Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of the Aughts

The last day of the year and it's a typical Minnesota December Day. My freezer in the kitchen is warmer than it is outside. When I went for a brisk walk to the near beer store and later to Linwood Park, the temperature was ten. The freezer is probably about thirty.

The sidewalks are icy and otherwise iffy. I wanted to see what the tennis courts at Linwood looked like in the snow. The gates are locked, but the nets are still up. I played a lot of tennis on these courts this past summer, but they are unplayable now. And will be for several more months.

I guess I managed to stay outside for most of an hour on my two hikes. I passed the ice rink at Linwood on my journey. There were no skaters in evidence and the ice hadn't been shoveled recently either. Maybe it's too cold to be outside today for most, but I remember that in the bygone days on the Range we'd skate outside in twenty below weather, stopping now and then to visit the warming shack. It was doable then and still is. The rink is a serene view on this last day of 2009.

It's the eve of a new year and there will be some snacking and entertainment at Gino and BB's this evening. I guess it's time for some resolutions and a few "Best of"'s lists. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Streets Are Caked With Ice

It is still winter here, so there aren't many pretty pictures for the blog. I do have this representation of late December in St Paul after a big snow followed by ice. The roads are still covered with chunks of hardened slush and will be until it warms up here - sometime in January presumably. The photo was taken on my trek to the grocery store to pick up a few items and to get some exercise. At Fairmount and Oxford. Grand Avenue traffic was backed up and moving slowly, but I was on the sidewalk, so mostly wasn't bothered by the delays - except when I tried to cross the street. The sidewalks were caked and also slippery in spots. I can see why older people move to warmer climes when they retire. It's a bit treacherous under foot.

I played tennis yesterday at Fort Snelling, but am now off until Saturday which is in the new year - twenty-ten. I played well enough and managed to feel like I'd had a good workout. Fort Snelling is a bubble structure over the courts and the heating system is not completely effective when the temperature goes close to and below zero. I kept my sweat top on for most of the action so that I could retain some heat and get as limber as I could. Next week we are expecting a cool down, so I expect more warming strategies will have to be employed.

It's 18 degrees at the moment. But the days are getting longer and eventually spring will return.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas in River City. The big storm wimped out a bit here. It was mainly caused by a warm up to about 35 degrees, which turned the heavy snow into rain. So we had a sloppy day with big puddles forming in the roads, but the need for shoveling went by the boards. The city plowed the streets and, of course, blocked off the end of the alley, making the trip to Gino's for brunch iffy. But with my trusty aluminum grain shovel, and the aid of several neighbors we cleared the blockage. My good deed for the day.

We opened our presents at home this morning. I got my requested socks and tennis balls, and PP and UK got a few things that they wanted, too. Then we drove to Gino's for food and a round of gift giving. The photo below, taken by me, shows the other members of the party. Gino, BB, and Wireless put on a nice feast of quiche and bacon, plus lefse, julakaka, and a nice variety of cookies.

We had a fine time and now we're going to try out a new Mario Brothers video game for the Wii. It's a multi-player game, so the youngsters may have to be patient while these geezer reflexes gets used to the rules of the game.

Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Round One of Christmas Snowstorm

Merry Christmas to all my merry readers, and likewise to the glum ones. May your shoveling duties be light and also your spirits.

The Christmas Eve super snowstorm, round one, came through last night and unloaded about six inches of snow. The storm paused this morning allowing some shoveling and the last of the Christmas shopping to take place, but as I type the rate of snow has accelerated again and promises another six or more inches overnight. Since UK and PP are off celebrating elsewhere, I had the opportunity to get my full hour outside, and then some, in the pursuit of clear sidewalks and a clear path to the alley from the garage, in case I want to drive somewhere. So far, I'm content to stay off the roads. As you can see below, the snow is starting to pile up and soon there will be issues about where to put the new stuff.

