England - The Grand National

by Kimp 7. June 2016 05:23

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Welcome !!!

The Grand National is a house race over obstacles that requires a combination of athleticism, endurance, and stamina. It is considered the most difficult horse race in the world (the ultimate test of horse and rider), and is held every April at Aintree Race Course near Liverpool England. It is nearly twice as long as most Steeple Chase (obstacle) races and has both the tallest (by a significant margin) and highest number of obstacles, some being in combination with water obstacles.

My Experience

The Grand National festival is three days long. Opening day, Ladies Day, and Race Day. I was in Liverpool on Ladies day and thought about going, but stayed in Liverpool instead. Ladies day is cheaper and I think they have a bunch of fashion events and fashion competitions that day. Probably awesome for women, but I would have been completely lost, had I gone.

Actually what happened, was I was on the train when about 30 sharply dressed women of various ages boarded and surrounded me. They were all dressed up (many in white) and obviously were part of the same group. All women and no dudes except me. For about 10 minutes I was thinking that was pretty nice. Yea, this is like awesome. At first the women were all sweet, telling stories and laughing, and carrying on. They have the wine bottles out, open, and are pouring liberally. Within ten minutes, the noise level had ramped up to the point where it felt like my ears were bleeding. I was observing that the women were really in like four or maybe five smaller groups, within the larger group, and competition was starting to play into their interactions.

Man, when women start competing, it gets real ugly, real quick. No mercy as all. Wow. Some don't know when to stop talking and just keep adding fuel to the fire. Others are giving the stink eye, stewing, and not talking at all. Others look like they are planing and conniving. A few mom types who have seen many of these battles and are kind of being silent observers, non judgemental, and just riding it through. And two were already oblivious to anything because they were quite trashed with alcohol, and their day hadn't even really started yet.

I got all sad and decided to make my way, all of the way to the other side of the train car.

The only open seat was on the side of four rough looking dudes, who appeared to know each other well. After I sat down, I could tell that they were talking Russian for the most part, but occasionally talked in English. One of them probably didn't speak Russian. Then one of them open's his jacket and pulls out a bottle of Vodka. Pop's the top and start's passing it around. They are all drinking Vodka, not out of glasses, but directly from the same bottle. It makes its way around to the roughest looking dude, who is sitting right next to me. He takes a swig from the bottle, pauses for a second, then extends this arm in my direction, "Hey comrade !!! Would you like some?". I look at my watch and it is like 11 A.M., an hour before noon. "No, but thanks, I'm all good. This is my stop,  I need to go.". I got up and exited, then caught another train to visit Liverpool's port area instead. 

On race day, I had reserved parking tickets. However, there is a local train from Liverpool that had a stop just outside of the race course (the one I was on the day before), and I knew I would be drinking a bit, so the train was the best option for me.

Only jockeys and owners are allowed to walk the actual race course, but anyone is allowed to walk on the old Grand Prix track that runs in its midway. 1964 was the last Grand Prix race held on that course. Now, only motor cycle races are held there.

That was a great walk, getting up close to several of the historical fences (mostly the same since 1839) and seeing the old school golf course that is also in the midway. The green's aren't raised, so it has a fairly natural appearance to it. The golf course is only 9 holes, but a long 9 holes, so it plays like half of an 18 hole course.

Liverpool England in April is fairly cool and wet. I was at a table in one of the nicer pavilion's, in the mid level of one of the larger Grand Stand's (Earl of Derby), that was very close to the finish line. All of the elements to ensure success, dinner, drinks, dryness, warmth, company, and snacks were included.

The Grand National is the fifth of six races on race day. There are about 40 minutes between each race, used for socializing and each race is about 5 minutes in length. I sat inside for about 35 minutes and went out on the balcony to watch the race.

The staff was plentiful. It seemed like there were three staff member assigned to make sure my glass never made it to half empty. Maybe it was the way I looked or the way they were trained, but if I even looked like I was idle, someone was asking if I wanted another beer or something else. I have had a few great service experiences before, but nothing as attentive and awesome as that.

Most women dress in neo-gilded age attire, complete with fashionable hats. The dudes usually wear their best suit's. I was a bit under dressed, but felt very comfortable, as none seemed to be uncomfortable with me, under dressing them.

Two of the dudes next to me were from Ireland and were very heavy better's. It seemed like that was all that they were interested in. They were not doing well that day and it showed. Another guy from England was fairly good at betting that day, but shared a lot more interest's beside betting. He traveled to Houston often on business and knew a lot about the states. He was familiar with both Pittsburgh and Cleveland. In fact most of his conversation were not about horses, nor what was going on that day. An older couple (celebrating their 45th anniversary) from England was delightful. They were very down to earth and we got along great. The women shared lots of their personal story's with me. She gave me some tips on great places in England to visit.They were married on Grand National day, and their wedding got held up for an hour, because he was at a pub watching the race (now there is a man's man). It looked like they were fairly well off.

I left with the same amount of money that I arrived with, my belly was full, my alcohol level was in the fully relaxed range, and my head was in a good space. So overall, I was feeling great about everything.

Fox Hunting
The origin of fox hunting goes back to the 1500's when farmers trained their farm dog's to assist them in ridding their land, of pesky foxes who were killing their farm animals.

Over time, it became very popular as a sport, in the UK, because the deer population was decreasing and hunting foxes does not require nearly as much open land as deer hunting does. Fox hunters do not carry any firearm's, it is one of the dog's that kill the fox. So it is open and safe for people of all ages, which adds to it's attraction. The humans are merely observing what occurs naturally in nature, every day.  In additional to foxes; deer's rabbits, minks, coyote, and bobcats are sometimes hunted in a similar manner. When they hunt deer, the dogs are trained to separate a deer from the herd, then attack it.

The dogs are trained to act on commands issued by either voice calls or the the blowing of a horn, issued by the master who is sometimes called the huntsman. The calls fall into three categories:
Signal (short horn sounds)
   Drawing - Get the pack moving in a particular direction, keep them from going too far away from the huntsman, or to startle the fox and get it moving.
   Calling the whipper in - This is a call from the huntsman to other human's that support the hunt. For them to come and see him.

Disappointed (wailing/sad horn sounds)
   Calling hounds out - telling the dogs they are definitely looking in the wrong place, because they have exhausted the current location.
   Stopping Hounds - telling the dogs to stop hunting something other than the fox. Dogs sometimes get side tracked.
   Gone to Ground - Means the Fox has taken refuge underground.
   The Kill - Signals that the fox has been caught by a hound, and killed. Congratulatory to the hound. (it is in this category cause it sounds kind of sad, but really its a victory call)
   Blowing for Home - It is time to call it a day even though they did not succeed.
Doubled (very short notes, in a rapid and excited manner)
   Doubling - Telling the dogs that the fox is on the move and exciting them to move and start the visual search.
   Blowing Away - (short doubled notes in rapid succession) - The fox is in open ground and on the move, search in the open and run really fast.

Voice Only
  Holla - The job of the remaining people (other then the master) in the hunt, is to know but one single voice command. Which is "Holloa", pronounced "Holler". The signal to the dog's that you have seen the fox, calling them to your general direction. This is where the expressions, "Just give me a holler." and "Stop hollering at me." came from.

Humans are just observer's and can be on foot or horseback during the hunt.

For people on horseback the experience is fulfilling, because in pursuit, they get to take the horse over all kinds of obstacles and into places that they would not normally go with a horse. It is also very popular for people on foot. In the UK, 250,000+ participate in fox hunting on Boxing day (usually the day after Christmas).

Foxes are very smart. They know that dogs are tracking them by scent, so they double back or run in circles to hide their exit point and confuse the dogs. The sport ends when the fox is killed by one of the dogs or the dogs lose it's scent and sunlight falls.

Fox hunting is popular in the the UK, Ireland, US (where it is called fox chase), Australia, Canada, France, Italy, India and Russia.

Activists (Sabs) try to sabotage the events by putting down false scents to confuse or mislead the dogs and by blowing horn's, to confuse the dogs with mixed signals.

in the UK, hunting with dogs became very controversial due to extensive activism, and as a result, was outlawed in the UK in 2004, where fox hunting has been most prevalent and is part of their tradition. Traditional fox hunts are allowed in the UK, but they are supposed to be registered, and either the dogs are called off before they kill the fox, or the dog's just track a chemical scent that was laid down in advance. However foxes are still killed. Either the events are not registered or the club takes the defense that they tried to call the dogs off, but the dog's didn't listen. The problem with enforcement, is that collecting evidence and prosecuting offenders often costs about 300,000 pounds sterling and the fine, when convicted, is only 6,000 pounds sterling. Politicians and Voters are on both sides of the coin. It's immoral and should be stopped but stopping it is ineffective and costs too much.

Steeple Chase
The Steeple chase came after the fox hunt was over. Ancient churches were always the tallest building's on the highest ground in any city or town. One of the dudes in the field would say, "You see that steeple off in the distance? Last one there, has to buy the beer.". Then they would race by the shortest path possible to try to be the first or to avoid being the last one there. This would involve jumping hedge rows, fences, shone wall's and creeks.

National Hunt Race
Usually, to qualify to participate in a national hunt race, a horse needs to have participated in at least four fox hunts in the previous year.

National Hunt races can have events that are run on either flat ground, over hurdles, or over obstacles (called a Steeple Chase).

The Irish are known for being the best trainers and as a result, they usually have the best horses, and the best Hunt races. They have been doing it the longest and still have point to point races like they did in the old days. From the steeple in one town to the steeple in another town, over land that has always been farmed land.

The Hunt Race season is in the cooler month's, probably to keep the horses cool, since they are working so hard. It runs from October through April.

A Hunt racing horse, is very different than a track racing horse.

Track race horses

Usually have all of their reproductive organs and therefore breeding a World Champion brings in a lot more predictable profit than racing it does. Track Race horses usually only race for about 3 years, before they are either put out to stud or replaced by the next hopeful. Track horses serve only one purpose and spend most of their time in stables near the track. Track horse's carry very small jockey's, since weight is a big factor in that type of racing.

Hunt race horses

Usually are geldings (male castrated horse). Therefor they cannot be bred and usually race for seven years or until they are no longer competitive. Because they are around for so long, many people have a favorite horse that they follow and back for whatever reason it is, that people do that with sports figures and celebrities. There is more of an emotional connection.

These horses spend most of their time outdoors on country estates and are also used for purposes other than racing.

Hunt race horses are accustom to carrying heavier weight and hunt races are usually handicapped races, meaning that the better the horse, the more weight it is required to carry. This even's out the field a little, which also entices a person to get personal with just one horse. Yea, he's having a difficult year this year, but I think he'll make a comeback next year.

The Grand National Course

The race length is about 4.25 miles (6.9 km) long, over 30 fences. See the photo blog for pictures of several of the better known fences. Many are named after a significant historical event that happened there (covered in the photo captions). One fence was a stone wall, until it was replaced by a fence (for the horses safety), that has the same size and shape as the stone wall had.

Modern fences are small hedge rows stacked high with loose spruce ferns. That is supposed to be easier on the horses, however purists argue that it is easier to lay back and jump later after the ferns have been knocked over by leading horse's, which changes the race strategy in an undesirable fashion. They believe that ability should be a bigger factor than strategy.


There is a reason that races are held in they way they are and not on paper. Cause looking at all of the paper facts that are available and predicting, doesn't always match the actual outcome. This is the basis of all betting games.

I didn't gamble at all, but it seemed to me like betting is through individual bookies, who might have different odds. Not sure how it is done in the US these days, but in the old days, there was one set of odds, and the track ran all of the betting. Judging by the brinks truck that collected all of the cash at the end of day, I can safely predict that the favor usually goes the tracks way.

In a handicap race, anything is possible, but usually how well a horse has done in the past counts a bit and how well they have done recently counts a little more. Many spectators follow a horse, so they know a bit about not only that horse, but the others that it has raced against. People usually come to this race, ready to put some money down on, based mostly on their own personal feelings.

My History

I spent a bit of time with my grandparents on my dad's side of the family. My grandmother on that side, was 16 when she gave birth to my dad. In those days, teenage pregnancy was taboo. She lived a fairly difficult life, moved out when she was 17 and gave my father, to her mother to raise. My dad was raised by his grandparents and seldom saw his birth mother, for whatever reason that is the way it turned out.

My dad's real father (my blood grandfather) was a musician. He owned a bar, that I was told was a dive, and he only visited our house once in a very long while, usually to talk about himself. My mom didn't like him nor the the influence he might have on her children. He was a heavy smoker and boozer. Actually he had a good influence on me. I never smoked very much, cause I remember going to visit him in the hospital after his tracheotomy, and his drinking had a negative effect on me. I didn't really start drinking until I was about 25, other then an occasional bout in my early 20's, when I was in the Navy. Mostly because of being exposed to his drinking. Most of the family on my dad's side was fairly tough. I'll save the uncle Woddy stories for another day.

My Grandmother had a fairly difficult time with the second man she was married to. He was about as tough, manly, opinionated, and voice-tress as men can get. Another good influence for me. I knew I didn't want any of those traits. I do have them from time to time (even though we don't share any blood), but I attempt to curb them or overshadow them with good traits.

Gramdma earned a living as a seamstress when young, but by the time I knew her, she was a clothing buyer for Carlisle's (I think that was the name). It was an upscale woman;s clothing retailer in Ohio and maybe other states, that was either purchased or went out of business, after she had retired. Grandma Dutchy made road trips to New York City, to decide which clothes Carlisle's would retail.

Funny, but I don't even remember her real first name. I always called her Grandma Dutchy. Dutchy was her nickname, because she was Pennsylvania Dutch (German). She made me some handmade shirts that were beautiful. Way better quality, design, and color than anything I had owned, that was store bought. Tailor made fit too, and they worked with either dress or casual wear. When I was a kid, I wore them often. She also hand made a quilt for me. She made a different quilt for each of her grand children, but mine was last and best. Her eye for color was perfect (my ex-wife also had a great eye for color, which I admired). That quilt is still one of my prized possessions, mostly because of the person it represents. It could be a piece of crap, and it would still be special to me.

For her last husband, she hit the jackpot. My grandfather John, but not by blood, had a great sense of humor (meaning it closely matched mine). We were always laughing. He was a finish carpenter by trade. I saw some of his work, and it was pretty damn good. I knew him when he was late in his career and he didn't like to use tools outside of work. But when I used wood working tools around him, he always encouraged me to take up that trade. When I knew him, most of his work was finish carpentry at very large mall's that were being built in North Eastern Ohio at that time. He was 20 years younger than my grandmother and he had lots of positive influence on me. I don't think he had any children of his own. If so, I don't remember him talking about them.

Later in life (after he retired) and grandma had died, I still spent time with him. We made wine together. We would go to a vineyard, pick the grapes, take them home, clean them, crush them, nurse them through primary fermentation, then bottle it, and put it away for a year or more. Just an OK tasting wine, but the comradery of getting the fruits of our labor, was extra special. He liked to give it away as presents. I liked to drink all of mine.

He and a buddy and made lots of different candy at Christmas that was very high quality. They would spend several days, just cooking and hanging out. Many years after grandma had died, he found girl friend that was really nice. They golfed a lot together, I think they talked daily, and she cooked for him once in a while. He always had a big smile, when we were on the way to her house.   

