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allochthonous

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and now the traditional Easter khachapuri [Apr. 12th, 2015|07:50 pm]
allochthonous
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[Current Location |Tbilisi]

Owing to a happy conjunction of Independence Day and Orthodox Easter, we have had  a five day weekend, which I used to have a quintessentially Georgian Holiday, involving as it did churches in caves, churches out of caves, an earnest proposition from a fifteen year old (side note: I have apparently become old enough to pull off "What would your mother say?" convincingly), a taxi driver swigging from a bottle of wine while explaining to me how Britain was originally settled by Armenians, a very jolly Easter tea party with some monks, and immense quantities of food. Goodness, I'm going to miss this country.

I also reread all of the Steerswoman books (I love them so much, and am very sad that I can't spend my entire life wandering around being nosy and making maps. Damn you, GIS.), and settled in with The Elegant Universe, which I reread every couple of years to remind myself why I once thought I wanted to be a physicist (turns out I didn't enough to make the effort with the maths, but I enjoy mulling over the weirdness of the concepts). I suspect it's probably quite (well, very; it was published in 1999) out of date now? I'm not really sure that string theory is still a Thing, or at least not The Thing? But Brian Greene writes science extremely well, and the opening chapters on relativity and quantum mechanics are some of the clearest and most intuitive I've come across. Also he did a great TV series about it wherein he attempted to teach physics to his dog.

I am full of paskha (sort of like panettone, but tbh not quite as good) but it's the kind of thing that goes stale quickly so you are required to keep eating it. I wonder if I dare turn it into bread-and-butter pudding?

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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Finger: still attached (mostly) [Nov. 13th, 2014|10:31 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, , , , ]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]

Have an easily accessible injury is the worst. I am unable to stop myself from taking off the bandages every few hours and poking it to see if it's better yet (it isn't).

Oh, we landed on a comet! I follow space exploration somewhat less obsessively than I used to, but this is a major, major achievement and I got rather teary watching live footage of mission control during the landing. Ten years. xkcd as usual is on the case.

I loved this article about The Knowledge, the test all London taxi drivers must pass before they can drive a black cab which requires the memorisation of all 25,000 streets within a 6-mile radius of Charing Cross. I defy anyone to watch the video in the article of an aspiring cabbie calling a route from Rotherhithe to the Natural History Museum and not be impressed. Puts my language-learning tribulations into perspective.

What are you reading now?

Racing through Foxglove Summer, the latest Rivers of London which turned up on my kindle this morning. Enormous fun so far, but the rural setting means I am missing Peter's geeking out over London.

What have you finished reading?

Dave Hutchinson's Europe in Autumn, which I think someone on the flist read recently and I thought sounded interesting. It's set in the near future as Central and Eastern Europe have splintered into dozens of tiny polities, and an organisation called the Coreurs facilitates the transmission of people and things across the new borders. It's mostly set in and around these new statelets, and Hutchinson clearly knows the region well - the world building really works, and there's a sympathetic protagonist. But it starts off (and continues for most of the book) as a pretty good spy story, then takes a left turn into something awesome, and then the book abruptly ends. I will pick up the sequel if there is one, but it would have been a better book if (twist) had happened earlier and the implications had been allowed to play out a bit more.

What will you read next?

I am hearing good things about The Goblin Emperor, but the kindle edition seems weirdly expensive. Otherwise I have a whole bunch of actual meatspace books from the frankly eccentric collection that ends up at our English bookswap that I should probably get around to tackling.

In Real Life, I am having to make decisions about my future and I don't like it. Georgia is wonderful and I have a pretty good job, but I'm getting a bit too comfortable here, and I want to move on (God knows what it says about me that getting comfortable somewhere makes me immediately want to leave). But to where and to do what is a little more difficult to work out. Real life is hard.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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Still some way to go [Nov. 9th, 2014|10:35 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |embarrassedembarrassed]

Most of the time I consider myself a reasonably functional adult, but every so often a staggering display of personal ineptitude makes me wonder whether I should be allowed out of the house on my own, let alone given a passport. Witness this afternoon, when a) I mangled my finger in the blender out of sheer carelessness, because I was too engrossed in an episode of Serial (which is gripping by the way; highly recommended to anyone who enjoys true crime and/or excellent journalism) to notice I hadn't unplugged it; whereupon, having washed and dressed the remains of my fingertip, I b), did my Russian homework, watched Doctor Who, ordered a pizza, consumed said pizza and generally pottered about for the next five hours, resolutely ignoring the blood merrily soaking through the bandages in the quite obviously delusional hope that it would just stop on its own because no one goes to the doctor with a cut finger, right?

