Tag: Sunnyside

Natural histories and inconvenient truths

Saturday, March 29th, 2008 | All Things, Friends

Visits to the American Museum of Natural History always bring back memories of my elementary school field trips, and the anticipation I’d feel — still feel — upon entering the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda with its towering Barosaurus, the world’s tallest freestanding mount of a dinosaur.

Herd of African elephants inside the Akeley Hall of African Mammals, and the start of our walk through the museum’s 28 meticulously detailed dioramas:

The refurbished Milstein Hall of Ocean Life:

Below, the 94-foot blue whale, under which I remember gathering with my young classmates for lunches of whale-shaped nuggets and french fries. Chicken, not fish, nuggets — though I suppose the latter wouldn’t necessarily make more sense… since as any fifth grader can tell you: whales are mammals.

These days, the area beneath the iconic life-size fiberglass model is fitted with benches for screening films. And on some nights, lucky 8-12 years olds set up sleeping bags on the floor here, as part of the AMNH’s sleepover program, which was reinstated last year after a two-decade hiatus in response to the renewed interest generated by the otherwise unredeemable 2006 film, A Night at the Museum.

The adjacent Hall of Biodiversity, which opened in 1998, features my favorite diorama in the museum: the walk-through Dzanga-Sangha Rainforest. We spent a few minutes there, but with time running short — we even had to skip the popular Saurischian dinosaur hall — there was time for just a peek inside the Planetarium.

Every longtime couple seems to have a sweet story of how they met, though most of the time the reality, like life, is slightly imperfect. At AP and SH’s home later that night for a cocktail fundraiser to benefit the Sunnyside CSA — yes, Sunnyside again! — I was reminded once more of the importance of having people in our lives who have known us through the years. In addition to providing considerable comforts and joys, they serve as a collective memory bank… and keep us honest in front of others and with ourselves.

Happy Earth Day!

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Getting our Irish on (and up)

Monday, March 17th, 2008 | All Things, Friends

Erin Go Bragh! Despite the Catholic Church’s decision last summer to reschedule the March 17 holiday for March 15 so as not to coincide with the second day of Holy Week, New York City held its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade this morning. The Church has a history of involvement in these celebrations: in 2000 and 2006, when the holiday fell on a Friday in Lent, during which Catholics are to abstain from eating meat, the Archdiocese of New York issued a special dispensation allowing its 2.5 million Catholics residing in Manhattan, Bronx, Staten Island and several upstate counties to eat meat on March 17. Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens received no such pass from their Archdiocese, and were instructed to perform another act of penance if compelled to indulge in corned beef on that day.

Unlike last year, the city’s official St. Patrick’s Day festivities fell during normal work hours, so I missed out on the parade fun along Fifth Avenue. Guinness is behind Proposition 3-17 — a campaign to make St. Patrick’s Day an official holiday in the United States. No matter, I was able to catch the all inclusive parade in Western Queens earlier this month.

At Irish bars throughout Manhattan, the drinking had begun in earnest well before noon, but my plans for the evening involved a trip on the 7 into Sunnyside, which along with neighboring Woodside, is one of the city’s historic Irish enclaves. Since the 1990s, while other ethnic communities have moved into these neighborhoods, the Irish population has dwindled as longtime residents move out of the city or back to Ireland, spurred by the country’s renewed economy and the end of the Troubles of Northern Ireland.

The Empire State Building aglow in green, of course:

St. Pats ESB

At RM’s home in the Gardens, we caught up with friends recently seen and not so over cold beer and treats from El Shater. The night was marked by valiant attempts at Irish dancing and a rousing, lyrically mangled rendition of “Danny Boy,” (which sounded rather like this one)… by all accounts a fine, fun gathering marred only by a brief, but mortifying episode which included the most appalling party exchange since… well, in a long, long time.

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Easy as 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288

Friday, March 14th, 2008 | All Things, Friends

This blog post’s title is inspired by The New York Post‘s infamous 1989 “Easy as Pi” headline, which appeared over a front page image of illegally obtained answers to that day’s New York State Chemistry Regents. The publication resulted in a massive run by high schoolers to purchase The Post, followed by the abrupt cancellation of the statewide exam on my birthday — so awesome! — and raised all sorts of controversy regarding the paper’s journalistic ethics.

On the 20th anniversary of Pi Day, 3.14 (naturally), SYB hosted a Pi(e)-themed potluck. Fellow pi and pie enthusiasts gathered in Sunnyside to enjoy the bounty of foods that were either in pie form, or related to π, i.e., round, spherical, cylindrical or conical. For the occasion, I made a round vegetarian shepherd’s pie — if such a thing can still be called “shepherd’s pie” — substituting a combination of portobello, cremini, oyster and shiitake mushrooms for the ground lamb layer.

This year, The New York Times ran a “Win a Pie on Pi Day” contest, soliciting submissions of poems about pi (“piems”?) or pi-ku (in three-line, 3-1-4 syllable format.) The most useful of these, like the MIT cheer “Cosine, secant, tangent, sine, 3.14159!,” aid in the recall of the digits of pi. Among the the pi mnemonics I know of — most of which assign digits based on the number of letters in each corresponding word — my favorite remains: “How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics!

The current world record for pi memorization belongs to Japanese mental health counselor (ha, now that’s ironic!) Akira Haraguchi, who managed to recite pi to 100,000 decimal places in 2006. I very humbly top out at about 35 decimal places — sufficient for computing the circumference of the known universe with an error no greater than the radius of a hydrogen atom.

Yeah, I think I can live with that.

In Times Square on Pi Day:

Times Square band

Oh, and despite never having taken those pesky Chem Regents, I can still chuckle appreciatively over the existence of Mole Day, celebrated annually on October 23 from 6:02AM to 6:02PM, i.e., 6:02 10/23. I leave it to SYB to devise an appropriate potluck theme in honor of that occasion. (“Avocado,” perhaps? *Groan*)

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