Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Warsaw at Dusk

Approaching Warsaw from the air, it is blanketed entirely in cloud cover in February... much like the Mid West, where SO Many Poles have immigrated to and reside today.

I've never been to this bustling capital city of 1.7 million Poles.

Every time I use my rudimentary Polish (approximately that of a 3 or 4 year old child) I am immediately responded to in fluent Polska responses.  I then have to apologize, to tell them 'while my pronunciation may be good, I know only "mały" (a little, pronounced "mow-eh") and not "dużo" (a lot, much, pronounced "do-zh-oh").

"It is easy language, you will learn it quickly" they tell me.  ...something about being a "ski" I think.

Time for me to go out and find a nice steak (stek) and crash early, up on the 28th floor. Much to do this week!

Glasgow Dawn

from the 10th floor of the Hilton

enroute to the airport, crossing the river.

Single Malt Scotch Whisky Exploration

Single Malt Scotch Whisky

My first Scotch in Scotland
As I am a big fan of cognac, Irish Whiskey, and Bourbon, I was looking forward to trying Scotch Whisky in the land where it was invented, distilled, and for which it is famous.  The twist is, I don’t enjoy the taste of peat or smoke, and so many Scotch Whiskies are heavily laden with both peat & smoke.  I was delighted to find out not all of them are.

Waiting for my colleagues on Thursday after work at the hotel bar, I partook of an Oban, 14 years, “medium bodied with fresh peat and a whiff of the sea”.  It was a fine introduction, and I savored each sip.

I then moved on to Bowmore, 12 Years - subtle notes of lemon and honey with distinctive smokiness.  Nice, but a little too much smoke for me.

Dalwhinnie, 15 years - creamy vanilla, heather honey & just a hint of highland smoke.  It was enjoyable.

At dinner I had a Highland Park - characteristic honey sweetness followed by fruit - and it was a pleasure for my taste buds.  

A fine dinner of aged, local, British beef with mushrooms, lively conversations with my 3 colleagues, a glass of Monkey Shoulder - a blended Scotch Whisky the kids are drinking now-a-days -  and we were off to the Bon Accord, rated (on Google) as “the 2nd best whisky bar in Glasgow” and walking distance from the Hilton.  I think Google was wrong, and it is actually “the best whisky bar” not only in Glasgow, but perhaps all of Scotland. Excellent service, friendly atmosphere, a selection of +300 whiskies as well as a variety of drafts. 

Thomas, the owner’s son, recommended a Glen Dronach, 12 year, aged in Sherry Casks.  It was amazing, smooth, and remarkable - for 12 pounds, it should be.  Knowing I did not like smoke, Thomas recommended an Isle of Jura 10 year and a Glenmorangie Original 10 years.  Both were excellent drams.  I bid farewell to my colleagues, and walked back to my hotel, digesting the evening.
Bon Accord has excellent steaks as well

When I awoke on Friday morning, I had 10 seconds of “ught-oh… is this going to be a bad morning?”  Sat up, cleared my head, and found I was fine.  In slow motion, but no head ache, no nausea, no loss of balance.  En plein forme.  Did some email, slowly did yoga, grabbed a good breakfast of haggis, and walked into work.  

Friday night, the exploration continued.  
Auchentoshan 12 year
Glengoyne 10 years
Balvenie Double Wood 12 years
Glengoyne A’Buna
Aberlour A’Banadh
Old Putney 12 years
A glass of Bon Accord Glen Grant 20 years
and finally, a glass of secret batch, made only for the tasting society of Scotland of which owner Paul McDonagh is a member.  No name on the bottle, just a number, ordered by the father and poured by the son to give to their delighted Californian customer.  It was an amazing way to end the night.

I am a Huge Fan of single malt Scotch.  Tasty, delicious, high quality, no hang-over, magical.  If you’ve never tried it…  you’ve been missing out.


at my hotel breakfast on Thursday morning, I found the usual eggs, “bacon” (which were slices almost the side of a man’s shoe heel, but still very tasty), sausages, and haggis.  Curiously intrigued, I scooped a dollop of it and put it on my plate beside the protein.  After preparing my tea, I sat down at my tiny table-for-two (where I was eating alone).  Cautiously, I took my first bite.

