NYC Subway Metrocard Readers Don’t Work Well in Cold Weather

Temperatures in the teens have messed up subway Metrocard readers. Here’s a video  of befuddled straphangers trying to gain access to the system at 47th and 6th Avenue.

I haven’t seen this happen before, even when it was this cold. So why is it happening now?

My disgusting but plausible theory:

Over the years since the Metrocard was introduced, residual finger oil accreted from tens of millions of card swipes has accumulated  into an unspeakably foul cruft that completely coats the inner workings of the card readers. When the temperature drops into the teens, this usually greasy and malleable substance congeals and blocks proper contact with the card reader.

A simple solution? Have MTA maintenance workers clean the card readers occasionally.

 

How I Learned to Love Linux

I’d been considering setting up a wireless home media server for a while and decided yesterday to use an old HP G60 Windows laptop and install Linux.

I’m computer savvy but always hesitated in the past to mess with Linux on a laptop given its reputation for quirky drivers and arcane command line input.

My image of a typical Linux user.

My (former) image of a typical Linux user.

But installing Linux was a breeze. I chose Ubuntu partly because I just like the name, but mostly because it seemed one of the friendlier flavors. Installation involved burning a “live disk” ISO install image to a DVD (the image is too big for a CD) and setting the laptop BIOS to boot from the DVD first. I could have used a thumb drive but couldn’t find one.

After booting up Ubuntu I was presented with the option to try it out for a while or install it right away.  I fooled around with it and was immediately impressed. The user interface was intuitively familiar to a Windows or Mac user and the OS was screaming fast even while running off the DVD drive.

I had a choice of either a dual-boot Windows/Linux setup or wiping the disk and installing Linux only. I chose to wipe out Windows and I can’t describe just how liberating this felt. So far I haven’t regretted it for a second.

The first thing I did was install Chrome to replace the default Firefox browser. Oddly, it wasn’t available in the Software Center so I had to get it from Google. I got a warning that it didn’t conform to Ubuntu standards while installing, but I blew it off. I mean, cmon…

The open source Plex media server seemed to get decent reviews and I noticed it was available on my Roku box. I installed it without any issues. My Roku box immediately recognized the Plex server and I was off to the races after downloading some music files and videos from my Android phone. My only complaint is that it seems media files, whether photos, video or music, cannot be organized in folders, but must be dumped into their respective directories without using any organizational directory structure. I certainly hope they fix this pain-in-the-ass “feature” soon.

Plex did a great job of quickly recognizing my mp3s and determining the artist, album, year, genre, etc. It even came up with snappy art for both the artist and the album. I had video files in multiple formats and it transcoded them on the fly for streaming with no problems.

I’ve encountered very few issues with Linux so far. It was easy to set up Samba to wirelessly access shared files on a Windows computer and the GIMP image editor is close enough to Photoshop that it was easy for me to figure out the basics. Google cloud print worked great.

I’m extremely pleased with this experiment. Linux has certainly come of age.

And not only is it free, but it boots in less than 30 seconds. Fuck Windows.

Rat Bastid

Rat Bastid!

Scabby the Rat outside 555 Fifth Avenue

Unions erect these elegant art installations outside the properties of employers in contract disputes with them. They’re no doubt effective. This one is sadly lacking the festering nipples option package.

Inflate-a-rats were a recent innovation when I was admiring one outside a neighborhood construction site on the morning of September 11th, 2001 and heard a distant rumble from the south that I soon learned was the impact of the first plane hitting the North Tower. These kinda creep me out now, but I’d still like to see one in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

Don’t Mind if Mandu

I’ve been on a delightful Korean cooking binge for over a year now, thanks to internet culinary ambassador Maangchi, whose YouTube contributions have taught me quite a bit about the basics.

I wholeheartedly agree with Anthony Bourdain on the premise that fine cooking is not about exotic pricey ingredients and exquisite preparation and presentation, but more about using the cheaper and less desirable ingredients you have at hand and creating something truly soul satisfying. The best food often comes from cultures of hardship and having to make do: Peasant food.

