New York – Day Two

Sunday 3pm

The world looks a whole lot better after a good sleep, several coffees, and a decent shower. I think I’ve about cleared back to human now. A good start today, we got up reasonably early, had breakfast, then headed for Central Park up 7th Avenue. The Manhattan streets are a bit of a surprise, hustle and bustle, sure, but not too hectic. Still seeing a Parisian side to it all.

Eighteen blocks up isn’t that much of a walk as it turns out, and certainly didn’t feel as far as the scale on the map suggested it might. We’ve been taking in the look, the feel, and certainly the smell of it all. Smell hits you everywhere, food, cars, and especially the sewers, which are astonishing when they hit your nosebuds full-tilt.

Once you get into Central Park, it only takes about a hundred yards to lose the city somewhat. It’s huge, beautiful and tranquil. Winding, shady, tree-lined paths lead out on many beautiful expanses of lawn. Lots of families playing, couples lounging, people enjoying leisurely strolls. Near the busier intersections of paths, you’ll get buskers, nothing too hectic, lots of gentle moody jazz. There is almost an enforced slow pace to it all. The one exception however is on the roads that wind through the park itself; whilst closed to traffic in the main, they are a constant flood of joggers, inline skaters and cyclists. As a side note here, I appear to be blending in well, I was asked three times to take photos for tourists. As another side note, I may clearly need to lose some weight.

Having drank the tranquility in, we then set off along 5th Avenue. This is shopping heaven, simply put. If you extracted every single clothing brandname that met the approval of Mrsfb from her mind, you would find that is was a shop directory for 5th Avenue. We’ve set aside Monday for shopping, so Mrsfb womanfully resisted the lure of Prada et al, and we pressed on to find somewhere for a snack.

We happened up St. Andrews Bar. This would appear to be your classic English pub in America, so it was a heady blend of bar and pub. We were served by an Irishman in a kilt (don’t ask, I don’t know either. Very friendly though) and settled down for a traditional English pint of Stella Artios, followed by a substantial brunch. Omlette with smoked salmon and soft cheese for Mrsfb, fried eggs with ‘Scottish bacon’ for myself. We were presented with ketchup, however I decided to take a bold English stance. “You haven’t got any Brown sauce”, I enquired. “Sure, we’re out of HP, but will Chefs do?”. In New York, on my bacon. I almost wiped away a tear of English pride. Good food, just what we needed after a few hours of walking.

For now we’ve retired back to the hotel, Mrsfb is having a little nap, and I’m writing this in the hotel bar whilst watching NASCAR on a large television. America is alright by me thus far.

Sunday 11pm

Tonight was Times Square. In the daytime, it’s slightly under-impressive, it seems a bit smaller than you thought it would be. In the evening however, it utterly comes alive. The signs glow, the screens scroll through endless implorations to watch and consume, hawkers hawk, generally your eyes are drawn permanently upwards. Religion has something to learn here, there are a few ideas someone could really use and exploit. Maybe I’ll have a go at running a religion soon. Some form of a consumerist religion for the UK?

Wow, I only suggest new religions when I am really tired. I think I must be. I guess this is the proper jetlag then. Cool, I did come to America to experience new things.

New York – Day One

Saturday 12am

Wow. In Manhattan, sat on a very nice enclosed balcony, figuring out quite what part of me is jetlagged, and what part is knackered. I think that was about 17 hours of travelling and queuing, all told. Not sure if this is the best time to do the math(s).

Good flight really, quite choppy for the second part of it, but we read and watched movies to distract us. Note to Richard Branson btw: Those screens on the backs of your seats become unwatchable as soon as someone reclines the seat in front of you. The movies I watched were mainly listened too, as all the actors essentially appeared to be shadowy puppets as soon as the chap in front of me got a little tired.

