The View From Entropy Hall #53
edited by Ed Meskys

THE VIEW FROM ENTROPY HALL #53, August 2015, for APA Q #576, published by Ed Meskys, 322 Whittier Hwy, Moultonboro NH 03254-3627, edmeskys at g mail period com.  Sent free by email to anyone who requests it. A very few print copies are prepared for friends without email, tho I am very slow at getting it out. (I do not have a printer on my computer.) My thanks to Sandy and to Mark Blackman for catching some of my errors and helping with formatting. As usual, I use "^^" and "|" as markers to easily skip sections you do not want to read. I use paired brackets, [], to indicate a minor change of direction, and put my comments on other people's words in them.

^^A YEAR

It has been a full year since my last ENTROPY. Part has been due to an accident which kept my activities down for three months, and the rest to laziness aggravated by age. Less than two weeks after we arrived in Raleigh last December I bent over to pick up something from the living room floor, lost my balance, and fell damaging my neck. I fractured the ball at the top of the spine on which my head rests, and was in a lot of pain. It is as healed as it is going to get, but the doctor recommends I continue wearing a neck brace indefinitely. It is insurance against future injury as I have very poor balance and seem to fall about once a month.

I am sorry I have no comments on other zines, but want to get this into APA-Q without further delay. I will start the next ENTROPY with comments on other zines.

I still have Windows XP on my desktop, and use Outlook Express for email, which I thought downloaded and saves email until deleted. My laptop has W-7 and Live Mail, and I know that leaves mail on the site, unless specifically deleted, and not in my computer. When I dropped Time-Warner cable (see below) I seem to have lost access to all old email, including letters of comment. That is why there is no lettercol this time.

^^OF TELEPHONES AND NUMBERS AND THE INTERNET

We are going south again next winter. We will not shut off our home phone and get a temporary one in North Carolina. I just bought a new Oden cell phone which is dumb but blind-friendly. (603-937-7524) Sandy will use our old Track phone (603-651-6491). We buy Track minutes a few hundred at a time, and I pay $15 a month for 350 minutes on the Oden. I could buy more minutes, but I am going to try to stay with 350 minutes, and will have trouble only when I need a conference call NFB board or chapter meeting. Unfortunately Oden uses T-mobile, and Track phone US Cellular, which do not have adequate towers. [] We have dropped Time-Warner for all services, and in NH will get phone and internet from Fairpoint. The change will save us $120 a month. Thus my edmeskys@roadrunner.com has gone away, and I will only use g-mail. I will retain my NH landline, but will have very few out minutes a month. In-calls are unlimited. [] We had gone around many times to try to get a cheaper Time-Warner service, and the best they would offer was around $100, so when we got a bill for $150, that did it and we called up Fairpoint, the local phone service. They offered their minimal phone and internet services for around $30, 35 with all taxes. After they installed the service T-W wrote and calling similar service for a similar price. We had already had the Fairpoint man here who made all the installations, and we did not want to go thru the bother of changing back to T-W. Had T-W made that offer before we switched, we would have stayed with them and not had all the bother of changing all our listservs.

^^LONCON AND BEYOND

As in most years, we used the Worldcon as an excuse to visit an area. Like in 2012, this turned into a major trek, and we were away from home for 37 nights. Worldcon was in London and the Eurocon was the following weekend in nearby Dublin, so we decided to do both.

Travel-We flew Icelandic to London by way of Iceland, and then took bus to and from Cardiff where we started our visit. We took Ryan from London to Dublin, and then to Vilnius. While Ryan is cheap, it hits you with extra fees at every chance, and we will try to avoid them in the future. You have to buy a special ticket for every piece of checked baggage, and if you did not do it in advance you pay a very hefty penalty. I have not seen this on any other airline we have used. I did learn from our Dublin trip, so pre-bought the luggage tickets for our Vilnius leg. Vilnius to Reykjavik (by way of Helsinki was supposed to be on Finnair, but we flew on Icelandic equipment. We had a very pleasant surprise on our final leg back to Boston. On your homeward leg Icelandic will allow a second free bag to be checked, to allow you to bring home the souvenirs you have accumulated. Thus we checked the two bags we were going to carry in addition to the two we had planned on. After five weeks of travel and changing time-zones, Sandy was very tired. We took the Concord Coach from Logan to Concord, where we had parked our car for free, but she was not up to the 50 mile drive home. We crashed at a motel in Concord, and returned home the next day.