I spent a few month's with them one summer. I was around 12 years old and was painting the outside of a two story house across the street from them, that they owned and rented out. Grandpa taught me how to secure an extension ladder with a rope and anchor before climbing it. How to make home made scaffolding out of extension ladders, and instructed me when needed. I seemed pleased with my work.

Grandma painted the windows and shutters after I removed them and she way overpaid me for the job that I was doing. Plus we took two hour long lunch breaks and sometimes we would just stop at lunch and take the rest of the day off. She over feed me, and then we would play card games. Grandma taught me the value of working hard in the morning, then taking a good long lunch break and relaxing.

I also observed that Grandpa was a man of distinct patterns. About 15 minutes before he got home from work. Grandma would get out, one shot glass and one beer glass, Place them on the table, at the spot that was his designated spot. Then I would get the instructions, "When grandpa gets home from work, don't say anything to him at all. Not a single think, just sit and be very quiet, until he has finished his beer." When we heard the car pulling in the driveway, she would pour a shot and fill up the glass with an ice cold beer. Grandpa would come in all solemn looking and worn out. Sit down and immediately put the shot down in one quick motion, then sip his beer, which took a while. As soon as he was finished with his beer, he was all smiles, and we were all laughing at something or other. That was every single day.

If you played any game at all with my grandpa, there was always money on it. Penny, nickle, dime, quarter. Whatever you had in your pockets was good. Cribbage was his favorite, so we played that a lot. My mother was extremely opposed to gambling, to the point that I would seldom ever gamble with my own money. Grandma knew that and always bank rolled me, so it really didn't matter if I lost, but I won quite a bit, and grandma never asked for any of it back.

Every Thursday was betting day at the horse tack. There were two tracks that he liked going to. One was buggy racing and the other was horseback track racing.

Every Friday was the fish fry at their catholic church.

Every Saturday afternoon was spent at the Elk's club where grandpa would socialize and gamble with his friends. Grandma liked the pull tab (a change game like slots only on paper, and you pulled the tabs to reveal the fruit), gambling that they sponsored, so we played that a lot of that, with her money. We were fairly lucky, or so it seemed to me. I probably only kept track of the winning at that age. I think I won $50 on the first every chance at that game, by getting three cherries. I like strategy games more than chance games, but I also liked pleasing grandma.

So the first time that we went to the horse track, grandpa is filling me in on how to bet. At that age, that really confused me. Way to many options, but I didn't know anything at all, about horses.

There are lots of factors for each horse and lots of different horses. Plus lots of ways to bet.

So the first bet my grandpa wanted me to place, was called a trifecta (He had to do the betting, cause I was way under age, so he just wanted me to pick the horses). Trifecta's are a really cheap wager, like $1, but you have to pick the horse that is going to come in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, in the same race, and in the correct order. Wow, that was overwhelming for me. I listened to some other people talking it over and decided on 1st and 2nd, then just picked a horse that had a cool name for 3rd.

I lucked out and won. I think the payoff was 300 to 1. So I just wanted to pocket the 299 win-fall, call it a day and leave. But grandpa was hell bent on me reinvesting it, on many more wagers.

At the same time I wagered on the trifecta, grandpa wanted me to wager on the daily double. For that, I had to pick the 1st pace horse for two different races (I think it was the 1st and 3rd race). I had picked the same horse for 1st place in both the daily double race and the trifecta. So after that race, I knew that I had a chance of cashing in on the daily double as well.

I told Grandma and he wanted me to bet big on the horse that I had selected to win the daily double in the 3rd race. He told me to place big single race wager on that same horse. He said that would raise the value of the daily double, somehow. It didn't make sense to me, I think that would have lowered it. The other problem was that, before the daily double wager grandma was pushing me to hurry up and decide on a horse, cause the betting window was about to close. I think I just opened the program and had picked a horse out of the blue in the 3rd race.

I had zero confidence in that horse. Anyway, grandpa bet it for me. We ended up losing. After that, I wasn't into horse betting anymore, so I just kind of spent the rest of the money betting without any attempt at intelligence. I think I was down to about $10 ahead by the end of night, from the big early windfall. That experience took the wind out of my sails from ever betting on horses again.

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I'll see you next time.




France - Colmar

by Kimp 27. May 2016 03:01

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Welcome !!!

A lot of people go to Venice thinking that it will be a romantic experience. In my opinion, when commercialization moved into Venice, the romance left and found a new home in Colmar, France.

The photos in my blog are fairly low quality, which is a bummer, cause they really don't do it justice. I was using a small Nikon camera, and while the camera was fairly nice, the lens was too small and did not handle changes in light level very well. It was my back-up camera for several years, until is finally broke. Now I use my cell phone camera as a backup, which is even worse, but it's convenient, very compact, and very easy to use.

I went to Colmar several years ago with a travel buddy named Jason. We were at a wine tasting in a very small Alsace town and stopped by Colmar for a few hours on the way back. It's a beautiful place. A real, out of the way gem, in my opinion.

Alsace Wine

Wine is made by vintner's. Hence the name vintage wine, which usually refers to a particular vintner on a particular year when the grapes were the finest for making wine. Alsace is the only region in France, where it is easy for a normal American to understand the wine they are tasting or purchasing. That's because they name their wines after the grape, the same way American vintner's do. So a Riesling in America is similar to a Riesling in the Alsace region of France, Other notables are Pinot and Muscat.

119 Alsace village's make wine, and most are white wines made from Grapes that have origin's in Germany. Gewürztraminer is one of the very common Alsace wines that distinctively has a Germanic Origin.    

White Stork Population

In the 1970's the once abundant White Stork population in the Alsace region was down to just 10 mating pair's. They are very long distance migratory birds. All of the way to Southern Africa in our Winters and Europe in out summer's. Alsace is the summer mating grounds for some of them. They also fly around the Mediterranean Sea, because they need a lot of air under their wings, and the wind current's over the Med will not support their flight.

Conservationist's built nesting habitat's in an effort to give them something, that was similar to their natural habitat. Their nests are about the size of a Smart car. A few of the taller building's in Colmar have White Stork Nesting Pod's on their apex. Some couples, had built nests and were using them to bare their young."

The House of Heads

This is one of the more Artistic houses in Colmar, built in 1609  and owned by Anton Burger, a very wealth merchant, who apparently liked to flaunt his status. It has 107 heads/masks sculpted on it's facade, which is where it got it's name from. Anton later served as Mayor, but was only Mayor for two years, when he fled town and took up residence in Basel Switzerland.

My guess is that he was a Lutheran, In 1628, when he left, the Catholic King of France, during the Counter-Reformation period, forbade Protestant Worship in Colmar and also dictated that all political offices were to be held by Catholics. Basel Switzerland was Lutheran at that time, so most Lutheran's relocated to Basel.

On the top is a statue of a Cooper by Auguste Bartoldi, that was created in 1902, when it was Colmar's Wine market.

The Office of tourism lists that house as  Renaissance Architecture, but I beg to differ. While it was built in the Renaissance Era, it doesn't meet hardly any of the Renaissance Architecture Criteria. It was most defiantly designed by an Artist and not an Architect.

Statue of Liberty

Fredric Auguste Bartholde was born in Clomar. His family moved to Paris after his father died, but they maintained their home in Colmar and would often go back and visit Colmar.

At that time Comar was under French rule. After the Franco-Prussian war (which Fredric found in), the rule of Colmar, passed into German hands. This fueled Fredric's interest in Liberty and Independence.

He decided to join the Union Franco-Americane, which already existed, and was interested in tightly aligning France and America in the name of a common interest. It was formed just after the Union Army had won the American Civil War.

Fredric created an artistic design for the Union and called it, "Liberty Enlightening the World". He applied for a US patent on that design, and the Union started selling miniature statues, to raise money for the real statue. The agreement was that France would fun the statue and American would fund the pedestal.

That fund raising campaign actually failed and didn't raise much money, but the idea lived on and festered. After a few years, enough money was raised, to build the head and the torch, to be put on display. The head is thought to be that of Bartholde's mother.

America had an extremely difficult time raising money for the pedestal. American's didn't want a Statue dedicated to Liberty, they wanted a Statue of Ulysses S Grant, an American Civil War Hero.

When the torch was finished, it was put on display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. This confused people, who thought is was going to be erected in Philadelphia. Bartholde used that confusion to light a fire under New York City's ass. He knew Boston was their arch rival, so he said, "Well, since NYC doesn't want this Statue, maybe Boston would like it?"

Enter Joseph Pulitzer, who was owner of the "New York World" newspaper. Joseph was a Hungarian Jew, who came to the US at the end of the Civil War, to enlist and fight for the Union Army. After the war, he relocated to St. Louis, denounced Hungary and became a Naturalized Citizen. Pulitzer spent all of his spare time in the Library and became a self taught lawyer for a while. He was popular with a lot of influential people. At the age of 22, he was nominated for the Missouri State Legislature, when the minimum age requirement was 25. They knew that he was 22, but didn't seem to care. He later bought two St Louis newspapers and combined them in the the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Pulitzer was an expert at connecting with the Common Man. He often wrote exposes that uncovered government corruption. On Oct. 5, 1882, Pulitzer’s chief writer killed a political opponent of the Post Dispatch. Public disapproval of that, forced Pulitzer to move to New York City and purchase one of it's newspapers the "New York World" from Jay Gould, where Pulitzer continued to write exposes uncovering public corruption in Washington. He added sports coverage, comics, women's fashion and illustrations, making the World, a favorite newspaper read by the common people of New York.

When Joseph Pulitzer got behind the find raising drive, to keep the Statue of Liberty, money started trickling in. He said that he would publish the name of any contributor in his Newspaper, regardless of the size of their contribution. Most of the contributions were for <$1 (<$200 adjusted to 2016). It still took several years to raise the $300,000 dollar's, but it eventually got there. 

Six years later, enough money had been raised to create the statue and pedestal.

Unfortunately the artist who designed the pedestal dies before it was completed and he did not leave any details on how he had intended to connect the pedestal and the statue. Bartholde enlisted the help of Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower frame). Eiffel designed a steel frame substructure to attach the statute to the pedestal. This was before the Eiffel tower had been built.

Fredric made a trip to American and picked out the place where the Statue would be erected. It was turned over to America on July 4, 1880 and dedicated on October 28, 1886. At that time, it was the tallest building/structure in New York City.

One detail that most people don't know about the statue, is that there is a broken leg chain near the Statue's left foot. It can't be seen from the ground, so it is kind of hidden.

Another fact about the statue, is that the arm had been closed since an act of sabotage by Germany on July 30, 1916, during World War I. German spies blew up a large munitions depot housed on a pier between Black Tom Island and New Jersey. 100,000 pounds of TNT and 1,000 ton's of small arms were exploded. flying debris from that explosion damaged the arm. Also, before the September 11th, 2001 world trade center terrorist attack, there wasn't any limit to the number of visitors going to the crown. Now it is extremely limited. The crown has 7 spire's, one to represent each of the seven continents.

What an amazing artistic vision and a great lesson in self perseverance on the part of both Auguste Bartholde and Joseph Pulitzer this story is.

The Bartoldi museum is located in Colmar at 30 Rue des Marchands, which was is boyhood home. Also, several of the artistic sculptures in Colmar, were made by Frederic.

Unterlinden Museum

France's most popular museum outside of Paris. It houses art from prehistoric to modern times.

Martin Schongauer was one of the most prominent Artist's in the Upper Rhine Region, and he was born in Colmar in 1440. His engravings are off the charts awesome. A major collection of his work, is in this museum.

My History

My high school physics and electronics teacher was named Colmar. His wife also taught at the same high school and they were both near retirement age. He was a very good teacher, but very strict, not a great communicator and never smiled. I was a good physics student, but not very strict and had a smiling sense of humor. Therefor, he and I never really saw eye to eye on matter's outside of physics nor electricity.

I was one of the top students in his electronics class, cause my father was an electrician and I had been working with electronics since I was about 8 years old. I learned Algebra at 9 year's old, by reading text book's my dad had. When my father was about 40, his employer made him go to electronics school. He hated that school, but I loved reading his text books, cause I could understand them. In my opinion, that was much better than the crap I was learning in elementary school.

I always called Colmar, Colmar behind his back, but never to his face. Not out of spite, it just seemed to fit well. Even though we didn't like each others perspective on life, we seemed to share a mutual respect for each other.

Colmars wife, on the other hand, really liked me. I didn't have an classes with her, so we didn't interact much, but when we did, it was always kind of sweet and kind. I am sure she heard all of the stories about me, from Colmar, but that didn't seem to dissuade her taste.

We used slide rules in Physics class, but a few of us had electronic calculators at that time. I happened to have one of the newer, fairly high end, multi-purpose calculators. Colmar had the top end Engineering calculator, which used "Reverse Polish Notation". Someone in class, had asked Colmar to teach us "Reverse Polish Notation". So he tried to teach us, but from the start, he and I (along with most of the class) were argumentative about it's stated merrits. His point was that it was designed for Engineering and therefor better suited for that purpose. My point was that it was convoluted for most human's, and therefor, error prone, and took more time to use and created more errors. After about 45 minutes of arguing, we finally decided to settle it the way men settle these types of arguments. Someone randomly drew a massive equation on the board, and we saw who could solve it the fastest. Colmar, with his high end "Reverse Polish Notation" calculator, or me and one other classmate with our fairly high end "Polish Notation" calculators. I smoked him. Not only was I a lot faster, but he also got the wrong answer. Not able to accept defeat, he said something like, "If he were more practiced, the results would have been different.". Yet for some unknown reason, he stopped that lesson after that, and left the room saying he had something else he had to do.

Another time, he was having a discussion with another student about the to speed a passenger car could go around a particular clover leaf (3/4 circle on ramp to an American Interstate Highway). I wasn't in that conversation, but got pulled in when someone said, "I'm pretty sure, I was in Craig's car, when we went around that clover leaf at faster than that. Colmar worked out the physics and said, "There;s no way the friction can be that strong!". I said, "I'm not sure, cause I am usually looking at the road, not the speedometer? But if he said I did, then I probably did. "This ended up as another argument, with only one way to resolve it. This one displayed how stupid and immature I am at times. I actually did it (actually I started I tried several time at slower speeds before the final attempt at the argued speed), but in hind-sight it was a really dumb thing to do. I nearly had an accident. The problem is, that the curve gets much tighter near the end, then in the beginning, so it is really hard to keep the speed even, and we naturally would slow down near the top. I didn't slow down, and when the car felt like it was going up on two wheel's, I realized that I might be in a bit of trouble, but by that time, it was too late to slow down, so I followed through. Never again, learned my lesson on that one. The problem with Colmar's calculation's is that he calculated it like it was a flat road and those on-ramps are banked. The bank gives the car more friction due to centripetal force planting the tires more firmly on the pavement, instead of throwing the car..

