Anyway Rick Steves has been putting out lots of interesting travel literature about the ins and outs of traveling in Europe for over twenty years. He has covered the Continent from before the fall of the Berlin Wall and has does an excellent job of providing great travel advice about the opening of Eastern Europe as a travel destination. He even gets himself invoved in political or what might be described as political-cultural commentary. Such was the case last Monday when he posted a list of newspapers that were delving into the recent election and how it was being perceived in European capitols. These articles make an excellent read and are worth checking out because the underscore how the new president-elect is being received in Europe.
There is a great website put up by Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP) of NASA called Astronomy Picture of the Day. Everyday a fantastic picture is posted, concerning some sort of visual image from outer space. Sometimes the pictures are even taken from the ground with the naked eye. Other pictures are taken from huge telescopes, while some of the most spectacular images come from the Hubble and other spacecraft.
On November 4, 2008 history was made in the United States with the dramatic victory of Barrack Obama over his rival John McCain. Today president-elect Barrack Obama is headed for the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How did the Democratic candidate beat the ever-popular Vietnam War hero and P.O.W.
Very simply it boiled all down to mathematics and a handful of battleground states. Over the past few years the United States has been divided into red and blue areas and battleground states. The red areas vote Republican, the blue areas vote Democratic and the battleground states, which include Ohio, florida, Indiana, Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado can go either way. This year Barrack Obama did very well in almost every battle ground state, thus assuring the Illinois senator a solid victory.
That’s the red and blue of it. How this came to be, I’m not exactly sure, but this is how our polotics will be defined, by afew crucial battleground states.
This is how my eye’s are going to look by the whole time this whole affair is done, provided I make it that far. I have written 1900 words today a pace that would give me a total of 57,000 words if I can write at that pace for thirty days straight. If today is any indication it will definitely be a struggle.
My first chapter came easy, but I struggled through the second chapter of my writing. I had expected to get more done because I have the day off, but I piddled around doing this and that and that and this. One of big distractions was going to other blogs and websites and making comments about my first day of NaMoWriMo, not a good way to begin the day. Anyway I hope tomorrow goes better than today. Fortunately, I get a break because of the change in time. How thoughtful that they could move the week in which we change time back a week just so NaMo writers could get an extra hour in. That was very thoughtful.
So long for now,
Here is the sailing ship, called the Friendship. It’s official sailing classification is a ship. This means that the boat has three masts, which are all square-rigged. This boat is a replica that was built in 1998. The original ship was built in 1797 and traded all around the world until it was seized by the british during the war of 1812.
This new replica makes a great tour (when it is port) for anyone who is visiting Salem or the greater Boston area. Not only do you get to walk on board the ship, but you get to visit the custom house, where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked. It is just several hundred feet away. These sites are part of the Salem National Maritime Historical Site in Salem, Massachusetts.
This tour is a traveler’s bargain, for once you have forked out your five dollars you get to go two seperate walking tours through the maritme site. Both tours are very good, but I particularly enjoyed this one for you got to spend about a half an hour on the Friendship.
Here is another replica sailing ship. This is the Amistad made famous by the movie. It was built in New London, Connecticut, just a few years before the Frienship was reconstructed. It is called a cargo schooner and in this case its cargo it was slaves. The ship sailed into Portland Harbor this summer and was berthed at the Maine State Pier, where visitors could take a tour.
I was in Salem last week just in time for
“haunted happenings” in October. These take place in October and the whole affair is like some sort of strange morf between Halloween and “The Salem Witch Trials”. Whatever the reasoning, the combination works, because people from Boston and all over New England come in droves to celebrate. Reportedly, the place gets very busy on weekends leading up to the “big day” or night actually, which falls on a Friday night. However, I was in town on Tuesday, so things were quiet, but still the town was all decked out for the “Night Before All Saints Day”, better known as Halloween. Still it was fun to wander around and check the place out. I had some business to attend to in Boston, so I left at 5 PM.
Instead of concentrating on the solemn history of the Witch Trials (more about that later) I headed for Derby Wharf and the
Salem Maritime Historic Site, where for five American dollars, I received a grand tour of the Friendship ( a three-masted square rigged ship) the Customs House (where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked) and the Derby House, where the prosperous merchant lived. This part of Salem’s history is quite extensive, but usually overshadowed by the infamous Witch Trials.
Why we are so attracted to the macabre, I cannot say, but this is certainly the case here in Salem.
Why I write?
I’m more of a visual person that a literary one, but still I found out that sometimes I had to write about my art to explain it to the world.
