How to Ensure a Happy New Year

December 31, 2007

Some people believe that the things they do on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will influence or set a pattern for the rest of the year. Me, I’m not superstitious. But just in case you want to hedge your bets, here are some common (and uncommon) beliefs.

Before midnight

  • Make sure your home contains plenty of food and money. Empty pockets or cupboards on New Year’s Eve may usher in a year of poverty.
  • If the new year begins with debt, you will continue to owe for the rest of the year. Write and mail out checks for household bills and settle personal debts prior to midnight.

    At the stroke of midnight

    • Open all the doors so the old year can escape and the new year may enter.
    • Make loud noises to scare away evil spirits.
    • Kiss those dearest to you to ensure their affection will continue another 12 months.
    • Jumping up and down at midnight will cause you to grow taller.
    • Eating 12 grapes (one for each month) will ensure a good year.
    • If you live alone, you can ensure a lucky year by putting a coin in a basket that has a string tied to it, then placing the basket just outside your front door. After midnight, pull the string to bring the basket inside (don’t just reach out to retrieve it; that would cancel the luck).

    After midnight

    • Good fortune will be yours if the first person to cross your threshold in the new year is a tall, dark haired, good looking man (if the first to enter is blond, redheaded or female, bad luck will follow). A man with a high instep, or one riding a horse, is considered particularly lucky. He should be carrying gifts including a silver coin, a sprig of evergreen, a lump of coal, a chunk of bread and a bit of salt.
    • The first person to enter must not be cross-eyed, flat footed or have eyebrows that meet in the middle.
    • Drink the last dregs of a bottle used to celebrate the new year and good fortune will be yours.
    • Wind up all the clocks and you will endow the house with good fortune.

    On New Year’s Day

    • Absolutely nothing, not even garbage, can be taken out of your home on the first day of the year. Don’t sweep as much as a speck of dust or you might sweep good luck from the house.
    • Washing dishes and doing laundry on this day will lead to a death in the family during the year.
    • Eating black-eyed peas will bring both good luck and money.
    • Dancing in the open air (especially around a tree) will ensure luck in love, prosperity and health throughout the year.
    • Wear something new to increase the likelihood of more new garments during the year. If you wear something red, you’ll have happiness all the year round.
    • Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on New Year’s Day. To do so is to guarantee you’ll be paying out all year.
    • A token amount of work on first day of the year means advancement in your career but starting a serious work project is very unlucky.
    • Handle things with care; if you break anything on the first day, you’ll face a year of wreckage.
    • Be of good cheer. Crying on the first day ensures a year filled with sadness.

    Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2008. Happy New Year!

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    Photo from Oriental Trading Company

    Snopes: New Year’s Superstitions
    IndoBase: New Year’s Superstitions
    Old Superstitions: New Year’s Customs
    Oriental Trading Company: New Year’s 2008 Rubber Duckies


    City sidewalks, busy sidewalks

    December 25, 2007

    City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
    Dressed in holiday style
    In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas
    Children laughing, people passing
    Meeting smile after smile
    And on every street corner you’ll hear

    Silver bells, silver bells
    Its Christmas time in the city
    Ring-a-ling, hear them ring
    Soon it will be Christmas Day

    - Ray Evans & Jay Livingston

    This is Christmas Day in the city, and here are some scenes of New York’s 2007 holiday style.

    Lord & Taylor
    Lord & Taylor department store

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    Lord & Taylor window

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    Saks Fifth Avenue window

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    Saks Fifth Avenue window

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    Caramel Apple booth at Bryant Park

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    Temporary shop at Bryant Park Holiday Market

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    Temporary shops at Bryant Park Holiday Market

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    Straw angels at Rockefeller Center

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    Straw angels, Christmas Tree in background

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    Buon Natale from Little Italy

    Hollywood.Com: Ray Evans
    Hollywood.Com: Jay Livingston


    Grand Central Kaleidoscope Light Show

    December 24, 2007

    Today, Grand Central Terminal will be packed with those travelling home for the holidays. Although the train station will be crowded, the travellers’ waiting time will be made less painful by a spectacular, free holiday sound and light show called Kaleidoscope.

    Every half hour, from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., tourists and commuters watch as the marble walls and painted ceiling of the main concourse are washed with choreographed audiovisual effects. If you want to see the show in person, you’ll have to hurry; it ends on New Year’s day.

    Here are a few images from the show, along with happy holiday wishes from Blather in Brooklyn.

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    The main entrance to the station

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    Suddenly, the music starts and the walls begin to change color

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    A traveller stops in his tracks to watch the show

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    Patterns cover the pale marble walls

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    The music swells and images of fireworks appear

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    The lights cover every surface

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    Twinkling stars are projected onto the ceiling

    Grand Central Terminal


    We Want Wii!

