Monday, April 23, 2012

Daytime Beauty

I went to do some shopping after my work duties were completed and while walking in the parkinIg lot I noticed how beautiful were the clouds. These kind of clouds make me think of a summer day, and it's only late April.

A few minutes ago I went to drop the blind against the late afternoon sun and noticed how the sun was illuminating one of the nearby trees.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nightime Beauty

I walked out tonight to take a fountain picture (see below). In the light rain I found the sight of the stop lights quite striking.

The fountain was really my destination. The fountain is in a small pond between Shephard Road and Spring Street. It serves as a place for the rainfall, so that rain with road debris doesn't run directly into the river. The fountain serves to keep the water moving in the summer so that mosquitoes cannot breed there.


Walking a Volksmarch

For some time I've been thinking I should get back to doing Volkmarches. It is a good way to get some exercise and also see new places or see places with a new perspective. I discovered there would be one starting from the Caribou Coffee Shop near my apartment. Perfect. And thankfully, the rain did not materialize.

Here are some views along the 10K route. I headed along the river towards the Wabasha and Robert Street bridges. I usually drive along this route and missed seeing this lovely little seating area along the river.

Approaching the Robert Street bridge I got a good view of the railroad switch bridge.

This railroad spur crosses the river with a very low bridge. The operator sits in the little blue building and can move the switch bridge to one side so that boats can pass. This view caused me to remember taking a tour many years ago with the Iowa Historical Society. On that tour I learned that Abraham Lincoln, then a young Illinois lawyer, successfully argued the case the river had to remain open for boats -- that railroads could not build bridges across the river that would then forever prevent boats from moving on the river.

The route went up the hill to the top of the bluff and then over the Robert Street Bridge. From the bridge top I got a good view of Raspberry Island.

At the end of the bridge I wound around a large office building toward a trail along the river. There I found something that solved a mystery. This appears to be a water intake area on the river.

Last year at this time we were receiving daily updates about the possible need to evacuate due to the river flood. The problem was the if the river reached a certain level the city would have to shut down water to our part of the city, and the city could not allow residents to live in an area that didn't have water for drinking and sanitation. I was rather puzzled about this "water plant" and finally found it this morning!

I walked along the river for about five minutes and then took steps up to the deck of the Wabasha Bridge. The route continued on Wabasha through the downtown area of St. Paul and then wandered back to the Rice Park. Readers have seen this park below, for example, with the entry about the Winter Carnival.

I found some of Charlie Brown's friends. These are in a little park area near Landmark Center. Charles Schultz came from St. Paul and these friends are part of a salute and monument to his work.

I walked towards West Seventh Street and stopped for a coffee break. Then I continued along a street along which I usually drive. I had time to admire some of the old buildings.

The route turned off the street and headed back towards the river. I found myself in an area of old houses, perhaps late 19th century.

Above is a nice example. Along one side I found a lovely garden.

This garden also had a tree trunk carved into in a figure. One finds these all over town. When a tree must be cut, the home owner arranges for a carver to come to turn it into art.
About this time my camera battery died. And about 5 minutes from the end of the route the rain began. A nice way to spend a Saturday morning.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Avoided a Scam?

Today I got an e-mail from a student that I worked with during my Fulbright time in Hungary. It said she was in Manchester, UK, for a conference and got her purse stolen and could I send her some money -- 900 pounds to be exact. I do hear from this student sometimes, but the last time, the message was that her e-mail account got hacked. The alarm bells went off. I couldn't quite decide what to do. If this was true, I knew I was one of the few people in the world who could help her because, unfortunately, both of her parents have died and her only brother is not financially able to help -- he works, but in his home country -- not Hungary, elsewhere -- the salaries are quite low.

I went for a walk and decided the best thing to do was to ask some questions that only the real person could answer. And since then the e-mail conversation has stopped. Yes, it probably was a try for stealing money by scam!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Learning about Pirates

The Science Museum of Minnesota presently has a special exhibit about pirates. This centers on  artifacts from the pirate ship, Whydah. Whydah is pronounced Wi-dah, rather like saying the word widow very quickly. It is an English version of a Nigerian port name.

The story is that a young British man arrived in the colonies -- New England, and fell in love with a young woman. Her parents refused their marriage because the young man was not wealthy. He decided to go off and become wealthy, and the fastest way to wealth at this time was to become a pirate. The young man was Sam Bellamy.

