Stuff I Did, Travel

Katz’s Delicatessen

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Katz’s Delicatessen

Katz’s has been around since 1888 and has endured in the hearts of both locals and tourists alike. I found myself wandering into the area after running an errand at REI and thought that I would drop by to see what the fuss was about.

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This is a small crowd

The food at Katz speaks for itself, as does the line of people outside that does not seem to shrink whatever time of day I pass by, whichever day of the week it is. The service is lovely and the experience unique. While it might be confusing and intimidating the first time to see the mass of people waiting at the counter. There is a method to the madness so to speak.

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My golden ticket to the king of pastrami sandwiches!

Upon arrival at the door, a gentleman opened the door and ushered me in saying “The fastest way to get something to eat is to head straight to the counter”. He then hands me a yellow ticket and I correctly conclude that it works dim sum style. You order everything you want, the service staff marks it down on your ticket and you get the bill shock only at the end. Well actually the bill isn’t that shocking since all prices are upfront but I shall get to that later.

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Cutting edge service at the counter

There are six counters serviced by men of a variety of ages and races. They wield large forks and sharp, long knives. I headed to line 6, the furthest, shortest line where the server was a smaller built guy with the aloof demeanor of a seasoned pro. Looking around nonchalantly, he swiftly carved up a hunk of meat with great efficiency, packing it all in between two pieces of bread with a generous helping of mustard.

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I wait patiently behind the 4 others in front of me, observing the people in front of me carefully lest I be “one of those” clueless people. While they work with speed, I didn’t feel hurried at all. I spied the man ahead of me tasting two chunks of pastrami sliced and slathered with fresh mustard. Do they allow tasting? Is he regular? Should I eat the brisket? or pastrami? Is Rye the only kind of bread I can have? Should I have cow tongue? Is this place cash only?

“NEXT VICTIM PLEASE!” hollered the man at my line as he struck his knife on the chopping board swiftly a couple of times. Chunks of meat from the previous cut dislodge themselves from the knife in preparation for the next carve. Moving up, I decide to go with the most tried and tested item, a pastrami sandwich for the princely sum of $19. Yes. Nineteen bucks for what is essentially a sandwich. However, I always believe in giving an establishment the best chance of impressing me on their terms. Getting the hot dog or something cheaper isn’t going to be fair to them. I don’t mess with whatever they say works and if I don’t like it, I just don’t come back.

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Mustard is a must

He carved up some meat in front of him and then deciding it’s not going to be enough, he turns around and spears a new piece from a cabinet full of meat and lands it on the cutting board, chopping and carving away again. He drops 2 rough cut chunks on a small dish in front of me at the counter and asked me if I want mustard. Yes please.

He carries on chopping up the meat and leaves me to it. The meat is steaming hot and the smokey rub falls off in bits and pieces when you handle it. I grab a piece and push it into the mound of mustard freshly wiped off his knife onto the plate. The meat falls apart. With much of the rub clinging to the surface it tastes really great. I mop up the bits that fall off with my fingers and finish the second piece as quickly as the first. My goodness. Coupled with the mustard it really makes a great combination, satisfying and rich. You just have to try it yourself. I suppose they let you taste the meat on the spot as kind of a way to tell you “the meat was this good at the point I carved it up, it’s not my fault if you eat this 3 hours later and decide it’s only so-so”. He stuffs the meat in between 2 slices of rye bread and places in a on a plate, accompanied my 2 different kinds of pickle before taking my ticket, marking it with the total cost and hands it back to me.

My marked-up ticket

My marked-up ticket

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The sandwich. It’s thickness is roughly 2 inches so prepare to unhinge your jaw

I finished half the sandwich and packed the other half for YX while having a great conversation with a couple from Boston, Mass. They share a slice of cow tongue with me and point me to a sign above my head that marks the very spot where Harry met Sally. It was a nice conversation followed by a 360 photo, probably a story for another time.

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I haven’t watched this but I will

While a definitely great sandwich for meat lovers, everything just feels a bit pricier than I would prefer. However, considering the cost of an average meal in New York, the service you get and the quality of the meats in addition to the fact that it’s really more of an experience than a meal, it was a very worthwhile eating experience from the time I stepped in to the time I left. Comparing it to the salt beef sandwich from the Brass Rail, Selfridges in London just seems unfair as this one is infinitely more meaty, substantial and leaves you with a fuller belly and more of a story to tell.

