San Francisco And A Murder In The Basement

It is perhaps a bad time to work out that your AC isn’t working properly during a day where you have all the ovens running for over eight hours and almost twenty people in the basement trying to solve a murder mystery. Thankfully, nobody fainted out! And further confirmation that Irish and Filipino attitudes to catering a home event are broadly similar1.

(feelings on the murder mystery summed up: a good night, but we think we can put together a better mystery game where there’s more involvement and things to do for everybody. We have problems. But who doesn’t want a dinner party, a murder mystery, and an escape room set in the 1920s all combined, eh?)

The rest of my rest was occupied by a last-minute jaunt to San Francisco for my orientation at Lucidworks. Feelings on that:

  • The more I visit, the less appealing SF becomes. So good choice on Ohio, I guess!
  • I appear to have picked up a local bar. Why not take a visit to Elixir? It’s not a huge bar, but their collection is sizable.
  • Scouring the local Targets finally resulted in me finding Elita-1, rounding off the figures from the most recent Transformers line that I was interested in
  • (yes, my suitcase was heavier coming back)
  • With the work laptop sitting next to me right now, I’m regretting not getting Space Grey on my personal laptop.
  • By the penultimate day, my appetite for doing anything in the evening tends to zero.
  • I really don’t want to do those overnight flights back to Cincinnati any time soon.
  • Everybody at Lucidworks seems friendly and sharp.

  1. Basically assume that at least five times as many people will show up and make sure to get some extra food on the go just in case you need to feed a passing church congregation. It could happen! Best to be prepared! [return]

Do You Remember How We Used To Live?

One unintended highlight of seeing Saint Etienne in DC on Friday? For the first time in what feels like ages, I didn’t feel like the oldest person in the room!1 The benefit of seeing a band that debuted in 1991, I guess.

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Do you remember?

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I didn’t realize that Bob Stanley isn’t on this tour. I wonder if that’s a new thing or something that has been going on for a while? Still, Like A Motorway is still a brutal slab of a banger. And feather boa for He’s On The Phone! Sigh2

It was also a little odd going to DC and doing absolutely none of the tourist trappings. We have separately done them all before, so there wasn’t exactly a big desire to go visit The Mall or anything. Which I guess makes a lot of sense when I consider that I never really went to see the sights of London on most of my trips, did I?3 So instead of Abe, we went to Momofuku, instead of the Smithsonian, we found a Filipino restaurant in Arlington, and of course multiple bookshops (including Amazon Books, a strange store that inhabits the space of a former Barnes & Noble, just to ram home the point of today’s changed world).

All in all, a good way of bringing my week of ‘gardening leave’ to a close. Oh, and there was this:

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Tammy’s birthday request: a funfetti cake based on the Milk Bar cake (my version throws out the cream cheese icing on the grounds that cream cheese icing is an abomination and must be destroyed. Now, isn’t a nice Italian buttercream nicer? Why, yes it is!). Unfortunately, her other request - macarons with a pear ganache had to be put on hold after all the pears I bought went bad. But they’ll get made! After the murder mystery this weekend. And then there’s the Doctor Who viewing party. And the visit from my family. Sometime…

And now? Well, I’m ruing some of my lack of productivity this week (that book isn’t going to write itself), whilst being 35,000ft up on the way to San Francisco. It wasn’t my plan to go here this week, but as it turns out, the rest of my new team will be in the city for the next few days, so it seemed a good idea to meet them. I will probably regret this decision on the Thursday / Friday trip back to Cincinnati, but I don’t think it can be helped.

  1. This has been a problem at Los Campesinos! concerts, where I often feel like I’m the only person in the audience who didn’t get carded at the bar. [return]
  2. Sarah Cracknell — breaking a million hearts in stereo. [return]
  3. (except for the South Bank, obviously) [return]

News and Things

Right, then. My first bit of news is that I have left Kogentix and I will be starting at Lucidworks in a week’s time! I’m joining a very interesting team at the company, and I’m looking forward to pushing the boundaries of what Apache Solr and Fusion can achieve.

But wait, for that’s not all! The second bit of news is this: I’m writing a book. It is in very early stages right now, but in the middle of next year, Beginner’s Guide to Using PyTorch for Deep Learning should be on the bookshelves. And it’s being published by O’Reilly. I will have my own animal book! It’ll cover PyTorch 1.0 from first steps all the way to production, with a lot of practical hints and tips along the way.1

This week, though, I have a few days off before I start the new job. Which means some writing, a trip to IKEA, baking a cake, and finally to round the week off, a voyage to DC to see Saint Etienne. I am a little sad that I didn’t realize New Order were touring the US again until they literally started tweeting pictures from performances. Maybe next year…

  1. Yes, it’s basically YS’s Tipshop but for deep learning. [return]

Subtweeting My Current Status

It’s been an eventful few days, but somewhat amusingly after last week, I don’t think I can spill all the beans just yet. Not until everything is official, anyhow.

Unfortunately, that again leaves me with a somewhat barren week. Let’s check in on the state of my bourbon habit a couple of months after visiting Louisville for the first time.

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Eeep. What’s more, I’ve gone deep enough into the weeds that I can tell you why Jack Daniels isn’t called bourbon (but could be if they wanted to call it that), the different strains of yeast that Four Roses use, and a good smattering of the companies that use MGP whiskey instead of distilling their own.

The good news is that I’ve already gone past the ‘Pokémon phase’. You aren’t going to get them all, even with infinite money and time. I tried to track down a bottle of New Riff’s OKI 10 or 12 year release, but as soon as the prices came back over $100, I happily closed the browser window and instead bought a crazy amount of Heaven Hill Green Label 6-Year for $25. Which will probably last me for years. And if I really want OKI for some reason? Well, most of the bars in the area still have stocks for now.

So, don’t worry; you won’t find me spending over $1,000 for an incredibly over-priced (and over-rated) bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. But I am about to move onto the crazy step: blending. What crazy things can I get up to with a Vitamix and ample supplies? We’ll see…

Subtweeting My Current Status

Hopefully more on that next week. Maybe.

It’s reached the point in the year where I feel like I wasted Summer. But it’s hot and there are so many bugs outside…and inside has air conditioning!

Yet, I did go on my first visit to Louisville, visited Cincinnati’s Findlay Market, a couple of escape rooms, and countless visits to Jungle Jim’s (look, the novelty of being able to buy a Star Bar more commonly than I could in Bicester has not worn off, okay?). Probably a good idea to get an evening in down by the Ohio River before Winter, though.

Right, I’m off to fall down deeper in two holes of machine learning and bourbon research…

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

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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…