November 28, 2010

Analog Montreal: Charcuterie Hongroise


If you've been following Analog UltraClay, you may have already seen some of the recent photos I posted from Charcuterie Hongroise. While walking up St Laurent toward Schwartz's on my last day in Montreal, I passed a few old school butcher shops that caught my attention.

It was the sausages hanging in the window that drew me in to boucherie hongroise. Montreal still has some of the old European style butcher shops that are quickly disappearing in New York.

See inside after the jump.

Continue reading "Analog Montreal: Charcuterie Hongroise" »

December 29, 2009

Train Locator Console


There are (rightly) many complaints about the MTA these days, particularly with draconian cuts in service looming. My neighborhood in particular is about to be totally screwed by some of the cuts in bus routes.

That said, this is pretty awesome : The Train Locator Console lets you know where all the trains are along the entire line. No more peering into the abyss of train tunnel, squinting for a glimmer of light reflecting off the tracks. Of course, this is just on the L Train and the price its riders paid for these spiffy new features was several years of service interruptions and weekend shuttle buses.

Hopefully one day the MTA will be managed and funded properly enough to have these kinds of features throughout the system. As of right now, that sort of wide-scale infrastructure investment seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

August 12, 2009

Lunch: Shut Out of the Outdoors

_MG_7853 - Version 2

My favorite (read: only convenient) outdoor space near my office has been locked up and fenced off for the better part of a month. It's doubly disappointing as it seemed to coincide exactly with the arrival of seasonal weather.

There's no sign or readily apparent explanation as to why it's locked up, but it is certainly a disappointment for the many local workers, like myself, starved for daylight and seeking a mere 15 minute respite from the office to soak up a little sun. Being on a side street, the space benefited from being just out of the way enough to avoid the throngs of tourists that shuffle around the base of the Empire State Building.

But now there's nothing. We either have to wade through the crowds to get to Herald Square, the heart of the swarm, where aimless tourists and shoppers meander or the benches in front of the old B. Altman's building where you can vie for spaces with the homeless.

Or, it's back to shoveling food into your mouth at your desk before someone says, "I don't want to interrupt your lunch but..."

August 9, 2009

The Highline and What's Wrong with New York

_MG_2738 - Version 2

If you haven't heard, the Highline is a freight rail line that used to run through the warehouses of the lower west side of Manhattan, delivering meat and such to the meat-packing district long before the neighborhood's primary appeal became Sex & The City tours and douchebaggery. In recent decades, it's been abandoned and overrun with weeds and become the hidden gem of The City. The only way to access it was to climb up random fire escapes or scale walls.

Flash to the present, after much lobbying from locals, the Highline has been turned into a park and it's the new 'It' spot in the 'It' neighborhood downtown. After opening in early June amid the deluge that just barely missed the rainfall record in city history, the droves that plague any and everything worth attending have invaded.

So, yeah, I'm bitter. The day that Tammi and I tried to go up there and found the scene above. There was a line to get to The Highline. A line. To get to a park. We weren't down.

_MG_2720 - Version 2

So yeah. We still haven't been to the Highline. I guess I have to wait for the most undesirable time to go and hope that no else has the same idea.

January 12, 2009

0 Bags Free!

0 Bags Free!

You have to love the airline industry's ability to try to put a positive spin on their money-grubbing ways.

Apparently Delta has given up on the 'higher ground' of not charging for all checked luggage. But they still want you to know that some options are free - like not checking a bag at all.

What's hilarious is the implication that if they wanted to, they could apply a fee for not checking bags. It reminds me of a recent Onion article about American Airlines charging non-passengers a fee for not flying with them.

Who's to say they aren't already thinking up a way to do either.

July 28, 2008

Celebrity Sighting: Brad Dourif

IMG_7726, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I hadn't even gotten out of the airport before seeing my first 'celebrity.' Brad Dourif stood behind me in line for a taxi. Who? Yeh, I didn't know his name either but I imdb-stalked him and found his name and his rather lengthy filmography.

I initially recognized him as having been in the second The Lord of the Rings chapter, but later discovered that his career goes all the way back to playing Billy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. If you were to see him and recognize his face, it would be for his creepy, piercing eyes, but his most well known work is probably as the voice for Chucky in those terrible Child's Play Movies.

I had planned to write this post more tongue-in-cheek, about how ridiculously obscure this guy is, but really I have a lot of respect for character actors like Dourif. These are actors who go in, do their jobs and go home. We don't have to hear about who they're sleeping with or which parties they attend or what their political cause is. Because he's just an actor doing his job.

