Dog vs. Vacuum

Some rain lately, and nighttime thunderstorms, but not as much as in April. Grass and bushes and flowers are luxuriating. It’s a good way to approach the real start of summer, which is around June 1.

I had another idea to elaborate on Dogs from Space today as our dog was attacking the vacuum cleaner. Dogs have famously testy relations with vacuums, and ours does her bit by barking at the thing while it’s running, and trying to bite the front end. Dogs might be smart, but not smart enough to attack the real source of their enemy’s power, the electric cord. I would discourage that in harsh terms anyway, but so far it isn’t an issue. Maybe she believes she’s won when the machine is turned off.

What are the mortal enemies of the intelligent dogs from the Sirius system like? Noisy, metallic creatures that suck up their environment looking for food.

Of course, a very simple Google search reveals that Hollywood had a go at the dogs as space aliens 10 years ago in a movie that doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact. Probably because it was bad, though that isn’t necessarily an obstacle to box office success.

Wednesday Gallimaufry

Missed the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mercury so far. Every night I’ve thought about it, it’s been cloudy. Every time it’s been clear, I’ve forgotten about it. Ah, well. I satisfied my need to see major celestial events for a while about this time last year with the Transit of Venus. If the next big thing I get to see is the eclipse of August 21, 2017, I’ll be satisfied.

Oz the Great and Powerful was an interesting failure. Ann wanted me to take her to a movie last weekend, and that happened to be one we could agree on, and playing at the second-run theater for $1.75. The 2D visual effects – layer-caked CGI – were worth that much, especially the colorful landscape of Oz. The story was uneven and so were the characters, especially Mila Kunis’ Wicked Witch of whichever direction.

Hyde Park on Hudson was likewise an interesting failure. Saw that on DVD a few weeks ago. Mainly I wanted to see Bill Murray give FDR a go. At times he did quite well with the part. Then there were moments I looked at him and thought, that’s just Bill Murray.

Chanced across this video not long ago. Wow, these kids are talented. How does that happen? It also made me look the original English version of the song. I can’t remember the last time I heard it.

The last book of the year that Lilly is reading for freshman English class is Animal Farm. She asks me about it, and I oblige her with what I know, but it’s all I can do not to overload her with detail about the Russian Revolution, Whites vs. Reds, Lenin, Marxism, Stalinism, Trotsky, show trials, old Bolsheviks, the gulag, Five Year Plans, the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, etc., etc. Over the summer she’s supposed to read Nineteen Eighty-Four. I’ll have to resist the urge to blather on about that, too.

Cockta Cola

The ease that goods move around the world is a marvel of the age — an everyday marvel. No small infrastructure was necessary to bring a frosted bottle of Cockta brand soda from Central Europe to the shelf of a grocery store far inland in North America, where I bought it not long ago for a small sum.

An impulse purchase, of course. Why? Because it was bottled in Slovenia. I don’t ever remember buying anything made in Slovenia, and that was enough to sell me. The label tells me that a company called Droga Kolinska of Ljubljana makes Cockta. It is a regional food conglomerate with other brands that include Argeta, Grand Kafa and Smoki, according to this site, though a lot of the links are broken, including the Cockta one.

It’s a cola. It isn’t bad. With sugar instead of corn syrup. It reminded me a bit of the cola made in Vietnam as a domestic alternative to imperialist running-dog Coca-cola, and maybe Cockta was originally created as a Yugoslav version of such. I know from watching One, Two, Three long ago that the quest for a drinkable socialist cola was once an important concern behind the Iron Curtain.

Borodenko: We do not need you! If we want Coca-cola, we invent it ourselves!

C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney): Oh, yeah? In 1956 you flew a bottle of Coke to a secret laboratory in Sverdlosk. A dozen of your top chemists went nuts trying to analyze the ingredients. Right?

Mishkin: No comment!

