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So, last night I saw the final episode of Sex in the City. I should also hasten to add that it was my first episode… and of course it was a happy ending, booooring.

Also on the weekend, wandered around some shops with friends, including the (very pretentious IMHO) Apple Store. There is a new iPod out, and it’s very small and very cool, but also very $250USD. Tempting, but if I’m going to spend that sort of money on gadgets I’d probably get more value out of a digital camera.

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Today was President’s day, which is apparently a real enough public holiday for IBM to be mostly closed. It also wasn’t unbearably cold (just very very cold), so I finally did some sightseeing. An Italian guy I met on the first day came along too.

Took the train into New York. The Hudson Line runs literally right along the edge of the Hudson River, in some places less than a metre from the water’s edge, so the view on the way down was pretty impressive in parts.

Arrived at Grand Central Station, and walked around a bit before going to the Empire State Building. Little did we know what we were in for, which was about 45 mins worth of queueing downstairs before buying tickets to another hour or so of queueing on the 80th floor before we made it to the observation deck. All the while they were trying to sell us stuff, like the audio tour, or photographs, or the “Skytour” (basically just a movie of common attractions). They very cunningly spread the queues out around the place, so there was never more than 10-15 minutes in any one queue before the next little bit of progress, be it buying a ticket, having bags searched, getting in a lift, etc. etc.

The actual view was, of course, phenonemal. It was a very clear, sunny day, so you could see a long way.

Later on we wandered up Broadway, through Times Square, and checked out a few shops along the way. For some reason the sales tax is higher in the city (8.625%, try working that one out before you get to the register). Also saw a group of street performers doing very impressive
break dancing on the freezing pavement.

Random Americanisms:


  • Every crossing in New York is painted like a zebra crossing, but they certainly don’t act that way.

  • Garbage (trash) from shops and buildings just gets piled up in bags on the pavement (sidewalk), even during the day.

  • Madison Square Garden isn’t terribly garden-like.

  • Times Square is really just buildings with advertising on them, and it certainly isn’t square either.

  • Because few people are game enough to drive in the city, every second car is a taxi.

  • Hustlers will approach you (at least, if you’re a young male tourist) on many street corners for sex shows.

  • Nobody cares about jaywalking, certainly not the police, nor the oncoming traffic.

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The party was pretty good, and there was far too much food, so I’ll probably be eating leftovers for the next few days. Driving back via work (I had to drop another guy off at his car), there were deer wandering all over the place. You can usually see a couple down in the forest during the day, but there were at least 10-20 grazing on either side of the road. I took this photo, but even with the flash and the car’s headlights you can’t see anything except two eyes reflecting the flash in the lower-right of the image.

Also tried a couple of beers from the Magic Hat Brewery (strange name, strange labels too): 9 and Mother Lager. The first tasted of apricot, which isn’t something you really expect in a beer, but the latter beer was good.

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I finally got a social security number, and was able to open a bank account. This means I can stop paying cash for everything, and withdrawing large amounts from my Australian account to reduce the fees. I still have to wait a few days for the paycheques to clear, though.

Also, the weather has been decidedly nicer recently, making it above zero on most days.

beer

So, I walk into this shop with a big sign out the front saying “LIQUOR”, walk through rows and rows of wine and spirits, get to the back of the shop and return to the front. I then inquire as to whether they have beer.

“You want beer?” “Yes, beer.” “No. They have that next door, at the chemist.” This is accompanied by a look that implies I must be insane trying to buy beer in a liquor store.

Sure enough, the chemist does indeed sell beer. I got some Yuengling, which despite its strange name claims to be America’s oldest brewery and is actually quite good. Curiously, they don’t state the alcohol content or number of standard drinks anywhere on the packaging, although there is a long warning from the surgeon general.