Day 21 -- Russe and Veliko Tarnovo

Jun. 21st, 2017 07:04 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

The boat docked this morning in Russe, Bulgaria, which you will also see sometimes spelled "Ruse". We had a brief bus tour of Russe on our way out of town, but this was one of those days where our destination was a couple of hours away on the bus, so it was very brief indeed. Read more... )

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drwex: (VNV)
[personal profile] drwex
Yes, I will be posting music entries Real Soon Now, I promise. Probably next week. But first I want to unload some of the stuff in the mental backlog.

I really appreciated all the commentary on the last post. If y'all want to chime in about this one I'd likewise appreciate it. The topic is "Music video WTF" - as in, should I link to videos if I like the song but not the video?

Here, let me give you an example that sits right on the borderline, two videos for "One On One" by Tujamo, with vocals by Sorana. Tujamo is a German producer and EDM spinner; Sorana is an eastern European singer (near as I can guess, Romanian) and this is her first big team-up with a "name" producer. So, OK, great. It's a fun tune and I like her voice, though as with a lot of these things I think it's over-tuned.

First up, the official video for the song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y19FzsqM1as

Minor warning: it's a PoV video done in the style of a lot of porn these days where you, the viewer, are invited to have the gaze of the (male) camera in intimate interactions with a small, very conventionally attractive woman through a series of scenes, including bedroom. There's nothing actually X-rated about this, but I was uncomfortable watching it. In case that gaze isn't intimate enough for you, there's even an official 3D-VR version - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx6OeuZ-mLE

Plus side: she's smiling and active throughout. She appears to be not only enjoying the interactions but initiating things. But if voyeurism isn't your kink (it's not mine, at least not for strangers) then you may (like me) find yourself unable to watch this video and see if there are other alternatives. Here's one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gVZnnxvf38

At least that's just a static conventionally-attractive-skinny-chick-half-dressed-in-provocative-pose. You see that kind of thing selling pretty much any product under the sun everywhere in the industrialized world. But, seriously, what does this have to do with the music?

I usually try to link to SoundCloud for my music choices but lots of things aren't up there and are on YouTube or other visual media.

So, dear readers, what do you make of this? Would you rather I didn't blog video music that sets me off, or blog it with information so you can judge for yourselves?
drwex: (VNV)
[personal profile] drwex
Once upon a long ago I used to merrily blog music. Yay, it was fun. Sometimes people would leave comments telling me they liked this or that or otherwise indicating that I wasn't just blogging into the void. That's always nice.

Then [personal profile] mizarchivist pointed out that LJ has these things called "tags" and I could tag my music entries. This is helpful to know what's going on, and particularly helpful for back-reference and finding things that are particularly notable. Eventually I got enthusiastic enough to go back and tag my existing couple years' worth of music entries... at which point I promptly ran out of tags. This more than anything else prompted me to move to a paid LiveJournal account because I needed more tags. All is fine until the company owning LJ decides to move the servers into Russian airspace and I decide it's time to move over here to DreamWidth. Which, I shall not bore you with details, will not allow me to have unlimited tags, even if I do pay them.

For a while this has stymied me. I really like the convenience of being able to go back and revisit things I've blogged in the past, and I blog a lot of new artist/DJs in a given month so the list of tags grows with no obvious way to condense them. I'm tired of being stymied though and it finally penetrated my thick skull that this convenience I've grown used to is just that, a convenience. I don't actually have to tag music entries in order to write them. So I'm going to start blogging music again, only with erratic-to-nonexistent tagging. You've been warned.

I realized this because I have re-remembered (I keep forgetting, somehow) that music is important in my relationships. Intimate, certainly, and otherwise. If you and I don't share some musical taste or other, it's likely we're less close of friends than we would be if we did share. For example...

