Tuesday, May 31, 2016

On the Tel Aviv University Campus for the Day

The campus of Tel Aviv University is a stunningly beautiful campus, especially because some type of tree that I’m not at all familiar with was blooming – covered with amazing deep red-orange flowers. The campus also has lots of art installations.

Art installation around some palm trees, with one of the red trees behind it.
With a friend, I spent much of the day in the Diaspora Museum. Some of the exhibits are very old, and we felt that they represented a quite obsolete view that Israelis used to hold about Jewish history. We enjoyed the more up-to-date exhibits, especially one about synagogues throughout the world, both active and no longer active. We feel sad about the synagogues that survive only as buildings while their communities have been driven out or wiped out, and about synagogues that have been destroyed and can be reconstructed only from historic memories or photos.

We also enjoyed an exhibit about Bob Dylan. Yes, that Bob Dylan.

Synagogue roof reproduction, Eastern Europe. These synagogues
were almost all destroyed in the Nazi and Soviet eras.
Also, a number of species of birds are common on campus -- birds that seem exotic to me. At one point, I just caught sight of a bright green rose-ringed parakeet flying overhead. Most interesting: a dove of a type I’ve never seen before.

A laughing dove.

Lunch at the cafe at the Diaspora Museum:
Sabich is the name of this Israeli sandwich, which I read about recently.
I always try famous dishes when I can! It includes eggplant, pickles, and egg.
The internet is terrible or I would post more photos!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Tel Aviv Evening

It took us around 24 hours to get from Ann Arbor to our hotel in Tel Aviv. Amazingly, we slept quite a bit on the plane and also overnight despite the 7 hour time change.
The Mediterranean was calm and the sun had just set
as we walked to dinner last evening.
We had dinner at an American-style cafe facing the water, then took a walk, stopping once for Italian-style ice cream. Large numbers of people were running, playing various forms of beach volleyball, riding bicycles on bike paths, and doing organized athletic activities along the walkways by the sand and on the sand. Tourists speaking many languages were also walking on the beach. We are here for a conference that starts in a little while.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Beautiful Michigan

Travel is wonderful. It broadens my outlook when I see different ways of viewing life. It offers me a way to see many new landscapes, mountain ranges, seashores, cityscapes, art museums, markets, and sometimes colorfully-dressed people. I like to meet people with new and different ideas, as well as visiting with old friends. Travel definitely enables me to taste new cuisines and experience new flavors.

Recently, I've traveled a lot.

Staying home is also wonderful. Yesterday we took a brief ride in the countryside near home. This scene of a farmer's field where hay is being baled seemed very beautiful and peaceful to me.

This afternoon we leave again for a completely different part of the world.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Paper: Uses and Technology in Kurlansky's Book

A Japanese paper screen from the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC
Nori sheets (from Wikipedia).
Nori, the wrapping for sushi, is a type of paper made from seaweed -- it's considered to be paper because of the way it's made from an organic substance where the fibers are chopped or otherwise cut up, put in water, and formed into sheets. I wonder if there's any other type of paper that's actually a food. The Japanese also use special paper is used for wrapping traditional foods such as mochi and for many more applications, and they preserve traditional methods of hand-made paper.

In Japanese houses, free-standing paper screens and sliding paper doors are key features. Japanese and Chinese fans are another special use of paper.

Wallpaper, roofing paper, decorations made of papier-mâché, and even some structural items made of paper have been part of traditional Western houses. Paper towels; paper plates; lunch, dinner and cocktail napkins, kleenex, and toilet paper are essentials of our lives. Also, writing paper, note paper, scrap paper, business cards.
Paper Amazon boxes (source)

More and more paper shipping boxes and packaging material come into our lives as collectively we buy more products on the Internet instead of in stores. And in shops we get paper bags, gift wrap, takeout or fast-food boxes and wraps, and other paper wrapping as well. On public transportation we see paper advertising posters. School children and students still use tablets, notebooks, and test books despite the incursion of computers. With computers one also needs reams of printer paper.

Artists' paper includes hand-made paper and machine made drawing paper used for watercolors, etchings, lithographs, sketches in pencil or chalk, and more. Each artist and each technique has its own requirements for appropriate paper choices. Some of the techniques are ancient, some surprisingly recent.

