Thursday, October 30, 2014

May last night's fortune cookie prove accurate

Assuming the maze is the project I'm working on full-time right now, oh, yes, I would certainly be happy if that fortune came true. 

Really, when wouldn't you like this fortune to prove to be accurate?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

John Wick

Let's take a short movie quiz.  Which item in this group does not belong with the others:

A) Keanu Reeves
B) a film about an retired assassin coming out of retirement
C) tons of cheesy Russian mobsters
D) a Rottentomatoes critics rating of 86%
The answer to anyone who's been watching movies in the last 20 years is clearly D.  No Keanu Reeves action flick ever earns that high a critics rating.

Yet John Wick is all of the above.  Stylish and built to work well with Reeves' almost total inability to display subtle emotions, the film is a velocity exercise that uses a hook-and-backfill structure to engage us early and then wastes little time in moving its main story forward.  The supporting cast members, notably Michael Nyqvist as the Russian mob boss, have fun with their roles and deliver generally good performances.  Though every bit as unrealistic as you'd expect, the fighting and gun-play scenes manage to feel more authentic than most, largely through Wick's habit of making sure to shoot each bad guy in the head before moving on to the next one.

The trailer gives you the setup for the story, but in this film the ride through the plot is all the fun, so I won't tell you any more about it.  If you're in the mood for a good action film with great pacing, I heartily recommend John Wick.  It won't teach you any important life lessons or challenge you in any way, but it will deliver a good time. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Unless you've completely tuned out the outside world, you know that this coming Tuesday, November 4, is an election day.  Here in North Carolina, it's a big one, with a Senate seat, seats in the House, seats in the state legislature, and a lot of judicial seats up for grabs.  Money from outside NC has been flooding into our state in an attempt to sway the election.  Ads are everywhere.

As anyone who has read this blog for long knows, I am a political liberal.  I think the current North Carolina legislature has behaved abominably and done a great deal of damage to our state.  I fear the stupid behavior and slowdowns that will come if the Republicans end up controlling both houses of the U.S. Congress.

If you agree with me, get out and vote, and help the Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate and gain some more control within this state (or wherever you live).

Even if you don't agree with me, though, I urge you to vote your beliefs.  A lot of people over a lot of years have sacrificed everything they had to keep our country as free as it is today, and the right to vote is one of the greatest of those freedoms.  I know many people feel their votes won't matter, but election after election we encounter races so close that every vote was important. 

If an overwhelming majority of my fellow citizens vote against my positions, then I'll have to live with that or move to another country--and I don't plan on moving.  If I'm going to lose, I'd like it to be because my fellow citizens clearly spoke. 

Next Tuesday is going to be a particularly insane day for me, so I voted early.  The process was easy, the experience pleasant.  If you don't want to fight the crowds on Tuesday, vote early.  If you like being among a big group of other voters--something I do sometimes enjoy--maybe wait for next Tuesday.  Either is fine. 

Just vote. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

From over 25 miles in the air

to the Earth, via a parachute.  That's the ride that Alan Eustace, a Google senior VP, took this past Friday, October 24.  For more details, check out this New York Times article or watch this video.

As the article notes, this was not a Google project; Eustace worked with others to make this happen.  Though I'm sure he's enjoying the publicity, and the ride had to be amazing, it seems clear that he did it because somehow he had to, that the idea infected him and he couldn't get rid of it.

That's awesome.  As a lifelong SF fan, I find these sorts of grand gestures and strange actions both beautiful and admirable. 

I've long wanted to take an orbit around the Earth from space.  I would have cashed in a lot of savings to try to buy a seat on Virgin Galactic were it planning to do an orbit, but it's not--and now it's not at all clear that the Richard Branson enterprise will even make anything near its original height goal.  Still, I wish them luck. 

I doubt I'll ever have a chance to go into orbit, but if I did and could at all reasonably afford it, I'd sure try. 

In the meantime, I'll admire the exploits of Eustace and others as they explore the upper reaches of our atmosphere--and beyond.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


I never served in the military.  I never had to go to war.  So, when I watch a war movie, I can never know for sure what it is getting right and what it is portraying falsely.  Given what data I have, however, Fury struck me as doing a pretty good job of showing some of the horrors, the camaraderie, the general fucked-up nature of what people on the sharp end have to deal with, and most of all, the strange mixture of adrenaline and numbness of combat and the times before and after battle.

Fury is not the sort of WWII movie I grew up watching.  Filthy, brutal, and costly to all involved, the film gives you an idea of the prices soldiers pay.  Brad Pitt is superb as Wardaddy in a performance as nuanced and complete as anything we've ever seen from him.  Shia LaBeouf, whose acting I usually dislike, here turns in an excellent portrayal of a deeply religious soldier who is also a stone killer when the job demands he be one.  Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal, the other two regulars in Wardaddy's tank, are similarly strong.  Logan Lerman, the fresh meat thrown in with them, is the weakest of the group, but he still does a good job.

The film beats you over and over with its violence, the pain we feel the tiniest shadow of what the men of the tank Fury must endure.  As you would expect, no happy ending awaits us in this movie, and what happiness we see is laced with irony.

You have to be willing to endure the ride, and it is a rough one, but if you are, Fury is a very good movie, one well worth seeing--and one well worth remembering the next time you consider what it will cost us to send anyone into battle.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

If you know Steve

you need to enjoy this photo.

Definitely click on this one to see a larger image.  That's the only way you can truly appreciate the majesty that is this outfit, or understand Steve's total commitment to the look; check out the nails.

If you don't know Steve, either you don't live around the Triangle, or you're bound to meet him soon.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kaiseki in Durham: Yamazushi

Durham's Yamazushi is a tiny restaurant tucked into a Durham strip mall.  Paper covers the windows, so you can't see the diners inside.  Most nights, the place holds only six lucky guests.  A week ago, I and a few friends were a fortunate four among those six. 

Yamazushi serves a traditional kaiseki dinner, a meal characterized by seasonal ingredients and a fixed order of styles of preparation for the courses.  We enjoyed this menu on our visit. 

Click an image to see a larger version.

The atmosphere inside the small establishment is quiet, almost serene.  All of the place settings and serving dishes differ from each other, each course's dishes similar but unique; many are pieces of pottery the chef made. 

The first course, a delicate Japanese persimmon salad served in a carefully carved Japanese persimmon, was sweet and tart in different measures, a gentle but delicious introduction to the meal. 

Every bite of the next course, a sashimi selection, was also delicious.  Even the flowers were edible.

The courses continued in this vein:  stylish, attractive, and delicious. 

To the best of my knowledge, no other restaurant in the Triangle is offering this type of meal.  At $85 per person for the dinner (drinks and bottled water, if you want them, are extra, as is tea), it's not cheap, but it's also nowhere near the area's most expensive dinner.  If you like this sort of Japanese food, I highly recommend Yamazushi. 

I am already eager to return. 


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