Friday, December 27, 2013

That's (Not) Entertainment

Monday, December 23, 2013
Those of us around here are still marveling at this weekend’s weather.  Saturday, a record high of 64°, topped by Sunday at 71°.  The start of Winter, and the shortest day of the year, acting like Spring.  It was unsettling.

The weather started returning to normal on this very quiet day starting a very quiet week in the dispensing of justice business.  Befittingly, I had a simple lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street.  However, I’ll take the time now to extol one feature of Wo Hop that I have ignored in describing my myriad past visits, that is, the mustard.  Along with tea (in a glass) and water, your Wo Hop waiter invariably puts down a small dish of mustard, real hot mustard.  More than a 1/4" dab will cause the normal adult human being to choke, gasping for air and cool relief, which means that a smaller amount adds a welcome kick to most dishes, especially the classic, Chinatown Cantonese food Wo Hop typically serves.  Unlike some people, I’m not ordinarily devoted to very hot food, such as vindaloo curry.  But, some Wo Hop mustard in a bowl of won ton soup or on a mound of shrimp fried rice memorably elevates the taste sensation.  Unfortunately, those little plastic packages of mustard packed in with your normal Chinese takeout food lack the necessary pungency, and often appear to be left over from a previous dynasty.  I haven’t inquired of the provenance of Wo Hop’s mustard, whether mixed on the premises or delivered in 55 gallon drums from across the Pacific or maybe just from across the East River.

Speaking of geography, the New York Times has a fascinating quiz on the geographic differences in American speech and vocabulary.  In other words, where do you talk like.  After answering the 25 questions, it identified me as a New Yorker (Surprise! Surprise!), by vocabulary and pronunciation.  For instance:
“Do you pronounce cot and caught the same?”
“What do you call the thing from which you might drink water in a school?  Bubbler, water bubbler, drinking fountain, water fountain, other.”
Try it and see it if you are where you belong.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Today, and next Tuesday, are days which the State of New York encourages us to stay away from our workplaces, using vacation days.  I am complying and getting things done – a haircut late morning and then a visit to the New York Public Library’s performing arts branch, on the grounds of Lincoln Center, to see their exhibition of Al Hirschfeld’s work.  It is a comprehensive look at his career, full of familiar and unfamiliar delights.  However, I regret not visiting it sooner, in order to give myself time to make successive visits, and, to urge you to get over there before the January 4th closing.  I’m also motivated to take stock of my Hirschfeld holdings, not only my handful of drawings, but the books, posters, postage stamps and the like that I have collected over the decades, and then figure out what to do with them.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Weeks ago, we bought tickets for Domesticated, a new play at Lincoln Center, to help fill these nights where we will not be trimming trees, wrapping packages or guiding sleighs to welcoming chimneys.  Last night, we strolled the three blocks from Palazzo di Gotthelf to Lincoln Center with plenty of time to spare to make the 8 o’clock curtain.  However, we were surprised to find the theater’s lobby empty when we arrived save two ushers and one bartender.  Well, I jocularly said, everybody must be home trimming trees, wrapping packages or guiding sleighs to welcoming chimneys.  Not really.  Sometime in the recent past, theater management decided to push up the curtain time to 7 o’clock to accommodate the audience’s holiday schedule.  Apparently, every other ticket holder was made aware of this change, probably to avoid the embarrassment of a lobby full of grumbling Westchesterites or Long Islanders showing up at the wrong hour which had recently been the right hour.  Somehow, there seems to have been a communications dead spot in the immediate vicinity of Lincoln Center, and we proceeded innocently at the appointed hour, only to find that it was the disappointed hour.  The man at the box office gave us excellent seats for an upcoming performance with a straight face, at least in our presence.

I must admit that, up until this morning, I was unconcerned about the earnings of professional equestrians.  While there is an abundance of information on the industry/careers/opportunities in this field (see e.g., ), actual income data is sketchy.  One web site,, says that the average annual salary is currently $62,000.  Of course, there are several different jobs for a professional equestrian.  You might be a horse trainer, a riding instructor, a barn manager or a show jumper, which apparently is where the big money is.  According to the May 2, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine, in 2010, McLain Ward earned $1,280,788, the top among men, and Laura Kraut, the top among women at $627,907.  Of course, they were the best and I’m worried about the also-rans, or maybe appropriately called the also-jumped.

It’s a brief article in today’s newspaper that stirred my interest.  I learned that Georgina Bloomberg and Ramiro Quintana had a baby boy.  Ms. Bloomberg is Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s daughter, and she and Mr. Quintana are identified as professional equestrians.  They are not married.  So, I have to conclude that, as professional equestrians, they could neither afford the $35 fee for a New York City marriage license, nor even $13.49 at Walgreen’s for a dozen Kimono Textured Lubricated Latex Condoms.  Therefore, in the spirit of the season, please join me in a fund-raising effort for the young couple.  Let’s try to make sure that their child is raised in a financially-sound household with both parents present and married, able to expand their family by design, not chance.

Thursday, December 26, 2013
So, how did we like American Hustle?  Let me explain to you.  When we decided to go to a movie on Christmas Day, we knew that this wasn't the most original idea and we could expect large crowds with the same thought.  Therefore, this past Sunday without leaving home, I chose to buy tickets in advance from Fandango, assuring us that we would have seats for the 3:50 show, joined by Jill and Steve, our intrepid traveling companions.  When I presented the computer-printed certificate representing four admissions at the theater yesterday, the scanner rejected it.  When I handed the certificate to the lady at the customer service desk – this is a big establishment – she said, "Oh, this is for Sunday."  "No, no.  I got it on the computer on Sunday, for today."  Well, yes and no.  I went on line and paid on Sunday, asking for tickets for Wednesday.  The computer apparently had other plans.  Of course, that showing of American Hustle and every other reasonable alternative for hours afterwards were completely sold out.  Without an actual ticket, not some stupid certificate, no one was getting in.  The lady gave me four passes to be traded for tickets any time in the next two years.  So, that’s how we liked American Hustle.

To summarize the past two days, the message apparently from on high is for my young bride and I to amuse ourselves over this holiday.

I’m at work today and I just received any interesting e-mail message from Trip Advisor (, a web site that I use when planning travel, especially to unfamiliar places.  They’ve come up with some interesting lists from churning the many millions of submissions that they’ve received, and I love lists.  The top 10 cities visited this year are, in order, London, Rome, Paris, New York, Las Vegas, Barcelona, Orlando, Milan, Florence, and Bangkok, based on almost 460,000 London reviews to over 115,000 for Bangkok.  I’ve been to 8 of the 10.  And you?

Friday, December 27, 2013
My work day was enhanced by a visit from Kaylah M., a ninth-grader whom I met when conferring with Sonia Sotomayor at City College.  Kaylah is interested in a legal career and, even though things are very quiet around here in this holiday period, she wanted to get an introductory look at our court system.  We walked around, finding a few folk to talk to, and then went over to 100 Centre Street to see some criminal arraignments.  I viewed this time as an investment.  If I need a lawyer in the future, my decrepit contemporaries will probably not have the energy to pull my chestnuts out of the fire, no less rise from their seats.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Starting Somewhere

Monday, December 16, 2013
Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, has been shooting lava and ash into the sky over this weekend.   The airport in Catania, Sicily, where we departed from 2 months ago, is temporarily shut. As you may recall, my ordinary boldness disappeared about halfway up the volcano, and I spent several hours in the parking lot while those intrepid explorers Jill and Steve, guided by America’s Favorite Epidemiologist, scaled the heights.  I wonder if this is the volcano’s delayed anthropomorphic reaction to my slight.

On the other hand, if want an eruption, how about the academic boycott of Israeli universities just voted by the American Studies Association, which “[a]s an organization with a longstanding commitment to social justice, the ASA has a responsibility to take a position on one of the leading social justice and human rights issues of our time.”  This is the first academic boycott ever undertaken by the association, whose president, Curtis Marez, an associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, San Diego, said to the New York Times that “one has to start somewhere.”

By chance, the NSA spying program captured, in addition to the communications of senior European Union officials, Israeli government leaders, African heads of state and their family members, officials of United Nations and international aid organizations, officials overseeing oil and finance ministries, energy companies, and others, the ASA’s policy planning session leading up to the boycott resolution.  While the speakers are unidentified, the transcript indicates that there were at least four participants, and the first male is thought to be Marez, the group’s president.

