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.  

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