December 30, 2007

Where in the world is...

Given a time limit and an outline map, how well do you know the countries of the world and the geography of the U.S.? I found the Europe and South America tests online, and then Patrick decided he wanted to create the others. Be sure to pass along the US ones to your foreign friends to see how well they do.

Europe - There are 49 countries, and you have 5 minutes. KK's score: 32 (because I couldn't remember which were in Asia and which were Europe)

South America - There are 13 countries, and you have 3 minutes. KK's score: 9 (but I was cheated, because I couldn't spell one)

United States - There are, of course 50 states, and you have 5 minutes. KK's score: 50 in 4:11.

US Capitals - Again, 50 capitals in only 7 minutes. KK's score: 35 (stupid fly-over states)

Africa - 50 countries, 7 minutes. KK's score: 28 (and I forgot some of the big, easy-to-remember ones)

Post your scores in the comments!

December 23, 2007

One Pho All and All Pho One

After visiting with my inlaws this evening in Silver Spring, MD, we noticed a Vietnamese restaurant in a strip mall named Pho Real. I thought this was the best restaurant name I'd ever seen, even though I was sad they hadn't called it Pho Sho' or, even better, Pho Shizzle. Turns out, there is a more famous Pho Real, and it's in Charlotte. There also appears to be a Pho Sho in Fresno, CA, and even a What The Pho? But this Pho Shizzle is, apparently, not real and just a Photoshopped pic of a real Vietnamese restaurant. Too bad.

December 22, 2007

How do Swedes roll?

Today we headed to Ithaca for the 10th Annual International Rutabaga Curling Championship. Honestly. You can read about it here in wikipedia. The rutabaga, I found out from loads of helpfully-placed signs decorating the Farmers' Market stalls this morning, is generally called a swede in the other English-speaking countries but here in the US, we use the word rotabagge, which is drawn from a Swedish dialect and means "root ram." (Yes, I know that sounds like a euphemism for something naughty.)

For some reason, there were alpacas at the event. I petted them. They were soft and nice, but they smelled like barn. After the parade of contestants, we huddled around the curling pitch to watch the first event, the Turnip Toss, which kids under 8 can enter. They tossed their little turnips towards the bullseye on the ground, but most overshot the mark or veered off to one side. A man on stilts, wearing "pants" made out of green-and-black shaggy leopard print material, interviewed the winner in a fake German accent. (Nope, no idea why.)

The actual rutabaga roll was a bit more interesting, if only because rutabagas can be anywhere from the size of a baseball to the size of a small basketball. They have to be able to roll in all directions and are inclined to roll at the spectators. This entails a lot of jumping out of the way, which does help keep you warm in the 35-with-a-windchill-of-25 cold. A couple standing near us tried to enlist us in the contest - they had signed up and even purchased a rutabaga but decided to leave early - but we didn't want to wait until their number (75) was called. Apparently if there is a foul on the play, one of the referees penalizes the tosser by holding the rutabaga aloft and going at it with a giant cheese grater. And the overseer of the whole event appeared to be an elderly man in a kilt (sans stockings, but with a flask in his knee-highs), whom the emcee kept calling Jacques Strap. (Maybe he originated the curling event. The Scots did bring the rutabaga from Sweden and introduce it to the rest of the world, after all.)

And that was my morning in upstate NY. At least I learned that swedes are heavy and wobbly.

December 20, 2007

I won!

I never win anything. When I was in middle school, I desperately wanted a computer. My dad told me to enter this essay-writing competition that the local Hardee's (seriously) was holding to win an AppleIIe (or whatever Mac was popular in 1988). He said that if I were meant to have a computer, I would win that contest. I diligently wrote my 25-word (seriously) explanation of why computers were the future and waited. But I didn't win. And didn't get a computer until my 16th birthday (unless you consider the Atari computers "real" - but with an external hard drive that crashed if you jumped on the floor too hard, it was a sad excuse for a computer).

My point is that, outside of the Olin Mills portrait that I won by signing my mom up at Roses and the free meal at Bonanza that I got from filling out a comment card with all "Terrible" performance reviews, I haven't ever really won anything. And today that all changed. Yesterday was community appreciation day at my local community college's gym, and they gave us granola bars and fitness water and let us enter a raffle for a free one-month membership (valued at $30!). They called me today, and I won, beating out 40 other people! Woo hoo! I likely would have given them the $30 a month anyway, since it's a cute little gym with fancy TVs on every cardio machine, and the TC3 students are hardly ever there. But I feel very communally appreciated now. Or something.

December 17, 2007

I cook gooooood

I accidentally peeled too many sweet potatoes the other night when we were deep-frying the entire cupboard, so I needed to use it for dinner tonight. After looking at a bunch of recipes, I concocted my own dish - it's kind of African chili-stew-tagine fusion, I suppose. I forgot to take a picture - maybe I'll post one tomorrow when I have the leftovers for lunch. It's also entirely vegan - if you leave out the butter in the couscous and use vegetable broth or plain salt instead of bouillon. Don't take my word for it - even Patrick liked it!

KK's Moroccan Stew with Fruited Couscous
Serves 4-6
Stew Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon (or 1 cup vegetable broth, or some salt)
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 vidalia onion, diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup salsa (chipotle works best - or substitute a couple tomatoes and a couple jalapenos)
3-4 tbsp peanut butter
garam masala
curry powder or turmeric
chopped peanuts
chopped parsley or cilantro

Boil water, bouillon, lentils, and about 1 tsp turmeric or curry powder for 30 minutes or until soft. While those are cooking, cube the sweet potato and steam in a metal strainer over 1" of water (or in a steamer) for about 15 minutes or until tender. Sautee the onion in a bit of olive oil until browned. Combine sweet potatoes, onion, and lentil mixture into one pot. Add ginger, salsa, and peanut butter and stir. Season with garam masala, cinnamon, and salt to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro and some chopped peanuts. Serve side-by-side with fruited couscous (below).

Couscous Ingredients:

1 1/2 c water
1 1/2 c couscous
1 medium apple, diced
1/4 c yellow raisins
butter or olive oil

Boil water. Add couscous and turn off burner. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Then add diced apple, raisins, and cinnamon. Add a tablespoon of butter or a dash of olive oil if the couscous is too dry. Serve immediately with the stew.

December 3, 2007

Can popcorn pop underwater?

Surprisingly enough, when you google this question, you don't get an answer. Popcorn works by heating up the tiny amount of water in the kernel, which then forces open the watertight shell, causing the little explosion of tasty goodness. It takes a minute or so in an air popper to heat the kernel to the point of popping. So it would seem that you could toss some kernels into a pot of boiling water for a minute and achieve the same effect - the water heats up the kernel, which pops. But what would the result be of a kernel popping underwater?

I got conflicting ideas from some superstars of chemistry. Erik felt that popcorn wouldn't do anything underwater because of density or air pressure or lava or something. I wasn't really paying attention. Patrick thought that the kernels would pop, sending droplets of hot water shooting into the air. He was ok with my experimenting in the microwave but told a long and intricate tale about how he wouldn't take me to the emergency room if superheated water and kernels on the stove caused scalding burns to my face and eyes. I figured that if I call myself a scientist (even if it's just a social scientist), I should test this empirically.

The microwave experiment. I filled a ramekin with about 1/4 cup of water, tossed in about 10 kernels of popcorn, and microwaved it for 3 minutes. At the end of that period of time, I took the ramekin out of the microwave. The little kernels were emitting bubbles from underneath the water, but they hadn't popped as far as I could tell.

