Today's been reasonably productive; made sure a major configuration change at work is working correctly (trying to make the mail infrastructure more redundant because the hardware they're using is flaky), then lugged my bike through the subway to a repair shop in northern Prospect Heights (getting the bike through the turnstyles is kinda tricky), while imagining the channels through which the subway runs near my place (in Brooklyn away from downtown, the Q train seems to only go underground when it needs to go under something) being more numerous and having some abandoned channels perpendicular to the train ones being places where people live. This started to balloon outwards into a full story/world, disrupted by the need to hop off at 7th Ave.
The bikestore people (not sure if I reached the bikestore I was looking for but found *a* bike store) showed me how to use a very nice pump they showed me; bought it, filled my bike, and rode back to a nice cafe I passed on the way there, where I am now enjoying milk and granola and some iced tea. The place is called Milk Bar Cafe (620 Vanderbilt). Good atmosphere, comfortable, kind of small, only a few plug seats but I got one. People seem healthy here.
Today's (very small) adventure already had me pass some 5 or 6 other places I'd like to check out sometime. Many of these places are small and probably have a local crowd. It's so nice seeing people walking everywhere. NYC coffeeshop people seem puzzled-but-appreciative that I throw my garbage out and bring my plates back to their bin. Huh.
Last night, I was thinking about dimensions of variability between places I've lived; recently there's been a lot of conversation in my various social networks comparing various cities and neighbourhoods, and I've been seeking out more city comparisons (kind of the same appeal as geeky jokes about operating systems and programming languages, at least partly). One of the things that feels different between NYC and PGH, as part of population density, is the difference in feelings of solitude in public space. If you're not in a building in PGH, it's reasonably likely the nearest person will not be in earshot, which doesn't seem a safe bet in NYC (even very late at night). This is an entirely different submetric of population density from how residences are laid-out. I also long have had ideas of things that make a neighbourhood better (coffeeshops, libraries, parks, bookstores) and things that make a neighbourhood worse (churches, pawn shops, peep shows), walk-friendliness, bike-friendliness, number of trees, etc. Evaluating parts of NYC on all these metrics is challenging because of that very high population-density. NYC does, of course, do pretty well on 24-hourness and quite well on public-transit-quality, but fairly poorly on smelling nice. Another metric: degree of conformity; really splittable into personal, declarations, and dwellingstyle. NYC is not very personally conformist; modern orthodox and spandex-clad runners/bikers are often on the same train, alongside the usual mix of pretty and average folk and people with unfortunate eyebrows or those who are nastyfat. The architecture seems to be varied with little coherent theme, but I don't see a lot of truly tasteless buildings (some small towns I've visited every so often had a few bright pink or yellow houses or other abominations). The general attitudes of New Yorkers seems to be pretty varied but almost entirely devoid of surprise or perturbability; obnoxious person in your train? Move to the next. Stinky hobo sleeping in a train? Bear it or move on. Annoying jesus-freak? Walk around them and keep going. Europe seems, in my experience, to be fairly different; the cities I've seen have a strong social fabric with norms for how people should treat each other, and people who are being jerks are asked to cut it out.
There is a small, dissenting part of me (among all the many other dissenting parts that don't ever get the steering wheel) that's trying to paint NYC as being ridiculous and a waste; that only false valuations of the things cityfolk produce permit cities to exist, and that low-density communities with-farming, intimately tied to what few non-farming-and-other-directly-human-sus
Later tonight, I'll be going to Karaoke with some of the secular humanists in the East Village. Looking forward to it.