Saturday, December 31, 2005

Thousand Bars Odyssey Ends

Dan Freeman, Man of the Year 2005

Dan Freeman is my hero. He decided he was going to visit 1000 bars in one year upon reaching retirement. In New York City, that's not very hard to do. Being a high tech sorta guy ( like us ) he set up a blog to memorialize the odyssey day by day.

He just topped off the effort, at the Pioneer Bar in the Bowery. Bar No. 999 was the Wheeltapper Pub, a nice Irish place near Grand Central that I am familiar with. One of his favorite bars is the Waterfront Ale House in Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn, a comfortable place that I also love.

Dan, congratulations on the achievement . You're a good man. If I run into you, the next one's on me.

Here is a short video clip

Gillian Welch

We'll welcome in the new year with Gillian Welch, one of the purest bluegrass / country / folk voices in American music, performing at the Ryman Auditorium ( original Grand Old Opry stage )

I've mainly listened to the most recent album, Soul Journey, which I absolutely loved. The Wikipedia biography above states that she was born in New York City and adopted on the day that she was born. Which explains a lot about what might have went into " Orphan Girl " and " Noone Knows My Name "

Her website is here.
NPR interview here
New Yorker magazine article here

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Yahoo vs Gmail: Yahoo Must Die

I've been a Yahoo user since 2000, and a heavy user since late 2001.

I use Yahoo's E-Mail, Calendar, Address Book, even the Notepad all the time, and find them well-designed and reliable. There's only one thing that I don't like about Yahoo- the ads that appear on their sites. They're intrusive. They bother me. I simply will not look at a commercial for Viagra or Cialis or some other medical product every day as the price of "free" e-mail.

I am considering moving my e-mail activity to Google's Gmail service. Gmail is much less intrusive. They don't have ads with pictures, or popups. I like that.

I am not crazy about the Gmail format, but I could get used it.But two big problems remain. Gmail does not have a calendar. I need an calendar, and I want it integrated with my e-mail system.

Also, it appears to me that Gmail's contact information comes up way short. Yahoo has space for you to insert full contact information including postal address, phone numbers etc etc. But Gmail allows for name/e-mail address, and that's pretty much it.

I have to think this through. Maybe I can go to gmail for e-mails, and use yahoo for calendar and contacts until Gmail adds these features.

I have a personal domain name and a private " vanity " email address, and I have to learn how to link that to google.

I refuse to put up with Yahoo's advertising, so I think I must move, even if the solution is imperfect. It may be soon.

Yahoo must die.

I have just stumbled upon this site which may help me learn more about google and gmail.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong may have just won his last athletic prize--his fourth straight Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

Armstrong may be the best cyclist ever. He's clearly the best cyclist of the past 30-40 years. Winning seven Tours de France, overcoming both testicular cancer and an even more cancerous French media that kept re-inventing a " doping " charge against Armstrong, despite the fact that Armstrong had never once failed a drug test.

Lance Armstrong , you've left the bastards lying in the ditch. Congratulations. Say hello to Cheryl for me.


Hey, how did I miss this??
I may have to add Blame Bush to the blogroll.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Asleep at the Wheel

A Western Swing band that puts on a great live show. Influence by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. When they come to your town, give 'em a listen.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all, from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

" The First Noel ", performed by Crash Test Dummies, of Canada.

Friday, December 23, 2005

NYC Subway Strike Heroes and Villains

The strike lasted three days, but it shouldn't have happened. It wasn't justified. The City, its people, its business, its visitors, all were hurt badly. As were the members of the TWU union, who, with the union itself, are now subject to large fines under the state law.

Who are the heroes and villains in this situation?

First the Villains

Roger Toussaint, President of the Union- the MTA had a reasonable offer on the table, but Roger led the membership to a strike anyway. Toussaint has a history as a " militant ", but he has militantly led his membership into the ditch.

John Mooney, a TWU Vice President, and more militant than Toussaint. He decried the decision to return to work as a " disgrace ". He would have preferred that the union stayed out longer, with larger fines against it and its members, a suicide strategy worthy of Rev Jimmy Jones.