This morning Pygment and I responded to a wedding invitation that included a request to list something that would cause us to get up and dance. At first I snarked that my music tastes would appall most people and DJs wouldn't play it at weddings anyway. Pygment agreed and said something like, "Yeah but imagine if they would, we could get them to play..." and in two clicks I had the track linked below, which we put on the RSVP card. I'll let you know if it plays at the wedding because I will sure as shit be dancing if it does.

We Can Make the World Stop
drwex: (Troll)
[personal profile] drwex
Took Amtrak to/from Harrisburg and met up with the g/f to do a couple days of touristing in Gettysburg. Rode down Thursday, back Sunday. Overall good, but I am glad to be in my own bed again. If I'd had more knowledge I would have planned better, but given the knowledge I had at the start I think we planned very well.

Friday we took two pre-planned tours. A "History Nerds" tour that was mostly riding around in an air conditioned bus (quite useful when the temp AND humidity topped 85) and looking at sites with a guy who could firehose details about pretty much everything. We got a fairly complete set of visits and lots of facts. I would have liked it if the bus stopped more often, but it did provide info we used later.

That evening (once it had cooled off from "utterly beastly" to "merely summer sticky") we had a walking tour of the city itself with a hobbyist guide. That was interesting because most of the National Park-level focus is on the battlefield and kind of glosses over the fact that the battle swept through the town multiple times. Our guide had lots of interesting stories and trivia to help contextualize the facts and sites and since it was just the two of us on this walk we got extra time and it was much more conversational.

It was interesting to be reminded throughout just how much of a cultural bubble I live in; for example, the evening guide was explaining how the local Lutheran congregation continues to struggle with whether to do services in (traditional) German or (modern) English, how they vary some week-by-week and how they print variations on the prayer book in one or the other or both languages. I commented, "Yeah, sounds like every synagogue I've ever been to" and the guide admitted she had no idea Jews did that. I get the sense that she likely doesn't know any actual Jewish people.

Saturday we decided to revisit the battlefield in the morning, predicted to be the coolest and least humid hours of the day. Despite some navigation snafus we made it to several of the sites we'd wanted more time at and spent a lot of time wandering around getting a sense for things that's hard to achieve while in a bus.

After a few hours of that we declared a break for lunch at a period recreation inn in town that was OK and fortuitously was across the street from the local cidery that I'd been wanting to try. Between heat, exercise, post-food coma, and a flight of very tasty ciders we decided to ditch the previous plan of going back to the battlefield in favor of nappage. By the time we got up from that it was late and GF wanted to visit the official Gettysburg visitor center and cyclorama.

The visitor center was OK - we saw a short film narrated by Morgan Freeman that talked about some of the impact of the Civil War on slavery and economics. The Gettysburg Cyclorama is one of the last few surviving cycloramas anywhere. This version was originally displayed in the Boston Cyclorama building (who knew?) and moved to the park's visitor center in 2008 after restoration work. It's quite impressive; unfortunately we were the last group of the day and the museum needed to close promptly because there was a wedding using the site right after closing. I would have liked more time to soak it in but such is the nature of things.

After dinner and ice cream we detoured into what is locally marked as the "Soldier's National Cemetery" but Wikipedia calls Gettysburg National Cemetery. The place is a little eerie, particularly the rows of "unknown" markers for soldiers interred there who could not be identified. There's a commemorative marker for Abraham Lincoln as well, which people have placed numerous Lincoln pennies onto. Being my own contrarian self I found a pebble.

It was interesting to me to have a memorial marker there since it's not where he's buried (that's his hometown of Springfield at the Oak Ridge cemetery) nor is it where he gave(*) the Gettysburg Address - that spot is marked by a separate memorial stone. Humans are weird, what can I say.

We skipped doing one of the many "ghost" tours that take place in the evenings and I felt good about that in retrospect. They all seem to be popular but kind of commercial and largely beside the point. My interest is in authentic history, at least to the degree we can understand and experience it. I would have liked another half day on the battlefield - we got to see almost all of Cemetery Ridge (the Union side) and about 3/4 of Seminary Ridge (the Confederate side) but not really view Little Round Top or see the cemetery in detail.

