March 2006 Archives

Language Is Culture (Code Is Law)

Did you know that the French have a word for the soft, chewy, white interior part of bread?

I didn’t.

So I’ve been sans laptop at school for the past few days; the reason being that the power adaptor for this laptop failed on Monday afternoon in spectacularly unimpressive fashion. In short, it simply stopped working while I was working off wall power. No bangs, or pops, or crackles, or snaps; no scorch marks or little puffs of smoke; it just stopped delivering power to my laptop.

This, of course, wasn’t the original power adaptor that came with the laptop; that poor piece of equipment had been returned to Dell near the end of the warranty period last August due to the cable fraying. No, this was a relatively new bit of kit, well less than a year old, that had shown no previous symptoms. It just dropped dead, as if struck down by God (hm, Passover is getting close…).

The past two-and-a-half days has been devoted to taking notes the old-fashioned way (with legal pad and pen, not with stylus and wet clay tablet, smart-asses) and not lugging my ridiculously heavy laptop around the city. And, I have to admit, ina way it’s been rather liberating, not haiving electronic access 24/7. Plus it’s been easier on my back, too.

Anyway, after a very confusing trip through Dell’s website, I finally ordered a new AC adaptor from Dell. I don’t think I want to go into the gory details, but suffice to say that I really don’t see why they need to stock 8 million different adaptors, with very confusing and very different model designations. In fact, if you try to search for an AC adaptor for my particular model of laptop, you get a result for an adaptor that doesn’t even mention this particular model in the item description (and, as it turns out, that’s not the one I ordered anyway).

Of course, maybe Dell really is trying to confuse their customers…

There Are A Million Burgers In The Naked City...

…and Frank Bruni is on a mission to find the best one.

There are many different types of hamburgers, and I believe that American cuisine is enriched by each and every one. From the over-the-top $29 stuffed-with-foie-gras-and-black-truffle concoction at DB Bistro Modern to Pop Burger’s bite-sized sliders, every burger is unique. In fact, there are many different variables to consider when constructing a burger. What shape and size should the patty be (or, indeed, consider the koan presented by In-N-Out Burger’s patty-less Wish Burger)? What kind of beef should be in the patty? Cheese or no cheese? Do you emphasis the toppings? What should the toppings be? And so on and so forth.

With so many different variables, and so many different approaches to the philosophy of building the burger (compare, say, the Corner Bistro’s thick, bulbous patties with cheese and bacon to the Shake Shack’s California-style approach to Big Nick’s slab-o-beef), it is clear that there is no platonic ideal of the hamburger; there is no single perfect burger.

Except for the ones I make, of course.

If You're Reading This, Then It's Over

If you couldn’t access this website over the past few days, it’s not because it was down, but because my domain registrar (they run the DNS servers for was hit by a massive denial-of-service attack.

Tease Me, Baby

This is, apparently, the real teaser trailer for Snakes on a Plane (see comments for previous post).

Really, How Can You Go Wrong?


The Times on a new release: …this berserk little B-movie is obviously the greatest zombie flick ever set in an experimental women’s prison…

Now, if they could have only figured out a way to add pirates or ninjas into the mix…

Um, What?

Not sure if I should be amused, proud, or horrified by the fact that an old post from this site shows up on the first page of search results for “porn star costume ideas”.

Anyway, I thought that the thing with porn stars is that they didn’t really need costumes…

Three On Food

  1. The L.A. Times on Oxo, the company that’s slowly remaking kitchen gadgets one vegetable peeler at a time.
  2. Why does bread taste better in Paris?
  3. The Shake Shack opened a day early.

Free Hao Wu

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Free Hao Wu

Chinese filmmaker and blogger Hao Wu has been imprisoned for nearly a month without being charged. Free Hao Wu Now.

More at Global Voices Online, RConversation, and …My Heart’s in Accra.

Welcome To The Hood

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Amy Langfield asked me to put together a little guide highlighting my neighborhood, so here goes…

I live in that slice of the Upper West Side just north of Lincoln Center; in years past it used to be called “Ansonia”, no doubt taking the name from the venerable apartment building on 73rd and Broadway. Some other famous landmarks in the area include Lincoln Center (Broadway and 65th St.) and the Dakota, most notorious to contemporary visitors as the building where John Lennon lived and was shot.

