Adventures: Part 1

[Part 1 of 2 of a series of adventures I had on Wednesday]

On my trip out from New York out to Jofish's in Ithaca, I decided to made a stop in Newark, to get some pictures of the building that I did a report and simulations on for my case study class.

First of all, it is in a kinda sketchy neighborhood of Newark (are there nice parts of Newark?)--the place was renovated as subsidized housing. As I rolled down the exit ramp, I saw a sign for Martin Luther King Boulevard. Chris Rock has a routine about getting a call from a white friend who says that he is on MLK, and asks what should he do. Rock replies, "Run!" He followed that up with:

“Martin Luther King was all about non-violence,” said Rock in his popular 1996 Comedy Special “Bring the Pain.” “I don’t care where you live in America, if there is a Martin Luther King Boulevard, there is some violence going on.”

So I was already feeling awfully white when heading to the jobsite... more in the direction of scary Dorchester or Roxbury, as opposed to the mostly innocuous mid-90's Central Square that I once lived in.

I also remembered a quote that I read from a police chief from one high-crime city in Jersey--might be have been Camden, Newark, or Hoboken. It went along the lines of, "Well, they say in Iraq that the government cannot maintain civil control, that it has no 'monopoly on violence,' and the police are overwhelmed--why are we spending all this money over there when we need to fix those problems in my town?"

My time at the jobsite was just fine--I got a bunch of pictures, and the building superintendent came out and chatted with me. When I told him who I was, he gave me a tour of the inside of the building, including the boiler room.

But while taking a last few photos, a kid started yelling out of an upper floor window at me:

Yo man!


Yo white boy!

Hey white boy!

Hey puta!


High time to leave, I figured.

[Adventure to be continued...]

A Show and Dinner

Well, Perlick already blogged the evening of seeing the new production of Sweeney Todd and going out for dinner pretty well. The show was spectacular, and it was very fun to see it with somebody who knows the piece well (e.g., musical theater geekery--"I'm not sure I really like Pirelli done as a pants role [high male part sung by a woman; e.g., Prince Orlofsky from Die Fledermaus is sometimes done this way]." "I agree, the part has a degree of bombast to it that works with the operatic tenor used in the San Francisco production... but then again, maybe that's just the performance that created my mental images.")

Patti LuPone playing the tuba and sashaying around in fishnets was definitely one of the highlights of the show.

And dinner at an open-air restaurant in Hell's Kitchen was an awesome quintessentially New York City experience.

I made the Long Island Railroad train back home with mere seconds to spare at Penn Station. I would have been stuck for another 1.5 hours if I had missed that one. One thing that is nice is that the LIRR station is a 20 minute walk from my front door (e.g., I've made it from my parents' place to the Roost entirely by train and on foot). However, it took multiple rounds of convincing my parents: "Really--it's ok, I'm going to walk to the station. No, I don't need to drive there. No mom, I don't need a ride. No, not even on the way out. I enjoy the walk. Yes, I'll be fine walking home, mom. Um, crime? What are you talking about? This is a ridiculously safe part of suburban Long Island. It's pricy residential all the way back home; the town banned commercial development in the 1900's. Yes, it will be late. I'll be fine."

Other than that, I spent the afternoon before the show wandering around Central Park; it was really nice to get a feel for the various parts: the grand promenade, Bethesda Terrace, the lake, the reservoir. Saw some cormorants (I think) on the reservoir; made it up to 90th Street. Time after time, I muttered to myself, "A nice piece of work there, Mr. Olmstead." One of his intents was to create "scenes" or "vignettes" that you would walk into, while walking through the park, with each successive one creating an almost cinematic sense of place; I found that this describes the user's interaction with the park very well.


Contrast: Long Island

In comparison to my time in the city, these are the highlights of the last two days out on Long Island:

  • I went to Home Depot, and bought some parts for downspouts and an attic fan. Holy crap, I've been on four Home Depot runs on this trip. Well, at least I got to check out a box truck that looks like what I want for my drive-around-the-country-visiting-friends-and-fixing-their-houses-plan—complete with air deflector over the cab and nice rims.

