Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lupus Crossing

Lupus Crossing Card

First there was Bookcrossing, then Postcrossing, now LupusCrossing. Actually I have no idea which of the first two came first. As to the third: a couple of weeks ago I noticed a call for postcards in honor of World Lupus Day which was May 10.
The symbol for Lupus, a severe autoimmune disorder, is the butterfly due to a classic butterfly shaped rash on the face and cheeks of some sufferers. Lupus is notorious for being hard to diagnose. It mimics many other disorders, hence doctors often will speak of ruling out lupus when a mysterious disease is encountered. Those of you who watch the medical drama House will know that lupus is almost always on the table as a possible diagnosis.
As with many chronic diseases, lupus can vary in severity but at its worst is a dreadful disease. In my intern year I worked with several individuals with lupus and was moved by the call for cards to send a card of my own. I duly sent off a butterfly postcard to Germany along with over 250 other folks internationally. The cards were distributed to individuals with lupus and were posted on their website. Beyond the fun of having done a (small) good deed, I was one of the lucky recipients of a return postcard from the project. They made a beautiful card of some of the cards they had received. I posted a scanned copy at the top of this post.
Thanks to Simone from Germany. I hope her project made many people happy and succeeded in increasing awareness.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Blackstone Library Detail
Detail, Blackstone Branch Library, Chicago, Illinois

Yes, I've admitted it, I'm addicted to books. Worse yet, I don't even read them all! Sometimes I'm amazed that my house doesn't sink under the weight of my books. In yet another vain attempt to declutter I joined the ranks of the Bookcrossers.
There are no good thrift stores to drop off books in my neighborhood. I'm not even aware of a Salvation Army or Goodwill bin nearby. So getting rid of books that way requires a trip to a store at least 20 minutes away. I'm always struck by the irony of burning lots of gas to recycle books and used clothes. I was raised to respect books and cannot, for the life of me, throw one out no matter how trashy unless it is mildewed or water damaged. So what to do?
I had heard, as have most people who randomly surf the internet, of Bookcrossing. The principle is simple, give your unwanted books to other people. So yesterday I signed up. It turns out, there's a catch. There always is, isn't there? And no, money is not the catch. The catch is that you are supposed to "release" your books "into the wild." That means leave them somewhere and hope someone else picks them up and enjoys them. But where to go? You can't leave them in a bookstore, obviously. Outside runs the risk of rain. Cafes might work but how to casually abandon a book in one? I'm not in train stations, airports, airplanes or hotels often enough for that to be useful. In short, I registered one book and have been carrying it around for the past day unsure where to leave it. There are supposed to be Bookcrossing Zones--places that have agreed to let you leave books for swap--but I could find none near me. And I live near a University!
I think I've given up on Bookcrossing. I need to be able to unload my books easily. Next, I tried Bookmooch. The principle of Bookmooch is that people are able to post their books up for mooching and get credits to mooch books for themselves. I posted 3 books and within hours two people had requested copies of two of them. The down side is I had to run to the post office. So for a grand total of less than $5 I got rid of two books. I listed on my wishlist some books I was interested in owning and now have one on the way here. It was so fun and easy I listed two more books to give away. One thing I like about this process is that I can get rid of books that I didn't like and wouldn't send to a friend. The down side? I'm still taking in new books, it is hard to find books I actually want to mooch, and I have to keep track of what books I have listed to send. I also have to be willing to run to the post office periodically, not something I am good at. Then there's the odd thought of paying money to get rid of books!
I'm going to keep it up for a time and see how it goes. I can donate my book credits to charity if I want to keep more books leaving than arriving. And there is a certain pleasure in the thought that my books are currently winging their way to new owners.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blue Glass and Madness

Blue Glass

Just playing around with my camera. I took the Madness picture to make a strange postcard for a swap. I think it qualifies, don't you?


Monday, May 25, 2009


Kenosha Light House

Yesterday I took my older son and three of his friends to Great America as kind of a pre-graduation ramble. It was an interesting drive. One of the kids brought his I-Pod with a car adapter for entertainment. I called veto power but was amused to find that his I-Pod was loaded with classical music and jazz. I guess that is what comes of hanging out with geeks! So we discussed the merits of Holst's The Planets and was it difficult to play a Bach piece on the drive north. Actually I did veto a bit of the jazz because I was driving and jazz tends to make me sleepy.
It was quite civilized. When we got to the park I handed over the cash and arranged a meet up time. Then I took off to ramble northward along the lake front.


I visited Illinois Beach State Park but high winds made it feel far colder than the approximately 60 degree weather would have indicated. After a while the numb extremities, runny nose and hacking cough got to be too much for me and I ambled farther northward in my car. I stopped at a couple of beaches to see the sights and hunt for interesting rocks, glass and fossils but each time the wind overwhelmed me. Just north of the Illinois border in Wisconsin, I found a delightful, sheltered little beach. I could have stayed there for hours but I'm not sure the beach was really open to the public. I was legally on the land if I was at the water line (if my recall is correct) but had to cross what might have been private land to get there. It wasn't posted but I was so anxious about running into an irate home owner that I didn't linger long.
Then northward again into the city of Kenosha and a good cup of coffee and sandwich at a little cafe. I froze my ears off again taking a photo of the light house and then headed south. The kids wanted to be picked up at 9 and I was running out of things to do (rural Illinois and Wisconsin are shuttered up pretty tightly on a Sunday evening) so I headed to the outlet mall at Gurnee Mills which was shuttered too. The only open store was Kohl's, open til 9 PM even on a Sunday. After a very boring purchase I grabbed a quick dinner in a crab house where the waiters are obligated to dance the Macarena on cue. Then back to pick up the kids.
We discussed colleges, music, and studying foreign languages. The kids are less geeky than most of the scientists I hang out with (who tend to do nothing but talk shop) and were quite mature. I almost miss the discussions of Pokemon and the preteen fart jokes--well maybe not the latter so much.
Life is good.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rocks that Roll