The most sought ship for capture was a slave ship - a fact that mystifies visitors to this exhibit in the beginning. A slave ship was desired, not for the cargo, but for the ship. A slave ship was well fortified. A slave ship was large -- it had space for a large pirate crew and had a kitchen facility for cooking for a large crew, and had space left over for storage of captured goods.A slave ship was captured in the Caribbean after the slaves were ashore and then at the time the ship was transporting a different cargo such as rum to New England.

The Whydah sunk off the coast of New England in late April, 1717, when Bellamy was returning to New England to find his sweetheart. A few survivors struggled to shore and were eventually convicted of being pirates, except for one crew member who was part American Indian and was sold into slavery due to his ethnicity. Bellamy died in the ship wreck. Because the ship sunk quite close to shore, everyone through the generations knew it was there.

In the late 20th century Barry Clifford led the effort to find the ship.

The exhibit shows some finds from the ship.

The above picture is a collection of buttons and belt buckles found with the ship remains. The pirate compact said that booty was equally shared through the crew, but one could personally take and keep clothing.

After a view of real things, one moves to an area of models and reproductions.

Here is a model of the ship.

And model of the hull, and part of the ship through which one can walk.
Inside this area one finds the captain.

A few days after this visit I attended a lecture presented by Angus Konstam. Konstam is a British historian whose expertise is the era of pirates. He pointed out that our view of pirates as the "Golden Age" is a Hollywood image, from films that started on the theme of pirates in the early 20th century. For the people involved, it was anything but golden. Piracy was devastating to the economy of these areas. Piracy was finally ended when the colony government gave amnesty to pirates. Most accepted amnesty and then the government could go after the lesser number who didn't want to stop piracy activities. Finally I learned too what were privateers. A privateer was actually a pirate authorized by the government. A privateer could capture ships from other countries than the nation that had issued the privateer agreement. The captured goods were split between the privateer and the authorizing government. And I went brain dead and forgot to walk up a couple of days ago for the lecture about female pirates. Sorry to have missed that. -- Hope you found this entry a moment of learning and fun.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Graffiti Up Close

Most Americans are quite insulated from trains. Seeing one, at least in the Midwest, is an oddity. I, on the other hand, live right along the major rail line between St. Paul and Seattle and so I see a lot of trains and I see a lot of graffiti.

When people from the States go to Europe they often ride trains, perhaps for the first time in their lives, and certainly more than most people from the States ever use trains at home. They are shocked at the level of graffiti in train stations and along train lines. And the idea of Americans is further strengthened by the fact that graffiti is considered a crime in many communities.

What they don't know is that we have a lot of graffiti too associated with trains. Last Sunday I walked up to the scientific garden maintained by the Science Museum. That put my right along the train track, rather than across the road and up in my apartment. Thus I had a good opportunity to take some photos of American graffiti.

Hope you enjoy this view of life along the river -- and the rail lines!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Alarms and Being Alarmed

I woke up this morning at 6 AM with emergency alarms going off in my apartment. I looked outdoors and the weather was fine -- what's up? I came out into my living area and everything looked fine. I opened the door to the hallway and everything was normal. I crawled on a chair up to the alarm in the living room and quickly determined I couldn't shut it off. I looked out into the hallway again and could see people evacuating. I grabbed my bathrobe and went down the stairs. From this stair well most gathered in the front lobby beyond the security doors but still within the building. Here the sound was a bit baffled. Every alarm in the whole building was ringing and the sound was very loud. In a few minutes firetrucks arrived.

The first fire fighter came through the door with an ax in his hand. That is a rather a startling scene. He was followed by another firefighter carrying lengths of water hoses on his shoulder. They went into the main lobby and began to explore.

The next group of firefighters worked with the alarm box in the lobby and thankfully could turn off the alarms.

Altogether 5 firetrucks arrived including one ladder truck. I'm certain they brought everything when they saw an alarm from a four story building with 120 units.

After we were told we could return to our apartments I walked up the stairs only to find a group of firefighters carefully examining a ventilating fan in the hallway near my entrance. I could smell smoke and thought that was why they were examining the fan. Then I realized the smell was coming from their clothing -- their clothes smell like smoke. I guess there would be no point in washing or cleaning the outwear to get the smell out for it would only come back during the next fire. Anyway, today I learned that firefighters smell like smoke!

I thought as long as I was up that I would start a load of laundry. I could hear something clunking the washing machine, but thought it was really just the zippers on the jeans. At 9 I had an appointment for a pedicure. I was sitting there when it came to me that the clunking, clunking was probably the flash drive/thumb drive I was using yesterday in groups of meetings. I was alarmed! For those who use English as one of their additional language -- being alarmed means being frightened by something that is happening.

