Archive for October, 2013


Concerning the S and the 7

Sometimes one wants or needs to get from Times Square, or the area around the Times Square subway station(s), to Grand Central Station. This can be done by walking, or bicycling, jogging, or hailing a cab and instructing the driver properly. Quite likely it can be done on a bus, even.

But it can also, notably, be done on the subway.

The most obvious subway line for this trip is the “S”, where “S” stands for “Shuttle”, referring to the set of trains and the set of tracks that shuttle endlessly back and forth between Times Square and Grand Central Station, all full of people and ads.

There are in some sense three “S” lines in the New York City subway system: the Times Square / Grand Central Shuttle (also known as the “42nd Street Shuttle”), the Franklin Avenue Shuttle in Brooklyn, and the Rockaway Park Shuttle in Queens.

These might be seen as three different lines all confusingly called the “S”, or I think with equal validity be considered a single line (the “S”), which is discontinuous, having one piece in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and one in Queens. It’s not clear what would constitute a fact-of-the-matter on the issue.

Then, running essentially parallel to the S (the Manhattan leg of the S, that is), there is the 7 (presumably named for having come after the 6 and before the 8, if any). Or, more accurately, that piece of the 7 between Times Square (where the line begins) and Grand Central Station (whence it continues onward out to Flushing in Queens). Between those two stations is the 5th Avenue (Bryant Park) 7 station, which is under Bryant Park, as shown in the illustration:

Bryant Park Subway Station

(That station also serves the enthusiastically orangish B, D, F, and V lines, but they are not relevant to the current discussion.)

There are various considerations in deciding between the S and the 7 for the purpose of getting between Times Square and Grand Central, or more specifically in our case the purpose of getting between the 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal subway station (A, C and E lines), and Grand Central Station (Metro North).

No subway line at all runs between the Port Authority station and the Times Square station, but there is a pedestrian tunnel which is entirely within the subway system, and thus a Free Transfer. Emerging from that tunnel at one point, near a major AM New York distribution point, a set of stairs runs down to the 7 platform to one’s left, and another longer set leads up toward the level of the S some distance ahead.

The 7, being a more or less normal subway line, does not run as often as the S (that is to say, not quite constantly). Also, it has that additional station (Bryant Park, see above) between Times Square and Grand Central, whereas the S shuttles between the two with nothing intervening.

The 7 is also deeper in the ground than the S, which would normally be a disadvantage, but in this case it is so very deep in the ground that the platforms at both salient stations are provided with escalators, which convey one in comparative comfort up and down what would otherwise be a daunting number of stairs. So the physical effort and time involved in ascending and descending from and to the platforms of the 7 are no greater than, and likely less than, the corresponding factors for the S.

On the other hand, the escalators from the 7 platform at the Grand Central end leave one in a strange and not entirely admirable part of the station, with low ceilings and rather tacky dented metal walls, more like the modern Penn Station than the usual polished marble one expects from Grand Central, and at some distance (cognitively, and I suspect physically) from the probability-weighted center of gravity of the Metro-North gates.

So there is that.

The other day I considered taking the 7 in the Times Square to Grand Central direction, but when I reached the platform there were two trains (one on each side) with their doors open and a certain milling of impatient New Yorkers, and a voice said that there were unauthorized persons on the tracks, or other words to that effect, and that service was delayed as a result. So I went up the escalator and made my way to the familiar Times Square end of the S, and did that.

Determining, in the process, that to get from the 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal station to the Times Square end of the S, it is probably less effort, and even time, to go down the steps to the 7 platform and then up the escalator to the level of the Shuttle, than it is to go up the usual stairs to the Shuttle.

But that seems just lazy, as a regular thing.

Today I went down to the 7 platform again, and this time there were apparently no unauthorized persons on the tracks delaying traffic, and I took the 7 through the 5th Avenue (Bryant Park) station to its platform in Grand Central, and took that escalator up, and discovered the above facts about the odd area that this delivers one into.

And so there is that.

So very odd, really, that there are these huge tubes under the ground, with rails and speeding trains running on them. And so many people!


Shining like the shone

Here’s something that you’d think that I, as a native speaker of English, would know, but that I apparently don’t, and sitting here on the speeding 7:40 express without the iPad’s cellular service turned on, I can’t just look up.

