Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Solyndra!


The Republicans are calling Solyndra a Democrat scandal, but who really gave birth to it?
by Charlie Leck

Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, a Republican is all over the Solyndra scandal, blaming it all on President Obama! (I won’t insult your intelligence by reviewing the “scandal” here.)

Just know this: The loan guaranty program, and the Solyndra Company clearance to participate in it, was passed during the George W. Bush administration. The legislation that established this loan guaranty program was approved by a Republican-controlled Congress in 2005 and the records shows that Senator McConnell and other leading Republicans voted for it.

Read this fascinating Washington Post story about the current hypocrisy of Senator McConnell. Is there no end to the foolish lies that will come out of our Congress?

But that was before Obama’s presidency, and views back then were different. They were more like the March 2008 press release from Bush’s Energy Department, announcing that it was funding research projects on photovoltaic technology. ‘These projects are integral to President Bush’s Solar America Initiative, which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015,’ the announcement said.

Among the winners listed in the press release? Solyndra.”

Can politicians ever be real? Perhaps if they had only one term to serve they would? Look back at my blog of yesterday!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let’s Try a One Term Limit!


You’d have to be both deaf and illiterate not to understand that politics in Washington D.C. has turned really awful and accomplishes little good for the American people!
by Charlie Leck

I found a tantalizingly good editorial by Matt Miller in the Washington Post yesterday [Why we need a third party!] and I recommend it to you. Miller said plenty of bad things about both major parties with which most thinking people are going to agree. I, a firm forever Democrat, do!

“Finally, neither party trusts us enough to lay out the facts and explain the steps we need to take to truly fix things.

“This goes well beyond the jobs crisis or the budget. Take education. Democrats can’t say we need to fire bad teachers who are blighting the lives of countless kids, because teachers unions are the party’s most powerful interest group. But Republicans can’t say we need to raise salaries for new teachers substantially if we’re going to lure a new generation of talent to the classroom, because that’s admitting that money is part of the answer. Trouble is, we’ll never solve what ails education without getting bad teachers out and paying up for new talent to come in. That means Democrats and Republicans can’t solve the problem….

“Multiply this dynamic across every major issue and you’ll see there’s a staggering void in the debate. The parties act this way because their core constituencies have a stake in a failed status quo. But where does that leave the majority of us who are not in the Republican or Democratic base? Where does it leave the country?”

Miller quotes Daniel Patrick Moynihan as saying: “If issues can’t be discussed, they can never be advanced.”

I’m not sure the answer is a third party – most certainly not any old third party. The answer might instead lie in a complete reformation of the electoral and political system. A high school classmate of mine – from more than 50 years ago – has been arguing vehemently for years that one term only federal legislators is the only thing that makes sense. I argued with him against that proposition. I’m changing my mind. Allow federal Representatives to serve two years only and Senators six years only. Don’t allow any of them to become professional legislators.

Today’s Congress has become too professional. Nearly every single one of these bastards (red and/or blue) is voting primarily to protect his/her seat (or insert a similar word).

I was very impressed the other day when Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, from Tennessee stepped down from his leadership position in the Senate. He said he wanted to concentrate more on being a Senator. He wants to make the Senate “an effective and efficient place.” He wants to end partisan bickering and make decisions for the good of the nation that rise above politics and concentrate on what’s best for the country rather than the success of a party.

If you consider the House and Senate as a whole, I think you will understand what benefit there could be for the nation if our elected representatives are voting for the best policies for the nation rather than those considerations that will get them reelected.

I’m on board for a constitutional amendment that will allow only one single term for both Representatives and the Senators.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Want some fine E-Books FREE?


Here, as Open Culture explains, is a way to get a lot of classic books by great authors absolutely free!
by Charlie Leck

Yes, this is for real. You want to get some outstanding books as ebooks or audio books for absolutely no charge. Open Culture, one of my favorite web sites, tells you just how to do it right here.

I’m talking about outstanding works of literature – things like Orwell’s Animal Farm or 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, Heart of Darkness by Conrad, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and books by Mark Twain.

This just touches on the number of classic works that are available to you at no charge. Check it out!

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Great War


My parents told me that it had been called the war to end all wars. It did not, of course.
by Charlie Leck

I just finished watching an extraordinary, ten minuts video about Frank W. Buckles, the last American veteran of World War I. Mr. Buckles died this past February. It is sometimes charming – this video – by Very Ape Productions. It is also somewhat poignant in places and much of it is very moving.

