Pizza By The Slice Is My Proustian Madeleine

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I had been rerouted from Laguardia to Newark, and in danger of missing an important meeting, as I rushed through Penn Station when the smell of cheap pizza stopped me in my tracks. The pizza joint was a hole in the wall, designed for commuters eating fast and cheap. There were beers and beverages lying in ice, triple priced, but for a fountain drink and a slice of cheese pizza, it was 3 bucks which was unusually cheap. I ordered a slice and a Coke and rolled my bags to a greasy table and sat with this marvel of New York City.
The tangy, warm, saltiness of the minimal sauce, the crisp of the crust with the chewiness of the steamed dough a microlayer above the crust and under the cheese transported me to 1978 when I was a fourth grader, released from school for lunch in a dingy pizza joint in Bay Ridge, a slice and a small Dixie cup of Coke for a dollar. I used to fold my pizza, Brooklyn style back then, but now no more because I was an out of towner, a mook. You could get a slice of Sicilian for the same price, but it was never as good as regular slice. The smell of cigarettes and loud conversations bordering on violence in the back, the top forty disco and rock coming from the radio. The pride of buying your own food. The other kids crowded to the closer pizza places and the White Castle only a block away, but I always made the long walk for this pizza, so I usually ate alone, like I did in that Penn Station way station. A lonely transient was my only other company and he stared into his plastic cup of free water as if divining the future, or was it the past.

How to learn a new language: 7 secrets from TED Translators

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docpark:

Nice tips for when you decide to tackle a new language

Originally posted on TED Blog:

Learning_a_languageBy Krystian Aparta

They say that children learn languages the best. But that doesn’t mean that adults should give up. We asked some of the polyglots in TED’s Open Translation Project to share their secrets to mastering a foreign language. Their best strategies distill into seven basic principles:

  1. Get real. Decide on a simple, attainable goal to start with so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. German translator Judith Matz suggests: “Pick up 50 words of a language and start using them on people — and then slowly start picking up grammar.”
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  2. Make language-learning a lifestyle change. Elisabeth Buffard, who in her 27 years of teaching English has always seen consistency as what separates the most successful students from the rest. Find a language habit that you can follow even when you’re tired, sick or madly in love.
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  3. Play house with the language. The more you invite…

View original 466 more words

The Producer

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Walking Dead was a sub for one of the interminable Mad Men hiatuses. Mad Men came onboard when the Kennedy era threatened to be forgotten. And every decade or so, middle aged men on TV need to meditate on their shrinkage and mortality, which is what Breaking Bad did. In all three AMC hits, Walkers, WASPs, and Walter served to explore modernity though funhouse mirrors, and the formula could still work.  I propose the following:

Pitch 1: The Maker: post apocalyptic robot servants and sentient automata gain their own life and society when mass produced and animated by the sole surviving maker, called One, -is he a human or a kind of Pinocchio become Gepeto? A sex worker robot, called Anastasia 7, now functions as an enforcer of One’s will, a shape shifting archangel. A vacuum cleaning robot, 6, now become the predominant life form, serves as an everyrobot. Their peace is shattered by the discovery of a valley of human survivors that have flourished, overpopulated, and seeking new lands. 

Pitch 2: The Indentured Servitude of Patrick O’Hanlon: The brutality and beauty of America as seen through the eyes of Patrick O’Hanlon, a 12 year old illegal immigrant, refugee of the famines, who stows away on a ship to antebellum Savannah. Taken in by the slaves of The Walker family, Patrick navigates the racial and socioeconomic folds of 19th century America, becoming the assistant of the head Butler, a freedman name Josiah, who chose to be employed by his former master, John Percy Walker III, who had married an abolitionist Boston Yankee, Annabelle Weld Wigglesworth. All of this while the country moves towards war.

Pitch 3: 1979 investigative journalist Eugene Greenfield finds evidence of Aliens living among us -Greys, Reptilians, Atlanteans, and struggles with the reality that his neighborhood is populated by people far weirder. The conspiracy theories pile on, as he tries to make coherent the strange events unfolding like a B-movie actor running for president, Star Wars being a true galactic history, and all set in an upper West Side that is burnt out, cheap and affordable. Basically a mushroom trip walk through the end of the Carter era. 