New York City Building Owners- the huge majority of them made zero accomodation for bicyclists. At least for the duration of the strike, they should have allowed people to bring bikes in the buildings.

Now the Heroes

Richard Curreri He led a three-member state mediation panel that brought the MTA and the TWU together in a very short period of time. In lesser hands, this effort would have dragged on or broken down, causing untold damage to all parties.

The People of New York - New Yorkers are wonderful in a crisis. There was an astonishing level of cooperation and kindness among ordinary people. This includes drivers who picked up hitchikers ( like me ! )

New York Police Department- there was a four-to-a-car rule that kept traffic flowing somewhat, but it would have been meaningless without enforcment by NYPD. They did a great job, with great skill and with a smile.

Neither Heroes Nor Villains- the TWU membership. They did the wrong thing, which hurt a lot of people. But they simply are not bad guys. I find most of them to be good working class guys and girls, who do work hard and who give you respect if you give them respect. I'm happy they're back, and I wish them all a good Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

NY Subway Strike Ends

The strike against New York's people by the TWU now ends after three days. It was deeply unpopular with the people , the real reason the strike ended quickly. That, and the massive fines that the State and City imposed on the TWU.

I decided early on that I was going to come in every day, and on time. Its important to me to " show up " , no matter what. Plus I wanted to be able to spend a few bucks at the local businesses here, who were hurting bad. Today, I got a salad bar lunch at Azure, at 51st and Second. They're normally jammed at noon, but today, it was pretty empty. They needed all the business they could get.

Some have compared this strike to 9/11, and in a way the comparison is apt. Though noone was hurt physically, the city took a punch. And it responded the way it always does. People improvised and overcame many obstacles. They showed great kindness to one another, helping complete strangers in small and large ways, quietly with no fuss.

I thank Nina, David, Robert, and Angela, who gave me rides over the past few days, and I thank the many who helped all the others as well.

In the first days after 9/11, I felt the greatest pride as I saw people overcome their fears to re-enter the city. There was no fear this time, but the pride is still there.

Ich bin New Yorker.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NY Subway Strike: Ferries and Bikes :Underused Resources

New York's contingency plan for the strike has largely been effective. The four passengers to a car requirement, though not without its flaws, has helped keep the traffic flowing into Manhattan. This policy has been enforced by a large police presence.

But I can think of two areas where the city could have done much better, keeping many of those same cars off the road in the first place.

The first would be more effective use of ferries. Ferry service got a lot of attention in the aftermath of 9/11, esp when the PATH station in lower Manhattan was closed for months, and ferries took up the slack.

Closer to the Phantom's home, the existing small scale ferry service from Bay Ridge's Brooklyn Army Terminal to lower Manhattan was supplemented by a large and free " Staten Island " ferry boat on that run. Another boat made the run from Wall Street to 34th Street/ East River.

But as the PATH and other trains came back to normal service, ferry ridership fell and service was scaled back. Except for the Staten Island Ferry, all the intracity ferries are in private hands, and the private operators have been killed by low ridership and high fuel costs.

Years later 9/11, the TWU has hit New York with a nonviolent attack on New York's transit network. Noone has been killed, but instead of some trains being down, all of the subways are KO'd.

And the ferry service is less than it was before 9/11, and much less than in late 2001. The Bay Ridge - lower Manhattan service was completely overwhelmed. The city directed people to the Brooklyn Army Pier on its website ; I have spoken with two people who had to wait in line for over two hours in the cold there. They would have waited longer had not the city improvised by sending a big ferry to pick them up.But no additional service was in the contingency plan.

And for the duration of the strike, just when it is most needed, there is to be no service between Pier 11 / Wall St and 34th Street. There aren't enough resources devoted to the ferries. New York is a harbor city. We should have a good ferry network anyway, but they will be the critical in the event of disasters, whether they be natural, accidental, or caused by terrorists, or city employees.

Kyoto Bike Rack, by the main train station

Many New Yorkers could have commuted into Manhattan if it were possible to do so by bicyle. I would do it, but there is no place to park my bike near work. Manhattan commercial buildings do not alow bikes to be brought up to the office. And there are typically no bike racks outside.