While Lincoln Center is most commonly associated with with its four largest constituents (the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera and New York City Ballet), many people don’t realize that the performing arts complex also houses two Broadway theaters under the administration of Lincoln Center Theatre, the Julliard School, two branches of the New York Public Library, a movie theater, and a fire house. Two more educational institutions abut and are closely associated with Lincoln Center; the first is the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts (more commonly known as the Fame school; fans of the movie are sure to be disappointed that the school’s students, while armed with formidable talent, generally do not make a habit of spontaneously dancing on cars in the middle of Amsterdam Avenue) and the Manhattan campus of Fordham University. In addition, Jazz at Lincoln Center maintains residence just a few blocks down Broadway at Columbus Circle.

This section of Manhattan isn’t known for destination dining (though, with the recent opening of Telepan at 69th and Columbus, that may slowly start changing); instead, it’s dotted with neighborhood standbys. O’Neals, on W. 64th St. directly opposite the Lincoln Center Plaza, is a popular pre- and post-theater restaurant and watering hole; Fiorello’s (Broadway between 63rd and 64th), another pre-theater favorite, is known for its Italian food and warm service. Other eateries of note in the nabe include Cafe Luxembourg (Continental, W. 70th between Amsterdam and West End Avenue), Scott Campbell’s @SQC (New American, 270 Columbus Ave, between 72nd and 73rd); Pappardella (Italian, 316 Columbus Ave., 75th St.); Cafe Ronda (S. American, 249 Columbus Ave. between 71st and 72nd St.); and Terrance Brennan’s Picholine (French, 35 W. 64th St, between Central Park West and Broadway). My personal favorite neighborhood restaurant is a tiny North African/French bistro called Epices du Traiteur (103 W. 70th St, on the corner of Columbus Ave).

Continuing the food theme, there are plenty of bakeries in the area; the giant Belgian chain Le Pain Quotidien has branches both right next to Lincoln Center (on W. 65th St, east of Broadway) and further uptown on 72nd St. between Columbus and Central Park West. Levain Bakery (164 W. 74th St.) is known not only for its artisianal bread but is famous for its cookies, which you can order on their website. I’m personally partial to Soutine (104 W. 70th St.), a French bakery that started in owner Marge Rosenberg’s kitchen and specializes in cakes, both birthday and wedding. They’ve recently started cashing in on the cupcake craze, but they’re also responsible for fantastic croissants and tarts.

Caffeine hounds should note that in addition to the local delis, the area is well-stocked with Starbucks (on 74th, 71th, and 68th streets). Those in the know, however, head over to The Sensuous Bean (68 W. 70th St.) for gourmet beans and hand-mixed blends.

Bars on the Upper West Side have generally consisted of either run-down frat-boy hangouts redolent of stale beer or dimly-lit, swanky lounges populated by ensuited investment bankers and their prey, with the occasional antique Irish bar thrown in the mix. Bin 71 (237 Columbus Ave.) is an elegant new wine bar that serves small plates (think tapas, but Italian) that caters to a local crowd tired of the traditional scene. It’s a great place to take a date—if you can manage to squeeze into the tiny place. At the far other end of the spectrum is the P&G Cafe (279 Amsterdam Ave), a relaxed, low-key dive bar that’s home to some of the more colorful, uh, characters in the neighborhood.

Venerable supermarket Fairway (Broadway and 74th) is still the place to go for produce and meats in the neighborhood, despite both competition and the famously aggressive little old ladies with shopping carts who treat grocery shopping at Fairway like a demolition derby.

Columbus Avenue between 72nd and 66th has accidentally evolved in to a corridor for beauty products; from north to south, one can find high street boutiques for Clarins, Face, Lancome, Kiehl’s, and MAC.

There are plenty of public spaces in the neighborhood, ranging from Central Park to the Lincoln Center Plaza to the Sherman Square subway stop plaza at 72nd Street. However, the true hidden gem is Riverside Park; for some reason, it seems that non-Westsiders never make it over to the river. With easy access at 72nd St., the park features stunning views of the Hudson and New Jersey without the oppressive crowds of Central Park.

The neighborhood is well-served by public transportation; the 1 train stops at 66th and Broadway; the 1, 2 and 3 trains stop at 72nd and Broadway, and the B and C trains stop at 72nd and Central Park West.

