Monday, August 28, 2006

Stil Safe in Istanbul

Despite some problems other places in Turkey (and in Istanbul), I am safe and have not had any problems.

Well, no problems other than the Turkish carpet salesmen who seem to want to serve me tea and ıntroduce me to their entire families and adopt me and maybe just show me a carpet or two in the showroom.

Actually, the biggest problem I have had here is the computer keyboards. Not only are there a few extra letters in Turkish and the punctuation marks are moved around, Turkish also has two letters called I - a dotted and an undotted one. (Computer geek explanation of computer problems with the two I letters.) Now, to enter a web address, you use the dotted I which is not where ıt should be. But for an upper case I, you shift and use the undotted I. At least I think so. If my emails and posts look stranger than usual, that could be why.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

In Istanbul

I finally arrived in Istanbul, 22 hours after I left Bucharest. At least the train was fairly nice...

Saturday, August 26, 2006

In Bucharest

Yesterday morning I arrived in Bucharest. This afternoon, I catch the overnight train to Istanbul!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

In Sophia

Today I am in Sophia, Bulgaria, and I am taking the overnight train to Bucharest, Romaina.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

In Belgrade

Yesterday, I left Pristina and returned to Skopje and then last night, I took the overnight train from Skopje to Belgrade.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

In Pristina

This morning, I took the train from Skopje to Pristina in Kosovo. (Kosovo is a territory in Serbia that is administered by the UN. Here is a link to the UNMIK site.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Skopje

After spending a few days in Athens, I took the train to Thessaloniki on Saturday. On Monday, I took the train to Skopje, Macedonia. Today, I am spending the day in Ohrid - I came by bus. Tomorrow, I leave Skppje and travel by train to Pristina.

Friday, August 11, 2006

In Athens

Just a quick post to update you where I am. I arrived safely in Athens on Wednesday and have spent the last two days looking at lots of really old ruins (and a few new things, too). You may have heard about flights from Heathrow yesterday, but I have avoided all of that, luckily.

Tomorrow, I take the train to Thessaloniki for a couple of days.

I won't be able to post any of my pictures for a while, but don't worry, I'm taking lots!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Flickr Badges

This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called Clouds. Make your own badge here.

Kew Gardens

Kew GardensYesterday, I decided to visit Kew Gardens (or the Royal botanic Gardens, Kew). In addition to the plants (bajillions of plants), there is also a pagoda (open for the first time in ages) and Kew Palace. Here are a few pictures. A lot more are on Flickr.

PagodaThe Pagoda.

Kew Palace
Kew Palace

PeacockA peacock.



FlowersA flower.

Bee and flowerA bee on a flower.

Friday, August 04, 2006

So Popular

Blog Ticket
Originally uploaded by

Ever heard the saying, "This place is so popular, we'll have to sell tickets!"?


Well, anyway, I've got my ticket!

(Make your own at

Crazy Weather

It's hot enough in New Hampshire for a woman to bake cookies on the dashboard of her car.

There's snow in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the first time in eight years.

Roanoke City Schools

After reading Graycie's latest post (Today's Homework), I did a bit of searching in the Roanoke Times online archive. I found this intersting article (from April, I believe). It is titled 'We've been failing these kids'.

This part in particular is interesting:

Former Superintendent Wayne Harris talked often about overcoming achievement gaps, but Stockburger thinks the school system, like many around the country, never treated accountability measures like the SOLs and the federal No Child Left Behind Act with the seriousness they warranted. The achievement gap is one of a number of reasons the system finds itself in the position it's in, she said.

Over the past few years, controversies over school system hiring and purchasing, as well as the discovery that the division had been underreporting school disciplinary data, were huge distractions, said Stockburger, a three-year board member who is not seeking a second term.

Harris left office in July 2004, triggering the appointment of an interim superintendent and a search for a full-time replacement, she noted.

School board members confess they weren't fully aware of the school system's problems until Thompson took over as superintendent in May 2005.

"We were just awakened," said board member Jason Bingham. "We've been failing these kids."

Thompson has been careful not to cast blame on Harris, but he's been plain that the system is in trouble.

