Mystery solved!

This interesting article in today’s NYT tells the story of the fad of Tibetan mastiffs as high-end pets in China.

It is an appealing story about social changes, new riches, inequalities, and so on, but it also, finally, explains why I could never find in San Francisco hot pot that tasted like in Beijing:

Instead, earlier this year Nibble and 20 more unlucky mastiffs found themselves stuffed into metal chicken crates and packed onto a truck with 150 other dogs. If not for a band of Beijing animal rights activists who literally threw themselves in front of the truck, Nibble and the rest would have ended up at a slaughterhouse in northeast China where, at roughly $5 a head, they would have been rendered into hot pot ingredients, imitation leather and the lining for winter gloves.

(Emphasis added)

This story has a moral

I was having dinner at Machne Yuda, that was recommended to me as one of the best places to eat in Jerusalem (although I liked Chakra much better), and I was sitting at the bar, cramped between the French gay couple and the drunk Israeli lady with the huge boyfriend.

At the same time that I got my dessert, the lady with the huge boyfriend stood up to leave and, with remarkable swiftness for a drunk lady, took a piece of my cake asking, while she was already doing so, if she could try it.

Now, between the fact of the ground that a piece of my cake was already on her fork, the size of the boyfriend, the fate of the last people who tried to fight with the Israeli about what is whose and, really, haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough already?, the only logical thing to say was, sure, help yourself.

A little bit later, the bartender presented me with another (different) dessert. “This is on the house,” the bartender said, “I saw what she did, and it wasn’t right.”

The second dessert was better.

What I miss: an incomplete list

I just returned from a trip to Rome. While there, I was asked by my friends what I miss most of Rome. Of course what one misses the most is the city itself. Anybody who has walked around, and gotten lost into, the side streets around via del Corso or Trastevere, especially in the late afternoon, when everything is bathed in an odd yellowish light, knows what I am talking about. One thing I don’t miss is Roman traditional food. Roman cuisine is one of the worst of Italy’s and a lot of its delicacies gross me out. One famous dish for example, la pajata, has been (and probably still is) illegal since the emergence of mad cow disease, because it’s made from veal intestines, including digestive juices. The matter of its legality has preoccupied Rome’s mayor to no end, and he has threatened “eat-ins” of pajata as acts of civil disobedience.

Back to the things I miss, in random order:
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This is San Francisco

A truck selling mini-cupcakes is parked in the Castro and doing business. It has its Twitter feed printed on the side. By subscribing to the mini-cupcakes truck Twitter feed, you can know in advance when it’s in your neighborhood. Or, if so inclined, you can follow it around the city.

A large man with a tiny dog looks at the cupcakes, then he turns to the tiny dog. “Would you like a cupcake?” he asks the dog, “remember when you had cupcake last time, you liked it.” The dog is not making eye contact with the man. “So, do you want a cupcake, or not? Tell me.”

If You Are Going To San Francisco…

The 2009 Theory of Cryptography Conference starts next weekend in San Francisco.

The Center for Asian-America Media has kindly arranged for the 2009 San Francisco Asian Film Festival to coincide with the conference.

Most of the movies are playing at the Kabuki theater, which is about a mile away from the conference hotel. The Kabuki is part of a Japanese mall which is worth a visit (and a dinner) anyways. Across the street, there is Dosa, an oddly located South-Indian restaurant which is also very much worth a visit. If you are coming earlier, on Friday night you should head to the Castro Theater (a great San Francisco landmark) for Serpent’s Path, a Japanese comedy-gangster mix about a mathematician who kidnaps a yakuza. On a more serious note, there is 24 City, playing on Sunday, the new Jia Zhangke movie about change in China. (I thought Still Life was exasperating, but I’ll give him another chance.)

Other than eating and going to film festivals, there is plenty more to do in San Francisco.

For example the new, rather dramatic, California Academy of Science Museum is open to the public. It’s best to buy tickets in advance. Across the street, the De Young Museum is in another rather beautiful new building in a city that otherwise has nearly no notable contemporary architecture. (The third exception is the new Federal Building.)

Check out SF Station for nightlife information, Yelp for reviews of restaurants and bars, and 511 for public transit information. (You can also call 511 from your phone.)

The stretch of Polk street just South of the conference hotel has several popular bars, such as the Hemlock.