Ryan Eilers Joins the Navy

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Ryan Eilers circa 2004Back in my teenage years, I became somewhat fascinated with the U.S. Navy. I wanted to be a Navy SEAL, the best of the best. I worked out and joined the Navy Sea Cadets, in hopes of making that goal more attainable.

The thought of enlisting lost its luster for me after I graduated high school, but perhaps my enthusiasm for it left enough of a mark on my younger brothers. Eddie joined about two years ago now, and he is currently stuck aboard some submarine in the northern portion of the Atlantic Ocean.

And then a few months back, I learned that Ryan, the youngest of our parents’ four boys, would also be following that path into the United States Navy. It didn’t hit me until I saw the Facebook page of his local Navy recruiting office post a picture of him.

I had mixed feelings about this; on one hand I am very proud, yet on the other I am a bit saddened as it represents something like the end of an era. No longer will my parents have a child at home, which has been the case for almost thirty years. Even so, I am proud of my little bro for taking this step. Ryan is nine years my junior, and he’s come a long way from the little guy I remember him vividly as…

Fair winds and following seas, little bro.

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New York Becomes Second Largest Polish City After Warsaw

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W Nowym Jorku więcej Polaków niż w Chicago.

Coming back from Warsaw for the first time last month, after falling in love with the city, and as a born-and-raised New Yorker, I was delighted to hear (somewhat late) of the fact that New York City recently surpassed Chicago as the largest Polish city in the world after Warsaw. The Big Apple is home to more than 55,000 Polish immigrants born in the motherland, and this number is rising yearly; Chicago has about 46,000.

According to Nowy Dziennik and Voices of NY, figures taken from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2008-2010) tell us this:

The city [Chicago] is now home to 45,958 immigrants of Polish origin and 126,346 Americans of Polish origin (data from the American Community Survey for 2008-2010). In comparison, the same source estimates that there are currently 55,581 immigrants of Polish origin living in New York and 163,269 Americans of Polish origin.

Also, when it comes to the number of Polish Americans living in the entire state, New York, with 999,178 people of Polish origin (including 86,527 individuals born outside the U.S.) tops Illinois. In the latter, there are 979,499 Polish Americans, including 148,286 immigrants.

I’m happy that the Polish people, among others, continue to choose Nowy Jork as their new home.

Witamy w Nowym Jorku!

Bogotá, Colombia and Me

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Back in August, 2010, which was about 6 months ago, my interest in traveling was renewed. My biggest passion in life is travel, and my ultimate goal is to visit all 194 countries in the world before I die. So, in the beginning of August, I got my passport renewed and started planning my next country to visit. I had traveled a lot back when I was younger, back when my parents had more money. I had been all over Europe and Asia, including England, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. However, I was young when I went to these countries, and I am sure that I did not appreciate these trips as I would now. So, I decided to wipe the slate clean.

I had no real reason for going to Colombia specifically. I chose South America because I had never been to this continent, and it was more economical than going to any other continent. Every location in South America had the exotic lure, and when I picked Colombia out of the hat, I guess it was due to the one advantage that Colombia has over its neighbors: coffee production. Anyone who knows me knows my love for a good cup o’ joe.
So, I planned Colombia and a trip to it’s capital city, Bogotá. I bought a round trip ticket on Mexicana Airlines, so I could earn AAdvantage miles, as Mexicana was a OneWorld Alliance member. At the end of August, I was horrified to find out that Mexicana Airlines had filed for bankruptcy. I would not get my money back until after my trip, so I quickly booked another ticket on TACA Airlines, for September 24 – October 2, 2010.

I started a website called The Dauntless Jaunter (www.dauntlessjaunter.com) back in August, which I intend to use as a travel reference guide and a blog to document my journeys. This website will have many features, and is targeted towards the solo and independent traveler, though there will be resources and advice suitable for just about any vacation soon, I hope. This is one of my side projects, so please support me by bookmarking the website and following the posts.

Back to the topic. So, I have been a member of this great little niche travel website called CouchSurfing. CouchSurfing is a website where travelers can meet real locals in the city that they are planning on going to. The primary tool on the site is for enabling you to find locals that will host you in their house. Hence, you “surf their couch”. Not only is this a great way to save some money, but I was thrilled at the prospect of getting to see how real people live from day to day in the cities where I want to go. There are almost 2 million members, so it should not be a problem finding someone to host you if you are going to a major city, but in case you cannot find anyone, there are many more people who are probably open to other things, such as having lunch, dinner, or drinks with you, or giving you a tour of their city. This is especially great, because who better to show you the city than a native? But more on CouchSurfing in a different blog.

I stayed for 10 days in Bogotá and loved every minute of it. I met this girl, Kathe, on the first day that I arrived, and she ended up spending every single day of my stay with me. Kathe was a great tour guide, and we built some sort of connection. After I got back to New York City, we continued talking on Skype, and we are now dating. I have been to Bogotá six times in the last 5 months, and have another trip planned in 3 weeks. To keep this long-distance relationship working, I try to visit her every 3 weeks or so. Plus, it gives me a great excuse to travel!

