Green algae on the Schuylkill River?

You may have noticed the green slick of seemingly toxic green algae or some other plant bloom on the Schuylkill River this week.  Is this just the latest evidence of industrial and agricultural runoff creating the toxic conditions for algae blooms? Is this affecting the quality or drinking water?

Apparently not. Philadelphia magazine discussed a similar green bloom in early August. 

Apparently this is duckweed, and prose is minimal threat to our drinking water. It does certainly reflect the dry Summer we have had, as well as the unusual weather patterns that favor duckweed taking over.

Intuitively, I can't imagine this reflects a good, healthy state of the river now.


Thieves breaking into keyless entry cars, and how to prevent it

I live in Center City Philadelphia and over the past year or two my car has been broken into without any trace of forced entry. After doing some research it seems that there is a simple device thieves can use to amplify the signal from the key fob.

Normally when approaching a car such as a Toyota, and the key fob is on one's person, simply pulling the handle of the door is enough to initiate the unlocking sequence. This has to do with the car sensing the key fob's Radiofrequency right next to it.

It is speculated that thieves have an amplification device that fools the car into thinking the key is closer to the vehicle than it actually is, in my case the keys are actually inside my house.

Fortunately there is a physics principle to contain radio frequency waves called a Faraday Cage. It is constructed by using a non-conducting metal cage to entomb the RF emitting device. This picture demonstrates my take on the faraday cage, but a simple Google search will review other options that can be constructed at home. This one cost me about $12. I tested it by trying to open my car door with the keys inside those cookie tins, and it simply would not work, proving that the faraday cage locked up the signal.

My car has not been broken into since I started using this system six months ago.


Pope Francis Philadelphia T-shirt

I have found the greatest Pope Francis T-shirt on cafepress!  It is a gerry rigged Rocky statue with the head of Pope Francis, looking quite triumphant as his Philadelphia visit approaches.

If you are looking for a Pope Francis T-shirt before he arrives in Philly, then look no more!

Don't forget, he will be here in about 2 weeks, for the World Meeting of Families, and the whole city is shutting down for the party.


Love this art

This artist has a few vinyl street art postings around the neighborhood utility boxes, which otherwise get sprayed with terrible graffiti. This art is currently seen in the front window of the gallery beneath L'Etage.

Provocative commentary...


Yearly Green man in full foliage across from Fleischer Art Memorial

Most primitive cultures believed in some type of animism, in which they could communicate with nature and vice versa. The yearly appearance of this towering Vine in the shape of a green man certainly conjures that animistic impulse, and it's hard to believe, framed against the sky, that the green man is not divine!

Elevated garden on the street sidewalk

This is the way urban gardening really needs to happen. All of the open lots that are being converted to city community gardens are great, but in terms of growing edible food I think it's a bad idea due to the years and years of soil contamination. At least with an elevated bed one can control the nature of the soil, and tasty kale, tomatoes, and other plants can be harvested with less fear of bioaccumulated pollution.

Rain catchment barrel in South Philly

This resident uses a very cool contraption to filter the rain water that comes down from the roof before entering a plastic barrel. Notice the well watered plants surrounding, as well as stormwater saved from running off down the sewers.


An Open Letter to Philadelphia Leaders regarding the proposed Fossil Fuel Energy Hub, and a call to Close Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery

Hello Councilman Squilla and other concerned parties,

 I am a Bella Vista resident, doctor, and father who is very concerned about what has been going on in Philadelphia lately in regards to the fossil fuel industry. I’m speaking for other health care workers, neighbors, and concerned Philadelphians.

There have been several oil train derailments in the country already this year, the most devastating in West Virginia this month, ruining the water supply. This can and will happen in Philadelphia. The Delaware or Schuylkill rivers will be further contaminated. Philadelphia Energy Solutions, already the largest processor of Bakken Shale Oil on the East coast, is planning to expand their operations. As you know Philadelphia has had several very close calls, with train cars full of oil literally dangling off bridges.

Furthermore, there have been several black smoke fires lately, which released toxins causing short term cardiovascular and respiratory problems (including increased risk of asthma and heart attacks, as well as long term increased risks of cancers with ongoing cumulative exposure).

 We are also furious that some members of the Philadelphia political leadership have been entertaining the idea of allowing us to become a “Fossil Fuel Energy Hub." This is morally, environmentally, and socially irresponsible, and will literally derail the ongoing rebirth of our great city. Philadelphia is already a polluted mess, and to increase this would cause droves of families and progressive types to leave the area, creating a brain drain, and a disproportionate exodus of those with financial resources who would otherwise have a lot to offer the city. Those without the resources to pick up and leave will predictably suffer ill consequences.

A small step to address the focused problem of oil trains running through our city has been brought to the agenda of city council by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. I implore you to support any efforts to keep these trains out of Philadelphia.

On a larger scale I fear for the continued undermining of the progress Philadelphia has made in terms of leading the country, redefining itself as a Green City. To go back on this promise, and make Philadelphia a Fossil Fuel Energy Hub, and to continue to allow Philadelphia Energy Solutions to pollute our environment, waterways, and air would be a betrayal of a promise made to all Philadelphians. Frankly, we should stand up for ourselves and work to close this refinery, which should never have been allowed to exist amid our population of 1.6 million people.

My family, and families like mine, will certainly leave this region if it keeps going down these polluting paths. “Jobs” in the fossil fuel energy industry are not worth it. As an idealistic physician who trained in the city, I have become increasingly alarmed by young patients of mine with new diagnoses of cancer. Of course cancer is multifactorial, but we should do all we can to reduce the chance of another 18 year-old about to go off to Brown University finding a tennis ball-sized mass of lymphoma in his neck, or a 32 year old pregnant mother of three being told she has maybe a year to live due to metastatic breast cancer, or an 18 year old inner city black male who survived his violent neighborhood only to be told he has metastatic lung cancer. I could go on, but I digress. Please make the environment a top priority. It is the only sustainable, moral, and courageous investment. Enough damage has already been done.

 Please contact me if there is anything I can do to help in these regards, or whether a brief meeting or phone call with you would be possible.

 Thank you for your leadership and time.


Ginkgo trees in bloom in Philadelphia

Legend has it that many of the beautiful ginkgo trees in Philadelphia were originally presents from the Japanese nation. In the fall their brilliant yellow leaves are always a highlight. They drop numerous stinky berries on the ground, which are often harvested by some of the older Asian women of the city. These can be used for food and medicinal purposes when prepared correctly.



Satellite tv antennae art

Love this all too true bit of art on the side of this box off Columbus ave in Philly.


South Philadelphia State Bank Apartments

I walked past this beautifully restored Philadelphia bank on 11th St. in Bella Vista, and was pleased to see the luxury apartments are completed and inhabited.

Now it's time for the Bel Arbor tree tenders to get some trees on both blocks!!! Will try to contact management.


Green man on 11th street

Between Bainbridge and Fitzwater, with a living vine starting to grow up.