2008 Prediction

So this is what I do to kill a couple hours on a quiet Sunday aft. It's true that an idea isn't very real to me until I can see the blurb. Blame my years in the book biz.


Another favorite: Joe on a replica of the Santa Maria that visited a couple years back.
A favorite shot of Ferguson's orchard.


Backing into the future

Whatever happened to Michael J. Fox? Apparently a lot. LINK


Marginal utility

I love these bits that explain concepts that I just don't get and make them plain as day.

"Data has this really weird quality. In economic terms data has an increasing marginal utility. Anyone who took Econ 101 knows that most physical objects have a decreasing marginal utility. When it is raining my first umbrella keeps me dry, a second may be handy if the first blows out, but a third is unlikely to be used. This is true of shirts, steaks, houses, of almost anything you can think of except data." LINK


Jeeves on Design

Stephen Fry has begun writing a column on the Guardian. Nice moment to inaugurate a new tag on the topic of design, specifically deep design.

Deep design is all about function. It's form follow function, but the structural functions, features, and benefits—not merely the surface or cosmetic needs.

"So, yes, beauty matters. Boy, does it matter. It is not surface, it is not an extra, it is the thing itself. Le style, c'est le truc, as De Buffon would have written today." LINK


Garrison, Gervais, and Mayo

What a great hour or so of radio: Simon Mayo interviews Garrison Keillor and Ricky Gervais. Click the link and click on Wednesday. The link is good until next Wednesday.

Bush Blush

I must make mention of my hero of the moment. Mike McConnell heads up the NIE, which published the report in December that must have embarrassed Cheney and Bush. If that's possible.


Pizza contest

I wanted to try out the Brightcove video use. The company is run by Jeremy Allaire, who once collected baseball cards with Chris. Slick!

Yale, more free courses

Yale has begun offering online courses, with lectures and video. Nice!

And here's Berkeley's.

And MIT's.

And while I am at it, here's a site that coordinates language learning using Skype.


Pizza history

Maybe I'm simply hungry.

At the height of the Persian Empire, it is said that the soldiers of Darius the Great (521-486 B.C.), accustomed to lengthy marches, baked a kind of bread flat upon their shields and then covered it with cheese and dates.

Text source
Image source


Festival of Lights

Friday night was our Channukah celebration. Nice!


Shakespeare's horrible shadow?

I am putting this bit in as a placeholder. Apparently Middleton wrote some or more of Macbeth, my favorite of Will's plays.

Thomas Middleton was the rebel of English Renaissance drama. Audiences adored how his plays went right to the limits — his sex was dirty, his violence grisly, his politics risky. His work was so popular in his time that it broke box-office records at London's Globe theater. But over the centuries, thanks to censorship and Victorian prudery, he fell out of fashion. By the time the world was ready again for Middleton's R-rated brand of theater, Shakespeare reigned as the undisputed heavyweight champion of English literature, knocking everyone else to the margins of the curriculum and away from center stage.


Gorky Park

Between viewings, I forget how much I like the film version of Gorky Park. I say how much I like the film, not how good it is. Tough to judge it because I hold the Martin Cruz Smith novels and his Renko character in high regard. The books represent a well researched perspective, dark and fetid, on recent Russian history. My high school Russian history teacher, Walt Lacek, would have loved them. If William Hurt and Joanna Pacula play the characters of Renko and Irina a bit soft, they are full blooded and even haunting. It's a shame that Hurt didn't get to reprise the role. The second Renko book, Polar Star, is very cinematic, brooding, and scary. And his Chernobyl book, Wolves Eat Dogs, depicts the apocalypse in a minor key.



I tried making a slideshow from Steffi's photos. See what you think.



I just realized I didn't post shots from our time in Chicago with Bob, Bill, Kath, and Lauren. We had a delightful couple days. Thanks to Bill"s family! And kudos to John for deep frying the turkey. The other shots are from the Brookfield Zoo, a must visit when in Chicago. I want to do an "Old Brookfield" photo series of things I remember from when I was a kid visiting the zoo.

Pompeii at St. Paul

Last Friday we traveled up to the Science Museum for the Day in Pompeii exhibit. It included some fascinating pieces and of course the plaster casts of victims of the Vesuvius eruption, which are affecting.

We hung out at the museum for perhaps five hours, there was so much to do.

We had a swim, pizza, and a film—Ratatoullie—going late into the evening. All you can eat breakfast at the hotel was an event in itself, after which we headed home with a snowstorm at our heels. This was one of Betsy's first outings with us. She's a trouper.


Tundra swans

We visited Reick's Lake today with the kids. The tundra swans were finishing their migration through the area. Over 2,000 were observed Friday; today the lake was iced over. Still a hundred or more dropped in. The swan shot was taken using a telescope at the observation deck.

Wild rice soupreme

A family favorite for holidays.

Preparation time 1 hour
Serves 6-8

wild rice, 3/4 cup
butter, 1/2 cup
onions, 2 large
fresh mushrooms, 8 oz.
carrot, grated
celery stalk
flour, 1/2 cup
chicken broth, 8 cups
(dried mushrooms, 2)
half and half, 2 cups
sherry, 1/2 cup
salt, 1 tbs
sprinkling fresh parsley
pepper, red or black

Soak wild rice overnight. Boil 4 times for 2 minutes each time. Pour off the water between boilings. Set aside.

Chop onions and celery. Grate carrot. Slice mushrooms. Melt butter in a soup pot. Add onions, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in flour.

Add chicken broth. (Grind up dried mushrooms and add powder to pot with broth.) Bring to boil.

Lower the heat to simmer, and add half and half, sherry, and salt.

Add the wild rice and a dash of ground pepper. (Or use red pepper flakes instead.)


