Friday, November 30, 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Trump Threatens iPhone Tariffs

I've been repeatedly stressing my worry about existential danger to Apple in the event that China really puts the screws to them.

Tariffs aren't a major long term concern, and they don't terrify investors much, either. Apple's stock is edging upward in spite of Cheetoh Jesus spouting some ignorant nonsense about how a tariff on iPhones would be a not-bad thing.

The Chinese could kick Apple out of China (e.g. if they consider them competition to some state-owned technology), or create conditions where Apple has no choice to pull out. They could devise all sorts of horrors, and that's my worry. Tariffs - from either side - would be a drag, and might mean waiting for a new president before I can recoup my investment. But it wouldn't panic me.

China really putting the screws to Apple would be very, very bad. And so far I don't see that on the horizon, knock aluminum alloy.

Much more amusingly: Dad Photoshops Daughter Into Dangerous Situations To Freak Out Relatives

Once the Con is Gone

When the MAGA diehards finally acknowledge the con, there will be no redemption. They will still hate Democrats just as much, while plunging into a deep cynicism leaving them still more vulnerable to demagoguery and extremism. There will be conciliation among moderates, but extremists gonna extreme.

Want to empathize just a bit? Consider: did you buy into Snowden/Assange when they first arose? Have you since realized their thing was hooey? Are you now recognizing that our intelligence community is professional, not totalitarian, and are you rooting for them to save us from this predicament? Do you recognize yet that Snowden/Assange were active measures in the same operation that brought us this horrific mess?

If no, give it another year (and a thorough digestion of Mueller's report, if it sees light of day), you'll get there. But if so, ask yourself: how embarrassed are you about having been caught up in all that? How publicly confessional? How much have you "hugged it out" with the squares who branded Snowden a traitor and Assange a jackal back in the day? Will they experience your redemption?

Never Count on Redemption

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Swooping Home From Detroit

Since earliest childhood, I've had an utter fascination with high-speed travel. Scramjets (10x faster than current aircraft; NYC to Sydney in two hours!), vacuum tubes, maglevs, bullet trains, and the whole beautiful gamut of clever schemes for interstellar travel; I can dive into this stuff all day, completely absorbed.

It's not about speed, per se. I do drive fast, and would have probably enjoyed being a race car driver. But it's not the pure velocity that appeals to me, so much as the notion of fast transit. I was easily bored as a kid, and car trips felt endless (my father had the habit of driving the final few miles home from a long car trip with regal languor - I nearly stroke out just remembering it). Planes and trains were similarly pokey for my taste. It seemed somehow wrong - almost insultingly so - that conveyance was so earthwormly slow.

I've had a recurrent dream since early childhood where I'm zooming cross-country. It's not clear if I'm on the ground or in the air, but I'm tearing through states like nothing.

Wow. I just remembered where this came from! It was the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs tunnels across a map of the United States, ends up in the wrong destination, and remarks "I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!" Something about this macro view of travel really appealed to me. I wanted it!

So in my dream, I chew up prodigious map distances, gracefully segueing from region to region, executing macro turns to go south (Florida!) or north (Canada!). I'm like Bugs on the map.

Only once have I actually managed this in real life. Driving home from Detroit once, I actually had the sensation of swooping from Detroit to New York.

Let me explain. Virtually no one has ever driven from NYC to Boston. We drive from NYC to the Bronx, and from the Bronx into Westchester, from there into Connecticut, then through a boring patch, possibly involving bathrooms and food. Then we drive to Sturbridge Mass to get on the Mass Pike. From there we might glide into Boston in more or less one swoop. But the drive, overall, is six drives, minimum, and more often 60 or 600. I defy you to get in a car in NYC and simply drive to Boston. You can't do it. You will lose the flow. It will fragment.

But one time I managed to actually drive home from Detroit. There were two major highway interchanges, and I watched myself execute them on a very large mental map. A left at Toledo and a right at Cleveland. I never lost the big picture - the swoop - of it. Particularly one-pointed was the portion from Eastern Pennsylvania to New York, which played out like gliding through a vast tunnel - or like a marathon's final mile with the stadium distantly in view. The drive was one of my proudest accomplishments.

I will, alas, not live to travel through a suboceanic tube from the East Coast to Europe at 5000 mph. Nor will I travel on a generational light sail vessel to Alpha Centauri. These will be my sole dying regrets (however I will, I think, get to go to bed in a self-driving camper and wake up in front of a carefully chosen diner in Maine when I'm old and otherwise unable to manage such an odyssey). But at least I did once swoop home from Detroit.

