Monday, January 31, 2005

best table? 

I had lunch at what is arguably the best table in the peninsula. Consider what I had: a middle-eastern plate of hummus and stuffed vine leaves, home cured anchovies in olive oil, a garbanzo beans salad, a grilled duck breast with string green beans, a lamb shank on a bed of couscous, a filet of grouper, and a side of eggplant and roasted peppers. For dessert, a lemon tart and ice cream. All what quite tasty, if maybe a bit on the bland side. It's no wonder it is called the club Med for smart people. And it cost me exactly nothing. No one can beat this kind of value. So the award goes to: the google cafeteria.

the best table in the bay area 

I believe I have scored a reservation for lunch today at one of the most difficult place to get into in the Bay Area. You have to make a reservation, no walk-ins accepted. Just like in a private club, you have to have a referral. Harder to get into than the French Laundry! And food is supposedly very good and dirt cheap. More about it this afternoon, if I did not jinx it by bragging about it.

cell phone technology 

The Chron tackles the difficult issue of choosing a cell phone. They compare four entry level phones, and list their plusses and minusses. Of the siemens phone, they say:
The good: Battery life; flip-phone design; sound quality; world phone.

First, all the four phones they compare are flip-phone design. Why is it a plus for the siemens and not the other ones beats me. How is flip-phone a plus in the first place beats me too. It is a matter of personal preference. I like to use a phone with one hand, not have to use both to flip a phone open. So to me, a candy bar design is a plus. But if they wanted to list a real significant plus, they could have: it is the only phone shown in the article with an internal antenna. Internal antennas are good: they are directional, and shoot their radiations away from the head of the user. The other phones have omnidirectional antennas, microwaving your brains, dissipating battery life in the process.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

SF food reviewers. 

Slammed magazine reviewed the SF reviewers back in July. I just noticed today. It gives the spotlight to Mike Bauer, but mentions some other people, Josh Sens, of SF Mag, Paul Reidinger (SFBG), Jonathan Kaufman (east bay express) and Meredith dearest. Apparently, Bauer was offered the NYTimes food critic chair, but turned it down.

Of God's gift to the food reviews, he says:
"Another terrific writer who finishes with the frontrunners is Meredith Brody of the San Francisco Weekly. Her control of tone is masterly. I have a couple of friends down in L.A. who fill this particular bill because they don’t really possess taste buds—they have other talents. Whereas overuse of adverbs is normally a writing flaw, Brody turns it into an art form. [Ed. note: art, as in Thomas Kinkade] I was too full to eat the éclair that was waiting mutely. Although her follow-up quote of Vladimir Nabokov’s description of an éclair left on a plate as “lonely, despised, unwanted” proves that, no matter how great the writer, there’s always another level."

The review he refers to is her very first for the SF Weekly. He did not dig very deep. The actual quote is: [my aunt] insisted I eat a salad as well as the hamburger I wanted, and consequently I was too full to eat the éclair that was waiting mutely on my tray throughout our lunch. (Later, when I read Vladimir Nabokov's description of an éclair that was left on a plate "lonely, despised, unwanted," I remembered the one that got away.)

In this very same review, Meredith opened with: [I reviewed restaurants in LA and NY] But I left my stomach in San Francisco. That is the mark of a terrific writer indeed, to pastiche Tony Bennett. I swear to God, I've been living here for 8 years, it's the first time I've heard anyone mention this song. Meredith must be a brilliant mind indeed. Overuse of cliches is usually a writing flaw, but Meredith does turn it into an art form.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

relativity studies 

I saw the play "The Institute for Relativity Studies: Orientation" tonight, and I can only recommend it. Full disclosure: I know the director, and I met the main protagonist before. So I am totally biased.

But Brava is a super cool space, the play is very entertaining, very varied, and involves dancing, music and story telling. It strikes a good balance between physical acting, and stimulating our little brains. Brian Shapiro is super talented, and it was a very nice way to spent 90mn. There is only one more show tonight, Saturday, at 8pm. Brava is on 24th st. at York, and parking is hellish. I cannot resist but steal the picture from the Weekly below. He does look like this at some point in the show, but only for a short time.

Friday, January 28, 2005

pushed or pulled 

The Chron tries to squeeze a local angle from the train accident in SoCal. The claim is that trains being pulled by the heavy locomotive are less likely to derail as the one being pushed. CalTrain, being San Francisco and San Jose, has the locomotive behind on the north bound trains.

The real danger, though, is not to have protected intersections in such a dense urban environment: cars should go above or below, but not cross the tracks.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

kinda cool 

Amazon new relitively new search engine, A9, launched a new yellow page feature, which allows you to see pictures of the places along with the results of yellow page search.
Here is the result for searching Aqua restaurant. You can walk up and down california street by clicking on the tabs above the picture.

The amazon guys rigged a truck with cameras and gps positioning, so they would take pictures while driving around town. 10 cities (included our beloved) have received the A9 treatment. I searched for my favorite sushi place, Hamano, but it looks like they haven't driven up to Noe Valley. Some places are a bit off, like they situate the Mad Dog in the Fog on the haight block between fillmore and webster instead of steiner and fillmore. They rely on the user's feedback, so you click on the one which matches best from the sequence of pictures for the whole block.

