CSI: Wisconsin

I was on the phone with my mother a few weeks ago when suddenly my dad picked up the line. Since my father doesn’t typically practice the art of telecommunications, I knew something serious must have been going on for him to grab the phone.

“Jen, it’s your dad.”

“Hey, pops.”

“Hey. Next time you come home, I need you to do something.”

“Sure. What is it?”

“Your mother found some bones in a pile of owl puke and we need you to help us identify the skull.”

And here’s where I sometimes wonder if my family is not like typical families, because nothing in my dad’s statement sounded unusual to me. Not the fact that my mother can identify owl puke, nor the idea that she would dig through avian vomit to discover its hidden contents, nor the fact that my parents would save an assortment of animal bones for me to examine. Shouldn’t that seem unusual? I feel like it should.

In any case, I was thrilled at the idea of trying to recreate the crime scene, and in preparation, started studying up on the diet of the Great Horned Owl. The next time I stopped by my parents’ house, I barely got in my “hellos” before inquiring after the mystery skeleton.

It was even better than I had imagined.




My parents were pretty certain that these were the remains of an unfortunate blind mole rat, and when I saw the pictures online, it seemed a plausible theory. But as I’ve done a bit more research, it would appear that blind mole rats are only found in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

So this can only mean one of three things:

1. Blind mole rats have learned how to build crude ships, and have crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
2. Great Horned Owls can fly to Africa and back before puking up their meals.
3. This is not a blind mole rat.

So I leave it up to you, internets. We are greater than the sum of our parts, my friends, so I know that collectively we’ll be able to answer the burning question, “Hey skeleton! Is you is, or is you ain’t my blind mole rat?”

PS – If you ever want to give the gift of puke, I highly recommend this kit. It was a huge hit with my nephews a few years ago. Never before have I wanted to take back a gift as much as I did that one.

It’s so nice to be understood. More photos of owl puke treasures can be found in Brandon’s Flickr stream.

Mystery #7 Revealed

Well, once again, it turns out I can’t fool this crowd. There was only one photo that no one got. If you want one last chance to make your guesses, read the post below this before clicking on the extended entry.
Nice work, folks! I thought these were some pretty obscure ones, but as usual, you continue to impress me with your mad photo figurin’ skills.


Mystery Photo Quiz #7

Has it been a while? It seems like it has. No? I think it has. Well, even if it hasn’t, here it is – the latest Mystery Photo Quiz!
This will be a test of your willpower – try your best to guess the answers without reading the rest of the comments. It’s nearly irresistible, I know, but do your best. I have faith in you.
Good luck!

The Big Reveal

You know how on America’s Next Top Model, every season the judges say that, “This was our toughest decision ever,” right before they announce the final winner? Well, I really did think that this was the toughest mystery photo quiz ever, and once again, I was amazed that so many of you got them right! There was only one that no one guessed (#7), but if anyone had gotten it correct, I would have worried that you were spying on me, because it was just that impossible.
And now, all shall be revealed:


Mystery Photo Quiz!

Based on the heated debate going on in the comments section of my last entry, I decided it was time to lighten the serious mood that has taken over here by posting another Mystery Photo Quiz. Plus, now that I’ve gotten you all completely hooked on Flickr Top 100 Photos, I’m sure you don’t even care about writing anymore. You don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you recoil from sunlight. All you think about now is where your next picture fix will come from. It’s just like Panic in Needle Park, but without all the veins.
And besides, it’s been a slow news week for me here in Chicago. I mean, after your teen idol comments on your site, is there really anything left to write about?
So effective immediately, this is becoming a photo-only blog. That is, of course, until I have taken pictures of everything located within arm’s length of my computer. Then I guess I’ll have no choice but to do some more stupid writing.
Anyway, if you’re new to the Mystery Photo Quiz, here’s how it works: I post a bunch of pictures, some of which I think will be easy to guess, and some I think will totally stump everyone. Then, within two minutes of posting this, at least four people will have accurately guessed 90% of the photos. Next, I will post the answers later in the week, which is pretty much pointless since everyone already guessed them two days earlier. And finally, I will once again swear that this will be my last photo quiz, because I apparently keep making them too easy.
Now that I’ve explained the rules, let the guessing begin:
[click to enlarge]
Bonus TequilaCon Photo!

Mystery Solved!

Once again, I am amazed and impressed by what a perceptive bunch you are. I must admit to you that I am quite terrible at solving mystery photo quizzes myself, and get incredibly frustrated by them, so I appreciate that you all play along.
But even with all your group cleverness, there was still one lone photo that no one guessed correctly, although at least you were all consistent in your incorrect answer. This exhibits solidarity, team spirit and group-think that would have made Vince Lombardi prouder than his Packers ever did. A lone tear is running down my cheek right now.
So here they are – the results of the latest Mystery Photo Quiz – Superbowl Edition! (answers hidden below in case any of you want to make quick guesses)


Mystery Photo Quiz – Superbowl Edition!