Then there was the time in electronics class. He had us build a housing circuit that was very simple and boring in my opinion. It was a basic circuit where we have one light, but two different switches that control that one light. So it the light is off, I can toggle either of the two switches and the light turns on, and vise verse. He had to leave the lab room for about 15 minutes and gave us (as he is looking directly at me) strict guidance to not test it, until after he had a chance to review our work. I finished it in about 5 minutes and got tired of waiting for him to return, so I plugged it in and gave it a try. It blew the circuit breaker, melted the end of the plug and left a big black scorch mark on the outlet that it had been plugged into to. Everyone in the room, knew it was me, cause of the loud pop, the fire bolt of electricity coming from my table, and half of the light's going off. Colmar came back and amazingly nobody ratted me out. I was suprised because there was a person in that class that was notorious for ratting people out. Someone just told him half the lights were out, and Colmar found the circuit breaker box and turned it back on. I then asked him to review my work. He looked it over closely and said it look good, but as he was walking away, he happened to see the large black burn mark on the socket. "It was you, I knew it, those lights have never been off before.". I said, "Yes it was me, and I should not have done it, but you just reviewed my work and said it was OK. So it would have happened anyway, even though you reviewed at my work.".  He was still upset, but left it go. In reality, he was right and I was wrong. It turned out, that the cheap light socket had an internal short that nobody could see without looking very closely at it.

The last good Colmar story, revolved around religion. Colmar was a devout Christian. I was raised as a Christian, both of my parents were founding members of, and very active in a Luther church in our home town. I learned a bit about the bible, and I tried to believe for a time, then became agnostic for a short while, and by the time I was in 10th grade, I had made the decision against Creationism.  I told my mom that I didn't believe in the maker, but I did believe in the Christian Church, as a great organization that does a lot of good for people, and therefore, I didn't care what basis it was founded on. My mother told me that was OK, I should believe in whatever I believe in, and that she thought it was OK for me to feel that way.  I didn't actually find religion until my one and only Wife, asked me for a divorce. After that, I found religion, made up for some lost time, and while I am not as active as I once was, I am very glad to have it in my life. Back to the Colmar story. I was in 11th grade and I was wondering why a person who knew so much about physics would believe in Creationism. This is a topic, that is not allowed, in the American government funded public school system. A very good person, devout Christian, and good friend of mine at that time, named Rick, told me he was going to Colmar's house for bible study. I basically invited myself and Rick was OK with that. It was not malicious, I was genuinely interested in what he was going to teach, from the perspective of a physics teacher. When I crossed the threshold of his home, his wife was very happy to see me, but he didn't seem to share that enthusiasm. She's say's, "Oh great, Craig came along. I'm going to make some cookies and hot chocolate, while you guys sit and talk.". Since it meet his wife's approval, he pretty much had no choice. I don't remember any of the discussion at all, because he had a bunch of complex puzzles in the room where we were sitting. I immediately tuned out and became fascinated with working them. I worked through a few easy one's, then moved on to a mediocre one and solved that with a little bit of trouble. I was about to take apart the really hard looking one, when Colmar's stops the religion discussion and say's, "Craig, don't take that one apart, because it took me forever to solve it !".. Rick looks and say's, "Oh, Craig can solve that. I've seen him solve very hard puzzles before. That's not as hard as those". Colmar say's, "Well, OK, but you had better get it back together.". I was kind of mildly reluctant, because I really did respect Colmar's intelligence, but could not resist and went for it anyway. About an hour later, I was still stumped, and knew I wasn't making much progress. The only saving grace, was when his wife walked in with the home made cookies and hot chocolate, which signified the end of the evening. I told Colmar, that I was sincerely sorry that I could not solve it, but if he let me take it home, he had my word that I would solve it, and bring it back. He forgave me and told me that it was OK as is, and he really didn't care that it was in pieces. That  solidified the mutual respect that we had for each other, even though we were quite different. Today, I accept Creationism, as the Creator also created all of the rules, which is what we know of today, as physics.   

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time.

 Photo Blog (click to view)




Florida - Key West

by Kimp 16. March 2016 19:44

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (click here to view)

This trip was from about 5 years ago, when Sam and I visited Key West during Spring Break, but I imagine it hasn't changed much, since then. Key West is kind of a timeless place, the way it was/is, will be for a long time.

New Photo Blog

Most of the reason I haven't written any blog's in a few months, is because I received a one month notice from Goggle, telling me that they were discontinuing their Picasa photo service, that I had been happily using since around 2010. Actually, I didn't receive a notification, I had to probe for one, when it quit working. They are forcing all of their loyal patrons into using their Google Photo's service, which is a severe service downgrade in my opinion. Severely lacking in features.

After putting 1400 hours of my own time into Picasa, I was dropped like I had Leprosy. What a terrible disservice. Myself and several other long time developer's, offered to maintain Picasa for free if they would just put it in the public domain of their choice. Their rresponse was very cold, "We apologize for any inconvenience this transition causes, but we want to assure you that we’re doing this with the aim of providing the best photos experience possible."  My response was that in my opinion, their "Aim" isn't very good right now, so maybe they need to adjust their sight's. Their final word was something to the effect of, "Trust us, it will be much better and full of awesome features in the future." In my opinion, they seemed to be severally lacking in any specifics, such as; What kind of feature's? and About when?

Enough dillydallying around. I decided to write my own, and pay for hosting it myself. It didn't take me long (about 2 hours) to find something that had been around since 2002, was supported by volunteer's dedicated to the cause, already had many more features, already had much higher quality, and was fairly easy to configure, once I learned the two languages it was written in.

Piwigo was started by several developers from the Czech Republic. Funny that 10 guys from the Czech Republic can maintain and enhance a product on their spare time, meanwhile, Goggle's highly talented staff can't afford to support an inferior product that they haven't done much with in several years.

The standard Piwigo mobile phone viewer (theme) is awesome, so I didn't touch that at all. None of their full size monitor viewers (themes) were to my liking, but they had incorporated a system to allow me to make my own, that is very flexible and that I am extremely happy with.

So my new photo blog is at here at http://photoblog.kimpslife.com . 

Now I just need to find the time to recreate the 120 albums that I have/had in Picasa. Picasa sodomized my photos on the upload, so I decided to start from the original photos, instead of try to import the existing once, when they finally give me a way to grab the old one. All I really need is the order and captions from their system.

Google promised to give me a method of accessing all of my photos and caption's and their order by May 1st. It is now May 5th and they haven't, as of yet, made good on that promise. The latest I heard is that they adjusted their deadline to "Soon". I've seen a lot of project schedules, but I've never seen one that had a deadline of soon, nor have I ever seen a good solid time definition of "Soon", but I think is somewhere in between now and eternity. Soon is something that people say when they are hoping you will forget their commitment.

It will probably be analogous with an experience I had about 6 years ago in the Dominican Republic. A local dude asks me if I would like to go, somewhere with him. I said "Sure, when". "Oh, we'll be leaving really soon.". Well, we left about 4 hours later and went to a place that was completely different than where he said we were going.

The Conch Republic

In 1982 the Key West mayor was pissed off at the border patrol check point's on US Highway One. Stating that they were hurting Key West tourism, by extending the drive time in through the keys.

So he seceded Key West from the USA and claimed it the independent nation of "The Conch Republic", with himself as the Prime Minister.

Then one minute later he showed up at the Navy base asking for $1,000,000,000 in foreign aide.

He won that battle, and the Border Patrol check point's were removed from US Highway One.

Scooter Rental

Sam and I rented a scooter. That is definitely the way to go. Nice open air ride, easy to get around anywhere and easy to park. The dude at the rental place started it up for me and he might have told me that I needed to hold the hand brake in to get the starter to work, but I didn't hear that vital point. We got back to the place we were staying fine, but I couldn't get it started later, so we could go to an appointment that I had already made. I decided to walk it back to the place we rented it from, which was about a mile away. But on the way, I thought about trying holding the brake in, and it started. Pretty sweaty and embarrassing, but at least I made the appointment.

Jet Ski Rental

Sam and I rented a jet ski. Sam was too young to drive the rental on his own, so I let him drive ours. The problem is, that there isn't really any place to hold on, when I was on the back, and Sam was too small to hold onto him. Sam also had an affinity for full throttle and very sharp corners. I managed to hold on OK, until we hit the Ocean waves. The Gulf side is fairly smooth and the Ocean side is very rough. Sam threw me off the back, but I had the kill switch wrapped around my wrist, so it shut the jet ski off. The swim back was long and getting back on from the deep water and waves was very difficult. I decided to drive the rest of the way on the Ocean side. Riding a Jet Ski in the Ocean is a very bumpy, yet fun ride.

Chopper Pilot

I reserved a chopper pilot, who was a dude about my age. Sam and I are sitting in the Airport, around our prearranged meeting with the pilot, when in walks a fairly young lady, calling my name. She looked like she was still in high school, her entire knee was wrapped tightly in an Ace bandage, and she was limping. I thought that was probably the pilot's daughter. She say's, "The pilot had a family emergency and had to leave quickly, so he arranged for me to take his flights." She said she normally flies in Destin Florida, but sometimes fills in for him. I asked her what happened to her knee? "Oh, I was hauling ass on a scooter that I had rented and wrecked it. But it's really not that bad, just a little sore."

To me a little sore is a little spray disinfectant and a small band-aid, not a full, supporting wrap. Well, I happen to know that a helicopter requires foot pedal controls to keep it from spinning around like a top. Besides not being very comfortable with a young pilot's experience, there is also the matter of can't even drive a scooter, being a little reckless, and being physically able to do it safely. I was seriously contemplating backing out, but I think she sensed that, and rushed us out to the chopper.

Turned out she was very skilled, very mature, and any reservations/worries I had, quickly went away once we got in the air. That was an awesome experience for me. She earned my respect, even if she can't drive a scooter worth a dam.


The Sunsets on Key West are very nice. The view from Malloy Square is the picturesque one, with the nice orange color and the sailboat silently cruising trough the reflection on the water. However the picture is much more serene then the place the photographer was standing. Which is kind of like a carnival atmosphere, complete with palm readers, buskers, street performers and lots of people in close contact. Not to mention the many sunset cruise outfits that take off at the same time, which makes the approach to sunset, look more like an approach to a college party.

Overall, I give that experience a solid B.

A local suggested that I view it from the bar atop the Crowne Plaza La Concha Hotel. Being a local I figured that would be a great place to go. Well, that might be a great place for drinking and talking to a beautiful women during sunset, but for watching the sunset, I would rate it at a C-, if I were felling very generous.

The sun sets there is over top of an Island, plus the elevated view of sunset's are never as nice as the beach views are, and there is also a really ugly building the is just right of center from that vantage point. Some people are just plain, artistically blind.

Brief History

The name Keys comes from the Spanish word cayo meaning "small island".

The British took control of Key West in 1763 and moved all of the Spanish and American Indian's to Cuba.

After the American Revolutionary War, the British maintained control of the Key's. Then in 1783, the British gave it back to Spain. However, by that time, the pirates had taken it over and no Spanish people wanted to return/go back to that region.

In 1822, a US Navy vessel sailed to Key West and planted a large US flag there. Nobody complained about the flag, so it has been US property ever since.

The Army then built a fort there to evict the pirate's, opening that area up to people, who moved there, for fishing and to salvage the many ship wrecks in that area.

For the most part, Key West has been a very race friendly location. In the 1830's blacks started to migrate to Key West and were accepted with open arms.  At a time when Slavery was abundant in many locations in the United States, blacks there were free, they owned several local businesses, and were very active in Key West politics.

In 1860 the US Navy captured three slave ships on their way to Havana and brought about 1400 African refugee's to Key West for health care, before returning them back to Africa. The people of Key West (about 3,000 at that time), quickly built housing, a school, and a hospital to care for them. As well as large donations of clothing and food. About 300 died, probably as a result of the poor conditions on the slave ships, before they could be returned to their rightful home. The dead were given a proper burial and buried on Higgs Beach. Today, a section of Higgs beach, which is believed to have been their burial ground, has been covered with a memorial, marked by a series of pedestals adorned with African Adinkra symbols, and topped with engraved bronze plaques.

Unfortunately, in 1920 the Ku Klux Klan moved into Key West, and suppressed that friendliness for a while. There was a time when Key West had lots of visible African culture. I believe that it would be nice, if some of that returned back into today's Key West mainstream.

Key West Today

One of the most appealing parts for me, is that it looks about like it probably looked for most of the 1900's. There aren't any tall buildings, not much steel, nor cement, and very few chain stores. It's mostly local, small, family owned businesses. Lots of great outdoor and indoor places to eat. Lots of great food. Lots of live entertainment. Family friendly for the most part, full of history, and a welcoming relaxed atmosphere. Anyone can rent a scooter or bicycle,  enjoy the open air ride, easily park it anywhere we want, and just have a great time.

Henry Flagler

Henry Flagler was the brains behind the Standard Oil Company. In the 1860's, The Oil industry was started in North Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. Oil derricks were prevalent in that area, and crude oil was plentiful. Henry Flagler worked for this step brother, who owned a grain store in Bellevue Ohio. Henry was a "Commission Merchant" (a company person who buy's product's from Commission Agent's and sell's them to other companies on commission). He often worked with a "Commission Agent" (person who goes to farms and buys farm products to sell them to Commission Merchents) named John D. Rockefeller. John thought that the crude oil business was highly risky, but that oil refining would be very low risk. John started the oil refining business in Cleveland and a few year's later, in need of financial support to expand it, asked Henry to partner with him. Henry asked his step brother to invest and he did, on the condition that Henry represent his financial interest, and that they be given a 25% share of Standard Oil.

Henry's first wife was ill and her physician suggested that they visit Florida to help her illness. She died shortly after their visit, but Henry became very interested in Florida. At that time, Florida was not very accessible. Henry decided to step down to be Vice President of Standard Oil, and start the Florida railroad and hotel businesses.

In 1905 Key West was Florida's most populated city. It has always been near the main shipping lane for ships going into and out of the Gulf of Mexico. As the southern most deep water port in the US, when the Panama Canal was being created, Henry decided it would be very profitable to extend his railway to Key West. Making it the main rail line for shipping products into and out of that port, bringing in huge profits from the additional anticipated shipping business.

Extending the railway was thought to be a very risky endeavor. In addition to the expensive engineering challenges, there was the constant threat of hurricanes wiping them out. Once called "Flager's Folly", after the extentions completion in 1912, it was called "the eight wonder of the world". 

Henry died in 1913, and a massive hurricane caused severe damage to the Key West extension in 1935. By then, ship's were being made that had much longer cruising distance's, allowing them to bypass Key West and dock on the East Coast, closer to their markets. The railway went bankrupt and sold the bridges to the State of Florida, who extended US Highway One on them.

Ragnar Relay Race

Ragnar Relay Races are 200 mile (350 km) long relay foot races, that are considered the best relay races in the United States. One of the 17 that are run each year, starts in Miami Florida every February, and ends in Key West Florida, two days later.

However, the 2016 race was cancelled due to issues securing the necessary permits to allow running it on the roads.

There are two divisions, regular and ultra. Regular consists of a team of 12 runner's each running 3 stages of the relay and ultra consists of 6 runners each running 6 legs. Legs vary from 3 to 12 miles in length. This format allows teams to create a strategy, based on their current runners strengths.

Naval Air Station

The actual Naval Air Station is on one of the Island's (Keys), East of Key West, but part of it is also on Key West. That station is used by all of the military forces for combat air training, because they can take off and quickly be in an area over the Ocean, where they can practice combat techniques and maneuvers.