We went back to Cardiff because nine years ago after Worldcon in Glasgow Sandy got sick and we had left without seeing all on our list.

We stayed at the same hostel as last year, but it had been enlarged and lost its garish color scheme. [] We discovered a distinctive pastry we had somehow missed on our previous visit. It was sold by the pub in the hostel and by street vendors. It was somewhat like a scone, and was called something like a "Welsh cookie." [] We did return to St. Fagan's reconstructed village, which had model homes from many periods of Welsh life. We found a factory-built modular home very interesting. After WWII the British aircraft factories turned to constructing modular homes out of aluminum, which had closets and appliances built in. The shell was build of aluminum in three pieces which were bolted together on site. In the mid-40s I remember reading in mags like POPULAR SCIENCE and POPULAR MECHANICS about manufactured homes for U.S. vets and their families, with build in appliances, including fire places. However these were in the form of Quonset houses. [] We again failed to visit the archaeological site of a Roman military encampment. [] One day we visited with Dave & June Groves, a blind couple we had met on our last visit to Cardiff. They own a tract home, and he is been an elected member of the local community council.

Loncon 3 ran very smoothly. We stayed in the Loft Hotel, across a plaza from the convention center, and the official con hotel. I did get to a number of panels. There were quite a few on scientific subjects. [] Because of European hotel policies there were no room parties as such, but the ground floor of the part of the con center which the con had use of was devoted to fannishness. Each bid had a "tent" in which it could hold a bid party. They did have to buy all their supplies from the con center. Part of the area was a sort of con suite or fan lounge, with a center-run pub in it. You could buy alcoholic or soft drinks, and snacks and light meals. One section was designated the "fanzine lounge" but I found little activity the times I visited. Very interesting was a party for a last minute bid to hold the 2016 Worldcon in Beijing. They did not expect to win, but wanted world fandom to get to know them and planned to bid again in a few years, probably in another Chinese city. It will take more than this appearance for them to get acceptance, and I will be interested in seeing whether they make an appearance in Spokane this year. Of course Kansas City won the '16 Worldcon, as they had been running unopposed for several years until this last minute appearance.

After the con we moved into an inexpensive hostel for the few days until the Dublin Eurocon. Sandy has limited endurance, and we had planned our trip so that she could rest every third day. We only did three things in London; take an on-and-off bus tour to re-orient ourselves to the city, tour the home Benjamin Franklin had lived in while in London as a diplomat representing the North American colonies. He shared the home with a doctor who also ran a medical school, and modern researchers have found a number of buried remains of corpses dissected as part of his instructions. Third was a visit to the London Bridge museum. The first half was quite interesting, giving its history, and with accurate models. Then the museum turned into an amusement park house of horrors, with exhibits and physical feelings meant to freak you out.

We used the Underground or "Tube" to get around in London, and I had forgotten how varied the station platforms were. Sometimes there was a gap of more than 10 cm between the car and the platform, and a difference of height of up to 20 cm. With my limited mobility I had to be very careful boarding and leaving trains. Apparently different lines were built to different standards and the rolling stock just did not match the stations.

A very pleasant surprise in London, and the other cities we visited, was the Braille labeling on all medications, over the counter and prescription. The name was on the box in uncontracted, grade one, Braille, which is the same for all languages using the Roman alphabet. My wife's prescription also had the dose in Braille. Print on the packages was appropriate to the country where purchased. [] We had miscalculated how much of her prescription medication Sandy would need, and we went to a pharmacy near our hostel. They said she would have to go to a medical office a dozen or so blocks away to get a new prescription, and we took a bus there. The pharmacist had warned that we might have a long wait, but we got in within a few minutes. The doctor looked at her bottle of Cymbalta, which would not last our full 35 day trip, and gave her a prescription for an extra fourteen days worth. When we went back to the pharmacy, we were croggled that there was no charge. At home, even with Medicare-D, she pays about $100 a month. But once a British doctor wrote a prescription even tho we were not citizens of the U.K. or the European Union, there was no charge.

