Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rolling through My Toes

#FreedomTower, NYC
Freedom Tower - South Face (entrance to the memorial)

I am four weeks post op after a chailectomy on my big left toe (Wiggling My Toes).  This week, I got new exercises at PT (standing on one my left foot for 30 seconds at a time (3 times) and toe and heel raises (3 sets of ten).  I also graduated to just an “eensy weensy” little band aid for covering the part of my incision that is not fully healed when wearing a shoe and permission to leave it open to the air when barefoot.  I graduated myself to that about a week ago but was “doctor approved” this past Thursday.  Woo hoo.

For the next two weeks, I’m on a short leash in terms of how much walking I should do -- a mile is the outer limit until I have less pain after coming home from a walk.   When walking, I need to focus on “rolling through my toe” and trying to regain a more normal gait.  This is hard given that the toe does not move so well yet and so rolling through it is a bit painful.  It also requires some concentration on my part as I repeat (silently in my head) the heel toe heel toe mantra.  If I don’t do that, I forget and revert to walking with more weight on the outer left edge of my foot.  Not good for regaining range of motion.

#FreedomTower, NYC
Freedom Tower - South Face from Battery Park City
The mileage limit is just about right for circumnavigating the Freedom Tower and other construction sites that litter downtown New York City which I’ve done twice this week on my way to physical therapy with my trusty Olympus in hand.  As I previously blogged (Freedom Tower), I am most often snapping the Tower with my iPhone and uploading to Facebook or Instagram.  I am once again enjoying Instagram (thank you to the IG team for letting me back in) – there is something about the square format that I find really fun.  I typically take photos with the iPhone camera and edit them in Snapseed as opposed to using Instagram's camera and filters.   

This morning, on my way to the airport, I tried the slo-mo video functionality that iPhone included in the 5S.  I should note that I love the way Apple redesigned the menu and controls for the 5S – so much easier to navigate and saves wear and tear on the home button to boot.  Any redesign that does that is a big advance in my book.   My first effort at shooting a slo-mo video was a rather pedestrian film of a car on the Triboro Bridge.  It’s boring – in the way a long car ride can be boring – but it was a good way to see what slo-mo does.  I think I will need to take a walk at the beach (ugly black wide shoes and all) during this trip to California and try this functionality with the waves or a flock of seagulls.  Hoping the waves will be big!  I am sure the the seagulls will be ever present.
City Reflected, NYC
City Reflected
I wrote about ordering an OM-D E-M5 camera using my AmEx points in First Steps and New Toys  and how excited I was that I’d be able to use my 4/3rds lenses with this new camera.  Not so fast.  The new Olympus 17MM lens I ordered to go with the EM-5 arrived this past week and the mount is smaller than the ones on the lenses I currently have.  So, I’ll need to research lens adapters (they do exist) for the existing lens set or start to replace them with next generation lenses designed specifically for mirrorless cameras like the E-M5. 

Having gotten the new lens, I am even more excited about the camera!  The lens is tiny yet it feels solid.  It kind of makes me want to just go whole hog and invest in new lenses but that would be a very silly thing to do before finding out if I really like the camera.  So I think that I’ll be spending some time on line researching adapters this coming weekend.

#TrinityChurch, NYC, detail
Trinity Church - Detail

When the new camera does arrive, I think that I will switch back to using the Olympus software to download photos to my computer and begin to free myself from the tyranny of Apple’s photo library.   This will have the added advantage of getting RAW images as well as JPEGs which will give me greater control over how the final image looks because there will be less in-camera auto-processing.  This is going to be a gargantuan task (freeing myself from the library) – we’ll see how far I get with that.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I am on a flight to California as I write this.  It’s JetBlue and not only do I have an extra legroom seat, I have a whole row of extra leg room seats to myself.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a flight that is not full.  It’s very nice.  JetBlue comes with TVs and I stumbled on a Vanderpump Rules marathon on Bravo almost as soon as the flight began.  I am a little confused about how the cast (mainly servers and bartenders at Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurant) can afford to live the way they do.  Good tips?

And that is as good of a question to close this post on as any!  

#FreedomTower, #NYC
Freedom Tower - South Face (from Battery Park City)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Expedition #Bansky

#Bansky #15::TwinTowers, NYC, #streetart, #graffiti
#15 :: Twin Towers, Bansky
with a glimpse of surrounding graffiti
Sometime back in the Spring I decided that I should get out of the park (Central Park that is) and into the streets a bit more. The deal I made with myself was that I would spend at least one day a month exploring NYC.  For the most part, these expeditions have centered around public art (Expedition Keith Haring, Art. Sofa. Rope.) or some architectural wonder (A Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge, Midtown Reflections).  This past weekend, I spent time in the park (photos from that expedition accompany First Steps and New Toys) and a part of yesterday wandering around downtown (photos to follow at some point).

