Journal | Tuesday, November 25, 2003 | #
Thank you, thank you very much
I am putting the home page into hibernation for the Thanksgiving holiday. Watch for the next update on Sunday or Monday. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
...On Monday, New York City issued its cell phone coverage map, with the hope that it will encourage the phone companies to improve their networks. If you're a map geek like me, you'll have fun reading this map, and be suitably impressed with the GIS technology behind it. The city created these maps with data collected through an online survey (which I wrote about last month). Here's the web site about the project, or you can directly download the overall map in PDF.
- DarylJournal | Monday, November 24, 2003 | #
The electric chair
Later this week, I'll be home for Thanksgiving. While I'm there, I may spend some time sitting in the new easychair. My dad and Joanne recently bought new furniture for their living room. Looks nice I saw it for the first time when I was home two weeks ago. One of the new pieces is a blue leather recliner with a push-button remote control. Press one button and the chair, under its own power, silently leans back and extends its footrest. Push the other button and the chair returns upright. It's an easy chair to make fun of. The whole idea of a remote-control recliner is shockingly lazy. Sit in it and the most energy you'll expend is your brain trying to fathom why such a chair exists at all. Best not to think about it. Or anything else. It should be sold as a package with a television that channel-surfs automatically, and a bag of Cheetos that eats itself.
- DarylJournal | Sunday, November 23, 2003 | #
My stepsister Lisa and her boyfriend Raul spent the weekend in Brooklyn, where Raul's family lives. I met up with them for lunch yesterday, and later went to Raul's family's place in Sunset Park for a birthday party for Lisa. I wish I could have stayed until more people arrived for the party, but I had already told some other friends I would meet them later. I'll see Lisa and Raul again for Thanksgiving, just before Raul goes off to Korea for the Army.
Later Saturday, my friends Leslie, Brian, Roland, and Susan hosted a delightful "Create Your Own Country Day" party in Kensington. (Click here for my country flag.)
Two nights in a row of riding home on an early-morning F train. This usually means a lot of waiting in the station, since the train only runs every twenty minutes at night on weekends. The other option, which I could have used coming home Friday from a night out with friends in Manhattan, is to fork over $20 for a cab. I'd rather pocket the cash and take an extra half hour to get home.
- DarylJournal | Saturday, November 22, 2003 | #
The underground music scene
I've taken the subway to 34th Street at Herald Square probably a dozen times, but it wasn't until this week that I discovered a strange piece of public art there called "REACH." At the center of the N/R/Q/W platform, hanging overhead, there's a green metal beam about the length of a subway car. It's easy to mistake it for a light fixture or a vent, but it is actually a musical instrument.
The REACH devices (there are two, one on each platform) include a series of motion detectors which cause different nature-like sound effects to play when you wave your hands above your head. The sounds seem to change pitch and volume depending on how you move your hands, and are accompanied by a series of pulsing lights. I first noticed REACH when I was waiting for a train, heard some strange noise, and turned to see a guy waving his hands in the air (like he just didn't care). I walked over to try it for myself. Since multiple people can play, strangers naturally join you in making music. It's so cool that I was actually disappointed when my train arrived.
More information, including a video about the installation, is at Christopher Janney's web site (click on "urban musical instruments," then "projects").
- DarylJournal | Friday, November 21, 2003 | #
Now usually I don't do this...
I don't take credit for this cartoon; my grandfather forwarded it to me. Here's what you do. Count the guys. Watch the animation. Now count them again. How many? Twelve? Thirteen? This will make you crazy (and I would know).
... Howard County's own River Hill High School made the national news yesterday, on the "stupid school controversy" beat.
...Now really, what's a fellow need to do to get named one of People magazine's "Sexiest Men Alive"? Once again this year, I've been shut out by a bunch of actors.
- DarylJournal | Thursday, November 20, 2003 | #
Choose your own memorial
Check out the eight finalists for the World Trade Center site memorial, announced yesterday. Those of us hoping for something with the grace, power, and simplicity of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington can only be disappointed. The WTC proposals are all showy, complicated, and high-concept. On a more superficial note, they also fall short on the one thing this memorial absolutely must have: A place to dump junk. By junk, I mean stuffed animals, plastic flowers, and American flags. A few years ago, I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial, a field of empty chairs next to a reflecting pool and two arches with the time of the explosion printed on them. Yeah, weird. But along the back of the site, there was a cheap chain-link fence that served as an impromptu dumping ground for memorial trinkets. By complete accident, that fence became the most popular, and most powerful, element of the memorial.
