Thursday, July 31, 2003

The Russian restaurant Wladimir, near Westbahnhof (Burgerspitalstrasse 22) is a memorable place to visit in Vienna. It has been so particularly for me, since on July 18 my Mom arrived from Canada, we picked out this restaurant, and invited a few IETF friends to join us -- a lovely way to spend the evening.

If you visit this restaurant, you will want to order what the proprietor tells you to order -- it makes it so much easier. The proprietor is a Russian native from Wladimir, 80 km north of Moscow, who speaks German, Russian and very functional English (who knows what other languages as well). His advice on what and how to order is given rather commandingly (at least in English) but his advice is worth following anyway. He will advise you to start with the Russian salad -- a layered salad with shredded carrots, some marinated fish and other ingredients. We really could not tell all that was in it but we all liked it, the tastes melded and balanced well. After that, if you order Borscht or Varyniki this is OK with him, as long as you all choose the same number of courses. Varyniki are what Ukrainians and Canadians call pyrogies, these are like wontons, but they stand on their own as an entree. When they arrive the proprietor will instruct you how to eat them, whole with the wooden spoon which holds a single varyniki.

You can drink wine or beer, but if you seem to have difficulty choosing the proprietor will instruct you to order Kvas and this is again an excellent choice. It seems to be blackberry cider, sweet and light, and after a few sips the sweetness becomes less noticeable and it's just the light berry flavour you notice. Finally, the proprietor will recommend Wladimir's signature dessert, an almond torte (flat cake) comprised of light thin layers of cake and almond icing, with sugared slivered almonds and whipped cream garniture. I came back tonight because I couldn't manage the dessert last time, and I also tried the kvas and they went fine together.

If you're really lucky, the proprietor will tell you jokes. I didn't get any jokes tonight, just questions about US locations, but we got two jokes two weeks ago.

Joke #1 (a tchok-tchak is apparently a russian equivalent of an Eskimo):

A tchok-tchak and his wife receive some presents. They unpack a framed mirror and hang it on the wall. Then the husband looks in it and calls out, "Wife, wife! Look, my brother is coming!" His wife runs over and looks too. "And that slut with him!" she replies.

Joke #2:

A man from St. Petersburg visits Moscow for the first time. He is splashed by a vehicle on the streets and gets upset, saying "Moscow is bad, bad, bad." A passerby hears him and says "Isn't St. Petersburg the same?"

  The man replies "No, in St. Petersburg the driver would have apologized. He would have taken you home, washed your clothes, and ironed them. He would have invited you to stay the night while your clothes dried, and given you breakfast in bed."

  "Did this really happen to you?" asked the passerby...

  "No, but it happened to my wife three times!"

Monday, July 28, 2003

Here's a few pics - highlights of travel so far.
  • In Venice we happened to catch the Redentore celebration, including fireworks to welcome us the evening we arrived in Lido from the airport via boat. This traditional temporary bridge is created yearly so the faithful can attend special services marking the end of the 1575 plague in a church in an island which is not normally connected to the main Venice islands.

  • In Verona we saw and loved the Castelvecchio. We didn't leave nearly enough time to explore its museum and galleries. Mom and I both loved the heavily updated interior by Scarpa.

  • Bratislava, Slovakia: saw two cute kids who were kind enough to pose beautifully. Wish I had their parents' email address! That's not so farfetched, because...

  • Not only coca-cola, but also broadband Internet has come to Slovakia. This bus was advertising/informing outside the cafe where we had lunch.
I just stumbled across this blog post on the use of the bust of Nefertiti in the Hungarian national pavilion exhibit at the Venice Biennale. The bust was nowhere in sight, only the body missing its head, and a video of how they had been joined and then separated. Although I didn't find the art terribly exciting, it wasn't the worst I'd seen this trip, and it did excite my interest in the bust -- where it came from, was it a real archeological find, where was it displayed. So I see benefits in the exhibit, and I don't see real issues behind either of the complaints -- there was no evidence to support Cronaca's complaint that the bust was put at risk, and absolutely no way to imagine how this defames Egyptian history as the Egyptian Culture Minister claimed.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

I should mention that Internet cafes seem to be lovely places to get a drink, go to the bathroom, get out of the sun for a few minutes. This one is clean, cool, the staff (of one) is helpful and speaks English.
My conference in Vienna two weeks ago was followed by a planned vacation with my Mom in Italy, and now by unplanned vacation as I get my visa situation sorted out. I took a day trip today to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia. The old town is beautiful, full of twisty cobbled streets between old palaces for aristrocratic families. Now the old palaces are either restaurants with outdoor tables and umbrellas, or embassies, art galleries or museums. However there are very few customers in any of these lovely cheap places. What a contrast to Venice where we were sometimes blocked from moving by a mass of bodies in St Marco Piazza. Still we've enjoyed our whole visit so far.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction? Link via Andrew, idea by Tim Shepard.

