George V. Reilly

Review: Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens


Young orphaned scavenger living on a desert planet finds droid with a message, then hooks up with two rogues in a beat-up ship. Young hero starts developing a talent for the Force. Dark-side dork with daddy issues slays daddy in death star duel. Ace X-wing pilot flies down trench and kills death star.

Where have I seen this movie before?

Episode VII is a distinct im­prove­ment over the last set of Star Wars films, the Anakin prequels. We care more about Rey and Finn than we ever did about Anakin and Padme. George Lucas’s characters were wooden and un­con­vinc­ing; Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), J.J. Abrams, continue.

Review: The Magician King

Title: The Magician King
Author: Lev Grossman
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Plume
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 400
Keywords: adult fantasy
Reading period: 26–27 December, 2015

[Sequel to The Magicians.]

There are two storylines in The Magician King, the backstory of Julia’s training as a hedgewitch and Quentin’s quest for the seven golden keys.

Quentin, along with his high school crush, Julia, and his fellow Brakebills’ alumni, Eliot and Janet, have ruled Fillory for a few years. Bored with being King, he sets off on a quest, taking Julia with him. Un­ex­pect­ed­ly thrust back to Earth, they des­per­ate­ly strive to return to Fillory, eventually succeeding. Magic is leaching out of the universe as the old gods awaken, and continue.

Review: The Magicians

Title: The Magicians
Author: Lev Grossman
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Plume
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 402
Keywords: adult fantasy
Reading period: 20–26 December, 2015

Take a heavy dose of Narnia, add a hefty dollop of Harry Potter, stir in some Bret Easton Ellis and a dash of The Catcher in the Rye, then cook for adults. That glib de­scrip­tion short­changes The Magicians, even though Fillory clearly owes a major debt to Narnia and the preppy Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy somewhat resembles Hogwarts.

Quentin Coldwater is an over­achiev­ing, solitary math nerd from Brooklyn, who thinks he’s attending an entrance interview for Princeton but instead gains admittance to Brakebills. Magic turns out to be real, but difficult, requiring continue.


We had a quiet Christmas day. We’re hosting two couch­surf­ing young women from Kazakhstan. They and Raven and Iain were our dinner guests. We roasted a leg of lamb and an assortment of root vegetables. For dessert, we had one of my Christmas Puddings.


I shared a house with my friend Muhsin in the mid-90s. Muhsin is a runner so I started running too, but I lost the habit not long after I moved in with Emma in ‘98.

A little over a year ago, I went down to the Bay Area for work. I spent the weekend staying with old friends from Ireland, Paul and Maggie. Paul had been run down by a car while cycling at twilight at Christmas 2013. As part of his recovery, he had taken up running, and a few weeks before my trip, he challenged me to join him in a 5K run for charity.

And so I continue.

Checking minimum version numbers in Bash

I worked on a Bash script today that sets up various pre­req­ui­sites for our build. We need a recent version of Docker but our Bamboo build agents are running on Ubuntu 14.04, which has a very old version of Docker. The script upgrades Docker when it’s first run. The script may be run more than once during the lifetime of the agent, so the second and subsequent calls should not upgrade Docker.

Basically, I wanted

if $DOCKER_VERSION < 1.9; then upgrade_docker; fi

Un­for­tu­nate­ly, it’s not that easy in Bash. Here’s what I came up with.

install_latest_docker() {
    if docker --version | python -c "min=[1, 9]; import sys; ↩
v=[int(x) for x in 

Christmas Cake

Last week I made my Christmas Cake, a week after I made my Christmas Puddings. Tonight I decorated it with marzipan and royal icing.

Including Data Files in Python Packages

New post at the MetaBrite Dev Blog: Including Data Files in Python Packages

Review: Destination: Morgue!

Title: Des­ti­na­tion: Morgue!
Author: James Ellroy
Rating: ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Vintage
Copyright: 2004
Pages: 400
Keywords: true crime, au­to­bi­og­ra­phy
Reading period: November 28–De­cem­ber 20, 2015

A collection of James Ellroy’s articles on crime and his own past.

I’ve enjoyed Ellroy in the past but I found this unreadable. I tried it twice but abandoned it halfway through. Ellroy’s writing is self-indulgent, irritating, grandiose, and full of tiresome stylistic tics.

Restoring the Bar Room

Aside from a few hours spent at two parties, we’ve worked from when we got up until midnight getting the bar room back in shape. I spent a couple of hours just washing all the greasy crystal glasses this morning (not to be confused with last night’s cleaning the booze bottles). We sorted through all the cookbooks and set aside about a third of them. The room is now ready to use again. Alas, we’ve moved a pile of stuff tem­porar­i­ly into the spare room, which will have to be dealt with soon.

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