For Whom the Bell Tolls

The University of Illinois has had a bell tower with 15 bells since 1920.  It is part of Altgeld Hall on the north west corner of the central quad.  The chimes weigh over seven and a half tons with the largest bell weighing in at one and a half ton and measures five feet across.  There is a Seth Thomas clock that mechanically enables the chime to automatically strike the hours and quarter hour to the tune of the Westminster Chime.  This runs continuously day and night.

Large Bells
Large Bells
Set of Bells
Set of Bells

Bell Clapper

There is also a clavier or keyboard used to play many types of music from the alma mater to Christmas, to star wars themes etc.  It is fun to hear the mini concerts during the lunch hour.  Sue Wood is the current chime master.  She oversees students from a variety of disciplines who play the clavier each day.  The clavier keys are connected to cables that strike the bells when a handle is pushed down about four inches.  The longest cable runs 68.5 feet.

My colleagues and I took one of the last tours of the “performing room,” the place where the clavier is located along with a practice keyboard, music and chairs for visitors.  We were also allowed to climb the tower to see the bells.  I had done the same at Notre Dame in France, these were much smaller.

"Bell Ringer"
“Bell Ringer”
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Return from Irma

After escaping Irma and returning home, it was heartwarming to see how the government (federal, state, and local) and private enterprise worked together to prepare for and clean up after Irma.  It was also rewarding to see people behave themselves when stress levels are high and gas in limited supply.

Heading back south, we saw convoys of US Army troops.  Some of them worked with local police blocking highway exits into areas that were flooded (around Savannah, GA).

We were very fortunate leaving FL on Saturday, before the hurricane hit our area.  Traffic moved freely and we had plenty of gas.  However, the return was much more frustrating, driving ten hours to go about 250 miles.  And with the people came some closed gas stations and lines at others,  but we made it back to the Tampa area without any problems.

We were very fortunate as was the area where we live.  We had a downed tree that leaned up against our neighbors house but there was no damage.  Some other trees were down in the neighborhood and that was about it.  I was told that we got somewhere between one to three inches of rain, far less than projected.  Our grass had not been cut in three weeks which is nothing compared to people who are still without power nearly ten days later in our hot and humid environment.    We are slowly getting back to normal.  Children started school after a week’s respite and everyone is back to work around the Tampa area.

Dancing with Irma

Irma was born off the coast of Africa.  As she grew is size and strength she immigrated illegally into the United States, other countries as well.  First coming to the Florida Keys then boldly going northwest into Florida.  She became a large and angry.  Not very friendly.

My wife and I originally intended to meet Irma, we live south of Tampa.  We stocked up on the recommended supplies.  Some of the shelves were empty but we were able to get what we needed.

Empty Store Shelves  Empty Store Shelf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the last minute and with great pressure from a daughter, we left before Irma came for a visit, not knowing where we were going to go so we headed north.   Another daughter provided us with the Waze app which helped us navigate traffic headed north and a son reserved a hotel for us in Fayetteville, NC.

On our trip north we saw dozens of utility truck convoys headed south.  Right near our hotel over a dozen trucks were stationed by FEMA to head south when they got the call.  When the call came, sometime on Sunday, September 10, they went to Fort Bragg to pick up trailers filled with water, food and other supplies.  One of the drivers I talked with was from Chicago.  Below is a picture of a truck from CT.

FEMA Truck

Emergency Trucks

Trucks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CT Truck

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Florida governor was giving updates every several hours days in advance of the storm.  He provided information of what was being done to help the people and what they should do to help themselves.  Based on what I heard and have seen, the state and federal governments were well coordinated in advance.  For example, during our exodus, every gas station we visited along US 75 and US 95 had all the gas we needed.  Some stations had short lines.

Because of rain in Georgia, problems around Savanna, and flooding in Jacksonville, FL, we are going to head back on Tuesday, September 12.  Early reports we have from our neighborhood are that there downed trees, one of them from our yard leaning against our neighbor’s house.  We were very blessed with the help of family and friends.

 

The Waning Days of Summer and Hurricanes

Labor Day is traditionally the “end of summer,” but clearly it is not the end of the hot weather, particularly in Florida.  We visited St. Augustine and New Smyrna Beach over Labor Day weekend.  The weather was cloudy but hot.  It was a nice day to be on the beach.  Many people took advantage of the long weekend.  Interestingly, Hurricane Irma was on the mind of local residents, even though it was 2,000 miles away and the forecasters were not sure where it is going to land.

Just two days after Labor Day, people are preparing for the worst.  Irma, now a category 5 hurricane is headed toward Florida, somewhere.  While I was in Sam’s Club, the bottled water supply ran out.  People at Home Depot were stocking up on lumber and other essentials.  Having moved from the mid-west, hurricane preparation is new to me.

So will the beaches on the east coast of Florida be hit or will the west coast be clobbered.  The beautiful picture from Labor Day may soon be a memory.  It will depend on Irma.

How Sweet It IS!

Summer has many “food seasons.”  For example, in early summer there is strawberry season.  By mid summer tomatoes are coming into their own along with cucumbers. Late in the summer is sweet corn season.  In each of the “food seasons” there are celebrations  in some communities focused on the harvest of a particular food.  The annual Urbana (Illinois) Sweet Corn Festival is one such venue that draws people in from all around central Illinois and then some.  If you love sweet corn this is the place to be.

The machinery is right out of the history books.  A steam tractor supplies energy.  A cornhusker takes on the tedious work of cleaning thousands of ears of corn.

What you get is hot buttered sweet corn that is out of this world.

This is real butter.  Even if you are on a diet, one ear of corn is worth following off the wagon.

How Sweet It Is!

But the festival is more than corn.  There are street concerts, food trucks and activities for children.  The Urbana Sweet Corn Festival has something for everyone. If you are in the area next August, you may want to add this to your calendar for a fun weekend.