Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Kitty I Want

Here's a picture of a stray kitty that I decided I want to adopt yet.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Co-op Fund-Raiser

Our Fund-raiser was a nice little, intimate affair. The board arrived early for the preparations.

We set up the carrotometer with our sign of appreciation.

We had everything: fresh local cheese.....

We had live jazz music....

... and a sommelier, who served some interesting wines and trained us to know how to appreciate them.
And of course what would a fancy fund-raiser be without a chocolate fountain and fresh strawberries from local farms?

Here's a closer view.

The Sommelier trained us to look for hints of grapefruit or berries as we sampled a variety of wines from Chardonnay to a Cabernet Sauvignon.

We were honored to have representatives from College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University and we used this occasion to try and let them know how grateful we are to them for their help in getting started.

It was great to see people enjoying the art!

And of course there were some speeches of support and thanks along with the celebration!

So now it is just a question of getting everything ready for the opening in one short week!

Pictures For the Co-op

So here is a better view of the finished carrotometer.

I spent the morning getting it to the co-op (and then repairing it, because the carrot fell off in transit.) Then I hung paintings. Since our co-op aims to be one fo the first art and food co-ops in Minnesota we needed art, so I basically grabbed everything I could off my home's walls so that we would have a little color for our upcoming Fund-raiser. I don't have that much framed art of my own, so I grabbed anything that didn't have dead bodies and guns and ended up with four paintings. The spindles, and three Afghani war paintings, the jeep in the bombed area, the bicycle and the young Afghani girl. (You can click on the images to see the pictures better.)

Of course the nicer art was that by my Mom. Here style is defined and her technique is crisp and attractive. Below are three paintings, "Saying Goodbye" what I called "Blue Fantasy" (originally just titled "Blue" and one I call "Blue Tango".

The next pictures go so well with the green walls and wood of the co-op decor! (Although the image does not do this synergy justice.) These are "Family Outing," "The Airplane Plant," and "Departure for College."

"Flight of the Spirit" below was hung on the front wall and it looks perfect there. This one I had to reframe because it was coming out of its old frame and it now looks really good with its new mat board and thicker frame.

Next up some photos from our Fund-raiser

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Almost Done! Yay!

Here are a few images with the current fund level marked. I will put a thin black line on it tomorrow after the orange paint dries (and try to get a picture of it upright in all its glory (cough!))

Update on Nebraska Nuclear Plant Problems

(Above image from 21stcenturywire)

Well, you may remember my blog post on the Fort Calhoun Nuclear plant emergency (here). It seems things are not looking better and there is NO national news coverage of impending potentially very dangerous events. According to A second nuclear plant in Nebraska (the Cooper Nuclear facility) may also experience additional flooding and is already unable to expel sludge because of the rising Missouri River (and more flooding is expected) so its sludge pool has already been "overtopped."

Omaha Public Power District reports there is nothing to worry about, maintaining:

June 23, 2011

Rising water from the Missouri River has begun flowing into a sewage lagoon at Fort Calhoun Station. A partial bypass was recently put in place to divert water that had leaked into a sanitary wastewater lift station, allowing the continuation of most of the flow to the sanitary lagoons. The water overtopping the sewage lagoon this week will be considered a continuation of the previous bypass issue by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

The NRC notes,

Notification is being made to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality regarding the release of oil to the Missouri River from the Cooper Live Fire Training Facility. Currently, levees separating the Training Facility and the Missouri River are being over topped due to flooding of the Missouri River. This condition has resulted in flooding of the burn pits in the fire training facility, with the subsequent release of the residue which includes unburned fuel oil. Any release of this water containing oil to the Missouri River is uncontrolled at this time. Then is no radiological contamination in this area.

Current river level is approximately 900.5 ft. MSL, approximately 3.0 feet below plant grade elevation. The fire training area is lower than plant grade. A press release is not planned at this time. River level is currently projected to be 899 ft. by Wednesday 6/22."

These optimistic opinions are not shared by everyone, however. Tom Burnett on The People's Voice website reports, "“Ft. Calhoun is the designated spent fuel storage facility for the entire state of Nebraska…and maybe for more than one state. Calhoun stores its spent fuel in ground-level pools which are underwater anyway – but they are open at the top. When the Missouri river pours in there, it’s going to make Fukushima look like an X-Ray.

For more very interesting information please see Patrick Henningsen's article, "Why is there a Media Black Out on Nuclear Incident at Fort Calhoun."

