Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More about Kenya

The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent article, "How Kenya came undone." It is a two part article, but I think it does an excellent job helping us understand the economic causes for this situation.

One of the things that I've been saying to my close friends in the last few years is that terrorism is fueled by a lack of hope. People whose needs are being met, who feel safe, who feel optimistic about the future don't choose to blow themselves up to kill other people. People who are desperate, who feel that their situation will never change are easily targeted by terrorists for suicide missions. It is one reason I am praying that solutions can be found for the Palestinians, that they can finally have land to call their own. I think a Palestinian homeland would reduce a lot of the stresses and produce hope for its young people - hope for a better future.

One of the things that concerned me on my Africa trip was the difference in economic situation between the visitors to the safari lodges and the local people. Our visit was short, so there was no way for me to know how much of the tourist dollars we spent made it back down to the local village people. Surely some of it did - the villagers grow vegetables and they have family members who work at the safari lodges as cooks, laundry workers, maids, guides, guards (wild animals in the night) and bar tenders, etc. Cape Town was a prosperous area, but we saw signs that security was high. Things like jagged glass on top of brick and stone fences. And I saw either a market place or a shanty town as we drove to the airport that was a sharp contrast to the more prosperous dwellings elsewhere. But I don't know exactly what it was that I saw. We heard reports about the problems and lawlessness in Johannesburg cause in part by all the refuges from Zimbabwe.

But there is something else that concerns me in the news from Kenya. This sudden tribal warfare among people who had been living peacefully together is an echo from other places - Croatia, Rwanda, Germany. I've seen some other reports from Kenya that some of this violence may have been "planned" even before the election results. Sometimes it only takes a few people with evil hearts to stir up hatred, grudges, and a sense of injustice. When this happens, it can be like lighting a powderkeg.

I don't know how unfair the situation was for the Luos in Kenya, but I suspect that it only took a few people, maybe even just one, to foster a sense of anger and rage at perceived or real problems. But . . . once you unleash this force of human rage, it takes on a life of its own. And once people start to be killed, the anger, rage, sorrow, the need for revenge increases the fuel exponentially for these horrible tales of human atrocity.

We live in the United States, historically a very prosperous place. Now, more than ever, we have many groups of people from all over the world who have come to live here to take advantage of the opportunities. But nowhere on earth are things "perfect." There can be a sense of the "haves" and "have nots." The more that the American dream of starting with nothing and working your way up to a prosperous life can remain true, the safer our society will be. But politicians and other leaders need to be very careful. We have issues that divide us - real issues. We must be very careful in how we think and speak about the people that are from other cultures or ethnic groups around us. When we start thinking and believing that our lives are worse because of "them," that we don't have a job because of "them", we lost our job because of "them," resentment can grow in our hearts.

There is too much history over the last 100 years of what horrible things can happen when we start down the road of bitterness and resentment. We need to be encouraging people to get educated, to keep opportunities open for all people, and to foster unity among the diverse cultures -unity as Americans. This does not mean forsaking our native culture rather it means we need to appreciate the other cultures around us, but also to have our identity strongly linked with being American. Even with today's problems, we have a prosperous nation. We don't always realize this, but most of our poorest Americans have access to resources that the poor in other parts of the world don't. We need to continue our efforts to help people better their situations.

I would hate for America to have to face wide spread violence targeting either minorities or the wealthy. We think right now that what happened in Kenya could not happen here. And I hope not. But, I've read and heard too many stories from other parts of the world, where they thought it could not happen and it did.

Prayer thoughts for Kenya - Father, please let the leading politicians of both sides in Kenya and the mediators find a workable political solution. Please heal the hearts of the people who have lost loved ones to such horrible violent crimes. Help them find a way to forgive. Please bring peace and prosperity back to Kenya.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Photoshop CS3 - edges and three dimensions

Each photoshop workshop I attend leaves me with some new skills that often help me on a project that I'm currently working on. I had seen other people who managed to add interesting edges to their photographic work, but I was not real sure how they did it.

