Saturday, February 17, 2018

Write On, Professor

Monday, February 12, 2018
Our president gives insincerity a bad name.
. . .

Rents have increased 19.6% nationally since 2012.  Among the biggest increases in 2017 were a hodge podge of locations -- Tacoma, WA, Milwaukee, WI, Gary, IN.  However, 7 of the 10 highest rental markets are in California.  New York City doesn't even climb that high, although Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk Counties) sits fourth, between Orange County and Oakland.

The only good news, if you wish to call it that, is that the rate of increase for rents in 2017 was half of the estimated median home price rise in the same twelve months.  What it all amounts to is a compelling argument to not move a damn inch.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Occasionally, I "discover" an eating joint before the New York Times does.  Today, I was hours behind, going to lunch at Kebab Empire, 934 8th Avenue, reviewed this morning.  It features "the food of the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking and mostly Muslim minority in China and Central Asia."  While this/they are new to me, the prominence of lamb in the write-up was the major attraction.

The menu offers lamb kebab ($2.53), cumin lamb ($6.89), lamb shank ($6.89) and lamb chop ($6.89).  As a platter, including rice cooked with carrots and raisins, a small salad, and yoghurt, served on a 12" tortilla (substituting for an authentic flat bread), all these selections cost $9.87.  There are also chicken, salmon and shrimp kebabs with similarly erratic pricing.  Several vegetable kebabs appear only in print, but apparently not in fact.  I had a lamb chop platter and an extra chicken kebab ($1.84).  The food was very good.  The lamb was a rib chop, small but thick.  Fortunately, Diet Coke has reached western China.

The Empire isn't very large, just 8 two tops fashioned out of rough lumber in a room painted matte black.  One person takes orders behind the counter and four others scurry around cooking and assembling them.  There was some mild confusion sorting the many take-out orders from the eat-ins, but a good time was had by me.
. . .

The New York Times reports that the Berlin Wall has now been down a few days longer than it stood, but the legacy of the East/West division is quite strong.  This experience has valuable lessons for us.

East Germans grew up lacking freedom and prosperity and, in their eagerness to catch up with West Germans, are somewhat impatient with democratic governance.  Authoritarian, nationalist sentiments are strong among those left behind by the unified, globalized system now in place.  Immigrants are a convenient target of antagonism, even when scarce.  "[T]he regions that produced the most votes for the AfD [the far-right wing Alliance for Germany] in the former East have the fewest immigrants."  However, Germany, on the whole, has accepted immigrants in numbers unthinkable to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.  It is also currently led by politicians who are trying to remain faithful to democratic values under stressful circumstances.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018
I got home late from a meeting last night, so I had to wait until this morning to gather thoughts and prayers in response to the 17 deaths in a high school shooting in Florida.  It's not always easy to corral all those thoughts and prayers at a distance of more than a thousand miles.  Maybe we should organize these efforts along the lines of our college athletic conferences.  A shooting in Florida would belong to the Southeastern Conference, extending into Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and other contiguous states.  This would allow us to focus our thoughts and prayers into a more efficient delivery system and connect to America's secular religion.  It would free folks in the Midwest to concentrate their thoughts and prayers on their own Big 10 mass shootings, for instance.  Another example of American ingenuity.

Friday, February 16, 2018
If you are agonizing over what to give me for my birthday tomorrow, I have a suggestion.  Give yourself a gift, specifically a copy of Professor David Webber's important  new book, The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor’s Last Best Weapon.  It is about to be published by the Harvard University Press and has already earned praise as "a common sense argument that will appeal to anyone with an interest in the current labor movement" and "a rare good-news story for American workers."  It may be ordered on Amazon ( or you may attend one of the many talks and book signings that David will have beginning next month. 
. . . 

In addition to David's accomplishment, today you have another reason to celebrate.  It is the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog.  The celebrations have begun and will continue through the Spring Festival for 23 days.  That provides so many wonderful opportunities to have Chinese food in solidarity.  I took a risky position by making a lunch date with Dan K., a fine gentleman, although skinny and a vegetarian.  However, we made the sound choice of LaSalle Dumpling Room, 25 West End Avenue, which provided a good lunch for an omnivore and a more fastidious eater -- cold sesame noodles, scallion pancake and steamed vegetable dumplings.  Maybe the cash register got stuck, but each dish cost $8.50.  
. . .

Unlike Donald Trump, the typical American Jewish husband might pay women to announce that they did have sex with him. 
. . .

Gong hei fat choy and Shabbat shalom. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

This Is Spot, My Youngest

Monday, February 5, 2018
Thanks to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes for demonstrating his investigative and analytic skills.  I hope that he turns his attention next to bit coins.
. . .

