Friday, February 27, 2009

Dinner at Matsugen (food)

Ate dinner with a friend at Matsugen last night, a place that I've wanted to try especially since I never got to eat at Honmura An before it disappeared. The restaurant specializes in Japanese soba noodles and the kitchen is run by Japanese restaurateurs the Matsushita brothers while the front of house belongs to Jean Georges' empire. The space is in Tribeca where 66, a failed JG venture, used to be.

The biggest complaint about Matsugen on the internet tends to be that it's expensive and overpriced. It definitely is expensive, but I would lean towards saying that if you order correctly, the cost will be reflected in the quality of the food. However, they did charge me a ridiculous $10 for a bottle of Fiji water. I have ordered Fiji at many high end restaurants in NYC and it has always been between $7-$9. $10 really was outrageous I thought.

The atmosphere was nice with comfortable chairs and plenty of space between tables. Lighting was nicely dim without forcing you to squint too hard to read the menu. The service was attentive and helpful, showing the JG training. As is often the case in high-end restaurants these days, they also do the thing where they teach you how to eat everything, which can be a little annoying sometimes.

On to the food. We started with the sea urchin with yuzu jelly which was nice. There was a decent portion of sea urchin and it had the fresh ocean flavor that you would expect. I was pleasantly surprised that the yuzu jelly was not overpowering like most yuzu-infused foods. I've read that they use Japanese sea urchin, which is slightly funkier than the common Santa Barbara uni you usually get in NYC. That could explain why I didn't feel as clean a flavor as when I have uni sushi, but I wasn't sure if that was because of the jelly.

Our other starter was the bakudan, which is a mixture of sea urchin, salmon roe, squid, scallion, poached egg, and natto which we then scooped onto nori sheets to make our own little rolls. I enjoyed this although I think the chewiness of the squid destroyed the texture of the whole thing. Looking now at the online menu, it's supposed to be scallops, but based on the chewiness of whatever it was that I ate, I can only imagine that it was squid instead. I was also surprised that the natto didn't come out as strongly as I would have thought.

We then had the braised kurobuta pork belly, served on a hot stone with a couple slices of mushrooms and mustard for dipping. There were 6 beautiful pieces of fatty pork belly and it was perfectly savory, whereas sometimes the biggest problem with Japanese braised pork belly is that places make it too sweet.

This was followed by the cold inaka soba with the goma-dare sesame sauce. The very coarse soba with husk was truly special for a noodle dish, with a nutty flavor that went perfectly with the sesame sauce. For $14 though, you don't really get a lot of noodles and there are no meats or vegetables that come with it.

The last thing we had was the crab and Japanese mushroom kamameshi, which is rice cooked in an earthenware pot. You have to order this at the beginning of the meal, because they told us it takes 45 minutes to make it. It was very fragrant when they opened the lid and the sweetness of the crab really came through. This was a very comforting and tasty dish that was a good end to the meal.

For dessert my friend had the molten chocolate cake with green tea ice cream, the cake being the same as Jean Georges' legendary recipe. I had the green tea ice cream brulee, which was interesting in that the top was torched like a creme brulee, but underneath was cold ice cream. Their green tea ice cream was perfect in that it wasn't too bitter or too sweet.

Overall we had a great time and the food was superb. The bill came to $150 before tax and tip, including the $10 bottle of water. It is expensive, but if you order correctly I can definitely see getting very high quality food for your money.

Another week off the diet (food)

Last week was my first week on the low GI phase, but I think that because I ate too little food in general, I lost more weight in that week than I wanted. So I decided to take this week off. Some might ask, "isn't losing more weight better?" However, I'm trying to make this a longterm thing so I want to pace myself.

Highlights from this week include:

A little hole in the wall in Manhattan Chinatown called Yuen Yuen (on Bayard St) where I had a turtle soup with Chinese medicinal herbs and frog clay pot rice. Both were delicious and hopefully I'll get some of the desired health benefits from the turtle soup. This place has other Chinese medicinal soups, including snake soup and chicken with American ginseng, but if I didn't find out about it on the internet, I probably would have never thought to step foot in the place.

