A Freak Accident

Cycling is my favorite way to get around NYC. But I fully recognize that biking can be dangerous, so I ride conservatively. I stop at red lights, I stay out of the door zone, and I don’t take unnecessary risks.

Still, you can’t protect yourself from every eventuality. And last night, none of my usual caution was enough to prevent the proverbial freak accident from happening.

I was biking back uptown around 10 p.m. after seeing Room 237 at IFC Center in the Village. (It’s fun, go check it out.) I took my usual route through Hudson River Park, one the best bike paths in New York.

I biked up through Riverside Park towards the 91 St & Riverside Drive entrance. It was dark and nobody else was around. It’s a fairly steep hill leading up to that entrance, so I stood up to pedal harder on my single-speed Bike Friday.

Suddenly, my left foot gave way and hit the ground hard. Still strapped into the pedal, my foot slid on the pavement and I could feel myself falling. Helplessly. My throat slammed into the handlebar and I saw a bright flash of white on my way towards the ground.

I got up immediately and thought I was unscathed until I looked at my right hand. It was bloodied and the fingernail was hanging off the ring finger along with some flaps of skin.

I started to worry that I was more seriously injured than I realized. I was feeling lightheaded. My glasses were falling off. I fumbled to get my phone out of my pannier bag.

As I answered the 911 operator’s questions, with my free hand I struggled to gather the pieces of bike strewn around the ground and put them into the pannier. The bike kept falling over. My glasses were really loose. The operator asked where I was but I couldn’t tell her exactly because I was too far from the entrance to see the street.

I tried to sound calm on the phone but I was more than a little panicked about how badly hurt I might be. Not wanting to wait in the dark park, I pushed my bike up the hill. Once I could see the street, I was able to give them the exact intersection.

The ambulance arrived around six minutes later. The EMTs asked if I could breathe OK as there was a bruise on the front of my neck. They bandaged my finger. They took down my info and about 15 minutes later we were at the emergency room at St Luke’s-Roosevelt. The EMT rang the bell on my bike as he wheeled it out of the ambulance.

The E.R. staff were as attentive and cheerful as can be. I was undressed and put into a gown. My finger was looked at. I was repeatedly asked if I could breathe OK. They took X-rays of my neck and my right hand. I spent a lot of time being wheeled around on the bed to various rooms. The E.R. was much quieter and orderly than I expected.

My friend Sharon arrived to keep me company and to take, at my insistence, some gory photos and video of the doctor cutting off the skin and suturing the nail back into place. (No, I’m not posting them.)

Three hours after I arrived, Sharon and I left the hospital. I threw my bloodied helmet in a trash can on the street. We were both starving so we walked over to Tom’s Diner for a meal. It was loud and packed at 2:30 a.m. with Columbia students.

We ate mostly in silence while I replayed the events in my head. The anesthesia was wearing off and my finger was throbbing. I took off my loose glasses. The left earpiece was cracked.

We looked at the crank arm that had come off the bike. The pedal was securely fastened but the spindle of the bottom bracket had broken off, leaving a jagged edge.

“Metal fatigue,” I said. “It’s a twenty year old bike.”

Then I got quiet again. The age of the bike explained everything and nothing at all. There was nothing I could have done to prevent this. Had I been riding in traffic, the results might have been tragic. It was sobering to think how random it all was. That’s what a freak accident is, I guess.

At our waiter’s suggestion, Sharon and I shared a slice of apple pie a la mode with butter pecan ice cream for dessert. It was very good. He also suggested I walk instead of bike from now on. I politely declined.

Moviemaking Tech

Today’s FCPX Updates and News

Apple just updated Final Cut Pro X to 10.0.8, which includes, among other tweaks, support for the Sony XAVC codecs up to 4K in the new F5/F55 cameras. Compressor and Motion got updates also. Sweet.

I don’t have an XAVC camera so I couldn’t test the new codec, but the rest of 10.0.8 has been stable on my Macs so far. If you’re not the middle of a project, I’d advise upgrading. (Never upgrade anything during a project, unless you’re absolutely sure the new stuff will solve whatever problems you’re having with your current stuff.)

