W5D4 Ready or not, here I come.

OK, I count five things to write about tonight. Still, I’d like to get to bed early, so I’ll try to keep them short.

1. Sadness – Wow, man, grief strikes you without warning. I know exactly when it happened. I was riding the 4 train to Grand Central and had a seat, which is kind of rare on the 4 because it is generally packed. I don’t read standing up, it’s too awkward with my backpack, and hard to read with one hand because the other is holding on for dear life. Those tracks are not smooth. I am reading “Boys in the Boat”, which was really well written by Daniel James Brown. I got to this passage: “Their white blades flashed above the water like the wings of seabirds flying in formation.” Even twelve hours later my eyes still well up.

Some of my readers may not know that the principal of my school, John Fidler, passed away unexpectedly last weekend. It is the grief over his passing that hit me this morning. I got off the train a short time later at Grand Central in a daze. I stood on the platform, my back to a wall, facing its length. I just stood and slowly put my backpack on, looking at each and every face that passed me as people rushed to board the train. The station seemed twice as busy as usual – there were faces everywhere. Not everyone made it aboard that train before it left the station – that’s how busy it was. I slowly walked the length of the platform and climbed the stairs, still looking at every face I could see. It was as if the city was moving twice as fast as me. The usually distinct squeals and clacks of the trains, the loud muffled orders from the speakers, and chitter of conversations blurred together in one static cacophony. I stopped to pick up a bagel and coffee, and walked slowly toward the exit. Ever so slowly. I knew I wasn’t ready to face Lexington Avenue. I found a place to set my coffee, and stood and slowly ate my bagel, waited for my coffee to cool, and eventually drank it. I had no sense of the passage of time. When I looked at my phone later, I realized it must’ve taken me over half an hour to leave the station. I continued to slowly walk down 42nd street, semi-aware of my surroundings. There was part of me taking care, though, reminding me to look both ways before I crossed the street, keeping me from bumping into people. I just kept looking at faces. I can still recall many of them distinctly.

In a few minutes, I was in the classroom, where students had already started on their activity for the day – a challenging coding tutorial. I joined in, helping girls get unstuck. Playing with teens will bring you into the present like nothing else.

2. Counterfeit drugs – I saw a cool guest speaker, Neil Campbell from Pfizer, who talked about a technology they are developing so you can use your cellphone to identify counterfeit drugs. He said about 80 percent of the drugs purchased online (from non-mainstream vendors) were counterfeit. You’d like to know if your medicine is real, right? The counterfeiters make really convincing copies, but they don’t have the same active ingredients, and may contain dangerous substances. (What do they care? They already have your money.) The new technology can spot minute differences in what the pills look like, and is 99.99 percent accurate. They are trying to get it to 99.9999999 percent accurate, and should be there soon. His advice? If a deal looks too good to be true, it is.

3. Bagelling – there are many slang definitions of this word, but the one I learned today is: “inserting a Jewish phrase or concept into a conversation in order to determine whether the other person is or isn’t Jewish.” (link) Didn’t know that was a thing, did you? Me either. One of the GWC instructors, who is Jewish, was making polite conversation with a representative at a vendor table, and said that she was from Arizona. The vendor, who did not appear to be Jewish, said, “Arizona, they have nice [insert Jewish word I don’t know here] there,” thereby revealing their common heritage.

4. Bolivian food – By the afternoon, I was feeling happy and full of energy (yay, grief, you are so transient). After I left my last site, I walked down a different than usual street toward the 1 train. I missed 7th avenue, and had walked all the way to 8th and 54th. I had a choice – walk down to my usual stop at 50th, or walk up to 59th, Columbus Circle. I got out of work a bit earlier than usual and had some extra time. I decided to try to find something for dinner, rather than waiting until I got back to the Bronx, and headed up toward 59th to try my luck. There are many restaurants along the way on 8th avenue, and I thought one of them might offer something different for dinner. Nothing caught my eye, though.

When I got to 58th and 8th, I was surprised to see a subway entrance – I had expected to have to walk over to Broadway and 59th. I forgot that Broadway cuts diagonally west as it goes uptown, so I was actually pretty close to it. I resigned myself to having to get dinner in the Bronx, and headed down the stairs. I noticed something different immediately. At the bottom of the stairs, there were double glass doors, like the kind you find in the entrances to public buildings. Very few subway stations have these, and if they do, they’re usually at street level, not at the bottom of the stairs. I got down there, went through the doors, and low and behold (which translates from Middle English as “look and see”), a food court, with specialty fast food restaurants. Not as cool as Gotham West, but still pretty good, and definitely well situated. It was actually Turnstyle, a whole underground marketplace.

