Friday, May 30, 2008

Another crane collapse?!

Let's get the important things out of the way first. I'm OK. My apartment is OK. My cats are fine.

Another Manhattan construction crane collapsed this morning around 8 AM. The last one was in east midtown back in March, but this time it was at 1st Ave and 91st Street, which is two blocks north of my apartment. I didn't hear anything so it must have happened while I was in the shower. But I heard the sirens and saw the traffic outside. My first thought was "this is why I need to move to Brooklyn: less traffic and fewer sirens in Park Slope." Then a friend texted me asking if I was OK after the crane collapse. I turned off last night's Colbert Report and turned on the Today show and watched a few minutes of Matt Lauer before they switched to the local news which showed the live footage from the helicopters I could hear hovering over the accident. I called my girlfriend and my parents to let them know I was OK, then I finished getting ready for work and went outside. 1st Avenue was a mess. There were emergency vehicles everywhere and people like me gawking at the disaster. I thought the city inspected all the cranes after the last crane fell down a few months ago. Maybe they didn't check them all, or maybe they didn't check the connections between the cab and the base (which looks like what broke in this case). Or maybe it's just an accident.

I can't help thinking that the demand for new high-rise apartment buildings for rich people who want to live in Manhattan is driving fast construction which leads to sloppy work and accidents like this. We have cranes falling on city streets killing people. I hope this collapse leads to a larger-scale reevaluation of the pace of construction in Manhattan but I doubt it will. It's a business. Who cares if a few construction workers or a couple of people on the street get killed? That's just the cost of doing business in the city. Besides, those people wouldn't have been able to afford to live in the new building anyway, so what do their lives matter?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The best thing I overheard this week

On Monday night Kate and I were on our way back from a weekend in the Washington, DC, area by way of Stamford. Since we were on a late train back to Grand Central I decided we should take a cab home instead of lugging our stuff on the subway. As we approached the exit to 42nd Street we heard the sound of a driver leaning on their car horn. We walked through the doors just as the horn stopped and we heard a pedestrian screaming something at a cab driver. The pedestrian was trying to light a cigarette and kept shouting "It's illegal in the city! It's illegal in the city!" Then he looked at the driver and said "You wanna get out and fight?" I should point out that the cigarette smoking guy was about 140 lbs and 5'8", though the driver didn't look any bigger. After another "it's fucking illegal in the city to honk your horn!" the smoker told the driver, and I quote, "Go back to your fucking country!"

Kate's response: "Welcome back to New York."

I love this town.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I don't know where my head is lately

I should preface this story by pointing out that except for last night, when I slept about 7 hours, I'd slept less than 6 hours each night for the past three or four nights, and I don't think I've been eating properly for a few days. So sleep deprivation and a change in diet might explain what's been going on with my brain lately.

I had a weird trip home from work tonight. I left the office about 6:30 and got on a 5 train, which was good because if there was a Yankee game tonight the 4 train would be crowded but the 5 would not. I got out my iPod and put on Bob Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home," which I haven't listened to in a long time. I was thinking about what I had to do tonight: buy groceries, call a friend who's going to cat-sit for me this weekend, watch some TV, get ready for work tomorrow, talk to Kate, and go to bed early. For some reason I decided to play solitaire on my iPod, something else I haven't done in a long time. I thought I was keeping track of the stops, but I must have been "in the zone" because when I looked up I saw that the next stop was 125th Street, one stop past mine. I still think I was in some sort of time warp, because I've been riding the 4/5 trains for five years and I've missed my stop only once or twice before. I was a little freaked out at my mistake, but I switched tracks at 125th Street and got on a downtown 4 train and got out at 86th Street.

I started walking home when I realized that I had forgotten my Macbook Pro's power supply on my desk at the office. (I realize that I could do without bringing the Mac to work every day, but I have been using it to test the Lotus Notes client for Mac, and it's fun to have at work anyway, so I bring it each day.) I've been making this trip with the Mac since I got it in February, and I hadn't forgotten the power supply before. I was cursing my absent-minded, hunger-addled and sleep-deprived brain when I remembered that I could just buy a spare power supply at Best Buy back at 86th and Lexington. So I turned around and walked back. I had been thinking that I should just get a spare power supply anyway so I wouldn't have to worry about carrying one to work each day, so I didn't really mind paying for another one. When I got to Best Buy I was still thinking about how dumb I was when I realized that I was halfway down the stairs into the subway station again. Now that was me operating on pure muscle memory. I go into that subway station at least once a day on my way to work and sometimes twice if it's a busy travel day, so that's why some part of my animal nervous system ignored my brain and assumed that was where I wanted to go. I turned around again and walked into Best Buy and got my spare power supply.

