Posted by Ellen

In the small but earnest world of competitive badminton, the Chicago Open is a big deal, a tournament sanctioned by the body that will select the Olympic badminton team. Some of us forget that badminton is an Olympic sport.

Katrin Maldre is new to the competitive version of the sport and feared she wasn't yet playing at the Chicago Open level, but she took first place yesterday at this year's tournament. There were four divisions, from A, the strongest, through D, the weakest, and Katrin won the D division. Still, she noted, "the picture says it all."

What helped her compensate for badminton inexperience was a lifetime of athletic engagement. At the age of six, she was selected for intensive sports training by the Soviet athletic academy, and as a teenager she joined Estonia's national table tennis team, which competed in all the Soviet Republics across Europe and Asia. In recent years, she's played tennis, skiied, dabbled in recreational soccer, even tried a little bit of mountain climbing.

"There's just something magic about sports events," she says. "Also, while I play I don't eat, I get a lot of exercise, and I don't say any bad words, so I improve myself. And maybe that helps to improve the world a little bit."

Posted by Ellen

The gardens at Ludwigsburg am Neckar, near Stuttgart, Germany, were laid out in the French parterre style beginning in the early eighteenth century. In the years since, they have been repeatedly dug up and replanted, according to the latest trends in grand gardening, and they have occasionally been allowed to lapse toward wilderness. The most recent renovation--a tiny corner of which is shown here--restores the gardens to their appearance circa 1800.

A duke named Ludwig started the gardens because the front yard of  his hunting lodge looked barren and boring. The lodge also went through cycles of renovation and disrepair, eventually becoming one of Germany's largest baroque palaces.

Posted by Ellen

The rocks are 400 million years old, give or take.

The photo is five years old.

The occasion was the birthday gathering on Peaks Island in Maine in honor of Bob Horowitz--my father, and the grandfather of these fellows--who was then 80 years old.

There's one obvious constant through all these years: some of us hominids are hard-wired to build forts and weapons and stuff out of rocks or whatever is close to hand.

Not as obvious, perhaps, but just as constant: some of us are hard-wired to knock down other people's forts and stuff. Hank recalls that he had to rebuild this whole structure all by himself. Had to.

My father will be 85 this next week. He's well beyond the stone age; most days, he aims for the Big Band era.

Left to right: Brothers Ted, Hank, Allen, and Joe Stein, with cousin Nick Horowitz.

Posted by Ellen

And many happy returns of the day.

Posted by Ellen

Family camping in 1891 was what it was--the striped skirts, the upside down teacups, and most notably, the tennis racket played as a guitar. "These people are related to me," observes West Coast painter Amy Crehore, who found the old snapshot in a box of old family treasures.

The woman making music on her tennis racket may be particularly closely related to Crehore, who often paints scenes in which women are playing ukeleles. Here is one of her recent works, "Monkey Love Song."

Posted by Ellen

At the Naval Academy, all the students, even the wrestlers, are required to attend all the home football games, They march in uniform from campus out to the stadium, where they parade onto the field by company and then march up into the stands, where they stand, literally, on their feet throughout the game. When Navy scores, plebes race down into the end zone and do pushups, one for each point scored.

But on parents' weekend, some of the students drift on out of the midshipmen's section of the stands to sit with their families like regular people--assuming that "regular people" is a fair term for lightweight wrestler Allen Stein and his good friend Mike Landis, the wrestling team's heavyweight. Mike was captain of his high school football team before limiting his energies to wrestling at the college level, but even without him in the lineup the Midshipmen did well last Saturday, beating Louisiana Tech 32-14.

In acknowledging the victory, the Academy superintendent awarded all the midshipmen an extra hour of liberty Saturday night, till 1 a.m. The wrestlers wasted that hour with the best of them.

Posted by Ellen

It's springtime in New Zealand,  time for the Stein sheep to get themselves sheared. Here, Moe is already nekkid, while Curly waits her turn. A., the family shepherdess, says she is "contemplating"  learning to spin the wool.

Posted by Ellen

I know nothing about this picture, except that photographer Geoff MacIntosh, of Calgary, Alberta, titled it "Grin."


Posted by Ellen

The Great Lakes are basically big puddles that filled with meltwater after the last Ice Age; to this day, almost all the rivers that feed the lakes come in from the north, where the glaciers used to be.

We could think of the Great Lakes as five bowls set on a staircase, each bowl brimming over and cascading down into the next. By the time the water slops over from the fourth bowl--Lake Erie--down to the last one--Lake Ontario--it's really spilling seriously, all fast and furious.  And so we have Niagara Falls: an entire Ice Age of fossil water, draining down through four Great Lakes and then crashing hard through a narrow little riverbed to splash into that one last lake and then the St. Lawrence River and finally the Atlantic Ocean.

When European explorers first glimpsed Niagara, its connection to the two huge lakes seemed obvious and dramatic. This 1837 bird's eye view puts Lake Erie at the top, the falls in the middle, and Lake Ontario at the bottom of the picture, collecting all that splashover from ten thousand years of melting ice.

Posted by Ellen

This picture must be ten or twelve years old now; Amelia Stein has grown up, finished high school and a year of college, and set out to begin her interior design studies at Parsons School of Art in New York City.

Once upon a time, the cost of living in some of the lower Manhattan neighborhoods not far from Parsons was so low that newly arrived immigrants moved into tenements there, straight off the boat. More recently, starving art students could still find affordable garrets in the vicinity. But nowadays, New York City is a tough place for students; Amelia was lucky enough to find a two-bedroom apartment to share . . . with five other girls. So far, she's loving it.