Monday, June 25, 2012

Guest Photographer

There's a Rembrandt art show at MIA this week and it probably continues into September sometime. The GFTNC thought it might be fun to take in some art work from the 1600's, so we took a ride over to Minneapolis. Since we planned to be in the MIA, I left my picture taken apparatus at home. I neglected to check the web site for the museum and we found when arriving at the front door, that the museum is closed on Mondays.

What to do? It was a beautiful day in June and we were in Minneapolis. I was camera-less, but the GFTNC had hers with her, so she volunteered to take some photos and we went to the Rose Garden and the Peace Garden, just north of Lake Harriet in the big city next door.

Did I say it was a beautiful day? It was. The roses, however, were somewhat past their prime. The GFTNC amused herself by taking this photo of some roses in her shadow, hoping that it would look like her holding a bouquet. I like the creativity and the photo isn't bad either. In any case it's hers and she's the guest photographer.


Here I am sitting on a Japanese style bridge in the Peace Garden. Japanese bridges often have a bend in the middle somewhere so the evil spirits, who can't change directions over water, can't follow you to the other side.  [At least that's the story I remember.]  The photo is also the product of the GPhotographer. Did I say it was a beautiful day?


We spent a couple of hours in the park, looking at flowers, foliage and statuary. Then we came back to this side of the river and had a picnic lunch - chicken salad - on the patio behind my house.

And there was also some later afternoon tennis south of the city with five other retired gents. We played some tennis and agreed to do it again on Wednesday.

Later on we had dinner at Mai Village with my old tennis doubles partner, who is visiting from Arizona.  The food was good and so was the conversation.  Rich reminded the GFTNC and me that his mom went to high school in Coleraine and was an alumna of Greenway High School, too.  A small, small world.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day of the Tousan

Yesterday was Father's Day, and it has been our tradition to go to the Sculpture Garden over by Walker Art Center on Father's Day. This year the Prairie Princess has assumed a new role as Daughter of Norway and currently resides in Aas, Norway. Thus not available for the trip to visit the Spoonbridge and the lesser known works of art at the Garden. We waited until late afternoon, after a session of iChatting with the girl, before setting out. As it turned out, it rained really hard when we got there, so we changed plans, ate some dinner at Mai Village and then returned to the Garden. The rain had stopped, and eventually the sun came out and the tradition continued.  Photos were taken.

The Spoonbridge is kind of a symbol of Minneapolis. It's image is used often in ads as shorthand for the biggest city in Minnesota. I like the sculpture. It's a little odd and in a very picturesque location.  Yesterday, as always, there were a lot of people milling around in the Garden - even a wedding party who were taking photos of the bride and groom by the art.  They had arrived in a very pink limousine.


Unky Herb posing next to the Spoonbridge pool with camera in hand. He was taking photos and stopped to be a subject for a moment.


One of my favorite spots in the Sculpture Garden - the place with the mirrors. I almost always try to take some sort of unique photo with UH and me in the frame (and PP when she's available.)


 It was a nice Father's Day.  And UH bought me a new axe to take the place of the one that used to belong to Abe Lincoln, the one that he unfortunately broke the handle of. 

Today. It was hot and humid, but it was a scheduled day for tennis with the Cadre of Codgers. Eight of us showed up and we moved the game to the Sibley High School courts. The thermometer in my car read 92 degrees on the way to the courts, but there was minimal wind and tennis went pretty well. It was, however, a day for two water bottles and only two sets of competition.   Rich was in town and he joined us in play.  In fact he was my partner - strictly by chance - for both sets today. No heat stroke was recorded.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Quiet June Day

The rains from yesterday flooded parts of southern Minnesota and the winds broke a branch off my long suffering ash tree in the front yard. But the sun was shining and I needed to walk or something to shake the cobwebs from my brain. The falls at Minnehaha Park are a popular destination for me and I wanted to see if the rains had affected the volume of water going over the edge. There was a healthy flow, and there were a lot of visitors to the park today. It's Friday and people are taking advantage of June to have a few of those long weekends.


 I walked all the way to the Mississippi River and back along Minnehaha Creek. At the end by the river, a guy asked me if this was the Mississippi River. I admitted that it was. Then he asked me the name of the creek that he's just followed to the big river. I told him Minnehaha Creek. He said he'd been here about twenty years ago and didn't remember the names. I walked back to the falls, climbed the steps (about 100 of them I think) and walked by the trendy Se Salt restaurant. It was 12:30 and there was a line 100 feet long extending out the door, waiting to order seafood.  I came home for lunch. 

As I stepped out of the garage on my return from the park, this cardinal was sitting on the fence. As I readied my camera, he flew to the tree and I got just one shot before he moved on.


There are other wild animals in the area. A bunny, probably not named Bugs, who lives in my neighborhood, maybe even in my very own bushes or PP's native plant garden, where he lurks waiting for veggies to appear from my garden. This one is a baby, freshly minted, and equipped with a ready hunger.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Armstrong charged with doping

The headline in the Minneapolis Fish Wrap from this morning reported on the beginning of a bad week for a certain TDF seven time winner.

