31 July 2006

Ice cold

Sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard was inspired by an old-fashioned bonnet when designing this resin sculpture, on display this summer in Madison Square Park, but today, when we're being warned of power outages during this week's heat wave, I can't help but wish it were an igloo.

30 July 2006

Does this look cool to you?

It's 86 degrees at 8pm, and Oz is upside down under a cabinet.

28 July 2006

Fun with cardboard

What is this, you ask?

I took a "cardboard carpentry" class this week at the Adaptive Design Association, and came away with a step stool that I made myself. I am now capable of reaching the next-to-highest shelf in my kitchen cabinets.

ADA works with schools and hospitals to design and build equipment and furniture for disabled kids. Why cardboard? It's cheap and available; it's easy to work with and more forgiving than other materials that require special skills to work with; it's lightweight; and, it's fast. That box that your computer came in could easily be turned into a set of steps that a child in a wheelchair can use to get down to the floor. And for a schools that never have enough funding and time to give disabled children the special attention they need - hell, there's not enough of those things for so-called typical children -- a chair that slips over a regular classroom chair to allow a child with cerebral palsy to sit comfortably is a big thing.

But really, it's just fun to make things out of cardboard. This stepstool, which holds my weight easily, is made from three-ply corrugated cardboard, Elmer's glue, nails made from chopsticks (sharpened in a pencil sharpener), and brown-paper bag to smooth out the edges. I plan to paint it soon, but if I get better at cutting the cardboard (I used a steak knife; others used a jigsaw), and making smoother joins, I could see leaving something unfinished.

After all, Frank Gehry didn't need to paint his Wiggle Chair, and those sell for $850, so clearly it's a good look.

23 July 2006

World War III?

While bombs continued to fall on both sides of the Israel/Lebanon border, and the number of internally displaced Lebanese rose to as many as 700,000 (about 20% of the population), and my friend in Beirut went up into the hills into what I hope is safety, I went shopping. Come on, ABC Carpet is having a sale and I have a new apartment; I need stuff.

I don't pretend to understand Middle East politics well, and I know there are legitimate reasons to go after Hezbollah. I don't accept, though, that it has to involve killing so many civilians. But it's clear where the U.S. government stands on the matter. Bomb away; Condi can stall for a week or two.

There's more. Ethiopia has sent troops to Somalia, as the possibility of all-out war between the Somali government and Islamic militias in that country increases. If you don't think that has anything to do with us, I have one word for you: Afghanistan.

The dead pile up in Iraq; the PR campaign out of the White House continues to ease us into an invasion of Iran.

I watch CNN; I read domestic and foreign newspapers online. I follow links to blogs written in the Middle East. I could not be better informed, as far as the information out there allows. But what can I do?

We haven't been asked to do anything. Sacrifice? What's that? George Bush himself said we had an "addiction to oil" in this year's State of the Union, but his solutions were all in the future. We will develop alternative energies, we will invest in those that already exist, we will we will, all vague some-day statements.

Could the man ask us to turn down our thermostats (or up, now that it's summer)? No. Jimmy Carter tried that, and look where it got him.

Besides, if even one American has to officially sacrifice her Saturday afternoon of shopping, the terrorists will have won. Doesn't it feel like that's what our Administration is telling us?

But what happens if things get worse, as they are threatening to? It doesn't make sense that Russia or China would side with Iran in the event of an American invasion -- they rely on us for too much. So, the theory goes, without them lining up against us, it won't really be World War Three. Oh, okay, I feel much better now.

20 July 2006

The north end of the park

A friend of mine who lives not too many blocks north of me asked me if "I went down more than up," since moving to the 90s. I hadn't thought about it, but yes, I do tend to walk south looking for coffee, or grocery stores, or nail salons (of which there are three within three blocks, by the way). That's the case when I go into Central Park, as well. I enter at 96th and immediately turn right, down to the part of the park I am more familiar with, having lived in the 70s for 9 years.

But this weekend, the conspiracy of red lights led me to 97th street, and turning left and up made more sense. I can't believe I've never explored the top 20% of the park in depth before. It's far less crowded than the middle or lower end, which makes walking a pleasurable activity, rather than an exercise in video game-like ducking and weaving.