Tonight, I did an impromptu art walk with my trusty phone in hand to see the latest creation from #Bansky -- a street artist of some renown who is currently spending a month as artist in residence in NYC.   Unlike my hunt for the Sing for Hope pianos (come to think of it, I have a lot of photos of pianos that need to be posted!), this walk did not involve much search as my colleague MJ (she blogs about her foodie adventures over at Newtonienne Noshes) had very helpfully pointed me to the Village Voice map chronicling his creations around the city.

The puzzling thing about the pieces Bansky is producing is that other artists are destroying the art almost as soon as it's discovered.  I was actually a bit surprised that this piece, #15 :: Twin Towers, had survived the day unscathed.  Perhaps the subject matter will exempt it from being defaced.  Only time will tell.  Frankly, I don't get the urge to destroy his work -- it's not like there haven't been graffiti artists that have had crossover success into commercial art.  Keith Haring comes to mind here.  The best wrap up of the "why" that I could find was a series of quotes from a number of street artists on MTN World.  I thought this piece in the Telegraph was interesting as well -- Bansky: Why his critics have got it wrong.   As a TOTAL aside, google is an amazing invention (even if it can store my shopping habits and still deliver North Face jacket recommendations to me a year later).

I don't know if I'll get to see any other pieces during Bansky's tenure as artist in residence here in NYC -- if you want to follow along with his adventures, he is chronicling them online at Better Out than In.

#Bansky #15::TwinTowers, NYC, #streetart, #graffiti
#15 :: Twin Towers, Bansky
(edited for Instagram)
Kicking Myself
Oh geez, why didn't I choose the southeastern section of the park for my maiden walk without a cane after surgery this weekend?!?  Perhaps Bansky's best "public art" piece to date was the sale of his original art for $60/canvas near the 59th and 5th entrance to Central Park (although not explicitly stated, I am pretty sure that is where the stall was).  I want the "This is not a photo opportunity" piece -- badly. Missed opportunity for me. The resulting video is priceless -- captures perfectly how we typically view art for sale on the street.  As a personal aside, I like purchasing art directly from the artist as opposed to from a gallery. Typically, I find galleries a little overwhelming and distracting.

I Knew I was NOT TriBeCa hip but did they have to rub it in?
It isn't like I wasn't dressed for a little expedition to TriBeCa tonight.  I was totally in black.  While, not totally but the comfy non-black sweater was hidden under the black coat.  And, I guess, my post-op SAS shoes were maybe a little too much comfort and not enough street fashion.  All of that being said, did the two young hipsters really need to ask me if I had antibiotic hand cleaner?!?  Really?  That is on par with the first time I was called "ma'am" or the first time I wasn't carded.

What I looked like when asked about anti-microbrial hand lotion!

Photo Shoots
Although I was there to shoot the art, I couldn't help myself and had to capture some of the photo shoots that were ongoing during the brief time I was there.  A friend of one of the subjects happened upon my Instagram capture and pointed it out to the model.  Amazing how disparate lives can intersect on that platform.  More so than on any of the social media venues I frequent.  Including this one!
The favorite pose seemed to the one studying the art.  Personally, I like the feet the best.

#Bansky #15::TwinTowers, NYC, #streetart, #graffiti
Photo Shoot 1 - #15 Bansky

#Bansky #15::TwinTowers, NYC, #streetart, #graffiti
Photo Shoot 2 - #15 Bansky

#Bansky #15::TwinTowers, NYC, #streetart, #graffiti
Photo Shoot 2 - Take 2 - #15 Bansky
#Bansky #15::TwinTowers, NYC, #streetart, #graffiti
Photo Shoot 3 - #15 Bansky
Paparazzi #Bansky #15::TwinTowers, NYC, #streetart, #graffiti
Paparazzi 1 - #15 Bansky
Paparazzi #Bansky #15::TwinTowers, NYC, #streetart, #graffiti
Paparazzi 2 - #15 Bansky

Sunday, October 13, 2013

First Steps and New Toys

Fly on Flower, Conservatory Garden, Central Park, NYC
Have you ever watched a kid who's just learned how to walk and is now exploring the seemingly vast expanse of his or her world. Usually with a parent following along behind?  She scampers. He sometimes looks like a drunken sailor.  At times she falls quickly and at other times he makes it pretty far before taking that tumble.  Always there is a joyous abandon and fearlessness and a curiosity about the world.  It's all new and the possibilities are endless.

