Central New Jersey

Thursday Theme: Blurry

pom pom flowers
Today I visited Rutgers Gardens with my friend Hannah Katsman. I don’t know the name of these delightful purple flowers, but I nicknamed them pom pom flowers (maybe Gomphrena globosa). My photograph originally had more blur in front; I cropped out some of the front flowers. Now you can see more of the blur of the background flowers.

Hannah has a good eye, and thus twice we saw chipmunks. Chipmunks are quick and thus a subject for movement. His eyes were white from my flash, so I toned them down a bit with some brown. I hope it doesn’t look unnatural.

This was the other chipmunk we saw. Here we have a little more of our theme: as the chipmunk moves away, I get blur in my photo.

Thursday Challenge theme is: “BLURRY” (Unfocused, Moving, Foggy,…)
Next Week: LANDSCAPE (Mountains, Trees, Forest, Lake,…)

I’ll post more photos from today’s trip next week for Nature Notes. See an older post of Rutgers Gardens (or click the tag at the bottom for many Rutgers Gardens posts).

Seagulls at Point Pleasant Beach

seagulls at Point Pleasant beach in New Jersey
What a lot of seagulls we saw at Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey. My daughter was a bit frightened of how low they swooped while we sat on the beach. It was crowded with humans; I’m pretty sure there were more humans than seagulls, but that fact is debatable.

umbrella two seagulls at beach
What do you notice about the seagulls?

seagull by blanket
I couldn’t figure out when they wanted to hang out and when they preferred to fly about. There was a lot of both going on.

flying seagulls
A whole lot of flapping of wings and flying off in this photo.

jumping seagull
This seagull in the middle looks like he is jumping.

crowd of seagulls some flying
A crowd of seagulls do their thing, flying or flapping or hanging around.

seagulls in sky
And they are off: flying in the sky are the seagulls.

Thank you to this seagull for posing nicely for my camera.

There are more than just seagulls at Point Pleasant Beach. There are amusement rides, mini golf, arcades, a boardwalk, a fun house, lots of junk food being sold (at about 4 pm half the people I saw held an ice cream cone), and many beach umbrellas.

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Notes on Newark and Declining Cities

Avon Avenue Shul in Newark, now a church
Last week Rutgers Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life and the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy hosted a talk by Professor Kenneth T. Jackson on Newark’s Decline and Resurgence in the 20th Century. The talk was available via webcast to those watching from a distance. I managed to listen to much of the talk. My apologies to Prof. Jackson for any remarks I may have misinterpreted.

Professor Jackson spoke on the history of Newark, New Jersey and gave possible ideas for reviving the city in the near future. Newark is the largest city in New Jersey. Back in 1890-1900, said Professor Jackson, Newark leaders decided not to annex various neighboring areas when they had the opportunity. This meant that there is little room for larger single family homes in the city, and so when people wanted to own a house, they had to leave the city. The riots in the 1960’s signaled an end to the city’s prosperity, as people who would previously visit, for example, department stores in the downtown stopped doing so. Much of the city’s decline, he suggested, was due to choices of the leaders; he gave the example of Atlanta as a city that worked with African American leaders to keep the city safer and more economically stable. A similar city in decline would be Detroit. Professor Jackson didn’t have much good to say about Lewis Danzig, a city planner for Newark in the mid-twentieth century. Currently, the State of New Jersey pays for much of the Newark public school system, as the city itself can not afford to do so. He feels Cory Booker, the current mayor, is working hard for the city, and he hopes he will succeed.

Another failure in Newark history was poor land use control. Newark was home to various industries such as tanning, brewing and leather goods. Newark allowed factories to be located near neighborhoods. Agent Orange was manufactured in Newark.

Professor Jackson did not devote much time to Newark’s Jewish history, although he did share the slide of the shul that was converted into a church on the top of this post (see another New Jersey shul that is now a church). In the earlier half of the twentieth century, Newark had a vibrant Jewish community. My husband, who grew up by the Jersey shore, remembers old-timers talking about “Shabbos in Newark.”

At the end of the lecture on Newark and declining cities, Professor Jackson shared a few points about how Newark might be revitalized:

  • Newark’s crime rate is very, very high. In contrast, the crime rate in the Bronx has gone down. The crime rate needs to be taken under control.
  • The city should welcome gays and artists.
  • People need to be seen and walking around and not afraid to do so. If the public has the perception that crime is going down, it will help the crime rate go down. If you believe it is safe, it becomes safer.

One of his favorite suggestions for the revival of a city is sidewalk cafes – people get outside together in public in a social manner. He had many examples of cities that have declined and cities that have been revitalized – one he mentioned that experienced revitalization after a long, long period was Athens.

• • •

Are there declining cities where you live? Are there cities that experienced decline but now enjoy some revitalization? Finally, if you live in a part of the world far from New Jersey, have you ever heard of Newark?

