Jackie and I went for our first bike ride of the year. We followed our traditional first-ride route, around Kaufman Lake, past the Olympic Monument, around Parkland College, and then back. This year we went 6.27 miles.

I’d been hearing cardinals for several days, but out on this ride we got definitive expressions of bird spring. The robins are back, as are the red-winged blackbirds. I saw a crow fly up out of Copper Slough with a huge wad of nesting material in its beak.

The ride itself went fine as well. No mechanical problems. No problems with Jackie’s wrist. There had been a couple of previous days when it would have been warm enough to ride, but those days were very windy. It was nice to just wait for today and not have to deal with the headwinds.

I think we’re all set now, to be able to ride whenever we want. In particular, if there’s a day when it’s nice enough to ride first thing in the morning, we could ride to the Fitness Center and then to taiji. (That’s a bit long and complex of a ride to try to combine it with our first “shakedown” ride of the year.)

Spotted these decorative brassicas by the front walk of a house near campus, and liked them—a seasonally appropriate floral alternative for December.

Not the best picture ever—my phone had a pretty good camera for its day, but the lens has been riding around in my pocket for 5 years now.

I was near campus to meet some former co-workers for lunch, and took the opportunity to walk over to a Chinese grocery store near University and 5th, where I’d gotten a box of Ceylon tea last summer. That box of tea is just about empty, and I thought I’d look and see if they still carried it—which they do. (I’d checked on the internet, and found that Amazon was selling the same tea for $17 a box. The Chinese grocery store had it for $3.)

Creative Commons License
Decorative Brassicas by Philip Brewer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.philipbrewer.net.

Johnathan Beckett and Young Kim performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk

One of the unique events in Champaign-Urbana is the Jazz Walk. Bands (duos and small combos) are scattered across the sculpture garden at Meadowbrook Park, and you walk from one to the next. The result is a series of surprisingly intimate performances. You have each group almost to yourself, sharing one or two or three songs with a shifting mix of perhaps a dozen or so other pedestrians.

You can linger longer if you like, but the event only goes on for two hours, so if you spend too much time with one band it begins to eat into your time to spend with the others.

As a bonus, you get to enjoy the sculpture as well.

I liked all the music, even the groups that didn’t play exactly my sort of jazz had the sort of energy that makes a live performance worth attending.

It was a cool, cloudy evening, and was already getting a little dark for photography, but I thought my camera did pretty well—I got an adequate shot of each group, and a few pretty good ones.

Bluesnik performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Mark Smart and Mark Ginsberg performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Mark Smart and Mark Ginsberg
Almost Anything performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Almost Anything
The Jazz Cycle performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
The Jazz Cycle
Johnathan Beckett and Young Kim performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Johnathan Beckett and Young Kim
New Orleans Jazz Machine performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
New Orleans Jazz Machine
Katy Flynn and Will Yanez performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Katy Flynn and Will Yanez
Peter and the Wolves performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Peter and the Wolves

As a big fan of public art, I was particularly impressed with the fragments of public art featured in Chrysler’s “imported from Detroit” Superbowl ad:

There’s a lot to like here. There’s a lot of art deco, and I like art deco. There’s a lot of different kinds of art—murals, sculpture, architecture. And the spot features the sort of public spaces that are being phased out these days (in favor of commercial spaces that are technically only open to customers). The public square is important, and neither the mall nor the parking lot of a strip malls is an adequate substitute.

Anyway, one of the good things about public art on display in public places is that it’s available for use in spots like this. It’s part of our culture.

Adoration of the Snowman, originally uploaded by bradipo. Photo by Philip Brewer. Snow sculpture by some neighbor kid, I assume.

I almost captured the posture in this picture—the snowman leaning back, face turned up, arms spread wide. He looks like there’s nothing in the world more interesting than the apartment building across the path.

Creative Commons License
Adoration of the Snowman by Philip Brewer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Jackie and I traveled by train to Chicago, going up Tuesday and returning Wednesday.

I like traveling by rail. It’s is more comfortable and more convenient than traveling by either car or plane, especially if you’re going to want to be downtown (where the train station is) anyway. So, as I’ve written before on Wise Bread, I’m a big fan of Amtrak. On the trip up, though, we did have a problem. Apparently, a freight train had derailed somewhere north of Gilman, leaving the track blocked.

Amtrak hired buses to take us from Gilman on into Chicago. Here’s a picture of where we waited for the buses to arrive:

The passengers who’d been faster getting off the train than us had already filled the first bus and departed, so here the rest of us are, waiting for the next bus. I’m not sure what train that is sitting there. The train we’d been on (the Saluki) had already departed, heading on back south to be ready for the next day’s trip to Chicago, I suppose.

The station itself is that bus shelter structure in the middle of the picture.

We got to Chicago about three hours later than planned, which rather messed up our schedule for the  afternoon, but we had a nice trip anyway. Jackie and I went out for some brisk urban walking shortly after checking into our hotel. In Millennium Park, north of the Art Institute, we saw this:

Object in Millenium Park

Coming upon it produced the following conversation:

Me: What do you suppose it is?

Jackie: An amusement park ride?

Me: Maybe. Maybe it’s a solar power station.

Jackie: But it’s all shiny. That wouldn’t be very efficient.

Me: I bet I know! I bet it’s designed so that one day a year, when the sun is at a particular point in the sky, all those surfaces work together to concentrate the entire reflected power of the sun on one single point, vaporizing whoever happens to be standing there.

Jackie: That doesn’t make any sense. Think of the liability.

Me: You’re right. I guess amusement park ride is a better guess.

Today we took a bus down to Jackie’s old stomping ground in Hyde Park. We went to the Oriental Institute, the Seminary Co-Op bookstore, had lunch at Edwardo’s, and went to 57th Street Books, before heading back to Chicago and catching the Illini to come home.

A good trip, despite the unplanned bus ride from Gilman.

Angela Rivers Mural

I heard on the news this morning that Champaign was going to lose (to building renovations) a large public mural by Angela Rivers.

The mural, painted in 1978, is in pretty poor shape, which I suspect had something to do with the decision to let it go, but it’s still sad to lose. I’m a big fan of public art.

Since I had some warning, I figured I’d seize the opportunity to go grab some pictures. Here’s a detail with some faces and the signatures:

Detail of Angela Rivers Mural

And here’s another bit I particularly like, horses plowing toward the sun on the horizon:

Detail from Angela Rivers Mural

If you’re local, it’s worth getting up there to see it in person. It’s on the north side of a warehouse at the corner of Park and 5th Street, just a few blocks east of downtown Champaign.