Came across Walkscore yesterday. It is a Google Maps mashup which takes an address, plots out all of the restaurants, grocery stores, and other common personal services within "walking" distance, and then scores the location on a scale of 0 through 100 for walkability. Pretty neat, not surprisingly the places I've lived or am living in in Brooklyn and Manhattan score well into the "90s". There's some glitches though, which I'll describe after this table I whipped up of the walkability of places I've lived in the past 40 years (ignore the fact that as a one year old I was unlikely to walk anywhere):
|North Ave, Oak Park, IL||1967-1969||63|
|Wilcox St, Downers Grove, IL||1969-1971||51|
|Brainard St, Naperville, IL||1971-1975||78|
|Green Valley Circle, Culver City, CA||1975||80|
|Burr Oak Ln, Lisle, IL||1975-1976||58|
|Carpenter St, Downers Grove, IL||1976-1985||38|
|Randolph St, Meadville, PA||1985-1989||82|
|Wightman St, Pittsburgh, PA||1989-1991||74|
|Greenhill Dr, Fishkill, NY||1991-1992||23|
|Theresa Blvd, Wappingers Falls, NY||1992-1994||0!|
|Hudson Harbor Dr, Poughkeepsie, NY||1994-1995||55|
|Smokerise Ln, Wappingers Falls, NY||1995-1997||NA|
|Battery Place, New York, NY||1997-2000||97|
|Bridge St, Sydney, NSW, Australia||2000||NA|
|Hicks St, Brooklyn Heights, NY, NY||2001-2007||95|
|Main St, Brooklyn, NY||2007-||95|
I assume all of these glitches have more to do with the Google Maps API than the "patent-pending" Walkscore algorithm:
- I tried various iterations of the address on Smokerise Lane but Walkscore (really the Google Maps API) couldn't geocode it. It wasn't exactly new when I lived there ten years ago, I don't know enough about the API to guess where it's breaking.
- It totally blew my Sydney address on two levels: it placed it in North Sydney (which is a separate city, I think), and because Google do not have local data for Sydney (again: guessing) it rated it a 0 out of 100. If there's no applicable data at all something (Google Maps API? Walkscore?) should flag that as the condition and not just hand out a 0. Not that anyone who'd solely judge where to live based on Walkscore and thus rule out the Sydney CBD deserves to live in Sydney in the first place. I'm guessing that Google only has local data for the US.
- For our current place on Main Street in DUMBO, it includes services across the river in Manhattan. Again, knowing nothing about the Google Maps API but feeling the need to opine nonetheless, something, somewhere should be able to clue in and say
Yes, these things are within a mile radius of the starting point, however there is a (bridge|river|landfill|mountain) in between. This is not a new problem, plotting out the closest Staples Store to Amagansett, NY returns two locations in Connecticut which are technically closer than the third choice in Riverhead, NY, but require either swimming or flying to reach.
Still, a very cool mashup demonstrating the power of open APIs and open data for that matter.
For you α–geeks out there, test your Asperger's Quotient at Pie Palace · Asperger Test (AQ Test).
For you HTML jockeys, one thing I liked about this
My score? 25 out of 50 (where 32 is the borderline cutoff).
I blogged about buying an IBM Thinkpad x31 in 2004 multiple times, but since it actually showed up it's been fine until very recently. I noticed about two weeks ago that the case had cracked in multiple spots on either side of the keyboard (probably because I carry it open all the time) and last week I started having problems with the power connector. I can't tell if it's dirty, or shorting out, or what but it's just not getting juice unless I place the system in a dock.
I recalled that when I bought the system I ordered the ServicePac which allegedly offers 24 hour turnaround for repairs. I just checked and it's still valid, until May 2008.
So the question is, with a trip to Australia starting next Tuesday, do I chance shipping off my system tomorrow for repairs? Has anyone used the ServicePac repairs since Lenovo split off?
