Sunday, August 29, 2010

I rode with Lance (and 50,000 others)

Today was Madison's third Ride the Drive event.  Six miles (10 km.) of major downtown city streets were closed to all motorized vehicles from 10 to 4.  Lance Armstrong came to ride. I didn't actually see him, but we were out on the route at the same time.
A few places were so crowded riding was slow but it was great to be in such a huge group of cyclists. For fun, it sure beats being in a traffic jam of cars.
The police and volunteers did a fabulous job of keeping things running smoothly and most of the route was wide enough to ride at a good rate.
We stopped for lunch and got a nice 10% discount for showing our Bicycle Benefits helmet sticker. Ah, if only summer could last longer...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Opinions and advice from my neighbors

People in our neighborhood love bumper stickers. This is the most popular one.
We are big on tolerance slogans (except maybe for tolerating ignorance).
 For some, the answers seem very clear.
A lot of my neighbors are very peaceful.
Family is important.

We have opinions on evolution.
 But sometimes we are just plain perplexed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Out on the prairie—by bike

One of the joys of our city is that bike paths have proliferated in recent years and it's easy to ride to a prairie. Prairie used to cover much of Wisconsin and helped create the rich soil that attracted European immigrants. A tiny part of original prairie remains but the UW Arboretum has been at the forefront of research on prairie restoration.
  I love the feeling of space when I'm in a prairie and prairie flowers in bloom seem to change weekly. Here are some photos of prairies easily accessible by bicycle from my house.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chasing rainbows

Near the cloud forests in the mountains of Costa Rica, rainbows frequently last for over an hour. In the Midwest, where I grew up, rainbow are so rare and fleeting it never occurred to me that since rainbows are at a fixed angle relative to the sun, as the sun rises, a rainbow will set. In the afternoon, as the sun sinks, the rainbow rises.

I thought that people living where there are frequent and prolonged rainbows would become jaded but once a Costa Rican friend driving us along a country road stopped and backed up so we could admire a particularly fine rainbow. He and his wife exclaimed with as much delight as Mr. Rududu and I did.
   A rainbow makes the plainest of scenery quite dramatic. This is a rainbow I saw from a train in Kansas.
 In our house we have crystals hanging in some of our windows and on sunny days we can enjoy rainbows without the inconvenience of rain.
To increase my color vocabulary I am working a art project to go through the rainbow spectrum, giving equal time to all the colors. Well, "work" isn't the right word. It's really more like play.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Molting can be a beautiful thing

It's always a delight to see something for the very first time. This week I saw a cicada nymph emerging from its skin (molting) to become an adult. I've found many empty cicada skins but rarely have seen a live cicada, and never one molting. The wings are tiny at first and unfurl much as a butterfly's wings do. The cicada gets darker after a little while, but I adored its fresh pale green and the delicate gold dot on its head.
There are over 2500 species of cicadas in the world and over 160 in North America. Identification is easier in Europe where there is just one species. Their life cycles can vary from one year to 17 depending on the species. Once they emerge from the ground (where they spend most of their lives) they live only long enough to molt and mate. In Japan they are a symbol of impermanence.
Some sing loud enough that if one was near your ear it would deafen you. Good thing they like to sing from high up in trees. Big groups of singing cidadas in the Midwest are sometimes very loud, but not nearly as loud as some I've heard in the tropics.  In Costa Rica, there is a species that sounds just like an automatic rotating sprinkler.
There are even more photos of a cicada molting here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tomato heaven

  This summer I planted 3 tomato plants in my flower garden. I'm not much of a gardener—I try to weed my garden of low maintenance flowers and plants twice a year whether it needs it or not. I have ignored my tomato plants in an almost criminal manner and should probably be turned over to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Vegetables. Nevertheless, I have already harvested a lot of cherry tomatoes and my heritage variety just started producing huge tomatoes.
My favorite thing to do with home grown, flavorful tomatoes is make bruschetta.  It's so simple you don't need a recipe and probably everyone already knows how to make it, but here's my super easy method. It doesn't involve turning on the oven, which is generally a bad idea since tomato season is by definition hot.
 Get out one plate per person. Pour a spoonful of olive oil onto your plates. Toast a piece of substantial bread in the toaster. Rub one or both sides of the toast with a piece of raw garlic. Plunk the toast down on the olive oil. Chop of some really ripe tomatoes and some fresh basil leaves. Pile them on to the toasts. Drizzle with some more olive oil and salt to taste. Consider serving with some sweet corn and a hunk of good cheese.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My music adventure from Java

We've been playing with the University of Wisconsin Javanese Gamelan for quite some time. Gamelan is the name of the entire orchestra of instruments, in this case for the court tradition of central Java.
This summer we played with a group of students attending intensive language classes at the SEASSI program. We had a mixed group: complete beginners and very experienced musicians—and just 7 weeks to put together a concert. I think our leader this summer, Steve Laronga, did an amazing job getting us ready. The concert was outside and featured 3 dance pieces. Since two of the pieces were danced to recorded music, it gave me a rare chance to really watch the dance, albeit from the back.
Gamelan has added so much to our lives: we've become friends with many Indonesians and benefited from having a circle of very musical friends, including many ethnomusicologists. Playing with the UW gamelan has been a great way to have young friends; recently we've been playing with students who weren't even born when we first started playing. A trip to Indonesia was made more interesting because we were able to visit many former teachers and attend lots of performances. And last but not least, Indonesian food is really delicious. Before every concert we have a special meal, called a selamatan, to insure that the concert goes well. It usually seems to help; it certainly did this weekend.
   Here's a one minute YouTube video of one of our pieces.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My knitting crawls along

I wanted to knit the Garden Snail from Amigurumi Knits by Hansi Singh. On my first attempt the inside part, called the mantle, was too big for the shell, so it became a banana slug.
The banana slug is the mascot of the University of California at Santa Cruz, so I will send it to a friend who went there. (Fortunately I knit this in yellow, or I don't know what I would have done with it. It would make an extremely odd toy for a child.) On my second attempt, I decreased my knitting needle two sizes and left out a bunch of rows to make the mantle both shorter and smaller around.
As far as crawling along, that's what my knitting is doing right now. It's summer and I have a lot of summer things to enjoy. (Having a big pile of yarn on my lap when it's hot isn't one of them.) But really, the only reason I have knit so many things is because I'm a steady knitter, not a particularly fast one. Perhaps that's why I identify with snails. Sooner or later we get there.