Saturday Dinner

Spaghetti Carbonara, mostly. I used pepper bacon rather than a more traditional meat. And this time we added peas to it. Quite delicious. For those curious, here’s the recipe I based mine off of.

The truth is, I enjoy cooking. It isn’t my primary hobby or form of entertainment, and I have no desire to make it anything more than a thing I do at home for my wife, my family and my friends. But in cooking I find fulfillment. Here’s on to refining this recipe and making something new.

My go to links for cooking:

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if not has not dined well.”

Virginia Woolf
Links Uncategorized

Gandalf’s Notes

Sir Ian Mckellen has recently released his journal from the time when he was taking on the role of Gandalf during the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

News of its release circled the web and his poor little blog was quickly crashed. I managed to get it pulled up thanks to the folks at

In his entry dated “12 March 2000” he shares these tidbits from the production. None of this was truly shattering as I’d seen the behind-the-scenes footage, but I still enjoyed his prose and perspective in this part.

Back to Hobbiton, which has not yet totally disappeared. Its interiors are all sturdily in place at the Wellington studios of Three Foot Six Ltd, which anyone could work out is the Lord of the Rings film company. Confusingly there are two Bag Ends. And here’s why. (If you don’t like reading about how screen magic is achieved, join me again two paragraphs down.)

Hobbits must appear smaller than the other characters in the film. When I, as Gandalf, meet Bilbo or Frodo at home, I bump my head on the rafters. (Tolkien didn’t think to mention it!) So there is a small Bag End set with small props to match. As Ian Holm and Elijah Wood would be too big within it, they have “scale doubles” who are of a matching size with the scenery and its miniature furniture. In the small set Bilbo and Frodo are played by Kiran Shah (Legend) who is in hobbit proportion to my Gandalf.

And of course there has to be a big Bag End, where the scale is human-sized and all the objects of the small set are duplicated but bigger. There the “hero actors” can play the hobbits but the camera expects a gigantic Gandalf and gets him in Paul Webster (a 7’4″ Wellingtonian) who substitutes for me. It is not easy acting, as you try to feed off your colleagues’ reactions during a scene; but we manage. By starting with the close-up shots (where the hero actor being filmed can see the expressions of another just behind the lens) we can remember the detail of that experience when confronted by the scale double’s face, which is sometimes masked, as the camera films a two-shot at longer range. Normally this master shot would precede the close-ups in a film’s schedule.

These technicalities need not be an audience’s concern but I appreciate any fascination with them. One of my most treasured paperbacks as a kid was a photographed tour of a film studio and as a schoolboy actor I was intrigued by the line or the moment which separates the reality of the wings from the dramatised reality onstage. It is one of the few binds about being a professional actor, forever wondering “how did they do that?” It doesn’t spoil the show but can be distracting from more important matters like the dialogue and the story.

The Bag End designs could not be bettered. Their colours are warm with lots of wood and signs of industry, writing and cooking and overeating. Simply, they are hobbity and to me very familiar. They are in accord with my own untidiness and need to be comfy. The kitchen table where Frodo pours the tea is akin to the family kitchen of my childhood. Yet it is all with a difference because Bag End feels like a hole in the ground. Why are subterranean books popular with children? Besides The Hobbit there are The Wind in the Willows, Knock Three Times! and, of course, Alice.

Through the circular latticed windows there is a backcloth of the Shire and entwined in the structure are the polished roots from the tree above, on which Gandalf parks his cloak and pointed hat. His staff is always at the ready leaning by the fireplace in the sitting room.

A fireplace means a fire and the fire in this case must look real enough to test any ring that might be thrust into it. Real fires produce heat. So here we all are — twenty or more dotty enthusiasts crouching on the smaller set in which only Kiran is laughing. We are blasted by the heat of the fire and of the lights, which Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (Babe) and his head gaffer Brian Bamsgrove keep out of my eyes but not away from the few areas of skin that are exposed beneath Gandalf’s cloakings and beardings. It feels like madness but it is all part of filming. The second the camera rolls, I forget the discomfort, just as on stage ailing actors are temporarily cured by the intensity of “Doctor Theatre.”

Alan Lee, the films’ Conceptual Artist, is more usually a book illustrator. His style is romantic and rich with detail. His pencil impressions of Bag End and all the other varied locations were realised as three-dimensional models under the expertise of Dan Hennah, the Supervising Art Director. Once costed and approved by the director, the full-scale (and hobbit-scale) sets were built within the old warehouses that now house the production company. Under corrugated iron roofs there are offices, amenities, dining shed, trailers for actors, makeup, wardrobe as well three studios. We are settled amongst the flat suburb of Miramar behind the low ridge of hills that stretches into Wellington’s harbour. Real life is just through the gate. And my rented house is only five minutes away in Seatoun, where Peter Jackson lives permanently with his family on the coast road directly below me.

