Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Bunch Of People, More Flowers, and Two Non-Random Dogs!

A few more from my Easter Sunday wander at the BBG -

I did wander, and -
there were daffodils - but there was no "lonely as a cloud" about it. Not on a stunning Spring day in Brooklyn!

Usually I actually really like going on not-so-stunning days for the very reason that you mostly have the place to yourself, but it was fun getting some pictures in the sunshine.

Forsythia, forsooth!
An early tulip
Chinese Stachyurus. Doesn't this look like it should be called "bead curtain plant"?

Closeup of the flowerets

A couple of non-flowers now, just because I liked them -
Fabulously lumpy cork trees

And a nice cycad in the greenhouse for Bowsprite, who liked these when she was in Florida. They always remind me of our neighbor in Hawaii, Mr. Kansaka - he was an expert gardener, he specialized in bonsai & although I was too young to appreciate that we had a true artist living next door (he was even a little bit famous, I think, I remember tour buses would sometimes bring people to see his collection), I did love those beautiful little trees. He had three perfect cycads (full sized ones) in the front of his house. I think they were still there the last time I got to go home - they'd gotten taller, but otherwise looked almost just like they had back when we lived next door.

Enough garden - how about a nice non-random dog?

a Catahoula Leopard Dog in fact!and another happy Catahoula and an extremely non-random canoe on PA's Clarion River.

It was an awfully nice weekend. We'd planned to paddle, although we left the decision of exactly where until I got out there. I'd looked at the forecast & thought "There is no way on Earth I am putting on my drysuit this weekend".

I NEVER expected shorts & a swimsuit would be the right outfit, though. Who'd a thunk? In April, without travelling any appreciable distance in a southerly direction? Nuh uh. No way. But there you have it!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Laser Regatta on Jamaica Bay Sunday, May 16th

The Sailing Committee of the Sebago Canoe Club will be hosting a Laser Regatta for Laser District 8 on May 16, 2009. Full details on the Sailing Committee page of the Sebago website.

I'll be volunteering for the day, hope to see some new faces (and sails) visiting the bay!


I'm off to see TQ this weekend. As I mentioned, he's a little further away than he used to be, but I think I've got a bus that will work out OK. The weather is going to be fabulous & we are going to go canoeing for a change! Should be fun! Won't be posting again until next week sometime, though, so I thought I'd leave you with a little photographic puzzle --

What is it?

(no answering if you were there when I took the picture, OK?)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Cutest Functional Boat in the Whole Wide World.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Got a few minutes?

Like wooden boats, old boat rescues, or things that are really, really cute?

Ready to be charmed? Take a look at a guc!

And the best part is that it works.

If video is a little choppy, just let it play for a few seconds & then move the little sliding pointer (very small, it's right on the bottom edge of the picture) back to the start. That should fix it!

Found via the Lifejacket Adventures blog - a couple more Pier 63 alumni following their saltwater dreams!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Congratulations to Sir Robin Knox-Johnston!

3:55 pm update - I seriously almost feel like I have to apologize for the disjointedness of this post! It's one of the craziest times of the year at my always-hectic job right now - we're wrapping up budget season here at the Really Big Children's Book Company, the presentation to the board is tomorrow and we've been working flat out for the entire month of April. I was exhausted when I went home last night but I went ahead & wrote what I did because I knew there wouldn't be any lunchtime blogging today! Still, it was disjointed, but the sentiments are heartfelt. Oh, and as long as I'm updating, check out Brian's RKJ-day post over on A Moveable Bridge- as I mentioned below, I actually learned about the race I was blithering on about when Brian went & did a leg. Very cool.

4:21 pm update - one more quick note here in a lull - I think this link will take you to "Sir RKJ Day Central" over on Messing About in Sailboats - Adam's got to be the hardest-working blogger on the internet today keeping up with it all! Nice work & congratulations to him, too, for really pulling together something pretty cool! I'm glad to be part of this. Thanks, Adam!

Here it is, April 22nd, 2009 - Sir Robin Knox-Johnston Day on the Web, as called for by Adam Turinas over at Messing About in Boats.

And here he is, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, sailing back into Falmouth on April 22nd, 1969 three-hundred and thirteen days after he'd launched to join in the Golden Globe race to become the first person ever to complete a singlehanded circumnavigation of the earth.

And here I am, a forty-something cube-dwelling New York City number-cruncher sitting in front of my computer in my nice safe quiet Brooklyn apartment, thinking,

"I know I told Adam I loved the idea & was in, but how on earth can a total sailing nonentity like myself say something that even begins to be meaningful about an accomplishment like that?"

