Saturday, March 31, 2007

Bedtime is sneaking up on me

This is a busy week for me. Passover starts Monday night. Since I organize the event and cook about half the food--I am especially fond of my matzoh ball soup--I have to get moving. Tonight I have been working on a few last minute additions to our Haggadah, the prayer book we read on the holiday. Starting a number of years ago, I scavenged excerpts from a number of published texts and added a few writings and drawings from the children who attend to liven up the ceremony both for the little kids and for the adults at the table with short attention spans and minimal religious training. Every year, I try to improve on the year before. This year I have a scanner and printer at my office which are helpful but the technology is slow.
I was going to go home in a few minutes but judging from the water overflowing my gutters, I should wait for an ark to arrive. I'm glad I'm not driving or outside at this moment.

This morning while waiting to pick up my son from his dance class, I roamed through the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. This is a very fine, small museum. Fortunately, they allow photography, so I practiced using my new macro lens. Here is one of the less well-focused shots but it fits the Judaic theme. Actually seeing a bit of the Dead Sea scrolls is pretty cool.

Dead Sea Scroll Fragment

I guess given that the story of Passover is about the exodus from Egypt a couple of Egyptian photos would fit the theme too. Here is a "Face from a Mummy Shroud".

Face from a Mummy Shroud

Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring is here

Just in case you forgot.

Red leaves in spring

And then I remembered a song from one of the all time funny song writers--Tom Lehrer. You have to be of a certain age and from a family with a certain kind of inherent nastiness to know of him I think. Some of his Cold War songs are pretty funny in a sick kind of way. Remember the days of nuclear bomb drills in school? If you do, we know you are old like me :).

So here is old Tom from his album An Evening (Wasted) with Tom Lehrer. Go to this site for the full set of lyrics (if you can stomach it). To really appreciate this you really have to hear Lehrer singing and commenting. Enjoy!

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park

I'd like to take you now on wings of song as it were, and try and help you forget, perhaps, for a while, your drab wretched lives. Here is a song all about springtime in general, and in particular about one of the many delightful pastimes that the coming of spring affords us all.

Spring is here, a-suh-puh-ring is here.
Life is skittles and life is beer.
I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring.
I do, don't you? 'Course you do.
But there's one thing that makes spring complete for me,
And makes every Sunday a treat for me.

All the world seems in tune
On a spring afternoon,
When we're poisoning pigeons in the park.
Every Sunday you'll see
My sweetheart and me,
As we poison the pigeons in the park.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I liked about Puerto Rico
1. Mofongo
2. Seafood
3. Sunshine
4. Beaches.
5. Nice people
6. Pastel colored houses
7. Pina coladas.
8. Pineapple
9. Warm rain showers
10. Great birding
11. Lizards
12. Tree ferns
13. Snorkeling.

I plan to post more on Mofongo one of these days.

Night and Stars

(Public domain image courtesy of Wikipedia,

Poetry Thursday challenges me to write a poem from within a famous work of art. I chose Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh because I have a fondness for both the painting and for the author's sad story of madness and possible Bipolar Disorder.

Night and Stars

Walking the lonely hillside,
Approaching warmth and comfort,
Visions of home and hearth
Draw me faster onward.

The night sky calls to me.
Venus sways seductively.
Moonlight beckons and
Stars sing their siren song.

“Join us in our dance,
Loose your earthly bonds.
Harken unto voices
Sighing your name.”

My vision wavers
With milky wavelets.
Thoughts race to join
The manic music.

I long to jump,
To soar and fly
In that endless sky
Of melodic mayhem.

But leaden chains
Of sorrow and despair
Shackle me anew
To pedestrian plodding.

Here is the top of a mosaic table I made in a class some years ago. The colors aren't the truest but I don't have a great set-up for lighting. My cat was investigating.

Table mosaic and cat

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Writing on an airplane

Plane Landing

Written en route to Chicago from San Juan, Puerto Rico on 3/24/07 in a journal.

I always think too much. It has been a problem my whole life. Now one may ask, how can one think too much? But those of you afflicted with the condition know what I mean. It means spending too much time trapped within one’s own head. For some reason, I think even more than usual while walking on a beach, although it is restful too.
On this trip I thought a lot about people vs. nature. Puerto Rico is lovely but it is not unspoiled. I was struck by the amount of litter and the amount of burned land I saw. At first I thought the burns may have been intended to clear underbrush, but fire damage on a nature preserve suggested otherwise. I came to believe that the fires, like the trash, were due to human carelessness.
I can make excuses for the people of Puerto Rico—poverty, lack of environmental education—like one might for the folks in third world countries who poach tortoises, endangered bird, wild gorillas. But maybe that lets them and us off the hook too easily. Litter and fires happen in wealthy regions too. There was a major fire in California last year that was attributed to arson. I am pretty sure it did not start due to poverty in the region.

