Friday, September 26, 2014

Mother Nature Does Her Thing (Again)

On Friday, September 5, Jim & I were planning to meet friends at the Kalamazoo Art Hop, browse a bit, and go out for pizza. Rain and storms were predicted, but it was holding off when we entered the Park Trade Center. We looked west - toward our home - and the sky was very very dark. We figured the rain had arrived there.

A few minutes later, we started getting texts from our friends. Power was out. Trees were down. And soon, we could look out the window and see pouring rain.

We headed home, and discovered that our neighborhood had been damaged as well. Amazingly, our trees suffered minimal damage, but we found branches from other trees in our yard. We later discovered that our maple had one branch that had split, but not fallen (we're still waiting for the tree service to come take care of that).

We were lucky - Karen and John's tree had taken out our AT&T line back in August. That same tree was damaged in this storm, and two huge limbs landed in our yard, but this time, our AT&T line remained intact. There were lots of power outages, however, including our neighborhood.

Jerry & Rose, our neighbors to the north, had a hole in their attic wall. They had retreated to the basement, and heard a horrible crack. A tree had come down on the power line to their house, and as the line came down, it pulled off a section of their wall.

Apparently the damage was caused not by a tornado, but rather by straight-line winds. Jim and I commiserated with our neighbors, turned on our battery-powered radio, and settled in the front room with books and flashlights. Bonnie tried to figure out this new game plan.

The next day, we worked on dragging branches to the street, and cleaning up in general. The power company was out in force, including not just Consumers Power, but other companies as well. At one point, there were at least six trucks clustered around our intersection! Happily, our power came back around 1 pm on Saturday afternoon. Sometime the next week, city crews came by and cleaned up all the branches piled along the street.

Here are some photos. These first are from Friday night:

Kitty-corner to our house

Rose & Jerry's house - you can just see
the hole in their attic

This was at a house west of us;
the tree snapped below the ground!

Limbs from John & Karen's tree.
They took out our obsolete cable line

I saw this downed pole on Saturday morning, coming home from the Farmers Market:

At the corner of Drake and Sunnydale

Bonnie and I walked through the park, and the Friendship Village Woods, on Sunday morning. Nothing had been cleaned up there yet:

Frey's Park

Bonnie was amazed to find leaf smells at ground level

Frey's Park

This used to be a path in Friendship Village. Oops.

Continuing our walk through the neighborhood, debris lined the streets:

On Croyden, next to the school;
those roots were taller than me

Along Piccadilly

Along Piccadilly

Another shot of Rose & Jerry's house

Piccadilly

This is the area where the phone pole was down - apparently there were two poles down in that area, since this is further in from Drake:

On Sunnydale, looking toward Drake

Some lines still down here

What a mess!

In spite of the storm, some things continued to thrive:

Friendship Village

Friendship Village

Along Piccadilly

And of course, Bonnie thrives anytime there's a walk involved!

Trying out the new
sidewalk along Drake

Monday, September 15, 2014

Did I Miss Anything?

In early September, I came across a poem and a TED talk that both illustrate the importance of thinking and learning and participating.

The poem is delightful - two responses to the question that must drive teachers crazy: Did I miss anything?
Did I Miss Anything?
by Tom Wayman

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

     Everything. I gave an exam worth
     40 percent of the grade for this term
     and assigned some reading due today
     on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
     worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

     Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
     a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
     or other heavenly being appeared
     and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
     to attain divine wisdom in this life and
     the hereafter
     This is the last time the class will meet
     before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
          on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

     Everything. Contained in this classroom
     is a microcosm of human experience
     assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
     This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
          gathered

     but it was one place

     And you weren’t here
Jim and I watched a TED talk by Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy fame. He talked about his experience playing Jeopardy against a supercomputer, and how he felt that his skill - being a know-it-all - was being phased out. But then he talked about the advantages of just knowing things, and shared a remarkable story.
I always think of the story of a little girl named Tilly Smith. She was a 10-year-old girl from Surrey, England on vacation with her parents a few years ago in Phuket, Thailand. She runs up to them on the beach one morning and says, "Mom, Dad, we've got to get off the beach." And they say, "What do you mean? We just got here." And she said, "In Mr. Kearney's geography class last month, he told us that when the tide goes out abruptly out to sea and you see the waves churning way out there, that's the sign of a tsunami, and you need to clear the beach." What would you do if your 10-year-old daughter came up to you with this? Her parents thought about it, and they finally, to their credit, decided to believe her. They told the lifeguard, they went back to the hotel, and the lifeguard cleared over 100 people off the beach, luckily, because that was the day of the Boxing Day tsunami, the day after Christmas, 2004, that killed thousands of people in Southeast Asia and around the Indian Ocean. But not on that beach, not on Mai Khao Beach, because this little girl had remembered one fact from her geography teacher a month before.
Isn't that a great story? Who knows when some bit of knowledge is going to be handy. He talks about choosing to keep on learning, and offers this:
We make that choice by being curious, inquisitive people who like to learn, who don't just say, "Well, as soon as the bell has rung and the class is over, I don't have to learn anymore," or "Thank goodness I have my diploma. I'm done learning for a lifetime. I don't have to learn new things anymore." No, every day we should be striving to learn something new. We should have this unquenchable curiosity for the world around us. That's where the people you see on "Jeopardy" come from. These know-it-alls, they're not Rainman-style savants sitting at home memorizing the phone book. I've met a lot of them. For the most part, they are just normal folks who are universally interested in the world around them, curious about everything, thirsty for this knowledge about whatever subject.
It's a interesting and entertaining talk - go watch it!

Of course, if Bonnie asks did I miss anything? she is talking about either food, or Good Smells:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kali! Rain! Driving on Sidewalks!

