Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Just the strangest bus ever

Bus from Hell
Seen on the south side of Chicago.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Chicago Cottage 5
During my wanderings around Chicago, I found this little cluster of frame houses surrounded by vacant lots, industrial sites and less savory neighborhoods. Many of the houses are boarded up and I was reluctant to photograph the occupied ones but the area caught my fancy. I hope someone decides to rescue these homes. They are a part of our architectural heritage that counts as much as the more gaudy downtown high rises. I think they are of an architectural type known as "workers cottages."
Chicago Cottage 4
I think I need to swing by again and take more pictures. There is a story behind the area which I will try to blog sometime soon.
Boarded up houses

Sunday, February 25, 2007


I spent the weekend being a single parent. It makes me truly grateful and humbled that I do not have to do this full time. Even though watching the kids on my own while my husband is traveling professionally is not as difficult as it was when the kids were little, it still takes a bit out of me. I need more than my fair share of alone time and this weekend I didn’t get much.
This has nothing to do with the puzzled theme but it does have to do with why I am trying to write on this theme at a quarter to 9 PM. Today, I juggled piano lessons for two, play dates, grocery shopping, a school play and attending the Jewish equivalent of a wake, called Shiva. So I haven’t had time to be puzzled.
During a free moment whilst driving, I pondered what I was puzzled about at present. The weather was dreadful; a combination of snow and freezing rain that left slushy puddles everywhere. And I was feeling melancholic. Probably it was the melancholy of the end of a Chicago winter. Even though this winter (with the exception of the first weeks of February) was mild enough to confirm my fears of global warming, the winters here still do drag on too long. I miss the sun. I miss green plants and flowers. I miss walking outside without a coat on.
So I guess feeling melancholic is not too puzzling but I still get that feeling of surprise, when I really have nothing to feel sad about. Sometimes a tune comes into my head to fit the mood and today’s tune was from Evita. I think the scene was after Peron evicted his latest mistress. She sings movingly: “Being used to trouble, I anticipate it. But all the same I hate it, wouldn’t you? So what happens now? Where am I going to?” The chorus replies to her, “Don’t ask any more.”
At the moment, I have no need to ask these existential questions. I know where I am and where I am going, for the time being. When new goals need to be chosen, for example after my kids leave home, I think I will be able to choose them with joy and not trepidation. So for now, the answer truly is: “Don’t ask any more.” Some puzzles don’t need any more of an answer than that I’m a bit tired and should rest up.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Posted by Picasa

Submitted to Photosharks--Masculine. He's less than half my age but pretty cute. From our local amateur production of Nutcracker.

Saturday PhotoHunt--soft

Little House in the Snow
Little House in Snow

Friday, February 23, 2007

Egyptian Blogger Jailed

Colosseum behind bars

We all know that freedom of speech is threatened the world over. In the era of the Bush Administration, one has cause to worry here in the U.S. as well. But recent news reports tell of a young Egyptian blogger, Abdel Karim Suleiman, who has been sentenced to 4 years in prison for blogging his mind.
I am not writing this as breaking news. I will attach links to proper news sites. But the more internet "hits" this news gets the better. Let the world know that free internet speech is important to us all. While we sit here worrying if we may say something too personal on our sites or if we will be getting nasty comments or blog spam, others are fearing imprisonment. I am grateful that I may post criticism of my president and his administration, or even my religion if I choose, without fear of going to jail.
For more information on Mr. Suleiman here are a few links.
BBC News
To learn more about internet repression and what your post may do to help, try this Amnesty International link to a site called Irrepressible Bloggers
Pajamas Media is another site with a post by a blogger, Sandmonkey, who also posts from Egypt (anonymously). Sounds like a dangerous job.
Pajamas Media also gives a link to this site which I believe is the actual web site being discussed. Most of it is in Arabic which I do not read. This is how the site author describes himself:
"I am down to earth Law student; I look forward to help humanity against all form of discriminations. I am currently studying Law in Al Azhar University. I am looking forward to open up my own human rights activists Law firm, which will include other lawyers who share the same views. Our main goal is to defend the rights of Muslim and Arabic women against all form of discrimination and to stop violent crimes committed on a daily basis in these countries ."
The author is no longer a law student. Unfortunately he was expelled for his statements on his site.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Booking Through Thursday

1. A couple weeks ago, we asked about how you take care of your books, with one of the questions asking whether you write in your books. Well, what about books that are meant to be written in? Like, say, a journal or diary? Do you keep one? Obviously, if you're answering this, you have a blog--do you just let your blog be your journal? Or do you also keep one for private stuff also?

