Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Getting Around New York City from the Last Hope

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I’ll be attending the Last Hope conference this weekend at the Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan this weekend. Here are my tips for out-of-towners trying to get around. The conference web site has ample instructions on getting to the conference, so this is an attempt to give fellow attendees some tips on getting around once they get to the convention.

Prepare to walk. New York City is a city of walkers and meant for walking. As walking is a primary mode of transportation, people get as fed up with inconsiderate walkers as drivers do with lousy drivers. Try not to get in people’s way or block up pedestrian traffic. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for directions, just don’t assume everyone is giving the right answer.

To get an idea of how far you need to walk, keep these rules of thumb in mind — each city block is about 1/20th of a mile North-to-South and 1/7th mile East-to-West. The “Streets” (e.g. 42 St.) go North to South and increase in number as you go North. The “Avenues” (e.g. 7 Ave.) go East to West and increase as you head West.

An important note on address numbers. Most address numbers on east-west are followed by an E (meaning East) or W (meaning West) as in 389 E 42 St. . All these address numbers start at the center of the island and increase as you go outwards, so if you are looking for 596 W 36 St., and you are heading East and you see the numbers going up, and the street signs say “E 36 St.”, you’re headed in the wrong direction. Avenue address numbers behave normally.

Like any good cartesian system, navigating Manhattan is best with two coordinates, so if you know the street something is on, ask for the nearest “cross street”. This should get you to the closest street corner to your destination. If your address is on a “street”, you want the nearest “avenue”, and vice versa.

New York is a terrible city to drive for yourself in, but a great city for getting driven around. Taxi cabs are plentiful and fairly inexpensive. If you share a cab with friends, then the divided fare is often less than the collective cost of the subway. I have found New York cab drivers to be honest and reliable. Sometimes they drive fast, so if it bothers you, tell ‘em to slow down. One of the most annoying behaviours I witness are people trying to befriend their cab driver. Keep the relationship professional and polite. They’re trying to make a buck, but they will be helpful if asked and they are able to help. Don’t forget to tip. Taxi cabs and their fares are strictly regulated. You should never be intimidated into paying more than the price showing on the automatic fare box. I’ll remind a driver to turn on the counter if he doesn’t do so at the start of a trip.

Keep in mind that it may be very hard to find a cab right at the Hotel Pennsylvania, as you are right across from Penn Station. Taxi cab stations are usually crowded and present a long wait. Your best bet is to walk a few blocks away from the busiest intersection and then to hail a cab. Just stick out your arm and wave to cabs that your see. All yellow cabs have dome lights on their roof to signal their availability. If the light is on, and it doesn’t say “off-duty”, then it’s available for a ride. When a cab stops, get in and then tell them where you’re going. They’re required to take you anywhere within city limits and can’t ask for the money up front.

I would advise most newcomers to avoid the subway system, especially during the late nights and weekends. Track maintenance and irregular schedules make the subways unreliable after midnight and during the weekends. North-South trips may be worthwhile if you’re not transferring, but as subway personnel are about as helpful as guards at Guantanamo Bay, you’re best going only if you’re with a native New Yorker. Anyway, if you take a cab, you’ll actually see the city.

As to city buses, I don’t use ‘em and they have a schedule and route system all their own, so ask someone to explain it to you if you get the inkling, but they’re mostly a slow waste of time except for some trips.

You’ll probably be sticking close to the Hotel Pennsylvania for the weekend, but if you get the urge to locomote, hopefully these tips will come in handy. New York City is a great city to explore, and some fresh air and a change of scenery will help clear the head.

The Case of the Missing Violet Blue

Monday, July 7th, 2008

This post was originally posted as a comment on BoingBoing, in relation to that site’s deleting of stories related to the sex columnist Violet Blue. I am posting them here, because, as the Violet Blue episode illustrates, BoingBoing can’t be trusted to maintain an impartial record.

Background on this, mostly via Google, can be found here, here, here, and here, among other places.

I really do hope this issue is addressed because, as the situation now appears to this outsider observer, it reflects horribly on Miss Jardin, and by extension to the other BoingBoingers. It would be a shame if BoingBoing’s integrity were to be seriously damaged by this scandal. BoingBoing is a strong voice for openness and transparency in our electronic society. It would be a shame if the greater cause of freedom in our modern world were damaged by these disreputable actions.

Let us consider the facts -

BoingBoing has been disingenuous in it’s own official pronouncements. When the official Boing Boing moderator, Miss Hayden, posted the official BoingBoing post on the matter, she dismissed the severity of the deletions by claiming media reports of over a hundred posting deleted were too high. It has been documented that at least seventy postings related to Violet Blue were deleted. Not quite a hundred, but a massive enough purging of the public record.

Insinuations by Miss Hayden and Miss Jardin that Miss Blue is somehow responsible for the deletions through bad behaviour are vile, especially as they fail to disclose or deny Miss Blue’s assertion that Miss Jardin and her were “casual” lovers for a brief time. Miss Blue claims ignorance of any misbehaiour, and Jardin and Hayden have darkly hinted that a failure to disclose is to protect the parties from embarassment.

