Thursday, January 31, 2013

Too Much

I'm realizing (again) that a significant cause of procrastination, for me, is a fear that if I begin a project it will take too much time; that there is no outside constraint forcing my efforts to be reasonable.  Since  the stopping point will be arbitrary anyway, why not stop before I begin?

This is why I like running on a treadmill; I can program in the end time in advance so that I will not be discouraged by the infinite time and speed possibilities.  (There's a certain irony here, as there is no serious danger that I will enjoy running so much that I actually lose track of time, but still, that's how it works for me.). As I get stronger and faster, I may be able to take it outside and pursue loops of known distance.  20 minutes at 5.8 mph seems OK for me at the moment, though I'm not sure I'd maintain that pace without the inexorability of a treadmill.

But this brings me back to my other areas of procrastination. I will try setting a timer (much like Jane Espenson's writing sprints), for a period of time that I know I can fully handle - 20 minutes.  Not very ambitious, but it will mean  making 20 more minutes of progress than I'm currently making. And that is good indeed.

Monday, January 28, 2013

First-World Problems of the Third Kind

From a recent advice column in the New York Times:
"A friend signs her text messages to me, 'Love, Susie.' I feel as if a gun is being held to my head and guilty that I don’t return her love or her signoff. What to do?"
Philip Galanes calls her on the melodrama immediately.  Love it.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fantasy for a Fantastical World...

... is the premise of Neil Gaiman's "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire."  I found it really charming.  An author struggles with the overwrought melodrama he is putting on the page... which is his attempt to write "realistic" fiction in his fantastical world.  The structure allows for pleasant discoveries and plenty of humor.

Post-Mahjong Blues

Mahjong night turned into a 7-hour event, although we weren't playing the entire time (probably just an hour or so).  Plenty of socializing.

I had made spinach ginger soup (properly for once, with no substitutions) and chicken with apricots (with freshly ground garam masala - a real pleasure to crush open the cardamom pods and grind the seeds along with whole cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, cloves and peppercorns).  The dishes turned out well.  We also enjoyed carrots, wine, popcorn and oreos.  A really nice time.

This morning, though, I was achy and miserable, and lost a fair amount of the contents of my stomach in several sessions hours apart.   It was not comfortable to sit or stand or curl up under the covers (the only thing I actually wanted to do given the sporadic chills); but made do with hot showers and hot baths.  I wasn't sure I could even keep liquids down.  A change of scenery didn't work out well.  It was scary to feel so helpless.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Princess Bride Quote on Qantas

Now that I've seen the actual layout of the quote, I can see how folks might have seen the seemingly hand-written words "prepare to die" and felt some concern.

Still pretty silly, but there were at least two options for the airline to address the concern. One is to ask the passenger to wear his shirt inside-out. Yawn.  But the other option could be a lot of fun: Make an announcement over the PA system explaining the quote.

I'm thinking something like: "Dear passengers, the pilot has asked us to explain that an individual on this flight is wearing a quote from his favorite movie, 'The Princess Bride.' Although the quote is written in an unusual way, please do not be alarmed, as we have confirmed that he is not, and does not claim to be, the fictional character Inigo Montoya.  Moreover, he has assured us that his father is alive and well, and that he wishes everyone to arrive safely so that we can all watch 'The Princess Bride' as often as we like. If you have any questions about the plot, characters, or themes of the movie, please ask him."

An opportunity missed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dolphin Videos

Most days we saw dolphins. It proved considerably easier to capture a bit of video rather than a photo.

Here's an early one:


These are from my last day:



And a longer sunset video:


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Breakfast, Interrupted

We had just sat down to waffles, when we spotted dolphins close in to the beach.  We stood up to watch, then ran outside.  The coolest part was when one of the dolphins turned directly toward us and charged to the beach - we actually worried for a few moments whether it would get stuck on the sand.  But it knew what it was doing.

Once that excitement died down, we went back and finished our breakfast.  But it didn't take long before the activity resumed!  

This image is a frame from one of my more successful (read: luckier) video clips:

MLK Weekend

OK, a few non-dolphin pictures now, videos and pictures of dolphins to follow in later posts.

Much of Saturday afternoon was spent on errands (picking out some new furniture), but we were done well before sunset.  We saw dolphins close in to shore and spent some time chasing them down the beach.  It was hard to get actual photos of them, but it was fun to keep pace with them and try to guess where and when they'd surface.  I felt like my dynamic heart rate training on the treadmill paid off.

