Beautiful, Interesting and Ooo Shiny! Images From Various Places

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New Year, New Blogs

Windows
Location: Indonesia
Camera Info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/250 sec

I’m back! Or more specifically, I’m trying again. Life got very overwhelming last year, and I had to make some cutbacks, so unfortunately this blog had to take a backseat as well. This year looks like it will be pretty busy as well (I’m looking forward to my wedding, as well as up to three potential international trips), but I will make a strong attempt to keep this going, even if I have to cut back to once or twice a month instead of every week. You wonderful people deserve it! So sorry to keep you waiting this past year.

This week’s picture makes me think of reflections. As I looked out those windows in Indonesia, I thought about where I had been and what lies ahead, and now I am doing the same. This last year has seen Andy and I losing employment, gaining it, losing it, etc. Currently he has found a job and I am still looking (yet another reason why I actually have time to write again!). We are planning our wedding for this spring (finally!) and hope to be heading overseas again shortly afterward.

Together, we’ve had quite the year! Both of us have been very involved in our Toastmasters clubs, with me becoming an officer and taking part in a humorous speech contest, and Andy becoming the very first non-inmate to join a prison club! Andy has kept busy ministering in the prison in various ways, as well as leading tours and working on archive preservation at the historic Harrison House. Of course I can’t mention Andy without his favorite sports, running and archery. This year, he has been teaching me to shoot with him, and he completed his 10th full marathon and 20th half-marathon, earning himself a place in the Marathon Maniacs club (Think: hotel discounts for life!). We’ve also added to our respective families. I took in a stray black cat, Ninja, and adopted a second kitten to keep her company (Leo). And yes, that means there will be occasional cat pictures for you as well! *giggle*

For 2014, we don’t know what it may hold, but we do know God is faithful to lead us. We’re excited for the new adventures that await us… and hopefully they will come with plenty new photos to show you! Thanks everyone for sticking with me. Here’s to a great 2014!

What’s your biggest hope for the new year?

2012: The Greatest Hits

Concert

Location: USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
(No EXIF Data Currently Available)

Happy New Year (six days ago)! If you were around last year, you may remember I did a year-end review post so that you could relive the awesomeness of posts from 2011. Well, it’s that time again! May I present to you… 2012’s Greatest Hits Countdown!

10. First, everyone here wants to take good pictures, right? That’s why Composition 1 came in at 10th place. Free education for all!

9. Next, let’s travel to Asia. India’s Division of Labor gave us some cultural lessons from the subcontinent.

8. The sad & sobering news stories strike again, but this time with a glimmer of hope in Forgiveness in Colorado. This post also took the top spot for most comments of the year (even if the majority was from the same person) ;)

7. Travel reviews are an intricate part of this blog. Fly Sky High in the Eye is for those looking for fun stuff to do in London, England.

6. Lists make everything seem so organized, even when they make you cringe in embarrassment. At #6, we have Top Tourist Mistakes! (Don’t try these away from home)

5. For all the photo enthusiasts, some practical help was needed. Composition 2 was the top pick of the photography lessons provided this year.

4. Let’s bring on the funny! Many got a kick out of the 15 Funny Road Signs From Around the World, even if we still didn’t understand all of them.

3. It seems people were attracted to the big news stories this year. After only a month on the blog, A Poem for the Children rose to #3 on the charts.

2. Next is a topic that is near to my heart, but again tough to discuss with people. That’s why I called it The Thing No One Wants to Talk About.

1. Last but best of all. This post is on a serious note, but one that illustrates the value of small things done in love. This year’s top post is A Moment in Time.

Bonus Track: Surprise! Surprise! Apparently, people were really interested in my personal life. ;) This post made honorable mention at #11.

Did your favorite post not make it on the list? Give it some love and tell us why you like it in the comments!

The 12 Odd Facts of Christmas

Cardinal Eating

Location: USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/800 sec

Ok, folks, I give up! I was trying to work on our 2nd annual Christmas video for your viewing pleasure, but it’s taking longer than expected this year. Instead of keeping you waiting, here’s some fun Christmas trivia! Maybe if you act smart at your family Christmas party this year, your aunt Betty won’t be so tempted to pinch your cheeks and tell you she can’t believe how much you’ve grown… or something like that. ;)

