number five with bullets

Jul. 26th, 2017 09:37 pm
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[personal profile] microbie

  • I had to listen to myself while writing up notes from my last meeting at MIT. My voice sounds awful, even worse than listening to my voicemail message. As if I needed another reason to hate giving presentations.

  • For several nights in a row I had anxiety dreams set during college. Thanks, MIT!

  • I moved to a different office at work, which should be a great opportunity to finally organize my shit, but, ha.

  • I spent 10 minutes this morning defending queso to a total stranger (who likes fondue?!?). Then I offered to make him a pot of it if he's ever in DC.

  • This beer glass (from Area Four) reminds me of an Erlenmeyer flask:
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sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
We rolled into Vilnius, Lithuania just before 10 pm last night after a four-hour long bus ride. It was pouring rain, which is typical for here (apparently the weather is awful in one way or another at least 60% of the time), and late, so we grabbed dinner at a vegetarian bar and crashed out at the hotel. Today, it was supposed to pour--our cab driver assured us that this time, the entire city would be flooded--but our luck held and we were able to do a walking tour of the Old Town and the Republic of Užupis.

Vilnius has a messy, dilapidated charm. I think, perhaps, my lack of bonding with Riga was due to the fact that it's kept in such good repair; letting a city crumble a bit is much more aesthetically pleasing. It's slightly less Westernized--people here speak Russian as much as they do English, though mainly Lithuanian--and just, well, weirder.

photos )

And we're off again

Jul. 25th, 2017 04:41 pm
sabotabby: (doom doom doom)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Here are a few last glimpses of Riga before we hop a bus to Vilnius. We went to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, the Art Nouveau district, and I shot a few more pictures of the hotel.

under here )

Exploring Riga

Jul. 24th, 2017 10:12 pm
sabotabby: (sabokitty)
[personal profile] sabotabby
I don't have a ton of spoons left over tonight for a long post, so have some photos around and about Riga.

After the aesthetic exuberance of Odessa, Riga seems much more restrained, even dour. It's impressively old (founded in 1201, and there were settlements well before that) and lovely, but also more orderly, less lively, less organic. And, of course, much more expensive: welcome back to Western Europe.

This said, it's gorgeous and fun. Everyone speaks English here, which is relaxing. I don't mean this in a chauvinist way; mainly that I don't need to bother Anya to translate everything. Actually, where we're staying in the old town, it doesn't seem like anyone other than people working here are from here; it's pretty heavily touristy.

Which also means that it's incredibly easy to find vegan food. Including an entire vegan restaurant. I was like, "GIVE ME ALL THE PROTEIN."

The most important story I learned today was this: There were two powerful guilds in Riga. One was for skilled craftsmen, and admitted every eligible craftsman who applied to join. The other was for merchants, and only admitted Germans. A wealthy merchant from Riga applied to join and was rejected on the basis of his nationality. Accordingly, he built himself a giant fuck-off house across the street from the guild building and put black cats on the roof with their asses facing the building, as if shitting. The guild immediately sued to have the cats removed, but because lawsuits take time, WWI broke out, and no one gave a shit about cats' asses. The cats were mysteriously removed anyway in the 1920s, and replaced just as mysteriously in the 1950s, this time facing towards the guild, as it is now the home of the Riga Philharmonic, and no one has any quarrel with them.



photodump )

17 Moments of Riga

Jul. 24th, 2017 12:47 pm
sabotabby: (lolmarx)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Just arrived in Riga, Latvia. Thought, hey, this hotel is teh cute!

Anya is like, "This hotel is familiar."

I realize that this is of interest to probably no one else reading this (sadly it would be if I were cross posting to LJ, where there is a teeny community for such things), but I'm staying in the hotel where they shot Seventeen Moments of Spring (as well as parts of the Soviet Sherlock Holmes.) And if you think I'm not geeking out like mad over this, you don't know me at all.

