Monday, April 30, 2007

Tuesday Challenge--Reflection

Taken in Florence Italy. The shop window display was inadequately captured due to the reflection but yours truly is there along with other reflected items.

Electric guitar and reflections, Florence window

Photo Sharks--Obsession

Two obsessions in one. Taken in Lucca, Italy during the 2006 world cup--display done in chocolate. The soccer ball is made of dark and white chocolate and the shoes of dark chocolate. The display changed depending on who Italy was playing that week.

Window display in chocolate store

This photo is poorly focused but you can see the detail the chocolate maker put into his display (another type of obsessiveness).

World cup 2006 in Chocolate (YUM)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Scribblings--Wings


So what do you do when the prompt doesn't, well, prompt you? You could say that that wouldn't stop a serious writer. Or you could skip it. It isn't like this is a homework assignment. After 32 years of school and two kids, who needs homework?
You'd think with all the bird posts I've been writing I could come up with something wing oriented. How about this for a starter? Yesterday I watched a hawk nibbling on a tasty wing or two. . . . Nah. I could say I wish I had wings like a bird so I could fly. But there already was a prompt for a now defunct meme about flying. Besides it is too romantic for me.
Instead I'll tell you another story associated with the hawk on Friday. You may have picked up before if you have read here in the past, that I am excited about natural phenomena. Birds, flowers, mountains, ocean and desert, I am an equal opportunity nature lover. One of my biggest frustrations with the Midwest besided the climate is that we are a long way from the nearest wilderness.
So I become excited when a little bit of nature visits at my back door. While I am jumping up and down watching this hawk, I decide to share it with someone walking by. I tell a woman there is a hawk feeding in the back yard and show her where it is. She glances at it politely, thanks me for sharing it with her and proceeds on her way. In other words, she wasn't much interested. Since I doubt she watches Cooper's Hawks on a daily basis and cannot therefore be jaded, I have to assume that she doesn't care of that sort of thing. Now if I had told her Barack Obama was hanging upside down in the tree, would she have been more interested? Or Britney Spears was dancing naked in the yard? Or an armored car had an accident and all the cash was blowing in the breeze?
Some people.

See It Sunday--Portable

Layers of my laptop


Saturday, April 28, 2007

The hawk and I

Yesterday I headed out for a bit of urban photography. I grabbed my camera and miscellaneous gear and walked out to the car. On the way, I realized I had forgotten something and went back to the house. Good thing too because then I realized that my local Cooper's Hawk (for previous post on this bird click here) had reappeared and was having a late lunch, or was it a light supper, in the next tree over. 200+ photos later (this time my battery was charged and memory card empty) I decided that I had done most of my photography for the day. There are a few reasonable photos here but what I couldn't have done with a zoom lens.
Of course then you could have seen it eating in all its nauseating glory. Even near-sighted me saw plenty. I tried all kinds of ways to improve my camera angle. I climbed a fence and perched on top, stabilizing my camera and focusing hand by leaning on a tree and the garage next door. I brought out a ladder and climbed up it. I was very tempted to go onto my next door neighbor's garage roof which would have made for a great shot but decided that I didn't want to be arrested or assumed to be a pervert.
Another great day of urban birding. And now for a few photos.

I think it is eating a pigeon or a robin. I saw a bit of a grey wing and the bird was pretty large.
Hawk 5

The look says, don't mess with me or you're next.

