Daylight in the Swamp

Point Pelee National Park

Point Pelee National Park

I’ve been rooting through our photo catalog this week and found this gem that Anne took in August of 2005. It was taken on a side trip to Rochester, NY, from our annual cabin sojourn. It aptly conveys teeming nature with its brilliant greens. It was taken at Point Pelee National Park, which is located in Ontario. Pelee, just a spit of a land, sits like a dagger plunged into the water from the north shore of Lake Erie. It extends a mere five miles south from the rest of the lake’s shoreline, but that is enough to make it a Mecca for migrating fowl that regularly cross the lake. The photograph also conveys the peacefulness of a late summer’s afternoon. Any naturalist worth her salt will tell you though that this is an arena of competition, strife and death, as well as a park teeming with life.

I’ve been flummoxed by the Boston Marathon bombings. It’s thrown me off my blogging game. I both loathe and feel compelled to watch, read and listen to the media’s 24/7 babble. Sampling this news leaves me feeling disgusted, but like an addict, I soon return for another fix. One positive side effect has been that I have been able to lose myself in work this week, where no media can penetrate, unless you count the occasional Cards game.

At home, while Anne works nearly 24/7, leaving no child untested, I’ve taken to watching the Vikings. This History Channel mini-series, which has all the signs of a perennial, shows us what terrorism was like over a thousand years ago. Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) wants to raid from Scandinavia towards the west. His Earl prefers the more traditional eastern course. Placed upon a collision course, these two will have a reckoning when Ragnar sets sail for England. He uses an interesting navigational technique, not the usual lodestone, to sail the North Sea. In England, Ragnar and his trusty crew find easy pickings. Vikings is a little better than the typical swords and sandals, read Game of Thrones, where all the men do is hack at one another and women when seen are naked and/or abused.

Terror is as old as life itself. The denizens of Point Pelee and their ancestors were in turn both predator and prey. Does it eat me or do I eat it? As Vikings portrays terror washed up on the shores of medieval Briton in the form of marauding Norsemen. Their terror was motivated by loot. Animals eat each other, vikings kill for gold, but why does someone blowup marathon runners?


The show frizzflopsqueezepop by Claire Ashley was at the Chicago Cultural Center, when we saw it last month. This show closed last week. The inflatables that she has created are abstract canvases filled with hot air. These brightly colored plastic toys are created in a loud and carefree spray-painting style adapted from that of the street graffiti artist. Produced from large scraps of PVC coated canvas hand-sewn together, painted, and then inflated via an embedded air-blower into the rotund bulbous forms seen here. Recent incorporation of these inflatables into parades and performance art works, often feature the performers embedded within the inflatable itself.

Tuesday was Election Day and Anne worked the polls as an election official. Being an election official is a fifteen hour work day. She gets up at four and leaves the house before five. The polls are open from six AM to seven PM. Anne usually returns home after eight at night. It is a long exhausting day. Yesterday things didn’t go according to plan.

Anne’s duck began quacking at four. The quacking ducks are her favorite iPhone alarm. They didn’t wake her up, but they did me. I then woke her up. She got up, but I had problems falling back to sleep. Eventually though I did fall asleep again, only to be awoken again when Anne announced, “My car won’t start. I’m taking yours.” Before I could react or even wake up she was gone.

I got up, waited for dawn and then bicycled over to her poll in Maplewood. I threw my bike into the back of the Prius and drove it back home. I checked Anne’s car and noticed that one of the doors had been left ajar, since last Thursday. I got ready and then drove to work, where nine out of nine of the guys there agreed that that I had been wronged. After work, after I had voted and after I had gotten her car started, I called Anne. She had already arranged for a ride home, so I didn’t need to complete my morning dance again, in reverse.

There was only one issue of note on our ballot, Proposition P, the so-called Arch tax. It passed, but calling it the Arch tax is somewhat a misnomer. Only 30% of the monies raised with this sales tax will go to the Arch. They plan to reconnect the Arch with the rest of downtown Saint Louis. Currently, I-70 acts as a moat separating the Arch from Saint Louis. 40% of the money will go to maintain Saint Louis city and county parks. The remaining 30% will be given to a non-profit Confluence Greenway for the development of bicycle trails in Saint Louis.

I was miffed by Anne’s cavalier behavior, but I shouldn’t have been. It got me out on the bike in the early AM and I haven’t ridden at that hour for some time. It was a cold, crisp, beautiful, early spring morning. I’ll have to do it again soon, only this time of my own free will.

Soul Food Supper

A Pair of Mergansers on the Birch Point Rocks

A Pair of Mergansers on the Birch Point Rocks

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word – Martin Luther King Jr.

