Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Way to go, Alabama!


I spent my first year of college in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama.  Though I didn't fall in love with the state, I came to see a lot of good in it, and parts were downright beautiful.  I think often of my time there. 

Tonight, the citizens of Alabama rejected Roy Moore and instead elected Doug Jones to a seat in the United State Senate.

Well done, Alabama!




Monday, December 11, 2017

It's getting all Christmas-y around here


As well it should, given the date. 

Click the image to see a larger version.

This year's tree, while not the biggest we've ever had, is definitely on the large side and sits nicely in this very tall space. 

In a few days, we will adorn it, and then the sparkling and the twinkling will commence.




Sunday, December 10, 2017

My sinuses are miracle workers


They violate the laws of physics every time I catch a cold. 

They can create enough snot to soak towel after towel after towel, so much that I am completely confident that I could fill a fish tank with their production (you're welcome for that image), and yet I lose not an ounce of weight. 

They can run all day and all night without consuming energy. 

They can produce things that H.R. Giger and Ridley Scott would reject as being too scary to appear in any Alien film. 

They can in seconds turn my face a satanic red--and with no warning.

I do not heart my sinuses or the cold I am slowly beating.




Saturday, December 9, 2017

I am very fortunate


to be able to work with the great people at Principled Technologies.  Tonight was our annual holiday party, what we call our seasonal celebration, and seeing all of my colleagues and their guests reminded me yet again how lucky I am to get to work with them.  As one of the company's owners and leaders, my biggest job is to serve our clients and my colleagues.  I hope to continue to improve in that role over the coming year.







Friday, December 8, 2017

It's almost that time


Yes, yes it is.



Soon, soon I'll do my giant viewing of this classic. 



Thursday, December 7, 2017

The cold is still kicking my butt


and I have a long and full work day tomorrow, so I am signing off once again.

I hope tonight I can sleep.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I fought the cold, and the cold won


At least, so far it has.  I appear to have picked up a cold in Las Vegas--I blame Kyle, who was getting it on Sunday--and it has turned my sinuses and my throat into battlegrounds.

So, for me, it's work and sleep and not much else for a few days.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Las Vegas holiday views


Over at the Bellagio, the Christmas decorations weren't up yet, but the lobby had added this statue to its amazing collection of Chihuly glass.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Meanwhile, at the shops at the Aria, the decorators felt a little Christmas tree might spruce up the place.


Sister hotel The Cosmopolitan had its own smaller but brighter tree up on the terraced roof we visit each time we're in town.


At the other end of this section of roof, people were ice skating in the early evening chill.


Not to be outdone by anyone, the Wynn's lobby opted for a very different color scheme but an equally opulent effect.


The Palazzo shops featured this ribbon construction that I found lovely and almost mesmerizing.


And, of course, they added a giant bit of love in front of an indoor waterfall.


Vegas certainly bombards you with excess, but sometimes it also offers great beauty. 




Monday, December 4, 2017

The Bayeux Tapestry


Admit it:  The Folio Society's continuous printing version of this famed tapestry looks amazing.  Add to it their book on the tapestry's meaning, and you have a perfect Christmas gift--as long as you're willing to spend a mid-range internal organ on the pair.

I think I'll continue to lust for the volumes from afar.




Sunday, December 3, 2017

Morning flights suck


Regardless of how much sleep I can get--and last night it wasn't much--there's something about morning flights that makes them awful.  I don't sleep well before them, I never feel right prepping for them, and then it's morning and I'm on a plane.

Enough whining.  Aside from that general issue, today's flights were as perfect as they could have been:  comfortable (in first class), early, and with (not good but) tolerable bandwidth.

Best of all, I'm now home.




Saturday, December 2, 2017

Two meals in the last full day in Las Vegas


Brunch was our traditional stop at Bouchon, Thomas Keller's wonderful bistro.  We enjoyed mostly breakfast foods, but we always split the pastry board.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Dinner took us to Jaleo, Jose Andre's Spanish restaurant in the Cosmopolitan, another traditional stop of ours.  No trip there would be complete without some Jamon Iberico de Bellota Fermin and some pan con tomate.


Wow, was this a delicious combination--and my most frequent snack in Barcelona whenever I can get it.

