Category Archives: Opinion

Should we not release our dogs and cats back into the wild?

Opinion

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I freely admit that I support zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, and even SeaWorld to the max, 100%.

I even support circuses when it is done right, and I’ll define “done right” as using positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement.

To me, it’s pretty obvious when animals in our care have been trained with positive reinforcement.

It’s no different from you teaching a dog to roll over, sit, play dead, shake.

It’s done with treats, not whippings.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t like horse racing. I have been to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Races twice with a Photographer All Access pass. A total of twenty hours on two different occasions two years apart. I have yet to see anyone give a horse a treat. Rather, they prod them, poke them, whip them…….. Why are people not protesting that instead of SeaWorld? I don’t understand.

Do animals in our loving care remember those who care for them? I submit that they do:

Here’s another one:

Did zoos, aquariums, SeaWorld, and circuses abuse animals in the past? I believe they did. I believe taking animals out of the wild can, in many circumstances, be considered abuse.

However, I would rather have some of these animals in Zoos to save them than in the wild where they get slaughtered by poachers:

100,000 elephants killed by poachers in 3 years

I would also submit that in today’s world, if you were able to ask these animals if they would prefer to be in the wild struggling to find food each day, fighting for their lives each day…. or in a zoo or aquarium where they get love, attention, food, and medical care…. I believe I know the answer.

Without the leadership of the San Diego Zoo in getting other zoos and sanctuaries to sign on to its California Condor Conservation program, the California Condor would now be extinct. It actually was extinct in the wild as recently as 1987. Through the successful breeding programs of the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos, the California Condor was re-introduced to the wild beginning in 1991 in southern Utah, northern Arizona, central and southern California, and northern Baja California, Mexico. Here are a few of the California Condors at the San Diego Zoo:

Andean condor at the San Diego Zoo

California Condor at the San Diego Zoo

California Condor at the San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has a northern white rhino as a resident. Northern white rhinos are functionally extinct, which means that the seven rhinos that exist in zoos throughout the world are beyond breeding age and that none exist in the wild. When these seven remaining rhinos die, there will be no more unless we can figure out cloning.

Northern white rhinoceros at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park

Many times each year the Zoo and Safari Park announce the arrival of big babies: orangutans, elephants, giraffes, gazelles, monkeys, and gorillas. If not for the Zoo, I would never have had the opportunity to see orangutans, elephants, giraffes, gazelles, monkeys, and gorillas. And my annual membership supports the Zoo’s conservation and breeding programs, to ensure that the California Condor continues to exist in the wild.

The Zoo also re-introduces wildlife to other parts of the world when possible. Unfortunately, people in other countries don’t have the economy that we have in the United States, so they don’t mind slaughtering animals for food and other products.

I try to go once a week to SeaWorld, the Zoo, and Safari Park because one never knows what’s going on each week and which animals will be photogenic for me.

Without Zoos, many millions of people, including me, would never have had the opportunity to see these beautiful creatures:

Mom and baby gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sumatran tiger at Tiger Trail at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Himalayan Monal at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Burmese Python at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Black mangabey at the San Diego Zoo

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Camel at the San Diego Zoo

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Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo

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Elephant at the San Diego Zoo

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Giant Panda at the San Diego Zoo May 2013

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Male lion at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Mama koala and her joey at the San Diego Zoo

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Forest buffalo at the San Diego Zoo

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Caracal at the San Diego Zoo

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Desert bighorn sheep at the San Diego Zoo

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Johnston's crocodiles at the San Diego Zoo

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Fishing cat at the San Diego Zoo

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Zebra at the San Diego Zoo

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Secretary Bird at the San Diego Zoo

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Cheetah at the San Diego Zoo

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Polar Bear at the San Diego Zoo

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Knobbed Hornbill at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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Meerkat at the San Diego Zoo

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Red kangaroo at the San Diego Zoo

(Got the kangaroo in there for you, Laurie!)

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Flamingos at the San Diego Zoo

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Although I can cite no research to support me, I firmly believe that people who have visited a zoo, sanctuary, or aquarium are more likely to contribute to conservation efforts to save these beautiful creatures from extinction in the wild.

