Jun 22

Extra travel photos

You thought we were done with that amazing vacation, didn’t you? The first rule around here is my site, my rules. And the second rule is use all the photos you can.

The third rule is rub it in if you can (because you’re back at the house and in the office anyway).

So a few more pictures to get through today, all of these from the return portion of the vacation. And then, after that, it’ll get normal here again far too quickly. (Because the fourth rule is indulge in normalcy, and pad your content with routine matters.)

There are, it turns out, a lot of rules.

We saw this at the bakery just outside of our hotel, where we had a nice little quiche breakfast before heading to the trolley to get to the train station to ride to the airport to take a tram to get on a plane to fly to the U.S.

You need a quiche to fortify you for such logistics. Anyway, we saw this, and I have no comment.

I just read that the EU (Switzerland isn’t a part of the EU, but does participate in the Union’s single market) produces about a million metric tonnes of strawberries a year. About half of them are from Spain, Poland, Germany and Italy.

I imagine they all look as gorgeous as these.

At the airport, we saw perhaps the most useful, tasty chocolate that’s ever tempted you.

Useful, that is, until you eat some key part of the map.

Nearby, this stack of fudge. I wonder how long that’s been there, if it’s still edible or if it was made in some special way just for longevity in a display box.

This guy was flying the planes.

You better not be my pilot, Herr Lego.

He was not. Just your regular human people sitting in chairs up front while the plane flew itself. Zurich to New York and, after a reasonable layover, on to Indy. We saw our first sunset in the U.S. in two weeks. Call it Pennsylvania.

Looks like Pennsylvania, right? And that looks like the end of that trip to Paris, Normandy and all over Switzerland. Now, back in Indiana, we wonder where we’ll go next.

(This week’s early idea is the Caribbean.)

Jun 22

Visiting the top of Europe, Jungfrau

For this Tuesday post we’re looking back at our trip two weeks ago today. We’re doing this to catch up, but also to make up for the brief break I took from the site. So, sit back, enjoy the many photos (and the charming little video!) that tells the tale of this recent, amazing, adventure …

We set out on a tour for The Jungfrau, one of the main summits of the Bernese Alps. It’s part of a massive wall of mountains, and a distinctive sight in the Alps. First summited in 1811, it was not until 1865 that a direct route up the northern side of the mountain was opened.

We’re going up there.

The construction of the Jungfrau Railway, in the early 20th century, made the area one of the most-visited places in the Alps. It is now part of an area designated a World Heritage Site in 2001.

Here’s a better look from the town below.

We took the hardest route of all: the bus route, which led us to a ski lift, and also that train mentioned above.

Oh, and they call this …

The proper summit is 13,642 feet. We stopped just short of that, which is probably for the best. I fell just before taking this photo, which was in a gift shop.

And here’s my lovely bride, realizing she’s stuck with a faller.

But can we go outside for a moment? Remember those lovely exterior shots at the beginning of the post? The ones with the beautiful mountain behind us? If you turned around the other direction, you saw this. Think about those views.

So we’re on the move here, let’s look at some other mountains, or hills, or Alpine speed bumps.

It wasn’t just me, struck by the novelty of the locale features, which is reassuring.

Here we are on the ski lift going up on the next step of the journey.

We’re just flying over these houses, and so you don’t know anything, but that doesn’t seem like a bad lifestyle from above, does it?

Putting aside the pastoral living, we’re really here for the mountains.

You’ll have to forgive me, but I don’t see mountains every day, so I really played up the tourist bit.

And, yes, we’re going well above the tree line, and into the snow.

Here we are, on foot, approaching the tourism summit of Jungfrau. For a few moments while we were standing there we were experiencing a white out. (Somehow those are more fun on the last day of May? Again, the novelty of tourism …)

I’m not sure if she was prepared for snow.

But pretty much the entire time we were on the mountain, we enjoyed the snow. Farther down, on that ski lift, it was just rain. In the valley where we started this post, it was sunny and a mild spring day, all day.

This other prominent point of the mountain in the background isn’t far away, but in the clouds and fog and snow, it seems only barely there. Doesn’t help that there are actual snowflakes in our eyes.

This is one of the two observation points that were available to us near the top. Lots of people. Lots of photographs. A lot of people doing video chats with people back home. No one, but us, doing this.

