Archive

Archive for September, 2010

Del Posto

September 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Spaghetti with Dungeness crab, sliced jalapeño, and minced scallion

[Josh Haner, The New York Times]

You may already have seen Sam Sifton’s review in tomorrow’s NYT of the restaurant Del Posto, but if not, be sure to check it out. Sifton gives the restaurant four stars, his first four-star review since taking over from Frank Bruni a year ago. Moreover, this is the first four-star review the NYT to an Italian restaurant since 1974. Thus, the review is something of an event in restaurant journalism.

In parallel, Sifton has a blog post that provides background on the review, with an accompanying slide show from which the photo above is taken. Regarding the pictured dish, Sifton writes:

Mr. Ladner’s pastas are insanely good. After a wintry appetizer of warm, soft cotechino in a lentil vinaigrette, his spaghetti with Dungeness crab, sliced jalapeño and minced scallion arrives like the sun. It is a dish that speaks directly to Mr. Ladner’s genius, to a view of Italian cooking that allows for both jalapeño and Dungeness crab. His cooking is not about recreating Italy on a luxe scale so much as it is about recreating the Italian spirit on the grandest scale imaginable.

But read the full review. And see all the photos.

Categories: Restaurants

Hooray for Ichiro

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Ichiro in Toronto, after getting his 200th hit last Thursday

[Frank Gunn, AP]

For weeks, my primary baseball interest has been whether Ichiro would get 200 hits this season. I wrote about him last March, on the eve of the season:

And for those of us in Seattle, let’s take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are. We are about to enter our tenth year of getting to watch Ichiro. Not everyone is so lucky. St. Louis is, thanks to Albert Pujols. Who else? Who gets to see one of the great baseball players in history for so long?

And I wrote about him a month ago, noting that “I’ve been tracking Ichiro’s march toward another season of 200 hits, a march that has been alarmingly slow” and then adding, in a footnote:

The choice of 200 is of course an accident of our use of base 10, but nonetheless, a 200-hit season has become a sign of excellence, and only the greatest of hitters have 200-hit seasons with any frequency. Pete Rose had 10, the record. Those 10 occurred over fifteen seasons, from 1965 to 1979. Ty Cobb had 9, between 1907 and 1924. Ichiro is in his tenth season, and in his first nine he had over 200 hits every time. Thus, if he reaches 200 this year, he will tie Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons, and do so in his first ten seasons. An astonishing record. Going into today, he was second in the majors in hits for the season, with 165 (behind Josh Hamilton’s 175). Alas, he went 0 for 4 today against the Twins, so he is still at 165, through 130 games. At that rate, he will reach 205.6 hits at the end of the season (162 games).

As it turns out, Ichiro picked up the pace. He had a six game run between September 14 and September 21 when, with 4 at-bats each game, he had 3, 0, 2, 2, 0, and 4 hits. That got him to 197 hits for the season. He then went 1 for 5 and 2 for 5, arriving at 200 hits on September 23, last Thursday. And he hasn’t slowed down. The next three days brought 5 more hits: 2 for 5, 1 for 4, 2 for 4. As for today, let me check. Oh, never mind. 0 for 5.

Anyway, he did it. Ten straight seasons of 200 hits or more. And the only ten seasons he has played professional baseball in the US. He’s unique. That he has secured a place in the Hall of Fame is now certain. Indeed, he should be a unanimous choice in his first year of eligibility.

The next big question is whether he will get to 3000 career hits. He now has 2235 hits. Of course he will if he can maintain this pace, and of course he would have passed it long ago if he came to the US earlier. (He was 27 in his first season. He’ll turn 37 on October 27.) He is so fit, so disciplined, that he may be able to avoid injury and maintain a high level of productivity, with gradual tailing off in the next five years. Let’s say he does tail off, with “only” 190 hits next year, 180 the next, then 170, and then 160 at the age of 40. That’s another 700 hits. Throw in another 5 in this last week of the season and he’ll be at 2940. Again, as long as he avoids injury, he’ll get there — in five more seasons at most.

This is silly speculation. Whatever he goes on to do, he’s already a wonder. Hooray for Ichiro.

Categories: Baseball

Jet-Giant Conversion

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s not news to readers of this blog that I don’t care too much about football. I mean, I follow it and all. Yes, I know that Michael Vick replaced Kevin Kolb for the Philadelphia Eagles and did pretty darn well. Yes, I know the Giants so far suck this year, and the Cowboys kept their hopes alive of playing at home in the Super Bowl with a win yesterday over their cross-state rival Texans. But really, I’m sick already of these story lines — Vick, Giants, Cowboys. And Favre. I don’t want to think about football until Thanksgiving. There’s enough else in sports to occupy me.

