Friday, May 29, 2015

Wise Guy?

Monday, May 25, 2015
The joke's on me twice, apparently.  Every Monday, including our wedding anniversary, the New York Times prints the "Metropolitan Diary," a half dozen anecdotes and observations by readers about New York life.  Today, I was particularly interested in the tale of a motorist, driving across 66th Street, who was flagged down by two pedestrians, indicating that smoke was coming from under the hood of his car.  One of the men was wearing a work shirt from an automotive dealer and he offered to help, after calling his boss, for $380. This friendly guy took the money, crawled under the car, jiggled and jangled, and commended the driver upon his good luck encountering him in time of need.  The driver later suffered his friends' derision for being played a sucker.

So, about a year ago, as Ken Klein is my witness, I was driving across 70th Street when first one then another guy on the sidewalk waved his arms and pointed to the front of my car.  Sure enough, one of the guys was an auto mechanic, but his telephone conversation with his boss only cost me $180.  He crawled under the car, jiggled and jangled, and told me how fortunate I was that he was crossing the street as I approached, because the potholes had shaken so many things loose under the hood of my car.

That's only the first joke.  Prudently, I took the car into the local Lexus dealer a day later to have everything bolted down solid.  How wise I was, the chief mechanic told me.  The car needed advanced jiggling and jangling, costing $2,200.  Too bad I did not read today’s paper last year.

Over the weekend, the Times had a story on the intersection of two of my favorite diversions, sports and crossword puzzles.
It pointed out that Mel Ott, who starred for the New York (baseball) Giants for over 20 years, “is quite simply the greatest baseball player who ever lived,” at least measured by his 151 appearances in the Times crossword puzzle since 1993.  Obviously, it is the utility of Ott’s name that earned him this distinction, while the supremely-skilled Joe DiMaggio fit into the little squares only twice.  Success in this realm depends on both recognizability and spelling.  Steffi Graf, Yes – Martina Navratilova, No.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015
I went to Taste of Northern China, 88 East Broadway, when it first opened in the tiny space formerly occupied by Xi'an Famous Foods (May 19, 2014).  Since then, it has expanded by adding a long and narrow canvas and Lucite sidewalk shed containing two snack tables and 5 knee-high stools.  Inside, there are 8 (bar-height) stools up against a 9" deep ledge.  Three people are crowded behind the counter preparing the food, including a woman hand pulling noodles, supposedly culturally prohibited, although I am unable to find authority for that.  

I ordered a rolled egg pie ($3) and boiled lamb dumplings ($7 in spite of the menu saying $5).  No diet soda was available.  The rolled egg pie was an eggy crêpe rolled around some crunchy green vegetables.  At first, it tasted hearty enough that I thought there was meat inside, but none appeared when I unrolled it.  A good snack.  The dozen dumplings were good also, although they benefitted by a squirt of soy sauce or hot sauce.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015
This morning, as I left the elevator at the ground floor, a young man entered pushing a cart laden with boxes and stuff.  When I heard him ask for the 17th floor with a slight accent, I stuck my head back into the cab and asked “Are you Gotthelf?  From Israel?”  With a slight stutter of hesitation, he said Yes.  I extended my hand and announced that I am Gotthelf from 17P.  He, of course, is a (one T) Gothelf from Israel whose parents bought apartment 17M late last year in order to try the patience of the Post Office.  We didn’t have time to chat, but I told (warned) him that I would seek him out in the next few days.

Dear friend Tom Adcock, inspired by articles in today’s Times about flabby arms and authenticating Hermès handbags, provided these words of wisdom from his late mother-in-law: “Newspapers are full of stories about white people trying to have problems.”
I never said that Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, was perfect.  As with every human enterprise, it is flawed.  However, it is the best at what it does -- serve large portions of classic Chinatown cuisine at reasonable prices.  That's why I eat there once a week on the average.  Accordingly, I encounter a significant flaw regularly, the other side of the coin of one of its virtues. large portions.  Wo Hop does not offer lunch specials or half portions of its dishes.  So, if I want that exquisite combination of shrimp with lobster sauce and fried rice, I have to pay $15.25 plus $7.25 and get more food than even I can manage. 
Last week, discussing this problem with one of the waiters whom I have spent more time with in the last five years than any of my relatives without a doctorate in epidemiology, he offered a solution.  A heaping plate of fried rice with a modest portion of shrimp with lobster sauce on top, 5 jumbo shrimp, $14 total.  This wonderful combination could easily feed two normal human beings, as I was reminded when I made all gone this afternoon again. 
Friday, May 29, 2015
Inspired by the fund-raising success of the Clinton Foundation, I have agreed to make certain public appearances in exchange for donations of chocolate chip cookies, rugelach, seven layer cake and/or babka to the Hungry Grandpa Fund. 

