Friday, February 29, 2008

Depressing Movie Night

Too Short

My kids have created a new tradition which is they go out playing Magic (see earlier posts for details) on Friday nights. This is great for me because driving them there and back is one household duty that I am exempt from. Some nights I go hang out at a bookstore, some nights I take pictures (which is more pleasant in the summer) and others I read or watch TV.
I don't usually watch much television. This is in part because I prefer to read most of the time and because I don't like fighting with my three boys over control of the remote. Fridays I like to collapse. I avoid Friday night dates and parties and have done so for years. So tonight, I have the house to myself and since I have put around 100 miles on my car in the past two days for work, I have little interest in spending more time in it. I also have a rented movie to watch.
I need to preface this with an explanation of my latest movie rentals. Today and this coming Monday, by coincidence, I had/have talks to give on depression. Today's was relatively informal and was about adolescent depression and bipolar disorder. Monday's will be as part of a course entitled Neurobiology of Disease. This will be more formal which is why, of course, I haven't even started preparing it yet. The course instructor wanted some video footage of a depressed person. When I heard about this a few months ago I commented that I didn't have any videos and the instructor told me that he could get me something. Last week when the subject came up he told me he didn't have a video. I mentioned I might use a film clip from a movie (just in case he was worried about copyright issues) and he proposed that I take a look on You Tube. I was taken aback but he was right. I found a pretty good video on You Tube.
Even so I came up with three movies that might have suitable portrayals of depressed people. The first I viewed last Friday. I watched Girl, Interrupted which was pretty well done, a bit dated, and a bit distressing but provided no useful film clips. I enjoyed watching Angelina Jolie as a blonde bitchy girl, most likely with bipolar disorder. She had just the requisite evilness that some people (but not all) have during a manic episode.
I remember one bipolar guy from my inpatient days who refused medication, was incredibly unpleasant to the staff and constantly threatened to call (then Secretary of Health and Human Services) Donna Shalayla to complain of our treatment of him. It took weeks for him to improve enough to be discharged and for us to breathe a big sigh of relief. Lest you think I generally hate my patients, let me say that he was an exception. I usually can find something to like and relate to in my patients but he was notably unlikable.
Tonight's movie is Prozac Nation. I'm guessing I won't find what I am looking for for my talk but hope I like the flick anyway. If neither of those work, I will review Little Miss Sunshine--there is a character in it that I remember as being quite the image of a depressed person. Or I'll use You Tube or simply quote some written material. Maybe tomorrow's post will be composed of some depressing quotes. I have something about Abraham Lincoln that is quite remarkable.
After this post it is ironic to close with "Cheers" but I will do so anyway.
Cheers and happy viewing.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Endless snow

Lakefront Trail

Snow day

But at least it's pretty!

Booking Through Thursday--Who's My Heroine?

Who is your favorite female lead character? And why? (And yes, of course, you can name more than one . . . I always have trouble narrowing down these things to one name, why should I force you to?)

I decided to do Booking Through Thursday today. After all it is a pretty good question.
I guess I would choose Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice because I really do like the character and she came up in conversation just last night. The topic was why women would be attracted to men who look down on them. It occurred to me to use P & P as an example. Of course, most of us know that Mr. Darcy considered Elizabeth beneath him due to her family "connections" and his first confession of love was disdainful at best. It is only after Mr. Darcy has gotten his hands dirty helping Elizabeth's low connections and been humbled by his love that he becomes an acceptable suitor. It strikes me that it is the humbling process or at least the wish to see the man humbled that makes a woman see an arrogant, condescending man as an acceptable partner.

I'm going to also choose Meggie of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. This is a kid's book but I really enjoyed it myself. I'd put it up there with Harry Potter among the truly memorable books for kids. Meggie is a reader, semi-orphaned and a devoted daughter to her father. She handles multiple adventures with frightening villains and a new brand of magic with considerable spirit.

I also like women detectives, namely VI Warshawski, Kinsey Milhone, Anna Pigeon, Mma Ramotswe, Stephanie Plum and Temperance Brennan. If you want to know authors and books let me know in a comment.

