25 September 2013


I used to read a lot of Peanuts comic books borrowed from the public library.  For me, one of the memorable strips had the phrase "It's raining in my valley tonight."  Talk about having all the bad stuff happening at the same time.  Rain, low land, dark sky.  Perfect view of life if you are a pessimist.  Well,  for me this day the phrase is "It's a sunny morning on my mountain!"

My little strip of land in the backyard finally yields some fruits, or melons, to be exact.

There was no place for the viny melon to crawl so I guided it atop my shack.

A little melon grows between the fence and the shack.

I also threw a vine over the fence and a melon grew there.
For a while, I was having fun spelling out words and phrases using my Garmin GPS watch.  Then the strap broke.  I made do for a while and finally gave in and contacted Garmin about a replacement band.  They took it back and it just came back to me, looking almost new.  The next day, I took it out and spell "GARMIN", of course.
New strap, looks new to me.

Thank you, Garmin!  I tried to add the triangle above the N, which is part of the Garmin logo, but it didn't work.
Speaking of GPS arts, some time before I sent the watch back to Garmin, I made the words "Jack Rabbit Sports" for the triathlon chain of stores, or in particular, the one in Park Slope.  They let me have a poster-size version of the picture on their storefront window.  Nice!

I am still healthy enough to run 8+ kilometers most mornings.  Last but not least, I'm starting a new full-time job this week!

22 September 2013


I've heard of Maker Faire event before but never seem to find the time to attend one.  When I attended an orientation for recycling volunteers and the sign-up sheet for the event came out, I signed up for it.  Sometimes you just have to make a commitment for something to explore it.  I figure I would be there helping with the recycling tasks at the event and then explore the exhibits if time allows.

As the day of the event approached, I thought of bringing my son along.  I want him to have some exposure to volunteering and perhaps in the process learn something else outside of the iPad.  Alas, he is too young to register as a volunteer.  Fine, I would be willing to pay for him to be at the event, but I wanted him to read more about it and be excited about it.  He didn't find out, so when the day came, I just went by myself.

I worked as a monitor at one of the many recycling stations located throughout the fair.  Each station had a bin for unrecyclables, one for clean paper, and one for metal, plastic, and glass.  There was also a large, green bin for compostable materials, which include food scraps, soiled paper, and papery food containers.  I am happy to report that the unrecyclable container had little stuff compared to the others.  Most of the recycle materials was plastic and the corresponding bin had to be replaced twice while I was there.  The compost bin also filled up quickly and a few times I used glove hands to compress the content to take on more.  Imagine all those stuff simply going to landfill at events past.  I don't know how many other events have such recycling stations so I fear much more materials elsewhere still go to the waste stream instead of being diverted from it.

I didn't have time after my shift to check out the exhibits of Maker Faire.  They sure looked interesting.  I was near the rocket launch and the place was popular.  Kids got to make their own rockets and then launch them high into the air.  There was a pavilion for 3D printing, I wish I checked it out.  I was near a gyro vendor and the smell was intoxicating but when it came lunch time the line was very long.  I had some pastry with me so they became my lunch as I walked about briefly surveying the fair.  Might as well as the gyro was $8!  I did have to spend $4 for an Honest iced tea, at some size that probably cost $1 or $1.50 outside.  Still, I think next year I should make a greater effort to bring my son to the event as an attendee.  Maybe he can learn some handy skills, or at least become excited about them.

12 September 2013


Wednesday, September 12, 2013:  I finally found the time to go for a run.  I wanted to have a run as soon as I came back from the road trip, but Saturday I wanted to sleep in, Sunday actually got up at 4:30 to be able to make it at 6 at the Susan G Komen 5K in Central Park, Monday was the first day of school and I also got dragged into some other unpleasant task, Tuesday was Primary Day during which I worked 5 AM to 10 PM...  For me, it's extra difficult to run any time other than in the morning...

Some weeks ago, during a walk with my son, I re-encountered a plant that had prickly pods that easily attach to anything they come into contact.  It was at the beach of Narrows Bay, the northern side of Coney Island, facing the Verrazano Bridge.  The beach used to be really dirty and full of garbage, but it improved in recent years.  I wanted to re-visit the beach to take better photos of this exotic, IMHO, plant and its pods.

On the way to the beach, I passed by Calvert Vaux Park, which made gruesome news just last week.  A skilled hobbyist of model helicopter lost control of the machine and killed himself.  I never knew those things can be so deadly.  One time I even took my son to Marine Park's model airfield in Gerritsen to watch the planes take off and fly about.  Granted accidents with model planes are rare, it is possible.  Next time I am near these things I'll have a helmet on or be under a tree.

Construction continues to happen in other parts of Calvert Vaux Park.  A waterfront is coming about on the side across from Six Diamond Park and Home Depot.  I spied a jutting section with wooden rails.  Perhaps it will become a rest area with benches and such.  On the lot adjacent to the existing park that includes the more modern futbol field, I saw that things were looking better.

After Calvert Vaux, I visited the trail that mostly wraps around Home Depot.  I like to visit it at least once a week to help stomp down the weeds that slowly takes over the place, especially near the locked gate behind the metal junk yard.  Probably a lesson in futility, but it's a nice and quiet spot to add distance to the run.

I next ran along Neptune Avenue toward Mark Twain I.S. and on to the Poor Man's Beach on Coney Creek.  It took little time to find a bush of sand spur plant to pass my feet through to collect the pods.  I didn't know what they were called, but a post on FB later in the evening and my friend Rachel got the info.  Supposedly they are a pain to deal with, pun intended, and most web articles were about how to get rid of them.  "Sand spur", what an appropriate name.

