Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Is it odd


that I want to replace all tech items with newer, better versions as soon as those new releases are available, but I feel betrayed by the fact that a bathing suit I bought in 1995 and have used since then recently split entirely in half?

I don't think so.  Clothing should last forever.

I have learned, however, that not everyone agrees with me.  In fact, some apparently consider my attitude downright odd.

I, obviously, do not.




Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Every time I read the news


I try to control my anger, and in the process I often think of the immortal words of Elvis Costello:

Oh, I used to be disgusted
But now I try to be amused


It's not working, and at core I believe disgust and rage are appropriate, but sometimes I aim for amused.



Monday, October 16, 2017

When an Internet outage turns surreal


After dinner last night in Toronto, I returned to my room and settled down to do all the work that had accumulated.  I couldn't handle my email, however, because I could not get an Internet connection from the hotel's Wi-Fi service.  After verifying the problem occurred on multiple devices, I called the hotel.  They immediately transferred me to "technical support."

After about ten minutes of tedious muzak and reminders that they would service those of us in the queue in the order in which we entered it, a tech came on the line and asked what my problem was.

I explained that the Internet service was out at my hotel. 

She made me provide the hotel name (fair enough), my name, my room number, and whether I was in the room.

I did.  I asked why she needed all of that information--some made sense, some did not, at least to me--and she said, "Security."

I asked about the problem, and she said, "Yes, there is a minor problem with the hotel's Internet service."

"So," I said, "you'll fix it soon; is that right?"

"It's been escalated to our highest-level tech support team," she said.

"So it's not a minor problem?"

"It's a minor problem."

"So you'll fix it soon?"

"It's been escalated to our highest-level tech support team."

"Can you tell me what the problem is?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Security."

"Can you tell me when you'll fix it?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Security."

"I'm trying to figure out if I need to leave the hotel to find a place to work.  I don't want to do that if you will be fixing it soon.  Can you at least tell me if you're likely to fix it soon?"

"It's a minor problem."

"I understand.  Can you at least give me a timeframe in which you expect to fix it?"

"No."  Long pause.  "For security reasons."

"Seriously?" I said.  "You're really going to stick to that story?"

"It's for security," she said.

I gave up. 

Maybe this Internet connection company and the people who protect my allergy serum from terrorist attacks could combine to broaden their security empire. 



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Volta


is a new (to me) Cirque show that by happy coincidence is running in Toronto right now and that I got to see today.  I'm happy to report that Cirque continues to be in fine form:  the show was magical, mesmerizing, and a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy gray afternoon.

The story began a bit heavy-handed, but it quickly picked up speed and turned into a touching tale of accepting your differences and finding your own path with them.  The acts ranged from acrobatics to stunt bike-riding, and getting to see them up close was very cool.

As always, I can't recommend Cirque shows enough.  I feel privileged to have seen the one's I've had the chance to enjoy.




Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Bouchercon idea SF cons should steal


Though a typical Bouchercon probably has a couple thousand attendees (I don't know the exact figures, so that is a guess), these cons don't seem as determined to have a ton of programming tracks as SF cons do.  Regardless of how many tracks there are, though, every Bouchercon I've attended has followed the same practice:  as soon as panels end, all the participants head to the book room and sit at tables, where they are available for discussion and book signings.

I love this idea.  You listen to a panel, hear some writers you like, and want to know more.  That's common enough.  At a typical SF con, you might never see those writers again.  At a Bouchercon, you can go to the book room, pick up one of their books, and get them to sign it.

The plan works.  Here's a shot of this Bouchercon's book room as it is beginning to fill up a few minutes after the end of a slate of panels.

Click the image to see a larger version.

A few minutes later, the room was thronged, people were buying books at nearly every dealer table, and writers and fans were chatting away at the far end of the space (not visible above).

I don't know if the concept would play as well at SF cons, but I'd love to try the experiment a few times.





Friday, October 13, 2017

You can't tell the books from the writer--or the writer from the books


I'm always surprised by the number of times at cons that I hear something along the lines of, "She doesn't look at all like I expected."  Even ignoring the fact that you can Google pretty much any writer these days and find pics of them, it's always a bad idea to assume that a writer's appearance and their work will have anything in common.  In addition, over time many writers change the types of books they write, so any one association would make no sense at all.

Enjoy the books, enjoy the writer, and don't expect them to look at all alike.




Thursday, October 12, 2017

Two things I particularly like about Bouchercons


First and foremost, everyone I've ever met at a Bouchercon loves to read.  I'm as much a media fan as most folks, so I also appreciate the many media aspects of SF cons, but it's also great to go to a con at which everyone loves to read books. 

Unsurprisingly, at a typical Bouchercon, such as this one, the dealers' room--which Bouchercons tend to call "the book room"--contains either exclusively or nearly exclusively books.  I love wandering aisles of booksellers and seeing what's on offer. 

Again, don't take this as meaning I don't like the many other types of dealers at SF conventions; I have no problem with any of them and quite like some of them.  It's just great to be in a room so filled with booksellers.

The closest analog in the SF world is the World Fantasy Convention, which I also very much enjoy.  Because I read heavily in both SF and mystery, though, coming to Bouchercon is a special treat. 



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

30 years ago right about now


I was in this same Toronto hotel, looking out at the city, getting ready for a long day of consulting work.  That work would take me on the last step of a journey that would next lead to me moving to an apartment here in Toronto, where I lived for 16 weeks over the winter of 1987 and 1988.  I came to love this city during that time and have come back on multiple occasions since then.

This trip, I'm here to attend Bouchercon, the world mystery convention.  I also intend to take some time to reacquaint myself with this fine city. 

I'm very fortunate to be able to be here. 

Now, though, I'm going to crash after a rough day of work, travel, and work. 




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My Tesla Model S at over 30K miles


(In the interest of transparency, I should note that I own stock in Tesla Motors.)


The other day, my Tesla Model S P85+, which I took home in June 2013, passed 30,000 miles.  A lot of folks have asked me in the past four years how I like or still like the car, so I thought I'd give an update here.

I still love it.  It drives as well as the day I bought it, handles as well as ever, and is simply a pleasure to own.  It's easily the best automobile I've ever driven or owned.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea:  I still love it.

Having said that, the car has a few minor but annoying flaws.  Its paucity of cupholders is a problem for people in the back seat, though not for me.  The floor mat in the rear routinely moves around and bunches up.  Every now and again, the charge port door will pop open after I've closed it.

Getting in and out of the car has always required care, because of the angle of the roof, and tall people find it particularly annoying.  Fortunately, I'm not particularly tall, so I have no problem with it.

In fact, the car has only one real issue:  it is not the newest, top-of-the-line Model S, the 100D with all the trimmings, the one car I truly lust for.

In my opinion, if you can afford a Model S--it is very expensive--and want the best car around, you should buy one.




Monday, October 9, 2017

Blade Runner 2049


Go see this movie.  It is absolutely worth your time.  You also don't need to have seen its predecessor, and you don't need a plot summary or spoilers to help you decipher the film; you can follow the story.