As we grow, we lose some of this abandon as we begin to worry about falling and the resulting broken bones.  For some, aches and pains begin to creep into our lives due to the wear and tear that daily use takes on our joints.  We can become a bit more unbalanced as our gaits change to compensate for a joint gone bad.  In my case,  as chronicled in Wiggling My Toes, the problematic joint was that of my big left toe.  I recently took action to get it fixed -- as opposed to managed -- and yesterday marked the first time I've been out with my camera since my surgery.  It was also the first time I went out into the streets of NYC without a cane.  

Leaf Textures, Conservatory Garden, Central Park
Leaf Textures

Admittedly, I did not go far -- maybe walking about 15 blocks in total -- but it felt good to be out and about in one of my favorite spots, the Conservatory Garden in Central Park.  This gem is in the northern reaches of the park and I most often combine a trip there with a stop in the the mount (where old trees go to die) and a walk through the north woods.  It felt a bit like I was learning to walk all over again as I moved slowly, around the gardens checking out the flowers and textures that mark this time of year.  Some, not many, trees are starting to turn and I think fall will be in full swing in the next couple of weeks.  I can't say that I was scampering but I was back to exploring and capturing the world around me.  Slow but steady progress will get me back to a life without boundaries.  Or so I hope!

Leaves, Wide Angle, Central Park, Conservatory Garden
Who Needs Flowers (Wide Angle Fun)

New Toy on the Horizon
I have been perseverating about whether to make the switch to a full-blown DSLR for about six months now with an eye to acquiring a Canon or a Nikon using my AmEx points.  I had pretty much settled on a Canon (serious amateur photographer) but was still worrying about the additional weight of both the camera body and lenses and so had yet to purchase.   I have been shooting with the Olympus E-620 since 2010  -- it has a smaller internal sensor than a Canon or Nikon and also uses Micro four-thirds lenses which are smaller and lighter than the lenses for the other two lines.  Olympus has been my go to brand since I purchased my first all-in-one super zoom (520-Utz) back in 2007.  I had acquired the E-620 with AmEx points with the main goal of taking better pictures of waves!  Mission accomplished (see Big Waves).  Or at least accomplished until I want to take pictures like Clark Little.  That would require me to lose my innate fear of waves and also become a much stronger swimmer!

The E-620 does not do well in low light -- in fact it sucks which is why I'd been perseverating about going to a Canon or Nikon.  As all this mulling was going on (and those who know me well know that I can mull things over for an extraordinarily long time),  in the absence of actually being ready to purchase a new camera, I took a spin around the rewards site in search of a replacement for a lens that I had chipped at some point this summer (note to self, purchase filters for all lenses).  With two trips to big sky country this year (Arizona and Alaska) plus spending more time on the streets of Manhattan, I have been learning to use my 14-42 mm lens and was missing it.

Mums, Conservatory Garden, Central Park, NYC
Here Come the Mums

This morning, much to my surprise and delight, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (EM5) had joined the other cameras in the rewards offerings. This is mainly because Olympus has come out with a new camera in its OM line -- the OM-D E-M1 which is getting rave reviews but, alas, is not available with AmEX points.  After finding the camera, the biggest decision I had to make was whether to purchase it in silver or in black.  After much deliberation, I went with black (I am a New Yorker after all).

As to why I backed off the move to a Canon, it boils down to the additional weight and bulk of a full-sized DSLR and accompanying lenses. I've liked this camera -- a lot -- since getting it with AmEx points in 2009 (or was it 2010).   It does what I need it to do and the lenses don't take up  much space in my back pack when I'm traveling.  Nor are they too heavy to carry around on hikes or while trucking around NYC (while, maybe a little heavy to carry all the lenses but I usually just lug three).   My only complaint with Olympus has been in low light (mainly because I hate flash) and the EM5 fixes much -- but not all -- of that problem.  The EM5 is a mirrorless camera system which makes it even smaller than the E-620.

As for the lens that started the morning's search, my new camera comes with the M.Zuiko 12-50 mm lens which can double as a macro lens - potentially reducing my load even further.  i can still use all of the lenses I have for the E-620 and am thinking my next lens should be a fixed focal lens now that I'm spending more time in the streets as opposed to the gardens of NYC.

And, in a final plus (although I am not convinced I will do this) -- I will have two camera bodies that use the same lenses.  This is something I'd been wishing for because sometimes you just don't want to be constantly switching lenses to get the shot.