Makeshift memorial for Roman Pirozek Jr. in Calvert Vaux Park, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/nyregion/remote-controlled-copter-fatally-strikes-pilot-at-park.html?_r=0
Beyond the fence, looks like a little rest area on the waterfront of Calvert Vaux Park.
A new section of Calvert Vaux Park almost ready for the public?

Sand spur plants!  The seed pods are prickly and easily attach to anything they come into contact with...
...such as the sock and sneaker of some runner, who did it all in the name of science.

07 September 2013


In Vietnamese proverb, there's a phrase that goes

Đi một ngày đàng, học một sàng khôn

It means "Travel one full day and learn a container of smart things", or something to that extent.  While it's true you can learn a lot from watching YouTube videos or from reading exciting blogs, just like this one :-) , all from the comfort of your home, you still need to be out there in the physical world interacting with people and things.  I just came back from a long car ride and indeed learned a few things that I want to share with you.

My long car drive took me from New York City south past Charlotte, NC, passing through D.C.  And back.  I am not a big fan of voice-assisted GPS devices and prefer to print out the direction and not follow it too closely.  For example, if I am to get off I-95 at the exit for Route 123 merely to connect to I-85, just down the road upon entering Route 123, I'd rather not have to know about Route 123.  Maybe saying "Take exit 29 to get to I-85" is enough for me.  I want to memorize the general route, I don't need to know the directions in all its glorious details.  But that's what Google Direction told me as I entered the D.C. area.  I traveled through D.C. before, either for Florida or back from Florida.  I recalled I-95 would take me right through, maybe with some traffic congestion, but it was still pretty straightforward.  Not the way Google Directions had it though.  It seemed GD automatically chose only the shortest distance using interstate roads, i.e. I-this or I-that.  Around Baltimore on the way down, I was to take I-495 to I-695 then I-395 and finally I-295 only to connect back to I-95 eventually.  Or something like that, there are too many switches I don't really know which x95 comes first or last.  Just my luck when I got to the area it was dark and I did get lost briefly.  I had a vague sense that something was amiss and it was getting late so I stopped for the night.  The next day, thanks to the still-complicated direction I crawled slowly with morning rush hour traffic on I-295S.  Maybe it was just as bad on I-95, maybe not.  On the way back, I decided to follow my gut and went with I-95 all the way.  Or just I-85 and I-95, to be exact.  It meant going east a little more, instead of traveling through the heart of D.C., but I like to keep things simple.

The other thing I discovered is that there are too many ways to record toll payment from moving vehicles.  More than I wish to know anyway.  In the NYC area, when you pay toll with EZ-PASS, you slow down significantly and wait for the gate arm to lift or some light tells you payment was made.  A little outside of the metro area you may have places that let you somewhat drive right through without stopping.  And then we also have red-light cameras that if you run a red light you get flashed and a photo of your plate is taken.  You receive the ticket in the mail some time later, always an unpleasant thing.  Seeing flash of light behind you as you drive = bad news.  So when I was in that tiny state called Delaware and approach some toll booth that keeps telling me I have x meters to go before the booth, I slowed down somewhat but still moving at a good pace.  The booth finally appeared, no specific speed posted, so I rolled through and saw a flash of light.  Argh!  What did I do wrong!  I wasn't speeding!!!  On the way back, I noticed the car in the distance in front of me was flashed, then my car was flashed even though I was already below speed limit by 5 or so miles.  So it's just the way Delaware works.  Given that Delaware is so close to NYC, I think there should be a sign that alerts drivers not to worry about the flash.  Is it a crime of some sort to give the camera the finger?  I'm tempted to do that.  I was worried for a few days that some day next week I'll receive in the mail a ticket, from Delaware.

In closing, I'd like to toast the inventor(s) of cruise control.  On a long trip, it made the trip so much more less painful!  Cheers!

02 September 2013


I sometimes hear stories about people storing food scraps in freezers and on the weekends take the stuff to green markets to recycle.  I suppose these people live in apartments and don't have a backyard container to heap the stuff in.  Or maybe they just like to stick to guidelines in composting brochures to minimize issues with odors and bugs.  Whatever the case, I admire those people.  That's dedication.

I have a backyard and occasionally toss the scraps, mostly fruit waste, into the compost bins I have in my backyard.  For sure they attract bugs but that's what backyards are supposed to be, no?  I know someone whose backyard is, possibly, airtight with plastic on the ground and the fence.  I think that's extreme.  Might as well stay indoor, close all the windows, and turn on the A/C.

After attending a volunteer orientation for recyclers hosted by the city, I wanted to contribute more to food scrap recycling.  It takes time for my compost bins to work and there's that bug issues, so might as well take them to a green market.  I'm not dedicated to keep the food scraps in the freezer or the refrigerator and worried that my stuff wouldn't be accepted.  Luckily, when I arrived at the recycling site, there were just these bins ready to take the stuff.  Whichever bins that were not closed were to be used.  The bins sits out in the open, even if they are closed, for a few hours, so maybe it doesn't matter if the collected stuff was frozen or not.

In the not-too-distant future, the whole NYC will recycle food scraps.  For now, the scraps are either trashed, composted in some backyard, or collected at the green markets, which only open on the weekend, usually.  In my case, I made it a bike trip, about 10 km round-trip, to get to the green market, a break from running to give my knees a break.  I went on a Sunday but had I gone on a Saturday there was a market closer to me.  It takes some extra effort to recycle food scraps and I happen to have it.

Use any open green bins then put containers in the yellow bag (in this case) as trash.

I think of green markets as taking place in some parking lot or some open area, but this one on Corteyou occurred on the sidewalk.  It was a bit crowded but not too bad.