Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Monday, June 30, 2021

Yesterday was the final day of operation for Florent, the landmark diner in Manhattan’s now-chic meatpacking district. And because the end was common knowledge for months in advance, owner Florent Morellet used that countdown time to psychologically prep his clientele:

Mr. Morellet threw weekly farewell parties with themes based on the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and on Saturday night, acceptance.

I’ve always been a big fan of using the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as creative raw material.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/30/2008 04:09:55 PM
Category: Creative, Food, New Yorkin', Pop Culture
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Sunday, June 29, 2021

hit me
Only in baseball can a team get completely shut out offensively, yet win a game, as the Dodgers did last night when they beat the Angels 1-0 despite being held hitless for 9 innings.

That result is why this game didn’t count as a no-hitter for the Anaheim pitchers: Because the Dodgers didn’t have to go at-bat in the ninth, it’s not considered a complete game for Major League Baseball pitching purposes. Kookier and kookier.

Actually, I can see a parallel in football. It’s entirely possible for a team in that sport to have a completely inept offense that doesn’t even come close to putting points on the board, but then have a defense that dominates, to the point of scoring itself. I guess a 2-0 result in the NFL or college would be the equivalent of a baseball hitless game; a more likely defensive touchdown or two, via interception or fumble, would be likelier. As for the other two big team sports, hockey and basketball: No equivalent. Too much scoring opportunity in hoops, while in puckland, even a regulation double-shutout would eventually yield to some result (a shootout win, an overtime win, or the old-fashioned tie, depending on the league).

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/29/2008 01:34:47 PM
Category: Baseball
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The bowl in which I toss my quarters, dimes and nickels wasn’t exactly overflowing, but I decided to dispose of it anyway. So I hunted down the nearest Coinstar machine (actually not all that near, but whatever) and dumped the change down the chute. Final add-up: $53.25.

I had in mind beforehand to convert whatever was in the bowl into iTunes Store credit, just so I wouldn’t have to think about dropping money everytime I bought a song. The thing is, I don’t spend much money on it — maybe three or four bucks a month. I guess I didn’t figure all that coinage would add up to so much. I briefly considered converting to an Amazon gift certificate instead, but I decided to stick with my original choice.

So, now I’ve got an iTunes account credit for the above amount, plus what I already had stored in there from a previous giftcard redemption. Grand total: $73.86.

Given my current rate of consumption, that should last me, what, a couple of years? At least I’ll never lack for digital tracks. (Actually, I’m planning on buying that iPhone/iPod Software Update 2.0 upgrade when it comes out next month, so that will knock $9.99 off my stash.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/29/2008 01:18:04 PM
Category: General
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Saturday, June 28, 2021

Break out of the blandness that is the arial-helvetica-verdana troika of sans-serifing with a bevy of do-it-yourself font-building online utilities.

Good commercial and free programs make the job easier for a wide range of users. Some people with degenerating handwriting are freezing their script in a font. Scrapbookers are casting their lettering into a font so they can have a personal look. Battle re-enactors are even printing out orders in historically accurate typefaces.

Chief destinations for free kern-by-kern crafting: FontStruct and FontForge. Neither appeals to me a great deal. FontStruct turns me off with its insistence upon registration, and it’s just too social-networking for me. FontForge, aside from being an executable program, is also decidedly lacking in user-friendliness.

Plus, neither seems too strong on non-Roman alphabet symbols. I’d like to find some different looks for Greek alphabet fonts; that might compel me to get more into this fontaholic kick.

Not that I’m all that picky about fontage. I do have a particular eye for it, thanks to a lifelong attention to such detail and a good stretch of time in publishing/media design. Personally, I’ve always had a fondness for the Tahoma typeface. Yeah, it’s just another sans-serif set, but something about the spacing and angling sets it apart, visually.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/28/2008 05:37:37 PM
Category: Creative, Publishing
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Friday, June 27, 2021

Is wi-fi access a killer app, or a fully-loaded extra? Chrysler is including the UConnect Web service in a raft of its vehicle models, starting in 2009.

So every passenger can wirelessly check their email, MySpace etc. while hurtling down the road at 55MPH, thus undermining family bonding via forced close-quarters:

In the future, road trip dialogues might look more like this:

Kid: “Are we almost there yet?”
Dad: “No.”
Kid: “Great.”

And then Little Timmy’s back to Twittering about the New Mexico landscape out his window and uploading photos of it to his Facebook page.