He has feathers stuck to his talons.
I have feathers stuck to my talons

Good planet 2

Moon sculpture

Just a follow up. Good Planet is up (see link at previous post) with many beautiful pictures and lovely natural history quotes. For anyone who is interested in the next one here is the information copied from today's post:
The next Good Planets is being hosted by sbgypsy at The Gypsy's Caravan ( Her email address is The weekend dates are May 12th and May 26th. Watch for it and be sure to share more of your photographs of our most beautiful Good Planet.
You don't have to be a pro to contribute. I'm not.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Good Planet

I just stumbled across a post regarding the latest version of the Blog Carnival Good Planet. This week's theme is "water." The current hostess is Vicki of A Mark on My Wall.
All that is required to participate is to send photos relating to the theme. Of course submissions are due today, in fact it is possibly even now past the deadline but I sent in two photos of water in the desert.
Last August my family and I spent a couple of wonderful days in Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Both are among the most beautiful places on a most beautiful planet. Zion is blessed with a river that keeps its valley green. Here are a few photos taken from a hike we took up the Narrow Canyon Trail.

Hiking the Narrow Canyon Trail
The canyon wall.

Continuing up the canyon requires wading in cold water.
Narrow Canyon

Fortunately my father didn't know how to focus my camera. The kids and I went swimming. The 90 degree weather made it tolerable, barely. Trust me, the Virgin River is frigid. Pun intended.
Proof I went swimming too

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

  1. Does what you read vary by the season? For instance, Do you read different kinds of books in the summer than the winter? I generally read more in the summer. My energy levels are higher and I stay up later. A lot of my reading is accomplished before bedtime. I used to read a lot more while on vacation but lately I tend to get out with my camera and spend evening down time editing photos or writing blog posts. I need to keep the balance more in favor of reading which is essential.

  2. If so, do you break it down by genre, length of book, or...? I tend to read more travelogues that relate to my summer travels in the summer. In the last two years I read several armchair travel books on Italy and some mysteries set in Italy as well. I found three writers of mysteries set in Italy, Michael Dibdin, Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri. All have their attractions, each in his or her own way. Through them you can travel to Rome, Venice and Sicily while learning about Italian politics, bureaucracy and the seamier side of life. I keep my mix of light and heavy reading about the same all year. I read the heavier books when my mind is sharper and "dumb down" my reading when tired. I read voraciously of almost every genre with a few exceptions and it seems to depend more on my mood than on the time of year. I have always liked books, novels and non-fiction alike, set in exotic places. Often I will concentrate on one region or culture for a while and then move on.
    I rarely do professional reading while on vacation unless the book has a more literary appeal. Professional journals attend my travels along with good intentions but rarely are read.

Poetry Thursday--bowing out this week

Sorry Poetry Thursday folks. This will be the second week I bow out of the optional prompt. Last week, I knew I wasn’t going to stash my poems in corners of the greater Chicago area. I just couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t even stash Shakespeare’s poems for that matter, but mine . . . !
This week, there just weren’t enough hours in the day. I think I wrote a Villanelle for English class in high school. I spent hours on it and had a good time but didn’t get a very good grade. I remember the disappointment, not because I was obsessed with grades (which I was), but because I actually liked the poem I had written. I guess you can’t win ‘em all.
Kudos to all of you who did either or both assignments. You are hardier and braver souls than I. You folks make up a great community which will keep me writing, reading and thinking about poems and the people who write them.
Yesterday morning I did an unusual thing. I sat in the bathtub and read a poem or two. That day’s reading was Louise Gluck. The first time I opened the book, I was unimpressed but liked it more the second reading. I don’t have the book in front of me so I can’t tell you the title at the moment. Something with meadow in it I think.
My poem for the day is a photograph. I am very proud of this photo. I think it is one of my best wildlife photos. I think the wee bird should be very proud of his fine appearance and judging from the photo, he is.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wordless Wednesday--The white throats are coming.

First day I've seen them this year and due to rain there are hoardes in my back yard.

