Here are some specs: The 8 pound camera recorded 0.01 megapixel black and white photos to a cassette tape. The first photograph took 23 seconds to create. To play back images, data was read from the tape and then displayed on a television set. We’re sure come a long way since then, eh?
Sure, we have.
Twenty three seconds is a long time to make a photograph. I wonder how much of that is due to gathering enough light to make an acceptable exposure versus the amount of time it takes to process the light into 10,000 pixels (0.01 megapixels) then into digital bits.
Those plans changed on Thursday after I received an email from the NYCC club president. I had proposed a North Fork ride from Huntington to Orient Point, similar to the ride I did in September instead of the NYC Century, but he said that taking the train from Greenport to Ronkonkoma might pose a challenge for a club ride. Indeed, that train from Greenport is a very small one, with only three cars, I think, and last time, we had to cram our bikes into a small area. If more than six riders were to come on my proposed club ride, we would be left scrambling for space and some of us might even be stranded.
He proposed that I lead a fifty-mile loop from Ronkonkoma, which would rely on a train with more regular service and with more capacity for bicycles. He sent me a few cue sheets, and I reviewed them during a break on Thursday. He also suggested, in the interest of adding more miles, finishing in Babylon, which also has more train service. Since I was pressed for time on Thursday, I misread his suggestion and that I should ride from Babylon to Greenport. In my head, that seemed like an equivalent ride to Huntington to Greenport so I agreed to lead that one.
This week was peak foliage on Long Island, and the leaves were in their autumnal greatness.
And there were haunted houses ready for Halloween.
And a decommissioned but well-preserved gas station in Yaphank.
After I posed for this photo, someone drove right up to the pumps, expecting to fuel up, until he realized that it was out of service and drove on in search of gasoline elsewhere.
In Yaphank, our two-man riding group split up. He headed back to Ronkonkoma and I continued east towards Riverhead and then to Greenport.
There were more leaves in their full glory.
Further east, there were even more signs of Halloween, such as this corn maze in Cutchogue.
For whatever reason, every ride I did on Long Island this year was with a headwind. This one was no different, and I had the wind in my face for the entire seventy miles. A few miles after Riverhead, I was getting cold and tired. I had planned to scout a hillier route along the Long Island Sound, but the headwind made reconsider. Instead, I followed NY-25 the whole way from Riverhead.
When I saw the carousel in Greenport, one that I had last seen with my mom in August, my exhausting journey on two wheels was finished.
It’s rare when Halloween falls on a weekend evening, such as it does this year. But for the most part, we usually observe it on the Friday or Saturday before October 31. In recent years, that has produced some mixed results.
Three years ago, on Friday, October 28, Halloween sucked because we all learned that my mother had breast cancer for the second time. Feeling helpless a continent away, Sarah took me to a Halloween movie at Loews Jersey and a then a party in Long Island City. It helped take my mind off my mother for a little while.
Last year, the parties happened on the day after Halloween, but we didn’t go to any. Sarah had just been injured in a bike accident a few days earlier, and she wasn’t in the mood to be festive. Neither was I. Instead, we stayed home and got take-out or something.
Because of this mixed track record, I couldn’t be less enthusiastic about Halloween this year. A great deal of this lackluster enthusiasm is because of Sarah. Despite how good or bad our Halloween experiences were, we were always together, and this year we won’t be.1
This Friday is not only Halloween, but it is also the only day of the weekend where the temperature will be above 50°. It is also the second-to-last day of Daylight Savings Time. So, much like I did last year, I’m going to ride up through Westchester and Putnam counties for the last chance I will have to do that after 4:00 PM until spring. It will also give me the chance to really see the leaves.
The ride will start in Woodlawn, Bronx around 8:00 AM. I plan to head to Connecticut for a few miles and then to Bedford, New York. From there I will continue north to Croton Falls then to Carmel. At that point, I will decide whether I will head northeast for about five miles to Brewster to catch the train back to New York or to continue northwest for another twenty miles towards Beacon.
And if when I get back there’s a worthwhile Halloween party, I’ll be costumed as a very tired cyclist.
Except for that one Halloween in 2010, when I went to visit my family in California, and she didn’t come with me. ↩
He was the on-air pitchman for an electronics chain bearing his name here in the New York tri-state area, throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Crazy Eddie’s persona and advertising strategy serves as a classic example of nuisance marketing (or irritation advertising, if you prefer). His ads would grate on you, but those same commercials would also forever remind you of their insane prices. In Los Angeles, I remember that we had a similar pitchman in Fred R. Rated, for The Federated Group, a cut-rate electronics, played by Shadoe Stevens.
