Recently Posted Lots of (Old) Entries

I finally went back and wrote, proofread, and/or spellchecked previous drafts of posts from my time in New York, all in various stages of completion. Thus, I recently posted the following (with dates appropriately set to make the blog narrative continuous). They are listed here in chronological order.

Sunday: Cloisters, Upper West Side, Thai
Wednesday: A New York Lunch, Upper Midtown
Saturday: Saturday: Guggenheim, Upper Midtown, and more
Sunday: Central Park & the American Museum of Natural History
Tuesday: Donald, K-Town, Rockefeller, Staten Island, Little Italy
Wednesday: Divane & Cafe Lalo
Thursday: The Spanish Center

As I've realized since I've returned to california, I really like having a diary of neat things I did and saw and want to share with other people. However, sadly, it just takes too much time to continue! (See how long it took me to finish proofing those old posts and get around to actually posting them?) So this is the formal announcement of the gradual death of this blog -at least until I have more time, which won't be in the near future-. Gradually only because something else may pop into my mind about my new york trip that I'd like to document, and those items I will document here.

Back in California!

I'm home! Or something. And mostly past post-Game recovery. A great big shout out to Bryson and Catherine, with whom I'm crashing while I figure out where I'm going to live. I really don't know what I'm going to do with this blog now that I'm back. My current plan to insert a few older posts to finish documenting my experiences in New York. And then I'll probably let this blog stagnate, posting at very sporadic intervals, or perhaps die ever-so-slowly. Opinions welcome.

But before I let this die I should say, Bryson and Catherine and I went to a great chinese restaurant on California Avenue in Palo Alto. Let the waiter order for us. Got piles of dishes -a ton of food- but it was all really good. :)

Thursday: The Spanish Center

These pictures go with this entry.

Thursday was devoted to work. After all, Tuesday was a vacation, Wednesday was a day full of meetings, and Friday would be for traveling back to the west coast. Thus, the only exciting event of the day was after work but before packing: dinner!

After spending quite a while to decide on the appropriate place to eat for my last meal in the city, I was on my way to the spanish community center. Apparently, there was a small restaurant in the basement that served some of the best paella in the city. This time I was smart and got good directions, as it was almost as obscure and hard to find as the Burger Joint.

The waitresses kept trying to speak spanish to me, telling me that I looked like a spaniard. Interesting... (Especially as I think spanish might be one of the european countries from which I have the least blood.)

The paella was good, with a motley assortment of shrimp, mussells, beef, chicken, and pork. But I wasn't there for the protein; I was there for the rice. And though it looked small, probably only covering the bottom centimeter of the pan, it, along with some good gazpacho, filled me up. And with this energy, I packed. Well, that, and watched the simpsons.

Wednesday: Divane & Cafe Lalo

These pictures go with this entry.

Wednesday I let Donald explore on his own and simply met him in the evening to show him times square at night and to grab some food. For food, we ended at a Turkish inspired well-reviewed restaurant called Divane. I had their trademark dish, a large plate filled with kebabs, pita croutons, with tomato chunks in a tangy tomato garlic yogurt sauce. It was rightly recognized as their trademark dish -- I think it was one of the best meals I've had in the city. (Well, I suppose it may not be a trademark if all their other dishes are as good, but I doubt that.)

Again we tried to go the Empire State Building but didn't make it in time for the last elevator.

Instead, we (er, well, I) decided we should go Cafe Lalo, the amazing dessert place on the upper west side that in a previous post I promised to revisit before I left. Well, with less than 48 hours left in New York, I did! Still a nice European-feel cafe/bakery with a tremendous menu. Any dessert you could imagine. Donald and I split a Chocolate Strawberry Banana Cake (I think -- the order of those words may be wrong) and a Almond-something cheesecake. Both quite tasty. And I also had a blackberry wine (under the premise that I didn't know when the next time I'd have the opportunity would be). The blackberry wine was quite sweet, like a port or a honey wine, but with a hint of the tanginess that blackberries have. Pretty cool.

Oh, and this time I took the opportunity to take some pictures of this great place!

Tuesday: Donald, K-Town, Rockefeller, Staten Island, Little Italy

These pictures go with this entry.

Donald was traveling the coast (mostly via train) and arrived late Monday night. We grabbed a quick snack at Gray's Papaya when he arrived; then I decided to take off Tuesday to show him around the city a bit. He was nice enough to offer to arrange our touring so that he would see sights in the city with me that I hadn't already seen then on Wednesday on his own see the sights that I had.

Tuesday started by us walking to Korean Town and exploring the area around it. With a chowhound inspired tip, we found a good restaurant that served the usual plentitude of small Korean dishes along with the entrees. For entrees, I had tasty thin steak strips cooked in a clay pot (with some veges); Donald had some soup pho-like thing -- I forget what exactly. I think we were both satisfied.

We grabbed the train up to Rockefeller Center: Donald wanted to see it. It was more impressive during the day than the previous time I saw it during the evening; there was a courtyard I missed before that contained a number of flags. But still the whole complex isn't as cool as grand central.

It was raining fairly heavily so we were careful about our choices. The plan to hike the Brooklyn Bridge was out. Instead, we took the Staten Island ferry (free!) and got some nice (although hazy) views of the statue of liberty, liberty island, and the manhattan skyline.

Returning, we headed to wander Little Italy and Chinatown for dinner. Surprisingly, although visiting a few times, I'd never eaten there. After jogging between awnings and examining menus in Little Italy and rebuffing desperate maitre`ds (the rain had dramatically effected their business) we settled on a restaurant.

The restaurant was popular and filled so we got sat outside under the awning This meant occasionally moving our table and rotating depending how heavy the wind was blowing, for the rain was still coming down quite hard. This also meant timing our orders to be nice to the waiter, because he had to jot outside of the awning to get to us. The bus boy was smart and put on a rain jacket. Dinner was tasty though, as I recall, not very big.

After dinner we tried to go the top of the Empire State Building, expecting that the rain and lightening would make for a tremendous view of the city. Sadly, the weather caused the early closure of the observation deck so they wouldn't let us up.

Since it was still early (10pm), we decided to find something else to do, and grabbed some quick subways (and ran a bit) and made it to a theater playing Fahrenheit 9-11 within the first few minutes of it starting. (The beginning credits were still rolling.)

This is what I wrote in my notes afterward: "Michael Moore's recent bush-bashing flick. Features too much Moore, such as too many Moore voiceovers. Quite disorganized and rambling -- hard to know where it is going. Despite these two negatives, still interesting for its uniqueness in topic and scope."

We were smarter after the movie and decided to take a cab home rather than two subways and some walking. This actually was my first cab ride in the city!

Monday: Taking It Easy

Just a brief post. I think I'm going to take it a bit easier this week since I've been running around trying to finish seeing everything I want to see in the city before I fly back to the west coast (on Friday). And I'm feeling pretty good about everything I've seen.

Today was a quick good cubano sandwich from my local Cuban restaurant with incredibly bad service, Havana-Chelsea. Dinner at Google. Maybe I'll find some time tonight to update this blog further: I still have to finish the half-completed posts from last Sunday, last Wednesday, and this most recent weekend (Saturday and Sunday).

I'm looking forward to being "home." Though not looking forward to, uh, finding a home (i.e., apartment hunting). And still need to decide how to live: one bedroom or with random people. Sadly, all my Berkeley-local housemate options fell through.

Just so this post isn't a total loss, here are two amusing facts.

One, I was offered fake IDs for the first time in my life this morning (while walking through Times Square).

And two: two deserves a brief story. I always keep my keys, cards, camera, etc. in particular pockets. At some point, I got tired of this and decided not to continually favor one hand for each such item so I started switching pockets on myself. This actually got somewhat confusing and at times very annoying because either I'd reach for something with my hands full and it wouldn't be there, or I'd feel funny walking around because I'm used to a particular heavy item (e.g., camera, glasses case, flashlight) being on one leg and when it is on the other leg it makes walking feel funny. In any case, I was doing this with my camera (which normally goes in my right pocket) in my left pocket and I was having trouble gripping it and getting it in and out of my pocket. And I realized that my camera is very strongly biased towards right-handers, being 40% thicker on the right side than the left so using it left handed is unwieldy. Feeling bad for left-handed camera users, I looked them up online. Most of the results came up for a few cameras that advertise as being symmetric and therefore good for either hand. I think I only saw one camera for left-handers. But there are your interesting facts about the existence (well, practically non-existence) of left handed cameras.

Sunday: Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History

Sadly, my pictures do not document what I ate that day, nor do I remember any longer. But they do document my two main activities during the day. :)

I started off Sunday by walking through part of the southern end of Central Park. It was really nice and soothing. I stopped and listened multiple times to musicians (mostly jazz), watched a group of breakdancers / acrobats, and viewed a guy playing shell games with some international tourists. He disappeared with nary a trace upon a warning (which I didn't notice) that a park ranger was coming.

At one edge of the park was the American Museum of Natural History. It was a tremendously large museum, covering four city blocks on four floors and containing everything related to science, nature, and culture, and three hours wasn't nearly enough (despite my attempt at speediness). Filled with families.

They had rooms portraying the culture, clothing, habits, and environment of nearly every ethnic group. And rooms portraying scenes of many many animals, from a multitude of different terrains and continents. And similarly grand exhibits about plants. And rocks. And geology. And, with an attached planetarium and space museum, anything related to astronomy. Wow.

