Daily Archives: October 5, 2007

David Pogue: Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience

The Business Section of the NY Times for Thursday, October 5, 2007, was notable for containing two articles that are of great interest to the open-source community.

I have written about the first, Larry Magid’s article The Next Leap for Linux in my recent posts Larry Magid: The Next Leap for Linux and Why Ubuntu? The NY Times Picked It To Represent Linux, And Said Good Things About It..

The second — and in my view the much more important — article is by David Pogue, Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience, and is the subject of this post.

Mr. Pogue writes about what is known as OLPC (One Laptop Per Child), Laptop.org. His article begins as follows:

In November, you’ll be able to buy a new laptop that’s spillproof, rainproof, dustproof and drop-proof. It’s fanless, it’s silent and it weighs 3.2 pounds. One battery charge will power six hours of heavy activity, or 24 hours of reading. The laptop has a built-in video camera, microphone, memory-card slot, graphics tablet, game-pad controllers and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration.

And this laptop will cost $200.

The computer, if you hadn’t already guessed, is the fabled “$100 laptop” that’s been igniting hype and controversy for three years. It’s an effort by One Laptop Per Child (laptop.org) to develop a very low-cost, high-potential, extremely rugged computer for the two billion educationally underserved children in poor countries.

The concept: if a machine is designed smartly enough, without the bloat of standard laptops, and sold in large enough quantities, the price can be brought way, way down. Maybe not down to $100, as O.L.P.C. originally hoped, but low enough for developing countries to afford millions of them — one per child.

The laptop is now called the XO, because if you turn the logo 90 degrees, it looks like a child.

The article later says (emphasis added) :

There’s no CD/DVD drive at all, no hard drive and only a 7.5-inch screen. The Linux operating system doesn’t run Microsoft Office, Photoshop or any other standard Mac or Windows programs. The membrane-sealed, spillproof keyboard is too small for touch-typing by an adult.

There you go, boys and girls. Though stated in a roundabout way, we learn that this marvel of hardware is even more marvelous in that it runs Linux. Yes, Linux, recalling to mind the famous scene in the movie Jurassic Park in which a twelve-year old girl says, in words that will always find their way to the heart of every programmer, dogs (and brothers-in-law) notwithstanding:

“This is a Unix system … I know this!” [1]

That’s right, OLPC runs Linux! We know this!

It was great to see this news reported in the Times, even though I have known for some time that OLPC would be based on Linux.

This is what I try to do in in this blog:

I know Linux, and I want you to get to know it — as best you can, and as best I can teach you — so you can then decide if it can be of assistance to you in your work or play.

Simply put, that is what we in the open-source community have had as our goal for well over two decades:

To give you options, and to educate you on how you may be able to use them to meet your needs, with no up-front cost required on your part as you explore these options and educate yourself about them with our assistance.

While we can provide the software at no cost, you still need hardware to run that software, and that is why OLPC is such an innovation, in that it significantly lowers to barrier to entry of exploring open-source options.

That is why I found the most important part of the article to be:

.L.P.C. slightly turned its strategy when it decided to offer the machine for sale to the public in the industrialized world — for a period of two weeks, in November. The program is called “Give 1, Get 1,” and it works like this. You pay $400 (www.xogiving.org). One XO laptop (and a tax deduction) comes to you by Christmas, and a second is sent to a student in a poor country.

This is why I have just visited www.xogiving.org and signed up to pay the $400.

First, to help someone whom I will never know.

Second, and this is much more important to me, so I can study my XO and then report to you on what I learned during that exploration.

Indeed, as best I can, I hope to provide some guidance in using it effectively and writing software to make it even more effective.

I can’t wait, though I know I must, but the anticipation of the journey will make it even more exciting once it actually begins.

Stay tuned.

I’ll keep you posted.

Notes:

1. While some purists have argued it really isn’t Linux, they don’t know a command line from the line at Belmont Race Track, and so will be dismissed from further consideration. It is Unixy enough for me. “Nuff said,” as I often read as a child when I was a rapt fan of the comic strip Snuffy Smith.