Yet, something did get my attention a week ago yesterday, when I watched a small slice of the Jets-Patriots game at the New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey. You may recall that the Jets began life as the New York Titans in 1960 in the old American Football League, playing in the Polo Grounds. They would soon move to Shea Stadium, which they shared with the New York Mets baseball team, and changed their name to the Jets. Then they decided to leave Queens (and new York City) behind for the meadowlands of New Jersey, joining the Giants in 1984 as tenants in Giants Stadium. After a failed effort by the team, New York City Mayor Bloomberg, New York State Governor Pataki, and others to get a new Jets stadium built over the rail yards on the west side of Manhattan, the Jets agreed with the Giants to jointly build a new stadium in the meadowlands. It opened for football two weeks ago, with both teams playing at home that inaugural weekend.*

What caught my eye a week ago, as I caught glimpses of the new field during the Jets broadcast, was that the stadium was trimmed out as a genuine Jets home stadium, something the Jets had to do without during all those years as tenants of the Giants. How did they do it? I figured that the week before, when the two teams played at home on successive days, it must have been quite an operation to turn the stadium over from a Giants home to a Jets home.

Well, sometimes you get what you wish for. The New Yorker’s Samantha Henig was on the case. Two weeks ago she observed the conversion, and last Friday she shared the details in the New Yorker’s blog. The post even has a slide show to help the reader visualize the process. An excerpt:

It was five o’clock on a damp Sunday afternoon in mid-September: four hours since the New York Giants christened the new Meadowlands stadium with their first game of the season; thirty-seven minutes since they locked down their victory, thirty-one to eighteen, against the Carolina Panthers; and twenty-three hours until the stadium would begin admitting Jets fans for their turn at a season opener in the new space. That meant less than a day to transform the 1.6-billion-dollar stadium from the Giants’ quarters to the land of the Jets. In Giants Stadium, which both teams shared from 1984 until last year, that was easy enough: as the name implied, it always had a bit of a visitor’s feel for the Jets. At the more even-handed “Meadowlands Stadium,” lights, banners, flags, and artwork all coördinate with whichever team is drawing the fans. Luckily for the forty-six workers orchestrating the night’s quick conversion, this stadium is made to morph.

Even the clothing store had to be converted: “Inside, twenty-five workers in dark gray shirts and black pants wore the glazed expressions of Internet gamblers on an all-night binge. But their marathon was more tedious: stripping the Giants shirts from mannequins and dressing them in Jets gear; restocking three hundred T-shirts, three hundred sweatshirts, and five hundred caps; and, as a final flourish, switching the store lighting from blue to green.”

Forget football. Let’s televise this.

*Maybe I should point out that I grew up going to Giants games at Yankee Stadium and Jets games at Shea Stadium. Those were the days.

Categories: Design, Sports

Change We Can Believe In, VII

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Change we can believe in: Wiretapping the internet

Two months ago, in Change We Can Believe In, III, I addressed the Obama administration’s expansion of e-mail surveillance. On the front page of today’s NYT, Charlie Savage reports on the latest development:

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

. . .

Investigators have been concerned for years that changing communications technology could damage their ability to conduct surveillance. In recent months, officials from the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the White House and other agencies have been meeting to develop a proposed solution.

There is not yet agreement on important elements, like how to word statutory language defining who counts as a communications service provider, according to several officials familiar with the deliberations.

But they want it to apply broadly, including to companies that operate from servers abroad, like Research in Motion, the Canadian maker of BlackBerry devices. In recent months, that company has come into conflict with the governments of Dubai and India over their inability to conduct surveillance of messages sent via its encrypted service.

Think back two months. When you read about in early August about the United Arab Emirates’ demand to get access to Blackberry communication data, Research in Motion’s refusal to turn the data over, and the UAE’s ultimate decision to ban Blackberries, did you think that that’s something that couldn’t (and shouldn’t) happen here? If so, our State Department agreed with you:

The United States said it was disappointed that the United Arab Emirates planned to cut off key BlackBerry services, noting that the Gulf nation was setting a dangerous precedent in limiting freedom of information.

“We are committed to promoting the free flow of information,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “We think it’s integral to an innovative economy.”

The UAE said over the weekend that it would suspend Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Messenger, email and Web browser services from October 11 until the government could get access to encrypted messages.