Of course there are many other powerful women characters in literature but I would like to end with one observation. That is that we are still biased towards men in literature. Too many books with strong female protagonists wind up consigned to the chick lit pile. It is hard to get a boy to read a book about a girl but the reverse is not necessarily true. As a kid I read Nancy Drew but I also read the entire Hardy Boys series. Try to catch a boy reading Nancy Drew (at least in public)! And in mainstream novels too many female characters are afterthoughts or actually men in women's clothes, as it were.

Have a great Thursday and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Predator in My Backyard


Saturday night I arrived home at around 7:30. I had been running errands with a few detours to take pictures. I was burdened with a bag of take-out Chinese, my purse and camera as I exited my garage. As the door opened, I looked down and was startled by the body of a large rabbit. We’ve had a least one backyard bunny over the past few years but this one would eat my garden no more.
I’m not terribly squeamish but I did not have the stomach to dispose of the carcass, especially while bringing dinner home. I figured it could wait. Once home, I analyzed my options. I didn’t want to leave it for my younger son to see as he would have obsessed about the dead bunny for weeks. I didn’t want to pick it up myself. So I had only a few hours to plot.
My choices were: 1. Pretend I hadn’t seen it and hope my husband discovered it in the morning and took care of it. 2. Be straight forward and ask my husband to get rid of it. He might feel gallant and do so. Then again he might not.
We indulge in a bit of tug of war at my house regarding gross things. Largely this involves those times when one of the cats poops or pukes on the floor. Both kids and my husband would like to assume that “mom will deal with it.” Sometimes mom doesn’t want to be the designated poop or barf cleaner-upper.
I take an attitude akin to that of my sons’ motto: “He who smelt it dealt it.” This is one of those delightful sayings you pick up when raising sons. In a household with boys, no fart can pass unmentioned. Usually it goes thusly: “EEEWW,” says one of the five boys hanging out in front of the TV playing a video game. “He who smelt it dealt it,” says another boy. And so on. Of course this is supposed to mean that the first to mention the aroma is the one who produced it. By this point I am rolling my eyes and wishing for daughters.
This ditty applies to cat leavings as follows: if you find it, you clean it up (kids exempt). If the kids find it, the nearest parent gets to clean it up. You can try to pretend you didn’t notice the large cat turd on the living room floor but that is cheating. So too with the rabbit. I really ought to have picked it up, or at least meekly confessed that gross anatomy and autopsies notwithstanding, I have a queasy stomach for dead things.
The next morning I was the first to head to the garage. I had almost convinced myself that I could dispose of the dead rabbit. But nature had beaten me to it. It was gone.
I guess that whatever had killed the rabbit in the first place came back to get it once I had moved on. It was dark then and I’m not sure if our neighborhood hawk will hunt after dark. It could have been an owl. I don’t think there are coyotes in my part of town. I tend to doubt it was a cat or dog. I’ve never seen a dog prowling loose around here and the rabbit was a bit large for a cat. Plus there were no bones or fur left around. In fact, if there wasn’t a small tuft of fur on the ground where I had seen the dead rabbit, I might have doubted whether there ever had been a rabbit there at all.
I’m glad the predator in my back yard took care of the carcass disposal. I’m glad it managed to retrieve its meal. But I will miss the bunny. Of course, the way they breed there will be 20 more where that one came from.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Time Travel

The prompt for Writer's Island this week is "Second Chance" and I see it as prophetic since I wrote but never posted a piece on last week's theme which was "time travel." So I'm posting it now as a second go 'round. Here is my personal take on time travel.

Red underbelly

Time Travel
I was tempted to skip this prompt because it felt too artificial to me. I thought of all those science fiction scenarios about time travel. Did I want to decide whether to travel to the age of the dinosaurs, ancient Greece, hang out in colonial Boston? All it brings to mind is that generally when you read time travel stories no one mentions how uncomfortable the past was. It is hard to long for a day when people poured their waste into the street outside their homes, when life was short, grim, and full of infectious diseases. I’m not sure I really want to live before people understood germ theory and had access to antibiotics.

