Friday, February 25, 2011
Wupatki National Monument, Arizona (my own photo)
I'm racing through my back-pile of books to read although I sheepishly have to admit that the local Border's is closing and I bought a pile of new books at 60% off. It seems unlikely that I'll ever clear out a bookshelf.
My next book to review is Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World, by Roger Atwood. I had a great time reading this one. It is a non-fiction work about the illicit trade in antiquities, centered largely on Peru. It reads like a book on Global Warming--message, the world is going to hell in a handbasket and no one can do anything to stop it.
Petroglyphs, Petrified Forest National Park
It is also reminiscent of the effort to protect wildlife in poor countries. How can you stop the poachers (in this case looters) from taking items they can sell for a profit when the crime is supported by the need of poor people to eat and by the desires of rich people for more trophies for their collections? In Peru, ancient tombs are being raided daily by local people, but the trade is fueled by the wealthy buyers (including museums)in developed countries.
The author interviews people at all sides of the antiquities industry from the looters themselves, to private collectors, archaeologists and law enforcement people. His message is that the world has to collectively take action to prevent the destruction and theft of local treasures.
I can understand the urge to dig for buried treasure and then to hoard and acquire these treasures. I'm not confessing to any misdeeds, mind you, but I've always wanted a chance to participate in an archaeological dig. Not that I ever considered a career in archaeology but maybe after my younger son leaves home, I'll sign up to volunteer to sift sand in some exotic place. I'd love to find a few pot shards or ancient bones and I promise not to keep any for myself!
Back to the book--it's great. Read it.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I have a photographic collection of these neighborhood block club signs. I find them an intriguing bit of urban sociology.
By the way, the snow is melting fast. Fortunately blizzards are ephemeral, as is winter. We are so looking forward to spring here.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
I joined a couple of book memes last month. I had done a few when this blog was younger and am trying to wake up both myself and this blog so went back to them. They are both TBR memes. TBR means to be read and they have to lofty goal of getting rid of books from old piles or shelves of unread material. In my case, there is no shortage of TBR books.
I am now proud to report that I have read 4 of 12 books on my list with an additional one almost finished. These were books I have been procrastinating on reading, some for years. So I'm half embarrassed at how easy they were to pick up and read with the right motivation. Now I'm procrastinating on reviewing the books but here's the first.
Eiger Dreams: Ventures among Men and Mountains, by Jon Krakauer.
I very much enjoy Krakauer's writing and am an armchair mountain climber. Except for my dream to someday climb Mount Rainier (a non-technical climb that can be achieved by wimps like me), I have no ambition to confront my fear of heights and dying in a more direct fashion. Even so, I love to read of other people's courage, drive and stupidity.
Eiger Dreams turned out to be great fun. There is some stirring prose and plenty of humor. Here is a bit of the former: "By and by, your attention becomes so intensely focused that you no longer notice the raw knuckles the cramping thighs, the strain of maintaining nonstop concentration. A trance-like state settles over your efforts, the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. . . . At such moments, something like happiness actually stirs in your chest, but it isn't the sort of emotion you want to lean on very hard. In solo climbing, the whole enterprise is held together with little more than chutzpah, not the most reliable adhesive." By G-d, I almost get it.
There is a piece on canyoneering that had me itching to grab my hiking boots and head to Utah, and stories on the dangers and physical trials of climbing that had me vowing never to climb anything taller than the flight of stairs to my office.
Here is Krakauer describing inside terminology for falling off a cliff:
"'Peel,' 'catch some air,' 'take a screamer,'log some flight time';such are the quaint turns of phrase climbers use to denote the act of falling."
Actually hitting the ground in a fall (as opposed to being rescued by one's ropes), is referred as "cratering." Cool.
I have made a commitment to myself to take my family backpacking next summer. That will probably be adventure enough for me. As to this small collection of essays, they are not of the caliber of some of Krakauer's longer books, such as Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, but it is well worth a few hours of reading.
P.S. The photos, as always, are my own--Half Dome in Yosemite and a slot canyon in Zion National Park.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
These photos show that I'm less than a rank beginner at black and white film photography. What is cool is that I've finally learned how to scan negatives and can put these pictures from winter 2009-2010 on the net. From my family trip to Zion and thereabouts.
With a little more time, which I don't have now, I could clean up the negatives and get rid of those nasty white spots and lines.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
I've only seen Lake Shore Drive closed on a few occasions--immediately after the July 3rd fireworks downtown, and for the annual Bike the Drive event. Last week's blizzard closed it too. Walking across it, I kept expecting to get mowed down by a motorist.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Back in a by-gone era when us kids had to memorize poetry in junior high school, most of my classmates picked this one for its brevity. Being proudly original and a bit of a suck up I picked another, longer poem but I heard this one recited in class so many times that I had it memorized anyway.
Contrary to popular opinion, Chicago did not perish in the storm yesterday but it did close down. Except for people shoveling which brought out the entire community in a good-spirited way, Chicago put up a big sign saying, "Closed for the duration."
Lots of fuzzy--hatted folks were out with their digital cameras and cell phones taking pictures for posterity so my photos are not especially original. It made for a fun outing although my thighs, knees and back are now protesting the unaccustomed wading through drifts.
The civic spiritedness will end as soon as the fighting over shoveled parking spaces begin but it was fun while it lasted. I did chat with one University of Chicago graduate student who was forced by his advisor to remain on campus for a seminar Tuesday night and wound up sleeping on the office couch.
Life was not so good for the poor folks who wound up stranded on Lake Shore Drive. Fortunately I was working in my local office and only had to drive the mile to pick up my son from school, which was challenging enough.
Two days off of school is making the kids happy. I still haven't quite figured out if any of my patients plan on coming in today. This will decide if I have to make the frosty drive to work today. It is only 10 degrees F. so I'm not particularly looking forward to going out. The sun is shining though so it should be a pretty commute.