The high school held the annual Soul Food Supper tonight. There were lots of good foods to be had, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy (we showed up too late for the sweet potatoes), black-eyed peas, ham and beans and collard greens. I ate too much and was too full for dessert. Anne only had the thinnest sliver of pie.

Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken, winged bird that cannot fly. – Langston Hughes

This year’s program was much briefer then in years past, partly because we showed up too late to hear the high school’s jazz band play. I would have liked to hear them play again, because they have gotten so much better than when Dave was in it. Sorry Dave, I know that I could have said that so much better. There were the usual opening ceremonies, followed by one church choir and then the highlight of the evening, musical selections from the Medina family, a brother and two sister trio. They really rocked! Only one of the girls is still in high school now.

I feel that the most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it. – Reggie Jackson

After dinner, we hung around and socialized for a bit. We spoke with Joann and Jim for a while and then Nelson. His wife Gina Mitten, a newly elected State Representative was up at Jeff City tonight, fighting the good fight against the agitprop [1] Republican machine whose panjandrum [2] leaders have spread the diktat [3] that any compromise is anathema. I love finding and then using big new words (at least to me), with a hat tip to Michael Tomasky.

[1] Agitprop – propaganda; especially: political propaganda promulgated chiefly in literature, drama, music, or art. Origin of Agitprop: Russian, ultimately from agitatsiya agitation + propaganda. First known use: 1935

[2] Panjandrum – a powerful personage or pretentious official. Origin of Panjandrum: Grand Panjandrum, burlesque title of an imaginary personage in some nonsense lines by Samuel Foote. First known use: 1856

[3] Diktat – a harsh settlement unilaterally imposed (as on a defeated nation). Origin of Diktat: German, literally something dictated, from New Latin dictatum, from Latin, neuter of dictatus, past participle of dictare to dictate. First known use: 1933

Jimmy’s on the Park

Some of the caricatures of Saint Louis nobility at Jimmy's

Some of the caricatures of Saint Louis nobility at Jimmy’s

Anne and I celebrated Valentine’s Day, with dinner at Jimmy’s on the Park. Jimmy’s is a De Mun area restaurant that has been in business for almost twenty years. The signature aspect of its decor are the banks of caricatures that line its walls. A small subset was captured in the picture with post. The persons depicted are an amalgamation of Saint Louis area royalty and Jimmy’s regulars. Considering the prices there, maybe being a regular is synonymous with royalty. It was a fun night, the food was good and the service was excellent. I especially liked the blueberry crème brûllée. Apparently, like some restaurants have a soup of the day, Jimmy’s has a crème brûllée of the day. Yum!

Before dinner, we exchanged Valentine’s gifts. I went with the traditional flowers and chocolate, the flowers being cut orchids and the chocolate being Christopher Elbow’s designer chocolates. They look almost too good to eat. I went the traditional route, but Anne really out did herself. She made me a Love quilt. She called it a cheater quilt, because it uses a printed pattern instead of pieced bits of fabric. I think that it looks simply marvelous. It is almost done, Anne is working on it as I write. When she finishes it, I’ll share a photo of it. I almost forgot, she also got us passes to The Heights, the local municipal gym. This gift will dovetail nicely with the chocolates that I gave and get us over the hump of the remaining rump of winter. 

I could easily round out this post with a rant directed at the Missouri Department of Revenue and its byzantine motor vehicle process. I am trying to allow Dan to licence his car in California, but its Friday and you don’t really want to hear about any of that. Instead, why don’t we reach back to Tuesday’s State of the Union speech.

Anne and I watched the SOTU together, how romantic. No really, people find members of their political persuasion more attractive than others. A Stanford study showed that matched political ideologies could swing a subject’s desire. We lightened any sense of sexual tension [Anne says what sexual tension? Mark says you were in the room.] with a game, SOTU bingo. I might have won, if I had caught the fist bump banter between Obama and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). Kirk responded to Barack’s fist bump with an exploding fist bump. Anne went on alone and won during Marco Rubio’s response. I had quit the couch by then, because it looked to me that Rubio was moving the game from bingo to some sort of drinking game. 😉

I never thought that yesterday’s post about today’s passing asteroid, DA14, would be upstaged by a Russian meteorite about the size of a semi. The video footage from the meteorite was amazing and really helped to hype the DA14 conjunction. Apparently, Russian drivers go around with a constant video feed, because of rampant fraudulently staged traffic accidents. We had an office pool going as to where the asteroid would land. The actual event was a bit of a let down. It looked like a cursor moving across the screen.


