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Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Photograph Something New.

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I’m always fascinated by Cee’s Fun Photo Challenges, and this one from November just made me think, so I decided to give it another go.  Here are the photos I took this week when I visited the Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

 

Backlit photo of the Buffalo Soldier statue.
Backlit photo of the Buffalo Soldier statue.
The entrance to Ft. Leavenworth's Buffalo Soldier Monument.
The entrance to Ft. Leavenworth’s Buffalo Soldier Monument.
Another view of the statue.
Another view of the statue.

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Changing Seasons

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This week’s photo challenge is Changing Seasons; and, I’ve found no place more convenient for watching the season’s change than my own backyard.  My house looks out over a forested park and I can watch the seasons change from day to day, from the change in the colors of the foliage, to the presence or absence of animals that inhabit the large forest that serves as my backyard.

The leaves have almost all fallen, creating a carpet of golden grown in which the naked trees stand like lonely sentinels.
The leaves have almost all fallen, creating a carpet of golden grown in which the naked trees stand like lonely sentinels.
As winter approaches, the deer come out of the deep forest looking for food.
As winter approaches, the deer come out of the deep forest looking for food.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflection

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Check out the Weekly Photo Challenge at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/reflections/#more-12064.  Here’s my interpretation of this challenge.

 

Bird in the Water

"Lunar landscape"
The silver of the moon against a stygian sky; what more needs to be said?
In Naples for a conference, I took an early morning walk and caught this image of a boatsman out fishing.
In Naples for a conference, I took an early morning walk and caught this image of a boatsman out fishing.

Walking With Lions – You’re Kidding, Right?

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An article I did recently for Tour and Travel News.  Read here.

 

White tail deer

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White tail deer by CharlesRay2010
White tail deer, a photo by CharlesRay2010 on Flickr.

Travel Theme: Liquid

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"Victoria Falls"Our earth is made up mostly of water – there’s liquid all around us.  Over at Where’s My Backpack they’ve set a challenge to show liquid with your photos.  With water all around us, that shouldn’t be difficult.

"The Atlantic Ocean from Tenerife"
A view of the Atlantic Ocean from the window of my hotel room in Tenerife.
"Stone and Water"
Patterns in the surf

"Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe"

"Crocodile"
Sometimes that liquid element contains danger.
"Hippo in the Water"
Sometimes it holds mysteries.

"Reflections of Giraffes in the Water"

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Engage Boys – Empower Girls

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I Survived Black Friday – Now, I Have to Make it Through Gray Saturday

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Friday (Rebecca Black song)
Friday (Rebecca Black song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to start this post by making it abundantly clear – I HATE SHOPPING!  And, by that, I don’t mean just Black Friday, although it has a special place on my list of things I detest, but shopping any time.  When I need to buy something, if I can’t find it on the Internet, I make a list, research the stores that have what I need at the price I’m willing to pay, go to the store, enter, buy, and get the hell out as fast as I can.

Having said that, this year, my wife finally discovered Black Friday, and wanted to know what all the hype was about.  All day on Thanksgiving, she threatened to wake me up at oh-dark-thirty Friday and drag me to the nearest shopping mall to join the mob.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well Thursday night, and the lobster, turkey, and all the other goodies I wolfed down had nothing to do with it.

I got up yesterday at my usual time, 6:30, and made my breakfast.  As usual, I tippy-toed around the house, hoping I wouldn’t wake my better half up; she likes to sleep in and hates eating breakfast except on weekends.  At 10:30, her usual wake-up time, I breathed a sigh of relief when she got up, did her shower and makeup, and plunked herself down in front of the TV with a cup of coffee to catch her favorite Korean soap opera.  At noon, she pried herself away long enough to make two bowls of noodles for our lunch, and went back to the afternoon news shows.  Never a word about Black Friday shopping; could I be that lucky, I wondered.

I didn’t really relax until six in the evening. All day, she’d not said a word about going shopping, and it was now time for her favorite evening shows to start.  No way she misses them unless the house is on fire, and even then I wonder.

But, we went to bed last night, and not once did she say anything about shopping.  So, I was able to get a bit of writing done – starting the editing phase of my NaNoWriMo entry, which is a lot of work and requires the ability to focus.  Of course, now I have to worry about whether or not she’ll decide to see what’s left on the shelves the day after Black Friday – a day I’ve taken to calling Gray Saturday for the somber mood of everyone who went through the torture yesterday, and the appearance of the stores with shelves nearly bare from the scourge of locust-like shoppers yesterday.

I’m a bit happier, though, after looking at the sky.  It’s a grey day here in suburban Montgomery County, Maryland.  The wind blew hard last night, dumping tons of leaves on our recently raked lawn, so instead of shopping, I’ll get my afternoon exercise moving leaves from the grass to the tree line behind our house.  That I don’t mind; it’s a good way to stretch the muscles after sitting here at the computer for several hours, and it’ll set me up for a late night writing session.  I might start my new Chronicle of Pip of Pandara book tonight.  Or, maybe I’ll do some more sketches for planned projects.  What I won’t be doing, folks, is shopping.

