Friday, May 22, 2015

Aspirations

Monday, May 18, 2015
For several reasons, the society pages (I’ll never call them anything else) of the Sunday New York Times gave prominent coverage to the wedding of Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson, stars of the Women’s National Basketball Association, on competing teams. The space must have been allocated well before Friday’s announcement that each was suspended without pay for seven games after they were arrested in their home on charges of domestic violence. But, as often, my interests are more parochial. Near the bottom of the story, we read that the minister "performed the ceremony under a white canopy adorned with hydrangea and coral and white roses." 

As I have noted before (February 1, 2013, May 27, 2013), all sorts of people are being married under a chuppah, the traditional open-sided shelter for a Jewish wedding. Of course, the label is changed to protect the innocent, and this symbol of the newlywed’s home, sheltered from the sky, but open to the world, is called a canopy, gazebo or some other polite term far removed from the shtetl. Now, we have to promote Kosher catering.

Headline: "Wall Street Is Back, Almost as Big as Ever." You only have Obama to blame.

There is currently a kerfuffle over whether Pope Francis greeted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week as an "angel of peace" or merely encouraged him to "be an angel of peace." Were it Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead, no one would have suggested calling him an angel of peace.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
I have to report on a failing experiment in progress. I enrolled in the MilkMade Ice Cream program recently that delivers two pints of hand made ice cream to your door monthly, at the extravagant price of $15 per pint (April 22, 2015). The price was a deterrent, but curiosity about amarena cherry ice cream with chipped dark chocolate and a white chocolate ganache, witch finger grape ice cream with fresh peanut butter, and chocolate ice cream with a hint of birch bark led me on. The first delivery was early May, but we are still nibbling away at it, which is an indictment in itself. I started with the Open Sesame (MilkMade reaches a bit in its nomenclature), black sesame ice cream, with a toasted sesame caramel swirl. It’s not even as good as it sounds. My young bride, limiting her sense of adventure to being married to me, stuck to the Tim Tam Slam, chocolate mint julep ice cream with chunks of Tim Tam biscuits, somewhat similar to Kit Kat bars. This concoction, linked to the Kentucky Derby, is flavored with bourbon, but that was not enough to make me want to substitute it for Häagen-Dazs chocolate chocolate chip or Baskin-Robbins Pralines ‘N Cream. I’m going to give MilkMade one more month to convince me that ice cream belongs with heart transplants in the realm where money is no object. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Devotion to a sports team may be passed down in a family, or connected to place of residence. Generally, persuasion or reasoning has nothing to do with it. I am known as a fan of the New York Rangers hockey team, now engaged in the third round of their league’s championship. I credit my brother for getting me started. However, for those of you with little or no rooting interest in the New York Rangers versus the Tampa Bay Lightening, who play a game tonight, I wish to influence you with reason or good sense. When Tampa Bay learned that it had qualified for championship contention, it announced that "any tickets purchased with a credit card not attached to a Florida address will be cancelled and issued a refund without notice . . . [and] only Lightning team attire will be allowed in the Chase Club section during playoff games." The Chase Club is the high-priced section, where television cameras might scan the audience. Let’s go, Rangers!

I read an item in today’s New York Law Journal as an ordinary human being would, since I have no involvement with criminal law. Bernie Madoff’s former controller was sentenced in federal court yesterday only to time served and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service. The judge said that she believes that the perp was genuinely remorseful for knowingly falsifying records presented to the Securities & Exchange Commission and the IRS. The perp told the judge that she was "truly sorry" and "completely ashamed." As in so many other instances, the perp’s remorse only kicked in after she was apprehended. The record is free of any suggestion that she felt sorrow or shame while she was abetting Bernie in cheating Yeshiva University, Hadassah, Town of Fairfield – Connecticut, Dorset County (UK) Pension Fund, Stony Brook University Foundation, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and hundreds of other groups and individuals out of billions of dollars. The train has left the station, lady.

Friday, May 22, 2015
I seem to have been the last to know, but this morning, on the way to work, I saw a young man wearing a sweatshirt saying "Stuyvesant Cricket." In fact, in New York City, 30 high schools now play competitive cricket, and there is a city championship tournament. How about that, David Brodie?

I first entered the Four Seasons, 99 East 52nd Street, in the summer of 1980, just after I started a job in a building around the corner.  Several of us would regularly repair for drinks there after an exhausting day of management consulting.  Eventually, we were acknowledged with extra servings of the veal sausages and steak tartare provided during the cocktail hour.  My name appeared on so many credit card receipts that I was offered, and gladly accepted, a house account. 

My attraction to the Four Seasons was not based on a hope or dream of being asked to join a table of the high and mighty who patronized it.  I was and remain conscious of Balzac's epigram, "Behind every great fortune there is a crime."  It was the place itself, beautifully designed, kept in excellent condition, operated near flawlessly for the comfort of the patrons, even those of us new to middle class respectability.  Yes, it felt as if we had taken a step above and beyond our modest backgrounds.  

Now, the institution is threatened by a dispute with the building's owner, someone who seems to be easily caricatured as a greedy landlord.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/dining/the-fate-of-the-four-seasons-restaurant-hangs-in-the-balance.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news#

My visits to the Four Seasons have been few and far between in recent years, for while it may have stayed much the same, my life changed considerably.  I don't even expect that I will seek it out at its prospective new location, unlikely to be in Chinatown.   

"A Mesa [Arizona] woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of aggravated assault after running over her husband with a Jeep because he didn’t vote in the November 2012 presidential election, police said. . . . [She] started arguing with her husband when she found out that he didn't vote because she ‘believed her family was going to face hardship’ as a result of President Obama’s re-election." According to USA Today. According to my sources, she felt frustrated in not reaching her childhood dream of moving to Greenwich, Connecticut and operating a hedge fund.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Partners

Monday, May 11, 2015
I admit that a week ago I didn’t read much beyond the headline "Native American Actors Work to Overcome a Long-Documented Bias," inspired by a walkout of Native American actors from the set of a comedy in production, which lampooned Native Americans, and in general protest of the lack of casting opportunities. However, the matter came to mind Saturday night when we went to a short-term revival of Zorba!, a Broadway musical based on the successful book and movie Zorba the Greek. I found this production only mildly entertaining, but that’s not what is worth reporting. There were nine featured performers, namely (last only for the sake of space): Chanler-Berat, Cuccioli, Davis, Fontana, Mazzie, Montano, Turturro, Valdes and Wanamaker. While it is possible that all of these had mothers with maiden names ending in "opoulos," I'd bet against it. In other words, this was a Greek-free cast of a work set entirely in Greece, the isle of Crete to be exact. The 21-person supporting ensemble, singers and dancers, showed the slightest improvement, one person with a recognizable Greek surname. This woeful under representation (1 in 30 overall) may reflect distress with Greece's position in Eurozone negotiations, or simply a reminder that Telly Savalas is dead.

