The Train that Sang, What You See is What You Say, and Subway Gymnastics

I haven’t written about the subways for a while. My commute changed somewhat and after years and years of seeing  the peeling paint at the 47-50th street station, I am now instead being watched by the mosaic eyes of the Chambers Street station.

Those remind me of Sauron, his eyes and his “chambers of doom” (I think I encountered that particular expression  in LOTR somewhere).  By the way, MTA’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign has a new poster, that claims that last year 1,944 new yorkers saw something and said something. As my former co-worker Gur rightfully noted, this is a rather crappy PR move (and Gur knows a thing or two about PR). 1,944 does not seem like such a great turnout, especially considering that trains and bus stations were plastered with the ads imploring to IYSSSS. If I understand it correctly, those 1,944 people saying something did not foil 1,944 terrorist acts. If they did, it’s not very clear from the ad.

Besides the eye mosaics, my new subway station has another interesting feature. Some of the trains arriving and departing make a very strange, I would even say haunting sound. I’ll try to record it somehow and post it then. My guess is that the “singing” trains are the R142 on the IRT 2 line – they have induction motors that are said to produce a weird sound when accelerating and decelerating.

NYC Subway is a stage to many performers of various level of annoyance. I’ve seen many hip-hop acrobats and gymnasts who dance,  and jump around to the headache aggravating boombox. The kids I recently encountered demonstrated a very interesting move. After an impressive, but not uncommon gymnastic routine in a semi-crowded train, one kid announced – “ladies and gentlemen, please do not try this at home.” The other kid took a running start, somersaulted, and then vaulted off the third team member  into the air. He positioned himself parallel to the floor and  reached the ceiling of the train car, slamming into it with a loud bang, then proceeded down for a controlled landing. I wish I recorded that on my Treo camera.

Holy Relevancy, Batman!

I put in Google Adsense ads ( aka Ads by Goooooogle) hoping that maybe they will compensate me for my almost daily Fair and Balanced newspaper, or maybe even cover the cost of my hosting. I am stoked – practically for the first time ever I’ve seen an ad for something that I could use. More than that, it’s an ad for something that I was desperately searching for and could not find:

NYC Subway Mosaic To Buy
Buy restoration mosaic like you see on the walls of the NYC Subway.

It is way better than I expected:

“Subway Mosaic Handmade Tile
This ceramic mosaic comes from a source that has supplied mosaic to a great deal of subway stations in the NYC Subway System. This is the real deal. The clay body is a frost-resistant stoneware body. The glazes are a combination of matte and glossy. You can have a copy of any station in the NYC Subway System made to any size you want. You can even customize the color, if you do not like the original glazes.”

And the prices are way reasonable – 18 x 28 (from what I understand this is a standard small IRT medallion size) is $285.00! I think my bathroom is going to get one of those.

The moral of the story – Google ads are worth paying attention to.

So, It’ve Come To This….

I thought I’ve developed a bit of a strategy in buying computers for non-techie relatives and friends.

First of all I always tell them to get a laptop. The huge benefit of laptops for me is that it can be brought over for servicing. You can’t imagine how many hours of sitting at an uncomfortable “computer” table in a rickety “computer” chair away from my tools, network jacks, a plain, comfortable table and an Aeron chair this saved me while fixing stuff.

The Internet today reminds me NYC subway in the 70es: a place full of graffiti, foul smell, filth, physical danger and a general sense of lawlessness. Gone are the days when you could help your non-techie relative pick a computer, hook it up, install an email client and a browser and be done with it. Viruses still propagated mostly on floppy drives. Those were the times.

Now my process involves installation of an external backup, hardware and software firewalls, an antivirus, Adaware, Spybot Search and Destroy, getting all the windows updates and teaching the non techie how to maintain this bevy of protective tools. Oh, and most importantly, password protected all accounts and remove administrative privileges from the ones to be used on a daily basis. And set up Firefox as the default browser.

Did you read up to here? Sorry, all of that stuff is crap. It’s pointless. I have a relative’s laptop thoroughly screwed by Outlook viruses sitting on my desk waiting for my non-loving hand to proove that. The firewall stopped them from calling out, but it seems like one of the virii somehow had its privileges elevated and locked out the admin account. Arrrrrgh, this be driving me nuts!

The purchase of the laptop in question happened before my universal advise to people who just want to browse the web and read email became to get a Mac. I am tired of cleaning out computers infested up to the gills with the wiliest stuff. I am desperate enough to try Linux now.

