Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A bench at the end of an island in the Mississippi

It's been pretty hot the last few days. It's been a hot month and it's kept me home bound a bit more than I like. Today was nice enough to get out and walk in a shaded area. I decided to take a hike around Pike Island, one of the main attractions at Fort Snelling State Park. There is a bench with a great view at the tip of the island. In the distance, the 35E bridge over the Mississippi River. It's a great place to stop and watch the boats go by, even on a fairly hot day.

August is nearly done. Schools have begun to educate the children again. The State Fair is in full swing. The US Open Tennis tournament has begun in New York. And Unky Herb is still in Chengdu, China. No ransom notes yet.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Minnesota State Fair's third day

After a morning of not very inspiring tennis, I went with the Prairie Princess to the Minnesota State Fair where she was to work in the booth dedicated to her candidate for governor, Ken Pentel. We got there early enough to get a photo of PP with the two candidates of the Ecology Democracy Party, Ken Pentel, and his running mate Erin Wallace. They were spending most of the day in the booth and PP has a four hour shift this evening.

After meeting the candidate we explored the fairgrounds. I'm not much of a big crowd guy, but I was there and there are a few things that are fun to take in. We saw another of the candidates for guv, Tom Horner the Independence Party candidate, talking to some fair goers. He's another guy that doesn't seem very likely to get elected. He's likely to finish third in November and Ken will be probably scratch out a fourth place finish.

Speaking of crowds, check out the population of one of the walking streets in the popular part of the fair, the part where it is easy to buy some of the popular food "on a stick" and the high calorie deep fat fried cheese curds. The fair set attendance records the first two days - each in the area of 110,000 attendees - and today looks like another record. That's a lot of cheese curds.

We visited the DNR building and the Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) booth where PP is also known. We talked for a while to her former boss at MCC, and he had good things to say about her and her work.

PP and I visited the Fine Arts building where the folk art of Minnesota is displayed each year. The Strib reviewer in today's paper seemed to dislike most of this year's efforts, but there were some noteworthy works there ... and a crush of people checking out the paintings, photos, sculptures and drawings.

We also ran into some familiar faces at the fair - something that seems likely with that many folks in one place. Near the Horticulture Building we ran into Andy and Tula. They were wandering about carrying their favorite beverages when we ran into them on our way to the International Bazaar to get some food. I didn't get a photo, but they have appeared on this blog (and Santini's) several times in the last year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bridges too far

The heat wave has dissipated a little and it was again pleasant being outside. I knew I was scheduled for afternoon tennis and that I'd had a hard singles match yesterday with Rich, so I just wanted to walk a bit in nature, stretch my legs, and perhaps get a photo to put up on this blog. I almost made it to Minnehaha Falls, but just before the Ford Bridge there was road work and a traffic bottleneck, so I detoured and ended up at Hidden Falls. I walked along the Mississippi on dirt trails and on the rocky river bank for a while. I saw an eagle circling above me and out of camera range. I walked some more. I realized that these two bridges are not very accessible and that not many people see them from this angle. The first one is the bridge in Hidden Falls that marks the end of paved bike paths. It's across the river from the end of Minnehaha Falls on the St Paul side. The big river is in the background.

And this is the bridge at the end of Minnehaha Creek. It's a bridge I've shown before, but not from the St Paul side of the river. It also is a bridge that is a little hard to get to without taking a dirt path.

So, by the time tennis with the other geezers began, I was already exercised and ready to play. Rich has gone back to Tucson. We played four sets of singles on two separate days, and both were competitive and a lot of fun to play. I'll have stiff muscles for a few days now that he's gone, but the competitive juices flowed and we both played some pretty decent tennis for a couple of senior citizens.

The afternoon tennis was by comparison pretty tame. There were some good points and games, and the geezer guys were all very entertaining with their tennis related gibes, but we had an odd number of players, so played our usual system of playing a game and then rotating in the odd player. It kept us going for a couple of hours on a beautiful August day.

After five days in a row of tennis ball bashing, I'm taking tomorrow off. It's predicted to be one of those nicest days in the history of days (NDITHOD). And the first day of the State Fair.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Prairie Princess endorses Ken Pentel

Flowers are in their prime this time of year - even with the current heat wave they seem to stand out and do their best to attract the buzzing bees.

I played some tennis with the geezers. It was a two bottles of Powerade day - one per set. It always seems like on hot box days I have long, close sets. Again today, I had two close sets and finished playing until almost six o'clock. 7-6, 5-7. The temperature was still 88 on my car thermometer on the way home.

Big news from PP's political party. Apparently she decided to endorse a candidate, Ken Pentel. Here's a photo of Ken Pentel, the Ecology Democracy Party (EDP) candidate for Minnesota's governor.