Coast Guard

There is a good sized Coast Guard Station on Key West. The Coast Guard's main mission is to protect US Waters from threats such as terrorism and smuggling. Their secondary mission is marine law enforcement, sea rescue and fighting illegal immigration. In times of war, some of their functions may be military. The Navy's mission is and has always been military.

Heminway's House

The house that Ernest Hemingway owned on Key West is now a museum. A lover of cat's he willed his house as a museum as long as the cat's could roam free there.

It's even more beautiful now, then it was when he lived there. Today the Island has fresh water creation and storage facilities. In Hemingway's time, fresh water was very sparse and not much grew on Key west as a result.No grass, no scrubs, just a few trees and brown everything else. In 1938, Earnest had envisioned a nice pool at his house, but he was called away as a correspondent during the Spanish-American War, so he left his wive Pauline in charge of the pool project. The pool had to be hand dug in solid coral and a well had to be dug for down to the salt water table underneath to fill it. Earnest came home and saw the final bill, which was about $325,000 in 2016 money. Supposedly he threw a penny in the flagstone patio being put around it and proclaimed, "Well, you might as well have my last cent too, cause you already spent everything else we had." 

Now it is fresh water, but when it was salt water, it took three days to fill the pool, and it had to be drained after about three days, so they could spend two days scrapping all of the Algee off of the bottom and refill it.


There are many wild rooster's roaming around Key West. Nobody is positive of where they came from, and the tourist's seem to like them, but the local wealthy people don't care for being woke up at 5 A.M. everyday, listening to the brawling at all hours, and watching them protect their domain, which might be one of the local's expensive yards..

Photo Blog (click here to view)

Thank you for reading, I'll see you next time.




Sicily - Segesta

by Kimp 29. February 2016 21:39

Photo Blog (Click to view)

Segesta will forever be remembered as the small town, that caused the destruction of the mighty Athenian empire, without even firing a single arrow, nor slinging a single sword, nor ever setting foot in Athens.

Modern Era
Today, Segesta is a beautiful place to walk around and look at many era's of old history. Nestled in the Mountains of Western Sicily, it sports great views of the surrounding vineyards and includes one of the the best preserved Greek Temples, which was created by an Athenian architect, around 420 B.C., just a few years before they asked Athens for help.

Ancient Era

The indigenous people of Western Sicily were called Elymian. It is thought that they were descendants of refuges fleeing Troy after the Trojan war. Same as the ancient Romans. 

Around 700 B.C. the Greeks (from the mainland of Greece) were colonizing the Western part of Sicily. Athens was an independent City-State what was separate from Greece. And Ionian Greeks (Modern day Western Turkey) moved to Greece but some didn't colonize, as they preferred to live among the indigenous people.

A City-State is a city that is also an independent country. Monaco and the Vatican are two of the few surviving City-States.

Athens arch enemy was another City-State named Sparta that was located inland, in the Peloponnese Peninsula (modern day southwestern Greece). It seems like Athens and Sparta were nearly always in a heightened state of tension. They would sign 50 year peace treaties and defensive pact's, only to break them two years later and be back at war with each other. It had all of the elements that make Democracy great. Deceit, political lobbying, back stabbing, muscle flexing, jealousy, and secret pact's seemed to be the norm. 

The capital of the Elymian people was named Segesta and was composed of about even number's of indigenous people and Ionian Greeks.

A new Greek colony, attempted to start a port city named Selinuite, that was not very far from Segesta, Needless to say, the two cities were in constant conflict for about 200 years. This conflict culminated in a large battle, in which Segesta lost.

Not wanting to take that defeat in stride, they decided to mount a significant counter offensive by sending representative's to Athens, requesting both an alliance and military assistance against Selinuite.

Quite a bit is know about this next part because of an Athenian Historian named Thucydides, who was also an Athenian General. I am going to paraphrase it and use a little artistic license to fill in some cracks.

The Segesta representative's showed up in Athens, with all of the wealth that Segesta could muster up. The initial request was for twenty Trireme's of troop's. It was good timing, because Athens had just signed a truce with Sparta.

A Trireme was a very light and fast sailing vessel that held about 200 troop's, of which four or five were archer's, and included room for a few horses. To keep the weight down, it was only designed for one day movements. There weren't any sleeping quarter's, and it only had enough storage area for one day of rations. To make it fast, just about all 200 men would row it, in addition to it's sails. There were three levels of rower's on each side, each pulling one oar. If the battle was more than one day away, they would pull in somewhere, stay the night, get more provision's and move on the next morning. Twenty Trireme's would have been about 4,000 troops.

When it didn't look like the Athenian's were going to help, the representative's told the Assembly (Athenian Congress) that the gold they had brought was only a down payment. There was plenty more gold where that came from, to be dispersed after the win. Suddenly the Assembly wanted to discuss it.

At that time, there were three highly respected General's in Athens:

Nicias was the old, seasoned victor, who
had concurred many, many conquests. He earned his respect in battle and was known for bring home the gold medal. He was also a political leader and owned a very large estate with 1,000 slaves.

was Mr. Reliable. When he was given a job, he just quietly went and did it. Nothing more and nothing less. Even keeled, trustworthy and highly respected by all those who knew him.

Alcibiades as the young general (mid 30's at that time). A student of Socrates and expected by many to be the next Nicias.

The Assembly asked the wise old general what he thought about the proposal. The old general had been to Sicily before and he had done his homework. He knew how many allies there were and also how weak those alliances were. Likewise, he knew how many enemy's there were and also the strength of the enemy alliances.

Nicias knew, if they showed up, even with all of their forces. The was a risk that the enemies would align, his alliances would
back down, and they would be stuck in a fight for survival. But he did not say that to the assembly. What he said was something to the effect of, "We would need a really big Army to take Selinunte.". Figuring that the Assembly would get the idea and decide not to go.

What the assembly heard was, "We can take Selinunte and it would be a big show of strength, that would strengthen their appliances, while weakening their opponents alliances.

What the young general heard was, "We can conquer all of Sicily for our own.".

What Lamachus what thinking was, "Wake me up when it's time to leave. I'm ready for whatever."

After Nicas left the Assembly, They talked among themselves and decided to triple the size of the Army and
send a sizable Navy along as well. That would be a good show of strength. Surely their allies would see it
as such, and jump "all in" with them.

In addition, they decided to send the old general for the wisdom and the young
general for the experience. The only problem was, that both generals hated each other,  and never saw eye to eye, The Assembly decided to solve that problem by also sending Mr. Reliable. Figuring that he could hold it all together and negotiate the peace.

Night before departure:
The young general and his cronies tied one on at the pub, in celebration of counting their chickens before they hatched. They then commenced to deface several shrines in Athens, in a drunken stupor, on the way to the ships.

After Departure:
The ships had departed before the Assembly caught word of the Shrine defacing incidents. They request a ship to catch up with the Armada and bring the young general back to Athens for a trial.

Arrival in Sicily:
The large Athenian Navy and Army show up in Catania Sicily, who was one of their allies. Catania is on the East coast of Sicily, about as far away from Selinuite as it gets. They just wanted to hang out for a few days, rest, replenish supplies, and move on. Plus the Athenian's thought catania would see the large Athenian Army and Navy and feel like it was very impressive, sealing their alliance.

The only problem was that Catina was very close to Syracuse. At that time,
Syracuse was a nearby City-State with about the same population as Athens. Catina didn't know that this Armada was there to attack Sellunite, and thought that this Army was stopping at Catina, en-route, to take Syracuse. They were like, "Dude, that's all that you brought? Look's pretty puny to me. I think we'll just sit this one out. "

Syracuse had an alliance with Sparta, Athens arch-rival. Syracuse caught wind of the ships in the Catania port and also thought they were there to mount on offensive against Syracuse. Syracuse was not going to wait for them to attack. They summoned their Army and headed to Catania, for a surprise attack.

Someone must have tipped the Athens Army off. They had no intention of taking Syracuse, but were certainly not going to back down to any aggressor. Their first battle, was fought on a river crossing near Cantinia, and it saw Athens's as the victor. 

So the three generals huddle up to try to figure out what to do next.
The old general said, "This definitely
changed our plans, but we got one in the win column anyway. Our alliances will be stronger, and the enemy alliances a little weaker.  So the best thing to do is, go back to Athens and sit tight with a smile and another notch in our belt."

The Young general says, "Dude, we just kicked their ass. We can take them. All we need to do, is set up a stronghold, wait on more reinforcements to come, then move all in. ".

Mr. Reliable says, "I am in favor of taking them, but we need to strike now, immediately, while they are back on their heels, and licking their wounds. Before they can assemble their allies and mount a significant defense or counter offensive. "

The young general must have had a trump card or what sounded like a great plan upon more discussion, because he won the argument. So they dug in, hunkered down, and awaited the arrival of more soldiers.

Meanwhile the ship that the Assembly had sent to retrieve the young general, for the shrine
defacing trial had arrived. The young general was alerted in advance, got cold feet, and defected to Sparta (the arch enemy of Athens) seeking Asylum. 

He told Sparta of the whole plan, how big the Army was, and how many reinforcements they were requesting.

This left the old general and Mr. reliable stuck in a place and with a plan they both hated, with no choice but to carry it through, because they had already committed. If they packed up now and left, it would show weakness, and they would not be able to save face, Attacking now was not possible, because Syracuse had been preparing their defense plan and winter was approaching.

Spring comes, reinforcements arrive, and the Athenian Army carries out their initial plan, which was to attack from the North. It was mountain laden, so the enemy would never expect them to come from that direction. They get there, and find a brand new wall had been constructed on the North side (as a result of the young general revealing the plans last fall). They decide that an attack from the North would make be mass suicide.

Athens did not have a strong enough Navy to attack from the coast, which ran alone the Eastern and Southern boundary of Syracuse. Attacking from the West not an option, Because it was a marsh. That left the only option, to attack from the NorthWest. So they relocated the entire Army there, set up a new fortress and explored the details of that option in full.

While this is going on, the Sparta Army arrives and decides to get on the North side of the Athenian stronghold, thereby cutting off its replenishment supplies. With a lack of supplies, they couldn't attack and they also could not afford to wait It there for very long.

This new Athenian plan needed. A portion of the Athenian Army circles around to the SouthWest of Syracuse and cut off
all of their supplies with both the Navy and Army. The plan was to weakened them to the point of surrender.

The Syracuse Army responded by building a road and palisade (strong wooden defensive fence) across the marsh to the West, to get supplies into Syracuse from that direction.
Mr.reliable then assembled an elite force and lead it to crush the marsh road palisade. They were successful, however he was killed in the action.

This left the old general, who really wanted to just go home, all alone. To make matters worse, by this time, he was very ill. Athens's responded with more reinforcements and a new general. But they were no match for the skilled Calvary that Sparta had sent.

With Athens forces stuck in Sicily, Sparta seized the opportunity to declare war on Athens, meaning that Athens could no longer send reinforcements, for fear of losing Athens.
The Assembly sent a fleet of ships to retrieve Nicias and all of their forces. The Navy was able to defend themselves during the arrival and arrived on time. However, the night before they were to leave, a lunar eclipse had occurred and Nicias interpreted that as a sign from the God's that bad times were ahead. He decided to stay another month before leaving. 

That ended up being a fatal mistake. Syracuse enlisted their best engineer's and spent the month reinforcing their ships to take on the Athenian Navy. The Navy what annihilated on their departure and the Entire Army was captured. The general's were killed, and most of the soldiers were enslaved. Very few were able to make their escape back to Athens.

That was of basically the end of Athens as well.

Meanwhile back at Segesta.
The Athenian Army never arrived, so they went to Carthage (modern day Tunisia) and allied with them. Carthage sacked Selinus, completely crushing it. 

Sounds like a happily ever after story, until 15 years later, When Syracuse showed up at Segesta's door and singed them. ONce again, Carthage showed up causing Syracuse to back off. But 100 years later, Syracuse came back and destroyed them. Yet somehow, Segesta recovered.

Roman Era
40 yeras later (260 BC), the Romans crushed Carthage, however, they spared Segesta, because both Romans and the indigenous Elymians were thought to be decedents of people who had fled from Troy. Rome proclaimed that Segesta would be a "Free and Immune city." Under the protection of the Roman's, Segesta remained quiet and at peace with the Romans. This gave them the opportunity to gradually migrate, seeking better opportunities in other parts of Sicily.

After the Vandals (East German tribe) sacked Rome in 455 AD, they completely destroyed Segesta as well.

Moorish Era
In the 1100's the Normans (Northern France) conquered Sicily and some Muslim's probably sought refuge in Segesta. Reoccupying and constructing on it. Then in the 1200's, Christians came and evicted the Muslim's from Segeata. 

Sheppard Era
It is believe that Christian's lived there for about 50 years, then abandoned it. Leaving it to the Sheppard's, who worked the fields in area.

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Enjoy, Craig



Sicily - Erice

by Kimp 29. February 2016 05:21

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When Jesus sat down to the table to break bread, it was probably accompanied with salt from Trapani Sicily.

The cradle of civilization is the Mediterranean coast that starts in Syria, continues along Lebanon and ends in the Middle of  Israel. The natural snails in the sea there, produce a purple dye that was highly sought after in antiquity. While other dyes of that time faded over time, this purple dye got stronger and more beautiful with wear and exposure to sunshine. In the beginning, it was consumed mostly by their clergy (I believe that is why most churches today use the color purple during advent). As the clergy lost power, the dye began to be consumed by the public. It quickly became in high demand, by the richest people in the world, which gave the motivation, for someone to start a world wide trade of goods that were in high demand. Distribute the goods that are plentiful in one area to their highest area's of demand and bring back something else that is in high demand locally.

About 1500 B.C., salt was in very high demand, due to its use to extend the shelf life of food, and very high quality salt was in short supply. The best salt then and still today, is produced in Trapani Sicily. It's known for it's exceptional flavor, and is completely natural and untreated. Consisting of a higher concentration of potassium and magnesium and lower amounts of sodium chloride than common salts, it is also believed to be healthier. Trapani salt is available in many specialist food shops.

When the Roman's ruled most of Europe, they paid their soldiers in salt rather than currency.

Erice is the 750 m (0.5 mile) high mountain top Medieval city, what was the fortress where the people of Trapani would retreat to. It was full of a lot of very wealthy people, was very well made and still looks like it is in good shape today. One of the most well preserved that I have seen. It was also one of the most scenic places I have been to.

Getting to Erice

There is a funicular (type of cable car) that goes from Trapani (which is at sea level), to the top of the mountain. However, I was coming in from the other direction and decided to drive the Smart car rental that I had. I was rethinking that decision the whole way up. If you have a Smart car rental, take the funicular.

The Smart car has so many problems with it, I'm surprised that Mercedes admits having anything to do it.  One of the problem's with the Smart car is that it is very top heavy, and requires a computer to constantly adjust the suspension as you are driving down the road to keep it from flopping over. Especially if you fly into a corner. That might work well for most places, but Sicily's autostrada (freeway) was pretty much built by paving over some old chariot paths and is very bumpy. I had the Smart car floored and the spedo said 95 mph, but my GPS said I was going about 84. At that speed, the Smart car rode about like a 65 ford pickup. It was hobbling, wobbling and bobbling from one place to the other (I think it might have been overwhelming the computer). It took lots of constant wheel adjustments and guts to keep it on the road. The interior noise was pretty uncomfortable as well. On a rural road in Sicily, it was like riding a bucking bronco. Besides wearing my arms out, it was hurting my back and neck.

