[in space, no one can hear you stink]

When Korea’s first astronaut, Ko San, is launched into space by the Russians, he will have his kimchi with him. According to the New York Times:

Three top government research institutes spent millions of dollars and several years perfecting a version of kimchi that would not turn dangerous when exposed to cosmic rays or other forms of radiation and would not put off non-Korean astronauts with its pungency.

The latter may have been the greater challenge, and I wonder whether it will be adopted by Korean expats.

And then there’s this:

Ordinary kimchi is teeming with microbes, like lactic acid bacteria, which help fermentation. On Earth they are harmless, but scientists feared they could turn dangerous in space if cosmic rays and other radiation cause them to mutate.

Mutant kimchi! The South Korean government was actually worried about mutant kimchi! For some reason this fills me with glee.

Update: BoingBoing noticed it too.

[minor updates on a minor life]

I have been kind of busy and overwhelmed of late — mostly in a good way — but this has meant a dearth of blog posts. Dearth! Dearth dearth dearth ….
Ahem. Excuse me.

So, tidbits:

  • On Saturday I joined New York Sports Clubs, which has gyms near my work and near my home. I have so far worked out twice. This is good: it’s been nearly a year since I’ve regularly exercised.
  • My attempts to cut out caffeine went nowhere. I have, however, cut back to half-caff in the morning, and this has helped my stomach considerably.
  • At work, I was having a conversation with Ken about a document I’m updating, and he pointed out a section that he didn’t like because it was full of redundancies and repeated phrases. “Yeah,” I agreed, “It reads like Chinese philosophy.” Ken reminded me that he does not regularly read Chinese philosophy. Oh, right.
  • In another conversation with Ken, I made the comment that while much at DoubleClick was the same as it had been, that it was no longer the nineties, with everyone zipping around on Razor scooters. He turned around and pointed to the Razor leaning against an office door. Okay, so in DoubleClick it is still 1999. Wanna go see The Blair Witch Project?
  • Is Bay Ridge going hip? The Chipshop has moved in, purveying the finest in British cuisine: fish and chips, Scotch eggs, and of course those decadent deep-fried candy bars. The food makes perfect sense around here, but the punk aesthetic and heavy whiff of irony are innovations. I expect it’ll do fabulously well here, but is it a vanguard or an outlier?

Okay, that’s all for the moment. I’ll try to update a little more often now that I’m settling into new-jobness.

[groggy]

Today is my second day without caffeine. Yesterday I also … snore

Wha? Who? … Oh, right. Blogging.

So, a day without caffeine, I am discovering, is like a … like a … like a nap? grumblesnoozegrumble

Oops! I’m back. Really. Uncaffeinated, but conscious. Sort of.

Will The Palaverist stay caffeine-free even into his new job next week? We’ll see how the next couple days go.

Update: Okay, so a cup of tea this afternoon seemed wise once the headache got serious. Cold turkey may not be the way to go. I don’t know that I even need to be off caffeine at all, but I thought it might help me to sleep better — I wake up a lot in the night. So we’ll see.

[it’s my new york again]

Somehow I missed the news, so when I walked past East 33rd and Third Avenue — Toidy-Toid and Toid, to those from the old school — I was overcome with awe and delight. I had to go in for a closer look, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. But it was real: the Second Avenue Deli is back, with a line out the door.

I have always believed that living in New York City means accommodating yourself to change. I have heard mourned just about everything good or bad that has ever come to pass here, from Ebbets Field and the old Penn Station to porn theaters in Times Square and a lawless Alphabet City on fire, and I’ve thought, hey, that’s life in the Big City. I’ve been here long enough to see a few of my own beloved landmarks go, and to see neighborhoods change character completely.

But when the 2nd Avenue Deli closed, somehow that was different.

Growing up in California, I was taught by my transplanted New Yorker parents that there were no proper baked goods west of the Hudson and that there was a right way and a wrong way to prepare and eat a deli sandwich: mustard on rye, with none of that bullshit lettuce and tomato or (chas v’shalom!) sprouts.

My Great Aunt Sylvia had lived since the 1950s at Second Avenue and 10th Street, so my father’s family had been going there since he was a kid. On trips Back East, and even years later, stopping in at the Deli felt like visiting my parents’ childhoods. I remember Abe Lebewohl once greeting my Cousin Roberta, then in her fifties, as if she were still the little girl he had known decades earlier.

New York can be a hard town, and sometimes I wonder what I’m still doing here. Too many of the funky places I fell in love with are gone, and too much of the city is chain stores, tourist crap and stuff I can’t afford. The resurrection of the 2nd Avenue Deli reminds me of what I still love about Gotham.

Now to go and stand on that line.

[mctatorship]

Recently I had a conversation that turned to politics: specifically, we began to wonder exactly how Mayor McCheese achieved his mandate.

Well, now I know. And it’s not pretty.

Based on this commercial — a rare look into the Hermit Kingdom that is McDonaldland — it appears that the McCheese regime went through the motions of an election, sort of the way the old Soviet Union used to do, and with about the same sense of fair play. Mayor McCheese seems to be running unopposed, but even so, the Hamburglar is busily stuffing ballot boxes. And the real power behind the throne, of course, is Ronald McDonald, Father of the Nation, who tells McCheese what to say, counts the ballots and announces the results.

