Thursday, January 28, 2010

How Long Until We Learn What J.D. Salinger Was Working On All Those Years?


Salinger Passes Away At Age 91

You know, besides the whole drinking his own urine and speaking in tongues stuff...
Stuff I Wish Existed Instead Of The Ipad

Ok, so the iPad was somewhat of a disappointment. I wish Apple had offered up something other than a giant iPhone that fixes few of the shortcomings of the original, more portable version. In fact, I came up with a few devices I wish Apple, or someone else, would come up with:

The "Hula":

Hulu Phone

A portable device that is Hulu-capable. There were rumors of an iPhone Hulu app almost a year ago, but nothing has surfaced. Hulu allows users to stream hundreds of TV shows, both old and new, for the low low price of... free. It would be awesome to watch TV shows anywhere. There could even be an option to download the show (for a fee) to watch later (like on a plane or somewhere without wi-fi or cellular service. Furthermore, the device could stream shows from other websites, like (Lost), (South Park) and others. You can already watch these on your computer for free... why not your phone, or some other portable device?

The "Satchel":

Sirius/Direct TV Device

A satellite-capable cell phone, able to access both Direct TV and Sirius/XM radio from anywhere. Here's what makes this great. There's a limit to how much data can be sent over 3G, or even tomorrow's 4G cellular networks. So even if Apple gives us a device that streams video other than YouTube and all that, load times could still be slow when a million people are trying to view content at once. Satellite, however, doesn't have this problem. The satellites send a signal, all you need is a device that unscrambles that signal. Sirius already makes a portable player. Could these two satellite titans join forces and create the ultimate media device?

The "Gamepod":

Nintendo Phone
I Got Tired Of Using MS Paint, SO I Took This From The Internet

Your PSP can play movies, surf the internet, and play videogames. The Nintendo DS has dual touchscreens. Your iPhone and Blackberry meanwhile, claim they can play games, but its still not the ultimate gaming experience. Why not create a device with the ergonomics of a portable game system with the functionality of a smartphone?

Yeah yeah, I know:

But that thing is Ugly. If we had given up on an Apple phone after the Motorola Rokr disaster, where would we be today?

A Nintendo or PSP Phone? Are you really gonna tell me that's a bad idea?

Any company interested in following up on these ideas, please contact me. I have no technical expertise, but I'll gladly take a 1 million dollar idea fee.

(plus a lot on the back end)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple Debuts "iPad"

Sanitary Napkin

Apparently, no one in the marketing department thought of the obvious connotation.

Judging by what I've seen, this is basically an iPhone on steroids. Which Mark McGuire will tell you, isn't necessarily a good thing. The iPad starts at $499 for a 16GB, Wi-Fi-Only model. That's pricey for something that's too big for a pocket, can't run simultaneous applications (like a real computer can do), looks cumbersome to hold while typing, still doesn't display websites that use flash animation, and doesn't really offer much more than an iPhone does except a larger screen and more robust applications.

And while this idea is nice, it looks a bit off:

Keyboard Stand
w/ Keyboard Dock (Sold Separately)

Would Apple have been better off launching a touchscreen netbook similar to what the iPad-keyboard dock combo appears to be? At least then, presumably, you could watch a movie while surfing the web or play a game while IMing, which are things Apple seems to not realize people do on their computers. The iPhone operating system is perfectly designed for a phone... but a computer, or tablet, needs to offer more.

I'm sure I'll check it out at the Apple Store, but it's not something I'm rushing to buy. I haven't seen anything I can't live without, and I haven't seen anything I want. Maybe something will change my mind. But basically, it looks like Apple just made a very expensive drawing pad/book.

I'm not that impressed, Apple. "iPad?" Seriously?

Sanitary Napkin
I Apologize To The Woman I Was Incredibly Rude To In The Subway

This morning I did something really out of character for me. I cursed at an older woman. This happened about 25 minutes ago, and it's been eating at me.

As I walked towards the exit of the subway station at 34th St. Herald Square, I was reading AM New York. I do this pretty much every day. I've become pretty proficient at walking while reading. I haven't bumped into a stranger yet, and I have the good sense to put the paper down when crossing the street or navigating heavy traffic.

But today, a woman, mid to late 40s, I'd guess, spoke up behind me. At this time in the morning, I'm only half awake, so I'm not completely sure what she said, but it sounded to me like a command: "Don't read the paper while walking, people are trying to get by."

She said it in a snide, not so polite manner, talking down to me like I was some punk kid. Maybe this wasn't her intent. Maybe she inadvertently left out "Excuse me" or "please." And around us was enough space to drive a truck through, so it wasn't like I was causing a bottleneck.

But in response, I did something inexcusable. I said "F*ck Y*u." Without the asterisks.

As I said, inexcusable. And completely out of character for me. I can't really explain to myself why I did it. I had been sandwiched into a subway car with a guys hand up my ass moments before, and I was half awake, and I was shocked that a stranger would actually say something to me. But none of that would typically make me lose it. That's just not me.

The woman and I jawed back and forth until I finally got up the stairs and hightailed it down the street. I felt remorse as soon as she went out of sight. That's somebody's mother, I thought. What if someone yelled "F*ck Y*u" at my mom?