My day was a mixed bag. [Interesting expression. I'll have to look up its etymology.] I had a appointment with a medical lab to donate a bit of blood to feed their pack of backroom vampires, and perhaps get a cholesterol reading somewhere in the normal zone.

When I got home the infrared weather map of the USA looked like this.


Soon thereafter my electricity went out. Xcel Energy's electric grid took a hit and I was without power for about three hours. My garage door opener, radio, TV, microwave oven, and internet all require juice. I was left with my cell phone, a battery operated radio, and whatever local stuff I could do on my laptop without the grid. I edited old genealogy files for a while, talked a bit on the phone, and organized my photos on iPhoto (blessedly local).

The power came back at about 2 p.m and I had a message from the lab that my tests were done. I went to their web site and found my cholesterol reading after three months without cheese (or pizza - a better form of cheese) was 173. Normal zone attained.

I'm going to call Papa Murphy's and celebrate a bit. [Just kidding].

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Baying at the moon

I'm a fan of folk art, whatever that means. The Twin Cities has several sites where sculpture has been purchased or rented by the city fathers and is on display. A lot of people have probably seen these beauties, but it was the first time I've encountered them. The PW and I, in an effort to get some leg strengthening exercise and a chance to enjoy quite a nice day, decide to walk around a Minneapolis lake. I'm a Saintly City guy mostly, but new territory is always nice to experience. There are some works of folk art stationed on the east side of Lake Nokomis, a place I haven't visited in quite a while, at least on foot. It's a nice walk besides, maybe about three miles. This one is called "Baying at the Moon."


Close by is this other sculpture made of local materials. "Recycled Deer" has ears made from previously used bike pedals.


It was a rest day for tennis bums here.  It was a better day for tennis than yesterday, but that's how scheduling goes sometimes.  The wind has abated a bit and tomorrow promises good hitting conditions.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Burdock festooned bench

After a stormy night, it seemed like a good idea to take a walk in as wild a place as the Twin Cities could offer.  The Girl from the North Country (GFTNC, who is still in the south country) and I decided that a walk in Fort Snelling State Park was just the ticket.   We thought that perhaps Pike Island could offer some deer photos and besides a walk in the wild is a part of a good exercise program.  The island was open again after having been closed by flooding after our last few rainy weeks.  There weren't many other folk with the same idea, and we resolved to count the people and the deer that we encountered on the island.  It was likely that the deer herd would be visible somewhere on the route around the island, and the GFTNC guessed we'd see five deer.  Unfortunately, she overestimated, but she did get the number of people correct.  There was a photographer trying to get a photo of a rare bird, a runner, and a group of three young folk out for a walk on the island - one of whom was wearing flipflops, a bad choice, because of the thick layer of mud that resulted from last night's rain.  We, too, encountered enough mud to get a thick layer of wet dirt on our shoes.  Still no deer, but plenty of very fresh deer tracks, lots of birds and a lovely morning in June.

One of my favorite subjects for photos lately has been benches.  It's interesting the variety of benches and settings that can be found in wild areas.  This bench hasn't been used by humans very much lately and has been surrounded by burdock.  Burdock looks a lot like wild rhubarb, but Wikipedia assured me that there is no wild rhubarb in Minnesota.


 There is a pond on Pike Island very near the Mississippi River.  It's bathed in shadows and is very, very still.   The reflection off the water is like a mirror in a darkened room.  It was a lovely spot to stop for a moment and reflect on reflections.


We circled the island in a couple of hours and came home for a lunch of Asian restaurant leftovers. The last three nights have been all Vietnamese cuisine. I'm really starting to like the Bun (noodle salad) at Mai Village.  Very tasty.

I also played about an hour of tennis in the wind with the codgers at Marie Park this afternoon.  It was too windy, I played not so good, and quit early to get home in time for a trip to Mai Village.  I'm hoping the next day of tennis is calmer and that I play a little bit better.

Rafa Nadal won the French Open this morning after the rain delay overnight for his seventh victory in the world's premiere clay court tourney.  He's the best ever on clay now and he's only 26.  It was a four set heavyweight fight with Novak Djokovic, the world's number one player on surfaces other than red clay.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ducks on the Pond

It was predicted by the people that know, that today would break into the 90's again. That's probably a little too hot for a session of geezer tennis, even if it's a session of doubles. And since PW is in the Saintly City, we took a morning stroll around the lake in Como Park. There were quite a few people with the same notion, many of them striving to get in a morning run, and quite a few walkers with the family pooch.

The morning brings out the birds. There were red winged blackbirds and even some finches, but it's the season of baby ducks and it's always fun to see them swimming after their mom, trying to stay in formation and close enough so that they don't get lost. This group was close enough to shore to get caught by my telephoto lens. They were happily swimming about, probably looking for some fine duck vittles.


 There were some others too - these may be wood ducks, I'm not sure - that were sitting in Como Lake taking in the day. The lake was a magnet today for birds and people.


Near the end of our stroll we encountered a child size sandal left for the buzzards at Como Park. I can only guess the kind of trouble that the tusker was in for when he got home and only one sandal was with him. We decided to leave to footwear there. I hope it was reunited with its owner soon after we left the area.