C.R. MacNamara: And in 1958, you planted two undercover agents in Atlanta to steal the formula. And what happened? They both defected! And now they’re successful businessmen in Florida packaging instant borscht. Right?

Peripetchikoff: No comment!

C.R. MacNamara: Last year you put out a cockamamie imitation “Kremlin-kola!” You tried it out in the satellite countries, but even the Albanians wouldn’t drink it. They used it for sheep dip! Right?

Dogs From Space

Back again after Memorial Day, which falls three days before Decoration Day this year. Another example of an earlier occasion within a later one, such as Armistice Day within Veterans Day, or to take it back further, the various pagan holidays bundled up within Halloween and Christmas.

Lilly threw a tennis ball in the air not long ago, intending for the dog to chase after it. To everyone’s astonishment, the ball stuck in the back-yard tree. Not in a thicket of branches, but jammed between two small branches that aren’t budding yet, and in fact might be part of a dead branch. You’d have to throw a ball I don’t know how many times to get a result like that. This isn’t the first time Lilly has managed to toss something with astonishing results.

We’ve been expecting the wind to bring it down, but so far – it’s been roughly two days – the ball has stayed in its arboreal home.

Also not long ago, we were out in the back yard with the dog when she took a sudden, inexplicable interest in the sky, running around, looking up, barking a little. I thought she might have spotted a bird, which happens sometimes, sending her off on a vain ground-based chase of airborne creatures. We couldn’t see any birds, or even distant airplanes, which she occasionally looks up at (baffled, maybe).

“She’s getting ready for dogs from space to rescue her,” I suggested. No one was impressed. “No, really, an intelligent race of dogs are on their way from a planet around Sirius to free their brother dogs. Sister dog, in her case. Earth dogs have been waiting for thousands of years for their freedom. One day, they’ll come.”

Again, no one was impressed. I don’t think I made that idea up, but I can’t remember where I heard it.

More About Lilacs Than You Need to Know

One more shot from Lilacia Park — a peculiar tree. Who doesn’t like tree trunks that splay out in different directions?

More on the story of this beflowered little park is told by Illinois Old Houses (1977) by John Drury, which this web site extracts and asserts the book is public domain. In any case, it says that “… this was the home of the late Colonel William R. Plum, pioneer resident of the village — soldier, lawyer, traveler, writer, horticulturist, and founder of Lilacia Park. Containing more than three hundred varieties of lilacs from all parts of the world, this park is regarded by botanists as the finest lilac garden in the Western Hemisphere.

” ‘In 1911, when we were on a tour of Europe,’ Colonel Plum once told a family friend, Mrs. Annabelle Seaton, ‘we stopped at Nancy, in France, and there visited the famous lilac gardens of Pierre Lemoine. That visit proved my downfall. My wife purchased two choice lilac specimens, a double white and a double purple, and we brought them back to Lombard. From that time on my enthusiasm for lilacs grew and I have never lost interest in them since.’

“When Colonel Plum made this statement, the results of his hobby could be seen all about the old Plum home. Here were all types of lilacs, including one of his favorites, a blue variety called the ‘President Lincoln.’ The shrubs were pleasingly arranged on the Plum estate of two and a half acres, which he called ‘Lilacia.’ Since expanded to ten acres, Lilacia — re-named Lilacia Park — now contains 1,500 lilac bushes as well as 87,000 tulip bulbs.”

The Abraham Lincoln variety, I noticed, is still growing on the grounds of Lilacia Park. So is one named after Gen. Pershing, but most varieties don’t involve famed Americans. As for Pierre Lemoine, he seems to be this fellow, Victor Lemoine (the Spanish version of the page gives his full name as Pierre Louis Victor Lemoine), “a celebrated and prolific French flower breeder who, among other accomplishments, created many of today’s lilac varieties.” Born 1823, died 1911, so I guess you could say he created lilacs for the Belle Époque.

Water-colored Water & Pink Flamingos

Rain promised early in the day on Monday, but it didn’t come until late in the evening. So I had time to mow the lawn, a task that I’ve put off lately. I enjoyed cutting all the high dandelions and scattering their seeds to the winds.

