Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#325. Down and Out at the Post Office

Lots of post mortems and political recriminations in the press about the hurricane/tropical storm at the weekend, like how could the forecasters get it so wrong and how much the Mayor over-reacted (having under-reacted on Boxing day with the blizzard), but this Editorial in today's NY Times made both interesting and sad reading:

Neither rain nor snow may stop the United States Postal Service, but will the abysmally divided Congress? The service is reeling toward default and urgently needs the Capitol’s help to modernize and pay its bills.

Congress allots no money to support the service. But lawmakers control its practices — particularly in shooting down repeated requests to eliminate costly Saturday mail deliveries. A combination of the recession and the public’s shift to e-mail and online bill payment has devastated the service. Amid steep declines in mail handling, deficits are running to $9 billion this year in a $67 billion budget.

To stay in business, the Postal Service is again calling for doing away with Saturday deliveries to save an estimated $40 billion across a decade. It also wants to cut more than a third of its work force — 220,000 jobs over three years — and study the replacement of 3,650 of its 32,000 post offices with locally contracted retailers.

The Postal Service has already maxed out on its borrowing limit and expects to default next month on a $5.5 billion prepayment for employee health benefits. There are proposals for a quick fix of more borrowing authority, but that hardly deals with the deepest problems.

Like any supposedly self-sustaining business, the Postal Service deserves a chance to modernize. The most controversial proposal would let it tap into a federal retirement fund that managers claim is far overpaid because of a faulty formula. That needs very careful review.

Both houses have bills at the ready and sponsors promising action, even as union forces vow to protect jobs and rural forces vow to protect their post offices. Congress needs to surprise the country and mount a swift and serious debate and then pass a reasonable menu of reforms. Americans want their lawmakers to work for the common good. And they want their mail delivered.

Monday, August 29, 2011

"I survived the 2011 earthquake & hurricane"

Looking for my next adventure...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

#323. Hurricane Irene: the Aftermath

"A weakened Hurricane Irene tore into New York on Sunday hammering Manhattan's skyscrapers with fierce winds after killing at least nine people along the US east coast" according to ABC.com.au, but by time it had made its 3rd landfall here, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm (max wind gusts 100 kph). On the Weather Channel, old-timers were saying it was more like a garden variety "Nor- easter" that we get frequently, and nothing like Hurricane So&So in 1962 or whenever. But it was a big storm, August has been the wettest month on record and it has been the wettest summer ever.

It certainly was true "New York City resembled a ghost town after 370,000 people were told to evacuate flood-prone areas, including near Wall Street and at Coney Island, and mass transport was shut down". We got 6.7" rain, with 10" in NJ and out on Long Island and lots of local flooding. And some strong wind gusts that knocked things over.

But we didn't get the destructive Category 2 winds predicted, or the storm surge that was feared. Central Park has been closed all day and a number of grand old trees fell or are badly damaged and apparently the Bethesda Fountain area is flooded.

It was an anxious 24 hrs and a weird, housebound weekend. But this evening the power is on, the water is running, our garden is intact, the sky is clearing up to the south and it is back to work tomorrow, with forecast to be sunny & 25 deg C.

#322. Irene Update 3, 8 a.m. Sunday

The eye of the hurricane is 65 km south east of here, and moving towards us at 40 kph. So it should pass over NYC around 10 am. The winds in it are still up to 110 kph, but not much wind damage in NYC so far.

It seems the southern half of the storm has broken up so the weather should start clearing up this afternoon and they are saying we could even see the sunset tonight .

We have had about 150 mm rain overnight (officially 5.82 inches in Central Park...i brought my rain gauge inside so it didn't get smashed -and last winter's snow cracked it so it leaks above 100 mm, which we never get). But flooding is the concern although mainly along the beaches such as Coney Island and the Rockaways near JFK airport. they are having 7-10 m waves, and then there is the "storm surge". Hoboken NJ which one can see across the Hudson is also flooding

They would turn the power grid off if underground water gets into it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

#322. Irene Update II: 11 a.m. Saturday

It is a huge storm - it has just started raining here, even though the eye (red) is more than 1000 km south of here. We have done the responsible thing and brought everything in off the terrace except the large furniture and the largest plants which are corralled in one corner. hopefully they don't get shredded, as they would cost a couple of grand to replace.

apparently the clouds are currently extending all the way from South Carolina to Maine. Already one fatality in N.Car; a tree fell on a man feeding his dog.