Evidently the Obama administration no longer is committed to the free flow of information. As Glenn Greenwald noted earlier today:

For those insisting that the Government must have the technological ability to eavesdrop on any and all communications in order to stop Terrorists and criminals, what are you going to do about in-person communications? By this logic, the Government should install eavesdropping devices in all private homes and public spaces, provided they promise only to listen in when the law allows them to do so (I believe there was a book written about that once [Greenwald links here to 1984]). For those insisting that the Government must have the physical ability to spy on all communications, what objections could one have to such a proposal? We’ve developed this child-like belief that all Bad Things can be prevented — we can be Kept Safe from all dangers — provided we just vest enough power in the Government to protect us all. What we lose from that mentality, however, is quite vast yet rarely counted. A central value of the Internet was that it was supposed to enable the flow of information free from the surveillance and control of governmental and other authorities.

Categories: Law, Politics

Change We Can Believe In, VI

September 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Change We Can Believe In: Defending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

President Obama spoke during his campaign of his intention to work for the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He even repeated his goal of repealing DADT in his 2010 State of the Union Address. He must mean it. But, you know, not too fast. Gotta take our time on change like this. Just the other night, in New York, he explained to DADT protestors that they should find Republicans to complain to. “Think about — think about what happened in Congress two days ago where you got 56 Democrats voting to debate this issue, and zero Republicans. And as a consequence, some of those signs should be going up at the other folks’ events.”

Well, yes, I suppose. The thing is, what did the administration do early in the current Congressional session? Might Obama, at the height of his popularity, with the 2010 election far away, have been able to twist some arms on the Democratic side and get repeal through?

But let’s put Congressional action aside and turn to the Justice Department’s spirited defense of DADT in the courts. Is this the change Obama was talking about? On Thursday, as reported by the AP’s Julie Watson, “Attorneys for the Obama administration objected . . . to a proposed worldwide injunction being considered by a California federal judge that would halt the military’s ban on openly gay troops. Calling the possible move “untenable,” Department of Justice attorneys filed their objections in U.S. District Court in Riverside. They said Judge Virginia Phillips, who declared the policy unconstitutional earlier this month, would be overstepping her bounds if she tried to stop it in its tracks.”

In a related development, on Friday in nearby Tacoma, Federal District Court judge Ronald Leighton (a Republican and George W. Bush appointee) ruled that Major Margaret Witt should be given back her Air Force nurse’s job, from which she was removed in 2004 in accordance with DADT. Addressing Major Witt from the bench, Judge Leighton hoped that she “will request reinstatement with the Air Force Reserves and the 446th,” noting that “You will provide the best evidence that open service of gays and lesbians will have no adverse effect on cohesion, morale or readiness in this or perhaps any Air Force or military unit.”

Commenting at the emptywheel blog, bmaz reviewed the details of the decision, concluding:

In a nutshell, Leighton called bullshit on the government, and rightly so. The government came out of the earlier appeal in Witt with the order that it only seek DADT discharges where it was provably appropriate, and then went and tried to continue to do just that in the most absurd case imaginable, and after having been excoriated on the facts by the 9th Circuit. And the decision to so proceed in the face of such overwhelming absurdity was made squarely by the Obama DOJ, the tools of the Administration that ran for, and took, office promising to do the opposite.

. . . the Obama Administration, by and through the actions of their Department of Justice, have proven that their current rhetoric about being dedicated to ending DADT is as empty as their similar campaign promises were hollow.

Categories: Law, Politics

Blog Anniversary

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s September 21. You know what that means! I started this blog two years ago tonight. It was a Sunday. We had spent the afternoon watching the third and concluding day of the 37th Ryder Cup golf competition, between the US and Europe, held that year at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky and won by the US.

My first post was called exactly that, and said, in its entirety, “Welcome to my new blog. I’m not sure what shape it will take yet. I will be experimenting for a while.” My second post was about the Ryder Cup. If I were writing it now, I surely would have said a lot more. Or been so intimidated by all that happened that I would have said nothing at all. What I did say was:

I can’t believe we have to wait two years for another Ryder Cup. There’s nothing like the final day, with 12 simultaneous matches, in match play format, and the possibility of wide swings in the team scoring from minute to minute. In medal play, you can usually have a pretty good idea of what’s happening all over the course on the final day, as the networks are good at switching around from hole to hole to cover all the contenders. But that’s just the point — everyone’s a contender in the team match play format, because everyone has a chance to earn a point, or a half point. It produces an entirely different kind of excitement than what one has on the final day of a major. I wouldn’t say better, though that’s what the commentators are always saying or implying, and what seem to want the players to say in the interviews. Just a very different experience, and one worth savoring.

See you in Wales in two years.

