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Monday, October 24, 2016

If I Had My Way

Today I cast my vote in the presidential election, as well as voting for a congressional representative and state candidates, plus a number of local bond issues.

I like the fact my state has early voting, so I don't have to wait in a long line on election day. As it was, I arrived at the polling place just 10 minutes after it opened and still had to wait in a fairly long line. But the entire process took just 18 minutes from the time I got in line until the time I walked out the door.

People in other countries have quite literally died for the right to vote. They have faced intimidation and even death for the right to cast a ballot. Elections in some countries are anything but free and fair. Yet many in the United States swear they will sit out this year's election because they don't like any of the major candidates for the presidency. The stakes for our country are, in my opinion, higher than they have ever been. Each of us citizens needs to make our voice heard.
The seemingly mundane task of voting is, after all, a cornerstone of our elective government. I cannot in good conscience refuse to cast a ballot just because I am disappointed in this year's candidates. I often ask if this is the best we can do in a nation of more than 300 million people. Never in our history have the major candidates been so disliked by so many people.

I know people are disenchanted by our elected officials. I feel the same way. I feel that the voice of the 'little people' like me isn't being heard. Only those with great wealth and influence seem to have any sway over our government. I am angry about many things our government does or does not do. But exercising our right to cast a vote for or against may just make a difference. If we don't vote, we have no room to complain about the outcome. If we ever hope to change the way our government operates, we must start at the ballot box.

If I had my way, we would have term limits for all elected officials at all levels. We have term limits for the president; why not for members of Congress? "Vote them out if you don't like them," people say. If only voting someone out of office were that easy. Once in office, they quickly garner the power and resources from lobbyists and corporate donors that make it nearly impossible to vote them out of office. Remember a few years ago when a new crop of representatives swept into office, vowing to end 'business as usual'? What these seemingly well-intentioned novices quickly learned was that if they didn't play by the rules, nothing would get done. No one would support their legislation. It was either play by the rules or go home.

If I had my way, the political campaign season would last but a few weeks, as it does in the United Kingdom. We would not be subjected for many months to the barrage of television ads and mailers that tell us nothing about what the candidate plans to do for us average  people, but that merely attack the opponent. 

If I had my way, the moderator of every debate would have the authority, and be required to, turn off the microphone of any candidate that goes over the allotted time allowed to respond to a question. 

If I had my way, debates would be for the purpose of explaining to the voting public what the candidate's plans are to address a given issue. I'm tired of debates being nothing more than a forum for slinging mud at and insulting one's opponent.  

The 2016 election will be over in two weeks. I think the nation will breathe a collective sigh of relief when that happens. I hope we will continue our more than 200-year-old tradition of a peaceful transfer of power, and that while there undoubtedly will be disappointment, I hope there are no riots or violent protests. I hope this year's election sees a record turnout by voters. We owe it to ourselves, to our descendants and to our country to let our voice be heard, regardless of the outcome.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Trying Something New

I'm trying something new this year -- wall calendars.

I travel a lot and take thousands of photographs every year. My online friends always comment about how much they enjoy seeing my pictures of far-away places. So this year, I am offering to make a calendar featuring any of my photographs for only $20, domestic postage included if paid by PayPal.

Here's what makes my calendars unique: I will make each calendar using the photographs the buyer chooses. I have just finished the first six orders, and no two calendars are the same. Most of my photographs feature either wildlife or landscapes, although I do have photos of ancient ruins, buildings, etc. Here are a couple of examples.

If you or someone you know loves elephants, for example, I can design a calendar with only photographs of elephants. Or perhaps you prefer scenes of the American Southwest. I can do that, too. I just finished a calendar as a gift for a friend I met on this trip to Kenya, featuring photos of elephants and other wild animals we saw on that trip.

By offering these one-of-a-kind calendars for sale, I hope to raise funds for the scholarship program of Save the Elephants, a wonderful organization in Kenya that has been studying and protecting elephants for many years. Through its scholarship program, high-achieving pasturalist students will have the opportunity to attend high school. Without a high-school education, these bright students will likely spend their lives herding goats and cattle. I already am sponsoring a female student, whom I hope to meet in Nairobi next summer.