Pitch 4: Jamestown, 1607, and Wycliffe Southard is paterfamilias of a farming family promised land and fortune in the Jamestown colony. They must survive hunger, isolation, disease, and hostile natives in a land very much different from today, a land depopulated over a century previously by the intrusion of the great plague, smallpox. A seemingly virgin land with oak trees the width of baobabs, fish in the rivers the size of cars, and nothing but your wits and a musket. The truth of Pocahontas, the lost colony, and Viking settlers is revealed.

Pitch 5: Tree of Life -a drama of a scientist discredited by accusations of fraud seeking to redeem himself while supernatural forces battle over the implications of his discovery, immortality. Features hot angels and demons, and centers on a young post doctoral student, Evelyn Broussard, a single mother, who discovers the truth behind the false discreditation and the implications for life.

These are shows I would enjoy binge watching on one of those insomniac nights that occur frequently in my middle age.

Things to Get an Incoming Harvard Freshman

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Sheep shear belt from J. Press of Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

As I was headed to my 25th college reunion at Harvard, I got a text from one of my partners. One of her friend’s sons was graduating from high school and headed to Harvard this fall and she wanted gift suggestions. As I was waiting for my hopper to O’Hare, I opined in no particular order:

1. Personalized stationary with initials embossed on paper and envelopes

2. Fountain pen -nifty basic Mont Blanc or fancy Cross with name engraved

3. Box of name cards

4. Custom laptop bag from Timbuk2 with an iPad Air inside encased in a Zagg backlit keyboard case

5. Album of fun selfies, depending on how cozy she was with the boy

6. Tie wardrobe from jpressonline.com -looking under neckwear. About five would do

7. Tasting flight of single barrel Kentucky whiskeys

8. Watch wardrobe featuring cheap but fun watches by Stuhrling, Stauer, Casio, Timex

9. Sony RX100m3 camera

10. Custom blazer buttons with his initials embroidered on them

11. Warm, lined hunting vests from Orvis

12. Gentleman’s knife with a 3 inch blade and corkscrew, other stuff optional

13. Rice cooker -old fashioned kind that lets you cook ramen, stews, osso bucco

14. Shaving subscription

15. Squash racquet and bag of balls, eyewear -even if he doesn’t play now, he will

16. Collapsible bike

17. BMW i28 convertible in silver

18. Bose bluetooth speakers -the big ones, Bang and Olufsen if particularly favored

19. Waterbed

20. 3 pack of 10,000 mAH battery packs, solar charger

21. 4 years of Dropbox subscriptions

22. Lava lamp

23. Annual summer retreats in the Hamptons, Calabria, Florianopolis, and Catalina.

24. Foul weather wardrobe -waxed cotton jacket in green by Barbour, anorak by LL Bean, ski jacket system by North Face

25. Beef jerky

Big Tablets Are the Next Big Thing

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Pictured above is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 in the 32gB flavor. It is swagged out with a Zagg keyboard case and a Samsung bluetooth mouse. The new Pro series of Galaxy tablets come with Retina level displays and this one just pops colors and details. What really wins me over is the speed which when you run single windowed apps, runs very well on the quad core chip this comes with. Several on line reviews snipe about lag when you run four windows simultaneously -this is a Samsung TapWhiz junky trick that is best avoided. With a keyboard and mouse, it turns the 12 inch tablet into a laptop replacement. Easily going over ten hours of battery time, you don’t have to worry about extra power when you travel internationally or go to work with no cable in your bag. It is pricey and won’t win over bargain hunters -the Google Nexus 7 fills this category, and I think that Google hasn’t released a Nexus 10 II or a Nexus 12, because it wants its clients to have a chance in this world. It kills iPad Air in the screen category -the 10 inch screen on the iPad seems listless and dull in comparison, and I am a certified Apple fan having read the Steve Jobs tome and bought every generation of iPad, including two when the first one came out. I fight daily with my 5 year old who is transfixed by the huge TV like screen. Plus, when I try to work on an iPad, I dream of having a mouse. In Android, when you pair a bluetooth mouse, you get a screen cursor. iOS 8 really really needs to support this. Where Android wins for me right now is it has an edge of future now that Apple is losing as it caters to the extremely young and extremely old and the bulge in the middle. Android, because of its near app parity, means for the most part I don’t have to be tethered to the Apple ecosystem. Even iTunes music can be worked around as your library will be sucked up by Google’s music player on your desktop and made available on Android devices and the Chrome browser. Sure, you can’t play your iTunes movie library, but Google is making that less important by offering the same movies, often for cheaper. Also, the Play app is nimble where the Video app on iPad is ponderous and constantly buffering -maybe Google’s pipes are fatter through some payola -who knows. It’s all good.