What’s the past tense of “shine”?

Well, “shined” is a word (nu?), and all it can be is that, so that must be it.

On the other hand, during the sportsball news on the radio this morning the announcer person said that some particular player really “shone” in the game last night, and that only sounded slightly wrong. And thinking about it, saying that he really shined would also have sounded slightly wrong!

Maybe “shone” is actually correct there; it sounds right in, say, “polished them until they shone”. The perceived slight wrongness might be from the similarity to “shown”, which is always a past participle-thing (show, showed, shown; shine, shone, shone?).

But if “shone” is correct there, what is “shined” for? Thinking about examples, my tentative theory is that the intransitive “shine” goes shine, shone, shone (polished it until it shone, had shone like gold for centuries), whereas the transitive (and more quotidian) “shine” goes shine, shined, shined, not getting “shone” even in the participle-thing (I shined my shoes yesterday, by the time I arrived he had finished shining his pate).

Which among other things produces the amusing “shined them until they shone”, which actually sounds about right.

This suggests a few things if true. For instance, that English is definitely a weird language. Also, since it’s hard for me to imagine I’ve never noticed this before, also that one of the many rewards of age and dotage is that you get to rediscover all sort of amusing things all over again. :)

Updates now that I am online again: Here is someone saying basically the same thing that I do above, and here is someone saying oh wait now it’s more complicated than that (with lots of comments offering further viewpoints and complications).

So there we are!


So much…

So very, very much.

All my walking muscles ache in gratifying ways.

I feel like whole sections of my mind are waking up after long, long naps. Or maybe opening up for the first time.

I like the subway more every time I take it. When you see the same thing for the second, third, fourth time, you see more deeply into it. And seeing more deeply into things is good.

The subway, that’s a good segue into some sort of coherence for this posting. :)

NYCMy morning schedule is now: alarm goes off around 0700, I leave the house around 0720, deal with the parking machines around 0736, catch the 0740 very-express, or the 0745 or 0749 also-expresses, from Croton-Harmon to Grand Central, walk to the Shuttle Passage and take the S to Times Square (around 0830), walk (nice long aerobic walk) through the underground passageways from 42nd Street Times Square (1237NQS) to 42nd Street Port Authority (ACE), take the 8th Avenue subway down to 14th Street (the express stops at Penn Station on the way, the local stops at Penn Station and at 23rd Street), go up the stairs into the old Port Authority building, wave my badge at a reader-thing, go up the elevator to the 5th floor, get breakfast, and there I am, at 0900 or a bit before.


And during all of that, so many people, faces, eyes, briefcases, shoes, scarves and dresses, ties, suits, and the subway musicians, steel drums, cellos, saxes, opera singers with tipjars, the tables of patient Jehovah’s Witnesses giving out their little books in eight languages, the loud man declaiming how urgent it is to come to Jesus, five-by-seven shiny paper rectangles left on subway seats about Jesus or an upcoming performance of Shakespeare, the song of rails, trains pushing air down the dark tunnels, the clack of heels, voices chanting over the speakers, “please keep clear of the closing doors”, the paper “Planned Service Changes” sign where someone has supplemented the tiny black type with a big crayon arrow pointing to the left and labeled “TO QUEENS” and someone else has written underneath it “thanks”.

Ehem, I was going to be coherent. But there is so much!

As previously noted I work at Google now.

It is extremely awesome.

The extent to which I can and can’t go into detail about things is interesting in itself. IBM’s big emphasis is on getting confidential information only to those who need it, inside or outside the company. Lots of information isn’t confidential, so everyone, inside and out, is free to have it, and as an internal person if I wanted to get for instance the source code to some random other project’s product, it would have been difficult just to figure out where it was and who to ask for access, let alone actually getting approval.

Google is much more Hard Shell and Creamy Center that way; anything that hasn’t been officially published is to be kept inside, but Googlers can get to an amazing amount of stuff. Just how amazing that amount of stuff is, and what it contains, I’m not sure if I can tell you.