P.S. - There is a Maglev train connecting Shanghai Airport with the city. It completes the 19 mile journey in 7.5 minutes (!!), topping out at 268 mph. This makes Shanghai airport layovers a very interesting prospect! (The big question is whether there's anything good to eat near Longyang Road Station - the maglev's terminus - or if one must board the metro.)

P.P.S. - If that Bugs Bunny episode had an effect on you, too, then I invite you to witness the following. A good deal of my adult neurotic fear and dread traces directly back to the "Child Catcher" scene from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which I didn't consciously remember until recently stumbling across it:

Monday, November 26, 2018

Another Bite of AAPL

I bought a bunch more Apple stock at $172, following my previous buy at $192. I've kept some cash on hand to buy still more in case it sinks further, but I'll be very happy with a 33% profit once it recovers to its previous high - or more as it shoots even higher (every lengthy dip in Apple's history has been followed by a new high - though I know I can't count on that happening forever, so I sell incrementally as the stock snaps back).

If it takes a year or more to recover, yippee. That means I'll pay low long-term capital gains taxes.

If China attacks Apple as part of the trade war (which no one is currently predicting), I may not get that profit after all, but I doubt I'd incur much loss.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Downshifting to Accelerate

This year the Slog turned ten years old. A writer friend had warned me early on that I'd quickly run out of things to write about. For some reason, that hasn't been a problem.

At the time I launched Chowhound, I was a "hot" writer. I'd just published my first book, which was very well reviewed, and was starting to get busy as a freelancer after several years as a cult figure. After a thoroughly deflating job offer from the Daily News (story here), I decided to chuck it all and went to ground with a flaky web community. I was abandoning my shot at The Big Time - it felt like a stabbing wound - but it seemed right to go small-time, so I stuck with it. I'm assuming most of you have read the tale of how it turned out, so you know it wasn't entirely a success story from my perspective, but one thing's for sure: it wasn't small-time.

Upon finally leaving Chowhound, no one remembered I'd ever been a writer. I was treated brusquely by a succession of editors and publishers I approached (one old contact, having reached a lofty position, asked me how my trombone playing had been going), and, once again, I went to ground, this time with a, Slog. There would be no small-time/big-time inversion, however. While web sites were sexy in 1997 (I reluctantly admit that Chowhound's success had more to do with the currency of its platform than the merits of my vision), blogs definitely were not circa 2008. Also, by writing about a very broad sweep of topics - and not pre-masticating every thought - I ensured there'd be something to repel every reader. As I'd rued very early on (in fact - ha! - it was only one month after the Slog's launch), narrowed scope is essential for building a crowd.

So this never blew up. In the long view, it's been a shaggy dog story where I kept upping my game out of gleeful curiosity to discover whether there was any level of insight great enough to procure wider attention. Eventually I looked back and realized I'd brewed up a theology, a cosmology, a slew of successful predictions and several hundred original insights.

Links to this Slog could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and the average post is read by a few dozen souls, so in that sense it's been a failure (not that I'm not pleased to have you!). But I would never have generated those ideas and insights if I'd tried to publish all my material in magazines, web sites, and books, under the uncomprehending gaze of haughty media gatekeepers. I wouldn't know even a fraction of what I've uncovered here, at least not in any conscious, articulated way. 

Twice I've ripped my attention away from The Big Time to take a painfully amateurish diversion with surprising results. Having tolerated the stabbing sensation of those extreme downshifts, and applied my ant-like work ethic, I was twice rewarded with the sight of something unexpectedly ambitious heaving itself into existence. As if by magic.

See "The Inside Story on Asceticism" and "Deprivation" for more on deliberately cutting back growth to stimulate fuller foliage.

Why American Biz Rejects Chowhoundishness

Me: Why is there no super-competent wine bar in the Finger Lakes, where you can go try glasses of the best stuff, without needing to trek around to far-flung tasting rooms?

Local Wine Expert Friend: The best-selling Fingerlakes wine is Haslitt Red Cat, which is sweet hybrid swill. It would take a leap of faith for someone to open a top-notch wine bar.

He's right, and, unfortunately, this sort of thinking is seen everywhere. I first noticed it back in high school, when I went to the beach with friends who had good taste in music but chose to blast awful pop on the portable radio because “girls don’t like Frank Zappa”. We could have tractor-beamed every cool Zappa-loving girl on the beach and enjoyed an awesome summer, but instead we drew marginal bored attention from boring normals (while afflicting ourselves). It made not a bit of sense to me. Why aim for every single girl? We're smarter than orangutans!

