Archive for July, 2009

Fri 31 Jul 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Stray data, Transit

You’d be there by now on the Air-Shuttle

The last time I took the Amtrak to D.C., in May, I shot some pictures of urban decay seen from the train. There was one particular sign I wanted to photograph—on the side of a warehouse between Trenton and Philadelphia—but it always goes by so fast I’ve never been able to get a shot of it. Until a recent trip to Maryland this past Saturday.


This is a poster for the long-defunct Eastern Airlines Air Shuttle. Note the classic Eastern logo in the lower-left part of the sign. How old is this sign?


Wed 29 Jul 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Food & drink

Better eating through chemistry

At home in Maryland last weekend, we were snacking on some popcorn chicken from the prepared-foods section of the grocery store. Mmm, those little fried nuggets were tasty! They had that savory fast-food flavor you can’t replicate in your own kitchen.

The secret? One of the ingredients on the label was “chicken flavor.” Chicken-flavored chicken! Genius!


Mon 27 Jul 2009 8:13 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Movies, Music

Mighty good

This store cracks me up every time I walk past it:



Wed 22 Jul 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Transit

If so inclined


Once, this scar on the side of North Beacon Mountain, New York, was an inclined railway. Built in 1902 (toward the end of America’s short-lived funicular railroad craze) it shuttled tourists to a hotel and casino at the top of the hill.


Sun 19 Jul 2009 2:15 pm   //   Posted in: Planet earth

The scarlet tanager

Hudson River view from Breakneck Ridge

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I put on my hiking boots and rode the Metro North to Cold Spring, a town on the east shore of the Hudson. There I hiked over Breakneck Ridge, ending up in Beacon, where I caught the train back to Manhattan. The payoff of this hike is breathtaking views of the river.

Halfway between the two towns, in the deepest part of the woods, I saw something that stirred me deeply. With the green leaves of the forest canopy diffusing the sunlight, a brilliant red songbird landed on the limb of a nearby sapling. I’d never seen a bird like it before. I’d never seen anything that color before. The bird whistled and its song was quiet and slightly raspy, as if it were whispering a discrete secret. I watched it for a few seconds as it hopped from branch to branch. Then it darted off into the trees. I continued my hike.

Back home, I checked my bird book and learned I had seen a scarlet tanager. Normally yellow, the males turn bright red during mating season, March to August. Stunning bird. I didn’t even try to take a picture.

Fri 17 Jul 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Stray data

Do I owe Wikipedia, or does it owe me?

My friend Jeremy recently noticed that an article he and I co-wrote in college was cited in a Wikipedia entry.

Neat! I realize this will sound corny, but I’m still flattered whenever anybody cites something I wrote. Why not be? It’s a signal that somebody considers my work useful and authoritative—what a compliment!

With this in mind, I had to ego-search Wikipedia for my name to see how many times I’ve been cited. The answer is 12 times. And on an odd collection of subjects!


Wed 15 Jul 2009 7:53 am   //   Posted in: Technology

Life without Facebook

I check Facebook several times a day to see what my friends are posting. It’s fun.

I also like it because it’s free. I’ve never spent any money on Facebook, or as a result of Facebook, and I probably never will. Which, in a theme I’ve written about here before on this blog, is a little scary. Is there a business here, or just a Web site? And would we be OK if one day it collapsed?


Sun 12 Jul 2009 8:49 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Transit

G force


Everybody in New York has a different favorite train, but everyone has the same least-favorite: The G. Short, slow, infrequent, and weird, the G Train seems unworthy of New York. It goes through some rough or obscure places, and makes stops on streets you’ve never heard of unless you live there, like Classon Avenue. The G’s lazy, L-shaped route from Brooklyn to Queens makes it the only line in the whole system that never stops in Manhattan. This train is hard to love.

But nobody hates the G more than Park Slopers. Only we understand the frustration of standing in a packed F train at the end of a hard day, three stops from home, waiting for a G ahead of us turn around. Can’t they clear that train a little faster! We’ve got takeout and craft beer waiting in the fridge!

Some of the best stories happen when a group of established characters have to react to a sudden change in their environment. A week ago, the MTA extended the G route by five stops in Brooklyn. Like an unwanted kitten left on our doorstop, we in Park Slope have to claim the G as our own. We’re no longer an F neighborhood. We’re a F/G neighborhood. How are we supposed to react to this?


Tue 7 Jul 2009 10:27 pm   //   Posted in: Transit, Travel

Life lessons on the Megabus


There are at least two constants when you take a long-distance bus. You always arrive at your destination late. And you always have to witness people yelling at one another. The way to cope is to sit down, shut down, go limp, be invisible, and let the bus beat up on your spirit for however many hours it takes.

My latest transportation adventure was a round-trip ride on Coach USA’s Megabus from New York to Washington, D.C. Along with Greyhound’s BoltBus, Megabus is one of a several ultra-cheap scheduled buses that recently started plying I-95. The first few tickets on each bus are $1 or $3. My tickets were $18 each way. (more…)

Mon 6 Jul 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Media


This is an actual ad, evidently trying to persuade old people to give up paper bank statements:


Geez, why stop at the mailman? Trust no one!