] Around Columbia: October 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ron Taylor Project: The Last Assignment

NOTE:  This project has been moved to it's own web site:  http://thelastassignment.blogspot.com/
In my other blog I talk about having only had about six real teachers in over 20 years of formal education.  I am talking about people who's primary responsibility was to impart some kind of wisdom or knowledge into me.  Of course other people took a crack at it but not as professionals.

Ron Taylor was one of those teachers.  This fall reminded me of something he said to me years ago.  After class Ron would hang around campus and sort of get wistful about things and I loved to talk with him then.  Like me he loved the campus, the idea and beauty of it, during the slow times when everyone else had pretty much gone home.  It is an awesome experience to have a whole campus to yourself!   It was a fall afternoon, around this time of year, when he had me come out to the front of St. Clair at Columbia College.  He told me that somebody should come to that spot at the same time every week and take a picture of the trees.  He thought it was worthwhile to capture the seasonal changes.  Well, that was years ago but last week I remembered.  At around 3 p.m. on a Wednesday I went out and took a picture.  It is my last assignment from Ron.

Every week for a year I am going to go to the same spot at 3 p.m. on Wednesday and take a picture of the general area Dr. Taylor indicated.  If I cannot be there at that exact time I will do it the day before or the day after, or perhaps have someone else do it for me.  I hope to use the same camera as well (my Lumix  with  Leica lens - a great pocket camera).

Here are the first two pictures.  I will add pictures to this project every week or so until next year at this time. 

Week One:  Taken on 14 October 2009 at 3 p.m.

Week Two:  Taken on 20 October 2009 at 2 p.m.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

FFA Community Service Challenge: Adopt A Spot for Missorui Cancer Associates

On Saturday (17 October 2009), high school students in  FFA (Future Farmers of America) from North Shelby and Chillicothe high schools volunteered their time here in Columbia.  The location for their community service project was a traffic island they landscaped at the intersection of Broadway and Old 63.

 This specific project was a community service challenge for Missouri Cancer Associates and was supervised by master gardener Carolyn Oates:

Carolyn explained the requirements for a master gardener.  Locally master gardeners must take a class from the University of Missouri Master Gardener Extension program, and then volunteer 30 hours the first year and 20 hours for subsequent years. Master gardeners must also continue with six hours of ongoing education per year.  The University of Missouri has an outstanding Master Gardener Extension program with a very informative web site where you can go to get more information. 


This statement about the Master Gardener program is from the American Horticultural Society web page:
The Master Gardener program, conducted throughout the United States and Canada, is a two-part educational effort, in which avid gardeners are provided many hours of intense home horticulture training, and in return they "pay back" local university extension agents through volunteerism. Master Gardeners assist with garden lectures, exhibits, demonstrations, school and community gardening, phone diagnostic service, research, and many other projects.

In the future I plan on doing a related story on community gardens.

There is increasing concern with our food supply and an increasing interest in urban gardening.  There are highly productive, and efficient, methods for growing produce in urban settings and I predict that will continue to be a growing trend.  Newer methods of cultivation, like the square foot system are boosting productivity while cutting down on the need for harmful chemicals.  I would like to see more young people involved with the FFA which not just about traditional farming but also about agriculture education in general.  How about FFA groups for urban high schools with a focus on urban gardening?

I drove by a couple of days later and took a picture of the completed project.  Looks pretty good:



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flash Flood & the Green Valley Drive Bridge

Last Thursday and Friday the heavens opened up and we got a lot of rain in a short amount of time.  I was driving to work and the alert came on the radio warning of flash floods.  Later that afternoon , after I finished my last class around 3 p.m.,  I decided to take some pictures, and the pictures are a little more dramatic than what I had expected.  Although the rain had stopped the runoff was still considerable, kind of hilly around here, and the water was still rising. 

These pictures are of the area just east of Eastgate IGA of an old one lane bridge open only to local traffic on Green Valley Drive.  Here are the before pictures taken while the water was still up:

On the bridge facing south:

On the north side of the bridge facing north and East Broadway.

On the north side of the bridge facing south:


Here is what it looked like now that the water is down a week later:

A short movie.  The water is still swift and strong a week later:

Here are some pictures I took last winter of the same bridge:


Monday, October 12, 2009

סוכות (Sukkot) in Columbia

Sukkot , in Hebrew סוכות, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is one of the three pilgrim festivals (when ancient Jews would visit the temple in Jerusalem) and lasts for seven days.  It occurs  between late September and late October in the secular calendar.  In the Jewish calendar it occurs on the 15th of Tishrei after the High Holy Days (Rosh Hasannah and then Yom Kippur).  Some scholars believe that Sukkot was the model for the Pilgrim celebration of Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday.

sukkah, is a booth or hut which observant Jews "dwell" in during the holiday and it is considered a great mitzvah to have guest.This year we had over twelve guests who came to eat, rest, study, or just mediate at various times in our sukkah, and we came periously close to running out of room.  I am even thinking of buying a bigger sukkah for next year. Our sukkah is made from a kit and we set it up on our driveway, but many people build their own and it is not expensive to do so.


