Sunday, December 30, 2007

Something Old

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An old stone building, known as a borie, found in Provence, France.

(Posted too late for the meme deadline--drat that time zone thing!)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Read It and Weep, a Book Review

For the Trees

The Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant

This is a great rainy day read for someone wintering in the Pacific Northwest. That being said, I’d recommend it for anyone whether wintering in Chicago or summering in
Australia or New Zealand.
The Golden Spruce is the memoir of a tree with assorted ramblings by the author. It takes the reader to a part of the world most of us have never been and never will have the pleasure of visiting, the Queen Charlotte Islands. These islands off the west coast of British Columbia are known for their rain and fog, their wild beauty, their native American population and, formerly, for one mutant tree, known as the Golden Spruce. This tree was revered by native and non-native folk alike for its size and unusual color. That color made it a symbol of myth and of the twisted logic of one logger, turned environmentalist and madman.
This book makes for a wonderful teaching tool. The story of one tree is not long enough to fill a book so Mr. Vaillant rambles through bits and pieces of American and Canadian history, Native American lore, a bit of psychology, some environmental science and a two mysteries, the mystery behind the death of a revered tree and the mysterious disappearance of the man who toppled it. Although the story itself is fascinating, the take home message for me, was the tale of the despoiling of the North American forests. I have driven and hiked through clear cut forests, but in no way did I quite realize the magnitude of destruction that mankind has wrought on our forests. As a kid I remember reading about strip mining and deploring the practice. How could I have missed realizing that similar practices were being done just around the corner from my home but for trees and not for minerals? I doubt anyone can read this book and not feel that we are bleeding our planet to death.
This is not a perfect book. Some of the prose is a bit overdone. “Timber cruisers and surveyors are avatars of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: woods-wise and tree-friendly as they may be. . . .” (p. 101). All I can say is, “Huh?”
I have one quibble I need to mention as a mental health professional. At the time this book was written, the main human character, Grant Hadwin, was still considered potentially alive and in hiding. However, someone seems to have released portions of Hadwin’s psychiatric records to the author. These are attributed to a “Confidential Source.” I doubt very much that Canadian mental health law is much different than that in the U.S. Someone violated Hadwin’s privacy and rights in a shameful way and I question the author’s good judgment in quoting from his medical records. If Hadwin ever comes back from the presumed dead, I hope he sues the Kamloops hospital that allowed this to happen.
Please read this book. It will make you think twice, and three times, next time you waste paper and “kill a few trees,” as we all are known to joke these days.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

12 Gifts of the Ocean

An Environmentalist's Lament

On the Twelve Days of Christmas
the Ocean Sent to Me:

Candy Wrapper

12 Candy Wrappers
Eleven Feet of Rope

Yellow rope on beach

Ten Bottle Caps
Nine Bits of Plastic

Pink and green plastic

Eight Yards of Hose

Tangled tubing

Seven Tampon Applicators


Six Plastic Bottles
Five Children’s Toys

Plastic toy

Four Cans of Beer
Three Assorted Sandals

Girl's Sandal

Two Pints of Liquor

One Pint Bottle

and a Light Bulb in a Fir Tree

Old Light Bulb

Let's all make a New Year's Resolution to try a bit harder.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thinking of you

Gargoyle and Snow

From a white Christmas in Seattle to a brisk sunset on the Pacific.

A Pacific Sunset

I hope your holidays were and will be wonderful.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Greeting from the land of never ending rain


Actually the sun came out today but people in Seattle like to scare off the "foreigners" by complaining about the rain all the time. Somehow rain is easier to endure here than in Chicago. Maybe because we know that rain is the worst Seattle has to dish out while we've already had a couple of significant winter storms in Chicago.
I think I overdid things for the past few weeks and my brain decided to shut down temporarily. I hardly have the energy to read, much less to write in my blog. I don't even feel like downloading any photos.

Friday, December 21, 2007

No more pencils, no more books. . . .


