July 22nd, 2002

Fishy Circumstances

Two weeks in a nutshell

Two weeks. Finland was wonderful: the weather was perfect the entire time, warmer and drier than England and cooler and more breathable than this corner of Canada. Nobody litters. Reindeer and cloudberry taste delicious. Cloudberry liquor smells like strawberry jam, but doesn't taste like it. Finland has something like 180,000 lakes, so in theory it would actually be possible for everyone living there to own a cottage on the water, especially with the sheer number of islands everywhere. The harbor in Helsinki is so protected by islands that the tide barely moves. That, and the Baltic sea is shallow. We went on a pleasant 3-hour boat ride on Lake Saimaa and down the canal there, less than 20 km from Russia. Summer is - surprisingly - off-season in Finland, and consequently there were major reductions on the hotel prices. Import English-language books are ludicrously expensive - over double their marked price. There were Moomintroll products everywhere, which made me happy, since I grew up on the books.

England: bought lots of books, read lots of books, went rowing in the Lakes on a day with not a breath of air, so no sailing as we'd hoped. In a happy fit of coincidence, we were in London on a friend's birthday, when I'd completely forgotten when her birthday was. She recommended The Eyre Affair to me, which is a truly delightful book. I recommend it highly! I didn't think nearly as highly of its sequel, Lost in a Good Book. Its first chapter was very funny, but the ending didn't have loose ends so much as it was bleeding loose ends. Two more highlights: I finally made it onto the London Eye. The past two summers it was booked solid while I was there, so I defensively reserved a place in advance, not that it was necessary. They're doing a healthy business, but there would have been room to join in at the last minute. The views were quite good, even though it was threatening rain. I don't often get to see how London is surrounded by hills. I enjoyed Bombay Dreams enough to buy the soundtrack. The music was catchy and thrilling at times, the costumes were lovely, the set was very well done, and the water effects ever so much fun. I wasn't quite as impressed with the plotline. It wasn't bad, it just could have been a little bit better.

I'm going to attempt to avoid my usual bad habits of pursuing vacations after they're over and do work today. I was good and read some Speculum articles yesterday, one of which was even relevantly useful. Today's goals: go through database and see where I am so far. Write up a review of where I am on the whole project thus far and write a (very) preliminary outline.

(To those of you on RAGBRAI, I hope it's going well and the route this year is as flat as forecast. I also hope the heat wave calms down for you and that the pork chops are as good as ever. I'm jealous about the pork chops).
Fishy Circumstances

And the crowds arrive

This year, World Youth Day is being held in Toronto, and the Pope arrives tomorrow for the week, culminating in an enormous mass next Sunday. Lots of roads are being blocked off entirely as walking routes, or else for the parade. When we tried to come home from skating down at the lake, we were nearly turned away from the most direct route since they were just starting to block off Exhbition Place from non-participants. Happily, they let us through since really, all we wanted to do was catch the bus. Intriguingly, according to the signs around Exhbition Place, no bikes or in-line skates are allowed on the site, which means that participants will have to walk, take transit, or drive. Banners and articles on the event are everywhere. A headline I saw last night said this is Canada's largest ever international conference.

Happily for almost everyone, the garbage strike ended just over a week ago. The city workers were legislated back to work, and haven't settled yet, but at least garbage isn't mountaining up any more. It could well have been a PR fiasco to have quite so many people (350,000 I think was one estimate I read) descending on the city with garbage piles rotting everywhere.

Speaking of things which happened while I was away, we're down from 6 pepper plants to 1. No, they didn't die, they vanished. There is only one remnant of another plant. The others have been entirely uprooted and either eaten or at least vanished from the deck. I'm suspecting a racoon and hope the final pepper plant survivies. Meanwhile, this leaves me with 4 and a half empty pots to replant at this point in the season. I'm wondering where to source them from.