Sunday, December 27, 2009

Playoff Baseball is Electric!

I guess you can't argue with the numbers. All that playoff baseball coverage on TV cost me an extra $30 in October. Hard to believe...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bike Blog Migration

Since certain people only care about bike posts, I am giving them an isolated blog for just that. Click here to go there.

Compost Journey

Kate Zidar's class on Waste Management rekindled my hidden desire to compost things. The benefits of composting in a 4-story walkup apartment building in the city were surprisingly overwhelming. The diversion of smelly organics from a several day stay in our building's trash room at the bottom of the hallway was a major motivation, as was the constant food source for a hard working army of worms. It was these worms, however that helped me understand the true challenges of urban composing.

Prior to this year, my only experience with composting was in a back yard, with lots of space. Composting in plastic bins is a completely different animal, and there was a learning curve. I started with a plastic chinese food container with newspaper, random food scraps, coffee grinds and a small handful of worms Aurelia (from the union square LESEC compost stand) gave me. Our team upgraded to a few bigger bins as the compost mass increased steadily until currently occupying a 20 gallon bin. However, 2 colonies of worms suffered throughout the journey.

With the 10 gallon bin sitting in my kitchen with a vented lid, the smell was too noticible to keep as it was (even while excluding all meats and dairies). However, reducing the air vents provided an unexpected quick death to my worms, as their oxygen ran out. $11 got me another 1/2 lb. The solution to keep these ones alive was to move the bin out to the fire escape, as I could keep the lid off entirely. This seemed the perfect solution until the massive rains of the summer of '09 overflowed the bin on two occasions. The second occasion drowned my second colony of worms, as effectively draining my bin was more tedious than i thought, especially when the darn rain wouldn't stop! Covering the bin again was still a challenge as the water kept getting in. I needed a better setup.

I arrived at the following solution:

This worked perfectly, until of course the harsh December frosts posed a threat to the third colony of worms. I contemplated insulating my bin, maybe dropping the entire bin into a larger bin lined on the inside with a sandwiched blanket, but then another thought crossed my mind. Since I was bringing many of my outdoor plants inside to survive the cold, what if I also brought the bin back inside, keeping it both warm and accessible. I had blue polystyrene and 6" flex duct so I could keep it lidded with a passive exhaust out the window. It seemed crazy enough to try...

For the past month, the team has been doing great. The worms, right within view of the kitchen, wait patiently each day for their feeding. The only hurdle with this setup were the fruit flies, trapped inside the bin, but inevitably escaping when the bin was opened for feeding and stirrings. The solution, which has worked thus far, including spreading concentrated deltamethrin around the perimeter of the rim and brim of the bin, where the flies previously congregated. It worked immediately. It should be noted that deltamethrin should not come into contact with the compost matter nor human skin, as it is toxic and not for amateur use.

I currently have a steady enough flow and enough compost to occasionally re-pot certain plants and also provide some hearty richness to friends upon request. If you want any, let me know.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brooklyn Biking Boondoggle

In an attempt to be as unbiased as humanly possible (it’s hard), the following is an analysis/summary of the recently hot issue of the removal of the Bedford Avenue bike lane in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The conflict involves mainly two significant distinct communities:

-The population of biking commuters who go to or from Manhattan, to or from the 90% of Brooklyn which is south of the Williamsburg Bridge

-The tightly knit group of Hasidim who almost exclusively occupy a large continuous area south of the bridge and approaching Fort Greene on the south and Bed-Sty to the east

The Hasidic community, like many other curtural zones in NYC, is one of extreme self-segregation. The vast majority of pedestrians are Hasidim, as are a large majority of motor vehiclists and 100% of the school busses. The area is patrolled by the Hasidic paramuniciple police force (Shomrim) and generally governs itself. However, there is no legal precedent for independent jurisdiction, as a Native American territory in the United States would have. NYPD does inhabit the area, as the city has a responsibility to protect all city streets, including the public streets passing through any cultural zone.

From a biking perspective, approaching the Williamsburg Bridge from anywhere south would involve a route through the Hasidic zone. This is unavoidable unless travelling at least half a mile out of one’s way (From Bedford, east on Park, north on Union, west on Broadway) on a route that is not only out of the way but completely void of bike lanes.

Going to the bridge, Bedford Ave offers a direct one-way route with a bike lane straight to the entrance at the base of the bridge. Coming from the bridge, the Bedford route is complimented by the parallel Lee Ave offering a one-way in the opposite direction of Bedford, but without a lane. The only other main biking thorofare in the zone is Kent Ave, along the water, part of the continually developing Brooklyn Greenway. While this two way road and has a two way bike lane, use is only helpful traveling to and through Greenpoint, as it under cuts the bridge making it 4 blocks downhill out of the way for bridge access.

Currently, a conflict exists due to the dangerous nature of all three mentioned routes. Typical motor vehicle infractions include double parking (even in bike lanes) and over-aggressive driving. In addition, pedestrians have a greater tendency (greater than typical NYC pedestrian behavior) for jay walking and crossing during reds. Close calls (biking collisions) are more frequent in this area due to both the unique nature of the local occupants and the greater volume of commuter bike traffic through the corridor. Furthermore, the conflicting sentiment is only exacerbated on both sides as the dangers increase.

Bedford Ave’s 14 blocks of bike lane (from Flushing Ave to Division Ave) were recently grinded away in late November, 2009. This now makes Bedford Avenue even more dangerous as the elimination of the lane increases the ability for motor vehicles to dominate the rode and it gives bikers less legal leverage should there be an accident. As stated earlier, bikers have no viable alternate route approaching the bridge that would avoid such dangers. Therefore, the bike volume on Bedford Avenue will not significantly decrease and the route will remain more dangerous than before the removal.

Recently, bike advocates tried to repaint the bike lane at night, only to be arrested.

However, the repainted lane stayed for several days before DOT finally repainted over it in black. The strong opposition to this decision has even followed Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Copenhagen. Locally, efforts are currently underway to find a solution to the obvious and unavoidable problem. Hopefully the effects of this will include, at a minimum, bringing back the bike lane…

Note: For more (and only) biking related posts, visit Brock's Bike Blog.