All types of paper were in chronically short supply until the invention of wood-pulp paper to replace rag paper. There were never enough rags to make paper in the past. Now we think there are enough forests to make all the paper we use, but maybe we're making a big mistake.

Mark Kurlansky's book Paper: Paging Through History mentions all of these intriguing paper facts and more. To quote the New York Times review:
"More than 2,000 years ago, the Chinese realized that plant fibers, now known as cellulose, could be beaten, mixed with water and then left on a screen to drain until a sheet — a sheet of paper — remains. This modest, practical insight changed the world. Millenniums before anyone knew what cellulose was, paper makers separated it strand by strand from wood and silk, cotton and seaweed, and devised a writing material that is still cheaper and more adaptable than any other. The history of paper is a history of cultural transmission, and Kurlansky tells it vividly in this compact, well-illustrated book." -- ‘Paper,’ by Mark Kurlansky, Anthony Grafton, May 17, 2016.
Despite all the interesting facts about the wide variety of uses for paper, Kurlansky's book is mainly concerned with the history and technology of printing, especially of newspapers, political tracts, religious tracts, and books. He covers several milestones in the technological progress of paper, as well as in the progress of printing. Sometimes I felt that he was wandering rather far from the real topic of the book. And he might not always be on target, says the NYT reviewer: "Kurlansky’s historical judgments are often trite and not seldom wrong."

Kurlansky's key point, which he repeats at intervals, is that technology is not the driver of social change -- it's the other way around. He shows how the drivers of the Reformation essentially harnessed print technology for its advancement. Revolutionaries, including the leaders of the American and French revolutions, also made use of printing and thus paper to make their ideas take hold. This is one of the points that's evidently controversial.

A fascinating book but I constantly wished he had covered printing and its larger issues less and spent more time on his announced subject!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Eating at Home: Trader Joe's

We arrived home from Utah yesterday but we only have two days until we leave again. And we wanted to eat home-style meals: lots of fruit & vegetables but without too much going to waste. So I went to Trader Joe's -- not quite ready-made, but also not too much work!

Lunch ingredients are to the left: pearl tomatoes, apricots, tortillas, pepper-jack cheese, eggs (OK, they were already here and from Whole Foods), and Avocado's Number Guacamole. Trader Joe's best stuff! A far cry from airport/airplane food.

My plate: a tortilla with melted cheese and a fried egg, salsa, & guac, and veggies and apricots on the side.

Dinner also from TJ's -- a small steak, more tomatoes, and broccoli cooked with onion and red bell pepper.
Dessert: A small melon cut up and mixed with a package of raspberries.
I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's for allowing an easy time cooking but without using over-processed food. Later maybe I'll sneak in some of TJ's irresistible sweets, though.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Inspector Galileo Solves a Mystery

“The very word restaurant sounded like something alien. Would she have to go to a restaurant and eat now? Would she have to pretend to smile with this black lump in her chest?” (p. 284).
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino is an impressively well-plotted police procedural. Throughout the novel, Yasuko, a former bar girl who works in a bento shop and her teenage daughter Misato try to lead a normal life to prevent the police from knowing that they are guilty of murder. One way they do this is to agree to eat in restaurants when they don’t feel like it, as indicated in the quotation.

The intense characterization of Yasuko, Misato, and several other characters goes beyond what's usual in detective fiction. The characters all live in Tokyo where the action takes place. Besides the two already mentioned they are:
  • Yasuko’s ex-husband (not her daughter’s father), whom she and her daughter murder right at the beginning of the book. 
  • Ishigami, her neighbor, who comes to her assistance in attempting to cover up the crime. Ishigami taught math in high school while doing deep research in mathematics at night. He was a loner until he secretly fell in love with Yasuko.
  • Kusanagi, the detective assigned to the case. 
  • The university professor/physicist Yukawa, an associate of the detective. Yukawa is known as "Inspector Galileo" for his keen ability to solve mysteries. “Inspector Galileo” and Ishigami had been students together some time in the past, and each respected the other’s abilities in math and physics. Eventually the novel boils down to a duel of wits between them as the clever way Ishigami had provided Yasuko with an alibi finally is revealed. 
As always, I was interested in the way that food is used to create the atmosphere, delineate the characters, and advance the plot in a mystery novel. First, there's the bento shop where Yasuko works. Ishigami has made a habit of buying his lunch there: specifically whenever he knew she was there, usually asking for “the special” which is not further described. He used it as a way to have frequent though brief contact with her. After the murder, helping her to cover up provides him with a whole new way to interact with her and (he hopes) to win her affection.

