Freelance designer loves Italy

Freelancer loves Italy
Naomi Adams, a Wyndmoor, PA based freelance designer was hanging out outside the Locals coffee shop with her best friend, Deuce, a friendly, shaggy, black-haired dog. She specializes in knitwear, textiles, dyeing, cut and sew, and alteration She loves to makes skirts, sweaters and dresses. Italian wool is her favorite material. Adams majored in fashion design and minored in textiles as an undergrad at Moore College of Art and Design. At Jefferson University, she earned a Masters in design management finishing her schooling with a memorable five month stay in Milan. She fell in love with Italy and didn’t want to leave but did return home just before Covid. “I have a joy for just living life and being happy and being content in the space I’m in.” Watch here the freelance fashion designer describe her work and love of Italy and life.


Going solar with car and house

Solar for canva

A renewable energy advocate and practitioner, Aaron Stemplewicz showed off both his house and his Tesla Model 3 for the National Solar House Tour on October 3, 2021. On multiple sections on the roof of his house in Wyndmoor, Pa he has a 16 panel, 5 kilowatt hour system. In 2016, he entered a Power Purchase Agreement with Solar City (now part of Tesla.) It cost him nothing to install or maintain. Now he is exercising his contract option to purchase the system outright. He has crunched the data and figures the purchase will make money for him eventually.

Next year, he says, Volkswagen, Hyundai and other manufacturers are introducing electric cars with bidirectional batteries. These big batteries will be able to act as backup power to a house like his . (His current Tesla has only a grid to car battery.) He advises people who are thinking of getting battery backup for their house to wait and buy such an electric car if they can swing it. The upfront cost of an electric car is much greater but Stemplewicz did lifetime analyses of the total cost to maintain an electric car versus a gas-powered vehicle. He deduced that the cost of his Tesla was comparable to that of operating the Subaru Impreza he was driving before.Stemplewicz’ electric cost is based on a time of use scheme. He pays approximately 19 cents per watt at peak time and, the rest of day, about 4 cents. Between midnight and 3 am, it goes down further to 3 cents. He touts the advantage of being able to rely on his own solar power during peak time and, if he generates more energy than he needs, selling back to the grid at 19 cents. By charging his car at night he captures the low rates. “So it will be super cheap to charge the car and I sell back to the grid at 19 cents. Can’t beat it!”

Watch video interview about renewable energy advocate with solar panels on his roof and and electric car.


Men in Kilts wash windows

Men in Kilts wash windows
Chris Sanes wears a kilt for work. He was sitting parked in a sparkling green, plaid-covered “Men in Kilts” van, alongside the Cake restaurant in Chestnut Hill. He was in the neighborhood on a mission to market company’s services and hand out business cards. I wanted to see whether there was truth in advertising and Sanes obliged me by stepping outside -wearing his kilt. The company does exterior house-cleaning, power-washing, and gutter cleaning but their “biggest thing” is window-washing, Sanes says. The story goes that a Scotsman in Canada went to do this kind of work one day wearing his kilt and people took a keen interest. The idea took off and now there are 15 some or franchise operations located in Canada and the U.S. Asked about whether he received any training in Scottish heritage, Sanes related that he grew up thinking he was Irish but a long-lost cousin suggested he might be Scottish. So, after getting the job, he took a DNA test which reported he was 48% Scottish. Now he’s listening to an audio book while he works on Norse and Gaelic history. What is it like working in a kilt? “It’s very liberating, being able to move around. [Our] shirts say 'No Peeking' on them." Some Scottish connection is not a job requirement - and it appears from the “Men in Kilts” website, neither is being a man. Watch video interviewer of kilt wearing window washer here.


Artist draws portraits from photos people upload of themselves on SKTCHY app

CU Eliza Callard SKTCHY sketch

Eliza Callard (left) draws portraits with colored pencil. Many of these are based on photos people have posted of themselves for others to draw on an app named "SKTCHY" She then uploads her artwork for her subjects to see. Some people post multiple photos of themselves on #SKTCHY, she says, and some people are drawn by many artists. Callard looks for something in the eyes, in the expression. This method yields a very diverse range of subjects whose facial expressions are emotive and often curious. “Every time I paint somebody from there. even if at the beginning I’m like ‘I don’t like this’, I always fall in love with the people. Every time. Just drawing them makes me fall in love with them.” Watch video interview of artist who uses SKTCHY app here.


