Mother’s Day Ideas


Yeah, I know Mother’s Day is still a good month or so off. But I’m trying to save your life with this blog post. I have far too often forgotten to think about Mother’s Day until the day itself is upon me and then I have to really scramble…if I don’t forget about the day entirely!

So, this weekend, I had promised my wife I’d take her to a flower/plant show. I have a hard time getting excited about plants. I just do. I can get excited about giant sequoias or redwoods, but other plants? Not really. I guess a Venus flytrap might be pretty interesting, but I’ve never had one for a “pet”. 

So, I found myself inside a building filled with people hawking plants and gardening supplies. I’m not sure, though, if there were more plants inside or more people. Not my cup of tea. 

But as we wandered around, I found a few things to photograph. One of them is today’s picture…but don’t ask me what this has to do with gardening. I was wandering rather aimlessly looking for photo opportunities and saw this display of pink tools. Pink toolboxes, pink hammers, pink screwdrivers, pink power tools, pink tool tote bags…and all I could think of was “Huh?”

But, maybe your wife would really love you to buy her a bunch of pink tools. What do you think? Nah, me neither. But at least I reminded you about Mother’s Day in time for you to get her something she’d really like.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: on April 10, 1866, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in New York City by philanthropist and diplomat Henry Bergh, 54.

In 1863, Bergh had been appointed by President Abraham Lincoln to a diplomatic post at the Russian court of Czar Alexander II. It was there that he was horrified to witness work horses beaten by their peasant drivers. En route back to America, a June 1865 visit to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in London awakened his determination to secure a charter not only to incorporate the ASPCA but to exercise the power to arrest and prosecute violators of the law.

Back in New York, Bergh pleaded on behalf of “these mute servants of mankind” at a February 8, 1866, meeting at Clinton Hall. He argued that protecting animals was an issue that crossed party lines and class boundaries. “This is a matter purely of conscience; it has no perplexing side issues,” he said. “It is a moral question in all its aspects.” The speech prompted a number of dignitaries to sign his “Declaration of the Rights of Animals.”

Bergh’s impassioned accounts of the horrors inflicted on animals convinced the New York State legislature to pass the charter incorporating the ASPCA on April 10, 1866. Nine days later, the first effective anti-cruelty law in the United States was passed, allowing the ASPCA to investigate complaints of animal cruelty and to make arrests.

Bergh was a hands-on reformer, becoming a familiar sight on the streets and in the courtrooms of New York. He regularly inspected slaughter houses, worked with police to close down dog- and rat-fighting pits and lectured in schools and to adult societies. In 1867, the ASPCA established and operated the nation’s first ambulance for horses.

As the pioneer and innovator of the humane movement, the ASPCA quickly became the model for more than 25 other humane organizations in the United States and Canada. And by the time Bergh died in 1888, 37 of the 38 states in the Union had passed anti-cruelty laws.

Bergh’s dramatic street rescues of mistreated horses and livestock served as a model for those trying to protect abused children. After Mary Ellen McCormack, 9, was found tied to a bed and brutally beaten by her foster parents in 1874, activists founded the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Bergh served as one of the group’s first vice presidents.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the English language originally delineated between women in different stages of life with the terms “maiden,” “mother,” and “crone.” A maiden referred to a young girl who was unmarried, a mother referred to a woman in her child-bearing years, and a crone described a post-menopausal woman.

Trying to trick your kids…and creepy trees…


Isn’t it interesting what we parents do to try to trick our kids?  We tell them that brussel sprouts taste good (that one is in the category of a lie to my way of thinking).  We do all sorts of things to get them to eat stuff that they don’t want to eat.  We bribe them to eat stuff, letting them know that they can stay up an extra half hour if they do, or that they can have a cookie after dinner if they eat all that green colored rabbit food (vegetables).

When our kids were little, they didn’t like broccoli for one thing…so we started calling them “pretty trees” so they’d maybe pretend to be giants and eat them.