Notably, in the rocks exhibit, I found an display containing pyromorphite, my team's "logo rock" from the jackpot game. What an ugly mineral!

Also amusing, as a counterpoint to the production of the tragedy The Frogs at the Lincoln Center, the museum had an exhibit on frogs. The real ones this time. It was so popular it had tickets sold separately and was sold out.

After the museum closed and they kicked me out, I went on to finish my exploration of central park. Central park has a nice (though tiny and rather folksy) castle, and many nice views of the skyscrapers in the city proper. Apparently it also has a small zoo (closed by the time I arrived), and a theater (showing shakespeare daily, sold out), and a nice pond (which I did see) where lots of people play with remote controlled sailboats. Formal races happen on a different day of the week.

That was the last section of central park I hadn't wandered through, and by then it was dark. I left the park and went where? I remember not.

Saturday: Guggenheim, Upper Midtown, and more

The Guggenheim cleared my head! You may recall that I hadn't been feeling that good the past couple of days. This day started off no different.

After grabbing lunch (I forget where: this teaches me to write my posts reasonably close to the day I'm writing about), I went to the Guggenheim. Judging by the crowd, it seemed to be very popular with tourists, especially international ones.

I was generally disappointed by the Guggenheim. There was little (or no) commentary about the artwork, unlike many other museums. (I like reading the commentary!) There was also a lack of spots to sit and view the pieces; the sloping floor encourages one to continue moving without stopping to process what is on display.

I did (re-)discover I liked Kandinsky and Mondrian. Maybe I'll get more posters when I move back to california.

They had an amazing large collection of pieces about hands ("Speaking with Hands" exhibit). By amazing large, I mean probably the same size as their permanent collection. Although a number of pieces were neat, only two struck me enough that I made a note to write about them in my blog. Both served as Game clue idea inspiration. But now I realize I must omit mention of them here because gamers may come here hunting for clues when I decide to run another game...

After the Guggenheim, I was feeling good. (I don't really know why.)

Heading north, I arrived at the Museum of the City of New York twenty minutes before it was supposed to close. It was a cool museum (as I expected), with an extravagant collection of old pictures, dollhouses, period rooms, toys, furniture, etc., which is why I wanted to visit it before leaving the city. The pictures, with their images evoking New York life, were the star of the museum (in my mind). At some point during my rapid exploration, a museum attendant tracked me down and gave me a free pass for another visit. I guess they felt guilty making me pay the entrance fee for only twenty minutes.

After this, I started being in places where I could take pictures. I've uploaded them here.

Grabbing a subway to downtown, I saw Bloomingdale's (because I was supposed to) and a few other famous buildings. One that bothered me was the IBM building (see picture), because it had such a heavy looking granite skyscraper above a large unsupported space. And it had yet another weird statue (see another picture). The trump tower shopping complex, while impressive looking and very reflective, was surprisingly small. A few blocks away, I spotted another weird statue (see another picture).

The only other notable sight on this trip to upper midtown was the Citigroup Center, built on a block of land with the St. Peter's Lutheran Church on the corner. They had to figure out how to support this skyscraper without getting rid of the church. I remember this making news years ago, and now I've seen it. (And if you view my pictures, you can see it too!)

For dinner, I went down to Katz's. I figured I should go there again before I leave, and hoped that eating a good sized chunk of meat would help give me energy to keep off whatever was previously making me feel bad.

Friday: Ick, and NY is Time-Shifted

Still queasy on and off for most of the day. Rained all day too. Poured some of the time. I got caught in a brief spell that changed from a drizzle to a downpour really quickly on my way home, only a block from my building. The doorman was shocked how wet I was, and was even more so after I told him it only started three minutes ago.

I was trying to eat healthy stuff today. Real OJ in the morning. Chicken and lots of fruit for lunch. Around dinnertime I was heading to Arthur's Tavern, really just a bar that features live music with no cover. The 7pm show (which I thought started at 6:30pm) was supposed to be really good. I arrived at 6:20pm and the place was still closed. Debating the rain and everything, I decided to go into the only nearby restaurant I knew in this district that was supposed to be good, Wild Ginger (same place I went last Sunday). (And it certainly was nearby: two doors away.)

I was the first person in the restaurant: New Yorkers just tend to eat late. Floridians eat early; most of the country eats around 6 or 6:30, and New York is more like 7:30 or 8 (unless trying to hit a pre-theater dinner).

I had green curry with eggplant, green beans, and duck. Surprisingly uninspiring given that I quite liked what I had on Sunday. The green curry was so mild it had little flavor, and the duck was really fatty with little meat. And I made the mistake of ordering brown rice which, in my opinion, doesn't tend to go with dishes that you want to soak up its sauces.

Heading back to Arthur's Tavern, I was the third person there besides the waitress, the bartender, and the jazz trio (already started). The waitress and the bartender were both cute girls. For a little while I thought they were dating but, listening to their conversation, I realized they were straight. The rain really was depressing business everywhere. Hung out for a little while, chatted with the barmates, and imbibed some fruity drinks (fuzzy navel, metropolitan) to try to help my stomach. The Eri Yamamoto Jazz Trio was pretty decent. Eri is the pianist, originally classically trained. My only complaints about them is that (a) their jazz tended be half-jazz half-easy-listening-type-music and (b) much of their songs had the same musical theme (from a high level). But it was still reasonably fun.

Thursday Night: I Am A Chowhound

Some of you may wonder what I mean when I say I am a chowhound. (Well, actually probably none of you wonder that but I'll tell you anyway.) Chowhounds spend hours researching and discussing food and restaurants in underground places, only to spend even more time trekking to find the hidden place that'll fulfill their craving. This is what I did Thursday night. After researching and settling on the Burger Joint as one of the best and cheapest burger joints (hah) in the city, I took the train up to 56th. I walked the block between 6th and 7th twice and never found a trace of it. So I went home.

And then researched more and found that the Burger Joint was hidden behind a thick curtain in the lobby of a fancy hotel. So I took another train and half an hour later I was back on that block. (That's what makes me a chowhound.) At first I went into the wrong hotel lobby: no curtain. But then I found it. These pictures document my journey into the place (taken after I found it) just to show how well hidden it was.

It was definitely a joint if you know what I mean by that. The burger I had was quite good, though not as good as the one at Molly's. Also had some fries and a Sam Adams (which I only partially finished because of my stomach). The food helped calm it, briefly.

Thursday: Museum of TV and Radio

Today I snuck off from work in mid-afternoon (and, yes, returned later) to visit the Museum of Television and Radio. Yet another $8 dollar museum. It's a neat place: not a museum in the typical sense -they only have one exhibit- but really lots of screening rooms, listening rooms, and a library. At all these places, they provide showings of anthologies, historical tv shows, radio broadcasts, television advertisements, and more.

One of the special exhibits (June-December) was on superheroes, especially appropriate for the upcoming Game. I watched a showing of The Avengers and The Green Hornet (though I don't consider them superheroes) and saw an exhibit about superheroes in comics. Sadly, I'd already seen The Avengers episode they were showing; I used to watch my dad's old recordings of them when I was a kid. Later superhero exhibits included one called Girl Power including Buffy (whom I do consider a superhero :). Oh, and I also watched a really interesting documentary on presidential political advertisements, from 1952 to 2004. If you happen to be in the city (NYC) or in LA (I think they have a museum there too), I'd recommend dropping by.

Been feeling queasy all day. *sigh*

Wednesday: A New York Lunch, Upper Midtown

These pictures go with this entry.

Wednesday was a New York lunch, meaning I snuck out a little after lunchtime to buy same-day discount theater tickets. Sadly, that failed because of the two shows I wanted to see, one closed a few days prior and the other is perpetually sold out (after having won lots of Tony awards). On the way back, the excursion turned into a new york lunch in another way: a museum. I happened to run across the International Center for Photography. After a $7 entrance fee, I was off exploring.

Sadly, it was entirely unthrilling. The good pieces were few and far between; most of the exhibit was filled with weird experimental Chinese photographs. They had some videos that looked interesting, but I couldn't force myself to sit through all the bad ones to wait for the good ones.

Towards the evening, I left to explore parts of upper midtown. The most amazing building I saw here was Saint Patrick's Cathedral, with its towers that seem to dwarf the church itself. The inside was pretty impressive too, nice stained glass windows and statues and all, but certainly much smaller that the tremendous cathedral on the upper west side.

There were a number of smallerish museum in this area, notably the museum of television and radio (notable because I returned to it later). The building next door to the museum had some strange figures that I can't figure out.

Radio City Music Hall is on the edge between this district and the theater district. The lights are quite impressive, and I'm not quite sure I managed to capture the full effect in my pictures. Radio City is right by Rockefeller Center, which I went in but was not impressed by (though that may be from the fact that it was just closing).

There are also three large matching buildings around here with many fairly narrow windows. The combination of their size and the vertical lines created by their windows created a dizzying effect.

Took a picture of a neat triangular metal sculpture Edison would like, oriented toward the sky.

Finally, found myself by Little Brasil at this point, so grabbed a fairly nice dinner at Ipanema Restaurant. Though the dish I ordered didn't sound that similar, it was quite similar to the previous dish I had at a different little brasil restaurant, again heavy on the shrimp puree. Very filling.

