Sunday, July 31, 2016

You can always count on the Lilies. . .

Year after year, if it's August, these lilies are blooming, thriving in sun, rain and heat. They're a bit tall for serious wind, so they've been stiffened with a metal tripod and framed with Russian Sage.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Home soon

In the background, Shirley and Kathleen discussed the Man of the Hour. No, he's not in a barber chair,
just a bit chilled by all the air conditioning. He hopes to be home in a couple of days.
"You can tell 'em you've seen Wes and he is alive!," heart surgery survivor Wes Anderson instructed a visitor to St. Gertrude's in Shakopee today. A couple weeks ago, our neighbor had a double bypass and heart valve job at Methodist Hospital. Two days ago he was transferred to St. Gert's for rehab.
Big smile and a great head of hair.
And an upgrade to the heart.
His wife Shirley confirmed that recovery is going well and Wes should be home next week. "I have to get some sleep," the patient confided. "You know, it's hard to get any rest in a hospital."
The food has been fine, he said, and he's trying to stick to a heart-healthy diet. Sorta. Yesterday the patient spotted a Tater Tot hot dish on the menu. The Norwegian from Hanska loves Tater Tot hot dish and enthusiastically ordered a double.
It wasn't long before the phone rang. "Who the heck could be calling me now?" he wondered. It was The Dietician.
"Wesley?" the conversation began.
Mr. Anderson had the fish.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

First, but not his last, Ford pickup

Freshly restored 1951 Ford takes priority in family garage.

Power steering by Arm Strong.
In 1951, a sixteen-year-old Matt Drees took his driver road test in this brand new Ford pickup. Last night he drove it to an antique car show in Henderson. This afternoon Stan took a thrill ride, merrily topping the speed limit on County Road 79, windows wide open, smiles from passersby.
Everything's been shined and restored; there's a new box, new plugs and radiator and much more. But the 83 horse V-8, cooled by a pair of water pumps, is pretty much original. The transmission, geared down for farm duty, changes easily and the air-conditioning is simple: a vent in the dashboard. There's no radio or seatbelts, but there is a place where you could insert a crank in an emergency.

Oddly, the six-volt battery is positive grounded, no one is sure why. The classic Ford insignia shines.
It's been a labor of love, getting the old girl reassembled, Matt says. It's all for fun. Meanwhile, he's about to take delivery on a new pickup for his everyday errands.
A 2016 Ford F150, naturally.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

St. Paul native visits Neo Classic Landmark

Photos by Stan Rolfsrud
Green Line makes the turn into downtown.
Majestic limestone columns supporting the north facade of the restored Union Depot dwarfed a visitor checking out the neo-classic St. Paul landmark. Inside, a massive waiting room awaits future travelers, not much going on now, quite peaceful in fact. Optimists believe this room will again become a busy hub for the city's mass transportation links.
In the meantime, visitors can enjoy restored terra cotta in the Head House, collections of relics from the Steel Age, a colorful glass wall in tribute to St. Paul and handmade artifacts from a bygone era.

Photo by St. Paul Katie
Railroad tracks running coast to coast are laid beneath this bench. Once in a while, Amtrak rumbles through.
All Aboard!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bigger, bolder, brighter. But is it something to love?

Photo by Stan Rolfsrud
With its angular prow and severe lines, the new football stadium looks more like an overblown billion dollar pup tent than a graceful Viking ship, but form follows function and there's no doubt that this will get the job done.
Checking the wifi. Perfect.
No login or password needed.
Today two local taxpayers downloaded free open house tickets and boarded the light rail ($3 lets two seniors ride around all day) to see what their money had done. Jobs, jobs, jobs, the governor likes to say, and it was apparent from the sidewalk outside the open house that somebody's been very busy.
It is hard to relate to the scale of such a huge assemblage. Everything is oversized -- wide corridors, big windows, massive monolithic concrete pourings -- way too much of everything to try to count it, though the PR folks did their usual best to do so, adding up the hours worked and materials used to wow the public with fun facts to know and tell.
Some very impressive engineering --even the seats felt at least a quarter of an inch wider than the previous model at the Metrodome. More comfortable too, made of a cheesy-feeling purple plastic, they surrender a bit when sat upon and form an agreeable pocket against the backside.

Little effort was made architecturally to bring things down to a more human level, which is fine, but designers somehow were able to achieve that end in a friendlier, more relatable space just across town at the baseball park.
A concert stage was being set up on the
50 yard line, opposite, way beneath a
vestigial proscenium arch, with catwalks.

Satisfied with what they had seen, the taxpayers eventually departed the massive edifice, but left without much love or attachment, just a sense of spectacle. But then, football is heavy metal and baseball is classical music, the taxpayers decided. As they chatted about it under one of the massive tv screens, a human face, over 100 feet tall, bigger than Mt. Rushmore, appeared overhead, being interviewed about how much they like the new place. Remarkably, at least for the moment, not one of these huge figures used the term "awesome."
It was all a bit overwhelming.
The taxpayers retreated outdoors where a festive Ferris wheel had been erected for the day on the new mall that approaches the stadium. It was turning merrily, marking the grand opening . . . and looked absolutely tiny and forlorn.