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Veg(e)ing Out

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a......

Yup,... it's a giant 8 foot tall carrot! So let me try and explain this one!

Oh, yeah, this is SO what I spent hour after hour in college learning art for! Large vegetables! As you may remember, we are trying to start a Co-op in our little hamlet here in central rural Minnesota, so we are having a Cocktail/(Beg for Money) Affair on Monday preceding our opening on Friday. A few weeks ago I got persuaded to do invitations with little watercolor carrots on them, so I obediently provided 35 little carroty note cards. We were going for simple and elegant (and cheap of course).

So now, somehow I have become the go to girl for carrots. This week, I was asked to do a sign, as well as to paint and letter the carrotometer (above) that we will fill out as we get donations.

Alas, it has been too many years since that calligraphy class in the 70s. The sign is not as good as I had hoped. Here's what I ended up with (bad spacing and all.) I guess it gets the job done, but there is no hope for either simple or elegant there!

And while we are on the topic of food - here is a really good sashimi salad that I made last night. Now that is art! (wink!)

Edging for Shawl

I'm definitely not happy with this edging - nor with the beads. I'm considering ripping the whole thing out and starting over. I'm doing far more repeats per section than I should be doing according to the pattern, ( I think I should be skipping every other stitch when attaching, but I'm not sure the edging would take that much stretching.) The beads are BORING too just in a basic row. I've done a good 8 hours of work on this much of the edging but if I can stretch it out twice as far (by starting over, then it would be worth ripping out), since I will take a lot less knitting (but then it might look too stretched out for the shawl.)

Here is a closer view, but unless you click on the image to enlarge it, you can't really see the beads in the photo. I hate the outer edge (that I redesigned) too - It looks sloppy - I may need to take a break from this project and reevaluate it later - I'm not sure I have a level perspective at the moment.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

On the Edge

Okay, the shawl is in stasis right now because the designer decided to give it the edging from hell. Okay, maybe it's not that bad and I should not have bound off before doing the edging, but I'm just not used to having to think backwards when I'm reading the purl row of a pattern. The first attempt seemed too large, so I went down a needle size, but of course now it isn't repeating at the same interval as the motives in the original pattern which means even more fiddly repeats if I continue with this edging. Here is what it looks like thus far:

You can really see how very little I've gotten in my two days of struggling with the pattern. I'm sure it will get esier, but it isn't the kind of pattern you can easily memorize and the numbers of stitches changes with each row, so it is also hard to check for mistakes.

If worse comes to worse I'll rip this back and just crochet a simple chained edging or put on a much simpler knit one.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Homely Updates

Okay, (she says sheepishly) every so often (like most everybody) I let my materialistic desires get the best of me. When spousal unit D and I went looking for a cabinet for our exotic Japanese style tea pots, I just happened to see this rug hanging in the clearance section. It had been discontinued and honestly I believe it had been discontinued so long ago, that they had given up on ever selling it. The tag hung there almost desperately. There were numerous indications of price reductions done in that peculiar way where there is a sum and then a line drawn through it to indicate a major price drop. The first crossed out number was followed by yet another with a line through it and then yet another and another. At the bottom there was nothing below the last crossed out number. Now you might wonder what kind of rug is so ugly that no one would want to buy it. Well, telling you that it is orange and blue might ease you into an understanding and adding that it also has yellow, green, purple and black in semi-psychadelic geometric shapes will drive the comprehension home. And yes, nonetheless, something about this rabidly colorful, noticeably out of style rug called to me and I knew right then and there, I had to have it!

In a way it has transformed our living room( and I think not in an altogether bad way). In fact, I am quite enjoying the additional color. So without further ado, I introduce the recently acquired rug in its new home:

And as far as the most recent knitting project, I'm binding off and am less than halfway around (and there is an edging still to be knitted and attached, so there will be no new project for awhile.)

Review: HMS Pinafore at the Guthrie

Before I comment on the play, I want to express my strong feelings that the Guthrie is an outstanding institution and that we in Minnesota are extremely fortunate to have such a fine theater and hence should do everything we can to support it. If you are not someone who tithes to your favorite religious organization (and even if you are!), then perhaps you would consider tithing to the arts. The arts contribute to public discussions of ideas, personal edification, and they build community. I can recommend any play at the Guthrie as time well spent, whether it has a few rough edges or is an incomparable masterpiece, in any case it will be time well spent.

