Friday, December 22, 2006


So we went to that performance choreographed by the guy who did the choreography for Athens 2004. Athens 2004 opening and closing were not bad at all. Papaioannou is his name. Apparently he is well known. I don't know the first thing about darnce.

The performance we went to was called "2" and featured an all male cast. It explores men, manliness, masculinity etc.

I am no critic, just someone who went to the performance, to a certain extent against his will, but with a healthy dose of curiosity and with a sense of obligation, so as to ensure that I too would be able to throw my 2 cents into the ring whenever the conversation would turn to the performance.

The stage was minimalist to the extreme. It was empty. All necessary partitions and stage props were carried in and out to great effect by the dancers themselves. There would often be two or three (once or twice even more) poles of interest on the stage at the same time, which worked well enough, although the occasional full cast tableaux were less effective.

Plot-wise, I did not find myself wondering "what the fuck is going on now?" more than two or three times during the show and I must admit that the emphasis on masturbation which was depicted in various ways at various times in the show was a little disconcerting.

There was a small moment of joy when I recognized a reference to the Aristophanes story from the Symposium of Plato. Unfortunately no one else seemed to notice and I had to quietly smile and nod alone as the two dancers stuck back to back became unstuck (with suitably schlocky sound effects) and began their journey as two halves longing to be re-joined. The scene was repeated towards the end of the show.

Some scenes dragged, others were fun enough. In all, though, I would not rate it too highly. Everyone is ranting and raving, but I get the feeling that this is more because one feels compelled to rant and rave about it lest one be considered boorish and unknowing. Yes, some scenes were good and memorable, others were how I would imagine Greek darnce to be, extrapolating from what I have seen of theatre in Greece. At best, the vast majority of theatre in Greece today may described as provincial and lacking in subtlty and finesse. Certain scenes in "2" seemed to have been dumbed down or exaggerated as if the artist was creating for an audience which lacks the ability to appreciate real art, rather than creating for his own gratification.

It was worth having gone, though, if only to be able to have an opinion.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


So here is the team I work with - from the right, my boss, with my arm around her, and in the middle in the white trousers is "Igor", my sister.

Yes, I work on a team with 9 girls.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Like the word paleomammalogist

You have to get to the end of the article to find the word, but it is here: "Paleomammalogist"

Cool little story about the oldest known mammals to take to the skies, and a new order of mammals to boot!

Thought I would share.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's here.

I am currently listening to an album I have recently purchased from It's in one of those nice hardened CD cases with the button you have to press to open and with suitably tasteless cover art. I am currently listening to the first track which is catchy enough to get used to, but I will reserve judgement on the rest until I have heard the whole thing through a few times.

The monster is loose indeed!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Saddam verdict

Over at Struggling Author Marie has written a few words about the whaddayacallit verdict thing and, basically, I agree with her 100%.

So there.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Kritios boy disappoints tourist...

The Kritios boy stands to the right of the Blond boy in the Acropolis museum, they form the back end of the kouros exhibit in the museum and represent the very latest kouros forms before the sacking of the citadel of Athens in 480BC. I had the pleasure of seeing the two of them again yesterday, along with old favourites such as the moschophoros and the sandal-binder, together with James and Fiona and Korinna. So there we were, kettle drums going off in our mind's ear and quite excited as we were about to see the Krition boy again (of course, I underexposed the whole roll of film, but that's a story for later), when a voice was heard coming from a group of North Americans huddled around the statue: "Oh, that is such a disappointment".

We truly are living in strange times if one can be disappointed with their first sight of the Kritios boy.

Monday, October 23, 2006


"Workers in Iceland hose down an endangered fin whale"

Err, yeah, like, it's sitting on a bloody platform out of the water - I'd say it's endangered...

Anyway, as one who has eaten whalemeat (and come to think of, the flesh of quite a number of endangered critters), I can honestly say that:
1) I am sure that the people of iceland know what they are doing, and
2) I can't see what all the fuss is about.

