Friday, June 29, 2007

Slow Down

I can't help but think of the Simon and Garfunkel lyrics:
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last

Slow Down

I had a busy day today. Not productive, but busy. I have 90 photos to show for it, not all good. My camera and I strolled around Chicago today. Mostly I took photos of local architecture. There is a never ending variety here which almost makes up for the lack of ocean or mountains.
Tomorrow, I'll probably do crowd shots as my plan is to take #1 son to Taste of Chicago, the food and music fest that spans the week around July 4. Look for me there, near the lake front. If you can find me amongst the 50,000 or so other people there. I just made up that number but it is a big crowd.
Sorry I'm not posting more but your comments are always appreciated.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Photo Sharks--Remarkable


A remarkable way to decorate one's house.

Thursday Challenge--Blue

Blue house

Blue House in San German, Puerto Rico

Wordless Wednesday

Regal Theater

Chicago Regal Theater

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wow, so sad. . .


I went back to Nattie Writes! the site that posted the Newberry Challenge I joined, only to find that its author had died of cancer. I didn't know this woman at all but her father is keeping her blog alive at present. She was a very young woman.

I think of John Donne: Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.

There isn't much I can do to ease this family's grief and loss, but I will read the books I committed to reading in her memory.

Bridge to Terabithia--a Newberry Book Review

Bridge on marble mountain

As I said in my last post, I've been able to read a lot more lately. The house is quieter and the long days help me read later into the night. I love June. For reasons, I cannot quite put my finger on, I've been posting less but c'est la vie.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson was published in 1977 but I was just past the age where I was reading a lot of children's literature. At the time I was reading adult mysteries, fantasy and sci-fi, and historical novels by the cartload. But I missed this Newberry winner.
The cover of the book states: Now a major motion picture. Read it before you see it!
I haven't seen the movie but the trailers led me to believe this was a fantasy story. Well, it isn't.
Bridge is a classic children's story. Two lonely kids meet each other and a beautiful friendship ensues, despite a certain unlikelihood to their friendship. The relationship broadens both their lives and changes them as people.
Terabithia is a fantasy world they share but it is merely the world of childhood day dreams. They create a little castle and fairy-tale kingdom and have a rich play life there. There are no encounters with "actual" fairies of the good or malignant type. This is just life, as it could have happened, to you or me when we were ten years old.
Bridge is a lovely little story. The kids are well-drawn with a few teachers and parents thrown in to ice the cake. It reads true to the experience of childhood. Even as an adult, it is pleasant to journey back to those days in a novel. Not that I want to be ten again, ever. Been there, done that.
I finished the story last night. I don't want to give away the ending but, suffice to say, there is a loss there. It caused me a sniffle or two and a lot of thought about why so many people die or are absent in children's novels.
As examples: Harry Potter--he's an orphan; his godfather dies; his mentor dies. The teasers for the new book say the author "kills off some characters." Call It Courage--book review pending, also a Newberry--mother dies. Kira Kira--another Newberry I owe a review on, I don't want to give it away but someone dies; old classics I remember crying over as a kid--Little Women--Beth dies; Bambi (the book)--mother dies; and so on.
Now, it's not that I don't "get" it. The stories help children process feelings of loss. They also help them process the wicked thoughts they have, the wish that a parent or sibling would drop dead. But still. What about happy endings? In Lord of the Rings, admittedly an adult fantasy series, but I read them as a teen, Gandalf comes back from the dead. I was so happy when that happened. I got all the pleasure of mourning him and the satisfaction of knowing that "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated," as Mark Twain said.
But unabashedly happy books rarely win Newberry Medals. So I guess I just need to "get a life." Or is it more apt to say, literary life stinks and then you die?