My journals never go anywhere. They get a few entries then are abandoned. So far blogging has been much more successful for me. After all my first entry was written in June 2006 and I'm still going. I think having readers and comments keeps me going as do the memes and prompts. When I 'm too tired to post there are always photos. Of course, there are differences too. There are limits to how candid I am going to be in public. I guess what is private is just going to stay private.
Here are two interesting notebook sites.
1. Moleskinerie
2. Notebookism

Self-portrait with vintage hat and unwilling cat

Self portrait with vintage hat and unwilling cat

Photo Friday asks for a self-portrait. This is a technical challenge but more so a personal challenge. I have never liked having my picture taken and taking my own seems all the more difficult. I set up in a room with good natural light and a simple backdrop. First I started by photographing my hand and arm which I actually like the look of. Then I tried a photograph of my face. The first portrait was terrible. I looked like a hag. The light emphasized every line and shadow on my face. I looked old, bony, severe. But, instead of giving up, I recruited my cats to help. Trying to coax an unwilling cat to pose with me, softened me up, and made me look more natural. As the claws came out, the shots became more candid. I got a few reasonable shots. Then the cats wouldn't let me near enough to catch them.
Thoughts of self-portraits and of conversations I have with women in therapy all the time (men only occasionally) also inspired this week's Poetry Thursday poem to the prompt of "The Body Knows."


My arm

A woman knows her every flaw
Each unwanted roll or
Chin, doubled.

Surgeons abound to
Sculpt a nose,
Lift a face or smooth a brow.

Suck the fat away,
Tuck a tummy,
Zap those unwanted veins.

Botox the laugh lines and
Peel the bad complexion.
An industry of self-hatred.

Models too thin to live,
Girls who purge their anger
In lavatories of loathing.

A woman knows her every flaw.
The mirror never lies
To jaundiced eyes.

Thursday Thirteen #12--Still trying to be original

University and Geese
Thirteen colleges that have mailed my son.
My son is a high school sophomore who just took his PSAT’s. Now he gets more mail than the rest of the family from colleges in the recruiting business. I don’t remember this happening when I was his age. I’ve not even heard of some of these colleges. It is flattering that others are wooing my kid.

1. University of Miami
2. Marquette University
3. Lake Forest College
4. Dickinson College
5. University of Missouri-Rolla
6. Colorado College
7. Caltech
8. Drake University
9. Loyola University Chicago
10. Washington and Lee University
11. Washington University in St. Louis
12. University of Washington
13. Stanford University

The first 11 all came in one day’s mail. I’d estimate he received at least another ten fliers maybe more. Who knows what tomorrow’s mail will bring?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Pharmacy in Abbetone, Italy
Pharmacy in Abbetone, Italy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I'm not too thrilled with the quality of the download but this is for a Utata challenge. The challenge was to make a two-photo mosaic of two things that are opposite. This is what I came up with. The columns are from the Forum in Rome and the building is a skyscraper in Chicago. To see more photos from the challenge go to
I've had a long day today and bed is calling. I'll visit y'all and comment tomorrow after I've had some sleep.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Free Smells

Flickr is off-line so I'm downloading a picture from my files.
I am spending a lot of my free time, of late, roaming Chicago with my camera. This is cutting into my writing time, but I have a plan in mind for at least some of my shots. I am learning a lot of Chicago history trying to put what I have seen into some form of context. As things evolve, I'll report on this some more, or maybe not. In the meantime, I'll post pictures as they seem amusing, germane or attractive.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday Scribblings--Crush

