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.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ladies First?

Monday, April 9, 2018
The weekend's newspaper had several numbers that surprised me.  First, there was an extensive study of evictions nationwide.

While we think that Americans are afforded equal justice under the law, location, location location seems to be as significant to evictions as to real estate generally.  One in 25 Milwaukee renters faced eviction, while the eager landlords in Richmond, Virginia threatened one in five renters with eviction while actually moving against one in nine.  The article lists the top ten locations with the highest eviction judgment rates.  Five of the ten are "in Virginia, which lacks some tenant rights available in other states."  Not surprising was the correlation of evictions with poverty, a low minimum wage and a high concentration of African-Americans.  
Locally, I was surprised to learn that there are 612 Dunkin’ Donuts and 433 Subway sandwich shops in New York City, obviously succeeding in the absence of my patronage.  

Finally, how many airlines do you think there are in the world?  That's a question that I never contemplated before and I don't even know what I might guess.  A profile of a master chef reported that his company provides meals for about 300 airlines.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association of major airlines, has 278 members.  However, IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organization have designators (abbreviations or tags) for about 5,000 airlines.

Not included is Mrs. Grace L. Ferguson's Storm Door & Airlines Company made famous by Bob Newhart.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Today is Equal Pay Day.  The average woman who worked throughout 2017 and continued until today earned what the average man earned in 2017.  In case you would like to read a tortured defense of this disparity, go to

Back in the real world, according to the 2016 Census, where the average white male earns $1, a Latina earns 54¢, a Native American woman 57¢, a black woman 63¢, a white woman 79¢ and an Asian woman 89¢. 

If you really want to groove on statistics in this subject, see
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced today that he will not run for reelection, removing him from an office that placed him immediately behind the vice president in the line of presidential succession.  He acted in deep disappointment at being omitted from the latest edition of "Profiles in Courage."
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At first, I was surprised to read today that Il Laboratorio del Gelato, a provider of high quality ice cream to local restaurants, has 275 flavors.  That seems like a large number, but a quick look into the Gotthelf Files shows that it is really not that unusual.  Herrell's of Northampton, Massachusetts has a master list of 300 flavors; it regularly offers about 40 in its flagship store. 

Quality does not suffer at Herrell's because of quantity.  On two visits to Herrell's last year, I really enjoyed coconut chocolate chip, "More cookies than cream", "Emerald City" (peppermint ice cream with Andes mints and green sprinkles), and mudpie (espresso ice cream with Oreos and a fudge swirl).  Before I reach for the car keys, I remind myself of the proximity of Ample Hills Creamery, in the Gotham West Market, 600 11th Avenue (45th Street).  It only serves 12 flavors at a time, but it comes up with some that Herrell's hasn't imagined yet, such as, Salted Crack Caramel (salted caramel ice cream, with saltines covered in butter, sugar and chocolate) and "Ooey Gooey Butter Cake" (vanilla ice cream with cream cheese and "St. Louis-style" butter cake).  Isn't ice cream wonderful?
Thursday, April 12, 2018
It is Stony Brook Steve's birthday and we celebrated at lunch at LaSalle Dumpling Room, 25 West End Avenue, a frequent destination when foregoing Chinatown.  We ate up a storm: pan fried pork dumplings ($9 for 6 pieces), spicy chicken dumplings ($9 for 6 pieces), popcorn chicken ($11.95), cold sesame noodles ($8.50) and beef wrapped scallion pancake ($9.95).  To further celebrate the occasion, I had a passion fruit slush ($4.25).  A fine party.

Friday, April 13, 2018
"Knowledge Gap Hinders Ability of Congress to Regulate Silicon Valley"  This a headline in today's paper that could be used in Mad Libs (that wonderful series created by Roger Price, Leonard Stern and Larry Sloan).  Ask for any noun in place of "Silicon Valley." 
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Tonight, we went to dinner at Riverpark, 450 East 29th Street, a restaurant indeed edging on the East River.  The occasion was in honor of the recent Bat Mitzvah of Leonore Max, only a few decades after she graduated from medical school.  While she has never wielded a scalpel around me, she handled the Hebrew texts with care and confidence.
Her husband Jon Silverberg picked the restaurant, which the New York Times describes as "hard to find, . . . occupying a chasm between the New York University Medical Center and the sprawling wards of Bellevue Hospital Center."  The review concludes that "[i]t is a sophisticated restaurant with an excellent kitchen, moderately priced, with good service," an opinion we now share with the vital exception of the immoderate pricing.  With that understood, you can have a very lovely evening. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Sand In My Shoes

Monday, April 2, 2018
Mel Brooks reminded us that it's good to be the King.  A recent group of studies reported by the New York Times (referenced herein in the last two weeks) show that generally the way to the top in America is to start there.  The exceptions are black boys who have a difficult time maintaining an elevated socioeconomic position and Asian-Americans who doggedly move up the ladder even from woeful circumstances. 

