March 2005


(on Hopkins and Monterrey) This is a walk-up Brooklyn-style pizzeria with a Bay Area twist. Fresh organic produce and sesonal vegetable make for a mouth-wateringly good slice of pie. The options rotate depending on what’s in season, but my favorites so far have been the broccoli ricotta, meatball, mushroom, and clam pizzas. The last one will make you happy as its namesake that you schlepped out to Hopkins St. Be sure to try a sesonal lemonade — the blood orange was to die for.

I can’t even believe this stuff exists outside of parody. Via Cosma Shalizi’s blog, a number of “devotionals connected to mathematical content.” This is very much unlike Vedic Mathematics, which purports that the vedas contain amazing mathematical formulas (usually combinatorial tricks or number theory things). Of course, that’s pretty ridiculous too, in that numerology kind of way. Here instead we have:

Least-squares solutions techniques are used when a system has no actual solution; that is, the situation where a system is inconsistent. In this case, we find an object that is the closest to being a solution among all possibilities. This object minimizes the value of the distance between the transformation of the object and the impossible result.

In our lives we must solve an impossible problem–we must perfectly meet the entire law of God if we are to have eternal life. No matter how hard we try, we are unable to do this. Fortunately, God loves us so much that he sent his Son Jesus to solve the problem for us. Christ took upon himself our sin and gave his life so that we might live. Jesus is our least-squares solution to the impossible problem. Note, though, that the distance between us and the law of God is infinite; through salvation in Christ, God accepts us as if the error is zero!

And:

In calculus we use technology freely; in particular to produce graphical images with graphing calculators and computer algebra systems. Technology is not perfect, however, and those who use technology must be aware of times when the graphical images we see are not representative of the true nature of the object. We use mathematical experience and developed intuition to judge whether an image is flawed or deceptive.

Satan is the angel of light and his disciples masquerade as “servants of righteousness.” [2 Corinthians 11:13--15] But we read in Matthew 24:24 that it is impossible for false Christs to deceive the elect. We must follow the example of Jesus and use scripture as a standard against which to measure truth. We must also put on the full armor of God to protect ourselves from Satan’s attacks. In both situations, knowledge helps prevent deception.

Oh my.

UPDATE: ObWi has a juicy bit on eigenvectors

Another late start, another late night. Today was Japanese day. We hit up the Sunshine movie theater for the ham-handed film Steamboy, by the creator of Akira. Pretty standard fare in the “technology has a dark side,” “science is running amok,” and “children and old people are the only ones who can see the truth” genre of anime. The treatment was more didactic than Miyazaki, and the story was a little formulaic. I think the story and characters were lifted from a manga, and so had to develop faster on screen in one story than they could over the course of several stories in print.

From there we searched, first unsuccessfully, and then successfully, for Koi (2nd Ave and 11th), a Japanese restaurant with probably the best sushi I’ve ever had. We both got tasting plates, but Adam’s came with three appetizers, which we split. As a starter we each had a piece of nigiri — eel for him and fresh octopus for me. The rice was still warm, which was a new touch for me. Then came the appetizers: sea urchin, sweet shrimp, and mackerel sashimi.

The sea urchin was fresh, served in the urchin itself. Normally I don’t like urchin, but this was pretty tasty, especially with lemon and a little wasabi. The shrimp continued the slimy theme, and were served with the heads on. Ahain, pretty tasty, and there were enough for us to explore combinations with the soy, wasabi, lemon, daikon, and carrot. They took the heads away and fried them in a little tempura batter to create a little sweet postlude. The mackerel sashimi was excellent — it came in a little pile atop a slice of lemon in front of the fish that it came from, pinned into a “U” by a bamboo skewer through tail and neck. The final touch was a sprinkling of scallions and sesame seeds. A little lemon, mackerel, daikon, wasabi and soy made an excellent combo, as did lemon, mackerel, and shrimp head. The appetizers were almost a meal in themselves.

