Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Summer Reading

I've done a lot of reading the last couple weeks I've been here. A ton, in fact. Part of that's due to the 40-minute subway rides to and from work every day, and part of it's due to the reading material being really good. It's called A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, and I finished it today.

A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones is the first in an ongoing series of books called A Song of Ice and Fire, which is set in the land of Westeros, about fifteen years after a bloody civil war that pitted the land's Seven Kingdoms against eachother. Even as the lands struggle for power or peace, new and terrifying menaces approach from the North and from the East.

The main characters are the members of House Stark, lords of the northern kingdom of Winterfell, a place as cold as the people that inhabit it. Lord Eddard Stark is their level-headed and stoic leader, but he is honorable to a fault. Their enemy is House Lannister, wealthy back stabbers who would trade anything for power.

Aside from the fighting in Westeros, there are two side plotlines. One follows Eddard's bastard son Jon Snow as he mans The Wall, a gigantic structure built to keep the Northern menace from invading. The other follows Daenerys Targaryen, the last descendant of Westeros' previous king Aerys and betrothed to Khal Drogo, leader of the barbaric Dothraki in the East.

I've never considered myself a huge fan of fantasy -- I've read Lord of the Rings, but little else -- but this book was fantastic. I finished it about half an hour ago and I'm leaving to go to Barnes & Noble to pick up it's sequel, A Clash of Kings, right now.

If you're not reading anything this Summer, you should be, and what you read should be this.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Nice Little Weekend

This weekend, Lindsey's boyfriend Corey and his friend Scott came up to visit. They're on their way from Atlanta up to Maine, and since their trip took them through New York, and since I live in New York and have ample floor space for visitors, they crashed at my place for the weekend.

Because they were only here for a couple days, they naturally wanted to do touristy things, and since I haven't done any touristy things since I've been here, I tagged along. It made for a pretty awesome weekend, and I got to see a lot of New York that I hadn't seen yet. I also did a hell of a lot of walking.


The guys got in Friday evening, and were pretty tired from the trip, so we did a little bar-hopping. I've only been in town for a couple weeks, and all of that's been by myself, so I haven't had a lot of opportunity or desire to explore the bars in the area. And let me tell you, there are plenty of bars in the area. We only went to four of them, but all four were pretty nice.


We woke up pretty early Saturday morning and set out for Central Park. We took kind of a winding path through the park, saw Belvedere Castle, the John Lennon memorial in Strawberry Fields, and finally came out at 5th St. near 70th. We walked for what seemed like forever down 5th, past Apple Mecca, into F.A.O. Schwartz (which was awesome) and finally down to Times Square.

Times Square was ridiculous. Seriously just as crazy as it looks on TV, billboards everywhere. We ate lunch at Bubba Gump's, then walked around some more, ending up at the subway station at Rockerfeller Plaza, which took us back to my place.

All told, more than five miles of walking in the 80+-degree heat. Needless to say, we were in need of a few beers and a good night's rest after that.


We decided to look around the south of Manhattan on Sunday, and started off in Wall Street. Corey wanted to see the Stock Exchange and I wanted to see The Bull. From there, our trip took us in a really roundabout path through Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty, up through Chinatown, Soho and Little Italy.

Little Italy was by far my favorite. We got lunch at a place called Paesano, which was delicious, and we got some great cigars at a place next door. We just walked up and down Mulberry St. smoking our cigars like we owned the place. Scott bought a spinner belt buckle which oozed class. There was a street fair going on and we stood around and watched the people running the fair games harass people as they walked by. It was pretty fun.

We went back to my place and sat around for a while, then eventually we took another subway back down to Times Square where Scott's second cousin lived. This was another highlight. We spent most of the rest of the night at her apartment literally a block and a half away from Times Square. We ate crackers, watched TV, talked, had a little Scotch, went out on the observation deck and watched the cars go by. It was really awesome. That's definitely the kind of place I want to live if I ever get successful and live in New York.

Eventually we left, went back to my studio apartment and fell asleep to the sound of my window air conditioner and the cars on the street.


Corey and Scott left this morning at the ungodly hour of 8am. I saw them off then immediately fell back asleep for the next three hours. When I woke up, I showered, sat around, and took a trip to the coffee shop. I spent about two good hours just sipping pumpkin spice coffee (way out of season, by the way, but amazing nonetheless) and reading. Between the subway and the coffee shop I'm reading a lot lately. A habit I'll have to continue even when I'm not in the city.