Obviously, to make this kind of presentation - a photo on a background, you're going to be working in layers. In this case there are basically four layers (in addition to the adjustment layers - levels, curves, etc.) The background is actually two layers, the tree bark faded into a lighter background. You can create this on the same document as the finished work. You copy and paste your bark and you create a layer of fill. I chose one of the layers to reduce the opacity (depending on the project, I try fading each layer to see which effect works best). This gives me a blend and in this case softened out the bark. Then using the shift key (on Mac) select both those layers and "merge layers." I then and did a levels adjustment to add a little contrast to this blend. I wanted some texture so I played with textures and decided that craquelure provided what I wanted. This background layer needed to be larger than the portrait layer, so I used a technique I had learned in December. You take the Clone tool and select an area (in this case I started at the top corner and worked down). After you have made your initial selection, you brush in to fill the area to match the existing texture or pattern. I had always made small corrective touches with the Clone tool. Knowing that you can brush in larger areas makes things so much easier and quicker.

I had already been working on the layers of my face blended into the tree. When I got my final version of that I took those two layers and merged to give me one layer. Now, here is the trick . . . I selected that level and using the option key created a black mask. The black mask makes the layer "disappear." Now I can chose an interesting brush tool and literally brush the layer back in. By choosing one of the irregularly shaped brush tools (with the color set to white) I can carefully work the brush to the edges of the portrait layer leaving a jagged, rough edge. If I make a mistake, all I have to do is set the brush to black, erase, and try again until I have a pattern I like. You can also play with the different shaped brush tools until you find the effect you like.

Now, at the end of the project I wanted to do some finishing touches and making that portrait layer more three dimensional was high on the list. First selected that layer and went to Layer Styles and added a drop shadow. I manipulated all the options until I had the effect I wanted (yes, lots of trial and error - play -it's fun to see how many ways you can add a shadow.) Then I went to bevel and emboss and played there until the bark seemed to stand up off the background.


I was pleased to find a comment on my recent post about Somalia. I had to go back to see what I had said. I went and browsed through Pray4Somalia's blog. This young Christian wants to go to Somalia and spread the gospel there. That takes a lot of commitment and more especially courage and faith right now. The persecution of Christians there is one of the highest in the world. The links provided on this blog have some wonderful information about the history of Somalia, the Somali people, and ways to pray for this situation.

The summer before we went to Africa, I went to a presentation to our mission committee about evangelizing Africa. Several things remain in my memory. Preparing and equipping Africans to do the evangelism is a good thing for many reasons. They can do it more efficiently and they have ways of reaching more people. Reaching out to Muslims is more difficult for many reasons. At this presentation, it seems to work when Christians move in to Muslim areas to live and work. The association and influence gradually makes a difference. More recently in articles I've read, many times Muslims are surprised when Christian workers include them in the agricultural education or well drilling projects. I've also heard about some miracle stories where God has opened the eyes of Muslims and made them receptive to the Word.

So . . . for my Christian readers today, I hope you will take time and look through Pray4Somalia's blog and its links. But above all, please pray for Somalia. It is a war torn land, with corrupt war lords making life very miserable for its people. The needs are great . . . the difficulties for Christians to provide aid may seem insurmountable, but our God can do great things. May He touch other people's hearts with desire to go and help the people of Somalia, may He provide financial support for Christian workers and humanitarian aid, may He open doors for mission work so that Christians be allowed to come in and help alleviate the suffering there, and may He touch the hearts of the Somali people and its leaders so that their land can return to peace and prosperity.

Monday, January 28, 2008

How addicted to Blogging Are You?

I ran across this on Bill Crider's blog.

57%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Considering there were a couple of questions that my answer would have been maybe rather than yes or no . . . I tested at 57% addicted . . .

Interesting set of questions. If you are a regular reader of blogs . . . might be worth checking your addiction level . . .