Female 1: “It’s time that we take our commitment to social justice seriously considering the terrible state of human rights throughout the world.”
Male 1: “Right, we have to start somewhere.”
Female 2: “One party political systems are invariably oppressive.”
Male 1: “Right, we have to start somewhere.”
Female 2: “Only a small number of regimes proclaim themselves to be one party, notably China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea.  That’s quite a collection.”
Male 1: “Right, we have to start somewhere.”
Male 2: “Imprisonment so often entails human rights violations.  I think that we should look at incarceration rates.”
Female 1: “I have it here from the International Centre for Prison Studies, a British group.  First, would you believe, is the US.  The next few, you’d never guess – Seychelles, St. Kitts & Nevis, the US Virgin Islands.  Sadly, Cuba comes next.”
Male 1: “Right, we have to start somewhere.”
Male 2: “Actually, I think capital punishment is the ultimate human rights violation.  Amnesty International keeps track of that.  The top offenders make an even stranger collection – China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and us, I mean the US”
Male 1: “Right, we have to start somewhere.”
Female 1: “It seems to me that there’s a natural choice when you read the newspapers.”
Female 2: “Syria, gassing its own people?”
Several voices at once: “No, Israel!”
Male 1: “Right, we have to start somewhere.”
[Chatter ensued.]

Tuesday, December 17, 2013
I thought I would try Division 31 Restaurant, to see if they finally are serving lunch on a plate, not in a hot pot.  No luck.  Worse luck possibly is the fate of Gold River Malaysian Cuisine, just a few doors down from Division 31.  Last week, I had a first-rate meal there and, finding Division 31 inhospitable, I thought to extend my examination of the menu at Gold River.  However, it was closed; the aluminum gate firmly pulled down over the storefront.  Nothing indicated its fate, and I hope this was only a momentary disruption in its new life.  For lunch, I joined hundreds of rollicking Chinese folk at 88 Palace, 88 East Broadway (May 21, 2010), for dim sum Hong Kong style.  $10 got me shrimp dumplings (4), shu mai (4), pork and vegetable dumplings (3), a plate of sticky rice and 3 crescent-shaped, fried dumplings containing something pleasantly obscure, and good, hot tea.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
The Boyz Club met for lunch today at Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway.  We ordered one dim sum platter for each person (11 different pieces for $12), and extra plates of duck dumplings, steamed roast pork dumplings, spinach dumplings, and fried shrimp balls, about $4 each.  One interesting thing about Dim Sum Go Go, in contrast to its popularity and high Michelin rating, is its remoteness from the myriad of subway lines in downtown Manhattan.  Maybe that’s a good thing to keep the crowds manageable.  Check your map before heading out.  Let me remind you though, don’t order the scallion pancake.

Thursday, December 19, 2013
One more day with my mouth open, not saying a thing.  It is supposed to be the last session of my Magnus Dentus Opus, although the need for some post-impartum adjustments may be inevitable.  After all, I’ve paid a lot for this new grimace.
Friday, December 20, 2013
After my three hour session yesterday, I returned to work with new teeth, an unfamiliar bite and sore gums.  I hope that the teeth remain, I grow accustomed to the bite and the pain wears off.  For the rest of the day, I am sticking to simple, soft foods, fried rice at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, for lunch.  Mind you, that’s not in the way of a compromise.  Wo Hop’s fried rice (I often mix and match ingredients, today beef and shrimp) is probably the best fried rice in Chinatown, and served in large portions.  The only thing wrong with that is that you can’t reasonably order fried rice as a complement to another dish when eating alone, unless you don’t mind leaving over a lot of food, which simply is not my style.

Those of you who live around here, or just about anywhere in the Northeast, know that precipitation in the form of snow or rain has been the prevailing weather pattern for the last couple of weeks, combined with cold temperatures.  So, I’m stuck trying to explain what I have observed during this period.  Many of the racks in New York’s bike sharing program have loads of empty slots, presumably meaning that the bikes are in use.  For instance, this morning, admittedly a bit milder than recent days, around 9 AM, I counted seven bicycles in the rack on Reade Street, east of Broadway, which has 40 slots. Later, near 11 AM, the bike rack directly in front of the courthouse on Centre Street, just below Worth Street, had 24 bikes and 19 empty slots.  Where have all the bicycles gone?  Have they flown south for the winter?  Are Century Village and Pembroke Pines in Florida as full of blue bikes as blue-haired ladies from New York?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Is Your Gun Housebroken?

Monday, December 9, 2013
If I were only devoted to sports, this weekend would have been a disaster. The Rangers lost two games back-to-back at home to traditional rivals. Then, the Giants flew all the way out to San Diego, California and forgot how to play football once they arrived there. Fortunately, there were other activities that provided sufficient enjoyment to rescue the weekend. Saturday morning, our synagogue welcomed new members; there was a lovely birthday party for Dr. Roger P. on Saturday night. Sunday morning, we heard Mel Scult, that formidable scholar, discuss his new biography of Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism. Afterwards, we traveled to Shop-Rite in Englewood, New Jersey to refill the refrigerator and pantry depleted by Thanksgiving and Hanukkah celebrations. In fact, with the extremely early coming and going of Hanukkah, historically unprecedented it seems, my holiday bustling about is done. Of course, I will not ignore a bargain, as I found at the New York Public Library shop on Friday, rebuilding my inventory for next year’s gift giving. However, I don’t yet have a sense of urgency about being ready for the first candle on Tuesday night, December 16, 2014. 
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Just as our modern society recognizes certain differences between men and women, straights and gays, innies and outies, there is a gulf between pet people and the rest of us that sometimes bewilders me. Today’s New York Law Journal, for instance, describes the contest by a divorcing couple over custody of their 2 ½-year old miniature dachshund. A New York County judge ruled that the custody determination should depart from precedents which either simply rejected treating a pet as one would a child in a custody battle or automatically considering a pet as personal property, chattel in lawyer lingo. For better or worse, the methodology laid out by the judge went untested because the parties reached an agreement before the judge did. 
I’m not completely insensitive to the affection and feeling of companionship one might have for a pet, some pets at least. However, having worked in divorce court (officially – a matrimonial part of Supreme Court) for over three years, I’ve seen how warring couples can invest animate and inanimate objects with global significance, warranting a scorched-earth policy, if necessary, to effect JUSTICE. A sofa will remain unchanged if it is the object of such a controversy. However, I am certain that Junior would suffer under those circumstances and maybe Fido would as well.
For a short time in the spring of this year, 21 Division Street was home to CM Malaysian Restaurant (April 3, 2013). It closed quickly and the site was empty until recently when Gold River Malaysian Cuisine opened, totally renovated with a simple, undistinguished interior. The food, on the other hand, quite distinguishes itself. I started, as I invariably do in a Malaysian restaurant, with roti canai ($3.50), the Indian pancake with curry dipping sauce. The pancake was a little crumbly, hard to fold without making a mess. However, the sauce had a real tang and contained a few pieces of beef, not just chunks of potato. I chose beef rendang over rice from over 30 lunch specials, all at $6. There was a generous amount of rice and highly-spiced beef. They could have borrowed the title spicy & tingly beef from Xi’An Famous Foods without apology. In addition to the lunch specials, predominantly familiar Chinese dishes, the menu includes Thai and Malay items, such as Hainanese chicken, mee Siam and pad Thai, and more obscure dishes. My devotion to West New Malaysia Restaurant, in the arcade between the Bowery and Elizabeth Street, will surely be tested by future visits to Gold River.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
As a kid, I had a very realistic cap pistol. It looked like a Colt .45, all shiny chrome. My attraction to firearms ended about then. Possibly a bigger divide exists between gun people and the rest of us than between pet people and non-pet people, although standing on the outside in both instances, I detect a common need for reassurance and personality enhancement in many of those who grasp for animals and guns. Maybe the best (worst) expression of the emotional neediness of many gun people is the history of gun control legislation in the year since the murder of schoolchildren in Newtown, CT. The New York Times reviewed the approximately 1,500 bills dealing with guns introduced in state legislatures in this period. 
It found that 109 have become law throughout the country; 39 tighten gun restrictions, 70 loosen gun restrictions. For instance, as of now, Arkansas allows guns in places of worship; Louisiana allows issuance of lifetime concealed handgun permits; North Carolina (not alone) allows firearms in bars; Utah prohibits the sharing of firearms permit information with the federal government. This last one inspires me to suggest that the federal government prohibit its Centers for Disease Control from sharing information with Utah. 
Thursday, December 12, 2013
With the temperature stuck in the mid-20s, Michael Ratner and I drank a lot of hot tea at Mika Japanese Cuisine & Bar, 150 Centre Street (July 19, 2011). Otherwise, we went without hot food as we ate a lot of sushi and sashimi. We shared a Love Boat ($45), a large platter of about a dozen different items, all tasting fresh and good. Adding to our pleasure was the coupon from which covered the first $25 for only a few bucks. For the New York area, is worth keeping in mind. It does not represent the most elegant collection of restaurants, but you are likely to find a coupon for a familiar place and save some money. Coupon prices vary; they are almost always running a promotion. Two weeks ago, I purchased coupons for four restaurants (including Mika), with redemption values of $15 to $50, for $1.80 to $6, unbelievably low cost. You have to spend more than face value, typically 50% more to use the coupon, and fixed price meals are often excluded. However, with a little attention to detail, you can eat more for less, my mantra.
Friday, December 13, 2013
"Congratulations once again on your admission to Fordham University."
Congratulations to my older brother because he became even older today.
Oops!  It seems that while my brother's birthday is irrevocable, 2,500 Fordham applicants were falsely informed this week that they were admitted by early admission.  It seems that an outside contractor handling financial aid applications made a bit of a mistake.  In fact, 500 of these kids are being rejected for admission and 2,000 are being deferred.  Happy Holidays! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Digest This