Crowd at beach

This leads to musing about people. Walk on an isolated beach strewn with old sandals, half a beat up swim fin, men’s underwear, a woman’s bra (not in the same place as the underwear—get your mind out of the gutter), bottle caps, broken glass, cigarette butts, etc., and you can start to hate mankind. At a moment like that I become misanthropic. Perhaps the world would be better off without people? Not that I’m volunteering to be the first to go.
Actually I like people one at a time, when I can get to know them as individuals. Then I can even empathize with their less admirable traits. But humanity en masse!! Sometimes the adjectives that spring to mind are more akin to selfish, wasteful, bigoted, petty-minded, and cruel.
Of course, then the musing becomes more self-directed. What can I do to improve the world? Should I bring a large garbage bag every time I go to the beach and pick up trash?
Here I sit on an airplane needlessly heating the world for my own entertainment. Should I donate to offset my energy expenditure? What about my energy footprint at home? Is it practical to make my home run partially on solar energy? I really should change the water heater in my office. It is very wasteful and we don’t get hot water anyway (don’t ask me why not). Should I change my car to a hybrid? I feel safer on the freeway with a slightly larger car but it only gets 20 miles to the gallon.
If I stop commuting to my suburban office 2 days a week (36 miles round trip), am I benefiting the world by so doing? Or harming my patients? Perhaps, if they still come to see me, they will drive farther and expend more energy than I have saved by cutting off my commute. In my area, public transportation is entirely impractical.
See how my mind twists itself into knots. Why can’t I just soak in the sun like I imagine everyone else is doing? In truth I could do with a little less angst, but I do not wish to be oblivious either.
We are careful to recycle in my house. But there are many, including myself, who doubt our blue bagged waste really gets recycled by the city. Not to mention the garbage pickers who rip the bags open looking for cans to sell. A few years ago I watched a man in the sandbox of the local park filling his cans with the children’s play sand to make his load artificially heavier. Do I have to apply my principle of ignorance and poverty here too? Or is he just a crack addict and a creep? You tell me.
For a needed dose of guilt watch Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, conveniently playing on my airplane as I write this. That is if you haven’t watched it already. Then take the kids.
To learn more here are two web sites: one is about carbon emission offsets,
The other is the web site from An Inconvenient Truth,

Wordless Wednesday

Bathing bird 4

Bathing bird 6

Bathing bird 7

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tuesday Challenge--Plant

Another vacation shot from the El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico. Looking up at a tree fern. I love this plant--it seems positively prehistoric, like a diorama of the days of the dinosaurs.

Tree fern

Monday, March 26, 2007

Moody Monday---Gluttonous

Rice candy-1
My entry to Moody Monday today. Not a perfect fit but the kid on the cover is a bit rotund and it is a candy box.
These candies have a story. (Doesn't everything?)
When I was a kid in Seattle, it was a real treat to go have dinner in China Town. One of our favorite restaurants was named Tai Tung (sp?). I was introduced to foods that now I find just fine raw but at the time were quite a shock--squid, octopus, and other assorted sea foods. I have a vague memory my elementary school class may have gone to China Town once as part of a field trip. Nowadays, going out for Chinese food is much more routine.
On our outings, we sometimes went to a store or two. There was one trinket that my brother and I were given on at least one occasion--it was a little wooden "pop-gun" with a cork in it that would pop out with air pressure. And as a special treat we were bought each a box of the rice candy pictured here. The candy itself didn't thrill me so much as the rice paper it is wrapped in. It looks like plastic wrap but melts on the tongue. It was so much fun to unwrap the candy and carefully put the rice paper in my mouth and feel it dissolve. It had a magical appeal when I was young.
Now I buy these candies for my kids to share my joy in them. I doubt they find it as exciting as I did. Their world is somewhat bigger than mine was. I think that is a good thing.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Here kitty, kitty

I have to admit, it is good to be home. I may not agree tomorrow while trying to get the kids up and out to school and then getting myself back to work and dealing with the crise du jour. We arrived around 8:30 PM last night. No major suprises although Chicago was eerily foggy. My cats were a bit suspicious but so far haven't left any odoriferous offerings to protest our recent absence. The phone rang within minutes of our return. One of the kids' friends, sigh. I did have the delightful treat of removing one fish not-swimming belly up in the tank. Otherwise all was well.
I think one of the best parts of being home is sleeping in one's own bed. Mine has just the right combination of pillows and blankets. The sheets are well broken in and after much debate my husband and I have figured out the right combination of firmness/softness of the matress.
I have two pillow cases that I bought in a junk/"antique" store in Lucca, Italy. They are a heavy cotton with a monogram on one and crochet trim on both. My husband doesn't like them so he doesn't try to swipe them from me (he is very particular about his pillows). The cases bring me back to a fun time and make me feel a little Martha Stewart/Country Living to boot.
This morning, my younger cat, Dot, draped herself across me and treated me to a good purr session. She knows exactly when I am awake and considering getting up. This is when she chooses to join me. She is very thoughtful and doesn't generally wake me up but does delay my getting ready in the morning because it is hard to turn down a little cat-therapy. So if we're late getting ready tomorrow morning, blame her.
I noticed a crocus in bloom outside this morning. Also a nice mix of birds--a junco, one white throated sparrow, a cardinal in full song, a clutch of starlings. I think I may have to go get my hands dirty today.


Here is an exerpt from a children's book I used to read to my youngest son. The book is called A House is a House for Me by Mary Ann Hoberman, Illustrated by Betty Fraser.
"A shell is a dwelling for shellfish:
For oysters and lobsters and clams.
Each snail has a shell and each turtle as well
But not any lions or lambs."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Plumeria and Sea Finds

Tropical colors
I didn't get the focus quite right but I just love the colors. I have decided that Plumeria has to be one of my favorite flowers. It is very simple but has a nice symmetry and a wonderful scent. This was growing on a tree with both white and pink flowers. I don't know if this was accomplished with grafting or otherwise.
Just arrived back home from my travels. Will probably resume normal blogging tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Score two for my "life list"

Score one for my "life list"

I'm not a knowledgeable birder but this bird perched in an agave flower caught my eye. I took a number of photos hoping one or two would come out despite the noon-time sun and my lack of a zoom lens. With the help of photo shop to enlarge and correct the exposure and "A Guide to the Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands" by Herbert A Raffaele, I have deduced that it is an American Kestrel. I'm such a bird novice that I thought it was a parrot. My only excuse is I didn't have binoculars. Anyway, I'm proud of this "catch."

