Northern Water Snake


Northern water snake

Northern water snake

Sunday morning we saw a most unusual sight for an early February morning. The previous morning, when we first visited Gilbert Lake, we saw beautiful ice petals. Now Saturday was warm and Sunday promised to be so too, but to see a reptile out-and-about in the winter is a strange sight. This was on our second visit to Gilbert Lake in two days. We had already turned-around and were headed back to the car, when he came upon this guy who was standing on the levee road. When we stopped to speak with him, he pointed out the snake to us. It was right along the edge of the Illinois River’s bank and was still pretty much covered in mud. I don’t know if it had wiggled out of the mud or swam ashore. It looked like it was still in a winter torpor, but it was basking in the sun and seemed reasonably happy there. It was easily over six-feet long. Today, a cold front passed through town and temperatures have been falling. It is now below freezing and snowing. I can’t help but wonder what that snake is doing now?

Big Shark Bicycles


Big Shark

Big Shark

Recently, I’ve discovered the new website, nextSTL. This site seems primarily focused on local architecture, but it could be much more, I’m still getting to know it. I found its writing on the proposed nearby apartment building off of Dale to be highly informative, but the real reason that I am writing about the site is their new article on Big Shark Bicycles. I heard on the radio last week that Big Shark was unhappy with how crowded the U City loop has become. The announcement of the planned construction of a 14-story mixed use building near them there was the last straw. The radio had them closing that store and retaining only their downtown and Chesterfield stores, but according to nextSTL Big Shark will be retaining a presence near us after all. In fact, their new location will be much nearer to us than before. They will be moving into the old Hi-Fi Fo-Fum location, at Big Bend and Wise. This location has been left idle for years, ever since the owner died suddenly, without leaving a will and no way was found to keep the store open. The large two-story building will be torn down. It has structural issues and the bicycle store will move into the adjoining former garage. The torn down building will make way for plenty of parking.

After the Flood


Reeds with Ice Petals

Reeds with Ice Petals

After the flood the water goes back down, what is left is seldom pretty, but sometimes it is. What you see in the above photo are reeds from Gilbert Lake. Sometime on Friday night, these reeds acted as a catalyst for the near freezing water. Spear like petals of ice formed around these reeds as the water level continued to drop. The picture was taken Saturday morning. The water level had dropped about two inches since the ice petals had formed, leaving them suspended over the morning’s new ice film.

Anne and I spent this weekend at Pere Marquette State Park. We rented a cabin and dined at its historic CCC era lodge. This was our Valentine’s getaway weekend. We had a good time. The nights outside were cold, but the days were warm, in the mid-fifties. We were outside all day and saw lots of beautiful nature and took pictures of much of it too. Unfortunately, we also saw the effects of last December’s torrential rains and flooding. Pere Marquette is on the Illinois River, which of the big three rivers running past Saint Louis, probably saw the least amount of flood damage. Still the damage from the torrential rains was evident on many of the park’s hilly trails. All the rain that fell on Flag Pole hill carved deep gullies down the center of some of the trails.

Still, it could have been worse. The disastrous flood of 1993, has become a boon for naturalists. We saw dozens of different species of birds this weekend. Much of what was once farmland then, is now wetlands. Gilbert Lake now acts as an overflow reservoir for the Illinois. Now that the river has gone back down, water from Gilbert Lake is being released back into it. We came upon the sluice gate a little ways up the old levee road from the ice petals.

Elizabeth’s Viola


Elizabeth's Viola

Elizabeth’s Viola

We saw the play “Georama” last night at the Rep. Last year we attended a reading of this same play at the Rep’s series, Ignite! It is a musical. In the mid-1800s, American artist John Banvard created the first georama, a 3,000 foot long scrolling painting celebrating the beauty of the Mississippi River, arguably the first ‘motion picture’. I missed the exhibit of his georama at the Saint Louis Art Museum, a couple of years ago. I think that that exhibit inspired this play. Barvard’s georama was a great success then and once paired with P.T. Barnum became an international one too, but Barvard and Barnum had a love-hate relationship that provided most of the tension in this play. John’s wife Elizabeth and their relationship acted as a counterbalancing influence. It was interesting to see how this play had evolved. For example, in the reading Elizabeth played the viola. In last night’s play the viola had been reduced to just a prop.

Thinking Outside the Box


Where have all the cavemen gone? …long time passing

Neanderthals

Neanderthals

I am pleased to announce that my name is now on a org chart. It had been MIA for over a year. I endured this slight and have prevailed. I shouldn’t complain, because I still got paid and most people tended to leave me alone because of it, sort of a win-win. Still, the situation left me with a feeling of not being wanted or at least not belonging. Anyway, my name now sits alone, all alone, in its very own org chart box. A box without any function attached to it, but except for my boss no one else has a stated function in that organization, so I don’t feel so bad anymore.

Last year’s year-end hiccup has thrown our corner of the company for a loop. My organization has still not found its footing. Too many people are still idle. I have been fortunate enough to land on my feet, even if my footing is shaky at best. Management has done what is always does in the face of a crisis, it has reorganized. Now there are twice as many managers as there were before, all of them now trying to perform the same work as before.

Our protest period over last year’s debacle is winding down. Some still have hope springs eternal that next week John McCain will miraculously show up, contract and pen in hand, all apologetic for the government’s mistake. I’m a little bit more sanguine, because anything less than this fairy tale is all mox nix to me. Still, the human drama that accompanies this job holds some allure to me. My younger co-workers may view me as a Neanderthal, but I’m not extinct yet. I’ve done a little bit more speaking outside of the box than thinking here. Is this why the Neanderthal’s really went extinct?

Review: ‘Hail, Caesar!’


Roman Centurion

Roman Centurion

I don’t purport to be a member of the fourth estate. I’ll take the fifth. We went to see a sneak preview of the new Coen brothers movie, “Hail, Caesar!” It opens this weekend. The line to get in was already long when we arrived. I was afraid that we would be turned away, but we got in, even if we couldn’t sit together. The good stadium seats were all reserved for the fourth estate. We were up front so that they in addition to being able to watch the movie, they could also judge our crowd reaction. I was an unpaid extra. They weren’t the only ones watching us. We were warned to not use any electronic devices. We were going to be watched, with night vision goggles no less, just to ensure that no piracy would occur. They needn’t had worried about me, I ended up in the front row all the way on the side. I had a rather distorted view of the screen, at least the movie wasn’t shown in 3D. That would have been too much.

I liked the film, even if I can’t claim to have fully understood it. There is a lot going on, with many show business references and more than a few that went over my head. The movie is chock full of A-list stars, many of them getting so little screen time that their performances are little more than cameos. With all of the material that is covered, the show is only 106 minutes long. The movie is set in 1951 Hollywood, during the golden age of the studio system. Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, Capitol studio’s fixer. His job is to keep the studio and its stars out of the gossip columns. His already full day gets even more overloaded when the studio’s leading man, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is kidnapped by a mysterious organization called ‘The Future’. Some of the movie references are unmistakable. Scarlett Johansson plays a brassy Ester Williams like character. She is one of Mannix’s many chores, being knocked up, unwed and beginning to have problems fitting into her mermaid costume. Is this storyline biographical? I guess that this is my fundamental question about the film, what was it about? Obviously, it was about Hollywood of that era, but what was it really all about? The future wants to know!