I’m pretty sure that this is the longest gap in my blogging since I started back in December 2003. So why the hiatus? A few reasons come to mind:

  • A lot of my off-the-cuff comments which would previously have shown up in my blog now wind up on Twitter. Some of this is because it’s trivially easy for me to post a Tweet from my iPhone, wherever I might be; more significant is that fact that many of the items that I used to comment on – from friends, from news sources – show up on Twitter first, and it’s easy to “RT” them with my comments. So there’s a reverse network effect taking place here.
  • Another factor is the current state of my life. I’m in the middle of job-hunting, and for obvious reasons I don’t want to broadcast the details. Perhaps some of my conversations are with companies that are officially in the middle of hiring freezes; it would be tacky to mention them. Or I might be talking to a stealth-mode start-up, where stealth is the key word. And then these processes always seem to take longer that one would hope, and I don’t really think that it would be appropriate for me to vent about the frustration which I occasionally feel. So that whole (important) area of my life is off-limits.
  • I’ve been posting most of the technical material that I might previously have published here on my new blog, Speaking of Clouds. And yes, that blog needs more material – see previous point.
  • My reviews – of books, music, movies, concerts, and gadgets – are reduced in frequency because I’ve been buying less stuff, and going out less. And Amazon Vine has been sending me fewer items that I want to review on my blog. (Until today, anyway.)
  • Above all, I have this persistent feeling that my life is about to change, dramatically and comprehensively. We’re talking about the what, where, and how. And so I find myself metaphorically holding my breath….

So bear with me. I expect my posting rate to increase really significantly – RSN!

One of the best meals of my life…

Warning: this is pure food porn. But I can’t keep this to myself. I will conceal some of the names, to protect those involved…
After a very successful week of meetings here in the Valley (and more to come tomorrow, actually), I arranged to meet up with an old friend for dinner. I chose a restaurant that we had enjoyed before, the James Randall in Los Gatos, and we sat down to eat soon after 7.
The waiter gave us the menus, and listed the specials for the evening. At this particular restaurant they offer a prix fixe option on Tuesday through Thursday: appetiser, entree and dessert for $43. Add $30 to get the chef’s wine pairings with each course. I was feeling expansive, as was Adrian, so we went for the whole shebang. We had a feeling that we were in for a special treat.
I ordered the black bean soup and the duck breast; Adrian ordered the cheese special (involving panko and a flash in hot oil) and the duck. A few minutes later, the waiter returned. There was only one duck breast left. Would we be amenable to splitting a duck breast, and then splitting another entree – say, a New York steak. There would, of course, be a wine pairing for each entree. What a deal! Yes, of course…
At this restaurant, “wine pairing” is not what you might expect. It’s not just a glass of wine matched to the item: it’s two generous pours of different wines (or other beverages) that each complement some aspect of the dish. With my soup, I got a rose wine and also a pale ale. Sounds bizarre, but it worked a treat. I kept up quite well, tasting and demolishing each of the two half-glasses of wonderful red wines ((Adrian: do you remember where that Cabernet Sauvignon came from?)) that accompanied each of the demi-entrees, but Adrian fell behind, as shown in this picture. Adrian snapping the "problem"
At last we came to the dessert. I chose a chocolate torte; the portion was tiny but extraordinarily intense. It was paired with an excellent domestic port. Adrian opted for the classic strawberry shortcake (which looked almost perfect), which came with an orange muscat. (And at his insistence I actually finished most of Adrian’s muscat!)
Yes, it was an expensive meal. But it was wonderful entertainment, and if (as I suspect) I wind up living down in this part of the world, it’s nice to build some relationships and start some traditions. And that meal was almost perfect……

All woo, all the time

Another delightful fisking of Eagleton and his admirer, Stanley Fish, this time from Crooked Timber. In the comments, Salient and Steve LaBonne sum up thus:

So, the purpose of religion is aesthetic?