While in Germany, Chris and I discussed photography. I mentioned that it was an essay by John Berger that got me going years ago. The gist of the thought was that a camera can help us to pay attention to our surroundings in a way we would not otherwise. Photography is then a way of seeing.

"The camera relieves us of the burden of memory. It surveys us like God, and it surveys for us. Yet no other god has been so cynical, for the camera records in order to forget." Uses of Photography.

John Peter Berger (born November 5, 1926) is an art critic, novelist, painter and author. The best-known among his many works include the novel G., winner of the 1972 Booker Prize, and the introductory essay on art criticism Ways of Seeing, written as an accompaniment to a significant BBC series of the same name, and often used as a college text.

Review of Berger's Selected Essays
Of course, there's no ignominy in being wrong, and Berger's way of being wrong is more interesting than most.

Roasted butternut squash and leek soup

We served this last night. Gen wanted the recipe. So I am reconstructing what I did here.

Trim out the flesh from 5 lbs. of squash. Chunk it, oil, and bake in a hot oven for 30-40 minutes till it browns a bit.

Chop up 4 leeks. Saute in a soup pan with butter, slightly browning, and 8 sprigs of thyme. Take out the sprigs when the leeks are softened and browning. Take out the leeks.

Add 1 Tbs. of butter to the pot. Melt. Add 1/4 cup of wine. Stir it up and deglaze the pot. Stir. Add 2 Tbs. of flour. Add 1 tsb. of cumin. Stir.

Add the leeks. Add 6 c. of broth, salt, pepper.

Add the squash.

Blend the whole kabash. Put it back in the soup pot. Check seasonings. Serve very warm. Serves 6.

Add a topping: chives, pumpkin seeds, croutons, parmesan, red pepper flakes.


Saint Barbara

The Bochum museum, mentioned below, had a neat if nichey collection of art pertaining to Saint Barbara, patron of miners. From the wiki entry: The hagiography of Saint Barbara says that she was born about A.D. 300 in Nicomedia, Bithynia in Asia Minor. Her father, Dioscurus, was the head of a wealthy aristocratic family. Her parents loved her for her beauty, intelligence and modesty. Dioscurus, who was cruel and a pagan, had her shut in a tower in order to preserve her from suitors.... She secretly converted from Polytheism to Christianity. ... when she tried to convert him to Christianity he became furious and wanted to kill her. However, her prayers created an opening in the tower wall and she escaped. Pursued by her father and guards, she hid in a gorge in the mountains. She stayed hidden here until a shepherd betrayed her. As legend has it, the shepherd was transformed into a marble statue and his herd into grasshoppers. Despite being tortured, Barbara held true to her faith. During the night, the dark prison was bathed in light and new miracles occurred. Every morning her wounds were healed. Torches that were to be used to burn her went out as soon as they came near her. ... Her father had her taken to a Roman imperial magistrate during a persecution of Christians, who ordered her to be beheaded, and directed that her father carry out the sentence himself. He dragged her up to a mountain and killed her. However, after having done so, he became frightened and tried to flee but, according to the story, was struck dead by lightning in divine retribution.

Visual Source


Time moves on, so I want to post a few items before leaving my recent trip behind.

Chris's friend and mentor Karl Heinz took the time to tour a mining museum in Bochum with me, Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum. It was a fine museum, with underground mine exhibits and a great geology section.

I do like the store windows.

One last shot from Colmar.

Our hike into the Schwartzwald, above Staufen, took us through a goat pasture.


German tuba band

Gotta have a little tuba on this trip. As part of the festivities marking the start of the Christmas season in Düsseldorf, street bands did their bit.

Food, Spanish style

For our last meal together, we feasted at a Spanish restaraunt in D.



Colmar was an hour west of Stauben in France. A different look. Its "little Venice" area was handsome, with some Christmas decorations already going up. Voltaire had a residence there.

Food pix

We had great good luck with restaraunts on the trip south; weather was another matter. We supped once at the "Löwen" and twice at the Hotel Gasthaus "Die Krone," which in Chris's estimation was comparable to his gustatory experiences in France, just miles away. We also had a great potato soup at an inn while hiking. In order, the dishes below include a pumpkin soup, a proscuitto-like slices of duck, beef medallions with cherries, dessert, a frothed potato soup, and a pate with shaved black truffles. The "Krone" offered a very nice vegetarisher entree, which risotto was delicious if not photogenic.



We stayed at the Gasthaus zum Löwen, which offers a room used by Faust in which he made his deal with the devil. The room itself was unavailable, but the hotel was quite nice. Dates from 1407.

I thought the illustrations on the wall of the restaurant were nicely done. Above we see the devil claiming Faust's soul. His clock has run out. His books to no avail.



Staufen is a charming place, set at the lower end of a valley in the upper Black Forest. The shot is from the ruins above the city. See Staufen city map. Yes, that's snow on the tree at left. Click to enlarge.


Staufen city map

Southern Comfort

We are heading south to Zürich, Freiburg, and the town of Staufen, where traditionally Faust signed his contract with the devil. We hope to stay in the hotel where Faust had a room, the fated place where he made his pact. We don't know what 'net access will be like, so it might be a few days until new blogs entries appear here.
Link to Staufen homepage.

A bit on Faust:
Faust (c1480 - 1539), an actual historical figure who sparked urban legends in his own day, was reputed to have sold his soul to the devil for 24 years of prosperity and magical power. The mysterious manner of his death in the town of Staufen, near Freiburg in southeastern Germany, fuelled speculation that the devil had claimed him, body and soul, in fulfilment of his pact.
Source: MBBC, h2g2, Staufen im Breisgau,Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, and the Death of Faust.

Rhine Riverbank at Düsseldorf