Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tree Hugger

It was a really nice day, but I didn't get a good photo on my walk in Crosby Farm. There were lots of people walking at about noon when I was there, many taking their lunch hour to spend some time in the woods.

I had to wait until this evening when the light was slanting from the near sunset to get a photo. UH, PP and I took a walk to Linwood Park to see how the rain garden is doing and to enjoy the evening light. PP fell in love with a cottonwood tree when we went by and it was too good an opportunity to waste. She is a self described tree hugger and this is just more proof. The rain garden that PP helped install last year when working at MCC is doing pretty well. The signs are still up, but they had extra signs today warning of recent chemical applications. I guess they are killing some unwanted flora.

Big upsets at Wimby today. Both Venus and Kin Clijsters were beaten by near unknowns. The only threat left in the four who remain in ladies' singles is Serena Williams, and she is surely the favorite to win another major. There are no sure things, of course. That's why they actually play the matches. The men's quarter finals are tomorrow, and several good matches are likely. It would be nice if Andy Murray, the Scottish local favorite, would rise up and win the championship of the British Empire before some alien shows up, looking like a blancmange and wins for the Galactic Empire. Angus Podgorny, the last Scotsman to win, has better things to do.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Great Blue Heron and Herring

A big storm is blowing through the city tonight and my cable TV has suffered an area wide outage. Hence, I'm blogging a bit earlier than I would normally. The Internet, also controlled by Comcast seems to be functioning reasonably well.

This morning, after the first pair of World Cup games on ESPN, I took a stroll around Lake Como. About halfway around I encountered this great blue heron having lunch. Lunch looks all the world like unpickled herring. This creature may have flown over the Gulf of Mexico on its way north, and appears to have missed out on the oil bath which seems to be available there. It's a pretty good picture of wild life for a city lake, so I'm sharing.

The USA soccer team begins the knock out round in World Cup action tomorrow with a game with Ghana, the last remaining African team in the tournament. They're looking pretty competitive.

John Isner, the winner of the longest tennis match in Wimby and tennis history (see yesterday), lost his next match in the tournament pretty meekly today. He produced no aces, and was bageled in the first set. He apparently had a lot of very bad blisters and a shortage of energy and competitive fire. I think I know why (see yesterday).

The Prairie Princess spent most of the day working on landscaping at the Ramsey County Library in Roseville. She says that it will be open for business on July 10, and that anyone in the area should check out the native plants decoratively included in the new landscaping for the structure.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Lots of diverse activities today. The World Cup had to take backseat to the marathon tennis match at Wimby. Finally, John Isner, the 6 foot nine USA tennis phenom, managed to eke out a victory in the fifth set of his first round match with qualifier and unseeded French guy, Nicolas Mahat, 70-68. Unprecedented. It was a combination of two guys who had big serves and who also were pretty bad at returning big serves. You can see why the tennis powers went to tie breakers at most of the grand slams, except for the fifth set.

World Cup news. Italy. the defending champion, is out and Japan is into the knockout phase of the biggest sporting event in the world.

The photos today are of backyard projects. PP is growing the "three sisters" - beans, corn and squash - in backyard pots. They seem pretty healthy, too. Tennis racket for scale.

My heirloom tomato experiment is behind schedule, mainly due to my trip to Roland Garros. I started the three plants from seeds back in April and transplanted them outside after my return from Paris in early June. It was a little later than planned and the plants were smaller than I had projected. But they are beginning to thrive and I have hopes for some tasty heirloom tomatoes before the first frost. Wilson racket for scale.

Later in the afternoon the geezers and I gathered to try some tennis competition. It was a great day for tennis in Minnesota and a great day to work up a decent sweat. We played two pretty competitive sets in an hour and 45 minutes and felt fatigue creeping in. The Isner-Mahut match in Wimbledon went over eleven hours on three different days. I feel a little like a piker, except that I am more than 40 years older than either guy. I don't think that I recorded any aces either, whereas the Wimby match had over 200 split between the two big hitters.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lots of Sports Action in the World

The World Cup is using quite a bit of my attention. The USA team managed a last minute goal against Algeria to win their game 1-0 and moved on to knock-out competition, one of 16 WC championship hopefuls. After such an exciting game, I needed to get some late morning outdoors time. My tiger lilies are again blooming in the backyard. They have been in the same spot for the 35 years that I've lived here, and they come back every year. They were out on my way to the garage.

I decided to go to Lilydale Regional Park and see if the wild flowers were blooming, too. By the shore of Pickerel Lake, I came across the new generation of geese. They will soon be fouling a footpath in your neighborhood. But the goslings are pretty cute and the setting was picturesque. I did a couple of miles walk near Harriet Island and even went to the tip of Raspberry Island to see how the vegetation has recovered from the spring flood. Just fine, it turns out.

