Blogging since 1998. By David Wertheimer

Category: Personal (Page 1 of 23)

Six-word reviews of the restaurants in my neighborhood

(With long-memory apologies to Paul Ford.)

Absolute Bagel: a bit far and worth it.

Au Jus: pretty decent BBQ, inscrutable portion sizes.

Blue Marble: a pricey little scoop, but yum.

Bosino: we tried it once, were underwhelmed.

Broadway Bagel: makes a solid egg and cheese.

Broadway Restaurant: fun there’s a greasy spoon nearby.

Cafe du Soleil: bubble dining was a pandemic highlight.

Cheesy Pizza: gloppy, sketchy, and not my style.

Famous Famiglia Pizza: Eli’s favorite. I’m not sure why.

Flor de Mayo: tried it twice. Got stomachaches twice.

Guacamole: now it’s called Pico de Gallo.

Just Pho You: meaning to try it, haven’t yet.

Kouzan: pretty decent Japanese, but no delivery?

La Vera: not bad, but not our go-to.

Lenny’s: best for their whole-wheat everything bagel.

Malecon: we order from Pio Pio instead.

Mama’s Too!: delicious, unique pizza. Try the pear.

Manhattan Diner: like Metro, but not as good.

Manhattan Valley Cuisine of India: Nate didn’t enjoy, but I did.

Metro Diner: Reliable, high quality diner. Excellent bacon.

Naruto Ramen: fine, but wish it was great.

Nobody Told Me: good food and unique summer cocktails.

Ollie’s: mediocre Chinese, displaced by Shun Lee.

Ozen: sixteen years and we’ve never gone.

Pio Pio: every time we order, we’re happy.

Popeye’s: they undercook their chicken for juiciness.

Regional: cute; we tried, but it’s meh.

Sal and Carmine Pizza: fantastic slice joint, a regular purchase.

Serafina: Italian. Reliable. Amy loves their focaccia.

Street Taco: impressive decor but for the weapons.

Shun Lee 98th St: sure, it’s franchised, but it’s great.

Super Tacos: a solid, authentic Mexican food truck.

Sushi W: great omakase in an unlikely location.

Szechuan Garden: we tried it once, were underwhelmed.

Sun Chan: college students say it’s good sushi.

A Taste of Ecuador: Riverside Park food truck; tasty empanadas.

Texas Rotisserie: so-so BBQ, but good lunch special.

Thai Market: great neighbor recommendation, a weekly staple.

Westside Market: a supermarket, but great tuna salad.

WingStop: we shouldn’t, but yeah, we do.

Wolfnights: fussy for the sake of it.

Drafted 2021/10/15 at 2:46 pm. Published with updates for openings and closings.

My all-time favorite video games

In chronological order, with honorable mentions for the same platform noted in parentheses.

Combat for Atari 2600 (plus Breakout, football)

Friendlyware for MS-DOS

Pinball Construction Set for Apple ][

Pole Position arcade console (plus Offroad)

Marble Madness arcade console

Bard’s Tale III: The Thief of Fate for Apple ][

SimCity for Apple ][

Nintendo Golf for GameBoy

Klondike Solitaire for Mac OS 7

Triple Yahtzee for Mac OS 7

Risk for Mac OS 7

PGA Golf III for Sega Genesis

Mario Kart 64

Snake for Nokia mobile phones

Mario Kart Wii

Sparkle for iOS

Wii Sports and Wii Sports U (particularly golf and disc golf)

Klondike Solitaire for iOS (Mobilityware version)

Taberinos for Flash

Bounzy! for iOS (plus Holedown, Physics Balls)

Townscaper for iOS

What I find most interesting about this list is how many of these games I still play and can play, even though the top game on this list dates to 1980. The bottom four are all in regular rotation—I play Taberinos in a legacy desktop Flash player—and many of the others I’ve played in the past couple of years, thanks to still-working consoles and MacMAME. Last spring I played Wii Sports disc golf as a nightcap for almost two months straight.

Also, I need some new games.

Drafted 2023/01/02 at 1:08 pm. Published with clarifying edits and epilogue.