I guess all I really need is Mozilla, Open Office, some CD player, wrap all of that in some kiosk-like windowing environment and I’m done. Or am I?

TT: Thought Tally #1

Ok, just now I came up with a name for the “slashback” type posts in my journal. They will be called “Thought Tally” or “TT”. The other type of “named” post that I have is “What Michael Learned” or “WML”.

Just now I looked up the word “tally” in a dictionary and learned the following about the word’s origin:
… Originally, a piece of wood on which notches or scores were cut, as the marks of number; later, one of two books, sheets of paper, etc., on which corresponding accounts were kept.

Note: In purchasing and selling, it was once customary for traders to have two sticks, or one stick cleft into two parts, and to mark with a score or notch, on each, the number or quantity of goods delivered, — the seller keeping one stick, and the purchaser the other. Before the use of writing, this, or something like it, was the only method of keeping accounts; and tallies were received as evidence in courts of justice. … “

Pretty cool, huh? Of course I got the idea from listening to that Survivor CD that I like so much.

You see, many bloggers put way too many posts with small tidbits of information, single thoughts. I find it hard to read for exactly that reason. These would go great in an aggregated post, like in ‘s journal.

So, here goes.

* Had a dream about winning an Emmy award for something (must have been for blogging, har). Even though Emmys are a dime a dozen, this one was supposed to be from the last batch to be given out. Somebody stole it from me later in the dream.

* Last evening was trying to find a good archival scrapbook album to buy. Bought some deacidification spray. The damn thing is expensive. I wonder what’s the main ingredient. Unobtanium? Tears of virgins (the non-geek variety)?

* Need to start shopping around for new computer and monitor for my wife. God, how many different types of ram are there? Oh, and it’s so difficult to find a good motherboard review that doesn’t cater to stupid overclockers. I don’t want marginal speed improvement. I want stability, dammit.

* Ordered a fat caliper.

* Need a good .NET hosting solution. And a good .NET based Wiki. Maybe I’ll write my own though. Thinking about making a canonical list of Microsoft project code names in a Wiki.

* Another thought – I’ll probably undertake a small project of making an app that will tell the train car model from a serial number in NYC subway. Could be a cool Pocket PC app (but I don’t own one). Could do it in Tablet PC in order to learn something, but it’s not very practical. On the other hand it’ll make an awesome web app on the manner of Where George. Yeah, that’s probably what I’ll do.

* Stay tuned for a monumental rant about innovation. And I am still planning that post about eBooks. Yeah.

Kissed by a Train

A train conductor announced some words of wisdom today: “Don’t push a stroller into a closing train door”.

Train doors in NYC subway cars close with a tremendous amount of force and don’t have a sensor that would keep them open if somebody got stuck. You are at the mercy of a conductor, who usually rapidly opens and closes the door, hitting you a couple of times more before you can enter the car. Jumping into closing train doors is a main event in NYC Olympics though.

You can easily recognize a person “kissed” by a subway door – the rubber “lips” leave black marks on skin and clothes.

It’s interesting to note that the announcement probably was made because somebody actually tried to do this with a baby carriage. That’s Darwin Award material.

Righty -Tighty, Lefty -Loosey

Reading a book about NYC subway.

Interesting fact: old subway cars used regular light bulbs for normal lighting and special left-handed screw threaded bulbs in emergency lighting. The regular bulbs were always on, and because of that nobody could steal them easily (they were too hot). The emergency lights were threaded incorrectly, so the potential thieves would have to figure out how to unscrew them first, and even if they succeeded, they would not be able to use the bulb at home. This is kind of like special coat hangers and non-standard linens in hotels. Hmm, I can’t remember any other uses of non-standard equipment for theft prevention.


Don’t you hate people who rip off Escher? This is from a mosaic on Sheepshead Bay subway station. Made by a no talent, unoriginal hack.

There used to be a nice mosaic on Kings Highway station, in Egyptian drawing style, but depicting people with tokens in hand going through subway turnstiles.

Mosaics are probably the only decorative elements in NYC subway. Look at them. How Spartan are the walls. The tiles on the walls are in shape worse than in many public restrooms.

Oooh, found a great site.

Anyways, what was I rambling about? Oh, right, subway mosaics. Looks like new ones are being added. They look so ugly surrounded by that white tile :(

Nevins street has a cool mosaic medallion – a letter “N” which looks just like Netscape “N”. Can’t find a picture, gotta take one.

Need to visit NYC Transit Museum.