Sunday, August 29, 2010

Night at the Museum

Here are some pictures from my amusing trip to the Field Museum. I have been there a half dozen times, but never really looked at the exhibit descriptions. Boy are there some gems there...granted you need the immature mind of a 12 year old boy.
The dik-dik (a small antelope)

How about the "wild ass" (ah ha ha ha)

Oh no, hide your daughters, beware of the fearsome rape-o-saurus do you think the bushtits feels.

Okay I think the historical artist took some severe liberties with the animal recreation. Seriously, can you imagine this shark swimming around. Talk about a big lower lip.

Again, another historical artist recreation gone wrong. Do they ever sit back and look at their "guess" and say yeah that is totally plausible. Seriously, the thing has a sos srubbing pad on its head and back.

This one is humorous for two reasons. One, they actually took the effort to position to beetles mating. Second, the fact they had inform us on the card that they were mating.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mediterranean Adventures – Part 9 (Haifa/Nazareth/Galilee Israel)

We pulled into Haifa Israel and the weather was exactly what you expected, from the Middle East…in September. The temperatures hit 36 degC (106 degF) while we were out touring. Plus we were dressed in modesty wear which didn't make it any less hot.

Now Dana and I are seasoned enough travelers to be confident in a foreign city…however, we weren’t even going to attempt Israel. Admittedly, 90% of the country is totally peaceful, but knowing our luck, we likely would stumble into that 10%. So we signed up for the official tour, along with the other 60+ crowd on our tour bus. Believe me, the air conditioned bus was probably the highlight of their day.
Our tour guide was a brilliant PhD student in biblical history. He gave tons of history and insightful facts with zero religious bias.

Our first stop was the ruins of the ancient city Capernaum. They were excavating the house of St. Peter which had a secret synagogue inside where Jesus preached. The capitals of the columns (tops) were decorated with menorahs.

The Church of the Multiplication was a short drive away along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The floor has a 5th century byzantine mosaic depicting the two fish and five loaves that were multiplied to feed the masses. Note the mosaic only shows four loaves with the fifth presumably Jesus.

Mount of Beatitudes was the location of the sermon on the mount. I could see why he would preach here because it was gorgeous! Seriously something out of a post card with the rolling hills, farms, and sea in the background. We also had a good view of the Golan Heights. I can see why Syria keeps fighting Israel for that patch of land…it is totally the high ground and therefore the perfect place to launch missiles.

We waded in the Jordan River where the famed Jesus baptism occurred. Baptisms are still performed there. Dana and I both dipped our legs in the river where the fish kept nibbling at our feet. Seriously, it was jarring having something try to swallow your toe. The entrance was right off of a giant tourist shop. Not exactly keeping the play sacred huh.

Our lunch was at a communal farm called a Kibbutz. The food was awesome (no bacon though) and we loved the Israeli wine (light and sweet).

Off to Nazareth to the Basilica of the Annunciation. Apparently it is the largest Christian church in the Middle East. It is built around the grotto where the Archangel Gabriel made his famous announcement to Mary. Not be a spoiler, but the grotto looked more like a cave.

Nearby was Joseph's carpenter workshop where Jesus was raised. Tradition would hold that Joseph would bring his wife to live with his parents or at least nearby. That means Joseph is the biblical boy next door (ha!).

The port of Haifa is considered the Silicon Valley of Israel because it is on the cutting edge of technology. It is also home to the world headquarters to the Baha'i' religion. The temple/church/whatever is on a hill overlooking the port. The really spectacular part is how it looks at night.

Now funny signs.
Men shall not wear short shorts and cropped tank tops (I agree)

Dogs, short clothing, and guns not allowed. Are they really considered equally bad?

Do not climb the tower and dump a briefcase

Monday, August 23, 2010

Offspring and 311...chilling by the lake

I have been waaaaay behind on my posting. Like two plus month behind. I have made it my goal before going on my annual super vacation to get caught up on the back log of at least eight blog worthy stories. Here are pictures and VIDEOS of the Offspring / 311 concert held at the old Miggs field in downtown Chicago. Yeah, the venue used to be the small airport right on the Chicago lakefront. That is until 9/11 and Mayor Daley decided to demolish the runway in the middle of the night with zero warning to the city. Seriously, look it up. Well the private jet owner’s loss is totally my gain. The venue is small so we can get up close to the bands and open to the wonderful summer nights (with a hint of cool breeze coming off the lapping water of Lake Michigan). Granted, I don’t push up in the crowd to get THAT close because I am A) too old to mosh or stage rush, and B) too worried the crowd would knock away my beer. There is a definite line between the 30+ crowd and the 16-25 year old crowd (or basically the crowd who loved these bands when they were originally a hit in high school and the crowd that likes the band because they just picked up the greatest hits album).

Yep I am not ashamed to admit that my all time favorite band is The Offspring. I could (and did) sing along to every song they played. The sad thing is I didn’t see them in concert till last year. Same goes for 311, somewhat. I always liked their music in high school (I mean Omaha styling hello!) but never got around to seeing them once they made it big (the Ranch Bowl in Omaha doesn’t really count…but man that place was a magnet for good upcoming alternative acts). I attended my first 311 concert in March, which just happened to be 311 day (talk about an education).

Okay here are videos of The Offspring. In Gone Away, you can see how Big Mike disapproves of the acoustic version (he much prefers the “rock band” version, ah ha ha ha).

--Note, all of these are links to the videos I posted on my YouTube account. I never thought I would need one, but unfortunately my blog has limited memory and this was my only option.

