Friday, January 29, 2010

Empire State of the Union

This Wednesday, an address was given to the nation by our leader, as is our custom. In it he gave us his vision for the future, and what he expects those under him to provide for the American people in order to improve and enrich our lives.

You may be saying to yourself, "Jon, that's all well and good, but Congress isn't really 'under' President Obama," and in that you would be right. But in another sense, you would be wrong. You see, I am not talking about the President's State of the Union address. I am talking about a speech that many more people actually care about: Steve Jobs' keynote about the iPad.

Yes, that is right. After years of rumors and rabid fan gossip, the Apple tablet is here. And by "tablet" I of course mean "giant iPhone that can't make phone calls." Doesn't that just make you want to go drop $500 on one? I always thought that as technology moved forward, things would continue to get smaller and smaller. Apparently not. Maybe technology is cyclical. I guess I should go buy a beeper when I'm done writing this, before they get popular again.

It's no surprise, however, that the news is a really big deal here in New York. I have noticed that Apple products, particularly iPods and iPhones, are everywhere around here. Before I moved out here, I thought gadgets like that were only for rich suburban dwellers. Probably because the only people I saw with them were rich suburban dwellers. Which was probably because the only people around were rich suburban dwellers. Here, however, everyone has one. I'm constantly amazed by how many people appear to be so poor, but still manage to pay the $80, $90, or however many dollars a month for an iPhone with a data plan. I mean, I live where I live partly because I'm too poor to live in Harlem, so how rich could my neighbors be? Actually, perhaps their expensive iPhone plans are the very reason they have to live in the Bronx to begin with.

My favorite sight, however, is seeing a homeless person with an iPod. This boggles my mind. Not because they could sell it and get money for some food (because that money would soon run out, then they'd be hungry, cold, and bored, where now they're just hungry and cold). No, I just wonder where they charge them. Seriously, don't you need to plug those suckers into a laptop to get them charged?

Well there you have it. New Yorkers universally love Apple, which explains why the Apple stores around here look like temples. I suppose, in a sense, they are.

*NOTE: I stole the "technology is cyclical" and beepers bit from 30 Rock. I don't want to get all Carlos Mencia on you guys, but I thought it was worth repeating, so long as I cite my sources.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's New Math

Math is a curious thing. Eight years ago, when I first started taking Calculus, the class was still based on the work of Sir Isaac Newton. But based on an experience I had last night, it would seem that in the 6 or so years it's been since I've taken a math class, everything that I have learned has changed. It seems that some new form of mathematics must have been developed in that time that has completely negated the rules that I have spent so much of my education learning.

It all started (and ended, for that matter) in the Target in the Bronx. It was a fairly routine trip; I got the items I needed and proceeded to the checkout lines. Since I had only picked up 8 things, I went to the "10 items or less" express lane. I found a pretty short line, and as I walked up the only person in front of me was already paying. It was then, however, that I heard the Siren's cry. "There's no one at register three," she said, "you can go up there." I know that I should have known better, but what was I to do? The woman had said it more as a command than a suggestion, so I obeyed against my better judgment.

So with basket in hand, I proceeded to register three, which was also an express lane. As I came within a yard of the conveyor belt, a woman looked me in the eye and muttered something along the lines of "I was going there." Normally, the person standing three feet in front of the other person checks out first, but I was in a good mood. So instead of saying any of the many rude, sarcastic remarks that immediately came to mind, I let her go first. Rookie mistake.

At this point, you are probably wondering two things. First, you are probably asking yourself what any of this has to do with math (though some of you may see where this is going, since I pointed out that it was an express lane). Second, you probably want to know why I am writing about something so boring and mundane as a trip to the store, instead of the usual inspired tales that you, my readers, have become so accustomed to. To that, I sadly have no answer.

At this point, I glanced into the woman's cart. By my count, there were about 20 items. Maybe 25. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "I see, this 'new math' is about 25 being less than 10 now," which is a reasonable guess. It's also an incorrect guess. You see, the person in front of me realized her mistake, so she broke it up into orders of about 14, 2, and 2. This, of course, doesn't add up to 20 or 25. See, during the second and third orders she had the employee add a few items, then remove them, then add some, then remove some. All the while, the woman was looking back to me with a look that said, "I'm sorry." Unfortunately, it was a rather unsatisfying, "Sorry this is taking so long, though I guess it's nobody's fault; these things happen," instead of the more appropriate, "Sorry that I'm wasting your time because I can't count to 10, let alone figure out what I want before I get in line."

