Friday, August 31, 2012

Presidential Candidates

Monday, August 27, 2012
Yesterday, America’s Favorite Epidemiologist and I visited the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street. Two exhibits were of special interest to us, Destination Shanghai: The Jewish Community of Shanghai, 1936-1949, and New York Places/Jewish Spaces: Life in the City, 1700-2012. Both were a bit narrow, especially the latter which could have filled 4 of the 5 boroughs -- Staten Island has always been a little light on Yiddishkeit. The Shanghai exhibit had one film loop, whose sponsorship by the Chinese government was quite obvious when Chinese-Jewish relations were frequently extolled, and a collection of documents and photographs dealing with 10,000 or so Germans (Berliners mostly) and Austrians (Viennese mostly) who escaped Europe and luckily found sanctuary in Shanghai, even under Japanese rule. There is much more to the story than the exhibit conveyed, but it is a starting point if you know nothing of this odd chapter of our odd history.

The best part of the New York exhibit was one segment of the filmed interviews with 5 New York Jews, when 50 were probably needed to scratch the surface. This interview was with the current owners of Russ & Daughters, 179 East Houston Street, considered by many, including Calvin Trillin, to be the premier appetizing store in New York, a proxy for the world. Founded in 1914, it is now operated by a grandson of the original Mr. Russ, and his daughter. Since Jewish foods, excuse me, Homespun foods, are central to the identity of so many members of the tribe, their storytelling was important and delightful.

Grandpa Alan, why call it an appetizing store? Aren’t many of your favorite stores appetizing? The Russ & Daughters web site offers a good answer:
“‘Appetizing,’ as a noun, is a Jewish food tradition that is most typical among American Jews, and it is particularly local to New York and New Yorkers. . . . Used as a noun, ‘appetizing’ is most easily understood as ‘the foods one eats with bagels.’ Its primary components are a variety of smoked and cured salmon, homemade salads, and cream cheeses.”

After the museum, we walked to Curry Hill, aiming for DB Dhaba, 108 Lexington Avenue, our favorite Indian restaurant. Right next door, however, we noticed Singapura, 106 Lexington Avenue, a brand new restaurant, and the first Singaporean restaurant in New York that I know of. Singapore cuisine combines Chinese, Malay, Indian and Thai, a formidable combination. The attractive interior has six small booths down one side, more comfortable for 2 people than 4, and 10 two-top tables on the other side, facing an endless banquette. Abaci (abacuses) were affixed to the wall next to the booths and colorful Lotus-shaped fixtures lit the room.

We each ordered two appetizers (wait a minute, how did that change so quickly?), roti canai with vegetable curry ($5) and steamed vegetable dumplings ($5) for my young bride, and roti canai with chicken curry ($5) and Malay fried chicken ($5) for me. Everything was prepared very well and tasted very good. Roti canai is a Malaysian bread, very close in size and texture to a pancake. The curry was creamy and delicious. So, while this visit does not make it onto the Official Register, because it took place on a Sunday far north of Chinatown, we commend Singapura to your attention.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I like Gwyneth Paltrow’s looks, and, if I ever met her, I would give her a present – a baby naming book. So I had to give a look at her reputed favorite restaurants in Food and Wine magazine.
I wasn’t surprised that I had never been to any of them, including the two in New York – Babbo, 110 Waverly Place and Elio’s, 1621 Second Avenue. Two more are in cities I’ve never visited – Nashville and Marrakech. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, London (2) and Barcelona complete the list. Although her father is Homespun, none of her choices feature bagels, corned beef or gefilte fish.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave the opening address at the Republican National Convention last night. His theme was “hard truths.” He said: “Our problems are big and the solutions will not be painless. We all must share in the sacrifice.” What he failed to say is that, just as Republicans believe in trickle-down wealth, they believe in trickle-up sacrifice. 13% is too little for a very rich American to pay in income taxes. Romney preaches against the purported dangers of the US emulating Europe, while practicing tax avoidance schemes that a rich Greek or Italian would be proud of.

Since money is on my mind, I went to 69 Bayard Restaurant, 69 Bayard Street, for lunch, as I have many times before (see especially April 28, 2011). Virtually every vertical surface of this establishment is covered by dollar bills, US dollar bills, along with pesos, yuan, reals, krona, won, and other papers currencies from far away places, several layers deep at places. As seen below, there has been an unfortunate and illegal trend to scribble on the money, although it adds some color to the relentless green of US currency.

