The Red Plague Affair

The last Saintcrow book I read I definitely enjoyed, and this one was no different. Definitely more frightening, though, because while the Iron Wyrm included some nice spooky stuff, there’s something about a pathogen that just scares the crap out of me. Probably the relative likelihoods of “death by giant dragon” and “death by disease.”
Anyhow, as with the previous book, the setting is still a gorgeous alternate-history Victorian London. There’s a bit more expansion on how some of the magical stuff works, and some delightfully irritating open-ended bits about some of the history of how these things were created.1
(To be honest, I’m keeping this review rather short because it’s the second book in the series – I linked to my review of the first one as a way to get you to go read that one and then read the first book before you’d read the second.)
There was rather more of a hat-tip to Sherlock Holmes than even in the first – Clare, our Sherlock figure, was given his own Moriarty in Dr. Vance. A seriously fun interaction.
And Bannon, our delightfully immoral sorceress, found herself even more embroiled in politics than before, creating some interesting situations. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, though it’ll probably be a while before I get to it – my ‘to read’ list is still rather long.
That said, I quite enjoyed the book. If you haven’t read the first, go do that. Once you’ve read the first, read the second as well.

  1. Apparently the levitating Collegia, home of the sorcerous school, was once the top of a mountain, but then someone decided “nah, we want this somewhere else” and just ripped the top off the mountain? so cool 

“Prague,” or, “Sigmund Freud get down from there you aren’t a cat”

We’re on a bus back from Prague!1 The last three days were spent wandering around the city, taking part in a series of tours where more information than I know what to do with was poured into my brain.2 For the sake of my sanity, I’m going to divide this into a few sections, because after three days I have a solid amount of photos to share.

Day One

The first day, we were up early to catch our bus from Vienna to Prague. And then we sat on a bus for a few hours. Turns out that if you have a T-Mobile plan that you bought in Austria, it doesn’t work in other countries, but if you have a T-Mobile plan that you bought in the US, it’ll work anywhere in Europe. Thanks, T-Mobile, for being a horrible mess. So the bus ride was less productive than I’d hoped.3
But you’re not here to read my complaints about the inexplicable tangle that is international cell phone networks, you’re here for pretty pictures.4 So, without further ado, off we go:
Continue reading “Prague,” or, “Sigmund Freud get down from there you aren’t a cat”

“Schottenstift,” or, “there’s only like 30,000 books on there, I counted”

Our tour1 this week was to Schottenstift, a monastery founded in 1155 by… Irish monks. Yes, Irish, though name does translate as “Scottish Abbey.”2 I finally got myself a locker in the Institute, because last week I was very irritated by carrying around both my camera and my backpack the whole time. Definitely a good investment. Future students: get a locker, they’re useful.
Alright, alright, I know what you’re all actually here to see, the pictures:
Continue reading “Schottenstift,” or, “there’s only like 30,000 books on there, I counted”

Peace Day

Assuming I’ve got this written in time, today as September 21st. It’s my birthday!1 It’s also the International Day of Peace. The United Nations General Assembly, in 1982, declared that September 21st would be dedicated to world peace.
So this year, on World Peace Day, I’m hoping we can take some time to talk about nuclear weapons. They’re something I’ve written about a few times before, because they’re fascinating. It’s a weapon with a higher explosive yield than anything else we’ve ever made,2 and it’s also got some nasty aftereffects – the amount of time it takes radiation to subside to background levels after an explosion can be measured in anything up to tens of thousands of years.
Personally, I refer to nuclear bombs as “hell weapons.” Especially within the context of the Cold War, their use would be like making a deal with the devil – sure, your enemies get pretty messed up, but you know that you’re gonna get screwed over just as hard when it comes time to pay the bill.
So, whenever I see people saying they’d consider their use , I am horrified. I wasn’t even alive during the Cold War, and I still spend a lot of time thinking about the specter of instant annihilation that everyone on the planet was under during that entire time.
Normally I’m against fear as a motivating tactic, but I just don’t think people are afraid of nuclear weapons as much as they should be. The US stopped nuclear tests when the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty went into effect.3 The Soviet Union collapsed. Under President Obama, the idea of the US utilizing a nuclear weapon has seemed utterly ridiculous – basically, nobody that’s not directly neighboring North Korea really thought nuclear annihilation was a real possibility. Basically, once the Doomsday Clock folks stopped telling us to be utterly terrified, we let that fear fade into the background, and it’s just about gone now.
But I’ll say it again: nuclear weapons are hell weapons. Don’t take my word for it, though: as I’ve mentioned, I spent last Friday in the UN’s Vienna headquarters, listening to WWII survivors. One, Yamada Reiko,4 gave a speech titled “My Experience of the Atomic Bombing and Message of the Hibakusha.” I’ve got a few quotes that I’m going to share with you.5 (Emphases mine.)

