Friday, February 29, 2008

Last Day of Meteorological Winter?

In Minnesota, supposedly, the winter season is really December, January and February. That's what the weather guys are saying, so today, Leap Day, is the last day of winter. Yay. It snowed last night on my way to play tennis, and on the way home I was confronted with freezing rain. This morning, Herb and I shoveled the droppings off the sidewalks. As you can see, the winter has not yet loosened its grasp on my backyard. I wisely waited until today to shovel, so that the ice stuck to the top of the snow, rather than merging with the sidewalk. I have had some exercise already today.

The tennis was good last night. Jerry's sub, Pat, played well and the hardcore girls were at their usual steely best. Barb and I fell behind 4-1 in both of the finished sets, but rallied to win both 7-5, 6-4. The fragment set was 1-4, so you can see that we were consistently slow at getting into the set. Becky, who works at the hospital where Jerry is spending the week, reported that Jerry is doing very well. The pathology report showed no spread of the tumor to lymph nodes, so he is very relieved and pretty doggone happy. He's on his way home sometime today, although he has to get used to eating real food again, yet. I look forward to fighting off his driving, swinging forehand volleys soon. Maybe before the snow is completely gone.

I'm amusing myself by not shaving my geezer visage until spring arrives. In the interest of measurability, that means that the temperature in the Saintly City must remain above freezing for 48 consecutive hours. That's my own personal gauge. So far this season, that span has been far beyond our ability to attain. A shot of the current visage is included for scale.

I haven't reported from curling for the week. Wednesday night was a successful evening for the Miller Rink. The game was tied 6-6 after five ends, but we had the hammer, and thus curled last. We had some good shots from Wireless and Kurt, which left three counting stones in the house. We were able to guard them, with shots from Gino, and the game ended with their skip trying an impossible shot with the expected result. 9-6. The playoffs are starting in about three weeks. We have two more games before then, but we are not in danger of winning the league. Curling is a good diversion for the winter months, but winter is nearly over. See above.

I assume that there is a theme for the March first post. Since it is leap year, I hope that it has something to do with jumping. Otherwise, I have some more pictures of the beard.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Crest of the Wave

Monday night tennis was very good, close and reasonably high quality. Jerry wasn't able to play because he was in surgery. His wife called the club to tell us that he did well and the news is tentatively quite good. The bad stuff seems to be localized and was all removed. I'm going to visit him at Regions Hospital after he gets a little strength back.

I've fallen into the sudoku trap. I have been avoiding it to concentrate on uber-crossword puzzles. but after seeing how popular it has become, I tried a couple of newspaper puzzles and found that they can be solved. It's a new skill that I'll have to work on a while, but what the heck, I am retired and the ground is still frozen here on the tundra.

The political funny season is heating up. There are presidential primaries and the gloves are coming off as the contest is getting towards some sort of resolution. The contest features candidates that defy the main stereotypes of our time: racism, sexism, and ageism. The next president will set some sort of precedent. And in Minnesota, the legislature overrode a governor's veto for the first time in years and we're about to get an increase in the gasoline tax. With the way the gas price fluctuates, probably no one will be able to tell that an extra five cents per gallon is going towards fixing the roads and bridges, instead of to the oil market speculators and the middle easter oil barons. The price in Minnesota tonight for a gallon of gas ranges from $3.19 to $2.89. Another nickel is in the noise range - about one percent. Maybe we'll get through next summer without a major bridge collapse.

The springlike weather of the weekend has lapsed back to frozen, but tolerable. The photo is from the Como Conservatory from the weekend. I guess I like to take pictures of sculptures.

This bronze sculpture was created in 1925 as part of a water fountain by Harriet W. Frishmuth. She worked in the Beaux-Arts Style, a style characterized by a lively naturalism that reflected the optimism of the turn of the century.

In 1916, Frishmuth was introduced to Desha, a popular concert dancer. Desha became the model for many of Frishmuth's most successful sculptures. Frishmuth was known for decorative and useful objects, such as bookends and playful fountains. "Crest of the Wave" is considered one of Frishmuth's finest achievements.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Still February-ish

Unky Herb missed his New York trip, but still seems pretty happy. He was in the zoo when this was taken.

A flower from the floral gathering at the Conservatory. The light was good and I used the macro setting to capture this iris(?). Why can't anyone figure out how to record aromas for later play back? There is a fortune to whomever accomplishes the process.

