Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Memories. . . .

Mother's Baby

Sunday, I went to an antiques fair. It was an outdoor event probably modeled after the European equivalent. It was the perfect day for a stroll although I arrived at the fair just as the vendors were packing up. This meant I didn't have to pay for admission and I didn't have time to spend very much money. Both good things, in my books.
Speaking of books, I found an old baby book which I bought because the family in the book lived practically down the block from me. I thought it would be fun to go over to the address listed in the book and see if things had changed much. After taking a lot of Chicago photos, I became interested in the architectural history of what I saw and started a small collection of postcards in the hopes of taking "before and after" shots. Alas, my first few attempts were doomed as the areas in question had changed so as to be unrecognizable. I still plan on getting back to it. So this little baby book also had a photo of a recognizable building and now I get to check and see if the apartment building still exists.

7831 Drexel

There is a bit of voyeurism to reading someone else's personal records. I wonder what happened to the family and why they lost track of their book. Did the whole family die off or did no one particularly care about their family history? I guess there is no way to tell. I am enjoying owning a tiny bit of Chicago history.


There was a second baby book with the one I wound up buying. It was in much better shape and a lot more money so I didn't buy it. It might have been from the same family so I feel a little bad separating them but the book lacked the Chicago interest being about a New York family that only moved to Chicago as an afterword in the last few pages. And I did need to attend to my budget. I also had more trouble treating the album as a collectible after reading one of the pages. It looked like a fairly innocuous page in the baby record. A couple of milestones, one illness, then two entries at 4 years old. The first reported the child had Scarlet Fever. The next entry 4 days later noted her death. The entry felt dispassionate. It could have been a calendar notation of a doctor's appointment. That made it all the more shocking in a way.
It is so easy to forget as we all get in a tizzy over the Swine Flu that we are so relatively protected from infectious diseases. I had Scarlet Fever as a child. I vaguely remember having a rash and a fever. A few days of penicillin and case closed. It is hard to bear in mind that in early 20th century America and in some parts of the world today, infant and child mortality is routine and not exceptional.
I see too much grief in the here and now as part of my work. I couldn't own that baby album and be forever reminded of that mother's loss. I'll stick to the album of happy little smiling baby faces and the illusion of immortality through photography.

Monday, June 29, 2009

S. to the Rescue?

Turtle Schnoz

Is this some kind of animal rescue week? On Saturday I went for a walk and discovered a feral kitten. I spent some time trying to catch it feeling concerned that it was on its own and likely to die. The little thing was vicious. It hissed and spit at me and ultimately took off so fast I couldn't catch it. I think this was likely a good thing. I would have been clawed half to death trying to get the wee beastie home, probably one of the onlookers would have accused me of animal abuse, and once I got it home I would have exposed my cats to whatever diseases it was carrying. Not to mention the family's heart strings being plucked. I could just hear the begging. Please, please, please can we keep it? Then the trip to the vet and/or shelter, etc. So mercifully for me if not for the cat, it got away.
Then yesterday I was tempted to rescue a few baby turtles. For this I need to give you a bit of a backstory. When I adopted Dandelion, the box turtle, I joined two turtle listservs on Yahoo. They have been quite the education about turtle life style and diet as well as some funny stories about life with some of the larger tortoises.
I've also heard from people who are passionate about turtles and whose lives turn around them. Some are biologists, some vets and others are involved in turtle rescue projects. They rescue turtles from bad homes and from habitat loss in the wild. Some are found injured on roads or in back yards and rehabilitated.
From them, I've learned that some turtles and tortoises are in over supply and some are endangered. And that these are high maintenance pets. Dandelion will never weigh much more than a pound but may outlive me. She needs a varied diet with calcium and vitamin supplements yet is a picky eater. I have to watch for beak overgrowth, various infections, shell pyramiding and other woes. If well treated she may outlive me. I'm only glad my son didn't convince me to adopt a cute little tortoise. It sounds like having a cow live in your basement from the stories I've heard.
Anyway, I also learned that the turtle-for-pet trade is quite regulated. So when I saw three wee little turtles in plastic carrying cases in a Chinatown gift shop yesterday, I knew that their sale is probably not legal. I knew that the babies were likely doomed to an early death due to neglect or uninformed care. I also knew that when grown those babies would require the equivalent of a small pond to be well maintained. I restrained myself and did not buy the babies, lecture the owners, or turn them in to the authorities.
Then I wandered on still feeling vaguely guilty. I next went in to a Chinese grocery and picked up some long string beans and some baby bok choy. I roamed through the seafood part of the store where you can see tanks of live fish, crab and molluscs. And there right in front was a tank full of live turtles. There were smallish turtles that I'm guessing are sliders, and some very large (and fairly ugly) turtles that I could not identify. Now that I have a pet turtle, eating turtle makes me a little squeamish. Like most omnivorous Americans, I don't like seeing where my meat comes from. Not that eating turtle is less humane than eating cow or chicken. I know hypocrisy when I see it.
It also made me think. Should a no-doubt innocent Chinese shop keeper get in trouble for selling babies of an animal that is widely regarded as food? In retrospect, if I had said something about the unkindness of keeping baby turtles, I would have made a royal ass out of myself.
Moral of the story? No doubt Aesop or La Fontaine would have said it better but here's my take:
One man's cat is another man's dinner.
Take that!

