Saturday, June 23, 2018

Good Eats

Monday, June 18, 2108
Based on existing research, Professor Ryan Murphy of Southern Methodist University writes that "occupations that were [found to be] most disproportionately psychopathic were CEO, lawyer, media, salesperson, surgeon, journalist, police officer, clergyperson, chef, and civil servant.  Those that were least psychopathic were care aide, nurse, therapist, craftsperson, beautician/stylist, charity worker, teacher, creative artist, doctor, and accountant."

The geography of psychopathology is also quite interesting.  "The top five observations in psychopathy are the District of Columbia, Connecticut, California, New Jersey, and a tie of New York and Wyoming for fifth.  The states that are least psychopathic are West Virginia, Vermont, Tennessee, North Carolina, and New Mexico."  The pattern is pretty consistent, psychopathology accompanies population density.  However, the question remains, does someone get wacky living in a crowded space or does someone get wacky living in the middle of nowhere and then goes looking for company?
. . .

As most of you know, yesterday was America's Favorite Epidemiologist's birthday, but it was also Father's Day.  So, we decided to celebrate seriatim, first having brunch with some lovely people, fathers and mothers, on Sunday.  Then, tonight, we went high hat, having dinner at Jean-Georges Restaurant, 1 Central Park West, resulting in a near perfect experience.  This was not Chinatown or Curry Hill, no hand held food, eating standing up or coupons.  It is one of five restaurants given 4 stars by the New York Times, one of 11 local restaurants with 2 Michelin stars, having lost that rare, precious third star this year.

The room is bright, open with an understated decor, using white and gray as the basic color scheme.  The 20 tables were amply sized, decently spaced.  We came early at 6 P.M., but soon all the tables were occupied.  Service was excellent; careful attention was paid to your water glass and bread plate.  

Jean-Georges offers only three menus at dinner.  The Jean-Georges Menu ($238) has 7 set courses, featuring signature dishes.  The Spring Menu ($248) also has 7 set courses, featuring seasonal produce.  We went for the Prix Fixe Menu (a mere $148), allowing a couple of dozen choices for 4 courses.  Some dishes came at a supplement, as did several caviar dishes.  

I had Yellowfin Tuna Ribbons, Avocado, Radish and Ginger Emulsion, a brilliant creation, the strands of fish lightly coated in a slightly sweet sauce.  I followed that with Caramelized Foie Gras, Black Olive Seasoning*, Lychee and Brioche.  Then I had lamb two different ways, Roasted Lamb Loin and Crackling Riblettes, Smoked Chili Glaze*, and Broccoli di Cicco ("an heirloom, old-fashioned kind of broccoli" according to the Internet).  

The starred items dropped my appraisal to near perfect.  Neither was necessary to the well-conceived, flawlessly-executed dish it accompanied.  And, contrary to what I imagine the way that you appeal to old, rich folks, each had a sharp, pungent taste.  Maybe if I were not a charter member of the clean plate club, I would have taken a pinch of each seasoning and left it aside.  Instead, I made all gone with slightly disappointing results.  

Jean-Georges recovered almost entirely with dessert, a choice centered on a flavor.  Naturally, I chose chocolate and got it five different ways, one better than the other, a  Möbius strip of deliciousness.  

Demonstrating the domestic harmony in our household, my young bride ordered a completely different meal.  She had Mushroom Salad with Wild Greens and Herbal Pine Dressing, White Asparagus with Lemon Crumbs and Herb Vinaigrette, and Black Sea Bass Crusted with Nuts and Seeds, Sweet and Sour Jus.  The theme for her dessert was cherry.

Befitting such an elegant joint, four different amuse-bouches came during dinner and handmade chocolates, nougats, champagne-flavored gummy bears and hand cut marshmallows came with the check.  A final touch was the chocolate confection presented to madame for her birthday as we left, avoiding any giddiness in the dining room. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Just 36 hour ago, I was deep in sybaritic pleasure.  Now, I am about to have my kishkes examined from the top down by doctor/lawyer/rabbi Morris Traube, a man for all seasons.  To afford him the best view, I have had nothing to eat or drink for more than 12 hours.  That, in itself, could make a person sick.
. . .

In an address at Yale's recent graduation, Hillary Clinton urged the audience "[t]o try to see the world through the eyes of people very different from ourselves and to return to rational debate, to find a way to disagree without being disagreeable, to try to recapture a sense of community and common humanity.”  Sorry, but my sense of community and common humanity does not extend to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, quoting scripture to justify kidnapping refugee children; Fox News host Laura Ingraham, describing holding facilities for refugee children as "summer camps"; commentator Ann Coulter, identifying refugee children as "child actors"; and former Trump campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski, mocking a girl refugee with Down syndrome being taken from her mother.  

Thursday, June 21, 2018
Yesterday's medical procedure went swimmingly.  All my pieces seem to be working right.

Friday, June 22, 2018
As announced last week, we made our pilgrimage today to Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, to mark its close of business on June 30th, after 73 years in operation.  It seemed like we had more people than attended the inauguration on January 20, 2017.  One cause of Ben's Best's challenge to remaining in business was evident as soon as we got off the Long Island Expressway.  Countless parking spaces on the Queens Boulevard service road have been lost to a bike lane, parking spaces closest to Ben's Best.  While the Rego Park-63rd Drive stop on the M & R trains is just a few feet away, it is on a somewhat isolated spur.  Even if Queens Boulevard was flooded with bike riders (I saw none), I doubt that many would want to test the elasticity of their Spandex by filling up with cold cuts and knishes

Pastrami sandwiches predominated among us, but I combined mine with corned beef.  Dr. Brown's flowed freely.  Appropriately, expressions of satisfaction in Yiddish emerged frequently.  
. . .

