Archive for March, 2008

Why our Democracy Sucks, perhaps.

31 March 2008 at 8:54 pm
by Berck

Awhile back, I asked why our Democracy sucks. Here’s a piece of the answer, and a hint at the solution.

As it’s on the agenda for Sydney’s cyber/info/tech law reading group tomorrow, I just watched this presentation by Lawrence Lessig. (I’ve long been a Lessig fan, you might know him as the guy who started Creative Commons.) In any case, I think he makes a very compelling point on issues I’d not previously considered to be all that important. And if he’s right it’s not so much that it’s the most important issue, just that it’s the first issue.

In the later post, I expressed a lot of dismay about the candidates in general, but I think that I can pretty safely endorse Obama. He’s made a lot of substantive statements since my earlier complaints, and as time goes by I find that I like the idea of an Obama presidency. I think it’s actually possible that he’s man of real character with positions on issues closer than most. As we’re quite potentially headed for the worst economic recession we’ve seen in a long time, we could use someone who talks pretty and could restore international confidence in the dollar–something that I don’t think any of the other candidates could do.

I’ve done some thinking about the looming “recession” in the last few weeks, and perhaps I’ll post about it later. There’s a lot of very loud speculation as to the cause, which I don’t think is terribly important. What’s more important is the severity, and there’s a few things that have happened lately that could make this very bad for us. For instance, since 1994 the rapidly expanding practice of financial institutions using sweep accounts to effectively lower the reserve requirement for demand deposit accounts has led to significant monetary inflation that may just now start showing up as price inflation. Couple that with festering international mistrust of US monetary policy, and we could be in for a rough time.

I’ll write more later, but I must sleep now and do some reading, since I’m going to class tomorrow. Again.

New York, New York

31 March 2008 at 7:01 pm
by Jonah

Berck talked me into joining him in New York for the weekend for his next-to-last free weekend. He flew up there on Thursday. He sent me an e-mail when he landed saying he thought he’d left his lights on in his car, and could I please go buy some jumper cables and remove the battery from Arthur, find his car (in the overflow lot), and deposit them in his trunk. Instead, I called the parking company and was given a direct number to call for emergency vehicle assistance at no charge.

It ends up being more than a weekend to run up to New York, because it takes a whole bloody day to get from Colorado Springs to Sydney’s apartment. I stopped by work on Friday morning to feed and take a shower (our hot water heater pilot light went out again). I left work at 9 to drive to Denver. I’d just gotten Delta benefits that morning, so I wanted to allow extra time in case there were any snags there and for the unknown amount of time it would take to get through security. The overflow lot was closed, so I don’t know how I would have dropped off the jumper cables and battery. I checked into the Delta kiosk with absolutely no problem whatsoever. There was no line for security, so I was at the gate stupid early (an hour and a half, which is what you’ll end up with if you do what they say and get to the airport two hours ahead of time).

The flight was late getting in and later leaving. There was apparently a change of aircraft, and the seating map the gate agent was using had more rows than the plane had. They made an announcement that everyone should just find an empty seat and sit in it. It was a very full flight, and I was lucky to get on it at all. The next option was to fly to Newark and figure out how to take the trains over to New York City. Finally, they announced that they needed a volunteer to leave his window or aisle seat and take a middle seat so that a father and his very young son could sit together. “There is no reward; we’re just not going anywhere until someone does.” Someone volunteered immediately. The English girl sitting next to me had to sit apart from her boyfriend. She made do by turning the volume on the armrest all the way up and positioning it next to her ear so she could listen to the rock station without buying headphones. I got to listen to the rock station too, then, because it was next to my ear as well. Fortunately, my headphones pretty much drowned it out so I could watch the movie (August Rush) and an episode of Friday Night Lights. I was next to the window, so I also got to see the snow covered fields of the Mid-West, Chicago, Lake Michigan, and Lake Erie. We held forever over JFK, and then taxied even longer. Then I had to take the Air Train to the A line and then to Sydney’s apartment. I found it without any problem. I got there about 8. That’s a long dang day.

