Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thursday Challenge--yellow

So many yellow flowers, so little time, so hard to identify. Except this one is pretty recognizable. It is a tansy.


I like this photo viewed large.

Wordless Wednesday

A picture from my whirlwind tour of Yellowstone--tried to see it all in less than 24 hours--didn't even come close but had fun trying.

Hot Pot

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Chicago Defender Building

Chicago Defender Building

The Chicago Defender is an African American newspaper founded in 1905. According to one photo I saw on the NPR web, site (, the paper's banner once touted itself as "The Mouthpiece of 14 Million People: Carries More Live News of Racial Interest Than Any Ten Weeklies." One fascinating bit of history is that the Defender's voice was a major driving force behind the Great Migration, the movement of 1-1/2 million African Americans to the northern United States between 1915-1925. The numbers are mind-boggling to me. Over less than 3 years, more than 110,000 people migrated to Chicago alone! Where did they put all those people?
I have to confess that I have never read this paper, now called the Chicago Daily Defender. I'm not a native of Chicago and I'm not African American. I don't even subscribe to any of the other Chicago papers.
The Defender building has been vacant since 2006 and is on watch-lists for threatened historic architecture. The building was originally home of the Illinois Automobile Club. If you look closely at the weather-vane on top you can see that it is a car.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Thin crust

Thin Crust

Older kid was getting mouthy today. Said I, "You're walking on thin ice there." Said he,"And you're carrying an ice axe."

Gotta admit that is a good line there!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

See It Sunday--Cable


I knew there had to be a reason I took this rather uninspiring picture. There I was, around a week ago, setting out for a hike in Stehekin, a small community two hours by boat from the nearest supermarket. This is a community that boasts one pay phone, no cell phone service, a two room school house with 14 students from K-8, and one paved road. The area is so remote that no one bothers to update the tabs on their license plates. Now this is major to me. In Chicago, if I have expired tabs for more than a day or two, I start accumulating tickets. The cars in Stehekin had tabs that expired in the 1990's. I almost took a photo or two of this but feared that some bureaucrat somewhere would decide that the one thing Stehekin was lacking was tickets. So I didn't.
Well, back to the picture. So here is this satellite dish in the middle of nowhere. I admit to ignorance--I'm assuming that the purpose was to deliver the internet access I was surprised to find at the lodge we stayed in. I guess it could have been television. I'd rather think it was internet. At least there are arguable reasons to be on the net--to conduct the few businesses that exist in Stehekin, so people can shop on-line instead of commuting by boat to Chelan, the nearest town, who knows maybe Stehekin even has a blogger. There also is some kind of phone service the Ranger Station has--I guess they are the local fire department and law enforcement. Maybe the ambulance corps too. So I wouldn't begrudge them a phone or two.
Nonetheless finding a dish hidden in the trees behind the lodge felt a bit like Eden had not just a snake but also cockroaches and mosquitoes. Which, come to think of it, it probably did.
Posted by Picasa

Tres Weird

Ok, this is a small thing in the big picture of things but here goes. Blogger used to have what my kids call a "glitch". This glitch was the presence of phantom comments that appeared on what Blogger called the "dashboard" but which I could not publish. I figured out how to publish all except one such comment which has been on my dashboard since, well, 12/5/06. I just assumed that this comment would be there forever, or at least as long as I, or Blogger, stays in this business. Well today, the comment appeared as a new/old comment to be moderated, a succinct comment, one word, "congratulations." That was it. I published it. I have no idea even what post it went to. No more phantom. It will seem strange not to have that one, last, lonely straggler.

Oh, woe!

Full moon rising

Usually when I return home from vacation, I collapse, look at the still full suitcases for a few days and mope that freedom from duty is over. I don't obsess over it but there is that first moment of relief coming home to a wooden house and seeing that it hasn't burned down in our absence. The routine started off normally. The fish were still alive and the cats were well if a bit annoyed at our absence. After all, they seemed to say, you had this kid come in and feed us but it disrupted all our routines. They are far too proud to admit that they missed us.
The next morning we noticed that we did not have internet or phone service. We tried to do the usual, reboot the modem and wireless, but those spooky little flashing red and green lights did not come on. Check power source. Surge protector still had power to it. Although we have had endless trouble with our internet provider, this wouldn't account for the wireless router not coming on. So here is a mystery. Two electronic items on the same surge protector both burn out but the surge protector still works.
We sort of figured that we must have had either a surge or worse yet a lightning strike. On the way into Chicago on Tuesday the pilot told us we had missed a week straight of heavy rain. Well, this was an understatement. Generally August in Chicago can be hot with thunderstorms but this month, rain levels have been pushing record levels. These are the kind of rains that overcome the storm sewers (not a usual thing since Chicago built a thing called Deep Tunnel a few years ago) which forces the city to dump untreated sewage into Lake Michigan. Yuck. I'm discouraging the kids from swimming in the lake for a few days.
Wednesday we talked to the cable people who said they could come out on Friday. We crossed our fingers that they would actually show as promised and settle in to a few days of reduced internet (we still have access through work) and cell phones.
More storms happened on Wednesday. They seemed ferocious to me--constant lightning and thunder that magically set off our home alarm (in spite of it being not being armed) repeatedly driving us near batty, especially at 4 AM. Unfortunately, although I desperately wanted to taking lightning photos, I couldn't figure out a way to set up on the porch without getting the camera drenched.
I should have paid attention when a neighbor told me Thursday that the storm I thought so impressive on Wednesday was one of the lesser ones of the past week. So now we move on to Thursday. Quiet day. Too hot to go outside--we're talking 95 degrees and nearly as humid. The kids and I went for a quick and sweaty trip to the local produce market and bought great fruit and I picked some veggies from our overgrown-in-my-absence garden (tomatoes, eggplant, pole beans, oregano and basil). Dinner was prepared and ready to eat when the storm hit.
We weren't worried until the water started coming in to the house. We have an area near our kitchen table that was formerly a poorly constructed sun-room. When we moved into our 120 year-old-house we remodeled extensively but gave up (the usual money and fatigue issues) before the sun room was finished. It has a makeshift roof of what looks to me like plywood and tar-paper which has lasted well beyond its shelf-life but chose Thursday night to give up the ghost.
It looked like someone had turned on a faucet in our roof. The water was coming in so fast that it filled a large bucket in 2-3 minutes. The whole family was bailing, mopping and moving paper goods we had untidily stored in the unused space. Needless to say the alarm started going off again too. Ten minutes later we had managed to resolve the leaks--an old towel served to wick the water into a large ice chest, shot off the alarm, move dinner to a drier room, leave the clean up for after dinner and sit down to eat when the lights went off. Dinner was served by candle light. It was less romantic than it might have been. Youngest child found the dark creepy, the candles were less charming when mandatory, the cats were spooked by people blundering in the dark with fire sticks, and we discovered a leak in the dining room ceiling (not the first time we've found and "fixed" a leak in exactly this location).
The darkness lasted for 4 hours. We discovered that reading by candlelight is painful. I was still reading about roughing it in the wilds of Washington so the lack of lighting seemed appropriate to the mood. Of course, the lights came on just as I finally was tired enough to go to bed.
I don't know how many of you have wandered around an old house by candlelight, but I felt positively Victorian. I'm not sure which novel I was in--one with a crazy wife locked in the attic, one with a ghost sure to blow out my feeble candle, or one with a maid who would light the fire in my bedroom and kindly place a hot water bottle at the foot of my bed. Since the maid didn't ever show, I guess I'm grateful that my story didn't have an unhappy ending.
Friday arrived and we have been largely dry since then. Power is back, we got our phone service restored and will never solve the mystery of the death of our wireless and cable modem. Except that we discovered a day late that our land-line phone had died a quick and painless death too. It wasn't on the surge protector. We must have had one big light show while we were gone! Glad it spared TV's, computers and other more expensive electronics. I even climbed a ladder and nailed a tarp over the leaky bit which might hold until the construction we have planned begins next month (we hope).
I'm keeping a few candles around just in case. I fear the storms are not over. The Wednesday storm was a massive one that made the national news. My family in Seattle e-mailed me to ask about it. Hundreds of thousands of people were without power. The usual down trees and flooding happened. Is it a weather pattern due to the distant hurricane? Is it Global Warming? This time, we got off easy.
I'm also humbled. I talked to the mother of a kid my son plays with. We were comparing flood damage. Her basement flooded--it was a lived-in basement and her son's room was down there. There were tears in her voice as she told me it felt like things couldn't get much worse. Not due to the flood, but her husband was diagnosed with cancer a month ago. He is expected to recover but has monthly chemotherapy for a long time. I have nothing to whine about. Nothing.
So here we are. The house is a mess. We're all squabbling. Summer is waning. But I'm trying not to whine.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Looking Backward

I'm home but still (somewhat) on vacation for another 10 days or so. That doesn't mean I won't work (a bit) and do chores but I still will be less accountable until the school year starts again. I've coordinated my work year with my kids' school year more or less. It is a lot easier than finding babysitters. Yet another good thing about being self-employed.
I didn't have a lot of time to post during my solo road trip from Wyoming to Seattle so I plan on going back and reviewing some of the highlights. For now I'm just going to post a pretty picture from Yellowstone.


Everyone knows about the geysers in Yellowstone but if you haven't been there you may not realize how absolutely lovely the rest of the park is too. I've got to get back there with the family and a lot more time.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007

More on the Raven

About a week ago I posted a photo of a raven in flight. I had heard tales of raven's intelligence and habits before but had never realized what impressive fliers they were. The raven in the picture here was soaring on the thermal updrafts rising from Diablo Lake many feet below as well as any hawk or eagle I've ever seen.

In flight

He (or she) also sports bands on each leg, one green, one red. I wish I knew what aspect of his habits or behavior is being studied.

Banded Raven

It seems that ravens are fairly common in the North Cascades as are crows. It was difficult to tell the difference from a distance. A bird book I have in front of me describes the call of the raven as a "croonk" whereas the crow really does make a "caw" sounds. The small town of Mazama that we stayed in seemed full of crows and their cawing would wake me up in the morning.
At a ranger station a bit east of Mazama we learned that the local raven had picked up the habit of stealing wiper blades from parked cars. The rangers recommended putting something over the blades while parked in the parking lot. I once had a wiper blade stolen by a human but they did it for the obvious reason of replacing one of theirs. What did a raven need with them? One can only guess.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Change in the Wind

Blowin' in the wind

Wednesday was so calm that we decided yesterday would be a good day to go kayaking. Of course, this guaranteed a change in the weather which we got.

Windsurfing Chelan

After a windless day which allowed our lake valley to become smothered by smoke, now we can see the mountains again and, it seemed, a weather front headed our way.


The wind is welcome for clearing our air but worried me in that the local fire will be fanned. Not much we can do about it. If a storm were headed our way, it might spoil an outing or two but rain might help the fire control effort. On the other hand, it might generate some lightning which is what started the fire in the first place. I guess nothing is unequivocally good or bad. If you travel a thousand miles in search of nature, there is little point in complaining when nature pays a visit.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Still burning!

Nature's beauty
Comes in many forms.
Some, infinitely terrifying.

Seeing the Domke Lake fire today, seemingly burning more furiously than ever, reminds me that no matter how hard we try to control our environment, there are times when nature still has the upper hand. I am humbled, yet grateful.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fire Drop

Turns out I have internet after all.
This is for Thursday Challenge--"Skill."

Supply drop

A helicopter dropping supplies for fire crews at a Washington State forest fire.

Helicopter Mission Accomplished

After the drop.

Deer Me



Blacktail deer

Monday, August 13, 2007

Help me, I'm falling. . .

Off the net for four days. No cellular service either. It is almost as good as being marooned on a desert island. I have plenty of books and my trusty Digital Rebel so you will probably here more of my adventures when next I post. I'll leave you with a few pictures to remember me by.

Diablo Lake
Diablo Lake, North Cascades, Washington

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Take a Hike

Lava Walk

I am taking the time now to recount an adventure from my solo road trip somewhere in Idaho. I pulled off the road to Craters of the Moon National Monument to view a lesser park that was equally volcanic in nature. The park, known as Hell’s Half Acre, was accessed by a short dirt road off the main highway. At the parking lot were a small picnic area, a toilet and a trail head. The trail offered two options, basically short, marked by blue painted poles and long, marked by red ones.

One blue pole

I opted for blue as I had a long way to go that day. I loaded my trusty camera in a pack and my water bottle. The hike was noted to be unimproved and I soon learned why. It was a scramble across hills and valleys of raw volcanic rock. Often there was no clear trail and no footprints visible to mark which way to go. At times I lost track of the blue poles and once I double checked that I hadn’t mixed up blue and red paths.
Hiking alone in the wilderness strange and morbid thoughts come to one. No one knew exactly where in the northwest corner of the country I actually was which put me at more risk than I cared to think about. However, then and now, I stand by the philosophy that reasonable risk is necessary to live a worthy life.
One, practical, fear was that I could turn an ankle or break a bone and have to drag myself back along the so called trail. I have a fondness for “lost in the wilderness” stories and one I read recently was about a man who was gravely injured while mountain climbing and barely managed to drag himself back after falling in a crevasse and being left for dead. While there were no crevasses of the ice kind near me, I did conjure up a vision of trying to crawl across the razor sharp lava around me. I might then have had cause to regret wearing shorts.

Crevasse of sorts

A more creepy thought a la a serial killer novel was that an evil someone had moved the blue poles to lead me farther and farther away from all chance of rescue and discovery. I wondered how many years it would take for someone to discover my dismembered bones out here. Either I was developing heat-stroke or I read too many novels.
Well, for better or for worse, there will be no documentaries written about my tragic loss in the wilds of Idaho. I made it back safely with no worse injury than a burr or two in my socks. As I returned to my car, I discovered the log I should have signed to document that I had taken this path. I also discovered that the most recent person to have signed the log did so a number of days previously. Good thing I didn’t break a leg!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This has to be one of my all time favorite photos. We had dinner last night at the house of some friends who have retired in this area. They have a lovely garden and the local hummingbirds were dining on their Monarda. What a treat!

Just a quick drink

Friday, August 10, 2007

Now for something a little grander

North Cascades

I'm now on the Eastern (and dry) side of the Cascade Mountain range. The weather is sparklingly clear with blue sky and warm sun. It would be hot except for the constant breeze. I got to sample a bit of mountain biking today. The modern mountain bikes are a wondrous thing, far easier to ride than my 1970's Motobecane which feels like a member of the family. In a resale shop, my bike would be classified as at least a "collectible" if not an antique.
I have another week and a half of adventures before heading on home. I'll check out all your sites as time allows.
Hope your adventures have been fine too.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

North Cascades National Park

Not much posting time but here's one of my latest nature photos from North Cascades National Park, Washington.

As the Raven Flies

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Creepy Critters


I saw this one in the Grand Tetons National Park. It was bigger than my thumb and much scarier.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Travels and no tribulations (but a few tributaries)

Swamp in Idaho

I am visiting with my very first nephew but as he is currently eating I am downloading a photo or two. Since last Tuesday I have been in the following states: exhausted, fatigued, exhilarated. No I mean States of the Union--not counting my home state of Illinois--they are Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Not bad for less than a week. And we're not talking those puny East Coast states like Delaware and Rhode Island.
I wish I could do one of those animations that old documentaries used to do with the moving red line across a map to show you the extent of my journeys. To give you some idea, I'll share with you where I slept each night.
1. Jackson, Wyoming
2. Gardiner, Montana
3. Idaho Falls, Idaho
4. Boise, Idaho
5. Pendelton, Oregon
6. Seattle, Washington
I'm remaining in Seattle for two more nights and then off to the North Cascades National Park. See you later.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Miles to go before I sleep

Survival of the fittest

I call this one "Survival of the Fittest." Seen in Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho. More later.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hit the Road, Jack

Greetings from Idaho Falls, Idaho. Yes, there are falls here. I can see them from my hotel window. The roar is so loud that if I had my window open, it would have been difficult to sleep last night. The falls are more impressive for there width than for their height which is minimal.
I don't have time to blog much now. I need to be back on the road. I leave you with two choice quotes overheard yesterday in Yellowstone.

"Ooh, more thermophilic bacteria!"


And, "I don't see what is so mystical about that." To which I didn't reply, "That's because you have no imagination."

Mystic Spring

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Greetings from West Yellowstone, Montana


I am on the road. I have been a bit busy but hope that this trip will provide lots of blog inspirations. More when I don't have road miles to cover and internet access that costs $12/hour.