The two guys on their cell phones, in the Aqua picture I link to, are the new Aqua spokepersons from now on. The million dollar question is: did A9/Amazon immortalize you, like they did these guys? And, where you poking your nose -or embracing Susie from the front desk, who does not mind you are married- when they did it?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


The SFWeekly has not put up Meredith's latest opus on line yet, it should be here eventually, but I cannot cut and paste exact quotes. I left my paper copy in the train, so I just go from memory.

She reviews Izzy's Steack House, because she wrote about C & L, that it was the "best little steak house in San Francisco". But it was only the only one she had been to. So some reader called up her bluff, and said, "you don't know jack, Izzy is good." Meredith did not like it (either: being called on making unsubstantiated comments, and Izzy's steak house) so she went on to compare the uncomparable, the Nob Hill boutique shop serving grassfed beef, and Izzy's, a mini-chain. To see how apple and oranges it is: steak at Izzy tops at $26, including two sides, while it starts at $30 at C&L all the way to $45, plus $4 per side. Izzy's has a dozen wines under $30, while at C&L, Meredith says the wine list is pricey as hell. Of course, once price is taken out of the equation, C&L wins, and so in the end, she was right to make her foolish statement, C&L is indeed the best.

Meredith is not one who backs away from a cliche, so we are treated to the "New Year Resolution" evergreen. It is such a trite cliche that a lowly blogger like myself squeezed a post out of it. Hers are as boring as her writing: 'lose weight', 'get organized'. The irony is that these resolutions apply exactly to her writing as well: lose the dead weight of all these encumbered sentence structures; get organized by talking about restaurants in restaurant reviews, movies in movie reviews. And, as she says, while talking about Izzy's menu, but really should apply to herself, eschew adjectives.

Another resolution that she could try to follow: get the fuck out of the Marina. Izzy's is at steiner and lombard.

[update: the link is now working. So it is not a worker who calls her on C&L being the best: After hearing me rave about my meal at C&L, a well-meaning friend inquired if I was sure that it was, as I called it, "the best little steakhouse in San Francisco." And her self-justification, where she ascertains she was right even though she did not know what she was talking about: [the steak was] nothing like the superb cornfed beef of the ambitious C&L.

I forgot to mention that her friend and his kid wore fedoras. I am sure I could have gotten some mileage out of that.]

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Phony objectivity. 

Yesterday (see a few posts below), in the name of objectivity (which really means not taking sides on any political matter, even when it would only show a sound moral judgement), the Chron wrote that: Gonzales has infuriated liberals [...] in crafting policies on torture.

Today's example of gutlessness:
When those [extra costs of war and tax cuts made permanent and such] are included, Bush is a long way from his goal of cutting deficits in half by 2009, Democrats said.

Why in the universe does the journalist add: Democrats said at the end? This is pure arithmetic, not a partisan issue. No need to hedge it behind some partisan cover. This is so spineless, this guy is afraid of writing something critical, yet true, in his own name. So 'Democrats said', and wink, wink, you don't have to believe it if you don't want to, it is only one of these things politicians say. Here is the template they work from: The administration said that 2+2=5. However, a Democrat offical contended that two plus two is only equal to four.

Monday, January 24, 2005

best restaurant reviews 

Actually, I have not read this blog regularly, so I don't know how good the restaurant reviews are (it can only be better than Meredith Brody's anyway), but chez Pim won the blog food award for best restaurant review. I am late, it was some time last year. Pim lives right here in SF, so congrats to her.


Prez. Bush wanted to spread freedom in his inaugural speech, but his dad said it did not mean a thing. Of course, only Giblets could provide the right perspective.

But one man's imagination is another man's reality: Gilbets' Freedom™ seems to be an infringement on a leading French brand of tampons and hygienic pads. It does not have fancy flavors, but cheery colors. Their slogan: "Freedom, ca veut dire liberte", "freedom, it is means freedom":

horse race 

This week it is Zachary Coile who is handicapping the derby at bay meadows. I believe the purpose of the Chronicle bureau is not to provide coverage of the issues, but to see how the different protagonists jockey to get their agenda forward. They turn the coverage of politics into 'sports section II': it does not matter who win in the big scheme of things (what journalists call 'objectivity' or 'impartiality'), and it only matter how they win.

I do cherry pick, sue me, but the article I link to is a good example of this. See:
The dilemma [over opposing bluntly or trying to work a compromise with Bush] will be front and center next week when the Senate votes on Bush's two most controversial nominees: Rice and Alberto Gonzales, the president's choice for attorney general, who has infuriated liberals for his role as White House counsel in crafting policies on torture and the detention of terrorism suspects.

Now, in absolute moral terms, crafting policies on torture should be an outrage to anyone. But in the horse race, it only infuriate[s] liberals, as everything is placed in a relative context: how does it help the team, and God forbids the journalist of taking a stand on moral grounds. Now Gonzales should be the Ron Artest of politics. Torture should be the equivalent of punching fans in the stand, which is were the sports section draws the line. But no, the sports section has more ethics than the Chronicle Washingon bureau, who will represent the issue has one of partisan choice.

bloggers unite 

The Chron has a technology Monday section featuring the unavoidable bloggers, so that bloggers can link to it. Here it is.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

galette, the end 

I was having lunch at my friends' in San Jose, and brought a galette (and a milk-braised pork roast). I thought of trying the galette from Fleur de cocoa in Los Gatos, which was recommended to me by a reader. Unfortunately, they are closed on their annual vacation. So instead of playing it safe and going back to Delanghe, I went to la nouvelle patisserie, and got a big pie there for $34.