Although I can’t find the reference, I am pretty certain that John Gruber once called Amazon the crazy guy at the party who will accept any dare you propose. Amazon has apparently accepted the dare to sell a over-the-top streaming device for $39. And if that wasn’t crazy enough, Amazon Prime members can buy one for $19 until Wednesday morning.
The Fire TV stick, as it’s called, is basically what Google was selling last holiday season in the Chromecast. The biggest advantage of the Amazon Fire TV stick is that it will play anything from the Amazon Prime streaming library, including movies, music, and TV programs. Consider me tempted.
Can they really make money off a $20 streaming stick? Just sign up for a Prime trial, get the device for $20, and after the trial is over, keep the device to stream Netflix, Hulu, and some other “streaming channel.”
A week ago, I signed up for a bike ride with the cycle club. It was the first official club ride I had done since the ride to the Peekskill Brewery for the Pig Roast back in late June. That ride was on the second day of summer, but last week’s ride was most certainly a fall ride. Not only had the temperature dropped almost 20 degrees from the day before, bringing a distinct chill to the air, but it’s also leaf peeping season.
The ride started and ended in Trenton, New Jersey. From there we went crossed the Delaware and headed north along the west bank of the Delaware to tour some covered bridges before finishing at a brew-pub in Yardley, Pennsylvania.
Our first stop was in Washington Crossing, about ten miles from Trenton. It was a familiar sight because I had been there in July as part of my ride to Philadelphia.
It was a bit after leaving Washington Crossing that I began to feel as if my eyesight was a little off. I couldn’t figure out why, either. It felt as if my eyeglasses were crooked or something. I also noticed that my hands were really warm and itchy. At that point, I took off my long-fingered bicycling gloves, but then I got really cold so I put them back on. The itchiness returned, and I remembered that last summer, Bike Snob NYC broke out in mysterious case of hives as he rode on Long Island. I wondered whether I was having a similar allergic reaction. When we arrived in New Hope, about twenty miles into our ride, I looked in the mirror and noticed that my eyes were swollen.
I was indeed having an allergic reaction. Finding the cause was the least of my concern at the time. I needed to stop the swelling. We stopped at a general store, and I bought a pack of antihistamines. I was so worried about the swelling that I doubled up and took four tablets and continued the ride in search of covered bridges.
We found one, which was as quaint as you would expect.
And then as we approached the second, we found that it was missing. The bridge was, as they say, out.
That threw off our whole ride because we were to ride over that bridge to the other side. We considered detouring but found that it would add about seven miles to our ride. We were already collectively discouraged because we had lost two of our riders earlier in the day, and I was still swelling up like a balloon. We felt that our best bet was to find the most direct route back to the main road, PA-43, and continue towards our lunch stop.
Along the way, we saw some very pretty signs of fall, such as the canal that runs parallel to the Delaware River outside of New Hope.
There was also this majestic tree that caught my eye.
And, in observance of Halloween, someone put some “witches” in the field. Or at least I hope that someone did that.
But my favorite colors of the day were these beers from the Vault Brewing Company in Yardley, as that meant that our ride was essentially over and I could stop freaking out about my allergies.
As far as allergies go, I’m a total rookie. I have never been allergic to anything in my life so I didn’t know how to handle an allergic reaction. Apparently, taking four antihistamine capsules was kind of a bad idea because one pill can make most people drowsy. Four should have rendered me unconscious. And then I had that flight of four beers.
Needless to say, there were no more photos for the day. After coasting for five miles from Yardley to Trenton, I boarded a New York-bound train and didn’t wake up until we arrived at Penn Station, an hour and a half later. I rode home after that and proceeded to sleep for the next eleven hours.
A week later, I still never figured out what caused the allergies. My therapist, which I know is the wrong kind of doctor, suggested that I likely inhaled some exotic pollen on the ride and that I just reacted to it. That’s the best explanation because I am not sure how I am going to live if I am allergic to bicycling. And that seems more plausible than being allergic to the bagel with cream cheese and lox I ate that morning (or the cheeseburger I ate the night before).
Today, I read the following phrase on a midterm exam:
You can download MP3s onto cassettes.