Sandy had been to Dublin before, but this was my first time. We stayed in the con hotel for Eurocon, but again moved to a cheap hostel afterwards. I do not know attendance figures, but the con felt much smaller than Loncon, and there were fewer tracks. I enjoyed a number of panels on SF and space, and the bid parties were in a single room. Each bid had a table around the periphery. [] We stayed at the Generator hostel, part of an international chain of commercial hostels. As in Cardiff and London, the hostel had a pub where you could buy meals at reasonable cost. The Dublin pub had a very unusual pizza which we ate several times, but neither of us can remember just what it was like. [] As usual we oriented ourselves to the city with an on-and-off bus tour, which was good for two days. After that we got extended use of that bus at reasonable cost, and used it to get around. The bus had a constant sound track of songs about Dublin, and the PA announced and explained what could be seen. The city had an actual statue of Molly Malone and her seafood cart, and people referred to it as "the tart with the cart." [] Like so many cities, Dublin was bringing back street cars, but calling them "light rail." Parts of the main drag, O'Connell St., were dug up for the installation of the tracks. Some lines were in use, and there was a station behind our hostel, but we had no occasion to use them.

The first building we actually visited was the old prison associated with the Easter Uprising, about a century earlier. For centuries, Ireland had been trying to regain independence from England, and this was a significant incident. The prison had housed the Irish freedom-fighters, where all had been executed. One leader was so ill that he had to be tied up propped in a chair so that he could be shot by the British. It was a very moving exhibit. [] Remember the phrase "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."? The British were extremely incensed when, during one of the World Wars, the Irish freedom fighters had turned to Germany for support. Can you blame the Irish for turning to England's wartime enemy, Germany, for support? More on this when we reach our visit to Lithuania. [] We visited two museums on Irish culture and history, The Little Museum and the Wax Museum. Each had parts of the story not covered by the other, but the wax museum was the more interesting. In the wax museum a figure of Gollum, as portrayed in the recent movies, guarded the entrance to the children's exhibit. [] The tour bus emphasized the two booz tours, that of the Guinness brewery and of the Jamison Whiskey distillery. The distillery was next door to our hostel. Both were rather expensive, and we didn't do them. If I remember correctly, the Guinness tour cost 13 Euros, and the Jamison 17. I was flabbergasted to learn that Guinness turned out three million pints a day, and that they had a larger brewery in Africa. Both tours were reported to offer adequate opportunities for sampling. The tour bus explained that porter beer was the result of an accident while brewing. Rather than dump the results, the brewery sold it cheaply to laborers like porters, hence the name. People came to like it, and since then it was made purposely.

We arrived in Vilnius around 11 PM, and got 500 Litu from a cash machine. Unfortunately it was in a single bill, worth a bit over $100, so we had to change it for smaller bills at the airport money changers. We took a taxi to our hostel and crashed.

Fortunately we had not planned to meet any of my relatives on the first day, as we had both come down with travelers' sickness. [] I had relatives on both my mother's side and my father's side. My mother was the youngest of seven children and was orphaned at the age of three. Her oldest brother had tried to run the family farm, but did not do well and moved to Argentina. Another brother, Joseph, moved to America and married a Scottish lady, and I have two first cousins who are just a few years younger than I. I believe one brother died relatively young, and one married very late in life and had no children. This was Kazys (Kazimeras), who had been fostered along with my mother by an uncle who was a parish priest. They had the unusual childhood of growing up in the rectory of a Catholic church. Her one sister married and had several children, and I met several of their descendents. Finally, I met two descendents of her last brother, who carried the Gudelis name. One owned and ran a restaurant resort, and the other was a Catholic priest, who had a PhD from the University of Chicago. Danguole Les"ciauskiene, a cousin, twice removed?, lived in Vilnius and provided much guidance, and her husband drove us to meet those who lived in other cities. [] My father had no brothers, and only two sisters. As a result of World War II one sister, and her family, ended up as displaced persons in Poland, and I met the son of the other sister, and his granddaughter, who also helped us around Vilnius. The son is still going very strong at 88 years of age. He lives on the 4th floor of an apartment house which has no elevators.

The next day we were better and my father's relatives showed us the highlights of Vilnius. They wanted to take us into the medieval castle and fortress, but there were no banisters on steep stairs, and I could not handle it. We did the narrated on-and-of bus tour, which had ear buds you could plug into outlets for about six languages. Then we explored a commercial street with a supermarket, drug store, restaurants, and other businesses. We ate lunch in a restaurant, and Sandy was taken by a sign outside a pretzel bakery. It had a giant pretzel supported on either side by a rampant lion and a rampant unicorn. We bought food to use in the hostel kitchen and I needed cold medicine, like a nasal spray. Again, names were in uncontracted Braille, and print labels in Lithuanian. Nescafe was the major brand of instant coffee, and instructions called on users to use two grams for a cup. Years earlier I had learned from a Belknap teacher's wife, who had grown up in Dutch speaking Belgium that people in Metric Europe did not use measuring cups or spoons, but weighed all ingredients on scales. We were still fighting our colds and retired early.