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Not like -Best Buy features a Samsung Experience store, where the even cooler penbased Galaxy Pro is displayed but available only by ordering and picking up a few days later. Also, the 64gB version of this tablet was unavailable for immediate pickup and walkout. I get that the iPad’s aren’t available in every flavor, but I don’t understand why every iteration of offered Samsung Tablet isn’t available for immediate pickup and walkout at these store within a stores. Being impatient, I went ahead and purchased with the plan to return if I was disappointed (I am not) and ordering the right tablet from Amazon. Worried -Samsung notoriously ditches its hardware after a year or two, offering maybe one long delayed upgrade in OS or a patch to its Samsung apps here or there (which I just don’t use). I have a bricked Samsung Tablet 2 7.0 in a drawer that won’t power up but I’m afraid of throwing out because of the data in its chips -it died after about three years of steady use. Not Like -while premium pricing implies premium materials, I just see a lot of shiny plastic. Aluminum may bring charges of Apple copying, but they could have gone for a real leather option instead of the plastic leather grain molded back with fake stitching.

The large tablet is a real thing and brings work productivity together with media and fun consumption in a way that Microsoft could only dream of. They so badly want this, but can’t seem to get their act together. My Windows 8.1 tablet from Dell lies unused and powered off because it has a crappy screen and has lost its ability to reset to factory condition which I had to do twice after it got junked up with usual Windows crap -detritus of hacky updater files, streamed media and who knows what rapidly filled up the 32gB SSD and made it unstable and unusable. Despite attractive offerings from ASUS and HP and Dell with super sized tablets -basically detachable 18-21 inch all in ones with 4 hour batteries, I ran away. Microsoft has been revealed for what it has long been apparent to me -an enabler of the “Help Desk” in corporate IT who must have problems arise in computers to exist, and a non-thinking agglomeration of hackers who jumble together whatever works -who uses all the features in Word? While I might use Office for Android when it inevitably limps in in 2015, I will still curse it for stupid things like selecting the whole word instead of part of a word without changing an setting.

The iPhone 5S is Clearly The Best Smartphone For One Thing

I dropped my iPhone 5 and cracked the screen. Even though I was waiting for an iOS phablet, I decided to order the 5S. Having used it for three days, I have to say that it is the finest smartphone I have ever used and I have used almost every one. The screen is great and the camera takes gorgeous pictures but it is the battery life.The battery life is so good compared to my iPhone 5 that I have ditched my Mophie case for emergency use only. Having a small phone is great. Having a small phone that can let you create a talk on keynote in the middle of the night and have enough juice to last the day is phenomenal.

I don’t know why it works so much better but I suspect it has to do with the 4G radio and how the iPhone alloys juice to it. The phone clearly can get through my 12 hour day now with juice to spare.

Turkey Notes

I look forward to carving the turkey because at its core, it is an operation. The incisions to disarticulate the limbs are planned to preserve as much skin on the carved meat as possible because the skin has about 80% of the flavor. The cuts are designed to allow the soft long muscles of the thighs to maintain their texture while the four drums sticks –the femurs and the humeruses bilaterally, are set aside for those relishing the birdly wands. The flats of the wings, the radius and ulna, are kept with the one remnant digit. I like to think that the original therapods from which this turkey descended were not much different or less delicious. The breasts are always difficult to remove with enough of the core –the meat tight to the sternum and rib cage, that is the juiciest meat because it was the last to cook. I feel bad for those who must have white meat, because the breast is all about texture and juices and not at all about the essence of the turkey which lives in the thighs, especially the small muscles of the pelvis. From the breast, I carve broad steaks. I divide the dark meat from the white to make the choice easier.

Our turkey this year was “catered” in the sense that we picked up an organic, free range, Amish turkey –it probably even had a name. At first, I balked at “catering” something, then cooking it myself, being used to the amazing holiday catering at the Wakonda Club. The fixings were done and were great. The turkey was the cleanest, freshest smelling turkey I have ever worked with. There is a rule about fish that I extrapolate to all meat which is if it smells bad, it is bad. While I apply this rule to fish, it is not infrequent that I hold meat to a lower standard and that is something that I will reconsider.