Saturday, June 27, 2009



Dandelion my pet three-toed box turtle agreed to pose for this portrait after her bath. Note that she is still really dirty and this is after a 10 minute soak. It has been hot here lately and she has spent most of her time outside buried in mud. Being a turtle isn't exactly a high stim situation.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Good Friends

Here's to Good Friends

This picture of my son and one of his best friends walking near the beach just speaks to me. I didn't intend anything special from the photo. It was just one of those random snaps. But looking at it I think of paths and where they lead, of friendship, of the passage of time, of the restfulness of sun and sand. Is that what artists mean by perspective? What do you see in the picture?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009



Seen at Illinois Beach State Park and posted for Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Flight

Helicopters over Lake Michigan

I was strolling by the lake a couple of weeks ago when I heard a sound, or rather felt it, as of heavy machinery. It was a bit like the feeling when a large freight train passes nearby but a slightly different frequency of sound/vibration and there were no train tracks near me. After a minute or so I spied these three helicopters heading my way. They appeared military with their size, noise and formation. Perhaps there was an airshow they were headed to or perhaps top secret maneuvers somewhere over the lake.

In Flight

I'm kidding about the latter but since the era of the Patriot Act, I vaguely wondered if I'd get in some kind of trouble for taking a picture of these choppers. After all, nowadays one can get in trouble for taking pictures of airports and the elevated trains. Shades of my trip to Leningrad as a young adult when the KGB might descend for taking photos of a train station with my little Kodak Instamatic.
The helicopters reminded me of another scene from my life. Back in the late 70's, early 80's, there was a fruit fly infestation in California and there were rounds of aerial spraying. The powers that be insisted that there was no risk to people from the Malathion that was being sprayed but I remember one day seeing low-flying helicopters heading my way and running for cover. My attitude is if it will kill an insect it can't be good for people. I just remembered the name of the fly--it was called the Med fly. I wonder whatever happened to that one?
Well, thanks again to Wikipedia for furthering my and your education. The year was 1981, the fly was Ceratitis capitata. Apparently the heavy spraying succeeded in California although the flies have reappeared and remain a threat to crops.
We all have the movie Apocalypse Now for forever changing our relationship with helicopters and the Flight of the Valkyrie. Of course, ultimately it was the Vietnam War which makes us all cringe and think of napalm when helicopters fly overhead. Not that I'm totally clear whether it was helicopters or airplanes that sprayed the napalm.
On that happy note, TTFN.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Evening Clouds

Friday the area had record rainfall. Some of the overflow went into Lake Michigan which meant beach closures throughout the area yesterday due to high E. coli levels. This didn't stop me from strolling along the lakefront. In fact, the closures meant that the beaches were quieter than usual. It looks too peaceful to be toxic, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

High School Graduation

Well, I'm a week late in posting but I have had so little to say of late. I haven't taken many pictures either. Since I have an unwritten rule that I'm the only family member I can expose on this blog in any significant way, it is harder to post when I am preoccupied with family matters. The good news is both kids are now out of school and the atmosphere at home has become markedly more relaxed.