January 27, 2008

Seeing Green

IMG00555.jpg, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

What annoys me most about the Green movement is that most businesses only seem to give a shit about the environment when it'll save them a buck.

Some say that the best way to get big business to be environmentally responsible is not through regulation but to show them how they can profit through it.

Enlightened self-interest may be at the heart of conservationist conservatism, but its logic still dictates that if polluting is cheaper, there's no reason not to do it.


September 23, 2007

The World's Gone Mad


I woke up this morning to find the talking heads on TV discussing Rudy Giuliani's speech to the NRA.

I just don't understand.

I mean, seriously. Strip down all the things that make him one of the most terrible people in the world and it still doesn't make sense. Ignore the fact that he was arguably the most divisive mayor in the city's history. Ignore the fact that before being elected, he led the police union in a riot on the steps of city hall, then made a point of barring any and all protests on the same steps when he was elected.

Ignore the fact that he married his cousin.

Ignore his callous disregard of abuses on the part of the NYPD toward the black community. Ignore that this 'hero' released the irrelevant juvie record of a man murdered by police officers. Ignore that much of the carnage happened on September 11th 2001 because he outfitted his Fire Department with shoddy equipment and because he chose to create an emergency operations base in the only building in the entire city to ever be the target of terrorism.

Ignore every terrible thing that he has done and said in and out of office. Forget all of it.

If I had never stepped foot in New York and all I knew about the man was that he was mayor the day that the towers were attacked and that he carried a bullhorn and soothed many in the city and the country, I would think that he deserves a medal. Maybe even a statue.

I can't fathom thinking that these actions on one day would merit the leadership of the United States of America. Those actions on one day did not make him competent or qualified to lead the free world. It does not mean that suddenly he has an understanding of international politics, domestic issues or the federal tax laws.

It doesn't make any sense to me that this man is really, genuinely considered by anyone to be someone that might deserve a single vote for the presidency.

My faith in American common sense diminishes every day that Giuliani is considered a 'frontrunner,' even this ridiculously early in the primary race.

August 30, 2007

The Larry Craig Scandal

IMG_4771, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Now, I'm not typically one to protest when a scandal takes down a Republican candidate. But I just want it to be clear that Senator Larry Craig from Idaho is being asked to resign because he's gay.

You can't actually say, "You should resign because you're gay" anymore, so everyone talks about 'lewd' and illegal behavior, but that's all code for the things those people do, isn't it?

What's tragic about all of this is that, like Foley, Craig has spent a fair amount of his career supporting anti-gay legislation just to prove he's got no sympathy for the "homosexual agenda."

June 12, 2007

Transport Rant

Forgive the upcoming soapbox tirade. I'm sitting on the bullet train to Kyoto from Tokyo and thinking about some of the inadequacies of home.

While I watch the Japanese countryside zoom by at hundreds of miles per hour, the first thing that comes to mind is 'why can't we do this at home?' I've been avoiding ranting on this subject for a little while now, but those who have known me for a little while have heard me sound off about the concerted effort of various lobbying groups to keep our rail system antiquated. Amtrak should be so much better than it is. When politicians go on about the agency needing to be self-sufficient, I always wonder what they would say about ending subsidies to the interstate system.

Economies run better when people can get around. It's just a fact. That's why we have public transportation. Mayor Bloomberg has said that he wishes the subways could be free because it's such a necessity to us all. The national rail system could be like that, if anyone wanted to do it.

April 23, 2007

Dispatches from the Shuttle Zone


This weekend the neighborhood saw it's third weekend without A train service.

(I think the MTA does this sort of thing periodically to show us how poor service could be. )

Anyone trying to get from Utica Ave (where we are) to Jay street or anywhere between has to take a shuttle bus, braving crowds of hundreds of other passengers. You don't quite realize how many people fit on a subway train until you try to fit them on a bus. It just doesn't work.

We've detoured and worked around in order to avoid taking the shuttle buses, but this weekend there was no other way.

Shockingly, the MTA actually had their stuff together. There was an army of fluorescent-vest-clad minions doing everything they could to let everyone know where they were going. They yelled "EXPRESS TO JAY" and "ONE STOP TO JAY" and "THIS BUS ONLY GOES TO JAY STREET" over and over again. They chanted and gestured and pointed.

This didn't stop people from running off of the bus at the last minute saying, "This _only_ stops at Jay?" and wandering around bitching that they didn't know which bus to take.

People are dumb.

We've got two more weekends of this nonsense. Once it's all done, I hope my commute gets faster. The trains have been crawling through the areas where the track work is being done.

