quick tourist guide to nyc

So I feel a little ridiculous writing this … but actually not everyone has been to NYC and I have two coworkers visiting for the first time in March and thought I’d write them a quick guide.

To begin with, two important tips: Know the difference between New York City and Manhattan (Manhattan is one of the five boroughs that make up the City of New York, the others being Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island), and understand the grid system; it’ll make navigating the city much easier.

The grid means that streets run horizontally on a map (east-west) and avenues run vertically (north-south). All streets on the grid are either east or west, with the counting beginning at Fifth Avenue. So an address that’s 500 West 34th Street is going to be all the way over on the west side, probably past 10th Avenue; while 500 East 34th Street will likely be close to First Avenue. Also, there’s hardly any Fourth Avenue; instead between Second and Third Avenues there’s Madison, Park and Lexington Avenues. Lastly Broadway runs diagonally across Manhattan, kinda from its northwest to southeast.

Honestly, if you take a little time to understand the grid it’ll make navigation much easier. Manhattan is a big walking city and it becomes easy to gauge distances – it takes about a minute to walk from street to street (walking along an avenue) and three to four minutes to walk from avenue to avenue (walking along a street). (E.g., walking from West 23rd to West 42nd Street takes roughly 20 minutes).

What to see:

times squareOkay, yeah, you kinda have to see Times Square and Rockefeller Center (both in the same general area). After that if you want to get a bite or a drink, I’d bypass Eighth Avenue and walk all the way to Ninth; it’s a little less touristy and more for people who live in the area. Lots of great bars and Thai restaurants line Ninth Avenue from 42nd Street to 50th Street.

Union Square isn’t as famous as some parts of NYC but it is lovely. There are often street performers and sometimes protests in the square, and the stores, bars and restaurants surrounding it are nice too. Soho is also a great place to explore.

It is definitely worth it to see the High Line, the elevated track that runs from 30th Street to Gansevoort Street around 10th Avenue.

view from cable on the williamsburg bridgeWalking over the Brooklyn Bridge is a cliche, but still cool – however the less famous Williamsburg Bridge boasts even better views of the city, particularly at night. It’s also much less crowded. Williamsburg is kinda incredible and definitely worth checking out, particularly the nexus around Bedford and North 7th Street (the Bedford L train stop). I won’t use the word “hipsters” – I really thought it was full of amazing and interesting people doing amazing and interesting things.

brooklyn bridgeIf you do walk (or bike) over the Brooklyn Bridge, you may find there’s not a lot to do in the immediate vicinity on the Brooklyn side. One thing is to check out Jacques Torres Chocolate factory at 66 Water Street.

A membership to Citibike, NYC’s fairly new bike-sharing program, is totally worth it IMHO if you’re going to be in the city for a week or more. Bike riding is fun!

Don’t be scared of taking the subway.

NYC is definitely a big drinking town. If you want to go out at night, the West Village, the Lower East Side, Williamsburg and the East Village are all good spots. Rooftop bars can be lots of fun if the weather is right. (And if you don’t mind tourists… although, oops, I guess you are one).

empire state buildingGoing to the top of the Empire State Building can involve waiting in long lines, but the lines move quick and it’s worth it. The observatory is open until 2am and I’ve heard of people who have gone quite late and had no wait at all. Also, Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) is a valid alternative.

Another cliche is New Yorkers sending their visitors off on the Staten Island ferry as a way to occupy them for a bit. But hey, it’s free and you do get good views. I sorta recommend just turning around and coming straight back though. (Sorry, Staten Island…). It’s a 22-minute trip each way.

Yes to museums including The Met and the Guggenheim (if you like museums). The Met has a “suggested donation” admission of $20 and the American Museum of Natural History has a suggested donation of $16. But those are just suggestion! If you want you can just give $1! And the MOMA — the Museum of Modern Art — is free on Fridays from 4pm to 8pm. The Guggenheim museum is Pay What You Wish on Saturdays from 5:45pm to 7:45pm.

