Wednesday, November 30, 2011

International Welcome

People who read my blog regularly know that I volunteer most of the summer in Poland at language camps. I do this through Global Volunteers. Yesterday I picked up the country manager from Poland at the airport and took her to the hotel where they will all be staying during the next couple of weeks for their annual training event. When the hotel manager saw the arriving person from Poland she came out from her office and walked around the reception desk to give the country manager a big hug. I was so delighted. It made me think of when the cleaning ladies who work at Reymontowka came to my class the first day to give me the three kiss Polish greeting. I was so very happy to see that a warm and welcoming greeting happens on this side of the ocean too!

Recently I was at a conference related to study abroad and the speaker related related how as a young woman she traveled on her scooter from Japan to Amsterdam and found "the world is full of dangers and delights." The world is unfortunately full of people who wish to cause trouble and anguish but also full of people who extend friendship, hope, and peace.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Lighting

This afternoon we walked down the street and across the road to the entrance of the Science Museum parking ramp and then took the elevator up the 8 stories to the city level. We headed to Rice Park for the Christmas tree lighting. Rice Street has been called one of the most beautiful parks in the United States. I have always thought so, and it's nice to have one's judgment affirmed by an outside source.

It is one city block square and surrounded on all four sides by very beautiful buildings. To the north is Landmark Center. This building started in 1901 as the Federal Building, held everything from courts to a place to become a citizen to a place yet to file a land grant. There is sort of a joke that Saint Paul still has such a beautiful building because it was too slow to do urban renewal in the 1960s. Now the building holds museums and non-profits.
Landmark Center

To the west is the Ordway Theater.

To the south is Central Library.

On the east is the Saint Paul Hotel, but I really never got a good photo of that today. In the summer there is a beautiful English garden in the front of the hotel. Now the garden is full of Christmas trees. Here is my older daughter by one of the trees. One can tell that the wind was blowing just a bit!!

We also saw Santa
and horse carriages

and smelled the Kettle Corn

Elena really enjoys watching ice skating but the TV today was all football all the time. So she was happy when we found the ice rink and found a skating exhibition as part of the opening of the rink for the season.

We went into Landmark Center mostly to warm up a bit. Oh, the noise! Lowe's was sponsoring an opportunity for kids to make a Christmas ornament. The sound of about 50 children hammering was quite something.

Back out into the park we saw singers and dancers and then finally the tree lighting. If you  listen carefully, you can hear the countdown. The tree was donated by a St. Paul couple. This must be a tree that no longer fits the yard or field in which it is growing. You can glimpse it -- look for the blue tree - but enjoy the fireworks, too.

Above a picture of the tree taken from in front of the library. Altogether there are 20,000 LED lights in the park. It's quite a display.

Walking back home we found a hard north wind blowing in our face. We decided to walk on the river side of the buildings to see if they could block the wind a bit. It was dark now, for it was a bit after 6 PM. We met a woman walking two dogs and suddenly she said, "I know you." Turns out to be one of my former colleagues from the my time at the Minnesota Department of Health.

An interesting afternoon!

Friday, November 25, 2011

November Night LIght

We started out for a 4:45 movie and then remembered we planned to watch the Holidazzle Parade on TV this evening, so we headed back home. Instead we drove to Mears Park, also called Lowertown Park now to see the lights. I thought after business hours on Thanksgiving Friday it would be easy to find a parking space.

Here's a video too.
Hope you enjoy a bit of the holiday lights. Here they last until the end of the Winter Carnival in early February. Helps to make the winter nights of long darkness a bit more fun!

November Light

November is often a dull month in Minnesota. The colors are just brown, black and gray, and everything looks dull and it's the cloudiest month in Minnesota.

This year we hare having unusually warm weather. Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was the warmest Thanksgiving Day since 1990 with temperatures here in the high 50s (13 as measured in Europe and elsewhere). The first snow fall has all disappeared.

This morning was cloudy, but by late morning the sun appeared and my daughter and I took a quick walk along the river. The November light brings wonderful water reflections.

Walking downstream we admired the reflection of the Minnesota Showboat in the river.

Walking upstream produced this beautiful reflection of an arch of the High Bridge. People who visit me often look at this bridge and say, "How do the cars get up there?" It's quite deceptive but obviously both ends of the bridge are on ground level. The bluff on the south side of the river is much higher than the bluff on the north side of the river -- the real river buffs refer to these as the east and west side. Going downstream the right hand bank is always called the west, no matter what direction it really is!  Thus, the suburb immediately to the south of St. Paul is called West St. Paul, and that area still within the city limits of St. Paul  is called the West Side.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Window View of the World

I spend hours in front of the computer both evaluating students' work as well this semester designing and revising courses for the spring semester. Out my window I see a small pond and I drive by it every time I leave. I noticed it was very low, since we have had a very, very dry fall season. The warm weather today got me to walking in that direction -- and on November 23 -- I went out in my shirt sleeves, no coat!
Notice on the left hand side where you can see the dark bank, how low the pond has gotten. This pond is designed to catch rain water and to keep it and pollutants it may carry from going directly into the Mississippi River. During the summer there is a fountain in the middle. This keeps the water moving and prevents this from becoming a breeding area for mosquitoes. In the distance is the business district for Saint Paul.

