Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Big Idea

I was standing at the end of a subway car, the R train, almost home, hanging onto an overhead bar, listening to music and trying to play solitaire on my phone with one hand.  A woman nearby was reading – Dry: A Memoir, by Augusten Burroughs.  It looked interesting, but I never read memoirs.  I thought about what I had been reading lately – anything non-fiction about Stalin, Lenin or the former Soviet Union (I majored in Russian in undergrad), and my usual round of magazines (Harper’s, The New Yorker, Natural History).  I was in a rut.

The plan started a bit rigid.  I decided I’d read Dry, and, when I finished it, I would look around the subway and, whatever book I saw first, I’d read that, and so on.  I thought about what I saw people reading, though, and quickly realized I needed a few outs: no religious tracts, no textbooks, no books I’d already read.  And I’ve loosened up a little more in the 4 months since I started: I don’t have to finish the books, no romance novels and no sci-fi books with gold embossed letters on the cover (ok, that was just the one time and might not be a real rule, but it looked terrible), but I’ve tried a lot of new stuff, and even liked most of it.

I’ve decided to share my idea, and my thoughts on the books I read, because there’s something interesting about seeing this particular slice of New York through this particular lens.

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511 for Subway Info

Apparently New York had such a good experience with 311, the number to dial for any issue to do with City government (potholes, jobs) and some you wouldn’t think had to do with it at all (smoking cessation), that it’s upped the ante.  Now, you can call 511 for weather and traffic, including subway line info, or you can follow them on Twitter, with different feeds for different lines.  Other than Twitter, I’m not sure what it adds over the MTA’s website notices.  I’m just getting into blogging in 2009, so I’m obviously not ready for Twitter, but if you try it, let me know what you think.