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Sunday 28 June 2009

Muhammad Ali Center

We visited the Muhammad Ali Center today. It's partly a civic center, but mostly a museum dedicated to Ali's life and times. Three floors of exhibits tell a biographical tale about Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, from his starting training at the age of 12, through defeating Sonny Liston (that guy was huge), conversion to Islam, refusing Army service, returning to claim the heavyweight title again and again, up to his many charitable and philanthropic efforts that he's currently involved in. It's an interesting place. He's a guy who certainly has a lot to say about himself.

Categories: News from Louisville

Saturday 27 June 2009

Hike for Hosparus

This morning I participated in the "Hike for Hosparus", a fundraiser in our neighborhood for the local hospice provider (Louisville is small; there is only one).

It was hot. Unusually so for Louisville. But still the turnout was impressive; several hundred people for a organization that most people, I would guess, would rather not think about.

Categories: News from Louisville

Thursday 25 June 2009

C. E. Cheese vs. The Science Center

If you tell a four year old that you are going to take her to Chuck E. Cheese's, you can be sure that they will make absolutely certain that you do not forget or forsake your pledge. So this morning we decamped early (it opens at 9), and trekked to Mr Charles' establishment, armed with the coupons that we got for joining his "club" (note to grandparents doing this for the first time: signing up on the internet will get you a substantial discount). Dining options are limited, but I will have to say that they are one of the very few restuarants in Louisville to have a perfect Health Department score of 100, so eating there is safer than you would probably think.

GC1 had a lot of fun and met Chuck in person; for me there were more familiar games to play: air hockey, skeeball, a couple of video car racing games, and one "shooter" video game that did not involve firing a gun and killing something. In this game you handle a firehose and try to rescue the Mayor, who is trapped in a burning building. Seems he was addressing a campaign fundraiser when the transformer in the basement overheated and burst into flames. I'm afraid I was unable to complete the rescue.

The atmosphere at this establishment stuck me as manic, much more so than its predecessor, Showbiz Pizza Place. It seemed much louder, and I certainly don't remember seeing raunchy music videos being remade in an attempt to make them appropriate for preschoolers - they're still raunchy and send the wrong signal. They've taken the old Showbiz slogan - Where a Kid Can Be a Kid - and bent it all out of shape. I read about how they have to drug up elementary school kids to control them in class, and if this place is any indication as to what they're getting outside of school, then I'm not at all surprised.

The "Eyeball" Museum

Contrast this to the Louisville Science Center. We drove there later in the afternoon, and CVH warned me that the visit might be a short one, since GC1 was so worn out she might be about to fall asleep. This concerned me slightly, as the Science Center isn't exactly cheap and I didn't want to be leaving after fifteen minutes (although to be fair, it cost no more than the morning at Chuck E. Cheese's did). Yet here was a place where a Kid could truly be a Kid, and with the kind of imaginative stimulation that builds brains, not turn them to mush. GC1 made "bubble art", played with an array of water hoses and toys, helped me build a Archimedean arch, flew a jet while CVH and I relaxed in its first class cabin, listened to bird and whale song, and in general acted like a kid, but in a more constructive and intelligent way. She was completely energized by the Science Center and we stayed until closing time and she was quite upset to have to leave; later she kept saying that she wanted to return to the "eyeball" museum. Verdict: Skip Chuck E. Cheese's.

Categories: News from Louisville

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Kentucky Down Under

We all piled into the station wagon today and took a trip down to the Kentucky Outback, aka Kentucky Down Under. CVH had been wanting to take the grandchild there for sometime now, and now was the time.

Kentucky Down Under is one of many attractions around Mammoth Cave National Park. “Attractions” being a euphemism for “tourist trap”, of course, but this one was really pretty nice for the ten-and-under set, who wouldn't notice any of the cheesiness. And there was quite a nice educational aspect to the park; they did a good job of explaining the animals and geography.

The first attraction we saw was one of funnest: you went into a cage of brightly colored parakeets with parakeet food and let the birds fly around you and land on you. This is really more fun than it sounds and I enjoyed the bright colors swirling through the air.

Then we went to the reptile show, where GC1 got to pet a blue-tongued skink, and Spot the Snake (so named because of the brightly colored spots on his body).

The Rainbow Lorikeet

After a walk through the bird garden to hear the Kookaburra laugh and to marvel at the Rainbow Lorikeet, we unpacked and ate our picnic lunch.