Finally, try this on for size.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Confucian Confusion

Monday, June 11, 2018
I finished reading Operation Chaos by Matthew Sweet, a study of how an informal band of Vietnam War GI deserters morphed into the Lyndon LaRouche movement.  I expect that many of you don't know who LaRouche is and I am conflicted about filling that information gap.  If your taste runs to paranoia, he's the man.  At one time, he maintained that Nelson Rockefeller intended to subject this country to a totalitarian regime.  After Rockefeller's death, LaRouche turned to Queen Elizabeth II, sometimes abetted by Henry Kissinger, as the head of a worldwide heroin ring.  Enough said.

What interested me, in my idiosyncratic fashion, was the use of an apartment at 65 Morton Street by the LaRouche claque in 1965.  It was the same building where 20 years earlier Julius Rosenberg and co-conspirators met to exchange information and purloined documents.  John Belushi lived at 64 Morton Street, when he died of a drug overdose in 1982.  Elliott Gould moved into 58 Morton Street after he separated from Barbra Streisand in 1969.  Henry Roth wrote much of Call It Sleep at 61 Morton Street in the early 1930s.  Wally Cox, the actor who starred on television as "Mr. Peepers", lived at 55 Morton Street early in his career in the 1950s.  Rumor has it that he cohabited there with Marlon Brando, a boyhood friend. 

So, what's the big deal, Grandpa?  I also lived at 55 Morton Street from November 1968 until June 1971, in a tiny, roach-ridden apartment and look how far I've come.
. . .
There was sad news this weekend.  Ben's Best Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, announced that it is closing on June 30th, after 73 years of operation.

In my pursuit of tikkun olam, "an aspiration to behave and act constructively and beneficially," according to Wikipedia, I have often taken pains to distinguish Ben's Best Delicatessen, at its sole location, from Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, a small chain of restaurants in the metropolitan area and Florida.  I have maintained that Ben's Best was, indeed, the best Kosher delicatessen in the Holy Land, that is until recently when I went to Pastrami Queen, 1125 Lexington Avenue.  However, after June 30th, the issue will be moot.

To mark the passing of this venerable institution, we are conducting a pilgrimage to Ben's Best on Friday, June 22nd at 12:30 PM, Jewish time (12:40, ten to one, whatever).  The 63rd Drive-Rego Park station of the M & R trains is a few feet away; key transfer points are 42nd Street--Times Square and Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue/74th Street.  Jay Parker, owner, will meet with us and attempt to defend his decision.  Additionally, I will underwrite the cost of the first 8 cans of Dr. Brown's sodas, any flavor.  Be there or be square.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
There is simply no good news today.  I read the New York Times carefully without finding a note of encouragement or pleasure.  The fact that two dictators spent time in each other's company does not comfort me.  The science section warns against an expanded waist size.  Net neutrality ended yesterday.  The slim reed that might sustain me until bedtime is the hole in the Mets' schedule Monday, a day going by without a loss or an injury to a key player. 
. . .

In a recent interview, New York City's school chancellor discussed the admissions process for Stuyvesant and other "specialized" high schools.  He said: "We can't treat everybody equally.  We have to have equity."  An attempt to explain his comment probably would torture most sincere people.  Further, equality evokes measurement, science, mathematics; equity evokes fairness or the perception of fairness.  Equity emerged in British law as a response to the rigidity of common law, which relied on principles honed by precedent.  Fairness ultimately lies in the eyes of the beholder and is immediately challengeable by the guy standing next to the beholder.  

While the parents of Eric Holder, former US Attorney General, Stuyvesant '69, may have been comfortable with the Stuyvesant admissions test, I understand why many other African-American parents may not be, with their children gaining so few seats in the school.  But, what of the Chinese-American parents, whose children, collectively in the last several decades, have demonstrated mastery in this area of competition?  Here is an anecdotal example:
For a blessed interval, white privilege is on the sidelines.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
I bought lunch at Yaso Tangbao, Shanghai Street Foods, 220 East 42nd Street, a semi-fast food dumpling joint, on the way to a gathering of the Feingold Faction, which remains active even after Stanley Feingold's death.  In fact, we have been spurred on to collect his writings and sponsor a speech/forum at CCNY in his memory.  For some appreciation of the man and his legacy, read these two articles by Joe Berger.  

I was fueled for our discussion by "Chicken Soup Dumplings w/ Activated Charcoal" (4 pieces for $3.95) and "Shanghai [sesame] Cold Noodles ($7.45).  The dumplings in a charcoal grey wrapper were very good, although the risk of scalding when taking the initial bite was mitigated by the two block walk to Sid Davidoff's office. The large portion of noodles, fettuccine flat rather than spaghetti round, topped with slivers of onion, cucumber and bean sprouts was a disappointment.  Although the dish contained lots of sauce, splattering with every mouthful, it was bland.  That rich taste of liquid peanut butter was missing.  
Thursday, June 14, 2018
"In school districts that are mostly rich, white and suburban, boys are much more likely to outperform girls in math."  
"On English tests, girls test better than boys regardless of their parents’ socioeconomic status."
With improved education and better research into human behavior, you might think that stereotypes are on the decline.  A new study seems to establish a few new ones.

Of course, a stereotype is often unflattering, but usually factual.
. . .

Speaking of the lack of Jewish athleticism, Michael Ratner sent me the following article: "5 Jewish baseball players hit home runs on the same day."