With a plethora of unique choices, one stood out. I needed something that would transport well and reheat easily later. That excluded things like pizza (doesn’t travel easily, unless you tip it vertically, then it doesn’t travel well) and bento boxes (hot and cold in the same plate – doesn’t reheat easily). The winner was Bolivian Llama Party. I didn’t actually look a the name until after I purchased my dinner, but it was a good choice. There is a limited number of Bolivian restaurants in NYC (maybe 3?), but it is good food. I had two salteñas, which BLP emphatically (NSFW) proclaims are not empanadas. They are like very happy and slightly spicy pot pies.

5. Hiatus – Doc Och’s Box will be going on hiatus for a couple of days while I travel back home to attend services for John. I’ll be back next week.

The title today is a reference to this ditty from 1973: (Ready or not, here I come). Can you guess why? It’s a double entendre.

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W5D3 HELLO, Hello, hello

Well, I was going to dump something I had previously written (but you had not seen) on you, but events conspired such that I am home earlier tonight than I planned to be, so you get the fresh stuff. Maybe it’ll end up being more like stepping in fresh stuff.

I went out to Stamford this morning, but did it right this time. I got myself out of the apartment by about 6:45, which allowed me to catch an earlier Metro North from Fordham to Stamford. In fact, I had my choice of several trains. The first one looked pretty full as it pulled into the station, and I didn’t relish the thought of standing for the 45 minute ride. It was an express, with only one stop before Stamford, but I wasn’t pressed for time, so I took the second train, a local through Greenwich, then express to Stamford. I decided to eschew the third because if that one was full, I’d have had to wait for the next train, which is the one I’ve caught the last few times I’ve gone. I wanted to be there before class started today, rather than waltzing in 10 or 15 minutes afterwards. Technically, if everything goes right, the fourth train should get me to Synchrony by 9, but that hasn’t happened yet, so I took an earlier one.

It was kind of a good day to go out there, and kind of not. The not part is because the teaching team wouldn’t actually be teaching. Instead, Synchrony was hosting a hackathon for the girls. I’m not going to presume that you know what that is. Here’s a definition stolen from a Google search: “an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.” Our was a one day event. Hackathons are very popular at colleges and tech companies. They are frequently done as social justice or charity projects, developing apps or websites for causes that can’t afford to pay developers. Sometimes, companies host internal hackathons to stimulate creative thinking within the organization and build networks and teams. It’s a boon to the company because departments in big organization are siloed (not like schools, where that never happens), so developers from one department don’t ever meet those from other departments. Hackathons break through all that by mixing departments for a couple of days. The GWC class at Viacom was invited to watch one where teams came up with new apps around the Sponge Bob theme. I was at the final presentations (which were judged), and saw some games, but also apps like organizers for kids.

Still, before today, I’d never seen an actual hackathon in progress. It is good for the girls to see them, and if possible, to participate. About half of the panelists and guest speakers I’ve seen in the classes have participated in hackathons, and all of them sing their praises. They turn out to be great places to network with other coders and to sharpen your coding skills. Plus, they’re fun – coming together as a team and using everyone’s skills to solve a problem no one was sure could be solved. Combine this with free swag and often free food, and you have a winning combination.

There are two other really important aspects to hackathons, especially for neophyte coders. First, there are many different levels of hackathons in terms of coding skills. There are even events where you don’t need coding skills, so they are easy to get into. Second, there is an ethic of everyone helping each other, even if you are on different teams. It is not unusual for an experienced coder from one team to come over and give new programmers on another team a hand.

As I started out this morning, I had no idea what today’s hackathon was going to be about. It was a one day event, run by three tech volunteers from Synchrony. I quickly discovered that the plan was to work with Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition system. The goal was to to build a new Alexa skill. A skill is to Alexa what an app is to your smartphone – a tool to make it do new things.

First, I must say that the three volunteers did an amazing job with the girls, asking questions to make sure they understood what was happening. If they didn’t, the volunteers carefully explained everything in more basic terms. The teaching team actually had very little to do today – they used the time to try to build Alexa skills on their own.

Each of the three teams had an Amazon Echo Dot, which is a small device which you can ask to do certain things and it does them, kind of like Siri on Apple or Google Now. It won’t mop the floor for you, but it can order something or look up stuff. The girls played with them for a while to get a sense of what they could do. It wasn’t long before “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was playing. “Alexa, lower the volume.”