Today’s tree isn’t so much “pretty” as rather sinister looking. I’d certainly never try to get my kid to eat it.  This tree was near Multnomah falls in Oregon.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1945, the Japanese battleship Yamato, ostensibly the greatest battleship in the world, was sunk in Japan’s first major counteroffensive in the struggle for Okinawa.

Weighing 72,800 tons and outfitted with nine 18.1-inch guns, the battleship Yamato was Japan’s only hope of destroying the Allied fleet off the coast of Okinawa. But insufficient air cover and fuel cursed the endeavor as a suicide mission. Struck by 19 American aerial torpedoes, it was sunk, drowning 2,498 of its crew.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During the first half of the twentieth century, Shanghai was the only port in the world to accept Jews fleeing the Holocaust without an entry visa.

City by the Bay


Have you ever been somewhere and said, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there”?  Well, that’s how I feel about San Francisco. It is a great place to visit, but I really, truly wouldn’t want to live there. I think, though, that could be said about any big city. I’m not a city person. I grew up for my first 8 years or so on a farm and have loved country life as long as I’ve been alive, so my desire to NOT live in San Francisco isn’t different than any other city, I guess.

I shot this photo a few weeks back from the top of Twin Peaks. I’d never been there before and my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter accompanied me to this place when they learned I’d never seen the view from there before. If memory serves, my daughter said that she and her husband went to the top of Twin Peaks on their first date…so it is a very special place for them.

Anyway, this view is looking somewhat northeast to the heart of the city with the bay and the east bay cities in the distance. It was quite windy and rather cold…but it was a delightful view. I hope to take my wife up there some day so she can see it, too.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1970, Sam Sheppard, a doctor convicted of murdering his pregnant wife in a trial that caused a media frenzy in the 1950s, died of liver failure. After a decade in prison, Sheppard was released following a re-trial. His story is rumored to have loosely inspired the television series and movie “The Fugitive.”

On July 4, 1954, Sheppard’s wife Marilyn was beaten to death in the couple’s Bay Village, Ohio, home. Sheppard, an osteopathic doctor, contended the “bushy-haired” attacker had beaten him as well. The Sheppards’ son slept through the murder in a bedroom down the hall. Sam Sheppard was arrested for murder and stood trial in the fall of 1954. The case generated massive media attention, and some members of the press were accused of supporting the perception that Sheppard was guilty. Prosecutors argued that Sheppard was motivated to kill his wife because he was cheating on her and wanted out of his marriage. In his defense, Sheppard’s attorney said his client had sustained serious injuries that could only have been inflicted by an intruder.

In December 1964, a jury convicted Sheppard of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison. However, after a decade behind bars, Sheppard’s new criminal defense attorney F. Lee Bailey convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to grant his client a new trial because he had been denied due process. At the second trial, Sheppard was found not guilty in November 1966. The case put Bailey on the map, and he went on to represent many high-profile clients, including the Boston Strangler, Patty Hearst and O.J. Simpson.

After being released from prison, Sheppard briefly returned to his medical career and later embarked on a short stint as a pro wrestler, going by the name “The Killer Sheppard.” No one else was ever charged for Marilyn Sheppard’s murder; in the late 1950s, however, a window washer named Richard Eberling, who had worked at the Sheppard house, came under suspicion when one of Marilyn’s rings was found in his possession. In the 1980s, Eberling was convicted of murdering another woman, and he died in prison. Sam Sheppard, who became a heavy drinker in the last years of his life, died of liver failure on April 6, 1970, at age 46. His son has made multiple attempts to clear Sheppard’s name, including unsuccessfully suing the government for wrongful imprisonment of his father in 2000.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Apple generated approximately $625 of revenue from each of the 40 million iPhones it sold in 2009. It generated $164 of revenue for every iPod sold, $1,279 for every Mac, and $665 for every iPad.


It Really Is Everywhere


There are few things that you can encounter wherever you go. Air tends to be one of them, but air is boring compared to love.