In fact, the less you read in advance about Blade Runner 2049, the better your movie-going experience will be.  Yes, that includes this blog entry; feel free to read the rest of this piece after you've watched the film once.

As strong as that endorsement is, let's be clear:  this picture has a lot of problems.  Some involve science, some involve story structure, and some involve its treatment of women; no woman here is ever far from the stereotype you will immediately be able to associate with her.

Despite all of that, though, you should watch the movie.  Visually, it is stunning, absolutely gorgeous, a ride through a future that is constantly overloading us on multiple levels.  It also asks great questions, important questions, and ones we cannot contemplate too much. 

The acting is uniformly strong.  Ryan Gosling's frequently unemotional performance style meshes perfectly with this role, but everyone in the movie plays their character well. 

Go see it.

I already look forward to watching it a second time.




Sunday, October 8, 2017

Picking UFC 216's two championship fights: How I did


Perfectly, as it turned out.

In the first of the two title bouts, I expected the champion, Demetrious Johnson, to destroy the challenger, Ray Borg, and indeed Johnson did.  Johnson dominated Borg in every aspect of the game for the first four rounds, and near the end of the fifth he turned a suplex into an armbar and submitted Borg.  The finishing move was spectacular, but equally impressive was how utterly and completely Johnson beat down Borg.  To Borg's credit, he never stopped trying, but he was never a match for Johnson. 

If you are at all interested in MMA, take any chance you get to watch Johnson in action.  He is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

For the second championship match, I gave the nod to Tony Ferguson, who I said would wear down Kevin Lee in the later rounds.  I suppose I technically was right, in that Ferguson submitted Lee in the third round, but I was just barely correct; I had expected Lee to last longer. 

As I also predicted, Ferguson wasted no time in calling out Conor McGregor to unify the two 155-pound straps.  I doubt McGregor will do it, but I wish he would.

Maybe I should be putting money on these fights....




Saturday, October 7, 2017

Picking UFC 216's two title fights


The undercard fights are about to start, but I'm not going to choose their winners, so I still have time to weigh in on tonight's two main events.

The co-main event and penultimate fight of the night pits challenger Ray Borg against flyweight champ Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson.  Borg seems from all reports to be a nice guy and a talented fighter.  He is not, though, ready for a title shot.  Despite that, he has one, because Johnson has cleared out his division and in the process become the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.  He is going to destroy Borg.  It's that simple.  When he does, he'll also set a UFC record for most consecutive title defenses.  No one currently fighting at 125 can touch him.  Johnson is just that good.

The main event, which is for the interim lightweight title--a title the UFC created to manufacture drama and fill main events while Conor McGregor decides if and when he wants to fight in MMA again, is far more interesting.  Both contenders, Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee, are on winning streaks and looking good.  Ferguson, though, has built his run on the backs of the elite of the 155-pound division and has faced multiple far stronger fighters than any that Lee has met.  Lee hopes to counter Ferguson's experience edge with strong wrestling, so he will be looking to take down Ferguson, keep him down, and either out-point him or submit him. 

Ferguson knows that and will strive instead to make it a striking war and wear down Lee, then win either by decision, TKO, or submission in the later rounds.  Fueling that plan is the fact that Lee barely made weight, so Lee could easily have very real concerns about gassing.

This one should be a war, but in the end Ferguson's experience should carry the day.  Expect Ferguson to win either by decision or by a finish in the championship rounds, and then expect Ferguson to trash-talk as hard as he can in the hopes that McGregor decides to grant him what would surely be the biggest payday of his life.

I'll report back tomorrow on how I did.






Friday, October 6, 2017

Messages from the past


In a moment of self-indulgence, I took a ten-minute break late this afternoon to dig out the first record I ever bought, Beatles VI.  I have loved rock and roll for as long as I have memories--longer, in fact--and according to my mother I was barely seven years old when I started begging her to let me have my own records.  She told me that sometime after I was ten, and when I had the money, she would let me. 

For some months before that birthday, I went through trash cans in my neighborhood and at nearby stores and pulled out every bottle that would earn a deposit.  I hid the bottles in holes I dug at the back edge of our property and in hard-to-reach sections of our garage.  When my mom finally relented, I dug up all the bottles, washed them, bundled them into bags, and turned them in for deposit at our neighborhood Li'l General store.

I had enough money to buy an album. 

I got permission to walk to the nearest record store--about a mile away--and did so.  I studied all the albums for as long as they would let me, because the store was air-conditioned and because every LP was a thing of beauty, an arcane object of rare and shining power.  From the moment I started the trek, though, I'd known that Beatles VI would come home with me. 

It did.

No one would let me play it when anyone else was around, so the eldest boy of the family we were living with and I would sneak listens in the garage, and in the wee hours of the morning I would play it on the family turntable, the volume so low I could barely hear it.

I played that album for years and years, on every turntable I could access, until I was nearly 17 and bought my own little stereo system--the best I could afford--and I played it more.  I loved that album.  I still do, though I recognize it is not objectively great music.  Starting with "Kansas City" and moving to "Eight Days A Week," the Beatles delivered pop power I loved.  Love still.

Over time, of course, the album started to wear out.  At multiple points in "Eight Days A Week," scratches led to small skips in the music.  I remember listening to them on my hot (to me) new stereo at 17 and thinking that someday I would own a new copy, one without scratches or skips, and that someday I would own a stereo so great, so perfect, that I could hear every note of every artist's work perfectly, and that someday I would not have to sacrifice audio quality simply because I loved an album.

The album started to decay, and I used duct tape to hold it together.  A friend tried to take it, and I used a label-maker--fancy stuff!--to put my name on it.  Later, I put the whole thing in a record sleeve.

And the whole time I played it.

All of that came back to me today as I listened again to the first two tracks, as "Kansas City" and "Eight Days A Week" came to me through an amazing sound system, on which I heard every note, but also every scratch and skip, on which I could have played any of my several flawless CDs containing both songs. 

I listened again, and the music teased all of these memories from me and bathed me in them, even as I sang along and loved the music yet again.

This time, though, when the record hit the scratches and skips, the little painful bits and the moments of silence, I heard something else. 

I heard love.

I heard my love for the music, the love that led me to paw through trashcans and endure mocking from my family and fight for every chance to listen to music and to play it loud and as many times as I wanted. 

I heard that love loud and clear, and it was fine and true and filled me with joy. 

May I never lose it. 




Thursday, October 5, 2017

And the winner of the oddest line at dinner tonight is...


...this reference:

All I'm saying is, think of it as nature's Fleshlight.

Some things are best with no context.  This is one of them.



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Crashing


It's been that kind of day.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I'm late in saying a fond farewell to Tom Petty


but only because of the horror and the sadness, which dominated my thinking for a bit.  Still so sad.

I will miss Tom Petty and his music. In addition, the death of yet another person not much older than I am is a sobering reminder of my own mortality.

I always liked this one, and it fits my mood right now.



Enjoy.




