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One thing I do miss about LJ is the easy way to make a list (books read, restaurants visited).  Twitter and facebook just don't seem the same for that purpose.

Since I left my old place of work I've been meeting up with one of my old comrades about once a month.  I'm not quite sure how it got started but we're trying to go out for a different cuisine every time we meet up.  It doesn't have to be authentic, it just has to style itself as a restaurant from a particular region or country.  We're giving the country name more weight than it should have, so we'll probably do separate visits for Peruvian and Chilean food even though they are very similar, but we might not try every cuisine from China (at least not until we're running out of easy-to-visit restaurants for each country).  It might not make sense, but it makes things easier.

So far we've done:
Korean
Japanese (pancakes)
Chinese (sichuan)
Georgian
Ethiopian
Indian

Peruvian
Spanish
Turkish
French
Italian
Venezuelan

It's been an interesting challenge.  Whenever it's been my turn to choose I think of a cuisine at random and then try to find somewhere that's reasonably central.  A lot of the better restaurants for the less well known cuisines are very much on the outskirts of London.

It's been a surprise that almost everything has been really good so far.  Even Georgian food (nothing against Georgia, but I didn't expect the food to be nearly as tasty as it turned out to be).  The only disappointments were the Peruvian visit (ok, but nowhere near as good as the food I had in Chile) and Italian (the place turned expensive and formal since I last went there).

After reading this, Nigerian will probably be next - maybe this one in Lewisham.

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Books of 2015

Hello,
It's been a while.
I was going to post this somewhere where more than 2 people would see it, but I'm not feeling particularly inclined to share stuff.

Books of 2015
1. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

San Sebastian

We went to San Sebastian from Sunday to Thursday for my birthday, and I've just been uploading all the photos from the trip.  They're mostly of food, because that's definitely the main attraction there, although it is quite a nice town with a sandy beach too.  I'd never known about it as a holiday destination before, but James is learning Spanish so after a bit of research it made sense to go there.  It's 70 minutes by bus from Bilbao, so not too hard to get to either.


The old town is full of pintxo bars which each sell a variety of hot and cold pintxos (or tapas).  Most of the better bars are very noisy and busy, and we often had to stand and rest our food and beer on a ledge somewhere.  They could be quite intimidating to walk into, especially with the menus being in Spanish (often with a good few basque words thrown in), but it quickly became a fun experience going from bar to bar ordering a couple of pintxos in each once we got the hang of it.  Each pintxo varied in size from tiny to large-starter size and the most we ever paid for one was 5 euros (and that was for steak, most are about 3 or 4 euros).


The best ones were cheesecake from La viña, which was so light and almost fluffy on the inside, caramelised on the outside, and really tart and cheesy tasting.  Best cheesecake I've had - there was certainly no need for any base or topping.  I'm definitely going to try and make cheesecake at some point.
Another favourite was beef cheeks in red wine from Borda Berri.  I've never had beef cheeks before, but they were so tender and tasty.
Fish in black alioli from A Fuego Negro was also really good, as were some of the more traditional pintxos like chorizo in cider, and toast with ham and goats cheese.


It was good timing that there was a free open-air music festival while we were there, which consisted of reggae on my birthday.  I'm not sure how linked to Basque nationalism this event was (maybe basque nationalists are like the socialist worker party - they randomly generate if there's a crowd of more than 12 people...) but there were banners up with slogans such as "independentzia, sozialismoa, feminismoa".  Quite strange to see.


We went to Bilbao on the Tuesday, but that looked (superficially at least) like a bigger but less interesting place.  The Guggenheim suffered from being too big, much like the Tate in London - it's impossible to take anything in when there's so much there.  It was good timing to go there as that was the only day it rained.  San Sebastian has three times the rainfall of London, but we didn't know that when we booked it.


I kept track of all the pintxos we tried, and the full list is here if anyone is interested:




I've just noticed from the last poll that I'm supposed to be writing about books and beer.  Oops!

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Weekend

I feel a bit guilty for not getting much done this weekend. Most of Friday night and Saturday were taken up with learning Max/MSP, or more specifically JavaScript for Max. I'm finding it quite difficult to get into, I made an object that stores integers and sorts them as a start, but it will take ages to make anything that could be useful in some way. I've been spending time learning Max for over a year now, and it really does feel like I never get any closer to being able to *use* this software.