For those of you who actually wish to connect your health with what you eat, I can refer you to "How to Eat Healthy Meals at Restaurants," found on-line today. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/04/27/upshot/How-to-Eat-Healthy-Meals-at-Restaurants.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&abt=0002&abg=1

It includes food at Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, Starbucks and even McDonald’s. All that the article can manage in Chinese food is Panda Express, with almost 1,700 locations in the US and its possessions. For better or worse, New York City is limited to one Panda Express operation in Queens, one in Brooklyn and one at JFK airport, which eliminates it from my normal meanderings. If you happen upon a Panda Express anywhere, and your health is upper most on your mind, as opposed to "Is there anyplace else around here?", the article recommends beef with broccoli, mixed vegetables, brown rice (half portion) and a Diet Pepsi for a total of 440 calories.

For my lunch, I returned to Jaya Asian Cuisine 888, 90 Baxter Street, for the third time in its short life. I went early, around 12:30, because another time last week the crowds kept me out. I am making these frequent visits in the hope of finding Jaya to be a very good Malaysian restaurant, a little better than West New Malaysia Restaurant, 46-48 Bowery. It hasn’t reached that yet. Today, I ordered roti telur ($5.95), a delicate crêpe wrapped around a thin omelet with green and red peppers, served with a buttery curry dipping sauce. It was a very good dish, rated A for all intents and purposes. I also had a lunch special (all at $6.95) and I risked ordering sweet and sour chicken over rice, in the hope that the Malaysians had a new wrinkle to this clichéd dish. Hope again, big guy.

While not serving the advertised soup of the day with the lunch special is a minor setback, Jaya is destined to disappoint me more significantly, at least, for the months to come. It throws its doors, windows and walls open to the street, making for a festive air – a hot and humid festive air. Perspiration does not lubricate my appetite.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Hallelujah? http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/12/upshot/big-drop-in-share-of-americans-calling-themselves-christian.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&abt=0002&abg=1

WZW, 88 East Broadway (February 14, 2011), is physically almost the direct opposite of Jaya, which opened its windows, doors and walls to the outside. WZW is buried in the basement of the mall under the Manhattan Bridge, full of jewelers, beauty salons, telephone calling card and cell phone plan vendors. Tables, chairs, benches and stools are scattered in the area, which was surprisingly well airconditioned, although bereft of natural light. I ordered exactly the same dish as I had over 4 years ago, fried clams with mei fun ($6), and was again pleased with the result and the unchanging price. I enjoyed a big pile of mei fun (vermicelli) cooked with egg, lettuce, celery, onion, and scallion, accompanied by eight baby clams, roasted open, not fried.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
"Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy." http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/12/lawyers-with-lowest-pay-report-more-happiness/?action=click&contentCollection=N.Y.%20%2F%20Region&module=MostEmailed&version=Full&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

Stony Brook Steve ventured downtown to have lunch with me. We went to Hop Lee, 16 Mott Street, one of the Hop Quartet in the immediate vicinity – Wo Hop City, 15 Mott Street, Wo Hop, 17 Mot Street, Hop Kee, 21 Mott Street, and Hop Lee, 16 Mott Street. Hop Lee operates on two floors, only the bottom level, semi-underground, open during the week for lunch. Since they did not offer dumplings or scallion pancakes as a forshbeis, we decided to have three lunch specials, for the two of us, at $5.75 each. We chose sweet and pungent fish kew, beef with curry and Szechuan chicken. White rice came along for the ride, but first our waiter offered us soup. Neither of us was quite sure what he said, "Chicken feet soup" vs. "Chicken meat soup." I had half a bowl of the mild broth while Steve merely stared at it. Whatever was floating in its did not look like a foot. The solid food was good, a little timidly seasoned, in reasonable portions for the price.

I won’t go on at length about my history with B&H Dairy, 127 Second Avenue, which reaches back into the 1960s. In a nutshell, they have had consistently the best (restaurant) French toast anywhere, confirmed by my cohabiting researcher. The following provides a fair assessment of the joint. http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/bandh/
Unfortunately, the recent fatal gas explosion two doors away forced it to close, and it is now struggling to reopen, having to deal with building codes and safety concerns. I donated $25 today to help it reopen. Once B&H is back in business, I’ll go for French toast and report back.
https://zip.kiva.org/loans/13799/i/e5k?utm_source=lender&utm_campaign=97489&utm_medium=social

Thursday, May 14, 2015
I fear that there may be an unhealthy trend developing among Chinese restaurants. Just as I reported that the new version of Mission Chinese, 171 East Broadway (January 20, 2015), was open only for dinner, Fung Tu, 22 Orchard Street, given a two star review in the food section of yesterday’s New York Times, also serves dinner only. Both restaurants aim to distinguish themselves from your regular chop suey joints by serving up some unusual concoctions, such as kung pao pastrami at Mission. However, that’s no excuse for keeping the doors closed while the sun is still shining, unless it’s all about attitude.

Herb and Ruth Dooskin and Nick Lewin joined me for lunch at Pasteur Grill & Noodles, 85 Baxter Street, a Vietnamese restaurant. The Dooskins recently went to Vietnam and Cambodia and I was eager to be reminded of many of the things that I experienced on the trip Jill and Steve, my young bride and I took in the winter of 2012. The only notable differences between their trip and ours was their good fortune at being at Angkor Wat at sunrise on a clear morning, without the thick haze that we faced, and their greater tolerance for the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, a show that I described as silly – not Monty Python silly, just plain silly (January 28, 2012).

Besides enjoying their anecdotes, we all enjoyed fried vegetable spring rolls, green papaya salad topped with peanuts and shredded chicken, 2 plates of fried egg noodles (really lo mein) with vegetables in curry sauce – one with shrimp, one with chicken – and beef tenderloin tossed with onions, basil and lime juice. We also shared one small dessert, banana with tapioca in coconut milk. The Dooskins treated, making for a perfect lunch.

Friday, May 8, 2015
Head for the hills. According to the following: "Growing up in some places — especially liberal ones — makes people less likely to marry, new data shows." 