Monday, December 2, 2013
Clear liquids, all day, all night.  Maybe it is appropriate that after a long holiday weekend, filled with special meals and parties, that my choices for today day are limited to water and apple juice.  This is to prepare for a medical procedure tomorrow, after which I expect to return to the path of gluttony.  This temporary period of restraint I am finding harder than the all-day total fast of Yom Kippur.  I’ve gone to work today and at lunchtime I took a walk.  I found myself besieged by enticing odors from sidewalk carts and the joints whose doors are opening and closing constantly for customers.  At least, on Yom Kippur, I sit relatively still in a big room filled with equally deprived Jews.  There’s no question that thoughts of refreshment often nudge thoughts of atonement aside while at services, but I feel that I am not alone in shul.  Among the other pious ones, a yearning for spirituality may well be at odds with a yearning for a pastrami sandwich.  I’m not trying to take my transitory deprivation too seriously, because there are too many folks around who will not be eating well again even after 24 hours have passed.  It’s funny how many politicians and their mouthpieces appear hyper-alert to the prospect of what they label class warfare, when, in fact, they have already won that war.  I’m not looking for the redistribution of wealth, just the distribution of wealth.  Too many have none, too few have most.  There are very few people that I could tolerate being stuck in an elevator with who claim that it’s the right way to run a country.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I think that I failed a test today.  It wasn’t the probe of my kishkes conducted by Doctor-Lawyer-Rabbi Traube, my personal gastroenterologist, which produced a satisfactory result, although, as usual, the 24 hours before was one of the most miserable periods of my life.  I wrote yesterday about wandering about the fragrant streets of Manhattan, limited to water and apple juice as refreshment.  Note that I later realized that vodka and gin qualified as clear liquids.  It got worse, of course, once I began drinking that foul liquid which prepares your insides for a closeup look.  Worsest (incorrect, but that’s how I felt), I was swallowing this devil’s brew as I was swallowing the Rangers’ 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

The test failure came as I was signing in for the procedure.  The clerk went through the typical inventory of inquiries, name, address, birth date, allergies, medications, and then asked “Religion?”  I barely paused and said “Pass.”  Now, except for some residents of southern California who took me for an Englishman because of my accent, my Hebrew heritage has been easily recognized and even proudly flaunted far and wide.  Yet, I could not utter “Jew” when asked.  Was my lack of candor rooted in the history of discrimination, a concern for civil liberties, stubborn independence or, merely, embarrassment?  I was on East 38th Street in Manhattan, damn it, not Dusseldorf or Damascus.  Ironically, I was about to put my ass in the hands of an orthodox rabbi who has a day job as a doctor.  Go figure.

The procedure went well and my exit from the hospital was eased by the company of Stony Brook Steve, who kindly came to escort me off the premises.  Once upon a time, just as you could walk into just about any building in New York City without ceremony, you could leave a hospital or treatment center by yourself if your legs could carry you.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Today’s Times has an interesting article about college faculty adjuncts, those poor over-educated schnooks who handle significant teaching loads for chump change.
For instance, the article identifies a married couple in the Boston area who teach 11 courses between them, at rates of $2,100 to $6,500 per course.  Given the actual time needed to conduct a 3 credit (hour) course, this does not produce a living wage.

When I was asked to depart from Cornell University, my expectations of ever teaching a college class again evaporated.  I managed to string together some teaching jobs in woebegone private high schools in order to delay visiting Vietnam for 47 years.  However, there was nothing educational or academic about these settings.  Fortunately, they lacked the drama of Blackboard Jungle, but also lacked its exciting soundtrack.

Once ensconced in the business world, in 1982, I had the opportunity to return to the front of a college classroom.  I was asked to teach a one-credit course on computers in the law office, as an adjunct, at Bronx Community College, a division of the City University of New York (CUNY) (which I always considered to be a gimmick to vitiate the glory of CCNY).  Since I treasured the opportunity to prance in front of a group of college students again, money was no object, which was just as well, because I got something like $37 per hour, that is for the one classroom hour weekly, and my job as a management consultant was paying me well.  I loved this gig and I think the students, aiming for jobs as paralegals, not lawyers, benefitted from my efforts, which came at a time when law firms were finally beginning to catch up with other businesses in the use of computers.  However, although invited to continue, I made that my first and last semester, because the college’s isolated location in the northwest Bronx prevented me from doing what I thought was needed to do justice to the subject – Show and Tell.  I wanted to take my class in and out of law firms and computer showrooms so that they could see the real life examples that I tried to illustrate with brochures, promotional materials and snappy patter.  The one hour that they were to spend with me would not have even covered the time on the subway to get to the nearest computer installation of any interest (in those days when computers were larger than hair brushes).

If asked to teach a course, any course, in college today, instinctively, I would lunge at the opportunity.  However, given my decent current earnings, I hope that I would defer to someone who could really use the $3,000 or so for the semester.  After all, that equals the $3,095 median monthly rent for an apartment in Manhattan “according to a report today [October 10, 2013] by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and broker Douglas Elliman Real Estate.”

I was not looking for a new place to eat today as I went to purchase plumbing supply items, armed with photographs of the inside of my toilet tank to better identify the needed parts.  However, as I walked back from the hardware store, I glanced at the storefront at 139 Centre Street, which houses ABC Pharmacy, a new business.  In fact, a bunch of new independent pharmacies have appeared in Chinatown recently, in contrast to the contagious spread of Duane Reade over the rest of Manhattan Island.  I wonder if Obamacare makes a special provision for Chinese druggists?  In any case, upon closer examination, Queen Bakery Inc. shares the space with the drugstore.  It’s a small space almost entirely clad in marble with three tables and about ten chairs.  It does not display the typical array of highly decorated cakes and pastries, nor did I see any hot dogs wrapped in lard-laden dough.  Instead, it offers a small group of noodle soups along with a collection of buns for immediate consumption or takeaway.  I had wonton, noodle and beef stew soup ($5.25).  The only unmentioned ingredient was lettuce, which pleasantly wilted in the hot broth.  The beef was flanken by any other name; the wontons (about 8) were in a thin, non-gummy wrapper.  The portion was ample and I felt satisfied on my first day back in control of my gastrointestinal tract.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Again, it took four or five tries to find half a Peking duck.  I guess, in Chinatown at lunchtime, one is the loneliest number.  Yee Li Restaurant, 1 Elizabeth Street, had a good, juicy duck, which also equates to too much fat ($19).  It was served with four round, spongy buns, scallions, cucumber and carrot slivers, hoisin sauce and pastel shrimp chips.  There was a hefty leg and wing and much of the carcass along with the pieces of skin and meat to be wrapped in the buns.  Not a bad deal overall, if you take the trouble to trim some pieces of duck before ingesting.