"None of you knew the condition of this division when I arrived, needless to say, nor did I," he wrote to school board members in a December e-mail.

"In my time here it has become apparent to me that the obstacles facing us moving forward are the entrenched practices which have led to mediocrity and failure," he wrote, failure "to know the requirements of the law and the best practices which have been employed by school divisions across the country to address our issues."

I'm not sure what is going on in Roanoke City schools now, but it sounds like they have at least finally realized what a lot of us were saying about Wayne Harris several years ago.

Things To Do

BBC Weather Center

I was checking the weather on the BBC web site when I noticed something that said Things To Do.
(See? Here it is!)

So I clicked it.

And, weather or not (get it?!) you are interested, it is a list of ten activities to help you learn about the weather, from making a weather vane to observing clouds.
All brought to you by your friendly BBC!

Things I Learned Today

I have learned several interesting things today.

1. Tony Blair appears to have (as The Times calls it) a "lucky tie". On the right is a (small) picture of the cover of today's Times with the tie.

2. The Bolshoi Ballet is at the Royal Opera House performing The Pharoah's Daughter. Ordinarily this wouldn't be too exciting. However, this production requires the use of a live horse. Evidently, last night the horse had a rather large meal before performing and "in the first act, the horse relieved itself on stage," syas spokesman Victor Hochhauser. "Fortunately the dancers were able to leap around it safely without any mishaps." Unfortunately, though, later in the performance, a performer dressed as a monkey unknowingly (to him) lost his rather large costume tail. The audience could "clearly see a part of his anatomy." The report doesn't say which part. I'm guessing elbow. (From the Evening Standard.)

3. Now you can boil your eggs without using any water. I'm not yolking! (sorry) Of course, I guess it's not technically boiling, now is it? The fine gentleman at EggXactly has developed this eggciting (sorry) new product that comes in a variety of styles. The eggcellent (sorry) single egg cooker is described thusly:

The single egg cooker is ideal for smaller households. To use it, open the top, place the egg on the lower element, close the lid, dial up the degree of hardness required. Push the cap to start cooking. Once the egg is cooked the
bezel on the cap will glow green.

  • Quicker than a pan and water.
  • Safer to use - no boiling water.
  • No pan to clean.
  • Doesn't lime up like an egg steamer.
  • Saves energy - only 30 Watts.
  • Small and neat looking.

4. The boy behind me at the embassy does not have nits. (And I'm not talking the fine pop group from Holland.) And I know this because his mother searched rather carefully just to be sure, right there in the line. But he used to have nits. Just not any more. And *itch* I, for one, *scratch* am truly thankful. (His mother may have found Neon Nits useful.)

5. Oreo cookies, heretofore not easily obtainable in England, are available in packages of six from the American Embassy passport office vending machine. I know this from the aforementioned previously-nit-infested-but-not-repeat-not-infested-anymore kid behind me in the line. Who did not share his Oreos with me.

So, obtaining Oreos is simple:
  1. Hop the train to Slough. Change at Slough to go to Paddington.
  2. Take the 436 or 36 or 23 or 7 bus to Marble Arch.
  3. Walk to the US Embassy.
  4. Pass through security (metal detector, x-ray machine, men with guns).
  5. Enter embassy, turn left, go up steps, enter passport office.
  6. Vending machine is on your left.

Although "Just picking up some Oreos" probably isn't going to satisfy the large folks at the entrance. You'd better be safe and pick up a few income tax forms while you're there.


Thames foreshoreToday while I was in London, I went mudlarking for a bit. Mudlarking is the riverside version of beachcombing. I walked along the rocks at the South Bank while the Thames was low. I found these two interesting clay pipes.
Clay Pipes
I haven't found a good method to date the clay pipes which have no maker's mark. The top pipe should be easier to date since it has a rather nice ship decoration on one side and a seahorse-looking thing on the other. The closest I can find so far is this site which shows pipes with rounded bowls rather than a point.

Clay Pipes

Some clay pipe-related articles:

A history of clay pipes.
A story from the Boston Globe about mudlarking along the Thames.