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/05/15/upshot/the-places-that-discourage-marriage-most.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0&abt=0002&abg=1

You have to read this for yourself. It’s full of juicy observations, such as "[t]he places that discourage marriage most tend to be cities." Population density seems to make a big difference, which leads me to suggest that the more you are around people, the less likely you want to marry them.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mel Brooks Said It First

Monday, May 4, 2015
Today’s paper has a fascinating feature on mobility and poverty, that is, how a timely relocation for a child influencess later economic conditions.  "[P]oor children who grow up in some cities and towns have sharply better odds of escaping poverty than similar poor children elsewhere."

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/04/upshot/an-atlas-of-upward-mobility-shows-paths-out-of-poverty.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&abt=0002&abg=1

We know instinctively that growing up in "a nice neighborhood" is beneficial. This study shows that a move into a better neighborhood early enough offers measurable benefits. The study provides a county-by-county analysis of the economic impact of local residency.  It may be an ironic coincidence, but Baltimore was found to be the place "where children face the worst odds of escaping poverty."

The attack on an anti-Muslim "Draw the Prophet" cartoon contest and exhibit in Texas is very disturbing. As a Jew, I am often angered by the anti-Semitic slurs, insults, prejudice, and violence emerging from almost every imaginable quarter. However, for better or worse, my response, is no more than "Drop dead, you miserable bastards," expressed verbally, but not physically. Some Muslims can’t seem to exercise restraint when, even in the absence of any threat or harm to a living person, the Prophet Mohammed is insulted, sometimes merely depicted.

One of the Ten Commandments is "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them." For many, the basic understanding of this is to ban idols and idolatry. Some very Orthodox Jews, and maybe other folk, go further and take this commandment to forbid artistic or photographic representations of humans, as well as artistic representations of the Divine.

While the Koran does not explicitly ban visual depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, there are later commentaries that oppose this with varying degrees of vehemence. See the following for a good overview of the topic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depictions_of_Muhammad

The word Islam means, or may be taken to mean, "submission to the will of God." While it’s not my style, I know that some people see their devotion to God as the organizing principle of their lives, and, therefore, the more devotion the better. Also, I appreciate how they might have a protective instinct towards the Almighty, and may be agitated, inflamed by abuse of any sort. But, as I see it, it comes down to this: If you believe in the Master of the Universe, trust Him to take care of business and smite the wicked, the blasphemers, the heretics, the mockers and the defilers. You, however, keep your hands to yourself. If you believe, believe.

I read over the weekend that (Chinese) women are not allowed to hand pull noodles, at least in public. That sent me off to Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, 1 Doyers Street (May 27, 2010), where I was unable to learn the gender of the noodle pullers. I remember when Xi’an Famous Foods was in the tiny space under the Manhattan Bridge, and one of the two people jammed behind the counter spent his (it was a guy) time pulling noodles right in front of you. If you were the (only) customer who could fit into the joint, you were only inches apart, separated by a clear glass panel. When Xi’an moved to the four times larger, but still really small space on Bayard Street, the food preparation went to the basement and a flat screen monitor showed a video of a man pulling noodles. 

Tasty is about the size of Xi’an, square instead of rectangular. It contains nine tables, 7 two-tops and 2 four-tops, without a spare inch of floor space. The menu is mostly noodles, on a plate or in soup. I had chicken and shrimp with hand-pulled noodles ($8.50). Carrots, onions, bean sprouts, and celery were cooked in with the noodles – regular hand pulled, as it turned out, much like lo mein. Other choices were fat, small wide and big wide hand-pulled noodles, akin to chow fun, my choice for next time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
"For Top 25 Hedge Fund Managers, a Difficult 2014 Still Paid Well." How well? "The top 25 hedge fund managers reaped $11.62 billion in compensation in 2014, according to an annual ranking published on Tuesday by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine." 
http://www.institutionalinvestorsalpha.com/Article/3450284/The-2015-Rich-List-The-Highest-Earning-Hedge-Fund-Managers-of-the-Past-Year.html 
How difficult? "2014 was the sixth consecutive year that hedge funds have fallen short of stock market performance." I guess it’s like some of those kiddie soccer leagues, where everyone gets a trophy for showing up.

With the advent of warm weather, Chinatown is rife with champagne mangos and tourists. Don’t pay more than $1 each for the excellent fruit. You’ll have to strike your own bargain with the latter. Sun Sai Gai Restaurant, 220 Canal Street, was busy, but not exploding with tourists in spite of its strategic location at the corner of Canal Street and Baxter Street. As I observed on a previous visit (April 29, 2010), it gives the appearance of a Vietnamese restaurant serving Chinese food. It displays the alternate Vietnamese name Nha Hang Tan The Gioi (sans accents), which I learned may be translated as Service Cave of the Spreading, Fragrant Rose-Apple Tree, or more prosaically New World Restaurant.

Sun Sai is one of those restaurants that hangs some of its fare in the window, and I was taken by the duck. I ordered half a "crispy duck" ($13.50), which was really a roast duck. The portion was very large, and, even discarding the inevitable fat, yielded a lot of tasty meat.

On the way back, I went one block over to Mulberry Street and bought 3 mangos for $2.50 to enjoy with my young bride tonight.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
One reason that economic inequality has grown significantly in the last several decades is the attitude of the have-nots towards the haves, an abandonment of the reform zeal that led to the growth of the labor union movement and Top 40 hits for the Weavers.  In general, I think now that the have-nots harbor feelings of shame or embarrassment at their plight, envy at the success of the haves, and/or deference to the haves based on a sense of inferiority. As a result, the have-nots fail to challenge the haves and the rules, or lack of rules, that help perpetuate the status quo. No doubt you have heard the saw, "If you are so smart, how come you are not rich?" What that really means is, "You ain't rich, so you ain't smart." I still remember having it directed to me in 1984 by the sister of a woman that I was briefly dating. While I was speechless at the time (hard to believe, isn’t it?), in fact, I have never believed that smarts characterize the rich. A lot of luck and guile, yes. My more than 30 years in private industry demonstrated that over and over.

