The Lost Room

This 6-episode series (sadly, no more were made, although a comic is apparently in the works) is a fun bit of television that appeared on the Sci-Fi Channel (the former name of Syfy).  Based on the premise of a mysterious set of objects that have "super" powers ranging from the mundane to the incredible, this is a well-done series with a bunch of character actors that I've seen before in various other series/movies: Chris Bauer (The Wire), Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Dennis Christopher (Deadwood), April Grace (Magnolia), Margaret Cho (yes, the comedian) to name the obvious ones.  I enjoyed it for the unpredictability and the eerie sense of drama.

Eat Pray Love

An ultimately boring movie about finding oneself (and love) by traveling to exotic places and hanging out with beautiful people.  The movie had some nice moments, but overall it was painfully predictable.  I hope the book that the movie was based on is not as dully self-congratulatory as the movie.

La Cage aux Folles

This revival with Kelsey Grammar is entertaining, but doesn't blow you away.  (Although I think I'm getting maudlin' in my old/middle age: some of the songs did move me.)  Kelsey Grammar does a passable job, although he is so well-known as Frazier Crane that it felt like Frazier was playing the part.  The understudy for the Albin role, Chris Hoch, was great, modulo some microphone trouble during his solo at the end of Act One.  Overall, it's good entertainment, but there is probably better stuff on Broadway if you're a connoisseur.


We had lunch at this fancy Asian-fusion restaurant.  Peking-duck spring rolls, yum!  Truly excellent food: expensive, but not overly so (although I would not go very frequently: I'm still pretty cheap when it comes to food).   Worth an occasional splurge, though.  And the restaurant itself is spectacular: we were seated on the second floor with a view overlooking the giant Buddha statue.

Love and Other Disasters

A cute but predictable movie.  Good enough to watch on streaming Netflix while winding down after a long day of childcare...but I wouldn't have wanted to pay to watch this movie in the theater.  Some cheesy, if amusing, movie-within-a-movie scenes.

Harry Potter 7

The other part of taking the day off was seeing a movie (how easy is that these days)?  I think the New Yorker review summed up the movie the best: it was dull.  The only reason to see the movie is if you read all of the books and want to see how it was adapted.  This movie was not as bad as the first 2: the creative team did a passable job of shortening the text into an action movie.  If you've read the books, it all makes sense: I suspect that if have not, it is just like any other nonsensical string of action sequences.  I wish I had seen something else for my day off, and I'm surprised that it got decent reviews anywhere (except The New Yorker).  If this hadn't been a special outing for my day off I would have walked out...

Sage Bistro

Sage Bistro is a fancy little restaurant near where we live.  I took the day off and had a nice lunch there: the food was elegantly served, and pretty substantial fare: I had a crepe with shrimp, cheese, and artichokes.  Yummy, if not particularly inexpensive.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

TV on Netflix is great; you can get all sorts of "old" stuff to watch.  I decided to watch this original Nickolodeon series, on which the horrible movie The Last Airbender was based.  The original series is fantastic!  Designed for kids, but it's still good entertainment, with good writing/anime-style art.  Definitely worth watching, especially if you have some young kids of the right age.  I suspect that around 10 years old is the target demographic.

Charity Navigator

It's that time of year again: making donations to charities.  In case you haven't seen/used it, Charity Navigator is an excellent resource for evaluating the effectiveness of your donated dollars.

Dexter Season 4

We finished watching Season 4 on DVD.  Outstandingly intense and depressing ending to another disturbing (and very dark) season.  John Lithgow was creepy indeed.  I'm very sad about the end to the season; I didn't like the direction it takes Dexter's family.

Four Fish

Fun (and thought-provoking) book about fish and how mankind is doing a great job of reducing their population drastically.  The author finds it depressing that people always ask him what fish to eat, but he does implicitly answer that question: tilipia and tra are apparently very good fish to eat, because they are efficient converters of protein.  A lot of fun little anecdotes and stories in this book; well worth reading if you care about food issues.

Sagamore Hill

We visited Theodore Roosevelt's old home at Sagamore Hill, a national park.  The tour of the house was one of the best historic tours I have ever taken; the Park Service ranger was incredibly knowledgeable about the house and TR himself.  Fun fact: TR was the first president to be able to run the US from a non-Washington location, because of the invention of the telephone.  Definitely worth a visit!