We returned to Earth today from a weekend in an alternate universe, Super Bowl-obsessed suburban Boston.  The majority of families seen out in public were bedecked in New England Patriots garb, mother, father, Jack and Jill.  The late night news broadcasts were similarly preoccupied.  They were just about 30 solid minutes of Super Bowl.  Even the weather forecast toggled between Boston and Minneapolis, as if a local viewer was likely to be catching a last minute flight to Minneapolis for the big game.

Boston's tunnel vision continued long after Philadelphia's upset victory.  The game ended about 10:20 P.M., Eastern Standard Time.  All three local affiliates of the major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC (I have no use for or knowledge of the F-word network), each immediately had a team picking apart what had transpired for the preceding hours.  None of the stations paused for any news at 11 o'clock and kept churning out nuggets of inanity until at least midnight, when, tiring of twirling channels to find something of transcendent interest, I shut the television. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018
You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this story from a Jewish woman acquaintance who had to travel to Chicago alone during Passover.  She was pleased to receive a dinner invitation from an aunt and uncle and was reassured after she advised them of her vegetarianism.  Dinner was served and, respecting her religious and personal scruples, she was presented with a healthy portion of spaghetti with clam sauce.
. . .

The Boyz Club eschewed spaghetti with clam sauce, but seemed to eat everything else in sight today at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, the giant dim sum establishment.  At first I announced that I would record everything that we ate, but the speed that dishes hit the table overwhelmed me.  I was only able to recap when the check came: 22 plates, probably 14 distinct dishes, 8 duplicates.  Lunch cost the six of us $19 each, including a generous tip, as always.

Thursday, February 8, 2018
Andy Borowitz reports that the "Pentagon has turned down Donald J. Trump’s request for a grand military parade in Washington, D.C., citing a sudden outbreak of bone spurs that would prevent men and women in uniform from participating."
. . .

Kungfu Kitchen, 805 8th Avenue, sits one door away from Real Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns, 811 8th Avenue, an unrelated enterprise. Both are very small, KfK holds about a dozen two tops and cramped four tops.  At 1 PM, every table was occupied, at least in part.  I ordered Kung Fu Noodle w/ Special Spicy Sauce ($9.75), lo mein, minced pork, chives, peanuts, and red pepper flakes, hot stuff.  I also had Pan-Fried Bun w/ Egg & Chives ($5.95 for 2 pieces), looking like large empanadas, rather bland tasting.  The menu had another dozen and a half dim sum items that seem worth trying next time.  The only inhibition is the $6 charge for a pot of tea.  On the other hand, KfK simplifies matters by adding 15% to the bill as a tip. 

Friday, February 9, 2018
I thought that I would tie up some loose ends from last week.  First, the matter of photographs appearing in newspaper death notices, something that aroused no interest whatsoever, giving me license to explore freely.  I asked whether you would choose to have a picture of a younger you or an older you appear posthumously.  Today's New York Times offers an interesting variation on the issue.  It carries two long death notices of a distinguished attorney, who lived 93 years.  Each was illustrated with a photograph, different photographs, each reflective of the source, although in both he is dressed in very lawyerly fashion.  One submission came from his firm, one of the most powerful in the world.  I would guess that it showed him at no more than 60 years old, serious gaze, mouth firm.  The other, from his family, showed him 15-20 years later, with a friendly grin, "Come, sit down."  I am glad that he was able to muster a pleasant expression after decades immersed in the cutthroat world of Wall Street law.

Next, there's the issue of chocolate-covered pretzels.  I explained the need to seek real chocolate-covered pretzels, preferably dark chocolate, avoiding the brown Crisco versions.  Right afterwards, I came across an interesting alternative, barkTHINS, infelicitously named, but quite delicious. 

The ingredients are simply dark chocolate (real dark chocolate), pretzels and sea salt.  The short, straight, thin pretzel pieces (not the curved minis pictured) sit in a flat chocolate bark, providing a much higher chocolate/pretzel ratio than the usual chocolate-covered, twisted pretzel.  A 10 oz. package costs $8.99 at Fairway Market, 2131 Broadway.  At $14.38 a pound, you get a lot of chocolate for your money, but much less less salty crunch.  You decide.  
. . .

Except during my first marriage, I've led a dog-free existence.  My starter wife owned a toy Pomeranian when I met her, kept him throughout our seven-year marriage, and had him depart her life well after I did.  He actually was a pleasant little fellow, not given to the yippiness typical of his breed.  We coexisted fairly well; at least neither of us took the other to court.  However, once apart, I had no inclination to replace him in my life.  Sharing almost any ordinary New York apartment with another person is challenge enough, adding a four-legged friend would push me into witness protection.  Therefore, I approach this article about New York's favored breeds with only modest curiosity.

