The Last Lecture

This book, written by computer scientist Randy Pausch after his "last lecture" (which he gave after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer), has some common-sense advice for living one's life. A bit overrated, though; it wasn't as moving as I thought as it would be. It was illuminating, and mildly thought-provoking, but a little too self-absorbed (unsurprisingly).


Nicholas Kristof's article in the NY Times pointed me at this petition. I signed it, as I tend to trust Kristof and Michael Pollan's judgment.

Tropic Thunder

I needed a funny movie, and Netflix obliged by sending me this funny spoof. Great cast, decent writing, and a semi-predictable plot (with many unpredictable details). Tom Cruise was hilarious as a crass movie mogul!

The Ascent of Money

The Ascent of Money is an interesting book, although pretty flawed as a general piece of non-fiction. It covers rather quickly the evolution of four underpinnings of modern finance: the bond market, the stock market, insurance, and the real estate market. Niall Ferguson brings up rather interesting (and relevant) historical warnings that show that today's financial meltdown should not really have been unexpected. However, the book is not written for a layperson: Prof. Ferguson tosses around lots of financial jargon without much explanation. The Economist's review is pretty apt. Still, I found it to be a mildly entertaining read, and it complemented the book A Splendid Exchange well (although Bernstein's book is better).

The Norman Conquests

I read the entire trilogy of plays, The Norman Conquests, by Alan Ayckbourn. (That reminds me of an episode of The Family Guy I saw recently, where the family goes to London and watches an incomprehensible play.) After we saw the first play on Broadway, I decided I wanted to read the whole trilogy. Very funny, although I think I would appreciate it even more to see it performed: I kept envisioning the actors we saw in their roles.


We ate dinner at this relatively high-end Italian restaurant: it was very good food, although pricey. It's really hard to judge whether food is worth the money: overall, I'd say that it was, but that I wouldn't eat at the restaurant frequently. For special occasions, the food was worth it.

The Sexual Paradox

Susan Pinker's book is fascinating: it is about what she has seen as the differences between men and women in her practice as a psychologist, a lot of related research, and some interviews with various men and women. The book is sprinkled with a little too much non-quantitative data, but the interviews are interesting. The basic question of that the author tries to answer is: is it possible to have equality of measured outcomes with respect to male/female balance in workplaces, or do differences between the ways that men and women make choices inherently lead to different measured outcomes? Her answer is the latter: that men and women are biologically different, and when given choices, will make different ones that will lead to different outcomes.


We were inspired to watch Tosca after seeing Quantum of Solace. Netflix only had this production on DVD, which was pretty good. Jose Cura was really good as Mario; the rest of the cast was OK.


Dynamic stretching is better for you than static stretching. Worth a read!

Good Reads

A friend of mine, Mark Flanagan, convinced me to sign up for this website last year. I decided to try it out; we'll see how useful it is.

The Time Paradox

This book is worth reading, although it rambles on a bit. Zimbardo (who was the infamous psychologist who conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment) and John Boyd talk about how you can classify your personality based on your attitudes towards the past, the present, and the future. Take the assessment test on the website!

Obama on 60 Minutes

Our President-elect is giving a great interview on 60 Minutes tonight. He's smart, eloquent, funny, and careful. I can't believe people can even compare Sarah Palin to him: she can't even say one sentence that makes sense, whereas Obama has am amazing ability to communicate.

Quantum of Solace

We saw this film on opening night, after getting tickets at 8pm. The theater was pretty full, but not packed: if our experience is typical, then the movie will make a good deal of money, but not a ton.

Overall, the film was not that good a story. However, it was entertaining, if you like action and lots of violence and death. We watched a little of Casino Royale on DVD beforehand (and the rest afterwards), which helped us get some more context for Quantum of Solace.

Fierce Conversations

I quickly read through this interesting book about, well, life. It talks about how one should always be engaged in conversations that address in important issues head-on (but in a cooperative fashion). All in all, a lot of common sense; but a book worth a quick read to remind one to act with common sense.

The Little Foxes

We watched Bette Davis in The Little Foxes on DVD. A fine, albeit depressing, play about the destructiveness of greed. Fairly predictable, but still a good movie.

The Wire

We finished The Wire, Season 4. Wow, such great television! This series is the best television that we've ever watched. Season 4 widened the scope to involve many more players: it's grand storytelling that manages to weave multiple storylines together seamlessly. You must watch this TV show!

The Seven Boards of Skill

This show is not really describable: it is a combination of modern circus acrobatics and Peking opera, and could almost be categorized as "modern dance". It was a fascinating production, and there were some moments of startling beauty. The production was written and directed by some Frenchmen, and it felt very abstract as well (in that undefinable French way). If you get a chance to see it, I would recommend it highly.

Thomas Biesl

We had dinner at this Austrian restaurant before seeing a show at BAM. Since the restaurant is right across the street from BAM, it is very convenient: and the service was really fast. The sauerbraten was pretty good, although more meat-heavy than how I normally eat. If you're going to BAM, this restaurant's not a bad choice.