On what is called Great Hill (it's more of a mound), there's a perfect tree.

The Harlem Meer, framed in wildflowers.

Someone has carved a faux relic into a boulder in the North Woods.

The statuary in the park is amazing. The three ladies splash in a fountain in the Conservatory Garden.

She looks happy, doesn't she?

All of the benches in the park have metal plaques on them; usually they commemorate a dead loved one. Sometimes they celebrate a couple's anniversary or the fact that someone really just loves the park. I usually pick the bench I sit on based in part on what the plaque says.

Sometimes they are very sad.

18 July 2006

"Conductor, if you can hear your Motor, come to him"

Those were the words that came over the 2 train loud speaker about 30 minutes into our stay in between the 50th and 42nd Street stations. We'd been told it was "signal trouble", and after the conductor went to the front of the train, she announced that in fact, the power had gone out on the entire 7th Avenue line. We'd have to walk up to the front of the train to exit at 42nd Street, assuming the driver (or "motor", I guess he's called) could jerk us that far into the station. He did, and about 50 minutes after we'd first stopped, I walked out of the frontmost train doors, held open by two transit policemen.

It used to be that if the power went out and you were stuck in the subway tunnel, you had only emergency lights, and certainly no air conditioning. A 50-minute wait would have been agony. As it was, with a seat, lights, a/c and yesterday's New Yorker, it was actually fairly pleasant, when I wasn't imagining that they were lying to us about signal trouble, and really, the train in front of us had been blown up.

17 July 2006


In my quest to lower the number of kwh on my monthly ConEd bill -- how did I go from 100 kwh in May to 120 in June without air conditioning? -- I've replaced the lightbulb in one of my living room lamps with a compact fluorescent bulb. It had been an infrequently used lamp, but since I want to see whether the CF bulb makes an appreciable difference to my electric bill, I've taken to turning it, and only it, on in the evenings. The problem is, it doesn't really give off enough light on its own to do anything but think of a combination lightbulb/Jewish mother joke::

Q: How many environmentalists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: That's alright; I'll just sit here in the dark.

Hey, I didn't say it was a funny joke.

Hot town

I chose today, likely to be the hottest day of the year so far, to start my early-morning productivity program. It involves getting in a 45-minute walk before getting ready for work.

7am is not early for many people, but it's rare that I'm on the street at that hour. There are a lot of people out and about: men in suits try to hail taxis downtown (good luck to them; 9 out of 10 are already full by the time they reach the 90s); construction workers in hard hats gather underneath scaffolding waiting for work to begin; everywhere, bleary-eyed dogwalkers; and everywhere, homeless people trying to get a few more minutes' sleep before shops and churches open up for the day.

16 July 2006

Broken glass

I travelled out to Northport, Long Island yesterday to visit a college friend who just had a baby. Six months ago. I guess that's hardly just, but I have a hard time getting myself together. The baby, like his two brothers, is adorable, her husband is as nice as ever, their house is a cheerful jumble of toys and books, they have very worthwhile and fulfilling jobs, and they seem genuinely happy, damn them. They no longer like their two dogs, though, so at least there's one thing not perfect about them.

The Huntington LIRR station has 20 or so stained glass windows portraying various fishing-related scenes (it's on the water). This one window I fixated on featured a swordfish, seen in the last photo.

12 July 2006

This is how people get famous (on the internet)

I have no ideas today, so I will give you over to someone who does: Ze Frank. Or is it ZeFrank?

I have no idea. He's some guy from Brooklyn who does a video broadcast, frequently about world events, sometimes of just the random stuff in his head, every day. And he's funny most of the time. And now you will all know about him and make him even more popular than he is already, the bastard.

I especially liked yesterday's broadcast, about the addictive qualities of the "brain crack" of ideas that you have forever but never do anything with. You may be addressing thousands of people in your audience, Zefrank, but I feel you are looking right at me.

08 July 2006

My hero

Something in my personal ad that I sometimes think I should delete because no one ever remarks on it and it probably makes me look a little weird -- it's the first thing I say so it stands out -- is that "in the absence of new work from Joss Whedon, I wander the streets of New York, plaintively calling his name."

Here's why

He starts out um'ing and uh'ing, but in the end kicks all sorts of ass.