A Colonial Williamsburg article on clay pipes.

Clay tobacco pipe makers' marks from the Museum of London.

Some German clay pipe designs.

Cataloguing of pipes - from the German Society for Clay Pipe Research.

Interesting image on dating clay pipes from this Swedish site.

Travel Tips

1. Check the expiry date of your passport.

  • In the past two weeks I have seen a number of people who were not able to travel because they arrived at the airport with an expired passport.
  • Check now to make sure your passport is valid for the dates you plan to travel.
  • Some countries require that your passport be valid for a certain time period after entry into the country (it may be six months or more) so be sure to take that into consideration. Here is an interesting story.
  • US citizens can find out more about entry requirements from the State Department.

2. Make sure you have enough blank visa pages in your passport.

  • This morning I talked to a woman who was planning to fly to South Africa with her husband and small child. She was not allowed to fly, however, because South Africa requires a completely blank (unused) visa page in a passport. She still had space, but not one full blank page. Instead of flying out to South Africa last night, they were at the US Embassy this morning.
  • JUST ADDED: I forgot to mention that the State Department will add 24 extra visa pages to your passport at no charge. In the States, you need to mail it off, but overseas, your local US Embassy may do it while you wait (about 30 minutes or so).

London Sights

Horses and GuardsI was walking down Oxford Street in London this morning and noticed some police motorcycles stopping traffic to let this procession pass by. I have no idea who they are or what they are was just several uniformed soldiers on horseback.

Horses and Guards

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Eiffel TowerIn June, we took 28 year 8 kids to Paris for four days. Here are a few photos (not many, just a taste...the rest are on Flickr).

LouvreOutside the Louvre.

ParisParis from the Eiffel Tower.

No More Hostels For Me!

Oh no, I'm packing this in my suitcase and taking it everywhere!

The Travelpod offers "a double bed complete with duvet and pillows, a fully carpeted floor, a dressing table, washbasin, and perhaps most appealingly, a private toilet. The pod is designed for outdoor use and has its own generator to power lights, though no hot water."


StockholmOn Friday, I returned from a couple of days in Stockholm. It is a lovely city built on fourteen islands. I have put my pictures on Flickr, but here are just a few for now.

St. George and the DragonSt. George and the Dragon at the Stockholm Cathedral.

Royal PewsThe cathedral's Royal Pews - reserved for the Royal family.

Changing of the GuardAt the Changing of the Guard.

Dublin - Seal of the CityI must say, that looks rather difficult!

Long BayonetsThe guards weren't shy about using the bayonets at the ends of those guns.

Klara KyrkaInside the Klara Kyrka.

Phone boothAn old-fashioned phone booth!

StreetA shopping street.

sushi Coffee"Raw fish in your decaf, Sir?"

Patient Opinion

People in the UK may want to check out a site called Patient Opinion, a site where users can give and view feedback on medical care they have received from NHS providers.

Trexy is a site that is supposed to help users keep a record (or keep trails) of their searches. I'm just now giving it a go. We'll see how it works.

Today's News Roundup

From some of my earlier posts (below), it seems that my news sources are somewhat limited (to the Guardian, the Guardian, Guardian). So, today I bought The Independent, The Times, and...well... The Guardian.
Here are highlights from today's news. (Several of these items appeared inseveral papers as well as on the radio.)

From The Independent:

  • Help researchers study conditions such as acute respiratory distress symdrome by spending 23 days at the Mt. Everest Base Camp. The trek costs £2395. This includes flights, accommodation, food, sherpa, porters, a Western guide, as well as a donation of £500 to the scientific research. More information.
  • The Domesday Book will now be available online (from tomorrow - that's Friday) from the UK's National Archives.
  • Eating curry can help prevent Alzheimer's Disease. Evidently it's the tumeric.
  • Having new experiences can help improve your memory. It helps stimulate the brain!
  • A public lavatory is for sale in Lahinch, Ireland. It is expected to go for up to 300,000 euros at auction due to it's proximity to the beach. (Sorry, I can't find a link anywhere.)

