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May 30, 2003

Lunch in the Park

As in mine, today. I was out basking in the gorgeous weather. Although the lawn was closed as usual after this morning's concert the crowds were there in force: New Yorkers and tourists together, on a break from their jobs, partially disrobed, eating, reading, and watching each other through dark, dark glasses. Also there were cute six-year-old triplet girls enjoying the carousel with their younger sister and two nannys, and a handsome five-month-old Weimeraner named Lou, visiting New York and Bryant Park for the first time with his owner. Summer is here, even if it isn't, yet.

Oh, I almost forgot. Here's a schedule of all sorts of Bryant Park events. Perhaps I'll see you there!

Movies in the Park

And today I got a copy of the schedule for the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival. The movies are shown on a large screen set up at the west end of the park. The movies begin at dusk, but people start claiming blanket space by 4:30 PM, so plan ahead! This year we've got everything from Mutiny on the Bounty (the 1935 version!) to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It ought to be fun!

Concerts in the Park

No sooner said ...

This very morning the Good Morning America Bryant Park concert series started with John Mellencamp. I stopped by to watch for a few minutes and the band put on a very good show, staying after the broadcast to do several additional songs.

Funniest rock and roll sighting: in between songs a lit cigarette appeared in Mellencamp's mouth for five or ten seconds before being passed to a stagehand to be extinguished (or smoked, or sold online). Did a roadie light up for The Star? I'm afraid I cannot say. But at least I now know where he gets that voice!

May 27, 2003

Reading In The Park

Springtime is when Bryant Park wakes up again. The fashion show is over, the lawn is re-sodded, and the carousel is happily a-twirl. Soon, no doubt, the movies and concerts will return, and this year, as you know, we've got hawks to watch as well. I regularly eat my lunch out in the park, usually with a book in hand, and this summer I hope to have the company of more like-minded readers than usual, as Bryant Park is once again getting a reading room!

The Bryant Park Reading Room, without a doubt the largest in the city, will lend reading material from its rolling carts. Some of the books can be brought home, others can be traded for, and all can be enjoyed in the comfort of the park. Surprisingly enough, this is not the birth of a great idea but rather the rebirth, hearkening back to the Bryant Park Open-Air Reading Room which operated for eight years during the Great Depression, until it finally lost its staff to the war effort. It's been sixty years gone now, far too long for such a good idea, and I'm thrilled about its return. Together with the coming Coliseum Books store across the street, it's going to be a great summer for readers!

Thanks, languagehat, for this good news!

Welcome, Allen Stephen!

Welcome, Allen Stephen, and congratulations to his proud new parents!

May 15, 2003

Lunar Eclipse Tonight

There are two lunar eclipses this year, and the first one is this evening. Most of the Western Hemisphere will get at least to see at least part of the eclipse (here's a map) and the eastern United States (and all of South America) will get to see the whole event if the weather doesn't interfere (which it looks like it will for me, I'm afraid). I wish all of us clear dark skies!

As is so often the case, there's more at Metafilter. Update: and more.

May 13, 2003


After four years of part-time study and [more than] full-time work, I'll be attending the NYU Graduate Convocation tonight, to formally receive my Master's Degree!

May 09, 2003

George Morrow Has Died

George Morrow, member of the Homebrew Computer Club and founder of Microstuf (which became Thinker Toys and later Morrow Designs), died on Wednesday. The NY Times has his obituary.

Thanks Mom, for letting me know.

Addendum: Jim's Computer Garage (museum) has a photo of various Morrow Designs systems displayed at the 7th West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco in 1982.

May 08, 2003

Near Me

I've gotten curious lately about who's blogging near me, so I've taken advantage of two opportunities to find out:

First, Matt Haughey has enabled lists of Metafilter users based on their proximity to one another. You can see my list on my MeFi profile.

Second, I've geocoded this site and registered it with GeoURL. Click the button (GeoURL) to see a list of sites near my primary blogging location. I do, however have several locations. My work address in New York City and my home address in New Jersey are the main ones, but they're pretty close together anyway. I also figured out how to find sites near Great Barrington, Massachusetts and Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i, which are two other places I enjoy spending time at.

Ban 'em:

My apologies to anyone who clicked on the most recent comment in the last fifteen minutes or so. It was obnoxious p0rn-popup blogspam, from IP, now banned. I recommend you all do the same. I guess Epoch Networks is into spamming. I notice there's an Interwoven TeamSite server running at that IP. I neither sanction nor condone anyone having fun with it.

Edited June 7, 2003: I substituted the "p0rn" for another more obvious term after getting some odd hits in my referrer log. So if you came here looking, we don't have any. We're fresh out.