First, it was not as good as Delanghe, almond was ground too coarse, and the almond custard was a bit on the heavier side. On the ridiculous side, they don't give the traditional paper crown that goes with it, they say "the guy we used to get them from ran out of business" and instead give a piece of gold ribbon. I was not too sure what do with it, and neither were they.

So, here is the final run-down of the san francisco galette contest: 1-delanghe, 2-the one I made myself, 3-la nouvelle patisserie, 4-bay bread.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

choice NOW 

The National Organization for Women just unfurled today a banner at the top of twin peaks -stating Health Choice- to celebrate the 32nd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Their website don't have a picture, but just look up, you'll see it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

foraging in the city's underground 

I receive quite a few visitors googling about the Urban Forage, so I took a look again at the ever-growing thread at indymedia. Some ex-employee is kind enough to detail the organization of the company, which started with two owners, got joined by two more, before two of them left. One of the last owners standing was Adrian, who also owns 333 Linden. 333 Linden is (was, it closed in the summer as I found out after a little -not work safe- googling, this guy has a Midas touch) a sex club in hayes valley, which puts in a whole different light the "love your planet" philosophy of the urban forage.

[update: SFleather message board url should be now working. Added parent advisory sticker to the link]

tabloid chron 

File under 'ooops, my fault': in the correction section of the Chron today, A caption [in the food section] mentioned wild mushrooms in a recipe. It referred to wild mushrooms purchased in markets, not scavenged in the wild.

File under 'eeeeek': An article about the former Mad dog in the fog's owner mentions the feats of the bar regulars: There was the homeless couple who used to have sex in the pub's backyard; Chelsea Jerry, the cab driver who once spent 22 hours in the bar; and the uncircumcised Irish chap who once put 20 quarters in his foreskin.

File under 'the little detail that makes it sound so true': "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth." reckons the man after his arrest for soliciting sex from an undercover officer.

It's all in the Chronicle.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

boomerang II 

The Chron article the Beinart mentions in the New Republic is another one, (my post below makes it seems that it was related to the two articles I commented about before) and the reason why Beinart calls it excellent is because he steals her thesis.

Her article is a mess as she conflates two things: private accounts and benefit cuts. She says some democrats support private accounts, and thus could have supported Bush's plan. But: private accounts are a good thing. What is a bad thing is to fund them by diverting revenues away from social security and basically financing the private accounts by borrowing trillions of dollars while at the same time running huge deficits.

Private accounts are good if they enable people to set aside more money for requirement, on top of social security benefits (which should be there in case the private account investments go enron up). This was the Clinton proposal she mentions. They are bad if implemented in a way which divert so much money that benefits have to be cut, and private account become an excuse for enacting these cuts.

Mrs. Lockhead says that because both sides see value in private account, then bipartisan compromise could have been possible. But she does not see that the purpose of private accounts in each case are fundamentally different and incompatible. As Brad DeLong (whose social security posts are a must read) would say: why oh why can't we have a better press corp?

[update: part of the answer to the last question is that Beinart or Lockhead are more interested in the horse race, that is how politician strategize, manipulate and influence each other and public opinion to get the result they want, as opposed to be interested in what is the actual benefit on society of these results. They would be in absolute awe and clap with both hands if the president would get passage of the 'everyone must eat fish on Fridays' act.]


By way of calpundit, I found this New Republic piece which puts forward the stupid arguments that George Bush hurt his agenda by strengthening his majority.

Basically it is saying that Social Security is a dead horse since Bush won't be able to create any appearance of bi-partisanship after the conservative democrats in the South, potential allies of such reform, have been kicked out to the curb last November.

The argument is dumb, as: a vote is a vote, and these democrats were replaced by a republican; Bush does not care about appearances; what made these democrats potential allies were a position out of line with the rest of the democrats on such topic as abortion or gun control, the so-called values. But there is no political gain in supporting social security benefit cuts, even in the south. Quite the contrary. Actually, Bush issues is not converting democrats, but convincing moderate republicans to stay on board.

Why do I mention this here? Because of this quote:
The most obvious example [of potential democratic allies kissed good bye in the last election], as Carolyn Lochhead recently pointed out in an excellent article in The San Francisco Chronicle, is Charlie Stenholm.

Yes, that series of articles which almost blindly repeated the basic talking point of the administration, was excellent. It was so good, Roger Duba had to write a letter to the editor:

Editor -- In her story on Social Security, Chronicle staff writer Carolyn Lochhead describes the Social Security "shortfall" as $10.4 trillion. This statement is made without attribution and apparently offered as fact. It is anything but fact. Rather it is a very controversial figure advanced by those who wish to scare the American public into supporting privatization of Social Security.