For reasons that are beyond me, I licensed Adobe Acrobat Professional 7.0 a couple of years ago. Perhaps because I thought I'd be doing a lot of work with PDFs, or because I didn't know of an easier option to print to PDF on Windows.
Out of the box I should have known that this Acrobat was different all previous Acrobats.
It was big.
It was bulky.
It DEMANDED ATTENTION frequently and often.
About a month after I installed the software, off a CD, it did its update check and said it needed to be updated to 7.0.1.
sure, go ahead.
It ran for a bit, started the update, and then said
Insert the damn CD into the computer you filthy customer we suspect pirate you.
Perhaps I exaggerate.
But it did demand the CD, which was buried amongst a pile of stuff in my office.
So I canceled the update. I wouldn't perform another update for a year or more when I had relocated the CD.
Today, I found the CD again. It's not that I intentionally throw it away, but with most software being available online or updated online it seems silly to have to go fetch the CD to apply an update (oh, and this was all after I'd activated the software).
I ran the update thing. Part of the reason for this is because about once a week I go to read a PDF and the whole system hangs as Reader goes off into the wilderness to check for updates. I'd like to regain some of those moments.
Now, I've been using software for a couple of years, maybe more. I've done software development, maintenance, operations, support, etc. Generally when you have multiple updates to apply to a package, selecting the latest update should drag down whatever is necessary. That's mostly my opinion, but it's based on, well, decades of experience. Hell, even Microsoft has gotten this right, but not Adobe.
I selected to update to 7.0.9 and walked away for awhile as it downloaded and applied the software.
After awhile you get a dialogue box demanding that you reboot the computer. Like Symantec, Adobe assumes you do nothing else with your computer except update your we-assume-you're-a-filthy-pirate-you-alleged-customer software.
So I reboot. On booting, logging in, etc. the updater runs again. And demands another reboot.
So I reboot. Another ten minutes pass. I fire up Acrobat on rebooting only to have it crash in flames since some libraries have been updated but not all. Seems Adobe's updates not only require having the CDROM in the drive, but they also require you to install all of their pre-requisites yourself. Silly me, thinking that selecting the latest update would drag in whatever was necessary. Worse, you can't select all updates but you have to run through the dialog box selecting each update and confirming that yes, you really do intend to do this update.
I managed to get Acrobat to run long enough to fire off another update run, selecting all of the updates and now we'll see what happens.
You don't really think about maintenance of products when you buy them, and with the exception of Windows Update, you don't hear much about individual products update processes. Perhaps there's a call for a new blog on software maintenance.
In the interim, I'm still waiting for Adobe's updater to finish it's work, an hour or more into the process.
Next time, I'll just find a freeware version instead of wasting my money and time on another Adobe product.
Heading to Boston tomorrow to drop Sailor off with Lisa at Grenadier Golden Retrievers and Frisket with Alister and Abigail. The dogs get a little break from us while we travel to Australia.
It's been raining a lot here. I spent Wednesday driving eleven miles in two hours to get the car serviced. Any other day, any other week I would have just canceled but we leave next Tuesday and I wanted to have everything squared away before we left.
After spending the two hours driving to the dealer, and another three waiting for the car to be finished, I had less than two hours to return home and then try to figure out how to get to the UES for a doctor's appointment. Doing the math, which I was never really good at, I decided to scratch returning home and drove into Manhattan on what was likely the worst non-holiday driving day of the past year.
Not to go into too many details, but I've had a problem with swallowing food on and off since college. It's gotten significantly worse in the past year and apparently is due to stomach acid making its way to places it doesn't belong, coupled with the side-effects of some medication I've been using for psoriasis and eczema. The net result is that I'm on a no-caffeine, no-smoking, no-chocolate, no-alcohol, no-acidy foods diet for at least the next six weeks (with some dispensation for my travels in Oz). The chocolate, smoking (hah), even the alcohol ban don't concern me as much as the no-caffeine. Not quite sure how I'll deal with jetlag without the requisite dozen litres of Coke or Pepsi.
