Friday, December 21, 2012

Not doomsday

Just to note that today was the 99th birthday of Lillie Evelyn Anderson Miller. She was born on the day before the solstice in 1913. Google, the wonderful tool that it is, let me know that the solstice in 1913 was on the 22nd of December.  This photo was taken about 1947.  I'm guessing.  Happy birthday, wherever you are.

And to note in passing that the day that the world was to end, doomsday, today, is nearly over and so far, so good. So I put up the Christmas tree. I think there will be a Christmas again this year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


The Princess of Prairie is in the building. The plane from JFK was nearly two hours late, but Unky Herb and I collected her at the HHH terminal and got home in due time. She was up early and ready for the dreaded first day of jet lag, seemingly unfazed. It's been a busy day. We trekked to the DMV to get expired driver's license renewed, to the bank to get a new replacement cash card to replace one lost somewhere on the other side of the world, lunch at iPho by Saigon, groceries and vino at Trader Joe's, Penzeys for cloves and whole cardamon, etc. We were engaging in Christmas like activities.

I'm a little knackered and ready for a little sit down.

She hasn't crashed yet. Still going on Christmas adrenalin.

I'm still likely to play some tennis tonight at Wooddale. By tomorrow, I'll be ready for the solstice, the Mayan solstice. It sure doesn't seem like doomsday.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two more days before the end

The Prairie Princess was due home on a Sun Country plane from Oslo scheduled for about 11 p.m. tonight. As is usual as these December trips go, weather and perhaps travel traffic in the New York City area caused some delay. At the moment, the expected arrival time is 12:43 a.m on the 20th. Unky Herb and I are killing time at home waiting for updates. There is a big snow storm in Iowa that is burying that state, but we are now likely to be spared most of the accumulation. Or so saith the weather soothsayers. We'll be going to the airport soon.

Here's a photo from the last time I saw her in person. It was taken last December in Aas, Norway.

The solstice strikes at 5:11 a.m. local time here in the saintly city. There has been a prediction of doomsday on that day, and if so this may be my final blog. If that's how the world ends. But I was led to believe that it would end, not with a bang, but a whimper. Or so T.S Eliot wrote. And even NASA has pooh-poohed the end of world theory, so I expect there will be other blogs yet this year, and I'll get a few more opportunities to expound on π and its relationship with whatever is going on around me. 

We may be domed.

My mom was born on the 21st of December, 99 years ago, possibly a solstice baby.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thirty years.

Every once in a while it's fun to see how the years have changed us. Thirty years is a long time and I know that I like the way I looked then compared to today. No offense. And it's nice to see what an attractive group we were in 1982. Aren't we pretty?

I played tennis this morning at Wooddale. I stopped at the desk to check in next to John, one of the guys that was subbing for one of the regular players. The court charge was $6 and the guest fee was $8. The guy behind the counter went to get his calculator to add the numbers together to get $14. Numerology in this country has drastically diminished when a calculator is necessary to add 6 and 8. It's a good thing there wasn't a π involved in the calculation. Not to boast, but I could add π and 8 and get 11.14159 without a calculator.

It's raining in the Saintly City today. Most years this would be another snow bomb. I read from Paul Douglas that if December averages 4.3 degrees above normal, this will be the warmest year ever in Minnesota. We are currently 7 degrees above normal for December.

The Prairie Princess will be flying to Oslo tomorrow from her post in Dar es Salaam, then she'll be there three days until her flight home Wednesday.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Laughing Waters

This has very little to do with π or even square roots, although I must admit to a lame idea of taking a photo of nine or ten apples in the snow arranged in the shape of π and blogging about apple π. Or even nine or ten miniature apple pies arranged in the shape of π, and blogging about apple pie π. Instead I went for a walk over in Minneapolis to see the falls in the mantle of snow, and perhaps to find a metaphor to use here. The falls were just dribbling water over the edge. We've seen that before. But, because the creek which feeds the falls is also very low, I decided to try to get close to the statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha, his Dakotah bride. I managed to ford the stream walking on stones. Up close I found there is actually an inscription at the base of the statue:

Over wide and rushing rivers
In his arms he bore the maiden;
               -The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Hiawatha and Minnehaha statue at the big park in Minneapolis next to Minnehaha Creek.

