Winter Storm Jonas 2016

Snow:New York :: blue:sky

What gets me going is when the city “shuts down” over a bit of snow. As a New Yorker that has been here for a good 20+ years, blizzards and winter storms aren’t my first rodeo. So here comes Winter Storm Jonas and everything comes to a standstill. Broadway? Shut it down! Mass transit? Shut it down (albeit only above ground EL service)! Roads? Shut. It. Down! No one should be traveling on the roads, your government has decreed it. Who cares if you have to get to work or come home from work? You should be glad that the government cares enough about you to tell you what to do and stay home (don’t expect them to compensate you for any loss wages, however). It’s for your own good, remember that.

The only good thing is that walking around was not banned, but recommended that you not go outside. Not one to shy away from snow, of all things, we opted to walk around the neighborhood and check just how much plowing went on (not much). We were out for a good 4 hours, and NOT once did we see a DSNY plow or salt truck. The air was crisp, the snow wasn’t heavy, and traipsing around made me feel like one of those foxes in the Nature specials, jumping in the snow for field mice.

While at some junctures, the snow did come up to my knees, it really was no threat nor obstacle for my overprepared self. Nothing like a good set of layers and good pair of boots (Bugaboots by Columbia, what is cold?) to help you tackle Mother Nature’s wintry fury.

 

It wasn’t the worst blizzard I’ve walked in, but it was pretty enjoyable for a day off and something to do. Take in the sights and frolic in the snow like a kid again.

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The Titanosaur!

Much like many things in New York (1 World Trade, Empire State Building, Manhattan Bridge…) we do things large and in style. Our museums are no different. Grand, magnificent displays, intricate and detailed dioramas, classic descriptions of the days old, the American Museum of Natural History have unveiled their latest and greatest display– the Titanosaur.

The Titanosaur– a dinosaur so enormous that it does not have a proper name– is now the newest resident of the museum’s fourth floor, right with its other dinosaur brethren.

Disclaimer though, the skeleton currently on display does not contain the actual bones, but a fiberglass replica, as the fossil bones were too heavy to be mounted. They do have an original bone, a femur, for a limited engagement at the museum that is on display. The display itself is awe inspiring. The Titanosaur is so big that its head sticks out of the entrance. A very apt welcoming indeed.

According to the display information (click here for more information from the AMNH), the Titanosaur spans an impressive 122 feet across, and in its heyday, weighed 70 tons.

To put that into prospective, for example:

  • An elephant weighs 11,000 lbs, or 5 tons. A Titanosaur would be equal to 14 elephants, roughly.
  • An Orion VII transit bus weighs 42,540 lb, or 19 tons. A Titanosaur would be equal to 6 Orion VII buses.
  • The Brooklyn Bridge weighs 14,680 tons. The weight of 210 Titanosaurs would equal the weight of the Brooklyn Bridge

Boggles the mind. That and the fact of the existence of this gigantic beast. It drew a huge crowd on its debut, so I wasn’t able to take many pictures but I did manage to get some nice ones as seen below. The exhibit floor was pretty dark, they were showing a movie as well at the time. Lucky for spotlights and the occasional flash.

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Panoramic of the Titanosaur (click to expand)

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Hello there!

I will definitely be making a return visit hopefully with a better camera and get more pictures of the Titanosaur.

Queens Museum (of Art) Visit

Ever since hearing that the Queens Museum is being renovated (as well as checking their Instagram for progression pictures), I was so excited to be able to visit it. As the museum is housed within the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, it’s always a bonus to check out the surrounding sights while going to the museum.

For those who aren’t aware, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a very important part of history. It was the site for the famous 1964 World’s Fair. If anyone has ever seen the gigantic globe of the world and never knew where it stands, now you do. It’s inside the park. It’s a magnificent piece of art and through time, come to be synonymous with Queens, NYC.

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1964 World’s Fair memorabilia.

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World’s Fair Globe.

But without much ado, to the museum!

Queens Museum front

Front of Queens Museum and a lovely gazebo.

 

Some of the exhibits were pretty interesting, although to be honest I was a little disappointed that not many were about Queens. However, they are still in the progress of renovation and putting up new exhibits so I’m hoping to see more permanent ones revolving around Queens and NYC.

