Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tragic Crane Collapse Locks Couple Out of Apartment; Also Crushes Building.

It was a lazy saturday afternoon like any other. I had just gotten back from jogging in Central Park, and Takeshi was in the shower after boxing. That's when the noise started - a not-so distant rumbling, then the crashing sound of something heavy hitting several tons of brick. Then a few seconds - again. BOOOOOOOMMCCRSHH!!!!

Ok you can tell I write comics, trying to think of sound effects like that.
I rushed to the window, and saw nothing but dark clouds of billowing dust.

"GODDAMNIT! It's that DAMN CRANE! It finally FELL OVER, I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPENNNNN!!!" I yelled, running in circles trying to find the camera. Takeshi leaped out of the bath and ran to the window, seeing the plumes of dust rising to the west. I finally found the camera and he pulled on some clothes and we rushed downstairs.

The doorman was not in the lobby. We found him on the doorstep of the apartment, where a small crowd had gathered to try to make sense of the noises. Then we saw and I knew I had been right - the crane about halfway down the block had fallen over, and was balanced precariously on a tall brick building directly south (and across the street) from the construction site.

I had passed that site every day on the way to and from work, and every day would see that precarious looking crane hauling up concrete, and every day I'd think 'man, what if that dropped something. Right now. On my head.'
Ok, so that didn't happen. But I was right to be scared of it. Saturday was perfect weather, only partially cloudy, and more importantly, no wind. That crane toppled in perfect weather, and when I saw how it had fallen, I couldn't help but feel incredibly lucky that it didn't fall into the street.

That's when we realized we were only seeing half of it. The top of the tall building on the south side of 51st had served as a severing point for the crane, breaking the top part off and (this being a very tall crane), crashing down on the north side of 50th. We ran around the block to see.
The building directly in the path of the crane happened to be the runt of the litter, only 4-5 floors compared to the surrounding 10 story buildings. The taller buildings seemed to shrug off the crane, and deposit it on their shorter neighbor, which was completely crushed by the weight.

The police and firefighters were already on the scene, even though this was at most five minutes after it happened. Luckily the 17th precinct police department on 51st and 2nd were fast on their feet, and were already in the process of rescuing some poor soul who had been trapped in the builing.
Actually seeing a stretcher with a person on it coming out of the crushed building so close to our own was a little much for my weak stomach, and we headed home, leaving the situation in the competent hands of the authorities. (of course, not without checking every news channel first to see if the press had gotten wind! And what kind of citizen would I be if I didnt send my photos to several news agencies! heh.)

We headed out later to meet a friend for dinner, when we passed a blockade and were told we would not be able to come back in for an undetermined amount of time 'in case of secondary collapse'.

"Hey guys, so what do you wanna do tonight?" said our friend Ken.
"Stay at your place!"
Poor guy. We had a fun time in Korea Town in a shady karaoke bar and went back to his apartment and played Star Wars Legos, and lucky for us he had a fold out couch. By the time it was around 12, I tried calling the city.
I learned that:
1) My building was not one of the evacuated ones
2) they weren't sure about the roadblock
3) we could find out more info by going to 57th and Lex. (we were across town).

"So are you staying over?"
I blinked my eyes in doe-eyed fasion, thinking of the horrible trek home in the cold, only to be (possibly) turned away. "Yes please!"

This morning we were able to get back in by showing ID, but cable is out, and the cable guys aren't scheduling fixes until, reasonably enough I SUPPOSE, they can get back onto our block. And this is why I read all of Orson Scott Card's Invasive Procedures in one day today. I probably should have done my taxes, as an afterthought.

Here's the link to the real news article about this: (note the address of the construction site is 303 E. 51st street, and my address: 340 E. 51st street.)
I am extremely dissapointed the press did not end up using my particular photos, but the link is here for alert readers.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Goodbye old office

You will not be missed.

... well, except for the awesome view on the 17th floor terrace which we were allowed to use during the summer for lunches - I took my camera up there one time and took a bunch of shots, and just now got around to assembling them into a panorama of sorts.

