Ending 2012 with a beautiful drive across the USA

It’s been an amazing year. 2012 has brought new friends, beautiful travels, the loss of good friends, the birth of little Mesles, exciting work, and many other ventures. The list goes on. After a wonderful visit to see friends and family for the holidays in Kansas City, Jake and I drove back to California with the puppies in tow. What did we decide to throw into our road trip? A visit to the Grand Canyon, of course.

Yavapai Point at the Grand Canyon

As we arrived back in California, we trekked through the Mojave Desert to round out our adventure through the southwest.

Mojave Desert

We miss our friends and family back in the midwest, but we are excited to be back home in sunny California. Tonight, we will celebrate with friends and family in San Rafael, and count the many good times we had in 2012.

Have a Happy New Year!

One Orchid–Three Images

My holiday decorations are not complete without orchids.  This year I bought my orchids from Bird’s Botanical, a family owned business located in the caves at I-435 & 23rd Street, in Independence, Mo.  Only open for business on Tuesdays, it is an adventure just to be there.  The orchids run the gamut of colors, shapes and sizes.

I thought it would be fun to photograph this particularly interesting bloom.  Relying on my D 5100 Nikon and my Tamron zoom lens, I took a number of shots using flash, long exposures, short exposures, and “Auto”, as well as taking photographs from a variety of different angles.  In picking from all of the photographs, I eliminated some because they were blurred, over exposed, under exposed, or just bad.  I finally decided to show you three.  They seemed to me to make the cold winter day a little less dreary.

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May your new year be as lovely as this flower.

Great Wall Art For A Winter’s Day

Meg is gone.  Tough day.  Need to have some fun.  Drove down Troost in Mid-Town Kansas City.  Found wonderful art on the wall at the Kansas City Urban Youth Center.  I don’t know anything about the Center, but they have great art on their walls.  It made my day a little brighter.  Hope it does for you as well.

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Graffiti and wall art add color and life to our city streets. They are very much a part of the culture of our urban community. The artists deserve to be acknowledged.  But even  more, they deserve a wider audience.

Best Holiday Wishes From Our Family To Yours

Christmas is here!  It is a day for family and for celebration.  It is one of my favorite days of the year.  It is an especially happy holiday for us because all four generations of our family will share it together.

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During Meg and Jake’s two-week visit, Christmas begins like every other day.  Feeding three hungry dogs! But immediately after breakfast, we opened their collective sock.  They were excited by the smell of doggie treats and each received an individual toy.  Of course the toys immediately moved from dog to dog as they picked the toy that fit their unique canine personalities.

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The rest of the day is for human family.  We are really excited about seeing everyone, including meeting Parker, the one member of the family we have not yet had the pleasure of meeting.

We hope your day is as joyful as ours.  Have a truly wonderful Christmas holiday!

Ann and Meg

The Clouds Before the Storm

These are from our drive through Wyoming just a few days ago. We somehow slipped through a little crack in the storm in order to avoid the worst of the weather, but the clouds were beautiful, especially with the mountain background.

Here comes the snow in Wyoming!

More snow and clouds in the mountains of Wyoming

It’s definitely winter, and the holidays are just around the corner!

Good Morning, Fallon

I’ve made a few trips to Fallon, NV recently. It’s a small town of about 10,000 people in the western part of Nevada, about an hour away from Reno. My favorite thing about Fallon is the warmth and generosity of its people. Every time I walk into a coffee shop or grocery store, I have a wonderful conversation with a complete stranger. Fallon is also home to the “Top Gun” training program for the Navy, so it has a fascinating mix of people.

Here are a few shots of the morning view on my way out of Fallon during my most recent visit. The mountains and clouds were beautiful, and I saw the first of many trains that day.


Mountains in the morning, north of Fallon on Hwy 95

Train along BNSF tracks, where Hwy 95 meets I-80

Good Morning Fallon

Have a great day!

Jake Hodge Is 29 Today!!

IMG_0009It’s Jake’s birthday.  Jake, Meg and the dogs are driving between Wyoming and Nebraska on their way to Kansas City for the holidays.  At last report, they have stayed just ahead of bad weather.  It is a tough way to spend a birthday–driving across country with two greyhounds in the middle of winter.

Jake, we all wish you a great birthday. IMG_2042 Terry, Laura and Sophia send their love from Amsterdam Terry is visiting to be with Sophia for her 3rd birthday party tomorrow.

My dad, Sherry and Bill, Jon, Dana and Caroline all wish you a happy birthday.

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I know you seem to work non-stop.  But you and Meg do have the benefit of those gorgeous California weekends to compensate for the hard work.

Have a wonderful birthday and arrive here safely.

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Love from all of us.

Want To Give A Rare And Precious Gift? How About A Trip To Cuba!

Do you want to give someone special a rare and precious gift this holiday?  What about a trip to Cuba, as it is, right now?   With all its blight, poverty and estrangement from the U.S., it is still on my list of “best trips” for the traveler, the historian, the photographer or the beach lover.

Havana is a city rich in culture, but lacking even a pretense of urban renewal.  So the question you may ask, is, why visit now?  Because change is inevitable, and when that change happens, this rare opportunity to see it as it is, with all its blemishes, will be lost forever.

The blight and poverty are real, but Cuba’s beauty will haunt you:

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And the beaches, on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean, stretch on and on and on.  Miles and miles of some of the most beautiful beaches you will ever see, on the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean.

