Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Raking leaves and stuffing them in plastic bags

Every year lately, I've had to wait for the pin oak in my yard to drop its leaves before I could do a proper job of raking up the season's fallen leaves. Every year the pin oak refuses to give up its treasures until sometime mid-winter. I usually give up my wait until about this time of year after most of my neighbors have vacuumed up their leaves, or had someone do it for them. Today I began the lengthy process of raking, bagging, and toting off to the leaf recycle center on Pleasant Avenue. I guess I'm still very much old school.

This is about half of the bags I filled in the front yard. The other half were already loaded and set to go to the leaf recyclers. Interestingly, when I got to the recyclers, they were closed for the day. Tuesdays and Thursdays apparently serve as weekends for them. The bags below are still adorning my front lawn.

I went for a walk to see how the Halloween decorations are faring this year. There are always a few houses where the owners go out of their way to make the holiday interesting and maybe a little bit scary for the little tykes who come around making threats for candy. I took some photos of a few.

Here is one of the more elaborately decorated houses in this part of St Paul. It's political season, so the lawn signs mix in with the ghouls.

Another house, not far away, decorated to scare the trick or treat set.  This one was apolitical.  (They still have leaves to rake!).

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chimney Swift Tower

Today is Thursday. It was not a very nice day for very much except maybe reading a book and then taking a ride to Wooddale and playing some indoor tennis. Which is pretty much what I did today. I left some unfinished business yesterday - that tall white tower over by Fort Snelling State Park.   Fort Snelling is just up the hill from this view of the Mississippi River, shown here in the throes of autumn.

That white tower has this plaque attached to its side. It's a chimney swift tower.

The book, I spent much of the day consuming, was "Daughter of Time" a mystery written by Josephine Tey.  I borrowed the book from one of those Little Free Libraries that I talked about a few days ago. The mini-library was on the shore of Swan Lake in Pengilly.  I borrowed the book for free because the cover says it was "one of the best mysteries of all time" - a quote from the NY Times. The book was written in 1951. The mystery turned out to be about the murder of the two nephews (the old king's sons) of King Richard III that took place in England in 1485, and often said to have been done by Richard himself, so that he could claim the crown for himself.  It was set in the time near the end of the War of the Roses.  I guess I'm a sucker for historical fiction, although this was more like the uncovering of the truth of a long ago, much reviled and discussed event.  I learned more than I ever thought I'd know about the Yorks and the Lancasters, through the book and judicious use of google and Wikipedia.

It was a very good book.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Split rail fences

Rainy, or rather drippy, Thursdays (oh yeah, Wednesdays) aren't conducive to decent photos. I went to Fort Snelling tennis a little early this afternoon and stopped by the visitor center to use up some of the extra time and to get in a little bit of a warm-up walk. Fort Snelling has lots of scenery - an overlook of the Mississippi River, a rebuilt fort from the early 1800's and a few oddities - and, in addition, it's pretty close to home. I liked the looks of this split rail fence that is built along the edge of the river's ravine. It looks like it could have been built in the 1800's and continuously maintained in the years since.

And there is this unique looking structure standing on the grounds near the visitor center. I wondered what the heck is that for. Any good ideas?

Then I went off to hit some tennis balls at Fred Wells Tennis Center. It was just septuagenarians, today. Old guys with their varied infirmities smacking forehands at each other. It was nice to be inside out of the drizzle, and nice to be still smacking forehands.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Doctor K

First, it was a glum day. It rained off and on and the temperature never got to 50. It's a good day to stay inside and look at old photos, maybe scan in a few.

I like this photo from about 1985. That's PP (the Prairie Princess) pretending to be a doctor, and she seems to have homed in on the problem area. She was three and hadn't decided on a career yet.

A photo from 1980, 32 years ago. It almost seems like it should be in black and white, but color photography had been commonly used for many years by 1980. The years sure seem to get away from a guy. That little guy about to break into a cry is Unky Herb.

Sometimes something in a comic strip will catch my fancy. This one has been posted on my refrigerator for quite a while and I noticed it again as I stumbled past it this morning. I had to laugh a little and decided to share.

I've been trying to find a less expensive way to call Tanzania. The connection to iChat requires a reasonably fast internet connection on both ends and that doesn't exist at Amani Nature Reserve. I spent the afternoon trying to get one calling option to function and so far not much luck. But I talked to PP for a bit using the more expensive ATT link. She was having a hard day and needed to vent a bit. She's pretty isolated from English speakers and Westerners of any variety, and her Tanzanian translator is getting on her nerves. She was able to get her internet connection reestablished, however, so email is working ok. She's getting some time off soon and will be spending a week or so with some Danes who live about 5 kilometers away. I thought she could use a bicycle to go see them, but the roads are rocky and very muddy when it rains, so that doesn't seem to be an option. She has a couple of more months to go in Africa, but some of that will be spent in Dar es Salaam, a big city. It will be nice to get her back to Minnesota in December for the holidays.