Yasuko works at the counter of the shop and also helps in the kitchen; this work becomes an important background to her efforts to avoid having the police verify their suspicions of her. As she becomes more and more nervous, her behavior at the shop helps convey suspense to the reader: “Yasuko passed a fried chicken meal across the counter to the last customer in line and glanced up at the clock. Only a few minutes until six.” (p. 265).

We learn more about her when she eats in restaurants with Kudo, a man who was once her customer when she was a bar girl, and who reappears in her life during the investigation. “They had eaten the last of the shrimp, and the wine bottle was empty. Yasuko drank the last sip of wine from her glass and breathed a sigh of contentment. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been out for real Italian food.” (p. 127).

Her daughter, in contrast, is uncomfortable in such places; when her former client asks to include Misato at their next meeting  Yasuko says: “I don’t know. I think she prefers watching TV and eating pizza to a place like this. She’s not fond of formal dining — or anything else where you have to act proper.” (p. 129)

Later she thinks: “You can drag a teenager to a good restaurant, but you can’t make her enjoy it.” With her admirer, she and her daughter “had come to a Chinese place in Ginza for dinner. Kudo had insisted that Yasuko bring her daughter, and so she had dragged Misato along, despite the girl’s protests. In the end, Yasuko had convinced her to come by telling her that it would seem unnatural for them to avoid going out — that it might make the police suspicious.” (pp. 226-227).

Yasuko and Misato themselves do not know what their neighbor did to protect them and create an alibi for them. Thus, the primary mystery throughout the book is WHAT DID ISHIGAMI DO TO CONCEAL THE MURDER? We know the result of his work as detail after detail is discovered by the police and analyzed by "Galileo," but only at the end do we learn what really happened (no spoilers here, though).

I plan to read more in the Inspector Galileo series!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Near Provo: Utah Lake

My friend Paula and I took a walk by a random part of Utah Lake near Provo this morning. Paula has been my walking companion most of this week, viewing streets, houses, the printing museum, and so on while our husbands attended a conference. From everywhere in town one gets views of the fabulous snowcapped mountains that surround the flat area. In the center of this area is Utah Lake, fed by the Provo River. We drove down the steep Provo River's canyon on Sunday.

A number of beautiful birds were singing in the trees and wetlands near the lake. We walked on a paved path
behind the homes in a subdivision, which we sadly think is built on former wetlands.
Swallows, like these violet-green swallows, were flying all around us.
A Bullock's Oriole in a tree.
The lake is beyond the trees and marshes.
This afternoon, Len and I drove on a dike near the river on a very hair-raising dirt road!
We also saw lots of birds like these white pelicans.
Another Bullock's Oriole.
Two grebes below the dike.
We saw many yellow-headed blackbirds along the dike.

Lunch: Banh Mi

Lunch at another of the many small ethnic restaurants
in downtown Provo. I had always wanted to taste
Banh Mi. It was delicious!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On the Street in Provo

Walking around near downtown Provo I actually didn't see as many really interesting houses as I had hoped for.
This was about the nicest one I saw. It's the Knight-Allen house, built 1899.

Many of the early 20th century houses look like typical midwestern architecture. They
especially resemble the neighborhood where I live in Ann Arbor and
the one where I grew up in suburban St. Louis.

Statue of Brigham Young in front of the Provo library.

The Crandall Historical Printing Museum

According to the Crandall Historical Printing Museum in Provo, Utah, the most momentous events in printing history are:
  • Gutenberg's Bible printed in 1455.
  • Declaration of Independence printed in 1776.
  • The Book of Mormon printed in 1830.
The museum has an accurate replica of the printing presses and much of the other technology used for printing each of these documents. 
Replica of the Gutenberg press. On the table at left: devices invented by
Gutenberg for inking the press. The man in the apron inked the type
and printed a page to show the group how it was done.
Replica of press used for Declaration of Independence.
Replica of press from print shop in Palmyra, NY, used for Book of Mormon.
The one-hour tour of the four rooms of the museum includes a detailed explanation of the technology, which changed extremely little in the nearly 400 years covered. The casting of type; typesetting; placement of type and blank paper in the press; inking the type; drying, folding and cutting the printed sheets; gathering the signatures -- that is, groups of pages; sewing them together; and binding the books are all parts of the lecture-demonstration.

