Courting Colors

Great Blue Heron in Spring Plumage

Cardinal pitchers and catchers reported this week for spring training in Florida. Where did we leave those baseballs last year? Spring can’t be that far away. Yesterday, it supposedly warmed up some and Anne and I got out on our bikes. Our own form of spring training. It was brisk. It was too cold for Anne to wear her new three-quarter length bike tights and had to wear old full length ones.

The week of rain that we’ve had has left the bike path inundated. Orange cones were placed at the most egregious spots. They’ve never done that before. I’m not sure how helpful they were. The spots that were still flooded were self-evident. The ones where the water has receded were only of passing interest. Bicyclist have a real advantage over pedestrians at these spots. We can glide through the water, with pedals held level and not get wet. I could see where runners had cut cross-country and churned the soggy grass into mud.

We saw the pictured Great Blue Heron near Jefferson Lake. It is resplendent in its nuptial plumage. Is this another sign of spring or is fluffing its feathers, because it is cold? The bird allowed us to approach quite closely. Although, as you can see, we were being eyed even more closely. We are the bird paparazzi after all and shall not be denied our pics.

Later that day we had gyrotonics and we’re feeling it afterwards. We’re starting to get the hang of these exercises, which means less time is spent instructing and more time is spent doing. By the end of our period, I welcomed conversational asides, because they gave us a rest break. Maybe two exercises is too many. 

Fiddler on the Roof

If I were a rich man, I would pay the many kopecks needed for front row tickets to Fiddler on the Roof. Still, I was able to scrape together enough coin for a pair of seats. This was the second Russia themed show of the season, after Anastasia. Do I detect collusion? Theater tickets coincident with the SOTU was a blessing.

Fiddler debuted in 1964. I’d seen it before, both the movie and live at the Muny. This musical tells the story of Russian-Jewish shtetl life at the dawn of the 20th-century, through everyman protagonist, Tevye, a dairy man. Blessed with five daughters, their marriage prospects are a central theme. A good-natured man, he finds himself on the cusp of change and trapped between tradition and the new ideas. His conversations with God punctuate his daily travails.

I enjoyed hearing all of the old songs again (Matchmaker, If I were a Rich Man and Sunrise, Sunset) and the dance numbers were well performed. The one where the dancers balanced bottles on their heads was amazing. Everything about this show was well done. Still, unlike other recent revivals, this one did not break any new ground. Other revivals have cranked up their production values, adding a new measure of gilt. Fiddler fitting its often somber tableau was more muted, especially its lighting, which was too dark. 

Accompanying this post is a video created by Justin Barr. This movie shows a drone fly through of the Fox theater. It highlights this theater’s gorgeous faux Siamese-Byzantine décor, especially the glowing orb at the auditorium’s apex. The Fabulous Fox theater is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, with among other things, ninety cent candy bars at the concession stand.

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Alligator Snapping Turtle

Well, Dave almost got his wish. I had asked him who he was rooting for in the Super bowl and he answered, “I hope nobody wins.”  After three-quarters it was a 3-3 tie and looked headed for his hoped for outcome, triple overtime, followed by a power outage. But that was not to be. The Ram’s defense finally folded. Their offence having never bothered to show up. The commercials were meh, so I had pretty much packed it in by halftime. I did make bacon-wrapped scallops.

Anne and I had bicycled together. It was just the two of us, plus half of Saint Louis in Forest Park. It was even more crowded than Saturday, but then the  weather was warmer too. We started on the bike trail, but soon bailed, only to find that all of these people in the park had driven there. Too many cars.

The pictured snapper is stretching its neck. It is reaching up to the surface to get a breath. It looks primordial, which it is. The above specimen is in the zoo, but the following one was photographed, less than a mile away, on the bike trail in Forest Park. I think that this one would give your bike tire a little more than a snakebite flat, if you got too close to it.

On another bike ride, along this same stretch of trail, I saw two Wood ducks outsmart a snapping turtle. It was spring then and the pair were shepherding a flock of their ducklings. As the turtle made its play, the male duck faked an injury, luring the turtle away from its children. Circling the pond, it only just managed to keep ahead of its pursuer. All the while, the female was leading the ducklings away to safety. When they were all safely away, the male duck just flew away. Better luck next time.

Bike Path Snapper

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Numeri (Numbers) Plate, Laura de Santillana, 1977

Neither snow nor cold nor gloom of night shall stay this blogger from the swift completion of his appointed rounds. Braving the polar vortex, Anne and I first did our Gyrotonic workout and then continued on to Science on Tap. Liberty Vittert, a visiting professor from Glasgow in Mathematics and Statistics was the night’s speaker. Her talk was entitled, How to Win the Lottery and Get Away with Murder. Here she is via YouTube giving the TEDx version of this talk.

With our previous exercise, we arrived later than normal, but Joanie had our table ready and Pat just beat us there. The usual hosts were absent due to a family emergency and without their tutelage the venue’s flakey AV systems reared their awful heads and plagued Dr. Vittert’s talk. She straight off wrecked my planned question, “Which high school did you go to?” Growing up in Saint Louis, she knew that such a question would be code for who are you. Burroughs indicates that she was a local high flyer. 

The gist of her talk was that we can defend ourselves from the chronic misuse of statistics through common sense. The get away with murder portion of the title comes from the OJ Simpson trial. In it, one of the defense lawyers argued that only one in 1/2500 of women who are abused, were murdered by their abuser and you can’t convict on a 1/2500 chance. A more correct way of viewing it is that nine out of ten women who are murdered by a spouse had been abused. The police have always known this and that is why they always suspect the husband.

The how to win the lottery part of the title presents a strategy for dealing with incomprehensibly big numbers, by characterizing them using a real world situation. Imagine a bathtub, the biggest that you’ve ever seen and then imagine that that tub is filled to almost overflowing with kernels of dried rice. Take one of the kernels, paint it gold and then plunge it down into the rice. Then standing at the bathroom door, charge people two bucks to blindfold themselves and pick one grain of rice. This example illustrates both the futility of buying lottery tickets and why government loves them. As the saying goes, it’s a tax on people who can’t do math or more correctly can’t visualize the math.