Twenty Times Around the Sun

Lilly is home for Thanksgiving and, though a quirk of the calendar, her birthday.
You could think of it as a special birthday, but only because we use base 10. The evening’s feast was sushi. Here’s Lilly taking a picture of it.
Maybe you can’t be 20 on Sugar Mountain, but there are a lot more interesting places to go in later decades, metaphorically and literally.

Enjoying the Snows of Yesteryear

Light rain fell early Thursday morning — I heard it during the wee hours — but by morning, the ground was lightly touched by snow. That ultrathin coat of snow lasted until Saturday and then vanished. For now, we’ve got a brown winter.

Not so most Januaries. Such as in mid-January 2012, when I happened to catch Lilly in the back yard enjoying the snow.
Jan 17 12Jan 17 12Jan 17 12I might be wrong, but I don’t think she took that hat off to college.

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.

Christmas Card Photo Shoot ’98

Eighteen years ago, I got a notion to send out personalized Christmas cards, the kind using a picture of your own that’s printed by a professional service. I’m sure I didn’t do it online, since I had no Internet connection at my house until 2000. I must have taken the negative to a photo shop, but I don’t remember the details.

Of course Lilly, then not quite a year old, was going to be the star of the card. There were a lot of existing pictures of her — first children tend to be the subject of a lot of pictures — but nothing I really wanted to use. I wanted something with a holiday theme. So I took her to the front yard, along with the gold-colored plastic star that we topped the Christmas tree with (still do), for a photo shoot.

I didn’t get anything I liked for the card that way, either. They tended to be fuzzy. But not completely without charm. They’ve been tucked away these years while she grew into a college student.
img335A few days later, without planning to, I took the picture we did use, a longstanding favorite image of toddler Lilly.

Lilly at 19

Lilly’s home from UIUC for Thanksgiving week and, by coincidence, her birthday.
Birthday cakeThose are ordinary number candles, except for one thing. They were atop my mother’s, Lilly’s grandmother’s, cake last month. In reverse order: 91 vs. 19. Quite a difference threescore and 12 years make.

I didn’t make the trip home from college for Thanksgiving ’79, staying in the dorm practically by myself, since it was too far to go just for four days (no whole week off in those days for Thanksgiving). That was considered a sad option, but I didn’t mind. Four days of quiet and not much to do wasn’t bad at all.

Lilly Goes to College

Lilly’s now a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. From now on, August 18, 2016 will be the day she went to college. My own such day, August 25, 1979, is a little hazy, since it was long enough ago that I flew Braniff to Nashville get there.

A little more recently, on August 18, 2003, I wrote, “More importantly this morning, I dropped by Lilly’s soon-to-be elementary school to register her for kindergarten. A brick edifice probably built at about the same time as the neighborhood in mid- to late-1960s, the school had that elementary school feel to it, as if it were too small for you, an adult, even though you had no trouble walking in the door.”

UIUC isn’t that far away. I drove her down in the early morning and came back in the late afternoon, covering about 350 miles all together. It was a hot day in Champaign — her dorm is on the Champaign side of campus — for moving stuff into rooms.
UIUCSaw some odd things going in, such as four 36-bottle cases of drinking water, and some decadent items no dorm room should have, such as a large-screen TV. But on the whole, the process went smoothly.

This is her dorm.

UIUCIt has that 1960s vibe, not in any countercultural sense, but in that it looks like it was built then. So it was, in about 1960.

Here’s a detail I like, on top of the roof.

UICUI told Lilly the speaker was to wake up the dorm at 5 a.m. for morning exercises on the parade ground and a few minutes of revering Fearless Leader. She’s heard ideas like that all her life.

It occurred to me that going away to school isn’t quite what it used to be, besides big TVs. There seem to be fewer surprises now, for one thing. Lilly had already met her roommate, another girl from the Chicago suburbs. When I got to my room, I opened the door and there was another lad in the room — I didn’t even know his name before I met him. Maybe I could have asked beforehand by mail, but it never would have occurred to me to do that.

