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:
Friday, November 24 2023

Room 215 on the Andorinha at a dock in the mouth of the Douro River, Canidelo, Portugal


While I was doing that, Gretchen went out again and explored the area around the harbor, but there was really nothing of note. At some point a pair of noisy fawn-colored geese of some unknown species appeared on the dock outside our cabin windows and I took a picture.
Later after Gretchen returned, she went for her second "swim" in the small, sometimes-heated pool on the boat's top deck. Only three or four other people had used the pool, but Gretchen is always one to take advantage of a swimming resource, even one as modest as the kind that will fit on a river boat. Later I wanted to join her, but as I was coming up, Gretchen was coming down. The water was pretty warm, but I was immediately bored in the pool's narrow confines, so I got out of the water, put on my boat-issued bathrobe as quickly as possible (the oceanic wind made me not want to be both exposed and wet), and returned to the cabin.
Later Gretchen said she had a surprise for me up on the boat's top deck. So up there and found she'd ordered me a basket of fries from Arthur's, the little bistro restaurant where we should've had more of our meals. The fries were at a table were Simon & Cathy (the Chichester couple) were eating burgers also made by Arthur's. They said the burgers were some sort of improvisation, likely made with whatever they had too much of on the boat (which, judging from the amount of it they've been trying to get us to eat, was eggplant).

Late this afternoon, Gretchen decided we should catch an Uber with the Chichester couple and go down to the seaside city of Aveiro, which was the destination of the day's official excursion by bus. As we were going through the locking gate that limits access to our section of dock to those who know the code, the reclusive mask-wearing British couple were coming our way. The woman has very dark dyed-black hair and walks with the assistance of a cane, whereas the man has long hair and looks a bit like a washed-up rockstar (which he may well be). Simon is friendly to everyone and knew all about them, and after we were passed them, he said that they'd both had covid when the cruise began and that as they passed us he'd held his breath. Simon said that because we're out in the open air, he probably didn't need to be so paranoid, but it's better to be safe than sorry (or something like that). I agreed, but said it was all statistical whether or not any one person infects anyone else.
Because Gretchen didn't have cell service on her phone, her plans of paying for the Uber were dashed. The Chichester couple of course had coverage for all of Europe, and it wasn't long before we had our ride. Because there were four of us, I had to sit in the front passenger seat, where there was barely enough legroom for my tiny flipper-like limbs. ("Tiny flipper-like limbs" always gets a reliable laugh when I self-effacingly use it to denigrate my proportions, though it's nothing I would say around an authentic little person.) I spent most of the ride trying to figure out whether the language of the GPS navigation was in Spanish or Portuguese. It was so clear and slow that I could kind of follow it (making me think it was a dialect of Spanish), and there were none of the usual harsh hissing sounds of Portuguese. But "izquierda" was "esquerda," and I wasn't sure if Portuguese use a more Latin (and less Basque) word for "left" such as "sinestra," though they might say something more like "simestre." But it turns out all the Iberian languages use a variant of the Basque, not Latin, word for "left."
Meanwhile, the Chichester couple were telling Gretchen stories from their careers as flight attendants, most of them related to the strange, usually hypocritical, and often terrible people flying to and from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In first class, for example, it's common for Saudi royalty to drink their booze from tea cups so it won't look like they're drinking booze. On one flight, a drunk Saudi got so belligerant that the male flight attendants (including Simon) had to take turns sitting on him to keep him restrained, and the only place to do this was back in the meal-prep area. But despite all that, the guy was never charged with anything or had to have any of his body parts lopped off in the public square. Overnighting in Saudi Arabia is a particular hardship for female flight attendants, who are all given what Cathy referred to as "burqas" so they can walk from the plane to their hotel room. One flight attendant was too tall for her burqa, and so as she and the others were hurrying to their hotel, they were pursued by whip-wielding morality police wanting to lash the exposed ankles they were catching glimpses of. You can't make this shit up. Just imagine if that effort and passion was put into an effort that furthered the human race. But no, it's put into that, and it's why Saudi Arabia will whither like a lanced cyst once it pumps the last of its oil from the ground.