You can go into the darkest hell-holes on earth and you will still find love. A number of  years ago now, I was fortunate to travel to India in a trip with writers and publicists in order to understand more about the human trafficking problem in the world, and in particular India. We were there because a church had made a feature movie, Not Today, about the problem. We didn’t go to the Taj Mahal or the beautiful mountains on the Nepalese border…we went to slums in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai…to see the poverty, oppression and conditions for ourselves. It was an experience that I’ll never forget – nor do I want to forget it – I want it to stick with me for as long as I live. Each morning when I awaken in a comfortable bed with food and a shower awaiting me, I need to be reminded of what life is like in such places.

But you know what you find in those slums? You find love. Love of parent for child, of one spouse for another, for parents, for siblings, for neighbors and friends. You find love of a human for a pet, love of music, love of the sunshine and refreshing breeze. Love, you see, truly is everywhere because love doesn’t need perfect conditions to take root and grow. All it needs is a soft heart.

And so it was that on a recent morning while in Portland, Oregon, I was walking with my oldest son and we came across flowers laid out between the sidewalk and the street in the shape of a heart. Who put them there?  I don’t know. What, or who, were they in love with? I don’t know that, either – perhaps they were just in love with life. It doesn’t really matter, though, because wherever love is people can laugh and smile and hold one another closely. And that makes life – and love – worth it all.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: on this day in 1974, 148 tornadoes hit the United States heartland within 16 hours. By the time the deadly storm ended, 330 people had died. This was the largest grouping of tornadoes recorded in its time, affecting 11 states and Ontario, Canada. At any one moment during the storm, there were as many as 15 separate tornadoes touching the ground.

The storm began over the Ohio River Valley. The first twister hit Lincoln, Illinois, at about 2 p.m. and, within hours, others made landfall over a range of hundreds of miles across several states. The deadly storm did not end until early the next morning. In all, it caused 22 F4 tornadoes, with winds over 207 mph, and six F5 tornadoes, with winds over 261 mph.

The worst-hit location was Xenia, Ohio, where, with little warning of the impending catastrophe, 35 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured. It is believed that, had the tornado not hit after school had ended for the day, the casualties would have been far higher. In the aftermath, it took 200 trucks three months to haul away all the rubble in Xenia.

Brandenburg, Kentucky, was also badly hit. The town lost 31 people and 250 were seriously hurt. The entire downtown was demolished, causing many millions of dollars in damages. In Indiana, a school bus was pushed 400 feet off a road, killing the driver. The Tennessee Valley Authority suffered the worst damage to its power operations to that date.

In all, 50,000 people were directly impacted by the tornadoes. Six states were declared federal disaster areas. In response, many towns installed tornado-warning sirens in an effort to minimize future damage from deadly twisters.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In Holland’s embassy in Moscow, Russia, the staff noticed that the two Siamese cats kept meowing and clawing at the walls of the building. Their owners finally investigated, thinking they would find mice. Instead, they discovered microphones hidden by Russian spies. The cats heard the microphones when they turned on.



Prostrate in Portland


Most likely, at least if you’re old like me, you remember the movie Sleepless in Seattle, that starred Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. It was a cute movie…they’ve done several movies together and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

Well, this has nothing to do with that movie, but I needed some intro and thought Prostrate in Portland was a nice play on the Sleepless in Seattle format!

Wandering the street one day with my oldest son, not far from his home, we ran across this scene. I don’t know if there was ever any more to this sculpture or not, but I thought it looked like some angel in deep repose. Perhaps she just was wandering the neighborhood, too, and lay down to take a nap among the flowers.

Is it a medusa?  Minerva? Or just some Sally or Jane? I think she should have a name, don’t you?  So, suggestions, anyone?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1940, the German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis set off on a mission to catch and sink Allied merchant ships.

By the time the Atlantis set sail from Germany, the Allies had already lost more than 750,000 tons worth of shipping, the direct result of German submarine attacks. They had also lost another 281,000 tons because of mines, and 36,000 tons as the result of German air raids. The Germans had lost just eighteen submarines.

The Atlantis had been a merchant ship itself, but was converted to a commerce raider with six 5.9-inch guns, 93 mines ready to plant, and two aircraft fit for spying out Allied ships to sink. The Atlantis donned various disguises in order to integrate itself into any shipping milieu inconspicuously.