A side view not often seen of the famous statue.

The creek named for the Dakotah maiden just upstream from the statue is still flowing. You can readily see how how low the stream is. We are still officially in drought in Minnesota.

I spend some time walking around in the park, not wogging, just walking. I decided to stay on the upper level today. The stairs down to the lower level are closed, or at least there are signs that say they are closed, but the human footsteps on the stairs say that very few folk are paying attention.  Just us senior citizens.

I guess that the falls can serve as a metaphor for the fiscal cliff that our government is wrestling with.

Minnehaha apparently means "laughing waters."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

∏º Celcius

They haven't cleared all the walking surfaces at Como Park yet. The snow is still making walking there a little difficult, but I did a little of it this afternoon. After all the sun was shining and the temperature was nearly πº C. That's somewhere between 37º F. and 38º F., a fairly nice day in December in Minnesota. Not enough to turn the water on the lake back into its liquid form, but who's complaining.

I trudged around for a while on my seven decade old lower limbs, noticing that the geese have gone away. I think they like at least a little open water for take offs and landings. I noticed, in the deep snow along the lake, bicycle tracks. Thick winter tired bike tracks where even trudging was difficult. Some guy must have been in need of extra exercise, because that path is on no one's path to work. Or maybe he was just showing off. I wish I had a photo of his passing by, but he was gone. And the trail itself doesn't make for much of a photo. Instead I took a picture of these two benches, sitting side by side by the lake, one of which hasn't been used since at least last Saturday.

A white Christmas is nearly assured in the Saintly City this year.

I found an interesting site on the internet, where one can spend endless hours in the interest of science.  It allows people with a little extra time to look at photos taken in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania with cameras that are triggered by motion detectors.  All you have to do is recognize the animals in the photos and report their number on the site.  It's called Snapshot Serengeti.  Lots of zebras and gazelles with an occasional lioness or elephant.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It snowed a little over the weekend

I guess I mostly missed the brunt of the biggest snowstorm of the year ... thus far. I was spending a weekend in Pengilly getting PW's tree decorated and generally avoiding the predicted snow dump. It was a pretty big storm in the Twin Cities, but pretty tame on the Range. There was a foot of snow at the MSP airport and 16 inches in Falcon Heights, near the state fairgrounds. Swan Lake, just outside Pengilly, had maybe three inches. PW's tree looked pretty good when I left and it was still upright, thanks greatly to the wire attaching it to the wall.

I'd missed the storm, but I got in on the fun today. I promised to talk to PP at noon. It's her last week in Tanzania, before she flies off to Oslo and a few days later to this city of ice and snow. I left the Range at 8:10 with the temperature at -8º F. and the roads nicely frosted with whitish slick stuff. It wasn't as slippery as US-35, the main north-south route. The surface of the road was blessed with packed snow from Hinckley to the junction of US-694, just north of St Paul. I guess it was too cold for the highway department's salt solution to be effective.

I made it home without going off the road, unlike at least five cars that I saw along the way - a couple with people still in them.  It wasn't a day to go the speed limit, or even close. I made it home in time for the intercontinental chat with PP, partly because my sidewalks and drive into the garage had been shoveled and neatly cleared by Unky Herb, plus some superb help from UHMSY (Unky Herb's main squeeze Ying).

PP is ready to come home for some Christmas warmth and probably something in a warm glass. Hot cocoa, maybe.

So later I had time to walk around the neighborhood in the remains of the snowstorm. The look of the town has changed drastically, and actually it is quite a bit more attractive. It's just a bit harder to get around here, and will be for a few days until the rubes get used to driving on the slightly slipperier surface.

I trudged over to Linwood to look for photos of wintry wonderfulness, and to get a bit of exercise. The tennis courts at Linwood are currently unusable for their designed purpose - tennis playing. I've passed many hours on these courts smacking forehands and backhands, but I've not figured out a way to use them with a foot of snow on them.

People walked by this bench in Linwood Park, including me, but no one saw fit to have a sit down.

