Ann at 1111

No store-bought birthday cake this year for Ann, at her request. Her mother made a cheesecake.

It was good cheesecake. We didn’t have a numeral 5 candle. You’d think we would, considering my age, but no. So the numeral 1 stood for a decade, the smaller candles for years. Ann was OK with that arrangement.

I thought of, but forgot to suggest, that the numbers be in base 2, which would be 1111. There’s no reason to use base 10 for birthday candles other than the dead hand of decimal tradition, after all.

A Teen Birthday, ’17 Edition

Put this in Tempus Fugit file. Ann celebrated her 14th birthday on Friday night, here in the pit of a not-too-awful winter and a few days ahead of the actual event.

For contrast, see an image from 13 years ago. For a different contrast, from five years ago.

Here’s the cake itself, before implements of cake-destruction were taken to the task of dividing it into manageable pieces.
birthday cake

Not exactly mass consumption, but enough to satisfy.

Nata de Coco Thursday

Picked up Lilly last night where the bus from UIUC dropped her off, near a northwest suburban mall. Fortunately I was there more-or-less on time, so she didn’t have to spend much time out in the bitter wind, because the drop-off point is simply a parking lot. Not a good night to be outside.

Driving home, we did have the pleasure of hearing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” by chance on the radio. I like to hear that exactly once every Christmas season. No more than that.

Here’s the packaging from Jubes brand nata de coco. Jubes, we figure, is a portmanteau of “juicy cubes.”


To save a trip to Wiki: “Nata de coco is a chewy, translucent, jelly-like food produced by the fermentation of coconut water, which gels through the production of microbial cellulose by Acetobacter xylinum. Originating in the Philippines, nata de coco is most commonly sweetened as a candy or dessert, and can accompany a variety of foods, including pickles, drinks, ice cream, puddings, and fruit mixes.”

It’s a product of Pt. Keong Nusantara Abadi, located in Lampung Selatan, Indonesia. I had to look that up. It’s on the southern end of Sumatra. I can’t think of anything else imported from Sumatra, at least in my house.

The marketing text, especially the last line, has a Japlish flavor. This Grape flavored JUBES is for those who favour gentle & refreshing taste. But for all I know, that’s Bahasa-lish as well.

Nata de coco is popular in Japan. Some years ago, Yuriko was eating some and Ann wanted to try it. Then she wanted the whole bowl. She’s been fond of it since. At some point I tried it too. It isn’t bad, but it’s probably one of those foods best discovered as a child for a deep appreciation.

Ann Goes to New Places in Greater DC

I spoke more with Ann about her trip to DC, especially about some of the places that they visited that I never got around to for one reason or other, despite a number of trips to Reagan-era Washington, one visit in the mid-90s, and our week in the city in 2011. The kids had the advantage of someone else handling all the logistics, with buses to take them around, so they got around.

For instance, last Saturday morning they went as far afield as Annapolis, where the place to go is the U.S. Naval Academy. Ann says she was particularly impressed with the tomb of John Paul Jones. I asked her about the Stribling Walk and her eyes got a little wide, remembering that she’d seen that too.

I told her about Rear Admiral Cornelius Kinchiloe Stribling, who had a long career in the antebellum U.S. Navy, and when the war came, sided with the Union, despite being a native of South Carolina. His son John, however, joined the Confederate Navy and died in its service. At one point in his career, he was superintendent of the Naval Academy, and apparently was well regarded.

Also, the kids made it to Mount Vernon. So did I, once upon a time. When I got there, the place was closed — by the shutdown of the federal government in early 1995. Ann got to see George Washington’s teeth, among other things. Looks painful to wear.

Washington's teeth, Mount Vernon

They also went to the Washington National Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington. In 2011, we opted to go to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception instead, because the basilica is within walking distance of a Metro station, while the cathedral is not.

Ann said she admired the design, both interior, for its intricate carving, and vaulting exterior.

National Cathedral 2016

The tour group also hit all of the major war memorials on the National Mall: WWII, Korea and Vietnam. By the time we got around to that part of the Mall in 2011, it was dark, so we really didn’t see Korea or Vietnam, though I remember seeing the Vietnam memorial in the mid-80s, when it was new and remarkably striking; the Korean memorial wasn’t finished until the mid-90s.

This is part of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, as Ann saw it in the morning.

Korean Veterans memorial Dc 2016

Each of the stainless steel soldiers, I’ve read, weighs about 1,000 lbs., and include members of each service, though are mostly Army. Sculptor Frank Gaylord did them.

Ann Goes to Washington

Yesterday Ann returned from Washington DC after a long weekend there. She took advantage of the quasi-holiday that’s Columbus Day to go on a quasi-school trip; four days and three nights (there was no school last Friday because of parent-teacher conferences).

Quasi because it wasn’t actually a school function, or even a school club trip, but organized by a company that makes money from the trips, with some teachers participating as chaperons, not as teacher-chaperons. Three busloads of kids from a number of junior high schools around here went. It was a crowded scene at the parking lot where they boarded the buses.

In some ways, the moment of departure is the best part of any trip.

