Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vision Thing

The Vision Thing

“A political view encompassing the longer term as distinct from short-term campaign objectives. The expression comes from the response of the American Republican statesman George Bush (1924- ), who in 1987 responded to the suggestion that he turn his attention from short-term campaign objectives and look to the longer term by saying, `Oh, the vision thing'”.
(Defined by

What a great definition! So now that we are in a campaign year, or century, or eternity, we ought to be hearing a lot about vision. But, truthfully, do any of us believe that our politicians have vision beyond the one of themselves holding down a position of power? I want to believe but sometimes it is hard. Perhaps I lack vision.
At times I wonder what my vision is: Parity for the treatment of mental illness? Universal health care? Peace in the Middle East? At other times, cynicism overtakes me and I think my personal vision or lack thereof is irrelevant to the fate of the world. Sometimes I wish I could be more like those people, who have a clarity of vision that I think I lack.
On the other hand, vision can too easily turn into fixation. In a way, this was the death of the young man (Chris McCandless) in Into the Wild (which I just finished). He had a dream of man living in harmony with nature. In the end, nature succeeded in killing him. Was it worth it to him to attempt his dream and live off the land in Alaska? Was it worth his witting or unwitting cruelty to his parents and sister? If I am haunted by visions of this man’s death by starvation, imagine how his family feels.
I sometimes try to teach another kind of vision to the parents I work with. I try to share with them a vision of their child grown to be a happy, healthy, productive young adult. It surprises me a bit, but some parents only see their own fears, that their son/daughter will grow up to be underemployed, addicted, “lazy” or in some way (in their own words/fantasies) a useless human being. I think that McCandless’ parents must have been terribly worried by his society-defying ways long before he vanished into the wild.
I try to explain to the parents I know about self-fulfilling prophecies. I fear their dismal predictions have the weight of prophecy and explain to them that their optimism for their children can also be self-fulfilling. I am a parent myself and understand that to an extent all parents worry that we may be enabling our children by giving them too much love, or too much self-confidence. We pour on the discipline and the stern parental lectures to prevent a “bad outcome.”
Work of a psychologist, Carol Dweck, suggests we praise our children too much. I’m obviously simplifying here but the idea is that unearned praise rather than building self-esteem, leads to that very mental laziness the parents I’m talking about fear. My gut feeling is that most of the kids I work with don’t suffer from too much self-esteem or an overdose of praise.
Like most accepted wisdom, the wisest path is to seek balance. Kids need praise and their parents’ positive regard. They still need their artwork, however inept, stuck onto the refrigerator door. Regarding trends in psychology, we might be better off just listening to our own best judgment.
Getting back to “the vision thing.” In Into the Wild, Krakauer speaks of youth: “It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is not less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough, it is your God-given right to have it.” I am no longer young. I am not sure where my “vision” takes me beyond life-long near sightedness and middle-aged far-sightedness (gotta love those bi-focals). Do I hunger for world peace or a better retirement plan? Or perhaps, in the moderation of mid-life, I hunger for all of the above.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt--Bright


We have company this weekend: my brother, sister-in-law, and their 11 month old baby. I'd love to post a picture of the baby's bright little eyes but I have a no-family-photos-on-blog policy. This is for their privacy and to keep them willing to associate with me.
I hope these girls wouldn't object to having their photo taken and posted. I would guess that if you stand right next to the Chicago Bean in those outfits you ought to assume you would be in someone's picture. They looked like they were having a good time. I'm not sure I "get" the outfits but then again there is the generation gap. . . .
So my last week's photo was featured by Photo Hunt! Pretty cool. I wouldn't have realized except I logged on this morning expecting to see no comments on my site and had 16. I may not have time to respond to all your comments (thanks by the way) until tomorrow when my company moves on.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More on Lake Delton

There used to be a lake here

"It's hard to describe the force of water when it wants to move in one direction," Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said. "It isn't that it broke through a dam. It pushed aside about 250 yards of earth, maybe 15 feet deep and 50 yards across. It pushed the edge of the lake until it fell into the Wisconsin River."
From Chicago Tribune article, "How a lake went down the drain."

I browsed the news about Lake Delton. Essentially the lake overflowed and formed a new channel. It was an artificial lake so perhaps it was just nature taking its course but that was probably no consolation to the home and business owners in the area. Other news stories talked about the gawkers (from Chicago, no less) come to view the damage--guilty as charged but at least I didn't trespass, hence the absence of gloriously detailed photos. One interesting story states that four guns were found in the lake. Hmmm--call in CSI.
I'm still amazed that the average parent/tourist spending a day at the waterparks could be totally unaware of the disaster. Perhaps the commenter on one of my Flickr photos said it best when I mused "Where have all the waters gone?" "To the waterparks," he said.


Coincidentally I just read the following in Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.
"Hard to the east is the Salton Sea, a placid ocean in miniature, its surface more than two hundred feet below sea level, created in 1905 by a monumental engineering snafu: Not long after a canal was dug from the Colorado River to irrigate rich farmland in the Imperial Valley, the river breached its banks during a series of major floods, carved a new channel, and began to gush unabated into the Imperial Valley Canal." Remember that old advertisement, "You don't mess with Mother Nature?" I can't remember the product but the global message is clear.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


No Boating Now

I'm embarrassed to admit that I spent a night at the epicenter of a disaster and never realized it. I knew that a lake in Wisconsin had burst out of its walls and disappeared but I didn't listen carefully to which lake. Off Interstate 90 you can't see much flood damage and we went straight to the water park to entertain the kids.
After folks asked questions in the comments on my last post, I took a second look. It is pretty sad to see a lake with no water.