The Picnic Moocher

I would recommend taking your own lunch, as the dining options on site are otherwise rather limited. However, be aware that you will probably be visited by the resident avian panhandler, seen here on top of our picnic table.

CVH descending the cave

Following lunch, we toured the cave.

It's a nice cave, just the right size – not too long to be tiresome, but long enough to see a wide variety of cave formations. It's not so big that you feel like you're in the Astrodome, but not so small that you're having to squeeze around all the time and can't really see anything. It's nice and intimate. We all liked it.

Then there was a lecture on non-native species in Australia, from European felons to rabbits to sheep and dogs, and all the trouble they caused. A nice lesson in environmental ecology, backed by solid evidence from the Australian experience.

After the lecture, we went to pet some of the Australian animals. The kangaroo, of course, and an emu. CVH enjoyed the kangaroo; so found it surprisingly soft and smooth.

GC1's father was bad about putting his arm in front of her; I can't tell you how many pictures I have like this one.

With some coaching, however, they became quite a pair of models.

A walk around the nature trail, and then we went into the woolshed to see the varieties of sheep that are popular in Australia. The guide told us that there were several sheep farms Down Under of over a million acres, the largest being about the size of Rhode Island. They demonstrated how to “sit” a sheep and then brought in a dairy cow. CVH, having grown up around dairy farms, encouraged us to give milking a try, but warned us to pay attention to her and back away quickly from the rear of the cow if she warned us to. GC1 and I both went up and milked the cow, and on our way back to our seats heard CVH call “Run!” I turned to look, not unlike Lot's wife, just as the cow let loose. I was very lucky that day and escaped unscathed, but apparently CVH had learned that lesson the hard way somewhere along the line; indeed, the fragrant emission covered a much larger area that you would think if you hadn't ever witnessed such an explosive event before.

I'd recommend Kentucky Down Under to groups with kids in the pre-K to third grade. I would suggest that you wait until the I-65 construction area is complete, as it will delay you from forty-five minutes to much more.

Categories: News from Louisville

Tuesday 23 June 2009

The Water Park

Today we got up and GC1 was told that she was going to the water park. Now I knew that none of the pools in this area open until the afternoon, but apparently no one else did. I did not see this as a problem, since we could just go to the big playground downtown, have a picnic lunch, and then go to the water park. So when GC1 said that she was ready to go to the water park, I told her that the water park was closed and that we would go to the playground park first, then visit the water park in the afternoon. That elicited a loud statement to the effect that she wanted to go to the water park. I repeated that the water park wasn't open yet. In addition, I noted that the playground park has a water spray pool, and she can play there. She indicated, rather intently, that she wasn't particularly interested in the spray pool, and was clearly upset that she WASN'T GOING TO THE WATER PARK RIGHT NOW.

"You certainly handled that well," my wife told me. "Now go get the play pool and set it up in the back yard."

Fortunately for me, that seemed to do the trick, and even evoked a happy smile.

After lunch, we did make it to the water park, where she had a lot of fun. She really wanted to go on the water slide, but wasn't quite tall enough according to the sign at the entrance. So her father took her up anyway, and when the guard asked if she was tall enough, he said "Oh, yeah." She flew down the water slide into the pool again and again and again. This child is fearless; there is no way you would have gotten me up that high when I was her age (or even three or four years later), much less gotten me to slide down a 105-foot slide by myself. I just hope she loses some of that fearlessness before she gets her driver's licence.

Categories: News from Louisville

Monday 22 June 2009

Zoo Story

At the Zoo

The kids came for a visit, and wanted to go to the zoo. Since I had just been there a couple of days earlier, I felt I was in a pretty good position to show them around. And since we continue to suffer under a stultifying heat wave (yes, after all those years in Texas I thought I was pretty tough when it came to hot weather but this one was getting even me down), I suggested that we go there first thing in the morning. Well, first thing in the morning we were watching it pour down rain from thunderstorms (morning thunderstorms in the summer? It doesn't normally do that), so we switched to Plan B and headed to the Puzzle's Fun Dome. This is really a pretty nice and affordable place to spend a rainy morning. They only charge for kids, not adults, which was a good deal for us as we only had one kid. GC1 enjoyed the Inflatables, especially the slide, which was much higher than I would have ever climbed at her age. The child is fearless. I hope she gets over some of that before she gets her driver's licence. The grown-ups busied themselves in the arcade. There was only one video game of the type that I remembered: “Dino Dash” (you bang a button as fast as you can to get your dinosaur to the finish line first), but it was fun. Most of the games were little more than slot machines – you drop in a coin and the number of tickets that you win depends on where it falls. They did have Skee-Ball and one particularly interesting device which consisted of a pad and a series of chase lights. The lights were supposed to represent a jump rope and you were to jump up when the light approached the ground. I learned that I am very poorly equipped to play jump rope. Nonetheless, by the time we had played all of our 100 tokens, we had enough tickets for GC1 to get a large bag of trinkets. It must be noted that much of the credit goes to Son's knowledge of how to beat one certain game (ah, misspent youth).