The stovetop experiment. I filled the bottom of a sturdy pot with about 1/2 cup of water and heated it on the gas stove until it was boiling. I tossed in one kernel, and nothing happened. Then I tossed in a couple more. Nada. No geyers of sizzling water (fortunate for me, but unfortunate for science). Thinking perhaps they needed more time, I tossed in about a dozen kernels, put on a lid, and waited 3 minutes. The kernels happily bubbled from beneath the glassy surface, like a kid swimming in his above-ground pool. They, like the kid, ended up a bit pruney and out of breath, but no worse for the wear.

So the experiments weren't nearly as exciting as I had hoped. Thus ends my tenure as mad scientist extraordinaire.

December 1, 2007

You know you're in central Virginia when...

... you drive past Liberty University, you (used to) have a holiday called Lee-Jackson-King Day, and you have racist streams.
I can't wait to move back to Dixie.

November 30, 2007

Laura's Funny!

We were having breakfast at Elmo's in Chapel Hill, Erik, Laura, and I. Seemingly a propos of nothing, Erik says, "When did the Roman Empire fall?" Laura quickly replied, "When it tripped!" Apparently it was a legitimate question (albeit rhetorical - blah blah, did it ever really fall?), but I liked Laura's response better.

The next day, all of us were having lunch at Bandido's, when Laura started telling us about her mom's bidet-toilet combination. We were fascinated by the potential of this contraption to be used as both a bottom-cleaning and an orgasm-inducing device. Laura said, "I show it to all my friends who show up at my house. I usually tell them ahead of time, 'Don't poop before you come.'" I pointed out that "Don't poop before you come" is the best tagline I've ever heard for the various possible functions of a bidet-toilet.

November 23, 2007

Giving thanks for crazy relatives...

... the 2007 edition! In which Kristina blogs about real, true, actual conversations that occurred with or around her at the many Thanksgiving festivities in Charlottesville this year. I didn't think that much could top last year's activities. But just as I was despairing of passing another holiday without any stories, Patrick's relatives came through. But first....

Thursday - Dinner with my mom, her boyfriend, my grandparents, Patrick, and Laura.

Laura (immediately upon arriving at my mom's): Hi. My hand is gross because the honey dripped out of my pita onto the car seat.
Mom: I think there's medication for that.

Mom's Boyfriend (a propos of nothing): Why do white girls like black guys so much?
Laura: Uhm. Miscegenation means less liklihood for genetic issues.
Mom's Boyfriend: [blank stare]
Mom: It's because black men have big you-know-whats!

Patrick (in regard to my mom's electronic whoopie cushion, which delights her to no end): I could make a ring back out of that.
Me: Ring back is a great euphemism for fart.

Laura (who decided she wanted Patrick to make her a ring tone out of Tom Lehrer's We Will All Go Together When We Go): Am I a bad anthropologist if my phone's ring tone sings about Hottentots and Eskimos? Eh, I don't really care.

Friday - Dinner in Maryland with all of my inlaws.

Ellen (during a game of Apples to Apples): I don't have anything good. I'm going to commit seppuku.
Jeff: Seppuku?
Me: It's like hara-kari.
Tak: Me too. I'm going to commit sudoku too.

Ellen (at dinner): This turkey leg is delicious.
Me (to Patrick): Why do white girls like dark meat so much?

And finally, the pièce de résistance, a story from Patrick's aunt Ellen that went horribly awry, albeit only in my mind.

Ellen: I was at the library, and there were three kids, maybe 1, 2, and 7 years old, and a mother and a father. I saw the 2-year-old pinch the 1-year-old, right here (indicates the fleshy area between her thumb and forefinger) in the chub. I wanted to say something, but it's not my place to parent these kids. So I said loudly, "Looks like someone pinched someone else." A few minutes later, the father says, "Hey kids, let's go." And he left with the two boys. The 1-year-old and mother were a different family! And I felt so bad because I didn't say anything about this kid pinching the other one. He's going to turn out nasty, that kid, if he keeps going around pinching strangers in the chub.
Jim: He should learn not to do that. You can't just pinch another person's chub.
Ed: Right. Because one day he'll grab the wrong chub, and he'll be in trouble!

This story was way more drawn out (as Patrick's family is wont to do), so by the time Ed uttered that sentence, I was hiccuping with laughter. I turned to Patrick to see if he was similarly amused, but he gave me a blank look. So I excused myself to the bathroom, where I collapsed into silent fits of hysterics. Patrick came to check on me, and I explained what chub was a euphemism for and laughed so hard I started crying. He promptly took me out for a walk so that I didn't have to explain to his family what I found so funny. (I did end up explaining it to a subset of them later, but they didn't find it as funny as I did.)

Every once in a while, my inlaws make me laugh hysterically. Actually, it's usually Ellen's fault. Every once in a while, Ellen makes me laugh hysterically.

November 20, 2007


Catherine sent me a link to this story on the discovery in Rome of what could be the Lupercale, the cave in which the she-wolf supposedly suckled Romulus and Remus. It was found recently deep within the Palatine Hill, near Augustus' palace. The latter is set to be restored, commanding a $17.5 million price tag. While I think this discovery is terribly exciting, I do wish that more money could be given to the everyday projects that the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma undertakes. In the US, classical archaeology is often seen as a practice that seeks only to find important, historically-relevant sites and people. Projects such as skeletal analysis of people from ancient Rome's suburbium are severely underfunded, because who wants to know more about the poor and immigrant populations when we could funnel money into saving a cave that might or might not be a religious site? Obviously since my dissertation research is on these underrepresented, underresearched people of the Empire, I am a bit biased against sensational claims to history-making (or history-recreating) discoveries. Roman archaeologists in both Italy and the US need to start putting out press releases and otherwise announcing their discoveries of the "mundane," contextualizing the importance of these studies for our understanding of the past. As the population of contemporary Rome grows, we stand less of a chance of uncovering every last religious building that stood on the seven hills, but more of a chance to find out about the lower class in antiquity, those people who lived just outside the city walls, who worked for a living, who suffered from tuberculosis and leprosy, and who died without making history.

November 15, 2007


It's like that song from Rent is running through my mind.... Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes. Except it's fifty-six thousand two hundred dollars. Which is difficult to cram into a 13-syllable line, but my brain has been trying valiantly. Anyway, that's the total of the grant and fellowship money that I have spent the last six weeks applying for. Yes, all the days I've been back in the U.S. have been in service of getting either more money for isotope analysis (3 applications, about $8,000 of that total) or getting a fellowship for the 2008-09 school year (2 applications, the rest of the money) so that I don't have to TA and so that I get a great big monetary seal of approval on my dissertation project. So wish me luck with all of them (although I can only hold one fellowship, so I cannot actually accept all of the money, even if I am offered all of it... which I'm sure will never happen).

Now I get to start on all the things that I have been ignoring in favor of these deadlines, like revising an article for publication, ordering forensic texts for the spring, and writing recommendation letters (sorry for the delay, guys!). I also have super exciting news about another potential publication, but I'll post on it properly if it looks like it'll pan out. Stay tuned!

November 9, 2007

* * * * * * * * * *

My mom called me this afternoon, from the car on the way to Blacksburg for tomorrow's football game, with her boyfriend.