Evergreens always look right at home in a winter wonderland. And the sky was that pure blue that only sees to be around on cold winter afternoons.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Tails of the cat

December seems to be rolling right along.  I took a little vacation from blogging after that November marathon, but it seems like the muse is beginning to stir once more and I'm back at the keyboard.

Today is the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a day that began our entry into WWII. I don't remember it in person, of course, because it was 10 months before I was born.  I guess it was a pretty dramatic day and it very much affected the lives of everyone now living in America.  Some say that WWII was what finally got the U.S. economy out of the Great Depression.

It's a snow day here in the Saintly City. I guess we're getting a couple of inches of snow tonight, and then maybe 3-8 inches tomorrow night. It's probably about time that we get a snow event, and it may portend a white Christmas.  I have email from PP in her perch on the equator rueing the months she's spent without a hint of cold, much less any white wonderfulness on the ground. She may be sorry once she gets here, but that's her current sentiment. Incidentally, she's scheduled to arrive on her visit to the old country (here) on the 19th at 11 p.m.   Jet lagged and tanned from her time in the African sun.

I have spent some hours in the last few days at Crosby Farm Park, just walking around (JWA?).

Cat tails are going to seed. This one resides in Crosby Farm Park. After today the background will be a more apt wintry white.

Another cat tail photo on a much nicer day. This is from early August.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Another end of November blog

The last day of November, today, ends this blog every day marathon. This is the third year that I've participated and it appears that by this time every November, I do about the same thing on the last day. This year, I have an old photo from 1986 that features the costumed Unky Herb and the Prairie Princess (aka Daughter of Norway).  The hats that they are wearing are still part of my November wardrobe choices.  I don't know what happened to the racket, but it's gone from the current scene.

Previous years of NaBloPoMo:

In 2011 I titled the blog, "Two Herbs."

In 2010 I titled the entry, "November 30."

Today was cloudy and reasonably warm. I played some tennis at Fort Snelling tennis center with the gang of geezers and then came home to blog.  I stopped at Trader Joe's on the way for a few choice groceries, because tennis took almost all I had to offer today. The geezers ran me around and tried their best to beat me. That's how it goes with those guys. I wouldn't have it any other way.  But by Saturday morning at 10:30, after four days of competition, I'm often knackered and ready for a couple of days off.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


My landline phone stopped accepting inbound calls yesterday. It was odd. The phone rang once and then went to a busy signal. I was pretty sure that it must be a problem down at Ma Bell - that's what we used to call AT&T.  So I called them.  And was on hold for 20 minutes. Once they got to me, I told them that I could call out, but out only. Ms. Bell told me that my local calls were handled by another provider, CenturyLink.  So I called them. They sent out a guy, but his arrival was scheduled between 10 and 2. So I waited. At about noon the guy called me on the landline, because he had fixed it. "Squirrels," he said. They had eaten away part of the telephone line and it had to be replaced.  Squirrels are vermin.

In the afternoon I took a walk down by the river to contemplate the world and to wonder about the big news from Mars. "Historical," the NASA scientists have been saying. But they haven't divulged any details. No leaks have appeared in the NASA structure. They have to be sure before they say anything. So I wondered and wandered.

As I walked along the Mississippi River I came across a plastic lawn chair sitting facing the water. There was no one around. I was the only human form around. Someone left their lawn chair by the river. Maybe they went for a swim. It's sort of like a couple of years ago when I discovered a sofa frozen into the ice in the middle of the river, except there is no ice on the river yet. Maybe someone is living in the park.

There is ice on the shallow lakes, however. I still like the look of a snowless layer of ice. This is Upper Lake and the dock that sticks out into the water.

As I walked along the combination walking-bike path by the river I encountered a series of structures. At first I thought they were perhaps natural, but soon they seemed too regular to be flood water-built.

These look like lean-tos. Does someone live here?