White throated sparrow

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Unique Photo Challenge--Mirror

This past Sunday, I rambled into Chicago. My initial goal was to go to a rather distant garden store and to a "architectural salvage" store. I unfortunately forgot that the first nice spring weekend here, everyone heads to the lake front to tan, bicycle, walk their dogs, or roller blade. Those who aren't on the beach already are, like I was, stuck in traffic on the lakefront. An hour later, I still wasn't close to my garden store objective so I decided to can it. The salvage store was 20 blocks closer so I headed there.
The store had changed--it was around three times as large as the previous time I was there. They apparently had imported half of Argentina so they had an interesting selection of Victorian tiles (an interest I developed while taking pottery classes) and some beautiful iron work. Nothing I needed or could afford but it was fun to browse in the 45 minutes I had before the store closed. I snuck a few photos, not knowing if they would have allowed them, including the above for a photo meme.
Another interesting part of the store was the outdoor department. If I was in the market for three story high stone pillars now I know where to go.

Salvage yard

Monday, April 23, 2007

Moody Monday--Disorganized


I feel like I've just gone to my first twelve step group and confessed. Yes, this is my desk, the one at home and not at work. At work, my secretary cleans up for me and I try harder to keep up appearances. I also do not share that desk with two kids who use it for computer games. I have no clue how a beach towel wound up on it. That I promptly moved.
Like most things in life, the desk and what is on it have a story. The desk I bought at a garage sale years ago. It was a nightmare moving it since Chicago stairways are very narrow. Someone previously had even sawed the middle legs short to get it through a door. It is an old fashioned typewriter desk with a table on springs that can be pulled out. I refinished the top myself years ago. I've had the desk for more than 20 years and have no idea how old it is, although it doesn't pass as an antique.
The loud curtains behind the desk came from another yard sale. They were hand sewn and fit the window size perfectly. When we first moved in to our house, we had a million windows to cover. Some were clad from Martha Stewart's line at Target. Others from wherever I could find them cheaply. This house has so many windows we may never get proper curtains for them all. My kids' rooms have the nicest curtains, sewn for them by their grandmother who has a bit of Martha Stewart in her.
A guest recently asked why I have two monitors on my desk. It is not to multitask. We recently got a new computer and I am still working on transferring files which is quite an ordeal, if you ask me. Probably I should just give up and toss it all. Or buy one of those largish storage drives. It is such a struggle keeping up with technology, isn't it?

As living proof of my disorganization, I've already missed the post date for Moody Monday. Sigh. I guess it really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Scribblings--Rooted

Uprooted tree

This prompt makes me wonder, how deeply rooted am I? I think I have been in too many homes and too many cities to have deep roots in any one place. I don't like to move but I can pull up and move fairly efficiently, although it seems that with each move a few more things don't get unpacked.
I moved to Chicago for graduate school in 1983 and have been here ever since. I carried here only what my mother and I could check onto a plane, around 3 bags apiece and an extra charge for my bicycle which was boxed. I never planned on staying but I guess those roots caught me after all, the roots being marriage and then children. I've now lived here for over half my life but feel as if Seattle is my home town, although I only lived there for 12+ years, from 3 to 16 years old. I can also claim my city of birth and high school, Los Angeles, although I have no affection for the place.
I think I have always lived more by the adage, "home is where you hang your hat." I developed an attachment to things and not to places. Home is where I have my "stuff." Like the French meaning of the word souvenir, my memories and souvenirs overlap. The roof over my head may change but I will remember the origin of the t-shirt I wore yesterday, bought two years ago near Aspen to combat hypothermia after white water rafting. Or the rock I own that looks as if it has two cartoon eyes looking at me. That got lost in a move some years ago and recently reappeared in a box. I am glad to have it on my desk again. I still have the same bicycle I took with me to graduate school, which was bought for me when I was 12 years old. It has a number of nicks and the frame is slightly bent from several mishaps growing up. It also has the sticker from the bike shop I bought it at (long gone) and an expired California bike permit from the 1980's. That bike has a lot of miles on it.
My husband is at times amazed that I can still tell him where I got a miscellaneous item or who gave it to us. I don't remember names well, but I do remember gifts and purchases.
Of course, I also cherish my photographs although as they become more and more digitized, they also become more portable. Now some of my roots are on the internet in storage. I hope this means they are less ephemeral than hard copy prints.
As I get older, I have become more interested in another kind of roots. As the generations ahead of me have been passing away, I become more aware that their stories are being lost. I have not been all that effectual at preserving what yet remains but I think often how sad it will be when that legacy is gone. My questions range from the simple--what was my family name before it was changed on Ellis Island--to the more complex--how did my various relatives manage to make their way to the United States? How was it for them making a new life here? I have also become the informal historian for my in-laws since I have a liking for research and (obviously) writing.
Roots have as many twists and knots as those of an old tree. Mine will be ever more interesting the longer I live. We'll have to compare in 30 or 40 years.

