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.

Friday, May 4, 2018

In Africa

Sunday, April 29, 2018
Before entering the Serengeti National Park, we stopped at the Olduvai Gorge, one of the richest archeological sites in the world.
It has yielded evidence of some of humankind's earliest ancestors, including Lucy, an austropicene, on my mother's side. 
A new, excellent little museum has been opened at Olduvai Gorge displaying relics and replicas of some of the key discoveries in the area.  Take a Southern Baptist on a visit with you.

Naonu Moru is the near genuine African safari experience.  It is a group of tents set in the bush, reached by the merest wisp of a road.  There are 11 sleeping tents and several support tents.  They are not entirely primitive; a bathroom is included although not one that might be featured in Modern Plumber.  Each tent covers as much space as a modest Manhattan one-bedroom apartment.  It has room to host a cast party for "Mogambo." 

On the other hand, we are sleeping in a tent in the middle of nowhere. 

Monday, April 30, 2018
Except for a stretch from the rim to the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater, we have been driving on unpaved roads since approaching the crater on Friday.  East Africa has had the hardest rain in the last two months for the last 20 years, washing out roads and bridges, and rerouting and rescheduling us.  We are in a specially equipped, four-wheel drive Toyota Land Cruiser, but the muddy, deeply-rutted roads make for tough driving, sometimes slower than walking.  Estimating distances is difficult under the circumstances.   

We set out at 7 AM to explore the Serengeti plain.  For the first hour, we moved  very slowly through bush that was almost entirely empty of animals.  However, the land showed clear signs of their recent presence.  The trunks or large branches of many trees were snapped in half, the result of elephants making bark and leaves more accessible to feeding.  Although we saw very few elephants in the Serengeti, we saw broken trees throughout.  We also saw helmeted guinea fowl, Cape buffalo, wart hogs, topis (a horned antelope), African hoopoes (another horned antelope), hartebeests (yet another horned antelope), water bucks (big horned antelope), Marabou storks, hornbills, dwarf mongooses, lesser flamingos, greater flamingos, and one small crocodile.  

With all that, two sights stood out.   First, we saw a leopard in a tree with its cub, an exceptional sighting we were told.  As big as the Serengeti is, it holds few leopards.  Then, several Cape buffalos, big creatures with thick curved horns, strolled on the edge of a pond full of flamingos, lesser and greater, white and pink, while one Cape buffalo sat submerged in the pond, only its horns and the top of its head showing.  It stood still, not going up down, left right, until Kip our supervising guide told us that it was no more than a Cape buffalo skull floating on the surface, the relic of an attack by a lion.  Really spooky

Tuesday, May 1, 2018
We left our tent village early and drove 150 kilometers to the western edge of the Serengeti, on the road for over six hours with some breaks.  At a stop at a visitor's center, we saw hyraxes for the first time, chubby rodents about a foot long.  They seemed to prefer the company of sunburned tourists from around the world using bathrooms rather than hanging out with the the lions, jackals, hyenas and leopards in the bush. 

Another long pause occurred when we encountered a pride of lions on and across the road - one male, six females and 12 cubs.  The male sat and watched as the group marched in file right under the nose of the two-legged Intruders.  It was a memorable sight.  

Hours later, as we navigated a severely eroded patch of road, more water than ground, our companion vehicle fell off the edge, tilting about 30 degrees from the vertical axis.  We had stopped to wait for them, so Clement backed up, took off his shoes, rolled up his pants and joined Kip and the other driver in attaching a tow line to pull the other Land Cruiser onto firmer yet soaked ground.  

A short time later, we arrived at our overnight stop, Speke Bay Lodge, a beautiful facility on the shores of Lake Victoria.  We got a round, thatch-roofed hut (they call it a bungalow) about 15 feet from the water's edge.  It will be hard to leave it tomorrow at a typically ungodly hour to go back to Kenya.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Goodbye Speke Bay Lodge, the place that you hope they choose for your witness protection program.  On the other hand, I would like to nominate belatedly for a Nobel Prize the person who invented paving.  We drove north for three plus hours into Kenya on solid concrete, allowing our kishkes to return to their natural position in our body cavity.