On my way I admired the flower pots now decorated for the holiday season.

I also noticed how Mother Nature has decorated for the season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Signs of Change

Winter is trying its best to creep in. On Sunday my older daughter and I walked to the Science Museum to see the IMAX film about the Amazon. When the film was done we were exited in the cafe area. The following view caught my eye.
No one will be sitting here for awhile. But I will be doing that next year when the weather is warm. i didn't know this area was here.

Early this morning just after dawn -- which really isn't that early this time of year -- I took a walk to see how the world has changed since we had a bit of a snow fall.

The stick fairy has been out. For those of you who live in warm areas -- these sticks mark the edges of sidewalks and help the snow shoveler know where to shovel when all is covered with several inches of snow.

I also enjoyed seeing how the snow fall outlines the steps in front of the pavilion on Harriett Island.

 Spotted a flock of ducks here this morning, just seemed to be hanging out. Maybe trying to decide if it's time to fly south.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Signs and Shapes of Academia

On Wednesday evening I attended a short event at the Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota. This is an annual event, but held this year later in the fall semester than usual. That occurred to me when I recalled 2 years ago we had to hunker down while a huge wind/hail storm blew over -- a strong enough storm that storm warning sirens were blowing. This November day was much too cold for such a weather system to develop.

So I saw a different view -- the contrast of the dusk sky through the high wall and ceiling n the Main Hall of this building.

Yesterday I attended a workshop for the faculty in the entire MNSUC system, held at St. Cloud State University.

More interesting shapes -- the workshop was held in a building called the Atwood Center. This is a rather ugly 1960s style building built when concrete construction was the latest fad. The inside of the building, however, is warm and inviting.

I saw signs of two interesting ideas almost right next to each other as I walked to the meeting room. First a sign -- Foot Washing-- caught my eye. I realized a place was set aside for those of the Islam faith to prepare for prayer. Immediately to my left was a table for the Secular Student Organization -- a brochure about atheism caught my eye.

In the meeting room I enjoyed this window design:

Walking around during a break I came upon an interesting sculpture:

I was quite surprised when looking at the tag by it to learn the artist was an elementary school class!

These shapes probably caught my eye because the outdoors is all brown -- we are having the driest fall in about 50 years-- a balance from the wettest one last year that led to the fall Mississippi River flood.

Time to enjoy new views such as this (also from the Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota):

Now I just have to let this day develop to learn if tomorrow I can show white stuff -- that is snow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sunrise to Sunset

I woke up about 4:30 AM and had breakfast done by 5 AM. By this time in November it is dark outside yet. About 6:30 I decided to go for a walk and captured a view of sunrise.
The light was perfect for reflections in the river.

A pole in the river used for anchoring barges made an interesting reflection.

In only a couple of minutes it became apparent there was more light. Here's another interesting reflection in the river, looking across to Harriett Island. The bridge like structure is actually an area for summer concerts and events.

After a busy and very long day, since it started so early, I'm about to go out for what at work is called "Impromptu Fun Night." But before I leave here's a view of sunset as it looks about  4:35 PM in my part of Minnesota.
The sun is glowing under the High Bridge.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Geese at the Spa?

I have papers to read from one course and for some reason this group of students are the poorest writers I've had in the 10 years I've been teaching at this University. I decided to take a walk as a bit of a break from reading and commenting on these papers.

I was surprised to see a flock of geese floating along in the river. I counted almost 50 in the flock. They were not eating; they just appeared to be taking a Sunday break in their routine. Is this the goose equivalent of going to the spa?

In the background one can see the University of Minnesota Showboat. The house is dark now -- no shows until next summer.

Those geese could have taken a city tour in the limo I found parked outside the door.
Haven't seen one this size since I lived in Pecs and watched an entire women's basketball team come out of a limo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Early November Scenes

Not much excitement in the past few days. The Minnesota world is moving towards a season change.
One big activity is removing the fallen leaves. Here's the lawn service working and on another day the city came and swept the streets. It's best to get the leaves removed before they get mixed up with snow, particularly on the streets.

One early evening when I headed out for a walk the moon was so big over the river that it was easy to get it's photo.

 Had to go to a meeting in downtown office building so walked one morning. My route takes me down the street about 4 blocks and then over to a place where I can enter the parking ramp for the Science Museum. I take the elevator up 9 floors and then I'm at city level. I was surprised on an early November morning to see the tourist trolley right outside the door.