Both the 5 Jewish ball players and their 6 home runs were a record in a sport that slices and dices numbers more than any other.  And, starting with the Ten Commandments, through the Four Questions of Passover, the Seven Blessings of Marriage and the Eight Nights of Hanukkah, we are a people who love to enumerate.
Friday, June 15, 2018 

In apparently a tacit attempt to limit Asian-Americans, Harvard applies a "whole-person admissions process," regarding "traits like 'positive personality,' likability, courage, kindness and being 'widely respected'" in which Asian-Americans consistently scored below other groups.  For decades, Jewish applicants to the Ivy League faced similar obstacles, according to The Chosen by Jerome Karabel.  Observing Jewish students at Columbia University, a writer noted that "[a]bsent is the grace, the swagger, the tall sleekness."  P. 87.  Indeed, the president of Harvard in 1919 found that Jews have "feebled, stunted, undeveloped bodies, and morbid nervous systems."  P. 91.  Yale's scholarship program in 1928 placed "Manhood, force of character, and moral leadership," ahead of "Literary and scholastic ability."  P. 216.  Harvard adjusted its scholarship program in 1948 "to aid men whose greatest strength lies not so much in the scholarly line of endeavor as it does in the direction of useful citizenship."  P. 193. 
Reading those comments, it's hard not to endorse a meritocratic approach for Harvard and Stuyvesant, one that seems to be based on equality of opportunity, that is the opportunity to get to the front door.  However, getting through the front door may be inhibited by the inequities of the past, a history of violence, deprivation, segregation, exploitation and oppression, far from eliminated even yet.  As one famous Asian said, "It's a puzzlement." 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Goodnight, Irene

1 Down - Fifth place?

Monday, June 4, 2018
Yesterday, I had a conversation with Dan T., a very smart Millennial, about music good for a campfire, easy and familiar songs.  I suggested The Weavers as a source, with hits such as Wimoweh, Kisses Sweeter Than WineTzena, Tzena, and On Top of Old Smoky.  I got a quizzical look.  "The Weavers?", he asked.  I wonder how long before The Beatles fall into obscurity?
. . .

I harp.  Certain topics preoccupy me and I am sometimes too lazy to abandon them.  Stuyvesant High School, where I spent 3 years taking up space, is one of those topics.  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom I support, but don't like, has proposed replacing the admission-by-test-only policy for Stuyvesant and other "specialized" secondary schools.

As I have pointed out several times, specialized for Stuyvesant has meant few African-American students for most of the 85 years of its selective admissions policy.  Yet, I am unwilling to drop the present meritocratic approach, in spite of the evident inequitable results.  The problem is not with Stuyvesant or the other high achieving secondary schools in the New York City educational system.  They are easy targets, involving a few thousand students, at best.  How about the hundreds of thousands of students confined to segregated, low achieving elementary schools?  I don't suggest that there are easy fixes, but dabbling at the top of the pyramid seems to divert energy and resources from confronting the rotten base.  Parents, teachers, principals, politicians, you, me are all needed to rescue the most critical element in our continuing local experiment in democracy. 
. . .
In what appears to be a successful public-private partnership, Turnstyle Underground Market at the Columbus Circle subway station, continues to thrive.  There has been some turnover, but an interesting variety of food merchants, led by the wonderful Bolivian Llama Party, are doing quite well.  Today, I tried one of the newest shops, Zai Lai Homestyle Taiwanese.  

As is the case with most of its underground neighbors, Zai Lai has a limited menu, 4 rice bowls, a noodle soup and a noodle plate, one bun and two miscellaneous items.  It was these latter two items that I ordered,  Caleb's Braised Beef Roll ($7) and Ex-Girlfriend's Oyster Omelet ($7).  The slivers of beef with Hoisin sauce are wrapped in a scallion pancake, a tasty package.  The omelet, on the other hand, can only be called interesting, not an enthusiastic endorsement, possibly what I might get from an ex-girlfriend.  There were few oysters sitting on a 6" round omelet, sort of. 

Do you know what a feinkuchen is?  Yiddish dictionaries define it as scrambled eggs, but in practice, eggs that have been scrambled before being put in a frying pan, not scrambled as they cook in the frying pan.  This yields a round, flat, somewhat even-surfaced dish.  Here, though, that was only half the story.  The yellow bottom was clearly a feinkuchen, but above it sat a layer of warm, gooey, near transparent aspic covered with "Taiwanese ketchup."  Yes, yucky.  
. . .
Let them eat cake, except if they're gay.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
I went back underground today, to Turnstyle Underground Market at the south end of the very large Columbus Circle subway station.  While Zai Lai gave me little reason to return, other joints beckoned.  I chose Chick'nCone, directly opposite Bolivian Llama Party.  This is apparently a startup venture and it's perfect for tight spaces with walk up customers.  The menu consists of Chick'nCone ($8), Cajun fries ($4) and drinks ($2), that's all.  A combo of all three is $12 and a very good deal, as I will explain momentarily.

But first, what is a Chick'nCone?  A large waffle cone, just as you might have at an ice cream parlor, is made when you order.  It is filled with crispy cubes of deep fried white meat chicken, then dressed with a choice of six sauces, Kick'nRanch, "Slightly spicy, creamy ranch sauce"; Yello BBQ, "Mustard based tangy BBQ"; Traditional BBQ, "Sweet BBQ sauce"; Cinna-Maple, "Classic chicken & waffle maple syrup"; Buffalo Blue, "Wing sauce with a hint of blue cheese"; Peri Peri, "Spicy South American chili sauce".  I chose Yello BBQ, similar to what you would get in eastern North Carolina, where tomatoes are eschewed in barbecue sauce.  The combination was delicious. 