Tuesday: Headin` to the Center and Fixin` My Soul

These pictures go with this entry.

Tuesday I ditched work at a reasonable time and went to Grand Central station. And boy is it impressively big. Lots of shopping on some corridors, lots of trains on others, and a big food concourse down below.

It has a neat layout, and the way traffic flows around it is quite interesting. The tunnels into a building you see here gradually get raised a good twenty feet above the ground and then go around the top level of grand central, merging on the other side and then coming back to earth. Meanwhile, traffic goes in a wider berth around the base. I guess it's not unlike an airport, but on a much smaller scale made more complex by the density of the city.

That was basically it for the excursion (because I left late and it was getting dark). I did get some nice pictures of the ornate Fred F. French building, including some interesting ones of the building reflected in the one across the street.

Then I headed out for food. On the way, I passed the Trattoria that I ate at twice (once by myself and once with my aunt and uncle) and snapped a picture. Then took a bunch of pictures from the center of Times Square attempting to get a good panorama shot. It was really hard because so many people and cars keep passing, it'll be tough to join the pictures. We'll see how it goes when I try it.

To end the day, I grabbed some decent enough bbq at Soul Fixins and headed home (to discover my apartmentmate's husband and fellow film students were just finishing up filming a fake porno).

Monday: The UN, and Some Lower (East) Manhattan

These pictures go with this entry.

Monday morning was also overcast. I'd originally planned to go to the Upper West Side and get brunch at a well-recommended restaurant and then explore the American Museum of Natural History. I considered these a pair so when the brunch place turned out to be closed, I ditched this plan and headed back down to explore Lower (East) Midtown.

Walking east along 42nd, I passed Grand Central, the Chrysler building, a patriotic lamppost, and an assortment of other famous buildings. One of these, a building that is part of Tudor City, was interesting in its window selections: apparently there used to be slums and factories just east of it (between it and the East River), so they intentionally built few windows on the east side.

Eventually I came to the United National headquarters. At this point, I was no longer in New York City -- the UN headquarters is on international land not affiliated with any country. The first thing I noticed was that there were no flags on the famous row of flagposts in front of the headquarters building. Sad. (And I'm sorry I forgot to ask about this later.) The second thing is that there are a lot of nice statues symbolizing peace. The main building also had a nice exhibit celebrating indigenous peoples. I took a few pictures of paintings I liked (done by tribesmen in Brazil I think).

I took a tour. Mostly this was fairly unexciting and involved standing around in hallways and looking at posters promoting various UN goals (human rights, banning land mines, self-determination, peace, ...) while listening to my tour guide speak. I did, however, get to see the general assembly and another large conference room. But by far the most interesting part of the tour was the guide. She gave some really interesting commentary discussing UN strategy and relating the interactions of governments, the UN, and NGOs, and describing the relationships between peace-making, peace-keeping, and arbitration. Also, our tour guide was half-Polish, half-Ghanaian.

All this exploration of the UN took quite a while, so I went straight to work afterwards. On the way back, noticed a plaza near the UN had a lamppost sprouting international flags. Quite a contrast to the other flagposts a mere three blocks away.

Sunday: Cloisters, Upper West Side, Thai

These pictures go with this entry.

Sunday was overcast. The whole day was either looking like it might start raining in any second or actually drizzling. No real rain arrived, which was great because I ended up getting a lot of wandering done.

First thing, I headed to the far northern tip of Manhattan to visit the cloisters. They're a kind of medieval monastery-like place that houses medieval artifacts and artwork. Affiliated with the Met. The cloisters are at one of the highest altitude points in Manhattan so there is a great view of both the Hudson and the East river. Sadly, the overcastness made this view hazy (and so therefore I didn't take many pictures of it either).

They weren't as impressive as I'd hoped, but maybe I'm just callous from all the other museums. They have a really impressive series of large canvases of townsfolk hunting a unicorn.

On the way out from Fort Tryon Park (that surrounds the Cloisters) saw some people "playing" capoiera. Providing the music themselves too. I've never before seen capoiera done by random people in the street.

After the cloisters, I grabbed a train down to the upper west side. Nice and generally quite upscale like the upper east side. Had a nice, occasionally drizzly, hike down riverside park. Snapped a nice picture of a squirrel and a few photos that tried to demonstrate the amount of shades of green in the park.

Most of these bullets have pictures -I just couldn't be bothered to linking to them all directly-; you should follow along.

* Saw a building with really really large bricks. If you view the picture, compare the scale to the size of the people!
* Headed by the Lincoln Center complex. Saw the theater itself (with yet more weird statues), the met, the concert hall, and more. There is a remaking of the old tragedy The Frogs and for ambiance they had speakers in the trees making ribbits. I took a short movie (with sound) portraying tracking down these speakers.
* Happened by The College Board (group that runs the ACT) building. I wonder how many people make pilgrimages here?
* Saw a dumpster being raised up the outside of a (tall) building. Pretty funky sight that I've never seen before.
* Saw a number of prestigious apartment buildings. One had two towers; many celebrities want to live there. Infamously, they turned down Madonna. Another (Astoria) used to have a manegrie on the roof.
* Spent three dollars to see the what-turned-out-to-be-tiny American Folk Art Museum (extension). Unthrilling.
* Hiked past the large modern shopping mall and office buildings that make up the Columbus Circle Center. Took a few shots here and took a nice picture of some statues at Columbus Circle. The birds that look like they are part of the statues are not! They're real and just happen to be sitting in mostly appropriate spots! :) Finally, I suppose I should mention a very modern looking trump tower was located here.
* Returned to the Alwyn Court Apartments (in the theater district) to take some pictures of its ornate facade. (When I'd previously visited, my camera batteries were dead.)
* Finally, grabbed a picture of the Momo Sushi place I had previously eaten at and hadn't managed to take a picture of.

Then, headed home to decide where to eat dinner. Luckily, I found my loftmates' Zagat Guide and tracked down a nice sounding Thai restaurant in the village. Wild Ginger. It was dark, with romantic lighting (good for a date), and with a very nice decor and good ambiance. The food was quite tasty, though I didn't have a typically thai entree like curry. I had a funky drink, as I recall something like an alcoholic papaya with tapioca. Whatever it was, it was good. But the best thing about the restaurant was the service. The waitress was attentive but not too attentive and the timing was great. In short, the best service I'd had dining alone in the city.

Saturday: Poland, Some UES, North Central Park, Sushi,

This photos go with this post.

It was 2-something pm by the time I got lunch. Partially this was caused by a late start and partially caused by a bunch of false-starts in trying to find a place to eat. Surprisingly I wasn't that hungry despite forgetting to eat dinner Friday night. Eventually I found myself at Little Poland, a diner-style restaurant, serving relatively authentic Polish food. How do I know? All the staff were speaking Polish. I had a very filling pile of food: four periogies, a meat (and rice?) stuffed cabbage, a piece of keilbasa, and a pile of cooked cabbage with some chicken and other items mixed in.

Then I took a train uptown, to the Whitney Museum of American Art. It was a decent enough museum with a fairly nice modern art collection, and a number of paintings I enjoyed because their color use for shadows was so perfect they really conveyed the feeling of depth. I also discovered an artist named Alexander Calder. He does a lot of work in mobiles -moving metallic sculptures- and with wire in general. The wire sculptures of his which impressed me the most are like this. All these sculptures are three dimensional. When you move your head, they actually seem appropriate. It's actually really creepy approaching these from straight ahead because first you identify it as a figure, then suddenly you realize it has depth and you don't immediately understand why.

There was also an exhibit by Ed Ruscha. He has done some really neat work involving words. In short, he made paintings of words. Some actually look computer generated; others look out-of-focus. It's quite impressive but hard to describe, although the New Yorker does a decent job. You can also find some images of his artwork by searching google, although his best stuff (and in fact most of his stuff) isn't there.

Oh, and you can even buy Love Rugs at the museum store.

Then I headed further uptown, to the part of museum mile I'd never visited. I saw the outsides of a bunch of museums but it was too late (sigh, late start) to go into them. Some I put on my list to visit and some I peeked in and decided they're probably not worth visiting. Took pictures of some of the nice museums and buildings and some typical upper east side shots, such as this nice picture of an upper east side street. Also, I happened upon yet another strange statue, two (of the few) wooden buildings in Manhattan, and the remains of old armory and the nearby school that was built to match it. (Who would want to go to school there?)

After all this, I spent a good hour hiking over and through the northern half of Central Park. Very lush. Hidden ravines with streams. Giants rocks upon which to climb. And lots of field space. I mean lots. In the north meadow alone there must have been eight softball fields, with outfields, so everything was still very green. In the middle of the excursion, I came across two things I missed while on the west coast. One was something we used to call helicopters because of how they fall. The other was fireflies (which for obvious reasons I don't have a picture of). During the end of this part of the Central Park excursion, I walked for a while around the big reservoir in the center of the park. One could get an interesting contrast between the tall buildings on the east and west side -mostly brownstone and sandstone- versus the tall buildings on the south side -mostly modern black and steel and glass. The trail was nice, though crowded. Apparently I found the place where lots of new yorkers jog. Well, at least where lots of young, trim, female new yorkers jog.. ;)

After some transportation difficulties, I ended up walking along the far edge of the theatre district at which time I came across a sushi place called Momo. It looked reasonable enough and so, remembering how sometimes I missed good meals by thinking that a better restaurant is just down the road, in I went. It was pretty good sushi: nothing exceptional but reasonably fresh and nicely presented. Drinking a Sapporo, I wondered what happened to my old quad-mate Dave. Maybe I'll track him down. (Oh, and sorry no picture of Momo. I tried. I really did. But my camera was insistent that when it says replace the batteries it means it. Happily, I did go back a few days later -before I actually managed to post this- to take a picture of it.)