We had Ethiopian food at this restaurant in Nolita. Reasonably priced, and very good: surprisingly, it wasn't too busy (although we were there on the early side, by New York standards).


I'm blogging this after the fact, but (as with many of my entries) I try to date them appropriately. As I walked home from an election-day party, New York seemed to be filled with elation. People were screaming from their apartments, and just walking down the street yelling, "Obama!". One of my coworkers went to Harlem and said it was a big street party; another coworker went to Union Square, which was another big celebration. It was an invigorating election night: finally, the "long dark night" of the last eight years is nearing an end.

A Splendid Exchange

William Bernstein's history of trade is a fascinating read about how people have always sought to make money through trade. The historical information is wonderful (who would have known that global trade was pervasive in the 1650's?), and some of the analysis in the final chapter (which summarizes some of modern economic theory) is pretty interesting. Well worth reading!


Pretty good tapas, although not cheap. Nice atmosphere, and it wasn't that noisy.

Wire, Season 4

Another season of the Wire: this one focusing on the educational system. It's too bad this drama isn't still ongoing: it would be worth it to get cable and HBO just for this series.

Lars and the Real Girl

I loved this movie! It's a beautiful reflection on the human need for love and companionship. The cast was excellent, and the writing was exquisite.

Be Kind Rewind

Jack Black and Mos Def in a fable about making movies. Entertaining, but not that good.

Measuring the World

I seem to be on a mild kick reading modern German literature. This historical novel about Gauss and von Humboldt is a beautiful reflection on identity and fighting/discovering it through battling the world. Gauss does it through his math (and escaping the world), and von Humboldt does it by exploring South America (and escaping Europe).

The Best Man

Predictable romantic comedy that has echoes of Cyrano de Bergerac. Funny at times, but overall just good enough to keep me awake on a long airplane flight.

Get Smart

This Get Smart wasn't quite as funny as the original TV show, but it was passable. Maxwell Smart as played by Steve Carell wasn't an incompetent boob, just a nerdy fool.


I didn't think that I would like Hancock, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was fun, and well-positioned for a sequel.

The Reader

A beautiful book that captures the impact of desire and regret on a life. The complex interweaving of modern German history into the story is brilliantly done.

Taming of the Shrew

We saw a British theater troupe's production of Taming of the Shrew in Beijing, which verged on excellent. A few minor flaws, but overall it was funny, easy to understand, and a creative production. The troupe of about 6 was highly talented: they acted, sang, and danced.

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love

A nice collection of short stories about food and love. Some are touching, some are ironic, some are funny. The funniest one is where two women compete for a man by cooking for him, and he winds up choking on their food.


We watched this movie on HBO while traveling in China. Mark Wahlberg is always entertaining. Very violent and predictable, but that's the genre!



This is a photo of West Lake in Hangzhou. It's a beautiful place to visit!
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Little girl eating a persimmon. She looked so happy with her fruit that I had to takek her picture.
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wau

A wondrous, poetic novel about a geeky kid who is into sci-fi and comics. A tragic story, although it wasn't sad, for some reason.

Amusingly, the author is a professor at MIT. Pretty cool!

Bridge of Sighs

Another brilliant novel by Richard Russo. I love his writing, and his ability to capture the emotional rhythms of life. This novel did not seem to get reviews as good as Empire Falls did, but I really enjoyed reading it. Highly recommended!

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull

What a weird Indiana Jones movie: it turned into weird sci-fi reminiscent of ET! Boy, and Indy sure looked old...

Land of the Dead

Gotta love George Romero and zombies! Brains...this one was quite entertaining --- it is always fun to see Dennis Hopper play the bad guy.

Forbidden Kingdom

A mildly entertaining time-travel/fantasy/martial-arts movie. Jet Li and Jackie Chan together, which was fun.

Matrix 3

I watched a bunch of movies on the flight to China: this was the first. I'm glad I didn't pay to watch Matrix 3 in the theatre: it was crazily nonsensical. But as in-flight entertainment it wasn't that bad.

Sarah Palin

Wow, what an awful performance at the debate. They might as well have just used the random text generator I linked to to generate her answers. She avoided substantive answers, or just dodged the questions. Amusingly, she kept saying that Biden kept focusing on the past, but then said that she and McCain had learned from the blunders of the past. Gwen Ifill should have asked her, "What Bush-administration blunders have you learned from?"


I ran into the comic Wanted, which was written by Mark Millar (author of the Ultimates). This comic was turned into a movie this year (which I hadn't known). The movie didn't have the superhero background, apparently.

This comic demonstrates a wickedly warped sense of humor, if you're into such things.


I had lunch with some friends at this Malay restaurant. The food is quite authentic (my friend Elaine is from Singapore), and it was very tasty. Definitely worth a trip!

Obama vs. McCain

Lots of news about last night's debate, unsurprisingly. We turned it off after a while: it was just annoying to listen to. It was highly depressing/amusing to listen to both candidates duck Jim Lehrer's pointed question about how they would be constrained by the bailout. Obama was not a smooth debater, and we thought McCain was much smoother and more confident (although his comments were not very substantive). We mostly watched the post-debate analysis on PBS, which was more fun than the debate itself.

