Celebrity Death Watch: Anne McCaffrey wrote a series of fantasy novels involving a place called Pern. There are dragons involved. I've actually never read her stuff, but I know several people who are big fans.
Prague: I went to Prague over Thanksgiving weekend. My brief run-down is:
- The lie flat business class seat is one of the greatest inventions of our times. However, the business class lounges at FRA are absurdly overcrowded. As in standing room only at times.
- Figuring out the bus and metro from PRG to my hotel was reasonably easy. The Prague metro is clean and efficient.
- I spent Thursday meandering through part of Old Town (the highlight of which is the Astronomical Clock) and doing a more thorough tour of the Jewish Quarter. I was somewhat surprised by the architecture of the Old-New Synagogue, as I think of fan vaulting as a rather Christian thing. The golem may still be buried somewhere there. Highlight of the Jewish quarter is the old cemetery.
- Met up with two people from flyertalk for drinks at the Four Seasons. Beer there costs about 3-4 times as much as in less rarified atmospheres. I went out to dinner with one of them. No turkey was on offer, so I settled for duck for Thanksgiving.
- I toured Prague Castle on Friday. I did the short tour ticket, which gets you into the Cathedral of St. Vitus, St. George's Church, the Palace, and the Golden Lane. Highlight is Land Rolls in the Palace. I also bought a marionette in a shop on the Golden Lane.
- I also went to the Toy Museum, just outside the Castle. The Barbie collection is particularly impressive.
- Then I walked down to the Lesser Town (Mala Strana), stopped at a cafe, went to the Church of St. Nicholas, and meandered a bit.
- Walking back to the Old Town over the Charles Bridge led to a bit of trauma. I was a little ways onto the bridge, when a woman started screaming. I looked down to see what had happened - and saw a body on the pavement below. My assumption is that this was a suicide. Very disturbing.
- I took a ghost tour on Friday night. The guide tried to hard to sound spooky and, overall, the tour was so-so. It was also bloody cold out.
- I took a tour to Kutna Hora on Saturday. The highlight was the Bone Church, which is simply bizarre.
- After coming back, I meandered around the New Town. The architecture of the Jerusalem Synagogue is also, um, notable. The word "garish" comes to mind. Walking back to the Old Town, I was impressed by the Municipal Building. I also stopped in the Tyn Church to see the grave of Tycho Brahe.
- Overall, it was a good trip. I saw enough to feel satisfied, though I could always use one more day.
- Flight from PRG to FRA was fine. FRA is still the second worst airport in Europe (behind CDG). Flight from FRA to IAD was on old configuration 777, which has crappy seats. My footrest was broken, so I got a skykit (compensation certificate, which gets you a choice of either additional frequent flyer miles or a discount on a future flight). Home again, home again, jiggety jig.
Work: I have now rewritten various parts of a briefing for Friday at least 736 times. Please let this week be over.
Endangered Languages: Since the subject is one of my minor obsessions, I went to a lecture on endangered languages at the Smithsonian last night. The first speaker, an anthropologist studying Zuni, was poor, reading from her notes and not engaging with the audience at all. The second speaker, a linguist working on the Zapotec family, provided something of a crash course in field linguistics, which was a lot better. SHe also spoke interestingly about different ways of describing spatial relationships. The final speaker was a man working on revitalizing the language of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. He was very engaging, especially in his comments about how heritage languages evolve to include concepts the ancestors would not have known about. All in all, it was a good program.
Fabric of Survival: Before the lecture, I had time to check out this exhibit of the art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz. The exhibit is a series of fabric collages (with embroidery) depicting the life of a Holocaust survivor. The pieces are remarkably detailed and well worth seeing.