Eat Local

Front Yard Cooper's Hawk

Front Yard Cooper’s Hawk

This morning, both Anne and I were leaving for work at about the same time. Before we each jumped into our respective cars and headed out, we stopped to converse for a bit, all the while standing out front on the sidewalk. While we were speaking, we both noticed a steady stream of some sort of stuff that was gently floating down from above. It was falling from our front yard maple tree. At first, I thought that they were leaves or bits of leaves that maybe some squirrel was ejecting from its burrow. It is fall now, but the particles seemed too small to be whole maple leaves and they floated way too slowly to be falling leaves. Then I wondered if the falling particles might be sawdust, like the stream of falling sawdust that is created by a carpenter bee as it chews its way through wood, but what ever it was that was falling, it was too large to be sawdust. We moved closer to investigate this phenomenon and try to figure out what was really coming down.

What we found was a pile of tan and grey feathers scattered across the pavement. Looking up, we saw that more feathers continued to rain down upon us. Then we spied their source, a raptor eating breakfast on a branch. We both tried taking iPhone pictures of this bird, but I knew that that wouldn’t work out too well. So, I went back into the house to get a real camera and took the above photograph. It turns out that the raptor was a Cooper’s hawk. We see them routinely in the neighborhood. They mainly eat birds and must really appreciate all the avid backyard birders in the neighborhood, what with the large number of birdfeeders around. The prey was a Mourning Dove that was likely plucked off the peak of our next door neighbor’s roof. They like to congregate there in the morning and I can regularly hear them cooing.

Bikes, Birds and Brunch

We launched earlier than yesterday’s crack of noon, for today’s bicycle ride. We wanted to beat the heat. We rode though Forest Park, which was more crowded today than it was yesterday. The Tour de Cure was running down Lindell Boulevard and there was another cancer related charity event, a walk that was circling the Muny Mile. With some slogging, we made it through the park and on towards Tower Grove Park. Halfway around Tower Grove, we elected to head over to Local Harvest for brunch. Rather unusually, it was not crowded. I found out later that the restaurant has reduced its hours to just the weekend. This might explain why it wasn’t overflowing, as is normally the case, other people might have thought it had closed altogether. After brunch, we circled the other half of Tower Grove Park. We saw the Green Heron in one of the lily ponds in front of the Piper Palm House. He looked to be a yearling, he was smaller than normal. Returning to Forest Park, we saw the egret next. He was fishing in the lazy section of river that flows through Steinberg Prairie. I was having trouble getting a good picture of him, because he kept disappearing behind an island, but then the Blue Heron swept in and flushed the egret back out into the open for us. The Red Eared Sliders seemed oblivious to the whole thing.


Double Poke in the Eye 2, Bruce Nauman, 1985

Double Poke in the Eye 2, Bruce Nauman, 1985

I’m not blogging about the game Planarity. I’m sure that it is a fine game and all that, but it is not the subject of this post. If you were expecting something of that bent, I’m sorry. I’m also not going to be talking about national politics in this post, although that was the original thought behind taking this picture. I don’t think that there is anything that I can add to the current debate that would be meaningful. I’m sure that I could find at least half of my readers that would agree with me on this. 😉

No, this post is about work, the proverbial third rail for us bloggers. I’m not trying to get electrocuted. I just want to see things laid flat. I want to see on a two-dimensional graph two lines that coincide, one of them mine, one other.

There is a saying in my field that is full of wisdom, “No one believes the predictions, except for the person who made them and everyone believes the measurements, except for the person who made them.” This saying embodies the prejudice in my field of the relative value placed upon computational analysis versus physical measurement. It is a prejudice that I have faced since my inception at this job.

Twenty-some years ago, when I began this line of work, there was much merit to this aphorism. Back then the codes and more particularly the machines that ran them were infantile compared to today’s capability. Back then measurements were king! Time though has not been kind to the king, while the usurper has flourished. Time has made testing increasingly expensive, prohibitively so in many cases. Codes meanwhile have benefited from Moore’s Law. While really more of an observation than a law, it has effectively piloted predictions to their current apogee. The supporting improvements in pre- and post-processing tools further streamline the analysis process. Meanwhile testing languishes. It was always more expensive, now its increasing costs are further hamstringing it.