Watching the elephant show

The carousel

After lunch, the skies had cleared, but of course all the rain left us with a relative humidity of about 112%. We went to the zoo anyway. It was hot. GC1 had a wonderful time. She and her dad watched the elephant show. And rode the carousel.

Categories: News from Louisville

Saturday 20 June 2009

A Walk Around The Zoo

The Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana had their annual fund raising walk at the Louisville Zoo this morning. It was a hot, muggy morning. I've been on a lot of fund raising 5Ks in my time, but this is the first one that was held at a zoo. It's really a clever idea – you get into the zoo early, walk around and see all the animals, and it brings out a lot of families. (I did get to meet the Executive Director of the Foundation, and she did admit that the zoo fees cut into the amount raised, but they have so much momentum built up over the years around the event that they would hate to move it.)

"Scotty" and mom

Despite the heat, a lot of the animals were up and about. The baby elephant was a big hit. It's momma was stretching her trunk out over the fence and peeling branches off a small tree to eat. The youngster would then stick his trunk up and try to yank some of the greenery out of his mother's mouth. Usually this was unsuccessful, but occasionally he did get a hunk, much to the delight of the audience gathered around.

Another interesting sight was the lion exhibit and the giraffe exhibit. They are right next to each other, and while the giraffe was feeding, the lion laid there and stared at it. And stared. And stared and stared and stared. That's gotta hurt.

Categories: News from Louisville

Sunday 07 June 2009

Casualties....and Replacements

The garden has suffered its first casualties this weekend: a pepper plant fell over, its stem collapsing right at ground level (cutworm? I don't know) and one of the spinach plants was overrun and destroyed by the mustard greens (a second was in serious danger until I tied the greens back). So we went in search of replacements.

A new pepper plant was found at our favorite full time neighborhood fruit and vegetable stand, the Garden Gate. $3.17. Then we went to Lowe's (yes, I know it's a big chain, but they do carry a lot of commodity items that our locals don't try to compete on). There we found a poblano pepper, another jalapeño, a big jalapeño, suitable for stuffing, and a similarly big yellow pepper. Add in a box of Miracle Gro, a packet of white squash seeds, and a Japanese Beetle trap: $27.57 (new total: $396.76). For our friends in the Deep South, the Japanese Beetle is a nasty pest that affects most of the eastern half of the country. They show up for about a month during the summer, and eat the blazes out of most of your garden plants including (and this really makes my blood boil) your roses. They even get into the house. They're rather attractive in appearance, an iridescent green and copper color.

The SOBs at work

The Japanese beetle showed up in New Jersey in 1916, Louisville in 1937, and has been working its way across the country since. It doesn't fly very well, which probably explains why it hasn't gotten any farther than it has in nearly a century. It's easily controlled in your garden if you're home all day; you just have to pick the slow-moving critters off the plant and squish them. This is not so practical for those of us with full-time office jobs (the beetles do their nasty work during the day). When they're through gobbling up your plants, they fall to the ground, leaving their eggs in there. The eggs hatch into grubs the next year (I've seen and squished several of them in my garden already) which pop out again and the cycle repeats itself.

I pretty much ignored them last year, never having seen them before and figuring that they couldn't do that much damage, and then they started to voraciously attack my beloved Abraham Lincoln rose bush. At that point, I brought the big guns out. Sevin is quite effective but of course, you don't want to spray that on anything that you're going to end up eating (the instructions say that you can, and I'm sure that a lot of what you buy at Kroger has felt its touch, but I don't want it in my garden). Insecticidal soaps, which I have been using on my seedlings, don't do much good at all. Milky spore works by killing them while they're in the larval stage, munching on the roots of the grass in your lawn. However, it takes three to five years of application, and if you live in a subdivision where everybody has a lawn, you all have to use it. Research by the University of Kentucky strongly suggests that the use of Japanese Beetle traps attracts more beetles than they catch. So I plan on putting the trap a long way from my plants. Maybe in the neighbors yard across the street (just joking!).