The worst of the WTC proposals follow the same concept as the FDR Memorial in Washington. Instead of one powerful space, the FDR memorial sees itself as a journey, where you walk from one small statue to another and follow a story. It feels hollow, and that's because memorials aren't meant to tell us stories. They're supposed to evoke stories we already know. When you visit the Lincoln Memorial, you don't learn anything new about the Civil War, but you feel its awesome burden just by looking at Lincoln in his big ol' chair. That's a good memorial. Lastly, a memorial has to fit into one good photograph. It's a symbol, and people will want to see it even if they can't visit New York.
That said, there's only one World Trade Center design that comes close to the mark: "Reflecting Absence." Anybody disagree?
- DarylJournal | Wednesday, November 19, 2003 | #
Me against the mucus
Three Mondays ago, I awoke with my left ear all clogged up. I figured it would fix itself. But until it did, my hearing suffered. I spent a lot of time asking people to repeat themselves, or just avoiding conversation. Thursday, I finally caved and saw my doctor. Diagnosis: Ear infection. Yesterday, on the doc's recommendation, I went to Dr. Cho, an ear, nose, and throat specialist. She placed a metal tube into my ear, and turned on a vacuum. The tube drew out whatever goop was in there, one noisy slurp at a time. It was loud, and every now and then it would grab something sensitive inside my ear, which hurt like a cold rush deep inside my head. Truly, ear vacuums suck.
After a while, Dr. Cho asked: "Any better?"
"It's hard to tell. Oh wow!" As soon as I heard my own voice, I could tell it was better. Much better. Since then, the world around me has been gloriously crisp and in stereo. Walking home along Broadway, every noise traffic, people, music seemed so vivid that it reminded me of how clear the world became the first time I wore eyeglasses. Strange how much more we appreciate something after we lose it and get it back.
... One more thing: Go Massachusetts!!
- DarylJournal | Tuesday, November 18, 2003 | #
But I don't want any spam
Has anybody else noticed a weird new wave of e-mail spam this week? I have a filter on my e-mail account that usually blocks junk mail with pretty good success. But this week, I've been getting a few ads a day. A lot of them are those rambling stories from some chap who needs to funnel millions of dollars out of Africa and will cut me in; all I need to do is send him my fax number. Uh-huh. Given how easy it is send bulk e-mail, I still wonder why no one has figured out how to send spam via cell phone text message. Perhaps the cell carriers realized what a severe disruption this would be, and have made it impossible to send bulk text messages? Does anybody know?
... Radio station Blink 102.7 (which I wrote about in April) has already abandoned its format. It's now playing automated Christmas music and billing itself as "The New 102.7 FM." Some hopeful souls on the New York Radio Message Board speculate that, after January 1, WNEW might go country, 80s pop, big-band/standards, talk,... or simply Christmas music all year!
- DarylJournal | Monday, November 17, 2003 | #
The best way to make television fun is to chat on IM with someone else watching the same show. This allows both of you to make snide comments about whatever is on TV without actually interrupting the show. It also forges a weird sort of connection just though the simple act of sharing an experience. My friend Jeff and I sometimes chat while watching "The Late Show." Last night, my friend Millie and I had fun typing away during the Radio Music Awards. The RMAs are a total B-list awards show, in which all the presenters seem to show up drunk, stoned, or otherwise inebriated. (Macy Gray Oh dear!) The only redeeming quality to the show was the Outkast performance. Lend me some sugar! I am your neighbor!
... Have you been reading about the hepatitis A outbreak connected to a Chi-Chi's near Pittsburgh? Now it turns out the blame may rest with green onions.
- DarylJournal | Sunday, November 16, 2003 | #
I spent yesterday afternoon on a cleaning rampage. As my apartment filled with Pine-Sol fumes, I wondered how much longer I'll stay here. I really like this apartment. I have good neighbors, the rent is cheap, I have a lot of space, and there's almost always parking on the street. That said, it has the same temporary feel of every New York City starter apartment. I talk to people about this a lot, and everyone who lives here seems to have a shared fantasy of the perfect place to live. Yeah, we'd all like more space, a panoramic view, a garden deck, walk-in closets, and wall-to-wall carpet. But what do we really want?