Commutes with son on electrified carbon bike 🚲

Father son carbon bike

Mark Mumbauer commutes 25 miles round trip each day with his 10 year old son, Gabriel, on an electrified carbon bicycle from their home in Mount Airy to work and school in West Philadelphia.  (Click link for video interview.)The bike , their second, is a “Larry vs. Harry” model imported from developers Lars Malmborg and Hans Fogh in Copenhagen. “It’s our daily commuter, our Septa bus, our second car and our everything.” Through August of this year, they had ridden it every day except when conditions had been icy. Otherwise, for rainy or inclement weather, they put a cover on it. They had begun commuting on their first electric bike from Kensington where Mumbauer had lived for twenty years. Their new bike, which cost about $6000 has many features like an electric assist which helps up the big hills, Mumbauer says. “It works great as long as your battery doesn’t die.” It weighs about 40 pounds, has an all-aluminum frame, Shimano XT components like a mountain bike does and electronic shifting. It also features a ball joint, articulated steering, and dual disc breaks, front and rear. It can carry up to 250 to 300 pounds. Mumbauer relaters that UPS is using these models in Seattle. Drivers park their trucks nearby and load them up with packages to deliver downtown.

The Larry versus Harry Bullit is available from Firth and Wilson Transport Cylcles in Fishtown, Philadelphia. Kaspers Cargos in Maryland, Mumbauer says, sells these bikes to families with children with special needs at about cost

What does his son, Gabriel, like about the bike? The stickers. And sitting in the front over sitting in the back which he he had to do when he was in kindergarten; the view is much better. He even takes his violin along to school and sandwiches it between his legs and the frame.


Daughter of Palestinians runs for U.S. Senate

Senate candidate alexandra khalil
Alexandra “Alex” Khalil is running for the U.S. Senate. In a crowded field of 14 Democratic primary candidates vying for outgoing Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s seat in the May 2022 primary, she says can’t get the political reporters for Philadelphia’s paper of record, the Inquirer, to mention her name.

Khalil is mounting a vigorous door to door campaign and one of those doors was your correspondent’s. She’s expounds a progressive agenda of Medicare for all and a living wage. But she’s not against nuclear power.

Her entree into politics came when her son told her to check out Barack Obama. Kahlil did more than that: she worked on his campaign and now holds elected office as a councilperison for the borough of Jenkintown, a small town just outside northwest Philadelphia. There she is fighting against privatization of public utilities such as the sewer service. Professionally, she works in IT for the pharmaceutical company Merck. Khalil has also practiced law.

As the daughter of Palestinian parents from the West Bank, Khalil is especially keen on the protection of human rights regardless of identity or any other criteria.

In our interview, Khalil was most animated when she spoke of the conversations she has had with people while canvassing widely around Philadelphia area and in Lebanon and Schuylkill counties: the 80 year old woman whose husband suffered a stroke, and now they can’t pay their property taxes. She’s spoken with many seniors who are in similar danger of losing their homes, perhaps faced with high medical bills. She’s touched by the families who have lost children to drugs. She lays these ills at the feet of the Republican Party for failing to adequately fund human needs, schools and infrastructure.

Khalil believes her string connection with people as both a councilperson and campaigner will set her above the crowded field in voters’ estimation. She’s received coverage in the Northeast Times, her race is covered in Spotlight Pa and elsewhere and she is hoping more major media outlets will give her a fair shake

Watch video interview here.


Pulls out her flute to play anywhere

Tennis court flutist
"I’ll play anywhere. I’ll play literally anywhere where there’s people walking around. I’ll just play because people don’t normally hear a flute. you know. They tend to hear anything other than a flute and I tend to think I play differently…” Your correspondent, early for a pickle ball lesson at the Water Tower Recreation center courts heard sweet, jazzy flute sounds from the other side of a tall dividing fence and walked over to find Jordan Quinton at the far end tennis court improvising on the flute -yes, differently. “It’s very important to be able to find your voice.” Quinton  had been working out at the Water Tower and had her flute on her and thought she would just take it out. “If I have my flute on me, I’ll take it out anywhere. I’ll play it on a bus if they let me.”

Quinton, who now works as a line chef baker, studied at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She plays flute, all kinds of march and percussion-snare, base drums, tenors, hand drums, bongos, claves, congas, xylophone, marimba and likely more! ”I was born into music so I guess I’m lucky. I sing. I do all the arts. Music is my strong suit.”

“It was very hard going to school but I’m glad I stuck with it as long as I did.” And passers by who may happen upon Quinton jamming on her flute are likely to be glad, also, that she stuck with the music. Watch flutist, a street musician, improvise on tennis court here.