There’s also more connectivity these days. It’s easy for these students to connect to their past, either family or friends. Less so in 1979. I can’t remember how often I called home. Once a month? I wrote a letter or two a month as well, and I’m certain some (most) kids didn’t even do that. But I told Lilly there was no need for constant updates. This is no time to start helicoptering.

Lilly in her room. Note the walls of the room are cinderblock.

Lilly I was glad to see that. A mark of austerity. That’s the way a dorm should be.

Graduate Names, Abdulaahi to Zell

Lately I’ve been able to look at the commencement program from Lilly’s graduation at some leisure. Most of it, of course, lists the names of the graduates. Interesting thing, a list of names. This one goes, in terms of last names, from Abdulaahi to Zell.

It’s a fine example of the American salad bowl of ethnicity. Some examples at random, though alphabetical: Admundsen, Bagaybagayan, Bjorkman, Campbell, De Ocampo, Fritz, Gonzalez, Hyc, Khan, Kopielski, McCoy, Muhammad, Patel, Son, Stribling, Stepanian, Uy.

Patel is the number-one most common name on the list, hands down: no fewer than 12 graduates have it as their family name. It’s the Indian equivalent of Smith, I said to Ann. Then she noted that there was only a single Smith on a graduate list. Hm. The list doesn’t represent the nation as a whole, after all. The Census Bureau still puts Smith as most common: more than 880 per 100,000 people. Then come Johnson, Williams, Brown, Jones, Miller, Davis, Garcia, Rodriguez and Wilson.

I’m glad to report at least one other Lilly on the list, spelled that way, and a scattering of Anns, though more often than not it functions as a middle name, or a part of a combination first name. Wouldn’t want them to be too common.

A glance at the list tells me that not only are girls’ names of earlier generations gone, as you’d expect — the Berthas and Ethels and Ednas and Myrtles and Zeldas — so are perfectly fine girl names popular when I was born — the Barbaras, Cynthias, Deborahs, Lindas, Lisas, Karens, and Patricias of the world, and even the Marys are fairly scarce. A couple of years ago, during a conversation on names, Lilly characterized “Barbara” (for example) as an “old lady name.” Tempus fugit.

Boys’ names are more stable across the decades, but even so there seem to be fewer Johns, Michaels, and Roberts. Or Toms, Dicks and Harrys. I’m glad to see a Lars and a Homer and an Omar.

First names are a little harder to sort through, but I did pick out some interesting ones: Atyab, Breon, Da-Eun, Destinee (a friend of Lilly’s), Dwji, Heaven, Jax, Nuh, Yash.

Lilly’s Graduation

Lilly’s high school graduation ceremony was earlier today at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill., a mid-sized arena. We took to the back yard beforehand for cap and gown pictures.

Lilly, June 5, 2016Lilly, June 5, 2016She’s somewhere in this mass of maroon.

The ceremony itself admirable exercise in economy: barely more than an hour and a quarter from beginning to end. And only a few air horns squeaked a few times, mostly toward the end.

The Rio Grande Rift

Our first trip after Y2K didn’t end civilization as we know it was to San Antonio and then Santa Fe, by way of some other places in New Mexico, in April 2000. Those other places included Albuquerque, Madrid, NM and Bandelier National Monument and Los Alamos.

Here’s a roadside view of the Rio Grande as it runs through New Mexico. It isn’t an international border at this point, but is an unusual land form nevertheless.

Rio Grande 2000I didn’t realize until much more recently that I was looking down at a rift. Or that, to quote the various scientists who put together this page about the rift, “most rifts are found along mid-ocean ridges. Only a few are located on land, such as the Rio Grande Rift, East African Rift (sometimes referred to as the Great Rift) and Lake Baikal, a lake-filled rift in Russia.”