Too much tennis in the last three days, so I'm taking tomorrow off. Seven sets in three days can cause aches and pains and occasionally injury. This morning at Wooddale the geezers played three sets. My scores 6-4, 3-6, 5-7 reflect some tired tennis on my part. It was Jerry's last tennis before his surgery, so we stayed around and chatted for a while. The other three guys - Bill, Bill, and Jerry - have had jobs in slaughter houses at one time or another in their pasts, mainly as summer jobs that encouraged them to return to college in the fall. They had some stories about their adventures and experiences gruesome enough to permanently curtail my ingestion of hot dogs and sausages. I'm getting pretty close to being a vegetarian. Although I like a good helping of feta grouper when it's available.

The temperature rose to a few feeble degrees above freezing today. Spring is threatening to make an appearance.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Flight Canceled

Unky Herb's trip to New York didn't happen. He went to the airport and tried to check in, but NWA had canceled his flight, along with about a thousand others, because of a big storm in the Empire State. They had no seats on other flights until Sunday, so he stayed home. It could have been worse. Without a nonstop flight people have ended up in strange cities, some times for several days. Herb was wise to book a nonstop, because he is often reminded of an ill fated trip to Norway, when we spent three days trying to get out of the USA, and wherein he wasn't reunited with his luggage until we arrived at home, two weeks later.

Since Herb was home for the day, we took a ride to Como to try to see the new male baby orangutan, newly named Jaya, who was born on December 13. Unhappily, Jaya was not seeing visitors today. I was, however, able to take some photos of the area around the zoo, including a view of the Conservatory with a lot of white snow still clinging to the earth.

We took the walk around the zoo, checked out the Tiger, Snow Leopard, Cougar, Polar Bears, Bison and some sort of wild sheep. And apes and monkeys. Momma Orang was there, along with some huge gorillas with interesting feeding tactics. They'll eat anything. And then we checked out the sunken garden for the variety of flowers. It never disappoints. There was a great aroma and a lot of very pretty flowers. I'm saving photos of them for later posting, when the snow stops being so white. That could be soon. The weather guys on TV are saying that we'll get some 30's by Sunday.

I played USTA mixed doubles tonight at Fort Snelling with a new partner. We played well enough the second set, getting to a tie breaker, and nearly got to a third set. 1-6, 6-7. This time the opposing guy was very strong and we had to play away from him and towards the woman. It almost worked, but the tiebreaker was 7-5. Hard core Jerry, our captain was there, and we were able to win the other two matches for him to win the team match 2-1. We played in the cold part of Fort Snelling Tennis facility. They claim to heat it, but you could have fooled me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Symbolic February

This sort of sums up my February - a little bit of Florida orange to brighten a Minnesota snowscape.

The hardcore girls and Jerry were on the tennis court again tonight. Jerry has a couple of more days before his surgery on Monday, so he took the opportunity to smack some tennis balls. He will be out of action for most of a month minimum, so he wanted to play. We split sets tonight 4-6, 7-6, and we all had a good time. Sometimes real life gets in the way of tennis, but we all hope for good results in the operating room. We have USTA mixed doubles tomorrow evening at Fort Snelling, and it's Jerry's team, but he'll be sitting it out.

KS, in our chat yesterday, described some the music in Japan that she's been drawn to. There is an old style of music called "enka" that is usually popular with the older generation, but KS has sung it in karaoke, and in Japanese, which surprises the Japanese around her. It would be like a Japanese person singing some old Frank Sinatra tunes, I suspect. A link to Enka says it all. She's coming home in April.

Unky Herb will be off for a side trip to New York City soon.   It's his first trip there.  He'll be attending a temple event and visiting a friend in the Big Apple.  He has shown no interest in looking up Dave Letterman or going to the Hello Deli.  The younger generation shows some promise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bone Chillin'

It just won't warm up here on the tundra. It was about ten below this morning, which was about 50 degrees colder than some places in the Yukon. Spring is coming, but is tardy. I took my camera to Minnehaha Falls and walked around looking for other adventurers. There were actually quite a few. I took a photo of the Hiawatha and Minnehaha statue from a vantage point that is not available in the summer - standing on the ice over Minnehaha Creek. The sky was very blue and very cold.