The data comes from the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s dog license registrations from 2012 to 2016.  Besides the data by breed, Yorkshire terrier #1, and geographic distribution, lap dogs and pit bulls rarely occupy the same zip code, I found the names given to dogs very interesting, although ultimately inexplicable.  With no provision for gender fluidity, male Max (3,990) edges out female Bella (3,985) as the most popular name, followed by male Rocky (2,769), female Lola (2,677) and male Charlie (2,590).  For comparison, here are 2017's favorite baby names.

Fortunately, the overlap is minimal.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Taste Buds

Monday, January 29, 2018
Whole Foods' prices have impressed me as much or more than their reputation for quality and variety.  So, even though their closest store is only a pleasant ten block walk from my home, I probably hadn't spent more than $20 there in the last decade.  The other day, however, I cruised their large underground space on Columbus Circle to see what has resulted from the takeover of Whole Foods by Amazon. 
Much seemed the same, at least as far as I could tell from previous forays when my hands remained buried in my pockets.  I did notice some attractive offerings, though, such as fresh salmon steaks or fillets just under $10 per pound and, while pricey at $9.99 per pint, packaged Ample Hills Creamery ice cream, nearly the best there is. 
I skipped these items, but made one purchase.  Not a cookie nor ice cream, not Chinese, one of my most favorite things to eat is a chocolate-covered pretzel, dark chocolate-covered pretzel, real dark chocolate-covered pretzel.  That's important.  What appears to be chocolate in many items, candies, cookies, ice cream and pastry is not.  The giveaway is the wording, typically "fudge" or "chocolatey" as the disguise for what is no more than brown Crisco.

Real chocolate must contain cocoa solids and cocoa butter, the result of processing the seeds of the cacao tree by fermenting, drying, cleaning, roasting, grinding, liquefying and cooling.  So-called white chocolate lacks cocoa solids.  Those fudge and chocolatey things replace cocoa butter with an alternate fat, usually a vegetable oil.  This cheapens the product in several senses.  Avoid.

If a list of ingredients is not immediately available, two of your body parts should help you detect the real thing.  Your tongue will greet the taste of real chocolate with joy, rejecting the waxy imitation.  Before even reaching your mouth, real chocolate will begin to melt on your fingers if held for more than a moment.  That's why M&Ms are coated, so that they melt in your mouth, not in your hand. 
Back to Whole Foods, which offered chocolate-covered pretzels, milk, dark and white, at $11.99 a pound.  Li-Lac Chocolates, a longtime Manhattan chocolatier, sells them for $34 a pound.  Asher's Chocolates, a reliable Pennsylvania-based company, sells them for $24 a pound at a number of local retail stores.  So, I bought half a dozen dark chocolate-covered pretzels from Whole Foods and enjoyed them over the next couple of days.
I could not rest easy, however.  How could Whole Foods be offering such a bargain?  When I returned today, I found the answer.  "Natural Chocolate Confectioners Coating (sugar, non-hydrogenated vegetable fat, cocoa powder, nonfat dry milk, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural flavor, salt)" read the label that was missing on my prior visit.  Is it Natural Chocolate or is it Confectioners Coating (let's not worry about an  apostrophe)?  Is it akin to "Genuine Leatherette"?    

Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Obituaries in the New York Times are usually well-written, brief biographies of interesting people.  Today, for instance, I read about Arno Motulsky, "a founder of medical genetics, recognizing the connection between genes and health long before mainstream medicine did," who died at age 94 in Seattle.

Mr. Motulsky was notable not only for his scientific accomplishments, but for the fact that the American government literally turned him away from our shores, along with more than 900 other Jews, fleeing Naziism, on board the steamship St. Louis in 1939.  Great Britain took in almost one-third of them, others found their way to neutral countries.  However, "532 St. Louis passengers were trapped when Germany conquered Western Europe.  Just over half, 278 survived the Holocaust.  254 died: 84 who had been in Belgium; 84 who had found refuge in Holland, and 86 who had been admitted to France."

Mr. Motulsky, 16 years old, born in Germany, was sent to Belgium when the ship returned to Europe, something that met the approval of our nationalists then, and would now, no doubt.  After all, the boy spoke no English, did not finish high school and had no marketable skills.  Definitely a candidate for extreme vetting.
Adjacent to staff-written obituaries in the paper are death notices, provided by and paid for by family and/or friends of the deceased.  I am not sure if any editorial control is exercised on these submissions.  In many instances, photographs accompany the text and that's what I want to address.  Some photographs show old people, probably taken in the last years of their lives.  Okay, but others show healthy folks, clear-eyed, well turned out.  Yet, according to the text, the subject may have lived into his/her 80s or 90s.

