Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cruelty Ends

"April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain." -T.S. Eliot. "The Wasteland"

One of the older gentlemen that I play tennis with is a retired American Literature professor from North Dakota State University (or whatever institute of higher learning is in Fargo). Last week, when it snowed and acted like it was about to become blizzard, I repeated the "cruelest month" line as we were beginning a session of indoor tennis. Tonight after three sets outside in almost ideal weather (except for some unwelcome wind), he presented me a copy of the first page of TSE's epic poem. It's a poem he taught and has a special affinity for. I keyed in the lines for the poetry lovers out there. My gang of geezers contains some members of the literati. And a stock broker.

We move on to May and the promise of warmth and active days of summer life.

One of yesterday's photos (below) was of part of the St Paul Cathedral with U.S. and Minnesota flags flapping in the breeze. Church and state, if you will.

KS has been surveying the back yard and making plans to convert it to a native plant garden. Just hearing her plans makes my back ache. I'm hoping that the labor for her project comes from laborers below the age when Social Security checks are an option. A fervent hope.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Biking Breaks Out

Having a day off from tennis, I decided to get in my first day of biking in April. I pumped up my tires and the tires of KS's Bianchi and set off. Once around the block convinced me that my odometer/speedometer was set wrong (and that I needed another layer of clothes). I found the directions for the computer and punched in the right tire size, grabbed a jacket and set off to see if I could meet my April mileage goal (get into double figures). The photo is at the far end of my ride, at the St Paul Cathedral and takes in the long view of the Minnesota Capitol, where the legislature is in session. " No man nor his money are safe while the legislature is in session." Some Wise Fellow. I have another day to up my mileage to something more respectable, too.

It is flat tire season in Minnesota. KS took her bike to go over to Macalester to help burn the prairie grass there. She had been gone for ten minutes when she called from the Sinclair station on Grand and Hamline with bad news. The recently reinflated rear tire had gone flat and she was late for the burning. I drove over to rescue her and the Bianchi and get her to the fires. The rear tire was indeed flat. Very flat. She had to arrive at the burning in a Toyota rather than on her more greenish bicycle, but otherwise all appears well.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Life is a little more normal today. The weather is not normal, but it is Minnesota and one must take that into consideration. Below are the younger generation gooning around in the living room, mugging for the camera, and generally being themselves.

I played some tennis tonight and it was inside the Wooddale Tennis Center. Usually we would be outside by now, but we've pushed it back to Wednesday now.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Home Girl

After a very nice day to welcome KS home, we have fallen into a weather funk. We have been able to do some essential errands - renewing driver's license, etc. - and now we have to endure April's last practical jokes. The TV weather creatures are predicting some snow for tonight. I can hardly wait.

The onset of my personal bike season has been postponed again. At least I have had one session of outdoor tennis this month. Soon the USTA season begins and it'll be mainly played in the great outdoors. I'm playing on two teams in the summer session - the mixed doubles team and the Super Senior men's league. I think that I'll be able to handle the physical demands of the schedule.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

At the Airport

The Kagami Sensei has returned. The photo below shows most of the welcoming party at something after midnight last night. I was there as photographer and greeter, too.

It was a great day weatherwise in the Saintly City to welcome the traveler back to the US of A. There was no time for tennis, but we strolled the neighborhood, looking for changes, enjoying the weather, and talking about the trip to India. The details of her trip belong to her and will likely be visited some on her Xanga blog. She also has photos to share, and some jet lag to overcome. It's good to have her home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Waiting for the Flower

The crocuses are still blooming on a fine spring day in Minnesota, while I wait for the arrival of the traveler.

She just called from Chi-town. She's on a flight - UA463 - arriving tonight at about midnight. The flight had been delayed 45 minutes, long enough for her to get in, through customs, and get a ticket change. I'm off to the airport with Unky Herb. Yay!!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Maple Leaf Buds

The sugar maple in my backyard is sprouting these bud like structures that will soon become leaves. A horde of insects were milling about, too, but they didn't stray into the frame. These beauties are a sure sign of spring.

