Smarter Than A Sixth Grader?


Autumn Colors Redux – More Reflected Tamaracks

Autumn Colors Redux – More Reflected Tamaracks

Are you smarter than a sixth grader? As it turns out we were. Trivia Night last night was a gala party, with over two-hundred in attendance. This year’s MRH sixth grade field trip to Chicago was the night’s charity cause and in this one event two-thirds of the trip’s funds were raised. In addition to ten rounds of trivia, there were also raffles and auctions, all of which helped to bump up the night’s haul.

The first round of trivia really did ask the question, “Are you smarter than a sixth grader?” Ten video recorded sixth graders asked the questions. I thought that that was a cute touch, but we only did so-so on this round. That is to say, we missed a couple. The second round was all about mixing drinks and here we were flawless, go figure. The third round was a visual one. We had to guess the musical group from a picture of the cover art from one of their albums. The trick was that the cover art was rendered in Lego. We were perfect in this round too. Where we really fell down though was in the category of children’s literary classics, but are embarrassment was exceeded by those who should have known all of the answers, but actually did worse than us. We were better with advertising slogans and TV show themes then we were with literature. Although, we did really well in guessing who painted that famous painting. In the end, we finished in a mass tie for second. Just like in elementary school, there were no losers.

Today was a particularly wet and dreary day. I’m glad that not only did we get in a bicycle ride yesterday, but we also got the leaves raked. Our first round of leaf pickup is this week. The only thing of note that we did today, was to do the grocery shopping for Thanksgiving. Today was so un-photogenic that I’m reaching back several weeks to that beautiful day that we spent at Shaw Nature Reserve. I’ve already published one line of tamarack trees here. Today’s photo shows a neighboring line of tamaracks.

Zooming Up Wydown


Warning Objects In This Picture Maybe Slower Than They Appear

Warning Objects In This Picture Maybe Slower Than They Appear

We rode our bicycles today. The weather was warn (60 ˚F), windy, cloudy and it drizzled off and on, but it felt good to get back out on the bikes again. Anne took this post’s photo the last time we went cycling, which was two-week ago. The light was better then. It was sunny and not raining. The trees had more leaves, but at least my outfit was the same. You might notice some Photoshop effects in the picture. It is called the burst-zoom effect and it works quite well with this photograph’s subject matter, if I do say so myself. This effect is new to me. I found it when I upgraded to Photoshop Elements 13, as part of our new desktop PC upgrade this month. Warning, objects in this picture maybe slower than they appear.

The big news in town is of course the impending grand jury decision on whether or not white police officer Darren Wilson will be indicted for last August’s killing of black teenager Michael Brown. Any new wrinkle in the case inevitably leads the news. The grand jury met and recessed today, without making any announcements and will not reconvene until Monday. The prosecutor that is leading the grand jury has promised to give 48-hours’ notice of any impending announcement, to allow Saint Louis to prepare. The prosecutor had also promised a decision by the end of the month, which is a week away. This whole story is sad from start to finish and offers little hope for an outcome that will help heal our community. Still, one can hope and pray that from the ashes of these events something good can occur.

At work preparations for dealing with civil disturbances have been underway. Last week, we got a memo and had two drills that were related. The memo asked that in the coming days all employees should be extra watchful and vigilant. The first drill was an online drill. In this drill a pop-up appears on your computer screen alerting you to an emergency, its nature and any action that the employee should take. The problem with this kind of drill is that it is only effective if an employee is actually looking at their computer. This week only one out of the six colleagues that were discussing this drill was even aware that it had occurred. The other drill comes over the PA. I was aware of this drill, because a speaker over my cube blared it at me. It ends with the instructions, “If you cannot hear this announcement, contact maintenance. Test is now complete.” If you can’t hear the announcement, how can you take any action?