Thursday, August 30, 2012
There are several headlines I’ve been waiting to see – Rangers Win Stanley Cup – Mets Win World Series. Sadly, I’ve taken “Peace in the Middle East” off my list, because it is even more improbable than the other two. However, yesterday offered fabulous news – Severe Diet Doesn’t Prolong Life. A study which began in 1987 concluded that “the bottom line was that the [subjects] that ate less did not live any longer than those that ate normally.” I was delighted to read this as a proponent of very normal eating. There was one small detail that some might find intrusive to my reverie. The full headline was “Severe Diet Doesn’t Prolong Life, at Least in Monkeys.” And that’s the difference between most Democrats, who are heartened by this news about our evolutionary kin, and most Republicans, who know that if God wanted humans to be skinny He wouldn’t have invented potato chips.

This headline just popped up, “Yale President Says He Will Step Down.” Allow me to suggest a natural candidate for this job, fit, tanned, Yale ‘68, son of a Yale graduate, grandson of a Yale graduate, great-great grandson of a Yale graduate, born in New Haven, as a matter of fact, with diverse executive experience – the one and only George W. Bush. He was, as I recall, the last president from the Whig Party, the precursor of the newly-constituted Republican Party. It’s amazing how, in such little time, these Republicans were able to organize such a nice gathering in Florida and find two exceptional candidates – a man with a similar name to a former governor of Massachusetts, and a Midwesterner who has spent the last decade sitting on his back porch reading Ayn Rand.

I must record disappointment with one of my favorite joints, Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway, ordinarily the best choice for dim sum. Today, in addition to the 11-piece assortment ($11.95), I ordered a scallion pancake since I don’t recall ever having theirs. For some reason, I held up one finger, a polite one, to order one scallion pancake. Instead, two large, very spongy pancakes came at a cost of $9.95. First of all, the portion was out of line; I didn’t even finish one pancake. Second, the pancakes were thick, bready and bland, seeming to need maple syrup more than soy sauce. Finally, the price was outrageous. I thought at first that they charged me for two scallion pancakes, which is what they served, instead of the one I ordered and almost finished. The manager told me that I was served one scallion pancake order of two pancakes. A bad deal all the way around. It will take a few servings of their duck dumplings to restore them to my good graces.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sweet Dreams

Monday, August 20, 2012
Unlike Fareed Zakaria, I try to place my borrowings in quotation marks. Here is a gem from the business section of today’s New York Times:

“Nine years ago the candy company Just Born purchased Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, the Philadelphia candy bar introduced in 1917 as a World War I ration, with plans to transform what had been a popular regional treat into a national brand. A new wrapper introduced in 2004 not only significantly changed the logo and color scheme, but also removed the historically prominent ‘Goldenberg’s,’ which was thought to sound too homespun for a national player.”

Got that? Homespun, as in “Do you have any Homespun rye bread left?” Or, “Chelsea Clinton and Caroline Kennedy both married Homespun men.” Admittedly, I have a special interest in this usage because I am Homespun and an artificial Goldenberg as well (see July 16, 2012). However, if there is a Euphemism Hall of Fame, this makes it on the first ballot.

Basketball superstar LeBron James has joined my “Algebra Rocks” campaign contra Professor Andrew Hacker (see July 30, 2012). The sports section of today’s New York Times reports that “he [James, not Hacker] would like to play at the Rio Games in 2016. James said he had ‘done the math, and I’ll be 31.’” Let X = LeBron James’s age at the next Summer Olympics . . .

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Usually children are admonished not to play with their food. However, some adults may also make a mockery of the holy rite of ingestion. Rudi Gurvich, a good person although far too skinny, sent me this article identifying allegedly the world’s most expensive dishes:

Not surprisingly, two of the six are found in Dubai, apparently aiming to wrest the crown of vulgarity from Donald Trump. 3,676 dirhams, $1,000.74, gets you the Golden Phoenix Cupcake that includes Italian chocolate, 23-carat edible gold sheets, organic strawberries and lots of edible gold dusting. You can wash that down with the “27.321” cocktail, costing 27,321 dirhams, $7,437.73. This libation is made from “55-year-old Macallan single malt natural colour whisky from Moray, Scotland, dried fruit bitters, homemade passion fruit sugar, and served in an 18-carat gold glass.”

