In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Muse.”image

The Eiffel Tower is so mobbed with tourists and pickpockets these days, it’s almost more kitsch than muse. Still, it is one of the most recognized and visited monuments in the world, and its profile is linked inextricably with Paris. Inspiring for a structure that was intended to be temporary. When it was first built, many Parisians hated it. Writer Guy de Maupassant used to eat lunch at the base because that was the only place in the city where it didn’t ruin the view.

The tower was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. Engineer Maurice Koechlin came up with and refined the design. That didn’t stop his boss, industrialist Alexandre-Gustav Eiffel, from taking all the credit. So much for egalite.

The monument proved its worth as a radio tower, and as a symbol of defiance when resistance fighters cut the elevator cables so that the Nazi occupiers had to climb the stairs. Hitler ordered its destruction, but didn’t get around to tearing it down.

ET, you deserve to be mobbed, and we tourists are justified to be thrilled by the sight, even if it’s just a tip of the tower.


If you squint you can see it.

Ode to Indigo

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “ROY G. BIV.”


ROY G BV? Like Pluto from the planets, indigo has been booted. Some say it should not have been included in the first place.

Isaac Newton is credited with listing the order of the colors in the spectrum of visible light — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

There have been protests about the inclusion of indigo. Indignant, Goethe wrote a book in 1810 describing simple experiments that proved there are three primary colors and three secondary. Indigo didn’t make the cut.

There was speculation that Newton was influenced by the significance of the number seven in the bible, or that he wanted to show the connection between sound waves and light waves, and thus named seven colors to parallel the seven notes in the musical scale.


In any case, indigo’s persistence in the lineup serves as a reminder that visible light is like race: a continuum, not discrete colors; and its beauty gives lie to the notion that the word primary is anything more than a label.


Off Season in Cozumel

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Off-Season.”


In Cozumel, Mexico, off-season means empty streets and empty beaches. Switch the sun screen for an umbrella and you’re good to go.


During the tourist season, cruise ships bring 25,000 visitors every day, to an island with a population of 100,000. During the rainy months that number drops in half, and many passengers stay on board.

Travel tips for off-season Cozumel:

Jim with sharks-2

Rain? Pshaw.

1. Swim. The water is still warm.

2. Visit San Miguel, where most locals live. Waterfront businesses are priced for cruise ship passengers, but a few blocks inland is a vibrant community of shops and businesses, some willing to bargain.


Souvenirs, anyone?

3. Visit the national preserve Punta del Sur at the south end of the island. Miles of undeveloped coastline, large lagoons, complete with crocodiles and flamingos, and a great beach for snorkeling. During high season the place is mobbed by visitors tearing up and down the access road in four wheel drives vehicles. When the weather isn’t so nice, the place empties out.

4. Visit Mayan ruins.


Mayan Temple at San Gervasio. Take the staff up on the offer of mosquito repellent.

5. Sign up for a turtle release party.


Turtles need protection from vultures, feral cats, dogs, poachers and tourists.

Two species, loggerhead and green turtles nest on the island, and several others migrate through and feed in the vicinity. Nesting season runs from May to November. The Parks and Museum Foundation’s Punta Sur Park Turtle Salvation Program, takes visitors out with turtle brigades (maximum of 15) to assist with release of hatchlings, and for study and guard duty. The City of San Miguel’s Volunteer Turtle Salvation Program, also helps protect nesting turtles. Both groups are in need of volunteers and financial support.

6. Eat. Our two favorite restaurants: Kinta Mexican Bistro and Kondesa, owned by chef Kris Wallenta and his brother Jason. Kinta focuses on traditional Mexican flavors and dishes with an imaginative twist — wonderful sauces, cozy setting. Kondesa’s bar opens to a garden restaurant with a zen theme, and it’s menu features locally caught fish. The guak (guacamole) trio appetizer was fantastic.


7. Learn about recent history, politics and environmental issues. Visit the museum, learn about the impact of six boa constrictors released from a film set, of resorts on turtle nesting sites, how the island was affected by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and by the 2008 financial crisis.

8. If all else fails.



In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “On the Way.”

Are there events — historical, political, natural — that divide your life into a ‘before’ and an ‘after’? 

We were on the last leg of a trip home from overseas, when the pilot announced that since we were early, he’d give us a treat. “Look out the windows,” he said, and made two low, tight circles around the caldera of that sleeping dragon, Mt. St. Helens.


Welcome home.

It’s been thirty-five years since St. Helens exploded.


Photo source: Wikipedia.