Twit Dave Endorses Twitter

After only a few hours on twitter I recommend that you take it for a spin.

To wit, give it a go, fellow twits.

It’s fun, it’s a way to start and nourish relationships, and if you can throttle the twit messages to the appropriate volume, it’s a fun companion for those of us who work at home.

It’s like a dog. It speaks via text, not barks. And you don’t need to take it for a pee, though of course you do encounter a little crap from time to time, but it’s not that hard to deal with if you watch your step.

http://twitter.com/daveshields

I hope this helps grow the twitter audience even more, with this endorsement by the founder and sole member of The Wayward Internet Technologists — the TWIT’s.

Yours in twitting,

dave

TWWP Movin’ Out

Billy Joel, composer of Movin’ Out, ends his song with

It seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about
If that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out
You should never argue with a crazy mind
You oughta know by now [1]
You can pay Uncle Sam with the overtime
Is that all you get for your money? [2]
It seems such a waste of time
If that’s what it’s all about [3]
If that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out

This blog, TWWP, is movin’ out and up, too. Yesterday it got 337 views, second only to the all-time high of 451 recorded last November. The three next best days, each with 328 views, came this past September.

Onwards and outwards, with the help of the kind readers who keep me flogging this blog.

thanks,
dave

Notes:

1. I plan to keep Movin’ Out, even though I don’t know by now, though I do know it will be without the help of Jonathan Schwartz and Steve Ballmer on my outward-bound journey.

2. Money? Who cares? We do open-source here.

3. It’s not a waste of time as I’m having a great time, unless the cautionary suggestion I once saw on a T-shirt is true:

Suppose The Hokey-Pokey is What It’s All About?

Financial Times Will Allow More Free Access to Web Site

Courtesy of the Gray Lady, I see that the Financial Times has come to the same conclusion as the NY Times: providing free access to web content can help grow your business.

The article says in part:

The shift, part of what Mr. Ridding described as a broad overhaul of FT.com that will be phased in over several months, comes as other newspapers are rethinking their efforts to charge users for online content. A surge in online ad spending over the last three years has persuaded many publishers that it is better to increase their Internet audience, in an effort to appeal to advertisers, than to try to squeeze meager revenue from online subscriptions.

The New York Times this month dropped a two-year-old program under which users had to pay for access to the work of New York Times columnists and its archives. The Wall Street Journal, which charges readers for most of its online content, is also considering opening its site to all Web users, according to statements by Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive of the News Corporation, which has agreed to buy The Journal’s owner, Dow Jones.

I hope that Rupert and the folks at the WSJ see this article, as well as my recent open letter to the WSJ.

Get some “street smarts” WSJ. Go with the flow.

Hacking Craig’s List And The New York Times

I picked up my copy of the NY Times for Friday, October 5, early this morning down at the bottom of my driveway. After I took it out of its blue plastic sleeve I noticed one headline that I realized merited a blog post, Guilty Plea Stands, but Craig Won’t Quit Senate.

The printed copy of the Times contains the following sub-headline below the title, though I couldn’t find it in the web version:

Republican Leaders Revive Possibility of Ethics Inquiry

The article includes the following:

Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho, defying the wishes of many in his own Republican Party, said Thursday that he would remain in the Senate through next year despite a court ruling against him in Minnesota, where he had sought to rescind his guilty plea stemming from an undercover sex sting.

His decision was a major disappointment to Republican leaders, who had hoped Mr. Craig would make good on his pledge and spare them from the potential political liability of having a senior lawmaker who has become a national punch line.

“Eureka!” I thought, and then started composing in my mind a blog post with the title “Mangling the NY Times” in which I would explore the possible stories that could be written by slightly altering the headline:

