Thursday, December 30, 2010

Anse Chastanet

We're back from our delightful stay at Anse Chastanet resort in St.Lucia. Considering all the airline disruptions that have ruined so much travel this month, we were very lucky to have all our plans work just as we hoped.

Here are a few more photos to illustrate highlights that I didn't mention. At the Botanical Garden, we walked up to a waterfall and a sulphur bathing pool with lukewarm water from the caldera. Here's Len, enjoying the pool:


Yoga at Anse Chastanet is really wonderful, thanks to the instructor Kristen and to the beach setting where the classes take place. (I won't dwell on the way the waves washed over the shore and flooded the yoga hut one day -- it was cleaned up by the next scheduled class.) Kristen quickly adapts her routines to the widely varying levels of the individuals who show up each day. Here she is, getting ready for class:


And here's one more view of the resort. Anse Chastanet is the name of the little bay and beach, and also the name of the lower part of the resort, where we stayed. Above Anse Chastanet is Jade Mountain, the futuristic resort that I wrote about here -- Jade Mountain.


For a complete look at Len's best underwater photos see his Flickr page.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Volcanic Caldera


The caldera of the old volcano here is much smaller than those in Hawaii, but deep black water bubbles vigorously in the sulphur pools at the bottom of the deep crater-like surroundings. It's all private land, and has been built up with sulphur baths since the 18th century when the French planters developed it. At the nearby botanical garden (which we also visited on our tour) it's claimed that Napoleon's wife Josephine once bathed here -- her father was a plantation owner. More photos after we get home -- tomorrow and Tuesday we'll be hoping for the best with American Airlines.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jade Mountain


Today we took a tour of Jade Mountain, the luxury resort on the hilltop above our (already luxurious) resort. The rooms and architecture are over-the-top fancy. Each room is very large with a private swimming pool near the bed, a sitting area, and a bathroom also completely open to the view. No glass, no screens, just mosquito nets on the bed. Each room has its own butler who will (according to our guided tour) fill your jaccuzzi tub (as distinct from the pool) or bring all your meals. You can arrive by helicopter, go directly to your room, and never emerge until it's time to fly back to whatever planet you came from with whoever you anonymously came with.


For more photos, see this Flickr set.

This is not a fish

Another good day of underwater pictures for Len yesterday. This coral head with a ribbon worm and strategically placed crevasses looks like a fish, I thought.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Birdwatching with Meno


This morning we went on a bird walk with Meno, who leads many tours. We walked on the grounds of Anse Mamin, the old plantation where once slaves grew sugar cane and boiled it down into molasses. Mamin, the owner, was a particularly brutal slave owner. The old buildings are still in place or partly so. Above, a surviving staircase seems to go nowhere, though some workmen were using it while drinking an early morning Coca Cola.

Here's Meno looking for birds. He is also very good at calling them out of the woods. We saw quite a few nice ones.


Meno told us about a recent tragedy, which other St.Lucians have also mentioned. The stream that runs through the old plantation is small and tame now, but at the end of October, a hurricane brought 24 hours of heavy rain to St.Lucia, and the stream became a torrent, unleashing a disastrous mud slide. Meno's good friends -- a couple and their children -- were swept away along with their house. The mud slide left a huge mud deposit in the reservoir above the plantation. Meno kept saying to the river "Where are they?" His friends were either buried or swept out to sea, and can't be found.


Last night's total solar eclipse was beautifully visible from the porch right outside our room, which is up on a hillside. I woke up when the eath's shadow had just begun to move across the surface of the moon -- around 2:45 AM. I watched as the bright light of the moon dimmed, and more and more stars became visible. The moon was fairly high in the sky above the Caribbean Sea, which was dark. Yesterday's clouds had dispersed, so I had a beautiful view, even of the Milky Way; I counted four shooting stars as I watched until the eclipse was total and the moon became dim, reddish, and insignificant, around 4:00. The shadowy forms of the two Pitons were visible behind me, and I could hear the waves coming in gently below.

It's a very rare occurrence for an eclipse to coincide with the Solstice. I found it thrilling.

Here is a photo just before the total eclipse -- our camera can't register the very faint light of the eclipsed moon, although it is very visible to the eye:


Monday, December 20, 2010

More of the Pitons

Here's the very tiny town of Soufriere, just around the headland beside the hotel beach. We can see the lights of the town from some of the places in the resort.