Fortunately for my future manual dexterity, a friend turned up and politely pointed out that when sensible people start dripping blood on the floor they do something called "seeking medical attention" and pushed me out of the door in the direction of the nearest clinic. So now I have two stitches, a telling-off from the doctor, a fistful of antibiotics, and sense of mild concern at my apparently total failure at self-care. Project Proper Grownup is clearly some way off completion.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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Good enough, just not transcendental [Jul. 22nd, 2014|08:12 pm]
allochthonous
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[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |bouncybouncy]

That's it, I'm done. I've reached the pinnacle of my professional ambition of the past three years - someone is actually paying for me to go back to Central Asia, specifically Kyrgyzstan - and that achieved, I'm not entirely sure what else I want from work. Mountains! Yurts! Kumis! Felt carpets! Plov! Oh, and I have to give some presentations or something, but I'm sure I can muddle through that.

I also lucked out on my timing with visits home and managed to obtain a Chinese visa (a bugger to get outside your country of citizenship, these days, unless you do it in Hong Kong), so I will finally, finally get to see Kashgar. You hear that almost all of the old town these days has been destroyed, and the Sunday bazaar become a complete tourist trap, but some places you just have to go. In the absence of any knowledge of Mandarin at all, I am pinning all of my hopes on the fact that I bought a train ticket in Uzbek once and Uzbek is sort of maybe a bit mutually intelligible with Uighur if you squint. I have no idea. I'll figure it out. I miss travelling, I miss being on a journey, and it's hard to get that sensation back in only two weeks, but I love Kyrgyzstan so much, love the mountains and the smell and the immensity of the landscape, and Xinjiang sounds like it's going to be a proper challenge. I am so happy and excited to be going back.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying Pi Approximation Day! "Good enough, just not transcendental" has been my life motto for a while and so far it hasn't let me down.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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London theatre roundup [Jul. 16th, 2014|11:16 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, , , ]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |hothot]

It is so disgustingly hot. The warm water dripping from air-conditioning vents makes it feel like even the buildings are sweating and everything is flat and heavy and there is squashed fruit underfoot everywhere which normally I find charming but now is just yuck. In protest I have holed up in my flat with three books of Russian grammar and a bottle of wine in an attempt to crack Russian dates. No luck so far, but a lot of Sebastian Stan (I have finally worked out what tumblr is for).

I was briefly in London the other week, which meant (almost) All The Theatre.

Julius Caesar, The GlobeCollapse )

The Crucible, The Old VicCollapse ).

Titus Andronicus, The GlobeCollapse )

I had a ticket for Antony & Cleopatra the day before I left, but sadly had to go emergency shopping instead (stupid Sunday opening hours). My annoyance at missing Eve Best and Clive Wood is mitigated by the fact that the Globe now DVDs everything, and they usually do it quite well too.

The forecast is for 37 C tomorrow. I am so ready for autumn right now. Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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A Sipsmiths-shaped hole in my life has been filled [May. 6th, 2014|06:50 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |happyhappy]

My parents are visiting which would be wonderful even if they hadn't bought gin and baking ingredients (why is brown sugar so hard to find in 90% of the world?), which they did. We had a lovely weekend wandering around Tbilisi and appreciating all the twiddly art nouveau bits, and went to Mtskheta on Sunday to admire 1500-year-old churches with miraculously floating columns (sadly a saint almost immediately came along and miraculously made the column stop floating. Spoilsport)). Unfortunately I have to work this week so yesterday I waved them off to find the bus to the mountains; evidently successfully since I received a rather incoherent text at about midnight saying that they were drinking toasts with three policemen from Kutaisi and their cousin from Moscow. I was a bit worried that they wouldn't really enjoy Georgia and that I wouldn't be around enough to make it fun for them, but fortunately it seems that Georgia itself has stepped up to the plate admirably.

Long weekend to be spent in the wineries and churches of the south east. God, I love this country.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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In today's adventures in Viennese performing arts [Apr. 26th, 2014|10:46 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Vienna]
[mood |refreshedrefreshed]

Going to a concert in Vienna is pretty much obligatory, even if you manage to avoid being mobbed in Stefansplatz by all those students dressed as Mozart, so I grabbed a last-minute ticket for a performance of The Messiah which did at least promise to be in English. I assumed it would be a standard concert setup, but apparently this isn't weird enough for Austria, and it turned out to be an arrangement into a kind of operetta that told a story which was not the one you might expect from the libretto, and in fact I never quite worked out what it was.
 
After a while I found it worked better when I thought of it as a random selection of possibly improvised scenes which included the soloists crashing a funeral to sing at people,  "The People that Walked in Darkness" delivered to the accompaniment of the singer vigorously thumping a coffee vending machine, and "How Beautiful are the Feet of Them" sung at an actual pair of feet, and occasionally a lady wandered on and signed part of the libretto and wandered off again,and the final scene involved the chorus building an enormous tower of chairs in the middle of the stage. None of this particularly mattered, as the singing was gorgeous, even when it had to be done from a slightly odd position (stiff competition with last night's Hamlet in the writhing around on the floor stakes; full credit to the bass soloist for managing most of the beginning of "The Trumpet Shall Sound" in this way), and the countertenor and tenor in particular were sublime. Fantastic orchestra as well, taking it at a good pace (I like my Messiahs zippy) and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Future Messiahs without drunk funeral-crashing will be so disappointing.