Yes, the 9/11 memorial is worth seeing; Wall Street is also in that vicinity, as is the South Street Seaport. The other side of Manhattan (the western side) by the North Cove is good as well. Here’s information on a pay-what-you-like walking tour of Lower Manhattan.

central park lake viewOne of my favorite views in the city is from running in Central Park, going south on West Drive around West 76th Street. You get a view of the skyscrapers rising up over the green of the park and a lake; I find the contrast quite beautiful.

strawberry fieldsStrawberry Fields, the area in Central Park named in tribute to John Lennon, is not far from there and features an “Imagine” circle that people will have usually left flowers at.

If you’re there in summer having a drink on the Frying Pan boat can be quite fun.

Do try to see a Broadway musical in the city … it’s not cheap, but think of it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Very much worth it. If you don’t care what you see, line up at the TKTS booth in either Times Square, Brooklyn or the South Street Seaport on the day of the show you want to see and you can get half-price tickets for shows that haven’t sold out.

And then of course there’s also the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Nets, Jets and Giants. Seatgeek, an aggregator site, is a good source for tickets. (It searches sites like eBay and Stubhub… also could be worthwhile for searching theatre tickets).

If you’re into yoga, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite studio, Kula Yoga Project. There’s also some great Crossfit gyms including Crossfit 212 in Tribeca and Brick in Chelsea.

william wallAnother hidden gem even many New Yorkers don’t know about: the William Wall, the floating clubhouse of the Manhattan Sailing Club. If you’re visiting on a summer afternoon or evening, you can take a launch out to this bar floating in the middle of the Hudson. However it might be good to call ahead as sometimes the club closes randomly for private parties without mentioning it on their website. Still, heaps of fun.

Going to a Sunday church service in Harlem is something that European visitors to NYC sometimes do and I don’t blame them – hearing a gospel service is a pretty unique experience. (I’ve never gone as a tourist, but did once cover politician Mark Green’s trip to Abyssinian Baptist Church as a reporter). Abyssian is the most famous Baptist church in Harlem but gets crowded with tourists – I’d try others, like Mother AME Zion, New Mt. Zion Church or Bethel Gospel Assembly. Here’s a good list of some. (Obviously, you wanna dress and act respectfully).

Walking along Canal Street (the heart of Chinatown) can be an interesting experience and there’s lots of good shopping to be had there. Chinatown has been encroaching on Little Italy for years now, FYI. Other famous shopping spots include Century 21 for clothes (but know your sizes as you can’t try stuff on) and J&R for electronics. They are pretty reputable and I know J&R has a good return policy. The Uniqlo store, Forever 21, Macy’s and H&M are of course all very popular as well.

Some expensive shopping spots include Bergdorf Goodman, at 754 5th Avenue and 58th Street; Saks Fifth Avenue, at 611 Fifth Avenue (between 49th and 50th Streets); Tiffany & Co. (Fifth Avenue at 57th Street); and FAO Schwartz (Fifth Ave and 58th Street). These are not in everyone’s budget — but it’s free to look!

This wouldn’t be at the top of my list, but if you have time, taking the subway to someplace in Queens like Astoria or Flushing would be an experience. NYC is home to people from around the world and Queens is often where they live. It’s one of the most diverse places in the planet I think. Astoria boasts some good restaurants… I lived there in 2001.

my public key

So I haven’t been all that shocked by all these NSA “spying” revelations of recent days… probably because I assumed they were always doing stuff like that. But it has served to reawaken my interest in encryption a little bit. So, for anyone who wants it, here is my PGP public key…

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—–END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK—–

men aren’t actually failing….

Hanna Rosin’s new book is out today, and I suppose I should read it to fact-check it, because it seems like no one else will. In the Times today, David Brooks gives a preview of what’s to come, asking “Why Men Fail.”

You’re probably aware of the basic trends. The financial rewards to education have increased over the past few decades, but men failed to get the memo.

… Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent.

Actually in 1954, the 92.8 percent — not 96 percent — of men aged 25 to 54 had a job, according to BLS statistics. In August that percentage was at 82.2 percent. A lot of that has to do with, y’know, the recession. As recently as 2007, 87.5 percent of men had jobs. Others were in school, being a housedad or, yes, collecting disability. More on that in a sec.

Meanwhile, the percentage of women aged 25-54 working (outside the home) has also been dropping — from a high of 74.9 percent in fourth quarter 1999, to 69.1 percent in the first half of this year.

In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low.

True, but as the Atlantic explained, this has more to do with an aging population than anything else.

Millions of men are collecting disability.

True, but so are millions of women — about 300,000 more women than men, in fact. According to the Social Security Administration, 3.28 million males and 3.58 million females were receiving SSI disability payments in December 2011. (pdf, page 22).

Even many of those who do have a job are doing poorly. According to Michael Greenstone of the Hamilton Project, annual earnings for median prime-age males have dropped by 28 percent over the past 40 years.

Brooks misrepresents Greenstone’s work here. Greenstone does indeed conclude that when you adjust for inflation, average earnings for median prime-age [25-64] males did drop 28 percent from 1969 to 2009 — but that’s because fewer men are working, and so aren’t earning any wage. When you look at men working full-time, the mean earnings of men aged 25-64 has risen 13 percent (but the median has dropped 1 percent, a sign of growing inequality. (pdf, page 13).

Men still dominate the tippy-top of the corporate ladder because many women take time off to raise children, but women lead or are gaining nearly everywhere else. Women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s. Twelve out of the 15 fastest-growing professions are dominated by women.

No and no. Brooks doesn’t give a source for his claim that women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s, but I’m willing to bet it came from a 2010 data analysis by Research Advisors…. but that little factoid came with a number of caveats, that Brooks doesn’t mention. It only looked at childless, never-married men and women who live in cities. Married men significantly outearn never-married men — no one really knows why, although theories abound — so by excluding them from the sample, you’re excluding some of the top earners.

I just took a look at the 2008-2010 American Community Survey. The average income for full-time male workers in their 20s was $30,849 … for women, $27,877.

Also, it’s not true that 12 of the 15 fastest-growing professions are “dominated” by women (and most of those jobs are not exactly highly desireable, like food service workers). Also, the 15 professions expected to grow the most are expected to generate just 6.3 million of the 20.5 million new jobs expected by 2020.

Brooks goes on to talk about how women are perhaps more “adaptable” than men — but men can be adaptable as well.

jan. 14, 1945 air battle over Derben, Germany

I thought I would write this post in the hopes someone doing a little googling might find it. I am researching an air battle over Derben, Germany on Jan. 14, 1945 in which my grandfather, Mario “Marty” Rose, was shot down in a B-17. He was a member of the 568th Bomb Squadron, 390th Bomb Group, of the Eighth Air Force. (But I’m interested in everything that happened that day in the Derben bombing mission). Leave a comment or email me at derek72 at gmail.

some thoughts on the future of digital journalism

I was recently asked by the publisher of a mid-sized newspaper that I used to work for to critique the paper’s website. I went further than that and offered my thoughts on the future of newspaper websites in the Internet age. I’ve made a couple edits and took out the name of the paper, not because there’s anything private or confidential in this, but I just don’t want to distract from my argument.

Regarding the website. The New York Times’ David Carr had a good line about the Huffington Post the other day:

I’ve written before that The Huffington Post may be one of the fastest build-outs of an editorial brand in history, all the while complaining that it derived a lot of value from digitally kidnapping the work of others.
But I’ve come to understand that it doesn’t matter what I think is right and wrong, or what I think constitutes appropriate aggregation or great journalism. The market is as the market does.

