Dec. 17th, 2011

guingel: (zz shackleton)
If I end up making this entry public, it will start a trend of my public entries being about Sir Ernest Shackleton - although in this case somewhat indirectly. Wednesday the 14th was the 100th Anniversary of Roald Amundsen reaching the South Pole! To me, anything about Antarctica is immediately about Shackleton, his character and achievements tower over all else.

I wanted to do something to commemorate the day, and I'd made plans with my work friend Alison to go to a bar we like called that's Antarctica. They weren't doing anything special to celebrate but at least it would feel thematically appropriate. However, when I got in that day I had an email from her that she didn't think she'd be able to get out of work until 9PM (things are very crazy for her and she's working a lot of overtime. I, on the other hand, get out between 4:30 and 5). Luckily I was able to make a contingency plan to get dinner with friend!Corey.

Corey an I have been making plans to go to a Polish restaurant to get pierogis for months now, I think - I started craving them and suggested we go back to Poland (we went on a whirlwind two-day trip to Bedzin and Krakow last spring and ate lots of delicious pierogis) so that was the original plan but then I was thinking we could do something more thematically appropriate if we went to a Scandinavian restaurant, since Amundsen was Norwegian. Apparently Scandinavian cuisine isn't particularly popular in NYC, one of the top results was the restaurant at IKEA. XD But luckily of the 4 non-IKEA options (3 of which were different locations of the same chain and one of which was ridiculously expensive), one was perfect!! A little bit fancier than my usually dinners out but not prohibitively so, and since it was a special occasion I was ok with going a bit upscale. AND it was super close to Antarctica Bar, which was perfect because Alison realized that she might be able to get out closer to 7:30 (the 9PM estimate was based on a fit of exhaustion and despair the night before).

wooo party timeeeee yeah south pole discovery )

Although Antarctic Exploration is no longer my most recent nerdy historical subject of interest! A wikipedia research excursion into the British perspective on WWII (starting with the Battle of Britain) lead to a more intense immersion into technological aspects of WWII which lead to an overwhelming interest in tactical deception operations and double agents, eventually leading to me taking several books on the subject out of the library (unfortunately, one of them is 800 pages long and impractical for reading on the subway). SO. AWESOME. I've always avoided WWII before, because to me it's so overwhelmingly overshadowed by the Holocaust.

And indeed, there were some difficult moments - I was generally looking into aspects that I'd never really studied before, and overwhelmingly from a British perspective, particularly focusing on areas of Allied success, so generally it was fascinating and as positive as this sort of thing can be, certainly not depressing. But since I have quite a number of unresolved psychological issues about the Holocaust (of which my grandparents are survivors) there were times when I was unable to avoid following a link to something I knew would be disturbing or upsetting, trying to confront this stuff little by little. Since I was coming at things from a British perspective (much of which we never learn about in American schools) there were certain stories from POWs who were in the concentration camps, and hearing about how horrible their conditions are, and then how horrified they were at how much incredibly worse all the Jewish prisoners were being treated is really lingering.

However, for the most part what I was reading about what just absolutely fascinating and cool. The whole period was so technologically fascinating. Nothing was digital but the war was motivating everyone to push all the existing technology to its absolute limit. I've never been someone interested in military history or certainly weapons development but I actually got quite fascinated. The Battle of the Beams was one of my favorite parts - the progression of Luftwaffe radio navigation and British methods of thwarting this, lead by awesome science dude R V Jones.

cryptography, the enigma machine, double agents, sneaky sneaky smart people )

But the greatest double agent - and one of the coolest people OF ALL TIME - is Joan Pujol Garcia, aka GARBO. Absolute genius, fascinating dude, wrote some truly epically entertaining bullshit spy letters to the Nazis. Vital part of the D-Day deceptions that caused the Germans to keep numerous divisions at Pas-de-Calais, thinking the Normandy invasion was just a diversion.

HOWEVER. I think I should actually just end this entry here and write about GARBO another time. I just got his autobiography and I'm so friggin pumped! (half the chapters of which are written by the historian who tracked him down - and unfortunately the historian has a slightly questionable reputation, but on the other hand there's no doubt that the man he found is indeed GARBO so I think it's safe to assume the text is overall as accurate as a book written 40 years later about very secret things can be.) It was quite the struggle just to get it, though! It was supposed to come out in February so I pre-ordered it (it was published 1985 but reprinted 2011) and then I kept getting emails moving the release date forward and back. Then finally I was told it was shipped but I got a little "we couldn't deliver this" note from the post office, and I requested redelivery but they totally ignored me, and the USPS site didn't recognize the serial number on the delivery slip. So I had to go to the post office this morning to get it and the whole thing felt faintly ominous, but the pick up actually went really smoothly so I was happy. :) And now I think I will just read it and not write about it anymore!

Or I'll keep re-watching Ouran High School Host Club... either way. XD (Well, I can't take Ouran on the train when I go home for early Hanukkah later!)

Speaking of re-watching, thanks to [ profile] ohmiya_sg linking to the JE Index a little while ago, I've totally been re-immersing myself in Johnny's stuff. XDD This is still a highlight though!! (God, there's so many arashi sub communities though! And I've been gone for so long, I have to go through a whole bunch of membership processes and I keep forgetting where I've applied and yeeeesh.)

Oh god and speaking of Schalke, there has been so much unbearably cute Raul stuff lately! Or a quote from our sporting director about rumors that Raul might go to Qatar - "We will speak [with Raul] in January. I do not think Raul will move to Qatar. Raul has not played football so long just to earn money. He will not go anywhere without his family; they will decide his future with him." <33333 THAT'S HOW I FEEL, HORST HELDT! Ahhh I can't wait til I get an improved photoshop for Christmas so I can make gifs of all these new videos.

Haha, I like how long ago I said "i'll just end this entry here." Really for me this isn't a long one, though! Basically almost nothing is behind the cuts. XD I wanted to shorten it for your friends lists but obviously everything i'm saying is way too fascinating to be cut... clearly...


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