Secret History of the American Empire

If you haven't read John Perkins' first book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, it's worth a read. It confirms all the theories of a big conspiracy to maintain American economic power. I didn't finish this book, mostly because it is too depressing: it is hard to evaluate the truth of every claim in the book, but it certainly has the ring of truth.


Usually I find it hard to stop watching an episode of any semi-interesting TV show. Which means that the premiere of Season 3 of Heroes was not even semi-interesting. Season 2 sucked, and Season 3 looks like it will be worse. Oh well, at least I'll be wasting less time watching television!


Stephen Brust's books are like candy: they are quick to read and entertaining, with a nice aftertaste. This latest book in the series (in publication order, not in chronological story-telling order) is similar to all of his other Vlad Taltos books: so, if you liked the earlier books, you will enjoy reading this one. I enjoyed it.

Jay Lepreau

I think I'm still in shock over the news that Jay has passed away. For those of you that didn't know him, Jay was a professor at the University of Utah that I worked with. I didn't know that he had been sick, and apparently even those who knew were shocked at the suddenness of his passing.

The obituary captures my remembrances of Jay well. Rest in peace.

Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton

Outstanding satire: Tina Fey captures Sarah Palin exactly!

At one point this year I thought I could vote for McCain, but this was the last straw: he has shown that he cares about nothing but his own desire to be President of the US. His claim that he puts country first is either completely false or shows that he is completely deluded: Sarah Palin is certainly not qualified to be the President.


This is a cute little comic that centers around some really dysfunctional people. The central character is the most dysfunctional, and he cannot handle being Asian-American in Berkeley. I didn't find the characters that compelling, but the writing was pretty good.

The Wire, Season 2

We finished watching the second season of The Wire. Wow, such great writing and acting! This show is some of the best television that we have ever seen, but it does paint a bleak portrait of modern inner-city America.

Art of the Royal Court

The last major exhibit we saw at the Met was of "pietre dure": carving in hardstone. Treasures from Europe that one never sees (including a national treasure from Russia): it was unbelievably sumptuous. If you are into beautiful things, you should go see this exhibit.

Tara Donovan at the Met

We walked through this installation, which was cool to see. Not as cool as the photos on the Met's web site, though.

Jeff Koons on the Roof (of the Met)

An amusing exhibition, but it was so sunny that I was blinded by the contrast between the Met's roof and the inside of the museum. The dog was cute!

Turner at the Met

Wonderful exhibit. We saw this at the National Gallery in 2007, and also walked through it briefly when it opened at the Met a few months ago. We had to go take a stroll through it before it closed: what is utterly amazing is how Turner's late works anticipated the Impressionists by 50 years. In addition, Turner's ability to make oils look like watercolors was just stunning.

US Open

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It's become a semi-tradition (OK, only this year and last year) for me to go to a US Open match with my friend Paul. This year we got to see an exhibition match between Todd Martin and Michael Chang, and then a quarterfinal match between Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic. Andy blew it: he was on the verge of taking Djokovic to a fifth set, and double faulted twice at 30-30 while serving for the fourth set. And on the last point, he went for a drop shot from the baseline! Cojones, but not wise.

Hilarity at the RNC

The RNC speeches have been hilarious tonight. Linda Lingle, the governor of Hawaii, is making fun of the fact that Alaska is 250 times larger than Delaware (Joe Biden's state). This is coming from the governor of Hawaii??!!! No offense to my Hawaiian friends.


A new web browser from Google. It seems pretty zippy, at least for the web sites that I've tried. Cool!

Elevated Acre


We visited this small park in the financial district: the above photo shows you the wonderful view of the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, and Governor's Island. You can see 3 of the waterfalls, although the one on Governor's Island is off at the time of the photo.
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Democratic National Convention

I watched much of the prime-time coverage of the convention this year, which I have never done before. The Clintons gave some great speeches, as did Obama: probably Obama's biggest problem is how high the expectations are for his speeches. He certainly moved the crowd, although clearly not the ever-obnoxious David Brooks (read his NY Times editorial from the following day).


It's still Restaurant "Week", so we decided to try another restaurant. Very good Mediterranean food at Amalia; the short ribs were OK, but the pasta was better. The starter of watermelon gazpacho was excellent. And the panna cotta was delicious!

Sex and Lucia

This movie is hauntingly beautiful. It is very strange, and its self-referential circularity is kind of odd. But the story itself is wonderful!

The Wire

We finished Season One, which was awesome. I particularly liked the end scene where Major Rawls asks McNulty where he doesn't want to be reassigned. (You really have to watch the series to understand that line.)


Boy, I sure am behind on my blog. I have a backlog of books and movies I've seen that I haven't written about (mostly because I'm not sure that writing anything down on a blog is that interesting, and partially because I'm just lazy). OK, time to catch up today!

Henry Moore: NY Botanical Gardens

This was a nice exhibition that really took advantage of the Garden's beauty. The gardens were not as crowded as during the Chihuly exhibition two summers ago, which made the walk quite pleasant. No crowds!

