Saturday, January 12, 2013

Picking Winners

Monday, January 7, 2013
Keep your fingers crossed. Yesterday, I got a call telling me that there is a respectable offer on my mother’s apartment in Queens. I told the broker to jump all over it and he promises more details in the next few days. Quick resolution of that matter will do more to relax my brother and me than 100 hours of Yoga. Not only do we have no use for the apartment, the controlling rules of the cooperative corporation bar us from occupying or renting out the apartment, although we are the legal owners. These strictures fairly balance the very low threshold to ownership initially for persons of modest means. Of course, leaving the space empty for any period of time serves no economic or social purpose and we hope that new folks may quickly move in and enjoy the apartment for the next 57 years.

The telephone call from the real estate broker came shortly before the start of the NFL playoff game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens. I’m not a fan of either team, and only paid attention to the Ravens when they played the New York Giants, late in the season. I find it near impossible to watch a game without a rooting interest, which arises for many folks by betting on the outcome. However, I don’t usually bet on sports events, so over the years I’ve tried to manufacture some rooting interest based on variables of geography (New York vs. the World), personality (players and owners) and ethics. Ethical rooting, akin to ethical investing in companies that eschew toxic products and/or toxic environmental or labor policies, was particularly strained in the Colts/Ravens game. On March 29, 1984, in the middle of the night, the Colts snuck out of Baltimore to accept a lucrative stadium deal in Indianapolis, abandoning a devoted fan base. So, it would seem that this match was easily rated on the justice scale – Indianapolis Exploiters vs. Baltimore Faithful. However, when looking at how Baltimore filled its football void, we see that the ownership of the Cleveland Browns announced its pending move to Baltimore on November 6, 1995, in the middle of the football season, again abandoning a loyal, long-time fan base for the owner’s financial gain. The irony of the Cleveland move to Baltimore was that it did not generate good financial results soon enough, forcing the sale of the team even as it developed into one of the more powerful franchises in recent years. So, where did that leave me? Not upset when my young bride suggested a trip to Shop-Rite in Englewood, New Jersey, for some heavy duty grocery shopping.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Ethical rooting is not easy, and the challenges are well-illustrated by last night’s miserable no-contest for the purported national championship of college football between the University of Alabama and Notre Dame. However, before getting to the ethical considerations, the other factors should be examined, although they are not necessarily dispositive. For geography, the Midwest (South Bend, IN) is preferred over the South (Tuscaloosa, AL). In fact, anything is preferred over the South except North Korea. As far as personality factors, only the outsized reputation of Alabama head coach Nick Saban is worth considering. He has won the national football championship four times in the last ten years with two different schools. Forbes magazine labelled him "The Most Powerful Coach in Sports." He is also the highest paid college football coach, which, as the employee of a public institution, has to make him the highest paid public official in the USA, at $5,476,738, before any bonuses. Like the late Joe Paterno, a larger-than-life statue of Saban has been erected on campus. How can I like him?

My first ethical consideration is public vs. private institution, where I opt for the public, true to my roots. That’s Alabama. History, on the other hand, favors Notre Dame, if only because Alabama remained aggressively racially-segregated until they could only beat other all-white football teams. Of course, anti-Papists would have to shy away from Notre Dame, but I’m open to women of all beliefs.

A critical ethical factor for me is the academic standing of the respective opponents. Here, Notre Dame easily dominates. U.S. News ranks it 17th in the nation, while Alabama is 77th. The web site (based solely on student-ratings) gives Notre Dame an A+ for academics, while Alabama gets a B+. I must note that America’s Favorite Epidemiologist has taught me that University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) has an excellent medical school and a distinguished epidemiology department. Of course, UAB has its own football team, the Blazers, operating far below the level of the Crimson Tide.

In general, at a distance, Notre Dame seems to evoke more seriousness than Alabama. As of 2005, the last NCAA report available, Alabama’s football team had a graduation success rate (GSR) (measures graduation over six years from first-time college enrollment) of 75%, compared to Notre Dame’s 97% GSR. In the period 1998-2005, Alabama football’s GSR ranged from 39% to 75%, while Notre Dame’s never went below 93%. So, in the end, I rooted for the team that quickly fell behind 28-0, losing in a rout 42-14.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Vanessa’s Dumpling House, 118A Eldridge Street, differs notably from other Chinatown dumpling houses, such as Tasty, Fried, Jin Mei and Prosperity, because of its ample floor space. It is generously-sized, with a long bench against its northern (left-hand) wall faced with 7 two-top tables and one round table, as well as a short ledge in the front window with 4 stools. Its entire right-hand side is taken by a counter staffed by 6 women, one taking orders and payments, the others preparing the orders. Behind a glass wall at the rear, four other women were actually making dumplings, rolling, stuffing and folding. Everyone was busy. Compared to the typical closet-sized joints (which are otherwise enjoyable for non-claustrophobes), Vanessa’s offers enough room to swing a cat, which may result in a future meal.

The menu features dumplings, "sesame pancake sandwiches," noodles and soups. Ordering was easy because $5 buys 10 assorted boiled dumplings, the varieties distinguished by slight differences in the color and shape of the wrappers. The assortment included chive & pork, vegetable, shrimp and basil & chicken. You can order 8 chive & pork dumplings for as little as $2.50. Most varieties were available fried as well. Per my traditional custom, I washed down these excellent dumplings with a Diet Coke.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Housemaid Is Beheaded In Death Of Israeli Boy
This shocking headline is in today’s New York Times, reporting on the execution of a Sri Lankan woman, who was probably 17 years old at the time her employer’s child died in her care in 2005. The government carried out the sentence in spite of appeals from the Sri Lankan government and several international human rights agencies, because of the defendant’s age, lack of legal counsel, and other doubts about the integrity of the prosecution.

Oops! I made a slight error. The actual headline was:

Housemaid Is Beheaded In Death Of Saudi Boy
In spite of many faults that I find with Israeli policy on many fronts, I remain a Zionist because only the second headline is real and none of us can ever imagine seeing the first.

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