A visit to Jackson Heights for some Indian buffet. I used to live in the area, so I decided to stop in for a cheap and filling meal. This leads me to discuss a question that I pondered when I first ate Indian food in that area. What is the difference between Saag(wala) Paneer and Palak Paneer? Most Indian restaurants serve saag paneer which they advertise as spinach with cheese. However, in some of the ones in JH, they have palak paneer instead in their buffet. Palak essentially means spinach, so what's the difference between the two? According to wikipedia, Saag is a curry made from spinach as well as some other greens such as mustard leaves and other mustard greens. Palak Paneer, on the other hand, is a variation that is almost always made with spinach. I personally think the difference is that saag refers specifically to a curry made with spinach/mustard greens such that the curry itself often becomes green, whereas palak paneer refers to spinach with cheese, which can then be served in a generic brown curry. Anyone have a better answer?

Ate at Matsugen with a friend (review following in the next post).

Got some katsu from the Japanese grocery store on 41st street and Madison Ave to go. They put out a 5.99/lb buffet after 4pm with choices usually including katsu pork and chicken, karaage, grilled mackerel, yakisoba, inari sushi, age tofu, and many vegetables. This is the only katsu I have found that still holds up really well after taking it home.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What will I be eating? (food)

On to phase 2 of my diet, which is the low GI phase. Essentially I'm trying to diet in phases. As soon as the weight loss stops, I move on to some other way to affect my body. It's kinda like how P90X advertises muscle confusion, except that this is fat confusion. So after 3 weeks of high fiber cereal, I took one week off where I limited the portion sizes but allowed myself to be more free with my choices.

For phase 2, the plan is 3 meals per day with a sandwich at each meal. The sandwich will be made with half a small whole wheat pita (this will result in less carbs than when I was eating cereal every day), raw baby spinach, and my choice of fat and protein. Right now, I'm going with slices of roast turkey (real turkey) and emmenthaler. Real swiss cheese goes a much longer way than those kraft slices. Since the aim is low GI, I expect to be able to really enjoy the fat and protein part of the meal. I think next I'll probably get some nice smoked and cured fish from Russ and Daughters.

Speaking of real cheese, I've always wondered how much food people actually taste. My guess is that a lot of overweight people in America just end up eating large portions of food that don't actually generate enough taste. Take for instance, the italian sub. How many people can actually taste the difference between the types of meats and the interplay of flavor and texture? Would people eat less if they got a sandwich with less meat but from a real deli butcher instead of the generic stuff at a Subway's?

Another food thought experiment that I would like turned into a real experiment has to do with time frames. I understand the idea of the circadian rhythm and that like most species on this planet, our bodies and cells react to the sun. Is a balanced daily diet truly better than one balanced over the course of a month? I haven't done the requisite research, but I'm sure this would make a simple undergraduate or graduate thesis project in public health. It'd be easy to control too I think. Set aside the amount of food that will be digested over a 3 week period. Divide that equally so the daily group gets the same amount of each major tested component (macronutrients or whatever is of interest) daily while the other group gets all of one component for one week then switches. eg. One group eats 40/30/30 carbs/fat/protein every day while the other groups would eat the same amount of each macronutrient group but in one week spans. I'd be really interested in what the results would look like.

Why I play standard carding (bridge)

I am probably one of the few players left of my caliber who prefer standard carding. Then again, I'm probably also one of the very few players of my caliber who prefer sound initial action bordering on Roth-Stone.

The most obvious reason for my preference for standard carding is one of familiarity, as I've been playing it for so long it's harder to remember playing UDCA when I do agree to it. I understand the merits of UDCA (or those who play UD attitude with standard count), but I feel that not many people understand the merits of playing standard. Upside-down signals are technically superior, with some advantages mentioned originally by Sheinwold in the Bridge World back in 1954 . However, my preference for standard is not about technical merit but about the feel of the game.

Counting is important. It's not that I only value feel and don't bother to count. While I do play mostly standard carding, I also play 3rd/low leads against suits for a better count of the suit. One of the advantages listed by Sheinwold is that sometimes you just can't spare a card that high for an encouraging signal. Fine, then don't. But if you count the pips correctly and have a good feel for how the play goes, more often than not you will realize when to continue even if your partner doesn't give you an encouraging card. If I were to analyze this further, my guess would be that this advantage of an unspared high card is most important when the signaller has length in that suit, whereas the situation is almost detrimental if the signaller has a shorter holding especially with one or two lesser honors. So perhaps the solution is to combine the two. Perhaps play standard to an opening lead (from presumed length in notrump) and then upside down when we try to find partner's suit in the middle of the hand. Or another way would be to adjust based on how many cards are being held in the suit in dummy. If dummy in front of me has 4 cards in the suit versus 2 cards, I'll play upside-down versus standard, and if dummy behind me has 2 cards versus 4 cards, I'll play upside-down as well since I'll probably need all the high cards for leading through length in the closed hand.