Bogotá is a great city, full of beautiful, warm, and passionate people. The people there seem to only want to have a good time, and it is weird for me to see a city with the same population as New York City with such calm and amiable attitudes. It seems to rain every 3 hours, and the sky seems forever overcast, the streets are filthy, and there are stray dogs everywhere, which I assume to be feral, but the people keep a great attitude. The food is wonderful, and cigarettes are $1.50 USD a pack, which allows me to buy a whopping 9 packs of smokes for the price that I can buy 1 pack in Brooklyn.

This is just a brief summary about the city that over the past half-year has become my second home. There is much to do and see in Bogotá, Colombia, and you would miss a great opportunity if you never took the time to experience it. It is not anywhere as dangerous or drug-infested as the stereotype still implies, so you can travel there with relatively little worry. As their marketing team says: Bogotá, the only danger is wanting to stay.

Flash Mobs and Their Northeastern Origins

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“Flash mobs”, a form of performance art, can be traced back 7 years ago to May, 2003 in Manhattan. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it is a sudden, spontaneous gathering of a large group of people, usually in a public space, generally organized by text message or social networking websites. These groups of people usually perform some distinct and obvious act, and then disband just as quickly as they assembled.

In May, 2003, Bill Wasik, who was the senior editor of Harper’s Magazine, targeted a retail store in New York City for some people to gather. This attempt failed, but not the second one. On June 3, 2003, Bill Wasik sent participants to four predetermined Manhattan bars as staging areas. They then received further instructions about the final event and its location as they were waiting – Macy’s department store. Over 100 people flowed into the 9th floor rug department, where they gathered around a large rug. They told any sales associate who approached them that they all lived together in a warehouse right outside New York City and that they were in search of a “love rug.”

Though the origins appear harmless and innocent enough, flash mobs have evolved into chaotic, and often violent, events. In the Northeastern US, it is especially prevalent. Brooklyn and the rest of New York City, Boston, and South Orange, New Jersey have had many violent incidents, including situations where participants randomly attack passersby, fight with each other, and vandalize property around the area.

The latest spree of flash mob violence has been seen in Philadelphia. Just this past Saturday, a large group of kids filled South Street, one of Philly’s hot spots. Four flash mobs have taken place since December, and several people have been injured. One man died of a heart attack. Witnesses say they heard chants of “black boys” and “burn this city”. The Feb 16th incident involved more than 150 kids, who stormed Macy’s while pushing over customers and knocking over displays. All these incidents occurred after word spread through combinations of text messages and Facebook.

Philly police have said that they want to try to get more after-school activities available for kids, as well as take steps to reduce the chances that these flash mobs have to take place. One way to reduce these occurrences is to invalidate the free student transit passes after 4pm instead of after 7pm.

When asked of his opinion on the turn that “flash mobs” have taken, Bill Wasik replied that he only meant for them to be a funny little social experiment. “It’s terrible that these Philly mobs have turned violent,” he said.

NYPD: New York’s, and the World’s, Finest

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The NYPD, New York’s Finest, has a tough enough job keeping the 5 boroughs safe for us New Yorkers. New York has become a safer place, when compared to the dangerous days of the 80’s and 90’s, but we have new problems to worry about that are larger than the daily shooting or stabbing. New York is undeniably the number one terror target in the world, and to combat the foe, the NYPD had to use some unconventional tactics.
As far as terrorism goes, there is the realization that most terrorists start their quest for martyrdom (lunacy) from abroad. New York City is also the choice location for said lunatics to evolve into martyrs. So, the best way to counter terrorism? By stationing NYPD abroad.

In the last decade, the NYPD has extended their boundaries to way beyond the five boroughs. How far, exactly? New York’s Finest are stationed on every continent except Antarctica, with a presence in many large cities. There are NYPD officers and detectives stationed permanently in 11 major cities: Tel Aviv, Israel; Amman, Jordan; Toronto and Montreal, Canada; Paris and Lyon, France; Madrid, Spain; Abu Dhabi, UAE; London, England; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and right near the capital city of Singapore.

New York City Police Chief Ray Kelly started the program of stationing New York’s Finest abroad. They hope to gain intelligence on any proposed threats to the Big Apple, as well as thwart those plans at their origin. An added bonus is that the areas in which there is an NYPD presence also gets the resources that they have to offer.

In 2005, the NYPD was in Australia to assess Operation Pendennis, and helped foil a plot to attack a Melbourne sports complex. They provided intelligence at the 2003 and 2009 hotel bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia. They were the first outside responders in the Mumbai railroad bombings of 2006, as well as the shooting massacre in 2008. The NYPD assessed hotel attacks in Jordan and Egypt in 2005. In Israel they were on the scene in more than 25 suicide attacks. London and Madrid experienced commuter rail attacks in 2004 and 2005, and they were there to respond, and also helped stop the bomb plot at Glasgow airport. Just last week, 80 members went to Haiti to help dig out survivors from the Port au Prince Earthquake, as well as train the Haitian national police.

If you’re a traveler, you can almost be sure that wherever you venture, the NYPD will be nearby. If you’re a New Yorker, that’s like having a NYC embassy at your disposal.