Monday, October 2, 2017

So badly broken


The 59 people who died from a crazy man's gunfire in Las Vegas, the days of their lives broken forever, never to be repaired.

The over 500 people injured by that crazy man's gunfire in Las Vegas, their skin broken, their bodies broken, with luck most to recover there, but how much this breaks their spirits and hearts we cannot yet know.

The thousands of people in the concert, scrambling for their lives, their lives also at least a little broken, at least then, maybe forever. 

Our country's heart, broken again by senseless acts of gunfire-fueled violence. 

A gunman who must have been so badly broken once, if not many times, to wreak so much damage on so many.  I cannot sympathize with him, he does not deserve that, but he must have been such a mess to do this.

Less than a year and a half ago, the horror, the breakage, was in Orlando.  Naming more examples feels pointless, in part because we in America have so many. 

Our national psyche, increasingly broken by these acts of violence and by the divisiveness that is more and more our most outstanding trait.  We are so broken that we learn of these tragedies and shake our heads in sorrow and shed our tears and then brace for the next one, knowing another will come all too soon. 

I don't have any answers, though I wish I did, but I do know that we need to make figuring out how to stop this violence a priority.  We cannot allow ourselves, each other, our country to stay so broken.



Sunday, October 1, 2017

American Made


How you'll feel about this movie depends a great deal on what you expect from it when you walk in the door.  If you're in the mood for a manic, high-energy, Tom Cruise-fueled fantasy that happens to touch here and there on the 1980s war on drugs, you'll have a fine time with American Made--as I did.  If, though, you want historical accuracy or smart people behaving intelligently or a moving exploration of the human experience, then you should turn around, cash in your ticket while you still can, and catch another film.

Cruise is in fine form in this one, returning to the crazed version of himself that is so much fun in so many movies.  The supporting cast members are uniformly good, and the story wings its way along a flight path that is just near enough to reality land that you might at times be tempted to believe in it--which is all you need for a fun couple of hours. 

You don't need any more data to decide if you'll enjoy this movie.  As I said, I did, but there are many good reasons you might not. 




Saturday, September 30, 2017

Because sometimes you need a little Aretha


and tonight, for me, is one of those times.



She is amazing.  She still sings like an angel; check the most recent videos on YouTube if you don't believe me.




Friday, September 29, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 might actually be good


As I wrote back in May, I never doubted that I would go see Blade Runner 2049 when it hit the theaters.  What I was uncertain about was whether the movie needed to exist at all and, given that it was about to, whether it had a prayer of being good.

From the early reviews--the film has a RottenTomatoes critics rating of 98% as I write this--the answer appears to be that the movie in fact may be not merely good, but excellent, a thoughtful and even mind-blowing (to some critics) sequel.

I'm by no means convinced that the critics are right, but I have now gone from planning somewhat reluctantly to catch the movie to being downright excited about it.

Until it appears next week, we can all enjoy this trailer.



I will report my own thoughts on the film once I've seen it.




Thursday, September 28, 2017

Rufus Wainwright at the Carolina Theatre


I had the privilege of enjoying this show earlier tonight.  I wasn't very familiar with his music, but I left determined to listen to more.

Though he played mostly his own songs, he also treated us to two songs by Leonard Cohen, who was a friend of his.  One of them was this classic.



Hearing him sing it live was a gift, as live music shows so often are.

The power of live music to touch me continues to amaze me. 

Do check out Rufus Wainwright's work if you don't know it.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Lo-tech high-tech


As is my habit, tonight when I settled down to my late-night work, I started to plug in my phone to charge it.  The plug would not go into the phone.

I cursed the tech for failing and assumed the phone had broken on me.  It looked fine, though, so then I berated the plug on the cable for breaking.  It also appeared normal, however, so I went back to being upset at the phone.

Then I paused.  I grabbed a paper clip, extended one end, and gently moved it around inside the phone's plug receptacle.  Out popped some lint.  I repeated the process three more times, until no more lint appeared.

The plug went in easily. 

Afterward, the problem was easy to see.  I keep my phone in my pants pocket.  Clearly, lint had gotten into the small plug receptacle and filled it just enough to stop the plug from locking in place.

In the moment, though, I let my cognitive bias--tech device, therefore a tech problem--blind me temporarily to the real issue.

I'm amazed that I still have to learn such lessons, but clearly I do.




Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Allergy serum blues hit again


This morning, I had to get up early and drive to my ENT clinic's nearby office to pick up my allergy serum.  After some years of non-physical sparring, my previous nemesis and I have made peace, so I expected a simple trip.

Instead, I found a new person doing the stick tests, in which they poke a little of each of my serums into my arm. 

The test itself went fine, but then rather than letting me sit in the waiting room, the tester demanded I stay in the room with her--and with other patients.  The others and I found this awkward, but we politely kept to ourselves.

When it was time to check to see if I had reacted strongly to the serum, the tester decided she should lower my dosage because my reaction was on the edge of being too big.  Fine; it is what it is. 

Then we took an unfortunate turn.

"Let me put some cream on that," she said.

"No need.  It doesn't itch."

"Are you sure?  It looks like it should itch."

"But it doesn't."

"You don't have to be macho."

Now, I know that at this point I probably should have just surrendered to her cream fetish and let her rub some on my arm, but I didn't, because my arm didn't itch, and she had really annoyed me.  So, I kept trying to be polite as I refused her ministrations.  "I'm not being macho.  It doesn't itch."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Really?  It sure looks like it should itch."

"It doesn't."

"I don't mind putting on a little cream."

"It does not itch."  Before she could speak again, I said, "May I please leave?"

"If you're sure you don't want some cream," she said, "I guess so."

I bit my tongue and left.

I am now actively hoping for my former nemesis to do the stick test next time.




Monday, September 25, 2017

Josh Ritter has a new album out


If you're a fan of his, you already know you need to check out Gathering, this latest release from Ritter.  If you don't know his work, read some past blog entries on him for some good starting songs.

I've only begun to listen to this one, so I don't have many opinions yet.  It feels quiet and meditative, but that might change as I listen to more cuts.

This song, for example, is a quiet love song.



Enjoy.




Sunday, September 24, 2017

Happy birthday, Dave!


My friend, Dave, held his annual birthday pig-picking today, and it was a fun affair indeed.  Many, many people attended, many brought food to share, and Dave provided the cooked pig.  Kyle and I broke it down and sent tray after tray of meat upstairs to the hungry crowd, folks mingled and chatted, and everyone seemed to have a very good time.

I've been going to this party for something like 32 years, give or take.  People have come and gone from the party crowd, but many regulars have stayed throughout the years.  Some people I met there as kids now attend with their children.  The party serves as a reminder and celebration of not just age but also of the value of being part of a community, however odd that community may be and however infrequently it may gather.

So, Dave, happy birthday, and for both of us--for all of us who attend--I hope you keep holding the pig-picking for years and years and years to come.




Saturday, September 23, 2017

What's up with the John Denver resurgence?