(*) Actually there's some debate about where Lincoln actually stood. He was not the featured speaker of the day - that was the popular orator Edward Everett of MA - and in fact had not been expected to attend. His remarks were so brief that the photographers didn't even have time to set up properly; there is only one popular photo of the address and Lincoln isn't even easy to distinguish in the shot. The location is in dispute as contemporaneous accounts differ and really nobody paid much attention to his speech at the time. The New York Times printed Everertt's address in full but declined to reproduce Lincoln's remarks.

To make matters more confusing, at least five different versions of the Address were printed in other newspapers of the time and all differ in some details from written versions that have been authenticated as being in Lincoln's handwriting. Post-hoc analysis of Lincoln's condition ("ghastly color" and "haggard" were reported) indicate that he was likely feverish at the time of the speech and so may have said things different from what he had written.

Day 20 - Vidin, Bulgaria

Jun. 20th, 2017 07:00 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

This morning we are still in Bulgaria. As we dock in Vidin, we see a small chapel-like building which turns out to be a memorial to those who died under Communist oppression. We board our tour buses for the long drive up into the mountains, over 90 minutes each way, to see the dramatic rock formations of Belogradchik, which were once used partly as a fortress for the town.

Read more... ) Read more... )

However, we had already signed up for the afternoon cooking lesson group, so after lunch out we went again. The cooking lesson was a group of a dozen or so of us, and hosted in a local home with a woman named Ramona. Ramona had lived in the US for many years, and noted that her house at this point probably resembled an American style home more than a typical Bulgarian home. However, she seemed to really enjoy welcoming us in and giving the cooking lesson. Her Auntie Rosa did not speak English as easily, but assisted by preparing measured ingredients and whisking extra dishes out of the way. We immediately determined that everybody ought to have an Auntie Rosa.


Above left: Ramona's house, with Auntie Rosa and her friend Pavel on the porch. Above right: Ramona and Auntie Rosa demonstrate the banitsa mixture.

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Enlightenment apostasy

Jul. 15th, 2017 12:09 pm
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[personal profile] dpolicar
(A friend recently posted about feeling depressed at the extent to which people seem perfectly content to embrace beliefs about the world that fly in the face of our observations of it. This started out as a comment and got out of hand.)

Yeah, I hear that.

That said: I find it really helps me, when I'm disoriented in the way you describe, to remember that the Enlightenment is fairly recent, historically speaking.

The idea that we can arrive at accurate beliefs about the world by observing it, studying it, experimenting with it, taking careful records, making predictions and checking to see whether our predictions are accurate... that idea is just a few centuries old.

The idea that we can converge on beliefs about the world through that process...
That the same experiment can be expected to get the same result whether performed by Christians or Jews or Pagans or atheists, by conservatives or liberals, by materialists or spiritualists...
That the observable world itself can be the source of a set of shared self-reinforcing beliefs...
That reliance on that process can form the cornerstone of a community just as reliance on a set of stories about God that we inherited from our ancestors does...

...these are really new ideas, historically speaking. Our culture has not fully assimilated them, not even close. Most of us weren't raised in the community of believers in the process of observing our surroundings and reasoning about them rigorously and communicating about them reliably. We don't really have social practices that reinforce that process.

So, sure, we often reject it. We often stray from that path and return to the older practice of performing culturally endorsed beliefs about reality in order to reinforce group boundaries and affirm group loyalty without reference to a shared observational practice.

That's unsurprising. Humans have been doing that before we have records; probably since before we were recognizably human.

And the alternative is genuinely hard! And honestly, as community-centering practices go, it lacks a lot: it de-centers individuals, it doesn't directly address moral issues, it doesn't distinguish between emotionally satisfying and emotionally alienating claims, it doesn't speak to our fears about nonexistence and loneliness, etc.