But it was just starting. Berck, his sister Sydney, and I took the Subway into Manhattan and met his brother Kelsey and Liz at an Ethiopian restaurant in the West Village. Only Berck and I had eaten Ethiopian before, so we ordered a bunch of stuff and explained how to eat it. The place didn’t serve alcohol anymore, but they had a bottle opening fee. So Kelsey and Sydney ran out and bought a bottle of wine for Liz, a bottle opener, and a 6 pack of Newcastle and 7 big bottles of Yuengling (which Kelsey managed to convinced the grocery store clerk he could get a case discount on and get the 7th for free). We still had a couple of the big bottles left when the restaurant was closing, so we went to the pub next door. Sydney bought a round of beers, and Liz still had her half full wine glass that she’d brought from next door, which, in her defense, she hadn’t had time to finish because they took half an hour to open her bottle. When we’d drained our glasses, Kelsey exchanged the empty wine glass for a full one at the bar and surreptitiously filled all our pint glasses with another of the Yuenglings. When the last of our beer was gone and our never emptying glasses finally emptied, we called it a night and went our separate ways, Kelsey and Liz to Washington Heights, and us to Bedford-Sty. We got home at 2. Berck and I stayed up another hour or so talking.

We slept in on the air mattress in the living room until 11 and the sun was in our eyes. I was amazed that I felt no effect from the night before and then remembered that we were at sea level, which meant Berck and I could drink most people under the table, what with all of our extra red blood cells with nothing to do but deliver alcohol molecules to the liver. We took showers, got dressed, put away the bed, and Berck decided it was time to wake up Sydney. Another half hour later, he asked if we should leave without her. She asked for 20 minutes, and Berck asked if we’d just be another 20 minutes from our goal and Sydneyless if we waited. She told us to go ahead without her.

We took the Subway to the Lower East Side and found Russ and Daughters, which has just about any kind of smoked or canned fish you’d want. The place is tiny, but it was packed. We took a number and waited our turn, me inside, Berck outside. I got a bialy with whitefish salad. Berck got an onion bagel with cream cheese and then had to choose one of the several different types of salmon. He decided on Scottish smoked salmon, which tasted like it was cured over peat. He was very happy with his breakfast.

Next it was on to the MOMA. It was already 1, and the museum closed at 5. We bought our tickets ($20 a piece, except Berck used his expired student ID) and headed up to the top. An hour and a half later we’d finished the top floor and still had 4 to go. Somehow we managed to cover it all and were tired at the end. It’s a very good collection. We saw Starry Night and a huge Magritte and a bunch of other things.

Kelsey and Liz really wanted to show us their apartment, so Berck and I took the Subway north all the way as far as it would go that weekend to 169th St. We stopped on the way at Zabar’s, the best deli in the world. Berck was overwhelmed by the selection of cheeses but settled on some Nevat and selected a small stick of pepper-encrusted Italian salami. We also got some fresh Jewish rye bread that had just arrived from the bakery. I asked for some smoked bluefish for Michele, but they told me that the current stuff available was too gamy for their likes, so they weren’t carrying any currently. We stopped by a liquor store to get a bottle of chianti for Liz and some dark Czech beer for us. We ended up just drinking the wine. Kelsey didn’t want to snack much to save room for the pizza we planned on eating that night. We arranged to meet Syd back down in the West Village and all headed down on the A train.

No. 28 Carmine serves pizza brick oven Italian style. We had to wait forever for a table. It was cold, so we all crammed into the rickety little foyer built out onto the sidewalk with another party waiting for a table. Finally, they gave us a table in the room where the cook was baking the pizzas, so it was very hot. But it was all worth it. The pizza was very authentic. The whole staff spoke in thick Italian accents. Even most of the clientele spoke English as a second language. We polished off a pizza margarita and one with sausage that Americans call pepperoni when a pan of crust covered in arugula and prosciutto arrived at the table next to ours. Kelsey was admiring it when our neighbor invited him to try a piece, because, as he said in thickly accented English, “It is too much for me.” Kelsey decided we should get one of those, which arrived soon and we also polished off quickly. Delicious. Berck declared it was possibly the best Italian pizza he’d had, even in Italy.