They will take bikes in some parking lots, but the price is very high.

New York may want to develop a bike strategy. Bicycles are an integral part of the commuter's options in many cities, including Amsterdam, Munich, Kyoto, even the megacity of Tokyo. If there was a place to park them, there could have been thousands more clean bicycles entering Manhattan today and yesterday.


Another One Bites the Dust

Hope you like the current song. Play it loud if you're not in the office.


Another day of toil and trouble with the transit strike. New York may want to jail some of the TWU leaders of the illegal strike against New York's working people, and I am all for it.

Its busy at work, this is the crazy time of year in the Phantom's chosen profession. Having an uncertain, much longer, commute, does not help put me in a good mood.


I hear that the mayor of Graz, Austria is trying to get Gov. Schwarzenegger to change his mind. We'll see. Won't bet on it.

Jihad Christmas Carols

In the spirit of glorious derangement A Tangled Web and its participants have come up with some nice songs for your consideration in this " holiday season ". Ask for them at your office party.

I saw Allah killing Santa Claus
Happy Christmas (War has started)
All I want for Christmas is a suicide belt
God rest ye very mental men
Death to the World, Osama's Come

For more songs , or to suggest one of your own, hit the ATW link

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New York Subway Strike

There's not much good to say about this strike, which could be a long one. But one good thing is that it will make us realize how great it is to have a safe and reliable 24 hour transit system that can take you anywhere in the vast city for $2. You don't miss it until you lose it.

The strikers are, I think, very unpopular, and its not just because people have been inconvenienced. Its that this strike is wrong. Their pay and benefits package --retirement at age 55 for Gods sake -- is better than most of their passengers get.

The subtext is that President Roger Toussaint has lost control of Local 100 of the Transit Workers Union. He's afraid to look weak before an influential militant faction.

This strike has not been sanctioned by the International TWU. The parent union knows that the strike will damage the union. The city too.

More comments next door on Bay Ridge Blog

NYC Transit Strike!

As of Tuesday, December 20, the subways and buses are not working due to a strike by the Transit Workers Union. This strike is not justified. More comments on Bay Ridge Blog

Monday, December 19, 2005

Schwarzenegger to Graz, Austria : Drop Dead

Well, he didn't say that. But he did break ties with the city of his birth.

The Gov. has asked the city of Graz, Austria to remove his name from that city's sports stadium. There had been a movement in that city to change the name due to anger at Arnold's refusal to commute the death sentance of murderer and gang leader Tookie Williams.

Arnold was born and raised in Graz. It was a great honor when this major stadium was named after him in 1997.

I believe Arnold when he says that the decision not to commute was difficult. It also must have been difficult to ask them to take his name off the stadium.

In a letter addressed to " Dear Mr. Mayor " he said " "In all likelihood, during my term as governor, I will have to make similar and equally difficult decisions," Schwarzenegger said in the letter. "To spare the responsible politicians of the city of Graz further concern, I withdraw from them as of this day the right to use my name in association with the Liebenauer Stadium." He asked for the lettering to be taken down by years end.

The city had given him a " ring of honor " which is being returned. " It is already in the mail the letter said.

I respect this Governor, I think he is a man of principle. He's had a rough patch lately, with the voters of California turning down four initiatives that he supported. His poll numbers are down. And if you don't think that the recent clemency decision was tough on him, you're nuts.

And now the city of his birth, which had honored him so profusely was perhaps on the way to undoing the honor. They'll never do it now. He's beaten them to the punch, with an irrevocable act. And it's Austria's loss.

Graz is Austria's second largest city, with a population of 250,000.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadion Graz Liebenau

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Time Magazine Person of the Year Punkout / Bono

I don't even know anyone who reads Time Magazine anymore, so I don't know why this award still gets airtime.

Time doesn't even take this award seriously anymore. I think that they copped out way back in 1982 when " the computer " won the award. But for four times out of the last eight years, the winner has not been a single person. In 1998, it was Bill Clinton and Ken Starr. In 2002 it was two women " whistleblowers ". In 2003 it was " The American Soldier ". Now in 2005 it is " The Good Samaritans ".