In the typical project cycle, predictions always came first. People always paid them mind, up until the first test data was available. Then their only concern was, “Why are your predictions wrong?” Playing second fiddle is hard, because as often as not the first chair is not any better than you, but still they are first chair. I think that the tipping point has arrived, where the worm turns and the usurper rises. The king is dead, long live the king!

Powerball Jackpot

Cone Flowers and Insect Pollinators

Cone Flowers and Insect Pollinators

For the past couple of days it rained at work.
For the past couple of days there was no rain at home.
I don’t know about Spain,
But here the rain does fall mainly on the planes.
– an airport joke

All righty then, as I was trundling into work this morning, I noticed that the Powerball jackpot had crept up to $400 million. I pass a Powerball billboard everyday on my way into work. $400M is a sizable pot and I definitely considered purchasing a ticket after work. I never really expect to win. I can do the math well enough that I know that lotteries are just a tax on those who can’t. Still, how else am I expected to join the 1%?

On those occasions that I do purchase a lottery ticket, I am most rewarded when I pass that billboard. I’m still ten minutes out from work, which is just the right amount of time to spin out a day-dream. I typically fantasize about what I would do with my mythical millions. If I had one wish, it would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace. Otherwise, I dream about what I would buy with the money.

A discussion at work about winning this lottery was the genesis for this post. Pat advised me that the first things that you need to do is, “Change your phone number and then hire a lawyer.” Pat is a frequent lottery participant. Jeff offered a unique perspective. Jeff is a bit of a big spoon, he likes to stir things up. Jeff’s idea was along the lines of a good offense makes for a good defense. Instead of following Pat’s approach of hunkering down and trying to hide, Jeff enjoys fighting back. Jeff plans on hiring someone to pester back his former co-workers and acquaintances. This individual would contact these prospective money hounds, lead them on, interrogate them and generally just mess with them. As I’ve said, Jeff is a big spoon. Jeff’s employee would monthly summarize all contacts, which Jeff might or might not read. I think that he is better qualified to be a member of the 1% than I am. I tried buying a ticket tonight, but ahead of me in line was an elderly man, who was trying to pay a $243.39 utility bill. His real world problems trumped my dream world ones. I left then and maintained my stature in good stead as a member of the 99%.

Stick An Arch On It

It’s a sea made of what was once the sea – Andy Goldsworthy

Stone Sea is a site-specific artwork commission that was created by world-renowned British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. The work unveiled to the public at the June grand opening of the Saint Louis Art Museum’s new wing. Stone Sea was inspired by Saint Louis geology and the city’s underlying base of limestone, which was formed over 300 million years ago when the Midwest was once covered by Ocean Sea. Using limestone from a local quarry, Goldsworthy fabricated twenty-six arches, each about ten feet high. The arches are densely nestled in the courtyard adjoining the Main and new East buildings. The arches, made of roughly cut stone, produce a sense of fluidity reminiscent of the sea. According to the museum, Stone Sea looks to the past, present, and future to celebrate the expansion of the Museum. It brings together many of the artist’s key themes and goals: commitment to the arch form, exploration of enclosed spaces, merging of outside and inside, investigation of local material, and finally, connecting of people and place.

Stone Sea is the largest, most significant art piece incorporated into the grand opening of the East Wing. It’s correlation with Saint Louis goes beyond the choice of its limestone. The choice of the arch shape is a hat tip to that most emblematic of Saint Louis symbols, the Gateway Arch. The Arch permeates Saint Louis society to such an extent that a group of Maplewood hipster moms came out with a line of t-shirts with the phrase, “Stick an Arch on It”. This phrase is itself a riff off the Portlandia TV show’s sketch, “Stick a Bird on It”.

The Slammer’s New Wing

The Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) also-know-as the Slammer opened its newest wing at the end of June. Anne and I left town just the day before its grand opening. I took a few minutes today and did a brief photographic drive by. The new wing adds 200,000 square feet of display space for the museum’s collection. This space has been dedicated primarily to the display of modern art. In addition to the new display space, the new wing sports a three hundred car garage, two restaurants, a gift shop and meeting areas, think art theme park.