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Self Portrait - Part 2

Well, I'm still playing with the digital art version of my self-portrait.

Here is roughly where I started:

One of the critiques I received recommended that I do something to make it more 3 dimensional. So I started playing with filters - the one that worked was poster edges.

I had some other suggestions from that posting at the Digital Image Cafe, so I darkened my face and I decided that a border might be a good thing. I used a technique I learned this week at the photoshop training to "brush" my image back onto a solid layer leaving the brush strokes as a boundary to make it interesting.

Well, I liked the border around it, but I thought it was too plain. My online friend Alberta mentioned playing with the bark pattern. So I took my Fill layer, blended it with a new layer of the bark and added some craqueleur . . . Then I added some shadowing under the bark, but I had to do that with a brush by hand because of the way the bark and face had been "brushed" in.

I am definitely wishing I had done this with "smart filters" and "smart layers" because I now have 3-5 versions of this . . . . I've gotten another good suggestion that I need to try, plus I think my external border is too dark. The first version I tried to fix that did not quite work. So I seem to be having to go back to the originals to play.

Here is my latest effort: I suspect I'll play around a little more with this. To me this one has my face too light - so I'm not fading in and really being "one" with the tree. But it's late. Sometimes I think I am working this one to death. And then at other times, I think I'm making progress toward a final presentation.

Zambia's flooding

We had a prayer request in church for the farmers in Zambia due to the heavy flooding this year. Most of the maize crops have been wiped out. I did a check for Zambian news this morning and found these articles: Emergency Preparedness Pays off and State Bails Out Flood Victims. Maize is a form of corn that is the food staple in the Zambian diet. They grind maize to make "mealie meal" what we would call corn meal. They use the ground maize to make nshima which is a little like polenta. It is good to know that there was a good crop last year that Zambians will have as a resource for food this year.

It does make me concerned for one of the lodges we stayed at last summer. The South Luangwa River Lodge was flooded and had to do major repairs after last year's flood. I fear that they will have to redo their lovely cabins again as it sounds like this year's floods are worse. And these lodges are an important part of the economy for Zambia, bringing in outside cash that does trickle down to help everyone in the area.

After reading these articles,I remembered Linda showing me the wording for "mealie meal" in the grocery store there, but I found that I could not remember if that was the corn meal or the cereal that is like our corn flakes. In doing a google search on mealie meal, I found this story about Zimbabwe. Dated from 1999, it is sad that Zimbabwe still has such bad problems. The flooding that is reducing the crops in neighboring Zambia will surely impact the Zimbabwe people as well as more people will be dependent on foreign grain supplements this year.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I'm in San Antonio tonight, visiting a dear friend and planning to go to a Photoshop class tomorrow. (Yes, I'll blog stuff about the class.) I was sharing things from the Africa trip. I find myself frustrated by the difficulties that I know people over there are facing. They are people, far, far away. My influence and ability to help is very limited both by geography and by any one person's limited means. So, why does my mind focus on some of these things more than before . . . It's because I've been there. Those people have faces . . . I've talked with them, I've touched them, I've eaten with them . . .

On Sunday, one of the prayer requests came from Zambia to pray for the farmers because the flooding has severely damaged the crops. I emailed my friends . . . most of the maize crops are standing in water . . . pretty much ruining the crop and there is not time left to replant. Maize is the primary crop for the farmers around Namwianga . . . I asked her what would the people do for food . . . the answer is that there are relief agencies that will come in with food. That is a good thing, it is a needed thing . . . but it does not help the people in Zambia with the struggle to be self-sufficient.

And their blog also led me to search for the news articles that are also in the Zambian news right now:

Grocery store burns This is the only grocery store in the province . . . will they be able to rebuild . . . there was not enough infrastructure in place to prevent the total destruction of a needed resource . . .

