Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cold Brewed Green Tea

In the past I've experimented a bit with cold brewing coffee, with some success (actually, it's hard to tell, I'm not really much of a coffee drinker, and I only like it with enough milk and sugar that I probably can't tell good coffee from bad...).  The beverage I drink a lot of, though, is green tea.

This summer I've been making cold-brewed green tea.  A chilled Thermos of that is a wonderfully refreshing drink to carry around the hot city in the summer...

My basic recipe is:

2 tablespoons of loose Japanese Kokei-Cha green tea
24 oz refrigerated tap water (bearing in mind New York City water is good water)

I use a French coffee press to make it.

First, I pour the loose green tea in, then a little water, and slosh it around so the tea is well soaked, before adding the remaining water.

I let it refrigerate overnight, not being too careful about the time, but at least around 12 hours.  Sometimes I swirl it around before I go to bed, and sometimes in the morning, a few hours before I'm actually going to pour it out.

When pouring it out to drink, the bottom bit of it that's been on the tea the whole time tends to be quite bitter, so don't try to use every last ounce of it.

And that's it...

I'm not clear if the Kokei-Cha that I buy at Java Joe's, two blocks up the street here in Brooklyn, is what's listed on Wikipedia as Kukicha, or Konacha...  When I bought it the first time I thought I remembered the woman at the store saying it was made up of bits and pieces, including dust, which matches the konacha description, but the name is closer to kukicha...

Monday, October 17, 2011

October - New 35mm Lens

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Full photo album on my Picasa page...

I slept in till almost 9am in the morning, then hung out on the computer a little bit before hitting the shower.  I lost track of time in the shower and it was 11am when I got out…  I guess I was daydreaming in there longer than I realized.

I puttered around the apartment, reading stuff about camera lenses online, munching some cereal and things in the apartment.

I finally left the apartment at nearly 2pm…  I took the R train to 42nd Street - Times Square, figuring I'd check out the grey market electronics dealers that are all over there about the lenses I was interested in, still not fully decided on which of the two I really wanted to buy.

First stop, though, was the public restroom in the Port Authority Bus Terminal…

Then I just walked up and down 7th Avenue, Broadway and 8th Avenue, plus some of the streets in between, ranging from 50th Street down to 35th Street…  I must've tried at least 25 shops.  Most stops were very fast, I'd walk in and ask a clerk, "I'm looking for the Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens" and nearly all of them instantly said "no."

Some followed the "no," by "we have the 50mm" or "we have the f/2.0".  At a few they took me where they had all the lenses they stocked to look at the selection, but they didn't have it.  One brought out a box with a 35mm film camera.  Another guy tried to convince me the 7mm fisheye he had was much better than a 35mm lens, and I asked "is this like golf, or something?" but he didn't get it.

Only one shop had it.  But they wanted $20 more than the normal retail price from an authorized dealer.  He did agree to drop down almost $100 if I paid cash (for them, that would mean no credit card merchant fees, and possibly hiding the income on their taxes…) but it wasn't enough of a savings for me to be worth buying it grey market and not getting the regular warranty or purchase protection from the credit card.

I checked one or two more stores after that, but they didn't have the lens, so I took the subway from Herald Square (the subway station under Macy's is full of JC Penny clothing ads!) down to City Hall.  I'd pretty much decided not to get the Carl Zeiss lens, as it's $400 more expensive and doesn't do autofocus, while the Canon one is a professional series one anyway, so it's like "gee, do you want gold or platinum?" already near the top of the line...

First photo with the new lens,
in City Hall Park.
There I went to J & R Camera across the street, which isn't as big as B & H but still one of the country's larger camera stores.  I'd already seen online they had the lens in stock, and $20 cheaper than B & H or Amazon, so theirs was already the price I was trying to beat.

The salesman in the SLR department was quick with what I wanted, got it off the shelf and took it the cashier where I waited in line for quite a while to actually pay for it.

Once I got it, I took it to the park next to City Hall and unpacked the new lens from its box and put it on the camera to start playing with it.  A couple of squirrels saw me sitting there and probably the bright colored packaging and they came begging, within a few inches of me.  But I didn't have any food, and by the time I could get the lens situated on the camera for a picture they gave up and ran off…

I took the camera on a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge (whose Manhattan side walkway starts right at City Hall) but had to put it away pretty quick as the rain started.  But once I got halfway across the rain eased off and I took it out again.

At various places I tinkered with some settings on the camera to make use of the capabilities of the new lens and learn a bit more about it.