Sushi Samba

Great place for brunch: $15/person, and you get 4 dishes. We had apple-pear pancakes (excellent), churros (very good), scrambled eggs (yummy), and smoked salmon and whitefish (delicious). Worth visiting, although I bet it is crowded during peak hours. There was a jazz band which was unpleasantly loud at times.


South African food in Brooklyn. This restaurant was in a nice spot near BAM, and the food was interesting and tasty. The staff was pretty friendly too, which is always a bonus. I recommend it.

One If By Land

We went here to get dinner, and discovered that it is Restaurant "Week". (Apparently Restaurant Week lasts around a month this summer.) The food was good (as it was the previous time we came here); I'm not sure why TONY says that it has gone downhill. But maybe my palate is not that sophisticated.


A cute film with some well-written dialogue and a good soundtrack. I see why people liked the movie, but I didn't find it as great as the reviews indicated. Not sure why, though.

Predictable Irrationality

Another book about psychology and economics, which is all the rage. This book was entertaining, but not that well written: it jumps from pretty sensible conclusions about some experiments to over-generalized statements about public policy. And some of the experiments just seem silly. For example, the author placed cans of Coke in student refrigerators at MIT (I wonder if it was in Burton House?): some of them wound up being drunk. However, when he placed plates with dollar bills on them in refrigerators, the dollars were not taken. From this he concludes that people treat $ different from objects. Which may be true, but in the context of this experiment I'd say that having a plate of dollar bills in your refrigerator is an unusual enough sight that most people would consciously avoid the bills.

Still, some amusing stories. Probably the best one is where he explains the experiments where students fill out some surveys while they are sexually aroused.


A book with a vision about the unity of science. Unfortunately, it's a yawner (I didn't finish it) and written with a very arrogant tone. But what can you expect from a Harvard professor?

The Wire

We've started watching The Wire on DVD. Amazing television: of course, it's been cancelled. Great writing and acting, and compelling subject matter. The commentary on the DVD talks about how the writers wanted to illustrate the effects of the corporation of all aspects of life: and they've certainly done a wonderful job at that!

Three Cups of Tea

Wow. The protagonist of this biography, Greg Mortenson, seems like an amazing guy. I think I'd hate to work for him, but he does get results in what does: which has been to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His way is certainly better than President Bush's way!

If you donate money to anyone this year, I think his institute (the Central Asia Institute) is worth donating to.

Charity Navigator rates the Central Asia Institute as a 4-star charity. Given the return on investment on building a school, I think this is a no-brainer.


We watched this movie on DVD (which was based on a comic of the same name). I liked the comic better, but maybe that was because the movie was just an animated version of the comic with voices. Still, it is a compelling story (in both versions).

Salsa Y Salsa

We were hungry, and wandered into this Mexican place. The food wasn't that memorable (although I'm writing this several weeks after our meal there). But it wasn't as bad as some of the reviews on Yelp.

The Dark Knight

Wow. This film deserves to make a lot of money (which it has). A well-written plot with some great performances. I'm not sure that I agree that Heath Ledger was as great as the critics say, but he certainly did put on a fine performance as the Joker. The Harvey Dent/Two-Face plot was a little too truncated for my taste, but I can't really complain: I loved this movie.

The Quincunx

Wow, this incredibly dense work is a true masterpiece. Remarkably detailed and emotionally rich, it tells the story of a young man who discovers his mysterious family heritage through the labyrinthine intrigues that he accidentally stumbles into as he comes of age. If you like complex stories, this book's for you. I have to admit that I skimmed parts, because the complexity of the intrigues became too much for me to follow.

Gentlemen of the Road

A short, quick read by Michael Chabon. I read it on the first part of a cross-country plane trip. The funniest comment about it comes from Chabon himself: the working title was "Jews With Swords". If you have some time to do some entertaining reading, this book is worth the time.

The Jasons

I finished this dry but historically interesting work about a group of US-government science advisors. It was fascinating in part because I work with one of the Jasons (I guess that's sort of like voyeurism, but hey, I'm human). The Jasons did some really influential work a few decades ago; they've become less focused as a group since then (the book describes several reason as to the causes, such as a necessary broadening of expertise and a widening of the issues that the military is concerned about). Probably some of the more recent work is classified, as well, although the wikipedia page lists some of the unclassified reports available on the web.

Kum Gang San

We had pretty good Korean food at this restaurant in Koreatown. Good food, if not the cheapest Korean food in the area. I'd rank it below our favorite Korean restaurant, Natural Tofu.

Hellboy II

Another superhero film: 2008 sure has seen a lot of them, and Batman hasn't even come out yet!

Overall, an entertaining film. Who would have expected music by Barry Manilow in a Hellboy movie? It was more of a team-oriented film than the first one: Hellboy was not even close to being the central character of the film (although he is, of course, key to the story).

Il Laboratorio Del Gelato

Some of the best gelato in NYC. What else do you need to know?

Lovejoy Season 3

We started watching the third season of Lovejoy, which just came out on DVD recently. Apparently the BBC is slowly turning out DVDs of their old shows. Ian McShane is great to watch (we saw him on Broadway in The Homeconing this year, and loved him in the HBO show Deadwood).