Quiet times and parental paranoia

Kids and fog

My younger son is away at camp and has been for a week. The house seems very quiet. In fact, it is very quiet.
Like, I presume, most parents, I am enjoying the respite. I get to sleep in an hour later on weekdays because I don't have to drive anyone to school or, for summer, day camp. Older son has no one to fight with except myself and his father. Fewer people to share the TV, computer or to quibble about what's for dinner.
Of course, I miss him. I had two little birds in my nest and now I come home and one is gone. Like the bird, I'm puzzled about what to do about the absence.
We get to view random pictures of camp activity. Some one takes photos daily and posts them on the internet. I sort through the set for one of my son. Then I pore over the shot for information. Does he look happy? Does he seem to have made friends? Is he wearing the clothes I had to buy to prepare him for camp? Does he look tired, sunburned or bug-bitten?
The speculation tends to become pointless after a while. But we're parents and we're not allowed to call and talk to him. Camp rules make your child theirs for a few weeks. We can e-mail him daily but he cannot e-mail us. He can write letters but writing is not his strong suit.
Suddenly, wonder of wonders, we get two postcards. Here is the text of one, misspellings and all:

Dear Dad + Mom + (big brother)
I was just writting to say that the first day was ok. The food is great Please mail me back as soon as possible. Please give more flag posts (I think he means stamps--the ones we gave him have flags on them). Love (son) to family
With all my love
xxxs and ooos

Isn't he sweet? So of course I have mailed more stamps. And I've assembled a care package to send in the next day or so. But that's all there is. A happy kid living in a world created by big kids (young adults) for little kids. Lots of structure, like school but each class is "recess." Of course, it could be more "Lord of the Flies," after all these are middle school kids at their level worst.
Every day I e-mail him back saying that nothing has changed here at home. The cats are well, we are well. We miss him but aren't dying of sadness. If anything we are a bit bored. We omit the stuff that would make him jealous and want to return home. In fact my social life is the most active it has been in years but that doesn't say much. I've also finished a lot of books. But I want my son to imagine that we are all living in suspended animation waiting his return. Given a ten year old's thought process that probably is what he actually believes.
In the meantime, the keg's at our house.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

In my neighborhood

Hyde Park mural

A mural near my home.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Photo Friday--Dream

City of Dreams

Detail of a Chicago mural. What dreams will you have tonight?

"To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act."
"Pour accomplir de grandes choses, nous devons non seulement agir, mais aussi rĂªver."
Anatole France

Thursday, June 21, 2007

School Daze

From Booking through Thursday:
Since school is out for the summer (in most places, at least), here’s a school-themed question for the week:

1. Do you have any old school books? Did you keep yours from college? Old textbooks from garage sales? Old workbooks from classes gone by?
2. How about your old notes, exams, papers? Do you save them? Or have they long since gone to the great Locker-in-the-sky?

Great questions. I have kept some old books from college but not all. Some I sold back to the bookstore. Money was short in those days. I mostly kept literature books. Classics tend not to go out of date. I rarely buy used textbooks as I cannot see the point in owning them anymore.
I also have kept some of my medical textbooks. Some don't go out of date (human anatomy is relatively stable) and some have meaning to me, like my old pathology text book. I keep most of my psychiatry books except out of date study guides. Medical techniques change very quickly as do medications and some of my 1980's-1990's texts are very out of date already. I have a very small collection of medical textbooks from the 19th century which I find quite interesting. One has diagrams of how to make surgical trusses. Not useful but quaint. I should scan and post one or two of these when I get the time.
I have some old class notebooks. I am a bit of a packrat and have them in storage somewhere. Some of my notebooks, especially my college chemistry notebooks were painstakingly organized, highlighted and much studied. Being premed can be tough at times. Since they represent so many hours of work it was hard to throw them out. If they turn up maybe I'll scan a page or two and post it just for grins.
The last textbook I bought was an old reading primer that I bought for its illustrations and with the thought of turning it into a craft project. Here is one scanned page:

Book page scanned

Aren't the pictures cute?


I always called them horsetails

I like this photo. It has a soothing appearance and some geometrical form that appeals to me. I'm not sure what the botanical name for this plant is but when I was growing up there was a larger version that grew near damp areas that we called horstails. It grows in segments which you can pull apart and then reassemble like a puzzle.

I looked them up and here is the more scientific version courtesy of AquaPlant from Texas A&M:

"Equisetum hyemale

Horsetail is a very primitive perennial plant with dark-green hollow, jointed or segmented stems 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick with no true leaves. Stems may be singular or have whorls of branches. Only single stems produce the cone-shaped spore producing body at the tip. Horsetails can be standing in water or in wet areas. Horsetail stems contain silicon crystals (i.e. sand) embedded in its tissue. This gritty texture gives it a common name of "scouring rush"."