From The Times:

    From The Guardian:

    • There was a teddy bear display in Somerset. Yes, WAS is the operative word here. It seems that the bears were "all on loan to Wookey Hole Caves in Somerset, and so valuable that the insurers had insisted on a guard dog to protect the premises at night." Ironically, however, the guard dog went beserk (their term) and destroyed mote than 100 bears, including one that used to belong to Elvis Presley. (Full story here.)
    • Need a job? Are you furry and scratch yourself? Maybe the Dehli railway is looking for someone just like you. It has already hired one monkey to scare off other monkeys that were bothering passengers. And evidently, the railway is not the only employer of monkeys.
    • A new and improved Kon Tiki is taking to the seas, this time with internet access.

    Things I Learned Today

    1. Dublin Airport has...

    • three runways,
    • 142 check-in desks,
    • 22,000 parking spaces (18,000 long-term and 4,000 short-term), and
    • a fee for commercial filming or photography. The current fee is €218.75 per hour or part thereof.

    (From the Dublin Airport magazine Connections and the website.)

    2. The top fourteen oddest things in the Transport for London's Lost Property office are:

    1. 2 1/2 hundredweight sultana/currants (a hundredweight is 112 pounds)
    2. Lawn mower
    3. Breast implants
    4. Theatrical coffin
    5. Stuffed Eagle
    6. 14 foot boat
    7. Divan bed
    8. Park bench
    9. Garden slide
    10. Jar of bull's sperm
    11. Urn of ashes
    12. Dead bats in container
    13. A Do-It-Yourself Vasectomy kit
    14. Two human skulls in a bag

    (From the Guardian and the Book of Lists. By the way...who would EVER think of using a do-it-yourself vasectomy kit?)

    3. You can make slug fritters.


    • 10 freshly slaughtered slugs cleaned of all outer mucus
    • 1/2 cup of cornmeal
    • 1/2 cup of high protein flour
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1/4 cup of heavy cream
    • 4 tbs. f butter
    • 4tsp. of sour cream

    First chop the slugs into fine mince, then beat the eggs and egg yolks with the heavy cream together.

    Sift the dry ingredients and then cut 2 tbs of butter into that mixture.

    Add the egg and cream mixture to the dry ingredients and whip with a whisk vigorously for one to two minutes.

    Melt one tbs of butter in a sauté pan and pure the batter into 2 1/2 inch cakes in two batches.

    Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream.

    Yields 4 servings.

    (I am NOT making this up...I got it from the Guardian who got it from bertc.)

    Pub Names

    Think your pub's name is special?

    Maybe not. Check out this list of the Commonest Pub Names in England and see.

    More about pub names.

    Whip up a batch of your own Coke

    No, this isn't about drugs. It's about a bigger business than that...soft drinks. (Or as they say here in England, fizzy drinks.)

    According to an article in the Guardian, two women have come up with their own recipe for Coca Cola. There's even a recipe there for you to follow.

    But the part I really like is this paragraph here:
    The mega corporation remains unfazed. "As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," says a Coca-Cola spokesman. "But our product is unique. Anyone with a selection of ingredients could make a type of cola, but there can only be one Coke."

    Maybe so, but Coke tastes differently depending upon where it was made. (At least Diet Coke does. For example, German Diet Coke has a much different taste from English Diet Coke.) I think it probably has to do with the sweeteners.

    Kids at Work

    The folks at G2, the Guardian's daily magazine section, tried an experiment last week. The writers (and editors, etc.) took their kids in to work with them. And still had to meet the deadlines.

    So, combine 17 kids (aged two to fifteen), a number of parents, a number of child-less writers, and stir for the day.

    The result?

    (Oh please, like you really need me to tell you?)

    Okay, the result was...having 17 screaming, wild children makes it difficult to get any work done. And not only that, but it made people feel extra tired at the end of the day.

    Imagine that.

    Here's the story.

    More Suffer Consequences of Bird Flu

    It seems that American badminton players are suffering the consequences of the bird flu. Evidently there has been a decline in the quantity of goose feathers available for top-quality shuttlecocks.

    Luckily, though, some players are steaming their birdies or refrigerating them to give them a longer life.

