Thanksgiving ’14

The Thanksgiving meal, served at about 5 pm on Thursday, minus the rolls and olives.

Thanksgiving dinner 2014

Lilly insisted on making all the starches: from left to right, genuine mashed potatoes, boxed stuffing, and her own mac & cheese creation. The meat – between the potatoes and m&c – was tilapia, though roast beef was available as well. Non-alcoholic cider came in wine-style bottles: once again, Martinelli’s Gold Medal Sparkling Cider.

The meal was good, so was the time we spend preparing and consuming it. Even better, the holiday represented three whole days when I didn’t have to pay attention to my laptop or email or or clients’ web sites or Google News or any of it. Some of Wednesday and Sunday, too, so you could call it four.

Mighty Toba

I don’t ever remember getting off from school on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but this year both girls are off tomorrow. Yuriko has to work, and I have things to do too. But it seems like a good day to knock off posting. Back on November 30 or so.

The ground is frozen and ice has already almost slipped me up. Last winter started like this, and about at the same time, and we all know how that turned out. Harsh enough to contribute to a temporary contraction of the US economy. But at least we didn’t have a Year Without a Summer to follow it up.

The eruption of Mt. Tambora’s credited with making 1816 so cold, or at least contributing mightily to the condition. Which reminds me of a book I saw in my elementary school library that had a graphic illustration of volcanic eruptions. The larger the drawing of the volcano and its plume of gas, the bigger the eruption.

Various famous eruptions were charted, including Vesuvius (Pompeii fascinated me in the fifth or sixth grade) and Krakatoa, which I heard of because of bad TV. Tambora was bigger than all of those, but Mt. Toba was the enormous monster of the page. Something like this illustration.

Nobody had ever heard Tambora or Toba, and information about them was hard to come by, at least in a pre-Internet elementary school library. That only added to the allure of the events: that much bigger than Krakatoa? Wow.

Two Demonitized European Coins

Here’s another interesting disk from my bag o’ cheapies: 200 Italian lira. Pre-euro, of course, and in this case 1993, and a special commemorative. Or not so special, considering that 170 million of them were made, and that they’re a aluminum-bronze combination. I’ve seen the obverse bust simply referred to as an “allegory,” so presumably that’s Italia personified.

L200ObvThe one to have would be the proof version, of which only 6,500 were made. In any case, the coin commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Italian Air Force (since 1946, the Aeronautica Militare Italiana, but before that the Regia Aeronautica Italiana), or maybe just military aviation in that country.

L200RevAll kinds of interesting detail. But when I think of Italian military aviation, I think of Italo Balbo, who didn’t found the independent Italian Air Force, but built it up as an instrument of fascist power. Even so, he has a street named after him in downtown Chicago to this day.

Next, another sort of flying: the common swallow, or hirundo rustica. Who would put a swallow on their coins?

Slov2The newly independent Slovenia, that’s who. This is a 2 tolarja piece, and during the pre-euro period that country was fond of animals on its small coins. I see a fish, a fly, an owl, and others, all helpfully with their scientific names.

Slov1During its first year of issue,1992, the 2-tolarja piece was a brass coin with a non-proof mintage of over 5 million. The tolar used to be the country’s base unit, with tolarja as a plural. Clearly a cognate with dollar, a word that gets around.

Stray Dominican Coins

My latest acquisition of cheap foreign coins included some Dominican pieces, such as a nickel-clad steel 25 centavo coin, featuring an ox-drawn cart. A little investigation reveals that 25 Dominican centavos isn’t much money at all — the equivalent of a little more than half a U.S. cent. Even in the Dominican Republic, I can’t believe that buys very much.

DomRep2RevSo they probably don’t circulate much any more.  Presumably 25 centavos had a more purchasing power in 1991, though sometimes coins linger well beyond their strict usefulness (e.g., the U.S. cent). Some 38 million of them were minted in 1991. On the reverse — I think it’s the reverse — is the Escudo de armas de la República Dominicana, which, in case it’s hard to read, proclaims Dios, Patria, Libertad.

DomRep2ObvAlso in the lot: a Dominican peso. The portrait is of Juan Pablo Duarte y Diez (1813-1876), one of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic. DomRepObvIt’s brass, and apparently about 80 million of them were minted in 2002, so it’s a very common coin.

DomRepRevAgain with the escudo. A quick look at images of Dominican coins shows it to be a common feature, maybe even one mandated by law.

A Simple Cake for 17

This year for Lilly’s recent birthday, we didn’t buy her a cake. Her mother made her one. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPear slices on top, creme inside. Most delicious. Want candles, or at least a candle? I asked. The answer: No, that would just be birthday frippery. But she didn’t use that word; she might not know it. Would be good to know for the ACT and its ilk, so I’ll ask her about it.

Goya at the Meadows Museum

Last Saturday, Jay and I visited the Meadows Museum on the SMU campus. We got in for free because it was homecoming weekend. Even though Jay had no interest in attending any official reunion events – he’s SMU Class of ’74 – he got one of the benefits of being an alum on this occasion: two free admissions to his particular museum.