No, not my daughter.  This flighty little movie is quite entertaining, with Christina Ricci as the pig-faced little girl.  Reese Witherspoon was a co-producer and also played a hilarious character in the film itself.  James McAvoy is always fun to watch...


Yet another so-so movie with Bruce Willis as the surly star.  Derivative in nature, but certainly the script had a few novel pieces.  Watching it on Netflix was good enough entertainment, given that it's hard to actually watch movies with a baby girl now!

Planting Fields Arboretum

We visited Planting Fields Arboretum, which is a very nice state park that used to be a private estate owned by William Coe and his wife.  (Coe made serious money in maritime insurance; his wife was the heiress of Standard Oil, which of course made her much richer than he.)  There are a number of buildings worth visiting on the estate.  Coe Hall is a beautiful old mansion that at one point was used by SUNY Stony Brook before their campus was built.  There are a number of old greenhouses that have some nice collections of plants.  All in all, worth visiting.

Against All Things Ending

I'm just guessing at when I finished reading this book (if you haven't noticed, I set the time on my posts for when I watch/read a book/movie/TV show, not when I post).  It was my first real Kindle book, and I found it to be an interesting experience reading a long novel on the Kindle.  First, the Kindle let me skim more than I already tend to skim in dense books (and the Covenant books are all dense, but more on the book itself later).  More surprisingly, though, because I use my Kindle every morning on my commute, it lets me reread much more frequently: I find that I've read the parts I initially skimmed over the last month or so.  So, all in all, a rich reading experience.  And the Kindle gives me far less eyestrain than my iPhone, because of the former's passive display.

As for Donaldson's latest book: it has all of the intensity and drama (melodrama, maybe) of his earlier novels.  Either you like it or you don't: and I like it.  His reinvention of the Land over three separate eras is fascinating, and well done.  The characters are a bit too caught up in their own pain, but it's almost cathartic to read of their travails.  All in all, highly recommended if you liked his earlier novels.

Mad Men Season Four

We watched the last few episodes while in Beijing (iTunes is wonderful in some ways).  It took forever to download the HD version, but it was worth the wait.  It was nice to see Don Draper happy at the end of season, although he again chose a weaker, supportive woman rather than the stronger one who constantly challenged him.  Heather Havrilesky at seems to view this as a tragic flaw in her recap of the episode: I view it as realistic storytelling about human choices.  The Faye character wasn't able to give Don what he really wanted, which was someone to take care of his family, and make his family easy to manage.

All in all, another fun season to watch.  As Don simplifies/cleans up his life, though, he is becoming less interesting as the central character.  But I'm sure the writers will keep the show compelling.  How will Betty react to the competition for "best mother" with Megan?


Remarkable what bad movies show up on HBO/Cinemax in the middle of the night, even in Beijing.  This movie is definitely not worth watching: it makes absolutely no sense.  But it kept me awake while tending to Penelope, at least!

Gran Torino

Another movie watched while keeping Penelope company late at night in Beijing.  A good Clint Eastwood movie, with an unexpected denouement.  The character played by Clint was like a retired version of Dirty Harry.

Enemy at the Gates

This taut movie about snipers during the Battle of Stalingrad was worth watching.  I just turned on HBO while keeping Penelope company early (ok, in the middle of the night) one morning in Beijing, and was able to concentrate on some of the film.  Jude Law was pretty good, as was Ed Harris; but my favorite character was played by Ron Perlman (Hellboy!).

Traveling to China

Traveling with an infant wasn't as bad as I had expected, which was
good (I deliberately expected the worst). But the time change of 12
hours meant that the first night in Beijing was not fun, to say the

Access to blogger from China was flaky at best, so I had to email the blog entries to blogger for later editing/entry (which is now, after we're semi-recovered from our trip back).

The Last Airbender

Watched this on the flight to China as well.  What a horrible movie!  The only redeeming factor was that I needed to do something while flying, so I let this movie have my attention.  I wonder if some studio will have the $ to waste to make the sequel?

Apparently this movie is based on a cartoon that received very high ratings.  I plan on eventually watching that, if I can find it.

