Friday, March 29, 2013

Crossing Boundaries

Monday, March 25, 2013
Sunday’s New York Times had an interesting article on New York City’s use of data in governing. One example was the development of a statistically-likely list of restaurants illegally dumping cooking oil into sewers, otherwise known as nouveau cuisine. Illustrating the article was a colorful graphic with a dozen or so random factoids. While the most popular boy’s name at birth and the number of water fountains in city parks are of some interest, I felt a personal connection to two factoids. Stuyvesant is the high school with the highest SAT scores in the city, hardly a surprise. But, the next one really hit home; it deals with my zip code, 10023. It has the highest residential electrical consumption in the city. My best explanation is the density of the neighborhood. Just about every building in sight is 30 stories or so with big footprints, none of those two-apartments-to-a-floor exclusivity. Of course, airconditioning is omnipresent and, even if electric crêpe makers have been retired, the typical apartment is equipped with refrigerators, ranges, toasters, microwave ovens, coffee makers, kettles, mixers, blenders, food processors, televisions, radios, clocks, sound systems, video systems, computers, answering machines, lamps and other devices plugged into an electric outlet. Additionally, the neighborhood has a big concentration of older folk, retired who stay around the house more hours of the day than us young job holders who use our employers’ juice eight hours or so daily.

Passover begins tonight, and the three generations temporarily stuffed into Palazzo di Gotthelf will be crossing the Hudson River actually in order to cross the Red Sea symbolically at the home of Aunt Judi and Uncle Stu. Of course, a menu report will be available tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Last night’s menu, served to 27 people, contained few surprises: fried gefilte fish (I could have danced all night), brisket of beef, veal ribs, relish (cranberries, pineapple, oranges, apples), squash kugel (sweet and smooth), vegetarian kishke (an oxymoron as you students of kishke will recognize), and a salad of shredded cabbage, red peppers, scallions and candied slivered almonds in a dressing of garlic vinegar, sugar, ketchup, black pepper and salt. Please note that the lovely Shoshana was personally responsible for preparing the almonds, adding a sweet touch to her mother-in-law’s salad. While there were store-bought cakes and cookies for dessert, Aunt Judi ended with a flourish with her chocolate chip mandelbrot/biscotti, a few of which she slipped me on my way out the door.

Our large group of celebrants includes some very thoughtful people of all ages. I was impressed by the comments of 13-year old Ephraim who discussed this famous passage in the Haggadah, the Passover story told at every seder: "For not just one [Pharaoh] alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!" He recognized the role that an existential threat plays in keeping the Jewish people more or less together. I wondered aloud whether the Jewish people need to be in a state of constant peril, whether we could live in normalcy (whatever that is). If we lose our sense of wary separation from other people, will we/must we become like them, losing our values and identity? While the ghetto was imposed upon us over and over again through the centuries, haven’t many Jews preserved psychological ghettoization, because of the doctrinal and behavioral conformity that it propagates?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Both the New York Times and the New York Law Journal headline yesterday’s oral argument before the United States Supreme Court on California Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, the first of two cases before the Supreme Court on the issue. The stories were not concentrated on the substantive issues posed by same-sex marriage, where the legal winds are blowing stronger and stronger in favor, but rather the procedural posture of the case, whether Prop 8 supporters have standing to challenge the lower court’s ruling, and whether this highly-controversial issue is ripe for decision (ultimately a political not a judicial decision).

What (perversely) amuses me is my agreement with the Supreme Court’s cautious approach to the issue, a classic exercise of constitutional jurisprudence. However, five of those guys have eagerly abandoned caution, restraint, precedent and even proponents’ arguments when deciding Citizens United and Heller, the decisions which respectively put a For Sale sign on our elections and imbued the Second Amendment with an absolutism denied the rest of the Bill of Rights. In those cases, the five missionaries of conservative Republicanism actively avoided deciding only the issues before them, the traditional (may I say conservative) approach of most tribunals, but instead made broad policy conclusions that the winning sides themselves had eschewed. Citizens United, after all, dealt with the showing of a documentary film on Hillary Clinton on satellite television within 30 days of a Democratic presidential primary. The film maker’s position was that the film was protected from campaign finance legislation because it was fact-based and nonpartisan. The Supreme Court majority decided on its own that, regardless of the content addressed, the McCain-Feingold Act could not restrict how corporations, associations and labor unions spent their money in election campaigns.