  • Republican Leaders Revive Possibility of Ethics: WASHINGTON — Republican leaders announced today that they were considering the possibility of reviving ethics in their party, folllowing the catastrophic loss they suffered in the 2008 elections …
  • Republican Leaders Revive: WASHINGTON — Republican leaders in the Senate, which now has only five Republican members, today spoke of their hopes to revive the party …
  • Republican Leaders Revive Possibility of Inquiry: WASHINGTON — Republican leaders today announced their intent to invite inquiry by our citizens into their affairs, ending an eight-year period of silence begun during the early days of the late Bush administration …
  • Republican Leaders Revive, Possibly: WASHINGTON — Senator Larry Craig today announced his plans to remain in the Senate, becoming the only Republican to so remain, following the recent slimming-down of Republican ranks in Washington…
  • Republican Leader Craig Stalls Ethics Inquiry: WASHINGTON — Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho, speaking from the Minneapolis Airport bathroom, today announced his plan to stall all attempts into inquiry of ethical lapses. “I’m an expert on stalls and stalling tactics,” said Sen. Craig. He went on,”I am thus going to urge my four fellow Republican Senators to stall any attempt by the perfidious Democrats to investigate alleged Republican ethical lapses. We all know the full extent of the lapses, so why waste the taxpayer’s money investigating something as sure as the rising of the sun every day in Washington …
  • Republican Leaders Revive Tom DeLay : WASHINGTON — Republican leaders today revived the body of former Representative Tom DeLay, who took his own life last year by ingesting a lethal dose of the rat poison he used in his early days as an exterminator, before he was elected to the U.S. House, where he spent his career trying to exterminate Democrats, with notable success. “Tom is our only hope,” said Sen. Larry Craig. “He was the best I’ve ever seen at ferreting out rats by making their acquaintance, and all we Republicans thus got to know him quite well. He’s our only hope, dead or alive. Without him, I fear all Republicans will soon be dead…
  • Republican Leaders Are Spurred On By Craig’s List: WASHINGTON — Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho today spoke from the steps of the U.S. Capitol, saying, “I have in my hand a list of fifty-seven former Republican Senators. Though there are only five of us left in the Senate, I am today submitting a bill to set aside 57 billion dollars to build a national museum to celebrate the glorious past of our party. To be erected in my own back yard by my brother-in-law, who I am sure will draw comfort from my dog –a dog I have named after my brother-in-law — supervising this arduous task, I am confident that many citizens will take special joy in the new room giving a complete history of Republican ethics, all in a room of only fifty-seven square feet….
  • Republican Leaders Revive Dogged Inquiry: WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho today announced that he has just acquired a dog and has named it after his brother-in-law. He said, “I urge my fellow four Republican Senators to name their dogs after their brothers-in-law, acquiring both a dog and a brother-in-law if necessary, as it has been shown that doing so is the best way to reach the heart of the American electorate.
  • Republican Leaders Revive Dog: WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho today served as best man at the wedding of Republican Senator Mitch “Mad Dog” O’Connell in Lexington, Kentucky. Sen. O’Connell married a woman from Kentucky whose brother has agreed to take the name of Sen. O’Connell’s late and lamented dog, and the cermony was held alongside the grave of the departed canine. Sen. O’Connell said this was the most forecful way to encourage the remaining other three Republican Senators to follow the new Republican strategy of reaching out to the heart of the American electorate. The Senators jointly announced the slogan of a new national campaign: It’s A Dog’s World. Stand up And Be A Republican Man. Let A Dog Bite You So The Voters Won’t.”

Then I read the other headlines of Times. I also read the headlines on the Op-Ed page, and also the film review that leads the Weekend Arts Section. Collectively they confirmed what Republicans have been saying for decades. The nom de guerre of the New York Times, “Gray Lady,” is just a ruse to hide the true identity of the New York Times — the “Red Lady” that is at the heart of a vast Russian conspiracy. Indeed, the Times is Queen of Hearts of this conspiracy, which is currently led by its King, Vladimir Putin, who has become so used to running the conspiracy and the Russian government that he has recently announced his intent to continue his leadership as a member of the Russian Parliament.

To wit, here are some of the headlines that can be found on the front page of this historic edition of the New York Times, “All the Conspiracy That’s Fit to Print.”

Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones

In this isolated Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, American paratroopers are fielding what they consider a crucial new weapon in counterinsurgency operations here: a soft-spoken civilian anthropologist named Tracy.