Mom: "Hey, what do you call that symbol on the keyboard? There's like a period and a semicolon and a little star."
Me: "What? The asterisk?"
Mom: "Yeah, how do you say that?"
Me: "I just said it. Asterisk. What's going on?"
Mom: "Oh, Sonny had a call-in contest on the radio yesterday. Because people pronounce it wrong. He said that anyone who called in and told him the right way to pronounce it would get a signed picture of him. So you get a signed picture of Sonny Randle now!"
Me: "Uhm. Great."
Mom: "How do you spell asterisk?"
Me: "A-S-T-E-R-I-S-K."
Mom: "So it's as-trisk?"
Me: "No, as-ter-isk."
Mom: "As-trisk?"
Me: "No, pronounce the E. Like aster-risk."
Mom: "What a weird word."
Me: "It's Greek. It means little star. Aster, like in astrology. The -isk part is a diminutive. You know, like in Italian a diminutive ending is -ello. Or -ina. Kind of how my name means little Christ."
Mom: "It does? I named you little Christ!"
Me (laughing): "Yeah, you did. Thanks for that."
Mom: "I thought it was a nice name. Diminutives, huh? Sonniskos! Sonnino! Sonny Randliskos!"
Me: "OK, mom, I have stuff to do. Talk to you later."

November 4, 2007


Patrick and I went to the Corning Museum of Glass yesterday (yes, that Corning) to see their exhibit on the Harvard glass flowers. The museum was a lot larger than I expected, with a decent display of ancient glass and glassworking techniques. (I'm sure the Renaissance and modern glass was impressive too, but there are only so many chalices you can see before getting bored.) Some highlights of the museum included trick drinking glasses like the basilisk and windmill (if you didn't finish your beverage by the time the windmill stopped, you had to drink an additional number as indicated on the cup); stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright; and glass eyes, also by the Harvard flowers guys. But my favorite piece in the museum was this chess set. It's the Catholics versus the Jews, with each piece equivalent in religious rank to the chess rank. The artist, Gianni Toso, is Jewish (I assume, since loads of his work involves Jewish art), so the chasidim are much more detailed than the Catholics. The best part? The mohel. Not only does he have a tiny little knife in one hand, he has a boy child in the other. A boy child with fully detailed anatomy, including a little spot of blood. Hilarious.

November 3, 2007

Gotta Go

Even better than those Pepto-Bismol commercials (unfortunately removed from YouTube due to copyright) where a group of people sings, "Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea" while doing exaggerated charades of all the actions is a new commercial for All Bran. I saw it while on the treadmill at the gym and had to keep from laughing out loud at the not-so-subtle visual metaphors for his - ahem - problem resolution. In all honesty, it wasn't until the final scene with the bricks that I got it. Anyway, enjoy:

November 1, 2007

Mother Pulse

I have no news to report about the Haunting by Uncle Frank unfortunately, but I am attracting all kinds of strange phenomena this week. This evening, while making dinner, I set aside the spoon I was using to stir a pot of red lentils. When I picked up the spoon again - lo and behold - there was a face on it! It can't be the Virgin Mary, since she often chooses wood upon which to reveal herself. (Heh, wood.) It's not Jesus either, since he seems to show up in white bread, potato chips, and other culinary delights of obese middle Americans. No, it takes a special kind of religious personage to appear in lentils, one who worked tirelessly in an area of the world that consumes lots of them: Saint Teresa, Mother of the Pulses. It's no NunBun, but this series of photos shows the uncanny resemblance to Mother Teresa:

And also photos of me with the miraculous visage. I call the series... From Ecstacy to Tasty!

October 25, 2007

Pre-Halloween Ghost Story

In my senior year of high school, my grandmother's oldest brother, Frank, died at the age of - well, we're not entirely sure, since no one could find his birth certificate. (And we knew that my great-grandparents' recall wasn't so good, since my grandmother found out in her seventh decade of life that she was actually a year older than she thought she was.) Frank had been married to Lou, but they never had any kids, although she had one or two from a previous marriage, and she pre-deceased him by a few years. As a kid, I was kind of scared of Uncle Frank, since he was quite tall and quite thin, almost skeletal in his later years. But he was always laughing when the family got together for Thanksgiving and played Pokeno. When he died, my grandma and mom went through his little rent-controlled apartment in a retirement community in Passaic, throwing out jars of tomato sauce and leafing through old documents. Frank had a fair amount of money when he died, and he left chunks of it to his grand-nieces and nephews. It wasn't a lot, but it helped me graduate from UVa debt-free.

As I was talking to my mom this evening, she casually said, "Oh, I have to tell you about your Uncle Frank!" I said, "Uhm, is he not dead or something?" "Funny you should ask - the people who are living in his old apartment have started seeing him!" The couple who moved in never really met Frank, although they did know who he was and knew what he looked like, as they had seen him around. This started a few weeks ago, according to my mom, when the couple bumped into my grandmother at bingo and mentioned that they thought they had seen a tall, thin man with thinning, dark hair at their front door. They thought it was nothing, maybe someone passing by outside, but it started happening more often. The gentleman saw Frank walking through the apartment, and a few days ago saw him in his pajamas in the bathroom. Just yesterday, a letter for Frank showed up in their mailbox - a $200 rebate from the Craftmatic adjustable bed company.

My mom's theory now is that Frank left something in the apartment and is trying to tell us to go look for it. My mom thinks he squirreled away a bunch of cash in the walls or under the floor. I think he hid documentation about illegitimate children somewhere. My mom's coming up to NJ in the next couple weeks to visit my grandmother, so they're gonna go visit Uncle Frank and see if they can figure out "why he's not at rest" as my mom put it. In the meantime, if you know any psychics or people who specialize in talking to ghosts or other paranormal phenomena, let me know so that I can pass it along to my mom.

I can only hope this story gets better and more hilarious. Although the fact that my great-uncle is haunting people is truly awesome on its own.

October 19, 2007


When I was in 5th grade, I was at the grocery store with my mom and saw a book on the paperback rack that caught my eye. For years, all I remembered about the book was that it was called Feast and that it was about a cult of autophagia. I remember bringing the book to school and reading passages to my friends Katy and Erica. For whatever reason, I didn't think to check WorldCat until today - and in under 5 minutes, I found out it was Feast by noted horror writer Graham Masterton. You can see why I was attracted to the book. Even at 10, before I was close to naming what I wanted to do with my life, I loved skeletons. I can get it used through Amazon for about $3.50. Should I? I have no idea why my mom would buy me this book at age 11.

October 16, 2007

Postcard from Italy

I was chatting with my former roommate this evening. He has a seriously tricked-out MSN client, with all sorts of weird little graphics. I was getting used to all of his double-o's being creepy googly eyes, but his signoff was the best. I don't know if there's a way to do a moving screen capture in the GIMP, so you'll have to imagine Ratz's hand waving at me. It made me snort my coffee.

October 15, 2007

I have PGS

Two weeks after returning from Italy, I find that I have a problem. It's something I've decided to christen PGS or Phantom Geography Syndrome. The symptoms include being confused about where you are, working under false assumptions about your location in the world, and the realization you'd rather be elsewhere. Oddly enough, it's not Rome that is muddling my frame of reference. Everyone around me speaks English, the streets and sidewalks are free of dog shit and graffiti, and loads of people are obese - which makes it clear that it's not Italy. I keep forgetting that I'm in upstate NY rather than central NC. I was looking into travel to a conference in January and immediately searched for the cheapest flights from RDU. I stepped out of the house in a tshirt and hoodie and couldn't figure out why it was 20 degrees too cold. I thought about getting take-out Indian and then realized the closest place is at least 15 miles away. It's weird how a place that you lived in for only 8 years can have that kind of pull on your thoughts.