In both cases, strong precedents were abandoned abruptly, unlike Brown v Board of Education, for instance, where Thurgood Marshall chipped away at the legal foundations of segregation case-by-case. Note that my friend and distinguished legal scholar Nate Persily saw Citizens United as more inevitable than I did.

Given the mind set of the Court’s conservative majority, I see an opening for the forces of same-sex marriage. Go to what turns these guys on, the protection of corporate power. Start with the merger of gay corporations, allowing freedom of choice in capitalistic intercourse. Then, since this Court has ruled that corporations are now entitled to the constitutional guarantees of citizenship, it follows that the equal protection of the laws requires gay people to have the same rights as gay corporations.

The Seder menu last night, served to a mere 20 people, contained some new (to me) dishes which I thoroughly enjoyed – a matzoh jam kugel, that is a pudding made of matzoh shards and crumbs with a modest amount of grape jelly stirred in; a cabbage kugel, shredded cabbage delightfully not tasting like cabbage, containing onions, eggs, sugar and potato starch. The fried gefilte fish and vegetarian kishke made return appearances. The relish tonight relied more upon Mandarin oranges than pineapple. The highlight, a reason to leave Egypt, was Aunt Judi’s Famous Meatballs served with faux couscous, made with matzoh meal instead of semolina wheat. Naming no names, some people ate meatballs to the exclusion of everything else. As I’ve said before in regard to the wonderful paradox of Aunt Judi’s Passover brisket and meatballs, you want to come back the next day and make a sandwich. The nominal main course was boneless chicken breast in white wine with mushrooms. With the chocolate chip mandelbrot/biscotti distributed into private hands Monday night, last night’s home-baked desserts featured brownies and zebra cookies, a soft, intense chocolate cookie dusted with powdered sugar.

This great meal eased our departure from Egypt, but entry into the Promised Land of Manhattan took almost an hour as repair work on the George Washington Bridge added more than 30 minutes to our crossing. Only the physical and mentalcontentment generated by the great meal and five-year old Boaz’s rendition of the Four Questions, kept me from grumbling (too much).

Thursday, March 28, 2013
A concerned colleague asked me this morning how I was doing two weeks after my extensive oral surgery. Since I’m still not finding things where they used to be, I replied that I felt that I was using a borrowed mouth.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Toothless Old Busybody

Monday, March 18, 2013
Jesse Jackson came by today, but he did not stay for lunch.  He joined a demonstration in front of the federal courthouse where a trial began on the constitutionality of New York City’s “stop-and-frisk” program, which is an alternate label for racial profiling.  Mind you, it seems to be quite effective racial profiling since New York’s crime rate has steadily decreased in recent years.  On the other hand, nationally, crime rates have declined generally even in areas without such aggressive policing tactics.  The statistics supplied by the plaintiffs are impressive. New York stopped and frisked 4.4 million people between 2004 and 2012, almost all young black and Hispanic men.  88% resulted in no arrest or summons – 12% resulted in an arrest or summons (choose your perspective). A gun was found in .15% of the encounters, amounting to 6,600 guns found, if we assume one person stopped equals one encounter.  That’s still a lot of guns.  That’s too many guns.  Yes, I’m a paid up member of the American Civil Liberties Union, yet I can’t help thinking that some of the young men treated in a patently discriminatory fashion by NYPD were eventually saved by the removal of some of those guns from the streets of New York.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
This dark and slushy morning, the park opposite the courthouse was the site of a Law & Order episode being recorded.  I think I saw Mariska Hargitay (Det. Olivia Benson) up close, but I don’t think she saw me.  I guess that would make me a good undercover cop.
Irwin Pronin, former president of the CCNY Student Government, joined me for lunch.  We enjoyed soup buns and scallion pancakes at Joe’s Ginger, 25 Pell Street, and washed them down with crispy pepper skin duckling ($15.95).  By contrast, an influential New York Supreme Court judge, who was in the restaurant at the same time, left displeased, promising not to return because she sat opposite the restaurant's flat-panel television screen, playing a Chinese-language program with the sound left on.  While Irwin and I sat off to one side and were unbothered by this unasked-for diversion, I understood her pique, since Joe’s (under the same regime as Joe’s Shanghai down the block) is popular with non-Chinese who neither require nor appreciate this form of entertainment with lunch.  The gratuitous television set is too common in Chinatown restaurants.  If the World Cup or the World Series or the world coming to an end were on display, I could understand the usefulness of a television broadcasting in any language, although I would still like the sound to be turned down.     
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
I must often restrain myself from reaching for the clever phrase at the possible expense of providing fair and balanced commentary.  So, I was delighted this morning by what I read in the New York Times about the settlement of a federal law suit concerning the false labeling of apparel.  Several companies, it seems, were claiming that the fur trim on their products was fake, not real.  However, the fur was real, which would have otherwise justified a higher selling price, but probably drawing the wrath of animal rights’ advocates.  The Times pointed out that mislabeling fur, “inexpensive rabbit as luxurious mink, say – is an old game.”  Now, instead, “the faux fur, was, in fact, real fur.  That’s right: it was faux faux fur.”  Kudos to the Times; I could not have improved on that. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013
Last night, just before dinner, one of my temporary replacement teeth seceded from my mouth, so this morning I had to get that corrected.  That eliminated my lunch hour entirely.

