A Late But Enthusiastic Adopter

Adam Sternbergh recently wrote a lengthy explainer on Emoji, those Japanese icons that have pervaded our text and instant messages. One aspect of the article caught my attention. Speaking from the perspective of a Gen-Xer, he notes that communicating in Emoji has been especially popular with “our” parents:

Many people I spoke to relayed that their moms were the most enthusiastic adopters of emoji they knew. One woman said that her near-daily text-message-based interaction with her mother consists almost entirely of strings of emoji hearts. Another woman, with a septuagenarian mother, revealed to me that her mom had recently sent a text relaying regret, followed by a crying-face emoji—and that this was possibly the most straightforwardly emotional sentiment her mother had ever expressed to her. 

As a data point, I offer my own mother.

Over the last few months, my mother began messaging me, which she almost never did in favoring of calling me, and increasingly started to insert a series of Emojis in each message. She ends each communication with the Older Woman Emoji, which acts as a signature for her messages.

I have to admit that the Mac OS/ iOS version of the Older Woman Emoji does look a bit like my mom but only because of her grey hair, which she’s had since her thirties. My mom would have to take off her glasses, pull her hair back, and put on some lipstick to really look like the Apple version of Older Woman Emoji.

And when she wants to include a reference to my dad, she inserts the Man Emoji. Again, the Apple version of this Emoji does resemble my father, or at least when he was a bit younger.

That’s pretty impressive when you consider that only four years ago, my mother referred to every digital device she ever encountered as “that thing.”

Like a Punch in the Gut

Have you heard of Timehop?

I have. I even used it for a few years. It was a neat app that sniffs through your social accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Foursquare (now Swarm), to present you with a list of things you posted on this day one, two, three, or even more years ago.

Timehop requires a Facebook account to work. You can’t use another identity system, such as Twitter, Google+, or a username and a password. If you don’t have an active Facebook account, you can’t use it. And because I quit Facebook, I also quit Timehop.

I deactivated my Facebook account a few days after Sarah and I broke up. At one time, leaving Facebook was an unthinkable choice, something that disillusioned young teens and millennials did once their parents took to the social networking site. I wouldn’t say that quitting Facebook was a difficult choice as much as it was a necessary one. Almost everything about my life was about to change with that breakup, and I wanted to remove myself from this toxic digital garden that tethered me to that past. I didn’t want to deal with seemingly empty, well-meaning words of support from my friends, which would likely stop after a few days or weeks. I didn’t want to post some self-affirming quip and to have friends “like” it as if that would repair my shattered self-esteem. I also didn’t want to see my list of friends dwindle one-by-one as our almost one-hundred mutual friends took her side over mine. And, because of how my friends use Facebook, I couldn’t bear to read everyone’s endless stream good news and happy talk. I needed to quit Facebook, not to move on, but to forget and to disappear.

Nearly four months later, a lot of that despair is more or less behind me. Quitting Facebook likely helped because it forced me to reset almost everything and to reassess the meaningful relationships in my life.1 I no longer wonder what someone close to me is doing because I can reach them directly and ask them. And if I want to post something, I can do that on this website and share it with the entire open web.

A day or two ago, I met with my friend Joe, who is going through a divorce, and thus, we are confronting a lot of similar issues and challenges. As we shared our sad experiences, both crushing defeats and small victories, he formulated some advice for anyone going through a breakup:

Delete Timehop.

I asked him why.

He said that each day, each little reminder about what you did “on this day” some years ago is not a gentle tap from the past. Each one, he said, is like a punch in the gut.

My decision to leave Facebook, and consequently Timehop, seems like an especially wise one.2

  1. Curiously, I have kept my Instagram account going but mostly because the posts there are less about everyone’s good news or random thoughts or complaints. Also, the number of people I follow is significantly smaller. 
  2. Also, without a Facebook account, I am also barred from joining Tinder. 

Laura Mulvey To Visit Pratt in March

Earlier today, the Social Science and Cultural Studies department at Pratt announced that Laura Mulvey, one of the best known film scholars and experimental filmmakers, will be a scholar-in-residence this coming spring semester.

Professor and Chair Gregg Horowitz:

Laura Mulvey has accepted the invitation of the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies to visit Pratt in the spring as our scholar in residence. We are still working out the schedule of lectures and seminars for Professor Mulvey’s residence, but we do know that her visit will fall March 10-12, 2015.

With this news, I wish I had scheduled Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) to this semester’s Experimental Film class screening list. However, it would have been tough to squeeze in such a long film into a class that meets only once a week for less than three hours.

Keep the Sound on Your Right

Yesterday, I learned the answer to one of life’s burning questions.

I learned that it is about 92 miles from Greenpoint, Brooklyn to New Haven, Connecticut.

