It's Memorial Day 2010

A day of reflection, of remembering the past, those that came before us. Largely heralded now as a time for ribs on the BBQ, it's intention has been blurred in recent years. It is, however you view it, Memorial Day.


Town House Cafe, Saint Charles, Illinois

Gorgeous 90F day for a salad lunch at Town House Cafe with Jay and Cathy, then walked to the Saint Charles art festival to see plenty of classic and modern art vendors and meet the artists themselves.  Although I can write, which is its own art, I cannot draw.  But Jay met a Geneva pencil drawing artist who'll be his future teacher, and Cathy was inspired to recreate paper design art with folded paper in the shape of kimonos, fish and people; I'll post when she makes her own creations in her workshop.  Me, I just encouraged my two "artsy" companions to hit the concession stand at Pot Park for a Fudgsicle.

Stones Wild Horses

Slow it down with the man with the lips. That Charlie Watts looks like he's gonna pass out cold.

The Island Park Bridge, Geneva, IL


The Dixie Swim Club

Evening began with a lovely meal at Francesca's By The River in St. Charles, IL; the ladies enjoyed salmon and asparagus, and I had penne pasta with homemeade mozarella.  Fine conversation and fun place.

"Dixie Swim Club," which is being presented at Steel Beam Theatre beginning May 21.
"The whole key is the relationships working in the show," said David Belew, the play's director. "Part of the show's appeal is seeing the relationships; seeing how these people get along."
"Dixie Swim Club," written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, is about five women from a college swim team who meet every year at a seaside cottage to rekindle their bonds. The show covers four such gatherings, starting when the women are 44 and ending with a portrait of 77-year-olds visiting the cottage for the last time.

Enjoyed a groovy Saturday night out with two ladies, Linda and Cathy, and no, we weren't be in Key Largo to see this comedy.  But, fun in the front row of the theatre in the western suburbs of  Chicago.

Finished up the evening with a nightcap at David and Alexia's party, drank Chinese beer while looking at photos from their China vacation, and saw many friends from the condominium.  Happy Memorial Day!

Dennis Hopper, 1936-2010

Negra Modelo

Thank you to our neighbors Alexia and Dave for having us over for wine and Negra Modelo last evening on their patio.  It was yummy, and your shared stories, as usual, were funny and interesting.  Spoke about China trips, terra cotta soldiers, the Great Wall, trucks in parking garages, past friends...and life.  You cats rock!

P.S. I have that "internet" money burning a hole in a niche in my pocket now, ready for dining out this summer.  I'll shoot you an email soon to find dates.


Review Of Fleetwood Mac's The Dance Live DVD

My review:

Fleetwood Mac, unless you are a true fan, really puts on a senseless, energy-drained show here that you'll sicken of faster than a can of Gummie Worms at the State Fair. And State Fairs, indeed, are where this group ought to be playing; right next to Whitesnake and Rick Springfield and the demolition derby and blue ribbon goats.

Buckingham gets his ya-yas out a couple times on lead guitar, but other than that, the ladies sound warbly and the bass player John just stands there (like he has for his entire career). Christine still looks youthful; an unsung MaryAnne next to Stevie's more often photographed Ginger. Christine remains a comely British school marm ready to spank your wrists for looking up her skirt, so that's one redeeming feature. Yet that small pleasure is offset by Mick's still googly eyes and lanky figure sweating behind his drum kit. Thanks for putting a camera right by Mick so that I can get scared out of my easy chair every time he stares those cue balls at the camera.  I'll project this footage on my house for Halloween and scare off all the kids.

I wish I could say that Fleetwood Mac are rockers, but alas, they are little more than Lawrence Welk on methamphetamines. Sure, Don't Stop pushes the metronome to 40 mph from Fleetwood Mac's usual school zone pace, but seriously rip-snortin' rock and roll this just ain't, brothers and sisters. No matter how much Dolby 5.1 Surround and DVD fog-filtered quality you throw at this show, the music remains elevator quality drivel. The passage of time has, in my opinion, shown the Mac's music to be thinner than the veils around Stevie's midsection paunch. 


A Hearty Lunch

Nothing like a plate of Swedish meatballs, cranberry sauce and garlic mashed potatoes with gravy.