Review: HMS Pinafore at the Guthrie

My second proviso is that I attend the preview performances. This means the version of the play that I see is incomplete, because adjustments are made after the director has a chance to see how the performance plays before an audience. Plays rarely get worse after previews, so assume that many of my dissatisfactions will have been eradicated by the time the production is ready for prime time.

All that being said, I had a marvelous time at the Saturday, June 18th production of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore. It is a thoroughly silly play and those that brook no infantility would probably not enjoy it, but if you can enter into the production in the spirit it is given, it is a marvelous whirl through an imaginary Victorian kingdom of manly men, miserable matrons, high-minded maidens and merry mix-ups.

Crew rehearsing

At present the production's quality is mixed, some of the musical numbers were still a bit rough while others were joyous and well put together. Peter Thomson's "When I was a Lad" was marvelous, assisted with perfection by "his sisters and his cousins and his aunts". The big tap number near the end is alas, not the stunner that it should be. The choreography there is uninspired and some of the tapping (especially early on in the number) is sloppy and at best tepid. Nonetheless what is missing in accuracy is overcome by personal enthusiasm, and the wanton silliness of the final number with its over-the-top joyousness compensates for the more minor problems. And the tango with Buttercup and Captain Corcoran is wonderful recompense, giving us lovely moves and sterling execution.

The music also bothered me a bit. There was a tendency by the nine piece orchestra to modernize the music somewhat providing a loose swing quality that had the same effect on me as muzak. This may be my own little foible, but I much prefer the crisper old-fashioned versions of the songs. This problem was amplified (literally) by the fact that the band often overwhelmed the singers. We do want rousing music, but it should still be crisp, and the singers should be hearable above the jubilation, especially since the lyrics are so deliciously clever. The audience needs to know that the only ship that the Right Honorable Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B had ever known before his appointment as "ruler of the Queen's Navee" was a partnerSHIP in a law firm. No doubt the volume will be well under control by next week's opening night.

I also have to rave (but with appropriate propriety of course) about the costumes. Fabio Toblini made the production positively shine with his clothing and fabric choices. The navy is suitably nautical and the Right Honorable Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B is exactly how I imagined him complete with Victorian hat of the admiralty and sumptuous paunch. Buttercup is redolently sleazy in her decolletage and red skirts appropriately tucked up to reveal her super-sensual striped green and black stockings. Best of all were the glittering costumes of the sisters and the cousins and the aunts in shiny satins and with the most luxurious meldings of colors. There is one particular purple, fuchsia and tan dress that gave me goosebumps it was so delectable!

The acting is also uneven, occasionally overstepping the bounds of broad satire into excessive camp, but the two primary actors of the play are the very model of perfection, knowing exactly when to hold back and also when to milk a silly line for everything it is worth. Christina Baldwin positively glows in her performance of poor little Buttercup, the bumboat gal who has an unfortunate and mysterious past. No little maid from school is she - she positively oozes sexuality and experience. Equal to her excellence is her requited, but unavailable love interest played by Robert O. Berdahl (who rocked in an earlier production of The 39 Steps.) His Captain Corcoran is a delicious presentation of a pretentious British Captain. He knows precisely how long to draw out his vowels to offer us the height of British upper class pretension. It is a pleasure to listen to (as well as watch) his puffed up Corcoran as he boasts about his perfect (well, almost perfect) comportment.

Brigitte Norby's publicity photo of Dowling, Baldwin and Berdahl

Just look at the range of foppish pomposity that Berdahl is able to show over the course of just a few minutes in his song about being Captain of the Pinafore (and its even better in his giant nautical mustache!):

The supporting cast is great and the sailors do a good job. Jason Simon is appropriately over the top with his Dick Deadeye and will help the children stay attentive when the song lyrics may be tad too clever for young imaginations.

It was also wonderful to see Barbara Bryne back in a role that she seems almost born to play - the "Very Special Visitor". Her diminutive height and ability to look sternly and thus appear to be six feet tall and in complete control, bring just the right air to this role of a woman who has had to forgo her desires for her duties.