There was a very severe under-steer when going up switchbacks leading up to Erice. Under-steer is when you turn the front wheels but the car goes more straight then turn, right into on coming traffic that is going down the mountain. To recover quickly, I needed to take my foot off of the gas, straighten the wheel, floor it, get up some speed, and then let off the gas again and finally turn. That maneuver gets lots of horn noise from the oncoming traffic. Thar car did not do well with hairpin turns combined with steep inclines.

Just when I thought I had everything figured out, there was one more surprise in store.

The whole ride down the mountain a buzzer keep going off. Not a good feeling at all to hear a buzzer blaring while descending a steep mountain. I'm trying to look at the lights on the dash to see what it is, but I kind of need to keep my eyes on the road, and there isn't any room to pull over. Then the sound would go away for a short while, then come back. Is that maybe the sound that goes off when the brakes are being overwhelmed??? It kind of sounded like a headlight's are on alarm. Like when the engine is off and you get out of the car while the lights are on. But I am pretty sure the engine is on, and my door is shut. I finally get to a place where I can pull over and investigate. The sound stops and doesn't happen again, until I start going back down the hill. I pull over again and it stops, until I start going. I keep looking for lights on the dash and nothing seems to be lit. I never did figure it out, but it ceased, when I got to the bottom.

This left me with an uneasy feeling the whole rest of the trip. Is this car going to strand me in the middle of nowhere?

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Sicily - Cefalu

by Kimp 13. February 2016 16:08

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A while back, I quickly fell in love with Sicily. Even the tourist areas are not commercialized, it's laid back, it's inexpensive by tourist standards, it's just plain pure and natural, and it feels lived in and not preyed upon.

Cefalu was the first place in Sicily to be inhabited by modern Human's. There is a huge rock that sits directly on the coast. It's sides are barren cliff's, but it's top is very fertile and pleasant. A great place to build a fortress that would stand the test of time.

It's engineering is very impressive. Beside pirates and barbarian's, it also had to withstand the Arab invasion's. However, it was eventually conquered by the Arab's after a long siege.

In 1063 the Norman's conquered it and built the small village that is there at it's base today. in 1131, King Roger II was caught in a fierce storm near there. He managed to make it to shore and when he first set foot on shore he proclaimed that he was going to build a cathedral here to honor his Savior. At that he did. A very nice piece of Norman architecture with some of the finest Byzantine mosaic's outside of Byzantine. 

Greek Mythology said that the rock used to be the head of a God that loved nature and only wanted to sing about it. Aphrodite was very jealous because she could not get him to fall in love with her. So she cast his head in stone, and put it right there on the coast, where he could be one with nature. Sounds plausible to me.

However, there isn't any mention in Greek text's about early Greek's living her, so the Greek name is a big mystery. There is a pagan temple at the top that dates to about 500 B.C. Bring your hiking shoes, it's quite a trek to the top and the only way to get there is via foot.

Besides the nice fortress, Cefalu has a nice beach, a quaint village, a great looking Norman Cathedral, great seafood, and lots of Sicilian delights.

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Germany - Darmstadt - Frankensteins Castle - Halloween

by Kimp 17. November 2015 10:43

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Darmstadt is near Frankfurt Germany, and is known as the "city of science". 

Albert Einenstein had a lot of good things to say about the University of Darmstadt. It's a very focused research college, that seems to have the formula for churning out top scientists, and respect from employer's who have hired it's students.

Darmstadt is also home of the "European Space Operations Center". While the US has been focusing on Mar's, Europe sent a craft past Mar's, got it to orbit around a comet, and actually launched a landing craft on the comet. Both crafts are still sending pictures back.

Of course, no big science center runs on its own, it needs a slew of high tech industries supporting it. I noticed, that there seems to be no shortage of Bentley's and Audi R8's roaming the streets of Darmstadt.

At one time, Darmstadt was the capital of the country of Hesse. Hesse is where most of the Hessian soldiers came from. In their day, Hessian's were mercenary's. Basically they were soldier's who were paid to fight other people's wars. During the American Revolutionary War, about 25% of the soldier's who fought on Britain's side, were Hessian's. Britain found that it was much easier to borrow money to pay for someone else to fight their war, then it was to recruit, train, and fight it themselves. 

But that's not why I was in Darmstadt. I was there because of it's close proximity to Frankenstein's Castle. While never proven to influence the novel, there seem to be some similarities between the novel, the name, and this area. True or not, the Halloween Festival at Frankenstein's castle is pretty awesome. It's the biggest Halloween festival in Europe and sells out fairly quickly. It is held over three weekend's centering on Halloween. Friday and Saturday are night events and are only open to Adult's The Sunday event is a matinee that is open to children as well. I was there on "All Hallows Eve".

The parking near the castle is reserved for the vendors. Everyone else has to ride a bus from a small town nearby. The bus fare is included in the ticket. I had a package that included a buffet, served in a very nice special events center on site. It a top of the line authentic German buffet with lots of find German deserts as well. I was pretty happy with just that. 

One section of the castle is designated as a drinking, eating, and socializing area, with a DJ and several sitting and standing tables. The rest is designated as a scary, freaky area, with some pretty good actor's. Or maybe they weren't really acting, cause they are for real? Being a big guy, it's a lot of fun, cause I always end up with lots of women using me as a freak shield. They are not shy at all, about grabbing me tight and moving is as close as they can, while they are screaming and trying to hide. If you really want to hide, you might try, not screaming.

I was on the first bus to leave for the castle. It was packed with people and the middle aged women I was sharing breaths with, looked me straight in the eyes. Before she raised her head to look, I had noticed that she smelled pretty good and also had the hair color, I would like to have on my next girlfriend. I responded with a slight, slow, sincere, smile of approval and a gaze of interest. That must have been exactly what she was looking for, cause she started talking a million miles an hour in German. Not understanding any of it, all I could do, was watch the facial expressions and body language. Responding with an occasional look of amazement, like "You don't say?", "Really", "Wow". A snicker here, a smile there, and a sporadic "Genau". "Genau" is a German word that German women use a lot, when they are taking with their friends. It means "Exactly", as in, "I know exactly what you're taking about".

Then she get's out her phone. I was amazed at the size of it. She had a really big phone with lots of pictures on it. This was a little odd, cause German's are usually face to face social and seldom use smart phones, nor take/show pictures. They prefer to be with their friends rather then looking at them on a phone. She was showing me zillion of picture's and I didn't recognize any of the people in any of them. I am sure she was explaining them. I did observe that she was in about half, wearing all kinds of different classy outfits, and looking pretty good. One looked like it might have been a picture with her daughter, maybe when her daughter graduated. Several other's looked like family. There was definitely an Uncle Joe in a few. Uncle Joe is the person in everyone's family who has a lot of color. I recognized a few other family stereotypes as well.

She was flipping through the photos so fast, I was hoping that she might flip it a little to far, and accidentally land on one of her, in the nude. So I had prepared a "ja wonderbar" (Yes Wonderful)!!!, standing by at the ready, just in case.

She had a few large bags with her, which turned out to be her costume. I figured out that she was one of the actor's, when I saw her a working the crowd, as the night whittled away. She was a pretty good looking Dracula. Nothing too scary about that package.

There was a small stage in one area, with a neat short play that was a twist on the Frankenstein novel. Instead of a young science student creating a horrific male monster that runs amok. It was a young science student bringing life to a manikin and creating a beautiful women. Except when he kisses her, she figures out that he just wanted to create a Stepford Wife. This is followed by her trashing the lab, then shooting him.

Besides that, there were a several freaky side shows and lots of freaky dudes working the crowd. I was attacked by Freddy chainsaw. Freddy was really after the young women who was using me as a freak shield. Except she lost her grip and ended up falling into the swamp, right next to the swamp monster. I felt bad for her, cause that water was a nasty looking green and swamp thing was pretty freaky.

That was so much fun, I stayed the whole night and as the closing bell sounded, Dracula who had snuck up behind me shortly before, bit me on the neck.  Seems she had picked out her mark, early that night. "Genau !!!".

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Italy - Milan Worlds Fair

by Kimp 20. October 2015 09:08

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Travel in Italy

Rule #1: Never ask an Italian for direction's in Italy.

Rule #2: Rule #1 probably applies outside of Italy as well.

Italian's provide the world's best service. They focus and pride themselves on hosting people and functions. Yet they give directions that would confuse a person who knows exactly where it is. I would rather be lost, then try to figure them out. They point in a direction that you can't really travel, but provides more than one option, and their distance judgement is very general and generally way off.

They will use terms like, "It's just ten minutes.". Yea, maybe ten minutes if you are ridding a bike at full speed, you know all of the short cuts and don't have to stop for any traffic.

Here is an example:

Ask the hotel concierge. Oh, it's easy, just 2 kilometer's (about 1 mile) away. You got out here (he is pointing between two door's, the side door and the main door on different side of the building), turn left, go down a little way's, turn right and it's 10 minutes walk from there. You will see it on the last turn.

This is one of the closest hotels to the Expo grounds, certainly these are good directions. I am confident that they are fully prepared for that question. If it were the least bit difficult, they would have prepared a map, to hand out.

Go outside of the hotel, get confused after only 5 minutes. Ma'am, would you happen to know how to get to the Expo. Surely she sees that I am on foot. Sure, it's right there. She is pointing directly at a building. I go around the building and there's a river on the other side. It looks like it might be over the water, but the only bridge in sight, in either direction, looks like a bridge for an Autobahn (Interstate highway). No clue how to get over there on foot.

Sir could you tell me how to cross that river. Sure, as he points in about three different direction's and say's; it's easy, only 10 minutes. After I walked away, I'm replaying the directions in my head and wondering; Was the first direction he pointed the general direction ? Or was he using his hands to trace the route while he was talking? Or does he maybe just talk with his hands and the motions are meaningless? Three dead end's, lots of confusion, back tracking twice, one miracle turn onto a road that happened to go around a bend where I could finally see the crossing, and 60 minutes later I am about to cross the bridge. 15 minutes after crossing the bridge I am finally there. Sure enough, it was just on the other side.

On my way back I take the shortest route and it's still 45 minutes walk at a decent pace, and requires 4 turns.

Getting Smarter
I get back to the hotel and I decide to sign up for the shuttle service the next day. It is by reservation only. A small fee, but I was told by the young women as the reception desk that they drop me off right in front. She made it sound like it was perfect. So I quickly signed up. Surely this is the best option.

Turns out the close entrance that I went in the day before was only for Taxi's and tour buses and probably required a permit that had to be paid for. The Hotel didn't purchase a permit for that entrance, because they decided it was better to take people to the extremely crowded main entrance and drop them off in a free area a 5 minute walk away.

The drive was 30 minutes, cause their were a bunch of one way streets and a bunch of traffic. The hotel crammed many people into the shuttle. It was hot, smelled, and very uncomfortable. Not to mention that the lack of leg room was killing my knee. Turns out the main entrance is a very long walk from the actual expo grounds. No good area to put a huge parking lot close, so they put it far away and built a 3 kilometer (1.6 mile) elevated walkway to the grounds. This walk was probably about as long as the walk from the hotel to the back gate, only jam packed full of people. It was covered on all four sides and felt claustrophobic as well.

Graduating to Wizardry

The third day, I decided the walk from the hotel to back gate was definitely the best option, other then a cab with the proper permit. I didn't want to take the chance on hiring a cab that was going to take me to the front gate inside of the back gate.

One day I'll adhere to both rule 1 and 2.


The idea for world's fairs comes from the French tradition of having national exhibitions.

They became truly national during the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800's to early 1900's, when countries were interested in showcasing their industrial products, to promote world trade, and use of their products. 

Two of the big ones in that era were: 

The Paris Expo of 1889 which proved that steel could be used to build very large structures, like the Eiffel Tower.

The Chicago Expo of 1893 that introduced electricity to the masses and the world's first Ferris Wheel (nearly 300 ft tall and each car held 60 people). This also promoted entertainment with a separate section that was an amusement park.

The 1940 New York World's fair changed the theme from industry focused to showcasing different cultures. For me, this era would have been the best.

The 1988 Exposition in Brisbane Australia, changed the focus, to nation's showcasing their national images.

China first entered when they hosted the 2010 Expo, and their first exhibit outside of Asia was at the Milan Expo 2015.

Today, Expo's are hosted about every 3 years, and they usually run from May till October, when held in the Northern Hemisphere.

Milan Expo 2015

The theme for this years expo was "Feeding the World". 

This was a great one to go to. Being that the focus was on food, many countries brought their local talent to the table. Lots of great tasting, truly authentic food in many pavilion's. At the bottom of the culinary scale where several counties, who in my opinion, didn't quite understand the theme. Many where in the middle area, kind of good but nothing special. At the top end of the scale was Slovakia. Oh man, they brought the finest chef in the world. After eating in their restaurant, I didn't even want to eat anywhere else. That chef cooked heavy meats that most wouldn't even touch, and he did an exemplary job. This wasn't the type of meal that one eats while sipping a fine wine. This is the type that goes perfectly with cold beer, and being one of the countries who invented beer, they knew just what kind to serve with it.The quality and attention to detail was immaculate.

The main food court area, hosted by Italy, was called "Eataly". What a great play on words. Eataly is also the name of a company, so maybe they sponsored it, not really sure. 

The United States pavilion was in in the middle tier. They kind of got the theme, but really didn't put enough thought nor preparation into it. The first thing that upset me was that the architect disgraced the American Flag on the main facade, by changing the stars into a Plate with a fork and knife beside it. There are some things that are always "out of bounds", and to me, this is one of them. At the time I was there, I was recovering from a very serious knee injury and the US pavilion's main display was on the second floor. There was a running escalator that exited on the second floor, but the staff would not let me use it. There was also a working elevator, with the same result. The only entrance they would let me take, were the stairs, which on the entrance side were at a nice and gentle slope, which wasn't too bad. The exit side,however, was very steep and I was struggling the whole way down. They are lucky that there wasn't a medial emergency on those stairs.

Once I got to the display floor, it was a huge disappointment. They tried to use modern interactive technology to show how growing some agricultural items, are needed, to produce other agricultural items. Such as growing feed in one area, is then shipped and feed to cows to make beef. I can picture 10 mindless executives sitting around a conference room table, watching one brilliant sales dude demonstrate this, and imagine that they probably thought this was a great idea. The problem was, in production, there were so many people crowded around the technology, just messing with it, that it was impossible to grasp the educational concept of anything. To me it looked more like forty 3-year old's, all scribbling on the same canvas, at the same time.

At the bottom of he USA pavilion was a theater with a cartoon clip that may have done a good job at promoting the theme, but I skipped that because the line was very long and it looked to commercial from the outside. I was skeptical, that it was going to be more about entertainment then education.

For the most part, wealthy countries all had creative pavilions that came close to hitting the mark, exhibiting either what they currently contribute to world agriculture or what they envision for the future. I didn't have any problems using the elevators at any other pavilions. Yes sir, I can see you aren't walking to well, do you need any help in the elevator?

