Saturday, February 9, 2008

Watts grocery, Hustle

We ate tonight at Watts Grocery, a relatively new restaurant in Durham. Greg Cox, the N&O's food critic gave it four and a half stars, the highest ranking (at least by my memory and that of several others) since he started his newer, tougher scoring system. We'd never dined there before, so we entered with high expectations.

Overall, Watts Grocery lived up to them. Two of the sides--the grits and the hush puppies--were superb, the grits as delicious as any I've ever tasted and the hush puppies simply the best I've ever had. Period. I've consumed more than my fair share of hush puppies over the years, so that assertion is not one I make lightly. My house-made pappardelle with chicken, bacon, vidalia onions, and various other goodies in a white wine cream sauce was outstanding, also. All the dishes, including the desserts, were uniformly strong. The only misstep was the bread basket, where the biscuits were not up to the rest of the meal (you could even taste the baking powder in them) and the rolls were good but no better.

I'll definitely go back, and I strongly recommend it.

That said, if I had to choose between Watts Grocery and Piedmont, I'd have to give Piedmont the nod. But not by a lot.

Watts Grocery is also open for brunch and late-night dining; I intend to try both.

After dinner, we finished the fourth season of Hustle. Adrian Lester, who for my money was the heart and soul of the fine ensemble cast, was not on the show this season, and it felt his lack. The writers tried to hard to play up the strengths of the replacement leader, and the results were decidedly uneven. I have to say that I understand why the BBC pulled the plug on it. That said, I will miss it, and I recommend the series, particularly the first three seasons, all of which are available on DVD.

Random walk

At tonight's C&C, we watched the new 3:10 to Yuma. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale turned in fine performances, as did many of the supporting actors. Not a great movie, but one I still quite enjoyed.

The MacBook Air is all that, especially the version with the SSD, which is stone quiet. Yeah, the trade-offs you have to make are already legendary in the tech world, but for certain uses, it is just great.

It is also, of course, insanely cool to look at and touch. Design has occupied my mind a lot lately, because I'm fascinated by the way that a beautifully designed object--beautiful by whatever standards matter to you--can trigger a kind of appreciation that feels almost below the conscious level.

Stumbled across another few online comments on One Jump Ahead, mostly but not entirely positive. Only the negative bits stick, of course. Bad writer. No cookie.

I'm still not done with the outline for Overthrowing Heaven, but I am steadily beating it into submission on the keyboard now. I'm liking the book as I'm assembling its structure, but it is going way more slowly than I had hoped.

You or I could buy for a mere $850. Tempting, eh? Another reason never to let me shop late at night.

Friday, February 8, 2008

What's so hard about delegate counts?

I'm clearly missing something. I thought that after a state's primary was over, you could know how many delegates each candidate had won. For the Republicans, I believe this count no longer matters; with Romney's exit, McCain's the candidate. For the Democrats, however, the topic is still of great interest.

So why do all the sources I've checked disagree?

Here's a sample of the problem, with all numbers being total delegates:

BBC News: Clinton - 1,045 / Obama - 960
CNN: Clinton - 1,033 / Obama - 937
CNBC: Clinton - 855 / Obama - 861 (I have to believe this one omits the superdelegates)
ABC: Clinton - 1,069 / Obama - 990

Note the variety in the above:

* No two have the same count for either candidate.
* One has Obama winning; Clinton owns the rest
* The total number of committed delegates is never the same.

Fortunately, that last site had an article with this useful explanation:

"Superdelegates are under no obligation to publicly declare candidate support, which makes counting them an inexact science."

It also explained the following:

"In addition to the pledged delegates, 796 'superdelegates' get to act as free agents and can select whichever candidate they wish for the nomination."

So, if this site is right--and I suspect it is--all the totals we are seeing, except perhaps the ones from MSN, are merely estimates. With superdelegates composing about 39% of the votes a Democrat needs to reach the magic total, these free-agent voters are both vital and, as these sites' totals show, hard to pin down.

You gotta love a simple system.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wonderful weather

Warm weather blessed us today, so my morning walk was in shorts. The wind was blowing as a storm front teased us. You could feel the pressure changing in the air.

You still can, as I learned when I took out Holden a few hours ago for his 11:00-ish business.

When the weather turns this way, some animal part of you realizes that you're in the grip of forces way, way beyond your control. That's a good thing.

I love standing outside in the swirling night wind, feeling it, hearing it, smelling it, losing myself in it.


The tormenting buzz

Some electronic demon in my home office has taken to buzzing at apparently random times. (I say "apparently" because I believe the randomness is an artifact of my lack of understanding of what's going on.) You might think such a demon would be easy to kill: go to the source of the noise, pick up the offending device, and punish it appropriately (perhaps by a temporary servicing, perhaps by tossing it on the junk heap).

Not in my office.

I know the source of the noise is somewhere on the left side of the U of Power. The problem is, that area of the office contains three computers, a monitor, a NAS device, a cable modem, a wireless router, a gigabit switch, a few power strips, at least two UPSes, a printer, and a copier. The wily demon is also quick--before I can get close enough to locate it, the noise stops.

I expect much cursing ahead.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Are there things you'd rather not know?

I've debated this question with myself over and over throughout the course of my life. On the one hand, I am positive that many things I've learned have hurt me, and in a lot of those instances I can make a strong case that I would have been happier without the knowledge.

Despite that, however, I always come down on the side of wanting to know. I can't decide whether to chalk up the desire to curiosity or arrogance or both, but I'd rather have to face the pain of knowledge than live without it.

Consequently, I'm that annoying person who has trouble stopping himself from asking "What's wrong?" when he sees--or thinks he sees--something off in your expression. I always want to know about your past, your opinions, etc. I hope to learn what really happened, at least as much as that is knowable. I'd rather have honesty with pain than happy illusion. I'd prefer to see all the flaws in something--or someone--and still love it--or her or him--than not to be able to see clearly.

I suppose it would be nice to be able to claim this desire is a virtue, but I don't believe that is the case. I suspect it has to do with my need to punish myself often and my inability to ignore data.

I mentioned arrogance earlier because I also believe that sometimes the best path involves a little bit of deceit. I am not an advocate of radical honesty. Anyone who always wants to know but who is willing to lie in some circumstances is definitely being hypocritical and probably being arrogant. I have to plead guilty to both, though I try hard to be neither.

And that's more about me in one night than anyone wants to know.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Grading the SuperBowl commercials

As we did last year, our football-oblivious group gathered to watch the SuperBowl ads. (We caught the game as well, but that wasn't the purpose.)

Frankly, the ads weren't up to last year's.

Our general consensus was that the FedEx ad won best in show, because although it began a bit weak, the giant carrier pigeons wreaking havoc in the streets gave it a great finish. Runners-up included the commercial and the series of tire commercials, particularly the one with Alice Cooper in the road.

The Apple commercial, for which we had great hopes, was as sleek as the product it was pushing--the Air, which I want--but not up to Apple's usual quality.

Several of the uniformly dreadful ads from the lead-generation company (I refuse to help them by naming the firm) were not only amateurish, they were offensive as well. If the ads reflect the company, that's a firm with which I'll never do business.

All in all, we had to admit that the game was better than the ads. Perhaps next year....


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