    Of course, a diesel truck with a SVO (straight vegetable oil) conversion would be a requirement to assuage my guilt about driving all over the place—assuming that used fryolator oil is not a substance that people fight over by the time I retire. I suppose the question is where I will sleep—perhaps build a little air conditioned/heated cabin at the front of the box.

  • I migrated mass email subscriptions from flitterfly (which is currently a 200-spam-a-day collection point) to my gmail account. Over dialup. In my defense, like I said, my DVD player isn't working.

  • Spent some time looking at the sky figuring out the air traffic over my folks' house. There are planes every five minutes or so, and they are heading roughly southwest, to the south of my position (estimated path shown in blue). It seems like that's a reasonable vector to be landing at JFK (shown in red for comparison).

    However, it seems like they might be ascending rather than descending—possible that planes loop out of LaGuardia over the water, and cross over Long Island to head down the east coast? But they mostly seem to be large planes, and many of them are carriers that I do not instantly recognize, suggesting international flights landing at JFK. I believe that I saw one of them drop its landing gear as it was flying.

    I need to find one of those animated air traffic maps… once I'm not on dialup anymore.

Anyway, I'm skipping out of Long Island this afternoon. As you might be able to tell, I think I've had enough of this.


More Tales from the City

Yet another long-winded-Bats-in-New-York-City-travelogue post. Posted from a 45.2 kbps dialup connection, no less… gaaah… please, make the pain stop…
  • Catching up with friends: Had dinner with Air Force Guy/New York IP lawyer and his wife at Tagine Dining Gallery, a Moroccan place that Bird and Jen found. Food was good, but service was pretty annoyingly slow—although the belly dancing later in the evening made up for it. Air Force Guy is working pretty bad lawyer hours nowadays—he couldn't get out to meet us until about 9:30 PM on a Friday night.

  • A very special guest appearance: A surprise showing by Big Bird for Saturday brunch: he was flying back from a business trip on Friday night, and didn't make his connection at LaGuardia due to thunderstorm delays. So he called up Perlick and crashed with him for the night. We couldn't convince him to come and hang out in New York with us for the rest of the day, though.

    That reminds me… I really need to cultivate drop-in-and-crash friendships with people who live near the major hub airports. I have Squanto and Beth for BWI, Psycho Security Guard for MSP, Beemer for DEN. Anybody know someone who lives near ORD?

  • Not as omnivorous as I'd hoped: Went to dinner with Logger, Constance, and Perlick at Joe's Ginger in Chinatown. Dinner was excellent, in particularly the soup dumplings (Dumplings with soup inside! Bite in and make a big mess! Magic secret of how they are made here).

    I was entranced by this restaurant review description, and had to order the dish: "Kung pao shrimp finds itself tricked out here with small sheets of tender pork kidney that Mr. Blam said was a nod to Hong Kong tastes. The slight metallic tang of the kidney echoes that in the shrimp, and the harmony dances over the top of the more familiar players in the kung pao song…" Unfortunately, I have not mastered the taste of kidney, despite this attempt, and the dish went mostly uneaten. Yeah, I know… friggin' weak…

  • A Personal Haj: I don't know how many of you are jazz aficionados, but the Village Vanguard is a famous Greenwich Village jazz club that has been around since the 1930's. The greats have all played the Vanguard, and a multitude have recorded live albums there: [Insert name of jazz giant] Live at the Village Vanguard (including my personal favorite, Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard). As a younger jazz musician puts it: "I call it the Carnegie Hall of jazz because most jazz clubs just don't have the sound that that place has. . . . It's the place where Moses and Mohammed and Jesus walked!"

    Note: I grew up on Long Island and come back once a year for the holidays. I've never been to the Vanguard. I suck. This needed to be fixed.

