Thursday, July 29, 2010

The U of Me

For all I know, just about everyone has gotten jumbo postcard mailers from a company called Ink Pixi suggesting that they've founded a university. But today's mail was my first experience with being told that I could order a t-shirt with "Stribling University" on it. Or a long-sleeve shirt, or a sweatshirt or a hoodie or a cap.

I think it's a little late in life for me to aspire to become a robberbaron, and most of the good monopolies and cartels are taken anyway. That's the way to found a university. I doubt that I could get enough scratch together to endow a correspondence art school, much less a university.

Though it's impossible to read in this scan, the motto that Ink Pixi selected for my university -- and probably everyone who orders this kind of shirt -- is "Intellectus, Scientia, Sapientia." All fine virtues with a Thomist flavor, I guess, but we need to add the Latin for "fundraising" to acknowledge a more modern context.

On the back of the card are ordering instructions, including the line, "We can print any name!" Oh, yeah? What about Hitler University?


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chronos, Lord of the Hotel Wetland

I've written before about the still fairly new Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center, and can report that its oddball meeting-room names are still in place -- the Perfection Parlor and the Perfection Boardroom, as well as the Nirvana Threshold -- since I visited the place again today for an event. Which was held in the prosaic Schaumburg East, unfortunately. I could have used a morning on the threshold of nirvana.

Time was short, but I did manage to take pictures of one of the two major outdoor sculptures on site that I could see, the stainless steel "Chronos," by John C. Portman Jr., the Atlanta architect who also designed the hotel. Installed about three years ago, the sculpture sits in one of the artificial wetlands that are mandatory for large developments in our time (well, the mid-2000s; development has mostly stopped in our time).

According to the nearby sign, "the sculpture's cyclical fretwork... also hints toward technology and the internal workings of a clock." Maybe. I'm reminded more of a pocket-watch hitting the ground hard and exploding into pieces.

It's a sizable hotel and the sculpture is a fair-sized chunk of steel, but they clearly represent one of the smaller commissions for Portman, who's known for designing big things, including the first atrium hotel (Hyatt Regency Atlanta, 1967) and a lot else besides, for better or worse.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thread Counts

Sometimes Lilly will bring up a subject -- maybe some factoid about some celebrity I don't know and don't want to know -- and my response has evolved into, "I'll put that on my list." She knows what this means: my list of things I don't care about. It's chock-full of celebrities, for one thing. I'd go into more detail about the concept, but that would mean writing about things I don't care about.

Occasionally I'll pull something off the list and spend some time thinking about it because of a random incident. Such as the following:

"I never paid any attention to how many threads," the woman said. "I buy sheets and sleep on them, and I sleep pretty well."

Just a bit of conversation I heard recently when walking by two people, including the middle-aged woman who made the comment, at a store that offered an array of sheets, among other things. The sentiment seemed reasonable to me, and stuck in my mind, so back home I Googled "thread count." The very first hit was a place that sells sheets, but doesn't put a lot of stock in the concept of thread count either.

"In a quality product, the incremental comfort value of thread counts over 300 is very little," the site asserts. "A 300 thread count can feel far superior to a 1000 thread count. Thread count has become a simple metric used by marketing people to capture interest and impress with high numbers. The problem with mass-produced high thread-count sheets is that to keep the price down, [other] important elements of quality must be sacrificed, meaning in the end the customer gets a product with an impressive thread count but that probably feels no better (or even worse) than something with a lower thread count."

I still don't care enough about thread count to investigate how accurate that assessment is, but it sounds right. It wouldn't be the first time that marketing focused on something simple and only partly accurate in the interest of characterizing an ordinary item as a luxury good, and charging accordingly.

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Monday, July 26, 2010


A two-week-plus dry spell came to an end on Friday night and Saturday morning, with all kinds of lightning and rumbling thunder and inches of rain. Our patch of the suburbs didn't fare too badly, but some Chicagoland spots got as much as eight inches, complete with blackouts and floods. Rain is pleasant to fall to sleep to, but not so pleasant when you wake up a few hours later to hear that it's still raining hard. That's the kind of thing that makes you (me) get out of bed and check to strategically located drains near the house.