October 1, 2007


The trip back went off without a hitch. The taxi driver came on time, and I checked in with Lufthansa on time as well. One of my bags was overweight (no surprise there), but they insisted that it was a 50E charge, even though I swear their website said it was a $25 charge. Rome to Frankfurt was fine, but 3 hours in the Frankfurt airport sucked. There's really nowhere to sit, and you can't go to your gate more than 90 minutes before the flight leaves. Frankfurt to Rome was fine - I didn't have to sit next to a fat person, there were no screaming babies, and no one was kicking my seat. I was surrounded by annoying Russians who, since they couldn't watch the movie, kept standing in the aisle, necessitating my kicking them and miming that I was watching the movie, since they spoke absolutely no English. (The flight attendant asked if they were Americans, for the customs forms, and they didn't even understand that simple question.) I stole a metal spork from Lufthansa (because metal sporks are awesome!) and made awkward conversation with my seat mate:

Him: This flight is terrible!
Me: It's not so bad really.
Him: I got up at 2am.
Me: Yeah, I did at 3am. Is Philly your last stop?
Him: Yeah, I just have to take a cab. You?
Me: I have a 3-hour drive to upstate NY, but my husband's picking me up.
[a few minutes later... The TV is showing a Mickey Mouse cartoon, in which Pluto starts jumping on Mickey and licking his face when he arrives home]
Him: Ha ha, I bet that's what your husband's going to be like when you see him!
Me: Uhmmm... yeah.

My main concern flying back, of course, was for my samples. I ended up bringing around 200 teeth and 100 pieces of femora. I had thoroughly researched all the EU and US regulations on exporting and importing human skeletal remains, which are different if they're from an archaeological collection or from recently-dead people. I got letters from my advisor and from the Archaeological Superintendency in Rome saying that they were old bones, they had no dirt, and they were for research paid for by the NSF. I printed out all the EU regulations in three languages, I had all this information in my purse, and the samples were all individually wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in labelled ziplock bags. No one bothered me at the xrays at Fiumicino. No one batted an eye in Frankfurt when they scanned my bag. And, even though I listed the samples on the back of my customs form (at no value) in the US, no one even turned the form over.

The moral of the story is... airport security will confiscate 2 ounces of saline solution, they will make you pour out your bottle of drinking water, and they will make you throw away pots of lip balm, but 7 pounds of dead people? A-ok!

September 28, 2007

L'ultimo post da Roma

Well, this is it. My taxi comes to pick me up in 7 hours. And I have to decide whether to stay up or attempt to nap. I still have to throw a lot of stuff out, and I still need to clean. And eat. And shower.

The last few days have been pretty busy. On Wednesday, I went to the Markets of Trajan, which are finally (almost completely) open. I had some fun lying on and getting into some strange art installations. After that, I finished up my souvenir shopping, got my last gelato from Giolitti's, and said goodbye to the Pantheon and Imperial Fora.

Thursday, I had to meet for a bit with my colleague to get a letter that allows me to transport bone and tooth samples out of Italy. I wandered over to the Colosseum after that to get a picture of my UNC anthro water bottle (for an upcoming contest to photograph UNC anthro merch in exotic locales). As I was doing this, an Italian stopped and struck up a conversation by asking if I was taking artistic photographs. He was a banker, his name was Pino, and he liked to go windsurfing. He found it greatly amusing that I could understand everything he said but couldn't really speak any Italian. I finally managed to get away from him after turning down numerous requests to go get coffee and spent the evening watching TV and packing.

Today, I went down to Mussoliniville, the EUR, to check out the Museo della Civilta Romana, which is the mecca of Roman reconstructions. Like everything in the EUR, the Museo was built on a grand scale, with giant columns and giant reconstructions of giant Roman temples. The focus was on Rome's military history and on the civilizing process of Christianity. This museum is famous for two reconstructions in particular: a large 3D model of Imperial Rome and all of the friezes from Trajan's column unwound. On my way home, I took a picture of the little shrine area to Madonna of Largo Preneste. People leave marble plaques that say "Per grazie ricevuta," often when they or a loved one overcome a health issue. My favorite plaque is the one from Sabina, who seems to have had stomach problems. And the now-infamous Nolita anorexia billboard made it here to Rome just opposite the Madonna shrine.

It's been a crazy 8 months, but I am thrilled to be going home. Everyone asks what I want to do first, so here's my list (not necessarily in this order): eat lots of Mexican and Indian food, sit on a couch, sleep in my own bed, spend time with Patrick and the cats, drive a car, use a clothes dryer, make American drip coffee, talk to people in English, live in a place without loud noises, enjoy not having roommates. I'm sure there's more, and I'll revel in the simple things that I lack here in the big, noisy, dirty, foreign city of Rome.

September 24, 2007

Tesoro Mio

While tutoring the other day, I was helping my student correct a paper he'd written in English for a conference. He had used a word that wasn't quite correct, and I was thinking of synonyms that would be easier for an Italian to pronounce than "thwart." I clicked over to and searched for thwart.

Tutee: What's that site?
Me: It's an online thesaurus.
Tutee: What's a thesaurus?
Me: It's a book that tells you all the synonyms and sometimes the antonyms for a word. This is just an online version.
Tutee: Woooow, that's amazing! What's it called again?
Me: A thesaurus. Italian has the same word - tesoro - although I guess it means something else, yeah?
Tutee: Yeah, we don't have a thesaurus in Italian. This is great!

I found this hard to believe and asked the first foreigner I could find, which happened to be Erik, whether other languages had thesauri. He said he'd never seen a Swedish thesaurus, although he thinks that one exists.

So those of you who know or have studied another language... have you ever seen a thesaurus in that language? Is it just that English is such a huge language, with words drawn from German, French, Latin, and Greek, that it is inevitable that multiple synonyms exist for every word?

September 23, 2007

Porta Portese II

Last weekend, I went to the giant flea market in Rome, which is just across the Tiber. It took me an hour to get there and longer to get back, and when I told my roommate that I went, he asked why I didn't just go to Porta Portese II - which is about 1km away from my house. I had totally forgotten about it.

So this morning I walked over to the east-side flea market (does that make me a Blood or a Cryp?). Unlike Porta Portese Classic, which has loads of tourists, the one I went to today had tons of crazy-looking Italian people (I swear this one guy had the exact facial bone structure of a robust australopithecine) wearing strange things and selling even stranger things. For example, I particularly wanted to buy the woven rug that had the faces of, from left to right, RFK, MLK, and JFK on it. Maybe the Italians think that these three were related because they are all known by their initials and their last names start with K? Maybe they are interested in the conspiracy theory surrounding their assassinations? I honestly can't explain why anyone would put these three together, much less weave them into a rug. There were also 5E tshirts with JP-to-the-Deuce on them, as well as shirts that proclaimed in Italian things like, "I wish you would die," and, well, some rather more colorfully worded ways to tell you to go away. I didn't bring a camera, or I would have taken a picture of a little food truck that had painted on it a scene of several Smurfs - including Papa, Smurfette, and Brainy - making spaghetti, with oddly anthropomorphized chunks of parmesan floating overhead.