(They were all impressed by us.)

At the other observation point, we claim this mountain for Switzerland! (Our presence, like the flag, was a big plus.)

Let’s go inside the mountain.

They call this part the Alpine Experience, and this giant snow globe is going to grow on you.

Had it not been for other people interested in seeing the thing I would have stood there until I shot every moving part. But sometimes tourists get in the way of a full, proper, tourist experience.

We walked down an ice tunnel.

Everything here is ice, except the lights and the handrail. Very James Bond.

I don’t know about you, but I seldom get to walk around in ice tunnels, so this was fun. Also, the acoustics were great. You’ll have to take my word for it.

There are several ice carvings through the area. Here’s just one.

The romantic story is that it was the nuns of the Interlaken convent (the town we started in at the beginning) who gave the mountain its name. They owned a lot of the pasture land at the foot of the glacier and the mountains. The rock faces seemed inaccessible and the nuns thought it jungfraulich, untouched and virginal. The signs say that’s not actually the case. The real story just sounds like a more natural evolution of language.

Welcome to the highest-altitude karst cave in Europe, at 11,423 feet.

The unsorted sediments seem to have arrived here by glacial displacement, or water. Dating has been a problem for scientists, but the research suggests we’re looking at mid-Pleistocene age accumulation. So we’re talking after the earliest documented human clothes, but earlier than human mastery of fire. This cave is inactive today, because the permafrost restricts cave-forming processes.

But if you’re not here for geology, you must be here for the chocolate!

That wasn’t the point of the day, but a nice benefit. We didn’t buy this bag; we just ate it right there in front of the cash register.

we actually enjoyed a perfectly healthy cucumber sandwich in the self-serve cafeteria, looking out to the mountain.

Also, if you go up this high, you will feel it. Drink a lot of water, our guide said. You’ll thank me, he said. Altitude headaches are real, he said.

He was right about that last one, at the very least. We’re at 2.25 miles above sea level there. In Zurich our hotel is at 1,330 feet. Our house is just over half that high. We were up there. It was great!

And Jungfrau is just one part of our amazing Switzerland adventures. Come back tomorrow. There’s going to be something that’s, perhaps, even more impressive!

Jun 22

Visiting with Vincent

This was written for a Tuesday. Not today, but two weeks ago. And that’s going to be the way of it around here for the next few weeks. But it’ll be worth it. All of this covers two weeks of travels and, hopefully, makes up for the two-week break I took on the site. So cast your mind back two weeks …

We stopped to pick up a quick sandwich after a morning of finalizing packing, and running an errand and before the day’s treat, and this was the art next door.

Everything can’t be art, because if everything is art then nothing is, really, art. Art, in a simple form for a simple way of thinking about it, like mine, should be transportive. That could take you to another place, to the artist’s way of thinking, or just at a slight remove from your own place. Everything can’t be art, but art can be … distractive.

But not everything that distracts is art. Just because you used something evocative of modern art techniques on the side of an oil change place doesn’t make it art. That you put eyes on it probably does. That it was commissioned seals the deal.

Anyway, that was at lunch, a hasty chicken sandwich on the go in Indianapolis, as we were actually on our way to see some post-impressionism from Vincent van Gogh:

Step into a digital world of art at THE LUME Indianapolis and explore the combination of great art and cutting-edge technology at its finest with floor to ceiling projections of some of the most famous paintings in the world. A must-see cultural experience created by Australian-based Grande Experiences; the first year’s show features the paintings of Vincent van Gogh as well as featurettes inspired by the work of Van Gogh.

Nearly 150 state-of-the-art digital projectors transform two-dimensional paintings into a three-dimensional world that guests can explore while walking through 30,000 square feet of immersive galleries. THE LUME Indianapolis has 60 minutes of digital content that runs continuously and simultaneously in all the digital galleries.

This is not a movie with a start and end, or something you would sit to watch from one viewpoint, but rather a constant loop of beauty that is designed to be a walking experience, seeing the art up close and all around you. Guests should wander throughout the space, taking in the experience from every angle.

We’d put this off, because of Covid, but we had time on this particular Tuesday before we had to get to the airport and the exhibition was closing at the end of the month, so this timing worked out just right. And seeing this was absolutely worth the experience.

