Past Tense

I walked comfortably along in today.
It was the continuation of yesterday.
It led to tomorrow.
It was orderly and serene.
Logically built out
of all that happened.

Before it was the past.
Until the past
was there before it:
Out of order, in today.

When you left,

you brought yourself,

but when you stayed,

you never left,

the past behind you.


It’s really an honor to be short-listed, especially if you were short-listed from a cattle call and you don’t actually know anyone on any of the committees and have no history with the organization. It means you have managed to be one of the 5 or 10 percent of the applicants whose work actually caught the attention of a bunch of strangers.

Then you are down to that last presentation and you give it your best and wham, one of the other 5 or 10 percent get it. Well the trouble is, particularly with large institutions restricted by legislation, you just don’t know why there was a cattle call. Did they really want the best of a wide range of folks and not have a clue who they would  pick? Did they need to be sure before they hired from within and rewarded someone who had worked really hard to get the gig? Or were they just going through the motions to fulfill a legislative need knowing full well who they wanted?

And if the institution was simply being sure of themselves or going through the motions, would you have done the same if you were on the committee? Would you have worked hard to get the gig for someone you cared about, or whom you thought deserved it, even if they were not quite as good as someone else? Would you have been loyal to the person or the system?

My aunt and uncle were staunch anti-war socialist, so much so that they were conscientious objectors during World War II, even though they were Jewish–can you imagine the stigma! Anyway it always seemed to me that they, and other socialist-liberals types I knew, were very much about the bleeding masses, but rarely about a friend in need. And it frustrated me. Why did it seem like the hard core capitalists, who were so uninterested in the bleeding masses, where so much more helpful to friends in need?

Perhaps is is because that type of staunch socialist believed that to have a society that was truly inclusive and fair, spreading wealth and opportunity evenly, everyone needed to act in the best interests of the group not their own intimate circle. Perhaps the capitalists believe that if everyone simply looked after their own, there would be no need from the greater good?

Is it possible for people to be altruistic, putting the greater good before their own? Players on a sports team might be willing to give up their individual moment of glory so their team can win, but what about giving up something and not getting such an immediate reward? What about adhering to the intent of a piece of legislation, perhaps paying the tax, rather than creating a situation that allows you to keep that extra money? And then in time your municipality has enough money to fund schools or health care?

Of course your small sacrifice is not worth much unless it is accompanied by many other people’s sacrifices. Can you trust them to do that? Or should you just look after your own?

The A… of A Vocabulary List

Last fall I took, and passed, the Lighting Certification exam offered by the NCQLP ( I even got a handsome little lapel pin!

Preparing for the exam involved a good deal of memorizing, as it is rather broad in scope and replete in detailed questions. So while studying I created a vocabulary list, which grew to 76 pages of words related to the physics of light and various techniques for describing light, measuring light, and determining how much of what kind of light to use where and when.

The list included a lot of words with descriptions that ranged from well-worded and informative to seemingly nonsensical phrases, which actually did made sense to me. So I decided that being as how I is a a certified technical writer, having all the learnings needed and what not, I would go back and edit the vocabulary list and make it available to anyone who happened upon my internet presence. This proved to be more time-consuming than I imagined, although I have made it through to D after a few days work spread out over a month.

Yesterday I sat down to convert the Word document into a .pdf, but wouldn’t you know Windows 10 and Adobe have to work out some relationship issues. So rather than a nice .pdf of letters A through D, I am posting letter A, right here in this post.

Oh, BTW, for any technical writers who might glance at this, I have not yet decided the format I am using for citations.



Above finished Floor (AFF)

Is the area of a room that is above the finished floor. It is a concept used in determining the room cavity ratio for lumen method calculations.

Absorptance (A or α)

Is the effectiveness of a material at absorbing light, or the extent to which a material does not reflect or transmit light. The formula for absorptance is the amount of absorbed light divided by the amount of incident light:


Describes a substance that responds to light of short wavelengths, usually in the UV category causing a photochemical reaction. The retina, rods, and cones of the eye are actinic and can be damaged from prolonged exposure to UV wavelengths.

Action Spectra

Is the rate of a physiological activity plotted against wavelength of light. It shows which wavelength of light is most effectively used in a specific chemical reaction. (Wikipedia 2-18-2016) Action Spectra is a term used when discussing the effects of various electromagnetic wavelengths on the circadian rhythms in humans, that is blue light versus amber light.

Adaptation Luminance

Is the range of luminance of and background objects in the field of view. The adaptation luminance affects the threshold at which changes in brightness are perceived by the human eye. High adaptation luminance is when the range of luminance in the field of view is small, so very slight changes in light level are registered. Low adaptation luminance is when the range of luminance in the field of view is large, so only more extreme change sin light level are registered.