The new car

I last bought a new car back in March 2002, when this website was hand-coded with a sidebar. That car was a share, with my brother; for good measure, we even titled and registered it in my mother’s name.

As one might imagine, this became increasingly anachronistic as we married, had children, went gray, etc. The ridiculousness of being in my 40s and driving what amounted to Mom’s extra car has not been lost on me. That said, it’s been wonderful: our car lasted a long time, and my brother and I had a remarkably easy time swapping it back and forth all these years. I move on with no complaints.

But move on I must, away from the car that requires a steering fluid refill every few weeks, that shakes like a Magic Fingers motel bed at red lights, that occasionally requires I slam my fist into the passenger door armrest to reconnect the stereo speaker. Owning a car means never knowing exactly when to say goodbye. But then, as a friend remarked to me, there’s a direct correlation between hanging onto our car and the odds of waiting on the side of the highway for the AAA guy.

Buying a car is a full-on ordeal. I performed far too much research, considered dozens of cars, visited no fewer than eight dealerships, drove seven different vehicles. I emailed or called even more dealerships than that, in a quest to find the exact car I was after, some more than 300 miles away.

The salespeople at the dealers were mostly miserable. I received price quotes in a $7,000 range, low to high, for more or less the same vehicle in each location. I had dealers say they had cars they didn’t. I had sales guys refuse to price match. I had a salesman bring me into the showroom to negotiate, only to be told there would be no negotiating. One full-on yelled at me for telling him I’d like to remove a bunch of add-ons to the car to lower the price, saying it was impossible to pull out rubber floor mats.

Another salesman wrote down all my information, consciously avoided giving me his business card, then failed to ever send me a price quote. At one dealership, a salesman gave me a once-over, decided based on my shoes (which he stared at) that I wasn’t a serious buyer, and treated me dismissively; when I returned the next day, he pawned me off on the most junior member of the staff, and managed to literally sell the car I wanted while I was on a test drive at the dealership. I repeat: miserable.

Not everyone was like that, though. One dealership was fair, levelheaded, and fully transparent in their pricing, although they were ultimately unable to source the car. Another had a sales manager who spoke with me patiently on the phone, multiple times, and aggressively dropped the price on the vehicle in order to win my business. I liked the price I got, but I also liked their style. I’m headed there this weekend to finish the transaction.

And after all that, I actually did buy a new car.

Drafted 2016/08/18 at 11:50 pm. Published with light edits for readability.

Do I touch them, do I dare

I took a peek in my WordPress admin and I have 143 draft posts. That’s a lot of half-finished thoughts! Some of them are just unpublished link logs, but plenty of them are actual content. The oldest draft post is from 2007.

I had a thought yesterday, working on my watch post (which I started in August, before my repair saga commenced), that I could spend some time this spring and summer resuscitating and posting all my draft posts. No way I do that now—how could I represent an idea from 2007 appropriately?

But maybe a handful are worth revisiting, and actually posting. Any that I do, and which dates back long enough, will have an annotation of when it was drafted. Let’s see if anything interesting comes of it.

Returning to an analog watch

Starting in around third or fourth grade, I wore a watch every day. I always had more than one option, and they ranged, over the years, from various Casio gadget watches to Swatch Skin designs, from a Movado (bar mitzvah) to a Breitling (engagement), from $15 fake Rolexes on Fifth Avenue to the M&Co 10-One-4. I always had more than one, and I’d match them to the occasion and even to the color of my shoes.

Then I got an Apple Watch. The Series 0, first one out the gate, in stainless steel so I could wear it with a suit (back when such things mattered). I wasn’t a heavy user, but I loved the basic functionality—never miss a text, never miss a call, tap-tap reminders of meetings, easy use while driving or carrying things. It became my daily wear. I had two recurrent thoughts: What will I do with my old watches now that I’ve converted to a smart watch? And what will the watch manufacturers do to keep up?

The second answer is a continually evolving business essay, but the first answer was, for a long time, “not much.” I stuck my three non-Apple watches in a drawer and left them there. I missed them, for various reasons, but I got hooked on the Apple Watch’s functionality, just as so many people did when upgrading to smartphones.

