Saturday, August 12, 2017

Still lazy in Helsinki

So, no long catch-up post today, despite my earlier comments and hopes.

That said, today a storm rolled in, so the sky was interesting all day long.  The train station, a nifty building with more than a little Russian influence, managed to be under clear sky while right behind me the gray was coming.

Click an image to see a larger version.

As the sun was setting (late, of course), the Aeteneum Museum practically glowed in the day's golden end during a break in the showers.

The night turned cool after the rains, but my room managed to largely reject the cool and cling to its set temperature.  Still, I'm getting a little bit of temperature relief, for which I should be grateful.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Helsinki reportage will come tomorrow; today, watch this video

Seriously.  You should watch it.  It's about the sabbatical charity work of a colleague and friend, Elizabeth.  Please, take less than three minutes, and give it a look.

I reviewed this video multiple times in the course of its production, and it--particularly its ending--still chokes me up.

I'm incredibly proud to get to work with Elizabeth and all the other great people at PT, and I'm especially proud of the charity work they have done on their sabbaticals.

Truly, nobody really wins unless we all win.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sleeping in a warm hotel room

is really not working for me.  The coolest the hotels--I've now tried two and asked about others--will allow a room to get is 73 degrees Fahrenheit, which is way warmer than I'm used to.  That may seem like a small thing, and in many ways it is, but it causes me to wake up more often than usual in the night, to soak my pillows with sweat, and generally to have poor rest.  So, I'm in bed plenty of hours but still more tired than I would like to be (which is not at all, because I'm on vacation).  The hotel personnel with whom I've discussed this point out that it means the room is never wasting energy, but at this point I'd happily pay more to waste some energy.  That is not an option.

So, a longer blog another time.  For me, it's another night of fitful slumber in a too-warm room.

I want a cold hotel room.  I can make my room in Austin in a cheaper hotel 65; I never thought staying cool in Helsinki would be a problem.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Who knew Helsinki would be warmer than London?

Not I.  I have yet to feel cool in this city.  No place is air-conditioned enough to be truly cool, including, unfortunately, my hotel room.

I owe you the stories of yesterday and today, but after very little sleep last night--part of the story--I am just going to crash now.  Tomorrow, I hope to write a rather long and more interesting entry.

I must say that being seven hours ahead of the time back home is a first for me and rather odd.

To bed.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

In Helsinki

I've made it to Helsinki, where tomorrow I will start attending this year's World Science Fiction Convention, aka WorldCon.

The travel day included the usual mix of boredom and stress.  I'd planned to show you pictures of my strange hotel room--which I will change tomorrow--but it's +7 hours here, so it's quite late, and I'm very tired.

I will say that even the urinals in the rest rooms at the Savoy are posh.

See what I mean?

Monday, August 7, 2017

In which I am satisfied and then unsatisfied

After a wonderfully long night of sleep and a rather heavy lunch, I spent quite some time in the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square.  I visited with some old friends, such as Van Gogh's autobiographical Chair, which never fails to speak to me,

Click an image to see a larger version.  

and Monet's stunning The Water-Lily Pond, which is so much more magnificent than my awkward photo can convey.

By the way, the odd angles in many of these photos come from having to fight the crowds for a moment in which I could take the pictures.

I also finally got to see the museum's two Da Vinci pieces, The Virgin of the Rocks 

and the drawing (also known as a "cartoon"), The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist,

which was incredible, detailed, and moving.

On the way to the Da Vinci's, I was privileged to be able to enjoy two Durer pieces that were on two sides of a board.  This one, A Heavenly Body, is quite possibly about the end of the world, which made me like the irony of the way my face and hands appear in this photo.

Sorry, though for obscuring your view of the painting.

After admiring and studying quite a few lovely pieces by one of my favorites, Botticelli, the museum was nearing closing time and my eyes were nearing the melting point, so I headed outside.  From the entrance balcony at first and from ground level later, I enjoyed a street show.