There will be tennis tonight At Wooddale.  It's mixed doubles but pretty competitive and I look forward to the activity and change of scenery.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I love this neighborhood

It was one of those unexpectedly nearly perfect days in October (OTUNPDIO???).  After lunch, and after a chat with the African Prairie Princess, I took a walk around the neighborhood to take in the sights, the fresh air, and the view of newly fallen leaves. There are lots of quite interesting happenings and Halloween decorations in the blocks around my house. One of the Halloween decorations had a skeleton and a bunch of faux graves - all in a row with familiar names on the stones. I should have taken a photo.  One was Frank N. Stein - a usual and expected casualty of Halloween, but the stone at the far right read "Cookie Monster." That seems to be a bit out of line for even Halloween.  It's too soon to be putting the Cookie Monster in that position.  I think I protest.

The most interesting thing on today's walk was the seemingly sudden emergence of these little free libraries. It's a small box with books than can be borrowed at any time for free.  I encountered three of them in my neighborhood and it seems to be the fruit of some kind of movement to fight illiteracy. It's an international movement, I hear, and there are over 3,000 of them in the USA. There is also a web site.

I walked a bit further and came across some folk art in the process of being born.  Some people have a sense of humor, even when decorating their garage door. I love this neighborhood.

I tried to do some translating on the telephone with PP this afternoon, because her internet ran out of minutes and she couldn't figure out how to get more. She called from her research station in Amani Nature Reserve in Tanzania. Her access to the internet was denied. The instructions on how to order more internet minutes came to her in a text message from the phone company - Vodacom - in Swahili. "Google translate" seemed like a good option, and my computer was available. She read the words to me. She struggled with reading the text because her phone has a failing display which is blurring some of the words. Finally after some frustration and failures we got to this in what we thought was Swahili:

"salio lako lai toshi kuti surushi kufurushi"

I keyed it into Google translate. It was translated to:

"Your balance lai enough packaged coconut leaf surushi"

Which absolutely released a torrent of laughter from us both. (And don't call me "surushi!").

Here's a photo from about 1987-8 of the principals in the struggle with a foreign language and a foreign culture.  And a balky foreign phone company.

It was a tennis-less Tuesday, but I needed a day off to recover and to contemplate the new decade, perhaps to arrive at some sort of plan of action to deal with it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sixty-nine, no more

Once in a while I like to get out the old albums and find a black and white photo from long ago and far away. These are photos that are previously unused on this blog, and photos that needed a bit of tweaking from iPhoto. I scanned then tweaked. These were taken circa 1949. I'm only guessing, because the date wasn't written on the back, but I can estimate from the respective ages of the subjects. And not that Lillie looks to be about 35. It's the ages of the children that gives me the most information. Since I know their birthdates, well you know the rest.

 The photo was taken at Richard Anderson's farm in Burnett County. I know the place well, although it really only currently exists in my memory. The photographers are easy enough to surmise. It looks like they (we) were having a good time.

Another 1949 photo within minutes of the previous one.  Without the dog.  Does anyone remember its name??  Notice the stylish suspenders.

Not much else to say. I'm going for a walk in the sunshine and reflect on the state of the world and to appreciate the falling leaves and the miracle that I'm here to witness them.  And that I'm still hitting my sliced backhand with some alacrity.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dystopia, you can look it up

The year 1984 used to have a kind of sinister meaning. It represented a world created by George Orwell in 1949 to describe a future dystopia that featured mind control, perpetual war, doublethink, and a guy known as "Big Brother." Since we blew by that date and the dire predictions for the world of that time didn't come to pass, 1984 is just another regular year to look back on.  I look back on it with some nostalgia.

This photo was taken in 1984. I was 41 or 42 and acting a little silly with my son who would later take on the alias, Unky Herb. We were cutting the legs off a pair of jeans to make a pair of shorts and one of us thought the leftover pant legs would make a couple of nice hats. It may have been Herb.  Maybe me. But 1984 from this vantage point looks like quite a fine year.