American Oystercatcher

My other bird find (actually a pair of them) was an American Oystercatcher. My bird book states that they are rare in Puerto Rico. Not too bad for a rank amateur!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


There is some great architecture here too. Seen in the town of San German, Puerto Rico.
Tomorrow we head to San Juan and then home on Saturday. I have to store up all those good beachy feelings to last for the next few months. At least gardening season will hit Chicago by April. Another winter survived.
I hope you Vermonters, Canadians and various other northerly Americans are digging out of the snow banks by now.
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The eyes have it.


These guys live in holes on the beach and are a bit skittish. One cooperated for me to take his photo.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Another great day

I am currently sitting in the lobby of our hotel. It is an open-air space with ceiling fans overhead and dim lighting, comfortable couches. I can hear a fountain nearby and a frog croaking--since it is a Puerto Rican frog, it says "Coqui" which is also its name. It is very restful and the air is fresh and cool since we just had a heavy rainstorm pass through.
One of my better fish shots.
Fish--identifying him will take some effort (some other day).

I'm working on downloading one of my better fish photos. We took a ferry today to a very small island off the coast here. The island is called "Gilligan's Island" for reasons of resemblance, I gather. The island is largely covered with mangroves and has channels of water in which you can snorkel and watch the fish.
I also took some desert photos--yes there are mangrove swamps and cacti all within less that a 1/2 mile of here. In one day I got stuck by spiny plants and photographed marsh birds. Great for the nature lover!
Hermit crab
Hermit crab convention--best viewed larger.

The bad news is all my desert photos were lost while downloading to my computer. I'm not sure what happened exactly but I gather the function called "safe delete" isn't entirely safe. The good news is I can go back tomorrow and take more photos. As my older son commented today: "If a picture is worth a thousand words, a thousand pictures is worth less than food." Being a 15 year old boy means being hungry all the time. It is funny except when he is eying your dinner.

Will this load?

I'm signing off now. Wasting too much time on hold with the internet.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Land Snail

Land snail
I haven't been able to find a good natural history book on Puerto Rico so I cannot give you proper names of all the plants and critters I am seeing. Maybe I'll find either a book or spend some time searching later.
We saw this very large land snail perched on a tree in El Yunque yesterday.
This shot is posted for my blog contact A Snail's Eye View down in Melbourne, Australia who has a scientific interest in such creatures.
We are cruising the south coast of Puerto Rico today so I should have more interesting photos to post soon. We're also moving from rain forest to desert so expect a cactus or two.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lizard in El Yunque

Isn't he cool?
We visited the El Yunque Rain Forest today. Despite dire warnings from our travel guide, we stayed dry, had no trouble hiking, and were not bitten by nasty bugs. We also heard some wonderful birds and the coqui (spelling) frog. I want to write more about the day but I am falling asleep in front of my laptop.
Thanks to all those who still comment despite my absence on your sites. I'll make it up to you all.
Buenas Noches.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


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Now I know I'm on vacation. I'm posting my first underwater photo ever. Some sort of corral-ly thing. My Digital Rebel and salt water do not mix so I impulsively bought a little Olympus camera that is waterproof to 33 ft. I'll tell you, taking a brand new camera swimming in the ocean with you is a bit frightening even if it is under warranty.
I have learned that photography and snorkeling do not mix well together. Being on the surface of the water, unlike scuba, you bob up and down too much to be able to try to focus the camera. Not to mention that I couldn't see the screen well. So I would aim the camera at something interesting and press the button hoping that the focus was at least close. Meanwhile I was praying that the wave wouldn't push me into what must have been the world's largest sea urchins. Between the urchins and the waves, my attempts at catching a fish on camera are sometimes a bit laughable. Maybe I'll post my picture of half a grouper later on.
We are having fun in paradise, i.e. somewhere on the southeast end of Puerto Rico. It is such a relief to be away from home and cold weather. Tomorrow the plan is to go to El Yunque, the nearby rainforest. If there is time, I'll post more of our adventures afterward.
Don't expect too much blog-visiting from me this week and I may have to neglect all my memes. In a mere 7 days, I'll be back home wasting precious time on-line again.
In the meantime, I'm rambling. Hasta Manana.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Meme #4--Thursday 13

Thursday 13--#15
Thirteen magazines I browse at Border’s
1. Country Home
2. Cottage Living
3. Piecework
4. Cote Sud
5. Old House Interiors
6. Coastal Living
7. Chicago Wilderness
8. Midwest Living
9. Cote Ouest
10. Outdoor Photography
11. Popular Photography
12. Real Simple
13. Cloth, Paper, Scissors

And any others I can get my hands on. I have to confess, I take them upstairs to the café, buy some coffee and read them. Or rather, usually, I just look at the pictures. I generally do my more “serious” reading at home or on airplanes. I figure Border’s is the modern version of a library—I rent a chair and a magazine with the price of the coffee (and the 10,000 books I doubtless buy there). I feel guilty for not using the fine, small bookstore near my house but they don’t have a café. Border’s has become my haven from stress—no kids demanding meals or play-dates, no work duties. I can still be paged there so work or family can intrude but it is nonetheless my weekly treat. I keep interesting work hours so sometimes I’m there on a weekday with the homeless, college students, stay-at-home moms and unemployed even though I am none of the above.

Poetry Thursday--a new word.

This week’s prompt is to select a random word that is unfamiliar, and define it through a poem. The definition is a made up one; based on one’s own intuition of the word’s meaning. To find a word I opened up the dictionary to two random pages and wrote down the words I didn’t know. I found this way: firkin, fisc, podesta, pogonia, poilu, poincian, poind. The word I chose was pogonia, partly for the sound of it, and partly because, by sheer coincidence it falls in the dictionary right after poetry. Here is my offering.