A Comforting Deli at Night? Nope, IKEA in Schaumburg

Indianapolis 500 Raceway Time Trials Today

Enjoyed a wonderful day at the Indy 500 Raceway with Dad and son and cars that went vroom vroom to 226 mph!  Gorgeous day, no rain, 80F, all sun, and great views.  Danica is like the Tiger Woods of Indy sports, and she even caught hell on national media for blaming the car for her abysmal 223 mph showing. Click this link to read about it:
Danica's story at Indiana 500 Time Trials 2010

We saw Milka Duno race for speed, but did not see a towel throwing cat fight between she and Ms. Patrick:

And we saw Dario Frachitti, a.k.a. Mr. Ashley Judd vying for pole position and doing very well, and no crashes like that in his past:

Stones Monkeying Around

Holy madness! And it came out in 1969 on Let It Bleed.

I was watching Goodfellas with mancub this springtime and when Jimmy and Henry are hanging out in the coffee shop getting ready for Tommy to be "made", Scorsece throws in some classic Stones Monkey. This song absolutely haunts. The piano intro, the slide guitar over Keiths' sloppy telecaster, and Mick is never one to mind belting out idiotic phrases that mean nothing--and yet oh, so much. "I'm a cold Italian pizza".

And that tambourine.  Oh, that tambourine.

Anyone who can resist turning this classic to full volume can fuggedaboutit!


Fox River Illinois Boating/Paddling Restriction Finally Lifted After 1 Week

The Beacon News (AP News, May 21, 2010): The restricted boating area between the Montogomery and Algonquin dams on the Fox River was lifted Friday, May 21.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Conservation Police and Kane County Office of Emergency Management agreed it was once again safe to boat on the Fox River, beginning at 9 a.m. Heavy rains had caused high water and rapid currents that led the agencies to restrict boating the week before.

On May 14, the current at the Algonquin Dam was measured flowing at 5,380 cubic feet per second - more than twice its normal rate, according to information posted on the office of emergency management website. The gage height of the river then was nearly 11 feet.

Ever Try To Save Something, But It Still Gets Away From You

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My Next Door Neighbor's Secret Garden

River Walk: Town Asleep at 0430.

Splendid river walk for well over two hours today, 430AM to 715AM.  Chicago Area Sea Kayakers are correct.  The river is flooded into the parks in St. Charles and Geneva, and the park is closed with barricades.  The river, except above the dams, is very swift.  Paddling upstream would not be be possible in the narrows, under bridge, and toward any dam (PaddleUpStream, bruce, and Magicpaddler know what I mean, like the stretch below the Carpentersville Dam.... we'd never make it today).

The sunrise was purple varigation today, and I caught much of it on my DSLR.  Took out the 50mm prime lens, and learned more about photography on my own in 160 minutes than I have in all the other time working the camera.  Zoom with the legs, shutter speed, etc.  Very hard, for instance, to take a photo of anything bright, like a window, when everything around it (like the house itself) is in the dark.  The lighting contrast is too extreme, even for a f1.4 lens.  I really do enjoy the 50mm prime (effectively 85mm on my cropped sensor), just as my brother said I would.  I'm going to see if my neighbors want me to take their photos sometime so I can work on my portraiture skills.  A glorious day ahead.  Although alone time is fabulous for airing out the cobwebs, it's super to have friends and loved ones.  I'm truly blessed.


Algonquin Illinois Paddle Tomorrow

Launching north of the Algonquin dam, pictured here.  Read my prior blog (see small box below) and get details and join in the revelry.

POSTPONED due to low level of physical fitness and high level of water. The Chicagoland rains have the Fox running full bore, and upstream paddle will be a struggle at best and Godforsaken at worst.  CASKA considering cancelling Sunday's paddle on DesPlaines, so our little adventure on Saturday is ill advised.  Will reschedule.

ADDENDUM: from my CASKA group website for May 15, Saturday: Sgt Morelock of IDNR informs us that due to hazardous high water conditions, the Fox has been closed from the Montgomery Dam north to the Algonquin dam in Kane County.

Here's a very common kayaking story, could be any one of my kayaking buddies.  I did not know this man.  Sounds ominous.