    So Perlick and I went to catch the Lewis Nash Quintet's 9 PM set. First of all, the music was great; the bandleader is the percussionist (who did a few cool solos), and I thought the pianist's solos were terrific. But more importantly, OMIGOD, LIKE, I'M AT THE VANGUARD! I'M AT THE VANGUARD! WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO!. Okay, so I didn't quite express my emotions like that; my pants remained unsoiled. But to be in that cramped triangular room, with the 1-2-3-9 subway rumbling behind the wall… it felt just so right, and steeped in history. On those live Vanguard albums I've mentioned, the recordings capture the tinkling of glasses and murmur of background conversations… I was in that world… wow.

  • More beautiful than you: On the way back, Perlick walked us through the Meatpacking district. It was originally a blue-collar industrial district, but in recent years, it has been utterly transformed and is today filled with trendy bars and restaurants catering to young professionals and "scenesters." In 2004, New York magazine called the Meatpacking District "New York’s most fashionable neighborhood." It was definitely the world of the hip and clubbing people who are more beautiful than you are. I was wondering when Perlick and I were going to get kicked off the sidewalk for looking too dorky.

    The whole scene set off the reaction I have mentioned in previous blog posts: "... whenever an attractive woman that I don't know approaches and starts talking to me, part of my brain immediately responds, "Yes, yes, you're pretty. Thanks... and good for you. Now, what are you trying to get out of me?" I guess it is that I know that I'm not a player in whatever game they're playing, and don't want to be bothered/suckered with it..." A lot of women putting a lot of time into showing off their stylish clothing and appearance… sounds terrifying to me. One thing that I found amusing is how strong the conformity was: there was maybe a couple of basic uniforms: you could probably track fashion trends over the long term very closely with a streetscape snapshot once a week ("…this period shows the rise of pointy-toed shoes…").

    As a tangent, I always wondered how peacocks managed to survive, in evolutionary terms—that's a whole lot of energy expenditure and added vulnerability to trade off for increased mating potential. Evidently, it really works for turning on the peahens (and, presumably, 20something Wall Street investment banker guys).

    Perhaps that's why I like to wander the more immigrant-filled parts of Chinatown or similar—in relative terms, I'm hip, young, and attractive by virtue of having all my teeth and not pulling a shopping cart full of groceries.

  • Dim sum (with Perlick and Ann W) at Mandarin Court. A recommendation from Air Force Guy's mom—it's good to know Chinatown-raised ABC's (American born Chinese): Attendance was below dim sum critical mass, but it was still enjoyable.

  • Be in your happy place… be in your happy place: My wandering then took me on a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. This was a bit more of a challenge than you would expect: I suffer from some degree of acrophobia. It was bad enough that when I tried this in high school, I turned back. Fearing heights really sucks for work in the construction industry; I've been up on three-story high lift platforms, but not terribly happily.

    I managed to get across, mostly by tricking myself to keep looking sideways or at the view. The big problem was on the middle span: the walkway is open wooden slats, and you can look down between them to the East River 120 feet below you. Yaghagahgaha. Yes, I know I'm not going to fall through--remember—a phobia is an irrational fear.

    But it's still a gorgeous old bridge; I'll have to see if I can start enjoying the walk next time.

  • Great… I'm not even hip enough to drink this: My random walk from the bridge deposited me in the Brooklyn neighborhood known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). As described in that article: DUMBO was known as an artists' haven, as many of the expansive warehouses in the neighborhood have been renovated into loft space. However, in recent years, as property has become more and more valuable in Manhattan, this neighborhood has also increasingly gentrified, pricing out many of the artists. It appears that the current wave of dot coms are concentrating in this neighborhood.

    You know that gentrification is crashing in when neighborhood descriptions mention "one of the best children's parks in the city." New loft buildings and renovations were going up all around my walking path.

    I ended up at a juice bar called The Plant: I had an grapefruit, kale, apple, and lime juice. It was tasty despite its somewhat scary foamy bright green appearance (kale? juice? huh?). The place was the first floor of a renovated loft/warehouse; they are into raw cuisine—the food was far beyond my hipness range.