Unsure of the portion size when I ordered, I asked for the fries, too.  Since I was already at $12, I went for the combo, although I had carried my own can of Diet Coke down from the newsstand at the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 57th Street, at the head of the stairs to Turnstyle.  You see, that guy sells soda cans for $1 each, while Turnstyle vendors charge $2 or $3.  However, the drink that Chick'nCone includes is no watered down fountain Coke, but real stuff, including San Pellegrino Arianciata Rossa (sparkling blood orange beverage), my choice, which I carried home after finishing my Diet Coke.
. . .
As of yet, the "Top 100+ North American Cheap Eats Restaurants" does not include Chick'nCone, but give it time.

Holy Land entries include Katz's Delicatessen, Ess-A-Bagel, Patsy's Pizzeria, and Xi'an Famous Foods, all reasonable choices.  The list, though, is notoriously weak on Chinese food.  Not only is Wo Hop ignored, there is only one other Chinese restaurant joining Xi'an in the top 100 throughout North America.  It's like we are back in the days of the Chinese Exclusion Act. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Happy Anniversary to D & I.
. . .
And now, the Case of the Mysterious Keynote Speech.  Yesterday, America's Favorite Epidemiologist received an e-mail message from a professional associate, apologizing for missing her keynote speech at the upcoming conference "Autoimmunity in 2018; Where Have We Gotten To?"  Who? What? Where? was the response on this end.  America's Favorite Epidemiologist has no such appearance scheduled and isn't even aware of the event. 

She followed the trail to the conference organizer, who was delighted to hear from the author of "Post-September 11, 2001, Incidence of Systemic Autoimmune Diseases in World Trade Center-Exposed Firefighters and Emergency Medical Service Workers," and, from its abstract, thought it would be the ideal keynote.  However, while the article appeared in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, January 2016, my young bride never forwarded it or its abstract to the conference organizer or its sponsor, and was completely surprised to see her name and work included on the program. 

Three possibilities come to mind: 1) Someone wanted the work to gain wider exposure; 2) Someone thought that the conference needs padding; 3) Someone planned to kidnap my wife.
. . .

I found some surprising information in this article on college costs.

Some of the country's most selective colleges do not pose a financial challenge to a broad range of American families.  There may be significant cultural and psychological factors associated with the have-nots entering the academic domains of the haves, but money, or the lack thereof, will not stop them.

Thursday, June 7, 2018
I had gone underground for lunch on Monday and Tuesday, but yesterday I reached a new low.  I went to see the Mets play the Orioles, the team with the worst record in baseball.  Sure enough, the Mets lost the game 1-0, obviously forgetting that the game is played with bats as well as balls.
. . .
I had lunch at Bento Sushi, 685 3rd Avenue, a bright, deep space, where a long counter on your left takes up about a third of the floor space.  First comes an array of packaged sushi items.  Then, an area to order hot food, noodle bowls, ramen bowls, rice bowls and bento boxes ranging from $7.99 to $9.99, to be picked up at the end of the counter.  I had a bento box with two pieces of salmon sushi (fresh tasting although made in advance), one gyoza dumpling, salad, and sukiyaki beef over rice ($8.99), a reasonable amount of food for the money.  However, unlike some of its competitors with lines outside their door, Bento was unbusy, which allowed me to look at my phone and read a few pages of The New Yorker before proceeding to help my periodontist refurnish his summer hideaway.
. . .

Friday, June 1, 2018

Fight For Every Cent

32 Across - Life preservers?

Monday, May 28, 2018
Memorial Day is intended to honor those who fought for this country throughout its history.  I remember, as a Boy Scout in Brooklyn, going to the national cemetery in Cypress Hills to place flags on the graves of soldiers.  This came to mind as I read a group of stories about executive compensation:

One quote sums up these articles: "A Walmart employee earning the company’s median salary of $19,177 would have to work for more than a thousand years to earn the $22.2 million that Doug McMillon, the company’s chief executive, was awarded in 2017."

During WWII, our War Department, before being gentrified as the Department of Defense, commissioned a series of documentary films, collectively titled Why We Fight.  Individual titles included The Battle of Britain, The Battle of Russia and The Battle of China.  Obviously, they missed The Battle for Eight Figure Executive Compensation.  Is this a great country, or what?
. . .

We live in a binary world, either/or.  The haves/have nots, lefties/righties, Mets fans/Yankee fans.  I was slow to realize that there is another significant divide separating people, wash it or wear it.  I refer, of course, to handling new apparel, especially T-shirts.  Upon returning from Africa recently, we dispensed souvenir T-shirts to some beloved family members.  Were I on the receiving end, the new T-shirt would have been pulled on as soon as possible.  Instead, the shirts headed to the washing machine to be laundered before being worn.  I will not disparage this instinct to protect loved ones from the perils of an unwashed T-shirt.  But, my own impatience would override any such personal concern.  Wash it or wear it.  Take a stand!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Today, the New York Times reviews Don Angie, 103 Greenwich Avenue, a new Italian restaurant which shows "the chefs’ skill for cross-pollinating with other cuisines, especially Asian ones."  It sounds attractive, in all, but the review warns that getting in isn't easy, because of the established reputation of the chef-owners.  What caught my eye though was mention of "a house Chianti, and it comes in a straw-covered bottle."  When was the last time that you saw a straw-covered Chianti bottle, once the common denominator of every post-adolescent living away from home for the first time?  How sexy the accumulation of red candle wax around the bottle, reaching onto the tablecloth. Maybe there is now an app for that.