In between, we walked shops, people-watched, and had a little gelato. 

After dinner, we took in the La Reve show at the Wynn.  A magical, water-based show, it was a great conclusion to a fun trip. 

By the way, for those who noticed, I am posting this Sunday morning because I had to get up in the sixes and so crashed as soon as I could after I returned to the room and caught up on work.

Sunday goes to flying home!




Friday, December 1, 2017

A fight that was a privilege to watch


Earlier tonight, I was fortunate enough to get to see live the fight card that was the finale of this season of The Ultimate Fighter.  The final bout was a match between Nicco Montano and Roxanne Modafferi.  At stake was not only the title of being this season's Ultimate Fighter, but also the right to be the first UFC women's flyweight champion. 

The fight was one I felt privileged to watch.  Montano and Modafferi went to war for five rounds in a match that showed skill and heart and determination.  If anyone still believes women can't be great mixed martial artists, they need to watch this fight. 

I was rooting for Roxy Modafferi, and though she lost, I still admire her.  I hope she gets another chance at the title.  I also very much like Montano, and she earned the belt fair and square.

The whole fight card was strong, but this championship bout was amazing. 




Thursday, November 30, 2017

Vegas highlights today


I'd write more, but it's late, and I'm tired.  Today's features included...

A simple but tasty lunch from the Bouchon Bakery in the Venetian.  Their ham-and-cheese baguette is delicious.

A fair amount of walking, as usual, including time in the Bellagio.  Alas, the Christmas scene is still under construction.

More work than I should have done.

The WOW (World of Wonder) show at the Rio.  I should probably write a review of this one, but for now suffice to say that I enjoyed it, but it's nowhere near Cirque's level.

A lovely dinner at Craftsteak, which is as reliably good as always.

Now, to rest!




Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Travel day tale in seven snippets


I'm now in Las Vegas.

First-class flights were wonderful. 

Walked about 4.5 miles today, a surprising amount in airports.

Shake Shack remains the best chain burger.

The people watching here remains amazing.

Blue Man Group makes you happy and leaves you smiling, even as you wonder why. 

Loud drums are wonderful. 



Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Heading to Las Vegas


Wake-up comes in the sixes, which is a horrid time for me, so I'm keeping this short.  When I next write, it will be from Las Vegas.

In the meantime, enjoy this song, which has been on my mind since I watched the first episode of the second season of the completely insane and wonderful Preacher TV show.



What's not to like in this tune?




Monday, November 27, 2017

A quick quiz about the upcoming Death Wish remake


If you haven't seen the trailer, check it out first.


Now, the quiz:

1.  Did anyone really need this movie?

2.  Will you go see it?

3.  Who looks less life-like:  Bruce Willis in this one, or Charles Bronson in the original?


In case you're wondering, my answers are obvious:

1.  Absolutely not.

2.  Absolutely yes.

3.  Willis by a bit, but, really, as long as they're shooting, who gives a hoot? 




Sunday, November 26, 2017

Why I haven't told a story at The Monti's StorySlam in a long time


Enough folks have asked me about my absence from the local StorySlams by The Monti that I thought I'd answer the question here.  Though it would be more interesting to say I had given up in frustration at not winning, or that I was having some sort of feud with the organizers, the truth is simpler and more boring:  with one exception, I haven't been in town during an event in months and months. 

The next one, for example, is this Wednesday, when I'll be in Las Vegas.  My travel schedule this year has been particularly brutal, so I've missed almost all of the events.  The one exception I can recall was an event the day after I landed from Europe, and by the time I noticed it and decided to go, it was sold out. 

I do plan to go back at some point, because I enjoy telling stories in that format, but right now, I have no idea when I will.  I'm home most of December, but then the next two months are chock-a-block with trips. 

I'll try to remember to let folks know here the next time I manage to attend. 




Saturday, November 25, 2017

My first series binge-watch: American Gods


Well aware that I was possibly one of the last Americans not to have binge-watched a series, I decided to remedy this cultural omission by devoting today to a viewing of the complete first season of American Gods

Predictably, binge-watching came entirely too easily to me.  As someone who has watched five movies in a day on multiple occasions, this was no surprise, but I was somewhat taken aback by how much I enjoyed getting to see an entire series in a day.  Fortunately or not, my life won't permit this luxury often--I should have worked more today--but it was an enjoyable way to pass an afternoon and much of an evening. 