On one level, I totally want this, as my iTouch doesn’t do the job on Web access while I’m in motion. On the other hand, when am I ever going to drive enough to justify another $30 monthly bill? Speaking of which, I can see a lot of prospective customers, even the upper-middle class target, choking on that price point. The spread of all-you-can-eat data plans for cellphones would go far toward undermining this otherwise appealing feature.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/27/2008 08:55:22 PM
Category: Internet, Tech
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Thursday, June 26, 2021

It’s always been there, but I’ve only recently started tuning into TV One, chiefly for the reruns of “Good Times”.

I’ve also stumbled upon reruns of “Martin”, of which I’m not nearly as fond. But I lucked out in recently catching my favorite episode of that show, “Guard Your Grill”.

What’s so special about that episode? It guest-starred boxing great Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns, which led to this priceless trash-talking joke by an in-character Martin Lawrence:

“You call yourself ‘The Hitman’? Well, I heard Sugar Ray calls you ‘The Get-Hit Man!’”

Referring, of course, to the 1981 epic welterweight bout between Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard. I can’t watch Lawrence deliver that line and not completely crack up. It’s way up there among my favorite sports-flavored jokes.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/26/2008 11:17:23 PM
Category: Comedy, Other Sports, TV
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pocket-sized
I think I once declared that I wouldn’t let my ever-present electronic devices dictate how I dressed or, furthermore, how I buy my clothing.

But really, that’s a hollow claim. Because whenever I know I’ll be toting my iPod Touch (which is, basically, all the time) I make sure to wear a shirt that has a breast pocket. Because anyone who’s regularly tethered to earbuds knows that this placement works best for access and avoiding cord tanglement. T-shirt, dress shirt, casual button-down — whatever the style, it’s got to have that crucial compartment for optimal iTouch carriage.

So yes, I’m a slave to what I’m calling, for lack of a better term, the “iPod-cket”. Fashion yields to function.

Technically, this pocket-placement isn’t limited to the iTouch. I deposit my cellphone there from time to time, especially if I’m paranoid about missing an incoming call. But let’s face it, i-tagging something is the ticket these days.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 06/26/2008 10:43:42 PM
Category: Fashion, iPod
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Wednesday, June 25, 2021

Lots of jockeying lately in the development of next-generation mobile phone software.

Nokia taking full control of Symbian, and announcing that it would subsequently make its operating system free for software developers, warranted front-page news in the Financial Times. Similarly, rumors of significant delays in the rollout of Google’s Android system, the cornerstone of its Open Handset Alliance, prompted questions about whether or not it would ever catch up with the iPhone.

The idea of the mobile handset as the next computing frontier has been anticipated for a decade, ever since cellphones became commonplace. It took a long time for enough computing power, and Internet-accessible infrastructure, for this idea to actually come to pass. If this is just another false start, it looks real enough.

Android’s problems are curious, because they confirm my suspicions that it’s not progressing smoothly. When Google announced the first round of winning apps for integration into Android, and it turned out that they were all some sort of location-keying functions, my reaction was, “so what?”. After months of development, to present what amounts to widgets that mash-up with Google Maps seems like an underwhelming achievement. I can see the value in these for Google — they can sell tightly-targeted AdSense inventory, thereby creating new revenue streams — but are they really all that compelling? And more importantly, are they anything that can’t be easily, and quickly, replicated by current phone providers?

Compound that with the bloody nose that Google’s already getting by having to dicker with handset makers over conforming their code to “fit” the hardware. This is very much uncharted territory for Google. They’re used to dealing with pure software, and Web-based software at that — classic code-once, run-anywhere stuff. That’s the basic idea behind Android, but it requires cooperation from handset makers who, really, don’t have to go along with Google’s vision. And with Symbian being unshackled, they now have even less reason to let Google call the shots.

I realize it early in the process, but to me, this is already looking like a disaster. Between the culture clashes and the competitive landscape, I don’t see much chance for Android to take hold, much less dominate. Two to three years from now, this will go down as one of Google’s most significant setbacks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 06/25/2008 10:34:16 PM
Category: Tech
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Tuesday, June 24, 2021

what's the deal
Jerry Seinfeld on the death this week of George Carlin:

You could certainly say that George downright invented modern American stand-up comedy in many ways. Every comedian does a little George. I couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve been standing around with some comedians and someone talks about some idea for a joke and another comedian would say, “Carlin does it.” I’ve heard it my whole career: “Carlin does it,” “Carlin already did it,” “Carlin did it eight years ago.”…

I know George didn’t believe in heaven or hell. Like death, they were just more comedy premises. And it just makes me even sadder to think that when I reach my own end, whatever tumbling cataclysmic vortex of existence I’m spinning through, in that moment I will still have to think, “Carlin already did it.”

It takes a comedian to deftly eulogize another comedian’s death, comedically. Well done.