Thursday, May 31, 2018
Those religious skeptics among you should take comfort that the crosses being hung in the entrance of every state building in Bavaria, Germany are merely cultural symbols, without any religious significance.

Horst Seehofer, a former Bavarian premier, taking a break from being treated for amnesia, just "described Bavaria alternately as 'the promised land' and 'paradise.'"  The cross is important, he said, because "Germany’s value system was 'shaped by Christianity.'"  Actually, if we review Germany's historic twisted value system, a twisted cross is a reasonable symbol. 

Friday, June 1, 2018
I spent one year living in Alexandria, Virginia, the prototypical Northern Virginia suburb, working for Greg Jennings, a really good guy.  Last might's final episode of "The Americans" brought that to mind.  The Soviet spies Philip and Elizabeth Jennings lived in  Northern Virginia, according to the Internet, but that appeared obvious.  Their travel agency was in Dupont Circle, a hip DC neighborhood, that is to the degree that any DC neighborhood could be considered hip.  After work or assassination or sex with people who had access to government secrets, the attractive couple returned to a clean-looking suburban subdivision. 

Given that some Americans seem susceptible to the most hysterical conspiracy theories (Pizzagate) and outlandish accusations (birtherism), I wonder if Greg has had to sweep his front lawn clear of patriots confusing him with his fictional kin. 
. . .
Spurred by the 25th anniversary of Tony Kushner's "Angels in America," the New York Times published a special section today identifying, in its eyes, the best best 25 American plays of the intervening period.  

While Kushner is a neighbor and I saw his masterwork originally and in revival, my credentials as a culture vulture are weakened by this compilation.  I have seen only 5 of the 25 works, which appeared in a variety of venues, mostly well-removed from Broadway.  I am sure that many of you far exceeded that number, but, in my defense, I would like to add in attendance at New York Rangers hockey games and New York Mets baseball games, even if they were often less artful than the theatrical productions.
. . .

Cereal boxes

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Perfect Tense

Monday, May 21, 2018
Normally, a daily headline or two gets me going into a fit of impotent blathering.  Today, I look back thousands of years for words to gnaw at.  Deuteronomy 15:21 says: "If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the Lord your God."  This statement is part of today's Torah reading.  (Jews in synagogues read through the entire Torah each year, several paragraphs at a time.  You would think by now that they would understand it.)  

This injunction is also found at Leviticus 22:22: "Anything blind, or injured or maimed . . . you shall not offer to the Lord."  People are also subject to the same high bar.  Priesthood is denied those suffering, among other things, blindness, lameness, disproportionate or crippled limbs, or "hath his stones crushed"(!).  Leviticus 21:17-23.  By the way, Leviticus is notorious for its finger wagging.

The search for perfection extends to the fruit stand.  An etrog, a yellow  citron, is used by Jews during Sukkot, the autumn harvest festival.  Waving it in the air in a ritualized pattern is considered a good thing (a mitzvah).  However, if the etrog is damaged or blemished, it is barred from use.

Without bogging us down discussing the existence of a deity, I wish to observe that a well-qualified deity should be able to tolerate living things without regard to size, shape, condition, wear and tear.  After all, the animals, the people, the fruits ultimately spring from the deity and should be expected to be viewed lovingly without fear or favor.

Further, who among us is qualified in drawing the line between the acceptable pure and the unacceptable impure?  Isn't that a futile attempt to know the unknowable?  And, why are the distinctions based only on external characteristics?  Is that any way to run a universe?
. . .

Wikipedia has a list of the 27 most deadly mass shootings in the US, starting in 1949, when 13 people were killed by a man walking through his neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey.  The list is up to date, through the shootings in Santa Fe, Texas on May 18, 2018.  15 of the 27 occurred this century, including the 5 most deadly.

The Washington Post has another detailed compilation starting in 1966, with very good graphics.

What is evident is how the good old USA leads the planet in the senseless shooting of civilians, not yet an Olympic competition.  What is mostly the case in these tragic events is the identity of the perps, white, Christian men.  Just saying.
. . .

While white, Christian men can't seem to break the habit of killing lots of people at one time, there is one trend that is being at least temporarily halted, if not reversed.  In March 2016, a grocery store named Albertina's opened at 2020 Broadway, between West 69th Street and West 70th Street, replacing a shoe store that had been a long term tenant.  I was pessimistic from the very start  about its chances of succeeding among very picky Upper West Siders,  already serviced by a broad array of high quality grocers (led by Fairway, Trader Joe's and Zabar's), sidewalk fruit and vegetable stands, 24 hour drugstores (CVS, Rite-Aid, Duane Reade) selling milk, eggs, ice cream, cereal, and potato chips (my normal diet) alongside prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and a scattering of bodegas with and without cobwebs on their shelves.  Indeed, by June 2016, Albertina's was closed and the space stands empty.  However, this weekend, I saw a sign in the window announcing the future occupancy of Shakespeare & Co., a bookstore and café.  It's a bold move, considering the number of bookstores that have abandoned Manhattan over time.  Maybe the lattes and scones will keep the literary ship afloat.  I pledge to buy one overpriced coffee there each week.

Tuesday, May 22, 2108
San Francisco at $3,440 and Detroit at $590 are the opposite ends of the bell curve for median rents of a one-bedroom apartment.