She says it was a good trip. Except that she had a camera-phone mishap and deleted a lot of her pictures before she could get home. All I could tell her was that the important thing was being there, not taking the pictures. As often as I take pictures myself these days, I believe that. I’ve been plenty of places without a camera, and even now leave it behind when I don’t want to mess with it.

Among other things, she saw various memorials, such as those honoring Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, MLK, and the U.S. soldiers of WWII, Korea and Vietnam; visited Ford’s Theatre and the Peterson House, Arlington National Cemetery, the Holocaust Museum, the Newseum, Mount Vernon and the National Cathedral; went on a dinner cruise on the Potomac; and swam at the Spring Hill Recreation Center in Fairfax County. Those kids were busy. Sounds like good tourist value for the money to me.

And some of her pictures survived.


That’s a better shot than I ever got of the Lincoln Memorial.

The Last Days of Kiddieland

Once upon a time, Kiddieland Amusement Park in west suburban Melrose Park featured rides and amusements for small fry, and somewhat older children, for a not-too-outrageous price. The park was around long enough for parents who had been taken as children to take their own children, and come to think of it, grandparents who had been to take their grandchildren.

Not being from around Chicago originally, I didn’t have that experience, but I did take my children three or maybe four times in the late 2000s. I don’t remember for sure, but I think one of Lilly’s friends originally suggested that she go. It was a little far to go very regularly, but not too far for an occasional visit.

Kiddieland was an unpretentious place, with rides such as a small but fast wooden roller coaster, a modest-sized Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a Tilt-A-Whirl, small car rides, small boat rides, other things that went up, down and around, and a 14-in. gauge miniature railway (always enjoyable to find a miniature railway; the Brackenridge Eagle rides on a 2-ft. gauge, just to compare). I won’t say Kiddleland was a one-of-a-kind place, because it used to be one of a class of locally owned, pre-Disneyland amusement parks. Yet it was a survivor, in the 21st century, from an earlier time.

I can only speculate why. The park wasn’t that expensive or unmanageably large. The staff seemed well trained and polite. Soda — all you wanted — was part of the price of admission (imagine, say, Six Flags doing that). The rides were entertaining even for small children, a real place in an age of electronic faux places.

Kiddieland might still be around but for a dispute among cousins who owned the place, the grandchildren of the founder. Seems like a strange division: One group owned the amusement park; the other owned the land. When push came to shove, the amusement park owners were shoved off the land, and the park closed for good in late September 2009.

When it was clear that Kiddieland was going to close, seven years ago this month, we went one more time. I think Lilly and her friends ambled around themselves, while I took Ann around. Here’s Ann and a couple of the small-fry rides.
Kiddieland 2009Kiddieland 2009There’s a Costco there now. The land owners were clearly looking for bigger bucks. Generally I’m for the highest and best use of real estate, and I like Costco well enough, but still. Something that could be anywhere replaced something distinctive about a particular place, so the world is slightly poorer for it.

RTX 2016

Morbid curiosity inspired me to turn on the TV early yesterday afternoon to see a little live coverage from Cleveland. By complete chance I saw all of Scott Baio’s little speech. Later, I explained to Lilly who that was: “You know the concept of A-list celebrities, right? He’s a D-list celebrity.” Guess the Fonz isn’t in the Trump camp. He never did suffer bullies gladly.

I’m not the person to describe RTX 2016 in any coherent way. That’s because of my willful ignorance, something I disapprove of in many situations, but not when it comes to pop culture. The only sane reaction to pop culture is willful ignorance: pay attention to whatever interests you, roundly ignore the rest, which is most everything.

RTX stands for Rooster Teeth Expo. According to Rooster Teeth itself, “Rooster Teeth Productions is recognized as one of the world’s leading innovators in the field of entertainment production. Over the past 11 years, we have built a global community of highly engaged and dedicated viewers. From podcasts and gameplay videos to one of the fastest growing consumer shows in the U.S., Rooster Teeth continues to become a main hub for community, gaming & entertainment.”

Fine. Good for them. I’d still be wholly ignorant of them except that Ann is a viewer — how “engaged and dedicated,” I couldn’t say, but enough to tell me earlier this year that she wanted to go to RTX, which was in Austin (the company’s hometown) July 1-3. I probably surprised her when I told her attending the show could be part of a longer trip to Texas, and we’d time things to be in Austin on one of those days.

So on July 2, we found ourselves at the Austin Convention Center, site of RTX. I saw crowd scenes.

RTX 2016RTX 2016The exhibit hall was remarkably like that of any other convention I’ve been to — rows and rows of booths featuring companies promoting themselves and their products. The difference being that almost all the products, including media productions and games and whatnot, were completely unfamiliar to me, and none of the attendees were wearing ties. But Ann knew a lot about the products, including many of the characters. All of these, for instance.

RTX 2016RTX 2016RTX 2016She told me who the girl in bird feathers was supposed to be, but I’ve forgotten. I will give the various cosplayers I saw points for effort. Some of the costumes looked like a lot of work.