See It Sunday--Nose

Dash up close

For See It Sunday I entered a macro of my cat's nose. I took it the day I got my new macro lens. I put the camera on a mini-tripod I got (also new) and crept up on the sleeping cat, focusing and taking a new picture each step along the way. My last two shots were actually too close. Of course, by this time both the cat and I got tired of the game.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Yesterday. . .

wasn't too bad. The weather turned warm and was crystal clear. I got out and took a lot of photos, some of which I have already posted. I walked around downtown Chicago with my camera bag looking for photo ops.
One joker caught me off guard as I was looking in a window and said "Say Cheese" really loudly. I didn't even have my camera on at the time. I jumped a mile high but was able to retort in my most sardonic voice: "You are sooo cool." I hope he caught the conspicuous sarcasm.
I did get in a zinger of a wise crack myself, but in a nice way, to someone else. I passed a woman carrying of all things, a pair of mannequin legs. I was near Columbia College which has a lot of art, theater and film students so she probably needed those legs for something. I couldn't resist. I turned to her and said "Nice legs." Then I said "And I can say that without offending you, too." We both got a laugh and went our merry ways. Unfortunately she was out of sight before I could deploy my camera.
I have decided to take more photographs downtown and fewer on the south side. I love the south side with its dirt and decay but in the summer there are too many people hanging out on the street and I have decided it probably isn't safe. Winter tends to be a lull-season for street crime. Too cold to loiter, I guess. I asked a fellow photographer if he thought it was OK for me to take photos in a neighborhood known as Englewood and he said definitely not. I think I will post more about Englewood so you can see what I mean.
Speaking of the south side, I stumbled across an architecture bookstore. I'd seen it before but had never gone in. I found two books, one on Greystone buildings in another neighborhood I've gone photographing and one on another inner city topic. I am trying to learn more so I can be more informed in my photography and in my writing.
I had one scary moment yesterday afternoon. I was taking my son to a doctor's appointment and was on the freeway in heavy traffic. The person in front of me ran into the car in front of him. I heard the bang and hit the brakes. I also said the S-word very loudly in front of my 9 year-old son. I was afraid that the person behind me wouldn't stop in time. Luckily nothing further occurred and other than a damaged couple of fenders the two other drivers were fine. I do so love driving in Friday rush hour traffic.
Downtown is an easy place to take people photos. There are so many tourists around that one tends to blend in. The people become part of the scenery and it doesn't seem so intrusive. Here is one such photo from yesterday. You can see more detail in a large view.

Day in Grant Park

Saturday photo hunt--stairs

Submitted to Saturday Photo Hunt.

Burned staircase

Friday, April 20, 2007

At the Agora

From Dr. Seuss's What Was I Scared Of:

I had to do an errand
had to pick a peck of snide
in a dark and gloomy snide field
that was almost 9 miles wide
I said I do not fear those pants
with nobody inside them
I said and said and said those words
I said them but I lied them

I loved this story by Dr. Seuss and many of his other tales. But this one came to mind as I viewed this sculpture in Grant Park, Chicago which looks like a field of pants with nobody inside them.
Of course the sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz is entitled something entirely different, Agora, but Seuss still seems apt to me. These bodiless legs were great fun to photograph both on their own and as the city and its denizens interact with it. I think I’ll have to go back often. Here is a selection of the photographs I took.