  • According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are 2,106 million children under age 18 in the world. If there are on average 2.5 children per household, Santa would have to make 842 million stops on Christmas Eve, traveling 221 million miles. To get there in 24 hours, Santa would need to travel between houses in 2/10,000 second (for the “not-so-nerdy”, that’s about 4 million mph, or 3000 times the speed of sound). At that speed, Santa and his reindeer would burst into flames instantaneously. (Reindeer steaks, anyone?)
  • Of the presents received by kids worldwide, one in 10 will be broken by the New Year, only 40% will make it to March and just a quarter will be intact by next Christmas.
  • From the UK: Three people die each year testing if a 9v battery works on their tongue. (WHY???)
  • Mistletoe (Viscum album) is from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, which means “little dung twig” because the plant spreads though bird droppings. (And that’s EXACTLY what I’d like to be kissing under! ‘~’ )
  • UK: Since 1997, 101 people have had to have broken parts of plastic toys pulled out of the soles of their feet. (I wonder how many were Legos? Ow!)
  • In Poland, spiders or spider webs are common Christmas tree decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. (I don’t care if they made him a yert! Spiders are still evil, in my opinion.)
  • According to Facebook data, most breakups occur two weeks before Christmas. Yet Christmas Day is the least popular day for breakups.
  • UK: 19 people have died in the last 3 years believing that Christmas decorations were chocolate. (Wait… what?)
  • The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
  • “Jingle Bells” was originally written in 1857 for a Thanksgiving celebration. (Seems legit.)
  • Norwegian scientists have hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system. (I don’t even want to imagine how that one works!)
  • In Canada, Santa Claus has his own personal zip code, H0H 0H0. Each letter that includes a return address receives a reply from Santa in the language the letter was written in, including Braille (with help from some 11,000 “Postal Elves”)!

Rather than link every fact on the list, I’ll just give you my sources here: Random History, Venere, Chicago Now, We Interrupt, Nice Fun, Guy Sports (Christmas Safety Warnings).

Bring on the knowledge junkies! What other fun Christmas trivia do you know? Let’s hear it!

A Poem For the Children

IMG_4841

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 400 • f 5.6 • 1/10 sec (and quite a bit of editing)

Well, I was planning on writing a funny blog this week, but in honor of the events that happened this past Friday in Newtown, CT and Chengping, China, I will just leave you with this. I found this poem floating around Facebook, attributed to Cameo Smith of Mt. Wolf, PA. Please let me know if the credits are incorrect.

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air;
they could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say;
they remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
“This is heaven,” declared a small boy, “We’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their Savior; the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name;
and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring.
Those children all flew into the arms of their King;
and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had
He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below;
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”
“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools!”
“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
“Come now my children, let me show you around.”
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran;
all displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
“In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Please take some time to pray for all those affected by this week’s tragedies.

Escape From the Camp

IMG_2792

Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 100 • f 4 • 1/100 sec

I’m going all serious on you again.

Earlier this week, I watched part of a documentary on how a North Korean man escaped from the concentration camp he had grown up in. He had watched his own mother and brother executed there for trying to escape, but eventually the desire to be free got to him as well. He and another man worked together to get out, and the other man was killed in the process. This type of stuff is still happening in North Korea.

I can assume that North Korea’s camps are very similar to Auschwitz, the Nazi camp we visited in Poland. Security there was extremely tight. In my photo, you can see a sign reading “Stop!” on a standard electric fence. Behind that, there is another barbed-wire fence with the top curved inward. It was also electrified. A third fence, the same design as the second, is next. Finally, there is a brick wall. Just by looking at it, I would guess it around eight feet high. If you look down the fence to the end, there is a small building with four windows. That is one of guard shacks, which were spaced along the perimeter of the camp. Guards would wait there for potential escapees, and try to shoot them before they reached the fence. In fact, our guide told us, prisoners would sometimes use the fence as a form of suicide, since the electricity was such a high voltage it would kill them. The guards tried to shoot the prisoners first, however, since they “did not like to clean up the mess” of someone being electrified.

Looking at all this, I did wonder how some people managed to successfully escape, as it seemed nearly impossible. According to our guide, some 802 attempted, but only 144 made it out alive (not counting all those liberated at the end of the war). I heard some found favor with dissenters who worked in the “hospital” and were snuck out. Some also escaped during work outings, but at high cost: for each successful escapee, ten others from their work team would be shot as a deterrent. Others were freed by SS guards who changed their minds about the Nazi agenda. As we walked around, I kept wondering to myself: If I was put in their place, what would I do? Would I try to escape or stay to protect those around me? If I did make an attempt, what would I try to do?

Put yourself in the prisoner’s shoes for a moment. How do you think you would handle this situation? Remember to pray for those still in camps today.

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