May 07, 2003

Transit of Mercury

Transit of Mercury - detail of SOHO image from 08:57 UT. Click to see full (WIDE) image

Mercury passed across the face of the sun this morning, an event which happens only a few times each century. The orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) took the image above, in which Mercury can be seen at upper right, a small dark disk almost lost in the sun's glare. Click the image to see the full SOHO field. The SOHO folks are currently hosting an excellent collection of images, movies, and links relating to the transit at their Hotshots Gallery. That site is being hammered right now, but do have a look, it's well worth it. Also stay tuned to the Metafilter thread where some more good links are bound to be posted.

May 02, 2003

Bryant Park Hawks

Galan In Flight With NYPL

On Monday I saw one of the Bryant Park hawks for the first time, a seven year old Harris Hawk named Petunia. The trained hawks are being used in an experimental effort to frighten away congregating pigeons. During the day you can usually spot one of the trainers releasing a hawk into the plank trees or the vendors' rooftops, and calling it back to him through a crowd of foraging pigeons.

I had my camera with me Wednesday and took a number of pictures of a Harris hawk named Galan as he worked the park, and I'm posting these to my photoblog in a brief departure from my ongoing series of photos from Hawai‘i.

Galan and Trainer

I meant to post this New York Times article about the hawks, which Leslie sent me two weeks ago, but I dawdled and it's no longer available for free. It's a good one, though, and I recommend it to those who are willing to track it down or pay for it. Thanks, Leslie!

May 01, 2003

Open Letter To Apple

It has recently become apparent that Apple does not intend to make the features from its new iPod software available to those of us who already have iPods. I hope this is remedied soon, lest Apple's lack of support become as well known as that of its competitors. I submitted the following via Apple's iPod feedback form and wanted to share it with the rest of you:

Dear Sir or Madam,

My wife gave me a custom-engraved 20GB Windows iPod as an anniversary present, and I absolutely love it. I am, however, greatly disappointed in the lack of support Apple has shown for existing iPod owners and in particular for those of us who purchased Windows-format iPods.

At issue, first, is the fact that Apple has put only a small fraction of the new 2.0 firmware's functionality into a "1.3" release for existing units. As a technology professional of course I understand that the hardware is different and the same firmware binaries might not work on both units, but it is irresponsible not to duplicate this functionality for older units. For the considerable cost of an iPod, its owners should receive the full benefits of Apple's software improvements, for several years at least. My iPod was received just six months ago, just a month after it came on the market. Surely I deserve to see oft-requested features like on-the-fly playlist creation implemented for my iPod.

Second is the issue of Apple's subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination against those of us using Windows-formatted iPods, in the form of missing features like Audible bookmarks and track playcounts, not to mention the delayed availability of even the 1.3 firmware update. These are associated with the choice of MusicMatch Jukebox as the bundled software (which is dubious at best; why not choose XPlay or EphPod, tools developed purely out of love for the iPod and a desire to get the most out of it?). There is no technically sound reason for these shortcomings in the Windows firmware - the FAT32 filesystem is well understood and no harder to work with than HFS.

I am glad that Apple has put resources into updating and enhancing the iPod hardware and software, but it would be most shameful if this was done at the expense of current customers. These devices are not cheap tape or CD players, and we aren't going to run out and buy new ones every year. I expect a respected company like Apple to do everything it can to reward those who are already supporting the company. Given the good design of the iPod I'd been thinking seriously about moving to Apple notebook computers, but I've abandoned that idea, and will not reconsider it unless I see some changes.

If Apple thinks that it can encourage me to invest in MacOS systems by crippling what should be a platform-agnostic device when it's used with my computer, it's sadly mistaken. If Apple thinks that it can encourage me to purchase a new iPod with a slap in the face of recent adopters such as myself, it is utterly wrong. This is utterly cavalier treatment of paying customers, and buying additional products from such a company would be throwing good money after bad.

I strongly urge Apple to rectify these situations. I understand that full Audible support for Windows-formatted iPods is on the way. I hope this is so, and that this update comes with track playcount functionality as well. Even more importantly, bring 2.0 to existing iPods. Treat customers new and old with the respect they deserve, or they will cease to be your customers.



Standing Up To Illegal Telemarketing

Via I am happy to point you to a case study in how to sue a telemarketer who has called you illegally. The telemarketer in question violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 in two ways: first, by calling a residential number outside of the allowed 8am-9pm time block, and second, by calling a residential number to play them an unsolicited pre-recorded or artificial message. Too bad for the telemarketer, they woke up a lawyer, and that one call cost them a cool $500. We should all be doing this. Next up, spammers!