Archive for September, 2009

Wed 30 Sep 2009 8:10 am   //   Posted in: Media, TV

Fox & Frenemies

Item! A gym patron in Columbia, Maryland, named Ann Geddes (not the photographer!) is trying to get her gym to remove Fox News from the TV lineup in the exercise room. The Baltimore Sun.

Geddes and I disagree on this point. As I wrote back in November, I enjoy watching Fox News at the gym because it makes me angry, and anger helps me exercise harder!

Since November, however, I have changed my mind about something I wrote.


Thu 24 Sep 2009 7:13 am   //   Posted in: Books, Stray data, Technology’s long memory

Yesterday I got one of those promotional e-mails Amazon sends out all the time….

As someone who has purchased or rated Guide to Venezuela: The Bradt Travel Guide by Hilary-Dunsterville Branch or other books in the South America > Venezuela category, you might like to know that Along the River that Flows Uphill: Between the Orinoco and the Amazon (Armchair Traveller) will be released on October 1, 2009.

So what, right? Here’s what: Amazon is making a recommendation based on a book I purchased in September 2000—Nine years ago!


Tue 22 Sep 2009 7:42 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Information Darwinism

I still remember sitting in my 9th grade science class and seeing, for the first time, a simple explanation of DNA. It blew my mind how elegant a solution it is to coding information: A zipper of matching teeth. Sometimes a mutation occurs that helps a species stay alive and reproduce. It gets copied ferociously, and we call that evolution. It’s beautiful.

In some ways, the spreading of news via the Internet these days is like natural selection. I’m going to single out Twitter here—not because Twitter is the only place information Darwinism is happening, but because it’s easiest to explain. On Twitter, people are sharing millions of facts every minute. Some of these facts get retweeted, copied. The most valuable, urgent and interesting information gets copied with great speed. Definitive, immediate news of mass interest (think: death of a celebrity) spreads the fastest and the farthest. Contrary to my prediction a few months ago, Twitter is surprisingly good at preventing the spread of bad information. Sure, a few people will copy a false rumor or a non-story (“URGENT! Earthquake reported in ___!”), but there seem to be enough influential Twitterers who know how to check facts, debunk false rumors, and consider history and context. Look at Wikipedia for evidence that, generally, crowdsourced editing works way better than you think it should.

We’re moving closer to an information ecosystem in which the fastest, best versions of important stories thrive and multiply.


Sun 20 Sep 2009 6:50 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Food & drink, Music, Travel

Top New York day

Lonely Planet guides often begin with the author’s “top day” in a particular location. My brother was visiting this weekend, and I think on Saturday we achieved my personal top day in New York City.

Here’s what we did. I’m going to include Friday and Sunday, just for good measure.


Fri 18 Sep 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Bicycles

An appeal

bikemsNow, usually I don’t do this.

But I’m about to ask you to make a contribution. No, the money’s not for me. It’s for research to find a cure for multiple sclerosis and to support programs for people who live with MS.

If you’ve read any of my posts this week about biking, you already know I’m going to be riding 100 miles in the New York Bike MS ride on October 4. This event is a major fund-raiser for the National MS Society. I’m riding in honor of my stepmom, who lives with MS. My goal is to raise at least $1000. I’m so grateful to my friends and family who have already given. As of this morning, we’ve raised $680! That’s excellent, but we’re not there yet.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you enjoy this blog. This blog costs me money and I don’t earn a dime from it. I’ve never asked for any donations to keep it running. I have no product to sell. There’s no advertising here. So today I ask you to donate a few bucks to the MS ride in the amount you think this blog is worth to you. If you’ve ever read something here that made you think, please give. If you’ve ever grinned while reading one of my posts, please give. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Hey, I already know about this thing because I saw it first on Daryl’s blog,” please give. If this blog has ever turned you on to a good film, or good band, or a good book, please give.

Try giving $10. Lunch money.

Like most people, I’ve given to friends’ fund-raising rides, walks and runs. But I’ve never participated in one before. Why am I doing this now? It’s because of a feeling I got. You’ve probably experienced it at some point, too. It’s the feeling that the world has been cruelly unfair to people who simply don’t deserve it. And you want to do something to correct this injustice. Sometimes that’s impossible. But channeling energy into raising money to help… Well, it might not solve the problem immediately, but it’s positive action. It’s a little way to push back on the unfairness of the world.