And the sky was pretty darn magnificent anyway.

Sunday morning I biked to the store and got some water - there's this wonderful machine where you can refill your gallon jug with reclaimed purified water for a very reasonable price.  I love that.

Later in the day, we went swimming.  But it was a bit chilly.

And again we saw fins: time to go into dolphin-paparazzi mode!!!

More walks on the beach.

West end of an east-bound egret.

Dolphin Hunters

Sandpiper (?) with small item in beak


On Monday, I got up early and skated out to the lighthouse and back, stopping for coffee at the midway point.  Pro tip: Skating with a cup of coffee in hand is a great ice-breaker.

Later in the day, we went to a small wildlife refuge area.

We saw anhingas, herons (little blue, great blue, and tricolor), egrets, ibises, moorhens, butterflies, a turtle, a snake, and an alligator.  Plus additional birds we could not identify.

Anhinga drying its wings
I think I finally understand how to tell anhingas and cormorants apart.  First of all, anhingas are more common in Florida, and cormorants are more common in the Northeast - so you can play the odds to some extent.  Cormorants have a hook at the end of the beak (rather than the spear tip of the anhinga).  If it has white on the wings, it is an anhinga - cormorants are all black.  And the cormorant has a much shorter tail.

(The similarities of course are: long snaky neck and tendency to sit around on branches drying its wings because the feathers aren't waterproof.)

Anole on partly burned palm tree
Supposedly the number of inches between a gator's eyes and nostrils is a rough indication of the gator's overall length, in feet.  Using that method, my companions estimated this alligator was 6 feet long.

Alligator.  I believe that's a turtle head poking up, off to the right.  

Somehow, I didn't really get the urge to go any closer.

Little blue heron - they go through some pretty radical changes in appearance from juvenile to adult,
but apparently one dead giveaway is the bluish beak, tipped with black.

Meanwhile, the sky overhead filled with birds - they swarmed like insects.

White peacock butterfly


This guy was well hidden, until he
gave himself away with a raucous cry

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Little Cat Feet

This contraption in the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center
looks like something out of Firefly, a long-since-canceled TV show
which I've been watching compulsively over the last few days.

Friday, January 11, 2013

More Views

We've had two power outages this week (not counting the weekend).  What they seem to be doing now is waiting for 5 or 10 minutes (perhaps to see if the power will miraculously restore itself) before ordering us to evacuate.  Then, about 5 or 10 minutes after I'm out of the building, they get the power back on.  It's very exciting, and a good test of how obsessively one remembers to save one's work. 

To compensate for our local loss of power in the city, here are some more views from last weekend's electrifying hike.  

A stereotypical view of this bend in the Hudson,
but graced with intricate black and white chicken-scratches in the lower left corner  

Snow is so transformative on a familiar landscape :)

Saturday, January 05, 2013

First Hike of 2013

It was a bit icy and treacherous today, but we covered about 7 miles total over 4.5 hours (including photo breaks, lunch, etc.).  The route itself (Washburn to Undercliff to Brook to Cornish) was about 5 miles.

It was a little tricky to spot the white blazes of the Washburn trail.

Beautiful sunshine, stark black and white of stone and snow.

It was slow going up the Washburn trail, and it was a lot further to the Undercliff trail than I remembered (and further than it looked on the map).  I thought we had overshot and simply missed the turn-off -- difficult though that was to imagine.  Then we met another hiker who had been keeping an eye out for the yellow trail as well.  He talked us into at least half-hoping that maybe it was still up ahead.  And sure enough, another 5 minutes later, there it was.  As big as life and twice as natural.  Impossible to miss, just as I remembered.  Hooray!

We were on the yellow trail for quite a long stretch, and enjoyed our lunch at a scenic overlook.  The conditions were generally more favorable (albeit with a few icy patches) and the yellow blazes were easy to follow.  But by the time we got to the Brook trail, where we could take a .6 mile detour to see some really cool icicle formations at the end of the Undercliff trail, we decided it would be better to conserve our energy and head back into town.

Luckily we were able to see some cool icicles en route anyway.  (Although really - aren't all icicles cool, by definition?)

I thought this looked like turrets of a castle

Icicles along the Brook trail (in the brook itself)

Icicle formations along the Cornish trail

large icicle formation

 After a leisurely dinner at the local brasserie, we caught the train back to NYC.