I won't argue about the second advantage listed but the third one can be avoided with even more superior discard agreements than just UDCA. In fact, I've always had a belief that even if you don't play them at any other time, you should always play some version of a lavinthal discard against 1NT or 2NT because too often you'll need to keep the whole 5+ card suit to take enough defensive tricks while at the same time give a clear signal to partner.

As for the feel of the game, it's been a long long time since I've played with anyone who has agreed to really play every card to the max on defense. That means not only the initial signals, but that every subsequent card also has a small meaning to the hand. Since most of us don't do that, we follow suit. Following suit has a flow and a rhythm, dictated by the pips we're dealt. When someone plays an unnecessarily high one, it draws my attention. This is especially useful if I'm playing online, because I'm probably doing 2 other things on the internet and watching TV at the same time.

Another reason I want standard encouraging cards to stand out is the way that I view defense. The opening lead is the number one card played in the hand with the least information available. Second on that list is breaking a new suit in the middle of the hand. Chances are you're going to be wrong more often than you are right just on that lack of information alone. That's why I would prefer a system where partner plays an unnecesarily high card to tell me I'm right rather than to tell me I'm wrong.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nerd, Geek, and Dork (random)

I've hung out with a lot of very smart people over the years and so have heard these words used now and again, but not always with a derogatory intent. What follows is how I view each of these terms, with my definitions slightly different from those in the dictionary.

Nerd: Someone who is very enthusiastic about a subject academically or academia in general. Someone who is very studious. I use this word but with no derogatory intent. I was a math nerd in school until I got to graduate school where the math people were definitely nerdier than I ever was.

Geek: Someone who is very enthusiastic, almost obsessively, about a subject but not in an academic manner. So a computer nerd would have something to do with studying the computer whereas the computer geek could be interested in how computers work, gaming, the internet or other computer-related things in a different environment.

Dork: Someone who is socially inept because of a lack of interest in popular pursuits. While the above two words are defined in the dictionary with an implied social ineptness, I personally only use the word dork to imply social ineptness. In my definition, a nerd or a geek could be a dork because their obsessiveness with their chosen subject significantly reduces their interest in other popular pursuits. However, a dork does not have to have a subject that they are enthusiastic about, just that they're not interested in things that other people like and therefore makes social interaction awkward.

Self-imagined time constraints (everything, bridge, sport, stock, gambling)

We often make decisions based on our perception of time. Often these decisions are objectively wrong, but rational humans frequently fail to make completely objective or logical decisions. My favorite example is what economist Richard Thaler calls, "sudden death aversion". In the rest of this post, I will give examples of "sudden death aversion" as well as provide other scenarios I've noticed where we make illogical decisions related to our perception of time and how we create time constraints for ourselves that aren't really there. If anyone can think of more examples feel free to comment.

Sudden death aversion is exactly as it sounds. It's essentially a reluctance to commit oneself to a decision with an immediate outcome in favor of a decision that delays the outcome. I'm going to tweak Thaler's most famous sports example just a little bit to illustrate the point. Imagine a basketball game where your team is down by 2 with just enough time to execute one play. The chances of making a 3 point shot are 33% while the chances of making a 2 point shot are 50%. Furthermore, your team is the home/better team so that if it goes into overtime, your chances of winning are 55%. The math is simple. 33% versus (.5 x .55)= 27.5% And yet often in these situations the coach will call for a 2 point play because of a (wrong) perception that if given more time, they will have a better chance of winning. Another basketball example is when coaches are unwilling to play guys with foul trouble for fear of fouling out and then put them in too late when the game is all but lost. A frequent example in another sport is whether to go for it on 4th down late in the football game. Many NFL coaches screw up this decision fairly often. This phenomenon is also written about in bridge, where someone chooses a line of play that involves a few more tricks to be played instead of a slightly superior play of an immediate straight up finesse.

