Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to you!

Today we are looking for an online Book of Spells. We thought it would be nice to dedicate the link to a fellow blogger, the Netizen of the West, who, along with her familiar, has fallen upon hard times. As a practitioner of the Dark Arts, she is in real trouble. While she exhibits genuine enthusiasm for enchantment, and has been working day and night on her blog trying to turn Republicans into toads, we must report that she has not had any luck. Recently, she has been found muttering only “Liar! Liar! Liar!” into her bubbling cauldron from which she hurls her invectives, and all to no effect. Her worthless one-word spell leads only to drooping blog statistics and a shrinking number of comments on her blog.

As further proof that her spells don’t work, she spawned one of the hottest new blogs of the North Shore as a byproduct of banishing unpopular speech from her comment box, as well as no end of merriment for local blog commenters who have taken their insights elsewhere.

You can learn all about this sad creature by clicking here or here. And by the way, if you happen to have any old family spells laying about, perhaps you could drop them into her inbox? Charity does, as they say, begin at home.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Getting Ready for Halloween

We finally got excited about Halloween yesterday and pulled out our decorations. We kept finding more, so put them out. Then we went to Jewel and found all the Halloween item on sale, so we bought some new decorations to add to what we already have. We tried to make the effect a little spooky, but not too scary for the small children.

We have a lot of candy and treats to give away, and we bought some pretzels and other treats that aren't candy. We will need a lot of children stopping by, because we are well stocked.

Tonight we may carve our pumpkin. We have one big one and two small ones.

We are going to have a pretty jolly Halloween over here, and we hope the blue skies and warmth holds. The number of trick or treaters varies wildly from year to year, but mostly it seems to correlated with the weather.

Sadly, we note that this fun-filled, child-centered, fall holiday which is growing in popularity globally, won't be enjoyed by many children.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Has Dan Seals Bowed Out of Illinois' 10th District Congressional Race?

Dan Seals has been running for Congress from Illinois' 10th Congressional District almost continuously for over two years. Having lost the election last time out, Seals announced his intention to run again shortly after incumbent winner Mark Kirk was sworn in. Less than a week ago, I read that Seals had raised a very respectable amount of money in campaign funds, and a friend of mine says she has been receiving regular emails from him and his campaign.

In a surprise development, it appears that Seals may be quitting the campaign, although there has been no official announcement. Seals has taken a marketing job with a social networking website called "The Point," which has a bio of him stating that he is a "former candidate for U.S. Congress. " Since the website also states that it was launched in September, 2007, and further states that Seals is its Director of Business Development, we find it had to believe that this is a mistake. In addition, we note that virtually all political content has been stripped from Seals' website with the exception of fund raising information.

Returning to the private sector from government service or running for office is a venerable tradition in Illinois' 10th Congressional District. Seals has three young daughters and a wife, and his decision to withdraw from the race--if there has been one--is not only very understandable, but likely good for his family's future. As Seals' political views more closely mirror that of his native Hyde Park than those of the 10th Congressional district--where he has never lived--his decision is likely based on sound polling data. His primary has been shaping up as a costly and bloody contest, guaranteed to leave either candidate badly enough bruised to make it nearly impossible to topple incumbent Mark Kirk.

With best wishes for Mr. Seals new venture and his return to private life, we've posted up a picture of Roman god Janus, who ruled new beginnings. Our distaste for Seals' brand of politics was never personal, and we harbor no ill will toward him and his motley crew of supporters, often imported from other campaigns, who sought to change the political tenor of the district from its gentlemanly past.

As we have no official announcement of Seals' intention to quit, in the event Seals does not bow out, we won't have to change the picture.

A big hat tip to new firebrand blog, Team America.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Visit the French Market in St. Goar

I took a boat trip on the Rhine, and got pretty excited when I got off and found a French Market in St. Goar! I took this photo of this crepe maker, and the guy came out to talk to me, wondering why I was taking a photo. I told him that I came all the way to Germany and found a French Market, just like we have in "mon petit ville, Wilmette" located near Chicago.
Tomorrow, Saturday October 27, 2007 is the last French Market in Wilmette, so if you want a crepe better head over. Having seen a number of German websites, they are pretty big on the "Tipp" and I have one for you. If you buy the baguettes from the nuns at the market and cut them into convenient portions, wrap them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer, you'll be able to enjoy them for quite a while without any loss in quality. I would skip the other bakers at the market, which is a lot less picturesque than the market in St. Goar.