This is looking north, with the Hudson on the left (west) and Midtown rising up in the front. :)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Interpreter

It finally happened - I was asked to put my Japanese skills to work for my company. One of our potential clients is a large middle-man of technology, thinking of reselling our lovely latency monitor to stock exchange users in Tokyo.
Thus, I was only slightly surprised to be invited to a meeting with only the sales people, the CEO and myself... starting at 7:30 *PM*.

As the meeting grew closer and closer, I started getting nervous. I haven't really been speaking Japanese much while I've been here, and I wasn't sure how I'd do while under pressure.
My CEO assured me Id be fine. Unfortunately this was spoken with the breezy confidence of someone who didn't actually have any idea of my skill level, unlike my husband. He gave me a skeptical glance when I failed to remember how to say 'sink', and suddenly I grew nervous again.

Later into the week it turned out that the Japanese company already had a translator brought along for this meeting. I breathed a sigh of relief, and tried to confirm that they no longer needed me to come along.
"Are you kidding?" said my coworker. "You'll be our secret weapon! You should go along just to make sure they don't say anything bad about us!"
Wow, I thought to myself, I should get business cards. They can read, "Kyra Weaver, Corporate Spy."

It was a little strange to see Japanese business ettiquette from an American perspective in Japan, but even stranger to see American business ettiquette after having worked in Japan for three years. I asked my boss what I should wear. "Should I wear a suit?" I had brought my suit from Japan for the purpose of interviews, but I hadn't worn it once since I got here.
My boss shrugged, and said I could wear anything I wanted, after all, I was a developer. Then, with sudden doubt crossing his face, he turned to my coworker, who has also been to Japan. "Or should she?"
Co-worker: "Mmmm... on a business meeting? Better keep it formal..."
CEO: "Yeah, they're Japanese. So no jeans, I guess."
Me: "...Riiight. I'll wear my suit."

So last Wednesday I was dragged along to a meeting at 7:30 PM. The introductions went smoothly enough, but I had a jarring sensation as I noticed my CEO not formally exchanging business cards with both hands and a bow, as I had been taught, but tossing them down on the table like a dealer with a deck of cards. I tried not to wince. Fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective), I had no business cards to hand out, so had no fear of showing him up on the subtle art of business card exchange. ;)

Unfortunately due to technical difficulties, the Web-X conference wasnt actually working until 8PM, which meant we had to exchange small talk for half an hour, and my 'secret' came out. The manager of the project found out I spoke Japanese, and his face lit up greedily.

"You speak Japanese? You know, we really need a developer who is bilingual. What do they pay you? They can't be paying you that much, they're a startup! Come work for us!" He said laughing, in English. With my CEO sitting right next to me. Um! Actually that is not true, I am very nicely compensated, and I saw your depressing low-walled cubicles and flickering florescent-lit office as I came in, and I was very glad to escape from that working environment when I came to New York. We are moving next week and I got to pick my own furniture(albiet from IKEA); I'm getting a glass desk and a pimpin' white leather chair in a window office! what I wanted to say. But you know. :) Instead I just demured politely, and winked at my CEO, hoping he'd remember this on the day of my anual review.

The meeting itself was not too bad. For the most part the translator did a good job, and I only had to step in when the people in Tokyo had a question about our product. The hard part was remembering to translate the question back into English before I answered it, I forgot to do that once and nearly got poked. Luckily, although I had forgotten the word for sink, three years of business Japanese on a daily basis had drilled words like 'click', 'screen', 'open a new window', 'generate a report', 'memory' and 'database usage' into my head. The only time I really started to get worried was when my stomach started growling towards the end of the meeting at 9PM.

We ended the meeting, and I shook everyone's hand, and stepped out into the freezing night air with a sense of relief and a job well done. My CEO was pleased, and I have an amusing anecdote to tell my coworkers. Hopefully it will help the time pass pleasantly while we spend the next four hours assembling our new IKEA furniture. :)