Exhausted from all this walking, I located a blockbuster and headed home. At home I watched, though was interrupted in the middle to chat with my apartmentmates and their friends for a little while before returning to the movie. It was okay; here's the review I put in my notes: "The tale of the govWorks. Kind of like watching a car accident in slow motion: vaguely mesmerizing, somewhat disturbing, and one isn't sure where things went wrong (or even if it started out all wrong). One wants to look away (yes, that is true for this movie, sadly) but still wants to see how it ends. And despite the slow-motion, somehow the end happens all too fast."

Friday: Me Being A Geek: Photo Software

Friday was nothing exciting. When I wasn't working at work, I was coding some software to provide a nice web interface to my pictures. Main reasons: (a) I want to control my own content, captions and images. I didn't want to type in all these captions online and then if I wanted to browse locally on my computer or backup my captions, I'd have trouble exporting/downloading them. Part of this is not having to depend on some company that may go out of business in a few years. And even if I found software that would let me browse locally and keep my content locally if I wanted, most of those pieces of software stored the content in specially formatted files, so if that software company went out of business then I'd be in trouble. (b) I wanted to control the interface. If I didn't like something about the interface, I wanted the ability to change it.

You can see the results of this program by following any picture links from yesterday's or forthcoming postings. (Thanks go to Craig N-M for giving me the code that I used as the basis.) Comments? Opinions? Share.

Thursday: Theater District, Pakistani, and Burgers

These pictures go with this post.

Ah, Thursday. Thursday was devoted to the theater district. The morning involved a bit of hiking along the west side of it. Along the way, I found a perfect example of what I mean by hidden churches. Then came across a massive convention center (see pictures). Supposedly they can fit the entire statue of liberty inside.

There was also a big ship that served as the base of the sea-air-space museum (see pictures). It looked cool -spot the stealth?- but the line was long so I decided I'd go back later.

While wandering through Times Square, I decided to snap some pictures that capture the feel of it, all the animated billboards, the hoards of people, and more. In retrospect, I realized I missed the most obvious item in Times Square: the electronic ticker tape. I finally have evidence for the garish McDonalds. Despite all the over-the-top-ness of most things in Times Square, the McDonalds is too much: worse than even the most egregious theatres.

Lunch was almost an Ethiopian restaurant. (Couldn't remember if I heard good things about it.) Then it was almost Sandwich Planet. (A sandwich place with a Zagat rating of 25! Barely anything in my price range ever has that rating. Sadly, it only has five tables -besides take-out- and they were full.) Then it was almost this Moroccan place I'd heard about. Sadly, it was closed (without any sign why). Finally, I ended up at the Pakistani place I'd been to before. Again, it was fairly good. Eggplants & potatoes, also chicken curry. I drank a reasonable amount of water this time and no ill effects. My previous issue after eating there must've been something hangover-like. (Sorry, forgot to take a picture of the restaurant.)

After work and finishing taking more pictures in Times Square, I headed north and saw some more famous buildings. Like Carnegie Hall. And this building with a tower that changed color and lighting according to the weather forecast.

Then for dinner -this time I'd planned- I grabbed a train down to the Gramercy district. I was heading toward a pub named Molly's (description). At the intersection it was supposed to be nearby, I spotted five other pubs before spotting this one! It was a typical pub in all ways, inside and outside. Sitting in the back, I had a Guiness and a burger and fries. And it was great! I can certainly believe the chowhounders when they said the place had one of the best burgers in the city. Sadly, my camera batteries were definitely and definitively dead by this point so I couldn't take a picture of the outside of the pub. And the light at night was perfect for it! :( Oh well. But there is picture of it on one of the pages linked to above. (By the way, the place even had sawdust on the floor. That makes it even cooler.)

I Need Somewhere to Live!!

Wonderful people -

I need somewhere to live when I return to the bay area! I presume I'll beg some of you to put me up temporarily when I arrive while looking for a new place. But really I'd want a/some cool roommates. If you know anyone cool with a space in his or her place or looking for a new place, tell me! Berkeley preferred, though SF near Bart or AC transit F line also acceptable.

I'm going to postpone posting some blog posts in order to leave this post at the top of the page for a while.

Uneventful Wednesday, but One Good Photo; Apartment-Mates

Wednesday morning I had some Nova Scotia salmon on a bagel. Not as salty as the belly lox I had before, but sadly not as tasty either.

One the way home from work, I grabbed a good picture of the Met Life building at night looking festive. (And I'm quite proud I managed to take it without a tripod.)

I think it's a good time to mention my apartment-mates are cool. My latest apartment-mate moved in mid-June. I wrote the beginning of blog post at that time:

Although she moved in on Saturday, the first time I met my new apartment-mate was last (Monday) night. It's, Lexi, someone I'm previously acquainted with from Mountain View. From what I previously know, I think we'll get along well. :) And she'll be staying longer than I will so no more new apartment-mates. (The two I previously had visited new york for very short periods.) Her husband is going to come out here and move in with her in a week.

It seems my prediction was true. She's cool, and her husband is cool. Her husband studies/teaches film and that makes him an interesting conversationalist. They've also been going through the first season of Babylon 5. I've been occasionally watching with them. Oh, and for reference the reason I started writing that paragraph is because I discovered they brought their own set cards out here (as I did), and we played a few hands. They're good, feels like slightly better than I am. Fun stuff. See, cool apartment-mates.

Wednesday: Eastern Chelsea, and Later Curry Hill

(This refers to Wednesday, July 7th; written on Thursday, July 8th.)

Wednesday morning, a little worried that my time to explore New York was running out, I decided to wander eastern Chelsea / the garment district on the way to work. Much of it I'd already seen, like the enormous post office that I walk by all the time (panorama picture taken on an earlier evening). On the way out of my apartment, I grabbed some rugalach and a small hamantashen to nosh along the trip. (If you don't know what these are, you don't hang out with jews enough.) Mostly this wandering in Chelsea taught me how apt the garment district and fashion avenue references were. It's not that clothes were hipper or even more abundant in stores here, it's that the street vendors sold belts, and side streets were filled with store after store selling women's handbags. Lots of accessories. And then, of course, there was Macy's -so big it had fast food vendors in different parts of different levels of its store- and some giant shopping centers.

See, this whole part of the district is anchored by the empire state building. The line of tourists went around the corner of the block. I snickered at them and passed it by. Of course I'll go back. :) Maybe 11pm when all the tourists are nicely tucked in their hotel rooms or hotel bars.

What else is worth mentioning? Again there were some nice churches; Saint John the Baptist had a nice stained glass window. (It had lots of others further inside but I didn't feel comfortable taking pictures of those.) Here's another church; I think it is a good example of what I mean by hidden/camouflaged churches. There is a monument to General Worth here (for which Fort Worth is named); apparently he is buried under a street. (What an honor!) Also, there was a nice building that looked like a castle. And, to mention for name value, the Fashion Institute of Technology is in this district. Penn Station and Madison Square Garden are too, though they're what you'd expect and thereby not worth mentioning. Oops. :)

I left work at a reasonable time today to go toss a disc with some googlers (mostly interns) in Central Park. Very nice, very green. Got a nice breeze so it was cooler than the rest of the city. From where we were, we had a tremendous view of the Manhattan skyline. Sadly my camera batteries died when trying to take this panorama. But I'll be back and take it some other time.

After frisbee and a subway right down to the east village, I arrived at curry hill. Walking up and down the street, I could really tell what Anthony Bourdain meant in Kitchen Confidential when he refers to the stench of death on a restaurant. It really is a depressing feeling of despair, of desperation, a feeling that the restaurant will close soon. The feeling is accentuated by the fact that some restaurants have sad-looking Indian men in suits (clearly the managers) looking for foot traffic and sometimes urging people to go in.

I came with some recommendations and ended up at a fairly lively feeling place called the Brick Lane. I could tell it was a good restaurant, despite making bad choices in what I ordered. I had something called goam (a whitish creamy sauce) with lamb and a naan-like bread stuffed with onions (kulcha?). I frequently make the mistake of ordering kulcha at indian restaurants and, while good, it's always so potent to dominate the flavors in a meal. In this case, that wasn't so bad because I didn't like the tanginess of the goam. But I know the restaurant is good because of the flavors in the rice by itself and the tenderness of the lamb.

Tuesday: More Curry Hill, and Amazing Jazz

Tuesday I grabbed a decent sandwich for lunch. But dinner was the interesting meal. I was in the mood for Indian, so back to Curry Hill I went, this time to a place called Banjara. (Sorry for a poor quality photo. I really wanted to take the photo from a particular place, but that place was the middle of the street...) It was a pretty nice restaurant, quite crowded: definitely not one of those desperate curry hill restaurants. I had a marinated lamb dish that was quite tasty. (It really didn't have a typical indian food type taste but actually reminded me of my mom's marinated lamb, which I really like.) Some good piping hot (pea) samosas too.