Head shots taken 50 years ago may be indistinguishable from those taken last week.  A picture of a man in a dark suit, wearing a white shirt and tie or a woman in a cardigan with a string of pearls might have been taken in any of a half dozen recent decades.  How do you want to make your last public appearance?  
What should it be, now or then?  

Wednesday, January 31. 2018
Last night was the State of the Union address.  Along with the Oscars, the Miss America pageant, the All-Star Baseball Game and the Olympics, I stopped watching the televised live event years ago.  If anything important happens, it will be repeated over and over in a carefully edited segment.  It's not that my interest in politics or movies or good-looking women or sports has waned; I prefer to deal with these matters in the least hype-free setting available.  Of course, I fully realize that least hype-free nowhere approaches actual hype-free.
In fact, politics remains one of my central concerns and I have been thinking about making America great again, like back in the Kennedy years.  I remember my brother's good friend, Danny D., who was decidedly left wing, railing about our politics.  Congress, which I believe had Democratic majorities in both houses, was considering raising the minimum wage, then $1 per hour.  The Democrats proposed $1.25 while the Republicans urged $1.15.  Ten cents, Danny said, that's the difference in our politics?

Today, many Democrats propose a $15 per hour minimum wage while many Republicans, having had more than a half century to read and reread Ayn Rand, simply want to abolish it.
. . .
According to one source, we lefty/liberal/pinko/progressives should be hanging our heads, not because of the inferiority of our ideas, but because our appearance might scare people.  "Research Finds Attractive People More Likely to be Conservative."
The study suggests that, as good-looking people "are generally treated better, achieve higher social status and earn more money, influencing them to see the world as a just place," they may see less need for government intervention, a key component of left wing thought.
As an empiricist, I think that it comes down to choosing to snuggle with Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
Rob Teicher and I, after dinner at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street, headed to Madison Square Garden for a hockey game.  However, the Rangers were seemingly replaced on the ice by the Strangers, a group of random skaters who, after standing in a straight line for the Canadian and American national anthems, went off in various directions with no common purpose.  Enough said.
Friday, February 2, 2018
The Upper West Side's Power Couple packed up and drove to Massachusetts for Boaz's tenth birthday celebration.  His birthday tomorrow is also the tenth anniversary of the New York Giants Super Bowl victory.  Even though he has lived for the last 7 years in the shadow of the New England Patriots, the loser on his birthdate, he had maintained his Giants pride throughout.  We will probably watch the Super Bowl together Sunday night, but I doubt that he will root for a massive power failure at and around the stadium as vigorously as Grandpa will.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sense of direction

Monday, January 22, 2018
I never suspected that my brother was the archetypical New Jersey resident, although he has lived there almost 50 years.  According to census data, she is "a 39 year-old woman of Italian descent.  She lives in Middlesex County, makes about $38,000 a year and has at least some college experience.  She is married, lives in a home worth around $328,000 and has a commute of about 31.8 minutes."

Well, Middlesex County is exactly right, leaving a few data points for my brother to work on.
. . .

Sfilatino Italian Gourmet, 342 West 57th Street, is so small that I missed it the first time I walked down the street.  It has 5 two tops crammed in the space not taken by the counter and prep area.  Sfilatino is the Italian version of a baguette, and sandwiches are the focus of the menu.  Almost 30 versions are listed, with an option to create your own.  Prices range from $6.95 for the interesting combination of brie, pear, walnuts and honey to $13.95 for roasted prime rib, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.  The sandwiches are all named for Italian locales, such as Trento, Genova and Salerno, and most hover around $9.95.  

I ordered a meat ball parmigiana, a daily special called Roma ($10.50).  It was good, but what made it special was the ability to hold it while eating, contrary to the architecture of most meat ball heroes.  Two things made this possible.  First, the sfilatino, although very fresh, was grilled, giving the sandwich a sturdiness, resisting the weight of the ingredients and the pressure of my hot little hand.  Second, the tomato sauce was applied sparingly.  You tasted it, but it didn't drip down to your elbow. 

The joint is open for breakfast and only charges $2.95 for a double espresso and $3.45 for a large cappuccino.  With my sandwich, I stuck to the traditional Diet Coke.
. . .