Friday, July 11, 2003

We bring you this important summer alert on place names in products, thanks to the EU, where names like Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, as well as Champagne and Bordeaux are being avidly protected.

Be particularly careful at picnics this summer. You may not eat hamburgers, franfurters or wieners unless they are actually made in Hamburg, Frankfurt, or Wien (Vienna). You may have hot dogs in buns but only on a normal bun, not a French loaf or Dutch crunch unless the bread comes from France or Holland. If you serve grilled ground beef patties in a bun, that's what you'll have to call it. "Sandwich" is a place in England. You also can't use Salisbury steak.

You can have ketchup and mustard on your hot dog or on your grilled ground beef patties in a bun, but if the mustard is called Dijon it must be made in the Dijon region. Since the French would never produce Mayonnaise mixed with mustard, I'm guessing that Dijonaisse will no longer exist. Not to mention that Mayonnaise must be produced in the obscure Port Mahon on Minorca. Hollandaise and Worcestershire sauce must be imported.

If you want cheese on your burger make sure your cheddar or gouda is imported. Of course if you wish to put american cheese on make sure it is not imported. Monterey Jack cheese must presumably be made in Monterey, California. Camembert, Gruyere, Edam, Brie, Swiss, Gorgonzola (in Italy), Limburger (Belgium), Gruyere (in Switzerland), Havarti (name of a farm) and even mozzarella may even be threatened even though some give the etymology of mozarella as arising from a noun 'to cut'.

Also on the grill: beware Texas BBQ unless you live in Texas. No Buffalo wings outside Buffalo. No turkey anywhere in this country. Since Hoagie is the name of a shipyard where subs were made, bread resembling those subs may not be called a 'hoagie' unless it is made in that shipyard. No Phillie cheesesteaks.

Summer side dishes are fraught with danger, particularly salads like the nicoise. No locally-produced feta cheese, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, parmesan, asiago, romano cheese, romaine lettuce, mesclun, boston lettuce, belgian endive, italian parsley, french or italian dressing. No brussel sprouts. No jalapeno peppers (Jalapa, Mexico), habanero peppers (Havana, Cuba) or scotch bonnets. No Boston beans or Yorkshire puddings or english muffins. Your italian bread and french bread won't be so fresh any more. Of course, since jerusalem artichokes are not a product of Jerusalem but a misspelling of 'girasole' we will have no jerusalem artichokes.

Drinks: Sherry (misspelling of Xeres in Spain), Port, Madeira (an island), Cognac, Mocha (town in Yemen), Amaretto (Saronna, Italy), Marsala (Sicily, Italy), Chianti, Chablis, Champagne, Bordeaux, Angostura (Venezuela), grenadine (Grenada, caribbean) Curacao (Caribbean island). No turkish or greek coffee. I'm not even going to get into mixed drinks like Cuba Libre or irish coffee.

Desserts: No Neapolitan or French vanilla ice cream, no baked Alaska, no Bavarian cream, no Devonshire cream, no creme anglaise, no chantilly cream, no Boston cream pie or Key lime pie. No cantaloupe -- that's a village in France. No Genoise unless it's made in Genoa. No Nanaimo bars unless they're made in Nanaimo, BC, Canada.

Orange county is applying for the naming rights to the fruit, as well as the drink and anything of the colour.

Thousand Island and Black Forest names may be disputed by more than one claimant.

Note that derivative place names may be threatened. After all, any tourist traffic to Venice Beach clearly threatens the touristic value of the real Venice. Expect upheaval if these places must be renamed: New York, London Ontario, Paris Ontario, Paris Texas, Rome Georgia, Athens Georgia.

What is still quite unclear are non-comestible products, items or activities. Denim may only be made in Nimes, France. We'll keep you posted on Chinese checkers, Roman candles and French braids. Of course, the French themselves will have to think of a new name instead of "tresses africaines".

With help of and

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I have more finished knitted items to display. It's been a good week for finally finishing things (though many projects remain in many stages of incompleteness) and for photographing them.

