Friday, October 31, 2008

Hopey Halloween

Hope of Halloween

I lurked on my darkened front porch to take this picture. Personally, I love it. It is the poster on the door that does it for me. You may want to view the larger image on Flickr.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eye Roll

Eye Roll

I'm attending a conference for a few days and probably won't be posting much.
I hope I can stay awake better today than I did yesterday. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Follow Up to Brag Letter Post

Super Neon

I feel stupid to say this but "Wow it never occurred to me." People prefer their doctors to be really smart. Duh. I know I would want to have an ultra smart doctor, as well as one who studies hard, knows all the latest medicine and has a great bedside manner. I just never applied the same standards to how others probably feel about me. It is amazing how blind we all can be about ourselves. Thanks Rob, Annie and Linda, for the wake up call.
P.S. As we speak, brainy son #1 is at an interview for MIT. Go team!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brag Letter

For this week's Sunday Scribblings I am asked to write about how wonderful I am. Here is my best effort.

Composition Notebook

Last week, a patient told me that I am smart. We were, necessarily, talking about her and it came out as a comparison. I am smarter than she is. I wasn’t doing much to justify the compliment or the comparison. It just came out. Even though I know I am smart the compliment, as always, made me uncomfortable.
I think the discomfort with compliments is commonplace. It doesn’t always reflect low self esteem. In my case it reflects some of the awkwardness I learned as a child who was identified by her peers as being smart or brainy. Yes, being smart means you get the admiration and envy of your peers. But it also means that people minimize your efforts. No A seems earned because a “brain” like you shouldn’t have to work much. Anything less than an A is deemed shameful.
I watched this process happening to my son in elementary school. He learned to feign modesty lest he be judged boastful. He minimized his accomplishments to maintain friendships. Of course, he is also naturally modest and was surprised when I told him recently that he could at least aspire to any college in the country.
I don’t like being asked about my strengths and talents. I hope that they are evident in my words and actions. I don’t tell people I am a good doctor but I hope they think so. Not because I show off knowledge but because I provide care that makes them feel better.
I especially hate it when a prospective employer asks my strengths and weaknesses. It is difficult to walk the fine line between boasting and false modesty. Say too much and you are vain and egotistical. Say too little and you are incompetent. Likewise with the weaknesses. Are you really going to say something that would make you unemployable? I have a temper, I lose things, I forget to return phone calls, or I have problems with authority figures? I don’t think so.
As my older son applies to colleges, the process resonates with my memories of being evaluated in the past. There is the “college love letter” which tells the college why you would love to go there (watch the hyperbole). There is the the challenge of trying to prove how wonderful a candidate you are without saying it in so many words.

Cobb Hall

Here is one of the Common Application Personal Essays for this year:
Option #5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
Try turning this into an interesting, personal, fun, modest yet revealing essay! I hated these essays so much when I was his age that I shut down over one scholarship essay and my mom half wrote it for me. It turned out rather lame and I did not get that particular scholarship. I think my son is doing better.
It occurred to me to answer one of the essay questions out of curiosity and solidarity with my son. Unfortunately for solidarity, I decided I couldn’t post a sample essay. Given the number of highly anxious high school students right now, someone might be tempted to steal my words. I might rise to the challenge after the college application deadlines are long past. Or I might not.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In My Hand

In My Hand

Earthworm in my hand for MacroDay. Also lunch for my turtle, Dandelion.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Greetings from Obamaland

Greetings from Obamaland

No McCain stickers in my 'hood. I live in a blue state, in a blue town and what's more, Obama is practically a neighbor. I have never met the man, nor heard him speak in person but my husband has chatted with him on an airplane. Obama talked at my son's school in his Freshman year. We could carpool with Obama's kids except it would waste time and gas.
I've seen Obama's house and if it weren't for the Secret Service agents I would have taken a picture to post. But who knows, they might arrest me, confiscate my camera or shut down my blog, all for security reasons. Which would be ironic since Obama's house was pictured in People Magazine recently. That's how I know what it looks like.
Security is quite civil. But Obama's block is no longer a through street. It has about as much security on it as a U.S. embassy in an Arab country. When attending religious services this month, members of my synagogue were required to present ID before being allowed into the synagogue which is spitting distance from the Obama house. This was more of an amusing novelty than an inconvenience.
My friends who live a block from the Obama family wonder if the main street through Hyde Park near their house will have to be diverted if Obama becomes President. They already can't freely access their parking space in a nearby alley. We debate whether the Obamas will keep their house or sell. Unlike the Cheney house which is not allowed to be on Google Maps (honest) everyone in my area knows where the Obamas live. A local restaurant sells t-shirts that read Obama eats here. I'm debating buying one.
No one really seems to be complaining. I think we like the second hand fame and the team spirit. Sort of like when the Bulls were winning in the playoffs. Barack is the new Michael. Jordan that is. To date I have not seen a single McCain poster for miles. There must be a few Republican voters around--after all there are many conservative economists at the University of Chicago. I'll bet they are laying low about their politics around here.
The University of Chicago is probably thinking this is even better than a Nobel Prize winner. Good publicity as competition for graduating seniors is heating up.
As for me, well, it's just something to blog about.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The rainbow at the bottom of Vernal Falls

