Visibility is poor as we come into land. That's because California is on fire.

One thing you can say about San Francisco is that…it’s honest? You will find yourself walking to the Financial District (abbreviated to FiDi in the California fashion, because of course it is). And you will find yourself walking by people on electric scooters, people having deep conversations about ‘their product guy’, and people carrying branded backpacks for local food delivery services. You’ll walk past fancy restaurants, the Alcatraz landings, and bars where they will happily charge you three figures for a shot of bourbon if you’re silly enough to think it’s a good idea.

You’ll also walk past people carrying their lives in trolleys, people searching through bins, and lines of mildewing duvets that occasionally twitch as you go by. There’s no attempt to hide what we (far too) optimistically call late capitalism.

And then you turn right on Mission and you’re looking up at the skyscrapers of Salesforce, Wells Fargo, and the Transamerica Pyramid. All this is what’s supposedly one of the most progressive cities in the country.

So all in all, my recent brief visit to SF hasn’t really changed my view of the place much.

Otherwise, much of a holding pattern this week. Meanwhile, I may have spent the past two weeks complaining about Ohio’s BMV transfer process, but things back down in NC seem much worse at the moment…

Look, The Wright Brothers Once Stayed Overnight In Maine

In other news, I have completed my bureaucratic journey to becoming a real, proper resident of Ohio. I now have a shiny REAL ID-compliant driving licence and shiny new Ohio plates for my car. And for those sad that my NC ‘First In Flight’ tag was being retired, the new plates proudly claim ‘Birthplace of Aviation’. Because apparently states fight over what credit for aeroplanes that they can stick on their licence plates.

To celebrate, I stood in a line for about 30 minutes and bought a bottle of bourbon. Not just any bottle, mind you, but the first 4-year bottled-in-bond bottles from our local distillery (annoyingly, their website has been down since Wednesday, but maybe it’ll be back up soon?). I also put these together over the weekend:

I have a feeling that there’s going to be a lot more Heaven Hill-related experiments in the near future. Turns out that soaking hazelnuts in bourbon and then making them into Nutella is A Good Idea. A plan for later in the year is to get a new batch of cacao nibs and do something similar, but ending up with a dark milk chocolate bar (idea nicked from Maverick). And also an idea to recreate a Fat Duck recipe now that I have more of a bourbon selection…

Finally, I succumbed to the cult of the new and bought a new Macbook. It’s been over three years and my old machine has been complaining about its battery for about eight months now. It’ll have a nice new life in the farm upstate, don’t worry. After running Migration Assistant and again marvelling at the idea that in this 2018 Mac, I still have so much stuff from my original iBook in 2002 lying around on the hard drive, I have settled into the new TouchBar-powered future. It is odd, when typing, to see words and emoji flash up where there really should only be a bunch of function keys.

Still, the screen is much nicer, the sound is really good, and while it’s perhaps little surprise given that it’s a 2018 machine rather than a 2015 one…it feels so much faster. Hurrah! I’m really going to miss MagSafe, though. I am clumsy enough that it has saved my older laptops on many an occasion…

Saying It In A Silly Voice Doesn't Make It True

There’s nothing quite as on-brand as a British ex-pat1 in his very late 30s, having a glass of a craft bourbon (only released but a few days ago, just to reinforce the stereotype he has become), alone, watching a Stewart Lee comedy special, and laughing at the pointed jokes towards Russell Howard and Brexit voters.

  1.  Wait…’ex-pat’? I know what you’re thinking. But if you continue that thought for a moment, you’ll find that the idea of an ‘ex-pat’ sitting alone in his basement, drinking, trying to recapture the glories of his youth by watching a 5Gb file he’s illicitly downloaded from iPlayer and laughing in a bitter fashion about the downfall of his home nation is much funnier than ‘immigrant’, my preferred term.2 [return]
  2. And if you’ve made it to this footnote, you’re probably thinking ‘ah, I see exactly what he’s doing. It’s an unfunny facsimile of Lee’s commentary in his Faber book, isn’t it?’3 [return]
  3. ‘You’re stretching the point now, I think.’4 [return]
  4. ‘No, really. At this point, you’re just embarrassing yourself’5 [return]
  5. ‘And don’t think using the conceit of making up an imaginary character is going to help you out here. You’ve given me a silly voice, haven’t you? You’re 39 years old and doing silly voices in your head’6 [return]
  6. ‘So I have a silly voice, do I? Hahaha, you’re so funny! I bet I voted for Brexit too, didn’t I? Just to reinforce your superiority over me in this one-sided conversation that you made up. You make me sick.’7 [return]
  7. ‘I didn’t come here to be insulted! I can leave any time I want!’8 [return]
  8. Exit, pursued by a bear wearing a ‘Brexit’ costume9 [return]
  9. Lee in Oxford talking about comedy, dropping Knights of Pendragon references, and bashing Michael Gove [return]

This is Captain Boycott Speaking

I mentioned this on Twitter on Friday, but I think it needs to be captured for posterity:

That’s a Nobel Prize winner posting a Hale & Pace sketch. Peak 2018, right there.

