Saturday, July 26, 2008

Out of town power

It was a very nice Minnesota July day. I got it off to a early start with some tennis in Eagan at Marie Park. The ever changing cast of characters consisted of six older gentlemen, so I was enlisted to play a set of singles against Bryce, our visiting tennis magnate. He runs tennis camps and plays tennis in North Carolina most of the year, but it's nice to have him show up in the summer and to try to win a set or two off him. I was game, but he had a little too much consistency and some youth (?) on me, so he got me again. I think that since he's been here, and in perhaps ten or twelve sets, I own precisely one, and that in a close tie breaker. Nonetheless, I like giving it a try when I get a chance.

After the singles we played a couple of sets of doubles, one in which Bryce was my partner, and one where I tried to beat him in doubles again. It was a good morning, but in some senses frustrating. On the other hand, it was great to be outside, smacking tennis balls and appreciating my great, good fortune to be there.

The Prairie Princess is home again this weekend and we've been having some fun. We took in the movie, "Wall-E" yesterday. A good animated feature, but it's no "Pulp Fiction." She and Herb are off to a going away party this evening somewhere in Minneapolis.

The big bike race in France seems to have decided on a winner. The probable winner is a Spaniard who has not yet tested positive for performance enhancing drugs - Carlos Sastre. I hope he's clean.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Plants of the Week

This green looking veggie is a red pepper, but a red pepper in its green stage. It is growing in a pot in my back yard (MBY). It has a Latin name, capsicum annuum. It is a plant which is native to Mexico and northern South America and was carried to Europe in 1493, presumably by Chris Columbus. I'm waiting for this one to turn red to indicate that it is time to be feasted upon.

An interesting note: green peppers are unripe bell peppers, while the others are all ripe, with the color variation based on variety. Because they are unripe, green peppers are less sweet and slightly more bitter than yellow, orange, purple or red peppers.

This tomato plant is also in MBY. It is also a native of Mexico and South America and is a member of the night shade family. Tomatoes have the reputation of out producing the needs of single family growers. I have two plants and suspect that I may be eating more tomatoes than are really necessary. My Wilson tennis racket and hat for scale. My dad would only eat fried green tomatoes, because, he claimed, that he had eaten far too many of them as a child growing up in Wisconsin. I, for one, have not yet reached that stage of satiation. I have, however, indulged in frying and subsequently eating green tomatoes and have found them tasty enough to try again.

I had a day off from the tennis wars. It was cloudy and cool and probably would have been a fine day to crush some forehands. I did not. It was a day to lounge around a bit, mow the lawn, and solve one of those pesky New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles. The one I "solved" had a theme based on the sayings that can show up when one uses the famous "magic eight-ball" to tell one's fortune. One of the answers: "It is decidedly so." The question: "Are you made out of plastic?" The puzzle was a difficult challenge. It also required the name of a Theater of the Absurd pioneer (Eugene Ionesco) and several other arcane pieces of information.


Monday, July 21, 2008

A Visitor from the West

The Prairie Princess visited for the weekend, but has gone back to the prairie. She left last night after this festive night at Saji-Ya, a local Japanese eatery. We had some sushi and some of it had eel as its main ingredient, a type of sushi that both of these former residents of Japan seem to have great affection for. I had a piece or two, but mainly confined myself to the California rolls (crab and avocado). We also ate tempura and a tofu dish that Herb wanted to try out. There are no Japanese restaurants in Glyndon. PP took her bike back with her so that she can ride it to work. It fit nicely in the back seat/trunk of her auto with its front wheel lying silently beside the bike body.

It was back to tennis outside tonight at Marie Park for me. Nothing extraordinary occurred, but we managed to play three sets on one of the best nights of this July. As someone from Minnesota once said, there are a lot of nice days in July.

