Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spring Hill tennis

 After a two year absence this year I was able to return to Spring Hill to play some tennis with my high school tennis coach, the guy that taught me tennis and a winning attitude in 1959-61 at Greenway High School, Paul B.  The girl from Pengilly (PW) who graduated with me in 1961, and thus is quite familiar with the old coach, and I, took a road trip up the coast 143 miles to his retirement community in Spring Hill.  He's recently remarried and we were able to meet his new wife, and his new home.  Both nice.

He arranged two tennis matches with some of the tennis players in the area - one for Tuesday at 2:30 (the heat of the day) and one for Wednesday at 9:30.  Both were played at Bob's private court in his orange orchard.  On Tuesday we played Ken and Reuben a close three setter 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.  It was close and a lot of good clean fun.  PW stayed for the match and took some photos of the action.

This picture was taken just before we left Paul's place for our return to Santini's place in Port Charlotte.  We were happy to have survived the tennis and that were able to play the game we love one more time.

TT and Paul after the two matches that each lasted two and a half hours.

This was action shot in the orange orchard by  PW during the Tuesday competition.

Paul, TT, and Ken after Tuesday match.  Reuben had gone by this time, but he came back for more tennis on Wednesday below.

The Wednesday match wasn't as close, but we managed to win the third set 6-3.  Unfortunately we lost the first two sets 6-1, 6-4.  I guess we outlasted them, but it is important to note that Bob is the owner of the court and was fresh - having skipped the Tuesday action.  Also Rueben is 60 and Bob 67, so we were playing much younger players.  Reasonably good excuses, too, in my opinion.

Paul, TT, Reuben, Bob after the Wednesday match.

All photos by PW.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Spring training

We went to Fort Meyers for Twins spring training this morning. I wanted to see if the ailing Twins stars were on the field, and also to pick up tickets for the first Grapefruit League game for the Twins which were at the will-call window. It was a nice morning and there were other snow bird types hanging around watching the boys of summer get ready for the season. In past years I've watched the Rays spring training in Port Charlotte, but watching the Twins, even after a disastrous 2011 season, was a lot more fun. I saw players who I recognized and got to watch their preparations for the season. I think I knew about 15-20 of the guys on the field, some even without looking at their numbers.

As an aside, when I showed this photo to the resident bike geek, she noticed at once the nice bike in the lower left hand corner.  I, for one, don't recognize the brand, but maybe some of my readers are familiar with it.

Justin Morneau was there for infield and batting practice.  He was hitting line shots to the outfield and some out of the park.

Joe Mauer's in this photo, standing by the batting cage without a number.  He was looking pretty sharp, too.  The staff was also working him out at first base..

Ball park prices were posted by the concession stand.  The usual practice of jacking up the prices for the faithful fans is still in effect.   You can, however, get chips for a buck.  And what is a "double premium"?

Meryl Streep won her third Oscar last night, but Clooney was shut out. So it goes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Some time in Punta Gorda

It was a trifle cloudy today, but while waiting for the afternoon chat with the Prairie Princess and Unky Herb we decided to exercise our limbs with a walk along the Charlotte Harbor linear park.  There were gulls lined up on the sea wall and they were so tame that I was able to get really close to them.  They both have two legs, but the guy on the left is resting one of them.  I think their tameness can be explained by the older couple who were sitting on a bench and providing them with human food.

These are the smiley  humans who traipsed around the park with me. Banyan tree for scale.

Birds.  Just as I was about to snap a photo of a big flock of terns (gulls?), Santini rushed at them and spooked them.  I took the picture anyway, and I kind of like the chaos depicted.

I skyped this afternoon with PP and UH, as previously mentioned. We tried a video conference call and it worked pretty well. PP is in Norway, UH is in Minnesota and I'm in southwest Florida. The video and sound were out of synch at times, but the video quality was good and the whole experience worth repeating.

I'm waiting for the Academy Award show to begin. Our party is going to be pretty low key, but we'll have some food and perhaps a little low key wagering.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A couple of birds

Since I'm trying to blog on an alien computer, it's catch as catch can as far as photos are concerned. These photos today are from a boat ride near the north shore of Pine Island, a ways south and west of Port Charlotte. It's a beautiful natural area for the most part and filled with wild birds. The pelican was sitting on the top of a pole in the bay as we floated by, and he wasn't spooked until we were quite close to him.  It's one of the most ungainly looking birds that I've ever seen.

This white bird is likely a snowy egret.  He spooked more easily than the pelican, but I managed a last photo as he took off.