The one thing it has going for it is a promise to converge on shared truths if followed assiduously.

And for a lot of us that just isn't enough, or isn't always enough. We may embrace the tangible benefits of the practice, the tools and medicines and crop yields and cherry-picked theories that reinforce our culturally endorsed beliefs, but we tend to reject the practice itself. Heck, even the thing we call "science" is riddled with those practices, like any other human institution. Those habits run deep.

So, sure, of course we continue to practice the old ways, choosing the practice of performing cultural beliefs despite contradictory observations over the practice of centering and converging on observable patterns in reality.

We will continue to do that for a long, long time. It's a natural consequence of being the sort of systems we are.

So anyway, as I say, remembering that helps me approach Enlightenment apostasy with compassion during periods where I start to fear it as the end of the world. And I find that helps.

Day 19 -- Iron Gates

Jun. 19th, 2017 09:50 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

Today was a sailing day, with no actual stops to explore towns - just a day of relaxing and admiring the scenery. In the broadest sense of the name, the Iron Gates is the gorge lying between Serbia and Romania, which contains the Danube River. It is a national park on both sides. I will not waste too many words on the basic info you can read in Wikipedia except as it relates to various photos. (Feel free to click the various links for more info.)

Read more... )

Read more... )
skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

After lunch and not expecting very much, we reboarded a bus and headed back into town for the add-on tour of the Opera House, or as it is officially known, the National Theater. Our guide this afternoon was a very upbeat young woman, obviously completely in love with the theater, the opera, and perhaps even her city. This was definitely a welcome and refreshing alternative view.

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drwex: (Default)
[personal profile] drwex
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6UZUhRdD6U

Because once again we're in a fight to be able to listen to the music we want, watch the videos we want, load the Web sites we want, message with who we want using the app we want... all of which we've paid for.

Net neutrality ought not to be a new or surprising concept to anyone who reads this blog but Vi Hart breaks it down for you anyway along with a history lesson.

If you don't feel like watching an 11 minute video it comes down to this: Cable companies (Comcast, Verizon, ATT, etc.) pretend we live in an era of cheap quality data service with lots of alternatives. In fact, cable companies have one-provider monopolies over 90% of subscribers and I cannot find a major metropolitan area where any person has more than two cable choices. Even a company with the deep pockets of Google has been unable to break these monopolies and the monopolists have sued numerous cities and towns to protect their monopolies against municipal-funded competition.

All the while providing US consumers with crappy data service. We're middle of the pack or worse compared to other industrialized countries with wide broadband penetration.

Cable companies, and now the FCC, are acting like monopolies didn't exist and like people were getting high-quality broadband services. They're also acting like the ISPs were disinterested parties rather than also being large cable companies whose cable divisions (e.g. HBO) are in direct competition with broadband media services (e.g. Netflix).

Net neutrality is about stopping monopoly providers from using their protected positions to disadvantage competition. It's that simple (though I realize those are long complex words - upgoer five knows almost none of them). If you haven't already called your Congress critters, or written a comment to the FCC today is the day to do that.
skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

Ah, Serbia. The only country on our agenda not a member of the E.U. We awoke to a view of a rusty corrugated iron wall and a warehouse with graffiti and several broken windows. (right) I joked about how nice it was that we had the finest docking spot in all of Belgrade. It turned out I was not joking. It was pretty much the best docking spot in Belgrade.

A momentary interlude about passport checks. For the first two weeks of the trip, we were entirely within the Schengen travel region and thus no border checks were required. Read more... )

And now, an even briefer interlude about Josip Broz Tito. Read more... )

Our guide for the morning... I spent the first hour or so of the morning tour trying to figure out if he was clinically depressed, or if Belgrade is really that bad. After awhile I decided that Belgrade is really that bad, and after awhile longer I decided it was both. He was absolutely dripping with sarcasm, which is somewhat amusing and some people thought he was a hilarious joker. In this case though, I got the feeling that is was the kidding-not-kidding sort of sarcasm that is just as depressing in the end. Read more... )

Day 17 -- Osijik, Croatia

Jun. 17th, 2017 04:09 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

Some days the Eastern Bloc is blockier than others.

We awoke to this lovely view off the balcony, a stained cement apartment complex in Vukovar. Over the next few days we would be repeatedly assured that most buildings like this in the former Yugoslavia are much, much nicer on the inside than the outside, it's just nearly impossible to get the unit owners to cooperate and trust each other enough to fix up the common areas and exteriors. So much for communism. To their credit though, upon closer viewing, some of the balconies are indeed fixed up prettily with flowers and sitting areas.

Believe it or not, this building is in pretty good shape for Vukovar. It took a real brunt of the violence and destruction during the 90s, being the largest Croatian town actually on the river, on the border of Serbia, and so was directly shelled from across the river for a long time before being occupied. Almost 90% of the homes in town were destroyed. Even now, over half the town was never rebuilt and is abandoned, the roofless smoke-stained stone exoskeletons interspersed with perfectly ordinary looking homes only a few meters away. Read more... )

TPS Report

Jul. 10th, 2017 06:02 pm
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[personal profile] frobzwiththingz
So, just a couple of days before heading up to Firefly, my 2005 Scion xB started acting up, occasionally running rough and sometimes stalling when dropping down to idle, but somewhat intermittently. It eventually lit the MIL status light and I extracted out the code P0122 out of it with the OBD2 reader I have. Ok, thats the Throttle Position Sensor being flaky. I found that wiggling the connector wires as best as I could given the awkward location of the back of the throttle plate is in an xB (hidden behind the air intake cluster and radiator hoses) seemed to make things a little better, and given that of course, the calendar date meant that Acton Toyota and pretty much all other auto shops would be closed until after the holiday, I decided that the current behavior *probably* wouldn't degrade and strand me on the way up to Firefly, so I took the vehicle, stuffed it full of camping gear and lasers and propane tanks and fire art and LED Tetris and L&I drove up to Firefly. Car did make it just fine, with not even any abnormal behavior, and continued to behave just fine until the return trip, which started out just fine, including a visit to Worthy Burger in South Royalton, VT, (whose burgers are indeed worthy and their beer selection is very good too), followed by driving south until I F'd up and got onto 93 North in Concord NH rather than South. So i get off at the next exit, and turn around in the gas station that was there, with L right behind me, and I explain to her "Oops, I F'd up and took the wrong exit, i'm now looking to get back on 93 in the right direction..." whereupon after running just fine my xB suddenly loses all power trying to get back onto 93 north and barely manages to limp along enough to get off of the entrance ramp and far enough along on 93 to be able to pull over onto the shoulder. I now explain to L "Um, xB has lost all power. I'm going to frob around with the TPS connector again and see if I can get it going again, otherwise it's Adventure Time with AAA"

Mucking around with the connector and wires a bit while moving the throttle by hand eventually produces a seemingly running engine again, and we manage to then drive back to Westford MA without further incident.

Problem seems pretty clearly local to the throttle position sensor or it's connector, so instead of going to a shop and dropping significant $$$ I called up Auto Zone and asked if they could supply me with a replacement sensor for my xB; they had one in stock and I borrowed L's xB and picked it up. Duralast part number TPS4117. I was wearing zero pieces of flair but they sold it to me anyway.

Anyhow, it's in a hard to get at location without removing other shit, so I had to take out the air intake stuff in order to get at the connector enough to disconnect it and remove the sensor: but I dike out the air intake and air filter holding enclosures until I can have good access to everything, whereupon I find this:




Well, golly, that yellow wire looks to be in *great* shape! (Not). Ok, I probably don't really need the new sensor, I actually need a soldering iron and some heat-shrink tubing.



Cut wire at broken location, stripped, soldered, heat-shrunk, etc, and reassembled everything; everything proceeded to work just fine and no more engine codes. Drove it back to Auto Zone and returned the unused sensor. Yay!   

I wonder what various shops in the area would have told me, and what they would have charged for the service. I wonder if *any* of them would have simply told me about the broken wire and just fixed *that*. 










 


drwex: (Troll)
[personal profile] drwex
I realized that "what's up with me" has largely been "the kids." They and their needs occupy almost all of my brain space. They've been away at camp and will be intermittently gone this summer - all the away time doesn't quite line up the way we hoped but it's still a fair set of days of nobody but us and the dog in the house. Very mixed feelings about all that.

I've also realized that I'm not updating the way I'd like to. It's the usual cycle of not-writing that leads to there being so much stuff to write that it's overwhelming and so more not-writing happens. So let's talk first about the 4th because I felt good about it.

Project Social has been one of my ongoing goals since November. Feeling crushed and attacked on a daily basis - if not me then people I know and care about - is a real and disheartening thing. Seeing friends and doing relaxing things with them is a good antidote.

The Fourth there's one friend's party we traditionally go to, and we try to catch some fireworks somewhere. This year we were trying to figure out how to fit in another party with no kids home to do dog care when we got a message from [personal profile] mizarchivist saying she was in the midst of a packing marathon and could use company.

So we adjusted plans to stop by, bring packing supplies over, pack a handful of boxes while we were there, and then take her away to the party, a few blocks from her place. Feed, give tasty drinks, and hopefully provide a useful and refreshing interlude. We all agreed that moving (especially one's own stuff) is a horrid and horrible experience and if things can be done to make lives easier then that's a blessing.

The party was nice, tasty foods and some conversation with people I don't see that often. The attendance has shifted over the years to where I see fewer of my acquaintances there, and so spend less time there. We got home in time to feed the dog and chill a bit before going to see fireworks with Pygment's GF and fiancee (I keep wanting to type "husband" but they haven't quite yet formalized it - soon!) I think they are both excellent people but due to a combination of natural introversion and tiring work travel we don't see them much.

The fireworks show was good and the GF drove, meaning I didn't have to stress out about the traffic - if you've never driven with me in a traffic jam just accept that such things activate my aggression and anxiety a lot more than they ought. But if I'm not driving I can mostly ignore it.

So that was a holiday. Unlike many of my cow orkers I was in the office the 3rd and the 5th and did actual work. It was kind of empty in the building but not horribly so. One-day weekends aren't nearly as good as four-day but that's coming.

Day 16 — Kalocsa, Hungary

Jun. 16th, 2017 01:28 pm
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[personal profile] skreeky

We pulled in this morning to a completely unremarkable private dock near a small building and not much else. But this was simply to catch our buses to the Puszta Farm Show out in the country past Kalocsa.


Now, I am going to take just a moment to explain the difference between the first two weeks in Western Europe, and the last week in Eastern Europe. Read more... )


So anyway, there we are taking the bus out into the country for a show by the Famous Horsemen of Kalocsa! As we pulled onto the side road to the farm, one of the costumed performers began galloping alongside the bus to escort us in, which is kind of fun.Read more... )

skreeky: (Default)
[personal profile] skreeky

As soon as we woke up and finished breakfast this next morning, we headed for the famous thermal baths before the day had a chance to get too hot. Viking had a tour the previous afternoon which took a group to the Széchenyi baths located in the city park of Pest, which is quite large and busy. When we told Michal that we intended to go the next morning when it was cooler out, he immediately referred us to the Gellert baths on the Buda side of the river instead, which is a bit smaller and prettier, attached to a boutique hotel so it is quieter, and somewhat closer to the ship. The front desk attendants there would reliably speak English, which is not always the case. He said that Gellert was actually his second-favorite bath house, but his personal favorite was Rudas which has separate bathing areas for men and women and is clothing optional. Jon and I did want to spend the morning together, so we opted for Gellert.

Read more... )


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