Tracy, who asked that her surname not be used for security reasons, is a member of the first Human Terrain Team, an experimental Pentagon program that assigns anthropologists and other social scientists to American combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her team’s ability to understand subtle points of tribal relations — in one case spotting a land dispute that allowed the Taliban to bully parts of a major tribe — has won the praise of officers who say they are seeing concrete results.

I hope Ms. Tracy is an expert on the cultural role of dogs, or knows a fellow anthropologist who is, as it would be very helpful for the dwindling Republican leadership to have sound scientific evidence of close linkage between dog and man, the discoveries of Charles Darwin notwithstanding.

Bill Applies U.S. Laws to Contractors

With the armed security force Blackwater USA and other private contractors in Iraq facing tighter scrutiny, the House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would bring all United States government contractors in the Iraq war zone under the jurisdiction of American criminal law. The measure would require the F.B.I. to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing.

The bill was approved 389 to 30, despite strong opposition from the White House.

No wonder the White House opposed this bill, as it has labored for years to avoid having U.S. law apply to rich people and Republicans, as most rich people are Republicans, just as many Republicans — especially the elected ones — are rich people.

Debate Erupts on Techniques Used by C.I.A

The disclosure of secret Justice Department legal opinions on interrogation on Thursday set off a bitter round of debate over the treatment of terrorism suspects in American custody and whether Congress has been adequately informed of legal policies.

Democrats on Capitol Hill demanded to see the classified memorandums, disclosed Thursday by The New York Times, that gave the Central Intelligence Agency expansive approval in 2005 for harsh interrogation techniques.

Left unsaid was that perhaps the White House had enlisted former Representative Tom DeLay, an exterminator in his early days, to study the use of rat poison to ferret out suspected Democrats.

More Doctors in Texas After Malpractice Caps

In Texas, it can be a long wait for a doctor: up to six months.

That is not for an appointment. That is the time it can take the Texas Medical Board to process applications to practice.

Four years after Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors are responding as supporters predicted, arriving from all parts of the country to swell the ranks of specialists at Texas hospitals and bring professional health care to some long-underserved rural areas.

The influx, raising the state’s abysmally low ranking in physicians per capita, has flooded the medical board’s offices in Austin with applications for licenses, close to 2,500 at last count.

I bet a lot of those new Texas doctors are New York expatriates. While now a New Yorker at heart, and one who intends to remain in New York, I can offer them some guidance in their new lives in Bush country, as I was born in Abilene, Texas. “Howdy Do, Doc.”

From the Metro Section:

Giuliani Pulled No Punches on the Radio

So what should a mayor do? Just let constituents call his weekly radio program on WABC — the one called “Live From City Hall … With Rudy Giuliani” — and whine and complain and get in his face without answering back?

Puh-leeze.

When Joe from Manhattan called in 1998 to complain about the city government giving special parking privileges to a white-shoe law firm, Mayor Giuliani emitted an audible groan into the microphone.

“Well, let me give you another view of that rather than the sort of Marxist class concept that you’re introducing,” Mr. Giuliani said.

This article shows the man most feared by the Times’s conspirators, Rudy Giuliani. Every New Yorker knows of the days almost seventy years ago when New York’s most beloved mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, cemented his place in the city’s heart by reading the comics over the radio during a newspaper strike. Yet this story is accompanied by perhaps the most idiotic picture of Mayor G. I have yet seen, looking as hapless as an old hound dog, or someone whose dog has just peed on his pants.

The city named an airport after Mayor LaGuardia, and I suggest the dog pound should be named after Rudy in a similar gesture.

From the Fashion Section:

In a Garden of Flowers, Not a Whiff of Cynicism

The rising tension between fetishism and femininity in the spring collections shown here this week has become, one might say, a battle of gladiators versus gladioli.

Stella McCartney and Dries van Noten, following on the rosy heels of the Balenciaga show on Tuesday, are two designers who clearly belong in the camp that favors country-club garden prints.

To be followed perhaps by:

Republican Leaders Revive Possibility of Ethics

WASHINGTON — Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho today came out of the closet in his new role as leader of the Republican Senators, wearing a charming dress with a country-club garden print…

From the Op-Ed page:

Conservatives Are Such Jokers, by Paul Krugman.