This morning there was the French Open men's final. It was an interesting but frustrating to watch spectacle. Raffa Nadal was ahead of Novak Djokovic two sets to one when the tournament director stopped play because of rain. I guess they'll finish it tomorrow. I'm not sure who will win, but my rooting interest is staying with Nadal, since his quest to win seven French Opens is a little more unique than Novak's quest to become the six or seventh guy to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once. Both achievements are definitely noteworthy, however.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tennis at Marie Park

In the summer months (or is that simmer months) I spend about six hours a week at the tennis courts at Marie Park. The Cadre of Codgers that play with me chose this venue several years ago and it continues to be a pretty good place to play summer tennis. The courts are well protected from the wind because they sit downhill from the area on the east side. The courts are getting old and developing some cracks, so they pretty much match the players in our group. We play in the afternoon on weekdays before most working people are out of work, and thus have the courts pretty much to ourselves. We also play Saturday morning at 8:30, some say an ungodly hour, but it gets us home before the heat of the day.

The courts are nearly surrounded by trees which grow on three sides of the courts.


The other direction away from the court there is a algae covered pond. Across the pond there is a kids' playground that is often in use by neighborhood kiddies.  And a baseball field.


It was 88 degrees today, although MPR was reporting 90. So maybe it was 90. It's so far been the warmest year of the century and of the last century, too, according the weather guys. I guess we're getting a couple more days of 90 before it cools a bit for the next part of June.

The French Open is nearing completion in Paris.  The men's final will be a classic confrontation between the number one player in the world and the number one player on clay.  I'm having a tough time choosing between Nadal and Djokovic as my favorite and may have to flip a coin at the last moment.  They'll be playing Sunday morning early, and it could take five to six hours to determine this year's champ.  That's the nature of clay court tennis.

Yesterday the US Post Office issued a new set of forever postage stamps featuring bike riders.   They should be on sale at a Post Office near you.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Volunteer felled

I have been lax in removing volunteer trees in my yard. Sloth, I think. A maple tree that grew on the east side of the house had grown to considerable size and it seemed like a good idea to remove it before it began to disturb the foundation of the house. I have had some experience with trees, having downed a bunch of trees, saw them into fireplace lengths and then split them for fire wood. All that happened fifty years ago while I was still in high school, but I think I'm still capable of removing one medium size maple tree. Luckily, Unky Herb was willing to engage in a project to take it down and help me cart it off to the tree recycling site on Pierce-Butler.

So on Sunday, we used the Swede saw, an ax, and steady resolve to remove the pesky tree. The before picture shows the position of the tree before we began the task.


  There was a lot more to the job than I thought. The usual case. We took the tree down in two pieces so we wouldn't chance dropping it through the neighbors' window. The first cut wasn't too hard. The part of the tree ten feet in the air was skinny enough to yield to the Swede saw. The bottom half took a well placed notch, some well aimed ax blows and some sweat, but in the end we won.  UH was pretty good at hitting the tree with the ax blade.

There are a lot of branches and leaves on a tree this size, but we were able to cut them to a size to fit into the Matrix to haul away.  It took two loads, but we got the tree to the recycling site.  And it was free for Ramsey County residents to drop it off.

After the cleanup, the area looks like it'll be okay.


The stump of the wayward maple. It's hacked up a bit, but I'll clean that up before I'm completely finished with the chore.


The only casualty of the project was the ax handle. UH had a single wayward smack of the ax and the back part of the handle separated from itself. It's a really old ax, so I'll have to try to repair it somehow.  It used to belong to Abe Lincoln.  Except there have been eight new handles and two new heads.

That's a long way to go to inject this old story into my blog, but I'm pretty pleased with the whole process.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Back in town

June first and one of the nicest days of the year so far. Perhaps in the history of days. How can you not love a perfect day in June. I went to the park, Como Park, braving the University Avenue bottleneck where they are putting in the new light rail spur. The lake and the area around the lake are even more attractive this year. The project to improve the shore line has encouraged lots of wildlife to take up residence on the big lake. A great blue heron was there today and I tried to get his portrait, but he was chased off his perch in the water by a squawking red winged blackbird who didn't want that big creature anywhere near his nest.

I walked out on to the dock by the pavilion. The water was calm and it was a peaceful scene as I continued my walk around the lake.

There were some ducklings on Como Lake, following their mother in a morning swim around the bay. There are lots of baby creatures this time of year, most just learning how to survive in the wild.

The Como Conservatory was busy, too. I went over across the bridge and past the new construction, past the butterfly garden and watched some school kids on a field trip entertain themselves. Several were rolling down the hill by the Frog Pond, racing to see who could get to the bottom first, or maybe who could get dizzy first. The buses were from the suburbs, Bloomington for one, and they came to St Paul for their field trip. A good choice, I'd say.

I liked the walk across the pedestrian bridge to the other side of Lexington with the beautiful June sky in the background.

There was no tennis today. We reconvene tomorrow morning at 8:30 and Curt will be back in town.