Archive for February 2013

Tree silhouette 10: 2 Platanus peeks

Tree silhouette 10
Tree silhouette 10: This is a 1 peek post with two peeks - but obviously only with one silhouette. Plane trees are popular in parks and gardens in Europe. Most of the time, the cultivated London plane trees are trimmed in winter and afterwards often display such a mutilated appearance. This particular tree was growing on the border of the Lac de GĂ©rardmer in the Vosges mountains, in France. What a contrast to the huge and much more naturally looking Platanus species in the photograph below. This is the most beautiful and largest plane tree that I remember seeing. It grows in the middle of Granada, in Spain, next to the Fuente de las Batallas. Although this tree is likely much older, I doubt that it is cut down to size as drastically as the tree shown above. If you would like to browse more tree silhouette photographs have a look at the other posts or the tree silhouette gallery on Florian's photos. The "normal" tree photograph below is part of the tree gallery, which is currently unlisted (but you can access it with the hyperlink, if you want).
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2013/02/27 by Unknown
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Refuse to play!

Be warned: this is an off-topic (meaning not photography) text and it is rather long. From time to time, I like to ponder philosophical questions and would actually like to write about such thoughts more often. I hope that some of the ideas are interesting to some of you and hope that I am not boring you. If you make it (or scroll) to the end, you will be "rewarded" with a photograph :-)

Sometimes, interactions with other people are stimulating and enriching my life, while in other situations they are a burden and a reason for many sighs. From time to time, I even find myself in a situation, where I can only loose, irrespective of my decisions and despite my best intentions. I am of course not really writing about a material loss, but rather about loosing energy, time, confidence, or peace of mind.

What is the best strategy to avoid loose-loose situations and to preserve my peace of mind?

Interesting aspects and insight about interactions with friends and strangers are provided by the prisoner's dilemma, which is a particular example of game theory. It is a game for two people who play against each other. Each player has to decide whether she wants to cooperate with or betray her game partner, without knowing the decision of the opponent. If both players cooperate, they earn one point each. If one cooperates, while the second player betrays, the former looses two points, while the latter gains two points. Finally, if both betray each other, they will both loose one point (I made up these numbers - the original example is somewhat more evolved, but this is just to illustrate the essence of the game). If both players behave logically, they will both betray each other and therefore both loose.

The prisoner's dilemma becomes much more interesting, if it is played over and over again. If one player knows that she is playing again soon and if both want to maximize their profit, then it would be best to cooperate. But how can you protect yourself from being betrayed and what strategy favors cooperation and prevents endless cycles of betrayal as retaliation? Robert Axelrod organized a tournament to solve these questions. Participants submitted computer programs that used different strategies to play the prisoner's dilemma against each other. The results are described in a fascinating small book entitled "The evolution of cooperation". Surprisingly, the simplest of all strategies won: tit for tat. The program using the tit for tat strategy started out by cooperating and then repeated what the other player did in the previous round of the game. The three most important aspects of this strategy are the facts that it does not betray before the opponent does (it is a nice strategy), that it punishes the other player for betraying (it is retaliating) and that it can resume cooperating after a betrayal (it is forgiving).

Does this result have any implications for real-life situations? I think yes. Although the prisoner's dilemma is a theoretical game, our everyday interactions with colleagues, friends and even with strangers also involve investments, returns and some kind of strategy, conscious or unconscious, about how to interact with people. In real life, investments and returns are not points, but anything from a smile, to time and effort, a happy or sad feeling, or something more material. Cooperative behavior can be expressed by different acts of kindness and friendliness and by replying and responding to such acts similarly. On the other hand, in everyday life, a betrayal does not have to be a literal betrayal of someone but could also be a betrayal of confidence, trust, respect or decency. Importantly, life is not a series of disconnected, independent prisoner's dilemmas, but rather a sequence of interdependent "games" in a highly interconnected, social environment. Consequently, mutual cooperation may indeed be the most sustainable strategy and it may be wise to review the strategy for our daily prisoner's dilemmas. The important aspects that were identified by the prisoner's dilemma tournament - nice, retaliating and forgiving - seem like a very reasonable starting point for such an assessment.