Our town was 2.5 kilometers from ground zero and escaped from raging fires caused by the bomb. Many injured and burned people fled to this area from the city center. They were so heavily burned and disfigured that they did not look like human beings.

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 67 terajoules equivalent to 16 kilotons of dynamite. The design was considered “very inefficient” – less than 2% of the present nuclear material underwent fission. The largest weapon still present in the US nuclear arsenal is the B83,6 with a maximum yield of 1.9 megatons – more than 100 times as powerful as the bomb that obliterated everything within one mile of the detonation and set fire to everything within five.

On the second day after the bombing, a moving black lump crawled into [my friend’s] house; they first thought it was big black dog, but soon realized it was their mother. She collapsed and died when she finally got home, leaving her 5 children behind.

Roughly a third of the population of Hiroshima was killed by the bomb – somewhere around 75,000 people. 

Nuclear weapons are absolutely inhuman weapons. Even a single bomb can turn a whole city to ruins in an instant, kill people indiscriminately, and deprive even future generations of their lives. We the Hibakusha call them “weapons of the devil.”

I’m hoping I’ve made my point fairly thoroughly: nuclear weapons are a bad business. Their use as weapons is deeply horrifying, and even ‘peaceful’ uses have considerable problems. Nuclear tests have spread radiation around the planet and rendered large swathes of land uninhabitable; Soviet ‘peaceful detonation’ programs had similar effects.
And here’s where it gets weird: the closest we’ve got to a ban on their use is a treaty that says we won’t make more than a certain amount. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a good start, but the US, still hasn’t ratified it, despite being the single biggest guilty party still in existence. Similarly, the largest non-proliferation treaty is still lacking key signatories.
Clearly, we’ve still got some issues with nuclear weapons. Now, the call to action: make it clear to the folks you’re voting for, regardless of who they are, that the use of nuclear weapons is not in the cards. Join the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons.
Happy Day of Peace, everyone. Make it count.

  1. I’m turning 21 while in a country with a drinking age of 16, a fact I find quite amusing. 
  2. Well, technically antimatter has a higher energy yield per gram, but we’ve never manufactured enough antimatter to actually weaponize it and I pray that we never find a reason to do so. 
  3. Actually, we may have stopped with the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, but I’m not entirely sure and it’s not actually super important to what I’m saying here, so I digress. 
  4. Vice Chairperson of the Tokyo Federation of A-bomb Sufferer’s Organizations (TOYUKAI) – she’s an impressive lady. 
  5. These are translated – the speech she gave was in Japanese, and as event staff I had access to the transcript used as a cheat-sheet for the folks doing live translation. 
  6. Taking over after the B53, a 9 megaton weapon was retired. 

“UN,” or, “this architecture is a distillation of what the UN itself is”

September 21st is the International Day of Peace. It was declared as such by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981, and has been a symbol of ongoing efforts to create true, lasting, world peace ever since.
Paris and I had the opportunity to help out with an event discussing the United Nations’ goal of “Peace and Sustainable Development” this past Friday. It was quite an experience – we both wound up tweeting a lot, which you can see here, and overall we enjoyed the experience.
While a lot of it was panel discussions, which aren’t exactly my photographic forte, the event was held in the Vienna International Center. It’s not super easy to get in there – the security is pretty tight, considering that it’s one of the UN’s three world headquarters. I figured I’d take advantage of being allowed in and snap a few pictures of the grounds.
Continue reading “UN,” or, “this architecture is a distillation of what the UN itself is”


