New York, New York (Pictures Day 04)

I’ve explained how New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August, I visited there for the first time. After my first NYC taxi cab ride, we hit Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag. After a good night’s sleep, we started our first full day in the city with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Next on the agenda was the full cruise (two and a half hours plus) around Manhattan. It’s an excellent way to get the big picture in one swell foop.


Pulling away from the dock you get a great view of the Intrepid at the next dock. (Enterprise is safely tucked away in that white building that’s on the far left side of the flight deck.)


If you didn’t realize that New York City was and still is a major United States seaport, this trip will quickly correct that. As we headed south on the Hudson River it was wall-to-wall docks.


On the other hand, docks servicing shipping container ships and oil tankers and so on tend to be smelly and dirty and no one wants that just across the street from the skyscrapers of Manhattan. The tankers and freighters load and unload elsewhere these days, which leaves the docks open for use by the mega-rich for their yachts. The piers become prime real estate to be used in some creative ways – this one is enclosed in gigantic nets and is a golf driving range.

Oh, and of course, we found the Empire State Building there in mid-town. More of that when we get there. (Be patient, it’s going to take a couple of months. I took a LOT of pictures and we had many exciting adventures.)


About fifteen minutes into the cruise we start to approach Lower Manhattan. The One World Trade Center Tower dominates the skyline. As for the weather, it stayed squally and damp, but not raining hard after we left Intrepid. Just enough to have me making sure that I kept all of the cameras in ziplock freezer bags to stay dry when I wasn’t using them.


The design is spectacular with the opposing triangular faces all the way around. It’s 1,776 feet tall at the top of the spire. (They don’t do “subtle” real well in New York.)


Passing by the southern tip of Manhattan, the cruise heads out into the Upper Bay.


Looking to the south, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge appeared out of the haze. I also found there to be a lot more ship traffic out in the bay than I had expected. I’m not sure why – perhaps it’s that here off the coast of Southern California you get the occasional mega-huge cruise ship but not much more. There are often dozens of freighters at anchor waiting their turn to unload, but they move in and out in a stately way, lumbering into port from Santa Monica Bay.

New York Harbor was bustling! There were some big ships moving around out there, many pushing barges.


Of course, there was a steady stream of these out there, shuttling folks to and from a couple of famous islands out in the harbor. We got a decent view as we trundled past, but I’ll save the pictures for when we get to our trip out there on the following day.

Suffice it to say that it’s not just any old monument. I was surprised at how much I was affected by seeing her in person.


We paused for some nice distant views of Manhattan, then turned back to go up the far side, over on the right. The bit of land over on the far right is Brooklyn, and just above the barge you can see a bridge that some guy kept trying to sell me. (I didn’t buy it. He wanted a cash only deal.)

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No Context For You – September 23rd


“Blue, I’m so blue…”

Actually I’m just really stinkin’ tired.

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Third Gear Is Not Your Friend

My little Hissy is not quite a “gutless wonder,” but you can see it from there. To say the least, going from my Fit to The Long-Suffering Wife’s Volvo convertible sports car one will notice a world of difference.

But for a teeny tiny four-cylinder engine, she’s got a fair amount of get up and go. It helps that the red line is waaaaaaaay up there at 7,000 RPM, and while most people freak out and want to shift at about 3,000 K RPM, under the right circumstances I’m not afraid to wind her up to about 5,500 RPM.

Stop and go traffic between street lights does not qualify as “under the right circumstances.” On the other hand, there’s no reason to sit there and pick lint out of your belly button once the light turns green, so I generally step out quite smartly when given the signal to do so.

Yesterday night was quite pleasant as I headed home from work, so I had the windows all down and the moonroof open and the tunes playing. Nothing too loud or obnoxious, but I wasn’t trying to be stealthy.

As I pulled up to a light on Ventura Boulevard, in the lane to my left I saw a newer Mustang convertible. Nice looking car, top down, also with some tunes playing. “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits. The unedited version. A quick glance showed the driver to be a younger guy, shaved head, three-day beard, probably a guy that spent his fair share of time in the gym.