From the look of vehicles parked nearby, most of the vendors drove over from France, and apparently were able to comandeer some municipal vehicles to do so. They were selling a lot of sausages there, none of which can be brought through customs, so I didn't buy anything. I was left wondering, however. When it comes to the street market are the French planning to dominate the world? If you are what you eat, this could be troubling . . .

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Happy First Birthday, Baby Amillia Taylor

Baby Amillia Taylor turns one today, and Wilmette wishes her a Very Happy Birthday. The story that appeared on this blog last February when Amillia (whose name was reported as Amilla Taylor in early press reports) was allowed to go home, has been a great favorite all year long. Little Amillia, the first baby known to survive after a gestation period of fewer than 23 weeks, weighed just a little over 9 ounces at birth, and was as long as a pen.

Amillia's happy parents have wisely chosen to give their daughter a private life, but have provided the public with a birthday update. Amillia now weighs almost 17 1/2 pounds, has started to feed herself, has progressed to a walker, and is enjoying life as a one year old. She suffers no major health problems, and only has to see the doctor once a month now rather than every day.

Amillia and her family celebrated her birthday with a big party which included the doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other care takers whose fine care helped made this miracle possible.

Update: Unfortunately, the Miami Herald no longer has the first birthday picture showing cute (but very serious) little Amillia in her pink sundress and matching shoes!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Porsche's New Look

Getting Ready for Halloween

Thought I'd give you a little rest from those travel photos! Time to get ready for Halloween--its next week. I'm not ready yet, but I did buy two pumpkins.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Not So Smart as On Message

This weekend I heard a talk by Dick Morris, the old political consultant for Bill Clinton, who is on his book tour. He had a lot of interesting things to say about the Clintons, his old friends, reminding me that if you want to find a real friend I wouldn't go looking for one in politics. If I were the Clintons I would think this guy is pretty disloyal, but I guess they haven't been on good terms for quite a while. Whatever the case, he's enjoying telling Clinton tales, especially talking about Hillary. Sort of like in high school; I am sure you knew someone like that who was more-or-less was in the business of peddling information about other people.

Be that as it may, I thought the most interesting thing I heard was that Hillary is not brilliant. Bill is brilliant, but Hillary is more like the average bright person who you know. She is, however, a very hard worker and very disciplined, never deviating from her script, her talking points, or saying anything that hasn't been run through a focus group.

The Backyard Conservative is blogging about Hillary today, and how she's feeding info to the Drudge Report. Come to think of it, I woudn't be totally surprised if Dick Morris is back on the job, quietly, quietly.

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Perspective on the Cologne Cathedral

I guess it would be wrong to go to Cologne and not post up a picture of the stunning Cathedral. I took this picture while I was sitting on a bench at the Roman Museum. Today, I am missing Cologne, where cars predictably stop if you are only looking at a crosswalk. Contrast this with Wilmette, where crosswalks near the train are a place to intimidate pedestrians, not allow them to move quickly on their way.

This morning, a truck bearing the name of a local electrical contractor nearly hit me in the crosswalk while I was going to the train. It would be nice if the police would take the time to ticket these offenders.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Museum Day: Overewhelmed by the Romans in Cologne

I imagine you were expecting a spectacular photo from Cologne, where I headed after I was done sightseeing in Düsseldorf, but I really like this 2,000 year old glass pig. It dates back to the days of the Romans in Cologne. On earlier visits (and Cologne just keeps pulling me back) I had never had time to see the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, which is located next to the great cathedral, the Kölner Dom. I almost got completely worn out--it took most of a day wandering through the exhibits, and there was a lot to see. So much for my preconceived notion that this was a small museum!