For the link click here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Going buggy

Last cicada left standing

I finally got to see the glut of cicadas we had in the region. None near my house so we took a trip to Brookfield. What a racket! Well next time they come around (17 years from now) I'll be. . . . Too old. The rest I'll leave up to your imagination. I'm glad I got to see (and hear) them but I'm not looking up any cicada recipes just yet. They say it tastes like. . . grasshopper? Anyone who cooks 'em up has a sterner stomach than I.

I hope to recuperate some of my blogging stamina soon. Bear with me, please, in the meantime.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt--Hair

Self portrait with hair

The hair is going to go soon, I'm afraid. (At the hair dresser, I mean; no sign of female pattern baldness yet). This is one of my first self portrait attempts. Don't expect many of them, meme or not.

Loss of identity

Unstable Material
I just knew this photo would come in handy.

Two weeks ago, the Department of Veteran's Affairs saw fit to inform me via a form letter that a database with my identity as a physician, including social security number, physician license number and who knows what else, was stolen in January. They helpfully suggest I access my free credit report to check for any illicit activity. Apparently 1.3 million other doctors are involved and many who have billed Medicare who are not physicians (which the news reports omit).
Why did the VA wait so long? Why are they not taking more action to help protect my identity? Why did Veterans whose information was also compromised (199,000 of them) receive their letters in March and doctors only in late May? Why was the VA doing research on my billing practices, given that I do not work for the VA? What was the government thinking? Apparently it wasn't thinking much at all given that this is not the first, very large, data breach at the VA in the past year.
Last of all, for how long is my data at risk? The rest of my life? Too bad I can't change my identity to avoid it being misused this time.
Skip the government site. It is worthless.
For more, read this link.

Camping report

Camping 2

So, how was it?
It depends on who you ask. I had a great time. My kids were ambivalent. It goes back to the "Town Mouse and Country Mouse" theme of a few weeks ago.
I grew up camping and backpacking. We would start the summer hiking in the mountains near Seattle as soon as the season would permit. There were a few adventures where the snow was still covering the trails and, alas, a few where would would arrive at the trail head to discover that the forest had been clear-cut and the trail head was not to be found. Once we were "in shape" we would start backpacking. We packed in the Cascade and Olympic mountains of Washington, the U.S. and Canadian Rockies, the California Sierra range and probably a few other points I have forgotten. One summer in Canada, I wore a pedometer and put on at least 100 miles hiking.
These were not always easy hikes. One hike I remember in British Columbia was to a place called "Berg Lake." It derived its name from the hanging ice field that calves (the technical term) little ice bergs into the lake. Part of the hike was very steep and worse yet exposed to the sun. (The trail gains 2625 feet in 14.3 miles). We nearly ran out of water and my father had to carry my brother's pack up the worst of it. Fortunately the goal was beautiful enough to be worth the trip. There are a number of images of Berg Lake on the net but here is one that catches the beauty. At the time, I was probably 10 years old and my brother 8.
In contrast, here is my Wisconsin car camping trip. We stayed at Point Beach State Park. It is 3-1/2 hours north of Chicago on Lake Michigan. There are 100+ sites but fortunately it was not at all crowded. The amenities include running water, conventional toilets and showers. Wood can be bought on site. There was a concession complete with video games which we did not use. We were only a few miles from the nearest town, Two Rivers, and had we chosen, could probably have ordered pizza delivered to our camp-site. Not exactly roughing it in my book.
The kids were not pleased with the mosquitoes. To be honest they are not my favorite part of camping. But again, these were nothing compared to some British Columbia mosquitoes. Back then there was no West Nile Virus to worry about, though. No ticks seen, mercifully. This exceeds my tolerance for insects. There were also complaints about the discomfort of sleeping on the ground, in spite of modern, state of the art, sleeping pads.
Campfires were a hit. So was the beach. As were marshmallows and hot dogs on the fire and smores.

Point Beach

A raccoon rummaging through our cookware managed to scare my younger son. I wisely did not tell my younger son that my nighttime fears as a child ran more to visits from bear. There are no bear in these woods so I decided to spare him that fear. I used to fear the things that go bump in the night when camping but the shoe was on the other foot in my first camping trip as a parent. So I got to take the flashlight and scare off the raccoon.
As I told my father yesterday, it gave me a lot more sympathy for his past ordeals camping with my brothers and myself. I don't know how he did it. But I thank him for sharing with me his love for wilderness and solitude. I just wish I could pass it on to my too technological and urban, somewhat spoiled, progeny.

