Summer Americana – small town carnival, real life and virtual

Every year the volunteer fire company in my small town has a carnival, a fundraiser for their organization. There are several rides, some food booths, a few carnival games, and fireworks. There is neon. This year there was a classic car show. I do not know how the rides and carnival games come to be – are there itinerant carnival operators who contract with various organizations and travel the US, in summer, running the little carnivals? I’ve seen little carnivals used as fundraisers for organizations around here; the church on the border of my small town has one. I have never seen these small carnivals in California. Perhaps small carnivals are local to regions of the US.

I like small town Americana, in limited doses, so I went, early one July evening this year. In a delightful change from other years’ carnivals, it was not broiling hot and humid.

Since I went early, I got parking! Parking is a big deal for me. Without easy parking, I go home.

My black Honda Civic parked. July 2014

My black Honda Civic parked. July 2014

I entered from the side, going past our town’s softball fields, another slice of Americana. None of my photographs show the entrance to the carnival, which is not as pretty as you would think, as there is a parking lot in front of what I would call the “front” of the carnival. And I can’t see an overall theme on how the carnival is arranged, except the food booths are in the front.

Walking to the Carnival. July 2014

Walking to the Carnival. July 2014

Getting closer to the Carnival.  July 2014

Getting closer to the Carnival. July 2014

You can see neon. I like neon.

Carnival neon. July 2014

Carnival neon. July 2014

More Carnival neon. July 2014

More Carnival neon. July 2014

Ticket booth. You need tickets for the rides, not the food.

Ticket booth. July 2014

Ticket booth. July 2014

Funnel cakes are the best carnival and summer festival food. You make a funnel cake by pouring batter into very hot cooking oil, in a circular motion, hence the term funnel cake. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funnel_cake).Funnel cakes are traditionally covered in powdered sugar. Sometimes they are covered with cooked fruit, but I am a funnel cake purist, no fruit for me. If you eat a funnel cake, be forewarned that the sugar and the fat can make you a little sick. It works out better if you eat half a funnel cake.

Funnel cake booth. July 2014

Funnel cake booth. July 2014

This is what my funnel cake looks like.

Funnel cake. July 2014

Funnel cake. July 2014

See how big the funnel cake is! It was yummy.

Walking around, I saw some entrepreneurial people were selling neon sticks. I like neon. I bought two. The neon sticks helped me get to my car. Here they are, lighting up my screened in patio.

Neon sticks. July 2014

Neon sticks. July 2014

I could have stayed for the fireworks, but I decided to go home. Depending on exactly where the fireworks are set off, I can see my town fireworks from my alley, from a couple of blocks away, by the golf course, and sometimes from the second floor of my house. This year I did the alley and walked down to the golf course. The golf course has a tall chain link fence surrounding it, which is new, so the shots from the golf course are not that good.

My other phone had better settings for fireworks. I’ll have to play around with this phone to see if I can get better shots.

Fireworks. July 2014.

Fireworks. July 2014.

I didn’t see the fireworks finale, since my neighbor saw me outside and rushed over to talk to me. Apparently my fence has some openings in it, and her dogs are getting through to my side. Such is life in a small town. I can’t see the damaged fence because my bushes are overgrown; I promised her I will fix my fence after my landscaper tames my overgrown bushes.

My virtual life has a carnival too! I have what is called a smart wallpaper on my Android phone and Android tablet – My Beach HD by DualBoot Games, a 3D beach image. Things move, the scene pans. It is wonderful. I selected the carnival option as the point of interest for July festivities (4th of July is a US holiday). My virtual self can go to a bigger carnival, if I want to! I will have to imagine going there as there are no pictures of the carnival up close. And my real life food is better.

Beach scene and carnival, Android tablet. August 2014

Beach scene and carnival, Android tablet. August 2014

I’m fond of fireworks on my cell phone and tablet. I installed Fireworks Deluxe Full by Jetblack Software.

Fireworks on my phone. July 2014

Fireworks on my phone. July 2014

Happy carnival. Happy fireworks.

