Monthly Archives: May 2008

China Forbes and Hi-Fives All Around!

Reunion season is the perfect time to advertise the most successful rock stars among my Harvard classmates, China Forbes and Tom Lauderdale of the neo-lounge orchestra Pink Martini. China (actually in the class above me) has a new solo record out; you can listen to the great single, “Everybody Needs Somebody,” on her myspace page. Would she be annoyed to hear that I think it sounds like Sheryl Crow? But like Sheryl Crow in the best of all conceivable Sheryl Crow – related scenarios, is what I’m saying.

(Technical question: I was unable to upload to the blog the .mp3 of this song, which came to me free on a Paste magazine sampler. Who’s forbidding this operation — WordPress, iTunes, or someone else?)

I’m also liking Toronto two-man indie band Hi-Fives All Around! You can get a good sense of their sound from the grand “What Happened To Being Polite?” , which like the last song I find myself unable to embed in this post. Big drums, changing tempos, plantive vocals. Who doesn’t like this?

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In which CJ makes pizza

CJ was entranced by the exhibit in the Chicago Children’s Museum where you could make a pizza on cardboard crusts with fabric pepperoni and mushrooms.  So tonight I thought he might like helping me make a couple of pizzas for real.

Now I try to be an autonomy-granting parent, so I went along with CJ’s suggestions for what toppings we should use. And that is how we came to dine tonight on apple, pineapple, macaroni and cheese, and Cheerio pizza:

and, for our second course, pineapple salsa and green bean pizza:

The second pizza was actually quite tasty. The first was a little weird — but I do have to say that Cheerios based in the oven gain a strong and pleasant toastiness not present in the raw state.

In case you’re finding my parenting too permissive, I want to point out that I did reject some of CJ’s suggested pizza toppings, including tomato soup, Weetabix, and Trader Joe’s blueberry bran muffins.

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  1. We spent last weekend in Chicago, Dr. Mrs. Q attending the Association for Psychological Science convention, and me squiring CJ all over Windytown. Saturday night we had dinner at the thoroughly enjoyable Santorini in Greektown. Having just finished Dave Grazian’s book about the urban nightlife hustle I was uncomfortably aware that the general air of carefree Mediterranean revelry was carefuly constructed by the management. But it works! And the food is delicious and plentiful! And you can order cheese on fire! Good Greek food is almost impossible to find in Madison; I told the maitre d’ at Santorini that if he had friends looking for a business opportunity they could make a mint running a restaurant here. He responded with an excellent point I’d never considered. In Greektown, a dozen Greek restaurants within a few blocks support a wholesale importer/distributor in the same neighborhood. If you run a Greek restaurant where there aren’t any others, you’ve got to bring in your food from the nearest distributor — which for Madison would be three hours away, in Greektown. And if you’re doing that you can’t sell dinner at $13 a plate the way Santorini does.
  2. Speaking of Greek things on fire, Nick Markakis continues to impress; at 24, he’s the best hitter on the team, and unless you have a really high opinion of Adam Jones, that’s going to stay the case for many years. Monday he broke out of a mini-slump and tagged the Yankees for a single, double, and homer as the Orioles won 6-1. Then again, he went 0-for-6 last night in what might have been the Orioles’ finest game of the year — twice the Yankees went up by four runs, and twice the Orioles came back; Dennis Sarfate picked Derek Jeter off second to end a threat; in the top of the 11th, with the bases loaded, Brian Roberts snagged a rocket off the bat of Alex Rodriguez and turned it into a 4-2-5 double play. The Yankees did score a run that inning — but at that point, they looked down into the musty bottom of their bullpen and all that was left in there was LaTroy Hawkins. A third of an inning later, with the bases loaded, unlikely hero Alex Cintron smacked a first-pitch Hawkins hanger to the warning track and the Orioles were 10-9 winners. We’re still not a very good team — but we do have a deep, competent bullpen, and it makes a big psychic difference if you’re a fan. You check the score, it’s tied, and you feel like you’re going to win. And then you do win! OPA!
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Are there elliptic curves with small rank?

Usually when people muse about distribution of ranks of elliptic curves, they’re wondering how large the rank of an elliptic curve can be. But as Tim Dokchitser pointed out to me, there are questions in the opposite direction which are equally natural, and equally mysterious. For instance: we do not know that, for every number field K, there exists an elliptic curve E/K whose Mordell-Weil rank is less than 100. Isn’t that strange?

Along similar lines, Bjorn Poonen asks: is it the case that, for every number field K, there exists an elliptic curve E/Q such that E(Q) and E(K) have the same positive rank? Again, we don’t have a clue. See Bjorn’s expository article “Undecidability in Number Theory” (.pdf link) to find out what this has to do with Hilbert’s 10th problem.