And the fact is that much though I'd like to somehow write something brilliant & thoughtful about it, I just don't think I'm up to the job. Especially here near the end of another brain-frying budget season.

Fortunately Adam's challenge didn't say anything about being brilliant - he just said to recognize the accomplishment & say "Congratulations".

So I shall quit beating myself up for not being brilliant and just say:

Congratulations to Sir Robin Knox-Johnson on the forty anniversary of his amazing achievement.

They may do it faster now, but they just can't do it braver!

I will add a little bit more -

Wonder why a brain-fried forty-something cube-dwelling New York City number cruncher is even participating in this day?

Well, because it being able to get out on the city's waterways in boats that makes it all work for me. I love kayaking, I love sailing, and although I'm no adventurer, who doesn't have pipe dreams?

And as I said to Adam in a comment when he first suggested this back in March:

I don't know that I'd ever actually have the nerve, but I love the fact that Sir Knox-Johnston runs an ocean race that even an ordinary middle-class, non-elite person like me could theoretically participate in.

I found out about the race when our friend Brian, from A Moveable Bridge, went and did it! Sent back some pretty harrowing reports, very exciting to read. Didn't always sound like fun but that's an amazing experience that Sir Knox-Johnston has opened up to a lot of people who might otherwise not have any chance at such a thing.

Really a wonderful use of the influence he's earned.

I just don't seem to have big enough words tonight to talk about generosity like that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2 Years At Sea, 270 Days To Go

Schooner Anne, southbound at the Verranzano Narrows Bridge, April 21st, 2007

Almost forgot in the midst of a wildly busy time at work, and it's too late for a long post, but good grief, how can I not mention that a fellow former denizen of the barge at Pier 63 has been at sea now for 2 years!

Only 270 days to go, and although it's been more than once that I've gone to that website & thought "Wow, that's got to be it, how can he possibly keep going now?", somehow, Reid's always managed. I'm getting to the point now where I think I'll be more surprised if he doesn't finish his 1000 days at sea non-stop than if he does.

Love him or hate him, you can't say he's not perservering - but when a person's been working for something for as many years as Reid worked for this, and has sponsors and a whole lot of good & loyal friends who supported him, it would be surprising if that person didn't have the determination to see the trip through to the end.

And when what started as 1000 days' adventure resulted in the lifelong commitment of parenthood, and Soanya had to return to New York, I think she may have showed more guts, in a way, in her continuing support of his continuing the quest they'd begun together than she did when she went off to sea with him in the first place.

I wish the best of luck to both of them over the next 270 days (and, of course, beyond)!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 22nd is Almost Here!

Just a quick reminder - we're coming up fast here on April 22nd, which is the 40th anniversary of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's historic first-ever non-stop singlehanded circumnavigation of the Earth.

Back in March, Adam Turinas has suggested that in honor of Sir Robin's achievement, it would be great if on April 22nd, boat-bloggers (and boattweeters, and boatfacebookers, and boatyoutubers, and heck all the boat-and-or-adventure-loving users of all these various social media sites) joined together to create a virtual Sir Robin Knox-Johnson Day on the web.

Interested? Check out Adam's April 1st post for more details.

Earth Day Cleanup, at Plumb Beach,

No, I wasn't sitting & enjoying the scenery - this was the biggest item I personally collected for proper disposal at the Plumb Beach Cleanup yesterday.
Earth Day at Plumb Beach 2009 067
The day was organized by the American Littoral Society. Several Sebago members joined me there, along with people from a number of other organizations. We had a beautiful day & I took quite a few more pictures. No captions yet(I'm getting ready for a busy day at the club) but they're all over on Flickr.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New York I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down

This song has been running through my head all day. Seems to fit how I've been feeling lately - just kinda down about how it seems like almost all the people I know either have too much work, or nowhere near enough.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to create an hour exchange? A place where those of us who have so many hours of work that we barely have time for a personal life could say "Here, here's 5 paid hours of the 55 hour week I'm working just to stay on top of things, I'd like to hand over those hours to somebody who could use the money," and somebody who's got too many hours to sit on a beach can say "Here, here's 5 unpaid hours of my 7 days a week of free time that I just can't appreciate because it's not paying the bills, let's swap".

Just a pipe dream, but a nice one.