51 ineligible people tried to vote in CHCA board election

CHCA election 51 ballots rejected
In a closely contested election between “slate” candidate and “non-slate” candidate factions, 16 candidates vying for 9 board seats,  the Chestnut Hill Community Association rejected 51 of 513 ballots cast as invalid, according to a report in the Chestnut Hill Local, August 5, 2021 edition. (Fifty-one votes account for about 10% of votes cast.) The report did not provide an explanation as to why the ballots had been rejected nor did the CHCA, owner of the Local, nor three current board members respond to a request for comment. However, John Derr, publisher of the Local, apparently taking on the role of spokesperson for the Association, stated that the 51 rejected ballots were from people who were not members of the Community Association and that some of those had lapsed memberships. He assured your correspondent that the election was fair without addressing your correspondent’s concern about election integrity relating to why so many people tried to vote in an election they weren’t eligible to vote in. Your correspondent has followed up with a letter to  the Community Association's President, Kathi Clayton.

Download CHCA clayton election fifty one voter letter 20210814.pdf (52.6K)

In a letter to your correspondent, Clayton responded that she was disappointed so many votes didn't get counted and that going forward the association will more often and broadly publish the requirement that to vote a member must be paid up as of the designated date, June 30, 2021 this year.


Neighbors retrieve iPhone from storm sewer

Retrieving iphone from storm sewer
Group shot retrieive iphone from sewerTo replace a lost key to the house of her neighbor whose dog she walks, Ardleigh Street resident Sarah Bettien-Ash made a trip to Killian’s Hardware Wednesday afternoon. Exiting the store, she realized that she had forgotten to pay for parking and quickly pulled out her phone, an iPhone12, to pay using the online app. It flew out of her hand and down through the storm sewer grate next to the store. Her daughter bought a pole and a net at the hardware store and, with a friend, tried without luck to fish it out. Bettien-Ash contacted the water department and was told someone would come out but she had no idea when. (They called the next morning) She was hopeful the phone was still working because it was still ringing when her daughter dialed it. Your correspondent came upon a small group of helpers, neighbors and friends, early that evening and learned Bettien-Ash had returned for another go at it with a newly purchased steel rake. A workman who had been repairing cement outside the hardware store was so impressed with Bettein-Ash’s determination that he retrieved tools from his truck and with help, pried off the grate. By then the local beat police officer was lighting the area with his flashlight. Bettein-Ash reports she pulled out the phone, wondrously illuminated with text messages and Instagram notifications. According to iPhone 12’s specs, the phone cannot last in water more than thirty minutes. Bettien-Ash appears to have beaten all odds. Watch video of neighbors rescuing iPhone from sewer and interview here.


Brick man sculptor makes brick men

Adam brick man maker - 1
This is the story of the brick men. Twenty-five years ago a brick side addition of the big old house in West Mount Airy that Adam Shuman, a retired Philadelphia firefighter lives in, had collapsed, One of his tenants, whom he suspects harbored unrealized architectural ambitions, decided to use some of the bricks to construct a simple human form from the bricks to see if he could get it to balance.

When Shuman needed access to his ladders through the basement cellar door, he moved the brick man to the front. That’s when, he says, it got out of hand. He just wanted to build brick men, more and more of them. So he began to actively collect bricks from burnt out brick-strewn lots in North Philadelphia on his drive to classes at Temple University.

For years now, dozens of brick men have lined the front of the property and also along a side property line with a neighbor. They provide kind of a visual frame for Shuman’s numerous rusted iron and wood sculptures that adorn the yard.

The brick men are very popular, he says, especially with twelve year-old boys who can’t resist toppling them. Every couple of years he finds two or three brick men knocked over.He purposely doesn’t cement them lest they get knocked over and seriously hurt someone. And he has a constant stream of people stopping to take photographs, chat and ask questions. Years ago, TV’s Captain Noah and his wife numbered among the regulars.

If Shuman sees bricks, a brick man may be likely to follow. He made one traveling with family in Namibia in 2007. Near land they have in Mexico, he made one out of adobe but rain washed it away.

Shuman demonstrated his technique for making a brick man; to start, 7 bricks are laid side by side and the middle three removed and then the bricks are layered upwards until the final 16th layer.

In his art studio he has fashioned a brick man out of wood cut into brick-size pieces. He entertains a plans to build a giant brick man made of 500 bricks and standing at 6 feet tall. Now that would seal Shuman’s reputation as the brick man.

Watch the video tour of the brick men with the brick man here.

A shorter version can be viewed here.