Wimbledon is in the first week of action and I heard a news bulletin in the car, exclaiming about the very long tennis match in England. The fifth set at Wimby can't be won in a tie breaker. The set must be played out until some one is ahead by two games. John Isner, and American, and Nicolas Mahut, a French guy, were caught up in a very long fifth set. The score I heard in my car was 26-26 and I assumed that the match would be over before I got home to watch the Germany - Ghana WC soccer match. As it turned out they were just getting going, and instead of watching soccer, I ended up watching a lot of tennis. The match is still going, having been suspended at 59-59 in the fifth set. It's the second day in a row that they had to stop because of darkness. They'll finish tomorrow ... probably. This is by far the longest match ever played in a major tournament. By far.

I've been involved in a lot of tennis matches, including sets that needed to be played out, but I've never gone deeper than about 16-14. It's a good thing that those guys are young and healthy, but even they are going to be drained by this match.

I managed to play some tennis myself later in the afternoon after the match in England was suspended. The play at Marie Park was much abbreviated, nowhere near the score from Wimby. We got another round of rain and we called off the play at 1-2 in the first set. The rain went away later in the day, but we were long gone from the park before the courts could dry out.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Outing

As a usual and traditional activity, my son and daughter and I went to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. It has been a tradition for many years, and even when they were each singly working in Japan, the one at home and I would take the trip. Today was one of the nicest of the days that we've been there. It was about eighty degrees and sunny. The big attraction always seems to be Claes Oldenburg's sculpture, "Spoonbridge and Cherry." Today I tried to line up the photo of PP so that it would appear as though she is holding the cherry in her hand. It worked well enough to use here.

Another favorite spot is the mirrored sculpture. I always try to get a group shot here. The grouping is not as tight as it would be in a small Paris elevator, but the concept is the same - line up the shot, lower the camera and snap away.

Another photo of Unky Herb acting a little goofy near another of the structures. He brought his camera, too, and between us we have the day pretty well covered.

PP always wants to walk on her hands in the grass in the park. I caught her upside down in front of the Spoonbridge and took the shot.

After a tour of the Walker Art Center and some viewing of some Andy Warhol paintings and a film of people cutting the clothes off Yoko Ono with a scissors - performance art they call it - we went to dinner. The Mirror of Korea on Snelling fixed some tasty vittles and we finished the day with full stomachs. A good day spent with some fine young people.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bull Thistles

The creatures de weather promised a sunny day. It was not quite what they predicted at first, but later in the day it got very nice. Not necessarily "One of the nicest days in the history of days" days, but much nicer than our recent days.

Before the usual Wednesday tennis mixer, I took a walk at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary to see how the summer vegetation was doing. I hadn't been there since my recent journey to the tournament at Roland Garros. I was pleasantly surprised to find a great abundance of wild flowers growing in the open meadow. Granted, some of then were bull thistles, but a lot of them were delicate blues and yellows spread across the terrain. PP wasn't around to tell me what this odd flower? is, but she'll be back from her political meeting later and I may find out. It was nestled among a lot of native looking grass, so I'm hoping that it's something native to Minnesota. It has a resemblance to, but is not, a dandelion. [Ed. note. PP says it's goat's beard. Who knew?]

And, of course, there were the bull thistle flowers - surprisingly attractive and colorful. You don't often see them included in bouquets, but that may just reflect the danger in picking them. I'm not sure why they're called bull thistles either, but PP called them that yesterday. I think it may just because they are are so big.

The afternoon tennis was fun. We had six of the geezer gang, and we played a kind of round robin doubles event. We don't finish whole sets in this format, because we switch opponents after a four game mini-set. It's nice to just be out on the courts on a day like today. I got my complement of sun and exercise and feel much the better for it tonight. "I love this game."

There was World Cup soccer again today, too. The big surprise of the early rounds happened today when underdog Switzerland took down one of the favorites, European Champion, Spain 1-0. I've managed to watch pieces of nearly every game, either live or on the ESPN highlight show in the evening. It's as good a brand of soccer that you'll probably ever see. After today, I think they are about 17 games into the 64 game tournament

Monday, June 14, 2010

Another rare day in June

Another rainy day. Tennis was canceled. June is statistically the rainiest month according to at least one of the weather creatures that I occasionally listen to. Luckily there were three World Cup games to watch. All the games are being televised, so I may know a lot more about futbol in a couple of weeks than is necessary.

After the games I was able to squeeze in a walk in Crosby Farm Park, down by the river, It was wet and still cloudy, but there were some interesting sights. This pool is not far from Upper Lake, and it seems a bit bigger than normal owing to our rainy week.

On the way to the park I noticed that the city - or maybe the county - is upgrading the bike paths along Shepard Road. I'm assuming that this is still money for economic recovery from the feds. I'm pretty sure that the bike path they're replacing was in pretty miserable shape. I'll have to ride it when they get it finished.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What is so rare as a day in June?

It rained most of the afternoon, but before the drips began, I was able to fit in a set or two of tennis at Marie Courts. It was only about 57 degrees and it affected play somewhat, but it was nice to be outside playing a kid's game.

Most of the day was taken up with the World Cup "futbol." There were three games today, so we are now five games into the 64 that make up the total tournament. The USA game with England was the main attraction, but the earlier games had their moments, too. USA managed a 1-1 tie with England which was possible because of some pretty bad goalkeeping by the England keeper. He will never live it down, either. He may have to move to Canada.

