Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Contemplating the Genocide Museum of Vilnius and Moral Luck

Here I am, a few weeks ago, in one of the cells in a facility that once housed prisoners of the Soviet regime. If I had been born and raised in Vilnius, what would my life had been like? This facility was in operation until I was about forty years old. So it is not so farfetched for me to contemplate. What kind of prisoner would I have been? What kind of guard or administrator would I have been? It would have been a difficult job. The guards were punished if they were too easy and if they were too severe. I am thankful I was never in such a situation.

Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology has a great post that backs up his reasoning behind espousing Universalism. Why I am a Universalist Part 4: Moral Luck. He refers to one of my earlier comments there.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Museum of Genocide Victims

This is a basement cell in the Museum of Genocide Victims. It is where suspected opponents of the Soviet regime were taken for incarceration followed by torture and perhaps execution. The Lithuanians turned this building into a museum almost immediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Also along the hallway below, we saw a torture room where a prisoner had a dry spot the size of a frizbee to stand on surrounded by frozen water. They were left there for hours. Some would give in and lay down on the ice. Upstairs was the execution room. Grim.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Best Restaurant Ad in Vilnius

I was tempted to lunch here but it was a little early.

The Gaon of Vilna Museum

I tried to visit, but, alas, the museum was closed. The Gaon of Vilna was a famous rabbi of the 18th century who lived his life in Vilnius.

According to this site, some credit him with deriving "Cramer's Rule" for matrices. It says this is a matter of controversy.

Here is the official museum site, I think

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Potato Pancakes from Double Coffee

This was scrumptious. They called them potato pancakes but they were what we would call hash browns. They were greasy but great. What really made the dish was the garlic and capers wrapped in herring that you see on the top. When the lemon is squeezed on the topping it makes a wonderful dish. That is sour cream underneath the sprig of parsley to the left. You will note the wording on the plate is, for our convenience, in English. This was in the old town and the restaurant was Double Coffee.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ausra Vartai - The Dawn Gate

This structure captivated me when I came upon it, a church with a room over a road. The picture to the left I found at the web site below. The one on the right is mine. I later found out it is called Ausra Vartai, the Dawn Gate, and is a famous place of pilgrimmage. You can just make out the arch in the bottom of the picture. A street passes under it. This was Sunday morning, Oct 1. This and other churches were packed.

It was built into the city wall in 1829 and houses a painting of the Virgin Mary. Other pictures and explanation are provided at the web site linked here.

Old Town Scenes

A Uniate church, ie. a Catholic Greek Church (not Greek Orthodox)

Their national cathedral. Original site of the pagan temple of Perkunas.

View from Hotel

The view from my hotel window. The foreground shows a modernized shopping area. Behind that and to the right is the old town and you see an old church. To the left in the background are old Soviet Communist era buildings undergoing repair. That summarizes Vilnius. It is a mixture of all three. They revere their cultural heritage and have preserved it well in their old town. Their is a lot of building going on. They seem to have made a fast transition to a market economy and appear to be a nation on the move.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Here in Vilnius

It is 7:30 am here in my hotel and the lobby computer is available. This place is an amazing mixture of the old, modern, and postmodern. From my hotel room I can view the "old town" section of Vilnius with its small streets and many old churches. Some of the vista from my room reveals buildings and architecture from the Soviet era. But, I can also view several shopping centers and new postmodern buildings which show that since being the first of the countries to break away from the Soviet Union in about 1990 Lithuania is open for business. It is meaningful that I can from here see the TV tower where about 13 people gave their lives to the cause of freedom in that year.

Yesterday I visited the Laser Research Center of Vilnius University. They have spun off several laser businesses from that department. They lead the world in certain aspects of Femtosecond Laser technology. I was impressed learn of their new Yb doped Lithium Niobate based laser that promises to allow these types of lasers to be much smaller. The world will be a better place when we can get smaller and cheaper femtosecond lasers.

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