Talk about mixed emotions. I'm a native New Yorker, born in a hospital in Manhattan. I grew up in Brooklyn until my family migrated westward to Staten Island. Even after I moved to the Garden State, I travelled for many years to my uncle's dental office in Queens. The Yankees, my favorite sports team, plays in the Bronx (although I did find myself rooting for the Mets in the 2015 World Series). I think that covers all the NYC bases - or boroughs, at least. I never expected to see professional teams in Brooklyn, but perhaps when we saw the circus in Coney Island a few years ago, that was a sign of things to come. Now the Nets and Islanders call Brooklyn their home. I'm still trying to figure out why the Jets and Giants are considered New York teams. The last time I looked at a map, Routes 3, 17, and the New Jersey Turnpike were located in, well, New Jersey. Come to think of it, Newark Liberty is the closest airport to lower Manhattan, but no one has proposed (yet) renaming it New York Liberty - then again there is a professional basketball team by that name. At least they do play in the Big Apple.
Perhaps the best thing is for New York and New Jersey to take pride in the best that each other has to offer. We were thrilled to discover the High Line on Manhattan's West Side. From near the food options at Chelsea Market to the train yards near Penn Station, this abandoned elevated freight railroad line has become an elevated park instead, now attracting millions of visitors annually. Over the train yards, office, retail, and residential space is springing up rapidly. A new subway station opened near the Javits Center, further opening up the West Side. A brand new transportation hub is in its finishing stages near the new World Trade Center. Elsewhere in the Big Apple, skyscrapers are soaring to new heights. Within the last decade, five buildings over 1,000 feet in height have opened, with seven more at various stages of construction.
In the Garden State, you have the long-time homes of two of the world's greatest scientists, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. NJPAC in Newark plays host to many of the world's greatest performers in a concert hall rivaling the best. New Jersey has among the most diverse populations anywhere, allowing for an incredible selection of cultural and culinary choices. Even looking at New York is more impressive if done from the New Jersey side. From the panoramic Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, you can see from northern Manhattan out to the Rockaways in Queens. From Liberty State Park, you will feel like you can reach out your hand and be in the Big Apple. Along the Palisades,, you will feel like you are in another place, yet only minutes from New York. And let's not forget that New Jersey is the closest state to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
This past weekend, admission to the National Parks was free. Sometimes we forget sites that are close to home. A lifelong resident of New York and New Jersey, the Statue of Liberty is an easy drive to the ferry at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. In West Orange, New Jersey there is an incredible museum that we rediscovered. The last time I was there was as a kid. The same for my wife. For our daughters, it was their first visit. It was the laboratory of Thomas Alva Edison.
As we took a few photos via the iPhone, I couldn't help but think of how we got to where we are today. Undoubtedly, the ability to take photographs, shoot video, and record and play back music owe a great deal of thanks to the incredible mind of Edison. Park rangers at the museum demoed a phonograph and a talking doll, both of which were invented by Edison. I asked our daughters to think about the inventions on display at the museum. In 2015, people have iPhones and iPads and now the Apple Watch, as well as Android and other competitive products. But it was Edison's mind that saw the possibilities of recorded sound, as well as still and moving pictures. It was wonderful to watch the girls connect the dots. One of the interesting things in the museum was that Edison had a tremendous amount of library space. There was plenty of room for him to collaborate with other scientists and to allow them to read through countless journals. The iPhone allows you to take photos, record and play back (and purchase) music and movies, and so much more. It would have been fascinating to see Edison and Steve Jobs brainstorm.
The road from West Orange, New Jersey to Silicon Valley is paved with brilliant ideas from the past and the present. Of course, you can get on Interstate 280 in West Orange and merge with I-80 in Parsippany, NJ, then generally keep on I-80 until you reach San Francisco, a short drive to Silicon Valley, but that's about 3,000 miles. Or perhaps you can get on an airplane powered by an engine manufactured by General Electric, a company founded by Edison in the year 1878 as the Edison Electric Light Company. GE, according to its website, would be created in 1892 when Edison's company merged with the Thomson-Houston company. Half a century later, in 1942, GE would introduce the world's first jet engine, shortly after the US entered World War II.
If you live in or are visiting New Jersey or New York City, Edison's laboratory should be added to your "must-see" list. Also, just a few minutes away in West Orange is a beautiful 9/11 memorial and one of the most panoramic views of New York City from atop Eagle Rock Reservation.