Ken Pentel is a 49 year-old Minnesota native and former Green Party gubernatorial candidate with 11 years of work experience with Greenpeace and 12 years of work experience developing the Minnesota Green Party. Ken is the founding director of the Ecology Democracy Network.

He is also a hardcore bicycle rider having ridden 6000 miles in two years in campaigning around the state. He has a Wikipedia article here. Here is another shot of him on his bike (photo by Kelsey) as he campaigned earlier this year in Minneapolis.

Minnesota politics are great.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A continuation of the endless season

I've been playing tennis with Rich off and on for 44 years. It started at Hamline when I was a freshman and he was a sophomore in 1966. With some interruptions we've played pretty regularly when he was living in the Twin Cities. He's in town for a high school class reunion - I think the fiftieth. It was a humid Sunday morning today (dew point in the 70's), but we went to St Clair courts and put in a couple of hours playing singles. Singles isn't the usual choice of competition for a couple of 67 year olds, but we went at it anyway. We played a couple of sets and called it good enough.

On one of the more competitive points, when I was trying to make a quick pivot to return a probable passing shot, I threw a shoe and took a tumble. One of the two 50-ish guys playing on the next court, after ascertaining that the fall was superficial, said something like "old man down" He apparently uses the phrase himself when he falls. I lost a little skin, but not enough to whine about. It was an odd fall, because my shoe did come completely off and my first step in my stockinged foot cost me my balance.

My worthy opponent after the competition as we packed up to leave.

When Rich was living in Woodbury over ten years ago, and we were playing singles twice a week, we bought this trophy to pass back and forth to the guy who had last won a two out of three set match from the other guy. Rich had it on his mantle in Tucson and brought it back this trip. It's kind of a cool trophy, so I'm posting a photo of it for today. I hope to continue to compete for the prize many more times as the "endless season" continues.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back from the shore of Lake Michigan

I'm back in Minnesota after a week on the edge of Lake Michigan. I played no tennis there, but managed to eat well, walk the shore of the big lake and rest up for some more sessions of tennis. This week promises to be filled with the sound of strings meeting fuzzy tennis balls.

In honor of the last week I present two photos. One of the pictured objects graces the shoreline and has since 1907 - more than 100 years. The other was there for but a fraction of a minute, during which time I was able to capture its image.

Big Red, the Holland State Park light house was built in 1907 and still guards the harbor. The gull on the rail was a fortuitous accident. Every trip I have made to Michigan seems to result in me taking another picture of this structure. And it doesn't change very much from year to year.

This footprint in the sand is gone. I took it as PP walked up the beach and I followed. It's her footprint. Shortly thereafter a wave erased it. That's about as temporary as any of my featured photos has ever been.

I managed to get in three sets of tennis and a ten point tiebreaker this morning at Marie Park. Rich is in town from Tucson and we are planning some extra sets tomorrow. Singles. After taking a week off, I played pretty well this morning and didn't tire out as I have sometimes earlier in this very hot summer. I did take a hard serve from my partner on my melon in the second set, but seem no worse for the impact. Not even a knob at the point of impact. A tennis ball is much less harmful than one of those baseballs that the Twins use in their sporting endeavors. It's nice to be back in the company of the geezers: Rich, Curt, John, Tom, Bryce, Dennis, and Bill were part of the action today.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tunnel Park Hijinx

We've been to Tunnel Park several times lately and a few photos now exist of the activities. The walk on the beach and the climb to the top of the dune at the park serve as exercise. Some among us actually count the steps needed to gain the summit of the dune. The shot of T.J., Nikki, and the PP was taken from the apex. Note the feathery headgear on PP.

There was also some jumping from heights with the gull feathers to break any possible fall by the princess. No injuries ensued.

And a group photo of last night's participants in the tomfoolery, standing at the entrance to the dune running course. I myself completed a run or two down the course to prove to myself that it is still doable.

PP is returning home tonight to continue her quest to elect a fourth party candidate as guv of Minnesota, and, of course, to get back to work restoring the prairies.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


The humidity here by the banks of Lake Geneva has dropped to tolerable and vacation activities have progressed. Can you take a vacation from being retired? Tonight's sunset was very nice and I hope that this photo does it justice. There was a sailboat passing in front of Old Sol has daylight disappeared and is visible in the shot.

We've eaten well and had several jaunts to Tunnel Park to climb the stairs and to run down the dune. Once again this time in Michigan I was able to summon my courage and hurdle down the sand dune a couple of times. It's still fun.

Gino and BB posed this evening in matching shirts, one of the few times that they have matched attire-wise. So I was able to get this photo for posterity.

