Fortune

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of The Contortionist’s Clairvoyant ever since they released the first single of the album. Each subsequent single got me even more excited, and September 15th (the album’s release date) couldn’t arrive fast enough.

After about a month of listening to Clairvoyant an (almost) infinite number times I’m happy to say that the album has lived up to all my expectations, and it is staggeringly beautiful.

Clairvoyant eschews The Contortionist’s earlier heavy progressive metal sound and instead forges ahead on the journey that they began with Language in 2014 – this album is what I would describe as “minimalist progressive metal” (why yes, I do believe I just invented that term), with some songs being almost progressive rock. This album is even less heavy than Language, and features only a tiny amount of screaming (only one song as far as I can tell).

What this album does feature in abundance though is the musical complexity that makes The Contortionist such a delight to the ears. The guitars are simple, layered, and not too heavy; the drums are complicated yet (somehow) subtle; the bass powerful and perfect; and the vocals are haunting. Mike Lessard’s vocals on this album are nothing short of incredible, and bring a lot of emotional depth (you can read more about the background of the album here) to all the songs. His vocals are perhaps my favorite part of the album, with the guitars being a close second.

Clairvoyant is easily one of favorite albums of all time. With this album I believe that The Contortionist have created their own unique sound, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this immensely talented band.

Challenge

I leave for my vacation to Thailand in about a month. Before I go I’ve decided to challenge myself and learn at least 50% of “Under Different Welkins” by Novelists. This is by far the hardest song I’ve attempted to learn and I’m looking forward to this challenge. I’ve been playing my seven string guitar more and more lately and this song feels like it would be a lot of fun to play.

Tsukemen

I visited Japan (specifically Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Osaka)  in July with my brother and my best friend. It was an incredible experience. This was the first international vacation I’d taken in a while (not counting visits back home to India) and I had a lot of fun.

 

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Kinkakuji
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Ginkakuji
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Nijo Castle

If you’re planning to visit Japan (and I’d highly recommend doing so) here are some tips that might help you:

  • Visit Hiroshima. It is an intense, heart-wrenching, and emotionally moving experience. It will change you.

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    The Hiroshima Peace Memorial
  • Get a Japan Rail (JR) pass. It allows you to use Japan’s excellent public rail system an unlimited number of times for a flat fee for 7, 14, or 21 days. It makes traveling between and within cities in Japan effortless. Make sure to also install the HyperDia app to help you plan your travels.
  • Throw out all your clothes before you leave for Japan and be prepared to acquire a whole new set of clothes when you’re back. Why? Because the food in Japan is SO GOOD that you’re going to eat A LOT and none of your old clothes will fit you anymore. To say that every meal I had in Japan was excellent would be an understatement. Highlights for me included my meal at Len, fatty tuna, Wagyu beef, tsukemen, and ochazuke.
     

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    Ramen
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    Ramen
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    Ochazuke

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    Tsukemen

Eel

One of the many highlights of my recent visit to Japan was a dinner I had at Len (also called Ren). Len is a two Michelin starred restaurant in Tokyo and I managed to get a 6pm dinner reservation there on my second last night in Japan.

The meal was phenomenal. I love Japanese food, and in my mind this meal exemplified everything that attracts me towards Japanese cuisine – simplicity, elegance, and the freshness of ingredients.

Restaurants that “ruin” a food item for me hold a special place in my heart. By “ruin” here I mean that they serve me such a perfect version of the food item in question that subsequent versions I eat elsewhere will (most likely) pale in comparison. This first happened to me at Quince where I had the best mac and cheese I’d ever had in my life, and it happened again at Len, where I had the most sublime and incredible rice and eel I’ve ever tasted. This is a simple dish, but in its simplicity lies perfection.

Here are some pictures from my dinner:

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Sea urchin and steamed egg custard
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Water melon and abalone soup.
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Chef Jun Mishina charcoal grilling pike eel.
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Charcoal grilled pike eel. This was my first time eating pike eel!
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Japanese beef and eggplant with a plum sauce.
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Steamed rice and eel with house-made pickles. Perfection.

 

Failure

My goal for June was to read ten research papers. Unfortunately I failed.

Here are the papers I read:

  1. WiscKey: Separating Keys from Values in SSD-conscious Storage
  2. Polaris: Faster Page Loads Using Fine-grained Dependency Tracking
  3. Efficient Memory Disaggregation with Infiniswap
  4. Redundancy Does Not Imply Fault Tolerance: Analysis of Distributed Storage Reactions to Single Errors and Corruptions
  5. Early Detection of Configuration Errors to Reduce Failure Damage
  6. MemC3: Compact and Concurrent MemCache with Dumber Caching and Smarter Hashing
  7. Replex: A Scalable, Highly Available Multi-Index Data Store

Here I the papers I didn’t have the time to read:

  1. CORFU: A distributed shared log
  2. vCorfu: A Cloud-Scale Object Store on a Shared Log
  3. Hints for Computer System Design

Favorite paper – WiscKey: Separating Keys from Values in SSD-conscious Storage