Friday, December 6, 2013
I had lunch with Marty the Super Clerk, who controls the administration at 71 Thomas Street, the lonely little courthouse in Tribeca.  Today, I was delivering theater tickets to him which will be his wife’s Christmas presents.  This has become an annual ritual for us since it is easy for me to stop in the theater district on the way home from work, thereby avoiding the onerous surcharges on tickets ordered by computer or telephone.  Also, Marty recognizes me as a bit of a culture vulture, aware of current Broadway shows, and willing to put aside, at least temporarily, my own idiosyncratic taste in order to choose something to delight them on a future weekend in Manhattan away from their suburban New Jersey nest.

On my way home, I stopped in midtown to shop for gifts, Hanukkah 2014 gifts, at the New York Public Library's shop.  I was very pleased with the results of this foray, as I expect at least a few of you will be about a year from now.  Waiting for the uptown bus on this rainy night after shopping, I saw a fabulous sight, which I hope I've captured for you.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Monday, November 25, 2013
I realize how boring it must be to read about my troubles with my teeth, an ongoing theme of this chronicle.  However, imagine finding a molar as you chew your toasted bialy, an episode that I endured yesterday.  Since it was one of those man-made molars that have been populating my mouth for about 10 months now, I wasn’t too concerned since I managed to keep from swallowing it.  I am scheduled to have a permanently altered mouth by the end of next month and I hope that I can resume gnawing and chewing with my normal animal intensity without risk to my familiar grimace.

Defying the odds, or convention, or sanity, I decided not to suspend my duck hunt just because Thanksgiving looms large.  I must admit, though, that I have never seen turkey on any Chinatown menu.  I went into 5 restaurants on Mott Street asking for Peking duck. One had roast duck only, and the four others only served a whole duck at a time, a little self-indulgent even for me.  So, I went into Grand Harmony Restaurant, 98 Mott Street (April 21, 2010), for dim sum instead.  The big bright place was busy; almost every large round table was at least partially occupied.  I had shu mai, shrimp dumplings, fish balls and a pork-shrimp bun that looked like a small knish, not a miniature knish mind you, that had an elusive sweet spice undertone.  In the absence of a large molar, I chewed vigorously with the remaining choppers.  Fortunately, all the items were soft and succumbed to fervent munching.  All the food was very good and served hot, sometimes not the case for dim sum when the wagons have been around the block a few times.  The total came to $13.60 including tax, although I’m unable to verify that figure by conventional arithmatic.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 
Last week, I noted that October 24, 2013 recorded the most subway rides since the transit authority started counting, about 30 years ago.  I think that this week and the weeks to come will be distinguished by even more crowded conditions, not necessarily bigger crowds.  As I observed yesterday, on the way home, in addition to the regular commuters, that is, working folk, students and those looking for a place to stay warm, the train was full of holiday shoppers, both domestic and foreign, carrying overstuffed shopping bags. It was easy to recognize those fresh from JFK Airport, they had Century 21 shopping bags.  While the typical foreigner seems skinnier than the typical American, she takes up more space with her purchases surrounding her.  I’m delighted by the resulting infusion of cash into our local economy, but I’d like to see swollen shopping bags along with wheeled luggage routed separately during weekday rush hours.  I believe that you could tell a Japanese or German tourist, laden with Ralph Lauren merchandise, that she must wait for a special train without getting any backtalk.  I’d like to extend this program to open strollers, but you know that would hit entirely too close to home and cause an uproar.     

If I can’t get a one-person Peking duck today, I’ll try and find a new restaurant, and I thought I did.  When I saw a listing for Yi Ding Hao Dumpling, 143 Division Street, I thought that it was the perfect choice, a new joint in a propitious location.  143 Division Street is just around the corner from 13 Essex Street, where my mother was born 104 years ago today.  That means that my grandmother Esther Malka Goldenberg gave birth right there, in a building with a shared bathroom in the hallway, probably assisted only by a midwife, but not a doctor.  For sure, she did not have the attention of a hairdresser or manicurist for a long time before or after the birth of her third child, the first born in the United States.  Naturally, I had to visit the site.  

First, though, I found that Yi Ding Hao was gone without a trace.  Maybe that’s what it means in Chinese.  So, I continued to 13 Essex Street which used to house at street level a Judaica store, religious objects and Jewish-themed items, and Miller’s Cheese, a long-time producer of Kosher cheese.  Today, I found Café Grumpy, which the New York Times recently described as “a leading practitioner of pour-over coffee, the latest manifestation of coffee zealotry.”  It was staffed by two lovely young women, one with a British accent.  Besides their rarefied coffee drinks, they only served baked goods, which I would have welcomed after lunch, but not instead of.  I explained the historic significance of the building and the date to the young women and left to resume my duck hunt.  

I headed for Grand Sichuan Restaurant, 125 Canal Street, where I had enjoyed tea smoked duck (October 18, 2010) and imagined that Peking duck could not be far behind. Alas, Grand Sichuan was gone, the site turned into a construction zone, purpose unknown.  Which is why I ate Southern fried chicken for lunch at Popeye’s, right next door, sharing the same address, 125 Canal Street.   

It was just announced that Chico Hamilton, a noted jazz drummer, died yesterday. Hamilton was a leading figure in the West Coast jazz movement of the 1950s and 1960s, a softer, more melodic style than the post-war bebop of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.  As an example, Hamilton often used mallets instead of drum sticks on many of his most successful recordings, and his quintet included a cellist.  I remember having one conversation with Hamilton, between his sets at Birdland, while I was still a college student.  I doubt that I was doing little more than making adoring noises, which he tolerated gracefully, when Miles Davis walked up to us.  Well, not really up to both of us, but to Hamilton, a fellow jazz luminary.  Miles, who showed little affection for white folks generally, and who frequently played with his back to audiences at major live engagements, dismissed me with a grunt.  If I could have bottled that grunt, I would have. How special to be recognized, even in that fashion, by that genius.  I’m sure that I own more recordings (LPs and CDs) by Miles Davis than any other musician, and would likely keep Kind of Blue as my last possession.  Sorry, but it was better then. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013
It’s a rainy, schmutzy day, considerably brightened by the presence of America’s Loveliest Nephrologist, visiting for Thanksgiving.  For us, it will certainly be Black Friday in two days because she leaves then for a brief Caribbean holiday.  

It continued to be rainy and chilly at lunchtime as I went looking for a plumbing part, which sent me farther afield than I would have normally gone under these conditions.  When my identification of the desired part as American Standard 6.0 LPF 1.6GPS proved to be insufficiently precise to the otherwise friendly hardware store clerk, I left empty handed, needing to be emotionally cooled and physically warmed.  Fortunately, Xi'An Famous Foods, 67 Bayard Street, was up to the task.  I ordered Spicy & Tingly beef noodles in soup ($7.50) and it came quickly, hot and spicy. However, the tingle factor seemed notably diminished over the last occasion when I had Spicy & Tingly beef noodles (without soup) here (July 29, 2011).  At that time, my lips moved independently of my face for at least 15 minutes after I left the joint. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013
As customary, we host Thanksgiving dinner for relatives and friends.  While we had only about a dozen adult guests, the irrepressible energy of Boaz and Noam filled any unoccupied space.  Since this is also the second night of Hanukkah, everyone 40 years old and younger received more than turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes.  Those of us over 40 were, however, more than delighted to have, as a special treat, potato latkes prepared for the first time by my young bride.  Under these circumstances, a good time was had by all.