Shuttle bus into Manhattan itself was amazing, just working us into the city a little. Hustle, bustle, yadda *3. However more chilled than I expected. It looks really nice at night, odd pace to it all, almost looks Parisian. Big boulevards, people eating out on the streets (okay, sidewalks). And like the French, they drive with their horns here. Mirror, horn, signal, horn, maneuver, horn.

Tomorrow we do Central Park and Times Square. I get the camera out, and go to work. I may spend half the day in black and white. But I think it is now time to retire and pass out.

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Okay, I said a few posts ago it had got cold. I was wrong. Now it’s got cold. Really cold. It’s still not October yet. This isn’t promising. I’d suggest buying shares in woolen mills.

Off to see Ska Cubano tonight. Should be a good gig, and it’s my first opportunity to see the new Oxford Academy (formerly the Zodiac, formerly The Venue). Looks good from the outside. Will report back soon.

WordPress 2.3 is out now – get it whilst it’s hot (maybe)

Time for a new release of WordPress. WordPress 2.3 brings a long awaited feature, actual tags instead of categories. Word so far is that they are quite basic, and that the underlying tables for WordPress are quite different to cater for them, so it is quite possible that it could break plugins you have in existing installations. This is the good thing about hosting WordPress on your own webspace though, you can test it out properly. I have a few blogs, including a test blog. On the test blog, I can run upgrades like this, having turned all the plugins off, then turn them back on one by one to see that they works. Saves a lot of time debugging. Since WordPress can be such an easy install, it’s really worth having such a testbed.

For more information about WordPress 2.3, I’d really reccommend listening to Lorelle Vanfossen on the latest episode (#29) of the WordPress Podcast. They really get into a good level of detail about what you can expect, and what issues you need to be aware of. I’ve installed a few .1 advances of WordPress before with various levels of success (usually good to be fair), but having listened to this in detail, I’m feeling more cautious, and will test properly first this time. I’m probably a couple of weeks away from having chance to do this, but when I do, I’ll review the process and show my workings.

Pibb – The Social Network you never knew you needed

I’ve been having a quick look tonight at OpenID. I signed up for one about six months ago, but I must admit, I’ve never needed to use it since. At the back of my mind I’ve been considering adding it to a blog, as it is an ID system I’d like to buy into. A post on Lifehacker today about the pros and cons of OpenID got me thinking about it, and I started reading round again, reminding myself how it might be used.

This was how I happened upon Pibb. Pibb is a social network which starts with the OpenID protocol, and then adds in forums, groups, messaging and IM. Imagine Facebook without all the junk, and which looks really pretty and clean. And to be fair, Facebook isn’t that ugly to begin with. It’s worth a look into, for one, it could be a good place for IM chat where you’re not able to set up a client. Ultimately it’s main attraction for me is that it just looks good.

Foot on the pedal – never ever false metal

We saw Run Fat Boy Run at the cinema this past Saturday, starring Simon Pegg. Not that great to be honest. Dylan Moran was alright in it. And there were a lot of Nike logos, which was annoying at first, but after about the 20,000th I grew into a state of tacit acceptance, and at about 30,000 I realised that it was in fact the greatest symbol in the history of mankind, and that life was all about the mantra “Just do it”. I’ve since sold all my possessions, bar of course my Nike trainers, and now live a life of simplicity devoted to the worship of the swoop. If I find where I can get Nike underpants, I’m going to get arrested a lot less now.

Speaking of mind control, I was rather disturbed by an advert for The Alpha course. This was a cinema full of young teenage kids (woooo. Actually they weren’t that bad, the ones next to us that I thought would be a pain actually tutted when some younger kids down the front talked a bit during the film). They’re not allowed to have ads for alcohol, or fags, or indeed many things shoved down their throats, so why should religion be allowed to sell itself to them? When they’re old enough, fine. Although I personally go to the cinema to have naked consumerism pushed to me, and I have no desire to instead have my moral values questioned instead. If I do, I’ll watch a good documentary on the sofa. Questioning morals should always be done in a familiar chair with a cup of tea.