So, today, in the sports section, we read that Madison Square Garden (MSG) has hired Isiah (sic) Thomas, legendary basketball player, as president of the New York Liberty, the Women's National Basketball Association team located in and owned by MSG. The selection was made by James Dolan, executive chairman of MSG, and understood to be a longtime friend of and advocate for Thomas. Dolan, of course, is a very rich man, more importantly, the son of the very rich man who founded Cablevision, the ultimate owner of MSG. Young Dolan prepared for life at the top of the economic pyramid by abusing drugs and alcohol. See http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/the_bonus/02/06/price.knicks0212/index.html

Dolan, of course, is free to make his employment choices. Thomas is an African-American, eliminating any concern about racial discrimination.  But, there is a big stupid part, very stupid. The Liberty consists entirely of women basketball players, if I may belabor the obvious. Thomas, when previously employed by MSG as president and coach of the Knicks, its men’s basketball team, was found, after a jury trial, to have sexually harassed a female MSG executive. MSG paid over $11 million dollars to the complainant in that case. You don’t have to review the details of Thomas’s behavior to conclude that it had to have been more than slightly raunchy to reach $11 million. Now, the very rich Mr. Dolan has demonstrated again (his miscues are well recognized by sports fans, but less familiar to the sane portion of the population) that dumb is priceless.   

The Boyz Club met at the Sacred Shrine of Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, and 7 of us crowded around a table, never more than inches away from the food spread before us. To wit, crispy noodles, fried wontons, vegetable egg roll (for the chasserai abstainer, who showed up late after others could not wait to devour it), vegetable chow fun, chicken chow fun, spicy eggplant, beef with scallions, honey crispy chicken, jumbo shrimp with black bean sauce, and a little white rice to bind. With a generous tip (as always), it cost $15 each.

Friday, May 8, 2015
The arrest of Dean Skelos, the Republican leader of the New York State Senate, on federal corruption charges follows the arrest of Sheldon Silver, the Democratic leader of the New York State Assembly, on federal corruption charges by a little over three months. 
Here is a montage of 41 elected New York State officials accused of misdeeds in the past 12 years.  As reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard, "[s]ome are awaiting trial, some have been convicted, some resigned amid controversy without criminal charges.  Some were rewarded with re-election or other government jobs."  One may conclude that running for office in New York State demonstrates a propensity towards criminal conduct.   

I went to Shanghai Café Deluxe, 100 Centre Street, for lunch, lured by the memory of their excellent scallion pancake ($2.50), and I was not disappointed.  Instead of just pan frying the scallion pancake, they give it a quick deep frying, producing a wonderfully crispy exterior, yet avoiding greasiness.  I was disappointed, however, in the dipping sauce.  It was almost entirely vinegar, no taste of rice wine or soy sauce, so it was only tart, not sweet, not salty. 

Not too hungry, I thought to play it safe by ordering "tiny fried buns" (8 for $4.95).  The sturdy golf-ball sized and shaped, pan fried buns were anything but tiny.  They had a 3/16" doughy wrapper around a chopped meat center.  Four people could have shared the dish before going on to a main course.  Fortunately, I was able to donate one of the buns to a couple at the next table who wanted to know what I was eating. 

Tom Brady’s agent was indignant that a report released this week implicated the superstar professional football quarterback in a scheme to tamper with the footballs to be used in a championship game. He called the report "a significant and terrible disappointment . . . [because of] its omission of key facts and lines of inquiry." He hit the nail right on the head since Brady "declined to make available any documents or electronic information (including text messages and emails)," according to the report. It’s good to be the King.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Then And Now

Monday, April 27, 2015
An article in the Sunday business section compared the biggest of the big companies in 2015 to 1985.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/your-money/now-its-apples-world-once-it-was-ibms.html
Today, Apple, measured by stock market value at $759 billion, leads the top five, three of whom are involved with information technology – Apple, Microsoft and Google. Thirty years ago, IBM was number 1. By relative measure, IBM was even more dominant over the other top five – Exxon, GE, AT&T and GM (how wonderfully terse an array) – none of whom were in anything like the same business as IBM. Only Exxon, now merged with Mobil appears on the 2015 list. 

For whatever it’s worth, there were 121,446 gas stations in the US in 2014, almost certainly far fewer than in the past. Of course, emerging markets in India and China presumably have had a growth in gas stations, but established economies elsewhere show the opposite trend. For instance, the number of gas stations in the United Kingdom declined from 14,824 in 1997 to 8,591 in 2014.
http://www.ukpia.com/industry_information/industry-overview.aspx

Two factors loom large in explaining the decline in US gas stations, even as the number of registered motor vehicles increased from 172 million in 1985 to 253 million in 2014, improved fuel economy and appreciation of the value of roadside real estate. So, teach your kid computer programming if you want her to make a quick buck, but give her an oil well if you want to provide for generations to come.

Right now, however, sending her to law school is not doing her a favor, according to a new study that shows that about 20 percent of law school graduates from 2010 are working at jobs that do not require a law license, and only 40 percent are working in law firms, compared with 60 percent from the class a decade earlier.
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2577272

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
This week marks the 40th anniversary of our retreat from (abandonment of) Saigon and the end of active US military involvement in Vietnam. I stayed out of that fight, as did almost everyone I knew, in spite of my status as a healthy, single male under 26 years of age during several years of the escalating events. I did not have to take elaborate measures to avoid the draft; I strung together deferments as a student and then a teacher (even in the most woebegone institutions) that shielded me from conscription. 

Even though my political science chops were pretty good in those days, I never could offer a reasonable explanation of what we were doing in Vietnam. Our visit in 2012, in the company of faithful companions Jill & Steve, when we went to Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Hanoi and several points in between, left me more confused. The Vietnamese, an increasingly urban population, have a median age of 30.3 years (US, 36.8), all of whom seemed to be riding motorbikes as we tried to cross the street.
http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/vietnam-population/

Vietnam is a one-party state, which suppresses political dissent and religious freedom, although it lacked, to this tourist, the authoritarian pall that hung over China. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from being its leading trade partner. As the BBC recently observed: "In the [Vietnamese] cities, the consumer market is fuelled by the appetite of a young, middle class for electronic and luxury goods."
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-16567315http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-16567315
It cost us over 55,000 lives in trying to prevent this result. 

Maybe as strange as a Chinese scholar devoted to Jewish studies is this story of a senior woman at an Orthodox yeshiva, who keeps Kosher, admitted to West Point. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/29/nyregion/my-daughter-the-general-first-charge-from-a-yeshiva-to-west-point.html?contentCollection=nyregion&action=click&module=NextInCollection&region=Footer&pgtype=article
To quote the headmaster of her school, "I hate to say it, but it’s not a Jewish activity."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
If you are on your way to Shanghai soon, you might want to read about a scientific approach to their soup dumplings with precise ratings of quality. 
http://www.smartshanghai.com/articles/dining/the-man-who-spent-a-year-studying-xiao-long-bao
If you can’t find your passport, enjoy soup dumplings at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, or Joe’s Ginger, right next door at 25 Pell Street, but a little less friendly.