Commanded by Capt. Bernhard Rogge, the Atlantis roamed the Atlantic and Indian oceans. She sank a total of 22 merchant ships (146,000 tons in all) and proved a terror to the British Royal Navy. The Atlantis‘s career finally came to an end on November 22, 1941, when it was sunk by the British cruiser Devonshire as the German marauder was refueling a U-boat.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The British wear paper crowns while they eat Christmas dinner. The crowns are stored in a tube called a “Christmas cracker.”

Looking the Other Way


When one goes to Jerusalem, the obligatory photo that everyone takes is usually shot from the Mount of Olives looking westward toward the Old City. Why is that so popular? Because of the spectacular Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine that sits atop the temple mount with the amazing golden dome that seems to dominate the city. I took that shot, too, but often we get so caught up in the obvious that we miss looking around for other images. For example, today’s photo.

I took this photo from near the Dome of the Rock looking eastward, toward the Mount of Olives. What you see is a Jewish cemetery…and I’m told it is the largest one in the world. 

Yesterday, I shared a story about the Biblical Imagination tour we were on and how we were encouraged to imagine how things in the Bible came to be. This image wasn’t shot from the southern steps outside the walls of the old city that lead up to the temple mount, but one like it could have been taken there. Here’s the biblical connection:

The southern steps leading up to the temple mount were a very common place for rabbis to stop and teach their followers. It is almost a certainty that Jesus did that with his disciples. 

On one occasion, he spoke to his disciples and warned them to beware of the religious leaders who were like white washed tombs. It is quite possible that Jesus was looking across the Kidron valley to the Mount of Olives as he was saying those words. You see, to the Jews, passing through a cemetery made a person “unclean” – and if they were “unclean” they couldn’t come into the temple to worship. In order to prevent people from accidentally traveling through the cemetery that was on the Mount of Olives even in Jesus’ day, at times a white barrier was painted around the cemetery to warn pilgrims to avoid the place. 


The religious leaders, Jesus said, were hypocrites. The whiteness on the outside looked beautiful, it it held in all sorts of death and decay. I can easily imagine that Jesus was looking across the valley and saw that sort of view – a cemetery boundary painted white surrounding a bunch of graves full of death – when he describes the religious leaders.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1974, John Denver became a household name. Of his many enormous hits in the 1970s, none captured the essence of John Denver better than his first #1 song, “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” which reached the top of the pop charts on this day.

“Sunshine On My Shoulders” was John Denver’s attempt to write a sad song, which is really all one needs to know in order to understand what made Denver so appealing to so many. “I was so down I wanted to write a feeling-blue song,” he told Seventeen magazine in 1974, “[but] this is what came out.” Originally released on his 1971 album Poems, Prayers and Promises, Denver’s lovely ode to the restorative powers of sunlight only became a smash hit when re-released on his John Denvers Greatest Hits album in late 1973—an album that went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide.

It should come as no surprise that an artist who played such an enormous role in the softening of mainstream pop music in the 1970s would find little support from rock critics. “Television music” marked by “repellent narcissism” was Rolling Stone‘s take on Denver. “I find that sunshine makes me happy, too,” wrote Robert Christgau of The Village Voice, “[but] there’s more originality and spirit in Engelbert Humperdink.”

Such critical response did little to dampen public enthusiasm for Denver’s records during his heyday, however. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, John Denver has sold 32.5 million records—4.5 million more than Michael Bolton, and only 4.5 million fewer than Bob Dylan.

Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. on December 31, 1943, in Roswell, New Mexico, John Denver died in California on October 12, 1997, when the experimental ultra-light aircraft he was piloting crashed into Monterey Bay south of San Francisco.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: researchers believe the word “tabby” comes from Attabiyah, a neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq. Tabbies got their name because their striped coats resembled the famous wavy patterns in the silk produced in this city.

Moving Mountains


It seems so long ago that we were in Israel for vacation, but it really hasn’t been that long…less than 3 months, actually. But I’ve been very busy since then….and haven’t had a chance to shoot much since.