Iron Man 2

Entertaining movie, if not that good.  It was fun to see the basic Avengers cast coming together.  Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow was quite amusing!  I watched this on the airplane, so it was almost impossible to hear the dialogue; which was fine, because it wasn't really that deep or necessary, from what I could tell.

Health Care Costs

Read these slides.  They are a great source of information about the American health-care system.

Barnes and Noble

I went to my first (and possibly only, looking into the future) shareholder's meeting.  I was expecting/hoping for some fireworks, as there was a contentious board election.  However, it was clear that the attendees, at least, loved Leonard Riggio, the chairman of the board.  All in all, very non-contentious and anti-climactic.  Oh well!

Hipsters, Hustlers and Handball Players

While we were at the Met, we stopped by this small collection of photographs by Leon Levinstein from the 1950's and onward.  What struck me was how non-beautiful the images were: very strikingly so!{C9CE6916-DFEF-4B86-BDB0-EE290C523227}

What is odd is that blogger won't let me use the above link on the title because it contains illegal characters.  The curly braces?

Kubilai Khan at the Met

No, he didn't come back to life and conquer the Met.  This exhibition was impressively curated, with works from all over the China (not to mention the rest of the world too).


We drove through Flushing over the weekend, and saw lots of downed trees from the macro-burst that happened last week. Very intense weather!
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The Specials

This odd little superhero movie isn't particularly good, but it was easy to watch while taking care of Penelope.  A bit too much swearing for kids who can pick up language, though.  But it was mildly amusing.


This DVD has been sitting next to our TV since Penelope was born, and I finally got a chance to skim through it while watching Penelope this Labor Day weekend.  Ah, the series was so good...this episode was fun to watch.

House of Cards

This nasty British political thriller is well worth watching.  At first it seems like a story of pure political intrigue (with a little cocaine and sex thrown in for titillation), but in the last episode (the 4th) the intrigue gets more and more evil.  Ian Richardson is brilliant as the manipulative Francis Urquhart.  And what a name!

Mila's Daydreams

This blog has some lovely, imaginative photos of a beautiful little girl.


A fascinating film: almost too recursively gripping at many levels (in the sense that the tension becomes overwhelming).  And they never explained how the team popped off the last level of the stack.  Nevertheless, a clever script with lots of good actors = fun movie.  And the last shot was cleverly ambiguous.


I finally was able to take this book out of the library (again) and finish it, given the reading time I have on the train.  It is an impressive history of the world through the lens of water in its many forms: water for transport, for power, for drinking, for sanitation, and for ecosystems.  At points it felt like a stretch to talk about water in its many uses as the same historical link in this manner, but the book was nonetheless entertaining and informative.  The final section of the book, which talks about our modern water-shortage problems due to population growth, wasteful and inefficient usage, and poor management, is pretty depressing: many countries are looking at running out of water in several decades!

Torchwood 3

An interesting third "season" comprised of 5 episodes.  A few thoughts:
  1.  Much higher resolution: couldn't tell if that was Netflix or better video quality from the BBC.  In either case, the show had much higher production values across the board.
  2.  Sad to see Ianto die.  All of the cast (except for Gwen) bit the dust over the last 2 seasons.
  3.  Another deux ex machina ending.  I thought they might try and find out if the drug-dealing aliens were criminals in their own society, or something mildly clever.  Instead, they copped out.  Oh well.

Still, enjoyable except for the ending.  They tried to close out the series (but apparently they are doing yet another season?).

Breast Milk Sugars Give Infants a Protective Coat -

Breast Milk Sugars Give Infants a Protective Coat -

Fascinating, how evolution works!

Torchwood 2

I like this series, although it is somewhat silly (in much the same way that Star Trek is silly).  Enjoyable fluff, nonetheless.  The characters are generally more interesting than those in typical sci-fi fare.

Hospice Care

If I had more time to read regularly, I would subscribe to the New Yorker just to read Atul Gawande's articles on medicine.  I wish we had discussed such issues in my family when my father's Parkinson's disease started to worsen.