 And I was correct. As soon as the Halloween decorations went down, the Christmas decorations went up. These are at Target.

I made the announcement at work about retiring yesterday. I was most surprised for being congratulated for this! One wise friend told me not to retire until I knew what was the next thing. I do, and I'm looking forward to contributing to the world, but having more freedom, too!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy News

The news reached the U.S. about the emergency landing last week of the LOT flight from Newark. Today on my local news I learned the pilots have been awarded Medals of Honor by the President of Poland. This is well deserved. I felt a relationship with all of this because I have flown many flights across the ocean with LOT. We had a discussion, surprisingly, about this in one of my classes and I told my students I wasn't the least surprised about the success of this. Polish people are brilliant at dealing with problems and now their interaction with technology.

Now about Noise in the Night. The very good maintenance man for our building appeared at my door  this morning and got the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide monitors all back into working order. The carbon monoxide monitor needed new batteries and one smoke detector proved to be defective. What an experience! I hope if they ever break again they pick a weekday to do when help is more readily available than for Sunday staffing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Noise in the Night

I was awakened at 2:15, just after we made the change back from daylight time by a monitor going off in my bedroom. At first I thought something had happened with the systems when the time changed. Then I thought it was the smoke alarm, a signal of a low battery or something like that. I shut the bedroom door and spent the rest of the night on the living room sofa. The sound was coming loudly every 15 seconds!!! With nine foot ceilings I had nothing in the apartment that would give me enough of a lift to take care of the problem.

Thankfully, I slept again for awhile When I awoke I left a voice mail about the problem morning and then called back to the building office at 12:15 after staff had arrived. I was assured someone would be by in a few minutes. When no one had shown up in 2 hours I went over to the office and found there was only one person working and she was very busy with prospective renters. She told me she would have someone fix this very quickly.

My daughter arrived about an hour later. She took the smoke alarms down and the noise continued. That's when we discovered it was the carbon monoxide monitor making all the noise. We took that down and changed the batteries and it still made noise. So now one smoke alarm and the carbon monoxide monitor are lying on a shelf waiting for maintenance help. There are many people in the world truly suffering so I tried not to feel too sorry for myself with the noise every 15 seconds -- noise I could still hear with my Ipod on and ear buds in place!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Woodwinds Adventure

I had to go a late afternoon meeting yesterday at a place I've heard about, but have never visited.

Here is the delightful view I found when entering:

In the photo above you can glimpse scenes in the stair railing. This same railing guards a walkway on the second level all along the atrium. Here's a view of the one of the railing scenes:

Out the window is this lovely view:

When I got to the meeting room I selected a seat near the window so I could enjoy this autumn view:

 So where was I? At a hotel? At a conference center? No, at a hospital!

This is Woodwinds Hospital which takes quite seriously that individuals have a body, mind, and spirit. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Imre Makovecz

In looking at my blog statistics I find some arrive here after searching for Imre Makovecz buildings. I tried the same Google search and never got to my blog. However, from of all places ,Ghana News, I found the sad news that Makovecz died in September. It is one of the blessings of my life to have learned about his work and seen some of his buildings while living in Hungary. Click here to find more information about his work and life.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Decision Time

I received some very disappointing news at work on Monday, right at the start of a week that has held other disappointing and distressing information from a volunteer activity I do too. The only thing I can say is that's good to get it all at one time and then move on!

I came home Monday after being upset and decided the most constructive thing to do would be to take a bit of a walk. So out the back door on the river side of the building and look what I saw:
I spied this coming downstream and wondered, "What's this?" So I waited until it got closer. Remember Monday was Halloween -- is this a steamboat dressed up for Halloween? The only thing I can figure out is perhaps equipment and supplies are being transported downstream where a new bridge is being constructed.

Here's a close up:

I've never before seen anything that looked so "messy" on the river.

The outdoors brought me some beauty too. While the leaves are fast disappearing, this one was there:
And I walked down a different street than  usual and found this lovely rain garden.

Because we are so very close to the river, there are many areas like this to hold the rain water so it doesn't just pour into the river bringing along all the by-products of car traffic and other unwanted things from the street. These spots bring a lot of beauty, too.

Now for the decision -- I have been trying to get a bit of reduced work schedule, but that request was denied -- so I hit the computer last night and wrote a memo announcing that I would simply retire. For awhile I couldn't imagine not working, but now I'm beginning to wonder why I want to put up with all the office politics and some of the inequities that are going on.

I printed the retirement memos out last night and got up at 6:30 this morning. I was in the office with the sealed envelopes pushing them into office boxes by 7:05AM. Then I went up the road to a Panera restaurant and had breakfast. Remember it's still dark at this time. (We don't change to standard time until this weekend.) I love this place; it's wonderful to walk in and get some good food and sit by the fire.
So that's what I've been up to!