I bought a hoodie that has a really cute design on the back, and on the front says "SP 68 Beautily." And that was the least Engrishy design. Although I of course saw completely strange shirts - like the guy wearing a seemingly brand-new tshirt that said "Breast Cancer Foundation Fundraiser 1993, Washington, D.C." and the woman wearing a shirt proclaiming she had visited "Assateague Inn, Assateague, Virginia" - these were the most entertaining to me:

First, to the hoodies. There were just so many hoodies with random English words on them that it was hard to choose which ones to post. This one, of course, makes no sense and is definitely Engrish. I tried to figure out what they were trying to convey: Don't have eyes that bore me? (That would be a kind of pun at least.) There weren't any graphics on the front to help me out either.

And the classic method of throwing random words onto a shirt with the hopes that one of the words will catch someone's eye and they will buy it is at work with this hoodie. Not sure of the significance of "b-suns" or "root craft," but Italian has the cognate veemente.

This shirt just made me laugh. The English is perfectly fine, and this is absolutely the kind of shirt I would expect to see on denizens of the Shenandoah Valley just over the mountain from where I grew up. However, although Italy does have turkey today, it's hardly an indigenous species. More to the point, this tshirt celebrates Thanksgiving, a decidedly un-Italian holiday. I suppose Italians probably have a version of gravy, and they have potatoes, and turkey... but the tshirt was still quite out of place here.

On my walk to Porta Portese, I was briefly behind a guy who had this on the back of his button-down short-sleeve shirt. My only guess for understanding it is that it's actually Grenglish - two English words and one Greek word (the Greek drinking/dancing cheer) rendered in the Latin alphabet.

And finally, because you were good little boys and girls, this was the back of a tshirt that I saw on a woman while I was walking home from work the other day. What truer sentence has ever been uttered than, "Style has always need the glossy of bloom"?

(Random aside: If anyone can tell me how to manipulate tables and paragraph spacing in Blogger, I'd appreciate it. As you can see, editing the HTML to make a table results in weird spacing issues, and I don't understand their weird div paragraphs.)

September 22, 2007

Retail archaeology (guest post by Patrick)

I went to the Southworth (Dryden) Library book sale today to pick up some cheap books. I was not disappointed. I got couple of classics, something funny, something useful, and, uh, a Vanilla Ice CD. When I went to check out, the volunteer at the desk put my books in a small, blue plastic bag. I thought nothing more of it until I noticed a receipt in the bag. The bag and receipt are both from the Ithaca Montgomery Ward, which has been defunct for years. (It was in Pyramid Mall, where Old Navy and AC Moore are now.) Click the receipt for the shocking details: on September 20, 1996, some anonymous buyer purchased "Chewy teeth" and "Squeaky" for $2.50. On credit. Our modern consumerist lifestyle dates at least as far back as 1996.

Pulire le Ossa

I decided that I couldn't put off washing my bone and tooth samples any longer. Having squeaky-clean bones raises my chances of getting them back through customs with no problem, as customs is never happy about having foreign dirt enter the country. I set up shop on the plastic furniture on the patio - bag o' samples, tupperware with water, toothbrush, and tissues for speedier drying. It was about an hour until the roommates started to take notice around lunchtime. Marco and Ivan were out, and Angelo and Pier-Paolo were cooking some pasta. A few minutes passed, and Pier-Paolo came out to where I was washing bones. He said, "Do you know where the napkins are?" I momentarily forgot the word for napkin (since it's the equivalent of mini-table) and asked, "Where are the what?" "The napkins." I said, "No, I don't know." He asked if he could have one of the tissues. I said sure. It was so cute - he came up with an excuse to come see what I was doing, and then to get even closer by taking a tissue from the table. When Marco and Ivan got home, they were completely amused by the array of bones and teeth on their patio, and Angelo and Pier-Paolo came out for a more thorough demonstration of what it is I do. I guess if I were making lunch and caught sight of the random foreigner who lived with me and barely spoke my language doing something completely weird, I'd make an excuse to find out what she was up to as well.

September 18, 2007

Google says what?

Today I checked the keywords by which people have found this blog. Some of the phrases are quite amusing, so I thought I'd post them here - even though by doing so, I only encourage people and perpetuate the cycle. "Gabibbo" and "Dr. Kinky" almost make sense, since I blogged about them, but surely there are pages with a higher rank than my blog - pages that will bring you to the information you want. Other phrases included, "cuffing your jeans," "a picture of a cow bone," "Beadman family photo," "country lyrics - butte montana," "Danish spunk tshirt," "dental worms," "strange Danish people," "guy wearing a Little Mermaid shirt," "horse trying to bone a girl," "location of the human butt bone," "Nordic goddess pictures," "polio feet pics," "skeletons made of qtips," and "I think therefore I tram tshirt." I'm kind of want the last one.

September 16, 2007

Engrish Tshirts - Illustrated Sports Edition!

I started walking to and from work recently because travelling 1.5 miles by foot takes nearly the same amount of time as taking the tram. It seems that the amount of tshirt Engrish is inversely proportional to income, as assessed by mode of transportation. I saw few strange shirts on the Metro, a couple strange people on the bus, some weird stuff on the tram, but dozens of questionable fashion choices on people I pass walking to work. The ones I've seen lately have been sports-related - for what reason, I don't know. But here's your first ever all-sports edition of what has to be your favorite blog feature, Engrish Tshirts. I think they're all pretty self-explanatory in their inexplicability...

For what it's worth, this first one was the back of a tshirt an Asian woman was wearing walking up the street near my house. "Weast" really should be an English word - definition, anyone? The second one was worn by a 30-something guy walking towards me as I was walking to work. And the third one was worn by an Indian immigrant on the tram. Incidentally, it's for a kids' soccer team - the Kaw Valley Force.

Items that did not make it into today's episode because they were too complicated or too weird:
1) A woman at the flea market this morning was wearing a dashiki made out of fabric printed with the face of John Paul II on it.
2) A spaghetti-strap bright red top with loads of sequins that read, "Juicy American Princess."
3) A guy who was wearing a shirt that said, "Philadelphia 76ers Dunk Zone."
4) A tshirt that I saw on sale at the flea market this morning that read, "I'm a New York. I will finish last."

September 15, 2007

Stuck a feather in his hat and called it....

I was on the tram for two hours today, which gave me a lot of time to see billboards. Most were for movies, but my favorite are the ones advertising English lessons at a place called The Wall Street Institute. Patrick commented on their name after seeing an ad on the metro - Wall Street is kind of a stupid name for a language instruction company, but it's widely recognized as American (Italians don't want to learn British English) and high-class (as it relates to the stock market). Wall Street's new ad campaign, however, actually amused me. Their slogan is, "L'inglese maccheronico ti schiaccia." I was curious about the word maccheronico considering the giant piece of pasta in the ad. It seems that the Italian word maccarone dates back to at least the 12th century and generally means short, dry, tubular pasta. This was back in the time when the word pasta literally meant paste, or the dough from which maccarone was formed. But around the 15th century, maccarone gave its name to a literary style, maccheronico. Peasants of the time were referred to in a derogatory manner by the kind of food they ate most - maccarone or gnocco - noodle-heads. Maccheronico writing was a pastiche of the educated, high-class Latin of the day and vernacular Italian. Today, of course, the language of scholarship and international relations is English, and maccheronico has been repurposed to describe a way of speaking that is not quite Italian and not quite English. The slogan of the Wall Street Institute is thus, "Is Italglish crushing you?" I love that the Italians have a word for Italglish and also that it can be metaphorically represented by a piece of ziti. Incidentally, national Maccheronico Day is September 23, a day which celebrates, as one blogger put it, the "tried-and-true academic technique of embarassing people into learning."

