Beer Authority and P.T. Kitchen
Friday, September 27 2019
Charles the Cat almost vomitted on me in the night, but at the last second Gretchen shoved him off the bed. As he flew over the side of my head, he clawed me uncomfortably near one of my ears. Then he puked on a number of books on my bedside table, including Fundraising With the Raiser's Edge, which Jonathan Skinner gave me back during our brief overlap in 2016 when we both worked at Mercy For Animals. It's a book that I should be burning with all the other outdated technical manuals I've been trying to purge from my life.
The data importer I've been working on for the past ten months ultimately uses a stored procedure that does a bulk import from the file system. The problem is that this stored procedure has been copied from some common prototype schema and it doesn't always reflect the columns that have been added to the tables that also come from that common prototype schema. It suddenly occurred to me that I should just dynamically create that stored procedure (or one with a different name just for use by my system) using the schema as it is found. This would allow lots of other things, since I would then have complete control over the bulk import process and no longer be at the mercy of whatever version of the bulk-importer stored procedure my importing system happened to find.
My enthusiastic coding of this stored-procedure creator was almost complete when word came about the specifics of what columns in my excel import needed to be subtracted and which ones needed to be added. This led me to build support for a whole additional one-to-many data import infrastructure. I'm particularly good at this sort of work, having gotten lots of experienced building importers for esoteric data formats for the old homebrewed Mercy For Animals customer relationship manager (which Jonathan Skinner had designed to resembled the Raiser's Edge, which is why, before leaving MFA, he mailed me that book referenced in the first paragraph).
I was hoping to leave work a little after 1:00pm so Gretchen and I could catch the Adirondack Trailways bus from New Paltz at a time suitable for our evening in Manhattan. But there I was, waiting for my absurdly-large Electron data-importing app to copy to a distant machine in the cloud. And once there, the mis-typing of the name of one columns threw my numbers into chaos. I was able to do another build locally and export the .bak file for my colleagues to deal with, but even with the columns all correct, my numbers were still somehow wrong. But I had to get going, so I left things for Alex and Jon to deal with.
I met Gretchen at the traffic circle park-and-ride (where US 209, the NY Thruway, "Interstate 587" and Route 28 all come together) and we left the Subaru, driving down to New Paltz in the Prius (which I'd been driving).
The day was beautiful, with clear blue skies and perfect mid-70s temperatures. It was so nice, in fact, that it felt dreary to sit in the enclosure designed for people waiting at the New Paltz park-and-ride Trailways stop. There aren't any convenient bathrooms at this park-and-ride, but there's a norway spruce with low-hanging branches that one can get amongst for near-perfect privacy if all you need to do is take a piss.
drive to nyc.
There were no completely empty seats on the old beat-up bus that arrived for us, and when I wanted to sit with some guy across from Gretchen, he decided to abandon the seat entirely, because the one I would be forcing him to move felt bad on his back. I ended up sitting in that seat, and I could see what he meant; it felt unusually firm. But it was okay for just a two-hour drive. Despite its age, the bus had working WiFi and even 120 volt outlets. The WiFi was fast enough for me to stream a YouTube video even at the crappy bandwidth one gets when one doesn't volunteer an email address.
As we neared Manhattan, I noticed even more skyscrapers I hadn't noticed last time I'd been there. There's a new super-tall one up near that tall, skinny apartment building (it's called "the Central Park Tower," and it's topped with a crane, meaning it's not done growing). Meanwhile, the partially-build skyscrapers at the north end of Chelsea all look to have been completed. These new buildings (and other smaller ones too numerous to mention) have rendered the New York City skyline unrecognizeable.
The bus ride would've been perfectly pleasant (even with my mildly-uncomfortable seat) were it not for the fact that some sort of logistical mishap made it so that our bus missed its intended gate, and it then had to exit Port Authority into increasingly-congested rush hour traffic, go around four or six blocks, and then re-enter Port Authority and try again.
Our first destination in Manhattan was a bar called Beer Authority, located across the street from Port Authority. It's sort of a sports bar, and the demographic is pretty lamestream by Manhattan standards, but Gretchen meets people there fairly often, particularly former students who used to be incarcerated. Today we were meeting Jule and, when he showed up later, Angel, both of whom we'd first met in the New York prison system. Initially the conversation wasn't that interesting to me, since it concerned the arcania of prison-education outreach. Jule is very much part of that world still in his job at the Ford Foundation. Things got more interesting when Jule told us about the three different women he's been romancing via several dating apps, some of which I'd never even heard of. I don't have experience actually dating in the conventional sense (internet-assisted or otherwise), so I'm always curious about how that is supposed to work. Jule says in all cases, on the first date he paid for everything, though that usually changed on the second date. He didn't go into what dating involved beyond eating in restaurants and taking slow walks along the edge of a body of water. As for Angel, he's only been out of prison less than a year, and has had some jarring changes in the free world. The marriage he'd begun while still behind bars dissolved in less than a month after he movied in with his wife in Orlando. Then he moved in with his brother, and when that didn't work out, he moved to New York City, where he now lives in a halfway house for the formerly-incarcerated. Working on projects involving incarcerated women, he's barely making enough money to survive. And he's still getting used to all the changes that happened in the free world while he was locked up, such as the emergence and ubiquity of smartphones.
Jules had to head off to a date, and Gretchen and I soon had to hurry up the 48th Street, where we'd be doing dinner at a restaurant called P.S. Kitchen. It's actually a non-profit restaurant that had several goals: the popularization of vegan (though not necessarily healthy) food, the use of organic, sustainable ingredients, and the employment and training of people who otherwise wouldn't be able to get jobs. We were actually dining there as part of Vegan Outreach's, well, donor outreach. I suspect Gretchen has been giving them a fair amount of money, which they're still a small enough of an organization to appreciate with events in manner of the one happening tonight. We were there with Jack, one of the founders, and Nzinga, a NY outreach coordinator, and there were three other donors there beside us. Conversation was pretty typical of gatherings of vegans who mostly just know one another to be vegan. As I've stated before, I think veganism works well as a moral framework, and so I support its evangelism. That said, I don't find it especially interesting. I like vegan food, but there's only so much talk of vegan products and restaurants (and how society has begun to embrace it) before I want to talk about other things. Tonight, when someone at the table pointed out how our conversation was about what one would expect for a gathering of vegans, I joked that now we should talk about robots. And then we did, though only for a couple minutes. Someone at the table had seen some sort of android rolling around on wheels in a supermarket. My biggest contribution to the conversation came near the end of the meal, when I mentioned a few nuggets of professional knowledge regarding how email systems and customer relationship managers work at organizations somewhat larger than Vegan Outreach.
As for the food, it tended to fall mostly under the rubric of American comfort food. The dishes were very good, but didn't have much boldness to their flavor profiles. I had the "chicken" pot pie, and it was delicious, though it was only about half as much food as I was prepared to eat (and I'd had most of an order of french fries at Beer Authority). There was a fried mushroom appetizer that was also amazing. The only IPA on tap was not particularly good, but I nevertheless drank two of them. The only other drinker at our table was the woman from New Jersey sitting across the table from me.
For some reason, the WiFi wasn't working on the bus back to New Paltz. And then on the drive back to the Kingston park-and-ride, the low beams on the Prius didn't work, so Gretchen had to drive with the high beams on.
Seen on a car near Port Authority: Science is Real and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
From my vantage point during dinner at P.T. Kitchen.
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