It drives me crazy to see this thinking in nearly all business markets. It's tautological: they proffer only crap, because low-quality's the norm. I.e. they give consumers what they want, and what consumers want is what they give them. To me, it seems obvious that while 80% will indeed gladly accept crap, the 20% who care about quality - not just richy-rich snobs, but any folks who eschew the most well-trodden consumer pathways - also constitute a worthy (and scalable) market.

No. American business - even small business - usually ignores that 20%. One doesn’t need 80% of a town's population as patrons; 20% would do nicely. Yet most everyone chases the 80%, and this is why quality is so lumpy and chowhounding, even at this late date, still feels so against-the-grain.

I certainly understand why most aim for the 80%. But given that capitalism abhors a vacuum, I can't understand why the opportunity created by this neglect is so seldom pursued. Three hypotheses, none of them hopeful:

1. Statistical naiveté (i.e. "80% is more than 20%, and who doesn't want 'more'?").

2. It's harder to traffic in quality...and harder to please the intrinsically hard-to-please. You must really know your stuff, and keep up. You can't just blithely phone in an order for X pallets of commoditized widgets, ala The Sims. When "the product" is more than a bland variable, business complexity is substantially increased.

3. The notion that "better" might be preferred on the merits, rather than via luxury cache, is relatively new, and capitalism, which is far more laggy than Adam Smith anticipated, has not yet processed this new norm. For example, Danny Meyer's 1985 brainstorm of opening an everyday-ish cafe that happened to be way better quality than usual - and the success which ensued for Union Square Cafe - still has not been fully absorbed by the restaurant industry (or even by Meyer himself).

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Monster Tots and Angels

I had the awful luck on my shatteringly early flight home from Spain to find myself seated in front of a babbling toddler. While he kept up his ceaseless patter, I assumed my pained traveler facial expression, pinching the bridge of my nose. Oh, man.

We've all been there, including the inevitable part where he curiously pitched forward to explore the crack between the seats in front of him - i.e. the space just behind my skull - where he began singing some incoherent toddler song right in my ear, the grubby little monster.

As I began to whimsically consider the murderous potential of the various objects in my backpack, I paused to consider whether I might be overreacting. There'd been no screaming or crying. No kicking of seatbacks. And his song was actually oddly soothing. In fact, I was surprised to find my eyes tearing up a little, and my muscles relaxing.

A few minutes before, I'd passed through the airport where many years ago the comely manager of security - whose name I never knew - and I had fallen in love while she dashed me through the obstacle course moments before my flight's push-back (I briefly told the tale here). She shepherded me through the gate, I stepped into the plane, the door began to be shut, and we both peered back in synchronized startled recognition. Please find your seat, sir.

It takes a lot to make me peer at my life through drama glasses - to shift to the cinematic view of it all, or to dwell upon the absent. But this stretch of BCN's airport corridor is a perennially tricky traverse, one of my few enduring raw spots. I was still shaky as I boarded the plane and took my seat.

But then a soothing song was sung to me, so intimately, by the clichéd monster tot from the row behind.

I guess this is pretty much the archetypal Slog posting. Trace the evolution of the perspective here. Or consider this. And note that this is 100% perceptual framing all around.

Most importantly: this would be an especially good moment to reread this posting about angels.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Unintended Consequences Of Health Apps

So while you were freezing your asses off, I was strolling the sunny streets of Barcelona, another of my cheap travel deals.

Hello, my beauties:
It was 60 degrees there, and the locals, dressed in parkas, gaped at me like a crazy man for walking around in a t-shirt (I explained to a few that I was there to “warm up”, which only confirmed suspicions).

So I spent a lot of time enjoying the weather. Seeing as how I'm the last person on earth to have realized that iPhones track your walking, I’ve been getting a kick out of this feature for the past few months. And, wow, check this out:

I knew that I walk a lot while traveling, but I’d figured it was more like 2 or 3 miles/day. Given that I was burning the bejesus out of my calories, I scarcely felt compelled to refuse extra slices of fried potato omelet. And so my 100% extra exercise was negated by 125% extra eating, and I gained a couple of pounds.

Without this super-helpful health-forward app, I’d have eaten much more normally.