The dogs are off getting bathed right now. Not sure it's going to be worth the effort to get them dried off as it's 110% humidity out right now.
Following up Everything is Detritus, some other blog posts on having too much stuff:
- The Tyranny of Stuff from Get Rich Slowly
- Why Is It So Hard To Let Go Of All That Stuff? from the Attention Deficit Disorder Association
- Stuff by Paul Graham:
What I didn't understand was that the value of some new acquisition wasn't the difference between its retail price and what I paid for it. It was the value I derived from it. Stuff is an extremely illiquid asset. Unless you have some plan for selling that valuable thing you got so cheaply, what difference does it make what it's "worth?" The only way you're ever going to extract any value from it is to use it. And if you don't have any immediate use for it, you probably never will.
- On having too much stuff
- Jettison the junk: why clutter clouds your mind and saps your energy
I have been slowly making my way through a variety of boxes and have gotten rid of perhaps 80-90% of the stuff I've found but it's slow going and kind of boring. I threw away a lot of Olympic memorabilia. I'm sure some of it had value, but only if I took the time to list items on eBay or elsewhere, and then deal with the inevitable scam artists and returns. It was far easier to stick it on the curb, and more rewarding to see the scavengers take it. I don't know whether they'll use the stuff themselves or sell it, nor do I care.
We're heading to San Francisco tomorrow to start our trip to Oz. We'll spend the night and most of Wednesday in San Francisco before heading to Sydney on a QANTAS flight. We'll spend a couple of nights in Sydney before heading to Melbourne for the week, returning to Sydney on the 20th.
Frisket and Sailor are off on their summer vacations in the Boston area. It's been kind of weird to not take them out for their night walks, or to not trip over Sailor (she tends to hover around me)
After a brief stop in San Francisco, we got on QF74 Wednesday night for the hop to Sydney. A mostly uneventful flight until about an hour out of Sydney when we made turn towards Brisbane. The pilot announced that due to fog in Sydney and our fuel situation, they wanted to refuel at Brisbane before trying to land in Sydney. By the time we landed in Sydney (about 9:00 a.m. AST) the fog had cleared.
This is the first time I've encountered this situation (after maybe ten transpac flights to Sydney since 1999). One upside: because we arrived in Sydney after all the other transpac flights, there was no line at customs and immigration.
We spent most of the day decompressing after the 18 hours on the plane. We walked around Circular Quay and The Rocks for a bit before heading back to the hotel. On the way we stopped in a Virgin Mobile store to get my SIM card replaced. I'd bought two cards earlier, while Lisa's worked fine my phone number was allegedly assigned to another card. Since that won't do, they just gave me a new number. I'll send the number to the few Aussies who need it, otherwise I'll forward my US number to this temporary number once Skype gets its act together.
We did get a chance to drop in on the restaurant I'm throwing my bash at, Level 41. Here's some photos from the room:
Now continuing the jet lag decompression by watching a mix of Sydney TV sprinkled with blogs.
Had delicious lunch 21/8 at ezard on Flinders Lane, Melbourne. www.ezard.com.au/
This sort of sums of Melbourne for us: food. Lots of good food (ok, some so-so food, but mostly all good). There's other pictures in the flickr set Australia 2007 but nothing of real note. I'll post a writeup of restaurants tonight after dinner at The Flower Drum.
Apologies for the light posting. I've been uploading photos to flickr but by the time the telegraphs get sent back and forth I end up falling asleep. I created two sets of photos: Boy Meets Girl and Photos from Moonlight Head and the Otway National Park. Once I get to somewhat better broadband I'll upload more and do some rearranging.
