Maunday Thursday ’14

Back to posting again around May 4. A pleasant Easter to all.

It’s my spring break time, now that it’s actually more-or-less spring. Not that I won’t be working during the next two weeks. It isn’t that kind of spring break. No one older than about 22 gets that kind of spring break.

Today Lilly and I were out before noon and she wanted to take some pictures of the flowers that bloom in the spring (tra la). So I took a picture of her taking a picture. I think she sent some of her images immediately to friends, as youth does.

Lilly 4.17.2014They bloomed on a small island in the large parking lot at St. Matthew Parish, a Catholic church on Schaumburg Rd. in Schaumburg, Illinois. We didn’t go there to see flowers, though that was nice. Instead, I wanted to take a look at the Stations of the Cross on the grounds. Seemed like a good thing to do on Maunday Thursday, especially when it was almost warm again.

The stations form a semi-circle around a catchment, and are backed by the woods of the Spring Valley Nature Preserve.

St Matthew, Schaumburg 4.17.14 - 1Plaques fixed to a short agglomeration of stones illustrate each station. This is the first one, with Jesus and Pilate.

St. Matthew Schaumburg 4.17.14 - 2There isn’t much information about this particular Stations of the Cross on the St. Matthew wed site, so I don’t know if they were custom made for the parish, or you can get them ready made. Along the way, there’s also a grotto.

St Matthew Grotto, April 17, 2014Like I’ve said before, if you find a grotto, no matter how humble, take a picture. And then pause for a moment.

Eat Potatoes With Potatoes

File this under “Learn Something Every Day.” As I was reading a press release today about an environmentally friendly hotel – a green hotel, in commercial real estate parlance – I came across the following: “[It’s the] most environmentally aware hotel that I have ever stayed at – breakfast plates and cutlery made from potatoes…”

Wait, what? Immediately I imagined knives and forks carved out of potatoes. No matter how artfully you did that, I don’t think they would work very well as eating utensils. Of course that’s not what the release meant. PR writers should avoid that kind of unexplained references in passing.

Still, help is only a Googling away, and pretty soon you’re reading about bioplastic cutlery made from potato starch (Spudwear is or was one brand) and other plant-based materials. Been around for the better part of a decade. I had no idea.

That Cold Blood Moon

It was too cold this morning to drag myself outside and document the snow clinging to the April grass and trees. Why bother anyway? It looked more-or-less like this.

Actually a little less snow coated the ground this time than seven years ago, at least as recorded by my pictures. There wasn’t quite as much sticking to the branches, and none on the street. In any case, except for shadowy spots, all the snow vanished in the afternoon sun, pale and weak as it was.

Missed the early morning Blood Moon, as some headline writers seem to be calling the latest lunar eclipse. They’re nice to see, but not worth getting up at 3 in the morning, especially when it was snowing when you went to bed a few hours earlier. It’s a hard enough sell when it’s merely cold outside, as it also was this morning.

I didn’t miss the season opener of Mad Men, which apparently got low ratings. As a casual viewer of TV, the last thing I care about is ratings, especially for a show that’s going to end on a schedule anyway. It was a decent episode, neither the best nor the worst of the series, and as usual seemed to inspire a lot of commentary, so I won’t really add to that total, even in my small way.

Writing about television in general seems to inspire a body of ridiculous, or at least pointless, writing. Not long ago I saw a headline something like this: “Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead Occupy the Same Universe.” The only reasonable reaction to that is, who cares?

Winter Strikes Back: Sorry!

Here on our small patch of North American earth, we have a few hardy flowers, some buds, and a little green in the grass, along with a few bugs. Saturday proved to be as warm as advertised (70s F.), cloudy sometimes, sunny at other times. Yuriko and I took a pleasant walk at the Spring Valley Nature Preserve.

On Sunday, the warm air held the promise of rain all day, but it held off long enough to allow me to replace a dodgy hinge on our wooden gate and do other things around the back yard, such as pick up the wintertime debris that collects here and there. Lilly and I sat around on the deck for a while, and I could feel the air cooling down. In the span of about half an hour, we lost 10 degrees.

Today, cold and snow. So cold that it stuck, as of the early evening.

On Saturday evening, Ann wanted to play a board game. She plays more video games than any other kind of game, so I thought it was a good idea to oblige her. We don’t have that many games, though, and decided that Monopoly and Risk would involve more time than we wanted to commit. So we played Sorry! Lilly and a friend of hers played, too. Not the most engaging board game in the world, but it has its moments.