I got back, did some laundry, and wrote about my weekend. That pretty much sums up my Monday. Boring compared to the rest of the weekend, but a welcome respite from all the walking -- more than ten miles, for those of you counting.

It was a great weekend, and it was awesome having Corey and Scott around to hang out with. I'll take this opportunity to mention that anyone reading this is invited and encouraged to stop by and share in the fun.

I didn't take any pictures all weekend because I'm a jerk like that, but if Corey or Scott post some I'll link/copy them. That's all for now, time for some late night pizza and then some much-needed sleep.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tonight, I Got Guted.

I read on Gothamist this morning that actor Steve Guttenberg was going to be visiting the UCB Theater in New York tonight for a feature called "Inside Joke." I guess it's kind of like an Inside the Actors Studio except without James Lipton.

Hm, I thought, Steve Guttenberg was pretty fantastic in Short Circuit, and the more I think about it, I've got nothing else planned tonight. Maybe I'll go.

Steve Guttenberg

And then the article in Gothamist linked to an archive of Steve Guttenberg Facts -- like Chuck Norris or Vin Diesel or Bruce Schneier facts,'s tough to explain. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Steve Guttenberg thinks that iMacs look neat, but he's just never got around to using one.

  • Steve Guttenberg usually tips between 15 and 20 percent depending on the type and quality of the service he receives.

  • Sometimes, Steve Guttenberg buys a Diet Coke instead of a normal Coke.

  • The farthest Steve Guttenberg can throw a bowling ball is probably no farther than you can.

  • Steve Guttenberg may or may not have enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I don't know what it is, but these made me giggle like a moron at my desk this morning, and after all that I decided I needed to see the Gute in person.

It was a good time. Steve Guttenberg seems like a really down-to-earth kind of guy. He talked about how as an actor he'd love to only ever be in great successful movies, but when it comes down to it, sometimes you just need a paycheck, so you can't always be in Academy Award winning films. It's the kind of sentiment you know is true about every actor, but it's not something they'd usually just say outright. I respect that about him, he doesn't take himself or his job too seriously. He loves what he does, he's successful at what he does, and so good for him.

Also, the UCB Theater was pretty nice. Really small, but the perfect size for the kinds of shows they put on. I'll definitely have to make it a point to go back again some other night.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I [heart] NY

I know, I know, it sounds cliché and all that, but I really do love New York. Maybe it's because I've only been here a week and a half and I'm still firmly planted in the honeymoon phase, and maybe I'll decide I hate it here in a couple weeks, but for now I'm really enjoying it.

Three distinct things stand out about the last three days that have made me love the city, and my job, more and more.

1.) On Monday, Cory Doctorow gave a talk at Google. That is to say, he gave a talk at Google in Mountain View which was simultaneously video conferenced to New York, where I saw it. His talk was about the economics of information, how America has essentially traded its industrial infrastructure and influence for an information-based economy, and how this is ruining America's freedom of speech, not to mention its economy.

The talk touched on the power the entertainment industry holds over American politics, economy and foreign policy, the evils of DRM and our futile attempts at information security, piracy, the failures of the copyright and patent systems in allowing for innovation, and many other topics. He even turned an accusatory finger at Google itself for going along with DRM and embedding it in its Video product.

It was a very thought-provoking talk, and it gave me even more respect for a guy already brimming with it.

2.) After work on Monday I decided to stroll around the Upper East Side, eventually making my way to Central Park. I'd never been. Suffice it to say, I loved it. I sat by a pond and read, peoplewatched, and just generally enjoyed the beautiful weather. I watched a group of four ducks fly laps around the pond probably 20+ times at breakneck speeds; I'm convinced they were racing each other.

I purposefully only walked through a small corner of the park on the east side near 79th St., so that next time I go I can see completely new things. I'm trying to pace myself while exploring all of the City, so I'll always have something new to see (not that I could see it all anyway, even if I lived here for years).

3.) Today, I promised myself I would find a good coffee shop. Google Maps told me there were a few nearby, and I was sick of just going home every day after work, so I made it a point to find one. And find one I did.