The tasting plate had 8 nigiri and 4 maki (tuna). The highlight was a massive piece of sea eel, easily 4 times as long as its pedestal of rice. It was sweet and melted in the mouth. The fatty tuna was also delicious, and I swapped Adam my urchin for his mackerel. There was one other mackerel-like fish whose name I didn’t catch, a fresh squid, a crab, and one or two others. The best part about the tasting platter I thought was that it didn’t intersect at all with the kind of nigiri combinations you get at other sushi places, but had a whole set of tastes that were new to me. To pair with

After all that food I was in a coma and we retired to a very Asian tea house at St. Mark’s and 3rd Ave. Alp’s or something or the other. I had a passion fruit green tea which tasted mostly like warm passion fruit juice concentrate and not at all like tea. It was too sickly sweet. The place reminded me of boba joints near Berkeley’s campus — a very similar crowd, but this place (like everywhere in NY) was open later. Damn you, Bay Area. We had a bottle of not-so-dry but oh-so-smooth sake (Shirakabegura), and a less sweet nigori (Shirakawago) to go with the meal.

Improbably, Dave Taylor was also in NY and we met up with him and went to the Angel’s Share, a Japanese bar on 9th and St. Mark’s just down the street from the okonomiyaki place and the St. Mark’s bookstore. It’s a small place upstairs with seating only, expensive cocktails, and a nice ambience. I had a manhattan that came with a black cherry rather than the usual maraschino. It was very well mixed. The Sazerac that I had afterwards was a little too strong on the anise but at least they knew had to make it. I had a little sip of Dave’s negroni, which is a drink I’m just getting into now, and regretted my order. The bar went from crowded with people waiting for a table to half-empty in the two hours we were there, which made it even nicer and harder to leave, but sweet sweet sleep called to us and we packed it in.

I started out (ha) by going Lange’s Delicatessen in Bronxville, which was packed and had more people behind the counter than I’ve ever seen in a deli that size. It was ridiculous. Adam and I met up with the inimitable Geeta Dayal, journalist extraordinaire, for a trip to the Whitney Museum.

We went specifically to see the Tim Wilkinson exhibit, which was awesome. Huge sculptures with whirring motors generating strange clicking noises, tiny sculptures of feathers, eggs, webs, and skeletons made of human nails and hair, a geared machine that writes his signature, a skeleton with a slide whistle that goes up and down, and all sorts of other disturbing and wonderful creations. It was nerd-tastic. Other highlights were a number of self-portraits where the artist drew only the parts of him that he could see, or created a topographic map of his body by taking photographs of himself submerged in various depths of black paint and then drawing the level curves.

What we missed was the Überorgan, a large installation in a lobby of a building on 59th and Madison. It is a huge construction of baloons and tubes, like a tentacled brain gone amok. The music is read off of a gigantic roll of plastic, 2 feet or so wide, painted with dots and dashes of black. A light sensor reads the sheet like a player piano and plays it out of the pipes of the organ. It plays every hour on the hour though, and we arrived too late for the performance. It’s on until May though, and I might try and swing by tomorrow to see it.

We then went to Madras Mahal, which was somewhere on Lexington (26th I think). It’s one of a number of South Indian restaurants in that part of Manhattan. I had iddlies and a third of Geeta’s utthappam, which was tasty albeit not amazing. The dosas looked pretty good, but I didn’t think I was hungry enough for that. The place is around $10, but like I said, there looked like other equally good places nearby.

Adam and I returned to Bronxville, had dinner, and decided to go see Garaj Mahal at the Knitting Factory. It was pretty good, but we had to duck out near the end of the last set since it was around 3:30, and the show started at 11:30. Insert rant about Bay Area’s lack of late-night events here. The band was good, a sort of tepid Indian-jazz fusion (tepid meaning the fusion, not the playing). If you want more real Indian music, go with something like Natraj. But the show was good — I had only heard one song of theirs before and was pretty impressed. Fans of Charlie Hunter and John McLaughlin would appreciate it, I think.

And then, sleep.

I’m going to reactivate my restaurant blog again, in the hopes of actually remembering all the places I’ve eaten. With incipient old age comes memory loss, or so they say. Either that or I have an egomanaiacal need to document my life. Your choice.

