Monday, January 31, 2011

Another snow event

We are in the midst of another round of falling snow. This time it's maybe 5-7 inches, enough for a snow emergency plowing event beginning tonight. It is a pretty snow as it continues to fall.

I promised a trip to the fairgrounds to see the Winter Carnival snow sculptures. I was there this afternoon and it snowed continuously while I was there. Snow messes up snow sculptures. The details that were lovingly carved by the artists get filled in and the sculptures begin to look more like just another pile of snow. This photo depicts an auto being driven to the Winter Carnival. It's representative of the works on the grounds.

A street photo to show what St Paul is looking like today. This was taken on Ben Hill street, one of my routes to Crosby Farm when I'm biking on warmer days. It looks like it may need to be plowed tonight and I guess it will get what it needs.

I saw a guy biking on Lexington Avenue near Como this afternoon while I was driving to the fairgrounds. I wanted to take his photo, because he was moving precariously up a rise on Lexington towards Como Lake, so precariously that he lost traction and got off to walk the bike up the street amongst the traffic. It was not a day that I'd want to be on a bike in that part of the city. He is a brave man.

There will be shoveling and roof raking galore in the next 18-24 hours in the Saintly City.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winter Carnival Ice Sculptures

Today is the final day for contestants to finish the ice sculptures for St Paul's Winter Carnival contest.  It was about 16 degrees and I had some time and I needed a walk in the outdoors.  I went to watch what was happening at Rice Park, the scene of the carving.  I parked by the Cathedral rather than paying eight bucks to park, and it gave me a nice walk down the hill to the park by the Ordway Theatre.  The carvers were hard at work with their chainsaws and ice picks, chipping away at the things in the ice that didn't look like their chosen subject.  This was the most colorful of the ones that were already finished.

There is also a block long wall of ice along one side of Rice Park partly to advertise the sponsors of the contest. It was a popular place to get one's picture taken, so I tried to get an image of as much of it as I could see,

The sculptors were hard at work with their chainsaws and chippers. It's pretty amazing what detail work they are able to do with these implements. There were plenty of onlookers enjoying the activities and taking in the crisp air. I noticed that the hot dog vendor on site was doing a brisk business selling bratwurst sandwiches at four bucks a piece.  There was another guy selling cold weather gear for the unprepared and at premium prices.

Here's another sculpture that photographed pretty well. It's sort of an Egyptian motif, perhaps a modified sphinx.  It's right next to a park bench as well.

Also going on at the park was an event that I had not known about. It's a robotic snow plow competition. Several colleges entered robots which were programmed to use sensors to detect the location of snow in front of them and to plow the snow off to one side. I watched a plow entered by the University of Michigan at Dearborn attempt a 'U' shaped course. They started out well but soon veered to the left off course, hit the outer barrier, and had to regroup and probably restart. By that time I was getting a little chilled and left to find my transportation home.

Tomorrow, I'm likely to go find the Winter Carnival snow sculptures at the Fairgrounds. That contest ended today, too, but one cold weather activity a day suffices. I'm hoping for a sunnier day, but that may not come to pass. The weather creatures are predicting 3-6 inches of new white snow before tomorrow night.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tempus fugit

It was 34 degrees for a while this afternoon. That doesn't translate into much melting, but it means that it was a pretty pleasant day. The sun was absent, hiding behind a bank of clouds, but it's starting to warm up a bit at a time.

I played two very entertaining sets of tennis at Wooddale this morning. Jerry and I won both sets, but they were competitive, 7-5, 7-5. There were a few shots that should have been winners for us, but were returned for winners against us because of miraculous reflexes on the part of our friends and opponents. My team's average age was 64, opponent's 60.5 and we managed to forget our decrepitude and played like youngsters for a while. In the middle of the second set, when Pat and Bob were mounting a serious comeback attempt, Jerry told me, "I think they're trying to beat us." And I guess they were.

An image from the slides I've been scanning. This was taken in 1985 in the state just east of Lake Michigan. It features a couple of frequent subjects of my camera's lens, folks now sometimes known as Wireless and the Prairie Princess. It must have been a warm summer day.