After that they buckled down to work, first working to get Alexa to understand new voice commands, then to connect those commands to computer actions. It took longer than expected, and came down to the wire (4pm), but all three teams were able to get theirs going.

Here is a video of me interacting with the final skill one team produced.

VIDEO (it’s taking a while to get in place. Eventually, I am assured, the video will make it to that link)

The girls, though confused early in the day, became really engaged with all this. One girl, toward the end said, “I wanna buy one of these things! They probably do this so they can sell those things.”, the implication being that she wanted to continue to program it. Fortunately, Synchrony had anticipated this level of enthusiasm, and gave each one of the girls their own Echo Dot. They has specifically designed the hackathon so that each girl already had created the developer accounts they needed to pick up the work right where they left off.

W5D2 Warning

Update from yesterday: the super came back with heavy duty equipment, and the tub is once again empty.

I don’t know. I said some crazy thing in class. I can’t even remember what. The girls were looking at me quizzically. Then I blurted out in self defense, “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.” The quizzical looks became audible. I said, “What?!? That is a literary reference.” More disbelief. We were in the middle of a code-along lesson – that is when the instructor codes live on the big screens up front, making (honest) mistakes, as we do, and demonstrating to the girls how we solve them. While the girls code along on their computers. They often figure out how to solve the problem before the instructor. All good stuff.

I wasn’t the head instructor today, I was just there to help out. When I had the chance, I asked the instructor if I could have a couple of minutes at the end of the lesson to read the poem.

I was pretty sure that I’d lose the girls at “When I am an old woman,” so I introduced the poem by saying they they had someone in their life who the poem described. It might be an aunt or a grandmother, their a mom or a neighbor. As I read the first four lines:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

The girls began to laugh, and say out loud who the person in their life was. I continued to read, and the murmur in the room got louder – the girls were ready to end their day. Somewhere around “And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes,” one girl said out loud, “Well, it’s a long poem.” Oh, girl, you have no idea.

And so, I leave you with “Warning”, in its entirety, and the pleasurable experience of listening to Jenny Joseph herself reading it.

Warning

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

© Jenny Joseph, SELECTED POEMS, Bloodaxe 1992.

W5D1 Hubris

As always, the plan was simple. Go to the hardware store, get the right tool, fix the problem. Boom. Done.

The drain in the bathroom here has been running slower and slower. Even a short shower leaves water almost ankle deep, which takes several minutes to completely drain. There are two people living here who have long hair. The math is easy.

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Remember to take the real part of the equation in the last step or everything goes topsy-turvy.

The solution is, of course, to buy one of these nifty gadgets, the Zip-It.

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You simply stick it down the drain, pull out a squirrel-sized hunk of hair cemented together with hair products, and *poof* the water swirls down the drain.

So that is what I decided (with my hostess’s permission) to do. It was a nice evening here, so I took myself down the hill (second time today – I am getting better) to the hardware store. One of the nice things about living in the city is that hardware stores stay open later. I’m not talking about Home Depot (there are none near by – 4 miles is a long way in the city when you don’t have a car). DT Hardware (don’t go to the website – that site is actually for a company in Guangdong province in China – I’ve submitted a correction to Google. I submitted a different correction earlier this summer, and it was in place within a couple of hours. So cool.) over on 231st Street is open until 8. The store is narrow and deep, like many of the other stores and delis in that area. On the other hand, it is very tall, and every single inch of wall space was covered with hardware of all kinds, nuts, bolts screws, washers, gizmos, whatsits, doohickeys, thingummies, and most importantly, a Zip-It tool.

I bought it (only $4) and brought it home. As I climbed the middle set of stairs that leads from Cannon Place up to our courtyard, I heard a voice behind me say, “Hi, Joe.” It was Renee, the other AirBnB guest staying for the summer. She is a Physics/Computer science major at Stanford, and is working as an intern this summer. She was just getting back from the gym. She saw the tool in my hand, and said, “Good idea.” She has been taking shorter showers so as not to fill the tub too deep.

She was about to take a shower, so I suggested that if she waited a few minutes, I’d have the tub unclogged, and she would be able to take a “real shower”. Ha!

I will say I tried valiantly. I removed the cover on the drain and reached in with the Zip-It. I was able to remove some hair using my new tool, but I knew it wasn’t enough to unclog the drain. You really have to get the squirrel sized chunk. I added some water to see what effect I had. To my horror, the water did not go down at all. I thought maybe the actual drain mechanism itself was causing the problem. I could hear the Zip-It banging into it, so I removed the the drain lever assembly, and used the Zip-It tool down that opening. I got more hair, but no water moved.