Patriot, American Bald Eagle

Patriot, American Bald Eagle

Old business first, an update on yesterday’s post, the office of Claire McCaskill has already responded to yesterday’s tour requests to see the US Capital and Whitehouse. We have a tour reservation for the Capital and our Whitehouse tour request has been forwarded to the Whitehouse, some mumble jumble about the separation of powers. We ought to hear yay or nay from Obama in a couple of weeks. I am impressed that was pretty fast. Who says that the Senate can’t move quickly? Oh, Mister Blunt?

Patriot is the name of the pictured American Bald Eagle. It is a twenty-year-old female. Patriot is a rescue bird, rescued as a chick; the two other siblings from the nest didn’t survive. It is now a ward of the World Bird Sanctuary. Although the World Bird Sanctuary is located in West Saint Louis County, we met Patriot at the Audubon Center in the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary. On Sunday, we saw a number of free Bald Eagles at the Riverlands, but this is the most striking photograph of one. We also saw a few of the last of the Trumpeter Swans, the rest have already migrated north again. We saw about a hundred White Pelicans. They are a little early this year; they don’t normally come through town until March. We also saw numerous little birds. We are still trying to sort some of these species out. It snowed Sunday morning, about three inches worth. This was certainly our first “real” snowfall of the season and what with Saturday’s Groundhog Day forecast, it could also be our last one of the season.

Nell: I won’t pay the taxes!
Snidely: You must pay the taxes.
Dudley: I’ll pay the taxes.
Nell: My hero!

Tax season has descended upon our lovely little hovel. In a bit of gender role reversal vis-a-vie the above dialog, my lovely bride has transformed herself into a real PITA (Personal Income Tax Assessor). I am now peppered with requests for W-2 and 1099 forms and the like. Our financial division of labor is that I pay the monthly bills and Anne does the annual taxes. You can also think of this division of labor as a personal audit of how well I did at managing our finances over the past year. So far, Anne has uncovered that I failed to pay our personal property taxes last year. Claire can you offer some help here too? 😉

Hat Tales

Dave Looking Askance at his Rams Cap

Dave Looking Askance at his Rams Cap

I biked on Saturday, for the record, my mileage was well short of 4000 miles. It was very windy, which always makes for harder cycling. I kept being passed by the younger, more spritely riders. This made me feel old and tired. Since Anne is not yet regularly riding and I am currently riding alone, I listen to podcasts to pass the time. This normally works well, except that day, when I turned into the wind; I could hardly hear the shows, over the baffled wind noise in my earbuds.

This is Super Bowl Sunday, one of those unofficial, official holidays. I mean, what else are you going to do on a Sunday in February except watch football on TV? I’m going to root for the Niners, like most of the nation. I haven’t queried Anne on her allegiance yet, but I don’t think that she has any real dog in this fight. I don’t either, but I don’t want to stir up my California Bros. I do have a few asides to add.

My first aside is of a literary nature. The Baltimore Ravens are named for the poem by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”. I did not know this until this week. Poe, America’s first commercially successful author came from Baltimore.

I guess that the biggest human interest story of this game is the duel between two brothers. The two team’s head coaches are brothers. Whether you call this game a Harbaugh Bowl or simply a Harbrawl, this nationally televised family spat makes for great press. My aside on the John and Jim Harbaugh controversy is that they both attended my high school. I was long since gone, but John, the one year older Ravens coach, graduated from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. Jim, the San Francisco Forty-Niners coach, the younger brother returned to Ann Arbor as a quarterback for the University of Michigan. They are both roughly Jane’s age, but since they went to Pioneer and she went to Huron, it is unlikely that she met either of them.

About the hats, a while back, Anne knitted Dave a cap [loosely] based upon the design of the Saint Louis Rams football team’s helmets. Both Dave and Anne’s pictured facial expressions, are more attributable to the iPhone self-portrait process than any criticism on the knitted cap. Although, Dave did complain the cap was too big for his head. He needs more college education, if you ask me.

Speaking of the Rams, they were victorious in their arbitration decision this week. This makes them more successful off the field than they were on it this season. The Rams and Saint Louis entered into arbitration over their stadium dispute. Saint Louis offered modest improvements to the existing stadium, while the Rams are seeking a more comprehensive makeover and have threatened to leave town in 2015, when their lease is up. There was a nasty spat last year, when the Rams proposed a trial separation, by playing a number of their home games in Europe. With Rams home games already looking like an endangered species, Saint Louis offered some serious pushback to this idea.

My final aside is also about the Rams and comes courtesy of the NRA. On their website they have their long enemies list. This list enumerates organizations and individuals that have had the temerity to support gun control legislation. Most of the individuals are Hollywood actors and most of the organizations are healthcare related. A notable exception to the later generalization are the Saint Louis Rams. Go Rams!

Anne Documenting Her Work

Anne Documenting Her Work