I recommend it to you. Pay particular attention to Mr. Buckles’ comments about the men coming home – four million veterans returning at the same time and trying to resume their lives where they left off. Also give Mr. Buckles your ear when he talks about wars like our current involvement in Iraq.

This is an especially good way to use ten minutes on a Sunday morning.

Buckles from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Legislative Failure Cripples the Nation


Tony Rugare has got it right, I'm so very afraid!
by Charlie Leck

One of my regular blog reads come out of Cleveland, Ohio. Tony Rugare writes a blog that is, at the moment, called FROM TONY’S KEYBOARD. Tony likes fiddling with the format of his blog page and that includes rather frequent changes in the title. Whatever it’s called, it’s worth the very little amount of time it takes to read his nearly daily and brief “musings about a potpourri of subjects.”

A couple of days ago he made an interesting observation about which I have been thinking for some time. It’s frightening that the politics of removing Obama from office has gotten so dominant in the minds of his opponents that they are willing to sacrifice the good of the country to their objectives. Here’s how Tony put it in a mere paragraph.

“In his speech to a joint session of Congress on September 8, President Obama reminded both parties, ‘The election is 14 months away.’ His message was that it is totally selfish for both parties to battle each other instead of joining together to fix the economy. Predictably the message fell on deaf Republican ears. There is no doubt that Republicans will stop at nothing in their quest to remove Obama from the presidency. Is this the Republican version of ‘Arab Spring?’ If so, it looks like we have 14 months of chaos ahead of us. Hopefully there will not be an ‘Arab Spring’ American style in our future.”

Were we (Democrats) as irrational when we set our goal on removing the Republicans from Executive Branch control? Remember McCain and Obama postponing their scheduled campaign trips to fly to Washington to consult with George W. Bush about the imminent collapse of the economy? Remember how Obama and the Democrats cooperated with the President in creating aide packages for some of those banks and companies, to shore them up? Bail-outs, the Republicans call them now; and they create the fiction that they were Obama’s idea. Republicans don’t want us remembering that this economy went to hell under the gaze of George W. Bush and the deregulation that began with Ronald Reagan.

Unfortunately, Tony has got it right: we have a long 14 months of feuding in front of us and very little helpful legislation.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Money Behind the Terrorists


Where do the terrorists get funding?”
by Charlie Leck

I just finished reading Daniel Silva’s latest thriller novel, Portrait of a Spy. Silva is very good at his craft. This was not one of his best works, but it was interesting (and thrilling) enough. Those of you who read Silva will enjoy your time with this latest work.

The fictional account raises some very interesting real questions. Where do the terrorists get the funding to carry on? What they do is not cheap. Someone or some group or some nation must be behind them.

Silva makes a case that such funding comes from the House of Saud. This is not a new idea. Many people in America have argued this for years. It’s likely that this is where the funds for 9-11 came.

In an author’s note at the end of the book, Silva writes this:

“Regrettably, a decade after the attacks of 9/11, much of this money still comes from the citizens of Saudi Arabia and, to a lesser extent, the Sunni Muslim emirates of the Persian Gulf. In a secret cable made public in December 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote, ‘It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.’ In conclusion, Clinton’s memo declares that ‘donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.’

“One would think that Saudi Arabia, the country that produced Osama Bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, would do more to clamp down on terrorist fund-raising on its soil. But other diplomatic cables have revealed the House of Saud has been unable or unwilling to shut down the flow of money to al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Militant groups operate front charities inside Saudi Arabia with impunity or simply solicit cash donations openly during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

I find this interesting. I hope you do too. I also find it a bit terrifying. Saudi Arabia continues to act as if it is one of our buddies. Both of the Bush administrations worked hard at improving relations and communications with the nation. So has the Obama presidency. I think it’s another case where there are both secular and religious forces at work in Saudi Arabia and they see things very differently. Radical Islam is an insane and frightening movement.

*Silva, Daniel: Portrait of a Spy [Harper Collins, NY, 2011]

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bachmann Implodes


Minnesota’s Congresswoman from Congressional District 6 has egg on her face again! She looks pretty that way!
by Charlie Leck

Richard Scheibl sent me an email to tell me he didn’t think I was very kind (as the profile on my blog urges us all to be).

"As for trying to be kind, really trying, there’s no evidence of it in your writing," Mr. Scheible wrote (among other things).

This he bases on my name-calling when it comes to Congresswoman Bachmann – I think I called her a “crackpot” and, perhaps, a “flaming idiot” and, at another time, “a total nut-case.”