I’m not exactly sure where the overlook was, but my guess would be along New Mexico 4 just outside of the national monument, and looking over the river into another section of the monument. Note the haze in the distance. That’s probably one of the controlled burns occurring when we visited. Soon, as in the very next month, a controlled burn became uncontrolled.

This is New Mexico 4, probably looking the other way from the outlook.

NM Highway 4This is Lilly. A lot of the pictures I took on that trip involved her. Call it the first-child photography syndrome, though she was two and a half by this time.

Lilly April 2000She’s at breakfast in the place we stayed in Santa Fe. The reason we documented that particular moment (I think) was that we weren’t entirely sure she’d behave during breakfast — that is, stay seated and eat her food without much fuss. But she did. I guess she was just then learning to appreciate the joys of breakfasts on the road.

The University of Illinois During the 2016 Spring Break

On the afternoon of March 18, Lilly and I drove down to Champaign-Urbana, and on the next day, we took a look at the University of Illinois flagship campus, which happens to sprawl across both of those small towns. Since our visit, Lilly has decided to attend there in the fall. She’d been leaning toward it anyway. We’d only been there once before, briefly, during our return from the Downstate towns of Arthur and Arcola in the spring of 2007. So it was as if we’d never been there before, especially for her.

Spring break had just started at the university. That meant only a handful of students were around, including some who were clearly leaving. On one street on campus, buses were lined up and ready to take students to specifically marked destinations, mostly in the Chicago area. Spring break also meant, happily, that parking was free and easy.

Even so, we spent a lot of time on foot. Without much of a plan: sometimes new places call for the old random walkabout. Lilly will certainly learn all she needs to know about the place and more in the fullness of time. The campus has a lot of fine buildings, especially fronting the Main Quad, and I was especially taken with Foellinger Auditorium and its green dome at one end of that quad, though I didn’t quite get an image of its full domed glory.

Foellinger AuditoriumFoellinger AuditoriumThe building dates from 1907 and was designed by Clarence H. Blackall, a Boston architect who did a lot of theaters, and if you read a list of them, very many didn’t survive the great age (that is, regrettable age) of knocking down old stuff, whose apogee came in the 1960s. The Foellinger has clearly endured, though I’ve read that it wasn’t up to stuff acoustically at first, and needed a lot more work. We didn’t pop inside for a look. Next time, maybe.

Not far away was the 185-foot McFarland Carillon, which dates only from 2009.
McFarland CarillonA Missouri firm called Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets, which seems to do a lot of higher ed work, designed the tower, which has 49 bells. We noticed bells ringing at half hours and quarter hours, sometimes, but I’m not sure it was the carillon.

Elsewhere we peeked inside the chapel at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, which is part of a complex that includes Newman Hall and the Institute of Catholic Thought, and is the largest Newman Center in the country, according to Wiki. Dating from 1926, the chapel has a splendid interior. I explained to Lilly that it was named after Cardinal Newman, not Alfred E., but she didn’t know either of them.

Nearby is the Episcopal Chapel of Saint John the Devine, also a part of a campus ministry. I wanted to take a look in there too, but it was closed for the day.

Heading back to our parking space, we encountered one of the many pieces of public art on campus.Alice Aycock Sculpture, University of IllinoisThere was no plaque nearby that I saw, but information is online. It’s full title is “Tree of Life Fantasy: Synopsis of the Book of Questions Concerning the World Order and/or the Order of Worlds,” by Alice Aycock. As we approached it, I figured it might be a massive sundial, as I’ve seen recently, but no.

This description lacquers on the art-ese pretty well, but it does rhetorically ask, “can we not comprehend the sculpture solely as an interesting, if baffling, assemblage of disparate elements?” Yes, we can. Interesting, but in my amateur opinion not baffling, because it’s mainly an interesting assemblage of disparate elements, though I’d say an interesting “combination of shapes,” since disparate is a ten-dollar word best saved for special occasions.