As for the show itself, I liked it a great deal.  In preparation for this event, I recently re-read the version with the author's preferred text.  I consider the book to be Gaiman's best novel, and I wanted it fresh in mind as I watched the show.  The series proved to be a pleasant blend of Gaiman's story and Bryan Fuller's style and obsessions.  I definitely recommend it and look forward to the remaining season(s). 


Friday, November 24, 2017

A quick Thanksgiving meal recap


A small group of us, family and extended family, gathered at the Drake's for dinner, companionship, and to give thanks for all that we enjoy.  I tried to stay more or less under control this year, though my plate was definitely heaping with food. 

Click an image for a larger version. 

As you can tell, I love gravy--on turkey, on stuffing, on mashed potatoes.  The roll is Sarah's and was wonderful.  Everything was delicious.  I make no apologies, by the way, for the quivering mass of from-the-can cranberry sauce; to me, it is essential Thanksgiving fare.

I forgot to take a picture of my plate full of desserts, but many wonderful ones were on offer.


My particular favorites were Jennie's banana cream pie, a favorite of my kids and Ben and me, and Sarah's caramel cake, which I am grateful she took home, but I sampled everything. 

I should never need a reminder to be thankful for my life and those in it and all I enjoy, but Thanksgiving is wonderful because it is just that. 

Thank you, all, for your support.




Thursday, November 23, 2017

I'm truly thankful


Every day, I try to remember all the great gifts I enjoy, all the people who have made that possible, all the breaks I've gotten, and I am grateful.  Today is a good day to give thanks, but so is every other day.

If you're reading this blog entry, the odds are good that you're either a friend, a reader of my books, a fellow foodie, a fellow movie fan, or perhaps several of those things.  I thank you for your support, and I hope your day is a good one. 




Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The top five U.S. restaurants I'd most like to try


Today.  The list changes often.  Right now, though, it's easy and remarkably consistent.  I exclude from it all the restaurants where I've already eaten, because at least I've gotten to taste their food once.

5.  Per Se

Though Thomas Keller's New York interpretation of his flagship French Laundry has been the subject of some controversy in the last few years, it still makes my list.  I've been a fan of Keller's food for years, and my one meal at The French Laundry was exceptional, so I'm itching to try Per Se.

4.  Masa

I've heard so much about the sushi and service at Masa that I've wanted to try it for years.  Having experienced The Araki in London, I now understand just how amazing sushi can be. 

3.  Le Bernardin

It's a testimony to the top two places on this list that one of my dream destinations, Eric Ripert's amazing seafood restaurant, is in third place.  I've tremendously enjoyed Ripert's menus at the Cayman Cookout and at Blue by Eric Ripert, and Le Bernardin is supposed to be even better.

2.  Vespertine

This new restaurant made Grant Achatz grin like a kid on his Instagram.  Everything I've read about it sounds like it's both a strange experience and a source of amazing food.  I'm ready to go.

1.  Eleven Madison Park

Currently the number one restaurant in the world in the influential best 50 rankings.  Three Michelin stars.  Chef Daniel Humm, whose food I've loved at past Cayman Cookout events.  If I had the time and could get a reservation, I'd fly to New York City just for this one meal.

I hope one day to get the chance to visit all of these fine places.





Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Party lunch at the Cincinnati airport


A bit over a week ago, I went with a colleague on a one-day trip to and from Cincinnati.  On the way back, we stopped at a chili place in the airport because, hey, chili mac.

Indeed, it was tasty, though I may have overdone it with the hot sauce.

Click an image to see a larger version.

The chili was lurking under the spaghetti in the classic style.

While in line for this special treat, we couldn't help but notice this ad from the same fast food stand.


What I like to imagine is what it would take for me to be at the airport, walking by this stand, and suddenly need a giant box of 10 "Coneys" (which proved to be hot dogs smothered in cheese and chili).  Maybe a call from home that we've been invaded by a gang of young men?  Maybe just the worst stress day in history and a sudden and overwhelming urge to eat myself into sickness?