Vacation arrives. Except for a bit of left over paperwork (unending it seems) I am done with work for the 2007 year! The past week was long and I was weary so I wasn't posting. I also wasn't taking photos or doing anything but recuperating from fatigue, overwork, a head cold and an overly busy social life. I am someone who maybe goes out once a month and had a run two weeks ago of 7 nights out in a row. Two of those nights were my normal work nights but still.
Dancing in the Nutcracker was a fun mix of terrifying and exhilarating. Trying to remember dance steps, to keep a smile plastered on my face, to keep my head up, to not turn my back to the audience, to not miss a musical cue and so on. Three performances in two days for a total of around 36 minutes (estimated) on stage. Then back to work almost before I found the time to wash the mascara and hairspray off.
I sort of put my blogging brain on hold just to get my life back in order. Today I had to clear out my second office because our lease expired on the 31st. I loaded boxes into the back of the car, bought a few holiday gifts and raced back home for school pick up. Now it's laundry, the paperwork, and a whirlwind packing job. Tonight we go to see the Joffrey Ballet perform, what else?, the Nutcracker. I just got the music out of my head! Why would I want to see the Joffrey? Because one of my dearest friends is dancing a child's part in it and we can't miss her. I'll get to see how the pros do "my" scene. I hope I can stay awake. The full Nutcracker is quite long and some of the second act gets a bit slow. In spite of everything I've just said, dance isn't really my "thing". I'd probably enjoy a play more. Still, the Joffrey is quite a spectacle. I wish I could take pictures but that is vehemently not allowed.
Tomorrow if the weather permits, we're off to Seattle. I'll write more and post some pictures.
Happy Holidays to all.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Two Down, One to Go, Lousy Photos

I didn't take this shot. Honest.


That's me in the purple dress. My first public stage performance since I was around 10 years old. Mercifully, I manage anxiety now better than I did at that age. I guess getting older has a few beneficial side effects.
From a local performance of the Nutcracker.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Still way too busy. . . .

Say What

Family obligations, work obligations, a bit of time out for fun, not much for blogging or photography. The Nutcracker is in dress rehearsals and I have to learn how to put on make-up. Being a good feminist I never learned how. They want eye shadow, mascara, foundation and lipstick. (This will be a costly investment--women's cosmetics stink). Apparently otherwise the stage lights make you look like a vampire. I have three performances this weekend. I hope I remember my steps and don't make a fool out of myself.
I also have a cold. And the house is still under construction. As is the office.
The good news is vacation starts in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to a lot of good photos then (and the time to process them).

Happy Holidays.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More snow

Buckingham Fountain in Snow

Tomorrow if I get a chance I'll share some ice photos.
The melting snow has made for some nice icicles and other ice formations.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bear tales