A few more photos from my snorkel boat trip, which included a stop in the town:





Len's Fish from Yesterday

For more see this flickr set: St. Lucia

Sunday, December 19, 2010

St. Lucia

Here's the view from our hotel room. The volcanic peaks are called the Pitons, and they are beautiful and (dare I say it) mysterious! Our travel day was very long, but fortunately unremarkable, and here we are. Len is getting his Scuba orientation, and I'm too lazy to do anything but sit around.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My father would be 105 today

It seems amazing that he would be so old. I've written about him here:
Hyman Feldman (December 15, 1905)

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Silly Research on Mona Lisa

From time to time "researchers" (especially some bozos in Italy) discover new clues to the imagined mysteries of Mona Lisa. May I point out that much more is known about the painting than about most 500 year old art works? To me, the mystery is why silly stories about Mona Lisa sell newspapers.

Today's "discovery" -- Mona Lisa's eyes have "tiny letters" depicted in them -- see this article in the Washington Post: Mona Lisa's eyes reveal some secrets. No explanation is offered as to how Leonardo was able to paint letters so tiny that they are visible only with 21st century scientific apparatus. Oh, wait: Leonardo was also a genius inventor -- he must have had a 21st century gadget.

I think that the accompanying photo of an X-ray fluorescence spectroscope is a stock photo that's used in all Washington Post articles about solving these mysteries -- it's not even clear that it's the apparatus being used by today's so-called scientist (left). Adding a Youtube video of Nat King Cole singing the song "Mona Lisa" is another clue that there isn't any real story here. For proof of this: the last time I ranted about these silly stories, I included a screen capture with the identical apparatus -- see below and Mona Lisa Smiles for Science.

I'm sorry, I find this all pathetic. Why don't they do something useful?

F0r more links to absurd Mona Lisa fake science, see this: Mona Lisa Nonsense

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween


Our neighbors have beautiful porch decorations. I especially like the witch light fixture.


On Granger (one block from our house) the Ann Arbor City Council allowed (by resolution) street closing during trick-or-treating hours. Hundreds of families with small kids, teenagers, and miscellaneous adults were walking around and lining up at every door -- like this one, labeled "Bates Motel -- Vacancy." In some cases the sidewalk was almost blocked, but no one was walking in the street.


Along with the biggest pumpkins I've ever seen, the house in the photo above had some special thing going on inside with a big banner that said "Candyland." Around 40 people were lined up to get in, while others were inside and on the sidewalk.



Later Len walked around the block to Granger too. He saw a number of people with big puppets in a sort of a parade.

Over here, a block from the big action and excitement, we've had only maybe a couple hundred kids. At 6:30 I could see 30 kids nearby. Nothing like Granger, but I have almost given away my entire 10 bags of chocolate (forget about what I ate myself). Soon I'll turn off the light.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recent reading with Kindle observations

During the past week, I have read the new Booker Prize winner, The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson -- in fact, I read it and then reread it a second time, right through from the beginning on my Kindle. I liked it a lot, and kept using the "bookmark" and "notes and highlights" features. Note, however, that the feature that allows one to see the collective highlighting of all the other wired-in readers horrified me. I turned the feature off the first time I saw it on the Kindle (several weeks ago).

Just before that, I read 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein. I read it in a hard cover book. And on the Kindle: The World to Come by Dara Horn. Both books are about Jewish Americans by Jewish American women writers. End of similarity.

I browsed Evelyn's copy of Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter. I like the approach that everything is science, though I'm a bit skeptical of the quality of the recipes. For dinner tonight, I made something I bet wouldn't be in Geeks: a gratin Dauphinoise of the old-school type with lots of potatoes and real gruyere cheese and fresh garlic. I think that would be simplified somehow (though I might be wrong). I know most geeks would not like the hideously burned-on crust that I had to scrub off of the gratin dish. In sum: it's not my approach to cooking, but fun to think about.

I have read 25% of David Grossman's To the End of the Land, which I'm finding very depressing, though I like the Israeli landscapes. I will try to finish it. It had a good cooking scene. (I highlighted it. Maybe I will write about it on my food blog.) Note: the Kindle doesn't list page numbers, it tells you what percent of the book you have read. I'm having a little trouble with that feature.

I didn't do so well with How Rome Fell by Adrian Goldsworthy. I did not get as far as the huns -- I missed Attila. This book demonstrated to me the limit of reading on the Kindle. The maps can't be zoomed in enough to use them effectively. The footnotes might as well not be there -- the Kindle does not have hyperlinks within the book. Mainly, though, I just don't like that kind of unsocial history that goes on and on about the rulers and claims that there's not enough evidence about the way people lived. I think that the author's protests about this are self-serving. OK, he doesn't do social history, that doesn't mean it's not valid.