Utility outages , Zambian Utilities and Zimbabwe issues

Henry had told me about something he read that talked about all of Zimbabwe being without power . . . now it includes all of Zambia . . . I don't think the power was off an extended period of time . . . but . . . another area where insufficient infrastructure makes life more difficult for the people.

And while "rioting" is never a good solution, (note that the people whose property got damaged in the rioting had NOTHING to do with the cause of the problems), I can understand people wanting to make some kind of statement that things need to change. But . . . there needs to be a better way to make progress - wise people need to work together for the good of all Zambians (and all Africans.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Congo in the News

Stories about Africa are still on my "radar." This article about the Congo is sobering. According to this article, war, disease, and malnutrition are killing 45,000 people a month! In the last ten years, 5.4 million people have died. I have a hard time imagining this, but the article goes on to compare this with losing the entire population of Denmark or Colorado. Malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition are the biggest killers - all preventable.

Now beyond the human suffering involved, this is important because there is a very endangered species living in the Congo, the mountain gorilla. There are only 700 of them living in the wild. Dian Fossey's group, The Dian Fossye Gorilla Fund is working to save these creatures. The human fighters in the area where the gorillas live make this very difficult. For one thing, they are killing the gorillas to eat them for survival. For another, with armed conflicts going on, it makes it very unsafe for animal workers to protect the animals. When people are struggling just to survive from one day to the next, saving a precious resource such as the mountain gorillas is a low priority.

This MNBC article talks about the killing of not only gorillas but also hippos by the rebel armies. The gorillas had begun to trust humans making them more vulnerable to these starving fighters.

I find it very, very sad that so many people are dying from things that modern medical care can prevent. I think it is tragic that the unstable political problems make it very difficult for relief agencies to get in there to provide help. How horrible it is that so much energy is spent on fighting that should be spent growing crops and raising livestock to feed people. How difficult to help people who are so desperate that they must eat gorillas. And what happens to those people when the last hippo and the last gorilla are gone? How do people in more prosperous parts of the world find ways to help?

Living in the United States, even our poorest people live in better conditions and have more access to health care than do these people in the Congo. We are facing another economic crisis here in the United States, which will probably mean that there will be even less money going to help these people in Africa.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Self Portraits - Part 1

I've been looking for places to get my photography work shown. My primary work is nature photography, it is my "first love." However, my personality type is not one that is likely to specialize, so I play around with all sorts of photography. Most of my photography the last three months have been people. A couple of weeks ago I found an exhibit that I have work suitable for submission. The topic: The Invisible Age - Photographic Self-Portraits by Women Aged 50-65.

My first thought, yes, I'm a photographer in that age bracket and yes, I've got some self portraits - the best one is from two years ago. As I got to thinking about it, I realized that I started taking self portraits four years ago. As I thought about the ones I'd taken and looked at the progression of my photography skills, I found it interesting. I was surprised that my first attempt actually holds up pretty well. And remember, these were taken in the fall of 2003.

I took these as part of an "assignment" at an online photography website, "Digital Photo Contest." The assignment that month was to do a self portrait. I was very much in the learning process of digital photography and digital work flow. The photos were shot in JPEG, I had not started using RAW. I was competing against some very talented photographers and I knew that I wanted mine to be unique. My methodology was simple - natural lighting, outside. I used the tripod and camera timer, focused on the tree and ran around hoping to be a good position in the frame when the shutter snapped. Out of 30 or 40 shots some in direct mid-day sun (BAD IDEA), I had a few that are actually decent by my standards today. The best ones were taken in the shade of that big tree I was using as a background.

Problems I had - the direct sunlight was harsh - definitely did not work (I know better now). The wind was blowing. Even when I stood still, there were several shots where my hair was just too blurred. I did try to do more than just "head" shots, but the ones I like the best were just the head. I also purposefully tried out different expressions. And, since I was doing "nature photography," I had a plan. I wanted more than just a standard portrait for my entry. I wanted my entry to say something about me.