The light turns green and I pull away – he pulls away a lot faster. He’s driving a stick (if I had one thing I would change about Hissy, I wish I had gotten a 5-speed manual instead of the automatic, but that’s another story) and doing some quick downshifting as he speeds up. But he’s not tearing away at 70 in a 35 MPH zone – he’s just accelerating quickly and then cruising.

Which he sort of has to because we’re hitting every single stinkin’ light on Ventura, all the way from DeSoto (where my office is) down to Fallbrook. Every. Single. Light.

So that’s about a dozen times we get to play this game. Green light, he roars off, loudly up into second, roaring up into third, followed by me in my Fit just humming along and catching up about a hundred yards down the road.

As we’re doing this repeatedly, I realize that each time I’m pulling away from the next green light just a fraction of a second faster than the last time. Not deliberately and it’s not a huge difference, but I’m definitely losing less ground to him on every green light.

We both turn north on Fallbrook and again hit every single light. When we get to Victory, for the first time he’s gunning the engine as we’re waiting. The light turns, there’s no one anywhere near us, the road is straight, flat, and empty. He’s off! I’m trundling along behind.

Lots of RPMs, lots of torque! Second gear! He’s pushing red line again. Third gear!

Well, at least the plan was for third gear.

From a couple hundred yards back I see him start to slow and with the car all opened up I can hear the grinding of gears. I don’t know what it was he thought he was putting it into, but it wasn’t third gear.

The Mustang starts to jerk and there’s more grinding. I would have thought that a newer car like that would have a better synchronized transmission, but now that it’s started to act up, this guy apparently is not old enough to have learned how to double clutch in and out of neutral to get synched back up. As I saunter by he’s finally found a gear, accompanied by yet more grinding and jerking.

Unfortunately for him it’s probably first gear, since he’s now engine breaking like mad. Good thing he had his seat belt on. It’s also a good thing that the light ahead has turned red.

He gets his car over into the left turn lane to go into the shopping center. I’m over two lanes now and trying really hard not to start laughing. He seemed like a nice enough guy, he’s got a cool car, he’s got a nice tune on… But none of that means that he wouldn’t come over and kick my ass just on general principles if I’m laughing at his misfortune. Driving a stick in a cool, drop-top Mustang is obviously a macho stud-muffinly thing for him, he’s just blown it big time, and I’m not going there.

But Hissy is laughing. She doesn’t care.

Keep practicing, Money-For-Nothing Dude! You’ll figure it out. But might I suggest a more remote location for practice next time?

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Unintended Consequences

While the Blue Apron meals that I ranted and raved about last night might be delicious, it’s not just our empty nester eating patterns that have been disrupted.

You may recall that I take a certain “(wanna be) Tetris Grand Master” pride in my ability to load the dishwasher to within an inch of its life. But now…


My dishwasher zen is totally out of whack! Look at that, it’s disgusting!


While the bottom rack is jammed to the brim and requiring the dishwasher to be run ASAP, the top rack is only maybe half full!

Oh, the embarrassment!

The proportion of large items (plates, pans, cutting boards, and so on) to smaller items (bowls, storage containers, glasses) has been shifted in a way unseen since the Great Collapsing Kitchen Shelf Debacle of 2006! And we all remember what a nightmare that was!

I think it’s the almost total lack of any storage containers that are doing it. With two meals from Blue Apron and the portion sizing being just a hair on the smaller (and probably healthier and better) side, there aren’t any leftovers. Period.

Madness, I tell you! Madness!!

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Blue Apron

There’s a new service called Blue Apron which will deliver all of the ingredients and cooking instructions for three very fancy meals for two. We’ve been giving it a try.


This is the “Basque-Style Cod with Sweet Pepper-Tomato Sauce and Freekeh.” It was delicious.


This was the Pork Chops & Spicy Chow Chow with Sweet Potato Salad. The spiciest one we’ve tried so far.