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It’s all about me. Word clouds.

Like many of us I enjoy things that purport to tell me something about me, even if what they tell me does not seem right. I like fanciful things too. I take Facebook surveys – what color would I be if I was a color? I made that one up.

And I like data analysis and data visualization. Data visualization is the new way of saying that you make your data look like a picture – a chart, a graph, a map overlay, something. You visualize it. “Data” is (often) counts of something, by something – number of sales by product (the oblong widget, the square widget), month and year of the sale, area of the world. You can use metrics other than counts, such as averages. What is the average price of a pint of blueberries in Philadelphia, during July 2014? You get the idea.

A word cloud, also called a tag cloud, is a data visualization of all the words in a document or a web site. Wikipedia talks about this in some detail, and includes a formula – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_cloud. You do not do this manually; you use an application, a program that count up all the words, and displays the words differently, depending on how often they are used in your source. Words that are used more often are bigger and have more prominence on the page. You omit filler words such as “the”, “and”. The goal is to make a pretty picture that says something interesting about the document or web site.

I decided to use Wordle (http://www.wordle.net) to make a pretty picture of this blog. Wordle is free. You can put Worldle images on your site. Most importantly, the images it generates are attractive.

I could not find an easy way to grab all the words from this blog, so I carefully copied my blog posts into a document, eliminating administrative words such as “posted”, dates of the posts, and the words from the columns on the side of my posts. I wanted wordle to work on what the blog was about. I wanted to see what comes up. Will California still be important?

I generated my word cloud before the last two posts. My word cloud captures how my blog looks before July 19, 2014. I tried a variety of picture formats and took a screenshot of the one I liked.

Word cloud of amarez.com, generated by Wordle, June 2014

Word cloud of amarez.com, generated by Wordle, June 2014

Good news – California is still prominent in my word cloud! There it is, looking blue. You can also see that Wordle is not smart enough to figure out that some words are really one word, even if they look like two. I wrote about Palo Alto, where I lived, but Wordle breaks it up into two words, and distributes the words “Palo” and “Alto” on different parts of the picture.

Next, I wanted to see what my resume looked like, after it went through Wordle. I removed my name and address and let Wordle do its thing. Here it is.

Word cloud of my resume, generated by wordle, June 2014

Word cloud of my resume, generated by wordle, June 2014

From my readings, when you apply for a job, you are supposed to generate a word cloud of a job you like, and then a word cloud of your resume. Then you make the word cloud of your resume match the job as closely as possible. The idea is that your resume fits the job, and so people will want to interview you for the job. I do not know if this works, but I understand the reasoning. But here’s the thing – I am absurdly fond of my how my resume came out on Wordle. I can look at my resume and I see what I care about.  I would not want to change it.

It’s all about me.

The Death of My Parents – And I Channel Them

I moved from California to southeastern Pennsylvania (US) in 2009, to be closer to my very old parents. Through a set of circumstances – I did not get the job I wanted, which was several hours away, then I worked from home, then I took a job in the area – I lived with them until their deaths in 2013. I lived in their home and became what I call an accidental caregiver. I did not plan to be their in-home caregiver; it happened.

My mother died of dementia on February 1, 2013. She was 92, in their home until the last week of her life. She had an excellent quality of life, until almost the end.  We brought in hospice care and other caregivers, though not full time until the end.  Caregiving became very difficult. This explains my lack of blog posts in 2012 and 2013. Basic living was hard enough. There was no time for anything else.

My father died of congestive heart failure on April 24, 2013. He was 91, in their home until the last three and a half weeks of his life. What was good for his heart was bad for his kidneys. His death was hard in a different way. My father did not have dementia; he was himself, though older and slower. We had a very good two months together.

Dementia is different. I do not believe that a person with dementia is gone, as in “she is not my mother anymore” – the person is there, of course. But you can see their capabilities slipping away. They become different from what they were before. You can see, clearly, that there is no turning back. Death is inevitable. It was not like that with my father.