Naming multiple winners or an entire class of people like " The American Soldier " is a great way of avoiding a decision on a single winner.

Now, lets look at this year's winner. Bill Gates made a fortune with Microsoft and is giving tons of it away in a focused and effective way. That's great. And wife Melinda is very involved in the foundation so fair play to her also.

But lets look at Bono. He's a likeable guy and his efforts on behalf of African aid, better terms of trade, and debt relief are all sincere.

I won't question the effectiveness of debt relief and monetary aid, here, other than people like Paul Theroux, who know Africa very well, have said that recently that this only give indigenous elites more opportunities to steal from their populations.

But lets look very closely at Mr. Bono. He has been preaching the gospel of aid to Afica for some years ago ; I heard him give a pitch for it at Madison Square Garden a couple of weeks ago.

But while the very rich Mr.Gates has given away a lot of his fortune, has Bono given away anything to Africa himself? If he is, I have not heard about it.

OK, Europeans ain't into charity by individuals the way those terrible Yanks are. This aid and debt relief would run into the billions and billions, and would have to come from somewhere. That means from national governments.

Where do national governments get their revenues? A huge chunk in all countries comes from income taxes from individuals. How much income tax does Bono pay, to fund his African dream? Zero. That is not a misprint.

In Ireland, " artists " are exempt from the income tax, while my pals in urban and rural Ireland who earn a salary pay a very high income tax. I thought about this in Madison Square Garden when I heard Bono give his little talk. A quick Google search shows that this embarrassing fact has been noted by others as well.

Bono gets to feel good and do good, but pays zero into the kitty himself? Surely, this is the best of all possible worlds.

Bono, congratulations on the great award.

WTC Area / Majestic Pizza

WTC Area / Majestic Pizza Posted by Picasa

Majestic Pizza is on Cortlandt Street, next to Century 21 Department Store, just a half-block from the World Trade Center site.

It took an enormous financial hit after 9/11, as it was well within the exclusion zone. It reopened soon after Century 21 did in February 2002. But business was very slow. Not only were there no more customers coming over from the WTC, but the PATH station was closed also. With the PATH ( subway ) closed, there were no more NJ bound commuters walking by and grabbing a slice on the way home.

Now, more than four years later, Majestic Pizza is still hanging in there. Century 21 still packs them in, the PATH has been open for a long time now. I think business is better.

Majestic Pizza was a bare bones place before, it's still one now. There are a few barstools to sit on, but that's about it. Nothing fancy.

The only thing this place has going for it is some of the very best pizza by the slice in all of New York City. Its open seven days a week, and if you're in town, I recommend that you stop by.

Josh Turner's " Long Black Train "

Josh Turner had an immnense hit with his rookie album " Long Black Train " . The title song entered into my list of favorite songs ever when I first heard it. I've heard that Turner wrote " Long Black Train " after listening to Hank Williams for hours. Here's a short interview

Video is at bottom of the page

Rocketboom, the Vlog / Johnny Cash on Broadway

What's a Vlog?

You mean you don't know what a vlog is? Well neither did I until 20 minutes ago, when I saw an article on Rocketboom in last Sunday's NY Times. A vlog is a video log, the article referred Rocketboom host Amanda Congdon as " a really big star on really small screens ". They report 100,000 viewers a day.

The couple of vlogs I saw here were crisply edited, including one on the anniversary of the death of John Lennon.

Interesting use of the technology. And the 24 year old Amanda isn't bad to look at, and don't think she doesn't know it.

Rocketboom is based in New York City, and it releases a new clip at 9am Eastern each Monday through Friday. It differs from regular TV program in many important ways. Instead of costing millions of dollars to produce, Rocketboom is created with a consumer-level video camera, a laptop, two lights and a map with no additional overhead or costs. You need Quicktime in order to see these webcasts.

- - - - -

Ring of Fire coming to Broadway

I see that a " Ring of Fire " , the " Johnny Cash Musical Show " will be coming to the Barrymore Theater on East 47th Street . Previews begin February 8.

When Mr. Cash died in September 2003, I remember Dolly Parton saying that "...Johnny Cash has only passed into the greater light. He will only become more important in this industry as time goes by ..."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

No Time For the Old In And Out Love, I'm Only Here To Read the Meter

I've done a little pruning and re-organizing. The general rule is that if I don't look at a link a couple of times a week, it's dropped.

I've liked Oklahomily for awhile, and it's a welcome addition.

Likewise, Israelly Cool, which has a good blogroll of its own, and which was the source of the links to the Australian, ABC News, and The Big Pharoah. Discovered Harry's Place from the Weblog Awards. Anyway, hope you like the new lineup.

They're In
Oklahomily, from Oklahoma
Harry's Place, from London
Israelly Cool, from Israel
The Australian
ABC News (Australian)
The Big Pharaoh ( Egypt )

He's Out
Out Nickie Goomba

Bye Bye Howard Stern

Howard Stern is a radio " shock jock " who specializes in, eh, shocking people with a brand of humor that I have no respect for.

Early in his career, he worked at a radio station in Washington DC. In January 1982 he was on the air when an Air Florida plane crashed into the 14th Street bridge, killing 82 people. Stern's reaction? He called the airline, on the air, to ask what the one way fare was from National Airport to the 14th Street Bridge. That's Howard Stern humor.

His usual staple are things like Lesbian Dial-A-Date, Farting Contests, conversations with " Gary the Retard ", " Jeff the Vomit Guy " ( who pays prostitutes to puke on him ) etc etc.

I have been amazed that there's an audience for this guy, but there is. Well, yesterday, he did his last " free " radio show.

Starting next month, he will be moving his show to Sirius-FM, one of two pay-radio services in the US and Canada. You pay $12.95 for the privilege of listening to Howard Stern and whatever else is on the service.

This is both good and bad. It's good in that Stern's audience will go down by as much as 90%. It's good that his most devoted listeners will have $12.95 less to spend on crack or whatever they'd be spending it on.

But it's bad because this move has made Stern seriously rich. Sirius is paying him $500 million over five years. The wicked inherit the earth.

Welcome to the Jungle

My little Christmas Song for y'all. Hope you like it.

So we got most of the remaining Christmas cards out. Hope your mailman doesn't steal yours.

In New York today, we were supposed to have a subway strike and an ice storm. Instead, the strike was deferred and we had a beautiful day. Sometimes things work out that way.

Two days ago, S came into the office. He's healing pretty well from the hip replacement, and the doc says he can ditch the crutches and put full weight on the left ( replaced ) hip. There's a lot of muscle strength that must be rebuilt, but that's what the physical therapy ( starting in two weeks ) is for. For now, a cane will assist. Right on target.

Just listened to CCR's " Wrote A Song for Everyone " . This is one John Fogarty / CCR song that I actually hadn't heard before. Like finding a $20 bill you didn't know you had in a pants pocket.

Good night.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bush Agrees to McCain's Torture Ban

John McCain greeted by President Nixon upon being released from prison after 5 1/2 years confinement.

President Bush has just reached agreement with Senator John McCain on a bill banning torture of detainees in US Custody.

This is an interesting issue, as the Administration's position has been that there has not been any torture, so there was no need for such a bill.

McCain has immense moral authority in this country on this issue. He was a POW held by North Vietnam for 5 1/2 years, at that country's infamous Hanoi Hilton. McCain and his fellow POWs were horribly treated there.

My personal position is that the terrorists in Gitmo and elsewhere don't deserve kind treatment. I believe that they are the worst of the worst, and that they have information that we need if we are to win the war on terror.

But there is a fine line between harsh techniques and torture. McCain wants to be sure that we are on the right side of that line.

This is a terribly close call for me, but I give McCain the benefit of the doubt on this issue. He has an authority on this issue that neither President Bush nor keepers the screamers of right wing radio or blogs can ever possess.

I don't think that torture was ever systemic, and I am told that safeguards are in place to make sure that the false charges are not made against interrogators. They are trying to keep the rest of us alive after all.

BTW, it is hilarious how the right-wing fringe just loathes McCain. Well, you know people by the company they keep, but also by those who are their enemies.