Lily Pond Reflections, Conservatory Garden, Central Park, NYC
Lily Pond Reflections

By the time the new camera arrives, I should be walking further than I am now.  And, maybe just maybe, I'll be ready to learn how to do some new tricks with it.  

Life is good.

About the Photos
The photos accompanying this post are from yesterday's walk in the Conservatory Garden.  And then there was the obligatory piece of metal as I exited the park that I had to stop and go back for -- despite an aching toe.  Because I didn't want to carry a lot of gear, I was using my Olympus 70-300 zoom lens with the camera's macro setting for some shots and also took a spin around the garden with the wide-angle (I am always amused by the photos that thing takes.  

Twist to Open, StandPipe (or Fire Hydrant, hmm?), Central Park, NYC
Twist to Open

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bending My Toes (and assorted random thoughts)

Fall Leaves, NYC 2012, Central Park
Fall Leaves - Central Park
I am making slow progress since posting about my post-operative adventures in Wiggling My Toes and Mourning the Corner Drugstore.   I can now actually bend my toe and the incision is almost healed.  It's going to leave a pretty awesome scar though.  Much of the progress is due to starting physical therapy (PT) and getting out of the surgical boot into a regular shoe.  I will admit that finding a regular shoe that works was quite challenging -- took two trips to two shoe stores but I was successful.  After a couple of false starts (including a pair of Merrell clogs that is just two big), i have two pairs that are big enough to accommodate the swelling in my left foot but not fall off of my right foot.  Of course, a couple of pairs of shoes for when my toe is all better followed me home.  Looking forward to wearing them.

I am still hobbling around with a cane -- more to let people around me know that there is a reason I am moving so slowly and to be careful when trying to scoot around me.  Fat lot of good it does although one woman did thank me when I moved out of her way to let her pass on a particularly narrow sidewalk.  I was afraid she was going to run me over!  Today, I was walking to the office from PT and I caught up to someone and got to pass him!  Another sign that progress is being made.  This weekend I may even go out for a spin in the park with my camera.

Pipes, NYC, Midtown
Pipes - NYC Midtown

I started this post without giving much thought to what i would write -- I just had the itch to write something that wasn't an email, memo, or report.  So, apologies if I seem to be meandering amongst topics.

Television:  Having gotten hooked on Once Upon a Time during my early recuperation (44 episodes in 1 1/2 weeks hooked to be exact), I am trying out Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.  It started a bit slow with Alice NOT in Wonderland but now she is there -- having been rescued from the insane asylum by the Knave of Hearts.  I am not sure if there is going to be enough texture to this show to keep me interested but there's not much else on from 8:00 - 9:00 on Thursday nights so I am giving it a whirl.   One hope I have is that Alice gets a better outfit at some point.  It seems shameful that the Queen of Hearts gets a luscious red ensemble and Alice is running around in her undergarments.  At least she remembered to grab her shoes.

Salto Chico Abstracted, Patagonia, Chile
Salto Chico Abstracted (Patagonia)

Of course I could be using the time to catch up on Breaking Bad.  I guess I was living under a rock when that series debuted -- so here I am fully 3 1/2 seasons behind just as the final episode of the series aired.  This is one of those shows where I always feel a bit self-conscious laughing.  It really shouldn't be funny when the acid bought to get rid of a body eats through everything and the tub comes tumbling down into the first floor hallway.   I shouldn't laugh.  But I did and I do.

Social Media:  The ban seems to have been lifted and I am back on Instagram (see @nel234: My Oh So Brief Love Affair with Instagram and @nel234: Instagram Update.  This is VERY exciting -- as in I would jump up and down with joy if it weren't for the recently re-engineered toe.  Instagram brings beautiful images to me on a daily basis.   Fingers crossed that I don't get kicked off again.

Brooklyn Bridge Cables, NYC
Brooklyn Bridge Cables - NYC

Books:  I am on a mini-break from my Game of Thrones marathon.  At some point during Book 4, I got tired of losing characters that I had come to love -- or at least like.  It's tough to always keep top of mind that characters to George R. R. Martin are a bit like scenery in a play -- flat, one dimensional set pieces that can be cast aside as soon as their part in the plot is done.  Or something like that.  So what did I pick up to read?  Well, the latest Daniel Silva book, The English Girl, had come out and so I sped through that.  Silva, unlike Martin, keeps his characters around for a very long time and I adore Gabriel Allon and his merry band of Israeli spies.  The story telling was perfectly timed and the ending quite satisfying.  Then I moved on to Daniel Brown's Inferno -- that one kept my attention although it suffered from a bit of "I know this could also be a movie" so I'll get a jump start on the screen play.  Then I had surgery and stopped reading!