The tour we were on was called the “Biblical Imagination Tour” and somewhat focused on letting the stories of the Bible inform our imaginations for the things we saw and heard. 

In the New Testament, Jesus makes a statement to his followers about faith, and it goes something like this: “If you have enough faith,  you can say to this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it will be moved!”  (Paraphrasing there.)  Now where do you suppose he got the inspiration to make such a statement?

It is quite possible that as he was making this statement, he was looking in a southerly direction and could see the location of Herodium (which I’ve written about before). Today’s photo (taken on a hazy, overcast day) is a telephoto shot from Bethlehem (as I recall) looking toward the Herodium, which is located on top of the rightmost hill. But here’s where it gets interesting: King Herod was a stupendous builder – but also a brutal murderer who was intensely hated by the people he ruled – the residents of Israel. He had killed so many and was so intensely hated that just before he died, he commanded for 70 of the Jewish leaders be killed on the day he died so that someone would cry that day. The Roman emperor also made the statement, “I’d rather be Herod’s pig than his son. Herod would never kill a pig.” (Jews believed pigs were unclean and would not touch them…but Herod had killed sons by the time this statement was made.)

But, back to the picture and Jesus’ words. The hills didn’t always look like they do in the picture. In order to build the Herodium, which was on top of the right-most hill, Herod ordered his builders to “move” the mountain to the left to the one on the right so that it would be higher and so that the Herodium (a fortress/retreat) could be surrounded by dirt brought over from the mountain on the left.  So, it is quite likely that Jesus was looking at this scene and used what Herod had done to inspire his statement. 

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1951, a homemade device exploded at Grand Central Station in New York City, startling commuters but injuring no one. In the next few months, five more bombs were found at landmark sites around New York, including the public library. Authorities realized that this new wave of terrorist acts was the work of the Mad Bomber.

New York’s first experience with the so-called Mad Bomber was on November 16, 1940, when a pipe bomb was left in the Edison building with a note that read, “Con Edison crooks, this is for you.” More bombs were recovered in 1941, each more powerful than the last, until the Mad Bomber sent a note in December stating, “I will make no more bomb units for the duration of the war.” He went on to say that Con Edison, New York’s electric utility company, would be brought to justice in due time.

The patriotic Mad Bomber made good on his promise, although he did periodically send threatening notes to the press. After his flurry of activity in 1951, the Mad Bomber was silent until a bomb went off at Radio City Music Hall in 1954. In 1955, the Mad Bomber hit Grand Central Station, Macy’s, the RCA building and the Staten Island Ferry.

The police had no luck finding the Mad Bomber, but an investigative team working for Con Ed finally tracked him down. Looking through their employment records, they found that George Peter Metesky had been a disgruntled ex-employee since an accident in 1931. Metesky was enraged that Con Ed refused to pay disability benefits and resorted to terrorism as his revenge.

Metesky, a rather mild-mannered man, was found living with his sisters in Connecticut. He was sent to a mental institution in April 1957 where he stayed until his release in 1973.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake shifted the earth’s mass toward the center, causing the planet to spin faster and shortening the day by 1.6 microseconds. The 2004 Sumatra quake shorted the day by 6.8 microseconds.

Mystery solved! Or is it?


How many hours of sleep has this mystery caused since May 25, 1977? How many sleepless nights have people spent pondering this great unknown, trembling with fear and terror? Well, after reading my blog post today, you won’t have to contend with this particular fear again because the mystery is about to be SOLVED! I have discovered the answer…and because I’m in a generous mood, I’m going to share it with you! (You may send me frozen Snickers and Dr. Pepper out of gratitude if you wish!)

OK. I know precisely what you are thinking, and have been thinking, every since the first Star Wars movie. You have wondered what really happened to the Death Star. On screen it appears to be blown to smithereens, but deep in your heart you have had that nagging fear that it’s still out there somewhere, lurking in space, perhaps sneaking up on us by hiding behind our moon where we can’t see it. And one day, you fear, it will pop out from the dark side of the moon and blast us into oblivion.

