Archive for August, 2008

Green Travelin’

My great-grandmother, Nan, died Tuesday night and the services were to be held this weekend in my hometown in Woodstock, NY.

Since I’ve been away every single weekend for the past 4 weekends and this being the last “official” weekend of the summer with Labor Day this Monday, I did not want to drive up to NY.

Instead I did the green thing. I took every possible mode of public transportation there is, sans a few.

In the morning, Leah and I started our 8+ hour trip up to New York state. It was a fun experience, and albeit a little stressful at the start, but easy sailing the rest of the way. The first thing Leah and I did, we took the Ride-On bus from outside where we live in Maryland to the local Metro station, Shady Grove.

We were supposed to take the subway to Metro Center to catch the Bolt Bus to NYC. Our Ride-On bus was supposed to be at our stop by 10:02am but did not arrive until more than 20 minutes later, of course, setting me into a panic mode. If we missed our 11:30am Bolt Bus, we would have to find another way up to NYC.

Side Note: This was the third time I’ve taken Bolt. And, it’s awesome! Bolt is owned by Greyhound (evident by the lettering on the cargo panel on the side of the bus), and I paid $24 for a one-way ticket for one person. Three-fourths of the seats are outfitted with 110v outlets and there is free WiFi on the bus! Yesterday the WiFi didn’t work, but I used our plugs to watch movies and to do work on my laptop. I highly recommend Bolt if you ever needed a cost-effective method of transportation up to NYC (or even to Philadelphia).

We barely made it to the Bolt Bus stop in DC outside the Metro Center station with seven minutes to spare! Sweating, we found seats. Boy, was Leah excited to be on a bus to see her “great-great-grandma, who’s dead.”

After 5 hours of driving (which seemed like an hour to me with no stress), mainly due to holiday weekend traffic, we arrived outside Penn Station/Madison Square Garden to meet my sister, Melanie. She lives in Queens and teaches 6th grade in Manhattan.

After a quick stop at Sbarro’s to eat a slice of pizza — not the NYC variety, mind you — we boarded the famed NYC subway red line #1 uptown. Then we boarded the purple #7 line to Grand Central Terminal to buy tickets for the Metro North train (NYC’s version of the DC region’s MARC/VRE lines).

We took the train 1.2 hours north to Poughkeepsie — the last stop on the train — to meet my brother, Trevor. He then drove the last one hour up to Woodstock.

The cost of the entire trip from DC to Woodstock?

Ride-on Bus: Free (with Metro disabled card)
Metro: $4.25 for the two of us
Bolt Bus: $48.50 for two tickets
Subway: $2.00 (Leah was free)
Metro North: $7.75 (with disabled card)
Total: $62.50

That’s equal to one tank of gas for our gas-guzzling SUV, along with the fact that we didn’t wear down our engine, oil, tires, and emitted no CO2.

Sure, the trip took a bit longer than it would have if we had drove directly, but I concur — we went into NYC. If we had drove up, we would have gone through northern NJ instead.

Aside from no airplane or ferry (or a boat), we took every possible public transportation there was to get to our destination and Mother Earth is grateful.

And I got a stress-free trip up where I could actually focus on my daughter instead of the asphalt.


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Bloggers have been quick to announce the conditions that are or were happening in China during the Beijing Olympics.

QueenAlpo here talks about a Chinese dancer who may be paralyzed from the waist-down and Chinese police roughing up an accredited British journalist.

Then this morning I read this AP wire report on ESPN.com about how the Chinese performers who dazzled us with the Opening Ceremonies were forced to rehearse for 16 hours a day, not allowed to leave their army barracks for two months, and even at one point rehearsed almost non-stop for 51 hours in rain and with only two meals.

Sure, it may look like I am sensationalizing the truth here, but it’s the truth nonetheless.

One of the performers, Cheng, explained that the movable type act required that the performers stay inside a 40 pound box for six hours at a time while wearing adult diapers.

Of course, my initial reaction was one of disgust, and I’m still disgusted by all of this.

China’s had a history, and still does, of censorship, supporting authoritarian regimes (think Myanmar and Sudan) and their pollution is worse than ours and their exploitation of human rights. They revoked the visa of Joey Cheek, an decorated Olympian who is the leader of the “Free Darfur” movement with more than 300 present athletes of the Olympics as members.

All of the information I’m reading about just dulls the Opening Ceremonies for me and the more I hear that leaks out of China makes me even more disgusted.

What saddens me is the attitude of Chinese performers, such as one who said:

“All the tears, the sweat, and sometimes even blood that we shed, I now think it was quite worth it,” said Ren Yang, 17, also of the Tagou school. “When we performed that night, all that I could feel in my heart was joy. Pure joy.”

Ultimate sacrifice that includes using an adult diaper? Sad.

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If anything, this image will define the Olympics for Michael Phelps.

This morning (China time) Phelps and his three teammates edged the French relay team in the 4×100 meter freestyle by eight-hundredths of a second.

That’s .800.

That’s like a fingernail length.

And the face Phelps put on, screaming like a madman, and his face “contorting and his muscles straining“.

That is the ultimate joy of the Olympics.

I like that picture so much.

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Two weeks ago Alli returned from a deaf yoga retreat.

At one point during the week where we were paging each other during the day (she had no computer/Internet access at the Ashram), she boldly declared that the Kaftan household would be microwave and plastic container-free.

Now, waitamin.

Decisions like that should be made jointly, don’t you think?

That’s exactly what I typed to her in my response. That kept it quiet until she came back after the retreat and after the customary hugging and kissing and “I missed yous” I asked what that was all about.

Of course, we all know about plastics and the chemicals they leech if they are heated to specific temperatures or the likes. I told Alli I would prefer to keep our plastics. We don’t have another viable solution to store food. There aren’t flat, rectangular or square glass containers that we know of.

But the microwave, I was willing to part with. In fact, two days after Alli arrived, the microwave went into the basement, ready to be recycled or given away to someone who wants to harm their health with microwaves (not the machine, the radiation waves).

Alli then explained some changes she would be making: no more chicken. Even if we’ve been telling people we’re vegetarians for the last 23 months, we do cheat sometimes. But after Alli found out what really happens to chickens, she vowed no more.

Plus aspartame, the artificial sweetener found often in diet drinks? It’s responsible for more than 20,000 deaths a year. Out the window went all of our diet drinks and other food sweeteners with aspartame.

But this one grossed me out. I’m sure it will for you too. You know how a lot of yogurts have fruit on the bottom? (Think Dannon.) The red food coloring? Yessir. Look at the title of the blog. It’s beetle blood!

Or better yet, look at the label of your yogurt next time. If it has carmine, chances are it’s beetle.

I’m definitely staying away from Dannon and other red-colored yogurt, unless it has other more natural food coloring, like red cabbage (yes, literally, the yogurt I bought from Whole Foods has red cabbage food coloring).

I think I can live with red cabbage rather than beetle blood.

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