Torchwood 1

I've been watching this BBC serial on and off for the last year, and finally finished the last episode of the first season.  Entertaining sci-fi.  Some of the episodes are derivative, but overall the series does a good job of filling out a bunch of interesting characters.  Watching over the Internet is convenient: just like a DVR!  Very useful with a baby around...

Ben's Kosher Deli

Lots of take-out food today.  We had a power outage, so we gave up on the idea of cooking dinner and instead went to this nearby deli.  Excellent food, although the salami sandwich was heavily meat-laden.

Wild Fig

We tried this Middle-Eastern restaurant in Syosset for lunch; the food was pretty good!  Definitely less expensive than Manhattan too.  We shared a couple of salads and entrees.


Hilarious road-trip movie about America overrun with zombies.  Apparently they're making a sequel as well!

Oracle Bones

I finally have some time to read: on the train commuting to/from Manhattan.  It is a bit difficult to work, so I combine leisure reading and some work to make the commute bearable.

I managed to finally finish this lovely book by Peter Hessler, which is about China in the first 5 or 6 years of this century.  (I had to return his newest book to the library before I could even crack it open, given the arrival of Penelope!)  Even now it feels like it is about an "old China", given the pace of change there (as well as here).

My favorite quote: "General Tso and Colonel Sanders: great chicken imperialists."

The funniest chapter was the one about Imre Galambos and his website,  He sells Chinese characters for tattoo art, but the funniest part was where Peter Hessler describes how Galambos kept trying to explain to people that Chinese doesn't have an alphabet!

Trader Joe's hits Chelsea

Saw this sign up yesterday morning!  Too bad we won't be living in Chelsea very soon...

Eleven Madison Park

To celebrate our anniversary, and the beginning of our new lives on Long Island, we went to Eleven Madison Park.  Magnificent food, with a lovely ambience.  If I get in the mood (which I probably won't), I'll recap the menu.  Suffice it to say that it's probably the best restaurant we've been to in NYC.  No more fancy restaurants until Penelope gets much older, probably!

Ottimo closed

Another restaurant bites the dust.  It wasn't cheap, but the food was very good.  And it was close to our apartment.

Lend Me a Tenor

We thought we'd see a show, since we're moving out of Manhattan soon, and our anniversary is coming up.  This outstanding farce was hilarious: Tony Shalhoub was just one of the well-known actors in the cast.  The play was directed by Stanley Tucci, too!  Great writing and acting, and just crazy plot twists.

No 7 Sub Shop

This Manhattan outpost of a Brooklyn restaurant is a pure takeout sandwich shop.  And what sandwiches!  We had a tuna sandwich (the phrase "tuna sandwich" hardly does justice to it), a veggie sandwich (different kinds of tomatoes, mostly), and a lamb sandwich.  All very delicious!

Medicine and life

This essay about medicine and end-of-life issues is well worth reading.  It reminds me of what my mother went through when my father's Parkinson's became debilitating.

Justice League

Streaming Netflix is great: baby screams, you stop watching.  Baby settles down, you watch some.

This translation from a comic to a movie (direct-to-DVD, I believe) is not bad.  Entertaining, at least: it was fun watching them have Batman take out Superwoman with a trick.

Mad Men Season Three

We caught up on Season 3 of Mad Men.  What a season!  The ending was very satisfying: Don Draper has lost his real family, but has created his advertising family in the form of a startup.  All of the important players are in the new firm: it promises to lead into a great Season 4.  I wonder what important historical events will shape that season?  Vietnam?  Joan's husband will certainly get shipped off there.

College: exploitation?

Great article on how universities collaborate with lenders to encourage unwitting students (and their families) to spend huge sums of money on educations that the students will spend far too long trying to pay back.  The incentives are not in the students' favor.

Op-Ed Contributors - A Degree in Three -

Op-Ed Contributors - A Degree in Three -

Ha ha. Do these guys actually think that professors would give up their summers off? That's one of the huge perks of being a professor.


Lame ending to what started as a powerful series.  Jack's imperturable sense of (a)morality finally causes the POTUS to give up on realpolitik and destroy her own presidency.  But they left the ending open for a movie where Jack has to stay alive, since everyone is now hunting him.  Sure sounds like The Bourne Ultimatum...