About a half hour beyond the border crossing, we got onto a 12-passenger, single engine airplane for a 20-minute flight to Maasai Mara National Preserve (differing from a National Park by allowing residency within).  Once we landed, it was back to rocking and rolling in a  four-wheel drive Land Cruiser to get to Fig Tree Camp, another tent complex, about six times larger than Naona Moru Camp in the Serengeti.  Our tent is about 1/4 the size of the one in Naonu Moru, but equipped with a real tiled bathroom.  It is also perched directly on a stream where four hippopotamuses were bathing shamelessly in front of us.

We were supposed to go on a game drive this afternoon, but a huge rainstorm stopped us, leaving me in the dark to compose this timeless  prose, because of one of the camp's regularly scheduled blackout periods from 3 to 6 PM.

Thursday, May 3, 2018
I thought that the hippopotamus was chattering right next to our tent at 4:30 this morning, but it was only sitting in the stream 10 feet from our front flap, what passes for a door.  Meanwhile, the stream has gotten noticeably closer to our tent, because of yesterday's big rainstorm.  

Two of our seven person group chose to ride a hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara plain bright and early this morning.  I chose not to, because of my vertigo and 450 other reasons.  The rest of us were on the road (more like a swamp) before 7 AM to look for animals.  They were much less densely gathered here than in other regions.  However, we saw clusters of Cape buffalos, topis, gazelles, Impalas and wart hogs, with occasional jackals and hyenas lurking around.  A few elephants and giraffes were visible in the distance, but no big cats could be seen.  They might have been around,  sheltered by the tall grass that covered most of the terrain.  The only new sighting was the wattled plover, a description suitable for several of my friends.
. . .

Giuliani said what?
. . .

At 3 PM, we left for our last game drive.  I was satisfied that it would be much the same as this morning's, sort of a recap of recent sightings.  Well, don't you know that our luck with rare encounters continued.  We came upon a group of five cheetahs strolling together directly in our path.  I captured them on video, which I can transmit on What's App, but not Gmail.  All reasonable requests to view, accompanied by a Häagen Dazs gift certificate, will be honored.  They were most remarkable animals, rarely seen and more rarely seen under such favorable circumstances.

We continued on, encountering a family of elephants close up and seeing our first martial eagle dining on a lizard.  It turned out to be a major league excursion.  As we approached our tent back at Fig Tree Camp, two hippopotamuses were splashing in the water at our feet, almost a bookend to our arrival yesterday.  By the way, another gift certificate gets you this video.

Friday, May 4, 2018
This was wrapping up day, the last time in the bush as we prepared to return to Nairobi on a flight from Olkiombo Airstrip.  On the ride over, likely our last bumpy ride for awhile, we had some interesting sightings.  We saw three giraffes, closer than at any time before.  They were just hanging out, so we could observe them for many minutes.  While there is no denying the beauty of the cheetahs and the other big cats, giraffes seem to have no parallel.  

Almost at the other end of the size scale, a 4" chameleon caught all of our attention.  It appeared predominantly light green, exactly matching the color of our vehicle.  Then, back up to another extreme when we saw an enormous crocodile on the edge of a stream alongside the road.  Six, seven, eight feet long; you couldn't tell because the crocodile was directly facing us.  It lay still, which was fine with us, even though it was an uphill climb to reach us.
. . .

We have been entertained three times by Maasai people singing and dancing, twice after dinner at our lodge or camp.  Before reaching the airstrip today, we made a scheduled stop at a small Maasai village, holding 84 people in six families.  The men and women danced and sang for us and then we went into one of their very small boxy houses, built by the women after they marry.  The houses are no higher than the height of the builder and are made of a crude stucco covering pieces of scrap wood and tree branches.  The roofing material was dried cow dung over a plastic sheet, an upgraded feature at the house that we entered.  It had no electricity or running water.  The small front room (as if there was room for anything large) held a baby cow overnight, which would bring its mother each morning with milk for the children and the baby cow as well.