Fortunately, Anya is the person who introduced me to the series so she is also geeking out and is equally pleased that Stirlitz is watching over the beds in our room, judging whether or not we have adequately sacrificed and fought for the cause of anti-fascism:


Here's the view out the window:



(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here is my screenshot recap of Seventeen Moments after I watched it and decided that everyone needed to see it. Minus the image hosting, unfortunately; I'll need to fix that at some point.)

Odessa Opera House, Pt. 2

Jul. 23rd, 2017 09:07 pm
sabotabby: (gaudeamus)
[personal profile] sabotabby
So the performance sucked so hard we walked out. Like, possibly the worst thing either of us have ever seen, which is saying an awful lot. The tickets were suspiciously cheap, but tbh most things in the Ukraine are suspiciously cheap. But in this case I think it was because they knew it was terrible. We'd actually gone in to see if we could get a tour or just wander around the opera house, but the lady said that there was a show that night, so we decided to give it a shot.

She described the show as a sequel to The Nutcracker but also a crossover with War and Peace, and a musical. A "wonderful spectacle," in fact. I have to admit that we were basically morbidly curious, and it would get us inside those gorgeously ornate doors.

Anyway, we made it two songs in. The thing was in Ukrainian so we don't know what it was about but I don't think it would have made a lot of sense even if we did understand the language. It was kind of embarrassing to listen to.

But! It meant that we got to sneak out and take unobstructed photos of the glory that is the Odessa Opera House, and that was worth the ticket price alone. I hope you appreciate how hard it was to narrow these down. They don't half capture the actual, real spectacle that is this building, but I've given it my best.

pretty! )

The Opera House, Pt. 1

Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:17 pm
sabotabby: (gaudeamus)
[personal profile] sabotabby
We went to the Odessa Opera House, one of the most famous and beautiful opera houses in the world.

behold! )

Perhaps my most touristy of posts

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:13 pm
sabotabby: (gaudeamus)
[personal profile] sabotabby
I did it! I got a picture of the unicorn.

click here )

WTF: Ukraine Edition

Jul. 21st, 2017 11:09 pm
sabotabby: (coffee)
[personal profile] sabotabby
I feel like this needs to be a separate post from the OMG ODESSA IS SO PRETTY post. For one thing, these were taken on my shitty cell camera and not my iPad. But also they're pictures I've taken when I've seen something hella weird and immediately need to inform social media.

Let's just say there are some, uh, cultural differences between Ukraine and everywhere else I've ever been that take a bit of getting used to. FOR EXAMPLE:


What is this, some kinky sex thing? Maybe in that masochist bar that we didn't get into because your kink is okay but not my kink?


No! It is the café in the Lviv airport. Why do they have chairs like this? No one knows. But to answer a few questions:

1) Yes, we sat in them.
2) Yes, they are actually quite comfortable.
3) No, no one else seemed to think they were out of the ordinary in any way.

To answer a question no one asked:

1) Yes, the Americanos in that café are quite good, especially by airport standards, would totally recommend. Though, granted, it was like 5 am and I would have drank lighter fluid if it would have woken me up.



Our hotel in Lviv, while cute, had no elevator--a problem, since our room was on the 5th floor. (I may be an obsessive step-counter who never goes on an escalator when there's the option of a staircase, but at the end of the day when you've been walking/carrying bags? Less fun.) We were relieved to see that this hotel does have one. In fact, it has all of the regular floors you would expect to see in a building, such as 1, 2, 3, 4, and crab.

1) Yes, I know what's on the crab floor.
2) No, you'll have to wait and see until tomorrow if it's any good.

Massive Odessa photo dump

Jul. 21st, 2017 10:33 pm
sabotabby: (magicians)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Sorry-not-sorry, but you will be getting a load of pictures of Odessa because it is fucking magical. My intention at the moment is to retire, sell my house, buy one of the dilapidated old buildings and restore it to its former glory, learn Russian (it's another city where most people speak Russian, not Ukrainian, much to our joy), and wander around the glorious streets at night in a fashionable dress, drinking an open bottle of champagne.

Life goals, amirite?