A most dreadful aspect of the modern stadium experience is using the little boys room at halftime.
There's been a clear effort to clean this up. Gone are the troughs, replaced with respectable urinals. The
corridors are painted a sanitary white, suggesting that cleanliness is valued. Will this good intention survive the drunken onslaught of painted Vikings driven to madness by loud noises and $8 beer?
Time will tell.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pokey Who?

Outdoor activities have been severely curtailed by inclement weather, so Grandma got out the ring toss and reminded us of the hot and heavy competition she enjoyed with her siblings years ago. It's been in the 90s and sticky, now it's raining, but the real heat is inside. It's 70 to 70 in the rubber match, Grandma was accused of cheating (unsubstantiated) and Grandpa gets the winner.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Buck Moon

It's called a Buck Moon, we're told, because this is when male deer develop nubby horns; it's the Thunder Moon because there are lots of thunderstorms during its reign; it's the Hay Moon because you can make hay by its light... a second or third cutting.
This moon was shot by a Cancer, a genuine moon child, and the double image is caused by duo-pane window glass, separating us from a hot and steamy July night.
This is also the Close the Windows Air-conditioning Moon.

Monday, July 18, 2016

What? They're looking for Lawrence Welk?

We've gotten used to golfers wandering around in the yard, hunting for a sliced Titleist, but this is something entirely different. We looked up from the coverage of the Republican National Convention tonight to see a pair of barefoot lads in our outback, eyes fixed on their devices. A very unconventional evening, indeed.
So the kids are still out there looking for the Polka Man? The one from North Dakota?
We didn't tell them where to look. And we didn't yell at them to get off the lawn either.
We just went back to our easy chairs, changed the channel. and settled in with the Minnesota Twins.
The world is changing too fast, we need something predictable: Detroit is leading 1-0.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Today's hero (the one on the right)

We have no idea what the two fingers mean. Peace? He drove away before we could ask. 
The highly-recommended replacement of our substandard leased modem with a spiffy big new model went without a hitch, we're happy to report, but just in case, we had put a call in to the Comcast support team. in advance. Didn't want to be caught without worldly contact.
We had just changed the password on the new guest wifi (we were admonished that we had chosen a "weak" password, but don't care, -- if the neighbors hack in, good for them) when a gentleman with a big grin and a pair of blue booties knocked on the front door.
We had him inspect our work, then go unjumble a jumble of cables, using his crimping skills and tools to our full advantage.
Chaos of cables gets some calming.
It was quite reassuring to hear the man nod and cluck and speak with a distinctive accent. Seems like anybody who knows anything high tech doesn't speak like us. Turns out Tullkin is a Russian immigrant. Been here since he was six, his father worked the oil fields of Central Asia. He lives in Burnsville now after moving first from Missouri. Likes his first three months in Minnesota. We took the opportunity to warn him of the impending winter season, but he didn't seem impressed. There's time. They have winters in Moscow, of course.
Note to the ladies: Tullkin is single. He left a card. C Me.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Note to Comcast: R U Kidding me?

It works. Leave it alone?

Black boxes, clock-wise from left: Ooma, which is a semi-reliable internet telephone connection in service for 7 years.
(Top) A substandard modem connected to a wall wart, Ooma and the wifi box. The big box at right is the one that
came today. Bigger should be better, right? The other box is the Cisco wireless that will be replaced by the
big box somehow. In the foreground are three simple steps to getting this all switched over. And if you believe that. . . 
After 35 years of computer upgrades, starting with a little 5K Macintosh in 1982, here's what we know:
You don't mess with success. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Never upgrade until there'a gun to your head. You'll regret making things "better." The latest isn't always the greatest. Don't pick the scab.
An unsolicited missive arrived recently from the folks at Comcast, the recipients of tens of thousands of our dollars since the miracle of deregulation loosed the free market upon us. Our big brothers there said that they "noticed" that the modem that they lease to us isn't up to their standards and they'd like to replace it, upgrade it, at absolutely no cost. There were vague references to maximizing the value of our service. All one had to do was click "OK" and the new modem would be on its way, via FedEx and at their expense.
The house bullshit detector went off immediately.
If you don't count the doggone sound bar on the downstairs tv, at the moment, our whole ram dam jury-rigged setup works.  Hard-fought connections all. The phone, the internet, the wifi, and the televisions work. Netflix and Amazon streams.  The I-phone rings and doesn't drop out or echo so much anymore. Andy of Mayberry and the Wheel of Fortune entertain. High-definition ball games come in with minimal pixilation and tearing. We can google the world and map out exactly where we're at and where we're thinking of going.
This is an almost ideal state of affairs, a house of cards teetering on our homestead electronic tightrope, and it needs to be protected from outside interference.
But the devil's urges overcame. In an unguarded moment of passion, the OK button was clicked. Couldn't help it. There's just something about bigger and better, or being left out, or the promise of wider horizons that Americans find overpowering, and we are no exception.
The Comcast Xfinity box arrived today.
After surveying the mass of wires and reading the "simple" instructions, that old depressing combination of regret, trepidation and dread has returned.
Pray courage will overcome the agony.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Lazy morning after all the rain