Today's New York Times has a possibly interesting article about the energy requirements for bit coins or bit coining or bit coinage.
I tried to read the article carefully and yet I have no idea what the hell they were talking about.  While I was awestruck that "the computer power needed to create each digital token consumes at least as much electricity as the average American household burns through in two years," I cannot explain this using the English language, Xs and Os, or 0s and 1s.  Whose idea was this, anyway?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
As a byproduct of last week's physical examination, I went for a hearing test this morning.  The results were quite satisfactory; I have only lost some ability to hear the higher ranges of sound, typical for an older person.  That means I am ignoring you although I heard you clearly.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
In this very complex world, we often search for some simplicity, even for a limited time or space.  Life unadorned, unrigged, direct.  That's why the news from Saudi Arabia is particularly distressing.  The annual month-long King Abdulaziz Camel Festival involves up to 30,000 camels and now has been tainted by scandal.    
We are all too accustomed to humans primped and pumped in order to distinguish themselves, but can't we spare our camels from cosmetic, pharmaceutical and surgical enhancements?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

For 23 years until I ascended to Palazzo di Gotthelf, I lived in the Turtle Bay neighborhood, just down the block from the United Nations.  In spite of trying to pursue an active social life, I often had to dine alone.  One of my favored destinations was Mee Noodle Shop & Grill at the corner of Second Avenue and East 49th Street for Chinatown quality Chinese food.  Once I moved to the Upper West Side, I found it easier to get to Chinatown than get across town.  
In the years that followed, Mee moved up the block to 930 Second Avenue and opened another site at 795 Ninth Avenue, but I never returned to the original or relocated Second Avenue location until today, when I traveled from my cardiologist on First Avenue to my barber on Third Avenue.    
The new site is only one storefront wide, it is at least twice as large as the former, because of extended depth.  It was almost empty when I entered before noon, but soon filled with people escaping their cubicles for the 30 $8.50 lunch specials, including choice of soup or egg roll, and choice of rice.  I had an excellent hot and sour soup and very good shrimps with lobster sauce, 5 plump ones, and egg fried rice.  Having fasted before the morning's medical tests, I was very hungry and ordered cold noodles with sesame sauce ($6.25) in addition.  Mee served a very large portion, but something about the quality of the noodles, not the sauce, disappointed me.  I am sure, however, that the large menu would provide many satisfying alternatives as it did in the past, but I probably will continue to head south rather than east for my Chinese food.

Friday, January 26, 2018
From The Growth Delusion by David Pilling:
"Only in economics is endless expansion seen as a virtue.  In biology it is called cancer.”

Saturday, January 20, 2018

No Momos

Monday, January 15, 2018
Kim Kardashian allegedly has 106 million Instagram followers.  I confess that I am not an Instagram user for at least 106 million reasons.
. . .

It took 38 minutes to inform Hawaiians that ballistic missiles were not headed their way.  Even with the troubles that we are having with New York City subways, they usually arrive in less than 38 minutes.
. . .

The real estate section this weekend had an interesting column on the availability of homes throughout the US.  There was an evident trend, a substantial decrease in the number of homes available in many parts of the country.

The article offered no theory for this and even my occasionally hallucinatory imagination comes up dry.  Too expensive to move?  Satisfaction with present accommodations?  Fear of change?  Are you staying put, and why?
. . .

We were shopping downtown and found a special place to have lunch, Egg Shop NYC, 151 Elizabeth Street.  Indeed, almost every dish on the menu has one or more eggs as a component in relatively familiar, but tasty arrangements.  I had an egg sandwich on a buttermilk biscuit with maple pork sausage and Vermont white cheddar cheese, accompanied by a little dish of Harissa, a very hot chili pepper paste, which I sampled in minute amounts ($12.50).  I also ordered a side of fried chicken, two smallish boneless pieces, very crispy, nearly greaseless, with a drizzle of maple syrup ($7).  It made for an excellent lunch.

Egg Shop is very small, 10 two tops and another 8 stools at two counters.  On Sunday, the wait for a seat was 30 minutes or longer.  Fortunately, the store that we were headed for was around the corner, so we we were able to use the interval productively.  Otherwise, with no room indoors, people are directed to a coffee house next door and are summoned when a space becomes available.  Until the weather warms up, you might try for the Egg Shop on a weekday.  You don't work, do you?
. . .

Last week's memories of a tongue sandwich in the food halls at Harrod's, the London landmark, brought responses from Lord Kennington over there and Edith Greenberg over here.  Lord K confirmed the current absence of a deli counter at Harrod's by visiting in person.  He did suggest that what I ate back then was ox tongue, not beef tongue, and that may well have been.  He and Edith both recommended that I try Selfridges, another London department store, a little further down the scale than Harrod's.  Indeed, the Brass Rail at Selfridges flagship location, 400 Oxford Street, serves hand-carved salt beef (corned beef), pastrami and beef tongue sandwiches (£8.95 regular and £12.25 large).  Founded by an American Gentile 110 years ago, it nevertheless offers a bowl of matzoh ball at £6.50.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Even though it was snowing this morning, Tom Terrific's e-mail message came as a ray of sunshine.  Since I had left the house early (too early to read the newspaper) to get my car serviced in Queens, a distance of 4.5 miles that took 65 minutes to traverse, Tom's citation of Amdo Kitchen, a food truck parked in Jackson Heights, commended by the New York Times this morning, was news to me.  It was good news, however, momos, beef dumplings, served hot from the steamer by a former Tibetan monk.  Better news was the short distance between the car dealer and the food truck, not likely to have more than ordinary traffic at midday.  