I neglected to post on my dad's 102nd birthday on the 26th. I'm making up for the omission by including this photo from 1943. The crying Charlie is me. My brother, Tommy, is pretty sedate, and I don't remember the dog at all.  I wonder if his name was Tag.  I don't recognize the setting, but it most assuredly was somewhere in northern Wisconsin.  [Late edit: Back of photo says, "May 1943.  This is how Jim looks when he makes a face. The dog belongs to a neighbor."  Dog is probably not named Tag.]

Tempus fugit.

Aussie Kim won the lady's championship of the Australian Tennis tournament over night last night.  Clijsters beat Li Na from China 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.  And the Bryan Twin Brothers, Bob and Mike, from the USA won their fifth doubles title there 6-3, 6-4.  They're the same guys that played an exhibition match in Minnesota last month at Fort Snelling tennis center.  I was privileged to see them play that day.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter Walking Trail

A heat wave arrived in the tundra today.  The thermometer in my auto registered 27 positive degrees this afternoon.  A good day to do something new.  I had never before traversed the length of Pike Island on the snow in January before.  I thought I might find some wild creatures cavorting about in the snow, too.  The deer were there, but not on Pike Island.  They apparently have been lured to the mainland by whomever is feeding them crushed kernel corn nearer the entrance to the park.  There were groups of deer and wild turkeys hanging around the mounds of yellow corn.  I guess this is a hungry time of year for wild life, especially the last few very frigid days.

I crossed the bridge onto the island and encountered directional signs showing the way to the groomed walking trail that goes to the end of the island.  There is also a trail for cross country skiers that goes around the island's perimeter.

There was only one other hiker today, and I encountered him on the way back. At the far downstream end of the island there is a bench, pictured below. The 35E bridge over the Mississippi is in the far background. I managed to get a good bench shot as well as a bridge - a two-fer.

I took a photo of the scenery(?) on the way back. The scenery is mainly the black trunks of trees against the white snow. This island will likely flood this spring and all that is pictured here could be under water.

I was on the island for about two hours. After the long walk to my auto and the drive home, I made some simple vegetable soup based on the tomato and spinach soup recipe recently posted by Santini on the family experimental cooking blog.  Except that I used a little too much pepper, it turned out pretty good.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pond Hockey

After my morning tennis session at Wooddale, which incidentally was pretty good tennis for a quartet of geezers, and close, too, I came home to survey the remains of the day. Since it had warmed to three degrees on the positive side of zero, I thought maybe a little walk and perhaps some spectator sport to check in on would be an interesting course of action. Luckily, this weekend in Minneapolis there is a pond hockey tournament, hockey played the way it's supposed to be played - outside on a big lake in really cold weather. The U.S. Pond Hockey Tournament is about six years old and is played this year on Lake Nokomis, Friday through Sunday.

It was four degrees on the Matrix when I arrived at Lake Nokomis.  I parked and walked out onto the ice and joined a good sized crowd who were enjoying the cold and the action.  This is a game between two teams in the 50+ age group - "Pond Scum" and "Spirit of 78."  The guys in green - the scum - are so old that their jersey numbers are in Roman numerals.  There was spirited action and a lot of people watching dressed for wind chill.

More action from the same game, won by the Spirit of '78 by a score of 6-4. There is no checking and no raising the puck. It's a four on four game with no goalies. To score you put the puck in a narrow slot in the wooden goal at either end of the ice.

These guys are warming up before their game. They shoveled the rink before getting started.  There is another of the 25 rinks in the background and the temporary warming "shack" and food tent which is also sitting out on Lake Nokomis.  It's a pretty good view of the goal and how it is shaped.  I had a walk around inside the warming shack because it was cold and I had a need for a little warming.  It was packed with spectators, players and vendors of warm, high calorie and over priced food, and beer, too.   It's a pretty well run tournament.

I took a picture of the map of the rinks on the lake. Most of the 25 were in action while I was there. There are a lot of players from out of state and some pretty good hockey players on the teams in the Open division. In years past, and probably this year, too, there have been former NHL players on the better teams.

It was only four degrees, so I only lasted through the first period of the day's last session games. There will be playoff games tomorrow to see who wins the Golden Shovel. These guys are hard core. Me, not so much.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This is what January looks like in St Paul

It's eight below zero as I type these words, on its way to about 15 below. January's coldest days have arrived. With full knowledge that frigid air was on its way, I went out in the early afternoon to record what the street in front of my house looks like now. This is the view to the west and the next photo is the view to the east. The streets are lined with white walls of snow. It'll be worthwhile to look back on these in July when we face those dog days in the 90's.

