Friday Photo #16 from Lapland

This is timely here on our farm in Georgia USA, because this morning we’re starting out at about the same temperature (-16C/3F) it was when I took this photo around midnight one night in December 2011, inside the Arctic Circle in Saariselkä, Finnish Lapland.


Click the photo to enlarge. See 237 more photos from all over Finland in the Finland Gallery at And here are all the Friday Photos.

We’re deep into preparation for another trip into the Arctic next month. We’ll be in Svalbard hoping to see the 20 March total solar eclipse. Weather permitting, I’ll have eclipse photos and many more aurora photos here on CS&W then.


Friday Photo #15 and a Story from Bhutan


To me, this one somehow has an almost biblical feel. It’s a man selling chickens in a meat shop in the tiny Bhutanese capital of Thimpu. Click to enlarge it (and for comparison, here is the original, non-Photoshopped version). And see 115 more photos from the Himalayan Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon in the Bhutan Gallery at

One of the chapters in my book Common Sense and Whiskey tells of our time in Bhutan. You can read that chapter in full for free, right here.

Have a look at the rest of the Friday Photos. And a good weekend to everybody.

First Impressions of the Minsk II Agreement

Some people are roundly trashing Minsk II. About the most positive sentiments out there seem to be that it’s better than nothing.

I’m pretty skeptical.

Note that the document that emerged wasn’t signed by the government leaders but by these negotiators, members of the Trilateral Contact Group, same as Minsk I:

[OSCE] Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini

Second President of Ukraine L.D. Kuchma

The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Ukraine M.Yu. Zurabov

A. V. Zakharchenko

I. V. Plotnitsky

Not putting the clout of the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine explicitly behind the document doesn’t augur well for its implementation, I don’t think.

Olga Tokariuk gets it right:

Also note these two parts of the agreement:

4. On the same day that the withdrawal of heavy weapons begins, a dialogue must start to prepare for local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and Ukrainian laws on the temporary status of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Dialogue must also begin to address the future status of these regions.

- and -

9. Control of the Ukrainian state border in the conflict zone must be returned to the Ukrainian government on the first day following local elections in the conflict zone and following implementation of point 11 of the Minsk memorandum governing Ukrainian constitutional reform.

It seems to me that together, they’re essentially Russia telling Ukraine, “You can only have your border back after we hold sham elections that we can manipulate as we please, and between now and then we can run as much military materiel into DNR/LNR as we like.”

First impressions only, but not especially hopeful.

Charmed in Anguilla


Over coffee with a bit of milk, Charm, 67, whose real name is Stedman, told how Anguilla became home ruled after breaking away from the British head island of St. Kitts peacefully, though not without drama. When he was a young man, reading by kerosene lamps, every once in a while St. Kitts would get a few new cars from England.

Eventually one or two of their old cars would make it over here, to Anguilla. There were no paved roads in his childhood. Anguilla was second class and saw it and stood up to revolt, and because he was a young man of around twenty he was a prime revolutionary.

They would demonstrate and they would strike and one tense morning England sailed in a ship full of armed men. This was in 1967, now, far removed from Britain’s muscular colonial days, but still in short order the Brits assumed positions all over the island.

Charm’s soft voice grew a little louder and he rubbed his forehead and twisted his spoon as he told the tale of the fateful day. Young men of Charm’s age put down their tools (he worked in construction) all across the island and rallied to demonstrate, and he declared that once the Brits heard Anguilla’s demands, which were non-violent, just for dignity and home rule under England and not under St. Kitts, they worked things out and not a shot was fired in anger. The day the agreement was signed, December 19th, later became his wedding day. He’s been married for 27 years now to a girl from St. Kitts.

Now that Anguilla is ruled locally it must maintain separate relations with its neighbors, both the French and Dutch sides of St. Martin, which you can see from here. Each time anyone from there or here takes the twenty minute ride across the water they have to do full immigration, passport stamps and all.

Charm has been in this job for three years, working for a resort. His day off is Monday and of course he goes to church first before work on Sundays.

Friday Photo #14, Fremantle and more from Australia

HDR of the docks down along the Fremantle, Australia waterfront. Click to enlarge all of these.



This is a view of Sydney from Watson’s Bay at sunset.



Here is Katherine Gorge, up in the Northern Territory south of Darwin.



And this is Luna Park, across the Harbour Bridge (lower right) in North Sydney.


There are 408 more photos from across the country in the Australia Gallery at And see all the Friday Photos. Have a good weekend, everybody.