This series is fine TV: I recommend it highly. The 3rd season had much more intricate plotting than the first 2 seasons; I'll let you decide which you prefer.

We Would Have Played For Nothing

I've slowly been reading this collection of interviews with old baseball stars from the mid-20th century. Entertaining reading, if you're into baseball.

In Bruges

An odd little film about some killers who wind up in Bruges. (For those of you who haven't been there, Bruges is a tourist town in Belgium that I found remarkably boring when I visited it in 1988.) A fantastic cast, though. I have mixed feelings about the movie: entertaining in a dark way, and an enjoyable-to-watch cast, but also really bizarre.

The movie has some relationships to one of Harold Pinter's plays, which aptly describes the bizarreness in the story.

Sex and the City

I didn't think this movie would be that good, but it actually was! The beginning was like a long fashion shoot/wedding planner's dream, and had no useful plot or character development. But then things get interesting: definitely a movie that was worth watching.


A fine Pixar film that we decided to watch after seeing Wall-E. There is one particularly moving scene where the critic Anton Ego is fed some ratatouille made by Remy. Ego flashes back to his mother's cooking, in an amazingly designed shot. Other than that, I thought that the movie was entertaining and worth watching, if a little predictable.

Dos Caminos

Fancy Mexican restaurant in NY. They make fresh guacamole near your table, which was tasty (although not the best guacamole I have ever had). Overall, a worthwhile experience, but I tend to prefer hole-in-the-wall taquerias to fancy Mexican restaurants.

Our Inner Ape

A fantastic book about how we are similar (and different) to our evolutionary cousins, chimpanzees and bonobos. Sexual behavior, gender differences, societal structures, you name it. This book is a must-read.

Black Book

Black Book is a fantastic movie about the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. The twists and turns in the plot are startling: quite a dense story. The main character was wonderful; her lover was the main character in The Lives of Others, which won an Academy Award in the same year that Black Book was released. The two actors have apparently been in a relationship since that movie; they definitely had some good chemistry.

I highly recommend watching this movie.

JMW Turner

JMW Turner

We went to a members-only lecture about the JMW Turner exhibit that opens on Tuesday at the Met. The galleries were only open to members this weekend, which is a nice way for the museum to encourage membership. We didn't have a lot of time, so we just walked through it quickly. Our first impressions: the Met used much larger rooms than the National Gallery, and placed the paintings closer together. The exhibit felt more intimate in DC, but the relationships between the paintings seemed clearer at the Met.


A beautiful movie. This film may very well be my favorite Pixar film. A little over-messaged, and the plot wasn't particularly interesting. However, Wall-E is gorgeous to see, and it had a great focus on character and atmosphere. Yes, even robots can have character, when done right!

Bobby Flay

Well, I haven't blogged much lately: there's a backlog of blog entries that I need to clean up and post. But I had to include this amusing tidbit: we walked by Bobby Flay this evening while we were on the way home. Not our first celebrity sighting, but the first one that I recognized before Ming.

Brazil Grill

We grabbed some food here because we were hungry, and this was the first restaurant we came across. We had pasta and salad. The portions were quite large, although there was too much meat on the pasta. OK, not highly recommended.

Top Girls

We saw the MTC's revival of Top Girls. It was kind of fascinating at times, and painfully long-winded in others. The actresses all spoke with incredibly strong British accents (most of them faked, although I don't have the ear to tell if they were accurately faked or not). I liked Marisa Tomei in her role, and Martha Plimpton was fun to watch.

The first act was a weird dinner involving mostly historical/semi-historical/fictional women characters: pretty hard-to-follow dialogue, unfortunately. The second act depicted a young woman visiting her aunt, who was the center of the dinner in the first act. The third act was the best, with the main character visiting her sister, who apparently had adopted the main character's daughter. The sister was played by Marisa Tomei; the daughter was played by Martha Plimpton.

The Incredible Hulk

The second Marvel superhero movie of the summer. I liked it, and it's unfortunate that the marketing of the film was weak compared to Iron Man. Apparently Edward Norton had a dispute with the studio. The graphics weren't perfect, but the storyline was decent; the initial scenes in Brazil were well done.

How do they keep the Abomination imprisoned, though?

Saravana Bhavan

Vegetarian Indian food in NY. Yum! I'm not an expert on the cuisine, but I like this restaurant. I've been to the one in Sunnyvale and the one here; maybe someday I'll get to try one in another country.

The Savages

Wow, what a fantastic movie. Great cast and writing, and quite intense. The relatively happy ending was a little too Hollywood, but other than that it was one of the best movies I have seen in a while.


Ethiopian food in NY. Pretty good: we went there on a hot summer day, and it was empty for lunch. Excellent food, and lots of injera!

The House of Elliot

An interesting BBC production: we've enjoyed watching it. It depicts the difficulty that women had in early 20th-century England in having productive lives, especially without husbands.

Children of Men

An interesting movie from a "hot" director. It was quite dark, but enjoyable to watch. I didn't pay that much attention to the movie, though; Ming was watching it while I was doing other things.