I am unhappily surprised by the location of the next two items, the Frrrozen Haute Chocolate, at $18,713, and Le Burger Extravagant, a mere $293, served at Serendipity 3, 225 East 60th Street, Manhattan. I must confess that, when I returned to New York in 1980 from my ill-fated sojourn to the Left Coast, I went to Serendipity Sunday-after-Sunday for many months, and ordered the same thing – a frozen hot chocolate and a cheeseburger. At the time, Serendipity’s cheeseburger was one of the most expensive around, but I don’t think the whole meal cost more than $10 including a generous tip. Back then the frozen hot chocolate was not “adorned with 5g of edible 23-carat gold and infused with gold flakes,” nor was the hamburger made with “Japanese waygu beef, infused with 10-herb white truffle butter, seasoned with Alderwood smoked pacific sea salt, topped with cheddar cheese, shaved black truffles and a fried quail egg served on a white truffle-buttered Campagna roll and finished with a blini, crème fraiche and Kaluga golden caviar.”

More than a crosstown bus is needed to enjoy Sushi Del Oriente, “nigiri sushi wrapped in 24-carat gold leaves and sprinkled with five 0.20-carat African diamonds,” at 85,727.59 Philippine pesos, $2,029.92. It is only available as part of a catered meal by Karat Chef of Manila. You must fly east (from New York, at least) to London’s Kai Mayfair, 65 South Audley Street, which has one Michelin star and has been voted the best Chinese restaurant in London by Zagat’s readership. It offers Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup for £108, $169.68, containing “shark’s fin, abalone, Japanese flower mushroom, sea cucumber, dried scallops, chicken, Hunan ham, pork and ginseng.” As with most of these other treats, remember to order in advance.

On the other hand, Pho 88, 51 Bayard Street (April 18, 2011, January 31, 2012), did not require any advance notice for its beef with vegetable salad and peanuts costing 34 dirhams. In fact, I didn’t even need a reservation for this pleasant Vietnamese restaurant. I thought, though, that for 34 dirhams the portion could have been larger.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
My dear niece Shoshana sent me this link last night, the only nice thing to happen while I sat in the stands at CitiField enduring another Mets loss. This is a creative update on that traditional Homespun dish, gefilte fish. Please try it and invite me over to sample the results.

Another television show that I’ve never seen, Made in Jersey, was setting up shop on the courthouse steps when I arrived this morning. It seems to be a lawyer show from the ads I have seen promoting it. At 11:20, I went downstairs to get coffee from the little man in the cart and found them filming lawyers and cops who looked like lawyers and cops. I waited around a bit, not just to give them a chance to discover me, but to see if the young actress in the towering high heels could stand relatively still on the steps without toppling over.

Chatham Sq Restaurant, 6 Chatham Square (March 9, 2010), was no more than 10% full at lunch time, but felt and sounded busy. I skipped the dim sum, although it looked good on the one cart circulating around the very-decorated room. Instead, I ordered “Hong Kong style” chow fun with curry flavor ($9.95). While my geography is less than perfect, the huge portion of noodles, shrimp, slivers of two kinds of meat, egg, purple onion, scallions, green pepper, bean sprouts and a sprinkle of sesame seeds is called “Singapore style” everywhere else it is served in Chinatown. The curry flavor was a little strange. It seemed absent for the first few minutes of ingestion, but then grew and remained throughout my walk to the courtroom at 80 Centre Street, where I have a standing Wednesday afternoon assignment. I think I would have preferred the sensation in reverse order.

The portion was so large that three normal human beings could have shared it for lunch. I myself ate only half and, for the first time in this 32-month (ad)venture, I asked to have the remainder packed to go. When I got to the courtroom, I donated the more-than-ample remaining portion to a colleague who works with me each Wednesday.