I can reveal that Google has more than seven machines, located in more than three datacenters that are all over the place. I cannot speculate on rumors that we have a major datacenter in the back room of every Starbucks, or that we have a radical new way of cooling datacenters using Fair Trade coffee beans.

swagFor my own part, I can definitely reveal that I’m drinking a lot less coffee than I did a few weeks ago; apparently drinking from firehoses is a good substitute, in terms of staying awake.

I can also reveal that whereas it used to take me forty-five minutes to an hour to get out of the house (or, to be brutally honest, even to get all the way out of bed) on a weekday morning, it now takes twenty at the most.

Also, there really are secret rooms behind bookcases in the library, and a slide (I went down it yesterday; twice). And of course scooters (which I will have to try some day when I am feeling brave and well-balanced).

And additionally, swag! :)

I have switched from my snazzy Fossil messenger bag (a gift from M) which is too nice for daily subway abuse, to the pictured Google backpack, which is tougher, has less sentimental value, has just as many tons of pockets (perhaps a little harder to reach into ad hoc), and distributes the weight of an iPad and macbook and assorted stuffs more symmetrically for the back. I am wearing the pictured Google tee shirt even now :) and the propeller hat is still hanging there on the corner of one of my monitors.

“One of my monitors” hee hee.

I have been like a kid on Christmas all week. Giddiness!

So, summary: work is amazing, Google is awesome, I am energized as I haven’t been in probably years. And finally I have found time to write in my weblog about it!

More posts as the situation develops… :)


Change of address

This has been up on the Facebook for a bit, but it fits nicely into the narrative here, so:

We've been eating grass!

Okay, I really ought to announce it myself, rather than just hijacking the little daughter’s status on the subject. :) As of Oct 21st, I will be retiring from IBM after 33 good years, and starting at Google in Chelsea for the next 33. Yep, it’s quite a commute, and I’m looking forward to it anyway. The place is packed with former Watsonites, and I expect it to be a Good Time. Also, they provide Lego!

I expect there will be more postings on this general subject going foward :) but right now here are a couple of exclusive pictures (well, on the Instagram, but not the Facebook) which are related.

The cake is not a lie!

Sorry about that!

Oops! Sorry about that, stockholders…

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The mushy pedal

So, here is a thing that happened! Actually a whole mess of things have happened, but this one is comparatively small and standalone and maybe if I write about it I will both () be able to nostalgize about it in later years, and () get incentivizated to post more stuff here about the more complex other things, too.

This was the thing: the little yellow wrench turned on on the dashboard of the little red car, and the place where the mileage and stuff usually is said “A 1 15% oil life” or something instead (until you pushed the “sel/reset” button), and so we had to take the little red car to the dealer to get the wrench turned off.

That was Not A Problem, since we have the big old car also, so M and I drove the cars to the dealer night before last, and dropped off the little red one and drove home in the big old one, and yesterday morning I went to Grand Jury in the big old one, and afterward drove toward home to work from home and wait for the little red one to be done.

Then, the specific thing was that, on that drive home in the big old car, I stepped on the brakes to slow down because there was this construction and there was a lady holding up a “SLOW” sign.

And when I stepped on the brake pedal it sort of mushed down all the way to the floor, and the car hardly slowed down at all.

Which is unusual!

My conscious brain sort of ran around in circles screaming, but fortunately my tolerant and resourceful subconscious pumped on the pedal and steered over to the nice grassy slightly sloping shoulder, and when the car was nearly stopped applied the hand-brake and turned on the Emergency Flashers, and that worked fine.

My conscious brain having calmed down by that time, I calculated that the dealer for the big old car was only like two or three completely level blocks away, so I put the car into low gear, pumped on the brake pedal a few more times, and carefully drove there with the flashers still flashing merrily.

And once there a few phone calls established that the little red car was in fact already done, and the people at that dealer were happy to drive me down the road to the other dealer (really two parts of the same dealer, you know), and I drove the little red car home.

So that is what happened! My brakes failed, and I survived! Exciting!

The main morals being (1) always drive as though your brakes might fail, because they might, and (2) when the repair place up in Maine says that oh by the way the brake line on this is pretty corroded and it’s fine for now but you should have it looked at soon after you get home again, you should remember that they said that, and you should probably do it.

Next time! :)