Archive for the 'NYC' Category
I worked (indirectly) for Scott Murphy, for my first full-time job, as a web programmer at iXL-New York, a web consulting company. I was there for about seven months from 1998 to ‘99, which somewhat coincided with the heyday of the dot-com boom; they were out of business within two years. He was one of the heads of the company, and very personable. Anyway, he’s now running for the U.S. House of Representatives, to replace the woman who replaced Hillary Clinton in the senate, and the outcome of the race has national implications.
With the downfall of three major banks recently (Bear Stearns, and now Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch), we may be seeing the death of “Wall Street” - i.e., the the end of New York as the financial capital of the world. Nicole Gelinas writes that it could have a disastrous impact on New York City as a whole, given that financial firms currently represent about a third of the city’s economy. I guess we’ll see.
Author David Foster Wallace’s suicide last week probably would have been much bigger news had it happened ten years ago. His novel “Infinite Jest” is still one of my favorite books, and, in my opinion, may be the Great American Novel, if such a thing has ever been written.
Everyone’s talking about the U.S. presidential campaign, but no one has mentioned the that the Obama-Biden ticket is noteworthy for being (I believe) the first to have a name composed of alternating vowels and consonants.
I really like Google Chrome, Google’s new browser - it might be the fastest browser I’ve ever used.
I’m also a fan of the Samsung Instinct, the iPhone clone for non-AT&T users - I just got one last week, and emailing and texting are a breeze.
The Technology Review has their annual “Young Innovators Under 35″ issue, and once again I’m not on the list. But another article in the same issue (registration required) mentions a site, SNPedia, that uses my software. So that’s nice.
Bear Stearns, the “storied 85-year-old brokerage”, has had a near-instant collapse and apparently no longer exists. I worked there as a programmer for a good while, before quitting two years ago to become a web programmer. It was a nice group of people I worked with; I hope they’re all making out alright. The company, as far as I knew, had a reputation for being conservative; they sat out the dot-com bubble of the late 90’s, and everyone was wearing suits and ties while other companies were still on “business casual”. But the financial world is full of merciless randomness and seems to reward and punish participants with no regard for their financial strategy.
I used to note that, due to my tendency to work at startups, every company I’ve worked at except for Bear Stearns no longer exists; bizarrely, now I have a near-perfect track record again. I never could have guessed that my job security was no more guaranteed at the bank with the 40-story building and cafeteria than it was anywhere else.
My Semantic Forms extension is already installed on a bunch of wikis, but until now, other than Discourse DB, they’ve all been either private, or under development. So I’m very excited to announce that the second-ever public use of Semantic Forms is now live, at BusyTonight. The site is a database of event listings and venue details for various cities around the U.S., which is very useful, and certainly an idea that’s tailor-made for a collaborative database. With Semantic Forms in place users can now edit the data themselves using forms. Here’s the form to add a venue, and here’s the editing page for Mercury Lounge, an NYC music club, for instance.
I had lunch with Joshua Lerner, their CEO, about three weeks ago, back when the functionality still hadn’t gone live. We had an interesting chat about future plans, and it seems that the BusyTonight guys really get it as far as the promise of semantic wikis, which was refreshing to see.
Oh, damn. I don’t know if anyone heard this already, but the first columns for New York’s new “Freedom Tower” were finally installed yesterday. I hope many more are on the way.
Well, having been a layabout in the city for six months now, I feel I’ve learned a few things. Specifically, I’ve learned about the wi-fi cafe situation in the city. I’d estimate that about every other day I’ve been in at least one. I like going to cafes, even though I can usually work from home: it’s a nice change of pace, there’s food, and being around other productive people is energizing. I would guess I’ve been to just about every wi-fi cafe in the city, including some that are no longer extant (RIP Fuel/”Fountainhead Cafe”); though there are a few uptown ones I haven’t been to. I feel I’ve learned enough to be able to pass some knowledge on.