By now I was starting to panic a bit. “I need a better tool”, and by better, I mean longer. I unraveled a wire coat hanger from my room, and tried that. It was about eight inches longer. No go. I combined the tools, wrapping the wire around the handle of the Zip-It tool, and put it down the drain as far as I dared, afraid that the Zip-It tool would become unattached to the hanger and get stuck in the drain. No go.

Finally, I grabbed the good old toilet plunger and plunged. That was largely ineffective, because the overflow drain pipe prevented the water from getting any substantial pressure. It did loosen up some gunk though, which flowed back into the tub. It’s pretty gross in there.

That’s where I gave up. I reassembled the level and drain cover, and my hostess texted the building super. She thought he might come tomorrow. I’ve basically been hiding in my room ever since.

I snuck out once to use the bathroom, and there was more water in the tub, so I suspect Renee snuck in to get a quick shower. Sorry, Renee.

So that’s where we were, up to about 5 minutes ago. I can hear someone working in the bathroom, and it sounds like they have a real plumber’s snake. Yep, definitely some real tools in there. Whoever it is is working hard. Naturally, nature is calling me.

Update: I hear lots of water running in the tub. Maybe this is a good sign.

2nd update (20 minutes later): I just heard an unfamiliar voice, “Oh, man.” I’m just going to hold it.

Read the comments for further updates!

 

W4D5 I scream, you scream…

It was kind of a fun day yesterday. In the morning, I went with a class to tour Google and listen to a panel of interns and young women in tech there. Afterwards, we came back to the site, ate lunch, the teaching teams and I talked about approaches to next week’s lessons, then went back up to the classroom, where the girls wrote thank you notes. After that, I showed them my girls’ classroom cheer (here) from last year, and watched as these girls came up with their own. It was a hilarious process that, for some reason, not even known to the girls, involved a whole lot of that Italian chef kiss hand gesture where you bunch all your finger tips together, kiss them and sweep your hand into the air in front of you. Crap, I was hoping not to have to research this, but I am failing to describe it accurately, so I’m going to have to find a visual representation. The reason I don’t want to research it is that I’m sitting on my bed where I can’t actually see my laptop screen very well, and I don’t have my mouse over here, so I’ll have to get up and move over there for a bit. I find that writing goes much faster here because I write write write, then correct it at the end, rather than keep correcting as I go along.

giphy2giphy3

Who can understand teenagers? All this started before Scaramucci was appointed, so it has nothing to do with that. It’s a mystery.

As I left the site at the end of the day, I decided to take a longer route home. I knew the 4 train would be crowded and SRO at rush hour, so I decided to walk across town and catch the 1 train. My path led me past Bryant Park, where there was a picnic in the park going on, with people playing with hula hoops, juggling, acrobatics, just laying there (you could borrow a blanked from a booth if you wished). They also had a couple of food vendors, so I bought dinner. I had okonomiyaki, which I would liken to a Japanese omelette. I chose it mostly because I had no idea what it was, but it looked good. After dinner, I wandered toward Times Square to catch the train, but it seemed to be awfully busy in that direction, so I instead turned south on 6th Avenue, with the idea of catching the train a few stops earlier, so I could get a seat (it’s a fifty minute ride if everything goes perfectly, and I knew the train would be crowded).

As I wandered south, an idea floated into my head. I remembered getting ice cream last Friday, and thought, “Hey! Ice cream could become my Friday tradition!” I’m going to try to visit a different ice cream parlor on some list of New York’s best (there are many lists, I’m going to hit the ones that are common to all of them). This has the side effect of getting me to new neighborhoods that I might not otherwise get to see.

I pulled out my phone and found the closest place, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, and it was only a few stops south on the 1 line, so getting home would be easy. I noted the stop, St. Christopher’s, and hopped on the train.

When I reemerged from underground, I had no idea where I was, other than I was in Lower Manhattan. I soon found out. I chose not to use my phone, but to just wander around trying to find the parlor. I had a vague sense of where it was, within a few blocks, and it’s much more interesting to explore, rather than go right to my destination.

You may know the city better than I do, but it quickly became apparent that I was in Greenwich Village. I walked about half a block before passing the Stonewall Inn, site of the beginning of the Gay Pride movement in 1969.