Haggis is delicious.  Or at least, the haggis served in Scotland at the Glasgow Hilton was delicious.  I had a double dollop of it this morning.  Not sure why everyone maligns it so much.  Sheep’s stomach? Well, when I was a kid, stitches were made of cat gut, and delicious sausages are still made of small intestine.  Fois gras is savory liver.  Kimchee is buried under the ground for months before it is served (though I still am No Fan of kimchee of any flavor, inside or outside of Korea).  The haggis that was served to me, I saw no stomach, tied or veined, but it is sitting well in my stomach as I sit in the Glasgow air port waiting my international flight’s departure.

[Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onionoatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and nowadays often in an artificial casing]

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cumberbatch's Imitation Game

Dr Desert Flower and I went and saw The Imitation Game last night at our favorite local theater, and it was a really good movie.  I'd wanted to see the film after reading several cryptography books and novels where Alan Turing is often a central character, if not repeatedly mentioned as the father of modern computer science.  I was not disappointed.

38 year old Benedict Cumerbatch played Alan Turing extremely well, with a range of emotion and affect, delivery and neurosis, fully embracing the quirky genius.  I will be quite surprised if Cumberbatch does not win Golden Globe awards and Oscar nominations.  Whenever Cumberbatch spoke in a very low voice, slowly, recollections of Smaug inevitably entered my linguistics centric mind, but luckily the scenes were so fluid and changed so often, that the tone was never Smaug-like for more than a few seconds.  I still think Ricardo Montalban played a much better Khan than Cumberbatch did in the recent Star Trek incarnation.

Director Morten Tyldum did a wonderful job of weaving the school boy, post-Cambridge, adult, and post-WWII Turings into a beautiful mosaic that held the audience's attention.  Though we saw it on a Tuesday night, the theater was actually packed, surprisingly.

I would have liked to have seen More focus placed upon Turing and what his team did after breaking the Enigma code in 1943, and how they selected and parsed out information to MI6 so that statistically, the Nazis would not notice that the code had been broken… but the film glossed over that part and had it covered it more, there might have been a Nolan-esque 3 hour movie.

If you've not seen it, it's worth going to the theater (and not waiting for Netflix or Amazon) to see.  I think you'll like it as well (and if you don't, or you didn't like Alan Turing's work, his personality, his scientific work, or the person he was…  then, well…  you probably can't be my friend).

Saturday, December 20, 2014

dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip

Thanks to my friend Ron for reminding me about this hilarious video:

When my friend Rick shared this link years ago, I did not realize (at that time) that the beard shown here is the same style & length as my son's…  kids now-a-days.  = )

Link here:  if the embed doesn't work for you.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Merry Christmas Eywa - From the Tree of Souls

If you've ever seen the James Cameron movie Avatar, you're familiar with the willow like "Tree of Souls" (known as Vitraya Ramunong) .  Back at Thanksgiving, after I painstakingly decorated our Ficus tree (thank you Anne Morse for identifying it as a Ficus!) with strands of lights, Dr. Desert Flower, drink in hand, exclaimed "it's the tree of life, from that purple people movie!".  (how sweet!)

I think James Cameron did a better job on "The Tree of Souls" than I did…  but, my work will suffice for Southern Orange County, since no one is paying admission or benefiting from secondary DVD or on-demand sales.  

My neighbor across the street, who has lived here for over 20 years told me (last year) "that tree has never looked so good!", and when we moved in, it was drooping down so low that one could not walk down the side walk without having to duck to get below the pendulous branches.  Well 10 green dumpsters later, and lots of Naprosin, I've tamed the ficus to its current state & geometric configuration. It is pleasant to look down from my home office window and see it, and the street beyond, instead of an unruly batch of dark green leaves taking over the street before our home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hobbit 3 - The Battle Of Five Writers