About the Photos
Since I've been laid up, I haven't been out with my camera in a while and so these photos are from the archives with a general theme of patterns.

#Mnemba Driftwood, Tanzania
Mnemba Driftwood - Tanzania

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mourning the Corner Drug Store

Picture of Woman with Walker, East River, NYC
Out and About - East River
Have you noticed that the corner drug store is no longer a drug store?

Man with Walker, NYC
Out and About - West Side
OK, I confess, I noticed this a long time ago.  The big "chain drug" stores are my "go to" stores for a lot more than getting a prescription filled, buying band aids, or picking up a bottle of pain relievers.  I just hadn't given much thought to how poorly these emporiums serve the sick and injured until I was injured myself.  If you've read Wiggling My Toes, you know that I had a Cheillectomy on my arthritic big toe joint (aka Hallux Rigidus) just over two weeks ago.  The surgery went well and last Thursday my stitches came out.  More importantly, I could ditch the crutches for a cane.  I started back to work this week which has presented its own challenges -- I'm not elevating and icing my foot as much so my toe is a bit more swollen then I would like it to be at this stage.

Getting my stitches out also meant that I graduated to being allowed to get my foot wet (yay) and changing my own bandages (yech).  Hence the need to re-acquaint myself with pharmacy/first aid section of the chain drug store.  Only this time, I was hobbled by still being in a surgical boot and walking with a cane.  Plus, I had a very specific list of things I needed to buy.  If are having a  Cheillectomy and stumbled upon this blog while doing your research on "what to expect"  -- you might want to check out the supply list at the end of this post OR ask your surgeon the following question BEFORE your surgery and with ample time to shop:
  • Will I need to have any type of dressings or other supplies on hand for post-op wound care?
Actually, that's a pretty good question to ask before any surgery or procedure.

Central Drug Store, Former Home, Coronado Island, CA
Central Drug Store -
Former Home
OK back to the corner drug store issue.  A while back, I took a picture of the Coronado Island version of the corner drug store all shuttered and closed.  Alas, the Central Drug Store had followed on the heels of the Coronado Pharmacy -- closing due to rising rents and the influx of a second chain drug store  as an Orange Avenue neighbor.  In marched convenience and out marched another small business.

By the by, I don't necessarily dislike shopping at the big chain drug stores.  Being able to pick up sundry items in the store that is filling a prescription is efficient.   It cuts down on the time it takes to complete my errands and, when in the 'burbs, it can eliminate the need for a second parking space.  Which is a good thing as I hate parking and parking lots. 

So what's my beef?  Well, there's two actually after shopping at six of these emporiums over the last four days while on the hunt for wound care supplies:

  • #1:   It's a long walk from the front door of most so called drug stores to the actual pharmacy.  That's OK if you are healthy.  It can seem like a mile if you are not feeling well and like two miles if you are mobility challenged.  Particularly if the store has aisles too narrow to safely navigate with a walker or crutches.
Couple, Man with Walker, NYC
Out and About - Upper West Side 2
  • #2:  There is so little shelf space in these stores devoted to first aid supplies that they are all too often will not have what you need.  Case in point, it took three pharmacies to come up with "Kling" (A slightly sticky gauze wrap that goes on over your sterile gauze wrap.  Need something a bit more esoteric -- like, let's just say, Steri-Strips -- might as well go straight to Amazon and pay the shipping fee.  Because even if your local store has them (as one of my six did), they might not be able to sell them to you (seriously, this happened).  Weird, I know.
Frankly, I don't really get why the pharmacies have to be hidden in the back of the store.  Mercifully, one of the major chains (at least here in NYC) is fixing that -- moving the pharmacy to the front of the store and health care related over the counter supplies (OTC) closer to the entrance. They still suffer from an under stocking issue (gotta leave room for the make up and nail polish) but relocating the pharmacy to the front of the store is a step in the right direction.  Adding some more chairs for those of us who want to -- or need to -- wait for prescriptions to be filled would be good as well.  Let's hope others soon follow suit.

In the meantime, I miss the pharmacies of yore.

That promised list of supplies?  sterile gauze (4" wide), Kling (3" wide will do), Steri-Strips (the small ones and you might want to just go ahead and order these from Amazon), triple antibiotic cream.  But, really, you should talk to your surgeon before buying anything -- he or she is the best source of information.  

About the Photos
The photos in this post, are quick snaps of New Yorkers going about their daily business -- all with a little help from canes, walkers, and wheel chairs.  Oh, and a picture of the former home of Central Drug Store on Coronado Island.

Man in Wheel Chair, NYC
Out and About - Upper West Side III