Gone Away

Self Esteem

Come out and play

Staring at the Sun

Can't get my head around you

Bad Habit

Here are pics of 311 (sorry, they did rock but I only had memory space for one band).

Bill drinking Joose or otherwise known as a bad idea (refer back to Vegas post when we first were introduced to Joose...aka canned douche bag).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mediterranean Adventures – Part 8 (Kusadasil & Ephesus, Turkey)

We docked in Kusadasil Turkey. Okay I had my reservations about Turkey, but boy was I wrong. The people were super friendly (almost too friendly). I think they were going above and beyond to show people they were not anti-tourist…”yes come to Turkey, we don’t bite”.

The country is GORGEOUS! Seriously like something in a postcard.

We booked a trip to the ruins of ancient Ephesus. It is the city where the book of Ephesians was written. There were actually three cities of Ephesus over time. I know this because of our fantastic tour guide. He was a real Indiana Jones archeologist. During the week, he gives tours of ruins and on the weekends he goes out to new digs and gets his hands dirty. This guy sure knew everything historical about the area (or sure sounded like he did…maybe I should follow up with some wiki-checks).

So ancient Ephesus…the city we toured was the 3rd one built. The first one closer to the coast and destroyed by floods and plague. The second was “moved” by the Romans. Apparently, they felt the city would be better fortified if it was moved farther inland in the mountains, so they evicted everyone. Here you can barely see some of the wall on the ridge of the hill.

At the ruins they had things like forums, amphitheaters, library, and public toilets. Oh yes, of all the historic things, and I zero in on the toilets. There was long slab of stone with holes that you, um, sat on and dropped your waste down into a pit below. Apparently the servants would use this oar like stick to swish around stagnant poop and push it down to the drainage system on hot days. You had to pay close attention to make sure you held the correct end of the stick…in fact that is where the saying “don’t grab the wrong end of the stick” originated.

Famed Celsus Library

Ancient Angel Frieze

Bath of Varius

The Commercial Agora (marketplace)

Ancient Street with Mossaic tile

Temple of Hadrian

Odeon Meeting House

Gate of Mazeus

Fountain of Pollio

We marveled at the theater where Paula and John preached. If you read the book of Ephesians, it tells the story about their time here. Basically they told the town to be good and the town told them to fuck off.

Speaking of St. John, he apparently took care of the Virgin Mary after the crucifixion. They settled outside of town in a cute little three room cottage up in the hills. The house is called the house of the Virgin Mary (I know, original). We participated in a short mass outside and then toured the cottage.
Apparently there is a stream that runs underneath the place and since the Virgin Mary died there, the stream is considered blessed. Of course there are all sorts of signs up saying “don’t drink the holy water” because it may be blessed, but it sure aint sanitary. Well people were all unruly and crowded around the holy facets (yes the stream was in facet form) elbowing people out of the way, filling up gallon jugs, dunking their children.

After a sample of Turkish coffee (something like coffee with the consistency of syrup), we went to the ruins of Church/Basilica of St. John. By the ruins were the ruins of another temple, the Temple of Artemis. Yep, another wonder of the ancient world. Our second (but not last) one of the trip. All tht was left was one big column and some other small rubble. To give you an idea of the size, it is three times the size of the Parthenon and each one of the columns are 60feet tall. Oh and it is entirely composed of marble. Not bad huh.

At Basilica of St. John there were a bunch of stray puppies. They were just hanging out napping in the shade. Occasionally they would follow around a tourist. Interestingly enough, St. John isn’t buried at the ruins anymore.

Our lunch was at a carpet school where they served us a traditional meal from taken from the Old Testament (it was called a biblical lunch). Mostly it was just lentils, vegetables and fish. The old people on our tour (our entire cruise was mostly the 60+ crowd, so they were EVERYWHERE) were really picky eaters. They basically wouldn’t eat anything unless it showed up on the menu at Applebees. The cruise did cater to them so instead of authentic regional dishes, we dined on hamburgers and fries. Anyway, the old people were full of stories about how busted up they were. One woman had a replacement hip so strong it dented her car. Her husband died so she used the inheritance money to travel. Apparently she has done this exact tour three times before (why she was doing it again is beyond me).

We went into town to the Turkish market and toured a carpet making shop. They instructed us on how they unwound the silk from a cocoon. They didn’t mention price of the carpets and continuously alluded the question. We did happen to sneak a peek at a price tag and noticed a medium sized silk rug was $97,000. Yes, that is more than most American’s annual income. They did serve us Apple Tea and their “milk” drink which was like coconut milk, black liquorish and ouzo liquor.

The Turkish way for shopping was really pushy. Basically they follow you around till you buy something. We ended up bypassing all of the in-your-face venders and opted for the laid back nonchalant venders who actually sat back and let us browse first. We picked up the most beautiful hand painted bowls.

We attacked the all day buffet for sushi since lentils and vegetables frankly didn’t curb our fast food raised appetites. Therefore we didn’t eat much at our fancy dinner. Granted the best part of the steak dinner were the potato chips, so we didn’t miss out too much.

One highlight of the day (besides the absolutely gorgeous Turkish hills) was watching an old man walk face first into a glass door. It was so hard to not burst out laughing in front of him.
An example of the demographic on our cruise...a long line of wheel chairs

And now...funny signs and or pictures:
In case you were unsure, do not touch electrical wires!

This is the bathroom at the House of the Virgin Mary. It may be a sin to mock a sign at such a holy place, but isn't the drawing looking like she has to pee really bad?

Some Turkish Dancers that greeted us at the port