Incidentally, NBC will be rerunning the very first episode of “Saturday Night Live” from 1975 this Saturday, in honor of inaugural host George Carlin. It’ll be the first time I’ve set aside a Saturday night to watch “SNL” in many a moon.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/24/2008 11:12:28 PM
Category: Celebrity, Comedy
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what's obscene
Finally, a sensible use of Google Trends: A defense attorney in Pensacola is using the local volume data on pornography searches to establish the classic “contemporary community standards” yardstick for defining obscenity.

Lawyers in obscenity cases have tried to demonstrate community standards by, for example, showing the range of sexually explicit magazines and movies available locally. A better barometer, [First Amendment Lawyers Association’s Jeffrey] Douglas said, would be mail-order statistics, because they show what people consume in private. But that information is hard to obtain.

“All you had to go on is what was available for public consumption, and that was a very crude tool,” Mr. Douglas said. “The prospect of having measurement of Internet traffic brings a more objective component than we’ve ever seen before.”…

“We tried to come up with comparison search terms that would embody typical American values,” [defense lawyer Lawrence] Walters said. “What is more American than apple pie?” But according to the search service, he said, “people are at least as interested in group sex and orgies as they are in apple pie.”

There’s a joke in there, somewhere, about the age-old linkage between porn and the Web finally moving beyond mere prurient interests. But I’ll let others zing that one.

The larger question: Does the average citizen think closed-door activities are subject to application as broader social mores? Of course not. It looks to me like the defense wants to force this issue by using (somewhat) hard data to erase the hypocrisy in maintaining public vs. private standards. It’ll take more than a search engine to knock down that moral construct.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/24/2008 09:33:19 PM
Category: Florida Livin', Internet, True Crime
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In a world bereft of true surprises, U.S. Sugar Corp.’s decision to sell itself (and, more to the point, its extensive Everglades-bordering land holdings) to the state of Florida for $1.75 billion qualifies as a bombshell.

The big question is why. U.S. Sugar is still an economic powerhouse, producing 10 percent of the country’s sugar. And I know, from covering Floridian business, that this company runs a practical fiefdom down there, fighting aggressively to keep labor costs dirt-cheap.

So why is it snuffing itself out? And for a relatively meager sum. I’ll be shocked if the real reasons don’t surface soon. All I can assume is that U.S. Sugar is feeling the increasing pressure from Brazil and other Caribbean/South American sugar producers, and is proactively exiting before the situation starts deteriorating.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/24/2008 08:41:50 PM
Category: Business, Florida Livin'
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I got an automated email today from the Los Angeles Times, telling me all about their new online features.

Like I care. But I guess I registered with the site a long time ago, so I’m on their list. And it’s not like they’ve been spamming me — I get maybe one such email from the paper every three or four months, easily putting them in the only mildly-intrusive bacn category.

Anyway, one of their big announcements was the launch of two new LA Times-hosted reporter blogs: Money & Co., dealing with personal finance; and Booster Shots, covering personal healthcare.

I’m not interested in either. But I appreciated the indirect humor I derived from this information, because I instantly imagined some sort of a “Money Shot” blog out of this. I mean, hey, it is LA, after all.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/24/2008 06:51:50 PM
Category: Bloggin', Media
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Monday, June 23, 2021

last pick
A nice story came out of this past weekend’s NHL Entry Draft, from none other than my erstwhile hometeam Tampa Bay Lightning:

Projected first/second-rounder David Carle abruptly withdrew from the draft, after a physical diagnosed him with a potentially fatal heart ailment. In response, the Bolts’ new ownership used the team’s final selection, in the seventh round, to take Carle. It was a token action, basically so that Carle could fulfill his dream to “make” the National Hockey League, even if only symbolically.

While it’s hard to critique the sentiment, this fuzzy use of a potentially valuable asset like a draft pick raises questions. It’s not the first time in draft history that late-round picks have been “misused”, and there have been far more frivolous applications, starting with the Buffalo Sabres’ 1974 selection of the fictional Taro Tsujimoto of the fictional Tokyo Kanatas in the then-nonfictional 11th round. Frankly, a tail-end draft slot is almost purely a crapshoot — a team could uncover a hidden gem, but more likely read off a name with the longest of longshots. It’s really not a significant organizational loss to use that pick for ceremonial purposes.

Anyway, good for Oren Koules and the rest of the new Lightning ownership for a thoughtful move. A sport’s talent-dispersement draft is purely business, but there’s a little room for some niceties.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/23/2008 10:40:15 PM
Category: Hockey
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When Yahoo! made a big deal last week about opening up “clean” registration for @ymail.com and @rocketmail.com email accounts, I definitely questioned the value of promoting something as commonplace (and even passe) as email.