In the soundtracks of three movies this year, John Denver songs have played major roles.  Alien: Covenant, Logan Lucky, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle have all prominently featured Denver's music.  Is this a quiet Hollywood tribute on the twentieth anniversary of his death, the outward manifestation of some strange cult of film music professionals, or perhaps something more sinister?

I want to know.




Friday, September 22, 2017

I'm home


After a little over four hours of sleep, I arose at the horrible hour of four a.m.--a time when I am usually not yet in bed--and began the long journey home.  I appreciate that some people love to get up early, but I don't expect to ever become one of them.

As such travel days go, this one was excellent:  upgrades on both flights, bandwidth on both, time between flights to work in the Admirals Club in ORD, and no surprises.

Even so, though, I'm quite tired and still must dig out from mail, unpack, and so on, so I'm going to get to all of that.

It's good to be home.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

The tasting menu at Le Pigeon


is enormous, varied, and incredibly delicious.  It is also probably more food than anyone should eat at one sitting.  Nonetheless, we ordered it tonight, and, as usual, it was amazing.  Chef/owner Gabriel Rucker and his team produced seven amazing courses, one with two desserts.

I also had the non-alcoholic drink pairings, a lovely treat for a teetotaler like myself.  One of my favorite touches of the meal was this innocent-looking beverage.

Click the image to see a larger version.

That little glass contains one of the most sinfully wonderful drinks I've ever tasted, the Foie Gras Coke Float.

Astonishingly rich and strong and delicious, this beverage alone is reason enough to visit Le Pigeon.

I've said it many times over the past decade, but it bears repeating now:  if you ever get a chance to eat at Le Pigeon, take it.  Do not miss this place.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Willow continues to excel


The dinners in Portland this time have been nothing short of spectacular.  That trend continued tonight with my meal at what has rapidly become another area favorite, Willow.  Chefs John Pickett and Doug Weiler were in tremendous form tonight, turning out one exceptional dish after another as part of their six-course tasting menu.

Due to the hour, I'm keeping this short, so by way of proof of how great this meal was, let me make a statement I am surprised to ever say:  their "eggplant parmesan" dish was superb.  Understand that I normally dislike eggplant and really dislike this particular dish, and you will see what high praise this is.

Of course, their playful take on this dish had little to do with the classic.  Instead of a flattened piece of eggplant smothered in red sauce, their version used a block of Italian eggplant and some cheese and a very light amount of sauce that had us all trying to lick the bowls clean.

Click the image to see a larger version.

The green block of eggplant sitting under the snowfall of cheese was the best eggplant I've ever tasted.

I must sound like a broken record by now, but as I've said about other restaurants this trip:  do not miss Willow.




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cirque due Soleil's Kurios is a wonder


Though I knew that doing this would cost me a ton of sleep--and it has--I took off for a few hours tonight to go see Kurios, a traveling Cirque du Soleil show that is playing here in Portland.  I'm glad I did.  The show was wonderful, consistently entertaining and gasp-provoking.  It builds off a steampunk theme and offers the usual nifty Cirque mix of acrobatics, clowns, music, and odd storylines.

My review here is simple:  if Kurios comes anywhere near you, don't worry about reading up on it or understanding it, just go.  You will have a good time.

I had a great time.




Monday, September 18, 2017

Little Bird wows


Long-time readers know that I love Le Pigeon, the first restaurant from chef/owner Gabriel Rucker and co-owner Andy Fortgang.  I've eaten there basically once a quarter since mid-2007--and it's here in Portland, and I live in Raleigh.  It's no surprise, then, that I've also been a regular at Rucker and Fortgang's second restaurant, Little Bird, since it opened.  I've always liked Little Bird and always enjoyed very good meals there.

Tonight, though, my dinner at Little Bird was by far the best I've eaten there, a top-drawer meal from start to finish.  I enjoyed a compressed melon salad, the duck, and a truffled chocolate ice cream sandwich, plus tastes of several sides and, courtesy of Andy, some of a second desert, the peach pain perdu.

Every bite of every dish was fantastic.

I could go into a lot more detail, but it's very late and I have to get up very early, so let me cut to the chase:  Little Bird has become another must-eat Portland destination.

Do not miss it.




Sunday, September 17, 2017

In praise of Nogoduro


Tonight, I ate for the first time at Nogoduro, a relatively new Portland restaurant that has garnered great reviews and that a friend and colleague turned me on to.  The only option is a tasting menu, which is always fine by me.

Tonight's was intriguing.

Click an image to see a larger version.

and appeared as part of a lovely place setting.


Every single dish proved to be both delicious and beautiful.  Consider, as just one example, this tomato salad.


Each piece of this dish complements the others and is in a perfect position, and each bite was intense and wonderful.

I left full and happy.

Nogoduro isn't cheap--figure about $125 a person before beverages--but it is worth every penny.  I recommend it highly.




Saturday, September 16, 2017

How to pay $4 for a soda at Walgreens


You start, as I did the other day, with a need for another Coke Zero.  At the start of each weeklong trip, I buy a two-liter Coke Zero at some relatively cheap outlet and use it for soda in my room as I work at night.  Most weeks, I leave a little when I check out.  This trip, though, was a day longer than normal and included even more super late nights than normal, so I ran out of Coke Zero on Friday morning.

No problem, I thought; I'll just run to the nearby Walgreens, where I bought the first bottle, and pick up a 20 oz. smaller bottle.

When I arrived at the store, though, I decided that wasn't going to be enough, so I better pick up two 20 oz. bottles.  Two of those, though, cost $3.00, while a two-liter container was only $1.99.  I opted for the cheaper option, though I felt vaguely guilty about how much I'd probably end up throwing out.

At the register, the woman checking me out asked if I'd like to donate a dollar to a childrens' hospital charity.  That seemed like a good idea, so I said, yes.

When the bill came, it was for $3.15 after tax.  That left me with 85 cents in change, and I avoid carrying change on the road, so I donated the 85 cents to the charity as well.

And walked out with my four-dollar soda.



Friday, September 15, 2017

A fine Friday night in Austin


After a frenzied round of email work, I headed to downtown Austin for a show from one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Stephen Kellogg.  He's on what he calls the Postcard Tour 2017, during which he's playing songs new and old with two supporting musicians, a guitarist and a drummer.

The show was fantastic, one of the best of his I've ever seen, maybe even the best.  The venue, the beautiful Stateside Theatre, had lovely acoustics and reserved seating.  I was in the second row, almost dead center, maybe 12 feet from Kellogg for most of the show, closer when he came to the edge of the stage.  He played most of my favorite songs, a few new ones, and even a couple of covers.  The audience didn't come close to filling the theatre, but it was loud and enthusiastic and clearly into Kellogg and his music.

As I was standing in line for the restroom after the show, a guy said, "Put him in Memorial Stadium with a hundred thousand people, and he'd get them all on their feet."  I agree.  I'm saddened by how small Kellogg's fan base is, but it seems to be big enough to support him, and I'm happy to be part of it.

