush tree blooms. 

A California scrub jay gets rowdy in our bird bath. 

Speaking of rowdy... This goose (?) at a local park protests... something or other!

The essence of sunbathing!

Our local bike path, daisy-lined in Spring, shoots arrow-straight toward the ocean.

Another warm CA day ends with gold and red tones at sunset. (This photo was shot and saved "clean," with no color sweetening or post processing whatsoever.) I could "feel" those incredible warm colors as I rode my bike home through the balmy ocean breezes.

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