Sunday, September 30, 2007

Warning: Controversial post ahead

(This is Mary.)

I am so sick and tired of the media falling into the Administration's trap of publicizing the next "Satan" in the Middle East, just to make their case for yet another meaningless war sound like it has meaning.

Haven't we gone through this already, to the tune of nearly 4,000 of our soldiers dead, tens of thousands more wounded, and God only knows how many Iraqis and others killed for no reason?

It's neither here nor there for me whether or not the president of Iran was allowed to speak on TV (several top newscasters interviewed him), at a university, at the U.N., wherever.

But can the media PLEASE stop assuming that everything the Administration says about him is true? For example, I saw a snippet of an interview with him on 60 Minutes, where the interviewer asked about Iranian weapons "killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq." The Iranian president said something along the lines of, "You are assuming that U.S. officials are telling you the truth."

Haven't we learned by now that they DON'T always tell us the truth?

Everything I have ever read about Iran's nuclear capabilities--from experts who actually DO know something--says that he's got NOTHING. ZIP. NADA. His "nuclear program" consists of equipment that doesn't work and won't work for decades, if ever.

It's all playing out so similarly to the Iraq lead-up. Don't think for a minute that our current president wouldn't launch an attack on Iran before leaving office. If the media has anything to say about it, he certainly will.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Busy day

Jeff and Mary were all over the place today: Ikea in Elizabeth, NJ, then back home, then into the city for a little window shopping and some dinner.

We ended up in front of The Dakota, pictured here, where John Lennon lived and, unfortunately, was shot and killed back in 1980.

The Imagine artwork is just a few steps away from The Dakota, inside Central Park's "Strawberry Fields" area.

Friday, September 28, 2007

We've been approved

The co-op board approved us for the apartment we're buying in Riverdale, The Bronx. We will likely close the deal in early to mid-October and we'll move in as soon as a contractor can redo the kitchen for us. Here's a photo, linked to a slideshow of more:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

She shook his hand!

Barack Obama made a campaign appearance in Washington Square Park this evening. And guess who was in the front row and shook his hand? Rachie!

Here's an article about the rally:

Jeff tried to hear him speak, but there were too many people crowded into the area (and Mary was working late tonight).

Rachel said she was impressed by his genuine idealism, something that Hillary seems to lack. Don't know how much luck he'll have in New York come primary day, but we'll see. It's still a long ways off ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

LA vs. NYC (vs SLO)

(This is Mary.) I spent 13 years of my life in LA, and for the most part, I enjoyed the city.

I moved away primarily because of the riots in 1992, when it suddenly became obvious to me that racism and violence were percolating under the (relatively) calm surface all the time. When it all exploded in our collective face, we shouldn't have been surprised. Los Angeles is a very segregated city, all the way down to people riding individually in their cars.

Yes, there is a hierarchy in NYC. Of course. There are mega, mega rich people, and very, very poor people.

But there is also a sense of integration here. On my commute each morning, I walk beside and sit beside people of all professions, all races, all sizes, all abilities, all education levels.

And we're all just people. We breathe, we perspire, we read books, we listen to iPods, we get impatient, we run for the subway doors as they close, we try and be polite as often as possible ... but we're all HUMAN.

On a related note: My time in San Luis Obispo was wonderful, but I think--despite some traveling during those years--that it insulated me to the point that I forgot about diversity. I think living in SLO reinforced some prejudices that, looking back, were quite terrible.

Now, it's no big deal to me what color someone's skin is. It is what it is. Certain groups have certain ways of dressing, and that's just the way it is. Knock on wood, no one has ever threatened me or scared me, and I have spent many, many hours commuting alone and walking through NYC alone. I have felt SLIGHTLY nervous just once.

I wish SLO was more diverse. I just don't know how it will ever happen.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Ahmadinejad Shuffle

One of the top news stories of the day was the president of Iran's speech at Columbia University's World Leaders Forum. I watched it on CNN like lots of other people, since my responsibilities were on the Web, but most of my colleagues were involved shepherding media and others around the event. Kind of an exciting day, even if Ahmadinejad deflected the pointed questions asked of him.

President Lee C. Bollinger did a good job setting the tone challenging Ahmadinejad (see his opening remarks I posted. There were a lot of groups - partisans, mostly - opposed to the visit A CNN poll I saw earlier in the day, however, was slightly in favor of the invitation to speak. One would think from the media coverage leading up to it that the vast majority of people were opposed free speech rights, which the event's opponents minimized with horrifying casualness, as if the First Amendment was a minor thing rather than the foundation this country was built upon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More friends in town!

Last night, we had dinner with our good friends Vince and Catherine. They are actually in town to celebrate their friend's 50th b'day, so they kindly invited us to the party tonight. We hope to have a good time and maybe make a new friend or two.