So, I’ve learned that the West Village, specifically around 8th Avenue and 12th Street, is the single best area for wi-fi cafes. And I’ve learned that being a good wi-fi cafe is about much more than having a router: the place has to be big enough, and not totally packed; it should ideally not be entirely composed of rows of “laptop zombies”; it should have some savory snacks in addition to the cookies and muffins and such. And, of course, the wi-fi has to be free, not some silly daily fee (looking at you, Starbucks).
Also, and this is not a strict requirement, but it’s nice if the music being played diverges at least somewhat from the feel-good indie that seems to the soundtrack of New York cafes in 2006, a band I’d like to call “Belle and Death Cab for Modest Postal Sufjan”.
Anyway, here’s my list (I’m using Yelp links for everything):
- Soy Luck Club, West Village - I don’t know if I should even be including this one in the list, because it seems a bit like an undiscovered secret - there’s almost always an empty spot, unlike other places. It’s sunny and a nice atmosphere, there’s outlets everywhere, and the sandwiches are primo. So you can show up, but try not to tell too many people about it, okay?
- ’sNice, West Village - the close second to Soy Luck Club is a little more than a block away. They have vegan versions of staples like Philly cheesesteaks, meatball subs and Thai peanut chicken wraps. What keeps it from the top spot is that there’s only two walls with outlets, so they’re often packed, and there’s a bit of a cheesy smell that permeates the whole place. Which doesn’t seem to bother anyone else, apparently.
- Mule Cafe, Park Slope - I just recently discovered this place. It’s got beautiful wood furniture that makes it feel like a cafe from Paris in the 1920’s, and music to match - jazz, ambient and other good stuff. I get the feeling everyone else there is working on their first novel. I wish they had more vegetarian options, though the brie-and-fig sandwich is “merveilleux”!
- Tea Lounge, Park Slope - this is now one of three Tea Lounges, but this is the one that everyone talks about. And everyone and their two-month-old toddler goes to. All the couches are kind of uncomfortable, and it’s often hard to find a spot, but it’s the only late-night option around in the city, as far as I know. I can’t front; I’m there now. Interesting side note: tomorrow is apparently this place’s third anniversary. I remember being here the very first week it was open, when there barely any people here.
- Supercore, Williamsburg - pretty much a parody of Williamsburg, with greasy-haired hipsters and Japanese waitresses. Still, I can’t complain about it, and the tofu salad is excellent.
So there it is. And if you don’t know, now you know.
I don’t have any deep personal experiences to share; though I was living in the city, I was working from home and I spent the weeks afterward glued to the TV like everyone else. I never visited Ground Zero until significantly afterwards. I knew person who had died in the attacks wasn’t from the city; he was the TA of a college class I took (and sometimes referred to as the “first victim of 9/11″).
So, it’s five years later - was it a tragedy that united us all? Or the pretext for a disastrous foreign and domestic policy by a group of war-crazed, power-hungry neo-conservatives? Or only the most successful effort, so far, at destroying the West by a nihilistic ideology whose adherents number in the hundreds of millions? That’s for you to decide.
Here it is, the first released site of my new web-programming career: NewYorkNabes. It was originally my friend Jared’s idea: why can’t there be a site that shows, at a glance, the average current rental prices for all the neighborhoods of New York? It’s such a basic piece of information, that would be helpful to anyone who’s moving to New York or planning to move within the city, but it didn’t exist anywhere. We (along with another friend of his) took that basic grid idea and added a description and links for each neighborhood, plus a map, and some helpful tips for renters. Also, we changed average prices to median prices, the more realistic metric. The site’s free and advertising-based. The rental data comes from the good folks at New York Backpage; we have a process that automatically gets the data from their site once a week. I did the programming, in Perl and PHP; our database is Postgres.
Check it out and, if you like it, tell all your friends about it! NewYorkNabes: you heard it here first!