Archive for February 3, 2013

Il Terrazzo Carmine

February 3, 2013 Leave a comment


[Bob Peterson, for Il Terrazzo Carmine]

We had dinner last night at Il Terrazzo Carmine, one of our favorite Seattle restaurants. We last went there for Gail’s birthday two Novembers ago, at which time I concluded a post with the words, “I’m hoping this time we won’t wait another year for our next visit to Carmine’s.”

It turned out to be a year and then some. We did try. I called to book a table for Gail’s most recent birthday, only to discover that a Washington Husky home football game was being played that night at nearby CenturyLink Field.* They could fit us in at game time, when the crowd left, but that would require us to drive down in game traffic, a thankless task. We passed. (Punted?)

*CenturyLink Field is the home field of the Seahawk’s, Seattle’s NFL team. However, the Huskies played their home games there this past season because their usual home, Husky Stadium, is in the midst of a major remodel.

I wrote about Carmine’s just over a year ago, on learning that founder-owner Carmine Smeraldo had died, noting that “we have celebrated many birthdays there in recent years, and always wonder why we don’t go more often. I love their cannelloni, their rigatoni, their constantly changing risotto specials, their lamb, their green peppercorn steak. Gail’s partial to their ossobuco. But more than that, it’s such a warm and welcoming place. Carmine will be greatly missed.” (See the Seattle Times obituary.)

Last night, rather than wondering why we don’t go more often, we went. And I’m pleased to report that Carmine’s is wonderful as ever.

We weren’t adventurous in our order, just sticking to our favorites. For me that meant the Rigatoni Bolognese followed by Bistecca Al Pepe Verde—New York steak “Angus” and green peppercorn sauce, served with shoestring potatoes. For Gail, Cannelloni Fiorentina—Pasta tubes with veal, ricotta, spinach and salsa rosa—followed by Ossobuco with saffron risotto. And for dessert, I had the profiteroles, Gail a Napoleon.

Perfection. What more is there to say? Well, I should add that to accompany the meal, we selected a bottle of Planeta’s 2006 Santa Cecilia, a superb Nero d’Avola. We’ve been trying out different Nero d’Avolas since ordering a bottle with dinner at Sant Ambroeus in Manhattan last November. None were as good as that one, until last night.

Categories: Restaurants

Evaluating Teachers

February 3, 2013 2 comments


[Greenberg, The DailyRiff]

I never seem to tire of quoting Diane Ravitch. In her latest piece at the New York Review of Books, she tackles the ongoing fight between Mayor Bloomberg and the teachers’ union in New York City over teacher evaluation. (For background, see this NYT article and editorial from a couple of weeks ago.)

As Ravitch explains, the background to the New York stalemate is the Race to the Top program of President Obama and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, with its emphasis on evaluating teachers through student test performance. What’s wrong with that? Well, let Ravitch explain:

Many researchers and testing experts have cautioned that evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students—called value-added assessment—is fraught with problems. Linda Darling-Hammond, a prominent scholar at Stanford University and one of the nation’s leading authorities on issues of teacher quality, has written that the measures say more about which students are in the classroom than about the competence of the teacher.

The National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association issued a joint statement saying the same thing. Those who teach students with disabilities, English-language learners, and low-performing students are likely to get smaller gains in test scores than those who teach students from affluent homes in well-funded schools. Using test scores to rate teachers will penalize those who teach the students in greatest need. Over time, teachers will avoid the students who jeopardize their jobs and their reputations. This will be harmful to the students who need talented and experienced teachers most urgently.


It is simply wrong to devise a measure of teacher quality based on standardized tests. The tests are not yardsticks. They are not scientific instruments. They are social constructions, and quite apart from how contingent their results are on the social and economic background of the students being tested, they are also subject to human error, sampling error, random error, and other errors. It is true that the cleanliness of restaurants can be given a letter grade (another of Bloomberg’s test-oriented innovations in New York City), and agribusiness can be measured by crop yields, and corporations can be measured by their profits. But to apply a letter grade or a numerical ranking to a professional is to radically misunderstand the complex set of qualities that make someone good at what they do. It is an effort by economists and statisticians to quantify activities that are at heart matters of judgment, not productivity. Professionals must be judged by other professionals, by their peers. Nowhere is this more true than among educators, whose success at teaching character, wisdom, and judgment cannot be measured by standardized tests.


Categories: Education, Labor, Politics

Chabon on Anderson

February 3, 2013 Leave a comment


I don’t see all that many movies, so naming my favorite moviemaker is akin to naming my favorite West Indian cricketer. Nonetheless, if pressed to do so, I would say Wes Anderson. Rushmore. The Royal Tenenbaums. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Genius. And last year’s Moonrise Kingdom.

Gail and I watched Moonrise Kingdom at home on Thanksgiving Eve, courtesy of iTunes and live streaming. Not ideal, I should add. There was a problem with the stream, leading to a series of two-to-three minute interruptions while we waited for the buffer to refill. Even so, the film’s brilliance shone through.

