May 31, 2008
A quick tour of Egypt
Here, at long last, are some pix we took on our trip to Egypt in March. There are 90 or so, culled from the ~500 that we took. (And we still missed several sites I wish we hadn't.)
A Flash slideshow follows after the break...
What comes next is my travelogue for the trip. We booked a package tour and were gone only 10 days, which included 2 days traveling. So it was definitely a whirlwind, considering all of the places we visited in our short stay. Our guide told us, "You'll need a holiday to recover from this holiday" and he was right. I wish I'd had another week to relax when I got home.
The tour was booked through Insight and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out. I usually dislike the regimen of a tour group but this tour was well organized, well run, and we had a good group of traveling companions, so I had fewer problems with the tour than I'd expected.
All the images are thumbnails. Click any of them for a larger view.
We left early Friday afternoon (around 2 PM, GMT+6) and arrived in Cairo late afternoon (after 6 PM, GMT-2) on Saturday. We traveled ~20 hours or so from St. Louis to Chicago to Istanbul to Cairo.
Here's Cairo as we came in for landing.
The remainder of this day was spent getting over the jet lag. We stayed at the Cairo Marriott, which is a very nice hotel on an island in the Nile. (It's a large island with many buildings on it and I didn't realize it was an island until I was told.) The Marriott has many features to entertain its guests, including a nice pool, a casino, ten different restaurants and four lounges on site. Amusingly, a couple of the restaurants featured American-style menus. We ate there twice and visited the pool once; food was OK, swimming was great.
Here's a view from one of the bridges over the Nile in Cairo.
Cairo reminded me of Mexico City. Its population is 19 million and the only traffic signals are flashing yellow lights. Actually, the traffic signals are the other drivers' horns, but no one's too loud about it. To get from the airport to the Marriott - a distance of 20 kilometers - took anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours, depending on the time of day. Roads that were striped for two lanes of traffic usually carried three. I'm glad I wasn't making a driving tour on my own.
Nonetheless, I didn't see or hear any traffic accidents in the few days we were there.
The first thing Sunday morning we were off to Giza to see the famous pyramids and the Sphinx. Left-to-right, these were built by Khufu (Cheops), Khafre and Menkaure. If I recall correctly, these people were father, son, and grandson in that order. The pyramid at the left is the largest but is shortened by distance.
The middle one (Khafre's) still has a bit of the limestone casing at the top. I imagined how impressive these must have been when they were new and their white limestone coverings were intact. They'd have stood out like lighthouses in the bright Egyptian sun.
That gray smudge on the horizon is Cairo in the distance with its dust and smog.
The pyramids themselves have names and our guide told us that the largest one was named Cheops Dominates the Horizon. What did those Greeks know about hubris?
Speaking of Greeks, the guide also told us that 'pyramid' and 'sphinx' are both Greek terms. The natives call them something different, but I don't recall what (and couldn't transliterate it even if I did remember it). Our guide added that the name 'Egypt' is itself a Greek invention, based on the ancient name for Egypt: "House of the Spirit of Ptah." He said that the elision of 'ka' (spirit) and 'Ptah' is the root of the word 'coptic' and that the ancient Greeks called the place 'Ecopt' based on that elision. This site confirms some (but not all) of his etymology.
The locals today call Egypt (and sometimes Cairo itself) 'Misr' and you'll see that everywhere in its Roman form. To take a rather grim example, the Misr Spinning and Weaving company was the site of a riot in April that left three dead and led to the arrest of many.
As you'd expect, we heard all about how many thousands of blocks were use to build the pyramids and how many tons the blocks weighed. But what piqued my curiosity was how these things had been financed. When I asked the guide how the ancients could have afforded to build such structures, he replied, "They owned everything. They were kings." All right. But even kings have opportunity costs. What else could a pharaoh have done with all those resources? Despite a few more questions, I never did get any kind of answer. I even asked him how the modern Egyptian government would finance building a new pyramid today - just to get across the sense of my questions - but that got only a blank look.
Here's the Sphinx at Giza with Khafre's pyramid in the background. As you can see, it's an easy walk from the middle pyramid to the Sphinx.
The pyramids are nowhere near the Nile these days. (So much for the old song You Belong To Me.) But according to our guide, the river used to run right at the feet of the Sphinx. The Giza plateau is a limestone bed and I believe that most of the building material for the pyramids was quarried in the area, excepting the stand-alone granite pieces which came floating down the river from Aswan.
After leaving Giza, we traveled south of Cairo to Memphis and Sakkara. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant where they were making bread like this.
As you can see, it was taken straight from the oven to the table. That's what you call home cookin'.
After having her picture taken, the lady baking the bread asked for baksheesh. This is the custom everywhere in Egypt. When one visits a public restroom, for example, there will usually be an attendant expecting a 1 pound note. Egyptian currency is called the Egyptian pound and is abbreviated 'L.E.' for livre égyptienne. (When we visited, an Egyptian pound was worth about 18 US cents.)
If a street vendor can't sell you something, he'll 'give' it to you. Then he'll ask for baksheesh or for a 'present' in return. The difference between this sequence of events and an outright sale is a question I'll have to leave to the theologians.
In Memphis, which is a pretty small town, we saw a gigantic statue of Ramses II which had never been used because of a flaw. It's housed in a building of its own. The flaw is not the obvious problem with its legs, but rather that its ears weren't in the right position relative to its eyes, according to our guide.
Quite a bit of different stonework and statuary has been moved to Memphis where it's all exhibited. For example, we saw another sphinx there which is made of alabaster (crystallized limestone).
At Sakkara, we saw pyramids that were older than the ones at Giza. Here's the step pyramid of Zoser I at Sakkara.
The layers are called 'mastabas', which I heard was the word for 'table.' According to our guide, the construction of this step pyramid was a step-wise affair (so to speak). That is, it wasn't designed the way it turned out. The tomb of the king is underground and the first layer was built over it after the king had been interred. Later, the second layer was built. Followed by the third layer, after more time had passed. Our guide didn't explicitly say that building step pyramids was how the ancients had learned to build pyramids, but that seems a safe inference.
Near it was another step pyramid that was collapsing; it looked like a big pile of blocks.
There are also the ruins of a temple near Zoser's pyramid.
On the way back from Sakkara to Cairo, the tour coach stopped at rug-weaving school. This is a place where children are taught to make rugs. Our guide claimed that Egyptian rugs rival rugs from Iran and India. (It could be, for all I know about oriental rugs.) Here's a shot of some of the finished rugs that includes Jude and Liam, an Irish couple traveling with our group.
While the rest of the group was inside the rug school, I was outside with a cigar passing the time and watching the local traffic. It was late in the day and the farmers were coming in from their fields. This was a common sight: a donkey (or a donkey-drawn cart), laden with alfalfa, that has oxen following along behind it. Here's a short video of a farmer, a donkey and five oxen.
I was surprised by the agricultural practices I saw in Egypt, but more on that later.
In the evening, we returned to Giza for a light show at the pyramids. Some of our group who'd seen it before recommended it but we weren't all that impressed when we saw it. The one we saw was somewhat different than the version in this clip (no bagpipers, for one thing), but you'll get the idea.
The worst of it was that a steady wind was blowing out of the north that night, making it positively cold. (It was the only time I was cold during the entire trip.) For a five Egyptian pounds, I could rent a heavy blanket and so I did.