Today I played tennis for the third straight day inside out of the wind and the marginal temperature. The transition to indoor tennis seems to be complete, but the specter of Indian Summer remains (Can I say Indian Summer?). We played at Fort Snelling - us four geezers. One was the guy from Arizona, Rich, who shows up once in a while and plays doubles with me for old time's sake. We played as a team again today, and I guess we can still hit some shots. Lobs stayed in, angle shots were unreturnable, and aces happened. We were in the zone for enough of the time to appreciate the ability to play this kids game yet again into our last year of this decade.  I think I must love this game.

These guys were born within 9 months of each other - some of the earliest baby boomers:
George W. Bush, July 6, 1946;
Bill Clinton, August 14, 1946;
Mitt Romney, March 12, 1947.
Also Mr Moohoo was born in that nine months period.  I find it interesting.  Maybe he should have run for president.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October continues

Summer disappeared so suddenly that it seems like it may make a comeback. It wasn't to be today, although it wasn't too bad a day for autumn. The mercury (who uses mercury thermometers any more?) rose to 50 degrees, stuck for an hour or so and then drifted back into the forties. [How nice would it be to drift back into the forties?]

A walk around Crosby Farm with my camera seemed like a good idea.  I was surprised on arrival to find that the park is in the midst of improvements.  A good deal of asphalt is about to be replaced by prairie, and the parking lot enlarged to replace lost parking elsewhere.  In addition, a new stretch of bike path was bulldozed through the edge of the woods to allow easier access to Upper Lake, necessary because of the loss of road surface.  I guess.  The park was posted as closed, but I walked by the sign and visited Upper Lake.  There were just a few people around, but the wild birds were nestled onto the lakes surface; a bunch of mallards and a flock of Canada geese.  The trees are well on the way to their colorful best, a few have dropped their leaves - probably ashes.

It was a nice walk and a nice day in the forest in the heart of the Twin Cities.  By the big river.

I walked by this structure.  It's just a big pile of drift wood, deposited by the floods of the spring, but now a long way from the nearest body of water.  Upper Lake is in the background.

Johnny Unitas was in the news lately, because his record for TD's in consecutive football games was broken by Drew Brees. Because Alex Karras (Mongo in "Blazing Saddles") died this week at 77, I wondered whether Johnny U. was still alive. Pro football is pretty hard on the human body. He died in 2002 at the age of 69, a fact not lost on a guy about to change decades. He had a heart attack. He had lost almost total use of his right hand, with the middle finger and thumb noticeably disfigured from being repeatedly broken during games.  Tennis is hard on your body, too, but nothing like that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ten ten twelve

It was plenty cold enough today to realize that late fall and winter are not far off. The temperature peaked at 52 degrees in the saintly city.  I spent a little time outside, but mostly I got my exercise playing tennis at Fort Snelling's Fred Wells Tennis Center. It was windless and reasonably warm inside, so there wasn't much excuse for mediocre play, but there doesn't have to be a reason for it, it just happens sometimes. My old tennis partner from Tucson was my partner again against two of the regulars. We pretty much played to a tie, although they won a set and we were a game up in the second when the girls team from Richfield High School prematurely interrupted the competition. It was a good enough time to quit, so we did. There will be other days.

I have some photos from a visit with PW to Coldwater Spring, an area north of Fort Snelling that is being restored to prairie and oak savannah.  There is a natural spring there, that has been used for centuries by native Americans and early settlers, that is being restored, too.  Near the spring a pond forms and the water feeds a stream that goes down to the river.

We walked down towards the river to where the bike path lies.  The path forms the trail to Fort Snelling State Park and goes along the Mississippi River through some wooded areas.  A lot of the trees are getting leafless because of a reasonably constant wind that's been blowing lately.

All the bare trees remind me that soon I'll be moving about the yard with a rake in my hands making piles of leaves to take to the leaf recycling center on Pleasant Avenue. I guess one needn't play tennis to get a reasonable amount of exercise in an region so blessed with deciduous trees. The theatre of seasons is more comedy than drama, at least this year.

Halloween is three weeks away, followed closely by November.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Twin Cities Marathon

It was a beautiful, albeit chilly morning in the saintly city. In fact it was the first hard freeze of the new season. The GFTNC and I walked the three or so blocks to Summit Avenue where the Twin Cities marathon was to pass, actually pretty early in the day. Most of the auto traffic in the city was squelched because Summit Avenue was closed for a significant part of the day. I calculated from knowledge gleaned from the newspaper that the lead runners would get to the Governor's Mansion, also the location of mile post 24, at about ten a.m.  We found a vantage point near the mansion and near the cheering section there and waited for the action to begin.