    But I really did like the feel of the neighborhood--part of what I love about these old industrial areas is that the history is evident simply in the streetscape. The cobblestones and railroad tracks poke up through the asphalt in patches; you can tease out the uses of various old buildings from vestigial hardware and fittings. If I ever moved to the city, I might end up in a place like this, if I could afford it (a short subway hop on the F train at York Street). The idea of having a rollup gate as my front door sounds just too awesome.

    But the gentrification factor kept on creeping into my head: I wondered whether DUMBO is quickly devolving into an urban theme park. To wit: "It's HipsterLoftWorld--all of the grit, graffiti, and authenticity, but you can still park your Mercedes on the street!" Admittedly, it was a Sunday afternoon, but many expensive cars were in evidence.

Anyway, a bit more time on Long Island, back to the city tomorrow evening, and rolling out back to Canada on Wednesday.



I spent the past two days in New York City, seeing various parts of town and hanging out with Perlick. After a long day of walking around town, I felt like having an afternoon snack. I was considering a break at Starbuck's, while writing some post cards… Perhaps a latte with a lemon poppy scone, or maybe a cappucc...


Well, you can see which side won.

I might be accused of obsessive-compulsive blogging on this trip; I hope it's not too boring for my readers. Part of it is my boredom at home, but another reason is future reference: identifying the places I have visited (as opposed to relying on vague memories and my Google-Fu).
  • Dad drove the family in to the city, and I realized he's totally turning into an old man driver. He's driving at about 50; the slow lane on the highways around here is at least 60. School buses were blowing past us.

  • To celebrate Perlick's birthday, we went to dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village. A strong recommendation—their pork buns are very non-traditional but incredibly yummy. The ramen noodles with pork neck were great—nice chew to the noodles.

    They proudly post that they use Berkshire pork; I was curious—from the Berkshires of MA? Actually, it's a variety of pig that is "recognized all over the world for their perfect combination of juiciness, flavor and tenderness."

  • This was followed by a comedy show: Giant Tuesday Night of Amazing Inventions And Also There Is A Game!!!, which is self-described as, "a weekly extravaganza showcasing New York City's best stand-up, sketch, character and musical comedy." It was uneven, but the funny parts were howlingly good. It also felt a bit hip and undiscovered—I guess it pays to know cool swinging people who live in the city. And Perlick too. (Oooh, ouch! Sorry, P).

  • The evening wrapped up with drinks at the Korova Milk Bar--"An East Village spot specializing in milk-based cocktails"--another recommendation from Perlick's friends. I would guess that it is the only Clockwork Orange themed bar out there, but I'll admit that it does it very well (i.e., it's the place to go when you and your droogies feel like a bit of the moloko)--complete with creepy-looking mannequins!

  • The next day, a quick lunch at Katz's Deli (of When Harry Met Sally fame)—a knish was just what I was looking for.

  • Spent the afternoon at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum; they have a former tenement building that they are in the process of restoring to various periods in its history. Right now, they have a German-inhabited apartment from the 1880's, and a Sicilian place from the 1920's-1930's. There's not too much there yet, but I still found it very interesting. It was pretty interesting to see the Jacob Riis-style dark tenements firsthand. Also, they stated that over 7000 people lived there during the building's time as a tenement... pretty impressive.

    An important note: it is not a normal walk-through museum; you need to buy tickets and go on a guided tour. I'd recommend buying tickets in advance—I had an hour plus to kill before going on the tour.

  • A few blocks away from my sister's apartment, there is a huge industrial building with smokestacks that I have not identified. I wandered over there to take a look: it is the former Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Company Power House Building, now operated by Con Edison. It's an amazingly well-decorated building, which is surprising for a power generation station.

    As described in this web site on New York City architecture, The main power house ... at 59th Street and West End Avenue, could easily have been a typically innocuous, industrial structure. Instead, it is a magnificent Beaux Arts building designed by Stanford White. Decoration of municipal buildings is a tradition that seems mostly dead, but one exception I can happily report is the new water works in Cambridge, over by Fresh Pond. It also has public art elements, such as a map of the Cambridge water system, as a terrazzo floor, which has probably since been covered up due to terrorism fears.

