25 April 2011

The Time Machine

I recently finished reading HG Wells's The Time Machine.  It was the first book in a collection of seven science fiction novels by HG Wells; other books in it include The Island of Dr. Moreau and The War of the Worlds.

The Time Machine totally defied my expectation; instead of a tale of futuristic adventure, the inventor of the time machine instead journeys to the future to discover a rather dismal view of humanity's heading, encountering the Eloi - beatific, childlike, and rather dim human descendants - and later, Morlocks, who steal the traveller's device.

The traveller discovers that the Morlocks are also descendants of humanity, descended (he supposes) from the lower classes that had to work for their living, having evolved to live underground, while the privileged upper class evolved into the Eloi - breeding any intellect and drive right out of them.

The social commentary of the novel took me by surprise, I must say, especially coming as it did from a 19th Century Englishman, though further research into Wells reveals that it is in fact quite consistent with his character.

I was impressed with his choice to keep the story set squarely on Earth, with no hint of the stars behind; and I was especially fascinated with his tale of the sun turning into a red giant as witnessed Earthside.

All in all, The Time Machine was a great read, and I look forward to delving further into Wells's work.  Up next: The Island of Dr. Moreau.


Books: Finished The Time Machine, on to The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Bottles: Nothing lately.  Opening my best bottle on Saturday, probably - Domaine de la Vieux Telegraphe La Crau 2006.

Writing: Not too much...

Guitar: Working on "Goodbye Blue Sky."

20 April 2011

John Duval Wines “Entity” Barossa Valley Shiraz 2005

John Duval Wines “Entity” Barossa Valley Shiraz 2005

I celebrated my birthday recently and opened up a bottle I had been saving for a special occasion - John Duval Wines “Entity” 2005.  I don’t have much experience with Australian wine, but I sampled some at a tasting in November of 2009 and got the bottle then, and I’ve been saving it since.

The wine was deep crimson in color, almost blood-colored (but not unpleasantly so).  It had a pronounced, earthy nose.

It tasted of subtle fruits against strong, structured tannins.  A strong potent finish lingered with a bright acidity on the palate.

I had the wine with empanadas - beef, raisin, and onion ones, to be exact.  I can’t say it had any noticeable interaction, but I also can’t say I was expecting one.  Either way, it was an enjoyable bottle and a fun foray into Australian wine.


Books: Reading The Time Machine.  I think it’s nearly done.

Bottles: Been drinking Alamos Malbec 2009 with dinner lately; been working a lot and dinner hasn’t 
been much special.

Guitar: Just started on “Goodbye Blue Sky” which is very exciting for me.

Writing: Hoping to do some this week at work, during my downtime.  I write better when out of the house.

18 April 2011

The Mote in God's Eye

At some point in the (perhaps distant) past, I made a note to myself to read The Mote in God's Eye.  I'm not sure where the note came from or what spurred it, but now, an indeterminate amount of time since, I've finally read it.

Mote is perhaps some of the "hardest" sci-fi I've ever read; not hard in the sense of difficult, but hard as opposed to soft: hard sci-fi representing science that is more "real" and more in line with what we can achieve today and might achieve in the future, adhering to laws of physics as we know them, etc; while soft sci-fi takes more liberties with sciences, imagines new discoveries far beyond what we are capable of today, and imagines that there is perhaps more to physics than we realize right now.

Mote tells the story of the first contact between the human race (under a government called the Second Empire of Man, which spans countles solar systems) and an alien race that becomes known as the "Moties," for they come from the "Mote" - a yellow star that occludes a red giant star (from the humans' point of view) in the Coalsack nebula, which is sometimes called the face of god with the red star as his eye - thus the title.  The Motie race is extremely different from the human race, genetically, culturally, and psychologically, and the novel details both the human and Motie perspectives on the meeting.

With only two notable exceptions, the science of the book is all real - ships use either acceleration or rotation to generate gravity for their inhabitants, with much of interstellar travel under either free-fall or extreme-g conditions, ships are designed in a logical, naval manner, etc.  The two exceptions are the Alderson Drive - a form of FTL drive that finds "Alderson Points" that connect distant systems, more or less using wormholes to instantaneously traverse long distances - and the Langston field, an energy field that absorbs all energy that impacts (though it does have limits).