Actually I guess in a way that's exactly what people are doing when they hire maids, or babysitters, or other household help - I just think it would be theoretically cool if that could somehow be done with work hours. It's not the housecleaning that's bringing me down.

(thanks to Mr. Sea Level for first sending me a link to that video sometime last summer)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dedication of the New Dock, Sebago Canoe Club, Sunday, April 19th at Noon!

Last Saturday, shortly before launching on my last paddle off the old dock. Yes, the weather was filthy - it just served to improve the usual Gino's deliciousness!
From The Old Dock

I'd mentioned in passing the other day that the Sebago Canoe Club is getting a new dock this week!

The dedication ceremony is this Sunday, 4/19/2009, and YOU yes YOU are invited!

I'll understand if you can't make it since this being a blog and all, you might not exactly live close enough to make it to the Paerdegat Basin, but if you do live anywhere in the area & you'd like to come see the club I'm always blithering on about, the Sebago crew would love to see you there!

Full details on the Sebago Canoe Club website. Ignore the detail about rsvp'ing by April 1st - let's just say that it's sort of an accidental, retroactive April Fool's Day joke. Fooled me anyways - I'd gone to post it a couple of weeks ago, saw the RSVP note, figured I'd better check in with a board member or two before I said anything and then, er, sort of forgot to ask until today. Sorry about the short notice!

Can't make it to this one, or rather wait to visit the club until the water's a little warmer & you can try out one of our boats? Join us at our Open House on Saturday, May 30th, or at any of our Open Paddles from June 3rd on! And if you've got a hand-launchable boat of your own, don't forget that Sebago is part of the New York City Watertrail - the club grounds are open from 9 am to 5 pm on weekend days from the Open House on May 30th all the way through the summer to Labor Day, I believe it is, and there's always at least one club member who can answer most questions a person might have on duty during those hours.

cross-posted at the Sebago Canoe Club blog.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Tax Day!

Don't hate me because I did mine in March!


Naaah, go ahead & hate me if it helps. I was unusually together this year & I admit that I'm having a little self-congratulatory wallow here. Wallow wallow wallow.

Hanami-time at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

I went for the daffodils, but the cherries are getting going too. Some time before the peak, but they've definitely begun!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Trip Report, 4/5/2009, Norwalk River to the Saugatuck River Public Boat Launch (round trip, 10 miles-ish or so)

This was actually a new one for me!

No GPS, but once again I've entertained myself using a Maptech image & the Paint program. OK, I had a little too much fun with this one. Red line is outbound, blue line is coming back, SBS is the Small Boat Shop, CPYC is the Cedar Point Yacht Club - see the Laser regatta? :D

Anyways. It was sort of funny how this one happened. I haven't been talking about this much, but TQ actually moved a little further away than he used to be over the winter. I think the difficulty added by the extra distance will be offset by the fact that now he'll be able to free himself up on weekends (YAY! we used to only have holidays in common, pretty much had to take vacation days to get any regular time together). However, he will still be back in CT occasionally & I'll be making an effort to get up there when he's there.

The weekend of April 4th & 5th was one of those occasions - he went back to work for the Small Boat Shop's warehouse sale. I wanted to go up & see him, but there were a few considerations -

1. They tend to be really busy during their sales and I didn't want to be underfoot.
2. I also didn't want to get put to work. I have worked for the shop & they've always been happy with having me there, and ordinarily I like working for them, it's just that this time of year the day job overfloweth into the evenings and yea even into the nights & I really need days off to be days off. Working for the shop is fun work but still work.
3. I didn't really want to kill a day wandering around South Norwalk.
4. I really wanted to go paddling, it had been a month since I was on the water.
5. I was embarrassed to ask to borrow a boat - see 1.

My solution was that I should just go up after work on Friday night & he could put me on a train on Saturday morning before he went to work, sigh. Too short a catch-up but he'd just spent the weekend in Brooklyn I think it was the week before, and that way I'm no extra bother to anyone.

He countered my suggestion with "Well, if I put you in a boat before I start working in the morning and you go away, then you aren't underfoot and nobody can put you to work".

That's my guy. Knows me well, he does.

A quick look at the forecast told me that the getting-in-a-boat-and-getting-lost-for-the-day plan was not happening on Saturday. Rainy, foggy, winds gusting to 45 kts - I might do that in the summertime, with a few trusted friends, for an hour or two, just to push myself. Not solo, in April, for a whole day, when I hadn't been in a boat for a month. The getting-lost part is supposed to be a figure of speech, not something that could actually happen So I switched my evening to go up to Saturday, which worked out well since I was then free to get stuck at work on Friday, which I did (but it was a voluntary sort of stuckness & allowed me to tie up some things I would've been fretting about leaving undone if I hadn't, so I'm not being facetious when I say it worked out well).