For years, Social Security trustees have based their actuarial projections for Social Security on a 75-year time frame. Last year, for the first time, they took the liberty of projecting these actuarial projections into infinity. Most European nations base their projections on not more than a 50-year time frame. So why go to infinity? Because it produced a bogus $10.4 trillion "shortfall," which the administration could use to support its claim that Social Security is facing a crisis.

Excellent reporting, Carolyn, indeed.

Bloggers unite. 

The SacBee has a feature on food bloggers, which mentions one of our favs, Becks & Posh, aka. Sam/Sixy Beast's blog. I have to admit that I would rely more on Sam's blog than on Meredith Brody's column to know about a given restaurant, and they seem to disagree on Saha for instance. The other blogs mentioned in the piece are only remotely local. But from chocolate and zucchini (A French girl who came to Silicon Valley to ride the last waves of the dot com era and now is back in Paris) I learned that Gaspar and Balthazar were trendy names in France for baby boys. FWIW, my baby boy's name is Eustache.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

nina hagen 

woaw, Nina Hagen at the DNA Lounge tomorrow. I had no idea she was still performing.

cover girl again. 

Two weeks in a row that Meredith Brody makes it to the cover of the paper edition of the Weekly. And we know what it means: awful review.

Well, actually, it is just bad, or 'par for the course', as Meredith would-be constituency says (if you eat foie gras every week, you must play golf). And they would be happy, this week, the rich and beautiful, what with her choice: Neiman Marcus' lobster! Yes, our lady of the langosta mentions eleven (eleven, ELEVEN!!) times her friendly crustacean.

After focusing last year on the domestic business man who just moved into the Market Hyatt, she now turns her attention to the foreign tourists, the one who will flock the city now that the dollar is so weak, and will rampage through the aisles of Neiman-Marcus. Oh, the Japanese woman shopping for her Vuitton bag, the Gulf Emirate lady, looking for some Hermes silk, the Eurozone upper crust women, who claim "the euro is so strong, it is cheaper than in Milan, the flight pays for itself": these are Meredith's comrade in arms. You go, girls. SF readers will wait, while the SF Weekly renames itself the Gideon Weekly in the hope of being in every night stand in every hotel room.

Meredith "I flunked French" Brody attempts again to convey some fluency in this language. She must hate it to butcher it such. First, she second guesses translators of Zola's title:

It's not by accident that Zola's wonderful novel about the rise of the department store, Au Bonheur des Dames, literally "At the Happiness of Ladies," is variously translated as The Ladies' Delight or The Ladies' Paradise.

No Meredith, it is not by accident, it is because they know French, and you don't. "Au" translates into "At the" or "To the", and both meanings are included in the name of a store (same as the "Chez" in a restaurant like Chez Panisse, by the way). The ambiguity conveys that if I am "at" the place "au bonheur", I should feel happy, and if I am not, I should go "to" it to feel happy. Her literal translation is literally crappy, as it eliminates one of the two meanings. I would not be surprised if she got it from some on-line translating automaton.

By the way, Zola's novel is about the demise of the small business across the street; the equivalent of the "bonheur des dames" department store today would be wal-mart. And Meredith was too busy dancing on Susan Sontag's grave last week to notice that shopping for fancy shoes is not exactly what provides happiness to the ladies nowadays. It might have worked in Zola's end of the 19th century, but we're in the 21st.

More bad French. I will quote the whole sentence, as it is the most ridiculous sentence every published, but it should be "Maison de la mode," not "Maison du Mode," about 120 words below:
I told the girls about my favorite vanished ladies' lunch spot, the Bullocks Wilshire Tearoom atop a landmark art deco building in Los Angeles, where I ate some of the weirdest food I'd ever seen (including a bizarre sandwich made of layers of ill-assorted fillings between many thin slices of spongy white bread, sliced like a fruitcake and served dribbled with Russian dressing and hard little beads of the worst fish-bait caviar known to man), which right up to the end featured heavily made-up models dressed in the store's fashions, who would sashay up to your table and pirouette slowly while intoning, "This little number of two-toned moire is available for $165.50 in our third-floor Maison du Mode," as all conversation froze and you would attempt to appear interested.

129 words in one sentence, and the editor is gone fishing. She was on such a roll that she followed this mammoth unreadable disaster with a creme brulee she describes as a doll-sized glassy-topped skating rink. See, a skating rink is big, but it is doll-sized, so it is not big, but she means it is big, but small at the same time. Conflicting metaphors are so complicated, her head must be hurting. Mr. Editor, is the fish catching?

Oh, and the self-deprecating joke which only underlines how clueless she is: for a sweet-and-sour sauce, she imagines two separate creams. It would be funny if she was not a food reviewer, you know, one who gets paid to know that you don't get two dishes when you order sweet-and-sour chicken.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Social Insecurity 

Last week I read this Chronicle piece about the trial of the executive at WorldCom. What I would like to mention is this:

Dan Hanson, a network engineer, for example, was forced to abandon an early-retirement plan after the scandal wiped out a nest egg of WorldCom stock that had been valued at $2.5 million at its peak in 1999. "It meant I had to start over in saving for my retirement," says Mr. Hanson, who says he will follow the trial. "It was ugly."