Adaptation luminance is measured and considered in lighting for tasks areas, roadways and other places where performance of vision based tasks is important.
(IES Handbook Ver. 10)

Aging Vision

When the eyes age the following things happens:

  • The cornea yellows, so that at about 50 years old there is a 40% reduction in transmission.
  • The pupil gets smaller, letting in less light.
  • The lens loses resiliency and cannot be focused as easily.

Ambient Light Layer

Is the light layer that provides illumination for walking around a space and recognizing people and things. The ambient light layer is often a combination of direct luminance and reflectance.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

Is a standards organization.

As the voice of the U.S. standards and conformity assessment system, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) empowers its members and constituents to strengthen the U.S. marketplace position in the global economy while helping to assure the safety and health of consumers and the protection of the environment.

The Institute oversees the creation, promulgation and use of thousands of norms and guidelines that directly impact businesses in nearly every sector: from acoustical devices to construction equipment, from dairy and livestock production to energy distribution, and many more. ANSI is also actively engaged in accreditation – assessing the competence of organizations determining conformance to standards. (, 2-18-2016)

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Is a federal statute that ensures provision of certain accommodations for disabled person, such as that light switches and sconces at certain levels.

Ampere (Amp)

Is the unit of the flow rate of electrical charges in terms of the number of charged particles passing a point, or the amount of charge of each particle. If the number of charged particles, or the amount of charge in the particles, passing the point increases there are more amperes and therefore higher amperage.


Is a process that uses a combination of chemical baths and electrolytic processes to develop an oxide layer on the surface of a metal, thus increasing the metal’s durability and resistance to corrosion.


Is the standard energy code for all buildings except low-rise residential buildings. It is a set of standards agreed upon by the three ANSI, ASHRAE and IESNA.

Arc Tube

An arc tube is the inner bulb in gas discharge lamp. It houses the two cathodes which, when connected by voltage, create a light source.

Architectural Lighting

Is lighting that is part of the construction of the building itself and is incorporated into the other building systems, as opposed to portable lighting installed by occupants.

Architectural Lighting Design

Is a field within architecture, interior design, and electrical engineering that is concerned with the design of lighting systems, including natural light, electric light, or both, to serve human needs. (Wikipedia 8-16-15.)

America Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)

ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is a global society advancing human well-being through sustainable technology for the built environment. The Society and its members focus on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability within the industry. Through research, standards writing, publishing and continuing education, ASHRAE shapes tomorrow’s built environment today. ASHRAE was formed as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers by the merger in 1959 of American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHAE) founded in 1894 and The American Society of Refrigerating Engineers (ASRE) founded in 1904. (ASHRAE website 2-18-2016)


Is a general term that describes reduction in the strength of a signal, whether digital or analog. Attenuation is also referred to as signal loss and extinction. It is a natural consequence of signal transmission over long distances. Attenuation is considered when planning power and control cable distances for luminaires.

Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)

Is the agency or person with the authority to approve electrical installations and construction. The AHJ could be the fire marshal, the electrical inspector, the building inspector, or a party designated by the building team. The AHJ inspection is part of commissioning.

Average Exitance

Is the mean surface density of emitted luminous flux (light) passing through, or reflected off, a material or surface. Exitance is measured in lm/ ft2 or lm/m2. NOTE: There are also Radiant Exitance, Spectral Exitance.

Average Illuminance

Is the mean surface density of incident flux (light) onto a surface. Illuminance is measured in footcandles (lm/ ft2) or lux (lm/ m2).

The Tempest

I knew I had a friend with straight brown hair, down just past her shoulders, and I looked for her everywhere. When I moved to the country, the girl next door made a friend of me. She was a wild Irish girl named Sheila. Her hair was red and curly and her five brothers and sisters had dark curly hair, and the blue eyes of the black Irish, the children of the Spanish warriors. Kim was a friend too, but her hair was long long long and bright white blond, and very thick. She was an only child like me, but her father lived with her. He was often angry and smelled of whiskey.

I remembered how my friend’s brown hair fell across her face when she leaned into her work. We all sat in rows at our desks and used fat green pencils, mine had masking tape around the end to discourage chewing. We had uniforms and I remember the blue of the jumper, the white of the shirt, and the brown of her hair.

When I moved again I tried to be friends with a girl who had straight brown hair down just past her shoulders, but she didn’t like me very much.  And then I moved again and then I went away to school. There were so many different people. And then I ended up back where I started, in a big city.

I was in the park one day, in that big city, with some friends who were coming and going. I was swinging, in the halfhearted way teenagers swing. I looked over to the ever-changing group of friends and there she was, sitting on a picnic table, and she looked at me and I knew it was her and she knew it was me. I felt a piece fall back into place as I remembered it all.