So far, it has actually been fairly easy to meet people here. While we are still building our network of friends, of course, we do feel as though we have met some folks who may become good friends, and we have begun to create a social network of sorts. We're not always stuck hanging out with each other! :-)

The big news around here right now is that the president of Iran will be in NYC on Monday and will be making a speech on the Columbia campus. Could be interesting ... or, with any luck, quite a dull event.

The weather has been very nice lately, in the mid-70s or so with little humidity. We're appreciating it while it lasts. With today being the start of Fall, the air will become crisp before long.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What do Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones all have in common?

John Williams, of course! The three of us went to a concert by the New York Philharmonic last night, conducted by the man himself: You're not going to believe this, but he has been nominated for 44--yes, 44--Oscars! Many times he has competed with himself! He's won "only" 5: for Schindler's List, Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, and Fiddler on the Roof (for an adapation he performed last night).

It was a wonderful evening--better than we expected, by far. The highlights were definitely the Harry Potter music, particularly the famous "Hedwig's Theme," as well as his tribute to his collaboration with Spielberg. It was a lot of fun to watch him conduct the orchestra as they played the Star Wars music and, of course, Jaws, E.T., and Indiana Jones.

One of the best parts of the show, however, was an appearance by Stanley Donen. To be honest, Jeff and I thought he was already deceased! But not only is he alive and well, he's funny as all get-outs. He directed many, many famous movies and described how he put together several of the most famous dance sequences ever on screen: Royal Wedding (Fred Astaire dancing on the walls and the ceiling), Anchors Aweigh (Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry the mouse), It's Always Fair Weather (Gene Kelly literally dances on roller skates - this clip is amazing), and of course, the most famous one of all from Singin' in the Rain (watch the famous clip).

The orchestra then played the music live, while the audience watched the dance scenes on a big screen. It was wonderful! And Donen's comments were absolutely delightful.

Williams did a couple of encores, including some of his score for Spielberg's first film, Sugarland Express, and he concluded by playing the entire theme song for The NBC Nightly News. You would recognize it immediately. They play it on the Today show, too. Here's a bootlegged clip of it on YouTube: (I have to say, the NY Phil sounded better than the Boston Pops, whom I love dearly. --Mary)

It's not often you can be in the presence of a genius. He has a way of capturing the essence of a story that is truly magical, to borrow a word Rachel used last night during the performance.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dinner with friends--always a treat

Our friends Len and Katrin have been in NYC all week, and we were able to meet them for dinner last night at a cute French restaurant called Gascogne, in the Chelsea section of the city. The ambience is lovely, and the terrace out back is absolutely charming.

But the best part, of course, was the conversation. Len and Katrin are New Yorkers who moved to the Central Coast about 3 years ago. Jeff met Len through the K-Man bike club there, and they spent many Saturday mornings bicycling on the roads of San Luis Obispo County.

Actually, the two of them had planned to do a ride this morning, but the weather is definitely not cooperating: rain showers and some dark clouds still on the horizon.

So while Len and Katrin did the more "normal" move from east to west, we moved from west to east. Katrin lived for many years in Riverdale, so she's quite familiar with the area we'll be moving to shortly.

We just found out that some other good friends of ours, Vince and Catherine, will be in NYC next week. October will also be a busy month for visitors: Mary's friend Linda and her daughter Kathryn (who graduated from high school with Rachel and now goes to college near Boston), plus Mary's sister Carolyn and her husband Ted.

Fun times ahead!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Why can't the weather be like this all the time? Oh, right, it is ... in SLO

It's been in the high 60s, low 70s this week--with more of the same over the next several days, with a shower here or there.

Makes us miss the beautiful weather on the Central Coast of California. But Jeff has managed to ride his bike to work almost every day this summer and will continue to do so as long as the weather holds.

As for Mary, she's content to take a few yoga classes, and she just joined the Columbia gym. Plus, if you've ever visited New York, you know that everyone walks everywhere. That's often Mary's main form of exercise!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Tried to photograph the lighted "towers," but the fog isn't allowing it. When a heavier cloud passes through the lights as they trail into the sky, there's a momentary white glow that illuminates the columns more clearly.

Here's the link to the livecam of the lights from CNN, and a photo from Canada's National Post:

When we visited NYC in 2002 after being here in August of 2001, the Empire State Building looked so gigantic--it had been dwarfed by the towers and had lost some of its majesty. Now it looks like the island's centerpiece.

