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12 tips for that perfect nature selfie that won't hurt anyone or anything.

Given some recent nature photo and selfie disasters, this is worth saying.

12 tips for that perfect nature selfie that won't hurt anyone or anything.

There are some basic things we all know need to be true if you want to elevate a selfie from "cool pic" to "truly epic."

Things like finding good light (nobody wants to see a washed-out ghost), putting your face in the top left or right of the frame (obey the rule of thirds!) and, for Pete's sake, show some emotion! Do you really want your Tinder pic to look like you're the most boring person on Earth?

And of course, if all else fails, get an awesome photo partner or background:



Bam. Bill Nye, President Barack Obama, and Neil deGrasse Tyson take a truly epic selfie. Image from The White House/Flickr.

However, there have been some ... upsetting ... examples in the news lately of people taking that last tip too far, especially when it comes to selfies with wild animals in the great outdoors.

So here are a few tips for taking selfies in the wild.

You know, so you can get your sweet profile pic without looking like a jerk on social media and/or accidentally murdering a helpless dolphin.

1. First of all, just don't mess around with wild animals.

800 pounds of leave it alone. Image from Bobisbob/Wikipedia.

Always respect an animal's personal (creatural?) space. Wild animals can be dangerous and unpredictable, but more than that, they are not our pets. They don't want to be touched. They want to be left alone.

2. So, no, you should not try to pose with a shark.

Instead of drawing attention to bad behavior, have an adorable little shark. Image from Jeff Kubina/Flickr.

Earlier this week, a Florida man found a shark stuck in the beach surf. Instead of letting it be or helping it return to deeper waters, he grabbed it by the tail and dragged it further up onto the sand for a photo op.

Dude. No. How about you just take a regular picture instead? I mean, it's a shark! It's already interesting without your face in the pictures as well.

3. You should not manhandle a peacock.

Image from boerge30/Pixabay.

Over the weekend, two peacocks died at a China's Yunnan Zoo after visitors picked them up and handled them roughly in their quest for a great photo op. They even plucked out the peacock's feathers as souvenirs! Come on, people! Zoo animals aren't pets! And you can buy a peacock feather at a craft store for like a dollar. Don't yank one out of a living creature.

What you SHOULD do is this: Wait for it to spread out that amazing tail fan and take a selfie with it in the background. Boom. Still you and a peacock in the same selfie, but this way you don't hurt it, and it doesn't hate you and die.

4. For the love of all that is good, leave the f**king dolphins in the water.

La Plata dolphins are so rare, we don't have many good pictures of them not being attacked by beachgoers. Instead, look at this happy bottlenose dolphin. Image from Claudia14/Pixabay.

Last week a group of ahem — asshats — and I call them that because the real term would get me banned from the Internet (yes, the entire Internet) killed a rare La Plata dolphin in Santa Teresita, Argentina, after removing it from the water and passing it around the beach so people could take selfies with it.

If they really wanted a picture of the rare animal, why not use an underwater camera instead? Or take a photo of it in the water swimming happily?

And it's not just animals that have been treated badly...

5. Sorry, friends, but nature is not improved by your initials or declarations of love.

Image from Jim Larrison/Flickr.

In fact, carving your name into trees and rocks can land you in a lot of hot water. Actress Vanessa Hudgens ("High School Musical," "Grease: Live") and her boyfriend are being investigated after posting Instagram pictures of their names carved into the rocks of the Coconino National Forest in Arizona.

Pro-tip, Vanessa: Next time you're looking for a way to proclaim your eternal love, do it in a Disney Channel musical rather than by permanently defacing nature.

This isn't the boyfriend, btw. Just a singy-twirly dude. GIF from "High School Musical 3."

Don't be like them. And don't be the person who is under investigation for painting random, poorly drawn faces in 10 different national parks, or like the guys who now have to pay fines and restitution after ruining an ancient rock formation (those guys got kicked out of the Boy Scouts, too — that's how serious of an offense this is).

So that's a bunch of don'ts. But what *can* you do to take better selfies in the wild?

6. Be respectful. Take photos from a distance.

The best way to take pictures of wild animals is usually from a distance, which is why real-life wildlife photographers often use long-distance telephoto lenses.

Which, by the way, you can now get for your phone.


Attachments like these add a fish-eye effect, but you can get long-distance lens too. Image from PolicyRocker15/Wikimedia Commons.

7. Make sure you have solid footing and aren't in danger.

You might think this piece of advice is self-explanatory or so obvious it goes without saying. But yet:

This is Hālona Blowhole in Hawaii.

Image from Napnet/Wikimedia Commons.

Incredible, isn't it?

As pretty as it is, it's already killed four people.

Image

Image from Umbris/Wikimedia Commons.

The blowhole is totally unpredictable, and the nearby ocean currents are legendarily strong, meaning many people have been swept out to sea while trying to score a sweet vacation snapshot.

No photo is worth dying for.

8. Instead, drink in the sights with your eyes and let Instagram take care of itself for a little while.

Image from Jaden Maru/Flickr.

9. That way you can appreciate Earth's amazing natural beauty.

Image from Adam Greig/Flickr.

10. Without annoying the wildlife or risking your own life.


Image from jsogo/Flickr.

11. Just remember to take your pics from a safe distance, and when you get home then you can get those sweet, sweet, Facebook likes.

Image from Wicker Paradise/Flickr.

(Or Reddit karma. Or retweets. Or Instagram double-taps. Or Snapchat replays.)

12. And if all else fails, there's always Photoshop.

Photomontage by Mmxx/Wikimedia Commons.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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