Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Homemade Air Conditioning and Alienation in New Jersey

I was looking online for some tips on cooling off (it's not the heat, it's the humidity, as they say) and found a university student's account of building an air conditioner using nothing but a garbage can, a large fan, copper tubing, vinyl tubing, zip ties, clamps, and water. MacGyver would be proud.

Today, green blog Treehugger covered how to build a solar-powered air conditioner. Treehugger also linked to the blog lifehacker, which also posted instructions on making your own air conditioner (similar in design to the university student's but with a "closed-circuit" system that reuses water).

I'm happy to learn that even something as unwieldy and technically incomprehensible as an air conditioner has a cheap, homemade counterpart. Of course one shouldn't expect such units to cool one down as much as a commercial unit, but the savings in cost (on the unit itself and electricity) might make this an option worth exploring for some.

And here's a completely unrelated quote:

"And I thought that one natural effect of life is to cover you in a thin layer of ... what? A film? A residue or skin of all the things you've done and been and said and erred at? I'm not sure. But you are under it, and for a long time, and only rarely do you know it, except that for some unexpected reason or opportunity you come out--for an hour or even for a moment ... as when you were a kid.

And you think: this must've been the way it was once in my life, though you didn't know it then, and don't really even remember it--a feeling of wind on your cheeks and your arms, of being released, let loose, of being the light-floater."

-The Sportswriter, Richard Ford

A good book on alienation in contemporary life, set in the New Jersey suburbs outside New York City. I first read Ford in the New Yorker. His short story "Quality Time" is one of my all-time favorite pieces of literature. The story is reprinted in one of his recent collections, and I'd highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Reduce and Reuse!

Forgot to mention that this Saturday, June 24, Freecycle New York City is hosting a FreeMeet. Their Web site describes it as their way of "helping to reduce New York's waste and promote reuse with a day of giving (and getting). Bring your usable, but unwanted goods and come see what's being given away. Leftover items will be donated to local charities to the extent possible."

It will take place from 11 to 4 p.m. at the Habana Outpost Eco-Eatery, at 757 Fulton St. (at S. Portland) in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn.

And, of course, the event is free!

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The Last Frontier

Of course, once I sit down to write in my blog, I completely forget what it was that I wanted to write about.

I've been thinking about swimming lately, probably because it's been so hot. The weird thing is that I haven't really swam (swum?) in years, and I don't really remember how.

When I went off to college, I had to take a swim test along with all the incoming students. I had some misgivings, as the last time I'd gone swimming prior to that was maybe when I was 10 or so, when I took swim lessons one summer. I was never a strong swimmer, but I could do 25-50 meters if I pushed myself.

When it came to my turn, I tried to start off with the crawl. I have no idea what I did exactly. I made it to the other side of the tiny pool, but I seemed to have gotten there with a lot of splashing and flailing. Pretty embarrassing, as there were still several lines of people waiting to take the test. I couldn't seem to coordinate my breathing and the movement of my arms. I finished the required laps doing the back stroke but since then I haven't tried swimming again.

I find the water very mystical, for lack of a better word. I once described to a friend how, when I think about being out on the surface of the ocean, or in the middle of the deep sea, I feel agoraphobic. I typically never have that feeling in wide open spaces on land, but there's something that both terrifies and fascinates me about water.

On land, one can look up to forever. When it's really dark, one can still hear when something flies overhead. But life in the sunless depths of the ocean seems oppressive to me--all that liquid around you, this forceful presence limiting vision and distorting sound. (I once read that the bottom of the sea, as opposed to space, is the last frontier. We're still discovering life in places that we'd thought uninhabitable.)

So, I'm slightly scared of swimming. But sometimes, for lack of being able to fly, I dream of lithely curving through the water like a dolphin, free and quick and without bounds...

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Awake Late

I was just telling a friend earlier that I think my resistance to caffeine is waning. We were chatting over coffee--I had my last sip of the stuff around 10:30 p.m.--and here I am, nearly 3 a.m., and I'm just beginning to feel tired. Caffeine, exercise, big meal late, I used to think of myself as one of those people who has no trouble falling asleep. Lately, however, sleep has been hard to grab, what with the heat, mosquitoes, and lack of a proper sleep system.

Summer began yesterday, which means I'll have a few more months of extreme heat and mosquitoes to look forward to. I don't know where the 'lil buggers are coming from, but I dread lying down at night. I've considered wrapping myself in mosquito netting, mummy style, for protection. But I'm planning on getting a replacement screen instead--and what my friend describes as a slow-release citronella gizmo, if I can find one.

What I've noticed lately:
-Standing outside my building late at night, the only sound I hear being that of humming air conditioners up and down my block.
-...Standing at an empty intersection late at night, the only sound being that of the pedestrian signal alternately clicking between walk and halt.
-Sparrow perched on a short, thin-limbed tree, singing loudly above the din of Midtown.
-A baby bird out back screeching every time one of its parents approaches the nest. This bird is a bad neighbor--it has woken me up a few times. (I believe it's a northern mockingbird based on glimpses I've had of the parents, but I'm not certain.)
-Men and women toting brown paper shopping bags in the Garment District. Specifically brown paper shopping bags without any logos or text on the sides.
-Waiting passengers interacting with the musical instrument sculpture in the 34th St./Herald Square train station.

The world looks beautiful once you notice it.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I'm a Crispy Noodle

I received this fortune today:
"You are the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of life."
(And of course, it would so happen that other people have received this fortune and already posted about it online. Scooped again!)

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!

Zombie March in Boston. The site also gathers links to zombie marches in other cities. But apparently the undead have yet to make an appearance in New York.