Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Winter Garden Gallery

The neglect I heaped upon my garden so far this winter while away seemed to suit it well. Indeed, “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?” (reference: Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks) may apply to gardens/gardeners as well as people. I did go away and apparently the garden didn’t miss me one bit.*

I have been (perhaps unworthily) rewarded with a bountiful winter crop of parsley, cauliflower, broccoli, and various types of lettuce.

Even the rosemary bush is blooming. There must have been just the right amount of sunshine, moisture, and cold to nourish my winter plots. Curiously, Encinitas had six hours of a 24-degree freeze early on January 15th (perhaps the collective shudder after the Chargers loss—you see, I’m still getting over that one).

I am not a Constant Gardener, but a casual caretaker, and I guess left on their own, the veggies grew just fine.

*I noticed more than one blogger using Dan Hicks’ song title for their blog titles without even a nod to the phrase’s author. I’m a Dan Hicks fan and know the source, but hey, how hard is it to perform a simple google check?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Alles mit Gott

Alles mit Gott und nichts ohnihn
(All things with God, without him nought)
Wird einher Wundersegen ziehn.
(will hither Wondrous blessing bring.)
And so lusciously sings Anne-Marie Dicce, soprano, with the Bach Collegium San Diego in the Southern California Premiere of the Bach aria Alles mit Gott und nichts ohnihn. This aria, written for the 52nd birthday of the Duke of Weimar, Wilhelm Ernst (1713), was discovered in Weimar, Germany, in 2005, among papers and documents with the Duchess Anna Amalia Library. Hearing this historically significant aria, performed by such a capable vocalist as Ms. Dicce was a wonderful experience in of itself.

But there’s more. The Bach Collegium, established in 2003 by Ruben Valenzuela, performs music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, with an emphasis on J.S. Bach. They specialize in “historically informed” performances, using both authentic period instruments and reproductions. Mr. Valenzuela plays a reproduction Italian harpsichord, a beautiful instrument that takes approximately 40 minutes to tune (and requires frequent tuning). Throughout the concert, Pierre Joubert, leader and violinist, wove tales about the pieces (we heard selections from Telemann, Purcell, and Vivaldi in addition to Bach), the instruments, and the astounding history behind the recently discovered Bach aria.

The concert was held in the acoustic-friendly Parish Hall of St. Peter's Del Mar; hardwood floors and a glowing fire provided background warmth. A bit of wine and cheese at interval offered a different kind of warmth. Oh how fortunate we all are at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to have Ruben as our new Music Director!
Next Entry: Winter Garden Gallery

Friday, January 26, 2007

A Brief Blush with History; or London in 1880

While the subject of London (and also here) is fresh in my mind, I'd like to delve into a London tale from the past.

On August 17th, 1880, Laura Augusta Kreis marries Graham Cox Campbell in Monticello, Minnesota. They are my great-grandparents. She is 24 years old. He is a Presbyterian minister, called to mission work in Gaboon, West Africa. After the wedding they travel to Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, Boston, and finally to Halifax, Nova Scotia where Graham’s family farm is situated in the small community of Middle Stewiacke. She keeps a journal from October 1880 until May 1882:
Probably no other year of my life will be as beautiful as the present . . . First there was the decision to go to Africa, which was a great struggle, but one in which by God’s grace I was able to overcome. Then the leaving school. Oh! That was very hard. I did not know before how I loved my studies and classmates. For weeks I carried such a burden that it seemed almost impossible to bear. But no one guessed my secret.
How does Laura feel leaving her family for perhaps at least a few years and traveling so far? She writes:
The leaving home I have no heart to recall or record. It is too deeply impressed upon my mind to need a record. I will only tell you, journal, that it was harder than I had expected. It seemed cruel. But Graham soothed my sorrow and pledged anew his love and care and in a measure eased the pain. I find myself now breaking down as that scene comes up in memory, and I hasten on.
After a long, arduous, and sea-sick journey across the Atlantic, the newly weds land in Liverpool, where they gather supplies they will need in Africa. A lucky excursion for them, they are able to make a quick visit to London just before their departure by ship to Africa. Here are excerpts from her journal:

Liverpool, England Sunday afternoon Dec. 5th 1880

I wonder what they [my family members] are all doing at home today. They are six hours behind us so it is only half past eight with them and they are only eating breakfast. I wish I could make one of their number. It seems so long [since sometime in September, 1880] since I left home, and I have so much to tell them. I wrote them a letter of six sheets yesterday, telling them all about our visit to Chester.

We expect to go to London tomorrow morning and stay until Friday. It will be a great treat for us. I anticipate a good deal of pleasure.

Wed. Dec. 8th No. 16 Torrington Square, London
You see, my journal, my dreams are at last realized. We are in London, arrived Monday evening. Found good quarters on recommendations of Mr. Christie. It is a private boarding house, only about a dozen regular boarders. They are all pleasant and we are enjoying it very much.

Madame Tussaud's Today

In order to lose no time we went to see Madame Tussaud’s wax works. They were magnificent. All of the leading men of England and some of America, China, India, Africa, etc.

Yesterday morning we started out early. Took an omnibus to Hyde Park, from there we passed into Kensington Gardens. Saw Albert’s Memorial and got a view [postcard] of it. Saw also Albert Hall and purchased a view. Then into Kensington Museum—then drove from Hyde Park through Grosvenor Place, Buckingham Palace Road, past Prince of Wales’ residence and Queen’s Residence, into Pall Mall thence to Trafalgar Square. Saw Nelson Monument thence down Whitehall and Parliament Streets, past House Guards to Westminster Bridge near which we took lunch. Next we went through Westminster Abbey and Palace and Parliament House. Then we went across Westminster Bridge, took a boat down the river to London Bridge, and saw Cleopatra’s Needle [the Egyptian obelisk on the banks of the River Thames].