But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.

On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol.

No, they aren’t.

The Republican Collapse, by David Brooks

.

To put it bluntly, over the past several years, the G.O.P. has made ideological choices that offend conservatism’s Burkean roots. This may seem like an airy-fairy thing that does nothing more than provoke a few dissenting columns from William F. Buckley, George F. Will and Andrew Sullivan. But suburban, Midwestern and many business voters are dispositional conservatives more than creedal conservatives. They care about order, prudence and balanced budgets more than transformational leadership and perpetual tax cuts. It is among these groups that G.O.P. support is collapsing.

We’ll get a good reading on the state of the collapse come November 2008.

From the Arts Section:

Michael Clayton (2007), by Manohla Dargis.

Dark in color, mood and outraged worldview, “Michael Clayton” is a film that speaks to the way we live now. Or at least, the way certain masters of the universe do, as they prowl the jungle in their sleek rides, armed with killer instincts and the will to power. It’s a story about ethics and their absence, a slow-to-boil requiem for American decency in which George Clooney, the ultimate in luxury brands and playboy of the Western world, raises the sword in the name of truth and justice and good. Well, someone’s got to do it.

Indeed, the Republicans have accepted this not-very-thankless task, making oodles of boodle in the process.

From the Front Page to the Arts Page, from the Metro Section to the Arts Section, it was all deemed “Fit To Print” this Friday, in Vol CLVII…No. 540,008 of the New York Times.

Oops, Mea Culpa. I forgot the Sports Section. Here you go:

Yankees’ Season of Catch-Up Continues

In the first game of their second season, the Yankees held to the script that got them here. They have fallen behind emphatically and need another comeback to survive.

It is only one game, of course, but what a game it was for the Cleveland Indians. They used four home runs to crush the Yankees, 12-3, in Game 1 of their American League division series on Thursday. The Indians battered Chien-Ming Wang, got four runs batted in from Kenny Lofton and four nearly perfect innings from their bullpen.

“With what we had to deal with pretty much all year, especially since we dug a hole for ourselves, we understand that we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Manager Joe Torre said. “If somebody beats us up, you tip your hat to them and come back the next day.”

The Republicans will, I estimate, be playing catch-up ball for decades, trying to recover from the damage inflicted to their team by the former owner of the Texas Rangers, George Bush, who should join them in tipping their hats to the Democrats.

Olympic Champion Acknowledges Use of Steroids

The former track star Marion Jones, one of the most accomplished female athletes in the world, is expected to plead guilty today to lying to federal agents about her use of performance-enhancing drugs, two lawyers connected with the case said yesterday. The admission would end years of denial and would likely lead to her being stripped of the record five medals she won in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Ms. Jones, 31, who won three gold and two bronze medals in 2000, would become the first athlete convicted in the cases arising out of the four-year Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative investigation that has fueled a continuing series of steroid scandals in sports. Five men who manufactured, marketed or supplied the drugs to athletes have pleaded guilty, and three of them have served time in prison.

Ms. Jones is expected to plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal agents …

Ms. Jones is young enough that she may well be joined in the slammer by Olympic-class politicos in the years to come.

Politics on Steroids is a dangerous sport, as is Denial.

30

Philling Up In Philly With Philly Phood And Philly Phroth

[I should have titled this “Philling Up In Philly With Philly Phood And Philly Phroth While Phillies Phans And The Philly Phanatic Phrenetially Phoam At The Mouth,” but rushed this post into print too frenetically.]

My wife and I recently visited Philadelphia to see out youngest daughter. We were there almost exactly twenty-four hours, arriving late in the afternoon and leaving about the same time the next day.

Philadelphia is perhaps most phamed for Phillie Cheesesteak. I enjoyed this dish a few times in years past, before I was instructed by my doctor on the dangers of cholosterol. [1]. Indeed, I divide life into two stages: the first few decades in which one can enjoy cheesesteak and all the other heart-attack-on-a-plate forms of cuisine, and the sadder but wiser days in which one learns about tofu, brown rice, fish, and other dishes that — while mundane to the younger set –I have come to enjoy, in an attempt to extend the life of both myself and this blog.

