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Husky Harbor

October 17, 2011 Leave a comment

[Stuart Isett for The New York Times]

I’m a little late on this one, but I don’t want the NYT’s coverage of University of Washington football culture to go unmentioned. Not that I care all that much about UW football. Let’s be clear about that. Yet the intersection of UW football and the Puget Sound-Lake Washington boating scene, as depicted above and in the accompanying slideshow, is pretty special.

On fall Saturdays, like this fall Saturday, when Washington plays at home, the occupants of Husky Harbor emerge near the stadium’s east end like some sort of tailgate flotilla. They come on charters, luxury yachts and smaller vessels, in sailboats, motorboats and speedboats, even boats coated in purple paint, to the same docks where Rick Neuheisel, a former coach, once drew N.C.A.A. scrutiny for boosters ferrying recruits to the university at below cost.

Once docked or anchored, they tailgate with a twist, a practice the locals have alternately called boatgating, sailgating and sterngating. Here, all of the captains hope Coach Steve Sarkisian and the 4-1 Huskies can, well, continue to right the ship.

[snip]

At Washington and at Tennessee, they can choose to arrive by boat. Yet Huskies fans view their harbor as unparalleled, based on surrounding views (Cascade Mountains to the east, Olympic Mountains to the west), water color (blue as opposed to brown) and proximity (closer to the stadium).

Husky Stadium opened in 1920, and soon after, the boat tradition started, with fans stashing vessels in tall grass not 200 yards from the end zone. Docks were built around 1960, according to Dave Torrell, the curator of the university’s hall of fame, and early transportation from anchored boats often came from members of the rowing teams in exchange for tips.

I’ve been to my share of Husky football games. I’ve never arrived by boat though. Of course, we can see the stadium from our house and walk there easily enough, so there’s no obvious reason why we’d boat over, assuming we had a boat.

No doubt I’m missing the point. (When it comes to fun I often do.) The ride might be an adventure in itself, even if I can get to the stadium more easily on foot. Why, just two days ago, my friend Russ and his family got to the Colorado game by boat. They took the Ivar’s Salmon House brunch cruise.

Gail is surely thinking, “What can be better than that?” The merger of multiple Seattle traditions that she grew up with: Husky football, boating, salmon, Norwegian culture, and northwest coast native culture. Well, some day. Maybe.

Categories: Culture, Sports

The Impossible Dead

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Visitors to Ron’s View in recent weeks know that I’ve been busy reading crime novels: two by Lee Child and three by Martin Walker. It all started as I got on the plane to fly off to New York at the start of Labor Day weekend, when I pulled out my Kindle and read Lee Child’s third Jack Reacher thriller, Tripwire. Once I finished that, in Nantucket, I downloaded the first of Martin Walker’s three novels about the eponymous Bruno, Chief of Police. I couldn’t resist jumping right into Bruno’s second adventure next, in The Dark Vineyard. After that, it was time for Lee Child’s latest, The Affair, followed by a return to the Dordogne region of France for Bruno’s entanglement with truffles, or the Black Diamond.

What next? Well, that was determined months ago, when I pre-ordered Ian Rankin’s new novel at amazon.co.uk, the British Amazon site. The Impossible Dead was released on Tuesday and a copy is making its way to Seattle this very moment.

For decades, I wasn’t much of a reader of crime novels. Ian Rankin and Edinburgh’s Inspector Rebus changed all that. It was August 1999, we were nearing the end of another glorious visit to Scotland, and I wanted a book to take with me to La Baule, on the Atlantic coast of France, where we would be joining up with my sister and her family at their standard summer vacation spot to celebrate her birthday (a big one). Rankin’s The Hanging Garden was just out in paperback. I bought it.

A little too violent for my taste, I would think in the ensuing days, as I read it in La Baule. But this Rebus character was intriguing, so when Dead Souls came out in the US, I bought it. Still violent, yes, but Rebus continued to intrigue, I loved Rankin’s depiction of Edinburgh, and a year or so later, I moved on to Set in Darkness.

Finally, I caught on to the fact that these books were published in the UK months ahead of the US, and so ordered the next six online from UK Amazon, paying the extra cost but reading them within days of British publication. It would become amusing, as Rankin’s popularity spread to the US, to see the reviews and the fuss when each new book was released here, having read it a half year earlier.