The first stop on Monday was the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This is the official, government-founded and -sponsored institution. No photography was allowed, so you'll have to check it out at the link if you're interested. The museum is housed in an edifice built in 1900 and which seemed to me to be bursting at its seams. Our guide told us there was a new, larger facility being built outside of Cairo. Researchers continue to find antiquities in Egypt, according to him, so there's a steady of stream of newly-discovered material to be housed, cataloged and studied. I came across this news recently which proves his point.
The museum and grounds were packed with tourists. We were evidently there at the height of the tour season and we saw many European, Japanese and Korean tour groups. The Chinese-built tour buses (which were very nice) were thick, everywhere we went. What impressed me most about the diversity of the tourists was listening to the native guides speaking French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Russian or what have you as the occasion required. I wondered whether they specialize in one language or they learn more than one. Our guide's English was usually pretty good, though filled with British idioms (and the occasional cross-cultural curiosity).
When we left the museum, we went to the citadel of Salah Al Din (Saladin, as he's called in the West), which is the home of the mosque of Mohammad Ali. ("Not the boxer," as our guide kept repeating.) Along the way, we passed a Muslim cemetery. According to our guide, this one had a large number of people living in it and they'd lived there so long that the city had run electric power to their homes. Evidently, the Egyptian government provides free electric service. The important point, though, is the lack of housing in Egypt - which I'll return to later.
The citadel is too large to fit completely into a ground-based photo. It sits on a high spot and there's a great view of Cairo from there. Here's a panorama.
The process of making the panorama loses a little resolution in the distance. But a lot of the blurriness in this image is Cairo's atmosphere.
The mosque of Mohammad Ali (not the boxer) is also called the Alabaster mosque and it's very famous.
Our guide took us into the mosque itself. He'd warned the women in the group not to dress immodestly (no halter tops or shorts) the day before. A few of them wore scarves over their hair but most didn't. The interior of the mosque itself is empty. Most of the floor is covered with carpet but the only furniture is a built-in pulpit and a large -- a very large -- chandelier.
Once inside, the guide did the only thing I didn't care for on the whole tour. He tried to start a dialog with us about Islam and the West. First he told us that he'd been warned that he should never do this because it was unprofessional. (A sentiment I agreed with.) Then he continued by saying he wasn't worried about being professional and spoke his piece for 10 minutes or so - which I didn't see a need for but didn't particularly mind. Let me say here that I might have enjoyed discussing this topic with him one-on-one; he seemed sincere in his hope for a dialog and wasn't delivering a diatribe.
What bothered me was that he next asked for questions from the group. That part was pretty disappointing since many of the questions were pretty simple-minded and not a few of the answers were as well. (All in your narrator's opinion, of course.) The youngest member of our group, a woman in her early 20s, asked him about the Christian doctrine of turning the other cheek: didn't he think that was better than Islam's approach? He answered her in very practical terms which wasn't much of an answer at all in her eyes.
How did I get stuck listening to a theological discussion I'm not interested in while paying for the privilege? Sheesh...
I should add that, overall, I found our guide to be a fount of information about the country and its antiquities so I was generally very happy with him. He was an engaging speaker and really seemed to enjoy his work.
On our way out of Saladin's citadel, we came across a group of school children there on a field trip. Since our tour group was obviously Anglophones (except for the family from Manila), the children called out to us in English saying 'Hello' and 'Good morning.' It was charming.
This day we had a fairly late lunch at a floating restaurant (on the Nile) called the Happy Dolphin. Actually, lunch was always late by my standards: never earlier than 1PM and frequently between 2 and 3PM. As usual, I found the food bland with very little spice. On our way to lunch, we spotted this graffito.
In the evening, the guide took the group back to Giza to shop for perfume. I'm not sure which of the group requested this; possibly it was the guide's idea. (He seemed to know half of Egypt, though he was a fairly young man.) Since I had no interest in shopping for scent I waited outside, smoking another cigar.
Cigars always seemed to attract the curious in Egypt. A young fellow came up and asked me about it, so I gave him one. Then we started talking about computers when he told me he wanted to study computer engineering. Within 10 minutes or so we had a group of 7 or 8 other young men (late teens to early 20s, I'd say) who were the first guy's friends and relatives. They wanted to practice their English, ask me about the States, and ask me what I thought of Egypt. When they asked me about Egypt, I said I was surprised at all the police I'd seen. You wouldn't see so many police on the street in the States, I told them. 'It's The System,' said the first guy without adding anything and everyone else fell silent at that remark.
Egyptians didn't seem inclined to talk much about politics or maybe they thought (correctly) that I wouldn't know anything about that. One man I talked to later spoke for a few minutes about how Mubarak kept getting elected as President. (He's been in power now for 27 years. And here you've been thinking G.W. Bush has been in office too long.)
According to this gentleman, a number of candidates always stand for the election but in the end everyone decides, 'Well, Mubarak hasn't been doing that bad a job.' and they end up voting for him again. 'Don't rock the boat' seemed to be the gist. I saw pictures of Mubarak throughout Cairo; on small billboards, generally, and with only the image - no text.
The young men brought me a glass of coffee (Turkish-style) and offered me one of their local cigarettes - which they insisted I try then and there. Eventually, my older son (another aspiring computer engineer) came out and I introduced him to the group. We were there for 45 minutes or so altogether and a good time was had by all.
The last thing we did on this day was board a sleeper train for Aswan. It was a 12-hour ride that began around 9 PM. The train ride itself wasn't too bad, though I think I woke up every time the train stopped at a station. The train was old and plain but clean. The Egyptian crew members joked with us that the problem was that the train had been made in the US (which I think was true, albeit circa 1960). The dinner they served us was beyond lame. Luckily, breakfast the next morning was mostly rolls with cheese and butter and we could eat that.
There was a club car with the train and some of the younger tourists (there were three different tour groups on the train) had a party there. I stopped off by one of the porter stations to smoke the last cigar of the day. That attracted the porter himself who came out to smoke cigarettes, chat with me and (of course) ask about the cigar. He told me about his work schedule (3 days on the line, followed by less than a day at home) and his young son who was 18 months old or so. He reminded me of some of my Irani friends in the States in their younger days.
While we occasionally got a cold stare during our trip, our only real problems dealing with the Egyptians was getting used to the baksheesh custom and dealing with the street vendors, who are very persistent. But all of our noncommercial, man-on-the-street meetings with them were very cordial and informative (at least for me).
When I woke on Tuesday, we were still a couple of hours away from Aswan so I went to the club car for the morning cigar. A porter who was cleaning from the previous evening brought me a glass of coffee. The porter didn't speak English well enough to converse. But I did learn that he (a) liked America, (b) liked Hillary Clinton and (c) didn't like George Bush.
While riding the train that morning, I saw a lot of people out working in the fields. Here's a farmer in a field of alfalfa with a field of sugar cane in the distance.
All of the people I saw working crops were working them by hand. I saw a few tractors in Egypt but all I saw them used for was to pull wagons. I never saw a large plow or disk. I didn't see any combines.
They raise a lot of sugar cane there and I saw large fields of that, so perhaps they have machinery for harvesting cane. I hope so, since I saw so much of it. Near the end of the tour, outside Luxor, our guide pointed out a very narrow gauge railway (12 - 15 inches, I estimated) that ran alongside our route. He told us it was for the "sugar cane train." This railroad ran alongside some large fields of cane and was used to haul cane to a processing plant.