I still wanted to go something after dinner. So I checked my list of jazz clubs I wanted to visit and found one with a set that started late. I ended up at the Zinc Bar for the 11pm set. It was small and cozy, candles and brick walls. Although packed, I got lucky and found a seat at the bar. The band was the Alex Blake quartet. One normally doesn't find a band named after the bassist but this time the naming was appropriate. He was freaken` amazing; the bass just wailed. He played it as fast and energetic and expressive as many play electric (bass) guitars. And he added some beating on the side of the bass and some occasional scat vocals. During an intermission he actually played an electric bass guitar and one could see the similarity. But it was amazing! I've never seen a bass played like that... (And the rest of the musicians were really good too. :) Here's a review of them.)

The day was definitely a good use of my subway card: to google, google to curry hill, curry hill to home, home to soho, soho to home.

Monday: Food, Gramercy/Flatiron, Shrek 2, Food

(This refers to Monday, July 5th; written on Thursday, July 8th.)

Monday was to be devoted to exploring the Gramercy/Flatiron district. I started the day by examining my list of recommended restaurants in the area. The only restaurants were some sushi places, some Indian (which I intended to eat on Tuesday), and Ali Baba (the turkish place I ate at on Friday). Following Kitchen Confidential, I'm avoiding seafood in Mondays. So back to Ali Baba it was. (Yes, I took that picture.)

A quick cross-town bus later -it was too hot to hike that far- and I was there. And it was good. This time I had pide which, at a very rough level, is Turkish pizza. But no sauce and no cheese. Pieces looked kind of like this; the whole item somewhat like this. (I really should've swallowed my pride and taken a picture of my food before I ate it! That would have saved me much trouble finding pictures on the web.) The main differences between my pide and the ones in these pictures were that my pide was longer: it was cut in half along the shorter axis and each half was the length of my plate and my pide had tiny pieces of lamb and grilled vegetables inside. It was really good. The bread itself kind of reminded me of pizza bread but was actually more tasty. You'll notice that the food doesn't go near the edge, i.e. it doesn't really appear until the fold in the bread. So, there is a good inch and a half all the way around the pide that was just bread. In american pizzas I generally eat the crust but don't appreciate it much. In this I ate it all and liked it a lot, just as much as the part of the bread with items on it.

On the way to lunch, I noticed the third avenue had lots of good looking restaurants. Maybe I'll be back. Sadly, from my wandering on Friday evening I noticed this district isn't very happening/popular at night.

The Gramercy District is nice. The commercial part has a number of buildings with impressive towers, and the residential component has some very beautiful buildings. I took this nice shot of the empire statue building with a church in the foreground. It was taken close to Madison Square Park, which had not one but two weird sculptures. (If you read my post from Sunday, you'll see I'm in a weird sculpture period.) While examining the second trying to figure out what and why it was (and probably looking confused), a helpful passerby remarked, "The sculptor is the husband of the arts commissioner in the city." That explains a bit.

The Gridiron building is also in the district (obviously, given the alternate name of the district!). I wonder what kind of people go out of their way to get a room in the point.

There is an impressive courthouse nearby. My panorama looks odd because I rotated the camera too much, but you can tell from this picture of the top of the courthouse that it really is ornate.

Gramercy Park looks nice but is locked for everyone that doesn't live within a block.

Sometime during this wandering it started pouring. Thunderstorm and all. Luckily I was in a gallery at the time and by the time I noticed and then spent 20 minutes trying to figure out what to do next given the weather, it stopped. Only negative of it stopping was by 15 minutes later, it was again as roasting as it was beforehand.

Grabbed some apple cider at the farmer's market in Union Square. You know the apple cider is good when the place selling it sells a few different variations that depend on which apples they made it from...

Then I decided to do what I hear New Yorkers do when it is too hot out: go to an air-conditioned movie. Grabbing the first free paper I found -which happened to be The Onion! :)- I browsed the listings and decided to see Shrek 2 in a nearby theater. It was great. A well done fun enjoyable entertaining flick; I'd recommend it.

Dinner involved hunting around the east village. So many tempting indian restaurants, but I'm planning to go to curry hill later this week, so I found a (non-indian) place: Mancora, a Peruvian restaurant. During hunting, though, I was tempted again by sushi places. That is, until I saw one place that advertised 50% off all sashimi, and then I remembered Kitchen Confidential and why I was avoiding seafood. And tempted by an Israeli, Polish, and a number of Turkish restaurants, but decided I wasn't in the mood for any of those.

It turns out Mancora served mostly seafood! (Maybe I should go back on a non-Monday..) I ended up ordering a chicken dish that involved a number of stripes of chicken molded into three inch diameter cylinders and stuffed with mushrooms, spinach, and cheese. Good, but fairly dry. (I think that might be a consequence of how you have to cook it so the chicken ends up done but without overcooking the vegetables inside.) It came with a tasty pile of spinach mashed potatoes; I also ordered a pretty good Peruvian Pilsner-like beer Cusquena.

Update: today's pictures and more are online.

I'm Back in NY!

As some of you know, I was back in the bay area Thursday through Monday for a Game. It was fun. That's all I'll say about that under my policy of what I can and can't talk about in this blog. If I missed seeing you while I was in town, I'm sorry; I was really quite busy.

I actually have two blog posts (with pictures) on my laptop that I wrote (on the plane on Thursday) about the beginning of last week that I haven't had a chance to upload yet. I'll do that tonight.

The plane flights -nice and direct- were fine, though a little boring. On the way out I watched a hokey but cute movie that could best be described as "cowboy invited to middle east horse race." On the way back I'd forgotten to bring a book, so I was bored. And fidgety and somewhat uncomfortable, partially because the excessively large women on my right overflowed her seat. Glucose issue? Anyway, the trip back wasn't all bad. I watched Jersey Girl and was pleasantly surprised; I didn't think Kevin Smith would be able to make a good meaningful non-comedy. And then I watched a lot of the only two other stations that were worthwhile and so saw a documentary about lions hunting elephants, a documentary about the social life (read mating) of the long-nosed monkeys of Borneo, a documentary about the Sydney-Hobart yacht race, and a documentary about the evidence for and against a large monster in a lake in the midwest.

(Meta comment: I'm glad my blog does seem to reflect me.)

Ran into a Google friend of mine on the way back that was also coming back from the Game, and so gossiped a lot, and split a cab into Manhattan. Very convenient. Especially since it was really pouring.

Sunday (part 1): Ultimate, Columbia, and more

Sunday was another busy day. First ultimate, at a field close to this spot on the Hudson river. Well not really ultimate exactly. At first we only had five people so we played a variation I hadn't seen before. It's played on a small field, with two pairs of cones about 3 feet apart from each other on each end of the field. To score, knock over a cone with a disc. Any cone. (Obvious variations involve giving sides and knocking over your opponents' cone(s).) Only additional rule is that if you get the disc on one half of the field due to a turnover, you can't knock over the nearby cones immediately. The disc has to cross the center line of the field before you can go back to knock over either of those cones. Of course, if you're already on the other half of the field, you may want to continue in that direction and knock over one of their cones. If you touch the cone (you, not the frisbee), your opponents get a point. After playing this for a while someone else came and we played real small field ultimate. Pretty fun.

On the way to ultimate, I spotted an odd sight called safety city. Apparently used for helping teach traffic laws and policy.

Then I ventured off to explore the somewhat nearby district of Morningside Heights.

* It contains Grant's Tomb (well, his wife's tomb too). I can't believe I had forgotten he was president (in addition to being a famous general)! Impressive and like the memorials in DC (but certainly not surpassing them).

* There was also an international house nearby with an odd sign. I wonder if the letter substitution was conscious..

* This district, like all others, has a number of well-hidden and not-so-well-hidden churches. Riverside Church is particularly impressive; another nice church was just around the corner.

* The center of this neighborhood is Columbia University. It's very well-fortified: buildings lay around all the edges; where there is not a building, there is a fence or a gate. There are only about four entrances into the university, each watched by a Columbia police officer. Entering makes one feel very safe and cozy. The campus is nice. Nice assortment of architecture. Quite dense, but with some wide-open spaces like their quad. I also found a very large random statue. If you think you can tell what (or why) this is, do so!

* A quick walk along Morningside Park reminds one why all the security. The number of homeless people sleeping on benches reminded me that perhaps this isn't the best neighborhood. Along this side of Morningside Heights was a strange fountain. Was it meant to be a fountain? If so, where was the base of the fountain? These questions may never be answered..

* The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine (side view; top view - not taken by me) was fairly majestic looking. It's been in the process of being built for more than a century. They're about two-thirds done now but it looks pretty finished. Raise money, build more, raise money, repair, raise money, build more, ... When finished, it'll be the largest cathedral in the world. Sadly, I couldn't take pictures inside because it was so tremendously large my flash wouldn't do anything (and I didn't have a tripod). Let's just say the place is everything you'd imagine a cathedral is and should be. The outside looks pretty impressive too.

* The Cathedral is on a very large beautiful grassy plot of land. Sadly, most of it was fenced off. One part that wasn't fenced had yet another weird statue. Also, I noticed something wrong with one of the fences -- do you notice it too?