I took this picture last night as Dalton, T.J., Nikki, and PP walked up the beach between here and Tunnel Park. We've walked the beach quite a bit since. And now that the humidity has returned to tolerable, there will be more beach activities - including the march to Big Red that is sometimes known as the death march partly because it's a three mile round trip.

As PP said when asked if she was going to the shores of Lake Michigan this year, "missing Michigan would be intolerable."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More of the same

Another ninety plus day in the Saintly City. No tennis, but I did get out a bit this afternoon to see if I could stand the heat, or if I'd have to get out of the kitchen. I went to Como to check out the flutterby garden. There were quite a few people out in the park for such a beastly day, and there were some flutterbys hovering around the nectar sources. I took some photos, and this is the best of them. It's not a monarch, I realize, but it was within camera range. I think it's a giant swallowtail according to this guy.

I think it's getting to be time to get out my blueberry recipes. It's blueberry season.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Heat wave continues

It's hot again in this end of the world, and it appears that it will stay that way through the weekend. I was scheduled for tennis this afternoon, so I was out and about, running errands and enjoying the luxury of an air conditioned car. To get warmed up a bit, I walked along the Mississippi near Lilydale for a while. There's a pretty good bike path there and some picturesque vistas. Santini has been featuring benches occasionally on her blog, so I was, of course, struck by this seldom used bench along the path surrounded by cone flowers or maybe black-eyed susans. It looks like a fine place to rest and watch the river flow, perhaps in the early evening on days where the temperature is not life threatening.

And close by stands the 35E bridge. I've biked over this bridge several times, but it looks quite a bit different from underneath. It's also a little quieter because the traffic noise is muffled by the bridge structure.

It was 92 degrees when I got to Marie Park at 3:30 along with a couple of quarts of gatorade. Soon we had eight geezers and near geezers on the courts playing tennis, actually competing and trying to win a set or two. It was perhaps foolhardy, but we all finished two sets of fairly decent tennis. I know I was fairly fatigued at the end, and the quality of play was beginning to suffer. But we survived and retreated to Bill's nearby house and sat by his pool with some cool beverages.

I think that I'm starting to get used to the heat.

The primary election has been completed and we now know the suspects who will be running for the governorship of Minnesota in November. The mainstream candidates: Dayton, Emmer, and Horner will be ignoring PP's Ecology Democracy Party candidate, Ken Pentel. The fate of minor party candidates is usually to be ignored by the media and the major candidates. I met Ken last week at one of the princess's campaign events, and he seems like a nice guy, with a lot of idealism, with some pretty decent ideas, but sorely underfunded. I hope he gets some attention and some votes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Too hot for comfort

Another day too hot to do much of anything outside. The mercury climbed into the nineties again and once again, for the second straight day, I was moved to activate the air conditioning. Then a little later, I turned it off and went to play some tennis with the boys. My Matrix thermometer read 97 on the way to Marie Park. Eight of the die hard geezers showed up and we started to play. It was playable for a while. We managed a close 6-4 set, and then my good sense intervened and I quit to go home to the AC. I had finished a jug of Gatorade and was beginning to get into the ice water by this time. I live to play another day. Wednesday, I think.

This is another scene from Como Park at near dusk. It's a pool near the Conservatory that I've pictured several times before, but it's a new month and a pretty spot.

We had a weird power outage last night here. The electricity didn't go completely away. The lights were on, but very, very dim, and there wasn't enough juice to power the wireless landline phone, plus the microwave and stereo lost their time function. The internet connection went away. The street lights in front of the house worked, but the ones in the alley failed. I'm calling it a brownout. The lights came back with full power at about midnight, about the time Unky Herb returned from Chicago.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The lakes are beginning to bloom

Saturday morning tennis at Marie Courts got started early, about 8:15 am, but it didn't last long. Rain came in and spoiled the party after about 25 minutes of play. It wasn't a hard rain, but persistent enough to make the courts slippery. Since we are oldish, but not particularly foolish, we quit and resolved to return Monday. As often happens in August, the rain finished soon thereafter and the temperature shot up to 89 or so. I needed some time away from the courts and used some of it personalizing my blog design. Notice the new colors and fonts?

Then later, in the afternoon I went to Upper Lake to see how the algae was doing in the water of the lake. As the photo attests, the lake is beginning to have a distinct greenish layer on top of the water. Upper Lake gets quite a bit of runoff from the city on the hill, so I assume some of the bloom is caused by lawn fertilizer.

