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Fine company in New York City

Prior to my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, I did not publicise my impending arrival. I had a (non blogging related) friend I wanted to catch up with, and my thoughts beyond that were to just largely potter around the city for a few days and enjoy myself, before perhaps driving up the Hudson valley to do some sightseeing and then across to Connecticut to catch up with my friend before spending a couple more days in New York at the end of the trip.

However, after a post from me, and information generally going along the grapevine, word got around that I was in town, and I suddenly found myself with invitations to catch up with a variety of interesting people. As I have reported already, it turned out that Samizdata co-editor Dale Amon was in town, and he immediately offered to show me around some of the indie music clubs and pubs on the lower east side.

Before that though, journalist Taylor Dinerman of The Space Review, often of the Wall Street Journal, and occasional Samizdata contributer, invited Dale and myself (and various other interesting acquantances of his) to join him for dinner at the North West Restaurant at 79th and Columbus, just opposite the Museum of Natural History on the West Side.

Dale Amon. Fine claret. Michael Jennings. Taylor Dinerman.

Of course, when I received this invitation I was up in Connecticut somewhere, and it was something of an effort to drive frantically down the Merritt Parkway in my rented SUV (which I received from the rental car agency upon ordering a “small car” – I love America) , but I made it. And it was a civilized occasion. Over some excellent seafood, conversation ranged from favourite countries (I shocked the people present by admitting that I prefer France to Italy) to what I should do in New York City to whether Pluto is a planet or not, to more discussion about space. And space some more. The question of whether the restaurant should be declared the official United States Samizdata Headquarters was discussed. (I am for it. After a hearty meal we can all go over to the Hayden Planetarium for a show. Great). And somre more space discussion after that. Plans to visit Florida in January to watch the launch of the New Horizons (ake Pluto Express aka Pluto Fast Flyby) probe were discussed. And then the conversation moved on to wine.

As it happens, Taylor enjoys a glass of good red almost as much as I do. He had brought a bottle of aged Bordeaux from his collection to the restaurant, which Taylor had asked the staff of the restaurant (who clearly knew Taylor well) to decant for him earlier in the evening. Taylor’s timing was perfect. The wine had aged beautifully, and it gave me a wonderfully pleasant buzz. Hopefully Taylor can be lured to London sometime and I can serve him something interesting from my collection.

A good thing about going to a restaurant with such people in such a place was that I remembered a mental note of mine. When the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History installed its new specially modified Zeiss Mark IX projector in 1999, I told myself that I must go and see a program when in New York. So on my last day in New York I did. The visualisation of the heavens is indeed wonderful, and the way the projector makes it possible to zoom in and out of the solar system, the galaxy, or even vast numbers of galaxies is stunning, although the show was much too short. (Do they think modern people have tiny attention spans, or is it just a matter of trying to fit as many shows as possible into the day?) I have visions of sitting in the control room and being able to use the system to fly around a model of the whole unvierse – sort of a much better version of Google Earth but with the whole universe – but I suspect it is not like this. The computer power is probably not there to calculate such a model in real time. Or is it? (Certainly it is not needed for the programs shown to the public, which are the same every time).

And the displays in the Rose Centre for Earth and Space outside seem to have made a decision about Pluto. It is not listed as a planet in any of the exhibits, although there is something of a disclaimer pretending that they are not taking a position. Although as far as I can see they are.


4 comments to Fine company in New York City

  • You might want to check out Celestia. It’s a pretty good simulation, although I find it takes some getting used to!

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Going to a restaurant, drinking superb wine, visiting a space planetarium, hanging out with highly intelligent, libertarian people: the blogosphere is keeping the tradition of the French salons alive.

    See you later for a glass or two of Burgundy, Michael.

  • Good to hear from you Michael.

    Just one point the timing on the wine was a total accident. I was worried that it was going bad since it was stored in a unregulated (at least in that sense) appartment.

    I’m looking forward to sampling what you have and to any instruction you may want to share in the finer points of Australian wines.

    Given what is happening in La Belle France, their wine industry may go the way of the Persian or Yemenite wine making traditions. So stock up on Bordeauxs and Burgundies and Cote de Rhones, Allah may insure that this might be your last chance.

  • Dale Amon

    I might also add that the lovely woman (not in the photo) who I was talking with is a french immigrant and film producer who earlier was doing the camera work whilst Taylor interviewed myself and another.

    Fine wine, beautiful women, great conversation… what more can one ask?