Friday, March 22, 2013
Liberals and conservatives alike claim to adhere to the idea of freedom, the right to be left alone.  It’s a concept that is constantly challenged, never more so than in this electronic-digital-social media age.  My encounter with freedom of choice this morning was not computer-enhanced, however, and it  found me possibly on the wrong side.  While getting my coffee from the little man in the cart in front of the courthouse, the next customer, a young man (in his 20s) ordered a small coffee with five (5) sugars.  “Five sugars!,” I ejaculated.  “Can you spell diabetes?”  His response was civil, but disappointing, to the effect that his youth immunized him from physiological hazards.  I left shaking my head, but not regretting my intrusion.  Whether found in the Old Testament, the New Testament, inside a fortune cookie or in the wisdom of Dr.Phil, looking out for others ain’t a bad idea.

At the end of the working day, I ran into Mike, my favorite court officer, as I crossed the courthouse's rotunda, a beautiful setting.  We spent a few minutes lamenting the frustratingly inconsistent play of our favorite hockey team.  When I went outside, I was surprised to see a large group of cops, reporters, lawyers and civilians on the steps because, at a few minutes before 5 PM, the building was near empty.  It didn't take me long to figure out that this was a shoot, especially when I caught sight of the cameras, microphones and clip boards surrounding this big cluster of folks on the courthouse steps.  A pilot for a new cop show "The Ordained" was being filmed in the heart of Law & Order-land.  The hero cop, it seems, was a priest, before joining the force.  I guess he got hooked on confessions.  In any case, as I dawdled, one of the crew asked me, "Are you background?"  Even though it is one of the best straight lines of the week, I'm still struggling to come up with a response.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Reading About People I Know

Monday, March 11, 2013
Judy Bardack is a lovely person, funny, intelligent and honest. However, she had the misfortune over the weekend of being quoted in the New York Times, and, inevitably, sounding a bit goofy. That is, anyone who faces the media without professional assistance and a Valium is bound to sound goofy.  The topic was a celebration of the closing of a restaurant that systematically cheated its workers out of wages, according to a federal judge.  About $2 million has been paid by the owners in restitution, but the doors were closed with another million still owing.  The restaurant sat on Judy’s corner and, admitting that she never ate there, she was quoted as saying: “I’m a liberal, but I found this offensive.  This was not the worst abuse in the world, and they managed to hound them out of business.  I mean, the balloons!” She later explained to me that her primary concern was the level of festivities conducted under her windows day and night, rather than compliance with the wages and hours law.  But, they spelled her name right.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Burro Borracho Taqueria, 251 Church Street, is obviously not an Asian restaurant and my visit at lunch will not add to the count.  However, it is worth knowing about because I enjoyed the food.  I had a burrito poblano ($7.50), about 6" long and 4" in diameter, bursting with shredded chicken, rice, shredded lettuce, black beans, avocado and sour cream.  It was tasty, but it could have used a bit of hot sauce which I failed to ask for.  The food was the only thing to recommend because the interior of the restaurant was crummy.  The first bench I sat on attempted to deposit me on the floor.  Moving over to a solidly-anchored bench put me at a table that leaned heavily whenever any weight, including that of a hefty burrito, was placed upon it.  There was also an unpleasant smell, possibly from the upholstery, that inhibited enjoyment. To summarize, this is a good place for take-out. 