It was quick and easy to get to Amdo on 37th Avenue, just off 75th Street, in the heart of a dense South Asian shopping district, rife with sari shops, mobile telephone vendors, all-you-can-eat lunch buffets and jewelry stores with vividly bright golden items filling their windows.  Unlike all of these other enterprises, Amdo was shut tight, even though it was just a couple of minutes before noon.  No motors were running, no sounds or smells came from the truck's interior.  Were they out to lunch, or merely off reading their favorable review from the New York Times over and over?  

I slouched off to Prince Kabab Chinese Restaurant, 37-54 74th Street, for some tasty tandoori chicken cooked earlier this century.

Thursday, January 18, 2018
I went for my annual physical examination today at the more than capable hands of Dr. Michael P.  I liked the part where he kept repeating my age, as if it didn't correspond to the results before him.  We got off to a great start when his medical assistant told me that the examining table that I was seated upon had a built-in electronic scale, saving space in the office.  Wow, 230 lbs.  That's so exciting it had to be wrong. 

I insisted that we find a trustworthy mechanical scale, you know the kind with the sliding weights, and another examining room provided me with a Pyrrhic victory.  250 lbs.  That proves that I can hold my weight steady on my diet of Chinese food, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Long Live the Queen

Monday, January 8, 2018
"White voters abandoned the Democratic Party [after 1964].  In 1968, Humphrey got thirty-eight per cent of the white vote.  In 1972, George McGovern got thirty-two per cent. In 1980, Jimmy Carter, a white Southerner, got thirty-six per cent.  In 2016, Hillary Clinton, running against the toxic nitwit who is now the face of our politics, received thirty-seven per cent."  This quote and other interesting information comes from a very insightful article on our politics, triggered by Lawrence O'Donnell's new book on the 1968 presidential election.
. . .
My fascination with charts and stats is well served by an examination of the national composition of major professional sports, here and abroad, found in this weekend's sports section.

While the origin of players in Germany's Bundesliga may hold little interest for you, looking at the nationality of our supposed hometown heroes provides some rich sociological fodder.  For instance, Canada's share of National Hockey League players is now slightly less than half, while the US contributes one quarter.  The National Football League, by contrast, remains singularly American, with only trace amounts of foreign players, unchanged for more than 55 years. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 
A subcommittee of the Boyz Club had lunch today at Yaso Tangbao, Shanghai Street Foods, 220 East 42nd Street, the first Manhattan site of a small chain.  We enjoyed a visit to the original at 148 Lawrence Street in downtown Brooklyn on March 30, 2016.  The new location is at the base of what was the New York Daily News building.  You'll find an enormous world globe slowly rotating one door over.  

Yaso Tangbao has a large, street-level space where you order and pick up your food; a half dozen large tables with stools are upstairs in a mezzanine.  Everything is casual.

The menu has about 30 dishes, including dumplings, noodles in and out of soup, and rice dishes.  Prices are reasonable considering the heavily-trafficked midtown location.  We ordered spicy pork soup dumplings ($3.95 for four pieces), chicken soup dumplings ($3.95 for four pieces), blue crab soup dumplings ($4.95 for four pieces), pan fried curried chicken dumplings ($6.25 for four pieces), "Sweet & Spicy Dumplings ($6.50 for four pieces, contents unspecified), sweet & sour pork ribs ($6.95) and Shanghai cold noodles ($7.45).  Everything was very good except the noodles, dressed with a very bland sauce.  The spicy dishes were friendly, not aggressively spicy.  Note, Genial Jerry works directly across the street, so give him a call if you aim for Yaso Tangbao.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 
While I would like to say that my interest in Kosher delicatessens is as thoroughgoing as my interest in Chinese restaurants, but that is not the case.  Actual Kosher delicatessens today rival white Bengal tigers as an endangered species.  First, some definitions -- a real delicatessen is a place that serves sandwiches of corned beef, pastrami and salami sliced to order; it may serve other items as well, such as chicken soup, hot dogs and knishes.  It does not have a salad bar and is not a place that serves coffee to go in cardboard cups and sandwiches wrapped in plastic, prepared long ago and far away.  A simple empirical sign of a faux delicatessen is the presence of Boar's Head meats.