The Easiest Way to install a LAMP server in Ubuntu Feisty 7.04

I’ve had to install a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) server before, and it can be quite a hassle. Well under Feisty 7.04, it seems like the process is a lot more painless. Thanks to the wonderful Ubuntu Guide Wiki for Feisty Fawn 7.04 (which is where I start for instructions on setting up most things in Ubuntu), I found this fantastic little tip. You can install a complete LAMP server package from the Synaptic Package Manager:

System-->Administration-->Synaptic Package Manager-->Edit-->Mark packages by Task-->LAMP Server-->OK

Then apply the packages update, and all is done for you. So far, it looks like Apache 2 and PHP5 have been set up for me properly. I’ll test some more, but this was a real timesaver compared to the last time I did this.

Google tries to be Delicious

Google have recently launched Shared Stuff, a sort of competitor to del.icio.us. I’ve had a look at this tonight, and it’s quite nicely done. You drop a bookmarklet onto your toolbar, and if you want to save a page, it launches a new window, in which you can edit your description of the page. This then saves to your own shared page (with an RSS feed of course) and your profile. The whole thing works very much like del.icio.us, particularly when used in conjunction with their Firefox extension (where you get to add tags and your description).

The Google version definitely looks nicer, but I’m used to del.icio.us, it works well, the tagging is a very nice way to navigate your bookmarks, and I’ve been using it for so long I’m just loathe to consider moving elsewhere (have a look at my own del.icio.us page just to see how much I’ve got stored there).

I’ve also been looking at a Mozilla project, Joey. This is a similar idea at first, except it is designed specifically for sharing content from the web to your mobile phone. The idea here is that you can clip parts of pages, so text, images and even video, so that you can just download the element you need on your phone.

Having tried this out, it’s apparent that it is very handy for storing a bit of a timetable, or directions that you can call up from your phone. One thing it doesn’t work on yet is Google Maps, which is a shame, as that would be very handy. That is down to how the maps are generated, rather than being a single image, they are several squares which are patched together on your screen. Joey won’t let you grab them yet, but I’m sure in time they might get it figured out. It is very beta at the moment, but worth a look.

Moving away from the mainstream

For about a couple of years now, I’ve been listening mainly to podcasts, as opposed to radio. My only radio exceptions are Fighting Talk, which is just a pure guilty pleasure (and I listen to the podcast version), Radio 5 in the morning as I get ready, and Radio 5 on the weekend when sport is on and I’m upstairs.

Now I’m starting to do the same for television, using Miro, and it’s an interesting experiment. I do watch a lot of sport, and I’m really struggling to find video podcasts containing actual sporting action. I’m filling the gap with more geek related things, and a Police Drama called Port City PD. I watched the first episode tonight, and it’s a bit rough round the edges (apparently they have a budget of a few thousand pounds an episode), but it’s a perfectly entertaining and valid drama show. I’ve also found a sitcom called Something to Be Desired, American actors doing their own thing. Worth a go, takes a little to get into, like Curb Your Enthusiasm. Seems a bit slow at first, but after you’ve had a good laugh, you’re there.

I’m going to stick with it, and see what other things I can find to watch. I’ll certainly keep up to date with the shows I really like on regular tv, but I’m trying to fill in the dross with more watchable telly.

Sumautrinter time

So winter arrived yesterday, it got cold. Real cold. And then it’s sort of heating up now. Don’t know what season we are in now. Sumautrinter, I believe. I think I’m going to wrap up warm and wear shorts, makes as much sense as anything else.

Mrsfb’s brother was up to visit this weekend, had a nice time catching up with him. Not the most hectic of weekends, rather good. Managed to mess up my sleep cycle something chronic though, not quite back to it yet.

Have to get my bum in gear about sorting out things for going to New York. We have money, tickets, hotel and passports, so that’s kind of the important things covered, but there are plenty of other things to do as well. I intend to get a few things done tonight.