Mayor Bloomberg has recommended to move to a lower floor if you live above 10 (because risk of windows blowing out and flying glass); we have some friends we could impose on but we will just move the beds away from the windows and go down to the basement if really necessary. If you are above the 25th floor the wind goes up another category. they are expected to last 24 hrs

#321. Irene update

7 am Saturday morning and it is overcast but calm here in NYC.

The eye of the hurricane is 20 km off shore in North Carolina right now and expected to make landfall in the next few mins. It is down to Category 1, with winds around 110 kph at the eye. The pressure is 952. It is moving NNE at 20 kph so that is why they can predict it will hit here around midnight if it stays on course (apparently it has shifted slightly).

because of the shape of the Atlantic coastline, once it passes N.Carolina the next place it will hit is the NYC area. Of course there is the rain, flooding, wave surges, hail, and some risk of injuries. But it is really the wind damage with even localized tornadoes developing to power lines etc and the ongoing effects and inconvenience of blackouts: no fridge, elevator, running water, AC, etc. That is the bigger concern for us. The skyscrapers apparently cause the winds to pick up to Category 2 level, especially the higher up you are.

Anyway, here are some pictures of happy healthy Xavi. 10 weeks old today and already expereinced an earthquake and hurricane

Friday, August 26, 2011

#320. Approaching hurricane in NYC

Hurricane Irene is expected to hit the U.S. in North Carolina and then move up the east coast towards NYC and also Washington & southern New England, affecting more than 80 million people, including Xavi (and probably Gerard & Anne). "Once-in-a-generation" weather is expected in NYC on Saturday night into Sunday, with 200-250 mm rain expected and 130-160 kph winds. Nothing like New Orleans and Katrina thankfully, but low lying areas of NYC are being recommended to evacuate and the MTA will be shut down tomorrow afetrnoon.

The hospital is putting its severe weather contingency plans into operation (mainly because flooding will affect staff coming to work):
MSKCC has activated the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) and implemented the Hurricane Contingency Plan. It is anticipated that the Center will be fully operational during the storm period. Staff are requested to report to work at their regularly scheduled time and location and to contact their supervisors if delayed. Please review personal and family preparedness plans, the hurricane checklist and planning resources located on the emergency management webpage. Please keep monitoring MSKCC websites and the MSKCC Employee Emergency Information Line 646-888-INFO (4636) for updates and additional information.
In preparation of Hurricane Irene, we ask that you remove all items (furniture, plants, bicycles, etc.) from your patio, terrace, balcony and/or outdoor window sills. Such items can be blown away by high winds which could potentially cause injury or property damage. Please ensure that all windows and doors leading to outdoor areas are securely closed. Additionally, please be sure that all patio and terrace drains are clear of debris.
Thank you for your cooperation.

...Sounds like i will have to empty the rain gauge several times (assuming it doesn't get blown away).

this interactive map shows the projected path of the storm and the areas at risk of flooding. the links work.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

#318. Xavi's first earthquake...

...and he slept right through it!

From: Monica Glare [mailto:mglare@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 4:57 PM
To: Glare, Paul/Medicine
Subject: Re: Tremors from an Earthquake felt in New York City

i did and a picture fell off the bookshelves
On Aug 23, 2011, at 2:30 PM, glarep@mskcc.org wrote:

Yikes. I didn’t feel a thing

From: Announcements/Information Systems
Sent: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 2:27 PM
To: zzPDL_MSKCC_Everyone
Subject: Tremors from an Earthquake felt in New York City

Please do not respond to this message.
This mailbox is unattended. Thank you.

An earthquake caused tremors that were felt in New York City. It appears that the earthquake originated in the Virginia area. There is no need to evacuate buildings. MSKCC is conducting an assessment to see if there has been any damage and so far, there is none. All operations are continuing as usual. Please do not call the operators. If you any concerns, please report these to your managers.