After all, whale tastes better than seal.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Possibly getting older

The odd grey hair in amongst the mane of hair on my head, I have sorta lived with that after discovering the first one in a scanned photo of myself proudly standing in front of a fiat cinquecento much less battered than the one I currently abuse. I had thought that the hair was an artifact of the scanning process, but no, it was there in the mirror as well… This was back in 1998. Then came the grey hairs in the beard, which I have been watching as they multiply (while the grey hairs on my head have not managed to do so) since I noticed my first one a couple of years ago. Now, the final bastion has fallen: white hairs in my 'tache. Not only that, but someone at work noticed it only like a day after I had noticed the little fucker. I have no idea what to think about it – like whassisname says in Spinal Tap – I would be, I would be upset, if I were not so heavily sedated. I am not sedated, but I am well too tired and ragged at the edges to sit and worry about the graying of my beard. It was fun laughing at the ginger hairs in there, and I am sure it will be fun to laugh one day at the whiteys, but not yet, dammit.

Well for what it’s worth: Fucksocks!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

With a radio and good batteries…

As her bjorkiness so eloquently puts it: I wish I was on a mountain-top…

I wish I were here, actually:

I am going through one of these phases, where the sweat is sticking the shirt to your back and however high you set the airconditioning fan, it is never high enough. No really, this was not intended to be a metaphor and did not start life as such, but now I have read through it again, all I can think about is how well it works metaphorically too.

Bogged down by gunk in almost all aspects of my life at the moment, it is tough to get myself moving to de-gunkify the situation. The crazy inertia of it all. Stuff that should have been done that was not done lying around me wherever I go, at jbex, at home at the club. Inertia chaos.

Did I write about my ear? I don't think I did. On Tuesday about two hours after landing, I heard this high pitched beepy noise and a pop. And that was that. My hearing has been totally bollox in my left ear since then. I can’t follow a conversation in a crowded room, there is buzzy hissing noise twenty-four seven and generally I don't like the way it feels. I am seeing the doctor about it tomorrow.

Some day I'll be writing about the photos… although they were taken before the blog came into being.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I rarely write about jbex. Once in a while an indirect reference creeps in from time to time, some travel or whatever. Things are tough, bordering on the surreal, bordering on faulty towers. At the moment I feel strong enough. Hell, I am even looking forward to the challenge a little (must be the winter coming in).

There must be a bunch of bad karma being paid off here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


The link in the title is to a page on the BBC website gathering views on immigration following the EU's agreement to let Romania and Bulgaria accede. The accession of these countries will be a good thing, but the reaction of the BCC's readers is a little extreme if you ask me.

What has happened to the UK I knew? When I left eleven years ago I would never have imagined such a reaction to the question.

Is this violent intolerance of foreigners what Tony the Pony's lasting legacy will be? To be honest I am shocked. I am also glad that I have not had the opportunity to visit for four years.

It is sickening to see such ill informed and misguided bare faced racism being bounced about through the official mouthpiece of the Britsh government - the BBC. And did anyone else notice that the pictured bulgarians in the main article are not quite the most representative looking Bulgarians.

I respectfully ask Britain to stop whingeing like spoilt children being told to share their sweets with the other children and make a decision as to whether you want to be in the Union or not. I dare say you would all prefer to have pounds shillings and pence again.

I am totally surprised and appalled.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Palpable excitement

The 9th annual Panhellenic Speleological Convention is being held starting this afternoon down in Monemvasia. My car is buggered. It keeps going crazy and overheating for no perceivable reason. The drive down will be interesting to say the least...

More news on my return.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hitch-hiking to India from the Balkans

Gordan is a friend I met in southern Macedonia in 2003. We climbed the castle of Kralye Marko together on top of the granite hills of Prilep. At the time I felt a little bad at dragging him up there, not sure if he really wanted to have a look at the castle, or if he was coming along because he was working with me and I was in his country.

I later learned that Gordan is probably more adventurous than I am, as he set off a week after our work together for China, with no intention of paying for transport - just hitch-hiking...

This year he is going one better and he's set off hitchhiking to India and blogging on the way. So it is with great pleasure that I present his bilingual Macedonian / English blog, with photos: Backpacking is a Freedom

Good luck Gordan!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Return from Istanbul Video

This is the way we come back home, come back home, come back home; this is the way we come back home la da da da dee dee dee do.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dead characters - spoilers!

K - don't read this I write about stuff that happens in the Half Blood Prince...

Yeah, so I am probably the only guy in the world currently recovering from the double whammy of losing Dumbledore and Boone all in the same week.

Dumbledore left us this week because I'm buggered if I am going to pay Ms. Rowling's price for a hardback and the paperback has only just come out, and he was quickly followed by Boone, because we have only just got to that bit of the first season, and only because they have been playing one episode every night for about ten days.