So, last Sunday1 Alyssa and I ventured around the Ringstraße a bit. I’ve got a whole list of things to go see on the Ring, and we wanted to check a couple of them off.2
A historical note: the Ring was constructed under Emperor Franz Joseph II, following the lines of what used to be the city walls. As part of that construction, quite a few other notable buildings were put up, at a scale that makes me assume that Franz Joseph II had figured out the cheat codes for whichever version of Civilization it is that our world is running on.3
Now, without further ado, the pictures:
Continue reading Sonntag


Austria,1 in case you’re not aware, has a bit of a reputation for being the center of music culture. There’s a reason it’s referred to as the Viennese School, after all. So it’s a bit understandable that I, being a music major, wound up doing my study abroad program here.
What does that have to do with the title?
Nothing, yet. See, the title is the name of the biggest cemetery in the city – it translates literally as “Central Cemetery.”
Now, one thing about the Great Composers of History is that they were… in history. As in, a long time ago. And since we have yet to invent a cure for death, they’re all. Well. Dead. What’s a music major to do if they want to see the greats?
You go to a cemetery, of course. And, being the camera-toting sort, you take pictures of some of the rather impressive graves.
Continue reading Zentralfriedhof


I promised another poster, and here it is. I’m hoping once we get down into the pictures1 you’ll see why I broke it into its own thing.
We went to the aquarium.
It wasn’t really a planned thing – we were trying to find a shop somewhere and got a bit lost, and when we were looking for distinctive landmarks the aquarium was the biggest thing we could see. It’s rather noticeable:2
Still of the Night
I’d previously mentioned the flak towers of Vienna, and even made a reference to the fact that one had been converted into an aquarium. This is the one.3 And I’ll say right now, before I get into actually showing you what all there was to see, that this is has become the absolute top of my “things to do in Vienna” list.4 Seriously, it’s an incredible aquarium/zoo, with a fascinating history and some stellar views. If you’re ever in Vienna, I cannot recommend it enough.
Now, pictures:
Continue reading Aquarium


All three of our history/politics classes are now in session, the first of the other study abroad groups1 have arrived, and our weekly field trips around Vienna have begun – school is well and truly in session now, folks.
As an aside, the blog post for this week will arrive in two parts – this, the first, showing a bit of our academic exploration of Vienna, and the second will show up sometime soon. I had a lot of pictures from my own explorations this week, so it’s going to take me a while to get them all in order.
But now, on to the photos:
Continue reading Romans


So, if you check my website at all frequently,1 you’ve probably noticed that I do a lot of reading. And when I finish a book, I write up a review, summarizing my thoughts on the book.
But I don’t finish every book I start. I go back and forth on how I feel about this – sometimes I think “I paid for this book, I have a duty to myself and that transaction to finish it.” But generally I’m okay with putting a book down if it, for whatever reason, doesn’t capture my interest.
That isn’t really something you all get to see, though, because up until now I’ve made very little reference to the fact that I don’t finish books. All anyone sees is the reviews, showing that I’ve finished another book. I figured I’d rectify that, so I’m using this post to write up the list of books that I started and didn’t finish this summer.2 It’s rather long. Without further ado:3
– Priest (Colville)
– The Physics of Superheroes: Spectacular Second Edition (Kakalios)
– The Weight of a Crown (Kaeden)
– Freehold (Dietz)
– Falling In Love With Hominids
– The Reaper’s Daughter (Randall)
– Frankenstein (Shelley)
– Jam (Croshaw)
– The Life of Buddha And It’s Lessons
– The Hacker’s Diet (Walker)
– The New Jim Crow
– Cat Skinner’s Book (Burnett)
– The Girl at the End of the World
– Rust: One (Ruz)
– Salvage
– Willing Servants
– Trigger
– Organ Reapers
– Cathedral of Dreams
– The Girl’s Guide to the Apocalypse
– Sugar Scars
– Letter from Hell
– Parallel Extinction
– Mission Veritas
– Reinheit
– Life After the Undead
– Once Humans
– Wednesday
– Gristle and Bone
– Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know
– Wingman (Maloney)
– Jumper (Gould)
– Wizard’s First Rule (Goodkind)
– Boneshaker (Priest)

That might not be all – there’s still twenty books left on my unread list, and I have a bad habit of buying more books when I’ve still got other things to read.4
A noticeable trend: post-apocalyptic fiction. I’m just not a fan of the depressing science fiction stuff- the world is depressing enough already, if you ask me, and I think we need more hope and happiness.