Where have all the waters gone

Given all the homes and condos along Lake Delton there wasn't a lot of lake front access but what we saw was pretty barren. A lot of mud, boat docks high and dry and in the distance, one house seemingly snapped in two. We saw a man walking the mud flats with a metal detector. I wonder what he'll find. It did appeal to the treasure hunter in me. All I found was a rusty bike.

Flotsam or Jetsam

My son asked if it was inappropriate to take pictures of other people's misery. I would guess not since we are doing so in order to express our condolences.
Best of luck and a speedy recovery to all those flooded or otherwise storm damaged here in the Midwest and around the world.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fog and Flicker


For Shutterday.


Waves on Lake Chelan

Still processing shots from last August's vacation.

We have a road trip planned for today but nothing this exotic. The plan is to drive north into Wisconsin and spend an overnight at the Dells playing at a water park. The raison d'etre of the trip is actually happening tomorrow which will be a tour of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As the parent of a high school senior-to-be, college tours are going to be a major part of my summer I fear. The water park is merely the bribe to get my younger son to go along without more than a few hours' worth of whining.
Exotic or otherwise, expect me to bring my camera and have lots of photos to post.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gone Fishing

Goin' Fishin' 3

Who needs one of those silly poles?
Seen this spring in Alabama. I think it is a grey heron. It succeeded in catching the fish by the way.

Gotcha 2

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Yesterday I had an hour or so to kill downtown. I decided to spend a few moments of it watching the kids and tourists at play at Crown Fountain in Millennium Park. Chicago has changed quite a bit in the 24 or so years I have lived here. It has suddenly turned into a tourist destination. It reminds me of a lonely girl who suddenly finds herself popular and doesn't quite know what to make of it all.
The nice thing for me about Crown Fountain is that tourists with cameras are everywhere so I can photograph total strangers and no one seems to care. It helps me overcome some of my inhibitions about taking pictures that make me feel as if I am up to no good and need to shoot photos on the sly.


If you look at a larger size of this photo what do you see? A curly haired kid in yellow Crocs running in the water. An older woman taking a family photo. A guy talking on his cell phone. A woman wearing a t-shirt that says "Goddess of Victory." What do you think that means? A mom helping her daughter change clothes. An entire little world preserved in a frozen moment of time. What more can you ask of a photograph?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008



Soaring over Lake Chelan, Washington.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iron Door


Entry to General Machine and Tool Works.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Adoption Notice


A certain 5th grader begged and begged and we wound up adopting the classroom box turtle. He had to vow that he would personally take responsibility for food and clean up. We'll see how long that lasts. I'm getting attached already which is a good thing because guess who has been peeling grapes for her. The turtle's name is Dandelion.

Monday, June 09, 2008


You're not going to get a macro of my nose on this site!!!

Sleeping cat

My cat doesn't get to give informed consent or she'd refuse.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Strange Faith

Well, not quite wordless. Seen on a light pole in downtown Chicago.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Stop and Drink

Stop and Drink

"This time she found a little bottle on it, (`which certainly was not here before,' said Alice,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words `DRINK ME' beautifully printed on it in large letters. It was all very well to say `Drink me,' but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. `No, I'll look first,' she said, `and see whether it's marked "poison" or not.'"

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Scribbling--Curves

Hold Everything


A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

John Keats

I couldn’t think of what to write on this topic. I thought of telling you about the infamous “S Curve” in Chicago, a dangerous bit of Lake Shore Drive, now smoothed out. But that seemed a bit trivial and boring to one who has never driven it. Then it hit me. Curves, as in women’s curves.
This week I flagged an article in Time magazine (June 9, 2008 issue, link is,28804,1703763_1703764,00.html) relating to eating disorders. It references a study of an intervention in classrooms to make girls and women less fixated on the American ideal of thinness. I consult to a high school in my area and I thought that this intervention might be worth reading up on as of possible utility in this school.
I frequently deal with women, girls, and, more rarely, boys and men, with eating disorders. At their most severe form, these disorders scare me. At the less severe end of the spectrum, they make me angry. How many times have I told women that curves are normal, that a flat stomach is neither necessary nor ideal? I tell them that we would be hard pressed to find a girl or woman in this country who doesn’t feel critical of at least one part of her body, whether it is thighs, abdomen, breasts, skin, nose or neck. Ask yourself: what part of your body do you hate the most? I think most of us can answer that one in around 10 seconds or less because the answer has been well-rehearsed in hours of self-consciousness or self-hatred.
Around 13 years ago, I burned myself by spilling hot coffee on my hip. I realized that I would likely get a scar as a result. Being in my mid 30’s it occurred to me that I had found one advantage of aging. I didn’t care if a scar marred my look in a bikini. What a liberating feeling! Now, I’m not saying that I would be indifferent to putting on 30 pounds. I’m as much a product of our society as the next person. But I aspire to make it to a ripe old age without a face lift, liposuction or Botox. I will admit that I have been tempted by a good chemical peel although I haven’t tried one yet. I’m not dyeing my hair either although I only have a handful of gray hairs (which I wear with a degree of pride).
Obesity is a serious problem in this country so I am not arguing against diet and exercise for those that need it, even gastric bypass as a worst case scenario. What I am fighting against is the legions of young people I meet nearly daily who hate their bodies, who measure self esteem by how tight their jeans fit that week, who value five pounds more or less as more important than their many meaningful accomplishments.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever. The important thing is to stick to meaningful definitions of beauty.

For more reading and viewing check out Lauren Greenfield’s website,, about her documentary, Thin.

Preparing this article has added a couple new books to my wish list.