Round Rock

Three rocks in a row

A couple of pictures of some Lake Michigan pebbles. Nothing fancy just shades of gray, beige and brown but so smooth and lustrous with a light polish that I want to stick half a dozen in my pocket to run my fingers over, like a stress ball only better.
Strange? Maybe but you should try it.
Incidentally rocks are hard to take good photos of. I'll keep trying.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spring Fever

Possbily Pink Dogwood

Literally, I've had a low grade fever since Friday and a cough, runny nose and assorted other cold symptoms since Monday night. I got it from my younger son who had all of the same (except for the fever) shortly before I did. He has since recovered without problem and only missed one day of school. Being older, it hit me slightly harder. I thought nothing of it other than increasing my whine factor and worked a normal week with the assistance of ibuprofen and decongestant.
Being a doctor who has always been prone to head colds, I'm pretty adept at self-medicating so I can get through a work day. Trust me, as a medical resident you work while sick. The penalties for "slacking" were just too severe. I never went to work with a significant fever but colds were just not severe enough to call in.
One of my worst was in my intern year when I had a cold and, it turned out, infections in both ears. I was half deaf and interviewing in the ER a gentleman who was paranoid psychotic. His agitation gradually increased as I regularly asked him to repeat himself. "Can you repeat that?" I'd ask. "How old did you say you are?" "Do you think I'm stupid?" He'd snap back at me, looking not stupid but seriously dangerous. "No, no," I'd assure him. "Not at all. I'm just having problems with my hearing."
In residency, we'd always circulate stories of the feverish surgical resident who would give himself IV fluids to get through a shift. I never personally witnessed this but it made for a good tale. I did get sent home for being sick once in medical school. I was rotating on obstetrics and had an eye infection. Since a couple of infectious diseases that can cause congenital defects in fetuses if the mothers catch them appear as eye infections I was not allowed to return to work until my eyes cleared up. I was quite happy to have the day off!

Turtle Enclosure

In spite of having spent half the past three days in bed recuperating, I am getting a few fun things done which is the double meaning of the term "spring fever." Today I sat in the back yard and enjoyed the sun. I was inspired to finish the next step of a mosaic I've been working on. I have wanted to make one for my out-door turtle enclosure which desperately needs decorating. I took a cement flagstone and arranged glass pieces on it to my liking. Today I attached them with tile adhesive and will grout when it is dry enough. Here is what it looks like so far.

Mosaic before Grout

The glass has an interesting story. Near my house, on the lakefront, Lake Michigan for those who live far off, the shore is largely constructed of land fill, mostly from the 1920's. Part of the fill is industrial waste and apparently some was of household garbage. There are a few bits of exposed soil apart from all the lawn and there I have found some interesting glass which has resulted in the mosaic design.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blue vase with Pencils

Pencil Vase

I was inspired to take this picture by a poem, "Advice to Writers" by Billy Collins.

"From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods."

From Sailing Alone Around the Room. I find Collins poetry very accessible but not the least bit shallow.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spring PC

I'm always a bit hesitant to post about things I've made. It is a fundamental shyness, I guess. I fear that I will be judged as childish, untalented, foolish or vain. I've been playing around with mail art for a bit. It is fun to create my own postcards or envelopes and stick them in the mail to some semi-random stranger.
Since I cannot draw, I fool around mostly with collage, cutting and pasting interesting papers and colors until it feels done. My favorites are the ones where I add funky magazine words and phrases at random until I like the result. The one above, I did for a swap with the theme Spring. The colors are louder and, I think, more feminine, than I am prone to use but suited the topic. I am playing around with colors I don't normally like such as pink and orange in combinations that clash. I used bits of paint chip samples for most of the flowers here.
So I made myself post this as an exercise for me to get over this irrational fear of being judged. Besides it is how I'm spending some of my free time nowadays and I have to post something!
I have a cold today and am cranky. What this has to do with this post I don't know but I don't feel particularly spring-like right now. It is a gray and gloomy day as well. Sigh.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Colorful on Monday

Red, White, Blue and Other Hues

Moody Monday today is "colorful" and I had just the picture, taken, by lucky coincidence, yesterday. I hope your eyes enjoy it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Still Life with Heart-Shaped Stone

My family took me out to brunch and then we rented a tuxedo for my son's senior prom. It was quite a family milestone to see my son dressed in a tux (only the top half for the fitting--we see the ensemble when we pick up the whole package prom weekend).
I tried to go for a walk on the beach this evening but went too late. A 69 degree afternoon fell to 43 in the past two hours! Brrrr! So I took a few pics with the last of the day's light in the backyard and am now camping out with a cup of hot tea and a space heater. I grew up in Seattle. The weather variation of an entire year there can be encompassed in one afternoon in Chicago. I'm not joking!
Happy Mother's Day to all those who care. To those who don't, I hope you have a good week!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Gone Birding

Not really. Actually I'm working. But here are some backyard bird pictures.

Cardinal on a Wire

White throat and White crown

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Urban vs. Rural

Needs a new roof

I guess the main difference between an abandoned rural building and an abandoned urban building is that the urban building has lots of neighbors.

Runnin' on Empty

The sign says full but the atmosphere says empty. I'm trying to get back into the swing of posting regularly.

Both photos were taken in Missouri.