Hello From Vienna

I’m spending a little time in Vienna on my way to the Worlding SF conference. After all, goodness only knows if I will ever be in Austria again, and I can’t come here and not see one of Europe’s greatest capitals.

It had snowed a little before I got here, as shown by the view from my hotel window above, but it has pretty much all melted by now. I got rained on a little today, but mostly the weather has been merely chilly.

Vienna has an excellent subway system which is color-coded so you can’t get lost. I have been using it all day for the princely sum of a €8 day pass.

I spent a lot of time just walking around and gawping because there is so much great architecture on display, but my main objective was to spent time in the Kunsthistorisches Museum because I am a sucker for an ancient history collection that I haven’t seen. In particular they have a unique statue of Isis that I wanted to see in person. Hopefully more on that in a later post.

The Museum also has a incredible amount of bling from the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was really quite overwhelming. And the Museum itself is an exhibit in its own right. I kept stopping looking in the displays and looking at the ceilings instead.

I didn’t get to see the Bruegel exhibition because it is so popular you have to book well in advance and be there at your appointed timeslot. I do like his work, but I only had one day here.

In among the historical stuff I also managed to find a cat cafe run by a lovely Japanese woman. And I have been managing to get by despite my almost total lack of German. People still ask me for directions, even here.

Tomorrow I will be heading south to Graz. There will be train photos for Kevin on Twitter.

Summer Has Arrived

The baseball season is already underway. The San Francisco Giants opened their season in the snows of Milwaukee last week, where they did OK. Now they are safely back home at Emperor Norton Field and have registered two spectacular come-back wins against the Hated Dodgers. It is a bit early to be confident, but we do only win the World Series in even-numbered years.

Meanwhile the opening match of this year’s IPL is underway. No Rajasthan Royals again — they’ll be back from suspension next year, hopefully with some wiser owners — so I’m kind of relaxed about who wins. Disastrous start for Mumbai though. I suspect that the pundits are right and Bangalore will win, so I shall cheer for someone else.

Now all I need is some decent weather, but of course it is raining here. Why is that? Because the English cricket season starts tomorrow.

And That’s How To Do Snow

It stopped snowing here last night. Temperatures overnight were below freezing, and stayed that way into the early morning when I had to get to the venue for the training course I am giving. I was expecting a nightmare of packed snow and black ice. Instead I found all of the sidewalks neatly cleared and gritted. Well done, Toronto. I’m impressed.

Having spent most of the day doing training, I am officially exhausted. How school teachers cope I do not know. I don’t even have the energy to read (and of course the TV is crap because it is Friday night). I may just go to bed. After all, it is 1:00am UK time.

Meanwhile, In Toronto

I am here. I won’t be online much, partly because I am busy, and partly because the roaming charges are horrendous. I have put my phone in airplane mode so that the apps on it can’t rack up massive bills without me doing anything.

There is snow. Lots of it. It started late last night and continued through most of today. Right now it is quite pretty. Tomorrow it will be EVIL. I hope they grit better than London.

I have dropped off a few copies of Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion at Bakka Phoenix books, so if you are in Toronto and would like a copy please do drop by before they sell out. I have come away with a bunch of new books by other people, including The Three Body Problem, which I am very much looking forward to.

This evening I am off to the Merril Collection to see Jill Lepore talk about her book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman.

I may get a cab.

Trans Pride – Day 2

I should write a very long blog post, but it is gone midnight and checking the audio recordings is more important so I’m just going do describe the event thus: mostly awesome, with a side of sore feet and mild sunburn.

Special thanks to:

  • The Rainbow Chorus
  • Caroline Lucas, MP
  • The barmaid who made me the non-alcoholic mojito
  • Fox, Lewis & Sarah
  • Kathy Caton
  • Alice Denny
  • Bethany Black
  • Indian Summer restaurant
  • The weather

The End is Nigh

As those of you watching the UK news will know, the world is being destroyed in wind and rain today. I came back from Darkest Somerset on the train today, and was really rather lucky. There’s a tree down on the line between Tiverton and Taunton, so long-distance services from the West Country are severely disrupted. Fortunately I only needed local trains, which were only mildly chaotic.

Mind you, we are doing better than Toronto. From what I am seeing on Twitter, they are suffering an attack by Frost Giants. I hope that Thor & Co. turn up soon.