BoardGameGeek (“gaming unplugged since 2000”) mentions a Sorry! alternate that sounds interesting: “Sorry! can be made more of a strategic game (and more appealing to adults) by dealing five cards to each player at the start of the game and allowing the player to choose which card he/she will play each turn. In this version, at the end of each turn, a new card is drawn from the deck to replace the card that was played, so that each player is always working from five cards.”

Someday I need to teach Ann and Lilly the rudiments of Risk. Maybe they’ll never play it, but maybe they will. Once or twice a year in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I played Risk with some of my high school friends, and I have fond memories of the games. Eventually, we got to know each other’s strategic thinking pretty well, such as the fact that one of us (and he knows who he is) inevitably took the offense. That is, attack! Outnumbered? Attack! Surrounded? Attack! Just do it! Sometimes it worked out for him, usually not.

Hong Kong Days

April 12, 1994

Yuriko and I walked around some on Lamma Island today, from the beach at Hung Shing Yeh along a path through grassy, rocky slopes. Some places had been burned by a recent fire, rendering them black and nearly barren. Then we passed through a lusher area, then along a waterfront path smelling of seaweed and debris.

LammaEventually we reached Sok Kwu Wan, a small village, where we saw some fishermen out in their sampans. We wondered whether some of them might live on their boats, but we had time to watch their comings and goings from the deck of the Mandarin Seafood Restaurant, one of a row of eateries facing the water, and figured that they only worked on their small vessels. It looked like an old man’s game. Everyone else probably works in Victoria or Tsim Sha Tsui.

We returned to Hong Kong Island via kaido to Aberdeen. Nice harbor. The town itself, so-so. We bought a few things and spend some time looking for a bus stop. Yuriko tripped on the sidewalk and bruised both knees, but we got back to the Welcome Guesthouse. [Remarkably, it still seems to be in business.]

April 13

We hung out in Kowloon, mostly, and bought tickets at China Travel Services for the ferry Jimei on the 19th to Xiamen (Amoy), each ticket costing HK$545  [about $78 at the time]. I hope its clear, since it’s supposed to be a fine-looking coastline.

April 19

HKHarborDeparture went without much delay, about 45 minutes behind schedule, and the day was partly cloudy and very warm. Victoria Harbour was brilliant. We sat out on deck and watched it recede. I like Hong Kong, but I’m glad to get away. A week would have been enough, and we had 11 days. It made me tired sometimes, this frenetic city.

It’s About Time

It took a long time for me to get around to Time. Or, to use its full name, Fountain of Time, a sizable sculpture by Lorado Taft at the southeast edge of Washington Park in Chicago. I’ve known about it for a long time, and have even seen Taft works in other places, some at a considerable distance from Chicago, but not Fountain of Time. So when we visited Hyde Park the week before last, I made stopping at Fountain of Time an appendix to the trip.

From the AIA Guide to Chicago: “One of Chicago’s most impressive monuments anchors the west end of the Midway, which Taft wanted balanced by a Fountain of Creation at the east end [which never happened]. Inspired by lines from an Austin Dobson poem:

Time goes, you say? Ah, no! / Alas, Time stays, we go…

“Taft depicts a hooded figure leaning on a staff and observing a panorama of humanity that rises and falls in a great wave.”

That would be this fellow. Father Time.

Father TimeDoes Father Time that have gender-neutral, 21st-century equivalent? “Temporal Being,” maybe, but that sounds like something Star Trek writers would use. Best to stick with Father Time. After all, Father Time got it on with Mother Nature, and that’s how Life was created. Of course, that’s a heteronormative metaphor, but sometimes you have to run with these things.

This is part of the east side of Fountain of Time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of the west side. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATaft completed it in 1922, working with concrete engineer J.J. Earley. The deteriorated work was restored by the BauerLatoza Studio in 2002. According to the AIA, “Taft envisioned the group sculpted from marble, but the material’s high cost and vulnerability to Chicago’s weather made it impractical. Bronze, his second choice, was also prohibitively expensive, lending to a selection of a pebbly concrete aggregate. The hollow-cast concrete form reinforced with steel was cast in an enormous, 4,500-piece mold.”

Fountain of Time includes a variety of faces.

ArghI like to think of this figure as My Deadline Was Last Week.

Centuries Come, Centuries Go

Last week I took note of some of the monumental items at the Oriental Institute Museum, but of course the museum is home to a lot more artifacts, and most of them were more modest in size. But no less interesting for it. Such as some dice from Roman Egypt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACool. Especially since anyone alive now, two millennia after they were made, could look at them and know exactly what they’re for, even if the games of chance aren’t quite the same. Even cooler is that dice were ancient even then, so much so that their origin is obscure.