Scavi del Vaticano

I previously blogged about a skeleton from my second dissertation site, Castellaccio, that was a 3-year-old child who was buried face down holding an egg in his left hand. A similar skeleton was found at the necropolis under the Vatican, and so last month I made a reservation to visit the scavi. I was pretty excited about this, in spite of the fact that I had to get my ass up at 6:30am just to get to the Vatican ahead of my 9am tour time.

The email said that we were to report to the Swiss Guard and say we wanted to go to the Excavations Office. Va bene, I remembered where those were. The Swiss Guard was nice and told me to wait. When we were called, he asked everyone for their receipt of reservation. Which was strange, since the email didn't say that we needed to print anything out. He was reluctant, but let me through anyway, and the Excavations Office didn't have any problem with it. Stupid Swiss kid.

Anyway, the tour was focused almost entirely on the tomb of St. Peter, which is of course supposed to be underneath the altar in the middle of, ahem, St. Peter's. So in spite of the amazing preservation of at least two stories of burial chambers in the necropolis, in spite of the remnants of frescoes and mosaics, in spite of the large carved sarcophagi, everything was about where we were in relation to the relics of St. Peter and how the excavations were all undertaken to find the relics of St. Peter. Also, all the skeletons were removed from the necropolis and reburied elsewhere. Hmph.

I zoned out here and there, but what brought me back were the questions of highly clueless Americans. I should take more archaeological tours, because the questions from the group really highlight what the average person thinks about archaeology. These are real, actual incidents and quotations:
  • One 60-something guy, upon entering the street of the dead underground and hearing the guide tell us about Imperial Roman, Byzantine, and later architecture, pointed to a brick arch and said, "A Greek architect must have done that. The Greeks invented the arch."
  • The guide pointed out a wall with niches cut into it that ran perpendicular to the street of tombs. The niches were, of course, cut into tufa and faced with ceramic tile, and there were two holes cut into the bottom of each niche. Urns were placed under them, in the tufa wall, and the holes were where libations were poured. After she pointed this out, a guy in his 50s walked over and proceeded to attempt to stick his hand into one of the holes. I gasped and said, "Don't touch that!" like a mother would to her 3-year-old, but the guide was a bit more diplomatic and said, "We don't know if there are ashes under there, so you shouldn't touch."
  • A 60-something woman, upon seeing the building around the tomb of St. Peter, exclaimed, "These are Roman walls? But they're so straight!" Her husband replied, "Yeah, it's like the Anasazi!"
So the 134 bone fragments (that's what the guide said - I'm sure someone counted and that they haven't broken further in the last 18 centuries) that supposedly were St. Peter are housed in this little plexiglass box, which you have to look past a bunch of columns and into a niche to see. Lame. She said they were found in a niche with the phrase "Petros eni" (Peter is here, in Greek) and that they were the remains of a 60-70-year-old man from the 2nd century AD. Yay for Catholicism's love of relics. I still can't get over that these pieces of bone, which are probably not St. Peter, have an insane amount of security, climate control, and research poured into them, and that the remains of the "pagans" as she kept calling them were reburied in a field somewhere in the 1960s.

Not sure that was worth my 10E and 2-hour round-trip on the tram. The Vatican bookshop didn't even have a publication on the scavi. I found more information on the necropolis on google news than at the Vatican itself. Disappointing.

September 8, 2007

More Un-PC Adverts

I found this in the supermarket today. It was under 50 cents, so I bought it, even though I don't have a microwave (incidentally, microonde is a great word). I think I might like it even better than the box of American Popcorn I see in most stores. Who wouldn't love some strange toucan, wearing a bone necklace and green fringey pants, who hightails it away from his teepee because popcorn is attacking him? The popcorn was made in Denmark, so apparently this is what the Danish think Indians look like.

September 7, 2007

All ya need is karaoke

I had just finished talking to Patrick this evening when I heard Beatles songs coming through the window from somewhere in the piazza. The music was OK, but the singing was bad karaoke, and the English words weren't exactly correct. Being an intrepid anthropologist, I decided to check it out. Because of the festival that was held in the piazza back in June, I expected this music to involve a large band and old Italians inappropriately line-dancing. Imagine my surprise when it was actually a couple guys with guitars and mics, with a crowd gathered around them looking up at a building. Someone was passing out lyrics sheets for the songs, although it's strange to me that anyone, even a foreign-speaker, would need lyrics for a sing-along to All You Need Is Love. Everyone was looking at the second floor balcony, which had a sign that read "Briciola Forever." Briciola is a collective noun that means "crumbs." Although it could be a woman's first name, I don't know. The two guys were clearly serenading the woman on the balcony, who was singing and clapping along with everyone else.

So I stayed to watch this, as random people sang along, a guy was dancing with his infant, and a woman was dancing with her dog. The band stopped, and the lead singer went to his car and got a bouquet of roses. He rang the bell, and the woman on the balcony let him in. Then the woman's father comes to the balcony and starts talking to the crowd down below. He gets the crowd all riled up for some reason, then tells everyone to wait a second, then riles them up again. The couple appears on the balcony and everyone cheers and serenades them. They were also holding a sign that said something like "Lulu and Cricri, high in the heavens." I assume the guy is named something like Luciano and the girl is named something like Cristina. After the song, the couple goes back into the apartment. And that was it.

I took a video of this, which you can see below. If you have any better idea of what was going on than I do, let me know. My guess is it was a surprise engagement. But I have absolutely no clue.

UPDATE: 9/8 - While I was returning from the discount supermarket, I saw an old VW bug parked in front of the building, with a little red carpet rolled out to meet it. Then I caught sight of two guys milling around in nice suits, and the father from last night was up on the balcony in a suit as well. Now I'm guessing today's the wedding of Cricri and Lulu.

September 5, 2007


I found a pot in a burial. It was cute. I made a stop-motion movie out of it. But apparently I don't know how to use the stitching program very well, so the color is pretty hilarious and the whole thing needs to be cropped. (Since Patrick has an RSS feed, I suspect he will figure out how to fix this tout d' suite.) Since I didn't have any kind of rotatable platform, record player, or the like, I used a giant roll of masking tape that happened to be exactly 36cm in circumference, marked at 10-degree increments. Sure, it's not as good as the movies my students made, but it entertained me for 10 minutes.

September 3, 2007

Italian things I learned today

Lunch today was unbearably long and predictably boring, with my colleagues talking endlessly about food and corrupt Italian politicians. At one point, Pamela was recounting a dinner she had in which the bill came to 110E. Valentina asked how many people there were, and Pamela said three. Valentina's response was, "Christoforo Colombo!" I nearly died laughing, considering she said the equivalent of "Jiminy Christmas!" in Italian, but Orso misinterpreted my laugh as disdain at the price of a dinner. I'm totally going to shout "Chris-TO-foro Colombo!" at everything people say now.

I also stopped by a Tabacchi to buy a monthly bus pass. A normal bus ticket is called a biglietto, so I said, "Buon giorno, c'è lai un biglietto mensile?" The guy smiled at me, asked if I wanted the one for 30E, and I said yes. He said, "Ecco la tessera mensile." I said, "Sì, sì, grazie." But he said, "No, no. Questa è una tessera mensile. Non è un biglietto mensile." It was so sweet, he was correcting my Italian. Without making me feel like a complete idiot like every other Italian I've talked to does. I repeated the phrase and thanked him again with a smile. I wish more people were like that these past 7 months.