Since it is fitting to have coffee with any of these treats, this map will show us the national distribution of Starbucks vs. Dunkin' Donuts.
 What an exciting few days ahead.  The second and third generations are visiting for the weekend.  That means that the Palazzo di Gotthelf will be carpeted with children, toys, discarded clothing and half-eaten Cheerios.  In exchange, they will learn to chant “Let’s go, Rangers!” as the puck is dropped on game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals of the National Hockey League at 8 PM.  Poor children will have to go to bed before the game progresses too far.  Grandpa Alan will make every effort to approach breakfast tomorrow morning with equanimity, teaching them to accept victory/defeat with grace.  Better victory.
To prepare for this weekend's increased population density, I went to Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, for lunch.  That block-long dim sum joint is always crowded, and today there was the added presence of the "Chinese Retirees Club Local 23 - 25," 30 tables each packed with 10 people, taking up about 1/3 of the restaurant's floor space.  They had entertainment along with their buns, dumplings, noodles and stir fries.  I left as an intense man was concluding "My Way," in English with a Chinese accent.  Indubitably, his way. 

Friday, May 22, 2015


Monday, May 18, 2015
For several reasons, the society pages (I’ll never call them anything else) of the Sunday New York Times gave prominent coverage to the wedding of Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson, stars of the Women’s National Basketball Association, on competing teams. The space must have been allocated well before Friday’s announcement that each was suspended without pay for seven games after they were arrested in their home on charges of domestic violence. But, as often, my interests are more parochial. Near the bottom of the story, we read that the minister "performed the ceremony under a white canopy adorned with hydrangea and coral and white roses." 

As I have noted before (February 1, 2013, May 27, 2013), all sorts of people are being married under a chuppah, the traditional open-sided shelter for a Jewish wedding. Of course, the label is changed to protect the innocent, and this symbol of the newlywed’s home, sheltered from the sky, but open to the world, is called a canopy, gazebo or some other polite term far removed from the shtetl. Now, we have to promote Kosher catering.

Headline: "Wall Street Is Back, Almost as Big as Ever." You only have Obama to blame.

There is currently a kerfuffle over whether Pope Francis greeted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week as an "angel of peace" or merely encouraged him to "be an angel of peace." Were it Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instead, no one would have suggested calling him an angel of peace.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
I have to report on a failing experiment in progress. I enrolled in the MilkMade Ice Cream program recently that delivers two pints of hand made ice cream to your door monthly, at the extravagant price of $15 per pint (April 22, 2015). The price was a deterrent, but curiosity about amarena cherry ice cream with chipped dark chocolate and a white chocolate ganache, witch finger grape ice cream with fresh peanut butter, and chocolate ice cream with a hint of birch bark led me on. The first delivery was early May, but we are still nibbling away at it, which is an indictment in itself. I started with the Open Sesame (MilkMade reaches a bit in its nomenclature), black sesame ice cream, with a toasted sesame caramel swirl. It’s not even as good as it sounds. My young bride, limiting her sense of adventure to being married to me, stuck to the Tim Tam Slam, chocolate mint julep ice cream with chunks of Tim Tam biscuits, somewhat similar to Kit Kat bars. This concoction, linked to the Kentucky Derby, is flavored with bourbon, but that was not enough to make me want to substitute it for Häagen-Dazs chocolate chocolate chip or Baskin-Robbins Pralines ‘N Cream. I’m going to give MilkMade one more month to convince me that ice cream belongs with heart transplants in the realm where money is no object. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Devotion to a sports team may be passed down in a family, or connected to place of residence. Generally, persuasion or reasoning has nothing to do with it. I am known as a fan of the New York Rangers hockey team, now engaged in the third round of their league’s championship. I credit my brother for getting me started. However, for those of you with little or no rooting interest in the New York Rangers versus the Tampa Bay Lightening, who play a game tonight, I wish to influence you with reason or good sense. When Tampa Bay learned that it had qualified for championship contention, it announced that "any tickets purchased with a credit card not attached to a Florida address will be cancelled and issued a refund without notice . . . [and] only Lightning team attire will be allowed in the Chase Club section during playoff games." The Chase Club is the high-priced section, where television cameras might scan the audience. Let’s go, Rangers!