Was this really necessary? I think so, though it sounds kind of hokey, I’m aware of that. But really it was a part of getting the message across. So I kept writing in a journal to accompany many of the images that I was constantly making in my sketchbooks and drawing books. This went on for ten years or maybe longer.
Then in the fall of 2003 at age 50, I made my first journey to Europe. It was a real eye opener, as I roamed from one old world cobblestone city to another. I started in Copenhagen, then journied through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and back to Germany again. I ended up in Frankfurt; a new city courtesy of Allied bombers, where I boarded an IcelandicAir plane and flew back to the U.S.
This picture best expresses some of the things I experienced, while walking around Prague. This city is a gateway to Eastern Europe and nowhere is that better seen than on the marvellous Gothic Bridge that spans the Vltava River.
Prague is an eerie city and a photographer’s delight. I made many photograph’s while I was here but nothing describes my experience better than this photograph.
Upon my return to the good ole USA, I started writing. Everyday I was up and at it, as if I was writing for a living. After a month of this, I had to go back to work, but finally last month I sold and published the first thing that I wrote upon my return to the U.S. It is called from “West To East” and here is the link. http://www.cstn.org/reports/europe/bus_europe_2008.html
In short this is how I became a part-time writer.
I am going on a summer vacation of sorts……at least until around Labor Day.
I wrote be writing very much, but will occasionally post an image or three in coordination with Illustration Friday or concerning my travels around Montana.
Unti then……..Happy Trails
Here is my garden, a sort of whimsical creation inspired by who-knows-what.
Hope you enjoy.
For a look at some far out gardens, just go to any popular image search engine and type in “psychedelic garden”…….and the results will be some real eye candy. See you next week.
The path through the forest presented hikers with many obstacles.
A Photographic Tribute To the Good Ole U.S. of A.
It’s hotter than hell out here on the banks of the Missouri where the prairie meets the mountains. Thunderheads appear almost every afternoon now, but more often than not they drift on by, dropping their precious moisture elsewhere.
All of these things are sure signs that hot dog and ice cream sales are booming and that a spectacular and awesome fireworks display looms in the near future.
Happy Birthday America. How does it feel to be 239 years old?
Ready To Roll
I would like to say that this picture shows how I travelled around the country in recent years, but in reality, this is far from the truth. This partiçular image was made while walking down the street in Portland, Maine back in the days, when I had a studio apartment and an almost, full-time job, which enabled me to keep my friendly place of abode.
For several years I made a meager living writing content for an American internet company based in California. Since I was able to send in my work via e-mail and receive my pay through Paypal, I was able to travel freely (within my financial needs) as I produced my many short articles and filler pieces.
I knew I was skating on thin ice with this gig, but it was fun, so I continued with it until the inevitable actually happened, the number of writers had far exceeded the number of assignments available.
The end came so quickly that it caught be by complete surprise. I had just turned off my computer and left the Winnipeg Public Library, so I could withdraw my earnings and get a bite to eat. When I returned to the library and turned my computer back on, I found out that all my future assignments had been removed and that I needed to take an evaluation test. This turned out to be a polite way of dismissing me from the company.
I just happened to be in Winnipeg, Canada, when I found out that my services were no longer needed. So the very next day, I began my short journey back to the U.S. and my much longer quest for economic security.
This photo was taken at sunrise on the east side of Winnipeg as I headed back to the U.S.
New York City is a watery place, a geographic reality made visible by this photograph, which was taken from the deck of the Staten Island ferry. The Staten Island ferry has often been called the best free ride in America. I alsways ride it whenever I am in the city. The view of the Hudson River delta and the many islands that dot the bay are priceless, even to a New Yorker……….Wouldn’t this place make a great national park?
These pair of lions can be found guarding the stairwell to the second floor in the Boston Public Library. I love the grand old libraries of the Northeastern big cities, and not surprisingly the Boston one is a real doozy.
Having spent endless hours in this and many other similar institutions, leaves me with nothing but good words for the American library. Ben Franklin sure knew what he was doing when he started this system. Not only are they great places for the scholar, but they also tolerate the vagabond and bum, who just wants a warm place and a good magazine to read.
This picture of the Portland harbor with the oil tanker in the background was actually taken in the town of South Portland. This metropolitan area was my home for many years. The ferry rides here aren’t free, but they do take you to some inhabited islands, more reminiscent of Seattle than any other place in the U.S.