We ended the visit by walking a gauntlet of women offering their beadwork and other handicrafts for sale.  The process was awkward.  No prices were marked; you were supposed to select everything that interested you and then get a collective quote, understood to be unreasonably high.  Bargaining ensued, but I backed away when I was quoted $65 for the $12-18 of merchandise that I picked.  In China, I jumped into such negotiations with relish.  Here, I was disheartened.  I could not play act into some back and forth in the face of such grinding poverty.  

My mood was affected by the whole character of the visit.  The people, their customs, their crafts, their living conditions were on display, to be recorded and recounted, as strange to us as many of the animals that we have seen.  The tour company paid the villagers for their time and access and, for all I know, it represented a great windfall.  But, I wish that we stuck to staring at animals.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Back To Africa

Monday, April 23, 2018
I had a girl friend 35 years ago who was a great fan of "Dune," the popular science fiction novel by Frank Herbert.  (Today, the term "fantasy" has apparently squeezed out "science fiction.")  In my attempt to get or keep her enamored, I plowed into that 412 page novel, the first of a six book series.  After Herbert went to the big sandbox in the sky in 1986, his son continued with more novels set before and after the time period of the original.

It did not take me many pages to shed the thought of reading anything else Dune-like, although I made it through the end of the work at hand.  The romance ended soon thereafter, but the turgid Dune legacy has kept me away from any science fiction ever since, in any form.  I haven't seen a "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" film for all this time. I went to see the first of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001), to help entertain Max the Wonder Boy, then a teenager.  I recall beautiful scenery, but Frodo has faded while Fredo remains vivid in my mind.  As for Harry Potter, I'm sticking with Harry Truman.

One lasting sci-fi memory, however, is the immortal Star Trek phrase "Beam me up, Scotty."  This came to mind as we boarded United flight 134 to Zurich, Switzerland at Newark Airport at 6:30 PM Sunday evening, connecting to United flight 9764 to Nairobi, Kenya, scheduled to arrive at 6:40 PM local time Monday evening.  Even after subtracting the seven hour time difference, that's a long trip.  How nice if, in fact, Scotty could arrange a much faster means of getting us from place to place.

By the way, as with "Elementary, my dear Watson" and "Play it again, Sam," the phrase was never actually uttered in ur-Star Trek episodes.  
. . .

The flights went very well, no drama, (mostly) quiet babies, approximations of food, particularly good desserts - lemon sorbet and frozen crème brûlée.  I made an observation on the Nairobi leg, a full Airbus with about 300 passengers that surprised me.  Others may find it naive, even stupid.  About 2/3 of the people on board were white, the others mostly black, a few Asian-appearing folk.  Of course, many of the whites may be African, while many of the blacks may well be American or some European flavor.  It just wasn't what I expected.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Our first full day in Kenya opened with heavy rains, which lasted for several hours as we drove east and then south from Nairobi to Kilima Safari Camp in the Amboseli National Park, our first stop.  As in other  developing countries, the acquisition of a motorbike seems to be the first accomplishment after meeting the immediate needs of food, shelter and clothing.  An unusual local touch, probably in response to the weather, was umbrellas sitting upright over the drivers even as they flew along.  Instead of a symmetrical round canopy, these umbrellas had a platypus-like trailing section to offer the semblance of protection to a passenger.