This post may be tweaked tonight, and there will be more on the Senator from Arizona in this space in the following days.

NY Subway Strike Looms / Cuba Baseball Ban

The last subway strike here took place in 1980, but we could have another in 24 hours. That ain't good.

Commuting from Bay Ridge to midtown Manhattan will not be easy. The limited ferry service from 58th Street to lower Manhattan will be overwhelmed. The Phantom has a plan: either telecommute or hitchike. I last hitchhiked on 9/11, and I haven't lost the touch. Since cars will not be allowed onto Manhattan-bound highways without four passengers, drivers will practically be begging you to take a ride.


Baseball is the Phantom's favorite sport, and is vastly more international than many think. There will be an international country vs country " World Cup " this March, with elimination rounds played in Puerto Rico, the USA and Japan. I'm not crazy about country vs country matches ; the world has enough nationalist bullshit already. But if this helps to raise the profile of baseball, then ok.

Well, now, in an astonishing blunder the US has banned the Cuban team from participating in the tournament, based on a technicality.

This is an act of the greatest stupidity. First, it will de-legitimize the championship and the tournament itself. Cuba is one of the world's great baseball nations, and if they're not in it, its a much weaker field. Second, it only serves to increase sympathy for aging dictator Fidel Castro and his undemocratic regime.

The larger economic embargo of 45 years duration has similarly helped Castro by making him the charismatic thug appear to be a nationalist standing up against the yanqui bully.

The decision to ban Cuba certainly had the explicit approval of President Bush. It is an act of manifest clumsiness. It should be immediately reversed.

Soon, some thoughts on the senior Senator from Arizona.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Australia Riots

I've travelled to a few countries in my time. Once I've been to a country, I tend to take an additional interest in it. Its part of me, I've been there.

Some years back, I had the pleasure of spending a one-week business trip to Sydney and Melbourne. I expected to like the place, but the reality was better than the expectation. Sydney, was a big, clean, modern city filled with cheerful, welcoming people. They're famous for partying, and there was plenty of that, but they work harder than they party, which should also be noted.

It is with complete astonishment some days back that I heard of " race riots " in the Cronulla beach area of Sydney. Australia is not without problems, but a surfing beach outside of Sydney is the last place on earth where I'd expect this type of thing.

It appears that groups of ethnic Lebanese male immigrants would hang out at the beach, insult the local girls, disregard the formal and informal traditions of the place. This has been going on for years it is said. Recently, groups of white Australian surfers and their friends got into a serious rumble with the Lebanese, leading to larger assaults against Lebanese all over the beach. The attacks continued for four days.

These gang attacks cannot and should not be tolerated by Australia.

But neither should the reported actions of the Lebanese be tolerated. I doubt that this lot acted like that in Beirut. They should not misunderstand the easy tolerance of Australia for weakness.

If you can't get along with the Australians, you cannot get along with anyone.

from CNN
from Sydney Morning Herald

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Global Cooling

It's cold in New York, colder than normal for this time of year. I take this as imperical evidence of global cooling.

Seth makes his first visit back to the office tomorrow, after his hip replacement surgery. His recovery has been good, and tomorrow is a big step. Can't take the subway yet at this point, so he will be coming in by car.

Blame Tookie

Well, Tookie Williams is no longer with us. And as usual, Blame Bush has a good spin on this story.

Williams' " atonement " would have had a lot more meaning had he admitted to the murders he committed. An apology to the families of the four people he shotgunned at close range would have been nice too.

Schwartzenegger did the right thing, justice has been done, and the streets of Los Angeles remain peaceful.

Wild Parrots in the Bronx

Really. Image stolen from the eclectic, wonderful blog site Brooklyn Parrots. This site previously mentioned in Bay Ridge Blog

Monday, December 12, 2005

Arnold's Dilemma

Think Arnold is happy he's Governor of California now?

If he does the right thing and does not grant clemency to convicted quadruple-murderer and founder of the Crips gang Tookie Wilson, half the state will be mad at him. Some will accuse him of racism. And there are fears of riots in Los Angeles.