A rose

There’s a somebody I’m longing to see
I hope that she turns out to be
Someone who’ll watch over me

Thank you Gershwin for that and many other songs of love or of wishing for love. Whether sung by Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra, this is the song that the word “Crush” brings to mind. For isn’t a crush always the waiting, the longing? Crush implies an unrequited love, or at least the wish to be in love with someone. And crushes are sort of high-schoolish, in other words, not serious enough for heartbreak and not mature enough to count for much. Not that some one at my advanced age can’t have a crush. We might fall for a handsome TV actor. I have a crush on both House (Hugh Laurie) and his wimpy friend Wilson (Robert Sean Leonard). It is always hard to choose between the dangerous older man and the nice but boring old friend. But nothing will come of it because we have commitments and besides crushes aren’t for real.
Back when I was 18 and had a crush on my friend’s older brother, I did hope that he would notice me in that way. I was a college freshman and he was a junior and he seemed interested in me. Or at least he smiled at me, and he had a cute smile. But probably he was being nice and I was being a bit puppyish. He had a girlfriend and I was just his little sister’s friend. I hoped for a while and then it faded away. No harm done. And then I got a real boyfriend and forgot about crushes in the heady experience of falling in love for the first time.
At 45, I spend more time enjoying my children’s first little crushes. I have someone to watch over me and that matters more than any crush. Besides, I’m pretty darn good at looking after myself too.

See It Sunday--Pink

My second pink meme of the week. I suppose it is courtesy of Valentine's Day. Pink has never been my color but this flower caught my eye last summer.
Hollyhocks were out of style for many years and considered too "old-fashioned." Fortunately with the new trend toward cottage gardens they are back in vogue. In my yard, hollyhocks liberally self-sow, so I get a new batch every year in a variety of colors.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bloghopping--Nature oriented blogs

I haven't done much blog-hopping lately so I decided to look at my bookmarks (different than my blogroll) and come up with some old and new nature blogs.
For people who like photos and birds there are Hasty Brook in Minnesota and Susan Gets Native from Ohio.
Also Somewhere in NJ which bills itself as about "birds, books and bunnies."
The Egret's Nest in California shares her first daffodil of spring. Need I say that I am jealous?

All this hopping reminded me I haven't submitted any photos to the blog carnival Good Planet. Another nature blogger Wanderin' Weeta is hosting for the rest of this month and she is still looking for photos I think so check her out.
Here are my two photos--the first is a Seagull fighting stiff winds. I could barely stand up for the wind but all you can see is a little blowing sand and a few ruffled feathers on the bird.
Seagull in strong wind
The next photo is of a fabulous sunset, also in the state of Washington, this past December. This is from the town of Forks.
Sunset in Forks
Have a good night and a good weekend.

Saturday Photo Hunt--Antique

Clock 2
Clock in Auxerre, France tells time and tracks motion of sun and moon. Dated 1672.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Walker in the City by Alfred Kazin

18th and Canal Street Building
My third book for the Classics Challenge is Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City. Since this is also on my TBR list, I want to first tell you why I have this book.
A couple of years ago, I was at a conference in New York City. As is my way, when I burn out on learning, I go sight seeing. I managed to catch some theater and I took a side trip to Brooklyn. The latter was a bit of a “roots” thing. Thanks to the internet I was able to retrieve some census data about my grandfather and his family. From a 1920 census, I tracked down the address he lived at when he was 9 years old in Brooklyn. I guessed that perhaps his old house had been torn down years ago but decided to see if I could find the neighborhood. I armed myself with a Mapquest map of the area, found the right subway station and off I went.
When I got off at my stop, I discovered that I was not in a prosperous neighborhood. After 23 years of living in Chicago, I am familiar with housing projects, but these seemed to go on forever. Not only was my grandfather’s house gone but so was his entire neighborhood. I couldn’t find enough intact old housing to decide what the original homes had even looked like.
I was a bit nervous about where I was so I walked around a little bit and then grabbed the next train out of there. I spent a bit of time in some of the more trendy Brooklyn neighborhoods and picked up this book.
Kazin grew up in the same Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn as my grandfather. He was only 4 years younger so they may even have run into each other during some of Kazin’s ramblings. Unfortunately they are both gone so we will never know.
Kazin’s story is one of boyhood in an immigrant neighborhood. It is a story of the old world, of a mother who does not read much English, of a synagogue named for a Polish village, and of the new one. Kazin, like many children of immigrants, longs to become assimilated. He walks from his neighborhood to parts of the city that he sees as more American.
He also reads to escape, to become, vicariously, more American. “The automatic part of all my reading was history. The past, the past was great: anything American, old glazed, touched with dusk at the end of the nineteenth century, still smoldering with the fires lit by the industrial revolution, immediately set my mind dancing. The present was mean, the eighteenth century too Anglo-Saxon, too far away. Between them, in the light from the steerage ships waiting to discharge my parents onto the final shore, was the world of dusk, of rust, of iron, of gaslight, where, I thought, I would find my way to that fork in the road where all American lives cross.”
Reading A Walker in the City is a journey in itself. Enjoy following Kazin as he travels between old and new cultures and between childhood and adulthood. It is a pleasant ramble.