Packaged chicken and pork typically smells horrible. Chickens reek of a smell which I interpret as boiled feathers. Freshly butchered chickens are usually hand plucked, but industrial processing requires expediency and this means dipping the chicken in boiling water to make the feathers easier to pull off. I think this is the smell that’s on industrial chicken. Pork has other odors, even less pleasant. Both will often smell like a unclean toilet –the kind you run into at concerts and football games. And on top of all of this, there is ammonia. I detect ammonia at a subconscious level because I have spent most of my life working in hospitals. This is all over many packaged chicken and pork products.

I will cut down the amount of meat we eat and the meat that we choose will have to pass the fish test. The turkey was sublime, full of natural flavors and textures that I hadn’t appreciated in a long time.

Gomtang Instant Noodle Soup -it’s all in the soup

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The food alchemists in Korea have many years and lots of resources to tweak products towards a kind of perfection that the Korean market demands with the byproduct that Asia as a whole likes South Korea as much as it dislikes Japan and distrusts China and especially its food. It creates a perfect storm for instant foods that recreate the sensation and feeling of the real thing. In this case, Gomtang, is a dish that takes days to make, involving the boiling of oxtail and bones for days resulting in a rich and hearty stock that is seasoned only with a dash of salt and chopped green onions. The boiling over days leaves your house smelling like a glue factory and it’s largely outsourced to restaurants that specialize in gomtang or sulungtang (alt word, basically same thing) like Gam Mi Ok in midtown Manhattan, where the soup is kept going round the clock for decades in giant cauldrons, served with simple flour noodles of vermicelli gauge. The Gomtang package noodle pictured above claims to give you the same taste. And it does. I made a batch for lunch for my family using these packs, and I did add sliced round cuts that I dipped in the soup to brown and quickly put aside for adding to the final dish. The soup, which is a bit salty like every package ramen dish, looks and tastes just like a decent gomtang. The beef that I added gives it a few added globules of beef fat which only adds to the authenticity. Add chopped green onions and for a moment, you are sitting on 32nd Street in Manhattan on a cold day savoring your gomtang. 

I do have to add that while it tastes good up front, there are missing flavor notes that give it away as not completely authentic. There is a flavor and soup texture added by the solubilized connective tissues of oxtail that leaves a sticky residue on your palate and makes the beef flavor linger -this is missing. Also, I would avoid drinking up the soup as it is a lot of unnecessary sodium to add to your diet. As a carrier and sauce for the noodles and added beef, it is perfect on a cold fall day, and I recommend it in moderation. 

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Instant Naengmyun: a review of Doong Ji Cold noodle in Beef Broth

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I bought a box of these Doog Ji Naengmyun on a whim because of the moonshot represented by attempting a Naengmyun in a box. I remember my mother spending whole days rendering the beef broth that forms the backbone of this dish served cold and while it was delicious, it was never as good as the Naengmyun you would get at the restaurants in Seoul that featured the original stuff made by people who fled south during the war. There is a mouth feel to the vermicelli gauge noodles made from sweet potatoes that is somewhere between al dente and rubber band like that is delightful in that hearty stock that is served chilled and vinegared.

About two decade or so ago, the frozen refrigerated section of the Korean grocers got the the first of many serial attempts at recreating this, and while they were close enough, they failed in the broth and the noodles were too time sensitive because they were partially hydrated and refrigerated, making it imperative you kept them in boiling water for anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes. Any longer and you lose that rubbery, al dente feeling.

Enter Doong Ji which I tried for breakfast (the boiled egg). The reconstituted cold broth was initially very salty, dense and had too many competing back flavors that I was dubious. The noodles cooked in their own time, but because they were completely dry to start, they were more reliably done in the recommended 3 minutes if slow boil. I always sample starting from about a minute.

When rinsed and in the bowl with the broth reconstitute, the water in the noodles further dilutes the broth and by some strange alchemy, a 95% perfect Naengmyun comes through. The chewiness is perfect. The beef background is there with perfect amount of vinegar. There are some off notes. The dry flakes can be dispensed with. They are freeze dried radish and onions which do nothing for the dish. You are better off chopping green onions.

The broth by itself is still un drinkable unlike the best Naengmyun houses in Korea where you would get a mug of the warm broth as a beverage but slurped in with those noodles the flavors are almost there. It is better than a lot of smaller places where it’s a secondary menu offering. It is basically about there with the refrigerated stuff which is saying a lot.

It is a solid B when you ignore the broth. Don’t drink the broth.

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