A replica of a Gutenberg Bible and of several of the other documents are on view, including a copy of the hieroglyphic plates that were translated by Joseph Smith and a copy of his manuscript that was sent to the printer in Palmyra, New York, in 1829 and completed in 1830.

Two quite elderly men who run the museum present all the material; both had a long career in printing before they established the museum around 20 years ago. The time it took to print the 5000 copies of the Book of Mormon ordered by Joseph Smith was seven months, which the lecturer says would have been impossible. He "testifies" that only an act of God could have made this timing possible.

Fonts with the "upper case" and "lower case" used by typesetters.
Replica of "gold plates with ancient reformed Egyptian characters"
as translated by Joseph Smith. Also a copy of the Book of Mormon.
This room of the museum has been created in almost the exact proportions of the print shop in Palmyra, NY.
The technology of the press has changed only in that it's cast iron instead of wood (thus able to exert more pressure).
Gutenberg's invented ink spreaders remained the same, as did the type-setting process.

Lunch: Cooked by a Navajo Chef

After our tour of the printing museum we had Navajo tacos for lunch
at a restaurant called "The Black Sheep Cafe."

Monday, May 23, 2016

"The Frugal Meal" and other Utah Art

Rose Hartwell: "The Frugal Meal" (1903) depicts a modest family eating spaghetti. 
Detail from "The Frugal Meal." I find the subject matter very interesting.
Perhaps the scene reflects Hartwell's experience as an art student in Italy.
I wouldn't have expected to see pasta on the table in 1903 in Utah.
At the Brigham Young University Art Museum today I saw two extraordinary temporary exhibits about art in the Western United States, and I learned about two very interesting Utah women artists.

Rose Hartwell (1861-1917) was the daughter of early Utah pioneers; though born into the Mormon faith, she left the LDS church at an early age. According to information from the museum:
"After her father took a second wife, Rose’s mother took her ten children and left the Church. In her early twenties, Rose began studying art under two well-established Utah artists, J.T. Harwood and J. Willard Clawson. With their encouragement, she traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, a progressive art school that was the first to enroll female students. After a trip to Italy, she returned to Paris and in 1903, entered her first painting in the Paris Salon." (source)
Minerva Teichert (1888-1976), a Utah painter trained in New York, was also new to me. Her work was featured in one of the two exhibits I saw today, as well as in the permanent collections.

Minerva Teichert: "Moving South" (1949)
A Western scene that echoes the imagery of Hollywood Westerns.
"Branding the American West: Paintings and Films 1900-1950" was a compelling exhibit interspersing paintings from the New Mexican Taos Society of Artists; the California-based artist, Maynard Dixon; and several Utah painters whose works are in the museum's collections, including Teichert. Clips from a few early films were shown alongside works that echoed the filmic version of Western scenery, American Indian life, and cowboy culture from both fiction and reality.

WPA poster for Zion National Park.
Finally, I spent quite a bit of time viewing the art works in "Capturing the Canyons: Artists in the National Parks," the museum's other special exhibit. It included a number of posters for travel in the National Parks. This included posters for the railroads as well as several from the WPA series that have recently been rediscovered.

The exhibit included many very impressive paintings and a few photos of Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and other parks. Early paintings, especially those painted before the parks were founded were impressive, but there were also quite a few very nice modern images included. I especially liked the wide variety of painting styles that were represented in the exhibit.

As I learned at Dinosaur National Monument, this year is the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson's signing of the act creating the National Park System, so there are many commemorations including this.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Stunning Rock Art

The most spectacular and perfectly preserved petroglyphs I've ever seen are at the McConkie ranch in the Dry Fork Canyon. around half an hour from Vernal, Utah. This morning we took the very steep climb, and rather long walk along narrow ledges that allows one to view them, some from incredibly up close, others by looking up the cliff face. The Utah Historic Site sign at the ranch, which is private property, states that the petroglyphs there are "Classic Vernal Style rock art, characterized by elaborately decorated anthropomorphic figures. This style may be affiliated with the Fremont Culture and probably dates to the period A.D. 1 to 1200."

Climbing up the trail.
Rock art at this site includes both animals and human figures.

A few of the petroglyphs include colored-in areas.

A modern example of rock art up the road from the McConkie ranch,
originally begun in 1899.