The good news is that air conditioning piping has rapidly been installed. I hope, come winter, this can double as a heating system.

Media TV

Making It

Now finished with its second season and hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, this show is America’s answer to the Great British Bake Off. It’s a positive and joyful romp through crafting and creating. Light weight, it’s like a lemon sorbet for my soul which reinforces my desire to make 2020 my year of being a maker. 5 out of 5 glue guns.


SMS 2-Factor Authentication is not good. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not as good as using something like Google Authenticator. Here’s an article about the issue on Wired from two years ago.

As a reader of this blog, please promise me you’ll avoid using SMS authentication if you have the option for one your important services such as banking, email, phone, etc.


A Mesmerizing Airplane

Watching this fascinating simple airplane I found on Reddit reminded me about an evening back when I was in Boy Scouts. The scout masters had set up for the patrols in our troop to compete in a paper airplane contest.

I was a member of the senior patrol, called “JOFA Patrol” for some joke I can’t remember. We were also notorious for working smarter, not harder, which often led to us breaking rules. Well, we immediately identified that the rules were insufficient for this competition. That is to say, there were none.

So, rather than make the best airplane we could. Instead we emptied our pockets of coins. Then we took the provided piece of paper and crumpled it up into a ball around the coins. The coins gave added heft to ensure the ball flew far. Rather than have to rely on a plane flying gracefully after a skilled toss, we just had the baseball player in the patrol chuck our “airplane” as far as he could.

As it turns out, this was longer than the entire length of the event hall. Our “airplane” burst against the wall, scattering its payload of coins.

The scout leaders disqualified us for cheating.

If you do try to create the original paper airplane, be aware of this advice from Reddit user jchasse, in response to someone saying their versions of this plane always crashed terribly:

The trick is in “throwing” it.
Hard to tell from the short vid.

Pointer finger sits on top of the paper crease in the middle bottom of the circle with thumb and middle finger below the paper on earthier side. (Take those thee fingers and point them in front of you. That triangle shape is what you are going for) You don’t grasp the paper (like a traditional paper airplane) so much as let it rest between the fingers like a launching rail.


DON’T toss/throw this like you think of a normal paper airplane!
This is all about a gentle push/release.


Let the air currents do all the work NOT the snap of your arm or wrist.

Once you have that down you can start to throw it by facing it vertical up in the air and adding a bit more of a wrist snap before releasing it horizontally, but again this is not about power more about grace.

Do this from the nose bleed seats in a stadium and you can reach all the way to the courts.

As far as the flappy wings never tried that before, curious if they add lift in some manner.



In summary: Today has been a fucking day.

New York Times front page after Iran’s attack on US bases in Iraq.
Further down the same frontpage on the New York Times.

If Iran attacking Iraq, then suffering a planecrash unrelatedly, wasn’t enough – don’t forget there was also an earthquake in Iran today.

It felt like today was on the knife’s edge of tilting us into another war. So far, the US has not further responded, and Iran has said this was their retaliation for the assassination of their military leader. I have to wonder what I will wake up to tomorrow.

And, because I find humor in including something that is cosmically irrelevant, but statistically improbable; this was a tweet I posted during tonight’s D&D game. [Disclaimer: I work for Wizards of the Coast.]

If I did the odds right, there is a 0.8% chance of me not succeeding at least once with those rolls.


What I'm Reading Right Now

Seattle Prohibition: Bootleggers, Rumrunners and Graft in the Queen City by Brad Holden – It’s a fairly thin book at 128 pages. This is not a criticism, but at the same time I’ve taken weeks to read it. I’ve read it just a few pages a night before going to bed.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – I am only barely into the novel so I can’t say much about it, but it is an absolutely fascinating world and it has me deeply hooked to read more.


How The CIA Overthrew Iran’s Democracy In 4 Days (NPR) – NPR podcast Throughline published (back in Feb. 2019) this look at the history of US’s CIA role in the fall of the Iran Democracy. Even more important for Americans to understand given the politics of the last few days. Don’t just read the article, listen to the 38-minute podcast.


The most awesome space images of the decade ( – Some truly stunning images from space. This one from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, landing on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, still blows my mind. We captured that from the surface of a comet.