  1. Well, before I started with all of my study abroad posts, at least. 
  2. I’m only referencing books from this summer, because it was this summer that I made a project (“Kindle Completion”) in Things to go through and read every book on my Kindle. 
  3. I’ll make an effort to list the authors, but as I’m typing this up on my phone while flying across the country, I make no promises, as I don’t have access to my Kindle so I’m working off Things’ logbook. 
  4. “The Bibliophile’s Lament” 


Once again, we’ve had quite a busy week. If I’m remembering the schedule properly,1 we’re now done with the ‘Conversation’ component of our Survival German classes and are moving into the Grammar unit. I’m excited – historically, I do better with a language by learning the grammatical structures than I do trying to memorize specific instances of those rules.
The other big thing we did this week was our district presentations – something that faithful readers have already seen a hint of. To be honest, there wasn’t much more to the presentations than what you can see in the aforelinked2 blog post, but for the presentations we had a more captive audience than anyone here reading is.
That said, once the weekend hit, we split up a bit: I know that there’s a group, as I write this, hopping on a bus back from Bratislava, and Paris, Sierra, and I headed over to Schönbrunn3 to explore the park.
Continue reading Schönbrunn

Playlist of the Month: August 2016

I really should’ve written this up over the weekend when I had more time, but oh well, here we are.
5AM – Amber Run
I Need My Girl – The National
Your Hand in Mine – Explosions in the Sky
Team (Lorde Cover) – Matthew Mayfield
Midnight – Lane 81
Smoke Filled Room (Acoustic) – Mako
Home (Tim Palmer Mix) – Blue October
Jericho – Westerman
Thursday – LostBoyCrow
Lou Lou – Albin Lee Meldau
Sight – Sleeping At Last
Hearing – Sleeping At Last2
Let Me Go – Albin Lee Meldau
Touch – Sleeping At Last
All I Want – Kodaline
Half Light – BANNERS
Be Somebody – Kings of Leon
Withdrawn – White Morning
Big Jet Plane – Angus & Julia Stone
Atlas – Coldplay3
Ghosts – BANNERS
Shadow and a Dancer – The Fray
White Square (Demo) – Rebecca McDade
9 Crimes – Damien Rice
Wake the Dead – Nassau
 Remains (Bastille Vs. Rag N Bone Man Vs. Skunk Anansie) (Crossfaded Version) – Bastille4
When The World Sleeps – Lowland Hum
The Fault In Our Stars (MMXIV) – Troye Sivan
Fly Away For A Summer (Achtaban Remix) – FLAUSEN feat. Ben Cocks
I Love You (Quintet Version) – Woodkid
Control – Mountains Like Wax
Sunlight (Jody Wisternoff Remix) – Lane 8
Monster – Mumford & Sons5
Thinkin Bout You (Frank Ocean Cover) – Midnight Pool Party
Better Man (Feat. Peter Gregson & Iskra String Quartet) – FYFE
Shots Fired – House of Heroes
Kill V. Maim – Grimes
Kusanagi – ODESZA
Roma Fade – Andrew Bird
The Box – Damien Rice6
Running Up That Hill – Track & Field
Fever – Roosevelt
Live in This Moment – Kakou
Stop Us (Radio Edit) – SIYYU
Little Higher ft. Xavier Dunn – Terace
Ghost, Teacher, Girl, and I – White Violet7
Second Wind – White Violet
Since You’ve Gone (Original Mix) – Loframes feat. Anoraak
Postcards feat. Sam Island – Equal8
Folding Hills feat. Xavier Dunn – FØRD
Gold in the Dirt – DANAE
Stay High – One Room
Love’s Song – KIDS
Summer Heat – Solidisco
 Years & Years – King (Røse Summer Edit) – Røse
Outside – Tender
Something More – RALPH
All4You – The Palms
Find You – BAYNK
Golden Grave – Leo Islo
Don’t Panic – Coldplay
Antichrist – The 1975
The Attic | Demo – Rebecca McDade
Division – Tycho
Gods in Heat – Tobacco9
Mothers – Daughter