Repeat to self: some things are worth doing even if there is no end-goal.

On Sunday we went to a beer festival at the craft beer co on the recommendation of Whalefish. Now the last beer festival I went to (craft beer battle) was full of hipster types drinking hoppy beers (and only hoppy beers, to the exclusion of everything else). Would this be the same? No. There was a mixed crowd, and a variety of beers from gueuze to porters and stouts (lots of porters and stouts actually). Some of the beers were expensive, but these were generally the 9% + ones.  I wish gueuze was a more popular style, because it's great.

And now, time for a poll!



What shall I write about next?

Deerhunter ATP

So I've just been to my penultimate ATP.  It was good, even if it has lost some of its magic by moving from Minehead to Camber.  I think the closeness to London means that there are more annoying types - people who have just gone to it as a random festival.  Still I'd take that over there not being any more ATPs.

The highlights* for me were Steve Reich & The London Sinfonietta, William Basinski, Pere Ubu, Ex Models (who I've wanted to see for about 8 years) and Black Dice.

Someone was crying at Steve Reich!  It makes me wonder how limited my appreciation of music must be compared to someone who reacts like that.  They did Clapping Music, which wasn't as crisp sounding as when I saw him at the Proms a couple of years ago, but still good. They were in a venue called The Fun Factory. Erm, yeah, not entirely sure that's appropriate...

William Basinski did his decaying tape loop manipulations, which is great if you're in the right frame of mind.  It's relaxed, but so intense after hearing the same loops repeated for minutes on end.  We sat on the floor for this one, as it really isn't good music to stand up for - it makes you feel like an important part of your brain has gone to sleep after a while.

Ex Models were mercilessly noisy.  They played all of their third album which I've actually never heard despite them being a favourite band.  All of the reviews said it was terrible, and seeing as half of the band had departed at that point I believed them.  Apparently it's a favourite album of Bradford Cox (of Deerhunter) so it looks like I was wrong to avoid it.

Pere Ubu are legendary.  They made such weird sounding records (in the 70's), really oppressive and dark in places, but wistful and silly in others.

Black Dice are one of my favourites, but I go on and on about them all the time, so I won't do that here.

Oh well, back to the real world now.  Time to hide that part of myself away, and interact with people who think Mumford & Sons are cutting edge.



*I saw at least some of the sets of the following : Atlas Sound, The Breeders, Deerhunter, No Age, Ex Models, Avey Tare, Tom Tom Club, Rhys Chatham & Oneida, Kim Gordon Ikue Mori & Bill Nace, Panda Bear, Steve Reich & The London Sinfonietta, Pere Ubu, Blues Control & Laraaji, William Basinski, Dan Deacon, and Black Dice.

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Weekend

I did my best to avoid randomly clicking on the internet this weekend, and a result it was surprisingly productive.  I worked through some Max/MSP tutorials, read a fair amount of my book, saw Star Trek, and went to see the Mayor of Scaredy Cat town for cocktails.  It didn't feel like a hurried weekend either.

Max/MSP
The most useful tutorial was the one on using the output from games controllers to control Max.  James brought back a gift for me on Friday, an £8 USB controller which looks like one meant for a playstation.  Each of the 10 buttons has a different channel number, and there are 3 joystick controls with two axes (left/right and up/down).  I mapped the outputs in Max, so it should be easy to change patches to use the controller instead of using the mouse or keyboard.  Unfortunately I'm crap at games, so it's not like all of my patches are now going to be easy to control.

The other interesting ones were about using UDP networks, and making custom buttons and sliders.  Custom buttons aren't a priority at the moment, but maybe in the future - some Max patches are so ugly it's a wonder anyone uses them.

Star Trek
It was reasonably good, entertaining enough.  If you liked the first one then this one shouldn't disappoint.
There is a bit of seriously odd casting with Benedict Cumberbatch though.  I wonder what their reasons were.

Boring update

Hello LJ, how are you?

I had a bit of a mopey weekend.  Awful behaviour, but it's what I seem to revert to when left to my own devices for a few days.  James got back from his 3 day conference in Warsaw on Saturday though, so things are returning to normal.  He can be useless at travelling and going out at times, so I was relieved when he only came back with a couple of bruises, a dented laptop, and a pair of ripped jeans (an altercation with some railings and the pavement - I don't think the free beer at the conference helped).  At least it's better than the time he lost his passport in a Vietnamese airport...