The butterfly gardens in Crosby Park had quite a few monarch flutterbys fluttering by. It must be high season for the most well known butterfly species. I suspect they'll be fluttering off towards Mexico soon, to their wintering home. As is often the case, my attempts to get photos of the monarchs was thwarted by their erratic flying patterns ... and their small size. And my lack of patience.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Stone Watcher

I've been wondering about the sculpture at High Bridge Park, the companion piece to the huge green lawn chair that sits in the same park. I was at Harriet Island getting some exercise and a walk around looking at the new rain garden, so on the way home after crossing the High Bridge (aka Smith Avenue Bridge), I stopped to get a photo. Actually two photos - front and back of the Stone Watcher, a pile of rocks that I've driven by often, on the St Clair end of the High Bridge. It seems to be a pile of rocks lashed together with cables, and apparently, that's what it is.

The front:

The back, or if you prefer, the obverse. Or maybe this is the front:

It's a cute little park, the name of which I had to figure out from the internet - High Bridge Park. There didn't seem to be a name attached to the sculpture either, but the internet knows. The internet knows almost everything. I uploaded a screen shot from google maps of the park and the sculpture itself. See below.

It was also farmer's market day at St Thomas Aquinas. I stopped by for a half dozen ears of corn, some green beans and a carton of cherry tomatoes. I was pleased with my purchases, and when I got home I found that the Prairie Princess had arrived with a gift of free tomatoes from a co-worker. And this goes into the fridge with the veggies that my cousin, Charlotte, gave me yesterday when I visited her in Menomonie. It's that time of year when the gardeners in your life have beaucoup produce and begin to give it away. She had zucchini to spare. And cukes. And early potatoes. There are salads in my future.

Later I played about an hour of tennis with Curt. Just banging the ball back and forth and trying out some aggressive play. A guy walked by and remarked that it was nice to see guys playing who really knew how to play. It warmed the cockles of my heart. We were just having fun. It is nice to be appreciated, however, even by anonymous passersby.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Victoria Water Platters

It was hot enough to require a quart of Powerade and a water bottle of cool, clear water to finish our appointed tennis sets this afternoon. The temperature was in the high eighties, but the dew point remained about 55, so there was redemption for serve and volley doubles. My partner was Jerry from my mixed doubles team, and he and I played well enough to win one of the two sets we played. We played a premature tie breaker at 5-5, at my request, because I was starting to get knackered. It was nearly six and we'd been in the sun for 2 plus hours. We finished at 6-5 and declined an offer to join in the survivor set, the set reserved for the truly hardcore.

Later in the evening, I had a walk in Como Park again. It's a good place to get photos, and it's really pretty near dusk. There is a water display of lily pads and other water plants in the area just outside the Conservatory, very near the butterfly garden. The most dramatic of the lily pads are the Victoria Water Platters. They are like no Minnesota grown water plants.

And I got caught in a downpour on the way back to my auto. It cooled the night down enough to allow a night of good sleeping.

Monday, August 2, 2010

August is a hot month, Martha

I stayed out of the heat until about three, when I took my Powerade, water, and new racket to Marie courts to engage in competition. I found a couple of the geezers already there, trying to get an edge by warming up ahead of time. I took their picture (this is supposed to be a tennis blog.) It was 86 degrees, at least that's what the radio said as I exited my auto and got ready to play. We managed two sets and a ten point tiebreaker. I relearned the lesson that I learn every August. It is a good idea to replace electrolytes with Powerade or equivalent liquid beverages. I managed to stay reasonably sharp and upright all the way to the end of the friendly ordeal.

After some dinner, I decided to get out of the hot house and visit the jewel of St Paul's park system - Como Park. The butterfly garden was my principal target tonight. I was hoping to see some Monarch's fluttering about. It's also reputed to be very close to peak Monarch season. There were lots of pretty flowers and a good supply of milk weeds - the preferred egg laying plants of the Monarchs - but no flutterbys. I guess they prefer other times of day or maybe they've left for Mexico, but neither Monarchs nor any of their kin were to be seen. But the flowers were pretty. Cone flowers??

I spent some more time strolling around the park as dusk began to descend and came across athletic competition on the soccer fields. It was a real game with referees and colorful shirts, so I stopped and watched a while. These guys are in no danger of ever playing in the World Cup, but they were working hard, trying to play the right way, and enjoying the fun of competition. I took a photo of a corner kick. The goalie made a good save and punted the ball out of danger. There was also a baseball game going on a ways off to the right of the soccer field. There are a lot of things going on in Como Park on an August evening.

It's been a warm spell in Minnesota, but with a reasonable amount of rain and the warmth, everything is green and beautiful.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bright colors for theme day

At the last moment, nearly, I decided to participate in theme day - "bright colors, says Santini." Luckily I have a large library of flower photos, photos that were almost lost when my old computer attained "boat anchor" status. My photo:

It was a normal Sunday, not any tennis to report, but a day spent around Herb and the princess. A warm and nice August beginning as we slide towards time for the state fair. Carpe diem.