Cemetery and Snow

Then it came to me. What I would like to visit is my direct prehistory. Now I don’t mean I would like to visit with my grandmother again, although I miss her sorely. I would like to meet my great-grandparents in their youth before they individually and collectively decided to board those ships to America. I’d like to visit them in their shtetls in Eastern Europe where I imagine them growing up fearful of attacks by Cossacks. Of course, one branch of the family apparently came from Austria and was a little more well-to-do. In short, I’d like to hear their stories, what drove them to leave their home countries and gamble on the United States. They must have been either remarkably courageous or afraid, or both.
This weekend I had dinner with a friend, a recent immigrant from Russia. I pictured us as children on the opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. I was fascinated by the Soviet Union back then. I read Solzhenitsyn’s works, protested the treatment of Soviet Jewish Refuseniks and dreamed of traveling to the Soviet Union. My father, as a scientist, traveled to the USSR a couple of times back then and I fantasized that he would take me along. Instead he bought me a subscription to a propoganda journal by the name of Soviet Life. It was a poor consolation prize.
I finally made it to the USSR in 1982. I was living in Paris at the time and went to Helsinki to visit friends of the family. The family was attached to the U.S. embassy to Finland and was able to get me and my friend visas to take a train to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). It was a dream trip. I was there for two nights and one full day. I was free of the then nearly mandatory Intourist guide but we indulged ourselves in wise cracks about our likely bugged hotel room and possible but never seen KGB tail. It was a quick trip but memorable.
As usual I have strayed “off topic.” Talking to my Russian-American friend this weekend about her experience of growing up in the USSR and her decision to move first to Israel and then to the U.S. triggered these thoughts about my Russian, Austrian, and Polish ancestors. All of my great-grandparents were alive when I was born. Their English was poor and rumor had it that at least one of my great-grandmothers was never literate in English. But I met and talked with them, kissed a lot of wrinkled cheeks and tried to decipher their accents. Being young, I never really talked to them about their lives. They were of a generation in which successful assimilation into the greater American culture required an abandonment of roots. I think even my grandparents did not know much about their parents’ origins.
Now all of that knowledge and life experience is gone. So if I had access to that mythical time machine, I’d go to my ancestral homelands and ask the questions I failed to ask 40 years ago.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Scribblings--passion

Sunset over Hancock

Sunday Scribblings prompt is Passion. Lately all the prompts seem to leave me, uh, passionless. I don’t think it is the prompts themselves, just the artist in me feeling sleepy. I thought briefly of talking about passions gone wrong, since I just bought a book about hoarding but then thought I’d talk about my home city, Chicago.
It amazes me that I can be passionate about Chicago. I wasn’t born here; in fact, I hadn’t set foot in the Midwest until I applied to the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis medical schools. I applied at the U of C in mid-November and found that, at 14 degrees, it was the coldest day of my life to that point. Not to mention that I decided to walk to my hotel by the lake shore and nearly froze to death from the wind chill. Trust me the wind chill doesn’t get mentioned in the Los Angeles weather report. You would have thought that this would have made up my mind against the Midwest. After all, I had spent nearly my entire life to date on the west coast of the U.S. where temperatures below freezing are rare unless you climb mountains in the winter.
However, my mind being more analytic than passionate, I decided to go to the best school I got into and not the best location. My first year in Chicago, the thermometer dropped to 27 degrees below zero with a wind chill in the minus 60’s. Cars wouldn’t start and I learned that breathing through a scarf gets kind of gross as one’s breath freezes on the cloth. I also learned that my eyes stuck transiently shut when I blinked and so too did my nostrils with each inhalation. I also learned to beware of high winds near high-rises after I literally was blown over. I learned the joys of dog leavings that freeze and thaw but never disappear and of watching cars slip and slide through intersections. Fortunately I had bought a coat that was trendy at that time. It looked like a purple down sleeping bag and was considered quite chic in LA where people try to look like New Yorkers in 80 degree weather. I stayed quite warm all winter even though I looked like Barney.
There were probably a few moments I wanted to move back to LA (which I hate) especially when my mom would call to tell me about the latest Santa Ana condition (when winds descend from the mountains and warm to a balmy 80 in January). But I didn’t and the roots began to grow in spite of the climate.
I think I was first seduced by the food. Chicago is a great eating town. I love ethnic food and there is so much of it here. My favorites are Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Thai and Italian. The Chinese food cannot compare with San Francisco, Seattle or Vancouver but it is pretty tolerable. I’ve also had French, Greek, Vietnamese, Korean, Pakistani, and Ethiopian food here.