Before the rains on Friday, it was hot. Even though we have an air conditioner, we ducked out of the heat by going to the movies. It was about 20 degrees cooler in there. How often did that ever actually happen, even in the days when air conditioning was a selling point for movie theaters?

At the same multiplex, the kids in our family saw Despicable Me and the adults saw Inception, since both were starting at roughly the same time. About the former, I have no opinion, except that no matter what the producers did, they couldn't outdo Toy Story 3, so I didn't want to bother with it. Lilly and Ann seemed entertained by it afterward, so that counts for something.

As for Inception, it was high-quality entertainment, a combination of science fiction and action, with some elements of a heist movie or maybe Mission Impossible. Within its own context the story more-or-less made sense, which isn't something a lot of action movies manage to do. As far as I could tell, there weren't any SUV-sized holes in the plot, once you accepted the Leonardo DiCaprio-can-slip into-your-dreams premise, which isn't a particularly new SF idea.

I did wonder about a few things, though. Much of the movie took place in dreamscapes of various complexities, which is reasonable enough, considering the story. But the continuity is too good within the dreamscapes -- the continuity is like in a movie, not in a dream, which are well known for their major lapses in continuity (mine tend to be that way, anyway). Some of the movie's effects are remarkable, a good use of CGI, and some have dream-like elements, but even at four dream floors down in "limbo," you get movie narrative.

I can overlook that. Since it's a mainstream movie, it has to be that way. If the director had tried to add dashes of Un Chien Andalou and Meshes in the Afternoon and Eraserhead to the goings-on, the thing would have flown off the rails. Inception's complicated enough as it is, and in a way I'm surprised it's attracted as large an audience as it has, since you have to pay attention if you want to follow the story. Then again, besides all the science fiction elements, it's got plenty of chases and explosions and gunplay to satisfy adolescent movie-goers.

Oddly enough, the point that bothered me most was the notion that a Japanese industrialist could make one casual call and get unspecified federal (or state, it isn't clear) authorities in the United States to quash an outstanding arrest warrant or maybe a murder indictment (it's isn't clear), on his say-so -- in the waking world, not in a dream state (unless all the movie is a dream, something no scriptwriter has ever thought of). Money talks, of course, but not quite like that. Who did he speak to, exactly, to achieve that outcome? I don't think Akio Toyoda's going to try that maneuver anytime soon.

No matter, Inception's a cracking good yarn.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Item From the Past: PHC '85

My brother Jay and sister-in-law Deb introduced me to A Prairie Home Companion sometime in the early '80s during a visit to their home, and I've been an irregular listener ever since, enough to know most of the schtick. Some parts of show are admirable, a few parts annoying.

In the summer of 1985, the show came to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville and I went. I didn't write anything about it at the time that I can put my hands on now, but I enjoyed the show and do remember a few things. But not who any of the guests were, or what the monologue was about, as it happens.

Mainly I remember that Garrison Keillor warmed up the audience up before the broadcast actually started, and that involved inviting Lamar Alexander up on stage to play a little piano. Alexander was governor of Tennessee at the time and a skillful pianist besides. Keillor made some small talk with the governor, including something like, "You're from East Tenneesse, aren't you, Mr. Governor? [Alexander grew up near Knoxville.] You guys were on our side during the war."

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Thursday, July 22, 2010


I don't want ComEd, our electric utility, to get any more of my money than strictly necessary, so there are often summer days that I leave the air conditioner off. Today was one of those days, especially because it was cloudy in the morning. The house has good insulation, so it takes all day to heat up on a day like that. I don't usually notice as the inside temp slowly rises. Yuriko notices after she comes home from an air-conditioned office, however.

"Why is it so hot in here?" she says.

"We didn't notice," I answer.


"You know, like lobsters in a pot that's beginning to boil."

Drinking something cold during the day also helps. There's Kool-Aid (see July 8) and other kid beverages around, which I leave for the kids mostly, as well as carbonated soda, which I drink but never as much as the rest of my family -- the family I grew up in, nor the one that grows up around me now. Beer has its place, but largely as special-occasion drinking. Long ago, Yuriko brought home a 24-pack of one of the mainstream brews because it was on sale cheap, and it must have taken me about three years to get through it.

