Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, March 13, 2021

Apparently, there are only two reasons for ever taking the Staten Island Ferry: To get a ride to your home on the outer borough, or to take a close-up photo of the Statue of Liberty during your visit to the Big Apple.

But the ferry is public transportation masquerading as a tourist ride. Few landmarks of New York are as clearly divided between locals and out-of-town visitors as the Staten Island ferry. Imagine a double-decker subway with the top level reserved for tourists, and you will have a good idea of daily life aboard the bright orange boats.

The ritual starts the moment people board the ferry at Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan. Staten Islanders walk ahead with purpose, finding a bench on the boat’s saloon deck and settling in with a newspaper or book. Being regular passengers, they are generally oblivious to the bridges and towers of Manhattan and Brooklyn spread before them like a giant pop-up book.

Tourists, on the other hand, head straight for the stairs to the boat’s upper two decks with cameras at the ready. Staten Island is not on their itinerary.

I’ve yet to take the boat ride across Upper New York Bay. It’s the cheapest of thrills, being a free ride and all. But then I’d have to figure out what to do once I get to the other side.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/13/2007 11:48 PM
Category: New Yorkin'
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Earlier today, on the edge of evening here in Eastern Standard Time, I called my friend Schmu, who lives in Washington DC.

I picked a heck of a time to place the call. Just as he answered his phone and said hello, I heard a bunch of indistinct yelling and general commotion on his end. In due time, I found out that he had been in the park with his dog, when some jogger managed to collide with the pooch, nearly tripping to the ground. According to Schmu, the dog was in plain sight and standing stock-still, so somehow the runner was zonked out enough to not notice so obvious an object in his path.

I neglected to ask how old this jogger looked to be. But after reading about how, with age, the human eye loses its effectiveness in low-light situations, I’m guessing he was north of 50. (I’m also assuming it was getting just as dusky in Washington as it was getting in New York.)

The retina contains two kinds of photoreceptors: cones and rods. Cones enable us to see when it is light. They give us color vision and allow us to see details like the words on this page. Rods are very sensitive, especially to motion. They provide only black-and-white images and thus are critically important for night vision…

In dim light or darkness, eyes adapt by widening the pupils to let in as much light as possible. The iris (the colored part of the eye surrounding the pupil) contains tiny muscles that control the size of the pupil. As you get older, these muscles (like most in the body) weaken and do not respond as well to the need to let in more light. The result is a small pupil when you try to see in poor light. It’s as if your eyes were still young but you were wearing sunglasses at night.

There is also evidence that as we age we lose more rods than cones. In the young eye, rods outnumber cones by nine to one in the part of the retina called the macula. But an autopsy study of older adults found that while the cones remained intact, almost a third of the rods in the macula had been lost.

Maybe the solution is day-glo fur treatments for dogs.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/13/2007 11:45 PM
Category: Science
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Appropriately Spartan-like, the movie 300 gained a number of improbable achievements upon opening in theaters this weekend:

- It debuted at No. 1 in the box office, despite sporting no recognizable Hollywood star power and carrying a usually audience-limiting R-rating;

- It raked in $70 million, a record for a March movie release;

- And best of all, it’s raised an international ruckus, with Iranian politicians and intelligensia branding its negative portrayal of ancient Persians as an American act of “psychological warfare”.

Daily newspaper Ayandeh-No carried the headline “Hollywood declares war on Iranians”.

The paper said: “It seeks to tell people that Iran, which is in the Axis of Evil now, has for long been the source of evil and modern Iranians’ ancestors are the ugly murderous dumb savages you see in 300.”

Three MPs in the Iranian parliament have also written to the foreign ministry to protest against the production and screening of this “anti-Iranian Hollywood film”.

Hey, maybe if Xerxes wasn’t so full of himself, today we’d be celebrating Greece’s 2,500th anniversary as a satrapy. Them’s the breaks.

The propaganda plot is an intriguing theory. Too bad the average geographically-ignorant American probably doesn’t realize that Iran used to be called Persia, therefore blunting the effectiveness of any such social brainwashing. As it is, it’ll probably mean that the tourism boost that modern-day Sparta is banking on from the film won’t include many charter flights of Iranian visitors…

And as for that alternate, Iranian-friendly title, referring to the one-million strong Persian forces that descended upon Thermopylae: As with most such numbers from antiquity, it’s greatly exaggerated.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/13/2007 11:26 PM
Category: History, Movies, Political
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