That is like getting Arby’s to go and then freezing it so you can microwave it and eat it later. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
I worry about the new fascination with cassette tapes. Of all the recording media I ever used, cassette tapes were by far the worst. The sound was horrible. They wore out fairly quickly, which made the horrible sound even worse. I remember some recordings that sounded like the band was drowning under water. Also, the cassette tape was susceptible to damage by a cheap tape player. I remember seeing a Bic pen in a friend’s car for when his cheap deck would eat the tape right out of the cassette. He would use the pen to wind the tape back into the cassette.
I know that for the “kids today,” the cassette is a novel way to hold your music, and it’s portable to boot. It’s also probably the only physical form they’ve had to carry music. My generation has the same fascination with records, but at least those disks have a richer and warmer sound than digital formats. And we got a square-foot canvas for the cover art, which itself is a forgotten art form.
Or maybe, I really am getting older faster than I thought.
As cynical as I am about these kinds of charity rides, riding again this year gave me time to reflect on how another year has passed, and our mother, who has had cancer twice is still with us. Maybe we didn’t find a cure along our twenty-plus mile ride, but I did find that I am grateful that my mother (and everyone else close to us) is cancer-free for another year. I also got a chance to ride a bike in a different state.
Charity Ride in Costa Mesa
Like most charity rides of this distance, this ride wasn’t what I would call a challenge. It was great, however, for families and beginners to ride on a beautiful day along a lovely course for a cause. Almost the entire ride followed a bike path that surrounds a bay and then we proceed to another bike path running parallel to I-405. There’s a climb or two but nothing requiring any great effort.
Like last year, I rented a bike instead of shipping my own. But instead of renting from a bike shop, I used Spinlister, which I have never used before even if I have listed my own bike there for rent. Last year’s bike was a beautiful red steel Serrota with Dura Ace components. It was overkill for this ride. This year, I got something a little less upscale: a late-1990s Cannondale alumninum frame with Ultrega components, which cost about $50 for the whole weekend.
Coast Ride to Carlsbad
Knowing that a ride like this would be a bit ordinary for me, I lobbied to have my brother do a ride elsewhere, such as one in Ventura that included a 75-mile route. Such a ride would be more up to par for my weekend riding habits and he could still ride about 25 miles. My brother made the point, however, that riding in Costa Mesa would allow him to take his wife and son to Legoland, a mere 55 miles to the south in Carlsbad, after the ride. Each member of his family has a season pass so they go quite often. But having moved out of California a couple of years after the park opened in 1999, I had never been, and this seemed like a good opportunity to finally visit. My parents joined in the fun, too.
Since I had such a nice bike, I planned a route to meet everyone in Carlsbad. My mom thought I was crazy to ride that far, and my brother and dad both insisted that I load up the bike and take a ride with them. But I wasn’t having any of it and responded with my usual wise crack, “if you know a better way to get to Legoland, I’d like to hear it.”
After riding twenty-two miles with my brother for breast cancer awareness, I hit the road at about 12:45 PM towards Carlsbad. The ride was about 60 miles, from Costa Mesa, to our hotel in Vista, a few miles east of Legoland. My route followed PCH most of the way, and the route was beautiful. There was a highway to the left, a beach to the right, and miles of open road ahead of me.
Another thing that was a treat on this particular ride was the condition of the roads. Aside for a few rough patches here and there, they were in great condition. I finally had the confidence to glide down those hills with my hands off the brake levers and take some photos on the bike.1
Part of the ride went through Camp Pendelton. Marco, who rented me the bike, informed me in advance that I needed ID to ride through the military base, which I thankfully packed. When I presented the guard with my New York State ID, he noted that he was from New York. Sayville to be exact. I told him that I knew where that was. Of course, I only know that town because I’ve ridden through a few times, most recently over Labor Day weekend.
As I expected, it was not a flat ride. There were plenty of rolling hills along the way but no serious climbs. For most of the route, I was riding at about 18-20 MPH, which I almost never do, and I didn’t stop for lunch. My only stop was to gnaw on two energy bars and refill my water bottles at mile 30. Part of my hurried effort was because I was trying to arrive not much later than the rest of my family, who were all traveling by automobile piloted by lead-footed drivers.
Initially, I had planned to meet my brother, nephew, and sister-in-law at Legoland’s Brick or Treat night, which meant I should arrive not much later than 5:00 PM. However, the event sold out so I just headed to the hotel and had my parents take me for a much needed beer and burger.
After eighty miles of riding through unfamiliar roads, it was nice to revert to an old treasured cycling habit.
