Archive for July 12, 2009

Nantucket Slump

July 12, 2009 Leave a comment


The NYT had a feature article on the front page last Wednesday with the headline, “In Summer Hideaway for the Rich, Slump Is Visiting, Too.” I instinctively knew the article to follow was about Nantucket. Where else? The Hamptons, maybe, but they wouldn’t be described as a hideaway. Given our interest in, and attachment to, Nantucket, I jumped to the text. (See also the accompanying slide show, from which the above photo is taken.)

I wrote about Nantucket on the second day of this blog’s existence. We were just back from our third annual Labor Day visit. Still under its spell, I was in the midst of my annual fantasy about moving there full time. Well, that’s not going to happen, but if we were ever serious, the article makes clear that this would be a good time to buy our Nantucket home.

We’re planning to visit again in September, arriving as usual on Labor Day. The past three years, the timing of our arrival was connected to Joel’s annual move into new housing in Boston, just before school started. But this year he won’t be in Boston. So we could go any time. Or not at all. We intend to stick to our usual schedule, though. Our sense is that Labor Day week is a perfect time. The summer residents depart as we arrive, but the restaurants and stores aren’t shut down yet, so everything is open and the island is relatively quiet. Plus, the weather is good. Or at least we’ve been lucky that it has been for the past three years.

One thing about Nantucket — in contrast to nearby Martha’s Vineyard, which has its share of wealthy people, but from a diverse range of professions — the Nantucket housing boom in recent years has been closely associated with people in finance, hedge funds, and so on. It’s less accessible by ferry than the Vineyard, but easily reached by private jet from New York. And its airport, at least until recently, was the second busiest in Massachusetts after Logan, thanks largely to that private airplane traffic. The NYT article touches on this. It’s not obvious that we’re meant to be at such a place. And maybe we’re not. But we love it.

Then again, maybe the tide is changing. The lead headline at the NYT website tonight, from tomorrow’s paper, is a report that Goldman Sachs is expected to announce on Tuesday a profit of more than $2 billion for the last quarter. Things could be picking up.

Categories: Economy, Travel

Tour Withdrawal, Stage 1

July 12, 2009 Leave a comment
Contador on Arcalis

Contador on Arcalis

I wrote five posts last week about the Tour de France (here, here, here, here, and here). Since then, stages 6, 7, and 8 — comprising this year’s visit to the Pyrenees — have taken place, and I haven’t said a word. Well, what’s there to say? Just more of the same, and you can read about it better elsewhere. (See, for instance, Alexander Wolff’s excellent article in SI about drugs and the Tour.)

The second and third days in the Pyrenees were the quietest days yet, both because the first day in the Pyrenees was so difficult and because the big climbs in days two and three came early, with long descents and flat stretches afterwards, so none of the leaders tried to break away. All the drama came in that first mountain day, Friday, a brutal day, 224 kilometers of riding, from Barcelona into Andorra, culminating with the massive climb of Arcalis. A breakaway group was never reeled in, but none of them was a threat to win the Tour, so the leading group was content to let them go. As a result, the young French rider Brice Feillu was able to win the stage, and the Italian veteran Rinaldo Nocentini came in fourth, 26 seconds behind Feillu, which was good enough for him to claim the overall lead and the yellow jersey.

The real action was in the group behind, which did make up time on the final climb, and which seemed destined to finish together. But then the big move came, the dramatic attack by Alberto Contador with about 2k left. He created a gap, and since 3 of the other top riders were his Astana teammates Armstrong, Leipheimer, and Kloeden, they allowed him to go rather than helping the leaders of the other teams to close the gap. Or at least that’s one version of the story. Eleven riders finished 21 seconds behind Contador, including fellow race favorites Armstrong, Leipheimer, the Schleck brothers, the recent Giro winner Denis Menchov, and last year’s Tour winner Carlos Sastre, along with this year’s breakout star, the young German rider Tony Martin. Kloeden was a little farther back. This was enough to move Contador into second place overall, 6 seconds behind Nocentini and 2 seconds ahead of Armstrong.

The big question is, did Armstrong really stay back to support Contador and their Astana team? Or, is Contador so strong, simply better than everyone else in attacking the mountains, that neither Armstrong nor any other rider could have closed the gap on him? Now that we’re through the Pyrenees, the answer will have to wait the Alps in a week. Watch for Stage 15 next Sunday, which finishes with the climb to Verbier. That may be the first big shakeout of the general classification.

My own guess? Lance is riding well. He may well be in top form, able to handle the stages that await in the Alps and then Mont Ventoux. But I suspect we’ll find that Contador is better still, and we may find that out at Verbier.