I go on. I am living in the house, which is now mine and my sister’s. I do not plan to erase memories of them, but I am slowly making the house more my own.

Sometimes I wonder if I am channeling my parents. I will start with my father.

MY FATHER

My father was a retired industrial engineer. Retirement in his 60s freed him to do what he wanted. He and my mother traveled more, often but not always with their daughters. I planned most of the trips. My father also enjoyed his home, very much. He liked to make things. He made most of the furniture in their home..

My father made cards for his wife and his daughters, using the colored pencils my sister gave him. The cards were sweet, adorable, funny. Sometimes you can see his light pencil markings of the design; he marked out the design before he colored it in. My father was a planner.

This is my favorite card.  I do not know the year, before I move here in 2009, some years. before. . It shows the best of my parents.

My father made this card for my sister and me. I am not sure of the year.

My father made this card for my sister and me. I am not sure of the year.

After there were no more large pieces of furniture left in the house to make, my father wanted to make things that were practical, but more “artistic”, and on a smaller scale. He taught himself to make coffee tables and end tables, inlaid with mosaics he made from kitchen and bathroom tiles, ceramic, solid colors, no designs on the tiles. He was careful with their money, so he and my mother went to stores that sold tiles and asked the store clerks if he could buy the remains of odd lots and discontinued tiles. I think he told them what he planned to do – he might have shown them. Often they gave him the tiles for free. It’s hard to resist two cute little old people, telling you what they planned to create with kitchen and bathroom tiles!

Here are two end tables from the outdoor screened in porch. Yes, I know, I need to put something on the wood. There is some leakage from the roof of the outdoor patio.

Aren’t they lovely?

Top of an end table my father made.  He made the mosaic using ceramic tiles he cut up. Photo taken 2014.

Top of an end table my father made. He made the mosaic using ceramic tiles he cut up. Photo taken 2014.

Another mosaic table my father made.  Photo taken 2014

Another mosaic table my father made. Photo taken 2014

How do I channel my father? I like to make things, and I like to work in a series, like my dad. My father loved to work in series. And I make cards too. But I don’t plan as much when I make things. I use materials that respond better to an iterative process.

I am not an engineer, but I am a computer person (business IT), and I love tech. So I took some of his methodological approach and organization to other facets of my life. And I’ve color coded and labeled the cables and power chords of all the devices connected to my desktop, at both the device and the computer end. That’s organization!

MY MOTHER

I think my mother had a naturally better design sense than my father. It came to her easily. She had a knack for putting things together. She had a good sense of style,  a classic, youthful look. She loved pants and stopped wearing dresses entirely, when women could. She had a fine design sense, but she didn’t like to make things that involved much in the way of organization or planning.

My mother loved growing things, most of all. “I stick it in the ground and it grows”, she said. She could get roots out of any cutting. Along with outdoor plants, her plants and flowers on the closed in porch (the solarium, we sometimes called it, the sun room) were amazing. And the plants and the flower boxes on the screened in patio were also very pretty. This was a way for her to exercise her design sense.

I don’t like outdoor, in the ground, gardening all that much, though I’ve done it. I like container gardening. I’ve maintained the indoor plants and added to them.

I channel my mother when my sister comes over to visit. I show my sister all the new blooming things, exactly like my mother.did.. I say “look at this, it is blooming, this started to bloom, I rooted these collies (coleus plants) and look how well they are doing.” Just like my mother.

From the sun room.

View from the sun room, 2014. The gerbera daily is blooming.

View from the sun room, 2014. The gerbera daily is blooming.

Snow outside, blooming plants inside. View from the sun room, 2014.

Snow outside, blooming plants inside. View from the sun room, 2014.

My mother rooted a cutting from a bouquet of flowers from Hawaii that my sister sent her. The little "cutting" is now over three feet tall and shows no signs of stopping.  View from the sun room, 2014.

My mother rooted a cutting from a bouquet of flowers from Hawaii that my sister sent her. The little “cutting” is now over three feet tall and shows no signs of stopping. View from the sun room, 2014.