March 17, 2007

Photo of the Day: Yiddish Advertising

IMG_1408, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I always liked this shot. I took it last spring on a walkabout in Williamsburg. I discussed this image and a few of my others on The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC our local NPR station last summer. It was very exciting. I listen to the show nearly every day, so actually being a guest was a great experience. This was about a year ago, when protests were erupting all over the country.

I come from a family of immigrants. So does nearly everyone else in this country to some degree. It's always been inexplicable to me the way some people can call themselves 'real' Americans and judge or exclude others because they aren't from here. The foundation of this nation has always been immigration, people have come here from everywhere for opportunities and freedom. There's always some group that somebody doesn't want here. Now it's the Mexicans, before that it was the Jews or the Irish or the Italians or the Germans. And it's always the same arguments. "They don't assimilate into our culture;" "They stay to themselves in enclaves speaking some foreign language;" "They don't have our values." It's always something.

So these signs in Williamsburg struck me. Every immigrant community has the same sort of experience. They come in and form communities for support. They bring some of the comforts of home with them, the food, the language, the music. It's normal. Yet it really pisses some people off - when some people do it.

Those trying to crack down on immigration complain about 'these people' not learning 'our language.' But I've never seen the Minutemen patrolling these enclaves, harassing these immigrants or telling the Hasidim to speak 'our language.'

Continue reading "Photo of the Day: Yiddish Advertising" »

March 14, 2007

The Move: Verizon sucks


Fucking Verizon.

I'm trying to be on top of things. Today I started the process of moving over subscriptions and utilities. I called Verizon and scheduled an installation for a week and a half from now. I told them I to disconnect my line at my current apartment the same day.

Tammi calls me tonight and it's disconnected. Apparently 'the 26th' sounds like 'today.'


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March 2, 2007

Losing Lost


Ok, so TV bugs me. I spent a good few years not watching TV at all. I really enjoyed it. But, in the last couple years, I've been sucked in by a handful of shows that were my 'gateway drug' back into the world of television. Lost was one of those shows. I rented the first disc of season one from Netflix and bought the entire boxed set the next day. Tammi and I were engrossed. We watched the entire first season in 3 days.

Before I had even seen Lost I was impressed by the fact that it could juggle so many characters. Lost amazed me with its ability to juggle such a large cast without marginalizing any of them. Nearly every episode managed to include most of the cast even while delving into the backstory of one in particular. Characters developed individually, but the show never lost track of the rest of the cast.

That was then.

These days the show has so many dangling plot threads that no one can keep track of them. It's made worse by the fact that this season months have gone by without central characters appearing. Where every show used to bounce between plot lines, advancing them all even a little bit, now it plods through single plot lines for weeks, occasionally reminding the viewer of others that were left hanging months before. Two weeks ago, at the beginning of the Desmond episode, Sayid and Locke were giving the news about Eko. They were just getting back to a plot from an episode that aired in October! And then it was forgotten all over again.

In the meantime, after killing off great characters who seemed deeply intertwined with the larger story, they keep packing in new random people who we're allegedly supposed to care about.

And none of that even gets to the fact that they have not resolved a single thing. Ever.

Well, I'm done. I'm tired of wasting my time. I deleted every episode from my DVR and took it off of my scheduled recording list. If I ever catch the urge to watch it, I'll go back to season 1 and maybe some of season 2. As of right now, though, I don't care about Jack or Sawyer or Kate or cursed little Charlie. I'm sick of it.


Continue reading "Losing Lost" »

February 26, 2007

The Apartment Hunt: The hard sell


We're both pretty convinced about this now. This evening Tammi went back to get a better look at the place. She shot some more photos of it and looked at the basement. She's sold. I'm sold. So why is the real estate agent still shoving it down our throats?

This is the first time I've dealt with corcoran and I have to say it's not something I hope to do again. The apartment is all we could have asked for, we're ready to move along with the process, we're filling out the applications. Yet every interaction we have with the broker, we're reminded of how desirable the apartment is and that other people are still seeing it.

Never mind the 12% broker fee(!), that's irritating enough. So are all the references and extra information that we're required to provide. But the incessant scare tactics and bullying piss me off. You don't get to work at the biggest brokerages in the city by being passive, but this is too aggressive. Now that Tammi's sold on the place, she's afraid that someone is going to jump in and scoop it out from under us, because that's what our broker has been not-so-subtly hinting.

(rant continues after the jump)

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February 16, 2007


I deal with technology all day, so don't expect to hear too much about it here. That said, I can hardly ignore one of the most challenging idiocies that I've faced in my career.

In 2005 Congress passed an energy bill, which was primarily written by the energy lobby. The one thing I know about it that doesn't make me angry is that Daylight Saving Time will be a month longer starting this year.