Sunday was a lot more promising. NW winds, 15-20 kts, sunny, temperature in the low 50's. Water temps probably still in the 40's. Usually when I take a boat & get lost while TQ's working, I go out around the islands, but that's still a pretty solid wind & cold water, and since I was on my own & hadn't been out for a month, I decided I wanted to stick along the coast - I didn't see anything that was outside my comfort level but I just didn't want to take any chances. Anyways, there's all sorts of neat little places to poke your nose into along that coastline & before I'd even left for CT, I'd pretty much looked things over & decided that I wanted to go see the Cedar Point Yacht Club & then paddle on up the Saugatuck River a ways.

And that is exactly what I did.

The first place into which I poked my nose was a very nice marsh just past Calf Pasture Beach. At least one of the guys at the shop said it was a very nice marsh, and I bet it is, except that marshes are not exactly at their best in early Spring:

Still saw some nice ducks & a couple of egrets & made a mental note that this is probably totally worth a visit next time I'm in the area in the summer or fall, then headed on towards the Saugatuck River. I was a little surprised that there weren't any dinghies out by Cockenoe, but then one little white sail came cruising out from behind the point, followed by another, and then a whole crew. "Aha", I thought, "yonder must be the Cedar Point Yacht Club!" and I hustled my bustle to go get some pictures of the launch.

Thought about going out to watch the races - but it was around noon, the Saugatuck River looked pretty nice, I really wanted to get at least a little ways up the river, and I knew I'd set myself up to have a headwind all the way home. TQ had asked me to shoot to be back by 2:30 to 3. I'd told him not to call out the Coast Guard until 4 but I really did want to be back somewhere close to the expected time. Not enough time to go watch the races, but enough time for a short trip up the river.

And that was nice! Very scenic, the Saugatuck. I paddled up the Norwalk River once. When I came back & reported that, TQ started laughing & said "Everybody does that. Once." Now, I'd probably do it again, I don't mind paddling somewhat industrialized waterways, but I could see what he meant - up to the pretty little cascade that marks the end of the piece that's easily navigable from Norwalk Harbor, the Norwalk River is a pretty workaday stretch of water. Barges, boatyards, construction sites, waterfront condos, an interesting & very Corinthian-looking boat club or two -the river looks pretty much like you'd expect a river that runs through one of the less well-off towns in an extremely wealthy area.

The Saugatuck, though?

Well - here:

Nice digs, eh?

I was fighting the current, and by this time it was getting on towards 1:00. I was getting peckish so I thought I'd paddle just up to the bridges, looking for a spot that looked non-private enough to pull out & eat a sandwich.

Just past the railroad bridge, I saw a bunch of kayakers launching. I said hello, they asked if I was from Yonkers, I said no. Turned out some of the Yonkers crowd had planned a paddle up there that day. Bummer, I'd thought about getting in touch with them because they DO paddle out of Calf Pasture pretty regularly - but I hadn't felt like I knew what my own schedule was going to be, so I hadn't really wanted to get myself involved in trying to meet up with anyone. Still, I wish I'd at least dropped a note to a couple of my Yonkers friends. Haven't seen them since the Hudson River Greenland Festival last year!
Oh well, though. I was still having a very enjoyable day. The Connecticutt group confirmed that that was a public launch they'd just left, then told me to be careful out there on my own. I really appreciated that, it's good that people care, and I thanked them & told them that I was sticking along the coast because I was on my own. I almost considered asking if I could join them for a bit, as they seemed like a nice group, but by that time I was really hungry, plus I had the time concern, so I decided to just stop, have lunch there, and then hit the gas on the trip back. Nice launch - plenty of parking, convenient to the highway, and a ramp that looked big enough for just about anything you could fit on a trailer.

Fueled up & ready to fight the headwinds going back, I hit the water again. Paused to take a couple more pictures of these nice little cottages along the river -

That's a handsome estate, isn't it?
The ones that really killed me were the ones that had structures over their docks - I suppose they are boathouses - I'd totally take one for a house house though, they're as big as some of the pretty little bungalows they have in certain sections of Brooklyn that are the only houses I could even imagine being able to own & maintain by myself.

