Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Religion 101

Neither Shall They Learn War
On a wall by the United Nations buildings, New York City.

No, I'm not trying to preach to anyone although the internet is full of those who do. I'm just talking about myself. Tonight we performed a Jewish ritual that involves casting bread upon a body of water, usual a river, but here on the south side of Chicago, we use Lake Michigan. The symbolism is that of casting one's sins away. Whether one believes in sin in the religious sense or merely in the sense of sitting down and taking stock of one's mistakes, the experience of reviewing one's weaknesses can be a useful one.
I'm not going to tell you what sins of my own come to mind. It is too personal. I can tell you it is humbling. While I believe that in the main I am a good person, the number of my errors is overwhelming. Perhaps my gravest mistake of the year is not to have significantly changed my ways from last year.
Today's ritual is a lovely one. We joined a handful of people, a few friends and a number of strangers and threw our stale bread in the lake. The seagulls truly appreciated the number of our sins! I hope a couple of fish were able to consume the remains.


Lest you think I'm always serious, here is my favorite quote from Spamalot, also seen in New York in August. This is from a conversation between King Arthur and his faithful squire, Patsy.
"You never told me you were Jewish," exclaims the king.
"It’s not the kind of thing you tell a heavily-armed Christian," replies Patsy.
For those of you who find this in bad taste, bear in mind that this is Monty Python writing, after all.

Monday, September 29, 2008

New Beginnings?


I've been thinking about posting an open letter to Barack Obama. I am feeling overwhelmed by the problems with our society as it stands. I'm coming off a few weeks when I have been especially sensitive to the suffering of my patients. It seems there are problems related to poverty and poor health care that are insurmountable. Thursday I learned that a family I work with had to declare bankruptcy due to health care costs (not from me!)and are losing their home. It sounds like a cliche nowadays but it isn't when you know the people. They are hard working people, continuously employed, but the wife became disabled and needs an organ transplant. She is only a few years older than I am and will die without it. They are insured but not for a transplant and the required medications. Other patients of mine are going hungry, unemployed, disabled. A kid wants drug rehab and no programs will take him.
I know that bad things happen to good people (another cliche) but the past year seems worse somehow. These are things a 700 billion dollar bailout won't fix. I wish we could redistribute all those "golden parachutes" to people who really need it.
I am relatively blessed with stability at home but that doesn't make me sleep that much more easily. I can't run for office--I have no ambition, no drive, no hope beyond helping the few individuals that I can invest in in my office and personal life. I always say I try to save the world one person at a time.
We need leaders who somehow "get" the big picture. I'm sure McCain isn't it, Palin less so. Cynically, I guess that Barack is just another politician but he is what we have. Or, what I hope we will have.
Tonight is the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. I hope that all my friends and readers, Jewish or otherwise are inscribed for a good new year. Tonight and in the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I will be struggling to reconcile an unhappy world with something bigger than I am.
I was listening to NPR last night--they had a theologian speaking about the meaning of the Jewish High Holidays. He said one thing that was meaningful to me. He said that in the Jewish faith, "God does not intervene but we are profoundly helped by the knowledge that our pain is heard." Perhaps that is, in a humbler way, my part in this world. To hear pain. Just for this one moment, you are hearing of mine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mushrooms are Amazing

I didn't get the depth of field quite right on all of the pictures but I still like the variety of mushrooms I saw today. I think they may be nature's response to the record rains we got two weeks ago.

Another mushroom

What Does This Look Like

I hate to be dirty minded but are these phallic or what? When I first noticed the mushrooms I thought someone had been up to something nasty in the woods and had abandoned their toys. I was quite relieved to discover that it was just nature having its little joke.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Unique Point of View

Turtle's Eye View

Still short on words.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I had a dream. . .

Lubitel 2

last night that I lost my camera and had to buy the newer version, which would be the Canon Digital Rebel Xsi. Somewhat pathetic. Of course, I have been losing a lot of things lately. Senility setting in?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brain on Holiday

Purple on a Bed of Green

Be back soon, hopefully.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rain, rain go away

Army Corps of Engineers

Saturday the area was deluged with water setting a new local record. The rain seemed to start on Thursday and didn't stop until Sunday. Soccer was canceled and we didn't get out much all weekend.
The good news is my house didn't take any water. The bad news--my husband's car was in a flood area and likely was totaled. There was "marital discord" over his car purchase, to say the least, so I wasn't too perturbed by his "loss." It is covered by insurance anyway.
My condolences go out to those who truly suffered from the most recent floods in the Midwest and elsewhere.


Sunday, September 14, 2008


Trails in wood

Insect trails in wood. For Photo Sunday.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tuesday Challenge--Music

Guitar Store

Ludlow Guitars, New York City

Monday, September 08, 2008

Computer Art

Digital DNA

Seems appropriate for the Silicon Valley. Work is entitled "Digital DNA" by artists Adriana Varella and Nilton Maltz.

DNA Detail


Sunday, September 07, 2008


Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a . . . turtle?