I remembered gym uniforms with bloomers, and how we dug for worms in the park and did our best to keep our bloomers clean. I remembered the lockers in our 1st grade classroom, the nuns walking down the hall leading the two-by-two lines, and nap-time lying on blue mats with our heads apart but our hands close enough to touch, each reminding the other that it was going to be ok.

You see, I was always a year ahead of everyone, a year younger than the others in my grade, because I was smart I thought. I had been “moved ahead” I thought and I thought this until I was 23-years-old. When I was 23-years-old my grandmother died and I sifted through her belongings, and what I found was this: I found a written progress report from the nuns, from when I was 4-years-old, and this is how it read: “Linet is showing signs of anxiety this year, probably due to changes at her home. However she has a friend in Senior Kindergarten who makes comfortable, so we have moved her into Senior Kindergarten to be with her friend, Miranda”.



Janis Joplin Live

A powerful young singer gave tribute to the vulnerable creativity of one of the most moving icons of the late sixties. The stage was filled with 21st century lighting and effects, even a bit of reverb, because no one has that gravelly rough and beautifully pain-filled voice that Janis had.

The young actress strutted and sang and sat and talked. She brought me to tears more than once and she was only for the briefest second not actually her version of Janis. Yet despite the actresses’ heart, and devotion to her subject, the experience didn’t quite ring true. The stories were less spectacular than you would imagine from Janis, but then they were imagined by someone other than Janis, perhaps a family desperate to protect in death what they could not protect in life.

The stage was an interesting confusion of places and times with a collection of old table lamps littered around a small Buddha-like statue at the edge of the stage, and a large video wall up-stage looking like a factory window with many panes of glass.  Truss arches created a proscenium within a proscenium and supported a inordinate number of moving lights and blinders, which moved and blinded almost to excess. Janis sat occasionally, but only in Act I, in a chair to the side and told her stories. The chair was not there in Act II.

Janis’ influences sang. they were strong, black women with presence and voice. They were Aretha and Etta, and all the others that came before them and sang their pain away in the most pleasant keening imaginable.

The lights were there all the time flashing and moving and occasionally creating beautiful visual snapshots, always being 21st century concert lighting, and sometimes reminiscent of musical theatre. The lights were beautiful and quiet for Me and Bobby Mcgee, which was good.

It should have been the end when the powerful young singer’s Janis declared that she would go on forever and walked off stage. It really should have been the end of the show. The last words we heard should have been the beautiful pain of a brilliant talent that could not get enough. The last sight we saw should have been the powerful body walking deliberately away, away from us, and away from her pain.

But for some reason it was not the end, and that was the saddest part of all.

So long ago

Only four years, but so many days and nights and feelings and events and people and airplanes and rain storms.

A comment came through from an old post, a meaningless comments, and unexpected. It brought me back and I thought why not write again. Here, and now.

About moving on.

No matter what we want to do, we move on. The joy fades to a warm memory and the hurt becomes a callous that wears away with time. The chances we never had are still not there and the mistakes still call to us over the empty space of time. The moment before and the moment after cannot be undone. All that was, is not.

The pain is intense, like hot coals we must flee from or fling at others. It is hard to settle into the disappointment and sadness, much better to be angry and cast those horrible feelings of vulnerability outward to others. But happiness and joy are still there underneath it all, just waiting for a little nourishment, a kind thought, a nice meal, a good book, a phone call to a friend. Acceptance of the situation, and moving on.

It can be done. Many have done it before and many will do it again, today, tomorrow, and the next.


A drop of meanness

There are so many thoughtful, talented, and principled people in the world. People who are respectful and engender respect. People who have made it clear they are interested in, and trust the thoughts, expertise, and skills of others. People with whom one can enjoy the give and take of solving problems as everyone’s ideas are considered.

But there are always one or two people who are petty and do not value anything above their own opinions. People who do not take responsibility for their part in situations that have gone awry and do not value other people’s thoughts, expertise, or contributions. These people project their own insecurities about themselves onto the others around them, and play games of one-upmanship–even when they are the one in power, as though being in power is not enough: they have to lord it over the people they control as if it’s their right because they are superior, rather than a privilege they should be honored to have. These people behave meanly, defined by the  Merriam Webster dictionary as acting  “…below the normal standards of human decency and dignity..” and characterized as “petty – of narrow interests and small-minded.”

And it is amazing how just a little bit of that petty meanness can shatter and blow into the wind all the wonderful thoughts and feelings created by talented and principled people.

One must be build up an immunity to such people and be wary never to behave that way themselves. Do not reciprocate, but be thankful you are not so needy, and forgive them Lord for they know not what they’ve done.