    This web site on the New York City subway system goes into excruciating detail on the IRT power house, but it has some old photos at the bottom.

When I'm in the city, I'm a bit embarrassed that I'm constantly taking photos of buildings around me. But I realized: there's a lot that's worth taking pictures of, especially when you compare it to, say, the strip mall Generica that I'm often stuck in. Think of how many worthwhile photos you could take of the IRT Power House, compared to, say, a Home Depot-Staples-PetCo-Pier One power center.

Long Island today and tomorrow; back to the city for Friday and Saturday.

Fun With Polarization

I lost my sunglasses clips a while ago, so while I was back in Boston, I picked up a new set. Interestingly, they are polarized sunglasses—it's the first time I've ever worn them.

The first noticeable effect was driving down the road, and seeing moiré-type patterns in the rear windshields of some cars. Also, I remember hearing that polarized glasses reduce glare, and I wondered how they do that—i.e., does it know bad light vs. good light? This prompted a look at the Wikipedia article.

It explained that the glare-reduction is due to polarization cutting the light from horizontal reflecting surfaces—I assume that polarized sunglasses are oriented to maximize the effect. I didn't realize that reflections themselves caused (at least some degree) of polarization.

Then I got to the sentence about LCD screens: The role played by polarization in the operation of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) is also frequently apparent to the wearer of polarizing sunglasses, which may reduce the contrast or even make the display unreadable. I said, "Cool!," instantly grabbed my sunglasses, turned off the lights, and started staring at my laptop's monitor. When I turned my head about 45 degrees to the left, the image went black. Neat!

Yeah, it was definitely a geeky way to spend the evening. But dad is in full-on Jabba the SportsFan mode (parked in front of the TV watching World Cup Soccer for most of his waking hours), so DVD movies were not an option.


I'm a Tree! Please move along.

I don't know if many of you have driven on the Hutchinson River Parkway in New York, but there's this "disguised" cell phone tower along the roadway. It might kinda pass for a tree… from a distance… at night… maybe. Except for the fact that it is two or three times taller than any other tree on the horizon. Oh yeah, really subtle there, guys…

I'm back on suburban Long Island now at my parents' place. I'm feeling creeping boredom in less than 24 hours. As an example, I've been too busy to do any reading so far this entire trip: that trend ended last night. Stuck with a blazing 28.8 kpbs connection that drops to 14.4 at times. Unfortunately, the DVD player on my laptop seems to have lost it, so that kills another way to spend evenings. Time to wander around the aisles of Home Depot for fun.

Well, at least I'm going in to the city tonight to celebrate Perlick's birthday. ("IT'S PERLICK'S BIRTHDAY?!?! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOOOOUU...")


Further Bad News

U5 has informed me that his and JMD's mom passed away on Sunday. He said that it was quiet and painless.

Please keep them in your thoughts. If you want a snail mail address to send either of them a card, just send me email and I can forward you contact info.


Not Good News

I don't know how many of you know U5 and JMD's mom, and/or met her at U5 and Rebecca's wedding. But if you do, things do not appear to be going well for her: JMD had to take a emergency next-day flight down to see her on Friday, and U5 is down there now.

Please wish them all well, and think good thoughts for them.

My Boston Vacation Trip

Wow... a week plus in Boston can really wear you out when you're running around seeing friends and dealing with unfinished business in town. Anyway, fun activities this week included:
  • Perlick and I failed to go the Brehznev's: he even called the day before, asking them, "Are you open tomorrow?," to which they replied, "Yes, yes, open." Unfortunately, it appears they only understood half of that question. The Korean place we went to in Chinatown was acceptable, but nothing close to a substitute.

  • Had a very nice dinner with JMD at Flora, one of the fancier restaurants in Arlington. I've wanted to drag her there for a long time now, considering that she has lived in Arlington for years and had never been there. Their cod cakes are very tasty (I think they're made with salt cod; nice texture), as are their pan-seared scallops.

