30 May 2010


It really is difficult to buy a compost bin in Brooklyn. My local Home Depot has just one model - not much of a selection. On the way home from setting up Time Machine for my sister's MacBook, I dropped by Lowe's. There were two models available. A 6-gallon rotating model that supposedly speeds up the decomposing process to weeks instead of months, but which will cost $100! Then there was a 115-gallon model that cost just $50 but you would have to rake the content to move things around. Alas, there was only one piece of merchandise left and it has a broken plastic piece floating inside the shrink-wrapped package. A handy person may be able to substitute that broken piece somehow but I am not a handyman, so I had to pass on it. Nearby, Home Depot supposedly has some bins but it was already almost 9 P.M. and the store already closed down its gardening section, located outside the store building. Rats!

In other composting news, today I swapped the garbage bin in use in the front yard with the newer garbage bin that I've been using as a compost bin. It was the first time I actually turned the compost pile upside down. The stuff at the bottom was too wet and smelled a bit. The SunChip bag that I put in from a month ago didn't look too different, i.e. still intact and not turned into soil. The ad for SunChip did say it would start to decompose in 9 weeks or so, so I'll wait some more before passing judgement.

The "new" bin is actually something a neighbor threw away, for whatever reason, only lightly used. It didn't come with a lid so I used a board or two to cover it. I already used it a few months so it won't be so wasteful when I drill many holes in its sides to give the compost heap more aeration.

26 May 2010


Technically, I have a compost bin. Earlier this month I decided to use a brand-new trash bin as my compost bin. I started filling the bin with an onion my wife kept in the bedroom to ward off bugs but has gone bad, a SunChips bag, some vines covering the fence in my backyard, then some weeds pulled from the cracks in the front yard, plus many leaves fallen from the huge tree on the street. I know, I know, some purist compost masters would say weeds in compost bin is a no-no but it's such a waste to throw them out. There seems to be a limitless supply of weeds around my house, and my house is not that big. Over time I added teabags from the tea I consumed at work. I save the bags in a plastic bag and brought them home. In the beginning, I threw the whole thing in but lately I rip off the top to prevent the tiny staples from entering the bin. This week I also added fruit peels and such from oranges, mangoes, and rambutans.

I used the word "technical" to describe my compost bin because it is not the ideal bin. I let rain water get into it once or twice then drain the excess water by tipping it over, careful not to spill the content, but otherwise it is not as damp as it should be. Today I sprinkled some water on the bin because it was a hot day. I tried to turn over the bin's content using a hoe and an icebreaker, unsuccessfully. I do plan to switch my current trash bin with this compost bin so that will give it a nice upside down flip, but until I get the proper tool, the bin will not be turning over as often as it needs to be.

Composting should be simple but it is not. Years ago when I did not think of composting the City of New York would sell them at cost, $20 or so, at Compost Give-Back Events. Too bad I did not buy any, even though I dropped off truckload of electronic equipments for recycling at the same location. For me it is not possible to walk into a store and buy a bin to take home. My local Home Depot did not carry any before but on a recent visit there was one model, a 6-gallon rotating drum that goes for $50 or so. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden has some other model that cost $60. $50 or $60 sounds like a lot to pay to hold things that decompose. If you go online to buy them, there are models that go up to $100s of dollars. These things are usually heavy, too, so shipping adds significantly to the total cost when you buy online. It just does not make economical sense. Too bad in these economic hard times the government no longer subsidize the sale of compost bins. Even leaf-collection for composting was suspended a few years ago.

I probably end up buying the one and only model available at my local Home Depot. The big tree in front of my house keep dropping leaves, barks, and branches, not just in autumn but year round. I might as well make the most of these "free" materials.

23 May 2010

The Long and Short of Cyclist Shorts

After two weeks of plunking down some hard-earned money for a pair of cyclist shorts, I finally put it on and went for a ride. My philosophy with working out is to get out of the house quickly, which means clothes shouldn't be a factor in getting ready. I've been wearing old pants but once or twice the pants got caught by the bicycle gears. With the warm weather mostly arrived, I can get by with wearing regular shorts. Still, I decided to splurge and got a pair of real cyclist shorts, something like $60+. Gel-cushioned, it's comfy on the standard bike seat, but I have to wonder how cyclists store the usual things like home keys and wallet. In my case, I used a fanny pack strapped around my chest but I suppose it still negated the cool factor introduced by the cyclist shorts. I never have to worry about having people telling my fly is open but I imagine if you need to go it is rather complicated while wearing cyclist shorts.

The first time I thought of putting on a pair of cyclist shorts, I recalled the poster for a particular classic movie. I haven't seen it but I have a general idea what it's about. I tried to re-create a scene in the movie. Can you tell what movie it is?