After food, there is the entertainment, but I’ve always been either too broke or too busy to do more than sample it. I’ve been to a few plays, a couple of operas, the symphony once in a while, a comedy club—all of which were top-notch but who has the time? The museums are great too but try dragging a three year old into the art museums. More time has been spent in the kid-friendly museums and the occasional zoo trip.
The lake is wonderful. Sadly, it isn’t an ocean. If you close your eyes and hear the sea gulls you can almost pretend it is, but part of you will always know the sea is thousands of miles away. So are the mountains. The lake aside, the geography here leaves a lot to be desired. For geography, you need an airplane.
I like the people here. They are more laid back than most easterners, less materialistic than southern Californians. It is more multi-cultural here than any other place I have lived.
But Chicago really became a passion after I got my camera. I can’t look closely at things without wanting to know more about them. I accumulate knowledge like hoarders accumulate junk, passionately. So if I photograph a building or a work of art, I want to learn more about it. I’ve read books and websites on photography in general and more specifically on Chicago’s neighborhoods, history, art and architecture. I’ve read about its wildflowers and wildlife, its cemeteries and murals. For me the more you know about something the more you want to know. Today and yesterday I had a few minutes free and I drove, largely aimlessly, to and from certain obligatory errands looking at buildings. I now want to know what you call the ornamentation under the eaves of houses and more about neighborhood block clubs. You get my point.

Fixer upper

Fortunately for me blogs and Flickr encourage people with passions like mine so we can swap photos and information and keep our passions alive. And the more pictures I take the more I have to write about. Like this. I look forward to reading about your passions as well. Maybe they will be catching.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Happy Chef

Happy Chef

I took pictures in Chinatown this evening.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Full Moon

Only Slightly Unbalanced

I feel like Chicken Little--the sky is falling! Is something wrong with the world this month? Is it bad karma, bad weather, the eclipse, the near-total lack of sunshine this month, or as they say on multiple choice tests, A & D, B & C, none of the above or all of the above?
My friends, colleagues and I have all decided that February should have been banned this year. There are those creepy, shivery events like the shootings at a university not far from here, or the therapist who was sliced to death in New York City. Then there is the more close to home feeling that this February is a lousy month to be a psychiatrist. Finally, let's face it, I and millions of other people just want this winter to be over!

After the full eclipse

People the world over have superstitions about the full moon and its effects on behavior. None are more superstitious than doctors. I once nearly got beaten up when I told a medical resident that our call was quiet that night. Saying that your call is quiet is considered tantamount to inviting 20 major disasters on the ward and in the ER. I never used the word quiet professionally again.

An Odd Sense of Humor

The most superstition is regarding the moon. ER doctors insist that there are more and stranger patients in the ER on full moon nights. Psychiatry residents dread those nights too. There is a reason someone who probably spoke Latin coined the term lunatics.
Of course true scientists know better. Take the following study cited as a letter to the editor in Psychiatric Services: Kung and Mrazek analyzed records from a psychiatric emergency room from 1997 to 2001 and found no increase in visits during full moon nights. They weren't the first (nor probably the last) to try to debunk the myth but it is still widely believed. Another tale for Mythbusters perhaps?
Personally I would have rather skipped call on Saturday nights or on the day after welfare checks came out when all the crack addicts had spent their allotment and crashed and turned up in the ER for consolation. But then, I guess I never was too superstitions, knock on wood.

Before and After

Jumping Rope

I took this picture of people jumping rope in May of 2007. I wonder if these are some of the 80 people displaced by a major fire on Monday.

What a Mess

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 18, 2008

More from my reading list, or a guilt trip

Fog in Cascades
Not quite K2 but mountains, nonetheless.