It doesn't seem like the end of November, except for the extremely short daylight hours. It's pretty warm and the weekend promises a return to the 50's. I bet there'll be some bikers out and about, perhaps adding some December miles to their logs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No damn cat, no damn cradle

A tennis day at last. I needed the exercise and the chance to interact with the other tennis playing codgers. We commiserate with each other. The remark that "getting old is not for sissies" gets nods of understanding and mentions of sore knees, ankles and shoulders. We smile or grimace and go hit some overhead smashes. The retired English professor, who has been sidelined with a rotator cuff problem for a couple of months is now back working on being competitive. He's the oldest guy, but doesn't spend any time talking about quitting. He says he has so many aching parts that the only cross training he can do is his daily regimen of 30 sit-ups. His stomach muscles are fine, it's just that his limbs and joints are a little achy. He played pretty well today.

After playing today, we chatted about the impending lottery drawing tonight. There is a chance that someone in the USA will win 550 million dollars. Anyone with a lottery ticket has a one in 175 million chance of being the one who is saddled with instant large wealth. We retired guys decided that it might be more trouble than it's worth to win. You'd have to hire a bunch of people to handle the money, and a bunch of people to protect you from the other people. And you might have to move somewhere else and maybe have to give up our twice a week tennis outing. So far as everyone said, not one of the four of us had a ticket, and I think we're all passing. Good luck to the rest of you.

After nearly two sets of tennis we quit. As it turns out it was a bit early, because one of the guys tweaked his shoulder and had to stop hitting tennis balls. So I went looking for a photo to use in this blog.

Fort Snelling State Park is less than a mile from the tennis center, so I drove there to get a photo before the sun descended below the horizon. I just made it in time to get a photo of the chapel in the waning light and a look at some of the memorials to early settlers and explorers that are found there.

The sunset comes earlier and earlier, and will for the next three weeks or so. This one caught me as I was tromping about near the Fort Snelling Chapel, so I took its photo across the highway with the athletic field lights at Fort Snelling sticking up in the distance.

There's not much of connection between tennis and the Fort Snelling chapel, except proximity. It's sort of like that children's game of cat's cradle. Try to find some relationship between the strings between your fingers and the name of the activity. And also the blog every day in November activity for that matter.  No damn cat, no damn cradle.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More ice

It's Tuesday and the temperature outside is getting warmer, but not as warm as next Monday is predicted to be.  Paul Douglas, as I previously reported, is predicting 52º that day. Today there is still a layer of ice on the lakes, almost completely covering the denser water below. I had another long walk over by Como. There's always something to see. Today I tested the ice to see if it was solid enough to walk on. I made it about ten feet out from shore and remembered those "Thin Ice" signs posted along the shore. I took this photo back towards shore and then went back towards shore. The ice seemed darker today, maybe because it was cloudy, and, also, the open water areas had shrunk.

More dark ice, still snowless and still dangerous.

I walked on. There were a few high school ski team members running by, warming up for the season and on their way to the cross country skiing facilities on the golf course. In the winter, when golfing is impossible, the city opens the course for skiing, and I guess the high schools have competition here once the snow have adequately covered the grass and the geese droppings.

Happily I will have tennis to blog about tomorrow, but every bit as important is that I'll be getting some of my favorite exercise.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ice Nine?

It was below zero on the Iron Range this morning, but in the saintly city the temperature rose to 22º F. The water in Swan Lake was in its liquid state, whereas the water in Lake Como was mainly changed over to the solid state. I think the reason for the apparent discrepancy in water state may be due to the depth of the lake. Or maybe the presence of ice nine. The fictional ice nine of "Cat's Cradle" fame melts at 114.4º F, and acts sort of like seed crystal and causes all water that it comes in contact with to solidify. It was nasty enough to cause the end of the world in that book.

It looks like this was more likely ice one (which is what normal ice is) because there were a couple of open, iceless areas on Lake Como.  There is a real type of water called ice IX, which doesn't have the properties of the fictional ice nine.

The ice on Como doesn't completely cover the surface yet. There are a couple of pools of what I expect to be very cold water. Incidentally, it is 1.6 miles around that fine city lake. That is about 2.57 kilometers - somewhat less than π kilometers. If it were exactly π kilometers and if Como were a round lake, it would be exactly 1 kilometer across the lake (C=πd, =› d=C/π; where d is diameter and C is circumference).  I walked around it today rather than trying the direct diameter route.