Well, Lost is finally over.  The long (especially with all the extended advertising breaks) final episode was quite satisfying emotionally; the 6-year series clearly was structured as Jack's, especially with the symmetry the writers set up between the series' opening and closing shots.  The resolution of the "sideways" storyline was a bit surprising, but it worked pretty well.  All in all, a worthy close to a 6-year drama.

Legend of the Seeker

Well, it's over.  Watching this while trying to care for a fussy baby is interesting, but it also made it more humorous: it is hard to take such a poorly written (albeit entertaining) series too seriously.  The final episode of season two starts with an "undo" of the whole previous episode (which they should have done at the end of that episodes, not as a "To be continued...").  Then they finish with another deus ex machina.  And of course the Seeker has got to be the most gullible character on the planet (or, at least, in D'Harra).

But, nonetheless, I'll miss the series.  Campy, illogical plots, unrealistic costumes; but it was still fun, like TV is supposed to be.  If I ever get the time to read again maybe I'll skim the books by Terry Goodkind.


I've spent a bunch of hours figuring out the maze of tax forms I need to report the so-called "nanny tax" as a household employer in NY State. In case this is useful to someone else, I thought I'd post that information here:

  1. one-time: get a federal EIN by filing an SS-4
  2. quarterly: pay estimated taxes
  3. file W-2 and W-3 yearly
  4. Form 1040: file Schedule H

NY State:
  1. one-time: register as a new employer
  2. register a new hire within 20 days of employment
  3. quarterly: file NYS-45
  4. Upon termination of employment, give employee a NYS IA 12.3


Well, life is (somewhat) returning to some semblance of normalcy after our daughter Penelope arrived. I feel almost human again, after slowly catching up on sleep and getting used to taking care of a baby!

My friend Elaine gave me the idea of creating a blog for our daughter.


I watched bits and pieces of the episode "Across the Sea" when it aired, and caught up on the rest on Hulu. So the Man in Black and Jacob had mommy issues? Seems almost funny/trite, but it didn't bother me too much (maybe because I'm sleep-deprived?). I wonder if they will explain the real meaning of the light in the cave?

Ira and Abby

We watched while waiting for labor contractions. It's a very NYC movie: in location, actors, and sentiment. Quirky and funny; I recommend it!

Legend of the Seeker

I've been watching Season 1 on streaming Netflix (to a Wii). It's just like TV, but better (streaming Netflix, not the show itself). The show is predictable and goofy (how does the Mother Confessor keep her clothes so white while tromping through the forest and fighting bad guys?), but entertaining nonetheless. Hopefully they renew it for a third season.

That Hamilton Woman

This movie is about an interesting historical figure, Lady Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson. Vivian Leigh and Lawrence Olivier play the lead roles. We mostly had it on in the background, so I can't say it was compelling. It was mildly interesting to learn about this corner of British history.

The Breslin

We had brunch at this apparently hip restaurant next to the Ace Hotel. Very conservative decor, and a simple brunch menu: I found the food to be very good (despite what a bunch of online reviews say). No wait at 9:30am, either! Not cheap, but not expensive by NYC standards. I had the lemon and ricotta pancakes with candied orange syrup, which were delightful.

The Homework Myth

I've gotten on a binge of reading (or at least skimming) Alfie Kohn's books: the current one I finished is The Homework Myth, which argues that homework is in general a bad thing. I think his argument boils down to a bunch of varied points:
1. Kids get too much homework. Can't argue with that one, if it's true.
2. Kids who are forced to do something as homework learn to dislike that task. I find it hard to disagree with that, although sometimes there are things that one should learn despite disliking it.
3. Homework is drudgery. Bad homework is drudgery, but certain skills can only be learned through practice.

In any case, I'm tiring of his books: they raise very valid points, but they beat those points to death.

Lewis Black

We went to see Lewis Black (In God We Rust tour) at NY City Center. The lead-in comedian, John Bowman, was pretty funny. Lewis did a great set, although the end of the show tapered off a bit in intensity. It felt like his cold/allergies (which he riffed about early in the show) were getting to him by the end. Still, quite funny!