This week I'm going to see Lopatin and Hecker at the Southbank Centre tomorrow, and Death Grips at the Forum on Thursday.  I'm looking forward to gigs a lot more now that I'm trying to see things that are a bit different.  I'm increasingly bored of seeing the traditional men with guitars set-up, especially after seeing some particularly bad examples recently (Maybeshewill I am looking at you).

Tonight I have an appointment with the dentist, after going for a check-up for the first time in *many* years.  I'm so relieved that the only work needed is a replacement filling, it's a lucky escape.  I'm still having disturbing dreams about it though!

Anyone do anything fun at the weekend?  Even if you didn't you should make something up (preferably a story with dinosaurs in it).

Weekend

I went to Patty and Bun yesterday after lozette mentioned it.  Their burgers are damn good, far superior to Meat Mission, and didn't leave me feeling greasy (like the Meat Mission one did).  The patty was medium rare, extremely juicy, and the bun, cheese, pickles etc were all perfect.  It was very messy, but worth it.  The only (mild) disappointment was the limited range of beers, and lack of description for the two beers that they had that I didn't recognise (I don't like taking too many chances with my beer).  I'm feeling quite hungry thinking about the juicy goodness right now.

After that we went to the light show at the Hayward gallery.  Tickets were £10, and I think I'd recommend it just for the exhibit by Olafur Eliasson, a room with fountains of water and a strobe light.  Disorientating, but great.  A couple of things had queues, but it wasn't a problem if you avoided queuing at the same time as everyone else  - being the last ones in probably helped here - I can imagine that it could be a problem if we'd gone at an earlier time.

Today I'm trying and failing to do some Max/MSP (hence the update).

Books of 2012

I need to update this before it becomes too hard to remember.  I was meaning to write about some of these in more detail last year, but it all went a bit wrong.  I'm not intending to keep a record of this year - the plan is to only read technical books, and books I've already read.

1.  The Importance of Being Ernest - Oscar Wilde
2. Karamazov Brothers* - Dostoyevsky
3. Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea - Barbara Demick
4. Trainspotting - Irvine Welsh
5. Mr Happy - Roger Hargreaves
6. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Winifred Watson
7. The Plague - Albert Camus
8. Water-Based Screen Printing Today - Roni Henning
9. The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes - Jonathan Rose
A terrible title for a book that contains some interesting ideas.  Made me think that it might be worth paying more attention to books in the "canon" so that explains some of the later reading decisions.
10. Hamlet.  See above.  Also recommended by whalefish
11. The Odyssey.
12. Paradise Lost.  I read this after talking to someone James works with about books we'd like to read - it had never previously been on my radar before.  It was nice to return to something with more emotional content after reading the Odyssey (which I couldn't relate to on that level).  The language isn't too difficult, it's a lot more readable than Hamlet despite being only 70 years apart.  I recommend it.
13. The Master and Magarita.*
14. Doctor Faustus - Marlowe.*
Goethe's Faust is still my favourite, but it was good to read this to see the connection with this one and Svankmajer's film Faust (which you should see - it's great).

So of that list three are directly related to the Faust legend* and then there's Paradise lost.  I read a hell of a lot of this stuff for an atheist :)

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Better with beer

So my sober 6 weeks are over! What a miserable 6 weeks, I had to turn down a beer festival, even turn down a couple of free drinks to make it through.

It was interesting in some ways though - I think I've learnt that I blame beer for too many ills.  There were a couple of times when I'd been out, and woke up the next day feeling hung over.  Well it's clearly a lot more related to tiredness than I'd realised.  There were also a couple of times where I thought about something I'd said when in the pub, and felt embarrassed for saying something stupid or unintentionally offensive.  I'd usually blame it on drink, but it must be a bit of a scapegoat - I say stupid things quite naturally, drink or no drink!

Another thing that was interesting to see was just how difficult it is to avoid drink without people asking questions about it.  I learnt to avoid the conversation, when someone says "I thought you'd be drinking because it's a Wednesday" the best thing to do is ignore it.  Hopefully I'll be a bit more polite the next time someone I know isn't drinking as a result (thinking about the possible reasons for giving up drink, a lot of them are too embarrassing to tell to *everyone* you socialise with).

At least I feel healthier though?  No, I've had the worst sinusitis.  It's so bad I've bought a bloody neti pot - I feel like such a hippie.

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