1/21/2015 0 Comments
Game-Changing Viewing Habits
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that comScore would implement a new way of measuring television audiences, factoring in devices other than actual television sets. The assumption has been that TV audience size has been declining, but others have suggested that it is more a matter of the way people watch having changed. Many cable networks allow subscribers to watch programming via apps for iPhones, iPads, and other "smart" devices. In fact, just this past weekend, I was working on my MacBook Pro while watching the exciting game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers. NBCUniversal has just brought this change to an even higher level, announcing that it will stream 11 hours of Super Bowl coverage, including the game itself, free of charge and regardless of whether one has a cable subscription or not. The viewing results undoubtedly will have a major impact on the future of how content is distributed.
11/11/2014 0 Comments
Lifesaving Moments & Fluffy the Bear
Normally on my blogs, I like to write about things that will inform others. It can be an interesting research study, some new technology or social media release, or even a current event. Today, I am sharing a frightening event that happened this past week, in the hope that if it helps even one person or family, it will be worth it. Three days after trick-or-treating and one day before Election Day, our 8 1/2-year-old daughter suffered multiple seizures and her heart stopped beating for several seconds before coming out of the episodes. Seconds seemed like forever. Her school acted very quickly to get her to the hospital, Morristown Medical Center in northern New Jersey. While at the hospital, she had many more episodes. She was transferred in the wee hours of the morning from Morristown to New York Presbyterian across the Hudson River near the George Washington Bridge. To see her head roll back and eyes give a strange appearance, then also see the monitor register "0" for the heartbeat, is simply crushing. To hear a Code Blue called for your daughter and see all available medical personnel rushing to her is beyond words. To hear your daughter say out loud that she thinks she is dying while the doctors are doing an emergency procedure is heartbreaking.
The good news is that a week later, she has been moved out of intensive care. The surprising diagnosis was that Lyme disease in rare cases can impact the cardiac and nervous systems. The normal symptoms are external; our daughter's symptoms were internal. Miraculously, the cardiologist we normally take her to at Morristown for a congenital heart defect has done research on the relation of Lyme disease to the heart. In the tests the cardiology teams ordered, she tested positive for Lyme Carditis. A temporary pacemaker was inserted at New York Presbyterian by a co-author of that same research; the pacemaker helped regulate her heart after those rough first two days. We were puzzled when the doctors asked if we go camping (which we don't), but we do have many deer in northwest New Jersey, and the occasional black bear. One other thing that did help, however, was Fluffy, a huge stuffed teddy bear given to our daughter by a nurse on the Morristown team. That little gesture during the toughest moments has meant so much during the recovery.
1/17/16 update - Just about a year after the emergency, my daughter is in excellent health. Joined by my wife and our other daughter, we participated in the Heart Walk run by the American Heart Association. I was asked to say a few words about my daughter's story before the start of the event. Joining us on stage was Fluffy - one little gesture during an emergency that continues to mean so much today.
2/11/17 update - Tomorrow we will join with other families at Morristown's annual Valentine's Day party and educational day. It's a chance for families to learn more about congenital heart disease and meet the wonderful Morristown team. We recently learned that a child whose sister is a patient at Morristown had donated Fluffy. We are excited to pay it forward by donating another teddy bear to help another child recover. In fact, it would be wonderful if every child going to the hospital in an ambulance and every child admitted to the hospital was comforted by a small toy or stuffed animal. The Denville EMS team gave our daughter a small toy to hold when she was rushed to Morristown - again, a little gesture that has meant so much to our family. Happy Valentine's Day to all who played a role in saving our daughter's life!
HBO's decision to offer households the option to subscribe directly to the network starting sometime in 2015 may shake up the way we consume entertainment. Currently, watching HBO generally requires a subscription to a cable network. Noting that there are over 80 million individuals who currently do not subscribe to HBO, the network believes that it can make a dent in that number by attracting cord cutters - that is, those who have dropped their cable subscriptions. Those who no longer subscribe to cable often cite the high cost of a subscription relative to the few stations that are actually watched. It will be interesting to see where the sweet spot is - will people subscribe to so many individual networks that it will cost more than a cable subscription? That remains to be seen. HBO has been a mainstay in the cable industry for decades, so the fact that it is changing its service model is significant. It is not the first network to be offered to viewers à la carte - Netflix and Hulu, for example, are both currently available without cable subscriptions.
[originally posted September 24, 2014; updated January 6, 2015 to reflect Craig Biggio's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York]
I have been a Yankees fan since I was a kid. We couldn't afford to buy team jerseys, so I remember taking two pieces of black electrical tape and pasting a #7 on a white T-shirt in honor of my favorite player at the time, Mickey Mantle. It was toward the end of his career, team attendance was abysmal by today's standards (the Yankees were lucky to draw 15,000-20,000 for a long stretch), championships were no longer in sight, but it was still special. If we were lucky, perhaps my family would get to see one game per season, either at Yankee or Shea Stadium. (I do root for the Mets as well these days.) If we were really lucky, we would go on a promotional day - Cap Day, Bat Day, Record Day (a vinyl version of Here Come the Yankees, Lou Gehrig' s famous speech, Phil Rizzuto's "Holy Cow!", and more) - all were wonderful.