What I found more interesting were those cities that experienced unusual rates of change for those apartments.  Houston, Texas, described in August 2017, as "the already submerged city" due to Hurricane Harvey, had the highest increase in median rents for a one-bedroom apartment.

Of course, Houston won the 2017 World Series and maybe many people wanted to belatedly jump on the bandwagon.  On the other hand, Miami, Florida, which narrowly escaped major damage last year from Hurricane Irma, had one of the steepest declines.  Go figure.

Thursday, May 24, 2018
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma play a role in "The Places in the U.S. Where Disaster Strikes Again and Again," an interesting feature article that identifies those areas of the country that seem to attract natural disasters at an unnatural rate.

Data from the Small Business Administration on disaster-related losses from 2002 to 2017 show that 11% of all losses emerged from 10 zip codes in the vicinity of New Orleans, while Puerto Rico itself accounted for almost 5% of all losses in the period.  History may not be repeating itself, but lightening seems to have struck twice literally on occasion and figuratively more often.   
. . .

The National Football League has announced a new policy regarding the national anthem, requiring players on the field to stand, alternatively allowing them to remain in the locker room.  As a certified pinko, you know that I think that it is a phony sop to patriotism, ignoring the substantial issues of social justice that motivated the players to protest in the first place.  I am impressed, though, by the waiver given to players who have bone spurs, excluding them from being forced to stand during the national anthem.
. . .

Dean Alfange, American civilization at its best, is in town and we had the pleasure of dining with him at Joanne's Trattoria, 70 West 68th Street, owned and operated by Lady Gaga's parents.  In spite of that dubious provenance, we found it to be entirely satisfactory, though not exceptional, presenting familiar Italian food in a comfortable setting at fairly reasonable prices.  To its credit, our Caesar salad was adorned with a dozen anchovies, as requested. 

Friday, May 25, 2018
Yes, it's been 15 years.  
. . .

While Albertina's failed in spite of sitting in a prominent position on Broadway, Stile's Farmers Market, 352 West 52nd Street, has prospered although almost unrecognizable from the street, a side street that doesn't particularly come from or go to anywhere.  

It looks like nothing more than a storage shed for the adjacent parking lot.  It stocks miscellaneous grocery items, but concentrates on fruits and vegetables, and, as can be seen in the photograph, large volumes of produce come in and out.  The merchandise is fresh and prices are low.  

Tom Terrific tipped me to it and now you know about it, too.  I bought peaches as an anniversary gift.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Maximum Wage

Monday, May 14, 2018
Read this very fast, read the newspaper very fast, read your favorite magazines very fast.  You need the practice in case you ever become a client of Kirkland & Ellis in a bankruptcy proceeding.  The firm charges "as much as $1,745 an hour" for its representation.  So, you cannot afford to have them sit around while you are reading any legal papers or documents to sign.

How long did it take you to read the paragraph above at 48.47¢ per second (assuming Kirkland & Ellis generously rounded down)?
. . .
It's a little late, because a new survey tells us that generally, "if you list your home around the beginning of May you can expect to get a higher price (by about $2,400 on average) and have a quicker sale (about two weeks faster) than you would if you put your home on the market at any other time of year."

The analysis goes so far as to recommend which day of the week to list your home, by location.  Supposedly, you get a deal 18 1/2 days faster in Chicago if you list on a Friday between April 16 and 30, while Boston's sweet spot is a Wednesday between May 1 and 15, good for a 9-day advantage.
. . .
Clear your calendars.  Theater for a New Audience ( has announced that it is presenting a new play by Calvin Trillin, the greatest writer that the English language has ever known, January 8-February 3, 2019 at its Brooklyn home.  "About Alice" deals with Trillin's late wife Alice, previously immortalized in "Alice Let's Eat," "Travels With Alice" and the memoir "About Alice" wherein he relates that she had "a weird predilection for limiting our family to three meals a day."  Adding to the potential delight is the casting of Jessica Hecht, Broadway star and West End Synagogue member, as Alice.  
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Someone should know better is how I react to the news from Israel.  Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., might only be historical footnotes if they called for the destruction of their oppressors, as too many Palestinians do, rather than elimination of the oppression. 

The Netanyahu regime, on the other hand, seems satisfied to increase the Arab death toll, without seeking means to improve conditions in Gaza, partially of Israel's creation.  (I'm uncertain that Palestinian leadership actually desires an improvement in conditions, because that might heighten expectations in the population, which might be difficult to satisfy.)  Both populations seem to be captive of religious zealotry wrapped in their flag, animated by a history of bloodshed.  Or, is it the seductions of power and ego that are the motive forces on each side, cynically cloaked in pious rhetoric?

Admittedly, there is no easy path to peace and justice.  Can both values even coexist?  I'll tell you one thing that I know better, having those phony Christian evangelicals speaking at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem was an insult to Jews around the world, only meant to buoy the political fortunes of the current Israeli and American regimes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Another seemingly intractable problem, but without the physical violence, is the de facto segregation that has characterized Stuyvesant High School for decades.  A new article offers the views of some black graduates and some interesting statistics.