After our Uber driver disgorged us near a park in Aveiro's center that was all dug up and undergoing renovation, Gretchen and I decided to do our own thing separate from the Chichester couple and meet back at a central location (one that featured free wifi) at 4:30pm.
Aveiro is built around a simple set of canals that are plied by large motor-propelled gondolas called moliceiros. Knowing what I can haul in just a 16 foot canoe, I could imagine moliceiros serving as general-purpose pickup trucks in places accessible by water. Now, of course, they're mostly used to give rides to tourists, and it's impossible to walk near the boats without someone trying to convince you to ride on theirs (hard sells are very much a part of Portuguese culture). I noticed that nearly all the moliceiros featured cartoons on the back (and sometimes on the front) depicting scantily-clad women and lecherous men. Sometimes the men were just looking at the women, but in one the man appeared to be giving a spanking.
We walked northeast, away from all the construction noise (but towards the noise of a busy highway, the A25) along a canal that ultimately joined another, shorter spur canal beneath a circular walkway that hung from a disglobed analemma. By "analemma," I mean that figure-8 you sometimes see on globes. This rooted (presumably deeply) in the ground at an angle, behaving something like the control structure of a marionette that never actually needs to move. The circular walkway made a certain amount of sense in this location, since it allowed all five canal-side walkways to connect to one another despite the intersection of the canals. From there, we looked down the spur canal and Gretchen got very excited about one of the buildings at the inside of the acute intersection of streets (40.643761N, 8.655885W). (Such buildings remind her of the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, though they often look very different from that.) We walked further along the canal going northeastward before deciding it wasn't too interesting in that direction and then made our way using various streets towards the center of the city again. Gretchen wanted to check out Aveiro's Art Noveau museum (amusingly, unlike English, Portuguese has its own word for Art Noveau and that is Art Nova). So we found our way to that, paid the admission to the cute swarthy woman working the desk, and then went up a beautiful spiral staircase to see the museum. Amusingly, it had little more than a single room of artifacts. These were more tasteful than what we'd seen at the Art Noveau museum in Salamanca, but it wasn't doing anything to combat my museum-induced narcolepsy. There was also an English-language film about Art Noveau running on a loop, and that had did something to broaden our understanding of an art movement that was so big in Europe but virtually nonexistent in the United States.
Our admission ticket also granted us access to another museum that focused on the history of Aveiro generally, but by the time we went in there I was hoping more for a museum of bed and pillow technology. The most interesting thing in there was an Atwood Machine, which resembled a stripped-down grandfather clock with a number of mysterious linear scales. Unfortunately, none of these museums tell you where they used to burn the witches.
By the time Simon and Cathy appeared at the rendezvous site, I was too tired to take much advantage of the free wifi (which, for some reason, was only working on Gretchen's phone, which is less reliable than mine but also less ghetto).
Simon said something about how we should just take the tour bus back to the boat and save ourselves the expense of an Uber. Gretchen was opposed to this idea, especially if it was for the reason of saving money. She also dreaded having to hear Carmem's useless nattering on the bus' PA system. But then I pointed out that it was much greener for us to take the bus, and wasn't Gretchen worried about climate catastrophe. Simon thought this argument was "brilliant," and it actually worked. When we snuck onto the back of the bus and Carmem came through to count heads, she was initially surprised that the number was greater than the number she was hoping for.
The ride back to the boat took an hour, and Gretchen found a great way to drown out Carmem's nattering. She had a podcast on her phone about the recent shakeups at OpenAI, so she listened to that. I didn't have anything to listen to on my phone (and I don't use my phone that way), so I was forced to hear Carmem. After talking for at least 20 minutes, it seemed like she was wrapping things up. But then she spent an additional fifteen minutes talking about wrapping things up and giving us some quiet. When she finally did go quiet, it was only for about five minutes. And then she had to tell one of her stupid PG jokes, this one about how a priest and an alcoholic bus driver ended up at the Pearly Gates and only the bus driver was admitted, the joke being that he was the one, not the priest, who convinced people to pray instead of sleep.

