Tuesday, March 3, 2015

In Like A Lion, And Out Like An Ass

Winter, Still, Life, Pittsburgh 2015

Winter, I give up, you win.  I know that we're only a couple of days into my least favorite month, and that you're supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. Nonetheless, the last two years you've deviated from that arrangement.  As expected, March '13 & '14 came in like a lion, but then went out like an ass. 
Frankly, I'm exhausted.  All of the shoveling and de-icing has worn me down to a tiny nub.  I'm done.  You can do whatever it is that you're going to do, because, you know, you're weather and March is inherently EVIL, but I'm going to pretend that you don't exist.  The capacity to delude oneself is precious at such times, and I've crossed over into a land that is governed by what I say instead of what actually is.  Reality be damned! 
Sigh.  Make that, bitter sigh.
I have to go and clean off my car so that I can get some work done.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Three Sisters

Seventh & Ninth Street Bridges from the Sixth St. Bridge, Pittsburgh, 2015

Yesterday was cold, like most of this winter has been, but the sun was shining and I wanted to get out and photograph the frozen Allegheny River in the city.  Even on a weekend with no events happening, parking is expensive.  We chose to park on the street and pay only $1 for twenty minutes.  Suddenly we were off to the races to cover as much territory along and across the river as we could in about half an hour.  It's an odd experience to be galloping along, suddenly stopping dead in your tracks and getting a shot, but that's what we did.  Since it was only about 5F, the fast pace also helped us stay warm.
In the above shot we're about halfway across the Sixth Street Bridge, the first of the trinity of suspension bridges known as The Three Sisters, with the Seventh and Ninth Street Bridges, and an unrelated train trestle, upriver in the background.  Officially all three bridges are named for famous people associated with Pittsburgh:  the Clemente Bridge (6th), the Andy Warhol Bridge (7th), and the Rachel Carson Bridge (9th), but locally only the Clemente Bridge ever gets referred to as just that.  During home Pirates games the bridge is closed to motorized traffic and you can walk from downtown to the stadium on the north shore.  I've done it, and it's the kind of oddly intimate urban thing that makes you love your city even more.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Volatility of Fermented Ginger

And then the ginger beer exploded.  It was sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, in the dead of night, we were asleep, I was dreaming, nightmaring about some calamity befalling my youngest child, a mother's worry for her baby doesn't abate with age, when our peaceful slumber was shattered by a loud BOOM!.   It was quite impossible to discern the origin of the noise, since neither of us were conscious when it occurred.  To me it seemed like it came from outside, or the attic.  Had part of the roof collapsed perhaps?  Had the deck, though sound, given way to the incessant pull of gravity?  We checked the upstairs, the downstairs, the attic, the deck, all to no avail.  Everything looked fine, seemed fine.
We went back to bed.  It was around 3 a.m. and I found it difficult to return to sleep, as did Caty.  Finally, I drifted off,  right before the alarm went off at 5. 
We got up, did our morning routine.  Caty got ready for work, I packed her lunch, made breakfast, the usual.  Then it was time for her to leave.  The garage is attached to the basement, and the basement is also where we keep the cat's litter box and food, otherwise the dog will eat both.  Both of us went to the basement:  Caty to fetch her car and go to work, and me to tend to the cat.  That's when I saw that the lid had erupted off the fermenting tank with great force, and there was ginger beer all over one wall and the floor.  It had been a long time since I'd had a brewing explosion, and also the main reason why I quit making beer and started making wine - fewer explosions.  Foolishly I'd thought that making ginger beer would be less volatile.
Live and learn.  So far no explosions with the hard cider *knock wood*. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shaking the Family Tree

SS Cincinnati, Pre-WWI

 There are times when I pick up where I left off with working on my family tree and it's like falling into a black hole of time loss.  Though I shouldn't complain because I love the immersion in the past, and sometimes I find such gems.  The above ship is the one my Italian ancestors crossed the Atlantic Ocean on in 1913.  Later that same ship was refitted for use in World War I, rechristened the USS Covington and sunk July 2, 1918 by a German torpedo.

See how this can be addicting?  Now I've discovered that nearly all of my German ancestors are actually from the Alsace-Loraine part of France, though formerly belonging to Germany, and even more formerly to France, again.  The territory has gone back and forth, but it doesn't seem to effect the people of the region much as they have their own flag, customs, governing bodies, and German dialect.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Venus, Mars and the Moon

Venus, Mars, Crescent Moon, Pittsburgh, 2015

I would not have even noticed the celestial bounty Friday evening had I not been driving home from the auto shop.  It was a frigid night, subzero, and typically I don't follow what's going on in the sky during the winter months.  But, my wife's car was telling her that one of the tires had low air pressure, and better safe than sorry, she ran it in to the shop, with me picking her up.  That's when we both saw what we could clearly identify as Venus, and of course the moon, but it was a pleasant surprise to later discover that the tiny orange dot was actually Mars.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Tree of Steel

Tree Sculpture, Pittsburgh, 2015

On Hot Metal Street on the south side of Pittsburgh stands the headquarters of American Eagle Outfitters.  Outside of the building is a steel tree sculpture by Kathleen Mulcahy erected in 2007.  It's representative of the city's past, and its changed and growing future.  So much ink and bandwidth have been dedicated to Pittsburgh's survival after the collapse of the steel industry, and I don't have anything to add to the conversation, no magic bullet as to why.  I've lived in this area almost my entire life and all I can say is that we're stubborn, and we don't mind being poor, if we know that through hard work we'll pull through.  Oh, and because of the endless hills you can only see so far ahead.  Maybe that metaphor becomes ingrained in our psyche where we only plan so much, then just trust that the next hill we have to go over doesn't drop us off a cliff.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Teacup Barbie

Teacup Barbie, Nude, Pittsburgh, 2015

I had a couple of delivery men here earlier today, and one commented on the naked Barbie in a teacup* on the mantel, saying how much he liked it.   And to think that woman at Goodwill tried to talk me out of buying this very teacup for a dollar because it's chipped.  The chip makes it!  Well, that and Barbie being naked, and the vacant terminal stare.
* The teacup was made by Thomas Ivory, Bavaria, Germany.