Along the way, I did some remedial Rebus reading, picking up some of the older books in paperback. And then, alas, the music stopped. Exit Music, to be precise, the final Rebus novel, published four years ago.

It was widely believed among Rebus’s fans that Rankin would keep the series going, shifting the focus to Siobhan Clarke, whose role grew with each of the late novels. But Rankin chose otherwise. Two years ago, in The Complaints, he introduced Malcolm Fox of Edinburgh’s Internal Affairs department. Now Fox returns.

It occurs to me, now that I think about how long this blog has been running, that I must have written about The Complaints at the time. And so I did. Indeed, I’m simply repeating myself here. That’s embarrassing. Let’s see what I thought of Fox at the time:

I wasn’t taken in at first. But then Fox wasn’t interesting at first. The events of the novel change him, or bring out features of his personality that were initially hidden. By the end, he is a richly-drawn character, and another iconoclast in the making. He too upsets and outwits superiors. And yet again, assorted crimes from the seemingly mundane and local to possible corruption at high government levels interweave in unexpected ways — unexpected except that we are so accustomed to such plotting that we know Rankin will find a way to draw them together. Contrived? Sure. But that’s part of the fun, seeing our hero figure out how the pieces fit together while everyone else is clueless.

I’m ready for more.

I’m glad to learn that I was ready for more, given that more is coming. I’ll let you know how it goes.

By the way, in case you’re wondering why I don’t just download The Impossible Dead on my Kindle, thereby saving the overseas shipping cost and delay — I wish! There are two problems. First, it’s not yet available on Kindle. But second, there’s a more fundamental issue: when books are published in the UK before the US, they are not available for download on US Kindles until US publication. Whatever agreements are made between UK and US publishers, they prohibit premature Kindle purchasing. Thus, if I don’t want to wait months, I have to go this route.

Then again, maybe the joke’s on me. I just thought to check US Amazon, and what do you know? The delay in publication, which used to be measured in months, is down to weeks. The Impossible Dead will be released here on November 21. Hardcover or Kindle. A few weeks of patience, with plenty of other books to read in the meantime, and I could have saved some money, as well as having the option of reading the e-version. On the other hand, I have such a lovely collection of Rankin hardcovers. My shelf is ready for another. And it’s coming anyway. I made the right choice.

Categories: Books

IT Support

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I love Apple and all, but it’s never fun when I have to put on my IT hat and pretend I know what I’m doing, especially without Joel around to calm me down when I get frustrated. This was quite the IT week for Apple captives around the world. I seem to have survived.

I got home Wednesday evening and immediately set about updating my iMac, preparatory to installing the new operating system, iOS 5, on my iPad and iPhone. I had to update the iMac with the new version of Lion, then the new version of iTunes, then sync my iPad with the iMac, then download iOS 5 onto the iMac, then install it on the iPad. Success. On to the iPhone: sync, download iOS 5, install. Success again. Then put the new Lion and iTunes on the MacBook Air.

Yesterday, more of the same. Gail’s iMac was stuck back in the Snow Leopard days, so first I had to do a new install of (the updated version of) Lion. Then iTunes. Then iOS 5 for iPad and iPhone. In parallel, off in North Carolina, Joel performed the same operations on his MacBook and iOS devices.

Now that we’re all lionized and iOS fived, we can take advantage of the new features. Like what? Well, iMessage should prove useful. It’s the text messaging emulator that’s built into the text message app on the iPhone and installed as well on the iPad, allowing you to text fellow iOS 5’ers through the internet. This may allow us to drop our AT&T message plan, depending on our usage levels. I don’t know yet. More important, I can text from the iPad, then leave the house and switch the conversation to the iPhone. I like that.

And I like being able to use the volume-raising button on iPad or iPhone as the camera shutter release. The virtual button on the screen has been an ongoing nuisance. It’s about time.

Also in the “about time” department is tabs in Safari. It’s always a pain when I accidentally hit a link while browsing on iPad or iPhone and a new window gets launched, forcing me to hit the window icon, close it, and return to the original window. Now such errors won’t be so annoying. I can just close the new tab and be back at the old one.

I’m still playing around with the split keyboard capability on the iPad, not sure whether I like it or not. The halves that open up within thumb’s reach of either side are small, necessarily so, that being the whole point, but maybe too small. I make more errors, so far anyway, and have to depend more on the built-in spelling correction. It’s a good idea in principle I just have to see how well it works for me.