Friday, November 29, 2013    
This is a work day for the courts, but not for me.  While America’s Favorite Epidemiologist supplied massive energy and imagination to creating a festive and filling Thanksgiving dinner for our crowd, I was exhausted just watching.  So, I am on a one-day vacation.  There was very little turkey left over, which gives me some more incentive to go duck hunting next week.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Back Then

Monday, November 18, 2013
I’ve been yearning to go back to Paris for the 3 ½ years since we last visited.  So, I picked myself up and went to Paris Sandwich (a/k/a Paris Authentic Vietnamese Restaurant), 113 Mott Street, purveyor of Vietnamese banh mi and other dishes, a particularly neat and clean place with waiter service as well as a stand-up counter if you choose to have only a sandwich.  I ordered Spring Roll Vermicelli Noodle ($6.75), a generous bowl of vermicelli (angel hair rice noodles) topped with carrots, scallions, bean sprouts, cilantro, lettuce, chopped peanuts, and 1" pieces of spring roll, with a nice portion of lime chili dressing to pour over it all.  Very tasty and very filling.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Last night, Sonia Sotomayor spoke to a large crowd at City College, informally responding to questions about her background, education and values.  Not every judge delivers her ideas coherently without obvious reliance on catchphrases or clichés, but Justice Sotomayor not only spoke with easy grace, she showed a very human side.  Her career path may well serve as a model for many of the students present, foreign-born and/or from minority populations.  The opponents of affirmative action will dwell on the open door to Princeton she was given as a poor girl from the Hispanic community of the South Bronx.  Of course, few of them would have traded their childhood for hers, and, more arrogantly, they ignore her accomplishments at Princeton (summa cum laude), at Yale Law School (law review) and beyond.  Underlying their supposed principled opposition to the policies that helped her advance, I think they simply resent that she did not stay in her place, hemmed in by the limited role that ethnicity, class, economics and geography seemed to promise her.

Before Justice Sotomayor went on to speak, I did offer her a few encouraging words.

Eating Peking duck is inevitably messy.  Whether using a pancake or a bun to hold the duck (sometimes meat and skin separately), scallions, cucumber and hoisin sauce, your hands will get moist and slick.  A way to achieve some of the culinary satisfaction without the mess and at a much lower price is ordering duck chow fun ($6.75) at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street.  The portion, as with seemingly all their dishes, is large, the ratio of fat to meat is no worse than average for other duck dishes, the price is right and, unless your use of chopsticks is dangerously ineffective, your hands will not require an immediate scrubbing.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The reporters were gathering at the foot of the courthouse steps as I arrived this morning.  It seems Rupert Murdoch is coming to town to defend his wealth and pelf in his divorce action from his third wife.  Two matrimonial judges have their courtrooms on the same corridor as my office, so there’s a good chance Rupe and I might meet soon.  Actually, my chances of bonding are probably stronger with his ex-wife-to-be, Wendy Deng, born in China.  After all, considering the emotional turmoil she must be experiencing at the breakup of her 14-year marriage, she could probably use a good meal.

In fact, Stony Brook Steve was around to give Wendy additional support, but she did not avail herself of the opportunity to eat lunch with us, even though we two ordered enough food for three at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, scallion pancake, hot and sour soup, orange flavor chicken, shredded pork in Peking sauce and beef with scallions.  Had Wendy been along and split the bill with us, it would have cost a little over $8 each including tip.  No matter how parsimonious Rupert may prove to be in the divorce settlement, Wendy should be able to handle eight bucks.

Thursday, November 21, 2013
Another day in the dentist’s chair, pushing and pulling, putting and taking, in an effort to thwart nature’s plan for my mouth.  Staying away from work and the long subway ride to and fro the clinic gave me plenty of time to read the paper and learn that Thursday, October 24, 2013, just 4 weeks ago, set an all-time record for subway rides, 5,985,311.  Significantly, nothing special was going on that day; no Subway Series baseball game, no Thanksgiving Day/St. Patrick’s Day/Salute to Israel/Puerto Rican Day/Giants Super Bowl Victory parade, no Black Friday sales, no Simon & Garfunkel concert in Central Park.  It was just an ordinary workday with school in session, no religious holiday, and mild weather, a 54° high.  This has to be the subject of barroom bets in the future.

Friday, November 22, 2013
November 22, 1963 was also a Friday, and I vividly recall it today, although I can’t remember anything about November 21, 1963 or November 22, 2012, for that matter.  I was a teaching assistant in the Government Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  I had a 2 o’clock section in Goldwin Smith Hall, a low, wide academic building on the eastern edge of the Arts Quad.  I entered the classroom on time.  Most of my freshmen students were already in the room, but few were seated.  Rather, they were standing by the window, gathered around a student holding a transistor radio.  That student, by the way, was Mark Green, later to run unsuccessfully for a New York congressional seat, the US Senate against Al D’Amato, and the mayoralty against Michael Bloomberg.  In between, he twice won election as New York City’s public advocate, a position that I think he handled very well, although no one is quite sure what its purpose is, and, incidently, the job Bill de Blasio held before his successful run for mayor.  I won’t pretend to remember the exact words uttered in that classroom, but someone said that the president was shot.  Dallas time is one hour earlier than anywhere in New York state.  It was just after 1 PM there.

I didn’t believe what I heard; five minutes before I had been in the Government Department’s office in a nearby building.  I left the classroom quickly and went down the hall to the offices of the English Department, where I picked up a telephone (I think I asked first) and called the Government Department, I guess I thought it more reliable under these circumstances than the English Department.  It was true.  Kennedy was shot dead.  Back to my classroom where the kids sat stonily silent.  At first, I urged them to get lost.  What could I say to this group of bright, predominantly middle class kids in their first college semester?  When they didn’t move, I blustered that, while I had not been drawn to revolutionary causes before this, in spite of my years at CCNY, I was prepared to do battle, real battle, with the reactionary forces that I assumed, with some hedging, were responsible for Kennedy’s assassination.

We left the classroom and I walked over to the Straight, the student union, where I encountered Bonnie Cohen, an undergraduate from Detroit, whom I pined for unavailingly, and Richard   Denenberg, then editor-in-chief of the Cornell Daily Sun.  We chatted and even laughed about some things, which drew some stares.  Eventually, I went back to my basement apartment on Harvard Place in Collegetown, where I lived at that time in a state of hostile co-existence with John Langley Stanley, later proven to be one of the dearest people that I have ever known.

I barely moved out of the apartment the entire weekend, although I went to a non-denominationalish service conducted by the Newman Club, the campus Catholic organization, early Friday evening I seem to recall.  John and I had no television set, so, while I would typically head to the Straight to watch football games on most Sunday afternoons, I could not muster the will to get dressed and go out for days.  In retrospect, I admit that it was quite remarkable, even foolish, that I did not see one minute of the weekend’s events, the shooting of Oswald, the Kennedy funeral procession, none of it.  I don’t think that I was in denial, so much as deflated.

Cornell Government Department graduate students typically had an easy load in those days, one or two seminars, and 3 teaching sessions in either introduction to American government or comparative government (then Britain, France, West Germany and the USSR).  In the week immediately following the assassination, I had to prepare a writing for Professor Andrew Hacker’s seminar in American political behavior.  The seminar was held at 8 A.M. on Tuesday mornings, where Hacker sat, framed by the open door to his office, at the head of several flights of stairs, puffing his Meerschaum pipe heartily, as John and I trudged up the stairs after walking about a mile on a cold Ithaca morning, with no possibility of campus parking even if we were to own a car, which we later did, but that’s another story.  Hacker, who cherished then, and probably still does, his reputation for blunt irascibility, was unmoved by the diversion caused by the assassination of an American president, and his view of my devotion to scholarship never progressed beyond that point when I failed to deliver.

Campus life eventually returned to normal, more or less, except for one of my fellow graduate students.  The Warren Commission report on the Kennedy assassination was released in late September 1964, and two months later 26 volumes of supporting documents were published.  Edward Jay Epstein took a complete blue-leather bound set (I don’t know how many the library might have had) to his library carrel, a desk with shelving in the stacks that I never bothered with, choosing instead the Government Department graduate student reading room, where reading was entirely replaced by conversation.  Epstein and I had become friendly, probably because he seemed to suffer from the same arrested social development as I did, although he was about half a dozen years older.  As a result, he frequently sought me out, blue volume in hand, to point out some discrepancy or illogic in the text.  I usually shooed him away, partly from lack of interest and partly from my attempt to concentrate on my upcoming comprehensive examinations.  My dismissive attitude didn’t seem to matter to Epstein, who became more and more immersed in those thousands of pages dealing with the fatal intersection of Kennedy, Oswald and Ruby.  As you probably know, Epstein produced the first credible critique of the Warren Commission, Inquest, and later many more works of important investigative reporting.  But, before that happened, one night at dinner in downtown Ithaca in the summer of 1965, my combined annoyance at Epstein’s hocking about the Warren Commission and his ineffective attempt at seducing the young woman at our table caused me to snarl, “Shut up, Epstein.  Don’t talk to me.”  And he never did again.