Origin - by the Creators Project
On the Brooklyn side of the bridge my first stop was to the public bathroom at the Brooklyn Bridge Park…  Then I used the lens around the park a bit, catching some of the sunset (too cloudy to see the sun actually set, just the sky getting darker) with Manhattan across the river lighting up…

Once it was fully dark I went over to another part of the park (in all, it's a very large park, stretching for quite a distance along the river, but not all of it is completed) where there's the Jane's Carousel.

On the way I saw a weird light and sound art project in an old, industrial roofless building (it probably wasn't built that way, it's just that only the walls are remaining).  It was weird, a big cube, divided into smaller cubes, of multicolored lights that would light up in various moving patterns, and deep, throbbing techno music shaking the place in time to the patterns of light so you could feel the movement of the lights…

Jane's Carousel
Then I wondered over by the carousel and did some night photography of that.  It wasn't running much, probably because there were hardly any people around to pay to ride it (I mean, it is a Thursday evening, not prime time for leisure activities…)

I played with the camera and lens a bit, trying to get some interesting night shots near the carousel, and some of the waves from passing boats splashing on the rocky shore of the East River.

And then a while I headed up to the York Street subway station and took the F train back to Park Slope.

After getting to the apartment I dropped my things off and went out grocery shopping.  Then I came back and took out some trash, another trip down the stairs for that…


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Full album also on my Picasa page...

After Leena and I got off the phone I hit the shower then puttered around the apartment a bit.

I did some errands around the apartment in preparation for my upcoming vacation to India.

The workers outside got noisier, and kept banging the buckets they were hauling up on ropes against the air conditioners sticking out.

I finally got out around 2pm…  I figured my first stop would be Shima for sushi, so I took the R train into Manhattan and got off at the 8th Street - NYU stop, which is a few blocks from Shima.  The sidewalks were crowded with people, and it was somewhat sunny.  It was really windy, and kind of chilly in shade of buildings, but I was overheating uncomfortably whenever I was in the sunshine.  This is the second unseasonably hot October weekend in a row, with the city more crowded than even holiday weekends...

Shima ended up being crowded, all the seats I could see near the window were taken and there were people standing near the entrance, probably waiting for seats.  So I skipped it.

Washington Square Park
I wandered on down to Washington Square Park, figuring I'd use the public restrooms there.  All the streets on the way were crowded with people, young and old.  Lots of police were standing around the outer edges of the park, though not as many as last weekend with the Occupy Wall Street protest going on.  It turned out this time to be another protest.  Judging by the signs this seemed more anti-war than the Occupy Wall Street, which is more political and economic.

The restrooms were more crowded than I'd seen them before, but there was no line.

After finishing up my business there I found a shady park bench to sit on.  I tried using my iPhone for some connectivity, but I think there were too many people using AT&T (and probably other carriers as well) for me to get much of a connection.

I got out my diary and tried writing on it in my lap, but the book is slightly flexible, so it was a challenge to do that. I'd written maybe a quarter of a page when I was interrupted by two well dressed, elderly ladies.  They wanted to tell me that from what they could see of my handwriting in my diary, upside down from where they were standing, they thought my handwriting was very nice.  I started to protest, that my handwriting isn't all that great, and maybe it was just them seeing it upside down, but they said "no, it's very neat and orderly."  I gave up arguing and simply said, "thank you."

Great musicians in Washington Square Park
After they left a small group of park rangers had a get-together next to my bench.  I could hear them discussing their day.  One of them, in plainclothes, came running up and took over.  He told how he was crossing a street next to the park and a driver ran a red light and nearly hit him.  Then when he told the driver to be careful the driver started yelling back at him.  He didn't look like a park ranger, but he said he warned the driver "you don't want to fuck with me, I'll get you good," because of course, he's a law enforcement officer, not a mere civilian with a sharp tongue…  I don't think anything happened, as his story to the other rangers didn't go farther…

On the next bench over were a young couple, probably NYU students, making out.  The girl was laying on top of the guy, who was sitting, and every time she'd shift a bit her boots would bang against the arm rest of my bench,  a couple of feet from me…

At one point a bag lady, dressed in rags, pushing one wheeled suitcase, wrapped in plastic bags of things, and pulling another, also draped with plastic bags of stuff, came walking by, cursing and yelling at no one in particular.  The park ranger who was guarding the lawn near me looked at me and said "she's harmless, she's always like that" and I asked "a regular?" and the ranger said, "yeah, she comes through every day."

After a while I was done writing and ready to walk more.  I'd cooled off a bit sitting there in the shade and wasn't sweating too much anymore from the heat, so I got up to go walking a bit.  By then the protest in the park seemed to have disappeared, too, while I wasn't paying attention.