Christmas celebrations will go on tomorrow, given that the snow is just an inconvenience and we'll just deal with it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Second 96th Birthday

I'm up for some more old photos. It's going to snow a whole lot here in the next few days, at least according to the weather creatures. My archives are up to the task of redirecting my attention away from the unpleasantness.

This is an 80 year old (or so) photo taken on the old bridge on county road U (near the junction with FF) over the Yellow River in Wisconsin. The teen ager posing on the bridge is Lillie Anderson, whose 96th birthday is today. This was about 1929, before even I was born. I don't know the occasion for the photo, or really what year it was, but I've been to this location many times.

And this photo was taken in 1947, I'm pretty sure, because I know the people pictured. Along with Lillie are people who fairly regularly read this blog. For the benefit of others, the baby is Mr Moohoo, the tow headed girl is Santini, seated beside her is the blogger who likes to be known as GPT. I am standing behind the other four on the steps of the house at Dick's Ranch, the farm of Richard and Hansine Anderson, our grandpa and grandma. World War II was over and life was good again.

Happy birthday, Lillie.

The Christmas tree is up and decorated. Unky Herb, the Prairie Princess and I put up the environmentally sensitive lights, some ancient and well loved ornaments, including one containing a photo of our long gone dog, Tag. The decorating party was last night, and now we are ready to face the holidays. I even brought out the clapper from last year and it now can be used to turn on the lights with three sharp claps. Technology is amazing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice Son

I was googling around on the subject of "solstice" and came across an interesting detail, that I hadn't known before today. My mom was born on December 22, 1913. As it happens, December 22, 1913 was the winter solstice that year. This year of course, the solstice is today December 21. But I have a question. Isn't it exactly a year from winter solstice to winter solstice? Isn't that what defines a year, i.e. one complete trip around the sun. Our calendar is only a pretty good approximation of a year, one that has to be corrected with a leap year now and then. My point is: Lillie Anderson Miller is exactly 96 years old today, not tomorrow which one might expect when looking at the calendar. Happy birthday, today and tomorrow.

So these photos are the earliest known photos of baby Lillie, taken in 1914. The first one is taken with her Aunt Minda, her mom, Hansine, and dad, Richard Anderson on their farm in Burnett County, Wisconsin. There is also a cow in the photo, apparently a very important cow, and a well loved cow, to show up in this photo. I think the photo was taken by Jake Hansen, who is in the next photo with baby Lil. Lillie is dressed identically in both photos in what appears to be a baptism outfit. Baptisms are important events that should be recorded for posterity. The shadow of the photographer indicates a male in control of the camera.

In the second photo, Jake Hansen is holding his new niece and looking a little uncomfortable. The photographer, from the shadow, appears to be female - either Hansine or Minda. I think Jake took his hat off for the photo.

The cold weather continues here on the tundra. We continue our below freezing streak, now a record for this early in the winter season, 19 days and counting. A huge winter storm is supposed to attack on Wednesday, and is expected to toss a monkey wrench into people's travel plans (monkey wrench??).

And I'm a son of a solstice baby. And not the only one.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Charles Degaulle was a very tall French guy...

I've decided to try and resurrect my once ordinary language skills. In high school, I spent two years in Paul Bouchard's French language class in Greenway High School. I also had a chance to practice my French skills outside of class, because Paul Bouchard was my tennis coach. I was pretty good at French, maybe not as good as Santini, who was going to major in it at one time, but has since taken on an Italian nickname, but it has been nearly 50 years since those classes were in session. They were fun classes, partly because of Paul Bouchard, and partly because the class was mostly girls, many of whom, I hasten to add, had crushes on the young French instructor.

I think that I will have need for some knowledge of French because of my resolve to take in a few matches at the French Open next spring. So I bought a book. I started to go through the book and felt some of the rust get rubbed off, but I have a ways to go to be anywhere near fluent. I'm on page 31, which has the heading, "Si vous voulez demander quelque chose," which is translated "if you want to ask for something." So far so good. I'll let you know how the learning, rather relearning process progresses.

I'm pretty sure I'll be able to improve and maybe be able to chat with some French folks in France. After all, about nine years ago I learned enough Norwegian to be able to thoroughly confuse some third cousins in the far north of Norway. I have little fear in this arena. Perhaps I should.

Tennis news of the day. My Saturday competition at Wooddale was not as successful as I had hoped. Bob and I lost a lopsided 6-1 set, but managed to eke out a 6-4 victory in the second. We started a third, but were shooed off the court with the score 0-3 by a father and daughter who began working hard on the youngster's ground strokes after we left. It was a good day, but I've had better ones. I play again tomorrow at a different venue.

December 22 will be my mom's 96th birthday. She was born in 1913 and has been gone for nearly 55 years. Coincidentally, Lady Bird Johnson was born on December 22, 1912. Charles DeGaulle was born on December 22, 1890, and was 23 when Mom was born. And we're now back to France and issues francais.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Pizza Guy Delivers

I felt like I accomplished some things today, but on closer inspection, I mostly played tennis and surfed the internet - trying to fulfill my Christmas shopping responsibilities.

It had been twelve days since my last competition at Fort Snelling with the GTA. But they were there waiting for me when I arrived for our one p.m. court time. It was nice to see them and to get a chance to compete again. It was good tennis, hard long points and some aged agility displayed. We finished a set and ran out of time at 5-5 in the second in our 90 minutes of play.

Unky Herb brought home a Papa Murphy's vegetarian pizza with white sauce and shared it with the Prairie Princess and me. It was a tasty end to the day, just a week before Christmas day and three days from the winter solstice.

I learned today from Dr Bill that the famous quote, "Growing old is not for sissies" (GOINFS) is most often attributed to Bette Davis, she of the Bette Davis eyes. I had been of the opinion that Mr Moohoo was the source. Several sites on the internet seem to agree with Dr Bill. The quote, no matter its source, still makes sense.

Ou est Roland-Garros?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Icicle Falls

Another 24 hours below freezing, but it has warmed up into the 20's, 24 , I think, today. In the early afternoon I decided to fulfill my latest empty pledge - to spend at least an hour outside everyday, if I can stand the cold. I discovered a new place, not too far from Hidden Falls in Crosby Farm (again today) just northwest of Crosby Lake. I have been by this area just once before, and that was during the fall when the stream that leads to the icicles was still in liquid form. Today the water had hardened and I ventured up the creek to see what was there. Water has trickled down from Shepard road and this tangle of icicles has formed. It looks a lot like Minnehaha Falls this time of year.

I also checked out the beaver lodges on Upper Lake, but found no recent beaver activity. I guess they are securely passing the winter in their lodge, eating shoots from the trees they have gnawed down and perhaps waiting for Christmas. Winter gives the area a whole different feel, both for humans, and, I assume, for the wild life.

The Mississippi is frozen over between Crosby Farm and Pike Island. It's a jangle of ice and, although it looks reasonably solid, I would never trust it to be solid enough to cross to the island - even when it's 20 below, which it most assuredly will be in the next six weeks a time or two.

I finally made it back to a tennis court. Jerry and I helped warm up the hard core girls for their USTA match tonight, which was scheduled for 8:30. We played a couple of sets of mixed doubles and a ten point tie breaker in our 90 minutes on the court. There were some good points and some mediocre, but it was nice to have my old tennis racket, Wilson, back in my hand.

I'm adding one more flower photo from the archives. This photo served as my computer wallpaper for several months this year. I think it was taken at the Como Conservatory. Probably.

Just four more days until the solstice and eight more days until Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Open Water

Here's a puzzle. It's been 14 straight days since the temperature would allow water to melt. On my hike through Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary today, I encountered open water. The water is in a pool below the cliff of Mound's Park on the east side of St Paul. I'm not sure how it has remained in liquid form, but the mallards who are still in town found the spot and were enjoying the day. There is a cave (Carver's Cave) under the cliff here and that may have something to do with the phenomenon. The high temp today soared to 14.

