Saturday, November 9, 2013


After having spent so much time in some great European cities during my sabbatical, I found myself viewing London differently this past visit than in earlier trips there.  I kept looking for the heart of the city, the key that would help me unlock and understand it. 

I finally realized that, at least to this outsider, London is not a city; it is many cities.  I know that all big cities inevitably are, but to me London is especially so and more so than any other I've visited. 

I quite like that.

I have the sense that if I moved to London for a year and spent eight hours a day, every day, walking different neighborhoods, I would still have only the merest glimmer of a sense of this wonderful, huge city. 

I can't wait to go back.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Two cool videos worth watching

I'm completely biased, because these two come from Principled Technologies, but I still think they're neat.  Our studio team produced them to give folks quick peeks--these run only about a minute and a half each--into aspects of what we do.

The first is a brief look at some of our hands-on product work.

The second is a similar presentation on our video and collateral production capabilities. 

With the exception of two actors playing, well, actors, all the people in the videos are actually folks who work here.  I'm proud to be able to work with such a great team.. 

I hope you enjoy the videos.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

On the road again: London, day 5

I'm home.  I've been up for 25 straight hours and still have a bit more to do, so for now I'll sign off. 

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On the road again: London, day 4

I have to get up to head to the airport in about four hours, so I'm afraid I'm going to shortchange you today on both pictures and text.

Most of today went to a long visit to The British Museum. When in a short blog post during my sabbatical I called the Louvre the ultimate home-court advantage, I should have qualified that statement by limiting it to painting.  When it comes to ancient artifacts and sculpture, nothing can touch the British Museum.  The place is huge, and the collection is unrivaled, at least in my experience.

Visiting it again did lead me to have many different types of feelings.  On the one hand, many artifacts were immensely moving.  For example (despite what I said, I'm going to indulge in one picture), I found this thousands-of-years-old preserved man deeply moving the first time I saw him years ago and just as powerful today.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

From time to time, I read or hear people talking about how death was cheaper and easier in earlier times, but I don't buy it.  People cared for this ancient guy.  Death has always hurt us, and it always will.  We have always railed against this final night, and we have always suffered when those we love pass away. 

An entirely different and more complex feeling was the one I could not avoid having as I wandered a collection made possible in large measure by the colonialist attitude of, "Hey, that looks nice:  Pack it up!"  I appreciate the preservation that resulted, and I was its beneficiary today, but I expect the locals felt rather differently. 

After the museum, dinner was a late tea at Harrods.  I opted for the fancier tea, which a security guard who gave me directions characterized as "all singing, all dancing" and then as "fancy" when I clearly didn't understand the first description.  It was quite delicious.

The evening's entertainment was an absolutely wonderful new play, Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense, at the Duke of York's Theater.  The three-man show featured Matthew Macfayden as the perfect butler Jeeves, Stephen Mangam as upper-class-twit-of-the-year Wooster, and Mark Hadfield as Seppings, another butler.  The men played various other roles as well in a broad comedy that never let up. 

As I said above, tomorrow, which starts for me all too soon, I travel.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On the road again: London, day 3

Roughly twenty years ago, while on a trip here, I bought a pair of bespoke shoes from John Lobb, one of the best and most storied shoemakers in the world.  I was unable to return for the first fitting, so I had them send the shoes to me.  As is common the shoes did not fit entirely perfectly--John Lobb assumes an adjustment or two, and the purchase price covers it--but I never found the time to go back to London (or to them on their visits to New York City, Washington D.C., or Atlanta), and so the shoes sat in my closet.

I brought them with me this trip and returned today to John Lobb to get the good folks there to redo the parts of the shoes I found uncomfortable.  Within roughly a month, I should have the shoes back.  I am quite happy at the prospect of finally being able to wear them.

I made rather a late start of it today, because exhaustion finally beat me into a very long night's sleep indeed.  So, I had a hasty lunch at a nearby Pret a Manger, which Gina had recommended as having decent quick food and free Wi-Fi.

From there, the next stop was the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of those wondrous London museums that is simply too huge for anyone to see in its entirety in a single visit. 

Click on an image to see a larger version.

I had a great time wandering exhibits on topics as varied as Japan, costuming, England in the 1500s, and Raphael.  I particularly liked this stairwell, which was all that remains of a large timber house from about 1530 in Brittany. 

Here you can see all of its floors.

Ancient timber houses fascinate me in part because it is so hard to find examples that have survived the combination of renovation and fires that consumed almost all of them. 

Another fine specimen was this section of the facade of Sir Paul Pinder's house from about 1600. 

In a large hall devoted to casts, these casts of Trajan's column in Rome were particularly impressive.

So much to see, so little time.

Tonight's main attraction was a trip to this historic theater

where I had the honor and pleasure of getting to see this play

from the third row, slightly to stage left, with stars Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones.  What a marvelous time it was.  When these two legends got rolling, you forgot their age, forgot everything except the characters they were playing so wonderfully. 

