Gingrich: how sad

Newt Gingrich has done a great job of rehabilitating his image over the last few years (almost Nixonian). But now he comes out and shows his true colors...

Food problems

I've been reading an apocalyptic book titled The End of Food, by Thomas F. Pawlick. It opens with the most startling information, which is that the nutritional value of most foods has been dropping over the last half-century. The theory underlying this set of facts is that industrial production of food seeks to maximize production, which leads to examples such as overuse of fertilizers (which makes the soil less rich) and grain-fed cows (which leads to lower-quality beef).

Overall, the book presents some interesting information, but I found it a little too over the top. It is somewhat unsurprising that "mass-produced" food is low quality: it will always be the case that the highest-quality food costs much more than many people can afford. I agree with the author that it is very short-sighted of our civilization to misuse natural resources in the way that we do, but all of these implicit decisions are driven by increasing populations.

Future selves

NPR's Weekend Edition had a piece on, which is a site where you can leave messages for your future self. Fascinating idea!

Deadwood Season 2

We finished the second season of Deadwood. What a great series! All of the characters are fascinating, and almost all of them live in that ambiguous zone between good and evil. Powers Boothe's character (Cy Tolliver) is probably the only truly despicable character; it's interesting that he is playing an evil character on 24 this season as well.

Without having done a careful analysis, it feels like this season was mostly centered around Al Swearengen: the end of the season finishes with a shot of him. The first season felt like it was more about Seth Bullock.

Time Warner Center

We grabbed lunch at Bouchon Bakery. Excellent sandwiches, although pretty pricey. It's a good thing we don't get a chance to go there too often.

We then went shopping at Whole Foods. Always an experience, and usually hard on the checkbook...


We went to MOMA to see a few of the exhibitions. One of them was Comic Abstraction. A really funny work is called "Waiting for Jerry" by Juan Munoz: it consists of an small, dark, empty room with a backlit mouse hole: cartoon music is piped into the room.

We also saw through the Jeff Wall retrospective, and the exhibition on Armando Reveron. There were some fascinating paintings in each exhibition, although we weren't overwhelmed by anything in particular.

One of our favorite paintings at MOMA is Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World":



Flushed , by W. Hodding Carter, is an amusing book. It talks a lot about the author's personal fascination/experiences with plumbing. The funniest anecdote was when Carter tried to manufacture his own lead pipes.

One minor note: this book would have been more interesting if there had been pictures of how different types of toilet work.


We watched a Chinese movie called Sunflower, which was set during the period 1976-1999 in Beijing. (1976 was the year that Chairman Mao died.) The primary plot driver is the conflict between a father and his son. The movie was well done, but kind of depressing and very predictable, and the ending was very unrealistic. I found the movie more interesting because it really demonstrates the economic, social, and physical changes that China has been through in the last 30 years.

Max Brenner

We stopped by Max Brenner, a chocolate store combined with a restaurant of some sort. (I didn't look at the menu.) Pretty good chocolate, but Vere produces higher-quality stuff.

Food Politics

I've slowly been reading Food Politics by Marion Nestle. It's a great analysis of how the food industry has an excessive influence on our government's food policies. The book is worth reading, if depressing. I've had to return it twice to the library already, because I couldn't finish it in 3 weeks; maybe next time I take it out I'll be able to finish it.


We watched Borat, which was both appallingly rude and ridiculously funny. The scenes in New York City were absolutely hilarious, especially on the 4-5-6 train. I didn't think it was as outstanding as some reviewers, but I'm glad I watched it. I can see why it is amazing comedy: "reality" comedy, I guess.

The extras on the DVD were almost funnier than the movie: in particular, the appearances that Borat made on Conan O'Brien and The Tonight Show.

no waste?

Zero waste
: can we achieve it? This article made me wonder how right some economists are that the market will solve problems. Maybe they are right, but the time scale could be wrong for certain kinds of problems.

For example, it could be that we need the doomsayers to move the population to act; they could be the impulse function in reaction to the recognition of a problem (say, global warming). In that metaphor, government and the media act as delay functions. The problem is that if the time needed to act is longer than the delay imposed by the delay function...