My formal studies of political science ended weeks later when I failed my comprehensive examinations for the second time.  Since then, I’ve remained interested in our government and politics as I passed through periods as an employee, a business owner, unemployment and a lawyer.  Adding those perspectives to what little I retained as a student of government, I believe that attempts to analyze or appraise Kennedy and his presidency in terms of his accomplishments are beside the point.  During those few years, many Americans felt different, an air of vigor (a popular New Frontier word) and optimism emanating from Washington in contrast to the seeming sobriety and paternalism of the Eisenhower years.  Having those feelings end so suddenly, in such an unlikely manner, has colored public perception of Kennedy ever since, and, for many people, substituted frustration and disenchantment for a concern for the common good.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Write Makes Right

Monday, November 11, 2013
Gretchen Morgenson is a very astute financial reporter for the New York Times.  She manages to extract an interesting story from the swirl of numbers that accompanies most business reporting.  Yesterday, she dealt with Twitter's highly-touted initial public offering.  For the first nine months of 2013, Twitter experienced a net loss of $134 million by generally accepted accounting standards.  Since such a performance might deter anxious investors, Twitter’s prospectus for its stock sale offered the alternative of a $44 million loss “through the eyes of management.”  Feel better?  Just like hearing from your mother, “You’re not fat, bubbele.  You just have big bones.”

Usually, I avoid dwelling on typographical errors or mistranslations, however, I had something to do with placing my young friend Joshua Greenberg on the program for next Sunday’s Global Day of Jewish Learning to speak about Bob Dylan as a modern Hebrew prophet, so the following excerpt from his biographical sketch in the program cannot go unnoticed: “An attorney and filmmaker, Joshua was also a founding member of the Tree of Lice Society at Cardozo School of Law, has been a recurring guest lecturer at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and was the producer of multiple award winning short films while at Columbia University.”  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 

I decided to give the ducks a rest, at least for a day or two, and pursue another fetish, scallion pancakes.  That meant Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, best all-around scallion pancake ($2.25) and a beef with scallions lunch special ($5.95), including very good hot and sour soup and white rice.  There was plenty to eat, and I left full and warmed up against the harsh, cold wind that followed this morning’s brief snowfall. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The duck hunt is back on.  Chatham Sq Restaurant, 6 Chatham Square (March 9, 2010), is a triple threat joint at lunchtime.  It offers dim sum on rolling carts, lunch specials averaging $5.95, and its regular menu.  I ordered half a Peking duck ($16) and found a serious contender for top honors.  A waitress fixed six packages using puffy buns, with scallion threads, cucumber slivers and hoisin sauce.  Additionally, there was a leg and piece of wing on the side, but also the remains of the carcass chopped into 1" pieces.  A lot of food, in all.  The duck was slightly fatty, less so than most, but not as “clean” as New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe (November 8, 2013, September 19, 2013).  However, considering price and amount of food, Chatham Sq has to be regarded as a contender.

Just a note on pancakes vs. buns to hold the Peking duck concoction.  The larger diameter and thinness of the pancakes compared to the buns offer more room to pack in the ingredients.  The thick sponginess of the buns, on the other hand, fills you up as quickly.  So far, no one has offered a choice of wrapper. 

Franklin Street, 4:15 P.M.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Richard A. Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals, has just published Reflections on Judging, the latest in more than 30 books that he has written.  While Posner is viewed as a judicial conservative, according to several reviews (it’s hard to find time for books during hockey season), his strongest criticisms are reserved for the faux-serious reasoning of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  

One of Posner’s concerns seems to strike close to home, his objection to judges relying upon their law clerks for draft opinion writing.  After all, that’s what I do for a living.  However, I find it not too difficult to elude Posner’s scorn.  He is focussing on bright-eyed, just-out-of-law-school-with-high-honors, recently-pubescent law clerks, with very little in common with Grandpa Alan.  When he wrote that a clerk-written draft typically “lacks color, depth, and authenticity,” I knew that I was in the clear.

Friday, November 15, 2013

You can eat lunch in Golden Steamer, 143A Mott Street, but you have to be somewhat nimble.  Almost all the available space in this very busy small joint holds packages of sweet and savory buns for retail sale, mostly in the bao family, that is puffy white bread filled with stuff.  While the four brushed aluminum stools bolted to the floor sit opposite an 18" deep ledge, it is completely covered, up to two feet high, with packages of buns.  Eating in means sitting on one stool and using the next one or your lap as your table, which I somehow managed.  I bought three small baked roast pork buns ($1.25) and a jumbo bao ($1.50), a 5" inch round filled with meat, half a hard-boiled egg and some green vegetable.  The small amount of meat in the roast pork buns were overwhelmed by the bread wrapper, served at room temperature.  The jumbo bao had a much better balance of inside to outside and was served warm.  

Other reviewers favor Golden Steamer for its sweet buns, especially the pumpkin at this time of year.  

To end the week on an upbeat financial note, I’m happy to announce that the rental car agency that disappointed us mightily in Sicily (October 4, 2013) has now refunded the entire $445 advance payment, after disingenuously offering only $45 back, withholding $400 as a cancellation fee.  While I don’t discount the quality of our advocacy, I must admit to some surprise at winning an argument with a British firm for a transaction in Sicily when they already had all our money.  Fortunately, virtue wasn’t the only reward. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Teaching Old Ducks New Tricks

Monday, November 4, 2013
If our trip to the Balkans in June/July interested you, take a look at the 2014 version.
While next year's trip omits Bulgaria and Macedonia, it adds a four-day Aegean cruise with a visit to Turkey.  I commend the experience to you.  I approached our trip with little interest and less knowledge of Jewish life in the Balkans, or the region in general, and came away informed and enthused.

As you are probably well aware, language is important to me.  I use it almost every day.  Therefore, I was challenged by a couple of words in a US Second Circuit Court of Appeals opinion reported today in the New York Law Journal.  Defendant Jiau’s conviction on insider trading was upheld for a scheme where she received information from “tippers” inside publicly-traded companies and passed it on to “tippees” at hedge funds.  Tipper, in this case, is unnecessary since “tipster” would do fine.  Tippee is perfectly silly here, although found in dictionaries.  The word for a hedge fund manager who trades on inside information is “crook.”

I got some news from Boaz’s kindergarten class that I find intimidating.  First, however, let me note that each week parents and grandparents get a delightful, thoughtful report by e-mail of his class’s progress accompanied by photographs of the young scholars at work.  Each time I receive it, my reaction, which I am sure other grandparents share, is to reach for the checkbook to keep this endeavor going.  The latest report had a picture of the class’s “Ask the experts!” board, which listed the child(ren) skilled in certain vital subjects, such as, “Zipping” and “Reading tricky words.”  Although I was thrilled that Boaz appeared as an expert in all the reported categories, I was reminded how far I lagged behind him and my peers in my early days.

Boaz is rated as an expert in “Shoe tying,” while Grandpa Alan was unable to tie his shoes until the Sixth Grade, and those were the days before Velcro.  For decades, I relied on the excuse of  the disparity between my right-handed parents and brother and my left-handedness.  They always had it backwards.  So, until I engaged in independent study, I could not learn how to tie my shoes.  Now, of course, I recognize what a prodigy Boaz is, especially because only one other child appears as an expert in “Shoe tying,” but fails to qualify in “Putting on jackets.”  

Hoy Wong, 81 Mott Street, offers a Peking duck for $30.  By myself, I ordered half at $16.  It came with five puffy buns, scallion threads, but no cucumber slivers, and hoisin sauce.  The waiter did not demonstrate technique, which I prefer because they usually make the package too small.  The duck had some fat, which is more typical than not, although much of the skin was crispy.  There was just enough meat for the five buns plus one leg and a piece of wing on the side, evidently from the same duck.  There was no sign of the carcass, however.  It was a decent duck for the money.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Election day in New York with the race for mayor almost ignored because of the lack of competitiveness in the race.  The good news is that it’s a holiday for the public sector.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013
My biggest surprise in yesterday's election was the dramatic failure of the proposed amendment to raise the retirement age of  Supreme Court judges to 80 years old from 70 currently.  While there were many political reasons to oppose this (see, I thought that it would appeal to our aging population (present company included).   I also liked the idea of immediately increasing the number of sitting judges to relieve very busy calendars.  Of course, relieving the pressure to select new judges was the reason why many politicians opposed this measure (usually in private, but effectively), because it also relieved them of the opportunity to dole out rewards.