  1. I call these first five songs “the steadfast” in my head. 
  2. At least once a week throughout all of August I had a conversation with someone about how amazing Sleeping At Last is. 
  3. People dissing Coldplay is the number one cause of me saying “fight me” in public. 
  4. I haven’t typed this name in a while, I just copy/paste it out of iTunes. 
  5. Fun story: I’ve got a Mumford & Sons poster on my wall right now. Turns out my host family is full of people who like their music. 
  6. Now that I’m copying over links from previous posts, instead of just searching Amazon for them each time, you wind up with little blobs of songs like this. Mostly because, if I like it enough to link to it, I also like it enough to keep it in the next month’s playlist. 
  7. Even if I didn’t like this song I think I would’ve had to include just because the name is cool. 
  8. This one gets stuck in my head, but in a good way, y’know? 
  9. “Not the best thing to listen to with a hangover” – the friend I sent this to 

“Neural Audio,” or, “What I Did This Summer”

I’ve had a few people1 ask me what, exactly, I was doing all summer, off in Louisiana. As a programmer, being efficient is sort of the goal of everything I do; as such, doing a single write-up here and then sending that link to people makes more sense than answer the question over and over.2
I spent the summer working at a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Center for Computation and Technology at Louisiana State University.3 It’s a pretty cool setup they’ve got at the CCT4 – it’s not an academic unit, it’s a research group only. The building has all sorts of handy resources – all of us in the program had access to both a shared workspace for the REU students and our own individual workrooms, which varied depending on our project.5 The exciting new thing for me was the server room, which I had access to.6 There were a few machines of interest in there – HIVE, a cluster-in-progress that was devoted entirely towards art that required high-powered computation, and Titan, a machine designed for use with neural networks.
This is where I lead in to my specific research program, which wound up being titled “Neural Audio,” as above.7 The goal was basically an exploration of the use of deep neural networks for music information retrieval.
Whoops, went a bit jargon-heavy. Let’s break it down.

Deep Neural Networks

You may have heard about this one before – neural networks are the current big thing in artificial intelligence. Google uses them to power a lot of things, but the big one people have heard about is Google Photos, where deep neural networks provide the incredible search features.8 As you might guess from the name, they’re based off the structure of the human brain:9 a bunch of nodes, connected by weighted edges, which are the neurons and synapses of the artificial brain.10 Now, what’s cool about machine learning is the training: instead of sitting down and writing an algorithm to perform a task, you just build up a big data set of questions and their paired answers. Then you feed it into the system, and it learns11 how to answer the questions.
Of course, it’s not that open-ended- you can’t drop the works of Shakespeare in there and expect it to write a paper analyzing his writing style.12 They work best with categorization – you give them a set number of categories, and the network can tell you either which category something belongs to, or the percentage chance that thing falls into each category.13
Beyond that, there’s nothing fancy about neural networks – they’re just a software construct used to do a heck of a lot of math, the end result of which is an algorithm that no human could’ve designed. Cool stuff.

Music Information Retrieval

The field of MIR isn’t new, they’ve been around for a while doing cool things. It really does what it says on the tin: the idea is to be able to feed a piece of music into the software and receive useful information about the music out. Software that can recognize the key of a song being played or identify the speed at which the piece is being performed are good examples of this.14

Combining Them

My work was basically looking into combining these two fields. Machine learning can do some cool stuff, the idea went, so why not try applying it to music?
This took two forms: trying to identify the genre of a piece, and trying to identify the instruments playing in a piece.
It’s here that I’m going to hand off the explanation to another thing I was working on this summer, though as a test subject rather than a researcher: the digital poster. One of the other research groups at the CCT was working on a system to modernize the poster presentation, a staple of scientific conferences. I had the opportunity to be one of the trial-run students for the digital poster, and wound up putting together an online version as my way of wireframing what the final product would look like. Being me, I made my wireframe look just as good as the ‘official’ one, and wound up posting the whole thing online and providing a QR code on the paper poster15 that linked to the online site.