And the question is: how does privatization of Social Security deals with this situation. If it is a 'personal savings account', nothing can prevent you from investing it in a single stock, especially the one you know the best, the company you work for. And who could fault him, he got $2.5 million for it in 1999, and his management basically f*cked him up. So either you have a safety net for the people who wipe out in the stock market (which would look a lot like social security as it is now) or you have people invest in risk-free stuff for a significant portion of their savings. Invest in bonds, say, just like the SocSec trust fund does right now. Not so 'personal saving' after all.

they are no fool. 

The Chronicle ran yesterday yet another piece of Schwarzeganda, titled Pumping Him Up. In it, you'll find this nugget:

With his public-relations arsenal, the former bodybuilder and movie star has direct access to media vehicles that offer promotion and relentlessly positive coverage of his interests -- at a time when he is on the stump pitching his budget and political proposals to voters.

Oh, but the Chronicle is no fool, putting the story on the front page, above the fold, with a giant picture of a young Arnold flexing is muscles, and positive coverage of his "promoting fitness" by being editor of some muscle mags.

happy birthday 

Le Blog de SF has been up and running for a year now, and Meredith Brody still sucks and survives the onslaught of snark coming from us. And I did not even get a lousy T-shirt out of it. At least, SFist wished us an early happy birthday, linking to our first post ever. Thanks to all who read this!

Friday, January 14, 2005

cable time? 

The Food Network is planning to make a series of Iron Chef America. First in the series, the Battle Buffalo, between Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill in Chicago, and Bobby Flay, of Mesa in New-York.

Here in San Francisco, we should feel slighted, as the show is shot in New-York, and the chefs are mostly East coaster: on top of Flay, and Bayless, there is Mario Batali, of Babbo and Lupa in New York, and Masaharu Morimoto, formerly the executive chef at Nobu in New York. The network has also anointed the first female Iron Chef, Cat Cora, a well-traveled New York chef. They will be tested by challengers like Ming Tsai, of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass.; Alex Lee, the executive chef at Daniel in New York; and Roberto Donna of Galileo in Washington.

I won't order cable though, until I can see our celebrity chefs on tv. Mina vs. Danko for Battle Goose Liver, and Waters take on Rodgers for Battle Fritata.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

what the Chron coverage of SoSec could have been 

From CBS Marketwatch.

cover girl 

Whenever Meredith Brody is quoted on the cover of the Weekly, you know it is going to be an awful review.

And indeed it is. Her opening is an attempt to out-Proust Proust, by having the news of Susan Sontag's death trigger the memory of her dinner that triggered the memory of some restaurant in New-York where she had dinner at the same time as Sontag. The madeleine-squared device is trite and tired.

Then she goes on the Sontag topic. Well, it is superfluous enough in a food review to have an obituary for a writer. But it is also superfluous in an obituary to demean and belittle the deceased. How tasteless. Meredith tells a story which place Sontag in an unfavorable light, and that is petty, very petty of Meredith to do so. I promise here than when Meredith is eventually fired from the Weekly, my parting lines will be, even though she sucks and will probably suck all the way: Meredith Brody, she ate her lobster bravely.

She shows how stupid she is, when talking about this restaurant in NY: "What a wonderful place to have as your neighborhood restaurant," I'd think enviously, even though Miss Ruby's was just a brisk walk from my own apartment. So she is jealous of Sontag's place, even though it is her neighborhood restaurant as well???

She shows how clueless she is, by putting more French in her review than she can handle. Remember, her claim to expertise in terms of food is that she studied in Paris. She's trying to rub it in.
She's in luck, I am French, let's see how she fares:

1- the soothing appeal of the soup du jour (or nuit, as Oola serves dinner only). WRONG, it would be "soupe du jour," as jour means the whole day. It could have been "soupe du soir," if you really wanted to, but never ever "soupe de la nuit," which is only ridiculous.

2- foie gras cooked à la torchon . WRONG, it would be "foie gras au torchon," as torchon is a masculine name in French. Somehow I am not surprised to see a mention of foie gras, though.

3- a side of heady, long-cooked lamb daube. WRONG, daube is not a side, but a main dish. It is probably the wrong word to use in this context.

4- brunoise. Ok, she is RIGHT, she used brunoise correctly. Now, remind me how many SF Weekly readers will know what a brunoise is?

Well, at least Meredith is not afraid of exposing herself as a fool.

Meredith is still on the track for the Road Warrior AirMiles iDine Food Whore Award, visiting a place a block and a half away from the Argent Hotel (Meredith, argent is French for silver and/or money) and the W. hotel. To keep the business traveller happy, she sacrifices her body, trying the foie gras and five (FIVE) dishes which involve TRUFFLED-this or that.

Meredith's 2005 resolution: "Truffle is the new foie gras."

social security, part II 

We continue the coverage of the Chron's coverage of the social insecurity debate.

First, the subtitle of the headline is: Both parties ignore problems with their Social Security plans. What a joke: the Democrats believe (and the reality-based community as well) that there is no urgent SoSec crisis. Yet, they are supposed to bring a plan to solve what they consider a minor problem! And even if there was a real problem and they had a bulletproof plan, they do not hold the Presidency or a majority in either house, so could not do anything with it but wipe their metaphorical asses.