I read an item in today’s New York Law Journal as an ordinary human being would, since I have no involvement with criminal law. Bernie Madoff’s former controller was sentenced in federal court yesterday only to time served and ordered to perform 250 hours of community service. The judge said that she believes that the perp was genuinely remorseful for knowingly falsifying records presented to the Securities & Exchange Commission and the IRS. The perp told the judge that she was "truly sorry" and "completely ashamed." As in so many other instances, the perp’s remorse only kicked in after she was apprehended. The record is free of any suggestion that she felt sorrow or shame while she was abetting Bernie in cheating Yeshiva University, Hadassah, Town of Fairfield – Connecticut, Dorset County (UK) Pension Fund, Stony Brook University Foundation, Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and hundreds of other groups and individuals out of billions of dollars. The train has left the station, lady.

Friday, May 22, 2015
I seem to have been the last to know, but this morning, on the way to work, I saw a young man wearing a sweatshirt saying "Stuyvesant Cricket." In fact, in New York City, 30 high schools now play competitive cricket, and there is a city championship tournament. How about that, David Brodie?

I first entered the Four Seasons, 99 East 52nd Street, in the summer of 1980, just after I started a job in a building around the corner.  Several of us would regularly repair for drinks there after an exhausting day of management consulting.  Eventually, we were acknowledged with extra servings of the veal sausages and steak tartare provided during the cocktail hour.  My name appeared on so many credit card receipts that I was offered, and gladly accepted, a house account. 

My attraction to the Four Seasons was not based on a hope or dream of being asked to join a table of the high and mighty who patronized it.  I was and remain conscious of Balzac's epigram, "Behind every great fortune there is a crime."  It was the place itself, beautifully designed, kept in excellent condition, operated near flawlessly for the comfort of the patrons, even those of us new to middle class respectability.  Yes, it felt as if we had taken a step above and beyond our modest backgrounds.  

Now, the institution is threatened by a dispute with the building's owner, someone who seems to be easily caricatured as a greedy landlord.

My visits to the Four Seasons have been few and far between in recent years, for while it may have stayed much the same, my life changed considerably.  I don't even expect that I will seek it out at its prospective new location, unlikely to be in Chinatown.   

"A Mesa [Arizona] woman pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of aggravated assault after running over her husband with a Jeep because he didn’t vote in the November 2012 presidential election, police said. . . . [She] started arguing with her husband when she found out that he didn't vote because she ‘believed her family was going to face hardship’ as a result of President Obama’s re-election." According to USA Today. According to my sources, she felt frustrated in not reaching her childhood dream of moving to Greenwich, Connecticut and operating a hedge fund.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Partners

Monday, May 11, 2015
I admit that a week ago I didn’t read much beyond the headline "Native American Actors Work to Overcome a Long-Documented Bias," inspired by a walkout of Native American actors from the set of a comedy in production, which lampooned Native Americans, and in general protest of the lack of casting opportunities. However, the matter came to mind Saturday night when we went to a short-term revival of Zorba!, a Broadway musical based on the successful book and movie Zorba the Greek. I found this production only mildly entertaining, but that’s not what is worth reporting. There were nine featured performers, namely (last only for the sake of space): Chanler-Berat, Cuccioli, Davis, Fontana, Mazzie, Montano, Turturro, Valdes and Wanamaker. While it is possible that all of these had mothers with maiden names ending in "opoulos," I'd bet against it. In other words, this was a Greek-free cast of a work set entirely in Greece, the isle of Crete to be exact. The 21-person supporting ensemble, singers and dancers, showed the slightest improvement, one person with a recognizable Greek surname. This woeful under representation (1 in 30 overall) may reflect distress with Greece's position in Eurozone negotiations, or simply a reminder that Telly Savalas is dead.

For those of you who actually wish to connect your health with what you eat, I can refer you to "How to Eat Healthy Meals at Restaurants," found on-line today.

It includes food at Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, Starbucks and even McDonald’s. All that the article can manage in Chinese food is Panda Express, with almost 1,700 locations in the US and its possessions. For better or worse, New York City is limited to one Panda Express operation in Queens, one in Brooklyn and one at JFK airport, which eliminates it from my normal meanderings. If you happen upon a Panda Express anywhere, and your health is upper most on your mind, as opposed to "Is there anyplace else around here?", the article recommends beef with broccoli, mixed vegetables, brown rice (half portion) and a Diet Pepsi for a total of 440 calories.

For my lunch, I returned to Jaya Asian Cuisine 888, 90 Baxter Street, for the third time in its short life. I went early, around 12:30, because another time last week the crowds kept me out. I am making these frequent visits in the hope of finding Jaya to be a very good Malaysian restaurant, a little better than West New Malaysia Restaurant, 46-48 Bowery. It hasn’t reached that yet. Today, I ordered roti telur ($5.95), a delicate crêpe wrapped around a thin omelet with green and red peppers, served with a buttery curry dipping sauce. It was a very good dish, rated A for all intents and purposes. I also had a lunch special (all at $6.95) and I risked ordering sweet and sour chicken over rice, in the hope that the Malaysians had a new wrinkle to this clichéd dish. Hope again, big guy.

While not serving the advertised soup of the day with the lunch special is a minor setback, Jaya is destined to disappoint me more significantly, at least, for the months to come. It throws its doors, windows and walls open to the street, making for a festive air – a hot and humid festive air. Perspiration does not lubricate my appetite.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

WZW, 88 East Broadway (February 14, 2011), is physically almost the direct opposite of Jaya, which opened its windows, doors and walls to the outside. WZW is buried in the basement of the mall under the Manhattan Bridge, full of jewelers, beauty salons, telephone calling card and cell phone plan vendors. Tables, chairs, benches and stools are scattered in the area, which was surprisingly well airconditioned, although bereft of natural light. I ordered exactly the same dish as I had over 4 years ago, fried clams with mei fun ($6), and was again pleased with the result and the unchanging price. I enjoyed a big pile of mei fun (vermicelli) cooked with egg, lettuce, celery, onion, and scallion, accompanied by eight baby clams, roasted open, not fried.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
"Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy."

Stony Brook Steve ventured downtown to have lunch with me. We went to Hop Lee, 16 Mott Street, one of the Hop Quartet in the immediate vicinity – Wo Hop City, 15 Mott Street, Wo Hop, 17 Mot Street, Hop Kee, 21 Mott Street, and Hop Lee, 16 Mott Street. Hop Lee operates on two floors, only the bottom level, semi-underground, open during the week for lunch. Since they did not offer dumplings or scallion pancakes as a forshbeis, we decided to have three lunch specials, for the two of us, at $5.75 each. We chose sweet and pungent fish kew, beef with curry and Szechuan chicken. White rice came along for the ride, but first our waiter offered us soup. Neither of us was quite sure what he said, "Chicken feet soup" vs. "Chicken meat soup." I had half a bowl of the mild broth while Steve merely stared at it. Whatever was floating in its did not look like a foot. The solid food was good, a little timidly seasoned, in reasonable portions for the price.

I won’t go on at length about my history with B&H Dairy, 127 Second Avenue, which reaches back into the 1960s. In a nutshell, they have had consistently the best (restaurant) French toast anywhere, confirmed by my cohabiting researcher. The following provides a fair assessment of the joint.
Unfortunately, the recent fatal gas explosion two doors away forced it to close, and it is now struggling to reopen, having to deal with building codes and safety concerns. I donated $25 today to help it reopen. Once B&H is back in business, I’ll go for French toast and report back.

