Rich Tea Biscuits Are The Most British Thing Ever

San Francisco visit clichés: they always start with the feeling of optimism, soon ground into the dirt after a day’s exposure to the city, and the final leaving always seems a relief. This trip was no different; an incredibly pretty journey into the city centre on a brand spanking new BART train, and then as I was leaving my hotel for the very last time, I witnessed a Starbucks employee have a flashlight thrown at her face by a belligerent man, who was then chased off by her colleague brandishing a broom.

It’s difficult to know what to do; they were across the street and clearly didn’t need any more help or random people coming up to them, so I got in the waiting car and headed off to the vicinity of the airport, staying for one further night in a Holiday Inn Express that seemed to be equidistant and oppose from the Holiday Inn Express I stayed in last February.

Also, I may have to give up alcohol for Lent. This year’s company get-together was a little more restraint than the previous one with its Tiki Bar party. But trust me, we made up for that in the evening. Round and round we went, on a tasting tour of various bourbons from the country, explaining the cultural aversion to rice pudding that many British people of A Certain Age harbour, and that a prison that serves tea, but with no milk and only Rich Tea biscuits is one of our visions of Hell itself. It was a fun few days; I was reminded of that odd period in primary school where all my friends where shunted off to a different class and I discovered pop music, Smash Hits and became one of the cool kids. But with a lot more drinking and inadvertently confusing people as the Two British Ians sat next to each other quite a bit.

And then, of course, the actual reason for the trip itself. The days of talks, learning what everybody else is the company is getting up to, and what we’re planning to do this year. Obviously, I come to these things with a culturally cynical eye. But in a remarkable coincidence, one of the Play For Today’s I watched on the plane was Instant Enlightenment, including VAT where Simon Callow puts on an American accent and makes everybody go through a clear knockoff of est. Only Dot Cotton gets out intact. And well…you can’t deny that it has no effect (stares at 2016). It was good to see everyone, nice to have our work congratulated, and I’m looking forward to developing a few new models in the very near future (and I spent Friday night starting instead of doing something more appropriate like going to bed early for my 3am start on Saturday).

(One of my thoughts for the year - it’s absolutely fine to make neural models that are one-offs and have no real use beyond their initial one. I made a fine-tuned model based on DeOldify over Christmas for one purpose; I would defer to the new DeOldify for further colourization work, but I think I did okay with that little model I made for what I needed it for. And hopefully you’ll see some of that work end up here on the blog, or in my book repo as I fix some of the code examples that have broken or become obsolete through new PyTorch versions)

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I did fulfil one long-standing SF desire on this trip - I finally made it to Wursthall, J. Kenji López-Alt’s restaurant. I can report that the Korean hot chicken bites are very good, and the Impossible sub is very meat-like, though it was also covered in approximately 8162 mushrooms, which reduced its appeal somewhat. I do hope to go back and try other bits of the menu. Anyway, that almost just leaves Lazy Bear as the last place there that I really want to try. But it’s not one you can do on a work trip, and I try to avoid the place otherwise. But one day, we’ll go and do the city in a more tourist vein. Maybe I won’t hate it so much1.

March is coming. Super Tuesday. My first ever vote in a Presidential primary. The inevitability of current polling and how delegates get proportionally allocated. Last time it ran on for ages, despite it being mathematically improbable that the leader would change in the remaining states (and it didn’t). This year? We may get to that improbable stage by early March and have to deal with a zombie race all the way to the convention itself, the spectre of 1972 hanging over in multiple ways. Still, what could possibly go wrong, eh?

  1. I’m fairly sure I will actually hate it more as I won’t be as distracted by work from the stark tech dystopia you see on almost every street in the core of the city. But I do try to be optimistic sometimes, honest! [return]