Heading on down towards the mouth of the Saugatuck, I heard a familiar, sharp "Kee-kee-kee" -
it was the first osprey I'd seen this year, our Jamaica Bay pairs should be back any day too, if they aren't already! Spring has sprung!
No more picture taking going back, I was right about the headwind, and the minute I got out of the river, I realized I probably hadn't left myself enough time for the trip home. I cut straight across outside of Sprite Island, instead of staying along the shore & really just paddled hard.

It was a workout getting back. That's when I really started to feel that month of too much work, insufficient exercise, and zero boat time - at first I thought the wind was picking up as I got closer to Norwalk Harbor, but as I was talking to TQ after I came plodding up to the dock where he was waiting for me a few minutes after 3, I admitted that...uh...maybe I'm just out of shape! :(

Hopefully only temporary.
I did pause once on the return. I wanted to take this one last picture, which I thought I would post with a quick suggestion for the benefit of anyone who ever might find themselves entering Norwalk Harbor around low water in a boat that draws anything much more than a kayak does...
You might not want to shave the buoys too close!

Marcus's Visit to Sebago, plus The Return of Sea Level

Clubmate John has posted a great writeup about Marcus Demuth's fascinating presentation about circumnavigating the Falkland Islands over on Summit to Shore. It was a great evening & if I hadn't been feeling very stuck in mental gear "N" on my first completely unscheduled day in what seems like a terribly long time, I probably would've posted something myself.

Oh, also, as long as I'm doing lunchtime linkage - I'm delighted to report that Sea Level has resurfaced! Mr. Sea Level is no longer blogging there, since circumstances unfortunately sort of took him out of the paddling scene, but he had a very fine compendium of NYC water-lover's links & has decided to put those back out there. Thanks, Mr. Sea Level!

My blogroll is still painfully in need of attention, but there's one link that works again. I'm glad, I was actually going to be quite sad to take that one down. Sea Level was one of my favorites for a long time!

Paerdegat Basin, Saturday evening, a couple of the racers leaving the old dock. We get a new dock this week. Pretty exciting!
From The Old Dock

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Daffodil Hill

Taken during a lovely Easter Sunday visit to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. This is one of my favorite things at the garden. I couldn't believe it last year when I realized I'd totally missed it. I made a point of going this year.

P.S. - re the Saturday paddle I was so excited about - Gino's pasta matriciana tastes even better when the 5 miles from the club to the restaurant involves pouring rain, a headwind gusting to 20 kts & a current going in the wrong direction. I don't think I've ever left there without leftovers before. First time for everything! It was a tiring paddle, but that's exactly what I was in the mood for after a very long week at work (finally went home at 10:45). That's my 2nd 10-mile paddle in windy conditions in 2 weeks. Felt good.

Friday, April 10, 2009

YAAAAAAY! (trying very hard to look on the bright side...)

Yippee Yippee Yippee!

We're going to Gino's tomorrow!


The weather's gonna be crappy but who cares!

Ten miles, good friends, good food and then hanging out at the club until Marcus's Falkland Islands presentation.

Plus I get to see how my garden is coming along two weeks & plenty of rain after cleaning it up & putting in some seeds - YAY!

Wait...what's that?


No, I am not blogging under the influence. At least not under the influence of anything entertaining.

I'm just trying very very hard not to write about how i'm still at work and it's 7:30 on a lovely spring friday night & no idea what time i get to leave. Cause that would make me go "bah" & who wants to read about "bah" except sheep.


see? Boring, right?

Seriously though, my paddle in CT last Sunday(the one where I took those pictures of the Sunday racers launching from Tillerman's old club) was my first time on the water since the Long Island Paddlesport Convention, it was great & I've been itching to get out this weekend too. Quite badly, actually, it has been a long couple of weeks of budgeting & forecasting here at the really big children's publishing house (where all our books are for really big children, of course). Tomorrow's weather is crappy, but I was going to see Marcus's presentation in the evening, so I figured it would work well to make a day of it. Sort of wasn't sure if anybody would want to join me out in the wind & the rain but a number of the usual suspects came through. Let's hear for the usual suspects. Woohoo!

(just wonder what time we get to go home tonight, that's all...ok, that was a nice break, now back to work. Baaaaah.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

NY Lighthouses Slide Show

Lovely slideshow in the NY Times about some NY-area lighthouses: - the West Bank Lighthouse in the lower harbor, off Staten Island; Stepping Stones and Execution Rock in the western end of Long Island Sound; and my old favorite, the Robbins Reef Light (the picture above is one I took on a beautiful day out on the Hudson & the upper harbor with some friends back in April 2006).