If he does grant clemency, he'll be forever stained as the wimp who backed down in the face of a clever publicity campaign.

Tookie Wilson has never apologized for the murders he committed. Gun murders, at close range. For years, he has brazened it out, saying its all a setup. Well, then, the good works he has committed since his incarceration ( working to reduce gang violence ) mean nothing at all. The only issue is whether he was wrongly convicted. If he was justly convicted, then, in the absence of any contrition, he deserves the maximum penalty.

Either way, Arnold takes a big hit this coming Tuesday. This is what is known as a Hobson's Choice or a Morton's Fork. Arnold, are you happy that you're the governor?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The locals and the tourists converge on Rockefeller Center.

Tomato Sauce

Cooking has never been one of the Phantom's strong points. My culinary skills to this point have pretty much been limited to:
    • microwaving frozen foods
    • spaghetti with pasta sauce from a jar
    • making a sandwich

But a few months ago, I decided to make some spaghetti sauce " from scratch " . I basically used ( Tuttorosso ) Crushed Tomatoes and threw in some olive oil , onions and mushrooms. I later added capers and olives to the base recipe, making something akin to the spaghetti puttanesca.

But my buddy Frank R work said that his wife makes sauce with the canned whole tomatoes. So a week ago, on the way back from Brian's party in Cobble Hill, I stopped off at the Key Food. Picked up some cans of Luigi Vitelli peeled tomatoes. On Monday, I made the sauce with onion sauteed in olive oil, with diced pickled red pepper, capers, sliced green olive with pimento, and...the whole tomatoes. Mashed them as they cooked for about a half hour.

Then, for the taste test. It was much, much better than the sauce made with the crushed tomatoes only. The bits of tomato were better and fresher than the crushed stuff.

I can't believe how easy it is to make this good, simple Italian food, and how much better it is than even the better prepared sauces. There will be a lot more pasta sauce made in this kitchen. And a lot of experimenting.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

New York Subway Slowdown

I ride the NY Subway most every day, and I think that I'm fairly observant. And for the past two weeks, I have observed that the trains have been very sluggish. Slow. I've heard others at work talk about this slowness.

Last night, I went from 51st Street / Lex in Manhattan to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, beginning at 11pm. Long wait for the 6 at 51st St. Wait for the 4 Express at Grand Central. Then, after making it to 59th Street, long wait for the R train.

All of these trains ran slow, especially the No. 4 in the tunnel between Manhattan to Brooklyn. It inched through the tunnel at a speed just barely faster than a jogger running at half speed. All told, it took one hour 45 minutes to travel from midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn.

Now, there could be good reasons for all of these delays, esp as the trip was late at night.

But now the NY Times reports that people all over the city have noticed a slowdown . Seems like the unions are near the end of their contract, and the boys have decided to take it out on the passengers.

I've lost any sympathy for these guys, and hope that Mayor Bloomberg plays hardball with them from this point.

I Hate Christmas!

Actually, I don't. But what I do hate when you hear Christmas carols or see Christmas lights or are confronted with Christmas advertising of any type in November.

It gets earlier and earlier every year. This year, I heard Christmas carols in stores a good week before Thanksgiving ( Nov 24 ). It's really depressing to hear this stuff, and to see Christmas lights, for what is now a five week period.

My solution: no Christmas lights before December 18. One week is enough. And no Christmas songs until December 21. Trust me, four days total for these songs is quite enough.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Su Doku

Well, every so often there's something new. Actually,Su Doku is not that new.
It dates back to New York in 1979. That's right, Su Doku is not Japanese!

But it is great. Two years ago, I didn't know it. But since then, Su Doku has burst out of nowhere, becoming a little more prominent every month. Locally, the NY Post introduced it, with two new puzzles every day, one easy and one hard. The NY Daily News recently followed suit. The Times still does not have Su Doku, but their crossword puzzle master Will Shortz has himself endorsed Su Doku and published books of Su Doku puzzles.

The other day, at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at 54th and 3rd, saw a table with 40 Su Doku books by the door, and more upstairs.

