30 April 2007

Fun Sounds

As we turned on to East 97th Street off Fifth Avenue yesterday afternoon, a propos of I can't remember what -- it's weird that I can remember where this happened, but not why, and I'm sure there was a why -- my boyfriend asked if I knew the name of former Providence, Rhode Island mayor and convicted felon Buddy Cianci's wife's name. I didn't, but because whatever it was we were talking about was goofy, I guessed: Nancy Cianci.

Better, he said. It's Nancy Ann Cianci.

Say a few times. Say it during the day when you need to laugh. It's addictive.


27 April 2007

The New York Times Hates Me

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published an editorial about how Americans needed to use fewer plastic bags. Ireland, South Africa, San Francisco (that's not really America, is it?) have all either banned or taxed them.

I am very keen on this issue. It seems such a simple way to start to cut down on waste (and petroleum-derived waste at that). But here's the thing: Yes, state and local governments should encourage people to bring reusable bags to the store. But the bigger problem is that stores need to be willing to accommodate those customers who do that, and apart from Whole Foods, I've never been in a store that hasn't tried to snatch up my purchase before I can protest that I have my own bag, or don't need one at all.

Which is what I wrote in my very first Letter to the Editor.

I know they get hundreds of letters, and the fact that I hadn't heard from them within a couple of days made it pretty clear they weren't going to publish mine. But they weren't publishing any letters on the subject, so at least I didn't have to feel personally rejected.

Until today, when they belatedly ran this, from someone named Nathalie (there doesn't need to be an h in Natalie, does there?) in North Hollywood, California.

"Nathalie" thinks we need to be more like the French, who she recently visited and was impressed with. Well sure, be like the French, but the French have a long history of shopping at markets and such with a basket tucked under their arm; they may have Les McDonalds, but they do not have the vite-vite-vite culture so ingrained in their tetes that it's much of a stretch for them to stop using plastic bags. Also, "Nathalie" emphasized the role of the individual, which is what the editorial did. I tried to take the conversation a step further.

But no, the New York Times will not be challenged. Plus, they hate me.

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"I Hope You All Are Cozy"

On my warm, damp subway car this morning, just past 72nd Street, the conductor's voice came over the PA. "I hope you all are cozy," he began, and right away, I felt people tense up. This is one of the newer subway cars, the ones with the recorded announcements about the upcoming station. It's unusual to hear the live conductor's voice, except when there's a problem.

"I hope you all are cozy," could mean, "we're going to be stuck in the tunnel for a while." But he went on, cheerfully, about how we all needed to be considerate of each other, and make sure to stand out of the way to let people on and off the train. To a sodden and cranky group of people -- I describe primarily myself here -- he struck just the right tone of friendliness. Too much of that and you want to stick things in your ears. Like pencils.

"If you are traveling in a crowded car," he continued, "look at it as an opportunity to get to know your fellow New Yorkers." I heard only one person groan at that; the rest of the car was laughing (though not taking him up on the getting to know your neighbor part). He wished us to have a safe and pleasant day, to get to our destinations and be happy to be there.

There's something about an unexpected deviation from the script that we seem to like here in the city. Maybe it's the idea that the conductor might actually like his job, instead of being one of those resentful civil servants who hate everyone. Maybe it's that it reminds us that no matter what very serious thing we're thinking about, we are, after all, traveling in reasonable comfort around a reasonably safe city. What do we have to complain about?

Whatever the reason, I ended my journey at 34th street in a considerably better mood than when I started, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one.

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24 April 2007

Climate Change

The weather finally changed over the weekend, and we're now enjoying sunny days in the high 70s. And you know what that means. Instead of bundling on layers when I go outside, now I'm bundling on the layers when I get inside, in the office. The over-a/c'd office.

Seriously, if someone came up with a solution to the office air-conditioning problem -- why does it always have to be so cold and breezy? -- we'd probably save enough electricity to solve global warming within three years.

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19 April 2007

Confirming the Superiority of New York

I'm not usually one of those people who boasts about how great NYC is compared to other places. I think it's partly because I grew up here -- I'm so confident of the fact, I don't need to prove it -- and partly that I've lived other places, and so realize that there are a lot of other fine places in the world to live.

But today's report on New York City's Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which states that NYC produces 1% of the United States' greenhouse gases, while housing 2.7% of its population, seems to suggest we've really got something good going here.

Closer examination of the report, which I am still reading, reveals that our enviro-friends out in San Francisco emit 11.2 metric tons of greenhouse gases per capita, to our 7.1.

But then, the number for London is 5.9, so we've clearly got a way to go.

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17 April 2007

I Can Die Happy Now

I met Soterios Johnson last night.

Anyone who listens to WNYC in the morning knows how big that is. (For those of you who don't, he hosts the morning news.) He doesn't sound anything like what he sounds like on the radio. I told him I sometimes cursed him by name when I left my apartment in the morning to find that it was raining, instead of lightly misting as he had reported a few minutes earlier. He gets that a lot, apparently.

I spoke to him for a good twenty minutes, and he turns out to be very nice. Which, thank goodness. There's nothing worse than meeting a celebrity -- even a minor, geeky, New-York-only celebrity -- and finding out he's an jerk.

(I was at dinner last night at a new Greek restaurant on the Upper East Side, 60th between Park and Lex. It's called Retsina, and if you like Greek food at all, you should go. I can't tell you how expensive it is, because it was one of those dinners in honor of someone where someone rich and generous picked up the tab, but I'd say it's probably moderately expensive.

Also, I don't plan on dying any time soon, kenna hurra.)


12 April 2007


After a week's absence, the car alarm is active again, probably because of the rain. The guy parked next to the McDonald's exit, too, insuring a steady stream of cars passing close enough to set off the alarm, in those rare intervals when it's off.

There's a twist this time: In addition to the "whump, whump, whump," of the horn alarm, there's a "dooey, dooey, dooey," squeal on top of it.

We've already called 911 for the day, but based on what happened last week, i.e., the alarm didn't stop until late afternoon, when the guy came back to his car, I think we're in for a long, headachy day.


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04 April 2007

Driving -- or Rather, Parking -- Us Crazy

I hear a car alarm going off right now. Not so unusual for a busy city street, even if I am seven stories up. What is a little unusual is that it's been beeping -- it's one of those horn alarms, rather than a squeal -- for the past three days.

One of my colleagues timed it yesterday. On average, it goes off for thirty seconds at a time, every two and a half minutes. A sample survey taken by me standing at the window indicates that it is set off by either a person or car getting too close to it, which, considering that this is Tenth Avenue near the Lincoln Tunnel, happens at least every two and a half minutes.

Here's what's weird: the owner of the car comes back every day at 2:30, and drives off. He gets the same spot every day because he's a city employee. The same colleague who timed the alarm yesterday took down the car's license plate this morning, and it's an official city vehicle. You'd think in the time it takes for the guy to approach and enter his car the alarm would go off, and he'd realize something was wrong. Maybe he does and doesn't care.

Another colleague called 311 this morning, who put him through to 911. The dispatcher asked, "it's been going off for three days and you're just calling," which is a fair point. We watched a police cruiser pull up to the car five minutes later. A cop got out, took down a number from the car's windshield, and got back in the car. The alarm went off a half dozen more times while the cruiser idled next to it. Then the cruiser drove off, presumably because the alarm was driving the cops crazy, too.

The alarm is still going. We're hoping for a tow truck soon, or maybe an out-of-control semi.

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