A full pond and fresh day lilies. Life is good.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Trades reporter's notebook for diaper bag

Tanner, Mollee and Pippa.
Baby Pippa showed up a little earlier than planned, so her Mom's goodbye party had to be postponed until yesterday.
Mollee Francisco has been a reporter for the Chaska Herald since 2004, building a reputation for fairness and accuracy -- and growing a fond attachment to this progressive city.
But when she and Chad added a second child to their family, it was time to move on.
A crowd of well-wishers gathered at Cy's in Chaska to bid the young family all the best,  enjoying snacks and beverages, a couple of speeches and some good stories.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Cast-off Waterworks cast iron frames Minneapolis garden

Meticulous salvage of the 1871 Minneapolis Waterworks resulted in this cast-iron framing of our favorite south Minneapolis garden. The former pump station pulled water from the Mississippi for thirsty citizens.
Photos by Stan Rolfsurd
Over the years, Kathleen has driven past this setting near 42nd and Garfield on her way to see her daughter Marcy. She's seen it in all seasons, always admiring its stunning beauty and commenting profusely on its contribution to the neighborhood.
Yesterday Stan had heard enough, pulled the car over, and set up a photograph with his passengers. The commotion drew the attention of the homeowner and at long last we had a chance to meet the man who put this together.
Marcy, Kathleen and Preston beside corner garden
Preston was appreciative of our admiring remarks, but understandably, we're not the first to make them. A retired employee of the Minneapolis public works department, he good-naturedly explained how he claimed, cleaned and repurposed the cast iron remnants of the water plant, being careful to point out that he purchased them from the contractor who was razing it. He acquired the discarded parts for cheap almost 30 years ago, and there has been plenty of labor before his garden spot was completed.
There's much painstaking annual maintenance, of course, but the neighborhood gem flourishes year after year. . . and now we know of the man who does it.

Here's historic background:
"In 1871, Minneapolis built the first public waterworks in Minnesota to pump water from the Mississippi River. The city's attempts to provide clean, safe water led to decades of efforts to improve and expand the waterworks.
East side water pumping station on the Mississippi.
Is this where Preston's cast iron came from?
We wonder.

In 1867, the Minnesota Legislature expanded the Minneapolis city limits. With a population of 17,000 Minneapolis was suddenly the largest city in the state. At the time Chicago was the model for modern cities. Other cities were copying Chicago's state-of-the-art water and sanitation systems. Minneapolis had no public utilities and the waterworks were needed to support its growth."

This information, written up by John Anfinson -- an old friend and historian, appears on this website. Read more here:

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Colossal Birthday Brunch at 42nd and Cedar

That's a ginormous cinnamon bun under the pansies and frosting.
The cinnamon bun was as large as your face and a suitable stand-in for a breakfast birthday cake -- artfully adorned with pansies by our sponsor.
Daughter Marcy invited us to the south Minneapolis Colossal Cafe (which can seat 12 or so if you're friendly) to celebrate Stan's 69th today.
Jennifer appeared as a surprise guest and presented an etched set of keepsake weighted and balanced whiskey glasses that brought a tear to Stan's eye.
We gorged on a variety of foodie offerings, brought some home with us too, since Marcy was picking up the tab... we teased.
Lovely start to a beautiful day.

Monday, July 04, 2016

A picnic, a parade and bunting for the Fourth

Sosie and Bill's major restoration project on Main Street Marysville, Ohio, enjoys a front row position on the annual Fourth of July parade. Their guests arrived, bands played and a good time was had by all.
Americana, Victoriana in spades.

Fantasy land

Photo by Kathleen Rolfsrud
We finished the puzzle in jig time and here's proof: you can pick it up and swing it around when you're done! The Fairy Castle is still a favorite of course. We started yesterday, elves came in the middle of the night and filled in some more pieces, then we finished it in time for Grandma's waffles this morning.
Emily will depart in time for fireworks at Round Lake. She prefers her home turf after seeing our display last year.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Is this Heaven? No, Emily, it's St. Paul.

If you ask her, Katie will tell you that St. Paul is the greatest little city in the world. We took a tour with Emily today and stopped for a roadside snack at the Lund's just south of the State Capitol. Emily had her choice of anything in the massive deli case. She picked breaded chicken tenders for $1.97. ???? We're back home now for a weekend of games and fireworks. Hide and Go Seek with Birdie is a favorite. . . and a limited amount of computer games.