Even if I thought the woman had an attitude with me first, I took it to another level. It's like if someone pinched me and then I hit them with a baseball bat (note, this hasn't happened, just a metaphor). What I did just soured things all around. If I had just stepped aside and stewed silently about my perceived slight, I would have gotten over it and never thought about it again.

Its amazing that a curse word, even now in 2010, can still make the record skip and the whole mood of the day turn sour. A badly placed curse can really escalate a situation to a place it doesn't need to be.

What a shitty start to the day. For both of us. It didn't have to be like that.

So I apologize, woman in the subway. I totally gave a harsh reaction to you, and it wasn't warranted. I'm truly sorry.

Monday, January 25, 2010

One Man's Stuyvesant Town Dream Comes To An End

Little Boxes Made Of Ticky Tacky

In honor of Stuyvesant Town's transfer of ownership to creditors, check out this video of the birth of Stuyvesant Town, complete with wrecking balls!

Poor Rob Speyer. He probably wishes Stuyvesant Town still was a dilapidated slum with no windows in the bedrooms. It would have cost him a lot less that the $5.4 billion he spent. The property's valued at less than 2 billion now.

Where did Rob go wrong? Well, for one, he bought at the top of the real estate market, right before lines on line graphs everywhere suddenly committed suicide. But Tishman Speyer hasn't helped their cause at all with some terrible, terrible decisions. I've lived in Stuyvesant Town for the past 6 years, and I've witnessed them all.

1) Threatening Old People

Rob Speyer had a great idea. Why rent apartments in Stuyvesant Town's great location at below-market rates, when you could refurbish the rooms and resell them as luxury living? The gains in rent collected would be astronomical. Can't lose!

Except, er. Well, to refurbish those apartments and resell them, you need to kick the current occupants out. And many of those occupants are old people. Old people will not move without a fight. If you've ever seen an old person walk down the street, you know that even getting themselves to move is a complex negotiation that doesn't exactly progress speedily. And tenant laws in New York make it very hard to clear out longtime residents.

What's worse, Stuyvesant Town was created originally for soldiers returning home from World War II. Which means not only are these old people cranky and beloved, many of them are war heroes or family of war heroes. Good luck getting any politically savvy judge to kick them out.

As a resident, I've noted how highly respected the old people of Stuyvesant Town are. These aren't helpless, neglected grannys that can just be forcibly sent to an old age home. The old people living here are the bedrock of New York. You need dynamite, or death to get them out. And unfortunately for Rob, modern medicine is keeping these guys running longer and longer.

2) Ecological Disaster

Shortly after Tishman bought the property, they embarked on an ambitious landscaping project. The project would put in 200,000 plants — including 10,000 trees, 3,123 shrubs and 120,906 perennials. My roommate and I were woken every morning at 7:53 AM by the landscaping crew, which seemed to end their very noisy work around 8:02.

This was Stuyvesant Town when we moved in 6 years ago, before the landscaping project:


Here it is now:

Bubonic Plague
It's actually worse than this... this was taken last April.

I haven't been able to find figures on how much Speyer spent for this travesty, but it's certainly in the millions. The "improvements" have absolutely devastated the property, and there's no end in sight. Every so often, a thatch of new trees or flowers is planted, presumably so they can take some updated exterior shots. Then, within weeks, the dead flowers (or still alive, doesn't really matter) are removed, leaving bare muddy ground. The trees sink into the ground around them, forming puddles that serve as perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The failure is mockable.

Where did Tishman find this landscaping firm? Hades?

3) Wasted Space

Tishman spent millions building five luxury perks to the property: Oval Fitness, Oval Kids, Oval Lounge, Oval Study, and Oval... um, well, its not really important.

The enormous extra fees to access these new amenities deterred most residents from using them (perhaps Tishman was anticipating its new "luxury" residents. But even those who were interested in joining were put off by outrageous restrictions: for instance, the Oval Study, presumably designed for hard workers and students to, you know, study in, originally closed at 6 PM, way too early for any working person or student to use. By the time the hours were lengthened, people had already lost interest. And then there's the discomfort of the tiny spaces being presided over by bored staffers, who seem to be watching your every move.

But the biggest waste of space may be the roofs of the Stuyvesant Town buildings. Once a place where residents could sneak up to watch the fireworks or catch an amazing nighttime view, they've been outlawed and monitored aggressively by security. The roofs of these buildings are huge. Certainly large enough for solar panels, or rooftop gardens, or some sort of rainwater collection facility. Instead, they're completely empty. Missing this potential is a huge oversight for Tishman.


There are some things Tishman did right. Concerts and movies in the oval provided great entertainment and an opportunity for the community to come together (even if Kaki King's profanity-laced set wasn't exactly family friendly). And they kept the fountain pumping and looking great. And while I've never used it, the weird putting green in the oval was a nice touch. But you don't improve the value of a property by harassing its residents, wiping out plant life, and providing amenities no one wants while taking away the ones they do.

Tishman Speyer had poor timing, true, but its poor management would have chipped away at the property's value even if the market hadn't collapsed.

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