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April 28, 2006

I Pod

Earlier this week, my brother hosted a celebratory dinner at Pod in honor of my nephew’s birthday. Anne had mentioned Pod (a restaurant in the heart of the Penn campus) to me a while ago because she learned they serve a “lobster roll.” I knew it wasn’t a real Maine lobster roll, but I was eager to try it nevertheless. Lobster is lobster after all. It’s all good.

I’m not a habitué of stylish, trendy restaurants, but I think I know one when I see one. Pod’s look has been compared to the set design of Sleeper or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Pod does feature the ubiquitous whiteness of those movies, but it’s not as harsh or sterile, although it is unabashedly artificial. Populating this shiny environment was a lively crowd. Most were young, although there were plenty of people there my age, including one gentleman radiating a Quentin Crisp aura. He was absorbed in a crossword puzzle while waiting for his party.

Pod has a nice scene, if you’re into scenes. I felt surprisingly comfortable there even though I’m more the Irish pub tweed jacket type. But enough about the atmosphere, let’s talk about the food. It’s very good and, even though most of it was unfamiliar, every new flavor was a delightful surprise. Pod can stand on its food alone.

The featured cocktails are charmingly named by their color, although I tried something simpler, a sake mojito. We ordered three or four appetizers to share and an entree apiece. Dishes arrived willy-nilly, so we always had something to pass around. I don’t know how to label the cuisine, but it’s Japanese in spirit. I ordered the lobster roll, which was delicious, and my brother ordered the lobster stir fry, which was even better! The sushi sampler was much fresher and tastier than the supermarket sushi we usually eat. Service was attentive and friendly. I liked everything I tried and so many items on the menu sounded so good that I’m really looking forward to heading back there.


When my wife and I checked out Pod a few years ago, we thought it was overpriced and overrated. But this is the second time of late that I've heard credible acquaintances talking about having a good dining experience there. Maybe things have improved.

will have to schedule a trip out there to try their goods

I like Pod. I especially like going as a party of 5 or 6 because then it's Pod City. My favorite part is adjusting the lights. I like the food, and I have gotten used to the Stephen Starr approach to food delivery as the years have progressed. Glad you liked it there. And great title for the piece, btw.

Frank, there were six in our party, but all the pods were occupied. That would have been fun. Some people changed the lights; others left them alone. My mother always said, "Don't play with your food," but there's no harm in having a little play with your food.
Albert and Tom, I really enjoyed our meal, but don't want you to be disappointed. Pod is not up to the same standard as, for example, Susanna Foo (I haven't been to enough good restaurants to make any other comparisons). Maybe that will help calibrate my opinion of the place. It was a fun time.

Of all the Stephen Starr restaurants I've been to (admittedly, on someone else's dime), I like Pod the least. I wasn't impressed with their sushi the last time I went. I've always wanted to try one of their colorful drinks, though.

Yoko, that's good to know. I know nothing, really, having only eaten supermarket sushi, and this was way better than that. Can you recommend some places? Unlike the typical trend at many restaurants, maybe Pod has gone “uphill” recently.

I'm not a huge fan of the sushi at Pod, mostly because I've had the sushi at Morimoto's, and it's light-years away. Tony, if you want your sushi-mind blown, you've got to check out Morimoto's. If you stick to the sushi, it's really not even all that expensive.

Places I recommend:
1. Sagami, in Collingswood, NJ. It's just over the Ben Franklin Bridge, so it's not too far.
2. Genji, 17th and Sansom. Although they seem to be concentrating more on the supermarkets and less on the restaurant, the restaurant sushi is still pretty good.
3. Fuji Mountain, 20th & Chestnut. I've just recently tried this place, and it was tasty.
4. Shiroi Hana, 15th and Walnut. This place gets overlooked, but their food is impeccable.

Yoko, great list, thanks! As much as I am drawn to sushi, I may never pluck up the nerve to go to a fine sushi restaurant. It’s the intimidation factor. Silly, I realize. However while this article I read yesterday promised guidance, it only scared me more: How to Eat Sushi. :-)

Egads! Sure, there is an etiquette for eating sushi, but honestly, I think these rules get broken all the time, and the Japanese waitstaff know that and are mostly gracious about it, as well as very willing to give advice if you're not sure what to get or how to order it. It can be intimidating to eat at the sushi bar if you're not used to it, but there's no shame in sitting at a regular table and ordering sushi.

