Saturday, September 25, 2010


The other day, in my (temporary, while our regular offices are undergoing renovation) windowless office, while working away on some task, I was enjoying peacefully schlocky music on Pandora's "nature sounds" station. It's funny how I've grown to appreciate this pleasantly formulaic variation on the "new age" genre when I need something calm going on in the background. Usually it's just that, I notice few details and it rarely rises to the level of conscious listening. But when a Native American flute piece came on (I regret that I forget the artist's name) I had one of those out-of-body moments...well, an out-of-the-moment moment, during which I suddenly found myself browsing  souvenirs, hunting for treasure, in a national park gift shop. It wasn't any particular gift shop, or any particular national park, but the sound track was on the button. And since I love being in national parks, and on very rare occasions have found really wonderful things in national park gift shops (several in Yellowstone, for example, carry outstanding Native American jewelry), I really loved the illusion. Yes, commercialized Native American music has become iconic national park gift shop Muzak. Even if one of the most famous practitioners, Carlos Nakai, is Ute, and his ancestors probably never went anywhere near Yellowstone, or Glacier, or Olympic, or Smoky Mountain, or Everglades National Parks. 
And yes, I'd bet it does in large part account for why both KLK and I will invariably buy a t-shirt at every national park we visit.
But the association is a strong and happy one for me. Listen, enjoy, and see where it takes you. If you like it, run your cursor across the bottom of the image for more R. Carlos Nakai selections.

  Download this mp3 from

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Renovation Nation, Part The First

In my 2008 holiday newsletter to family and friends, I noted cheerily, “As usual, there was much work done in my condo, and at last, all but one (or two…or three) major projects are behind me.” 
How prophetic! 2010, only two years later, has really been THE year of renovations. After years of chronic water penetration along the east-facing wall of my condo – the one that takes the brunt of whatever the winds of Lake Michigan dish out – and when the first storm after the condo association’s most recent serious efforts at exterior maintenance (eyeball-to-mortar inspection, tuck-pointing, and calking, from a scaffold hung from the roof 15 stories up) confirmed that the source had not by any means been fixed, a major campaign to deal with it once and for all was launched. 
The methodology met with complete success. For the first time in forever – there was lots of old cracked and peeling paint from the day I moved in in 1991 - the entire east and south-facing wall in the living-dining area is pristine, intact, no craquelure, no bulging bubbles of paint, just smooth, pretty walls, even after a couple of the kinds of summer storms the Midwest is famous for.  

But it was quite worth the effort (the contractors’, and mine, for putting up with the mess). It involved removing all of the wallboard, all of the fearsome furring (or is that furry?) strips, and, still failing to find obvious sources of the leaks, covering the entire interior of the cinderblock walls with concrete sealant (wonderful stuff), replacing the furring strips, using greenboard drywall (what you use behind a shower stall), and then beautifully taping, sanding, and painting the walls. 

A side benefit of all this is that the really Terrible Old Radiator Covers had to come down, presenting the opportunity for a long-considered project to replace them, too. While the condominium association paid for the water treatment and restoration of the decor, which would have included remounting the Terrible Old Radiator Covers, I decided now was the time to bust out the dough and just do it. So I did, not only in the living-dining rooms, but in the bedrooms as well. They look great, they’re neatly, neutrally finished aluminum, no dirt-of-the-ages in these guys, and best of all, will never have to be painted, woo-hoo!
The sharp-eyed (and probably even the severely myopic) will note, however, that the floor beneath the nice new radiator covers is, uhm, in appalling condition. Stay tuned for Renovation Nation Part The Second, which is just beginning!

Monday, September 13, 2010

When the hunter becomes the hunted

So I'm home from work, changed to head out for my Jazzercise class in a half hour or so, slouching in a chair half-interestedly watching the news until it's time to go, when I notice out of the corner of my eye that there's a large roundish bug on the window screen. It looked like a beetle, maybe a half inch long. Semi-conscious note to self: get up and inspect the beetle a little more closely before it flies away.

Next thing I know, there's a thud at the window. I look up just in time to see a young European starling poke the  beetle into its beak and drop down to the window sill to consume it piecemeal. I stood up carefully so as not to startle the bird but I was too late, Teddy was fully on the case. He hurtled right up to the window, which was open about two inches, and jabbed his paw with incredible speed straight out until it collided with the screen. Needless to say, the starling and his meal were gone gone gone, the screen has a new dent in it, and Teddy is not moving an inch away from the window just in case.
All this drama in the space of less than a minute. 
Teddy investigating a cicada on the window, August 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

For once, I agree with them

America's Got Talent is a fun show (except when the judges wax mean) but I can't say that I'm always this impressed with the faves. Check out Jackie Evancho performing Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu and Agnus Dei. I'd love to hear her sing Bach, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Mozart. This kid's got a gift. Close your eyes so you can't see she's a 10-year old, turn up your sound, and embrace the pure pleasure of listening to this voice.

