Some Local History

Today I was able to make a stop at a cook county park to see some local history I had not visited in a long time, but when I say local I only mean that it is located…. locally, (Ok there was a lot of locals in that one) but by no means did what’s buried here only have an impact on the Chicago area.

Chicago Pile 1 was the worlds first nuclear reactor, built in 1941 by Nobel Prize winner Enrico Fermi. The reactor was built under the university of chicago’s Stagg Field football stadium’s west viewing stands, and was the worlds first reactor to achieve criticality. It was originally created as part of the Allied effort to create atomic bombs during World War 2. The first man-made self sustaining nuclear chain reaction was initiated in CP (Chicago Pile) 1 on the second of December 1942. Enrico Fermi described it as “a crude pile of black bricks, and wood timbers”.

In 1943, CP-1 was dismantled and moved to what is now Red Gate Woods, and reconfigured to become Chicago Pile-2 or CP-2. The new reactor was about 25 feet tall and it had a base of about 30 feet square. It had 5 foot thick concrete walls that served as a radiation shield with 6 inches of led, and an additional 50 inches of wood added to that. The reactor contained 47tons of uranium, and had no cooling system. It became operational in March of 1943, and was operated until 1954. CP-3 was added in 1944, and is known to be the first heavy water reactor. 

In 1946 Red Gate Woods became the site for the original Argonne National Laboratory, and CP-2 and CP-3 operated for ten years before being shut doe on May 15th 1954. The remaining usable fuel was sent to the new Argonne Laboratory site in dupage county, and CP-2 and CP-3 were dismantled. The high level nuclear waste was sent to Tennessee for disposal, and the rest of the Piles were encased in concrete and buried in 40 foot deep trenches at what is now known as Site A/Plot M Disposal Site. The burial sites are marked by two commemorative boulders, and a marker describing the historical relevance of the site. 

At the site of the original CP-1 under the Stagg Field bleachers a plaque was commemorated on the second of December 1952 marking the tenth anniversary of CP-1 going critical. It was inscribed with the following:

On December 2, 1942 man achieved here the first self-sustaining chain reaction and thereby initiated the controlled release of nuclear energy.

That plaque and two newer ones along with a statue by Henery Moore still remain near the site now occupied by the Regenstein Library. 

The Atomic Age began at 3:25pm on December the 2nd in 1942, and as Samual K Allison said “the world would never be the same again”. What remain of the original Reactor that did actually change the world is buried some 40 feet below the surface at a relatively unknown site in western cook county’s Red Gate Woods. Maybe I’m just a super nerd but that is pretty amazing to me, and even more so that such historical sites are so seldom visited..


Do you ever think about the shit hitting the fan?

I realize it’s an odd title, but there is a point.

I love all this survival stuff. I love the blogs, the articles, the gear, the achronyms and all. My dad started it really. He always tried to have everything just in case, and usually had what was needed and then some. Fanny packs were popular at that time, although his was more of a camping waste pack, he never used it in the way you would a fanny pack.  He was like the original Dora the Exlorer though. Everything was in that bag, at least it seemed like it when I was a kid.

I would also classify my dad as a mild horder. I was not saved in any way from that condition, but my better half will not allow it to get to the level my father got to, thankfully. I do however have my obsessions, and trying to be prepared has become one of them. Thinking about being prepaired at least, from every day to long term disaster preparedness. You name it I have thought about it, and Sometimes at length.

The problem was always how to start “being prepared”. I knew the basics, the things I learned from spending weekends with my dad, and life in the military, but I wanted to do it my way. I figured I would lay out what I already had, and sort through what was useful and what was not. That thought process as usual sounded a lot easier then it turned out to be.  

A quick search on the Internet will point you in thousands of directions, and do nothing but add more confusion and even more options. More often then not you will be bombarded with people talking about bugging out, and bugging in, or getting home, and all the bags and gear that goes with all of that and then some. Starting out simple was turning out to be more complicated then it should be. So I had to simplify even more, and go as far as looking at what I have on me right now, and how do those items contribute to being prepared. 

The items I had in my pockets at the time I thought of that question were the ones I have basically carried every day of my life. 