Actually, this bizarre pastiche of banana-republican politics is one of a series of old McDonald’s commercials that are all deeply bizarre and well worth viewing (via Slate).

[eating on the run]

The Times on Wednesday published an incredibly useful article listing 101 10-minute recipes. (Via LifeHacker.)

For someone like me, who eats pretty much every lunch and most dinners on the go these days, these quick-fix recipes are a great find. Of course, a lot of the recipes demand that you have on hand perishables like fish or eggs or fresh thyme, so they’d be more doable on the evenings I happen to pass a Whole Foods or something on the way home. Even so, it’s a good reminder that there are creative, tasty, healthy things I can cook in minutes when I get home — options, in other words, beyond what I can get a the Chinese joint, the pizza joint, or some dismal eatery along Sixth Avenue in Chelsea (which seems to be where I end up a lot lately).

[from philly to phoenix]

Philly HousesTo celebrate our fourth anniversary, Jenny and I decided to spend the weekend in Philadelphia.

Now I know Philly doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a sexy destination. But Jenny got to know Center City pretty well during her project down there with Cigna, and she wanted to share it with me, and she had the points on her credit card to get us a free night at the DoubleTree, so down we went.

I have to admit that I was thoroughly charmed. Philly is a beautiful city that has preserved much of its colonial architecture and is full of ornate 19th-century confections such as City Hall, not to mention a thoroughly respectable skyline of elegant modern towers. On a beautiful spring day, Jenny and I were able to stroll through much of Center City, and I think we both most enjoyed the narrow, cobbled lanes full of colonial brick row-houses and cherry blossoms. Unlike New York’s Dutch-style homes, Philly’s have no semi-basements, which means there’s no call for the great big stoops so familiar in Brooklyn, which means the houses don’t have to be set back so far from the street. As opposed to Brooklyn’s stately quality, Philly’s old houses, largely free of ornamentation, create an atmosphere of friendly, practical intimacy. Indeed, part of the charm of the historic district is that most of even the oldest buildings are still living homes. Over in the downtown shopping district, we visited the Macy’s, which is home to the Wanamaker Organ, the world’s largest operational organ, which I can now attest puts up a hell of a racket when it’s going full-bore.

Philly has also grown into something of a foody town, and we ate exquisitely at a small Italian restaurant called Mercato. It was a Saturday night, Cinco de Mayo and the finest weather imaginable, so every decent restaurant was packed; we had to wait for a seat, but we sat on a small stoop in the lovely night and took in the passers-by. The Center City crowd seems to be well-healed yuppies, with a strong gay community and a fair number of families raising kids.

On Sunday we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an elegant neoclassical palace on a hill, with excellent holdings in European art from the Middle Ages forward, in Asian art and in American work as well. Distinctive to the Philly Museum is its emphasis on architecture, with room after room of full interiors — a Chinese Buddhist temple, a Medieval cloister, a Parisian interior from the 19th century, a Dutch merchant’s bedroom — giving the art a rich context. Nor are the works themselves anything to sneeze at. Their Medieval collection is excellent, and there’s a rich selection of works by many of the European masters, particularly of the Impressionist and modern periods. And I was pleased to discover that they have devoted some meaningful attention to Korean art in recent years, managing to acquire a number of works that are actually good, including some fine Joseon furniture, pottery and painting and a bit of good contemporary art.

So we had a lovely weekend in Philly, and I now know Center City. As for the sprawling rest of the city, I haven’t the foggiest what goes on there.

*

I came back home with a brand new cold, unfortunately. I suppose I’ll be a bit of a disease vector when I take this thing out to Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday. I’ll be going for a week and a half to celebrate my sister’s graduation from ASU and do some family vacationing around Sedona and the Grand Canyon. So posts will be sparse.

[joelicious]

Josh and Jenny at Joe's ShanghaiNew York City life is not all politics and broken windows. With Jenny working these days down near Wall Street, I thought it would be nice to end our week by meeting somewhere in between for dinner. My colleague Young decided to join us and suggested an excellent Chinatown restaurant we’d never tried, Joe’s Shanghai.

Tucked away on narrow Pell Street, Joe’s is pretty much the quintessential New York Chinatown dining experience. There’s only the barest stab at decor, you have to wait for a table that you’ll share with other parties, and the service is rapid and minimally communicative. The only thing that could possibly distinguish Joe’s from a dozen similar joints is the food, and Joe’s pulls it off.

The specialty, of course, is soup dumplings (pictured above), which are filled with ground meat swimming in their own little pools of rich, vinegary broth. But their other dishes were also exquisite. We tried the shrimp fried rice cake, which consisted of chewy medallions of sticky pounded rice that was somewhere between a noodle and a dumpling, and bean curd home style, which was exquisitely crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. Joe’s Shanghai is definitely worthy of return visits!

On our way back to the subway, we stopped for our usual Chinatown desert of egg tarts, this time opting for the Portuguese style, which involves caramelized sugar on top.

I love Chinatown.