Rob commented on my last post and linked me to a poem he wrote about a close encounter of the ursine type. The poem is quite delightful. This poem and my previous post about my childhood camping adventures brought to mind a few bear stories of my own.
If you travel much in the northwestern United States (and southwestern Canada) you probably will encounter a black bear being fed by stupid people in cars. This is an especially common sight in British Columbia and Alberta. Of course you stop too and take a picture or two but this is not a fear-inducing sight. Nonetheless the human fear of bears strikes me as innate and rather visceral, like the fear of sharks and large cats. But tigers don’t roam wild in our neck of the woods and I’ve never met anyone who encountered a mountain lion. I’ve heard the latter are quite dangerous but they tend to stay away from people.
For reasons unknown, Readers Digest likes to run stories of people mauled by bears. As a kid I would always read those stories with a grim, morbid thrill of fear and, dare I say, fascination? Why they publish those stories and I read them only a more skilled psychoanalyst than I will choose to say.
The stories all went like this. Lisa B., a 23 year old secretary for a large automotive company, was minding her own business hiking in the woods through a patch of berry bushes when she heard a strange sound. She rounded the corner and found herself face to face with a large male grizzly bear. The bear chased her down the trail and knocked her to the ground with a single swipe of its large paw. A well educated woods-woman, Lisa knew the best idea was to play dead. Bravely she curled into a ball on the ground while the grizzly gnawed her arm and part of her face. Then the bear mysteriously lost interest and left her there to die. Fortunately, Lisa was found by two hikers who carried her and her left arm to safety. After 43 reconstructive surgeries, Lisa tells the tale with tears in her eyes but is looking forward to her next backpacking trip in the British Columbian Rockies.
Now, I just made up that story but is there a person on this planet that hasn’t read this story or one similar in a magazine? Lately the stories are of the crazy grizzly lover who, along with his girlfriend, was eaten by his favorite animal. Apparently the entire lovely moment was recorded on the fellow’s tape machine. They made a documentary about him. Now, I have no need to see that one. My imagination makes me shudder plenty without the visuals.
So am I afraid of bears due to too many stories or due to some innate, instinctive fear? Or is it just that I hiked enough to know that around every bend there might just be a bear. I don’t fear earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or snakes. I do admit to a phobia of spiders and a fear of large barking dogs. Well, suffice to say that fears can be irrational, but my nightmares are often populated by bears.
My only in person encounter with a bear was in Yosemite. I was a relatively young kid and was playing in a creek near our camp ground. My younger brother was a few feet away. I chanced to look upstream and there was a black bear. It was minding its own business and I decided to do the same. I had to hiss a few times to get my brother’s attention and then we both took off. If you camp much in Yosemite, at least back in those days, having a bear stumble through your campground late at night was probably fairly common but that was the only bear I ever saw. Not too exciting in the retelling. Someday I’ll post about the earthquake I saw in Yosemite (yes, saw).
My next bear story is of the bear we didn’t see. Many years ago my family and I drove through the Chilcotin region of British Columbia. The area is pretty remote. It feels like the U.S. must have felt at the time the first roads and rails were going through. After some days of camping and hiking we headed in to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. By then we had been driving for days on dirt roads. Presumably my father was praying we didn’t run into car trouble.
The road to Tweedsmuir is quite a trip. Here is one BC site’s description:
“The notorious stretch east of Bella Coola, known locally as 'the Hill,' is 27 miles (43 km) of steep, narrow road with sharp hairpin turns and two major switchbacks as the highway descends from the Chilcotin Plateau. Definitely not for drivers who suffer from a fear of heights, the Hill has a 5.6-mile (9-km) stretch of up to 18-percent grade.”
I’m guessing that the latter stretch is the part of the road my father asked us all to get out of the car while he drove, in case he went over the cliff. I’m glad he made it safely past that switchback.
Well, after this grueling drive, we pull into our campground by a river. It is a lovely spot and is well known for its fishing. Unfortunately for us the campground was deserted. There was no one around for miles. Just us, and the large signs posted over every garbage can: BEWARE OF GRIZZLY BEARS. Visions danced through our imaginative little heads. Just us, having a nice little bacon and eggs breakfast over an open fire, 4 little happy grizzly bear magnets waiting to be eaten. To make a long story short, we had braved the roads, the rain, and the mosquitoes (hordes) but that was the last straw. We drove on to the town of Bella Coola (population in 2007 of 909) and stayed in a hotel.
Now that I have beared you to death (sorry), I will finish with a recent bear tale. It too involves no visible bears. This past August I had the pleasure of traveling through Yellowstone and the Tetons. Bear bells were sold in every store. These are bells used to make noise while one hikes, to warn the bears you are coming—kind of like the dinner bell rung at camp. Not too many people wore them on the trails, except for the Asian tourists. All their children wore bear bells. I wasn’t sure how to interpret this non-scientific sociological finding. Did the tourists think they made great souvenirs? Or did they think that the U.S. has a bear on every corner, one with a special taste for Japanese and Chinese children? People I met in France still thought we have Al Capone style gangsters with Tommy guns here in Chicago. So bears in Wyoming make a certain sense. After all to some we still are a frontier backwater here in the U.S.
Thank you for bearing with me. Blogging live from chilly Lake Michigan, S. Kron wishes you a great day.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Walk the Walk

Cascade Pass

I was just reading Backpacker Magazine and when I put down the journal to look at Sunday Scribblings the prompt was one word, “walk.” I had my theme all set out for me.
Lately, I feel walk-deprived. On my solo cross country road trip I hiked a little but had too many miles to drive daily to hike very far. It was just enough to whet my appetite for more.
My family started backpacking when I was a kid. We hiked the Cascade and Olympic Mountains of Washington, the Rockies of Canada and points south, and the Sierra Nevadas of California. I got altitude sickness in Tuolomne Meadows above Yosemite. I found Indian arrowheads and got stuck with porcupine quills in the interior of British Columbia. We were rained on, bitten by mosquitoes, lost our trail due to snow, lost our trail due to clear cutting and forded rivers on foot.
I experienced the charm of towns with names like 100 Mile House (British Columbia), small alpine lakes, freeze dried foods with names like Turkey Tetrazzini, and the incomparable flavor of blueberry pancakes made with berries picked on Mt. Baker (Washington). I’ve seen ice bergs on Berg Lake (Canadian Rockies), a hike that was notable for our running out of water on the trail up. I’ve carried my little brother in a Gerry Pack for miles. I learned how to string a backpack in the trees to keep the bears away and to speak loudly on the trail (also to keep the bears away). I once camped in the dust of an eruption of Mount St. Helens.
The last time I backpacked I was in graduate school. I hiked in Isle Royale National Park. The place and the hike were a treat although I injured my knee walking on the rocky trails. I had to use a stick for support on the hike back out. To me it was a sign that I was already beginning to get older and less resilient. I may have felt older but, looking in a mirror on the way home, I noticed that the stress lines in my face were gone. My one regret was not seeing or hearing the famous wolves of the park. It will just be that much more incentive to return.
Sometimes I wonder where this hiker part of me has gone. Am I too old to carry my belongings on my back? Do I need a softer bed or more elaborate foods? Or is it simply the demands of career and family? I hope the latter because my kids are growing up and I have learned to manage the career demands. So here’s to this summer or the next or the next. You will see me lacing up my boots, shouldering my pack and heading out.