The Boy’s Club gathered for lunch at New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe, 50 Mott Street, sharing a couple of Peking ducks and other treats, shrimps with lobster sauce, beef with scallions and spicy eggplant.  I had enjoyed Peking duck here before (September 19, 2013) and thought it worth an encore.  It was as good or better this time, firming New Yeah’s position as number one duck in town.  They serve it with flat pancakes, 4 for half a duck ($22), 8 for a whole duck ($38), a generous amount of scallion threads and cucumber slivers, and hoisin sauce.  
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Today is a big CCNY day.  Lunch with the Feingold crowd and the alumni association dinner honoring Sid Davidoff, political savant and the youngest member of Nixon’s Enemies List (see's_Enemies_List or  While this is a very notable day, I will have to do without Chinese food.

In case you are concerned about the quality of contemporary legal reasoning, I offer this headline from today’s New York Law Journal: “Mother Can’t Share Estate of Kids She Killed, Judge Says.”

Friday, November 8, 2013
I think I went out of control today, having my third Peking duck in five days, this time at Fuleen Seafood Restaurant, 11 Division Street, one of Chinatown’s better restaurants.  I had half a duck ($19) and was treated generously.  Before the duck came, I had a (lukewarm) hot towel and a dish of salted peanuts that would have mated perfectly with a beer were I not planning to return to work.  The duck was accompanied by eight puffy buns, not pancakes, which were too many, outlasting the meat, but certain to fill you up.  The waitress was prepared to make all the packages until I stopped her after the first four.  The only scarcity was the absence of any cucumber slivers with the few threads of scallions.  The plate of duck also had a handful of Pringle-style potato chips, the uniform type.  When the food was gone, I got another (lukewarm) hot towel, orange slices and a fortune cookie.  Aside from the excess of buns, the duck also had too much fat which compromised the meal, and left New Yeah’s duck in first place.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mazel Tov

Monday, October 28, 2013
We went to the wedding of Aunt Judi and Uncle Stu’s youngest son yesterday, and, while the food did not reach the heights of Aunt Judi’s personal efforts, it was quite good on the whole, most notably the hors d’oeuvres.  There was Peking duck, sushi, tacos, lamb carved from the bone, egg rolls, corned beef, pastrami, turkey, coconut fried fish, vegetable, chicken and beef dumplings, shish kebab, franks in blankets, chicken skewers with peanut sauce, quesadillas, rare grilled tuna, and a variety of salads for the V people.  Dinner was an afterthought.  Also, if you knew where to look, there were a couple of bottles of single malt whiskey around in addition to the ordinary bar offerings.  My companions, the two Drs. Webber, looked smashing and I got the nearest parking spot to the front door of the New York Academy of Medicine, a beautiful spot for such an event.  It is still a couple of hours before lunch today, and I’m uncertain whether I’m ready to eat again so soon.

My devotion to duty led me out the door at lunchtime and led me to discover Bobalife NYC, 11 Pell Street, a new beverage shop, which also offers a few food items.  I ordered crispy fried chicken ($3.50) and a green apple slush ($3 for a large sold at the price of a small).  The largish portion of lightly-coated, almost greaseless chicken was good and the slush wasn’t too sweet although quite fluorescent green.  The shop has only two tall, small round tables each with three rickety stools, or maybe the table was rickety.

There was no sign of 1901 when I passed Mosco Street today, the film makers having moved on.  However, in its “normal” state, Mosco Street doesn’t seem to have gotten past 1938, although Fried Dumpling, its only eating establishment, unnumbered in the middle of the short block, still sells 5 dumplings for $1 which is more like 1968.

Wednesday, October30, 2013
I made my third attempt to have lunch at Division 31 Restaurant today.  This time, three young women and one young man joined to (inadequately) explain why only hot pot was available in this otherwise well-furnished, newly-opened joint with a extensive printed menu of unserved food.  None of them was able to tell me when this condition would be corrected.

I had hot pot in China, so my lack of enthusiasm for it at Division 31 is not based on lack of experience.  I find three things wrong with hot pot, individual canisters of boiling broth into which you drop meat, seafood, vegetables and spices from an array in front of you.  Similar to fondue, but you don’t pull out the individual bits and pieces that you put in.  First – Hot pot is not meant to be a solitary activity.  It should be conducted in a group of jovial folk encouraging each other to toss completely unrecognizable ingredients into their respective pot, drawing mirth from their colleagues’ culinary efforts.  You just can’t have hot pot alone in silence.  Second – Why go out to eat when you have to do all the work yourself?  Since most of us lack household serving staff (Whither Downton Abbey?), a restaurant affords us the occasional opportunity to be indulged, to have at least some of our wishes attended to.  Third – Hot pot may produce novel, but not necessarily tasty, results.  Who knows what he is doing?  Even if all the ingredients were familiar to me, how many permutations and combinations would I have to go through in order to produce palatable results.  Think of a counter whereupon sits butter, sugar, flour, chocolate chips, maybe oats, maybe raisins, maybe coconut, maybe walnuts or pecans.  Even as the image of an excellent chocolate chip cookie begins to emerge from this tableau, how many of us know the proportions and sequences necessary to create one of these heavenly items?  So, your typical civilian hot potter will produce no more than a pile of hot, wet meat, seafood, vegetables and spices, even if lucky enough to avoid being scalded by spattered broth.

I retreated to Yung Sun Seafood Restaurant, 47 East Broadway, which was hardly busier than when I first visited on April 22, 2013.  The large, bright space was occupied by 12 round tables holding only one “Western” couple, a young Chinese woman more interested in her phone than her food, and four Chinese friends/relatives happily chattering away, although I really can’t distinguish happy Chinese chatter from ordinary Chinese chatter.

I ordered an oyster cake (75¢), a four-inch round, flat, fried disc, filled with minced vegetables, a sliver of oyster and two boiled peanuts.  Pretty good.  I also had fried fish filet in curry sauce over rice ($4.50).  The pungent sauce contained red and green peppers, yellow onion, scallion, and bamboo shoots with a large mound of white rice.  The pieces of fish were strangely spongy and textureless, causing me to check several times whether there was anything under the breaded coating.  I hope that the calorie count was equally vaporous.

Thursday, October 31, 2013
Yippee, hooray!  I’m going to my first Rangers game of the season tonight in the expensively-redecorated Madison Square Garden.  I’m especially delighted to have Moshe as my companion.  Since he was born and brought up in Israel, he never saw ice outside of a cocktail until he reached middle age.  Hockey, compared to football or baseball, is a simple game, and I am not likely to overwhelm him with pedantic details or arcane rules, a blessing for him, no doubt.  Let’s hope that the results of the game leave me feeling blessed.
Two things drew me to Noodle Village, 13 Mott Street, after ABC Chinese Restaurant, 34 Pell Street, would not sell me half a Peking duck.  Since they sell a whole duck for $32.95 and I usually enjoy their food, I thought that half would be a pretty good deal.  So, ABC must wait for you and me.  Noodle Village has a new marquee across the top of its storefront.  It consists of six sepia-tone photographs of Chinatowns at different periods.  I said Chinatowns, but not Chinatown, because I could not identify any of the settings as local.  I thought that the sight of steep steps pointed to either San Francisco or Hong Kong for one picture.  I’d need a ladder and some time to even begin to guess at the other locations, but, in any case, it makes an attractive sign.  A more conventional sign in the window was the other attraction.  It proclaimed Noodle Village as the winner of a recent contest for the best won ton soup in Chinatown.  That and the light drizzle falling were sufficient impetus (impeti?) to leave thoughts of duck behind and sit down for some soup.