It was a busy day today. I actually raked some leaves and toted them off to the leaf recycling center on Pleasant Avenue. The temperature rose to 77, I think the first day in the 70's for the year. I was able to actually raise a sweat while rearranging the leaves. A first for the great outdoors this year. And tonight there is the sound of thunder in the air - our first thunderstorm of the spring.

I played tennis at Wooddale again tonight at 6:30. It was a good group and all were sufficiently motivated to make for some memorable points. We finished two sets, 6-4, 7-6, and no blood was spilled. We were visited by the hardcore Jerry, who usually plays on Monday, but took a breather tonight. He'll back in action on Thursday, he assures me.

There are only 36 hours until the anticipated return stateside of the former English teacher and part time traveler. We are hoping for good weather and smooth flying for the soon to be jet lagged KS.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First Outdoor Singles of the Spring

It was a nice day, nice enough for the first outdoors tennis.   Rich is in town and wanted to play singles so we found this court in Mendota Heights and played for a while.  There was some wind, and the sun was shining into the eyes of the server on the north end of the court, but the sky was blue, and a long ways up there.  Lobbing is a different experience outside, and so are overhead smashes.

We played about an hour of tennis before my calf cramped up (again) and we quit.  I was reminded that singles is a more physical game and requires a different level of fitness.  And a few more ibuprofen as preventative.  It was nice to be outside on a day like today.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Old Stuff

There was decent geezer tennis this morning inside at Wooddale. I talked to Rich Stebbins today and my first outside tennis in Minnesota for 2008 is scheduled for tomorrow with him. I played six sets of outdoor tennis in January in Florida on clay courts, so it's not the first time in the elements for the year, but it has been eagerly anticipated. Tomorrow is predicted to warm into the 60's.

The longest lived woman in my ancestry was Jacobine Petrine Sørensdtr Hansen, my great-grandmother. She was born January 22, 1864, to Søren Jørgensen and Anne Petrine Jacobsdtr at Faksfjord farm, near Magisaas in Norway. She died February 1, 1952 at Yellow Lake, Wisconsin at age 88. I am gladdened to report that there have been a few long livers in my family. :-)

She was born before automobiles and lived into the atomic age. Abe Lincoln was President when she was born and she died in the last year of Harry Truman's administration.

There are just four days until the scheduled re-arrival of Kagami Sensei on these shores. She carries some of Jacobine's DNA; both were long distance travelers. Jakobine liked her fish cooked, while KS has been known to take hers raw.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


It was not a very pretty day, cloudy and not very warm. In need of bright colors again (because I had no new news about the return of the traveling Japanese speaker) I took a trip to the Como Conservatory to look for flowers. The spring show was in full flower (and the stinking corpse flower was nowhere to be seen or scented), especially the blue hydrangeas.

When I arrived home I found that KS had blogged on xanga and left information about her impending arrival in the Twin Cities. She furnished only a date and time without an airline name or flight number, but enough to improve the mood of the ancient tennis ball striker. April 23, early in the day, 8:16 am. Yay!

I played mixed doubles with the hardcore crew at Wooddale tonight. Even Jerry was able to play, and actually quite well. His doctors have given him a hiatus from his treatments and he came out to play. It was good to see him and tan his churlish old hide. He wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Crocus Among Us

The crocus is the first flower to appear in Minnesota's spring, at least in my experience. These little beauties pushed through the maple leaves in my own backyard to greet a very nice day. I think tulips may be next on the agenda for spring.

It is warm, but the wind continues to blow at 15 miles an hour, gusting to 22 or so. I bought a new battery for my bicycle computer and reset all the variables. I have not yet tested the accuracy of the settings. I am off to indoor tennis with the older gentlemen. Another older gentleman, R. Stebbins, will be visiting from out of town this weekend and next week and will be testing my tennis fitness while we crush some forehands somewhere in the greater Twin Cities. It's been a couple of years since I have competed on the same court as RS, but for several years we played singles against each other twice a week. It'll be fun to revisit whatever is left of those competitive juices.

