Friday, May 24, 2019

Finding the Magic in the World

If you watched the game last night, didn’t it seem like the refs were calling fouls on the Bucks for just regular defensive playing? Conversely, they weren’t calling fouls on the Raptors for pushing Giannis down and tripping him and scratching his face till it bled. The Raptors probably wanted the fouls, because he was not shooting very well from the line. The thing is, I feel like Giannis is a big puppy who has been happily playing in relative obscurity, but now that he is in the spotlight, the haters have come out and caught him totally off-guard. I feel worse for him about that than just for losing. They haven’t lost the series yet, but it seems like he can’t get past all the vitriol being hurled at him. Why are people doing this to him? Jealousy, I guess. Being old enough to have borne him, I feel a maternal concern for him, so last night I sent him a tweet: “Ignore the haters – you are still the greatest!” Because he is.

When I was very young, barely an adult, and living in the Basque area of Spain for a summer, the coffee there was so wonderful that I drank it all the time. On the flight back to the US, we transferred from Iberia to Delta or something, some American airline, and I took one sip of their coffee and remembered why I never drank it here. The Basque girl who came back with me took one sip, spit it out, and cried, “What is this poop?” (Not the actual word she used.) I said, “Welcome to America, Arantxa.” But fortunately those days are in the past, and now you can find actual good coffee all over the US of A. I am still a little surprised that the very best seems to be in Nashville at the Johnny Cash Museum, but I enjoyed my mug full of A Brew Named Sue this morning and thought how great it is to have wonderful coffee at home. We just finished up the bag of Folsom Prison Brew, and I think A Brew Named Sue is even tastier.

My smart phone is so smart that it is scaring me. It compiles some of my photos into slide shows, like “Hiking at Such-and-Such State Park on a Particular Date,” and for some reason it made one for June 9 last year, which was just a day when Travalon and I went boating, but we were wearing the matching tie-dyed shirts I had made. Maybe artificial intelligence likes tie-dye? I mean, how are these compiled? It made a really good slide show of our trip back in March, and then it had one called “The Best of the Last Two Months.” Apparently the best of the last two months was Cuba and Olbrich Gardens. I thought about that, and the thing is those two days were magical. I really enjoyed Florida and the Bahamas, but they weren’t magical like Cuba, and that day in Olbrich with Tiffy was perfect: just overcast enough to be evocative, and all the flowers were gorgeous and smelled wonderful. But what is “magical”? When I was a child, now and then I would meet an adult or older teen who seemed to make everything magical, and I wanted to be that person when I grew up. To my delight, I seemed to be for some children years ago, but they are all Millennial adults now who seem to find me okay but nothing too special. Then I thought maybe the magic is showing someone the wonder in the world, and of course an adult can do that more easily for a child than for another adult. So what is the magic in the world? I think it must be a reflection of the Divine, so when I feel it now, I must be really sensing God’s presence in the world. No wonder it seems so beautiful, and why I wanted to be that guide for other people: I was helping them see the Divine! What could be more amazing than that? So then the question becomes: does my smart phone sense the Divine?

Famous Hat

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Playing the Mandolin

Yesterday at band practice I gathered with the three fiddlers, and we waited. We knew the accordion player wasn’t coming, but we were expecting our fearless leader, the guitarist, who keeps the rhythm. Finally one fiddler called her, and she had lost track of time. Meanwhile, I tried to keep the rhythm while the fiddles played the melody. Since I come from a background as a fiddler myself, I first started playing the mandolin as a melody instrument, but it was hard to keep up with the agile fiddles. This was back in 2001, and I quickly figured out how to play simpler harmonies. Somewhere along the way I finally figured out how to play chords – seriously, nobody showed me, I just finally got it one day. But I wasn’t playing straight chords to keep time like the guitar; I was playing all sorts of backbeats or interesting rhythms. It took me a few minutes to stop doing that, because it really threw the fiddles, but eventually I was just playing straight chords to keep time. And do you know, we didn’t sound half bad even without any other rhythm instrument. That is one thing about the mandolin – it has made me more versatile as a musician. As a fiddler, would I have ever learned that I have an ear for playing harmonies? Maybe, but I almost certainly wouldn’t have learned to play chords. Now I can do it all – even play fiddle, and I have, but not lately. With three actual fiddlers in the band, the odds that they would need me to pick up my violin have fallen to statistically nothing. Maybe it’s time to find another mariachi band to join…