I got out my camera and walked through the park, taking some photos, then up 5th Avenue.  Traffic was insane, both on the street and foot traffic on the sidewalks.  Crowded everywhere.  Drivers were honking like mad, police were at almost every street corner directing traffic in the neighborhood, and there was such gridlock that as lights changed no cars would move, there was nowhere for them to go.

It wasn't until I got up around 14th Street, a block from Union Square, that I heard a police officer telling someone else that it was all messed up because of the protest.  Apparently the protest that I saw in Washington Square Park was marching somewhere…

Art in the Flatiron Building's front gallery
I worked my way up 5th Avenue until I got alongside the Flatiron Building.  I took photos of the Empire State Building at various place, trying different focus points and depth-of-field stuff with my new lens.  Then I crossed into Madison Square Park. Not much is going on there, and there's no artwork at the moment that really has my attention the way the last two sculptures in the main lawn did.

From there I walked up Broadway.  It was getting even more crowded and the sidewalks between about 28th Street and 33rd Street are full of vendors selling things, so it's more crowded.

At Greeley Square, a block south of Herald Square and Macy's, near the Empire State Building, I walked through the park part of it and a police officer walked through yelling "Everyone, the park is closed!" at 4:30pm, which is awfully early for a public park to close…

My favorite picture of the day, the sunlit Empire State Building viewed from the shadows...
Walking up past Herald Square, towards Times Square was getting more and more crowded.  At 42nd Street, I crossed and the press of people was so thick I simply couldn't get past it.  As I was turning away I noticed that there were police barricades blocking some of the square, so it was empty inside, and I realized that the protest march was probably coming up there…

Police in front of the Bank of America Tower
I turned on 42nd Street and walked over towards Bryant Park.  As I passed the Bank of America Tower building (one of the two tallest buildings currently in New York City) I saw there were police barricades and police officers in front of it, keeping people out, checking IDs of the few they let through.  There were lots of police cars on the street, too…  Bank of America is held up as the poster child for the current protests, of what's wrong with the politics and economy and things…  So I figured there might've been some threat against it.

I took some photos over there and then went into Bryant Park.  The main lawn in the park is no longer accessible, they're covering it with things, preparing the winter-time ice skating rink, though it's still early, but I guess it takes a lot of preparation.

After I finished up in Bryant Park I went back to 5th Avenue, planning to head over to the Port Authority Bus Terminal to use the public restroom, but things on the street were getting busy…  The protest march was working its way up there…  Or maybe it was another one, I don't know the route it took. I was on the sidewalk and about to be engulfed in it, and could hear the police bullhorns telling marchers to stay on the street, off the sidewalk.  Actually, I think the sidewalk was full of not so much protestors put photographers and news people recording it from the side.

I managed to get away from it and turn up 40th Street, though I could hear the roar of the crowd behind me.  I saw some interesting looking building spires from there and took a bunch of photos.  Then as I was crossing Broadway, a block away from Times Square there was full-on crowd roar going on up there.  I continued on my way to the bus station where I got my relief.

Back outside again I walked up 8th Avenue, thinking I could cut over to Times Square around 46th or 47th Streets and get a view of things from the red steps, since I'm a bit too short to see things from street level in a crowd.  It was slow walking, the sidewalk was jam packed with people going about.  And once I got to Times Square again, police had the red steps blocked off so the only people on them were a police officer at each corner.  Bummer…

One of the cartoons I saw online recently was an octopus in a business suit with the caption, "I'm here for Octopi Wall Street".  In Times Square the crowd of protesters had a huge octopus shaped structure made of what seemed like blue plastic bags they were holding up overhead…

It was starting to get dark around then and I wanted to get down to the Apple Store on 14th Street before they closed, which was probably at 9pm, so I'm sure I was early…  I used my iPhone to run an app and find the nearest A C & E subway station, which was up at 50th Street, four blocks away.  So I made my way through the crowds and got up there to catch the C to 14th Street.

At the Apple Store I waited quite a while, actually, longer than I have before to make a purchase.  All the salespeople were working with customers, and from what I could tell giving detailed explanations of things, which I'm sure is really good for those who aren't sure what they want.  One couple that was looking at 15 inch MacBook Pros, at the same table as the one I wanted, with a saleswoman were an Indian man and an American woman in a pale blue sari with loads of pale blue, glass bangles.