I was tagged. . .

Why This Man's Story Will Interest YOU

---last month but was too busy writing to respond. Here are the instructions:

Random Meme Rules
1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you. The blog that tagged me is:
From the Shores of Introspect and Retrospect.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. Don't drink anything over the keyboard while reading this meme on other pages.
4. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
5. Tag seven random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
6. Stretch.
7. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.

OK here goes.
Seven random and/or weird facts about me.
1. I learned to love herbal tea while living in France 20 years ago. My current favorite is Twining's Honey, Vanilla, Chamomile (hard to find in the US).
2. I lived in a vegetarian dormitory while in college.
3. I was in school for approximately 32 years. (No I didn't flunk 5th grade that many times!)
4. I'm wearing this unbelievable purple/mauve/burgundy? dress for my upcoming performance in the Nutcracker (in two weeks)

5. No, I am actually an incompetent dancer. But two left feet are acceptable for this performance.
6. I had stage fright as a kid. I'm not sure if I do anymore. I have given lectures many times in the past years and have learned to deal with the anxiety. I haven't performed in a dramatic sense since I was in middle school (then called Jr. High School).
7. My first name came from a novel. I can't tell you which one because I use a pseudonym on this blog.

Tagging 7 people, hmmm--some of the bloggers I know don't like being tagged.
1. And So Forth--met recently through Sunday Scribbling.
2. Crunchy Bits who also survived NaNoWriMo.
3. JL--because I just "met" him recently and he has interesting Chicago stories and he seems so, not, a meme-guy. I'm afraid of what he will do with this tag but can't resist finding out.
4. Meeyauw--who takes cool bird and cat photos and cares about the environment.
5. Chronicled and Illustrated who I somehow met through NaNo (and now forget how it happened) and whose blog is well worth a visit.
6. The Thing of the Moment--because his response has to be funny. Or he'll just ignore me which might be funny too.
7. A Blue State of Mind--maybe this will get her posting again.

Tagging people makes me uncomfortable so feel free to ignore me if I tagged you or if I didn't. I want to be a good sport and follow suit but. . . . I probably flunked tag in kindergarten too.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Robot Blog Harvester

We, Robots

Since the suspense is killing her I will answer TIV's question about Robot Blog Harvesters. As best I can determine these are blogs that take words from other sites, add a new header and a fictitious author, link to the original site (therefore it is not theft) and use the completely unoriginal writing to generate ad revenue. You can find out if this is happening to you by looking for sites that link to yours. Most of them are nice people that genuinely like to read what you write. Others are just using your words and in my mind are no better than the Nigerian Scam artists. (And why is such a person considered an artist?)
I have noted this phenomenon once before and posted my gripe on 6/8/07. I tried to complain to Technorati that listed the blog and to Amazon that ran its ads. I don't know if there was a response since my complaint letters were never answered. Otherwise there is really nothing I can do but grin and bear it.
I am spelling out one such site since I do not want to give them credit for the link. I wish I could make them stop using my words but as I said I think I have no recourse that is worth the effort.
http://directab dot cn slash If you substitute the symbols for dot and slash you will find the site that has done this. My stuff was stolen on Saturday the 24th. The site also "blogrolls" other sites that have identical crap on them.
I truly resent my words being misused in this manner! I'm sure you all would feel the same way too if/when it happens to you.


By the way here is another one, same idea, stole words from another post of mine.
http://booksazon dot com slash

Here is another one:

http://bullshitguide dot com slash

You see what I mean. I'd guess if you post very often it has happened to you too.

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

TCB Books

I promise no more NaNo posts after this. My final word count was 52,729 words, 86 pages. Now all I have to do is write, write, write some more. Then do 6 months of editing or so. Should be a piece of cake.
Hopefully by next week I will have relapsed to my more normal blogging mode complete with memes and Sunday Scribbling. In fact, maybe I'll do tomorrow's scribbling. See you then.