Found via George Conk's Voyages blog. Thanks for posting, George!

Hoboken Cove Boathouse Seeks Volunteers!

This just in on NYCKayaker!


Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse Organization is a non-profit 501(c)3 kayaking organization that is run by loyal river-loving volunteers. We are now working out of the city of Hoboken's Boathouse at Maxwell Place Park; future plans include our own boathouse at Hoboken Cove Park (16th St.). Community boathouses used to be a hallmark of our town’s historic past, all up and down the waterfront. As the Hudson River gets cleaner every year, we can reclaim our place as a great waterfront city. Public access to the water—our water—should be part of future planning!!

You can help support free river access in Hoboken and volunteer at a Hoboken boathouse! The Hoboken Cove Boathouse Organization is looking for volunteers for our next 5 program dates:

Sunday, June 7, 9am-1pm
Sunday, June 14, 11am-3pm
Saturday, July 11, 10am-2pm
Saturday, July 25, 10am-2pm
Saturday, August 15, 1pm-5pm

If you are a kayaker, that's great, but one does not have to know how to kayak to help out! We will train you on the spot!

Here's what we do as volunteers. The day of the paddling program, volunteers will be signing in paddlers, handing out info sheets, fitting paddlers with lifejackets, helping paddlers launch and land their sit-on-top kayaks on the beach, and of course, signing on new volunteers to help keep the kayaking program going all season! We will also need volunteers to help us on the river in kayaks during our 5 programs. We will be doing basic on water volunteer training for volunteers that would like to help out on the river . . . once the Summer days warm up the river! If you have a high skill level as a kayaker, please let us know. We use skilled kayakers to patrol the river during the programs. We will be running occasional river trips and will need kayakers to tag along on these lovely paddles.

We will also need volunteers to help run our Spring Fundraiser. We are a non-profit 501(c)3 and are presently borrowing kayaks from our generous sister organization in Manhattan, The Downtown Boathouse. We would like Hoboken to have our own boats and gear for free river access! The Spring Fundraiser date will be announced soon.

If you want to kayak, or just want to be around a fun river fest atmosphere---this is the right place! Come join us for a few hours-or all day! You can also support our cause by donating at our Fundraiser in the Spring and our non-profit free kayaking programs in the Summer at Maxwell Place Park.

Please contact us at


For more information, check out their website:

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tillerman Tuesday

Here's one for you, Tillerman!

Hello, Dollies...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Mystery Frog Identified!

And yes, it is a frog! Which is good, because, as I said to Brian during an email exchange in which we were puzzling over the animal's identity, "Toadma" just doesn't work as well as "frogma".

Anyways - it seemed like everybody was baffled on this one, so this morning, I passed the question on to my birder friend Prof. M (aka "She Who Produces Snowy Owls Upon Request", I'm still amazed that she found us one of those). She passed it on to a few friends of hers & by this afternoon, one of her friends had sent this message:

Note the following about coloration of the Gray Tree Frog, Hyla versicolor....//S.

Introduction: Gray tree frogs are medium-sized tree frogs native to eastern North America. They are common in much of their range near small bodies of water, and are often encountered by humans during the breeding season in spring. If you capture one in the wild and keep it in captivity, do not release it. There are two species of gray tree frog: Hyla chrysoscelis and Hyla versicolor, both of which look identical and can only easily be told apart by their call. In captivity they both require the same care. Adults reach a size of around 2 inches (5 cm). As their common name suggests, most are predominantly gray, although their ventral side is a light white, and on the inside of their hind legs there are two bright orange or yellow flash marks. Gray tree frogs have the ability to change color depending on temperature, humidity, light intensity, and the color of their surroundings. They can range from bright green, to pale white, to dark brown, although most of the time they remain gray. Juveniles are generally green in color and develop their gray adult coloration as they mature.

[Not sure if you’ll be able to open the link below – if not, google gray tree frog + green and the image will show up on the top row]

I was indeed unable to open the link, but I followed her instructions & sure enough, there was Mystery Frog's twin!

The picture was posted on the Amphibian Care section of the Reptile Forum UK - hence, I think, the warning about not releasing them, the poster was concerned about erstwhile herp fanciers creating Yet Another Invasive Species Problem, as he was addressing people who live in an area where the Gray Tree Frog is not an endemic species, but would probably like things just fine, thank you very much (cf: Gray Squirrels).