Whatever the cause, I have to admit that I would love to come strolling into, say, PT carrying a giant box of 10 Coneys and saying, sorry, they're all for me.

That would not be a productive day. 




Monday, November 20, 2017

Searching for that perfect holiday present?


Search no longer.  Head over to LYG, pick up a t-shirt, start a conversation, and help change the world.

Wait for Black Friday to do it, and you just might save a nice chunk of money.

Yes, that's insider info:  as I wrote in an entry back in late April, Bill and I started and own the LYG business.  Our goal, as you can read at more length in that blog, is to help make the world a better place by building better businesses.

Yes, LYG is a for-profit business--in our dreams.  Right now, we're far from making any money on it, but if we ever do make a profit, half of all profits will go to charity.

Check it out.




Sunday, November 19, 2017

Black Panther looks awesome


I saw this new trailer for the first time in the theater before the showing of Justice League.



I'm now more eager than before to see this film.  I hope it lives up to its trailers.




Saturday, November 18, 2017

Justice League


Critics are panning it to the point that it's only 39% on RottenTomatoes as I write this.  Director Zach Snyder left when it was nearly done, and Joss Whedon stepped in to finish it.  It continued the look and dark feel of Batman v. Superman.  This movie has a lot going against it.

It is also a hot mess in many ways, from worse CGI than a movie of this magnitude should have, to achingly bad lines appearing at key moments, to the obviously tacked-on bits that Whedon included to make the film more fun and to give us more Gal Gadot.

I still enjoyed it.  In fact, I generally had a good time watching it, though I couldn't help but groan at some of the more painful bits. 

The reasons I enjoyed it are many.  I'm a sucker for superhero movies.  The heroes are fun even when they're dopey.  Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman are cultural icons with staying power for a reason.  Even when two of the three show few emotions beyond contempt and determination, we still have Gal Gadot's always charming and inspiring Wonder Woman.  The story moves right along.  The battle scenes are not as hectic as in its predecessor.  Most of the small bits of human drama are at least competently done by cast and directors alike.

Is it as good as Thor: Ragnarok?  Absolutely not.  Should Zach Snyder get to do another film in the DC universe?  Absolutely not. 

If you're in the mood for a superhero movie, though, you'll have at least a decent time with it, and, I have to admit, I'm almost always in the mood for a superhero movie. 




Friday, November 17, 2017

Thoughts on re-watching Batman v. Superman


Tonight, a group of us watched the extended cut of Batman v. Superman in 4K, HDR format on a great 4K, HDR TV. 

I liked the movie more the first time than most others did, and I liked this version more than the original.  It's a little bit more coherent and flows more smoothly, despite being over three hours long.

Watching it in this format on a great TV was entirely a better viewing experience than seeing it in the theater.  There, it was frequently so dark and muddy as to be unpleasant to watch; this time, it was always crisp and clear, even in the darkest scenes.

The way the movie treats its two protagonists remains its greatest weakness.  You can almost never like them, and that's a shame, particularly with Superman.

Gal Gadot is still the best part of the film.  The screen lights up every time she's on it. 

No movie needs as many endings as this one has. 

On balance, I recommend this version over the original, particularly if you can watch the high-def version on a TV capable of showing everything in the source material.




Thursday, November 16, 2017

Justice League is at 37% on RottenTomatoes


and I'm still going to see it.  I can't resist it.  I loved the JLA in comics when I was a kid, Gal Gadot is irresistible as Wonder Woman, and I'm generally a sucker for superhero movies.

I'll report back after I've seen it.




Wednesday, November 15, 2017

My next two band names


Funky Freckle, a retro-disco band

Oyster Goblet, a group that blends sea shanties with goth riffs

What a double bill!




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Holden vs. the peanut butter jar


Holden may be old--well, he is old--but that doesn't mean he's not willing to go one-on-one with a peanut butter jar.

He starts slowly, not aiming for the bottom quite yet.

Click an image to see a larger version.

After a while, though, he extends his tongue downward for the final treasure.


Everyone needs a few Holden pics now and again.




Monday, November 13, 2017

Yup, today's travel was special


Up at 4:45 a.m. after a little over three hours of sleep.