In all seriousness, though, not for nothing is Odessa called Paris on the Black Sea. It has all the architectural splendour and literary tradition you could hope for, it is cosmopolitan and fashionable, and it is lit. I have never been to Paris, granted, but from what I understand Odessa is much cheaper and not as crowded. In Kiev and Lviv, people are pretty much the same as anywhere else, except with a penchant for wearing poorly translated English t-shirts bearing inspirational but nonsensical slogans, expressions of general hatred towards anyone viewing the shirt, or just vague weirdness (my favourite so far was a picture of a cat made out of ramen noodles sitting in a bowl with the caption "Pet Food").

Here, though, everyone looks like a model. The women are all tall and thin and wear flowing striped dresses, and the children prance around in tutus at all hours of the night. The streets are alive with music and performers and what I'm pretty sure is a unicorn (i.e., incentive to look at the pictures under the cut).

plz appreciate how much I had to narrow these down )

With apologies to Sergei Eisenstein

Jul. 21st, 2017 01:58 pm
sabotabby: (lolmarx)
[personal profile] sabotabby
We're in Odessa, about a 10 min walk from the !!!!!!!! Potemkin Steps.

Expect incoming photos for every day I'm here.

Srsly, I didn't even like Battleship Potemkin but I don't think a movie needs to be enjoyable to be arguably the most important movie ever made, with which we would not have our current cinematic vocabulary. I mean. I teach film. So naturally the first thing I had to do (well, after we had lunch and coffee because we were up at 4 am to catch the flight from Lviv) was brave the 30°C weather to bring you the following:





Don't mind me, I'll be over here geeking out hard/memorizing the angles in the scene so that I can do horrible imitations of them amongst all the tourists.

Cambridge, MA, photos 2

Jul. 20th, 2017 09:51 pm
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[personal profile] microbie
This trip was a little unusual in that we spent the entire time in Cambridge, only passing through Boston to/from the airport.

On Saturday we walked around Cambridge with perpetual teen heartthrob VillageCharm, who endured my glacial eating speed with good humor. Our second stop was the Old Burial Ground, just across the street from Harvard. Charm dazzled us with his knowledge of gravestone trends, such as the skull and crossbones giving way to the winged skull:
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Eventually this was replaced by the more peaceful motif of an urn and a weeping willow.
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This is also a rare example of an intersection of mine and Charm's interest--a gravestone for someone with the surname Tupper.

The urn carved here looks like a magic lamp.
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There were many gravestones like this. I liked the optical illusion that made the letters appear to vibrate.
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Then we were off in search of records, books, and whatever else caught our eye, like this ibis weather vane:
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Our original plan was to walk from Harvard's square to MIT's, but I was having problems with my legs and couldn't walk the whole way, so we hopped on the T for the last leg. We had a fine meal at the medieval-sounding Meadhall (which only had four meads, all of them incredibly expensive), only letting Charm go home when he was in danger of falling asleep at the table.

Forget alternative history.

Jul. 21st, 2017 09:31 am
ironed_orchid: painting of woman sleeping (Sleep)
[personal profile] ironed_orchid
I want an alternative evolution where humans hibernate in winter.

Cambridge, MA, photos 1

Jul. 19th, 2017 08:27 pm
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[personal profile] microbie
I took all of the photos over the weekend; it was cloudy Wednesday through Friday. I stayed at the cheapest hotel for the conference, a Hyatt that managed to be close to nothing yet still in a city.
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The exterior is neat, but inside it was the 1980s, still: dark brown carpet and upholstery and beige wallpaper.