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Gigantic mural of the 99% that greets you when you come into the museum.

 

One of my favorites is the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) Watershed exhibit which teaches people on where their drinking water originates from. (See below) There is a room sized display of NYS and it shows the various watersheds and paths that water flows into the city. They also have quite a few pictures donated by the DEP that shows watersheds, natural falls, as well as old historical pictures of the workers that helped create it into the system it is today. My only gripe is that there are descriptions next to the pictures but not very clearly labeled.

NYS Map of Watersheds

 

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The People’s UN exhibit. The clock is a piece made entirely of old casings and guns.

 

 

The rest of the exhibits were very nice, but I have to admit the only reason why I wanted to see the museum was due to the fact that they house a larger than life sized diorama of NYC with all properties. It is so amazing when you think about all the work (and time) that it took to create such a masterpiece.

Diorama of Manhattan

Part of Manhattan in perpetual darkness.

When you come in, it’s all platformed and you walk around looking at the city below. Part of the platform had glass flooring so you can see below. While I really loved seeing this, I hope that part of their upgrading would be to address some minor issues of the exhibit, such as how part of Manhattan is in darkness (please change the lightbulb there). I did have a lot of fun trying to locate old homes, workplaces, and generally just seeing how everything used to be (I believe locations are current as of the 70s) before condos and highrises were taking the city’s skylines over.

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NYC has a lot… of projects (seen as tall red buildings).

The museum is really nice overall, it’s clean, airy, and made in a way that lets a lot of natural light into the building. What I’d really love to see in the future should they consider it, is to include artwork from local Queens artists in the museum. Not that I’m an artist, but just seeing the other exhibits that they had (one about Skid Row in LA and artists from LA), it would be nice to showcase local talent.

 

Orden en el Museo del Barrio, Aquí Viene el Juez*: Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Book Signing

*Order in el Museo del Barrio, here comes the judge

Still playing catchup (and not breaking any records unfortunately), Justice Sotomayor’s book signing happened on 1/19 at el Museo del Barrio. To me, it’s one of those museums you always hear about but never knew where it was. El Museo del Barrio is located on E104th Street and 5th Avenue. It’s conveniently across the street from the upper part of Central Park should you choose to take a leisurely stroll after your visit there. It’s accessible by the 4/5/6 train (get off at the 103rd Street stop & walk to 5th Ave). Extremely nervous and ill prepared (no decent camera and no copy of her book), I had to leave early and take a detour to the nearest Barnes & Noble to pick up her memoir. Luckily I found her book without much problem (for a new release, they didn’t put it at the front of the store like they usually do, was it because it was 30% off sticker price?) and checkout was a breeze. Hopped on the train for one quick stop and off I was right in East Harlem. The last time I was there, I was with the then bf (now dh) picking up some pets from the AC&C on E110th (anyone in NYC looking for a pet should definitely check out that place first).

Although her interview wasn’t starting until 3PM, when I arrived at 2PM, the line was down to the corner of the block already (the museum’s front door is actually in the middle of 103rd & 104th Streets). Luckily I was there early to save a place in the line for my companions. Can’t say I wasn’t excited, even if it was to just stand on line, soon we’ll all be sitting in the presence of Justice Sotomayor. It’s such an honor, personally to be in such an atmosphere. Of course the more excited I was, the more nervous I was, and the more nervous I was, the more I was leaning towards puking. Well 3PM came and the line started to move. We all walked inside and got our seats. I’m glad I bought the book outside of the museum. While I support museums, I saved quite a bit buying not from them (~$10 difference). I did see some people going crazy though, purchasing 5+ books. Someone’s getting a Sotomayor signed book for their birthday!

The stage at el Museo del Barrio.

The stage at el Museo del Barrio.

Beautiful artwork in the auditorium of el Museo del Barrio.

Beautiful artwork in the auditorium of el Museo del Barrio.

