Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Central Park Winter Jam, 1/27/2018

After hearing about it and thinking it sounded like it might be fun to check out for several years now, I'm glad to report that I finally made it to the annual Winter Jam winter sports festival in Central Park this year! I'd actually missed the advertisements this year, but my friend Barbara had heard about it from Iris, another friend who works for the Parks Department and was working that day. She thought it sounded like fun too, and I joined her for a really fine afternoon in Central Park.

This is a great family activity, with a whole range of activities for kids (including a wild free-for-all variation on the dodgeball theme that actually looked like a lot more fun that the original game - sorry no pictures of that, we ran into more friends there and got to chatting) and ice sculptures, with food trucks and a little farmers' market for refreshments. It was a great day for being outside, blue skies and sunshine; maybe a little warmer than you might want for a winter festival, with the temperature getting up to the 50's, but some of the local ski resorts are always there for this thing and one of them brings a snowmaker to create the little ski hill where they offer free tastes of skiing and snowshoeing all day.

We didn't end up doing that - Iris had mentioned that it was good to get there early, and we did, but we didn't run straight for the ski line, opting to do some walking around first. When we finally did, the line was up to a two-part affair, with one line of people who were guaranteed that if they were willing to wait for a long time, they would get to spend some time on the snow, and then a second line a little ways away with no guarantees (the first line was closed, of course). 

We'd already been standing for quite some time talking with friends and watching the fun, so we decided to skip that and just go for a walk instead - Barbara had suggested a bit of a hike afterwards, and I just don't get up to Central Park much these days, so that was a good part of the appeal, so we weren't actually that disappointed. There are actually ski buses you can catch from various places in the city for a day on the slopes, they leave at, like, 6 am, which is a pretty horrible time for this non-morning-person, but if I really wanted to see if I remember anything from my 2 winters of skiing when we were in Washington State, that would probably be a much more satisfying way to do that. And the walk was great, Central Park is so beautiful! 

Photos from our stroll tomorrow, here are some pictures from Winter Jam. Click on any photo for a slideshow view.

Click here for more info about the Winter Jam from the NYC Parks Department. It's over and done with for this year but it'll be back!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Women's March NYC, 1/20/2018

Pardon the blog break, been catching up with life after a kind of rough finish to 2017. Work had been a bit crazy and I was clinging to the idea of a year-end staycation for the last week of December, which I then couldn't really take - worked out OK because we had an office move the week before Christmas and it was actually very helpful to have a couple of quiet days in the office to get my crates unpacked, rather than coming back and having to unpack AND deal with the usual month-end close reporting that happens the first week of every month. Still a bit of a bummer to be looking forward to a week off and then realizing it's just not going to happen.

Move and close are both all done now and so far January's been reasonably quiet; sadly no kayaking because the weather's been kind of cold and blowy on weekends, so I've been having some good chances to catch up with myself. Apartment's getting tidier, ukulele's getting practiced (YES I HAVE A NEW TOY! TQ is SO good at presents, he floored me with this one, more on that another time!), Irish music and dance is being done (and so was some Hawaiian music and dance, more on that at another time too cause there's more in the offing), new shoes and socks (both sorely needed) have been acquired, etc., etc. - and last weekend I was able to join friends for the Women's March here in NYC, and it was a wonderful afternoon. The trains were royally messed up but the march was still going strong when we got there, the weather was beautiful, the signs were funny and angry and strong, sometimes all at the same time, and I was so glad to be there.

More photos on Flickr. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Gotham Whale on WNYC's The Takeaway

The Takeaway's Oliver Lazarus interviews Gotham Whale founder Paul Siesweirda

Congratulations to the folks at Gotham Whale on an excellent radio piece on The Takeaway, a show produced by our local NPR station WNYC. I'd actually meant to do a couple more posts about my November 5th whalewatching trip on the American Princess; I didn't get any very good whale photos but there were a couple of very interesting activities on board, one of which was Takeaway producer Oliver Lazarus gathering material for this show! 

Click here to listen. I was a little disappointed that my friend John (the storm chaser kayaking friend I mentioned in my last post) didn't make it in, but having to condense a four hour boat ride down to ten minutes meant having to focus pretty tightly on the aspects they chose to feature. I think they did a great job of giving the listener a real sense of what it's like to be part of one of these amazing NYC whalewatching excursions - and I so admired the eloquence of fellow passenger Edie!