A report by the Equality of Opportunity Project gives us some interesting collateral data.  "For people born over the five years from 1980 to 1984, the marriage rate for upper-income students who attended Ivy League institutions was 14 percentage points higher than the rate for lower-income students."  

Another disparity in the measure of "success" emerged from a study of women who started college in the same dormitory at Indiana University in 2004.  ("Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality," by Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton.)  None of the working-class students had graduated five years later, while the affluent ones "all graduated.  Even the ones who chose easy majors, did very little studying, got mediocre grades and spent most of their time partying were able to find jobs after graduation."
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Digesting the weekend's seder meals is almost complete, so I can report on my ingestion.  First, Friday night from daughter-in-law Irit's kitchen:
Crudités (mirabile dictu, her children eat raw cucumbers)

Potato leek soup
Salmon with Savta Mila's sauce
Squash kugel
Matzah lasagna (yes, it works quite well)
Chocolate frogs (which melted quickly when rubbed over children's faces)
Chocolate chip biscotti (a/k/a mandelbrot)
Almond butter chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate cream cheese cake with blackberries and raspberries

Saturday night from Aunt Judi's kitchen:
Deep-fried gefilte fish balls (such a wonderful creation, it should be protected by copyright)
Sweet and sour meatballs
Corned beef (begging for rye bread)
Carmelized onion chicken
Dermaless derma (when Jews got embarrassed at the sound of the word kishka -- beef intestine stuffed with meat scraps, fat, and grain -- they started calling it derma, for skin, or stuffed derma; once a staple at any catered affair, it has been pushed into the compost heap of history.)  Aunt Judi serves a meatless version without a casing. 
Cauliflower soufflé
Broccoli kugel
Cous cous
Matzoh jam pudding
Apple strawberry relish
Cole slaw
Health salad
Trifle with chocolate mousse and whipped cream
Strawberry mousse
Chocolate chip mandelbrot
Almond cookies with chocolate chips
Fruit (for the big eaters)
With this intake, it was hard to make a running start into the Sinai Desert.
Tuesday, April 2, 2018
In what has not been recognized as an international competition in principled decision making, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday reversed his position on settling and resettling African refugees in one hour and 53 minutes. 

This easily beat President Trump's volte face on gun control after a meeting with the NRA, an interval of almost two weeks.  
Immigration and refugees are hot buttons almost throughout the world.  The administration has just funded a replacement plaque at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, reading, in part, "Give me your Norwegians, yearning to spend their trust funds . . ."
Israel has its own problem -- Eritreans and Sudanese escaping genocidal regimes, who entered Israel at the border between Egypt and Israel in the Negev Desert.  The border has since been sealed, but nearly 40,000 Christian and Muslim refugees remain from a total of 60,000 who arrived.  Israel has been trying to eject them with some success, although it recruits manual laborers and household help from far away, jobs that Jews refuse. 
It is particularly ironic to be discussing this during Passover.  The Haggadah, the Jewish text that vies with the food for centrality at the seder table, says, "All who are hungry -- let them come and eat.  All who are needy -- let them come and celebrate the Passover with us."  Then, get lost?
By coincidence, I saw "Levinsky Park" tonight, a documentary film about these African refugees who cluster in this South Tel Aviv park day and night.  Here is a trailer for the film.
We visited the park on our recent trip, escorted by a director of Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an organization trying to assist these African refugees, now labelled infiltrators by the government.  They exist in a legal limbo, their applications for asylum endlessly deferred, while the government tries to get them to leave using carrot and stick.  According to Hotline, "Israel has recognized refugee status for one Sudanese and 10 Eritreans, out of thousands of applications for asylum." 
I drew two positives from the film.  Israel offers the semblance of due process to the refugees; maybe someday it will be full fledged.  The refugee detention camp in Holot, deep in the Negev Desert, was considered much better than a Sudanese jail, according to one young man who experienced both. 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
I prefer things to be intuitive, so that I might handle them effectively without having to read the homework.  But, sometimes nature, Mother or human, throws us a curve.  So, I was surprised to learn that male fans of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, under 55 years old,  are more likely to suffer a heart attack the day after a victory, not after a defeat.
I imagined that these fans, fiercely devoted to a team that represents their beleagured Francophone heritage as well as ordinary sports loyalty, would be driven to physical as well as emotional despair by a loss, a feeling that I have frequently had as a Rangers fan this season.  Instead, it is the thrill of victory rather than the agony of defeat that leads them to the emergency room.  Go figure.
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A further note on fors and againsts:  It seems that Israel may expect more support from Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman than British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Thursday, April 5, 2018
Republican Senator Ted Cruz is running for reelection with the slogan TOUGH AS TEXAS.  This is the guy who CNN describes as "suddenly Trump's biggest fan" after Trump insulted his wife and accused his father of being involved with the assassination of JFK.
Hang tough, Ted.  By the way, donations to his Democratic opponent Beto O'Rourke can be made at
Friday, April 6, 2018
Today's headlines:
"Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s Ousted President, Gets 24 Years in Prison"
"Judge Orders Brazil’s Ex-President ‘Lula’ to Begin Prison Term on Friday"
Does it give you any ideas?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Up and Down