This photo is also from the park. It's of some of the dead flower stalks that are sticking up through the snow. They are part of the flower garden near where the benches are inscribed with the words to Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha." They looked coldly brave. I was less brave, spending about fifteen minutes touring the park before retreating to the warmth of my auto.

There was some chatting via internet with the young English teacher in Japan, Kagami Sensei, this morning. She is winding down her teaching responsibilities. Her last day on the job is March 24th, then she's off to an adventure in India before her long awaited return to the USA. She seems pretty organized, at least from this distance. She has had her shots and ordered up some of her tickets.

Tennis goes on as before. There was Monday night tennis ball smacking, and there will be more on Thursday.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dock Damage

It warmed up today to 37 degrees.  For this February, it's a heat wave.  The weather creatures promise more below zero cold by Tuesday, so I went to check out the lake at Como Park.  I haven't been there since sometime in January, maybe December, before my trip to Florida.  The frozen waters have done dire things to the dock by Como Pavilion.  The forces of freezing are pretty strong and unpredictable.  The remedy for a crushed dock is an orange warning sign.  See below.

I walked around the lake and crossed Lexington on the foot bridge to go visit the environs around the conservatory.  The area around the golf course was inundated by Sunday cross country skiers and snow shoers.   People with cabin fever were given a day off and many searched out the open stretches of snow on the golf course to get some exercise and exposure to dim sunlight.  The grip of winter is beginning to weaken, but it is not yet over.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Recreational outdoor ice

It is the middle of February and an outdoor ice rink is still flourishing at Linwood Park. There were no skaters on the ice when I took this shot, but they had just left the surface. The temperature soared to 35, the first trip above freezing this month. We are not in danger of losing recreational ice for a while yet.

This rink reminds me of the ice in Coleraine when I was a mere lad. There is home made ice surrounded by snow banks and an ice path to a warming shack. Unlike this ice, the Coleraine ice was frozen on top of two tennis courts across the street from Mullins' house. This ice was built over a soccer field, and sometimes baseball diamond. Recreational space.

The USTA mixed doubles match last night was close, but went against us. The team as a whole, however, won two matches to one. We had to recruit a new team member to fill in for Jerry, while he's out, and he was on a winning duo. Hardcore Barb and I lost 6-3, 6-4, done in by better pace and younger legs.

Saturday geezer tennis this morning featured a guest appearance from Curt, who has been wintering in Arkansas. He was in town for appointments and substituted for Jerry. The tennis was pretty good quality, considering the physical problems which have overtaken us this winter. Tennis Dennis was limping noticeably at the end and has begun to plan his hip replacement surgery, to take place in about six weeks. For an injured old guy, he still plays a cagey game of lob and volley doubles, and for about an hour can still run like a young fellow. We are actively scouting for replacement players to keep the tennis rolling along.

I made veggie burger chili tonight, using the recipe that includes cocoa and chili powder. That, a salad by Unky Herb, and the corn bread, fresh from the oven and covered with honey, made for a filling meal for a cold day in February, on the way towards spring.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Snow, then bitter cold

It snowed over night so the whiteness was refreshed and the landscapes became more scenic. This is the weather vane on top of my garage and the blue, blue sky in the background. The clear blue is a forewarning of the very cold (minus eight degrees) temperatures that are descending on the city. It's quite predictable in February in this state. A snowy day is almost always followed by extreme cold.

This is as close as I got to the local rabbit in my back yard today. His tracks are the only blemish on the fresh whiteness. I think this qualifies as wildlife on a day this cold.

There was tennis as usual at the indoor club. The hardcore girls were there, as was the hard core guy, Jerry, who played as usual while waiting for his surgery on the 18th. He played well, so did the girls. Barb and I eked out two sets and we're set now for our USTA mixed doubles match tomorrow night at the same venue.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

St Paul Curling Club

It's Wednesday night, my usual curling night. The early game tonight was close and almost resulted in a win by our team. We were awarded a two point handicap to start so that we could compete against quite a good team. After eight ends the score was tied 7-7 and in the extra end we came within a couple of inches of scoring the winning point, but had to settle for second. We curled as well as we have all year. The team - Chuck, me, Gino and John - at one time held a 7-3 lead, but weren't able to stay in front. The picture below is the curling club on Selby Avenue where we play our games and where I often eat dinner between games. There are eight sheets of ice where curling goes on continuously most nights of the week. Last year's national club champion teams for both men and women are teams that play out of this club. They are going to Japan for an international bonspiel (tournament) this week, I think. A special congratulations to one of my friends from Cray for being on the women's team. Nice job, Peggy, if you are reading this.