Agora and passersby

I wasn’t surprised to find that this sculpture had been created in Poland. It definitely has an aura of the art produced behind the iron curtain even though this work is more contemporary. It reminds me of the statues of the happy Soviet workers and other heroic figures that were all over the USSR.

When I was a young teen, I had a poster of Lenin on my bedroom wall. It was there not because I was a budding Communist but because I was fascinated by the Soviet Union and because I regarded the poster as a striking piece of art. The face was done in stark planes of brown and white. It was so powerful that it was a bit spooky to the young me in way that helped me understand how it might feel to live in a Soviet Bloc country.

I found one public domain photo of some Soviet-era sculpture that seems to relate to what I am trying to say. The link is the original source of the photo.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Which dwarf are you today?

I think I'm a cross between Dopey, Grumpy and Sleepy.
Even on this kind of a day, I still have to be Doc.

Thursday 13

When I was little, my grandparents used to sing to me: "On the freeway, on the freeway, to Grandma's house we go...." I guess they made the song and tune up. I miss them and wish I were heading to see them now. Here are things I don't like about freeway (expressway for those not on the west coast of the US) travel and other parts of commuting.

Here is a picture from my twice weekly commute on the Eisenhower Expressway. Note the small Sears Tower in the foreground.

On the Eisenhower Expressway

Thirteen things that annoy me while driving to work.
1. People who block my garage so I can't get out.
2. Jaywalker who seem not to be bothered by the cars going through the green light.
3. People who cross the street and seem to slow down when they are in front of you. Is that some kind of power trip?
4. People who honk at you even though you are fifth in a long line of stopped cars.
5. Drivers who block the left lane by turning at a no left turn sign.
6. Drivers who suddenly change lanes without signaling.
7. Driver who don't like to wait their turn so try to get into an exit lane at the last minute thereby snarling up traffic in a through lane.
8. People who double park, especially if there is an open parking space right next to them. Even more so cab drivers who do this.
9. Bus drivers who don't seem to notice there are any other cars on the road. They will change lanes unexpectedly even though you are in the lane.
10. Drivers who drive below the speed limit in the left lane.
11. Drivers who weave all over the road in a vain attempt to get ahead.
12. People who pull out of driveways and alleys while talking on their cell phones and nearly run into you.
13. People who can't be bothered to stop at stop signs.

14. People like me who complain too much.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thursday Photo Challenge--All Ears


Seen near Zion National Park, Utah

Who will buy? Wordless Wednesday

Church for sale

So who buys used churches anyway?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award

Happy Monday. Last week I won a Thinking Blogger Award. Thanks Shelby. It is a high compliment. I didn't have time to pass on the favor to five blogs I like until now. And here, drumroll, in no particular order, they are.

1. Self Taught Artist--for all her sharing of her world as a struggling artist, and for her honesty as in this post entitled Fear Sucks.
2. Attila from Cheaper than Therapy for her thoughtful post, A Different Kind of Anniversary, on meeting her biological mother.
3. Misplaced in the Midwest for his stories of people he knew, including the post of 2/27/2007 (sorry I had trouble getting this link to work).
4. A Snail's Eye View for making me appreciate slugs a little bit more. See this post about leopard slug markings.
5. Kathe of Natural Solitude--not so much for her text as for always having a thoughtful comment on my posts, especially the ones that are feeling left out for lack of other comments. And for her photographic view of life in Marquette, Michigan.

Congratulations, you won a

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Yom Hashoah--Holocaust Memorial Day

Are you there G-d?

Tomorrow is the day designated for the remembrance of the Holocaust. This evening I attended a memorial service. I am printing a poem by Hannah Senesh. Hannah was a Hungarian Jew who emigrated to then British Palestine, but later parachuted into Yugoslavia as part of a British operation during World War II. She was captured in Hungary, tortured and killed in 1944. She was 23 years old. Here is one of her poems.

