Getting ready for the hurricane headed toward the U.S. East Coast. Just realized this will be the third hurricane I’ve experienced firsthand — two in New York (Gloria, Irene) and one in Florida (Opal).
The crazy thing is, that’s about proportional to the amount of time I’ve spent living in each place. Who woulda thunk?
I’m defining firsthand experience here as the hurricane making landfall in the metro area where I live. That discounts, say, the infamous Hurricane Andrew, which hit in FL but 350-plus miles from the specific city I lived in at the time, Jacksonville. It had an uncanny hurricane-free stretch that coincided almost perfectly with my teenage years there.
Anyway, the part of Harlem I live in now, known as Sugar Hill, is high ground. So I think I should be OK personally for Irene. But she looks like bad one in general. If you’re reading this and live in an affected area, please be safe and follow the directions of local emergency agencies. In particular, never try to “tough out” one of these things against the experts’ orders to evacuate, if it comes to that.
[UPDATE: I've created a Twitter list tracking real-time updates from a few dozen sources regarding Hurricane Irene's impact on the New York City area. List includes various state agencies, a few news orgs, et cetera.
Will be using this as a real-time tool myself to track the storm. Posting in case it can help others as well.
No need to have a Twitter account yourself to read updates. Works just like any other webpage. If you have any ideas for additional feeds I should add to the list, please leave them in the comments.]
A quick note here to let friends and family know I’m OK here in New York following today’s East Coast earthquake.
I happened to be in Lower Manhattan for the quake, as I have been for an uncanny number of both man-made and natural disasters the last few years, including 9/11, the Great Blackout of 2003, the outbreak of the financial crisis in September 2008, and now this. Basically, anything short of an invasion by aliens. I really don’t come to this neighborhood much anymore, but I was in today to get a haircut and run a few other errands.
After the tremors, a lot of people came out of office buildings, mulling around and such. People were definitely on edge but calm and orderly, as I’ve witnessed in similar instances including even 9/11. I think NYC is getting this routine down, really. Within 30-45 minutes, things were pretty much back to normal.
Seems to me that whatever seismic waves reached as far as New York from the epicenter near Washington were quite weak. I was in Kingston, Jamaica, in December during a quake that was estimated between 3.0 and 4.0 on the Richter scale at the time, and it was much more perceptible to me than this one in the U.S. Today, I was eating lunch when the thing struck and didn’t notice a thing until I saw the crowds in the streets and started asking around.
Amid today’s crowd, I happened to run into my cousin Nigel Gardner, of all people. Those of you who know Nigel can rest assured that he’s fine too, working downtown these days for the state comptroller and switched from the Marines to the Army Reserve on weekends. He’s prepping for an Army tour in Afghanistan in February, though.
That news is of much greater concern to me than the whole “quake” kerfluffle, which didn’t cause any serious damage or injuries as far as I can tell. Good luck and safe return, Nigel.
Is there anything so ridiculous-looking as workers standing around idly, wearing hardhats? How exactly are they at risk of hurting themselves?
I bring this up because it was a pretty common sight during the week-plus I just spent without gas and hot water due to a big water main break in Harlem, leaving thousands of my neighbors without service as well. Needless to say, the initial estimate of a same-day restoration of service was a tad too optimistic. My service just came back a few hours ago, but the local utility Consolidated Edison is still estimating that some people may be out until as late as Wednesday.
My purpose here really isn’t to whine about a week-plus of cold showers. The broader issue that worries me is what this sort of incident says about the continued viability of my hometown New York as a place to live. I’m seriously concerned based on not just the water-main break but several similar failures that seem to be piling up.
Earlier this summer, a heat weave caused a water-treatment plant to give out, causing raw sewage to pour into the Hudson River. Now we’re hearing that less dramatic, but chronic, leaks into the river may be a bigger problem than we realize.
Reaching back a few years, there was a doozie of a blackout in Queens the memory of which still causes skittishness among residents there every time the temperature starts to rise.
In a few weeks, we’ll hear a lot of chest-thumping about the “re-opening” of Ground Zero, but that will be empty boasting. It will have taken a decade just to open the memorial portion of the site — a relatively modest feat that should’ve happened much sooner — and the rest of the office complex still isn’t finished.
And then there’s the transit system, which is truly the nervous system of the city. It’s falling apart. Below is a shot I took at my neighborhood stop at 145th Street. This is the bulletin board explaining service disruptions on certain lines — basically every one in the system.
Keep in mind, if you’re one of the many visitors who find the basic design of our transit system kinda complicated, every colored bullet point on these flyers represents some variation in the normal working arrangement that we’re having to deal with as locals, whether it’s a skipped stop or a re-routed train or whatever. This stuff screws us up too; we’re now pretty much as confused as you are. Riding this system is becoming a crapshoot.
I say this as someone who has spent more than two-thirds of my life in New York. The missing part is in the middle, about a decade from just before high school right through college, when my family moved away in large part because the city was becoming dysfunctional and crime-ridden. This was the ’80s and early ’90s, which were preceded by a big fiscal crisis for the city. I’m worried as ever that we’re headed back in that direction.
The local political and business leadership the last few years has adamantly talked the talk about not repeating the mistakes of the bad years. They’ve also gotten pretty good at disclosing when services aren’t working, as you can see from some of the information I mentioned above. But none of that is the same as actually making things work, which is ultimately all that counts.
After a rainy spell, we’ve had beautiful weather in New York the last few days. I shot this picture of the Chrysler Building on my iPhone yesterday, gleaming against the bright blue sky.
To me, the building looked at that moment exactly as in the opening credits to Sex and the City, which was a great TV valentine to my hometown.
Still very early days for this one, so if you have any interest or ideas regarding such stuff, please do take the plunge and join the community!
I say this as someone who’s currently a pretty frequent user of the “native” iPad version of the Kindle app, downloaded directly onto my device. I’m certainly curious to see what sort of experience I get reading e-books in a browser instead.
More important, I think this could be a seminal event in raising non-geeks’ awareness of the potential for mobile browser apps as an alternative to ones downloaded from iTunes and the like. While the merits of “native” versus HTML5 as app platforms are a really hot topic of debate among developers these days, I’m not sure if the average Joe is even aware of the difference.
I think most non-geeks either don’t download mobile apps at all or they’re pretty frequent downloaders, prompted by big marketing pushes from Apple, Google’s Android team, and in some cases the cellular carriers. I don’t think the average Joe has thought much along the lines of, hey, could I skip downloads and still add a bunch of cool functionality to my phone by some other means? Basically, can I eat my cake and have it too?
A move by one of the most popular native mobile apps out there into HTML5 would definitely provoke a lot of that sort of discussion. If Amazon ultimately phases out its downloadable Kindle app altogether to support HTML5 as its only app platform, as a lot of tech pundits are now predicting, that would be even stronger, more visible proof of concept to the wider market.
My Roscoe Labs partners and I just started two new Facebook groups for fellow Florida A&M folks interested in technology.
The group FAMU Founders is for students and alumni who have started tech ventures. We’re hoping it turns into a forum where people can share knowledge about issues they face with their startups, useful contacts, et cetera.
The group Rattler Hackers is a more open-ended one for people who want to learn to code and/or build tech ideas they have. Anyone from beginners to hard-core geeks is welcome.
Both these groups are set up so that their existence is publicly known, but memberships have to be approved by Lawrence Patrick or me as administrators. Comments posted in the forums aren’t visible to non-members, which should allow us to have a freer discussion about certain sensitive issues like fundraising.
Please spread the word, sign up to one or both of the groups if you’re interested, or flag me about people we should reach out to as invitees.