May 2016

Posted by Ellen

When Joe got back to Tuscaloosa this month after his semester in Cuba, he had fish to check up on.

He's a fisherman and also sort of a fish collector; for the past year or so, he'd been raising baby fish from the Black Warrior River, the little bream and other small fry that would normally be thrown back into the river. Joe kept dozens of them in a large aquarium in his living room, and dozens more in a pool in a tiny creek that runs into the Black Warrior near downtown Tuscaloosa. He named them and fed them and got kind of attached to them.

But when he left for Cuba in January, he moved all his fish to the little creek and wished them well. They were on their own.

Happily, they survived the winter, though heavy rains apparently washed them downstream into a different pool. In this picture, Joe was walking along a drainpipe that criss-crossed his creek, trying to see how his babies were doing. They were growing and swimming actively and doing all the right fishy sorts of things.

Joe now is living in Philadelphia, where he has a bowl of goldfish. He's completed all his coursework and will graduate in August from the University of Alabama.

Posted by Ellen

The Little League games were in full swing when Mister Softee showed up at Taney Park. So the players couldn't just leave the field and run over to the truck–but the grownups could.

The park entrance is red, white, and blue for Memorial Day, and also for every other day; a nearby plaque memorializes neighborhood boys who died in Vietnam. This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago, though the scene will look the same today, albeit with a wardrobe adjustment to deal with much, much warmer and muggier temperatures.

Posted by Ellen

The bronze Ben Franklin standing atop City Hall's dome is said to be the tallest statue anywhere that's on top of a building. He's 37 feet tall and weighs 27 tons.

This picture of Ben from behind was taken from the new observation deck on the 57th floor of One Liberty Place a couple of blocks away.

Posted by Ellen

Adorning the four sides of the "clock" tower at the hundred-year-old Copenhagen hotel now called Scandia Palace are four mosaics: morning, day, evening, night.

This picture was taken from the real clock tower across the street, in front of Copenhagen's two-hundred-year-old city hall.

Posted by Ellen

The supermarket at 1015 Yuyuan Road in Shanghai is said to look like any ordinary Chinese convenience store, its shelves stocked with colorful bottles and boxes of foodstuffs and other items from all over the world.

There's the usual convex mirror in the corner to watch for shoplifters. There's a cash register and a cashier, and lots and lots of customers.  The prices they pay are exactly what people in Shanghai would expect to pay.

The only thing at all unusual is that the packages are all empty. Every last one of them. Artist Xu Zhen and his conceptual-art corporation, MadeIn Company, bought all the thousands and thousands of items found in a convenience store, patiently pricked or otherwise opened each one to remove the contents, and then carefully resealed them.
 
"Store" visitors, perhaps surprised at first by the lightness of a secretly emptied soft drink can or candy bar wrapper, nonetheless walk up and down the aisles, studying and touching the merchandise. They make their selections. As often as not, they decide to buy something, even though it's only a package of nothing.
 
They pay full price. Maybe they feel that they're actually buying art, and for art, the price looks good.
Posted by Ellen

A Giant Pacific Octopus at the Seattle Aquarium posed recently for my mother to take a picture with her phone.

These varmints can weigh up to 150 pounds and spread their arms to wrap up a house. The 200 suckers on each arm are used to trap and hold prey, especially crabs and other crustaceans, which the octopus may paralyze with toxic saliva before tearing apart with its parrot-like beak.

To ambush its prey, the octopus hides amongst the rocks and seaweed, blending in with its surroundings by changing color at will. It can even change its texture, mimicking its surroundings by raising lumps or knobs of muscle.

The entire animal is so squishy and transformable that only its beaklike mouth sets a limit to its shape-shifting. If it wants to, a Giant Pacific Octopus can squeeze itself through a hole the size of a lemon.

Posted by Ellen

Let's just not go there with the hypertension thing, though it's a real deal, all properly proclaimed. But today is way too remarkable for other reasons.

To start with, very close to home, we celebrate May 17 as the birthday of our little sister Carol, as well as the birthday, on the Stein side of the family, of our brother-in-law Bob, as well as the wedding anniversary of Richard and Arleigh Stein, as well as the 480th anniversary of the annulment of the marriage of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII of England.

Not only, not only. The very day of little sister's birth in 1954 is also known to history as the day the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, knocking the legalistic props out from under racial segregation in public schools, though of course failing to end racial segregation in public schools. And there's more, at least on a technicality: the Brown decision applied only to public schools run by the various state governments, not to schools in the District of Columbia, where everything was run by the federal government and also where, it so happened, our little sister was born. The Supreme Court needed to decide a separate case, Bolling v. Sharpe, to order desegregation of schools in Washington, D.C., but it efficiently took care of that detail on the very same day as little sister's birth. Eight days later, the D.C. School Board announced a desegregation plan, and thus, had little sister been smart enough to start school as a newborn infant, which she very nearly was, she might have enrolled in a newly desegregated classroom.

The photo above shows a bit of what Sis is up to these days: mosaicking the side of her garage to suggest a door and some pretty awesome windows.

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15 May 2016
Posted by Ellen