These pictures and more are available.

By this point, the day was hot and humid and I was thirsty. A quick subway and smoothie later, I was back in my air conditioned apartment. Then after a quick shower, a brief attempt at hair spiking (didn't look that great - maybe I'll try again later) (also, camera was dead by this point so no picture for you!), a mediocre burrito, I headed out to an evening of Un-American Films. Yes, it was July 4th.

The group that runs this is called Rooftop Films. They normally show films on a rooftop. (Duh!) But this time the showing was on a pier on the west side of Manhattan (near Tribeca). I had imagined the people there would be hip sf-mission-district-like people but really they looked fairly regular. Before the movie, we watched the fireworks off in the distance by the south tip of the island. Fireworks generally don't excite me that much, but they did some cute things this time like a heart and a smiley face.

Narrator's remark: at this point in writing I realized I have enough to say about the films to merit another post. Besides, this post is long enough already and I wanted to post it rather than wait a few days to finish it. So, part 2 about the movies will be forthcoming.

Saturday: Visiting Cousins (with Aunt and Uncle)

There is not much I feel like saying about Saturday. I spent the day in Long Island visiting, along with my aunt and uncle, my cousin, her husband, and their two kids (aged two or three-ish). Kids are cool. Or at least kids of my relatives: they always seem so friendly and get comfortable with people very quickly. It's sad adults aren't so easy to quickly form a connection with.

During the day, we spent a while exploring (well, looking at boats and a ferry) in the quaint sea-side (well, strictly sound-side) town of Fort Jefferson. My cousins (well cousin and husband, and not referring to the kids of my cousin which I suppose technically are cousins too) seem personality-wise how I remember them. Just to be clear, I like them. So that is a good thing. They seem healthy and happy. And their kids seems well adjusted and smart. And my aunt and uncle seem quite happy to be grandparents and living so close to their grandkids.

During the trip we took a little drive to see where my parents went to college at SUNY-Stony Brook. It was a really big campus. So big that I wouldn't want to go there without a car. We drove through and it took a while. Quite green with trees. Looked old and dated, like all buildings were from the 60s or 70s. (Vaguely depressing.) I wanted to take a picture to mail my parents -remember this?- but nothing I saw looked distinctive enough to be recognizable. Anyways, I just found out my aunt told my parents we visited there so it wouldn't have been a surprise.

Friday: Good Dinner, and some wandering with camera

Friday I picked out a place for dinner before I left work: a chowhound-recommended Turkish restaurant in lower eastern manhattan. On the way there, explored the few sites that were around. That part of lower manhattan has lots and lots of tall buildings. Also has a higher density than the rest of the city, quite intimidating. Saw some more fancy well-hidden churches, a cute row of English townhouses, and the outside of a supposedly really nice place called the Pierpont Morgan Library. It's a museum like place that made the top-ten list of sites to see in New York in my guidebook. Sadly, it's closed for renovation until 2006.

Ali Baba was an excellent well-hidden restaurant, with a nice though nondescript decor. I ordered babaganush to go with the focaccia-like bread that came when I sat down (good bread, better by itself than focaccia) and manti. The manti was described as "a Light Dough Stuffed with Seasoned Ground Lamb and Onions, Steamed to Perfection, served with Garlic Yogurt." I figured I was doing so well with meat stuffed in stuff I should continue the pattern. When it arrived, I was surprised. It was doughy balls maybe an inch across, each stuffed with a little lamb and seasoning, all in a big ceramic pan filled with a yogurty broth. I'm amazed how they got the little pieces of lamb in each tiny ball. But boy was it tasty!

After dinner I tried to explore the Gramercy district. It got too dark for me to get very far. But I did take a number of pictures during this trip, especially of the empire state building (which looked really stunning at night). My empire state building pictures didn't come out very well (too much camera shake), not as nice as this picture I found on the web. I may post all my pictures later when I find a good web interface or (more likely) program my own web interface.

Until then, you're stuck with the few pictures I bothered to shrink and upload:
* a decent picture of the met life building
* a very interesting sign (at this museum)
* a statue that I walked two feet past before realizing that it wasn't a real person. (Hey, it was dark.)
* a sign at a church - maybe the phrasing could've been better considering the news in the last few years...

Update: I uploaded the rest of the pictures from this day's sights.

Thursday: Dreary, then Aunt & Uncle

I spent a large chunk of the morning worrying what place I should choose for dinner. See, an aunt and uncle I haven't seen in some years that live in New York was driving into Manhattan to see me and asked me to choose. The morning was spent reading reviews, thinking about where I'd be able to find parking in the vicinity, pondering places with nice atmosphere, reasonable prices, a wide selection of dishes, some of which should be without lactose. In the end I ended making a decision through indecision and choose the decent though not exceptional Trattoria Trecolori which I'd been to before and knew it met these characteristics.

After grabbing a quick lunch of bagel with fish (belly lox in this case: quite salty but still good) (and cream cheese, tomato, and onion) I decided I might as well simply continue working from home rather than go to work and have to return in a few hours since my relatives were picking me up from my apartment. So that was a dreary afternoon -- basically I didn't move much until 7pm.

Seeing my aunt and uncle was nice. We discussed my somewhat crazy though mostly indecisive parents, caught up on other relatives, and traded stories about my (now deceased) grandpa and grandma. Dinner generally was what I expected. The menu is good; the food is decent but not great; everything else fit my criteria. Except for a fairly large table of somewhat drunk people that were being annoying loud. After dinner we strolled around times square (staying on side streets -- otherwise we wouldn't have been able to move) and chatted, mostly about the changes the city has undergone since they'd been younger and the sorts of things they do in the city nowadays (opera and photography).

It's nice to catch up. I've been feeling guilty the last few years about not paying enough attention to my non-immediate relatives. This makes me feel a bit better.

Digital Camera: Initial Playing

I spent a lot of time recently researching a digital camera to buy. This post is really just my notes / narrative of what I did for future reference for me (or others). Trust me, you don't want to bother reading this!

I took a bunch of pictures in various conditions to try out my camera. First (Tuesday night) some outdoorsy pictures from the balcony (19th floor) in the google office. Then some indoors pictures with flash in my apartment (Wednesday morning). Two quick shots on the way to work. And some night shots on the way home Wednesday night (while smoothie hunting, if you recall). Some of these were of the massive postal office half a mile north of my apartment, which I used Canon's slick software to stitch together into a panorama. Those turned out pretty well; the software impressed me.

I'm generally pretty happy with all these pictures. Some of them had some parts which were out of focus and grainy, but the colors and sharpness were good. And the focus was just me trying to figure out how to convince the auto-focus mechanism to get the right thing in focus. Some night shots are little soft, which is to be expected from minor hand shaking during the longer exposures. The clouds in some outdoors pictures bothered me in some shots, but these were the same shots that other distant things were out of focus so I'm attributing that to the clouds being "out of focus" too.

All this and I haven't filled up the initial 32 meg card. Maybe I shouldn't have bought a larger card? But it could be handy. And everyone tells me to and they must know something. Like if I want to go on a longerish trip and not have to worry about downloading pictures or restricting my frequency of shot taking.

The only thing that bothers me a little about the camera is that you can't really use the viewfinder to frame the shot. It's not quite the same as what the LCD displays ( = the picture the camera actually takes). On longer distances they're pretty similar but on shorter ones it's not that close and the LCD is hard to see in direct sunlight.

Notes from later:
* Actually the battery usage also bothers me a little. With my current habits (which usually involve turning the camera on and off pretty often) the camera drains (cheap) alkalines in about seventy shots. Not too bad though and considering I have a tremendous pile of rechargables that I'll pick up when I go back to California, it shouldn't be a problem.
* Longer trips I can take a good number of pictures (seventy on most of a day of exploring) and I don't want to be forced to download them all immediately that night before exploring more, so I'm certainly happy I bought the larger card.

On the Title of this Blog

Since I'm two days behind on this blog and not about to immediately catch up, I figured I'd provide a post to tide you over:

Most of you know I'm a fan of double-entendres and in generally anything with multiple meanings. The title of this blog is no different; it has three appropriate intended meanings. If you can figure them all out I'd be impressed.

Spiderman 2 and Smoothie-Hunting

Wednesday got better when I finally made it to work, got some food in my stomach (even though it was the bad chinese food google had ordered that day), did a drop of work, and headed out to the google sponsored outing of watching Spiderman 2. My summary: "Like Spiderman, a typical summer action flick. Tries to have emotional feel but the whole movie (including romance) is generally too over-the-top for it to succeed. Occasionally seems to make fun of itself (which works) but sadly frequently doesn't." During the outing met an intern here who is currently a Stanford coterm student. That's pretty neat.

At the end of the workday -eating dinner at work-, I really wanted to replenish the vitamins and proteins I lost in my bout of food sickness. Either that, or I was in the mood for a smoothie. And not the pre-made Odwalla ones in the fridge upstairs. Something real. Something fresh. I looked online for smoothie places (a.k.a. juice bars) still open, the only thing I could find was Jamba Juice and that would violate my vow. Sad.