Aside from the cane fields, the plots were small - 10 to 30 acres, say - suitable to being worked by animal and human power. Vegetables and alfalfa were grown in these small fields and they were harvested by hand and hauled away on donkey-drawn carts.
Late in the morning we arrived in Aswan and went off to a quarry to see a fractured obelisk. The story of how the ancients mined granite for making obelisks and other stonework sounded like something you'd use a chain gang for. The quarrymen chiseled holes around the edge of a block of granite - perforating the stone if you will - and then filled the holes with wet wooden stakes. As the stakes expanded from the moisture, they'd crack the rock and break loose a block that could be worked. Imagine chiseling these holes 18 inches apart around the perimeter of a 50 foot obelisk: you'd have to want that piece of stone pretty badly to get it that way. (But, hey - the king's paying all the bills, right?)
Then we went to see Aswan High Dam. There are two dams across the Nile at Aswan: an older one built at the turn of the 20th century by the British and the newer High Dam built in the 1960s by the USSR. Both of them generate electricity though the old British dam is much smaller than the High Dam. (Still, it's large enough to have a road across its top.)
Our guide told us that when the High Dam was finished, the Egyptians "kicked the Russians out because they wanted to run it." The High Dam is a military base now.
Actually, much of Egypt (as seen by a tourist) looks like a military base: there are guards with automatic rifles at every tourist site we visited. All these sites (the Giza pyramids, the old temples, even the Aswan quarry) are operated by a government agency and patrolled by these guards. I never learned whether the guards are part of the army, part of the police, or whether there's any difference between the army and police. There have been terror attacks on tourist sites in the recent past, so the presence of the guards is understandable.
Here's an interesting sculpture -- a gift from the Russians -- at the High Dam.
It's a stylized lotus flower with a gear near its top. I took it to be a symbol of the combination of ancient and modern. Though maybe it's a symbol of the Eternal Friendship Between the Russian and Egyptian Peoples. (Just speculatin' there.)
The High Dam is capable of generating 2.1 gigawatts. Our guide told us that was 60% of Egypt's total demand, including the electricity they export to neighbors. I could see why the government provides electric power for free since hyrdopower is generally the cheapest to produce. The lake behind the High Dam, called Lake Nasser, covers over 500,000 square kilometers. The guide claimed it was the largest man-made lake and I believed him.
After the dam, we took a boat ride onto the lake itself to see the temples at Philae. In this picture, you see the prototypical Egyptian temple: the front is high at the right and the left and lower in the middle. Our guide told us (many times) that this symbolizes the Eastern desert, the Nile Valley, and the Western desert (the Sahara).
Philae is one of many ancient sites that were relocated to higher ground when the High Dam was built and Lake Nasser began to fill. There are actually several temples at Philae. There's the Egyptian one above. There's a Greek addition to that temple which isn't shown. And there's a Roman temple removed a bit from both those (also not shown). This was something we saw at several sites in Egypt. The ancient Egyptians built something and then the Greeks (i.e., the Macedonians) came later and built something at the same site. Sometimes the Romans had got into the act as well.
The Macedonians ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great conquered it -- or liberated it from the Persians, depending on whose account you read -- in 332 BCE. Alexander then left command of it to Ptolemy, one of his generals. Ptolemy went on to found his own Egyptian dynasty, called the Ptolemaic kings.
Our next stop was the New Cataract hotel in Aswan, where we stayed the night. We had a great view from our room. The boats with the sails up are feluccas. We took a ride on one of them the next day.
The New Cataract is immediately next to the Old Cataract hotel, which has had a few famous British guests: Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie, among others. There isn't much of a cataract left these days because of the dams, I assume.
That evening we went to the Old Cataract and had a high tea on its patio. I was a little disappointed by the tea because there was no coffee and the only food was sweetmeats. 'Where are the cucumber sandwiches?" I wondered.
Wednesday morning we rose early. I mean we rolled out at 3:30 AM to catch a plane to Abu Simbel to see the temple of Ramses II and Nefertari (Mrs. Ramses II). Here's a view of Lake Nasser from the plane.
Egyptian Air runs a shuttle flight between Aswan and Abu Simbel for the tourist traffic. Mentioning this flight reminds me of something I noticed on all Egyptian Air craft. On the wall near the forward galley is a small shadowbox containing a copy of the Koran. (In case of emergency, break glass?)
Here's a travelogue about the Abu Simbel temples:
Ramses II was the Queen Victoria of his day, I take it. He ruled over a wide-spread empire and his reign lasted for decades: 66 years (a bit longer than Victoria's 63 years). He fought quite a few battles/wars and consolidated Egypt's power over its domains. Quite the monarch, he was.
Both Ramses' and Nefertari's temples were so crowded that I didn't venture in, though others in my family did. Abu Simbel is one of the high points of a visit to Egypt, so it was very crowded even at 8AM.
The most impressive thing about these temples is that they were also relocated when the lake was filled. But they aren't free-standing buildings, as the Philae temples are. Instead, they were originally carved into hillsides. How you move something like that and have it turn out well is quite a story. (See the video above for a brief description of how this was done.)
After we flew back to Aswan from Abu Simbel, we headed for our cruise boat, the M/S Miriam. We spent the next three days on this boat, going back down the river to Luxor. After lunch on the boat - which was the first tasty food we'd had - we hung out on its sundeck. The meals on the boat were great and the fresh tomatoes were outstanding. The boat below isn't the one we were on, but it's very similar.
Late in the afternoon, we headed out to take a river tour on a felucca (the Arabic for 'boat'). Here's a shot from the prow, looking back at the helmsman. I enjoyed the trip and the crew certainly knew what they were doing, but near the end they rolled out a collection of jewelry for sale and set up a little bazaar on the boat. Have I mentioned how persistent the vendors are?
That evening, most of the group headed to the boat's lounge. We had two young Canadian women in our group and they were in the mood to par-tay. But my older son wanted to see the local color so he and I he walked a couple of miles along the river to go to an Arabic cinema instead.
That day happened to be a religious holiday in Egypt - some famous imam's birthday, I think. It's an occasion for gift-giving among family members and, in Egypt, it also means you get a small something from your boss. So the streets were full of people, many in funny hats. When we got to the cinema, there was some difficulty buying tickets. The cashier didn't want to sell them to us because the movie wasn't in English.
After my son finally bought tickets, we had to hang out in a small park (two square blocks) next to the theater while we waited for the next showing. Naturally, we were soon surrounded by young men who wanted to practice their English and to check out the Americans and find out how they liked Egypt. The first person to speak to us spoke English very well but he confused us for a minute or so by pronouncing Aswan as 'a swan.' ("How do you like a swan?" / "Well done?")
We spent 45 minutes or so before the movie started chatting with these guys and fending off a couple of young children who kept asking for money. (More of the baksheesh bit - or maybe it was the custom to indulge children on that holiday. We didn't oblige them in either case.)
The movie itself was curious. It seemed to be a melodrama: bad guy abducts a young woman, good guy saves her, good guy fathers her illegitimate son, she leaves town in shame, and so forth. The most interesting part of it was that the audience was practically all young men. There were a couple of scenes in the movie that suggested sex pretty strongly -- think of a moving headboard -- and those were greeted with loud cheers. There was another scene where someone was set afire during a street fight and the crowd went absolutely wild at that.