Fifty seven people died.


Photographer Reid Blackburn’s car. Photo source: Wikipedia.

One of my brothers got married a few days later. He and his bride drove off for their honeymoon in a cloud of ash.


Auto dealership in Idaho. Photo source: Boston.com

A generation ago.

A naptime away in volcano time.

Sleep long and deeply St. Helens.


What natural phenomena has impressed you? Were you in New York for Sandy, New Orleans for Katrina? Nepal for the earthquake? The Northeast this past winter?


In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Broken.”

Beach, in the conservation area at the southern tip of Cozumel, Mexico:


A lot of the trash did not appear to come from Mexico. Skiing, anyone?

The 2,500 acres set aside in Faro Celarain Eco Park, also known as Parque Punta Sur, are home to nesting sea turtles and several species of exotic birds.

Every year the nonprofit group Ocean Conservancy organizes volunteers around the world to pick up trash from beaches. The top ten items most frequently found:


Photo Source: Ocean Conservancy

Two years ago our town banned the use of plastic bags for carrying out groceries (produce bags still allowed). Oh, the hue and cry. There were letters to the editor in protest. One letter writer threatened to shop in another town. Business would suffer! Yet now, no one complains. There’s a sense of civic pride.

How many other used, disposable and broken things could we easily re-use, fix or not use at all?

Have you been to the coast lately? Any broken stuff on the beach?

That’s an MRAP

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Enveloped.”

What kind of equipment does the police department own in your town?

Wrapped in MRAP


Photo Source: Raymond Wambsgans, courtesy of Flickr.com

Remember back in 2013 or so? Reports were just surfacing that the U.S. military was giving away extra equipment to police departments and campus security offices. In my state, $11 million in surplus equipment was handed out to fifty law enforcement agencies, including several in our county. The program was part of the counterterrorism strategy set in place after Sept. 11, 2001.

Lane County, Oregon, is not exactly a haven for terrorists.

While in college, I visited Romania, when the country was run by the communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaucescu. What a shock to visit a country where airports and government buildings were ringed by soldiers toting automatic weapons.

Yet, here we are.


Washington, D.C. police. Photo source: Matthew Bradley, Courtesy of Flickr.com

It took tragedies to raise awareness, but the spirit of protest is alive and well.


Photo source: scottlum, courtesy of Flickr.com

In response to public pressure, this week President Obama banned the federal government from providing armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft , firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets and camouflage uniforms to police.

To qualify for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles (MRAPs), drones or battering rams, law enforcement agencies will have to explain why they are needed, how they will be used, and how officers who use them will be trained.

We are far from recovering from September 11, 2001. The first response — to envelope ourselves in weaponry — will haunt us, perhaps for as long as we are a country. Still, we made progress this week. Maybe we’ll find our way out of the deep freeze.


Does your state college have a mine-resistant vehicle? What do you think about the federal program to give surplus equipment to local law enforcement?

Water Withheld

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Forces of Nature.”


Rain, evaporating before it hits the ground.

“The planet is fine. The people are f—ed.”
― George Carlin

How’s the weather in your part of the world?

Here in the northwest US, water and snow are in short supply. It’s a big change for us, who are used to winters so rainy that sometimes moss grows in the middle of the streets.

In the Willamette Valley where we live, the warm, dry winter brought a lush spring. Strawberries appeared at the farmer’s market two months early. Apple trees are loaded with fruit, and the roses are already in bloom.



On the eastern side of the state, where we visit to watch birds, hike and enjoy the quiet, evidence of the dry winter is everywhere — empty ponds —


Krumbo pond. Last time we visited, the pond was full of water, and migrating birds..

— Low snowpack.


Riddle Ranch, South Steens Mountains

One dry year does not an apocalypse make, and, as climate scientists keep reminding us — the weather outside the window isn’t evidence of climate change one way or the other — but California is four years into a drought. Drought could happen here, too.

“Men argue. Nature acts.”

— Voltaire



Last days

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Motion.”


Spawning salmon at Whittaker Creek

The air was still and cold when we took this photo, and there was only one fish holding in a ragged pattern below the surface of the water.

Salmon are a keystone species, that is, their effect on the immediate environment is disproportionate to size or numbers. They return  to their natal site to spawn before they die. Salmon runs push nutrients from the ocean far upstream, endowing richness and diversity, feeding aquatic plants, insects, soil and forest.  We’ve visited this site over the years, and seen the number of fish who return diminish steadily. All are in motion: water, fish, the times.