What else? I know I’m forgetting something. I’m glad the music app is finally called just the music app, rather than the vestigial “iPod” app. Not that that is important functionally, except that when I wanted to play music, I had to take an extra couple of mental steps to realize that “iPod” meant “music”.

The big question is, when do I get an iPhone 4S? How long can I live without Siri? In just two months, I’ll be eligible to update at the base iPhone price.

Stay tuned.

Categories: Computing, House

Same As It Ever Was

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Fonthill Castle, Doylestown, Pennsylvania

[From the Mercer and Fonthill Museums website]

Another Sunday, another Vows column in the NYT. I’m addicted to them, as I have discussed before. One of the pleasures of reading them is letting the suspense build as I wonder whether this is the week the paper has chosen an ordinary couple as its newlyweds. Please, please, just a regular couple. Sometimes that hope is dashed the moment I see the couple’s names. Last week, for instance, the bride’s name — Allison Pataki — gave it all away. Yes, that Pataki, the daughter of the former governor of New York.

But this week looked promising, as I read about two physicists, a young American woman who went to Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy as a Yale undergraduate and met a Parisian who was then a postdoc at Brown. She’s now a postdoc at Harvard, studying neutrinos, he’s still at Brown, studying dark matter, and last Sunday they were married on the grounds of Fonthill Castle, pictured above.

Every Vows column comes with at least one outrageously silly line. This week’s was spoken by a colleague at Brown:

They are both cutting-edge physicists. They are so smart that, really, they can talk about things together that few people would even understand. I say that’s perfect.

We also learned that the “couple exchanged rings made of titanium (their favorite element),” the bridegroom’s sister “designed an invitation inspired by the freewheeling trajectory of subatomic particles in ‘bubble chamber’ experiments,” and the bride “left most of the planning of her wedding to her more humanities-minded mother, Rebecca Bushnell, the dean of the school of arts and sciences and an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania.”

The mother’s being Dean of A&S at Penn gave a hint that this might in fact not be all that ordinary a couple. But the punchline came when we learned that during the reception, updates were being given of the Jets-Patriots football game. It was explained that these updates were

meant particularly for Ms. Bushnell’s stepmother, Betty Wold Johnson, who is known as Granny to the bride and who is the 91-year-old mother of Woody Johnson, the Jets’ owner.

Some ordinary couple! The bride’s step-grandmother is a member of the Johnson & Johnson family, her step-uncle the wealthy owner of the Jets. And wasn’t it his daughters, the bride’s step-cousins, whom the NYT featured just three days ago in a big spread? Why yes it was!

Sigh.

Categories: Journalism, Society

Per Se

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

[Daniel Krieger for The New York Times]

Whenever the NYT restaurant critic of the day offers a four-star review, I take note.

It’s take-note time! In tomorrow’s paper, Sam Sifton’s exalts Per Se. However tempted you are by his words, wait till you see the accompanying slide show, from which the photo above is taken. As for those words, Sifton gets right to the point, announcing, “So this is the best restaurant in New York City” and going on to say,

I make the argument unreservedly. I have eaten in restaurants five or more nights a week for the last two years, always in search of the best and most delectable, the most interesting and important. And I have come back again and again to Per Se to find it.

[snip]

[I]n recent years, and particularly under the kitchen command of Eli Kaimeh, who has been Per Se’s chef since early 2010, Per Se has matured. Its synthesis of culinary art and exquisite service is now complete. It represents the ideal of an American high-culture luxury restaurant.

There’s much more, including Sifton’s musings on the role of restaurants such as Per Se and the cost for such luxury. But you should read it all yourself, so I’ll quote no more.

Categories: Restaurants

Moroccan Fish Balls

October 9, 2011 Leave a comment

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago how much I’ll miss the Wall Street Journal’s arts/culture/wine/food/sports coverage when we soon stop taking the paper. (I won’t miss the rest and won’t miss Murdoch, the reason for canceling it.) Another gem appeared as the daily front-page feature (the A-Hed) a couple of days ago, Lucette Lagnado’s piece with news that fabled Jewish food producer Manischewitz was branching out from gefilte fish to Moroccan fish meatballs. Yes, the acme of Ashkenazi food was heading over to the wild Sephardic side.