Ms. Bachman does drive me a bit wild. I think I can let up on the criticism, however, and stop worrying about her because she is doing herself in quite well. She doesn't need me trying to bring her down. She's doing it to herself. Thank goodness!

The Congresswoman has been making a total fool of herself lately and there ain’t no tomorrow for her, I’m quite sure.

The nation is finally seeing her for the fool she is and it’s laughing quite heartily.

A blog in The Weekly Standard by John Mccormack explains the seriousness of Bachmann’s self-inflicted wounds and how her goofy mouth has brought her down – Bachmann’s Implosion.

This very same member of the House of Representatives is now criticizing Obama for assisting in the over-throw of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarack. This is the same woman who earlier criticized Obama for being too slow to act in Libya. [Read the Mother Jones comments here!]

Here’s a video from MSNBC that features one of Bachmann’s former, trusted advisors cutting loose, in a very kind way, on Bachmann’s loose tongue.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I may well react a little unkindly to the actions and words of Michele Bachmann, but the woman is crazy (I mean it!) and it frightens me to think of her as the President of the United States. I don’t have time to argue about whether it is unkind of me to say such things. I just have to tell you the truth about her. She doesn’t deserve to be President of the United States and she shouldn’t be serving in the House either.

In Mr. Scheibel’s email to me he asked for a list of Bachmann’s gaffes so he could fact check them and get back to me. I haven’t the time for such lists here, so I’ll just refer my critic to the DNC’s Bachmann Watch page and he can read about the Congresswoman’s craziness there.

My only hope now it that Bachmann has imploded so significantly that she will do great damage to her chances to be reelected to the House next fall.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Our Pro for 46 Years!


It’s difficult, but the work is also pleasurable?
by Charlie Leck

I’ve been sitting at this desk for hours and hours. When I rise, my back is stiff and my legs wobble. A couple more days of this tedious work and I’ll be finished and ready to return to normalcy.

There’s pleasure in some of the discoveries I’m making. Look, for instance, at the wonderful photograph above. Recognize that it is miniature in size compared to the real one. I found this in pretty faded and forlorn condition. The autographs at the bottom, originally put there by three well know sports broadcasters Jim McKay, Bud Palmer and Chris Schenkel – along with legendary golfer Byron Nelson – had all faded dramatically. I was able to restore and darken them a bit and I returned some realistic color to the photograph that had turned yellowish-green.

Of course, the main subject is the young fellow who has his eyes so avidly fixed on Bryon Nelson. He’s sitting at the table in the casual, blue jacket, looking like he is hanging on Nelson’s every word. That’s Phil Reith, the head professional at the golf establishment to which I belong. He’s going to retire after this season, after spending 46 years in our pro shop. He’ll be deeply missed.

I’m guessing that this photograph was taken in about 1968 – give or take a year.

Well, it’s back to work.

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A BUSY TIME IN MY LIFE


What do you do when you're too busy to blog?
by Charlie Leck

I guess one can only say, “I’m sorry!”

I have a long email from Richard Scheible at hand that I really want to answer in blog form. His questions and comments are good and they deserve adequate time. I just don’t have it right now. I’m also intrigued by the latest insanities of Representative Bachmann and the meandering mind of Texas Governor Perry. They both frighten me and I need to write about them. And, I’ve received other helpful topic suggestions from readers like you.

At the moment, however, it is impossible to find the time.

I’m trying to produce a book of photographs right now for an organization to which I belong. It’s for a very special occasion. Naturally, we’ve known about it for a long time and we’ve been begging for photos. Just as naturally, they’ve come in very late – at the last moment – and I’ve got to work long, long days just preparing them for publication.

So, I promise to be back to my writing in a few days and I thank you for your patience.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Church Lays Dying in Prague



Everywhere you look you see church steeples in the city of Prague and you come upon magnificent religious structures everywhere; but the spirit of the church is flat and gasping for breath in the Czech Republic.
by Charlie Leck

In 2006, USA Today published a cover story written by James P. Gannon that drew great attention: Is God Dead in Europe?

“Two snapshots from a recent tourist trip to Europe: We are in Prague, the lovely and lively capital of the Czech Republic, where the bars and cafes are full, the glitzy crystal and art shops are busy, and the dozens of historic cathedrals and churches are largely empty — except for gawking tourists snapping photos. InThe Prague Post, an English-language weekly newspaper, a front-page article reports, in titillating detail, how the city has become Europe's new capital for pornographic filmmaking, while an op-ed examines why only 19% of the people in this once-religious country believe that God exists.”