Go for it! Your taste buds will thank you. ;)

April 27, 2006

Little Dog Lost [nanoblog]

A friend at work was telling us about taking a stray dog to the vet and asked us how the vet learned the dog’s name. I said, “Chip?” He gasped, “How did you know?” I meant that the dog was chipped, not that his name was Chip, but that was one of the “common” names the vet tried, and the dog clearly responded. When the dog was finally reunited with his owners, we learned his actual name was Chippy. Smart vet.

April 23, 2006

Encore Edition

Due to a weekend of non-stop (but nevertheless tasteful and restrained) partying, mere cat is presenting a special encore edition.

I unearthed this chestnut from the archives not long after our trip to the Franklin Institute two weeks ago. It was written during the first year of my final (and ultimately successful) attempt at college in 1989. At seventeen years’ distance, I can clearly detect an attempt (and only an attempt) at imitating Jean Shepherd’s style. About a year ago, Dan Rubin attended one of the blogger meetups and asked the other bloggers in so many words why they blog. I remember mumbling something about writing to “find my voice.” Haven’t found it yet, but this an example of an inauthentic one. Despite that, it doesn’t make me cringe, either. That’s how much I still like Jean Shepherd. I wonder what I’ll think of this blog in seventeen years...


The Foucault pendulum in the Franklin Institute makes an elegant and subtle demonstration of the daily rotation of the earth on its axis. The device, a heavy steel ball suspended from the roof by a long cable, is set in motion above a circle of upright sticks. As the earth turns slowly beneath it, the swinging pendulum knocks over each stick in turn until, at the end of twenty-four hours, all the sticks have fallen. The entire planet had been drafted by the Institute to humbly offer each little stick to the relentless pendulum. Rendering such enormous forces and obscure concepts comprehensible to the layman are the Institute’s specialty and pride.

When I was eleven I didn’t know a concept from a peanut butter sandwich, I just liked to watch the big ball swing back and forth. “Wouldn’t it be neat if the cable broke and the ball rolled all over the place and smashed up everything,” I thought, rifling my pockets for a Clark bar. I inhabited that eerie twilight zone behind childhood and adolescence, and now, poised on the brink of puberty, I would soon trade baseball cards and comic books for pimples and girls. Even though I was only dimly aware of imminent developments, adult interests gradually became more important to me and claimed my attention.

I was interested in electronics and astronomy, and I became a member of the Franklin Institute in order to take a course on Saturday mornings. The class disappointed me for some reason, and I always looked forward to browsing in the library afterward. As I walked from class through the exhibit areas of the museum I remember looking with condescension on the kids pushing and shoving each other, their high-pitched voices grating. I felt I was not one of them any more, those creatures with sticky hands and runny noses. I was a member of the Institute, and the library allowed only members through its doors.

I enjoyed the time I spent in the library reading science magazines and books and looking up interesting bits of information. I felt safe there, in my own world, away from responsibilities and the taunts of regular kids who yelled in museums and hated to read. Here I could exercise my intellectual curiosity in ways that were unappreciated in school.

But the library represented in microcosm everything that was wrong with my life at that time. The library was an escape. Because I was shy, I hid myself away in the library. The course at the Franklin Institute bored me; school bored me, too. I preferred to pursue independent study rather than conform to a rigid academic program. But instead of deepening my knowledge, this meant following detours that only led to dead ends. Later, these problems would give me trouble in school. The time I spent in the library was relaxing and fun, however, and I did learn how to use the card catalog.

At the end of the year I let my membership lapse and moved on to bigger and better libraries. The Franklin Institute grew and changed with the times, to keep pace with the mercurial nature of scientific progress. I haven’t visited the library in many years, although in some ways I never left. I still seek out islands of tranquility and reason whenever I’ve been at sea too long. I hope that there will always be someone to set up the little sticks and give the pendulum a push for the next generation of shortstops and bookworms.

April 20, 2006

Deep Thoughts [nanoblog]

There’s an ATM at work that’s broken so often that today when it appeared to be operating normally I quipped, “They should put a sign on it: Temporarily in service.” Come to think of it, you could probably hang that sign on a lot of things as a reminder that permanence is illusory, everything is transitory, and all that we know and love will succumb to the call of entropy and devolve into a puddle of atoms. Except for the roaches, of course. Deep thoughts indeed. Now I have to go do some cleaning. I’m hoping it will improve my writing. It sure worked for David Sedaris.


It would also be a good tagline for a blog.