Emergency Crews Searching St. Joseph River for Missing Kayaker.
South Bend, IN  Crews combed the St. Joseph River, north of South Bend, after a kayaker went missing there Wednesday evening. Dennis Houck, 60, of South Bend went kayaking around 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon after returning home from work, and hasn't been seen since.
    Houck's wife said he is an experienced kayaker who is training for an upcoming competition. He normally goes kayaking off from the Riverside boat launch near Darden Road and goes north towards Niles before turning around. An off-duty St. Joseph County police officer reported seeing a kayaker heading southbound on the river just north of Auten Road around 4:30 p.m., which is consistent with his normal routine.
    Around 8:10 p.m., rescuers were notified that Houck was missing and launched two boats from South Bend and Clay Township about 20 minutes later. Houck's vehicle was found near the Darden boat launch. A capsized kayak was located in the 51200 block of Lilac Rd around 9:15 p.m. Houck's son confirmed to rescue crews that the boat belonged to his father. Clay Fire told NewsCenter 16 a life vest was located inside the kayak. Family says Houck sometimes wears a life vest, and sometimes he does not.
    Once the kayak was located, Niles Fire joined the search by launching two additional search boats. Rescue crews called off the search around 11:30 p.m. because of the darkness and conditions on the river. They plan to resume searching Thursday morning around 7 a.m., but could delay the search if weather conditions make the river unsafe for boats. St. Joseph County Police were unsure if river conditions at the time were unsafe for a kayaker. Houck is described as a white male 6'5'' weighing 175 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray shirt and blue jeans.


My Bay State Road Home

I lived, for my sophomore year in undergraduate at Boston University, in the first red brick brownstone on the right, second story, facing Bay State Road.  Snow is common in Boston, but this road shines in springtime.  Blooming trees, brownstones come alive with open windows and music, and students walking to and from class.  An urban school, I loved my years at B.U.


Tinkers By Paul Harding

My note tonight to Massachusetts debut novelist Paul Harding, on his Amazon webpage, regarding my experience with (the first half) of his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Tinkers. 

"Paul--as a Massachusetts native myself, I can relate to Tinkers, and I can honestly say, I think you've written the type of book that will age like Bordeaux wine, and an appreciation of what you've written, particularly as the Baby Boomers approach the age of your protagonist, will grow over the years. It's a deep read. I love the way the book meanders. How it moves back and forth through time, but never forced, it's never contrived. George's recollection of his past family experiences, especially with his father Howard, provides rich hints of how he has become himself through his heritage. And now, dying in the family homestead living room, with grandchildren and children around, he's hollow. Yearning for the past. Waxing and waning in and out of consciousness, you've captured the ebbing of memory, the tides running out as the hours of George's life recede. Frankly, I am 50% of the way through it now, but am so riveted by your use of language, I just had to look you up on Amazon and type out this message. Great work. A masterwork, really. I suppose I should reserve my comments until the end, huh; sure sure, it could have a real dud of a finale. But I'm thinking it won't, Paul. From one Yankee to another, you've hit a homer here. Like Jim Rice and Fred Lynn in 1975, their rookie year, you've hit the long ball in your debut effort with Tinkers. Coolkayaker1"

The Gorgeous Homes of Geneva

Geneva, Illinois is a treasure trove of old homes, each unique, that have been kept in their turn-of-the-century glory by current owners.  Many streets feature a blend of retail and home spaces, and it's this intermingling that adds charm to Geneva's rich downtown.  The side streets, such as this one leading to S. River Lane, are where the hidden gems lie, waiting to be found by anyone willing to shed a little shoe leather.


Metal Mulisha at Mayhem Festival

I'm stoked to find out that Metal Mulisha, the dirt bike team, will be at Mayhem Heavy Metal Festival when I hit it with M and J.  Monster rock!  Check out these videos. Gnarly, dude.

Tracy Chevalier's Novel: Yawn!

I read Girl With A Pearl Earring in its entirety on Kindle For ipod.  Why I would choose this novel, I can only surmise: I was intrigued by Vermeer, the 16th century painter with only three dozen or so total works to his name.  Greit, his handmaiden, falls for the painter.  Vermeer not only paints her picture, but allows her to wear his wife Catharine's pearl earrings.

The book is the debut novel from Tracy Chevalier, a female writer who has now had other published works.  This particular book, her best selling, is written like a high school senior jotting a story for lit class.  It's stilted dialogue, cliches (e.g. "one brick short of a load" for a crazy person) and snail-paced story make for a complete waste of time.  This love story is not at all recommended.

My next read, as I finish up Generosity by local author Richard Powers, is the Pulitzer prize winning Tinker.

Hint: so far, Tinker is amazing!


A Post On Thread By Me Warning Of Poisoned River

Coolkayaker1 writes: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will be dumping Rotenine, a fish poison, in the Little Calumet River by the truckload from May 20 onward for five days (some days are collecting fish rather than poisoning the waterway). It's been posted on Chicago Area Sea Kayakers website as a serious caution.