The collection started off with pots from the iron age and Roman stone memorials, and moved on to just about every kind of thing that people owned or used a couple of millenia ago, all conveniently found in or around Cologne.

The glass pig pictured above was only one of a collection of intact glass manufactured in Cologne not long after the time of Christ. The fish to the left also seemed very modern, as did much of the extensive collection. I guess people liked knick knacks even back them.

I particularly enjoyed seeing the everyday items. There were pieces of old Roman sewer pipe, items from a manufacturing shoe shop complete with (part of a) sandal, and lots and lots of pottery. Ever since I studied Latin in school, years ago, I wondered what that wax tablet that the Roman children used instead of paper looked like. I had to wait a long time to see one, but the tabula and stylus, pictured to the right, solved something I had wondered about for years.

With all the bad press about unsafe children's toys from China, I thought it would be timely to post up a picture of what Roman children played with, such as the men on horses with wheels to the left. There were some other little games, too, but I particularly liked these toys, though I imagine they could require strong wrists to play with.

The museum also had a lot of pottery, cases and cases of pottery, any kind you could imagine, particularly a lot of wine pitchers and drinking cups. I guess they had more than they could possibly exhibit, as at one point the museum simply noted that Romans stored their pottery on shelves, such as the example to the right, where the museum had placed a great number of objects.

I've been reading lately how the fork is a fairly recent invention, but as you can see at the left, forks date back to at least Roman times, though I must admit that what is pictured in the middle at the left, looks a lot like an olive fork.

If you find yourself in Cologne, I'd recommend this conveniently located museum. A tip, though, don't make the mistake I did and try going on a Monday: it's closed!

All of the pictures here can be viewed in a large size showing more detail simply by clicking on the picture.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Visit Schloss Benrath, a Palace in Dusseldorf

It was a sunny Sunday, and I decided to take a train to Schloss Benrath, a UNESCO world heritage site that I had never heard of until I went to Dusseldorf. The train took only about 10 minutes from the city center, and from there it was a short walk.

The palace on the grounds was built by Nicolas de Pigage, a French architect, just before the American Revolution. Well, for about 20 years before the Americans Revolution, as the construction took a long time to finish. This was a pretty exciting place to visit. If it were in France, they would be bringing in tourists by the busload.

I decided to take an interior tour, which didn't tell me much as it was all in German, though they gave me a printed sheet in English with some facts. I learned that the palace had been built for the Elector Palatine, whose busy schedule only allowed him time to visit the palace just once, and then only for five hours. He had a number of houses, and I suppose enough money to allow him to build more in the chance that perhaps he might need it. Eventually it ended up in the hands of the Prussian royal family who sold it to the town of Benrath around World War I, and the house and gardens were established as a park by the town.

In order to keep the floors nice during the tour, we had to put on huge felt slippers over our shoes. We glided from room to room--sort of like ice skating--pretty well polishing the floors as we went. The park outside the palace is huge, and there were dozens of people out for a walk. As an American, I found it strange that everyone walked on the paths, and no one walked on the lawn, although there weren't any signs.

I enjoyed looking around outside, and was quite taken with the roof ornament from an out building pictured to the left, which seemed quite modern and not unlike Russia's sputnik. I considered, but rejected the notion that the builder had been visited by aliens, but the effect was quite unusual. I had never seen anything like it before.

There were also a number of very interesting plants on the grounds. The plant to the right looked like holly, but the berries were blue. If you have any interest in plants, you can click on the picture and you wil be taken to a new webpage where the pcture will appear but much larger.

The USA has only three manmade structures on the UNESCO list: Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty, and the Pueblos in Taos.

Exciting News about Barack Obama

Avowing that he doesn't believe in polls, the exciting news about Barack Obama is that we might actually by next year have two senators for Illinois, rather than one and a Presidential candidate. The Madison and St. Clair Record, downstate, runs an op op ed on Obama that's well worth a read.

