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The Devil is a Sopranos fan

I invented therapy okay? So that the wicked could justify their actions.

-- The Devil, from Reaper, Season 1, Episode 6, "Leon"

Best Superbowl Commercial

Etrade once again:

It was even funnier after I realized the second baby is singing "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister. The Etrade baby is approaching elite status as far as commercials go. A few more hits and he'll join the Geico cavemen in the hall of fame.

Portland mayor makes sweet, sweet manlove to teen

But the real reason I'm posting this is the following sentence I encountered while reading the associated news item:

A day earlier, Adams issued a statement saying: "In the past, I have characterized my relationship with Beau Breedlove as purely nonsexual. That is not true. Beau Breedlove and I had a sexual relationship for a few months in the summer of 2005 after he turned 18 years of age."

Beau Breedlove? Freal dough?

Quote of the Day

There's something seriously screwed up about a culture in which people voluntarily go to pay tribute to Caesar.

--Brandon Berg

Congratulations Kurt Warner

You just got yourself into the NFL Hall of Fame.

There'll be a made-for-TV movie about you one day.

In case you haven't heard about the plane in the Hudson...

...turn on the TV.

Check out this amazing pic.

Interviewed passengers say everyone got out. If so, nice job pilots.

Slumdog Millionaire

I saw Slumdog Millionaire tonight, a movie I had not heard of till a friend called me up and asked if I wanted to go. I generally don't like movies, but I was blown away by this one for many reasons, including the fantastic use of music in certain scenes. I remember hearing "Paper Planes" by M.I.A. before and didn't think much of it, but as the background to a scene in which two homeless brothers ride atop a train trying to hustle the passengers in the countryside of India, it just worked.

Commercial of Note

Pepsi has a new commercial out that's more iTunes than most iTunes commercials.

Note the use of vivid colors, rotating objects, and motions emphasized with drum beats or guitar strums in an air of simplicity. It comes together with a catchy melody and memorable lyric.

Satriani / Coldplay

Joe Satriani says Coldplay stole his stuff.

Rock guitarist Joe Satriani has sued British band Coldplay, accusing the Grammy-nominated stars of plagiarizing one of his songs.

Satriani's copyright infringement suit, filed on Thursday in Los Angeles federal court, claims the Coldplay song "Viva La Vida" incorporates "substantial original portions" of his 2004 instrumental "If I Could Fly."

This is a mashup of the two songs:

Viva la Vida is clearly a ripoff of If I Could Fly. Too bad, I like the song.

Falafel as a microcosm of the Arab-Israeli conflict

I've searched all over Boston for the perfect falafel. My travels have taken me far and wide, by foot and by car, through grimy Big Dig tunnels and rusted Green line trolleys. After much time and devotion, I have found it. It's located on Coolidge Corner, or c-squared as the kids call it, in an unassuming restaurant named Rami's.

Along the way, I sampled the fares of Shawarma King, also located in c-squared. The place is run by a Lebanese family who hung a giant American flag on their door in the wake of 9/11. The falafel is on the spicy side and has a crunchy outer shell. Similar falafel is found at Boston Shawarma in the area of Northeastern University. Both places use a tortilla-style wrap and yogurt sauce as the condiment in their sandwiches.

Falafel King is the quintessential "hole in the wall" located near the Downtown Crossing area. You have to move past a sketchy Chinese food stand on the right and a guy who sells stolen electronics equipment to the left to find your way to the back where a smiling face will greet you and offer a falafel ball dipped in hummus while you wait in line. Unfortunately, I believe the free falafel enhances the reputation of this place far out of proportion to the quality of the food. I found the falafel a bit too dry and the sandwich lacking in quality accompaniments.

Cafe Jaffa in the Back Bay provides fresh falafel with every order. Everytime I've been there, they've made the falafel to order, not relying on a mountain of balls that dry out while sitting. I've tried various Greek places, but Greek falafel is too bland for my tastes. I even made my first attempt at cooking falafel at home. Though the final result wasn't too shabby, it was apparent that I didn't get the spices quite right. The balls were too also raw on the inside after cooking. Next time, I will use very slow heat and add more baking soda.