Dinner had to be on the late side, because I'd needed to work until the last possible minute, so I headed to Holy Roller, a restaurant/bar with a solid late-night menu.  I split a huge salad and had a sandwich called "The Local," a strange concoction that included a biscuit, some fine Stiles Switch brisket, an egg, and other stuff.  It was huge but tasty.  This meal was my first at Holy Roller, but I would definitely go back and recommend it if you're in the mood for hearty fare.

As luck would have it, the nearby Amy's was open, so dessert was a small cup of their delicious ice cream.

Though I had to pay for it by working until the wee hours, it was a fine Friday night in Austin indeed.




Thursday, September 14, 2017

Good intentions meet tempting reality--and lose


I had so much work to do tonight that I wanted to make dinner quick.  I had asked a local colleague for his favorite quickie burger joint, and he had suggested Mooyah.  A Mooyah restaurant was within ten minutes of the hotel, so I set out to get a bacon cheeseburger (my typical burger order) and a side salad.

Once in the restaurant, though, I noticed this laminated addition to the Mooyah standard menu.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Note the second entry from the bottom in the right column:  The Hamburdog.

We're talking crack to an addict here.  Sure, it has a patty, and cheese, and bacon, but it also has a hot dog--as a topping!  Not to mention fried onion strings and jalapenos.

Oh, I had to taste this slab of American weirdness.  ("Slab of American Weirdness," by the way, is both my next band name and what I may put on a shirt and ask everyone who meets me to call me.  It could happen.)

Anyway, I still tried to hold to the shreds of my resolve by ordering it with a side salad.

Minutes later, this dish appeared.


I honestly did not know the burger came with fries.

The little cup does not contain dressing; no, it, too, preys on my weaknesses by being a chile-spiced queso.  Damn, but it was good on those fries.

Back to the burger.  Check out the side view of this beast.


Though I knew I would regret it, I had to pop the top on this baby and give it a look.


Oh, Lord, forgive me:  that is even sexier than it is disgusting.

Yeah, I ate every bite of it, and it was mighty damn fine.

I expect to pay for it later, but right now, I have no regrets.  Screw the good intentions; I, Slab of American Weirdness, devoured The Hamburdog.



Wednesday, September 13, 2017

If you're in Austin, you should eat at COUNTER 3. FIVE. VII


It's that simple.  COUNTER 3. FIVE. VII is the best restaurant in Austin, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't eat at it.  I had the privilege of dining there earlier tonight, and the food was once again spectacular--delicious and thoughtful and beautifully presented.

I know I've said it every time I've eaten at Counter, but it's been true every time.  I've eaten at a fair number of the world's best restaurants, so when I say the following, I say it with significant relevant context:  Executive Chef Damien Brockway and his team are producing truly world-class meals.

Support this restaurant.  Enjoy its food.  Learn how amazing the simplest of ingredients--think black beans or corn--can be in the hands of an amazing chef and his team.

Or just go because it's fun to eat and talk with the chefs and watch them prepare your food.

You'll have a wonderful meal and a good time.

Tell 'em I sent you and I said, hi.






Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Why I don't take selfies: A story in four pictures


Quite a few readers of this blog have bugged me over the years to post more pictures of myself, particularly when I'm in interesting places or at fancy restaurants.  Earlier tonight, as I was enjoying a delicious meal at Pau Qui's new(ish) place, Kuneho, I recalled these messages as I stared at my mocktail umbrella drink.

Click an image to see a larger version.

The umbrella spoke to me.  I thought, hey, I'd look quite jaunty with that in my hair.

I then realized I have such short hair that I'd have to settle for putting the umbrella behind my ear, but I figured that would do just fine.

So I took this first selfie.


Now, please understand that this is my expression as I'm eating a wonderful dinner.  Despite how I look, I am in this moment rather happy.

I stared at the image on my phone and thought, hmmm, that's not the happiest expression, nor is it the most awake look.  Perhaps it's my eyes, I thought, which appear entirely too small here!

Upon which realization I shot this next pic.


One glance at this one was enough to tell me that I now looked slightly more menacing.  Again, though, for no clear reason I fixated on my eyes, which still seemed too small.

Time for another shot.


The best thing I can say about this one is that I achieved the goal of not having such small eyes.  Unfortunately, I did so at the cost of looking like a serial killer who's just broken out of maximum security and has been off his meds for about a month, living in the wild by scooping up road kill and eating it raw, bones and all.

At this point, wisdom prevailed, and I stopped taking selfies.

I think you will agree with me on two points:

1. I should not take selfies.
2. I rock an umbrella behind my ear.

Okay, maybe you will agree with me on only one of those.



Monday, September 11, 2017

If it's Austin and it's my first day in town,


then dinner must be BBQ, typically at Cooper's in downtown Austin.

And indeed it was.

Click the image to see a larger version.

That's brain food, Texas-style, and it was delicious.

No, I did not eat it all.  Two of us shared it, and we didn't even come close to finishing it.

The mac-and-cheese contains bacon chunks and jalapenos, by the way, and it is both spicy and delicious.

Dessert was, of course, ice cream from a nearby Amy's, but I forgot to take a picture of my small cup of cold wonder.

Ah, the simple joys of the first night in Austin.




Sunday, September 10, 2017

How'd the Local Author Tea earlier today go?


Thank you for asking.  It went rather well, as best I can tell.

The audience, which included only one male who later shook my hand and apologized for not reading SF and then declared that his wife had forced him to come, numbered over 20.  Even better, the people I did not know greatly outnumbered those I did.  I couldn't fit the entire audience into one photo from where I sat, so here's a little under half the room.

Click an image to see a larger version. 

Sue Scott, the librarian who organized the event, had cookies and tea and water waiting for all, as she had promised, and did a fine job of kicking off the event and asking for audience questions.

Because the other two panelists, mystery writer Sarah Shaber and romance writer Erin Knightley, worked in different genres, among us we represented the three major genres and so provided a nice set of viewpoints for the audience.  As it turned out, we three shared one somewhat unusual feature:  each of our first novels won an award that is well known in its genre.  We took turns and frequently ended up playing off each other's answers, which makes for a good panel and which is entirely too rare.

Because I head out tomorrow for a two-week business trip, I left as soon as the panel was over, but that is no reflection on the event itself.  It was a fun time for all, audience and panelists alike.  The Wake County Public Libraries and Sue Scott deserve credit for making it happen.  I thank them for including me.



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Another PT person's sabbatical story


This time, it's a piece about Thom's sabbatical.



Thom chose to stay in this area and work at a very cool local charity.

I'm so proud of the work he and other PT folks choose to do during their sabbaticals.



Friday, September 8, 2017

The next upcoming film that looks to be pure fun


is Kingsman 2:  The Golden Circle, the sequel to the wonderful Kingsman film, which I very much enjoyed.



The locale shift in this one gives me pause, but I am going to hope that the filmmakers handle it well and create a worthy second movie in this universe.

Regardless, I'm going to see it.

I'll report back late in the month, after the film opens.