It seems like Derek Jeter's career just started, but in a few days, the 2014 season will end without the Yankees in the post-season. Mathematically, there is an infinitesimal chance of the team sneaking in to the playoffs, I believe, but the teams in front would have to collapse in their remaining games, besides the Yankees winning all of their own games. I remember visiting my younger brother at SUNY-Albany when Bernie Williams was playing for the Yankees' minor league team there. Time flies. With the constant attention on Jeter's pending retirement, some have said that he has deserved the attention, while others have suggested that he was overrated as a baseball player. So which side am I on in this debate?
In my opinion, Jeter should be an easy choice for the Hall of Fame. The Yankees have always been known for their sluggers, the Bronx Bombers. The triple crown looks at home runs, runs batted in (RBI's), and batting average. To win a game, however, you need to score more runs than the other team. On offense, this is one area where Jeter not only excelled, but achieved it at a world-class level, better than any other shortstop in the history of major league baseball, and equal to or better than many current Hall-of-Famers. According to Major League Baseball, here are the top 20 all-time best in terms of scoring runs (bold denotes members of the Baseball Hall of Fame):
9/11/2014 0 Comments
Reflecting on a Horrific Day
(I first ran this piece last year, on September 11th. Today is the thirteenth anniversary of the attacks. Finding photos from the 1990's brings back memories of a different time. The skyline is different now, New York has come back strong, but the events of that day will always be with us.)
Today, of course, is the twelfth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In many ways, the horrors of the attacks brought the American people together as a single community, and in other ways felt deeply personal as well. It did not matter what your background was, who you voted for, what your beliefs were, the people who were killed or injured cut across the beautiful fabric that makes up the United States, as well as visitors from all corners of the globe.
On that horrific day, I remember working in Newark, maybe 10 miles or so west of the World Trade Center. As I was driving east on I-280, I remember hearing the first reports of a plane crash before 9:00 a.m., then seeing the billowing smoke from the top of one of the towers. I remember parking on the upper levels of an office garage and seeing straight across toward lower Manhattan. I remember sitting in my cubicle and contacting my family, realizing that communication might be lost at any moment -- leaving a message for my wife where she was teaching, not being sure how much the schools were aware of the day's events; leaving a message with my in-laws in case my wife got through to them and not to me. I remember calling my mother on Staten Island - the direction in which the smoke was billowing - then realizing that instead of hanging up I should do a conference call with my brothers (one who lived in Manhattan at the time, another who often was in the City, and a third from Boston, from which two of the planes originated). I also remember driving home early that day and avoiding a drawbridge I would usually drive on, not being sure of what other targets there might be. I also remember the weather that Tuesday being particularly nice - beautifully clear and pleasant.
We must always remember the sadness and the tragedy of the day - the people who worked there, the tourists who were visiting, the emergency services personnel who gave their lives to rescue others, the countless volunteers who helped regardless of the risks to their own health and safety. In the fall of 2000, I lost my father after a series of health battles. I couldn't help but think that he probably would have organized a blood drive had he been alive on 9-11.
The skyline of Manhattan is changing now. From the New Jersey side, you can clearly see the rebirth a bit over a decade later. There are many great vantage points of the New York City skyline from the Garden State side of the Hudson River. Liberty State Park in Jersey City was a key part of rescue efforts in 2001; today you can see the dramatic changes with the new One World Trade Center, sometimes called the Freedom Tower. This past July, the new tower was lit up top to bottom in red, white, and blue, an amazing site. Tonight, beams of light will be visible from lower Manhattan after sundown to honor the memory of the victims of the attacks. Because of the ease of access and proximity to New York City, New Jersey represented a very large number of the casualties. One of the most beautiful tributes to the events of that day can be seen in West Orange at Eagle Rock Reservation, a public park. On a clear day, you get an incredibly panoramic view of New York - seeing all the way from the George Washington Bridge to the Rockaways. The names of the victims are engraved on a wall. There are sculptures honoring the emergency personnel. The people aboard the four airplanes that crashed are each individually recognized.
Let us honor all by remembering the tragedy and remembering what makes us strong. Let us remember what a privilege it is to live in this great democracy and to be able to vote for the candidates of our choice. Let us remember that our differences can either pull us apart or make us stronger. The terrorist attacks in 2001 brought together the nation in different ways. That is something worth remembering and upon which to build.
