Cyclocross Pushes the Limits

Cyclocross 2011 from Vimeo.

Cyclocross is a fringe cycling phenomenon with deep roots in modern cycling culture. The sport began as  a favorite off-season training activity for Tour de France riders nearly 100 years ago, and has since become a national pastime in several European countries.

In the United States, the rough-and-tumble world of cyclocross racing has remained a sport on the margins, with races organized in city parks, woodlands, and homemade courses across America.

There is no question that this is a dangerous sport. Avid racers are no stranger to blood and mayhem. There are few accolades and minimal opportunity for glory.

On November 20th, racers gathered from all over the Northeast to compete in the annual Supercross Cup.

Perks of the Job: A Survey Analysis

Understanding job growth is a tricky business. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes dozens of quarterly projections, but few statistics are reviewed by national media. Virtually all of the annual job growth numbers are based on the time-tested non-farm payroll statistics.

Non-farm payroll stats are nice for understanding broad national trends, but what about all of the jobs that exist in the margins? What about the day laborers that work for cash or the creative industry professionals that jump around the country from gig to gig? Solid estimates for people working in these less measurable fields are hard to find.

Preferred Job Payment Structures

In this largely un-scientific survey of working professionals, it quickly became clear that a workaday, salaried position is not the end goal for many people. More than half of the people polled in my survey preferred work that paid on contractual or temporary basis. Many of these people explained that this type of work gives them the freedom to work when they see fit, a luxury in most professions. There were also several commenters that believed the freelancer lifestyle was more conducive to taking jobs that allowed them to extend into new fields, thus making their skill set richer and more employable.

The results break down like so:

Jobs Perks and Detractors

Another important bit of data from this survey compared what people thought were the “best” and “worst” attributes of their chosen profession. They choices were the same for both questions, but the answers were certainly not a mirror image of each other. It is clear in the data displayed below that paycheck stability is a huge factor for people when they aren’t earning enough. This result is to be expected. The surprising element of this data is that an “exciting work environment” was overwhelmingly the best part of many people’s work. Schedule flexibility and future employment opportunities were a close second and third choice. The point of all this, is that there are many potential ways to incentivize labor other than stimulating payroll growth. Stimulating the informal sectors of the economy, like freelance labor, may have major job-creating potential. The obvious hurtle in freelance job growth is medical care, which keeps many people tied to jobs that they would otherwise abandon. But that’s old news… Europe realized that socialized medicine diversified job growth decades ago. Maybe it is about time we do the same.

Analysis: What is a Job, Really?

The survey: What is a Job, Really?

Click here to see the results.

I created my survey with the intention of shedding a little light on some of the less discussed elements of employment. Namely, I wanted to see whether time flexibility, vacations, stress and workload were more important determining factors in employment that simple dollars  and cents.

Only three of the 26 people that took my survey believed that a stable paycheck was the most important aspect of the work that they do. Whereas, nearly half of those polled believed that a flexible schedule and good vacation time were the biggest benefits to their jobs. Most people took their job because it had an exciting work environment or substantial future opportunities.

Although nearly every person surveyed is involved in some kind of creative class employment, I believe that these results are very informative. A more expanded survey would focus on the working class, and I suspect that the results would be surprisingly similar. Seasonal labor, “gigging”, telecommuting: these are all examples of job organization strategies that have huge untapped potential in a modern, hyper-connected economy. Full-time employment presents major financial challenges for Americans that are dependent on failing transportation networks, expensive child care, and dehumanizing conditions.  Perhaps tweaking the model for greater autonomy could mean less burden on employers and alleviate rat-race burdens on employees. A win-win.

The survey had several flaws. Firstly, I asked people about their own jobs, whereas I think it might have been beneficial to ask more speculative questions like “what is the most important aspect of a job” and focus directly on how they feel about the various social factors in finding employment. I especially enjoyed the question “why do you do what you do?” as it elicited some very provocative, albeit qualitative, information. One particularly interesting and poetic person had some thoughtful insight into the fruits of his labor:

“Gigs are the jobs of the future. People come to their senses and want neither to serve or be served. In lieu of a career: 100’s of meaningless gigs by which I can acquire 100’s of corresponding perspectives of the human world. Understand the bitterness of clerks, the chipperness of toothbrush operators, the true lives and opinions of the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. No station is without its secrets.”

One Pizza Man with Soaring Dreams

Vincent Fontana, 33, was born into a pizza empire. His father and uncle emigrated to the United States from Sicily and opened Original Pizza on Avenue L in Canarsie with the family recipes. The pizza is good. Damn good. As the Italians moved out of the neighborhood, all the other pizza shops closed down. Original Pizza weathered the rough years and now they have five shops in every corner of Brooklyn.

Vincent Fontana certainly loves pizza, but he never intended to join the family business. He wanted to be a scientist. A zoologist, specifically. But duty calls, and family comes first, so he set his dream aside. Ten years ago, when his dad handed him the keys to Original Pizza #1, he decided it was time to spread his wings.

