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  • Michael Krakovskiy 6:53 am on February 2, 2018 Permalink
    Tags: Elevator   

    Elevator Wisdom Part 1: The Fear Ouroboros 

    "Futurama" Mars University (TV Episode 1999)

    Ignorance is bliss, and knowledge brings fear. Or sometimes it's the other way around.

    There are three levels of fearing or not-fearing something: out of ignorance, out of shallow knowledge, and out of deeper knowledge and experience.

    I was once afraid of entering or exiting an elevator that did not come to a stop exactly level with the floor. If such a thing happened, it would stand to reason that the elevator was malfunctioning, and could possibly start moving once again when I'd be half-way in or out. My mind would paint gruesome pictures of being cut in half.

    Elisha Graves Otis

    Then, when I was in college, I worked as a manual elevator operator. I was in charge of a hulking Otis elevator that was built some time in the 1920s. In the course of my training I learned about Elisha Otis' ingenious safety mechanism.

    This finely bearded gentleman invented an extremely simple mechanism. An elevator would have a spring-loaded device that would extend special claws into the notched guide rails if the elevator would fall too quickly. In addition to that, a safety switch turned off power to the motor when the doors were open. In the following years I was not afraid of being cut in half, and bravely dismounted my elevator in any position. 

    Later on, working an office job in Midtown, I heard horrible news. An advertising executive tried to "catch" an already closing elevator by forcing her body inside. Instead of remaining motionless, the cab lifted her and squished her against the shaft, nearly cutting her body in half. The elevator remained jammed for several hours with two more people inside.

    My first reaction was — this is impossible! The cutoff circuit, the safety device — what happened? What I learned, of course, was that technicians are able to override safety setting with jumper wires and put the elevator into a manual mode. Of course, sometimes they forget to remove the jumper wires, and an elevator can squish you as a bug if you try to force your way in. Now I am terrified of elevators once again, but for a different reason, of course.

    Out of the three types of engineers,  Mort is fearful because he's ignorant, Elvis is overconfident because he thinks he knows things, and Einstein is fearful and paranoid because he has an idea about how the sausage is made.

    47-50th Street Subway tower has an automatic routing system that promises to give you exactly what you punch into it.

    In UNIX, I learned with power-greedy pleasure that you could kill a system right out from under yourself with a single command. This power was almost the first thing anyone teaches you not to do, then, with a devilish glee, tells you exactly how to: run as the user with complete systems permissions, go to the root level of the disk directory, then type in rm -rf *.

    Ullman, Ellen. Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology (p. 43).

    The second blog post in this series will focus on the very non-obvious learning curve of driving a manual elevator.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 1:09 am on December 1, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Elevator, , Empire State Building observatory, Fancy, , , , , online ticketing system, Patrick's Cathedral, ,   

    Top of the Rock 

    I have been looking forward to the opening of the “Top of the Rock” for a long while. As soon as the online ticketing system became available, I got the tickets for the first day, and the first sunset that this observation platform became available to regular shmoes like me.

    The entrance, which is located in the underground concourse is decorated with this fancy Swarovski Crystal chandelier. Top of the Rock chose two somewhat strange marketing alliances – with Swarovski and with Target.

    The elevator ride to the observation platform features a ceiling-projected movie of cheesy historical images and newsreels. Though that you can see exposed and lighted elevator shaft which is much more impressive.

    Once you get to the multistoried observation platform, you start to notice and and photograph hundreds of interesting things otherwise unseen from the ground. The rooftop of the building where you work.

    The cross of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

    You get to stand basically face to face, on the same level with the spire of the Empire State Building, only separated by the annoying bulletproof glass. The spaces between panes allow you to take decent pictures, and the top setbacked platform does not even have the glass. That’s where you can entertain your superhero daydreams – by quietly standing there, of course, and not by jumping off of it.

    Besides the glass and the loud tourists, the only annoyance that I can name is a little bit of sewage smell. I am pretty sure that came from the plumbing vent that you can see in this picture.