The next day we headed north on an overnight trip. Mid-day we stopped for a picnic lunch at a roadside table, and went on to Kryz'iu Kalnas (Hill of Crosses). This dated back to the days of Soviet captivity, and people put up standing crosses to commemorate fallen relatives and to commemorate significant events in their lifetimes, either joyous or sad. The Russians frequently tried to demolish them but they were returned overnight. It is still there, and new ones are added regularly. They were very elaborate, real labors of love. They were as short as six inches to taller than a person. There were many thousands, covering over an acre, and crammed so close together that no ground showed. Also, there was a large memorial to the partisans who fought the Russian occupation from its start in WWII to 1971, and a gift shop. Our hosts bought for us a "rupintojis," a little figurine of a seated man with a very worried look on his face, one hand holding up his head. This, as well as the crosses, is traditional folk art. People would put up this figurine on their property so it would worry and care about it for them. Single roadside crosses date back to at least the 19th century. Tsarist Russia had tried to Russify its captive populations, and convert them to the Russian Orthodox church. Lithuanians could keep their Catholic shrines, because they looked like similar Orthodox ones. (They had also banned the teaching children to read and write in Lithuanian, so the priest who had raised my mother and her brother, Kazys, had hired a secret teacher for them. Word had leaked to my father's family, and he got included in these lessons, which is how my parents got to know each other.)

We had dinner and overnighted in another cousin's home. This was a new home, very modern and with all expected appliances. We learned that many single homes built by the Russian Soviet empire were completely torn down and replaced, or were stripped down to the skeleton of beams and re-built.

After breakfast we drove to Panavaz'ys where we met Vale (Valentina) Kis'oniene, who had visited us in 1991, just before the Soviet empire imploded), and her sister, Zita Zlatkiene. They were descendents of my mother's sister. [The "iene" ending is the Lithuanian language to indicate a married lady. Thus, while in Lithuania, I was referred to as Mes'kys, and Sandy as Mes'kiene.] Vale, too, had a very nice, modern home. They served us a very elaborate lunch, which caused a problem later that day. We next went to a resort a short distance away, run by a father and son with my mother's birth name, Gudelis. We spent the afternoon seeing the resort. Among other things, there was a memorial for the book smugglers who brought in books published in Lithuanian.

We were invited to order anything on the restaurant menu, but could not do justice to the marvelous food after that grand lunch at Vale's. The pressure of all the travelling pushed Sandy past her endurance and she collapsed, and had to be given a room to lay down and recover.

Late that night we arrived back at our hostel in Vilnius. We spent the next two days with my father's relatives. We saw a museum of Lithuanian history, and a police station used as a prison by occupiers. This prison resonated with memories of a similar prison in Dublin. It was used by both German occupiers during WWII and by Russian occupiers until Lithuania broke free around 1991. It had been the site of torture and execution by both occupiers, and under the Germans the site where Jewish citizens had been gathered for transportation to extermination. Unfortunately, some Lithuanians had collaborated with the Germans, to our shame. The English brochure tiptoed gently around this fact.

I had lunch with my first cousin in a restaurant. He would have had me up to his apartment, but he lived on the fourth floor of an apartment house, with no elevator. He was ten years older than me, but was in much better health. We were afraid I would have too much trouble with all those stairs. He showed Sandy pictures of my father as a young man, and of my grandfather. This was one of the few times I really regretted the loss of my sight.

We had one last dinner in Danguole's home, and flew out the next morning.

The week in Lithuania was a marvelous experience in familiar foods. Kugelis (potato cake), Karvelai (pigeons) or balandai (doves) (ground lamb with barley or rice wrapped in cabbage leaves [galomki is Polish for pigeons]), kaldunai (small ravioli, cheese or meat filled), virtiniuki (large ravioli), and so on. There was a pastry my mother never made but described, and a fan friend had brought back from Lithuania for me, (s'akai). Batter is dribbled onto a rotating spit over a fire, and it dribbles until hardened in the form of branches on a tree. It was very common, and we saw it in many sizes in the supermarket, and they were on sale in the gift shop at the airport. My mother said it was very rich, using up to 50 eggs to make, but these did not taste that rich. To be that common, there must have been a simpler way to make it.

We had to fly to Iceland by way of Helsinki, and had three hours to spend in the airport between flights. We ate in the restaurant, where we had reindeer shank, which was marvelous! If Helsinki wins the 2017 Worldcon we plan to have this again!