Thursday, August 23, 2012
I was fortunate to have Jay Stanley for company at lunch today. Jay, the oldest of Charlotte & John Stanley’s three wonderful children, and himself now the father of three, lives in the greater Washington, DC area. His work for the ACLU brings him to New York periodically and we strive to spend a little time together on those occasions. His father, from a proper Anglican household, taken from us much too early, grew up in Rye, New York, went to prep school, Kenyon College in Ohio and Cambridge University before arriving at Cornell University. There he had the ___________ luck (adjective) to wind up with a Jewish kid from public schools in Brooklyn, Stuyvesant High School and CCNY, who took his first airplane ride just weeks before moving in with John at 106 Harvard Place, Ithaca, New York, a real dump. The mixture was often volatile, sometimes incendiary, but, in the long run, produced some of the best moments of my life.

Jay and I went to Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, a Chinatown showplace. Jay is a serious tri-athlete these days after a distinguished career as a teen-aged couch potato. But, together, we could not reach $20 in food, the threshold for a discount coupon that I’ve been holding onto for months. We ate well and heartily, even if we had to pay full price, as little as it was.

Friday, August 24, 2012
Many of us, as we grow older, consider relocating in order to simplify our lives, economize, escape harsh weather and/or settle in safe and friendly surroundings. If this is on your mind, please consider Lubbock, Texas. It’s not just the demographics and geography that should attract you to Lubbock, but the quality of its public servants, as well. County Judge Tom Head just had this to say about the prospective reelection of President Obama on the local Fox 34 News.

“He’s going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the U.N., and what is going to happen when that happens? I’m thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we’re not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we’re talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy. Now what’s going to happen if we do that, if the public decides to do that? He’s going to send in U.N. troops. I don’t want ‘em in Lubbock County. OK. So I’m going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say ‘you’re not coming in here.’”

Lubbock is served by the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport. American Eagle, Southwest and United Airlines service Lubbock, with flights to and from Dallas, Austin, Las Vegas, Denver and Houston. I suppose Las Vegas warrants the international designation. There is no Amtrak service, but the West Texas and Lubbock Railway operates 107 miles of the former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, hauling fertilizer, construction aggregates, grain, cotton, chemicals, peanuts and plastics. The Greyhound Bus Terminal is at 801 Broadway, downtown.

Visit Lubbock, the local tourist board, uses the slogan "The Texas you've always dreamed of."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mr. 13%

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The Upper West Side’s Power Couple took a road trip for the last few days visiting friends and family in New England. Since several lovely meals were taken in people’s homes, I found myself eating far more salad than usual, leaving me with little to report on. However, on the four-hour drive down from a sylvan lakeside cottage near Harrisville, New Hampshire, I had a revelation. I know how the Republicans can win the presidential election and, since they deserve a chance to resume dismantling American society, I offer this guidance.

Don’t nominate anyone for president. Obama can’t win when compared to nobody. Left and right disdain this Socialist, Muslim tool of Wall Street, leading from behind in world affairs while ruthlessly killing American citizens and innocent civilians by the reckless dispatch of drones, who has a degree from Harvard and a birth certificate from who-knows-where. If the American people don’t have anyone to compare to Obama, they will not reelect him. Dear Republicans, you have come close to not nominating anyone by allowing Mitt Romney to become your leading candidate for the presidential nomination. He believes in nothing and promises no more. However, he exists and thereby has characteristics that will turn off some voters. He is very rich and that might bother the few of us who are not also very rich. He paid “at least 13 percent” in taxes, which might indicate his inability to master our economic system by not paying any taxes at all. He speaks French.

And finally, he is Mormon. Now, I’m the last one to discriminate on religious grounds even if some claim that Mormonism is 19th Century Scientology. As to the underwear, better than a thong. Avoiding Coke and coffee just promises a calm demeanor. Polygamy? One is more than enough. But, did you know that traditionally Mormons referred to all non-believers as Gentiles? That’s it. I’m not voting for anyone who calls me a Goy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Someone special is two years old today.

The restaurant review in the New York Times today is for Biang!, in Flushing, one subway stop beyond CitiField, the home of the Mets. The reviewer awards one star to this “cleaner, brighter and more modern offshoot” of Xi’an Famous Foods, which started in Flushing. Since I was not going to ride the subway for 50 minutes or so one-way in my one-hour lunchtime, I went instead to Xi’an Famous Foods at 67 Bayard Street, one of my local favorites. On my last visit, with Art Spar, a health inspector entered just as we did, and, while she eventually was satisfied with her inspection, her presence sufficiently disrupted the operation so that we never got anything to eat. No problem today as I ordered spicy cumin lamb noodles ($7), a wonderful dish. The portion was modest, but the flavors are so strong that I came away satisfied. Reminder, when going to Xi’an Famous Foods do not wear light-colored clothing, because most of the sauces are reddish-brown and seek a resting place on textiles.