Poetry in Paradise

The day is hot and humid.
The air hangs heavily over the plaza.
A church bell tolls the noon hour.

Enter the stranger.
Pale skin and freckles mark him as foreign.
As does the phrase book he carries.

He approaches the lone on-looker,
A woman lounging over a cigarette in a café.
He struggles with the language.

“Senorita, donde esta la Playa Santa?”
Lifting a languid hand, she points.
“There. Towards Pogonia.”

Her English is perfect.
Relieved, he thanks her and continues.
Santa Isabel resumes its siesta.

I am traveling to Puerto Rico in two days. This clearly guided my use of Spanish and references to the tropics. The actual definition of pogonia is:
Any of a genus (Pogonia) of terrestrial orchids of the North Temperate Zone. They have terminal solitary flowers with a crested lip.
Definition found in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Fifth Edition, 1948. I’ve had this dictionary since I was a kid. It has a lot of memories attached to it.

Booking Through Thursday

Speaking of writing in books, what about writing the entire thing? Do you write? Aspire to write? Dream about writing?
I have always dreamed of writing a book. The closest I ever got was I was in negotiations to write a medical reference book with an editor when I had a sudden job change (my choice, in part because of lack of support for my doing a book), and things became too hectic. I procrastinated on details of the agreement and the editor decided to move on to someone else. I have regrets about this although I understand what was going on.
Actually, I really dreamed of writing something more literary. I wrote my first long story (illustrations and revisions, even) on ultra-wide ruled paper when I was 5 or 6. Part of my reason to start a blog was to improve my writing skills and get used to my words being read by strangers.

If you do write, do you do it for yourself, or because you hope to be published? (Or because you ARE published?)
I'm vain. I write for myself to a degree but I want to be published. I have been published scientifically and professionally--not much and not recently--but I don't count that.
I am trying to hold myself accountable to a resolution to submit something to a periodical this year. It doesn't matter what or if it is accepted to meet the terms of the resolution. I'm just trying to get over a mental block.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hump Day

So Wednesday is almost over. I pulled two very long days, back to back. This is the price I pay for taking the next week and a half off. This year my two kids have two spring breaks nearly a month apart. This is making my life very complicated but we are taking a week-long trip to coincide with the high school break under the assumption that it is easier to miss time in 4th grade. We all need this vacation. The family was showing signs of strain.
Tomorrow I'll get back to blogging a bit more but for today, this is my bit. Then one week off from responsibility and solving everyone's crises but my own.
It is also great to be getting away from Chicago weather. Spring hit for around three days of sunny, 60-70 degree weather. But in the age-old mid-Western fashion, the wind shifted and now we are having freezing rain (or is it sleet or snow mixed with rain or hail mixed with rain?) and back to winter-as-usual.
See you later.

In the surf

J in surf
My submission to Lensday, "boy."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

End of the book meme.

No time to read today but two no-shows means time to blog.
I divided this meme into bits. If you want to go back to the original meme and the links to where I got it from please go back to this post.

31. Dune (Frank Herbert) Read years ago. Wasn’t my favorite Sci Fi Novel.
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)—never read. Probably won’t.
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)—read a lot of Ayn Rand as a teenager. Not sure if it would have same fascination as adult, but it might.
34. 1984 (Orwell)—does anyone get through high school without reading this?
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)—I don’t remember this well but I really liked some of her fantasy novels.
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)—tried but couldn’t get into it. Have liked others by this author.
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)—Not sure if I know enough about this to comment. Definitely haven’t read.
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)—I really liked this one. Enough to re-read someday. Plus I have a weakness for books with a mental health theme. I’d recommend this one highly.
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)—haven’t read. Maybe will someday.
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)—I think I bought this used and it is somewhere on my TBR pile.
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)—couldn’t get into it.
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)—I really liked this book and would recommend it although it had one of the saddest scenes in any book I’ve ever read.
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)—Read. So far I haven’t become a chick-lit fan. I read a lot of genre novels but chick-lit isn’t catching me.
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)—haven’t read.
45. The Bible—not in its entirety. We’ll leave the whole faith issue out right now. I’m discussing literature.
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)—read years ago. Definitely a chunkster. Probably one of those must read novels. It was long enough ago that I don’t remember it well.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Photo Friday--Addiction

Vegas Casino entrance--fake Paris
Actually, I'm not addicted to gambling. I'm addicted to Paris. This is an entry to a Las Vegas Casino that does a pretty good job of looking Parisian from the outside. Remind me to tell you my gambling story one of these days.

Beware--gross-out story!