We've enjoyed our stay in the Victorian outback at Moonlight Head. We drive back to Melbourne tomorrow and then fly back to Sydney in the evening. We'll be in Sydney through next Saturday. We leave Sydney on Sunday morning, arriving in Papeete on Saturday afternoon. We leave Papeete Saturday evening, arriving in L.A. on Sunday morning, and JFK Sunday night. That will be a long set of flights.
Have had an annoying problem creep up with the cameras.
They're both Sonys, and save photos with the name DSC01234.JPG where
01234 is a number which increments.
When I set up each camera (a DSC-T30 and a DSLR-α100) I forced the file numbering to begin "high", instead of DSC00001.JPG for example I managed to force the first photo to be DSC07000.JPG on the α.
I thought this was a good thing since it, initially, guaranteed different names for photos from the new cameras, as well as set their filenames apart from earlier photos from earlier cameras.
Well, that was stupid. First of all, the cameras only number photos up to DSC09999.JPG. Which seems like a lot of photos, unless you've forced the numbering to start at 7000 to begin with. And you play with the rapid-shot feature and end up taking 300 pictures of dogs on the beach at a time. So yesterday the number rolled-over and the photos were numbered DSC00001.JPG and so forth. This is annoying since my filing system for the photos assumes they're named differently.
It gets worse.
I have two memory cards which I rotate from camera to computer.
Moving photos off the memory card is always slow on my laptop (blazing fast if I can use the USB cable which I don't quite understand, and isn't an option with the α-100).
So I tend to take a slew of photos, swap cards, and deal with offloads and uploads later.
The file numbering is apparently keyed to a hidden file on the card.
So while yesterday's photos were of the form
today's photos were on a different card, which didn't have a
folder but did have an empty
The first photo today was DSC09998.JPG.
Two photos later and I had a third
DSC00001.JPG file floating around (helpfully in a different directory, but still).
So, I'm just not going to deal with it until getting back to Sydney where I can offload the whole mess to a portable drive I brought along and try to find another way to sort through all of the photos.
That's a long winded apology for not posting more photos of the stunning scenery around where we've stayed for the past couple of days.
We're back in Sydney through Sunday morning. We have no plans today and few for the week (so far).
Tomorrow we're thinking of doing the Coogee-Bondi cliff walk if the weather is good.
Lisa is working on Wednesday and we're doing dinner at Tetsuya Wednesday night.
I'm planning on lunch with Max Thursday, location TBD. Steve L. and Betsy arrive Thursday morning so we might try to arrange dinner with them Thursday night.
The party at Level 41 is on Friday night. There's still a few seats available, so if you (I'm looking at you Turbot) want to jump on a plane for the party you have until Wednesday to get your act together.
We're staying at the Westin on Martin Place. We stayed here four years ago (we arrived just in time for me to feel a slight tremor midday on the 26th of December 2004, which we now believe was the shockwave from the massive earthquake that morning off Indonesia). Four years ago their broadband setup seemed reasonable, but today it seems they've done nothing to increase their bandwidth out of the hotel. From the free wireless in the lobby I was getting 10kB/sec downloads and the speed from the ethernet in the room is not much better.
We don't usually watch American Chopper, but happened across an episode last night on the local Discovery Channel where the guys from Walden, NY spend several weeks touring around Australia (there seem to be multiple episodes, last night's seemed to be the last one, based in Melbourne).
If anyone has suggestions for novel things to do in / around Sydney (for two people who've both lived here, so no Taronga Zoo, and no The Matrix tours please) drop me a line.
The so-called Taxi Alliance has called for a strike next week over the installation of GPS receivers/transmitters in cabs, the requirement to accept credit cards in cabs, and the requirement to cease blathering on on cell phones while driving haphazardly throughout the city.
It's not really a strike in the union-vs.-the-man sense of the word as New York City cabbies are mostly independent contractors; though some own their own medallions and cabs, most rent a cab with medallion by the shift. I don't doubt that it's not a great job, having to deal with New Yorkers, New Jerseyans, and tourists all day, with riders demanding to be taken to places as obscure as DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, and Battery Park City. But, as far as I know, no one is forced to be a taxi driver in New York City.