For years, gefilte fish—plump little patties of minced fish—has been the Jewish holiday treat that some Jews love to hate.

[snip]

Even Paul Bensabat wasn’t that impressed when he tried it. “Boring,” he says. “Pretty bland.” And he’s co-CEO of Manischewitz Co., one of the largest producers of gefilte fish. When Mr. Bensabat and partners took over the 123-year-old company, they decided to spice things up. One idea: Moroccan fish balls.

[snip]

Mr. Bensabat, a Moroccan Jew born in Casablanca, had never tasted gefilte fish when he and his partner joined an investor who had acquired the company. Some Manischewitz fare hadn’t been a part of his upbringing. “I never grew up eating matzoh-ball soup,” he says. His childhood memories were of couscous and other dishes of the Mediterranean.

He started sampling jars of gefilte fish. Manischewitz makes more than 50 different kinds—sweet and not sweet, in jelly and in broth, to name a few.

His partner and co-CEO Alain Bankier, also Moroccan-Jewish and also from Casablanca, is more diplomatic. “It is an acquired taste,” he says.

They agreed Manischewitz needed to go beyond gefilte fish—and quickly. Sales of traditional gefilte fish in a jar were still a pillar of the business, but were steadily going down. Younger consumers favored other foods or brands. The company hadn’t produced new products in years when Messrs. Bensabat and Bankier joined it in 2008.

[snip]

Mr. Bensabat’s prescription was to branch out to Mediterranean fare—starting with his mother’s Moroccan fish balls.

The company’s food technologists at its headquarters in Newark, N.J., were mystified: They hadn’t a clue how to make Moroccan fish balls.

The solution: a cross-cultural, trans-Atlantic cuisine transplant, in which Mr. Bensabat would get the family recipe from his 83-year-old maman and Manischewitz’s cooks would translate it for large-scale production.

There were a few obstacles, starting with the fact that his mother, Claire Bensabat, lives 4,000 miles away in Nice. She speaks French and doesn’t use recipes or follow a cookbook to prepare her delicacies.

Her recipe for fish balls: Take a fish, and “add a little bit of cumin.”

Read the full story.

Now I’m eager to try the fish balls, or fish meatballs, as Manischewitz decided to call them. Manischewitz has a recipe for the meatballs at their website, along with the photo at the top of this post.

Also, accompanying the WSJ article is Mrs. Claire Bensabat’s Festive Sweet Couscous Recipe, along with this explanation: “Sweet couscous is a specialty of Mrs. Claire Bensabat, Paul Bensabat’s mother, that she loves to make; since she cooks by instinct, it was hard for her to come up with exact measures, but through the efforts of working together with her son, she produced the following recipe for The Journal.”

Gail, should we give it a try?

Categories: Food, Religion

Pan Am Clipper

October 9, 2011 Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, as an accompaniment to Nancy Franklin’s New Yorker review of ABC’s new TV show Pan Am, Jon Michaud posted a slide show of vintage airline ads. I looked at a couple, saved the link for later, and later came this morning. The ads date from 1947 to 1960 and are quite wonderful. I highly recommend a close look at all of them.

The Pan Am ad above, second in the slide show, is from 1949. So many details are worthy of a close look. Have a look also at the drawing below, which I found at the Pan Am Clipper Flying Boats site.

My first commercial flying experience would have been January or February of 1961. My father had a convention in Miami and decided we should all fly down from New York for a bit of vacation. I remember sitting by the pool at our hotel in Miami Beach and reading, of all things, John F. Kennedy’s Why England Slept. This is why it must have been 1961 — JFK had just been inaugurated and his books, re-issued, became best-sellers. Why England Slept was his Harvard senior thesis, written in 1940 about England’s failure to be ready for what became World War II. I found it incredibly dull, a combination of my being way too young and ignorant to read such books and, I suspect, the reality that the book really was incredibly dull. Not to mention that only a sucker or a child would believe JFK actually wrote the book.

Ever since, when I think of Miami Beach, I think of Why England Slept. As for the flight itself, what I remember was that we all dressed up for the occasion. The last ad in the New Yorker slide show, copied below, looks about right to me. And remained right some ways into the ’60s. Then it all changed. Fast.

Categories: Advertising, Clothing, Travel