I think Carr is right, unfortunately. A few years ago I was disappointed in this trend of how some reporters would take other outlets’ content and repackage it without doing very much (or any) original reporting of their own. Everything would be appropriately attributed, but it still seemed … icky. When I covered national news for the New York Daily News, I would always try to do my own reporting, even if I was just duplicating the work of other news outlets.

But more and more Internet sites are adopting this new formula, including the Daily News. Also look at the Daily Mail, Digital Journal, JimRomenesko.com, the International Business Times, the Gawker media family of sites, the Drudge Report, the Gothamist family of blogs, numerous tech blogs, the Poynter Institute’s Mediawire, the Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet, Forbes.com, GlobalPost.com, BusinessInsider.com and so on. Like it or not, aggregation seems to be one of the few formulas that work on the Internet. (Sometimes, very well — Romenesko was I think earning a six-figure salary when he was at Poynter).

I don’t know if you followed the minor flap over how Forbes.com “stole” a 6,700-word New York Times magazine story on Target’s consumer research practices. Forbes.com condensed the story, focusing on its most sensational element: How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did. It probably took the writer an afternoon – while the original story, which had a lackluster headline, was the result of months of work. The repackaged article drew around a million page views, earning Forbes an estimated $15,000 in advertising revenue.

Under current U.S. intellectual property laws, this type of appropriation seems to be legal, because news and facts can’t be copyrighted. I don’t see this changing, for better or for worse.

Outside of journalism, you also see aggregation sites succeeding in other fields: I search for airfares using Kayak.com and Hipmunk.com, scan for jobs using job-aggregation website Indeed.com, buy baseball tickets using ticket aggregator fansnap.com and check movie reviews on Rottentomatoes.com and metacritic.com.

Basically this is just a long-winded way of saying that like it or not, I think aggregation is the wave of the future. As Carr says, it doesn’t matter if we think it’s right or wrong, great journalism or not. It’s a proven business model, and the market is as the market does. It’s like outsourcing and the loss of American manufacturing jobs to China: A trend that’s going to inexorably continue.

So my advice is, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. [Your newspaper] should get in front of the aggregation and outsourcing trends by hiring a bunch of Chinese teenagers at 5 cents a story to repackage the work of [several competitors].

Just kidding. Kind of.

Anyway, that is my two cents about where I see digital journalism headed. I wish I could make a different prediction and say I think the Internet will eventually support and pay for expensive, high-quality journalism. But I don’t think it will, so I’d encourage you to do more with aggregation and repackaging. I think there’s ways to do so ethically and with proper attribution, like the Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet does. A local version, maybe?

A couple more thoughts: Five or 10 years ago, many people, including myself, thought that maybe online advertising would be eventually be the savior of newspapers; that all they had to do was ride out the conversion to online and eventually ad revenues would be there to support them. But it’s not working out that way. Newspapers’ online advertising sales have stalled amid broader weakness in the online display advertising industry. Last week Microsoft announced its first-ever loss as a public company after a $6.2 billion write-down of advertising firm aQuantive, which it had bought for $6.3 billion in 2007. Reuters reports:

The average cost to reach 1,000 people with an online display ad fell to about $11.50 at the end of 2011 from $13.35 in late 2009, according to SQAD Inc, which tracks negotiated ad deals. In July 1998, Yahoo was getting about $25 per thousand, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Basically there’s been an explosion of advertising space from ad exchanges and from Facebook, which made $3.2 billion selling ads last year. This is pushing the cost of ads down, putting more pressure on newspapers.

The publisher I wrote to has implemented a “soft” paywall (you get a couple of articles for free, then have to start paying), which may help bring in subscriptions, but I think it’s too soon to say whether that’ll bring in enough to revenue support a full-fledged local newspaper. Meanwhile we can certainly predict where the advertising revenue that has been newspaper’s mainstay will be going: Down.

A death in the desert as world peace experiment stumbles

Ian Thorson and Lama Christie McNallyIt was to be a mind-altering experience: Three years, three months and three days spent in silence in a remote desert valley, meditating on the great mysteries of life and praying for an end to war and suffering.

