Monday, October 23, 2006

New York Subway Tips

There're many train lines with different colours, and letter or number designations running through some of the same stations, so it's intimidating to ride the first few times. Basically, if you're illiterate, you're screwed. If you don't know whether you're heading 'uptown' or 'downtown', you're screwed.

Fortunately, there are maps at every station to help navigate this complex system. Here're guidelines I made for myself:
  1. Find the station you want to travel to. Look below the station name. There, you will actually find the designations of the trains that will go there. For instance, 42 St Bryant Park has the letters B, D, F, V under it. Those are the trains that will actually go there. I didn't realize this all through my first weekend here... it's a wonder I actually got to where I wanted to go!
  2. Now, you just have to figure out what connections you need. Don't assume that you just have to cross the platform to make a connection! Sometimes, you have to go up/downstairs. Sometimes, you have to walk to another station to make the connection. This is where reading signs is extremely important.
  3. You also have to read some other signs. Some trains run differently at night or on weekends.
  4. Have a map with you! I picked up a tour pamphlet in the lobby and it shows the stations in Manhattan, and has been really helpful for the places I went. I think you can get a full map at one of the bigger stations.
Having said all that, I have yet to get lost, so it's not all bad. Just be patient, and good luck!

Interesting Perception of Canada

During my haircut in Manhattan this morning (at 07:30... can you believe that?), the barber asked where I'm from and I replied, "Calgary, Canada."

Barber: "How far is that from here?"
Me: "About 4 or 5 hours flight."
Barber: "That far?"
Me: "Calgary's in the west. It's north of Montana."

The barber's co-worker overheard this and explained to him, "It's French Canada that's close to here. American Canada is further."

The co-worker continued, "It's easier to get into Canada... as long as you have $50,000, you're in. They have a lot of wood-working jobs up there, right?"
I thought about it and commented, "Yep, there probably are."

For those who don't get it, the term is usually English Canada. This is definitely the first time I've heard it referred to as American Canada.

Why did this happen? Are we not putting in enough effort to portray an accurate image to the rest of the world? Interesting...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Compass Directions in Manhattan

"East" in Manhattan is more like "east south east". If you look at a subway map here, it looks like uptown Manhattan is north and downtown is south, but it's actually a little off from compass north-south. Check out Manhattan Island on a street map.

It makes sense though because it's more convenient to think this way based on the layout of the Manhattan Island.

New York: Second Weekend: Sunday

Living on 45th St is awesome. This afternoon, I simply walked "east" (why is "east" in quotation marks?) and hit the UN Headquarters!

UN Security Council UN General Assembly

Anyway, after going through a security checkpoint, I took a guided tour of the UN Headquarters. The "earphone" from which delegates listen to near-real-time interpretations in different languages is neat - you just hang them from your ear.

UN Interpreted Audio Earpiece

The neat thing about this place is that it's UN territory. According to our guide, we technically left the US when we went into the UN. Wow!

The mosaic on display is put together from many, many glass pieces. Neat!

UN Mosaic

Outside, there's the spherical sculpture which is a gift from Italy, and up the road a little bit is another interesting piece consisting of pillars and a ball.

UN Gift from Italy Neat Sculpture

When someone mentions Broadway, you'll likely think of Broadway shows. So, since I live so close to the Broadway theatres, I decided to see the late show of Avenue Q. Pretty funny stuff with muppets! This show is doing for muppets what South Park is doing for cartoon kindergarten kids (that should give you an idea of the kind of show this is).

Avenue Q

Working in New York

I'm on a 6-week project in New York until mid-November. Since I can't upload files to my webspace outside of the Shaw network (grr!), I thought I might as well try out Blogger Beta.

New York: Second Weekend: Saturday

This weekend, I thought I'd go further out of Midtown Manhattan. I took the subway north all the way to 207th St to see the Dyckman Farmhouse, the only farmhouse on Manhattan Island. Not much to see here.

Dyckman Farmhouse Military Hut

I walked south on Broadway towards a subway station. On the way, I saw a section of the shops where all of the signs were in Spanish! I didn't realize you could find this in New York.

Spanish Store Signs in Upper Manhattan

A little further down, I saw another one of those "Don't Honk" penalty signs. Just the other day at work, because the building was so hot, we decided to open a window. Let me tell you, nobody obeys that sign.