Now two years have come and gone. Which means, it’s time for another Ryder Cup! Number 38, held at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales. Normally the competition is held in late September, which would make it this week, but for reasons that no one has explained to me, it will instead take place next week. No doubt I’ll have something to say about it then, but I wish it were now so I could celebrate the blog’s second anniversary with a Ryder Cup post.

And what was my third post? Maybe the less said about that the better. It was titled, and about, Sarah Palin, and was only the first of what turned out to be many posts about her that fall. I have pretty much given up writing about her. Not for lack of things to say, but largely because I have trouble controlling my emotions on the subject, and almost anything I would wish to say is said better elsewhere.

What has most surprised me about the shape the blog has taken is how often I am tempted to write, and do write, on political matters, despite having no particular expertise. But then, I seem to have chosen as my principal topics only those about which I have no particular expertise. The subjects are largely disjoint from my professional life. Then again, it’s not clear what expertise I have on matters in my professional life either. Maybe that’s the point. If I’m going to say something silly, it may as well be on a topic I’m not expected to know anything about.

Here I am writing when I should be celebrating. Champagne and dancing await. The night is young. So long. And thanks for reading.

Categories: Writing

Final Nantucket Notes

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Madaket Beach, Nantucket

[I had anticipated writing a post covering our final day and a half in Nantucket two weeks ago. I started it last week, but it has been going nowhere. Let me take what I wrote, add a little more, and bring it to a close.]

A week ago [now more like eleven days ago], I wrote at excessive length about our day in Nantucket the day before. Here’s a quick round-up of how we spent our final day and a half on Nantucket.

Friday, after breakfast at our inn (the Wauwinet), we spent a half hour in the late morning on the porch while the lawn was mowed, then almost three hours on the lawn, relaxing on chaises and reading. I had started Kate Walberg’s A Short History of Women the day before and became engrossed in it. We might happily have spent all day there, but we were waiting for the 2:00 PM delivery by Nantucket Windmill Auto Rental of our car. We had never rented a car on Nantucket before and were looking forward to getting to parts of the island we hadn’t previously seen. By waiting until 2:00, we would have the car for 24 hours, a single-day rental, and then be able to return it the next day as we arrived at the airport for our flight to JFK.

As it turned out, the car didn’t arrive until around 2:25. We signed the paperwork, grabbed a map, and by 2:30 we were off. It was an odd feeling, driving on Nantucket, since previously we had only seen it when being driven around, by taxi to or from the airport and by the inn’s shuttle, between Wauwinet and town. For the first time, we could go anywhere we wanted, turn up and down side roads to see where they led, explore whatever we wished. We knew our first wish: Madaket, the community on the western end of the island. Nantucket town is at the opening to the harbor, centrally located on the north side of the island. The second largest community is Siasconset (‘Sconset), on the ocean shore to the southeast. Wauwinet, where we stay, is on the ocean shore to the northeast, more or less due east across the harbor from town. We have spent most of our time between Wauwinet and town, with a bike ride last year down to ‘Sconset (and a bike ride from town to ‘Sconset on our honeymoon 25 years ago). But we’ve never been west of town.

We drove from the inn about 7 miles to town, worked out way through its edge, then picked up the road to Madaket, another 7 miles. Madaket sits on the western edge of the south shore. In addition to homes, there are two commercial establishments, Millie’s and, by its side, a tiny grocery store. Millie’s, it turns out, is brand new, having just opened in June. It is named in honor of Madaket Millie, a famed Nantucket figure whose home was just across the street and about whom a children’s book was written. As the Amazon blurb for the book explains,

Millie Jewett was raised in Madaket, the ocean edge of Nantucket Island, by her grandmother, who taught her a lesson that shaped her character: “Where life has set you, make a difference.” And what a difference she made. Knowing there were no women in the lifesaving service, strong-minded Millie demanded to know why not. Turned down by the Coast Guard when she tried to enlist during World War II, Millie proved her mettle in other ways: by training dogs to patrol the beaches, by unofficially staffing the Madaket Coast Guard station when it was closed down, and by watching out for anyone in trouble. “I’ll take care of you” became Millie’s motto. Strong in body as well as in mind, she always followed her words with deeds. Ultimately, the Coast Guard relented and adopted her–or was it the other way around? This beautifully written fictionalization of a true story is an inspiring tribute to a woman who became a legend on Nantucket . . .

The restaurant has waiter service upstairs, or you can order from the same menu at a counter on the main floor and choose a table indoors or out. Plus, there’s an ice cream takeout window. We opted for the upstairs sit-down restaurant, with wonderful views out to the nearby homes, dunes, and ocean. The menu consists primarily of tacos and quesadillas. Gail had the 40th Pole: Grilled chicken and jack & cheddar cheese. I had the Rhode Island Avenue: Grilled skirt steak, mushrooms, poblano peppers, grilled red onions, and jack & chedder. It’s a casual place, but the food is excellent.