But there is better fare to be had — in any decade –if you listen to the locals and carefully sample what is available.

For example, after we arrived Jen said she needed some time to finish her work and to get ready to go out, so my cutie-pie and I adjourned to a nearby bar and had a glass of Philly Phroth in the form of a large glass of Yard’s Yellow Pale Ale, an excellent brew indeed. [2] We arrived just as the Phillies — both the team and the local citizenry — were getting rocked by the Colorado Rockies, and as the game ended saw several locals Phoaming at the mouth.

We had dinner at Estia Restaurant. In its own words, “Estia restaurant specializes in whole grilled fish served by the pound from the Greek islands, Morocco, Tunisia and Portugal. Estia restaurant offers a first-rate wine list with more than 300 selections including wines from Greece, Europe, Israel and Lebanon. Join us for live music from 7-11pm every Friday and Saturday night.”

I had diner there only once before, when I had their pre-theater dinner for thirty dollars that included an appetizer, main course, and dessert. We arrived a few minutes after seven PM and so had to avail ourselves of the regular menu, and I am glad that we did.

Jen and my cutie-pie both had excellent fish dishes. Notwithstanding my doctor’s warnings, I felt like having lamb, and saw two such dishes on the menu. The more expensive was of “lamb marinated for three days” that cost about $34. I settled on a more modest disk for about $22. (I don’t remember the names of the dishes and so identify them by their cost.)

That $22 lamb dish may be been the best Greek lamb dish I have ever had, and back in the 60’s when I first moved to New York I used to dine often at Greek restaurants when there were many of them in midtown Manhattan. [3] I recall with special fondness Molfeta’s, a cafeteria in the West 40’s, and the Acropolis, at the corner of 47th and 9th Ave; both are long gone.

This Estia lamb dish was dry, served with rice and some vegetables in an excellent sauce the seasoning was to die for. Strongly recommended. The restaurant has a wonderful ambience. When the weather is warm, as it was that evening, the windows are opened and one can dine on the street, though we decided to sit inside as it was a bit noisy outside.

If you dine at Estia’s then do NOT order dessert off the menu. Instead — and this ploy best works when you go as part of a group — distract the receptionist near the front door while you shovel as many of the little cookies that are waiting on a dish near her stand into your pocket as you can. They are yummy indeed.

By the way, if you can’t make it to Estia’s then please do visit their web site. I did so as I started writing about Estia’s a few paragraphs back, only to hear the wonderful sounds of Greek music. (I became so enchanted by that music when I first heard it after checking our a record of it from the Pasadena while at college that I have a large collection. Indeed, I even later bought myself a bouzouki that I kept for many years, though I never learned how to play it.)

The next morning we had cappucino at Cafe Hausbrandt on Locust. It’s the best cappuccino I have yet had on this side of the Atantic. I have a long history with that drink, as you can find by reading my post On Ferrara Cafe; a picture of the Cafe can be found at the top of this blog’s main page.

The best cappuccino I have had was, of course, to be found in Italy. My cutie-pie and I visited Florence during late February a few years back. After we arrived at the airport I retrieved our luggage and went out to wait for a bus, while my cutie-pie volunteered to go back to the airport to get us some cups of cappuccino. I waited as the cold winds came sweeeping down the neary hills to give me a cold welcome. About ten minutes later my cutie-pie came back to say she had just had the best every cappuccino she had tasted, and my heart warmed with gratitude. But the warmth lasted only a few seconds as she then informed they didn’t have take-out, though I later confirmed the brew was excellent as we stopped to get a cup before catching our return flight.

The best cappuccino I have ever had was this past summer at Cafe Eustachio in Rome. Llocated in the square of the same name, it was halfway between our hotel near Piazza Navona and the Forum, the most well-preserved building from Roman times I have ever seen. Near the door can be found a column by the NY Times’s reporter William Grimes, a former bureau chief of the Times in Rome. He related his unsuccessful attempts to find a good cup of cappuccino in New York City, and ends the article by saying, “If a New Yorker wants a great cup of cappuccino, then take a cab to JFK, fly to Rome, and on arriving ask the cab driver to take you to Cafe Eustachio.”