I decided to look as I wandered home (10pm-ish). Lots of delis and a few pizza places open that might've made me something. But I wanted something good. I was basically home, having not found anything, before I realized the solution. Catching a quick train northbound I returned to Gray's Papaya, got a simple hot dog (call it dessert or something) and, more importantly, a banana daiquiri. (Non-alcoholic.) They have that in addition to papaya and it tempted me last time. It fulfilled my smoothie craving.

Digital Camera: Purchase

I spent a lot of time recently researching a digital camera to buy. This post is really just my notes / narrative of what I did for future reference for me (or others). Trust me, you don't want to bother reading this!

I did a bunch of research on the web and called around to find the best deal on the Canon Powershot a75 I wanted. Eventually I realized that the most I could save over buying at my local camera superstore, B&H, was around $30. And saving anything required buying online. Paying $30 extra dollars to buy locally from a reputable merchant (rather than an sketchy internet discounter) and deal locally with issues and have a satisfaction guaranteed return policy seemed like a reasonable tradeoff to me.

So I bought it, and a 256 megabyte flash card ($44). (Online wouldn't save me any money on this and a smaller 128 megabyte flash card was only $9 dollars cheaper.)

B&H is a really cool place. It's run by a lot of orthodox jews. Trust me, the yamakas, the beards, the noses, the clothes all give it away. All they sell is photographic/video/lighting/seeing (e.g., telescopes, binoculars) products. And they sell anything you'd ever want in these areas. They have so many helpers in the store -easily over 50 not counting the cashiers and doormen- each of which is an expert in a particular product line for a particular manufacturer. When buying, I talked to someone who was an expert in Canon digital cameras. I overheard a discussion that lead me to believe the experts are actually approved and/or trained by the manufacturer they are responsible for, in addition to being trained by B&H.

But that's not the only cool thing about B&H. You don't buy products directly in the store. You pick what you want and then they deliver it from elsewhere (the basement? upstairs?). The delivery mechanism is a set of rollers near the ceiling that push boxes around, also with some under the floor and a few tiny elevator like things. And they also have similar lines running around the store with hooks upon which items are transported. When leaving the store, you go to one line and pay, and another to pick up the items you selected which magically appear together in your shopping bag near the exit.

I'd go in and take some pictures of all this but they're really paranoid about people stealing stuff and going in with a digital camera would be difficult.

Digital Camera: Research

I spent a lot of time recently researching a digital camera to buy. This post is really just my notes / narrative of what I did for future reference for me (or others). Trust me, you don't want to bother reading this!

First I read some digital camera buying guides and determined what features I wanted, didn't want, and what would be nice. Some guides came from a list of sites (listed below) that had camera reviews. Other guides I read included a pcmag article, another pcmag article, a pcworld article (and its companion feature comparison piece), a cnet article, and an article from an affiliate.

At this point I know I want 3 megapixlels, 3x zoom, something that uses memory cards of some form (not disks or cds), and with an lcd (for examining and deleting pictures before downloading) and a viewfinder (so I don't have to take a picture by aiming with the lcd). It'd like the camera to have some manual controls, a flash, a "low light focusing aid," image stabilization, a relatively high ISO rating (for taking pictures indoors without a flash), reasonable maximum aperture, passable battery life, and a good response time from pressing the shutter to actually taking the picture. I don't really care about video recording, being able to change lenses, audio recording, mp3 playing, ... Image quality is probably my highest consideration. Price doesn't matter than much, which is easy because I know I don't want one of those large fancy professional cameras, so the price naturally will be somewhat reasonable.

Then, I wanted to narrow it down to a brand or set of brands. So I went to a popular digital camera site,, and looked at all the cameras released in the last two years with a "Highly Recommended" rating (their highest rating). Only four brands had at least one camera with this rating: Canon, Nikon, Minolta, and Sony.

Then I went to each manufacturers website and found out what cameras they were still making (and supporting) and which cameras were later version of which earlier cameras. During this I noticed Minolta recently merged with Konica. Since I'm paranoid about mergers and technology combining taking a while to sort itself out, I crossed Minolta off the list (at least partially because Konica wasn't on the list in the first place). I narrowed down my list of cameras to those currently in production with the features I wanted.

I looked up reviews all the cameras I was considering at the following sites -I'm only listing the useful ones- :,,,, (magazine), and

From reading reviews, I eliminated a few cameras. Not at many as I had hoped, probably because almost all cameras made by these manufacturers are good. At this point, I decided to eliminate all my sony cameras from consideration because the reviews, while generally highly positive, didn't sound quite as positive as the Canon or Nikon reviews.

My current list of things to consider at:
* Nikon Coolpix 3-5 thousands: 3700, 4100, 4200, 4300, 5200, 5700. (Higher numbers were too fancy for me; lower were too low-end.) This is pretty much the list of what Nikon currently manufactures in that range except for 3200 (which had a not that positive review on dcresource) and 5400 (which had a not that positive review on dpreview).
* Canon a70/a75/80. a75 is the improvement of a70, as is a80 (but with more megapixels).
* Canon s60. Newly released so not many reviews on it. Improved s50.
* Canon s500/s410. Improvements over s400. Smaller than the other cameras, but fewer manual controls.
* Cannon s1 is. Has a very tempting 10x zoom lens (which would be fun) but I've heard it sometimes has noisy images indoors because it has no minor light to help the auto-focus focus.

(For reference, I eliminated the g5 and the s50 because there was some concern about chromatic aberration in the dpreview.)

I've also decided that Canon has too many models.

For reference, the fstop range is similar for almost all these cameras, with the maximum aperture being 2.8.

I stopped by B&H to get a feel for the sizes of the camera. I'd prefer something "pocketable" so it be easier to transport around.

I built a spreadsheet comparing the features (fstop, size, iso, zoom, megapixels, missing features mentioned in reviews) and price of these cameras.

I thought and eliminated the s1is from my consideration. Image quality was supposedly good but not great and although the 10x zoom was tempting, I didn't think I'd use it much.

The decision from this spreadsheet was pretty clear. I didn't really want an ultra-compact camera because it felt too small and these tended to have few manual controls (which would be nice to have). This eliminated the canon s400/s410/s500 and nikon 3200/3700. Those latter two were actually eliminated also because their iso-equivalent was relatively low. The s60 was eliminated because the s50 didn't have great reviews and neither got much attention in general. I didn't think it was likely the s60 fixed some so the s50's problems.

The Nikon 5000-series were a normal camera size, a bit larger than I wanted. The Nikon 4000s (esp the 4300) were tempting, but the remaining Canons a70/a75/a80 simply won in the end. More manual controls if wanted than any of these, a good size, and lower prices than all (but the 4300) of these. And the Canons are generally supposed to have better interfaces.

Of the a70/a75/a80 series, it's pretty clear what I want. The a70 is the basic, old camera. a75 is a slightly improved version, slightly more and better controls. a80 is pretty much the same except 4 megapixels. I'd avoid the a80 since it is just an a70/a75 with a larger CCD and I've read lots of reviews of cameras whose image quality went down with that "improvement" because the lens and algorithms don't match the CCD as well as they used to. Some reviews of the a80 I read hinted at this issue.

The a75 is currently (June 2004) going for 200-250 dollars and actually is pretty much one of the cheapest digital cameras with the features I want, happens to have more of the desired features I want, and happens to be of the size I want. Some direct review links for reference: photoxels (friendly), dcresource, and imaging-resource.

Monday Evening to Wednesday Morning: Food, Movies, Food, Food, Music, Ugh

Don't let the ugh in the title mislead you: this was a very fun 30-ish hours.

First, on my flight home, the x-ray guy checked my backpack, then looked again, then talked to the inspector woman. She opened a particular small pouch on my bag, glanced around, and immediately spotted my swiss army knife. I had forgotten to take it out. I'm amazed at the accuracy and speed with which the Fort Lauderdale airport people found it, and vaguely disturbed by the fact that it was in my bag on my flight down and the La Guardia people didn't give me a second glance.

After arriving home I learned it was my apartmentmate's birthday. I could try to track her and the party down if I wanted. I also was planning to meet some people again at the Bryant Park festival. I decided to go to the festival. On the way, I tried the burek place again. Still closed. So instead I went to a well recommended cheap hot dog joint: Gray's Papayas. 75 cent hot dogs. And they were good! I had two, and some tasty payapa. That's about all they serve but, like in-n-out, it works.

At Bryant Park I couldn't find the people I intended to find, and the one phone number I had wasn't being answered. (I think it's likely the guy I was calling actually went to my apartmentmate's party instead. :) ) The movie was the The Thin Man, which I'd already seen and liked. I found a spot at the far end of the park to watch the short and previews and intended to leave after that.

The cartoon short was too long. There was a better ending point in the middle of the short that they should've used. (This is just me trying to be opinionated. :) )

Oh oh, I forgot to mention in my first bryant park movie post one thing that made this event so cool. During the first movie, the MC announced the schedule for the night would be previews, the short, the hbo dancers, then the movie. The HBO dancers, I thought, what was that?

After the short, the crowd started cheering in time with the animation of a computer zoom-in on bryant park with the HBO logo showing. As the logo got settled in the park, the music got louder and people got up and started dancing. Random people all throughout in the crowd. It lasted for about a minute. Just like that. Phat.

It happened again this time. :)

I almost left then but got hooked by the movie. It's good. This is what I wrote the first time I saw it: "Old noir-style comedy. Quite good, both funny and mystery-wise. Like most old movies, tight writing, complex plot. Very much in the style of Clue, except made 50 years earlier. Hero drinks like a fish."