Thursday, August 16, 2012
It is the middle of a notably hot summer and I naturally want to focus on ice hockey. Not the game played on the rink, but the business of professional ice hockey, the National Hockey League. This comes to mind because of the poor progress of the NHL’s labor-management negotiations as a new season approaches. The league, the owners, proposes that the players take a 24% pay cut, amounting to $450 million annually. The players’ union counter with an offer of a more gentle decline in player salaries over three years, not, as you might expect, an insistence on even higher salaries. The players are willing to cooperate, at least to some degree, because several teams are not economically viable, unable to fill their 18-20,000 seats with any regularity. Of course, team finances, unlike attendance figures, are hidden from the public, so the quality of management cannot be examined with the attention to detail given to the team on the ice. In fact, some of the financially struggling teams have been and remain competitive athletically, even while the owners go around asking for the players and/or the taxpayers to support them.

In other words, these alleged capitalists want nothing to do with classical competition, the purported lifeblood of capitalism. They are another example of “socialism for the rich,” in the apt phrase of John Kenneth Galbraith. While I cannot imagine too many Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, I believe that we have reached the tipping point for NHL teams in the United States, 24 at present of the 30 total. But, asking an owner to fold his professional sports team is unthinkable, although Tower Records and Pan Am and Circuit City and S. Klein and Nedick’s and Walden Books and Digital Equipment Corporation and Davega and ComputerLand and the Automat are all history, succumbing to the pressures of the marketplace (and stinking management in some cases). However, nine NHL teams averaged under 90% home attendance last year, all in the US, five in the Sun Belt, a thoroughly unnatural setting for ice hockey, and likely candidates for corporate welfare. Play on the ice is not the source of all these woes. The New Jersey Devils (Hiss! Boo!) went to the Stanley Cup championship and yet had regular season attendance of 87.4%, 24th of 30 in numbers.

Part of the problem is Commissioner Gary Bettman, who indulges the worst instincts of the owners having presided over two lockouts during his tenure. What the sport needs is a tough manager, unafraid to place efficiency and profits first, willing to allow the weak to sink and the strong to soar, who will not hesitate to outsource to anywhere, even Canada. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mitt Romney.

Friday, August 10, 2012

News Notes

Monday, August 6, 2012
The wit and wisdom of Jeff Boss reappeared on the fence at the
construction site on Chambers Street, between Church Street and
Broadway. It is one of his favorite spots for educating the general
public, as you may observe from the tattered undercoating of his old
posters beneath the current display, which I recorded this morning. He
has been familiar to me, and certainly other New York pedestrians, for
at least the last decade.

Jeff’s stock-in-trade is a wonderfully baroque conspiracy theory
concerning 9/11. Here is the gist of his position as copied from his
web site
"I Witnessed a family member my sister in law, high up in the NSA
(National Security Agency) planning the 911 attack. She was talking
about helping Ramsi Yousef (responsible for the 93 bombing at the
World Trade Center) call his uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed(considered
the mastermind of the 911 attack) from the NSA secret prison in
Alexandria, VA and she was talking about flying planes into buildings."

Jeff’s desire to expose the truth has led him into running for
president, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the New Jersey
governorship and state senate, with only a few moral victories to show
for it. Of course, his lack of electoral success, he claims, resulted
from the active intervention of the NSA in his various election
efforts. "I have a list of over 100,000+ people who have told me that
when I campaign to them and give them my literature, that the NSA
comes to them right afterwards and threatens to kill them and their
families if they speak up." The NSA has taken other extraordinary
steps to rein Jeff in. "I currently have NSA crews on my floor, above
me, and most of the employees of my building, and residents have been
recruited by the NSA to help the NSA cover up them orchestrating the
911 attack." Jeff has accused them of bugging his car and home, and
even seeking his termination with extreme prejudice. "NSA is putting
devices to give off microwave radiation in my car and through the
walls of my apartment to kill me."