The streets in that area are not laid out in a grid – it is an older part of the city, so the streets are a little haphazard, It’s kind of like when a little kid started coloring a big patch in a picture – first they focus on one part and color in every direction, then they figure out that this is going to take some time, so they switch to a more organized way of coloring that fills in the space faster. I think Manhattan was colored in that way.

I wandered around, and soon found myself faced with a dilemma. I was walking in front of Snowdays which was a shaved cream store. I have never had that before. Shaved cream is made from a block of frozen (usually 1%) milk which is shaved to make a the dessert. So, do I have this new thing, or do I stick with my plan to go to Van Leeuwen’s? Which is one the best list? Or maybe do both? Both seemed a little extreme. Two things helped me decide. First, Snowdays was not on the best ice cream list (I have since discovered it is on the best shaved cream list – hmmm, Tuesday evenings may need a thing), and, second, the smallest size was a regular which cost nine dollars. I decided to press on, or I’d have blown my ice cream budget in one shot.

About a block later, I found Dominique Ansel Kitchen, promising something different. They served soft serve ice cream at a walk up window, and I was actually in line there. I still didn’t know what I was getting – no one in front of me had walked away with any product. One of the choices was some weird thing with milk foam on it (Update: It was a coffee flavored ice cream with an anise biscotti and milk foam dusted with cocoa powder – I may have to go back). I just wasn’t sure. Plus, whatever it was carried a $7.25 price tag. I stepped out of line and pressed on.

I finally found the place. It was really small, and I had already passed within a block of it twice. The spiral method of locating a place can be inefficient, but that is part of the point. I ordered a small sorrel blackberry jam crumble. It was the day;s special flavor.

OMG. It was unbelievably good. The jam had just enough tartness to complement the rich creaminess of the sorrel base. I have to look up sorrel (did it). I have a weed in my yard at home called sorrel, which is edible and is a great thirst quencher when you are mowing, I wonder if they are the same thing (Pause.) Yes, yes they are.

I did manage to get a seat on the train on the ride home. It was a long ride – signal problems. The trains are really messed up here. Thankfully, I have lots of time, so it doesn’t bother me. I was another game of train station roulette. After we passed 72nd Street station, the train began stopping at about every third station. I was in the front car this time, so I could hear the announcements clearly.

After yoga today, I plan to head to a farmers market. I can revisit the 79th street market, or go way downtown to the Union Square market, which is supposed to be one of the best. Which will I do? Only time will tell.

I didn’t finish editing in time for yoga, and, now that I’m back, time did tell. Union Square. Was there ever really any doubt?

W4D4 A bit of this and that

I’m pretty sure yesterday or today is the halfway point of my stay in NYC. I know this because my MetroCard expired (I only missed the train that was in the station as I tried to swipe through) and I had to re-up for Ellie’s humble abode. There was no one thing today that was quite enough for a whole post, so I have four topics today, though who knows if I can get to them all; I am logorrheic, after all.

The first is something that could happen other places, but is so emblematic of GWC that I must relay it. An instructor, a student, and a worker at a particular site were riding the elevator up to the floor with the Girls Who Code classroom this morning. The worker asked the instructor, “Does anyone in your class speak Bengali?” The student answers in the affirmative, in Bengali.

I probably should go in chronological order. Today was the first day I spent an entire day in the same classroom. I didn’t plan it that way, but, you know. I was in the same classroom yesterday because one of the teaching team was out sick. They were working on a particularly difficult section of the curriculum, one where a single character change can break the code in a way that is hard to decipher, and render it difficult for the girls to move forward in the tutorial. I left a little early yesterday to visit another site, but heard from the teaching team at the first site, later in the evening, that they were having difficulty unsticking some of the computers. I said I’d stop by in the morning to help them get unstuck. I planned to spend the afternoon at another site where they had a guest speaker talking about computer security.

As it turns out, they were having a pretty good guest speaker at the site I was already at; one that hadn’t made it onto the calendar. The speaker was Meg Urry (rhymes with fury), who is often recognized for, among her other achievements, this Washington post piece, which is well worth reading.

She spoke to the girls briefly about her research on black holes, then began to talk to them about gender inequality in science, especially computer science and physics. She was frank and forthright, said “shit” and “bullshit” a couple of times, and really engaged the girls. Not all the girls asked questions, but those who did asked excellent ones.

There were several references to white men and how blind and unfair they can be. I was the only white male in the room, though one of the instructors, also male, is from China. I did not take offense at what Meg or other people said, because I have seen the evidence for what they are saying with my own eyes. It’s the reason I do what I do.