Thursday, May 14, 2015
I fear that there may be an unhealthy trend developing among Chinese restaurants. Just as I reported that the new version of Mission Chinese, 171 East Broadway (January 20, 2015), was open only for dinner, Fung Tu, 22 Orchard Street, given a two star review in the food section of yesterday’s New York Times, also serves dinner only. Both restaurants aim to distinguish themselves from your regular chop suey joints by serving up some unusual concoctions, such as kung pao pastrami at Mission. However, that’s no excuse for keeping the doors closed while the sun is still shining, unless it’s all about attitude.

Herb and Ruth Dooskin and Nick Lewin joined me for lunch at Pasteur Grill & Noodles, 85 Baxter Street, a Vietnamese restaurant. The Dooskins recently went to Vietnam and Cambodia and I was eager to be reminded of many of the things that I experienced on the trip Jill and Steve, my young bride and I took in the winter of 2012. The only notable differences between their trip and ours was their good fortune at being at Angkor Wat at sunrise on a clear morning, without the thick haze that we faced, and their greater tolerance for the Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, a show that I described as silly – not Monty Python silly, just plain silly (January 28, 2012).

Besides enjoying their anecdotes, we all enjoyed fried vegetable spring rolls, green papaya salad topped with peanuts and shredded chicken, 2 plates of fried egg noodles (really lo mein) with vegetables in curry sauce – one with shrimp, one with chicken – and beef tenderloin tossed with onions, basil and lime juice. We also shared one small dessert, banana with tapioca in coconut milk. The Dooskins treated, making for a perfect lunch.

Friday, May 8, 2015
Head for the hills. According to the following: "Growing up in some places — especially liberal ones — makes people less likely to marry, new data shows."

You have to read this for yourself. It’s full of juicy observations, such as "[t]he places that discourage marriage most tend to be cities." Population density seems to make a big difference, which leads me to suggest that the more you are around people, the less likely you want to marry them.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mel Brooks Said It First

Monday, May 4, 2015
Today’s paper has a fascinating feature on mobility and poverty, that is, how a timely relocation for a child influencess later economic conditions.  "[P]oor children who grow up in some cities and towns have sharply better odds of escaping poverty than similar poor children elsewhere."

We know instinctively that growing up in "a nice neighborhood" is beneficial. This study shows that a move into a better neighborhood early enough offers measurable benefits. The study provides a county-by-county analysis of the economic impact of local residency.  It may be an ironic coincidence, but Baltimore was found to be the place "where children face the worst odds of escaping poverty."

The attack on an anti-Muslim "Draw the Prophet" cartoon contest and exhibit in Texas is very disturbing. As a Jew, I am often angered by the anti-Semitic slurs, insults, prejudice, and violence emerging from almost every imaginable quarter. However, for better or worse, my response, is no more than "Drop dead, you miserable bastards," expressed verbally, but not physically. Some Muslims can’t seem to exercise restraint when, even in the absence of any threat or harm to a living person, the Prophet Mohammed is insulted, sometimes merely depicted.

One of the Ten Commandments is "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them." For many, the basic understanding of this is to ban idols and idolatry. Some very Orthodox Jews, and maybe other folk, go further and take this commandment to forbid artistic or photographic representations of humans, as well as artistic representations of the Divine.

While the Koran does not explicitly ban visual depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, there are later commentaries that oppose this with varying degrees of vehemence. See the following for a good overview of the topic.

The word Islam means, or may be taken to mean, "submission to the will of God." While it’s not my style, I know that some people see their devotion to God as the organizing principle of their lives, and, therefore, the more devotion the better. Also, I appreciate how they might have a protective instinct towards the Almighty, and may be agitated, inflamed by abuse of any sort. But, as I see it, it comes down to this: If you believe in the Master of the Universe, trust Him to take care of business and smite the wicked, the blasphemers, the heretics, the mockers and the defilers. You, however, keep your hands to yourself. If you believe, believe.