The Tour de France is beginning to get interesting. It's very close among the top five or six in the general classification (the competition for the yellow jersey), and they haven't uncovered any dopers for a couple of days. They are riding in the Alps tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Crosby Fen

It was a beautiful day, but also a rest day from the tennis wars. I decided to check out the native grass plantings at Crosby Farm down by the Mississippi. The areas that have the new plants are doing well and not so nearly browned out as the massive lawns that they mow each summer. They have put up some signs so that it is possible to determine the names of the native plants. Back in May, Herb and PP participated in plantings and it looks like the plants are thriving. While I was in the area, I hiked around one of the lakes (actually more of a bog (fen?)) - it may be Crosby Lake, I'm not sure - and took this picture to prove that I had been there. It was a nice walk, solitary and refreshing, and the biting insects were quite sparse yet this summer.

After a stop at the Farmer's market, I got home in time to catch PP's phone call from Glyndon. She decided that it is more fun in St Paul on the weekends than in the prairie, so she drove home to visit. She made dinner before she went off to visit her baby cousin. It's some tofu, veggies, and Mu Shu Hoisin sauce. I made a salad from my purchases earlier in the day at the Farmer's Market by St Luke's church on Summit. The veggies are plentiful now - tomatoes, cukes, green beans, potatoes, zukes, onions - all the standbys, and all grown locally with no pesticides. The tomatoes were superb.

The weekend promises to be a fine one weather wise.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mad Dogs

Another photo of a tiger lily in MBY. I'll try to get more variety in my pics later in the week, but it has been hot and after I watered the plants, it was tempting to try to catch the beaded water on the blooms. Voila.

It was 90 degrees when I ventured over to the University of Minnesota to play USTA Super Senior tennis. For a while we thought that we'd be playing inside Ryder Arena on the courts there, but we had some mix-up in schedules and we ended up playing on courts 15, 16, and 17 outside. That is one huge complex of tennis courts. I had the same partner as I had last week, Dean, and the result was slightly better than last week, but we fell 4-6, 3-6 to some other geezers. We had our chances but let them get away. There was a significant wind, but not so bad that it couldn't be handled, and heat and humidity. My car thermometer on the way home screamed 89.

I talked to the players on our team after the matches to see how old they are. I'm used to being one of the old guys when I'm smacking the tennis balls, but I thought I might be younger that some of the geezer looking guys on this team. It turns out that I was the senior guy on the courts by about 7 months. And the other 65 year old and I were playing the number one doubles match. So I shouldn't care too much about the result. It was nice to play, hit some decent shots and come out whole on the far side.

There was news that the price of a barrel of oil is down about ten bucks from the peak last week. I wonder if that will hold.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beware the Ides of July

It was 92 degrees when I showed up at Sibley High School to play tennis. It was hot and humid, but at least the wind velocity was negligible. I had plenty of water - two water bottles, one icy cold and the other as reserve. We played three sets and the points were mostly pretty good - a lot of running and lobbing and angle volleys. The scores were 6-2, 6-3, 2-6. We were running out of gas at the end, but it was a satisfying night on the courts. I used most of the water. I've been re-hydrating ever since I got back home.

It was confirmed today that Jesse Ventura is not running for the seat as Minnesota's junior Senator. He could have spiced up the race quite a bit and maybe would have "shocked the world" but it turns out he has a thin skin when it comes to criticism from the news media and decided to continue living the good life. So it goes.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Wind Continues to Blow

Nobody is very happy when the wind is gusting to 30 mph, not even Herb.

I tried to play some tennis this morning at the courts at the MLK Recreation Center just north of Selby. It was very windy and not much fun. Shots that were meant to be forehands blew over to the backhand side and forced mucho concentration to hit squarely. That added up to too much stress and we bagged it after about ten minutes.

Other than the wind, it was a nice day. I spent some time doing the Sunday crossword puzzles from the Strib in MBY on the patio, while the wind whistled wordlessly by. Success was mine.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


The photo of the day is one of the prairie flowers planted by the Prairie Princess in my back yard (MBY). I think of it as a cone flower or perhaps a black-eyed susan. Perhaps someone will set me straight.