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor's sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

Poem and story courtesy of Wikipedia.

If you find a recording of her poem, Eli Eli, please listen to it. It is one of my all time favorite songs. We sang it this evening.

See it Sunday--Sand

Sand patterns

Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

American Eagle

The time has come for me to reveal my true identity. Yes it is I, famed superspy, Mata Sari, or is it Sara Hari, or, no it's, Shmata* Shari, Yiddish speaking supersnoop. No longer will I hide here on the internet as a mild-mannered bird-watching shrink.

Remember all those lurkers reading your site but never leaving comments? That is part of my network of internet spies saving our nation and the free world. It is too late to delete your blogs. I have it all down. Our fearless leader hired me, Shmata, to monitor the net waves for those who dare mock him and his talented team of liberty-loving rednecks.
You have posted your last Bush joke. We now control your internet service provider (hitherto known as IPS--sorry like our leader I'm dsylexic). Those cute little bird pictures? They are my specially trained junco squad. Each gray bird has a designated site they will fly to in the next few days. First the wood peckers and squirrels will gnaw holes in your cables and wires. Then each junco will so delicately take a dump in a critical location. If you thought bird flu was bad, you should try this virus!
Once we control the internet we can get back to business. My advisers have told our president that matters in Iranq and Korea will take more than two years to solve. We owe it to the free world to prolong the tenure of our current administration for another 6 short years. Once we have settled the problem of the Triangle of Evil, Trial of Evil, Triad of Envy, oh you know what I mean, Bush's daughters will be out of rehab. and able to run for office in his stead.
Do not be overconfident. The birds are not my only hench-animals. Did you ever wonder why your cats always linger outside the bathroom when you are in there. They too are monitoring your every move. Should you think to bring your laptop into the bathroom while you do the deed, they know. Each whisker is a special wireless transmitter picking up your every key stroke. Your cats leave secretly encoded messages in the catbox for later pick up.
Oh, I have to go. My security team tells me there was a wren spied in my back yard. More updates to follow.

*Shmatteh - Rag, anything worthless from Yiddishkeit

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Saturday Photo Hunt--Hobby

Here is how I spent an hour today. I ran outside as soon as the sun came out and left when the sun had hidden itself again and I was feeling numb. Required ingredients, warm coat, coffee, chairs, camera, tripod, lots of bird seed, a good book (to prevent boredom while birds are feeling scared of me) and patience. Seen today--robin, starling, junco, song sparrow, house sparrow, cardinal, dove, sea gull. Not too exciting but got a couple of cute pictures of the squirrel raiding the bird feeder. Some to be posted at a later date.


Thursday Challenge--Circle

Here is my official entry to the meme.

Stockyard sign

Here are my two also rans.

Clock face


These are at the entrance to the former Chicago Stockyards. Although the slaughterhouses will not be missed it is sad that almost all the old architecture has been replaced with a modern industrial park. The boarded up building is one of the last bits.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I am figuring out the trick to taking backyard bird photos. You put out a lot of food, put your camera on a tripod and bring a good book so as not to be too bored while waiting for the birds to decide you are not dangerous.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Booking Through Thursday

The question of the day is did I ever "book" right through something important?

Have you ever missed an important appointment because you have become so engrossed in a book you forgot the time or were up so late reading that you didn't wake up in time? Been late to work because you couldn't resist the temptation and left the house too late?

The answer is yes, yes and yes. The most striking instance that I can think of was when I was a decidedly nerdy Elementary school student. I was in a small school and sometimes preferred to keep to myself instead of engaging in endless games of four square during recess. So I would sit in my classroom and read. I was a good, fast reader and very focused. So much so that at times I would read right through recess and into class without noticing that class had resumed. This caused no end of amusement to my peers and probably considerable annoyance to my teachers.

Poetry Thursday

Some months ago I visited a cemetery and photographed the stones. At the time I was struck by the photos in porcelain of many of those buried there. I have written previous poems about those resting there. Here is one incorporating a line from a poem, "trapped in the frame of an old photograph," graciously provided by Sara from The Shores of My Dreams.