As if I wasn’t popular enough, the latest issue of the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Spectator lists me and one other person as organizers of our next class reunion, sometime this 55th year after graduation.  This information was a complete surprise to me, since the last e-chat session among those of us who ran our 50th reunion concluded that we would pass until 60 rolls around, or so I recall.  However, one day after the publication arrived in the mail, I’ve already received inquiries as to time and place.  Even if our little group, growing littler with the passage of time, decides to gather sooner rather than later, the planning of such an event needs months and months and months.  If one of you is not using your ballroom in late September let me know. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Samuel Fuchs, Stuyvesant ‘14, working on a feature article for the school newspaper, called me last night to get my opinion on the consolidation of the school’s team names, a subject I have ranted on (October 24, 2011).  At that time, I discussed the proliferation of Stuyvesant team names, about 22 different names for 26 teams, male and female.  The traditional Peglegs, the only name we used in my day, was now used only by the football team and the boys’ lacrosse team.  A few of the names showed imagination – bowling team Pinheads, fencing team Untouchables, girls’ golf team Birdies.  Others were neither witty nor logical, as far as I could discern – cross-country team Greyducks, girls’ tennis team Lobsters.  Samuel told me that my list is now obsolete, although the latest collection seems to suffer from the same unnecessary randomness.  

Which brings us to the question of what should be the single, most appropriate name for Stuyvesant’s sports teams?  Instinctively, I think of Peglegs, describing Peter Stuyvesant’s obvious physical characteristic and the name long associated with the school’s teams.  Of course, this may be viewed as insulting to physically-challenged (handicapped is out) people. But, I am not in a position to weigh the effect and I only see the affectionate humor in the name. Of course, most of the privileged caste usually regard their nicknames for their lessers to be humorous if not affectionate.  You don’t use shines or sheenies or gooks in a serious sentence.  So far, the only objection to the use of Peglegs that I’ve heard has come from fully able people. Shall I wait until those implicitly derided express their objections?  Is this akin to the tree falling in the woods?  

If there should be a name other than Peglegs, I strongly support Dutchmen even to describe the women’s teams.  Stuyvesant was a Dutchman after all.  His progeny, even if symbolic, are properly denoted then as Dutchmen.  Those clever alternatives now in use for specific teams, such as Pinheads or Birdies, have no unique tie to Stuyvesant; they might be in use at any school anywhere.  In the end, I’m sticking to Peglegs because of its historical accuracy and the vicarious thrill that someone missing a limb might experience when the Peglegs triumph.  I don’t thing that describing a Stuyvesant team as the Prosthetics would have the same impact.

Another lunch party in Chinatown.  Art, Tom, Bill, Ken and Stony Brook Steve crowded into Wo Hop downstairs, 17 Mott Street, with me for an abundant amount of classic Chinatown Chinese food.  We ate fried won tons, barbecued spare ribs, roast duck chow fun, Singapore chow mei fun, jumbo shrimp with lobster sauce, beef with scallions, honey crispy beef and chicken fried rice.  Tea flowed freely and it cost us $20 per person (because we tipped generously having sat longer than usual in the rapid-turnover environment of Wo Hop).  

Thursday, March 14, 2013
One reason that I arranged a big lunch yesterday was in anticipation of today’s events.  Multiple teeth extracted, replaced by implants, while sedated for 3 ½ hours.  Then, 5 hours with my mouth open, which is not unusual except that nothing was coming out except grunts and drools.  By day’s end, my appearance had changed, the net number of teeth in my mouth had decreased, and I had spent enough to buy a Toyota Camry, but not the hybrid model.   