To complete a su doku puzzle, you must enter a numerical digit from 1 through 9 in each cell of a 9×9 grid made up of 3×3 subgrids (called "regions"), starting with various digits given in some cells (the "givens"). Each row, column, and region must contain only one instance of each numeral.

I've completed the " easy " puzzle three days in a row now. Next, the intermediate puzzle. Puzzles like this are ideal for subway riding- it engages the mind, but not too much. I like Su Doku. It's fun.

Monday, December 05, 2005

WTC Area / Eyes

There's a lot of nice mosaic tilework throughout the NY subway system. Its been there since the system opened in 1904.

Much of the tilework was allowed to fall into disrepair up through the 1960s and 1970s. Now, a lot of the old tilework has been repaired, and there is some pleasant new tilework created.

Just north of the World Trade Center site, under Church Street, there is a five block or so underground passage that runs parallel to the entrances to the E,1, 2, 3, A and C trains and the closely intersecting Chambers Street / World Trade Center / Park Place stations. This passage is in very nice order, and it has mosaic eyes all from one end to the other. The eyes are cool.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

St Paul's Chapel

When St. Paul's ( Episcopal ) Chapel was completed in 1766, it stood in a field some distance from the growing port city to the south. It was built as a "chapel-of-ease" for parishioners who lived far from the primary, or "Mother," church. Today, St. Paul's Chapel is Manhattan's oldest public building in continuous use, and its remaining colonial church.

George Washington worshiped here on Inauguration Day, April 30, 1789, and attended services at St. Paul's during the two years New York City was the country's capital. Above his pew is an 18th-century oil painting of the Great Seal of the United States, which was adopted in 1782.

This fine church is directly across Church Street from the World Trade Center site.
After the attack on September 11, 2001, which led to the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, St. Paul's Chapel served as a place of rest and refuge for recovery workers at the WTC site.

For eight months, hundreds of volunteers worked 12 hour shifts around the clock, serving meals, making beds, counseling and praying with fire fighters, construction workers, police and others. Massage therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists and musicians also tended to their needs.

( Most text above taken from St Paul's Chapel website. )

Radio City Music Hall

There are few places in New York more special to me than Radio City. Photo taken tonight, as people were entering for The Christmas Spectacular.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

George Best

George Best's funeral took place at Stormont, in Belfast earlier today

RTE referred to it as " a state funeral in all but name". ( RTE has a very good internet tv/radio service, available without charge here )

The BBC offered the most comprehensive coverage of the funeral. Here, 8 photos, text coverage of the funeral along with several video clips, from the BBC.

New York Subway Searches Approved by Judge

A federal judge has approved random searches of bags on the NYC subway. The New York Civil Liberties Union a subsidiary to the ACLU, had filed suit against these searches, claiming that they were an "invasion of the privacy rights of New Yorkers cannot be justified by the program's questionable security benefits".

The NYCLU could not have been more wrong on this issue. We need more searches, not less-- the searches that take place are extremely infrequent. Even on the odd chance that a search is taking place, only one in ten or twenty persons have their bags looked at.

It would be nice if searches were not needed, but after the London and Madrid bombings, the need for searches is not even a debatable point.

In a recent poll, New Yorkers approved of the seaches by a 3-1 margin . Shame on you, NYCLU for wasting the judge's time.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Who Would Compare Bush with Churchill?

Nickie Goomba would, quoting from Jewish Current Issues

Good article, well-written responses to it.

John Lennon Tape

The John Lennon interview by Rolling Stone will be broadcast on BBC Radio. He speaks of life with the Beatles as being a "portable Rome" of money, sex and drugs.

That he criticized fellow Beatle Paul McCartney is not a surprise, but he also mocked George Harrison "He was working with two brilliant songwriters and he learnt a lot from us," says Lennon.

Rival Mick Jagger, of the Rolling Stones, was also dismissed by Lennon as "a joke".
"I'd like to list what we did and what the Stones did two months later on every album," he said. "Mick imitates us." Not so sure about that, John.

The ex-Beatle also complained about the personal downside of his talent. "It's not fun being a genius," he said. "It's torture." Oh, don't I know it.

When's this thing going to be broadcast in America?