RDU screwed up the TSA pre-check line again thanks to having only one drug-sniffing dog.  Nothing says fun like extra time in the security line.

The plane to Cincinnati was late. 

The cabbie at the airport had no smartphone, an ancient GPS system, and didn't know how to find our destination.

The plane out of Cincinnati was late.

We hit the terminal in Atlanta with 25 minutes to go before our plane was due to take off--and we had to hike to the train, ride the train two stops, and then hike to our gate.  Amazingly, we made it.

The plane out of Atlanta was late in departing--but arrived early.

Business travel life is the party life.




Sunday, November 12, 2017

I'll start catching up on Wednesday


Maybe Tuesday, if I'm lucky, but not tonight, and not tomorrow.  The reasons are fatigue and the fact that I have to get up at 4:45 a.m. to start an important business trip.

If you don't know me well, suffice to say that 4:45 a.m. is a frequent bedtime of mine, but it's not a time I get up.

Sorry about the delays.





Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bandwidth blues in Norfolk mean no fight report tonight


Even echoing characters is taking seconds.  Back tomorrow with a report.



Friday, November 10, 2017

Home for hours


I'm spending about 16 hours at home before I leave tomorrow for an overnighter to, of all places, Norfolk.  The reason?  Great seats to a live UFC event--and at way cheaper prices than we've ever paid before.

One consequence of this brief time at home is that I have way too much to do in the time available, so I'm cutting this short and getting back to it.




Thursday, November 9, 2017

It's been the kind of day that included only work


and I can't talk about that, so I'll leave you with a trailer for a movie I very much look forward to seeing next week when it opens.



I fear it won't be as much fun as the trailer suggests, but I'm going to hope that fear proves to be baseless.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Counter 3 . Five . VII continues to be Austin's best restaurant


When I learned recently that Executive Chef Damien Brockway had left Counter 3 . Five . VII (hereafter just "Counter"), I instantly had a few questions.  Would Counter stay in business?  Would the rest of the team there still get to keep doing the great work they've been doing, creating amazing food that was as interesting as it was delicious?  And, where was Damien going to work next, and when could I eat there?

I can't yet answer the last pair of questions, because I've found no evidence of what Damien's next project will be, but I'm happy to say that the answers to the other questions is a resounding, "Yes!" 

We ate dinner there earlier tonight, and every dish was delicious, thoughtful, and fun.  The housemade sodas were as tasty as ever, the team still fun to talk with, and the spirit of Counter alive and well.

As I've said many times, Counter is Austin's best restaurant.  If you live in Austin or are visiting it, do yourself a favor and check it out.




Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Austin turns chilly


I didn't expect this development. 

When I left on this long trip, the weather forecast showed Austin's high temperatures as being in the low eighties the whole time I was to be here.  That's about right for this time of year, so I packed only light, short-sleeve shirts.

That worked out fine yesterday, but today, as we were sitting in a patio at a business lunch, a front blew in, the temperatures fell, and it's stayed cool since then.  As I write this, it's 57 degrees out, and the high tomorrow is due to be 50. 

Fortunately (in this case), I don't get to walk much on these trips, and it's not cold enough to bother me, but still, I would have preferred it warmer.

Dinner tonight took us to Cooper's BBQ downtown, where we shared a lovely selection of barbecued meats and some spicy, bacon-and-jalapeno mac-and-cheese. 

Click the image to see a larger version.

It was all delicious.

Dessert was my traditional downtown fare:  some tasty ice cream at a nearby Amy's. 

Now, the hour is late and work still beckons, so back to it I go!




Monday, November 6, 2017

Back in Austin


I left the World Fantasy Con hotel this morning and drove the couple of hours from San Antonio to Austin and through to Round Rock.  The drive proved to be easy, fast, and pleasant. 

I've already had work meetings, barbecue, ice cream, and more work--not the most fun dessert, but it is what it is.

Amazingly, the weather here may turn cold.  I do seem to have a talent for picking odd weather times to be in Austin, having been here for snow storms and floods. 

Now, it's time to crash.





Sunday, November 5, 2017

An odd pair


An odd pair of events formed the bookends of my day.