  • Took a trip out to Ashburnham to see the house Mort and Sarah are looking at; I was glad to give them my input. Heh... even in my free time, I end up shimmying around attics and crawl spaces. The place is definitely a fixer-upper. We also had the experience of calling up the cops to shoot a diseased/dying racoon that was flopping around next to the crawl space hatch. The cop pulled the 12 gauge out of the back of the cruiser, and popped the racoon with one round. It didn't make nearly as much of a mess as I expected (i.e., double-ought vs. racoon ≠ expected big splatter).

  • Dinner over at AJ and Guy's place in Watertown, along with Mort and Sarah. Had a fun time being prep chef for Guy. Dinner was lovely--thanks for your hospitality!

  • Drove in to Cambridge to clean up some things left behind in the basement of my old apartment. Threw a bunch of stuff in the trash; moved some stuff (refrigerator, Unistrut parts) to JMD's basement. One thing Bird left behind and needs to get rid of is this 6 foot tall 18" rack mount cabinet. Any takers among my readers? Anybody opening up a home data center? Available for pickup from the back porch of the apartment formerly known as the Roost.

  • Went over to dinner at a former coworker's place. They bought property in Sudbury, and are currently building a house--this is probably one of my coworkers who is as hands-on as I am--he already built a house down in Connecticut. He actually bought a used Bobcat (i.e., skid-steer loader) to work on the house--it's pretty much the ultimate cordless power tool. And you can buy accessories too! I'm totally envious.

  • Spent another two days helping Bird with the kitchen renovation. We nailed down an oak hardwood floor (pneumatic nailer, thankfully), and did some drywall and framing work. It was cool to work on the kitchen, and to spent time up with Bird and Jen in Dover (including a nice dinner at Blue Latitudes).
Whew. I have realized that I probably approach maintainance of friendships with the work ethic and drive that most people apply to a job. I'm glad that I saw the folks that I did, and I'm sorry if I didn't get to spend more time with many others. Anyway, I'm driving down to New York tomorrow. Hope it is more relaxing than this past week.


Not A Paid Advertisement for Staples

I went to Staples today, looking for CD cases, and I wandered by the USB flash drive section. My current drive (128 MB Kangaru) has been pissing me off lately--it has a large, klunky form factor, so I HAVE TO UNPLUG MY POWER CABLE BEFORE PLUGGING IT INTO MY LAPTOP. Ugh. Bad design. It also screwed me when I was trying to plug it into the front USB port of a desktop machine--didn't fit. That, and the lack of capacity was starting to get annoying (e.g., wipe out and load several times to transfer photographs).

Evidently I was high in serendipitons today. Staples has the SanDisk 1GB Cruzer® M2 USB Flash Drive on sale ("instant savings") for $50, and with a rebate of $20, a net price of $30. 1 GB for $30--not bad at all.

What completely shocked me when I got home is that Staples has instituted an online rebate system that is relatively seamless and quick. I thought the point of rebates for large companies was to make them hard, so that a large fraction of the customers forget or don't bother to send in rebate forms. It seems like self-defeating behavior for them, but hey--life is better for us. Seems quite disturbing to the expected order of the universe.

Incidentally, it's a pretty good design--the USB end clicks in and out like a retractable ballpoint pen, so there's no cap to lose.

So if you're thinking of replacing your USB drive, the purchase has to be made 06/11/06 through 06/24/06. I am not sure where this offer is valid--I bought mine in MA.

Our of curiosity, does anyone know if there's a sudden surge in flash memory availability? I took advantage of a similar rebate for an SD card. I thought I remembered hearing news stories a while ago that there was a shortage of flash memory, due to Apple (or other MP3 player manufacturers) snapping it up. Or is there something new on the horizon that makes retailers want to dump their inventory ASAP?


Tep Wedding Extended Dance Remix

The wedding that I have been looking forward to for months was this past weekend, and it was as much fun as I had hoped it would be.

The Friday power dinner at Mary Chung's was a big success--my calculated attendance prediction (sigma % chance of attending per attendee), as used by U5 and Rebecca for Thanksgiving dinners, provided a pretty good estimate--41.3 expected, something like 44 people showed up, including random walk-ins. A good time, followed by hanging out and talking at T-Stop and Jessie's.

The wedding itself was a Hawaiian-themed shindig, with the groom in aloha casual. The Hawaiian theme, however, was contrasted by the cold and rain--the weather made it feel like we should have been wearing sodden woolen uniforms and digging trenches for most of the day.

My quick count of the Tep Family Photo is 72 people, which does not include Speedbump and Max. This might possibly be the biggest group photo evah.

Another high point was decorating their car--BirdJen went nuts with decorations, including grass skirt table decorations over the windows, a pinwheel on the front, plastic flamingoes on the back, and running Christmas lights strung around the outside. Of course, to run them, it required a 12 V DC to 120 V AC inverter, which I had handy in the car. I headed up to the car, pulled it out of my pocket, handed it to Jen, and said, "C'mon--all Tech men carry inverters." Actually, this was more true than I realized--U5 has one in his car, as did Guy.

This was followed by hanging out at the hotel, telling stories, laughing, and having a good time. Unfortunately, Chuck, Perlick, and I decided to go one-on-one with a liter of Wild Turkey. It can be argued that we won, but it was definitely a pyrrhic victory. It goes up among my top five worst hangovers.

Anyway, final note--in case you were looking for more photos, I have collected BirdJen, JMD's, and my photos on my laptop hard drive. If we get together, I can transfer them. Also, BirdJen's flickr account has a lot of them up.


Restaurant Review: Tampa, FL

The first portion of the trip (in Tampa) included several nice dinners out on the town. One of our clients jokingly billed herself the 'social coordinator' (like on a cruise ship), and made some really good selections, so I thought I'd write up a quick restaurant review.

Cafe Japon, in International Plaza (high end Tampa mall): excellent sushi. We ordered way too much, and stuffed ourselves with raw fish and sake. They had one of my favorites (amaebi, or raw sweet shrimp)--they are one of the places that serve up the shrimp heads (fried tempura style) along with the shrimp. Yum! [crunch crunch crunch]. Like eating a big fried bug. <JabbaTheHut>HO HO HO HO HO</JabbaTheHut>

Next night was Tampa Bay Brewing Company, in the Ybor City section of town. A bit of a disappointment--they are moving, so they have shut down their brewing operations, and were not serving fresh brewed beer. Food was take-it-or-leave-it.

A Cuban place called Columbia Restaurant was next. It is definitely one of The Places To Go in town. The appetizers were really good, but my entree (Cuban Roast Pork) was a bit dry. We found the waitstaff to be noticeably obsequious--a slight annoyance. One interesting point was that dress--even in a nice restaurant like this--is pretty casual in Florida. It caused me cognitive dissonance to watch waitstaff in tuxedos serving people in Tevas and shorts--"Why are you serving these people, instead of kicking them out?"

The last evening was Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine. I'd say this was one of the big winners of the lot. All of the food was delicious and had lovely presentation. I had the butterfish in a miso soy glaze--exceptionally yummy--I don't know if it was the type of fish or the preparation method that made the meat so spectacular, but I'll have to try finding and preparing it sometime. As a note to the Bay Area crowd, it looks like there's a Roy's in SF.

However, as fun as it was to sample fine restaurants on the company dime, after four nights in a row, the three-hour social dinners with several drinks started to wear me out. At that point, I was ready for a half-hour salad dinner, and then crashing.


A Very Long Week

The first Florida job (Tampa area) was followed by a drive down to the Fort Myers area for job 2. I warned the guy running the second job that he wasn't getting us "fresh"--I was pretty much ready to go home at the start of that work. Nine straight days of work/travel is not something I'm going to be repeating soon.

When I tell people my work involves 'crawling around in attics,' that is not meant as hyperbole. I've been in a bunch of them, including belly crawls in the summer in Vegas, Tucson, Phoenix, and Florida.