Trip 3778979 map full

I also learned that the Two Roads Brewery in Stratford, Connecticut is 70 miles from Greenpoint.


The last long ride I did last year was one of my favorites. It was a long but flat run from the Bronx to New Haven, Connecticut, along what one day could be the East Coast Greenway. For what the ride lacks in climbing difficulty and sweeping vistas from up high, it makes up for it in distance. Without too much effort, you can ride almost 80 miles, or over 90 if you start in Manhattan, and still finish before it’s dark, which at this time of year happens well before 5:00 PM.

I was thrilled to have the chance to ride it again as it could very well be the last long ride I do before March. I even started in Greenpoint all the way to the start in the Bronx.

This year, I was deputized as a co-leader of ride and leader the “fast” group, riding at about an 18-MPH pace. As an official co-leader of the ride, I, in turn, deputized another rider as a co-co-leader of the fast group. Knowing that she is a beer aficionado, I asked her if she wouldn’t mind stopping by the Two Roads Brewing Company’s tap room in Stratford. Our route passed right in front of the brewery about 55 miles from the ride’s start in Pelham, and she agreed that we could not afford to miss an opportunity to fill our growlito for the train ride back to New York City.

After stopping in at the brewery, our small, “fast” group of four riders became even smaller. Our fearless co-leader had to return to the city for an important evening engagement, and another rider was taking it easy as he was returning from an injury earlier in the season. That left just me and one other rider to finish the route at our accelerated pace. The “slow” group, consisted of five riders, and rode at a more leisurely pace.

In all, I rode 92.8 miles, finishing in New Haven at about 4:20 PM. For as fast as we were going, the “slow” group must have finished no more than ten minutes behind us because they caught the 4:45 train back to New York. One of things that frustrates me about club rides is after traveling for many miles, we seemingly always arrive at our destination only to take to take a train right back to New York. It’s safe to assume that as cyclists, we’re an intrepid group and wouldn’t mind exploring a little.

My fellow rider agreed that we should at least grab some food and a beer before boarding the train in New Haven to New York City. Upon the recommendation of a staffer at Two Roads, we went to BAR on Crown Street, a huge restaurant-bar that welcomed us with a pint, a pizza, and a place to stash our bikes inside.

It made for a more interesting destination than the New Haven train station.

Sex and Broadcasting: A Documentary about WFMU

Today, November 15, Sex and Broadcasting, a documentary about freeform radio station, WFMU, premieres as part of the DOCNYC film festival. The documentary profiles this extraordinary radio station, located in Jersey City, New Jersey, and also streaming worldwide on Internet, and its struggles to stay afloat in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

I would call it a unique project except that two friends of mine were working on a documentary about KCSB-FM, the Santa Barbara, California radio station where I volunteered, hosted a few radio shows, and even worked as the general manager back in the go-go nineties. Without the slightest bit of exaggeration, KCSB has a lot with making me who I am today.

The documentary project stalled out a few years ago, but on a hard drive somewhere, there exists footage of a lengthy interview I gave as part of that project. I should probably see if I can get that footage just to have it.

Sex and Broadcasting: A Documentary about WFMU

  • November 15, 2014
  • 5:00 PM
  • IFC Center
  • $15.00
  • Buy Tickets
  • November 15, 2014
  • 3:15 PM
  • IFC Center
  • $15.00
  • Buy Tickets
  • November 20, 2014
  • 9:45 PM
  • SVA Theater
  • $15.00
  • Buy Tickets

United Airlines, or Why Mergers Suck

Tim Wu, the Columbia law professor, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York, and celebrity advocate for Net Neutrality, is leaving United Airlines and will presumably never fly them again! Like so many loyal customers, he blames the merger between Continental and United as the primary reason:

The United merger is a grand example of a consumer sinkhole—a merger that proves to be not just a onetime event but an ongoing disaster for consumers (and shareholders) who suffer for years after.

For the most part, I agree!

The merger has made it a lot more expensive to fly in an cramped aluminum tube. It is the biggest reason why I haven’t travelled much this year. And because there’s no chance I will ever get an upgrade, I would be getting a worse product than in the past. In short, passengers like me are getting less for more. That’s exactly why mergers suck, and why you should be on the defensive when a company you like to patronize merges with another. It’s good only for the top executives and the financiers who arrange the unholy union.

Mergers suck as much as this early mashup of Continental Airlines, doing business as United.

Mergers suck as much as this early mashup of Continental Airlines, doing business as United.

The mergers in the airline industry, whereby we now have only three network carriers, has diminished competition. When one company raises prices or reduces the quality of service, another company can follow suit because consumers have no viable alternative. Since Delta merged with Northwest Airlines in 2009, it has implemented all kinds of draconian requirements for attaining elite status, implementing a spending requirement in addition to flying a requisite number of butt-in-seat miles or segments, and tying Delta miles to dollars spent on travel rather than the more logical way of earning miles based on distance travelled. United has followed suit with each of these policies and, earlier this week, even raised the amount of money required for attaining each level of elite status.