This was my entry, the title: "One with Nature." At the time, I worried that people could misinterpret what I meant. I don't worship nature, I find serenity and a special wisdom in a forest, but I don't worship inanimate or living things. I believe in God, a creator and Saviour.

But, I am in many ways more at home outdoors in the natural world than I am in fancy social settings. So . . . I hope this portrait portrays part of that love of nature and the wonder and awe that I feel when I see special parts of God's creation.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Taking Down Christmas - Late

I really like to have my Christmas decorations up for about a month. This year I was late getting them up (actually my daughter, Debra did the honors this year of decorating my house.) So for several reasons, I've been reluctant to take them down. For one thing, I had a lot of photographic projects due right at the beginning of January. They are especially important to me this year - one of my goals is to get this submission process down and get my submissions out there. So that had to take first priority. And then I had a portrait session - lots of fun.

By the middle of January though . . . it is time for Christmas to come down. But there was still a reluctance on my part . . . analyzing it brought several things to mind that might be worth passing on . . .

This year, the decorations had an added meaning . . . my daughter did them - she did a great job. And they were different - a different mix of ornaments and decorations on the tree - different arrangements of my Christmas items . . . Very creative, very pretty. But it also meant a lot to me that Debra put them up. December was busy for me . . . at my age my energy is sometimes limited - and December had a lot of productive work that took my energy. And yet, I wanted Christmas to be special for my family. It meant a lot to me that Debra took her time and helped me have my house where we all as a family enjoyed time in a festive but homey place.

Taking down Christmas also is a form of good-bye. I felt rushed and harried during the "season." We have unrealistic expectations for our Christmas experience. We want time, reflective time spent enjoying the tree - yes, I did have that this year. We want to sip hot chocolate or apple cider in front of the fire with candles glowing . . . And some years, I get enough of that experience that I'm "ready" to take down Christmas on time. Other years like this one, I did not get as much of that quiet, peaceful time . . . so I kept hoping I'd have one more night to sit in the living room to peacefully enjoy the tree, but it never quite happened.

In my mind, I can hope that I get my tree and decorations up at Thanksgiving next year, that I have done all my Christmas gift preparations throughout the year to avoid that last minute hurry-burry stress. But whether that happens or not . . . whether Christmas is peaceful and restful or busy, I can say truthfully that this year we had a blessed Christmas with a wonderful bounty of time spent together as a family. Keeping the decorations up does not really keep those wonderful memories alive . . . but I think in my mind, somewhere back there, I wanted to keep the specialness of this Christmas alive . . . And . . . I don't really have to have decorations up past their time for this Christmas to remain in my heart as special.

Friday, January 11, 2008

January in Central Texas

This January is proving to be the exception, but generally, January in Central Texas is chilly (not really cold), cloudy, and dreary. I've learned that my body needs sunlight. When days stay cloudy and dreary, my body wants to hibernate. I've learned not to have high expectations for my productivity in January, because I'm just not as efficient.

About seven or eight years ago, I learned part of the physiological reasons. There is even a name for it: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Wikipedia and Mayo have some good information.

For myself, I think it is worse in Central Texas than farther north because we don't have the bitter cold. I think that getting out and doing things where it is very cold and snowy gets the blood moving and for helps counteract the effects.

This year, I have several projects going that I seem to be making headway on. But I've also had a cloudy mental disposition, prone to discouragement that I am suspecting is part of this year's SAD symptoms.

While I still have these projects that need to be done, I try to be gentle on myself in January-knowing that I'm not as quick at getting things done. And, one of my mental mantras: " It truly WILL be better in February and March when the sun is out longer in the day. Be patient, concentrate on the tasks for today, the rest will take care of itself."

Unfortunately my tasks right now are indoors. But I am trying to spend some time each day out in the life giving sunlight.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Morning on the Porch

The weather has been cold and I've been busy. Morning devotionals done in my formal living room work . . . but it is just not the same as sitting on the front porch watching for birds.