9/9/2014 0 Comments
Imagination & Knowledge
A few hours from now, Apple is set to announce the latest update to its iPhone. As always, there is much anticipation associated with this event. There is much speculation that a watch based on the iOS platform will be released as well. The assumption is that if this is indeed the case, it will simply be called the iWatch. Many have suggested that it will have health-related features as well. It's hard to believe that the iPhone has been around for only seven years, given how much the iPhone and other smartphones have taken a hold on the world's imagination and knowledge. That is perhaps the key to the iPhone's phenomenal success. In the palm of your hand, you have not only an encyclopedia full of information, but a seemingly infinite source of creative options, as well as access to libraries, colleges, museums, newspapers, and even social networks around the globe. Everyone knows iTunes for its access to one's favorite music and perhaps movies as well, but a lot of knowledge is disseminated through podcasts and iTunesU, where colleges may post course material for the world to see. On the internet, some of the great universities of the world have teamed up to offer Massive Open Online Courses, often referred to by their MOOC acronym. With a MOOC, anyone can register to take a college-level course, either just to learn or for a certificate. My alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has teamed up with another college in Cambridge, Massachusetts to offer the edX MOOC to the world. The MIT-Harvard program joins these two wonderful universities with other great universities around the world. Speaking of MIT, a small news item yesterday caught my attention. Apple is leasing space, apparently for its voice recognition team, in an office building at the end of the MIT campus, a short distance from Harvard and from Boston.
Will today's product announcement be limited to a new iPhone? Will it include a game-changing device, much as the iPad did back in 2010? Will it add to the product mix a less popular but nice gadget such as the Apple TV? Or will it be something that we have not yet imagined? Of course, there has been a lot of hype about today's announcements. In a few hours, the world will find out if the hype was too much or not. But when it comes down to it, the iPhone and similar products package imagination and knowledge into a device that fits in the palm of your hand. Interestingly, the late Steve Jobs became Disney's largest shareholder when Pixar was sold to Disney. The creative force behind the Disney parks is comprised of innovators called "Imagineers". Again, it is a matter of imagination and knowledge working together.
Are we there yet? If you are flying on Delta, you can now check on your iPhone or iPad to see where your flight is. And that is not all that the app does. You no longer need to pay to see a movie or TV show on your flight. The app allows you to select your favorites and watch them at no charge. (There are additional charges for select premium content.) Delta is not alone in this endeavor. United this past Spring updated its apps to offer passengers access to its in-flight entertainment. Hawaiian Airlines has been offering passengers iPad Mini's for about a year, although at a fee for most. Australia-based Qantas has been providing passengers with access to customized iPads.
It makes sense that this trend will increase in the near future. Undoubtedly, the vast majority of passengers have a smartphone or tablet with them as they travel. There is little reason to pay a fee for in-flight entertainment options. From a competitive standpoint, it seems intuitive that integrating the airline apps with the passengers' devices will make for a more pleasant experience and, ideally, result in more return customers. There is probably a cost, perhaps significant, to make the switch from the "old school" entertainment options. It seems, however, that Delta, United, Hawaiian, and Qantas have already made the judgment that passengers prefer using their mobile devices.
7/25/2014 0 Comments
OMG! LOL! Comedy Tops the Charts!
For the first time in over half a century, a comedy album sits atop the Billboard charts. Back in August 1963, Martin Luther King had just delivered his historic "I have a dream" speech in Washington, DC. Allan Sherman, meanwhile, would appear at #1 on the Billboard charts with his "My Son, the Nut" album, featuring the classic tune "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh". John F. Kennedy was in the Oval Office. The Beatles were about half a year from making their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Flash forward 51 years. Mobile technology and the internet have revolutionized communications and entertainment. Serious global challenges still abound. Paul McCartney still sells out stadiums. The Rolling Stones still tour from time to time. Social media lets us see Bruce Springsteen cover "Stayin' Alive" and Barry Gibb singing "I'm on Fire". These weren't parodies, like the disco scene in the spoof movie "Airplane!" And speaking of parodies, this brings us to Weird Al Yankovic, who first gained fame with such gems as "Eat It" and "My Bologna". Over three decades later, he has his first #1 album, "Mandatory Fun". For those of us who love the written word, be sure to check out "Word Crimes".
As President Obama and other world leaders grapple with challenges in the Ukraine, the Middle East, and elsewhere, it's fascinating to see humor regaining popular acceptance. Even such a serious columnist as Op-Ed writer Thomas Friedman of the New York Times recently compared current challenges to the Mel Brooks hit TV show "Get Smart!" So whether Weird Al's latest parodies make you ROTFL or you cannot stand them, perhaps we owe him a thank you for reminding us that in a serious world, laughter sometimes is the best medicine.
Blog Author - Ken Felsher
With over 25 years of writing, editing, and research experience. I enjoy sharing with my readers my love of working with content on a variety of subjects.
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