Philadelphia would be a great place to spend the Fourth. Not only do you have a spectacular fireworks display, but also the Liberty Bell can be found here, plus all that rich history that harkens back to the times when “The City of Brotherly Love” was the nation’s capitol.
Unfortunately, I was here in the spring, so I missed all the fireworks……But I did see Charles Barclay shopping in a local supermarket.
Niagara Falls, NY
No journey around the U.S. would be complete without a pretty picture of Niagara Falls. Actually I had to sneak across the border to Canada to take this picture.
The Little Pee Dee River
When I visit South Carolina my destination is the Pee Dee region of the state, which is situated in the Northeastern part of the state near the North Carolina state line. This picture was taken on the Little Pee Dee River.
I spent several beautiful autumn months in this midwestern capitol city. In fact, this photo was taken from the state capitol building, which sits on a high hill overlooking the city. The stately building has a shiny gold dome and a huge interior foyer, which you can climb by negotiating many series of narrow stairs.
The Des Moines river flows through town and in places is lined with huge, graceful cottonwoods.
Sioux City, Iowa
Thanks to a few reservations in nearby Nebraska and South Dakota, Sioux City is a bit of Indian Country stuck smack dab in the middle of Iowa’s cornfields. Maybe that’s why this pink house is here…..hopefully not. Anyway, visit Sioux City and you can have Native men ask you for extra cigarettes and spare change. Or you can head across the Missouri River and get a slightly rosier view of Indian life by visiting a powwow or a casino.
I liked Sioux City for its funky street graphics, long lines of freight cars and outdated architecture. It was a great place to have a camera. And of course like almost every declining downtown area, there were those brave, creative souls trying to fix the place up and bring in some new business.
Rapid City, South Dakota
I just spent a day in Rapid City, but I did get this really neat photograph of a grain elevator standing tall in the noon day sun. Then later in the afternoon I took a bus to Billings. I would have stayed longer, but there wasn’t much day labor work available and emergency housing didn’t look very appealing either.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
On my way to Sioux Falls, I got a ride with a trucker driving an empty hog trailer. He had just dropped his load in Wisconsin and was headed home, when he picked me up. He told me there were lots of construction jobs in Sioux Falls because the man on the TV said so. This was a story I often heard repeated, but when I got to the city, the only work I could find were day labor assignments unloading trucks.
One day a mover showed up outside the labor office, needing help. It was a clandestine offer, but I needed a way out of Sioux Falls, so I rode with the trucker to Rapid City, where we filled one small household with furniture and then parted ways.
In Billings you get your first real glimpse of the Rockies. Still, it’s a high plains kind of town, situated about 50 miles north of the Little Bighorn battleground. Off to the northeast is the North Dakota oil patch, which helps drive the local economy. Stir all this together and still you can get a little taste of the Old West here.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is named after its earlier counterpart in New Mexico. Las Vegas (NM) started out as a stop on the Old Santa Fe Trail, but grew substantially when gold and silver were discovered nearby. In its heyday, Las Vegas (NM) had the reputation of being one of the wildest town in the West, but today it is a quiet Hispanic settlement on the eastern flank of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Perhaps, a 100 years from now, Las Vegas (NV) will be a quiet Hispanic city and some other western place will earn the title of “Sin City”.
This city used to be a very nice place, but today it is sometimes referred to as “Alber-crack-ee”. Still, the University of New Mexico and Sandia National Lab are located here, drawing a lot of professional people to the area.
These pictures were taken along Old Route 66, which is locally known as Central Ave.
Taos is an interesting mountain town that has grown a lot in the past years. The traffic through town can be horrendous, especially during ski season, but the town is still worth a visit.
To escape all this madness, just drive west to the Taos Gorge bridge, where you can gaze across stunning landscape, like you see here.
Located just north of Santa Fe amidst several Indian pueblos, is Espanola, one of the Hispanic strongholds within New Mexico. On a drive through town the place looks a little rough and tumble, due to the antiquated storefronts in the downtown area. A few are closed down, but many still support active businesses.
These places stand in stark contrast to the big chains found out by Walmart and Lowe’s. For the creative photographer the old storefronts are a visual gold mine, for they harken back to an era, when local businesses dominated small towns like this. Here, I photographed a farm supply business that looks more pioneer than Spanish, but yet this place is open and ready for business.
Santa Fe, New Mexico is the oldest and highest state capitol in the U.S. It is also where the Santa Fe trail ended and the Camino Real (Royal Road) into Old Mexico began. Later on, the California Trail became a reality and so the small crossroads grew.