Thursday Dec. 9th 1880

One more bright day in London. It is quite wonderful how the fogs keep away. Yesterday we went out to
Crystal Palace and spent the day. The Palace is an immense building. We could have spent a week there easily. My expectations were fully realized. We bought some little things to send home.

This morning we went to the Regent’s Zoological gardens. There we saw almost every kind of animal in the world and some that we may meet again in Africa and probably not under such pleasant circumstances. This afternoon I have decided to stay indoors while Graham finishes the British Museum which we commenced this morning.

Next Entry: Alles mit Gott

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Essence of London

River Thames with Tower Bridge in the background
Okay, so London wasn’t just about watching the Chargers lose their play-off game to the Patriots. It was four days of adjusting to a new time zone so that we could articulate by the time we started teaching. The course, Building E-Commerce Web Applications Using Sun Java Studio Creator, was the same course we presented earlier in San Francisco .
Baker Street Tube Stop
But back to London. I love London. I love how the tube is easy to navigate, even when you’re unfamiliar with the lines and the station names. I love that it’s easy to walk around. I love that the shows are numerous, the pubs are more numerous, and you can always get a good brew. However, I hate the exchange rate, that the pubs all close at different times (as early as 11:00PM), and very few hotels have elevators (next time, bring less!). And, in January, the sun rises about 8:00AM and sets about 4:00PM—the days are short, me lad.
Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace
I love the craziness of Piccadilly Circus, I love Chinatown and its array of restaurants, and I love the old-world grandeur of St. Paul’s Cathedral, its dome, and the resultant echo as the choir sings during Evensong.
Fairy Tale Scenary in Regents Park
Finally, I love the parks—regal expanses of green hosting willowy trees, fountains, water, birds, geese and swans, and walking/running pathways! I didn’t mind that it rained, that it was cold, and that sometimes I could not understand spoken English. Hah!
Finishing Touch to a Meal
Here is the finishing touch to your London Cappuccino: brown sugar, chocolates, and tiny cookies (biscuits).
Next Entry: A Brief Blush with History; or London in 1880

Monday, January 15, 2007

NFL in London

Note that the title of this post is “NFL in London,” not “Football in London.” The term Football is ambiguous—do you mean Football a.k.a. Soccer or Football a.k.a. American Football? While the term NFL may not be as knowable outside the U.S., it is clear to anyone even remotely interested in American Football what is meant here. Righto.

Second side note: This post was very painful to write.

In possession of playoff tickets for the wildly successful San Diego Chargers, we nonetheless relinquished our tickets to our grateful children (who are not children, but offspring sounds way too formal). We are out of town preparing to teach the Sun Java Studio Creator course outside of London. Our mission, should we decide to accept it, was to find a bar/pub/venue of some kind where we could watch the Chargers host the New England Patriots. In anticipation of this event, we packed our powder-blue jerseys to wear during the viewing and used the tool of choice (the internet) to find an acceptable venue. The search term “NFL London” yielded a few possibilities: Cheers London and the Sports Café.

Both venues are near the wild and crazy Piccadilly Circus area and within walking distance of each other. We were in Cheers first (kick-off time was 9:30PM for the 1:30PM Pacific Standard Time start). At 12:30AM with the DJ music blasting all about us, Cheers London turned ON the lights, turned OFF the music and the TVs, and kicked everybody out. It was the beginning of the 4th quarter! We made our way to the Sports Café just in time to see LT score a touchdown for San Diego. Our glee was short-lived, however, as the San Diego defense made a costly mistake and the Patriots took advantage. The Sports Café was packed with both Charger and Patriot fans. When the Chargers game-tying field goal went wide in the last seconds of the game, we cried in our beer, poured out of the bar, and (now it’s passed 1:00AM and the tube is closed) were guided by a savvy American living in London to the proper 24-hour bus stop.
Next Entry: The Essence of London

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Montréal In Winter

When nephew Greg and his bride Capella decided to get married, they chose Montréal, the city where they met at school (McGill University) for their marriage ceremony. Lucky for us! Montreal turned out to be an engaging city, filled with a varied landscape. It is dominated by its "mountain," Mount Royal (or Mont Real in French). This shot looks towards the St. Lawrence River and the city center, taken from near the top of Mont Royal. Montreal, as it turns out, is an island. It is officially a bilingual city, but French dominates. It has a very easy-to-use metro (flat price no matter where you go) and a pedestrian-friendly city center, or centre.
Montreal has an area called the Old Port, or the Riverfront. This picture shows a tree-lined walkway near the riverfront and the old city, called "Vieux-Montréal."
Ice skating is a popular winter recreation and Montreal boasts many public outdoor rinks. This one is located at the riverfront.

Just a few blocks up from the river is Montreal's Chinatown. We found a particularly good Chinese restaurant (Beijing) near this gate.

This whimsical sculpture of three women is in Old Montreal on Rue St. Paul, a cobblestone street that takes you back in time.

La basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal - the outside is rather simple, but the inside is one of the most ornate churches to behold. Don't feel like flying to Paris for old-world ambience? Consider Montreal, even in winter. (Of course, "winter" in Montreal is normally below freezing. We experienced a warm winter, with temperatures 20 degrees above normal.)
Next Entry: NFL in London