Once in the countryside, leaving the Long Island Expressway where we spent the first hour, there were frequent roadside animal sightings in the next three hours, but only of cows and goats, often intermingled, offering an encouraging picture of intergroup harmony.  But, even before we reached Kilima Safari Camp at the edge of Amboseli National Park, we hit the big time.  First, a small herd of zebras, really with stripes and everything.  Then, down the road, a large group of giraffes, about two dozen majestic creatures.  Everyone jumped out of our vans to watch, take photographs and marvel, but it got better.  After we checked into our large, beautifully furnished cabin, we went out to look for animals and we struck gold.  Elephants, zebras, two kinds of gazelles, jackals and lions, plus vultures and crown cranes.  The lions were the trophy sighting.  We were the second or third van to pull over to see the lions, but within minutes there were 20 or more vans, minibuses, Land Rovers and Land Cruisers summoned in Swahili by the first drivers on the scene.  The lion sighting was special not just because of their eminence in the jungle, but there are only about three dozen in Amboseli National Park.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018
We took an early morning drive around the park and saw hippopotamuses and wildebeests for the first time, as well as two families of elephants immediately in front and behind us.

Additionally, for Barbara Alfange and my other birder friends, we spotted some wonderful birds:
Black and gray herons
Ostriches (much larger than I imagined)
Crowned, blacksmith, spurwinged and long toed plovers
Black belllied bustards
Pelican (1)
African spoonbill
Fulvous whistling ducks
Saddle billed and yellow billed storks
Black winged stilts
Fish eagle (1)
Egyptian geese

And that was all before breakfast!

Thursday, April 26, 2018
We left for Tanzania early this morning, but needed almost all day to get to Planet Lodge, Arusha, an urban hotel on lovely grounds that evoke the countryside.  The extra long drive was necessitated by the washing away of a key bridge connecting Kenya and Tanzania, a result of the heaviest rains in East Africa for many decades.   Fortunately, shortly after we we set out, we had two special sightings, which made the next many hours more bearable --three giraffes standing tall and three  dozen baboons gamboling about within reach.  At a rest stop on the way, I found cheeseburger-flavored Pringles on the market shelf.  My curiosity was satisfied just by looking at the package.

Wi-Fi was not working at Kilima Safari Camp so reentry to the Internet at Planet Lodge was a bit like a return from space.  However, I decided to reconstruct the wins and losses for the Mets since the weekend rather than keep up with the hirings and firings in Washington in the same period.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Arusha was only an intermediate stop to limit the day's driving time to about the length of some Trump appointments.  Again it was early to rise and hit the road to Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, a geological phenomenon about 20 kilometers across and 600 meters deep (nearly 12 1/2 miles and 1,970 feet).

Much of the ride for the last two days was through Maasai country, who number about 800,000 in Tanzania and closer to 900,000 in Kenya.  Many (most?) of them stick to the old-fashioned ways, wrapped in colorful robes, wearing bright beaded jewelery, devoted to herding their cows and horses, the men notably thin and rangy, polygamous with their wives literally doing the heavy lifting.

The long ride was broken up by a visit to Lake Manyara National Park, kept lushly green year round by spring water from the highlands in contrast to Amboseli which is usually arid except for the rainy season.  While we did not see any of the park's famous tree-climbing lions, we added to our animal collection by sighting a Cape Buffalo, impalas and wart hogs.  Also, we added to our existing inventory of animals were more zebras, wildebeests, baboons and ten hippopotamuses languishing in a shallow pond. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Another early wake-up call and then a drive down to the floor of the crater.  The Ngorongoro Crater was formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself over 2 million years ago, or in the 1820s on the Creationist Calendar.  Except for a few toilets and unpaved roads, it remains wild, populated by a wide variety of animals.  Today, we saw hyenas and a black rhinoceros for the first time.  We also saw lions and hippopotamuses much closer than before, as well as hundreds of wildebeests, zebras and gazelles.  In the bird department, we made initial sightings of an African harrier hawk and flamingos.

So where are his pictures, you might ask?  Why is he wasting my time with all of his verbiage.  Well, some unannounced conflict seems to have arisen among Samsung, Google and Blogspot, leaving me unillustrated and only partially illuminating.  Too bad, I really got a great shot of the lion.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


Monday, April 16, 2018
Time passes while in many instances real estate appreciates in value.  Here is a survey that connects the two, expressing the median rise in home value by location as an hourly rate.  It's as if you could stay home and let your house go to work for you, although you can’t take equity to the supermarket.