Monday, March 26, 2018
Thanks to my brother for the news that a French waiter is claiming that rudeness is part of his culture.

It made me think of Rick Santorum's reaction to the countless kids around the world who marched against gun violence this weekend.  Better they should learn CPR, he opined, this failed politician for whom stupidity is part of his culture.
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While North American professional ice hockey will continue for a couple of months, my season ends tonight.  My brother and I are going to a New York Rangers game for the last time until late Autumn as they are out of playoff contention.  However, next week, even as I figuratively trek through the Sinai Desert, I will attend my first New York Mets baseball game, beginning another journey that may produce either a championship or merely bleached bones.
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There are many reasons to read Professor David Webber's important new book, "The Rise of the Working Class Share-Holder." It is well researched, tightly reasoned, insightful and particularly relevant to the current struggle for economic justice.  If that's not enough, the author generously credits "the aid and counsel" of America's Favorite Epidemiologist and her constant companion.  I believe that it will be possible to get a copy autographed by all three of us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Last week, I cited a study of British anti-Semitism (often rendered antisemitism) that was far from alarmist, identifying the far-right as the source of the strongest anti-Semitism.  However, it seems that many British Jews were unpersuaded by this report and demonstrated outside of Parliament yesterday against Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, whose response to British anti-Semitism has sometimes been too little or too late.

There is no serious claim that Corbyn personally is anti-Semitic, but his opposition to Israel and his deference to Islamic aspirations at home and abroad have placed him in a very narrow ideological space, with little room to maneuver.  There are enough intolerant national leaders around the world hostile to almost every minority flavor.  I believe that Corbyn can support his Muslim constituents without degrading his Jewish constituents, the obverse of what I urge upon Bibi Netanyahu. 
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My affinity for food and lists is met by this collection of "The 101 Dishes That Changed America."

I think that the title is overstated.  These dishes reached our stomachs, but had little influence on our hearts and minds.  The best example is the presence of African- Americans and their cuisine in home and restaurant kitchens far earlier than they were allowed into our schools and public accommodations.  Similarly, foreign food has had a better reception in much of the country than the foreign folks behind it.

Yet, there is a lot of fun in the creation stories (myths?).  Check out #34 Chicken Tikka Masala and #19 Chimichanga, for instance.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Last week, the New York Times provided an important analysis of the upward and downward mobility of black Americans.  "White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way, while black boys raised in similarly wealthy households are more likely to fall to the bottom than stay at the top in their own adult households."  Now, it has gone a big step further by examining how other minorities fare in modern American society.