We are just back from an extraordinary, lovely and fascinating visit to the capitol city of the land of my maternal ancestors -- Bohemia. Wherever you look in Prague – on whichever side of the river – you see church steeples rising to heaven. There are people everywhere. In the evenings the young are on the streets and filling the little restaurants, wine cafes and beer halls. There seem to be enough churches to hold all of Prague’s residents and all the tourists as well; yet, those sacred places are by and large empty. When you step into one, to take a photograph or two, the sound of your shoes (or sandals) upon the stone or marble floors echoes loudly throughout the building. You sense the hollowness of both the building and the life of the church itself.

At the Church of Saint Thomas I asked one of the Augustinian friars who care for the church about attendance at mass. He answered in broken English.

“A hundred and fifty, perhaps, and sometimes more on a high holiday. It is discouraging, but we had twelve adult baptisms last year.”

When he commented about the atheists his voice was harsh and angry. He blamed it on a half century of communist rule. I wanted to dispute his theory because many of Europe’s nations, including those never controlled by communism, are experiencing the same phenomenon. (And frankly, to the objective, it appears that America is moving down the same path.)

Got is tot,” the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzche, wrote in a number of his works, including Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Of course, the more accurate question, or theme (and it is what Nietzche meant, I believe) is one about the relevance of the God as he is presented and heralded by the Christian Church to a modern society. There are many theologians who have struggled with this question and many clergymen as well; however the answers have by and large rung hollow. Thus, we see diminishing participation in the structural church.

This is too big a question for a single blog – this question of the reality and relevance of God in a modern world – and an answer to it is not what I intend here today.

Rather, it is just a sad observation from my travels to a land where one can see how important the faith was at one time in the past – in earlier centuries. In the twenty-first century, however, the structural church (as buildings) ring hollow and stand essentially empty.

What do you think? Is the god that is presented to us by the institutional church relevant in our world today? Or, do we need to rethink our definitions and understanding of the center of all being?

Of course, there will be comments in response to this question and people will say simple, empty things like "God is always relevant" or "God is relevance." And there will be those who blindly think that one is unfaithful, and even atheistic, to even raise the questions I raise here. Those are folks who don't care to dig deep in order to mine the wonder that is at the heart of faith and hope in God.

Yet, my head aches from the heaviness of the question! Here are a few of the extraordinary churches of Prague.















































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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Taste of Freedom

Candles burn in Old Town Square as a crowd gathers to mourn
the deaths of three Czech hockey heroes.

Prague is a remarkable city of color and freedom!
by Charlie Leck

What a lovely time my wife and I had in Prague! What a bright and colorful place it is. It rings with happiness and the marvelous taste of freedom is in the air.

Think about it! Prague and the entire nation has been a free republic for less than 25 years. Their freedom isn’t taken for granted. They still savor it and celebrate it. We could feel it on the streets and in the beer halls and even in the fine restaurants.

The city’s Old Town Square is a grand place to be and it is always buzzing with enthusiasm and with the moment. Whatever is current and important is on the minds of the young and the free as they wander about and chat and sing in the Old Town Square.

We were in the square on the evening of the day that the news broke about the Russian airline crash that took the lives of an entire professional hockey team. A number of the players were Czech – Jan Marek, Karl Rachunek and Josef Vasicek were each and all key players in the Czech national team that won the 2005 and 2010 world championships. We’d just finished a fantastic, four-star dinner at one the city’s finest wine restaurants and we wandered the few blocks over to the big square to see what was going on. Preparations were underway for a big running event that would begin and end there on the next day. A large group had taken over one of the commercial pavilions, however, and large photographs of the Czech hockey players were on the stage. In a large, roped-off area in front of the stage there were dozens and dozens of candles burning in red containers. A very large, startlingly silent and saddened crowd gathered in front of the stage and the candles and mourned the lives of their fallen heroes. Bells quietly tolled from the tower of the magnificent Church of the Lady before Tyn that stood behind the stage. Earlier in the day, American hockey stars, Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias had been in the crowd.

We paused and watched the moment and clearly got caught up in the expression of honor and grief.

I took great pride in the Czech part of my heritage during this trip. I liked the people of Prague very much and I am happy for them – that they know the sense of glory that comes with being a free people. I want to go back sometime and be among them again.























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Monday, September 12, 2011

9/12/11


I went to the south of France to attend a wedding of this lovely young man
who stands here with my cousin, his mother, before the wedding ceremonies
in a tiny, comfortable church in the little village of Puyricard (near Aix en Provence).
This remarkable photo was taken by my wife.