By the way, it’s a lot harder to snap photos while piloting a bike with the larger form factor of the iPhone 6. I’m just saying. ↩
It’s been a while since I’ve been to a zoo, but in recent years, I’ve noticed a trend of zoos hosting evening events with music, food, and beer. Zoo Brews in Portland and Brews at the Zoo in Los Angeles are valiant efforts to lure childless adults to the zoo with adult beverages.
For one reason or another, I’ve failed to go to any of these events. But just about every nerdy synapse was activated when I learned of Project! World’s Fair night at the New York Hall of Science to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the World’s Fair in New York City. The building housing the science center was part of the World’s Fair campus, and they invite you to “leave the kids behind” and designate a driver.
Project! World’s Fair celebrates this advent with a fresh perspective on the buildings created as a result of the Fair and the subsequent museum and exhibits that have come to define NYSCI. We invite you to leave the kids behind and come out for a night illuminated by images of the past, present and future, inspired by the Fair, and experience the NYSCI of today against a backdrop of rockets and large-scale artist projections and installations on, in and around NYSCI’s building and exhibits. Participants will have the opportunity to interact with museum exhibits anew with a sample of a 50-year-old cocktail, beer or wine, as well as partake in workshops. Tickets include workshops, beer/wine and samples of cocktails inspired by the turn of the century.
The only time I’ve been to the Hall of Science was last October when they hosted the Empire Drive-In, part–art installation and part–drive in theater. I’m dying to know what fifty year-old cocktail they will be reviving, but like those other nights at the zoo, I will miss this night at the Hall of Science. I’ll be out of town.
Project! World’s Fair at the New York Hall of Science
The first is Kenneth Anger’s Puce Moment (1950), a camp celebration of Hollywood glamour that reminisces about the old silent era. In addition to being an absolutely beautiful and haunting parade of dresses featuring a stunning actress, Yvonne Marquis, it also offers glimpses of the Hollywood Hills. Though I never lived there or spent any significant time looking down on the Los Angeles basin, I am overcome with nostalgia every time I see it. I’m not sure whether that feeling comes from being an LA native or from watching a lifetime’s worth of Hollywood movies.
The film also has the only two known recordings of 1960s psychedelic folk musician Jonathan Halper. You can hear the two songs, “Leaving My Old Life Behind” and “I am a Hermit”, in recordings apparently ripped from the film’s soundtrack. Those songs speak to me now more than ever before.
And if that’s isn’t gay enough for you, they are also screening Alla Nazimova’s Salome (1922). This silent film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play has been appropriated as a canonical queer film. According to the program notes for the screening, Kenneth Anger proclaimed the film to be “Nancy-Prancy-Pansy-Piffle and just too queer for words.”
For the last two weeks, I have been using an iPhone 6. In almost every conceivable way, it’s been an upgrade from my iPhone 5. The larger size is the first noticeable difference, but I have gotten used to it and even come to appreciate it. Reading is more pleasant, and I am generating fewer typos because of more spacious keyboard layout. However, I am now working on my second phone. After about a week of using the first one, I noticed a dead pixel that warranted a replacement.
Three O’Clock… In the Morning?
Buying an iPhone on launch day is a vicious cycle. Because I am always eligible for an upgrade around the time a new iPhone form factor comes out, such as iPhone 4, iPhone 5, and now iPhone 6, there’s little reason for me to wait to get a new phone. It also helps that I start getting paid from my teaching jobs in mid-September after a three-month payroll drought over the summer months.
Like I did in 2010 and 2012, I set an alarm for the morning Apple started taking pre-orders at 3:00 AM Eastern Time. Every hardcore Apple fan knows Apple starts taking preorders for the newest iPhone and iPad at midnight Pacific Time. Another bit of wisdom that many of us have learned over the years is that the best way to preorder your shiny new device is to forgo visiting apple.com and to instead use the Apple Store app. I’ve done it at least three times, and I’ve never had to contend with broken HTTP connections or timeout errors. “It just works.”
The iPhone 6 was released two weeks ago on Friday, September 19. I was pretty busy that day route marking for Escape New York and starting the arduous process of packing up my stuff in Long Island City, with the help of my parents. Thus, I was unable to pickup my phone from the Grand Central Terminal Apple Store at 8:00 AM. The earliest I could get there was at 2:00 PM, and when I arrived, it was a veritable clusterfuck. The line for people looking to buy a phone without a preorder was at least a few-hundred persons deep. Even the line for people with preorders, according to the blue-shirted employee who guided me to the appropriate queue, required about three hours of your patience. I decided to leave and try back later.