Then the pandemic hit.

For the first time in decades, I didn’t have anywhere to go, and I didn’t have a regular place to work. I found myself moving around a house in the suburbs all day—desk, bed, couch, kitchen table—always with my Macbook Air, never at a proper keyboard. I discovered very quickly that my watch band was getting in the way. Ten hours a day clacking the Apple Watch clasp into the corner of the laptop became frustrating. At the same time, its functionality was losing its appeal: no longer commuting and moving around, my phone was on my desk most of the day, and I never missed an alert.

And for the first time in nearly 40 years, I stopped wearing a watch.

I started by removing it for heavy typing, then realized I was fine not wearing it at all, and that was that. After a while, I didn’t miss the smartwatch at all. It didn’t hurt that my watch was aging; but instead of pining for the latest version, I just stopped wanting one entirely. Switching to an entirely remote company for work sealed my Apple Watch’s fate.

As the world came out of the pandemic, I realized that my wardrobe was missing something. All those years wearing watches are hard to ignore; I like having something on my wrist (I wore bracelets on and off for years, on the opposite arm) and the return to socializing and occasional in-office days had me staring at everyone else’s timepieces. My arm felt naked.

So I pulled out my beloved Nixon 51-30, and after months of meandering repairs (the battery was dead; I got a new battery installed, and the now-brittle rubber strap immediately snapped in two; I convinced Nixon to send me a replacement strap, but the screws holding the strap were stuck; I sent the watch back to Nixon, who discovered the case was dented and needed replacing) I actually have a mostly new watch on my wrist.

I’m wearing my watch as I type this, laptop bumping be damned. And now, when I next go to the office or out to dinner, I’ll feel just a little bit more whole.

iPhone cases and me

John Gruber posted a nice write-up of iPhone cases (or not) and personal preference. I can tell you mine: case, always, and rarely Apple’s. Everyone is unique, but in the interest of sharing, here’s why I do as I do.

I use a case because I dropped my first-gen iPhone the first weekend I owned it. Just a scuff, but a lesson learned: iPhones are slippery, shaped inorganically, and in cadet-sized hands also dealing with children and pets, they can and do go flying. And, frankly, cases work: in all the years I’ve owned an iPhone, I’ve only broken the glass once—when my phone fell out of a broken case that I was preparing to replace.

I’ve generally bought third-party cases because they’re slimmer than Apple’s. As long as they have a lip around the front edge, to protect the screen, they’ve done me well. There are downsides, though: the fit can be off, and they tend to break down more rapidly. I go through a plastic Case-Mate Barely There every six months or so on my current 12 mini. Meanwhile, the Apple-issued case I have on my 2017 iPhone 7 (which I still use for audio and games) is still hanging in there.

For my new, plus-size work phone, I got Apple’s case, and it’s really nice. I love its tactile qualities. It doesn’t seem much larger than my Case-Mate, either. I may get a second Apple case when I upgrade my mini. (I’m also eyeing some of the makers Gruber links to.) Whatever I buy, though, I’ll have a case on it promptly.


I turn 50 today. Fifty! I absolutely hate it.

I’ve been in a wretched mood for the past week or so. Milestone birthdays are not my thing. When I was turning 40, my wife asked me what I wanted, and I said, “To go on vacation and pretend I’m 36,” so she and I spent a week in the south of France. That was a good idea.

This time around I’m just crabby. The family has leaned into celebrating, on the assumption that they can happy me through it: multiple balloon assemblages, three birthday cards (one handmade), thoughtful gifts, dinner at the unquestionable Gramercy Tavern this evening. It’s all quite lovely and I love them for it.

If I’m not chipper today, at least I’m consistent.

The blogging quarter-century

Jason Kottke’s blog turns 25 today. Twenty-five years is a long time to do something. In Jason’s case, he has made a career out of blogging, and has been truly, wonderfully great at it for many years. I’ve been a regular reader of his blog for the entirety of his run and wish him many more years of success.