For instance, it shows the path of black and white girls raised in poor families.  Race seems to matter little to the progress of  both groups; they stay relatively close to their economic origins. The article contains some wonderful graphics and allows you to set up your own comparisons across racial, ethnic and gender lines, tracking progress up and down the socio-economic ladder. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018
With Pharaoh and his army behind us and the daunting Red Sea in front of us, there is little time to choose a path.  Fearlessly then, the Boyz Club headed to Chinatown and lunch at New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, 50 Mott Street, a decent joint in spite of its unwieldy name.  However, once we arrived, we found that the sea might have parted and landed in the restaurant's basement.  Plumbers with wrenches rather than chefs with woks controlled the scene.  

Accordingly, we went across the street to Deluxe Green Bo Restaurant, 66 Bayard Street, by chance Tom Terrific's daughter's favorite Chinese restaurant.  We did well in this choice.  We had pork and crab soup buns ($6.95 for 8 pieces), scallion pancake ($2.95), cold noodles in sesame sauce ($4.95), chicken with cashews ($11.95), crispy duck ($14.95 for half), beef with orange flavor ($15.95) and Shanghai fried rice ($7.95).  It amounted to a lot of very good food.  When we left, as a sign of paternal devotion, Tom had us take a photograph in front of the joint.

Friday, March 30, 2018
I don't like David Brooks, a right-leaning columnist for the New York Times, not for his politics per se, but for his attempts to pretend that contemporary conservativism retains any rational basis.  However, I found a provocative reference in his column today dealing with black/white integration.  "A study from the Public Religion Research Institute found that if you looked at the average white person's 100 closest friends, you would find that 91 would be white."  

100 closest friends?  A politician may claim to have 100 close friends, but the rest of us?  Really?  I like a lot of you dear readers, but I think that many of you would be frightened to learn that I considered you one of my closest friends.  
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Some good coincidences.  I am taking a bus today to Massachusetts to attend the first night's seder in the presence of the second and third generations at the home of Professor Webber.  America's Favorite Epidemiologist preceded me to assist in the cooking and organization of the evening.  We will stay over to celebrate the professor's birthday, no doubt marked by chocolate-covered matzoh with a candle on top.  Then, we will return home in time to visit Aunt Judi and Uncle Stu for one of their world-famous seders, for an evening  that seems to last for the first several years of the exile from Egypt.  However, Aunt Judi's fabulous cooking makes the years fly by.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Monday, March 19, 2018
Saturday crossword
40 Down -- Mideast diet
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Way to go Vladimir.  The people have spoken.
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The New York Times offers us a test of our copy editing skills.  Try it; it's a bit humbling.
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Bourbon praline pecan ice cream is a new flavor for Häagen-Dazs and it is really good.  Note that it contains bourbon whisky, which you will immediately notice.  

A natural followup to that Häagen-Dazs news is a study of the fattest cities in the US.  Americans are apparently the fattest people in the world.  "In fact, as of 2017, almost 40% of the U.S. population aged 15 and older is obese."

For whatever it's worth, the Old South seems to be the home of the wide beam, taking the first 16 spots.  The New York metropolitan area is buried at 64th place.  Drilling down, you will see that physical activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables comport with obesity (or the lack thereof).  Ice cream, Chinese food, obesity.  No collusion!  Just a  witch hunt.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Every day's news contains material that ranges from the maddening to the disgusting, by way of the unbelievable.  A feature article today, however, brings additional understanding and some confusion to America's near intractable racial divide.

"Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds . . . .  White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way.  Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households."  This dashes the hopes and expectations of those who fought so long to remove the legal and social barriers to an open, integrated society. 

What's remarkable is the gender divide which seems to defy the racial divide.  On the whole, black women proceed up the socioeconomic ladder, or maintain their position, very similarly to white women.  Of course, incarceration and the legacy of a criminal record will frustrate efforts to acquire or remain in a financially sound position.  Studies show that Black men are significantly more likely to be stopped while driving or walking on a city street.  They are more likely to be arrested for using marijuana. 

"[C]riminal courts sentence black defendants more harshly than whites. . . . [and] African-American defendants get more time behind bars — sometimes twice the prison terms of whites with identical criminal histories — when they commit the same crimes under identical circumstances."
Are the racial disparities in our criminal justice system also potent enough to pull down so many black men from the comfortable and stable home lives of their youth, even while their sisters remain unaffected?  Have the clichés about black crime (listen to Rudy Giuliani on the subject) become self-fulfilling prophecies?  I find this the most challenging question raised by the New York Times study. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Consider the opening sentence of an article in today's business section.  "Perhaps at some point in the past few years you’ve told Facebook that you like, say, Kim Kardashian West."  While I don't know all of you (readers) personally, I would venture that you are more likely to choose to take a vacation in Kabul, Afghanistan than tell Facebook that you like, say, Kim Kardashian West.  This article discusses the belief that algorithms can predict the nuances of your political views, based on the usage of social media, Facebook specifically.