Too gross for words?
This story is inspired by Debo Blu’s last Thursday Thirteen. She gave a very funny list and one point was describing how a woman having a gynecologic exam is not in the mood to discuss the weather with her physician. Please go to her site if you need a laugh.
I am only going to tell you my second most gross medical story. The grossest is much worse. Don’t read any further if you have a weak stomach or heart.
To orient you first I have to explain how the emergency room rotation at a teaching hospital works. There is the usual hierarchy of attending (senior) physician, senior resident, junior resident (intern), and medical student. As everywhere the med student gets the scut (medical jargon for undesirable duties). In an ER frequented by low income individuals who don’t have regular health care, many people come to the ER for minor problems—the pediatric ER may be full of head-colds and ear-aches; the adult ER is full of minor gynecologic complaints.
The only time in my career to date (and hopefully never to happen again) that I was stuck with a bloody needle was while attempting to sew up a minor knife wound on the hand of a very drunk man. His hand was bloody and therefore slippery and he was too drunk to sit still. I was too green to be a good seamstress. Hence, the needle wound up in my hand. Fortunately I didn’t get AIDS or Hepatitis. Since I was pregnant when I got the stick, I was quite scared until the results came back.
But this isn’t the gross story. Take a deep breath, here goes. So as the bottom of the totem pole, we med students didn’t get to do any fancy stitching (incompetent stitches leave scars), intubations, or last ditch life-saving efforts. We got to do the gynecologic exams on the women who came in with mysterious discharges from “down there”. I learned to live with this job. After all, I wasn’t likely to kill anyone and could test for yeast with the best of them. It was at this part of my medical career that I learned that it is hard to get Chlamydia off a toilet seat (aren’t you relieved?).
Well, one day I was the med student (AKA scut monkey) of the hour and was assigned the pelvic exam on a woman being screened for a sexually transmitted disease. Apparently she wasn’t all too happy with my technique because at one point she tightened up certain muscles and managed to squeeze out the speculum. Sadly for me, it landed, plop, right in my lap. I can’t tell you how fast I changed scrubs.
Maybe that is what scared me away from gynecology (not really). I simply felt like I had an affinity for psychiatry when I chose it. I did at various points consider Neurology, Cardiology and Pediatrics. When you go into psychiatry, everyone, including one’s closest relatives tells you that you are crazy. My mother-in-law took up telling stupid psychiatry jokes. The chairman of Internal Medicine told me I was wasting my talents. My grandmother’s response was: “Why don’t you go into some real useful specialty like, say, gynecology?” Being a polite young woman, I didn’t say to her “What are you nuts?” But I thought it. Loudly.
Actually my grossest story is about a psychiatric patient in a different ER. But I won’t tell you that one. It isn’t printable.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Moody Monday--Defensive

Fortezza di Castiglioni di Garfagnana

If I were threatened I would like to have this fortress to defend me. Fortezza di Castiglioni di Garfagnana, Italy.

Dream a little dream

Asleep in a red wagon

“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men."—Goethe

It amazes me how much we make of dreams and dreaming. There are feeble attempts to understand dreaming in the scientific sense. Then there are the people who interpret dreams a la Freud or Jung.
I don’t really do dream analysis in my work. Occasionally a dream is discussed. Sometimes these dreams are traumatic dreams, literal or metaphoric reenactments of a trauma. Sometimes they are garden-variety nightmares. From time to time, a patient complains to me of “vivid dreams” which can be a side effect of antidepressants. These latter dreams aren’t necessarily frightening, but they are rather more Technicolor than the ordinary dream.
If someone asks me what a dream means, I ask them what it means to him or her. After all, it is not my dream. I don’t believe that there are fixed symbols that mean the same thing for everyone. A dream of water could be a childhood memory returning or a wish for a beach vacation. It could be the result of an overfull bladder. I doubt it is a memory of the womb. And baseball bats, carrots, bananas and cigars are just, well, baseball bats, carrots, bananas and cigars.
I have a recurring dream that I have forgotten some crucial school work. On some days it is a test I slept through or forgot to study for. On other days it is a paper I didn’t write. Since it has been less than 10 years since my last medical board exam (and now we are mandated to take a refresher test every 10 years), I shouldn’t be surprised I haven’t gotten test anxiety out of my system.
I have another recurring dream that takes me to a certain place. I haven’t dreamt of this place lately and do not remember much about it. I just know that I go there at times and that when I am there it is familiar and well-known. I think this place is quite detailed but when I am awake I cannot access it.
Fortunately, I only rarely have nightmares. You know, the kind that wake you up crying or scared and make you unwilling to go back to sleep. I think they were more common when I was younger. Does this mean I am more balanced or just that my nervous system is older?
Daydreams are much more fun than the nighttime kind. After all, I get to set the content and theme. There are no frightening moments allowed. No twists from mundane to fantastical. There are the dream vacations, dreams of learning a new craft, skill or language, the dreams of finding myself on a mountain-top somewhere and the dreams of writing my memoirs or the great American novel. For these dream journeys, all one needs is a few interruption-free moments and a good imagination. I could use a few more of the former but the latter has not yet died of old age.
To close, here is my wish for you all. Sweet dreams.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Have Your Read These Books?--Part 3

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Book Meme Part 3: Refer to original post here for complete meme and links.
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)—This book was first read to me by my father as a bed-time story. I must have been around 6. Another “comfort book.”
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)—I tried it; probably I was too young to appreciate it. Since I hated it then, I doubt I’ll ever go back to it.
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)—Along with Little Men, Jo’s Boys was one of my favorites. Also a comfort book.
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)—This one gives me a bad feeling. I don’t know why but I’m avoiding it.
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)—Never has appealed to me.
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)—I heard it on tape.
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)—Never read. Not sure why not.
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)—I read as a kid. I’m currently reading aloud The Magician’s Nephew to my son. Great bed-time story.
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)—What can I say? I love Steinbeck.
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)—I’m not attracted by this but it has been recommended to me several times. I tend to avoid books that have the “inspirational” label applied to them.

Larger building view

Former "Hub Theater"
Here is a larger view of the building shown on the previous post. It puts the faces in context.
According to Cinema Treasures, this was a movie theater which was built in 1913 and closed in the mid-1990's.

Saturday photo hunt--architecture

They remind me of the "see no evil, hear no evil" monkeys for some reason. Seen on building on West Side of Chicago.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Poetry Thursday--Red

Red berries

The prompt is red. As I am doing too often of late, I am a day late on this one. I am posting the poem I came up with late last night. Then I am posting one I read this morning (see below).


Seven Deadly Sins
Pride Greed Lust
Envy Gluttony Anger
Only one is red.
Carnation red. Blood red.
Fire engine red.
Why is Anger red?
What color is Sloth?