(2300 Polk St. at Green St.) This is a cute little French bistro in Russian Hill. I went with my friend Sarah and we were pretty much stuffed. Craving eggs, she got the scrambled eggs with muhroom ragout (mushroomy goodness) and I got the Oeuf en cocotte, which is a sort of mini casserole with eggs, potatoes, and pancetta (bacony goodness). If you are in Russian Hill and want brunch, it’s definitely a place to check out. The service is friendly, and the decor is cute. Watch out for children of wealthy families underfoot before a day of shopping with the parents.

(3214 16th St. between Guererro and Dolores) Pretty standard Thai food. The staff is very friendly, but the curries are only so-so. My friends found it a little “greasy.” I think that might have been a function of getting curry rather than noodles. Vegetarian options are surprisingly limited, since the oyster sauce is non-veg. There are better places, but if you are right there and want Thai, it’s not a bad place to go.

(Shattuck between Cedar and Vine) Cesar is one of those fancy-pants restaurants in Berkeley in the so-called Gourmet Ghetto. I’ve been there twice now and was impressed both times. The food is California-ized Spanish tapas, and the menu rotates every little while (I’m not sure of the frequency). Highlights of my dining experiences have been the Venetian Martini, made with antica formula sweet vermouth, a dish with monkfish and mushrooms, and the croque senor (like a croque monsieur, only with spanish ham and cheese). If you’re looking to treat yourself or someone else out and want a somewhat noisy but delicious dining experience, try this place. They also have a large central table for small groups to share (and in theory meet each other, but I’ve never managed to sit there).

Woke up, got out of bed, realized I left my comb at home, so my hair was huge.

I always forget that bagels are really better here. I’m sure that in a few weeks I’ll have re-deluded myself into thinking the Posh Bagel is a good enough approximation, but the difference in quality is definitely marked.

I meandered over to the MOMA, where I saw an interesting exhibit by Thomas Demand, who is a German photographer. He takes found photographs of places and then reconstructs the whole scene, life-size, using cardboard and colored paper. The result is a lot like those fake cardboard model computers you see in office supply stores, but more cartoony. He then takes huge photographs of his scenes. A lot of attention is paid to detail, but it is still clearly fake. The pictures were by and large of banal places — office copy rooms, classrooms, a desk with coffee mug and papers strewn about. The flatness of everything reflected the flatness of corporate life.

From there to TKTS, where I stood in line to get somewhat mediocre seats to see Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. I’ve been a big fan of Bill Irwin since my parents taped his show The Regard of Flight off of PBS (onto Beta cassette, no less). His interpretation of George was intriguing — I question whether his mode of living with Martha in the play was an ultimately sustainable one in the world outside the play. Turner, for her part, was also good — less greedily domineering than one might expect from the script, which only worked to the play’s advantage. The first act was a bit slow, and Adam pointed out that the play needed to be more merciless to the audience. The way it played out in the theater made it too easy to laugh and then forget about the real brutality of the lines (e.g. “I’d divorce you if you existed”). The blocking felt like blocking a little too often. Sometimes I felt the tension justified the separation, other times I felt they were calling to each other from across the room for no reason at all. All in all though, definitely worth seeing, and it was nice to see it on stage instead of in the film, where your views are so constrained by the director.

Before the play though, I hit up a little Japanese hole-in-the-wall place recommended by Winnie called Otafuku. They serve okonomiyaki and takoyaki, which are both Kansai (West-central) specialities. I had the former, which is a sort of omelette-like concoction with cabbage and other veggies, meat, and some sort of sauce with Japanese mayo, bonito flakes, and other tastiness. Messy, but good. I want to try the takoyaki sometime, which are fried battered balls of octopus or other tasty fillings. The place is on 10th near 3rd and well worth it, especially for the $5-$10 range.

From there I went to the Strand and bought too many books. ‘Nuff said. Mmmm, plays.

Post-play we meandered down to the Yaffa Cafe, where my incipient headache made it impossible for me to finish my somewhat over-sauced pasta. Adam had a salmon thing with potatoes and brown rice that look ed a lot better. It made me wish there were more 24 hour places in the Bay Area, dammit.

My goal here is to have as much fun with Adam as we can have without getting hit by a car, which is what happened the last time we tried to hang out.

Having never flown into JFK before, I had only one observation. The font they use on their internal signage makes the airport look very European.

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