Crudely, it appears to be a two-step process: 1) develop a personality profile from the "likes" and "dislikes" expressed on Facebook; 2) connect that personality profile or portions thereof to a candidate or a cause.  The money is made by advising the candidate or cause on how to maximize his/her/its appeal by microtargeting.  Political campaigning and advertising generally have always sought to identify the voter's/consumer's hot button(s).  It seems that we have a lot more to worry about now that the game has moved beyond cynical Mad Men to cynical computer scientists.   

Thursday, March 22, 2018
I am connected to Great Britain only by some warm friendships.  I am pure Yid; I have no ancestral, genetic or historic link to the United Kingdom.  However, I admit to Anglophilia extending even beyond "Downton Abbey" and "Call the Midwife."  Way back in graduate school, I unsuccessfully proposed a study of the political behavior of British Jews.  Were they as liberal as their American brethren, in spite of the prevalence of economic and educational factors that usually breed conservatism in both societies?

I found a recent study on "Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain" particularly interesting.  It was done by a Jewish scholar, sponsored by a Jewish organization. 

Besides reporting the statistics, the author does a good job with some basic, but elusive, definitions.  He effectively delineates "antisemitism and anti-Israelism" and finds that a "majority of those who hold anti-Israel attitudes do not espouse any antisemitic attitudes."  He also distinguishes antisemitism emerging from the far-right, the far-left and Muslims in Britain.  He concludes that "the most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing."  The good news is that "the total level of the diffusion of antisemitism in Great Britain is, in fact, rather low."
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Grain House, 929 Amsterdam Avenue, is the third location for this Long Island-based chain of Szechuan restaurants.  Stony Brook Steve and I had lunch there today.  It is a small space, about 8 tables, with a very large menu, about 120 distinct items.  The location is a bit odd.  About half a mile south of Columbia University and only slightly closer to Symphony Space.  The food itself, however, is a sufficient lure if you are anywhere close by.

We shared pork vegetable dumplings ($7.95 for 8 pieces) and each of us had a lunch special, cumin chicken for me ($7.95) and scallion beef ($8.95) for Steve.  What made the specials special was a mound of white rice served with approximately a main course size portion of the selected dish, a reasonable deal.  The cumin chicken was appropriately spicy; I left over a mound of red hot peppers after ingesting many slices of the cumin-coated white meat chicken.   

Friday, March 23, 2018
Netflix is showing a six-part documentary titled "Wild Wild Country" about the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.  After establishing a very popular ashram in India, he moved his operation to 64,000 empty acres in Oregon in 1981.  It is a fascinating story, partly because of the sight of hordes of enraptured Americans worshiping at Bhagwan's feet.  My immediate reaction was these people did not grow up in Brooklyn.  If they grew up in Brooklyn, they would have a functioning BS Detector®.
. . .
Answer: Knesset

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Are They Related?

Monday, March 12, 2018
I thought that this past weekend would focus exclusively on merriment, as 10-year old Boaz was visiting his grandparents.  However, when we had lunch at &pizza, 740 Broadway, I knew that I had a duty to report my findings.  This long, narrow room operates what might first be viewed as a gimmick, but turns out excellent pizza.  It offers only an oblong 14" x 4" pizza for $10.10 with unlimited toppings.  Shrimp comes at an extra charge; all the dozens of other alternatives are free.  

They must use a nuclear oven, because the pizza is baked in about two minutes.  I had mushrooms, sausage, meatballs, pepperoni and peppers on mine.  It could have been twice the price and I would still highly recommend this joint.
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Escorting a ten-year old around Manhattan gives you an excuse to see some pretty cool things.  I recommend that you borrow a child not yet at the age of sullenness and proceed to the National Museum of Mathematics, 11 East 26th Street, open 10 AM - 5 PM daily, admission $17 for adults under 60, $11 all others.  It is well worth it, although the focus is primarily on physics -- angles, optics, forces -- rather than mathematics.  You can ride a square-wheeled tricycle or spin around on a pointy-based chair.  The gift shop has a strong assortment of games, puzzles and books as well.  It gave me the opportunity to get started on my Hanukkah gift shopping. 
. . .