So living in the back of beyond... it sort of means I get hit with the emotions later than the rest of the world, despite globalisation's best efforts to make us all eat drink and shit at the same time and in the same way.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Slight editing in Ravenna II

I have only just noticed how crap and unpolished the text for Ravenna II was. It remains crap and unpolished,. of course, but slightly less so...

Peppers to plant to pepper again

Time to look into what's happening in the garden now:

The story so far can be found out on the following pages:

Green fingers
We have Pollen!
Peppers swelling

At some point in April the plant pots were all taken outside onto the balcony again. The weather had cleared and nighttime temperatures were now consistently above 10 degrees Centigrade. It was just as well we had brought them in for the winter as all those put into plant pots not inside died horribly. The pictures show the situation at 21 April 2006.

By 27 April, some of the peppers had begun to redden as seen in these two pictures. We had what must be two different varieties growing on the balcony - one producing fairly regular conical fruit, the other producing more elongated and irregular, sometimes curved or cornuform. This picture depicts the conical regular fruit.

On 8 May 2006 I had the first harvest! I took one of each type of now fully ripe pepper for use in a spicy stir fry sort of thing that K was putting together. The knife is an IKEA purple knife (if you know how big this is, you get a sense of scale.

On 11 May 2006, we have a plethora of cornuform fruit ready or almost ready for the taking.

Just in time for the Eurovision Song Contest, I harvested these three peppers and took them with me to my sister's eurovision party. Jolly japes all round. Only George managed more than a couple of exploratory bites - so hot were the peppers!

Three peppers in three different stages of ripeness, shown on 22 May 2006.

Some time before 28 May 2006 I had taken to the plants with clippers to remove the unnecessary bits of plant that had been holding the peppers up while they were growing but had no role to play any more. Despite the heavy pruning, more buds were appearing regularly.

This image is from 6 June 2006 and represents peppers of both sorts, collected and given to Komni. The plants were then pruned back a hell of a long way, and we now have a second batch of peppers on the way. I will leave this second batch to use for seeds.

So - peppers from peppers to plant to flower to peppers again…

More writing about balcony-gardening when there is time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Shine on

Well, it was going to happen sooner or later.

Monday, July 03, 2006

New Acropolis Museum - first day of exhibition

So we went to the opening with K, George and an increasingly pregnant Poppy of the exhibition of finds from the area where the New Acropolis Museum is being built.

The new Museum, being built next to the Weiler building under the Acropolis.

George, Poppy and K

Far too many people in too small a space and politicians and the teams of cameramen following them gave the whole trip to the museum a different feel altogether. The exhibition houses some of the findings from the site of the new museum being built just a few tens of yards away, displayed in cases made out the building materials being used on the new museum. The site cuts through a good slice of old Athens from classical through to late roman and early byzantine. The site will be visible through the floor of the acropolis museum making it a huge almost open-air museum. Poppy had worked for some months before leaving for the UK on the site and had been informed of the opening by an archaeologist friend who was involved in the excavations of ten years.

On arrival and after all the faff of waiting for the Minicult to arrive, we went in and sat through speeches by inaudible archaeololigsts and the booming Minicult himself who mostly talked bollocks using rhetoric worthy of midday soap operas rather than someone with the syllable "cult" in his title.

After the obligatory chamber music and mad crush for the drinks table, and after some of the most impolite and unbecoming scrambles for the unimaginitive but tasty enough canapés K and I managed to enter the exhibition. George and Poppy had left for elsewhere.

Poppy's friend was showing someone famous around. Well, famous enough to be shown around by one of the excavators, but not famous enough to be someone I recognise. The plus side to all this fame and what have you is that K and I and half a dozen others managed to piggy back on Tatiana's tour of the finds and at the same time benefit from both her enthusiasm for and knowledge of the site.

The exhibition is separated into thematic sections.

The first section is worship. In this section we have some good marbles statues of deities which are very rare indeed outsdie the east - there are not many excavated sites in Greece which are contemporary with some of the sections of this site, so although we got the oriental gods here and there, what was found in this esentially rescue dig was unique in Greece. The first "cool" find is a statue of "Isis Panthea" an Isis figure from the second or third century AD.

Isis Panthea

Why Panthea? - well, she’s got the sun disk of Sol Invictus, the corn sheaths of Demeter, the aegis of Athena, the grape clusters of Dionysos around her ears, a snake running around her body, reminiscent of Asclepios, and she is standing on a funky crocodile. All the gods and goddesses together… Next up comes a Zeus Heliopolites – Zeus from Heliopolis (today’s Baalbek), with a whole bunch of other deities on his tunic.

