Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.

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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.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/16/2006 11:00:32 PM
Category: Society, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback (1)


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.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/16/2006 10:27:25 PM
Category: Political, Society, History | Permalink | Feedback (1)


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.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/16/2006 03:21:35 PM
Category: Society | Permalink | Feedback

Saturday, April 15, 2021

Know any compulsive sun-worshippers? Don’t chalk up their hours of ultraviolet exposure solely to vanity: A Wake Forest medical study suggests that regular tanning might be rooted in addiction:

“The finding was unexpected and is consistent with the hypothesis that frequent tanning may be driven in part by a mild dependence on opioids, most likely endorphins,” said Steven Feldman, a professor of dermatology at the university. “The nausea and jitteriness induced by the medication are consistent with symptoms of mild opiate withdrawal.”

Perception-wise, I guess this makes the bronze tan the equivalent of trackmarks. Is that a step up from being a walking skin-cancer hazard lesson?

I knew more than a few everyday tanners while in Florida, particularly during my college years. It was routine to lay out for at least a half-hour daily, just to maintain the glow. I don’t recall anyone talking about getting a high out of the ritual. Personally, sun-baking leaves me drained, on the order of dehydration; if there’s any biochemical boost going on, it’s not enough to lift me from that.

I’m wondering if this helps or hinders the fledgling tanning salon industry consolidation effort.

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/15/2006 08:36:51 PM
Category: Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, April 12, 2021

slips of the lipsI’ve been listening to Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie” for the past couple of days (partly for research purposes). And I’ve decided that I really don’t care for it.

And it’s not because of Wyclef Jean’s participation, although I could have done without him on this track (Wyclef is very hit-or-miss for me — some of his stuff I love, but a lot of it makes me cringe). I think it comes down to linguistics — to wit, I don’t like Shakira’s English-language songs, yet I can’t get enough of her Spanish-language (and Portuguese-language) stuff.

It’s true. I can listen to “Ojos Asi” and “La Tortura” over and over and over again. Plus remixes! But “Whenever, Wherever”? “Underneath Your Clothes”? Both leave me cold.

What’s the difference? After all, it’s the same voice. But I think there’s a noticable distinction between Spanish-Shakira and English-Shakira, and it may come down to how multi-lingualism tends to foster different personalities within the same person. In short, I perceive a different set of vocal expressions from this singer between languages, and something about the English tunes tune me out.

Adding to this, I don’t speak Spanish (the fluency I had developed in high school has long since faded away) or Portuguese. So, essentially, I’m digging on songs that are mostly incomprehensible to me. I think the appeal lies precisely in not being able to follow the lyrics. In a way, Shakira’s voice becomes more like an accompanying instrumental. For me, that only enhances the pleasure I get from a song; nothing against song lyrics generally, but sometimes they get in the way of the music.

So, I guess I ought to delete all the Shakira English-language songs I own, and load up on her other stuff. As big an American star as she’s becoming, it’ll get harder and harder to avoid her English singing.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/12/2021 01:36:34 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Celebrity, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, April 09, 2021

If you live in North Dakota… Well, you’re an increasingly rare breed. The state is one of the nation’s leading population losers, and the situation is so acute in the northwestern part of the state that whole towns, depleted down to a dozen or fewer residents, are voting themselves out of existence.

Business and civic leaders are counteracting the trend by offering modern-day homestead packages: Free land to those willing to move in and put down roots. They’re even putting the word out on the Web. Despite this, the effort is hardly snaring the pioneering throngs:

The Web site lists 86 eligible towns and communities in northwest North Dakota, though by its own accounting nearly half of them are either unincorporated or ghost towns. Visitors to the site are invited to fill out and submit a questionnaire. [Northwest North Dakota Marketing Alliance exec Steve] Slocum says the site typically attracts about 20 “good” e-mail inquiries a week.