I also drink "roasted barley tea" in the summer. That doesn't sound like a good drink, but I never call it that. No one else in the house calls it that either. It goes by its Japanese name, mugicha (麦茶), around here. I've been drinking it for so many summers now -- as far back as the hot, AC-less Osaka summers -- that it's a flavor of summer for me. Drinking it any other time seems odd.

Currently we're working our way through a 52-bag package of Shirakiku brand mugicha, product of Japan. Since it's an import, it has an ingredient panel in English. It says, "Ingredients: Barley."

"It has a toasty taste, with slight bitter undertones, but much less so than tea made from tea leaves," writes the Japanese food blogger at Just Hungry, and a lot else besides about mugicha. She continues: "To me, it’s much more refreshing to drink than plain water."

I'll go along with that. But mugicha is an acquired taste. It looks like regular tea, and if you're expecting it to taste like regular iced tea, you'll be surprised. On their first try many Occidentals don't seem to care for it. That might have happened to me, but I don't remember, since I've taken to it so completely in the years since.

The simplicity of how it's made also appeals to me. Put a mugicha bag into a pitcher; fill it with cold water; put the pitcher in the refrigerator for a few hours. Drink. That's it. Perfect for summer.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Daughter of Earth and Water, Nursling of the Sky

July has been nearly as dry as June was wet in northern Illinois. The grass has turned a summer brown and the weedy Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) exults in parts of our yard, especially the spot where a garden used to be.

The back-yard deck is one of my favorite places around the house during summer. Except for those late-morning, early-afternoon cloudless hours when the Sun bears down on it intensely. By mid-afternoon, however, no matter how hot the day, the honey locust provides shade from the solar orb as it burns its way across the sky.

Some days, cumulus clouds float on by. Not long ago, I was able to take this picture, on impulse, sitting in one of the foldable camping chairs we keep on the deck.

Not bad. When I need a moment to put down whatever book I'm reading out on the deck (Digging Up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials right now), I can look for shapes in the clouds. I don't see much in this particular image, but often as not I'll see shapes from maps. One of these days, I want to see Sulawesi -- the Celebes, for old-timers -- up there, since it's one of the coolest map shapes there is.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Castro Set to Go the Way of Whitewall Tires

An oddity from Reuters the other day: "Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro took his warning of impending nuclear war to Cuba's Foreign Ministry on Friday, where he explained the reasons for his dire prediction in his fifth public appearance in 10 days."

What do I think of when I read that? Senility. Also the other day, but not the same day, I saw the third-season episode of Mad Men called "Love Among the Ruins," in which Betty Draper's elderly father Gene is clearly losing his mind. At the sound of sirens late one night in early '60s Ossining, NY, he starts pouring Don's liquor down the drain, fearing a Prohibition-era raid by the cops.

A few weeks ago I saw a different relic of the past much closer at hand: an all-orange Camaro. Terrifically, insanely orange -- about the same shade as a traffic cone, except shiny bright. I'm not an expert on that car, but I'd guess it was a mid-70s vintage. The best detail: matching orange-wall tires. It then occurred to me that you don't see many whitewall tires any more, even the little stripes that tires used to have. What happened with that? Wasn't that supposed to be a big-deal luxury for reasons no one could explain? Maybe that's why they faded away.

Anyway, the amazingly orange car was in the next lane over, waiting for the same red light that I was. Orange or not, I also think of the Dead Milkmen when I think of Camaros. That association probably doesn't please Chevrolet very much, but so it goes. In the mid-80s WRVU used to play "Bitchin' Camaro" occasionally. One time the deejay prefaced it by saying that the song had inspired a lot of angry complaints for its gratuitous, and cavalier, mention of AIDS. Then again, if you don't manage to upset people, your song isn't very punk.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Meditations on a Box of Korean Waffle Mix

Not long ago, Yuriko brought home a box of Korean waffle mix, acquired at H Mart, a Korean supermarket. Many basic ingredients of Japanese cuisine are available there at lower prices than at Japanese grocery stores, or for that matter, most small stores specializing in East Asian goods. Waffles aren't native to either Japan or Korea that I know of, but both have adopted them.