This morning I wasted $7 and 2 hours of my life enduring the bastardization of a film loosely based around the Tolkien mythos, entitled The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  Eh, it really wasn't a battle of five armies.  And if you've read the book - as most Americans over 30 have - then you won't recognize most of the plot from the movie since it really doesn't have hardly anything to do with the book.  (and Jackson makes it actually 8 armies…  but I don't want to get into minutia) 

Peter Jackson did a great job in the Lord of the Ring Trilogy, sticking as close as he could to the 3 epic novels in 3 epic movies.  In the Hobbit movies, he drew out what could have been done in about 3 hours into 3 separate, painfully embellished films.  This last (thank goodness!) installment could have been wrapped up in about 30 minutes.  Instead, Jackson, and his fellow conspirators Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyen, and the increasingly annoying Guillermo del toro eviscerated J.R.R. Tolkien's beautiful little book, The Hobbit, and turned it in a misplaced love story, a personal blood feud, a father-son-angst conflict, and a mockery of the original Tolkien novel.  

To understand & appreciate how completely divergent The Battle of Five Armies was from the original Tolkien work, all one has to do is to look at the original Tolkien / Jackson ring trilogy epics, and then do a (1-X) calculation, proportionally.   So if in your perspective, Jackson got 98% right on the ring trilogy movies, in this final installment, he gets 2% right (1 - 0.98) = 0.02.  If he got 75% right in your perspective originally, then he's gotten perhaps 25% right on this last movie (1 - 0.75) = 0.25.  

There was no love story, between elves and dwarves or between anyone else, except for Smaug and his gold, in The Hobbit.  Yes, Tolkien wrote dwarves as greedy, and Thorin's grandfather as driven mad by the wealth, but Jackson and his cabal of co-conspirators created ridiculous plot devices that were not needed. 

The physics of a drawn bow, to propel an arrow through the air, are NOT purely the elasticity of the bow string, but the tension in that string and the elastic bending of the bow (as seen clearly in a simple long bow, or multiplied in a compound bow).  So when Bard (the Animated version was So Much Better!) uses his son's shoulder as the bow, that's a cute "father & son moment", but that arrow wouldn't have flown more than a few feet, much less several hundred feet, through the leathery hide of an ancient red dragon, through heart muscle, and killing one of the most vicious and formidable creatures ever to be characterized on the written page (think about it…  what other creature of mass destruction, pure evil & super intelligence have you ever read as much about in a beloved novel, and even cheered for (as I did, in the previous film, and this travesty as well)?  Jackson and his writers needed to spend less time launching water balloons with surgical tubing sling shots, and more time in Physics 101 class.

I half expected to see Paul Atreides (from Dune), riding along with the Northern Orc army - what's a matter Peter, were Wargs too hard to animate?  Or perhaps too deadly when matched against several hundred Iron Hills dwarves (who brought with them, no cavalry, but later, ram sheep conveniently appear)?  So many inane sub-plots and tangents…  I mean… it was great to see Radagast again… but the entire scene in which he appears… was not in the book.  Great to see Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith) as Elrond again… but in The Hobbit he never leaves Rivendell.  

There's so many things incongruent with Jackson's ham-fisted, market-driven re-writes of The Hobbit that it would take dozens and dozens of pages to describe, in even the briefest detail, and frankly, I don't have that kind of time to waste.  I am just delighted that Jackson cannot rape another Tolkien film, since the Tolkien family has not signed over rights to "The Silmarillion", and I hope in my lifetime, they never will.  

In The Battle of the Five Writers, J.R.R. Tolkien is soundly defeated.  Marketers rejoice, globally, and those who have never read the book will likely remain ignorant - reading takes time, and everyone lives connected to their digital devices, with the attention span of an impatient & unrealistic corporate board, expecting immediate results, gratification, satisfaction… which just leads to stagnation and disappointment, long term.  Much better to have video games, and plastic play toys, and to try and inspire fabricated dreams of interspecies romance, than to make a movie based solidly on the original work.  Pathetic & sad.