Friday, June 15, 2007

No longer camping

The campsite, wide angle

The campsite shortly before being disassembled. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gone, Gone, Gone

We're going camping. Back shortly. With pictures.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Madam Secretary---a book review

Lately, I managed to lose a bit of focus on my reading list. I have been going through books relatively quickly but procrastinating on reviewing them. I finished Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright around a month ago. At 512 pages excluding end-notes it was a long read. Fortunately I liked it and liked her. I’m not much of one for reading biographies or autobiographies of a political nature, but Ms. Albright had a life to read about. From her family’s last minute escape from Czechoslovakia in 1939 when she was less than two years old to her final days as Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, Ms. Albright had a life without too many dull moments.
She is an important witness to many of the important global conflicts of our time, whether as her father’s daughter, formerly a Czech diplomat, or in her roles as Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of State. To her, the events of the Cold War, and conflicts in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, and the Middle East were not just faraway events as they have been to me but points where she could and often did make a pivotal difference in world affairs.
Reading her autobiography, the phrase “tough old broad” kept coming into my mind in the most complimentary way. For a woman who looks like someone’s grandmother this is no mean feat. The book includes a number of political cartoons that were published about her. One from the New Yorker shows a woman trying on a business suit. The caption reads “Madeleine Albright kicked butt in that suit.” She definitely kicked some butt in her life and in this book. She asks to be remembered as someone who “helped teach a generation of older women to stand tall and young women not to be afraid to interrupt.” I hope she has.
My only important complaint about her memoir is that it is relatively impersonal. Her experience of her divorce, relationships with friends and family and highly publicized revelation that her grandparents were Jewish and perished in the Holocaust--Ms. Albright was raised as a Catholic and had no knowledge of her heritage—were told in an fairly bland manner. Perhaps this was necessary for a public figure or maybe it reflects the author’s personality. With my personal preference for more deeply psychological biography this disappointed me but does not prevent me from recommending this fascinating life history.

Shoes and feet


At an open-air sculpture called "Agora" in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois

Friday, June 08, 2007

Moody Monday--Hellish

The bus from hell. How'd you like to store that in your front yard? From the south side of Chicago.


In the news and abuse and misuse

We accept food stamps

I just thought it was interesting that this photo was used in an internet news story. Didn't make me rich (it was free) or famous (not very many hits) but I was happy to contribute in a small way. The fellow asked permission which I was happy to give.

On a less happy note, I discovered an excerpt of one of my blog posts was stolen and posted on a commercial site. Another blogger I know was similarly used. I contacted Technorati (how I found this out) and two other people who were similarly taken advantage of but if any of you readers have any ideas on how to get them shut down I'd appreciate it. I'm a sufficiently naive internet user as to not be able to figure out who is hosting this web site. I won't post the site here because I don't want to do them any favors (or get retaliation). I asked them to remove my material but I don't expect any miracles.
If you'd like the site address let me know in comments and I'll e-mail it to you.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lensday--Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink

Some downtown Chicago buildings change their lighting depending on the season. We have green for St. Patrick's Day, red for Christmas and so on. I'm guessing pink is in honor of the breast cancer race.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Wordless Wednesday--Schopenhauer


OK so I never read any Schopenhauer (can barely spell it) so I really am wordless.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Roof sitting

South shore house
Not my house, just a house.

I saw a photo of some kids playing music on the roof of their house today and I was reminded of a story.
Once upon a time. . . no really, this is just a childhood memory. Back when I was about Jr. High School age, we moved temporarily into a large house near a golf course. We rented the house while our new house was being built. I guess we lived there for a couple of months. There were two exciting things about my bedroom. One was a small telescope I found on the window ledge of my bedroom. I imagined that the former occupant was a pervert and spied on the neighbors but never could figure out how to use the telescope so my career as a peeping Thomasina was short-lived.
The other exciting thing was that I could access the roof of the house from my window. The roof was easy to climb onto and I could roam at will without feeling fearful of falling. I would go out at night and just look at the stars or whatever kids do on rooftops at night. I wasn't getting into any trouble and had a kid's-eye view of the risk, i.e. that there was none; I'd never fall off a roof.
My adventures came to an abrupt end when my mother heard foosteps above her one night. Mom was a Nervous Nellie about things that go bump in the night (as well as bugs, elevators, dogs and miscellaneous other things). It did not go over well when she found me on the roof! To say the least. Metaphorically, I was grounded.
I have thought about going onto the roof of my current house (when the kids aren't looking of course). I thought it might give me a better angle for taking photos of the little birds that prefer the tops of the trees around me. I wonder what the neighbors would think if they saw me, my camera and tripod up there? That I too was a pervert? We'll have to see.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hands of Perfection

