Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Photographs and Memories

This is a photograph from a collection on Flickr by the North Dakota photographer Todd H. Strand. You have to look at the large size to appreciate it. It was taken with a Widelux camera. There are a number of high quality photos in this Photostream, for example Stubble field in Stark County, North Dakota, Sawmill Bar, Darby, Montana, Fishermen in the Selway Wilderness looking for Paradise, Idaho , Road hunting near Wing, North Dakota and Nameless Cemetery, Nameless, North Dakota

He also has a set from his parent's studio in Rugby, North Dakota with photograpphs like A new television set arrives in Rugby, North Dakota ca:1953. that capture some interesting scenes from a small town and which caused me to borrow the title of this post from the Jim Croce song.

Monday, March 30, 2009

And You Thought Your Teacher Was Strict

This is a photograph I took of an exhibit at the hall of Asian Peoples at the American Museum of Natural History. Here's a link to The Hall of Asian Peoples | Elementary School Teacher's Guide.

One thing that struck me as a bit unbalanced as I walked around the museum and saw all the groups of school children is that if you happen to be a child growing up near a museum like this and your parents or teachers have the resources and inclination to take you for visits, you will have a headstart on lots of other kids who are not so lucky.

On the other hand, I'd venture to say that a caring teacher can have a much greater impact on young people than a trip to a big museum.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Big Apple 2009 - A Set on Flickr

The pictures I took on my jaunt to NYC.

I enjoyed Friday with a bike ride through Central Park in the morning and a trip through the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the evening. Saturday I cruised though the MOMA and New York Folk Art Museum, then to Grand Central and my bus ride to Newark and flight home.

I'd love to go again.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

We Have a Long Journey Ahead

This statue of Mahatma Gandhi is in Union Square Park in NYC. It's an interesting juxtaposition to think about what Gandhi stood for and look at what's around us in the world.

This homeless, and literally faceless, person was sleeping on a bench near the statue...

We can hope that someday (maybe a little bit everyday) the world gets to be a little more like what the great soul envisioned.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal

The picture above is of the mosaic in Central Park's Strawberry Fields. Usually it's filled with flowers and other mementos but I took this picture early in the morning.


I really enjoyed seeing Stomp last night. If you like rhythm circles this one is fantastic - they use brooms, lighters, matchboxes, their bodies, plastic bags, garbage cans, empty soda glasses...all sorts of things you would never imagine could make such nice sounds.

One highlight for me was stopping for a hot bowl of borscht on a rainy night, at the cafe directly across the street from the Orpheum Theatre. That place is so small it's not even on Google as far as I can tell.

I have an old picture from Butte of the Success Cafe, which claimed to be the smallest cafe in the world, but I think this place in NYC takes that record now. The place had a row of stools at the counter and tables against the wall. I was sitting at a table, and the place is so narrow the waitress, who was standing behind the counter, could hand me my bowl of soup by reaching between the people at the counter.


This is a picture I took at the The Butterfly Conservatory yesterday. It was hot and humid in there so I'd recommend bringing a lens cloth if you go to take pictures.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Standing No Honking Butterflies and Stomp

There are signs on street corners in NYC that say "No Standing" which I found a bit confusing until I figured out they apply to cars not people. For awhile I thought that was why so many people were in such a hurry. I guess "No Stopping" would be confusing since you obviously have to stop at the red light. "No Parking" wouldn't work because you'd have people parking their cars to wait for someone. I went ahead and stood around when I wanted to because I understood they would have "No Loitering" signs if they didn't wan't people standing around.

There are also signs threatening a $350 fine for honking your horn. Not sure how effective that is but I like the idea as an attempt to reduce aggressive/angry horn honking. I don't hear a lot of horn honking so it must work somewhat. I'd read an article in The New Yorker awhile ago that people in China honk their horn all the time, sort of as a hello greeting - which sounded kind of fun. Even if they are driving in a rural area they'll honk their horn when approaching a house or whatever. The article said part of the reason for this habitual horn honking is that new first time car owners in China aren't always the best drivers, so honking your horn to tell people or animals to get out of the way makes some sense.

I'm heading to the American Museum of Natural History later this morning. I'm really looking forward to seeing the The Butterfly Conservatory.

Later today I'm heading down to the Orpheum Theatre to hopefully get tickets to see Stomp. I have a coupon for a ticket for $39, but it's only good at the box office. The Orpheum Theatre is an Off Broadway venue in the East Village.