April 19, 2006

Flipping Out [nanoblog]

Got a new cell phone last night, which normally wouldn’t be worth a mention, ’cause I don’t use the phone much. We’ve always had the plan with the fewest minutes and never use them all. This phone reminds me that cell phones are really computers with complicated operating systems and, of course, bugs. In the one day I’ve had this phone, I had one glitch that forced a reboot, and found a reproducible bug. Neither glitch had any effect on the phone’s performance as a phone, though. Even though this phone doesn’t do video or MP3s or anything too fancy, it’s still the nicest phone I’ve ever had. I consulted HowardForums, alt.cellular.verizon, Mobiledia, and especially Phone Scoop to narrow down my choices to the Motorola v325, my first flip phone.

April 18, 2006

Calling All Artists

I could probably devote an entire blog to SEPTA much like the Frankford Terminal Blog, but I don’t have the heart for it. Talk about mixed feelings, it’s a real love/hate relationship. “Would you like to talk about it?” Sure, doc, sure.

This post started with a discussion at dinner about the Route 23 trolley that runs along Germantown Avenue. Or ran, rather, as the trolleys were replaced in 1992 with buses. Not that I even noticed, since I’m rarely on that stretch of Germantown Avenue. I grew up with trains and trolleys, though, so my interest was piqued. I found Where’s the Trolley? a site devoted to tweaking SEPTA over their broken promise to restore trolley service on some North Philadelphia routes, including the 23. (Sadly, they had to go all the way to Prague to get a picture of a modern trolley car.) Then on PoliticsPhilly, there was a piece on the Route 15 trolley which is one line that actually was updated (btw, all three of the links in that piece are broken for me; not their fault).

But enough about the dearly departed trolleys. From the notices posted at the train station, I learned that the capital budget hearings are in a couple of weeks. I was reading the notice online at SEPTA (<rant>Why oh why do they publicize their web address as There is no</rant>), and I noticed a Call for Artists [pdf]. Here’s the background:

SEPTA has embarked on an Art in Transit Program designed to incorporate art elements into renovation and construction projects for selected stations and public transportation facilities. The program allocates up to one percent of the construction budget of capitally funded projects for the design, fabrication and installation of permanent artwork.

This competition is for the chance to transform two 50-foot box beams at the station at 60th and Market, part of the El renovation. The budget is $140,000. Maybe I should be upset that SEPTA is not spending every cent on more practical improvements, but I’m not. One thing missing from the SEPTA system is beauty and aesthetics, and this program will go a long way toward changing that.


I'd enter, but stickmen are worth far more than 140k. :)

I'm torn. On the one hand the money could go to other, more practical improvements that are sorely needed to the system. On the other hand, as you said, beauty and aesthetics are missing from the SEPTA system, so it will probably be a good thing. Especially at 60th and Market.

I've been adding SEPTA hearing to my calendar, but unfortunately I can't attend most of them.

SEPTA owns both and, and I usually use the .org address. Can't you get to it?

Andrea, I swear every time I used, it redirected immediately to It’s working fine now. I’m sure they read my post. Yeah, that’s the ticket. :-)

April 17, 2006

Flash! I Am Not a Geek [nanoblog]

That’s right. According to this test on OK Cupid, I am only 8% geek. How embarrassing. All these years I’ve been telling people “I’m a geek” just to save them the trouble of pigeonholing me. Now what? The test claims I am Tri-Lamb Material: 52% Nerd, 8% Geek, 52% Dork. So I’m actually a nerd, not a geek. (The dork score I have no quibble with.) One thing, though. Only a true geek would believe some random test on the Internet, don’t you think? Maybe there’s hope...


a) what's the deal with the non-adding up percentages? it's annoying.
b) i'm 52% Nerd, 65% Geek, 26% Dork making me 143% human.

Maybe it's like the SATs. Just like you can score 800 on math, you can score 100% in geek. 300% would be a "perfect" score. Probably rarer than a 1600 SAT, but if it's possible, my money's on one of these guys.

April 16, 2006

Cutting the Grass

Sounds like what traffickers do when they get a new shipment, but no, I was just mowing the lawn for the first time this season. Exciting and glamorous, no? Well, yes, simply because it was such a beautiful day to be outside. Our cranky old hand-me-down gas-powered mower finally died, so I used the Brill Luxus 38, a nice little push mower. Took all of about 10 minutes.

Being outside under the trees reminded me that I forgot to post about the last tree planting. I did write about our outing to help plant trees for UC Green, but this time it was a local neighborhood effort. I took pictures, of course, and actually helped dig a hole. That was two weeks ago and I still haven’t recovered from the exertion. After a long winter of inactivity, I’m a pasty blob of untoned flesh. Actually I’m that way all summer, too.