We will keep you updated as we have more information available.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

#317. Summer Streets is over for another 12 months :(

Today was the 3rd and final week for Summer Streets in 2011. It is a great community event. Despite a very wet week (more than 190 mm, almost 8 inches), the sun came out again this morning for another glorious day, just like last Saturday. The three of us went this time and we got as far south as 34th St before heading back. Xavi slept most of the way and really likes riding in the Mountain Buggy.

not sure what conveyance Xavi will be in next year but we won't be as cool as these guys

Thursday, August 18, 2011

#316. Xavier is 2 months today

Two months today, so had his 2 month check up with the pediatrician. Good news is he is doing really well: weight 11 lb 6&1/2 oz (5.3kg, 50th percentile for an American baby), height 23.5 inches (75th percentile) , head circumference 40 cm (also 75th percentile) and Dr remarked how bright and alert he is.

bad news (for Xavi) is that he had to have 3 vaccination shots and one oral vaccine for Hepatitis B, polio, pneumococcal pneumonia, diptheria, tetanus, whooping cough, rotavirus and Hemophilus influenza (13 strains), so he wasn't smiling for long after this pic was taken. At least now he is good to go for the subway!

After some cooler days with record rain earlier in the week we are back to the usual hot and humid August in NYC, with a big tropical thudnerstorm brewing this evening.

impressive cumulonimbus thunderhead over Manhattan this evening

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#315. NYC construction workers - then and now

For the last few months Paul has been watching Cornell University put up a new high-rise building across the street from his office. The construction workers sitting along the footpath during their lunch break yesterday resembled those amazing (?real) pictures of construction workers on the Empire State Building in the 1930's...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

#314. Lucky the Summer Streets was yesterday...

... because there was record rainfall today. The 9th wettest day on record, apparently. We measured 98 mm at 9 am this morning (the highest rainfall since we have been here). Nothing like Sydney, but it has continued raining all day. They had > 250 mm out on Long Island. "Summer Streets" is when they close off Park Avenue to traffic on the first 3 Saturdays mornings of August. you can walk, jog, ride all the way down to the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a beautiful day for it yesterday. A couple of bonus pictures of Xavi thrown in!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#313. 8 weeks old today

He is going really well. Feeding well and also has a 60 ml shot of formula before bed. Now 5.3 kg. Very alert and happy and makes cooing noises. Sleeping better-last night went down at 9 and woke at 3 then 6. prefers to be facing out when carried. Has started dribbing and tries to suck his thumb but just can't quite get it right. Loves having a bath

this is his latest accoutrement: rocks, plays music and vibrates. falls asleep in it everytime
siesta time

Friday, August 12, 2011

#312. Last Sunday - first post-natal visit to Maialino, il ristorante Italiano nostro preferito

we don't have a car seat yet, so taxis aren't safe; we have to take the subway or bus...
waiting at the bus stop

on the buses

Lower East Side

CSI Lower East Side

the evening was not a complete success at Maialino, but the food was great as usual

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

#311. WHAT NEXT? Raccoons Invade Part Of Queens, But NYC Not Helping Fix The Problem

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s a major pest problem in Queens.

That’s where residents say raccoons have made themselves at home in several neighborhoods.

As CBS 2’s Mark Morgan reports, a local lawmaker is now getting involved to combat the invasion.

Raccoons have become an annoyance in some neighborhoods and residents here want the city to remove them.

They may look warm and fuzzy, but raccoons can be a nuisance and a health risk.

“My main concern is the kids that are running around. This is a really residential neighborhood. There’s a school right down the block. There’s a pool,” Bayside resident Alex Cho said.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has proposed a bill that would require the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to capture and remove the critters.

“It would mandate that the city has to come out, trap the animal, neuter it and then release it back into the wild someplace,” Avella said.

Currently, the city’s policy is to remove raccoons only if they are rabid or dead. Normally, the only obvious sign a raccoon is rabid is the animal foaming at the mouth. The Department of Health said Avella’s bill is an “unfunded mandate” and that non-rabid raccoons can be controlled with community involvement.

Morgan surveyed one lot that has been vacant for seven years, and residents told him a family of raccoons has taken over and is wreaking havoc in the neighborhood.

“We’re afraid to let the kids out, especially at night. People come to visit as I had said before and they’re afraid of raccoons chasing them,” Pearl Vazeos said.

Vazeos lives right next to the lot. She paid a private company charged more than $1,500 when raccoons took over her garage.

“It cost be a fortune to get rid of them and nobody would do anything with the city. We had to get a private person come trap them,” Vazeos said.

Area residents feel they shouldn’t have to battle the nocturnal masked bandits alone, and that the time for the city’s involvement is now.

Senator Avella said he hopes to bring the bill to a vote in the next legislative session in Albany, at the end of August.

Do you think the city should be required to remove troublesome critters like raccoons? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

#310. On the High Line the Saturday before last. Great day for a popsicle