Archive for January, 2010

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010


Salinger passed away. Franny and Zooey shifted my whole perspective. He will be missed and has been for some time. Full obituary at the Times.


The Waltz of Chinese Delivery


Them: Hello – Hunan Delite.

Me: Yes, I would like an order for delivery.

Them: Phone number?

Me: [Phone number]

Them: Address?

Me: [Address]

Them: Between?

Me: [Cross streets]

Them: Apartment number?

Me: [Apartment number]

Them: OK, what would you like?

Me: [Assorted items]

Them: Spicy or no spicy.

Me: [X] spicy and [Y] not spicy.

Them: White rice or brown rice?

Me: One of each.

Them: Chopsticks?

Me: Yes.

Them: Cash or credit.

Me: Credit:

Them: Card number?

Me: [Card number]

Them: Expiration?

Me: [Expiration]

Length of call: 1:57.

Length of delivery: 19:46.



An image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Google Mars is also a fun place to visit.

Foreclosures and Asymmetrical Morality


Like most Americans, I do not believe that morality has a place in business transactions between a consumer and a business. Business is governed by applicable law and no more. Does Visa show clemency to consumers who can not pay? No, they charge default interest. Accordingly, I am confused as to why so many home owners who are underwater, do not walk away from their homes.

A provocative paper by Brent White, a law professor at the University of Arizona, makes the case that borrowers are actually suffering from a “norm asymmetry.” In other words, they think they are obligated to repay their loans even if it is not in their financial interest to do so, while their lenders are free to do whatever maximizes profits. It’s as if borrowers are playing in a poker game in which they are the only ones who think bluffing is unethical.

Mos Def & Doom


Mos is back on his game with the Ecstatic and Doom mines the illest producers on Born Like This. Can’t believe I let these slip off my radar last year. May have to research Tip’s, Chef’s and The Roots’ album from last year as well. Long live the nineties.

Beirut’s Mezze & Byblos


I have been waiting on a piece on Beirut’s food scene for a while. This piece is fun, but I would prefer a greater focus on the street food. Additionally, the Times ran a nice layout on Byblos and its renaissance. Byblos lays claim to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world, dating its origins to 5000 B.C., as well as the birthplace of the modern alphabet.

Also, the best shawarma in the world is located in Amman? But alas, the chef studied in Lebanon.

Zaha Hadid’s New Yorker Profile


Zaha Hadid gets the New Yorker profile treatment.  This woman/diva is on another level. I was not aware that Rem Koolhaus was one of her mentors.

Gentrify or Die


New York Magazine addressed a beef that I have had for a long time with the displacement myth, noting that there is no causal relationship between gentrification and displacement. The piece is in reaction to a n+1 essay that reads like an undergrad book report.

Also, the Times notes that blacks are no longer a majority of the population in Harlem. The article notes “Because so much of the community was devastated by demolition for urban renewal, arson and abandonment beginning in the 1960s, many newcomers have not so much dislodged existing residents as succeeded them. In the 1970s alone, the black population of central Harlem declined by more than 30 percent.”

Back in 2003, Lance Freeman, an associate professor of urban planning at Columbia, wanted to find out just how much displacement had occurred in two predominantly black, rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods: Clinton Hill and Harlem (Freeman’s home). But “much to my surprise,” he wrote in his book There Goes the ’Hood, he didn’t find any causal relationship between gentrification and displacement. More surprising, he found that “poor residents and those without a college education were actually less likely to move if they resided in gentrifying neighborhoods.” How does that square with our beliefs about Ikea-hoods?

Foreclosures & the New Carpetbaggers


The Times ran another piece on the foreclosure mess in Florida. What strikes me about the foreclosure era is the special type of entrepreneur who is able to profit off other people’s misery. Reminds me of Goldman Sachs cashing in on the way up and the way down. Who says you can’t get 2 bites from that apple?

Minature Moscow


I am really upset I missed this miniaturization of Moscow located in the city’s municipal building, but then again I was bit occupied getting shaken down by the cops. Regardless, the model is on sale for $3 Million rubles.