Before I attended I was excited to see what some of the middle African countries were going to offer. One of them was the Democratic Republic of the Condo. A very rough country, but there is a lot of agricultural potential there and I was hoping they were going to bring something exciting the table. They didn't even show up. They had one of the cheapest pavilion's, basically a small room in a building shared between many countries. Their door was closed.  Many other African countries were in the same area, and they exhibited some of their products, a little of their culture, and had someone available to answer questions. Cuba had a similar pavilion space and they brought a lot of liquor products and exhibited a party like atmosphere. Not much in it, but I kind of found myself favoring the happy atmosphere.

Someone (probably large companies) sponsored several college professor's, who gave educational exhibits. I went to an English speaking one about caffeine, and an Italian speaking one that was about the coca bean and making of chocolate products. These were more just to sit down for a while, but I found them educational as well. Italy did a great job of provided lots of comfortable seating. Have no clue who the designers of their seating were, but everybody could use them. These were very comfortable large seats, strategically placed and used by a lot of people.  

I was at this Expo in mid May, about two weeks after it started. At that time, probably 30% of the pavilions were still being worked on. Either not open at all, or only sections of them were open. The saddest was Nepal. Their pavilion looked beautiful on the outside, but it was closed due to the Kathmandu earthquake. There was a box for donations and many people were donating. That was a solemn and humbling experience.   Every time I here Kathmandu, I think of the powerful Bob Seger song Katmandu, where he talks about just getting away for a while and going there. in the 60's it was thought of as a gateway, where people go to get away from western culture, find themselves, and start a new beginning.

The country that completely knocked it out of the beauty park was Iran. Beautiful display of their multitude of agriculture products and they brought some of their awesome old school Persian culture with them. Persian music really has a lot of emotion in it. I've heard many tales of the hippy days when hippies would hitch hike across Europe, crossing Turkey, Iran, India and ending up in Kathmandu Nepal, which was at the far end of the Hippy trail. How great would it be, if that were still possible. Iran is a hidden treasure, yearning to be once again peaceful, and open for the whole world to enjoy.

Australia had the exhibit that nailed the theme perfectly. They focused on preservation and the best use of Oxygen and Water. The two elements, besides the sun that all agriculture needs.

Germany had the most artistic architectural design that hit the mark. It was called the field of ideas. They were promoting future ideas and brought the shapes of the outdoors to architecture. The USA did a good job of showing vertical gardens that might be used one day. Their pavilion had large vertical panels that moved as the sun does. They could be planted, maintained and harvested without a lot of machinery. The panel movement, also let natural light into the building. Not the most aesthetically pleasing, but actually functional. Several pavilion's had agriculture on their outsides, but it was dark on the inside and was more for appearances then function.

China created their first exhibit outside of Asia. Very beautiful from the exterior, and their interior display was OK, but not nearly as nice as I was expecting. They missed the mark, by going more for technology, then agriculture. Ok entertainment value, but not much educational value.

This was a nice experience and I had a good time, but probably will not go to another one, unless it close. Too many different things going on all at once, it was too crowded and the lines were too long for what I was waiting in line for.

Cirque Du Soleil had an outdoor show nightly show at the Expo, that I had tickets to. But my knee was not in the best of shape at that time. It was a long walk to get there from outside of the Expo grounds. I spent all morning and some of the afternoon walking the large expo grounds, went back to my hotel for a nap, planning to return in the evening for the show, but decided it was too far to walk back to see the show, so I skipped it.     

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Spain - Pamplona - San Fermin Festival

by Kimp 20. July 2015 11:54

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My Arrival

Two countries I never tire of, are Spain and Switzerland. Each foray always brings me more joy then the last.

Pamplona is so extensive, it took me a long time to write this up.

It is probably best to go to Pamplona via train from a nearby larger city, but I decided to fly in, because I didn't want to waste the time in transit. Since Pamplona has a very small airport without much infrastructure, I had a driver pick me up at the airport. He was about my age and dressed in a great looking suit. He had lived in Pamplona his whole life, was nice and seemed to be well educated, but most of what he told me about Pamplona's history wasn't even close to the real story. I didn't bother to correct him, I just thanked him for the information with a sincere smile. 

San Fermin ( The Band )

This was a last second trip plan for me, which is a departure from my norm. I was listening to some tracks from one of my most favorite new groups. A refreshing chamber-pop group from New York City named San Fermin, whose inventive composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone has turned pop music into something very colorful, full of twists, turns, and embellishments that keep it moving and interesting. Attracting very talented musicians; Male vocalist Allen Tate has a beautiful baritone voice seldom heard in pop, combined with the vocal talents of the female cast, they produce operatic sounds that tell a great story, in a glamorous new way. Add in good lyrics, a rhythm section well versed in complex content, a violinist, and two very talented horn players, creates a both big and small sounds that are sure to move the world in new directions. Tightly blended and intermixed, it sounds both old and new at the same time. True artists in every sense of the word, the musician in me, thoroughly enjoys everything they have created and looks forward to see what they are going to offer in the future..

That joy prompted me to decide to visit the San Fermin festival this year, in Pamplona Spain, on less then a months notice. 

When I was in the stands at the Bull ring, there were lots of marching band in attendance as well. There are marching band competitions throughout the festival and it is common to encounter them marching and playing on the way to the stadium as well.

They all play different tunes at the same time. To me it sounded a lot like a Charles Ives composition. Charles Ives was a famous American classical composer. His father was a marching band and choir director, and his father would often invite march bands to his town, marching them in from different parts of town, until they all meet in the center. They would all play different tunes. This inspired Charles to write some very interesting classical compositions, that are still played by symphonies today. Usually during a show dedicated to modern symphonic music.

Chasing Red

I was lucky enough to get to spend a short amount of time with Dennis Clancey. In my opinion, Dennis has too many positive attributes to list, for most part he is an intelligent and athletic dude from Arizona, with movie star looks and a passion for running with the bulls, who has been visiting Pamplona, and has run with the bulls, every festival day for the last ten years (about 90 runs). His feature length documentary, entitled Chasing Red, won the "Best of the Fest" Grand Prize at the 2015 LA Indie film festival.

Dennis teaches new runners in addition to performing the play by play commentary for one of the American Cable channels. He was also featured on one of the Spanish channels, that broadcast a daily 90 minute special covering the run on every day of the festival.

He told me that he also runs in other festivals, but Pamplona is the best organized one he has been at. He was telling me about one place, there they release the bulls in an open area and let them run with dudes on horseback chasing them, before guiding them into town. The people who are waiting to run have no clue when they are going to arrive. Could be an hour or four hours later. One year the horseback riders lost the pack and they had to release another bunch for the town run. The next day, people were calling in reports of seeing bulls in or near their villages.

Running with the Bulls

My first running with the bulls experience was in the cow pasture directly behind my childhood house in Ohio, and adjacent to my back yard. It was a nice relatively flat area devoid of trees that was a great place for launching model rockets and for riding a bike through open rough terrain as fast as I could, as well as many other things that delighted me when I was young. Most of the time it was either empty or it only had cows in it. Every once in a while the farmer would put one of his bulls in that pasture to impregnate the cows, but I never knew when that would be. I would not find out, until I was walking through the pasture. His bull had large rings through their nose and a chain hanging down. The purpose of that was to prevent the bull from charging, cause it would hurt his nose, however, he didn't seem to mind the pain when I was near. I quickly learned to freeze, then slowly back up facing him until he calm down, then turn and run away as fast as I could, until I got a fence between us. Even the fence was not really enough, cause there were times when the fence was between us and it still looked like he wanted to charge.

Another personal occurrence I had, was when my life long best friend, Jim and I, were working on a large cattle ranch in Nebraska. We were about 1/2 of a mile (1km) from a pasture that had a single bull in it. Between us were two fences, one near us and one near the bull. The very large Herford bull (the owner's prize winning stud) saw us and was making warning calls, staking out his territory. Jim thought it was funny to imitate the calls cause it infuriated the bull. We were both laughing hysterically, until that bull backed up a few feet, then jumped the fence in stride like it was nothing, and started running towards us at a very fast pace.

All of a sudden that wasn't funny anymore. So we scurried to find the ranch owner and let him know, he had a problem that he needed to solve, cause these two boys sure weren't going to do anything about it. The owner says to use quizzingly, "Are you sure, I wonder what would have made him jump that fence. He's never jumped that fence before!" Jim and I in unison, "Gee, I don't have a clue, but we saw him jump it. Yep he sure did !". After a second of pause he comes up with a solution, "Well then I need you two boys to go and open that fence gate, so he goes back in." Jim and I in unison again, "Gee I don't know, that sounds dangerous.". Confidently he replies "No, just open the gate, he'll wander right back in, and then shut it after he goes in.", like it was really simple and easy. 

So Jim and I jump into the old brown farm truck and headed out to complete that easy task.

A funny story about that truck. The owner's eldest son was also named Jim. A few years before, Jim was driving that truck through the fields shooting at rattle snakes in the fields with a pistol while on the run. He had hit a bump while shooting one once and blew a hole in the front fender of the truck. 

Back to the bull story. So we get up to the fence and the bull is kind of close to the gate. I say to Jim (my best friend), "Ok, you jump out and open the gate, and I'll entice him with the truck to go through the gate, then you shut the gate behind him." Sound like a great plan to me, but Jim being one on one with bull didn't sound like a good plan to him. "The bulls to close to the gate. I ain't getting out here. Lets move him farther away.". It took me several minutes to convince him that it was a good plan and he surely wasn't in any danger.

Jim reluctantly gets out and very slowly and cautiously goes over and opens the gate. It was just a wire gate, so it was easy for Jim to keep his distance from the bull and pull the gate back to the side of the truck. I then reved the engine and started to inch the truck forward with the bull directly in front of the grill, figuring he was sure to he scared of the large truck. But that bull had been around several trucks before and he knew they weren't a threat before.  His just stood his ground and fixed his eyes on Jim. I think he finally figured out that Jim was the one making the calls and he charged him. Jim scaled that barbed wire fence like it was a low hurdle. With the fence in between, the bull finely entered the pen, causing Jim to scurry back over the fence and quickly shut the door.

In the end, it was easy, just like Garth said it would be. Jim, is such a good friend, he soon forgave me for making such a stupid plan and talking him into it. I still laugh about that, but I don't think Jim has learned to share those laughs with me, yet.

Having had personal experience as a youngster, I had no intention of running with the bulls in Pamplona. I merely came as a spectator.

When the Roman's took control of Spain around 200 B.C., bulls ran free and unabated throughout the Iberian Peninsula.  The Roman's, who often included man against animal competition's in their coliseum sporting activities, naturally started using bulls in Spain.

The Roman empire fell, but bull fighting, which was enjoyed throughout Spain, survived. In medieval times, religious festivals and royal wedding were times when noblemen and knights would compete for favor with the ruling elite. Fighting of bulls on horseback, in the town square was one of those events.

After medieval times, in the 1720's, people started fighting bulls on foot (normal people could not afford horses in those times), it attracted large crowds and it became a Spanish tradition. Eventually bull rings were built inside of Spanish cities, and to get the bull's to the ring, they would be brought in from ranches to a pen just outside of town. Then early in the morning, the ranchers would run the bulls through the town streets to get them into the pens in the arena.

In the 1500's someone in Spain decided to prove his bravery by running with the bulls through the city. The trend continued. The earliest recorded mention of running with the bulls in Pamplona was in the 1590's.

In 1925, Ernest Hemmingway was visiting Spain to gather material for a new novel. He decided to write a novel about a bunch of dudes bored with rundown Paris life, who decided to visit Pamplona Spain, for the excitement of the San Fermin Festival. That novel is titled "The Sun Also Rises".  Ever since then it has grown to about 1,000,000 people every year, following a similar path. Hemingway's last trip to Pamplona was in 1959, when he publically apologized for turning an intimate local event, into the whirlwind blowout party that it had morphed into.

I like the title "Sun Also Rises", it means that when the sun goes down on your life, some day it will also rise on your life. That kind of has a strong religious parallel to it.

I took a different perspective. My quest was to find something morale in an immoral world. And I found many moral behaviors to enjoy even during the San Fermin Festival.

At its purist, The "running with the bulls" was one of those. While the festival is a massive 9 day and night long, extremely loud party with lots drinking and sometimes wild, energy releasing events. The "Running with the Bulls" is a very controlled athletic competition. Due to it's dangerous nature, the police make a valiant attempt to keep anyone who shows the slightest inebriation, from partaking in the experience. I observed, several measures in place, to keep is as safe as possible.

Some background on these bulls. I saw the bulls from the world famous Don Eduardo Muira Ranch. Publicized by many as the most fierce and aggressive of bulls of any of the hundreds of Spanish ranches. They weigh in, at about 1300 pounds (590 kg) and run a 4 minute mile while dodging lots of obstacles in their path. in contrast, the most elite human milers, often run slower then these bulls in an unabated path. Muira's are the only pure breed bulls that have a blood line that goes back to the times when the Moor's brought bull's up from Africa. Another highly respected ranch is Martin Andres, his bulls have an attractive purplish tint to them and their horns have more up turn.

At the ranch, these bulls are roaming with steer who wear cow bells, so they are very used to having them around. Even if the steers aren't close, the cow bell sounds makes the bull feel like he has friendly company that is nearby. Bulls are herding animal's, in the wild, they run and hangout in herds, and they feel safe while in the herd.

Ferruccio Lamborghini was such a fan of bull fighting that he named an entire Lamborghini after the Muira. That is also why the Lamborghini icon is a bull about to charge.

The path from the outer pen in Pamplona, to the bull ring is only about 1/2 mile, but parts of it are up a relatively steep incline, parts of it are slippery, parts of it are fairly narrow, and the Muira's I watched, ran it in 2:09 .

Each day of the festival a different ranch provide bulls for this event. Pamplona is so publicized, that bull ranches pick the best of their best bulls for this festival. These bulls are not your average ordinary bull, they are special in every detail. Many bulls are breed and raised that don't make it to the bull fight, they're aggression and stamina tested with horses, and only the biggest and badest troublemakers are selected for bull fights.  

These bulls are free range animals used to being away from people and people induced structures. They are used to quite and peaceful natural environments. When are brought to Pamplona in very tight crates via transport. They spend a night in a crowded pen a short distance from the City, then another night in a small pen just outside of the old town. The festival is going on and it is rock concert loud all night long. When the pen's door's are open, they are ready to bust out and run, in a quest, to get back to nature. They are allowed to run unabated for about 100 yds (100 m), before weaving through the thick mass of people who have assembled for the run. Most people instinctively give them respect and a little room, which open's air gaps for them to instinctively run towards.

By nature, Bulls are prey and not prone to attack unless threatened. They are herding animals and feel the most comfortable, in numbers,  when running with the herd. They usually only get aggressive when separated from the herd or something impedes their forward travel. One of the safety measures, is to attempt to keep the bulls together and running in a forward direction.They also run steer's with the bulls. Steers have been castrated at a very early age and are much mellower then the average bull. Many run slower and the ranchers raise them under the same conditions. The ranchers put cow bells on the steer's to get the bull's used to feeling like they are in a herd, just by hearing that clanging sound.

As a safety measure the run includes several steer's along with the bull's It is easy to visually pick out the steer's, because the one's they pick for the run are very white and the bulls are very black. Since some steers run slower, then bring up the rear to pick up and help calm a bull that has been separated from the herd.