August 29, 2007

Rrrrrrrrolling on the Rrrrrrrrrrrriver

This is my favorite new commercial on Italian radio (click the link to play in a new window, or use the embedded audio to the right). It's for a store called Rocco Giocattoli, which is kind of like Toys-R-Us, and is hawking lots of fab back-to-school merch like notebooks (quaderni) and backpacks (zaine, not to be confused with zingari, which are gypsies, or zanzare, which are mosquitoes) starting at 9.90E. My favorite parts are:

  • His enthusiasm for and pronunciation of the English phrases back-to-school, Power Rangers, and Spiderman Tre.
  • The random inclusion into an already loud and hyper commercial of kids who shout, "Yay, we're going back to school!"
  • The ridiculously over-emphasized rolled R in the name of the store.
I think the reason I like this commercial so much is because in 20 seconds it thoroughly confirms the stereotype of Italians as loud, excitable, and completely obsessed with American cultural products. Also, it reminds me of this SNL sketch mocking Italians, which is probably my favorite SNL sketch of all time because it is completely and utterly true.

August 27, 2007

Roman Tshirts: The Sequel

I know you've all been eagerly awaiting another installment of weird Italian tshirts. These are unfortunately not as good as the last ones (and there is one that was a shopping bag and not a tshirt), but here goes. All of these were spotted on or from the tram, which remains the prime location for spotting questionable fashion.

On the tram, I saw a guy wearing this shirt. Just a white tshirt with black lettering - you know, the kind that looks ironed on, the slightly raised velvety letters from tshirts of the heydey of roller disco in the 70s and 80s. At first, I considered he could have thought it was a place. Duke, Montana rather than Butte, Montana. Then I just figured the two words sounded good together, so he got a tshirt. Well, I googled when I got home, and it turns out that Duke Montana is a local rapper. Yes, folks, a very white, very Italian, very romano rapper. I couldn't find this particular tshirt online, but feel free to read all about Duke Montana here.

From the tram one day, I spotted a woman waiting for a bus who had an odd shopping bag. The Calvin graphic caught my immediate attention, and I tried hard to read the information on the bag so that I could search for it when I got home. All I could read, though, was the first line which said, I swear, Dr. Kinky. I unfortunately have no idea what Dr. Kinky trafficks in. It is possible that I misread and it was a bag from Kinky Boots, but I don't think so. No amount of searching for Dr. Kinky, Mr. Kinky, or Calvin helps me figure out what the hell kind of store this is. I do suspect that, like De Niro Spy News, Italians are freely using a copyrighted image.

Just today, I spotted a guy wearing this tshirt. On the front it simply said JMMS Honor Roll, and on the back was something like this. The honor roll part caught my attention because it was in English and because I doubt that Italian schools have this concept. So I swung around a bit to see the back of his shirt, to see if I could get any indication which school this was and where. It's James Monroe Middle School, but I did not get any more information than that. The mascot was some kind of bird, but I'm not sure which kind. I did try looking for which school this might be, and the closest I came was a JMMS in Albuquerque. Their mascot is the raptor, but I can't find a picture anywhere on their website. But I can't figure out why this guy would be wearing this tshirt. He didn't look like a tourist at all - he didn't look lost (all Americans on the tram look lost), and he didn't look American (American men don't wear capri pants). I guess that, along with the clothing drop that brought the Old Navy Halloween shirt, this JMMS shirt was dropped too.

And I've saved the best for last... as I was heading to the train station to leave for Copenhagen last week, a woman got on the bus. She was about 60 years old and was wearing this tshirt with a pair of generic old-lady pants. I stared at her for several minutes trying to figure out what would possess a woman to wear a shirt with a dripping red logo that proclaimed she had her period. Turns out, it's the logo for a band called The Cramps, a punk rock band formed back in 1972. Their 1985 single "Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?" hit number 68 on the UK singles chart in 1985. I feel kinda sorry for that woman who was wearing the shirt. It's possible that she herself was a punk rocker in her mid-20s and still has a shirt from the time. But it's more likely that she got it from the cargo cult shipment.

August 23, 2007

Circular and Sweet


From My Keyboard
Rome, Italy - July 15, 2007

My O Key

Description: 3 years old - 1.5x1.5cm - Black with white lettering
Distinguishing Features: Blue 6 in upper right corner, broken snap
Last Seen: Resting atop a little black nubbin

Please contact Kristina with any information regarding the tragic disappearance or whereabouts of this integral element of digital technology.

Don't spread it around - everyone will want one!

I get my kicks

At a very international dinner party last night, this one Italian was quizzing the Spanish woman on Basque separatism and then decided to ask me random questions about America, like exactly how many people were killed in the 9/11 attacks (My answer: I dunno, a few thousand?) and...

Italian: Route 66 - where does that go?
Me: Uhm, I have no idea.
Italian: What? It's famous. Route 66. You've heard of it?
Me: Yeah.
Italian: And you don't know where it goes?
Me: You do realize that your country is the size of Florida, right? No, I don't know the path of all the highways in the country.

Not my finest moment. Insulting Italians because I don't know geography. I feel so... American.

The answer, if you are wondering, is LA to Chicago. I wikipediaed it.

August 19, 2007

Trip to Denmark and Sweden - Pics and Stories

Below are four separate entries on my trip to Copenhagen and Lund. If you click on the date below or in each post, you can go to all the pictures I took that day. If you prefer just to see highlights, by all means, don't click. And if you don't want to read about my trip at all, well, just skip down about a week. :)

August 14 - Thorvaldsen Museum, Rundetaarn, Rosenborg Castle, Kongens Have, Nyhavn, Stroget

August 15 - Christiansborg, Vor Frelsers Kirke, Christiania, Marmorkirken, Churchill Park, Kastellet, Little Mermaid, Nyboder

August 16 - Amalienborg, Amaliehave, Glyptotek, Assistens Cemetery, Strange Danish Things

August 17 - Lund, Sweden. Cathedral, University, Botanical Gardens, Parks.

Scandinavian Pictures - Day 4 (August 17)

Swedish Excursion...

August 17 - Got up late, downed a latte and a croissant, and bought a ticket to Lund. (You'll remember that Lund won out over a visit to the castle that inspired Shakespeare's Hamlet. Mostly so that I can check off another country on my "have visited" list.) Crossing the Oresund Bridge, which is apparently some amazing Scandinavian engineering marvel (built in 2000 it's about 16km long and crosses the strait that separates Denmark and Sweden) was not as exciting as I thought it would be, because trains travel on the lower level while cars get the better view from the top. Arrived in Lund and had no idea where to go, since Erik had only told me that there was a tourist office near the cathedral. Fortunately, the city is small, and I wandered until I saw the cathedral and tourist information office.

The cathedral (Lunds Domkyrka) was quite nice. It was built around 1100, although it was restored to its present appearance in the 19th century. There is an astronomical clock in the interior. Even though it was supposed to do its thing at 11am and 3pm, I arrived just before noon, which is when it went off. It was a brief display, but the guide did give an explanation in Swedish and English before the clock chimed. The clock was made in 1424, although it too has been restored, and it helps tell when holy days (like Easter) are to occur. The crypt was also nice. It was created shortly after the founding of the cathedral, around 1123, and has not been restored much. One column is partly composed of Finn the Giant. The wikipedia page says that he was the builder of the church, but Erik told me the real legend is that he is trying to pull down the column and thus topple the cathedral.