    December 21, 2007

    They’ve been on the market for more than a year, but rave reviews and manufacturer’s shortages have combined to make the Nintendo Wii the “I’ll do absolutely anything to buy one” item this holiday season.

    That “anything for a Wii” mentality means that those anxious to score one for Christmas are paying several times the $249 list price (thus creating a new job category: professional Wii reseller). But … even if they are willing to pay top dollar, how do they find a Wii to buy?

    In addition to bidding on eBay, many have resorted to bribing local shop owners, following delivery trucks, subscribing to services that alert them to the toy’s availability (“Toys R Us just got a shipment!”), and, of course, camping out in front of stores.

    A few weeks ago, I heard a National Public Radio reporter say that the Nintendo World Store in New York is one of the best places in the country to buy the machine because it receives a shipment every day. Those regular deliveries mean that, rain or shine, potential buyers are massed outside, patiently waiting for the store to open.

    Of course, purchasing such a desirable item isn’t a simple as strolling in and whipping out a credit card. The Nintendo World Store employs a strict system that maintains order:

    1. Since the Wii is sold on a first-come-first-served basis, buyers line up in front of the door. Many come as part of a “buying team” — one member can go for a hot chocolate or take a bathroom break while the other team members maintain their position in the queue.
    2. Security guards (sometimes aided by police officers) stand at several points, preventing line cutting and jumping.
    3. A hour or two before the store’s official opening time, numbered bracelets — one per machine in stock — are distributed to the crowd, front to back. Each person is limited to one bracelet, which gives them the right to buy one Wii.
    4. Simply obtaining a bracelet is not enough; the potential buyer must continue to stay in the line until their number is called. Sometimes the doors open a bit before 9:00 a.m.; if your number is called and you aren’t present to enter the store, you lose your chance and the guards simply go on to the next person.

    Tonight I stopped by the queue and spoke the woman at the front, who lay on the ground bundled up in a sleeping bag. She was waiting to enter the Valhalla-like shop and buy a Wii, she said, for her 12-year-old sister and had set up her little camp at 5:00 p.m. By the time the store opens at 9:00 tomorrow, she will have logged 16 hours in her frigid spot on the New York City sidewalk.

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    Secure in the #1 spot

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    Linewaiters, settled in for the night

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    This is his sixth time on the queue

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    Buddies ready for the long haul

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    Cleaners working inside the closed store

    Nintendo World Store
    National Public Radio: Finding a Wii
    SF Gate: How I Scored a Wii
    PC World: Wii Shortage Blame Game: Don’t Just Blame Nintendo
    Consumerist: Confessions of a Wii Reseller
    Gizmodo: Nintendo Not Going to Have Enough Wiis This Holiday Season


    Chinatown Dragon Fighters

    December 17, 2007

    Yes, I know. More than a month has passed since this blog was updated.

    The reason? I’ll spare you the details, but my faithful, trusty old PC finally died, trapping my files and photos inside. In response, I maxed out my credit card and replaced the dead machine with a shiny new iMac.

    Some of the resident geniuses at the Apple Store were able to extract the photos from the old computer (free of charge!), and I’m finally getting (or at least, I’m starting to get) the hang of the built-in software, so the blog is back in business.

    These photos were taken on the Lower East Side, at the corner of Allen & Canal Streets, during a wintery rainstorm. They show New York City Fire Engine Company 9, Ladder Company 6, also known as the Chinatown Dragon Fighters. Founded in 1731, the Dragon Fighters are the oldest company in the Fire Department of New York.

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    View from Canal Street

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    The dragon emblem painted on the door

    Official Web Site: Dragon Fighters


    Decorating the Tree at Columbus Park

    December 8, 2007

    I was walking along Court Street when the white aerial lift atop a bright orange bucket truck caught my eye. As I drew closer, I saw two workmen were using the vehicle to lift them as they decorated the Christmas tree at the steps of Borough Hall, in Columbus Park.

    Although the sky was gray and the air was chill, the men were having a wonderful time, hanging ornaments on the bucket, the tree and themselves, swooping through the air, mugging for the camera and helping all of Downtown Brooklyn get into a holiday spirit.

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    The orange bucket truck

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    Bill, a workman, secures the star at the top

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    The men switch positions

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    The second worker, Brandon, attaches ornaments

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    High in the air, posing for the camera


    Chaos & Prizes at West 14th Street

    December 7, 2007

    I received an e-mail from Apple announcing the grand opening of the largest Apple Store in the city. Since I recently became a first-time Apple computer owner, I thought the event would give me a great opportunity to meet lots of people who could provide tricks, tips and advice. The notice also mentioned that those attending would have a chance to win an iPod or laptop. Why not go?