The inside of the auditorium was beautiful. There were full painted murals on the walls. According to one of the museum’s staff members, he advised people to not go too crazy on the flash- especially if they were taking pictures of the murals- because the flash will degrade the paintings. Very interesting and definitely still did not stop some people who feigned ignorance. That also applied when they advised against using flash when Justice Sotomayor was speaking. I guess that’s one reason why she didn’t look much at the audience during her hour talk.

Justice Sotomayor chatting with Interview Maria Hinajosa.

Justice Sotomayor chatting with Interview Maria Hinajosa.

After a brief wait, our interviewer and host, Ms. Maria Hinajosa came out to a lot of applause. She was pretty funny, cracked jokes, and traded back and forths with Justice Sotomayor. While we loved her energy, we definitely brought down the house when the Justice walked out on stage. She got an extremely loud standing ovation. She discussed her life growing up in the Bronx with an alcoholic father and how that affected her growing up. What stood out most in my mind was in the beginning, when she mentioned how people always look towards her with reverence, and she tells them that they shouldn’t look at her like that, as if she was “better or higher than them.” So down to Earth, Justice Sotomayor wants to be treated equally with the likes of you and I. I can’t say I could do that though. She’s definitely “Sonia from the block”. Throughout the whole interview, they peppered their conversation with some Spanish, which was great considering that pretty much 99% of the crowd were Spanish-speakers, but definitely did not help me and my rusty Spanish skills.

She did take some audience questions at the end, but was running short on time so they breezed quickly through it.

Running short on time, Ms. Hinojosa read through some of the questions audience members had submitted on cue cards. Ms. Sotomayor answered in an impromptu lightning round.

What’s a Latina feminist? “Someone who is ‘tough as nails.’”

Life/work balance? “All of life is choices.”

Would Ms. Sotomayor recommend law school? “Law is the noblest profession.”

Favorite Yankee? “Bernie Williams.”

Most surprising thing about getting to know the president? “He is so tall.”

After they finished their interview (and to Justice Sotomayor getting yet another long standing ovation), everyone rushed out to get on line for her book signing. There were so many people that they had to crowd off dozens in different groups and then admit them 10 at a time. Apparently Justice Sotomayor has a record of signing a certain number of books in her sessions (it was 500 before today) and she was definitely determined to break it today (definitely doable considering there were probably 500+ people there, with some bringing multiple books). Luckily sitting at the end of the auditorium gave me an advantage at the book line, as my wait time was probably about 15 minutes (until I got into the actual signing room). I never really attended a book signing but she had a lot of handlers. I mean, every 5 feet, someone would give you the once over, and tell you if you were holding the book wrong (I was told to put the cover flap a certain way so it wouldn’t bother Justice Sotomayor). Great tips for the newbs, but it was rather intimidating. I was wondering if we would ever all get patted down at one point or another from the entrance to the Justice (we didn’t). We also weren’t allowed to take any pictures of her while she was signing, which seemed silly. I read that she shook hands but I didn’t see any of that. As usual with anyone of authority, I turn into a bundle of verbal diarrhea. In my head I had what I wanted to say prepared, but when I got in front of her, all I could eke out was, “oh it’s an honor to meet you.” Blah. Not bad but I could have done better. She thanked me for coming and for buying her book. I guess she had to say that to everyone, but even in that cold atmosphere she still managed to make you feel so warm.

All fangirling asides, what am I going to do with her book now? I’m going to have to put it in a airtight box or something. It’s really not every day you get to meet a Justice of the Supreme Court.

Mayor Gaynor, Where No Letter Went Unanswered and Repliers of Today

I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of Mayor Gaynor (until today), and chances are, neither have you.

Mayor William J. Gaynor (Wikipedia)

Apparently, back in the days politicians major politicans (eg: Mayors) actually replied to their constitutents. [Note: I hesitated to put Governors and above in the mix, because I haven’t read anything about them (although it would be great to research and see which were the most accessible higher ranked politicians in history).]

Mayor William J. Gaynor was mayor of NYC from 1910-1913. At that same time, Taft was the President and Chauncey Depew was our Senator from 1899-1911. According to the NY Times, Mayor Gaynor answered mail via the newspaper and regular postal mail. The explanation for replying via the papers was because at times he would get anonymous letters without addresses so the only way he could be sure the writer would see the response would be through the media. I loved that he was also quite sarcastic in his letters as well to some people, it is such a refreshing taste considering now we have people self-censoring so they don’t come off the wrong way to people.