From Millie’s, we headed to Madaket Beach. Once on the beach, we had the view you can see up top, looking eastwards along the shore to the house. A couple was heading back our way, so Gail stopped them and asked how far they had gotten. To the house, they said. It’s not occupied, but the furniture is still all there. And there’s a for sale sign, they joked. We didn’t get that far, but we did walk down the beach a bit. It was cool, and a little windy, but lovely.

Next up, a drive back to the other end of the south shore, ‘Sconset. We headed back into town, then took the island’s main road, Milestone Road, the east-west stretch between town and ‘Sconset that also passes just a bit north of the airport. Along the way, we took a slight detour to the south to see another community that we had until then only noted on maps — Tom Nevers. We drove south until the road ended, at the beach, passing through some small streets with houses, then reversed our way back to Milestone. North of Milestone, across from Tom Nevers, are Nantucket’s cranberry bogs. From the website of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation:

Cranberries have been grown on Nantucket since 1857 and were an important part of the Island’s economy until just prior to World War II. Before 1959, all 234 acres of bog were under cultivation on the Milestone Road, making this bog the largest contiguous natural cranberry bog in the world. Since that time, intensive efforts to conserve water resources have resulted in the construction of a complex network of ditches and dikes that subdivide the bog into smaller and more water-efficient units. Unfortunately, these measures led to the Milestone Road bog losing its status as the world’s largest bog.

Soon we were passing the Siasconset Golf Course and pulling into ‘Sconset. The town center is small. There’s a post office, a grocery/general store, a sandwich place where we had lunch a year ago, a more upscale restaurant, a wine store, and not much more, just east of the town’s traffic circle. North of the circle is the Siasconset Casino, a tennis and social club founded in 1899 and serving both members and the community. Across from the Casino, to the north, is Chanticleer, a French restaurant that we somehow missed in our little walking and bike tour of ‘Sconset a year ago. I didn’t want to miss it this time, since Seth at the store Jewel of the Isle had mentioned it the day before as the place where his jazz trio, Opus 3, was playing all summer. (See my post on a day in Nantucket town.) Not that we were going to go in then. It was too early, and we weren’t properly dressed. To our surprise, the posted menu outside indicated that men should wear jackets. The fanciest places in town don’t make such a request, though many diners do. Nor does Topper’s, the restaurant at our inn, which might just be the fanciest restaurant on the island. Or so I thought.

After a half hour wandering around and shopping in the general store, we got back in the car and headed north toward Wauwinet on Sankaty Road, passing the Sankaty Head Lighthouse just outside town, then Sesachacha Pond, two of the island’s landmarks. But rather than continuing to the intersection with Wauwinet Road and taking Wauwinet to the inn, we turned east on Quidnet Road to see the Quidnet neighborhood. Just before going the final four hundred yards or so to the beach, we turned north on a gravel road, Squam, which is narrow and looked a bit iffy. I chickened out, made a u-turn in the driveway north, and returned to the intersection, where a woman who had been watching us asked if we needed help. I knew exactly where I was, so I assured her I didn’t. We were heading to Wauwinet and I didn’t want to take the bad road. She assured me the road isn’t so bad at all, so properly chastened, I turned around again and we drove the two miles on Squam Road until it ends at Wauwinet Road, just below the inn. And I’m glad we did, because we saw a lovely stretch of homes. We couldn’t see over the top of the dune to our right, but I assume the houses on that side look out over the ocean.

That was that, our drive around the island, and we pretty much did make a complete circuit around it. We stayed in for the evening, going down for a late dinner at Topper’s bar.

Saturday, we spent the morning at the inn, enjoying a little more time reading on the lawn, looking out on the harbor. At noon, we said farewell and drove into town, where we were fortunate to get a parking spot right on Main Street just as someone backed out. With Arno’s just on the other side of the street, we didn’t have to think too hard about where to eat lunch.
We hadn’t eaten there for a few years, having gotten in the habit instead, if we’re looking for lunch in town, of going to Fog Island Cafe. It was time for a change.

After lunch, we walked down Main Street to Straight Wharf, going into a few stores, then back up Main to our car, the one hour of allowed parking time having expired. On the way to the airport, we stopped at Surfside Beach, straight south of town on the south shore, which we had last been to on our honeymoon. A quick look, then on to the airport, where we dropped our car just two minutes before the 2:00 PM deadline. Our annual visit to Nantucket was over way too soon, as always.

Categories: Travel