Archive for April, 2009

Fri 17 Apr 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Food & drink, Hard times, New York is different

There’s always a recession at Gray’s Papaya

Gray’s Papaya is the most famous of Manhattan’s many hot dog lunch counters. Gray’s has locations all over town, and like its many clones, it sells pretty good dogs and dubious fruit drinks. When I moved to New York, I was immediately amused by Gray’s signage. The owner likes to use current events to promote deals on hot dogs, and back in 2002, big signs in the windows advertised a “Recession Special!” That slogan is copied all over the place, but Gray’s basically owns the idea.

In fact, in the last seven years, I don’t think Gray’s Papaya has ever stopped offering a Recession Special. After all, it takes a year or so to know when a recession has started or ended, but it only takes a minute to sell a hot dog.

Thu 16 Apr 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Labeling, Photos

The Bimbo truck

Grupo Bimbo is big Mexican bread company. Their bread is sold in some shops in Brooklyn, and I often see their friendly delivery truck zipping around my neighborhood.

Whatever your day brings, at least you don’t have to ride around the city around in a vehicle with the word BIMBO on the side of it.

Wed 15 Apr 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Cartoons, Dinosaurs

Meet the velocirabbit

I hope you had a happy Easter and are enjoying the spring season!

Legend* has it that on Easter morning, a magical animal called the velocirabbit — half bunny, half dinosaur — hides colorful eggs for all the children. I took a stab at an artist’s rendering of this rare beast.

* According to Sydney.

Tue 14 Apr 2009 8:15 am   //   Posted in: Movies, Review, Technology

Spoiler alert

Last night I watched the leaked workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a movie that doesn’t open until May 1. The print appeared online around April 1, much to the dismay of 20th Century Fox, which has vowed to find the person responsible for leaking the file. I used a Web site called The Pirate Bay and a program called Limewire to find and download a Quicktime file; it took about four mouse clicks. Apparently it’s so easy to find a streaming version of the bootleg that one movie critic stumbled upon it by accident.


Sat 11 Apr 2009 2:01 pm   //   Posted in: Technology

Digital spring cleaning

I’m taking a four-day weekend for Easter. Last night I helped out with mics and sound at my church’s annual Good Friday Passion Play, which is one of our congregation’s favorite annual traditions.

Now it’s Saturday afternoon, and it’s dark out and rain is pelting my windows. I’m doing some work at my desk while I listen to the Fugees channel on Pandora. I just made some upgrades to my home page. This is a dynamically generated site, and it demands constant refinement. Coding reminds me of doing the crossword puzzle. I am concerned about my site’s reliance on Twitter, because it tends to fail more than it used to, but I’m not that concerned.

When I left the office Thursday for a long weekend, I promised myself I wouldn’t check my work e-mail during my days off. I lasted a day and a half. What if I were missing something interesting? My curiosity was just too powerful.

I’ve been thinking about my mission as a journalist, which is to learn important information and expediently transmit it to an audience. For the most part, that means talking to people who know more than I do. But I also have to monitor all sorts of data streams. In no particular order: Other publications, e-mail, SEC filings, communications from trade groups, court documents, incoming phone calls, message boards, Twitter, blogs and (yuck) blog comments. There are too many data streams and too much noise to keep track of it all. Society deals with this is by having mavens who are skilled at finding and communicating the important stuff. As an editor, I am one of those people.

The good news is we have more mavens monitoring these information streams than ever, and cooperating with one another. The more significant the information, the faster it travels and the wider its reach. Considering a classic example: If the president were shot, how long would it take for the news to reach 80 percent of Americans? Half an hour? Ten minutes? In my case (as an online editor for a niche business publication) very important news comes to me fast, from multiple sources, wherever I am. Boring news—Acme Widgets names a new CFO—comes in via e-mail and sits there.

I read a great quote in a recent New York Times story about the “social filter.” Increasingly, people rely on their friends to spot interesting news and pass it along, a process made much easier by the Internet. The quote is a second-hand observation from a researcher named Jane Buckingham, who heard a college student say it in a focus group:

“If the news is that important, it will find me.”

There’s something comforting about that statement. I can take a day off to help rig mics for church people singing songs in a play, and not worry that I’m going to be the last to know something.