Kosher certification is almost an absolute requirement, even in the face of "Jewish-style" joints.  This is not merely an ethnocentric bias, Kosher meats, ideally cooked on the premises, are usually superior.  I will note maybe three, but only three, exceptions.  Katz's Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street, originated in 1888 around the corner.  It is not Kosher, and may never have been.  It's a shame because it did not build its reputation on cheeseburgers.  I especially like their hot dogs that sit on a grill for an entire baseball season before being offered to the public, and their fat French fries. 

Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant, 704 South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles (opposite the tuneful MacArthur Park), emerged 59 years after Katz's and similarly never got too Jewish.  Its sandwiches, though as I recall, match anyone's.  Pastrami is hand sliced and the rye bread is the best that I have ever tasted.  In true Angeleno fashion, an order to go phoned or faxed in will be delivered to your car when you pull up at the curb.  

The third exception to the you-have-to-be-Kosher rule is/was Harrod's, 87-135 Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, London, the world famous department store.  Several years ago, I had a fat, hot beef tongue sandwich carved in front of me.  It must have cost at least $30 back then, but it was delicious.  Looking at Harrod's web site now, I can't find a trace of that sandwich or anything similar in the food halls.  You can find a Champagne bar, a caviar bar, a Pan-Asian counter, an ice cream parlour, fish and chips and more, but no salt beef a/k/a corned beef, pastrami or tongue.  Is this an ethnic slight?

Once upon a time, the late Carnegie Deli would certainly qualify as an excellent non-Kosher delicatessen.  Their meats were superb, their sandwiches piled sky high and their prices higher.

All of this is background to my lunch today at Pastrami Queen, 1125 Lexington Avenue (just above East 78th Street).  It is really small, 8 two-tops placed among 4 and 5 foot stacks of soda cans.  In the past, I found it too crowded to enter.  Its reputation, however, is quite outsize.  Zagat's speaks of its "outstanding pastrami" which New York magazine describes as "juicy, crumbly, and fiendishly good, with a satisfying balance of smoke and spice."  True.

I had an appointment with my eye doctor at 1 PM, situated two blocks away, so I got across town early in case I had to wait for a seat at Pastrami Queen.  That wasn't necessary; I was able to sit right down at the one empty table.  I ordered a pastrami/corned beef combo for $23; one meat would have been $18.  This is expensive, often the case with Kosher food.  It was delicious Kosher food, however, and the sandwich was very large.  Additionally, the complimentary cole slaw and pickles were top quality.  Go with someone nice, share, maybe also split an order of French fries or a potato knish, and you have a viable economic solution. 

Take it for what it's worth -- no atmosphere, no room, great food.

Friday, January 12, 2018
Agujero de mierda, Scheiß Loch, 狗屎洞 or more likely дерьмовое отверстие.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Priced Out Of Pizza

Monday, January 1, 2018
Even after these many years, I love listening to Edith Piaf singing Non, je ne regrette rien

However, I am not quite so steadfast in dealing with my mistakes.  But there is one mistake in my reporting, although recurring, that I might deny responsibility for.  Just last week, for instance, I reproduced a chart on income inequality that appeared as empty space for many of you.  Was I careless yet again?  At other times, I seemed to have presented black holes rather than the pungent drawing, picture, or clipping that I was enthusing over. 

There is a simple answer, however.  It's your fault, not mine.  Viewing this opus on many smartyphones or tablets, although undoubtedly convenient, denies you the full experience -- the accurate reproduction of the referenced material.  So, go home, change into something comfortable and power up a real computer to get the full picture, literally and figuratively.   
. . . 

For decades now, I have been starting many sentences with "I remember when . . ."  The real estate section this weekend had a phrase in a sub-headline that I think might even evoke the same comment from someone half my age: "a buyer priced out of Williamsburg."

Williamsburg is a Brooklyn neighborhood beginning at the East River and situated opposite Manhattan's Lower East Side.  The Williamsburg Bridge opened in December 1903, connecting the two neighborhoods just as Jewish migration from Eastern Europe was swelling.  For many Jews, moving to Williamsburg was a small step from the enormously overcrowded tenements of the Lower East Side where they first settled.  In 1910, the Lower East Side had a population density of 375,000 per square mile, 3 to 4 times that of any other part of Manhattan.  

While Williamsburg offered some relief from the Lower East Side, it was at best a temporary haven for most Jews, who moved further east into Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island or north into the Bronx and (hoo hah) Westchester as soon as they could afford it.  By the 1950s, when I took the Jamaica or Canarsie lines (now known as the J train and the L train) through Williamsburg almost daily into Manhattan, it had become a Spanish neighborhood, as newer immigrants first succeeded the Jews on the Lower East Side and then sought relief across the East River.  ("Hispanic" did not enter into the vocabulary of non-Hispanics until later.)  

