2 Month Survival Prize: My Norfolk Island Pine

Just before Christmas, I was in Trader Joe’s in Edgewater, NJ, getting groceries and I saw that they had small Norfolk Island pine trees for sale. We have a small apartment and we didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting a real tree for Christmas, so we got a fake 3-foot tree that I could stuff back into a box and put away once the holiday was over. It’s not really the same, though, and I wanted something evergreen in the house, so I bought one of the Norfolk Island pines.

Plants in a Raskog utility cart from Ikea
Plants in a Raskog utility cart from Ikea

It’s really small. There are actually five different plants, all planted close together. It doesn’t have a very strong pine smell. At first, I was disappointed by that, but if I’m going to keep the pines all year long, that’s probably a bonus. The smell of evergreen tree might get old after a while, like using the same air freshener in your car for too long.

Before last summer, I’d only had two cacti as plants. The first died when I went to basic training for the Army in 1998 and I forgot to ask someone to water it. The second died in 2013 because the apartment we were in just didn’t get enough light and I wasn’t savvy enough to know about plant growing lights and little plant aquariums for succulents. I wanted to make our current apartment more green, though, both to improve the air quality and to try to connect our concrete-jungle life to nature in some small way. Besides our cats, that is. So, I picked up a vine plant that I already forgot the name of but seems pretty hardy and does well in low. I got three stalks of lucky bamboo. And, the Norfolk Island pine was our latest addition.

The vine and bamboo are pretty hardy. I feel like I’d have to try hard to kill them. I wasn’t sure the pine tree was going to make it though, especially since there isn’t that much light during the winter here. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see it still hanging on at the beginning of this month. I decided to commit to the plant and got a new pot, good potting soil, a clamp lamp and a grow bulb to offset the low winter light.

I think it looks great. One of these days, if we decide to buy a house, maybe I’ll be able to plant it in the ground. I wonder how fast they grow?

Veterans Day Free Meal Menu at Olive Garden

A Shout Out to Olive Garden and Starbucks for Veterans Day Offers

Every year that I’ve been in the United States on Veterans Day I’ve had the opportunity to get freebies from various companies when dining out. For example, Olive Garden offered a free entree and Starbucks offered a free tall (small) plain coffee for veterans. I took advantage of both. There are other sites that have lists of what restaurants offered this year, though. That’s not really the point of this post.

I was just thinking about how great it is that as a veteran these companies are willing to recognize my military service by giving me something for free. Granted, people who serve in the military are essentially putting themselves at risk to preserve the U.S. way of life, including its economy, in theory, and are protecting these businesses as a result, but that doesn’t obligate them to offer discounts or free meals.

I suppose I’m a pessimist. You almost have to draw blood to get wages raised to what constitutes a living wage. Companies cut corners by putting yoga mat material in their so-called meat patties to increase profits. So, to see a company just putting stuff out there for veterans for free still surprises me every year.

This post is basically just a big thank you to those companies and especially to Olive Garden and Starbucks since I’ve gone to those establishments nearly every year on Veterans Day. Thanks!

Lower Manhattan Skyline

What did Saipov actually accomplish with his truck attack?

8 Dead as Truck Careens Down Bike Path in Manhattan in Terror Attack

A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11.

I really don’t understand what the point of this was. If the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 had no lasting impact on New York City, then why run people over with a vehicle? Sure, I’m aware of the whole “we can strike at any moment, you can’t live your lives normally, woooaahahahah” plan, but does it really even work? Is anyone actually going to just shut their apartment door and never go outside again because of this attack? Is New York City going to come to a screeching halt? Of course not.

So really, what was the point of running over some bicyclists? About two dozen families have been directly affected. The rest of the city will pause for a few days and then continue moving. I don’t say that to downplay the scope of the tragedy for those families. Their lives will never be the same and my heart goes out to them. But, what was done wasn’t significant enough to change anything about how the average New Yorker goes about their day.

Furthermore, what was really the point of stepping out of a truck with a pellet gun and a paintball gun? Was this guy a moron or was he hoping to get martyred? Maybe that’s what this was really about. This guy was probably leading a mediocre life or felt like he was being treated unfairly in some way, and to compensate for that and increase his own sense of self-worth he committed himself to engaging in an act that he hoped would lead to his martyrdom. At least then his value would be recognized by someone. Maybe he wanted to die and that’s why he jumped out of the truck with what he hoped the NYPD would mistake for real firearms.

What kind of picture would that paint though? The heroic martyr, going into battle with the NYPD with a pellet gun and some paintballs. What a joke.

Sayfullo Saipov, the moron who was driving the truck, isn’t special because he attributed his nonsense to some dying political ideology in the Middle East. He isn’t a martyr. He’s a clown. And now, if he doesn’t die from the gunshot wound he received and deserved, he’s going to spend the rest of his life in jail where, if there’s any justice in the world, his fellow inmates will work him over regularly for the rest of his life.

The SN. John K. Morris and Sgt. David Gonzalez Veterans Hot Dog Stands at the Met

Supporting Veterans on Memorial Day with Hot Dogs

My wife and I met friends who are visiting from the Philippines at the Metropolitan Museum of Art today. We got there early and we hadn’t had anything to eat for lunch, so we were checking out the food carts along 5th Avenue. Last night we were talking about Nathan’s hot dogs at Coney Island so I was thinking about getting a Nathan’s hot dog at their cart in front of the museum.

As we were walking down the block, my wife pointed out a hot dog stand run by veterans (there was only one there when we arrived, but I took the photo as we were leaving in the evening). I’d seen it before, but I had never stopped to take a look at it. I almost kept walking, but it’s Memorial Day, so I figured I’d see what the cart was all about. The Sgt. David Gonzales cart had some information on the window that says the cart is owned by veterans and employs disabled veterans. The cart was named after a US Marine who was killed in action in 1970.

We liked the idea of supporting a business that supports veterans in a tangible way, especially on today of all days, so we decided to get hot dogs there. While the lady behind the counter was preparing our food, I asked her what branch she served in. She said she was in the Marines. I told her I was in the Army. We talked about the military for a few minutes and when it came time to pay, she insisted that the hot dogs were on her. I really appreciated the thought, but slipped some cash into her tip box when she was helping the next customer anyway.