Three hours later, I feel much better after eating dinner and relaxing. I plan to get more sleep this week and eat right and try to exercise and hopefully that will put things right in my head. It's hard enough to get through my day when my brain is operating at peak efficiency. When I'm suffering from self-induced ADD, I'm not doing myself any favors.

Friday, May 16, 2008

UPDATE: The NYPD killed the raccoon

Gothamist updated yesterday's story about the raccoon in the tree to note that the raccoon had to be euthanized after NY's finest shot it with tranquilizer darts. As I expected, the officers thought the raccoon might be rabid, so they shot it. The darts penetrated the raccoon too deeply and couldn't be removed, so Animal Control euthanized it after it fell from the tree. It's too bad, because it sounds like Animal Control would have returned the raccoon to Central Park or Carl Schurz Park or somewhere else in the city where it's supposed to live. Also, according to the Post story, it's not clear if the NYPD called Animal Control to check the situation before they went after the raccoon with darts.

The NYPD has a bad animal rescue track record in the past few weeks. They fished a lost badger out of the East River, only to have the badger die later. They caught a coyote in Central Park a few months ago and it died before they could transport it upstate. I think the moral of the story is that if your cat gets stuck in a tree, don't call the NYPD unless you want a dead cat.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Seen this morning on the UES...

There was a small crowd of people and a few police cars at the east side of the intersection of 1st Avenue and 88th Street this morning when I left for work. I couldn't see what they were all looking at, and when I saw scaffolding on the side of one building on 88th Street, I assumed some poor soul had fallen off the building while working, or that there was a problem at the high school just down the block. There was a guy watching the proceedings from my side of the street, so I asked him what was going on. He said there was a raccoon stuck in a tree and the police were there to get it down. The NYPD had deployed the ultra-sophisticated water hose displacement system in order to persuade the raccoon to vacate its lofty perch. I crossed 1st Avenue to get a better look and took some photos, which Gothamist was kind enough to mention in a post earlier this afternoon. My reaction this morning was a Stephen Colbert-esque "ooh, he's so cute!" However, I don't feel as happy after reading one Gothamist commenter's observation that if the raccoon was out during the day it was probably sick and possibly rabid. So the little guy (or girl) most likely met with a sad end once the cops got it out of the tree. Godspeed, little raccoon buddy. You were too beautiful for this world.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

updating last night's tech post

I had no problems installing the new RAM in my Macbook, but I had some trouble installing my slightly-used RAM in Kate's Macbook. Her laptop refused to boot at first, so I had to take it apart again, remove half the RAM, close it up, reboot (it worked), then open it up again, insert the other RAM chip, close it, reboot (it didn't work), then swap the two chips. This time it booted up and recognized all 2 GB of memory, and it booted about four times as fast as it had before. When I left the laptop it was happily running multiple applications and playing a video podcast. I was a little worried that it wouldn't boot up another time, but so far I haven't heard of any problems with it.

This afternoon I switched back to Google Reader for my RSS feeds. I didn't have any problems for most of the day, but around 4 PM Firefox refused to play any Youtube videos so I restarted the application. When I went back to Google Reader it had marked 90% of my unread blog items as read. That wasn't a total disaster, as I wasn't going to read those 600 Slashdot posts anyway. But it seemed like a bad omen. It didn't drive me back to NetNewsWire, though. I'm going to stick with Google Reader for now, but I'll keep NNW around in case I want to give it another try.

Editor's Note: I intend to write more in this forum starting now. I've slacked off recently, but writing is one of the things in life that makes me happy and I can always use more happiness. So look for more posts from me from now on. I may take things in a more technical direction, so please bear with me. Content is content, and I'll try to make things funny when appropriate.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A minor upgrade, some other tech thoughts

I splurged a bit the other day and bought extra RAM for my Macbook Pro. While I hadn't exhausted the 2 GB I started with, I realized that for about $100 I could double the RAM and have plenty of overhead for a virtual machine or three. And I can give the RAM that came with my Mac to Kate, who only has 512 MB in hers.

I'm trying out NetNewsWire, a RSS reader for the Mac. I've been a happy Google Reader user for three or four years, but I hear good things about standalone RSS reader apps now and then, so I thought I'd give one a try. It's OK, but I miss Google Reader. I think I'm too used to doing everything in the browser. I had the same problem when I tried using Apple's Mail app instead of Gmail in the browser. It's just not the same. The only thing I like is the Growl notification when my feeds update, but even then I feel like I need to switch to the reader and check them out immediately. I think I'll switch back to Google Reader in another day or so.