Unlike the UC Green trees which were balled-and-burlapped, weighed 300 pounds, and cost $200 each, these were bare root and cost a tenth of that. They were much easier to handle, of course, but because they were bare root, they had to be planted (“heeled in”) in loose soil as soon as they arrived. On the day people came to pick up their tree, each tree was dug up and the roots were dipped in hydrogel to keep them moist.

Bagging a bare root tree

The roots were dipped in hydrogel, then wrapped in a plastic bag for the short trip to the tree's new home.

Tree in a Burley trailer

This Burley trailer was probably the most practical method anyone used to take their tree home.

Two generations of trees

Two generations of trees living side by side.


Fortunately, and unfortunately at the same time, I do not have to cut our grass here. That is taken care of. I remember cutting my family's lawn when I was a kid, and it was a great time to think about things by yourself.

Great job on planting the tree.

I've always wanted one of those old school blade rotary cutters. But who sharpens those anymore?

Albert, it's a new school mower with disposable blades that are supposed to last at least ten years. At the rate we use it, it will probably last a lifetime. For way too much information on this mower, check out the garden section.

We had a push mower for most of my LA childhood (although near-constant drought conditions made the amount of grass pretty paltry). I remember being about 2 1/2 and watching my very pregnant mom trying to do the front lawn with that thing. Our 83 year old neighbor, Mrs. Bobo, came flying down her front steps yelling at my mom to stop mowing, that she was going to send herself into labor. I actually think that was the point of the exercise, but there was no arguing with Mrs. Bobo.

April 15, 2006

Anniversary [nanoblog]

April 15 not only marks the tax deadline (hope your taxes are finished), it’s also the anniversary of mere cat—two years. Yay me.


Happy Anniversary!!

April 13, 2006

National Poetry Month [nanoblog]

Last year I celebrated NPM by posting a poem I wrote back in 1989. That exhausted my stock of poems right there (lucky you!), but let me point you to Matt’s archive. Matt is how I learned about NPM last April. I tried to coax him into posting something this year, but he is having none of that, as he is keeping his nose to the grindstone working on his dissertation. Can’t argue with that. April is half over already, so I encourage you to devote some time to reading poetry. You could do verse.


Well said! (And the "verse" thing is cute, too.)


April 11, 2006

What Is Hip?

I found out last night at Body Worlds, an exhibit of real human bodies preserved by “plastination.” And not just hips, but bones of all sorts, organs (both normal and diseased), entire bodies, and even some chickens. Although the bodies are posed in lifelike situations, their stiffness reminds me of the way I usually feel in the morning. While browsing the body parts, I was particularly surprised at the size of the liver, which I learned is the largest gland in the body. I know I like to give my liver a workout from time to time, but that kind of exercise doesn’t really improve it. Overall, a great show and highly recommended. I was much less weirded-out than I thought I would be; it was fascinating. Next stop: the Mutter Museum. That should weird me out but good. To paraphrase Jonathan Winters, “Don’t touch that cadaver, baby Elizabeth, you don’t know where it’s been.”

On our way out of the Franklin Institute, we chanced by the Foucault pendulum, which reminded me of a short paper I wrote for an English class way back in 1989. If I can find it, I might even post it.


I haven't been to the Mutter in years, but it was strangely fascinating last I visited. I'm sure the Soap Lady still reigns supreme.

I wish they still made the Mutter calendar. That was quite the annual treat.

That looks pretty gross. I don't know...I'm curious, but I don't know if I would be able to visit the entire exhibit.

I went to the Mutter a few years ago with my wife and my family. I had to excuse myself. I was shocked at my reaction but attributed it to "getting older"...lame. So, needless to say, in the weeks prior to our trip to see Body Worlds, I was envisioning spending all of my time in the gift shop browsing through the Ben Frankilin kitsch. I am happy to say I lasted throuugh the whole exhibit and never felt the need to excuse myself at all. I really enjoyed it. I attribute that to becoming "calloused".

Mrs. H, I can't believe I've never been to the Mutter, and I had no idea about the calendar.
Kathryn, it wasn't as gross as you might imagine in that everything is turned to dry plastic. Sure, it's bizarre, but my primary and still-lingering reaction was awe at the marvelous complexity of the human body.
Jim, I've heard the Mutter is more shocking than something like Body Worlds, so I don't think you've become calloused. I've always been leery of going to the Mutter. Each one of those specimens represents a life cut short or a deformity endured. Body Worlds is quite different - if anything a celebration of the "normal."