It's an artful box, sporting a studio-lit photo of a Belgian waffle topped with fruit, powdered sugar and ice cream. Since it's an import from Korea, almost everything on the box is written in Korean, as you'd expect, but there are splashes of English as well -- mainly "European Waffle Mix" and "Enjoy Home Baking." Why "European" and not "Belgian," I don't know. Either Belgium has no cache in Korea when it comes to waffles, or South Korea and the EU have some kind of trade agreement that bans calling waffles Belgian if in fact they're from somewhere else. Stranger things have emerged from the EU, I think.

Those are exactly the kind of English phrases you might also find on a Japanese box of waffle mix. A fair number of packed items in Japan -- and I suppose in Korea, too, from the evidence of this box -- include English not because they were created by English-speakers or bought by English-speakers but because (this is what Yuriko says) it makes the box look more exotic to Japanese-speakers.

It's like splashing a French name on a product, though it's a little hard to imagine a product for English-speakers using non-roman characters to make itself more exotic. People would eye the thing suspiciously and register a WTF moment, which usually isn't good for sales. Imagine if you saw the following on your waffle mix:

That's largest Hangul on the waffle-mix box, and whether it says the brand or "waffle mix" in Korean, I can't say. But would you ever find it on a box of Aunt Jemima or Bisquick pancake mix?

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Item From the Past: Cana Island, Door County

July 2001

Door County, the hangnail peninsula off the shape of Wisconsin), is very lush in July, and away from the coasts, I was surprised by the number of working farms -- especially along County EE, which cuts across the peninsula about halfway toward the top. For a few miles, you could have been driving on any rural road in central Wisconsin.

At a place called Cana Island -- which is really a peninsula off the peninsula, since a rocky bit of land connects it to the rest of Door County -- we stopped for a look around. Lilly was in the mood for a roam around the high hedges.

Cana Island sports a fine old 1880s lighthouse. We could go into the former light house keeper's house, but not the lighthouse, since it's still in operation.

Cherries, a local crop in season, were on every menu. We had them in the form of pie and a milk shake. One evening we attended a fish boil in a town on the Lake Michigan side, with the fish-boil master building a large wood fire in a fire ring outside to heat the black kettle, which is full of potatoes and onions and locally caught fish. To make the thing boil over, the fish-boil master adds a spot of accelerant to the fire. Whoosh!

Afterward, the fish and other ingredients are served up in mass quantities for some good eating.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer Questions

I heard the never-changing "Turkey in the Straw" on our street this afternoon, so I stepped out to watch the ice cream truck go by, and to take a picture of it. For some reason, it's been an ambition of mine (a very minor one) to take a picture of an ice cream truck, and now I have.

What are the economics of ice cream trucks anyway? That is, how can selling frozen treats to random children on suburban streets cover overhead and generate a profit? Was it a lot harder when gas was over $4 a gallon two summers ago? Is there such a thing as a hybrid ice cream truck?

Parking at an event would kick up sales, but only so many trucks can do that. Do they fight over turf? Are there really ice cream wars? (Wiki describes the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars: "The conflicts, in which vendors raided one another's vans and fired shotguns into one another's windscreens, were more violent than might typically be expected between ice-cream salesmen.")

These are summer questions that I ask myself, but which I don't want to bother finding out the answers to. Maybe it's a good topic for the Freakonomics guys.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Some Extra Ambience for the Evening

Lilly invited two of her friends over for a mid-summer's sleepover this evening and even now are watching a DVD of Paranormal Activity, which I understand is about a demon or ghost or otherwise unpleasant spirit that bothers people. I missed the movie when it was new, and have little interest in it now, so I'm passing the time in my office.

Because of a quirk in the acoustics of the house, music played in my office can be heard fairly well in the living room, where the girls are watching. So a few minutes ago I cued up this on YouTube.

The video mentions The Exorcist, and I suppose that's fitting, but I know it from the original album, Tubular Bells, by Mike Oldfield. I've had a tape of that music for a long time, and even in recent years -- maybe about once a year -- when no one else is home, I play it all the way through loud. If you know it, you know it: ... two slightly distorted guitars... mandolin... Spanish guitar and introducing acoustic guitar... TUBULAR BELLS!