No pavement in sight. My exercise walk today was inside a mall. I try not to make a habit of that, but today it seemed to be the right thing to do.

And this evening I played a couple of sets of tennis at Wooddale with Jerry and the hard core girls. It was nice to be inside running around in short pants and smacking tennis balls. It wasn't the prettiest tennis of the year, but it was good exercise and good fun. If that wasn't nice, what is?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ducks on the pond

After a couple of inch snowfall over night, and a subsequent rise in temperature, it seemed like a good afternoon to see how the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary was doing.  PP had done some native restoration work there last summer and she wasn't otherwise occupied, so we went together. It was about 26 degrees when we arrived.

There hadn't been much activity there.  The snow is pretty deep and there hasn't been a need to plow the paths.  We walked along the creek, which is spring fed and thus running ice free towards Carver's Cave.  There were some hawks in the air in the distance and small birds in the brush as we passed.   When we reached Carver's Cave we came upon a large number of mallard ducks.  The open water seems to be a magnet for them and it looks like they are being fed corn mash by some unknown feeder.  They came out to greet us as though they expected a feast.  We were empty handed.  Usually these birds are migratory and go south for the cold months, but these individuals opted for staying put.  Another meaning for the term "snow bird."

It was a warmish afternoon walk and nice to get outside on one of the last "nice" days before a predicted cold snap smacks us tomorrow morning. I guess then I'll work on finishing the slide scanning project that I put on the back burner for Christmas. I scanned a few last night from 1984 and I'm getting some enthusiasm for the project again. I scanned the photo below last night. For infrequent readers, the subjects are Wireless and her cousin, the Prairie Princess at age a little over one.

Pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fort Snelling White Tailed Deer

After tennis and some lunch, I decided to take advantage of a nice winter day and go to Fort Snelling State Park. There is quite a bit of activity in the park on weekends, especially when the temperature is in the teens and there is new snow on the ground. The cross country skiers and snowshoers are out enjoying the day. There are a few walkers, including a substantial herd of white tailed deer and me. I counted at least 12 deer in my hour and a half or so in the state park. This one I walked up to on Pike Island and it continued to graze on whatever was sticking up above the snow. The snow is deep, so there were groups of deer standing around in partially plowed parking areas, too, chewing their cuds. Do white tailed deer chew cuds?

This may be the same deer, but it is some distance further away and walking through the deeper snow. It wasn't scared of me at all, either.

This a view looking up at the historic fort from down in the river valley. The sun is very low in the sky because it was after four o'clock, and the sun sets early in Minnesota in January. There is substantial snow cover as you can see. My favorite weather web site reported 51.7 inches of snow for the season thus far in St. Paul, just a bit more than a normal snowfall for the full winter season.

The moon is visible through the trees and is set off against the deep blue sky. Have I mentioned that the sky is very, very blue when the air is cold? It was again today. A pretty day to be hiking around in the snow.

My tennis log is getting filled up. Today was my fourth day of the week on the courts and, although I definitely felt some fatigue before we began playing this morning at Wooddale, the hot tea and ibu that I took in at home before I played, took effect and I managed to play well enough to compete. By the time we finished, I was feeling young again.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Outdoor Wood Sculpture in St Paul

It's cold here, but outdoor walkabouts are still entertaining. This morning I decided to find some of the neighborhood wood sculptures and see how they're doing in the snow. The first and third are former elm trees, turned to sculpture by private citizens. They stand where the elm used to stand. I'm not so sure of the origin of the middle sculpture. It took me about 45 minutes in about nine degree weather to make the circuit.

This statue of Lady Liberty stands on Fairmount, not far from Dale Street, the snow piled up around its base.

The man and boy sculpture sits on the north side of Grand Avenue, near Dale Street.

The statue of a pioneer woman stands across the street from the Governor's mansion. The purple sweater is a nice touch on a cold day like today.

The USTA tennis report is the same sad story. Jerry's team, the one I'm on, played tonight at Fort Snelling's Fred Wells Tennis Center. I was able to maintain my losing streak, again losing in three sets, 4-6, 7-5, 0-1. The third set in this league is always a ten point tie breaker, so that we can fit a match into two hours. The team as a whole lost this time and our league record fell to 3-2.