Times Square Tourists Recount Their Conquests

Sometimes we forget that CUNY Journalism School is plopped down right in the middle of the biggest tourist attraction in the world. Like so many of my colleagues, I often block out the existence of all those pasty Middle Americans.

Every once in a while, it is nice to remember that they are actually people. Interesting people with stories, in fact. Enter Caroline Glaser and Aaron Nero. They are two lovely folks from Akron, Ohio and they make superconductor microscopes.

We Are Tourists, But We Also Make Microscopes

Glaser and Nero might just look like nondescript tourists, but they are actually pretty sophisticated folks. They both work for a company that makes high calibre microscopes for semiconductors. Yeah, I don’t get it either.


All The Fun Things We’ve Done in New York!

The duo have done a lot of fun things in New York. While most tourists would be worn out by this adventure, our intrepid travelers just wish they had a little more time.


What to Do With Our Last Night?

It is their last night in town and they can’t seem to figure out how to fill the final ours. I sent them to Jimmy’s Corner. I have a feeling they will enjoy all the boxing photos and Ohio-priced drinks.


The Hypnotic Beauty of Times Square at Night

And just in case you don’t get enough of the soothing sounds of Times Square during the work day, here’s a nice piece of ambient artistry to satisfy your craving.

The Canaries of Canarsie

Several hundred members of the Colorbred Canary Club met at St. Jude Church in Canarsie on October 1st for the 12th Annual Canary Competition. The mood inside the church gymnasium was quietly somber as a team of four highly trained judges slowly analyzed the entries, inspecting the birds based on a long set of detailed criteria.

The judges must complete a lengthy certification process where they learn a six point criteria for rating the birds and methods for identifying unwanted mutations. The judges are also trained in one of four distinct breed categories. Each category has multiple class divisions based on gender and “melanin” variations. Melanin is a term used for distinguishing solid color birds from birds that contain significant marbling. The judging process is not taken lightly. Many of the judges are professionals that travel throughout the United States to local canary competitions. In many of the categories, there are less than a dozen judges in the entire world who are qualified to participate.

Entrants from all over the tri-state area brought dozens of distinct breeds to participate in the event. Nearly all of the competitors were men from countries in the Caribbean including Guyana, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad, where many of the canaries are native and breeding is fiercely competitive.  The grand prize was given to Abrahim Ogir of Queens for his star zebra finch, a breed for which he is well-known throughout New York City. Ogir placed highly in last year’s event, although this is the first time that he has won the competition.

Bikeshare: Another Half-Baked Economy Booster for NYC

New York City transportation bloggers and tweeters have been absolutely titillated over the past few days by the announcement that the four boroughs (sorry, Staten Island) will be getting a new bike share system next summer.  The city has decided to partner with Alta Bicycle Share based in Portland, Oregon to create the system.

Mayor Bloomberg argues it will be a huge boon to the economy, creating jobs, adding advertising revenue, and alleviating traffic problems.

The model is similar to dozens of systems that have been rolled out around the world over the past decade.  Velib in Paris and Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC are two of the most popular programs and both served as a blueprint for the NYC system.  Blah blah. Look it up. I’m tired of explaining.

So here’s my gripe: do they really think this public/private partnership is going to work? This rinky-dink company actually has the track record to take on New York City?

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Top 5 Unlikely Places to Look for a Job in NYC

You’re broke. You’re bored. You surf the internet endlessly looking for that miracle job that nobody else found.  Most likely, that’s how you ended up here.

When it comes to making ends meet, most folks aren’t willing to cobble together piecemeal work and scramble for nickels.  But if you are, here are some (legal) methods you might not have considered.

1) Craigslist Free Section

We’ve all been there.  The Craigslist free section is full of random crap that occasionally has some real value.  That baby stroller with the busted wheel?  Fix it cheap and that’s a cool 50 bucks in your pocket.  Think about it.

2) IKEA Lot Hustler

It seems like everybody should be able to put it together right? WRONG. Old ladies and college students across America are confounded by those obnoxious illustrations every day. Head on over to Red Hook, bring your hex key, and kindly approach patrons in the parking lot with a big smile.  You will be surprised.

3) Art School Nude Model

No six-pack abs? No problem. Get yourself a robe, a pair of sandals, and a bottle of water. Done. Call the schools at the link above and you will definitely have a job before you finish this list.

4) Man With A… Zipcar?

It is easy math.  A Zipcar truck is about $14/hour, depending on the day. The going rate for a Man with a Van is about $40/hour.  Hit the traffic right, work quickly, and you might be on to something.

5) The Wandering Handyman

Go for a walk around your neighborhood.  Do you notice all those rusty fences, peeling paint jobs and leaf-filled rain gutters?  Those are dollar signs, my friend. Laundromats always need their filters emptied. Get creative.  There’s cash around every corner.