Fear not! For I have found the Death Star and it is the subject of today’s blog post. I found the Death Star while walking down a sidewalk in Portland, OR last week with my oldest son. I certainly wasn’t trying to solve the mystery on that morning, but as we walked by a house – there it was – sitting right there in plain sight outside of a basement window. Imagine my surprise – and my delight to have the mystery solved.

But then, I began to wonder: it looked intact! Does that mean it could really still be functional? But then, I thought that it’s so small!!!!  It doesn’t look like it would be much of a threat to our planet so we didn’t need to be sleepless any more. And THAT’S when I began to be disillusioned. You see, I always thought it was HUGE, monstrous in fact. But it clearly isn’t very big at all. 

So, what’s my conclusion? Two things: 1) the Death Star still does exist and we have nothing to fear from it due to it’s small size, and 2) all those people who were in the movie must be very, very small to fit inside this thing. There you have it! (Don’t forget to send the frozen Snickers and Dr. Pepper!)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1820, U.S. Navy officer Stephen Decatur, hero of the Barbary Wars, was mortally wounded in a duel with disgraced Navy Commodore James Barron at Bladensburg, Maryland. Once friends, Decatur sat on the court-martial that suspended Barron from the Navy for five years in 1808 and later opposed his reinstatement, leading to a fatal quarrel between the two men.

Stephen Decatur was reared in the traditions of the sea and in 1798 joined the United States Navy as a midshipman aboard the new frigate, United States. That year, he saw action in the quasi-war with France and in 1799 was commissioned a lieutenant. Five years later, during the Tripolitan War, he was praised as the greatest American naval hero since John Paul Jones.

In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. Navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea in protest of continuing raids against U.S. ships by pirates from the Barbary states–Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania. Sustained action began in June 1803, and in October the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by gunboats. Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be used as a model for building future Tripolitan frigates, and on February 16, 1804, Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition into Tripoli harbor to destroy the captured vessel.

After disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force sailed into Tripoli harbor and boarded the Philadelphia, which was guarded by Tripolitans who were quickly overpowered by the Americans. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire. Famed British Admiral Horatio Nelson hailed the exploit as the “most bold and daring act of the age,” and Decatur was promoted to captain. In August 1804, Decatur returned to Tripoli Harbor as part of a larger American offensive and emerged as a hero again during the Battle of the Gunboats, which saw hand-to-hand combat between the Americans and the Tripolitans.

In 1807, Commodore James Barron, who fought alongside Decatur in the Tripolitan War, aroused controversy when he failed to resist a British attack on his flagship, the Chesapeake. Decatur sat on the court-martial that passed a verdict expelling Barron from the Navy for five years. This began the dispute between Decatur and Barron that would end 13 years later on the dueling grounds in Maryland.

In the War of 1812, Decatur distinguished himself again when, as commander of the USS United States, he captured the British ship of war Macedonian off the Madeira Islands. Barron, meanwhile, was overseas when his Navy expulsion ended in 1813 and did not return to the United States to fight in the ongoing war with England. This led to fresh criticism of Barron from Decatur, who later used his influence to prevent Barron’s reinstatement in the Navy.

In June 1815, Decatur returned to the Mediterranean to lead U.S. forces in the Algerian War, the second Barbary conflict. By December, Decatur forced the dey (military ruler) of Algiers to sign a peace treaty that ended American tribute to Algeria. Upon his return to the United States, he was honored at a banquet in which he made a very famous toast: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!”

Appointed to the Navy Board of Commissioners, Decatur arrived in Washington in 1816, where he became a prominent citizen and lived a satisfying life politically, economically, and socially. In 1818, however, dark clouds began to gather when he vocally opposed Barron’s reinstatement into the Navy. The already strained relations between the two men deteriorated, and in March 1820 Decatur agreed to Barron’s request to meet for a duel. Dueling, though frowned on, was still acceptable among Navy men. On March 22, at Bladensburg in Maryland, Decatur and Barron lifted their guns, fired, and each man hit his target. Decatur died several hours later in Washington, and the nation mourned the loss of the great naval hero. Barron recovered from his wounds and was reinstated into the Navy in 1821 with diminished rank.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Stephen Clarke holds the record for the world’s fastest pumpkin carving time: 24.03 seconds, smashing his previous record of 54.72 seconds. The rules of the competition state that the pumpkin must weigh less than 24 pounds and be carved in a traditional way, which requires at least eyes, nose, ears, and a mouth.