This is another in the set of shawls that was woven on the same warp, but this time the weft is a jade green rather than mushroom beige. I liked the shawl much more after it was done but I didn't leave enough warp ends for a satisfying built-in fringe so I looked around for other treatments for the ends, where I had to cut across the warp threads. I found an article in issue 104 of Handwoven by Kim Marie Bunke with a beaded fringe of similar type -- a set of dangly columns of seed beads, terminating in a large bead. In Bunke's shawl the large bead was a leaf shape, but I chose new jade beads which matched the colour of the shawl perfectly. The beads are a little noisy clinking against each other (maybe I should have made the columns of seed beads staggered lengths to minimize that) but even the sound makes me happy. BTW the fiber is Zephyr Wool-Merino.
shawl -- closeup

My next item I recently reknit the collar (so I wouldn't bend my glasses putting it on) and I think I'm satisfied now although I may redo the waist someday as it's really too bulky. This started as beautiful possum yarn which my SO brought back from New Zealand for me (without prompting!). It feels lovely, warm and thick. I swatched it up a bit and realized it would make terrific cables because the nature of the yarn makes very well-defined cables -- they pop out in relief with strong shadows. Somehow the yarn fuzziness even seems to make the cables even better defined, rather than obscuring the pattern. So I looked around for any aran pattern in the right gauge, and the closest I could find among the books/magazines I owned was a Balmoral Tweed pattern by Kim Hargreaves in The Kim Hargreaves Collection. I modified the pattern several ways:

  • by omitting some of the side patterns to make it less wide (fewer stitches across)
  • by doing a simple short collar rather than a roll or turtleneck collar
  • by doing plain cast-on sleeve cuffs immediately into the cable pattern, no rib cuff
  • by doing a fold-up edge at the bottom waist of the sweater, which I may later take off as it's too bulky.
The inset in the image below is from a fuzzy image I took without flash, because I thought the flash made the yarn look greyer than it really is.

Monday, July 07, 2003

More info on the Iranian siamese twins. Iranian doctors also refused to operate, and this time the reasons were clear: "According to local laws, a surgery with possible fatal result could be considered as homicide and the surgeon could therefore be arrested on such charges".
I've been thinking about this wierd situation all weekend, ever since I heard a brief NPR bit on it. 29-year-old Iranian sisters, siamese twins joined at the side of their heads, want an operation to separate them. They are now getting that operation (in fact, it may even be proceeding as I write this). Ananova seems to be posting on this frequently (search on singapore iranian siamese twins, for example).

One interesting aspect is that "German doctors refused to operate". "German doctors told the twins in 1996 that the shared vein, which drains blood from their brains, made surgery too dangerous". I'm curious about that. How many doctors refused? Did they refuse because of personal reasons (I can easily imagine not wanting to perform an operation that carried such a risk of killing the patients, out of concern for my own mental health). Or did they refuse because they felt that the sisters, otherwise healthy if unhappy, should not choose to undergo such a risky operation? Did the doctors' refusal have anything to do with their being German, by which I mean are there national laws about what risks may be taken in surgery? Where does a surgeon draw the line? I assume most surgeons would refuse to perform trepanation. I bet most people would disapprove of a surgeon who did agree to perform trepanations. This situation has some eery similarities.

I hate to think of what the womens' life is like. "After a lifetime of compromises on everything from when to wake up each day to what city to live in, the pair have decided they would rather risk death - or being left brain dead - than go on living joined together." They're both lawyers. Of course they would have to have the same degree from the same school. How did they pick law? I hope they both liked it! Now they are "very keen" on the separation so they can pursue ambitions in separate cities in Iran. Best of luck to Ladan and Laleh.

Friday, July 04, 2003

I found the magazine with the pattern for the "Orenberg Lace Triangle" I knitted, in the summer 2000 issue of Interweave, in white. It was supposed to be 42" along a side only mine is 66" due to the larger gauge. Why do I always have a larger gauge than others do, even with the same wool (even though that wasn't the case with the shawl)? Anyway I've gotten used to adjusting patterns as I go for my gauge.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I have been making shawls lately. I don't wear them with great frequency, but I love them, and when I do wear them I enjoy it. The black one in this image is knit from a magazine pattern based on Orenberg lace, Interweave I think but I can't find the issue right now. The beige one is woven from a pattern in "A Handweaver's Pattern Book" with my own design for the borders.

Both shawls, and detail of the lace and the fringed corner.

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