Meadows specializes in Spanish art. I borrow from Wiki because I’m lazy: “[The museum] houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain, with works dating from the 10th to the 20th century. It includes masterpieces by El Greco, Velazquez, Ribera, Murillo, Goya, Miro, Sorolla, and Picasso. Highlights of the Meadows Collection include Renaissance altarpieces, monumental Baroque canvases, rococo oil sketches, polychrome wood sculptures, Impressionist landscapes, modernist abstractions, a comprehensive collection of the graphic works of Goya, and a select group of sculptures by major twentieth-century masters…”

The graphic works of Goya. Such as the famed “The Sleep of Reason Brings Monsters.”

Meadows Museum, Nov 2014

Along with some truly weird images as well.

Meadows Museum, Nov 2014Meadows Museum, Nov 2014Meadows Museum, Nov 2014

I was glad to see them. Austin shouldn’t have all the weird. Dallas needs a little too.

Hi, How Are You

Just before dark on November 8, Tom took us to the corner of Guadalupe and 21st. That’s the location of the “Hi, How Are You” mural, also known as “Jeremiah the Innocent.”

Austin, Nov 8, 2014It was the first I’d heard of it, but I haven’t spent that much time in Austin in the last 20 years. A record store that used to be on the site hired musician and artist Daniel Johnston, who has some renown in Austin, to paint the mural in 1993. Popular demand kept it intact when the location became a Baja Fresh in 2004, and now the restaurant on the other side of the wall is called Thai, How Are You?

Thai sounded just like the thing for dinner, especially since we hadn’t taken the time to have much lunch, so we went. I’m glad to report that the Thai, How Are You? serves good food.

The UT Tower

Damned if it isn’t January out there now, but at least it’s expected to return to a more normal November – a little above freezing – by the end of the week.

My recent visit to Texas started out warm, but cooled down with most of the rest of the country. It was still warm when we went to the UT Tower on November 8. Good thing, since the outdoor vista is the thing to do. In full, it’s the University of Texas Tower, a part of the school’s Main Building, built in 1937 and towering 307 feet over campus. One Charles Whitman used his marksman skills to murder people at random from atop the observation deck in 1966, so nearly 50 years later visitors need to go through a metal detector manned by a cop to get in. But at least you can get in. For a good long time, the tower was closed.

Officially, you take a “tour” of the observation deck, and there’s some commentary by guides – in our case, three perky UT students – but mostly you have access to the view in all directions. Because of a sad history of suicides, you have to look through bars.

UT Tower Nov 8, 2014South: Downtown Austin, including the Capitol of Texas. At the time the tower was built, it couldn’t be taller than the capitol, which is 308 feet. Now structures can be taller, but not positioned in way to block the view of the capitol from 30 specific locations (one of which must certainly be the UT Tower).

Austin, Nov 8, 2014East: UT Stadium. Officially, Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium, with a seating capacity of 100,119, making it the 13th largest stadium in the world, according to Wiki. Note that it wasn’t at capacity that day. UT was playing West Virginia, and they weren’t expected to win. But they did.

UT Stadium during UT-WVa game Nov 8, 2014From our vantage, we heard the crowd roar from time to time.

“That sounds like a first down,” Tom said about one roar. “What does it say about me, that I know that?”

“That you’ve been to too many UT games?” I suggested.

Northwest. The large house is Littlefield House.

Littlefield House, Nov 8, 2014West: The Drag and the Balcones Escarpment.

Austin, Nov 8, 2014 Guadalupe St., better known as the Drag, is in the mid-ground. Spent a fair amount of time there in ’81. The sign of the University Co-op, a major UT retailer, is just visible (CO-OP). Off in the background rises the Balcones Escarpment, a geological feature I’ve heard about for a long time, but never had seen so clearly displayed.

Texas Fall ’14

Just flew in from Texas and boy are my arms… Bob Hope seems to get the credit for that old gag, and it does sound like him. Someday when I have a few idle days, I might look around and try to find something Bob Hope said that was funny. Nah, too much trouble.

I went to Texas on the 7th and returned today, spending most of the time in San Antonio. But on the 8th, along with my brother Jay, nephew Dees, his girlfriend Eden, and my old friend – known him 40+ years now – Tom, visited the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Our main objective was to go to the top of the UT Tower and take in the expansive view of Austin. This is the tower from the south, along with a statue of George Washington.

Austin, Nov 2014A silhouette of Washington, anyway, since the light wasn’t right. The Center for American History at UT says that “Pompeo Coppini’s dramatic rendering of George Washington has been a prominent fixture on the south mall since 1955. Erected by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, it was the first statue of Washington in the state.” I’ve run across Coppini’s work before.

Assorted other bronzes adorn the UT on the campus, such as effigies of Jefferson Davis, Texas Gov. James Hogg, and Martin Luther King Jr. (told you they were assorted). We either missed them, or the late afternoon November light was poor for picture taking.

A more ambitious work on campus by Coppini is the Littlefield Fountain, paid for by George Littlefield, an early big donor to UT. Apparently he envisioned a Confederate Memorial, but by the time the thing was actually done in the early 1930s, and Littlefield himself was gone, it was a memorial to honor UT students and alumni who died during the Great War. A fitting thing to see in early November, and 100 years after the Great War’s early days.

Littlefield Fountain, Austin, Nov 2014On the other side is a sailor of the war, to go with the lightly clad solider bearing a very long sword.

Littlefield Fountain Nov 2014 In the fountain itself, interesting equine-piscine creatures.