Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, April 16, 2021

How does a daily two-hour commute, each way, grab you? How about if you didn’t need a car for it? Responding to rider demand, the Metro-North Railroad has started running commuter trains earlier into the predawn hours.

Riders say they never imagined they’d be waking up at 4 a.m. or earlier to go to work. But there are benefits.

“It’s valuable time before the phone starts ringing and the meetings start,” said Mike Forte, an engineer from Thornwood, N.Y. “You can actually get some work done.”

The worst part? “When I get in the Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t open yet,” Forte said.

I’ve been in the professional workforce for a dozen years now, and it kills me how this concept of “valuable time”, i.e. work hours not subject to meetings or office communications, is felt to be a necessary optimizer. If all the meetings and such get in the way of “real work” — and I know, they do — why not minimize or eliminate them? That people resort to coming in extra early or working late, just to avoid the normal flow of the workplace, underlines the inefficiency of the structure.

As onerous as the train commute sounds, especially if you live in the far-north ‘burbs (50 miles from Manhattan, where I hail from), the “dead time” spent in transit is only as dead as you want it to be. Napping on the way down is common practice, and not particularly risky (Grand Central Terminal is the last stop, so if you’re heading into the City itself, you’re not going to miss your disembarkation). Otherwise, you’ve got plenty of time to do some work on a notebook computer (no wireless Web, unfortunately), do some reading, listen or watch something on the iPod, read a newspaper or two, etc. It beats spending practically as much time behind the wheel in a daily traffic jam.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/16/2006 11:00:32 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Society
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Four and a half years after 9/11, the public desire to put al Qaeda on trial is so acute that grilling the closest facsimile to a terrorist is deemed good enough to get a cathartic effect.

Enter Zacarias Moussaoui. Unfortunately, this would-be airline hijacker is using his farce of a trial as the stage to underline how ineffectual of a clown he is:

Rather than acting like a quiet professional - which Al Qaeda teaches - the man on trial for his life comes off as an Islamist Barney Fife with one bullet in his pocket.

Which makes me question why Moussaoui is deserving of the attention he’s getting. Regardless of the outcome, his fate isn’t going to serve as a fitting proxy indictment of al Qaeda — far from it. It’s like seeing your hometown baseball team win the World Series — by beating some Single-A farm team. It’s a sham prize, and doesn’t punish the ones who truly deserve the punishment.

This type of justice-seeking has ample historical precedent. During the ’80s and ’90s, when Nazi-hunting efforts started petering out toward tracking down former concentration camp guards, this same sort of dynamic set in. Aside from questionable arguments about clemency for those now-aged individuals, the more pertinent issue was whether or not it was worthwhile to mete out punishment to the equivalent of hired thugs. Regardless of their role as henchmen of the Holocaust, their executions or imprisonments would have been a questionable fulfillment of justice; succinctly, their deaths wouldn’t have been worth the bullets it took to achieve them.

And that’s how I feel toward the Moussaoui issue. Completing the obvious process toward his final punishment is a hollow pursuit. He’s not deserving of the state’s or society’s scrutiny. His fate will provide the illusion of justice, but only that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/16/2006 10:27:25 PM
Category: History, Political, Society
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making the grades
If you read Jay Greene’s “Making the Grade” op-ed piece only on the New York Daily News website, you’ll have gotten the basic argument Greene was trying to get across.

But, as you can see from the above photo of that same essay in the Daily News print edition, the online edition omitted some neat editorial stylizing: A strategic use of drop caps for select paragraphs, to highlight the letters A, B, C, D and F. Since Greene’s piece was about improving school performance through grade-like ratings, you can see how this typographical trickiness lends a little something extra to the presentation.

It’s sad that something like this gets stripped out of the Web publishing process. It’s certainly possible to replicate drop caps in online editions, either through CSS or image-font substitution. But like most newspapers and magazines, I’m sure the Daily News just outputs format-free text feeds to their Web department, which then slaps up Web pages without any extra scrutiny for visual presentation. What’s more, rendering issues across browsers and platforms preclude putting more than minimal effort toward layout issues online.

But it goes to show you: You miss out on the subtler points by not picking up the print editions.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/16/2006 09:35:00 PM
Category: Internet, Publishing
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All the chocolate bunnies and colored eggs (and, oh yeah, Jesus) ought to indicate to you that today is Easter Sunday.

Unless, like me, you’re Orthodox Christian, and thus won’t be celebrating Easter until next Sunday. (I’ll take this opportunity to revive last year’s joke about why Greeks do the holiday after everyone else does.)

A while back, I illustrated the societal disconnect, as I perceived it:

So, the result of this non-holidaytime for me was in, probably for the first time, feeling some empathy for the Jewish kids at school who also had to put up with supposedly secularized holidays that had nothing to do with them. I think it drives home that, no matter how many Easter bunnies and Frosty the Snowmen you inject into these things, you can’t get away from the fact that, at the core, we do live in a solidly Christian (and specifically, Protestant) society. It’s not suffocatingly so, but there it is.

And the feeling lasts to this day. This year, for instance, I seemed to run across a lot more “Happy Easter” greetings than I recall encountering in years past (possibly continuing repercussions from the “Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays” flap). I wasn’t offended, but I was tempted to offer back a “thanks, but no thanks” each time.

Which would have sparked mini cultural wars at every stop I made last week; so I refrained. But to compensate, perhaps I’ll drop my own “Happy Easters” during the tail end of next week. Most will probably think I need to get a new calendar, but it’ll all be in good fun.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/16/2006 03:21:35 PM
Category: Society
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