Indeed one of the things that I enjoyed most about the play is that the women are shown to be far more intelligent than their male counterparts. While it is an outwardly silly play, the issue of class inequality is of significant importance and it seems that it is the women who not only suffer the most, but also ask what action can be taken to correct unfortunate situations. Josephine the Captain's daughter looks at the serious repercussions of giving up a well-to-do life to become the wife of a common tar and realizes that it would be nigh impossible to be happy on love alone, but also finds ways to elude the Right Honorable Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. and use his own words against him in her suit to marry seaman Ralph Rackstraw. Seri Johnson's cousin Hebe also knows how to step in and take action and eventually is able to make her very distant cousin her own (and Hebe does the role to perfection!) ... And of course it is Buttercup (whose selfless willingness to reveal publicly her horrible error) that saves the day and eventually paves the way for her own and the Captain's happiness. From the beginning of the play we know that love can not level all classes, but by the end we understand that a smart woman can.

Christina Baldwin as Poor Little Buttercup

By the way, for those who wish to take me up on my recommendation to make a donation to the Guthrie, click the link here.

Or click to donate to the MIA or the Walker .

Don't forget the music scene you could contribute to the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Minnesota Orchestra or the Minnesota Opera and there are so many others too.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant DEclares Emergency*

It's a small world. Here we are in the US thinking, well those kinds of things can happen in Japan and Chernobyl, but... Well we seem to have the potential for a similar kind of event happening right now in the middle of the U.S. The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant just outside of Omaha Nebraska had a little electrical fire that shut off pumps to the cooling pool for the spent fuel rods of its reactor. You can read about it here. Of course it has hardly been reported at all by the mainstream media. CNN had a tiny little blurb on it saying it was "under alert", that there was a fire and it was out in 40 minutes (It did not report that the pumps weren't working to cool the reactors during that time and that the area was inaccessible for several hours because of the gases from the fire extinguishing chemicals.) Back up pumps were evidently useable. NRC says they had a pump going again within 90 minutes and that it would take more than 80 hours for a state similar to Fukushima to be reached (but one wonders where the line to actual danger is since as we know Fukushima is a major disaster).and the reactor itself was down for maintenance and had not been brought back up because of potential flooding, but there is some concern that if any of numerous dams give way on the Mississippi due to flooding, a wave could come and cause the same kinds of problems seen at Fukushima. ProPublica notes that fire safety is a longtime issue at these plants as is the continual piling up of spent fuel rods. CNN and the rest of the Major Media for some strange reason does not mention any of this.

I know, I know, what are we going to do, with global warming and all our NEEDS for electricity in the modern world, we HAVE to use nuclear power, right? The oft quoted government verbiage is that we have reached a global consensus. Hmm tell that to Germany, a country that has decided to phase out nuclear power altogether. I guess we know what part of the globe has reached consensus.

The government itself seems to be of two minds, while Obama speechifies on increasing clean energy, he is also promoting the use of natural gas and to some extent nuclear energy. Funny because page 69 of this government document indicates that offshore wind production could produce more than enough energy to power the entire U.S. grid (not just the paltry 20% being provided by our 104 licensed reactors.

The document states, "The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) first estimated the offshore wind resources of the United States in 2003. These data, which were reported in several technical papers (see, for example, Musial and Butterfield 2004, 2005), demonstrated that the U.S. offshore wind energy resources were very large, with an estimated potential gross resource nearly equal to the total generating capacity of the national grid. These data were conservative because they did not include key areas such as Hawaii, the southeastern coast, or the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, they contained generalized assumptions about wind energy exclusions areas that were not fully developed. "

And think what this could save us in terms of protecting our national interests in oil production in the middle east. There are SO many unpublicized costs to nuclear energy, such as transportation and manufacturing of machinery and materials for building and running plants production, uranium mining, storage and of course the price of accidents.)

Just saying, it's a small world, but it seems like the answers are there for us if we really look and without the need to split atoms.

Note: I have changed the title of this post because the Omaha Public Power District website maintains there was never a level 4 Emergency. They do note that there was an Alert that is the second level of problem status (after initially registering a NOUE (Notification of Unusual Event) - According to NRC reports, this was reported as an emergency to the NRC (Event Number: 46929) a fact they neglect to mention in their section quelling "rumors". )

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Dining Area

Testing to see if this side board would look okay in our dining area. What do you think?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

My Mural for the Co-op

I was asked to do a picture of a food cooler for our "Meet the Manager" evening at the co-op. (I've been working with the board to try and get a food co-op in our area that will support local sustainable agriculture and foster community.) We had hoped to open today, but building inspections etc meant greater delays than we expected. We are planning on getting a produce cooler but have not yet managed to get it installed, so for the meet the manager evening, so since I arrived an hour early I was asked to draw one and hang my mural in the location where they hope to have the cooler. So here is my approximately 3 foot by 9 foot mural completed in just over an hour.