Friday, October 31, 2008

Haloween in the big city

So far my New York Haloween experience has consisted of...

-a 40 year old slicked-back hair superman riding the subway
-Several Lara Croft Tomb Raiders
-Sarah Palin and a Caribou
-hundreds of other costumes

...and the best yet. A caravan of hydraulic-lifted lowriders driven by, among other things, a scary clown.

After my expo shift this morning I headed to the South Ferry Terminal, where I learned that you have to get there several hours early to get a ticket to Liberty and Ellis Islands. Since I couldn't do that, I hopped the free Staten Island Ferry and got to make some more use of the new camera.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Toy

First up, I put together my Photsynth of Times Square. If you've got a PC and don't mind installing a browser plug-in, check it out. It looks like the image below, only you can click and drag to view a 360 degree panorama generated from 30 separate images.

See it here!

Anyway, to get into the city without obscene parking charges for our trucks, not to mention the hassle of driving/unloading/reloading our trucks in New York, we rented a cargo van and packed our gear for the weekend into it. We were able to do this because we have a very, very tiny space and no finish line presence at this event.

The back of the cargo van, loaded with random stuff and people riding illegal-immigrant style.

New York Style pizza. So far, I've tried chicken tomato, pepperoni mushroom, ravioli, buffalo chicken, and margarita pizza slices.

It's ironic that in such a massive city, everything is so tiny and cramped. Here is our hotel room, taken standing in the shower. There's hardly room to unpack bags, and it costs $340 a night per room.

And our 10'x10' expo setup. Nearly as large as the hotel room. Half-way through the day, the radio station booth next to us packed up and headed out for the day, so we removed the railing seperating the booths to allow for better flow through the booth. It's still very cramped.

And FINALLY! I have my camera. It's great. Image stabilizing lens, wide angle and macro lenses, three filters, a bag, and lots of other odds and ends.

I had to let the battery charge a while, so I only made it out to test the camera out around dusk. I spent a while using a colorful storefront to test out various image settings, shutter speeds, aperture, ISO, etc. to see what the camera can do. I was really impressed, and as I got a little more used to using it, I found myself for the most part using manual settings rather than auto modes to get the results I wanted. I took 180 pictures in about an hour, and many were various shots of the Empire State Building (also to test out settings for the most part).

Here's a good example of image quality (click to enlarge on all these for full appreciation - still much smaller than actual image size)


And a different angle in the dark on the way back to the hotel.

And in following with the pizza theme...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cold, wet, and not miserable

This morning Molly (AKA iPhone addict) and I rode the train into Manhattan.  When we left Morristown, it was chilly and raining a tad, so I figured it would probably be about the same in the city.

But when we got into the city, we found cold, hard rain, and small rivers in the streets.  Molly split off to go explore and I wandered while formulating a plan.  I had a raincoat, but that did me very little good when five minutes after stepping off the train I was caught unawares by a fast moving bus that hit a large puddle next to me and soaked me pretty thoroughly.  Being wet this early into the day didn't bode well for trying to stay warm.  

As a result I quickly found myself shopping as an excuse to get inside and stay warm.

I visited the Hershey's store, where the air smells like candy, but not because of the candy.  Instead, they appear to have invented some sort of candy-smell fragrance that they fill the air with.  It was a little nauseating.

I spent a while wandering Times Square marveling at the pinnacle of American Advertising and consumerism.  I also took a panoramic set of pictures, which I intend to try to merge via Microsoft Photosynth to see how it turns out.  For now, this one gives a good idea of what I was seeing.

It continued to rain hard, and my wet feet were making it difficult to stay warm.  My hands were getting numb to the point of stiff joints, and I began contemplating scrapping the day and taking the train back to the hotel.  I found my second wind when I found a New York style pizza place and had some scrumptious food that warmed me up both figuratively and literally.

I was reinvigorated and decided to follow through on my original plan to visit downtown Manhattan.  I found a subway station, and learned through trial and error that red markers on the trains do not mean red line trains, they mean express trains.  I quickly realized my mistake and managed to get off the subway at the last stop before crossing into Brooklyn.

Which coincidentally was at Union Square Park.  This would have meant nothing to me, but earlier in the day while watching MSNBC I heard about the NBA Tipoff '08 event going on at the park.  There wasn't much to it.

I walked 10 or so blocks (still in the rain) back over to the correct subway line.

After arriving downtown, I walked several blocks to see ground zero as it currently stands.  The entire area is currently under construction, but the gaping hole and memories from 2001 are rather overwhelming.

The world financial center directly next to the former twin towers location has a viewing deck of sorts, where I noted that most people looking out over the scene seemed to feel the same weight of what happened hanging over them.

The financial center itself has beautiful architecture, and I stuck around long enough to watch a bit of a live musical performance (behind the palm trees).

I walked out to Battery Park, and quickly decided it was not the place to be.  It had stopped raining, but a fierce driving wind was coming off the river and immediately chilled me and my still wet feet to the bone.

I stayed just long enough to snap a poor picture of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (never fear! The camera is coming this weekend).

From Battery Park I headed across to Wall Street, where I followed part of the architectural tour of downtown that features buildings such as the New York Stock Exchange.

And I noticed the variety of stores that I couldn't possibly think of going into without dressing up much more.  These must be strategically located for impulse buys after a good trading day.

Downtown also has much narrower streets than uptown, which makes for a very different atmosphere.

Brooklyn Bridge!

And the Wall Street Bull, feeling neglected.  It looks much happier than I'd pictured it (I thought it looked angier).