For those who want to release all of these creatures back into the wild, that cannot be done with many of them because they are injured and would not be able to survive. The two bald eagles at Safari Park come to mind, both injured in the wild and rescued, and both unable to fly.

Bald eagles

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

If we take this to its logical conclusion, then all dogs and cats should be released back into the wild. After all, both species adapt quite quickly to life in the wild, so why are we keeping them penned up in our homes and teaching them tricks? For our entertainment, pleasure, and companionship….

Spoiled dog

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What is sportsmanship?

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

2014 National High School Chess Championship in San Diego, CaliforniaLast weekend the 2014 National High School Chess Championships were held right here in San Diego. High school is a misnomer because this included anyone in grades kindergarten to twelfth grade. And I saw a couple of pretty good kindergarteners!

What is sportsmanship?

I went on Sunday to see Round 7, the final round, figuring that in Round 7 I’d be able to watch several of the top players go at each other.

Indeed, the pairings for the final round had #1 Seed, Darwin Yang, playing Cameron Wheeler. Darwin had six wins in six games. Cameron had five wins in six games.

Darwin is a Grandmaster-elect. That means he’s really, really good because Grandmaster is the highest international rating, and Darwin’s only in the eleventh grade.

Is sportsmanship letting the other person win?

2014 National High School Chess Championship in San Diego, CaliforniaIn chess, a win is worth one point, a loss doesn’t earn a point, and a draw (a tie) earns each player half a point.

I don’t know what Cameron was seeded, but at the beginning of the final round, Cameron was tied with eight other players for second place, behind Darwin, lonely in first.

I took position by Board 1 to watch the game. Total disappointment. After three moves each, Darwin and Cameron agreed to a draw! Huh? Really?

Is sportsmanship not playing if you’re already assured of winning the whole enchilada?

They both got half a point, so the final standings show Darwin in first place with 6½ points out of a possible 7 points. Four players tied for second place, all four with wins in the final round. So if Darwin had lost to Cameron, there could have been a five-way tie for first place.

2014 National High School Chess Championship in San Diego, CaliforniaThat makes one wonder, Who offered the draw after only three moves? And why would the other player accept it.

If Cameron offered the draw, he was assured of being the only player to put a dent in Darwin’s otherwise-perfect record. Why would Darwin accept the offer of a draw? It would assure him of being in first place all by himself…. but

Is that sportsmanship?

2014 National High School Chess Championship in San Diego, CaliforniaWith the draw, Cameron wound up in a 15-way tie for third place. If he had lost to Darwin, he would have been in a 28-way tie for fourth place.

By my analysis, it looks like both players benefitted. So by agreeing to a draw after only three moves, both players apparently got to take a rest. I doubt they would have left early to go back home because the awards ceremony was at 7:00 p.m. I think I also saw Cameron doing a little shopping at Fashion Valley Mall, which was just feet away across the parking lot.

If sportsmanship is letting the other person (or team) win simply because you have already won the whole enchilada (or made the playoffs), imagine what would happen during the last half of the football, baseball, or basketball seasons when those teams already out of contention, or those so far ahead that a loss wouldn’t matter, decided not to give it their all. Hmmmmm. I’m not liking this kind of sportsmanship.

Here is my picture of Darwin (left) and Cameron at Board 1 just minutes before the final round started:

Darwin Yang and Cameron Wheeler

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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WordPress problems resolved!

Did you know?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Microsoft Internet Explorer 11 is fast, fast, fast, fast, fast.

As many of you know, I have been having WordPress problems since January 2, 2014. Many things:

  1. LIKE buttons were not loading on any blog whose URL ended with wordpress.com. Other blogs were fine. Just those ending with wordpress.com were problematic.
  2. Most of the time, not always though, I could not comment on blogs either. This problem affected all blogs, not just those whose URL ended with wordpress.com.
  3. My blog would not load correctly the first time. I would have to refresh or reload it in order to get it to work.
  4. My site stats would not load at all. Never.
  5. The gold star notification at the upper right would not work unless I clicked on the star twice.

