Banner Day for British Letters

A British Brexiteer, a man named Jacob Rees-Mogg, the MP from North East Somerset, has been known to campaign with his nanny in tow:

(“Rees-Mogg later clarified he had been driving his mother’s Mercedes Benz during canvassing – and not the Bentley that soon made him a source of public ridicule.

“The nanny bit is right,” Rees-Mogg confirmed in 2013.”)

He has written a book about his Victorian heroes. In its first week it sold 734 copies. Including the chains such as Waterstones, there are well over 1,000 bookstores in the United Kingdom.

This warms my heart, that with the publishing and promotional heft of Penguin Books, there must have been shops whose discerning readers declined to buy a single copy of the book from a politician with a voting record like this:

Photo A Day, Around the World Slowly. Helsinki

After a little more than a month in boiling Southeast Asia we’ve come north to enjoy the rare weeks when Nordic cities empty out into summer cottages and saunas around the lakes.

As we’re a few weeks ahead of the great migration to the summer cottages and saunas all along the lakeshores, we stopped in Helsinki and enjoyed a spectacular spring day in the unpredictable month of May. We’re already on our way to Lake Saimaa where a little cabin awaits us. We’ll leave you with these:

A view back toward town from the Skywheel Helsinki, a newish waterfront attraction.

And from the same vantage point, the Uspenski Cathedral, the largest orthodox church in Western Europe, completed in 1868.

Collected photos from this slow trip around the world post here.

Oodi

“Finns are ranked as some of the most literate people in the world, as well as some of the most prolific users of libraries. On average, every resident of Finland borrows 16 items from a library each year.” – from Finland.fi.

When I was seven or eight years old I guess, my mom regularly took me to the public library behind the big shopping center on what was yet to become Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis.

I think it has been all those years since I had the general light euphoria and sense of well-being that came with being in such a lovely, peaceful, well-meaning place as Oodi, the new main Helsinki public library last week.

Opened to acclaim last December, on Independence Day eve, Oodi (“ode” in Finnish) is a library, but it’s more than that, it’s a gathering place, a community center, and a dramatic demonstration of one of the ways Finns feel it is appropriate to spend €98 million of public money.

Besides books for borrowing, there are conference rooms, studios for recording and editing audio and video projects, a theatre and various workshops with sophisticated equipment for, for example, laser cutting. There are 3-D printers and extra-wide photo printers and there is plenty of space to spend the day working on your project, or just lounging about.

Again from Finland.fi:

“The biggest technical innovation by far is the ‘Cube,’ a room with smart walls,” says Vänttinen. “A person can use huge touch screens to transform the room into almost anything through 3D virtual reality. Artists are already planning to use the Cube for digital immersive art exhibitions, and medical students would like to study surgery there, using it as a virtual operating room.”

Let’s have a look.

It’s in a central downtown location, just off Mannerheimintie, main street. It’s beside Musiikkitalo, the Helsinki Music Center, home to the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum, close to Finlandia Hall and across the street from parliament.

Spacious and well attended.

This is a 3-D printer. There’s a suite of these for hire.

Sewing machines, all in use.

These folks are inspecting the industrial-sized printers available to print your advertising banner, or whatever you might need that’s over a meter wide.

The kids behind glass in these adjacent suites are playing virtual video games.

Three floors, seating throughout.

The top floor, with books in Finnish and other languages. Borrow games, comics, graphic novels, cds, movies, training courses for any number of languages and disciplines.

For a sense of the pride of place with which people hold Oodi, this row of chairs faces an outdoor terrace for events, and beyond it, that’s the parliament building across the street.

See collected photos from this slow trip around the world here.

Photo A Day: Back in the Air

First trip in an Airbus A500-900. No overhead bins in the middle, only on the sides. Makes for a roomy feel. Here’s the route, BKK – HEL:

A great feature of this Finnair Airbus is the tail-mounted live camera. Here, in the queue to leave Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport:

Here, jukin’ out over the Gulf of Thailand:

Here, over the Gobi Desert:

Collected photos from this slow trip around the world here.

More Silly Menus

It’s so easy to poke gentle fun at menu translations it’s almost unfair, but it’s meant with good humor. So this, as we leave Asia:

I suggest skepticism of the approximate beef roll.

I know, you’re torn between the porcupine and the weasel. Same here.

Is chicken iap erosion due to climate change?

The deer may be fine but that damned vain hot pot, always going on about how great it is….