Today, it is a cultural hub for artists, new age entrepreneurs, Ed Abbey fans and well-to-do desert rats. Though this milieu of higher minds is on the decline, their presence is very noticeable. And, if you spend any time here, you are bound to cross paths with the thriving local Hispanic and Southwestern Indian cultures that have lived in the region for many centuries and more.
For me, cheap motels have been a godsend. They offer a nice alternative from camping out or staying at a rescue mission. Having the space to yourself is wonderful, although the down side is that they are still rather expensive are usually require a full time job to pay for the luxury. This particular picture came from a place I stayed at in Billings, for a few weeks.
Duluth is the birthplace of Bob Dylan, though he wasn’t known by that name when he was born here back in the forties. To honor the singing bard, the city has renamed a downtown street, which is now known as Bob Dylan Way.
The first time I saw the Bob Dylan Way, I was pretty well down and out…..so much so that I spent the first night camped out on a park bench, watching the oil freighters come cruising through Duluth’s vertical draw bridge at the wee hours of the morning.
Then I borrowed some money from a distant relative, so I could spend a night in a motel. Finally, I left town and hitchhiked to the Twin Cities. I guess I was living the Bob Dylan Way.
The Twin Cities
I did the hostel thing in Minneapolis, at least until I ran out of money and had to head south using a 100 dollar bicycle as my means of transportation. Despite all the high rises downtown near the river, Minneapolis and St. Paul, too, have a lot of wonderful green spaces and natural lakes, where you can go swimming.
Ranchos de Taos, NM
Fare Thee Well
Taking The Plunge
It’s a constantly changing and strange world for those who have not yet broken into traditional publishing and are now considering a try at doing it themselves. Roughly speaking, authors have been self-publishing e-books for over 10 years now with the bulk of online activity coming within the last five. For the most part, Amazon has been the main place to post your e-book, but other venues such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Sony have been around almost as long. Following is a quick survey of some things that you might encounter if you decide to self-publish.
Not only do you have to have content that is of a high quality, but also your written material must be in demand by those who are willing to purchase and read an e-book. This might sound like a no-brainer to many writers, but keep in mind that there is a lot of well-written, highly-conceived material that receives little attention by readers. In other words, to draw the interest of readers you have to hit the right chord that will make that person purchase your e-book. This is just as true for the short story priced at 99 cents, as it is for the full-sized novel that runs in the ten dollar range.
The Writer Glut
As time goes on, literary sales to owners of electronic reading devices may become more difficult as the numbers of authors attempting to self-publish increases and the number of e-book readers levels off. This is just a matter of numerical reality and common sense. Nowadays, when I put I put up a new title on Smashwords, it is off the charts (relegated to page 5 or greater) in a few hours. Back when Smashwords was just starting out, a newly published e-book would stay visible (in the first several pages of listings) for a few days.
Reversing The Trend
However, all is not lost for the newbie writer, for there are several ways to beat the odds and gain a loyal following. Let’s assume for a minute that you have already found a small niche with a couple of written pieces that readers respond to in a positive way, which hopefully includes an occasional purchase or two. From here the next step will be to bring more people into your readership base.
The best way to do this is to self-publish more work, while at the same time, letting everybody know about your newest release. Currently, blogging and participating in other forms of social media, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc., are the best methods to get the word out……. And hopefully along the way, something that you wrote goes viral and you become the latest internet sensation…….BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT……for slow and steady seems to be the rule of the day.
Going The Kickstarter Route
So far I have been working on the assumption that you are doing everything, like editing, proofreading, cover design and formatting, on your own. If you aren’t, good thinking because bringing talented personnel to help out with these tasks can be a big boost to the way your final product appears to the prospective buyer. It can also be a big drain on your bank account.
This is where funding sites like Kickstarter can be an essential aid to the newbie self-publisher, because by the time your first publication is ready to go live, you will be more of a publisher than a writer. However, the plus side to all of this, is that going through a public crowd sourcing site, like Kickstarter will force you to plan ahead and seek good graphic designers, formatters, proofreaders and whoever may be required to get your little literary effort looking ship-shape. And then again another big advantage, is that once your project goes live, your potential readership will grow from the ranks of those who choose to support your project. And that my friends is a win-win situation.
Small is a relative term. For example an elephant could be considered small if it is pictured next to the Empire State building or at the bottom of Mount Everest. For me, I chose to focus on a small flower in the forest.
Starting this week I will begin posting a weekly illustration on the popular site, Illustration Friday. Hopefully, I will keep this up so that every week (probably right after the weekend) there will be a posted drawing done by yours truly.