"Becca Forgot to Be Funny"

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

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Having an owner – and, one often wonders in the dog-human relationship just who the ‘owner is – is definitely something to be thankful for.

 

"Waiting for my human"

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Colorful Monotone

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Whether it’s natural or man-made, a monochromatic scene can be restful and dramatic at the same time.  Here are some of my one-color dominant photos to illustrate.

"The ocean blue"
The soothing blue of the Atlantic Ocean off Tenerife.

 

"The beach at evening"
As the sun sets on the beach at Tenerife, everything takes on different shades of blue, fading into purple.

 

"Flamenco Dancer"
The golden dress of this Flamenco dancer dominates the scene.
"Guinea fowl"
The regal green of this guinea fowl against the peaceful green of the grass.

 

"Lunar landscape"
The silver of the moon against a Stygian sky; what more needs to be said?
"The Kalahari Desert"
Brown grass in the Kalahari Desert, South Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

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Green can mean a lot of things; new growth, peacefulness, jealousy.  Here are some of my photos that symbolize green to me.

"Greenery around a castle"
The lush foliage around Nesbit’s Castle Inn in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe always reminds me of spring.
"Racing on a grass track"
Coming around the turn on the grass track at Borrowdale Race Course, Harare, Zimbabwe
"Mbare High School Marchers"
These young girls from a Mbare, Zimbabwe marching group look resplendent in their green and white uniforms.
"Victoria Falls"
The mist of Victoria Falls beyond the savannah, seen from Elephant Hills Lodge.
"Going for the green"
Making an approach to the green at Elephant Hills Golf Course over a heard of antelope.
"Guinea Fowl"
A guinea fowl with bright green plumage.
"Search and Rescue"
An Air Force search and rescue helicopter flying over a lake in Arizona.
"Vietnam Memorial Wall"
In a peaceful green setting, this stark black memorial honors all who died in Vietnam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get More Out of Your Blogging

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If  you want to know how to get more out of your blogging, read this article.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

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Want to try your hand at the Weekly Photo Challenge?  Here’s my shot at portraying Renewal.

"Renewal"
Nothing says renewal like a brilliant white blossom set in a bed of green.

Red and Blue: The Colors of American Politics

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Colors have meaning.

The color red is the color of fire and blood; it is associated with energy, danger, war, strength, power, passion, and determination.  A very emotional color, red increases respiration rate and raises blood pressure.  It is used as an accent color to stimulate quick decisions, and is widely associated with danger.  The color blue, on the other hand, is the sky and sea, and is strongly associated with tranquility and calmness.  In heraldry, blue is used to symbolize piety and sincerity, and is linked to consciousness and intellect. Its association with depth, expertise, and stability makes it the preferred color for corporations in America.

Now, none of this has any real connection with what I’m writing, except for the fact that political pundits have chosen to use the colors red and blue to symbolize America’s political divide; with red representing the conservative, right-leaning regions of the country, and blue for the liberal areas.

Everyone in America by now has had enough political commentary, and, if you’re like me, just looking forward to the holidays so they can stuff themselves to the hairline with turkey and all the trimmings and vegetate on the couch watching the football games.  So, I promise that this is the last political screed you will see from me until the next mid-term elections two years from now.

If you haven’t seen the maps showing the results of the just-completed election, though, you might find it interesting to see how the color spectrum came out.  The red states, all 24 of them, sit squarely astride the middle of the country for the most part, like a big scarlet gash, splitting the country roughly in half.  This means that the president will have an uphill battle getting any kind of consensus during his second administration. President Obama’s support among religious groups varied, with white evangelicals and weekly churchgoers opting for his opponent in large numbers.

What I found interesting about the election results was the identity of those states that, despite being in America’s heartland, swung so far to the right.  Some were not too surprising, but a couple defied what I would have predicted.  This list shows the percentages who voted for each candidate, with the spread shown in parentheses.  They are presented here for readers to draw their own conclusions.

Utah   Romney-72.9  Obama-24.9 (47.7)

Wyoming  Romney-69.3  Obama-28.0 (41.3)

Idaho  Romney-66.5  Obama-32.6 (33.9)

Oklahoma  Romney-66.8  Obama-33.2 (33.6)

West Virginia  Romney-62.3  Obama-33.5 (26.8)

Arkansas  Romney-60.5  Obama-36.9 (23.6)

Nebraska  Romney-60.5  Obama-37.8 (22.7)

Kentucky  Romney-60.5  Obama-37.8 (22.7)

Alabama  Romney-60.7  Obama-38.4 (22.3)

Kansas  Romney-60  Obama-37.8 (22.2)

Tennessee  Romney-59.5  Obama-39 (20.5)