If I could, I would bring every friend I have here just to see this show.  

" is a giddy thing," Shakespeare wrote and James Earl Jones said earlier tonight from maybe fifteen feet away from me, "and this is my conclusion."  I was giddy indeed tonight.

Monday, November 4, 2013

On the road again: London, day 2

I started late today after breakfast, some work, and a nap.  The first order of business was wandering about to see a bit of London by foot.

Christmas is already starting here.

Click on an image to see a larger version.

Normally, I am militantly against Christmas decorations appearing until the day after Thanksgiving--not that anyone listens to my protestations, of course--but for no particular reason all the Christmas trimmings I saw today made me rather happy.  The hall above was festive and fun, and I admired the simplicity of the decorations on this rather huge tree.

Clearly, others did as well.

I'd love to see this street at night.

Though I did not go inside, I very much wanted to enter this frozen yogurt place, Snog.

The name alone would have done it, but the slowly changing LED lights made it very hard for me to walk by.  

After much wandering about, I found Forbidden Planet, where I was soon to sign stock.  I had time for a quick lunch, so I ducked into a cute place across the way, The Diner.  I feared it would prove to be a tourist shop for Americans, but to my relief all the other folks inside were hipster Londoners eating happily and enjoying the quite good rock-and-roll playing over the PA system.  Put me in a diner with a rock-and-roll soundtrack, and I am always likely to be happy.  The food was reasonable and tasty, and enough off from its American counterparts to be interesting, so I have no complaints.

Jon Harrison and the other folks at Forbidden Planet were very nice to me as I signed a trolley of books and then wandered the store for quite some time.  If you're into any of the same geek interests as I am, odds are high that you would find a great deal to like in this store.  I certainly did.

Wandering back to the hotel to work for a few hours, I came across this lovely piece standing in front of St. Martin in the Fields.

For no reason I can explain, it quite spoke to me.

Across the way, Trafalgar Square, which I shot here from the rear, was lovely in the oncoming evening.

A bit of getting lost led to the opportunity to see the London Eye through these trees.

It gleamed magically in the damp air.

Hitting number seven on the top 50 restaurants list in 2013 was Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, tonight's dinner destination.  Though Blumenthal is justifiably famous for his nose-to-tail cooking at his flagship restaurant, The Fat Duck, where I have not yet had the privilege of dining, Dinner is a different beast entirely.  Dedicated to recreating and reinterpreting recipes from Britain's past, Dinner's fare is comparatively simpler than a lot of what I've read about The Fat Duck, but from what I tasted tonight, I have trouble believing it is any less delicious.

The highlight of my meal was a Black Foot pork chop with Robert Sauce and a side of spelt, ham hock, and turnip, a dish based on an 1820 recipe from Careme's time in London. 

This lovely piece of meat was quite possibly the best pork chop I've ever tasted, succulent and rich and perfect. 

Dinner eschews the tasting menus of so many top restaurants in favor of a simple, three-course, a la carte menu, but everything I tasted was lovely.  I definitely recommend it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

On the road again: Worldcon, Brighton, day 4
London, day 1

Brighton graced us with sunny skies today, so the views everywhere, even out my room's window, improved greatly.

Click on an image to see a larger version.

Inside the hotel, the main event of the day was the World Fantasy Con banquet and then the presentation of the British Fantasy Awards and the World Fantasy Awards.  A singing trio and vaguely disco house lights gave the 1:00 p.m. meal a bit of a surreal atmosphere, but everyone I saw seemed to be reasonably happy with the affair. 

Our table included long-time friend and fan powerhouse, Peggy Rae Sapienza; new friend and Library of Congress SF person, Colleen Cahill; Fast Forward host Mike Zipser, who made me promise to do the show the next time I'm in the D.C. area; the talented and gracious artist, Lee Moyer; and fellow writer and serious foodie, Scott Edelman, to name but some of the folks with whom I shared the meal.  Our conversation topics ranged broadly, but foodie stories certainly dominated the discussion. 

After the ceremony, I rushed to my room, packed, and checked out.  Two and a half hours later, I emerged from the car service's comfortable ride into my residence until early Thursday morning, London's justly famous Savoy Hotel.  I first stayed here on a whirlwind London visit for Ziff-Davis right before Christmas in 1992, so I was excited to get to try the completely renovated version of this classic hotel. 

It is lovelier and nicer than I remember it.  Even the light-poles at the main auto entrance to the hotel sport a bit of fancy, in this case a topiary version of Kaspar, the Savoy hotel cat. 

I've stayed completely current with work so far, so I will begin tomorrow caught up.  I expect to fall behind as I tourist as much as I can, and I have an appointment to sign stock tomorrow at a bookstore; more on that then.

I look forward to my first full day in London in many a year. 


Blog Archive