Thursday, September 7, 2017

If I'm slow to respond to you, it's me, not you


I've been using an outdated and unsupported version of Exchange at my email host service for many years.  They've been warning me for some time that they would have to update my email service soon, and today, they finally had to do the update.  It's now over, but I was without access to personal email for a while, and now my only access is via the web interface.  The next step is that I have to rebuild my account on each of my various systems and devices, and I have a lot of those, so it's going to take a while.

I'm catching up on email as I can via the web interface and will soon be doing so via an account on my main home system, but until I fix everything, I'm going to be running behind on email.

So, if you've written me and are wondering why I haven't answered you, it's not you, it's me.

I'll be back to normal in the next day or three.




Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Don't forget: I'll be at the Cameron Village Public Library this Sunday!


As I wrote in a post last week, I'm one of three area writers who will be taking part in a Local Author Tea at the Cameron Village Public Library this Sunday, September 10, at 2:00 p.m.

Click the image to see a larger version.

The library is supplying tea and cookies, and we authors will, I'm sure, be doling out tasty nuggets of writerly wisdom.  Or, we'll be talking; close enough.

If you're in the area this Sunday and have some spare time, come to the library and enjoy some tea, cookies, and conversation.




Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A miracle occurred at Panciuto last week


Last week, our family gathered at Panciuto, one of our all-time favorite restaurants, to celebrate (late) Ben's birthday.  During the meal, chef/owner Aaron Vandemark treated us to samples of two veggie burgers he's been working for some time to perfect.

This incredibly nice offer presented me with a dilemma, because I love Aaron and Panciuto and the great food there, and I will eat anything he serves--but I really do not like veggie burgers.  I've tried tiny tastes of quite a few, and I haven't liked a single one.

Still, Aaron made them, so I tried his.

That's when the miracle occurred:  they were amazing!  They had all the mouth feel and rich flavor of a good burger--and in the second case, of a good cheeseburger--but with none of the weight afterward.  They were simply fantastic.

If Aaron puts them on the menu, I will order them--but only sometimes, because he's still a magician with pork, which he serves often and in many ways, and which I adore.

I now must also openly confess that I have enjoyed--nay, loved--two different veggie burgers.  Unfortunately for veggie burger fans everywhere, you can't order them yet--but you should still go to Panciuto and try the food.  It's a wonderful place with a great team.



Monday, September 4, 2017

PT is hiring


As frequent readers know, I work at--and am one of the founders and owners of--Principled Technologies.  I happen to think it's a pretty great company and a great place to work--but, of course, I would.  Still, I genuinely believe it is, and so do a lot of the folks who work there; ref., for example, the fact that we've been one of the winners of the Triangle Business Journal's Best Places to Work contest for four straight years--all of the years we've participated.

Anyway, if you're interested in working there, we're currently hiring.  To see the available jobs, go to the PT careers page.

I'm not listing the jobs here because the list changes as we fill them.

One note:  we're not looking to relocate folks, so you need either to be in the Triangle area or to be willing to move here.



Sunday, September 3, 2017

Why I'm not at DragonCon


A lot of folks have asked me why I skipped DragonCon this year, so I figured I should answer the question here.

Basically, I've been traveling so much--and have so much travel ahead of me--that I wanted some more time at home.

I'm also trying to focus more on some projects, and time at home is best for that.

The other, related question folks have been asking is whether I'll be there next year.

I honestly don't know yet.  It will depend a lot on how well I do on some of those projects, as well as on my other travel.

Finally, I hope no one takes from my absence from the con any negative feelings on my part about it.  I've always had a good time at it, it's a great convention, and I'm sure I'll return at some future point.

Just not this year.




Saturday, September 2, 2017

Wind River


is a beautiful, largely understated film that builds slowly and ultimately erupts in a way you're unlikely to see coming.  It's also visually and emotionally bleak, which makes sense when you know that its writer/director, Taylor Sheridan, is the writer of the screenplays for Sicario and Hell or High Water.

The setup is both simple and dark:  a barefoot young woman runs miles in the snow and ultimately dies there.  A local hunter and Fish and Wildlife staffer, played by Jeremy Renner, finds her.  An FBI agent, Elizabeth Olsen, comes to investigate.  The story unfolds slowly and shows the rough lives of the people on the reservation where this happened and the others who live in the area.

I don't want to go into more, because much of the film's beauty comes from its characters and their interactions.  If you're in the mood for a beautiful but bleak film, definitely check out Wind River.




Friday, September 1, 2017

Holden turns to needles


Acupuncture needles, to be precise.  The poor old dog's rear legs are so weak he has trouble getting up and even difficulty walking straight, so in addition to pain pills and lots of other stuff, we're trying, on the advice of our vet, acupuncture.


Click the image to see a larger version and look for the bits of green on his back.

Wish Holden and us luck.  It's rough to watch him face these challenges--and almost certainly rougher for him to deal with them.




Thursday, August 31, 2017

Meat Loaf and Bat Out of Hell


I wrote an entry a while ago, while I was in London, about seeing Bat Out of Hell: The Musical. On my return trip through London, late one night I was flipping through the channels on the hotel's TV and I ran across this video.



A weird blast from the past, but the song is as amazing--in all its overwrought ways--as ever. This original video for the song is a suitable companion to it.

Enjoy.






Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The many post-nap faces of Holden


He awakens.

Click an image to see a larger version.

He sits up, still unsure whether to greet the moment or fall back over.


Yawning!  That's the ticket.


Oh, yes, a full-on yawn feels so good.


And then it's time for another nap.

Thus is the life of the fourteen-year-old Holden.



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Want to come see me yak on September 10?


If you do, you're in luck, because I'll be joining two other local writers, Erin Knightley and Sarah Shaber, at the Cameron Village Regional Library on that Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Click the image to see a larger version.

Our appearance is, as you can see in the copy of the Wake County Public Library poster above, part of a Local Author Tea program.  I'll be bringing Coke Zero, but the poster promises tea and cookies, so you can listen to us talk and eat and drink, too.

I'm not sure exactly what we'll be discussing, but it'll probably include can't-miss tips for getting wealthy, as all writers are, ways to fend off the inevitable hordes of writer groupies, and where to buy bespoke clothing for all of the dressy events we writers attend.  Or maybe some other stuff.

If you ask me questions, I will answer them, so there's that.

If you have nothing else to do the afternoon of September 10, consider coming by the Local Author Tea at the Cameron Village library.




Monday, August 28, 2017

My first colonoscopy


proved to be an interesting experience on several fronts.  I did it today, quite a few years later than the medical establishment recommends but for the reason they suggest it:  to make sure I have no problems in that part of my body.

I don't.  I won't go into the medical details, because they're not interesting, but all is well.

What surprised me the most was how easy it all was.  I was able to take pills, rather than the sickly sweet liquid, for the emptying part of the program, and it went easily.  I've had worse reactions to really rich meals--or donuts, which I like but which don't like me.  Similarly, going 36 hours on almost no calories--I had some jello and a little bit of warm broth--was no problem, but I'm fortunate there because I used to fast frequently and am still good at it.