I read over the weekend that (Chinese) women are not allowed to hand pull noodles, at least in public. That sent me off to Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, 1 Doyers Street (May 27, 2010), where I was unable to learn the gender of the noodle pullers. I remember when Xi’an Famous Foods was in the tiny space under the Manhattan Bridge, and one of the two people jammed behind the counter spent his (it was a guy) time pulling noodles right in front of you. If you were the (only) customer who could fit into the joint, you were only inches apart, separated by a clear glass panel. When Xi’an moved to the four times larger, but still really small space on Bayard Street, the food preparation went to the basement and a flat screen monitor showed a video of a man pulling noodles. 

Tasty is about the size of Xi’an, square instead of rectangular. It contains nine tables, 7 two-tops and 2 four-tops, without a spare inch of floor space. The menu is mostly noodles, on a plate or in soup. I had chicken and shrimp with hand-pulled noodles ($8.50). Carrots, onions, bean sprouts, and celery were cooked in with the noodles – regular hand pulled, as it turned out, much like lo mein. Other choices were fat, small wide and big wide hand-pulled noodles, akin to chow fun, my choice for next time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
"For Top 25 Hedge Fund Managers, a Difficult 2014 Still Paid Well." How well? "The top 25 hedge fund managers reaped $11.62 billion in compensation in 2014, according to an annual ranking published on Tuesday by Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine." 
How difficult? "2014 was the sixth consecutive year that hedge funds have fallen short of stock market performance." I guess it’s like some of those kiddie soccer leagues, where everyone gets a trophy for showing up.

With the advent of warm weather, Chinatown is rife with champagne mangos and tourists. Don’t pay more than $1 each for the excellent fruit. You’ll have to strike your own bargain with the latter. Sun Sai Gai Restaurant, 220 Canal Street, was busy, but not exploding with tourists in spite of its strategic location at the corner of Canal Street and Baxter Street. As I observed on a previous visit (April 29, 2010), it gives the appearance of a Vietnamese restaurant serving Chinese food. It displays the alternate Vietnamese name Nha Hang Tan The Gioi (sans accents), which I learned may be translated as Service Cave of the Spreading, Fragrant Rose-Apple Tree, or more prosaically New World Restaurant.

Sun Sai is one of those restaurants that hangs some of its fare in the window, and I was taken by the duck. I ordered half a "crispy duck" ($13.50), which was really a roast duck. The portion was very large, and, even discarding the inevitable fat, yielded a lot of tasty meat.

On the way back, I went one block over to Mulberry Street and bought 3 mangos for $2.50 to enjoy with my young bride tonight.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
One reason that economic inequality has grown significantly in the last several decades is the attitude of the have-nots towards the haves, an abandonment of the reform zeal that led to the growth of the labor union movement and Top 40 hits for the Weavers.  In general, I think now that the have-nots harbor feelings of shame or embarrassment at their plight, envy at the success of the haves, and/or deference to the haves based on a sense of inferiority. As a result, the have-nots fail to challenge the haves and the rules, or lack of rules, that help perpetuate the status quo. No doubt you have heard the saw, "If you are so smart, how come you are not rich?" What that really means is, "You ain't rich, so you ain't smart." I still remember having it directed to me in 1984 by the sister of a woman that I was briefly dating. While I was speechless at the time (hard to believe, isn’t it?), in fact, I have never believed that smarts characterize the rich. A lot of luck and guile, yes. My more than 30 years in private industry demonstrated that over and over.

So, today, in the sports section, we read that Madison Square Garden (MSG) has hired Isiah (sic) Thomas, legendary basketball player, as president of the New York Liberty, the Women's National Basketball Association team located in and owned by MSG. The selection was made by James Dolan, executive chairman of MSG, and understood to be a longtime friend of and advocate for Thomas. Dolan, of course, is a very rich man, more importantly, the son of the very rich man who founded Cablevision, the ultimate owner of MSG. Young Dolan prepared for life at the top of the economic pyramid by abusing drugs and alcohol. See

Dolan, of course, is free to make his employment choices. Thomas is an African-American, eliminating any concern about racial discrimination.  But, there is a big stupid part, very stupid. The Liberty consists entirely of women basketball players, if I may belabor the obvious. Thomas, when previously employed by MSG as president and coach of the Knicks, its men’s basketball team, was found, after a jury trial, to have sexually harassed a female MSG executive. MSG paid over $11 million dollars to the complainant in that case. You don’t have to review the details of Thomas’s behavior to conclude that it had to have been more than slightly raunchy to reach $11 million. Now, the very rich Mr. Dolan has demonstrated again (his miscues are well recognized by sports fans, but less familiar to the sane portion of the population) that dumb is priceless.   