The first was the World Fantasy Con awards banquet.  As a couple hundred (my guess) of us gathered in a fairly low-ceiling room in the hotel watched from our tables after eating banquet food, our increasingly aged group presented its annual awards.  I was happy for the winners, and the food was surprisingly decent overall, so as award banquets go, it was okay. 

The other was a showing of Thor: Ragnarok at a nearby theater.  I enjoyed the movie a great deal and found it both as much fun and as vivid in imagery as the reviews have suggested.  I definitely recommend it. 

Tomorrow, I change cities and begin the usual rounds of meetings.



Saturday, November 4, 2017

Urban legends, barbecue, ice cream, and the UFC


After some work, I headed to my first--and only--panel of the convention.  The topic, "Urban Legends in the Age of Fake News," didn't excite me, in part because I refuse to accept the notions of alternative facts or a post-truth era.  Nonetheless, the panel seemed to entertain its audience, and the discussion moved along reasonably quickly, so I left feeling okay about the endeavor.

Lunch afterward took us to the Smoke Shack, a local barbecue joint that proved to be quite good.  We opted to share multiple dishes, including the brisket Frito pie, brisket mac-and-cheese, and brisket grilled cheese sandwich,

Click an image to see a larger version.

as well as a two-meat sampler of brisket, sausage, mac-and-cheese, and creamed corn.


Every single dish was delicious, with the standalone brisket being the weakest link.  It was better than any brisket back home, but worse than yesterday's brisket at 2M.  The standout was the terrifying and life-threatening brisket grilled cheese sandwich, which was flat-out delicious--though obviously unhealthy.

After talking with friends, I retreated to my room to catch UFC 217, from the prelims to the PPV.  The only bad news was that I missed the first half hour of the prelims, because the football game on Fox Sports 1 ran long and the hotel didn't offer Fox Sports 2, which is where the Fox Sports programming gods moved the UFC. 

I had a great time watching the fights, which were uniformly strong.  The room-service dinner was passable--almost everyplace can manage a Cobb salad--and the fight card truly was great.  All three championship fights went to the challengers in great battles that ended in finishes. 

As a further treat, tonight I get an extra hour of sleep (well, we all do, but I do, too)!  I love that treat.




Friday, November 3, 2017

Of San Antonio barbecue and World Fantasy Con


San Antonio's barbecue scene has redeemed itself, thanks to a very good lunch at 2M Smokehouse.

Click an image to see a larger version.

I had to go late to lunch due to work, so they were already out of almost everything, but we were able to snag some brisket and some pulled pork.


The brisket was moist and rich and flavorful--everything it should be, and way better than anything I've encountered back home.  It restored my faith in local brisket.  The pulled pork was also quite good, though the better barbecue joints back home can best it.

Overall, I left lunch full and happy to have had good brisket again.

I arrived here in San Antonio on Wednesday for the World Fantasy Convention, but you may have noticed that I've barely mentioned the con.  That's because aside from a quick tour of the art show, a fifteen-minute pass through the dealers' room, and a dinner with folks from my publisher, Baen Books, I haven't really been able to attend the con.  Work has kept me pinned to my room except for meals.

The same was largely true today, but I did manage to get out and participate in a longstanding WFC tradition, the Friday night giant autograph session.  In these gatherings, every author or artist present grabs a name tag, picks a spot at a table, plops onto a chair, and hopes people bring them books and other items to autograph.


This shot shows only one angle on the room, which for the fifty minutes I stayed was crowded and full of folks chatting, visiting, and getting books signed.  A few folks even brought me books to autograph, for which I was grateful.  I've been the person at the table whom no one visits, so having anyone bring by books is a treat.

Tomorrow, I have my only panel.







Thursday, November 2, 2017

Searching for good barbecue in San Antonio


I used to tell folks back home that the worst bite of barbecue brisket I've tasted in Texas was better than the best bite I've eaten back home.

After a day and a half in San Antonio, I've learned I was wrong. 

It's still true that the worst bite of barbecue brisket I've tasted in Austin was better than the best bite I've eaten back home, but the magic might be available only in Austin. 

I've now eaten at two San Antonio barbecue joints--the highly rated The Granary and one of the local chain Bill Miller BBQ joints--and the brisket at both was thin and not well seasoned and basically on par with the best of what I can get back home.  Which is to say, not very good. 

I'm going to keep trying to find good brisket here, but this is not a very promising start. 




Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wandering with the dead in San Antonio


After dinner tonight, we wandered the lovely Pearl area of San Antonio.  Day of the Dead festivities were in full swing, and multiple brightly colored altars glowed in the night. 

This sight stood near the entrance to the area. 

Click an image to see a larger version.

This altar by artist Regina Moya was one of my favorites.


It celebrated the life of Emma Tenayuca, a labor organizer. 

I found all of the altars moving, as each reminded me of people I've known and cared about who have died.

Though it may sound morose, the walk was more touching and humbling than upsetting, a lovely stroll on a warm night through warmer memories. 




Tuesday, October 31, 2017

San Antonio, Austin, Norfolk, and Cincinnati


What do all these cities have in common?  I'll be visiting them before November is half over.

I'm tired just thinking about all the travel.  Worse, I have to get up before seven to start this trek, and I haven't even started packing.

Better get to it.



Monday, October 30, 2017

You can now pre-order an anthology with a story of mine in it


I mentioned the story, "Another Solution," in a blog entry back in February.  I named the book, Star Destroyers, in a May entry.  Now, you can pre-order the book, which should appear on March 6, 2018.

Amazon has it, but I bet you can also pre-order it from your local independent bookstore. 

I've read David Drake's story and mine, and those two alone are worth your investment.  (Of course, I would say that.) 

Check it out.




Sunday, October 29, 2017

A little over five years ago


my sister, Liza, sent me this paperweight, which Mom had kept by her computer in home after home. 

Click the image to see a larger version.

I wrote this blog entry after seeing the paperweight.

Over the intervening time, this half dome slid a bit behind the keyboard, so I rarely notice it. 

Today, as I was working at home, Greg Holden's "Lost Boy" began playing just as I grabbed a notebook and bumped the paperweight into view.

I found myself once again lost in staring at this little boy I cannot remember.  I hate having no memories before age ten, that I cannot recall this boy or the life he led, that in less than five years he would have been in a dozen fights and was being beaten daily and was puking on the ground while a Marine ground his boot into that kid's face.

If you wonder why I write so much about child abuse and victims of abuse of all kinds, stare at that kid and think about what abuse took from him. 

Took from me. 




Saturday, October 28, 2017

My Saturday night movie double feature


The new 4K remastered version of one of my favorite SF films, The Fifth Element

Then, the relatively new American Blu-Ray anniversary release of another fave of mine, Streets of Fire

I can tell you the many flaws of each, but I love them both.




Friday, October 27, 2017

Home again


And mighty happy to be here. 

Both flights unrolled in fine fashion, and I even got to enjoy an upgrade for the five-hour trip from PDX to CLT, but I am way past ready to sleep in my own bed for a few nights. 

Many times during this trip, a song would play in the background, and I would flash back to where I was and who I was when I first heard that song.  I love that music can do that to me, though I'm not usually in the mood to let it.  For whatever reason, this past week, I was, and the background music of my days was all the more enjoyable for these time traveling moments. 





Thursday, October 26, 2017

Another reason I love Le Pigeon


Chef Gabriel Rucker and the Le Pigeon team hold a special Halloween dinner each year.  I've read about them in the past, but earlier tonight I was able to attend this year's special meal.  Its theme was to spoof a certain spike-haired food TV personality. 

Click an image to see a larger version.

The menu looked both appropriate to the theme and intriguing. 


Every single dish was delicious.  I'd be hard-pressed to pick a single favorite, but I did absolutely love the small cup of brisket chili,


the foie gras eggroll dish,


and the General Tsao-Kung Pao shortrib.


Heck, I truly enjoyed every course. 

As I've said many times, if you live in Portland or just visit here, you need to make Le Pigeon a regular stop on your food journey.  Rucker's inventiveness and gift for combining ingredients in unusual and unexpected ways is second to none. 




Wednesday, October 25, 2017

When you're in Portland, eat at Willow


If you live here and haven't eaten at Willow, what are you waiting for?  Make a reservation now, and enjoy one of Portland's smallest and finest restaurants.  If you're visiting or planning to visit the area, be sure to set aside a few hours one evening for a meal there.

Chefs and owners Doug Weiler, who mostly stays in the kitchen cooking, and John Pickett, who emcees your meal, do everything at Willow.  They hustle every second you're there--and most certainly for hours beforehand.  They create and cook the food, clean the dishes, serve the food and drinks, and literally do everything else. 

The experience is intimate and interesting, but most importantly, the food is delicious.  Earlier tonight, a group of five us from PT enjoyed dinner at Willow, and every dish wowed us.  Every single bite I had was a treat--and one of the dishes featured squash, an ingredient I generally dislike.

I hope to eat many more dinners at Willow, so I encourage everyone here or visiting here to support Doug and John.  Eat at Willow, and when John greets you as you come up the stairs, tell him I sent you. 




Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Two Portland happy snaps


The weather out here has been absolutely lovely, crisp and clear and soft.  The trees have embraced fall and keep drawing my attention.  Today, I particularly adored this one.

Click an image to see a larger version.

I could just imagine a gaggle of Impressionist painters working feverishly to capture all the shades of color in the leaves.

After dinner, while grabbing ice cream at the wonderful Salt & Straw, I fell in love with this ice cream cone light fixture.


Magic and beauty really are, like love, all around.




Monday, October 23, 2017

Walking from the car to the restaurant tonight


here in Portland, I saw and was smitten with this tree.

Click the image to see a larger version.

Standing at the edge of a parking lot, resplendent in shades of yellow and red, the tree summed up perfectly the slight chill in the fall air and the sense that though winter was indeed coming, it was far from here yet. 

I don't spend enough time noticing the magic on display all around us all the time, but every now and then I get lucky.






Sunday, October 22, 2017

How to make my Sunday crazy


Have to leave the house Monday morning at 5:30 a.m. to catch an early plane to the West Coast.

Oh, yeah, that'll do it. 

With high-pressure work on which I'm late, my own bills and other money stuff to handle, packing, and the usual amount of weekend work, this looming Monday wake-up call becomes particularly significant.

I know I shouldn't complain, because I'm fortunate enough to have a job that pays me well and a company that treats me well on travel, but in this case, I'm still going to whine a bit.

Okay, that was enough:  whine over.

Back to it.




Saturday, October 21, 2017

A sneak preview of the upcoming State Fair food report


I haven't had time to write the full report, but I wanted to share this one lovely dish with you:

Click the image to see a larger version.

Say hello to the one, the only, bacon cheddar pretzel dog. 

With Fair food, I think it's sometimes wise to dig a bit into the details to see just how much each dish delivers on the promise of its name.

The bacon here felt and tasted real, as if someone had in fact cooked and diced some bacon.  It was, of course, yummy, as bacon is.

The use of the term "cheddar" is questionable at best.  The white gooey mess that overflowed the base into the container was definitely cheese-like, maybe even cheese-ish, and in its cheese-like sticky way was surprisingly good, particularly when you ate it with the rest.  Was it, however, actually cheddar?  Only in that the term was as close a cheese label as one might reasonably choose for this particular concoction.

The coating was definitely pretzel dough.  The dish earns an A+ for honesty on that front.

As for the final word and the heart of the beast, this lovely creation benefits from the fact that it's extremely hard to define the limits of the hot dog category.  Better than a red hot but not up to an all-beef dog, the one inside the pretzel tasted good enough that I was quite happy to have had two bites.

Overall, I considered the bacon cheddar pretzel dog to be quite tasty, as did all those who sampled it. 

Well done, Fair food creators!




Friday, October 20, 2017

The peace of fall


Chills sweeping like songs through the days.  Nights sneaking ever closer in a slow game of tag.  Trees proud and green one moment, then shedding the next, preparing for rest and rebirth.  Moons screaming "Harvest!" and "Hunt!" to all who will listen.  Summer's heat fading from memory while winter remains a blur on the horizon.  Softer, rippling air that refreshes one moment and then warns the next.   

I love fall.



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Time for a little Stephen Kellogg


This one sprang to mind, and I couldn't shake it, so I'm sharing it with you.



Enjoy.




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.




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