Another thing about the mandolin is that it attracts a lot more attention than a violin. Hardingfele and I walked to band practice after work yesterday, since it was such a beautiful day, and we stopped into the ZuZu CafĂ© for a quick rosewater lemonade. The people who worked there were very interested in my mandolin, but they didn’t even give Hardingfele’s violin a second look. I’m not even sure if they noticed her violin case, but the mandolin case is hard to miss. They had to know what was in there, so I took it out and showed them, and then they raved about how beautiful it is, and how well-made, and how it is clearly very old and valuable. Truly, you don’t see something like my mandolin every day! Unless you are me, because I see it every day. Do I practice every day? No comment…

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Polar Vortex Victims

The Polar Vortex has claimed more victims in town than just a bunch of trees on campus – it also killed all but one of the prairie dogs at the zoo. These poor little creatures became victims of this crazy weather because they hadn’t burrowed deep enough while hibernating to escape the vicious cold, since the water table was so high from the flooding last summer. The prairie dog that did survive is going to the Baraboo Zoo. Travalon had gone to our zoo and noticed the prairie dog display had vanished, which is a big deal because they are his second-favorite animals after the red pandas. Tiffy was the one who told me what had happened, which is kind of random because she doesn’t even live in town, but her brother-in-law had told her. Sure enough, we found a story online about it. I feel very bad for the prairie dogs, but they were in a hibernation state when they froze, so they probably didn’t suffer. I was practically in tears thinking about the people at the zoo, though. Can you imagine? They see one prairie dog dig out from hibernation… and none of the other twenty appear. Eventually they must have done some exploring and found them all frozen. That is the way of this climate change: big powerful people with a lot of money make decisions that affect it, but the ones who suffer are innocent creatures and the powerless people who love them. Or the powerless people themselves...

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Monday, May 20, 2019

The Honor of Working Together

I hope that my readers had a good weekend and got a chance to get out and enjoy the blossoms all around us. I sure did, as you can see from my previous post. If you are wondering about the post with the redbud seedling, it is from 2011 and is here, so you can see this redbud is eight years old.

Friday evening Travalon and I got fish fingers to go at Mariner’s and then came home to watch the Bucks game. They got ahead of Toronto and never fell behind the entire game. One of my coworkers is of Greek heritage, and she says there is a word in Greek that has no English translation but means something like “the honor of working together.” I think of that now when watching the Bucks, since Giannis is from Greece and so may be familiar with this concept. I like to think the word applies to the way the whole team works together.

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich and Tiffy for coffee, then he left to visit his mother and hang out in Milwaukee for the day while the rest of us went to the Globe for lunch. Tiffy and I spent hours at Olbrich Gardens, then we picked up Rich and went to the Arboretum. I wish I could post the scent of all those blooming lilacs and crabapples on this blog. In the evening the three of us met a bunch of other Slow Food people for dinner at a new French restaurant called Merci. We loved the escargots, the pheasant soup, and the French bread, but the main courses were nothing too exciting. Of course, they were out of lamb, which is what Rich really wanted. He says he will have to go back when they have it.

Yesterday a bunch of us had coffee after Mass, then Travalon, Tiffy, and I went to a new Korean restaurant called Mr. Kimchee. Not only was the food delicious, but the waitstaff were really friendly and helpful. Then we had bubble tea with her niece and her niece's boyfriend. Travalon and I went for a hike on Governor’s Island, then we checked on my garden plot, and so far my radishes are coming up, but no sign of the carrots or herbs. I still have a ton more seeds to plant, if the weather ever cooperates. We were going to watch the Bucks game with Cali, but she canceled, so we just stayed home to watch the heartbreak of the Bucks losing in double overtime. It would have helped if they hadn’t turned the ball over twenty times… Hopefully they can pull it back together for Tuesday’s game. Fear the Deer!