In my quest for the perfect falafel I noticed something. The two places I like best--Rami's and Cafe Jaffa--are run by Israelis, and the others are run by Arabs. Realizing that a trend was in play, I did some research and found that there is indeed a difference between Israeli and Arab falafel. Arab falafel tends to be spicier and the balls drier. It's usually served in a tortilla-style wrap, often accompanied by a yogurt sauce. Israeli falafel is less spicy, but softer and not quite as crunchy on the outside. It's usually served in thicker pita bread rather than a thin wrap and is accompanied by hummus, unlike in Arab countries. Interestingly, fries are often stuffed inside the sandwich.

At Rami's, the falafel is melt-in-your-mouth soft. The pita is spongy, stretchy, and thick. Tahini sauce and tangy hummus are the usual accompaniments along with cucumber, red cabbage, tomatoes, and pickles. If you ask for the hot sauce, realize that a little goes a long way.

Having completed by quest and arrived at the perfect falafel ball, I asked myself, "Is falafel Arab food or Israeli food? Or even Greek?" A simple Google search yield the following article.

The last time you bit into a falafel sandwich you were probably thinking about nothing more than the warm spice and crunch of the chickpea fritters and the way they played against the soft bread, crisp vegetables and nutty tahini sauce.

Unless you're Palestinian, in which case you may have had weightier culinary issues on your mind.

Many Palestinians believe that Israelis have stolen falafel, a traditional Arab food, and passed it off as what postcards at tourist kiosks all over Israel call "Israel's National Snack."

"We always sort of look at each other and roll our eyeballs when we pass a restaurant that says 'Israeli falafel,'" said Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American and a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Chicago.

Three pages of falafel history follow.

If you're ever in the Coolidge Corner neighborhood of Boston, give Rami's a try. You won't regret it.

"I don't know what happened"

If you're a sports fan, I'm sure you've read about this story. But just in case:

A Carroll woman who was caught having sex in the men's room at an Iowa Hawkeye football game in Minneapolis last weekend says she’d had so much wine before kickoff that she doesn’t remember walking into the restroom, the man she had sex with in a stall, or when the police opened the door.

What Lois Feldman, 38, will remember is the humiliation afterward.

“It’s ruined my life,” she said through tears today. “Not just the incident but the press.”

Feldman, a married mother of three, has been the target of Internet jokes and prank telephone calls today. She was fired this morning from an assisted living center, where she had been an administrator.

Feldman said her husband, Kelly, has been supportive. She said he faults himself for not going with her when she left her seat to use the restroom before halftime.

“I don’t know what happened,” Lois Feldman said. “But I don’t deny that it did happen because obviously there are police reports.”

Police ticketed Feldman, 38, and Ross Walsh, 26, of Linden for indecent conduct Saturday night.

The poor husband blames himself for not accompanying her. Talk about awful game.

Battle for the Commonwealth

This is my yearly plug for the Virginia Tech - University of Virginia football game, which will be held tomorrow at noon in Blacksburg. Both teams are having down years this season, but nonetheless, the game has meaningful ramifications. With a VT win, the Hokies go to the ACC championship game. A UVA win makes the Cavaliers bowl eligible.

From 2004: A War to End all Wars

Savages Strike Mumbai

If there was any doubt left that militant Islam is a threat to civilization, the events of yesterday should wipe away those last shreds. Over the next few weeks, you'll hear how this is the US government's fault or how if not for action X taken by government Y in the past, there would have been no bombings yesterday. Remind yourself that it's self-flagellation and nothing more. Humans have agency.

All the cool kids are voting; you should too

Our old friend Joe Miller emailed me before the election about an article he wrote for the website Culture11 about an argument for voting. Unfortunately, I didn't check my email in time to post it before the election, and have been bad about checking my email since, so I'm finally getting around to posting it. But you should read it since Joe's a smart guy and argues well. An excerpt:

We need to convince some (unknown) number of people to vote. But we also know that it’s irrational for any particular person to vote. The only way to solve the problem is to make cooperation more appealing than defection.

The solution Joe gives is social pressure as a means to promote cooperation (in game theoretic terms). The background assumption is that more voting is a good thing, which I'm not so sure is true.

Where da cabs be?

Third time now, going back from downtown Boston to Back Bay is nearly impossible at 2AM. Everyone is looking for a cab and there aren't enough cabs. Walk to the street and you'll see dozens of groups trying to hail the same cab. It's bitterly cold, windchill of 6 F, I might add. I had to wait 45 minutes and even that was augmented by some female companions in our group aiding in the hailing. You'd think that the market would rectify this quickly. Lots of money to be made in a big city late at night. But wait! Ain't no free market in transport!

Hokies won an ugly one earlier.