Notes on Lecture with Dandelion and Periwinkle

dandelion and periwinkle
Dandelion and Periwinkle as seen in April 2013

This past week I was more than a little distracted by the news in Boston. I grew up in the Boston area – I used to go to the Boston Marathon as a child when it passed through Newton, cheering on the runners. I lived in Cambridge, worked at MIT and spent time in Watertown. I have many friends who live there. Despite my intense interest in the details, I have no desire to become a political blogger. I will refer you to the blog of my friend Daled Amos – he writes well, explains political topics if you want more information and has a background as a teacher. He often quotes other political bloggers.

I have hopes to write a Nature Notes post this week and maybe a recipe for rice salad. If not, they will show up next week. Meanwhile, a few notes of interest:

  • I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at Rutgers by Professor Maud Mandel on
    Muslims and Jews in France: Genealogy of a Conflict. In a tiny nutshell, her premise was to “question past monocausal explanations” (I believe she meant she was suggesting more than one cause). Her book is coming out in January 2014; here are a few of the causes she mentioned:
    1. Jews from Algeria made citizens of France; Muslims were not. (1870)
    2. North African Jews had welcome from established Jewish community; Muslims had no one, initially.
    3. In 1968, Maoists (a group of Leftists) tried to convince Algerian Muslims to side with Palestine. The Maoists equated Palestine with Vietnam. At first, it didn’t work, but later it caught on.
    4. For two years Muslims and Jews worked together on racism (SOS Racisme), but then that fell apart. (1984)

    Rutgers Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life hosts free lectures like this one in the spring and fall; see Public Events.

  • On The Prosen People blog of Jewish Book Council you can read the April Jewish Book Carnival.
  • I published an interview with marketing director David Rekuc: Blog Interview on Marketing, eCommerce and Edison, NJ. Looking to interview other central New Jersey business people, especially those who make good use of social media, websites and/or blogs.

Note about the photo: I love the combination of dandelions with all the purples of this season. I purposely left a few in my front yard, to complement the grape hyacinths, creeping phlox and purple deadnettle. The periwinkle/dandelion photo is actually in a yard a block from my home.

Birds at Philadelphia Zoo and Bird Migration, Too

McNeil Avian Center at Philadelphia Zoo - bird pattern
Bird pattern on door of McNeil Avian Center at Philadelphia Zoo

There is a wonderful educational movie about bird migration at the Philadelphia Zoo. You can see it in the McNeil Avian Center building. It stars a cartoon oriole named Otis. He is a funny yellow bird who starts off in Cape May, New Jersey talking to a heron. She tells him that he really can’t hang around in Cape May; he needs to migrate down to South America.

On the way he meets a lady oriole – she warns him not to fly down into what we know is a big city. Maybe the big city is in Texas. Otis is tempted by all the shiny lights. Bang! He flies right into a shiny, reflective tall building. He also finds out there is little food in this shiny, bright city.

It all ends happily – he makes it down to South America, finds the lady oriole, and at the movie’s end, they are building a nest together back in the north.

african starling at Philadelphia Zoo
At the avian center there is a section of African Savannah birds – this is an African Starling. Doesn’t look like the starlings we see in North America, does it?

Egyptian Plover
Another African Savannah bird: here is an Egyptian plover. An Egyptian plover has a black crown and underparts of pale orange. It was quite warm in this part of the avian center – I suppose all these African Savannah birds would prefer a climate warmer than that of Philadelphia.

black birds in tree
The black birds above were not part of any exhibit of birds at Philadelphia Zoo, but they were not afraid of the crowd at the zoo.

Peacock at Philadelphia Zoo
If you don’t watch where you are going at the zoo, you might run into a peacock.

bird on carousel at Philadelphia Zoo
Should I count this upside-down bird on the carousel as one of the birds at Philadelphia Zoo?

female cardinal eating at bird feeder
I learned at the bird migration movie that cardinals, unlike orioles, do not migrate. So if I keep feeding the cardinals in my backyard, maybe they will stick around all summer.

• • •

What do the birds in your area do? Do they hang around all winter or do they migrate? Do you know? How could you find out?

Review at the Zoo with Giraffes

giraffes at Philadelphia Zoo
Two giraffes at the Philadelphia Zoo

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

  • Michelle is recovering from breast cancer surgery, and she is blogging about … taking care of herself by resting.
  • Lorri has been reading and reviewing books. I hope to read this book called Triumph and Tragedy about life in Poland and its Jewish communities.
  • Stuck on what to blog about? Jeri has an exercise that might help.
  • Just because you read a study in a well-known newspaper does not mean it is a well-done study: Chris Kesser talks about confounding factors in this article on Red Meat and TMAO. “The healthy user bias is one of the main reasons it’s so difficult to infer causality from epidemiological relationships. For example, say a study shows that eating processed meats like bacon and hot dogs increases your risk of heart disease. Let’s also say, as the healthy user bias predicts, that those who eat more bacon and hot dogs also eat a lot more refined flour (hot dog and hamburger buns), sugar and industrial seed oils, and a lot less fresh fruits, vegetables and soluble fiber. They also drink and smoke more, exercise less and generally do not take care of themselves very well. How do we know, then, that it’s the processed meat that is increasing the risk of heart disease rather than these other things—or perhaps some combination of these other things and the processed meat?”