Follow this link to give online using a credit card. It’s easy, secure and simple. Thank you.

Thu 17 Sep 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Bicycles, Holga

Holga photos from a New Jersey bike ride

Note: I’m riding in the Bike MS ride on October 4 (info) and so every post this week is about biking!

I had to break the law to get these pictures. I’ll explain in a moment…

Meadowlands Xanadu, East Rutherford

Meadowlands Xanadu, East Rutherford

I’ve written before about Meadowlands Xanadu, the ginormous mall under construction in New Jersey. I’m fascinated by this brash, misbegotten project. It’s shockingly ugly, it has absolutely no interaction with the space surrounding it, and it has an indoor ski slope.

On Labor Day, I decided to see if it was possible to ride my bike from Brooklyn to Xanadu. According to Google Maps, it was 27 miles each way via the back roads. Totally doable. Off I went.


Wed 16 Sep 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Bicycles, Movies

The best bike movie of all time

Note: I’m riding in the Bike MS ride on October 4 (info) and so every post this week is about biking!

I was originally going to call this post “The top 5 bike movies of all time,” but who would I be kidding? There is only one that matters: “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.”


“I wouldn’t sell my bike for all the money in the world!,” Pee-Wee declares. “Not for a hundred billion million trillion dollars!”

Right on! Fact: This movie launched director Tim Burton’s career. Fact: This movie spawned the sugary 1980s Saturday morning classic Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, beloved by millions of children. Fact: Every time you hear the song “Tequila” by The Champs, you picture Pee-Wee dancing on the bar.

This movie also has the best bicycle chase scene ever committed to film. Beyond dispute.


Tue 15 Sep 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Bicycles

The elements of bicycle style

Note: I’m riding in the Bike MS ride on October 4 (info) and so every post this week is about biking!

Here are a few of my personal rules for cycling in the city:

Keep your bike in good repair. A well-maintained bike is a silent bike. Every sound indicates some loss of efficiency.

Similarly, a cyclist should be quiet. You should glide through the streets unnoticed, slipping between pedestrians and cars with the stealth of a night bird.

Have a bell. Pretend it isn’t there. Install it a few inches away from your thumb so you aren’t tempted to use it.

Ride happy and calm. Never try to teach anyone a lesson while you are on a bike; it will not work. Oblivious people do not deserve to be scolded, yelled at or given the finger. You are moving so quickly that their ignorance is a blip on your timeline.

Safety is your job. Watch out for yourself and for others who share the road. Expect no one to watch out for you.

Understand your bike. Know exactly where it can fit and how it can maneuver. Ride like a fighter pilot: fast and precise, always in absolute control.

Ride often. Ride in heat and rain, wind and darkness. Ride on and on. You are a bat. You are a laser-guided missile. You are a comic book hero. With great power comes great responsibility.

Mon 14 Sep 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Bicycles

Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance

bikelightNote: I’m riding in the Bike MS ride on October 4. (Info.) Since I’ve got cycling on the brain, I’m declaring it Bike Week on the blog! Every day at 9 a.m., Monday through Friday, I’ll have a new post about biking.

I recently read the 1974 book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. It was a fascinating read, and kind of a head trip. Amid some heavy philosophy and reflections on family and mental illness, Pirsig offers some sound advice about taking care of a motorcycle. He argues that it’s better to know your machine and work on it yourself than take it to a mechanic.

When it comes to bicycles, I generally agree. I always try to do as much bike maintenance as I can by myself. It saves money, it’s more convenient, and it’s personally satisfying. My bike is also simple and solidly built, so it usually only requires minor adjustments.

This past weekend, in preparation for my big ride next month, I decided to upgrade a few components on my bike. I installed new brake pads and adjusted the brakes. I mended a rip in the seat covering. I oiled the chain and wiped some of that sooty New York City street grime off the frame. And I decided to replace my cheap plastic pedals with lightweight metal ones with toe clips. A helpful guy at the friendly neighborhood bike shop, Brooklyn Bicycles, sold me a good, inexpensive set of metal pedals and clips. I decided to install them myself. Easy, right?


Fri 11 Sep 2009 11:55 pm   //   Posted in: New York is different, Right now

Tribute in Light, 2009

Two photos and a video shot tonight at the Brooklyn Heights promenade…