At precisely 10:07, a bank of motorcycle policemen escorted the lead runner past mile post 24. The parade of runners, that was to last at least until we left the parade route at 12:30, began. The guy that was in the lead was the eventual winner, Christopher Kipyego of Kenya, with a time of 2:14:55.  For 26 cold miles.  For those who like math, that's about five minutes and 12 seconds a mile for 26 consecutive miles. That's flying. More about the race can be found in this link.

The first runner past the 24 mile marker and the ultimate winner of the marathon came by us pursued by a group of four runners about fifteen seconds behind him.  He finished nine seconds ahead of the fastest of the four followers.  And won first prize of $15,000.

The first wheelchair racer, Saul Mendoza of Wimberley, Texas, crossed the 24 mile marker far ahead of his competition.  It was his ninth win in the Twin Cities Marathon.

We stayed and watched for another two hours plus as a stream of humanity of all ages, but mostly with pretty thin bodies, ran by us. There were young runners and tall runners, some in costume, all with varied running apparel. It was 28 degrees at about the time the race started, but most of the runners were lightly dressed. Some of the women were what I'd consider scantily attired. A few men were shirtless. One woman went by in a dress and bare feet. I wished them all god speed. These people had all finished 12/13 of a very long race and some were guaranteeing themselves a few days of considerable pain and stiffness.

The GFTNC and I did a lot of cheering and encouraging of the runners.  She channeled her cheerleading days, and I kept reminding the runners that there were only two more miles and they could finish and have bragging rights to having completed a real marathon.  A lot of them were pretty grateful for the cheers and a few mouthed thank you's as they passed.

I don't really understand long distance running, but I'm pretty sure not everyone understands my need to play tennis four or five times a week.  Even not understanding the need to run, I sure respect the effort necessary to run 26 miles in near freezing weather.

We came back to my place in time to talk to the Prairie Princess on the telephone.  She's off in a corner of Africa beyond my experience, but appears to be doing well in her effort to finish her graduate study research.  She'll be home in about two months for the holidays and she'll have lots of tales to tell.  For now, all is well.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Firefighter's memorial

Sunday was a really nice day. PW and I went to the State Capitol grounds to witness the dedication of the newest memorial on the lawn - a statue to the 207 Minnesota firefighters who have died in the line of duty in Minnesota's history. PW's son, Steve, who is the fire chief in Grand Rapids was there with his wife, too, so we sat near them.

 The firefighters from across Minnesota came to the dedication and creatively hoisted a very large U.S. flag near the Capitol building.  Fire trucks for scale.

This is the new memorial on the Capitol lawn.  It may look familiar to some.  It was for a time displayed in the Lindbergh air terminal at the Twin Cities Airport.  It depicts a fireman rescuing a child from a fire.

It was a nice ceremony, but pretty lengthy, because they read the names of all fallen firefighters and presented the family of each a rose and an opportunity to shake the hand of the guv (Mark Dayton), the St Paul mayor (Chris Coleman) and Minnesota's senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, plus other local dignitaries.  Somehow Al Franken missed the event.

Today was another really nice day.  The main photographic highlight was a tour of Lake Como to see how the leaves were turning.  Some are still green, some are very red and yellow, and some of the ash trees have given up completely.  It's been dry and the ash trees are notorious quitters.

I'll probably revive the concept of Kelsey trees.  Those are the ones that refuse to give up and keep their leaves long after the pikers have packed it in.  It's a little early yet to begin judging the tree's vigor, but it will become clear later in the month who they are.

This is a partially obstructed view of the lake from the south side of Como.

Quite a lovely red maple stands near Lake Como, on the east side near the parking lot.  It was the best of the lot today, IMHO.

I chatted some this morning with PP. She got an email, purportedly from Winona Laduke, saying that Winona had been mugged in Madrid and needed 1450 euros to pay her bills and get home. The email asked PP to send it if she could. PP has had some contact with Ms. Laduke on a volunteer basis at the White Earth Indian Reservation, so she thought it might be a valid situation, but after talking it over with Unky Herb and me, it was clear that there had been a hacking of Ms. Laduke's email account and someone was trolling for dollars. PP sent an email to Winona advising her to change her password, preferably to something more complicated than the usual run of passwords. I think PP changed her own password, too, to be on the safe side. I guess that Tanzania is the wild, wild west of the internet.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My favorite silhouettes

It is theme day and I'm using three photos from last year on September 11, taken by Unky Herb. They should be viewed listening to this music by the Diamonds.

Silhouette number two, shortly, very shortly, after number one.

Silhouette number three taken very shortly after number two.  Again, very shortly.

And a really large flag with PW for scale.

And that's theme day for another month.