A lot of Korean staples have this peasant pedigree.

A particular favorite of mine are mandu: Korean dumplings. Having made my own at home with good results I recently tried a restaurant version for the first time at Mandoo Bar on 32nd Street in Koreatown.

Mandu ladies!

Professional mandu ladies!

When I walked past and saw women expertly crafting mandu I couldn’t resist popping in for a sample. I didn’t regret it:

Goon Mandu - lightly fried

Goon Mandu – pork and vegetable dumplings, lightly fried.

Like Japanese gyoza or Chinese jiaozi, mandu can be either boiled or fried. These fried pork mandu were delicious: crunchy and delicately chewy with a tangy, spicy dipping sauce. Cruets of hot sauce, soy sauce and vinegar on each table allow you to mix the dipping sauce to your taste.

Peasant soul food at its finest.

Let the Vomiting Commence!

Frat heaven.

O joy.

Today hordes of loudmouth frat boys from third-rate schools invade the neighborhood in Santa costumes to drink shitty half-priced beer until they lose control of their bodily functions while their skanky girlfriends converse in broken china shrieks and throw their chewed gum on the sidewalk.

It’s SantaCon again!

In Praise of the Simple Roast Chicken Sandwich

Winner, winner: chicken dinner

I’ve always preferred cold leftover turkey sandwiches to the classic American Thanksgiving dinner. I found myself turkeyless today.

So I roasted a chicken. Simple, but flat out magical. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to not feel completely comfortable roasting a chicken.

Thomas Keller (head chef of The French Laundry and Per Se and arguably the best cook on the planet) has a great take on the basic roast chicken in the brief video below from Anthony Bourdain’s brilliant No Reservations series. I’ve done this recipe over a dozen times and now swear by it.

He cooks the bird a little hotter than most at 425°–450° so cooking times are around 15 minutes per pound rather than the usual 20 minute/lb rule of thumb for a 350° oven.

I strongly recommend whipping up some homemade mayonnaise for your sammiches. Martha Stewart has a good basic recipe. It takes all of five minutes and is far superior to store-bought. Cleanup is a snap if you use a hand blender.

Bon appétit!

Speaking American

Maxwell Smart shoe phone

“Would you believe…”

Google Voice Search Trick

Speaking foreign words and phrases in Google voice search usually returns amusing if unhelpful results. I found the trick is to pronounce the words like Mike Bloomberg speaks Spanish.

Works like a charm. Try “tapenade.”

Twitbot of the Week


@BuzzFeedAndrew apparently temporarily replaced his account with the @YourInAmerica grammar bot.

Word of the Day

Pilkunnussija: Finnish for pedant. Literal translation: comma fucker.

Cops on Bikes Target Jackass East Village Cyclists

I completely support bike lanes in NYC. Even if they were one of Dear Leader Mayor for Life Bloomberg’s initiatives jammed down our throats overnight with no discussion—the only way to make things happen in this town.

Bikes are great. Good for you, the environment and traffic, and the fastest way to get around Manhattan except the A train. I would definitely get one if I had space at home.

But it’s clear there are just too many jackass cyclists gaming the game and presenting a major hazard to pedestrians, especially in the East Village. I’ve almost been nailed a number of times by 1) delivery guys in a hurry going the wrong way, or 2) Brooklyn hipsters on single-speed bikes with no hand brakes trying to beat the light. Most riders don’t even sport lights during the twilight hours when they are virtually invisible. I know it’s only a matter of time before I get whacked good.

I’ve seen several pedestrian and cyclist collisions; in one case both were knocked out and blood trickled into the gutter. Shockingly violent physics of mass times velocity.

9th Precinct hero bicycle cops snag an offender.

I’m not sure what this guy did, or whether he deserved the ticket, but it rather pleased me to see him getting written up by 9th precinct bicycle cops last Friday morning. I’m not a big fan of the NYPD, but asshole cyclists are getting out of fucking control.