I was spared from waiting in a line like this one at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
I returned to the same store at 8:00 PM that night, and the lines were gone. The store had sold out of phones, and there were people sitting on flattened cardboard boxes, apparently waiting for the next day’s supply to arrive. I explained to the security guard outside Grand Central Terminal that I had a reservation to pickup my phone. After he inspected the message on my Apple Store app indicating that my order was ready, he whisked me upstairs to get my phone. I was in and out in less than five minutes.
You’re Using it Wrong
I realize how crazy it might sound to go through all this trouble to get a new phone when the one I had before, a two-year old iPhone 5, was perfectly serviceable. Is it that “buying a new phone is part of a broad and serious American affliction?”
Paul Roberts has been hawking this Postmanesque diatribe. According to Roberts, most people who get new phones resemble those who “amuse ourselves to death” and measure “the extra productivity of a new device by ‘how many cat videos you can watch in an hour.'”
Sorry, but I am not most people. I use the shit out of my phone. After two weeks of using it, I have noticed some significant improvements in the iPhone 6 over the iPhone 5.
The larger form factor had made it easier to type. I can’t accurately measure this, but it seems like I am making fewer typos with the new phone. The only thing that gets in the way is the predictive typing, which I thought was really nifty on my iPhone 5 for the two days I had iOS 8 on it before upgrading to the newer phone. But now it feels like I can type faster than ever before. I am even better at typing my 1Password passphrase, which is very, very long. But I don’t need to type that as often because…
Touch ID has changed my life. Do you remember how we lived our lives without a search engine to find out whatever we wanted to know? I don’t. That’s how I feel about Touch ID. It took about two days to forget what it was like to not have this feature. How did I ever get by without it? It has saved me so much time, and I can now easily unlock my phone on the bike, though never while riding. I stop, pull out the phone, unlock it, respond via dictation, put the phone back in my pocket, and ride on… all in less than thirty seconds.
Incremental improvements add up. The battery gets me through a whole day and then some. The camera is significantly better, and I feel a little less anxious about shooting in low light. However, I still wish I could close the aperture for better depth of field like I can on a dedicated camera. And the screen is also much better: brighter with richer colors.
Bigger battery means more uninterrupted work. On Monday, I forgot to pack the VGA adapter for my MacBook Pro, although I do have a Lightning to VGA adapter as my EDC. I had no way to present my slide deck other than to use my iPhone. It worked flawlessly and I still went the rest of the workday without reaching for a charging cable.
The phone appears to hold up better to cosmetic damage than my iPhone 5. After only a month or so, my iPhone 5 already had visible scratches and few dents! It’ll be interesting to see how the new phone holds up after a month or two… and then a year or two.
iOS 8 is a really nice upgrade to the iPhone experience. There have been a lot of changes from the phone I was using in early September to the phone I have now. But many of those changes are based on the new iOS 8 software. If you have an iPhone 5c, or 5s, you already have a lot of benefits, such as:
Third-party apps can authenticate you with Touch ID;
Messages, Safari, and Mail, the three apps I use the most, are significantly improved, and I love the new features.
I will be able to use Apple Pay. I am anxiously awaiting for this service to launch in October, and because it needs the NFC hardware, the only way it will work is with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, or an Apple Watch. And as much of an Apple fan boy as I am, I am unsure why I would need one. I’ll stick to the phone in my pocket as my personal computing device for now.
One Pixel in a Million
After about ten days of use, I noticed something. My new iPhone 6 had a dead pixel. It took me so long to notice it because it was right over the Phone app icon, in the top-left corner of the app icon grid, and who ever uses that app? For a while I thought it was a scratch. These new displays make it the screen content look like it sits on the screen not beneath it so I thought I could wipe it off. I couldn’t.
A dead pixel near the top of the earpiece of the Phone app. I’m curious what this app does.
The dead pixel is in the location bar of Safari.
After some kvetching, I figured it would be worth it to take it to the Apple Store to get it checked. After they confirmed that it was a dead pixel. The protocol to fix this issue is to replace the screen. But since the phone is so new, they didn’t have replacement screens. They had to treat my phone as DOA and gave me a new replacement for free.
It seems petty to get a whole new phone over a dead pixel (or two). After all, this phone has a million pixels (1334 x 750). Back in the mid-1980s, it was almost unthinkable to have a computer that had a megapixel display, and I myself wouldn’t have a computer with that much resolution until the early 2000s. But this is something I am going to use every single day for the next two years. That’s a long time to look at a dead pixel.