SkyTower at SeaWorld San DiegoToday I had some extra time while preparing to go Dine With Shamu at SeaWorld. I could not access the WordPress Help Forums from anywhere on my blog like I could prior to January 2, 2014, so I went to Google, typed in wordpress help forums, and got to them that way.

I spent several hours reading through several hundred threads in the Help Forums before I finally found a clue about what might be happening. The clue was in a very long thread and was about the hundredth comment from someone outside of WordPress, someone like me who was having problems.

The clue was that the commenter was of the firm belief that WordPress was not compatible with Internet Explorer 10. I knew that I had upgraded from IE9 to IE10 but I didn’t know when. I pulled up my computer records and what do you know? I upgraded from IE9 to IE10 the night of January 1, 2014. Ah-ha!

I tried to downgrade from IE10 to IE9 but that apparently isn’t possible. All of the computers that I use daily are running IE10. I pulled out an old laptop computer that I don’t use anymore but which I knew had IE9 on it. Sure enough, I had no WordPress problems on the old computer using IE9.

I saw that IE11 was available, so since I couldn’t downgrade to IE9, I considered upgrading to IE11. I created a restore point on my Windows 7 computer so that if IE11 really caused problems, I could easily go back to IE10. Well, not only did IE11 load easily and quickly, but I have no more WordPress problems. LIKE buttons are loading, my stats page is showing up again, etc.

So there you have it! The problem wasn’t with my computer per sé but with a computer program that I needed in order to even get to my WordPress blog. The interesting thing is that apparently when Internet Explorer is your main browser, Firefox, Chrome, etc., don’t override everything in Internet Explorer. That explains why I was having the same problems in Firefox and Chrome.

I’m so happy! I can go blog camping again now, something that I really missed doing these past three months.

Lastly, not only is my Internet browsing so much faster than it was with IE10, but my whole computer seems to be much faster. Can’t explain it, but it is what it is.

And following a close-up of Shamu from this evening’s Dine With Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego. Jim and I were sitting about three feet from four Shamus, separated only by a piece of glass four feet tall.

Shamu at SeaWorld San Diego on March 29, 2014

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Fine Art America

Opinion

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Many people have asked for my impression of Fine Art America (FAA), which I just joined a few weeks ago. So here are my thoughts about Fine Art America and selling your pictures.

Ray At Night in North Park, San Diego, CaliforniaI had considered doing the many art shows, flea markets, etc., that we have here in the San Diego area each year. With all the costs involved, e.g., gas, wear & tear, inventory, etc., I decided there had to be a better way. So I looked at all of the print-on-demand online stores and settled on Fine Art America. Zazzle will be my next print-on-demand online store.

After doing that, all I had to do was market myself to my target audience, which is Realtors and home owners. Realtors is a pretty good market, but home owners even more so. For anyone and everyone!

HillcrestHere’s a secret to marketing to home owners once you have a print-on-demand store set up: Drive your neighborhood and look around. Drive rich neighborhoods and look around. Not saying that your neighborhood might not be a rich neighborhood, too!

While you’re looking around, note what people like.

Back to the '50s car cruise in La Mesa, CaliforniaDo you specialize in car photos? If you see a cool car sitting in the driveway, write down the address and send the occupant a postcard with a cool picture of a cool car printed on it and a link to all of your wonderful pictures of cars in your Cars Gallery at Fine Art America.

Yellow roseDo you specialize in flora? If you see a house with a ton of roses, or nandinas, or agapanthus, or, or, or…… write down the address and send the occupant a postcard with a cool picture of a rose printed on it and a link to all of your wonderful pictures of roses in your Rose Gallery at Fine Art America.

Zoey the Cool Cat soccer ballDo you specialize in dogs and cats? If you see a house with evidence of a dog or cat, write down the address and send the occupant a postcard with a cool picture of a dog or cat printed on it and a link to all of your wonderful pictures of dogs and cats in your Dog and Cat Galleries at Fine Art America.

Do you specialize in events? When you go to an event, canvass the neighborhoods surrounding the event, writing down addresses, and send a postcard to all the homes with a cool picture of the event and a link to all of your wonderful pictures of events in your Events Gallery at Fine Art America.