As is normal in Central Texas, it has warmed up again. My psyche needs to spend time outdoors in nature, especially during Central Texas January when the sky is gray with clouds and the sun has gone on vacation.

I was rewarded to day with a caracara sighting - such a different flight pattern from a turkey vulture or a northern harrier.

But the best of all was two eastern bluebirds around one of my bluebird houses! I mentally told them - yes . . . that would be a great place for you to choose for your home!

And one of the verses that happened across my radar today:
..but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow
weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31, New International Version

Yes . . . I've been encouraged today!

Kenya - hopeful news

It sounds as though one of my prayers has been answered. Odinga has called off the protest rallies . . . The news reports today definitely show some hope that the diplomatic or political process will have a chance to work.

I am glad that perhaps someone has gotten through to him that the current chaos is not good for the welfare of the country he wishes to lead.

We still need to pray that aid arrives quickly for the displaced people. And I know that there are trucks with supplies on the way. May they arrive quickly with sufficient quantity to feed and nurture the people affected. And may God heal the emotional hurts caused by this last week's events.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Resource for Photographic Competitions

I am trying to be more active in getting submissions off this year.

I found a new resource:
The Texas Photographic Society

Their competition page looks to be a good resource for competitions that are coming up each month.

More Kenya

From the Kansas City Star

From the Toronto Star

The Toronto Star finally discusses something i suspected:
"Muchayo is of the Luhya tribe, a smaller grouping with a different dialect but close enough to Luo to be seen as partisan.

Like so many others in Kibera, she put her electoral stock in the notion that Odinga's opposition represented long-awaited emancipation for the slum-dwellers. Not for tribal reasons, but simply because she believes a future Odinga government represents the best chance for the poor to finally win a share of Kenya's economic successes."

Another article I read talked about tourists staying at a $400 a night room standing on their balconies watching until the tear gas drifted up . . .

I had seen the photo of the woman being robbed in a photo blog I found . . .

For some reason, I think what is happening in Kenya right now is important. I grieve because even if the worst of the violence has ended (unknown at this point), the scars from what has already happened are going to go deep and are likely to last a long time.

So many of the blogs end with these words: Pray for Kenya!

I hope and pray that God will intervene here . . . touch the hearts of people who can truly make a difference. I also hope and pray that resources will be found to bring the humanitarian aide that is desperately need - to bring food, water, and supplies to the 250,000 people who have been displaced.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Kenya blogs

I have to confess that the situation in Kenya prays on my mind. For one thing, we've been to Africa this year . . . it gives me an interest and some understanding that I did not have before. For another members of our church here in Austin were in Kenya visiting family when this broke out. I knew people who were in harm's way . . . Thank the Lord they are all back home in Austin safely!

So I find myself searching the web to get enough information to really understand what is going on.

Here are some interesting things I found today.

From a missionary's point of view:

Pure Christianity

four kenny's


More blogs from various bloggers:

This blog lists a number of blogs that can be read to see what people who live in Kenya are saying. White

This blog talks about how the internet, cell phones, and blogging are helping to spread the news in ways not possible before. It also gives some links worth chasing to gain further understanding: I&D blog - Harvard

P.S. One more African Path

Kenya - more information

I'm googling news about Kenya - It is amazing how as you read the various news reports you learn a little more about why this has happened.

These two political leaders had once worked together - been friends. But the trust is gone . . . and both sides are digging in. Unlike in 2000 in the United States, where life went on normally while the election results were debated - many people in Kenya are not able to work, have been displaced from their homes, may not have access to food, and neighboring countries' daily lives are being disrupted as well.

Too much human tragedy . . .