The music there is Le Carnaval des Animaux (or The Carnival of the Animals) by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It’s a 14-movement composition, and he wrote it as a joke, forbidding public performances during his lifetime out of fear that it would harm his reputation as a serious composer. Here, it got used for its whimsy.

So while you contemplate the adaptation of van Gogh’s famous oil-on-canvas The Starry Night, I must tell you I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the exhibit. I’d seen one little bit of text and maybe one image and thought we were just going to walk through Starry Night for a while, which would have been perfectly fine. He painted that in June 1889, inspired by the pre-dawn view from his window at the the asylum at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. (The village in the painting’s foreground is imaginary.)

I have an original, one-of-a-kind, reproduction of Starry Night in my home office. I just have to turn my head a bit to the right to see it. At once evocative of the van Gogh masterpiece, and altogether different. It really is lovely.

He’d admitted himself into the asylum the month before, after his December 1888 breakdown and the whole ear thing that people want to remember. That part of his life comes up a fair amount from the exhibit, but that’s not the whole man, nor the whole of what we saw.

Wheatfield with Crows is often thought to be van Gogh’s last painting, but the museum named after him in the Netherlands says that’s a myth. Nevertheless, you get a sense of more of van Gogh’s unsteadiness in the final year of his life — and the music here helps convey that. He said the fields below the stormy skies expressed “sadness, extreme loneliness,” but the countryside was meant to be “healthy and fortifying.”

It is dark in the exhibit. There’s a gunshot, or some such loud sound, and the frozen oil on canvas crows fly away and disappear, because they are digital. And Chloe Hanslip, meanwhile, is sawing away at Benjamin Godard’s Violin Concerto No. 2. It gives it a certain edge. But when those crows jumped, that was startling.

This isn’t just a light show projected on the walls. There’s stuff happening on the floors, too. At times you’re walking in, and on, van Gogh’s paintings and sketches.

Many of van Gogh’s early works showed Dutch landscapes and his native culture. Windmills show up a fair amount in all of that, and also in much of his work from Paris. He could see windmills from his apartment there.

Most of his windmills are displayed in museums around the world today. (An important one was lost in a fire in the 1960s.) Who doesn’t like windmills?

And who doesn’t love Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major?

We had that in our wedding. My lovely bride has it as one of her ringtones.

There is also an interactive component to the exhibit. You can zoom in to study brushstrokes using a frustrating technology that tracks your hand motions, and you can take pictures and apply a postimpressionist filter. (This concept would have been a wonderfully novel trick before Instagram, of course. It just feels normal, now, though.) We’re all painters! And subjects …

Interspersed with the recreations of van Gogh’s art there were plenty of other digital elements, including some context about his time in various other parts of Europe, and things he’d written. I don’t know if I’ve ever identified with a quote as readily as this one. It is the English translation of a passage from a letter van Gogh wrote, in 1885, to Anthon van Rappard who was a friend and mentor. They were critiquing each other’s work, discussing their progress, and their contemporaries, and the regular stuff of living a life. And then, eventually …

That’s my process for … most everything … in that one sentence. Anyone who has spent more than 90 seconds on this site, or probably just around me, could recognize it.

The work in question, painting the peasants, is such laborious work that the extremely weak would never even embark on it. And I have at least embarked on it and have laid certain foundations, which isn’t exactly the easiest part of the job! And I’ve grasped some solid and useful things in drawing and in painting, more firmly than you think, my dear friend. But I keep on making what I can’t do yet in order to learn to be able to do it.

The artists who worked on the creation of this traveling installation were obviously having a great time. You didn’t have to bring interpretive weather into a master’s work to see that, but it doesn’t necessarily hurt, either. And here’s more of Hanslip playing Godard.

For whatever reason, I’ve never thought much of still life. Kitchen table art just seems like, well, those plastic tablecloths on so many of the kitchen tables of your youth. But this, perhaps because it was on more than one plane, and oversized, is really captivating. I stood there staring at the white in the apples at my feet, but I was transfixed by the reproductions of the cracks in the oil.

That was late in the afternoon. The exhibit seemed to close a bit early. Everyone knew it but us, and so they all left. We had maybe 20 minutes alone with the whole thing. In a way that’s easy to feel and difficult to describe, it seemed like a big gift: a private moment looking at the brilliant work of people inspired by a master.