Again, as I have said before, it's just nice to be able to get on the court and compete with these other tennis players. I'll win again sometime, I hope, but it's not the whole goal of the process.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cute Babies

When you don't have much to say, sometimes it's best to trot out an old picture of babies. These cuties were babies circa 1983 and the photo is one I've rescued from my dusty drawer of photographic slides. From left to right (pseudonyms only): Tennis Tousan, Prairie Princess, Wireless, Mr Moohoo.

I managed to get in some mall walking today. Once in a while I circle the inside of HarMar mall a couple of times to get exercise. This morning was only about ten degrees outside, so it seemed like an opportune day to do some circling.

Incidentally, speaking of circling, Bert Blyleven, a former Minnesota Twin, was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame this week. He was the fourth Twin to be so honored.

I've decided to keep track of my tennis activities this month and perhaps all year if I like the process. Other bloggers seem to have all the fun, logging their biking miles and reaching milestones, while I've been ignoring the beauty of statistics. It's not clear to me yet what I'll do with the stats, and what possible realizations will come of it, but I'm giving it a go. I have a new file on my laptop and I'll be filling it with cold hard facts.

I played mixed doubles tonight at Wooddale. Tonight, Becky had family responsibilities so the players were Jerry, Barb, Marsha and me. We managed to fit three full sets into an hour and a half. That doesn't happen very often, but the games were quick with few deuce points and the pace crisp: 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. I have a USTA league mixed doubles match Sunday night at Fort Snelling and Marsha is my expected partner. I'm on a league match losing streak, but I'm hoping to be able to get a win at Fort Snelling, which is one of my favorite tennis venues.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Nine or ten degrees Fahrenheit

It reached about eleven degrees sometime today according to my favorite weather site for St Paul. But the sun was out and the sky was blue for much of the day - until it morphed to black when the sun went down. (What's with that?). I'm determined to walk outside for an extended time each day this January - when I can stand the cold and especially on days when my tennis schedule is empty. Today was one of those days when it took some self convincing to get out into the great expanse of winter. By eleven, I was ready, and sufficiently dressed, I trekked around the neighborhood for about forty-five minutes. It was brisk, but not bitter. So after lunching on self produced soup and sandwich I went out again. This time the sun was pretty high in the sky and very blue. I stopped at Como on my way to a grocery store to top up the larder. Como is frozen over and there are currently two ice fish houses on the lake. I guess the ice is thick enough for this activity, although there is an aerator on the lake which produces unpredictable thin areas of the ice. I'm not a partaker in this activity, but it's nice to see that there are people who are brave enough to put up a fishing house, and also likely brave enough to consume the fish they might capture in a city lake. The darker area in the foreground is the shadow of the large building which houses the Black Bear Crossing cafe.

Winter doesn't last as long as it seems sometimes, but we are at the nadir of the temperature range for the state. The days are getting longer now, and the coldest part of the year will be behind us by about the third week of January. I think I'm going to make it to spring again this year.

Tennis resumes tomorrow at Fort Snelling. My two days off from the action are enough this time of year. The geezer guys will be itching for competition tomorrow, because they were off a couple of days, too, and I know they'll be running me around. It'll be my second time on court in this spanking new year.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Pie Party

The Christmas Pie/White Elephant party took place tonight. As is usual we ate pizzas from Papa Murphy's and Papa John's, a great tasting and varied salad from Mark and Peggy, and dessert from Andy and Tula. The beer was supplied by Gino and Barb. We had fifteen for dinner.

The white elephant gift giving went well and much laughing and appreciation of the sometimes odd gifts was apparent. One of the hit gifts was a noisy pink piggy bank who made noises when money was inserted into the slot on its back. I think Barb took the pig home with her, since she had the last number and drew her gift last. There were some suspicions of skullduggery, but mostly in jest. I think that she plans to take the pig to work and perhaps get unsuspecting co-workers to insert some coins in exchange for the pig's appreciative noisemaking.

We learned that Katie and Ryan are now engaged and will be married in October. They seemed happy and very much looking forward to wedding plans. Congratulations to the couple.

We had fun and ate well. If that isn't nice, what is?