Whose mother, sister, wife, were you,
Living on, forever trapped in the frame
Of an old photograph?
Who took your picture on that day you so
Carefully pinned the lace atop your head?

A life story spanning two centuries is
Now forever buried with you.
You left behind children who endowed
Your stone eternally.
Beloved Mother. Age 63 Years. At Rest.

Forgive me if I have disturbed
Your peace
With Speculation and Photography.
Eighty years have passed
But your stone still bears witness.

Thursday Thirteen--Thirteen things I can do to help the environment.

One white feather

1. Walk and bicycle more for nearby errands.
2. Replace windows in my coach house office.
3. Replace and increase efficiency of water heater in office.
4. Research possibility of solar for my house.
5. Consider seriously getting a hybrid car.
6. Write letters regarding environmental issues.
7. Plant a tree or two or three.
8. Help educate my children and promote consciousness at my children’s schools.
9. Recycle more.
10. Pay for energy offsets when I travel.
11. Turn off my computers when I am not using them.
12. Speak more about environmental issues on my blog.
13. Hold myself accountable by updating this checklist with my progress!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wordless Wednesday--snow day

Snow in April

Give me a break, it is April 11! I accepted since moving to Chicago that the powers-that-be will give us a snowstorm on April Fool's Day but this is ridiculous!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tuesday Challenge--shopping


I thought "shopping" was an impossible prompt but then I remembered this picture. Even though I don't eat most of the meat shown in the window, I still want to go and shop there. Why do Europeans do presentation so much better than we Americans?
This photo was taken in Siena, Italy. I only visited there briefly (less than a day).
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Monday, April 09, 2007

My entry for Photo Friday--blessing

Easter weekend

Egg toys

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Silly stuff courtesy of and found via meeyauw.

We include eggs as part of the Passover ritual too.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

And now for something completely serious

Sunday Scribblings' prompt for today is In the news. I chose a magazine article I wanted to read anyway. Here is my post.