That said, I think I'm going to make cake the focus of my final few days in town, as it appears to be reliably less surreal than the arts.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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The rest is FINALLY silence [Apr. 26th, 2014|12:42 am]
allochthonous
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Location |Vienna]
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]

Full of glee because I achieved my Azerbaijan visa (no mean feat) and my Georgian work permit today, so I am all set to get back home next week. Vienna is nice and all and has good cake and drinkable coffee, but I am missing khachapuri.

For reasons of misplaced cultural enthusiasm I ended up this evening at a performance of Hamlet at the Burgtheater which I think is effectively the Austrian equivalent of the National. What I did not realise was that this was entirely uncut, although the 5.30 start time should perhaps have tipped me off; we didn't get out until 11. Bum-numbing qualities aside,  it was actually pretty good (well, Hamlet and Gertrude and weirdly, Rosencratz, were excellent; everyone else sort of so-so and they did some weird thing where a different actor played Ophelia when she was mad which I thought was just odd) with a  young Hamlet which makes him so much less tiresome (he still is fairly tiresome, but I find it way more forgivable when played by a 20-something as opposed to a pushing-40, which seems standard in the UK these days), and a slightly bizarre set like the interior of a sad 1980s conference centre, but five and a half hours of Hamlet is generally far more Hamlet than anyone needs.

But the final scene was entirely worth the preceding five hours as after all that Serious Acting everyone let rip: I've never seen such stupendously histrionic death agonies. The duel was great, which it isn't always, but was totally overshadowed by Gertrude rolling around on the floor behind them while Hamlet wasn't going to let deadly poison prevent him from emitting earsplitting shrieks between every line. Meanwhile Claudius sort of stood around forgetting to act until it was time to die and then he collapsed tenderly into Osric's arms, and then young Fortinbras came in and giggled like a psycopath and beat up Horatio. It was superb.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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What are you reading Thursday is full of sachertorte [Apr. 17th, 2014|02:49 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Location |Vienna]
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]

If your day so far has lacked joy, I highly recommend this photoessay about a young girl who is training to be an eagle hunter in Mongolia.

What are you reading now?


Finally out on kindle in the UK is Hild, by Nicola Griffith, which I have seen praised to the skies all over the place. Lovely so far, and what Griffith does very well is the sense of what it’s like living in the ruins of a far more advanced civilisation, which is something I have always thought must have been very strange in Dark Ages Britain. The book is set about two hundred years after the Romans have left Britain, and in Caer Luel (which it took me a while to work out was Carlisle) there’s a fountain that still works. Hild’s wonder at the fountain, a piece of technology so much more advanced than anything she’s seen before. I have to read it with google handy to work out the place names, but it has got me fascinated by a period of history I knew almost nothing about, which is never bad.

What have you just finished reading?

Also recently out on kindle was Blood of Tyrants, which is Temeraire… 8? Given that there’s only one more book, I’m in it until the bitter end, but I’m finding the books increasingly less interesting, with too many near-identical aerial battles and lightning visits to various countries to learn about their dragons, but nowhere near enough character development. The amnesia plotline here dragged like crazy, and they could have skipped the whole Japan bit. I love Laurence and Temeraire, but it would have been a far better series if it were all about Jane Roland and Excidium instead.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which is an otherwise terrific book where the central conceit (of a woman living her life over and over again) is almost entirely unnecessary. The story works well enough without that, and the constant rehashing of events again and again without any apparent reason behind it began to irritate me after a while. The parts set in the Blitz will stick with me for a long time, though.

It took me until halfway through David Mitchell’s first novel Ghostwritten to realise that I had in fact read it before and I wasn’t just getting flashbacks to Cloud Atlas. Really feels like a dry run for the later novel, and while there are some lovely bit (the China and Mongolia stories were my favourites), it doesn’t really hang together terribly well and the stuff about technology and artificial intelligence feels pretty dated (I think it came out in the late 90s).

What will you read next?


A colleague gave me And the Mountains Echoed as a leaving present. I somehow haven’t read any Hosseini so far, so I’m looking forward to that.

Off to Prague tomorrow for the long weekend. Happy Easter to all who celebrate, and extra day in bed to everyone else!

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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All mod cons [Apr. 3rd, 2014|08:08 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|]
[Current Location |Vienna]
[mood |chipperchipper]

Vienna update: weather amazing, new job pretty good though very busy, and the flat where I am staying has a Nespresso machine.Viennese supermarkets seem strangely short on chile peppers, fresh coriander or any spices beyond cumin and some rather dubious-looking "curry powder", but I have found out that there is an Asian supermarket not too far away, which will presumably sort me out for key cooking ingredients. I am enjoying being back somewhere with easy access to rocket, and I am having it with everything (chicken curry with rocket stirred in? fried mushroom and poached egg on a bed of rocket? It's all good) . Tomorrow I am planning to sleep for a very ling time, and then find some cake.

In other news, Martin Freeman is apparently going to play Richard III at the Trafalgar? I... don't quite know what to think about that.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
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