About a third of the audience appeared to be smoking (cigarettes). After 90 minutes or so, the theater was so smoke-filled that my eyes were burning. So I convinced my son to leave and we walked back to the cruise boat, where I had a cold Egyptian beer and a hot American cigar.
There was a tour to a Nubian village this morning for those who wanted to go. About ½ of the group did (not including your narrator). This village was built for people who were displaced when the High Dam was built and Lake Nasser flooded the Nubian desert. It's located near the High Dam.
The Nubians keep crocodiles - small ones - in their homes. It's for good fortune, I think. When one of these crocs dies, it's stuffed and mounted over a Nubian doorway. (That's got to be a lot more trouble than a horseshoe.)
Here's a Nubian crocodile; it's small enough to hold in your two hands.
Part of the tour was to visit a Nubian home. Here are two Nubian women in one of the houses. The floors are sand to keep the house cool.
The boat left Aswan early in the afternoon, headed for Kom Ombo. There we visited a temple dedicated to a crocodile god called Sobek.
Here's a lintel stone with a cartouche that was left at ground level.
Everywhere we went, there were street vendors. This picture shows a small part (about a tenth) of a bazaar that sits in front of the temple.
Here's the temple all lit up at night. This photo doesn't do it justice. A nearly full moon had risen behind the temple that evening and the scene was quite a sight.
After touring the temple, we had a 'galabea party' where everyone was asked to dress in Egyptian costume. A galabea is the long (neck-to-ankles) gown worn by men in Egypt. (See the farmer returning from the field above.) They're fairly common in Cairo and other cities. They're ubiquitous once you get away from the cities. They're the analog to Levi's jeans in the States, I think.
Here's a group shot of that with our tour guide, Mohammad Abdullah, front and center. He was usually much more dignified.
Friday morning the boat took us to Edfu, where we visited a temple to Horus, the Falcon god. The temple is very well preserved. Here's Horus himself, in the stone.
Here's the front of the temple. Remind you of anything? We'll see the same front at the temple at Luxor: the standardization of these temples is amazing. That must have been quite a theocracy they had going, 4 millenia ago.
This is from the inner courtyard of the temple. The capitals of the columns represent papyrus and lotus blossoms alternately.
Here's a section where the carving has been defaced. We saw this in several temples. Our guide claimed that this was done by early Christians who used the temples for their own purposes and didn't want the carvings of pagan gods to be visible.
This image shows hieroglyphic carving on the walls. This covered most of the interior walls in Egyptian temples: the man-hours it took to carve all this must have been phenomenal.
When we left Edfu, we cruised along checking out the riverside scenery. We passed one town during the call to prayer. (Actually, this happened not a few times: there are calls to prayer throughout the day.)
In the afternoon, our boat transited the lock at Esna. Here's another boat preceding ours through the lock.
To illustrate my point about the vendors, here's what happens at the lock. Since the boat nearly fills the lock, side-to-side, the vendors stand at the sides of the lock and throw merchandise to tourists on the boats. If the tourists want to buy any of these goods, they throw the money back down. This happened on our boat, though no sales were concluded (that I knew of).
We arrived at Luxor early in the evening and immediately went to see Luxor temple. It was just dusk when we arrived.
Most of our pictures of the interior of this temple didn't turn out too well because of the low light. The most interesting thing to me was that most of this temple had been buried under sand for many years. (This was true of many of the sites we'd visited and it accounts for their being so well preserved.)
So, while most of this temple was still underground, the locals had built a mosque in one part of it. The minaret - with the scaffolding around it - is visible in the backgrounds of both pix above. When the temple was excavated, the mosque was left in place. The mosque is being restored right now (hence the scaffolding around the minaret).
The other interesting thing about Luxor (formerly known as Thebes), is the small sphinxes that line both sides of a lane leading up to front of the temple. A very similar row of sphinxes is visible across town at the temple of Karnak; the speculation is that the lane - complete with sphinxes - originally extended between the two temples and is now buried between them. If that's the case, there would need to be thousands of these small sphinxes. The city of Luxor has forbidden any excavation or new building in the area between the two temples.
Here are a couple of pictures of the sphinxes. They're about 5 to 6 feet tall, including their bases.
One other thing I noted in both Aswan and Luxor was the thoroughly modern traffic signals used in both places. They were the three-colored kind (red, yellow, green) we use in the States but mounted horizontally. The really spiffy feature, though, was a large (2 foot square, say) panel that hangs below the lamps. This panel counts down the seconds until the light will change - in the color of the lamp.
So if the signal shows red, the panel counts down the seconds in red digits until it will turn green. When the signal's green, it counts down in green until the lamp turns yellow and then the digits are yellow. I wish I had a picture or a video clip of them. Better yet, I wish we had these in St. Louis.
Today was Saturday and the first thing we did was to leave Luxor for the Valley of the Kings. This was the most interesting place we visited, in my view. Of course this was when the camera decided to become uncooperative.
It was also one of the most desolate places I've ever been. It's a canyon in the mountains to the west of Luxor (on the west side of the Nile). Beyond the mountains lies the Sahara desert. There was not one piece of vegetation to be seen there -- not even scrub or cactus. I was very surprised by that; the soil must be beyond poor, it must be highly alkaline or highly acidic.
I don't have any photos of the valley itself due to camera problems. But the countryside looked like this. It was hot and humid - "hotter than the hubs of Hell," as one of my old bosses used to say in Arizona.
The valley contains a number of underground tombs that have been tunneled into the sides of the canyon. According to what I heard, after the pyramid-building thing went out of style (became too expensive?), Egyptian kings began building their tombs in this valley. There are scores of them and probably more left to find. At the entrance to the valley, there's a 3-D acrylic model showing the location of the known tombs and how they extend into the walls of the canyon.
When they were rediscovered, they were all found to be empty. Someone had removed all the mummies and funeral goods with them. King Tut's tomb is located in this valley -- but his tomb was found to be complete because its entrance had been hidden by a later tomb and it was overlooked by those who cleaned out the others.
Following this, we went to the temple of Hatshepsut, an Egyptian queen who ruled in her own right briefly by pretending to become a man and by shipping off her son. That worked until her son returned -- with fire in his eye, the guide told us -- to reclaim his throne. There are statues of her both as a male and as a female at this temple.
Her temple was near the valley of the kings. She sounded like an interesting character.
In the afternoon, we returned to Luxor to visit the temple of Karnak. Again, due to camera problems, I don't have any pictures of that. It was much like the temple of Luxor but much larger in extent.
I mentioned the Egyptian housing crisis earlier. While we were there, I noticed a lot of construction going on (on a small scale) and it used methods that were new to me. The first thing that caught my eye was the way they built houses. We'd call them apartment houses in the States. The same method was used everywhere: Cairo, Aswan, and points between.
They pour a floor, support columns and a ceiling (next floor) of reinforced concrete and then they lay brick walls between these layers. If there's a stairway between the two floors, it's poured at the same time. The result looks like this building in Cairo. It does have the advantage of allowing you to put the windows wherever you want to.
