HOBBIES Feed

Retired CSI cop, "Crazy Ed" sells plants outside his home

After 40 years in the police department Avon "Crazy Ed" Wilson now sells plants outside his home on Chew Ave in Germantown. He had seen enough murder and war in the last twenty of his police years working in CSI. Now, four years running, he's been doing "something nice" for the neighbors. He buys plants at Home Depot and Produce Junction and makes arrangements of them in pots. He will bargain with customers but not if they disparage his plants. Wilson's not out to make a profit because he has a pension but tries to break even nonetheless. With his steady customers he tells a running joke: "The thing about my plants - you can't eat 'em and you can't smoke 'em."

Watch video interview here.


How Lego conquered the toy industry brick by brick

Legos - it's about the brick

The Lego Company has been fantastically successful. In each of the last 5 years sales have risen 24% and profits, 40%. But it was not always so. For most of its 80-year existence, its reach did not extend so far beyond Billun, Denmark, where Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter unable to secure enough wood to build furniture during the 1930s depression, began experimenting building wooden toys.

The company under Christiansen’s progeny soared in the last couple decades but tie-in products to the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies nearly doomed the company in 2003; sales of those products crashed when the movie franchises hadn’t yet come out with new films.

This, according to Wharton Professor Dave Robertson and former LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at Switzerland's Institute for Management. Robertson, a Chestnut Hill resident, discussed his new book, “Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry” at the William Jeannes Library in Lafayette Hill this past Thursday evening.

He began his slide talk by distributing baggies, each packed with the identical same six logo pieces, and instructed the audience to “Build a duck” and gave us only a minute or two. Participants then brought their “ducks” up to the front table. At the end of the talk, Robertson pointed to the wide variation of these Lego “ducks” as evidence that incredible creativity is possible even when severe constraints are imposed, a major thesis of his book.

He credits Lego Company’s resurgence to its imposition of key constraints: drastically reducing the number of parts (about 14000 different ones at peak) that had made the manufacturing process unwieldy, getting back to products that are more “Lego-y” and subjecting product proposals to the approval a committee of 3 seasoned Lego designers. And, ultimately, insisting that projected profitability be a constant constraint.

What Lego pioneered was not just a toy, Robertson maintains, but a system of play. And that system “is about the brick.”

Watch video here.


Night geocaching at Andorra Natural Area

Night geocaching

Scenes from the video featuring Wen-Young and his son Manny of Plymouth  Meeting, PA.

“That’s what we’re looking for- the waypoints”

“It’ll say the gecoache is that way but the trail goes this way or this way.”

“We won’t send you through the woods bushwhacking”

Destination- “Soggy Bottom” at the troll bridge

Garmin device accidentally restarts

Device  now says ready to navigate

On the trail to the cache

“It must be around here”

“Found it!”

What’s inside the cache which is a canteen?

Is it a toy toilet or a stamp out of ink?

No, it’s a star punch to punch our paper to prove we found it.

Another group arrives at Soggy Bottom

Excitement back at campfire

Night geocaching with Wen-Young and Manny

“How was your first geocache experience?”

----  >

“Sweet. Marshmallow- sweet, get it?”

Found 6 caches!

Credits the gps device and the help of friends.

Watch video here


Vaulting bride and groom sculpted by blind uncle

Vaulting couple marries

Michael Gieschen, left

Because Mike Gieschen’s niece met her fiancée while competing at vaulting event, a passion they share, the blind artist decided to create a wedding gift depicting their shared hobby. (Vaulting is essentially the striking of gymnastic poses atop a horse).

Constructed of celluclay and smoothed with joint compound, built over a wire and paper armature, a male and female couple are shown, each standing on one leg atop a horse with an arm around the other’s waist, the other arm extended horizontally forward and the other leg extended horizontally back as if they were flying. Taking artistic license, not knowing whether this is an actual vaulting pose, Gieschen, in this work, expresses his hope that the newlyweds will soar together and happily in their new life together. The couple marries today

watch video here


We Freecycle recycle bookcase

Picks up a boocase courtesy of NWPhillyFreecycle

Amy Hsu came by our house in her car to pick up a tall bookcase. She had seen my post on the popular Northwest Philly Freecycle website, where people give and get things –for free!  