In Iceland we stayed in a hostel on the airport grounds. It was originally intended for civilian contractors who worked for NATO, and was very functional but comfortable. The kitchen facilities were very minimal. The intended workers had also had a second building with a cafeteria.

            We were there for only three days and it rained all the time, so Sandy never got to see the northern lights, or ride on an Icelandic pony with a unique gait. Iceland had no natural soil, but only ground pumice. There was moss, not grass, and all trees had been imported. Our last day we took a bus tour where we saw an original geyser (our word comes from the Icelandic word for the phenomenon). They do not heat water, but cool it. Food is raised in naturally heated greenhouses. We did discover a food unique to Iceland ("skyr"). It is something like yogurt, but much better. In the US it is only available in one upscale chain of food stores.

Now we await our trip on Amtrak to the worldcon in Spokane, WA.

^^ALBACON

This year we decided to try a new con, Albacon, near the Albany, NY, airport. It was in mid-May in a small hotel, but the con only had about 200 attendees. We chose to go because Jan Howard Finder, aka "Wombat," was ghost of honor. He had been a friend going back to the '60s. [] We skipped Friday, arriving in the evening, because the only scheduled event was a writers' workshop which didn't interest us. Saturday there were only two tracks of programming, plus gaming and other activities. At night DC in '17 had a bid party and Lunacon had a party to announce their return next year. [] While there were only two tracks of programming I found day-time panels I wanted to attend almost every hour Saturday and Sunday. I want to panels on written SF and on science. [] Someone mentioned that Esther Friesner is sending out regularly interesting messages on Twitter, and I would like to know how to get on her mailing list. Also, a number of panelists on different panels mentioned very favorably a game called "Cards Against Humanity," and I would like to know more about it.

In the evening I ran into Dave Kyle at the ice-cream social, and had a wonderful hour chatting with him. My memories of him go back to Newyorkon, my first Worldcon in 1956. Now that Art Widner has passed, Dave is the oldest living fan at 96. He had not thought about the matter and was bemused by the thought. He is showing signs of his age, and uses a wheelchair to retain freedom of movement. (Fellow members of the NH Governor's Commission on Disabilities have pointed out to me that the mobility impaired dislike the expression, "confined to a wheelchair." For them the wheelchair is a symbol of freedom, allowing to go places where they cannot walk.) Also, he is now living with his daughter and grandson in Westchester just north of NYC, both of whom were at the convention. I remember that his daughter had given me a described tour of the art show at the 1981 Denvention. We chatted about his long stay in fandom, and events like the chartered flight to the London Worldcon in 1957, and his bid to hold a Worldcon in Syracuse in the late 60s.

I also had a long talk with Carl Frederick, whom I had not seen in two or three years. I first met Carl when we both attended popular science and astronomy lectures, and went on the roof for observing, at the Brooklyn Academy of Arts and Science in 1955. Until a few years ago he was doing very serious research in quantum theory and relativity, but about a decade ago he went to a writers' workshop and placed in a Writers of the Future Contest, and later won it. He became a regular at ANALOG, selling about 50 stories, and occasionally to other magazines. He won a prize for an interactive on-line novel, and now has about seven novels on Amazon, and three collections of his shorts. He became a good friend of Stan Schmidt, and shared Stan's interest in learning and using languages. When he would run into Stan at a con, they would carry on a conversation in Swahili. He also resonated with Stan because both were physicists. He sold a couple stories to Quatrain, but they just did not resonate together. Also, Carl got very interested in doing physics research again and he has stopped writing SF. He said he cannot both write SF and do this research. He said that he would be thinking about a physics problem and get an idea for a story, but would have to stomp on it to keep on with the research. I failed to take adequate notes on our conversation and can't really explain what he is doing. He had published a paper some 35 years ago which only made a ripple in US and European physics at the time, but recently some in India suddenly started referring to it in a number of new papers. I remember him speaking of non-linear differential equations and chaos theory as exemplified by the double pendulum. [] He did publish a minor paper a few months ago, and is finishing a major one which should be out in a few months. He said that the physics community is so fragmented into specialties that journals cannot find competent persons to properly referee your results for publication. Active physicists get recognition as being sound, and some journals will automatically accept their papers without a referee. [] The con did keep him very busy and he was on at least seven panels.

We did enjoy the con. Once they announce the dates we plan to get memberships for next year. We just want to be sure it will not conflict with another engagement.

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