On the other hand, according to Jeff, the NSA has a therapeutic side:

If you wonder why this material appears in this blog, usually more
devoted to epicurean matters than espionage, I found this assertion on
another of Jeff’s web sites: "I CURRENTLY HAVE NUMEROUS CHEFS AND
POISONING THEIR FOOD." Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Even without a stomach pump handy, I marched right into Amazing 66
Restaurant, 66 Mott Street, which I last visited on February 2, 2010.
I had Amoy mei fun then; today, 2 BBQ Honey Quail @ $3.50 each
(minimum order 2). They were very good, lightly breaded and
deep-fried, but not greasy. However, a small bowl of white rice at
$1.25 is, how we say, a bad deal. The restaurant is quite attractive
by local standards and efficiently operated, so maybe I paid more for
intangibles than rice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012
The death of Marvin Hamlisch, 68-years old, was announced this
morning. He may have been a singular sensation in winning Oscars,
Emmys, Grammys and a Tony for his musical accomplishments, but my
appreciation of his music was always influenced by our personal
connection. Marvin’s mother worked for a couple in the fur business in
Vienna before WWII. All of them survived the ministrations of some
Western European Christians, and, in the late 1960s, the couple and
their lovely daughter lived in Los Angeles, as did Marvin,
newly-graduated from Queens College and Juilliard, and already working
on film music. His mother, when visiting from New York, would see her
old friends and suggest a liaison (shiddach) between their children,
since Marvin seemed to have more success meeting producers than cuties
back then. As I understood, Marvin and the statuesque young woman had
a date or two, but, in spite of their shared background, just did not
hit it off. In 1971, two years before Marvin won three Oscars on the
same evening (The Sting and The Way We Were), I met and became
enchanted by that very same woman. Since the setting for these events
was Los Angeles, marriage and divorce followed, even while Marvin went
on to date all sorts of lovelies,win many awards and make a lot of
money. Were there moments subsequently when I cursed Marvin’s early
lack of animal magnetism/sex appeal/chemistry?

Fruit note: Bing cherries are everywhere in Chinatown at 2 lbs. for
$3. However, shrewd shopping along Canal Street turns up 3 lbs. for $4
or even 2 lbs. for $2.50. Of course, you must buy the minimum weight
and picking is not allowed. Should you try to sample one cherry, 25
cents will be demanded of you.

Just in from our London desk at 3 PM, New York time – "Rafalca Does
Not Advance in Dressage"
In a quote that is unlikely to be repeated on any Fox News broadcast,
the rider of the show horse 1/3 owned by Mitt Romney’s wife said, "I’m
really happy with her piaffes."

Thursday, August 9, 2012
When I arrived for work this morning, a still photography crew was
already in place at the top of the courthouse steps. They had a
couple of large reflectors to optimize the light, but only a few
people sitting and waiting for the “star” photographer unlike the
hordes swarming around a video shoot of any flavor. In the absence of
any other signs of life, I went upstairs to my desk. At lunchtime, I
walked out the front door of the courthouse to continue my
investigation of the still photo shoot that took all morning to
complete. The crew was closing down and I learned that they had been
occupied with an AT&T ad for a tablet. Since I had been either too
early or too late for the actual posing, I don't know whether
beautiful men, women and/or animals were used, but I'll certainly be
able to recognize the steps when they appear in print.

I went to Noodle Village, 13 Mott Street, and, by coincidence, I
ordered beef chow fun as I had over two years ago (February 16, 2010).
The price increased from $7.95 to $8.75 and the dish was better
prepared this time. The portion was large and the amount of beef was
very generous, but it was still bland tasting. It needed a couple of
hits of soy sauce to give it character. Maybe that's what Mitt needs?

Friday, August 3, 2012

It All Adds Up

Monday, July 30, 2012
Andrew Hacker’s essay in the Sunday Times,, contains so many errors of fact and logic that I have concluded that Professor Hacker is just having fun and doesn’t believe a word of it. After all, the Hacker I studied with decades ago, and have read frequently since, usually supported his provocative opinions with careful reasoning and accurate data. Yesterday, he casually dismissed the value of teaching algebra to high school and college students, mathematics majors aside, because it is hard and not useful. While he once told his graduate students that he wrote “How We Elect A President,” for Boy’s Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America, in order to buy a color television set in the early 1960s, I cannot suggest what he sought with this effort.