Bookcase - tall, narrow, brown - needs shelves

I had trash-picked the sturdy bookcase just a couple days before but then realized I could not use it as planned.   Hsu says her husband may use it for his beer brewing containers and supplies.  Hsu is an enthusiast of the free online exchange. Through notices on the website she recently gave away a couch and a chair and dug up a plant from an offeror’s yard. She likes when she gets “repeats” like the woman who had given her cinderblocks who, thinking of her grandkids, responded to Hsu's offer of stuffed animals.

NW Philly Freecycle, a moderated website, was launched in 2004 by Meenal Raval and the Mount Airy Greening Network (MAGNET) as an offshoot of the citywide Philly Freecycle. It boasts over 5000 members and in April alone hosted 610 posts, a combination of “Offer”, “Wanted”, “Taken” and “Curb Alerts” for all kinds of household items imaginable.

Watch video here.


Playing bluegrass, watching raptor migration

watching hawks playing bluegrass

Kate Somerville was a long time birder before banjo playing took over and decided to combine her two interests by bringing some musician and bird loving pals from the Mermaid Inn to jam at the Militia Hill Hawk Watch. This is the 25th year of the hawk watch. Volunteers count raptors, by species, migrating south for the winter. According to Marylea Klauder, they had already counted nearly one hundred bald eagles and a record-breaking twenty plus thousand migrating raptors by the time this video was taken in late September. Counting continues until the end of October, along with impromptu concerts, weather permitting.  Fort Washington State Park. Watch video here.

cu hawk watch bluegrass3

Keeps Kenyan farming tradition alive in Philadelphia

Kenya farm tradition to Philadelphia

Watch video interview here. Joseph Mbura, a chemistry and math teacher at the W.B. Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia has loved gardening since his boyhood days in the Kenyan countryside where crops were grown both for food and a source of income.  He started a small organic garden on a section of the school’s spacious grounds to show his students that they, too, can grow their own food. He raises a traditional black bean plant for its succulent leaves which then gets steamed and mixed with onions, tomatoes and spices in a beef or chicken stew. In another plot he has just cleared he will grow “chinsaga,” another green. By Mbura’s side is his daughter Daisy who has her own garden at home and cradled in his arm, his younger daughter, Lily, who he hopes will follow the growing tradition.


York Pa. County Fair - Fun Times!

In a whirlwind day at the York County Fair in York, PA, I did several video interviews and videoed some events, as we wound our way about the fairgrounds. In roughly chronological order we encountered:

  • For more than 50 years these model circus builders, certified circus enthusiasts, have been practicing their craft of creating miniature, animated models of actual circuses like the 1954 Ringling Brothers Circus
  • A pigeon breeder has long enjoyed what he calls a relaxing hobby and is hoping that the "roller" he is entering into competition will have the requisite silky feathers, firm feel, pretty eyes and overall good looks to take home a prize
  • The "Procrastinators" are a troupe of three drummers,out of San Diego who wander the fairgrounds and stage impromptu performances using common objects like water cooler bottles and kitchen pans. They enliven their act acrobatic flairs and frequent dashes of humor. They work for gotdrummers.com, a larger outfit which dispatches drummers across the country for a variety of gigs.
  • A friend of the owner watches over a pregnant sow, scheduled to give birth the next day at the live animal birthing center
  • A sheep gets meticulously sheared and primped by its owners friends, getting ready to be judged.
  • In a tent is the Amercian Steam Engine Society's antique farm machines show. One large vehicle is a "manure spreader" by Chuck Cusimano of Glen Rock, PA. for politicians. At the front over a mounted toilet is a sign which reads "For BiPartican input only- For Politicians Use Only". Other signs aboard the tractor lampoon politicians like the one with a cartoon of the Democrats' donkey and the Republicans' elephant and the words, "Sure you can trust us, Just ask an American Indian." The Society's 55th annual "Steamorama" runs October 4th through 7th, 2012 in York.
  • Stan from the Christian Farmers Outreach insists that Christ loves me and cajoles me to accept, as a gift, a wooden back scratcher made in China
  • In the men's room, two men who describe their work as "self contracting" are stationed at either end and pop up from their chairs to proffer a dry paper towel as soon as someone has finished washing their hands. In between times one will sing and other spray wipe the urinals.
  • A muscular tout carries a hand made poster saying "WHATYA BENCH?" and offering $100 prizes as he snakes his way through the fair, trying to lure people to the staging area where a hunk with a microphone cajoles bystanders to benchpress a 225lb barbell or lift a 500 pound barbell with car tires at either end.