Carolyn does state today: "And while the president insisted Social Security would be "flat bust, bankrupt" by the time workers in their 20s retired, many analysts say even if nothing changes, those workers would still receive three-quarters of the retirement benefits they are promised today."

She does expose the president for telling a big LIE, and she does not remember writing yesterday, that the current "saving" proposal would change the indexing from wage-based to inflation-based: "That change alone would reduce scheduled benefits by as much as 46 percent for workers retiring in 2075." Do nothing, lose 25%, "save" it, lose 46%. I'd rather not be "saved."

Then she mentions the "magic" dates of the program: The first is 2008, now three years away, when the oldest of the Baby Boom generation retire and stop paying taxes and start collecting Social Security. That's when the surplus payroll taxes that several congresses and administrations have been spending on other programs start to decline, adding pressure to the federal government's budget.

So in 2008, the governement will not be able to borrow as much from social security. That is not actually SoSec's problem, it is the general fund problem. But Carolyn feeds it to us as if there was no difference. Then, in 2018, the general fund will have to re-imburse social security for the money it borrowed. Thus the pressure.

So I agree with Carolyn that there is pressure. But Carolyn states it as if it was Social Security who is responsible for the general budget deficit! The Center on Budget and Priority Policy has calculated the cost of the Social Security deficit for the next 75 years at $3.8 trillion. It is a lot, but it is nothing compared to the cost of the tax cuts enacted by Bush in 2001 and 2003: they cost the general fund $12 to $14 trillion. So, Carolyn, what exactly is putting pressure on the federal budget? Did Bush know in 2003 that the governement would not be able to borrow as much from Social Security revenues in 2008? You bet he did. When he took office, the federal budget was running a surplus, and was able to pay back Social Security (it was Al Gore's intention). He just wasted it on a tax cut for the rich. Would Carolyn explain to us where the pressure on the federal governement's budgetis coming from? Of course not.

One last point. The article ends with a quote from Rep. D-Michigan, Sander Levin: "There are some who ideologically want to change Social Security from a public to a private function. That's what this argument is all about.

Well, gutting social security would also allow to not repay the federal governement debt to it, thus making Bush tax-cut-for-the-rich less unsustainable, and would dangle a huge carrot in front of Wall Street lobbies, ensuring the Republican party a nice funding stream. But on the ideological argument, Social Security has to be a public function. Here is the reason: if I save privately on my retirement account, I have a sum of money when I turn 65. Now, what do I do with it?

1-I can draw every month until I die. It is fine, unless, what if I don't die? What if I turn 80, then 85, then 90? Then I am screwed. Run out of money. I might have had a little more under a private account, but if I saved based on a 75 year life expectancy, ie. a 10 year retirement, I got nothing left at 90. If my retirement is 25 years, I'm out of luck.

2-I can invest the sum into an annuity. Then I get screwed right away. It is because annuity are way more expensive: I would have to give the company who sells me the annuity enough to cover for the annuity plus the risk that I live long enough. Since people who will buy the annuity (as opposed to taking the lump sum) are those who themselves expect to live longer (healthy lifestyle, no health problem history), the company has to take a substancial chunk to insure itself against the risk of longevity. This is called adverse selection. Whatever little I gained with a private account disappears, and then some, into the cost of the annuity.

Social Security is an insurance against old age. Insurance works by spreading the risks over a lot of person. By covering everyone, Social Security ensures that the average length of retirement is a statistical given: say 15.27 years. And the cost of anyone living a 100 is compensated on average by someone dying at 65 and a month. Because everyone is enrolled, the issue of adverse selection does not creep back in.

These points I would have liked Carolyn to discuss, but she is too busy trying to appear even handed, to say that 'both sides' are misleading, when one tells blatant lies, and the other slightly fudges on the details.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

social club 

1751 Social club is a restaurant/lounge on fulton at masonic. Food is uneven (fried shrimp appetizer to bready and dried up, sea bass very good, ribs okay, rum and raisin bread pudding not moist at all) but there are a few dishes under 10 bucks. They target the USF crowd up the street. A mystery is: they pretend to have a kobe beef burger for $7.95. Kobe beef costs way too much for this.

The reason I mention the place here is: they have a Martini Monday special, where any martini is $3. I lucked into it by ordering a gibson. Special lasts all night, so no happy hour curfiew. '$3 pitchers of michelob' night on Tuesdays might get rowdy.

crisis, II 

Below I quoted the Chron's article about social security, and I did not mention the most egregious display of disinformation:
The president is promoting his plan even though Social Security is running a surplus as workers contribute more in payroll taxes than is paid out in benefits to retirees. But that will reverse when the huge Baby Boom generation stops working and starts collecting benefits. The oldest of the Baby Boomers will retire in just four years, and by 2018, payroll taxes no longer will fully cover benefits. Waiting to fix the problem will force much more drastic changes, because there will be no time to slowly accumulate cost savings.

I emphasized what is a talking point from the administration: in 2018, social security taxes will not cover to pay the benefits. Ergo, there is a crisis.
Yes, the first part is true, but it is not a crisis, it is part of the plan. I think it was in 1983, Reagan appointed a commission headed by Greenspan which decided this: to help pay for the costs of baby boomers, they were going to raise the social security taxes on these baby boomers to pre-fund their retirement. So social security ran a surplus, and this surplus was set aside in a trust fund. In 2018, social security will start drawing from the trust fund. There is no problem to fix here.