I haven’t participated in Sunday Scribblings in quite a while and the one for today is challenging. I’ll start with a disclaimer which is that I do not profess to teach other people how to believe. I only write about the world, spiritual and otherwise, as I see it.
I don’t believe in miracles. Or at least not in ordinary circumstances and ordinary times. I celebrate a miracle-based holiday yearly—the holiday of Hanukkah. We say on that holiday, “Nes Gadol Hayah Sham-- A Great Miracle Happened There”. But “there” was on a planet far, far away.
I believe in physics, evolution, happenstance and statistics. That being said some things are, simply, miraculous, for example, photosynthesis, embryogenesis, turtles. As to the latter, how but through a hypothetical miracle could an animal with a concave shell on its back, continue to walk the earth. Who would have thought of an animal that has to use its neck to right itself? But in these instances I technically mean “wonder” rather than “miracle.”

Dandelion Upended

What I can’t believe in is the kind of miracles people pray for. I couldn’t pray for my grandmother to recover when she had terminal cancer. It seemed presumptuous. Why should she be granted a special effort from God when so many other people are denied the same? Did I really believe I was worthy of a miracle on my own selfish behalf?
The world is full of suffering, inequality and unfairness. I can’t believe in an equation where there is a God who will step in to save one child and slaughter a thousand others. A building collapses and one child walks away. If this is a miracle there is an implication that all the other people who died were denied the courtesy of God’s attention. I’ll buy that this is chance or good luck for that one child but not that this child is more worthy or that his survival is part of a greater plan that included all those other deaths.

Unreinforced Masonry

I might pray for world peace or an end to global warming but I cannot honestly pray for something to step in and turn a hurricane away from New Orleans or save one person above all the other sufferers. Bad weather happens. Tsunamis happen. Cancer, AIDS, heart disease, schizophrenia and head colds happen. To be slightly trite and slightly vulgar, shit happens.
Miracles would seem to let us off the hook. If we pray enough, truly believe enough, and are pure enough of heart, we don’t have to work, struggle and take our chances like everyone else. Perhaps, I am being selfish. I don’t need a miracle at present. The only direct threat to my life is that of being mortal. But there is no room for miracles in my world.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Let Them Eat

Let Them Eat

The poor tree is totally overwhelmed by the display behind it. Also from New York City.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Heads up on Park Avenue

Park Avenue

Face Sculpture and Camera Crew

The origin of the swirly photo I posted a few days ago. It is from a series of three head shaped sculptures placed in the middle of Park Avenue in Manhattan. They are by the artist Jun Kaneko. For better pictures, go to this website.

Head on Park Avenue

Have a Brightly Colored Day!

Window detail at MOMA

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Back to Yosemite


I'm getting tired of New York pictures. So here are a few pictures of a family of grouse we saw in Yosemite. They were quite unimpressed by the people gaping at them. One even walked up to my son and pecked him on the leg. I didn't have my camera ready unfortunately.

A flying leap

I tried to identify which grouse it is and didn't succeed (I also didn't try that hard) and was dismayed to see many of the Google hits on grouse were hunting sites. It saddens me that a bird that in a national park is quite unafraid of humans would be hunted for sport in nearby private lands. What is the joy in putting a bullet in one of these, or any, animal?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

C. Wilkens Building

C Wilkens Bldg

I like buildings with the builder/owner's name on them.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I Don't Love New York

Street Scene

I failed to fall in love with New York City or at least Manhattan. I found the streets to be claustrophobic with too little greenery, too little visible sky and far too many cars and people. Plus there was this air of hostility that I rarely feel in Chicago. I felt most at a loss the day we took a walk from the Lower East Side back to our hotel in Manhattan.

Lower East Side

Along the way, one of our hosts pointed out a park in which a number of men were playing chess. I've seen similar scenes in Chicago and my older son wanted to try out a game. He found a free table and started to play (for a fee). All was well so I wandered off in search of a coffee shop with the intent of buying a cuppa to pay for use of a washroom. I didn't find the coffee shop but took a couple of pictures and headed back to our group. As I approached the main street I witnessed the aftermath of an accident. A cyclist had been hit by a car. His face was terribly cut open and bloody. He was also accusing another man standing nearby of stealing his money. The second man did have a plastic bag through which could be seen a large quantity of cash. If I had to guess I'd say that much cash in a grocery bag wasn't come by honestly. I crossed the street to get away from gaping at the ugliness (the police and paramedics were on the scene) and went back to my chess-playing son.
I had my camera on me and had thoughts of asking if I could take a picture of the chess match when a man accosted me and started ranting about how I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the chess players. He seemed pretty crazy and more than a bit threatening. Another man approached me and started telling me how I could take his picture. I tried to back off saying I only wanted a picture of my kid when the first guy started raving about white racists (speaking of me) and using some pretty vulgar language. The fellow playing chess with my son was polite and tried to calm the situation down but the day was pretty well spoiled by this time.

Bellevue Hospital

I've dealt with the homeless and the mentally ill (and the homeless, mentally ill) before. I think I felt a bit off balance being in a strange city and fatigued from all the recent travel. I couldn't help feeling though that this situation would have played out differently in Chicago, or California, or Seattle. I wouldn't want to live in a city where I felt I had to watch my back all the time.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Back to School

Hello Kitty

Yes it is that time of the year again. Summer is almost over. The kiddies are going back on their ADHD medications. Sigh.