However, personally, I do not really like to retaliate. I find it exhausting to constantly weight investments and returns in order to prevent being abused. For me, the cost of retaliating is so high that it already feels like a loss (but being constantly betrayed would of course be much more costly). Instead of just accepting being abused, I suggest one little twist and additional thought to the prisoner's dilemma: Retaliate repeated betrayal by refusing to play at all! By not playing, I deprive myself of a potential win, but interactions with repeat betrayers are mostly loosing games anyway. In such instances, if the probability of betrayal and consequential loss are high, not playing is the most beneficial strategy of all!

In the original prisoner's dilemma not playing is not an option, but in everyday life it certainly is. I can choose with whom to interact and whom to ignore. Of course, I do not suggest to stop playing at all. I am a strong advocate of nice, retaliating and forgiving as guiding principles for daily interactions. However, I do not only decide on HOW to interact, but also on whether I engage in an exchange at all. By choosing the games that I am playing, I try to dedicate my energy to cooperative environments and to avoid exhausting and combative people. For me, the best strategy to avoid loose-loose situations is to engage wholeheartedly in cooperative interactions and to try to avoid repeatedly negative interaction.

The conclusion of my thoughts on the prisoner's dilemma is thus that sometimes it is necessary to retaliate and that not playing is a strategy to avoid situations of repeated retaliation.

I wish you a nice weekend!

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A compensation for those who made it all the way to the end of this post: A mountainous light and shadow composition. I was fascinated by illuminated peaks in the back and the foreground, while the valley in between was in the shade. It was a short-lived scene that we observed from the little summit named Il Jalet, which can be reached on a short hike from the Ofenpass, in the Swiss National Park.

2013/02/23 by Unknown
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Carcolors 19: Red-blue-green-grey

Carcolors 19
Carcolors 19: I really like the different colors of this carcolor composition! The red at the bottom is the reflection of an apartment building, but the reminder of the frame is the mirror image of only one office building with a glassy facade. Depending on the viewing angle and the shape of the car body it appears blue, green or grey. All previous carcolor blog posts are found HERE and the photographs themselves can be seen in the Carcolors gallery

2013/02/22 by Unknown
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Diagonal blue, yellow and shadow

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I may be unconsciously longing for a vacation, since here is the third light & shadow composition in a row that was taken on our Corsica holiday. These photographs are good examples for the abundance of photography subjects even within the limited confines of a ferry from Bastia to Savona. These ferry light & shadow compositions also stand out among my other light & shadow photographs because they are much more colorful. More light & shadow posts are found HERE.

2013/02/20 by Unknown
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Tree silhouette 9: A confused larch

Tree silhouette 9
Tree silhouette 9: This European Larch must have been confused - why would it form such a tree top-like structure along its stem and not only at its top? If you are in Zurich, you can look out for this particular tree and its remarkable silhouette on the nice walk from the Uetliberg to Altstetten. If you like this tree silhouette, you may also enjoy my other tree silhouette posts or the tree silhouette gallery on Florian's photos.

2013/02/19 by Unknown
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Carcolors 18: Peace!

Carcolors 18
Carcolors 18: The ingredients for this carcolor composition are very simple: a shiny car, a bright blue summer sky, and a peace flag fluttering in the wind. Many more and different carcolor photographs are shown in my earlier carcolor blog posts as well as in the Carcolors gallery

2013/02/15 by Unknown
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Zigzag shadow on a boat

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Another Corsica or rather boat light & shadow composition. This photograph was taken on the ferry from Bastia, to Savona, in Italy. The composition may appear a little bit confusing. Do you know why the shadow of a straight handrail would throw a zigzag shadow? The photograph is not only a shadow, but also a reflection of a shadow! Only by looking exactly from the right angle the shadow and its reflection aligned to form this zigzag. More light & shadow posts are found HERE.