No matter. I suppose it was worth it to learn the new rules of mathematics: 14 is less than 10, and if you have an equation or inequality, you can divide one side by three without dividing the other by it as well. I'll be sure to remember those little tidbits next time I have an exam.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Boots with the Fur (with the Fur)

Today it's going to be hard for me to write with my typical "serious educator" tone, (which I'm sure you have all grown to love) given the topic. I fear that by the time I reach the end of the next paragraph I will have already devolved into some sort of Lewis Black-type angry comic. Still, I must give it a shot, because this new information I have learned is too mind-blowing to keep to myself.

By now, I am sure most of you are familiar with "Ugg" boots (aptly named, in my opinion). They're those massive boots, usually covered in fur, that are obscenely popular for no apparent reason. Often they are worn together with a mini-skirt, creating a half sunny Californian, half eskimo look that is likely the most ridiculous thing to happen to the fashion world since 1997. There are facebook groups, other blogs, and just about every other form of internet protest ranting against this trend. But like the protagonist in a movie with a big, predictable plot twist, I didn't realize just how serious this problem is.

Last weekend, as you know if you read my last post, I went to Times Square for New Year's eve. While there, my friend and I met a couple who managed to entertain us for a good five of the hours we were standing there. The young woman, however, dropped a truth bomb on me that shook my very core.

"I was going to wear my designer Uggs, but Randy said it was going to be cold and wet, so I wore these sneakers instead."
Let that sink in for a moment. It was going to be cold, so rather than wear the massive boots with more fur than Tom Selleck, she wore her Nike low tops. Even Gerard Butler would have to agree that this is madness.

Actually, I suppose you could make the argument that it makes more sense for them not to be warm. At least that way I can understand (temperature wise, that is) wearing them with a mini-skirt. Really, I suppose all I've proved is that I do not understand fashion, and coming from a guy who spends most of his life in a t-shirt and jeans, (and now shoes... curse you New York weather!) this should not be a surprise.

But then again, the title of the blog is things I have learned in New York, not things you have learned from me while I'm in New York, so you don't have to learn anything. So there.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Eve Droppings

This year, I rang in the New Year with about a million other crazy people, and oh, what an experience it was. I don't even know where to begin.

I suppose I'll start at a logical place to start: the end. Watching the ball drop in person in Times Square is an experience that everyone should have, if only to make it better on TV. You see, I've always found the ball dropping rather underwhelming. First of all, it's not really dropped. It's slowly lowered. Until this year, I've always thought that was pretty boring, but it makes more sense than candy rabbits at Easter, so I went with it. But let me tell you, when you have literally been standing in the the freezing cold in rain, snow, and hail for over 9 hours, seeing that ball begin to creep down the pole is the single most exciting event in your life. The birth of my first child probably won't even match it. Sure, I'll have been waiting 9 months instead of 9 hours, but at least I won't have been standing outside in the cold the whole time.

I also found it interesting that this year the New Year's sponsor, Nivea, took "pimping" their product to a whole new level. Not only did they want you to give them money for their products so you could have soft lips to "Kiss and Be Kissed," but they gave the crowds a bunch of pimp hats. Had T-Pain showed up, he would have had the smallest hat in the crowd for the first time in his life. I didn't mind, though. Those things were surprisingly good at keeping me warm and dry.

I also have to say that the New Year's celebration you see on TV is one of the most phony things around. They call it "the biggest party in the world," but it's also the most dead party in the world (until the cameras are around, then all of a sudden everyone has energy). At one point my friends and I were discussing how quiet it was, an we decided that if I were to yell, I would be heard over everything else. Then I proved it. Also, you'd think that the various bands (who I saw at least twice each, since you have to be there when they warm up in order to be there when they perform) would be performing on a stage in front of the crowd, but they're not. No, they're playing for a crowd of about 20 or 30 people who somehow got into the middle section, and the other thousands of us who are crammed on the side are really just watching it on TV like everyone else.

Despite all the repeated performances, the sardine-like crowding, the long waiting, and the weather, I'm glad I was there, because now I can brag about how awesome I am because I was stupid enough to do it.