I went to the Joint Base Andrews Air Show today. It was awesome. There were lots of planes to view on the ground, but unfortunately you couldn’t enter all of them. Then there were incredible air shows demonstrations and acts in the air, appropriately. My only criticism is that the air show was already going to be causing air pollution because, well, planes, but then there was smoke that just seemed to be gratuitous air pollution cause by things on the ground. What can I say, I am an environmental engineer.
Newtown Creek is a natural creek that now resembles more of an industrial waterway and serves as a divider between Brooklyn and Queens in New York. I recently got a boat tour of it through Open House NY with superb guides from Newtown Creek Alliance and was able to see all the industrial facilities that are on it as well as a few places where its natural state is peaking through. Newtown Creek is heavily polluted because of New York City’s combined sanitary wastewater and stormwater system, which has led to untreated wastewater flowing into the creek during heavy rain events, and also industrial pollution, which has led to it being a Superfund site. A trip down Newtown Creek is almost history lesson down NYC’s past with some historic sites still visible like an old Standard Oil building. More modern parts of NYC also lie on the creek, most famously the newly redesigned and rebuilt Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and its eight stainless steel digester eggs.
I got the chance to tour New York City’s brand new Hamilton Avenue Marine Transfer Station. It is scheduled to open next year and is located on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. It will be the transfer point for household waste from ten Brooklyn community boards. It is the first marine transfer station there. All other waste is moved on trucks and rail. It is very impressive. Once operational, it will operate 24 hours a day and six days a week (no Sundays). Currently waste from the area goes to waste to energy incinerators. There will be 12 sanitation workers per shift plus one supervisor.
Trucks enter the building and are first weighed on a scale.
Once inside the building, the trucks back up to the edge of the floor and lower their trash onto the mixing floor below.
Front loaders and other equipment on the floor below are used to push the waste through openings in the floor into containers waiting below the mixing floor.
The openings in the mixing floor are only as big as the standard containers that will accept the waste. The station aims to put 20 tons of waste in each container.
Once the container is full, equipment is then used to place a top on the waste container.
The containers are moved the loading area to the topping area to the storage area on rails.
Cranes that are also on rails are used to move the containers from the building to stacking areas to finally the barge.
There are two cranes, but for safety, only one is used at a time. The other one is a backup during maintenance.
I have been a member of the NY Transit Museum for a couple of years now, and they always have fun excursions. Some of the excursions, you probably have to be a transit geek to fully appreciate though. Anyway, today I took one of their nostalgia rides. It started in Grand Central Terminal where we boarded a vintage WWI rail car. We then went all the way down to the end of the 6 line, which is the Brooklyn Bridge station, then took the loop through the Old City Hall subway station, and came back up to our final destination of Pelham Bay Park station. There we boarded vintage buses to either Orchard Beach Park or City Island. We spent a couple of hours there before heading back to our vintage rail car and back to Grand Central Terminal.
The destinations were nice, and the ride was so much fun. The train and buses were in great condition. Honestly they were in better condition than some of the modern ones in which I have ridden. Since the journey was supposed to be part of the fun, they slowed down as we went by a few abandoned subway stations including the Old City Hall station. With the exception of the Old City Hall station, which they keep in good condition for tours, the other abandoned stations were completely abandoned and filled with graffiti and sand bags and debris. They also let people stand in the front and take photos out the front window, but I actually got better photos on a previous trip with them. Of course I still love looking.
Another wonderful thing about this trip was people’s reactions. My guess would be that about 80% of the people in the subways didn’t even see that a rather different train was going by or did see and didn’t seem to think much of it. Most of the rest would either look at the train with a rather confused look of “what is that?” or would quickly grab their camera and smile. There were a few people who are evidently transit fans and knew we were coming and were already set up with still and video cameras and some even with tripods. There was at least one at every aboveground station we went through, and there also some on the ground to get photos of the buses. As a certifiable geek and nerd, I can completely relate and and admire them. Then there were the MTA employees who seemed to be just as excited about the vintage train and buses as we were. They took as many photos as we did. This included workers repairing tracks who stopped what they were doing, took photos, and waved at us (see photo below). I am not even sure why we all get so excited about these vintage vehicles. Maybe it is because nothing mechanical or electrical seems to last that long anymore, so we are all excited by the things that do.