It turns out that I am well-qualified to comment on Professor Hacker’s comments because he was instrumental in deflecting me from an academic career, which resulted for a couple of years thereafter in my teaching algebra. The latter experience confirmed for me that algebra is hard for many students. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle for some students was the first step in symbolic logic, let X =. I’m still not sure, after all these decades, whether the inability of some students to attach a symbol to the unknown resulted from a lack of imagination, concentration or empathy. In fact, my biggest problem as an algebra teacher was the ease with which I took to algebra myself as a student. “Let X = the train leaving from Chicago.” “Sure.” “Let X = the apples in the shopping cart.” “OK.” “Let X = the boys waiting on line for the 6 o’clock show.” “Gotcha.” It was very hard for me to convey to others what to me was quite obvious. So, I grant that algebra can be hard.

Not useful, dead wrong. The first steps in my business career, after my teaching episode, were in commercial computer programming which could not exist without algebra. Then, when I went into managing things instead of doing things, estimates, schedules, budgets all rested on manipulating unknowns, organizing them into constructs that might insulate us, to some degree, from the randomness of the Universe. Even when quantification is not at issue, we often seek an X factor to explain behavior.

Professor Hacker claims that “[m]aking mathematics mandatory prevents us from discovering and developing young talent.” I think quite the opposite. An ability to put one’s figurative arms around the unknown, or at least be willing to try, may be the common thread of talent in almost any area of human endeavor.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012
One mystery is solved. I ate at Ann’s BBQ, on the second floor at 1 East Broadway, the site with the most identities in Chinatown. Today, the door on the second floor was wide open and the mild temperatures did not require airconditioned relief. Except for the light oak floor, all the furniture, 6 rectangular tables and one round table, and paneling are dark wood. One long wall is covered with mirrors set in arched wood frames. The only other wall decorations were posters for drinks and desserts. The four employees behind a bar/counter at the rear of the restaurant had very little to do; only two young Chinese men sat at the bar, but they were schmoozing not eating.

The menu lists meats, vegetables, and seafood in modestly-priced groups, that were probably grilled and served on skewers. I ordered from the casual snacks section, fried chicken ($2.50) and shrimp w. salt & pepper ($3.50). The chicken were deep-fried, breaded discs (8) with ketchup on the side, but the shrimp were real, heads-on, cooked in the shell (6). Additionally, I ordered Taiwanese shaved ice, which I have not seen anywhere else locally after its successful introduction last summer (July 28, 2011). Today’s ice was more coarsely chopped than shaved and served in a large bowl with a choice of three toppings; I picked coconut, pineapple and watermelon ($3.75). The fruit was both fresh and candied. The dish was colorful, but not very interesting, like so much modern entertainment.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Thanks to my brother for referring me to this article on the backlash to Hava Nagila, that musical staple of Jewish festivities.

Thursday, August 2, 2012
I feel so much safer now that Mitt Romney has returned to the United States. We all know that Mitt and his hearty five sons have always put themselves forward in the difficult battles of protecting freedom and preserving the American Way. After all, it was Mitt’s bravery in downtown France during la guerre du Viêt Nam that inspired his sons to keep physically fit by playing tennis and skiing throughout the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, our country is much more secure with Mitt here where what he says is ignored by domestic friend and foe alike, rather than overseas where the locals might pay heed to the words of the possible next president of the United States. Our global leadership role is best served by limiting Mitt to forays in the forests of Michigan, you know the place with the special trees.

Chinatown seems to be especially taken with the Olympics. The flat-panel television sets that seem omnipresent in local restaurants have abandoned for the time being strange music videos and switched to coverage of various athletic events. This may result from an interest in synchronized swimming previously unmet by the normal broadcast schedule, or possibly the strong showing that China has made so far in the medal count, according to the New York Times sport section, the only reporting you can trust. In any case, as I am devoted to spending no more time watching the Olympics than I do watching the Academy Awards or the Miss America Pageant, I face a challenge at lunchtime thse days. Note that, at least, the Academy Awards and Miss America don't have a Munich in their closet. I can’t stay away from a joint merely because it is showing the Olympics, because this would severely limit my options. Instead, I aim for a seat immediately beneath the screen with my back towards it. With the sound usually off, which is not the case with the strange music videos, I can turn to my food and crossword puzzle without interference from the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.