The 39 Buddhists had came to southeastern Arizona from around the country, putting their lives on hold and paying as much as $75,000 to live amid in isolation rock and cactus in tiny cabins.

But now the experiment for world peace has gone wrong. One of the participants is dead after being kicked out of “great retreat” amid accusations he and his wife had engaged in bizarre, spiritually inspired domestic violence.
Continue reading A death in the desert as world peace experiment stumbles

The democratization of facts

Chicago Tribune workplace columnist Rex Huppke wrote an obituary for “facts” the other day that is getting a lot of attention. I thought it might be interesting to examine some of the facts he cites.

Though few expected Facts to pull out of its years-long downward spiral, the official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists.

Facts held on for several days after that assault — brought on without a scrap of evidence or reason — before expiring peacefully at its home in a high school physics book. Facts was 2,372.

Well. According to Politico, Allen was asked, “What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists,” and replied, “That’s a fair question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.”

That’s where the video ends — but according to West’s spokesman, he went on to say, “It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

According to Talking Points Memo, West on Tuesday clarified what he meant:

“There’s a very thin line between communism, progressivism, Marxism, socialism — or even, as Mark Levin has said, statism. It’s about nationalizing production, it’s about creating and expanding the welfare state. It’s about this idea of social and economic justice. And you hear that being played out — you know, now with fairness, fair share, economic equality, shared sacrifice, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.”

So is this a fact — or is it an opinion, like talking about a “war on women” or calling right-wingers “facists”? A bit of hyperbole to get the blood pumping, but not a statement to be taken literally.

At the very least, Huppke is wrong that West’s statement was offered “without a scrap of evidence or reason.”

Huppke continues,

Though weakened, Facts managed to persevere through the last two decades, despite historic setbacks that included President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, the justification for President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and the debate over President Barack Obama’s American citizenship.

Now… I’m not really sure what the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal has to do with facts. What is Huppke talking about here? It reads like nonsense to me. Regarding Iraq, a “justification” is of course not a factual statement — it’s an opinion. But let’s concede the larger point here, that there were factual claims made by the Bush administration about Iraq’s WMD program that turned out not to be true. This is of course not new — presidents have been making false claims for decades. I’ll grant Hupke’s point about Obama’s citizenship unreservedly, though.

Moving on…

Facts was wounded repeatedly throughout the recent GOP primary campaign, near fatally when Michele Bachmann claimed a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease causes mental retardation.

Here’s what Bachmann said last year:

“There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate. She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences.”

Bachmann later told the AP:

“All I was doing is relaying what a woman had said. I relayed what she said. I wasn’t attesting to her accuracy. I wasn’t attesting to anything.”

Bachmann also told Sean Hannity she didn’t know if the drug could cause those side effects. “I have no idea,” she said. “I am not a doctor. I am not a scientist. I am not a physician. All I was doing was reporting what a woman told me last night at the debate.”

I don’t this is hair-splitting — words mean things. Bachmann clearly didn’t “claim” that “a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease causes mental retardation,” any more than I would be claiming that facts are dead if I say “Rex Huppke says facts are dead.”

Bachmann did give credence to the idea that the HPV vaccine could cause mental retardation, in a way that I think was irresponsible for a public figure. But I think someone writing an obituary about the death of facts should, y’know, be sure to get their facts really really straight.

More Huppke:

In December, Facts was briefly hospitalized after MSNBC’s erroneous report that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign was using an expression once used by the Ku Klux Klan.

Well…. apparently the KKK did indeed use the organizing slogan “Keep America American.” Romney has said, on a couple of occasions, “Keep America America,” once adding “by retaining its character as the land of opportunity” and another time “with the principals that made us the greatest nation on Earth.” I think MSNBC was right to apologize — Erik Wemple reports they did so because managers thought the network should have done some reporting before simply repeating a blog item on the air. Amen to that. As factual errors go, this isn’t exactly a whopper — the bigger problem is that it’s simply unfair — but Huppke is correct that the report is erroneous. Still, not the exactly the strongest example.