I installed one of those newfangled flourescent bulbs in my living room the other day. It's dimmer when the light first turns on, but after that it's as bright if not brighter than the previous incandescent bulb. And I think the power savings made my overhead ceiling fan run faster. When the weather gets warmer I'll have to check that out in greater detail.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Can't watch this

With Leather posted this video of Myron Cope performing a parody of MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" about the Pittsburgh Pirates, presumably circa 1990-1992. I loved Myron Cope and everything he did, but wow, this one is hard to sit through. I especially enjoyed the part about halfway through where he devolves from "can't touch this" into unintelligible muttering. Also, a man in his mid-60s shouldn't wear a jacket with no shirt, not even for a parody video.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

NYRO's final concert of the 2007-08 season

Dear Friends of the New York Repertory Orchestra:

As our last concert of the season swiftly approaches, mark your calendars for our final musical extravaganza of 2007-2008! We have a great program planned, full of favorites and rarities – please come and enjoy it with us. Here is the information:

  • Date: Saturday, May 17, 2008
  • Time: 8:00pm
  • Place: Good Shepherd-Faith Church (152 West 66th Street)
  • Admission: FREE

  • Vincent D'Indy: Suite from "Karadec"
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor – Anna Polonsky, piano
  • Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor "From the New World"

A few notes on the music we'll be playing:

The opening work on the program will be the delightful Suite from "Karadec" by French composer Vincent D'Indy. Originally written as incidental music to a play based on Breton legends, these enchanting and tender pieces end in a boisterous Breton wedding celebration.

By turns stormy, introspective, and joyful, the Piano Concerto in D minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the composer's most celebrated works. Greatly admired by both Beethoven and Brahms, this concerto has also been a favorite with audiences since its first performance. Almost operatic in its dramatic and emotional content, the concerto beautifully illuminates the expressive intensity that lay just below the graceful and elegant surface of this great composer. With pianist Anna Polonsky making her NYRO debut as soloist, this will be a performance to treasure. (Read more about our soloist below.)

The main work on the program will be the monumental Symphony No. 9 in E minor "From the New World," by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. One of the great masterpieces of the orchestral literature, Dvorak's "New World" symphony is steeped in the composer's musical experiences and explorations from his time spent in America. A favorite of audiences and musicians the world over, this great work will be a fitting conclusion to our wonderful season.

A word about our soloist:

Pianist Anna Polonsky is widely in demand as a soloist and chamber musician. She has appeared as soloist with the Moscow Virtuosi, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and many others. Ms. Polonsky has collaborated with the Guarneri, Orion, and Audubon Quartets, and with such musicians as Mitsuko Uchida, David Shifrin, Richard Goode, Ida and Ani Kavafian, Cho-Liang Lin, Arnold Steinhardt, Anton Kuerti, Gary Hoffman, and Fred Sherry. She is regularly invited to perform chamber music at festivals such as Marlboro, Chamber Music Northwest, Seattle, Moab, Santa Fe, Bridgehampton, Bard, and Caramoor, as well as at Bargemusic in New York City. Ms. Polonsky has given concerts in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Alice Tully Hall, Zankel Hall, Merkin Hall, the 92nd St. Y, and has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. A frequent guest at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, she was an artist member of CMS Two during 2002-2004. In 2006 she took a part in the European Broadcasting Union's project to record and broadcast all of Mozart's keyboard sonatas, and in the spring of 2007 she performed a Carnegie Hall solo recital, inaugurating the Emerson Quartet's Perspectives Series.

All in all, a great way to end our season on the highest note possible – great music, great performers, and great fun – I hope we'll see you there!

Best regards,
David Leibowitz, Music Director
New York Repertory Orchestra

Friday, May 02, 2008

The streets are alive... with the sound of jackhammers (UPDATE)

Since Tuesday morning, the heavy-duty water repair contractors have been out on 1st Avenue cutting large holes in the street and chipping away at concrete with jackhammers. They've also deployed large replacement pipes and giant steel plates to cover the holes when they're done working for the day. I suppose that means that while the water leak was repaired two weeks ago, the DEP still needs to replace the pipes.

The good news is that my water service hasn't been interrupted all week. The bad news is that when they're not working, I hear the constant "ba-dump-dump" of car tires rolling over the steel plates. And, of course, trying to watch TV with construction noise in the background isn't easy.

This, too, shall pass.