But me, I knew exactly what I wanted, I wasn't there to ask questions…  Eventually I went over to wait in line at the checkout counter so I could clearly get "a turn" to talk to someone.  Then a guy in a blue shirt, Louis, came from somewhere else and asked if he could help me.  I told him, so he ordered one up from the godown under the store and said he'd bring it in a few minutes, to just wait where I was…

A few minutes later he brought the box with the MacBook Pro and took me to the checkout counter where I paid for it with a simple swipe and it was done…  He put it in a large size plastic bag, we shook hands and he said "hey, any time you're in, say hi to me."

I went up a block and caught the A train back to Brooklyn, then transferred to the F to Park Slope and walked home from there…

Love Lock on the Brooklyn Bridge

On the Brooklyn Bridge

Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Art in the gallery of the Flatiron Building.

Art in the gallery of the Flatiron Building.

Louis Vuitton handbags, only $10 on the street...

Glass high rise amidst old brick buildings, reflecting old brick buildings...

Empire State Building reflected off another glass tower

Playing with bokeh in the new lens

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Once in a Lifetime Compliment

Today I was sitting in Washington Square Park on a park bench, holding my Moleskine notebook in my lap and writing a diary entry.  The notebook isn't a hardbound one, so I was struggling to write in it.  After I'd filled about a quarter of a page I was interrupted.

Two well-dressed, elderly ladies walked by and said to me that they couldn't read what I'd written, but that my handwriting looked very nice.

I tried to tell them that my handwriting isn't really very good, and never has been, but they cut off my protest with, "it's very neat and orderly."  I decided not to argue and said, "thank you."

I mean, my handwriting is awful.  Calling it "chicken scratch" is likely to get chickens up in arms (wings?) over the insult...  It's never been good.  In elementary school I had to take special handwriting classes with a special pencil because my writing was simply that bad.

The only time it was ever not terribly awful was the few years I used a fountain pen for my diary entries.  It actually had improved a little during that time, but then all my pens started leaking and I quit using them.

So, it was very odd for complete strangers passing by to tell me my handwriting is nice, neat and orderly...

This is what I was writing in my notebook when the ladies saw me...  They would've seen
it upside down, from the walkway...

This is something I wrote a few weeks ago, in my previous notebook, with a
more rigid plastic cover, writing at a table on the High Line.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Requirement or A Choice?

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is whether religious restrictions and activities are a requirement or a choice.

For instance, I work in an office where everyone but me keeps strictly kosher.  I respect that, and I make sure all the snacks I bring to work are certified kosher, and I don't start conversations with others about what non-kosher foods I eat outside the office, though I'm honest if anyone else brings up the topic.  And I don't tell anyone else that they should change their ways (let's face it, being an observant Jew is not a bad thing, it's not like being a heroin junky or something that harms others) and I generally don't disapprove of other people living their lives the way they want.

But a few times I've had discussions about meals and some of my religious coworkers sigh and say they wish they could eat what I eat, "but I can't eat that."

On fast days that are still work days, some (not all, of course) of my coworkers lament that they can't eat or drink all day, as much as they would really like to, and they don't sound happy about fasting.  On those days, out of respect for my coworkers I choose to not eat or drink, so as not to make the fasting harder on them.  It's a sacrifice I choose to make, and I don't grumble about it during the day, and generally I don't even mention that I'm doing it unless someone else brings the topic up first, I accept it's my choice.

Yesterday I did not fast on Yom Kippur, a choice I made to not participate.  In an online conversation someone else said they wished they could eat, and that while I cut my finger on a food related item during the day, they said that they'd happily make that trade themselves, a cut finger for not fasting.

So, why not?

I think I'm missing something.  People are following religious restrictions, but in some cases don't sound happy about them.  They don't sound like they accept that being religious and following the religious activities and restrictions is a choice they've made.

The word "can't" implies that one doesn't really have a choice, that someone else is forcing it on you, possibly against your will.

What I'd rather here instead of "I can't" is "I won't" or "I choose not".

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yom Kippur - Not For Me

This evening begins the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.  It's the most solemn, and holiest day of the year for Jews, involving fasting, with the goal of atonement and repentance for the past year's sins.

However, I don't think I'm going to participate.

It's something I've thought about, and based on the fact that I simply don't believe in G-d, it doesn't make sense.

Some holidays are about people, like Passover is about when the Jews were slaves and left Egypt, Chanukah is about the temple and people.  Those I can honor and feel good about it.

But Yom Kippur is between an individual and G-d.  So, in my case, with my beliefs (or lack thereof), half the equation would simply be missing, making it an empty participation.

Last year I fasted for part of Yom Kippur and in the end decided it was pointless and not fulfilling in any way, so I quit in the afternoon and enjoyed a nice meal.  This year I don't think I'll bother at all.