OTOH, my metabolism really juiced up. I came back with fingernails like claws. Lots of activity and plenty of well-distributed eating seem to be the way out of metabolic syndrome (the unhealthy state of a body that believes it's starving and has hunkered down into calorie conservation mode), though it's best if that eating is well-balanced re: protein/carb/fat, and sticks to lean protein, healthy fat, and complex carbs.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What Aging Is

Ah, okay. I get it now. I see what Aging is.

Back when people got old in their 60s and were largely immobile and drooling by age 70, it made sense to start falling apart circa age 55. We were gradually shown that things were winding down. It was a kindness; a gentle pivot to denouement.

Like the music on Final Jeopardy, or the orchestra swelling during an Oscar acceptance speech, we were told to start wrapping things up. Nothing extreme! Vision gets blurry, hearing gets scratchy, everything hurts a little, and recovery becomes a slog. Body parts become more like inanimate objects - less able to self-repair, they carry the cumulative damage of every minor indignity.

Having offered due notice, god (or whatever) avoids liability. It's not like you didn't have ample fair warning!

But in an era when most of us expect to live past our mid 80s, these middle-age warning shots no longer serve their intended purpose. Instead, they augur an entirely gratuitous headwind; a snide reminder that the impending three decades will be spent battling obsolete artifacts of diminishment.

I'm not bitter. I accept. It sure beats the alternative! But I hadn’t realized how pointless these challenges are, given current lifespans. The timer incessantly rings, but dinner's nowhere near cooked!

There's no choice but to embrace these vestigial alarms. That's the only way to play it.

Buying Apple Again

I bought Apple stock at $192, down 17% from its high. I expect to make a painless 17%+ profit, so long as I'm patient enough - and have a strong enough stomach to watch it dive even lower first (if it does, and I expect it will, I'll keep buying more).

Here's the con currently at work: Apple, as an immense corporation, doesn't handle production and stocking like a normal company does. It uses very sophisticated and counterintuitive methods (this is Tim Cook's seldom-mentioned genius expertise, btw) that don't necessarily appear rational when viewed in some arbitrarily thin slice. Tim Cook has publicly noted this several times, and all Apple analysts and journalists understand this, yet the newsfeed at Yahoo Finance reveals a very large number of crappy news sources repeating "disappointing" stats for iPhone supplies/stocking, many of them using scary language. Like Russian social media bots, it's starting to contaminate mainstream channels, as well.

Even if the reports are correct - even if the new iPhones are less than the expected breakout hit - it hardly justifies a 17% downturn. So analysts and journalists who know these stats are deceiving, and know this sell-off is already irrational, and who've witnessed this same con a number of times before, are, for various reasons, piling on and exacerbating it. The big reason, as always, is money. There's profit to be made on a plunge, and while I'm nowhere near savvy enough (much less quick enough) to benefit from the downturn, I, by sheer virtue of brutish patience and contrarianism, can definitely benefit from the inevitable recovery. I've done so many times (I pretty much live on recoveries from Apple downturns), though it's lonely. There aren't many people buying at times like this.

With any other company, this would be a much riskier strategy. Many stocks suffer seemingly irrational dips, sometimes substantial, but Apple is a unique case where you can count on the dips being spring-loaded. The stock price may sink but it won't keep plunging all the way down to irrelevance. I noted last year that Apple's cash hoard alone (not counting their talent, their sterling brand value, and their diversified product line) acts as a safety net:
The risk is that it won't recover next time - that the most successful company in the history of the world, sitting on a cash pile of $250 billion, will shrivel up and die because of some fleeting issue.

I just don't see that as a real risk. That cash hoard alone - which doesn't even do anything! - dwarfs the total market value of all but seven other corporations. Apple could throw their entire mega-successful business in the garbage and buy Starbucks, Boeing, and Goldman Sachs. If customers update their iPads more slowly than expected, or a phone antenna doesn't work properly, or a new product line undersells expectations, that's just not going to cause a death spiral. I'm not saying they'll be dominant forever...but the downside of buying at Apple's inevitable 30% bullish downturns strikes me as minimal.
That cash hoard is currently at $238 billion, fwiw.

This time, I'm slightly more sober. Apple is highly dependent on the Chinese market, and we are in the midst of a trade war. One might try to anticipate the likelihood of splashback on Apple, but I'm nowhere near informed enough to predict the PRC's actions. This risk (not even mentioned, btw, in the current bear campaign against Apple) means I can no longer say that Apple has a near-certain safety net as an investment.