Especially when it’s been superseded, especially among the youth demographics:

Anyone younger than about 30 doesn’t seem interested in having an email address period, let alone caring whether it’s hermanzweibel@rocketmail.com or whatever. My teenaged daughters and their friends never use email anyway — they text message (in which case all you need is a phone number) or they use Facebook messages as a way of communicating. I send them email and they never get it. Do they have email addresses? Yes, and they are a combination of their names, underscores, numbers and nicknames, and so on — and they couldn’t care less. Not exactly a huge market opportunity there either, I wouldn’t say.

And that’s nothing new: Three years ago, Pew Internet & American Life reported that teens considered email suitable only for “old people”.

The core idea is that email relies upon “pull” interaction with the user, i.e. you typically have to check it manually, especially when using a Web-based version like Y! Mail, Gmail etc. Yes, you can set up any of a thousand widgets to alert you to incoming messages, but it’s not a default setting. In contrast, IM and texting have built-in pop-up notifications that make an exchange via those channels seem spontaneous and instant (they’re really not — under the hood they function much like email, but it’s so seamless that the user can’t tell, and that’s the key). Speed kills.

So what’s the point in expanding email, if it’s the less-favored communication option?

Actually, email is still the single most compelling killer app on the Web. Checking email is one of the few critical online activities that “old people” engage in; and since advertisers covet older demographics for their spending power, they’ll buy up ad space on email screens. Even Google is cognizant of this. Essentially, Yahoo! is potentially tripling the amount of ad inventory it can offer advertisers by opening up the ymail and rocketmail domains to new users.

More broadly, I also question how far one can go in life without using personal email. Despite all capabilities, it’s awkward to IM or text business-related correspondence, including resumes for job-hunting and so on. For all the alternatives, email still offers a compact communication channel, even with spam headaches.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/23/2008 04:02:36 PM
Category: Internet, Society
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Direct-to-Internet video series like “LonelyGirl15″ and “In the Motherhood” attract a good number of eyeballs and plenty of buzz. But making money on them is elusive, and it could be because even widespread broadband Web won’t necessarily overtake TV as the prime mass medium:

“There’s still no evidence that the Web format will be a dominant rather than supplementary format,” said [Forrester Research analyst James] McQuivey, who pointed out that 18 percent of Internet viewers are now connecting their computers to TV monitors, eliminating the need to produce video for computers. “Will this new visual language morph back into the established language of television? What is the long-term role of these short-form shows?”

That “18 percent” stat was clumsily conveyed — the doubling-up of television and computer media through the same big-screen display just means that households can toggle back and forth between Web and TV more seamlessly. It’s not going to impact the creation of more Webisodes.

But the point is valid. Given the asynchronous nature of Web content, we might not see an online show ever become a broad-based feature series. Television’s simplicity and accessibility continues to be its strength: Turn it on and just watch, along with a few million other viewers, versus click on this link, click on another link, then wait for video to start loading, etc.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/23/2008 12:06:37 PM
Category: Business, Internet, TV
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Let’s reminisce for a bit, back to just before the turn of the century, when Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker was sharing his infamous views on New York’s multiethnic makeup:

- On ever playing for a New York team: “I would retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”

- On New York City itself: “The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”

Ah, the memories.

I could see that Rocker’s time in the spotlight would be short. In fact, at the time, I remember joking with a friend that the future was clear: Rocker would wash out of the majors, wind up selling insurance, and someday parlay his brief notoriety into a Vice-Presidential candidacy on some fringe third-party crackpot ticket.

Well, he “retired” from the major leagues years ago, after compiling fairly negligible career numbers. And judging by his modern-day online screeds, where he’s cultivating a nice little persecution complex, I’ll stick with my half-serious prediction becoming ludicrous reality. With gems like “What if 20 Million Illegal Aliens Vacated America?” and “Can A Muslim Become A Good American Citizen?”, I’m sure some whites-only outfit will be tapping Rocker for public appearances soon.

And if this rocket-ride to fame gets derailed, there’ll be no shortage of funny-speaking scapegoats upon which Rocker can cast blame. Keep hope alive!

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/23/2008 10:58:53 AM
Category: Baseball, Celebrity, New Yorkin', Politics
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Sunday, June 22, 2021

Sure, it makes perfect sense for the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique to adopt a new, expanded scoring scale for gymnastic competition which now sets the number 17 as the highest attainable mark. The tradition 1 through 10 ranking often relied upon differentiation by decimal point, making it a struggle for judges to parse a 9.4 performance from a 9.6, and so on.