I guess I am on a roll for book reviews. This is generally a good thing, unless I am boring you, the gentle reader (or not-reader as the case may be). I seem also to be on a non-fiction kick. My reading habits signal a lot about my mental state. No books or no books I'd care to admit to in public, means I am tired and low on energy. If I'm only reading "comfort books," in other words, books I read 14 times when I was a kid, then I'm depressed. For the years of medical school, graduate school, kid #1 in diapers, residency, fellowship, kid #2 in diapers, I hardly read anything not assigned reading unless it was a beach novel on one of my rare vacations.
Then a miracle happened. I quit my insane, 60 hours a week plus call job, started working for myself and my kids aged out of diapers. Books started looking like something other than useful doorstops. I have only read one novel in French in the past 10 years, but that requires that my brain cells be on overdrive. So anyway, here is another book review.
This time I wandered over to Pakistan and another kind of poverty. Sometimes I wonder about books that are shamelessly promoted at Border's but this one came recommended by a family member. The book is Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The book had a few interesting prerequisites: an exotic locale, a do-gooder mentality, and some very tall mountains. So I read it. The premise is so hard to believe that I wonder if I should check it out on the net (since I fell so ignominiously for A Million Little Pieces--see this post).
But I choose to believe that not everyone who is noble, heroic or addicted in this world is a liar. So I choose to believe that Mortenson really is a former mountaineer who gave it up to build schools for Muslim children, especially girls, in Pakistan and later Afghanistan. Other than the obstinacy necessary to attempt an assault on K2, Mortenson has none of the obvious credentials for a major philanthropist. After getting lost on the way down a mountain, Mortenson stumbles into a village of friendly but poor people who help him recover from his ordeal. He learns they dream of having a school for their children and one thing leads to another. Next thing you know Mortenson is building schools throughout two countries, learning to pray like a good Muslim, being kidnapped by bandits (does he know Venkatesh of my previous book review?), and heading a major charitable organization. All of it is in the name of peace, love, fraternity and education.
So, what does this have to do with guilt trips? Well, books like this make me, and probably most other people with Catholic or Jewish guilt, feel like we ought to be doing more for this world. Even though I am in a helping profession, I haven't changed the lives of thousand of poor children in a far off country. I ponder joining Doctors Without Borders or the Peace Corps. I wonder if I should retrain in surgery (not) so I can repair cleft lips and palates in a third world country. As traveling in third world countries has alas taught me, I don't have the GI tract for unsanitary living conditions. I think in a month or so, I'd wind up a casualty of my own charitable inclinations, getting IV rehydration salts and using up the scarce supply of antibiotics. Which makes for a convenient excuse to hang out here at home doing what I am best at, helping American kids and adults deal with their own traumas.
Anyway, I am not trying to tell you how I console myself for my own role in world affairs. There is always someone out there who is better, smarter, poorer, more talented or holier than thou or thee. If you like this kind of thing, read this book. It is a great read, whether as an adventure story or as the book jacket proclaims, as "a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit." Besides, Borders has it on the "buy 1, get 2nd 50% off" table.

Friday, February 15, 2008

And the Answer Is:

A part of a sculpture composed of automobile parts, on display in Grant Park of downtown Chicago. My favorites from this exhibit are shown below:

Grant Park Sculpture

Lily Sculpture

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Photo Friday--What is This?

Rusty pipes

Interesting old house

House on Bowen Drive

I like this building. I guess the squirrel does too.

Building Detail with Squirrel

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cool bird sighting

Comin' at You

I'm pretty sure it is a peregrine falcon. All you expert birders correct me if I'm wrong. Seen at an urban park here in Chicago.
If only I had a zoom lens!

Added 2/15/08: I have been corrected and the bird is actually a kestrel. Maybe not quite as glamorous as the once-endangered peregrine but still cool.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Gang Leader for a Day: a Book Review