And so I go on.

Summer swimming, changes, goodbye to my California connection

Summer swimming at my local community pool in Pennsylvania was the best ever.

Before the pool opened. June 2012

The office where I bought my season pass. June 2012

Rope dividing the sections. August 2012

Diving area is beyond the rope. August 2012

Swimming In the lap lane, looking at the diving area. August 2012

You can barely see the seam at the bottom of the pool (diagonal line) that I use to swim in a straight line. August 2012

Goodbye to outdoor swimming for this year. August 2012

This leads me to changes.  Currently I work at home, doing something a bit different from what I usually do for a living.  I worked for over a year for a company based in California.  Most people who work there work remotely – there are people I work with all over the US and a few other places.  And  I love telecommuting,

That changes in the middle of September.  I am taking a job with a local organization.  I have to go there every work day, though it is the easiest commute ever – two stoplights at the edge of my small town, get on the good freeway, the modern one, not the “good luck merging in traffic” one, two protected left turns right after the exit, and I’m there.  It’s not a great time for me to get a job outside my home, but the job is a good one, I like the organization, and I will be doing work I value.  The job was too good to pass up.

But – what this means is that after three years, my last California connection is gone. I can’t exactly pretend I’m just passing through, though I won’t retire here.  I live here, in the house I grew up in, and I’ll go to work, every work day, to a job in this area.

I’m reminded of those movies where a person who has lived away returns home and discovers something.  There’s usually a lesson, some connection, some reestablishment of roots, some closure, sometimes an appreciation of the “simpler” life.  I don’t feel any of those things. My life is not a heartfelt movie.

And wait, my recruiter, who got me the job here, he lived in California for years, and liked it.  There’s always a connection.

Philadelphia, This Year

As big cities go, Philadelphia is quite nice, even nicer now that I go in on the train via the adorable Colmar station.  This is where I’ve been, this year.

Reading Terminal Market – http://www.readingterminalmarket.org

This is a farmer’s market in a permanent indoor space, in a lovely historic building next to the convention center.  The food is good.   The shops are good.  There is a local winery store, Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars, a local winery with excellent wines,   http://bluemountainwine.com/.  I almost wept when I stopped there.  Given Pennsylvania’s ridiculous liquor control laws (don’t get me started) and the local culture, I’ve mostly given up on the wine thing here.  Blue Mountain makes great wines, though it’s not easy to buy their wines, given that it’s a local winery and Pennsylvania’s liquor laws and the local liquor stores are so terrible.  I had the Chambourcin which was excellent, also interesting because I was not familiar with the grape.

Reading Terminal Market, fish sign, April 2011

Reading Terminal Market, Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars sign, April 2011

Philadelphia International Flower Show –http://theflowershow.com/home/index.html

“Springtime in Paris” was the theme for 2011.  The flower show is huge; it takes over the Philadelphia Convention Center.  The show consisted of a number of gardens with a Paris theme and a market where you could buy things.  I had a good time, though I learned why it is never a good idea to go on the weekend.  It was very crowded

Through Rose Colored Glasses, Philadelphia International Flower Show, March 2011

A Bed of Roses, Philadelphia International Flower Show, March 2011

Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts Street Fair – http://pifa.org/streetfair

Another Paris and French themed event.  It was not crowded in the morning, but more crowded as the day went on.  The food was good, the performers were good, the sights were good, some interesting arty things.

Butterfly Puppet, Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts Street Fair, April 2011

Ferris Wheel, Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts Street Fair, April 2011

La Ville Radieuse (The Radiant City), a Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts 2011 Collaboration

On the day I went to the street fair, I went inside the Kimmel Center, a performing arts space, a spectacular building with a hundred fifty foot barrel-vaulted glass roof (http://kimmelcenter.org/facilities/tour/).  There was a site installation, La Ville Radieuse, by Mimi Lien, an artist and set  designer.  http://pifa.org/journey/lavilleradieuse/2

The interior of the Kimmel Center was magical.  There was a replica of the Eiffel tower, all in lights.  Above me, moving on wires was a plane, trains, and a dirigible.  My photographs do not do it justice.