Tales of the Alhambra

I started reading this book after we visited the Alhambra itself. I generally don't favor this type of writing, which is why it took me so long to finish. But it was enjoyable storytelling! The edition I read had a lot of engravings of scenes from the Alhambra, and it was nice to recognize many of them from our vacation.

The Package

A pretty complicated and unbelievable story about an attempted assassination, but it's still fun watching Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones when they were younger.

Sunday in the Park with George

We saw the revival of Sunday in the Park with George, and it was wonderful! A truly moving musical/performance: I'm not sure that I can distinguish between the quality of the music/book and the performers, which were both very high. The lead actor and actress were stunningly virtuosic, and the staging was impressive. The only minor negative was that the pit "orchestra" (just a few musicians) were too loudly miked.

Chronicles of Narnia

Prince Caspian is an entertaining movie, although it isn't really that good. The story doesn't really move at times (they have a lot of long scenery shots that are just boring). When the story does happen, a lot of it is set during long battles during which no blood flows, either. Despite these weaknesses, I did enjoy this very long movie (approaching 2.5 hours!).

Met lecture on fashion/superheroes

Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy

This lecture was nice and concise. The exhibit is fun to see, with one of the Iron Man suits from the movie that came out recently. They also had the Catwoman suit that Michelle Pfeiffer wore. I had never realized that "high fashion" had such weird outfits!

The Odessa File

Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones during the cold war. Fun thriller with a plot full of holes. Entertaining enough, but not highly recommended.

El Quinto Pino

Yum, we found this great tapas bar: and it literally is a bar. No table seating, all bar seating. Fantastic food, especially the eggplant with honey! That dish is a must-have.

Get Carter

We watched the original "Get Carter" on DVD. Michael Caine is so much fun to watch; and this very dark movie was interesting. We haven't seen the remake (and probably won't get around to it), but I tend to prefer older movies anyway: and I cannot imagine that Sylvester Stallone could do as good a job as Michael Caine.

The commentary is interesting (we watched a little of it). In an early scene in the movie, one minor character sits with Michael Caine in a train compartment; I won't spoil the movie by saying who that character is.

Rickshaw Dumpling Bar

I've always loved dumplings, and we finally got around to trying this restaurant (which is almost around the corner from us). This little restaurant isn't cheap, but the dumplings are excellent. Interesting concept!

El Quijote

We ate lunch at this Spanish restaurant. Since I was really hungry, it was hard to be that objective about the food quality. The stuffed scallop was really good, though! The chorizo tasted good, but wasn't the best I've had; the shrimp was excellent, as were the olives and manchego. Worth a visit, although not cheap.

Iron Man

We've entered the age of the comic-book hero. The second-tier heroes are getting their own movies! Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark was inspired casting: the movie is a lot of fun, if slow-paced for an "action" movie. Jeff Bridges was excellent as well.

All around, a good way to kick off the summer movie season!

Murakami in Brooklyn

We went to see this rather over-the-top exhibit of Murakami's art. He combines a Japanese manga-like sensibility with business and "high art": they even had a small Louis Vuitton store inside the exhibit that was selling Murakami bags!

My reaction was that the exhibit was entertaining, but completely overrated. Murakami will not be remembered in 100 years, other than as providing some entertaining art.

A few of his pieces (both sculpture and video) are very explicitly sexual, which was odd. Many visitors had brought young children to the exhibit, and when they got to the room with those sculptures, you could see their faces suddenly change. Other than that, there wasn't anything particularly shocking about the exhibit.

The Brooklyn Museum itself is a wonderful building in a beautiful location.

No Country For Old Men

I watched this movie on DVD while flying back from Europe. A fantastic movie, although the ending of the "main" story was both jarring and fitting at the same time. Great atmosphere (and boy, I would not want to live out in the middle of nowhere!) and extremely well done, although it still felt odd that no one seemed to respond to lots of shooting in the middle of the night.

The Art of Woo

I read this book after taking a seminar at work with one of the authors, G. Richard Shell. He is a very compelling and down-to-earth speaker, and the book is pretty valuable as a business-psychology tutorial on how to sell ideas. Definitely worth reading, if you have to work in any kind of organization (which means everyone...).



Well, we visited the Alhambra while in Granada. Of course, how could one go there and not see it? A web album has some more pictures of the Alhambra.


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La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia is an amazing cathedral: well worth visiting to see the genius/insanity of Antoni Gaudi. Unbelievable! Some other pictures of Gaudi buildings in Barcelona can be seen in a web album of other photos:
Gaudi and Barcelona

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Patisserie des Ambassades

This restaurant was decent. Not fantastic, but we had a reasonably priced meal here.


This comic, which is about the author's experiences growing up in Iran, is moving, sad, funny, etc. All of the typical reasons why you should read a great novel (or in this case, a great comic). If you read one comic this year, this should be it: it paints of a picture of a country that has been through some major upheavals in the last 50 years.

Puccini for Beginners

A delightful little comedy: a woman gets involved in an amusing love triangle with a man and a woman! Definitely worth watching if you want a light romantic comedy.