Robert Taylor at Night

A Tale Told by an Idiot: Gang Leader for a Day, by Sudhir Venkatesh

I just read a great book. So why am I titling my review of this book in the above manner? Sudhir Venkatesh is a sociologist, formerly a graduate student at the University of Chicago, who takes it into his head to study poverty in the Chicago Housing Projects. In so doing, and in spite of all good sense and nearly totally abandoning the scientific methods of his profession, Venkatesh manages to learn more about the inner workings of a Chicago gang then most people before and since.
Imagine a young, na├»ve, Indian graduate student who stumbles into an abandoned housing project on the south side of Chicago at the height of the crack epidemic of the in 1989. Armed with nothing but a clipboard of survey questions about poverty and census data about poor African American families on the South Side of Chicago, Venkatesh launches himself into danger and into a great story. Like the gang members who hold him up at knife and gun point his first day, I had to laugh at this fellow who plans to ask these fellows multiple choice questions such as: “How does it feel to be black and poor?” Possible answers consist of: “Very bad, somewhat bad, neither bad nor good, somewhat good, very good.” In spite of his questionnaire, Venkatesh is mistaken for a Mexican gang member and is assumed to be spying on the gang.
With this introduction, Venkatesh makes a connection with members of the Black Kings gang. Wiser people would have spent the remainder of their days safely ensconced in the Ivory Tower, thanking the powers that be that they survived their youthful idiocy. Not Venkatesh. Instead he forms an acquaintanceship with one gang leader and over the next few years he is allowed to follow this young man, “J.T.,” as he organizes drug deals, meets with his superiors and disciplines his underlings. He meets J.T’s mother and regularly eats (only vegetarian) at her house. He learns how this gang manages the finances of running a successful crack cocaine business. He is becomes a regular visitor to the Robert Taylor Homes, now all razed, and is generally accepted there, in part because he has the Black Kings’ protection (although this deserts him when he visits the next building over in the complex).
I enjoyed this inside scoop on gang and project life and especially enjoyed following Venkatesh’s thought process about the moral complicity of his connection with a group with serious criminal activities. He also shares his self-doubt about his objectivity as he observes a community he is “embedded in” much like a journalist following a military unit in combat.
The title of the book is clearly intended to sell more copies. Venkatesh was declared gang leader by J.T. but his leadership role is highly circumscribed and largely kept a secret. Unfortunately the title sensationalizes a story that is largely a serious and thoughtful analysis of race relations, poverty, public housing, drugs and gangs in Chicago’s inner city.
If you get a chance, read this book. It is a fascinating tale and a learning experience.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fridge Fetish

Fast Food

Just a follow up to all those who enjoyed a peek in my fridge. I downloaded same photo to Flickr and got invited to post the photo to a group called "Fridge Fetish." I cannot tell you what a relief it is to know that my fridge is no more packed full than a lot of other people. Of course it isn't exactly a scientific sample, but there you have it.
Speaking of fridges, it is -1 degrees F. today. Aaack. And more snow tonight.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Magic: The Gathering

Take the Magic: The Gathering 'What Color Are You?' Quiz.

I found this quiz on The Eleventh House. I decided to take it in honor of my kids who are very much into Magic. I think green truly is my color although the quiz is a bit random. I also doubt it is the strongest color in the deck.

Protean Hulk

It is hard to explain Magic to people who don't have experience with the trading card games. Anyone with kids, especially boys over the age of 8 or so, probably has encountered Pokemon or Yugioh. Magic preceded these. It is a bit of an offshoot of Dungeons and Dragons game but played as a card game. Imagine the game of War but with complex cards and rules.


It is actually a quite challenging game. Players collect the cards which are issues in a series of releases, sort of like the new season on TV. One can buy preformed decks of cards or small assortments of random cards known as booster packs. The booster packs contain a mixture of common, uncommon and rare cards (proportionally of course) with the common being needful but not powerful and the rare conferring often powerful abilities to a deck. The better players design their own decks to take to tournaments.
A few weeks ago I drove my sons to a Magic tournament. It was an interesting sight. It was held in a conference room in a hotel near the airport. It looked like any other conference room I have been in except for the attendees. Imagine a room full of boys and young adults. Sort of like a poker tournament with hushed voices, people leaning over cards, except younger, and definitely geekier. This is the jeans and t-shirt set. I noticed a few bald heads and beards and a few men closer to my age than my kids.
The room smelled of too many male bodies. With some effort I spotted two brave young women. I admired them for being willing to compete in a nearly all male domain. Talk about social pressure!
I scanned the crowd and couldn't find anyone else as young as my younger son (who is 10). Because he follows my older boy into everything he does, younger son is used to hanging out with the older players. I overheard a discussion between two fellows. One said to the other: "You lost to a 12 year old!" Pipes up my son: "I'm 10." He was rightfully proud of himself.
Older son won his tournament and left with a grand prize of a number of cards. He happens to be a brilliant gamer. Got the math/science genes that run on both sides of his family. (I'll brag a tiny bit. He's doing Calculus at 15). Fortunately, he also inherited a tiny bit of social skills or he'd be totally weird, like, ahem, some of the gamers I saw.

Sunday Scribblings--Fridge Space

No offense, but (as my kids would say): "What the. . . ?" Thankfully they leave that sentence incomplete but it is still vulgar.
Honestly, I couldn't even think of an essay-type theme for this prompt. I could have done fiction as in "Mary and John fought and eventually divorced over the lack of fridge space for his beer and her Diet Rite." I decided to forgo this work of literary brilliance.
The prompt most made me think of Jeopardy. What's his name reveals the Household Problems for $60--and the answer is: Fridge Space. The question is of course:
What is there never enough of in one's kitchen?
So instead of creative writing here is a picture of, what else?, my fridge, which is, of course, full.