06 May 2010

A Ferry Too Far

The last portion of the New York Bike Tour occurs when the cyclists cross the Verrazano Bridge for Staten Island. A friend told me of the V Bridge's steep incline but I found out it was not so bad. It was a long climb for sure, but not too steep once the lower gear was in use. After the bridge, it was the Festival in Fort Wadsworth. Cyclists were congratulated for completing the tour, but then it's not really over. There's still another three miles to go, to get to the ferry for the trip back to Battery Park in Manhattan. Silly me, there is only one route for the Staten Island ferry but somehow I thought we would just board the ferry right there by some waterfront location right next to the Fort.

New York Bike Tour was the first event that I participated in with someone waiting for me at the finish line. It was a nice day so the wife and the in-laws decided to hang out in the Battery Park area to wait for me. We exchanged phone calls a few times to get an idea where I was. It got me a bit excited to get to the finish line sooner, which means I would have to cover that last three miles fast. Combined with the letdown that Fort Wadsworth was not the end of the tour and we had "haste make waste". Last but not least, whereas I am familiar with most of the route, Staten Island is the one of the boroughs that I rarely visit. It made the last 3 miles seem longer. All these unfavorable conditions culminated with the pothole incident. So there I was, speeding along to get to the ferry quickly, on a road that I was not familiar, pop came a pothole in the road. The cyclist a few feet in front of me on the left pointed out the pothole. Then my wife's call came in and I made the mistake of answering it, leaving only my left hand to control the speeding bike. I think if I had both hands on the handlebar, I could have made a hard stop just short of the pothole. But I only had one hand on the bike. I cannot remember what happened next, just that I found myself sitting on the road, the bike's neck twisted somewhat. I had a scrape here and there but when I got back on the bike I realized I also had a nasty bruise on the left hand, in the thumb area. I continued on with the tour and finally made it to the ferry, waited a long time for the next ferry, napped for part of the long ferry ride, and finally back to Manhattan. Moral of the story - just like driving a car, don't ride the bike and talk on the phone, unless you have one of those ugly bluetooth headset.

Can you tell it is a bruise? If not, you have contusion confusion... Talk to the hand!

04 May 2010

Brooklyn-Queens Bike Express

The Brooklyn-Queens Bike Express... NOT! Without actually being part of the New York Bike Tour, I thought the route would get on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Queens and enter Brooklyn that way. Just because I was stuck on the BQE before because of the Bike Tour does not necessarily mean the Tour went from Queens to Brooklyn via the BQE.

We left Manhattan for the last time via the Queensboro Bridge. It has been ages since I last used the QB. When I lived in Long Island City the QB would be the quickest way to get into Manhattan. It took me a few minutes to realize that we were on the upper level of the QB. The view was great! I had to pull over a few times to take picture of the surrounding. It is not everyday that one gets to be on the bridge, free of cars, to briefly mill about. Someone made the snide remark "Tourists!" while another said that he sees this, referring to the Manhattan skyline, from his office every day. How unappreciative of the City, these wise guys!

We got off the QB around 21st Street and traveled mostly along Vernon Boulevard and eventually reached the Pulaski Bridge, an entry point for Brooklyn. I again took some photos of the Manhattan skyline. I can almost swear that I once saw some sign informing drivers that they are leaving Brooklyn but I just couldn't find it. I only got the sign welcoming people to Brooklyn. I realize now the tour route is basically along the waterfront of Brooklyn and Queens. The northern waterfront part of Brooklyn is one area that I am not familiar with. Some kids and their mother had a lemonade stand out but if was on the far side of the road so I had to turn down the offer but the rest of the trip I had this urge for a nice cool cup of, what else, lemonade.

Eventually we reached DUMBO, the area Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. It was around 1 PM so some people pulled over for lunch, sitting outside under the beautiful sky. One woman had a sign advertising coffee and such for the restaurant nearby, which was within sight where she stood. I think she would have more business if she had the items ready-made, that people could just buy from her right near the bike route.

Finally, we entered the BQE after passing Atlantic Avenue, over the Gowanus Canal, and along the elevated portion of the BQE that is in constant need of repairs. Some plans call for that part of the BQE to be put underground. Maybe not being exposed to the elements will allow the expressway to last longer, who knows?

I thought we would go to the Verrazano Bridge via the BQE but instead we took the Belt Parkway. It was early in the evening and we were right off the waterfront along the Belt. Occasionally we would be greeted by a cold blast of wind, which was refreshing. Just what we needed to keep going for the last few miles.

Note that there are no photos taken on the BQE or the Belt Parkway. Living in Brooklyn for more than 10 years now, I travel those paths often and don't have any special connections to them. Not like parts of Queens, which I don't visit that regularly these days. Something about absence makes the heart grow fonder, I suppose.

Some interesting-looking apartment buildings north of the Queensboro Bridge.

Citi Corp building, the lone high-rise in the area.