    From the Guardian.

    Reggae i full fart

    Thank goodness for online translators!

    I picked up a Svenska Dagbladet newspaper in Stockholm and on the front was the headline "Reggae i full fart."

    Luckily, I now know it means "Reggae at full tilt."

    I had my doubts for a minute or two...

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Ultra Cheap MP3 Player

    Here's something's an MP3 player for less than $9.00. It reads directly from an SD card and is powered by one AAA battery.

    The Evergreen DN 2000.

    I wonder if it's any good?

    Back from Dublin

    Dublin - Seal of the City Yesterday I returned from Dublin, land of shamrocks, pubs, and Guinness beer. I spent a couple nights at the Avalon House Hostel, a very nice place to stay. While I was in Dublin, I visited several churches (including Dublin's two Anglican cathedrals), walked around the Temple Bar (a cultural part of town with lots of pubs), stopped by Dublinia (a Viking and medieval 'heritage centre'), explored Dublin Castle, took a bus tour through town, and stopped at the Guinness Storehouse.

    I have a few pictures available on Flickr.

    (That link should work. If not, go to and click the Dublin, Ireland set.)

    A fewpictures here, though, before you try and wade through the tons of pictures on Flickr.

    Dublin - Seal of the City This is Temple Bar, located in the Temple Bar. Confused?
    Temple Bar is a pub in the area of town known as Temple Bar. (I suppose it's like me opening a pub called Windsor and locate it here in Windsor.) Anyway, it's evidently a rather famous pub.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityI also went to Trinity College to look at the Book of Kells, a beautiful illustrated manuscript from about 800 AD. (The picture is actually of the outside of the Trinity College Library - I couldn't take pictures inside.) I also went through the Long Hall, a library housing over 200,000 old books. There's a good page here that allows you to look around the library.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityOne of Dublin's main streets is O'Connell Street. There are lots of stores and things like that, as well as a large grassy median and sculptures, like this one. I may not know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but I know how many rabbits can dance on the tip of an anvil. Evidently, one.

    There is also a big spire.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityAnother statue commemmorates Daniel O'Connell, a campaigner for Catholic rights and Irish independence. If you look closely you can see bullet holes - reminders of Ireland's Civil War. (Look at her elbow.)

    Dublin - Seal of the CityA visit to Dublin Castle included a tour of the State Apartments, including the Throne Room (from the time of King William III) and St. Patrick's Hall - where Ireland's presidents are inaugurated. I also visited the Royal Chapel and the Garda Museum - the museum of the history of policing in Ireland.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityThe picture shown is of a woman holding the scales of justice - a statue dating from when the British controlled Ireland. Her back is to the city and she is not blindfolded - two facts not lost on the Irish. Also, she is raising a forefinger - when it rained, the water dripped from her finger into one of the scales, making it unbalanced. They have since drilled a hole in the bottom for the rain to drain through.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityBefore I visited the nearby cathedral, I went to Dublinia, a Viking and medieval heritage center. It has sights, sounds, and smells from medieval times. Plus, I learned that Vikings used moss as toilet paper. Really.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityAfter learning about Viking toilet habits, I climbed the stairs to the tower for a view of Dublin.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityNext, I visited Christ Church Cathedral, one of two Anglican cathedrals in Dublin. (And they are only three blocks apart - something to do with the old walls of the city.) Here, I saw this mummified car and rat. It seems that they fell into one of the organ pipes and became trapped.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityI also went to St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was here that Jonathan Swift was Dean from 1713 to 1745.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityFinally, since I was in Dublin, I went to the Guinness Storehouse, a massive shrine to anything and everything related to the beer. It is actually an interesting time - you wind your way to the top of the building and end up at the Gravity Bar with its glass-windowed views of Dublin.

    Dublin - Seal of the CityI thought this statue was nice. The Millenium Child statue evidently shows these poor boys desperately trying to drag their sister back down to earth as she somehow just floats away. Or something like that.

    Well, that's the trip in a very small nutshell. As I said, tons more pictures are available on Flickr - including lots of pattern pictures I took for school.