Doesn’t this vintage car look exactly like an animated character from a Pixar movie?
Developed by the Central Scientific Research Automobile and Automotive Engines Institute of the USSR / Russian Federation, known also with a much more user-friendly abbreviation NAMI, the car even has an appropriate name for a cartoon character: Belka means ‘squirrel’.
I’m used to thinking—wrongly or rightly—that Soviet design is, to put it politely, butt-ugly. (Think of brutalism, for example.) But this car is, indeed, very cute for midcentury modern design, even if it looks top-heavy (and perhaps therefore too wobbly for safety).
It’s by Huka, a Dutch company. And it’s SO. AWESOME! Just wheel your chair up the little ramp, stabilize the chair, secure your stuff, lift the ramp up behind you so it’ll form a low “back wall” for the wheelchair area, and go! Aaaaaa!
In a sense, I’ve been ridiculously lucky so far—none of my chronic conditions have affected my mobility. I’ve never even sprained a limb, let alone broken one. I have been operated on, though, although fairly lightly and fairly late in my life. However, that one experience was enough to convince me of the absolute, unadulterated value of mobility aids of various kinds, including accessible building.
Which reminds me: I just cannot (can-NOT!) understand people who gripe and complain about having to get help, including walkers or wheelchairs or whatnot. Isn’t the tech there precisely to enable us to function more independently for longer, just like glasses?!? Aren’t we social animals who help one another???
(Badly fitted or broken aids, on the other hand, are the worst and should be burninated. And don’t even get me started on how despicably some people choose to treat disabled people who are just out and about, minding their own business…! #JustAskDontGrab)
One thing’s for sure: whenever I get to the stage that I need various aids, mobility or otherwise, BRING ‘EM ON!
July 20, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission—the spaceflight that landed the first people on the Moon.
Ben Feist, a software engineer and historian at NASA Johnson Space Center, and a team of other experts put together a website for Apollo 11 video, audio, and pictures of the astronauts and mission control.
The site consists entirely of original historical mission material, with data and audio restored plus transcripts corrected. There’s video, too, and views of the Earth receding and Moon showing up in the viewscreen, various details from the lunar surface, and support teams back home. And a whole host of additional data.
Northrend has some of my favorite areas in World of Warcraft. I love the music in Grizzly Hills, and both Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra have nice, varied environments. (Then again, Northrend also has one of my all-time non-favorites, too: Icecrown. So dark and spiky and empty, brr. But I digress.) Whenever I level a toon through Northrend these days, I visit all three zones, and pick and choose the rest as mood strikes me.
One of the Howling Fjord quests never gets old: Let’s Go Surfing Now lets you ride down an impossibly tall cliff standing on top of a flaming harpoon bolt. I took my Dark Iron Dwarf through there last night:
Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.
Since 1991, in Gentilly, Quebec, the residents have held an annual giant pumpkin competition—and boat race!—called Potirothon. The name is a portmanteau of potiron and marathon.
After weighing the entrants, some of the giant pumpkins are carved into 1-seater canoes and raced on the Bécancour River.
The Potirothon race is so awesome! Although pumpkins aren’t new to me anymore, the giant variety is. This is also the first I hear of carving the giant kind. My mind immediately went to an alternate Shire, or maybe another secondary world where humanoids of a smaller stature might want to use giant hollowed-out gourds / fruit / plants as transport. Or not even necessarily humanoids; intelligent beings of any shape or size.
There’s been some buzz—quite understandably, too, for the drone looks pretty neat—but the vehicle doesn’t seem to have been ready for the international market quite as soon as some western newsoutlets have reported. It sounds like the battery life is still rather limited, too. Fortunately the limitations of the current tech do not have to restrain a science fiction writer—just think of how much cell phone batteries have improved in the last ten years alone.
My goodness, it’s exciting to be living now! 🙂
The Visual Inspiration occasional feature pulls the unusual from our world to inspire design, story-telling, and worldbuilding. If stuff like this already exists, what else could we imagine?
Really fascinating! I know there were also some Roman roadworks running at least partially across the land from east to west along Hadrian’s Wall in Britain, but I don’t know whether there ever was a complete major road there.
In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds.
Worldcon is in Helsinki this year. As a Finnish-American couple, we are very excited about this! In the coming months, we’d like to offer some practical advice about visiting Finland to our fellow fans who are considering going to the event but haven’t had experience with Finland and Finns before.
Eppu here. First of all, I should note that I didn’t grow up in Helsinki, so I’ve had to learn the capital region transit system as an outsider. There’s no denying that it’s a big system with many moving parts (see what I did!) and that it can feel overwhelming. However, I find that, overall, information is abundant, the signage excellent, the electronic displays usually accurate, and the services run on time. Navigation or ticketing haven’t been a problem for us. (Note: Unfortunately I can’t competently comment on the success of the accessibility initiatives; I can only say there’s every attempt.)
Edited to add: Please also read Progress Report #5. Worldcon 75 staff have put together a very informational final report with lots of practical tips.