    The opening of the place officially known as Apple Store West 14th Street was scheduled for 6:00 pm. I arrived around 3:30 and found a couple hundred people were already waiting. Talking to the people closest to me, I realized that most of them had never used — or even seen — an Apple computer and didn’t really understand what would happen when the doors opened.

    The high school girls who linked arms and cheerfully elbowed their way in front of me explained that a DJ on their favorite radio station (WQHT Hot 97 “Where Hip Hop Lives”) had announced the grand opening and promised that the first people through the doors would all receive free iPods. The kids didn’t agree on the number of free iPods the DJ had mentioned (200? 400? 600?) but they had all, they swore, heard him say that the first people on line would definitely be receiving them. Of course, Apple had never promised any such thing.

    Soon, the sky got dark, snow began to fall and the mood changed. As the crowd grew, more rumors started to circulate. Apparently, another popular DJ (WWPR Power 105.1 “Hip Hop and back in the Day Joints”) had spread a rumor that the store was giving out free laptops to the first 10 people who entered. Eager to get their hands on the costly electronics, many people showed up with groups of friends and relatives; scores of shivering children wailed in the cold.

    The hours passed, the store brought out some portable heaters, a guy in the crowd had a pizza delivered, and the snow stopped. Since most of those outside the store were determined to be among the first to enter, it was inevitable that pushing and shoving would ensue. What was surprising, though, was the tiny group of security guards who seemed reluctant to approach the crowd, and the complete lack of Apple Store employees out on the street with us (if they’d been there, they surely would have heard — and been able to quell — the rumors that were flying).

    And then, pandemonium. A couple clad in puffy jackets squeezed through the metal police barriers within view of the kids who had cut in front of me. Screaming, pushing and hitting, the frantic girls attacked the line jumpers until police arrived and dragged the couple away for their own safety. With no security staff in sight, the crowd surged forward, then surged again. People were knocked to the ground, shoved up against the pane glass windows (thankfully, they held), and a wheelchair nearly overturned. At last, police reinforcements arrived and succeeded in controlling the tense, angry crowd.

    The doors opened promptly at 6:00 and the staff allowed the linewaiters to enter in small groups. When we finally made it through the door, we were greeted by applauding staffers, handed white boxes containing t-shirts and black tubes holding posters. The tubes had black plastic caps, and hidden under each cap was a sticker revealing a prize (if any). The rumors about prizes going to the first few hundred were, of course, false; the store had less than 4,000 posters and t-shirts to distribute.

    I, like most of those who’d entered, won a $10 iTunes card. The girl next to me received the same thing. Scowling at the card, she asked, “What am I gonna do with this?” She didn’t own an iPod or a computer, or even know anyone who did. I offered her $5 for the card and she happily accepted.

    I heard that Whoopie Goldberg and Mary J. Blige had been in the store when the doors opened (they used a different, secure entrance), but they’d departed before I arrived. I did, however, see a movie star in the crowd and snap a picture. I was surprised to see how many stomped out (or stayed to argue with staff) as soon as they learned they weren’t getting a free iPod or laptop. And I was shocked to learn that the store does not contain a public rest room. None, not one, not even a handicapped stall.

    When I left the store, I walked around the block to see how many people were still waiting to enter. Thousands, stretching around the block, stood in the Manhattan night. By that time, dozens of police officers were on the scene, keeping order and scratching their heads. They knew that most of those waiting would go home cold, tired and empty-handed.

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    Early arrivals — a typical happy Apple crowd

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    Later arrivals were lacking in merriment

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    A portable heater in action

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    Inside the store, Brooke Shields surveyed the crowd

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    First glimpse of the Genius Bar

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    The store crowded to capacity inside & out

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    Around the block, thousands still hoped to enter

    Apple Store: W. 14th Street
    O’Grady’s PowerPage: Apple Store Riots
    Info Apple Store: W. 14th St. Opening (scroll down to read comments)
    Info Apple Store: W. 14th Friday Evening
    MacRumors: West 14th Street Store Opening


    It’s beginning to look a lot like …

    December 4, 2007

    Every year before the trees are lit, the streetlamps are wrapped with garlands, or the wreaths are hung, these enormous Christmas balls magically appear on Sixth Avenue.

    The pyramid of gleaming, red globes, placed in the center of a fountain across from Radio City Music Hall, is always one of the first signs that New York City is getting ready for Christmas.

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