Also on display were some knucklebones, an alternative to dice that are probably just as old, if not older (and the ancestor of modern playing jacks?). According the museum, “knucklebones of sheep or oxen were used to determine the number of moves on game boards. The four sides of each bone are distinctive, and each was assigned a specific number. They were normally thrown in pairs, allowing for ten possible combinations.”

The museum also sported plenty of figurines.

Eygptian figurines 1Still charming after all these centuries. Thought to come from a tomb of a courtier named Nykauinpu at Giza, made of limestone and dating from the Old Kingdom, Dynasty 5 of the 25th century BC. So by the time of Julius Caesar, this statue was already older than anything from the time of Julius Caesar is now. Even on a human scale (not to mention geological or cosmological), time’s mind-boggling.

On a sign describing another man-and-woman set of Egyptian figurines, I noted these lines, referring to the way the woman was dressed (emphasis added): “This style of dress was popular for the entire 3,000 years of pharaonic history.” I’ll say one thing about the ancient Egyptians — they found something they liked and stuck with it.

Dog 1, Oompa-Loompah 0

This is a good year to post WWI images, for obvious reasons. I’m not taken with its headline — how much or little Europe has changed hardly seems the point — but this collection of images is worth a look.

Also, here’s a recent dog picture, taken by Ann. Why? Because it’s been a whole year since she arrived at our house. She’s so completely a part of the family it’s hard to remember what the house was like before she came.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe’s still a healthy young(ish) dog with an appetite for doggish activities, such as chewing things. Recently I found this figure on the floor.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A toy Oompa-Loompa. I think it was a promotion from when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a new movie. Anyway, our hound clearly did some fang-work on it. From this side, mere flesh wounds. Turn it over, and you see this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t think any future Toy Story movie is going to depict anything quite like this. Or this.

A Post-Winter, Pre-Spring Stroll

No early greening this year, that’s for sure, though very small buds can be seen if you look closely. Still, Saturday was a fine day for a walk at Meacham Grove Forest Preserve.

April5.14 008It’s been a while since we were there. Despite the warmish temps, not many people were around. That could be because the only entrance to the preserve’s parking lot is off a side street that’s some distance from Lake St., the nearest large road. The forest is highly visible from another large road – Bloomingdale Rd. – but it’s just another roadside feature most of the time. It takes a little effort to figure out where to put your car so that you can walk. An oddly North American situation.

The Curious Statues of Fontana, Wisconsin

Around this time two years ago, during a strangely warm interlude that greened the grass and budded the trees and bushes in March, we spent part of a day at Williams Bay and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Lake Geneva is town’s name; Geneva Lake is the lake’s name, supposedly, but I’ve never heard anyone call it that. That was the day we saw this oddity in Lake Geneva.

One of my ambitions that day was to drive all the way around the lake, which we did before returning home (one of these days, I  might walk around the lake, since there’s a trail all the way around; but maybe not all at the same time). On the western edge of the lake is the town of Fontana, whose full name is Fontana-on-Geneva Lake.

We stopped at a little lakeside park in Fontana and found this statue near the beach. PhotoBatch4.10.12 028The plaque says: Dedicated to the memory of ARTHUR B. JENSEN whose generosity and foresight made this beach possible. I assume that’s the same Arthur B. Jensen who wrote Shawneeawkee, friendly Fontana: A history, which can be yours for $100.

Not far away is this memorial.

PhotoBatch4.10.12 027FONTANA WEEPS September 11, 2001. An admirable sentiment, but I have a sneaking feeling that if that plaque happens to survive until 2101, say, people will wander by without the faintest idea what it’s about, even when they notice it, which they won’t. But that’s not a reason to not erect memorials. To paraphrase Mother Teresa, “Memorialize anyway.”

Finally, there was this.

PhotoBatch4.10.12 030Never Say Can’t seems to be the title. Shirley Brost, at least according to one source, seems to be alive and well in Fontana, but I’m not going to track anything else down about her. The oddity about this work isn’t even the frog — but why a frog? — but the not-so-admirable sentiment. I suppose it’s supposed to laud determination, which can be laudable sometimes. But it’s just as important — more important, I’d say — to have a clear idea of what you can, and can’t, do.

Here’s a better idea for a title: Never Say Cant. Except people would think it’s a typo.