The Boyz Club met at the Sacred Shrine of Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, and 7 of us crowded around a table, never more than inches away from the food spread before us. To wit, crispy noodles, fried wontons, vegetable egg roll (for the chasserai abstainer, who showed up late after others could not wait to devour it), vegetable chow fun, chicken chow fun, spicy eggplant, beef with scallions, honey crispy chicken, jumbo shrimp with black bean sauce, and a little white rice to bind. With a generous tip (as always), it cost $15 each.

Friday, May 8, 2015
The arrest of Dean Skelos, the Republican leader of the New York State Senate, on federal corruption charges follows the arrest of Sheldon Silver, the Democratic leader of the New York State Assembly, on federal corruption charges by a little over three months. 
Here is a montage of 41 elected New York State officials accused of misdeeds in the past 12 years.  As reported by the Syracuse Post-Standard, "[s]ome are awaiting trial, some have been convicted, some resigned amid controversy without criminal charges.  Some were rewarded with re-election or other government jobs."  One may conclude that running for office in New York State demonstrates a propensity towards criminal conduct.   

I went to Shanghai Café Deluxe, 100 Centre Street, for lunch, lured by the memory of their excellent scallion pancake ($2.50), and I was not disappointed.  Instead of just pan frying the scallion pancake, they give it a quick deep frying, producing a wonderfully crispy exterior, yet avoiding greasiness.  I was disappointed, however, in the dipping sauce.  It was almost entirely vinegar, no taste of rice wine or soy sauce, so it was only tart, not sweet, not salty. 

Not too hungry, I thought to play it safe by ordering "tiny fried buns" (8 for $4.95).  The sturdy golf-ball sized and shaped, pan fried buns were anything but tiny.  They had a 3/16" doughy wrapper around a chopped meat center.  Four people could have shared the dish before going on to a main course.  Fortunately, I was able to donate one of the buns to a couple at the next table who wanted to know what I was eating. 

Tom Brady’s agent was indignant that a report released this week implicated the superstar professional football quarterback in a scheme to tamper with the footballs to be used in a championship game. He called the report "a significant and terrible disappointment . . . [because of] its omission of key facts and lines of inquiry." He hit the nail right on the head since Brady "declined to make available any documents or electronic information (including text messages and emails)," according to the report. It’s good to be the King.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Then And Now

Monday, April 27, 2015
An article in the Sunday business section compared the biggest of the big companies in 2015 to 1985.
Today, Apple, measured by stock market value at $759 billion, leads the top five, three of whom are involved with information technology – Apple, Microsoft and Google. Thirty years ago, IBM was number 1. By relative measure, IBM was even more dominant over the other top five – Exxon, GE, AT&T and GM (how wonderfully terse an array) – none of whom were in anything like the same business as IBM. Only Exxon, now merged with Mobil appears on the 2015 list. 

For whatever it’s worth, there were 121,446 gas stations in the US in 2014, almost certainly far fewer than in the past. Of course, emerging markets in India and China presumably have had a growth in gas stations, but established economies elsewhere show the opposite trend. For instance, the number of gas stations in the United Kingdom declined from 14,824 in 1997 to 8,591 in 2014.

Two factors loom large in explaining the decline in US gas stations, even as the number of registered motor vehicles increased from 172 million in 1985 to 253 million in 2014, improved fuel economy and appreciation of the value of roadside real estate. So, teach your kid computer programming if you want her to make a quick buck, but give her an oil well if you want to provide for generations to come.