Too Busy…and No Excuses


Oh, my.  I’ve been so busy!  I’ve hardly had a chance to breathe, let alone shoot anything with my camera.  I am hoping to rectify that next week.  I’ll be traveling to the west coast again and if all goes according to plan, I will spend one day in the Portland, OR, area with my oldest son and we will explore together. I really am looking forward to being there and spending time with him and his family, and to shooting some photos again. It’s been far too long.

Busy never ends, does it?  If it isn’t work/work, it’s work at home, it’s busyness with family, church, it’s taking care of chores, etc. But you know what? Those things feed the body and keep the roof over your head, but they don’t do much to feed the soul and rejuvenate us. We need re-creation to help keep us young. We need to take time to stop and appreciate beauty and wonder that is all around us.

Today’s photo was taken in Jerusalem inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Scattered throughout the massive structure are numerous! It seems that every time you turn around you can see some sort of niche. The interior of the church is dark, so the lighting in the niches only serves to increase the sense of mystery, wonder and beauty. While we were there on vacation I had nothing to do but relax and take it all that my eyes were seeing and my ears were hearing. I’m ready to go back again!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1885, the Kansas legislature passed a law barring Texas cattle from the state between March 1 and December 1, the latest action reflecting the love-hate relationship between Kansas and the cattle industry.

Texans had adopted the practice of driving cattle northward to railheads in Kansas shortly after the Civil War. From 1867 to 1871, the most popular route was the legendary Chisholm Trail that ran from San Antonio to Abilene, Kansas. Attracted by the profits to be made providing supplies to ranchers and a good time to trail-weary cowboys, other struggling Kansas frontier towns maneuvered to attract the Texas cattle herds. Dodge City, Caldwell, Ellsworth, Hays, and Newton competed with Abilene to be the top “Cow Town” of Kansas.

As Kansas lost some of its Wild West frontier edge, though, the cowboys and their cattle became less attractive. Upstanding town residents anxious to attract investment capital and nurture local businesses became increasingly impatient with rowdy young cowboys and their messy cattle. The new Kansas farmers who were systematically dividing the open range into neat rectangles of crops were even less fond of the cattle herds. Although the cowboys attempted to respect farm boundaries, stray cattle often wreaked havoc with farmers’ crops. “There was scarcely a day when we didn’t have a row with some settler,” reported one cowboy.

Recognizing that the future of the state was in agriculture, the Kansas legislature attempted to restrict the movement of Texas cattle. In 1869, the legislature excluded cattle entirely from the east-central part of the state, where farmers were settling most quickly. Complaints from farmers that the Texas cattle were giving their valuable dairy cows tick fever and hoof-and-mouth disease eventually led to even tighter controls. On this day in 1885, the Kansas legislature enacted a strict quarantine. The quarantine closed all of Kansas to Texan cattle for all but the winter months of December, January, and February-the time of the year when the diseases were not as prevalent.

These laws signaled the end of the Kansas role in the Texas cattle industry. The open range was rapidly closing, hemmed in by miles and miles of barbed wire fence. With the extension of rail lines into Texas itself, the reason for making the long drives north to Kansas began to disappear by the late 1880s anyway. The Kansas quarantine laws became irrelevant as most Texans could more easily ship cattle via railheads in their own states.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Star Trek (2009) is the first time Lt. Uhura has been given a name on screen, “Nyota,” though she is referred to as Nyota in the DC comics’ “Who’s Who in Star Trek.”