It was a cloudy day today - the photos were a couple of days ago. We stayed in Port Charlotte and walked around the neighborhood, then after lunch had a mosey along the beach. There were a few tourists, but because it was cloudy and about 72 degrees, there were few people out and about. It was a restful day and one to be appreciated. We did some recreational shopping and then fixed a communal dinner, featuring turkey burgers, guacamole, wild rice, spaghetti squash, and a great green salad. Did I say that some of the recreational shopping was done at Winn Dixie grocery store? 

It's interesting to note that there are a lot of pretty old humans living in this part of Florida. Or maybe not so interesting.

The 2011 Oscars will be awarded tomorrow night.  I'm predicting another win for Meryl Streep.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Alligators may be present

Smiling in the presence of obvious mortal danger is what sets the women from the north apart from others. Santini and Pengilly Woman (PW) seem unafraid of the threat from alligators. I guess that there haven't been recent sightings of the big rascals anywhere near Ollie's Pond where this photo originated, but oddities can occur. We spent an hour or so at the pond, gathering large pine cones for possible shipment to the north and possible use in Christmas wreaths and other craft projects. Southern pines have large and nearly perfect pine cones which are being shed this time of year down here.

I have a lot of photos from our visit to Pine Island yesterday, but I need some editing time before I'm ready to expose them to the light of the blogosphere. Maybe later next week. In the meantime, this sunset a few days ago was one of the nicest I've seen in a while and so I'm posting it.

The birds in this part of the world are plenty plentiful. This beauty was hanging out at Ollie's Pond, enjoying a warm 85 degree day, when I got his photo.  An egret or a heron, I think.  White or snowy, for sure.

I have adjusted my blog's comment policy in light of the difficulties blogger has initiated with the policy requiring commenters to prove their humanness by keying in a couple of partially obscured sets of letters before the comment is accepted. The changes should make it easier for a certain Mrs. Smith to continue with her most welcome commenting practices.

Tennis content is expected to reemerge some time next week.  Stay tuned.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Two Scarves and a Pond

The theme for today seems to have been decided by chance and the photos that I took. Santini is wearing a new scarf that was created by the Girl from the North Country (GFTNC). It's a winter weight scarf, but looks very good on a summer weight jacket. Incidentally, there was absolutely no need for a jacket today.

The GFTNC found a natural scarf hanging from a southern pine and used it as a wrap. It's Spanish moss on a tree near Ollie's Pond and probably wouldn't work in a more northern clime. It does show a bit of flare.

Ollie's Pond was very attractive today as we walked around it. It's heavily populated with a variety of water birds, and I plan to go back with a longer lens so that I can capture a few of them on "film."

It was and is a beautiful day in Southwest Florida.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Winter made a return visit to the northland today. It was the first day with below average temperature in a very long time. It was one degree fahrenheit early this morning when I was on my way to Wooddale to play Saturday tennis, and it warmed all the way to 19 when I was visiting the big falls in Minneapolis this afternoon.

The falls had nearly melted the last time I was there and actually posted a picture of the falls, that on December 6.  This is the scene today.  The creek is frozen over, too.

And this is what the falls looked like on January 6, in a previously unpublished photo.

The creek on the way to the Mississippi is frozen hard, but somehow looks strange without a halo of snow along the banks.

The big tennis news of the weekend is the Davis Cup results from Switzerland. The US team defeated the Swiss team - a team composed of Roger Federer (ranked #3 in the world) and Stan Wawrinka (ranked #27) with a team of John Isner (#17) and Mardy Fish (#8) - plus a doubles team composed of Fish and Mike Bryan. Isner upset Federer in four sets and Mardy Fish won a five set match from Wawrinka on clay in Fribourg, Switzerland. It was the first loss for Roger in Davis Cup singles in eight years. Fish and Bryan beat Fed and Wawrinka (the reigning Olympic doubles champions) in four sets in the doubles event for an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

The second big news is that I managed to play four consecutive days of tennis this week and still had enough energy to win a set this morning at Wooddale, and to hold off the opponents long enough for time to run out with the score 6-6. Oxygen was not available at the tennis club, but I was able to get home and have a nutritious lunch before my trek to Minnehaha Falls this afternoon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pike Island Creatures

It was another reasonably warm day - my car thermometer said 39 - and a chance to get some exercise before Thursday night tennis. I went over to the state park and decided to walk south on Pike Island. On the way to the parking area I passed at least five white tail deer - too far away for a decent photo - so I continued to the big island. It was a pleasant day, but the lack of snow made it seem like late November, or maybe like winter in Memphis. On the way to the island there is a new statue representing a common creature in the flood plain, the beaver.