Del Mar CastleEven though we think our homes are private, they can tell us a lot about the people who live there, especially the extraordinarily wealthy because they love their homes, and there’s no other reason to have a 9,300-sf home other than love of material things.

I specialize in Southern California, mostly San Diego. I like to go wandering looking for unique areas, events, and real estate. Several months ago I got lost at the beach in La Jolla and found the La Jolla Beach Mansion, selling most recently in November 2009 for $18.15 million. I took 27 pictures of it. I went home and had Photoshop’s Photomerge function create a panorama of the house. Then I turned it into Photographic Art, which is my specialty. Photographic Art allows me to modify pictures, sometimes substantially, like removing cars, utility wires, other houses, people, the bottom of ugly palm trees which look like telephone poles, etc. Then I use filters, actions, and plugins for Photoshop, Lightroom, PaintShop Pro, PhotoPaint, Photomatix, onOne, Nik, and a few others to make the picture look like it’s not a picture but a painting or something else unique.

Beach mansion at 1900 Spindrift Drive in La Jolla Shores, San Diego, CaliforniaRecently I uploaded it to Fine Art America. Then I sent a 5½x8½ postcard to the home. Four days later, someone stocked up on pictures of the house. They bought a 48×38 framed print for $334, the same size canvas print for $306, the same size acrylic print for $235, and the same size metal print for $195. They also bought 50 greeting cards for $78.95. Total: $1,149. My profit: $490. My investment: About $10 for gas, about $1 for printing and postage, and time to take the pictures and play around in the various digital editing programs I have.

Fine Art America does not charge you per item, nor do they take a percentage of your sale (technically). What they have is a base price that covers their costs. Then YOU decide what kind of profit you want on any specific item. Your markup is added to the base price to determine the final cost. You can easily set default prices for everything, and you can easily override default prices for any specific item.

White's Tree FrogCurrently I’m in the process of getting as much stuff uploaded to Fine Art America as possible. Once I do that, then I can do some really serious marketing of events, homes, planes, trains, automobiles, landscapes, zoo animals, dogs and cats, flowers, trees, bushes, etc., etc., etc.

For Realtors, I will be advertising my work as close-of-escrow gifts (I do custom work for specific homes), anniversary gifts, birthdays, births, marriages, etc. The possibilities are endless, and by letting Fine Art America handle the inventory and sales problems, I can focus on what I do best: Photography and Photographic Art.

Fine Art America also sets you up with a web site that is directly linked to them. Mine is at http://1-russel-ray.artistwebsites.com/

Total cost for all the great benefits at Fine Art America? $30 annually. Not a typo. $30 annually. Photo Galleries, web site, sales, inventory, technical help (which is really responsive!), social networking links. On and on and on. $30 annually. Less than $3 a month.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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My new BFF free digital photo editing program

Opinion

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Before I actually buy software, I like to search around to see if there is anything free that will let me do the things I want to do. Usually there is, but free stuff often comes with other problems.

For example, before I bought Photoshop, Lightroom, Photo-Paint, and PaintShop Pro, I searched for free software that would let me edit my digital photos. I found programs like Picmonkey, Picasa, Gimp, and several others that aren’t even worth mentioning because they were so bad that I don’t even remember them!

My dislike of free programs often has something to do with the free program not having all the functions of the paid program. The free program is just a teaser to, hopefully, get you addicted enough that you will want to buy the paid program. In the early days of computing, we called such programs crippleware.

Another problem is that when you download the free program, you also download all sorts of adware and sometimes malicious software. Been there, done that, and it’s a mess to recover from that.

Open source programs like WordPress have their own issues, often related to the fact that anyone can contribute to open source programs, and sometimes those contributions are not completely functional, crash the program or computer, or are not fully tested for compatibility.

One of the free digital photo editing programs I tried took over my computer for about twelve hours while it searched for all of my graphics in order to catalog them. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t let me multitask while it was searching, so my computer was useless for twelve hours. Even rebooting didn’t interrupt its search. It was like the Energizer Bunny and, once the computer rebooted, simply continued in its quest for all things graphic. As soon as it finished, I summarily removed it from my computer.

Ultimately, I decided that there were significant benefits to tried and true programs that you pay for.