2013/02/13 by Unknown
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Tree silhouette 8: Weeping willow

Tree silhouette 8Trauerweide
Tree silhouette 8: Today's tree silhouette depicts a weeping willow (Salix babylonica in latin). It is a somewhat unusual silhouette, because some of the pendulous branches in the foreground were lit and appear white in this photograph. I quite like this effect, although I am not completely satisfied with the above composition. However, both the name of the tree and the fact that it contains salicylic acid, a chemical that is similar to aspirin, fit my general mood today. Also have a look at my other tree silhouette posts or at the tree silhouette gallery on Florian's photos.

2013/02/11 by Unknown
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Flora: Crocus corsicus - Corsican crocus - Korsischer Krokus

Since I have just shown two "peeks", a light and shadow composition and a tree silhouette, from Corsica, I decided to also highlight a corsican flower. The Corsican crocus is predestined for this purpose - it even bears "Corsica" in its name! Crocus corsicus is a beautiful spring flower that inhabits mountainous regions of Corsica and the southern neighbor Sardinia. Like the Bavarian gentian from the last flora text, it is also one of my beloved alpine plants.

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Different shades of purple,  bright yellow stigma and scarlet red stamen make the flowers of the Corsican crocus stand out and an attractive sight

The beautiful white and purple flowers of the Corsican crocus appear early in spring, when hardly any plant has yet grown. In this barren environment, these crocus flowers with their bright yellow stamen and scarlet red stigma appear even more impressive. Like all crocuses, the Corsican crocus is a cormous perennial plant, which means that it grows from an underground, swollen stem that serves as a storage organ. It looks almost like a bulb, but botanically it is distinct - a bulb is a short piece of plant stem that is surrounded by fleshy leaves, which form the bulb.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugThe outside of the Crocus corsicus flowers is whitish with dark purple stripes

As the name implies, Crocus corsicus inhabits higher elevations of the wonderful island Corsica. However, it occurs in many other places as well; maybe even your garden! Many of you certainly know crocuses as very common garden flowers that come in all kinds of colors and varieties. The Corsican crocus has also been cultivated since a long time and is an appreciated and attractive spring flower for your garden. It has even received a garden merit award from the Royal Horticultural Society and corms of the corsican crocus can be bought from numerous suppliers (for example HERE or HERE).

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugLike a white and purple crown - a flower of Crocus corsicus from the side

One last crocus note: Besides being popular garden plants, crocuses are famous for the world's most expensive spice saffron. Saffron is obtained from the stigma of the crocus species called Crocus sativus, the saffron crocus. One kilogram of the best saffron can easily cost as much as 10'000 $ (gold is much cheaper; currently it only costs about 1'700 $ per kilogram).

2013/02/07 by Unknown
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Carcolors 17: Not a butterfly

Carcolors 17
Carcolors 17: A carcolor composition that reminds me of butterfly wings. However, again it is just a shiny car that reflects a wall, blinds and a "no parking" road sign. The lacquering is rather peculiar. Did you notice all the shiny, tiny, colorful dots? The area in the foreground also looks interesting; as if the car paint was three dimensional - it was of course completely smooth. This photograph was taken at the same spot as carcolor composition 5, which was shown in one of the earlier carcolor blog posts and is now part of the extended Carcolors gallery

2013/02/04 by Unknown
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Tree silhouette 7: 2 (tiny) trees on the rocks

Tree silhouette 7
Tree silhouette 7: It is Corsica week! After the Light & shadow composition from earlier this week, here comes a tree silhouette from Corsica. My wife says it is a gorilla with "something" on its nose. I photographed this rock formation with the two tiny pine trees on our hike to the waterfall named Piscia di Gallo. I was underwhelmed by the waterfall itself, but pleasantly surprised by the landscape along the hike. Other tree silhouette posts are found HERE or in the tree silhouette gallery on Florian's photos.

2013/02/02 by Unknown
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