Coming back on the train south of Bath I could see that the Avon was close to bursting its banks. Many of the fields near Trowbridge were flooded. And judging by the number of people braving the wind and rain to throng to the shops there is a great deal of insanity about. There can be only one explanation. It is that time of year. It won’t be long now before we see Deep Ones swimming their way up the High Street.

The Far, Unfrozen North

Hello everyone, I am in Toronto. The journey went fairly well. The biggest problem that I had was the Tube being down between Kings Cross and Baker Street this morning (which at 8:30am is enough to almost bring London to a halt). Thankfully I had left plenty of time and was able to get to Paddington via the Victoria and Bakerloo lines.

The Royal York is as opulently splendid as ever. However, they are digging a new platform at Union station so the roads outside are pure chaos right now. Thankfully the weather is pretty good. Indeed Kevin says it is warmer here than in San Francisco. Given that I have just seem Amanda tweeting about how cold it is there, I am inclined to believe him. If a Bostonian is discomfited by the cold in San Francisco it must be really cold, not just cold for California.

We have been to Chipotle. There is one just over the road. So I have my North American food fix for the trip. I have a lot I could be doing, but it is gone 1:00am so I’m just going to answer email and watch the cricket.

The Museum of Broken Relationships

I spent much of yesterday wandering around Zagreb with Mihaela seeing the sights. That included riding the funicular railway and visiting the railway station for Kevin’s benefit. I also got to visit one of Zagreb’s most famous tourist destinations, the Museum of Broken Relationships, which is one of the most bizarre and disturbing museums I have ever seen.

The basic idea of the museum is very simple: people donate personal items that they feel are somehow symbolic of a personal relationship that has ended. They also provide an explanation. The museum then puts these on display. Mostly these are love affairs, though I did spot one exhibit that was a magazine announcing President Obama’s election victory, donated by a dissatisfied former supporter.

There’s a huge range of different reactions to break-ups on display. In some cases you get the impression that the person making the donation is very self-centered. In others you wonder how someone could have been that dishonest and cruel to a person that loved them. In a few cases the donations are deeply moving.

The exhibit that affected me most was a key. It was a large, ornate item, very like the mediaeval keys I saw later in the Arts & Crafts Museum. It was, apparently, one of many gifts given to the donor. The write-up of the entry went approximately like this:

You gave me so much, but you would not sleep with me. I didn’t know how much you loved me until you died of AIDS.

Travel Day

I’ll be off to Helsinki airport shortly. If all goes well I’ll be changing planes in Frankfurt, and arriving back at Heathrow in plenty of time to grab some food and get a train home. Tomorrow I get to start catching up on all of the things I haven’t been doing while I have been away.

By the way, it is another beautiful spring day in Helsinki today. We were watching the weather forecast on Finnish TV last night. It looks like Jadis is still well in control of the UK. If I’m going to need a boat to get home I might have to beg somewhere to stay in London overnight. I’ll look into hiring a sled and some reindeer here before I leave.

Winter Is Coming

It has snowed in parts of England today. Speculation on Twitter has been that this has something to do with the arrival of George R.R. Martin on these shores — he’s a Guest of Honour at Eastercon. However, I’ll be seeing George at a signing in Bath this evening, and there’s barely been a drop of rain, let alone snow, here.

A much more likely explanation for the bad weather is the Easter vacation. Public holidays rarely fail to bring out the worst in the British weather. There’s also the small matter of the start of the cricket season tomorrow. Should the pitch at Headingly be covered in snow, that will save Yorkshire from a drubbing at the hands of Kent. I expect the weather in Taunton to be fine, though not quite as warm as the welcome that Marcus and the boys will give Middlesex.

Volcano Latest: No One Dead

The apocalyptic plume of volcanic ash is making its way slowly across the Atlantic to Britain. There’s no obvious sign of it here in Darkest Somerset, which is no more Dark than usual for this time of year (though it is still very cold). The news media people are all terribly excited, but thus far there have been no major disasters. What will happen in fandom if Amanda Palmer remains stranded in Iceland and is unable to play the EvelynEvelyn gigs in London is another matter.

Relief Convoy Arrives

We had more snow last night, but once again being fairly near the coast saved us from the worst of it. We’ve had enough to keep the pavements (sidewalks) dangerous, but not enough to stop traffic. So the Sainsbury’s van arrived today pretty much on time, and I’m pleased to say that they brought everything I asked for — no substitutions — and there was none of the “ship out stuff that’s hit its sell by date” activity that there was so much complaint about when online grocery shopping first started. I doubt that I’ll be ordering online from Sainsbury’s very often — I value the exercise from walking down there — but I am now confident in their service should I need to use it again.