Kottke’s milestone is important around these parts because his blog prompted the creation of mine. Ideapad launched on November 1, 1998, eight months after, heavily inspired by Jason’s successful start; my first blog post even thanks him for the font. I’d had my own website since 1996 but this is when I committed to writing online. (I copied Jason a second time with the Year in Cities, which he dropped some time ago but I have enjoyed maintaining.)

I’ve been thinking about the Ideapad’s approaching 25th a lot lately—I’m approaching the point where I’ll have been blogging for half my life. Keeping up with a hobby for so long is also something to celebrate.

Jason, cheers and congrats for reaching a quarter century, and thanks for getting me going, too.

In praise of the ebike share

I am a longtime bike commuter and a general fan of bicycling around New York. I liked to ride to work twice a week in fair weather, a practice I continued right up to the start of the pandemic, when commuting got turned on its head.

Since the start of the pandemic, like many others, I no longer have a regular commute. Which means I don’t get to bike to work—but I don’t take mass transit to work, either. After 20 years of near-daily trips downtown, I suddenly had no need for an unlimited-ride Metrocard. I’m a longtime fan and supporter of the subway system, but my use cases dwindled, and along with it, my enthusiasm for going underground.

Enter Citibike. For all my cycling around the city, I’ve always struggled with where to leave my bike when I get to where I’m going; bikeshare eliminates that problem, with docks every couple of blocks. Hopping on a bike meant fresh air, exercise, and not dealing with the transit system. And then there’s the ebike.

Riding the Citibike ebikes are an adult equivalent of what kid cyclists feel when their parents give them a push. Step on the pedal, and a light mechanical whir provides an instant boost. It makes slow rides fast and flattens out hills. This morning, I rode a standard Citibike (sigh) and traveled 1.5 miles in 15 minutes; this afternoon, for the return trip, I went 2.2 miles on an ebike in just 12 minutes.

That time, by the way, turns out to be an 11 mph clip. New York’s subways average a paltry 17 mph these days, and buses in Manhattan just 6 mph. Grabbing an ebike means I get to my destination in half the time of a bus, and not much longer than a train—and that’s without factoring in wait times, delays, or going out of my way to a station.

In fact, it can be quicker. My recent rides, for example, were to 11th Avenue in the west 50s, not exactly a great place to find the MTA, and home from east midtown to the Upper West Side, which usually involves three different subway lines. For the latter, I cut my travel time nearly in half. Going to Zabar’s takes 15-20 minutes by bus or train, but on an ebike it’s barely a five minute ride.

In addition, Citibike ebikes are, simply stated, fun. It’s a great rush to feel a bicycle zip along without strain; one feels in control but also along for the ride. The next generation ebikes are especially satisfying, as they are sturdier and heavier, making the experience feel like a cross between a standard bicycle and a motorized scooter. An ebike ride provides a little cardio, too, because it’s still a bike that needs to be pedaled. So the trip is active instead of passive, yet relaxed enough to avoid breaking a sweat on the way to a meeting.

I have an annual Citibike membership (thanks Citibank!) so my ebike rides delightfully affordable. That ride from midtown cost $2.48. Which, now that I lack that 30-day Metrocard, compares favorably to the $2.75 cost for a single ride with the MTA. Fresh air, light exercise, and spare change back in my pocket? I’ll take that trade every time.

So I’ve become an ebike regular: to appointments without a direct subway route, to business lunches, to meet friends after work, to save time going crosstown. If my route sends me into Central Park, so much the better. Because what better way to do New York than with high-speed, point-to-point, cost-efficient personal transport?

A redesign

Well, that didn’t take long:

If inspiration strikes again, I may find a whole new template for the blog, too.

So now the Ideapad has a new, modern template, albeit still a work in progress. I seem to have gotten all the elements in place, cleaned up the font displays, and added a few more images to the header.

On some level, not much has changed, but mobile rendering should be nicer now, and I’ve lost the odd gray sidebars on desktop that never served much purpose.

There’s a bunch of work to be done as time permits—lots of extraneous horizontal lines, some odd elements from the template that I will continue to edit or excise (why is my blockquote gray and not indented?)—but in the meantime, we’re fresh and clean around here, and ready for the next decade of publishing.

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