First, this attic job was quite possibly the worst I have ever worked in:

I have now instituted a rule: when somebody as short as me can no longer sit up to work in the attic, it is TOO DAMN SHORT. At least until we start hiring building science midgets to do these jobs. Working conditions were a major-sweat out--early June in a Florida attic is plenty warm enough, thank you.

It was a somewhat interesting exercise to maneuver in a place like this--it required some conscious planning. "Roll on my side, use my hand to pull my foot over this beam, shift my weight to my hip, grab the overhead truss, slide myself backwards. Now feel around blind to try to find my drill." As you can imagine, this seriously cuts down productivity, compared to--say--standing on the ground.

The biggest problem was the approach to installing our experiment, which included roof sensors, two types of insulation, a heating/cooling system, humidification, exterior weather sensors, and air sealing the setup top and bottom. We should have bitten the bullet at the beginning, torn down all the ceiling drywall, and worked from rolling scaffolding--much easier access. Drywall (and drywallers) are cheap: I think that the cost there would have easily offset the man-hours added by poor working conditions. For instance, two of us well-trained building scientists burnt a man-day VACUUMING INSULATION FROM THE FLOOR OF AN ATTIC. This was done because the oversprayed insulation landed on the attic floor, and need to be cleaned up so that the spray foam would stick to the drywall.

But I wasn't in charge of the job.

Okay, so I didn't totally lose my sense of humor during this work:

Anyway, the hellish Florida job is over; I have never been so glad to land in Manchester to see 60 F rainy weather. You couldn't pay me enough to live in Florida. I'm in New Hampshire at Bird and Jen's now; spent last night watching Tivo'd cooking shows;, and I'm on my way down to Boston today. Big wedding get-together! Woo hoo!


A [Lame] Night Out on the Town

I'm back early from the socializing that's going on after hours on this job down here in Tampa. The nights have been jam-packed with a very nice dinner and going out for drinks afterwards, every evening. Tonight was a hit-the-bars-and-get-drunk night, since we're starting late tomorrow.

I decided to head home early, because (1) I was wiped-out face-in-the-drink tired, (2) I really wasn't feeling like socializing that much, and (3) I didn't want to bust up anyone else's fun this evening.

So I decided to walk home by myself, instead of taking a cab. It felt pretty necessary to me to get back to the hotel without burning gas, and get a half-decent walk in today.

Man... Tampa is a seriously non pedestrian-friendly city. It was only a half hour walk... although there were sidewalks for part of the walk, I think that the city only puts them in to reduce collisions between cars and the shopping carts full of bottles and cans that the homeless guys would be wheeling around. It was totally empty at 11:30 on a Saturday night. I wonder if the the cars driving by looked at me, and thought, "Hrm... looks like he's dressed to nicely to be homeless or mentally ill... I guess he must have had his license pulled for DUI or something..."

Anyway, on the walk home, I happened upon this neon sign (apologies for the crap-ass photo quality of my camera at night):

In case you can't read it, the upper one is "The MAXXIM Men's Club," and the lower is "ExtendedStay Deluxe" (i.e., an extended stay hotel). In reality, the hotel is simply in the lot behind the men's club, but it made me think, "Man... this cobranding thing has really gotten out of hand here... do they have some type of room service agreement or something going on?..."

Work work work

I've been down here in Tampa working for the past four days on that shipping container project. Things are going pretty well--watching the crane lift the container off the flatebed was pretty friggin cool, and it was fun to help them rig up to lift it. It didn't help anyone's blood pressure when the crane operator initially lifted the box, and found out it was 13,000 lbs instead of 6,000 lbs, as per the trucker's manifest... oops. But it ended up working out, and we're close to the finishing point for the job.

But I'm getting more and more tired. That and the fact that I'm driving down to Fort Myers on Monday, to work on a second job. Well... we're getting some nice meals out of the deal, and I'll be back up in Boston on Thursday, whether that second job is done or not.