Thanks for the I.D., S., I never would've figured that one out on my own!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tower Bell Ringing at Trinity Church, Part 2

Continuing where I left off (it was getting late) - I think I should be able to wrap this up before I head off for CT. There's a video at the end, even!

Where I'd left off was "How do you play music on those things?"

The picture I'd posted at the end of yesterday's post? That's tower bell music. Doesn't look like any music you've ever seen, does it? Unless you're a change ringer who's stumbled across this, of course!

The fact is, despite the fact that even the smaller bells can outweigh their ringers by two or three times, and therefore completely impossible to stop in mid-swing - there is a moment, when the bell loses momentum at the top of its arc, that the physics of the situation change & for that moment, the ringer can influence the timing of when the bell begins to fall back in the other direction. The ringer can hold for a second, or move on a little more quickly, and by doing so they can switch places with a bell that's ringing next to them.

So let's say you start with 8 bells ringing consecutively in an ascending scale (called "rounds", can be fewer bells or more bells, depending on how many ringers you have & how many bells in the ring - Trinity has 12 & that's what you'll see in the video, if you make it to the video!):

1 is the highest, or treble; 8 is the lowest, or tenor -

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Once everybody's got a nice steady flow going, then the ringers can use that moment of control to start switching the order. This is just an example I'm making up on the spot, but here the treble is going to switch spots with the #2 bell. If the ringers are good, the rhythm won't be disrupted at all, just the order of the notes. And this is pretty much how the notation I showed yesterday works -

Here we go, #1 & #2 switching spots-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
2 1 3 4 5 6 7 8

And then 1 can switch with 3, and then 4, and so on (and I'm highlighting the 1 so you can see where it goes)

2 3 1 4 5 6 7 8
2 3 4 1 5 6 7 8
2 3 4 5 1 6 7 8
2 3 4 5 6 1 7 8
2 3 4 5 6 7 1 8

etc etc.

The 1 can also go back the other way, so you could have something like this;

2 3 1 4 5 6 7 8
2 3 4 1 5 6 7 8
2 3 4 5 1 6 7 8
2 3 4 1 5 6 7 8
2 3 4 5 1 6 7 8
2 3 4 1 5 6 7 8
2 3 1 4 5 6 7 8
2 1 3 4 5 6 7 8

And of course other bells can be switching with their neighbors as the same time as the 1 is weaving it's way through too, and that's when it turns from my made-up example to some real tower bell music:

Trinity Bells 03 28 2009 042

That was on the back of the frame of this graphic-art piece, a gift to the tower from artist Helen Whitehead, a nice visual take on how the patterns of notes change:
Trinity Bells 03 28 2009 038

And here's how it all comes together with 12 ringers on as many bells!

NOTE - This has sound! I'm not sure why (YouTube newbie, you know) but for some reason it starts with the YouTube volume control turned all the way down. Thanks O-Docker for the note!

Here's what's going. They begin with "rounds", descending scales with the 12 bells being rung in smallest to largest order, highest to lowest, aiming for a nice even rhythm. Changes start right around 1:30. The young man with the beard & the kelly-green shirt was the leader for this set. You'll hear him shout something (I can't quite make out what it is); on that cue, he & the 11 other ringers begin the changes in ringing order. They gradually switch spots with each other, weaving their way through the order. At 1:57, the leader shouts "Back round" - at that point, the ringing order has completely inverted itself & a moment later you will hear one ascending scale, lowest to highest. The weaving then begins again until right around 2:30, when you'll hear the leader shout "This is all!" and the basic descending round resumes until the next cue starts them off on another set of changes.

And there you have it!

Interested in finding out more? Check out http://www.nagcr.org/ - that's the website for the North American Guild of Change Ringers.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Tower Bells at Trinity Church - Part 1

Well, I got stuck at work, but I'm going to go ahead & try to get this post up anyways. Heading up to CT to see TQ tomorrow evening - and Sunday I'm going paddling, I can't quite believe this but between my folks being in town last weekend, and TQ being in town without his winter paddling gear the week before, and I can't remember what the problem was the weekend before but I'm thinking it was bad weather (or maybe I just needed a weekend to get ready for 2 weekends of company), I actually haven't been out in a boat since the Long Island Paddlesports Symposium, which was - yeesh - a month ago. In the boat again, just can't wait to be, in the boat again. Woohoo.