When a bull gets separated from the herd, it is going to attack anything that is sees as an immediate threat. It isn't really attacking, it just want's people to go away and leave it along. The best thing to do, is move away, not approach, and if you are close, get under a barrier as quickly as possible. Do not climb over a barrier, cause getting above, is perceived by the bull, as a direct threat. The police will be on the other side of the barrier to help pull you through.

In the area's that are not bounded by buildings, they build two sets of fences with a non-pedestrian gap in between. This gap is filled with police and medical staff. Both are there to help.

Another safety measure is the placement of "Pastores". Experienced dude's in green shirts who have worked bull ranches for years. They are used to working with bulls, and are there to get the bull's (separated or in the herd), moving to the bull ring as quickly as possible. Stay out of their way and let the expert's do what they do best.

The bulls are used to jumping over obstacles in the wild, so jumping a person that is lying on the ground isn't very difficult. However, occasionally they will tick or step on a downed limb. Better to be stepped on then gored with a horn.

I believe that many of the injuries do not have anything to do with the bulls. Those are cobblestone's people are running on, and falling on them, is going to hurt a knee, a wrist, spine, or head. Many of the people are running in panic mode, where pushing and shoving come out of the blue.

There are so many people, and the bulls are lower then many people, so seeing them before they get very close is unlikely. What I have observed is three waves of people. People expect the bulls are coming so they start to move at a precautionary slow jog. Eventually the people who are closer to the bull start catching them in a hurry, so they start running kind of fast, but the people in front of the bull, trained elite sprinter's who are still catching up with them quick. So they panic and run as fast as they can and also try to get out of the way. But not all of them get out of the way.

This creates a slight air bubble and several fallen bodies, several feet in front of the bulls, for the elite runner's to get a chance to complete the task they have devoted a lot of time to.

The sad thing for me, was that there are many non-athletes without much of a clue partaking in this event. It is kind of like watching a professional sport, where anyone were allowed on the field. Imagine your favorite wide receiver, just about to make a terrific catch in the super bowl, and a spectator runs out of the crowd, breaks up the play, and injures the wide receiver so he is out for the rest of the bowl. I see a lot of that, and sometimes the passionate and dedicated athlete's do pay the price with an injury.

The best athlete's try to get right in front of the lead bull and run in front of it for as long as possible before making a dramatic exit just at the bull catch's up with them. Besides trying to keep track of the bull that is about to run them down, they have to look forward for people who have tripped and fallen, slow running people in front of them, and people who are relatively stationary and sort of out of the way until they panic. It is like 30 seconds of quick decisions, where every decision might result in injury.

The dedicated dude's spend an entire year preparing for this. They study, do their homework and prepare. And they all have injury stories. In my opinion, that is what the watching fan's come to see. Spectator's don't come to see an unknown get gored or trampled. There just isn't any glamor in that.

In my opinion, Pamplona should have some kind of minimum set of qualification's a person should have, to participate in running with the bulls. A person should have to qualify and present a card to enter into the competition.

After the event, the runners go to a bar and get a drink with chocolate and cognac. The cognac region of France is very close, so that is the local hard liquor of choice. It is made from fermented and distilled grapes, and chocolate goes well with it. It is really funny to go to the bars after the event and listen to the stories. One dude will telling about how close he got to the bulls and his friend will be saying, "Dude, I got picture of your scared a$$, and it wasn't even close". Or better yet, "Hey man, did you see me right in front of that bull?", his friend produces a picture and an overseer says, "You mean that one? Dude, that wasn't a bull, that was one of the lame steers !!!"

This Is a good run without any deeply troubling video: Bull run that I observed posed to you tube At about 48 second's, you will see a dude in a black shirt and white pant's near the center of the picture, maneuvering in to get right in front of the bulls. That's "Dennis Clancey" (in his words, this is the area he usually runs in). At about 53 seconds you will a great picture of him coming into "La Curva" (See photo blog for what La Curva is) with the lead bull right behind him. At this point, the air bubble near the bulls opens up, because most people don't loiter in that area. At 54 seconds, Dennis is only one of his strides in front. The bulls follow Dennis's lead on the inside of the corner. He lead them right around La Curva. Dennis then makes a quick and prudent exit just after La Curva, when he hits an unsuspecting crowd of people. Afterwards, Dennis told me the bulls almost never cut the corner, they usually swing wide. I believe they followed him. At about 59 seconds, you will see a dude in a red and white stripped shirt. Another expert runner in my opinion, look at my photo blog for more about him. Then at about 1:02 you will see a dude in a blue shirt with white strips down the shoulders. Another expert runner detailed in my photo blog. At 1:27, you will see what happens when a steer or bulls running with the herd catches up with you. At 1:52 the bulls hit what I call the funnel. It's near the bull ring and people always get hit there as the space gets tighter and tighter. At 1:56 they hit the door and people always get in trouble there as well. At 2:09 it's all over.

The serious injury's usually happen when a bull gets separated, or a pileup happens at the bull ring entrance and the bulls can't jump high enough to get over the 5 people high, who sometimes stack up there.

Many people sit in the stadium (you can see on the you tube that it is packed) and watch the run. It is free and it is broadcast live via a large TV screen. Some sit near the door and bring eggs to throw at the people who enter the bull ring to quickly. Some runners, go into the bull ring just after the starting rocket is fired, several minutes before any bulls arrive. That are seen as cowards and rewarded as such.

After the bulls enter the holding pen in the ring, a young bull (1 yr old), with protective safety caps over it's horns is let out in the ring. It charges at people, and knock's them over. This is seen as fun by some people and as entertainment by the crowd.

There is a lot more about the running with the bulls in my photo blog.

San Fermin Festival

San Fermin was the first Bishop of Pamplona around 300 AD. While on a mission trip to spread the word in Northern France, he baptize as many people as he could along the way. He was arrested for performing the baptism's, and beheaded, as punishment for his crime.

There are two San Fermin festival's in Pamplona every year. The one I am writing about always starts at noon on July 6th, and end's at midnight on July 14th. Basically that is nine day's because the party doesn't end at midnight. The other festival, San Fermin Txikito is mostly a local event consisting of food competitions, parades, and lots of music, but without the running of the bulls nor the bull fight's. That is always centered around a mass that is held on September 25 at a small church was has been erected over the birthplace of San Fermin in Pamplona.

The July Festival, which is the only time Bull Fight's occur in Pamplona, has always been in July, but the original celebration of San Fermin used to be held in October, until 1591 when it was moved to overlap the July Festival, because the weather was much better in July.

The opening ceremony at noon on July 6th called the Chupinazo where a person hand picked my the Mayor lights the rocket that signal's that start of the festival. The square in front of City Hall where the Chupinazo (rocket) is lit, is packed with people at about 5 per square yd (1 sq m). Which is like fitting 5 people into an old time phone booth. People do not wear the red neckerchief until the festival start's so it is usually wrapped around their wrist. Someone yells, "Viva San Fermín, Gora San Fermín", the rocket is lit, and then all hell breaks loose. People, start drenching each other with wine. The normal festival drink is 1/2 wine mixed with 1/2 coke-a-cola and that flies everywhere. People then tie the neckerchief around their neck the big party commences. 

For the most part. The festival is a drink fest with people in the traditional dress of all white, adorned with a red neckerchief and red sash around their waist. Dude to the drink, a lot of loud things are happening concurrently much of the time day and night, however, there are several non drink related activities that occur every day:

There is lots of shopping, and about a zillion Nigerians peddling souvenirs, sun glasses, and hats. The police seem to allow it, sol maybe they have permits, but to me it looks like they all sleep on the street, probably don't pay an taxes in Spain, and they get in the way in high traffic areas. I don't have a problem with someone trying to earn a living, but it gets a little frustrating to me around 1400 (2 P.M.), when it is the hottest part of the day and I am looking for some shade to get out of the heat. All of the shade seems to be consumed by Nigerians sleeping while most of the people are resting in door. It would be nice if the city reserved a small shaded area for "Light skinned brothers" on every block.

Marching bands are often heard during the day and night. The march and play all over the place. Sometimes during their down time, they start playing Dixieland. I thought that was great, until I woke up at 3 A.M. to the sound of a band playing nearby my room. I had decided to stay in a hotel room inside of the old town, but very near the wall and a bit out of the way of the festival. I thought that might not be too loud. But, there is no quite zone inside of the old town walls during the festival. It is very loud all night.

Years ago, there was an attempt to bring some somber religion into the festival, when public officials would parade with other characters from City Hall to the small San Fermin chapel on the out skirts of the old town. But that was cancelled due to constant bombardment by political activists, who don't respect somberness.

"El Struendo", or the roar, isn't advertised officially, but it is a one time event that occur's on a different day each year, where people gather at the square in front of town hall at  2359 (11:59 P.M.) and make as much noise as they can for several hours. They bring drums, whistles, and all kinds of noise makers. I am not sure they can beat the normal nightly noise level. As I said above, it is very loud all night long inside of the old town walls.

The procession occurs on July 7th. The small San Fermin statue is paraded through the street with other carnival figures and traditional Jota dancers, to the San Cernin well, where San Fermin was baptized by San Cernin and a rose is dropped in.

The daily parade, with large carnival figures and big heads. This is outlined in my photo blog.

Running of the bulls is always at 8:00 A.M. on the button. Outlined above and in my photo blog.

Bull Fight everyday starting at 6 P.M. Outlined below and in my photo blog.

Fireworks, every night at 11:00 P.M. over the citadel (Spanish Fort), outlined in my photo blog.

The "Pobre de Mi", or the poor me, closing ceremony on July 14th at midnight in front of city hall. This is outlined in my photo blog as well.

More of my San Fermin experiences

I went to the performing arts center for a nice dinner of Navarra cuisine prepared by a noted Navarra chef. It all started with a small gathering, where Champaign was presented, in an ambience of live Traditional Spanish Guitar. 30 minutes later we sat around a large table and were presented with a very tasty meal. I meet so many people there it is difficult to remember them all. To do remember many people asking me if I would like a glass of their wine, how could I turn that down. It was like a never ending wine stream. Navarra is the Spanish wine country and I felt the need to get as many tasting's in as I could.

Some of the people I meet:

A mid 30's couple from Mexico. I was easy to pick their Mexican style out of this crowd. I asked them where they were from? The women said, "Mexico!!!". "Were at in Mexico?", her reply was "We live in San Diego". humph, I must have missed the big announcement when Mexico had annexed San Diego.

A dude about my age from Virginia Beach who was there with his son. His single son had meet a women there, so his dad got stranded. He and I got along very well, and traded a lot of laughs.

A beautiful woman from Pisa Italy. I mentioned to her that I was going to be visiting Pisa in the near future and she said, "Why don't you come to my cousin's weeding. A huge family gathering and grandma's doing all of the cooking.". It was grandma's cooking that hooked me, so I took down her contact information on a napkin, since I was cell phoneless at that time.

A couple from Brisbane Australia. They were spending 3 months touring Europe (It is winter in Australia in July). The male had been to Spain when he was young, and he had such a good time, he wanted to bring his wife here. They didn't have a lot of plans, they were kind of making it up as they went. He said they were headed to Santiago de Compestela Spain, then down into Portugal next. A very nice long time married couple.

A couple from New Zealand. I've wanted to visit New Zealand for a long time. Many years ago, I wrote lots of magazine articles for a technical publication, and one of my publishers just picked up and moved to New Zealand, so I had heard a lot about it. However, we mostly talked about Dubai. He was an engineer who worked in Dubai for a several years and his wife had gone along as well. I asked her how it was, being a Christen female and living in a Muslim country. She said that 80% of Dubai are christen foreigner's, so she never really saw many Muslim's. Everywhere she went and shopped, it was mostly other christen women. I said, "That sounds like trying to find a southerner in Atlanta Georgia or an American in Miami Florida.".

After I probably had about 2 bottles of wine in me, I meet a couple about my age from North Carolina, and the dude told me he was running with the bulls the next morning. Definitely not an athlete, so I told him, "dude, don't even think about doing that.". He say's, "But that's been on my bucket list for years.". I said "If there is anything else on your bucket list, then move that after everything else, cause might end it all". Concerned that he was going to go through with it, and didn't know much about the race, I turned the napkin with the Pisa info over and drew out a crude diagram of the run route. Tell, him where I thought the safest places for a novice were, how fast it was, and warning him of the panic that ensues neat the action. I didn't realize until the next day, when I was looking for the Pisa info, that I must have given him that napkin. He saw me after the event the next day and said after we talked he didn't get much sleep cause he worried all night and that the bulls just ran right past were he was. He said he wasn't that close to the action, but it was still freaky. I asked him if he still had the napkin and he had thrown it away somewhere. Oh well, that was just going to get me in trouble anyway. I might have gone there, fallen deeply in love, only to end up spending all of my time blissfully with her, never to heard from outside of that relationship again. There must have been a good reason for God wanting me to lose that contact information.

I must have meet several more people that night, cause I was running into people the rest of the time I was there, that seemed to know me by name and I didn't have a clue they were. People waving and saying "Hey, Craig, good to see you again!!!"

After the dinner, we went to the roof top of the performing arts center to watch the fireworks. That was a very good vantage point, not crowded, had chairs and the weather was perfect. That was a great time.

I saw the parade, the running of the bulls, a bull fight, and the closing ceremony. All detail elsewhere here and in my photo blog.

Would I go again? I'm not sure, that is uncharacteristic of me, but I would like to come back in September 25th some time to see the little San Fermin festival and some of the other sights in town.

Bull Fighting

I posted quite a bit in my photo blog about the bull fight (without showing any gory photos of the bull ), so I won't iterate most of that here.

Bulls are very intelligent. The bulls are not domesticated and are raise more or less in the wild on large ganadería (ranches) without many boundaries. It is against the law for a bull to interact with a human (other then a trained ranch attendant) prior to the fight, because bulls would figure out what is going on, remember, and attack the human during the bull fight. Each ganadería names and numbers them when they are born and they keep extensive records on them. Sometimes a bulls characteristic's gives away which ganadería they are from. Fighting bulls must be at least 4 years old and within certain weight restrictions.

When the bull enters the ring, it usually has colored streamers attached to its back. These are the colors of the ganadería it came from.

Hemingway once said that Muira bulls are so smart, they sometime figure out what is going on in the ring and attack the matador. I watched a Muira fight and saw the matador drop his capote. The bull was stomping on it and it looked like the bull was figuring out that wavy thing is really nothing. The matador practically dived under the bull to retrieve the capote before the bull figured it out.

Not all Bull fighting results in killing the bull, but Spain's usually do. Bull fighting in Spain has declined quite a bit over the years, there are area's of Spain were bull fighting is prohibited, and in most others is it restricted only to certain festival days. The Spanish government used to promote it as a symbol of Spain, but they quit doing that, and they no longer allow it to be a part of Spain's patriotic symbolism.

The modern bull fighting format was created in 1726 by matador Francisco Romero who attracted large crowds. The modern style of which there are many variations, are attributed to Juan Belmonte around 1920, who is considered by many as the greatest of all time.

The moves that matadors make are named, just like dance moves. They are well known by aficionado's, who rank matador's based on how well they perform them, which also includes the crowd reaction and how close the bulls gets to the human, to a well performed maneuvers.