The novel was a little slow starting, but it had compelling enough characters that I was kept interested, and the pace did eventually pick up quite enjoyably.  The cast was varied - Navy officers of all social classes, civilian scientists, a merchant suspected of treason, and of course the Moties, who were brought to life with their own personalities, wants, and fears, alien though they seemed at times.

Apparently Mote is only one novel in a series of future-history books by Jerry Pournelle, and one of several co-written by Larry Niven (of Ringworld fame).  There is apparently another novel dealing with human-Motie relations, The Gripping Hand, and I think I would like to read it some day, but it will be a while.


Books: Started on seven science fiction novels of HG Wells; up first is The Time Machine.

Bottles: Had a glass of Domaine Brocard “Sur Kimmeridgien” white Burgundy with lunch; it was enjoyable, more fruity and less buttery than I was expecting, and a bit sweet.  Unfortunately I had no way to make tasting notes with me, so these fleeting impressions will have to do for now.

Writing: No...

Guitar: Still "Best of You" and "Everlong."

15 April 2011

Chappellet Signature 2008 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Chappellet is one of my favorite Napa wineries, and its 2008 Signature Cabernet was superb.

Ruby colored, it offered powerful oak aromas with a hint of fruit. It was full-bodied, with tastes of ripe fruits, smooth tannins, and a robust dryness that made me feel it could stand up to pretty much anything. It had a delightfully lingering finish.

I enjoyed the bottle with a friend, and we shared an appetizer of Parmesan Thyme Crispy Flatbread. It revealed amazing (and surprising!) notes of fruit and lemon drop on the back of my tongue, a truly remarkable pairing and one I will endeavor to repeat.

For my main course I had cedar-plank salmon with asparagus, sweet carrots, and crispy red potatoes; the wine was good with the salmon but not great, standing up to the cedar flavors, but gaining an unfortunate bitterness from the fish.

The meal and wine were consumed at Seasons 52 in Orlando, and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. If I’m back in Orlando again, I will definitely return!

Incidentally, I also had dessert, but had finished the wine by that point. Dessert was small bites (served in shot glasses): one of Meyer Lemon Cake and one of Key Lime Pie.  Both were amazing.

Chappellet Signature retails for about $40-45 and I found my bottles at some of the better wine stores.


Books: Reading The Mote in God's Eye, which is finally getting exciting.

Bottles: Drank a bottle of Australian Shiraz recently, can't remember the name off the top of my head, but it was pretty good.  Not a big fan of the Australian style - yet - but I hope to do more exploration and find ones I really like.

Writing: Still being lazy, but have had some thoughts lately...

Guitar: Just got some new song books.  Also started on "Best of You."

12 April 2011

Masi Bonacosta Valpolicella

I enjoyed a glass of Masi Bonacosta Vapolicella with dinner at Magianno’s Italian restaurant in Orlando, Florida.  I didn’t get a chance to see the bottle so I’m not sure what year it was, but it was an enjoyable glass.

A deep garnet color, the wine displayed a heady nose with potent woodsy aromas.  Upon tasting, it revealed ripe sour fruits with a bit of pucker, a strong acidity opposed with mild tannins, and a hint of licorice on the finish.  It was an interesting style of wine, and I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced anything similar before.
I enjoyed it with chicken saltimboca; I was pleasantly surprised how the wine brought to life the meatiness of the dish and expressed itself beautifully against the caramelized onions.
All in all, an enjoyable glass, but definitely not at the top of the list.  I will, however, keep my eye peeled for more wines from Valpolicella in the future.


Books: Finished Deathbird Stories.  Not sure if I can blog about it, it was pretty trippy.  Reading The Mote in God's Eye.

Bottles: The above, plus a Chappellet Signature 2008.

Writing: Been kind of lazy.  Have to be more proactive!

Guitar: Working on "Everlong" and "Best of You" from Foo Fighters, plus "Brain Damage."