A different scenario is what I call the "casino effect". I see this happen a lot both to gamblers in casinos as well as to daytraders and I myself have suffered greatly from it (and still do from time to time). The simple example is when a gambler is gambling at a table game (blackjack, baccarat, poker, etc.) and his wife/friends tell him that they have to go soon to another commitment (show, dinner, etc.) Many times I've heard "I'll leave when I get back positive" or "I'll leave the moment I cut my losses in half". The problem with this is that this enforces a self-imagined time constraint, and causes the gambler to force the action for no real reason. Bad decisions such as overbetting or pure random gambling ("oh well, what the hell") occur all the time in these situations. The same happens to daytraders all the time with the exact same claims in an effort to minimize that specific day's loss or be positive for that specific day. This leads to overtrading, churning, and using too much risk, all in the name of a daily number instead of worrying about the overall P&L over the course of a year.

Another one that seems to happen a lot involves human interaction and is not a case where we deal with numbers. Imagine a couple fighting. Obviously tempers are flaring and each person thinks they're right. Instead of waiting to cool off, often times both parties are trying to continue to press their argument as if they won't ever be heard again if they don't do it immediately. Or say you upset your friend somehow. You call to apologize but they won't pick up. You leave a message to let them know you're sorry. And then, instead of waiting for your friend to simmer down, acknowledge your apology and sort things out, you end up calling him/her over and over because of a perceived time crunch that your apology must be heard now. This will more than likely cause the offended party to feel even more disgust at being bothered and make things worse. I'm not saying that everyone does these things, but I see examples like these a lot, and I don't understand this unnecessary time constraint that we all seem to put on ourselves now and again.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Sunday without football (sport, food, gambling)

Pro Bowl? No thanks.

So begins 7 months of Sundays without football. Today I spent it watching two great NBA matchups in Spurs-Celtics and Lakers-Cavaliers. I enjoyed the Spurs-Celtics game more as I just like watching both those teams execute. I thought it definitely vindicated Poppovich's decision to rest his big three against the Nuggets earlier in the week. Boston was severely handicapped for this game however because they were without their own tall white red-headed shooting center. I can't wait for the rematch which should be billed as Bonner vs. Scalabrine. The Lakers really stepped it up during this road trip, taking over the best record in the league as well as clinching tiebreakers against both the Celtics and the Cavaliers. During the Lakers-Cavs game there was mention that Kobe had some flu-like symptoms. The flu has been going around the NBA recently affecting a lot of players. My guess is that the constant travelling and locker room environment help to spread the virus. Or perhaps it's a bird flu related to these guy hanging in the air so often. Here are some other random thoughts of the day.

Playing in the NBA is often about how many gears you have. The ability to change speeds is more important than how fast you can go in full sprint. This is especially true of scorers because they are often in isolated situations and changing speeds is critical to getting separation. From watching a lot of games this season, I think Paul Pierce has the best changeup in the NBA right now. He's not a guy with a 97mph fastball and an 85mph changeup like Kobe Bryant, but more like a guy with an 88mph fastball and a 70mph changeup. He changes from his post-up stance to his spin move or his go-by-you step or his pullback jumper probably more fluidly than anyone else in the league.

That's not to say pure sprint speed isn't an important factor to succeeding in the NBA. Top point guards like Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, and Steve Nash are more noted for their full sprint speed because they're often leading the fast break. However, my vote for the best point guard in the league (or perhaps best guard period) goes to Chris Paul. One of the reasons is because he is one of those players who has multiple gears and changes speeds with ease. This ability also shows up on defensive stats because it allows him to anticipate steals without completely blowing his defensive assignment (he leads the league in steals by more than .6 steals/game over the second place player).

I left out one thing in my mini-rant about ethnic food authenticity. I also don't understand the belief that people who come from somewhere else must be knowledgable in what food is good from their place of origin. An example of this is the Pizza Hut commercial where they do their food switch (the lasagna?) in Italy. Why is it assumed that Italians must know what good Italian food is? Take a look at this post from Slice (pizza blog)

where they mention that Naples is full of hotdog and french fry pizzas.