Just to show that the ice is stable, I stepped a couple of feet out onto the ice and took a photo of my shadow.  This the time of year when ice is not yet covered with snow and thus has a unique look, something like a partially transparent and irregular mirror.  I was not the only lake walker today, but they were sparse.

“In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness.

And God said, "Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done." And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat, looked around, and spoke. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.

"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.

"Certainly," said man.

"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.

And He went away.”

― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle  [probably from the book of Bokononism.]

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Swan Lake Thanksgiving

It's Sunday and time to finish off the Thanksgiving weekend. It was a cold day, but pretty enough to walk outside a bit. It snowed overnight and again this morning and the fresh snow made the landscape white and pure. PW and I walked down the hill to the shore of Swan Lake to scope out the view and, of course, to get a photo or two for the blog. The stairs under her feet were snowy, but not yet icy and even as the snow fell the day was pretty and pure.

Swan Lake is pretty deep and even with the temperature in the lower teens for a couple of days there is not any ice covering yet. Last winter in January I walked across this bay on a couple of feet of ice, thick enough for trucks to drive on. We are on our way back to that level, slowly, but surely. The only ice was on the shore, but soon there will be more, a lot more.

We built a fire in the fire pit and burned some carbon to fight the cool northern Minnesota chill. I guess it's winter, but it's not yet anywhere near the cold that is yet to descend. TT looks a little chilled, but it was nice to be in the pure air of the northern pine forest.  And the fire was nice and toasty.

We set about our meal preparations in the afternoon. It was a Thanksgiving menu, a trifle scaled down, but with way too much food for just the two of us. We had the mini-turkey, actually a big chicken, stuffing with wild rice and mushrooms, cranberry sauce - the old family recipe - potatoes and some really good gravy. The table is set, the chicken is roasted and the feasting is about to begin for Thanksgiving II.

I'm once again, for the second time in less than a week, way too full of good food. I'm again thankful. This is a great country.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ice begins to form

It's Saturday and it's winter. I played my Saturday morning tennis at Wooddale. It was scheduled for nine a.m., but I showed up a bit early to stretch and get ready, because those guys seem to be getting serious about beating me. It was very close and pretty good tennis for old guys. The first set went to 6-4, and we were tied 6-6 in the second when we had to give up the court. Our 90 minutes were up.

Later I took a drive into the countryside. There are lakes around that actually are beginning to freeze over. This one happens to be in Moose Lake, but it's clearly water in the solid state.

Tomorrow is 2012's Thanksgiving II.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Snow on the ground

The snow looks like it may be here to stay for a while. I was out in it a bit today, and the wind and the temperature guaranteed that we're in for a wintry spell.

But it's that month when I need a blog post everyday and that means a photo. The white backdrop makes for an interesting juxtaposition of color and colorless. I admit to posing the flowers in the backyard and snapping away.

There was an intriguing snow pattern on the patio this morning as the thin layer of snow gave way to the bricks below.

After the photos I went to get my exercise for the day. Luckily, tennis can be played inside. My college teammate, Rich, is in town this week and filled in for the competition at Fred Wells Tennis Center. He was my doubles partner. He hadn't played in a few weeks, but was in the zone today and greatly helped our cause. He kept us in the two sets we completed and the partial set that we had to abandon. We were out of time. I again learned the lesson about being well nourished before going onto the court. I guess the great quantity of food I ingested yesterday was not enough. I needed lunch.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Big Bird day

Thanksgiving dinner at the Moohoos was tasty and we had fun. The turkey was plenty big enough, the stuffing delicious, the gravy lumpless, the cranberry bread just right, and I think everyone had plenty of food. We had three pies (pumpkin, apple, and pumpkin cheese cake) to go around to just five pie eaters, somewhat more than half a pie each. There are lots of appetizing leftovers. Even after the usual turkey sandwich later in the day. There was, and is, much to be thankful for.

We played a couple of word games, too. There was a new game called Bananas (I think) and several rounds of Boggle. The two pro football games demanded some attention, but I'm not even sure who was playing at the moment. I think there was a third game beginning this evening.