Nick Cave


Speak Louder, Nick Cave, 2011

Speak Louder, Nick Cave, 2011

Nick Cave is best known for his imaginative and theatrical Soundsuits, wearable sculptures composed of fibers as varied as raffia, hair, yarn, and twigs, and items such as buttons, sequins, and an array of found objects that Cave finds in flea markets and thrift stores. Soundsuits are named for the audible rustling and rattling that these wildly mixed materials create when the sculptures are worn and performed. Once referred to by the artist as “body armor,” Soundsuits transcend preconceptions with their ambiguous identities. While accumulated matter of discarded toys and kitsch suggests a critique on consumerism, the kaleidoscopic and tactile qualities of Cave’s meticulously crafted works convey a dazzling vibrancy that both implicates and invites. A Missouri native, Mr. Cave is now showing at the Saint Louis Art Museum. I first saw his work last year at the Seattle Art Museum.

Game Changers


Powell Hall

Powell Hall

Towards the end of the interminable 2008 Democratic primary campaign, as Barack Obama was securing his party’s nomination, Hillary Clinton is reported to have said of Obama, “God wants him to win.” During the 2012 campaign, Bill Clinton repeatedly joked about President Obama, “He’s luckier than a dog with two dicks”, to describe his comeback in that year’s presidential election. Mark Halperin and John Heilemann are both journalists and co-authors. In 2008 they teamed up to write the book “Game Change”, about the 2008 presidential campaign. They recently released their 2012 sequel, “Double Down: Game Change 2012”. Halperin is a senior political analyst for Time magazine, and Heilemann covers US politics for New York magazine; both are political analysts for MSNBC. We heard them both speak at the Saint Louis Speakers Series, which is held last night at Powell Hall. Anne and I were treated to tickets by Joanie and attended the speaker series with her and her friend Lynn. While the two author’s two books look at US politics in retrospect, their two talks looked forward over the political landscape. Halperin spoke first, followed by Heilemann and then they handled Q&A together. They predicted divided government to continue for some time to come. The Republicans will control the House at least until after the 2020 census and likely much longer. The Senate will flip-flop back-and-forth, while the Whitehouse will remain in Democratic hands. First, with the remainder of Obama’s term, but then with the election of Hillary Clinton. They were both very matter-of-fact about this prescription for government gridlock and also emphatic about its likelihood.

Los Angeles Plays Itself


Los Angeles City Hall

Los Angeles City Hall

“Los Angeles Plays Itself”, the Thom Anderson’s 2003 documentary, is about how Los Angeles has been portrayed in the movies. He rails against Hollywood and how it has maligned the city’s architecture, falsified its history and papered over its faults. His love for his city is self-evident, as is his disdain for those who would denigrate it, which he extends to those who use the nickname LA. The film’s first-person narration (Encke King) is both hypnotically monotone and unrelentingly critical. But even at almost three hours, this film is never boring, because it is so well populated with clips from over 200 other movies. Meticulous care has been taken to choose movie scenes, both famous and obscure that beautifully illustrate Mr. Anderson’s many points. It is because of this liberal sampling that “Los Angeles Plays Itself” has languished in art-house obscurity for more than a decade. Until recently, the movie was never in very wide distribution. Anderson, a CalArts professor, was unwilling to risk suit for copyright infringement. He was eventually convinced that he was actually protected under the fair use clause of the very copyright law that he had feared. The film is now available for streaming on Netflix. As a recent visitor of the city and a long time movie buff, I found this documentary very entertaining.

First Snow


Great Blue Heron in a Snowstorm

Great Blue Heron in a Snowstorm

After Friday night’s extravaganza, the rest of our weekend was rather low key, but we didn’t just kvetch, we got out. On Saturday, we walked to the high school for the annual pancake breakfast. Anne was of course the belle of the ball there. There was a dusting of snow later on Saturday, but there was no real accumulation. When we walked again on Sunday, the snow was more vociferous. We drove to Forest Park and then hiked from there. My colleague, Timothy, jogged by us while we were playing iBird calls on Owl Hill. He was running his buns off. We were looking for Charles and Sarah, all to no avail. It was the middle of their night and there were still too many leaves on the trees. Charles and Sarah are two Great Horned Owls that have inhabited that portion of park for many years. Do two owls make a parliament? We did see this Great Blue Heron. After tromping around in the wet snow for an hour or two, we stopped in at the Boathouse for some raspberry hot chocolate. The raspberry flavoring came via a liqueur, so it really warmed you up. We also split a dish of bread pudding, which was smarter than each of us ordering one, because there was a lot of it.