I got that coupon at a really cool NYC Interactive Visitor Center in midtown. It was hard to find the entrance to the place which might have explained why I was the only person there aside from the 4 employees. They have really cool interactive displays/maps, and a companion website, to plan trips and things to do. The young woman helping me told me they work in conjuction with Google. All the people there were very helpful and friendly. They had a video on one wall of Tim Gunn from Project Runway introducing people to New York City. That's one of my favorite TV shows and I like Tim's advice to "make it work".

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm Hangin Out at Union Square at 3 AM

3 am Pacific time, it's 6 am here and I'm actually in the Starbucks across the street. There's a nice strong public wifi signal at Union Square so it's a good place for laptoppers. I'm riding the subway uptown to Central Park and then going to see South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont Lincoln Center Theater later today, but for now I'm just enjoying watching the city wake up.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Central Park From The Top of the Rock

It was nice on top of the rock today. Windy at street level but surprisingly calm up on top. One thing I was surprised to see was that the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center is still open. 30 Rock was my last stop after taking the OnBoard New York City Bus Tour. I've never taken a guided bus tour before but B recommended I try it for NYC since there's so much to see and do here. The tour guide Robert and the driver Mel were great - very friendly and knowledgeable. I'd read the reviews of OnBoard and people seemed pleased.

Our first stop on the tour was across from the Dakota Hotel at Central Park beside the Strawberry Fields. I learned that Yoko Ono still lives at the top floor of the Dakota and got a nice picture of the "Imagine" mosaic in Strawberry Fields. We went through the park, passing by the Sheep Meadow and Central Park Zoo and then South from there past Madison Square Park and to the Southport Ferry Landing where we caught the ferry to Staten Island. Got some good pictures of the Statue of Liberty. Robert is a native New Yorker and had lots of stories about the city and growing up here. One funny one was that when he was little and his parents would visit the park and pass by or visit, FAO Schwarz, his parents would tell him it was a Toy Museum (nothing for sale there...just for looking).

We stopped at the WTC site and Robert gave a very respectful and heartfelt talk. I appreciated the fact that he said we should remember the many heroic acts of that day. When we left a little boy was riding a tiny bike with training wheels, as fast as he could, down the mostly deserted sidewalk, with his dad not to far behind. Looking towards the future..

Lot's of things to see...

On my way back home I went to Grand Central Terminal to catch the subway right at rush hour. It was pretty cool seeing what it was like for all the people who work uptown to leave the city.

A week isn't going to be long enough. I'd like to come back here to get to see more.

One important thing I learned from Robert is that Houston Street is pronounced House-ton not like the city in Texas.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Late Night With Dave

Monday was a nice long day for me. I went to Late Night with David Letterman - it was great. Really liked hearing the band and seeing the set, plus Dave made his big announcement that he had been married last week at the Teton County courthouse in Choteau, Montana. That's a nice part of Montana. I was 8 rows from the front and got in a shot for about 5 seconds when they panned to a guy beside me with an Indiana sweatshirt that Dave had been kidding around with before the show.

I ate supper at the Red Bamboo Soul Cafe which I'd read about. It was good vegan food. I had the Creole Soul Chicken which was tasty and crunchy. The wait staff was very courteous and attentive. The Red Bamboo is near New York University - home of over 50,000 students.

I saw this funny sign on a door on my walk home -

Sunday, March 22, 2009

To Serve and Protect

I like this picture. The policeman has a friendly look on his face. I haven't had a chance to crop it or enhance it at all but it's still one of my favs.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sucking The Juice From The Big Apple

I've had a heck of a cold this week, one of those where things sort of blur together and you forget what day it is.

It couldn't have come at a more inopportune time. I had everything setup for my trip to NYC. I didn't have any choice but to get on the big jet airplane this morning, hacking and coughing my way east. I couldn't help but think maybe I should have used my free ticket to go someplace warm like Mexico or Hawaii.

I broke my rule of waiting to pack until just before I leave this time and started the day before. I thought I had everything...but when I got to the airport I found out I needed my free paper ticket voucher. Luckily the station agent at Alaska was helpful and allowed me to purchase a ticket for the price I would have paid a couple of months ago - and I can turn in my voucher to get my money back.

I watched The Secret Life of Bees inflight - that was a good (and sad) movie.

Everything is new to me in New York City, so I'm pretty excited.

I have to say the freeway from the Newark airport to Manhattan could use some of the stimulus money. I don't know if it's that road or the bus I was riding, but I felt like I was bouncing into town on the back of a turnip truck.

I got to see the Lincoln Tunnel, Bryant Park, Grand Central Station, Union Square Park and my first NYC subway. All good.

The roundtrip airporter bus fare from Newark to Grand Central is 25 dollars and I got a 7 day MTA pass for the NYC busses and subways for another 25 dollars. I think that is really reasonable.