So of the six cited by Hupke, IMHO half are true, one is wrong, one is really an opinion and one is too muddled to judge. That’s not a great track record.

Toward the bottom of his piece, Hupke quotes New York University English professor Mary Poovey as saying, “American society has lost confidence that there’s a single alternative. Anybody can express an opinion on a blog or any other outlet and there’s no system of verification or double-checking, you just say whatever you want to and it gets magnified. It’s just kind of a bizarre world in which one person’s opinion counts as much as anybody else’s.”

Actually — what’s happened is, facts have been democratized. Americans are suspicious of authorities, and with good reason. People are not going to just trust that a drug is safe just because the Food and Drug Administration says so, or believe pronouncements from the New York Times just because it’s the Times. “And that’s the way it is” — that’s how Walter Cronkite signed off his show for two decades. Can anyone imagine that today?

A few summers ago I worked as an obituary writer and a big part of my job was combing through old news clips via Nexis — it was surprising to see just how much reporters even a few decades ago would use opaque statements like “it is believed that,” without explanation, casting themselves as all-knowing authorities. Nowadays, at the last media organization I worked for, reporters couldn’t even say “so-and-so could not be reached for comment” without explaining exactly what steps the reporter took to reach them. It’s all about transparency, even at the expense of narrative writing.

Ultimately we’ve jettisoned the idea that there’s any one institution so trustworthy that we should accept their assertions without scrutiny. What constitute the facts are up for debate, and one person’s opinion can ultimately be just as good as anyone else’s — if they can back up their assertions.

Facts aren’t dead — they’ve just been liberated from their long imprisonment by the authorities … and it’s the big institutions that are on their last legs.

can you get a stroke from doing yoga?

Does yoga cause strokes? New York Times science reporter William J. Broad has certainly been making the case that it does. In his new book “The Science of Yoga,” Broad makes the case that yoga is associated with rare type of strokes caused by either cartoid or vertebral artery dissection — tears in one of the three major neck artery that supplies blood to the brain. Serious stuff!

And yes, there is at least one documented case in the medical literature of vertebral artery dissection being linked to yoga — from 1977. Broad discusses this case at length in his book and article. It involves a 25-year-old who liked to be in shoulder stand for five minutes daily, with his neck “maximally flexed against the bare floor.”
Continue reading can you get a stroke from doing yoga?

male-female ratio and dating

Here are a couple charts examining why it can be misleading to look at male-female ratios and conclude that someplace — like New York — is good or bad for dating.

Basically, in the United States for the past 60 years, for every 1,000 girls born there’s been between 1,046 to 1,059 boys born. In just about every country around the world, more boys are born than girls. Overall around the world there’s 106.8 boys aged 0-4 for every 100 girls, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates. But the United States as a whole was just 49.1 percent male — or at least was at the time of the 2010 Census, which pegged the population 309,349,689 — 152.1 million males and 157.2 million females. Women and girls, it seems, are less “fragile” than men and boys. Women are less likely to die in accidents and less likely to drop dead of heart attacks.

Here’s what happens as a result:

Here’s another way of looking at the data:

Basically males outnumber females in the United States until age 30… from then on, women outnumber men.

This is the same exact chart except as a percentage, rather than a ratio:

Basically, when people (here’s looking at you, ladies) complain about the gender ratio of a given area when it comes to dating, see if you can get a breakdown by age. You may be surprised!

Population numbers can be tricky!