Today, I had to be in Midtown, so I headed to Num Pang, 140 East 41st Street, a Cambodian sandwich shop, one of a half dozen locations in this chain.  This spot is set on one of the dreariest blocks in Manhattan, dark and high-walled.  Airport shuttle buses are the only sign of life or color. 

Num Pang is a little box, very busy with take-out orders.  A ledge and six stools provide the only in-house dining option, enough space for me.  I really can't tell the difference between a Cambodian sandwich and a Vietnamese sandwich (the more familiar banh mi).  Both take a baguette, add some meat, shredded pickled carrots, cucumber slices, cilantro and a chili-based sauce.  The contents offered by Num Pang include peppercorn catfish, grilled skirt steak, roasted cauliflower and ginger BBQ brisket, at prices ranging from $8.95 to $11.95.  I had coconut tiger shrimp ($11.25), tasty, but not particularly coconutty. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
I got a bit of a shock last night reading East West Street by Philippe Sands, a French human rights lawyer, who explores his family's Holocaust history and the coincident development of the legal concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity.  Sands writes that, as WWII was ending, his mother's father, who had fled Poland for France, "was working with the Comité Juif in the center of Paris at the Hôtel de Lutèce, which had been a Gestapo  headquarters."  Whoa, wow.  That gave me chills, since on two of my five trips to Paris, I stayed at this charming little hotel, in a row of 17th century townhouses on the Île Saint-Louis, which sits in the middle of the Seine. 

I just couldn't see it full of Nazis, so I went trolling through the Internet where I found that the Hôtel Lutetia, built as a large hotel in 1910 on the Right Bank, "was requisitioned by the Abwehr (counter-espionage), and used to house, feed, and entertain the officers in command of the occupation," according to Wikipedia.  Some less detailed accounts substitute the Gestapo for the Abwehr.  Similarly, Lutèce may be confused with Lutetia, although a biography of Pauline Avery Crawford, an American writer who remained in Paris through the war, says that "[s]he wrote about the French police across the street that guarded the Hotel Lutèce, where the Gestapo personnel were housed."  One final pedantic note -- Paris police headquarters then and now is on rue de Lutèce, across a short footbridge from the hotel.  I'm not afraid of ghosts, but where will I sleep the next time in Paris? 

Wednesday, March 15, 2018
It's something like 30 years since former students of CCNY Professor Stanley Feingold started meeting him for lunch every several months.  Even after he moved to Seattle, he would return for these sessions and several of us cleared our calendars to not miss the opportunity to hear his well thought out analyses of American politics.  Stanley died last year, but, without any formality, we decided to continue our lunches, including today, maybe hoping to occasionally hear an idea worthy of him. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018
Toys Ain't Us
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In response to the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced yesterday that no member of the British royal family will attend the soccer World Cup in Moscow, to be held from June 14 to July 15.  The timing turns out to be ideal to make amends for a long-standing diplomatic oversight.  As I noted recently, Queen Elizabeth II, reigning sincFebruary 6, 1952, has somehow skipped visiting Israel, even as she traipsed off to 129 other countries.  Now, with this opening on the royal calendar coming at a time when there are no major or minor Jewish holidays to interfere (a cause to celebrate in itself), Israel should prepare to roll out the blue and white carpet for Her Majesty.

Friday, March 16, 2018
Last night, we went to see a preview of the first part of the revival of Angels in America; tonight, we plan to see the second part.  This will total more than 7 hours sitting in very narrow, very shallow seats and/or experiencing a major theatrical event.  As impressed as I was by the work itself, I have its author on my mind.  

Tony Kushner won a Pulitzer Prize for Angels in America and had Oscar nominations for his screenplays of Lincoln and Munich.  He also lives in our building, is very pleasant in the elevator and has a toy poodle with which he seems to share hair style and color.  But, I want to tighten my focus.  Kushner has to be a contender for the surname of the decade.  There's Jared, of course, everyone's favorite son-in-law. 