I love it. One of the worst things about winter is the immersion in darkness we have to endure. I wake up, it's dark, I leave work, it's dark. The only windows at my job are hidden behind office doors. It's a season without sunlight.

Daylight Saving Time let's us get that much more light when we aren't stuck at the office. I can't wait.

Unfortunately, in typical myopic fashion, the technology industry for the most part flaked on this. Some quietly fixed the latest releases in the last couple of months, neglecting the older versions that nearly everyone is still using. Others came up with wildly complicated workarounds. Most haven't said much of anything until badgered repeatedly.

In the last two weeks or so message boards and email lists have lit up frantically with messages about how to handle this. The good news is that it's been like a reunion lately. Everyone's reaching out to colleagues and former co-workers, looking for someone who's gotten a vendor to call them back and give them some straight answers.

Less that 10 years after y2k freaked everyone out, no one seemed to think of this - with a year and a half lead time.

If you are still looking for answers, I'd suggest you look here for Mac related questions and here for everything else.


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February 10, 2007

Seasonally Affected


I can’t take this cold anymore. It’s driving me crazy. Gothamist says that yesterday made a week that we’ve had temperatures below normal. Before that I was 8,000 feet up where this is normal weather. I don’t know how people live like this. I wear layers and layers of clothing. I'm carrying 20 extra lbs of clothing on me at any given time.

I hate it. I have feathers all over everything I wear because of my new down coat. I'm getting stir crazy from spending all my time indoors.

I'm ready for spring.

February 9, 2007

The Pottery Barn rule

London, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I'm going to take the opportunity of an unread blog to vent an unpopular opinion:
Bush is right, we can't leave Iraq.

There, I said it.

I'm not a fan of this administration, I'm one of those still arguing the 2000 election. I'm a dyed in the wool liberal from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party.

Here's the thing, we broke that country. Iraq was a terrible, repressive regime, but it worked. It doesn't work anymore. And we're responsible. I know many people who will jump up and down yelling, "Not My President" but the fact is that we live in a democracy and we are all responsible for the actions of this government. Even if we didn't vote for it. Even if we're in a blue state.

We, as a nation, broke Iraq and it's actually our responsibility to fix it.

The current discourse on Iraq bases everything on the revisionist claim that we went to war in Iraq to free the Iraqis. We know that's not true.

Ted Koppel commented on this on NPR the other day:

We've been given so many bad reasons for why we went to war in Iraq — those weapons of mass destruction, Hussein and his neighbors, Hussein and al-Qaida, establishing democracy — that we've actually convinced ourselves that we did it for them… for the Iraqis; not because it served the U.S. national interest.

That makes it easy to depict the Iraqis as a bunch of underperforming, ungrateful wretches; and if they don't start shaping up, we're pulling out.

That's bullshit. And we know it on the left. The oppressed Iraqis became the justification for the war after all the others turned out to be lies. And considering how poorly things are going for them, it's not a very good justification.

We know this is hypocrisy. We're blaming the victim. But we're so focused on getting the hell out of there that we haven't spent any time thinking about our responsibility to fix what we broke. There's this idea that we're incapable of doing anything right here, so we should just bail.

Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule says, "You break it, you own it." We 'own' this mess regardless of our individual political affiliations. If we have to send in more troops to clean it up, then that's what we have to do.

Leaving Iraq to burn after we lit the match and poured the gasoline is wrong. I don't know how to fix it, but I know it would be irresponsible for us to just walk away.

Continue reading "The Pottery Barn rule" »

January 28, 2007

Aspen, the winter home of entitlement


Aspen is surreal. The aura of raw, unabated entitlement emanates from every corner. I've never seen anything like it. I grew up surrounded by white folks with money. But I had never experienced anything like Aspen before. Conspicuous wealth abounds and no one seems concerned.

This is my second trip here, so I knew what to expect. It's still jarring though. The sense of entitlement is pervasive. It's implicit in the full length furs hanging off of so many of the women here, it's in the expensive snow gear everyone wears and the unavoidable giant SUVs. It's there in every interaction you have with anyone who doesn't work here. Whether they aren't slowing down at the intersection for you to cross the street or they aren't getting out of the way when they're blocking the sidewalk. It's there when a bunch of teenagers are yelling at the driver to take an overcrowded bus faster down a steep icy road so they can get to their snowboarding.

I'm here for business. I don't ski or snowboard. I hate the winter, truth be told. That said, I do enjoy exploring new worlds and Aspen is definitely that. I've been here for a week now, which has been plenty of time to observe. I'll put in some more posts about my experiences and observations in the next day or two.

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