UPDATE 11/26/2012: Here’s another way to think about this: According to the American Community Survey, there were 66,225,945 males aged 0-30 in 2008-2010 … and 63,615,468 females. But looking at people over 30, there were 84,069,986 males, and 91,194,878 females. So there was 2,610,477 “excess” males 30 and under, and 7,124,892 “excess” females aged over 30. In percentage terms, the 30-and-under population was 51.01% male during those years, while the 31-and-over population was just 47.97% male. (Not that there are huge differences in the male and female populations among people in their 30s, but it’s at age 30 that the crossover occurs).

anterior ankle impingement surgery

ankle surgery 1I swear I’m not a hypochondriac, nor addicted to surgery. But three months after having surgery to remove a bone spur called a “metacarpal boss” on my right hand, I followed it up with having surgery to remove bone spurs called anterior ankle impingement syndrome on my right ankle. Weird, huh?

As I did with my hand surgery, I thought I’d describe a little about my ankle surgery, for the curious and so people who find this post via Google can have some idea of what to expect.
Continue reading anterior ankle impingement surgery

how dangerous is this whole ‘yoga’ thing, anyway??

yoga wreckage It’s enough to disquiet even advanced practioner’s savasana — the idea that yoga can “wreck your body.” The yoga world has been thrown into a tizzy by a Jan. 5 article by New York Times lead science writer William J. Broad, suggesting that the “‘the vast majority of people’ should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.”

One element of the story was particularly interesting to me — the idea of tracking emergency-room admissions related to yoga. It turns out the data is all online! And I’ve been able to analyze it to come up with an idea of just how dangerous yoga really is.
Continue reading how dangerous is this whole ‘yoga’ thing, anyway??

guys (still) kick ass – part 1

It’s hard to imagine a more talked-about magazine article in recent years than Hannah Rosin’s 2010 essay in The Atlantic prophesying ““The End of Men.” Guys, she argued, are just not cut out for the New Economy and are being surpassed by women. The proposition has inspired a lot of debate, a forthcoming book by Rosin and even 20 pitches for sitcoms — on CBS alone! (ABC must have received quite a few too).

There’s just one problem. Until now, no one has bothered to look at the labor-market statistics that Rosin has used to make her case.

I did — and found many of her claims were misleading or even untrue.

Women aren’t a majority of the workforce, nor are they most of the nation’s managers; 1 in 5 men are not “out of work”; and women don’t dominate 13 of the 15 job categories expected to grow the most in the next decade.

These aren’t small errors — taken together they form the crux of Rosin’s argument. Hannah Rosin and The Atlantic owe American men everywhere an apology.

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fantasy football question / probability theory

I have a math/probability question that I can’t figure out, and I need your help. Not only can I not figure it out, I can’t even think sensibly about it.

I am in a fantasy football league where the top four teams make the playoffs, based on head-to-head matchups over the first 15 weeks of the regular season.

Before the last week of the our regular season, the top three spots were already locked up. Tall Ball was in first; Max Fish — my team — was in second; and Jer was in third, with Team Napoli and theduck on the cusp, fighting it out for fourth place. Jer threw his matchup with Team Napoli, which was a weaker team than theduck, saying he wanted to ensure he had the best chance of winning.

So the season ended like this:

1. Tall Ball 10-5-0 total points scored 1698.88
2. max fish 10-5-0, 1573.82
3. Jer 9-6-0, 1621.94
4. Team Napoli’s, 9-6-0, 1391.66
5. theduck, 8-7-0, 1570.36

So even though theduck was the stronger team, he missed out on the playoffs based on bad luck during his head-to-head matchups. So … wise move by Jer?

But Jer won’t be playing Team Napoli in the first round of the playoffs this week; Jer will play me (Max Fish) and Tall Ball will play Team Napoli. The championship will be played next week, with the winner of these two matchups squaring off.

Now, my question is: Did Jer’s strategy make sense, strategically thinking? Tall Ball is the best team in the league, and one could argue that Jer’s best chance would be hoping that another team got lucky and beat Tall Ball in the playoffs so he didn’t have to face him. Theduck had a better chance of beating Tall Ball, so did Jer shoot himself in the foot?

But of course even Team Napoli does have a shot of beating Tall Ball, and that would absolutely be the easiest matchup in the championship round.