Whitney Biennial

We stopped by to see the Whitney Biennial, which is an exhibition of modern artists that occurs every 2 years. Overall, it was relatively uninteresting, but maybe it was because I was tired and hungry after a day at work. There were a few compelling pieces, but a lot of constructed art that was pretty boring.

The Stuff of Thought

Steven Pinker's book on language and thought is fabulous. Some of the chapters were kind of boring (such as the one on swearing), but some were fascinating beyond belief. The somewhat obvious (in retrospect) idea that language is not how we think is remarkable, and Pinker's description of how linguists have deconstructed the building blocks of thought is wonderful. Read this book, if you read only one non-fiction book this year.

Lust, Caution

This movie was very beautifully done. The ambience and tension created by Ang Lee were impressive, although some of the computer graphics were a bit fake-looking. Very slow plot, though; I'm not sure everyone would enjoy it.


An excellent restaurant (if a poor web site) that serves tapas (mostly). They had an avocado hummus that was quite good, and a foie-gras mousse that was excellent. Worth going to, although it's not really that close to any subway lines.

Come Back, Little Sheba

This production of this 1950's play was really well done. At the beginning, it felt a little stilted, but either I got used to it or the performers loosened up. S. Epatha Merkerson was the star: she's the police captain on Law and Order. The play felt somewhat dated, given the 1950's gender roles, but the emotional impact was still there.

US Virgin Islands

We took a vacation to the US Virgin Islands, and spent most of our time on St. John. What a lovely place! Instead of blogging the whole trip, we'll put notes on a map that we created using Google Maps.

The Logic of Life

Another book written by an economist about incentives and social psychology. Entertaining and illuminating! I did think that the metaphor that people pay high rents move to cities to learn from the "University of Life" a little silly, though. It seems clear to me that people are not paying for knowledge per se: they are paying for the actual connections (relationships with other people) that they build while in those cities.

The Merchants' War

Charles Stross is a highly entertaining author: this series is a good romp that demonstrates his knowledge of the technology industry, the fantasy and sci-fi genres, and historical fiction. I tend to blow through these books, mostly because the characters are not deep. They tend to not have character flaws, but tend to be the one-dimensional characters seen in lots of simple fiction: they are put in situations where they do the most rational thing.

Otto Restaurant Enoteca Pizza

The prices appear pretty reasonable, until you see that they plate very little food for you. Pretty good quality, but extremely crowded and loud. I don't think we'll go back.

Turkish Kitchen

Yum, Turkish food! This restaurant was very reasonably priced, and the food was delicious. Definitely a winner.

Bello Sguardo

We had dinner at this nice restaurant on the Upper West Side. We just happened to walk by it, and the food was quite good! If we lived closer we would certainly go back.


Patrick Stewart at BAM in a production imported from England. He was awesome. Great production, if a little loud in the soundtrack. The set was quite stunning and versatile, and the setting in a fascistic WWI-type setting was quite impressive. I feel quite lucky to have gotten a chance to see this performance.

BAM's Harvey Theater is an interesting performance space; they kept most of the original walls, which had a really bombed-out look.

There were some subtleties that were interesting in this performance. "Damned be he who first cries, 'Hold, enough!'" The meaning of that line was altered greatly through the delivery by Mr. Stewart---they executed the fight between the last two words, and although Macbeth had the upper hand, he gives up and mutters "Enough." in a despairing sigh. Also, the porter's name "Seyton" is pronounced "Satan", which was in retrospect obvious, but disturbing in its connotations.


We decided to eat out for Valentine's Day on the night before, since it is a lot easier to get reservations that day. OK, so we're lazy...

The food was quite good, albeit reasonably pricey. The building doesn't look like it would house such a fancy-looking restaurant. But it's pretty close to where we live, and so is a nice option on bad-weather days.


We watched a few episodes of this BBC antique-dealer-slash-con-man, mostly because Ian McShane was the star. He was the central figure in HBO's Deadwood, and we just saw him on Broadway in The Homecoming. Very fun series, if a bit dated-looking now.

In Defense of Food

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That's the essence (and subtitle) of the book. What else is there to say? Well, you should read the book. Michael Pollan is a wonderful writer; I wish I could have the chance to meet him.


Another season of Lost, and it's a good one so far! Some great scenes and stunning revelations to close each episode.

The comic writer Brian K. Vaughn (he just finished Y the Last Man, which is worth reading) has been involved in writing and producing some episodes of Lost. Interesting tie-in!

Jane Austen Book Club

Although very predictable in many ways, this movie was surprisingly endearing. (Certainly not profound, though.) I would recommend it as pretty good light romantic comedy.

Lewis Black

Red, White, and Screwed was pretty hilarious. What else is there to say? Lewis Black is one of the funniest comedians around; hopefully we'll get a chance to see him in person some day.


We watched this semi-staged performance on DVD; the music, as always, is stunning. Kristin Chenoweth was outstanding!

Music of the Heart

Music of the Heart was a heart-warming film about how music can change kids' lives. A bunch of famous musicians participated, but the most surprising thing was that the director was Wes Craven! Meryl Streep was enjoyable to watch, as always.