I think I have found the worst game on online poker in terms of losing rake. I think it is the heads up .25/.50 pot limit omaha/8. First of all, PLO8 is the worst of all the games in terms of rake because there are too many max-rake pots that end up being split between the players. Secondly, playing heads up limits the amount of money in the pot that a winning player can scoop or 3/4 from. Also, using the rake scale on Full Tilt, this level of stakes is the only one where the max rake is as much as the big blind AND rake is taken every time a flop is seen. Anyone else have a better nomination for the worst raked online game?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Random food thoughts (food)

I personally prefer savory carbs to sweet carbs. I prefer bagels to donuts, and I never really have a craving for waffles or baked goods. However, most people aren't like me in that respect and one of the great recent inventions to cater to fans of both the sweet and the savory were McGriddles breakfast sandwiches. Just recently, Dunkin Donuts has come up with its own version, a waffle breakfast sandwich. From the online reviews I've read, it still pales in comparison to the McDonald's version. My favorite breakfast selections from McD's are the egg mcmuffin and the steak egg and cheese bagel. (Don't judge me for eating a McDonald's bagel. This was back in Boston.) I used to eat both meals in one morning sitting! That's why I'm now on a diet.

I never understand why people are so adamant that they want "authentic" ethnic food. I don't understand why on so many foodie forums and blogs people seem to think that the authenticity of ethnic food automatically makes it amazing and why they hate on places that are not as authentic. What I think people really want is just "non-Americanized" versions of ethnic food. Let's face it, American food is the most processed, additive-filled, greasy, and unexciting food out there. Catering to these tastes obviously dumbs down food compared to authentic native ethnic food. However, that doesn't automatically make it bad. I like beef with broccoli, even though broccoli is not remotely native to China. I also don't think it makes one less sophisticated as an eater to prefer adapted tastes rather than the authentic ones. For example, I personally prefer Thai food that I have in Hong Kong that is catered to those tastes more than what I ate in Bangkok.

Dinner at Jean Georges (food)

I've never been to any of Jean Georges' restaurants, so I decided this past Wednesday that it would be a good time to break out my newly bought suit (JG requires jackets for men) and give it a try. From what I've read, his food is supposed to be "vibrant and spare". When I think of vibrant flavors, my mind jumps to any of the more authentic Latin American places in Queens and Brooklyn.

So it was a Wednesday night, and I got a seat right next to the door adjoining the less formal Nougatine. The color scheme and lighting were simple and nice, but the chatter from the room next to us easily pervaded into the main dining room. The room was never more than half full during my entire time there, from about 7:30-9:30. I don't know if this is a result of the worsening economy, but the server did say that they were very busy during restaurant week. During my dinner I also noticed that there were two other lone diners, both men.

Now onto the food. JG offers a 3-course prix fixe for $98, and two 7-course tasting menus for $148 each. There is a tasting of signature dishes as well as a seasonal tasting menu. I'm a big fan of signature dishes. I believe a restaurant that does a few dishes very well is still a better restaurant than some place that caters to big groups and does everything decently but not spectacularly. Therefore I went with the signature tasting. I did not take any pictures, but if you work some google magic, you should be able to find at least one blog with pictures (and review) of the whole menu.


Salmon sashimi with kumquat sauce, chili flavored shrimp spring roll with lettuce wrap, and meyer lemon chicken soup. The soup had a strong flavor that seemed like lemongrass, and there was nothing particularly special about either of these.

Egg Caviar

The presentation was nice with a hollowed out egg shell topped with creme fraiche and caviar and filled on the inside with scrambled eggs with vodka and cayenne. The cayenne caused a burning sensation that I wasn't thrilled with in terms of how delicate everything else was. The egg was held in place by some salt. While I was fishing for some of the caviar that fell down the side of the egg, i got some of the salt on my spoon and it made the dish much better. I wouldn't say the eggs weren't seasoned, but the extra salt really perked it up. Perhaps this was because the caviar was less salty than I would have imagined.

Sea Scallops, Caramelized Cauliflower, Caper-Raisin Emulsion

The cauliflower on the scallop provided a really nice balance in texture. I was served two half pieces of scallop, and while it was cooked pretty well, I wouldn't call it a perfectly cooked scallop, which is what I've had the last two times I've had scallops at expensive restaurants. In all, I still think of the dish as being perfectly put together.