One other association I have with the word red is of course of fire. I recently joined the Sierra Club. Having grown up in the western U.S. I have a weakness for environmental causes and what with global warming, I definitely feel the need to do more. Back to the issue at hand. My membership comes with a subscription to Sierra Magazine. The latest issue has an article by Gary Snyder about fire. Here is an excerpt from his poem, "Control Burn."

Fire is an old story.
I would like,
with a sense of helpful order,
with respect for laws
of nature,
to help my land
with a burn, a hot clean

This is a good, clean, red, poem. Wish I could do as well.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thursday Thirteen--A Shopping List

13 Things I Want to Buy Myself
1. A macro lens for my camera
2. A zoom lens
3. A light weight tripod
4. A subscription to Library Thing,
5. A really comfy chair for my bedroom. Has to come with an ottoman.
6. A new nightstand for by my bed. (My old one is one I bought used when I was still a starving student; it is Danish modern; my house is Victorian).
7. A new winter coat (The old one has holes in both pockets and I’m afraid I’ll lose my keys. The holes are too large to be trivially repaired). The good news is I won’t need a winter coat in about a month. So I’ll wait ‘til next year.
8. Contact lenses—I really can’t wear them. I have “dry eyes”. But my glasses are a real pain while taking pictures.
9. A modern sewing machine—mine is from the 1930’s—no kidding. I’ve had it since I was around 10 and it works wonderfully as long as you only want to go forward or backward.
10. A really small camera with lots of megapixels that will fit in my purse for those times my D-SLR is just too big. (Yes I’m obsessed with cameras right now).
11. A desk or table for the room I use for sewing and art supplies.
12. A new rug for my living room (that matches the furniture; the current one predates the furniture and clashes with all of it).
13. Since I’m redecorating all of a sudden, how about curtains that match the living room and its furniture? This is no small purchase—the room has 5 windows.

I’m not really saying I’m going to do all of this. In fact it would be interesting to see how many I’ll have done in, say, a year. But I had to come up with cool ideas. Otherwise this would have read like a shopping list—one pair of pants, 1 lb oranges, saran wrap, etc. This would not have been fun reading.

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

  1. Do you lend your books to other people? If so, any restrictions? I don't have a problem lending out my books.

  2. Do you borrow books from other people? (Friends or family—I'm not talking about the public library) Occasionally but not often.

  3. And, most importantly—do the books you lend/borrow get returned to their rightful owners?? Sometimes no. This is one reason I don't often borrow is I'm terrible about returning. Sometimes, I just put off reading the book and then it sits on my shelf for two long. Sometimes it gets misplaced. When other people don't return my books, I sometimes feel as if what goes around comes around. I do firmly believe that books are meant to be shared and read until they are worn out.

Thursday Photo Challenge--Old

Small Church in Athens
Small church in Athens, Greece, called the Little Metropolis (Panayia Gorgoepikoos=Virgin Who Answers Prayers Quickly). Built in 12th Century.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007



I feel like whingeing. I learned this word from the Harry Potter series. I assume it is a word used in Britain that hasn't been adopted in the US. Of course, Rowling could have made it up but I'm not in the mood to check on that. Whingeing means exactly what it sounds like it ought to mean. In a few minutes I have to enter 9 hours of professional cheeriness so my whingeing is done silently by post. It'll pass. Only 10 more days to vacation and sunshine. I had to shovel snow today (again) so sun will be on hold for a few more days. No crocuses or snow drops yet for me. Feel free to gloat if you have chosen to live in a place with a more felicitous climate.

Wordless Wednesday

Ice formations on Lake Michigan
Seen Sunday on Lake Michigan. I nearly froze my fingers off.

Word Verification

I can't get word verification on Blogger to work right now. Is it just me or is it universal?
So if you have a blogger blog, I can't comment. Sorry.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Wheel and ice

Seen two days ago near a power plant in city of Wilmette, Illinois. I think it might open a water gate but everything is frozen now.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Tuesday Challenge--Wood


Driftwood damming up a creek in Washington.

Sunday Scribblings--Superstition

Crab Shell
I can't do anything on time this week. Late for my photo meme and late for Scribblings. Well here is my entry.

It is hard not to be superstitious at times. For example, I plain forgot Sunday Scribblings yesterday. Is that bad luck? What about spilled salt, black cats, ladders, broken mirrors, etc? Did you ever have a lucky t-shirt or socks? Did you ever feel a day was doomed from the minute you woke up?
Actually today was one of the latter days. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and worse yet so did my younger son. It is hard to have a good morning when struggling with a cranky kid. And he’s been more cranky than usual. I’m not allowed to write about my work day for confidentiality reasons, but there were moments today when I wished I had stayed in bed.
So here I am pondering superstition. Do you remember when chain mail was in vogue? I got a couple of those in my day. I always resented the threat that I’d have eternal bad luck if I didn’t send them on. But I refused to cave to superstition and I refused to pass on bad karma to people I cared about. I don’t really think it gave me bad luck but there was that brief moment when I “broke the chain” that I asked myself “What if. . . .?”
I think I had an unlucky childhood but that was none of my doing. I have had a lucky adulthood which I think I earned the hard way. Like many people, I fear that if things go too well the other shoe will drop (and what does that expression really mean anyway)? But I tell my patients to enjoy their successes without fearing retaliation from the gods (in the Roman or Greek sense). And I should listen to my own advice.
Speaking of Greeks (or is it Romans?), I do somewhat believe that hubris earns its own well-deserved reward. Plus I rarely like people who are too sure of themselves. But does anybody really get his or her just rewards? Of course, if there is an afterlife, none of us really know to testify.
One of my sons was born on Friday the 13th. Even in the insanity of labor, the thought occurred to push harder and try to have the baby before midnight but the thought was fleeting and my son is a blessing. So I guess I’ll toss that superstition. Now this is a lucky day in my book.
What about my Zodiac sign? I never read my horoscope. I think it is a load of Taurus. But my sign is Cancer. Ever since I was young, the sign seemed to fit. Moody, moon-child, sign of the crab—that’s me.
When I studied abroad in Paris, a friend treated me to having my palm read at the Parisian Marche aux Puces (flea market). The woman told me I’d have a long life and have “only three children.” At the time I was struck by her definition of “only.” Well, I “only” have two that I know of, unless nature works in mysterious ways before menopause strikes for good.
When I was in medical school, I made up my own superstition. The cafeteria was unfortunately placed near the morgue in the basement. Occasionally there would be a long box covered by a blanket left in the hallway. It was pretty obvious from the shape what the box was. Why anyone would leave this in the hall is beyond me. So I made up that it was bad luck to pass a coffin on the way to lunch. Makes sense, doesn't it?
Knock on wood (and not the coffin kind), my luck in life will be good. My birthday is supposedly a good day in terms of dice rolls. I know a Chinese woman who will do my Chinese fortune if I ask. As for all those broken chain letters, it’s too late baby, as the song goes. I lost my lucky sweatshirt years ago. But other than being a bit tired, sick of winter and pining for a day off (vacation starts March 16!!!!!!!), I’m O.K. I hope you’re O.K. too.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