What is most likely is that Miss Jardin deleted the posts in the aftermath of her intimate relationship with Miss Blue. One can well imagine that the break of intimacy might have been more jarring to Miss Jardin than to the libertine Miss Blue. Perhaps some embarrassment over the nature of their relationship troubled Miss Jardin. She suggests as much to the LA Times in comparing her own actions to those of her own father in destroying some of his own erotically-themed work.

It is hard to believe that some public action of Miss Blue prompted the deletions, since then Jardin would need no coyness in explaining herself. It is also unlikely that Miss Blue was banished for acting as a groupie, as has been suggested by many partisans of Miss Jardin - Miss Blue is a successful blogger and columnist in her own right, and not dependent on BoingBoing for attention, nor are there any other reports of Miss Blue behaving badly to get publicity. She writes for Forbes magazine, for goodness’ sake!

So the likelihood is that Miss Jardin’s actions are from personal animus towards Miss Blue, probably prompted by the breakup of their love affair. There is no evidence of any other behaviour by Miss Blue that would have bothered Miss Jardin enough to withdraw her own work from the public sphere.

Other reasons given by BoingBoing, such as the “expense” of keeping these posts public are also fatuous. That this reason is officially cited by BoingBoing brings into question, again, their own truthfulness about this episode.

There is also considerable contradiction in the account of how the deletions were decided upon. At first, the action is depicted as one decided upon by mutual consensus, while later it has been asserted that the BoingBoing bloggers work independently and usually without consultation, and that the deletions were unilaterally done by Miss Jardin.

So the appearance is of Miss Jardin destroying her own work in petulant repudiation of a spurning lover, a depiction even more pathetic in that the spurning lover is oblivious to the original offense. One can well see why Miss Jardin has not been more forthcoming. Her actions were reckless and immature, and perhaps priggish. In the absence of any credible evidence otherwise, one must come to the sad conclusion that the evasiveness of Miss Jardin and BoingBoing is not in deference to Miss Blue’s easily embarrassed sensibilities, but rather out of embarrassment for their own bad behaviour.

We hope that Miss Jardin will put this matter to rest by a full and honest accounting. The openness of the discussion that this comment is a part of gives one hope, but just in case, I’m posting them on my own blog. As this recent episode makes clear, BoingBoing doesn’t have the best track record recently as an open and transparent public forum.

I am even sympathetic to Miss Jardin in her dilemma. No-one likes their intimately private life made public, particularly in such a unflattering way. I hope that she will consider the example of Lady Godiva. Sometimes riding naked through the town’s square can be the best thing for one’s reputation, if the cause is noble.

-Addenda in response to BoingBoinger’s comments, the numbers and names refer to the post numbers and the monikers of the posters.

@mdhatter,1546 - I made factually-based speculations, not insinuations.

What happens with BoingBoing is my business. It is a publication of far reach and its integrity is a matter of public interest. When its integrity is brought into question, the actions that bring that integrity into question is everyone’s business, no matter how personally embarrassing the underlying reasons for those actions may be.

@1545 Archeaopteryx

A putative private lover’s quarrel is not my business, but as I explained to mdhatter, an important public forum’s integrity is my business. I merely cited facts to speculate on the likely cause of the resulting scandal. If BoingBoing is going to delete its archives on the basis of personal romantic involvement, that is a matter of public interest.

Miss Blue has claimed there was a sexual liaison and Miss Jardin has not denied it. If it were untrue there would be no reason for her not to deny it.

And to use some other slang, mdhatter, I just find it skeevy that Miss Jardin might be using a subject’s sexual acquiescence and acquaintance as a criteria for their inclusion in BoingBoing.

Finally, Arch, if you are going to try to use my own words against me, use them properly  My language is neither rude nor the motive capricious, as suggested by the word petulant.  My speculations are rather unpleasant, but I have tried to express myself without vulgarity or personal rancor.

Technology Envy

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I want some new toys.

I want a Nokia N800 Internet tablet, because it fits in my pocket, and so that I can conveniently surf the web anywhere in the house, or when I go out and there is a Wifi connection nearby.  I prefer the Nokia N800 to the new Ipod Touch because the Nokia is more configurable, extensible, and has a better screen.  Also, it can run Flash and Java, which is important to me.  All these points were well explained in a comparative review posted on another blog.

I want a 15″ Macbook Pro, because I am typing this on my wife’s Macbook, away from my desk and on the bed, and it is a darned nice computer.

I want a One Laptop per Child (OLPC) notebook computer, because it’s small (luggably small, but not pocketable) and durable and can have it’s power hand-generated.  I couldn’t give two farts for the poor kids it is meant to benefit, but I’m considering getting a couple for my kids too, because the thing looks like it can take a beating.  OLPC will be selling them to the general public to finance giving them to the poor, and I’m going to be sorely tempted to pick up a few, even doing so incidentally helps the wretched.

For clarity’s sake, this blog posting is most emphatically not a lobbying attempt to persuade my wife what to get me for my birthday (October 15th, mark your calendars!), because however much I love toys, I love saving money more.  Spending money, particularly money I don’t have, on expenses that can be avoided, causes me actual physical pain.

So the Macbook is definitely out, but perhaps the Nokia Internet tablet and the OLPC are doable.  I’ll just cut down on the takeout meals for a few months.