Young Garlic Soup with Thyme, Sauteed Frog Legs

I've had some really great soups whenever I've had it in these top tier restaurants. I still remember the asparagus soup from L'Atelier in Las Vegas. While not everyone would consider this the tastiest of soups, I thought it was a masterpiece in terms of showing off the chef's skills. Most soups are made with ingredients where the stronger and richer the flavor, the better. Garlic is not such an ingredient. No matter how many times Emeril and Rachel Ray make it look like the more garlic the better, there really is a point where there's too much of it. However, this was the perfect garlic soup. You get the flavor, but not too much of it. The frog legs were a nice touch and dunking the lightly fried pieces into the soup made for a pleasant experience. However, as a kid who grew up on Mom's frog leg congee, there wasn't enough of them. They also provided hot rose water for cleaning your hand after the soup, which was a nice touch.

Turbot with Chateau Chalon sauce

I love the flesh of turbot but there's not a lot of flavor to really work with. There were small dices of tomato and zucchini which provided nice texture. The chateau chalon sauce tasted like chinese wine to me for some reason. Again, I thought the dish was put together nicely and this was a really good example of JG's use of vibrant colors and flavors as opposed to a more old-school French dish.

Lobster Tartine, Lemongrass and Fenugreek Broth, Pea Shoots

I don't know what a tartine is. I thought there would be some pastry involved, but it just turned out to be lobster meat on top of a small toast chip. The lemongrass and fenugreek broth was very nice and definitely was a great match for lobster, especially when eschewing the usual butter or cream. The lobster was similar to the scallop in that I would call it very well cooked, but not perfectly cooked.

Pan Roasted Sweetbreads, Glazed Chestnuts and Black Truffle Vinaigrette (Supplement)

I know for a fact that I'm at least the third blog with a JG tasting review that supplemented this dish. The price was definitely right ($25 for the supplement) and I enjoyed it. The textures and flavors were nice and no single component was overpowering at any point. This was the first dish that really made me think French food.

Broiled Squab, Onion Compote, Corn Pancake with Foie Gras

One of the good things about the wine selection here at JG is that they offer 3oz tasting portions in addition to normal 6oz glass portions. So I had a tasting portion of the pinot noir which went pretty well with this dish. The onion compote was really nice with the squab, and the squab itself was juicy and tasty. However, all this did was make me miss eating lots of cheaper, tastier squab in Hong Kong. Whoever first matched corn and foie gras was a genius. This is a good pairing and provided a similar taste to the foie and corn grits that I had at Cafe Gray when Kunz was still the named chef there.


For dessert, there are four choices for the main theme. Chocolate, caramel, apple, and seasonal. With each selection, there are four small dessert components. I chose chocolate, which included JG's signature molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, aerated chocolate sponge, chocolate gnocchi, and their version of a chocolate egg cream. None of these really wowed me and while I appreciated the progression of textures and concentrations, I just wasn't that into it.

After dessert was a large selection of petit fours, which included 3 flavors of macarons, 3 flavors of housemade marshmallows, 6 chocolates, and 2 flavors of gelees. I felt about them the same way I felt about the dessert. Perhaps I was just full.

Overall the service was nice and the pacing was fabulous. There was little waiting in between courses. I thought their crumb brush was pretty cool, a metal box that had a rolling brush underneath, and much better than the scrapers you see used at many places. The staff was friendly and had none of that "French" air about them as I felt at Le Bernardin. The food was pretty good overall. I felt that the menu was put together very well and executed brilliantly, but that the food itself lacked a little of the soul and comfort of classic French food that I would have preferred.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Greatest Ponzi Scheme of All (stock)

After all the final numbers come in, I wonder if Madoff or Enron will have done more damage. My view is that the greatest ponzi scheme in recent years was the '03-'07 market itself. This includes commodities, housing, and the stock market. Some will have you believe that a market bubble is not a ponzi scheme. However, both things have so much in common. New money covering old money in a way where if you get out early enough, you're fine. Ridiculously high returns during that period. Finally, when it blows up, everyone still holding on to a piece goes down hard.

Some would say that if I choose to classify the '03-'07 market as a ponzi scheme, then surely the tech bubble in the mid-to-late '90s was worse? I don't feel this way because there was so much actual innovation and development during that time. Internet infrastructure, chip technology, and many other actual physical developments in infrastructure for all the new technology. What was created during the bubble this decade besides artificially inflated prices? This isn't rhetorical, if someone can enlighten me I'm all for it. There was so much money pumped into alternative energy and solar industry stocks, and yet I wonder how much was actually built and how many companies actually took advantage of their momentarily high market caps? Of course one can say housing, but I wonder about that too. I'm sure a lot of housing projects were started, but I don't know how many will actually be finished.