The 7 train making its ear-splitting turn.

The Manhattan skyline viewed from the sharp turn toward the 21st Street exit.

Manhattan skyline viewed from the Pulaski Bridge.

Brooklyn, like no other places in the world.

03 May 2010

Let The Bike Tour Begin!

After what felt like hours, it was finally time for me and the mass of people and bikes to move. We traveled up Church Avenue, which then turned into Sixth Avenue, all the way up to Central Park. Maybe because there still were too many cyclists bunched together so that we had to watch out for the riders in front of us, instead of taking in the scenery. It was not until around 23rd Street (Chelsea) that I started to look around at the surrounding. I missed the Barnes & Noble in the area. Before there was MacHeist, with its amazing Mac software bundle, I would occasionally pick up a copy of Macworld UK or MacFormat just to get the software that came with the magazine, not necessarily from this particular B&N. The software was never the latest version but they worked fine. Further up north I saw for the first time the pedestrian mall at the intersection of 34th Street and Broadway. I used to have time after work to go around to see what changed but nowadays it's just commute to work then head back home.

In Central Park we had to dismount to walk our bike. Years ago I used to do volunteer work for the Central Park Conservancy and knew the park well. It has been so long I didn't recognize the area that we passed through, although I'm pretty we went along the western bank of the Harlem Meer. Like the NYC Marathon, to make the event 5-boro, a small part of the Bronx was included. A reversal of the Marathon, we crossed into the Bronx via Madison Bridge and re-entered Manhattan via the Third Avenue Bridge. At long last, the bike route entered a highway - the FDR Drive South. No vehicular traffic, just us cyclists. I took my first break to have some food and get my water bottle re-filled. It was great that instead of passing out water in paper cups, or worse yet, plastic cups, the volunteers poured water from 1-gallon jugs into our bottles. Just a bunch of big jugs to recycle afterward, less garbage to pick up.

Alas, the ride along the FDR was short as we soon hit the exit for the Queensboro Bridge (or 59th Street Bridge for those Manhattan-centric people, no thanks to Simon & Garfunkel). Again, it was time to dismount and walk the bikes slowly off the FDR, wait for traffic on York Avenue to clear before we can get onto the bridge. So long, Manhattan, the next time we were back in Manhattan it would be at the end of the Tour.

A short stay in the Bronx. Hurry up and wait for vehicular traffic to clear. The Third Avenue Bridge is in the distance.

FDR Drive South is clear of cars, from around 100ish Street down to 60-something Street.

Waiting to get off the FDR to traverse the Queensboro Bridge, seen here in the distance.

02 May 2010

This Is How I Roll

As the new year (2010) rolled in, I decided to adjust my workout schedule. The right foot was in frequent pain from the regular jogging so it was time to do something different. I could only think of cycling so cycling it was. Whether I came to know about the New York Bike Tour through one of those smart-aleck Google contextual ads I cannot remember, but today I found myself completing the 42-mile (67.7-km, I do have some fellow S.I. fans out there, do I?) tour. Note that it's called a tour, not a race, and that's what it really is. Not the entire route is closed to other traffics for the cyclists to really run at top speeds to see who finishes first.

The night before the event, just as I feared, I had some envelope-stuffing business to take care of that tied me up until almost 2 A.M. Someone I know rode in the tour before and told me that as long as I had the vest, via mail, that was all I needed. There won't be any registration on the day and there will be so many cyclists chances are the start time of 8 AM can be safely ignored. It was my first ride, so against better judgement I still got up at 6 AM and got to the start line, or actually, about half a mile from the starting line, around 7:30 AM. Sure enough, I wasted about an hour just milling about.

I don't know what motivating speech Cousin Brucie gave the cyclists but by the time I got to the stage on Church Avenue, a few blocks south of Canal Street, there was no one left on the stage. There was a handful of cheerleaders somewhere on Church Avenue. I spent a great deal of time in front of Syms - "An educated consumer is our best customer", that Syms - and there was nothing entertaining around me. Many group cyclists had cute or recognizable helmet accessories, like BMW hood ornaments, flowers, or tin-foil antennas. Someone tried a wave once and it didn't last too long. There was no one from the Tour around to make us stretch or chant silly songs, just something to while away the time.

The one entertainment we got was from a PoleRider. It is a combination of pole dancing and cycling, or pedicab cycling, to be exact. Say you are good at pole dancing but want to be known outside of your house. Have someone pedal the bicycle while you dance away on the pole, on whatever streets the bicycle goes. Kinda weird for my taste, but it was entertaining while we waited. At first, from far away, I thought it was just some girl bored with the long wait and decided to use one of the traffic poles on the street to show off her skill. When we started to inch forward, I noticed that the pole also moved slowly with the flow. Close-up, I learned that the pole was on a pedicab of sort. Definitely the right place to advertise the merchandise!