The ~half-mile walk to the conference took me past MIT's athletic fields; I didn't even realize that MIT has athletics. Their mascot is the Engineer, which is represented by a surprisingly ominous cartoon of a beaver:
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At first I thought the cartoon was of a profile of a weirdly shaped baseball hat.
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One of the many cool buildings on campus. I think this is a dorm or residence hall; it's across the street from the athletic fields.
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This is also part of the athletic complex.
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An enormous brick building in pristine condition. I wonder what it's used for.
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The conference was held in the dome-shaped building behind the white tent (which was set up on the last day of the conference).
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This sculpture, not far from the conference site, was a popular place for photos
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I think this building houses the nuclear reactor.
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I'm not sure whether these buildings are owned by MIT; there's no clear border between campus and non. They're near the area where I'd usually get lunch.
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One of my co-workers said that MIT has a lot of modern architecture, but it wasn't as widespread as she had made it sound. This stretch of buildings was pretty cool.
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More sculpture
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I am a terrible person, because the idea of something for future children made me giggle.
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Of castles and bacon thieves

Jul. 19th, 2017 05:23 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Today we were incredibly productive. We hiked up to High Castle, which technically is neither a castle nor very high, but I am still proud of us, dammit. It's quite a view. Some of the original castle remains, but it's not particularly impressive compared to the sight of all of Lviv.

there are cats and other things )

In Lviv

Jul. 18th, 2017 07:13 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
This is a gorgeous city, maybe even more than Kiev. It's also very much a City Of Coffee, and I highly approve. There's a café where, if you go into the basement, you can "mine" for coffee in the walls, but besides that, when we asked the hotel guy where to get good coffee, he looked at us weirdly and said, "it's ALL good coffee." A random selection would suggest he's right.

We did a walking tour, saw various churches, the Catholic Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Armenian Quarter, all of which seem very close together by contemporary standards. Lviv has changed hands over its history, and the references to Galicia made me do a Google and feel like an idiot because Lviv was in the heart of what had been Galicia, and that's where my grandfather was from.

Anyway, here is the new friend we made:



more pictures )

Here, have some pictures of Lviv

Jul. 18th, 2017 09:03 am
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
We took the overnight train and got in at 6 am. Our hotel booking isn't until 2 pm, so we've just been wandering around and taking pictures of all the pretty architecture.

click to embiggen )

Some more pictures

Jul. 17th, 2017 07:02 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Our last day in Kiev until the end of our trip. Here's a few quick glimpses of things we've seen, as we walked and walked. This is going to be a bunch of tiny pictures 'cause I'm writing from a café before we get on a night train for Lviv.

click for larger versions )

Mezhyhirya

Jul. 16th, 2017 04:37 pm
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[personal profile] sabotabby
Viktor Yanyukovitch was president of the Ukraine from 2010-2014, until he was fairly dramatically deposed and fled to Russia as he is currently wanted for treason here. By all accounts, he was incredibly corrupt, and acquired the massive Mezhyhirya estate with public funds. As wealth and corruption is no guarantee of taste, when asked which architectural style he wanted to build his massive palaces in, he must have replied, "fuckin' all of them," because when protestors walked in and took over the place in 2014, they were appalled not just at the excesses (which included a car museum, a zoo, a golf course, several tennis courts, and orchards), but at his alarming taste in decor.

It now belongs to the people and is a destination for Ukrainians to have weddings, bike around, and generally point and laugh. Also there are gigantic thrones and Greco-Roman ruins for no apparent reason.

pictures! )

Kiev, day 1

Jul. 16th, 2017 06:49 am
sabotabby: (gaudeamus)
[personal profile] sabotabby
I admittedly did little but eating and sleeping, as everyone is exhausted. We're staying right behind Maidan Nezalezhnosti, though, and even the laziest traveller could not fail to be moved by its beauty.



Post-2014 demonstrations, it is plastered with photos and memorials to the dead. No one goes out in Kiev this time of year except at night, when the fountains explode like fireworks and street musicians busk and young couples laugh and dance in the streets.











We grabbed dinner at an adorable café that, shock of all shocks, had food I could eat: mushroom kasha and vareniki stuffed with sour cherry, and sour cherry infused vodka.







Then exhaustion got the better of us and I probably slept more than I have in months. Awake bright and early now to do proper exploring.

P.S. Sorry for the size and quality of the images; DW's image hosting + being on my iPad makes for an unfortunate combination.







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