As for the title of this post, there’s no racing tomorrow. The first rest day. What am I supposed to do? I’ve awakened to the Tour for nine days now. The riders know they can’t rest too much. They need to get out there and ride or they will regret it on Tuesday. If I wish to avoid withdrawal symptoms, I need to get out there and watch something. Too bad I don’t have old Tour DVDs to watch. Maybe I should rent one. The 2000 Tour would be a good place to start. I could watch the famous climb of Mont Ventoux, the duel between Armstrong and Marco Pantani, in preparation for this year’s climb of Ventoux.

Of course, in two weeks I’ll have to deal with a much more serious case of Tour Withdrawal. I better be prepared.

Categories: Sports, Television

Rover’s IV

July 12, 2009 Leave a comment


Last week I described our third lunch at Rover’s, the outstanding restaurant in our neighborhood that is open for lunch on Fridays only. We hadn’t had an available Friday from March 20 — when we had our second Rover’s lunch — until two Fridays ago, and we immediately took advantage of the opportunity. This past Friday we did so again. Yet again, we’re glad we did.

For the second week in a row, I started with the Walla Walla onion and bacon soup, which comes with mushrooms as well. Gail had a crab salad. I didn’t try it, but she assured me that it was great. Then we both had the lamb roulade as our entree. As with all their dishes, it comes with an assortment of wonderful tastes, everything in moderation. There were potatoes, some superb spinach, more mushrooms, and the delicious lamb itself. I find myself working my way around the plate repeatedly, taking much smaller bites than ordinarily, so I can enjoy each flavor many times.

There were two desserts. We ordered both and shared. I ordered the dessert described as raspberry soup. It came in two cups, making sharing easy. Maybe I should call them saucers. They were low. Each saucer had a liquified strawberry concoction filling the lower part. In the center rose a cylinder of mascarpone panna cotta, atop which was placed a half strawberry. My initial taste of the “soup” was delightful, but when I next took a mix of the soup and the panna cotta, I was in heaven. It was perfect. Gail’s dessert was chocolatey rather than fruity. On a long rectangular plate were two copies of the following: a rectangular block of chocolate, shaped like a cookie but with a consistency something like fudge, about 3/8 of an inch high; a slightly smaller and thinner rectangle of smoked, salted caramel spread on top of the fudge bar; and, oh, now I can’t remember. Something else. And smeared on the plate was a syrupy tea-flavored bit of flavor along with a chocolatey syrup smear.

We’ll be back. Maybe this Friday.

Categories: Food, Restaurants

Average Rider

July 12, 2009 Leave a comment


Light rail comes to Seattle next Saturday. We’ve been watching the line get built for years now. It’s hard to miss on trips to the airport, between the elevated tracks and the rise of the giant station. (And for those who live or work along its right of way, its presence has been especially noticeable.) It will run from downtown to just north of the airport, and in half a year it will reach the airport.

Given the locations of our house, work, downtown, and shopping, we are not likely to be frequent users of the line. Construction recently started on the next phase, which will run from downtown to the university, with the expectation, once more funding is secured, that it will continue on northwards from the university to the Northgate area, the densest part of north Seattle. This will make the line more convenient to us, but who knows where we’ll be living by then. We’re talking many years down the road. Or down the rail.

Anyway, however often we are destined to use the line, I plan to be on it on Saturday. I can’t wait. And I’ve been a close reader of the articles the Seattle Times has been carrying on it in the buildup to opening day. Each station has had its own feature article. Today there’s an overview of the line, along with a discussion of the public art at the stations, an interactive map, and a graphic showing the light-rail train.

Which brings me to the point of this post. In the graphic on the train, the accompanying text tells us, “To the average Seattle transit rider, a standard 190-foot, two-car Link train will look huge — about three times as long as an articulated bus.” I’ve long tired of lazy or inaccurate uses of the word ‘average’. For instance, whenever there’s a ballot measure to approve some new property tax, we learn that the average homeowner will pay an additional $200/year, or whatever.

I would prefer that we speak about taxes on a house with the average assessed value, if we are to use such formulations, rather than the tax for an average homeowner, whatever that is. But this seemed to take the lazy use (I might call it the wrong use, but I don’t want to be so judgmental) of ‘average’ to a new level. The train will look huge to the average Seattle transit rider. What could this possibly mean? I’m above average in height and well above average in weight. Will it look less huge to me? Is that what they’re getting at? Or has the average Seattle transit rider not gotten around much, so the rider doesn’t know that there are vehicles larger than buses. Like, um, trains. Commuter trains, like the ones I grew up riding in New York. Or Amtrak trains, like the ones that pull out of Seattle daily. Or, my gosh, freight trains. They’re galactic.

Am I missing something?

Categories: Language, Math, Transportation