For the past couple of years or so, the National Building Museum puts on some big, really fun exhibit during the summer. Last year, it was a giant maze that was a blast to go through. This year, they built a giant ball pit called The Beach DC where everyone can pretend they are five years old again. On Wednesdays, it is open late, and at that time it is also a happy hour, a thing that DC does really well. The Beach DC is the best people watching. Watching men and women in business outfits play in a ball pit is quite frankly really entertaining. Watching adults create “ball storms” is also hilarious.
Also, I went in a couple of times, and I now want to study the physics of trying to move through a giant ball pit. There is serious friction and other forces trying to stop your movement. I seriously have started trying to consider the forces. The balls all have friction against each other and you.
Finally a 45 second slide show of still photos of people playing in the ball pit.
The Istanbul Archaeological Museum was undergoing renovation when we went, so I don’t think we saw all the different exhibits they have. It also was that part of the time I was there I felt like I was walking through a rat maze. In any event, it has some really nice exhibits. However my favorite part was actually the Tiled Kiosk next door. I find the name amusing because when I hear kiosk, I think of a little booth in the mall with someone trying to sell cell phone accessories or some pillow that is going to solve all my health problems. The Tiled Kiosk is pretty though and has walls covered with tile, stained glass windows, and other art.
The Basilica Cistern is without a doubt one of the coolest, human made places I have ever been. I don’t think you need to be an engineering nerd like myself to find the place to be really neat. It is an underground cistern built in 532 A.D. It is a wonderful example of engineering and was used to store water. Now it is a tourist attraction complete with a cafe. Yes, there is a cafe, and in my opinion, it would be only more perfect if it was a Starbucks simply because they are everywhere. The cistern was featured in the James Bond movie ‘From Russia With Love.’ Two of the columns have Medusa heads as bases, possibly because they fit and were available. There is still water in it below the walkways, and fish live there. They were introduced to keep the water clean.
Hagia Sofia is an amazing piece of architecture and art. It was a church that became a mosque that became a museum. The interior is covered with beautiful stone panels, carved stone, mosaics, and painted plaster. Much of the mosaics were covered with plaster and then painted centuries ago, but the revealed mosaics are intricate and beautiful. The painted plaster is quite beautiful also. The stone panels demonstrate the beauty of natural stone. Besides the actual decorative interior, the actual architectural form of the building with all its domes and arches is gorgeous and also amazing from an engineering standpoint. Considering the age of the building and the number of earthquakes the area has suffered, it is amazing that the building is still standing. Some earthquake damage can be seen such as a leaning column in a photograph below.
While in Istanbul, our tour group visited the famous Blue Mosque. It is gorgeous. The exterior is beautiful, but the interior is even more beautiful. The interior is arches upon arches upon domes. Most of the interior is covered with gorgeous mainly blue and white tile, which gives the mosque it’s name.
While our tour group was in the Ephesus area, we visited a rug making co-operative. The members make rugs by hand. The rugs are beautiful and intricate. They walked us through the process of how they make and dye the threads and then make the rugs. I rather liked the place because the person who was showing us all the steps readily admitted that the exhibits were for the tourists. They dye the threads elsewhere, but I like honesty in tour guides.
First they take silk cocoons and pull the strands out of them.
They dye the various threads using natural material. The wool is easier to dye than the silk.
They make the rugs on looms. Turkish rugs differ from all other rugs because they use a double knot. I couldn’t understand anything else they were doing other than that the person making the rugs has to count threads and follow a pattern the entire time.
They then showed us rugs in many different styles. They were all gorgeous.