To read the original article and pick up a little bit of niche knowledge, here is the NY Times article.

Nowadays you would be lucky if you could contact the Mayor of NYC directly via mail and actually receive a reply.

Newark residents, on the other hand, are lucky to have Mayor Cory Booker who is quite active on Twitter and directly responds to his constituents (even Direct Messaging them his [government] cell number). Outside of Twitter, Mayor Booker seems to be a literal man of the people (during Hurricane Sandy, this man opened up his personal residence to his neighbors). Short of amazing, I am definitely looking forward to this guy running for higher office (and will gladly volunteer for him).

The reason why I mentioned Mayor Booker is because once I read the article, that was the first politician that came to my mind. Naturally I know that there are other twitter active politicians out there, but for most purposes, Booker is within the Tri-State area for me.

Seems he agreed:

Lights from Dyker Heights

I forgot that I had these on the computer still, but in the spirit of Christmas cheer, here they are!

I heard of this place in Brooklyn called Dyker Heights way back when but never really paid it any mind, as I never really was one that ventured into Brooklyn often so imagine my surprise when a friend of mine invited me to go take some pictures there. ‘Sure, why not,’ I thought. Until he told me that we would be going out at night (understandable, Xmas lights never look that great in the daytime anyway) and that it was going to be deathly cold. Note to self: always overdress when hanging out with Simon.

Dyker Heights is a beautiful neighborhood in Brooklyn that’s renowned for their Christmas decorations. Some houses I saw employed a company to lay out the decorations and some I would assume probably did it themselves. Most of the house lights were off though by the time we got out there (around 1AM so next time we aim to be there earlier) but the ones that stayed on were gorgeous.


I had used my 50mm lens and while I did not get to plant myself and just zoom into certain things to get a shot, I did enjoy the fact that I had to use my feet. It forces you to think a bit before you take a picture willy nilly. I just wish I had brought a more stable tripod (so… many blurry pictures).

Some things to remember for next year:

  • Layered clothing
  • Warmer gloves
  • Stable tripod
  • Boots

Roads and Wildlife at Kissena Park

Instead of learning how to crochet, I felt the need to update the blog. I mean, I could have really made my 5th granny square, but blogging is so much more fun!

(5th square in my dreams… if anyone was curious, I did make 4 chains, and 2 double chains and then got lost, but totally besides the point!)

So where were we? Ah yes!
Kissena Part — part deux (if you recall, I had visited this park earlier this year where had one remembered extra batteries, there would have been more bird pictures…). I went to visit a friend whom I had not seen for quite some time so it was very nice to reconnect. She had given me a mini tour of Flushing and a part of Kissena Park I had not seen (the less woodsy & apocalpytic area) where I saw some very nice sights and BUNNIES <insertwantfacehere>!

After what seemed like a lot of walking (great for my pedometer, bad for my shins) we arrived at the park. It was nice and empty– one of the few pros of Wintertime– except for a few people, their dogs and the rare jogger. We had came upon this area that had a little monument for the veterans and fallen of the Korean War. It was very nice, seemed like something right outside of Washington DC. I really loved the top part of the monument with the little figures carved right into (bronze coated cement?) it.

There is a lake there with a few ducks and lone swan braving the winds but their feathers were probably much better than my coat.

Whatsitsface forgot it couldn't swim...

Whatsitsface forgot it couldn’t swim…

Did I mention that it was a bit chilly?
We walked around the lake, and came upon this tree. Facetree!

Peekaboo with Whatsitsface

Peekaboo with Whatsitsface

Although it’s great having the park to yourself, one of the cons of Wintertime is that it gets dark like that. A half hour later, it was time to make our exit. Making our way back up the winding path, we came across two adorable bunnies that most likely were abandoned by negligent idiots. Fortunately they seem to be thriving.

Whatsitsface loves bunnies

Whatsitsface loves bunnies

When it gets warmer, I will definitely have to make a trek back there to see the rest of the animals (and trees).