May 25 – June 4, 2015

Hoo boy, that’s like 2 weeks. Not remotely coincidentally: The first two weeks of the summer internship that I manage. From an empty lab, to a lab with 16 super-bright students, who’ll be in RTP all summer, working on a bunch of really interesting projects.

But it knocks my comparatively relaxed off-season schedule all outta whack. Like I have to actually be in the *office* at 9:00, instead of just awake & online.

So my social media activities have been somewhat curtailed, at least compared to other times of the year. 

As a reasonably introverted person, the start of the summer always brings mixed feelings. I love having the interns in the lab, and I love being exposed to the cutting-edge work that they’re doing. It’s the payoff for the other nine months of the year that are spent recruiting, interviewing, and stressing through the offer & hiring process.

But at the same time, I know the next three months are going to be nonstop human interaction all day every day. 

Nights & weekends have been spent, as always, with a mix of computing projects at the radio station, reading, movies, a little bit of music.

I saw this video on someone else’s Facebook page the other day, and was thus introduced to Frazey Ford, who was in a band, the Be Good Tanyas, to whom I had never paid any attention.

This album came out last year; had I heard it then, it likely would have made it onto my top-20 for the year. She recorded it in Memphis with the remaining members of the Hi Records band, and you can tell, for sure. 

So yeah, good stuff.

Saturday night we went to Raleigh & saw Sheila E, and Morris Day & the Time, at the Red Hat Amphitheatre – probably the last time we’ll go to a show at that particular venue, at least during the summer. No trees, no shade, nothing but concrete & asphalt for blocks. There’s the gorgeous Raleigh “Shimmer Wall” depicting an oak tree, but it doesn’t cast a shadow.

Still, for a couple of Prince proteges in their late 50s, both Sheila E and Morris Day put on a hell of a show. Morris & the Time in particular: the focus was squarely on The Hits, and the choreography was sublime.

Sunday night we watched The Drop, a twisted little tough-guy crime movie based on a Dennis Lehane story, and starring Tom Hardy & James Gandolfini, in one of his last roles. And Noomi Rapace, of all people. So the acting was uniformly good, and the story, while somewhat formulaic, moved along nicely. Recommended if you like any of the words in this paragraph.

Several times a day I look at the rooster paintings we bought from Bronwyn Merritt, and every time I come away feeling happier. I think she’s showing them in Cary right now. Check them out. Seriously. (ours are here).

I finally finished the new Neal Stephenson, Seveneves. What a mess. It’s like 850 pages long, due in large part to the fact that Stephenson apparently doesn’t have an editor with any sway over him. This has been true for a while, actually – Reamde was also a sloppy mess. 

What’s frustrating is that the book is crammed with good ideas – but it’s also repetitive, and laughably badly written in places (especially the first 150 pages or so). But every time I thought I had hit my breaking point, he would pull out a stretch of 30-40 pages of great writing, or a stunning plot twist, and suck me back in. 

But when I was finished, while I was sad to see it end, I mostly felt relieved it was over. Compare that to Cryptonomicon, where I was kind of heartbroken when it was over, and seriously considered just starting again at the beginning.

My reward for finishing the Stephenson was the timely arrival of a pre-order of the new Paolo Bacigalupi book, The Water Knife, which is everything the Stephenson isn’t. Which is to say it’s short, snappy, character-driven, and just throws you into the deep end without feeling any obligation to provide an 80-page infodump of every piece of technology, and every tiny circumstance leading up to the events of the book.

It’s emphatically speculative fiction – it takes place in a near-future American Southwest, years further into the ever-worsening drought, during a time of literal water wars. If you’re only going to read one spec-fic book this summer, this is the one.

May 25 – June 4, 2015