Tuesday I wandered off for lunch and found that the burek place was open. It was authentic: the clientele and the eastern european language they were speaking confirmed it. A burek, it turns out, is a large triangular flakey bread thing filled with something, in my case meat with quite a bit of flavor (onions? garlic? mushrooms?). I think I have a thing for bread-things filled with meat.

I also remarked to them that it was really confusing that since the metal sheet they use to close the restaurant looks so tight and durable and since there wasn't an hours sign posted outside of it when they were closed, it's really hard to tell that the restaurant still exists. I think they might have understood..

During my lunch break I also bought a digital camera! More on that in a future post.

Dinnerish I wandered off again, this time to a pakistani counter-buffet style restaurant. (They call these restaurants steam-table restaurants in NYC.) It wasn't quite what I expected -much more Indianish than I had thought- but in retrospect I realized what I was thinking of was Afghani, not Pakistani. This restaurant too was authentic. Everyone there looked as if they were from that part of the indian-subcontinent. The only languages I heard spoken by customers to each other were from that region. During part of my meal, some people near me knelt on a carpet and prayed toward Makkah. The food that I had was okay, with a reasonable resemblance of Indian.

On the way home, I spotted a sale at a clothing store, went in, found some nice stuff, and bought a few things. (Mostly cool socks. :) )

I was feeling good, like my day was on a roll. So I decided not to let the day end, read a brief section of my jazz guidebook, and headed out down to 55 Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. It was bar / jazzish club. Very cozy: I squeezed into a stool by the bar. Drank a vodka+lime and brooklyn lager. Respectable music. After the show, I hung around and listened. It seemed a number of the people in the bar were also artists, chatting about other gigs they'll play in nearby locations. I was also in the right corner to hear the bartender and some regulars chatting, and got involved in some conversation there about catching baseballs at games. And something else. I forget by now. But that was cool, chatting with random people at the bar at midnight. I should go to places like this more often. And most of these people were much older than me (and still up at midnight): more demonstrations that time is just different in NYC.

Sadly, Wednesday morning I woke up not feeling good. My stomach was just not happy. I blame food indigestion from the pakistani place combined with the fact that I had very little liquid that whole day -just some water around lunchtime- except for the two drinks at the bar. Of course, I always don't believe people when they blame their troubles on food issues after a night that involved drinking because it's almost always the drinking, so I probably shouldn't believe myself. We'll see if I actually believe myself by whether I go back to the restaurant.. But really it all comes down to drinking non-alcoholic fluids. I knew I should've and I remembered, but I was too lazy to get a glass of water. How stupid can I be?

Reflections on the Visit with Parents

My parents are retiring and deciding where to live and wanted my input. So we discussed various questions like what kind of place they wanted to live and how much they were willing to pay. As part of all this, I got to see my parents' finances and how they decided they probably had enough money to stop working. Planning like this requires estimating all sorts of expenses, including medical bills, and basing everything off life expectancy. It really made me sad thinking about that and staring at a spreadsheet that lists when my parents are likely to die.

New York Parking "Garages"

... are not really parking garages at all. They're mostly these funny car lifts, raising and lowering cars and holding one above another. Here is a picture of a three car lift; I've seen all the way up to four-car lifts. (Just thought I'd share.)

Be glad they don't have earthquakes on this coast.

A Socio-cultural Statement?

The first of two brief posts while I'm away consisting of NY remarks:

I saw a (black) woman while in Harlem who was walking down the street wishing every male she passed happy father's day (including me). And yes, it was father's day. At first I thought she was festive, then I realized she might be making a statement...

Friday: Yay: Parents! and good jewish food too

As some of you know, I flew down on Friday to visit my parents. (I'll return to NY on Monday.) As most of you know, they're still homeless in the sense that they sold their house last July, put most of their stuff in storage (and with my help shipped my stuff to California), and started driving around the country looking for a place to live. They still haven't found it. Right now they're staying a nice condo owned by an aunt of mine in Florida. Meanwhile, that aunt is in New York trying to sell her house! Wow.

It's nice seeing my parents again. The last few times I saw them were during their driving-around stage or during their ack-we-have-to-move-out-of-this-house-in-three-weeks stage and during both of which they seemed stressed. But now they seem very relaxed and fairly comfortable.

They showed me a bit of Florida (Fort Lauderdale area) and the intercoastal waterways (which seem to be a nice waterway that runs all the way up the coast past New York, and which I never knew about). But most importantly, we revisited a place called the Rascal House for dinner. We had kreplach (a dumpling like soup), kishka, pastrami on rye, potato pancakes (with apple sauce and sour cream of course), whitefish (vaguely tuna fish-like) on bagel, and chopped liver on bagel. (For more details on any of them, search google.) (I think chipped liver really gets a bad rap; it's good.) All was very good. My mother calls this her "soul food."

Wednesday Night: Ojan and friends, Chinese, and Great Desserts

I wrote a post for this and hit post. But my connection died. And I hit reconnect and the computer rebooted. :( I will not rewrite this post; sorry. Relevant bullet points: Ojan & friends visiting; very cosmopolitan; me feeling not that entertaining; fairly good chinese; really really really good desserts. The post previously ended with: I took a card. I will be back.

Wednesday Morning: The East Village is snazzzy; Katz's Deli

Wednesday morning I explored the East Village. It's actually a pretty small neighborhood but I like its style a lot. Lots of funky restaurants, jewish, ukrainian, moroccan, and a ton of indian on a street called curry hill. Lots of offbeat stores, most of which are too hip for me but still fun to be around and peer into. Some neat places I visited:

* Grace Church. Normally I wouldn't mention another church or historic townhouses or anything like that again, but this was cool for two reasons. One, as I passed they were about to start a pipe organ concert of Bach. I went inside and listened for a while. It's a nice majestic church, beautiful stained glass windows and all. I didn't like the concert much, probably due more to the pipe organ than Bach (but I can't be sure). It also had a striking spire. My guidebook said, "the marble spire replaced a wooden steeple in 1888 amid fears that it might prove too heavy for the church - and it has since developed a distinct lean." Indeed, now there is tons and tons of scaffolding around the whole thing making sure it doesn't lean further while trying to restore it..
* The Merchant House Museum. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. What is this about me visiting museums when they happen to be closed?
* The cube (big metal thing) in Astor place that was the site of a prank that cracked me up when I read about it last year.
* Saw Tompkins Square, which was much much like Washington Square in the Village in many ways...

Okay, maybe it doesn't sound that great on "paper," but it really is!

After exploring I grabbed food in the nearby Katz's Delicatessen (a famous jewish deli) on the lower east side. A massive pastrami on rye (oh, so much meat, so warm and tender, soooo good) and some pickles and a black cherry soda later, I left a happy man.

Tuesday: Mexican French Toast and Cubanos

Tuesday was soggy so I didn't want to go out to go to work. So I got to eat brunch (11am) and lunch (2pm) around my apartment. Brunch was again at the Bright Food Shop. This time I had the mexican "french toast." Let me say, this is what I hope for whenever I go out exploring to eat. Good food that I never would've thought possible and never would've had had I not chosen this place.

The Mexican French Toast is hard to describe. (That's why this post is late!) Here's a description I found: "And there's more interpretive Mexican-flavored morning fare to choose from, like a version of piloncillo-sweetened French toast made from whole-wheat tortillas, torn into strips and drizzled with a Mexican crema-and-maple syrup." It was good. Very sweet. Texture of the tortillas somewhat like soft thin pita chips (fried pita bread). The place is also cool because of its wide selection of unusual drinks, both juices and alcohols. Here's a long review that gives the flavor of the place.

Lunch was a cubano at a place called Manhattan's Heroes that a few chowhounds were excited about. The cubano was okay, nothing that special for a warm sandwich of cold-cuts. The cubano at Havana-Chelsea Cuban Restaurant I had a while ago was much better despite me eating it only luke-warm.

Monday Night: Manhattan Flicks


Anyone who really knows me knows my devotion to (Stanford) flicks. Each quarter a season pass would be money well spent. Well, I found (one of) Manhattan's equivalents.

Monday night was the first showing of weekly outdoor movies on Bryant Park, a park conveniently within two blocks of my office. I tried to recruit people to go, but in my traditional recruiting-people-to-movie-showings result I got very little response (despite distributing the invite to a wide distribution google-ny list). (I think New Yorkers have so many activities to do here; if I'd distributed this in mountain view -when the mountain view office was the same size- I'd have gotten many more responses.) Most of the responses I got were from mountain view people visiting new york. But one response I got was from a colleague of mine, David Alpert, who'd already organized a group of his friends to go. Which was great, because that meant he'd go down early and get a good place on the lawn (and he did; it was the best spot in the park!), and because this way I got to meet some more non-googlers. I've occasionally gone to events hosted by David in the past; his friends are all board/card gamers so waiting for the movie to start was fun. Played some set and a bit of bridge. And snacked on this wrap made with pita bread (not food stuffed in the pita, but the pita wrapped around chicken and peppers and the like).

The movie was American Graffiti, a George Lucas 60s nostalgia film. Feels like a post-college angst movie but actually is set around high school graduation. Didn't excite me that much.