Archive for August, 2000

30 August 2000

Let’s welcome some new members of the virtual ivory tower burb that exists only in my head: Catriona (see second half of entry) and kismet.

19 August 2000

Reason #967 why I’m glad I learned Finnish: It allowed me to understand Kanerva Eskola’s seminar talk on The Rocky Horror Picture Show at FinnCon.

I think The Matrix has audience participation potential. Some of the people who were watching it in the lounge in Blago have already identified the most promising points for saying the line / answering the line / anticipating the line / taking a drink:

  • Any time Morpheus asks a question. “Do you want to know the truth?” YES!
  • Any time Morpheus says something Zenlike. “Don’t bend your mind, bend The Matrix.” (Drink.)
  • Any time someone says “To save the world.”
  • Any time Agent Smith says “Mr. Anderson.”
  • This is not a spoon. “This is not a spoon.”
  • Mind the vase! “Mind the vase!”

    The official GOHs at FinnCon were some guy who wrote “Captain! Mind the thrusters!” type SF, some guy who wrote a hefty trilogy about woolly mammoths (even I don’t think there’s 1000 pages to be written about mammoths), and Neil Gaiman: “Mythology is what’s left when all the practice has died out. I mean, in this day and age people don’t actually go to the Nile in Egypt every morning and prostrate themselves and say prayers to Baht … oh, I’m sorry, you do?”

    NEILThe hard-SF guy was asked by a fan why his novels contained so much about the ’70s.

    “I’ve never really thought about it, but you’re right, there is a lot of ’70s nostalgia in my books,” he said. “I guess the ’70s were much like today, only without technology.” I’d say that depends where you were; growing up around engineers, my ’70s had plenty of technology (though we could argue about whether it differs in kind or only in degree from today’s), but in some other places the ’70s not only had no technology but were practically a different century.

    PS 2015: The other GOHs were Stephen Baxter, who wrote the mammoth trilogy. (It is “impossible not to cheer for Baxter’s plucky pachyderms,” said Kirkus Reviews according to Wikipedia.) The question about ’70s nostalgia, though, was probably for the third GOH, Ken MacLeod.

14 August 2000

Back home. Cannot believe that I spent yesterday in Bucharest, in fact mostly enjoyed it once I got outside the train station. Bucharest actually has a large number of beautiful buildings, not all of which could have belonged to the Ceausescus.

The villas along Embassy Row on Blvd Dacia are especially lovely, although there is one scary corner containing the Sudanese Embassy, the Egyptian Embassy, and the Iraqi Embassy. The Egyptians and the Iraqis have armed soldiers outside, and the Iraqis have a display case with faded pictures of Saddam, and another with pictures of deformed babies under the heading “Effects of Chemical Warfare.” Bucharest seems to have a wider range of architecture, facilities, cultural events, and shopping than smaller cities do, making it a real capital. Sofia is not a real capital, just a big town, and I skipped it this time. (Proof that it is not a real capital: no in your pocket guide. Not that Helsinki has one either.)

Bucharest also had water. For the second week in Blago, water pressure was very low and we had a “regime” whereby each half of the city could get water at an acceptable pressure for 12 hours a day, and no water at all for the other 12 hours. I was told that this was a fairly soft regime; sometimes each neighborhood has water for only 4 hours a day. The public squares of Blago are built around fountains, which naturally, were all dry, giving the town a desert-like feel. But in Bucharest, the fountains on Ceausescu’s grand boulevard were gushing rainbows of water, and children were swimming in them.

7 August 2000

I’m in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria at the Egg School, aka syntax camp. The school is being held at American University of Bulgaria, formerly the local communist party headquarters, now a fully functioning campus with a baseball team, gay and lesbian task force meetings, and productions of Our Town.  It’s, like, 100 degrees here. The showers in our hostel don’t work.  I’m facing a 12-hour train ride back to Romania on Saturday.  Other than that, everything’s fine and now I am going to go have a nutritious dinner of goat cheese and Pepsi-Cola.

PS 2015: The American University of Bulgaria appears to be thriving at “providing first-rate American education in the heart of new Europe.” It has expanded beyond the CP headquarters to a purpose-built campus. Egg School still exists too, same folks, held most recently in Debrecen.