    Overall, I have to say that the whole experience was superior to the Empire State Building observatory. Online ticketing interface allows you to buy tickets for specific time, avoiding lines (the guy who coded the ticketing system even dropped me an email on my previous entry). You get to see the Empire State Building itself, as well as views of Central Park. The top deck without the glass is very cool.

    Unfortunately I forgot my own camera and had to borrow co-worker’s Nikon, so I’ll be back with my own gear, the long lens and possibly a tripod. One unsettling thing about Top of the Rock, though, is that the ticket (but not the website) states that you are only allowed to take pictures for non-commercial purposes. That’s not very nice. I did see a lot of people with tripods and fancy cameras though – hopefully they are not going to hassle me.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:54 am on November 12, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 212-768-8001, Baku, , , Elevator, , , Jewelry, , , , Still Round The Corner There May Wait A Restaurant, , West 47th Street   

    Still Round The Corner There May Wait A Restaurant or a Hidden Starbucks 

    Advertising might be the engine of commerce, but there is a surprising number of NYC businesses are hidden inside skyscrapers with almost no indication of them on the outside.

    For instance, me and my co-workers often go to a Starbucks that is located in a lobby of a skyscraper. There is no sign outside, and inside you need to pass a security guy (who surprisingly lets you through) and turn a corner. I could not believe my eyes – you absolutely had to know where that Starbucks was.

    There is nothing special about our hidden Starbucks, except it is the closest one to us and the lines are usually shorter. They do have an old style La Marzocco machine not yet replaced by the new superautomatics, but the barrista has no idea about how to grind the coffee and tamp it properly. I guess they don’t teach that anymore at Starbucks U.

    There is a more interesting hidden place that we frequent. It’s a restaurant called Taam-Tov (46 West 47th Street, 4th floor 212-768-8001) which happens to be located on the fourth floor of a dumpy and decrepit art deco building in the middle of the Jewelry district on 47th street. To be fair I have to mention that there is a little sign on the step of a staircase that can be seen from outside. But you have to climb 8 flights of stairs, past dirty walls, an exposed phone comm. box and frequent full trash bags. There you will see an unmarked closed door and a small open order window.

    Alternatively you can enter a jewelry store on the first floor and take a tiny little elevator, which will deposit you inside the restaurant. I strongly discourage you from using it.

    Once me and three of my co-workers, one of whom is “portlier” than I am (and I am pretty “portly” myself), two have asthma and only one inhaler, despite my reluctance chose to take that tiny elevator. We let a bunch of people go up before us, waited for the elevator to come back and boarded it. Immediately what seemed to me like three shady looking Russian jewelers squeezed in after us. To my horror I noticed that in fact there was a fourth guy with them, just as sweaty and unshaven, but really short and skinny. Of course we got stuck between the floors and it took me and one of the jewelers few very uncomfortable minutes to figure out how to open the doors. Oh, and I forgot to mention – the co-worker who insisted the most on the elevator was not only slightly asthmatic, but a bit claustrophobic as well.

    Anyway, the place is rather unique. The patrons are mostly jewelers – you might see them exchanging large sums of money and gold or diamonds, but there are a lot of programmers from surrounding offices who also found that place somewhere. Since the place was featured in the last issue of Time Out New York dedicated to cheapest restaurants, there the mix will be a bit more eclectic in the future.

    The cuisine can be described as Middle Eastern/Russian, typical of the Baku region. Everything is cooked on site (in fact I’ve witnessed a small kitchen fire once that was quickly taken under control while everyone continued eating), kosher and very tasty. Shish kabobs are excellent (my favorite is rib kabob), so are soups. Just don’t ask for sour cream for your Borscht – and you can be sure that they don’t use Ukrainian pork fat. Other than that it’s very good. There are good salads, golubtsi, pelmeni, shawarma, etc. They even have kompot – Russian fruit punch and green tea served in small “piala” cups with sugar cubes (for drinking “vprikusku”).

    Over the years I had lunch at Taam Tov with my boss, my boss’ bosses there, my co-workers, three different livejournal users and many other people. And until I’ve read Time Out New York article I did not know that one floor below Taam Tov there’s a second hole in the wall restaurant called Sabor Latino.

     
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