I read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne on the Kindle. I believe I had read it most recently when it was assigned reading in high school. Surprise: I liked it. I read The Sea Wolf by Jack London, another free Kindle book from the Public Domain. It reminded me in some ways of Moby Dick, which is plausible as London appears to have read it. The political points seemed odd. I read a few Sherlock Holmes stories, also free. Here is a fact about the Kindle: all the books look alike. Same typeface. No page design or distinctive layout. I can't decide how much these things matter.

UPDATE: We finally figured out how to go to footnotes and get back. It's not easy but it works. THe map problem still is a problem.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Canoeing on the Huron River

Today we went canoeing on the Huron River, which runs through Ann Arbor in surprisingly wild-looking banks. If you lift your gaze, you can see tall buildings and city streets on bridges above, but still have the illusion that you are far from everything. Occasional helicopters and sky-writing planes overflying the Michigan Stadium during the hugely big game also reminded us that we had not escaped civilization (or maybe that we hadn't found civilization, depends on your perspective).

Our friend Abby joined us -- you can see her red-orange kayak in some of the photos. We started at Argo canoe livery, and went 2 miles upriver to Barton Dam:


On the way back down the river, we saw a heron:



We paddled past the livery, through the sluiceway around Argo Dam, and on down past Island Park and its classical pavillion:


As we went past the Arboretum, our canoe hung up on a very shallow part of the river, and we had to get out and push it into deeper water. Luckily, it was an unusually warm day, a remarkable October day with the characteristic bright blue sky.

We ended at the Gallup Park canoe rental building, where a van from the livery picked us up and drove us back to our parked cars.

Friday, October 08, 2010

100 Years Old

Sunday is my mother's 100th birthday. She died in 1967, but I feel as if there should still be a celebration and some photos. I've already posted most of them at various times in the last few years.

First, here are some photos from the album she made when she was in high school:
The photo from 1914 is the only one I know of from her early childhood. I do not think there are any baby photos, but here is a photo of her dolls.

These were called "Nickel Dolls" because that was how much they cost. They are very small.

The next picture was taken just before she cut her hair for the first time in 1923. A cut-out of this photo is on the album page.

Here is her wedding photo, from 1941, with my father, of course:

Evelyn and Hyman

And here's a photo from a bit later:

Label on back: "The four Feldmans Aug 18, 1948." My brother was born around a year later, so he's not in the photo.

Finally, here's a photo of my mother, father, and me, in 1964.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Making Mona Lisa out of Cups: A Coincidence

Today, two friends sent me email about Mona Lisa images made of cups.

The first was 3,604 cups of coffee tinted with varying amounts of milk which have been made into a giant pixillated Mona Lisa in Sydney, Australia. I had seen it before -- it was made in October, 2009:

The second Mona Lisa was made for the Grand Rapids ArtPrize contest. The description: "520 Tiny Cups is a wall-hung installation consisting of 520 small, individually made and glazed ceramic cups in 12 different shades of grey.... When viewed up close it is just a shelf full of cups, but when viewed from a distance, the visage of the Mona Lisa appears."

I wonder if this artist was inspired by the Sydney project or by any of the enormously numerous similar projects of pixillated Mona Lisa, including a print that I have at home, an installation that used to be on a wall in Paris, and many more.

The picture:

I thank my friends Maria and Chuck for sending these images to me. I never get tired of new ways to depict Mona Lisa!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why did the turkeys cross the road?

These two wild turkeys were trailing a huge flock that crossed in front of us on Huron River Drive last Thursday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The excesses of minimalism

Can something minimal go to extremes? Yes, I read today:
"One London restaurant with a splendidly minimalist men’s room discovered, by unfortunate trial and error, that customers found it difficult to 'read' what was what and, in an urgent retro-fit, it had to label its thrillingly discreet features with helpful instructions:' WC', 'tap', 'basin'. It is said that the late Joseph Ettedgui ... wrapped in white paper every book in his library. They looked beautiful, but were impossible to identify."
The article, "DOES MINIMALISM MATTER?" by Stephen Bayley makes the case that minimalism -- which may have started as early as the 18th century -- is a movement whose popularity peaked and is now being replaced by something else -- maybe chaos.

A minimalist illustration from the article:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mona Lisa at the Fitness Center

When I saw Mona Lisa on his shirt, I asked this perfect stranger if I could take a picture.