From CBS News

From the New York Times

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Kenya - Humanity's Dark Side Part 1

A week or so ago, I had seen a photo contest where the grand prize was a 14 day safari in Kenya. Now whether I have a good chance at that grand prize is anyone's guess. But I had heard good things about Kenya - and most of the photographic safaris I had researched seemed to go to Kenya. I had also heard it was a "safe" place to visit. I was looking forward to entering it and at least living with the hope for a month or so that maybe . . . just maybe . . . one of my photos could win that prize. I had even sneaked a look at the South African Airfare (since airfare was NOT part of the prize.)

And then . . . from seemingly out of the blue . . . an election . . . violence, rioting, talk of genocide, and the horrible story of the church where people were intentionally burned to death - women and children.

There is something about Africa that touches your heart when you visit it. Since this crisis has hit Kenya, I find myself reading the news articles every day - wanting this to be a short term aberation - rather than a long term, escalating civil war.

I've tried to reason out why this particular election and this particular set of charges of rigged voting was such a powder keg. What were the underlying politics that a casual tourist might not see? Under the surface, was it issues over how the tourist dollars trickle down to the average person? Were economic issues part of the issues? Since this seems to have fractured between tribes - what past grievances that have been simmering in the background are now boiling over?

So, while I had other things with higher priority - I have been reading the headlines, hoping to understand, and hoping that a peace process would work.

A somewhat similar time in American history also kept coming to my mind - the Watts riot in Los Angeles. I was a teenager at the time, so I had to look it up via the internet. According to Wikipedia, the Watts riot happened in 1965 and started with a traffic stop over alleged drunk driving. Things escalated at the scene of the stop and the riot lasted 6 days. Thirty four people died, 1072 people were injured, 4,000 people were arrested, and 1000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. This was not the first or last of the riots in America at that time. Rochester, Philadelphia and New York had had riots the year before. San Francisco, Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, Baltimore, New York and Chicago also had rioting during this time period. Unemployment, inferior housing, and poor schools were identified as some of the root causes of the Watts riot. But it was also a time in which black Americans were working toward civil rights. And, thankfully, since that time, African Americans have many many more opportunities than during that tumultuous time period.

Americans have also weathered an election crisis back in 1998 when Gore refused to concede until the votes in Florida had been recounted. The final determination as to who would be the next president was not resolved until December 13th. But America had a rule of law that prevailed, people remained calm, business pretty much went on as usual, but the stock market fell because of the uncertainty.

So . . . what happened in Kenya? Why now? Why this election?

Tonight I found at least a glimpse of an answer. The Seatle Times had an excellent article that went into more detail about the history of the President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe and the issues.

Kenya has 42 tribes living in an area about twice the size of Nevada. Some are larger and more powerful than others. These are people who have lived generations on the same land and sometimes intermarried. I can't help but wonder how many languages exist between these tribes. But things had been peaceful. According to, elections in 1992 and 1997 had both violence and fraud but were seen to be an honest view of the will of the people. This December's election had one of the highest turnouts in Kenyan history. People were optimistic, but when the election irregularities and the immediate swearing in of President Kibaki occurred, people felt very betrayed.

Read the article from the Seattle times . . . . The other news stories that I googled tonight keep me concerned. Naturally the government of Kenya would like to work this out by and for Kenyans. And an opposition rally has faltered, the people are tired. Reports are that 250,000 have been displaced. Food supplies have been disrupted. What happens in Kenya also affects trucking of oil and food to the interior countries of Africa. I hope and pray that these Kenyan leaders (and the diplomats that are trying to help) can find a way to work out this situation quickly and restore the confidence in the Kenyan government. And I hope and pray that people will rally together to rebuild what has been destroyed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Welcome, 2008!

It is a new year, a clean slate, and fairly easy to be optimistic. Of course, we will overcome all our bad habits, reach our goals, and receive our just rewards this year . . . right????? Today is a day when most of us will contemplate what we want to do in 2008. We will make resolutions. We will hope to be better people at the end of 2008 than we are now.

I think this yearly quest that begins on January 1st is a good thing. I think all of us have hidden, unused potential. We can make changes in our lives. But it is not easy.