Now, here in Sydney, where I am briefly, the taxi drivers are salaried. I don't know what their hourly pay is, but the difference in cab rides between the two cities is stunning.
Two weeks ago in New York we hailed a cab and asked to be taken to DUMBO.
Without missing a beat the driver began to berate us, how was he supposed to know how to get to DUMBO? Why were we assuming he knew how to get there? It was arrogant of us to demand to be taken there. And so on. We got out, I snapped a picture of the medallion number to report to the TLC, and we took the next cab. Now, I've only lived in NYC since 1997 but I'd heard the term "DUMBO" used to describe the Brooklyn Bridge- Manhattan Bridge waterfront area almost since I moved to the city. The actual term dates from the 1970s. Today there's, I don't know, maybe 1000 people who live in the neighborhood, perhaps more. It does not seem to be that new a term. Since we moved in (from the also-obscure to taxi drivers, Brooklyn Heights) we've taken maybe 50 cab rides. About half have asked for directions, which is fine. Asking for directions is fine. Screaming at us that we've overstepped some sort of line by saying "Main Street, DUMBO" and refusing to drive is something else.
Sydney, on the other hand, has some sort of combined taxi service. I don't know the details, perhaps it's a horrible monopoly, or duopoly, or panopoly. But there's one number to call to get a taxi (yes, you can actually call and have a taxi dispatched to your location, if you're in some part of the city without regular taxi traffic). All taxies have some sort of dispatching system tied to that number, and they all have some sort of map or directional system built into the meter. We've come across several on this trip which had the portable GPS units as well, I assume owned by the individual driver. I hate driving here, so we've taken taxis all over the city on this and previous trips. Once we headed north and the driver needed a clarification on our destination, we all checked the map he had and agreed on where he should take us (this was pre-GPS).
The drivers in Sydney are salaried, or on some sort of regular pay schedule. I don't know the details other than they are not in the insane situation of paying rent on the cab and starting the day $500 or so in the hole (whatever the daily rate is in NYC, which is not fixed by the TLC). The result is that the drivers here seem, I don't know, relaxed? professional? Not hassled. They don't act like you (the rider) are a nuisance in their lives which they'd much rather do without, unlike the typical NYC driver.
It's a much more pleasant experience.
Again, I don't doubt that driving a cab for a 12 hour shift sucks, or that the TLC and the medallion owners are in conspiracy to make the entire experience suck for both riders and drivers, but a strike will only hurt the two groups with the least power to make any changes: the very drivers (who will lose 1-2 days pay) and the riders, passengers, who are their direct customers and who will find alternate ways around the city.
So, here's my take, and any drivers who are offended, well, you made the decision to strike against your consumers: if there is a strike, I'm going to revert to a "by-the-rules" approach to taxi ridership:
- I'll ask for that receipt, please.
- And the complete change, please.
- No, I won't be tipping you.
- And if you, Mr. Taxi Driver, are a complete ass about any of this I will indeed use the handy online TLC form to report your medallion number.
Yes, this is pedantic, and childish, but really, what other option do I as an individual passenger have to reply to this strike?
I celebrated my 30th by going with my late mother and grandmother (not late!) to Windows on the World, a nice, if pretentious restaurant about three blocks from my then apartment in Battery Park City. Dinner was fine, dessert was a white chocolate skyscraper filled with some sort of strawberry filling. The views from 1000 feet up were stunning. On returning home we listened to the first reports of a car accident in Paris.
Generally, the day is rather routine for me, but my advice is don't fly today, and don't allow the paparazzi to chase you today.
Am hoping that history of the restaurant for my 30th does not repeat itself for the location of tonight's festivities, Level 41 in Sydney, Australia.
My only wish is for the Cubs to have a stunning collapse early in September so as to inevitable end-of-September collapse.