Saturday, January 06, 2018


It's absolutely beautiful-looking outside and for a second this morning when I woke up and saw how sparkly a day it was out there, I thought about going out to Prospect Park to take some snow and iced-up tiny waterfall pictures, but then I looked at, saw 11 degrees with winds gusting to 35 mph, giving a wind chill factor of -9, and decided to skip on the outside thing today. Leave out the wind and I'd probably be out there (because it IS pretty gorgeous out there!) but taken as a package it was all a bit much for this transplant from Hawai'i.

So I'm just puttering around at home, and here's the SNOWMABOMBAGEDDON bonus post. The New York Times produced a couple of nice short videos about the storm here in NYC, which I nearly added to Thursday's "Daily Commute" post, but in the end I thought they were enough for a post of their own, so here you are. If you're Facebook friends with me, you may have seen them already, I shared them there as soon as I saw them.

One's just New Yorkers being New Yorkers in exciting weather. Good fun! BTW, hit stop when it's over, the Times has these videos set up to keep going unless you do.

The other is a quick explanation of some of the terminology you saw in the media storm hype. I generally rely on NOAA's for solid hype-free weather forecasts for trip planning, where it's so crucial to watch how the weather is shaping up in the days leading up to a trip, and also for day to day getting around in the city. I therefore wasn't really reading a lot of the articles, but I was seeing some increasingly dramatic headlines. Paddling friend John Huntington, who is a storm chaser, knows a ton about weather, and is a very smart and rational guy, posted a good in-a-nutshell explanation of the alarming-sounding "bomb" terminology that was being used a lot:

"Also 'bombing out', which is being bandied around by the click-bait media as some sort of apocalyptic, once in a generation event just means the storm is forecast to intensify rapidly..."

The Times video expanded on that very nicely:

And here's a bonus-bomba-bonus - what does a good stormchaser do when the storm comes to him? Bundles up and gets out there, of course! John headed out to Coney Island where he got some spectacular shots. He's an excellent photographer, too, for his blizzard photos and lots of other good weather and New Yorky stuff, check out his Instagram! 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Daily Commute, Big Nor'easter Edition!

Good evening from Brooklyn, where I'm quite happy to be snug and warm at home, with a big pot of corned beef and cabbage simmering on the stove.

I did actually make the trek in to work today. There's an option to be set up to work from home from time to time as necessary; I've never chosen to "take advantage" of that because I really prefer to be done with work when I leave the office, even if that does mean the occasional weekend day where I go in to meet a deadline -- or the odd day where I have to at least make a good faith attempt to get to work even if all the news for the last week has been about SNOWMABOMBAGEDDON!!!

Seriously, this one did end up being a very serious winter storm, but the hype still bugged me - and excuse me, Weather Channel, but Grayson??? Bad enough the Weather Channel has taken it upon themselves to name these winter events, but you'd think they could come up with something better than a name which just makes me picture some guy with elbow patches on his tweed jacket, leaning casually on a mantelpiece, smoking a scholarly pipe. Apologies to anyone out there who might actually be named Grayson and is nothing at all like my stereotypical academic yuppie. I'd actually managed to not know what this one's WC-assigned moniker was until an internal communications memo about the storm came out, using the name as the subject line. I nearly blew tea out of my nose. Grayson??? Jeeze.

OK, enough for that rant (although I may come back to the topic with a little SNOWMABOMBAGEDDON! bonus post tomorrow). Today was a good day to be riding the subway, things were a little slow but considering conditions, I would rate things as "Not bad at all" at the times when I was travelling. Would NOT have wanted to be driving around in a car today! I checked the MTA website first thing when I got up, reports there were that all was well on my line, so I threw on some blizzard edition office casual clothes (which looked an awful lot like hiking clothes, for some reason), set out, and arrived at the office without any particular trouble. Must've been true on other lines too, because the office was not the ghost town I was kind of expecting to find. In my department, six out of seven of us live in or right across the river from NYC. Our department head lives farther out in the suburbs and he worked from home. 

The rest of us left early, but I did get in a pretty good day, finishing the things I'd wanted to get done and a few other items too. I would've gotten more done except that we went through the final move to the shiny new renovated part of the building and now, for the first time in a very long time, I can look up from my work and see outside! WOOHOO! I'm really happy about that - it's especially great to see the days getting longer, yesterday was clear and it was so nice to look up after 5:00 and still see light in the sky. Today's weather was kind of hypnotic with the wind-whipped snow whirling about.

I was a little concerned about getting home, the B and Q do run outside, in a cut, and can have problems if we get too much snow dumped on us too fast, and it was really coming down through the afternoon. Right around the time I first started thinking I had really better go if I didn't want to end up camping out in my cubicle, though, the snow stopped - phew! Checked the MTA website,  my trains looked to be OK, so I did a couple more quick things I was originally going to let wait, then headed out, and got home in time to cook. Wind was still a little on the crazy side but I don't have to go too far out of the way to get to a grocery store. NYC's good that way.

