Archive | March, 2016

Weekly Wine – Dry White

30 Mar

SONY DSCFrench Cross Vidal
Year: N/A
Canada
1000ml
12% ABV
$9.95 (LCBO)

One can by cynical about this wine.
Yes, it is wine in a box. Yes, It is a blend made from domestic and foreign wines. Yes it is created to be just under 10 bucks so as to hit a specific buyer.
All fair points.
The wine reflects these points. It is OK – drinkable as the marketers say. The taste won’t offend – it is a nice blend that does not have any off flavours or nasty after tastes. It is pleasant but not outstanding. It is forgettable in fact. It is better than the stuff you make at a Make-Your-Own-Wine place … but then again it costs a bit more and it should be better.
But all that being said – I don’t mind this wine because it is true to itself.
This is camping wine. This is take the wine up the hill skiing to enjoy the nice warm sunshine on the hill in the snow. This is outdoor wine.
This is honest plonk and should be enjoyed for what it is.

Artificial unintelligence

28 Mar

Artificial intelligence.
The new great beyond.
There used to be a joke that there must be intelligence in outer space because there is no intelligence on earth. Artificial intelligence is the same way – we must create artificial intelligence because we do not show any of this trait amongst ourselves.
This would actually be a great segue to the primary campaign in the Unites States right now.
But this isn’t.
Microsoft recently created a virtual bot, a chatbot, to engage the youth in what interests them. It was designed to interact with 18-24 year olds on all social media platforms. The chatbot, called TAY, was to get all its learning from the internet chatrooms that are frequented by this demographic.
The chatbot lasted 24 hours before Microsoft took it off line. In these few short hours, this naïve empty artificial intelligence vessel was filled with such hate and vitriol that it staggers the mind.
It espoused Nazism, genocide, homophobia, xenophobia, racism, and misogyny according to reports.
Microsoft took Tay offline for some adjustments.
The only question is – do the people that designed Tay not have access to the internet? Have they never gone online to social media and read what is being written? You don’t need to go far – any news item’s comments section quickly devolves to racism, misogyny or crude sexual, political or religious opinion. I rarely go to comments sections because of this. But did the designers of Tay not know this?
What kind of adjustments will the folks at Microsoft make – filters? Send Tay to school? Have a few humans work in the background for a while?
This episode shows we are still a long way from artificial intelligence. We will have to rely on the intelligence that we have. After all, it has gotten us this far.

Cold Swan

27 Mar

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It always amazes me to see swans swimming in icy water.

Weekly Vinyl – Ponty

25 Mar

Enigmatic Ocean
Jean-Luc Ponty
(1977)
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One of the reasons I got into listening to Jean-Luc Ponty was because I, like him, played the violin. He is, obviously, much better violin player than I ever was and ever even hoped to be.
I never really wanted to play the violin, but I guess Mr. Ponty really did – and he excels on the violin.
This album is a clinic for virtuosity – he really plays excellently. At times the notes on the violin are coming at you at a furious pace… at other times it is quite sublime. But the technical excellence of the music on the album leaves me a little cold. Where’s the heart? Where’s the soul?
I tried to pick a favourite track on this album and I could not really do that – they are all similar in spirit and in technique. What I did realise, reading the liner notes, was that Ponty was not the only soloists on this album. There are guitar solos from Allan Holdsworth and Daryl Stuermer – both very accomplished guitarists in their own right. There are moments in some songs where you hear guitars swapping solos with Ponty’s violin, especially in the title track Enigmatic Ocean. This is really cool, especially considering you have to really listen carefully to distinguish between violin and electric guitar.

Weekly Wine – Bicycle

23 Mar

SONY DSCCono Sur Bicicleta Viognier
2015
Chile
750ml
13.5% ABV
$9.95 (LCBO)

I thought I did this wine but I could not find it when I searched my blog.
Good for me.
The Cono Sur wines are an inexpensive line of wines from Chile and they tend to be fairly good. They were even recommended by a sommelier on a call in show on CBC radio as a good inexpensive wine to serve at a wedding. I have never had an issue with this wine except for the fact that in some circles it might not be appropriate to bring this wine as a guest because the brand is well known.
But this wine is the first one I have issues with from this line. The first taste is an explosion of fruit and then a harsh acidic dryness wipes the fruit flavour out. I had a few more glasses to be sure but this did not alter the fact – it tastes like a cheap wine.

Pity.

Cuba

22 Mar

I’ve been to Cuba twice – both times for beach vacations.
Both times the resorts, while beautiful and great, were in the middle of nowhere.
They were too far for a trip to Havana.
It is hard for me to realize that a US president beat me to Havana.
Good job President Obama…

Beach chairs

20 Mar

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Evening is approaching and the beach chairs are askew.
The season in the Caribbean is coming to an end is well.
We’ll be pulling out our beach chairs in the north pretty soon.

Weekly Vinyl – Killing Fields

18 Mar

The Killing Fields
Mike Oldfield
(1984)
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The Killing Fields is the name given to the vast tracks of land that were used to dump the bodies of the people murdered by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the early 1970s. This film is a masterful true story account of how one man escaped this brutal regime. This album is the soundtrack to this film and it has some tremendously effective passages that evoke emotions even though you had not seen the film for many years.
To be fair there are some cliché-ish moments – the sweeping strings evoking harmonious hope, yet these movements are tempered with brutally violent music – that aurally depicts the insanity that the regime unleashed on its people.
Most soundtracks don’t really work well without the movie, and to be fair, listening to this album, I remembered bits of the movie. The one reason soundtracks don’t work well as an album is the recurring variations on a theme. This album does have it and one can plot the emotional level of the movie while listening to this. There is great music in this soundtrack and I would like to see this movie again.

Weekly Wine – Boyar (again)

16 Mar

SONY DSCDomaine Boyar Cabernet Sauvignon
2014
Bulgaria
750ml
13% ABV
$8.90 (LCBO)

I had consumed this wine and sat down to write it and only then realized that I reviewed it a while ago. But that was way back in 2013 and that wine was a 2011 vintage.
I must have been thrown by the new and very elegant label when I purchased this bottle.
No matter – it is still Bulgarian wine.
This wine still has a harsh edge to it, that has not gone away. The sourness is still there but it is not as pronounced although still quite unpleasant. This washes out any flavour the wine might have.
I take sip after sip and try to find some distinctive flavor. The label claims that there are ripe berries and “hints of chocolate.” I don’t feel this.
The more I drink this the more unpleasant it becomes. I’m struggling to find some redeeming quality of this wine, besides price and label, but I can’t.
It is wine.
It is red.
It won’t kill you.

Staycation deliberation

14 Mar

A few years ago the concept of staying at home for your vacation emerged as a trend. The name itself – Staycation – is dreadful. It has a connotation of sitting at home and not doing much. A familial “Netflix and Chill,” without the modern connotation that term has.
For those living in the suburbs – or even the near burbs – a vacation in the city you live can be an invigorating experience. Provided you leave home. Provided you get a half decent hotel downtown or wherever the action is in your neck of the woods.
Ditching the car and the conveniences of home life and roughing it in a nice hotel room, or suite, is invigorating. You do it on real vacations when you visit other cities and towns. Why not hit up your own town? And if you live downtown – do this in the burbs – by the airport would be my suggestion. That is really exploring the wilds.
Staycation is still such a weak word. There needs to be a new one. Perhaps Onanisication? Selfsatisfication? No. These two won’t work…
Perhaps just use the term vacation. Is this not what it is?

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