Moody Monday--Toxic

Seen in Chicago. Probably really just steam. But it looks toxic.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

  1. Love stories? Yes or No? Sometimes

  2. If yes, "romances" as a genre? Or just, well, stories that have love stories? (Nobody's going to call "Pride & Prejudice" a "romance," right?) Pride and Prejudice is too a romance. It is just a great romance. I also loved Jane Eyre as a kid. In terms of trashy romances, well, I have to be in a certain mood. And I don't confess that I read them to anyone I know. The wife of someone I used to work with writes romances. I was very admiring of someone who can get a novel published so I read one of hers. I didn't think it was all that good and I found the sex scenes very embarrassing because I know her husband. I kept wondering if she was writing from imagination or experience. Shame on me.

Pink Pig

Don't you just love him? Seen in Colonnata, a small town in Liguria, Italy.
For Thursday Challenge, Pink.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snowy, snowy night

Snowy snowy night
For Wordless Wednesday

Vain and Meaningless Boasting

One of my photos actually earned an honorable mention in a photo meme. It was my photo of the Roman Colosseum for the PhotoSharks theme "famous." Cool. It doesn't mean I'm famous, alas.
Here is another photo of the Colosseum. I didn't know and found it very interesting that it actually had a subfloor. This was called the Hypogeum and was used for the hydraulics of the structure (at one time they actually staged naval battles in the Colosseum), armories, stage machinery and cages for the animals. Unfortunately this part was not open to the public. My kids were totally bored by this time anyway after a visit to the Forum and too much time in the very hot July sun.
Roman Colosseum from inside

Anyone up for a Barbie?

Anyone up for a barbie?
Submitted to PhotoSharks-garbage.
Not the best picture ever but I didn't have much for the theme. It still seems funny to be choosing to toss your barbecue in the middle of a winter snowstorm.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Photo Friday--Sky

More setting suns
Taken from the Washington coast this winter.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I'm in the mood. . .

To post a photo. This was taken in Lucca, Italy last summer. Wish I could just jaunt over there now.

Store front in Lucca

Loomis Street Chicago

For Dirty Butter who used to visit her grandparents in Chicago. Not a great photo but it's the street that counts.
Loomis Street, Chicago

