Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New York City 3

What a vibrant city! I’m on the way back to Boulder after three days in Manhattan, and it’s a pleasure to recall the various sights and sounds there. In the early 60’s I was in graduate school in New York New intensely studying mathematics and being somewhat aware of this big city around me and my family (I got married in Germany while living in New York and our oldest son was born in New York University medical center on the east side of Manhattan right by the East River. On our boat trip around southern Manhattan a couple of days ago we could easily recognize the hospital from our vantage point on the comfortable sight-seeing boat. I think this was my first trip to New York that didn’t involve mathematics or any kind of business; just being tourists and helping celebrate our younger son’s 40th birthday.

Just before we were about to get in our taxi to LaGuardia Airport to return to Boulder, we saw a parade being assembled with floats for a Persian holiday (the words Persian and Iranian were interspersed throughout the floats we saw). It was a very peaceful looking group of Persians/Iranians in the most colorful of costumes and with a lot of flags waving. It seemed very festive and also very nonpolitical (except that the Iranian flag and the American flag were both at the head of the procession proudly standing next to each other). This was a vivid contrast to what we saw yesterday walking through Times Square from the pier at the Hudson River and 42nd Street to our room (at a private club) on 37th Street south of Grand Central Station, namely a very loud and boisterous street demonstration (the Germans like to say “Demo”) by a group of supporters of the Palestinian cause denouncing the Israelis (a man chanting into a megaphone with the rhythmic cadence of the crowd’s response). One couldn’t help but feel uneasy as one had the impression that in spite of all of the uniformed police and barricades violence could break out at any moment (in vivid contrast to the sense of peacefulness and joy apparent at the Persian/Iranian parade).

Two or three blocks from Palestinian demonstration we walked into the beautiful oasis called Bryant Park on the west side of the magnificent New York Public Library whose magnificent exterior had recently been refurbished and the stonework glistened with a brilliant white sheen while children were laughing as they sat on the old horses of a miniature carousel in the park. We had seen the garish lighting at night of Times Square twice on the trip when we went to a Broadway theater and to a performance of the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center (north of Times Square). The lighting in Times Square is so much more vivid (and very overdone and in poor taste in my view) than I recall it. A “saving grace” is that, thanks to an initiative of Mayor Bloomberg, much of Times Square is a pedestrian zone, but still the noise and bustle of the crowd doesn’t draw one to sit anywhere peacefully as it would at a comparable square in London or Paris.

A most memorable part of our trip was on Thursday when all of us who had come together for the birthday celebration that evening (there were six of us altogether) gathered at Union Square at noon for a walk through lower Manhattan. We walked down 4th Avenue past our apartment building where we had lived some 46+ years ago through Greenwich Village, Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown (all along Bowery Avenue, an extension of 4th Avenue which is an extension itself of Park Avenue). We visited South Street Seaport, a relatively new tourist destination with shops and old ships where the Fulton Market was and the original seaport of NYC had been. Then we walked over the magnificent Brooklyn Bridge, relatively unchanged since it was opened in the late nineteenth century (it was the first public structure in the world to use steel for its construction and has been a tourist attraction like the Eiffel Tower since it opened). Walking across on the wooden planking of the broad walkway (now half of it a bikeway and looking down through the cracks one can see the waters of the East River)) with the sun going down and the magnificent architecture in all directions and the babble of languages from all over the globe is an exhilarating experience. We found a subway at the end of the bridge in Brooklyn which took our somewhat tired bodies back to Manhattan as the sun was setting.

What a vibrant city!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors is a new phenomenon, and we were able to see it first hand in Boulder. For background, the company is only two years old and is the only company that I know of that is devoted to building exclusively electric cars. Or more precisely, they build exclusive electric cars, that is to say, not cheap. They start at over $100K, and with discounts for energy saving vehicles from state and federal governments, they can be substantively cheaper. Right now there are only two-seater roadster sports cars which are apparently very spiffy in road performance. Sedans are coming out next year. We haven't had a chance to ride in one, but we plan to.