Last time I bought Apple stock in a downturn, the risk of the company falling apart and my losing everything was near-zero. Now, it’s non-zero. But still very very low.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

I Am a Sultan

I hate to sound like some crusty old 20th century dude, but do you have any idea how sublimely easeful our lives are here in the future?

I'm headed to Barcelona this week. I will travel for less than the cost 25 years ago: $319 round trip, thanks to (one of several newfangled travel tools that have transformed my notion of travel).

I need to bring this humungous inflatable rose gold flamingo pool toy for a 12 year old friend in Barcelona who totally deserves it:
It ships in a 6 pound box, but c'est la flamingo. After ordering, I realized Amazon wouldn't deliver till the day I fly out. There'd be a 50-50 chance it'd arrive after I left for the airport.

So here's what I did. I canceled the order (which Amazon gave me zero hassle over). And I ordered the same item on Amazon España for the same price. To my shock, they let me use my American Amazon account and American credit card, they charged me in US dollars, and they will leave my package at a 24 hr Amazon drop box two blocks from where I'm staying in Barcelona. It will be there waiting for me when I arrive. I won't need to shlep it with me. It will all happen way more easily, just as rapidly, and no more expensively than if I'd brought it on the damn plane. That's insane.

Every aspect of this story is unbelievable. To buy something from a European retailer with an American credit card, alone, is a miracle. To do so with no local mailing address is ridiculous. And to have the retailer provide me with my own personal pick-up location so utterly convenient to me is inconceivable. The entire transaction took me less than a minute, and the sheer comfort of all this is something I frankly don't deserve. I am so, so rich. I'm like a sultan. A sultan for sixty bucks (and a jet-setting one for $380, flamingo included).

How Martin Shkreli Will Get Treated in Prison

Surprisingly interesting article (albeit lightly outdated) on how Martin Shkreli might fare in prison. Includes some inside prison stuff I'd not previously known about. It's written by Seth Ferranti, an ex-con former drug kingpin who's managed to develop a career as a writer, publisher, and producer (some of that's covered in this early article, the rest can be gleaned from - enjoy the rabbit hole - his web site).

Ferranti is making hay with “the man in the cell” journalism for Vice. The index starts here, and includes pieces such as "What Inmates Are Saying About the Brutal Prison Hit on Whitey Bulger", "How Men in Prison Reacted to Brett Kavanaugh's Confirmation", Former Inmates Told Us How They Beat Drug Tests While Behind Bars, and "All the Terrible Things You See and Learn as a Guard in a Private Prison".

Needless to say, Martin Shkreli has a prison blog.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Putting Right

In 1973, at the age of 11, I was watching a well-done TV movie called "Poor Devil", starring Sammy Davis Jr. as a demon, Jack Klugman as a woebegone salesman, Christopher Lee as Lucifer, and Adam West as Klugman's sleazy boss. Halfway through, my parents made me turn off the television and go to bed.

I understood the need for adequate sleep, and I certainly understood parental prerogative. But it felt deeply wrong that I, a sensitive devotee of filmed entertainment, could be torn away in mid-movie. This wasn't just some binge of Gilligan's Islandesque slothy TV hypnosis. This was an actual movie. My parents, however, couldn't fathom the distinction and were unreceptive to on-the-merits arguments.

I never forgot. I watched for Poor Devil reruns for years, but it never appeared, nor was the movie ever released on any media platform. Finally, today, 45 years later, I found it on You Tube (I can't imagine where the uploader got the content from; VCRs weren't mass market until 1975) and will finally watch that mofo to the very end tonight. Check frickin' mate.

So, yeah, I did watch it last night. It wasn't great. I grew drowsier and drowsier, and when I'd reached about the same point I'd cut out at in 1973, I headed to bed, figuring a good night sleep was more important than some crappy movie.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Filtering the Zombie Army

Most people do nothing. If they sign on, they won't show. If they pledge money, they won't pay. If you hire them, they'll sit in their cubicle and sip coffee. You know how most soldiers never actually shoot at people? How as few as 30% perform all the kills? I've decided that this isn't a saving grace of humanistic morality. It's just another example of how most people do nothing.

I'm not saying they're lazy. I'm not saying they're liars or deadbeats. Just that they do nothing. Most people do nothing. I think of them as the Zombie Army.