The rainbow at the bottom of Vernal Falls, Yosemite.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Burnham Park

Wild sunflower

I have the good fortune to live less than a mile from a small park which is reconstituted prairie land. When I first saw this park from Lake Shore Drive, a high speed road paralleling Lake Michigan, I couldn't figure out what the six foot weeds were about. I thought it was a planned commuter parking lot that was getting overgrown.
Now I'm a semi-regular visitor. It is amazing. Thousands of cars go by a few feet away yet if you tune out the traffic noises you could be in prairie land of 200 years ago. The native grasses and flowers are a couple of feet taller than I am. The area teems with birds. I've seen several species of sparrows, an American kestrel, a flicker and some other miscellaneous woodpeckers, some towhees, red winged blackbirds and the usual urban birds (sea gulls, crows and house sparrows). The park has a wooded area as well so there is a nice range of plant and animal life. The crickets and cicadas don't quite screen out the street noise on the east and the freight trains on the west but it is still a peaceful place.


Walking about the park tends to make me muse about the place of humans in the world. I feel at times proud on behalf of humanity that we have rescued this little bit of prairie land. Then my focus shifts and I wonder what I am thinking. A miniature plot of land preserved for birds and wild plants out of all the acreage destroyed by people?

Natural Born Pollinator

I heard on the news today that wild chimpanzees are more endangered than previously thought. Our nearest relative! If they ever rose to be the dominant species would they slaughter most of the species on the planet too?
Is my miniature prairie nothing but a zoo without fences? Are humans truly capable of change? Wouldn't the world be better off without us? Selfishly I'm not volunteering to be the first to vacate my own little plot of land and forgo my own personal share of emissions.
Nature makes me pensive but sometimes a bit too philosophical for my own good. Does it do the same to you?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Not Just Another Number to Me

One Hundred Five

Since the words weren't flowing here's a number.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicago Photoblogging

Hot Food is Free in Lawndale
Lawndale church, Chicago, Illinois

My photoblog was just listed as one of 20 Awesome Photography Blogs--Chicago. I'm flattered especially since I have trouble with the image downloads on that site and they tend to lose much of their sharpness. Thanks to Rick of I Love Photo Blogs. As anyone who reads here much knows I love taking pictures of Chicago. I feel I can never run out of material!
In fact, one of the only reasons I look forward to the onset of winter and bad weather is that I can get back to taking shots of some of the less safe neighborhoods. Call me chicken but I have to wait until the drive by shootings calm down for the year. Just this week a high school student at my son's school was held up at gun point at 8 PM on a Sunday. I love the south side but it has its moments! This isn't the only recent incident and I am keeping a closer watch on my kids than normal. The colder weather tends to keep the bad guys and the good guys indoors more.
I'm off to work in a few minutes but when I have the time I will check out the other 19 Chicago photoblogs. I've learned a lot about my adoptive home town from other photographers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Slugs in Love?

Slugs in Love

So I'm walking along in the park lugging my zoom lens and looking for birds. I chance to look at my feet and have two near simultaneous thoughts: "Yuck!" and "Damn, I'm going to have to switch lenses!" I guess this is why the pros have more than one camera. I don't know how their backs can take it though.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Kool Kitsch

Sauk City, Wisconsin.

Art Auction

Please check out my friend Paula's art clock up for auction on eBay. The link to her site where she describes the clock is here. The link to the eBay auction is here.
I own one of Paula's clocks and it is brilliant, functional art. So come on, bid against me and bid the price up. You won't regret it. Put it on your wall or save it up for a unique Christmas/Hannukah/birthday gift.
Paula will have 9 other clocks of the edition for conventional sale later on so if you miss the eBay auction there will be another chance.

VFXY Photo Theme: Shadow

What Thighs

A self-portrait that is nothing to brag about. It makes me look like I weigh about 300 pounds! Taken standing in the Merced River, Yosemite, in August. It was a great evening!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Just for a moment of fun

Check out Aden nak's Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart at this link. Sarah Palin fans need not apply.
Found through site.