We are generally optimistic on January 1st. We make our "resolutions," but too often when we "fall off the bandwagon," we give up. We tell ourselves that we tried and then continue on our merry way - living as we always have. While certainly this is not the end of the world, when we give up too soon on our resolutions, we miss out on some good things. Sometimes the things that will really benefit us the most are the hardest to do. How do we stay motivated and keep on track with what we want to do?

Step One: Decide what is most important to you for 2008. Make your wish list and then highlight the things that are most important. Write it down in a journal or notebook.

Step Two: Break your goals down into smaller, easy to accomplish tasks.

Step Three: Make a calendar for the year. I've been making my own journals. I have one journal for my spiritual development. I have another with homemade calendar pages from: Calendar I make a "work" journal with at least 6 months of calendar pages with deadlines written on each page. I also have blank pages made from small tablet pages where I can make a to do list for the month, week or day. I like to write these down on paper because it is rewarding for me to be able to either check them off or mark them that I've at least worked on a project. When I write things down, I can go back and look at my week and see visually that I really have gotten things done. But this can be done online with google calendars or with a calendar on your computer. But it is all too easy to let a week slide by and then looking back you can't see that you accomplished anything. A working calendar helps you see visually what you are doing and what still needs to be done.

Step Four: Take a few moments at the beginning of each day to prioritize what needs to be done. We all have mundane chores - laundry, cooking, dishes, etc that get in the way of the bigger things we want to accomplish. But we have to find a balance. I find that sometimes the mundane things get neglected when I'm working on big projects. I struggle to find the balance between accomplishing major goals and keeping the mundane chores under control. By planning the day, I can do a better job of keeping my life in balance.

Step Five: Allow for interruption. Things come up that change what we've planned. Roll with what comes up, but then use your calendar and work journal to get back on track.

Step Six: Don't let yourself get derailed from your plan. We are human. There are days we are going to follow our plan and days when we fall back into our old habits. Honor your humanity - it is OK to have days where you don't live up to those lofty resolutions. But breaking a resolution once, should not give you license to give up on the goal. I've heard that it takes about 3 months to establish a new habit. Don't give up, keep on trying to reach your goals.

Step Seven: Find ways to reward yourself for accomplishing the small steps that will lead you to your goal. Whether it is checking off items on your list, or giving yourself some quiet time as a reward, or allowing yourself to read that book - find a way to reward yourself. As you accomplish your goals you will receive some rewards - praise from your friends, income, new clients, etc. But when you are working the interim steps, find ways that you can reward yourself to help keep yourself working your game plan.

Step Eight: At the end of the year, look back over the year. Evaluate what you've done. Rejoice in the accomplishments and good things that happened. Analyze the things that got in the way. While you are unlikely to accomplish all the goals and resolutions each year, I think the process of setting them and working toward them is an important part of our journey through life.

Good-bye 2007!

While there were some truly sad things that happened around us in 2007, I really can't say that 2007 was a bad year.

We lost Henry's dad and my friend, Debbie. We're a little older, arthritis lets us know when it is time to stop for the day. We gained weight (Phooey!)

But . . . I got to spend a month in California, almost a month in Yellowstone, and a month in Africa. I was able to take some photographs that I am really proud of.

To my faithful readers, I am so pleased that 2090 people visited my blog this year and since there were 4024 visits some of you visited more than once. I only started Google Analytics in September of 2006 - so it is hard to make a good comparison, but from Sept 3, 2006 to Dec 31, 2006 I had 901 visits from 413 visitors from 36 countries. In the same time frame this year, I had 1729 visits from 1059 visitors from 67 countries.

There have been successes in my photography and opportunities. I still have much to learn about consistency and discipline in getting my submissions off. It is much easier when I have a set deadline than when I am making "cold" submissions - too easy to wait until I have time to do the submission "perfectly."

We've gotten to spend some special time with our family and our closest friends this year.

God is working in our lives.

We have been blessed.