No word today from KS in India.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Finally. A clear sky and a temperature in the mid 60's. There was a slight problem with wind velocity (gusts in the 40mph range), so I didn't get on the bike, but I went in search of a place to hike out of the wind. I haven't circumnavigated Pike Island in a while, and it is at river level, below the bluffs, so I expected that the wind would be nullified somewhat. It was a nice walk in the woods, pretty solitary. I saw six other people on the island, slightly fewer than the herd of eight deer who stopped to stare at me. They were all does or very young males, I think. I captured their image without them bolting. I walked on and they continued grazing.

The hike took about two hours, because I parked at the top of the hill by Fort Snelling and walked down the steep hill to the park and island level. At the down river tip of the island, the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers merge to form Delta Airlines (oops, typo) rather, the greater Mississippi River. I self-photo-ed at the joining point. The two rivers are coming together behind me, like two large airlines.

Tennis last night. Three good sets, with the gang of geezers, 6-2, 6-1, 7-5, the first two much closer than the score.

There has been no recent contact with the Pster. She is likely somewhere near the Taj Mahal. I'm watching for the email announcing her flight back to the North. She is unlikely to get here before the snow is completely gone, but she is likely to beat the lilacs to the backyard.

Monday, April 14, 2008


It looks like we may have a spring this year. The temperature rose to about 55 and the sun was out. I took a hike down by the the big river, near Hidden Falls. The river is flowing freely and most of the piles of white snow have disappeared, even in the wooded areas. This tree, which has been gnarled by varying water levels, is on the St Paul side of the river, almost directly opposite the place where Minnehaha Creek empties into the Mississippi.

I'm off to Wooddale to play tennis with the gang of geezers. The indoor season is about to yield to the great outdoors on the tennis courts of St Paul. Tomorrow may kick off my biking season in Minnesota. I have some Florida miles on my legs from riding with the great flatlands rider in the very flat part of Port Charlotte. Life is good.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Toasted and Posted

The tax time scurry is pretty much over. The tax accounting has been posted, and I can relax until I get the mail from the IRS doubting my veracity and asking for explanations for my grandiose deductions. Let them eat cake.

Word from the English teacher now touring the subcontinent. She is flying to Delhi on Monday to visit a friend of a new friend in Shimla (or is it Shamli) and then a visit to Agra, where the Taj Mahal sits. I guess if you go to India, it is required that you go to The Taj Mahal. In any case, the odds are good that she will find a flight from Delhi to home sometime next week.

There was some tennis Saturday morning again. We are getting optimistic about outdoor tennis sometime soon. The courts are mostly snow free, but the temps are still too crisp for comfortable tennis ball smacking. The weather creatures are promising 60's next week, with a shot at 70, so we may be outside soon. I played with Hardcore Jerry on Thursday night in mixed doubles with the hardcore girls. Jerry has rigged up an old tool belt so that he can carry around his chemo pump while he plays tennis. It seems over the top to me, too, but he's an adult. It's an odd sound when the pump goes on during play. It sounds a lot like a camera shutter going off. He's in his third week of around the clock chemo next week. He played pretty well, too, but he's not quite at the top end of his game at the moment.

Herb is back from Chicago. He's currently working on Final Fantasy 12 in the living room. Man there's been a lot of those role playing fantasies.

Tommy's granddaughter, Kara, a senior in an Oregon high school, was here this weekend to visit St Olaf, where she plans to matriculate. She stayed here a couple of nights in transit, and I took her to the plane this afternoon. She's nice and also smart. The odd thing is that my mother is her great-grandmother. Maybe not odd, just disconcerting, or something. She liked St Olaf and says that she'll back in the fall to meet the rest of the family, again. I think the rest of the family will like her.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Twenty-five Today

There was a snowstorm on the weekend of April 10, 1983, too. This is one of the first photos of one Kagami Sensei. A quarter century old today. Whew. Happy Birthday.

Today she's in India, at a place called Auroville. She's traveling and volunteering, trying to make the world better. Soon, maybe next week, she'll take the 20 hour flight back to Minnesota. She'll miss the 25-year snow storm that is arriving this afternoon to commemorate her birthday. All ten inches of snow will likely melt by Tuesday.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Rainy Sunday

It rained most of the day. I wrestled with Form 1040 and the instructions and worksheets that go with it. It's a new tax situation this year for me. My status has changed to senior citizen and a fair chunk of money comes to me as Social Security income. My 15 year-old spread sheet again needed renovation. I learned that there is a 5% tax rate on long term capital gains for lower income filers. There is also a way for lower income filers with retirement plans to donate money to IRAs. These are both rarely used benefits, I suspect. Capitol gains and IRA money are a luxary to people who are spending $3.35 for a gallon of gas.