The seasons, they are a'changin'

I'm a person of some very regular habits. Year in and year out, for almost 20 years, at 5:30 AM weekdays I go for a 2.5 mile constitutional along the shores of Lake Michigan, with its unobstructed view of the eastern horizon. Then, at the end of the work day three days a week, I go to a Jazzercise class that gets out at 7:40. These by-the-clock habits make me very aware of the minute changes in the tilting of the earth, first to and then away from the sun, and back again. More so, I think, than those who suddenly bemoan the shortening days and celebrate the last day an overcoat is needed to go outdoors each spring.
Above are two captures from the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory's web cam pointed over Yellowstone Lake. The cam refreshes at two minutes past the hour every daylight hour. The top photo was nabbed only 44 days ago - July 29 - and miraculously caught a sleek cow elk gleaming in the bright morning sunlight. The second capture was from this morning, at the same early hour. The camera is pointed west-northwest, the pretty orange glow at the horizon is simply reflecting the predawn light from behind the observer. 
I love the transition between seasons and all its promise of change to come. Chicago's 2010 summer was hot, sultry, and not much enjoyable to those of us sensitive to high humidity. Starting around September 1st, the daily humidities and temperatures moderated, and since Labor Day we've had many lovely days with clear skies and California-coast-like temperatures in the high 70s, and a few overnights that dropped into the high 50s. I don't need to tell you that this is fabulous sleeping weather, with the windows open a couple of inches and a light cover to snuggle in. 
But I commented to my walking companion the other day, in spite of the couple of nippy mornings we've experienced, I still haven't been moved to think, "hmm, feels like Fall's in the air!"  This in spite of the fact that it is completely dark when we head out for our trek these days, and the sun has not yet bobbed up over the eastern edge of Lake Michigan by the time we leave the lakefront 50 minutes later. 
I'll know it's here when: I close all but one window at night; I switch from my yummy iced coffee to hot coffee in the morning; I terminate the liberation of my toes and give up sandals in favor of closed shoes for the duration. I love Fall, and I still look ahead with happy anticipation to Winter. I love the change of seasons.
(As always, do please click on the photos to appreciate the details.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mayor Daley's Corruption and Why It Was a Good Thing

Chicago's retiring mayor, Richard M. Daley and his father Richard J. Daley together ran this wonderful city for 42 years, with several variously successful, and unsuccessful, incumbents in between the father's death in 1976 and the son's election in 1986. 
Both Daleys were phenomenally devoted to the city, it's people, and its prosperity. Both have been painted with the brush of corruption. But I never minded that, because both used their possibly less-than-pristine ways of doing business not for personal betterment, but for the betterment of the City of Chicago. No one ever doubted that.
Richard M.'s retirement at the age of a very young 68 reflects his determination not to die in office, but to get out while the going is good, and to make the best of what is left of his, and his ill wife's allotment on this good earth. But we'll miss him greatly, and greet with some trepidation who, and what, comes next.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Recommendation with little elaboration

KLK and I immensely enjoyed a little documentary last night, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. It's a brilliantly filmed/edited and story-telling at its very best.
Do see it!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Door County's Most Famous Sport

As reported below, I recently returned from a great trip to Door County, Wisconsin. I went with my best friend, LCB. We go back to 7th grade, with a long hiatus in our closeness between our college days, when we went our separate ways, until about 10 years ago when I decided to use the Internet to locate her with the aim of resuming our friendship. Resume we did, it's like the thirty years apart had never happened. Anyway, this trip was girls only, KLK stayed home with Teddy, but a good time was had by all.

So there's lots and lots to do in Door County. We decided, mixed in with the boutique shopping and lighthouse visiting that we would try our luck with Door County's favorite sport: sitting in a very comfortable chair, watching the Lake (actually, Lake Michigan's Green Bay) at sunset. It's an especial treat after a fish boil, on which I will expound at a later time. For now, enjoy these photos of some honed practitioners and the sports equipment they use:
LCB working out like a native, on the pier at Ephraim
Unoccupied equipment basking in the glow of the sunset, Ephraim
More experts in the highly competitive sport of sunset-over-the-water-watching

Though it might go on all day, it doesn't start too early in the morning. I supposed that's because all the competitors were up so late last night watching the sun go down...(this was taken at 8:00 A.M., roughly 13 hours after the sun sank the night before) Poor, exhausted sunset-watchers!

Friday, September 3, 2010

I changed my profile photo today

This evening (Friday, after a long work day and a long work week) I went to the shop where I've had my hair cut for 20 years. The owner's daughter, E., mans the front desk. I'd say the age gap is more or less 30 years, and, alas, it seems, that's not the only gulf between us. She is one of those people who proudly guards her ignorance. I once used the word, "biofuels" in front of her. (This is a university neighborhood, where everyone uses million dollar words. All the time. Without thinking. In the normal course of discourse.) She puffed herself up a little and said, "oh, I don't know what that is!" so I said, a little surprised, "there's been lots of talk about it on TV and the news lately" and she said, "oh no, I don't watch the news" and, by extension, read the newspaper, check the internet, or any other option, God forbid she should learn something about the world around her.. This doesn't mean she isn't likable, but it does make her a bit of a puzzle to me.

Today after the usual good cut and shapely dry by faithful and skillful S. (who has made me look good for years), it took me a few moments at the front desk to dig my wallet out of my purse to pay. While I dug, E. looked up at me from behind the counter and said, "you always look like you're angry." I wasn't sure whether to take that as a compliment or an expression of condolence. So I said, "well, I sure could use some botox between these brows, and I've had these frowny lines on either side of my mouth forever" and she said, with some kind of pity in her voice, "do you ever, you know, have a glass of wine or anything, or go do things in the evening?" Now I'm really wondering where that came from. Do I really look like a grumpy, lonely old spinster? So I said, "oh sure, (because I do), but usually I go home on Friday night and have carry-out dinner at home with my boyfriend" and her eyebrows shot up to her hairline. "YOU have a boyfriend??" (incredulity)

What am I to make of that? I paid, gave S. his tip, said good-night, strode home, had a big huge glass of wine, and took down my Amusing Musings profile photo, which I've always liked because I'm squinting into the early morning sun coming up over Yellowstone National Park, and that's what I'd like to be doing every morning. I've replaced it with a photo, of very recent vintage, with a less squinty look. But that's because, when it was taken, I wasn't greeting the sun coming up over Yellowstone.