And I have fresh food for another week, though hopefully we will get a thaw at the weekend.

Snow Update

We still have plenty of snow around, and the long range forecast is still not predicting a thaw before the end of the week. I could probably go out in it as it is, but I have a good excuse for testing Sainsbury’s delivery service. If it works OK, then if I’m off in California and for some reason my mum can’t get out, I can still order food in for her. (No, she can’t use the Internet herself — long story.)

So, with any luck, fresh milk, bread, fruit, fruit juice and even some chicken should be arriving Wednesday morning. We shall see.

Snowed In?

“Temperatures -22C Overnight!” screamed the BBC news this morning. Well, they were if you lived in a particular, remote part of Scotland. Here, near the coast of Darkest Somerset they were more like -6, though I suspect that Liz and Liyi, who are much further inland, had it a lot colder.

Nevertheless I am sort of snowed in. The snow isn’t very thick outside, but it is still there and by now it will be very icy. The school is closed, and we haven’t had mail for a couple of days. If need be I could go out, but I am a very poorly manufactured human being, and one of the many shortcomings of my body is dreadful balance. If I slip, it is pretty much guaranteed that I will fall, and fall awkwardly thereby damaging something. I’d rather avoid that if I can.

Also I don’t really have appropriate footwear. I don’t need boots in California, and as I’m living out of a suitcase most of the rest of the time boots are not high on my priority list.

Fortunately I did see this coming and have enough food to last at least another week. I’ve used the last of the fresh meat, and I’ll run out of bread, fruit juice and fresh fruit earlier than that, but I have plenty of dried and tinned food, and things like biscuits and cheese.

The 10-day forecast on weather.com suggests we’ll finally get a thaw a week from Sunday.

Not Dead

Hi folks, I just wanted to let you know that I have been (relatively) quiet today because of a panic at the day job, not because I have frozen to death, been crushed by an avalanche, been eaten by a polar bear, or starved to death due to inability to get food. Regardless of what you might hear on the news, or on Twitter, most people in southern Britain are still alive. And it is not nearly as snowy, or as cold, as it is in Finland or Canada or even Manchester.

In Which I Am Brave and Adventurous

As per the Twitter comments, I have been outside. And returned safely with all of my limbs intact. There are parts of the sidewalks that are really treacherous underfoot, but for the most part I was able to avoid them (sometimes by walking in the road). There’s still a lot of snow on grassy areas such as the cricket ground, but otherwise it is clearing up nicely. I’m starting to feel a bit more confident about next week.

Meanwhile, I have rugby to watch. It is time to dig out the inflatable sheep leek and settle in to cheer on Ryan and the boys. Here’s hoping that they manage to avoid slipping up too.

Snowed On, Not Snowed In

It looks like we had about 3 inches of snow last night, and it is still snowing off and on. However, the snow on the ground is melting pretty quickly, so I don’t see it lasting very long. Also we are forecast to be above freezing overnight. The long range forecast doesn’t look too bad, though I understand that other parts of the country are likely to get hit again. Of course by now all of the local councils are running out of salt to grit the roads, so any further snow will be major trouble.

(S)no-pocalypse

The Great British Snow Storm of 2009 continues to roar in its fluffy-kittenish manner. Other parts of the country are probably still ground to a halt. Here in Darkest Somerset we had an inch or so of the white stuff overnight, which is quite pretty but nowhere near enough to stop traffic.

Now the sun is out, and it is melting, and therein lies the rub. By tonight most of it will be gone, but overnight it will freeze again, coating the roads and walkways in an invisible veneer of ice, which will then be further hidden by an additional dusting of snow. This is what snow in England does, and it is not pleasant.

End of Civilization

Yes, it has snowed on London. The world has come to an end. People from Boston, Chicago, Seattle and New York (not to mention the whole of Finland) have my permission to laugh themselves silly.

It is also snowing here in Darkest Somerset, though it doesn’t seem to be settling much except on roofs. I would take some video, except that it would be poor fare compared to what has been on offer from elsewhere this winter. I have no plans to venture out in it, and enough food to last for at least 10 days.