Wordless Wednesday--Crow Story

Three Crows

And a Fourth

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Use your imagination for the words!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Quick Look at Yosemite

Top of Vernal Falls

And now to work.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Stinkhorn Mushrooms

Stinkhorn Mushrooms

I finally found out what the name of my earlier posted phallic mushrooms is. Trust biologists to have a sense of humor. They are aptly named Phallus impudicus. The history of these little buggers (pun intended) is quite humorous. According to Charles Darwin's granddaughter stalked the wild impudicus to prevent her female servants from having impure thoughts. Fortunately old 21st century ladies such as myself are allowed the occasional impure thought! These mushrooms (supposedly edible but don't take my word for it) are also called Stinkhorns due to their terrible smell (which fortunately I missed while taking their pictures) which attracts flies which transport their spore carrying slime to other locations. Too cool! It does explain all the little insects hovering over the specimens I saw last week.

Stinkhorn Macro

Sunday, October 05, 2008



On Thursday, I posted about bad books. Today the item on the menu is banned books. Today’s Sunday Scribblings is perfect for me because I was planning a post in honor of Banned Books Week (which alas was last week, late again sarala). Last year I posted about reading Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky in honor of the week. Thanks to A Free Man for reminding me of the week in his very interesting post.

I have copied the ALA’s list of most frequently challenged books of 2007. Here they are:

1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group
2. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence
3. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language
4. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism
6. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,
7. TTYL, by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group
8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit
9. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit
10. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Which book to pick? I think I might go for Maya Angelou. I haven’t read the Caged Bird and it sounds like a good idea. I have read Huckleberry Finn and really enjoyed reading it for a college class. The racism is difficult (why people have tried to ban it) but I just read a Dicken’s novel and The Great Gatsby which had anti-Semitic parts to them and there are racist comments in Gatsby. It didn’t prevent me from reading either novel and wouldn’t prevent me from recommending either book to others. We need to take this old literature within the cultural context of when it was written.
I recently read the first of the Golden Compass trilogy and could move on to Book Two. I actually enjoyed the anti-religious viewpoint. Criticism of religious intolerance is pretty common in Science Fiction and Fantasy. The only likely reason this particular series is on the banned list for ’07 is because it became a popular movie. Maybe they should ban the movie instead.
I think It’s Perfectly Normal is a great book that should be in the library of most families with kids. Personally, I don’t feel the need to read it. I’m a bit old for most of the information it shares. Plus I’m a doctor. I give sex ed. Reminds me, I recently talked to an adolescent who believed that birth control was irreversible. She said she wouldn’t use it because someday she wanted to have kids. Apparently her middle school only provides abstinence education. There are quite a few teen parents in the high school this school feeds into. Guess abstinence isn’t quite working out.
Do you have any favored banned books? Any on your reading list for this year? I’ll let you know what I wind up reading.

Breaking news, I bought I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou. I'll post on how I like it as soon as I've read it.

Bluest of Jays


I'm still processing August vacation photos. This fellow was posing for shots in Yosemite National Park. I love the detail you can see of the feathers (best viewed larger). Not exotic, but definitely a showy bird.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Books I didn't like

I'm Not Mad I Just Hate You

I decided to do a Booking Through Thursday today. The question was what book/s have I not liked that were considered good books? My mind immediately went back to books I hated as a kid. Not that I haven't read or tried to read classics more recently that I could not warm up to. But as a kid I remember encountering a few books that were supposed to be good for me that I simply loathed. It would be interesting now to see if I liked them better or if my feelings would be the same. For better or for worse, I rarely hate a book now. If I think a book is awful, I simply put it down. So for truly intense emotions I go back to my youth.
Book 1:
Curious George.
Not exactly a classic but it was my younger brother's favorite series and I read it to him many times. I couldn't stand and still will not go near the Curious George series of picture books. It still makes me shudder internally.
Book 2:
Kim, by Rudyard Kipling. An elementary school teacher I much admired suggested I read Kim. Since I loved some of Kipling's short works (the Jungle Books and Rikki Tikki Tavi) I had a good attitude going in. I couldn't stand it. I really tried because I loved the teacher. Was I just too young?
Book 3:
Emma, by Jane Austen. The same teacher assigned this book. It is the only book I ever used Cliff Notes on. I couldn't finish it. Incidentally I loved Pride and Prejudice and enjoyed Sense and Sensibility well enough.
Book 4:
An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser. I don't remember why but I couldn't stand it. I felt it was truly boring.

I'm reluctant to go back to any of these books because they left such a bad feeling. Maybe I should just to prove how open mind I can be. But so many books, so little time.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008