If Tony and Jared weren't enough, please regard Harold Kushner, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel, Natick, Massachusetts, the very successful
author of
When Bad Things Happen To Good People.  I've met him on a few occasions, but not in settings where any pets would have been on display.  While we had some pleasant conversations, I failed to convince him that he should publish When Good Things Happen To Bad People, which resonates with my Brooklyn-bred resentments.  Jared would get his own chapter in that book. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Decaf Wonton Soup?

Monday, March 5, 2018
I was delighted to read an article in the Sunday travel section about Shanghai, emphasizing food, the wonderful variety of dumplings offered in establishments large and small.  It's been almost 10 years since I was there and this article made me want to return.  However, it contained one phrase (actually a complete sentence presented as a parenthetical element) that was as irrational as anything that has come out of the White House recently: "a cold brew and pizza slice at the world's largest Starbucks will set you back $20."

You're in Shanghai!  That's China!  Maybe a cup of coffee, but you don't really go to Starbucks for food anywhere in the world.  Okay, maybe a brownie, but not pizza.  Pizza in China?  Pizza from Starbucks?  That's crazy. 
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Here is another travel-related item that I would like to pass on.  "Her Majesty the Queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries during her reign, neither she nor one single member of the British royal family has ever yet been to Israel on an official visit."

As an admitted Anglophile, allow me to point out in defense that the young queen has only reigned since February 6, 1952, allowing 24,134 days until the present to get settled.  Come on, bubbeleh, the Jews won't bite. 
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Even here, I don't go to Starbucks for solid food.  Instead, I went to Tim Ho Wan, 84 Fourth Avenue (January 31, 2017, June 7, 2017) for first-rate dim sum at lunchtime.  I skipped a 30-minute wait and ate standing up at the serving counter right inside the entrance.  I had baked bun with BBQ pork (3 pieces, $5.25), the signature dish for this Hong Kong-based chain; deep-fried eggplant filled with shrimp (3 pieces, $5); curried meatballs in a thin, fried shell (4 pieces, $5.75).  The quality of the food seems to justify the large crowd, but I was still surprised that a Monday in March drew so many people in the joint's second full year of operation.  Don't stay away, but use the waiting time, which could extend to one hour, constructively at the Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway, two blocks away.
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David Webber's important analysis of the politics of pension funds appeared on-line this morning on the New York Times web site.  Krugman, Reich, Webber -- insights into the economic chicanery of the very few vs. the rest of us. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
There are frequent lists of best local Chinese restaurants, not all deserving equal consideration.  Watch out for those lists that prize expensive, beautifully-decorated joints in fine neighborhoods, near ritzy hotels.  They are intended for those people who don't really like Chinese food.  Grub Street, a service of New York magazine, does a better job than that.

I was familiar with most of the Manhattan-based joints on Grub Street's list, but I blanked on the #1 choice, the lengthily-named Hao Noodle and Tea by Madame Zhu's Kitchen, 401 Sixth Avenue.  Stony Brook Steve and Jon Silverberg agreed to join me for lunch there and, as soon as we entered, Steve said that we've been here before.  Looking around, I found the surroundings to be familiar and had to credit Steve's eagle eye, just improved by cataract surgery.  Indeed, we had been here on January 11, 2017 and I hadn't remembered in spite of the rather clumsy name. 

Today, we unevenly shared seafood pancake ($8), spicy beef with dried orange peel ($16), wood ear mushrooms ($8), "Sweetly Smoked Sole" ($12), sticky rice siu mai (3 pieces, $6), and Le Shan chicken ($15).  The beef was extremely spicy; the mushrooms and the chicken slightly less so, but only slightly.  Be prepared and note that Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream is only 2 blocks away at 152 West 10th Street, to soothe your flaming gullet. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Jew and gentile alike should examine this list of 100 Jewish foods.

I found the list very useful and entertaining, even if not entirely Jewish and certainly not flawless.  Because it is alphabetic, bacon appears near the top.  Bacon, you say?  To quote: "Bacon is the final frontier, the last temptation of the kosher-keeper, the quintessential forbidden food that appeals precisely because it is so darn delicious."

Warm thoughts of my long gone father came rushing back when I read, "One of the most common features of the Jewish kitchen isn’t found in a pantry, or a cupboard or a refrigerator.  It’s a tea bag—specifically, a used tea bag, air-drying on the counter or creating a tiny puddle on a saucer."  I was amused by the author's recollection that his parents "share[d] a single tea bag between the two of them and then leave it on the counter for the next night.  I didn’t keep track of how long they’d make it last.  It’s entirely possible that they had only the one tea bag."  I know for a fact that we had more than one tea bag in our household, but often acted as if we didn't.