Probably not coincidentally, there’s also an interesting L.A. Times piece today about Apple’s new push to win back pro editors, including case studies with FCPX users like Tsui Hark.

I love FCPX and I’m very glad I made the jump from FCP7 a year-and-a-half ago. But I’m definitely in the minority among the filmmakers I know in embracing the software.

I don’t believe, as some do, that Apple has abandoned pros. I just think they’ve been a bit distracted by iOS. The updates to FCPX are a great sign that they still care about their professional users. But of course, an awesome new Mac Pro would be an even better sign.

Architecture Scenic Lookouts Transit

Grand Central Uplift

Grand Central Terminal is beautiful from every angle, even the ones you didn’t know existed. You can catch this view for free from the Apple Store.

I feel really lucky that I get to walk through GCT on my way to work each day. The beauty and bustle of the place lifts me up on even the toughest of days. The endless supply of good things to eat there doesn’t hurt either.


Change Your Passwords. Really.

From “How I became a password cracker” at Ars Technica:

Watching your own password fall in less than a second is the sort of online security lesson everyone should learn at least once—and it provides a free education in how to build a better password.

It seems like every week there’s a new totally terrifying story about how widespread hacking has become and how even tech-savvy folks have found themselves victims.

I admit it: I used to practice the lazy habit of re-using weak passwords on multiple sites. Then I read too many stories like these and got religion. Read them for yourself and then consider whether turning on two-factor authentication and using an app like 1Password is worth the hassle.

For the longest time, precautions like these weren’t worth my time and effort. But now they seem like very cheap insurance.

Architecture City Life

St. Vincent’s Hospital

It’s very sobering to pass by St. Vincent’s during its demolition. You can’t help but think about all the human experiences that must have taken place there. They’re ghosts now, and the building is following them.

I don’t know nearly enough about the situation to say whether it’s good or bad that St. Vincent’s Hospital is being replaced with (very pricey) housing. But I can say I have a definite emotional reaction every time I pass by this site.


We Still Need (Mac) Trucks

John Siracusa writes:

On paper, the Mac Pro may no longer be a viable product, but it would be a mistake for Apple to abandon the concept that it embodies. Like the Power Mac before it, the Mac Pro was designed to be the most powerful personal computer Apple knows how to make. That goal should be maintained, even as the individual products that aim to achieve it evolve.

I completely agree with Steve Jobs: tablets are like cars, PCs are like trucks. And most of us don’t need to own trucks.

But some of us rely on trucks for a living and we’re willing to pay for the things that only a truck can do. At both my day and night jobs, I rely on five year-old 8-core Mac Pro workstations to do my work. Originally released in early 2008, these Macs are still fast and rock-solid reliable. The initial sticker price was high, but these machines have paid for themselves many, many times over in every metric you can measure.

If you need a truck and you love Macs, there’s no other machine that’ll do. That’s why I hope that the “really great” Mac Pro revamp that Tim Cook promised us last year doesn’t disappoint. Here’s to hoping that the new truck is, er, a monster.

(Hat Tip to Daring Fireball for the link to Siracusa’s post.)



Holy moly, it’s been a while since I had a fever this high.

The only question now is: am I finally starting the Breaking Bad marathon or the Downton Abbey marathon?

City Life Eating

Mohamed of Lenox Avenue

Just wanted to give a shout-out to the man who, in an average week for me, cooks almost ten percent of my meals.

Mohamed of the Palomino halal truck at 116 St & Lenox, thank you for feeding me so well. And yes, I really do want extra extra red sauce.


R.I.P. A.J.C.

Found out from a close friend today that someone we both knew fairly well in high school had committed suicide last spring. Apparently, he had been struggling with financial and family problems for at least a year. He left a farewell note on Facebook. He was single. He was 43.

A. and I had drifted apart after high school and lost touch. Several years ago, we reconnected via email and learned that we were both pursuing our dreams (Him: comedy, sci-fi, music. Me: filmmaking and playwriting). We added each other to our respective mailing lists and exchanged notes of support every now and then in response to one of our email blasts.