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Scribblings--Yummy

This prompt makes me think of a conversation we had over dinner last night. We were invited to dinner at the home of one of my husband’s colleagues. He and his wife are French and when the main course was served, the wife remarked that at least the dish wasn’t rabbit. Apparently they had discovered in the course of their entertaining Americans that rabbit was not always well received. Americans tend to regard rabbit as a pet, not a food. I’ve never been served rabbit in the United States although I have had it in Paris and in Italy. As meat goes, it is fairly benign in my book.
Of course that led to a number of food stories. We compared notes about challenging foods. We came up with bird’s nest soup, a French dish made of whole songbirds (orlotans)—for an interesting article about this dish click on this link—no one at the table had partaken of this delicacy as the birds are now endangered, some strange ways of preparing shrimp and so on.
My favorite, slightly shameful, food story was shared. A couple of years ago, my family and I traveled to Italy. We wound up eating one night in a delightful little restaurant in the small town of Apricale. It was one of those restaurants that didn’t have a menu—the proprietor discussed the food with you and then served it. The meat course was rabbit.
Younger son declined but older son gamely (pun intended) decided to try it. I think all would have proceeded smoothly except that before the meat dish, we had several rounds of appetizers, served with generous quantities of wine. My husband and I became a bit jovial due to the wine and atmosphere. When the rabbit dish finally arrived, my son started poking at it a bit dubiously. The meat was served in a generous sauce so it could have been from any one of a number of small animals but kids are kids. “Bunny bones,” he declared. Well, my slightly inebriated husband and I couldn’t help but laugh. The coup de grace, however, was when said husband decided to do his Elmer Fudd imitation. His rendition of “Kill the wabbit” definitely put my son off rabbit, maybe for life. Two years later, my son still gets very annoyed if we sing this song. So, being good parents, of course we do. I’m sure he is scarred for life but he has to have something to tell his future therapist.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Odd looking fungi on tree
Trees are among my favorite things to photograph. In Chicago in the winter, their bare branches reach like arms and fingers toward the sky. For variety, they become encrusted with snow or ice.
In the state of Washington, where I spent much of my childhood, many trees are evergreen. Forests are generally dense and dark. They are places to get lost in, either psychically or physically.
The Olympic Rainforest, situated on the Northwest corner of the country, is even denser and greener. Like the rainforests of more tropical regions, it receives 12-14 feet (around 4 m.) of rain yearly. This means a high density of plant life. Not only are there the trees, but then there are the moss, lichen and fungi that grow on the trees and under the trees. I always expect to see the trees to come to life when I am in the rainforest. One day I will turn the corner and see an Ent or two tending their herds (for those LOTR fans). It hasn't happened yet but there are worse things to believe in (such as the Sasquatch which theoretically might be espied in these parts).
Birch tree with fungi
Here are a couple of photos I took this winter of one birch tree and its colonists. I'm not an expert botanist (or is it mycologist?) so I cannot give you the names of what is growing on the bark. The diversity is impressive, though; isn't it?
Mixed growth on tree

Satuday Photo Hunt--broken

Down tree

Friday, February 09, 2007

Classics Challenge: Mrs Dalloway

My second book for the classics challenge is Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I bought this a couple of years ago inspired by the book, The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. Of course, now I don’t remember the latter book, but Mrs. Dalloway has languished on my TBR pile, probably for at least a couple of years.
Only the discipline of a reading challenge inspired me to read this and I am heartily glad I did. Although Mrs. Dalloway isn’t a light read, it is beautiful. It is also almost plotless which can be challenging at times. Dalloway is a story of a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway and of the people who share her world, however peripherally. The reader follows this day, as Clarissa prepares for an evening party.
Mrs. Dalloway has many themes but one of the most profound is that of reaching a certain turning point in life. Clarissa and her friends are in their 50’s and are looking back at a life over half over. They ponder their mortality, their past loves and especially the present moment.
One has a presentiment of Woolf’s depression and eventual suicide. One character in Dalloway suffers from an apparent psychotic depression and commits suicide. Clarissa sees his death as almost heroic; a defiance of aging. She muses on her own temptation to kill herself, perhaps by fire, and of her fear of living her life to its natural end.
This is not to imply that Dalloway is a depressing book. It is, rather, haunting and poetic. The characters drift in and out, going about their daily routines. In places the language is delightful. Here is a description of Clarissa at her party: “She wore ear-rings, and a silver-green mermaid’s dress. Lolloping on the waves and braiding her tresses she seemed, having that gift still; to be; to exist; to sum it all up in the moment as she passed; turned, caught her scarf in some other woman’s dress, unhitched it, laughed, all with the most perfect ease and air of a creature floating in its element. But age had brushed her; even as a mermaid might behold in her glass the setting sun on some very clear evening over the waves.”
This is a novel truly deserving of the name “classic.” It also deserves to be read. I hope you consider trying it.