My favorite novelist? Well, that’s silly. How does one even compare, say, Lee Child and Michael Chabon, both of whose books I love? I suppose one could observe that the day a Lee Child book appears, I begin reading it. The day a Michael Chabon book appears, I do nothing. That might have significance. But it’s misleading. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is among my favorite novels ever. No Child book is on the list. And I’m going to get to Telegraph Avenue soon. Really.

Let’s just go out on a limb here and call Chabon my favorite novelist. Imagine, then, how cool it is to see that Chabon has a blog post at the New York Review of Books on Wes Anderson!

It doesn’t disappoint. Here’s how it starts:

The world is so big, so complicated, so replete with marvels and surprises that it takes years for most people to begin to notice that it is, also, irretrievably broken. We call this period of research “childhood.”

There follows a program of renewed inquiry, often involuntary, into the nature and effects of mortality, entropy, heartbreak, violence, failure, cowardice, duplicity, cruelty, and grief; the researcher learns their histories, and their bitter lessons, by heart. Along the way, he or she discovers that the world has been broken for as long as anyone can remember, and struggles to reconcile this fact with the ache of cosmic nostalgia that arises, from time to time, in the researcher’s heart: an intimation of vanished glory, of lost wholeness, a memory of the world unbroken. We call the moment at which this ache first arises “adolescence.” The feeling haunts people all their lives.

Everyone, sooner or later, gets a thorough schooling in brokenness. The question becomes: What to do with the pieces? Some people hunker down atop the local pile of ruins and make do, Bedouin tending their goats in the shade of shattered giants. Others set about breaking what remains of the world into bits ever smaller and more jagged, kicking through the rubble like kids running through piles of leaves. And some people, passing among the scattered pieces of that great overturned jigsaw puzzle, start to pick up a piece here, a piece there, with a vague yet irresistible notion that perhaps something might be done about putting the thing back together again.

Two difficulties with this latter scheme at once present themselves. First of all, we have only ever glimpsed, as if through half-closed lids, the picture on the lid of the jigsaw puzzle box. Second, no matter how diligent we have been about picking up pieces along the way, we will never have anywhere near enough of them to finish the job. The most we can hope to accomplish with our handful of salvaged bits—the bittersweet harvest of observation and experience—is to build a little world of our own. A scale model of that mysterious original, unbroken, half—remembered. Of course the worlds we build out of our store of fragments can be only approximations, partial and inaccurate. As representations of the vanished whole that haunts us, they must be accounted failures. And yet in that very failure, in their gaps and inaccuracies, they may yet be faithful maps, accurate scale models, of this beautiful and broken world. We call these scale models “works of art.”

From Rushmore to Moonrise Kingdom (shamefully neglected by this year’s Academy voters), Wes Anderson’s films readily, even eagerly, concede the “miniature” quality of the worlds he builds, in their set design and camera-work, in their use of stop-motion, maps, and models. And yet these miniatures span continents and decades. They comprise crime, adultery, brutality, suicide, the death of a parent, the drowning of a child, moments of profound joy and transcendence.

Read it all.

Categories: Life, Movies

No Ice Cream

February 3, 2013 Leave a comment


Years ago I read a piece—I wish I remember the author—about the still popular sport of beating up on the poor for daring to share in the simple pleasures of life. The context was welfare moms, and the author was responding to another writer’s criticism of them for buying ice cream for the kids. The writer of the piece I was reading did not take kindly to this view. Since then, whenever I read about cutting welfare, I fasten on the image of parents in bad straits not being able to serve ice cream to their children. Let them eat cake? Heck, no.

Which brings me to Rob Port’s recent post with the headline, “48% Of North Dakota Welfare Spending Is On Fast Food, Eating Out, ATM’s And Movie Rentals”. The ATM part is a puzzle. A table he includes shows that 27.66% of state welfare funds are spent on ATM/cash withdrawals. That’s money, right? Why is that a problem? But anyway, then there’s the 12.4% on fast food restaurants. Port concludes that the money is spent “on frivolities and luxuries rather than needs.” Like ice cream for the kids, I think to myself.

Or, as Roy Edroso writes at alicublog,

Think about a single parent with kids using her TANF to buy clothing, shelter, school supplies, etc. Maybe some of the money is spent more frivolously, sure, but that would be hard to manage: In 2004 the maximum monthly TANF benefit paid in North Dakota to a single-parent-headed family of four was $573. And, in case you think it’s gotten better since then, TANF benefit levels have plunged by 22.3% in North Dakota since 1996.

So maybe a couple of times a week the recipients eat at McDonald’s or a diner instead of in their hovels. Maybe they get chips, soda, and smokes from the service station. And very rarely they rent a movie.


I’m beginning to think it’s a psychological condition. Maybe some of it’s upbringing. Maybe some of us are born without a capacity for empathy and by the grace of God avoid the life of aimless crime into which some sociopaths drift, and instead become… well, the kind of person who thinks people on welfare have it too easy and that junk food is a luxury they don’t deserve.

(Hat tip: atrios.)

Categories: Politics