M. Rohr's House of Fine Teas and Coffees is the name of it, and unbeknownst to me, I've walked past the place twice a day every day since I moved here. It's on 86th St., on my way to the subway station to get to work. It's pretty easy to miss; it's little more than a door in the side of a long street of stores. But inside, it's just the kind of place I can see myself spending hours. In fact, I spent a couple hours there today, reading and drinking cup after cup of coffee. So much coffee in fact that I may never get to sleep.

Those aren't the only good things to happen to me in the last three days, far from it, but they were pretty awesome. I have to say, I'm really loving it here. A lot.

However, I do get homesick from time to time, so if you're reading this (and I believe you are), you should give me a call, or better yet plan a trip out to see me. Failing that, you could also mail me something, and I'd be one happy camper.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Missed Connections

Had a nice little walk today. Nothing as long as Sunday's exploits, but still pretty nice, about three and a half miles. And at least when I was done I didn't collapse in a sweaty pile on the bed, and I don't anticipate my legs hurting for the next two days either, so it's win-win.

I just kind of started walking south from work instead of taking the subway back home. I didn't really know where I was going, but that's how someone should explore -- completely lost. I ended up strolling through the West Village and Tribeca, then turning around just before I got to Ground Zero and walking north along the edge of Chinatown and Little Italy, through "Noho" (I've literally never heard that term before) and back to Union Square, to take the subway back up north.

In retrospect, I probably should have looked at a map at some point; I really would have liked to have seen the World Trade Center area, and had I known I was so close to Chinatown and Little Italy I would have made it a point to check them out. Oh well, I guess I'll know where they are next time.

I think this weekend I'm going to make it a point to do some subway exploring. I bought a 30-day pass today, so it'll be essentially free.

Anyway, tomorrow marks my first full week in the city, and I have to say so far so good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I'm a Noogler!

Well well, look who finally got around to blogging about yesterday. I had originally intended on writing about this earlier, of course, but after a long day of work, I didn't feel like meticulously replaying it for you the reader. In fact, for a variety of reasons, I don't plan to write in much detail about my employment, the best three of which are:

  1. Google's pretty strict about confidentiality. I.e., I'll get fired.

  2. I'm still pretty tired from today, and still don't entirely feel like meticulously replaying events.

  3. This blog is about my time in New York City, and not about my time at Google. While the two are naturally related, I'd really like to keep this about the City (also, see 1.)

So, with that out of the way, I shall proceed to meticulously replay my day(s) at Google. Just kidding.

I started off yesterday by getting up at 7:00 and leaving the apartment around 7:30am. With a train ride that lasted a surprisingly short amount of time, that put me to Google around 8:20, or about 40 minutes before anyone else gets there. So I waited. The downside of being early, I suppose.

The first day was kind of a blur of presentations, ice breakers and filling out forms. In fact, I didn't even meet my host until around lunchtime.

Speaking of lunch, keep in mind that every good thing you hear about Google's food is absolutely true. Gourmet meals for free, basically. I'm trying to take the stairs as much as possible and drink water instead of Coke to avoid the Google 15 (the fifteen pounds you gain when you start to take advantage of all that free food everywhere). We'll see how long that lasts...

Right off the bat I was surprised how much trust Google puts in their employees. There's a bigscreen TV with Guitar Hero II on it within sight of every employee on my floor, and somehow there isn't a line a mile long to play it. That's pretty incredible in my mind.

The other thing that impressed me was that Google loves to eat their own dogfood. That is, their internal e-mail system is GMail. Their internal scheduling system is Calendar. There's pretty much an internal version of almost every Google product you can think of, or at least the ones that would be useful in a working environment (there's no internal AdSense, sadly). Some of the products you see even started off as internal tools that eventually got tweaked enough that it would be useful to outside users.

Once again, it shows a lot of trust in the products. But more than that, they realize that if engineers (most of them power users) are using these tools every day, they're bound to find bugs really quickly. Not only that but unlike most end users they'll take the time to report them. It leads to a kind of win/win situation where products become better just by using them.

With that said, I'm really looking forward to the next three months at Google. I've already learned a ton, and I've only been there two days. By the time I leave I'll have a PhD. in Googlism (and I'll also probably weigh 350 lbs. :))

Monday, May 14, 2007

Today's Travels

I got up about noon today and decided to see the city. I wanted to take the subway down to work again to make sure I knew how to do it, but I also wanted to see stuff. One of the places I wanted to see was the local Nerd Store, which was as I found out really close near 81st and 3rd.