I announced that I expected gelato afterward, so Berck asked the waiter with the glasses if there were any around. In fact, there are tons of gelato places in general vicinity, but he gave us directions to one in particular and told us to tell them he sent us. After coughing up just enough cash among all of us to cover the bill (no one in NYC takes credit cards, it seems), we followed his instructions and entered a little gelato store a couple blocks down and around the corner. The guy behind the counter started handing out samples willy nilly, even to Berck and me, who already knew what we wanted. Right then who should walk in and step behind the counter than the guy whose pizza Kelsey had sampled! Boy, were we surprised to see each other. He told us that he had thought about giving us his business card but hadn’t, but then we showed up in his shop anyway. We bought lots of gelati with the cash Kelsey had run and gotten in the meantime and sat on the shop’s stools to enjoy it. It was wonderful gelato. I had caramel creme, stracciatella, and peanut butter in an “Americano” waffle cone. It was the best gelato I’ve had in this country. I should have made a note of what it was called and where it was. Anybody else remember?

We stayed there until they closed at midnight and then decided to call it a night, since we had to go to opposite ends of the city to sleep. We got home early that night. 1 am.

Next: Sunday in the City


31 March 2008 at 7:01 pm
by Jonah

Someone sent me black SmartWool socks, I assume for my birthday.

Whoever you are, thanks! I’ve got them in the wash and plan to wear them tomorrow!

This is not the Brooklyn Bridge

28 March 2008 at 6:13 pm
by Berck

Which is why the restaurant under the Brooklyn Bridge wasn’t there. I finally asked Sydney, “Uhh, are you sure that’s the Brooklyn Bridge? Because it doesn’t look like it…”

Here’s Strawberry Fields.

New York!

28 March 2008 at 5:53 pm
by Berck

I decided to spend one of my last free weekends in New York. It’s a long way away. I left my apartment at 9am on Thursday morning and got to the law school at 7:30pm. I’m not looking forward to regularly giving up a day to get to and from work.

I like New York much better when it’s not hot. In general, I like New York. I’m not sure why. I feel like I should hate it, and perhaps I’ll learn to, but for now, I’m too amused.

On the subway back to Brooklyn after getting a beer with Kelsey, I remembered how many people you get a chance to see on a daily basis in New York. Quite a bit more than the half-dozen I’m likely to interact with in a less urban setting.

A group of people got on, and had a long discussion about which of them should sit down in the two spots on the seat next to me. Only one of them eventually sat down, and the others kept standing. A fellow behind them politely asked if any of them were going to sit there, and they said no. Uncannily polite for the Subway–you don’t ask, you just sit. It was obvious the guy was a New Yorker; out of the millions, there’s bound to be a few polite ones. After a little while he asked me if the C train stopped at Fulton. Since it goes down Fulton for a long way, there’s a dozen stops “at Fulton”, so I wasn’t sure what he meant. I told him I didn’t know, but pulled out my map and handed it to him. He laughed and consulted it. He asked if I were a New Yorker, and seemed surprised that I wasn’t, but allowed how that explained why I had a subway map in my pocket.

I manage to not stand out as a tourist, but I don’t look like a New Yorker. I certainly don’t dress correctly. BDU’s and a flannel shirt is just not acceptable attire. New Yorkers seem to put quite a bit of effort into how they dress. They wear double-breasted coats, not gore-tex shells.

Tourists, on the other hand… I walked down 42nd street today and heard two tourists talking to each other about catching a cab to Times Square, since they weren’t having any luck finding it. They were standing at the corner 42nd and Broadway. Apparently the billion watts of lights weren’t enough for them to catch on.

Sweatshirts. Tourists wear sweatshirts. I don’t think anyone else here does. Course, they also wear gore-tex shells and stand on street corners with streetwise maps, something I do often.