Monthly Archives: March 2006

Knowing When To Fold

What’s the fastest and most fun way to get to work? I’ve been commuting in New York City for over 8 years–from Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn (6 out of 8 in Brooklyn) and can say hands down that cycling is the fastest and definitely the most fun. However, it presents its own challenges–where do you lock your bike? What if you work up a sweat on the way in? How do you avoid injury?

My new commute from Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, to SoHo is anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes on the F Train. However, I noticed that I missed starting my day by riding into the office. Bromptonstypeblack

My previous job was very bike commute friendly–I had a place where I could leave my bike indoors, a gym on the premises for showers and a dedicated bike lane for 7 miles of the route. My new gig at MOUSE presents different challenges–it’s much closer but there’s no bike parking and also no easy place to shower. Moreover, as of May, we’re also going to be in Glen Ridge, NJ–though only 13 miles from Lower Manhattan, the best bike route would take me over the George Washington Bridge, bringing the daily milage to 60–and rendering it very unlikely on all but the longest of summer days. So I needed a bike that I could easily stow on the train–enter the Brompton.

I hadn’t heard of them until Eddie Rubeiz, a former Columbia colleague raved about his folder. After taking one for a test ride and seeing that it does in fact fold and unfold in seconds, I was sold.

As a test, yesterday I rode the bike from Cobble Hill to the Puck Building and back . The trip, one-way, door to door took 15 minutes, plus a minute, thirty seconds for the fold. The ride over the Brooklyn Bridge was swift–the Brompton has a 54 tooth front front chain ring and a mini-2 speed derailleur which makes it easy to get up to speed, cruise as well as crank uphill. I was pleasantly surprised by how stable the Brompton feels and how easy it is to balance at traffic lights. The bike is also easy to handle when one’s not riding it–whether it’s picking it up when it’s folded, or moving it around in while it’s on its real wheel and “parked.” The bike is well-designed and well-built. It’s sound engineering has made an alternative morning commute possible.

Perhaps the most appealing aspects of commuting by bike is how independent I feel. I am not waiting on a subway train, stuck in traffic or thinking that I should have gone to the gym. I’m out and about, riding–which is just a ton of fun.

Continuous Partial Attention? Hey you, listen!!!

I was blown away by the ideas in Linda Stone’s talk at O’Reilly’s e-tech conference, summarized on Radar.  In a nutshell, she talks about the limits of "continuous partial attention" and urges that we use employ "quality of life" as the benchmark for adopting new technologies.  It reminded me of an idea expounded by Frank Moretti at the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning in his History of Communications class.   In sum, modern, web connected society may herald a return to pre-literate, oral cultures–where the notion of the self was something that existed outside of us–where we responded like a chorus and pinned our actions on the furies.  Does continuous partial attention really mean that we’re not paying attention to what’s important to us?  Or is it just adaptatation to new tools?  Like Stone, I’m inclined to agree about smarter technologies really being able to help us manage what’s important and what’s not.  Just being able to create a master feed on Bloglines is a massive improvement on surfing from one site to another–of course, it means that one can consume even more, which brings me back to her question:  how is this technology improving my quality of life?