We saw an odd feature of Lilacia Park: a fountain spouting blue-colored water. I’m pretty sure that the last time I saw the fountain, non-tinted water was used.

It made me think of Mon Oncle, which I haven’t seen in many years. One of the features of the ultramodern house in that movie, if I remember right, was a fountain spouting blue-colored water. It was something seen in passing, not commented on, but I think it was supposed to be a visual comment on the vacuousness of the haute bourgeoisie, or burgeoning postwar consumerism, or something (I’m entirely too Anglo-Saxon to care much about the subtleties of Gallic social criticism).

Also noted at the park: a couple of pink flamingos. There were exactly two that I could see, just idling next to one of the walkways. Say what you want about pink flamingos, I think there ought to be more of them in parks and gardens.

Lilacia Park ’13

It’s been a while since we visited Lilacia Park in Lombard, Ill., at the height of lilac blossoming. It’s been six years, in fact. I wouldn’t have guessed quite that long. On Saturday I thought it was time to visit again.

I’m glad we went. For the profusion of lilacs, if no other reason. Make that two reasons: their fine sweet smell, which the picture can’t convey.

The tulips aren’t too shabby, either.

It was a flawless spring day, warm but not hot. Yet the park wasn’t jammed with flower seekers, though it was hardly empty. It’s a little-known jewel of the suburbs.

Item From the Past: Biosphere

May 28, 2002. In the morning, we went back to the quays adjoining Old Montreal, this time for a boat tour of the St. Lawrence. Some nice views, especially of the unexpectedly long Port of Montreal, but the heat wore us out early. So we rested until late afternoon, at which time we took in the Metro to Île Sainte-Hélène, one of the islands built (or partly built) for Expo 67.

Besides walking paths and gardens, the main thing to catch the eye there is a large geodesic dome designed by a Buckminster Fuller, probably the best-known relic of that world’s fair. Once the U.S. Pavilion, now it’s called the Biosphere, and houses a museum “dedicated to water,” which was closed when we got there.

No matter. Yuriko wandered off to see the gardens, and I reveled in lying on the grass in the shadow of a five-story ball of triangles, cooled by the wind. Lilly indulged in what I believe was her favorite part of the trip: throwing rock after rock into the reflecting pond near the entrance of the Biosphere.

Juvenile Amusements

Not long ago I was getting rid of debris on one of my computers, the main one I use now for my work since the older one is bronze age in computer terms, and I found the scan on the right. A pizza delivery receipt. We rarely have pizza delivered, so I’m pretty sure it didn’t originate with us. I suspect it’s something Lilly put in the system, sent to her by a friend.

Probably the name “Bonquiqui Butts” had something to do with it. Turns out that refers to a character I’d never heard of, but which Lilly and her friends must know about.

Also found on my computer taking up space: a video made by Lilly and a couple of her friends in our back yard. I don’t think it was last summer, since the grass is much too green; probably the summer before last. Which would make them junior high antics.

It only goes to show that kids aren’t spending all of their time with electronic entertainment.


The launch zone yesterday for the flight of Payton, Ann’s rocket, and dozens of other student-built, one-foot rockets was a fenced off area in one of Schaumburg’s larger parks. The rocket launch pads were set in a long row of beams mounted on saw horses.

The students, as pictured above, stood somewhat closer to the launch site. Each rocket was announced by name and creator, and then pfssssst! they went skyward one at a time, most reaching a few hundred feet.

There goes Payton. Instead of parachutes, streamers emerged when the nosecone separated. That meant the rockets tended to come more-or-less straight down, rather than drifting off onto a nearby highway or forest preserve or the roof of a house.

During the launches that included Ann’s school, there was only one that didn’t go far. It hissed and wobbled and popped its streamer not long after launch. I felt a little sorry for that kid. He built the Charlie Brown rocket.