The problem is: what happens when the trust fund runs out. Well, this will happen in 2042, or in 2052, or never. 2042 is the estimate of the Social Security trustees. Never is if productivity growth stays at the level of the last decade. But if it never happens, there is no crisis?

As she says: Much depends on the definition of crisis

Crisis at the Chron. 

While Gavin divorce go 'above the fold' real-estate, the social security debate did not get such luck from the Chron today. We should feel lucky it is in the front page.

The headline is: 'SS debate starts in earnest today,' and I am hoping that the article will be earnest as well. Then again, I am a dreamer. Carlyn Lockhead, of the Chron Washington Bureau, is as much as a hack as the SF Chron people.

For example, she mentions lobbying groups: Well-heeled lobbying groups such as AARP promise to apply every bit of their firepower to defeat the plan. But if you search for other lobbying group, those who favor the plan (ie. Wall Street, who could get hundreds of billions of dollars in management fees*), you won't find any. Lobbyists, schmobbyists.

Then she quotes the Wehner memo. When I read the memo, the sentences that struck me was: For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win. This memo states it clearly, this is not a debate to save Social Security, it is a battle to undo it. But Carolyn only quotes the 'scary' part of the memo, those who make it look like there is a crisis.

Then she quotes the Democrats answer to the proposal:
The Democrats' chief line of attack so far is that Social Security does not face a crisis, and the question is debatable enough to sow plenty of public confusion. Much depends on the definition of crisis.

Thank God Carolyn's task is not to explain the subject so that there would be less public confusion! Her job is to muddy the debate so that it becomes a partisan choice, not a reality-based choice.

Let's see how debatable the question is: the proposal in the Wehner memo calls for price indexing of the benefits instead of wage indexing. Even Carolyn says that:
That change alone would reduce scheduled benefits by as much as 46 percent for workers retiring in 2075.

HOW ABOUT IF WE DO NOTHING, CAROLYN? Well, the reduction of benefits for retirees in 2075 would be about 75% of what they would get had the systems be fixed, according to the Social Security Trustee. That is a 25% cut. So yes, there is confusion, but only because you fail to explain it simply.

*From NY magazine, by way of TPM:8. The president will ram Social Security “reform” through Congress by getting brokerage houses to lobby for the change.
George Bush will promise Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Schwab, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns the contract to privatize Social Security and let them be the administrators of the project. These firms will then get their employees to give millions to politicians who are on the fence. Their stocks will triple in value from the prospect of the new business, they’ll pressure the Republican-led Congress for swift passage in the fall of 2005, and the deal will get done.

We have the scoop 

Last week, the Chron put on their front page the divorce of Gavin and Kimberly (no last names required). I thought it was a bit too much, a bit too people, but the Chron is not in the business of teaching, explaining or educating, it is in the business of selling paper.

Today, there is a huge picture of Gavin on the front page of section B.

And, obviously, with such attention given to the private life of our pretty boy, the item below, if I cared to read it, has to be: "Gavin is a lefty".

new year resolutions. 

yesterday, overflowing parking lot at my gym.

Monday, January 10, 2005

galette trilogy 

Delanghe (see post below somewhere) does have a galette, and IT IS DELICIOUS. Head and shoulders above the Bay bread one. The pastry chef (I have to assume it is Mr. Delanghe) says roughly that "he will make them throughout January, as we, French people, are procrastinators." Oh, and if you do buy a galette, you have to re-heat it in the oven slightly before serving. Makes the pate feuilletee taste better.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

chowhound, part III. 

I need a last post to make a 3 parts series. Thanks to Sam, aka. Sixy Beast, we have the last post on Chowhound about Meredith Brody. (The Chowhound moderators stepped in to prevent her from being eviscerated any further).

Ok, Sixy Beast is not one to defend Ms Brody, but then again, who is? She says: I was amused by the similarity between her and my comments regarding the ten crust pizza. If she didn't read chowhound, I would put it down to coincidence but since she admitted she had read our Saha posts, I am assuming she was maybe influenced by my thoughts regarding the dish.

[Meredith Brody] says:
"he chooses the Ten Crust Pizza, ... that seems like something you would throw together for an impromptu cocktail party"

[Sam] had previously said*
"the Ten Crust Pizza which turned out to be an open flaky pastry tart not dissimilar to something I make regularly at home."

Granted, Sixy Beast, it looks like she stole your stuff, but you gotta give her the benefit of the doubt, it is not like Meredith "I got my ethics from Ken Lay" Brody has stepped close to plagiarism a few times already.

I did not find the chowhound post, so I link to the copy she made on her blog at the time.

Friday, January 07, 2005

more chowhound. 

More like minded people: looking around chowhound archives, I saw that Katya's question (in the post below) was not so innocent. Here is what Katya wrote in June 2003:
Yeah, I get sick of her talking about what cultural events she goes to around town until finally halfway through she gets down to the restaurant review.

And the 'Yeah' is in reply to celeryroot who says, : Yes [SF Chron Bill Daley sucks] and so does Meridth Brody in SF Weekly. I no longer read. Come on, guys, San Francisco is the city of love.