Caffé Bene, 106 Mott Street, is an anomaly. Its name fits better one block away, on Mulberry Street, in Little Italy. Its atmosphere is calm and mellow, in contrast to the hurly burly of the typical Chinatown joint. Many of the customers were sitting with their computers, whatever they ordered long consumed. The back wall, and a bit of the side, have sparsely filled bookshelves, containing, among other things, Julia Childs "The Art of French Cooking," a John Grisham novel, "The Official James Bond 007 Movie Book" and an LSAT study manual, along with a number of Chinese (?) language books and magazines. Yet, it is located in a prime Chinatown location, and is part of an international Korean chain. The young staff, though, were from Hong Kong and other downtown China spots, but not Korea.

Most of the menu was devoted to beverages and desserts, including ice cream and macarons. Real food consists only of five hot sandwiches. I ordered Asian shrimp ($7.95), served on a hot, fresh roll, about 6" long, with baby spinach, bean sprouts, mustard and mozzarella, another example of the heterogeneous character of this joint. A free cup of coffee was offered, but I turned it down as the outside temperature reached the mid 70s, and took a can of San Pellegrino aranciata (tart orange soda). The sandwich was very good, but pretty small. It was a good excuse to have some dessert, but, as always, moderation prevailed.

Another pleasant aspect of the joint was the background music, mid-career Miles Davis, among the greatest cultural achievements of humankind. This, along with the general Gemütlichkeit, distinguished it from many nearby Chinese establishments, where the not-background enough music often is either over-wrought Las Vegas-style ballads or the original cast album of "Wu Han Province Exceeds Bauxite Quota."

Friday, May 1, 2015
Best wishes to our dear Shoshana.

William Franklin Harrison, the 48th President of the United States, and I are going to the Mets game tonight. They are giving away T-shirts and two of the best pitchers in baseball, Matt Harvey, the Mets phenom, and Max Scherzer, signed to a $210 million contract by the Washington Nationals, are pitching. Fortunately, there is no school tomorrow, so William can stay up late.

To fuel up for the evening, I had lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, the St. Peter's Basilica of Chinese food.  Beef and chicken chow fun ($9.25) and an egg roll ($2.75), that little extra because I usually abstain from eating any of the ballpark's exorbitantly-priced food.  However, I broke down around 8:30 PM and had a grilled short rib and cheese sandwich, not unreasonable at $12, washed down by an unreasonable $5.50 cup of Diet Pepsi.   

The Mets won, aiding my digestion considerably. 
                                                                                                             

Friday, April 24, 2015

Competitive Instinct

Monday, April 20, 2015
I found the Boston Marathon more difficult today than the New York Marathon or the London Marathon in the past. The temperature was 43 degrees. The wind was blowing and it rained throughout. The roads were slippery in places, and squishy shoes have always tormented me. In the 45 minutes that I stood at the 10-mile mark in downtown Natick, I was quite uncomfortable.  Fortunately, Bakery on the Common, at 9 South Main Street, was only ½ block away, and, in spite of large crowds seeking its shelter and nourishment, we were able to find room for three generations to get warm and refuel. 

This marked the end to a satisfying weekend, which began with dinner Friday night at the well-traveled Bergs, whom we met on our trip to Bulgaria and Macedonia, almost two years ago. Their special guest was Professor Xu Xin, director of the Institute for Jewish and Israel Studies at Nanjing University. This topsy-turvy enterprise was founded in 1992 by Xu Xin; it now is one of nine institutes in China devoted to Jewish studies as an academic discipline. The institute has produced Ph.D.s, published and translated many significant works, sent scholars to Israel, organized conferences in Judaic studies, and built the largest Judaica library in China. Quite amazing. I thought the Sino-Semitic interchange was entirely in one direction, from kitchen to table.

Xu Xin proved remarkably erudite, engaging and energetic in spite of a regimen of international traveling, speaking, teaching, fundraising and overcoming the skepticism of American and Israeli Jews about the scope of his endeavors. It all started when Xu Xin was a graduate student in China, 40 years ago, studying American literature. This led inevitably to Bellow, Malamud, Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer and others, all with the same affliction. He then probed deeper into Jewish history and culture, and Israeli affairs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xu_Xin_(Judaic_scholar)

The evening, of course, flew by, and the eats weren’t bad either. Note that I was unable to get past the Chinese version of the institute’s web site – http://www.judaic.cn/

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Stony Brook Steve and Dan K. joined me for lunch today and I took them to Canton Lounge, 70 Mott Street. This was formerly the site of Mottzar Kitchen, which I found to have the best Peking duck in Chinatown, coincidentally at the lowest price (October 24, 2014, June 24, 2014, May 7, 2014, February 18, 2014, August 7, 2013, April 18, 2012). Mottzar closed suddenly, and after a brief renovation reopened as Canton Lounge. I described my meal there, on February 3, 2015, as "mildly pleasant." Then, again suddenly, the restaurant closed for almost two months while extensive renovations were conducted. The name is the same, but there have been physical changes to the interior, notably the step-up area opposite the preparation area has been leveled. Probably too many personal injury lawyers hovered around as people tripped upon arriving or departing. The menu has changed, too; the new one offers more dishes. Lunch specials have gone from $6.50 to $5.75, a rare change in direction. There is no more mention of virgin chicken on the current menu, although it may be disguised as "house special chicken." A large section of this menu is unfortunately labeled "Beam Crud."

We shared a scallion pancake ($2.25), sesame cold noodle ($3.95), and passed around three lunch specials, beef with orange flavor, braised bean curd with mushrooms and chicken with garlic sauce. To be fair, Dan is a vegetarian, so he got a little less passed his way. In any case, the food was no better than average, with the scallion pancake decidedly bad. Canton Lounge offers Peking duck, whole or half at prices close to average, but I am unsure whether I’ll give them a chance to live up to their predecessor after this meal. The company, however, was excellent.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The admirable Danny Macaroons (http://dannymacaroons.com/) has directed my attention to MilkMade Ice Cream (http://www.milkmadeicecream.com/our-story). MilkMade is a small, Manhattan-based company that reputedly makes very high quality, very expensive ice cream, personally delivered only in the New York metropolitan area. Apparently MilkMade is available by subscription only, two different pints a month at $15 a pint. The flavors change each month. Not all of the names are edifying; Cordially Yours turns out to be amarena cherry ice cream with chipped dark chocolate and a white chocolate ganache, Witches’ Brew is a blend of witch finger grape ice cream and fresh peanut butter (whatever witch finger grape is), and Krampus Kreme is chocolate ice cream with a hint of birch bark, for some opaque reason. On the other hand, there is no surprise that Cara Cara Creamsicle is orange ice on the outside, sweet cream on the inside, Maple Glazed Donut is maple-donut ice cream with chunks of glazed donuts, and Buttered Coffee is brown butter and coffee ice cream. As of now, you don’t get a choice, which may be a significant limitation in the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave. 