This is essentially a math problem. Something about probabilities and statistics and all that. But I can’t make heads or tails of it. Arrgh. Can anyone help??

Beware of Energy Plus

Why does New York make this whole “electricity choice” thing so complicated? I was with Con Ed Solutions but got an email from my US Airways saying I could get a bunch of miles if I switched to Energy Plus. There’s no real way to comparison shop, but I figured I’d try them and see. It was going to be just one month of electric service; how expensive could it be? Of course as it happened my first bill was an estimated reading and they estimated it low. My second bill was for… $255!! Yowza. Looking at the bill they charged 22.8750¢ per kWh for November. Ouch!!! The “supply charge” was $155. Looking at my old bills, Con Ed Solutions charged between 9¢ and 10.5¢ per kWh, even in the summer months. Green Mountain Energy charges 12¢ plus about $5 a month for pollution-free energy. I sorta think I may have been better off not enrolling in a ESCO. (Electricity supply company…)

carpal boss surgery

Carpal bossSo I thought I would resurrect this long-dormant blog to describe my recent experience recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in my right hand called a metacarpal boss … a bony protrusion often confused with a ganglion cyst. See picture of my hand at left or the X-rays below:

Hand x-rays

Anyway, so I had the surgery a week and a half ago, Oct. 10, 2011, at the Hand Surgery Center in Manhattan with Dr. Steven Beldner. (I thought Dr. Beldner was a good surgeon who took time to answer my questions.) I couldn’t find much information online about people’s post-surgical experiences so I thought I’d blog about it afterward.
Continue reading carpal boss surgery

Jonathan H. Cole

Website for one of my best friends, Jonathan H. Cole.

the unfair fairness doctrine

I am one of these people who will do a lot of research to win an argument. Like sometimes a lot of research. Actually of course with Google, Google Books and Google News’ archive search, research can pretty easy. It’s surprising how many people won’t do any research and will just rely on ideology to support their opinion. Anyway so recently I got into a Facebook debate about the Fairness Doctrine, the now-defunct rule that broadcasters “had an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance.” I argued this was a violation of the First Amendment and opened the door for government manipulation and intimidation of the press. Others challenged my “slippery slope” argument and said that didn’t happen during the 38 years the doctrine was in place. So I decided to do a little research … and was actually shocked at how bad the Fairness Doctrine was, in practice.
Continue reading the unfair fairness doctrine

wikinvest whoops

Here’s a sobering computer security story. So I signed up up for wikinvest.org about two days ago, but didn’t immediately receive a confirmation email. Then this afternoon I did… along with a second message saying my brokerage account had been added. That’s odd, I though; I didn’t link my brokerage account. I opened the email, which said in part:

You’ve successfully added the following accounts to your Wikinvest portfolio :
Account: Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Acct ***688A
Account: Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Acct ***687A
Account: Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Acct ***673A

What? I don’t even have brokerage accounts with Morgan Stanley. But when I logged in, the accounts were there:

wikinvest

Pretty wacky, right? Whoever’s account this is has $582,822 in the market, mostly in ETFs. (They’re down $8,000 on the day, at least as of this writing). And no, I can’t access this account or withdraw from it or anything like that, even if I wanted to. Or see who really owns it. But still seems like a pretty stunning bug by Wikinvest… [or maybe not; see below]

UPDATE 1/20/2011: Okay, I just chatted with one of the head honchos at Wikinvest. What actually apparently happened is a bit of a bizarre coincidence. Someone with a very similar email address to mine I guess signed up for the service around the same time I tried to, apparently giving them my email address rather than his. That explains why I didn’t get a confirmation email until a few days later… when he tried to get in and reset his account. Whooops. I know it sounds far-fetched but I believe it — the account username I received was a letter off the one I usually use. I had thought it was a typo on my part, but apparently not.

Twitter Updates for 2010-08-23

  • Drenched, sore and happy. 17+ miles on the books around croton-on-Harmon reservoir with @nyflyers. #running #

Twitter Updates for 2010-08-08