Photo Friday--Strange

This was my entry for last week's meme. This sign was on a small South Side Chicago church.

State Street church

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Poetry Thursday--Changes

This theme seemed to sit well with my recent urban ramblings. So here's a poem.
Lonely old home

Beware the wrecking ball.
That building was someone’s home.
Farewell to lonely aristocrats turned
Crack houses.
Monstrous high rises soar no more.

Urban renewal turning slum
Into pricey town homes.
Lake front views.
False promises by deep-pocketed
Aldermen. Contracts to their buddies.
Low income housing for the few.
Meanwhile empty lots reign.
Urban tumbleweed rolls by.

Empty windows gape

Thursday Thirteen #12--Thirteen Strange photos.

Tomorrow's Photo Friday is strange. I sorted through some of the 400 + photos and am linking some of the weirder. Here they are:
1. YF Photography
2. Today is Today
3. Mr. SnappiePants
5. Karim Beyrouti
6. Waking up late
7. Zenzi--Photos du monde
8. Angela Giles Klocke
9. WatchThisspace
10. random thoughts II
11. Atomische
12. The one-eyed man
13. Shutters Photoblog

Thursday photo challenge--"Cute"

Trite but definitely cute.
All right, aint' he sweet?
Taken in August 2006 in Bryce Canyon National Park

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

What kind of care do you take of your books? Let's review, shall we?

  1. Are you careful with the spines? Or do you crack your books open to make them lay flat? I'm generally pretty careful with the spines. I treat even trashy books as if they are valuable.

  2. Do you use bookmarks? Or do you dog-ear the corners? If you do use bookmarks, do you use those fashionable metal ones? Or paper? I generally use random bits of paper as bookmarks. The magazine subscription cards work well. With the books I am reading and plan on writing up reviews, I have been dog-earing a bit.

  3. Do you write in your books? Ever? If you do, do you make small marks, or write in as much blank space as you can find? Pen or pencil? Highlighter? Your name on the front page? Almost never except textbooks which I mark up liberally with highlighters mostly.

  4. Do you toss your books on the floor? Into book bags? Or do you treat them tenderly, with respect? Books go everwhere, floor, bags, purse, back of car.

  5. Do you ever lay your book face-down, to save your place? Not too often.

  6. Um--water? Do you bathe with your books? Hold them with wet hands? Read out in the rain? Anything of that sort? Only junky books are allowed near the tub. Who reads out in the rain? I'd get wet.

  7. Are your books lined up on a bookshelf? Or crammed in any which way? Stacked on the floor? All of the above.

  8. Do you make a distinction--as regards book care--between hardcovers and paperbacks? Hardcovers get better care.

  9. And, to recap? Naturally, you love all of your books, but how, exactly? Are your books loved in the battered way of a well-loved teddy bear, or like a cherished photo album or item of clothing that's used, appreciated, but carefully cared for? Well used but not too banged up. So not like an heirloom to be kept under glass but not kicked around either.

  10. Any additional comments? I wish I found it easier to throw books out. I have trouble getting rid of books even if they are pure trash and I hated them. There is some sort in inherent respect for me for everything in book form that is hard to overcome.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wordless Wednesday--Today in Chicago