So where was I? Oh yes. Campanologma, the dogma of campanologists! Or to put it in plain English, tower bell ringers. My parents began doing "change ringing" during my dad's last Naval assignment. He was stationed in London, and they were living in a village on the outskirts of London. The town had a church with a belltower. The belltower had a band of ringers, many of whom also rang in the church's handbell choir. My mom loves handbells, and pretty much everywhere she's lived since I was in junior high school or so, she's found a choir. I remember it going back to jr. high because she had me doing it for a while - in the end I think the sort of open-ended, we-have-to-do-this-every-Wednesday commitment wore thin on teenaged me. Come to think of it, I still shy away from that sort of commitment when it comes to recreational activities, nothing's really changed - now I just know better than to sign up for that sort of gig in the first place, that way I don't let anybody down in the end.

But I guess I digress. Back to that village in Middlesex - my mom joined that church's handbell choir, as was usual. Where things got unusual was that, as I said, this church also had a set of tower bells - something my folks had never run across before, tower bells not being terribly common in the States (there are 51 active towers in the US and Canada today, and I can personally name 2 - Trinity Church and St. Andrew's in Honolulu - that didn't have sets of tower bells when my folks were in London, and I know that there are more that have been added since then too). The handbell ringers who were also in the tower ringers' band quickly introduced my mom to those, and before too long my dad had joined them too (tower bell music seems to be well-suited to mathematical minds like my dad's - or vice versa - more on that shortly). They both got completely hooked. Much to their delight, that tower in Hawaii was getting bells just as they returned there, and aside from a hiatus when the tower was found to need reinforcement, they were able to continue practically without interruption.

People frequently seem puzzled when I start talking about these "tower bells" that my parents ring. They tend to either picture the sort of single bell hanging in a steeple that churches all over the country use to call congregations to worship (hardly something that would lead people to fly from North Carolina to New York City for a weekend, even if Alexander Hamilton is buried in the churchyard) or they picture something like they have at Riverside Church, where full hymns and carols are played. That instrument is a carillon, and those are played by a single individual, called a "carillonneur", who uses a set of manual controls that can look a lot like an oversized piano keyboard:
(image from http://www.wellesley.edu).
Each key is attached to the clapper of the corresponding bell - the bells don't actually move.

Tower bells, on the other hand, ring while swinging - and not just in the small, side-to-side arc followed by the steeple-hung bells I was just describing, either. Tower bells are mounted on a sturdy wooden frame shaped like a wheel.

Here are a couple of the bells in the 12-bell ring at Trinity:
Trinity Bells 03 28 2009 050That picture is not upside down - that's the position that bells are put in when they're ready to be rung.

Here's one of a couple that were "rung down" for safety, being close to the hatch that gives access to the bells from the ringers' room below:
Trinity Bells 03 28 2009 059 This one being smaller, and unobscured by the sturdy girders that brace the tower, I think you can see the whole mechanism. When ringing, the bell starts in the mouth-up "stand" position. Once the ringer pulls the rope to begin ringing, the bell swings through a full 360 degrees, slowing as it reaches the top of the arc, stopping for an instant and then reverses, swinging back the way it came.

Did I say "smaller"? It's all relative - here's a little perspective:
Trinity Bells 03 28 2009 046
That's Greg. He was the organizer of the weekend, and the current leader of the Trinity Ringer. He was the one who gave me a lesson.

Perspective, part 2 - that's me getting my lesson again (photo by my dad). I am five feet, seven inches tall:
Trinity Bells 03 28 2009 087

So that gives you an idea of the size of these bells. My lesson was on one of the smaller ones. My dad told me later that the one I was using was probably in the five to six hundred pound range. I didn't know exactly what the weight was when I was ringing it, but I knew it felt oddly reminiscent of handling the lines on the big schooner I used to crew on - the force on the other end of the line was simply such that trying to "muscle" it, instead of following it & working with it, would be a really good way to get hurt. My instructions at first were just to follow the line with my hands, trying to keep the rope moving quietly - if you can't do that, you can get a good scare, or possibly even get hurt. I did OK, but first attempts like mine have to be very closely supervised. I was reading a handbook at one point during the ringing, and in the chapter about introducing beginners, there was a warning that nothing scares off a potential ringer like getting yanked off their feet on their first try!

Eventually, once you've got everything more or less in hand, you start to add a little extra "oomph" at the end of each swing of the bell. That keeps the bell going (otherwise it would eventually just ring itself down & stop).

So how do you play music when you can't really "control" your bell in the same way that the carillonneur is able to control each clapper-strike in the carillon?
to be continued!
Trinity Bells 03 28 2009 037