Christmas is soon upon us and I'm continuing my inclusion of pretty flowers from past seasons. These flowers among the lily pads were growing in the water at the Como Conservatory earlier this year. They have since gone into seclusion.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cold Enough

For those who have been waiting for statistics: it has been 13 days, 312 hours of below freezing temperatures in this fair city. A lot of the time lately has been below zero. A favorite weather site reports current temperature at -1 F. But it's what is expected here on the tundra. The winter solstice is less than six days away and is scheduled for 11:47 a.m. CST on December 21. So there is not much light around here either. Today supplied 8 hours and 48 minutes of daylight here.

The snow yesterday left the streets looking like the below snapshot. I took it on my street, but on the sunny north side this afternoon before the fickle sun took an early powder. The city promises to do some more plowing later in the week to clean up the less than adequate (for a snow emergency) snowfall. There will be no tagging or towing. It must be time for the Christmas spirit to break out.

My tennis schedule has been sparse this week - a fluke of the schedule maker. I last played on Saturday and won't be back on the court until Thursday night at Wooddale. The time off seems to be helping the healing of the aches and pains, but I miss the activity. So much so that I hiked around Lake Como yesterday afternoon in the relatively balmy 12 degrees at the time. It wasn't too bad, because I was dressed for success, and I was commiserating with PP, who is still working outside with chainsaw in hand. Her chemical hand and toe warmers are apparently doing their magic.

I end with a photo from the archives, from a much warmer day when orange flowers were out in force. A little color this time of year is good for the attitude. (I'm using this photo for computer wall paper for a while.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Two Lakes

The cold continues and deepens. A big winter storm is predicted to roll in tomorrow and bury the state with a thick blanket of snow, and then the first sub-zero weather is expected to arrive. It's almost time to hibernate. PP is still working outside and will be for another week and a half. Tonight we went to Sports Authority and she bought chemical hand and foot warmers for the rest of the month.

To appreciate her working conditions, I walked around two lakes today and have the photos to prove it.

Como: It's essentially frozen over except for two small open spots that are kept open by ducks and geese and perhaps the aeration system that is installed in the lake. The lake looks like a big ice rink, ice from end to end. Tomorrow and for the rest of the winter there will be a layer of snow on top of the ice and the drama will be gone.

Upper Lake in Crosby Farm Park: The beaver lodge sits in the lake surrounded by clear ice. The beavers have accomplished their goal for the winter - to have a safe abode. The only way into the lodge is under water. I guess they have two rooms in the lodge. The first has an entrance to the outside world, but the second is only reachable under water. It's a clever ruse, and it has served them well.

I saw a biker out on the streets today. Just the one and he was dressed for survival.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Return from Arizona

Unky Herb returned tonight from his vacation in the desert regions of Arizona. He traveled light and came home with photos of the big canyon and various other scenic treasures of Arizona. I dare say that he may have even taken some shots of the Saguaro cactus, that some say are everywhere in Arizona. He's smiling because I took the photo in the garage, not exactly the conventional scene of homecoming shots. He's looking swell. And I'm happy to have him back.

I didn't make it back to Lake Como to check on the ice over. It has been 96 hours since the temperature outside has risen to the melting point of water, so I'm assuming that ice over has occurred. I'll do more diligent reporting in the next couple of days. I think we are in winter.

There was more tennis today again. The usual suspects and a sub managed to play a set and a half and have some fun, too.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Almost Iced Over

It's been about 72 hours since the temperature has risen to the melting point of water. Como Lake is almost completely iced over now. Most of the lake is flat and solid and it reflects sunlight like high quality glass.