All I'm saying is that relative to other bubbles, it feels like so little was done that would lead to improvement in quality of life down the road. Because of this feeling, I'm calling that whole market period a ponzi scheme. Of course it's not the greatest ponzi scheme of all. That would be Social Security. And don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

The Presidency: Coming and Going (politics)

I rarely talk about politics, but a couple quick opinions on the old and new President that came up in recent conversation with friends.


There are many possible reasons to hate Bush. My reason is that I think he should have released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve back when oil was in the $140s. This was his last chance to do something for the people, but in the end he showed where his interests were. When oil was at its highs and everyone was screaming about how hard it was to do daily business and crying for alternative energy, there were two options for him. By releasing oil from the SPR, he could have either stopped/slowed the upward speculation or at the very least made some money to help pay down this huge debt he helped saddle America with. Instead, he chose the other option, which was to promote finding more oil. Who benefits from trying to find more oil? All the oil men who are associated with Bush and Cheney. The Republican party also gained because it gave them something to run on. Palin wasn't selected because she was a woman to get the Hilary supporters, she was selected because of her advocacy of drilling for oil in Alaska. People like to make fun of Dubya and say he's dumb, but I don't think he's really that dumb. He just happens to have many different agendas, and this was another case of benefitting his insiders at the expense of everyone else.


When we look back many years from now, I hope that people won't remember Obama for being the first black President. To me, that would mean that he'd failed. He takes the Presidency right after one of the worst Presidents and during one of the worst crises the US has ever faced. He also has a filibuster-proof Congress (not really, but pretty close) in his favor. If he can't be remembered for either stabilizing us or getting us out of this hole, then he will have failed since he's probably one of the most highly anticipated Presidents ever.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thoughts on the Superbowl (sport, random)

I see it all the time in horseracing. Some horses just have a lot of heart and after they get headed, fight back to win. Pittsburgh was exactly like that. The only way to beat that kind of horse? Come down the far outside and nip them at the line. Arizona scored the go ahead TD too early in this case.

This was probably the most entertaining Superbowl I have seen in a long long time. It wasn't just the back and forth scoring, the fact that the game was close (which most people equate to a game being good), or the big individual plays. I thought it was great because there were so many legitimate huge momentum swings. This was a market maker's dream game. There were so many points where one team looked like it was about to take all the momentum and create some distance but then were stopped cold.

Even though they had a lot of penalties and they gave up the game-winning drive and two game-winning plays (Holmes should have caught the first pass in the endzone too), the Arizona defense stepped up tonight and brought it. They played their hearts out, with the interception, the safety, and managed to stop the Steelers whenever it looked like they were about to get some separation.

The best hit of the night was the commercial where they punched the koala with the glasses.

I don't watch Chuck anymore because during that Monday 8pm slot nowadays there's House, Gossip Girl, and the CBS comedy lineup. However, Yvonne Strahovski is really hot.

I had Arizona +4 -125 in the first half, which looked like a lock until the 100 yard interception TD. I actually wanted Arizona +3.5, but the service I use only had the +4 line, so I ended up losing more juice than I wanted to. That's about the sickest loss you can have for a football bet.

Just as I was about to think that none of the bailout-seeking American car companies ponied up dough for a Superbowl spot, Ford had a commercial late in the second half. Horrible. Derek Jeter? Seriously? While every other car commercial was showing how stylish their cars looked or how well they performed, the only thing Ford did was pay Derek Jeter to say a few words? Ridiculous. That's taxpayer money at work in the hands of these executives.

Barack Obama is an amazing speaker.

Ben Roethlisberger should have been the MVP. He created so many plays out out of nothing, stood tall and escaped tackles (not just eluded), and kept delivering the ball right where it needed to be.

If you weren't convinced before, this game had to have done it for you. Instant replay is needed in the NFL, and the current coach's challenge system is fine. Two huge plays were challenged and overturned. While I think the last play was a clearcut fumble (Warner did not have control when his arm was moving foward), I would have liked them to have reviewed the play.

I was actually waiting for Pittsburgh to fail the third down conversion at their own 1 yard line, and take the intentional safety. This would have been a clear play, but Al Michaels was clearly oblivious to it as usual, and I'm pretty sure Tomlin would have done it.