North Dakota  Romney-58.7  Obama-38.9 (19.8)

Louisiana  Romney-57.8  Obama-40.6 (17.2)

South Dakota  Romney-57.9  Obama-39.9 (16)

Texas  Romney-57.2  Obama-41.4 (15.8)

Montana  Romney-53.3  Obama-41.8 (13.5)

Alaska  Romney-55  Obama-41.6 (13.4)

Mississippi  Romney-55.4  Obama-43.6 (11.8)

Arizona  Romney-54.8  Obama-43.6 (11.2)

South Carolina  Romney-54.6  Obama-44 (10.6)

Missouri  Romney-53.9  Obama-44.3 (8.6)

Georgia  Romney-53.4  Obama-45.4 (8)

North Carolina  Romney-50.6  Obama-48.4 (2.2)

At this writing, the outcome in Florida has yet to be determined, but President Obama has a 6% lead so far.

The Election’s Over – But, the Politics Has Just Begun

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The election is over, and most of the ballots have been counted. It doesn’t matter, though, because enough ballots have been counted and certified to let us know who won the election except for a few local races that are still being adjudicated. Barack Obama is back in the White House for four more years, the Democrats retained control of the Senate with a slight increase in their majority, and the Republicans kept the House of Representatives, although, thankfully, a few of the nuttiest Tea Party representatives got sent home packing.

The winners have made gracious acceptance speeches, complimenting their opponents for their ‘active’ campaigns, and the losers have made even more gracious concession speeches, promising to work with their victorious opponents. That’s what we’ve seen on the surface, but my more than 50 years in and around Washington, DC and the other focal points of our government tells me that the reality is different from what we see.

The winners probably did victory laps around their hotel rooms, with lots of fist pumping and high-fiving of supporters. The losers, on the other hand, were probably snarling at the TV screen as they gulped down something strong to ease the sting of defeat, and instead of trying to figure out why the majority of American voters rejected them, are plotting to throw spanners in the way of the winners at every opportunity, and how to come up with a better spiel to sell us their snake oil next time out.

Let’s face it, we Americans are all about winning. We talk about being good losers and good winners, but in fact, we’re neither. We gloat when we win and plot and make excuses when we lose, and politicians are better or worse at it than the average guy, believe me. Just watch if you don’t believe me. The Republican-controlled House, despite Romney’s call for reaching across the aisle, will continue to block almost every initiative coming out of this Democratic administration, and the Senate will, for the most part, continue to be split along partisan lines.

If I’m wrong about this, I’ll be happy to eat my hat.

"I Voted"
Many people proudly displayed their “I Voted” buttons even the day after the election.

Hiking the Shenandoah Hills – It Hurts and Feels Good at the Same Time

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I recently let my wife talk me into going mountain climbing with her and some of her Korean friends.  Read more here.

"Hiking the Shenandoah"
My wife, Myung (r) and one of her friends with my ‘true’ friends, two bottles of ‘makoli,’ or Korean rice beer. That made the climb worth it.

Why I Think I Believe in Miracles

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I’m not an especially religious person.  I was asked to leave my mother’s church when I was 12 or 13 because of my infuriating tendency – – in the eyes of the southern Baptists in my home town – – to question everything.  After deciding at that tender age that the Baptist faith was too confining and narrow minded, I tried a lot of religions and cults, even flirted with the idea of atheism, decided I was really agnostic (read undecided) and that Buddhism was the philosophy of life most closely attuned to my personality.

I’ve never questioned the possible existence of a supreme being or some higher consciousness in the universe, I’m must not sure of its nature.  When I was in Vietnam in 1968, though, I witnessed a situation that leaves a lot of unanswered questions, but also confirmed my middle of the road philosophy.

I was in an outfit that did behind the lines recon missions; a highly dangerous undertaking as the enemy knows you’re out there snooping around, and doesn’t much like it.  One of our teams, while on a mission, was attacked and one of the members got separated from all the others.  Poor guy wandered around the jungle for four days, occasionally encountering VC or NVA soldiers, including one incident when he and an NVA guy were on opposite banks of a stream getting water.  Funny thing is, being out there all alone, wandering around like a lost sheep, he was never shot at.  The guy at the stream just stared at him for a few minutes, nodded, got up and walked away.

We finally stumbled across him with a search team; or maybe he stumbled into them.  Weary, hungry, and befuddled, he was otherwise unharmed.  The whole thing, though, set me to thinking.  I still wasn’t sure about the whole God thing, but the fact that this guy, with his dark skin, round eyes, and tightly curly hair had survived that long in enemy territory when the bad guys had a bounty on the heads of each of our recon guys, made me think that there was such a thing as miracles.  Who or what generated them, I wasn’t sure, and it didn’t really matter.  What it did for me was to peel away any cynicism I’d been coated in, and leave me open to the possibility of good things happening even when conventional wisdom says you’re screwed.