Sky High

This superhero-teen-angst-high-school movie was amusing: I thought the final line of the movie was typical of its tongue-in-cheek humor. Roughly, it was: "My girlfriend became my arch-enemy, my arch-enemy became my best friend, and my best friend became my girlfriend. That's high school for you." Entertaining, if mildly predictable. Kurt Russell is great at these campy roles (such as the role he played in Big Trouble in Little China!).

Heading Home With Your Newborn

This is one of the better books I've read in preparation for the arrival of our little one.

The Cartoon Introduction to Economics

Cartoons, economics. Fun to read; and I learned something about economics, as well: tax equivalence was something I hadn't read about before.


We watched this old Hitchcock film on DVD. As Ming said during the film, "Cary Grant never plays a bad guy." He's good at being nasty, though: the role reminded me of his role as TR Devlin in Notorious.

Mildred Pierce

Here are some photos from the HBO production of Mildred Pierce with Kate Winslet. They are filming exteriors in our neighborhood: when I looked out our bedroom window this morning onto the adjoining alley, I could see the top of Kate Winslet's head as they were rehearsing a scene. They had constructed a mini-set in the alley, which was all gone by the time I got home from work.

A Touch of Greatness

This film about an inspiring teacher is really worth watching. It is indirectly an indictment about our educational systems as well. Both uplifting and depressing at the same time.

The Duchess of Duke Street

This BBC series is available over streaming Netflix. I found the first few episodes of the first season enthralling (the main character is quite the "character"), but I got somewhat bored while Ming watched the rest of the season. Still, it is high-quality television.

Op-Ed Contributor - Allergy-Free New York -

Op-Ed Contributor - Allergy-Free New York -

This article about trees and pollen in New York City is fascinating. Humans are causing more allergies through selection of trees to plant!

Peter and Max

This book, based on the universe from the comic book Fables, is a delightful read. Like the comic, the characters are drawn from familiar children's story characters (mostly): it tells the story of Peter Piper, Bo Beep, and the Pied Piper of Hamlin (who is Peter's brother). Like the comic, it also has some of its weaknesses: most of the characters are developed without much depth (in particular, Max the Pied Piper), and the ending just slams the book to a halt. Nonetheless, if you like Fables, you should read this book.

Punished By Rewards

This book talks about the problems with using carrots (as opposed to sticks) with children, in the workplace, and in society. A bit long-winded and full of anecdotal evidence, but the book presents a very plausible theory of how people dislike any efforts to subvert their control (whether real or perceived) over their lives.


Wow, a remarkable performance by Sean Penn: he truly lost himself in the title role of Harvey Milk. Not enough time to write something that does justice to this movie, so I'll just say I loved it.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

This morality play is entertaining (if a little black-and-white, both in its plot and literally in the film color). Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne: two of the great actors of their generations. The difficulty of Jimmy Stewart's position would have been made clearer with a bit more exposition of his life as a Senator, but that's just nit-picking. Well worth watching.


Fascinating film about an event of which I have no recollection; of course, I was only 8 at the time. Who knew that Diane Sawyer worked for the Nixon White House?

Economic View - When a First Choice May Not Be the Best Choice -

Economic View - When a First Choice May Not Be the Best Choice -

This article is funny: especially the point about CEO's.

Noguchi Museum

We finally made it out to the Noguchi Museum (or more accurately, had the opportunity to stop in on our way home) today. It is a lovely little museum out in the hinterlands of Long Island City: difficult to reach by public transit.
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Aging and vision

Well, I've hit the age where males start noticing bodily changes. Besides various internal inspections of organs, I was finally told I need bifocals for presbyopia. Everyone said it would happen at 40, and it eventually did!

Being female must be so much more difficult than being male: so many more physical changes over one's lifetime! And, of course, pregnancy...

xkcd: Computer Problems

xkcd: Computer Problems


I've been reading Alfie Kohn's fascinating book Punished By Rewards (which I was led to by Daniel Pink's book Drive), which argues for a radical rethinking of how we interact: in particular, with respect to rewards.

As I read more about him online, I found the article linked to by the title of this post. That article summarizes his philosophy with respect to praise (as a reward) and parenting. I like the philosophy very much, but it is also a troubling indictment of our incentive-driven society.