I also am in the sweet spot where I can both fund an IRA and withdraw money from it without penalty, as long as I have earned income. That sweet spot extends from age 59 and a half to 70 and a half.

I managed to wring a few extra dollars out of my new found knowledge, and now I can also wait for my $600 federal rebate check to arrive in May so that I can stimulate the economy.

And I improved this wasted photo taken last week. I made it into a vignetted photo to make it seem like I took it like this on purpose and that it is thus worthy of viewing. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Birthday Season

Unky Herb's birthday is today. Happy Birthday, Big Guy. I took his photo as he was about to take a bike ride on the nicest day of the year thus far. He's riding the old Schwinn which has been in the family for maybe 20 years, because the bike paths are dirty yet and there are still puddles as the big snow banks melt down. UH is 28.

It was a good day for Herb. His young sister, KS,, called from India to wish him a happy day. Unfortunately it was 6 am here when she called. Fortunately, I was able to get to the phone before the answering machine took over. Unfortunately, she has been ill lately where she is, in Auroville, but fortunately, she is better now. She is planning a few more side trips to points of interest in India with some people she met at Auroville, before flying home from New Delhi on about the 19th of the month.

I baked Adam's favorite cake for his birthday - Lillie's Red Devils Food cake. I did it as a layer cake and learned some things about layer cakes and frosting. Suffice it to say that the cake cracked down the middle shortly after it was frosted. That, however, did not affect it's taste and moist cake-like texture. I will include the recipe for this family heirloom at the end of the blog.

Tennis was on as usual this morning. The permanent time at Wooddale runs out in early May, and we'll be moving the action outside. Scores from today: 6-2, 6-3, 4-6 as I ran out of gas late.

The last photo shows what can go wrong when you use the self timer on a camera. The camera was aimed in the right direction, but it caught only half a Tousan. Some would say, the best half. I was standing on the beach at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. Nokomis was Hiawatha's grandmother.

From Lillie Anderson Miller (1913-1955)

Lillie's Red Devil's Food Cake

cream 1/2 cup butter
add 2 cup sugar
" 2 eggs - beat in well
" 1/2 cup sour milk
" 2 cup flour (measured before sifting)
Mix to paste: 2 heaping Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup hot water - add to batter
Add 1/2 cup hot water (making 1 cup in all) in which 1 teaspoon soda is added.
Add 1+ tsp vanilla.
Batter is thin, but that is as it should be. (Bake 40 min at 350 F.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Water - In the Powder Form

It snowed about six inches in St Paul, nine inches in surrounding suburbs, according to various weather sites. I took these pictures in the early morning before the strong April sun made the white stuff turn to water. That is warm sunshine, about the same strength as September 10.

Both of these photos were taken in my backyard. This is the fence between me and my neighbor.

The curling playdowns were tonight. We were in serious jeopardy of winning the game for a while. After six ends of an eight end game we were up 7-3. We were curling without Wireless, but the other members of the team were pretty much in the zone up until then. In the seventh end we gave up three points when a unlucky carom went astray. Then they scored two in the eighth end to win by one. I had the last stone and missed by a couple of inches on an attempt to get closer to the button than their last shot. So the season ends. Spring can now begin.

My favorite April Fool's Story for this year. The people who make "Butterfinger" candy bars put out a press release announcing that the 80 year old name of the candy was being changed to "The Finger." So, give someone you know "The Finger" for Valentine's Day.

Unky Herb had another bike ride in his parka this evening. The temp was 40 degrees by the thermometer in his green Corolla, but the sky was bright and the roads nearly clear of the snow that fell last night. It's time for biking to begin.

No organized athletics for me tomorrow. Maybe I'll find some low impact activity to get ready for my next tennis outing on Thursday. Napping, perhaps.