It used to drive me crazy, until I recognized that loads of people buy gym memberships and never go to the gym. They buy French language tapes, and never play them. They truly want to do these things, and believe they will! So it's not a matter of contemptuous irresponsibility; it's just an inability to steer their own ship. That's why most people do nothing. Shoot, I myself have a plethora of books I haven't read, CDs I haven't listened to, and DVDs I never watched. I have literally 18,000 to-do items sitting in queue. I'm in this army too, I suppose.

I justify my frozen queues by the knowledge that I sometimes do something, and those somethings have added up over the long run. But everyone has a list of compiled somethings, even the coffee-sippers and non-shooters. Every zombie can offer up an accounting of actions and achievements upon request. It's confusing. It makes my head hurt.

But the practical upshot - the thing you can count on - is this: the thing you want them to do is the thing they won't do. Even if they'd like to. Even if they really meant it when they claimed to be spunkily "all in". Most will do nothing.

I've developed a technique to cope with this. I call it the Zombie Filter. Whenever I find myself poised to sink hope and trust in a person, I assign them a trivial task, knowing non-doers will reveal themselves by not doing.

If I need to hire someone, I'll pay scant heed to their resume - the list of accomplishments every zombie is able to produce. But I'll offer them a solid page of vitally important reading material, and I will embed an instruction, ala "Send me an email with the phrase 'Rice Chex' in the body". A very low percentage will notice the direction and actually do it (and, of them, most will do it wrong; they'll make 'Rice Chex' the subject title and send a blank email, or they'll send an email explaining that they're following instructions, but they'll omit 'Rice Chex' entirely). Zombies filtered!

New people I meet often ask for tips, particularly food. They'll ask me to follow up via email, and while I used to take their contact info, and fire off emails, as promised, I found that the vast majority never so much as read the email. So now I give people my contact info, and ask them to contact me and remind me to give them the info. The requirement of doing something is a deal killer. It's like zombie judo; using their torpor to my advantage.

If you don't filter the zombies, you will curse yourself to endless recurring frustration. The zombie army will wear you down. They will annihilate you and they will absorb you, turning you into a black hole for everyone else's hopes and trust.

Compounding the problem, even non-zombies infantilize in the presence of energetic competence. A long time ago I would throw birthday banquets in far-flung eateries. At my last one, after I'd wrangled a big crowd out of town and into the venue, seated them, ordered their food, explained the cuisine, and sparked conversations, I walked a platter of yum yums from guest to guest. I absolutely couldn't get any of them to reach for the tongs. No one budged. They just sat, staring helplessly, like weebles. Finally, I exploded. "Do I need to chew your food and regurgitate it down your damned throats, too?" There were no more banquets.

The Wall-E scenario is no longer futuristic. We have arrived.

Note from the future: I'd forgotten, while writing this, that I'd actually explained the phenomenon several months prior.

Waking Up

You have a dream in which you try to "wake up". In the dream, you struggle to reach this incomprehensible state you've heard about but never experienced. You try potions and mantras, you visit wise men and wander the landscape in search of inspiration. Your beard grows very long, and your eyes blaze with the intensity of the search. You are a holy man, surely right on the cusp of awakedness!

What if someone suddenly entered your bedroom, rubbed your shoulder and whispered your name? Would you cock open an eye, realize what had happened, and jump out of bed with an exultant smile, dancing in celebration and hollering about how you've finally done it? Would you feel superior? Would you add this lofty attainment to your resumè?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Introducing Delicious Upma

One of my favorite dishes in any cuisine is pongal. In my smartphone app, "Eat Everywhere", which explains how to navigate every cuisine, we explain this Tamil dish thus:
Many cultures cook soupy rice dishes, but only pongal adds cashews, curry leaves, cumin, black mustard seeds, and saffron - and those things turn out to be key! Available sweet (sakarai) or spicy (ven); we're big on spicy ven pongal pretty much the linchpin of Tamil cooking. It's yet another Breakfast Paradox dish (like Chinese dumplings - natives eat it only for breakfast, while outsiders crave it for lunch and dinner).
I did not know that there's a version made with wheat. Very couscousish! Behold upma, from the increasingly spurned* Dosa Hutt (4563 Bowne St, Flushing), next to the Indian temple:
Their rava masala dosa is still great (and definitely the dosa to get):
* - I ate at Dosa Hutt before it was widely known, I ate there when it was a foodie destination, and I still eat there now when everyone believes they know a better place (often the Canteen inside the temple itself). I have a reputation for being restless, but I'm also very very loyal, and I'll give up my Dosa Hutt dosai why you pry them from my cold, dead hands.

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