But, duty calls and I am enrolling this week, if only for your sake, dear reader, although I have had a dialogue with my conscience about this. $15 for a pint of ice cream is a lot. Wo Hop can provide two heaping plates of chow fun for that amount. Ordinary people can usually buy three or four 56 oz. containers of good quality Breyer’s Ice Cream for $15. Odd Fellows East Village store will deliver one pint for $12, four pints for $40, but not above 59th Street in Manhattan. Häagen-Dazs (14 oz.) and Ben & Jerry’s (a full pint) sell for $4 to $5 around here. Republicans probably think that $15 in food stamps should last a family for a week. And, I am going to spend it on one pint of ice cream, mind you, hand-crafted locally from locally-sourced ingredients by people who like ice cream. We’ll see.

Time Out New York has started giving out free copies on Wednesdays. Today, I couldn’t resist the cover story, "New York’s 25 Best Pizzas." http://www.timeout.com/newyork/restaurants/best-new-york-pizza  I can’t say that I agree or disagree with many of the choices, because, on behalf of diversity, the magazine actually left the isle of Manhattan to explore alternatives in all five boroughs (counties). Of the alleged 25 best, 11 are found in Brooklyn, 9 in Manhattan, 2 in Staten Island, 2 in Queens, and 1 in the Bronx. While I would like to fold in these establishments with my lunchtime forays into Asian cuisine, only Rubirosa Ristorante, 235 Mulberry Street, is even a long walk (about 3/4 of a mile) away. I may have to retire in order to do justice to this subject.

Dan K. continued his jury duty and I had the pleasure of his company again at lunch. To make sure that the food would not disappoint, we went to the head of the class, Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street. Since he is a vegetarian, we ordered nothing that had ever moved under its own power. We had vegetarian egg rolls, vegetable chow fun and mushroom egg foo young. I must admit that it was a very good meal, even though missing my kind of food.

Friday, April 24, 2015
I received a potentially destructive e-mail this afternoon about my supposed "application for a grant from the government." While I was tempted to respond with vulgarity, I certainly was not going to choose one of the options provided for further inquiry. Even if this crap were not so patently phony, I can't imagine having any confidence in a web site labeled "zombiedivinity."

 
Last year, thanks to Generous Jeff G., I went to one game in each of the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a new experience for me. Tonight, I went to game 5 of the first round of the Rangers vs. the Penquins, which is really a good name for an ice hockey team, although lacking geographic specificity à la the Washington Capitals or the New York Islanders. Names aside, I proudly pulled on my white Rangers jersey on the way out of the courthouse to Madison Square Garden, with a stop at Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen, on West 38th Street, where Rob T. and I powered up for an exciting evening.

A note on costume – I own a blue and a white Rangers jersey, both fairly authentic, but without any player’s name on the back. These days, the Rangers generally wear their dark (blue) jersey at home and their white one on the road, as is the prevailing convention among teams. However, while I am not superstitious, I recall vividly that the Rangers wore their white jerseys at home in 1994, when they last won the Stanley Cup. While I would never consider body or face painting to aid their cause, wearing the historically-appropriate jersey to this game was the least that I could do. And it worked.  Rangers 2-1, advancing to the next round.  But, I am not superstitious.  
 

Friday, April 17, 2015

How Old Is That Pizza?

Monday, April 13, 2015
I took a little walk this lovely afternoon on Division Street, which begins at the Bowery and goes east, partially just to walk and partially to see if I could finally eat at Division 31 Restaurant, 31 Division Street. Since October 17, 2013, days after it opened, I’ve tried to eat lunch there. At first, they insisted that they only served hot pot, although a menu on display featured lunch specials. Then, service seemed to be limited to dinner only. Then, the doors were locked and tables and chairs seemed to come and go each time I peered in the window. Today, the metal screen was down, seeming to cut off Division 31 from the flow of commerce all together. I settled for Jing Star Restaurant, 27-29 Division Street (February 15, 2102, August 1, 2014), bustling with Chinese customers having dim sum. I had shrimp dumplings, shu mai, beef rice noodle and sticky rice for $10, including tax. 

The Times on-line reports today on its initial discovery of pizza (September 20, 1944), found at Luigino’s Pizzeria Alla Napoletana, 147 West 48th Street. http://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2015/04/13/1944-the-times-discovers-pizza/

I ate at Luigino’s regularly when I worked at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, on West 44th Street, Saturdays throughout college. It felt very much like the old section of John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street, with high-backed wooden booths, and thinnish-crusted pizza. The problem with the Times article then and now is, I believe, that it was scooped long before by the Daily News (or was it the Daily Mirror?). I remember a clipping on Luigino’s wall of a story, the work of a good publicist, about this strange food, with a photograph of Rockettes from nearby Radio City Music Hall sampling slices. It’s been a long time, but I really believe that this story dated from the 1930s. A search of my brother’s memory, Arthur Dobrin’s memory (they both worked at the Bar Association at some time), and the Internet only yielded the image below. Arthur confirms the newspaper article on the wall, but has no recollection of a photograph in it. My brother simply relishes the memory of good lunches. The E-Bay seller claimed that this menu was from the 1930s, but offered no support for this.
According to a posting on Ancestry.com, Luigino Milone, residing at 147 West 48th Street, registered for the draft in WWII. The location was leveled for construction of the Mc-Graw Hill Building in 1969.  Please understand that I don’t profess Luigino’s to be the first pizzeria in New York, or even as "the oldest established pizza house in the city," as Craig Claiborne speculated in the Times, on November 4, 1966. Lombardi’s at 53 ½ Spring Street, a successor now at 32 Spring Street, claims to have been the first in the USA, starting in 1905. http://www.firstpizza.com/. John’s of Bleecker Street, 278 Bleecker Street, my favorite, started in 1929, but on Sullivan Street. http://www.johnsbrickovenpizza.com/history.php. Whether or not the Times got to Luigino’s first, it was scooped on pizza by the New York Tribune four decades earlier. http://blog.scottspizzatours.com/post/18130417527/first-reference-to-pizza-as-pie.

