Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
Thursday, July 25 2019

location: Room 5115, cruise ship Vasco da Gama somewhere northwest of Riga, Latvia

Today's Baltic city was Riga, Latvia. Our ship docked within walking distance of the center of the city, so no shuttle was provided. Gretchen and I toured the city on foot with her parents after first using an extremely slow elevator to get up to a bridge crossing extremely busy highway separating the dock from the city. Our stroll followed the familiar pattern: with Gretchen and her father charging ahead, almost forgetting about Gretchen's mother, whom I then walk beside just so she doesn't get left in the dust. The woman has had two hip replacements and a knee replacement, and walks with an uncomfortable-looking gait. Eventually we found our way to the Riga Cathedral, a big Lutheran church that one had to pay to get into (a phenomenon we hadn't encountered in much lovelier churches in France and Italy). But Gretchen's father paid the five euros each, so we felt like we had to make the most of the interior, even though it was nothing special. It did have a beautiful pipe organ and a strange, uncurrated collection of cannons in the back, but (for me) the main thing of interest was the visible lean I could see on the steeple when seen from the courtyard.
Our walk continued through Riga, mostly in pursuit of a vegan restaurant Gretchen had found on Along the way, we saw a great many architectural masterpieces from the early 20th Century period when Art Nouveau was transforming into Art Decco. Since this part of Europe was where these movements apparently evolved, this is also the place one has to go to find the missing links.
Because our walking was going too slowly for the time we had available in Riga, we settled on a different vegan restaurant from the one Gretchen had hoped to get to. It was the Bhajan Café, yet another place that does not serve alcoholic beverages. I ordered some sort of veggie burger, and it came on a beautiful bun made of black bread (that didn't taste too different from white bread). The burger itself was delicious, and the fries came with a unique tomatoe sauce that wasn't exactly ketchup. The others all had various kinds of borscht, which I do not generally eat because I do not like beets.
By this point, it was clear we were going to have to take some sort of taxi back to the ship. So, following a recommendation of our waitress, I installed the Bolt app on my phone. This allowed me to call up an Uberesque service, and everything seemed to be going great. It would take two minutes for the ride to arrive, and it was only going to cost two euros to get us back on the ship. But then when we waited outside, our ride seemed to go past us without paying attention and then disappear into a warren of streets behind us. Part of the problem was that the WiFi that supplied my only connectivity was sketchy outside the café, and I had no phone service. Eventually we gave up on the Bolt I'd ordered and (after a bit too much stress and fretting) hailed a cab around the corner on a busier street. And Bolt charged me the damn two euros even though we never actually got the ride.
I took a recreational 120 milligram dose of pseudoephedrine this afternoon and did my usual "work," mostly up on the Lido Deck. At dinner, Gretchen and I decided to just eat at the Club Bistro buffet restaurant, whose lack of formality and artifice I much prefer. This was how I managed to have an extremely delicious pasta dish featuring a savory red sauce containing tempeh. I could eat exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, and leave whenever I wanted. If it were all up to me, there would be no other restaurant than Club Bistro.
Gretchen was feeling a bit wrung out after all the walking around today (which she had been doing despite an ongoing head cold). So I left her back in the room and went up to one of the cozy bars on the 9th floor (Verandah Deck) with my laptop and ordered a glass of wine. Eventually Kelly and Brian (and their friend Val) randomly ran into me, and I quickly abandoned the pretense of working. When the woman who sounds like bad karaoke started singing, we all relocated to a corner of the bar, as far from the music as possible. We were joined by a guy named Graham who looked and talked like someone you wouldn't expect to find on a vegan cruise. Somehow matters turned to race, and I found his opinions on racial matters repellant. He kept referring to black people as "they," and didn't seem to have much patience for ideas that, as a group, blacks in America were born into something of a hole. So I patiently explained the specifics of my white priviledge, how my father had been pulled out of poverty by the GI Bill, a program specifically engineered to avoid helping black veterans. And that was just one of the advantages I received simply because I happen to be white. At some point our waitress came over to take orders and told me not to put my feet up on the coffee table.

They like abstract head sculptures in Riga. Here's one.

Here's another.

And another.

Rooster windvane on display in the Riga Cathedral.

Riga Cathedral's beautiful pipe organ.

Details on an iron Art Nouveau gate.

An architectural dragon in Riga.

A beautiful example of Art Nouveau transforming into Art Decco.

A little girl walking a robot dog in Riga.

Cranes near Riga as we departed.

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