Everyone has their memories of 9/11, so we won't bore you with ours. We're all thinking of what that day means: to us, to our country, to the world. Suffice it to say that we, Jeff and Mary, feel ashamed at the way our government has chosen to respond to 9/11. We hope and pray--and intend to continue to voice our opinions--that the next election will turn things around. We're trying to remain optimistic, even though it is difficult.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tomorrow's anniversary

Tomorrow is Sept. 11. Tonight, from our apartment, we saw them rehearsing the lighted "towers" down at the World Trade Center site. At least, that's how it looked from here. It's a bit foggy, but suddenly there was a bright white light down in lower Manhattan. Then a few minutes later, it was extinguished. So we guessed it was rehearsal for tomorrow.

NO one is really talking about it--at least not in our immediate circles. Mary will be out of the city most of the day tomorrow; Jeff will be working, as usual. It's supposed to rain all day--no crisp blue sky like that day in 2001.

Anyway, if we can, we'll try and take a picture of the lights tomorrow night, if indeed they are there.

And just as a quick aside, neither of us has any fear at all about living here in terms of terrorist attacks. Frankly, with its nuclear power plant, San Luis Obispo is pretty vulnerable, too. But you can't walk around feeling afraid, you know? Sure, there are lots of ways a terrorist could strike NYC again. But what's the point of dwelling on such negativity, especially when there is so much beauty to be found here?

Like the cute red-headed baby on the bus tonight on Mary's commute home, who played hide-and-seek with another passenger the whole way (what a cutie!). And the woman a couple of days ago who we saw help a blind man find his way through the subway--completely deserting her own plans. Or the gentleman who got off the bus one stop early to help an elderly lady down the stairs and across the street safely.

Those are the things that are worth dwelling on.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Celebrity sighting and food photography

Rachel saw a celebrity last week when she was having dinner at a cafe in Union Square: Ryan Gosling. She told us he gave her that knowing look, like, "Yes, I am who you think I am."

Actually, she has seen quite a few celebs since she's been in New York, including Will Smith--filming "I am Legend" in Washington Square Park--and of course, Haley Joel Osment, who is a fellow NYU student.

So far, Mary and Jeff have only seen John Lithgow (we wrote a posting about that sighting awhile ago), and Mary is 99 percent sure she saw Edward Norton one day near her old office.

Unless a celebrity is riding NJ Transit or the subway, or has decided to take a stroll, it's unlikely we'll see very many famous folks in our daily travels. :-)

After work, we met Rachel for dinner in the Village, and at the table next to us, the people were photographing their food. Then they started videotaping it. ??? Your guess is as good as ours.

Speaking of photography, Mary plans to do some things weekend, so stay tuned for photos ...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The check's in the mail ...

Or at least part of it. All the paperwork has been submitted on the co-op unit--to the lender and to the co-op board. We are waiting for just one last piece of information, but other than that, things look like a "go."

On the design side of things, we have been contemplating the challenges of our new kitchen and how it will be arranged for the best use possible. We're also looking into new furniture to really make our small space functional.

In California, these just aren't issues you normally think of. But in New York City, small spaces are so common, that nearly EVERYONE thinks about how to maximize and economize.

The reality is, you can live with a whole lot less than you're accustomed to. Less space, less stuff, less car (read: none). It's actually quite freeing to rid yourself of old things that, honestly, you don't really need. It's healthy to think about what you purchase. Mary has a deal she makes: whenever she buys a new book, she has to discard (donate) one she already owns. Same with clothing: buy something new, donate something old. Sort of like zero population growth for things instead of people!

Not trying to get preachy here. But asceticism, at least in the extremely moderate way we are practicing it, really does make you think about what you bring into your life. So does living on a budget!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Went to the co-op today

This afternoon, we were able to visit the co-op again and take some measurements and photos. The surrounding area of Fieldston/Riverdale is quite lovely--very leafy and green, as you can see in the pictures.

Can't wait to discover how to take the tiny kitchen and make it sing! We know there are newfangled appliances out there that do double duty as, for example, a convection oven and microwave. There are also small dishwashers and tall and skinny refrigerators. It'll be interesting!

Gearing up for the new school year

Rachel starts the fall semester Tuesday, beginning her sophomore year at NYU. She hasn't officially declared her major as Philosophy yet, but she thinks she may do so soon. Her classes this semester are a science class (astromony related), an ethics class related to the environment, an environmental studies course, and French.

So far, things seem to be going fairly well in her new dorm. Unfortunately, she found out through some testing that she is allergic to dust mites and mold. The good news is, it explains why she has had some of the continuing cold symptoms--especially during the winter months. Yesterday, we bought hypoallergenic covers for all of her bedding, to keep the dust mites at bay. And her dorm this year is much newer, so the mold shouldn't be as much of an issue as it was last year.

As for Jeff and Mary, we're trying to take it easy this weekend (especially Mary) but are thinking of going to the movies or a museum today, and maybe Central Park tomorrow--probably along with half of NYC!