Tag Archives: sun

Hiking at Sylvan Glen

IMG_0911Spring is in the air! I had a fantastic time hiking at the Sylvan Glen preserve yesterday. This interesting little preserve is in Westchester county near the Putnam county border. It’s close to Yorktown. I hiked about 4 miles with the hiking group I was with, which didn’t include any joggling since I did that earlier in the day and I didn’t want to distract anyone.

IMG_0941You can get fantastic views in some spots within the park, but be careful. The trails in this park can get very steep in some spots, so you need to be in good shape to make your way through.

IMG_0942The area near the gorge was once an important quarry. It has been abandoned for several decades, but there are still big piles of rock all over the place.

IMG_0961Sylvan Glen also has one of the oldest trees for miles around. This tree is several centuries old. It is probably a white oak, judging by the leaf litter around the tree. It’s been said by some arborists that oaks specialize in not specializing – hence, they grow almost everywhere. I hope this tree survives for another thousand years.

IMG_0974You know its spring when skunk cabbage(Symplocarpus foetidus) starts peaking through the ground. In the north-eastern U.S, it is very often the first green you will see in early spring/late winter. And yes, the plant does live up to its name.

It is an amazing plant due to its ability to produce a lot of heat. According to Craig Holdrege at the Nature Institute:

A couple of times I’ve been lucky enough to see spathes growing up through a thin layer of ice, the ice melted around the spathe in a circular form. This is an indication of skunk cabbage’s remarkable capacity to produce heat when flowering. If you catch the right time, you can put your finger into the cavity formed by the spathe and when you touch the flower head, your finger tip warms up noticeably. Biologist Roger Knutson found that skunk cabbage flowers produce warmth over a period of 12-14 days, remaining on average 20° C (36° F) above the outside air temperature, whether during the day or night. During this time they regulate their warmth, as a warm-blooded animal might!

Skunk cabbage is at best marginally edible if you boil it in 10 changes of water and leave it to dry for a few days. In other words, don’t bother. Native Americans would only eat it when nothing else was available.

If you try to eat it raw or with only a little cooking, the oxalic acid(partially responsible for the plant’s smell) crystals in the leaves will make you feel like you are having holes burned in your tongue.

What is oxalic acid? Oxalic acid is a powerful anti-nutrient that can block the absorption of calcium, iron and other important minerals. Although spinach(and some other vegetables) doesn’t have as much oxalic acid as skunk cabbage, it still has a significant amount. This is one of the reasons I don’t eat much spinach(I prefer kale and cabbage), and strongly advice others to avoid juicing spinach. Cooking spinach can reduce its oxalic acid content, but it won’t eliminate it.

IMG_0955The hike ended just after sunset. I had a great time with some very fun people, although we didn’t get to see much wildlife.

Life is a ball

On this blog, I have restricted myself to saying how wonderful, and life-affirming juggling is, until now. It is now time to discuss the dark side of juggling. Perhaps the biggest negative is that when you are a juggler, you run the risk of developing a mental illness called “sphairaphilia”. What is “sphairaphilia”? It is an obsession with balls and spherical objects. I coined the term myself(I even Googled it first to see if it was already being used), from the Greek words “sphaira” for “ball” or “sphere” and “philia”, for “love”.


People with this obsession generally want to either play or juggle any round objects they encounter. I admit I have this condition. Everywhere I go, balls call out to me – “Juggle me!”, “Juggle me!”. Of course this isn’t always possible or appropriate.

As tempting as it is, I don’t juggle those expensive ornamental type balls I see at antique stores or Pier 1(or rather I do it very rarely). Maybe if I was Bill Gates or Warren Buffett I would, since I could break a million of them and it really wouldn’t matter how much they cost. I do, however, often juggle fruit at grocery stores and supermarkets, and have so far managed to not get myself into trouble.

Another symptom of this illness is sadness over the inability to juggle certain really big balls. The earth, for instance, is a giant spherical object – a really big ball! Although I live on it, I unfortunately cannot juggle it. Or any other planet, for that matter. Archimedes, the ancient Greek mathematician and engineer once said “Give me a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth.”

Perhaps I am a bit more ambitious than Archimedes, but I love to think that: “Give me but a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall juggle the earth, and mars and venus”. Maybe we are related, I am of Greek origins after all.

From my usual vantage point, I can’t see that the earth is a giant sphere, but there is another giant ball I often see(through dark sunglasses) while I joggle outside – the sun. How I wish I could reach out and grab it and juggle it. But it is 93 million miles away. And it’s a big ball of fiery gas, a giant nuclear fusion reaction – billions of tons of hydrogen getting converted to billions of tons of helium every minute and in the process, releasing so much heat and light that we can feel it across the solar system. There wouldn’t be any life at all on the ball called earth without the ball of gas we call the sun.

The sun itself is just one of countless stars in the entire universe. There are between 10^22 and 10^24 stars (between 10 sextillion and 1 septillion stars) in the entire universe. That is an incredibly huge number! And yet I will never be able to juggle any of them, not even any dwarf stars.

God, or the universe or whatever you want to call it gets to juggle all these stars, and planets and meteors. How I envy this! And manages to do so entirely within the laws of physics, as far as we can tell. Even the planet we are currently living on is getting juggled, it is revolving around the sun and the sun itself is moving through the universe within our galaxy.

The same laws of physics that I work with while juggling are the same rules that apply to all the stars, planets, and other objects getting juggled throughout the universe. The balls I use may be plastic, but it’s all part of the same glorious game. The elements in the plastic, the carbon and everything else were once inside of giant stars billions of years ago;  so was the matter that is now the planet earth and all life. It really is true that we are all made of stardust. So I am juggling parts of stars after all.

There is no cure for sphairophilia. Even though you will be super-obsessed with balls, and stars, you will more than make up for this by being super-fit, and being super-coordinated. You will also realize just how small we are, in the grand scheme of things.

If you want to get fit and stay fit, it helps to have a well-rounded fitness routine. Have a ball!