Anyway, this week, I ran into One Of Those Things That Reminds You The US Is Different. Consider, then, the act of moving. Now, while I have never owned a car in the UK, and the jury is still out as to whether my driving license actually allows me to drive a car there, I believe the process of updating your details after you move back home is: tell DVLA where you live. Job done!

Right, then. Moving from North Carolina to Ohio. Firstly, you have to change your driving license, because driving licenses are state affairs. In some states, you may have to actually retake your test (for some reason, Massachusetts doesn’t trust South Carolinian drivers), but thankfully I didn’t have to do that.

But! You also have to re-register your car. And boy does this lead to a fun state of affairs. To start with, you have to get hold of the title of your car. Which may see you tearing your new apart before you discover that the title resides with the bank until you pay off said car. Conveniently, I had done that the week before, so instead of going through every piece of paper in the house, I could have waited until the post arrived.

Right, off to the DMV, right? Well, no. Bizarrely, Ohio calls it the BMV. And I still couldn’t go, because before I could request a title change, I had to go to a garage to get an ‘out of state VIN check’. All this seemed to involve was writing down the VIN and the value of the odometer, but still required me going to two different garages before finding somebody that was willing to do it, along with a 15 minute wait as I tried to pay the $3.50 fee with a credit card.1

Once I had that, I was able to go to the BMV. And off I trotted. Only to find out that Ohio’s license requirements have changed due to Real ID, so instead of the one proof of address, I needed two. And that I could only pay for the title change request with cash or cheque. But I could pay for the new driving license with a credit card. So another trip home and back.

When I go back next week, I get to buy new license plates (front and back!). I believe I’m supposed to send the old NC plate back…and I guess if I don’t, I’ll be hunted down the next time I head back to Durham.

Anyhow, that has been my week! With some escape room antics and some other things on the side. I may have registered to vote as well, but I’m not quite sure about that. Something that probably needs to be double-checked, considering it’s a midterm year…

  1. I know, I’m a monster. [return]

That is until Bert Raccoon wakes up

A post shared by Ian Pointer (@carsondial) on

Honestly, I feel like my childhood lied to me. The Raccoons were a happy-go-lucky family who got into scrapes and had solar-power car races. I didn’t even get a 80s-cartoon-montage song; I just got a very angry raccoon trying his hardest to scrape through the roofing.

There’s a lot more wildlife around! Which probably happens when you live a few blocks away from a forest. Haven’t seen any deer since February, though…

Am I Grown-Up Now?

The story of being old, part 1: I got phished this week. The first time in over twenty years on the Internet. I have lots of excuses: it came through on my company account, pretending to be my boss; whilst the ask to go buy a bunch of iTunes gift cards for clients was weird, it was not out of the realm of things I’ve had to do in the past. The PA of the company also didn’t seem suspicious when I told her I was going off to buy them, and in general, I have spent the last couple of months being bounced hither and thither every day to the point where my cognitive reasoning has failed somewhat.

Which is all a bunch of excuses lined to to somehow skip past how I spent Tuesday afternoon bouncing around Cincinnati trying to find $1900 worth of iTunes cards. Even as shops would tell me that they’d only let me buy five due to recent phishing attempts, I’d laugh and say ‘I know, it sounds suspicious! But it’s what my boss wants!’

Eventually, at Best Buy (and after going $500 down and searching through three other shops where they didn’t have $100 cards), they kept on repeating ‘are you sure you’re not being scammed?’ enough that I thought I’d double-check. And lo…the email address after the display name was not quite right.

I was very embarrassed, and very thankful to the Best Buy staff for repeatedly saying ‘No, really, I think you’re being scammed. Honest.’ But, I was only $500 down instead of $1900. So that was…something.

The story of being old, part 2: I replaced a thermostat. Due to it being a fancy(ish) ecobee4, it involved locating the control board on the furnace, turning off power, unscrewing a series of metal panels, connecting wires, and attaching something to a wall. And yes, admittedly, my first attempt on Friday ended up with me sleeping with no air-conditioning. But! The Saturday attempt fixed the connection to the AC unit and I can now use Siri to set my temperature. The future is here! More Nazis than expected, but the future is here!