I didn't know that the number of black students reached a high of 303 in 1975, approximately 10% of the student body.  The city's economic crisis of the 1970s had further stimulated white flight, offering opportunity to black students, but only temporarily as liberalized immigration laws soon brought tens of thousands of Chinese to New York, eager for their children to live better than their parents ever could.  Now, less than 1% of Stuyvesant kids are black and the majority are Chinese. 
. . .
Speaking of the Chinese, I completed my return to the Holy Land after my trip to Africa by having lunch today at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street.  In spite of the calendar saying mid-May, the special deal on soup was welcome on this rainy, chilly day.  Bowls of hot and sour, won ton, egg drop or any mixture of these were $1 small and $2 large.  Add crispy noodles at 80¢, dipping into the very hot mustard and sweet duck sauce, and the ordinary human being might be sated.  Fortunately, my companion, though slim, was ready, willing and able to soldier on through the large portions of shrimps with lobster sauce, brown rice and Singapore chow fun, that delightful melange of wide noodles, chicken, pork, egg, scallions, bean sprouts, onions and love seasoned with curry, which has been a successful antidote to aging for me, so far.

Thursday, May 17, 2018
I have been known to have Chinese food three times a day, without visiting China.  More typically, if I am not at home eating my shredded wheat, I like to start the day with an egg sandwich, egg and cheese, at least, bacon, egg and cheese often.  The variations on this theme described in this article sound awfully good, although I have not had any yet.  My hands get sticky just looking at the pictures.
. . .
Alan Ayckbourn has written over 80 plays, most famously The Norman Conquests, Absurd Person Singular and How the Other Half Loves.  I've seen a dozen or more of his works here and in London, and have enjoyed each and every one.  His latest play A Brief History of Women (an obtuse title) is part of the annual Brits Off Broadway program at 59E59, a neat cluster of theaters nearer Bloomingdale's than Broadway.  As have many of his more recent works, it swirls elements of tragedy through the comedic affairs of quirky residents of the UK.  

A completely unexpected delight in the theater was the presence immediately behind us of retired Justice Marjory D. Fields and Mary Elizebeth (sic) Batholemew, the two women who endured my earliest struggles with judicial restraint, when we worked together in Supreme Court at 71 Thomas Street.

Friday, May 18, 2018  
I will be out of town, but you might not want to miss the Scooper Bowl, an ice cream festival in Bryant Park June 1-3. 
There is a separate $25 entry charge for each day, but that allows you to spend an entire afternoon eating ice cream while supporting the Jimmy Fund's pediatric and adult cancer care and research.  What's not to like?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Out Of Africa

Saturday, May 5, 2018
The New York Times has followed me to Africa electronically, for better or worse.  I found this story interesting: "He Wrote Disturbing Plans for a School Shooting.  But Was That a Crime?"

I think that Vermont erred in this case, where a seemingly unstable young man has made ominous threats to public safety.  His lawyer, dismissive of the gravity of the situation said, "Jack simply had thoughts about committing these crimes, wrote in his journal about committing the crimes, wrote his fantasy plans, and he purchased a gun.”  The Vermont Supreme Court held that he did not meet the standard for attempted murder, the most serious crime that he was charged with.  “An ‘attempt’ under Vermont law requires an intent to commit a crime, coupled with an act that, but for an interruption, would result in the completion of a crime."  (Note that the legal standards for criminal conduct vary by state.  New York has a bit more grit than granola in its statutes.)  However, his lawyer's words seal the issue for me; purchasing the gun was the act one step short of "the completion of a crime," when he has otherwise manifested his criminal intent.

But, I think that the article tries to grasp the wrong end of the stick,
weighing speech vs. conduct, a continuing issue in First Amendment jurisprudence.  An 18-year old, displaying erratic and hostile behavior, acquired a deadly weapon.  Stop right there.  Without a weapon present, we can turn law school classes and debating societies loose on the definition of criminal liability.  However, Vermont allowed a dangerous mix of man and means.  The young man, if unarmed, might foul his local community and the Internet with his ravings, but he would likely be only a danger to himself. 
. . .

We had a busy morning in Nairobi today before our evening departure for home.  We first visited the Giraffe Center, run by the African Fund For Endangered Wildlife Kenya LTD., devoted to rescuing  and resettling giraffes.  The Center is home to 12 giraffes, who require 10 acres each to forage.  You can pet and feed them snacks, which arouses a lot of amusement and photographs.

A short distance away was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts' Orphans' Project, which rescues baby elephants, nurtures them and trains them to return to the wild.  Currently, 29 baby elephants are contained on the grounds and even Grandpa Grumpy had to smile when a large group of them came running up to be fed their own baby formula from large bottles held by staff members.  It supposedly takes at least 5 years to prepare an orphaned baby elephant to go back to the bush, which the Project claims it does with success.  As with the giraffes, everyone pushed forward to get shots that are meant to impress friends and family back home.
. . .

The trip home was a bit convoluted and very long.  At 7:40 PM Saturday, we got on United flight 9764, the same one that deposited us in Nairobi on April 23rd.  After Nairobi, 9764 continues to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's capital, before turning around and flying back to Zurich, nonstop.  That was our path.  My young bride and I were not seated next to each other in order to find the most legroom.  She had a very interesting seatmate, a young Maasai man, who, unlike almost all of his 29 siblings (by three mothers), was educated and living and working outside his village.  He is employed in Amboseli National Park in wildlife conservation and is on the way to the US for conferences on the subject, first stop New York.  Oh, boy, he has never been out of Kenya before.

We took off at exactly 8:00 PM for the one hour flight to Dar es Salaam.  There, people got off, people  got on.  The flight to Zurich departed at 10:30 PM and took 8 hours and 35 minutes, leaving us at the Zurich airport at 6:05 AM local time (one hour earlier than East Africa) to wait for United flight 135, departing at 10:20 AM for Newark.  The transatlantic leg took another 8 hours and 25 minutes, landing at 12:45 PM EDT Sunday.  It all added up to far too much time when all I should have needed was "Beam me up, Scotty."