But what annoys me the most, and where I disagree with Wu, is that a merger can in fact yield a better experience for a consumer. It might be a case of the grass seeming greener, but from a distance, combining Delta and Northwest has apparently yielded a better product even as it draws the ire of the bean counters. There’s WiFi on almost every flight, and because there’s a first class cabin on just about every plane it flies, you have a better chance at an upgrade.

I have a close family member who works for United, and I worry about the future of the airline in the prolonged wake of this merger. I also miss sitting in Row 9 on flights between JFK and LAX, and I hate schlepping from New Jersey when arrive on a flight to “New York.”

North Shore Ride to Rive^H^H^H^H Greenport

I convinced three guys to overshoot Riverhead and go to as far as Greenport.

I convinced three guys to overshoot Riverhead and go to as far as Greenport.

Yesterday was my much-anticipated North Shore Ride to Riverhead. Except we didn’t go to Riverhead. We overshot it by about 20 miles and rode all the way to Greenport. Again.

I arrived at Woodside to catch the 8:03 train to Huntington and met Harry, one of my fellow riders. As he and I spoke about the ride and the modifications I made, he said something like, “too bad we couldn’t go to Greenport.” I knew that we had a small group of four guys (including me) for this ride, and I knew one of them well. I said that if everyone was game, I was fine with going to Greenport and taking the late, 6:11 PM train back.

On the Huntington train, we met up with the other two riders, Brian and Joe. Harry and I asked them if they would mind riding an extra seven miles to go to Greenport, instead of Riverhead. Without hesitating, they both agreed.

After arriving in Huntington and exchanging Westhampton-New York train tickets for Greenport-New York tickets, we got on our bikes and, at around 9:30 AM, pedaled east toward Greenport.

Trip 3755497 map full

Sunday was by far the warmest day of the weekend, with highs around 55° and, for the first time this year, the wind was coming from the west not the east or northeast. That’s right, I finally rode on Long Island without the wind in my face for the entire day.

A fellow club member, who I referred to as a club elder because I’ve seen his name on rides for years, emailed me earlier in the week to suggest taking a few back roads to avoid NY-25A and NY-25. I adopted about half of his suggestions, which added about 400 feet of climbing, and the modified route was absolutely worth the extra effort. The roads had rolling hills, which I personally love to ride, and were for the most part bucolic, tree-lined roads that wound around Long Island Sound. I didn’t take many photos because we were hustling up and down those rollers at a pleasant but accelerated pace.

Somewhere in Stony Brook, Long Island.

Ducks on a Pond.

Because of the tail wind and the rolling hills, we progressed along our route at a very quick pace. For most of the ride, we averaged around 14 MPH and, as usually happens on a Long Island ride, we increased that average as continued further east. Because I was leading the ride, I purposefully kept a slower-than-usual pace, but I still finished with a 15 MPH pace.

We stopped for lunch at a market in Miller Place and, because I promised everyone pie, we stopped at Briermere Farms in Riverhead for a blueberry crisp pie that we all split.

Blueberry Crisp pie from Briermere Farms

Four guys. One Pie.

We left Riverhead at around 2:30 and continued for the final twenty miles along Sound Avenue and then on to Main Road in Mattituck. It’s hard to believe that even with a quick bathroom break at a winery in Peconic, we still rode the last 20 miles in about 75 minutes. We arrived by 3:45.

Because we arrived so early, we had over two hours to spend in Greenport. We had our customary burger-and-beer post-ride meal. The other three guys watched football. And then we went to the Greenport Harbor Brewery for a couple of pints and bought a growler for the train ride home. I even had time to greet a friend.

Greenport Harbor Brewing's Porter

Speaking of Ducks… Black Duck Porter from Greenport Harbor Brewing.

One of the things I like about the New York Cycle Club is its structure. But it’s great when you gather a group that’s up for some spontaneous (and extra) riding. It makes for an unforgettable day.

Keep the Sound on Your Left

Route 6410558 map full

This Sunday, after making some modifications to my initial route, I will be leading a North Shore Ride to Riverhead for the New York Cycle Club (membership required to access listing). Much like September’s North Fork ride to Orient, this ride begins at the Long Island Railroad station in Huntington and continues to Port Jefferson, where we will climb Belle Terre, and then to Riverhead. Although we may have a chance to get some pie in Riverhead, we will certainly stop to enjoy a pint at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company before continuing for another seven miles to Westhampton, where we will catch the train back to New York City. If we are running behind or are feeling extra festive, we can always catch the 6:40 train from Riverhead to New York, with a connection in Ronkonkoma.