Many of our neighbors asked about our "tent" and I was happy to explain to them what it really was and the significance of the holiday.


Next year, God willing, I am hoping to have over twenty guest!  Columbia is not the Jewish wasteland that it once was.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

St. Luke's Greek Food Festival

This event is something to look forward to every year.

For the past seven years St. Luke's Greek Orthodox church, located at 1510 Audubon, has sponsored a Greek food festival.

This event  always seems to draws a big crowd and this year it seemed even larger than usual.  Parking was at a premium so my wife and I took advantage of a beautiful fall day to walk the two blocks from our house next to Shepherd Elementary School to St. Luke's to eat and enjoy the festivities.  I am glad we did.

The food was delicious and the help was friendly. 

Different booths offered various items emblomatic of Greek life and culture.

I tried Ouzo for the first time.  I liked it.

Fresh pastries.

Then there was the dancing,...!


Before leaving I took a few moments to talk to Fr. Michael Monos, the parish priest, who has been at the church since February 1st of  this year.  Fr. Monos struck me as energetic and outgoing, and I think the parish is in good hands.  I am glad that we have this faith community here in Columbia to add to our diversity and contribute to our cultural life.

Father Michael Monos.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Eheu Fugaces Labuntur Anni

This collection of old Volkswagen Beetles near Cosmo Park fascinates me. The Beetle was the longest-running and most-produced car of a single design.


This juxtaposition of industry and nature in the photographs is a post-industrial metaphor at least for us here in the West. We view manufacturing as in decline with finance and service sectors becoming more of the economic engine. Industry declines and nature takes over. I call it "The Detroit Look."


There is an interesting backdrop to this story. These vehicles are located at a once thriving Volkswagon repair shop that was operated by the father of NASCAR car driver Carl Edwards. Edwards grew up around the shop and weekend racing.

The title for this post is from the Latin:  "Alas, the fleeting years slip by. (Horace)."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Westboro, The Media, and Kids in the Middle

What do you expect from a church that has a web site www.godhatesfags.com?

All photos were taken near the Hillel student center at the edge of the Mizzou campus.  Yes this is the same group that goes to the funerals of slain military personnel:

On the 2ed of October the Westboro Baptist Church brought their show to town for the second time.  They had a parade permit, duly granted by the City  of Columbia, to protest at four locations.   They started their evening off with a protest right outside of Hickman High just as it was dismissing, moved to the Hillel Jewish student center on the Mizzou campus where these pictures were taken, moved from there to Stephens College that was putting on a play about the late Matthew Shepard (the young man killed in Wyoming for being homosexual), and from there to congregation Beth Shalom where they were just in time to be seen by the families gathering for Friday night Shabbos services on the first night of Sukkot.

Is this exploitation of children, in these kinds of conditions, in violation to Missouri Child Protection Laws?

They are professional provocateurs who come with a selection of glossy signs complete with a carrying case.  The signs would change depending on the situation.  At the high school, knowing that many of the students were African American, they had signs proclaiming that God hates Obama.  At the two Jewish locations the emphasis was on God's hate for the Jews, Israel, and signs saying that the Jews killed Jesus.  Of course they had plenty of signs declaring God's hate for "fags"  which is their specialty.

Journalism students flocked to the demonstration site to take advantage of a news story that was at least interesting.

Counter protesters outnumbered the Westboro members by at least three to one although numbers fluctuated.

When I went to cover this to me the real story was the swarm of journalism students that descended on this event as part of their classroom studies, and the Westboro children.  I wondered if the Westboro adults knew what a huge favor they were doing for those journalism students who otherwise would be covering a zoning debate at the local city council meeting.  Did they know that the "stories" they were diligently relaying to convey their toxic views  would just end up in the grading stack of some MU prof?   Instead of manipulating and using the media this trip the tables were turned.  But, what about the children?

Children were repeatedly interviewed, scrutinized, and questioned.  Is this abusive?

What happens when you expose children to this kind of vitriol day after day?  How much school do these children miss to act as human shields for their parents who otherwise would be much more likely to be overwhelmed by disapproving crowds?  When I watched their faces and how they were reacting to the event it was clear that this was not a happy childhood event to be remembered fondly but something very different.  How damaging is it to expose children to this?  For one thing there is the constant talk of hate.  Then there is the issue of children being used to create a public spectacle.  When it was time to leave I watched he children as they almost ran back to the van leading their elders where they were quick to disappear out of the public eye into the privacy of the van.  What is it like to be put on display like this as a child? 

Here the group heads for their van with the press following still interviewing and snapping pictures on the fly. The young man in front had obviously had enough exposure for one day.  Had this kids been pulled out of school to participate in this travesty?

This young couple demonstrates that there are other things to do in the midst of hate and hurt.  A lesson for us all.