Part One took me down to the Nerd Store, over to Central Park and finally to the subway station that takes me to work. The Google Maps Pedometer tells me this leg wasn't even a mile and a half. Child's play, really.

When I got off the subway down on 14th and 8th, I took a walk around the block that is the Google building. Instead of just getting back on the train, though, I decided to challenge myself. I would walk almost exactly above where the subway would take me, for as long as I could. Not only would this be a nice exercise, but it would let me see the city I'd miss out on travelling underground. And if I got sick of walking, I'd be close to a subway station that could take me the rest of the way. I had nowhere to be, so why not?

Part Two ended up taking me all the way from 8th and 14th across 14th to Union Square, then over to 2nd and all the way back to my apartment north of 83rd. A grand total of more than five miles, all by foot. I saw a lot of things on the way north, stopped at a restaurant to get a slice of pizza, and spent a beautiful day outside for once.

I'll be honest though, about 70th St. I didn't really feel like walking anymore, but by then it was quicker and easier to just get through the last ~15 blocks than to find a subway station and pay for a ride.

Once I got back I took a short nap, talked to Lauren for a little bit, then went across the street for some dinner at a place called Szechuan Cottage, a nice little sit-down white-linen-tablecloth Chinese restaurant. It was great food, but too expensive to go there every day.

I'll have to write a post some time about the block I live on. It's literally got everything I need, all within a single block. Amazing, really. Tomorrow's my first day at Google, though, so I'll probably have more exciting things to talk about.

Stay tuned for that one, though.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I'm a New Yorker!

Note: I don't have cable/internet at my apartment yet, so this post was written in Notepad on Saturday night. Sorry for the delay.

It's official, I'm a New York resident. I've been here for about three and a half hours now, and already it seems like the kind of place you could explore forever.

But let's rewind, this needs some backstory.

I got to the gate at Columbus International Airport at about 3:45pm. My flight left at 5:10. So that means I got about an hour and a half of reading and talking to Lauren done before take-off.

The flight was good (my first ever solo flight, FYI). The plane was so small the seat I got was both a window seat and an aisle seat. Talk about living in the lap of luxury.

I brought out the camera as we made our descent into LaGuardia, and here are the results:
Puffy Clouds
A cruise ship taking off
Straight down Lady Liberty’s toga

Once we landed I booked it to baggage claim, got my stuff and took a cab to my apartment. I met someone from the real estate agency to get my keys, and before I knew it I was here.

Unpacking, resting, unpacking some more, more resting, and after all that I'll be damned if I didn't start to get just a little bored. So I got some shoes on and went exploring.

I took a stroll down to 79th, then over to Lexington, then somewhat diagonally back up to my apartment. All in all an area measuring four blocks by four blocks, and I saw more pizza places, sushi restaurants, grocerys, bars and Chinese restaurants than I've ever seen in my entire life. And I only saw about a third of that area. This is going to be good.

I ended up getting a slice of pizza at the pizza place next door, called Pintaile's Pizza. Turns out not only is it a pizza restaurant, it's an organic/health pizza restaurant. So maybe there's hope for me not weighing 400 lbs when I come back to Ohio after all!

That's about it for me for tonight. Tomorrow I'm planning on doing a little more exploring, in the daytime this time. I'm sure you'll hear all about it. Til' then!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Day -1

Today was the last day in Kent. It included a final exam (Design and Analysis of Algorithms), a couple hours of packing, a trip to Taco Tontos, and some very difficult goodbyes see-you-laters.

The drive down took a little longer than usual, what with my van containing almost all of my worldly possessions, and what with being in a convoy alongside my parents.

One thing, though. I was driving, and "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd came on the radio. Now I love this song. In case you forgot how good, here's a reminder:


Take your time
Don't live too fast,
Troubles will come
and they will pass.

Something about driving around with all your worldly possessions in the back of your van, on your way to a big new job in a big new city and a big new future made this song just ring true for me. It was...outstanding.

And just to reinforce Skynyrd's awesomeness, "Freebird" came on later, but since it lasts approximately forty minutes from start to finish, I drove out of range of the radio station before it ended. Now that's how you know a song is long.

So I'm at my parents' house tonight, and I fly out tomorrow afternoon. Expect a post about that tomorrow night. For now, it's 2:00am and my nerves are keeping me awake. That, and Trading Places is on Comedy Central, uncensored. Something tells me I'll be up for a while longer.