Being an illustrated ramble through the last three days, which I spent in Manhattan talking about money. Some of the photos are the most painfully obvious clichés and to make it worse fuzzy and blurry too. Those adjectives might apply at least in part to the money business too.

First off, thanks to my friends and colleagues at Sun for setting this up (I seriously enjoy listening to customers), and I apologize to some other New York friends whom I’d have loved a beer or a coffee with but this particular schedule got very jammed very quickly.

The Biz · New York’s all about money, more and more so the further south you go in Manhattan. Just off Wall Street, something was reflecting light onto a building.

Reflections on a building in New York’s financial district

The bankers I was talking to were mostly those who aren’t feeling existentially threatened; but all of them have taken a beating. Over coffee and chit-chat, under my Sun hat, there was quite a bit of common feeling, sharing the experience of wild investor mood swings.

If Sun is lucky and smart, we have lots of growth opportunities. I doubt, though, that the finance business will regain its pre-crisis size for quite some time. But even in its diminished state, it’s very big and very strong and very rich. I can’t give you the details of who I talked to and what they’re up to, but damn, do these guys ever have serious data management problems.

Crowded buildings in New York’s financial district.

We visited some people at one of the exchanges, and I walked away from that with my mind boggling at their traffic levels, and the number of rows they think it’s reasonable to write into a database in 6½ hours. Also, the view from the office was pretty compelling.

View from way up high in New York’s financial district

In the finance biz there are a very few, very central, balls-to-the-wall trading apps like those exchange guys were running, and they just don’t use computers like most people do. But actually, most of the programmers spend their time building, and most of the servers spend their time running, straightforward Web-fronted database-backed CRUD apps. And they’re under-using modern Web frameworks, still a lot of Java classic and .NET/ASP being ground out really inappropriately.

On this trip I did something I’ve totally never ever done before: dropped into total fanboy salesdroid mode, talking up the new Amber Road storage products. Because dammit, these customers need ’em. I actually enjoy doing this, but I’m too keenly aware how complex the trade-offs are for most technology choices, and it’s not often that something stands out starkly as these things seem to.

The Buzz · As long as the weather’s not too brutal, anyone who enjoys life has to enjoy a few days in Manhattan. The lights and colours and faces, well, there really isn’t anywhere like it. Of course, not all of it’s happy and pleasant; blow this pic up and check out the fruit vendor.

Grumpy fruit vendor in lower Manhattan

The pix start to get fuzzy; this one was shot out the window of a taxi that was going way too fast, and the light wasn’t good.

I confess to feeling an odious smugness as I navigated among the crowds of tourists hunched around their unfolded maps, just because I knew where I was going and was There On Business, so Nobody Could Tell that I was actually a Clueless Out-of-Towner too.

Hey, here’s a blurry tourist shot, what a cliché.

Grand Central station, main concourse, blurred

The quality of light in Grand Central is always special; the stone is a good colour of course, but they seem pretty clueful about not screwing it up with the wrong lighting.

Sorry, I just couldn’t get enough of the blurry people.

People blurrily in motion in Grand Central Station’s main concourse

I was pretty busy from early to tired most days, but did get out for one late night walk; it was raining a bit.

Food stand in Manhattan in the dark in the rain

Being in New York on business is the best way to visit. Only next time I want a day or two off.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Guillaume Laforge (Dec 06 2008, at 01:36)

As always, very beautiful shots, thanks for sharing them here.


From: Francis Hwang (Dec 06 2008, at 08:36)

I think it's always hard to get a good shot of the people in Grand Central, since the light's too low.

Me, I've been a techie in NYC for almost a decade, but it was never the money that attracted me here ... it was the culture, and the fact that this seems to be a place where people can cobble together bizarre hybrid careers much more easily. One of the city coroners, for example, has a side gig writing videogame reviews. That's the sort of career I've been building out here.

Also, I think of it as great training for the web since you have to deal with crowds every day. My first job in NYC was by Penn Station. Having to face that first thing in the morning is a great way to be reminded of how badly complex systems can be designed ...


From: John Cowan (Dec 06 2008, at 15:02)

I've been living here in NYC for thirty years of my fifty, and I certainly don't think it's all about the money. My sense is that it's all about whatever you need it to be all about when you get here. When I came here, I was madly in love after my fashion, so for me it was the city of introverted romance, and it still is -- after all, we're still very much together, my love and I.

For artists, it's all about the art (or the artistic life, at least); for kids, it's all about the thousand-odd playgrounds in the 1700-odd parks; for aesthetes, it's all about the hundred or so museums; for baseball fans, it's all about the Yankees (New York or Staten Island Class A, according to taste); for vadders, it's all about the water towers; for the tourists, it's all about That Big Hole In The Ground.

What's reflecting light on the building is almost certainly another building with a glass front.

Selling fruit on the street without a license (which would be prominently posted) is a crime, so your fruit guy is probably keeping a weather eye out for the cops, since he'll probably have to abandon his stock if he hopes to get away unarrested.

And, of course, the best way to visit NYC is with plenty of time and a native (or near-native) guide -- like me.


From: Pete Berry (Dec 06 2008, at 15:50)

Good pictures - made me think maybe I could feel what it was like to be there. The people shots also made me think of L.S.Lowry's paintings. Instantly as in from nowhere. Do you know his work at all? Fairly representative set of images here

Thanks for the pics (and the blog)




From: Jeff Dickey (Dec 17 2008, at 06:36)

Tim, great pics. Makes me homesick; I drove a cab in New York for a few years before getting back into the craft.

@John Cowan: You mean like the squad car that's right behind the fruit stand? Yeah, I can see why the guy'd be completely thrilled with the lovely evening...


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