Legacy of Ashes

This fantastic history of the CIA is kind of depressing: it shows how organizational dysfunction can be caused by inadequate/bad/misguided leadership, as well as the inability of our Presidents to use the CIA appropriately. If you want to know all of the crazy/illogical/misguided things that the CIA has done in the name of America, read this book.

I was particularly intrigued by the portrait of President Clinton as uninterested/uninformed about the rest of the world. Even though President George W. Bush was not very well informed, the picture that the author paints of Clinton's initial years in the White House is not very different.

YouTube - Top Secret DrumCorps Basel Tattoo

- Top Secret DrumCorps Basel Tattoo

Pretty amazing!

Joe Wong at RTCA Dinner

- Joe Wong at RTCA Dinner

This Chinese-American comedian is pretty funny!

Tying shoelaces

Interesting information about tying shoelaces. I learned that not all knots are the same recently: apparently, about half the time I mistie my laces!


It is clear that Philip Seymour Hoffmann deserved his Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote in this film. There was something essential missing from the film, though: the fact that writing "In Cold Blood" may have destroyed the rest of his career was missing from the storyline, since the movie ends with the execution of the killers. Still, a compelling movie to watch.

Event Horizon

One of the wonderful things about Madison Square Park is the public art that has appeared here regularly. The latest exhibit is quite fun: 31 life-sized statues placed all around the park (a lot on top of landmark buildings in the neighborhood). Check them out!

Up in the Air

This film starring George Clooney was a wonderful film to watch: witty dialogue, great characterization, interesting plot, great acting. A far better film than Avatar, certainly. It feels like it belongs with "Michael Clayton" in George Clooney's output: a "really good" (and I mean that in a non-grade-inflated, good way) movie that didn't achieve blockbuster status. Highly recommended.


Drive, by Daniel Pink, is a fascinating book about work vs. play, motivation and money. Some experiments have shown that economic incentives ($) can actually lower the long-term performance of so-called "knowledge workers". That is, performing an interesting task (i.e., writing software) can become less interesting to workers if management links performance too heavily to pay. The best explanation in the book for that is that it takes away the worker's sense of autonomy: people want to work, and they want to solve interesting and worthwhile problems.

Well worth reading. The author gave a talk about his book at work, but I wasn't able to listen to the talk, unfortunately.

Dexter Season 3

Wow, what a great series. The series uses the guise of a serial killer to explore human relationships; the writing is fantastic, and the acting is very compelling. Jimmy Smits must have loved playing the psychotic Miguel Prado; what an over-the-top character!

Can't wait to watch the 4th season, with John Lithgow!

Lords of Finance

This lovely book tells the story of the Great Depression, and how many errors (both political and economic) led to it, as well as World War II. The time span roughly covers the founding of the Federal Reserve system to Bretton Woods, and introduces many important historical figures. It is remarkable how the "conventional" experts failed: how astute John Maynard Keynes was, and FDR was the right person in the right place, and how the poor health of Benjamin Strong led to his premature passing from a critical position in the world's financial leadership. This book is a very easy read, and well worth it to show how hard it is to understand macroeconomics.

Ghost Writer

An excellent film from Roman Polanski. The film felt like it was filmed in the US (which was surprising to me, since he is still being held in Switzerland), but apparently it was all shot in Germany. It's a political thriller with some surprises and filled with all kinds of recognizable actors/actresses. I recommend it highly.


We went with our friends Frank and Jinyang to this little hole-in-the-wall tapas place. Not a huge selection of tapas, but not bad nonetheless; and the pizza was quite good. Prices were reasonable, although not that cheap. Recommended if you're looking for decent food (but not high-end).

USA Networks Character Approved

We got to go to the Character Approved awards given by USA Networks to "characters" who have shaped our culture. One of our friends was given an award (I don't want to drop names, so I'll let you guess who it was). It was an entertaining media event: there were lots of TV types there (although we only recognized Jeff Goldblum). Several other people seemed familiar.

Robin Hood

We finished watching the first season of BBC's recent Robin Hood series. It's not very believable, but still fun and entertaining to watch. If you're not looking for authenticity, it's pretty decent TV (certainly by American sitcom standards).