Graduation in Rockefeller Chapel

Number one son is now a high school graduate. He graduated in a very nice ceremony at Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. Although it is called a chapel it looks more like a cathedral. I think the distinction is that the University of Chicago was originally of Protestant affiliation. As to my non-exposure philosophy, I will show pictures more of the graduation and less of the graduate.

Stained Glass

The chapel is quite beautiful. Graduating here is becoming a bit of a family tradition. My brother-in-law graduated from the business school there. I received my Ph.D. diploma in this building (and my M.D. in an outdoor ceremony two years later). My husband does not have any U of C degrees but has seen off some of his students in the same building I believe. It is hard to keep track because some U of C graduations are held out of doors in the quadrangles.

University of Chicago Symbol

I have mixed feelings about my affiliations with the university in a sort of best of times/worst of times kind of way. I met my husband and had my children near or on campus. I also worked long hours struggling to finish a Ph.D. that at times seemed to be going nowhere fast. Even though I'm Jewish, finishing up an experiment in the lab on Christmas Day can feel kind of mournful. One reason I do clinical work full time now and not scientific research which was my original plan is to avoid a lifetime of 60 plus hour work weeks.
But enough about me. I am very proud of my graduate and even got a tiny bit choked up at the ceremony. I am also thinking about his imminent departure from my home on a daily basis. The house will seem empty without him. He is going to school just down the block at, you guessed it, the University of Chicago so we'll see more of him than if he had left the area but in the interest of allowing him to successfully leave the nest, we are going to endeavor mightily to give him plenty of space. I think if his little brother had his way, he'd be hanging out in his older brother's dorm room as often as possible. The local arrangement does save us worrying too much about sending our 17 year old (he skipped a grade) off on his own.
So I'll sign off now lest I bore you all to tears.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Forgot my camera

Yup, I'm on the road again. We took our kids and assorted friends to a waterpark in Gurnee,Illinois. This is a midwestern notion of grand adventure. Sadly I left my camera at home. I haven't done that in a while! I still have my little pocket camera but frankly there isn't much here to take pictures of. Aack I hate dangle prepositions!
I need to get around to posting about my older son's graduation. On Thursday he graduated from high school in a very nice ceremony. It seems like there have been so many family milestones of late.
So no pictures today but much relaxation. The nice thing about these waterpark "resorts" is that you can turn the kids loose and not hear from them for hours at a time. Not too shabby!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Blogaway

Birthday Wishes

No, it's not my birthday but my blog has now been running for three years. I never imagined that this would be a long-term project when I started. I began the blog three years ago as a way to keep in touch while on vacation and out of a desire to report on my travels in Italy and elsewhere. I half envisioned a sort of travel blog (which it has proven not to be) with the sort of travel memoir that I like to read.
In honor of the anniversary and to see what you all think of my early adventures in blogging, I'm reprinting my second post today and may reprint a few others as the mood hits me. That way posts that I threw into the ether some time ago, will now actually (maybe) have a reader or two.
So here goes from June 11, 2006.