There are problems with this method as well. Editing-by-democracy means simple, fun stories get more attention than important but complicated ones. Sometimes false information spreads fast, particularly in vague stories when there’s no correct information to knock it down. But through all history, humans have had an urge communicate with one another, and to get better at it. It’s a fascinating time to do what I do.

Thu 9 Apr 2009 7:22 am   //   Posted in: In the news, Media

Pirates are hilarious!

This is the front page of today’s Post, our city’s beloved Murdoch tabloid. The Post is sometimes way ahead of the curve; it was losing money years before losing money was cool. But it’s a little late to the pirate craze.

Wed 8 Apr 2009 5:08 pm   //   Posted in: Technology

The wrongest thing I’ve published on this blog

Earlier today I wrote a post on this blog about how great it is to have two Twitter feeds. As I pat myself on the back for being so clever and cool, I should probably acknowledge how wrong I was about Twitter exactly a year ago.

On April 8, 2008, readers of this blog saw these words:

“I may be wrong about Twitter, but I’m pretty sure it’s over. We’ve given it long enough. We’ve been patient. It’s not poised to break out of the nerd community. It’s not the next big thing.”

To see how wrong I was, take a look at this chart.

Wed 8 Apr 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Technology

Why have multiple Twitter accounts?

All the advice about Twitter from social networking experts could fill a book. (Aside: How do these experts make money? Anybody know?) Oh wait—it actually has filled a book. (So that’s how they make money!) For a messaging service that limits you to 140 characters, Twitter sure has spawned a lot of verbose experts. A strict science is evolving around Twitter, devoted to the universal goal of amassing and retaining the largest group of followers possible. There are rules.

I am not a fan of rules. So I have two Twitter feeds.

One is pdnonline, where I follow the rules. Technically this account is not really mine. I created this account for my company, and it’s the voice of the magazine where I work. However, I write all of it. I try very hard to keep it useful, interesting and on-topic. I promote it ceaselessly. And it works! We have more than 2,600 followers and growing.

My other Twitter feed is daryllang, which is mirrored as my Facebook status update and appears in the headline feed on my home page. I don’t follow any rules with it, and I don’t care. I have abandoned any misguided notion that Twitter skills will help my career. (Confidential to fellow journalists: The sooner you realize this, the better.) The only reason to post on my personal Twitter account is for fun, and when it stops being fun, I stop doing it. I have a paltry 117 followers on my daryllang account. I think that’s perfect.

Tue 7 Apr 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Media

A quiet week in Lake Wobegone

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of seeing a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion at Town Hall in New York with my friends Natalie and Nathan. It was my second time seeing Garrison Keillor’s show, and it’s consistently enjoyable. (You know, in an old man/Land’s End/public broadcasting sort of way). One of the performers this week was Wynton Marsalis, who is a particularly outstanding musical artist to appear on this show.

The Onion tips its hat to Mr. Keillor (and his red sneakers) with this story: Two Dozen More Bodies Found In Lake Wobegon.

Mon 6 Apr 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, In the news

Cliché alert: The “not normal times” lead

In normal times, a company with its name on a baseball stadium would be flattered to have the chief executive take part in the opening-day festivities. But these are not normal times.”

— Ken Belson and Eric Dash, The New York Times, April 4, 2009.

“The century-old Russell Senate Office Building… is not ordinarily a spot for political rallies. But these are not ordinary times.”

— Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, April 2, 2009.

If these were normal times, it would be ludicrous to issue a report card on the Obama administration’s economic policies. … But these aren’t normal times.”

— Paul Krugman, Rolling Stone, March 3, 2009.

By any normal political standards, this week’s Congressional agreement on an economic stimulus package was a great victory for President Obama. … Break out the Champagne! Or maybe not. These aren’t normal times, so normal political standards don’t apply.”

— Paul Krugman, The New York Times, February 12, 2009.

“Has Barack Obama’s presidency already failed? In normal times, this would be a ludicrous question. But these are not normal times.”

— Martin Wolf, Financial Times, February 10, 2009.

“The economic case against protectionism is that it distorts incentives: each country produces goods in which it has a comparative disadvantage, and consumes too little of imported goods. And under normal conditions that’s the end of the story. But these are not normal conditions.”

— Paul Krugman, The New York Times, February 1, 2009.

(P.S.: Snap out of it, Krugman, you’re better than this!)