Fridge Interior

Just a rhetorical question--which seems more intimate, a shot of my fridge or one of my underwear drawer?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

See It Sunday--Child


Craters of the Moon National Park. What child could resist running down that slope?


Cemetery and Snow

Friday, February 08, 2008

Tuesday Challenge--Scales

My best fish shot

Urban Wildlife

Coyote 2

Why it pays to take your camera everywhere. I was admiring the snow on the tombstones when I saw this guy. I got off three shots from my car and then went to park. By the time I got back the coyote was gone.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Love is. . . .

Jud asks in a comment: How did you get your start as a photographer?
I could reply, "Well, I'm not really a photographer." But leaving that aside, I'll try to figure this out.
I think I first started to enjoy photography because my father did. Like many parents, my father enjoyed sharing his hobbies and interests with his kids and I was generally happy to follow in his footsteps. I wouldn't say my dad was a great photographer but he was a hobbiest and I remember him as having a basic SLR and a couple of lenses. He encouraged me by buying me nearly every camera I ever owned, starting from when I was quite young. All my early cameras were of the point and shoot type. I took pictures of my family and of scenery. I don't think any of my pictures were striking or unique in any way, just the usual people and vacation shots. Of course, I had good subjects to work with: it is hard to fault places like Yosemite and Paris, even for a novice photographer.
I think I enjoyed picture taking but kept it on the back burner because my life was too busy to do anything with it. Besides, a good camera was outside of my starving student budget. Then one day I awoke and realized I was no longer a starving student and I really wanted to learn how to use one of them SLR thingies. I didn't really know what an SLR was or meant but I knew that you needed to be able to use different lenses and change camera settings to take optimal pictures. I was very frustrated with the limitations of the point and shoot model.
So two years ago, I got my first (and only) DSLR. For a few months I didn't even use it all that much. I guess all the bells and whistles were a bit intimidating. Also my husband felt more confident with my new toy and he tended to play with it quite a bit.
Gradually I have gained a bit of confidence. Flickr and Blogging have helped because I can share my photos and realize that people like them. At first I thought everyone just was admiring the fact that I had a good camera. It really does help.
But I take a lot of pictures. Today, for example, I was downtown briefly and took a few photos. The weather was interesting and downtown Chicago is always photogenic. Carrying my camera nearly everywhere I go can be a bit of a pain. It is bulky, I don't like to check it in stores, and I feel a bit ostentatious going everywhere carrying a camera bag but I photograph what I see and hate to miss an opportunity.
I take shots everywhere. From my car window (often), from my back yard, from my neighborhood, from neighborhoods I shouldn't be in. Because of the blog, I shoot photos to fit memes and adapt photos to fit the theme I am writing about on any particular day. I chronicle my life and my travels with photos. I've even dared one or two self portraits.
I had a little pocket camera that I took places when I didn't want the big camera with me or taking pictures was too obvious (or embarrassing). Unfortunately my purse was stolen last year and I have yet to replace it. I'm waiting for a new model to come out in March.
I also read photography books and magazines (or at least look at the pictures) and try to absorb more that way. If I am photographing a lot of a particular subject, I might read up on the subject too. This makes me more informed as I take the photos.
So that's all folks. Of course, I have a fancier camera on my wish list, a few more lenses and a camera course or two but those are for the future. For now it is just me and my Rebel.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Did You Vote on Super Tuesday?

Super Tuesday

Photo Friday--Misty

How timely!

Fog and Neon

Traffic update

The Road Goes Ever On and On

Yesterday was a remarkable day weather-wise. I had to get out and take a few pictures. It snowed heavily overnight then warmed up and a heavy fog rolled in. It was humid and the trees were dripping as the snow melted. Not what you would normally expect of Chicago in February. I like the 6 PM weather report for today:
"Definite Rain , Definite Snow , Chance of Light Freezing Rain , Chance of Light Ice Pellets (sleet)."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

Heavy Snow

This is one way to measure the accumulation.

Snow and Ladder