It wasn’t all digital. They also had an actual van Gogh on display, this is Landscape at Saint-Rémy, and I hope this does it a bit of justice.

As of this writing, it is in 13 U.S. cities and seven more in Europe and a few other places besides. If you can see this immersive exhibit, you should definitely make the effort.

After that wonderful experience, we had another one, at the airport. Two airports, in fact!

But more on that tomorrow.

May 22

Just go go go

Worked today, doing work stuff. Enjoying the beginning of summer by getting ready for the fall. I had an actual lunch! We got takeout from Chick-fil-A and ate it in a parking lot between Panera and Fresh Thyme and a funeral home. It’s a glamorous life, to be sure.

After work I got gas. Paid $3.19 a gallon, which was a dollar off the sign price, because of the Kroger fuel points plan. This loyalty program is one of the three great things about our local grocery store. And, at the beginning of the year we took advantage of what is essentially Kroger Prime. Used to be that every dollar you spent was added into a formula for a reduced price at the pump. Since you’re shopping for groceries anyway, this was an easy and obvious thing. But now your dollar amounts are worth double in the gas reduction formula. We signed up before the war in Ukraine and inflation drove up the prices, and so this has paid for itself several times over already.

After that, and I know you’re riveted, I went to the hardware store. Got some tack cloths. At the house I sanded wood until it was time for dinner. (And almost all of the sanding on this ridiculously long-stalled project is now down.) And then I ate and washed dishes and did a very small amount of house chores until it was time to write this. And here you are.

Five years ago tonight, we were with the Indigo Girls.

I think that was the seventh or ninth time I’ve seen the Indigo Girls live. I don’t go to a lot of concerts anymore — indeed, I think I’ve been to one other show, in 2019, since then, and we had two others canceled in 2020 — but Amy and Emily, I’d never turn down. They never disappoint.

OK, the sanding isn’t done. Everything is done through 400-grit. Later this week I’ll do the ends to 800-grit. Then it’ll be ready to clean and stain and install. Which is good, because there’s an ever-growing list of other things I need to make.

So, this summer work, bike and build is how I’ll get ready for the fall.

May 22

More moving pictures

I was mistaken about the number of shows still left in the tank for IUSTV. I thought there were two. Here are four. And there’s at least two more still to go after this … So I was off by six.

It’s not the greatest miscount of my week, I am sure.

Anyway, let’s watch some stuff. IU Fanshop, which is a show just about being a fan (the most important thing at the park, by the way) they’re talking to people at a softball game. There’s even an appearance from The Yankee in this show.

They also went out and heard from all of the people at the Little 500 races. This is a two-part feature. Here’s part one.

And here’s Not Too Late. Mia interviews some guy named Captain Torrent, a movie pirate, who’s really leaning into the bit. Also, there’s a pet safety segment.

And here’s the morning show, The Bloomington Breakfast Club, with their season finale, which I wrote about here on Friday.

I got in from the office, narrowly avoiding the many traffic hazards along the way. For a time I cataloged them. How many dangerous or nonsensical or stupid things can you find in 4.5-mile trip. Quite a few, as it turns out.

Yesterday an SUV and a UPS truck were each parked on a two-lane, one way road. That means the road was … I’ll wait while you do the math here … blocked. There was also the zipping around people guy. And, later, the person who almost had a violent lesson in how roundabouts work. And we haven’t discussed yet the pedestrians.

It’s an everyday adventure. As I negotiated part of that route today, in the always-neat simultaneous sun and rain, the local radio host was doing his annual bit about the city getting lighter this summer. The out-of-town students are beginning to scatter as they wrap up their finals. We are saying all of our goodbyes and starting to think about having parking spaces and being able to make a left turn in just one red light.

Today I barely made it through a straight intersection in one light. A few months with almost a third less of the cars and people wouldn’t be a bad thing. To say nothing of the buses.

The buses are their own sort of danger.

Scenes from a walk. The golden groundsel (Packera aurea) is back and showing off.

And the dandelions are happily back as well, seemingly everywhere that hasn’t been mowed recently. The public properties don’t get cut every week, which means a lot of puffballs.

The foliage on the trees are on their way, supposedly.

At least the clouds are dynamic, right?