We went to this relatively high-end Italian restaurant north of Madison Square Park. Nice ambience (and not too noisy, as we were there on the early side). We ordered several "half-sized" entries, which was not cheap, but gave us a chance to sample their cooking. The food was lovely, and not overly salty like some restaurants we've eaten at lately. The octopus was really tender, and the squab was delicious.

Dexter Season 2

Wow, another great season of Dexter. I love this show: great writing focused on character development, a plotline that stretches through an entire season, and really good acting. The sister character turns out to have real depth in this season, too. Great stuff!

Super Bowl!

Wow, an exciting game! The Colts were outcoached and outplayed. Sean Payton's decision to open the second half with an onside kick was gutsy, as was his call to go for it on fourth down at the end of the first half. Although I'm not a Saints fan, I am delighted that they won for New Orleans. Plus, I was getting tired of all the hype in the media about how great Peyton Manning is: they were anointing him the best of his era even before the game happened.

The Who

Well, a surprisingly tight Super Bowl game. The Who is just sad: Daltrey can't hit any of the really high notes in the songs anymore; neither can he sustain his lines. I don't know why agreed to do this sad performance.


We started watching Season 1 of Dexter on DVD. Wow, fantastic stuff! Great TV, albeit a bit bloody. The writing is great: one continuous background story across an entire TV season. The story speaks to the alienation that all of us experience (although in extremely exaggerated form). If you can't take the bloodiness, though, don't watch it.

Metropolitan Museum: French Art Deco

We saw an exhibition at the Met titled "Masterpieces of French Art Deco", which included panels from a mural that came from a crazy French ship called the Normandie. Titled The History of Navigation, the mural reflects an era of luxury ended by The Great Depression.


This movie based on Neil Gaiman's book of the same name is quite good: it tells the story of a brave little girl's battle with an evil witch. It does the book justice, based on my memory of the book, in creating a magical alternate reality that the witch manufactures to lure Coraline into her trap. It's probably too scary for young kids, though.


We started watching the first season of Dexter. Creepy, bloody stuff, but the series does a wonderful job of creating a set of compelling characters (and a gripping storyline).

Julie and Julia

An enjoyable little movie: Meryl Streep is stunning in her performance as Julia Child. Stanley Tucci is great as her husband, and it was fun to see Jane Lynch as her sister. The rest of the story (about "Julie") was not very interesting. Nonetheless, the movie is fun to watch.

The End of Overeating

This book by David Kessler, who was commissioner of the FDA, talks about the research showing that the combination of sugar, fat, and salt can be considered addictive to many people. Well worth reading.

A Face in the Crowd

Wow, Elia Kazan's film about media, advertising, and politics (and the corruption that power brings) is fantastic. Andy Griffith got to act his head off, and go over the top in every scene he was in. Well worth watching! It speaks to a more naive time in American history, when media manipulation was much more obvious, in many ways.


I missed a lot of the second half, but turned the tv back on to see the Chargers get to 17-14. I still cannot believe the Jets won!

Kathi Roll

Kathi rolls (or kati rolls, I can't tell what the right spelling is from the various restaurant names) are basically Indian burritos. Yummy, and relatively cheap too!

District 9

This film was great! Much better than Avatar, certainly. The main character/actor was hilarious as a nebbish who stumbles into big problems. A definite must-watch if you like science fiction.

The Battle of Algiers

This fantastic film about the Algerian revolution is well worth watching. It feels like a documentary, but it isn't; but it isn't really fiction either. It revolves around historical events of the time, and tells the story of the FLN (the Algerian rebel group) and the French police and soldiers who are tasked with bringing down the FLN. It demonstrates how they wind up succeeding in their short-term goal of pacifying Algiers, but fail at retaining the cost of the country. Probably most apropos to our current war is the scene where the French lieutenant tells the press that his methods (torture) are necessary if France is to retain possession of Algiers.

The Princess of Nebraska

This odd movie about a Chinese woman who travels to San Francisco to get an abortion is very difficult to follow. The cinematography is gorgeous, but otherwise I couldn't appreciate the movie very well.

South Pacific

This revival at Lincoln Center (the Vivian Beaumont Theater) was glorious to watch. If you get chance to see this musical, it is well worth it. A lot of memorable songs, and some really great actors with beautiful voices.