Some general information
The public transit network in the greater Helsinki area consists of local and regional buses, trams, commuter trains, subway (metro), and ferry. The system is managed by Helsinki Region Transport (in Finnish: Helsingin seudun liikenne or HSL; HSL on Wikipedia). Helsinki also provides city bikes for a fee (registration required).
Most lines operate between 5:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. or so. Nighttime lines, where they exist, are marked by letter N in the timetables (for example, 415 and 415N), and a higher night fare is charged between 2 a.m. and 4.30 a.m.
The metro sign is a white M in a red square.
Many Finns stay silent in public transit, although in large cities and/or with younger passengers this may not hold true. A Finn might also not ask someone blocking them to move; a wish to pass is often expressed only through body language.
Always carry a valid ticket. Passengers without a ticket are charged a penalty fare of 80 euros.
There are several different kinds of tickets (single, day, travel card) and ways to get them (bus drivers, tram operators, text message, ticket machines / automats / kiosks).
The ticket machines operate in Finnish, Swedish, or English; payment is by coins, bills, or cards. Below is a how-to video:
There are three zones: internal, regional (two zones) and the whole region (three zones). The internal tickets basically cover only one city (Helsinki; Espoo; Kauniainen; Vantaa) or municipality (Kirkkonummi) or transit zone unit (Kerava & Sipoo).
Helsinki central railway station is the biggest transportation hub in the greater Helsinki area. Other hubs include Pasila railway station, Sörnäinen, and Itäkeskus (literally, ‘east center’) in Helsinki, Espoon keskus (Espoo center) and Leppävaara in Espoo, and Myyrmäki and Tikkurila in Vantaa.
Unless your accommodations are in one of the adjoining cities, you should only need internal Helsinki tickets during the con.
At Helsinki-Vantaa airport, there are several local and regional buses in addition to train and taxi services. Trains stop between the two airport terminals and both at Pasila and the main railway station in Helsinki, with several stops in between.
Buses run between Helsinki-Vantaa and the city, ending in the vicinity of the Helsinki central railway station. Lines terminate either on Elielinaukio on the west or Rautatientori (railway station square) on the east side of the station.
For the city center, take either the HSL bus 415 or 615. The newest and fastest connection is the Ring Rail Line (I and P trains). Both the HSL buses and the airport train require a regional ticket (seutulippu). The private Finnair City Buses run between the airport and Elielinaukio.
Finding the spot
Bus and tram stops have both a unique 4-digit number and a name in both Finnish and Swedish. The stop number includes one or two preceding letters which indicate(s) the city or municipality of the stop (E for Espoo, H for Helsinki, etc.). For example, Pasilan asema / Böle station is H2100 in the photo below.
In practice, only the stop names are relevant, but you can use the stop numbers, too, with the Reittiopas route planner (see below).
Stops and departure bays display a sign with the route number(s) and destination(s) for the line(s) that use that particular stop. A small metro sign (white M in a red square) indicates that that line feeds to the metro.
Many of the stops also have transit maps and printed schedules. They are good for basic route finding if you know where you’re headed.
Electronic timetable displays at stops and terminals show either real-time or scheduled arrival / departure times for the line(s) serving that stop. Inside vehicles they typically display the route number and the name of the next stop.
You can also check out possible routes and options ahead of time with the Journey Planner (Reittiopas) in Finnish, Swedish, or English. Plug in your destination street address or attraction name and choose your preferred method and route; you can also adjust the amount of walking required or number of transfers in the settings.
Pertinent destination or stop names for Worldcon 75 are Helsinki-Vantaa airport (for which the route finder uses terms lentoasema or Helsinki-Vantaa airport T1-T2 corridor or combinations thereof), Helsinki railway station, Pasila or Pasilan asema (for Pasila railway station), and Messukeskus.
The Google Maps public transit directions also seem ok to me, but I haven’t used them often enough to comment on their reliability.
Note that the old Pasila train station is being demolished and a new one being built during the con. I haven’t personally been there, but on the basis of every newspaper photo I’ve seen it looks like signage and information on where to find connections, platforms, etc., is plentiful.
How to put a stop to it
The metro and commuter trains stop at every station. Enter and exit through any open door.
However, buses and trams only stop when requested. It is customary to enter through the front and exit through the middle or back doors. (People with accessibility issues may use the front door or middle door on low-floor buses both to enter and exit.)
At a bus stop, give a clear sign to the driver by holding your arm out to the side. Keep holding your hand out until the driver signals to show that s/he is going to stop.
Trams typically stop when there are passengers waiting. If the stop is shared by several routes, however, raise a hand to request that your tram stops to pick you up.
To exit at your stop, press the Stop button on the grab bars. (Note: Tape strips like some American buses use, for example, do not exist in Finland.) Do it early enough to give the driver time to stop safely. In fact, it’s not unusual to see people signal for a stop almost as soon as the bus or tram has left the previous stop.
What if I want to talk to someone?