The story of being old, part 3: ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED — YOU’VE BEEN ACQUIRED

Anyhow! Weekend! Escape Room set in the 1920s! Local Indian food! A literal hole-in-the-wall Venezuelan restaurant where we ordered about three times more food than could actually fit inside our stomachs! SECRET CHRISTMAS PRESENT BUYING AT TARGET! Findlay Market! Football! Bourbon-soaked hazelnuts! Korean-fried chicken with waffles! All things, it turned out, that I really needed…

Redemption Arc

1998 Ian: You’re kidding. Just completely joking.

2018 Ian: I’m serious! In 2018, Gareth Southgate is essentially a national hero.

1998 Ian: Completely crazy. Okay, tell me another one — who’s President?

2018 Ian: long, hard stare into the distance

I’ll admit, I spent the entire duration of the penalties just laughing at the situation. But then, for once, we actually won? And then won again? Bizarre. This is Britain 2018:

(meanwhile, the Government continues to set itself on fire, but never quite enough to actually consider turning the 100-car train around before it crashes into the Wall of Brexit. Farewell, Boris and David, we’ll miss—actually, no, we’ll be sodding glad to see the back of the pair of you and the damage you’ve caused)

I have a closet! With shelves! And things to hang clothes from! After two months of living here! I’m settling in slowly, okay? The trap is that the house is entirely fine. There are certain things that would drive anybody else up the wall, but I’m already used to the situation and thus never feel all that inclined to…well, finish things. An example: none of the drawers in my house have handles. This irritates everybody. Except me, because I’m already totally used to just pulling them open by the side and so everything is fine!

Ahem. Anyway, with Tammy’s help, I now have a closet, so that’s one thing off the list! Only about 37 more things to go…I must really make a decision about handles…sometime…maybe…

Oh, and apparently I have an occasional raccoon visitor. That’s a slightly less fun thing to learn about the house…

A Week of Two Halves

Xaio Long Bao!

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A weekend of football, baking, excursions to track down food from multiple continents, and planning for July 4th.

On the other side of things: something possibly living in the gap between the basement and the ground floor, issues with water bills, and the continuing adventures of Ian, the Data Science Eeyore.

Also, everything seems to hurt, but I’m given to understand that’s just a result of being almost 40…

Gone To Texas. And Back Again

This week, I have mostly discovered that the subtitles for Great British Menu on Netflix indulge in a “There are FOUR lights!” attempt to rewrite reality. Every time somebody says ‘aubergine’, the subtitles say ‘eggplant’. They don’t attempt calling coriander ‘cilantro’ though. It is odd.

(and deeply wrong, of course)

Anyway, another week spent in a conference room and a hotel room in Richardson, Texas. Which is not my favourite place on Earth, but is at least better than an industrial park on the outskirts of St. Louis. So not a lot to report this week, though it has been nice to have a weekend where I have not worked, needed to run anywhere, or do anything at all.

And look, this site now has a shiny SSL certificate and everything. It’ll take me a while to track down all the non-SSL hardcoded links that the site has built up over the years, so please bear with me on that…

Going To Texas, Part 2

Perhaps the anecdote that sums up the week: after a weekend that saw me working until 4am coding for work, I spent thirty minutes trying to track down the cause of my garbage disposal not working. I messed around with the mechanism, used boiling water in an attempt to dislodge any trapped masses of food, and even flipped trip switches.

After half-an hour, I realised that the cutting board was covering over the switch I was supposed to be using.

Yes, it has been one of those death march weeks where everything gets into a handbasket and merrily descends to Hell. However, despite giving the appearance of ‘you look like you got run over by a truck’, I did have an enjoyable Saturday wherein roast dinner was made, discussions were had on various software calamities, and we watched Myles and Mercer putting together the Labo Robot. And then, obviously, trashing everything in virtual sight. Which was nice. It’s also nice to be living close by where Tammy, Robert, and the family can just come over on short notice and distract me from yelling obscenities at the computer1.

Other things this week: yelling “OH, COME ON, JASON” at Jason Atherton in 2012’s Great British Menu when he was flabbergasted by methocel meringues. If I had been making them for four years by that point, I really can’t buy his astonishment at the technique. But I may be getting a slight jaded at this point, seeing as how every chef also seems to break out gellan gum every other day as if it’s a new element descended from the heavens.

Other, other things: last week, I uttered the fateful words “you know, I haven’t travelled recently. It’s rather good!” So, of course I’m going to Texas tomorrow, on a fun three day excursion which is interrupting my planned schedule of working in the bar with the World Cup on in the background. Bah.

  1. Having said that, over the course of the week, those obscenities have added up to a ten-fold increase in some popular queries, so they were at least useful for something [return]