Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Good news and bad news from Gregg Easterbrook

First the good news: Gregg Easterbrook's review of last weekend's NFL Draft is on

The bad news is that he's discontinuing Easterblogg as of Tuesday. He's got more books and articles to write. I've enjoyed the blog for the past ten months or so, and I'll miss Easterbrook's daily thoughts on governmental missteps and his illumination of events and stories that readers may have missed due to lack of media attention. While I haven't always agreed with his politics, Easterbrook's posts have always given me something different to think about. There is a bit of good news here: I'll have one less time-sucking blog to read each day.

I guess I should remove the link on the right. I'll leave it up for a few days; maybe he'll reconsider.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

It's been a while...

I hate to say I've been busy, and that's why I haven't posted anything for a while. But it's true.

Last week was my office's biennial meeting of worldwide IT staff, held here in New York. That meant I attended several half-day meetings and after-work receptions and dinners, and didn't have much time to do my actual work, let alone goof off by posting entries here. By the time Friday came around, I was exhausted.

On Sunday, I rode my bike down to the West Side cruise ships piers to see just how big the Queen Mary 2 actually was. It's big. The Queen Elizabeth 2, parked next to it, looked like a "pile of puke" by comparison. I actually think the Explorer of the Seas, which I saw here in 2000, is a more gargantuan ship than the QM2. The QM2 looks like an old Titanic-style ship, while the newer ones look more like the floating hotels they all really are. But they're all just damn big boats. Even the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, which was also here in 2000, didn't look as big as the QM2.

This week our apartment's kitchen and bathroom are undergoing some unplanned renovations. We woke up on Monday morning to a power problem in the kitchen. The circuit breaker for the kitchen and bathroom wouldn't stay on, and kept tripping despite a lack of visible power drains in either room. By Monday night, the refrigerator was on its own new power circuit, but the other breaker for the lights and appliances still wouldn't stay on. Tonight I came home from work to find our floors, countertops, and tables covered in a thin grit of powder and plaster, and many holes in the ceilings and walls from where the electrician ran new wires and conduits. According to Liz, we're in for a few more days of work as the electrician and building superintendent continue the rewiring. Apparently there was some old wiring and new wiring in the walls, and the old wiring wasn't rated for all the appliances and might have eventually caused a fire! Great! As long as they fix everything, I don't really mind the mess, but it is a nuisance.

Also tonight was my firm's college fair for students at Washington Irving High School. My office has a longstanding tutoring, mentoring, and otherwise educational relationship with WIHS, and one of the annual events is a college fair where students can meet alumni and counselors from many different schools. They hold this fair in a conference room at my office, so I don't have far to go to represent Georgetown. I had more copies of the school's prospectus and financial aid booklets to give out than I did last year, but I still ran out of materials about an hour into the two-hour event. Most of the students asked me about the business school or pre-law programs, but there were a few that wanted to know about music and art studies, and one passionate young man who wants to be mayor of New York eventually and asked about government and community leadership programs. Nearly everyone asked me about Georgetown's SAT score requirements, and that was one thing I didn't know about. According to the university's web site, they don't have a minimum required score, but that didn't stop people from quizzing me about what it would take to get in. Part of me enjoyed coming up with BS answers to their questions, but the rest of me felt guilty about it and thinks that next year, I should try to get an actual representative from the Admissions office to attend the fair. While the college fair is manned in part by firm employees who attended the schools they represent, many other schools just send admissions counselors. Or I could just read up on Georgetown's current list of majors and admissions requirements, so I can seem less like a bumbling fool in front of these kids.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Comic Times no more

Yesterday afternoon I went for a bike ride around the Manhattan waterfront greenway. One of my favorite sites along the way was the old collapsed shell of a pier around 60th Street on the West Side. Years ago, someone painted the words "COMIC TIMES" on the front of the shell, and I could always count on seeing that pier and remind myself of the city's history. (Somewhere in there is a metaphor for the cyclical collapse and rebirth of New York City, but it's eluding me at the moment.) Anyway, when I passed the pier yesterday, I saw that it had been partially disassembled. I guess the city found money somewhere to get rid of this eyesore. But you can see what it used to look like here (thanks to Photo_a_Day and Google).

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Second Avenue subway in our lifetime?

New York Magazine featured the proposed Second Avenue Subway in last week's issue. It's a history of the project and reasons why the current rumors about imminent construction have more truth to them than in previous years. For anyone who has to ride the 4/5/6 trains during rush hour, another East Side subway line is more than a necessity. It's a life-altering issue at this point. The line's been crowded for forty years; I'm surprised that service disruptions aren't more frequent than they already are, and that people regularly make it to work without killing their fellow commuters. If the Lexington Avenue line were to be out of service for any length of time, I think East Siders would revolt. Another subway line might just save a few lives, if only because we'll all be a little bit saner at the end of the ride.

The unfortunate news is that construction of just the first few miles of the Second Avenue line will take seven years, and more like 8-10 with the realities of working in Manhattan. Even if they break ground next year (and it won't be the first time that's happened), the line won't open until the end of the decade. Once it finally opens, hurray! Assuming I still live in Manhattan at that time, my commute and the commutes of thousands of others improves. But wait! What about the effect the new line will have on property values? It's more than likely that rising rents and housing costs will force me to move out of the neighborhood, even as the new subway makes it more convenient for me to live there. On the other hand, if I can somehow scrounge up enough money to buy an apartment on the East Side before the line opens, we're looking at solid growth potential for that investment. Which brings me back to reality: people have been buying apartments on the East Side for decades, thinking that a soon-to-open Second Avenue subway line will push their property values up. They're all still waiting for that line, and riding to work with me on the Lexington trains while they wait.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

'Happy Together?'

If you are as disturbed as I am at the popular songs showing up in TV commercials, you can learn all about the ad wizards behind Applebee's current campaign in this article in Tuesday's Washington Post.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

April Fool's Day story roundup

Slashdot has many strange-but-true "Ask Slashdot" entries today. I especially liked "Will 100 cups of coffee in 24 hours kill you?" On the main Slashdot page, there's the story about the proposed "Omniscience Protocol" for networking that would allow the RIAA and MPAA to keep track of what people do with their PCs. That proposal goes hand-in-hand (or is that cable-in-port?) with the RFC from last year to implement an "evil bit" in all network traffic, to tell the viruses and trojans from the regular packets.

John Kelly's column in today's Washington Post has several classic April Fool's Day pranks. I love the Richard Stockton NJ rest stop story.

ThinkGeek is offering some great new products today, including a new weight-loss device and an EZ-Bake oven for your PC. I've already promised Liz I'd get her one, and a USB-powered Snoopy Sno-Cone machine if I can find one.

Google's new moon base sounds like a great way to launch a stagnant career.

New Line Films announced that a film version of Tolkien's The Hobbit is a go. There's even a web site for the project already. For some reason, Peter Jackson is not involved.

Seriously, I'm starting to dreak April 1. While I enjoy the occasional prank story with my regular web surfing, it's not so funny when every web site I read does it. At least it's only one day a year.