Parting pro-tip: You can pay by card at the very end of the service counter as the exit only takes cash.

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YX and I made a snowman last night. It started with a quick walk outside to show YX around at about 11pm since she isn’t that mobile. In the end we stayed 2 hours building a snowman. Probably our first and last for now, it was a ton of work! Had the boy from upstairs with 2 older ladies come ring our doorbell the next day telling us the snowman was “so awesome he didn’t wanna eat it”. Thanks!

Photography, Stuff I Did

Mr Snowman

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Side-Projects, Stuff I Did

Altoid Tin Kid’s Electronics Kit

An Introduction to Electronics for Kids

Just trying to document the process I went through while building this for kids aged 5-8 years old.

Too young? Perhaps. But I’d rather they surprise me than find the kit to be too lame for their age.

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Deciding what to put in and how to build the circuit along with the container so it wouldn’t be complicated was tough! I selected these parts after a long process of looking around online at ebay, adafruit, sparkfun, Tinkersphere (in downtown manhattan) and Amazon. 3 kits cost a total of $40-50USD but the parts come in large quantities so it’s really cheap to do a couple more.

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In the end, I decided that a kit for kids should have a few guidelines:

  1. Everything needed to be as direct as possible. No switches, no jumpers on the breadboard, basically no logical jumps that require “if this then that, then that”. Power just goes to different components directly.
  2. The effects of applying power to the component should be obvious and hopefully attractive to kids. I chose a 5V piezo buzzer, a Green LED, a Flashing Multi-colored LED and a vibrating motor. Light, Sound, Motion.
  3. 3V might be more suitable than 5V via USB or 9V here so that we won’t need to deal with resistors in series with the LEDs. I think the LEDs are over-powered but they are not burning out so I’ll hope my luck doesn’t run out.

What can they learn?

  1. Batteries have +ve and -ve poles
  2. Components have polarity as well, sometimes connecting it backwards works (like with motors) sometimes it doesn’t (like with LEDs and buzzers)
  3. When you add jumper cables into the mix to simultaneously power components, you can learn about connecting stuff in series and in parallel. A bit too advanced for younger ones though!
  4. Metal in the wires conduct electricity
  5. The symbols for the components as well as the RED/BLACK for + and – convention.

Any Risks?

There are a few risks I’ve identified here actually:

  1. Short circuits can get very hot, even at 3V. This is probably because the wire is so thin. The hot glue I used to insulate the wire temporarily melted right off when I accidentally shorted it for about 5-10 seconds. The only way around this would be to permanently power the breadboard and short all the rows so that each side of the board is either +ve or -ve but then you’d have to leave the child to insert components which would surely result in breaking them.
  2. Small, small parts. To get around this I decided to just glue all the components to the board and mark out the rows of the breadboard that need to be connected. I decided not to hot glue all the unused rows in the breadboard so that perhaps in future there might be a bit more flexibility.
  3. The altoid tin itself conducts electricity which means the loose power cables could short out inside the tin. It doesn’t happen actually in real life but to be safe I just taped up the inside surface so it wouldn’t happen.

So that’s it! It’s really simple to build but it really requires a lot of thinking about what you want to achieve as well as what is manageable and safe from a child’s perspective.

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Stuff I Did

Monitor, Load Test, Scale

Phew. Spent the whole day setting up monitoring, testing out load-testing applications and trying out different scaling strategies.

I must say.. it is simple to read about scaling a WordPress blog. Nothing much, just cache content, configure a load balancer, scale out, serve, watch the load test go through the roof. In real life it’s a little bit more complicated. Especially when you throw in setting up monitoring, an e-commerce plugin, figure out whats static, what’s not, how to compress JS and CSS without breaking everything. I still haven’t really shaved down the response time but this was definitely an eye opener.

Played around with New Relic, its pretty impressive!

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Stuff I Did

Moved my blog to DigitalOcean to put it through it’s paces so I can uncover any problems. So far, I’ve been very impressed by single WordPress instances on DO out of the box. That stuff loads instantly. Now I’m testing multiple blogs on a LEMP stack together with server management. Going to learn how to load test with blitz and play around with stuff.

Shifted to DigitalOcean

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