  1. A pocket knife
  2. A wallet
Most every one of us carries a wallet in some form or another, and a good chunk of us probably carry some sort of pocket knife. These two items are nothing really special, and in most cases those of us that carry them take them both for granted. They both in reality are the core of most everyone’s every day carry (EDC) no matter how “prepared” you are trying to be, and I think it’s safe to say that either one of them is a huge contributer to being prepared. 
What does being prepared actually mean though? Being prepared for the end of the world? Or the zombie apocalypse? How about some sort of local major economic meltdown? Sure some of those may be actually possibilities, but the sort of prepared I wanted to look at first was every day life. Being prepared for what ever Murphy and his stupid laws can toss at us. So I came  to the conclusion that those two items, my pocket knife and my wallet were a good start but not enough by any means. 
The journey to my version of preparedness has started. 
A great site to look at and think about is

Fuji X-Pro2 and Flowers

I have been getting the evil eye from my better half when we see flowers starting to bloom. She wants them framed and on the wall to brighten up the house, but I never seem to get out and make it happen. Mostly I’m terrified to bring my two youngest anywhere near freshly bloomed flowers, and we are together all the time. The youngest likes to pick them, and his brother urges him to do it more, but even with our cray schedule I was able to make it happen today, and I am happy with the results. Its a start!

I don’t have a macro lens so I went with the telephoto concept. All of the pictures below are shot with a Fujifilm X-Pro2, and the lens of choice was the XF50-140 F2.8 R LM OIS WR

1/24o @ F5.6, 140mm, ISO 200
1/480 @ F5.6, 140mm, ISO 200
1/500 @ F5.6, 140mm, ISO 200
1/300 @ F2.8, 102.2mm, ISO 200
1/950 @ F4.5, 140mm, ISO 200
1/3500 @ F4.5, 140mm, ISO 200

The rest of the images from this trip can be found in my the created flowers gallery.


Insert cool, and interesting picture that will attract 1000s to my mindless ravings. 

“Most prolific photographers are usually people with bad memory.” – Susan Sontag

I read that quote earlier today, and I loved it. On the surface it felt like me. Merriam-Webster says prolific means someone who produces large amounts of something. 

I have shot well over 100,000 photos in the past 5 or so years. Maybe half for clients, and the rest for personal consumption.  Very few ever see the pixels on a screen again after their first review let alone a printer. I mean don’t we all want every single click of our shutters to create a masterpiece for the ages?How about a show of hands from all those that have achieved that goal. Realistically many of my pictures are simple but valuable family snapshots, and many more are trial and error that seem at the time to be a waste of energy. In reality isn’t it all part of learning to create better images? I guess as long as our save percentages increases we should be happy right? Again show of hands from those who are always happy with their photography. 

Sure we all love pressing that shutter release, but nothing is ever 100% enjoyable. Even the things we love have their frustrating moments right? I do love it though, and the successes outweigh the failures in pure pleasure. The moment your carefully crafted idea takes shape into a successful moment in time frozen the exact way you wanted it is blissful.

I’m drifting off the subject again. It’s what I do better then anything else, so back to the quote and me. 

So if my photography is prolific then how does my memory play into that? Many different things can be taken front that saying, and that depends on who is reading it. I first read it in a post on another Photography blog by David Gaberle titled “get it? forget it?“. The first thing that popped into my head was that all good photographers can’t remember anything, and I thought holy crap I have hope because I can’t remember shit! In reality the meaning of that quote probably leans more towards David Gaberle’s ideas, but it gave me hope and isn’t just a little hope all we need?

Day Trip To Starved Rock

Took a day trip to Starved Rock today, and didn’t stop to think that Memorial day weekend might not have been the best idea. Crowded wouldn’t be a good way to explain it, so we detoured a little bit.

Fuji X-T1 with XF24-70 f4

Although I love the valleys and waterfalls, I do not like the crowds. Cant get shots like that with the crowds we saw today.

So we figured North Utica would be fun, a small fair, and some historical locations.

This is what happens when I try and get a nice picture of the boys together. Impossible.

Found a little 1900s school house before the fateful picture attempt on the bridge. To young to understand how different things are from then.

Then off to a little patch of beach. Give the kid some dirt, and soon he is starting to get covered in it.

All in all a wonderful day, and a great place to visit. Have been going there for years, and I hope to keep going for many more years to come.

Graduation Time

My amazing step daughter finally made it out of the hell that was high school. Well it was hell for me, but she made it look easy!

Fuji X-T1 1/180 @ F5.6, ISO 200, XF10-24mm @ 24mm

The more I shoot with the Fuji line of cameras the more I love them. Is there better cameras out there? Sure there is, but as we all know its not all about the camera. I am gear head, and I suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), but that isn’t always a bad thing, at least not for me. 🙂