While the summer, and thus the time I had at LSU, came to an end, the work didn’t. I’m still16 trading emails with my mentor, and I’m hopefully going to be attending another conference at some point to talk about my work. In the interim, I hope to be able to get some additional work done, maybe get some more interesting data out of the machines. It’s a goal, and time will tell how well I’m able to accomplish it.
That’s about all I’m going to write here – if you want to know more, you can check out the digital poster, and if that doesn’t get you enough information, you can fire me an email, it’s grey (at) this site.17

  1. Reasonably 
  2. If I were teaching a computer science course, the first thing I’d say would be along the lines of “‘efficiency’ is just a codeword for ‘laziness that won’t get you fired.’” 
  3. Or “LSU CCT NSF REU” for out-of-order short. 
  4. I hope you read the last footnote, because I’m going to be using these short-forms of the names throughout. Efficiency! 
  5. One person had a few offices shared with graduate students working on the same program; another had a Mac lab to themselves; I was given the key to a media lab on another floor. 
  6. I found this oddly entertaining after I had to let one of the IT staff in there to reboot a server following a power failure. 
  7. I kept trying to make it “neural audio,” because I’m a millenial and thus hate capital letters, but I was overruled by my mentor. Probably for the best. 
  8. Seriously, the fact that I can search for someone’s name and have it accurately spit out a list of every photo I’ve taken with them in it is seriously impressive. The fact that I can ask for stuff like “mountain” or “car” and also get accurate results? Mind-blowing. 
  9. Though, it’s important to note that they’re not based off an accurate/current idea of how the human brain works; we’re computer scientists, not biologists. 
  10. The weighting of the edges is important, as that’s where all the magic happens. Each node, simplified down, is performing an averaging operation over all of its inputs. The output is then passed along the edges, and transformed by the weight of that edge, creating the new input for the next node. 
  11. Using a system called Stochastic Gradient Descent, which I find to be a very elegant solution the problem. (I recommend reading the previous footnote before this one.) Learning, via training goes like this: you feed the network an input, and the randomized initial weights do the processing and spit out an answer. That’s probably not the right answer, so the network will change the weights in a random ‘direction,’ and then try again. If it’s closer to the right answer, the network will change the weights in that direction again; if it was further away, it’ll try a different direction. The process of training is just repeating that operation over and over and over again. 
  12. Although, entertainingly, you can drop the entire works of Shakespeare into a neural network and have it make a spirited attempt at creating a new work in the style of Shakespeare. 
  13. That’s called softmax, and it’s pretty handy. I looked at using changing softmax results over time as a way of extracting metadata from music. 
  14. Entertainingly, some of the best examples of MIR arguably aren’t MIR at all: Gracenote, for example, the system that allows the ‘smart’ stereo systems in cars to figure out what CD you’ve just put in, is based on a ‘CD fingerprint’ that looks at the length of the tracks and when each one starts. It is possible, with a lot of effort, to design a CD that will show up as being something entirely different than it actually is. 
  15. We were all required to make traditional paper posters, regardless of our use of digital posters. 
  16. Infrequently, because time zones. 
  17. I’m not dumb enough to put my email address up on the open web, c’mon. I already get way too much spam email. 


I have done a lot of German class this week. Can the human brain overflow? I think mine is going to overflow.1 We also started our Regular Classes, which was pretty fun – we’ve got the Austrian Cultural History one that I believe I’ve mentioned previously2 and another one – Politics of European Integration – that I find fascinating. There’s been a lot of talk about what the European Union is and how it’s all structured.3 It’s very cool.
Basically, they’ve been keeping us very busy learning enough of the language to (hopefully) survive. I think it’s been a bit of a success – Paris and I managed to successfully order food at a restaurant today, and what more do you really need?4
That doesn’t mean I haven’t had a chance to get out a little bit; yesterday, Alyssa walked down the street and yelled at me to go outside, and we wound up going by the big park right by where we live. And today, she and I went up and made a spirited attempt to walk around the Ringstraße5 that ended up with us wandering around the Kunsthistorisches Museum,6 and then somehow meeting Paris and Sierra for lunch in the Second District. Fun was had, and pictures were taken:
Continue reading Flakturm