The satellite dishes were everywhere; evidently there's no cable television service in Egypt. The spots that look like holes in the brick walls are, in fact, holes in the brick walls.
If you look closely at the edges of the concrete floors, they looked layered. At first I thought the floors had been poured in layers, a few inches at a time. But I couldn't imagine why anyone would do that. Then one day we drove past a vacant lot in Cairo where I saw piles of palm boards. The palm is the only tree I saw in Egypt that's large enough to cut up into planks (and even those aren't very wide).
When I saw the palm planks, I realized that the layered look of the poured concrete was due to making the concrete forms with several palm planks along the sides. The lines in the concrete marked the spaces between planks. This is different than using a single piece of plywood for the side of the form, as we'd do here in the States. (For that matter, I didn't see any plywood in Egypt.)
Frequently, they'll leave rebar sticking out of the columns they've poured so that another story can be added when needed. Our guide said it was common for families to add floors to the building as they grew. This reminded me of my young acquaintances at Giza; they were cousins and they pointed out a house to me and said, 'We live there.'
Sometimes a stucco-like material is applied over the brick, making a smooth finish that can be painted. This had been done to this building near Esna. When finished this way, the buildings look very nice. When not finished like this, they look a little rough. (The list to port is in the camera, not the buildings.)
When I saw my first concrete water tower, I realized what the Egyptians had to do to deal with a lack of steel and wood: they made everything out of reinforced concrete.
I even saw some concrete towers for a medium-voltage electrical line.
On Sunday we spent 23 and ½ hours on planes and in airports making the journey back to St. Louis. Yeef... The most interesting part of this journey back was the security questioning at the Istanbul airport. We had to go through two complete screenings and the amusing part was that while the Turkish personnel were asking the questions in English, I don't think they were understanding the English answers all that well.
May 30, 2008
A nicely done clip of animated graffiti from Argentina. It must have taken barrels of whitewash to do this.
Roger the liftoff, Buzz
Buzz Lightyear Finally Going To Infinity And Beyond
POSTED: 5:02 pm EDT May 29, 2008
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Buzz Lightyear will finally get his chance to go to space when the shuttle Discovery launches Saturday night.
The Disney character will head to the heavens as part of an education initiative between NASA and Disney. The space agency and theme park giant have developed an online program called the Space Ranger Education series. Kids will be able to log on and play online games that will teach them as Buzz completes his journey.
The games start May 31st and can be accessed through NASA's web site.
Still more motivational poster parodies
Warning: the first comment reads, "Well, several of those are grossly offensive, and it would be nice never to see them again!" While I wouldn't call them 'grossly offensive', there are some that may not meet your standards for good taste, shall we say. And then there's the strong language.
A new yearbook prediction
Classmate Named "Most Likely To Appear On Cops" In Yearbook
POSTED: 5:12 pm EDT May 28, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Students at Jones High School voted their classmate "Most Likely To Appear On [the TV show] Cops" and they printed the shameful prediction in the high school yearbook. The Orlando boy's mother is outraged over the yearbook.
Best dressed, best smile and most talented dancer are fun things you'd expect to find in a high school yearbook, but in the 2008 edition of Jones High's "Eye On The Tiger" there's also "Most Likely To Appear On Cops."
May 29, 2008
How hungry are you?
I'm thinking you'll be a lot hungrier by the time you get to this restaurant.
Mary sends a set of 9 photos (click any for a larger view) of a restaurant in China. According to her message, the meal is free if you make it to the top. It sounds odd to me but I'm not going to scale that mountain to find out. If you do, let us know.
Needed: One very good explanation
Nude Maid Hired From Internet Steals $40K Worth Of Jewelry
POSTED: 7:02 am EDT May 28, 2008
TAMPA, Fla. -- A nude maid cleaned up good at a Tampa Bay area man's home.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said the maid stole more than $40,000 worth of jewelry from the home despite not wearing any clothes.
The 50-year-old man hired the maid from the Internet on Friday to clean his home.
Authorities say the woman arrived at the home in a one-piece, light colored dress. She took off the dress and cleaned the house for $100-per-hour.
Sheriff's office spokeswoman Debbie Carter says the man told deputies he left the maid alone in the bedroom to clean.
When the man's wife came home from vacation, she discovered the jewelry missing from their bedroom.
I would have expected this from Rome, Georgia before Rome, Italy.
Global Warming Skeptics Plot 'Carbon Belch Day'
By Paul McDougall
May 27, 2008 03:12 PM
Conservative grassroots group Grassfire.org wants people to waste as much energy as possible on June 12 by "hosting a barbecue, going for a drive, watching television, leaving a few lights on, or even smoking a few cigars."
The point: the group wants to "help Americans break free from the 'carbon footprint guilt' being imposed by Climate Alarmists."
May 27, 2008
One man's trash
is another's interesting collection of shadow images.
Any port in a storm
Villagers turn bus stop into pub
A bus shelter has been turned into a makeshift pub after a village's local closed down.
The only snag is that regulars in Llangunllo, near Knighton, Powys have to bring along their own drinks.
Complete with an "open" sign, a landlord and a cleaner, the shelter has become a regular haunt for villagers.
They joked there was not enough room for darts or dominoes but it was somewhere where they could chat over the odd glass of wine or cider.
World's smallest car
It's pretty funny to watch but I wouldn't drive it.
God As A Programmer
Important Theological Questions that are Answered When we understand God as essentially a Programmer....
Q: Does God control everything that happens in my life?
A: He could if he used the debugger, but it's tedious to step through all those variables.
Q: Does God know everything?
A: He likes to think so, but He is often amazed to find out what goes on in the operating system kernel.
May 26, 2008
Memorial Day 2008
Drawing by Cox & Forkum.
May 23, 2008
Polly wants to go home
Lost Parrot Able To Give Vet Name, Address
Missing Parrot Returned To Owners
POSTED: 9:53 am EDT May 21, 2008
When Yosuke the parrot flew out of his cage and got lost, he did exactly what he had been taught -- recite his name and address to a stranger willing to help.
Police rescued the African grey parrot two weeks ago from a neighbor's roof in the city of Nagareyama, near Tokyo. After spending a night at the station, he was transferred to a nearby veterinary hospital while police searched for clues, local policeman Shinjiro Uemura said.
He kept mum with the cops, but began chatting after a few days with the vet.
The bird told the vet: "I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura." He also gave his full home address, right down to the street number. Police checked it and were able to reunite the bird with his owners.
Another quirky trick from Quirkology.com.
Ask and it shall be given
Pilots run out of fuel, pray, land near Jesus sign
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — It seemed like an almost literal answer to their prayers. When two New Zealand pilots ran out of fuel in a microlight airplane they offered prayers and were able to make an emergency landing in a field — coming to rest right next to a sign reading, "Jesus is Lord."
There's a rainstorm underway on the sun's eastern limb. You'd better bring your asbestos umbrella, though, because the "droplets" are Texas-sized blobs of hot plasma:
8 bytes in a bar
Eight bytes walk into a bar.
"What'll you have?" asks the bartender.
"Can you make us a double?"
May 22, 2008
So this mokey was tending the bar
Video of a pet monkey that works at a bar in Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Prefecture (from Japan Probe):
There are 5 secrets to a great relationship.