Top Five
Neighborhood Eatery: Epices du Traiteur (103 W. 70th St.)
Dive Bar: The P&G Cafe (237 Amsterdam Avenue)
Bakery: Soutine (104 W. 70th St.)
Public Space: Riverside Park
Coffee: The Senuous Bean (68 W. 70th St.)

Historical Blogs

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath A Blog, which is exactly what it sounds like (sample: “Thogh I vndirstonde not forwhy they callen this a “parody” blog.”) and Under Odysseus, the tale of the Trojan War told by Eurylochus, Odysseus’ second-in-command.

(via mw and ec respectively)

Little Grains of Sand

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Wil Shipley has a great post about his Microsoft Enhanced (TM) DVR and condoms. No, really.

The Everyellow Staple of State Fairs Nationwide

Don’t forget—today is National Corndog Day!

Majority Report

I know that I’m waaaay behind the curve on this one, but this live demo of a multi-touch user interface is mindblowingly cool. Seriously.

...In The Flesh

An enterprising classmate took a picture of Tigger yesterday in her class (and, of course, forwarded it to me). His face has been obscured to protect the guilty innocent.

Click on the image for the full-size version.

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Orange Like Cheetos

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Seen on the third floor: a student walking to class with full backpack and a full-sized head-to-toe Tigger costume.

Explanation: It’s Purim.

Un Día de la Tela

Hey, if anyone out there is interested in doing brainstorming for OneWebDay (it’s like Earth Day, but for the Internet) right here in New York City, there’s a OneWebDay event coming up tomorrow, March 14, at 7:00 p.m. It’ll be at Union Bar (204 Park Ave. South, between 17th and 18th), and rumor has it that there will be some kind of $5 drink specials. Check it out.

We Are Like Dust In The Wind

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Zeldman on a very hard problem:

Anyone who has worked long and hard on a blog, zine, or web product realizes how ephemeral they are. (We are Ozymandias.) Preserving blogs is a multilayered task involving curatorial and editorial acumen, systems and programming skills, an understanding of copyright law, and more. If the preservationists do their job right, people 25 years from now will have some inkling of what we have created in this time. If they get it wrong, our work turns to sand.

Of course, this reminds one of the once-famous three-step “Feynman Problem Solving Algorithm,” reputed to work wonders on hard problems (as reported by Murray Gell-Mann):

  1. Write down the problem.
  2. Think very hard.
  3. Write down the answer.

Inexplicable and Ineffable


This originally came up in discussion with some of my Orthodox friends here at school, and resurfaced yesterday at dim sum with some friends (and actually, now that I think about it, a similar discussion came up while talking to a fellow blogger):

How do you explain what pork tastes like to someone who’s never eaten it?

Someone Alert Orson Welles

Google Maps goes to Mars.

No sign of an impending invasion fleet, fortunately.

Tangentially related: Google in 20 years.

A Question For Those In The Audience


Is it really procrastination if you avoid doing homework for one class by doing homework for a different class?

They're Calling It The Ribbon

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So, Microsoft has managed to go out and invent a entirely mostly new kind of UI for Office 2007.

Um…. about the only thing I can say is that it’s different.

I wish this presentation of Time Management for Anarchists (with special guest stars!) had been around, say, fifteen years ago…

Begone, Foule Spammer

If you’re using MovableType, you should probably check out these excellent spam-fighting tips from anti-Spam god Jay Allen .

(via lia)

The Dark Side Of Social Software

If there was a “hair” category… anyway, here’s The Second Annual MySpace Stupid Haircut Awards!

Next On Ultimate Judge Smackdown

As a lawyer, you never want to a judge tell you that

The court cannot determine the substance, if any, of the Defendant’s legal argument, nor can the court even ascertain the relief that the Defendant is requesting. The Defendant’s motion is accordingly denied for being incomprehensible.

Plus, there’s a footnote that cites an Adam Sandler film.

This only makes me want to see the original motion. You know, for research purposes.

Next Day Oscar Reaction From My RSS Reader

030606p1.jpgAviation Week posted a story on their website last night about an ultra-secret two-stage-to-orbit space plane that has apparently been operational for the past 16 years.

Called “Blackstar”, the project apparently grew out of the remains of the old XB-70 bomber program. It operated out of Groom Lake (aka “Area 51”) and (this is personal speculation here) may be the famous and legendary “Aurora Project”.

The only reason that Aviation Week is running the story is because it seems that the program has been cancelled (or so they say). Some previous coverage of Area 51 and Aurora can be found in this post.

