The Mystical Isle Of Coney

Wow, I haven’t been to Coney Island in years. Holy crap, just look, look what’s happening there!

The terminal is disassembled, Philips’ Candy Store is gone.

I probably purchased my first candy apple and salt water taffy in America there with hard earned money. I used to pass them by every day when I worked at Nathans. And now I don’t even have a photo of my own to remember it.

Well, on the other hand the new terminal looks pretty cool.

It reminds me of Tesla’s Wardenclyffe building.

Non DEA

My wife bought me a bottle of Sesame Street© bubble bath. Here’s the back of the bottle.

Now I can’t stop wondering what Drug Enforcement Administration version of bubble bath would be like. The non-DEA bottle has Cookie Monster on it, the DEA one would probably have Bert.

If it’s not that DEA, which DEA is it? Dance Educators of America? Data Encryption Algorithm? Department of Elder Affairs?

Oh, wait, wait. False alarm. It’s not an unsolvable mystery. DEA stands for Diethanolamine. But come on, this is not the DEA we all know and love.

Shaker and Baker or Gaudi, not Gaudy

When I was in my teens, I wanted to become an architect. I read books about architecture, and one of my favorite pastimes was trying to tell the architectural style of any buildings I saw. I did that in my native city of Odessa, Ukraine and on the trips to Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev. For a while I really favored the Gothic style. I really liked the soaring feeling of gothic churches. But then I’ve seen a rather plain building with rounded, yet also soaring shapes. The only decoration on the building were relief plaques. The building was rather old, yet depicted on the plaques were an airplane, a light bulb, a telegraph key and I think a radio. My dad explained to me about Art Deco style.

Here, in America, I learned about different art movements of the beginning of the century. It gets pretty complicated. There is Art Deco, Art Modern, Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Shaker style. Why I like these styles? Well, it’s because I think that they have just the right proportion of beauty and utility. This is a sort of a mental cheat sheet that I have (embellished with links, of course):

Shaker Style: Shakers are a now mostly extinct religious sect. In fact they are a splinter of the Quaker movement, and were called shaking Quakers because their praying during which they shook. I can’t distinguish Shaker Style from Arts and Crafts, and indeed they are very similar. Genuine Shaker items are very expensive, but these days many manufacturers make shaker style furniture and kitchen cabinets. Although great designers and craftsmen, there are very few Shakers remaining. I bet it’s all because they are supposed to be celibate.

Arts and Crafts: Started in Great Britain. A bunch of designers and architects were pissed off by the poor quality and gaudiness of early mass produced things. Their motto was something to the tune of “turn artists into craftsmen and craftsmen into artists”. Simple bordering on austere designs, natural materials, muted colors, handmade look. The radically new idea was to take away most of decoration, but at the same time turn structural elements into decorations. Instead of hiding beams, supports, joins and other elements of construction, the designers would instead show them off. The solidity, strength are considered virtues. The proportions are usually more down to earth, not meant to dwarf a person. Think Frank Lloyd Wright and Newcomb College Pottery. Basically heavy duty, expensive hand made crap for rich people with good taste.

Art Nouveau: Started in France. The name is derived from the name of some gallery or exhibition or something like that. The idea was to create a whole new style for the new century. Just to be different. The designs are organic (meaning that things looked as if they were grown, not built), proportions – elongated. Not a single sharp edge to be seen. Think Aubrey Beardsley, Tiffany (who names their son Louis Comfort?), Gaudi and what he did in Barcelona. I would also call H.R. Ggiger’s stuff modern Art Nouveau, although I don’t know if that’s correct. In general a style for eccentric rich people.

Art Deco: Very similar to Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau. The major difference is that instead of making things look hand made, the fact that things are made by machines now is celebrated. Elements of the design are very industrial, proportions – soaring. There is a wide variety in colors used – sometimes they are muted, even dark, sometimes – absolutely outrageous. Shining stainless steel is not out of place, and neither is polished black lacquer. Think Chrysler Building, Empire State Building and other New York skyscrapers, early Polaroid cameras, bakelite rotary phones (in fact anything made out of bakelite), cathedral radios, turn of the century cars.