The ride home was a little interesting, kind of like train station roulette. At 79th Street there was an announcement that the next a stop would be 96th street, skipping over 86th. Anyone who wanted 86th had to get out and wait for the next train. That was the easy one, because it was announced in an underground station, and you could hear it pretty well. The next was announced above ground, where the sound doesn’t echo so well. The speaker in our car kept cutting in and out (it was sort of like being at a dilapidated drive-in), so all we got was ‘Nex op three str”, and had to decide our fate based on that. To heighten the excitement, the announcer added 100 blocks to the station numbers, so I could sort of make out that the train was not gong to stop at “three ty ate str”, but I think she meant “two ty ate str”. I stayed on, knowing that whatever the case, the train could go no farther than 242nd, where the tracks end.

I got off there, and proceeded to walk the six blocks back to my stop when I glanced across Broadway. Something I never noticed before caught my eye, although I have been by that intersection at least half a dozen times. Just inside the gate of the park, there is a large rock with a statue of, what looked to me like, a wolf. Here is a picture I took.

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In fact, it is a statue of a coyote. To my eye though, it looks more like a wolf. Here is my favorite silhouette comparison.

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And here is a more general comparison:

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I still think wolf, but here is proof of coyote, from the rock:

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The statue was erected in 1998 to commemorate the reappearance of coyotes in NYC for the first time since 1946. The particular coyote in question was spotted on the Major Deegan Highway, about a block away. I won’t say what happened to it, but you can read it here.

That last site has proved to be a boon! It lists “All the weird attractions, hidden sights, and unusual places in New York.” I’m making plans now.

W4D3 Dog days of summer

Wow, we’re really on week 4 already?

The scene: I am listening to In the Heights, Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit before Hamilton. Why? Cuz I was in the aforementioned heights last week. That, and I like it. I am eating (Do I do anything else here?) some mixed fruit salad from some place in Chelsea. It’s just getting that slightly fuzzy taste fruit gets as it starts to ferment, which I prefer to unripened fruit. That may explain why it was twenty percent off, and if I don’t write anything tomorrow, it may explain that, too.

I had never been to Chelsea before Sunday, but now I’ve been there three of the last four days. Girls Who Code headquarters is there. Okay, not technically. Technically it is in the Flatiron District, but it is only half a block away from Chelsea.

There is a pet shop on 7th avenue, about a block from my train stop, which has lots of cute little puppies in the window. I woke up to a news report this morning that store has been mistreating their dogs. Don’t click on that link if you are sensitive to that sort of thing (aren’t we all?) In the article they mention that some of the dogs sell for up to $4,000 (not a typo).

As a family that has only rescue pets (and rescue kids, and rescue each other, and I have a rescue bike (Hi, Ellie!))), I am taken aback by that. (Did you know that taken aback originally was used for ships, when the wind took a sudden turn and blew the sails back against the mast? That’s a little tidbit for those of you finding yourselves interested in nautical science.)

At one of Meet and Greet events earlier this summer, one family brought such a dog with them. (I was taken aback by that as well. You brought a dog?) Although the dog was just a puppy (seven months, I think), he was well behaved. He sat in the GWC student’s older sister’s lap quietly while the event went on.

The father of the family talked to me afterwards, asking “Isn’t the dog well behaved?” His daughters were well behaved, too, but he didn’t ask about them. I agreed that it was, and he proceeded to tell me all about the dog, though I remember very little of the details other than the dog cost $3,100. I kept thinking you could rescue a lot of good dogs for that much. I’ll admit to being distracted by those thoughts, and not really paying attention to what he was saying. Something about the dog never messing the house or something.

The family stayed for a long time after others had left. The dog started barking at the older sister, who kept asking it why it was barking. I was thinking that maybe it had to go to the bathroom.

Just as we were leaving, the father said something about hoping that the GWC program would increase his daughter’s confidence. I said that it could well, and that that was a goal of the program. He said, “I don’t know why she can’t be more like her sister. She gets great grades in school, is in the honors program at [some college], can speak confidently in front of large groups…” and so on. He said all of this right in front of the younger sister.

I’m thinking, “Dude, you just answered your own question.” I don’t know that the Summer Immersion Program is long enough to undo 16 years of living in your sister’s shadow, but it’ll be a good start. If she can begin to discover some of her gifts and how amazing they’ll make her, she’ll be on a good track.

I suppose the fact that this incident is stuck in my craw almost two weeks later means something. I have a feeling I should do something about it, but I’m not sure what.