At about seven the snows began. It looked like it might be one of those freaky November storms that fills the streets with snow drifts, but it looks like it was just a warning shot. It tapered off after a while and left just wet pavement. The real winter has yet to arrive, but it doesn't appear to be many days off.

It was a nice traditional Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Easy as pie

It was again a beautiful day, one very unusual for November and it set all time records for warmth on this day in several Minnesota communities. It was 61º here in the Saintly City. I was scheduled for tennis at Fort Snelling with the cadre of codgers. We thought briefly about conducting business outdoors, but the knowledge that many courts have taken down their nets already held us back. So we played inside.

But after the fun, I went looking for a photo of the day. The sky was pretty so I stopped along Mississippi Boulevard and snapped off a shot or two.

Because tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and because I said that I'd make an apple pie for the feast at the Smith residence, in the Prairie Princess' absence, I went home to get it done.

And I made a pie from granny smith apples and just the right amount of cinnamon (at least that's what I think).  The expression, "easy as pie" seems to indicate that one cannot screw up a pie. I won't know until tomorrow, but it's looking promising.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Back to Pike Island

It was only fifty-four degrees today, but there was no wind and the sun was shining in a cloudless sky. I spent the morning threatening to go to Pike Island and in the afternoon I actually did it. It was again a very beautiful day in a month that often produces day after day of clouds.  At the top of the hill by Fort Snelling - the old fort itself - I stopped for a photo of one of the corner towers. The slits in the wall allow cover for anyone shooting from this location and was probably pretty daunting to any attackers. It's been 150 years since the U.S. Dakota War of 1862, maybe the last time the stone walls were relevant for warriors, but the fort has been restored to reflect those days and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to storm the walls.

I walked down the big hill to the stream that separates the mainland from Pike Island and walked to the edge of the big river. There is a pole in the ground which is marked with the heights of the great floods in the last 150 or so years. The current level of the drought stricken river is very much below the level of the land where the pole is standing. It's been a dry, dry year.

It's not often that the Mississippi River is so still as to appear mirror-like. Today it was.  Shortly after I took the photo a block long barge went by and roiled the surface, making the mirror back into a rippled river surface.

I spent about an hour on Pike Island, doing a circle on the nearest third of the island hoping that I might spot a deer or two, but I was disappointed in that quest. There has been an archery deer season across the river in Crosby Park and the deer may be spooked. Or maybe I just didn't happen to encounter any of them. I did see some trees downed by beavers and a lot of noisy squirrels. In any case, it was a peaceful place for a nature walk and I was glad to be in one of my favorite natural (or near natural) places in the cities.

The late afternoon sun and the calm winds helped produce this view of the bridge to Pike Island, taken from Pike Island itself just before I left the island to climb the hill back to the fort.

In the winter of 1862-63, after the Dakota War, about 1,600 non-combat Dakotas were held over the winter in an internment camp on Pike Island, and suffered severe hardship. As many as 300 died. Those who survived were forcibly moved to reservations in what is now Nebraska.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fifty-nine degrees

After lunch and before the sun went down on one of the nicest November days that I can remember, Unky Herb and I took a drive over to the big water water falls in Minneapolis. Minnehaha Creek is suffering an epic drought and the amount of water cascading over the falls is pretty pathetic. It's not much of a tourist attraction at the moment, but while I was there several groups were taking photos posing with the anemic waterfall as backdrop. They may have been native Twin Cities residents.

This is looking down at the creek just below the falls. There is a decided lack of water down there, especially when compared with the usual spring flush.

We walked down the creek for a ways to the second bridge below the falls, then up the hill to the picnic area by the Veteran's Home. There were people playing frisbee golf on the course there, several of whom seemed to have pretty good skill at the sport. Minnehaha Park is a really nice city park.