Friday, March 15, 2013
I stayed home to nurse my wounds, but can’t claim to be more than slightly sore today. However, a story in the newspaper has caused me genuine pain.  A co-worker, who sat in the office immediately next to mine, who has been on maternity leave since the birth of her first child, committed suicide on Wednesday.  She jumped out of her apartment window with her son strapped in a baby-carrier.  Fortunately, the child survived.  This is shocking under any circumstances, but I knew her as a delightful woman.  Members of our department sit in small offices, usually two at a time, behind closed, even locked, doors.  Whether it was her friendly demeanor or her husband as another rabid Rangers fan, I often stopped by to chat with her for a couple of minutes.  I was very happy that they were having a child when in their 40s.  While I had not seen her since she took leave, I looked forward to her return.

Now, I read speculation about the insidious depression that led to her death with the attempt to destroy her child as well.  While on two different planes, I relate my feelings about Stuyvesant nicknames and my friend’s suicide.  I can’t understand being on the outside in either instance.  I am physically whole, give or take some teeth, although diminished in strength and stamina by time.  Mentally, I have my share of neuroses, but I get up each day without more than a whiff of fear and loathing for what I have to contend with.  I act out a bit, but usually without requiring the intervention of men in blue or men in white. 

My co-worker had feelings and thoughts that no one else could fathom. Her husband, a pleasant man that I met at Madison Square Garden, is left with an infant to raise, and questions that will take at least his lifetime to answer.  I’m sad as if that makes a difference.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Goings and Comings

Monday, March 4, 2013
Have any of you found an appropriate card to send Benedict?

Cha Chan Tang, 45 Mott Street (January 5, 2011) has a much more interesting interior than most Chinatown restaurants. There are four notable architectural/design elements. Most of the right-hand (north) wall is exposed brick. A room divider angled against the opposite wall is made of cups and saucers of different sizes, precisely stacked. In front of that is a chandelier made of soda bottles, and, my favorite, on the front half of the left-hand wall are three video screens running looped scenes of Hong Kong streets at night. Little distinguishes the scenes as Hong Kong, since mostly you see McDonald’s and other familiar stores with buses running in front of them. But, I marvel at the quality of the video; at first, I thought it was live feeds, especially because Hong Kong is 12 or 13 hours opposite us, so that lunch time here would be the middle of the night there. However, I learned that these were recordings, which I might have eventually deduced from seeing the same bus passing by every 93 seconds.

I ordered curry beef brisket with fried rice ($6.50), a hearty, well-spiced dish. However, I must note that one man’s brisket is partly another man’s fat and gristle. The meat that I ate was good, but I would have enjoyed it more if less of it did not have to be pushed to the side of the plate.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
It’s such a clear, bright day that I had to find a new restaurant and I did. Fu Zhou Cuisine, 118 Eldridge Street, sits on a corner. Like many of the joints in this area, it gets few style points. The menu is on a big card pasted to the wall and features simple noodles, soups and dumplings. There are about 10 narrow tables pushed up against the two outer walls and a round table sitting dead center. The ordering and prep area are cater-corner (catty corner as we said in Brooklyn) from the entrance. The place was crowded solely with Chinese people enjoying the cheap food.

I had won ton soup ($2) and rice noodles with peanut butter sause (sic) ($2). Both were good and piping hot. The won tons were in thin, near-transparent wrappers, the filling unidentifiable. While there were containers of plastic spoons about, my adeptness with chop sticks was needed to handle the noodles in the absence of forks.

My e-mail inbox contained some information today that I requested from Moshe when he told me that my take on the Jerusalem Marathon was wrong. Moshe is second only to Natalie Portman as my favorite Israeli ex-pat. To the United Nations and most countries of the world, all the land taken by Israel after the Six-Day War is "occupied." Israel claims, however, to have "annexed" East Jerusalem. Under international law occupiers may enter or use occupied land for various military or health purposes, but may not run through the streets in their underwear. That was the kernel of Palestinian objections to the Jerusalem Marathon.