The thing is, Art Deco is easily corrupted. There is a style that is sometimes derogatively referred to as “Bronx Modern” or “Flatbush Renaissance”. Gaudy, ugly stuff. Like much of Italian furniture sold in Brooklyn. Or like Joey Tribbiani’s apartment in “Friends”. Such perverted Art Deco is rather common. Do not confuse it with true, beautiful Art Deco.

Yagi Decorated


You know, most New Yorkers don’t look up much. No matter how cool everything is around them, they don’t want to look like tourists. But I am secure enough in my New Yorkedness to walk around looking at skyscrapers and taking pictures with my touristy looking camera.

This hideous yagi antenna is on a top of one of the old art deco buildings on 46th street. By the way, it turns out that it named “after Hidetsugu Yagi (1886-1976), Japanese electrical engineer” and not baba Yaga as I thought. Actually it should be called “Yagi-Uda” because he invented it with the help of Dr. Shintaro Uta.

Looks like nobody cared much for Dr. Yagi’s work in Japan at the time. Of course, they regretted it after they discovered that it was used by the Allies as a radar antenna. This reminded me about how Pyotr Ufimtsev’s dense paper titled “Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction”, which was completely ignored by the Soviet military scientists, gave Denys Overholser, a Skunk Works radar specialist, all the theory needed to build F117 stealth fighter.

Indeed, yagis are very useful. You can extend the range of wi-fi networks with a yagi made out of Pringles can (gotta build one) and I’ve heard of a guy that made a yagi for his cell phone, so that he could access weak cell networks while biking across America. They may not look very good, but they have a kajillion uses in radio and tv.

Too bad there is no book about Dr. Yagi on Amazon, but here is a rather interesting site about Japanese inventors. Here’s Dr. Yagi’s statue and here’s an iteresting quote that I’ve found: “US War Crimes Commission witnessed that Professor Hidetsugu Yagi was the first Japanese “to speak proudly of his work instead of denying it all.”

Beeeep beeeep beeeep beeeep SLAP

Most people I know don’t like their sleep to be interrupted. I, on the other hand, as long as I don’t have to get up right this minute, don’t mind being woke up multiple times.

First of all, the actual process of falling asleep after quieting the harsh beep of the alarm clock is a very pleasant experience. Second, I find that a short series of naps is more refreshing than a long “wow, how long was I out” sleep. I also a series of alarms has a much greater chance of waking me up from an REM state. This is the best way to wake up: the brain is already active and the dreams can be easily recalled.

At some point I wanted to make an alarm clock that would detect either eye movements or the brain waves associated with them and wake me up during REM. Understandably, for the lack of time, skills and gumption I never got further than playing with a basic stamp microcontroller and reading EEG newsgroups. I suck.

Anyhoo, this morning, between the infamous 9 minute alarm clock buzzes, I had 2 dreams.

In the first one, came for a visit to America. We went to explore the power station at Brooklyn College. Tema had a really old looking key that opened the gate. As a side note (not a part of the dream): Brooklyn College has some very interesting infrastructure. There are tunnels connecting all buildings, a power plant, a heat plant and a buncha other interesting things. I’ve heard that there is a linear accelerator somewhere. Right. So we explored the area around the power plant a bit, I pointed out Monk parrots to .

You’d think I went clubbing with in the second dream, but I didn’t. Instead I was still in Brooklyn College. My high school English teacher was giving a lecture standing behind a podium in the middle of the quad. He said: “the time now is [don’t remember] and the temperature is 28 Therms “. I asked him is there is a thermometer on his podium that measures temperature in “Therms” ( I think a Therm is the same thing as BTU). He said that that was the case. For some reason I called him Alex, even though his name is Alan.

Untitled

Reading a book about Steinway history (my wife’s father works there).
Henry Steinway is writing a letter after immigrating to America :
“I cannot advise you to come here if you are able, by diligence and thrift, to make a living in Germany. People here have to work harder than abroad, and you get so used to better living that you finally think potato soup tasted better in Germany than the daily roast here.”
Hmmm, all too true.