I was afraid I'd be too squeamish for Body Worlds, too--which was especially tough since I didn't have the option to avoid it! Turns out I was entirely fascinated and not at all disturbed.

The exhibit closes on the 23rd, so if anyone's still wanting to go, there aren't many days left...

April 6, 2006

Tony and Me

Who knew I had anything in common with Tony Soprano? I just learned that once out of his coma, he said to Carmella: “The lobster roll... Pearl Oyster Bar.” (via The Amateur Gourmet) It just goes to show how a near-death experience can help you get your priorities in order.

Which reminds me... It is Spring (despite that snow squall yesterday) and lobster roll season is nigh. Or near. Or just around the corner. Anyway, I am finally putting up the reviews from last year’s lobster-roll expedition. The first batch includes these five in southern Maine: Ogunquit Lobster Pound, Bob’s Clam Hut, York’s Best, Maine Diner, and Mabel’s Lobster Claw. Out of that batch, the Maine Diner emerged as the best. Most reviews feature full-frontal lobster-roll action in full color.

Speaking of buns, tonight we had hot dogs for dinner. We don’t always eat so “gourmette” (that’s French, you know), but we thought we’d kick things up a notch. What made them extra-special are the top-split rolls we brought back from Maine. We picked up three bags at a supermarket in Kittery and put them in the freezer. Sadly, they are almost gone. I'm looking forward to replenishing our supply sometime this summer.

Top-split rolls


here in the south(knoxville, tn)we once had new england style top split buns. they have disappeared but as a substitute, i use two of the bar-b-q buns produced by the flowers foods bakeries and distributed by the merita bakery here. you can trim them down a bit if you feel there is to much bun. just buy packs that seem to have properly proportioned buns in them.

Larry, I'm closer to New England, and they are rare around here (Philadelphia). We also trim the regular kind so we can get flat sides we can grill. Works well enough. Any lobster rolls in Knoxville? The closest I know of is in Charlotte, NC.

April 5, 2006

This Time It’s Personal [nanoblog]

I don’t know... I think it’s always been personal. First, Michael Dell receives a massive wedgie in a bathroom at the Javits Center in 2001. Prime suspect: Steve Jobs. Then, earlier this year, Steve gets to gloat a little when Apple’s market capitalization edges past Dell’s, paybacks for a comment Dell made in 1997 regarding Apple: “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” Today, Apple releases a beta of BootCamp, which lets Macs run Windows XP, putting Apple in direct competition with Dell. Is this rivalry what’s really behind the move to Intel? I think a lot of people will be considering the question, Shouldn’t your next PC be a Mac?

April 4, 2006

YAWOMD [nanoblog]

Yet Another Weapon of Mass Distraction. This one’s called Reddit. Kind of a digg clone, but I’m especially diggin’ Joel Spolsky’s personalized subdomain, which is more tightly focused on shiny things for software developers. The Myers-Bricks Recruitment Method tickled me. I see a future in Strategic Planning.

April 2, 2006

Apple Trivia [nanoblog]

Nothing to be too proud of, but I answered nine out of ten questions correctly on this BBC quiz about Apple history on the occasion of the company’s 30th anniversary. I flubbed this one: “Which Apple product was recently crowned as the greatest gadget of all time by a US magazine?” I guessed “iPod” naturally. Silly me. The correct answer: “The 1991 Powerbook 100 was chosen by US magazine Mobile PC because it was one of the first lightweight portable computers and helped define the layout of all future notebook PCs.” Hmm. I must have missed that issue. If you want to brush up on Apple history, I can recommend and Writer’s Block Live.

April 1, 2006

Feeling Foolish

I always look forward to April 1 to find out what subtly outrageous story NPR will be reporting on. They always do such an incredible, credible job. Now they have released a collection of ten of these stories: “Stranger Than Fact: Unbelievable News from NPR.” Unfortunately, the CD doesn’t contain my favorite story about the Starbucks coffee pipeline, which aired April 1, 1996. The story was always listed in their archive, but there was no link to the audio. Finally I wrote to them about two years ago and begged them to make it available. Not that I had anything to do with it, but they finally did. It’s as funny as I remembered it, but it may not be your cup of, um, tea. For more entertainment, Wikipedia has a long list of famous April Fool’s hoaxes. Enjoy.