For 2017, 6 of the top 10 “earners” were in California.  All 10 of them voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by large margin.  Just saying.
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Over the weekend, the New York Times had an essay entitled “How Skydiving Cured My Depression.”  Had I written it, the subhead would have been “Replaced By Hysteria.”
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In an effort to stay close to the center of power, I had lunch with Irwin Pronin, 1962 CCNY Student Government President.  We ate at Swagat, 411 Amsterdam Avenue, a reliable Indian restaurant. We both ordered Brunch Specials, served daily, one appetizer, one curry, rice and naan for $14.95, a very good deal.  I had lamb samosa and chicken saag. While this made for an ample lunch, we both had just enough room to go across the street to Amorino, 414 Amsterdam Avenue, the local branch of an international gelato empire, which I have patronized in London and Paris.  My Classic cup ($6.45) held two flavors, stracciatella (how the Italians spell chocolate chip) and L’inimitable (a wonderful chocolate hazelnut). They were among the 15 gelati and 10 sorbets available.
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Today’s paper has an article “Whose Neighborhood Should Get a Street Named for Dr. King?” It centers on a dispute in Kansas City, Missouri,

The African-American mayor of Kansas City proposes naming a major thoroughfare that crosses through a variety of neighborhoods for Martin Luther King, Jr., against the vocal opposition of some African-American community leaders, who feel possessive of Dr. King's legacy.  The mayor wisely states that “Is Martin Luther King strictly a black hero? I would say not. I think he’s a hero for everybody, and he ought to be honored that way.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Burt from Borough Park, Shelley the Neighbor, Stony Brook Steve, Tom Terrific, Uncle Stu, Uncle Myron, Aunt Martha and Cousin Harry joined America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and me, as well as numerous students and faculty, at Brooklyn Law School this afternoon to hear Professor David Webber discuss his new book “The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder.”  His presentation was learned, cogent and persuasively reasoned, giving examples of the socially conscious use of the billions of dollars held by labor union pension funds.

Thursday, April 19, 2018
The Boyz Club gathered at Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, for a dim sum experience.  As expected, it was a success. Five of us had 14 plates, 12 unique dishes; bottom line, $18 each.  

Jing Fong remains a reliable source of a very large assortment of dim sum items at reasonable prices.  During weekdays, most items cost $3.50, usually three pieces to a plate. The joint is also enormous. It is a full block long and I think that it is the largest restaurant in New York City.  I would suggest though that it is not the place to tell your significant other “It's not you, it's me.”

Friday, April 20, 2018
In noodling around the Internet, I came up with some interesting “Best of” lists.  Condé Nast Traveler offers an eclectic list of New York's best restaurants.
It earns my respect by including Russ & Daughters Cafe, 127 Orchard Street, alongside some more rarefied choices. Russ & Daughters Cafe is an adjunct to its legendary appetizing store at 179 East Houston Street. In case the term is unfamiliar to you, Wikipedia informs us that "[a]n appetizing store, typically in reference to Jewish cuisine, is best understood as a store that sells 'the foods one eats with bagels.'"  Fifty years ago, I dated one of the Daughters' daughters.  It didn't last and I've had to buy my own lox ever since. is a multi-faceted website that provides broad information resources as well as hotel and theater services. Notably, it has about 100 lists of best restaurants by cuisine, location and special features. There's a lot to argue with, but the sheer volume of information should delight you. Best Theater District Restaurants? Best Meatballs in New York? Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants in New York? It also recaps the city's Michelin-starred, New York Times four star, and James Beard Award restaurants.
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Roger Cohen has an essay on Gaza, the Palestinian condition and the failure of Israeli leadership that almost perfectly reflects my views. The only thing that I would add is the failure of the Arab world generally to support their brethren. Neighboring states seem content to stand aside while rioters burn tires and try to outrun Israeli bullets rather than make any serious attempt to aid in the building of a civil society.