In the news

April 9th’s New Yorker caught my eye recently. One of the cover articles is Jerome Groopman’s, “Is your child really bipolar?” I like to keep up with what the public is reading about the illnesses I treat so I put this article on my reading list.
Dr. Groopman is the prolific author of several books (that I have not read) and a number of articles for publications including the New Yorker, New York Times and Lancet. I admire his accomplishments as an author and he seems to be a notable scientist. However, his areas of scientific expertise are in the domains of cancer and AIDS research, not psychiatry.
Mr. Groopman’s article is well-written and informative. It gives some interesting historical background about the diagnosis and treatment of Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as Manic Depression). He provides an adequate introduction to some of the controversies regarding the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in children and adolescents.
His article reads like a Who’s Who of Child Bipolar research. Groopman begins the article with reference to Steven Hyman, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health. He mentions respected Child Psychiatric researchers such as Barbara Geller, Joseph Biederman, Janet Wozniak and Eileen Leibenluft and discusses their relevant research.
These psychiatrists along with a few others not mentioned here provide the core of the research-based analysis of what is and is not Pediatric Bipolar Disorder. To give you an example of these researchers stature, a search on the name Barbara Geller on PubMed lists 24 articles in major journals on Bipolar Disorder. Search on Joseph Biederman and you find 220 articles, 45 of which relate to Bipolar Disorder.
These and other scientists do not agree on the exact definition of Bipolar Disorder in children. This is a caution to us all. If the definition is not clear and (as in this case) there are no laboratory exams or body scans to identify an illness, there will be instances of both under and over diagnosis. The diagnosis is even harder in preschool and young-school aged children. As Groopman correctly points out, the medications used to treat Bipolar Disorder are often potentially toxic and should be used with great care. For some people, they may be life-saving as well.
Let us compare treatments for Bipolar Disorder to treatments for Dr. Groopman’s specialties, AIDS and cancer. It is well known that chemotherapy, radiation and AIDS medications can be extremely toxic; however, they are used because they also clearly can save lives. We probably wouldn’t give these treatments to someone if we weren’t sure they had cancer or AIDs, however. What would we do if we believed they had a 50-75% probability of having cancer or AIDS? This is what we are dealing with when we treat presumed Bipolar children.
Some of these children are so severely afflicted that they are at risk of being institutionalized, expelled from school, jailed or placed for adoption (or re-adoption) by their families. Under these circumstances can you afford not to treat? Even if the diagnosis is uncertain, the medication may help, sometimes remarkably so. What do you do when the child is suicidal, violent or so impulsive as to be placing their physical health at risk on a nearly daily basis? I treat these children.
Dr. Groopman is correct. The basis for a bipolar diagnosis, especially in a prepubertal child is difficult and controversial. I tell this to parents I work with. I also discuss medication risks and before I suggest mood stabilizer medications I need to feel confident that the child experiences a serious level of impairment from their mood disorder and that a safer form of treatment is not a viable option. I have indeed seen children that were incorrectly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I have also seen the illness evolve in children I or another health professional had previously diagnosed with ADHD, depression or anxiety disorders.
Like Dr. Groopman, I feel that childhood onset Bipolar Disorder is a bit of a disease du jour and that too many challenging, irritable children are diagnosed with it.
Where I argue with Dr. Groopman is that he trivializes the argument against the diagnosing of children with this illness. He interviews two psychotherapists to make his point. One is April Prewitt, a child psychologist, who apparently spends a good deal of time “undiagnosing” children with were told they had the disorder. What are her qualifications besides a Ph.D.? Hard to tell. She is not cited in PubMed. The only April Prewitt, psychologist, I could find on the internet, works at a health center specializing in women’s health issues. Dr. Prewitt has seen 30 children diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in three years, according to the article. I doubt this qualifies her as an expert on the illness.
The other therapist interviewed is Phillip Blumberg, “a psychotherapist in Manhattan.” I have no idea what his credentials are. He apparently does not publish in the scientific journals as his name is not mentioned on PubMed. His previous employment as a vice president at ABC Motion Pictures seems irrelevant at best. I cannot even find out what therapy degree he has. In fact, Mr. Blumberg cannot be found at all on a casual internet search. Blumberg seems to blame the drug companies and academic pressure on children for the increase in diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in children. However, his arguments are vague and not well substantiated.
If Dr. Groopman wants to make a case for the overdiagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in children, more power to him. But let’s have some substantive facts or at least meaningful opinions. Edit out the paragraphs regarding Dr. Prewitt and Mr. or Dr. Blumberg and the argument against the pediatric Bipolar diagnosis is weaker but the article is sounder. We owe it to our kids to accurately portray all sides of the controversy.

Addendum: After writing this article, I decided to edit it and send it to the New Yorker as a letter to the editor. I truly doubt they’ll publish it but why not send it anyway?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Saturday photo hunt--clean

Bathing bird crop 2

Seen in Puerto Rico.

By Jove I think I've got it!

Lizalee from Egret's nest is my inspiration for this post. She posted about a convention of ravens which reminded me of my recent photos of house sparrows. I'm not overly fond of house sparrows. They are kind of cute but they are so common as to be boring. I recently learned that they are an introduced species. They also tend to eat all my bird food so that I don't get to see the more interesting species. I'm such a bird-snob.

So here is my story.

One of the little sparrows seemed to be having some kind of trouble.

Uh oh.

The gapers arrive.

Gapers #1-1

Are they curious, trying to help, or enjoying the show? I think I'm anthropomorphizing too much because I don't understand the behavior at all.


It's bad enough to be having problems without the whole neighborhood coming over to stare.

Gaper's delay.

He took off after this so we will never know the end of this story but it doesn't bode well for our little friend.