The city of Helsinki tourist guides, the Helsinki Helpers, stand ready to answer questions until the end of August. Find them in their distinctive lime green vests on the inner city streets and cruise harbors. There’s also the Info Container tourist info kiosk on Keskuskatu next to Ateneum Art Museum (link to a map).
At or near Messukeskus, where you’ll be dealing mainly with hospitality workers or fellow fen, you will be in the best of company and are bound to find help, but Helsinki residents in general are used to tourists, too. Do not hesitate to ask passers-by for help if you need it. Many Finns, even if they tend to be reticent or shy of their English skills, are well-informed, eager to help, and give practical advice.
An outsider’s perspective
Erik here. As a foreign visitor, I’ve always found Helsinki quite an easy city to get around. The city center is compact and easily walkable, if that’s your preferred mode of transportation. If not, there are many good public transit options, as Eppu has explained. As with other parts of Finnish culture, there are some local details about getting around that may confuse you or not be obvious if you’re used to American cities. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you visit Helsinki:
Public transit has a bad reputation in some parts of the US. This does not apply in Finland. Finnish public transit is clean, modern, efficient, and easy to use. You’ll see everyone from parents with little children to business executives on their way to meetings riding the trains, buses, trams, and subway in Helsinki.
Always cross the street at a marked crosswalk and always obey the Walk/Don’t Walk signs. Even if the street is empty, don’t cross against the lights. This isn’t just a matter of courtesy, it’s also for your safety. Finland is a very law-abiding nation and drivers expect pedestrians to follow traffic signals. If a driver has a green light, they may not look out for pedestrians crossing the road in front of them. In Helsinki, unlike in many American cities, the buttons for crosswalk signals actually work.
In many places, you’ll find the sidewalk divided into two lanes, one for bicycles and the other for foot traffic. The lanes may be marked with painted symbols (a bicycle or a pair of walking figures), or the sidewalk may be partially paved, partially cobblestone (bicycles on the pavement, walkers on the cobble). Try to stay in the appropriate lane. This is also a matter of both courtesy and safety. There are a lot of bicycles in Helsinki and it’s both rude and dangerous to get in their way.
If there isn’t a marked division on the sidewalk, it’s good manners to stay to the right so that other people have room to get by you.
Turning right on a red light is not allowed anywhere in Finland, which is useful to know whether you’re driving or just walking around.
Few stores in Helsinki have public toilets and those that do may charge a fee. But free public toilets are available around the city. Look for dark green metal sheds on sidewalks and in parks, about the size and shape of a newsstand. These are free, clean, and kept in good condition.
As in many other European cities, look for street signs at the corners of buildings, not on free-standing posts.
Because Finland is a bilingual country, all road signs and many informational signs are posted in both Finnish and Swedish. Many places and neighborhoods around Helsinki also have names in both languages. Sometimes it’s obvious—it’s not hard even for an English speaker to guess that Eerikinkatu and Eriksgatan are the same street. Others are not so easy to guess. Without a little linguistic knowledge it can be hard to know that Ruoholahti is the same as Gräsviken. The announcements in public transit are also bilingual (occasionally trilingual, with English following Finnish and Swedish).
Online information for getting around in Helsinki
Accessibility (Helsingin seudun liikenne, HSL) – accessibility info for the greater Helsinki region
“Every American Transportation Planner Should Spend a Week in Helsinki” – part 1 of 3, part 2 of 3, and part 3 of 3 – by Garrett Wollman at Occasionally Coherent describes the greater Helsinki transit system in detail through American eyes
Subway riders in New York City are in for a treat this summer: e-books, e-shorts, and excerpts from full-length books are available in subway stations for free download.
This six-week Subway Library promotion comes from the cooperation of the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library with the Metropolitan Transit Authority and Transit Wireless.
The e-books and short stories come from the NYPL’s permanent collection, while excerpts have been made available by big-name publishers (including Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Plympton, and Simon & Schuster).
Along with the free reading, there is a social media competition, and a special Library Train will alternate running along the 6th and 8th Avenue lines (E and F trains). The latter has a car decorated to look like the Rose Main Reading Room inside the 42nd Street branch of the NYPL.
Read more about and browse the free selection at the Subway Library website!
The Inca empire of South America was connected by a network of roads used by chasqui runners and pack llamas carrying messages and supplies around the empire. The Inca, creating their empire in the Andes mountains, faced challenges unlike those of flat-land and river-valley empires, among which was the problem of crossing numerous steep mountain valleys and rivers that ran dangerously swift in the flood season. Their solution to this problem was: rope bridges.
Suspension rope bridges spanned rivers and valleys, the longest reaching a length of 45 meters. They were made with ropes twisted out of grass and had to be rebuilt every year or two. The rebuilding was dangerous work that was assigned to local villagers as part of their obligation to the empire. Most Inca bridges have long since been replaced with modern structures, but one, the Q’iswa Chaka over the Apurimac River in Peru, is still rebuilt every year by local people as a way of preserving their heritage.