La Ville Radieuse, Kimmel Center, April 2011

La Ville Radieuse, Kimmel Center, April 2011

Art

This mini sculpture park is at the Marriott hotel, next to the Reading Terminal Market.  I had to do some research to figure out who made it. I like the work, and it was a great place to eat lunch when the Reading Terminal Market was very crowded, on the day I went to the flower show.

World Park, Cast concrete, fiberglass, stone and glass mosaic, landscape,15′ x 88′ x 96′, Philadelphia, PA. Commissioned by Marriott Hotel, 1995, Ned Smyth.

http://www.philart.net/artist.php?id=223   http://www.nedsmyth.com/information/resume

World Park, 1995, photograph taken March 2011

World Park, 1995, photograph taken March 2011

World Park, 1995, photograph taken March 2011

The Fabric Workshop and Museum – http://www.fabricworkshopandmuseum.org/

Contrary to the name, this is not a fabric workshop and museum; it is a contemporary arts gallery and museum, focusing on different types of materials.  I love it.  You can’t take photos inside, so I have no photos of their exhibits.   You can’t even walk around the exhibits yourself.  After you pay your admission fee, a nice person escorts you around the current exhibit, and you can stay as long as you like.  I think this is because the work is not protected and, while not fragile as in “you touch it, it breaks”, it would be easy to disturb the work.  I love the exhibits and hope to get there more often.

The Fabric Workshop and Museum, April 2011

Going to Philadelphia – The Colmar Station

Over the spring and early summer I went to Philadelphia for events – the Philadelphia flower show, a street fair, a dinner with women in technology.  Now, when I lived in California, I drove  to San Francisco many times.  I’ve driven all over the California coast.  I’ve driven to Seattle.  I drove 3000 miles across the US.  But, driving to Philadelphia does not appeal to me.  I will drive in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, because I have to, but I don’t like it very much.  In the US I like to drive in coastal California, the Pacific northwest, the southwest, Austin Texas, and parts of Hawaii.  Maybe I’ll make an exception for coastal Maine and the highway to the Florida Keys – liked driving those roads.

That leaves train travel.  Train travel in the US is painfully slow.  Regional train travel is even slower.  But taking the train is fun.  It’s extra fun if you can start at one of the platonic ideals of train station cuteness, the Colmar station. Sadly, you cannot walk to this train station, unless you lived next door, perhaps, but there are still many benefits to traveling via this station.

Parking

Lots of parking and the parking lot doesn’t fill up.  Getting there is easy for me, if a bit long, a straightforward route, no tricky intersections, fairly good traffic.

The Colmar Train Station. April 2011.

Parking and the Wawa gas station. April 2011.

An adorable little train station.

Per Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colmar_(SEPTA_station)) the Colmar station was built in 1856.  I do not know if this is the original building.  Glass blocks such as these were originally developed in the 1900s.  Perhaps this station dates from the early 1900s.  It’s a tiny station and there is no restroom, but there is a restroom at the Wawa gas station across from the station, as well as food.  The Wawa gas station is open all the time. There’s a heater in the tiny train station building, for the winter, though I don’t know how much heat it provides.

Side view, exterior, Colmar train station. April 2011.

Interior, Colmar train station. Wonderful glass blocks. April 2011.

Colmar train station. The heater. April 2011.

Waiting for the train.

I feel like I’m in a movie, setting off from the country to the big city.  I look one way and the other, to see if a train is coming.

The train station and the train tracks. May 2011.

Looking the other way at the train tracks. April 2011.

The buildings across from the train tracks. Pretty. April 2011.

A train is coming. May 2011.

The train is not fancy, but it is comfortable.  Cell phone service is good, so I can use my Android smartphone.

On the train. April 2011.

On the train with my Motorola Droid Android phone. April 2011.