It’s been, like, three whole days since my last post. This probably seems like a long stretch to people who’ve gotten used to my post a day thing, but I can’t exactly keep that pace up now that I’m back in the Real World.1 If I were to hazard a guess, one a week is going to be more realistic an expectation to have.2
Administrative stuff out of the way, though, because it’s time to see some of Vienna. It’s a pretty city, folks! I saw a really cool library the other day, but no pictures for you because I didn’t plan on going there and thus didn’t bring my camera.3
Okay, I’m done teasing you. Today, Anna and I headed out towards the end of the U14 to explore the parks around the Danube.5
It actually took us a while to get started – we were planning to meet at the Donau Zentrum which we were assuming was a park – “Danube Center,” right? But no, it was actually a sprawling mall complex like half a mile from the river. Whoops. Next time we’re meeting at the metro station.
But once we got to the river, hoo boy, was it pretty.
Continue reading Donau


Today was the last day of our ‘around Austria’ orientation program.1 We had an early breakfast2 and then hopped aboard a train to Salzburg.
We were met at the platform by our tour guide, who gave us a few minutes to find some lockers to leave our luggage in before we were off. The tour was… I’d say interesting, but to be honest the man had a gift for finding the least interesting thing about all the locations we visited. And while he tried to crack some jokes, they ranged from falling flat to downright cringe-inducing.3 I suspect the tour company is going to be getting some unhappy phone calls tomorrow.
But hey, that aside, Salzburg is a pretty city, and we managed to see a good amount of it despite how tired we all are.4 Have some pictures:
Continue reading Salzburg


Today was a trip up almost as far as yesterday, though this time the climb was done by bus instead of suspended gondola.1 We wound up in Sportgastein, the far end of the Gastein valley, in an area that’s set up for a mix of skiing and farming with no actual permanent residents. It’s an interesting shared space – any of the farmers of the valley can bring their livestock there to graze.
Of course, being a mountain valley in Austria, it’s pretty like you wouldn’t believe. Seriously, the first picture I’m going to show you is titled “Hobbiton” because it kinda makes me feel like I’m in a movie scene.
Continue reading Altitude

Mass on the Mountain

We had German class in the morning today1 and then hopped aboard a suspended gondola2 that carried us a couple thousand feet up the side of the mountains over Dorfgastein.3 (For this trip, I just brought my whole backpack, which I wound up pretty happy about as I kept switching out lenses on my camera.4)
The goal of the trip was to attend the Mass on the Mountain, something which I believe takes place once a year and is basically exactly what it sounds like: a Catholic Mass, held on the side of the mountain. It’s a bit of a hike from the gondola station,5 but it was a really cool experience. Have some pictures:
Continue reading Mass on the Mountain


Somehow I’m already writing another blog post, which feels a bit excessive, but everything happens so much. And hey, I’m a Professional Blogger at the moment, so why not?1
Anyhow, today was a trip up to a nearby park, about half an hour’s drive away,2 because if we’ve got nice weather, may as well take advantage of it, right?
And once again, I remembered my camera. Have a look at the pictures I liked:3
Continue reading Liechtensteinklamm


After a rather grueling amount of flying, we’re here in Austria! I’m taking advantage of my body’s confused circadian rhythm to write this at a nice 6:30 in the morning, having already been up for almost an hour.

We landed at about 8:30 in the morning what feels like a couple of weeks ago, but looking at my calendar1 was actually only a couple days ago. From the airport, we went by the hotel we’d be staying at to drop off our bags – the rooms wouldn’t be ready until later in the day – and then took Vienna’s impressive public transit system to the Austro-American Institute of Education for our initial orientation. Getting there was fun – it’s just a couple of trams away, but because Vienna is Vienna, there’s a lot of stuff to see on the way.2

After the orientation, we wandered around a market for a bit to get lunch3 and then made our way back to the hotel.4 I took a bit of an unplanned nap, and then we were off to dinner at an Italian restaurant a short walk away.5

The next morning we were up, bright and early, and off into a longer trek through Vienna’s public transit system. It’s an impressive system, with a lot of well-developed infrastructure.6 And then we were on the train to Dorfgastein, where I finally got my camera out and started taking pictures, because good lord, look at this.

Continue reading Arrival