After my stroll through downtown, I headed back uptown.  Unfortunately, the wind seemingly followed me.  I went back to some shopping, though more this time for the sake of shopping than of staying warm (that was just the necessary and welcome side-benefit).  Something seemed to be going on at the Empire State Building, as it had been surrounded by eight or more fire trucks.  I didn't stick around to investigate.

While shopping, I tried on numerous items but wasn't sold on anything enough to actually buy it, save for a pair of jeans that I've been shopping for for several weeks now.

I met back up with Molly, and we rode the train back into New Jersey.

We ate Thai for dinner (odd being the only ones in the restaurant at 6:00PM, but it seemingly wasn't as a result of bad food or service).

After a torturous final cold walk back to the hotel, I finally took off my still wet shoes and socks and cranked the heater up.

On a completely un-related side note, remember way back when I visited the Boston Beer Company Brewery and they were having people vote on two new beers to have one go into production?  The one I voted for won!  Look for Sam Adams Blackberry Wit in stores in 2009.  Perhaps the even better part is that I got to try their coffee stout, which will never enter production.

Tomorrow we'll have a logistical adventure getting ourselves and our stuff to the expo set-up in Manhattan in a non-traditional manner.  More on that tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2008


On our way from Washington DC to our next event in New York City, Molly, Lyndsay and I stopped through Princeton, New Jersey. Since Molly and I enjoyed ourselves the first time through and found some local gems, we decided to go with what we knew. I had another sandwich from Hoagie Haven,

And then we had ice cream at the Bent Spoon again. I found myself in a chocolaty mood, as I ordered ice cream consisting of a scoop of dark chocolate, double dark chocolate, and mint chocolate cookie. Excellent.

Princeton had a nice feel in the summer, but it's a great atmosphere to experience fall in as well. The colors of the trees changing combined with school being in session and fresh fall air made for a pleasant experience.

We're staying in Morristown, NJ prior to heading into New York, and after we arrived at the hotel I hunkered down for a while and set to work searching job sites (with less success than I might have liked) and read a bit. As of 10PM I finally got hungry, so I went to see what I could find. Molly had warned that food options near the hotel were sparse, and I quickly found that to be true. Plus it began raining about the time I headed out. I thought I'd found at least a decent solution when I saw Burger King, but,

Instead, I ended up at Cluck U Chicken, which was surprisingly good. I had some mac and cheese and a buffalo chicken wrap which was extremely spicy and really good.

They feature a hot sauce called 911 sauce. You have to sign a waiver before being served wings with it, and the waiver includes such stipulations as that you agree to not touch your hands to your eyes or any part of your body until you wash them after you consume the sauce. Serious stuff. I opted out, at least for tonight.

It's interesting having a public blog that can be read by anyone and everyone, and at the same time occasionally want to write things to remind yourself, but only privately. I've considered various ways of doing this within the blog, and have occasionally added seemingly obscure references or odd titles as personal memory triggers. If you see something confusing on the blog, there's about a 50% chance it's something only I'll get, and about 50% chance I'm just in a random sort of mood.

I want to write a post using nothing but metaphors. I also still plan to do some stream of consciousness at some point... problem is I never bring my laptop with so if that is to happen it will probably be while in my hotel room.

Confidence is the coldest of weapons.

Here's a puzzle for you. Don't spend more than five minutes on this one if you're not making any progress or you're wasting your time.


And even if you do figure that out, it's still cryptic! I know, I'm cruel. Tell you what, if you figure it out email me or facebook me or twitter me or something and let me know you cracked it, and I'll fill you in on what it means. I really hope, for your sake, you have a life and don't even attempt this time-waster. It took me long enough just to encrypt it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Moving at the speed of life

This morning we set up in the marathon finisher village area, which coincidentally was also right near mile one on the course. I got to watch the runners come by today, which didn't happen so much in Chicago since we were swamped giving out free stuff for our grassroots efforts there.

Nate and his mom ran the marathon, and they finished in just under four hours, which is great considering he's coming off of a stress fracture and hasn't run more than a half marathon in several months.

I also appreciate that when the marines do something, they go all out. Take for instance road closures. Where any other race would have put up fencing, cones, and barriers, the Marines used school buses, police cars, and armored FBI trucks to block roadways.

We had a successful day and a very successful weekend in general with new records for data capture, lots of ice baths, and good numbers all around. The finish area was packed today, but many of the people there were simply waiting for a metro train.

Almost everyone in this picture is waiting to get on the metro. The wait was likely for the better part of an hour (if not more) just to get down into the station. I'm glad we had a two block walk back to the hotel.

After wrapping up at the finish line area, Molly and I hopped a metro train (it wasn't so packed at this point) to go see Perry and Megan and their new 1 month old, Parker. On the way, our conversation ended up, among other things, on the sense of time this job brings with it. I have done ten times more in the last four months than in any other four month period of my life, yet it's flown by. I don't know where the time has gone, yet event one or two events ago feel like they were months in the past. Overall, I think it's a really good thing. While at the end of the tour it will feel like it was over very quickly, I've certainly been busy enough to not feel like half a year of my life has disappeared. Anything but, really.

Perry and Megan are doing well, and are surviving the chaotic schedule that comes with a newborn. We went for some Mexican for dinner and enjoyed catching up and sharing some laughs.

Speaking of nothing in particular, I figured an update was in store for anyone who is confused as to how I've been typing the letter J recently. Well, the key is gone, but the little rubber pad is now back in place and can still be pushed down to record a keystroke.

I wonder which key will go next.