1. A washing machine and a drier. To toss some towels in the drier, then go to sleep knowing they'll be dry when we wake up... What luxury!
2. Outside space. You know, a place to set muddy boots, so we don't have to keep them in the kitchen.
3. A thermostat. It's just a control thing.
- DarylJournal | Saturday, November 15, 2003 | #
We outta be in pictures
I wonder what genius scheduled "Master and Commander" and "Love Actually" to be in the theater at the same time. Unable to agree on which to see, my friend Britta and I settled on "Lost in Translation," a poor compromise and the most boring movie I've seen in months. All was not lost, however, since we got to see a taping of "Sex and the City" going on outside a different movie theater across 8th Avenue on 23rd Street. The scene: A fake film premiere. The set was the entrance of Clearview's Chelsea West, often the scene of real-live movie premiers. The crew had rigged up two sets of search lights, colored spotlights to illuminate the front of the theater, a red carpet, several limos, and a whole mess of cameras on cranes and trucks. As if a real movie premiere would get such attention! One of the TV guys instructed all of us curiosity seekers to stand on a piece of sidewalk where the camera would catch us, as extras. When they rolled film, we were supposed to wave and cheer at the people walking on the red carpet. Action! About six people get out of a limo in front of the theater. We don't recognize any of them. We wave and cheer wildly at them. They smile, wave, and walk into the cinema. Cut!
To recap: We went to an actual movie theater to see a movie, then got to pose as extras in a fictional TV show about people going to see a fake movie in an actual movie theater.
- DarylJournal | Friday, November 14, 2003 | #
Near, far, wherever you are
Today I'm going to ask for your help, so please read on. With some editing assistance from my coworkers, I have entered the Celine Dream Team Tour essay contest, sponsored by Celine Dion's new line of perfume. Grand prize? A tour of New York City, a flight to Las Vegas on a private jet, tickets to see Celine Dion's Vegas show, a chance to meet Celine herself, and $2,800. The winners are determined, in part, by a popular vote on the contest web site. To enter, I had to answer the following question: "What is your dream in life and what are you doing to achieve it?"
After carefully thinking about a topic (Helping sick children? Meeting Jesus in heaven? Quebec sovereignty?) I decided to write a dripping, tug-at-the-heartstrings essay about a dream everyone can agree on. Now, to win this contest, I need you to vote for me! Click here to read my essay and vote. You'll need to register on the site (it's free), and you can only vote for me once a day. If by some crazy chance I win, I promise to fulfill the pledge I made in the essay. And I promise to tell you all what it's like to meet Celine.
- DarylJournal | Thursday, November 13, 2003 | #
Winter, now arriving across the platform
Again this season, it seems everyone in New York got the memo about wearing black. Dressed for the cold, they lean into the wind, walk fast, and seek sanctuary in subway stations. Underground, the florescent lights cast shadows that give everyone a gritty edge, like television detectives. When a train stops at the platform, the doors open to reveal a rumpled bunch of commuters, looking out with sharp eyes, focused and under control. What's cooler than being cool? Ice cold. Really, I think winter is the season most flattering to the city. Beautiful people get no less beautiful bundled in wool coats.
... News item: The bus that runs past my office, the M23, has been declared the slowest bus in the city by the Straphangers Campaign. Average speed: 3.4 miles per hour.
- DarylJournal | Wednesday, November 12, 2003 | #
Ask the Ethicist
Earlier this week, an icon lit up on my computer screen to indicate that a wireless Internet connection has become available within range of my apartment. Evidently, one of my neighbors is running a WiFi network that is open to anyone. I have no way of knowing which neighbor it is, but I have started using to his or her network for broadband Internet access on my own computer. Is it right for me to silently use this free connection for my own personal web surfing and e-mail? Should I make an effort to track down the owner of this network, and ask permission to use it? Should I offer some money each month to help pay for it? If so, how much? Meanwhile, am I rude to hog the bandwith to download big software programs, such as the latest Netscape browser, or to stream music on iTunes? Is it unethical to use someone else's high-speed connection, for example, to load Gawker and Fleshbot and the much-reported-about Paris Hilton sex video? To boil it down: Do I have an obligation not to abuse this gift of free Internet? Or does the operator of this network have an obligation to install better security or live with uninvited interlopers?