I walked around the lake this afternoon following my usual Saturday morning tennis skirmish. The geese and mallards that haven't fled south are bunched together. This is the far eastern side of the lake near the Black Bear Crossing Cafe. Some of these birds flew off while I circled the lake, presumably to find open water. I think most of the flock will soon be winging their way to warmer climes. I think they define the term "snow birds." It appears that their activities are the only reason that there is still open water on the lake. I think I can safely say that Como is iced over as of tonight. I'll check tomorrow for bird activity.

Tennis was competitive today at Wooddale. Jerry and I split sets with Tony and Bob in 90 minutes of play. Indoor tennis is different than playing outside, but it's nice to have the option of playing at all on a day that Lake Como froze over.

Unky Herb is due back tomorrow from his journey across Arizona. I hope to see some pictures of the big canyon.

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Cow Bell

The temperature has been below freezing now for 49 or so consecutive hours. I made a special tripto Como after 90 minutes of tennis to see if it had iced over yet. There is still open water, as you can see in the photo through the flurries, but the lake is over half iced over. This is what happens in December in Minnesota. Water turns solid. Snow flies. It gets cold.

"I have a fever and the only prescription is more cow bell." - Christopher Walken. See video.

Ergo. Honky Tonk Woman by the Rolling Stones.

The whole SNL skit with the Blue Oyster Cult song, "Don't Fear the Reaper".

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The lakes are starting to freeze over

It's December and also December weather. The "mercury" dropped into the freezing range last night at about six p.m. and has been there for the last 27 hours. I guess it's staying there the rest of the week. To test my cold weather resilience I went for a brisk walk around Lake Como - and I mean brisk. The lake surface was still mostly water, but the photo - taken on the northwest side of the lake - clearly shows the freezing line. The ice comes out from the shore towards the center. By tomorrow the whole surface may be captured. Or, at least, by the weekend.

I took the photos in a hurry, because the wind was blowing and there was a definite wind chill. The mallards are still swimming around - often in pairs - but their swimming surface will be turning hard sometime soon. They won't be happy about that. These two were much closer to shore when I started to get my camera out, but they swam away from me. I must have looked hungry.

I did see a biker pedaling around the lake, possibly a pleasure rider, but one with a parka on. I should have taken a picture.

Tennis continued at Wooddale. One of the players was ailing and absent, so we played a three person game that I learned at the Dude Ranch in Tucson. It's a better game than the typical "cut throat" game that usually erupts when you have three players. It's more of a singles game with the side with two players trading off on every point. It works pretty well and is pretty close to a real singles competition.

Then I went to Yang's for Singapore Rice Noodles. Very tasty and somehow satisfying to end the day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Falls from Creek Level

The state is going below freeeeezing and staying there for the rest of the week. The weather guy says it's a cold snap, but it's really just an average December. I had to go to the bank and do some errands, so I extended my trip to take in Minnehaha Falls. This time I went down the long staircase to creek level to get another angle for the photo. The last time I was there the lower level was shut down for "alterations." There is some water going over the falls, but in a couple of weeks it will solidify and ice will prevail. There were very few people at the park today. It was about 31 degrees and cooling.

I did see a couple of bikers out in the afternoon. They were likely commuters, rather than pleasure riders, and they were dressed for the chill.

The mask exhibit below stands a few tens of feet from Minnehaha Falls. It's been there quite a while, but is not so noticeable when the trees have leaves. I think it was placed there by a native American group, but I'm clueless about the reason for its placement. It's an interesting object in an interesting spot.

It was a day off from tennis. I played with the GTA yesterday at Fred Wells Tennis Center. We've been extending our tennis week to a third day because the weather denies us some of our other activities. I'm playing pretty well and using my ten year old, duct taped racket. I may have to spring for new equipment for the cold season, just to keep pace.

UH is still in the wilds of Arizona. He called from the Grand Canyon and said he was getting some great photos. I guess it's high enough ground there to keep the temperature comparable to the North Star state. I look forward to the photo unveiling.