1. It's important to find a man who works around the house, occasionally cooks and cleans, and who has a job.
2. It's important to find a man who makes you laugh.
3. It's important to find a man who's dependable, respectful and doesn't lie.
4. It's important to find a man who's good in bed and loves to have sex with you.
5. It's important that these four men never meet.
Here's a nice collection of pixel art. It includes the image below (only 32 colors) which doesn't seem like most pixel art.
Don't miss http://www.lovepixel.idv.tw/ with its incredibly detailed 10,000 x 10,000 image.
More Firefox extensions
This page describes six add-ons that may be useful to Firefox users. I installed HyperWords and it's pretty handy.
May 21, 2008
Try, try again
It takes a few attempts, but in the end this skydiver manages to land in a moving Mercedes.
2 Men Engage In 'Bonehead' Taser Shootout
One Man Arrested
POSTED: 3:03 pm EDT May 19, 2008
BOULDER, Colo. -- It was Taser versus Taser in a parking dispute.
Police in Boulder said a security company supervisor and a restaurateur shot each with stun guns Saturday.
Police Sgt. Pat Wyton told the Camera newspaper it was "a bonehead deal."
One man was arrested, but neither required medical treatment.
Decadent dog houses
How this for a list of the categories of options for your dog's dream house?
- Electrical & lighting
- Heating & cooling
Send your name to the Moon
Send Your Name to the Moon Aboard LRO!
NASA invites people of all ages to join the lunar exploration journey with an opportunity to send their names to the moon aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft.
The Send Your Name to the Moon Web site enables everyone to participate in the lunar adventure and place their names in orbit around the moon for years to come. Participants can submit their information at http://lro.jhuapl.edu/NameToMoon/, print a certificate and have their name entered into a database. The database will be placed on a microchip that will be integrated onto the spacecraft. The deadline for submitting names is June 27, 2008.
May 20, 2008
Automated phone hell
Here's a funny Flash ad.
What's the problem?
I thought any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.
Plane crash lands near Wickenburg, pilot disappears
The Arizona Republic
A single-engine plane has crashed near the airport in Bagdad, a remote community northwest of Wickenburg, but the pilot apparently walked away and has not been found, authorities said Monday.
The wreckage of the downed plane, a Beech Model B23, was discovered early Sunday about 100 yards south of the Bagdad Airport runway, said Dwight D'Evelyn, a spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.
"The plane had suffered extensive damage resulting from a crash landing," D'Evelyn said.
However, there was no indication that the pilot or a passenger, if any, had been injured, he said.
Not to worry
"Doctor, I keep having dreams about horrible sexual acts. About sadism, bestiality and necrophilia. What should I do?"
"Forget about it... You're flogging a dead horse."
May 19, 2008
Demetri Martin does a funny stand-up bit.
Update: YouTube says, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Viacom International Inc." So let's try Comedy Central's version.
High, reasonable hopes
Jeff sends this excerpt from Brian Sack's In the Event of My Untimely Demise and adds, "Very funny and spot on."
Chapter 2. High, Reasonable Hopes
I grew up in what I understood to be meritocracy, a system wherein the folks who worked the hardest and excelled the most could expect to reap beneﬁts exceeding those of the average person. It was reasonable to assume that Joanna—who read her books and did the homework she was assigned—would enter a better academic institution than Todd—who smoked pot and watched TV all day.
You’d have been hard-pressed to ﬁnd someone who would argue that Todd’s memorization of every Star Trek plot point placed him on an equal footing with Joanna when it came to admission to Harvard. Indeed, last I heard, Joanna had her Ivy League sheepskin while Todd was fermenting mushroom juice with a bisexual Wiccan he met in a forest party.
As a young advertising-agency writer, it made sense that I would make more money than my unemployed roommate because I got up at 7 a.m. and went to work, while he got up at 4 p.m. and went to sofa. I don’t think he’d disagree that our salary inequality was logical and pretty fair, seeing as he was always well rested.
When we look at the biographies of the mega-accomplished among us (actually, they live away from us because they can afford to), there is an undeniable pattern that emerges. Their histories are almost interchangeable: At ﬁfteen Mr. X started working in the such-and-such industry. He left the army and was accepted to Yale, which he paid for himself by working two full-time jobs. He graduated magna cum laude and opened his own business sixteen minutes after the commencement speech ended.
Even when these guys drop out of college, it’s because they were too busy overachieving to bother with school. Bill Gates is a dropout. Seems to be doing okay. Guys like Bill have something most of us haven’t got, and it’s not just billions and billions of dollars. It’s a determination, talent, and intellect that lies dormant in most folks. By “dormant” I mean there’s a good chance it’s not there. I not only expect those people to be better off than I, but I want them to be. That’s because of my belief in the meritocracy. Their accomplishment sends a message, and the message is: If you lie stoned on the sofa all day, no Lexus for you. I think that’s a good message.
When my friend John would excuse himself early on weekend evenings to go home and practice his guitar, I understood that this sacriﬁce of his made him more likely than I to become a rock star—especially since I quit after my ﬁrst piano lesson and spent two years sitting in the back of band class faking the trumpet. So devoted was John to his hoped for musical career that nothing could separate him from his daily guitar practicing—not ladies we’d met, not my pleas to stay out a little later, nothing. When the mood to practice hit him, as it often did, he was on his way home with no reservations. I admired his determination and was certain that his sacriﬁces would one day pay off. And they did. His amazing talents with a guitar ultimately helped him become a rock star, just like he’d imagined would happen. I had no problem with this. Although I have a musical sense and could probably craft some clever lyrics, this was not a slot I had any logical hope of ﬁlling. Now he has many millions more dollars than I can probably hope to earn.
All well deserved, of course. Another tale for the meritocracy files.
Alas, at some point in my lifetime and prior to yours, the system changed. Now we no longer live in a meritocracy as much as we do a wantocracy—wherein a tone-deaf person with no musical training or skill thinks it’s perfectly normal to expect to be the next David Bowie—because he’d really like that to happen.
My point is made every season on American Idol when we watch some of the nation’s least talented individuals aspire to ﬁll positions that not too long ago would have been considered outrageously unachievable. How a heavily bruised four-hundred-pound girl with a Marlboro tainted larynx can think the world is hankering to hear her forget someone else’s lyrics is beyond me—but not beyond the countless individuals who, like Enorma McCantsing, express shock and dismay to discover in front of thirty-eight million people that screeching and stumbling through a Britney cover has only enriched our lives, not theirs.
We live in a generation in which some people mistake wanting something for deserving it and in which the bar for what some consider talent is so low that not even the limbo community’s most elite could pass under it. I don’t want you to be that person who puts himself out there to have dreams he should never have had in the ﬁrst place dashed in a grand spectacle before a commercial break. I don’t want my child’s hubris and/or naïveté winding up in a YouTube clip to accidentally entertain the masses.
For your beneﬁt, and mine, I offer you this sage advice: Have high, reasonable hopes.
These four words will save you—and your relatives—a lot of grief and embarrassment. It should seem like common sense, but common sense is like a Rubik’s Cube: We recall having it for a while but don’t exactly remember what we did with it.
I have met people who neither ﬁnished college nor held a job, yet spend their time imagining themselves as CEO of an as-yet-unnamed megacorporation. I know untrained, untalented actors with awful fake accents who expect to be ﬁlm stars someday. Some of the least funny people I’ve ever met were in a comedy class—certain they would eventually entertain a large audience that did not consist entirely of sympathetic, tortured family members. While some of these people are completely lazy and unmotivated, others are very driven—taking lessons, performing, generating endless screenplays and business plans— unfortunately they’re just not good at it.