Of the eleven meals we’ve tried so far, only one has been sort of a dud. The rest have done a fantastic job of making sure that dinner three times a week won’t be any more of the same old same old.


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In Which I Became Embarrassingly Pedantic With The Patient Young Woman At Tech Support

Despite my Catholic school upbringing (think Sister Mary Stigmata wailing away with that yardstick on Jake & Elwood) and my mother’s undying wish for me to still be Pope some day (despite the three kids, two marriages, and one divorce, but that’s a story for another day) I still have days when I’m less than saintly.

I have a well document penchant for baiting, harassing, and tormenting robodialing sales scammers. For the record, I have zero problems with that. They deserve every bit of badgering that I can give them. I don’t call them, they call me. They started it. (No, I’m not five, you’re five!)

I’m referring to how I sometimes lose my patience when dealing with innocent tech support folks. Sometimes it’s customer support, but it’s worse with tech support. With customer support I know that it’s quite likely that I’m the cause of the problem and I’m asking for help, or at best it’s a 50/50 thing. With tech support, I foolishly expect actual knowledgeable tech support rather than some kid reading a script by rote after they didn’t make it through the ITT Tech Trade School.

Last week I had a problem at work with one of the online services at a humongous American mega-bank. While I could log on, see my account balances and activity, make transfers, and so on, when I went to the Remote Check Deposit (RCD) system, it would crash every time. The error message from Hell in this case was something along the lines of, “Your current .NET Framework security settings do not allow this procedure.”

It had been working fine, even after we upgraded to Windows 10. That had been a critical test of Win10 since I use that banking function nearly daily. Then, soon after I got back from my New York City trip, it just didn’t work. I hadn’t changed anything, I hadn’t upgraded, I hadn’t changed any settings, I hadn’t deleted anything – it just stopped working.

So I called customer support, who put me through to tech support, who walked me through the fifteen steps I had already taken to try to resolve it, threw in a couple of new things for me to try, all to no avail. Same error message, over and over and over.

They said they would bring in the heavy-duty outside consultant tech guys the next morning – but never called back. I had to call back two days later and go through the whole mess again, only to be told that they would bring in the heavy-duty outside consultant tech guys the next morning. I said no, thank you, we’ve already done that joke and we will fix this tonight. We eventually did after we got some dude to remote into my system, do lightning fast editing of the registry, and make the magic happen.

Fast forward to last week, when it starts doing the exact same thing.

This time I’ve got what I believe to be a smoking gun. It’s all Microsoft’s fault. When I turned on my system that morning there had been a Windows 10 involuntary update. The first clue I had about the update was that Internet Explorer was gone from the task bar and gone from the Start Menu as well. I had to go hunt it down, create a new shortcut/icon, and put it back.

Yes, Internet Explorer. Have I mentioned that about 99% of all of the super duper secure banking things out there require you to use IE?

So Microsoft tried to assassinate my copy of IE, or at least send it off to Devil’s Island to rot, but when I found it and fired it up anyway it has also stopped working.

Coincidence? Are you freakin’ kidding me?

I tried to fix it myself, of course. I had taken notes the first time, as well as taken a video of the “magic” happening onscreen. (I’ll bet you Steve Jobs never foresaw that use of the iPhone when he dreamed it up!) I was pretty sure that I could reproduce what they had done three weeks ago. And I did.

No joy. “Your current .NET Framework security settings…” Once again back to MegaBank Customer Service.

Megan was a vision of patience. She either listened or did a good job of faking it while I went through the whole series of troubleshooting steps I had already taken. Then she started by asking me if the computer and the check scanner were both plugged in.

**SIGH** Okay, let’s do it the hard way. Yes, it’s plugged in. Yes, I checked the cables. Yes, I had tried turning it off and turning it back on again. Yes, we can spend fifteen minutes going through all of the setup steps from the manual one more time. Then…

“Are you using Internet Explorer?” (Megan, if I wasn’t, how could I have just gone through about twenty different setting confirmations for you? Don’t you, or the people who wrote this idiotic script, realize that all of the different browsers all have completely different methods of changing the settings?)