Smile for the Camera


Meet Smiley. Well, this beast’s name isn’t really Smiley…it’s Big Al (get it, “Al” for alligator?!?!?!)  While there are some animals in Noah’s Ark in Georgia that you can pet, Big Al is not counted among that number. Why? If you have to ask that question you probably never finished kindergarten, but just in case, it’s because, well, he’s an alligator, that’s why! And even though Big Al seems to have a smile on his face, it’s not because he’s thinking warm and fuzzy thoughts of how he’d like to play with you…it’s because he’s thinking how delicious your arm would taste.

How do I know that? Well, I speak alligator. No, not really, although I’m sure he’s more than willing to sample your arm, or your leg, or your hand or foot.  In reality, it’s just the way they look. But I like my musings more.

I had to get very close to get this shot…risking life and limb to bring you this encounter with a predator. That’s why I shot it with my 300mm telephoto. No way was I going to get closer than I had to with this rascal!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1944, Hannah Reitsch, the first female test pilot in the world, suggested the creation of the Nazi equivalent of a kamikaze squad of suicide bombers while visiting Adolf Hitler in Berchtesgaden. Hitler was less than enthusiastic about the idea.

Reitsch was born in 1912 in Hirschberg, Germany. She left medical school (she had wanted to be a missionary doctor) to take up flying full time, and became an expert glider pilot. In addition to gaining experience with gliders, Reitsch also did stunt flying for movies. In 1934, she broke the world’s altitude record for women (9,184 feet). An ardent Nazi and admirer of Hitler, she was made an honorary flight captain by the Fuhrer, the first woman to receive such an honor. In 1937, the Luftwaffe, the German air force, put her to work as a test pilot. Reitsch embraced this opportunity to fly as part of what she called Germany’s “guardians of the portals of peace.”

Reitsch came closer than any other woman to seeing actual combat during World War II, depositing German troops along the Maginot Line in France during the Germans’ 1940 invasion by glider plane. She won an Iron Cross, Second Class, for risking her life trying to cut British barrage-balloon cables (the balloons were unmanned blimps, tethered in one place, from which steel cables dangled so as to foul the wings and propellers of enemy aircraft). Among the warplanes she tested was the Messerschmitt 163, a rocket-power interceptor that she flew 500 mph. While testing the ME 163 a fifth time, she spun out of control and crash-landed (even though she was injured during the crash, she nevertheless managed to write down exactly what happened before she passed out from her injuries). For this, Hitler awarded her an Iron Cross, First Class.

It was while receiving this second Iron Cross from Hitler in Berchtesgaden in 1944 that she pitched the idea of a Luftwaffe suicide squad of pilots who would fly specially designed versions of the V-1. Hitler was initially put off by the idea, only because he did not think it an effective or efficient use of resources. But Reitsch’s commitment persuaded him to investigate the prospect of designing such planes, at which point she put together a Suicide Group and was the first to take the following pledge: “I hereby…voluntarily apply to be enrolled in the suicide group as a pilot of a human glider-bomb. I fully understand that employment in this capacity will entail my own death.” The squad was never deployed.

Reitsch was one of the last people to see Hitler alive. On April 26, 1945, she flew to Berlin with Gen. Ritter von Greim, who was to be given command of the Luftwaffe. Greim was wounded when Reitsch’s plane was hit by Soviet antiaircraft fire. After saying farewell to the Fuhrer, tucked away in his bunker, she flew Greim back out of Berlin.

After the war, Reitsch was captured and interned by the U.S. Army. She testified to the “disintegration” of Hitler’s personality that she claimed to have witnessed during the last days of the war. When released, Reitsch continued to set records, including becoming the first woman to fly a glider over the Alps. In 1951, she published her autobiography, Flying Is My Life, and from 1962 to 1966 she was director of the national school of gliding in Ghana. She died in 1979, at 65 years old, only one year after setting a new women’s glider distance record. In her career, she set more than 40 world records for flying powered and motorless planes.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  During WWI, dogs were used as messengers and carried orders to the front lines in capsules attached to their bodies. Dogs were also used to lay down telegraph wires.


Pictures and Thoughts from a Day in Galen Dalrymple's Life


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