5th June 2004


New York is composed of five "boroughs" which are Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.  Manhattan is the heart of NY, although the heart is spilling over into Brooklyn.   The island of Manhattan is about half the area of San Francisco, maybe 2 miles wide, perhaps 12 miles long.  Running along the length of the island are broad Avenues, numbered from 1 to 12 (on the West) with a few intervening, unsequential streets.  Mostly the streets form an orthogonal grid, except in the south.  At the bottom (South, below 14th street) the street names are disorganized, but from about two miles from the bottom they are numbered from the south, and the lots are numbered either East or West of 5th Avenue.  Central Park is about half a mile wide, and a couple of miles high.  It lies between 59th and 110th streets, and between 5th and 8th Avenues.  Unlike many cities in the US, the building lots are numbered sequentially. (as in most Australian cities, not numbered by the block.)

The ambience of Manhattan, like that in most US cities, was more varied than I had anticipated.  Like San Francisco, the city is compressed.  As you walk from one district to another there is little difficulty in determining which district you are in.

Like San Francisco and LA and Sydney it has panhandlers (bludgers) and homeless (derros), and hucksters (street salesmen).  It is dirty and expensive and has an excitement and an energy in the air.  Perhaps that explains why New York is one of the great cities of the world. (according to New Yorkers it is the Greatest city in the world.)

Everyone had warned me about the parking, but NY parking seemed no worse than Boston or inner Sydney.  Metered spaces are always available for charges of  25c for 10 or 12 or 15 minutes, with a usual maximum stay of an hour.  (A fair bit less expensive than in the Sydney CBD, where the charges under Mayor Sartor got up to $6/hour).   There are lots of unmetered parking spaces located in and around the residential areas, but of course they are nearly always occupied.  Every car in New York must be moved at least twice a week.  The city sends cleaning machines along each street, and notices advise (e.g. "No Standing 9:00AM - 10:30AM Monday & Thursday") that cars must be moved for street cleaning.  While walking around after a "cleaning event" I have noticed that the residents seem to co-operate in reserving spaces for each other after street cleaning.

The traffic in NY was no worse than that in Parramatta Road during rush hour.  (Of course the problem is slightly exacerbated by the fact that everybody drives on the wrong side of the road).  Taxis are everywhere, and drive as aggressively as any in Sydney.  Manhattan people put Sydney people to shame when it comes to obeying traffic laws.  Both cars (especially taxis) and pedestrians treat traffic lights as "advisory" rather than "control" devices.  If there is no car threatening, or if gridlock exists, about 80% of pedestrians will cross against a red light.  I regularly have to dodge taxis and cars that cross red lights against a "walk" sign.  Not that they are rude about it, they wait for me to cross, but make it clear that the red light is no disincentive.  And the police?  They seem (rather like Sydney coppers most of the time) determined to ignore the infringements.


Broadway is New York.

Broadway is the backbone of New York.  One end is at the bottom of Manhattan Island.  It meanders its way north from there, crossing and recrossing most of the streets & avenues in a promiscuous manner, spawning block sized parks and "Squares" at major intersections until it reaches the top of Manhattan island, where it crosses into "The Bronx".

In Sydney, the most expensive properties are near the water.  In NY, expense seems to be related to distance from Broadway.  The river (with apologies to NY sensibilities) is not a great view. 

Broadway is the voice of New York.  Shows (theatre) are either "on Broadway" or "off Broadway" (although there is a third option, they could be on "old broadway").   Squares along Broadway are named after Newspapers.  (Times, Herald).

Broadway has a social status is like that of showpeople, it has no intrinsic status, but it is at ease in all strata. Above the business district are the civic center, the ethnic & restaurant districts of Chinatown and Little Italy.  Above those are the Gay & artistic east & Greenwich "villages", the Yuppie Chelsea, the establishment Upper West side, leading to the predominantly Afro-American Harlem.

Broadway is the wallet of New York.  In the south it passes through the heart of the financial district, where it links with Wall Street.  All the major banks are on Wall Street. Higher up, it passes through the commercial district and the fashion district, those incredible engines of wealth.


The sorry saga at Telstra continues, as Ziggy struggles in a position which was never within his capabilities.  Of course it would have required an outstanding technocrat to bring Telstra into the 21st century anyhow, as is illustrated by similar difficulties facing the baby bells in the USA.

The story started about three decades ago, when the US government decided to strip the Bell Telephone company, which was at the time the largest company in the world, of its quasi-governmental monopoly status.  To give the process momentum, it ordered Bell to split itself into several organizations.  The research division went one way, and eventually became Lucent.  Other splinters became Southwest Bell etc.  Except for Lucent, the baby bells owned a local (copper) loop, and thus a gold mine.  Governments have been unable to successfully regulate access to the local loop.

Of course it should have been predictable, (and it probably was predicted by everybody important except the technology forecasters of the telcos and the fund managers) but technology has begun to supercede the copper.  And guess who didn't cover their arse?

In the US the cable companies have begun to offer teleco services.  The baby bells are desperately buying and selling different technology corporations which they hope will maintain their monopoly, something like new Lego blocks, in an attempt to find the solution to their waning markets.  Verizon appears to be having some success, but is probably also doomed.  The trouble is, the cost of cellular phones is dropping so rapidly, and the cost of copper is rising so rapidly, that the process of switching over can only accellerate.

I have no sympathy for Ziggy and the telcos.  We did tell you so.  We complained bitterly about your exhorbitant charges.  You were (and still are) milking the customers too hard.  As you make savings due to technology, you must give those savings back to your customers, not raise the prices (because the service is now better) and increase the returns to shareholders.  Now we have one of the most expensive data networks in the world, (well except for Europe, Asia, Africa, South America...).  The point is, in the USA I have a wireless connection (with T-Mobile) that connects me to the internet at any Starbucks store, or Kinko or Borders bookshop.  It costs me US$30 a month, with no setup fee, has no limit on data downloads, and has an access rate of 11 Mega Bits per second.  Equivalent accounts over cable cost as low as $15 per month.  I am very glad I am not a Telstra shareholder any longer, and I wish Johnny would hurry up and sell of my share of Telstra (The 51% still held by the Federal Government.)  Because I suspect that within five years, the total value of Telstra will be the scrap value of the copper in the ground, and the value of any real estate, together with the unfunded super liability.  And that equation could turn out to be very negative.


It is a sorry matter for a direct democracy libertarian like myself to confess, but my fellow man (and woman) seem to want a leader in whom they can place their trust to govern them.  Probably this is an evolutionary hangover, from the time when tribal decisions were autocratically made by the tribal chief or medicine man.

The Indians on the Asian subcontinent seem to be developing a new version of democracy.  They appear to be developing an uncrowned royal family, which is the family of Ghandi.  The uncrowned Queen Sonia Ghandi is not taking an active part in government, but has, like the British Queen Elizabeth II, given the imprimatur of approval to the people who will form a government.  Perhaps the reluctance of Queen Sonia to take a direct part in government is because she was born Italian and is a Ghandi by consort.  However the people of India seem happy to accept her.

The great problem with elected leaders is that they nearly all feel bound to "do something" to justify their election.  It seems that they must start a war, or enact a social program, or enlarge the public service, or whatever.  What we the people really want is a leader who does nothing.  (As distinct from newshounds, which always want something to report.).  Lower level functionaries can enact the laws that keep government operational.  Our leaders should just preside, and DO NOTHING.