Later in the day I also had a cup of Philly Phroth when I stopped at a cafe on the way to Rittenhouse Square. It was very good, and when I looked at the shelf I noticed it was the Illy brand, another excellent coffee from Italy.

On the way back from Rittenhouse Square to drop off Jen and start our drive home, we stopped at Di Bruno Bros. a local institution that is a veritable museum of Italian food. We bought a bottle of their branded olive oil. I’m sure it is good though I haven’t yet made a salad with it.

One of the less pleasant aspects of visiting Philadelphia is the need to traverse much of New Jersey on the trip to and from New York, but some money can be saved to ease the journey by stopping for New Jersey Phroth in the form of gasoline, as NJ prices are always substantially less than those in Pennsylvania or New York

Notes:

1. The doctor was not only a good doctor but a man with a sense of humor. After he had given me my annual physical at the age of 27 or so, he said that I was in very good health, but it would be downhill from then on, as my body had just passed its physical peak. Youth had ended; it was time to start paying for its excesses.

A few years later, after I passed forty, he noted with alarm that my cholesterol level was quite high — near 300 — and suggested I should do something about it. It was shortly after that I started a regular exercise program, spending the year that remained before we moved to the suburbs spending starting most days with a jog around the Central Park Reservoir. It was also then that I started to make regular visits to the gym, as it is hard to run in the winter. I ran also when I started at IBM twenty years ago, mostly through the nearby cemeteries, where many NYC notables such as Babe Ruth are buried (the next town over from Hawthorne, the IBM lab where I then worked, is aptly named Valhalla, and is the home of many cemeteries, including that of the Catholic Diocese of New York). After a lapse of a few years, I started regular visits to the gym over eleven years ago, and have gone to the gym more days that not most weeks since then.)

I have worked from home most of the last year. Though I thought it would be hard to work and live in the same place, I have found it helps to make the transition from home to office by beginning my day at the gym, leaving from home and returning to my office, even though both are the same place.

I have also lost at least ten pounds since I started working at home, as I tend to make more modest lunches. Though I used to make frequent use of the salad bar at the cafeteria at the IBM cafeteria in Somers, it is hard to avoid the oil that is all too frequently poured over everything.

2. Pennsylvania is a great place for a beer drinker such as myself. I enjoyed many wondeful ales and porters when I used to visit a friend who grew up in that lovely state. He was not alone in his enjoyment of the “gentle gambrinian.” For example, his father once worked for the Police Dept. in Reading, PA, and I learned there was a pipe that ran directly from the brewery across the street to a tap in the basement of the police station — “All’s Well That Ends With Ale.”

3. I moved to New York City in the mid 1960’s, just as the many Greek establishments that comprised the Greek neighborhood of Manhattan were migrating elsewhere, most of them to the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, where they can be found today. For example, I often stop at the Neptune Diner just off Astoria Blvd. on the way to see the Mets at Shea, as their Greek food is orders of magnitude better than the over-priced dreck offered by Shea’s vendors.

I used to go to cafes on 9th Ave. in the 20’s to drink ouzo and hear the music, often accompanied by the soft sound of patrons throwing dollars bills at the occasional belly dancer, but those days are long gone, sad to say.

By the way, there is a Greek bakery on the west side of Astoria Blvd., about three blocks south of the Grand Central Parkway, on the west side. They make cookies that are drenched in honey that are totally addictive. It is simply impossible to each just one.

I named this blog after A.J. Liebling, one of my favorite writers. He worked for the New Yorker magazine for many years, as has Calvin Trillin for several decades. Mr. Trillin specializes in food, and had I not gone with A.J. this blog might well be called “Kansas City Blues” or some such.

I suspect it was Trillin who first noted the fatal flaw in Saul Steinberg’s distorted map of the United States, which starts with Manhattan in the foreground, and fades into nothingness as one crosses the Hudson River. There should have been a single location shown between the Hudson and the Pacific, Kansas City. Calvin Trillin put that city onto the map, Harry Truman notwithstanding.

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