Regardless of their energy level, all these individuals share one quality that I hope you will not develop and that I will try my hardest not to impart to you: complete and utter self-delusion. I want you to have big, reasonable dreams. I want you to succeed. I’m not saying, “You can’t”; I’m just saying, “Don’t fool yourself if you can’t.” As clichéd as it may sound, anything is possible. History is ﬁlled with people of all types and backgrounds who, especially in a country like the United States, have been able to cut amazing paths for themselves.
You can be an astronaut, or a president, or a movie star, or a guy who makes crossword puzzles I can’t ﬁnish. But it’s important that you realize there are ways of getting there—and they’re seldom easy. Wanting to be something is the ﬁrst step, not the ﬁnal step—a common mistake many people make before appearing on Fox to be eviscerated by Simon Cowell. The big mistake that people make is forgetting that wanting to be something has to be followed up with action to make that happen, coupled with the ability to be self-critical and reasonable. If you can be honest with yourself—sooner than later—it will prevent you from ﬁnding yourself onstage at forty-three in a dingy nightclub with an audience of eight people watching your soul die. So, you can do it. Dream big, practical dreams.
Have high, reasonable hopes.
This epidemic of overly conﬁdent, incredibly nontalented individuals with unrealistic expectations can be explained as the unfortunate by-product of a few things. The ﬁrst of which, I believe, was the epidemic of political correctness that started in the eighties. PC began with the best of intentions, but, like a bad rehearsal-dinner speech from a mean spirited best man, got ugly and uncomfortable. It created a culture—a not very bright one—that was passionate about not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings. With its simplistic logic, calling someone “African American” rather than “black” took care of decades of inequality. Calling a handicapped child someone with “special needs” would eliminate the challenges of having a handicapped child. Your busboy went from “illegal” to “undocumented”—even though in reality he could be deported either way. Everyone believed things could be ﬁxed with words. This linguistic claptrap became a BBM (Big, Beautiful Monster) with gigantic, intellectually challenged tentacles that reached out and strangled other aspects of our lives. Suddenly teachers didn’t grade in red ink because it was “hurtful,” and teams no longer competed for points because that might imply one team was actually better than the other. Everyone got ribbons just for showing up at the race, lest they feel excluded.
According to the proﬁles on Match.com, we’re all “very good-looking,” too. It’s no wonder, then, that the end result is a generation or two of people who’ve never heard a discouraging word; people for whom the suggestion that they can’t direct, paint, sing, or make ﬂan is incomprehensible
Now, take those same folks and put them in today’s dual-income society, with Mom and Dad feeling guilty for not spending as much time with their children as they’d like. The moment the nanny goes home, the guilty parents ﬁ re up the coddling: Everything you do is great! You’re the best! G’night!
The consequences of this—as we see on TV far too often—is a kid who has spent a childhood being praised for merely existing. A child who never failed because failure was unpossible. A child who thinks unpossible is a word. Family, unpossible is a word. Family, unpossible friends, and society never once critiqued his abilities because under the laws of political correctness, constructive criticism became hate speech.
And so, we’re left with a child who dreams so big and stupid he spends two days sleeping in a tent for the chance to butcher “Proud Mary” in front of his countrymen. Great entertainment, indeed, but I don’t want that to be you.
A clever collection of 60-odd images of the sky with other things superimposed.
Good to go
San Antonio's a long way from St. Louis - but it's not too far from Fredericksburg, next time I go there.
San Antonio's Bikini Car Wash Reopens
City Temporarily Closed Down Business For Code Violations
POSTED: 3:02 pm EDT May 16, 2008
SAN ANTONIO -- One week after San Antonio officials closed it for code violations, a controversial bikini car wash on the city's south side reopened for business Friday.
The car wash had been open for only four days before city officials found problems with the drainage and ordered it closed, reported KSAT-TV.
But the owner, Ricardo Arsate, said that he made all the necessary improvements and the city reissued his certificate of occupancy.
"I'm good to go," Arsate said.
May 18, 2008
Online Cannes competition
I just learned about the short film online competition for Cannes 2008 at YouTube, now that it's nearly over.
There are nine films competing this year; here's one of the ones I liked.
On the road again
As I've done the last two years, I made a few road trips connected to my agricultural project this spring. I spent another week in Fredericksburg, Texas in early March. I made an overnight trip to West Lafayette, Indiana (home of Purdue University) at the end of April. And I traveled to Storm Lake just last week. Along the way, I spotted a few amusing and/or curious sights which I caught on the handy Sanyo cam.
When I went to Indiana, I was traveling north on I-57 from Effingham, Illinois to Champaign-Urbana when I came across a pair of His-n-Hers semis.
They were traveling one behind the other. Even the paint color in the logo work on the sides of the two trailers matched the pink "Hers" or the blue "His" on their rears. The family that trucks together....
On my way to Storm Lake, I went through a village named Early. I was surprised by the large sign at the edge of town saying Early was "The Nation's Crossroads." There were quite a number of banners along the main drag repeating that message.
I'm not sure what's meant by "the nation's crossroads" (and I haven't bothered trying to find out). Certainly, it wasn't true in any literal sense. Maybe it was one of those "center-of-population" things people like to go on about.
My second day near Storm Lake, I came across this barn which made me smile too.
On my way back to St. Louis, I passed this ornamental lawn pig just east of Glidden, Iowa and I had to take pictures of it for my sister-in-law (because she collects decorative porkers).
It appeared to be at least 4 feet high. On the equipment shed next door was this sign, which I found amusing.
May 17, 2008
Gotta dog in this fight?
Big doin's at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma:
2008 World s Ugliest Dog Contest Contenders
Welcome to the World's Ugliest Dog Voting Gallery where we celebrate a dog's unique features. These dogs may be uniquely ugly to the viewer but are most beloved to their owners. These dogs are well cared for and some would say, simply spoiled beyond belief! Can you say, doggy massage? Fantastic chow? Comfy beds? Long walks? Loving families? These are people who love their pets. Cast your vote for the ugliest among them! It's all in good fun.
Here's my pick:
Ain't it the truth?
Truth In Website Logos is.very amusing, I think.
Here's my fav.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Read the whole thing.
Not Satchmo... yet
Now if this robot from Toyota had played When the Saints Go Marchin' In, I'd have been really impressed. (I assume that's an electronic trumpet and not the traditional air-driven type.)
Here's another clip about Toyota's robots with one of them playing the violin.
Honda Robot Conducts Detroit Symphony
ASIMO Conducted 'Impossible Dream'
POSTED: 3:34 pm EDT May 14, 2008
DETROIT -- A very different kind of conductor has taken the podium at the Detroit Symphony: A shiny, white robot.
The 4-foot-3-inch ASIMO got a warm welcome Tuesday night as it conducted a concert featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
ASIMO conducted Mitch Leigh's "Impossible Dream," a song from the musical "Man of La Mancha."
The robot took a final bow to enthusiastic shouts from the audience.
May 09, 2008
When the cat's away
A funny ad from FedEx that fits the season.