Glad it all worked out so well.

Notes from places other than the office:

Sebago clubmates are reporting ice floes in the basin. May not be much winter paddling for a while (I am looking forward to a pool session on Sunday, though).

I've started watching the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club site - with weather this cold they may get to sail this year!

Commute pictures below. The last one is from the trip home and you can see how much it had cleared up; it was still very windy and cold but the snow seemed to be done. As usual, click on any picture for a slideshow view. BRRRR.

Looking out of the living room window

Foster Avenue

E. 17th St.

East River, Brooklyn Bridge, and Manhattan, as seen from the Manhattan Bridge.


The view from the office

Look, I can see outside from my desk now! Hurray!

Photo on the monitor is a Sebago clubmate's showing ice on Jamaica Bay, a couple of days ago.
Heading home. Still cold and blowy but the snow was done.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy New Year from Brooklyn!

Happy New Year from Brooklyn! Spent a nice chunk of the day talking story and sharing food with Sebago clubmates on the shore of the Paerdegat Basin. Although today we could've renamed it the Pae-BRRRRR-gat (instead of "pattergat" which is how you usually hear it pronounced)!

The usual tradition at the Sebago Canoe Club is for the more experienced paddlers and sailors to kick off the New Year with at least a short paddle or sail, but unfortunately all boating activities ended up being called off due to a forbiddingly icy and windy forecast. 
TQ and I had actually volunteered to lead the paddle. When we first started seeing forecasts for New Year's Day, conditions were challenging, but doable, with temperatures in the 20's and winds in the teens, then things started getting ugly - I checked in one afternoon late in the work week and the forecast was showing gusts close to 30 kts. Awww heck no!

Over the next couple of days, the windspeed projections for New Year's Day did  ease up a bit, but quite not enough, and the temperature gradually crept down. When it came time to make a go/no go call on Sunday, we were looking at
 a high temperature of 18 (which we wouldn't have gotten anywhere close to by our 10 am launch time, day's high would've been a bit later than that and the overnight lows were in the single digits) and NW winds gusting close to 25 kts. We've done paddles on days that cold. We've done paddles with winds that high. Not combined, though - put the two together and if something goes wrong, the situation could head south very fast. Frostbite paddles are much more fun with less risk of actual frostbite!

We called it off early in the afternoon on the 31st, and curiously enough, nobody seemed to be in the least upset with us!

Sailing committee called off their sail a little bit later, for the same reasons.

Real shame - I wish it had been either less cold or less windy or both, because remember how I was talking about "those sparkly blue winter days we get here" back on my trip report for my day-after-solstice solo paddle? Well, this was about as glorious an example of one of those as you'd want to see - just too darned cold!

Still a good day at the club, though - the traditional potluck went off beautifully, with the usual range of great food served in the warmth of the big wood stove in the clubhouse. TQ and I teamed up to make spam musubi, there was a request on FB that I make that for the New Year's Day party after I'd posted about making it for my high school friend's annual Hawaiian Christmas party; I was on the fence about it because it's kind of labor-intensive, but then TQ mentioned that he didn't know what to bring and it hit me that teaming up on the musubi might work well, which turned out to be the case! Folks liked it, too. Sorry, no pix this time but look back at my Christmas post and imagine the pieces cut a little smaller and not arranged in a Christmas tree and that's it. All kinds of other good stuff too - I've seen at least one cartoon from Hawaii making fun of a Mainland potluck vs. a potluck in Hawaii, and a potluck in Hawaii is indeed a splendiferous thing, but that cartoonist was clearly not talking about a Sebago potluck!

And the general meeting that is usually my least-favorite part of the New Year's Day proceedings (although it's gotten markedly better over the last few years, it used to run quite long but various officers decided it needed to go more quickly)? Well, I bundled up to go visit the facilities, and since I was bundled up I decided I would take advantage of it and go take some pictures of the basin too. Wanted to at least take a look at the water - it was freezing cold, yes, but excellently photogenic on at least the sunshine/blue sky front! Found some like-minded clubmates out there, chatted a bit, then went back in to discover that the meeting was over! Thought TQ pulling my leg at first when he told me I'd missed it (he's got an excellent deadpan face when he wants to) but nope! Has to be a record.

Back to work tomorrow, but a pretty good start to the year today. Even without a paddle. So glad I went for that long one the Friday before Christmas - I'd done that with the idea that I should grab the good paddling weather while I could, and I was oh so right!