Back on the boat, there was a little presentation to accent this, our final night of the cruise. As is traditional on these cruises, all (or nearly all) of the boat's employees were paraded in front of us to remind us what a good job they'd done. We'd all been given glasses of wine and were in a jolly mood, so we'd clap and hoot, especially at the individuals we'd really liked, such as the tall funny waiter and the woman who had been cleaning our cabin.
As we went down to the dining room, the staff shepherded us to a table with JP and his wife and the older British couple from Valencia. Instead of the doomer conversation from yesterday, the topic of discussion today was AI, and when Gretchen got to talking about, she already sounded like an industry insider. She's been working as a contractor for a few weeks training an AI to write not-terrible poetry and she'd just heard that podcast about the shakeup at OpenAI, and somehow she'd assembled all that, along with a few things I'd told her, into what would've sounded to anyone who didn't know that she really knew her shit about the subject. I was proud of her, considering this is a field that she'd recently had no interest in and was even somewhat antagonistic towards. Unlike most topics, this was not one about which JP had a disproportionate amount of knowledge about, so the conversation felt more fluid. There older couple from Valencia didn't have much to add, but that's pretty typical for a discussion about such new technologies.
Meanwhile, the staff were going out of their way to wow us with the quality of their service, knowing we now all had envelopes into which we would be putting anonymous tips. I'd been aware that one of the waiters, a balding youngish man from India, said little except "Thank you very much," no matter what the interaction was. But this evening I noticed that another Indian waiter had a more surprising personal tagline: "Wow!" He'd say that when'd you pick something prosaic on the menu or when you asked for more water. It didn't make much sense, since he clearly wasn't being surprised by these things.
As for the quality of our final dinner on the boat, well, it wasn't very good. I was very happy with a mushroom soup where the mushrooms had been left in large pieces instead of being blended into oblivion by a food processor. But most everything else was a disappointment. I've also been noticing on this cruise that I have become very sensitive to a cloying chemical flavor present in sauces made from soy milk, and whenever I taste it, I can eat no more of whatever has it. One of Gretchen's noodle bakes back in the summer had a bit of that flavor, and soldiered on. But now I'm at the point where I find food with that flavor inedible, which has made most of the pasta dishes on this cruise inedible to me.

After dinner, Gretchen and I went up to the lounge to hang out a little more with the Chichester couple. Simon is such good friends with Dirk (the guy running all these cruises) that we often find Dirk sitting with Simon and Cathy. Dirk has never had much fondness for Gretchen, perhaps because she tends to be outspoken when there are things on a cruise that she finds irksome (the nickel-and-diming of the wifi offered on the Baltic cruise being a prime example). But now that Simon and Cathy have taken a shine to us, it seemed like Dirk was reassessing his feelings, and he's been noticeably friendlier to us. As Gretchen put it, "the friend of my friend is my friend." (It's interesting how most such aphorisms result in the party in question being deemed a friend; and nobody really ever says "the enemy of my friend is my enemy," though it should probably be the case.)

These geese on the dock outside our cabin window turned out to be Egyptian geese (according to Google Image Search). Click to enlarge.

A moliceiro boat in Aveiro with what looks like a cartoon of a little girl who is wearing more clothes than most of the female humans depicted on these boats. Click to enlarge.

This is an attractive Aveiro building covered with tile. Tile on the outside of buildings is a legacy of the Moorish influence in the Iberian peninsula, and usually Gretchen and I don't much like it. Click to enlarge.

The analemma supporting the circular walkway in Aveiro. Click to enlarge.

That circular walkway. Click to enlarge.

A sleepy side-plaza in Aveiro. Click to enlarge.

A wall inside the Art Noveau Museum. Click to enlarge.

The gorgeous spiral staircase in the Art Noveau Museum. Click to enlarge.

Sunset along the main southwest-northeast canal, viewed from near the pedestrian circle bridge. Click to enlarge.

That house in the acute-angled block that Gretchen likes. Click to enlarge.

The heart of Aveiro near where our Uber let us out, hours later. Click to enlarge.

The heart of Aveiro. That nearest boat features a clock with women's legs for arms with a time forever set at 6:04. It's 6:04 somewhere! Click to enlarge.

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