The Golden Basin


The Golden Basin of Malik Al-Nasir

The Golden Basin of Malik Al-Nasir

This golden wash basin was on display in the Saint Louis Art Museum when last we visited there. It was once the possession of the late 13th century and early 14th century Mamluk ruler, Malik Al-Nasir. Al-Nasir was three times sultan of the Mamluk Empire. He was twice deposed, but kept coming back for more. By all accounts he was both a popular and successful ruler, except for the occasional overthrowing. As leader of the Mamluk Empire the lands that he ruled include modern Egypt, Libya, Israel, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. It was a turbulent time and he was beset by foes both internal and external. He faced rebellions, Crusaders and the Mongols. All of this ancient history makes me wonder what lasting good America expects to do with yet another war in the Middle East. Maybe seven hundred years from now historians will look upon our Middle East involvement as yet another golden age for that region, but who knows.

Frogs on Water Lily Leaves


Frogs on Water Lily Leaves

Frogs on Water Lily Leaves

I struggled into work today. Fortunately, my boss was not at work today. Still it was a Monday and I have been sick for the last four days. For a while I thought that I had succumbed to enterovirus D-68 a respiratory disease that is currently plaguing Midwest children. Its vector hails from Kansas City. I had developed a wicked cough, which was producing the vilest looking phlegm. For Sweet Jane’s sake, I’ll not describe it here. At Anne’s insistence and because of my own trepidation, I called our doctor. Yes, we even share the same doctor. 

I only got as far as the triage nurse who arranged a prescription for a course of antibiotics. It has been ages since I’ve done antibiotics. Physicians have wised up to the fact that most colds are from viruses for which antibiotics don’t do squat and besides I don’t usually call the doctor. To my surprise, within a day I was already feeling better, but by then it was already the weekend. So, I guess that it wasn’t a virus. I still have the cough and it is still producing that stuff, but it no longer so vile looking.

Still feeling a little low, we didn’t do much this last weekend, which was really a shame, because the weather was so uncharacteristically nice for Saint Louis. On Saturday, we only made it across Clayton to Oak Knoll Park, where yesterday’s turtle photograph came from. On Sunday, we went to the Gardens. It was absolutely beautiful. We had lunch there too, at Café Flora, site of the old entrance. Then we retired back here to the manor house in time to catch the opening episode of the new Ken Burns series, “The Roosevelts”, on PBS. Please notice in the photo that one of the two frogs still has part of its tail.

Library of Congress


Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself. – Mark Twain

Since Twain’s days and likely before Americans have been deriding their Congress. There is one aspect of Congress though that cannot be defamed and that is its library. Its Beaux Arts architecture is a beauty to behold. More beautiful than its building though is its catalog. Increasingly more and more of that catalog is available online. Above I have selected an assortment of photographs that are currently available online. I chose these from the library’s outermost veneer. These photos were selected from a collection of sets that the library has organized to draw in the American public. They range from the interesting to the iconic to the inspirational and they are free to all. Follow the link and learn, live and love the Library of Congress. You’ll see all these pictures and many more. Enjoy!

Edge of Tomorrow


Rosetta Selfie with Comet - Photo by ESA-Rosetta-Philae-CIVA

Rosetta Selfie with Comet – Photo by ESA-Rosetta-Philae-CIVA

“Edge of Tomorrow” this summer’s Tom Cruise star vehicle came out on video yesterday. I bought it, watched it and loved it. I have been anticipating its video roll-out almost from the day after it left the theaters. The horrible soap opera like title aside, at its heart “Edge for Tomorrow” is pure science fiction, something that you don’t see unadulterated these days. Critics have been contorting themselves in drawing analogies to this rather unique film with other movies. One of the most popular ones is “Groundhog Day”. Like Bill Murray, Cruise is condemned to relive the same day until he gets it right. This facet is captured in the movie’s tagline, “Live, Die, Repeat”. Earth or more specifically Europe has been invaded by tentacle wielding space aliens called mimics. This name is never really explained, but in retrospect it does make some sense. In appearance they are somewhat reminiscent of the sentinels from “The Matrix”. We soon learn that the mimics are governed by a hive mind as in “Starship Trooper”. There is even an “Aliens” tie-in via Bill Paxton who we find back in military uniform again, battling aliens and about as successfully too.

The movie that “Edge of Tomorrow” pays the greatest homage to though is the historical drama “Saving Private Ryan”. Both movies feature lengthy Normandy beach D-Day sequences. It is no coincidence that “Edge of Tomorrow” opened this summer on June 6th and also on the 70th anniversary of the original D-Day invasion. Both movies portray an Anglo-American alliance poised to liberate prostrate France from evil aggression.

Cruise as Major William Cage is cursed to die endlessly as he tries to find a way off his beach, but this does afford him plenty of opportunity for the on the job training that he badly needs. His chief trainer and costar is Emily Blunt, who plays Rita Vrataski, the so-called Angel of Verdun, think part Audie Murphy, part Sargent York and all bad ass. She was once in the loop too with the mimics, so becomes Cruise’s only sympathetic ear, even if she has to be reminded of this fact every time they meet again and because she accidently lost her looping capability, she is also the one holding the gun to his head and pulling the trigger anytime things go awry, saving Cruise to reboot and fight another day. With her help Tom Terrific eventually learns how to stick his landing and save humanity or for what else is a sequel heaven for?

In counterpoint to all of this science fiction fluff, the picture with this post is all scientific fact. It is a selfie, taken by the European Space Agency’s Philae lander, part of the Rosetta spacecraft and the comet that it has now closed to within 50 kilometers. That shot was taken by the Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer, or CIVA, camera on board Rosetta’s Philae lander. The lander is still mounted to the spacecraft, so in this shot you can see Rosetta’s solar panels and part of the spacecraft body. Europe is not so prostrate as seen here.