Coming To You Almost Live...

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Yes, I’m live-blogging the Oscars again! Why? Because, uh, well, uh, why not? Gothamist is also live-blogging the awards. [new stuff at the bottom]

Ok, the opening CGI montage does great damage to the geography of the earth…

Nice bit with the former hosts and Jon Stewart…

I wonder if the rental numbers for Death to Smoochy will show any kind of slight uptick.

A very high-quality monologue so far… It seems that they kept Bruce Villanch far far away from the writer’s room this year.

Western montage… very amusing if somewhat facile…

I like Nicole Kidman’s dress, though her accent seems to have migrated half-way across the Pacific, like it’s half-Ozzie and half-California.

Is it just me or does William Hurt look a bit like Steve Jobs, what with the glasses and all? Clooney’s speech is rather gracious and elegant and charming and seemingly unrehearsed…

The green screen suit is amusing but it seems somewhat long…

Very nice to see Nick Park win the big animation award. Love the bowties, too.

Naomi Watts is all one color. Seriously. The dress, the hair, the skin… it’s like she went to the paint store and mixed up all the colors to match…

The Wilson brothers should do more work together.

I would have liked to have seen the reaction shot on Brad Pitt when Jennifer Aniston was introduced. This of course assumes that he’s there, which he well may not be.

The bioflick montage was… well, very obviously filler. If they’re so worried about the show going overtime, why don’t they cut some of the deadweight?

Cute Ferrell/Carrell makeup gag.

I wonder why Morgan Freeman chuckled right before announcing Rachael Weisz as best supporting actress… mebbe he had her in his Oscar pool? Also, Rachael’s bosoms were quite um, distracting.

Lauren Bacall’s suit is quite snazzy. Is she having trouble with the teleprompter?

The Best Actress tv ads were very funny, if perhaps a bit too topical.

March of the Penguins… easily the shoo-in award of the night.

J-Lo’s dress is… well, I approve.

Jon Stewart with the line of the night—“And none of those issues were ever a problem again.”

Salma Hayek can introduce me any time she wants to.

I guess this means we’ll be hearing a lot more of that Brokeback theme. It’s interesting that some of the most iconic music for westerns has been written by non-Americans…

Jessica Alba is like the size of my pinkie finger.

And the King Kong sound team seems to have the “quick speech so no-one gets cut off” Oscar thing down.

And the honorary Oscar goes to Bob Altman. McCabe and Mrs. Miller is one of the greatest westerns I’ve ever seen—I saw it in close conjunction with Dead Man, and it was very interesting to see those two great non-western westerns so closely together.

I do wonder how long it took Lily and Meryl to rehearse that opening bit.

Well, the Oscars just got a little more interesting…

Nice shout out by the director of Tsotsi to his stars.

Boy, Jon Stewart just totally blew Zhang Ziyi’s name. It’s pronounced “Jiang Zee-Yee”.

Hey, someone actually thanked their dad!

Hillary Swank must have been winched into her dress.

I don’t think that Reese Witherspoon got the red light on the teleprompter…

So they’re already seven minutes over… you think they could have cut one of the montages, no? I mean, how many times must we be urged to see movies in the theater on the big screen?

Larry McMurty is wearing jeans! It’s nice to see Larry—who is a genuine man of American Letters—get an award, though it is a bit odd to see a novelist win a screenplay award. But seriuosly… is that a wig on his head? They should have shown Annie Proulx on-camera, though.

Uma Thuman—who is wearing a truly spectacular dress—is also made up to be barely recognizable.

Ang Lee is, I believe, the first Asian director to win the Best Director award. And how many languages have we heard on the stage tonight?

It is only appropriate that Jack presents best Oscar… and Crash wins? That’s quite the upset.

They cut off the Best Picture winners???? Very very curious.

And that’s all folks! We’ll have to do this again next year…

Scandinavian multi-billionaire drives around in a old Volvo station wagon.

Now this is my kind of vocabulary test.

It's Coming, It's Coming, It's Coming

Of course, the lines are going to be four hours long.

Well, Domino's Pizza is Pretty Lousy, Anyway

The founder of Domino’s Pizza wants to create a Roman Catholic town in Florida. By the description, it seems that he’d be perfectly happy living during the Counter-Reformation…

How Perfect Is This?

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Clearing Out The In Box


A few more random things: