Tuesday, April 25, 2017

TED 2017: A day that started well and ended wonderfully


The title for the morning sessions was Our Robotic Overlords. Marc Raibert of Boston Dynamics kicked it off by showing one of his company's robots and discussing his vision of robotics. The demo was fun, but as someone who follows AI and robotics, I didn't learn a lot from it.

Noriko Arai followed with a discussion of the AI she is building in the hopes of one day passing the entrance exam to the University of Tokyo. Like the first talk, this one was pleasant but not particularly informative.

Stuart Russell's talk was also not particularly new, but I found it more intriguing because it focused on how to align human and AI values and objectives, a topic that might well be vital in the future.

Joseph Redmond's discussion and demo of image and object recognition showed that this technology is improving rapidly enough that in no time we can expect it to be in all of our smartphones and to be operating there at a high level of capability.

Tom Gruber, one of the creators of Siri, provided the most optimistic viewpoint of the session as he argued for what he called humanistic AI, AI that makes us all smarter.  I didn't find his arguments particularly compelling, but he clearly is an AI optimist.

In a fun break, Todd Rejchert debuted the Kitty Hawk Flyer. The initial unit will be available, they hope, late this year, and will fly only over water. I don't have a use in the world for such a device, but I sure would like to try one.

Schooling and other collective behaviors are fun to watch and to study, so I quite enjoyed Radhika Nagpal's talk. She reviewed the basics of this topic and discussed how her Harvard lab team built a set of 1,024 mini robots that they programmed to exhibit such behaviors.

After a short break, we returned to the theater for a session on a very different topic, The Human Response.

Rutger Bregman, an historian and writer, gave the most moving talk of the day to that point by pointing out that despite the belief of many, poverty is not a character flaw, and by then arguing for a basic income guarantee. He provided a lot of supporting data and left me leaning heavily toward this concept, which he claimed we could implement in the U.S. with a negative income tax for $175B, a price worth paying to lift all Americans out of poverty. Definitely catch this talk when it hits TED online.

Martin Ford's talk started by asking if we were heading to a future without jobs but ended up with another, albeit less compelling, argument for a basic income guarantee.

I've followed Patreon for some time but still found it interesting to hear the story from its founder, Jack Conte. We have no way to know just how well the concept is playing out, but right now he said that they have over 50,000 creators earning money via Patreon. I hope the platform continues to link audiences and artists effectively.

Sarah DeWitt argued for the potential positive power of screens in the hands of kids.

I'm still quite torn between the vision of his company that Ray Dalio presented and what I've read about it in other places, but certainly the general goal of an idea meritocracy is one I support in principle. Implementation, though, is everything in this case.

I've been a member of the ACLU for most of my adult life, so I was interested to hear what its executive director, Anthony Romero, would have to say. Despite his topics, which I care very much about, and his use of the art of Italian masters, which I have studied a bit, I found his talk ultimately a bit flat. I'm still grateful for the good work he does, but I wanted more from this talk.

This session closed superbly, however, with a talk from Vanessa Garrison and T. Morgan Dixon, the founders of GirlTrek. This group focuses on African-American women and girls and encourages them to walk as a way to fight health issues. I teared up at this talk and gave it a standing ovation, as did most of the people in the hall.

After lunch, which for me was some tasty mac-and-cheese with pulled pork from a food truck, I joined the first TED en Espanol session. I have no Spanish, so I listened to the talks via headphones and live translation.

All of the talks were at least interesting, but it's late and I'm running out of steam, so I'm going to mention only a few.

I enjoyed Jorge Drexler's music, but the rest of his talk felt less engaging.

Journalist Jorge Ramos, on the other hand, showed a dedication to journalism and a willingness to stand up for his beliefs that touched me, and watching him be thrown out of a Trump press conference (when Trump was a candidate) was chilling. Ramos deserved his standing ovation.

His talk's intensity, though, understandably paled next to that of the presentation from Ingrid Betancourt, which was one of the most riveting of the day. A candidate for the presidency of Colombia in 2002, Betancourt was kidnapped by guerilla rebels and held captive for six years. Her story of her struggles and how she fought with fear, her own violent urges, and hopelessness moved me greatly, and I was impressed by how much she came to forgiveness and the divine. I stood and clapped long and hard for her.

After another short break, we headed into the day's final session, Health, Life, Love. It began with a pleasant but otherwise straightforward interview of Serena Williams by Gayle King.

Atul Gawande really touched me with his story of how employing a coach not only improved his performance as a surgeon but ultimately proved instrumental in greatly increasing the quality of care in birthing centers in low-income areas.

Anna Rosling Ronnlund showed us a great way to visualize the degree of poverty and wealth in people all over the world with a demo of her project, Dollar Street. This is a site you're going to want to allow some time to play with and to study.

In a surprise move, TED Curator Chris Anderson then came on stage to announce that we were going to see the debut of a talk recorded earlier for TED 2017 by Pope Francis. I was blown away by the degree to which the Pope focused on solidarity and inclusiveness. This talk is already live on TED.com, with the title Why the only future worth building includes everyone, and you should check it out.

Jon Boogz and Lil Buck debuted an original dance that was at times moving and at other times just not my thing. Overall, I'm glad I got to see it.

The day ended with the award of the $1M TED Prize to Raj Panjabi, whose dream is to bring health care to the one billion people in the world's most remote communities. His approach is pragmatic and proven to work, and I hope his new organization, communityhealth.org, succeeds.

I was once again more than happy to stand and applaud.

A great end to a strong TED day.



Monday, April 24, 2017

TED 2017, day 1: Wow


I'm not going to talk further about our announcement earlier today, because I want to focus on TED, but I will show you this picture of Bill and me wearing the shirts at the big photo-op TED sign.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Bill's smiling nicely, and I think I've managed to tone down my resting I-will-kill-you face to something only vaguely violent, but you be the judge.

TED kicked off with two sessions of presentations by over two dozen of the TED Fellows. All of the talks were interesting and informative, and I was glad to have been able to catch them. Because it's late here and I have to get up early, I won't run through them all, but a few struck me as particularly notable. (All really do deserve your attention; I'm just hitting ones that stayed strongly with me and are still on my mind.)

Karim Abouelnaga discussed how his Practice Makes Perfect organization is closing the education gap for students from low-income communities in the New York City area. Both practical and inspirational, his work deserves more attention and support.

Neuroscientist Rebecca Brachman gave an intriguing talk on the possibility of resilience drugs that could act basically as vaccines against PTSD and clinical depression. Both the possibility of such drugs and the ethical issues that preventative psychopharmacology raise are fascinating topics.

Artist and activist Damon Davis used art as both a defense against fear and a way to boost courage during protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Wanuri Kahiu, a Kenyan filmmaker and writer, argued persuasively for the importance of what she called "Afrobubblegum," escapist stories set in Africa. I found it refreshing to hear someone else espouse some positive values of science fiction.

Comedian, filmmaker, and social activist Negin Farsad again wrapped up the Fellows' presentations with a lot of funny and yet shrewd observations about how to deal with tyrants, even if they happen to occupy an elected office.

Honestly, I could say good things about all of the Fellows' presentations, but it really is quite late here, so on I go.

Each year at TED, I've shown the contents of my goodie bag, so I won't break the tradition.


I chose some of the items, while others were standard.

After a snack and conversation break--before the day ended, a couple of folks had indeed asked about our shirts, so we made a tiny bit of progress on that front--the TED main stage opened with the first session, One Move Ahead.

Wow.  Just wow. This was the strongest opening TED session in my memory. The weakest talk was good, and most were excellent.

We began with Huang Yi dancing with a robot he created, while cellist Joshua Roman played beautifully. The interplay between man and robot was both beautiful and frequently touching.

Futurist and designer Anab Jain discussed projects her studio creates to show people what possible futures would look, feel, and in one case even smell like. Mixing the predictive futurism of some SF with both artistic and practical design considerations, her work serves to give people a great way to consider what might be coming.

Chess great and human rights activist Garry Kasparov discussed not only his experience first beating and then losing to IBM's Deep Blue, but also deeper considerations of the relationship between people and increasingly smart artificially intelligent machines.

Cyber-security specialist Laura Galante argued persuasively and passionately that Russian state-sponsored hacking and information manipulation may have been the key element in the election of our current President. I do not have and probably never will have access to the data necessary to know if what she said is what indeed happened, but even if it did not, the strategies she outlined were enough to make clear that the battlefield of future cyber-warfare is vastly more complicated than most people ever imagine.

Next up, the band Ok Go first played live along with a video and then shared some insights into how they create their incredible videos. Singer Damian Kulash, Jr. explained that they do not so much create ideas as find them, a statement that does not do justice to the approach he then explained. I am still processing this approach to creativity and expect to be doing so for some time, but I believe I have a great deal to learn from it--both for myself and for my businesses. They received a well-deserved standing ovation, as did the next three speakers.

Tim Ferriss spoke about his approach to dealing with stress, an approach that he has used to help cope with being bi-polar and having suffered over fifty depressive episodes to date. Basically, he practices stoicism. He showed some particular tools he uses to manage the stress that can trigger his episodes, and like the notions of creativity Kulash discussed, I am still processing these. I will say that a lot of what he described is similar to techniques I've come to rely on during the past several years, so I'm certainly in his target audience.

In a deeply touching and disturbing talk, artist Titus Kaphar discussed his work to illuminate the real history that art frequently hides and how we can reclaim that history from art without getting rid of the art.

Last up was Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who in addition to having a great deal to say was also clearly an accomplished orator. He argued that futurists examining the evidence of today might well conclude that we worship the self, the I, and that instead we should put our energies into the us. I know that sounds crunchy, but it's not, because there is a real difference between focusing all of our energies on ourselves and directing them to the service of others. He argued for the us of relationships, of identity, and of responsibility. "It's the people not like us who make us grow," he said as part of his discussion of the importance of communicating with people who feel differently than you do.

I've not done justice to any of these talks, but fortunately, TED will ultimately put them all online, and then you can watch them for yourselves. I definitely recommend you do so.

Late in the evening, I've now caught up with personal email and so can try to sleep, but my mind and spirit are still trying to process all that I heard. That's why I come to TED, and it's a delight to be so full and so challenged so early in the week.

Oh, yeah: I've already signed up for next year.



Buy a shirt. Start a conversation. Change the world.


I’ve been teasing for a while now that today I would announce one of the odder things I’ve done. I’m happy to deliver on that promise by introducing you to Limit Your Greed (formally LYG, LLC), a new company that my business partner, Bill Catchings and I are starting. You can visit its site here.

As friends and long-time readers know, Bill and I are the founders and co-owners of Principled Technologies, Inc. PT is the leading fact-based marketing and learning services provider, but it is also — and always has been — a social experiment.  Bill and I started PT in part to see if it was possible to build a business that follows very different principles from traditional businesses and yet still does well and makes a profit.

With PT now in its 15th year, we’re happy to report that the experiment is a success. You can run a business very differently and still do well.

Now, we want to take that lesson to a broader audience—in fact, to everyone—and try to change the world. We want to do so by persuading business owners and executives to choose to do something both simple and radical: to take less so that others can have more. To limit their greed.

Our goal is not new government legislation; instead, we’re hoping to help start a movement in which folks choose to build different businesses and help make the world better for a lot of people.

One way in which we hope to do that is by selling a book, Limit Your Greed, which we’re still working on but should finish soon.

Another is today’s announcement.

As the site says, “Philosophically, LYG is a movement. Practically, it’s a clothing company.”

The idea is simple: Buy shirts that contain challenging and conversation-worthy slogans. The first is “Limit your greed.” Another is “Nobody wins unless everyone wins.” Each shirt comes with talking points. When someone asks what your shirt means, you have a chance to show them a better way for businesses large and small to behave.

I don’t want to repeat all of the material on the site, so let me instead point you to its Practice page for answers to the questions about how to make this happen.

Of course, you could just buy the shirts because they’re cool—and they are. They’re made in North Carolina, where we’re based, from cotton grown here, and they’re soft and lovely to the touch. The designs are nifty, both visually appealing and conversation-worthy.

You could also buy the shirts in the hopes LYG makes a profit, because if it does, half of all profits will go to charity.

What we most hope, though, is that you will buy the shirts—Get ‘em all! Collect the whole set!—and help us change the world.

I have to warn you that you can’t buy the shirts quite yet. That’s intentional. Bill and I will be wearing one of these shirts each day at TED, which we’re attending this week. To help make sure no one felt we were flogging products—a TED no-no we take seriously—we didn’t want them available for sale yet.

So no, we’re not wearing the shirts at TED to sell them. We’re wearing them to do what we hope you will join us in doing: start conversations, and change the world.

I promised odd, and I think that me going into the movement and clothing business is odd enough to make that promise real.

Odd or not, though, I hope you join us in this movement. Together, we can make the world better.





Sunday, April 23, 2017

A few quick pics from my day


After a wonderful sleep that lasted over eleven hours, I worked for a bit and then walked into the food court that connects to my hotel.  The spicy bento box struck me as just the right choice for lunch.

Click an image to see a larger version. 

It was indeed delicious, though it could have been even spicier.

After strolling over to the Convention Centre and registering for TED, a process that is as easy and as luxurious and as tightly controlled as it could be, I found my way back to a wonderful local gelato shop, Bella Gelateria.


I tasted three flavors, and each one was superb.  This place deserves all the honors it's earned.

The view out of my room's huge window, which runs the width of the space and most of the height, is both attractive, industrial, and indicative of the prevailing weather I've experienced here.


Tomorrow morning, TED!

Oh, yeah:  Look for an early blog post from me tomorrow, round about noon Eastern time, for the odd thing I've been mentioning for a while now.  I think you'll find it at least interesting, and I hope it intrigues you.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sometimes the perfect plan is a simple one


I'm now in Vancouver for TED, which starts Monday morning and for which registration opens tomorrow.  I've not seen much of this city, but it seems to be a cool place, and I know it has a strong food scene, so normally I'd be spending my Saturday night at a hot restaurant.

Instead, I'm eating room service and watching a movie in my room--because it's exactly what I want to be doing right now.

In unrelated news, my next band name may well be Chew the Sphincter.

Oh, yeah:  the new thing launches Monday.



Friday, April 21, 2017

Willow and TED


Over the last year, Willow has become one of my favorite Portland restaurants, and it's also the best bargain for a tasting menu I've experienced.  Earlier tonight, I enjoyed a delicious six-course (seven if you count the amuse) meal for fifty bucks; that's a bargain.  Every course was interesting and delicious.  I can't recommend this place too strongly.

Tomorrow, I must get up very early to do the check-out/airport run/flight thing.  Destination:  Vancouver, B.C., Canada, and TED!  I'm excited.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

So, about that new, odd thing that's coming Monday


You can see the countdown to it on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.  Those pages will give you a tiny bit more data.  Sign into your accounts on all three, like these entries, and follow them, and more info will come to you.  On Monday, a lot more will come to you.

I'm excited.  I hope you will be, too.




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Monday


is when that new, odd thing should appear.  Already, a countdown is showing up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I'll tell you a tiny bit more tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I'd tell you more about a very good dinner at Little Bird


but right now, many, many hours later than the timestamp on this blog post indicates, I'm too tired to do anything but crash.

Tomorrow.  For sure.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Phrases of a very long day


Five hours of sleep.

Twenty-two hours of day.

Two flights.

One exit-row seat, almost tolerable.

One non-exit-row seat, with one folded laptop, two nearly cramped shoulders, and one sweat-soaked shirt.

Spam musubi and macaroni salad snack from a nearby Hawaiian food stand.

Wonderful Mediterranean dinner from Tusk.  Eat there if you can.

Lots and lots and lots of work.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

One of the problems with being a night owl


is the challenge morning flights pose.  Take tomorrow, for example.  I have to be at the airport at 5:30 a.m., which means I have to get up to shower at 4:45 a.m.  For some people, that would be no big deal, just waking up an hour or two earlier than usual.  For me, however, it means that about the time I'd stop reading in bed most nights, I have to get up.  To get any sleep at all, I have to try my luck in the bed during what is normally for me prime productivity time.

I consequently hate early flights, inevitable as they are on some trips.

I am not looking forward to the morning.



Saturday, April 15, 2017

The odd thing is still coming


and it's much closer now.  I wrote about it in an entry a few weeks back, and I was excited about it then.  I'm even more chuffed about it today, though I will again confess that it's one of the odder things I have done in a life that contains quite a few odd choices.

I will give one clue:  it'll make its public appearance about the same time as the start of this year's TED, which I am fortunate enough to be attending.

Is that a coincidence?

Hmmm.




Friday, April 14, 2017

The Fate of the Furious


is everything I hoped it would be and more, a fine movie in this franchise and probably my second favorite (after the fifth) of the bunch.

With more and stranger action than you would imagine possible--a trademark of the series--and nods to all of the elements of its predecessors, the movie just picks you up and carries you along in its explosive-laden hands.  You're not going to be bored, and though you can easily know the direction of the story, the particulars are good enough that you enjoy the ride.

The movie also manages to give some time to all of the key members of its huge and growing cast, and it does so with both love and a great deal of humor.  Watching Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham taunt each other is a special treat, but so, too, are the more far-out action bits, which the script and actors handle with just enough self-awareness that you feel like they're both in on the joke and enjoying the hell out of making the movie.

I believe you could come to the film cold, with no knowledge of the previous seven, and still have a good time, though you'd be aware you were missing some of the gags.  Having seen all of the films more than once, however, I was in the perfect audience for this one, and I had a perfectly grand time watching it.

When you're in the mood for summer blockbuster action fun, check out The Fate of the Furious.




Thursday, April 13, 2017

I'm not solely responsible for the rise of the big, dumb action movie


but I certainly share the blame with some of my friends and millions of other viewers who see a trailer like this one and know they must catch this film.



We're talking Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds chewing the scenery, gunfights and chase scenes, and enough of a story to keep the action rolling along.  What's not to like?

I will need to read afterward to repair my brain, but I can live with that.




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I fail the tire test


Yesterday, the rear passenger-side tire of my Tesla Model S picked up a very large screw that quickly turned the tire flat.  Though I was sad to see it and more sad to have to buy a new tire, this sort of thing happens.  It was late, so I got a ride home and emailed Tesla Motor's local service manager om the wee hours of the evening.

Today, in the wonderful Tesla style, they brought me a loaner on a truck, parked it, put my car on the truck, and took it off for repair.  Total time cost to me of this encounter:  four minutes.  Wonderful.

After picking up the key fob for the loaner, it occurred to me that I had not gotten new tires in quite a while, and given that my car has sports performance tires and I do drive the thing like a sports car, I should have needed new tires.  I mentioned this to the guy who picked up my car and asked that he have the service manager check out my tires.

A couple of hours later, the service manager, a woman who's always been incredibly efficient and great to deal with, called me.  She was laughing.  She asked if I had looked at my rear tires closely.  I allowed I had not.  She said that, yes, I did indeed need two new rear tires, because the cord was showing on both.  She was amazed they were still working well--which they were.

I clearly failed the tire test.  I shall endeavor to be more observant in the future, but I am also quite glad to report that the tires managed to keep me driving even when I neglected them.




Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Even though outrageous is the new normal


sometimes I'm surprised by how stupid our current administration can be.  Case in point:  Sean Spicer's recent remarks about Hitler and his subsequent lame attempts to explain away his remarks.

Nothing is too ludicrous or offensive for this administration.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok had me


by existing, but then it gained Cate Blanchett and a few other actors, and, well, this trailer.



Yup, I'm there.



Sunday, April 9, 2017

Yes, I ate that


Char-Grill is a Raleigh institution, a mini-chain that grew from a single location in 1959 based on its ability to serve reliably tasty burgers and very good steak fries.  I grab a burger there from time to time, but the fries are the main attraction, because for my taste, the burgers tend to be over-cooked and dry.  I have never, though, eaten one of their hot dogs.

Today, on the way to the grocery store and rather hungry, I decided to stop there and eat a hot dog so I wouldn't enter the Whole Foods hungry.  (I've learned that doing so can hurt my wallet far more than the price of a tube steak.)  I chose a hot dog with cheese.

This is what awaited me inside the very cheerful "Hot Dogs! Enjoy" wrapping paper.

Click the image to see a larger version--if you dare.

I'm not sure which red dye this dog was, but I'm pretty confident that dye was one of the tube steak's major components.  The bun was white and soft, a full commitment to 1959, and the "cheese" seemed to be some sort of mini-slice of cheese food, though it's possible this cheese was just a very weak real cheese.

Of course, I ate it.  It wasn't bad.  I've had far worse hot dogs--which, unfortunately, tells you way more about me than about this particular dog.

On balance, though, in future Char-Grill visits I'll be sticking to the fries, maybe even a burger, but I won't be ordering another hot dog.





Saturday, April 8, 2017

In tonight's UFC Light Heavyweight Championship match


the champ, Daniel Cormier, faces a man he's beaten once before but who is on a fearsome knock-out streak, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson.  The match-up is particularly interesting because Cormier is smaller and older than Johnson, and now on the wrong side of 35, while Johnson seems to have improved a great deal in the two years since their last match.

Nonetheless, I'm going with Cormier--and writing it here to put myself on record with the choice.  I think Cormier will smother Johnson and stay on him and be smart enough to avoid the knock-out in the early rounds when Johnson still has energy.  I don't expect it to be pretty, but I do expect Cormier to win a decision against an exhausted Johnson.

In four or five hours, we'll find out if I'm right.



Friday, April 7, 2017

A birthday present we'll be watching soon


Check it out, and you'll know we have to.  We really do.



Yes, it's time to get in the cage for some seriously odd craziness as only Nicolas Cage can deliver it.






Thursday, April 6, 2017

How is it possible


that in today's highly interconnected world there is no way for me to legally watch the 10-minute sequel to Love Actually, Red Nose Day, Actually?  I'd pony up a few pounds/dollars/whatever to see it, but alas, I cannot.  Now, the news is that the U.S. version will be different from the UK one, which makes this travesty even more intolerable.

I am not amused.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I'm almost certainly going to be disappointed


by this film, but there's no way I'm going to miss it.



After all, who can resist Tom Cruise being used by a mummy--at least for much of the film?

Not I.



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Holden spurns Fur Holden


What cruel rejection is this, that Fur Holden, a creature born of the mighty dog himself, should suffer such willful inattention at the hands of his creator.


Fur Holden, lacking legs, could only hold his ground until breezes or grasping arms or Swiffers hastened his departure from this short, cold life.



Monday, April 3, 2017

Holden says


All your remotes are mine.


He is correct.



Sunday, April 2, 2017

If you want to enjoy Ghost in the Shell


the most important thing you need to do is decide to watch it on its own merits and not compare it to the original anime movie (or subsequent films and series).  If you approach this live-action film as part of the Ghost in the Shell canon, then you'll probably be disappointed, in part because the emotional heart of this one is rather different than that of the anime offerings, and in part because the powers of Major are definitely not consistent with those she has in the anime pieces.

As always, I walked into the theater hoping to enjoy the movie, and I'm happy to say that I did.  Visually, it was gorgeous--not as pretty as the anime film, but for a live-action movie, quite lovely. The lead actors, notably Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, and "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, turned in solid performances, with Kitano particularly fun in his role as the head of their agency.

If you don't know the anime predecessors, of course, then just go and have a good time.

Even if you do, I recommend the film, provided you can allow it to be its own thing.  It's far from a perfect movie, but it's beautiful to watch and does have a heart, something many action films lack.



Saturday, April 1, 2017

Yes, I am watching you


and, yes, I am everywhere, so don't you start doing anything bad.


Don't make me come there and shut down your party.




Friday, March 31, 2017

Highlights from a day of travel


If you think business travel is romantic, you haven't done much of it.  Today's mission was to check out, drive to the airport, and be home by four--easy enough with on-time flights.

The route to the airport was a new one, with lots of slow-downs, insane drivers, and plenty of construction.

The first plane was so late that the second was set to take off seven minutes after I exited the first.  Nothing says fun like dashing through an airport to try to turn a ten-minute walk into a three-minute sprint.

Fortunately, that second plane was late, so I made the connection--where I then sat on the tarmac for a bit over two and a half hours.

I made it home about two hours late.

At least I am home now, and glad of it.





Thursday, March 30, 2017

My room won't obey me


I like to keep my hotel rooms cold.  I usually opt for 65 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, which is as low as most U.S. hotels will let you take the room.  I work very late, and the cold helps keep me from falling asleep.  Plus, it's fantastic to sleep under heavy covers in a cold room.

This room has apparently decided it wants to be warmer.  I set it to 65, and it chills to that lovely temperature--for a while.  An hour or two later, I notice I'm warm and comfortable, when I should be cold and uncomfortable.  I check the thermostat.  The room is now 70.  Yes, I verified how the HVAC controls work, and I even had a maintenance guy check that I was doing the right thing.  This room just will not obey me.

I look forward to returning to my usual hotel on my next Austin trip.




Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Another lesson I didn't need to learn


Staring at your face in a hotel bathroom's magnifying mirror when you're exhausted after an eighteen-hour work day will never lead to anything good.



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hotel room randomness


The hotel in which I normally stay here in Austin was sold out, so I ended up in another hotel about fifteen minutes away.  This hotel is part of a more upscale chain, so you'd expect it to be nicer than my usual place, and in some ways it is.  The hotel has also proven, however, to be at least as random as my usual.

For example, when I checked in yesterday, my room was 82 degrees, and its phone handset was missing.  The AC did work, so I fixed the temperature.  A maintenance guy found the phone handset way under the bed, one of the few places I had not thought to look.

Today, the folks who cleaned the room brought me two more complete sets of toiletries--does anyone use a full set of toiletries in a night?--but didn't empty the bathroom trash can.

Consistency is clearly harder to achieve than one might think.




Monday, March 27, 2017

If it's Cooper's, this must be Austin


Indeed it is.  I landed this afternoon in Austin, worked for quite a while, and then headed downtown to Cooper's for some extremely good barbecue.

We're talking serious meat here, rich and delicious brain food.


Of course, we had to add a little bacon jalapeno mac and cheese, some beans, and a little Wonder Bread and pickles.

For the short time before I wanted to crash (I didn't; it was a very late work night), I'm sure my IQ doubled under the influence of the barbecue's power.

Pure Texas joy.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Life


If you've watched any of the trailers for this new science fiction/horror film, you've probably thought, "I've seen this movie before under other names."  For the most part, you're right:  you have.  What surprised me about Life, though, is that it entertained me and held my attention the whole time, even though I knew exactly how it would go almost every step of the way.

One of the reasons it's so engaging is the cast.  All of the actors turn in good performances, and the director, Daniel Espinosa, takes the time to let us get to know each of them at least a bit.

Another aspect that worked well is the use of the International Space Station as the setting.  From its construction and layout, which lent themselves well to long shots in cramped spaces, to the choice to make all the action occur in zero-g, the ISS proved an unusual and powerful place to stage the film.

What you have to suspend to enjoy the movie is your analytical side.  If I had designed the ship's lab, for example, the first bit of bad action would have occurred, and my safeguards would have taken care of the problem in no time at all--but then we'd have no movie.

As long as you're willing to stop analyzing, though, Life will reward you with an entertaining and engaging story.




Saturday, March 25, 2017

Something odd is coming


I can't yet tell you anything about it, except that it's a rather odd thing for me, and I'm rather excited about it.

I'm pretty sure you'll know it when you see it, but I'll definitely remind you that it was what I was talking about when I wrote this entry.

More to come as this mystery unfolds.




Friday, March 24, 2017

On my mind tonight, for so many reasons


Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jean, and this fine Bernie Taupin/Elton John song about her.



She's still running around in a lot of our unconsciousness.



Thursday, March 23, 2017

What will I be trying to watch on May 25?


Why, the Red Nose Day, Actually broadcast, of course.



I know it's just a 10-minute film and likely to have all the depth of any cast reunion, but it's from Richard Curtis, and it's about Love Actually, so I'm unreasonably excited about it.

Of course, if I were back in London, I could watch it on BBC One tomorrow, but I'm not, so I can't.  Lucky Brits!





Wednesday, March 22, 2017

About that amazing dinner in Barcelona


In an earlier post, I mentioned that I had eaten a wonderful, world-class dinner in Barcelona, and I promised to tell you more about it.  I'm writing now to fulfill that promise.

The meal was at Enigma, a new restaurant from Alber Adria (with some input from his brother, the famed Ferran Adria, ex of El Bulli).  Though Adria's name is on the restaurant, its lead chef, Oliver Pena, and his team do the cooking, and they do it extraordinarily well.

As the name suggests, Adria's concept is to lead you from one mystery to another.  For example, they call each of the multiple separate dining rooms an enigma, and you move among them in the course of your meal.  To help with the illusion, they ask that guests not reveal the menu or show any photos of the food, so I cannot do either.

I can show you the imposing door

Click a photo to see a larger version.

and its keypad,


on which you have to enter a special code, which varies from person to person and which they supply only when you've paid your reservation's deposit.

The many, many courses are all remarkable, each one a blend of largely local ingredients and the sort of modernist cuisine cooking techniques for which El Bulli was justly famous.

I can't say more without violating my agreement with the folks there, so let me just suggest that if you are ever in Barcelona and can get into Enigma--it's perpetually sold out, and I ate there only by being on the waiting list--you should.  It is a wonderful, delicious experience.



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thunder filling the air and rain falling on the skylights


are two of my favorite sounds.  Earlier tonight, I had the privilege of enjoying both, and for the short time they lasted, they were wonderful.

Thanks to the intertubes, you can have your own, should you feel in the mood.



Not as good as the real thing, but on a decent set of speakers, not bad.



Monday, March 20, 2017

Bernie Wrightson, R.I.P.


Yesterday, a man I thought of as a legend passed away.  I never met him, but from the first time I saw his work in comic books, I admired him and looked for his art.  I loved his Swamp Thing, and his illustrations for Mary Shelley's Frankenstein were amazing creations.  Wrightson worked in all sorts of commercial art, but no matter what he did, his illustrations stood out.  Tinged with horror and with amazing line work, each Wrightson piece rewarded closer inspection.

I am glad to have been able to enjoy his work, and I am sorry there will be no more of it.



Sunday, March 19, 2017

"A Little Time"


is the title of a new song that my friend Aaron (on the left) wrote and my friend (and son-in-law) Ben (on the right) sang.  You can listen to it here.



It's also my privilege to get to work with these guys.

Enjoy.




Saturday, March 18, 2017

Kong interrupted


I'd planned to share my thoughts on Kong:  Skull Island after seeing it earlier tonight.  Unfortunately, a little over an hour into the nearly two-hour movie, someone or something triggered the fire alarm at the theater.  We all exited, waited a while, and then learned that was it for the night.

In case I don't get to watch the rest of this film until after it hits DVD, I will say that I was having a pretty good time watching it, the effects were decent, Samuel L. Jackson was doing a good job of chewing the scenery, the soundtrack was excellent, and plot holes were abundant.

I'll tell you more when I know more.




Friday, March 17, 2017

Music in the park on a sunny afternoon


Barcelona wasn't exactly warm that afternoon, and in the shade of the trees many people zipped up their light jackets, but as long as you were walking in the sunshine, the temperature in Park Guell could not have been more perfect.

Click an image to see a larger version.

I was in the minority in short sleeves, just another tourist who had to pay to gain access to the steps of the wonderful complex at the park's lower main entrance.


From the famous lizard partway up the steps


to the mosaics on the ceiling of the structure


it sang with color and with Gaudi's genius.

The view of the city from atop the structure gave way to the Mediterranean in the distance,


while the walkways under the neighboring overhangs transported you inside the skeleton of a beast long vanished.


Up and up the breath-stealing steps led, until I reached the top and surrendered to the curving paths, which wound me once again downward.

In a corridor not far from the bottom, a lone violinist played a song I could not name but vaguely recognized.


I moved closer and leaned against a rock wall just outside his setup.  I closed my eyes.  The sun's hands on my face were as soft and gentle and warming and loving as a mother's embrace of her baby.  The music filled my heart to the point that--and this is the sentimental, silly truth of me--I thought I might not be capable of containing the pure, wordless, unburdened joy of that moment.

If I have ever given a reader that much joy, for even a single instant, then I have done at least one thing of wonder.

I remained there, utterly still, eyes closed, for I know not how long, and then the music stopped, my heart released its control, and I opened my eyes and walked on.

A perfect Barcelona moment.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Logan


I saw this movie on a drizzly Sunday night in London, at a cinema that was running it on a gigantic screen.  I watched from the second row in the balcony, a beautiful seat from which to take in the entire film.

I absolutely loved this movie.  The story, the cinematography, and the acting were all excellent.  Rather than the usual superhero movie formula of action, action, snarky comments, and more action, Logan relentlessly follows its decaying namesake character as he reluctantly ends up in another battle when all he's trying to do is live under the radar and take care of an increasingly frail Charles Xavier.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart turn in very strong performances in those roles, but young Dafne Keen steals the show as a mutant girl with enormous powers and minimal socialization.

My only real complaint about the film is its reliance on a bit of footage and dialogue from Shane, choices I consider to be blunders, but even with those errors the film is a powerful and compelling work that never wavers in its intensity.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I'll stop here.  Go see Logan.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Amorino


While in Las Vegas for The Ultimate Fighter finale last December, Kyle and I ate twice at a place with exceptionally tasty gelato, Amorino.  We were surprised to learn that the company has a location in Raleigh.  I've since tried gelato from there, and it was very, very good.

On my recent European trip, I encountered Amorino stores in Florence, Barcelona, and London.  All of them were always full of customers.

If you like gelato, definitely get to the Amorino location in downtown Raleigh and try some of their offerings.  I'm partial to the amarena, but I've not tasted a bad flavor yet.

If you do, I'm betting you'll join the folks in all of those towns and more who've learned that Amorino provides reliably good gelato in multiple countries and locations.





Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A few quick thoughts on the occasion of my birthday


Far less of everything--summer, Christmas, new music, hot movies--awaits me than is behind me.  That is a sobering and difficult proposition to accept.

I continue to feel 16 inside.  I am as churned up as I have ever been.

That said, I feel I have gained some measure of self-control and maybe even of wisdom.

I am not accomplishing enough.  I must pick up the pace.

I cannot fathom those who are bored by life.  I could live a hundred lifetimes and never be bored.  So much art and food and beauty and people and life to absorb and revel in, and never ever enough time.



Monday, March 13, 2017

I hate to hit you with another trailer


but you seriously must watch every second of this amazing bit of video.



When Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson says, “take the wheel,” and proceeds to manually re-direct a torpedo hurtling along the ice, I want to explode with joy.

I can't wait for this one.



Sunday, March 12, 2017

At the top of today's most want to see movie list


are two films with very strong women kicking butt.  One is the better known and long expected Wonder Woman movie.



The other is one I learned about only recently but which looks like even more fun.



Oh, yeah, I'm there for both of these.




Saturday, March 11, 2017

Home


Good, on-time flights, business-class travel, and good airline lounges with all the Coke Zero/Diet Coke and still water I could want.  It's hard to ask for more from a travel day.

That said, this travel day lasted about 18 hours, so I'm going to attend to life and then crash for what I hope will be a very long sleep.



Friday, March 10, 2017

Heading home tomorrow


Today's highlights included some lovely time in the British Museum, a little wandering in the shops of Covent Garden, and a fun and ultimately touching musical based on a movie, The School of Rock.

In the morning, I get up way too early to begin the long trek home.

I will force myself to stay up late tomorrow night, endure the dreaded spring forward, and hope to awaken Sunday feeling more or less like I'm in the right time zone.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

The three highlights of a wonderful London day


Touring a lot of the Impressionist section of the National Gallery and getting to see half a dozen Van Gogh works, including the remarkable Sunflowers.

Watching raptly The Old Vic's production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, in which the entire cast, notably stars Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire, and David Haig, were superb.  This time around, I found the ending particularly touching.

Eating and enjoying a world-class dinner at The Ledbury, a restaurant that deserves every accolade it's received.

Wow, what a day.



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quick highlights of another grand day


I keep failing to do detailed blog reports, because between mostly vacationing and having to cram in multiple hours of work, I find myself late at night, the blog in front of me, and a choice between filling it or getting a good amount of sleep.  This trip, I'm choosing sleep.

A few highlights from today will have to suffice.

I spent hours renewing old artistic friendships at the Tate Britain and touring its extensive David Hockney retrospective.

I enjoyed the best tikka masala sauce I've ever tasted at a little place round the corner from here, Strand Tandoori.

I also sampled, for the second time this trip, some of the best gelato I've had anywhere, courtesy of La Gelateria.

Another fine day.



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wow, what a day


It's after three a.m. here, so I'm going to keep this very short.  Today was a very powerful day indeed.  I'll explain more in future entries, but I spent a lot of time in the Tate Modern, to interesting results; saw a fun and moving play, The Girls; and had a late and absolutely wonderful dinner at L'Atelier Robuchon.

I ended up having to put in a few hours of work, but otherwise, the day was perfect.

More in future entries.




Monday, March 6, 2017

Pleasant surprises at the National Portrait Gallery


I am not now and have never been a fan of royalty.  I found the part of European history where I was supposed to memorize the order of the English kings and queens to be more annoying than fun.  So, though I have wanted to tour the National Portrait Gallery here, I entered it with some trepidation.

I left rather pleasantly surprised.  To be sure, the bulk of the portraits are of royals, and most of them left me cold.  What I ended up quite liking, however, were many of the paintings of literary and scientific figures, as well as some of the sections that brought key moments in history to life.

For example, I was happy to get to study John Taylor's (we think) portrait of Shakespeare, which I've of course seen many times in reproduction.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Equally pleasing to see were portraits of John Donne


and Ben Jonson, looking more than a bit harried.


Whether you're a fan of royals or, like me, more in it for other historical figures, I recommend spending a few pleasant hours in the halls of the National Portrait Gallery.




Sunday, March 5, 2017

Go to the Leighton House if you can


Today, for no particular reason other than my affection for the work of Lord Frederic Leighton, I visited the Leighton House Museum.  I had done no research and had no expectations of anything more than a tour of the house.

Oh, what a lucky man I am!  Upon arrival, I learned that the museum was hosting a show, which ends April 2, called "Flaming June: The Making of an Icon."  The title of the show betrays its main focus, the painting Flaming June, which is arguably Leighton's most famous work.  What the title does not make clear is that as part of assembling this show, the museum not only gathered tons of his sketches for this piece, it also assembled for the first time since 1895 all five extant paintings that Leighton planned to submit for the 1895 summer exposition!  (I say "planned" because at the last moment he pulled one painting and substituted another, and no one knows where the substitution currently is.)

This means that the last time these five paintings hung together was in his studio on his April open house day prior to the exposition!  I lucked into the first chance to see these pieces together since 1895.  At the exposition, they were scattered in different areas.  Only in his studio in 1895 and now in the house museum have they hung together.

I cannot show you photos of the paintings, because the house rules forbid photography, but I can list them for you here in the order in which they were hanging, from left to right:

  • Candida
  • Lachrymae
  • The Maid with the Golden Hair
  • 'Twixt Hope and Fear
  • Flaming June
All five are technically brilliant, examples of the painter at the height of his talents--though working with severe angina the entire time he was painting them.  Candida and 'Twixt Hope and Fear did not, however, touch my heart the way the other three did.  Lachrymae broke my heart with its sorrow.  I fell instantly in love with the utter and complete focus of the reading Maid with the Golden Hair.  As for Flaming June, well, it deserves all of its accolades, a stunningly romantic vision of a woman exhausted and embracing slumber.  

In addition to the paintings themselves and the many sketches for aspects of Flaming June, the museum also managed to snag the unfinished Clytie, which is astonishing in person, and Whispers, which also deserves its fame.  

The house itself is another treat, a sumptuous, art-filled treasure trove.  

I could go on and on, but I am quite drained by today's experiences, of which this was the primary and most moving.  I was quite undone by the emotions Leighton's paintings aroused in me.

If you live in London or will be visiting before this exhibition closes, I cannot recommend it too highly.  I genuinely feel privileged to have seen it.





Saturday, March 4, 2017

The two most remarkable sushi dinners I've ever had


were about a year ago and then earlier tonight at the same London restaurant, The Araki.  Chef Mitsuhiro Araki (top left in the photo below)


and his team created an astonishing meal that combined European seafood and other ingredients, including albino sturgeon caviar and amazing truffles, in ways I've never tasted anywhere else.  Multiple courses involved varieties of the tuna belly you can see in this picture.

Every single bite was superb.

The restaurant holds only ten people, and the meal is quite expensive, but it's worth it.  The Araki serves absolutely world-class meals, and I feel privileged to have eaten there twice.



Friday, March 3, 2017

Seriously, I was trying to look happy


about having my photo taken at a very wonderful dinner the other night in Barcelona (about which I will tell you more later), but I clearly didn't manage it.

Click the image to see a larger version.

So, what do you think:  serial killer, occasional killer, first-time killer, or new author bookjacket photo?



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Moving on in the morning


I really do owe you a lot, including some thoughts on Mobile World Congress, all the wonderful Gaudi installations I had the privilege to tour, and my world-class meal at...that would be telling too early.

Instead, because I'm moving on to London in the morning and will be spending much of tomorrow traveling, I'm shutting down all electronics, packing, and trying to grab some shut-eye.

More from London.





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Common sense scores a rare victory over obligation


It's well after three in the morning here.  Two significant work tasks await me, and I owe this blog reports on two remarkable aspects of today.

I also have to get up reasonably early for work.

So, I'm bowing for a change to common sense and heading to bed.  Sorry about that.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I miss common courtesy


I miss it most days, but I particularly long for it when spending hours walking the floor of a massive trade show, such as the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where I am now.  My mom brought me up to believe that when you're in a crowd, you have certain responsibilities, including to be aware of your surroundings, to be considerate of others in the crowd, to watch where you're going, to apologize when you bump into someone, and so on.

Either my mom was unusual in teaching these lessons, or the people at this trade show have decided the rules simply do not apply here.  People stop in the middle of busy walkways to stare at their phones.  They smash into you while staring at their phones or in conversation, and then they glare at you or curse at you.  Each person acts as if they are alone in the world, with their decisions having no effect on others.

As you might imagine, I hate this behavior.  At times, I get so frustrated that I have to find a wall to lean against for a short break in a tiny zone of personal space.

It strikes me that if we all were more considerate of others in every way, including these small ways, we might all be better off.



Monday, February 27, 2017

Gaudi's last house commission


After Gaudi's success with Casa Batllo, which I hope to see tomorrow, the Mila family commissioned him to build from scratch a home and building that was to be more ornate, bigger, and just more in every way than Casa Batllo.  The result was Casa Mila, which was so far out that people started ridiculing it with the name "La Pedrera," the stone quarry.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Gaudi was right, and the critics of his day were wrong.  Since that time, La Pedrera, which I visited today, has become a widely acknowledged masterpiece, with UNESCO declaring it a World Heritage Site in 1984.

I absolutely loved what the tour allowed us to see of the building.  (Much of it is off-limits, because people still live there, and some businesses operate out of it.)  From the stairways in one of the two inner courtyards,


to the view upward in that same courtyard,


to the arches of the attic,


the building embodies Gaudi's obsessions with nature, mathematics, and God.

The roof, with its eerie collection of figures, each both striking and serving a useful function,


and its undulating surface, a waveform that evokes the ocean, struck me particularly powerfully.

I chose to wedge this visit to La Pedrera between my first work partial day (at Mobile World Congress) and my second (email), and though that choice cost me sleep, I am very glad I made it.

When the Mila family disliked his creation, Gaudi swore off home commissions and focused all of his creative energies on La Sagrada Familia.  I understand and appreciate that choice, but I am very glad that he first created the wonderful La Pedrera.







Sunday, February 26, 2017

La Sagrada Familia continues to humble and inspire me


I spent hours there today, walking the available spaces and frequently sitting to ponder both the feelings the magnificent cathedral inspires in me and the astonishing genius of Antoni Gaudi.  From this soaring section

Click an image to see a larger version.

to the breathtaking main chamber


Sagrada Familia makes me feel as if I am in the body of something at once both part of the Earth and entwined with the divine.

I sit in the sections reserved for prayer and look around me and sometimes close my eyes, and I cannot escape the power of the biology, mathematics, and devotion that Gaudi blended to create the plans for this amazing structure.  The contemplation both energizes and exhausts me; though that combination should be impossible, it is not.

I owe a huge debt to Scott, who turned me on to Gaudi and who led us to Barcelona for a magical week together seven years ago.  With him, I first saw Sagrada Familia, and without him, I may never have learned how much I love it and Barcelona.  Thanks, Scott, and I love you.




Saturday, February 25, 2017

Barcelona and the late dinner


When I went down for dinner a bit before ten p.m., the plaza was still hopping, with petite squads of men and women crossing to and fro, guitarists and squeezebox players working far enough apart that they didn't hurt one another, and every restaurant open and barking for business.  

The tables glow oddly from the light of the heat lamps under every table's umbrella.  


My meal was good, the people-watching superb, and the music so-so, with one of the worst busker renditions of Hallelujah ever.  Still, on balance, it's fine to be in Barcelona, even on a winter night.



Friday, February 24, 2017

Moving on in the morning


It's after midnight here in Florence, I am having some bad intestinal issues (no worries; they'll pass, so to speak), and in the morning I must find my way to Barcelona, so I'm going to keep this very short.

Rain fell all day today, but that didn't stop me from walking around the city, spending many hours in the Palazzo Vecchio, and, of course, grabbing some Grom gelato.

Now, though, it's time to pack and crash.

Tomorrow, Spain!




Thursday, February 23, 2017

Another day, another church


Florence is bursting with lovely churches, and I've visited quite a few of them.  Today, though, was my first trip to the rather imposing Great Synagogue of Florence, aka the Tempio Maggiore Israelitico di Firenze.

Click an image to see a larger version.

Though very different from its Christian counterparts in many ways, this church was nonetheless a grand and moving place of worship.


The small museum it houses tells the story of the place, with a particular emphasis on the horrors that WWII and the Nazi Germans brought it.

Without trying to dive into politics, I must say again that we as a race should never let this sort of nightmare occur again.

I wander a lot in Florence, walking everywhere and generally not worrying about getting too lost, because the key parts of the main city are easy to find.  Today, my wandering took me by this odd piece on the corner of a quiet road.


After some delicious Grom gelato--I've missed gelato only one day in Florence so far--I meandered by the main square in time to see a bubble-maker in a tux entertaining kids.


Ancient beauty is everywhere here, so seeing the beauty of bubbles in the wind and laughing children was a pleasant and different treat.




Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A few high points from today in Florence


Getting to see in person Botticelli's Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Two Angels, which is now in the entry room at the Accademia.

Click an image to see a larger version.

I toured an exhibition of Giovanni dal Ponte


whose work is lovely and who was new to me.  I can't show any of his paintings here, however, because the gallery forbid photography in those chambers.

I spent a great deal of time admiring and communing with this big guy,


which I consider to be one of the few perfect pieces of art and the sight of which always slays me.

Wonderful gelato at Grom!


Touring outside and then inside the Duomo.


Pasta stuffed with pear and a cheese mixture at Coquinarius.


A lovely day in Florence.






Special bonus clothing blog


I am definitely no expert in the science, construction, or marketing of clothing, but to the best of my knowledge, it's time for this sock

Click the image to see a larger version--if you dare.

to head to the great sock drawer in the sky.

That said, I admire its grit and dedication, and I retire it with reluctance.

Back to your regularly scheduled blog.




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spending the day with an astonishing old friend


The Galleria della Uffizi is one of the world's more amazing art museums.  I've visited it enough times that each trip feels like spending an afternoon with an old friend, a friend so much more knowledgeable and wiser than I am that I can only listen with rapt attention to all it has to say.

Today, I again walked through all of the galleries, and I again found myself repeatedly overwhelmed with emotion and thoughtfulness at the art I saw.  With paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries and statuary primarily from older times, the Uffizi overwhelms you with beauty wherever you look.

One of the greatest gifts of this gallery is that it lets you see moments in the history of art when someone so obviously better than their contemporaries suddenly bursts onto the scene and throws down the gauntlet, challenging everyone to pick up their games.

One of my favorite examples of just this sort of leap forward in art is the work of Botticelli, whose work regularly makes my heart ache.  Yes, I'm enough of a traditionalist that every single time I round the corner and see his Birth of Venus, it takes away my breath.

Click an image to see a larger version.

It's not like he has only one incredible piece, either; his body of work is astounding.  Consider, for example, one you may not know:  The Columny of Apelles:


It's more amazing in person.

And then there's the Michelangelo, which fairly leaps off the canvas.


I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that if you want to study Western European art or simply love the subject, you need to visit the Uffizi.

This old friend once again filled my heart to overflowing and sent me away happy and humbled.







Monday, February 20, 2017

Simple joys in Florence


A simple and light but tasty sandwich at a random restaurant for lunch.

Click an image to see a larger version.

With most museums closed, hours of ambling Florence's streets filled the day, with a short sitting break on the concrete in front of the Pitti Palace.


Some delicious gelato from a shop on the other side of the Arno.

This pigeon, commanding the Arno from its perch on a piece of a bridge.


This couple, posing for pictures on the other side of the same bridge.


Running across the Chiesa di Santa Trinita by chance, always by chance, as when Sarah and I found it, and being struck yet again by the splendor and powerful feel of this old church.


How have I managed not to remember the amazing and stunning Chiesa dei Santi Michele e Gaetano?  I don't know.  I'm honestly not even sure if I've entered it before, but I stood before it today,


and then I went inside, and it blew me away.


Such a wonderful place, with people actively worshipping in it.

A Diet Coke in a "PINKO" can


and a lovely salad


as part of dinner.

Just another day in Florence.



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