The only part that sucked was not getting much sleep, but I'm also familiar with doing that, so, again, it was no challenge.

The most interesting part of the day was my conversation with the nurse who was putting in the IV for the anesthesia to come.  When I mentioned that I'd left the waiting room before my ride arrived, she said that, yes, they'd tell my ride, because "we don't want them to think you've been Raptured."

Now, I am fine with religious beliefs of all sort, but that struck me as an odd comment for a workspace.

I don't want to mock anyone's faith, so please take what follows as being more about the setting than about the underlying beliefs.

We had been discussing SF and fantasy books, and she then said that she liked the Game of Thrones books but, "That George R.R. Martin is a liberal, and I hate 'em all.  Just hate 'em."

At this point, on the bed in the little robe, her hands probing my left arm for the best vein to use, I tried to figure out how to look like a conservative.  This, of course, is a losing proposition, so I opted instead to stay still and say nothing.

She then continued.  "What he does get right in those books is that we are all despicable, dirty, awful, out-for-ourselves people, every single one of us.  Yep, we are all despicable--and that's why we need Jesus to save us."  I get the concept that we are flawed sinners, because everyone I know is flawed, but the anger and venom with which she made this comment was a little scary.  I'd like to think that whether you have turned your life to Christ or not, you're going to work on being better--not perfect, because no one is, but better.  I don't like the idea of accepting that we're all just despicable.

On the other hand, she was working the IV into my arm right about then, so I decided to be weak and not argue at all.  I stayed quiet, she put in the IV, and all was fine.

When it's time to do this procedure again, I can hope that the whole affair will both go as well as this time and provide such colorful prep-room dialog.




Sunday, August 27, 2017

My spam turns ambitious


Recently, my spam took a step upward in variety and ambition.  In a single hour on a Sunday, my spam offered to

Tell me the secrets only my DNA could reveal—and at a discount.  Oh, yeah, I’m in a hurry to send a DNA sample to a lab I’ve never heard of.  What could possibly go wrong?

Provide me the device I need to decide if my dog has bad breath.  Uh, he’s a dog; of course he has bad breath!

Put a new roof on my house.  Just did that.

When putting on socks becomes just too hard, help me with that onerous task with the magical sock slider.  I’m fine on this front, thanks, but when I’m not, I’ll be turning to my house’s sock elves.  What—you don’t have sock elves?

Check whether I have diabetes.  Also fine here, but thanks for giving me another chance to support crackpot science.

Back up all of my photos onto the capacious photo stick.  I’m sure the photo stick is lovelier than any of my other many backup systems, but I’m good.

Illuminate the night with a tactical flashlight.  Better than my Surefires?  I doubt it.

Fix my diet with a Nutrisystem program.  Oh, my diet has much bigger problems than that.

The real lesson here is clear:  I need better spam.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Of Delta Rae and Mayweather-McGregor


Tonight I enjoyed two very different entertainments.

The first was the Delta Rae concert at the Lincoln Theatre.  I love this band, so I always expect a good show, but this performance went way past that:  it was the very best Delta Rae show I've ever seen, and I've seen several.  Their sound was tight, their energy high, and joy practically poured off the stage.  If you have a chance to see Delta Rae live, take it.  They are amazing.

I raced back from the show to catch the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight, which fortunately had not started yet.  The bout went largely as I expected, with McGregor starting strong early and then Mayweather winning on points, but in the tenth round Mayweather landed enough shots on McGregor to reel him, and eventually the ref stepped in and stopped the fight.  So, Mayweather delivered on his prediction and stopped McGregor.  McGregor, though, acquitted himself reasonably in an entertaining fight, and in fact did better than most folks had predicted.

An interesting Saturday night.




Friday, August 25, 2017

Trump diminishes us all


Today, President Trump issued a memo restoring the ban on recruiting transgender people into the military. You can read in the CNN article on the memo some of the data from a Rand study that concluded that the idea that the presence of transgender folks in the military would cause big issues was basically false. Trump is simply doing again what he has done repeatedly: diminishing groups he does not like.

The thing is, though, that his moves diminish all of us.  When we as a country start saying which groups can have which rights, we set a dangerous precedent: that it's okay to deny rights to some of us.

I am past tired of this behavior.

We need to all recognize and proclaim loudly that we will stand with those whose rights Trump is damaging.

I'm lucky.  I'm an affluent, white, heterosexual male, the kind of person Trump seems to like to treat well.  If, like me, you are fortunate enough to enjoy these privileges, you should not let them stop you from standing with others who do not enjoy them.

When Trump signed that memo and took rights from transgender people, he hurt us all.  I stand with those transgender people, not with him.

We should all stand with them.





Thursday, August 24, 2017

Delta Rae is playing at the Lincoln Theatre Saturday night


and I'm going to be there, enjoying another show by one of my favorite groups.

Tickets are still available, so if you have the desire and the funds, check it out.

Meanwhile, enjoy this official video of their new single.



So good.




Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My thoughts on the Mayweather - McGregor fight


If you don't follow MMA or boxing, skip this entry.

If you do, you know that Saturday night an undefeated boxing legend, 49-0 Floyd Mayweather, will step into a boxing ring against a UFC champion, Conor McGregor, who has never fought a professional boxing match.  McGregor turned great MMA skills and even greater self-promotional skills into a fight that will probably earn him $70 million.  Mayweather will make more like $100 million.

All the odds favor Mayweather, though the margin moves up and down rather considerably.  Boxing is Mayweather's sport, he is amazing at it, and he is undefeated for good reasons.  McGregor hits hard and so has a puncher's chance, particularly because Mayweather encouraged the use of eight-ounce gloves, which buffer punches less than the traditional 16-ounce boxing gloves.

Simply because it would be an amazing story, I'd love to see McGregor win.

Instead, I expect Mayweather to play it smart and conservative, be very defensive, and out-point McGregor for 12 rounds.

I'll be watching, though, foolish spender that I am, on the off chance that it goes McGregor's way.





Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Back in the U.S.S.R.!


Well, I'm actually back in the U.S.A., but I was having a Beatles moment; forgive me.

I am jet-lagged a bit and have been working for hours, so I'll hope to start the blogging catch-up process tomorrow.

Until then, I will finish working, eat a little dinner, and crash.



Monday, August 21, 2017

I'm flying home tomorrow


and getting up super early to begin the long journey home.  So, tonight's blog is simple:  it was a good trip, and I'll miss London.

More later.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Too much great food


Chef Brett Graham of The Ledbury, where I ate last night, operates another restaurant, the only gastropub with a Michelin star, The Harwood Arms.  Thanks to the help of a friendly server, Sam, at The Ledbury last night, I was able to enjoy a late lunch today at The Harwood Arms.

The food was simply great, British classics redone with such skill, superb ingredients, and excellent presentation that you would scarcely believe how good each was.

Many years ago, I was part of the foolish group of people that said there was no good English food.  How wrong I was.  Restaurants like The Clove Club, The Ledbury, and The Harwood Arms prove that not only is there good English food, there is superb, world-class English food.