Toward mid-day, we watched a panel discussion featuring the top guy at Rooster Teeth and some of his top creatives. They filled a ballroom with a few thousand people. At the beginning, they screened a brand-new episode, if that’s the right word, of an online show called “A Million Dollars, But…” The conceit of the show is that you can have a million dollars, but you have to put up with some onerous, and frankly magical, condition (and not, say, paying high taxes on it).

Let’s call it juvenile entertainment. A few of the bits in the episode were funny, but hearing about how it’s put together strained my patience. I’m not the intended audience anyway. But I have to note that not all of the audience were kids — not in the chronological sense. I’d put most of the attendees in their early to mid-20s.

We also attended a performance by a couple of singers, a man and a woman. They were reasonably talented and did songs from various shows, mostly Internet-based (I think). Ann seemed to know most of the tunes. I knew none of them. Time flies, new things happen. Toward the end, the man said, “We always close with a song I’m sure virtually all of you know.”

Then they launched into a song I didn’t know. Turned out to be the theme from Pokemon. Of course I’ve heard of that cartoon. It would take more than willful ignorance to keep from hearing of it, even before Pokemon Go became the goldfish swallowing of the summer of ’16. But the theme? Somehow I never bothered with hearing it, certainly not enough to know it. Ann expressed some astonishment at this.

The last event we attended was a cosplay costume contest. Participants strolled from the back to the front of one of the meeting rooms, showing themselves off as they went up the center aisle. The moderators announced who they were, and who their costumes represented. I actually had heard of a few of them, such as one of the iterations of Batman and Luigi, the brother of Mario, though as far as I’m concerned, Mario Bros. is just an arcade game I never played much.

I was struck by the fact that the participants mostly weren’t interested in playing characters from Star Trek or Star Wars or other such longstanding and well-worn tales. They wanted newer characters. That’s probably a good thing.

If I remember right, this fellow was best in show. I don’t know who he’s supposed to be, but it’s an impressive outfit all the same. Mostly Styrofoam, from the looks of it.

RTX 2016Purity of Essence t-shirtI wore my Gen. Jack D. Ripper PURITY OF ESSENCE t-shirt to the event. I figured he, too, is a fictional character of some import, even if only to earlier generations. As I suspected, I got no reaction to it, not even many quizzical looks, until just before we left the event. We were walking down the main corridor of the convention center, when suddenly a young man walking the other way said, Wow! right at me.

I was startled, but he quickly explained: “Where did you get that shirt? I spent the last two years of high school quoting Dr. Strangelove all the time.” Good to know that that movie isn’t completely lost on youth. I told him I didn’t remember the exact name of the web site where I bought it, but that the shirt should be easy enough to Google. As indeed it is.

Finally, there was this performer, BE INCREDIBLE.
SoCo street busker July 2, 2016Actually, he had nothing to do with RTX. We took a bus to and from the event, and when we returned, the bus let us off on South Congress a few blocks north of the Austin Motel — and there he was, busking.
SoCo street busker July 2, 2016Maybe not incredible, but he had some good moves. I put a dollar coin in his bucket.

“Happy Birthday” Has 13 Letters

For her 13th birthday, Ann wanted a simple cake without “thick icing.” So we got a round yellow cake — yellow icing topping a yellow cake, with a modicum of decoration — at a grocery store we know that has a good bakery.

Ann and Cake, Feb 6, 2106I found the candles by chance at the same store. As it happens, there are 13 letters in Happy Birthday, a fitting number.

Birthday CakeI might use them for my own birthday. Each candle would stand for about four years and three months of my lifetime. Also, I’m glad to report that however the cake looked, it tasted good too.

Holiday Interlude

Another Christmas and New Year’s Day have come and gone. A mostly pleasant time. Here’s Christmas morning.

Christmas Day 2015The girls opened their presents and ate their chocolate, and proceeded to spend the day with electronic entertainment, and some reading as well. That’s what I did too. The dog didn’t care a whit about Christmas, as far as we could tell. Just another day of eating and smelling and barking and lying around, ignoring strictly human notions. That’s probably just as well.

On the morning of the 28th, sleet came pouring out of the sky. Unfortunately I’d made dentist appointments for the girls for in the early afternoon that day, so that meant a harrowing drive on slick roads, but we made it unscathed.

By the next morning, the streets were clear, but my driveway wasn’t. The covering had a high ice content, meaning a lot of effort to remove, even though it wasn’t particularly thick ice. Just what are we creatures of the tropics doing this close to one of the poles?

Rocket Girl, Second Launch

Ann was in her school district’s Rocket Club again this year, involving the after-school construction of a rocket one day a week for a few months. The mass launch — one rocket at a time, not quite as quick as a Stalin’s organ — was on Monday afternoon during school. Afterward, Ann brought the rocket, which she called “Gemini,” home.

Ann, June 8, 2015The rocket lost a fin at some point in the flight, or when it hit the ground. The dog photobombed the picture.

Liftoff! The rockets were lined up on top of a saw horse and shot off one after the other.

Gemini Launch, June 8, 2015This was Ann’s second school-project rocket. The day was partly cloudy and warm, with some wind. Later in the afternoon it rained, but the launches were done by then.