page of pentacles

I came across Cliff Johnson’s site today. In case you didn’t know, Cliff Johnson is the creator of my two favorite Mac games of all time, The Fool’s Errand and 3 in Three. I had almost given up all hope of playing these games every again, since I didn’t have my old Mac II, but I just found out that you can buy all of his games for the low, low price of $20 with support for OS X, or download them for free. What’s more, there’s a sequel to The Fool’s Errand coming out in October for Windoze and MacOS. This news just makes my day. And check out the rest of the site too, there’s all sorts of puzzle-y goodness there. I can feel my productivity slipping already.

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Yokoso Nippon

Church and 15th. This place is also known as “No Name Sushi,” since there’s no real sign on the outside to identify it. This is hands down the cheapest sushi place I’ve ever been to — $4.75 for the 9 piece Nigiri combo, and the maki orders come with 16 small maki. Crazy crazy. This is a good place for a light lunch, but gets really crowded at night. The sushi isn’t bad — better price for value than other cheap sushi places. A good place to go before catching a movie at the Castro theater or heading off for further SF adventures. I give it 2 thumbs up.

Orphan Andy’s

One of the few 24 hour places in the bay area, Orphan Andy’s is a tiny little diner in a nook on the corner of Castro and Market. The campy decor and greasy diner food combine to disorient the visitor, but if you stumble in there at 3 AM you’re probably already disoriented. Nothing is really amazing here, but then again, that’s not why you go to a place like this. Recommended if you get the munchies late or want breakfast for dinner. The music was terrible last time I went, but perhaps that varies.

Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe

4081 Hollis St. (near 40th). This is one of those “fancy California diners” that has sunday brunch type food. If you go really early you can get some wicked early-bird deals, but who wants to do that on a Sunday? The punked out waitstaff and bottomless coffee are good reasons to come, as well as their hollandaise-sauce section of the menu, which will expand your mind beyond the simple realm of Eggs Benedict. The last time I went I got a tasty combination of bacon, tomato, ciabatta, poached eggs, and hollandaise, and it was yummalicious. Of course, it’s pricier than Mel’s, but the ambiance is more fun. Be wary of long lines and waitlists on weekends.

King Dong

Shattuck and Haste. This is a run-of-the-mill Chinese place. We got one of the “banquet meals” for N people, and it was a lot of food, but only about half the dishes were really tasty. I found the mu shu a bit watery, but the pot stickers were good and not as meaty as at some other places. The King Dong chicken was spicy and tasty. Overall, if you are in the area and have a hankering for Chinese right then and there, this place is your best bet, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to go here. If you can take the walk, Taiwan Cafe on University is much better.

pho 84

on 17th near Webster (a little farther East). This is a Vietnamese place with cute decor and friendly waitstaff, but the food was somewhat underwhelming. Dave said the pho was not even as good as Pho Hoa (a chain), and while I wasn’t sure if I entirely agreed, I would not recommend the Pho here over other spots in Oakland. Sarah got a grilled chicken dish which was really tasty, and Joanna got the bun (vermicelli) with roasted pork, another favorite of mine. It seemed heavy on the lettuce, but that might have just been my impression. The cafe sua da was good though. In a sentence: overpriced (closer to the $10 end of things) for the quality.

penalizing ambition

Steve Clemon’s op-ed piece in the NY Times is all about the $100 visa application fee that international citizens have to pay, regardless of whether their visa is approved. The fee doesn’t vary from country to country, so it is disproportionately high in countries such as India. But $100 is a steep price to pay in any country.

In addition to the points brought up by Clemons, the delays in getting visas approved are ridiculous at US consulates in other countries. When I was interviewing at Caltech I met a student from Iran who told me he simply cannot go home because he would be delayed for a semester waiting for his visa there, whereas going to Mexico to renew is much easier.

A curious position I found myself in when reviewing graduate applications is that I was told to apply a much stricter standard to international applicants than I would for domestic applicants. I’m pretty sure they meant residents/nonresidents, but it may have also been citizen/non-citizen. I’m pretty sure that has to do with Berkeley being a state school, but I’ve been told that there is a lot of pressure to admit fewer international students even though they may be better candidates.

I’m not sure how I feel about all this yet — the visa thing I’m clearly against, but how to strike a balance between serving your constituency (US residents) and recruiting the best and the brightest (among all applicants) is tricky. It’s not really a case of affirmative action, so I don’t think the solutions should be the same. Although if you oppose affirmative action it seems that you should have to adopt the view of admitting only the best-qualified candidates regardless of nationality in order to remain philosophically consistent.