In 1863, on this date, November 19, Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldier's National Cemetery in Pennsylvania. The speech was only two minutes long. When I was in junior high school, or maybe elementary school, one of our assignments was to memorize that speech as it was known to have been spoken. You know, the one that starts, "Four score and seven years ago ..." and is reputed to be one of the best speeches ever uttered. I still remember a lot of that speech from memory, more than 50 years later.  Now reading a Wikipedia article about the speech, I find that there is some disagreement about the actual text of the speech as he gave it. There were no tape recorders in those days so whatever the orator published in the paper on subsequent days about his words was accepted as the actual text. The newspapers of the day differ in several respects from the five known "manuscripts" of the speech.  So I maybe memorized the wrong version of the speech. I feel slightly hoodwinked.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Keep off the grass

Unky Herb (UH) came home with a couple of photos from one of his co-workers. The co-worker is the daughter of the people who did day care for UH and the Prairie Princess (PP) when they were young. The photos were part of Christmas cards that we sent out in 1993, and now 19 years later they came back. This one was a favorite of mine for that year and I don't think that I've posted it before. It was taken at a party or maybe a restaurant in that year. I post it to remind me of the circularity of experience. What goes out sometimes returns.

While walking in the surrounding neighborhood, I encountered this lawn sign: "Pelouses Interdites."  I've been to France a couple of times, but I don't remember this particular sign anywhere, but I could be wrong. The sign is clearly in French and is posted in a part of St Paul that is not very well known for its French speakers, so I'm not sure why it was posted except perhaps as whimsy. My translation and that of google translate is "Lawns forbidden."  Maybe it means "keep off the grass."  In any case most people who are apt to read it will be as clueless as I was. Google says that if they meant "keep off the grass," they should have said "défense de marcher sur le gazon." I hope there is a better explanation of the French language idiosyncrasies than this.

I wish to express my appreciation for Gino's blog and its explanation of the location of Horton Avenue between Lexington and Hamline Avenues. I spent several harrowing moments searching for Java Train Cafe on Horton Avenue and Pascal last evening and can attest to the fact that Horton doesn't make it past the west gates of Como Park. PW and I were not lost, just a little confused about the city planners naming of streets. I'd say to stay off Como Avenue if you can, but definitely avoid it during the State Fair in late August.

We had some exercise today in unseasonably warm weather. I know we'll pay for the stretch of fine weather with a cold snap later, but it's a small enough price to pay. We hiked up to Grand to see if Pier One had baskets of a specific size and quality for the right price.   Kind of fussy, isn't she?   We found nada.  But it was a nice day, a nice walk, and if that wasn't nice, what is?

We had dinner at Mai Village.  It's still in business and the food is still good.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hockey night

PW made it in plenty of time for the 4:07 start of the Minnesota Gophers game against Minnesota State of Mankato at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. We met Mr and Mrs Smith there and sat near the penalty box, a site that had quite a bit of traffic during the game. The game was close after the first period, 1-1, but the Gophers had too much speed and talent for Minnesota State and the next two periods were not so close. It was fun to see such athleticism and love of the sport in both teams. Those girls can skate and stick handle.

The final score 9-1 was decidedly one-sided. The Gophers won their 22nd straight game to set a new collegiate record for consecutive victories.  They have been ranked number one in the nation all year.

After the game we had dinner at Java Train, a local cafe near the State Fair Grounds. The food was plenty good and we were able to talk over the game and other shared interests.

It was a good day and a warm one for November 17th. It was still 52 degrees at 8 p.m as we drove home.  I played tennis this morning and now I just need to lean back, relax and contemplate life.

Friday, November 16, 2012


The House of Hope Church on Summit Avenue is undergoing massive maintenance. I walked by there and marveled at the amount of scaffolding necessary to do the work, not to mention the massive crane stationed there to aid in the work. House of Hope is the Presbyterian Church where the funeral of Hubert Humphrey was held in January of 1978. That event brought a whole lot of famous and powerful politicians to Minnesota, and I remember going over there on a really cold day to try to get some photos of the attendees. Without success. It was too cold for anyone but the masses to be outside, I guess.

The church hasn't changed much since that day, except they took down the security fences and sent the Secret Service home.

I walked by there with no one much noticing.

I spent a couple of hours today at the Tennis Center at Fort Snelling. There was some sort of workshop going on for tennis teachers, so we were shuttled to the back courts where we (the gang of geezers) managed to finish three full sets of pretty good for old guys tennis. Now I'm knackered. But the tennis was hondaramic.