My own earliest memories of pizza was the forbidding bar and grill on the corner of Crescent Street and Belmont Avenue, East New York, Brooklyn, two blocks from the real life setting for the opening chapter of Wiseguy, the non-fiction book by Nicholas Pileggi that was the basis for Scorsese’s great movie Goodfellas. I don’t know if the joint had a name, but a red neon sign announced Pizzeria, a word that rhymed with fizz area to me until high school. Needless to say, a nice Jewish boy never entered those premises.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
If you are still hungry, read Pete Wells, the Times’ food critic, on the classic bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a roll. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/15/dining/don’t-mess-with-my-breakfast-sandwich.html?ref=dining&_r=0.

I have curbed my addiction to these by having a big bowl of fruit and cereal before leaving for work, so that I’m not ready to refuel until lunchtime, when the breakfast grill has been shut down and Chinatown beckons, of course. Eliminating the bacon and even the cheese still leaves you with a great sandwich as long as you keep the roll. I remember stopping at a diner somewhere in the Midwest for breakfast about 50 years ago, in a period of wandering akin to our people in the desert. I asked for two eggs on a roll, freezing the waitress in her tracks. She repeated my order, and paraphrased it in a fashion that I don’t recall. Before my food was delivered, I learned that a roll outside New York is a "sweet roll," properly a Danish. She was puzzled about getting even one egg on a prune Danish. What I wanted would be known out there as a hard roll or a Kaiser roll. Live and learn.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
An interesting article just popped up on NYTimes.com on the growth of Chinatown(s) in New York City, with a graphic illustration of the increasing Chinese presence. It will probably appear in print tomorrow. "Chinese immigrants now the second largest foreign-born group in the city and soon to overtake Dominicans for the top spot." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/16/nyregion/influx-of-chinese-immigrants-is-reshaping-large-parts-of-brooklyn.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news.

I’ve been to Flushing’s Chinatown a couple of times, but never to the vastly expanding section of southwestern Brooklyn that some consider to house two Chinatowns. Obviously, both areas are out of reach of my lunchtime excursions, and I must confess that the Upper West Side Power Couple usually chooses Indian, Greek or Italian restaurants for dinners out.

Visiting the wonderful world of Lendy Electric Equipment & Supply Corp. at 176-184 Grand Street to buy screws, I went into Paris Sandwich Shop, 213 Grand Street (December 8, 2010), for lunch. I ordered a Vietnamese meatball sandwich ($5) and was glad that I did. Of course, I know better than to ask just what meat goes into the meatballs, but the finished product is excellent. The big sandwich, on a warm, crispy baguette, included shredded marinated carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, that slightly sweet sauce that probably kept Ho Chi Minh alive an additional 4 years, and hot peppers (optional). I noticed that a section at the rear served about 8 ice cream flavors from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, but I deferred.

Thursday, April 16, 2015
I skipped the home opening day of the Mets baseball season on Monday, but I went to the grand opening today of Genuine Superette, 191 Grand Street, at the corner of Mulberry Street. No explanation is given for the name; the site was previously a souvenir shop. One thing that attracted me to this prime Little Italy location was this further intrusion on Italian life and cuisine by outside forces; Baz, a bagel joint on Grand Street, around the corner from Mulberry Street, and Beijing Pop Kabob, directly on Mulberry Street, replacing a classic Italian restaurant. This new joint is informal, with a bright interior resulting from large windows on two sides facing the street, white- painted walls and white-painted exposed brick. Seating is mostly on stools at slightly elevated tables. All the woodwork is blonde, also lending a light feel. 

You order at a counter near the entrance, and your food is delivered to you, as identified by one of those foot-high numbered markers. Genuine Superette claims to use "antiobotic/hormone free and humanely raised" meat and a frying method that results in precisely 47.8% fewer calories. I inconclusively tested this by ordering a buttermilk battered chicken sandwich with apple/celeriac slaw and sambal mayo (trimmings that I can’t explain in words of my own) ($10.56) and "crisp and golden classic" fries ($2.53) without adding turkey chili cheese for an extra $2.76. The food was good. I wish the sandwich, on a hamburger bun, were bigger, which would probably warrant a higher price. The only discordant note was $3.25 for a can of Diet Coke. Bring a canteen. They also serves Odd Fellows ice cream, a highly-reputed Brooklyn-based outfit previously unknown to me. Since Moderation is my middle name, I had to pass on this as well, at least for a couple of days.

Friday, April 17, 20105
Jaya Asian Cuisine 888, 90 Baxter Street, was once the site of Jaya Malaysian Restaurant.  After many months out of commission, they just opened (or is it reopened) their doors.  The menu is predominantly Malaysian, but also includes familiar Chinese dishes, such as wonton soup, chow fun and General Tso's chicken.  However, I inevitably order roti canai ($3.75) in a Malaysian restaurant, and often have nasi lemak ($7.75), considered the Malaysian national dish, as well.  Both were very good here, a bit spicier than some joints venture.  The pancake/crêpe with the roti canai was a bit too flaky, making it hard to zzup up all the accompanying curry sauce.  The nasi lemak was quite traditional, rice, cucumber slivers, peanuts, fried anchovies, hard boiled egg, sambal (hot chili sauce) and a couple of pieces each of potato and chicken in curry sauce (the same as the roti canai). 

The new restaurant was busy, more than half of the 19 tables were kept occupied.  A stout, two-foot high golden Buddha looked over us.   The interior has wooden walls and wooden ceiling, evoking a traditional dwelling, not that I know what a traditional Malaysian dwelling looks like.  Four back-lit photographs of fruit and coconuts hung in one nook at the back of the restaurant, and a long photo mural of interesting street scenes in Kuala Lumpur was on another wall. 

25 lunch specials are offered at $6.95, including soup of the day.  Many are the same as found in regular Chinese restaurants, but "Sassy Shrimp" and "Ladies Fingers Malaysian Style" make you pause.
 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Keeping Count

Monday, April 6, 2015
Almost exactly one year ago, a unit of Bain Capital purchased Manischewitz Corporation, the country’s largest producer of Kosher foods. Bain, as you recall, was the business home of Mitt Romney. As much as I would delight in seeing a picture of Romney eating gefilte fish, he left Bain about a dozen years earlier. 