A lot of that going around; seems to be pretty much the last-ditch line of defense nowadays for muddleheads trying to hold out against the assault of the Evil Dawkhitch Stormtroopers. Often involves the truly brain-dead confusion of religion with religiously-inspired art.
And no, it’s not possible to engage productively with such manifestations of severe cognitive impairment.

Yes, yes, yes

Over the last two weeks I’ve been listening to just one album: the Pet Shop Boys “Yes”. The first couple of times I was doubtful: there was none of the political and sexual drama of “Fundamental”, which I’ve decided is one of their finest albums ever. But “Yes” grows on you – or at least it grew on me. If “Fundamental” was dark, “Yes” is quietly positive about life and love. The Amazon MP3 album includes a bonus “track”: a full-length repeat of the album with commentary from Neil and Chris. MP3 imitates DVD, I guess – but it works very well. Recommended – emphatically so!

Woo on a plane

Last month I blogged about Terry Eagleton’s bullshit and Russell Blackford’s robust refutation of it. At least I didn’t have to read of the Eagleton blather… but PZ was not so lucky:

So I was in New York the other day, and was offered a copy of Eagleton’s book, and took the first step in my imminent doom by accepting it. Then I tried to fly home on Saturday, one of those flights that was plagued with mechanical errors […] Thus was my fate sealed.
I was trapped in a plane for 8 hours with nothing to read but Eagleton and the Sky Mall catalog.
This is an account of my day of misery.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This essay is a long glass of cool refreshing reason. Recommended.

5 hours 3 minutes of baseball: not pretty, but entertaining

Safeco Field

Safeco Field

In nearly three years of living in Seattle, I’d never been to a baseball game. My son used to praise Safeco Field as a great venue, and it’s only 10 minutes walk from my apartment, but I’d never been tempted. I don’t watch much baseball anyway: I think the last game I saw was in San Francisco with Chris and Celeste. But yesterday I suggested to Kate – almost idly – that there was a game starting in just over an hour, and 35 minutes later we were sitting in wonderful seats overlooking first base.
At first, I simply enjoyed the sun, the cityscape, and the buzz of the crowd, and I simply… well, tolerated the baseball. Seattle was hosting the Oakland Athletics, and neither team was playing very well. Oakland got 3 runs in the first innings and Seattle never looked like catching up. The worst team in the AL West was beating the best, and both looked like minor league teams. None of the pitchers looked comfortable: Oakland used five, while Seattle ran through an incredible eight pitchers. So I amused myself by experimenting with the burst mode in my Panasonic DMC-TZ4. It’s a great way of uncovering the anatomy of, say, a swing and miss; you can see the exact point at which the batsman realizes that he’s not connecting.
Pitching (in burst mode)

Pitching (in burst mode)

So things bumbled along in a pleasant, sunny, spring Sunday afternoon kind of way. Around the bottom of the eighth, the crowd began to disperse, including the guy in front of me (in a $70 seat!) who’d spent the entire game playing Sudoku on his iPhone. And then, unexpectedly, Seattle scored a home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie things up at 4-4. And suddenly the entire character of the game changed, along with the attitude of the crowd. Everybody was engaged. The pitchers were still struggling, and the batsmen all seemed to be committed to distributing foul balls to as many kids as possible, but we were all concentrating.
In the 13th, it looked as if it was all over. Oakland scored three runs, and almost swaggered onto the field intent on closing things out. But Seattle came back, scored three runs, almost got a winner, and we were tied up again at 7-7.


The game had started just after 1pm, and it was now after 5. The floodlights came on, whereupon the clouds broke and bathed the field in a glorious sunset. In the middle of the 14th, the crowd was encouraged to stand up and have a second seventh-inning stretch, to mark the passage of seven more innings since the first! We went into the bottom of the 15th inning, and Oakland decided to relieve their long-suffering pitcher, Gonzalez, by bringing back one of their starters, Eveland. It was a fatal mistake. Eveland had no control, gave up a hit, committed a throwing error after fielding a bunt, and loaded the bases. It only remained for the center fielder to misjudge an easy pop-up for Seattle to score an improbable win.
The final score

The final score