Friday, November 21, 2008

Best Videogame EVER.

Ok, you guys. I know I have officially found the best video game OF ALL TIME.

Super Obama World.

Use the arrows keys to go back and forth, and the space bar to jump.

The pigs are wearing lipstick, y'all. STOMP ON THEM.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

See? I'm being a good girl.

Caroline: yo

i have one lonely cupcake over here

me: cupcake!

want it?

me: no, foul temptress

I am eating better


come get it before i succumb and eat it

it's tiny!


Caroline: and it's pumpkin!

me: no

Caroline: pumpkin!

good for you!!

me: NO

no means no, caroline

tee hee

stop trying to assault me with your cupcakes

if you're sure

i'm not assaulting you dude

sigh,yes I'm sure

just providing opportunity

yes. yes, i am :-)

go awaaaaaaaaaaay

okay. fine. offer retracted.



me: FINE



go forth and research!



Caroline: lates!

Sent at 2:52 PM on Thursday

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hagia Sophia

Alright, kids, we're nearing the end of our European journey...only a few more posts left to go (covering Athens and Florence and Pisa) and then we'll be at the end of our trip together. Ok, so maybe we still have a ways to go, but we haven't finished with Istanbul, so strap in for....

Hagia Sophia! First the boring details:

Hagia Sophia is a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum in Istanbul. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral ever built in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Seville Cathedral in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between A.D. 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was in fact the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site (the previous two had both been destroyed by riots). It was the patriarchal church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly 1000

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and the Sultan ordered the building to be converted into the Ayasofya Mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels were removed, and many of the mosaics were eventually plastered over. The Islamic features — such as the mihrab, the minbar, and the four minarets outside — were added over the course of its history under the Ottomans. It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey.

Here's Hagia Sophia from the water, I took this picture in the morning before we had disembarked from the boat.

And here's a picture taken from the street, looking up at it.

Unfortunately, a huge restoration project was taking place inside the top of dome while we were there. So there's a huge scaffolding in all the pictures. On the bright side, however, it kind of gives you an idea of the scale of the inside, since the museum itself is MASSIVE. But again, like most of the huge religious buildings we have seen, it maintains a sense of intimacy. Here are some interior shots:

You'll notice the Christian and Muslim iconography and images. This is another prevailing theme of the buildings in Istanbul. Like the Chora Museum, Hagia Sophia exchanged hands throughout the centuries, and each group of people left their own mark on the architecture.

The second floor gallery, shown here below where the light is coming from, is horse-shoe shaped and wraps around three of the floor walls of the museum. It's accessed from a spiral tunnel (no, seriously, like a staircase except it's a tunnel), that is only about 6 feet tall. It looks like it's carved right out of rock, and the floor is uneven rocks like stepping stones. I was really glad I was wearing sneakers and not flip-flops. That thing was slippery enough as it was.

The second floor gallery houses beautiful Christian mosaics, none of them complete but still stunning. Here's a view at some of the most famous:

Here's a detail shot of the bible in Jesus' hands:

This gives you a better idea of how intricate all these mosaics are. And those gold-colored tiles, are actual gold.

There's only a few things to wrap up in Istanbul, and then we'll head over to Greece! Hopefully, I can get back to my one post a day plan (that didn't seem to last very long, did it?).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back to Istanbul--Basilica Cistern

Time to get back to the pictures, guys! Stick with me and we'll get through all of these eventually.

One of the absolute coolest things we saw in Istanbul, but one I had the least expectations for, was the Basilica Cistern. The entrance is very innocuous, just a door in a small building on a street corner that kind of looks like a shed. We immediately walked down a flight of stairs and, woah.

But things get really impressive when you hit the ground.

There's row after row of arched columns with several feet of water at the base. From wiki:
this underground structure was known as the “Basilica Cistern” as its was built underneath the Stoa Basilica, a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople. According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine had already constructed a structure, which was rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian. It provided water for the and other buildings on the First Great Palace of Constantinople, and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman Conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

The base of the columns are lit with an eerie orange light that gives the whole thing a very otherworldly feeling. Walking down the steps was like descending into the underworld, but it didn't seem nefarious. There are paths through the rows of columns that you can just wander down. It's like walking in a big stone forest.

Some of the columns have really interesting details, like this one. It looked like it had weird swirly eyes carved all over it.

At the back of the cistern, are several columns that have the face of Medusa carved into their bases. You know Medusa, one of the three gorgons, snake for hair, can turn someone into stone by looking at them, blah blah.

And in the water at the base of the columns are fish!

One last look!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the road again...and then home.

You might have noticed the lack of blog posts for a week. But if you didn't, guess what? There weren't any blog posts for a week!

That's because I was down in St. Petersburg, Florida for work. As an attorney for the Board of Appeals for the Department of Veterans Affairs, I travel with judges several times a year to regional offices all over the country to help conduct hearings in connection with veteran's claims for benefits. While this means that I usually spend all day in a room flipping through cases and briefing them for the judges, it also means I get to stay in nice hotels, get a per diem for food, and maybe decide to stay a couple days late to enjoy the area.

In this case, I was travelling with my friend Chris, whom I went to college with, and we stayed a weekend late to enjoy the sun and surf. Laying on the beach (and by the pool) was fun, but it also meant that I came back with a sunburned back. Which frankly, feels a little weird when you are all bundled up and running errands on a chilly November day in Virginia and your bra strap keeps digging into your sunburn. Stupid pale skin.

So now I'm back, and I've been going nonstop since my return with the errand running and trying to get things done. And looking ahead in the planner things are only going to get busier, what with an upcoming wedding, baby shower, family in town for Thanksgiving, birthday celebrations, and the usual crapola that fills people's time. Sigh. It's my own fault for over-booking myself, and the end of the year is crazy for everyone....but still, I'm worried that if I don't slow myself down I'm going to get sick and then not be able to do anything.

But don't worry, dear readers, I won't let a busy schedule prevent me from continuing to post pictures from my trip. It's taking longer to get through them all then I originally intended, but we are nearing the end (kinda). So hang in there and amuse yourself by eating some left over Halloween candy. After all, if God didn't want us to eat it, he wouldn't make it so delicious.

Annnnnnnd now my sunburn has reached the itchy stage. Dammit.