With baseball season opening over the weekend, the New York Times published a very interesting look at baseball records. As even the most casual fan is aware, baseball is obsessed with statistics and records, far more than any other sport. This may result from its long history, beginning organized play much earlier than any other professional sport, and from the long season, currently 162 games, producing such a volume of statistics.
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/04/03/sports/baseball/mlb-records.html?ref=sports&_r=0

The Times study deals with the duration of records, the likely tenacity of current records of achievement. While Babe Ruth’s home run records have been surpassed by lesser lights, other records now seem untouchable. You may not care about baseball, but I think that it is intriguing to contemplate that the highest annual batting average was recorded in 1901 and has never been approached since. No one has even come closer than 25 points since 1941. It was also 1941 when Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 straight games; second best is 44 games in 1978. Rickey Henderson’s 1982 stolen base record seems untouchable. Henderson stole 130 bases that year, which is more than the combined total of 28 major league teams in 2014.

You may have to be a bit geekish to appreciate the numbers, but they do reflect on baseball’s strange relationship to human development. Americans are generally healthier, better fed, better medicated than ever before. In probably every other sport, records regularly fall as athletes grow bigger and faster, training year round, paying serious (and sometimes illegal) attention to conditioning. Yet, even as modern baseball players no longer spend half the year selling cars or insurance, or tending bar, many critical performance levels recede from their grasp. How about that?

Speaking of gefilte fish, I know that many of you have been waiting to hear about Aunt Judi’s seder meals, held Friday and Saturday, always a high spot on the Hebrew and culinary calendar. This year, over two dozen people each night enjoyed the imagination and care that she invested in the two dinners. Interestingly enough, each year these seders begin on, what I consider, a low note. The traditional Goldenberg/Gotthelf hard boiled egg, the first real food of the evening after the symbolic ingestion of matzohs and bitter herbs, has been replaced by the Poloner egg soup, a dish of tepid salt water with pieces of chopped egg. Definitely a non-starter.

Fortunately, we got down to business each night, as in year’s past, with fried gefilte fish, a brilliant update of a classic dish. Previously, I attributed this great accomplishment to Aunt Judi herself, but, as with the seven layer cake at the end of the meal, it is store bought, the only food items not created in her kitchen. Yet, to me, it will always have Aunt Judi written all over it.

On Friday night, the meal continued with brisket in a savory gravy, herbed chicken (the exact herbs a secret), kishka (not the traditional stuffed intestine, but a more benign version), mushroom kugel, roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts, health salad (a suspicious concoction). The homemade desserts were apple strawberry crisp, chocolate chip mandelbread (my personal favorite), and chocolate fudge sandwich cookies.

Saturday night also led off with the fried gefilte fish, as I ignored the egg soup again, followed by corned beef, Aunt Judi’s Famous Meatballs, barbecue saucy chicken, spaghetti squash pudding, cous cous, vegetable salad w/lemon olive oil dressing, cole slaw, and cranberry pineapple relish. The homemade desserts were chocolate chip mandelbread (every appearance a blessing for me), zebra cookies, nut balls, date nut balls, and egg white nut cookies (far more delicious than the name conveys, featuring slivered almonds).

While Aunt Judi mastered the kitchen, as always, Uncle Stu did a formidable job in the wine cellar, offering an array of wines, red and white, that were far removed from the liquid grape jelly conventionally found on the seder table. What exquisite folks to have as in-laws!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015
A Passover seder traditionally begins with the younger attendees asking the four questions. The answers to these questions become the script for the evening. I suggest that a fifth question be added, the young ones inquiring "Why will my college tuition be so much more than Mommy’s and Daddy’s and hugely increased from Bubbe’s and Zayde’s?" While US college populations have steadily increased for decades requiring more (and presumably better) facilities, the primary cost factor appears to be a disproportionate growth in employment. Not more professors, associate professors, assistant professors and lecturers per cubic student. More administrators, many more administrators, not just a few administrators. 

According to Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions. The California State University system, distinct from University of California, currently has 23 campuses. From 1975 to 2008, its full-time faculty grew from 11,614 to 12,019, while the total number of administrators went from 3,800 to 12,183. Note that part-timers and adjuncts fill many faculty positions, and it is likely that they were hired in abundance, another scandal in itself. Public sector employees are often reminded that their better-than-average benefits make up, to some degree, for lower earnings, but some leaders of public institutions are not hurting. A study by The Chronicle of Higher Education, released last year, reported the following top five:

E. Gordon Gee, President, Ohio State University (left June 2013): $6.058 million
R. Bowen Loftin, President, Texas A&M University (left January 2014): $1.636 million
Hamid A. Shirvani, Chancellor, North Dakota University system (left January 2014): $1.311 million
Rhenu Khator, Chancellor and President, University of Houston main campus: $1.266 million
Sally K. Mason, President, University of Iowa: $1.140 million
Of course, these salaries, in many cases, are dwarfed by those of certain faculty members – football coaches (as of November 2014). 

Nick Saban, University of Alabama, $7,160,187
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State University, $5,636,145
Bob Stoops, University of Oklahoma, $5,058,333
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M University, $5,006,000
Charlie Strong, University of Texas, $5,000,270
In summary, lay down your pick and shovel and head for the lofty groves of academe, with or without your whistle.

Thursday, April 9, 2015
Except for Aunt Judi's seder meals, the Passover period is a culinary desert, fitting accompaniment to our journey into Sinai as celebrated by the holiday.  I was, therefore, heartened by the headline "The Ice Cream Sandwich Comes of Age," found on-line.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/15/dining/nyc-ice-cream-sandwich-guide.html?_r=0

It seemed to offer me new horizons for my return to eating sandwiches, next week.  However, upon examination, some of the supposed "treats" might only be an aid to dieting.  The article speaks of  "regal ube (purple yam) ice cream" at one emporium and "a roster of flavors includes novelties like edamame and foie gras" at another.  O, Ben!  O, Jerry!  Where art thou?

Friday, April 10, 2015
Today’s newspaper carries at least a couple of stories that illustrate why the term "people of faith" may be replaced by "people of fear." 
1. Christian conservatives mobilized to repeal a local statute barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/10/us/anti-bias-ordinance-falls-in-springfield-missouri-after-push-by-christian-conservatives.html?mabReward=R1&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&region=CColumn&module=Recommendation&src=rechp&WT.nav=RecEngine&_r=0
2. Ultra-Orthodox Jews are refusing to sit next to unrelated women on airplane flights.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/10/us/aboard-flights-conflicts-over-seat-assignments-and-religion.html?src=me&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Most%20Emailed&pgtype=article