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Horrible orange

While I was pumping gas yesterday I was thinking about the words “horrible” and “orange” — the way that one can pronounce the “or” as “ahr” if you are trying to manage a Long Island ethnic shtick. Then I tried to come up with other words of this kind, and failed. Of course, Wikipedia helped me. (Scroll down to “Historic ‘short o’ before intervocalic r.”) What’s interesting here is that Long Islanders agree with the British and the Canadians that “horrible” and “orange” have the same accented vowel as “borrow” and “sorry.” But they disagree about what the vowel is. So it’s actually my dialect — the standard American one — which is inconsistent on this point. I’ll never make fun of Long Island again.

OK, fine, I will, but not for that.

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Something magic happens every time you go

I’ve been avoiding writing about the Orioles’ hot start because, well, the Orioles are fundamentally kind of a bad team getting some breaks. I don’t want to be weepily re-reading my optimistic May posts at the end of another 70-win campaign.

But they’ve already swept a two-game stand from Boston and taken two of three from the Yankees, and tonight, they laid the unremitting hurt on New York again, winning 12-2. Let’s enjoy it! Particularly sweet was Mike Mussina being the Mike Mussina we remember so well from Baltimore. The one who gets let down by his defense (Jeter’s bad throw on what should have been the third out) and then petulantly pisses away the game — Mussina couldn’t record another out as the Orioles batted around. By the time he left the mound (to an ironical standing O — you stay classy, New York) we were up 7-0.

Anyway, here’s an updated version of Orioles pep-song classic “Orioles Magic,” clowned along to by the 2008 squad. They played this before every game when I was a kid, and I can’t lie, it chokes me up. Orioles Magic! Feel it happen!

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Yeah, no, ich heisse Leon

I have little to add to these linguistic links:

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If you only read one book of academic sociology this year…

I know, I know, big if.

But why not consider my pal David Grazian‘s new book On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife? You can read this with your serious sociological frowny face on, or you can just enjoy gaping at Grazian’s research subjects (a rainbow coalition of party-hungry Penn undergrads) as they detail their tactics and rituals for navigating Philadelphia nightclubs, and their fables about what happens there. Big slabs of unwitting self-revelation to be found, as here:

I ordered a martini in order to look cool, and I ordered it dry because I wanted to look like I knew what I was talking about. “Vodka, or gin?” she wanted to know. I chose gin. She inquired, “What kind?” I chose Bombay. She replied “Bombay, or Bombay Sapphire?” I asked her if I said Bombay Sapphire, because if I didn’t, I probably meant Bombay. She asked, “With olives?” I wanted to wring her neck! This b****! This stupid b**** is treating me like a f***ing idiot! I know what a f***ing martini is! I said “Yes.” What she assumed is that I know nothing about alcohol. What she did not know is that I have my bartending license and knew perfectly well that unless specified, martinis come with gin, not vodka. I also knew that I should take this question as a condescending insult, unless I was just being analytical, and she was the one who did not know what she was talking about … f***ing idiot.”

The emotional turn after “With olives?” is really something special. I’d like to see Al Pacino read this aloud.

Another high point: Grazian obtains and reprints the “LaBan Memo,” a four-page protocol prepping the employees of Barclay Prime for the arrival of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s supposedly anonymous food critic, Craig LaBan. Something to think about the next time you don’t like a restaurant as much as the newspaper did. Trust the unhustlable Chowhound instead.

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Where are the Filipino restaurants?

I read an intriguing description of pansit luglug in the Oxford Companion to Food today, part of the short article “Noodles of the Phillipines”:

This [noodles in a shrimp-based sauce] may then be garnished with flaked smoked fish, crumbled pork crackling, sliced kamias, sliced hard-boiled eggs, and calamansi halves, then garnished with fish sauce.

And it made me wonder — why have I never been to a Filipino restaurant?  According to the 2000 Census the U.S. Asian population is 19.9% Filipino — there are more Filipinos in the U.S. then there are Koreans, or Japanese, or Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis put together.  So why I have I never even heard of a place where I can get pansit luglug?

Obviously, Filipino restaurants exist — Google turns up a handful in Chicago, and there are plenty in LA.  But I want a superficially convincing sociological explanation for their rarity.  Readers?

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Good things I ate today

Hot today, and the market’s starting its summer swell. L’Etoile is selling house-made brats from the front stoop of the restaurant — so good I don’t even mind the absence of kraut. This might be the last week of morels, so I bought a half-pound from the guy pictured below. These I brought home, fried up in some butter, and mixed with scrambled eggs. image by flickr user beautifulcataya, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 licenseI also got a small wedge of Bleu Mont Bandaged Cheddar, as seen recently in the New York Times. If you ate this without knowing it was cheddar, you might find it hard to put a name to it. But knowing it’s cheddar, your reaction is more like “Aha — that‘s what cheddar is supposed to taste like.” Finally, for dinner, a somewhat experimental dish of soba noodles with chicken, asparagus, pineapple, scallion, and leftover light coconut milk and penang curry paste from last week’s soba experiment. CJ thought it right to pour Trader Joe’s butternut squash soup on top of his portion.

Image by flickr user beautifulcataya under the terms of the Creative Commons License.
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