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Photos of May Flowers

Since  spring lasts for a week and a half around here, I have to enjoy it while I can. This first photo is a tulip tree on campus with its distinctive leaves that almost look like little tulips.

This is a tulip with barely any stem that someone abandoned in the adoration chapel at my church.

Here are some photos from the Allen Centennial Gardens on campus.


 fancy tulips

 more tulips

And these photos are from Olbrich Gardens, where I hung out with Tiffy on Saturday.

 fountain facing Rose Tower



 I love this sign!

 This one too! "Random Laser Beam"!

 fountain by Thai Pavilion

 cherry blossoms

 pearl bush

view from the Rose Tower

 black tulips

 Tiffy and me and crabapple blossoms

 yet another fountain

 tri-color beech



 crabapple blossoms

 double daffodils

And this is the redbud tree that was featured on this blog years ago as a little seedling. It lives in Rich's yard.

And finally, Rich, Tiffy, and I found this metal design with Madison landmarks on it downtown, and I loved their depiction of the Thai Pavilion.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

With My Scapular Hanging Out

The polar vortex has claimed a lot of victims on campus: trees. The grounds crew is removing a bunch of trees all over campus that either died or mostly died this winter. Part of this is a project to revamp cables and steam pipes underground, but when I wrote to ask if any healthy trees were being removed for this reason, I got this ambiguous answer: “During the design phase, each tree and bush was evaluated by a 3rd party arborist and tree removal was avoided where possible. The project also includes new tree plantings after completion.” Great, I’m glad they are not going to leave the campus bare of trees, but I’m still unclear about whether any healthy trees are being removed. It seems like such a shame to remove large, healthy trees and then replace them with spindly saplings that are easily torn apart by drunken college students. It’s unnecessary death, in my opinion.

Today I had a monthly meeting headed by our college’s dean. When I first joined this committee, I was intimidated to be in the room with him, but he is a funny, self-deprecating guy who instantly puts a person at ease so I quickly got over that. However, we just found out that he is getting a HUGE promotion to provost of the university, so today I felt a little shy around him once again. Then sometime after the meeting was over, I was in the restroom and saw in the mirror that my scapular was hanging out in the back. It looked fine in the front, which is all people mostly saw at this meeting, although of course this time there were some interested observers who sat right behind me. Even if they noticed, how likely is it that they would have known what a scapular is? And I’m not entirely clear if it had been like this all morning, or if it happened well after the meeting. Still, I am a little embarrassed to think I could have been at a meeting that included our future provost with my scapular hanging out!

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Monday, May 13, 2019

Craft Beer Week and Flower Photos

Here are some pictures from Craft Beer Week. The first is the moose head that was watching over us as we enjoyed a fish fry at the Essen Haus.

This is a shot of the pond at Olbrich Gardens as we were taking a break from drinking beer:

And I thought this purely decorative display of lab vessels at Delta Beer Lab was so pretty:

The frogs were very loud as I walked on the boardwalk with Travalon, Jilly Moose, and OK Cap.

Now for some pictures of flowers. This first one is a bouquet my new coworker got at a meeting she went to. Another person at the meeting has parents who own a flower farm, so she always brings some to this meeting. I love all these colorful poppies!

My Chinese evergreen bloomed! It almost looks like a peace lily. It's definitely an arum!

This magnolia looks like it is covered with tulips when the flowers aren't open all the way. This is not an actual tulip tree, which is also a member of the magnolia family. We have several of those on campus too, and their new leaves look like cartoon tulips! I should take a picture. They should bloom within the next month.

For reference, this is what real tulips look like:

And finally, here is my video of the Pizza Train pulling into the Mid-Continent Railway Museum. I had to upload it to YouTube in order to post it on this blog. Enjoy!

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