I don't think of demons at all when I hear it, probably because I never saw The Exorcist. But that didn't stop me from playing the YouTube "Exorcist" selection loud enough for the girls to hear it in the background. It wasn't long before Lilly said, "Stop trying to scare us!"

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Someone Else Was Sitting Around With a Book For a Change

I went to get my hair cut today and while I was waiting, a nondescript kid, maybe 11 or 12, came in to wait for a cut himself, and opened up a book to read. He had a hardback without a dust jacket, so I couldn't see the title. But for the purpose of my observation that didn't matter.

It was a kid with a real book, here in the middle of summer when it's unlikely to be assigned reading. It wasn't a comic book or graphic novel or Amero-manga. It wasn't the current equivalent of a Game Boy or any other kind of electronic time-killer, or a Kindle. It was an honest-to-God verso-recto book made of paper.

Cracking a book was more surprising that almost anything else he could have done, up to and including riding a unicycle into the shop and parking it to wait for his haircut.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Ann's Starry Night

You can call it mid-mid summer, maybe. Our back-yard cicadas, if that's what they are, have cranked up the volume by day, and the crickets are beginning to sound off by night.

We haven't been out to see many dark skies this summer, but even in the washed-out suburban skies I point out things to my children. I can't be sure whether anything I say adds to the sum total of what they see, yet I offer my comments anyway. But it wasn't me who showed a print of "The Starry Night" to Ann. Toward the end of first grade, her art teacher did, and then Ann painted this:

I didn't see it until the other day. Ann had brought it home with other school-debris, and it was shunted off somewhere or other. It's too large to scan, so I photographed it, which has washed out some of the deep blues she used. So the original is more vivid than my image here, and the texture of the brush strokes, especially of the "wind," is hard to see in the photo.

Normally I don't gush much over my children's artwork -- they're usually childish pieces, after all -- but this one's an interesting creation for a seven-year-old.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Item From the Past: Canadian Waters

In July 2006, after visiting Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks, in Banff National Park in Alberta, I bought a postcard that depicted the famed vista below (which is my own photo, not the postcard's image) and sent it to my old friend Ed, who's well acquainted with the Canadian Rockies. On the card I wrote only: "Oh My God!"

Next is an image of the Columbia Icefield, on the border of Banff NP and Jasper NP. This vantage looks like we might have taken ice axes in hand and adventured our way up the icefield to reach this point, but of course we didn't. There's a bus that goes on to the icefield, and specific places you can wander around it without much risk.

Some miles to the north in Jasper NP is Athabasca Falls. It isn't known for its height, which is about 80 feet. But it's got power. All of the Athabasca River rushes to the precipice and drops over. The river's in a hurry to reach the Arctic Ocean.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Go Ahead, Drink the Kool-Aid

Here's something I'd never heard of until today: the Villejuif leaflet, which sparked a food panic in the 1970s and '80s, mostly in Europe, and especially in France. It was a simple list spread by pre-Internet methods (mimeographs and photocopies, probably) claiming that a number of well-known and harmless chemicals were in fact highly carcinogenic, and conversely that a number of dangerous chemicals were harmless. These days, nonsense travels faster, but it always got around.

Reportedly millions were befuddled by the leaflet, which was falsely attributed to the Gustave-Roussy Institute in Villejuif, France, which specializes in oncology. The leaflet touted citric acid (E330) as an especial menace, something not even the most rabid food purists would claim then or now. More about the leaflet is here, as well as being mentioned in a book on the theory and practice of rumors.

I found out about the leaflet because of the packets of Kool-Aid I have in my kitchen. They're the genuine articles, owned by Kraft Foods these days, with Kool-Aid Man right there on the front. Not long ago Lilly and I were at the grocery store and she asked me to buy Kool-Aid. She'd never asked for it before, but she's taken to drinking it at a friend's house. I'd never bought it for her, mainly because it had never occurred to me. The last time I was a consumer of Kool-Aid, along with a fair amount of Hi-C (a Coca-Cola brand) and Funny Face (a Pillsbury brand), was during the Nixon administration.

What's the main ingredient of Kool-Aid? I didn't know, so I checked: citric acid. That information led to my Villejuif tangent. Runner-up ingredients are maltodextrin, calcium phosphate, salt, artificial flavor, vitamin C, Red 40 and Blue 1.