Looking toward the Museum of Science and Industry

Cold day in hell, I mean Chicago

My morning commute
At the moment I am sitting in front of my computer with my space heater on high, typing and trying to thaw out my fingers and toes. Yesterday provided the Chicago area with around 3 inches of snow while maintaining its near zero degree chill. Driving conditions left a bit to be desired yesterday. I decided not to run a yellow light at a major intersection and managed to slide several feet into the intersection anyway despite my anti-lock breaks doing their level best to avoid this. Some of the other drivers helpfully honked at me to let me know this wasn't a good idea. Geniuses!
Traffic was bad which meant most of my patients showed up late. A few didn't bother to appear at all--I guess cold weather makes the telephones malfunction in some homes. I don't really care; I can use the rest. You know who are the really conscientious and/or compulsive individuals. They show up exactly on time no matter what the weather. I can generally predict who will be punctual. These folks may also insist on paying me when they have a credit to their account. Of course, I treat folks who have disorders in which chronic lateness is a symptom so it all evens out in the end.
But I digress. The snowfall is particularly beautiful today. It is one of those cold, dry snows that leaves white crystals that make a particular squeaky crunch when you walk and drifts in peculiar eddies across the road as you drive. The snow was calling out to me--take pictures. Damn the frigid cold, full speed ahead.
So I took a short photography walk this morning. I had enough layers to keep my core warm but my extremities definitely were protesting. Even my camera made some funny noises that I didn't know it had in it. The chickadees, crows and cardinals made an appearance and seemed cheerful enough. The sun was brilliant on the snow and ice and the lake tried to convince me that winter in Chicago wasn't so bad. I almost agreed with it. After all, who needs to go to Glacier Bay when one can see icebergs in one's own back yard?
For those who are wondering I have a Canon Digital Rebel XT which I love. It is big enough to make me look a little pretentious and has far too many buttons and display features. It is the first camera I've ever owned that wasn't a "point and shoot" and there sure is a difference. Also being digital helps me feel more courageous with my shots. If I make a mistake I just hit the delete button. So different than film.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I decided to try out a free photoblog site. I like Blogger for text but it doesn't compete with some of the photo sites. I have doubts about maintaining two sites but the other will be only to post one photo a day and to use for photo memes. I think I'll post the photo here as well but use the larger format on the other site for the "official" entry. I picked the truly original name, Sarala's photoblog. Feel free to check it out although there is only one photo downloaded--it seems to be a photo a day site.
Today's photo is for Moody Monday's theme, content. The photo was taken on a warm Autumn day in Indiana.
Contemplating the water

Monday, February 05, 2007

Panorama--Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon

Scared to Death Sunday

I have been wandering around Chicago looking to feed my new photography habit. In general the wandering happens from the safe, warm confines of my car. Given that it is currently near 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the car is a necessity. I have become fascinated with the south side of Chicago, the old buildings, the derelict neighborhoods, the empty lots and interesting storefronts. So far no one has bothered me in any way, but I have been cautious not to put myself at risk. There are still Chicago neighborhoods where it is not safe for a white woman to go alone.
Sunday I went for one of my rambles. It wasn't one of my better outings. I am reluctant to stop for a picture when there are people around in case someone objects. I had assumed that the sub-zero weather would keep people indoors but actually there was a lot of activity. I only managed a few shots and decided to start heading back to indulge in my other hobby, lurking in Borders and reading over a cup of coffee. On the way back I passed an interesting looking series of buildings that were all boarded up and shuttered. Ida B. Wells Homes
I decided to investigate. It turns out it was part of a nearly defunct housing project, the Ida B. Wells Homes in the Bronzeville neighborhood. (See my post on Robert Taylor homes for photos of one of the high rise projects). Against my better judgment, I drove around a little bit and took a couple of photos (all my nerves would allow). It was very creepy, especially since the graffiti seemed to include some gang insignia. All those empty buildings seemed to be potential homes for danger. Door in Ida B. Wells
My better judgment won out and I decided it was definitely time to head home. I turned down a street away from the abandoned projects and turned right into a street lined with projects that were definitely more lively. The street was narrow and a lot of men were loitering in and near the street. I guess the weather didn't keep these guys indoors. I have no idea what they were up to and decided not to find out. I drove out of there a bit faster than was ideal. Nothing bad came of it but I decided that I need to be a bit more careful where I drive. Even though no one threatened me, my imagination was sufficient to leave me a bit shaken up. I'll try to keep the photo ramblings a bit more sensible in the future.
Oh, and do me a favor, don't tell my husband what I've been up to. I might get grounded.
For more on the Ida B. Wells Homes click on this link.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday Scribblings--Saying goodbye