Still, this new scale robs the sport of an instantly-relatable concept:

“Why they did it?” [Bela] Karolyi, the legendary Transylvania-born coach, asked during an interview this week. “Why? Why take the simple perfect 10 out? It was so understandable. It was our trademark. The gymnastics trademark. It gave us such visibility and recognition.”

The concept of a “perfect 10″ is commonplace in casual parlance, going well beyond sports. We rate everything from volume settings to members of the opposite sex by a base of 10. So yeah, it’s a good yardstick. Even if the FIG scale needed reforming, it’s a blunder to abandon something of which the audience has an innate understanding. Instead of engaging the crowd, a new odd-numbered scoring system alienates them.

That said: Seventeen happens to be my lucky number. So personally, I can deal with this turn of events. Not that I’m going to start saying, “Now tell me, on a scale of 1 to 17, what’s…”

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/22/2008 10:51:33 PM
Category: Other Sports
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interactive social
When Jean Jacques Rousseau laid out the social contract that underlies political principles, I doubt he regarded it as a user-generated exercise. But so it is with The Interactive Social Contract (version 1.3):

The Interactive Social Contract has arrived to free humankind from ignorance, division, and malaise! Constructed to combine Art, Science, Law, and Religion into one action-packed online interface, the ISC is a New God — not of the heavens, but arising from the very will of the people!

This user-generated database of philosophy and law defines a New Plastic Morality that will bend instantly to circumstances which have torn previous societies asunder. All truths are revealed and lies wither under its radiance!

Lofty. Just as lofty as the website’s design, which uses some nifty frames layout and manipulable images for a super-cool presentation. I’m jealous.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/22/2008 04:33:41 PM
Category: Creative, Internet
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straight for oh-eight
Now that Barack Obama has settled his search for a running mate by selecting none other than his eighth cousin Dick Cheney, what can we expect policy-wise for the next four years?

According to the Obama-Cheney 2008 campaign website, America will be re-invigorated via the deployment of Bionic Commandos, the sale of Mexico to China, and the use of crystal power.

Hey, at least having Cheney remain in his bunker for another term will provide consistency.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/22/2008 03:17:32 PM
Category: Comedy, Politics
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Saturday, June 21, 2021

promenade
Sonofagun if I didn’t completely forget about today’s 2008 Coney Island Mermaid Parade! Obviously, my blog self-reminder after I missed last year’s edition didn’t take.

But I’m well aware of it now. And since it’s a beautiful sunny day out, that means I’m jumping on the Brooklyn-bound F train for a couple of hours of beach time on Coney, followed by a walk to Surf Avenue to catch the freakiness. The above photo from 2007 will give you an idea of what’s in store; I’ll try to supplement it with a couple of pictures of my own today (no promises).

So I’m planning on searing both my skin and my psyche, both of which are probably overdue for such treatment.

It’s not going to be all frivolity and nudity this year, though. Thanks to the development plans that are worming their way through, there will be anti-rezoning protests and statements made throughout, including a well-promoted hunger strike by the reigning Mermaid Queen. All the makings of a heady brew; guess I’ll find out shortly.

UPDATE, 6/22/2008: I went, I saw, and I came back. It was a beautifully hot day, which was great while I was laying out on the Coney Island sand; but not as great while standing on the corner of Surf and Stillwell in the midst of a crowd. The sun and the slow pace of the parade’s progress combined to cut my patience short, and I left after a little less than an hour.

I took a handful of pictures with my cameraphone, but frankly, they were so piss-poor that I deleted them. Plenty of other folks got quality shots, so browse away. I got to see the Segway pirate, and was severely disappointed that I didn’t take a clear photo of him. On the other hand, I didn’t stick around long enough to see this year’s rendition of a Starbucks mermaid.

One final impression: It really hit home to me how much Coney Island resembles one of those kooky insular beach communities I had encountered in Florida so often. Must be something about the sand, surf and relative isolation as a travel terminus. In fact, I’m thinking that if the Conch Republic ever decides to expand north — way north — they’d find Coney to be a perfect fit.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 06/21/2008 09:08:35 AM
Category: Creative, New Yorkin'
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Friday, June 20, 2021

I’m sure I shouldn’t make too much of the fact that The Blog Readability Test can’t figure out a score for good ol’ Population Statistic. It seems to choke on the URL and spits back something about not being able to check the site.

Then again, when you plug “google.com” into the entry field, it declares that “blog’s” reading level as Genius. Even taking into consideration the tongue-and-cheekiness of this just-another-Web-diversion, I’m glad I managed to break it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/20/2008 11:56:41 AM
Category: Bloggin'
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