See It Sunday--Clock

Randolph and State Street
This is a great old clock on the now former Marshall Field's store on Randolph and State Street in Chicago. Many of us in Chicago are disappointed that the Field's flagship store is now a Macy's.
Well, I didn't get this up in time to join the meme, even though it is 9:30 PM Sunday,Central time. But I will post it anyway.

Natural History Blogs

The biggest pine cone I've ever seen
The Neurophilosophy blog posted a great list of natural history blogs. I thought I'd link to it in case you're interested in checking them out. It's a long list. Would take a few days to visit them all.
The picture is just because there is always room for one more nature picture. Taken in a garden in Tuscany.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Have you read any of these books?--part 2

For more information on the meme, please go to my previous post here.
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
Let’s just say it once. I love all the Harry Potter books. I only wish I could have read them as a kid. I also highly recommend the on tape version. The reader is fabulous.
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
Read it, I think I have finished all the Dan Brown I care to read
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
Didn’t read. It never caught my fancy.
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
Enjoyed very much. I would like to check out the movie.
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
I have one of her books on my TBR pile. Not sure if it is this one.
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
Haven’t read. Tend not to read horror novels.
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
Right up there with Pride and Prejudice. Read it several times and would read again if needed a comfort book. I wish I had a daughter to share it with.

Classics challenge--book #4

Life Studies and For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell

I developed an interest in Robert Lowell when I read that he had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Many people have wondered if there is a link between creativity and Bipolar Disorder. The idea is controversial since the long bouts of depression experienced by individuals with the illness are not likely to be productive periods but the concept is still of interest. I also like to read about how people have coped with their illnesses in their memoirs, fiction and biographies. However, a book of Lowell’s poems and a used biography I bought some years ago had languished on my TBR pile until the Classics challenge.
I can happily announce that I read the above book and a few excerpts of the biography by Ian Hamilton. I hoped the biography would help me understand some of the more arcane poems but what I really needed was an annotated version of these poems, as when, in high school, I studied Shakespeare for the first time, or T.S. Eliot. These are not poems to be swallowed whole and regurgitated. Some I doubt I’ll ever appreciate or entirely understand. Some poems make me wonder if they are even worth publishing. Others seem brilliant.
Among my favorites were a series Lowell wrote in Life Studies about his family. Lowell writes with evident fondness about visits to his grandfather in his poems “My Last Afternoon with Uncle Devereux Winslow” and “Dunbarton.” In the latter he writes:

My Grandfather found
his grandchild’s fogbound solitudes
sweeter than human society.

This speaks to me of a warm if quiet relationship between them and of fond memories.
Of his father, Lowell writes:

In my father’s bedroom:
blue threads as thin
as pen-writing on the bedspread,
blue dots on the curtains,
a blue kimono,
Chinese sandals with blue plush straps.

Again you get a sense of a warm reminiscence of childhood. It feels as though the artistically inclined could recreate this room in watercolor from these few words. Even time spent in the mental hospital is turned into poetry.
The collection’s final poem, “For the Union Dead,” reminds me of my recent wanderings among the skeletons of Chicago’s old buildings. The poem begins:

The old South Boston Aquarium stands
in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded.
The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.
The airy tanks are dry.

Fifteen stanzas later it ends with these words:

The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,
giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
a savage servility
slides by on grease.

I could sleep now wondering what he means by “a savage servility.” Certainly the words do slide by like fish, or like silent, well-tuned cars.
Throughout most of his adult life, Lowell cycled in and out of mania, psychosis and depression. He spent many months in mental hospitals. The harm his illness caused to Lowell and his three wives must have been unmeasurable but did not prevent him from attaining a substantial measure of greatness in his craft. I’d love to reread these poems with a good teacher.