Right now, however, sending her to law school is not doing her a favor, according to a new study that shows that about 20 percent of law school graduates from 2010 are working at jobs that do not require a law license, and only 40 percent are working in law firms, compared with 60 percent from the class a decade earlier.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
This week marks the 40th anniversary of our retreat from (abandonment of) Saigon and the end of active US military involvement in Vietnam. I stayed out of that fight, as did almost everyone I knew, in spite of my status as a healthy, single male under 26 years of age during several years of the escalating events. I did not have to take elaborate measures to avoid the draft; I strung together deferments as a student and then a teacher (even in the most woebegone institutions) that shielded me from conscription. 

Even though my political science chops were pretty good in those days, I never could offer a reasonable explanation of what we were doing in Vietnam. Our visit in 2012, in the company of faithful companions Jill & Steve, when we went to Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Hanoi and several points in between, left me more confused. The Vietnamese, an increasingly urban population, have a median age of 30.3 years (US, 36.8), all of whom seemed to be riding motorbikes as we tried to cross the street.

Vietnam is a one-party state, which suppresses political dissent and religious freedom, although it lacked, to this tourist, the authoritarian pall that hung over China. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from being its leading trade partner. As the BBC recently observed: "In the [Vietnamese] cities, the consumer market is fuelled by the appetite of a young, middle class for electronic and luxury goods."
It cost us over 55,000 lives in trying to prevent this result. 

Maybe as strange as a Chinese scholar devoted to Jewish studies is this story of a senior woman at an Orthodox yeshiva, who keeps Kosher, admitted to West Point.
To quote the headmaster of her school, "I hate to say it, but it’s not a Jewish activity."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015
If you are on your way to Shanghai soon, you might want to read about a scientific approach to their soup dumplings with precise ratings of quality.
If you can’t find your passport, enjoy soup dumplings at Shanghai Gourmet, 23 Pell Street, or Joe’s Ginger, right next door at 25 Pell Street, but a little less friendly.

Caffé Bene, 106 Mott Street, is an anomaly. Its name fits better one block away, on Mulberry Street, in Little Italy. Its atmosphere is calm and mellow, in contrast to the hurly burly of the typical Chinatown joint. Many of the customers were sitting with their computers, whatever they ordered long consumed. The back wall, and a bit of the side, have sparsely filled bookshelves, containing, among other things, Julia Childs "The Art of French Cooking," a John Grisham novel, "The Official James Bond 007 Movie Book" and an LSAT study manual, along with a number of Chinese (?) language books and magazines. Yet, it is located in a prime Chinatown location, and is part of an international Korean chain. The young staff, though, were from Hong Kong and other downtown China spots, but not Korea.

Most of the menu was devoted to beverages and desserts, including ice cream and macarons. Real food consists only of five hot sandwiches. I ordered Asian shrimp ($7.95), served on a hot, fresh roll, about 6" long, with baby spinach, bean sprouts, mustard and mozzarella, another example of the heterogeneous character of this joint. A free cup of coffee was offered, but I turned it down as the outside temperature reached the mid 70s, and took a can of San Pellegrino aranciata (tart orange soda). The sandwich was very good, but pretty small. It was a good excuse to have some dessert, but, as always, moderation prevailed.

Another pleasant aspect of the joint was the background music, mid-career Miles Davis, among the greatest cultural achievements of humankind. This, along with the general Gemütlichkeit, distinguished it from many nearby Chinese establishments, where the not-background enough music often is either over-wrought Las Vegas-style ballads or the original cast album of "Wu Han Province Exceeds Bauxite Quota."

Friday, May 1, 2015
Best wishes to our dear Shoshana.

William Franklin Harrison, the 48th President of the United States, and I are going to the Mets game tonight. They are giving away T-shirts and two of the best pitchers in baseball, Matt Harvey, the Mets phenom, and Max Scherzer, signed to a $210 million contract by the Washington Nationals, are pitching. Fortunately, there is no school tomorrow, so William can stay up late.

To fuel up for the evening, I had lunch at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, the St. Peter's Basilica of Chinese food.  Beef and chicken chow fun ($9.25) and an egg roll ($2.75), that little extra because I usually abstain from eating any of the ballpark's exorbitantly-priced food.  However, I broke down around 8:30 PM and had a grilled short rib and cheese sandwich, not unreasonable at $12, washed down by an unreasonable $5.50 cup of Diet Pepsi.   

The Mets won, aiding my digestion considerably.