In a single day, there are six bull fight's. The traditional format is 3 matador's each fighting two bulls, but there are also formats where 2 fight 3 each and where 1 fights all six. Each fight lasts around 20 minutes and is overseen and directed by the Presidente of the Bull Ring. There are actually 8 bulls ordered for each fight, the two extra are in case the Presedente doesn't approve of a bull, due to it either being not ferocious enough, or if he believes that is has been tampered with and is too dangerous to the humans.

Sometime bulls jump the smaller inner arena fence and get into the area between that and the stands, which is reserved for attendants. This draws a lot of crowd excitement and many spectator's near the rails actually try to entice that. Sounds foolish to me, but it happens.

Before the fight there is a short ceremony where the bulls are paired up. Each matador could attend, but they usually send a representative to this meeting. At this point they just talk about pairing. The idea is to pair a weak with a strong based on the assessors feelings. Once that is negotiated, the pairs are put into a hat and each matador draws for the pair he is going to fight.

After that the bulls are separated, a processes that is quite complex, but must be timely. They are put into individual pens that are very small before the fight. Now they are alone and quite constrained.

The beginning of the fight there is a small parade of the fight cast and supporting crew. This is best seen in my photo blog.

Each matador has a team of attendants collectively known as a cuadrilla. The cuadrilla consists of the matador, three banderilleros and two picadors.

The fight has three phase and only lasts about 20 minutes. More then that is dangerous, because as the bull is fighting it is learning.

In the first phase the bull is presented to the audience. It allows the matador and bandelleros to train the bull to chase the capote, which in this phase is a large one, magenta on one side and yellow on the other. It allows the matador to study the bulls fighting tendencies and form a plan. A bull has never seen a capote before, but it has been people. In its life the people we nuisances, but never threats. It is not really threatened by people, but there is this large wavy thing it has never seen that appears to be making an aggressive move towards it. The bull is on its own and feeling threatened, it is going to try to push that large object away. Therefor, it chases the cape and not the human.

After a while the matador requests the picador's to enter. This starts the last part of the first phase.

The picador is on a protected horse. The picadors job is to weaken the neck of the bull, so it's head is lower to the grown allowing the matador to get over its horns to kill it in the final stage.

After the picador, the second phase is entered.

In this phase, the bandelleros's jab short barbed poles into the bulls neck to make it angry. Sometimes the matador performs this act as well. It looks more dangerous then it is. It is a matter of correct angle and timing. Just like a dance maneuver. Bulls can't turn quickly, because they are low to the ground and their heavy weight keeps them moving forward. With the right angle and a quick side step, the bull doesn't stand a chance of hitting the bandellero in this phase.

The third phase is mono-e-mono, bull and matador. The matador will change his large cape for a much smaller red one, and also grab a sword. The first sword is usually just for show and is much lighter then the final one. The matador will make some more dance move passes and after the bull is worn down, he will request to kill it. At this point, the Presedente can pardon the bull, if he feels it has been very valiant. If the kill is granted, the matador changes to the heavy sword and makes the very daring move to get the sword over the horn and through the shoulder blades into the heart. This is the most dangerous part for the matador and it happens lightening quick.

Once struck through the heart, the bull dies fairly quickly. If not, once it hits the ground a bandellero used a smaller blunt sword to sever it's spinal cord killing it instantly.

The crews swiftly removes the bull to the back of the rink where it is butchered and the meat is sold.

I will not support any more bull fights with my money, that one was enough for me. However, the ticket I bought was already sold, as most tickets are purchased by season ticket holder's, who resell the fights they do not want to attend. 

Pamplona Today and History

Pamplona is way more then just the San Fermin Festival. I believe that it would be a great place to visit outside of the festival as well. Lots of history and good people are in Pamplona.

Pamplona is in North Eastern Spain and is the capital of the Navarra region of Spain. It has one of Spain's highest standard's of living and is high on the quality of life scale as well. It's been one of Spain's major industrial cities since the 1950's. Spain refused to allow imported automobiles into their country, so British Leyland collaborated with a Spainish company to form the Authi brand in Pamplona, which built car's nearly identical to the Mini and other British auto's, for distribution through out Spain. When British Leyland ran out of money in 1976, it was sold to SEAT (another Spanish Auto Company. SEAT eventually solid it to Volkswagen. Today they make the VW Polo and parts for the Spanish Luxury Sports Car company, Tauro ( mostly hand made sports car line). 

Pamplona has a sweet and rich history as a military settlement. 

Around 100 B.C., Quintus Sertorius, a Roman, had taken control of Hispania (Spain) from the Roman's, for his own. Ceasar sent Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey) to get it back under the Roman senates control. Pompey built a strong military settlement in Pamplona, which he named Pampelo, for the Roman Army. Both General's were very evenly matched in skill's, but Pompey had more resources, so he won the war by attrition.

During the Roman rule, the Apostle James made his way from Israel, eventually settling in Santiago de Compostela (North Western Spain). Ever since then, the most traveled route from the rest of Europe to Santiago de Compostela goes through Pamplona. For two thousands of years, Christians have been walking the "Camino de Santiago" (way of St James) foot trail and staying in Pamplona along the way. This has continuously brought culture and prosperity to this town. 

After the Roman empire fell, Germanic tribes took control of Pamplona renaming it Victoriacom. About 400 years later a civil war started in Spain, which allowed the Islamic Moors to move in from Africa and conquer nearly all of Spain. 

Pamplona being near the Frankish/Moorish border, changed hands several times as the two forces battled each other over and over.

Around 1000, the Moors were pushed out, and many traveling Christians started settling in Pamplona. The original part of the city was renamed to the  borough of Navarria (Spanish), and two more boroughs were added to it. San Cernin (French/Germanic) and San Nicolas (I believe Italian Weavers and Woodworkers). They were independent, culturally and socially distinct, and never got along with each other. The only thing they had in common was Christianity and they probably didn't agree on that either. The church in each borough was fortified as a defensive structure and the clock tower doubled as the main look out. Sometimes one borough would remain neutral when the others fought each other and other times it would take a side and jump in. Much of the time, the fighting was over the local water resource that separated the borough's.

Finally in 1423 King Charles III unified the thee, he tore down the walls between them, filled in the water resource they fought over and built a beautiful town hall, which combine all three architectural styles, for forced them all to share.

In 1512 Navarre was annexed into Spain. Expecting an attack from France, an impressive citadel (fortress) was built three and the military size was doubled by bringing in troops from other parts of Spain. Part of that was because King Phillip II feared that the original troops might be sentimental to France.  I was certainly impressed by the citadel engineering.

After that, the only time it was out of Spanish control was 1808-1813 when Napoleon seized it.  



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England - Wimbledon

by Kimp 8. July 2015 18:21

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Lawn tennis was popularized in London England.

In the early 1870's, an Army Officer by the name of Walter Wingfield, created the game of lawn tennis. It was first played on the croquet courts of the Wealthy, which is were the regulation size of the tennis court came from. It is still roughly the same size.

It was popular enough to be adopted by the croquet clubs where the wealthy people were members. In 1877 the first tennis championship was sponsored at the "All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club", and they have sponsored one, every year since.

Ironically, Lawn Tennis is the fastest surface that tennis is played on, since the ball does not loose much energy when it bounces on Lawn. It actually slides on the surface for a short time before rebounding, then bounces low and straighter then other surfaces. Therefor, Lawn tennis, favors a person with a very quick serve and a very quick reaction time. Called server and volley.

Players who are good baseline players, do very well at Wimbledon. In the past that was Martina Navratilova and Pete Sampras. Today it's Roger Federer and the Williams sisters.

Martina was invited by the club, and was in the audience, at the match I watched. Along with many other UK sport's memorable personalities.

Ticket Sales

Wimbledon really cracks down on ticket scalping. They use the premise, that they want to allow fans to purchase tickets at face value, so anybody can attend. Yet they also provide a legal process for ticket resale. The legal resale tickets, called debenture tickets,  include a substantial markup, before the resale. This money is said to be ear-marked by the club for improvements. 

The debenture resale, drives the resale prices, way higher then illegal scalping, because the resale market is limited. I believe that their actions are somewhat conflicting and as a outsider, I find myself a tad bit skeptical.

They also allow a legal avenue where people can return their unused tickets on the day of the event, to be resold, and it is advertised, that all of those proceeds, go to charity. 

The Ballot

Most Wimbledon tickets are distributed via a process know as the ballot. This is a mail in form and is open to UK residents the October before the matches. Subscribers must use the address where they are registered to vote, since it is checked to make sure they are a resident of the UK. The club does not publish how many UK tickets are available, but they do advertise, that sending in a ballot, does not guarantee a seat. Exactly how the ballots are selected, is not published, that I could find.

A while later the club opens up the ballot for overseas purchase (which is basically anyone outside of the UK, since the UK is an island). Any unsold UK tickets, plus the overseas reserved tickets, would be distributed overseas. Again no information about the number of reserved tickets nor the process are published that I could find. 

The Queue

The club reserves a number of ticket for Centre court, Court 1 and Court 2 the day of the event. This is called the Queue. In England, any line, is generically called a queue. It means that the first person in the queue (line) is the first to be served, and so on.

Anyone is allowed to purchase a ticket from the queue and the queue process is very organized.  I had a friend who waited in the queue this year, and this was the process, as he described it to me.

He arrived around 2 PM (1400) the day before, and went to Wimbledon park, across from the complex, to a place that is designated for people who want to get in the queue, for tickets to be sold the next day.

He waited in a queue to get in the queue. The first queue was to receive a tent, sleeping bags, and chairs to sleep in overnight. These are provided for free and are donated to charity after the tournament.

This is tent and other items in hand, he proceeded to a person who was holding a long stick. The camp grounds is set up in a orderly manner that resembles a queue. After setting up his tent and preparing his camp, a person came around and gave him a voucher that had his place in the queue for the next day. His was something like 1200. There were also people who wanted to wait until the next ticket day (This was a Friday, so the next day after Saturday would be Monday's games). Sunday is a scheduled day off for the workers. Apparently the Monday tickets are the best time to go, because everyone play's on Monday. Some there on Friday asked for queue placement on Monday and they were something like 14th in that queue, so they camped out for 3 days.

Also provided by the club, are toilets, shower's, and a designated party area. All at no cost. 

He said that their was some dude, walking around the camp grounds, knocking on tents saying, "No touching allowed.". Apparently that was not an official, because an official eventually caught up with him to tell him to stop doing that.

It happened to thunderstorm for about 4 hours that night. TJ said that his tent was very watertight, but there was a family near him who brought their own tent and supplies. There air mattress was too big to fit in the tent, and it stuck out of one end of it. During the thunderstorm, he looked out and the family tent was sagging under the weight of the water. Apparently the next day, they were still soaking wet. TJ said, he slept well in the tent and gear that was provided by the club.

On the day TJ waited, the first 500 in the queue, got tickets for Center Court, the next 500 to Court 1 and the last 500 to Court 2. The remaining would just get admittance to the grounds until the limit was reached. All of these tickets are soldat face value.

The next morning, at 6 A.M., workers woke up the camp. I am not sure when the queue open's, but I am guessing around 8 or 9 A.M. This gives them time to shower, eat and break down their camp. The first games are at 1 P.M. on most days, so there is not any rush to get to the complex, unless you just have grounds admittance and you want to wait in line for some of the unreserved seating.

The Grounds

The grounds around the courts are very pleasant. Selfie-sticks are not allowed, and they discourage stroller's, so walking around is relatively obstacle free. It appeared to me, that they deliberately limit the number of people on the grounds, as it was only crowed during the hour of so before the first events started. After that, I found, just walking around to be very pleasant and uncrowded.

Most of the courts have unreserved seating around them. They are first come, first serve, so queue's start at them, as soon as the grounds open. 

A Jazz band that plays outside near Centre Court, and can be heard for a short distance, giving that area a nice atmosphere. The outdoor courts are easy to view up close and walking around them was kind of like walking in a garden.

The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis club also has a few paved and a few clay courts, but you will not see those during the tournament. During the tournament the paved courts are used for bus drop off, pickup, and bus parking, and the clay courts are under some of the additional vendor stands that are put up.

One end of the park is on a hill that cannot be used for tennis courts nor vendor hut's. That is where many people hang out, since it is a nice lawn, with a good angle for sitting on. A very large TV screen was put up there a few years ago, that broadcast's the main event's for the people camping out on the hill. It is kind of like a small outdoor amphitheater and a favorite of many, since they can hang out in large groups.


I had tickets at Centre Court. At Centre Court most of the ushers are military people in their dress uniforms and without weapons. The look is really nice and pleasing, and they are very friendly. It has been this way since just after World War II. The club really enjoys the patriotic feel of having them on board, and I'll bet they enjoy the free labor, even more then the look. Then there are a bunch of elderly people wearing uniforms with arm bands that read "honorary usher". I am guessing these are people who have usher there for many years, and now are given the plush job of managing the military ushers. They don't seem to do much, other then stand near the military personnel and be nice to patrons. Some of them just appear to stand near the court and watch the action up close.

I was lucky enough to see Roger Federer play Sam Groth. Roger, a Swiss, is the reigning king of Wimbledon and Sam, an Australian, is the current world record holder in the fastest serve category, at 163 mph (263 kph). He hit one at 147 mph (245 kph), in the match I was watching, and Roger didn't even try to return it. The whole crowd just gasped, "Wow, Holly Cow.".

Tennis is supposed to be a cordial sport, where negativity is frowned upon. People are supposed to dress up a little, and are not suppose to clap at double faults, nor fouls. Only clap at good play's for the player who happened to come out on top, even if you don't really like that player.

However, there was one row (of I believe Aussie's) dressed in the same yellow top, on the other side of the court from me that seemed to be heckling Roger Federer. Roger, the consummate and cool Wimbledon Star didn't seem to be too frustrated over that, as he just continued to do well, but it was certainly was wearing on the crowd. The crowd started shushing and booing them, and a few times, one of the military ushers would go to that row and have a short conference with them. I am surprised they didn't get kicked out.

On my side, there were was a row of young gentlemen wearing the same British gear, with small British flags in their sun visors, but in contrast, they were quiet, acted appropriately,  and were liked by the crowd.

Supposedly people, get the whole row, by waiting in the queue. I think they should have to show passports. Oh you're an Aussie, then we are going to have to separate you by a few rows. Sorry, that's the Aussie rule, that went into effect, after the trouble we have experienced.

Roger ended up with the win and is now playing in the Final's as I write this up.

The other match I saw was Petra Kvitova vs Jelena Jenkovik. Petra won Wimbledon last year. This year she was the #2 seed and Jelena was the #30 seed.

The first set, Jelena looked like she was nursing either a thigh or knee injury. She was not playing well at all and was sluggish. By the second set, Jelena started doing much better and eked out a win. The 3rd set, Jelena picked it up and was doing very. 

Jelena won the match. She had a funny way of expressing her joy over the win. She just collapsed on the ground, flat on her back and laid there for a few seconds not moving at all. I guess she was completely exhausted, both mentally and physically. When she got up, that grin could have lit up the dark side of the moon. She even stopped to sign autographs on the way out.

Petra took it like a true professional. No excuses, not much disappointment, just acknowledgement that they best player won that match, on that day.


This was a much different experience then the French Open. The grounds was more pleasant, but I liked the Court at the French Open much more. Being in the open air is always a nicer and less crowded feeling, then being in a closed in area.

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