- Sincerely, Anonymous.
... An update on yesterday's journal: It turns out Mike Eshoo is on his way to Iraq. He describes his job as a Rifle Platoon Leader in the Army's Stryker Brigade. (What's a Stryker? Click here.) Good luck, Mike.
- DarylJournal | Tuesday, November 11, 2003 | #
Life during wartime
Today is the anniversary of the World War I armistice, which we now celebrate as Veterans Day. Without devolving into clichés, I want to mention that Veterans Day is meant to honor everyone who has served in the armed forces, including those serving currently. Dave (in Iraq), Brian (home from Germany), Abby (home from Afghanistan), Mike (on his way somewhere with the Army), and many others deserve a nod today. I still think we can justify both our opposition to war (especially the current one) and our support of the young people who actually carry the M-16s.
Today's a good day to plug the "Operation Hero Miles" program. If you collect frequent-flier miles, you can ask your airline to contribute your miles to a service member flying home from Iraq on emergency leave. Read the site for more information. I can tell from Dave's e-mails that leave is like the carrot at the end of the stick for a lot of these guys.
- DarylJournal | Monday, November 10, 2003 | #
I spent the weekend visiting my family in Maryland, including a nice birthday party for my dad on Saturday night. Each time I drive home from Maryland on a Sunday night, I swear it will be the last time. Sitting in traffic in New Jersey is lousy. Next time I'll take the train! Then I remember that taking the train is just as inconvenient, and costs much more. What I need is a private jet.
... Evolving language alert: Check out this excellent story about the use of the word "queer." I think it's been easier to agree on this word than settle on a preferred order of the letters LGBT. (Or GLBT? BLGT?)
- DarylJournal | Saturday, November 8, 2003 | #
Selfless, cold, and composed
I just finished watching the Barbara Walters interview with Martha Stewart. While I respect Walters' news sense, something about her gets on my nerves. Maybe it's phony empathy.
... I'm driving to Maryland today to see my family. There will be no journal Sunday.
... Starting today, I'm adding a new feature on the home page. Whenever you see the pound symbol (#) it will give you a permanent link to that day's journal entry. You might find this useful if you run a weblog of your own and want to link to a specific entry on this site. You can also use this if you want to send a particular journal entry to someone via e-mail. Basically, it's my way to get you to promote my work.
- DarylJournal | Friday, November 7, 2003 | #
I enjoyed dinner last night with Millie, the mysterious Mary, and a fellow whose name may or may not have been Quiche. Millie invited us on behalf of her Human Rights Watch Young Advocates group, which organized a dinner as part of the Night of a Thousand Dinners campaign, which raises money for Adopt-A-Minefield, part of the United Nations Association of the USA. I apologize for hitting you with too many proper nouns just there.
... Add another item to the long list of grievances against Clear Channel: Their morning show DJs asked listeners to hurt bicyclists. To be fair, Clear Channel doesn't exactly have a monopoly on angry and ill-informed morning show DJs. Yet.
... To update an old journal, "The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire" has been cancelled. Tough break, granite state.
- DarylJournal | Thursday, November 6, 2003 | #
A free speech
Last night, I went with Cheryl, Antonio, Ruiyan, and Lauren to a panel discussion on civil liberties, sponsored by The Nation and The New School. A star-studded group of commentators took the stage to promote a book that features their work.
Anthony Romero, director of the ACLU, started the presentation by talking about John Ashcroft, his support of Patriot Act, and the country's response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This was really preaching to the choir: Lots of applause from the audience on the sentiments that some laws rushed into place to prevent terrorism are dangerously overreaching.
Comedian Janeane Garofalo spoke next. I always thought her to be overly sarcastic and snide, but she impressed me with a funny critique of the president and people who criticise entertainers for their anti-war opinions.
Next up was Michael Isikoff, an investigative reporter for Newsweek, who I know mainly as the guy who almost broke the Monica Lewinsky story. He spoke about the Patriot Act, which, it turns out, is so opaque and complicated that nobody understands it. He also said it's been more challenging to report on the Bush administration, in part because lawmakers and sources don't "give legs" to stories critical of Bush with the same fury that they did of stories critical of Clinton.