I think this will not affect our Fox River paddle trip unless someone falls out of the kayak and gulps a giant swig of river water. Then they'll have a wicked bad belly ache before convulsing at home that night on the floor and chomping their inner cheeks to hamburger.

If that happens to any paddler from our trip, when you fall down and your eyes roll back into your head (and before the creeping jeebies completely overwhelm your nervous system like lightening strikes in a spring shower at Yellowstone National Park), quickly use your elbows to Army crawl over to a piece of furniture and get your mouth around a wooden chair leg. You may chip a few teeth from the force of the involuntary mandible contractions against the rock maple, but it might just keep your mouth and windpipe clear of saliva and minced tongue. No way around this, though: your head will beat the floor like wooden sticks on a bass drum playing Wagner's Ride Of The Valkyries. But fear not, you won't remember a thing about your rotenine-induced conniption fit. Conversely, the helpless loved ones around you will never forget it.

See you on the water!


The Side Courtyard, Herrington Hotel, S. River Lane

Stones Street Fighting Man

Love the way Mick floats his voice, up and down and up and down and up and... He just sings it. Don't matter no how if'n it makes any sense, man!


Looking Across From The Geneva Dam

A tiny pocket beach at the base of the Geneva, IL State Street Bridge, May 2010.


The Little Traveler In Geneva, IL

And my truck parked in front of it while I wait for my wife to drop off something.  Our neighbor in central Illinois and I were having a general conversation about the lake behind our homes, and I casually mentioned our Geneva condo, and lo and behold, her daughter-in-law lives about four blocks from us in Geneva, IL! Well, our neighbor had a tapestry to return to Little Traveler, and we're happy to drop it off.

What a teensy, weensy world.


Four Different Exposure Times: Geneva Dam

Nothing earth-shattering, but in a morning sunrise I stood by the Fox River and shot four pictures with the Time Priority mode engaged.  The top photos is with, as I recall, 1/3 second exposure, the second down is about 1/10 second, third down 1/40 exposure, and bottom photo is 1/250 exposure.

Findings: faster exposure = darker image and more static water.  Slower exposure, more light and silky water.

I plan to get a darkening filter, which will allow silky water effect in sunlight (i.e. prevent overexposure).

What is interesting to me is, in time control mode, the camera controls the other camera settings automatically (white balance, aperture size, etc) and it still cannot overcome the extremes of time lag.  It compensates best it can, and that's it (thus bleached out top photos).  What I am still learning, though, is that if a photographer is seeking a certain type of photo--a certain photo quality or effect--they will need to control all the settings.

The camera does well on automatic, but not perfectly. It's particularly poor on auto setting if there is high contrast in the photo subject--a window behind the subject, a sunburst through the clouds, a white and black checkered background, and such.  Plenty to learn.


My Brother Saw The Fabled iPad & He Agreed With These Thoughts

Sanshin in a Boat

Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Nothing,worth half so much doing as simply playing sanshin in boats!! From my friend, Tsunamichuck, sanshin player and expert sea kayaker.

The Big Edge, Las Vegas, NV

I am an avid kayaker.  I love kayaks and everything to do with paddling.  Then how in the world did I miss this prickly site when I went to Las Vegas last month?  Interestingly, it's near the entrance to a City Center hotel, and we walked all around that complex and never saw it.  My pal Alexia emailed me about it, and now I know it exists.  Wow, it's breathtaking.  Nancy Rubin's design.  My garage has a similar look to it, frankly. An unnatural tangle of boats and gear.


A Country Living Room

Stones The Police In New York City

Gritty tales, typical of the Stones. These videos are meant for listening, not watching. Groove it. Absolutely one of my favorites.

The police in New York City,
they chased a boy right through the park.
And in a case of mistaken identity
they put a bullet through his heart.

Heart breakers with your forty four,
I wanna tear your world apart,
you heart breaker with your forty four,
I wanna tear your world a part.

A ten year old girl on a street corner,
Sticking needles in her arm.
She died in the dirt of an alleyway,
her mother said she had no chance, no chance!
Heart breaker, heart breaker,
she stuck the pins right in her heart.
Heart breaker, pain maker,
stole the love right out of you heart.

Heart breaker, heart breaker,
you stole the love right out of my heart.
Heart breaker, heart breaker,
I wanna tear your world apart.


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