I just couldn’t add one more 9/11 piece to the thousands that were already available for you to read!
by Charlie Leck

I spent nearly the last two weeks in Europe – traveling from Paris to the south of France (Aix en Provence and the little town of Puyricard) and then on to Prague in the Czech Republic. I’ll have something to say about those travels in the next few blogs.

Today, however, I just want to report my observation that every big and little newspaper and every columnist in the western political hemisphere had something to see about the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Europe's newspapers were filled with 9/11 stuff. There were commendations for and to the United States for its actions in the last ten years. There were scathing criticisms of our nation, too. There were projections about the future of terrorism in both Europe and America. There were sad columns that recollected the awful day – absolutely tear jerking pieces that brought back more memories than I cared to deal with.

I returned to the states late Saturday night and that was just in time to get a full dose of the memorial services and the special TV productions that replayed the events of ten years ago.

To tell you the absolute truth, I'm exhausted by it all. I cried a pail full of tears listening to the families of those who lost loved one in the attacks. I felt renewed anger at that part of the world that wants to wage war on us because of its radical religious differences with us.

Enough! Please!

America dragged itself into two wars over that 9/11 attack. They were both wars we should not have waged. We tore apart the better part of a whole generation of young men – and some women. We’ve spent enormous amounts of the nation’s precious resources in fighting a fruitless and meaningless war in two parts of the world we absolutely do not understand.

I love the memorial park that is being built on the site of the two Trade Towers. Next spring I’ll go to New York so I can see them in their finished and final state. The preview glimpses I got of the memorial really pleased me.

Now the day is past. We’ve moved on to 9/12 and beyond. Let’s get our country working again (in more ways than one). Let’s become what we’ve dreamed we can be. That will be the best tribute we can pay to those who died in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dining in Prague


First France and now Bohemia!
by Charlie Leck

I’ve dined well on this trip to France and the Czech Republic. The menus in the two nations are nothing alike, but the food has been wonderful on this entire trip.

Today I head for home. Tomorrow I will write a real blog. I’ve been working on it for the last few days. It’s been a wonderful trip, but it’s always wonderful to head for home.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Prague as Autumn Approaches


Autumn is in the air in Prague.
by Charlie Leck

Prague is a beautiful city. Autumn is in the air here and I know the trees around Native Oaks Farm will be showing fall colors when we arrive home.

This is just a reminder that the old blog is temporarily shut down during my vacation; and this is a reminder that I’m thinking about all my faithful followers as I travel. I’ll have plenty to write about when I return.

I’m posting some photographs while I travel. I’ll return within the week to begin blogging in real time again.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

SPAM Mail


As I wander around Prague, I have thoughts of home.
by Charlie Leck

This is just a reminder that the old blog is temporarily shut down during my vacation; yet it’s also a reminder that I’m thinking about all my faithful followers as I travel. I’ll have plenty to write about when I return.

I’m posting some photographs while I travel. I’ll return within the week to begin blogging in real time again.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Prague


We’re taking photographs in Prague
by Charlie Leck

Hopefully we are taking lots of photographs in Prague, the city of my maternal ancestors. I’ll have much to tell you about this city when I return.

I’m posting some photographs while I travel. I’ll return within the week to begin blogging in real time again.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Photogenic Prague


Prague is quite spectacular! It must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
by Charlie Leck

I arrived in Prague yesterday. I think this is a beautiful city. How different from the cities of Europe! I feel like I want to take a photo every few seconds, but I’m trying to relax and just take it all in with my eyes.

I’m taking a vacation from my blogging, but I’ll be back at it in just a few more days!

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Prague


Today I should be arriving in Prague
by Charlie Leck

A dream trip to the Czech Republic is fulfilled today! It makes me think of the lovely little community in Minnesota call New Prague.

I’m posting some photographs while I travel. I’ll return within the week to begin blogging in real time again.

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Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Return to Paris


Grand Dining a la France!
by Charlie Leck

I'm traveling back to Paris today from the south of France. I imagine I'll be dining well on this trip. There is nothing so wonderful as the food of France. This is why I posted this photograph I took a number of years ago. I gave it just a touch of pencil to make it "pop" this way.

I'm traveling in Europe. Tomorrow I'll make my way to Prague. I'll put up a few photographs to remind you I haven't just forgotten to post a blog. I'll write again when I return.

_________________________

Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.