businesses helping schools

The School Reform Commission, which took over management of the School District of Philadelphia in late 2001, set an early goal to boost corporate involvement with the schools.

Three-and-a-half years later, it appears to be succeeding.

I think we’ve ended up with one of the more fully developed models for corporate involvement in public education, said David L. Cohen, an executive vice president with Comcast Corp. who served as Gov. Ed Rendell’s chief of staff during Rendell’s first term as mayor of Philadelphia.

The model has produced some high-profile examples, including:

pork out

It’s a vegetarian’s worst nightmare, a meat lover’s wet dream, and for everyone else–it’s just a damn good place to go for a totally unique dining experience. If you’ve never tried Korean barbeque, now is the time, and Porky & Porkie at 11th and Washington is the place.

Each table is equipped with a piping hot grill and tongs, and unless you’re of my 90-year-old grandmother’s “I’m not going to pay to cook for myself” mentality, you’ll love it. Plus, all the hard parts of cooking (cleaning, chopping, and marinating) are done for you, so all you’re left with is the fun part – grilling.

As friendly staff member Tom Tran (not related to owner Khiem Tran) pointed out, “some people like their meat well done and some prefer it rare. This way, everyone is happy.”

Porky & Porkie has an a la carte menu, but the buffet is unbeatable at $10.95 for lunch and $14.95 for dinner. And this way, you get to try everything, refilling your plate as many times as your belly will allow.

There are a few vegetables on the buffet, including broccoli, hot pickled peppers and onions, but the main attraction is heaps of flavorful raw meat, thinly sliced and marinated in delicious Korean spices. Chicken, pork, pork bellies (basically strips of fatty bacon), and my own personal favorite–rib-eye beef–are piled high next to ox tripe and chicken large intestine for the more adventurous palates.

Free side dishes of raw shrimp, squid, scallops, and fish balls were delivered to our table, along with pickled vegetables (kimchi) and a Korean barbeque sauce that tastes amazing on absolutely everything. Some of the sides (like the kimchi) are quite good, and some aren’t as great (like the tasteless fish balls), but all are free, and the selections vary depending on the night.

Fresh fruit makes for a light, healthy dessert or a tasty palate cleanser between courses, but don’t waste time with the melon or oranges. Instead, go straight for the sweet, juicy pineapple chunks, and grill them until slightly blackened.

Porky & Porkie is still waiting on a liquor license, but in the meantime, you can BYO, or, even better, do as we did. Order a drink from the bar, and you just might get it for free, since they can’t legally charge for it without a license. But this won’t last long, so hurry up and get there.

When I asked Tom Tran why they chose the name “Porkie & Porky,” I got a confusing answer about pork (the food) and Porky’s movies and just wanting to have a fun name. (Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me either.) But after a few bites of savory rib-eye beef, I stopped listening. I was too busy stuffing my face to care what they call it.

Porkie & Porky, 1111 S. 11th Street, 215.468.8389 (If you’re superstitious, this lucky address is one more reason to go.)

a tribute to the big hole

It happens to everyone after a few hours on the beach. Time passes as you watch the surf ebb closer and closer. And that’s when the urge to dig comes upon you like a rising wave. The big hole: we’ve all dug it and we’re bound to dig it again.

Some go four, five, even six feet deep, with the promise of striking water pushing you to keep digging. And then there’s the lore than if you dig deep enough, you’ll hit China. It’s the hole you sacrifice hours to expand despite cave-ins, in a hopeless attempt to protect it from the oncoming ocean.

It never lasts though, no matter how deep it is or how many moats and walls are constructed around it. The high tide is no friend of the big hole, and those brave enough to stand by as the water approaches know the pain of seeing hours of work washed away.

And yet you start it anyway. At first it’s only a nonchalant fistful, but after 20 minutes you’re knee-deep in sand, trying to even out the edges and becoming wary of that first sand-slide. There’s no skill involved, no proper technique. You just have to dig.

And no, the big hole rarely impresses the opposite sex. But that isn’t its purpose. It provides hours of fun, and as one of the few free joys in life, the big hole has many purposes. Enjoyed by all ages, it’s the not-so-permanent permanent fixture across beaches. The big hole is not racist, sexist, or politically opinionated

time management tips

About an hour before class on an unseasonably warm day in April, I was basking in the sun, reading the text for the next week’s class, and feeling very studious. A friend approached me and started complaining about the assigned readings. He confessed he barely understood anything, so I began to enlighten him. And then he asked me what I’d done for the assignment I didn’t know we had.

Don’t you just love it when that happens?

If you’re easily distracted by half-off shoe sales, unseasonably warm weather, occasional delusions of grandeur, you’ll be one step ahead by managing your time effectively.

Having been to several time management workshops and seminars, I should have known better than to forget the cardinal rule:

Write it down. I hadn’t even checked my syllabus for any assignments due that day. I trusted that my professor would have told us about the assignment, just as he had told us about the readings. But we can’t always depend on our professors to hold our hands through it all, can we? Get a calendar, a notebook, or a palm pilot, and track your assignments, tests, and

currying favor

It’s a sad fact that when you visit Minar Palace, one of Philly’s best Indian eateries, you also get a glimpse at the frustrating mentality that prevails in this city. Five years ago, developer Wayne Spilove, ironically once the chairman of the city’s Historical Commission and currently head of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, demolished the adjacent row of historic 19th-century buildings, one designed by famed architect Frank Furness. Lucky for Minar Palace, it has a lease that spared it the fate of its neighbors, though Spilove’s current plans to build a 37-car parking lot will do nothing to improve the atmosphere surrounding this gem.

That said, Minar Palace seems to be getting by just fine on a street with no other draw. Most tables are filled at lunchtime and a healthy crowd is usually waiting at the counter for take-away. Center City office workers have long known of the restaurant’s good eats, but the prices and portions are practically screaming out for some attention.

The Indian staple, chicken curry, is a steal at $5, and while it’s very good, my first pick is the $6 chicken biryani, a superior mix of saffron, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, mint, potatoes and onions. Each comes as a whopping pile, enough for two but perfect for a doggie-bag dinner, even after you discard the boring cabbage side salad that Minar, like so many great but misguided restaurants, offers as a conduit for dressing. But compared to the urban planning sins committed next door, this is a slip I’m willing to overlook.

1605 Sansom Street