Well, after my embarrassingly easy holiday-themed mystery photo quiz, I had considered throwing in the towel. I let all of you down, but most of all, I let myself down. I thought, maybe I’m just not cut out for the dog-eat-dog world of mystery photo quizzes. Maybe I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to succeed in that arena. But then I thought, is that what Vince Lombardi would say? Or would he tell me that I had the stick-to-it-iveness to take it all the way to the big dance?
Since Coach Lombardi is long dead, I guess I’ll never really know what he would have said to me, so I decided to look up some of the things he said to other people and just pretend that he was saying them to me:
“Lil Jenny, in great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”
“Lil Jenny, it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
“Lil Jenny, teamwork is what the Green Bay Packers were all about. They didn’t do it for individual glory. They did it because they loved one another…”
It was really that last one that got me. It was like he was talking right to me! I mean, I’m not doing these photo quizzes for individual glory – I’m doing them because I love you! I love you as much as a bunch of sweaty hulking men wearing face paint and giant shoulder pads have ever loved each other.
And so now, I’m just gonna grab my helmet, brush off my short little pants, get back over there to huddle up and scrimmage out of the pocket with an audible and some play action fakes.
Hut One!
Hut Two!
Hut Three!
Hut Four!
Hut Five!
Hut Six!

Mystery Photo Quiz #4

“Anyway, that’s seriously the last time I’m going out with them. It just always gets out of control. So, what are you up to tonight?”
“Uh, I don’t know. I think I’m going to work on a mystery photo quiz for tomorrow.”
“Cool. What’s this one about?”
“If I told you, it wouldn’t be a mystery now, would it? Don’t worry though, it’s gonna be a really easy one.”
“Yeah, you’ll figure them all out in no time.”
“See, Jen, I hate when you say that, because it’s like I can’t win. If I guess them all, it’s only because they’re easy. And if I don’t get them right, it’s like you think I’m dumb.”
“No, but… no. Of course I don’t. That’s not what I meant…”
“You just shouldn’t say anything about it. Now I don’t even want to guess.”
“But… no, I mean… it’s really not that easy. Some of them will be hard. I just… it always seems obvious when I take the pictures…”
“Yeah, well maybe I’ll start my own mystery photo quizzes and we’ll see how well you do.”
“Don’t be that way.”
“Yeah, not so fun being on the other side, is it?”
“No. It’s not fun at all. Mystery photo quizzes suck.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
So with that, I give you the most difficult mystery photo quiz in the entire universe. If you so much as get even one correct, you are smarter than 99.7% of the population. But really, I think I already knew that about you. Good luck!
If anyone guesses this one correctly, they can have my blog*
*By “have” my blog, I mean read it whenever they want, from the comfort of their own home.
OH WAIT! Just in case you guessed the Bonus Photo, you also have to get this one right. Then you can really have my blog**
**By “really have” my blog, I mean bookmark it as a favorite or add it to Bloglines.
SUPER DOUBLE BONUS QUESTION: What is the theme of these pictures? [Hint: it might not be as obvious as it initially seems. The eagle has landed. A red cow walks backwards in the moonlight. This blog will self destruct in thirty seconds.]


Funny thing happened to me on the way to the blog…
On Monday, I posted a seemingly random series of mystery photos, and amidst some of the most brilliantly creative responses I’ve received to date, there arose an unexpected theme:
I suppose if I were a cleverer woman, I might have intentionally constructed this theme in honor of Halloween. But I’m not. Sometimes interesting things happen in the most haphazard of ways. For some reason, the common thread linking these photos became fear, and this got me thinking. It’s almost Halloween, the time when people disguised themselves as the very things that frightened them the most in order to ward off evil spirits. So what is it that we are afraid of? What keeps us awake at night? The unknown. Beasts. Death. Words. Pain. The dark.
But are we born afraid? Is fear driven by nature or nurture, or a combination of both? My own personal fears cross the spectrum of rational to irrational. I worry about getting cancer, but then I also frequently imagine myself falling and smashing all my teeth out. I’m afraid of dying alone, and I also worry about being trapped underwater, maybe in a boat, or maybe in a swimming pool which has suddenly developed an impenetrable surface. Which of these fears is irrational? None of them? All of them?
I suppose that sometimes we’re just too close to what we think torments us to truly understand what we should really be afraid of. A friend and I were talking recently about self-awareness, and how we often feel that we are being overt in our intentions, when in reality they are too subtle for others to even notice. In an enclosed space, a voice always sounds much louder than it really is. Inside my head, everything is amplified.
Perhaps in order to demystify our fears, we just need the right combination of distance and perspective:
The unknown
The dark
Bonus Spooky Halloween Photos!

Mystery Photo Quiz #3

“Since when did your blog become a photoblog? Who do you think you are? Annie Liebowitz?”
“Does she have a blog?”
“I don’t know, but she’s the only photographer I could think of on the fly. Okay, how about this – who do you think you are, Ansel Adams?”
“I don’t think he has a blog either, because I’m pretty sure he’s dead. But since I paid half my rent for a new camera, I need to at least convince myself that this money was better spent on a digital camera than on my 401k. Plus, I guess I’m just feeling more visual than textual lately. You know? Sometimes it’s easier to express yourself in images than in words.”
“I totally know what you mean.”
”You do?”
“No. I just want you to stop talking.”
Okay, so with that, I give you Mystery Photo Quiz #3! Anyone who can guess all of these correctly will win something very, very special: two gently used Siamese cats, litter box trained, and fixed. They both have working claws and teeth, as evidenced by the enormous hole in the back of the shirt I was planning on ironing for work tomorrow, and the half-eaten shoelaces in my new running shoes. Actually, if you even get one answer right, your name will be entered into a sweepstakes to win these two delightful cats (not valid in Maine and Rhode Island, or wherever prohibited). Good luck!