The performers showed a bunch of dance and gymnastic moves, as well as sculpted bodies, to the admiring crowd.  With good patter and a charming presence, they kept everyone entertained and, I hope, made enough money to make the show worth doing.

Evening took me to The Old Vic for one of the season's hot shows, Girl from the North Country.

Conor McPherson wrote and directed the play, which centered on a boarding house of intriguing characters in Duluth, Minnesota in 1934 and which featured nearly two dozen Bob Dylan songs.

I entered the theatre with high expectations and left it unsatisfied.  The songs were good, of course, and they worked well with the story.  The actors delivered impeccable performances one and all, each inhabiting their role fully.  The story painted a vivid picture of a desperate America dealing with both extreme poverty and racial strife.  Every element I expected from the play was there...except that all it did was show the darkness and suffering, it did not illuminate it or add any new insights or, to its detriment, offer more than the smallest shred of hope.  Mind you, I don't need every piece of art to offer hope, but if a play is to wallow in human darkness, I'd like it to show me that darkness in a new way, or perhaps point a path out of the darkness--even if it never walks that path.  Maybe we need more art that forces us to confront the dire situations of those less privileged; I am inclined to believe we do.  I just wish this play had done more than show all that pain.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

In which I view wonderful art, eat a sublime meal, and break a toe
(not in that order)

I broke the toe in the middle of the night, but I'll save that story (and a picture of one scary looking digit) for the end of this entry.  If you read to the point of that pic, don't blame me for what you see.

After nearly 12 hours of sleep, I awoke feeling considerably better than I had the past few days.  It's amazing how much all that rack time can help when you haven't slept more than four hours a night for the previous three nights.  I'm now quite tired again, but I hope to awaken fully refreshed after another long slumber.

After a rather large breakfast at a nearby diner

Click an image for a larger version. Do that with the toe pic, and you can't blame me.

A long and interesting cab ride later--at least one London cabbie thinks Trump is only saying what other people are thinking, alas--I arrived at the lovely Leighton House.  Though I once again was fortunate enough to see his unfinished Clytie, my reason for visiting this time was the traveling exhibition of well more than a hundred works of Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema.

The exhibition prohibited photography, so I have no images to share.  I can tell you only that it was an honor and a treat to be able to see paintings that spanned the time from when he was about sixteen, to the height of his powers, to one he did at 76 in the last year of his life, to an unfinished piece.  For my taste, he did much of his best work when he was more than sixty years old, a sign I find hopeful.

His two daughters, Laurence and Anna, and his second wife (their mother), Laura, were also all painters, and a few of their pieces were on display.  All were lovely paintings, which makes it sad that so little of their art remains.  Yet again, history neglects talented women when it should not.

The Leighton House's garden, which sits behind the building, was a lovely and cool place to sit and ponder the art I'd just seen.  It also seemed like a fine place to capture a shot of an LYG shirt visiting the UK (albeit on my body).

Dinner took me for the third time to the tiny but wonderful restaurant, The Araki.  The sushi there is the best I have ever had the privilege to taste.  They use astonishingly great ingredients, including, in this dish, summer truffles mixed with otoro, the most prized part of the belly of the blue fin tuna.

After a rest, some reading, some email, and general messing about, a bit of a walk took me for a late dessert to La Gelateria, home to some of the best gelato I've ever tasted (and I've eaten a great deal of gelato).

Oh, yeah:  the toe.  In the middle of the night, after awakening as usual at the end of an eighty-minute sleep cycle, I meant to step around the end of the bed to see the clock, which was turned the wrong way for me to see it from in the bed.  Instead, I hit my toe hard against a little luggage bench at the foot of the bed, in the process breaking the toe.

Am I sure I broke it?

Pretty sure.

I'm not going to let it slow me down at all; though, so as you'll have noted, I walked on it all day, and I'll do the same tomorrow.

The toe can either toughen up or get the hell off my foot.

I'm hoping for the first option.


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