Looking out the window

I used to take the SEPTA Norristown line into Philadelphia, which gave me a lovely view of the Schuylkill River.  There is no river on this route, but the landscape is pretty.

Watching the view on the way to Philadelphia. April 2011.

More views from the train. April 2011.

If I worked in downtown Philadelphia, Ambler would be a good place for me to live.

Ambler, view from the train. April 2011.

Farewell to the Colmar station.

Goodbye Colmar Station. April 2011.

Lunch at the lifestyle center. Being pensive.

I don’t eat out much anymore.  Not working will do that to you.  (Yes, I am still looking for work, and I’m getting interviews, which is good.)

February after Valentine’s Day must be a slow month in restaurant land.  There are restaurant deals around.  There is a fancy mall near me that had what they call “restaurant week”.  From Sunday February 20th through Thursday February 24th, the restaurants at this mall had three course fixed price meals for lunch and dinner, for a very reasonable price.

Correction, this is not a mall, this is a “lifestyle center”.  See the entry in Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifestyle_center_%28retail%29.  Lifestyle centers have specialty shops, cafes, upscale restaurants, fancy grocery stores, movie theaters and other forms of entertainment.  Lifestyle centers consist of separate buildings in a mall like space.  They are open air.  They have landscaping.  Here’s a link from the populist USA Today, since, oddly enough lifestyle centers are populist places — http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2007-01-31-anti-mall-usat_x.htm.

I went to Pacifico for lunch.  Here is the description of the restaurant, from open table:

“Extraordinary Latin-influenced cuisine by renowned chef, teacher and cookbook author Rafael Palomino is served in a whimsical atmosphere with seaside flair.”  http://www.opentable.com/pacifico-center-valley

I’m a big fan of designer Mexican restaurants (neighborhood Mexican eateries too), so I decided to try Pacifico.  Here is what I had, the exact description on the menu, because I thought it looked so yummy.

Appetizer: Chicken Tortilla Soup: chicken, avocado, crunchy tortilla, crème fraiche, queso fresco

Entrée:  Sautéed South African Red Snapper: plantain encrusted snapper, crabmeat & quinoa enchiladas with a mole verde sauce

Dessert: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake: vanilla & raspberry sauces

It was yummy!  I had a wonderful time.

Pacifico restaurant. Spot of color on a gloomy day. February 2011.

Pacifico, festive lunch. February 2011.

After lunch I wandered around the shops.  It was a weekday in February, before school let out, so there were only a few people walking around.  I noticed several things.  The place was nicely landscaped, the shops were pretty, and music was playing everywhere, not too loud, from speakers set unobtrusively on the ground.  The music was angst ridden poplar music, young rock musicians singly sadly and tunefully about relationships gone wrong.  If you think about it, although the music was melodic, is this the kind of music you’d play to encourage shopping?  Even L.L. Bean, a store that specializes in clothing and equipment for outdoor adventures, had their own version of pensive music playing in their store.  I guess we can be pensive as we hit the trail.

A view of the shops. February 2011.

L.L. Bean store. Colorful kayaks. February 2011.

The upscale grocery store (think Whole Foods, or Wegmans if you are in the northeast US) had classical music playing.  Perhaps you don’t buy food if you are listening to angst ridden songs about relationships.

The upscale grocery store. You have to go inside to see how fancy it is! February 2011.

I rarely buy things in stores, except for food.  I buy online.  When I do buy in stores, I find it interesting to buy something and take it home the same day – so immediately gratifying, a fun treat!

I have mixed feelings about the commercialism of these kinds of places.  I’m not an urban center purist, nor am I a fan of big cities.  I like convenient parking, well lit safe places, decent signage, cafes and landscaping.  I’m not moral about not spending money, about denying myself.  I’m reasonably materialist.  But, the sameness, that music, and the fact that it’s all about commerce – that sort of thing can wear you down, if you walk by yourself and take the time to really experience the place.  Maybe it can make you pensive, after all.

The landscape surrounding the shopping center, on a cloudy late winter day, February 2011. Ah, the pensive.