Notes on a Scandal

Dame Judi Dench and Kate Blanchett are great, but I felt let down by the writing. The plot seemed way too predictable, and the Judi Dench character seemed too psychotic to be believable. Plus, none of the presumed marital tension between Bill Nighy and Kate Blanchett was really visible, except in the voiceover from Judi Dench. Maybe worth watching, but not highly recommended.

The Homecoming

Wow. This revival of Harold Pinter's play was stunning. I didn't like the play (in the sense that it was highly disturbing and dark), but I was impressed by the visceral intensity generated by the play and cast. Ian McShane was great (we got to know him by watching Deadwood), as was Raul Esparza (we saw him in Company last season). If you're into theatre, it's certainly worth watching; see it soon, though, because the theater was not close to full on a Friday night---this revival might not last that long.

Bon Chon

We had Korean fried chicken at this interesting restaurant. From the outside of the building, we thought it would be a hole in the wall, but it turned out to be a fancy club-like atmosphere. The chicken was really good (for fried chicken), and the sushi rolls were very well done. The loud music was a bit much, though, and the service was OK at best. Mildly recommended.

3:10 to Yuma

This remake was entertaining, and well done. A little focused on machismo and honor as a motivation, but that's the nature of Westerns. Similarly, there weren't any interesting female roles in the film. Christian Bale was convincing, and Russell Crowe was a perfect fit for his part. If you like Westerns, it's worth a few hours.

Discover Your Inner Economist

Casablanca Cafe

Flagler Museum

We visited Whitehall, the building that is now the Flagler Museum. It was built during the Gilded Age by Henry Flagler, one of the founders of Standard Oil. Apparently Flagler was single-handedly responsible for much of modern Florida: he built the railroads in Florida, and did much to encourage agricultural development in the state. Definitely worth seeing!


We had a big seafod crepe at a restaurant in downtown Fort Lauderdale during our brief vacation. Pretty decent food, and we managed to hit the end of the dinner rush. If we're ever back there, I'd go back.

Le Tub

We had lunch at this "hole-in-the-wall" local joint in Hollywood, Florida. Apparently GQ called the burgers the best in the country. I don't know about that, but certainly the burger we had was pretty good. We also had an excellent seafood salad. We went after the lunch rush, which was fortunate; the people at the table next to ours had been waiting for their food for 45 minutes! Apparently they have only one grill to serve a place that seats around 100. If it weren't for the long wait, I'd recommend this restaurant highly.

Bombay Talkie

Fancy Indian food. A bit pricey, and you're paying for atmosphere rather than food. But the food was still pretty good; I'd go back.

The Lives of Others

Wow. A wonderful film. Clearly a deserving winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar last year. In fact, I would argue that it was a better film than The Departed, which won Best Picture. But we can't do much about the US-centric Oscars; after all, each country has its own awards ceremony. We watched the various special features on the DVD, and the interview with the director was fascinating. I just wish we had watched it sooner!

Alex Ross

I went to hear Alex Ross, the classical-music critic for the New Yorker, give an interview at the Strand. The interview was sponsored by WQXR. The occasion was the publication of his first book, The Rest Is Noise
, a history of classical music in the 20th century. The book got rave reviews everywhere, so I've reserved it at the library. The interview was interesting, but I would have preferred a lecture by Alex Ross. The interviewer was Jeff Spurgeon, who is the morning announcer on WQXR. There's always something going on in New York!


A friend lent me this book, and it is a must-read. Beautiful, compelling prose, and a moving story about a small-town college professor around the turn of the 20th century. I loved the book, and found hilarious the mildly barbed comment about academia that one of the jaded graduate students makes early on in the novel. You must read this gem!

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

A silly, although entertaining movie. We usually watch blockbuster action movies in the theatre, just for the better sound and huge picture. This movie wasn't a great action movie in that sense; we could just as easily watched it at home. The plot itself was absurd, and made me laugh out loud several times. It is worth a rental when you want a bit of light entertainment; the only reason that it dominated the box office for several weeks is that there was nothing better to watch.

Thank You For Smoking

I'd seen this before, but it was definitely worth watching a second time. Wonderful cast, hilarious writing (Rob Lowe's character was a hoot)---what else could one want? If you haven't seen this, you should.


Once is a delightful movie about and around music. The star is apparently an Irish rock star (acting in his first rock movie). The plot revolves around a non-simple love story, which makes it interesting; it shows how love can manifest in unexpected ways, and how it can enrich one's life. Definitely worth watching (and listening to for the great soundtrack)!


We ate at this "hole-in-the-wall" Japanese restaurant, which has great Japanese noodles. Highly recommended, and at pretty reasonable prices too. Yum!


We watched Michael Moore's movie about the brokenness of the health-care system. It points out many flaws in our system, but unfortunately doesn't try to grapple any of the real complexity underlying the issues. He makes simplistic comparisons with the UK and Cuba, and makes the argument that "we could just be like them". Of course we could be, but it's not that simple to just change everything.

Also, he encourages the perception that everyone should be able to get all of the health care that they need. Of course that's not true: someone has to pay for it!