Review with Edison Train Station Mural

Edison Train Station mural
Mural at the train station in Edison, New Jersey

We were picking up a friend last week, and I spotted this mural of a river. I call it the Edison Train Station Mural. I am guessing the river depicted is the Raritan River. See what happens when you bring your camera on small local trips? I never noticed the mural before. I decided to do a quick Google search, and guess what? The mural is by Katherine Hackl of Katherine Hackl Pottery & Tiles.

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

  • Ilana-Davita has a weekly review, and in the weekly review she links to the recent JOFA journal. I open the journal (a pdf), and what do I find but a nice article about Eva Oles, z”l, of Highland Park who passed away earlier this year (I didn’t even know she had died until I was sitting shiva for my father – I was a little distracted). It is written by Roselyn Bell, whom I know as Rosie. Thank you, Rosie, for the sweet words.
  • Lorri has a review of the book Nehama Leibowitz: Teacher and Bible Scholar by Yael Unterman. Years ago I wrote a short post on an essay by Yael Unterman.
  • The March Jewish Book Carnival is on Ann Koffsky’s blog.

Covered Girl Clothing Sign

Covered Girl Clothing sign
The theme for Thursday Challenge is SIGN (Commercial, Traffic, Funny,…), so I decided to highlight a favorite store in Highland Park, New Jersey. I have bought a fair amount of clothing for my daughter this year at this Covered Girl Clothing shop. Recently, we bought her a black skirt so she could dress as Mary Poppins for Purim. I have bought nothing for myself this past year, as my father died in October, and it is Jewish custom not to buy new clothes for one year after a parent dies, in memory of the parent. The owner is quite friendly; you can enjoy chats with her while you shop the dresses, skirts and blouses.

In an unrelated news (or perhaps it is related, as everything is connected, no?), we had the first meeting our newly-formed artist group today. A few of us got together at my home, talked about art, and sketched together. I’ll write more about that soon, in a separate post.

Tufted Titmouse and Blue Jay

tufted titmouse
A tufted titmouse enjoyed the bird feeder I refilled two days after Hurricane Sandy came and went. I am rather burnt out of talking about post-storm problems, but in quick summary, most of Highland Park now has its power restored. We had wonderful utility workers from Florida who did much of the fixing (PSE&G was maxed out – I understand nearby Edison had workers from Ontario, Canada). So thank you, Florida and Canada. A few homes reportedly did not yet have power, but they’ve been promised fixing by today. We shall see. Meanwhile, back to the birds.

Sandy Storm titmouse

I was pleased to photograph a bird new to me – thank you, Michelle, for identifying the tufted titmouse.
tufted titmouse by the bird feeder

blue jay bird feeder

I’ve been seeing more blue jays recently than I have in the past. No signs of cardinals right now.
blue jay in bird feeder

Help yourself, Mr. Blue Jay.
blue jay by bird feeder

I will try my best to continue filling my bird feeder through the winter.

Noreaster and Power Outages

Hurricane Sandy continues her wrath, even after her winds are long gone. Many in our area suffer power outages: Highland Park, New Brunswick, Piscataway, East Brunswick. Power was restored to some after a week, only to be “taken away” after the latest noreaster (storm of a bit of snow and wind that otherwise would just be a bothersome pain) showed up.

A few photos from the past week:
Abbott Street
A unmarked vehicle guards the house on Abbott Street with the tree wrapped with lives wires.

PSE&G truck
Previously, the trucks would be regular PSE&G vans. But it seems for guarding live wires, they need the vans elsewhere, so now we get these unmarked cars instead. Do you think they will change that motto about ‘Worry Free’? Worry full seems more like a proper description for our area. For the last two days we had a water boil advisory as well and a threat of losing water completely; that one got lifted earlier today.

house on Abbott Street
Here’s another photo of the tree on the top of the house on Abbott which seems to causing many problems in our area. Our library and high school are closed, and too many house have no power.

Looking down Abbott Street
Lots of yellow police tape when you look down Abbott. The live wires are supposedly quite dangerous, so you don’t want to walk near them.

north tenth
Other parts of our borough still have no power, like North Tenth. If you think we don’t have first responders like police and fire showing up, you are wrong – they have been very on site and helpful. Problem is they can’t fix live wires. Nor can tree people.

north ninth
A tree fell on this house on North Ninth Avenue. When I walked by later, the tree was gone, and the roof was patched. They are fortunate that the tree hit no wires.

stop sign on seventh
I hope our neighborhood doesn’t continue to look like this much longer. Greetings recently: “Got power?” “Did you lose power (again)?” “Need an outlet, a warm cup of tea or some wifi?” “Got a plug on your porch?”

Ways to help the too many victims of storm (locally in Central New Jersey):

I was going to finish this post earlier, but we lost power (again) for an hour. Seems the fixit guys are better at breaking the power than fixing it. Hope I don’t post more about a noreaster and power outages. I did photograph some photos of birds earlier this week – possibly for next week’s Nature Notes.

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