My furnace problem has been fixed. The temperature in the house reached 48 degrees early Monday morning before the arrival of the heating repair man. He replaced the pump and was on his way for something under $600. That is, of course, much cheaper than replacing the pipes, which sometimes happens in cold weather when they freeze and burst in the walls. The temperature outside the last morning was about 6 below zero, which is plenty cold enough to freeze water in or out of a pipe. What i mean to say is, it could have been much worse.

There will be tennis tomorrow, Friday and Saturday. The Friday match is USTA league play, but the other two are permanent times at Wooddale with the hardcore girls and the tennis playing geezers. Tomorrow I may even find something scenic to photograph and add to this blog. The St Paul landscapes are seeming pretty gray and blah, but a coating of fresh snow is expected overnight and that may make for scenic vistas.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Too Cold to Plow

It's a Sunday on which the temperature in the Saintly City stayed south of zero, with wind chill that kills. I stayed inside for most of the day, only venturing out for a trip to the corner mailbox to send bill payments, and to see how cold it was. It was so cold that I came inside and baked Lillie's Red Devils food cake to warm the kitchen and my soul. The old heating system blew out one of the radiator water pumps, so half the house is without fresh heat. The temperature inside has settled at 55. I'm throwing some money at the problem tomorrow. Herb built a fire in the fireplace and we're waiting out the 10 below that's coming tonight. It's like the cold nights on the Saw place near Midway.

So a picture of a hibiscus flower is displayed in the spirit of optimism. Ain't it purty?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Back to the Norm

The street where I live reflects nicely the current climate. There is no sign of global warming on this February weekend. The current outside temperature is minus five degrees Fahrenheit, on its way to something less.

My Saturday tennis group is having a tough time gaining a quorum this week. Besides the usual aches and pains of guys with old bones and artificial joints, there are vacations in progress to escape the cold, and some illness. I, myself, was not too disappointed by today's cancellations, because I'm trying to defeat a cold that somehow struck while I was in Florida, and accompanied me home. I was enough better to cook some of Tousan's fabled spaghetti sauce and paired it with Japanese soba noodles at the suggestion of Unky Herb. Adding one of Herb's famous salads and some Brussels Sprouts added color and nutrition to a cold day on the tundra. We ate well and eclectically.

Thursday's mixed doubles went well enough. We split sets and ran out of time before a winner could emerge. The hard core girls were there, but a sub played for Jerry. It was nice to be back on the blue hard courts at Wooddale, but I missed the orange orchards of Spring Hill.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Orange Bush

Minnesota has very few orange trees.   This one is small and resides near the tennis court that I spent 5 hours on last weekend.   This was taken after three sets of pretty good tennis with the coach.  

It is strange how fast one's reality can change.  I am now freshly back from curling in the Saintly City.  The temperature is 13 degrees and there was frost on my windshield that I had to scrape off before driving home.  

The curling session tonight went well enough.  We had two interesting games that were decided in the  last end on the last rock.   That's how curling is designed.  The last rock often decides the winner.   So I'm guessing that there is no indoor curling in Florida (none outdoors either) and no outdoors tennis in Minnesota this month.  February.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Spring Hill

This being a tennis blog, it is satisfying to once in a while report some tennis activity. I spent a couple of days in Spring Hill, visiting my high school tennis coach and playing some tennis. Paul lined up some good players and we played both mornings on a great clay court in Bob's orange orchard in his back yard. The players on Sunday appear in the photo - Lyle, Dan, Paul, and me. For a change, I was the youngest player on the court, but with Paul, the oldest, as my partner, the ages averaged out about even. The match went to two and a half hours and could have gone either way, but we got a late service break and held on to win, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. As Paul said, it's great to be able to play at this stage in life, but no matter what, it's always a little sweeter to win. It was a great group and I look forward to some more tennis ball snacking down the road sometime.

The Saturday tennis was also two hours plus and tested our ability to keep hitting winners. Many of the shots that I thought were winners came back across the net, needing further punctuation. That match, too, with two other opponents, was fun and quite competitive.

Paul was a great host and I got to tour the retirement village and tried out a few of the amenities. The billiard hall caught my attention and we spent an hour or so trying to sink some of those round pool balls. A good use of time.