That's a lot of seed money
Man accused of trying to cash check for $360,000,000,000
07:59 PM CDT on Wednesday, April 30, 2008
A man has been accused of attempting to pass a $360 billion check, which he claims was given to him by his girlfriend’s mother to start a record business, Fort Worth police said. [...]
Police responded to a report of a man attempting to pass the check about 4 p.m. that day at the Chase bank in the 8600 block of South Hulen Street, Fort Worth police Lt. Paul Henderson said.
The personal check was not made out to Mr. Fuller and when the bank contacted the check owner, the woman said she did not write a check for $360 billion.
More funny pix
Yet another collection of funny images at Dark Roasted Blend.
Two monkeys are taking a bath in a tub. One of them starts yelling, "Ooh-ooh-ooh! Aah-ah!"
The other one says, "Well, turn on the cold water then."
May 08, 2008
Mr. Fancy Pants is back
You have to admire Roy Pearson's persistence, even if you don't respect his judgment. A good thing he's no longer a judge, I suppose.
Former Judge Who Lost $54M Pants Suit Sues To Get Job Back
Last Edited: Tuesday, 06 May 2008, 9:25 AM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former judge who lost a $54 million law suit against a dry cleaners over a missing pair of pants is suing to get his job back and at least $1 million in damages.
Two legs at a time
May 07, 2008
Two tons o' crazy
...in a half-ton truck. This one's a little hard to summarize because it's so bizarre.
Luckily it's well worth reading this whole post about a professor who apparently sued some of her (former) Dartmouth students in a writing class called “Science, Technology, and Society."
Priya Venkatesan: a mad scholar sues her students
Priya Venkatesan is a classic case of a postmodernist nutcase. She studied humanities but decided to deconstruct biology.
Update: Gawker says she's dropped the suit. But they're still hoping for the book she threatened to write on the topic.
Here's a funny clip about a practical joke on Deal or No Deal that was so obvious it had to be explained.
P.J. O'Rourke isn't delivering any commencement addresses, but here's what he'd say if he were::
Fairness, idealism and other atrocities
Commencement advice you're unlikely to hear elsewhere.
By P.J. O'Rourke
May 4, 2008
Well, here you are at your college graduation. And I know what you're thinking: "Gimme the sheepskin and get me outta here!" But not so fast. First you have to listen to a commencement speech.
Don't moan. I'm not going to "pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next." I'm a member of the 1960s generation. We didn't have any wisdom.
A well lit eruption
The Sun has photos and video of a lightning storm at a volcano in Chile.
LIGHTNING spears a plume of ash above an erupting volcano — sparking a spectacular natural light show.
Storm clouds gathered over Chile’s Chaiten peak as it spewed the towering cloud of hot debris 12 miles into the sky.
May 06, 2008
Wizardry in the classroom
I'll avoid the obvious Harry Potter riff.
Teacher Fired for Magic Trick, County Calls It "Wizardry"
POSTED: 7:24 pm EDT May 5, 2008
PASCO COUNTY, Fla. -- A Florida substitute teacher says his job disappeared after doing a magic trick in front of his students.
Substitute teacher Jim Piculas made a toothpick disappear, then reappear in front of a classroom at Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes, Florida. The Pasco County School District says there were several other performance issues, but none compared to his "wizardry."
"I get a call the middle of the day from head of supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, 'Jim, we have a huge issue. You can't take any more assignments. You need to come in right away.' I said, 'Well, Pat, can you explain this to me?' 'You've been accused of wizardry,'" Piculas explained.
Carol sends this clip of an elephant painting a picture of an elephant.
A cowboy walks into a bar
A cowpoke walks into a bar and orders whiskey. As the barman pours, he looks around at the empty barroom. "Where is everybody?" he asks.
"Gone to the hangin'," says the bartender.
"Hangin'? Who they hangin'?"
"Brown paper Pete."
"Why do they call him that?"
"Well," the bartender says, "his hat's made of brown paper, his jacket's made of brown paper and even his jeans're made of brown paper."
"Really?" says the cowboy. "Well, what're they hangin' him fer?"
Several of Arthur Mole's photographs of groups of people arranged to depict objects or people.
May 05, 2008
A Canadian psychologist is selling a video that teaches you how to test your dog's IQ.
Here's how it works: if you spend $12.99 on the video then your dog's smarter than you are.
- Jay Leno
Way for the ducks
From the Tacoma News Tribune:
Lakewood officer helps make way for ducklings across Highway 512
BRENT CHAMPACO; email@example.com
Published: May 1st, 2008 01:00 AM | Updated: May 1st, 2008 06:29 AM
An act of mallard-like chivalry caught on video has transformed Dustin Carrell from a friend of the web-footed into a Web folk hero. Animal lovers from as far as Wisconsin, Louisiana and Italy are praising the Lakewood police officer for safely leading a family of ducks across Highway 512 during the Monday morning commute.
A retirement haven
Suburb Hands Out Free Viagra
Mayor: Sexuality Improves Life
POSTED: 9:05 am EDT May 1, 2008
SANTIAGO, Chile -- A working-class suburb of Chile's capital began handing out free Viagra to senior citizens on Wednesday.
China from above
A photogallery of aerial pictures, taken by George Steinmetz, at National Geographic.
May 02, 2008
A short timer
When the doctor broke the news to me that I had cancer, I said, "Tell me straight, Doc. How long do I have?"
He said, "Ten..."
"Ten what?!" I asked. "Years, months, weeks?"
He said, "Nine... eight... seven..."
A clever ad
Those are some good friends
Prom Proposal On Buttocks Prompts Suspensions
13 Students Suspended For Outlandish Proposal
POSTED: 9:44 am EDT April 30, 2008
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Prom season frenzy has hit students across the nation. For the girls, it's important to have the perfect dress. For Detroit-area student Kristoff Wennersten, it was equally important to do something outlandish to get his potential date to accept his proposal.
Wennersten, a senior at Huron High School in Westland, Mich., didn't think it would result in suspension for himself and the 12 lacrosse teammates he recruited to help him spell out the proposal on their buttocks, reported WDIV-TV in Detroit.
At the Huron junior varsity soccer match Thursday night, the players mooned the crowd and displayed the question, "Will You Go To Prom With Me? Yes or No?" to Huron senior Carolyn Campbell.
Fly, ladybug, fly
A funny, well done animation about a ladybug, a spider and some flies.
May 01, 2008
An interesting report from the BBC: The man who grew a finger. It's about a man in Ohio who regrew half an inch of one of his fingers using a powder developed at the University of Pittsburgh.
Fabled Optimus Maximus Keyboard has Arrived
Yep. Time to take a second mortgage on your home or break into your kid's college fund. With the singing of angels and a ray of sunlight parting the clouds, the fabled Optimus Maximus Keyboard has descended from Russia design studio Art Lebedev like an orgasm of geekiness. As you should know by now this amazing keyboard features a tiny screen on each key... that's 113 screens in all.
Pretty cool. But at $1600, I can live with the keyboards I have now.
Father of the Internet
Esquire has an interesting collection of thoughts from Vinton Cerf - and he even has a kind word for Mr. Gore.
What I've Learned: Vint Cerf
Creator of the Internet, 64, McLean, Virginia
By Cal Fussman
- "Surf the Web" is a happy coincidence.
- You don't have to be young to learn about technology. You have to feel young.