Bookworm

A few weeks ago I finally finished Douglas Adams’ Life, the Universe and Everything. It’s a book I’d long wished to read, but which my long hours at the old job simply didn’t accommodate. Now, the lengthy commute to the great new job provides an opportunity to ‘read’ through audiobooks.

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The book was very enjoyable, so much so that I listened to it twice. Part of my pleasure in listening to the story can be credited to the narrator, Martin Freeman. Freeman did not just read the story, but brought life to the dialogue. This could not have been easy, in light of Adams’ style – he uses much made-up language, and delights in creating fantastical names for bureaucracies and scientific theories (Bistromathics, for example).

I enjoyed the book itself. Douglas Adams writes amusing, wry and intelligent prose, and while the science might be questionable the entertainment value encourages a delightful suspension of disbelief.

Coastal getaway

We’re just back from a brief trip to Manchester, where we visited with friends who have a vacation home there. It was quite beautiful and very serene. In retrospect I regret not having taken more pictures.

First, the drive up was a bit nauseating. We followed the iOS map’s directions, which navigated up 128 through Booneville then turning it out onto the extremely windy Manchester Elk Road (which turns into Mountain View Road a stomach-turning number of miles in). The landscape was magical, but for someone with a tendency to motion sickness … not the most fun. Surprisingly Sadie weathered the circuitous road with little more than some green gills, and we arrived in good stead.

Our friends’ property is really cool. Just shy of an acre, it consists of a tiny house, a bunkhouse, and a garage that looks rather like a miniature barn. The bunkhouse is wee but impressive – substantially modified from a flat roofed structure to pitched, an open ceiling finished in whitewashed blonde wood, a fabulous little loft space, and a bathroom. Our friend Richard hand-built several of the windows, installed the shower, and has built a composting toilet. All this was done without professional assistance, just reading and figuring!

The four of us and our respective pooches visited Manchester State Beach, the south end of which is dog-friendly, this 7-mile stretch of sand is gorgeous yet there were few other visitors. The long hike in, up and down dunes, may have discouraged others, but it was quite worth the effort. Sadie danced about in the surf.
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We stayed at a very cute hotel in Point Arena, just a couple of miles south. The Wharfmaster’s Inn is at the ocean edge of Port Road and seems to be a surfer magnet. Situated along a bluff overlooking a beach nestling cliffs, the heavy surf was dramatic and its powerful voice ever-present. Though we didn’t have an ocean-view room, the sound of rolling waves in the near distance was a reminder of Byron’s words:

ROLL on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin; his control
Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

We met our friends for dinner at the charming Rollerville Cafe, where fare offered ranged from fish and chips to Prime rib. I had an Angus burger with pineapple and delicious housemade barbecue sauce. Yum!

This morning I walked Sadie down to the shore where the dawn mist and din of crashing waves was invigorating. Sadie charmed a couple of fishermen chatting at the edge of the pier, steaming coffees in hand. Well-behaved dogs wandered freely along short and narrow quay. At 7:30 am, several surfers were catching waves, and a few were already done for the morning, packing in their boards, smiling and exhausted in the cold morning air.

After a small breakfast we began the drive home, a leisurely jaunt south on highway 1. While this strip of the highway winds to hug the contours of the rugged coast, far fewer hairpin turns made this a more pleasant route than that we had taken in, and the shimmering sun on the surf was nothing short of dazzling. We continued south on PCH to Bodega Bay, then east on Valley Ford Road toward Petaluma. A tempting variety of communities dotted the coastal route; most interesting to us for future visits included Fort Ross and Jenner, though the crowded Bodega Bay also looked interesting. We made one stop along the way to stretch legs, at this lovely spot just inside the Sonoma County border, which unfortunately wasn’t dog friendly and so we were unable to explore.
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Words are insufficient for describing how I feel to see the Pacific Ocean. Its incredible beauty and power simultaneously fills me with respect, joy and serenity. I feel so profoundly, satisfyingly insignificant, liberated and content at this ocean, as if I am of this coast, a product of these waters. I’m eager to return and spend more time exploring.

A Brand New Day

My life is much changed in recent months, for which I am most grateful.  After a few weeks of decompression, I am rediscovering my love for learning, exploration.

I decided it would be fun to teach myself how to stand up and tune Tomcat, so this morning I’ve taken the first step: setting up an AWS account and launching an instance of Red Hat Linux.

Like the proverbial kid in a candy store, it’s pretty tempting to veer off toward LAMP, but I’m doing my best to remain focused.  I can always explore LAMP later, right?  AWS for a novice like myself is somewhat like an Etch-a-Sketch: I can play with one technology, then clear the slate and play with another.

 

Predictable

The title summarizes my thoughts of the film we watched last weekend: Wolverine.

I like Hugh Jackman, but I’ll confess I don’t care for the Wolverine character. But an action film is sometimes enjoyable, and this one was not awful. It was merely …. well, see above.

(Warning: spoilers ahead!)

The movie would have been much better had Wolverine fallen for the unconventional, smart and adorable foster girl. She was infinitely more interesting and complex than the admittedly charming, strong and attractive heiress. I would appreciate someone, someday making a movie where the quirky girl hooks up with the superhero type. After all, this is no longer high school, so the quarterback is not obligated to date the head cheerleader. Hollywood, please get with the program and stop making up such contrived crap.

Another improvement would be a 50% reduction in the duration of fight scenes. This isn’t Kung Fu. The martial arts are no longer a novelty in this culture, so we don’t need to see every painstaking jab, slide, duck, kick or parry in order to figure out that this group of guys really doesn’t care much for the Wolverine; it had become painfully apparent some 4 scenes earlier when one of the men in thee ‘energy’ camp first shot a poison arrow at our hero.

There’s a place for formulae, and there’s a place for innovation, Wolverine needed innovation to keep the franchise moving forward, and unfortunately it came up lacking,

A Place in the Country

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Note: no spoilers herein!

We are working our way through Downton Abbey, and this evening have finished watching Season 3. I was eager to continue watching, but calmer heads prevailed and this pleasure is deferred to Sunday, when we plan to watch the next season’s launch now awaiting us courtesy of a DVR.

I find so many aspects of the show appealing, and particularly delight in the details: the chaos in the kitchens during a large dinner party, contrasted with the elegant formality in the dining room; the fact that instead of always appearing in a new outfit the characters’ wardrobes are much more realistic, such as a day dress that appears in several episodes; a variety of body types not limited to the beautiful, young and slim; hints of sexual tension amid the dreamy romance of the castle; the ritual braiding of the ladies’ hair each night. These details are delicately stirred into the gradually unfolding character development – like a lovely Scotch made to bloom with the addition of just the exact bit of water.

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