Where the tracks were elevated, I saw some pretty miserable housing stock punctuated with burnt out stores, ignored by public and private authorities.  Williamsburg competed with the adjacent neighborhood of Bushwick and the South Bronx as probably the worst residential areas of New York City.  But, that was then.  Now, people are being "priced out of Williamsburg."  Go figure.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018
I am pleased when I can offer some guidance on places to eat, usually positive since I take my own pleasure seriously and try to make judicious choices.  Today, however, I raise a red flag even in the absence of personal experience. 

At first glance, Industry Kitchen, 70 South Street, seems to be an Italian restaurant with some contemporary touches, kale quinoa salad alongside lasagna "San Gennaro."  It's the pizza section of the menu where I took offense.  While your stomach might rebel against the Pop Candy Land pizza ($18), made up of "rainbow crust, cream cheese frosting, pop rocks, cotton candy," it's your soul that has to be wounded by the 24K, "Stilton, foie gras, platinum Ossetra caviar, truffle, 24K gold leaves" priced at $2,000.  You may upgrade to "Almas caviar" for an additional $700.  Either version requires 24 hour advance notice and a signed note from Steve Mnuchin.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018
I was doubly fortunate to go to the Rangers game at Madison Square Garden with Good Gary, a neighbor, fellow congregant and devoted Rangers fan.  More than that, Good Gary is a season ticket holder, which granted us access to a private party before the game, amply stocked with free drinks and food, good food.  So, the companionship and the party amounted to a daily double.  However, we did not make it to a trifecta because the Rangers lost badly. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018
A little blizzard, so what.  We headed out after lunch to the movieplex at Broadway and West 68th Street, a couple of short blocks from Palazzo di Gotthelf, to see All the Money in the World, not only an interesting historical tale, but historic moviemaking in that the finished product was recut just before release to substitute Christopher Plummer for Kevin Spacey.  While some ventures have been scrapped in light of the predatory behavior of some participants, the Money people took a risk commercially and artistically.

The verdict: All the Money in the World is a very good movie, not excellent, but gripping.  Christopher Plummer occupies the role of J. Paul Getty seamlessly.  I don't know if digital tricks were used to insert him into certain scenes previously shot with Kevin Spacey, but there is no hint of trickery.  Kudos to the production team.

Money was the fourth movie that we have seen in six days, almost as many as we saw all year.  Why this sudden burst of cinephilia?  Did our Netflix subscription expire?  Did all the reading lamps at home go out at once?  The reason simply is "Movie Pass," available at, a $10 monthly subscription that allows you to see one movie a day at virtually every theater on Manhattan Island and 4,000 others throughout the United States, at no extra charge.  The only limitations are no 3-D, no IMAX, one admission per card holder, smartyphone required, purchase must be on day of showing, and transaction must be initiated within 100 yards of the theater.  Reserved seats, more and more common around here, require a visit to the human ticket seller, although the entire transaction is pretty simple.     

It's a great deal, but so far it's America First.  David, David, Katherine, Kathleen, Marianne and Robina, you'll just have to shell out those pounds and euros each time you want to catch a movie.  Maybe that's a small price to pay in exchange for a sane national leader, female at that.  

Friday, January 5, 2017
Happy Birthday, Tom Terrific.
. . .

I was worried this morning.  In addition to free food and drinks at the party before the hockey game on Wednesday, a couple of familiar former players circulated in the crowd.  As did others, I moved in to have my picture taken with them.  Even before the game started, I sent the photographs to a handful of people who could be expected to recognize at least one of us.  I soon got amused reactions.  However, I heard nothing from my brother, an avid Rangers fan.  Make that a very avid Rangers fan.

Given the nasty storm conditions, I thought to check in with him.  What really motivated me was his silence in the face of his younger brother posing with retired Rangers.  I'm not sure what analogues to offer to drive this point home.  Reducing income taxes for Republicans?  Inviting Harvey Weinstein to a sorority party?  Taking Chris Christie to a bakery?  Guaranteed to evoke a response.

Telephone calls to his home and mobile lines after 9 AM went unanswered, elevating my concern.  America's Favorite Epidemiologist then took charge, looked up the owner of my brother's apartment complex, called them, and asked for the name and telephone number of the on-site manager.  A few minutes later, the manager was knocking on my brother's door, awakening him from an evidently sound sleep, resulting from his inability to fall asleep until the middle of the night.  
He called us and explained that he was still searching for a bon mot in response to the photographs.  He stopped short of suggesting that the Rangers loss on Wednesday night kept him for getting a normal night's rest a day later.