It is tough to say, exactly, how many families have actually picked up and moved to northwest North Dakota since all this began. There are no statistics, only anecdotes, and very few of those. Steve Slocum can list a few families, but even he gets a little fuzzy on whether all of them have actually moved to the area or merely intend to at some point. One thing he can tell you, though, with certainty and pride: a family from out West has moved to and is starting a business up in Crosby, the town where they’re giving away the free land. What’s more, that family, the Oehlkes, didn’t even take advantage of that offer. That, they will tell you, is not why they came.

Call me a snob of the densely-populated U.S., but I say there’s no sense in beating a dead horse. If people want to vacate, let them. And I can think of a replacement tenant far more reliable than burned-out urbanites from Colorado: The local Indian tribes. From what I can tell, the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, aka Three Affiliated Tribes, seem to be the likeliest native claimants to that corner of ND.

I propose reverting all that emptied-out land back to the Native American tribes that used to live off it. Why not? If the inheritors of Manifest Destiny don’t want the spoils, then give it back to the original inhabitants. They can expand reservations, economically stimulate the land into casino/tourism developments, etc. It’s a win-win over otherwise perpetually distressed real estate.

I realize this opens up a can of worms over sovereignty. But heck, it’s only North Dakota. What else is anyone going to do with it?

- Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/09/2021 09:32:33 PM
Category: Society | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Saturday, April 08, 2021

Now that I’m living in the Empire State, I haven’t had to drive an awful lot. Most days, I walk from spot to spot, and take buses/trains mainly to save time or avoid inclement weather.

Feeling sorry for me, drivers? You shouldn’t, because that $3-per-gallon pricemark is fast approaching, and it’s going to take a bite out of the average American lifestyle.

It’s funny, because it was just yesterday that I actually noticed a couple of gas station signs, and was taken aback by the figures. In the City and upstate, I’m seeing prices edging around $2.90 for regular unleaded; it doesn’t seem that long ago that it was “only” in the $2.50 neighborhood. And of course, that would have been ridiculously high in pre-Dubya times (just sayin’).

I guess it’s times like these when GasBuddy comes in handy. Although, if the prices are high all over, what’s the point?

- Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/08/2021 06:58:41 PM
Category: Society, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Thursday, April 06, 2021

So, those personal/blog business cards I had printed up? I stated that I got them for professional, self-promotional purposes.

But now, the truth is exposed: Like every other card-carrying male, I was using them as a discreet way to deliver my sexual advances upon women.

I was cleaning out my wallet at work and had all these useless business cards I was dumping out on the table along with receipts and other built up wallet junk. The woman I am working with this night says “I bet all those cards came from men”. “Yeah, looks like most of them are, why?” I ask.

“Well”, she continues, “I know two things in this life for sure. One. Never trust people that say ‘trust me’. And two, men give out business cards to woman they want to sleep with”.

There is some backbone to this. I remember hearing about this tactic years ago, but it was more along the lines of personal cards to hand out on the bar scene. It was a gimmicky fad, and I recall the consensus among my social circle being that it was a move rooted in desperation (seems that the act of actually ordering printed-up cards was too much work for such a tactic). But I don’t know about an institutional practice involving bona fide business cards. Maybe it’s an old boys’ network tradition, going hand-in-hand with the two-martini lunch.

Personally, I had no overt intentions along these lines. I really just wanted to generate some low-impact publicity for the blog, and my own self. I’m wondering now if the women to whom I doled out cards thought I was on the make… I probably was, but I didn’t want to make it this obvious.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/06/2021 11:27:42 PM
Category: Society, Women | Permalink | Feedback (4)

Wednesday, April 05, 2021

I usually pass on the thousands of online personality tests out there. But if Diddy, Donald Trump and Derek Jeter can take this one (albiet in absentia), then so can I.

PersonalDNA has calculated me to be a Generous Inventor. I guess that means I might discover the cure for cancer, but I won’t make any money off it. Dang.

Aside from the motivational-poster style positive attributions contained in the report, I found a particular categorical metric to be interesting: I clocked a Masculinity score that was smack in the middle of the scale at 50, and my Femininity quotient was a near-nonexistent 2. I guess I’m just enough of a man, and my feminine mystique is nowhere to be found.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 04/05/2021 07:11:04 PM
Category: Society, Science | Permalink | Feedback (1)

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