My best shots are on my page at or you can choose from the many photos on my FB page, Desert Mountain Photography. I pay for the printing of the calendars, the tax and PayPal fees, so a full $10 from the sale of every calendar will be donated to the scholarship fund. I make NO profit from these calendars.

I get a couple of new wall calendars every year, and I know lots of other people do, too. So why not order a custom wall calendar and help a deserving student go to school at the same time?

Questions? E-mail me at 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Birds and Tigers and Calendars

This beautiful bird, a gray-headed kingfisher, was photographed in Kenya.
Ranthambhore National Park in India is home to this handsome male Bengal tiger, photographed with a 400mm lens as he crossed an open area.
Prints are available at and at

All proceeds from sales of photographs and other products go to funding a scholarship for a deserving Kenyan student through the Save the Elephants scholarship program.  

COMING SOON! 2017 photo calendars. Cost is $20 each, postage included. Calendars can be personalized with your choice of photos from my collection. E-mail with questions.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Photos Available

Female leopard in South Africa scent-marking a buffalo skull. 

Clouds hover in the Grand Canyon as seen from its north rim.

The moon rises shortly after sunset at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Prints are available at and at

All proceeds from sales of photographs and other products go to funding a scholarship for a deserving Kenyan student through the Save the Elephants scholarship program. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Powerless and Disenfranchised

Lately, I get up every morning with a great deal of trepidation and dread.

Every morning, I wonder what unbelievable thing the Republican presidential nominee has said and which group of people he has insulted. Then I wonder what new attack is being carried out on the environment and the wild animals with which we supposedly coexist. And what new efforts by a bunch of misfits and their allies in Congress are aimed at selling our public lands to private companies for logging, mining and other destructive ventures? Then there are the daily reports of cruelty to animals and still more murders of innocent people by a group of thugs misappropriating the Muslim religion. . 

I have a good life. I am healthy, I have a beautiful daughter and a terrific son-in-law. I live in a fabulous house in a beautiful, if poor, state. I get to travel to incredible places several times a year. So why do I approach each new day with dread?

Why, indeed. It's because the world in which I grew up and have spent my adult life is disintegrating. Just think about it: 
  • ongoing, unwinnable wars in the Middle East
  • terrorism at home and abroad
  • climate change that threatens our very existence
  • pollution
  • corruption 
  • continuing efforts to exterminate wolves (especially the red wolf and Mexican gray wolf
  • continuing efforts to remove protections from and let states 'manage', i.e., hunt, endangered predators such as grizzly bears, gray wolves, cougars and other apex predators
  • the never-ending decimation by China and other Asian cultures of elephants, rhinoceros and pangolins, either for ivory trinkets or for their alleged powers to cure everything from impotence to cancer
  •  race-driven riots and murders

I feel powerless to do anything to stop these horrendous acts. After all, I am just one person. My voice, along with the voices of countless other 'little people' also concerned about the goings-on in our world, is not heard by the power brokers. Our so-called 'representatives' in our state and federal governments listen only to the wealthy individuals and companies that fund their campaigns.

Is it any wonder so many of the American people feel powerless and disenfranchised? Corporate greed always wins the day. Everything, it seems, is valueless unless it has some economic value. Where is the value in a beautiful seashore devoid of oil drilling platforms? Where is the intrinsic value in a grizzly bear or a wolf or an elk? Where is the value in an old-growth forest if it can't be clear-cut to provide timber to the insatiable demands of the Chinese?

I and others see the value in these things, but sadly, our government and our culture, along with governments and cultures around the world, do not. To Robert Mugabe, the long-serving dictator of Zimbabwe, baby elephants are nothing more than a commodity to sell to the Chinese. It doesn't matter that these elephants will suffer horribly by being torn from their families, shipped to a cold country and mistreated. To those in the US who want to set up a gold mine on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park, the peacefulness and serenity of the park that will be destroyed by a gold mine mean nothing. To the cattle industry in Montana, destroying the nation's only wild herd of bison to protect their precious cows seems a fine thing to do.

So yes, there is an undercurrent and a groundswell of anger and disillusionment among the American people, over a wide variety of issues. But sadly, I don't think next month's election will do anything to change our country for the better.