I came home and put that load of clothes in the dryer, looked through the washing machine and couldn't see any sign of a flash drive, but I heard the clunk, clunk again. I opened the dryer door and out tumbled the flash drive. It seemed quite dry, so I plugged it into a computer. So now I can tell you -- at least this flash drive  -- can survive being laundered. All the files on the flash drive just fine!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Watching the Sun Go Down

Last evening I had to attend a long meeting at my University which began at 6:00 PM. The room for the meeting was in our library. The architect for the building did a wonderful job of situating the building's windows for beautiful views. When we arrived, however, the shades were drawn for the windows were to the west and the late afternoon sun was beating into the room, making it hard to see the screen for the projected computer images. However, as the meeting progressed the sun moved and also lowered in the sky, and I could see through the shades that we were missing a beautiful view. I raised the shades so we could enjoy the views towards the city skyline and the State Capitol building.

Came  home about 10 PM and couldn't believe how much urgent e-mail had arrived after my last look at it around 5 PM. After a busy evening I couldn't sleep and was grateful to have a Sophie Kinsella book on my Kindle. It was well after 1:00 AM before I went to sleep, and this morning I was up to see the sunrise! Short night!

Monday, April 2, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes

One year ago today we were in the midst of the Mississippi River Spring flood. See here for what I wrote on April 2, 2011. Today I walked to the nearby Caribou Coffee Shop to meet a student for a conference -- hey why have both of us drive to the campus and pay to park when we can do this, and it makes the trip about 4 miles shorter for her too!

When coming back home I noticed that spring has appeared in the flower boxes.

I really like pansies. I think they have a little face that says, "I'm doing the best I can to bring beauty into the world."

Decided to walk through the Cybercafe [in my building] and out the door along the river. I noticed barges have arrived and are tied up nearby.

I think they came yesterday for my last view along the river showed only action on the Lower Landing, whereas our area is called is called the Upper Landing.

And what can say spring more than the emerging crop of dandelions!

Hope you enjoy seeing early spring in Saint Paul. Ever so much nicer than the flood season of last year!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Global Hotdish

You all probably know what the word, global, means, but hotdish? This is a unique Minnesota word. Everyone else in the U.S. probably says casserole, but in Minnesota, the term is hotdish. On Saturday my older daughter and I enjoyed Global Hotdish at the Minnesota History Center.

The pre-program music and music throughout the show was provided by the Eisner's Klezmorim band.

The glue for the program was provided by Josette Antomarchi. She is originally from southern France and studied theatre in Paris where she became one of the founders of Theatre de la Jeune Lune. This theatre company has been based in the Twin Cities for many years because two of the other founding members were from this area. In her introduction of her life in France, Ms. Antomarchi explained that she is descendent of the the physician who attended Napoleon Bonaparte.
The first performers were the Saana Finnish Folk Ensemble. This is a group of five very talented women, living in the Twin Cities, and all originally from Finland.

This song relates to doing the laundry-- that's why they are folding a cloth. The red color comes about because of spotlights used during this performance.  After the performance I stopped to speak with the group members for a bit and shared how much I enjoyed the Finnish dancers I had seen at the International Dance Festival in Pecs. One was puzzled when I mentioned dancing with logs, while another quickly began to imitate the motion of the logs used as a swing.

We were also entertained by Dazzling Dave. Who knew there are National Master Yo-Yo champion? Click here to see his amazing skills with a yo-yo.

A group called Green T productions gave us a view of the Pinocchio story through a Japanese lens. 

Dr. Pangea Thunderblust gave all the children a test to learn if they had been paying attention to details such as countries for the dances or performers.

The final section of the program was provided by dancers from the Nay-Ah-Shing School, located on the Mille Lacs Band Reservation in east-central Minnesota.One dancer showed the Traditional Men's Dance. This dance is done only by men who have earned honor -- in the case of this dancer, his service in the U.S. military. His costume shows a bustle of eagle feathers. By treaty with the U.S. government,  Indian tribes are able to possess eagle feathers.  I would be in real trouble if I had eagle feathers!

And then finally at the end we had Minnesota Global Hotdish when all the performers gathered on the stage to sing together.

We had a wonderful hotdish adventure at the Minnesota History Center. Hope you enjoy learning a bit about my state and its residents.