Day 2--musings and free associations
So, on day 2 I discover that there is such a thing as Blog-spam. I guess I should have known. I was thinking I'd watch to see how long I go before someone comments on my Blog but this would have been an uninteresting number if Spam comes through. So I enabled the Spam blocker function--hope it works and doesn't annoy any potential commenters. (If any readers ever show up). Blogging would be the ultimate vanity press if I have to tell my family to get someone to read it.
Today I discovered a Blog by someone who referred to her early gaming experience. Although she did mention Lode Runner which was a great early game, she missed many of my favorites. We had an Apple II at home when I was a teenager--back in the 70's. This is due to my having a hi-tech parent. We logged uncounted hours by modem playing Adventure. I try to explain to teenagers these days what it was like playing a game that was entirely text-based. Part of the fun was hand drawing my own maps. Of course, no one could call us when we were on-line. Perhaps this was part of the appeal. The magic word was XYZZY. I thought some of the writing was great. I will never forget being in the "Maze of twisty little passages, all alike." We finished the game although we may have had to resort to an early "cheat"--I have no idea how we figured this one out pre-internet.
We also played games using our television as the monitor. Of course there was Pong. Everyone knows about Pong. But does anyone remember Dino Eggs? Seriously? It was sort of like Space Invaders if I remember correctly. All I know is the music used to haunt me. I'd have Dino Egg music dreams for days after playing. It would be fun to find out if anyone has converted it to any current game systems. My modern favorite is Civilization IV although I've been too busy doing other fun stuff to indulge for many weeks.
The challenge these days is keeping up with the kids. If you actually looked at my profile, I'm a mental health professional. So my patients Blog, IM, play Grand Theft Auto (my kids aren't allowed), and do things with cell phones that I cannot figure out. Sometimes I'm cool because I can speak fluent Yugioh, but other times I realize that I still haven't learned to program my cell phone which is not cool. One grandmother cannot believe that I know the difference between and RPG and an RTS. I think this impresses her more than where I went to college.
One of my fondest wishes is that when I am truly elderly (not just appearing it to the average kid) I will be able to keep up to date with the new technologies. My latest efforts to this effect are blogging, photoshopping (I love my digital camera) and I hope to download photos to Flickr (as soon as I can figure out how to copywrite them). Future goals may include learning Macromedia Flash and Fusion. I also am hoping to figure out how I can update my Blog while on vacation in Europe. Since I probably will not have a computer this should be fun.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Spam and Bookmooch Update

Copalis Crossing Post Office

OK, every now and then I get a choice bit of Spam I just have to share. Here is today's offering:

DNA Identifies Florida Accountant As Descendant Of Gengnhis Khan

Don't you just want to read on? Not that I did--the mailing contained an attachment and I know better than to open.

And for the Bookmooch update--I am most definitely a fan. So far I have mailed off five books into the ether. I have 11.2 points (each point is approximately one book with extra points for books mailed internationally), have received two books and have two more on the way. One point has been donated to a charity so far. So now I feel all warm and fuzzy!
I have to pace myself listing books so I don't wind up running to the local post office on a daily basis. My neighborhood has one mini-postal outlet which is very convenient (walking distance). I got the sense from one of the workers in the office that she feels her job is endangered and that the more business they get the better. So I have another good deed to my name--supporting an endangered job. The other two post offices are definitely not walking distance and are both in marginal neighborhoods.
If I have any objections to Bookmooch, it would be that there should be more clarity with the charitable offerings. One appeared to belong to an individual who decided it would be nice to drop off books at a local hospital but hadn't followed through in months. Others seemed to have more book credits than they knew what to do with! Even so I would have to say that so far I am a satisfied customer.
Another objection is that it is hard to search for books by topic and that I am having a bit of trouble finding books I would like to read. I'm not trying very hard either since my goal is to reduce my total book ownership.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted

I keep asking myself why I'm not posting more. Am I tired of blogging? Has it run its course? I'm also not taking all that many pictures. The season of random acts of violence has started in the 'hoods and the news tells of drive bys and one killing of a police officer. So I need to take pictures downtown in tourist zones, take a road trip or work on nature photos. So far nothing has sparked my fancy.
I know it will happen again soon. Truthfully, right now life is pretty occupied with family issues--taking kids to their various after school activities, my older boy graduates high school next week so last weekend was devoted to prom activities--I'm still in shock--making summer plans for the whole family and so on. I signed up for a modern dance class and have sent out 4 books on Bookmooch and released one "into the wild" on Bookcrossing as part of my attempt to clear out unwanted books from my house. So life is good just busy as ever.
I'm reaching my three year anniversary of posting on this blog so I'll have to do something on that day. Maybe some sort of retrospective. Hmmm.
Well the answer is I'm still a blogger. Just a little busy this season.