Our niece Kali had an interview in Chicago, and offered to come early, so that we could drive over for a visit. So back on the 23rd (that would be August; still trying to catch up here), Jim & I hopped in the car and drove over to Dave & Joyce's home in Chicago. (We did make a brief stop at the Albanese candy factory. But you can't prove it - because we ate all the evidence - with help, of course).

After some discussion, we decided that we could fit all of us in Jim's car, and so Dave drove to Midway, where Kali's plane arrived a smidge early (that really happens?). 

We had pizza at Giordano's, but they messed up our order, and offered to charge us only half the price of the problem pizza (Jim would just have to pick out the peppers). But when the bill came, they had reduced the $20.75 charge to $12.00. Apparently math is not their strong suit...!

As we left the restaurant, it started to rain, and then to pour. I was glad we had squished into one car, so that I didn't have to drive in that storm.

Here the water was standing very deep, so Dave followed the drivers ahead of him, who avoided the water by driving far to the right, on the sidewalk:




Dave thought this was not a good spot to get back on the road:


So he kept driving on the sidewalk a bit further. Jim was nonplussed. A man watching us was surprised. Kali and I were delighted. Joyce, I think, was horrified.


Safely back at their place, out of the storm, we chatted and played games (Farkle - Jim won; SkipBo - Jim won)
Dave and Joyce

Kali

Jim

Dave and Robin

On the way home, Jim & I stopped in Chesterton, to switch drivers and get a snack. Jim noted that this is where we had our first meal as a married couple, way back when. So we took a picture:


Fun times!

School Starts and Life Gets Hectic

With the start of school this fall, I've started teaching early morning seminary for our church. Students in 9th thru 12th grade meet each school day, before school starts, for religious instruction. My class of five students includes students at three high schools (Portage Central, Kalamazoo Central, and Loy Norrix), as well as home schooled. To accommodate schedules, we meet at 5:55 am each morning. Yikes.

I am impressed with my students - they are there every morning, they are remarkably alert (given the hour), they seem happy to attend, they participate willingly. In spite of having to really scramble to stay on top of things, I am enjoying teaching these kids. I learned a lot about the gospel back in the day, when I attended seminary, and hope these youth will get a similar benefit.

Unfortunately, blogging has fallen to a very low spot on the totem pole, to the point of being pretty much neglected. I'm trying to catch up a bit today. This is a post that I started back in August, after our trip to Bronner's. 

Bronner's, of course, put us in a Christmas mood. To help it along, I started knitting some ornaments. I have a number in pieces, still unassembled, but here is a finished ornament. This is knit using a pattern by Emily Kintigh:


I've been working on my linen stitch scarf, and another hat, but neither shows much progress, so I have no new photos.

I do, however, have new yarn:


This is the September installment of the Dream in Color club yarn. It is fingering weight, dyed in all the colors of fall foliage. Frankly, this was a complete impulse purchase. I'm not sure what I'll knit with this, but it is lovely to look at.

As we slide into fall, and think about Christmas, here are some summer photos, from August:







Bonnie thinks there are much more interesting things to look at when we're out and about:


Monday, August 25, 2014

Tony and Antonia and Friends

A couple weekends ago, our friends John and Dominique drove over from Illinois and joined us for a quick trip to Sterling Heights, to see one of Jim's favorite performers.

Tony Bennett!

Lately, it seemed that every time we traveled, we'd see a billboard promoting a Tony Bennett concert, but it was always sold out. Jim started keeping an eye on Tony's website (yes, we're on a first name basis), and was finally able to purchase tickets to this show.


The show, with Tony Bennett and his daughter Antonia, was at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre. It was a beautiful evening, and we got there early enough to get food at the concession stand, and relax. (This is because our tickets listed the time as 6 pm. We thought we were late, but it turned out this is when the gates open, so we had time to spare.)

The sun was starting to set as everyone got settled in. 


Jim, Dominique, and John

It was a delightful performance. Antonia sang first, and was a real showman, chatting with the audience, highlighting the band members, and singing great songs. Tony performed a few numbers with her, as well as on his own. He is really amazing. He turned 88 on August 3, but still has a great voice, and charms and delights the crowd. At one point he asked, "would you mind if I sing some old standards?" Would we mind?!? What a silly question...

We spent the night at the Warren Courtyard Marriott, on Van Dyke (once we finally got out of the Freedom Hill parking lot, the hotel was just a few minutes away). (Nice hotel, decent breakfast in the morning.) We enjoyed a late dinner at Buddy's Pizza, nearby (Yum! Great pizza, and a charming waitress).

The next day, we drove up to Frankenmuth, since John and Dom' had never been to Bronner's Christmas store. We wandered around for a good while - they have every imaginable ornament, I swear. Showing great restraint, we bought just a couple ornaments (really, our tree has no room for more ornaments...!).

Bonnie was glad when we got home:


She got a walk, and we humans got some dinner, and then we talked and played Settlers of Catan (Dom' won on Saturday; Jim won Sunday's game).

With all the driving we did (and a late-night push), I finished knitting my hat:

It's reversible; this is the "inside"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shawl and Hat (Short and Sweet)

I have two projects to share today. First is my Mushishi Shawl, which I just finished this past weekend. The yarn, Mushishi, by Plymouth Yarns, was spun very loosely, which I think means that it will hold more air and make for a cozily warm shawl. It was also very pleasant to knit with.



This hat is one of several works-in-progress. I'm knitting it with a wonderful yarn, Winnifred's Washable, by Farmhouse Yarns. It is a hand-dyed merino / acrylic blend. The color is not as bright as this photo would lead you to think, but is instead very rich. This will be a luscious and comfy hat, I think.

Hat-in-progress