Thursday, March 8, 2108
I graduated Stuyvesant High School in 1958.  In 1969, it admitted female students for the first time.  In 1992, it relocated from its almost 90-year old building.  For the many decades that I have been paying attention, one sad truth has remained constant, attendance by African-American students has been woeful.  The New York City Department of Education just announced that
only 10 black students were admitted this year, a decline from last year's 13.  

When I reported on December 26, 2011 that Stuyvesant's incoming class of 2015 had 12 blacks, I went back to my yearbook and found that my graduating class of 725 had 13 blacks.  Is there anything else in life that has been that consistent?

Surely, some black kids are now siphoned off to the top private and prep schools in their quest for diversity, but the absolute number remains shockingly low.  Some suggest innate ethnic inferiority, but that means that we Jews have to acknowledge Chinese intellectual superiority and possibly reverse positions in the kitchen and the dining room as the 3 Chinese students in my class have now been succeeded by about 500 in current classes, replacing about an equal number of Jews.  Others point to the economic hardships faced by urban minorities, but approximately half of the overwhelmingly Chinese Stuyvesant student population live below the poverty line. Cf. 

Further, many of the Chinese students probably live in households where the adults face substantial language and cultural barriers.  Yet, in many instances, admission to a specialized high school, notably Stuyvesant, is a family priority.  This article is by a Chinese-American filmmaker, who examined  the subject.  She maintains that culture, generally exalting education and specifically targeting success in the secondary admission process, is the critical factor. 

I'll add one controversial element.  White supremacy and black inferiority, its flip side, have been a major organizing principle for much of American life for centuries.  Today, while the overt distinctions inherent to slavery and Jim Crow are gone, a powerful legacy remains.  I suggest that, to a large degree, American whites and blacks tacitly believe in white superiority and black inferiority.  The rationales for supporting oppressive racial distinctions through our history have made many whites and blacks alike accepting of a racial hierarchy.  I believe that is a critical part of the culture that keeps black kids from taking the Stuyvesant admissions test in the first place, not experiencing the parental pressure that Jewish and Chinese kids are familiar with. 

It's not an easy fix, yet when individual black students break through, they often excel, such as Eric Holder, Stuyvesant '69, former US Attorney General and Gene Jarrett, Stuyvesant '93, recently appointed dean of the NYU College of Arts and Sciences.  They didn't do it backwards in high heels, as Ginger Rogers had to, but they did it with an enormous historic weight on their shoulders in an atmosphere full of skepticism.

Friday, March 9, 2018
The region has had two storms in five days, but today we had our personal nor'easter, grandson Boaz arrive for a weekend stay and just in time for lunch.  I was surprised that he recognized pan-Asian Wagamama, which we know as one of the few decent low-priced joints in London.  It turns out that Boaz has been to a Boston branch.  We went to the spot at 210 Fifth Avenue, one of two around here.  At 1 PM, the rather large premises were packed with people, but the service and food quality did not suffer.

I started with a Hirota steamed bun, filled with Korean barbecue beef and red onion ($7).  Filled is a generous description.  I would say that the beef visited the bun, briefly.  What little there was was delicious.  Fortunately, I did not stop there, adding grilled duck donburi, "Tender shredded duck in a spicy teriyaki sauce.  Served with carrots, snow peas, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky white rice.  Finished with a crispy fried egg, shredded cucumber, scallions and a side of kimchi."  It was good enough to merit the long description.  

This meal offers some insight into Boaz's advanced standing as a ten-year old.  He did not insist upon a hamburger, pizza or chicken fingers, instead digging into a bowl of chicken ramen, "Sliced grilled chicken on top of noodles in a rich chicken broth with dashi and miso.  Topped with seasonal greens, menma, scallions and half a tea-stained egg."  Okay, we also didn't know what menma was until we turned to Wikipedia: "Menma is a Japanese condiment made from lactate-fermented bamboo shoots."  
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As if Ginger Rogers did not have it hard enough, "Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ school in Stamford Hill [London], which serves the strictly [Jewish] Orthodox Haredi community, covered text and images including Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers [found in state-supplied textbooks]."