Categories: News from Louisville

Saturday 06 June 2009

Farm Market Day

The Kentucky Farm Bureau continues their marketing campaign for roadside markets, and we continue to go for it.

It was a beautiful summer day here, so we decided to go on a tour of local roadside markets, using the KFB's "certified" roadside markets. What makes a roadside market "certified"? Well, here are the requirements as posted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau:

  • Must be a Kentucky Farm Bureau member
  • Must have a permanent structure for their market
  • Must produce significant portion of products sold
  • Must have quality product at a fair price
  • Have a clean safe market
  • Must support and promote Roadside Market Program
  • Display our Roadside Market sign (once delivered)
  • Display our Roadside Market brochure in their market

Eh, not so tough. Still, it's a good place to start looking for fresh fruits and vegetables.

First, we headed on down to Ridgeview Greenhouse and Nursery, a small, but well-stocked nursery just outside of Shepherdsville. Lots of flower baskets and landscaping supplies, as well as local seeds, but not much in the way of vegetable plants. They did have several "Better Boy" tomatoes that they were trying to grow in hanging pots, much as I am, and none of theirs were bearing any fruit either, which made me feel a little better.

For this particular trip, we were trying to avoid driving on the Interstate. So from the Ridgeview Nursery, we had to cross the Salt River to get to the next market, requiring us to go through downtown Shepherdsville. It apparently got its start in the world by providing salt from Salt River. Salt, of course, was crucial in the eighteenth century, and this was a good place to manufacture salt due to the mineral content of the water. It looked like simple country roads on the map, but in reality housing developments had taken over that part of the Commonwealth, and there was a lot of traffic and Arbys and Walmarts. On the outskirts of Shepherdsville we found Country Corner Greenhouse. It's a lovely place with a wide variety of plants and gardening accessories. And they were celebrating Perennial Month this weekend. They had a display of echinacea plants (no idea how to pronounce - just say "coneflower") that had big honeybees all over it. Hmm, I thought; honeybees are good. This plant attracts honeybees. Therefore, I should have one in my garden. 20% off on perennials this weekend, another $11 into the garden.

Heading off to the next market on the list, we picked out another country road route. This time they were real country roads. No Taco Bells here. No stripe down the middle of the road, either. No room for two vehicles to pass, for that matter. I'm just glad I didn't meet a tractor or pickup truck coming the other way; driveways were a long way apart, and I really didn't want to have to backup three kilometers. But we eventually got to the main drag and headed to Cheek's produce. We had visited it once before, a couple of years ago, but I made a wrong turn. After about three miles, I realized my error and turned around.

Headed the other way, we saw a sign for The Berry Farm. It wasn't listed on the "Certified Roadside Markets" brochure, but we decided to give it a try. We found the place; it wasn't far off the main road, and the sign said "Open", so we pulled in. We were the only customer there. A lady came out and asked if she could help us.

"We saw your sign!"

"Is there something I can get for you?"

"What do you have?"


"Do you have berries?"

"Oh, goodness, no. They won't be in for another couple of months."

"No strawberries?" (Strawberries are in season here now.)

"No strawberries."

"OK....see you later."

As we got in the car, CVH said "Well, the sign did say 'Open'. I guess they don't serve strangers."

Soon we were at Cheek's Produce, and they were quite a bit more eager to sell us some locally produced food. Stocked up on some vegetables for the week, and continued on Taylorsville Road to Tower View Farm and Nursery. Here there were a couple of pleasant surprises: Ecuadorian bananas for 38¢ a pound (Kroger wants 58¢ for the less tasty Guatemalans in town) and some fairly fresh onion sets, so we'll continue to have fresh green onions well into the summer.

On the way back home we passed Pope Lick road, home of the famed Pope Lick Monster. We did not visit there. We did stop at Meijer's, where I bought two more plant supports that they had on sale: $6. (Garden Total: $369.19.)

Categories: News from Louisville

Tuesday 02 June 2009

You can lead a horticulture

Tomato cage: $1.98

Running total for this year: $352.19 (not including the hat from 18 April). So far we've gotten lots of parsley and basil, a whole bunch of romaine, a couple of meals of mustard greens and spinach, and a couple dozen green onions. Fresh herbs are ruinously expensive in the grocery store, as are organic greens, so we're making good progress against what that would have cost us, except, of course, we just wouldn't have spent the money on that stuff from Kroger in the first place.

However, some of the vegetable plants are starting to flower, so maybe we can catch up next month!

Categories: News from Louisville