I briefly went outside and took a picture of some bedraggled flowers just outside my backdoor. The day was just not very June-like.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Trees in rows

On days like today, when the sky threatens rain all day, and I dwell in the low energy zone, this is the kind of blog one may expect. Trees. Rows of trees. The first shot is a row of trees in Como Park, taken this afternoon. I went in search of the reported damage to the grounds and trees caused by a young, presumably drunk, vandal. She drove on the lawn at Como Park and ran down some young trees, at least according to the Strib. I was unable to find the damage, but I found a line of new trees with the latest in watering gear, meant to keep the trees alive in drought conditions. All oaks.

This is a line of trees in the gardens of Versailles in France. Reportedly, they had a big wind storm that downed 10,000 trees last year. When we were there last week, there was no apparent sign of the damage. Just straight lines of well cared for trees. Maybe maples. French maples(?). Older and bigger than the Minnesota trees, but with a similar game plan.

The World Cup Soccer tournament starts tomorrow in South Africa. The 9:00 am game is South Africa against Mexico. At 13:30 Uruguay plays France. If the weather here is like today, I'll be watching a lot of FIFA futbol. No tennis on the agenda until Saturday morning.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How do you keep 'em down on the farm?

"How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?" was part of a popular song published in 1918 around the time of the Great War.

Anyhow, I went down to Crosby Farm, not long after I'd seen Paree, and it was pretty nice. They didn't try to keep me down there, but I was there about two hours, walking in the woods and around Upper Lake. The swamp pictured below is between Upper Lake and Crosby Lake and is an extremely healthy bog.

I liked Paris and have about 300 pictures to remember it, but now that the joys of jet lag, and the rotten cold I picked up there are almost figments of the past, I'm getting back to normal life. I have played tennis four times since my return and have watched the finals of the big tournament at Roland Garros, too. Nice match, Mr. Untouchable Nadal. He's too good by about half.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Remembrances of things past

I'm again home after two weeks in Paris. This is a short remembrance of the places and things around the fifth floor apartment at 276 Rue de Honore before I go to bed. This is a view from the balcony outside the apartment showing the narrow streets and some of the bustle that was typical.

A picture inside the tiny elevator that often got us to the fifth floor. We had a lot of fun trying to get a good photo of the three elevator riders. The sign on the wall limited the load to three people and 225 kilos. Without the mirror on the back wall the photos wouldn't have been possible.

The five stories of steps. Something over a hundred steps to the top. BB counted them (of course) and she probably remembers the exact count. Photo down the banister reveals Gino's arm and my shoes.

And, nothing says Paris like a good chocolate eclair. Repeat and enjoy.

I sleep in my own bed tonight.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Last Day in the City of Lights

The last day in Paris was cool, but it didn't rain until after our journey around the city. We were taking in a few sights that we hadn't yet seen. Enjoying a park bench near the Church of St. Germain are Gino and BB, my remaining travel companions. It is June here and the temperature managed to spike to 63 degrees.

Close to the church is this obscure wall plaque to remember where in 1783 the peace treaty between the king of England and the American colonies was signed that recognized the existence of the United States of America. It should have something more grandiose to commemorate the event, but so far just a wall plaque.

We continued our hike to the Garden of Luxembourg where we encountered a couple of older gentleman hitting tennis balls around. They looked to be related, 75-ish and probably French. I guess French geezers are still playing the game with enthusiasm, much like the Minnesota group I'll be seeing in a couple of days. The courts were an odd composition of largish stones embedded in asphalt or something and may be a bit slower than Minnesota hard courts.

This fountain built in the 1600's for Marie de Medici, the Italian widow of Henry IV and mother of Louis XIII, who was homesick for home. It's in an Italian style and quite beautiful. It seems to be a favorite spot for Italian tourists, one of whom had Gino act as "Bob the anonymous volunteer photographer." It has quite a nice reflecting pool.

This is a closeup of the sculpture at the end of the pool entitled Polyphemus Surprising Acis and Galatea.

At one end of the garden stands the French Senat, part of their legislature where laws are passed and great speeches delivered. There are a few gendarmes protecting the entrance, but security seems light when compared with what happens to protect the US Senate.

We stopped by a coffee spot somewhat after elevensies for some of that extremely strong French roast coffee. The French sign seems to indicate that picnicking is not allowed on their tables. Also of some interest is the menu written in chalk on the blackboard. The "Plats du jour" are selling for 16.5 euros a copy - about 20 dollars.

We also encountered a model for the Statue of Liberty. The large one in New York was a gift from France, and this is a miniature of that and is also in the Garden of Luxembourg. The oak tree to the right of statue was planted in remembrance of the September 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center. It's still a small tree, but shows promise for a long life.

The plaque by the statue is shown below. It's in French, but tells the story of the miniature Liberty.

And there was lots of Roland Garros action on French TV today. We caught a couple of sets of the Federer-Soderling match before the rains postponed play at 6-3 ,3-6, 5-5. Good stuff.