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My recommendation to any world travelers who read our blog: travel to Cuba now.  It is only miles from our shores.  The people are friendly, the climate is perfect, and despite occasional reminders that we are “the imperialists”, the Cuban people and the Cuban government seem to welcome us with open arms.

If you’ve run out of ideas for holiday gifts, what about a visit to the most exotic destination within a one hour flight from our shores?  Cuba!

Madam Secretary: Hillary Clinton

great_seal_136_1There is a line in the movie The American President, in which Michael Douglas, in his role as President of the United States, explains to his nemesis, that “…being President of this country…is entirely about character.”  As I have studied the three women who have served in the position of Secretary of State, I have come away with the belief that each of these women have proven the quality of their character throughout their careers.  I have written a bit about Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice.  As Hillary Clinton [1] ends her years of service as Secretary of State, I decided to write about her.

A contender for the Presidency in 2012, Secretary Clinton’s years as Secretary of State have only enhanced her credentials.  Will she be a candidate for President in 2016?  Who knows.  Too early to talk about it you say?  Maybe, but in her final days as Secretary, she is providing us the opportunity to understand even more fully her own personal values and priorities without the constraints of  being President Clinton’s “first lady” or President Obama’s ambassador to the world.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is one of the world’s most influential leaders. [2]  As we consider Secretary Clinton’s character, there is no better vehicle to study her character than in her December 6, 2012, in Dublin Ireland. Want to understand more about the nature of her character?  This speech is a good start.

There are other speeches where she has established her tenacity, her force of will in fighting for peace and in support of U.S. policies throughout the world. But her speech in Ireland [3] focus is less on any single  country or international crisis than on a description of her philosophy of international relations and impediments to healthy governments.

She begins by complimenting her host nation, and describes the important role of Ireland in the creation of the United States.  She continues by describing her belief that human rights is essential to healthy world governments and should be a goal for the 21st century. She describes human rights as “the God-given entitlement of every person”.

Secretary Clinton describes herself as both an idealist and a realist.  She recognizes that in the face of global economic challenges and preventing terrorism concerns about human rights seem to be easily set aside as secondary issues.  Recognizing that temptation, she believes, instead, that respect for human rights is central to building strong relationships and alliances and supporting societies that are stable and economically strong.

At Dublin, Clinton sets forth what she considers to be the most critical human rights issues of the 21st century as follows:

1)  Religious Freedom and the Rights of Religious Minorities–She reminds us that societies are strongest when they deliver justice not just to the powerful, but also the most vulnerable.  She identifies, in particularly the Middle East and North Africa as regions in which governments have been particularly subject to pressure for real democratic change, to a significant extent as a result of their intolerance for the rights and beliefs of religious minorities. [4]

2)  Internet Freedom–Perhaps not surprisingly, she identifies the internet as a major vehicle for criticism and expression that is particularly susceptible to censorship.  She describes her hope that the internet, symbolic of the right to freedom of expression and thought, can become a means of positive communication between leaders and their people rather than a target for a deepening spiral of repression by leaders angry–or feeling vulnerable–as a result of internet protests.  But she also describes ways in which government actions blocking and shutting down communication on the internet–particularly as to tweets, blogs, and even internet underground news sources–have had a brutal impact on dissidents.

3)  The Role of Civil Society–In many ways, her identification of “civil society” actually incorporates each of the three other priorities identified in her speech.  She believes that the United States’ economic and security interest in helping  tilt what she calls “states in the balance” toward accountable institutions with protections for human rights, rule of law, and democratic governance.  She believes that Instead of focusing only on the compassionate aspects of expanding civil society, civil, stable governments offer greater opportunities for new economic markets.  In contrast, she describes why governments  lacking a civil society, are subject to greater risks of instability and increased risk of inflaming global terrorism.

4)  Respect for the Human Rights of Women and Girls–Rather than identifying women’s rights as secondary to the greater issues of human rights, she considers the treatment of females to be “the unfinished business of the 21st century”.  She describes the brutal treatment of women in areas of the world where they are denied health care, an education, and who suffer the violence of female genital mutilation, virtual slavery, victimization through honor crimes.  She grieves over the forced marriages, often at very early ages, of girls who have no protection from the whims of the men around them.  She describes in particular the Pakistani girl, Malala, [4], shot in the head solely because she spoke out for the rights of Pakistani girls to go to school.

Secretary Clinton ends her Dublin speech much as she began it: with a recognition of the very real dangers threatening the United States and the international community.  But she also expresses a belief that working together to secure the pivotal human rights issues described above will help ensure, not only the interests of individuals, but also help ensure peace, aid in supporting economic development and our other most urgent global problems.

While a single speech does not tells us all we need to know about any government figure, it is a starting point.  As she leaves public office, at least for now, it will be interesting to see where her path takes her next.  We will wait to see.

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[1]  Photograph used by Department of State

[2]    Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice preceded her. Each in her own way has created history, each has been described as “a woman of character”.  See post “What do Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice Have In Common” dated April 13, 2012.

[3]  Her speech of December 6, 2012 was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

[4]  She also accuses Korea (never described as a religious nation) of running some of the “largest concentration camps in the world.”

[5] See post “I am Malala” dated November 12, 2012.

The opinions expressed in this blog are not the opinions of our families, our friends or our employers.