After a walk down the island and back on a fruitless quest for more wild deer or turkeys, I came back to the bridge that separates the mainland from Pike Island. There have been beavers at work here, apparently gathering building materials for a new lodge. Real beavers.

They've been busy chomping on tree trunks. The beaver lodge was fashioned from the gnawed down trees near the waterway.

There were other creatures - a gaggle of Canada geese were waddling along the edge of the waterway, the deer which I saw on the way in were still around, and I got a couple of distant photos, not of sufficient quality for the blog, and lots of squirrels - vermin.

A bonus photo of an isolated bench, surrounded by brown fallen leaves in the middle of Pike Island. The snowless landscape is still pretty much brown and yes, nearly snowless.

It's Thursday and there will be some tennis played at Wooddale tonight. I'll be there trying to stay competitive with Jerry and the hardcore girls.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February in the snowless winter

It has been a mild winter, but today the temperature went back closer to average and it felt a little frigid. The ice had a chance to begin to thicken up again after a couple of days with highs in the 40's. The warnings about thin ice are serious and are usually observed. There were reports of people in Minnesota going through the ice and not being able to rescue themselves. Today, at Upper Lake in Crosby Farm Park, there were no ice walkers and very few dry land walkers. It's Tuesday, for one thing, and it was 20 degrees colder than yesterday.

I had a walk around Upper Lake and along the Mississippi. Upper Lake is thinly iced over, the Mississippi is ice free.

Upper Lake, where the thin ice lies. It's impossible to tell how thin the ice is, so it's best to stay on terra firma.

A beaver lodge sits on the edge of Upper Lake. There are beavers living in this mud domicile, but they don't come out to play in the day light.

A bonus photo of quite a primitive bench to add to the bench collection. This is near the northern end of Upper Lake.

As you can see we're nearly devoid of snow pack. There is unlikely to be a flood on the Mississippi this spring - a mixed blessing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Not a groundhog

The groundhog didn't see his shadow in St Paul today. It was foggy and dreary the whole day. I also heard via the radio that the groundhog's history of weather predictions for the rest of the winter has an accuracy of 39%.  Abysmal.

I missed the blog theme day yesterday and didn't take a photo today - too dreary. But I have in my archives a photo of a Como Zoo tiger from December of 2007, a year when there was an actual winter. With snow and everything.

I played two sets of tennis at Wooddale tonight. Both of the hardcore girls were absent, but the subs were competitive and tennis went well. Then I went to Yang's for Singapore rice noodles and a chat with the Yangs while I was waiting for the take-out order to be filled.   We discussed my recent trip to Norway and the difference of climate between here and there.  Interestingly, they both knew that Norway has a border with Russia in the far north, well north of the Arctic Circle.  Up there by Murmansk.

Super Bowl Sunday is three days off.  Tom Brady or Eli Manning?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nearly groundhog's day

Sometimes these blog entries are more like weather reports. The unreal winter of 2011-2012 continues. Yesterday it was 48 in St Paul, the day before 41. That's usually too warm for January, but maybe it's just make-up for last year's very snowy winter. It's now February and while it's still above freezing - 34 now, it still feels like late fall or maybe early spring. There was no tennis with the geezers today. Dr. Bill was giving his one-man stand up impersonation of Mark Twain at a matinee in Bloomington, so we played tennis yesterday instead.

Today I took a walk around my favorite city lake to see if there were any animals or strange happenings to get into a photo.  No animals of note, and no odd occurrences to report today, but it was still nice to be out and about.

It was still misty from a morning fog that refused to burn off. The tree below stands next to the lake.  The mostly puddled lake surface is in the background.

Even in a year when the temperatures are near record highs for winter, it is possible to ice fish in St Paul. This guy was very much at home, walking on frozen water on Lake Como.  He's braver or, at least, more foolhardy, than I am.

After our geezer tennis session yesterday, we discussed the current topic of grunting (screaming) in professional tennis. The recently completed Australian Open Tennis Tournament featured two of the loudest grunters (screamers) in women's tennis in the finals. Victoria Azarenka beat Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-0 in the finals. Sharapova's grunt (scream) has been measured at 101 decibels (a lion's roar is 110 decibels). Azarenka's is equivalent. Martina Navratilova, other pros, and many fans have labeled the grunts (screams) as a form of cheating. Others defend the practice as just an incidental part of the game.  I found a scientific paper on-line that measures the effect of the noises and concludes that the grunts (screams) cause significant delay in response time of the receiver of the shot, and are indeed affecting the game.

So I'm agreeing with Martina and the others in hoping that the rules of tennis can be applied and obeyed by the grunters (screamers) so that this activity can be removed from competitive tennis courts.