I had falafel, pita, hummus and iced coffee at Maoz Vegetarian by Union Square. It was good. I got a Pink Lady apple and some Vivani dark chocolate for dessert at the Garden of Eden Gourmet Market

There's a Trader Joe's and Whole Foods near where I'm staying. They could use another Trader Joe's - the lines were crazy in that one.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. It's supposed to be sunny and in the 50's.

I hope to absorb some of the energy from the city and totally kick this cold.

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 13, 2009

How To Unclog a Sink

There's a few different ways to unclog a sink depending on what's clogging it and what tools you have.

The easiest way is to run water into the sink (assuming it's not already filled with water), and create some extra pressure. If you have a small plunger that helps. I'd put the plunger in some water with a little bit a bleach if it's the same plunger you use in a toilet. If it's a bathroom sink, or a tub, with an overflow drain at the top you'll have to plug the overflow drain with your hand or a plastic bag while you plunge in order to create pressure in the drain.

If you don't have a plunger you can sometimes unclog a sink or tub using a plastic grocery bag as a makeshift plunger. You can also try poking down the drain with a flexible piece of wire like a coat hanger. Be careful you don't poke too hard if you have an old corroded metal drain pipe because you can poke a hole in the pipe. It sometimes works best to make a little J bend in the end of the wire and use it as a hook to pull the gunk back out the pipe.

If the clog is caused by grease sometimes pouring boiling water down the drain helps.

I've never had any luck with things you pour in a drain like Liquid Plumber or Drano. I assume anything that is so caustic even when it's diluted with water that it will dissolve hair, gunk, grease, soap etc. would be a very powerful chemical and not something stores would sell to non-professionals.

If the clog is something solid like a ball of hair you might not be able to plunge it out. You'll need to undo the drain pipe under the sink. This pipe is called a S, J or P trap based on it's shape and because it traps water in the bend so the smell of the sewer doesn't come back into your house. Sometimes undoing this pipe is really easy - if it's plastic pipe you can unscrew it with your hands. If it's an old metal pipe this can present some challenges if the pipe and fittings are corroded. It's good to have a small bucket or some towels when you undo the S or P shaped drain pipe under the sink to catch the water trapped in the pipe or sink.

If the clog isn't in the trap below a sink, or for a stubborn tub clog, you'll need to use something called a drain auger or plumbers snake. It's a long flexible metal tube with a smaller flexible wire inside. One end connects to a power drill if it's a power snake or if it's a manual snake it has a handle you can turn. You can get a Drain Auger at Lowe's for 8 bucks.

If you have a major clog in your plumbing that impacts more than one sink, toilet, tub - you'll need to find a clean-out in your main sewer (not all houses have these). It's a Y shaped connection to the main sewer that has a removable cap that allows you to stick a snake into the main sewer. If the plug is within the reach of your snake you can get it out - but if it's a tree root or something that broke the sewer pipe, or is clogging it, further away from your house you may need to call a professional...or get out a shovel or rent a small backhoe.

You'll need to get a map from your local sewer department showing where your house's sewer line connects to the city sewer and then trace from your house to the main sewer with your backhoe/shovel. Sewer pipes are cheap but they are buried pretty deep and they have to slope away from your house to the main sewer. When our main sewer got broken I hired a guy with a backhoe to dig it up for less than a 1000...the router router guy gave me an estimate of over 8000. So hiring a backhoe operator might be the way to go if you have to replace a your house's main sewer pipe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Going to New York

I'm looking forward to my trip to New York City a week from Saturday. I'm spending a week at the Seafarers & International House Guest House on East 15th and Irving Place. I plan to go to a Broadway Play, visit museums, ride the subway, busses and ferries, bike around Central Park and walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, take a guided tour of the city, hang out and explore.

I'm getting a Metro Card for $25.00 that allows you to ride the busses and subways for 7 days.

I hope to make it to the American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA | The Museum of Modern Art the Top of the Rock and The United Nations.

The place I'm staying looks like a good location - it's a block from Union Square so I can hop on the subway easily, check out Union Square Park and the greenmarket and make it down to Washington Square Park to get some eats from the Dosa Man.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Twitter - Why?

I've had a twitter account for a couple of years and haven't been able to figure out why.

Twitter allows people to answer the question - "What are you doing?" in 140 character or less.

If they could get Twitter to work for toddlers so Mom's and Dad's could know "What are you doing?" when the house is unusually quiet that would be useful. If Edgar the puppy could get a Twitter account and let me know he's digging dirt out of a potted plant or eating a hat, that might come in handy.