What makes Boulder special here? There are seven showrooms in the US: Menlo Park and LA in California, Dania Beach in South Florida, as wells as in Chicago, New York City, and Seattle. And in Boulder, this small community outside of Denver. There are also three European sales offices and they are expanding to Asia in the near future. What makes Boulder special is two things. First they don't have a car dealership on Pearl Street, the famous shopping and dining street in downtown Boulder with one of the oldest pedestrian malls in the US. Why? Because of zoning laws prohibiting automobile dealerships from this quite remarkable shopping area (too dirty, environmental problems, etc.). But we were at 915 Pearl Street at a social event in the Tesla Showroom Gallery! Art galleries abound in this neighborhood and the city council apparently just winked this one in. You can test drive a car there, and find out all about it, but you can't buy one there. You have to go on to the Internet and order one from California where they are manufactured. And so this seems to work. More cars were "sold in Boulder" (in this Internet manner) than all other dealerships in the world combined. Quite a little record for the two sales people and office manager who work in the sales area there. Nigel with his booming English accent and absolute self-confidence is one of the sales people we met at a social event two days ago. Right now the company is breaking even and is very confident about the future.

We were invited to two events this past week, and one was a gathering of the Intenational Business Circle at the Tesla Gallery (see photo)where there was a panel discussion about Nikola Tesla (the man who invented Alternating Current and many other things more than a century ago and with his 700+ patents is one of the greatest of American inventors), about electric cars in general, and about the use of non fossil fuels in our transportation systems of the future. Boulder is full of high tech people and industry with a strong international flavor, and it was fascinating to meet some of them. There is the Frenchman who owns companies, some of which operate in Germany, the Australian who runs an energy company with his American wife who runs a straw hat company, a South American woman who runs a distance learning university, a Russian from St. Petersburg who spent 11 years in Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen teaching Russian to American soldiers and who is now a lawyer in Boulder, a Spanish entrpreneur, and a Dutchman who teaches mechanical engineering design (pro bono) at Colorado State University in Fort Collins while he lives in Boulder running his businesses, and a friend of ours from Argentina who studied computer science at Rice and is now a real estate agent in Boulder, etc. And on Friday we went to an Art event at Tesla where an artist (also international heritage: American, Swiss and something else) was showing her sculptures dealing with spiritual values and sustainable materials and energy in our fast-paced society. All in all, I have to say, coming to Boulder has been an adventure for us and continues to be surprising.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Computer Woes

These days we are all so dependent upon computers, and when they crash or give us problems, one can get very frustrated. It happened to me this week, and I spent several days dealing with issues. It was doubly depressing as we had just arrived in the US from Germany and were trying to settle in to our Boulder home, and suddenly my computer crashed pretty badly. I had seen signs of it before (sometime before Christmas). The computer would freeze and then I would have to reboot. Not too bad, as I had seen that with all computers I have had (going back to the Tandy computers from Radio Shack, the first IBM computer with 16 bit hardware and two floppy disks, etc.). This time it seemed worse, although I know it isn’t as bad as it could be. After several cycles of rebooting (using safe mode, etc.), if finally stopped booting up at all, and started cycles of automatic roboot repair. Finally, I reinstalled the operating system (Windows 7 on a Sony Vaio several years old), and I was able to reinstall keeping the programs and data, but this took hours. My biggest concern was whether I would have to reformat the hard disk and install a clean copy of the operating system. That is the worst solution (and I have done this in the past; even worse is buying and installing a new hard drive; been there and done that, too). But I am tired of dealing with these issues, and they really take away from the quality of life.

I should be able to ignore this and go out and enjoy Boulder and its nature and scenery (yes we have some nice snow in the hills and a little on the street sides). But our dependency on computers is sometimes overwhelming. I couldn’t write this blog without a computer, but I have to say writing this makes me feel a little better. I couldn’t have written anything two days ago. I didn’t feel like reading the paper (I was disappointed a great deal by the Massachusetts election and that didn’t help at all).

Now some time has passed since I wrote the above lines (several weeks). In the interim I had to buy two new computers, one for Rena (planned) and another for myself, as the repairs on the three year old machine just didn’t work. The hard drive on that machine has been reformatted and now it sits in our living room as a Wikipedia/Google reference library. Installing all of the programs and setting up both computers was a lot of work, and, of course, it was a great procrastination from doing anything else that might have been remotely useful. In the meantime we have been skiing several times and have enjoyed the wonderful nature that Boulder has to offer.

I hope to write about more interesting topics than computer woes in the future. However, I do know it is a common experience for all of us out there.
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