Outside the cathedral is Lundagaard, a large green space with a fountain, some of the university buildings, and the historical museum. The top two floors of the museum were unfortunately closed, so I could only view their exhibit on Barbarians. It was, however, quite good and makes me want to take up Swedish archaeology now. The exhibit displayed a lot of artifacts from Uppaakra, near Lund. At the university, I saw four people dressed in capes, sunglasses, and funny hats. I have no idea what they were doing - perhaps some kind of graduation ritual? I walked around town after that, accidentally stumbling upon a cemetery while looking for the botanical gardens. Unlike Danish cemeteries, in Swedish ones (or at least in this one), there isn't grass in a burial plot but small stones, like gravel. Someone comes by and combs the stones - I saw the cemetery's caretaker doing just this as I walked through. It was an interesting effect.

The botanical gardens (Botaniska Tradgaarden), where Linnaeus once studied, were lovely and nearly deserted. I also walked over to the Stadsparken, a larger park in the west of the town. It had a cute little pond with well-behaved ducks, and also a tree whose intertwining trunks were painted a variety of pastel colors. On the way back to town, I noticed a plaque commemorating the place where August Strindberg lived (miseryyyyyyy!). I shopped a bit in town, buying some strange t-shirts with Danish on them and tights, and I ate lunch in the Saluhallen, famous for its local sausage. I, however, had an amazing amount of tasty Thai food for only 50 kr. (Lund has no fewer than 3 Thai restaurants and at least one Mexican restaurant, making it infinitely more diverse in food choice than Rome, a city probably 10 times its size.)

It got rather cold by the late afternoon, so I headed back to Copenhagen on the train and spent the evening staying off my feet and eating Plopp.

Scandinavian Pictures - Day 3 (August 16)

Third day in Copenhagen...

August 16 - Since I missed the changing of the guard at Amalienborg the previous day, I decided to head there first and then spend the rest of the day at the Glyptotek and the National Museum. Amalienborg is the currect residence of the Queen of Denmark and her husband, and it was finished in the 1750s. As usual, I completely overestimated the time it would take to get there before the changing at noon and ended up wandering around a lot after my breakfast of grande caffe latte, which is the Danish version of a cappuccino (although they do sell cappuccinos) served in a giant glass, the kind you would get Coke in if you were in the US. I got addicted to those lattes very quickly and had probably two a day because it was a good way to get out of the rain and cold. Anyway, I sat in the garden (Amaliehaven) for a while and took some pictures of the weird metal sculpture, wandered over to the art museum to take a photo of the fake David and the shore to take a shot of the opera house across the canal, and then waited patiently for the changing of the guard. There was a huge mob, most of whom were Italians, all of whom were pushing and shoving and whining in Italian that they couldn't see well. The changing of the guards was quite disappointing - even more so than the one at Buckingham Palace - and I left before it was even over, feeling a bit cheated.

I grabbed a giant falafel pita for lunch (my staple, since it was only 25 kr/$5, by far the cheapest thing to eat in Copenhagen, where a tuna sandwich cost 40kr and a latte 35kr) and headed over to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. This museum is famous in classical archaeology because of a trove a Roman portraits that were discovered from a tomb a few decades ago. The Glyptotek is the proud owner of one of the most famous busts of Pompey, for example. However, the Imperial portrait gallery was closed - from August 14 to August 19, the exact time I was there. More impressive than the actual art in the Glyptotek, which I only saw a little bit of, is the way that the art is presented. I like that the stark, clean lines of Scandinavian decor (a la IKEA) are combined with the Danes' penchant for neo-classicism. It made for excellent pictures of the interior of the Glyptotek.

From there, I headed to the National Museum, which was free to enter. My guidebook said you could go through it in an hour, but I would have been hard-pressed to walk through the entire thing in an hour, much less stop to admire the art. It closed at 5pm (like most things in Copenhagen, it was open 10-5pm, which leaves little time to hit two museums in one day), so I just took one picture of their display of Greek Iron Age figurines - because it included plastic figures of Herakles and, I guess, Dejaneira. Weird. I then got drenched while walking to the Assistens Cemetery slightly northwest of town. Here are buried famous Danish people, most of whom I'd never heard of, but I did take pictures of the graves of Kierkegaard, Hans Christian Andersen, and Niels Bohr.

I also included in this day all my pictures of weird Danish things. They had a Cow Parade exhibit, where local artists decorate cows that are then displayed in the city. There was a cow dangling over the entrance to the Stroget, for example, one decorated with eyeballs, and one in the airport with a baby and cremation pyre tied to its back, skull strapped to its head, and flippers on. Funny Danish and Swedish words that have other meanings in English include "slut spurt" (end of season sale), Plopp (Swedish candybar), and Spunk (Danish gummy candy). I'll blog more about the dancing black guy later, I think.

Scandinavian Pictures - Day 2 (August 15)

Day 2 of KK's Scandinavian Adventure...

August 15 - This was my first full day of sightseeing. I wandered around Christiansborg, the location of the original fortification and castle built by Bishop Absalon in the 12th century. It is undergoing renovation, so it was not all that picture-worthy. I decided to go see the little archaeological exhibit in the basement, which showed the walls of the original palace, as well as the walls of numerous other palaces. Christiansborg unfortunately burned down numerous times, all by accident. The present castle only dates to 1916 and is now used by the Danish parliament, not the Queen, who lives at Amalienborg Palace. I tried to get over to Amalienborg for the changing of the guard at noon but got lost and ended up in Christianshavn. So I decided to go up the spire of Vor Frelsers Kirke, the Church of the Saviour, which affords excellent views of Copenhagen. The church was built in the 18th century, and you have to climb over 400 stairs to the top - most of which are very steep and very narrow. From here, I took some photos of Christiania, the Fristaden (Free State) in Copenhagen, where a bunch of hippies camped out in 1970 and refused to leave. It is now considered a "permanent social experiment" by the Danish government. I did not take pictures of crazy-hippie-land from the ground, as I was under the impression that they aren't fond of people doing that.

After a tasty lunch at a great sandwich/pastry shop just east of the canal, I headed past Amalienborg and saw the Marmorkirken, the Marble Church. This was inspired by St. Peter's in Rome and was completed between 1749 and 1894. There is also a Russian Orthodox church just up the road, called the Alexander Newsky Church, which was built for Maria, the daughter of Danish king Christian IX and wife of Tsar Alexander III. I wended my way from there to Churchill Park and the Kastellet, the old fortification that has now been turned into a park. I particularly liked St. Alban's Church. Of course I saw the Little Mermaid, and amazingly managed to frame my photos so that you don't see the huge mass of Japanese tourists swarming her, nor the driving wind and rain that complicated photography.

The sun came out again, so I took some pictures of the Gefionspringvandet (Fountain), the largest in Copenhagen, which depicts the Nordic goddess of fertility. From there, I walked to Nyboder, the oldest remaining neighborhood in Copenhagen, built in 1631 for naval workers. Nyboder is distinguished by its yellow-washed walls. And finally, back in the center of the city, there is a picture of the weather girl at the top of a building - she comes out on a bike if it's nice and with an umbrella if raining - and some Indians singing and dancing in Raadhuset square.

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