Don't Honk

I was on my way to The Cloisters and came out at the 190th St subway station. Amazingly, they've got someone operating the elevator! I seriously didn't think that job existed anymore!

Staffed Elevator

After a stroll through Fort Tryon Park, I got to The Cloisters. It's a fairly nice place with a view of the Hudson River, and has these inner court yards, one of which has a cafe in it.

The Cloisters Wood Statues at The Cloisters

Working back south, I got to the Guggenheim Museum. I got a look at the inside, which has a pretty neat design. It was really crowded and expensive by the time I got there though, so I kept going.

Guggenheim Museum Roof

Back in midtown, I went to the Sony Building, which had a gigantic Spider-Man blow-up inside. Nice!

Huge Spider-Man Blow-Up Doll

You can see the Sony Wonder Tech Lab for free. It's a pretty neat setup... mostly for kids, but there're some cool things in there, like these chairs with stereo speakers mounted at ear-level.

Sony Wonder Tech Lab Chairs with Mounted Speakers

Went for dinner at RUB BBQ on 23rd. I had the "Burnt Ends Dinner", which has fatty beef brisket ends charred with sauce. Yum! Even the sides were good - onion strings and beans.

Before heading back to the hotel, I stopped in Times Square to see how busy it is on Saturday nights. There were so many people and so much slow-moving traffic! It's like Vegas... bright displays lighting up the streets.

Times Square Traffic Volume at Times Square Stock Ticker at Times Square Times Square Hershey's

There's a 3-storey Toys "R" Us, complete with its own ferris wheel. And a Hershey's store which I'll have to come back to visit when I'm not already full from dinner.

Since it was on the way, I stopped at the Rockefeller skating rink.

Rockefeller Skating Rink

Photo set at Flickr.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New York: First Weekend: Sunday

I'm staying right by Fifth Avenue and it seems to be the dedicated parade route. When I started out this morning, the road was already closed off for some parade (the staff at one of the stores guessed that it was Hispanic Day parade). [The next day, the Columbus Day parade would be held on the same road.]

Went for the NBC studio tour. I didn't find it that interesting, but probably because it was similar to the CNN tour I took in Atlanta two years ago. Anyway, I did get to see the set for Saturday Night Live, and learned about the careful measures they have to take with makeup and sets for high-definition TV.

Took the subway to Chinatown. You should've seen the oceans of people overflowing the sidewalk! Make sure you read the map before you get out of the station - I had trouble finding Chinatown coming out of the one of the Canal St stations.

People-Filled Sidewalks of Chinatown Quiet Street in Chinatown

Just north of here is Little Italy. The weather was really warm, so outdoor Italian dining lined both sides of the street.

Little Italy Double-Decker Parking

From there, I walked all the way to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Now that the weather's warmer, I actually saw a few folks dipping their feet into the water in the fountain. I half-heartedly followed the walking tour in my AAA tour book around the neighbourhood.

Squirrel Interesting Restaurant Name

At some point, I realized that I was only a few blocks away from the waterfront on the west side. So, I found myself in Hudson River Park. There're bits of green space on the piers and you can see people taking the opportunity to lay on the grass.

Hudson River Park Pier

Next weekend, I'll be going to Toronto! I'm staying on the east-side of the continent to avoid the long flight home.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

New York: First Weekend: Saturday

After getting my first look at Rockefeller Center, I stopped at Pick a Bagel by Carnegie Hall for lunch. Try the toasted sesame bagel with sundried tomato cream cheese -- yummy!

NBC Studios Rockefeller GE Building Heroes Billboard Nintendo World

I took a walk through the southern parts of Central Park. You can see pedicabs, horse-drawn carriages, and large lawns with people having picnics and playing frisbee tricks. There were even roller-skate dancers complete with DJ's playing tunes!

Pedicabs and Taxicabs

Central Park is huge, and one thing I would do next time is to rent a bike to check out the rest of the park.

That night, I went up the Empire State Building. The line-ups were enormous! It probably took 2 hours just to get into the elevator. Then, you don't even get to the observatory yet -- you stop on the 80th floor for pictures and picking up the audio tour. The actual observatory is on 86th (you can pay more to go up to 104th). You can also pay more to skip all the line-ups. Fortunately, the night was clear so I got some pretty good views of the city from up there.

Busy Streets from Above