Although I would rather have gone from Huntington all the way to Greenport, a town which I am beginning to like quite a bit, I was concerned about the train’s capacity to hold eight bikes. I didn’t want to have anyone stranded 110 miles from New York City, or, worse even, have to make them take the jitney back.

This, by the way, is not the last ride I plan to do along the Long Island Sound. Next week, I am co-leading the New Haven ride I did last November with the club.

On that ride, we will be keeping the sound on our right.

Weather Warlock and Quintron and Miss Pussycat Come to Brooklyn

Two months ago, I was ecstatic about the opportunity to see Quintron and Miss Pussycat perform at Baby’s All Right in late November, and I bought a ticket.

In addition to his famous Drum Buddy, Quintron (or Quintronics, as he’s calling his electronic-gizmo manufacturing outfit) has built an audio synthesizer that responds to the weather. You can hear it in action, day and night, courtesy of the Internet.


The Weather Warlock is the name of the machine and also the improvised lineup of musicians that play as a drone band to accompany the Weather Warlock synthesizer. As part of Quintron and Miss Pussycat’s tour, Weather Warlock (the band) will be playing Weather Warlock (the synthesizer) at four special shows in Chicago, Ann Arbor, Brooklyn, and Miami.

The Brooklyn demonstration of the Weather Warlock will be at Secret Project Robot in Bushwick, Brooklyn on Friday, November 28. The show will take place at sunset, which I understand is supposed to happen at for 4:31 PM EST, and will feature some very special jammers, including Nels Cline, Sean Lennon, and, not surprisingly, Quintron.

Skip Black Friday, and go see and hear this unique contraption in action!

Weather Warlock (November 28) and Quinton and Miss Pussycat (November 29)

  • November 28, 2014
  • Sunset
  • Secret Project Robot, 89 Melrose St, Brooklyn
  • November 29, 2014
  • 8:00 PM
  • Baby’s All Right, 146 Broadway, Brooklyn
  • 12.00
  • Buy Tickets

How I Almost Didn’t Obsess Over Fountain Pens

A few months ago, I bought a fountain pen. I had wanted to get a nice pen for a while, but two things scared me:

  1. What if I lose the pen? Fountain pens are kind of expensive. A nice futuristic refillable pen, such as the Pilot Custom Heritage, with a plastic body but a 14K gold nib, costs about $250.
  2. What if I get the “wrong” one? Have you seen how many words I’ve written and hours I’ve sunk into learning about something simple, such as brewing coffee? I am certain I could easily do the same with pens. Apparently, it’s quite common to obsess over pens, and I am anxious about doing it wrong. I could easily imagine spending lots of money trying to find the right one.

After reading this excellent introduction to fountain pens, I settled on the LAMY Safari. I initially got a charcoal one, since it seemed the most neutral, but I recently bought a demonstrator version of the Safari (called the Vista), which has a clear body that allows you to see all of the pen’s lovely innards.

LAMY Vista with Fine Nib

The not-so-early verdict is that I got a decent couple of pens for a beginner like me. The price was right, less than $30 each, and both pens feel great and look really nice. Part of the reason I bought these pens was for the tactile experience, and these provide a satisfactory one for me. One of the many variables with fountain pens is the size of the nib—the metal tip that controls the flow of ink. The Safari I ordered came with a fine nib, which I read was a good choice for beginners on a variety of different papers. (Yes, your paper matters, too.) However, when I ordered the Vista, I got it with an extra fine nib. Even at first write, I didn’t like it. It did make nice fine lines, but it felt too scratchy to me. The touch-and-feel wasn’t right.

I had considered buying a whole new pen, but then I learned that you can simply replace the nib with a piece of office or packing tape. I bought a fine nib for about $15 and the installation was a cinch.

As for ink, I really hated using the stock LAMY ink cartridge. Instead, I bought a converter. A converter allows you to buy a bottle of any ink you want and fill your pen with it. You’re not subject to using specific cartridges that are only made or licensed by LAMY. As for ink, I was intrigued on a message board about Noodler’s Ink. They make a ton of different colors and are best known for their archival-quality ink, which is important to me, as well as the smooth flow of the ink. I ordered a jar of black, and that’s what I’ve been using in my demonstrator pen since early September.

I also loaded the charcoal pen with a Burgundy ink cartridge from Monteverde. The color struck me because it would be great for grading, which I really made use of over the last month, but it would also be bold enough to look distinct for casual writing.

The only change I would make to my current setup is to look for blue-black ink. I’ve seen a few demonstrations of it, such as the Monteverde Blue-Black, and I like it. It looks vibrant yet unique, but it is still serious enough to look professional.

And if I make any drastic changes, look for me to spill some proverbial ink on this site about it.

Yes, there are affiliate links to Amazon on this post about fountain pens. Shop responsibly.