I avoided this prompt because I couldn’t think of something happy to write on this theme. But sometimes the hard lessons are the best.
The most difficult farewell of my life was saying good-bye to my grandmother. My grandmother was only 40 years older than I am. If life had gone well for her she might still be with us. After all, many people make it to 85 these days. However, she died of breast cancer not long after I graduated from college.
I was very close to my grandmother. She was sane, nurturing, reliable and positive in a family which tends to lack those features. It didn’t hurt that she absolutely doted on me. I wrote my first letter to her and she kept it taped to her closet mirror for the rest of her life. She told me once she thought I would be famous and that my letters would amount to something.
In the course of my life I wrote many letters to my grandmother. Her cancer was diagnosed 5 years before she died. Those were hard years but her illness brought me closer to her. I spent half my senior year in college living and studying in Paris but I wrote to her nearly every week and phoned as often as I could afford. Knowing she was dying made me conscious of appreciating all my time with her in a way young people often neglect to do.
Grandma made it to my college graduation. She was weak and had trouble getting about but her joy in the event was so absolute. The funniest thing that happened was when she wandered through my university apartment and came out of the bathroom announcing that one of my roommates was “on the pill.” She seemed pleased, as if she had caught someone doing something naughty. I was surprised that that my roommate would leave her birth control lying around so I checked it out. “Sorry to disappoint you,” I told her. “That is Sudafed.” I don’t know why we both got such a kick out of this. I guess it was our way of crossing the generation gap.
That June I started medical school, so I didn’t see much of my grandmother. She became increasingly ill with painful bone metastases and diabetes (likely due to pancreatic mets). I visited her over my winter break that year. I don’t remember the details of our last days together but I think we both understood that it might be the last time we saw each other. When we said good-bye before I left for the airport we acted as if it was a normal leave-taking but we both knew it was probably for good.
About a month later I got the call that my grandmother had hemorrhaged and had died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Although I felt a profound sense of loss, and still do, I knew I had said my good-byes and that my grandmother knew how much I loved her. I was able to let her go with a sense of completeness. I wish she could have known my husband and my kids, but I know that what we had together was enough.

See It Sunday--Motion

Adams/Wabash station
The "El train" pulling into the station.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt--Gross

Not what you want to find while beach-combing. Made me realize we should be more aware of what we throw away and where we might later find it. Ladies, consider using the ones with biodegradable packaging. Guys, if you don't get it, don't ask.

Secret Smile--A Book Review

Secret Smile by Nicci French

The Third Day Book Club book this month is Secret Smile by Nicci French. Since I couldn’t find this book at my local Border’s I ordered it online and had no idea what sort of book I was going to read. It turns out Secret Smile belongs in the psychological suspense genre. The last two Book Club books were more literary in style so this book came as a surprise but in a way a welcome one, as I have been reading classics for a book challenge and needed an “easy read”.
Smile is about a woman, Miranda, who is unlucky in love. She briefly dates the wrong man. Brendan violates her trust and she dumps him and feels well out of the relationship. Little does she know that Brendan is a sociopath and determines to take his revenge in a twist on the old saying: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
I don’t want to spoil the story by telling all the ways he avenges himself. Suffice to say that the book builds a consistent level of creepy suspense. French is adept at showing how a skilled liar can manipulate all around him until even solid ground seems unstable.
Smile was a quick read, although there were moments when I didn’t want to read it home alone at night. The language and plot are well-crafted. I was a little disappointed in the ending. It struck me as a bit too pat, as if the novel needed to end, so a solution was devised in too much haste.
French has written a number of other novels. Would I read a book by her again? Possibly. This is the kind of book that is good for reading on an airplane or while sunning at the beach. If you like this genre, it is probably worth the weekend it will take you to read it.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Da Bears

Yes, the Chicago Bears are in the Superbowl. And Bears logos are plastered all over the city. Here are a few mentions I found around town.
1. Macy's (old Marshall Fields)
2. Macy's
3. Channel 7 (ABC) banner
4. Mrs. Fields on State Street
Mrs. Fields
5. City of Chicago sign
6. City bus depot
7. University of Illinois
8. Statue on Michigan and Congress
9. Abt (electronic store) Delivery Van
Abt Delivery Van
There will be a lot of cranky people if the Bears lose.