Saturday Photo Hunt--Salty

Beach foam
Taken in Olympic National Park, Washington State (December 2006)

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Liar's Diary--A Book Review

Yet another book review.
I have been enjoying several book challenges and the Third Day book club but sometimes I feel like I am reading to a deadline. The deadlines keep me on track on reducing my TBR pile, keeping me up to date writing book reviews, finishing classics I might otherwise leave half-finished and preventing me from adding to the pile with my book-buying habits. But it has a high-schoolish aspect too, with due dates and deadlines.
So I read today’s book in a little haste because it is on none of my challenge lists. In fact I’d committed to reading the Third Day selection by tomorrow and haven’t even started it. I read quickly but I do have my limits, my family, my work and my other hobbies. I’ve been devoting a lot of time to photography of late.
My latest book also poses a new challenge: reviewing a book written by a blogger I feel almost as if I’ve met. I just finished Patry Francis’ novel The Liar’s Diary. I feel that I owe her a totally honest review. I have too much respect for literature, authors and my own need for honesty to write a toadyish review. However, my instinct is to be nice and nurturing. I’d hate reading negative reviews if I were a first time author. And this isn’t a negative review, at all. I wanted to relieve that suspense from the first just in case Patry reads this. But I also don’t want her to feel that I’ve just told her that her first born child is ugly. There is a certain irony in my desire for honesty as Patry’s novel is first and foremost about the need for unvarnished honesty and the price one pays for it.
So, deep breath, here goes. When I started The Liar’s Diary I had no idea what genre to place it in. I picked it because of the author, not because of the plot-line. At first, the novel felt similar to one of Anne Tyler’s novels, in other words, a story about slightly dysfunctional but appealing people. There was, though, all along a hint of the sinister. Patry did a wonderful job of keeping me guessing. Was there a villain here and if so who was it? I liked “meeting” her two main characters who both are appealing women. I liked the way she dared me to judge her characters but made me wary to trust these judgments.
I realize that when I drew a comparison to Anne Tyler, that I am giving Patry high praise. And it is true. Patry manages to make her characters real and alive as if you might recognize them if you met them. She also manages the suspense well and uses a few very clever plot twists that kept me guessing up to the bitter end.
Now for the critique I am avoiding. Needless to say, the novel is not perfect. The principle and secondary characters are well-drawn but perhaps could have been deeper. Sometimes they conform to their roles in a way that just seems a little too pat. Jeanne is just too naïve and white-picket-fence and Ali is just a little too narcissistic. Revelations at the end allowed me to understand Ali better in a way that made her more believable and provided some meaningful psychological insight which mitigates this to a degree.
Once in a while I had trouble following a minor detail such as how did the character get from one room to the next which may be due to a first time author’s growing pains or to my haste in reading. More significantly, I was a little dissatisfied with some of the end-game plot devices. I can’t go into detail because to do so would be to give away the ending. There is an issue of incriminating evidence that I didn’t find believable and the narrative in Chapter 35 seemed forced. There was a deliberate omission of detail from earlier in the story that suited the suspense but was inconsistent with the rest of the novel’s structure.
Nonetheless, these imperfections did not prevent me from enjoying this novel. It is a great read and I am so admiring of Patry’s writing craft and skill at characterization. I would definitely read Patry’s next book and wish her every luck with the launch of this one.

Have you Read Any of These Books?--Part 1

I got this meme from Musings of a Bookish Kitty who got it from Bookfool, who followed Belladoza's example and decided that if you read it, you are automatically tagged.

Look at the list of books below:
* Bold the ones you’ve read
* Italicize the ones you want to read
* Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in. (I interpreted this in my own way--books that haven't yet said to me, "Read me! Read me!" It's possible that one day I will develop an interest in some of them. Others, maybe never.)
* If you are reading this (and haven't participated yet), tag, you’re it!
**If there are any books on this list that I didn't italicize and you think I should read, let me know in comments!

I decided not to publish the full list. Too long for one post (my opinion only). I modified it to allow room for my personal comments/opinions and will take another couple of posts to finish the list. Please go to Bookish Kitty if you want to participate in the full list. Like Kitty I will not tag anyone but please tag yourself if you're in the mood.

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
Read—thought was overrated. Was fun. Incidentally my son, 14, picked it up last year and devoured it. I was worried he'd find it too violent but he loved it. It was his first book of this sort and one of his first adult level books.
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
Read and loved. Reread on occasion. Favorite part was when Darcy finally humbled himself.
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Read in High School. Should re-read probably. Liked very much then.
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
Read—maybe high school age? Rare instance I prefer the movie.
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
All three LOTR—read very young the first time. Consider comfort books. Reread when needed like chicken soup. BTW I think the movies are great too.
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
Read when a kid. Liked very much and would like to reread along with rest of series. I haven’t visited that part of Canada but want to very much. I love western Canada.
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
Read, racy, good fun. Not as literary as some would have it.
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
Never heard of book or author. Time to do some research.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #13

1. Pretty Amazing
2. Musings and Free Associations
3. This post has no title.
4. Challenges
5. Athina-Athens
6. Kea
7. Belated posting of July 1 blog
8. Mushrooms and Fungi and Slugs, Oh My!
9. MeSsedTuP
10. Greek Plant
11. Tree in Bryce Canyon
12. Back to School Week
13. Belated Posting Lucca Italy

Looking at this brought back memories of struggling to post photos, trying to post from Italy last summer, wondering why no one wanted to come to my party (no readers until later), and so forth. One post didn’t have a title so I added the title “This post has no title.”

Booking through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

  1. How many books would you say you read in an average month? 4 unless I'm on vacation.

  2. In a year? Twenty to thirty

  3. Over the last five years? Well over 100 but I really cannot estimate.

One of the more fun college entrance essays I had to do was actually a list. I was asked to list all the books I had read in the past year. It was a very long list and I left out some that were too trashy to mention. Then I added back a few trashy ones so I didn't sound like a too perfect geek. Boy was I self-conscious but at the time it felt like a trick question. I got into that college so I guess I passed the test. I went to a different college anyway.
Here is what I am reading right now.

I'm enjoying it so far but I'll save the review for when I'm done. Way to go Patry.