Hands of Perfection

Chicago southside business.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sunday Scribblings--Town Mouse and Country Mouse

Chicago Skyline

I find the Town Mouse and Country Mouse reference amusing because Friday I was sorting through some old books and was trying to decide if I could bear to part with a couple of Town Mouse and Country Mouse stories I enjoyed reading to them. I have always been fond of rodents, so I have a lot of mouse story books. This comes of having had rats as pets when I was a kid. I know most people shudder when I say this, but rats are charming animals. I agree the tail is a little unaesthetic but they have lovely personalities. Really, they do!
I am having trouble parting with the toys, books and clothing of their babyhood and toddlerhood as if I would be throwing out the memories as well as giving away the evidence. I am slowly releasing items bit by bit but still find it hard.
If I have a child in particular to pass them on to it becomes a bit easier. For example, recently I met my cousin’s twin daughters and had the pleasure of passing on to them some baby clothes my grandmother (and his) had given to my first born.
My grandmother would have liked that. She made her living working in the wholesale children’s clothing business. When I was a child, she would send me boxes of clothing samples for my birthday. On my birthday we would open my box and I would be required to model my new clothes for the family. I remember going to the “mart” with my grandmother once and being allowed to pick out a dress for myself. It was hard to find my size and something I liked among the rows of plastic covered clothing.
This has nothing to do with town and country except for the original association. In reality, I am definitely a town mouse. When I think of the cities I have lived in, they are all big or moderate sized cities. I don’t count suburbs as separate in this accounting. My “homes” were in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago. Then there were 6 months in a suburb of Paris during college. College itself was at Stanford. I guess that is a bit small town but college is different anyway.
My Tuscan vacation was the closest I’ve been to true rural living and it was vacation, not real life. Growing up, the “country” was something we drove through on the way to the wilderness. Farms and fields were the man-made scenery one had to endure before arriving at the mountains, forests or ocean of our destination. A few years ago, we stayed at a B & B on a working dairy farm. I had to explain to my kids that yes, cows are smelly and we would just have to live with it. I guess I’m raising “town mice” of my own. But at least my kids know that milk comes from an animal and not a grocery store.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Saturday Photohunt--Art

Wrapped sculpture

So I got a little behind on the photo memes. And didn't post for a bit over a week. But I'm back and playing catch up. It was easy to find a photo to fit today's meme as the local art fair moved in this morning. I caught them setting up which was fun to photograph. This is my favorite shot of an unknown sculpture waiting to be unwrapped from its protective covering. It looks appealing as is, doesn't it?

Shutterday--Little Bird

Two kildeer

OK, not the greatest photo, but Kildeer are new to my "life list" and I was gratified to see them. I took a side trip today to check up on the progress of the demolition of one of Chicago's public housing projects and wound up watching the wildlife that have moved in where a model of urban misery once was. The seagulls were expected but I also saw a flycatcher and these two kildeer. There were also a crop of large thistles in full purple bloom. The flowers are the size of my fist but I didn't get out to take a macro. I do most of my south side photography from the relative safety of my car. I hope the little birds continue to prosper.

Moody Monday--Heavenly

I could have gone with an easy picture for this meme, like a photo of ice cream but I was drawn back to my cemetery photos. It took me a while to find the one I wanted but then I found this photo of a poem written by a bereaved family and preserved in ceramic. Somehow in the context of a family grieving the loss of a twelve year old daughter, the poem is all the more touching in that it is poorly crafted.

Shirley darling--B&W

In case it is hard to read, the final stanza says:

Wait for us my sweet,
Some day, we will join you,
Rest in peace,
With the angels from above.

Here are pictures of the ceramic photo of the girl and of her headstone.

Ceramic portrait

Beloved Daughter