That's all I have for today.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Big Iron

Sometimes this blogging everyday in November process seems almost endless. Maybe this photo graphically captures that feeling. It's the track that carries the Empire Builder to Chicago and points in between.

It was a beautiful day in Minnesota. Almost too beautiful.  It was bright, sunny and made it to 54º here in the saintly city. I had a couple of longish walks, mostly on non-essential errands, but they were a pretty nice way to spend some daylight hours. In the late morning, I hiked to Penzey's Spice store on Grand near Dale to buy some spices. They have a fine array of cinnamon from Indonesia, Viet Nam, China, and probably a couple of other countries. I bought 2.2 ounces of Korintje cinnamon from Indonesia, along with .3 ounces of dill weed from California, and .7 ounces of French Sweet Basil.  Korintje is the smooth cinnamon typically used in baking.  I use quite a lot of it.

After lunch I hiked the long way to Trader Joe's, carrying my camera and looking for bloggable content.  As usual there is something along the way that piques my curiosity and I often can use it in this blog.  Joe's was crowded today, but I was there on a non-critical mission, so I enjoyed the trip and the casual banter with the check-out person as I left the store.  She was from Chippewa Falls and,  noticing the logo on my cap, asked me about my relationship to Cray, Inc.  I confessed that I had spent many long, dark hours in Chippewa Falls trying to get my buggy software to run on test hardware in the labs.  She opined that Chippewa Falls is better known for Leinenkugel's Beer than for Cray computers.  I agreed and told her of the Cray practice in the old days of including a case of Leinie's with every supercomputer delivery.

Here's a photo that may or may not supply confidence in human ingenuity. Or perhaps wonder whether this is the best solution for a fairly evident problem by the electricity royalty.  This fix for rotted pole wood is found near the tracks on Ben Hill near here.  Pretty honderamic, no?

The Cray XK7 became the world's fastest computer lately with delivery of the Titan system to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Cray has been at the top before.  This system executes 17.59 petaflops of performance - that's 17.59 quadrillions of instruction per second.  It replaces an IBM machine called Sequoia at Lawrence Livermore Labs.  There is actually a list that enumerates the 500 fasted computer systems, sometimes known as Big Iron, in the world.

 It's almost time for Thursday night tennis, and I'm getting ready for some hard-core competition.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


I have a rabbit that is living in my yard. Maybe more than one. The one pictured has a clump of sedge grass that he hides beneath, and when I walk close to him, he bolts. He used to startle me, but now I know his hiding place and I expect the dash to safety. The number of rabbits in the city has increased markedly in the last couple of years, maybe because of the mild winters and the availability of vittles. There are more gardens now in the city. Now that the rabbits have moved in and in abundance, I expect the coyotes won't be far behind. I've already noticed the increase in the raven (or crow) population. Rabbits, like squirrels, have become vermin, but are fresh meat for predators.

There is a wolf season in Minnesota. Shouldn't there also be a rabbit season? And an open season on robocallers.  Or maybe a bounty.  On robocallers.

Today is Claude Monet's birthday.  He was born in 1840.  The term impressionism was derived from his painting, "Impression, Sunrise."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday the thirteenth

Down by the big river at the end of Summit Avenue there is a memorial that was erected in 1922 by the D.A.R. It commands a sweeping view of the Mississippi. It commemorates the local soldiers who were killed in what it calls the World War. It's been there only 90 years, but the World War they talked about in 1922 is now known as World War I because it was done again in the 1940's. Thankfully we haven't had another with such all encompassing involvement, but we still dabble pretty often in making and fighting wars.

It's a nice place to visit on a chilly November Day, not long after Veteran's Day - the holiday that has replaced Armistice Day in America since after World War II

And I finish with a somewhat cuter cat than my last one. This one is a snow leopard and seems to enjoy the cool weather we are having here lately. It's a resident of Como Zoo in St Paul.

In Spanish-speaking countries, instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck.  Who knew?

Today is Jimmy Kimmel's birthday. I hope he's having a lucky day.