I was a late bloomer to films and theatre and wasn’t involved in either until after graduate school. But you could draw a very straight line between what A. liked as a kid and what he was doing as an adult. During the 20+ years since I’d last seen him in person, he was not only still enjoying the things that he loved as a child, but he was managing to pay (at least some of) his bills pursuing them as a grown-up.

I don’t know much about his life outside his artistic pursuits. I don’t know what could have saved him. I do know, however, that his work touched a lot of people. And that his dogged pursuit of his dreams touched me.

Rest in peace, friend.

City Life

This is Where the Cabs Go

From “Where Do All the Cabs Go in the Late Afternoon?” in the January 11, 2011 New York Times:

The hour from 4 to 5 p.m. has long been considered a low tide of taxi service, the maddening moment when, in apparent violation of the laws of supply and demand, entire fleets of empty yellow cabs flip on their off-duty lights and proceed past the outstretched hands of office workers seeking a way home.

To my total delight, I stumbled upon this shift change at the BP gas station at Houston and Lafayette. It’s quite fun to watch. If you love NYC, add this to your bucket list.



Chinatown City Life Transit Urban Planning

This Station Needs a Hachikō

Flushing’s LIRR Main Street station is very lightly used compared with its nearby subway station, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve some sprucing up.

My recommendation, in all seriousness, is to put a dog on it. Just like how putting a bird on something can make it art in Portland, putting a Hachikō at a transit entrance can elevate an otherwise utilitarian space into something much more inviting. Maybe even inspirational.

A cat would be okay, too.


Montague Street Tunnel

Spent the midnight shift with a Signals crew as they worked on an ancient but critical piece of subway infrastructure inside the Montague St Tunnel. In a 24/7 subway system, the overnights are prime time for repairs and maintenance.

Every twenty minutes, we’d have to climb out of the trackbed and flatten ourselves against the tunnel wall to let a train pass. For safety, the train operator would slow to 10 m.p.h. as he travelled through our work area. But even at a relative crawl, the feeling of a 600 foot subway train passing inches from you is intimidating no matter what the speed.

The Signals crew worked as fast as they could between the trains, but sometimes a train would have to stop and wait a few minutes for them to finish up and clear themselves to safety. I’ve been on many a train in the wee hours that seemed to stop and/or lurch for no apparent reason. It’s a frustrating feeling that makes a long ride home feel that much longer, especially when you’re tried.

But now that I’ve literally been on the other side of that train, I think I’ll have a lot more patience next time I’m on a slow subway. And instead of being frustrated, I’ll think about those guys working just inches away and hope that they’ve all cleared up to safety.

Eating Self-Portraits

What I Drink When I Drink

You may know I don’t drink alcohol. But until now you didn’t know the real reason why: once you drink Trump Ice, no other beverage will satisfy.

(Everlasting gratitude to my brother JJ Chan for this gift of gifts.)

Ailurophilia Helena Monday is Cat Week

Monday is Cat Week: A Bird in the Paw


These Long Stretches of Nothing

From “Ang Lee and the Uncertainity of Success” at

If you’re an aspiring author, director, musician, startup founder, these long stretches of nothing are a huge reason why it’s important to pick something personally meaningful, something that you actually love to do. When external rewards and validation are nonexistent; when you suffer through bouts where of jealousy, wondering “How come so-and-so got signed/is successful/got a deal/etc?”; when every new development seems like a kick in the stomach, the love of what you are doing gives you something to hang onto.

It’s hard to overstate how important this advice is, regardless of the particular dream you’re pursuing. Outcomes are tough to predict and largely out of your control. What you can control is your effort, attitude, and perseverance in pursuit of that dream.

The other thing you can control is who you choose to go through life with and how you spend that time where “nothing” is happening. Ang Lee married a woman who believed in him and supported him through his lean years. They raised kids together and everyone had a roof over their heads and food on the table.

That’s a whole lotta something for a period of nothing.

(Hat tip to @5tu’s Tweet that led to Andrew Sullivan’s post that led me to Jeff Lin’s piece.)