“Yes, Megan, I am using Internet Explorer.”

“Are you sure? There might be two icons that look like big blue letter E’s. Make sure you’re not using the darker blue one. It has to be the light blue one with the yellow swoosh around it.”

I swear to god, I’m not a good enough writer to make this shit up. Megan had stunned me into silence as I tried desperately to formulate an answer that wouldn’t make me sound like a complete douchebag.

“Hello, Mister Willett? Are you still there?”

“Yes, Megan, I’m here. Going forward, can we assume that I was LITERALLY building computers from scratch and programming them before you were born, and thus I’m GUARANTEED to know the difference between Internet Explorer and Edge?

I’m not proud that I went there. On the other hand, if I hadn’t, my head would have exploded like some poor bystander in a David Croneberg film.

Megan didn’t seem to take it personally, although I suspect she went home and told her significant other, “You would not believe the sanctimonious old codger asshole I had to deal with today!”

Fair enough.

But she started it!

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New York, New York (Pictures Day 03)

I’ve explained how New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August, I visited there for the first time. After my first NYC taxi cab ride, we hit Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag.

The next morning we were ready to go and see how much we could cram into our first full day in the city. The so-so weather forecast didn’t phase us.

We had been advised (wisely!) to try to group our sightseeing by area. In other words, don’t go from the Empire State Building to the UN to the Statue of Liberty to Yankee Stadium in one day. You’ll spend all day in cabs. So our first set of destinations was along the Hudson River. Specifically, we wanted to get the big picture with a ferry tour around all of Manhattan. Our timing was less than perfect however, and we got there just after one tour left, with the next full tour nearly two hours later.

No worries. There was this honkin’ big, grey ship at the next pier upriver.


The Intrepid Museum was another “must see” item for me. A retired aircraft carrier, she had been turned into far more as a museum.


You don’t realize just how big these things are until you’re up close.


The first stop onboard was the other star of the show at this site – Enterprise. While she never flew in space, she was the first of the Space Shuttles.


I had actually seen Enterprise previously, when she was at the Udvar-Hazy Museum outside of Washington, DC. When the Space Shuttle fleet was retired and put into museums, Udvar-Hazy took Discovery and Enterprise was moved to New York City.


Enterprise wears the aerodynamic cone that she carried during the drop tests that were conducted prior to the first Shuttle launch. Dropped from the back of a 747, the landing tests proved the Space Shuttle’s airworthiness and performance.

Originally Enterprise was to be converted for spaceflight after those tests, but by that time significant improvements and weight savings had been implemented on Columbia and the other Shuttles to follow. It was deemed to be too expensive to retrofit Enterprise for launch, so she was retired early.


Of course, Enterprise got her name after all of the Star Trek fans campaigned for that name. Underneath her in the museum is a model of the Galileo shuttlecraft model used in the original Star Trek television series.


Out on the deck of Intrepid there are planes galore. Planes from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the current era are lined up side by side on the flight deck. In the far distance on deck you can see an SR-71 Blackbird.

The New York City skyline makes a great backdrop to the planes. As you can see, while we were in the pavilion visiting Enterprise, the showers had moved through in earnest.


Down at the far end of the dock there is one of the handful of Concorde supersonic transport planes still in existence.


Alongside the dock is a submarine, the USS Growler. It’s the only WWII era, diesel powered submarine open to the public to tour.

I didn’t get to tour the Growler or the Concorde due to time constraints. I did have time to do a quick tour of the hangar deck museum, which has many more planes and dozens of displays about the functioning of the Intrepid. I also got time for the tour of the bridge and officer’s quarters.

I could have spent four or five hours there easily (next trip!), but the ferry waits for no man. I and the Long-Suffering Wife had to hustle back downriver a couple of blocks to take our tour around Manhattan.



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