The waitress informed me that the shrimp won ton noodle soup ($6.75 large) was the prize winner, and I muttered that it better be at that price.  Well, it sort of was and sort of wasn’t.  The large portion was barely medium-sized.  The broth was nice and hot, but too weak to be identified as either chicken-based or vegetable-based.  There were plenty of noodles, which of course made less room for soup.  The shrimp won tons, however, were outstanding, fat with shrimp.  On balance, I think Chinatown, our Chinatown, can do better.
Friday, November 1, 2013
The results of the New York State bar examination were released today in the New York Law Journal. 8,098, 69% of all test takers, passed, while 88% of graduates of New York law schools taking it for the first time passed.  The number sinks down to 37% of foreign-educated candidates.  I  couldn’t resist looking at the names of the passing applicants through an ethno-sociological lens, as I have done in the past.  Here is some data:

31 Chens
18 Cohens
11 Goldbergs
5 Gomezs
6 Gonzalezs
5 Kellys
49 Kims
8 Levys
32 Lis
33 Lius
6 Murphys
25 O’ names, e.g., O’Malley
16 Patels
6 Perezs
11 Rodriguezs
8 Shahs
19 Yangs
34 Zhangs

Finally, I am considering celebrating their success with Antonio Garcia Rodenburg De Medeiros Vieira Junior, Hwee Lee Danna Dolly Er, Li Li, Demian Hieronymus Christoph Von Poelnitz, Scheherazade Anjum Wasty, and Shazana Zumpfe-Cochran.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Try, Try Again

Monday, October 21, 2013
I admit that my eyebrows rose a bit when I saw a book review in yesterday’s Times of The Black Spider by Jeremias Gotthelf.  Did one of my alternate personalties actually find a publisher?  Should I modestly claim credit for this work?  In reality, the book is 171 years old, written by Albert Bitzius, a Swiss clergyman, who chose this lovely nom de plume.  The reviewer described it as a “dire, bone-freezing short novel . . . scary as hell.”  The best that I can muster in that direction is Ted Cruz or Michele Bachmann.

In another part of the newspaper, in an article about the creation of Fiddler on the Roof, the hugely successful Broadway show, its lyricist said, “It never entered our minds that it was Jewish.”  Yeah, sure.  Maybe Downton Abbey isn’t British and The Godfather isn’t Italian, but Fiddler on the Roof is definitely Jewish.

I decided to put off my third attempt to scale Division 31 Restaurant until later in the week, and headed to Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, for some extremely reliable grub.  I walked back to the office somewhat circuitously in order to buy packages of raspberries and blackberries at $2 each at my favorite fruit stand on Mulberry Street, just south of Canal Street.  From there, my path inevitably led through Columbus Park, where, on this very fair day, every available space was taken mostly by elderly Chinese people playing cards or Xiangqi, the still opaque Chinese version of chess.  As always, a few folk were enjoying themselves playing musical instruments, today with a new addition to the cacophony.  At the northeast corner of the park, just inside the entrance, where a group of musicians always gathers, a tenor saxophonist joined the 2 Erhu (Chinese fiddle) players, one flute player and one reliably discordant banjo player.  Since the tenor saxophonist was closer in style to Coleman Hawkins than Ornette Coleman, he added a mellow gloss to the ensemble in spite of the efforts of the banjo player.   

Tuesday, October 22, 2012
There is an interesting essay about law reviews in today’s Times.  It includes the statistic that “about 43 percent of law review articles have never been cited in another article or in a judicial decision,” which inverts to about 57% of law review articles have been cited in another article or in a judicial decision.  Actually, this is higher than I would have guessed given the increasing granularity of such articles.  This figure comes from the work of Thomas A. Smith, Professor of Law, University of San Diego,
  Smith also found, with the help of LexisNexis, that, of approximately 4 million recorded federal and state cases, about 400,000 cases are not cited by any other case, and another 773,000 are cited only once.  Only .3 percent of all cases have been cited 500 or more times.  Of United States Supreme Court cases, 2 percent of cases gather 56 percent of all citations.  These numbers are not going to keep me up at night, but they might inspire some of you legal eagles, without looking it up, to speculate on what’s on the Hit Parade.

{Khe-Yo}, 157 Duane Street, would not serve me lunch simply because it is only open for dinner.  However, in a little notch, next to its front door, it operates {Khe-Yo}Sk for a couple of hours each weekday, serving only Banh Mi, the Vietnamese national sandwich to take away.  Pork and duck are the only choices ($11) and I had duck, in fact, the last order of duck they had even though it was only around 12:35.  They limit themselves to the number of sandwiches they serve, on a sliding scale as the week progresses, I was told.  Regular and diet Coke and San Pellegrino sodas are the only other things for sale.  Ample seating is available at Duane Park, only half a block away, at Hudson Street.   

My sandwich was very good, on a fresh, warm baguette, with a side container of pan juices to dip into.  But, be advised that the spicy/hot level is very high, up there with the hottest Szechuan or Hunan cuisine.  The young woman taking orders did not offer a choice in this regard, but, if you want a very good not-so-spicy duck Banh Mi (itself an oddity), you could ask, but get there early.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
There has been a lot of agitation around the flawed introduction of the Obamacare insurance exchange web site, much of the noise coming from Republicans who have sworn not to avail themselves of the system perfect or not.  Having spent 30 years in and around the computer industry, I have my collection of angry customer memories.  I was not conscience-free; I understood the frustration and disruption that I (shouldering the responsibility for my group) introduced into people’s lives.  However, everyone involved with computer systems development knows that it never works right at first, and sometimes not even long after.  Here, for instance, are a few recent headlines:

Computer system failure suspected in DC Metro crash.
More Computer Failures in [New York] City’s 911 System.
Knight Capital Says Trading Glitch Cost It $440 Million.
Air Force scraps massive ERP project after racking up $1 billion in costs.
Major computer failures delay United Airlines passengers across the country.
[Oregon] State computer systems back online after ‘catastrophic failure’ that delayed unemployment payments.
California scraps massive courts software project.
JetBlue Computer Failure to Delay Flights Throughout Day.  

So, while I don’t excuse the inability of the government to inaugurate the crown jewel of its policy agenda without screwing up, let’s not pretend that this is a singular event.  While that distinguished American statesman Donald Rumsfeld said “Stuff happens” in regard to looting in Baghdad, it may serve as a mantra for computer system development.  Therefore, I suggest that we show at least the same patience with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that we seem to be showing with JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon as he is about to pay a $13 billion ($13,000,000,000) settlement with the Department of Justice for not exactly keeping his eye on the ball.  

Stony Brook Steve came to lunch today and we went to Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, only 48 hours after I had been there last.  As it happens, I should have limited myself to one visit this week.  While we availed ourselves of the soup special, small bowl $1, large bowl $2, of all the traditional favorites, we erred by not specifying the beef chow fun “dry.”  While the gravy that covered noodles and beef wasn’t bad in itself, it robbed both of their distinct flavors.  Also, I admitted to Stony Brook Steve that I didn’t know what the Kow in Chicken Kow with Black Bean Sauce stood for, and then learned that it meant the same breaded, deep-fried chicken nugget that is the base for sweet-and-sour chicken, sesame chicken, General Tso’s chicken and probably several other dishes only distinguished by the sauce tossed on top.  This was a rare disappointing meal at Wo Hop, but still leaves them with a higher satisfaction rating than software developers in both the public and private sectors. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013
I spent three hours in the dentist’s chair today, making sure that the Toyota sedan that I provided to my practitioner gets a good oil and lube job and a thorough waxing.  There’s little else that I can provide for it, since my initial contribution covered just about all the available options.  Needless to say, my meat and chicken will be boneless and my nuts shelled for the next several days.

Friday, October 25, 2013
Palazzo di Gotthelf is graced by the presence of America’s Loveliest Nephrologist through the weekend, although her busy social schedule gives her mother and me only fleeting contact.  Still, my kidneys feel better just knowing that she is liable to cross our threshold at any moment.

Speaking of doctors, if you are interested in a television series about a turn of the 20th Century New York surgeon, addicted to opium, stay tuned for The Knick, a HBO series, now in production.  They have turned the one-block length of Mosco Street into a 1901 setting, dirt road, push carts, old (false) storefronts.  I got an interesting tour from a crew member in exchange for a couple of restaurant tips.