The only problem with two such meals in two days is that they represent entirely too much food, so I am now in a food coma and useful only for reading and stretching out in bed.  To which I will now return.




Saturday, August 19, 2017

Still lazy in London


I slept late in a delightfully cool room and then walked not quite a mile to see a new play, The Ferryman.  After picking up tickets, I grabbed a quick lunch at a nearby Shake Shack--sue me for eating at a U.S.-based chain, but it was just what I wanted--and then entered the theatre.

I need to do a longer review of this play later, but as the title of this post notes, I'm still lazy in London.  Suffice for now to say that though the play was emotionally devastating, it was absolutely brilliant.  After three acts and about two and a half hours of watching the play, I leapt to my feet to join a well-deserved standing ovation.  If you get a chance to see this play, do not miss it.

Dinner was at another of my favorite London restaurants and another of the top 50 restaurants in the world, The Ledbury.  The meal was awesome from start to finish, a true world-class feast.  If you can afford the admittedly high cost, eat at The Ledbury.

Now, to read, and then to crash.




Friday, August 18, 2017

Too late, too late


One thing led to another, and suddenly it's after two in the morning, and I want to crash.  Today involved low food--cheap Chinese noodles and a very long hot dog--and odd culture, including the wonderful John Soane house, a surprisingly fun and interesting tour of the huge Masonic Grand Lodge here, and the fun movie, The Hit Man's Bodyguard.

More later, I hope, but now, to sleep.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

I'm back in London


I spent four hours sitting in the First Class car of a Virgin train today, riding the rails from Edinburgh to London, and I have to say that it was an entirely lovely experience.  From the lunch and non-stop beverages, to the free Wi-Fi access (slow but good enough for email), to the absolutely gorgeous views of Scotland and England, the trip was great.  The only way it could have been better would have been to offer more legroom; the guy across from me and I shared our space amiably, but I would have liked to stretch out my legs more.

Upon arriving in London, I took a taxi to and settled into my hotel, picked up some beverages, worked a bit, and then headed out to dinner at The Clove Club.  That meal was sufficiently amazing, and it is sufficiently late here as I write this, that I am going to save a discussion of it for a separate blog entry.

Now, it's time to crash.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Clouds over Edinburgh castle


The weather returned to seasonal form today, with the skies gray and drizzling rain coming and going at random.

Click an image to see a larger version.

On the walk to the castle, a small crowd watched as two folks prepared to do something--I didn't stay long enough to find out what--with two live owls.


Owls are even more gorgeous in person than in photos.

My lunch was steak pie and tatties, though I believe the yellow lump is in fact a pile of neeps, not tatties.


I didn't finish it all, but I am sticking to my belief that the menu was accurate and the contents of the pie included steak.  Yup, must be true.

The entrance to the castle was appropriately grand--and old.


The grounds were large and contained many buildings of various ages.  The castle has seen a lot time and a great many uses--including its current primary role as a tourist attraction.


The views over the city were stunning.


From the entry point, to see the best bits, you had to climb stairs or winding roads.


I particularly liked St. Margaret's Chapel, a small building that was the oldest on the grounds.  Built in about 1130, it's still standing and felt, to my irrational self, quite a lovely place.


The inside is obviously restored but evocative of what it once was.


I enjoyed seeing and learning about the "Honours of Scotland," which are the Scottish symbols of sovereignty:  the crown, the sceptre, and the sword.  I have no photos, though, because the rules forbid camera use.  I also got to the see the Stone of Scone, the large stone on which Scottish monarchs sat as they took the throne.

The Great Hall, notable for having the largest hammerbeam roof extant, was a lovely room now restored probably beyond any splendor it once enjoyed.


Late in the day, blue skies made a stunning return, though the temperature stayed low.


Tomorrow, I train to London.







Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A sunny day in Edinburgh


It was, it really was.

Click an image to see a larger version.

On the walk to the royal palace, this building struck me as lovely.


Wouldn't you love to take the afternoon air in that little turret?

Along the way, a place called Oink was serving what looked a lot like pulled pork.


It smelled delicious, but I had already eaten, so I did not stop to sample the meat.

The Holyrood palace was a lovely old building, nowhere near as grand as most palaces I've seen, but nonetheless worth the time I spent roaming it.


The fountain in front was a particularly lovely piece of work, every image a bit different from the others.


The rules forbid photos in the palace, so I can't share any images with you.  My favorite bits were neither the king's nor the queen's areas, but rather those for Mary, Queen of Scots.

The remains of the abbey that once abutted the palace struck me strongly.


The gardens were also lovely, lush and full of life, but my favorite was this solitary tree.


Proud and strong and windswept, it embodied the spirit of the place.

On the long, uphill walk back, I saw this sign.


In my opinion, no one needs the haggis tower--and I say that with absolutely no knowledge of what the haggis tower is.

The main lunch of the day was beef on fries with chimichurri sauce, a dish two of us shared.


A young woman was selling gelato that she made.


How could anyone resist?  I certainly could not.  It was tasty, good but not great.

After a lot more walking, a stroll through the shady and interesting Greyfriars Kirkyard (a churchyard cemetery) was just the ticket.


After some rest and email, dinner was at the relatively new Edinburgh branch of the extremely popular Dishoom restaurant family.  The food was delicious, though way spicier than I'm accustomed to eating these days.

Tomorrow, I hope to visit both the castle and the Scottish National Gallery.




Monday, August 14, 2017

Now I'm in Edinburgh


After essentially no sleep in my once again overheated Helsinki hotel room, I got up at 5:30 a.m. to begin the process of traveling to Edinburgh.  Many hours later, I arrived to weather that felt like it was competing in the Scottish Stereotypes Olympics.

Click an image to see a larger version.

The good news is that it's actually on the cool side here, so I'm quite enjoying walking around in a t-shirt.

After settling into my new hotel, where the AC works and my room is delightfully cool, I set out to explore a bit.  My hotel is just around the corner and down a bit from the Royal Mile, so off to it I went.

The crowds were amazing, people everywhere, small acts from the Fringe still lining the streets and fighting for attention.

I stopped at the St. Giles Cathedral, which was huge and lovely.


In addition to a great many interesting Gothic features, St. Giles houses some lovely stained glass pieces by Edward Burne-Jones.  I couldn't get a great shot with my phone, so you'll have to trust me that this window, for example, was amazingly beautiful in the light of the closing day.


I did mention that the cathedral was huge and lovely.


To get a sense of how crowded the street was, check out this view from near (but not in) the castle at the top of the road.


Coming back to the hotel, I got this shot of the rear of The Scott Monument.


Up close, the monument was too big for me to be able to capture all of it, but I quite liked it.


From a distance, it resembles an alien spaceship ready to soar.

For dinner, I took a risk and went to BubbaQ, a local barbecue place.  Two of us shared a platter of all of their meats.


The food was fine, decent but not a patch on the quality of the better barbecue joints back home, not to mention those in Austin.

Facing the water on the walk back from dinner, I found I loved the night sky.


Tomorrow, I will explore more of the city!




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