I was considering titling this "The Desolation of Smug", or "Jackson-itis" (the disease where you get infected with so much hubris, that you band together with other writer-directors [like del toro] who also show the same symptoms, and then you create an abomination, a bastardization, a remarkably ugly and painful vehicle that movie-goers have to endure while they were expecting 'this won't be so bad…  will it?'), but when I saw Jackson had teamed up with 3 other writers, the Battle of Five Writers sounded much better.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Stellar Interstellar

Dr Desert Flower and I went to go see Interstellar last night at a local movie theater - us, and 7 or 8 other people scattered throughout had the entire theater of 300 or so seats to ourselves.  I'd intentionally not read up on the movie as I wanted to be surprised and enjoy the story telling.  Wow.  It was really a riveting tale, that Christopher Nolan told quite well.

If you've not seen Interstellar, stop reading now, and go see it soon, or just skip this posting.  If you have seen it, please help me to understand:

1) why did the worm hole appear near Saturn 43 years before Dr Brand mentioned it to Cooper?  What caused it to "spontaneously form"?  And why near Saturn?

2) if the Ranger ship that Cooper was piloting was getting torn apart after it was sucked into the black hole, and he ejected, why didn't he get torn apart also?  Space suits and human skin are not as resilient as aluminum and titanium, when being pelted with things that can tear holes in space craft skin.  Cooper would have been shredded.

3) who was sitting behind Cooper in the disintegrating Ranger saying "Eject" to him, 3 times, before he ejected?  His elementary school aged daughter?  Or was it his subconscious talking to him? (or was it "love" …  ugh)

4) why didn't anyone try to get oxygen (and nutrients) from algae?  Wheat, gone - ok, believable since a global wheat blight is not that far away with various rusts and fungi that are currently attacking homogenized corporate wheat (yea!!!  less gluten!!!).  Okra, gone, who cares?  Those in the Southeast US, ok…   Corn, going..  well..  maybe, but DDF says that would take much longer, genetically, since humans have spliced so many genes into corn over the last century that it is rather hardy today.  How about Sorghum (grown all around Phoenix)?  Soybeans (grown ubiquitously in the Midwest) that are used in everything?  Rice (grown throughout Asia, and in water, not in the dust)?

5) who would have ever designed Any ventilation route from the cabin air to Ranger's engines, to would have enabled Cooper to "spark" the Ranger's flooded engines using cabin air and cabin oxygen?  It sounds great to tell T.A.R.S. to reroute the air to do that…  but..  no one would have ever designed in a 3 way vale that could have channeled cabin oxygen into the propulsion circuit, since the possibilities of back pressure causing the propulsion system to back feed into the cabin and incinerate the crew would dictate (safety first) that these two systems remain separate.

But these 5 plot holes aside…  the physics, and theory behind Interstellar was quite sound, and DDF and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  Nolan takes the audience for an exciting 3 hour ride.  Warning: go in with an empty bladder; you're going to be sitting still for 3 hours.

Apparently, if Matt Damon is not a main character (Interstellar, The Departed) he's often a royal asshole (DDF would say "seriously flawed character", but I would rather not dress it up in flowery language) whose despicable acts have audience members cheering when he finally meets his demise.  I know I cheered when Damon's character tried to manually over-ride the airlock safeties that T.A.R.S. had locked.

I almost named this posting "T.A.R.S. Best Supporting Actor" as the T.A.R.S ex-military robot in Interstellar was hilarious, exceptionally well written, and intrinsically useful.  By far, the best "robot buddy" to have, and this is in spite of his "twix candy" appearance near the beginning of the 3 hour movie.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Something About Peter

I was watching the Steelers / Bengals game this morning, when I noticed the Bengal's defensive coordinator, Peter Guenther on camera…  and I thought to myself "I've seen him somewhere before…  where was it?"  Then I remembered.  There was a Harry Potter movie on HBO earlier this week, and it was another graveyard scene (I've never watched a whole Harry Potter movie, but whenever I do, they're either playing quidditch or in a dark grave yard resurrecting / battling Voldemort.

So I googled "Potter Villan who lost hand while resurrecting Voldemort" and Peter Pettigrew (aka Wormtail) immediately appeared on my screen.  I think there's a strong resemblance.  Something about Peter?   I don't know.