It was a strange day of tennis. It rained last night, and there was a fair chance that the courts would be puddled this morning at the appointed hour of competition, 8:30 am. I went to the courts early with my barn broom to sweep the courts and found Curt had beat me there by two hours, had swept both courts and was warming up with his cousin. Curt is a fine gentleman in my book.

There were eight players for the two courts at Marie. My tennis play was pretty good in warm-ups and the first set of doubles, but the second set went badly and by the third I was well south of the zone. I realized again that a decent breakfast and a cup of tea before the court action makes the day go easier. It also helps if the wind stays away. We finished the third set with a tie breaker and I was happy to get off the courts. The wind was beginning to blow in earnest by then.

Herb biked to Lake Phalen this afternoon to take in an Asian festival with some friends. He remarked that on the ride down wind to the park he felt very strong and was able to maintain a speed in the 24 mph territory, but his trip home was a more tortuous 9 mph going into the wind. It was a windy day.

The Prairie Princess called tonight and reports that a long weekend trip to the blueberry fields is unlikely to work with her schedule this summer, but we agreed to try to do the trek later in the year, after the environmental work finishes for the year. She is doing well and learning a lot about prairie plants and how to save the planet. She sends her regrets to the SLOs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Super Seniors Tennis

Our Super Seniors men's team had its first match of the season, last night indoor at White Bear tennis club (now a Lifetime Fitness club). To play in this league you must be at least 60 by the end of 2008, and have a USTA rating of 4.0 or lower. There are five teams in the league, which covers the metropolitan area. Each match is composed of three doubles matches and the winner is whoever wins the most of these three competitions. I played the number one doubles with a guy I'd not played with before against two guys that I know pretty well and who are both very good doubles players. We had a long match, considering the score. We extended several games to multiple ads, but won few of them. My team lost 6-1, 6-3, as bad a score for me in quite a while, but I felt pretty good about the level of competitiveness. Our team's other two duets lost by similar scores. And the White Bear team members are good hosts. They brought beer, soda, chips, and some home made bean and cheese chip dip that was quite good. They shared the largess and were quite convivial.

These are the courts at Sibley High School. I played mixed doubles there Tuesday night.

We had a big rain storm roll through this afternoon and refreshed the gardens and maybe saved some of the St Paul park trees that have been sorely neglected by the city forestry department.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cool Water

It was windy today. Usually wind is not a big deterrent to tennis, but when it gets up to about 20 miles an hour, it radically affects almost all areas of the game. Overheads are an adventure. Lobs float long on one side of the net and hang up for easy smashes on the other side. Serving is full of suspense. I played mixed doubles tonight in the wind, on the top of a hill that is unshielded from the gusts. at Sibley High School. We split sets and I quit early to get away from the wind.

This is a photo from before I played while I was still feeling rambunctious.

We had some rain last night to freshen up the vegetation, but the Linwood trees are still parched, yearning for cool, clear water. Which reminds me of this song from my childhood:

"Don't you listen to him, Dan. He's a devil not a man and he spreads the burning sand with water; cool, clear water." "Cool Water" by Eddy Arnold.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Herb and the Prairie Princess

I watched way more TV than usual today. I watched the entire Wimbledon singles final on NBC. Rafa Nadal edged Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 in the longest final in Wimby history. It was a great match, but it used up most of the day. It's been a good year for Spain. The soccer team won the Euro 2008 tournament a week or so ago, and now Rafa is the second Spaniard to win the singles title in the history of the tournament.

This is a photo from two days ago at the races. It's the last good photo of Herb and PP before PP went back to Glyndon to continue saving the planet and especially the part that has prairie on it. In the photo Herb is hawking Grey Poupon in a humorous way.