John McPhee

I've been reading the John McPhee Reader, which is a collection of excerpts from a variety of his works. He's a fascinating journalist, and I enjoyed reading his writing. It is very dense, though, and he uses technical jargon freely, without defining it (it's up to you to whether this is desirable).

I really enjoyed the excerpts from A Roomful of Hovings. Unfortunately, the NY Public Library doesn't have this book! Some of the other excerpts didn't grab me as much: in particular, I found the story about Monopoly from A Sense of Place fairly awkward in its structure.

Lima's Taste

We seem to have been eating out a lot recently. We went to Lima's Taste, a Peruvian restaurant in the West Village. The ceviche was great (I'm tempted to say outstanding, but I'm afraid I don't have the experience to be an accurate judge of that), but the fried yucca was apparently not so good. Then again, who likes fried yucca? The food was reasonably priced.

Talk Radio

We saw Talk Radio with Liev Schreiber in the starring role. It was the last day that the show was in previews. Liev was fantastic, although there were a few weak moments in the first few minutes of the play.

Hurricanes and NYC

Here's a web site worth looking at if you live in New York City: the city's hurricance preparedness map.


We ate at Pongsri, a Thai restaurant at 165 W 23rd Street. Pretty good Thai food, although we've tended to avoid Thai food for the past few years. Very good service, above average food, average pricing.

Billy's Bakery

Grabbed some dessert at Billy's Bakery last night; it was pretty tasty! Apparently it is pretty well known; I (being a relatively new New Yorker) just learned about it.

Grand Sichuan, redux

I went to the 9th Avenue location for Grand Sichuan. Great food, as always, and very spicy! Good service, and pretty inexpensive for the quality and quantity of food.

Undercover Economist

I read through the Undercover Economist, which is a wonderfully written exposition of why capitalism works: because, as the author says, it reveals "the truth". Overall, I enjoyed it, but I think it is too optimistic about how economics can solve all of our problems:
  • It is all well and good to say that externality pricing reduces the effects of the externality, but how politically easy is it to impose such prices? As we've seen in NY, it is extremely difficult.
  • The book claims that as the standard of living in China has increase, that large-particle pollution has gone down. That may be true, but when I was just in China I felt like the pollution was stifling.
  • The book claims that there is correlation/causation between protectionist policies and intensive farming. I'm not sure I believe that, and the book did not provide a compelling argument as to why that might be the case.

Liars and crooks

This is an interesting interview with two financial crooks. There are lessons to be learned.

49 Up

We watched 49 Up, the latest movie in the series that started with 7 Up. We skipped some of the movies in the middle; I feel like we should go back and watch them. These movies are fantastic pictures of human lives; I just feel sad that some of the characters have declined to participate as they get older. I can understand that each of them would want his/her privacy, but having one's life and thoughts recorded for posterity on film is a great honor.

Purity of Blood

I quickly read through the sequel to Captain Alatriste, Purity of Blood. Overall, I thought that the book is a better book to read on vacation than in my somewhat limited free time. I also thought that the first book was better, since the lack of plot development, the extended descriptions, and the slow pace seemed better suited to the first book in a series.

I did enjoy the depth of portrayal of 17th-century Spain, although I am not in a position the historical accuracy of the extended ruminations on Spain's downfall. However, for fiction I tend to prefer books with more interesting plots or with better character development. Well, I guess you can't expect everything from a novel.


We finished watching the first season of HBO's Deadwood. It is really well done, and quite a pleasure to watch. The casting and writing is quite a pleasure; the characters are all quite interesting and multidimensional.

Inside China

We saw an interesting show on TV called Inside China. The episode we saw talked about a photographer visiting Beijing, and about the 798 building, which is an artists' colony in Beijing.

John Singer Sargent

We literally ran across a show of Sargent's works in Venice at Adelson Galleries called Sargent's Venice. (As we were leaving the Met, we just happened to walk by this gallery.) They had some wonderful watercolors and oils (I was more impressed by the watercolors), most of which came from private collections.

Met talk: Italian Renaissance and the Kremlin

William Brumfield gave a talk at the Met about the influence of Italian Renaissance architects on the construction of the Kremlin. It was quite entertaining, and we learned about the history of Moscow.