In looking at the basic rules of international humanitarian law, I found this nugget: "The emblem of the ‘Red Cross,’ or of the ‘Red Crescent,’ shall be required to be respected as the sign of protection." Further, "[t]he provisions of the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols establish that the red cross and red crescent are symbols protected by international law." Please note that the Red Mogen David isn’t just a wine, it’s the Israeli version of the other two, apparently more benevolent, organizations. By some strange coincidence, the Red Mogen David doesn’t have major league status under international law. I really wish that I felt otherwise, but I remain skeptical about the even-handedness of international law and opinion as applied to Arab-Israeli matters.

By the way, Ethiopian runner Abraham Kabeto Ketla won the Jerusalem Marathon. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013
What a wonderful evening yesterday. I went to the Rangers game with Anglo-American media mogul John Mervin and saw virtue triumph. Before the game, I spent time in the aisles of Jack’s World, 110 West 32nd Street. This large store has gone beyond its 99¢ origins, but still fills its ground floor with hundreds of items at that price. Serendipitously, I found those solar-powered dancing flowers, which seem to be the Chinese national plant, at 99¢, as well as several items which I had my eye out for, including yellow sponges for our color-coded, choreographed kitchen routine.

My pleasure peaked when I found the store well-stocked with Barricini dark chocolate-covered pretzels, 2 to a 2 ounce package @ 99¢.  Dark chocolate-covered pretzels are known to be one of the Pillars of the Universe. Note, avoid products described as "chocolatey" or "chocolate-flavored." That only means cocoa powder stirred into vegetable fat, an offense to your taste buds, wallet and waist line. While pretzel rods may occasionally be found covered with chocolate, bent pretzel-shaped pretzels are the more typical platform. Asher’s, a Pennsylvania company, offers the real thing loose and packaged, available at Fairway and Zabar’s. A 6.5 ounce package sells for about $6.95. Harder to swallow are the chocolate-covered pretzels made by Li-Lac Chocolates, a long-time Greenwich Village institution, at $24 per pound by mail order and, shockingly, $28 per pound at their stall in Grand Central Terminal’s food hall. Such pricing could make me lose weight.

Friday, March 8, 2013
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, visited my workplace neighborhood this morning in order to plead not guilty to charges of terrorism at the federal courthouse around the corner. We in New York Supreme Court had our star turn earlier this week, however, when Martha Stewart appeared in the case that Macy’s has brought against her and J.C. Penney. Since she was appearing in a civil matter no (openly) armed guards escorted her, and the many reporters and photographers lining the courthouse steps were able to get real close. Her testimony did not prove conclusive to the judge handling the trial on the rights to sell Martha’s branded household merchandise. After she stepped down from the witness box, he ordered the parties into mediation. I’m really anxious for the resolution of this dispute, because I soon expect to  be in the market for a new bath mat.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Take Two Potato Chips and Call Me In the Morning

Monday, February 25, 2013
My cold was sufficiently annoying to keep me home from work today, which gave me time to consider geopolitical issues. I’m not sure who are the bigger babies, Arabs or Jews. I know about the insecurities and exaggerated reactions to any slight by the Jews. After all, some of my best friends are Jewish. My familiarity with Arab manners and mores is much slighter. I’ve been to the Middle East twice, separated by 26 years. I’ve read a lot about the region and its people; I've seen Lawrence of Arabia twice without commercial interruption.

I’m considering this right now because of the Jerusalem Marathon, scheduled to be held on March 1, 2013. Running has never been my thing, even in the distant days when I showed some athletic prowess. I was always slow and awkward. I consider jogging to be an activity slightly less interesting than butter churning. I lengthen my stride only when approaching a buffet table. Admittedly, I pay some attention to the New York Marathon because it finishes barely three blocks from Palazzo di Gotthelf and I am usually able to recognize a few familiar faces among the galloping hordes. However, until a week or so ago, I had never heard of the Jerusalem Marathon, which was apparently been held twice before. It is presented by a Jerusalem municipal agency, and New Balance sneakers is the most prominent sponsor. The route connects to landmarks in Israeli history, beginning at the Knesset, the national legislature, and ending nearby after passing the Supreme Court building, the Israel Museum, the Sultan’s Pool (a reservoir built in 1536), Ammunition Hill (a site of fierce fighting in 1967 between Jordanian soldiers and Israeli paratroopers) and going through Zion Gate and Jaffa Gate, two of the Old City’s eight gates.