It was a warm and humid day and I took a day off from my own tennis wars. My exercise was limited to a walk to Linwood Park with PP to check out the prairie plant garden there, and to water some of the young trees that are dying of thirst. There may be some rain coming overnight or tomorrow, but the city is currently pretty dry.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Tigers Return

This year's crop of tiger lilies have emerged from buds. They are later than last year by a couple of weeks, but still welcome. This fellow lives in my backyard, along with other assorted plants, including quite a number that PP guarantees to be native to this area.

I was committed to Saturday tennis, so I was unable to view the women's championship match from Wimbledon. Venus beat Serena and won her third Wimby title in four years (just as I predicted about a week and a half ago). I hear that it was a fairly serious match, and both were attempting to win. Later in the day they combined to win the women's doubles championship. Tomorrow morning is breakfast at Wimbledon wherein Nadal and Federer try to beat each other for the title that Roger owns. I still like the Spaniard.

My own tennis was pretty good. We had early morning courts at Sibley High School. The first set went to 7-5 and then the wind came up. We had six of the game's elder statesmen in attendance, so I also played most of a set of singles tennis. It was enough tennis for a windy Saturday in July and we scheduled another session for Monday evening and went home to check on Venus and Serena.

Herb and I are engaging in guerrilla gardening at Linwood Park. We have decided to water some of their (our) trees and see if we can get them through the current dry spell. Some of the smaller, recently planted trees are starting to wilt and appear to need some water. Since the city has no obvious plans to save the trees that they planted last year, it seems fitting that some citizens take action. Besides it gets me out of the house and to the park, where the prairie garden was planted last year.

I understand a bike race has broken out in France. Fancy that.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

A group of us went to the horse track to watch the ponies for the day. It has become a kind of tradition. We bet on the ponies, ate free hot dogs, watched a hot dog eating contest (Gus won again, but I think he cheated a bit), and witnessed the wiener dog race. I managed to lose about eight dollars for the day. The photo contains most of the usual suspects.

This horse cost me money. His name is City Boy and I bet money on him to win or place and he came in third. Herb liked his looks and some other members of the party considered him a pretty good risk. He's a pretty horse, but not quite fast enough.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I was at Linwood Park and noticed the trees that they so meticulously planted at taxpayer expense in the last couple of years. They must have some flaw in their plan, in that, when the summers are dry, they don't water the trees and thus have to replace them the next year. You'd think that the park board could send some interns out and splash some water on the expensive trees and keep them alive through the droughts. That's just my opinion and I could be wrong.

These are recently planted trees on park land. Only one is completely stone dead.

Enough ranting. It was a beautiful day, about eighty degrees, and I played some tennis again today. There was wind, but we played on the sheltered courts at Marie and it went pretty well. The evening mellowed into a sweet twilight and a very beautiful pastel sky at sunset. One of the top ten days of the year without much doubt.

The Prairie Princess will be driving home tomorrow for the Independence Day holiday. The weather creatures are predicting pleasant weather for the weekend.

Wimby is down to semifinal action. The men played today. Federer and Nadal are still in the action and are likely to meet for the championship this weekend. I hate to pick against the five time defending champion, but I still like Raffy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No Theme

I was able to find a sign for theme day on the tennis court on St Clair Avenue. It's a tennis court that needs some maintenance work, but it gets quite a bit of play. Over the years there seems to have been competition for the smooth asphalt that make up the tennis courts. Thus the series of "no"'s. My tennis rackets for scale.

It was windy by the time I arrived at the place for Tuesday tennis - Sibley High School. There were wind gusts to 20 miles per hour. That added a bit of complexity to the game, but it was warm - nearly 90 - and we played three sets. The competition was mixed doubles and the hard core girls were there to win. 3-6, 2-6, 6-1 were the scores.

Wimbledon continued today featuring the ladies quarter finals. At the end of the day, there are four women left in the tournament - two of them happen to be Venus and Serena Williams in opposite brackets. There is a very good chance that they'll play each other for the trophy on Saturday. I still like Venus. Tomorrow's matches feature the men's quarters.

It must be nearly time for the bike tour of France to begin. I understand they changed some of the rules for this year to cut down on the excitement. No bonus points?