I used some of the long layover in the Zurich airport productively, however, by comparison shopping for scotch.  I bought a bottle of Glenfiddich Select Cask single malt, which is available for sharing.  Lindt's chocolates, a toothsome Swiss product, was offered in a variety of bundles, but they lost the home field advantage to Costco, where I recently bought a 600 gram (21.2 oz.) package of truffles for less than half the (special sale) price at duty free.  

Watches were, of course, prominently displayed.

Swiss precision demanded that they all be set to the right time.

Monday, May 7, 2018
Among the many contrasts between Kenya and the United States, I thought of one less obvious one - In Kenya, they put poachers in jail; in the US, we put them in high office.
. . .

In reviewing my writings for the past two weeks, I see that I ignored two of my favorite subjects: Jews and food.  Let's dispose of Jews first, as has often been the case in Western Civilization.  There were none.  Our fellow travelers were not Jewish.  No members of our tour staff were Jewish, although two of the frequently changed drivers were Muslims, descendants of Omani traders who settled in Kenya early in the 20th century.  No hotel or restaurant personnel were observed wearing a Star of David (✡️).  While our path criss-crossed that of many other tour groups in their four-wheel drive vehicles, we never interacted with any of them.   For all we know, the entire membership of the Great Neck Jewish Center may have passed us by unrecognized.

Food was present, however.  Every meal except our last Friday dinner in Nairobi was included in our tour package.  With so much time spent in the bush, a search for alternative venues would have been fruitless.  When we were on long drives to a new destination, we were provided box lunches by the establishment that we came from.  Two lunches in Nairobi were the only restaurant meals away from our lodgings.  Many meals were buffet, with eggs cooked to order at breakfast and a pasta station at lunch.  Service was more than attentive.  I had to struggle at times to be allowed to get my own cup of tea.

The food was always palatable and in ample quantity.  The flavors were generally familiar and safe, showing traces of the Indian presence in East Africa.  Now an influential and prosperous minority, thousands of Indians came to the region in the 19th century as indentured workers on the Kenya-Uganda railway.  At the table, curry, cardamom and chapatis were fairly commonplace. 

The most memorable meal, dissimilar to all the others, was at the Carnivore Restaurant, Langata Road, Nairobi, where, in its words "Whole joints of meat - leg of lamb and pork, ostrich, rump of beef, sirloin, rack of lamb, spare ribs, sausages, chicken wings, skewered kidneys, even crocodile - are roasted on traditional Maasai swords over a huge, charcoal pit."  The skewers are brought to the table and carved to order, returning as many times as you choose.  Such enterprises around here are labelled Churrascaria or Brazilian steakhouses, accurately or not.  Carnivore makes tangential reference to this in its signature cocktail, the Dawa, consisting of vodka, fresh lime juice, sugar and honey, akin to Caipirinha, Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaça (sometimes called Brazilian rum), sugar and lime.

Here's my intake: Beef, ostrich, lamb, crocodile, chicken wings, lamb sausage, ox balls (or so they said), beef ribs, spare ribs (best of all) and chicken legs.  The ostrich tasted like too well done beef (more carbon than meat), the crocodile like chewy chicken, and the ox balls, 1" discs, like a mild sausage.  I passed on turkey, sausages, rabbit and pork.  The price for a meal is around $35, but was embedded in our tour.  It seems to be a favorite with tour groups, especially with a few Dawas

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Speaking of food, the 2018 Top 100+ European Restaurant List is out if your trust fund is underutilized.
. . .

After bonjour, guten tag, or nǐ hǎo, most Americans abroad were once likely to say, "Do you speak English?"  Now, inevitably, it is "What is your wi-fi password?"
. . .

Speaking of etiquette, I had a welcome surprise in the mail -- a thank you card from a bride and groom, or a soon-to-be bride and groom.  The wedding is later this month, conflicting with another event of ours.  Along with our regrets, we sent a gift from their registry.  To their everlasting credit, David and Erica did not wait until they had run out of diversions far in the future to take on the burden of writing to obscure relatives and acquaintances.  They got the gift; they wrote the note.  I wonder if we can expect the same from Harry and Meghan.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Now, let me try and understand this.  Israel is safer when Iran's nuclear program is unrestrained?
. . .

If you haven't renewed your passport, but are still in the mood for award-winning dining, check out the joints honored by the James Beard Foundation.
. . .

My lunch at pokebab, 2047A Broadway, may be cited as the best poke (po-kay) that I have ever had.  Of course, it was the first and only poke that I have ever had.  It is an import, relatively new to the Holy Land.  Says Wikipedia, “Poke is a raw fish salad . . . in Hawaiian cuisine.”  pokebab itself is a week old, having replaced a Maoz falafel joint, but there are already lots of competitors in the general vicinity, Red Poke, Poke Chan, Poke Bowl, Poke A Bowl, Poke Fun, Poketeria, and so on. 

I had the Signature, $11.95 as are all the 9 versions on the menu.  It had a base of brown rice covered with cubes of ahi tuna, scallion, seaweed salad, cucumber, chili flakes, edamame, roasted sesame oil, sesame seed, Hawaiian salt, red onion, masago (capelin fish roe), radish sprouts, fresh ponzu (tart citrus-based sauce).  The poke is made in front of you and other spices and sauces may be added at the end of the line, so I had them toss in some red stuff and green stuff.  In all, it resembled an explosion at a sushi bar.  

The space is limited, 4 two tops and 9 stools at an L-shaped counter.  Maoz had more seating, but maybe the Upper West Side has more expatriated Israelis than Hawaiians.