Everything has a history; and so it is with Kool-Aid. It's just another thing we have Hastings, Nebraska, to thank for.

At 20¢ a pack, which is what I paid, Kool-Aid is actually much cheaper now than during the Great Depression, adjusted for inflation. It sold for a nickel a pack in those days, it seems, which the Fed's inflation calculator tells me had the equivalent of about 85¢ worth of purchasing power today. One more thing: if the Kool-Aid Man broke down your wall or fence, how would you explain that to the claims adjuster?


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Sparklers of '10

As a firework, sparklers are underrated. Maybe because there's no explosions. I'm all for recreational explosions, but that doesn't exclude sparkler-play now and then. We still had some left over from the summer of 2009 (we bought a lot) and lit a number of them up in the darkened back yard recently.

Or maybe sparklers are dismissed as not XTreme! enough, though of course people manage to burn or otherwise harm themselves every year with sparklers. Mostly little kids, sorry to say. Adult supervision is required, as the package says. It's a task I don't mind doing.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Things That Glow Briefly in the Dark

I was curious today if there were any statistics on the cancellation of municipal July Fourth fireworks displays in this aching year, but I was only able to find anecdotal evidence of the trend after a total of about five minutes at Google News, so I decided the question wasn't worth any more time. The first thing I put into the search was "fireworks" (instead of "fireworks canceled" or "fireworks cancellation"), so naturally all the fireworks accident stories from the holiday weekend popped up, including this ghastly one: "Long Island man blows off left arm while trying to light fuse on fireworks." It seems he was fooling around with an unforgiving mortar. As mortars tend to be.

Northwest suburban Wheeling, Illinois, canceled its Fourth of July fireworks this year. We went there last year and during the mid-2000s for good shows in a spacious park that has a nearby neighborhood in which to park your car. Last year's show was probably already in the Wheeling budget before the Panic of 2008, but when the time came to consider the expense for 2010, shooting off 'works lost out.

West suburban Westmont, Illinois, on the other hand, went ahead with its show at Ty Warner Park, named for the Beanie Baby mogul who donated $3 million for its creation in the late '90s. Ty Inc. headquarters is in Westmont, so maybe he ponied up to help pay for the display this year. In any case, the show was on in our former town, so we went.

We had our Coolpix S200 and for some reason Lilly was possessed to take pictures during the display. Maybe because, astonishingly, the camera has a setting for fireworks. Most of the images look like fuzzy pics of fireworks. But some of them are light traces that cry out for the addition of bogus captions. I'm just the man for that job.

Deep in the Tonga Trench lives a eerily bioluminous Narcomedusa Jellyfish -- only its hair-like protrusions glow against a pitch-dark body -- believed to be a new genus and species discovered and photographed by Japanese scientists in 2002 by remote submersible but not seen since. Jellies happen to be among the least understood groups of animals on Earth.

Captured at the Very Large Tevatron Collider near Stuttgart, Germany (Größtenpartikelgeschlammer), is this image of two Higgs bosons, types W and Z, colliding in a recent test. A supercomputer turned the invisible tracks of the particles into a color-coded graphic representation for further study.

Another computer enhanced image, this one is of X-ray emissions from Eta Carinae, a Peculiar star, taken by NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Other stars are in the background.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

This Cantigny Bower Not My Prison

Back again on July 6. In the meantime, Uncle Sam Wants You (To Use Pyrotechnics).

Besides roses, there were plenty of other flowers and assorted plants at the gardens of Cantigny, including a Begonia Empire that featured nonstop pink, nonstop deep red, nonstop orange, nonstop fire; an Impatiens Kingdom; and a Millet Purple Majesty Realm. But nothing on the grounds pleased me more than the pergola, or if you prefer, bower or arbor. Whatever you call it, the one at Cantigny had several comfortable places to sit. This is the eye-level view from that sitting-place.

And looking up.

When, unfortunately, you have to leave the wonderful pergola of Cantigny, because all things pass, at least there's a nearby pond to walk around. Eventually, on the other side of the pond, you'll get a look at the entirety of the pergola, along with its reflection in the pond.

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