Lastly, we heard from Cornel West, the brilliant African-American studies professor who left Harvard to teach at Princeton. West has such a grasp of theatrics that he actually has a cameo role as himself in the second and third "Matrix" movies. He wears an afro and speaks with all the subtlety and pacing of a runaway train. And he taught me a new word: parrhesia.
- DarylJournal | Wednesday, November 5, 2003 | #
So E-ZPass has got their RF tag technology in good order. We can use it to pay tolls on the roads and to pay for parking at the airports. Why stop there? Why, for example, can't I use my E-ZPass to pay for fuel? Why can't I use it at a parking meter? Why can't I order a sack of four at the White Castle drive-thru, and bill it to my E-ZPass? Better still, why doesn't someone invent an E-ZPass hat, which you could wear around town and use to pay for absolutely everything?
... Dave Johnson, Centennial High School alum, Troop 874 Eagle Scout, and "Survivor" loser is in New York tomorrow to promote guess what? a board game.
- DarylJournal | Tuesday, November 4, 2003 | #
Greatest sports movie ever made
I finally rented "Lagaan" this week. In case you aren't familiar with it, "Lagaan" is one of the only Indian movies to achieve a small degree of recognition in the United States. What can you expect from this film? Well, it's four hours long. The plot is about the sport of cricket. The setting is a village in central India in the 1890s. It stars no one you've ever heard of. It is in Hindi with English subtitles. Oh yeah, and it's a musical. Right there, it would seem like this film has nothing going for it. Wrong! It's brilliant. Go to your nearest Blockbuster, find it on the "foreign" shelf (ever been to that section before?) and check it out. I think you'll enjoy it, and want to tell your friends.
... Speaking of India, here's an interesting article about the menace of monkeys in New Delhi. Those of us in the states should be glad there are no apes native to the U.S.
- DarylJournal | Monday, November 3, 2003 | #
Don't stop running
Here's a picture of the New York Marathon yesterday morning, seen on Lafayette Avenue in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. Big congratulations to Cheryl on her successful run!
...Today, I ask a favor of you, dear readers. Don't worry, it's easy. I'd like you to send me an e-mail if I don't know you. (Meaning you've never e-mailed me before.) The address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The point of this experiment is to get a better idea of who reads this journal and whether you're motivated enough to write to me if I ask you to. If you have time, please dash off a message to say who you are and how you found this site. The rest of you friends, family, family of friends, and friends of family please carry on with your day. (Or, if you have miscellaneous feedback or questions about the site, now's a good time for that.)
Most of all, thanks for reading.
- DarylJournal | Sunday, November 2, 2003 | #
The power of a good song
I've written before about how much I love the iTunes Music Store. I'm especially grateful that they have kept it streamlined to work passably well on a dial-up Internet connection (like mine). One cool iTunes feature that Napster, Kazaa, etc., lacked is a list of the top 100 most-downloaded songs. As VH1 figured out long ago, we all love countdowns. Of the thousands of songs on iTunes, which are the ones people most want to hear? Well, most of top songs, invariably, are new pop releases. But the interesting part of the list is the ones that are a few years old.
Some of the unlikely golden oldies in the top 100 right now include "Tempted" by Squeeze (no. 94), "Touch of Grey" by the Grateful Dead (no. 74), "Video Killed The Radio Star" by the Buggles (no. 71), "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot (no. 51), "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers (no. 48), and "Losing my Religion" by R.E.M. (no. 33).
...Off to watch the marathon!
- DarylJournal | Saturday, November 1, 2003 | #
Two kinds of New Yorkers:
You've got the 36,000 people who run the marathon. And then you've got the rest of us, who sit by the sidelines and mutter, "You've got to be crazy to run 26.2 miles." Sunday morning, I'll be in that second category as I cheer on the runners here in Brooklyn. Those of you who are watching, be on the lookout for my friend Cheryl Frankenfield. Cheryl writes: "I'm going to try and run with some sort of costume on (maybe i'll make it on TV) so I might be wearing knee-high stripped socks, a sparkly wig and a cape of some sort. Oh, and my race number is 27297." Go Cheryl go!
... A new nomination for "most compelling headline of the year." By that I mean, a web headline that you simply cannot pass over without clicking on it. Go ahead, I dare you to resist this one: "High School Girls Pummel Man Who Exposed Himself." (Earlier headlines in this category include "Pirate Fined for Assaulting Sausage" and "Riot Mars 5th Grade Graduation.")