Paul H is more polite, in May 2003: In a recent SF Weekly review, Meredith Brody mentions Sapporo-Ya [...] as a good noodle shop. As usual in a Brody review, the restaurant and the food are an afterthought to whatever social activity is afoot...

Oh, and when I joked that LA would not take her back, I had not found this yet on the LA chowhound boards: I'm happy to have Meredith Brody out of my life. In his life? He was reading his LA New Times a little too closely.

To which joseaway replies, which such passion I had to edit for spelling: I CONCUR--Thank God Meredith is gone. My only other wish is that any other person who writes like her would vanish!!


Meredith Brody mentioned the chowhound board in her last opus.

She says her friend would not go to a fusion restaurant, but changed his mind after reading good things about the place she reviews, Saha, on Chowhound. I do post on chowhound (I got tipped for the galette des rois at Patisserie Delanghe there for instance), so I was curious to read the series of posts titled: Chowhound Shout-Out in SF Weekly Saha Review which just popped up today.

Katya asks: Curious if anyone had seen the SF Weekly review of Saha? There's a shout-out to Chowhound therein since Meredith Brody was tipped off about Saha by a Chowhounder. She then goes The review leaves me with the question... Who said if she won the lottery she'd have this chef cook for her? I seem to recall it was Melanie?...

To which Frosty Melon -formerly known as ChowderHead- helpfully replies: I think it was Pssst. So far, so good.

Then Susancinsf starts noticing stuff: I recently posted a positive review, and will say that my experience doesn't match the SF weekly review in a number of ways, though I am in agreement that the lighting needs work [...]the pita was perfectly toasted, there was indeed baklava (though the complaining about the lack of baklava seems odd at a restaurant that the reviewer acknowledges labels itself as 'fusion'),the red curry tofu was anything but bland, and the portions were very generous, unless you are a teenage boy.....

Who to believe, Susan or our ace reviewer? Come on, Meredith is the only double diplomate of the Cordon Bleu.

Well, Katya chooses to support Susan: Yeah, I was thinking about that, too - she shared 4 starters with another person, an entree, and dessert, and she was *still* hungry?

And then Pssst jumps in. Remember, Psst is the person Meredith quoted in her review, "whenever I play the lottery, I imagine hiring the chef to cook my every meal". What did Pssst think of Meredith's review?

BTW, I've always considered Brody to be one of the more unreliable sources for good information and have never enjoyed her writing "style". I can only hope that one day Meredith "Talentless Hack" Brody would go back to LA.

Pssst, we made the phone calls, but LA won't take her back!


Welcome the laughing squid to the world of bloggy goodness. The Laughing Squid is an artist organization in the chicken john side of the burning man nebula, from what I understand. Anyhow, it's cool stuff.

Galette des rois 

The NYTimes has a feature about our delicious galette de rois.

For those wondering, it seems that beyond the 'boulangerie' mentioned below, the patisserie Delanghe on fillmore st. in San Francisco carries the galette. I called and they say they have it. They are at the corner of Fillmore and Bush. They'll be closed tonight when I get back, but I might try it tomorrow.

I'll post my recipe if I find it in the mess of my kitchen bookshelf.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

another thursday special 

Tangerine, at the corner of 16th and sanchez, as a $9.95 entree special on Thursdays. Just saw the sign today. Sounds like a good deal to me, if there are no fine prints (entrees are priced up to $17.95).

bay blogger thursday 

Woaw, we are the subject of a post at SFist! Thank you, Jackson! And thanks for the birthday gift. Man, you are gonna break my sitemeter. You shouldn't have. Let me give you a hug...

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A night for chili. 

Meredith Brody is making a strong case for her Bulwer-Lytton Award. Meredith's night is not, as Bulwer-Lytton's, dark and stormy, but it is definitely chilly.

This week, we have: we went there for dinner on a chilly night. and Another chilly night, another dinner. As they say, a chilly night? chili for dinner.

Two weeks ago: ...on the chilly night that Garrett, Nate, Flo, and I showed up for dinner.

The week before: the room seemed soigné, warm and welcoming on that chilly night.

It is a New Year, but Meredith is still punching the clock the same way. Her first foray into 2005 leads her to a familiar setting: some hotel restaurant around Union Square. And in a very unintentional irony, she, of the bland review, titles it: 'the bland leading the bland'.

happy new year 

light posting over the new year transition is hopefully over. Thanks for reading this, and best wishes to you all.

four more shows 

Last night I went to Yoshi's for Benny Green and Russell Malone. Those guys rock. Benny Green is more melodic and nonchalant in his piano playing, with lot of spacing and intruiguing re-harmonization. Russell Malone is more intense and plays guitar with amazing virtuosity, stepping out of the chords once in a while. But complement each other and understand each other so well. It was sheer pleasure to listen too. They played stuff from the two cds they made together (links below), plus some standards, even a request from the audience, 'have you met miss jones'. Plus, yoshi's let us stay for the second show for free, did not even clear the room. Benny and Russell casually hung out in the room in between the shows, kindly signing copies of cds to a bunch of people, including me.

They play two more nights, two shows each, 8pm ($14) and 10pm ($10), and they are not to be missed.

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