What's a community anyway?

Posted by Steve on Fri, 10/03/2008 - 6:08pm

I spent last weekend building a blog for our block. I'll post more about this later, and I'd like to get some opinions about it, especially as regards making it more useful. First, a little personal history.

For as long as I've been into computers I've been into virtual communities, particularly how computers can be leveraged to enhance real lives. I got sucked into Usenet and dial-up BBSes in the early 1980s. I was one of the builders of NYC's first multiuser BBS, the Ailanthus Tree in 1984. In 1985, I ported the A-Tree to MS-DOS and launched Magpie. I ported it to Unix in 1986 and released it Shareware, where it became one of the top three Unix BBSes through the 1990s.

Magpie made a sort of name for itself during the Bosnian crisis with Magpie sysop, Sinisa Novasel, as an information conduit between people suddenly stranded in Zagreb and their expatriated families and the Red Cross. Before the web, Magpie was used in Philadelphia for the first online AIDS information system. It was later adopted by six of the ten largest school systems in the US, including NYC's NYCENET.

My personal web site was launched in 1993. The first thing I did with it is organize NYC Motorcyclists as a cyber club. Then I ran mailing lists for bass players, Triumph and women motorcycle owners, a local sushi club, and several others, most of which are still going strong over a decade later.

My current job is designing and building software to network medically-underserved families with physicians and hospitals for the Children's Health Fund.

Where am I going with this?

NYC's Most Expensive House

Posted by Steve on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 1:44am

I don't know which is more remarkable: the price tag or the appreciation.

The 18,500-square-foot, 103-year-old Henry T. Sloane Mansion at 18 East 68th Street just went on sale for $64 million, the most expensive officially listed house ever in New York. I thought that rocker, Lenny Kravitz, had set the unbeatable bar a couple of years ago when he paid a reported $40 million for the Duke-Semans mansion on Fifth Avenue. But since then there have been several townhouse sales in the $50 mil range. Not surprisingly, many of them are owned by weasels financiers, probably paid for by fat Christmas bonuses.

Since none of us will probably ever set foot in a house this expensive, let's take a virtual tour of this joint.

The outside is nice. Okay, it's a mansion. Maybe it's not the largest or most impressive crib in the neighborhood but, hey? No garage? Where do you store the garbage cans? And for $64 mil I want a second floor deck overlooking the peasants so I can pose like Mussolini. Something maintenance-free, maybe Trex. A few potted plants. Some string lights. Yeah.

The limestone could use a good cleaning. For this scratch, don't you think the sellers could invest in a little curb appeal?

Synchronicity, flashbacks and old photos

Posted by Steve on Sun, 09/21/2008 - 5:37pm

Yesterday was one of those strange "theme" days we all experience from time to time. It began with my neighbor, Betsy, and me taking a trip to an art store on 3rd Ave to get some old Brooklyn photos framed that I'd collected over the past year.

The centerpiece was something I'd bought from shorpy.com, which I'd discovered on the recommendation of a forum regular on Old House Web. It's a shot of a freezing cold, February day in Brooklyn Heights circa 1908 with the Manhattan Bridge under construction in the distance. The detail on the photo was mesmerizing (click here to see what I mean).

I bought a large copy of it. My intent was to frame it myself. After all, if I can construct cabinets and stained glass, how difficult could it be? However, as I started researching the techniques online I kept seeing comments recommending a web site, http://www.customframesolutions.com/, which would build the frames for you for about the same price as stick building them. You provide the dimensions and they ship it to you in two to four business days. I priced out a nice frame, matte and foam board for around a hundred bucks. Pretty good deal.

In 5 years I'll make another plan

Posted by Steve on Tue, 09/16/2008 - 11:08pm

Want to know how out of shape you are? Paint your house. Between squatting down to cut in baseboards and torquing your body into dramatic poses while standing at the top of a ladder with a roller, you'll find out. Do it for several days and you'll have lactic acid boiling in muscles you didn't even know you had.


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