Inevitably, the route abuts and enters Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, a section of Jerusalem that many Arabs anticipate as the capital of a future Palestinian state. This has aroused protests. According to the New York Times, a lawyer representing Palestinian government agencies has written to New Balance and an international hotel chain threatening a boycott and legal action if they did not withdraw their sponsorship of the Jerusalem Marathon. The letters read, in pertinent part, "As the marathon neither caters to the needs of Palestinian civilians nor serves any genuine military purpose, the marathon constitutes an illegal activity in occupied East Jerusalem under international humanitarian law." It needs a more profound legal mind than mine to analyze this claim. I suspect that it is gibberish.

On the other hand, I don’t think that this dispute is ultimately rooted in international humanitarian law, but, rather, the continuing desire by each side to really annoy the other. No doubt that another route could have been chosen to avoid unfriendly neighborhoods, part of the rationale for the cancellation of the New York City Marathon in November in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This concern, though, would probably bar the Jerusalem Marathon if it came anywhere closer to East Jerusalem than Barcelona. And, in the eyes of many Arabs, the hurricane began on May 14, 1948 and shows no sign of letting up. So, an opportunity for thousands of vigorous visitors from around the world to explore and enjoy a fascinating city incorporating diverse cultures and populations is threatened.  Good job, guys. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
I made it through half a day at work, before retiring to my home to be surrounded by tissues, cough drops and hot cups of tea.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
It is a perfectly miserable day, with rain driven by high winds, a front that came in last night. And I felt fine, comparatively. As usual, I am somewhat behind in my reading and only dug into the New York Times Sunday Magazine today on the subway and at lunch. The cover story is about food engineering, the "optimization" of packaged food to maximize sales and profits. Not surprisingly, the secret of optimization often lies in the addition of salt, sugar and/or fat. Howard Moskowitz is described as one of the leaders in this area of endeavor. He is quoted as saying "I’ve optimized soups. I’ve optimized pizzas. I’ve optimized salad dressings and pickles. In this field, I’m a game changer." He has been at it 30 or more years, after earning a Ph.D. from Harvard University in experimental psychology. He began his career working for the U.S. Army, exploring soldiers’ preferences in field rations. Apparently, at some point, Moskowitz confronted his own fiscal cliff. "There’s no moral issue for me. I did the best science I could. I was struggling to survive and didn’t have the luxury of being a moral creature. As a researcher, I was ahead of my time." Now, we can shower accolades on the researcher who brought us Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper. As Howard likes to say, "there are no moralists in the snack food aisles."

Thursday, February 28, 2013
Tonight is a big night, but one that is likely to breed confusion or worse. Violinist Itzhak Perlman is holding a concert at the Barclay’s Center, the new arena in Brooklyn, that is home to the Brooklyn Nets and soon the New York Islanders. Barclay’s has already housed Barbra Streisand, Jay Z and a variety of other entertainment programs. Appearing with Perlman is Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, well known singer/chanter of Jewish liturgical music. Helfgot – backwards. This might produce mayhem as people try to figure out why Gott isn’t first. To ask religious people to put a verb before the Greatest Noun of All is cruel even. I wash my hands of it. I plan to worship in my own way, watching the Rangers on television.

Friday, March 1, 2013
The quantity and quality of the Singapore chow fun ($7.50) at Nice Green Bo Restaurant, 66 Bayard Street (September 16, 2011, March 29, 2010), large and high, took me a bit by surprise, maybe because I was thinking more of my crossword puzzle than my appetite when I went out to lunch. Like several other restaurants in Chinatown, Singapore chow fun per se does not appear on the menu, but the presence of Singapore mei fun and various chow funs is a signal that you will not be rebuffed. The large plate was near-overflowing with noodles bearing a spicy tang that often is barely noticeable at other places. Additionally, the dish contained a generous amount of shrimp, egg, green pepper, red pepper, chicken, onion, bean sprouts, and three kinds of meat, distinguishable in appearance, but not necessarily identifiable. I left over about a third, but felt thoroughly satisfied.