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

May 7-13, 2015

Last Thursday? No idea. Friday night we went to Chapel Hill *and* Carrboro. Had a lovely dinner at Sandwhich. Durham has Toast, but it needs about 12 other places where you can get a healthy dinner for $10 or less. 

Then we went to Carrboro to see Bronwyn’s portraits of roosters rescued from a cockfighting ring. She may still have some that haven’t sold yet. If you see one you like, let her know. Most of the money from sales of the paintings will go to the sanctuary where the roosters are now living.

Saturday we saw Welcome to Me. That was some uneasy enjoyment, right there. It was funny, but it was funny because the main character has Borderline Personality Disorder & is off her meds for most of the movie. Kristen Wiig. Is funny. And very affecting, actually, which is why I wound up feeling OK about the whole thing – her character is entirely sympathetic throughout. But it was uneasy.

Sunday was Mother’s Day *and* Duke graduation, so everything in town was utter chaos. Dashi opened for lunch, though, and either nobody knew about it, or nobody wanted to take Mom to a ramen place for brunch, so I had a bowl of ramen without any hassles. 

Honestly, though, I can’t eat at Dashi that often. Those bowls look small, but they’re filling, and they’re loaded with delicious calories. I always feel overstuffed when I’m rolling home from the ramen shop, because it’s too delicious to stop eating before the bowl is empty.

Tuesday I was driving home from work and I heard a horrible human being (Arthur Brooks, of the American Enterprise Institute) on NPR say the following: “The poor are not having their money taken away and given to the rich. To the extent that we can get away from the notion that the rich are stealing from the poor, then we can look at this in a way that I think is instructive.”

He was sort of followed by a sort-of rebutting quote from Elizabeth Warren, but NPR didn’t go far enough to elucidate the lies in his statement. Because THE RICH ARE STEALING FROM THE POOR. Every day. Subprime lending. Check cashing + payday loans. The enormous increase in productivity (value of work product / cost of labor) compared to the complete stagnation of wages. Where do you think that difference has gone? The rich have stolen the labor of the working class forever, but they’ve gotten markedly more effective at it over the past 30+ years.

Tuesday night I drove to Carrboro to see Ryley Walker. There were a couple of openers added in the week prior to the show, and I wasn’t thrilled about a 3-band bill on a Tuesday night. But one of those openers was Elephant Micah, who are now a North Carolina band. And they were great. I love that variety of surprise.

Ryley Walker started out his set playing a 12-string acoustic & just strumming the shit out of it, and it was TOO MUCH JANGLE for my head. And he was over-singing and it was all just too much. Frustrating. Once he switched to 6-string, everything was immediately a whole lot better. It was just Ryley and another guy on electric guitar, though, and it never reached the level of brilliance of his full-band NYC show that NYC Taper caught in March.

Wednesday was just work & then after-work meetings of all varieties. I ate a slice of pizza for the first time in over a year, and it was magical. Took 7 Lactaid tablets with it. I realized later that part of my problem with pizza is the same as everyone else’s: It’s delicious, so you eat like 17 pieces at a sitting. That’s probably more of my problem than the lactose intolerance. So pizza by the slice (and willpower) is the way to go for me. So far so good.

May 7-13, 2015