Friday, October 12, 2007

October 12 - Columbus Day

515 years ago today, at dawn on October 12, 1492, Cristopher Columbus made landfall in "the islands of India beyond the Ganges," also known as the New World. He was pretty surprised not to find any pagodas with golden roofs , but left his crewmen with barrels in which they could put their collections of gold. As you can tell from the above map of Columbus' voyages, Columbus didn't discover the United States. Columbus Day has always been a fairly traditional day to visit a museum. Why not take a few minutes to check out the online exhibition on Christopher Columbus at the Library of Congress?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Vacation - First Stop Düsseldorf

For my vacation, I flew from Chicago to Frankfurt and took the train to Düsseldorf. I wanted to see the Königsallee, pictured above, the famous shopping street. I don't think there were any fancy boutiques there that we don't have right on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, but it was someplace new to see. Since I didn't need a purse costing 500 or 5,000 euro, I ended up mostly sightseeing.

To the left, the latest fashion. I think its too Teutonic for Chicago, and I can't figure out why you would go for the warmth of a large animal pelt around your neck while wearing short sleeves. While the mannequin doesn't seem to have any hair, the German women do. Any American woman will love travelling in Germany, because for the basic American, her hair on a bad hair day will look far better than the average German on a good hair day. Maybe that's why so many women sport very mannish styles. Or perhaps that is due to something else. I wanted to take some pictures of their hair, but then I decided that would be very rude. It's worth a trip just to see their hair. There is a very big market there, just waiting to be tapped. That is, if they notice. Well, at least its not like Paris, which is never a good place to visit for the female ego, unless you are pretty good looking, maybe like Paris Hilton, remember her?

When it started getting dark, I headed over to the Galeria Kaufhof, a big German department store, pictured to the right. It sort of looks like Marshall Field's (RIP) in Chicago, but I don't think the building is as pretty and there's no clock. In fact, a lot of Germany looks like Chicago, and the countryside doesn't look so different either. There are lots of Kaufhof stores around Germany, and without exception they keep the temperature in them really high, so there is a major discomfort level whenever you visit. Prices are far better here in the USA.

They had some nice flowers on the parkway in a little green space. They looked pretty good, because it was dreary out due to the rain. Because of the rain, some of my pictures came out too dark. I used Picasa to lighten them a little.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I Go to Bingen and am Disappointed

Did I forget to tell you I finally took my summer vacation? Yes, I realize that it isn't summer any more, but it was more like I finally got around to going.

I went to see the above church in Bingen today. I had been looking forward to visiting that town for many years but it turned out to be very disappointing. Mostly it ended up as a good long walk.

I'll be home in a couple of days, with 500 wonderful pictures to share. That's enough to guarantee that my friends will be avoiding me for months . . . Seriously, though, I do have a few that I hope you will like and I'll be posting them up with a little commentary.

The weather has been mostly grand with the trees just starting to turn. I've had a great time. I've seen some interesting things and some lovely sights, so it has been a good vacation.

Note to the BBC: Wisconsin Isn't by Canada

On the television ,BBC World is reporting from Washington, DC that the terrible shooting in Crandon, Wisconsin happened "hard up by Canada." BBC, Wisconsin isn't by Canada, in its northern parts it is by Michigan and Minnesota. Pretty big blooper, guys; one you ought to fix.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Free Burma

Free Burma

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Eternal Vigilance Still the Price of Liberty."

I am sure you have heard the very bad news about Myanmar (Burma). The UN envoy couldn't get a meeting with a government official of any importance, and is heading home. The killing of monks continues. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Burma is being rapidly stomped out.

There is no better way to retain power than silencing the opposition. Death is one way to do that; there are other means, as well. The Democrat Party, traditionally better guardians of freedom of speech than Republicans, appears to be abandoning its long support of civil liberties in favor of tactics that are very troubling. In short, their newest ploy seem to be trying to put right wing talk show hosts out of business, attacking both Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage, neither of whom have positive things to say about liberals.

While I never cared much for the left wing talk show hosts, I turn the channel. That is the way it is supposed to be done when freedom prevails.

To the Democrats: Avert your ears! The tactics that the Democrats are using are troubling at best. I hope the average American, the average American who sometimes votes for Republicans and sometimes votes for Democrats, will have none of this, well knowing that eternal vilgilance is still the price of Liberty.