Recently, one of my followers, Wesley Coll (visit his WordPress blog at CollTales) introduced me to Lunapic. I think it’s the best free photo editor I have ever seen. I haven’t had the opportunity to explore everything about it yet, but the things I explored yesterday were very easy and intuitive to use. If you’re looking for a free way to edit your photos, give Lunapic a try. I think you might find it a very useful program.

Here is our favorite little feline, Zoey the Cool Cat, to demonstrate some of the effects easily accomplished with Lunapic.

Zoey the Cool Cat Christmas ornament

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Zoey the Cool Cat $100 bill

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Zoey the Cool Cat painting

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The only issue I have with Lunapic is that even if I upload a high resolution image, I can’t save my work as anything other than a low-resolution image. There might be some settings that I have not discovered yet, but at this point it looks like Lunapic is optimized for creating something unique to quickly post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Perhaps even to your WordPress blog!

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I prefer to skip the middle man

Opinion

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There is a megachurch about seven miles from me. I won’t mention its name because I despise it, its pastor, and everything they stand for.

My wise old grandmother had raised me as a Catholic and taught me to give 10% of my gross income to the Church.

I did.

Until 1983.

That’s when I found out that the pastor of the church of which I was a member was driving around in a Rolls Royce. I didn’t want to presume anything since people often inherit things, win them in lotteries, have relatives give them things, whatever.

So as is my inclination, I did a little digging by joining the church’s finance committee. Oh, boy. Did I learn a lot. I quit the church a couple of months later. In fact, that pretty much was when I quit all religions.

The megachurches are doing absolutely nothing to convince me to return. The Pope is, but I do think I’m too far gone at this point in my life to go back to religions, especially when articles like the following keep popping up every month.

Megachurch bishop Ira V. Hilliard told his Sugarland [sic], Texas, congregation (New Light Christian Center) in June [2013] that one of his two private aircraft—a helicopter valued at about $1 million—needs new blades, but rather than pay it himself, he asked parishioners to each find it in their hearts to send him $52 “favor seeds” for the blades. (His ministry also owns a $2 million Hawker jet and a $3 million hangar.) To sweeten the deal, he virtually promised that a donor’s gift would be met by a “breakthrough favor” from God in the form of a car repair or their very own “dream” car either 52 days or 52 weeks later (according to a church letter described by the Christian Post).

I don’t have a problem per sé with people being religious, or worshiping anything, everything, or nothing. What I do have a problem with is obscene amounts of money in the hands of people who don’t know what to do with it. I keep wondering how these multimillion-dollar churches feed the hungry, house the homeless, and heal the sick because all I ever see are token words and even less in actions.

I think Mick Jagger might have said it best in 1978 with The Rolling Stones’ #1 hit single “Far Away Eyes.”

I refuse to play the religion game, preferring to skip the middle man. I’ll send my donations directly to organizations that work 24/7 to help society. Makes me feel so much better, and if someone’s god doesn’t like me for it, that is a god I really don’t want to be associated with anyway.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My kind of pledge of allegiance

Opinion

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I have never really cared for the Pledge of Allegiance ever since my high school senior English teacher, Mrs. Edith Head (but not THAT Edith Head) diagrammed it on the blackboard in class. That was back in 1973.

When one understands sentence structure, it’s obvious that most people, especially Christians (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” or something like that), should be a little upset. It starts, “I pledge allegiance to the flag….” Huh? I’m supposed to pledge myself to an inanimate object? Hmmm. I don’t think so. And I’m not even a Christian!

It goes on, kind of like an afterthought “….AND to the republic for which it stands….” That’s certainly good, but then it gets bad again: “….one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

When one understands religions, one would naturally ask, “Under whose god?”

And even at the tender young age of 18, it was evident to me that there was no “liberty and justice for all.” Liberty and justice was reserved for the rich and the white. I don’t think anything has changed in 41 years.

At a recent home inspection, there was a pledge of allegiance hanging on the wall, a pledge that I fully support:

I pledge allegiance....

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I pledge allegiance
to the Earth
and all the Life
which it supports.
One Planet,
in our care,
irreplaceable,
with sustenance and respect
for all.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

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If you’re looking for a home inspector,
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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos