Category Archives: Just For Fun

Big City, Big Game

I picked up a book this weekend and only had time to read the first paragraph:

“Paris is a big city, in the sense that London and New York are big cities and that Rome is a village, Los Angeles a collection of villages and Zürich a backwater.” (The Flaneur,  Edmund White, page 1).  

As I was reading this, I was awaiting a valet to bring my car, releasing it from the ridiculously expensive parking facility at the hotel where I had been staying.   I looked up at the buildings overhead as the “L” rattled by and wondered where Chicago fits into that schema — a big city or a collection of villages?  Where does any city fit, really? It’s all a matter of perspective.

Years ago I had a colleague remark that she liked living in Chicago over New York because Chicago was more “livable”.   “It has everything New York has, but it’s on a human scale”, she claimed.  “You can walk the sidewalks and see the sky and smell the lake.”   Having spent lots of time in NYC, I can attest that you can walk the sidewalks there too, see the sky and smell the water as the tides roll in and out.  Sometimes you don’t want to smell that, but you can. I lived in London for a short while a long time ago, and I’ve visited LA and Rome. Indianapolis, where I live, often thought of as a “small town”, is actually ranked as the 13th largest city in the US (Jacksonville, with a mere 1655 more people recently moved ahead of us in this ranking by the Census Bureau).   Each of these cities are different, each big — and parochial — in their own ways.

Chicago, though it self-deprecatingly refers to itself as the Second City (it’s actually ranked 3rd — sorry Windy City), is a big city, one that doesn’t take a backseat to any other, whether in amenities, or attitude.  I’m not sure that it matters how you set the scale; it still is big.


Big City Skyline

Big is the theme for this Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week.  We didn’t think of this weekend as a really big weekend, but we did have a medium-sized adventure planned:  a quick drive to Chicago to see a ballgame and then to see an art exhibit.   We love to mix highbrow and lowbrow!   Or something like that.

It isn’t a difficult drive to Chicago from where I live, at least not until you hit the Dan Ryan.  There are signs that read “xx minutes to Circle” along the Dan Ryan.  I wouldn’t know how to hack a sign board nor am I the kind of risk taker that would if I did, but I am amused thinking that the sign should be amended to read:  “xx minutes until you leave this Circle of Hell.” Sometimes to me it seems that Chicago does stalled highway traffic like nobody else!

Dan Ryan, Chicago, Traffic,

Big Traffic Jam

Eventually, though, we arrived at our destination.  It isn’t the biggest ball park — far from it — but that’s part of Wrigley’s charm:



It was a beautiful afternoon for a ball game.  Several years ago, I was having dinner with a Frenchman.   “I zee these game on the satellite.  Bazeball?  It haz no rules, yes?”   Ah, baseball!  It has rules — and lots of stats, too, but I think its quintessential charm is that its allure cannot be fully explained to one who has not experienced it firsthand.  There is nothing like spending an afternoon on a warm summer day, blue skies above with only a few clouds, watching a ball game languidly wend through nine innings.

Wrigley Field, Chicago

The One and Only Wrigley Field

Of course, sitting there enjoying the game, the sunshine, and perhaps some liquid refreshment, can make one tired.   That is why the 7th inning stretch is so critical.  A few years ago, while on a business trip, I was given two tickets to a Cubs game at the last-minute.   Accompanying me on this trip was one of my employees who had just become an US citizen.   She was excited to go as she had never seen a baseball game; we had no choice but to ditch the office early.  She knew that I was not your typical American Sports Enthusiast and she wasn’t sure that I was correct when I told her that the scores were “runs“, not “points” and that the game divisions were “innings“, not “quarters“.   I tried to explain the game to her as best I could.  But, I had neglected to tell her about the 7th inning stretch.

She was bewildered when the crowd suddenly stood in unison.  “Everybody stands now” I said, waving her to her feet.

For the rest of the game?” she asked skeptically.

No.  Just to sing the song! And to stretch!“.   The band started playing…

Take Me Out to The BallGame ….  

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks...

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks…

“Is this like the National Anthem of Baseball?” she asked.

It is indeed like that.

As I write this I wonder:  maybe one of the special charms of baseball is that it only seems big but isn’t really at all.  Sure, it’s big business; just look at the price of the tickets and concessions.  Look at the picture of the stadium above.  See those seats high above the outfield?  Those are not inside Wrigley Field.  They are on top of buildings across the street from the field.  Tell me that isn’t about enterprising people making big money off of the game too.  The hot dogs, sodas, cotton candy and beers are all big too.   Fans track their favorite teams and players.   We make a few minutes, more than two-thirds of the way through the game, into a big deal where everyone sings a silly song, waves their arms, and laughs.  And yet, it isn’t about being big and oversized.  It’s about taking time from our big, busy lives to relax and watch a leisurely game.

It was a fun afternoon in an anti-big sort of way.

And the Cubs beat the Cards.   Now, that is a big deal!

What’s your idea of BIG?  Join Ailsa’s Travel Theme and let us know.  Be sure to leave a link at Where’s My Backpack?

  1.  travel theme: big | my sweetpainteddream
  2.  Travel theme: Big | Sandstone and amber
  3.  Travel Theme: Big | Sin Polaris
  4.  Travel theme: Big | “I dwell in possibility…”
  5.  Travel Theme: Big | SC Surf Butler
  6.  hollywood cemetery {travel theme: big} | nomad, interrupted
  7.  Travel theme: Big « Sasieology
  8.  Travel Theme : Big | Chronicles of a Public Transit Use
  9. Travel Theme: Big | dadirridreaming
  10. Big- Ailsa’s weekly Travel Theme | The Rider
  11. Travel Theme: Big | Lucid Gypsy

Weekly Photo Challenge: My neighborhood, My phone camera

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a new phone (think mid last decade), so never have I had a decent phone camera! That changed last weekend when I finally decided to buy a phone that was usable as, you know, a phone. Although I know I can use Siri’s voice commands to dial, I’m thrilled to be able to have a working keypad on my phone. Besides, I found Siri’s “I don’t know what you mean” comments to be so similar to a petulant teenager’s comments that I quickly tired if her. It was fun, though, finding out her (its?) responses to very unkind things said to her. Try it for a laugh!

One thing that I will not tire of quickly, though, is the camera on the iPhone 5. I’ve been clicking away all week. I thought my very first shot, snapped as we left the nearby phone store, was appropriate to this challenge. (I was NOT driving.) It isn’t the best shot, but it is my neighborhood!

I created this post on the phone too. That’s definitely something that I’d rather do on my laptop next time I’m writing this much text!

Next: Explore the many cool iPhone photography apps. Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments below.

Find out how others documented their neighborhoods in this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge.


Travel Theme: Parks

Ailsa’s weekly travel theme this week focuses on parks. I love parks! Whether I’m home or traveling, I can’t resist making time to visit a park.

I walk regularly on a linear park (a greenway trail) near my home.  Indianapolis has a great network of interconnecting park trails throughout the city and surrounding neighborhoods.  I could get on  my favorite trail a few blocks from my home and walk to my favorite restaurant downtown — about 11 miles away. I would only have to walk on a street for about 100 feet to cross a bridge and then walk through an intersection. The rest of the distance is on a paved pedestrian path that also allows roller blades, bicycles, and–in some sections–horses.

I love the kind of park where all you have to do is to sit, observing and absorbing nature. Nature and forest preserves are great for this.  Sometimes you need to hike, but most have accessible paths for those for whom hiking is too challenging.   It is always lovely to be walking quietly with your thoughts and then suddenly come upon a deer, see a hawk fly overhead, or greet an old turtle meandering down the path.

I like the kind of park that makes the green space surrounding a museum, reminding you that nature is a form of art as well.  The sculpture garden at MoMA, Millennium Park adjacent to the Art Institute of Chicago, or the wonderful new 100 Acre Art Park at the Indianapolis Museum of Art are three such parks that I always include in my trips to these museums.

I can feel like I’ve left an appendage at home if I don’t have a camera with me when I’m in a park, although I always try to put it away for a period of time so that I don’t overlook the park trying to get a great photograph.  Unless you’re a first time visitor to this blog, you will know that I love taking pictures of flowers.  To capture the fleeting beauty of nature in a photograph is a challenge that is never perfected and never looses its allure.  But, sometimes I like to take pictures of other things in a park than just the flora and fauna.   Park benches, too, always seem to be in almost every park photo set.   Below are some shots that I’ve accumulated over the last few years, including one taken the first time I ventured out with a brand-new DSLR. (see the *) Brrrr — that was a cold and wet day!

Abandoned Bench, Aullwood Audubon Center, Dayton, OH

Early spring blooms and benches. Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan.

Park bench in autumn, Waycross Camp and Conference Center, southern Indiana

Park Bench with Trellis. White River State Park and Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis

Park Bench in Winter. Waycross Conference Center, Indiana

Park Bench, a great resting place. Six Mile Slough Nature Preserve, Fort Myers, Florida

Snow covered park bench. Indianapolis Museum of Art*

Park Bench in Autumn, with colorful leaves. (My front porch — for when I can’t get to a park).

Park Bench and Spring Bouquet. Indianapolis.

Kick back. Relax!

From my photo archives . . .


Sunday Quote (2012 Week 14)

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” ~ Amelia Earhart

“Adventure is worthwhile.” ~ Aristotle

A is for Adventure.

April 1st marks the beginning of the Blogging  A to Z Challenge, which I am participating in.   While Blogging A – Z seems pretty simple, you can find out more about it here.   Each day, a different letter.  Some days, I’ll write about a particular topic beginning with the letter of the day. Other days, I may only post a photograph, but it will be in keeping with the letter of the day. And, since April is National Poetry Month, I won’t let that go by unnoticed. Expect a poem or two, appearing in an appropriate alphabetic order. After today, Sundays are excluded (but you’ll likely still find a Sunday Quote at Four Deer Oak).

Since this is the grand kickoff, of course my quotation has to fit the category. And, it seems so: adventure! But, who is credited with these two quotes?  Hint:  Both have at least one name that begins with an A.  Both are famous.  One lived in the 20th century, the other some time before that. There could be other clues on this page. (You didn’t think I would give you an easy clue did you? Heck, you could just google it.)

And how many other words beginning with ‘A’, besides “adventure”, can you think of related to this post?

A discovery

Was this the cause of a disaster?

Or was the cause something else?

Be sure to check out other bloggers participating in Blogging from A to Z. Happy April.

My favorite April Fools’ Joke: A memorandum circulated from a grand pooh-bah, on Monday, March 30th. It read in total:

“Wednesday has been cancelled”

Writing Contest: Abandoned

What's my story?

The talented and imaginative Gabriel (aka Dad Who Writes) gave me an idea when he commented on my Abandoned post.

Here are the rules:

1. Go read this post and Gabriel’s comment.

2. Create & submit one piece of original*, imaginative, writing (whatever you construe that to be**) based on these photos: Lost Car 1, Lost Car 2, Lost Car 3, Lost Car 4 or Lost Car 5

3. Maximum 1000 words in length. (Because, you know, “A picture is worth….“)
Note: No skill is needed for this, other than the ability to count to 1000. Or allow software to count for you. Or just estimate.

4. Post on your blog and include a link to this post no later than 11:59 pm (EST) Friday, Feb 17. That gives you about 346 hours (plus/minus a few extra minutes depending on when you read this) to get this done.

5. Add your link to the the link list below. Same deadline applies (11:59pm EST 17-Feb-12; or 4:59 GMT 18Feb-12 if that makes it easier for you!) ***

Be sure to link directly to the post, not your main blog page. This will make it easier for others to read your work.

6. Have fun!****

* Original means it’s your work! If you plagiarize, you’ll be banned.

** This can be poetry, fiction, drama, memoir (if you are the “owner” of said vehicle, or just want to pretend that you are).

*** This is my first time using one of this kind of link tool. If you are a user and have a better suggestion for next time I do this, please let me know. I picked this because it looked the simplest to use and it was the right price (free!) for my freshman effort at something like this.

**** If it isn’t fun, why are you doing this?

Judging: (because it is, after all, a contest)
1. All judging will be done by me. I reserve the right to get input from others in the case of a tie. These other(s) will be those who have not submitted a piece to be judged. They will also be those who I can impel to assist me, such as husband, son, or best friend. None of them blog.

2. All judging is final. At least it will be final once I publish the name of the winner. No telling how many times I may change my mind before the final decision. And by “no telling” I mean that I will NOT reveal how indecisive I may or may not be. See #1 with regards to any “tie”.

3. I will announce the winner around Feb. 24. If there will be a delay in announcing, I’ll post revised date. (See #1 w/r/t ties.)

Prizes: (Keep in mind that I’m an unemployed and struggling writer…)
1. The honor of winning the first ever Four Deer Oak writing contest.

2. A shout-out here about how great your story is and a link to your blog.

3. A print of one of the Lost Car photos (may substitute a print of any other photograph on this blog to which I own the copyright).

4. An awesome certificate indicating that you are the winner!

5. One book of your choice valued at no more than $15.00. If you live outside of N. America, and shipping is an issue, we’ll work something out.)

Crossing Two Things Off the List

I don’t think of myself as much of an adventurer, but I like broadening my horizons. I’ve traveled a bit off the beaten path and seen and done some things that may not be on everybody’s itinerary. I’d like to think of myself as, if not quite fearless, at least someone who is not easily daunted. At least if I act like I am not afraid, I might appear less anxious than I actually am.

But, one thing that I don’t often do a good job of masking — and too often it has held me back — is my fear of heights. Several years ago I worked in an office on the fifth floor of a building. The main conference room looked out over an atrium. It was nearly impossible for me to concentrate if I sat facing the atrium unless the blinds were closed. To get to the window side of the conference table, I would walk sideways with my back to the windows. After a remodel, the main conference room was on the fourth floor, but still overlooking the atrium fountain. Since it didn’t seem as high, I wasn’t as bothered, though I still sat where I wouldn’t have to look out. That is, until I heard a news story that claimed that if you were on the 4th floor or above in a fire, you wouldn’t survive jumping out the window. Suddenly, it seemed as high as the fifth, or fiftieth, floor.

Years ago, I took my son to New York City. He wanted to go to the Empire State Building. I wasn’t happy about it, but he was too young to go on his own, and I didn’t want to seem like a fraidy cat. I held it together as we waited over an hour in line. I didn’t realize that once you made it up to the beginning of the line, it was only to get on the elevator. Another line awaited you on the Observation Floor. Worse than the lengthy wait on the ground floor, this wait was along a wall of windows. Floor to ceiling windows. A bank of windows that made it seem as if nothing separated you from the sidewalk 86 floors below. I broke out in a sweat. At the end of the line they took a photograph. I never looked at ours; I’m sure that it told a story of a young boy eager to get out on the observation deck and his fearful mother looking about to find a trash can to heave into. He did coerce me on to the open air deck and it wasn’t so bad. Why not? Because there is a tall wall and an even taller fence between me and a freefall.

Sometimes, if sitting in a high balcony seat in a theatre, or near a window in a plane, I will suffer from vertigo, that spinning sensation that some people experience when looking down from on high. Driving over a bridge, if I’m in the right lane, will cause it too. Not one, but three different hospitals in my city have glass elevators that I prefer not to use, lest someone think that they need to direct me to Emergency, or more likely, the Psych Ward. Once I was going to participate in the Mackinac Bridge Walk to see if I could overcome this phobia. It started raining before we got to the start and our adventure was ditched: I was relieved.

So, given this, what would you think that I did today?

A beautiful day to sail over the Gulf of Mexico!

No anxiety at all! No concerns that I would fall into the water too far offshore to swim to safety. No thoughts about what would happen if the lines broke. (I realized after I was back on the boat that they didn’t cover this contingency before I was airborne.) I was at maximum height quickly and could see for miles over the Gulf of Mexico and over Estero Bay. I could clearly see the 7 miles of beach that I walked last week and grasp that it is nothing like a straight line from one end to the other. I realized how there are some very tall pines on the island that soar above the palm trees. I could see boats in the three marinas on the island and I could see just how many small, uninhabited islands there are in the estuary.

My only regrets were that I didn’t have a camera with me and that I couldn’t swivel around 365 degrees to see everything. The boat did a good job of changing directions so that I could see different perspectives, but I found myself twisting in the harness to look elsewhere. If I looked at the boat, it appeared to be traveling at a good clip, but it didn’t seem like that up in the air. It was quiet and peaceful and felt like what I imagine it might be like if we could glide like birds.

Would I do it again? You bet!

Epilogue: I spoke to my mom early this evening and told her that I went parasailing. Her response: “Oh, isn’t that fun? Your sister got me to do that about a dozen years ago!” For a moment, I felt a bit less adventurous. But only for a moment. It was fun & I had to overcome, at least temporarily, a deep seeded fear. Who knows? Maybe I’ll try skydiving in the future.

* Do something despite my acrophobia. CHECK
* Go parasailing. CHECK

It was a good day!


Between the 3 of us in this house, I think we have one flu bug. Ugh! But, this made me smile!

Some days are just like that!

Haven’t made out a New Year’s Resolution list yet — still have about 26 hours to do that — but I think finding something to laugh at each day should be high on everybody’s list.

Happy penultimate day of the year. Achoo!

Photo Friday: Glowing

When I read this week’s Photo Friday prompt, I immediately thought that I didn’t have anything that fit the prompt “GLOWING”. If that were really the case, I would not have spent the last two hours looking through folder after folder of pictures that I could have used. I finally settled on this one — over glowing sunsets or harbor mornings, over bright, sunlit clouds and bright lights of Big Cities reflected in building windows — because I like the way that the girl’s dress has the same colors as the light sculpture behind her and that both sets of colors are reflected in the water. I also chose it because I suspect that the children’s faces are glowing as well. Can’t you see that in this picture?

Glowing Feet; Glowing Faces

Taken May, 2010, Crown Fountain in Millennium Park, Chicago, Canon Rebel xSI, 1/400, f5.6, ISO 400

Books are not broccoli — and neither is this

Books ≠ Broccoli
— Bloglily

I love fresh vegetables. Broccoli isn’t my favorite cultivar of the Brassica Oleracea family — that would be Brussels Sprouts. Seriously. The award for most exotic I would give to Romamesco broccoli because its form is a fractal, which is way cool (and coolcool, and coolcoolcool, and self-similarly coolcoolcoolcoolcool…) and looks like it may have jumped off the page of a Dr. Suess book. Broccollini is less bitter, and bok choy has a delicate, sweet flavor. But, if you diss the humble broccoli, I will bristle. Why pick on broccoli? It’s good for you. And it doesn’t taste as bad as some people let on.

But, I didn’t bristle — sorry, broccoli — when I saw “Books ≠ Broccoli” on the nifty little booklet that arrived in the mail for BL’s Summer Reading program.

From the Lovely Bloglily, for her summer reading program.

There are no rules in her summer reading program. It may be good for you (like broccoli), but nobody is going to force you to do it. You don’t even have to fill out her booklet. Or read in the suggested categories.

Choose a category. Or not. Enjoy the fanfold paper.

You wouldn’t even have to, I suppose, use the bookmark, but why wouldn’t you?

No rules. Just right.

You can just use the sticky notes (mine were bright pink!) to mark you favorite places and pretend that someday, maybe when it’s raining and you’ve been taken away from your summering, you might blog about how wonderful a particular passage was. Or, you can just admire the pages, and the Asian motif.

It's good for you. And more fun than broccoli.

The whole point is to have fun. So in the spirit of fun-ness, I’m going to have a little summer writing program. Prizes to the best (as determined by the judge; all decisions are final) first sentence for a book that has this cover art.

What is the opening sentence for a book with this cover art?

No rules. No length requirement. No stylistic constraints. It can even be from a book that already exists — just be sure to give credit to the author whose work may win you a prize — and I won’t even argue that that would be a summer copying contest. (ohh! maybe there can be categories of prizes!). Leave your entry in the comments no later than July 20. And, remember: have fun!