06 July 2006

No 2 for you

My train this morning was held up for an “investigation of a suspicious package.” I got on the 2 at 96th Street, at 9:03. It took 10 tries for them to close the doors, then five seconds after we set out, the train came to an abrupt stop. The doors stayed closed; the loudspeaker mute. Oddly, I wasn’t concerned, and after about 5 minutes, we were underway.

At 72nd street, we stopped again, this time with the doors open. The conductor eventually announced that we were “momentarily delayed while personnel investigate a suspicious package on the train.”

What to do? Assume it’s nothing? I had a seat and a book. Wait to get blown up? When the conductor went on to suggest that “as an alternative, take the 1 local train across the platform,” I left the train. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the London Underground bombings. You never know.

But the 1 train closed its door before I could get to it, so I was left on the overheated platform, with all the other people who had left the train. Should I get back on the 2? Standing on the platform wasn’t going to protect me if there was a explosion, and at least the 2 had air conditioning.

In the end, I waited for the next 1 train, and was 20 minutes late for work. A minor inconvenience. But I can't help but feel it's only a matter of time before it's something more.

02 July 2006

Happy Anniversary to Me

I began this blog one year ago today. I had a lot of deep thoughts about that earlier in the day, then somehow erased all of them.

I also haven't mastered digital photography in the last year. This picture was meant to be one of me in a big hat and sunglasses, but I erased that as well. This one is from yesterday in Central Park, listening to Seu Jorge at Summerstage.

It's hard not to view occasions like this as opportunities to reflect. What have I done in a year? I've had a few small triumphs at work, which I can't talk about (though a recent one, to give you a small hint, involved CNN), but I'm feeling frustrated and unfulfilled by my job. I want to be doing something in the world, something that will make a positive impact, and my job is more about keeping things going for other people who are out there making impacts, positive and negative.

I overcame my ambivalence and bought an apartment.

I went all Al Gore and gave up air conditioning. Luckily, my apartment seems to be its own little microclimate, 5 degrees cooler than outside.

I went on a lot of first dates.

I walked. I haven't been writing as much as I'd have liked, and I haven't been writing about walking as much as I'd have liked, but I am still walking, still getting off the bus a few stop early, taking a detour across the park, wandering around midtown at lunchtime. Still looking for shoes that aren't sneakers so that I can look a little nicer while I'm out there.

I'm still hanging out with Stuntmother, as I did today, as I have since we were children, and as I hope to do until we're well into our dotage. She was the one who encouraged me to start this blog, knowing that though I've written all my life, I find it impossible to finish anything and put it out into the world. This, she said, would be possible. And, a year later, I feel like it is.

Where I walked today: To Central Park to queue for tickets for Macbeth, only to find out that I needed to be there by 8am; down Broadway to various stores that were closed for the holiday; down Madison Avenue to look for the bridesmaid's outfit SM needs for her sister's wedding and to drink an iced coffee; to the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue to see just how cool it really is and get overwhelmed by the crowd; back to the west side to Borders, to buy King Leopold's Ghost and The Long Emergency (because, you know, I needed some light entertainment). Miles: ~3.5

On why cellphones are going to kill you

Riding the M104 home last night from Fairway at 11pm -- yes, it was a very exciting Saturday night -- a man sitting behind me had the following conversation with his girlfriend:

"I'm on the bus."

"I'm getting close."

"We just passed 89th Street... 90th... 91st... wait, no, we're stopping at 91st."

"I'm on the M104, we're just about to pass another M104. I'm on the non-electric one."

"Should we go for dinner first, or go to the movie place?"

"Isn't the food going to get cold if we go all the way up there first?"

"I'm coming up to your stop; think fast, dinner or movie place."

"On this one, this bus stopping right now."

"Get on the bus, I'm on this bus."

"I'm on the bus you just got on."

"No, that's the other bus."

Those two last comments were while the girlfriend was actually on the bus, oblivious to the fact that her boyfriend was sitting 10 feet away. Unbelievably, the conversation continued in this vein for the rest of the trip, only now I could hear both sides of it. ("Which place?" "That place we went before," et cet.)

Normally I'm very tolerant of inanity, but come the fuck on. Don't people know that eventually, I'm going to have to hit them if they keep this up?