Zeus Heliopolites, appearing after coming all the way from Baalbek, Ladies and Gentlemen

We also saw a nice representation of the Artemis Astarte with the many breasts.

Artemis of the many breasts...

There was a good bust of Plato from a Herm, and a whole bunch of home implements and pottery, commercial stuff and tradesmans' craftsmens' stuff in the economic activity section.


One thing I liked a lot was how they give the concept of stromatography a real good showing with this conceptual well with many pots discarded in it over time after it had silted up.

Nice representation of the stromatography in one of the silted up wells

I also liked this thumb shaped mortar for the pestle – very nice and apparently not uncommon, sitting amongst the spice containers and cooking vessels in the cooking section of the exhibition.

Can't find something witty to say - but I'm working on it...

In all the exhibition is really quite worth it, very nicely put together museuologically and interesting for the wealth of second and third century AD items on show all in the same place.

Like I said before, the experience of seeing it under the wing of one of the excavators made the whole thing that much more fun.

All venice posts together

In January of 2005 K and I visited Venice and Ravenna.

The story is told in the following posts:

Venice - Jan 2005 Part I
Venice Jan 2005 - Part II
Venice - Jan 2005 Part III
Venice - Jan 2005 Part IV
Venice - Jan 2005 Part V
Ravenna - Jan 2005, Part I
Ravenna - Jan 2005, Part II

Enjoy the story all together.

Ravenna - Jan 2005, Part II

We made our way to the first of the two baptisteries we intended to visit.

A baptistery is that part of the church (in early times a separate building in its own right) where baptism would take place. In the early days when those yet to be baptised vastly outnumbered those already baptised most baptisms were carried out on adults, and the baptisteries reflect this in that the font is big enough for a full size adult to be baptised in it.

The two baptisteries in Ravenna were built by the two rival sects practising in the empire at the time. The preferred form at this period is an octagon, and I have heard that this is to represent each day of the period from the entry into Jerusalem until Christ's resurrection. Anyway - what we have going on in the empire at the the time the churches of Ravenna were built is two competing sects of Christianity living side by side. We're not talking sects in terms of catholics and protestants thinking they have a different dogma, we are talking about a full blown disagreement in the nature of Christ. Let me just write those words out again, because they are important and to our post Chalcedonian mindset such a thing is not a matter for debate and / or discussion.

The nature of Christ.

There, I have written it again. We are all to some extent familiar with the concept of the creed. It's that bit of the service beginning with "I believe" or "credo" (or whatever) and it is essentially an affirmation of belief. In there we see all sorts of funky stuff, used to describe Christ. Like, he is the only son of the father, he is begotten not made, of one being with the father, etc. etc.

"Fair cop, guv", you might say, but I ask you why do we have this creed with all the rhetoric and reaffirmation of Christ's divinity? What need is it addressing? What's at stake? Yes - the trinity, father son and holy ghost - fine, but why labour the point when it comes to the son's divinity?

Once upon a time, in the second city of the newly officially Christian Roman Empire, there was a chap called Arius and Arius was bishop of this city, Alexandria. As bishop of the second most important city in the empire, he had some sway. Egypt and north Africa had always cast Christianity in a strange mould of their own and there the people clung on to strange (sometimes gnostic) ideas. These are the sorts of ideas which then come out of the sands seventeen centuries later to be turned into "National Geographic" cover stories.

Against this backdrop and only a generation after Origen, comes Arius with his separation of the nature of Christ the son from that of God the father. According to Arius, Christ was not "uncreated" and not wholly God in the way that God the Father was God. Arguing that the father was greater than the son and existed before him, the Alexandrine bishop managed to drive a wedge into the divine nature of Christ, which was to have repercussions many hundreds of years after the anathemas proclaimed on him. Think about the incongruity of the terms "one who never changes" and "baby Jesus"…

Before anyone could do anything to check the progress of this idea (which may have been potentially more palatable than the standard description of the trinity to the less philosophically inclined western areas of the empire), it had spread like wildfire, to the extent that arguments would erupt in the streets of Constantinople and, more significantly, to the extent that the religious figures sent to convert the non-citizen Goths who had recently begun to work as mercenaries in the armies of Rome were followers of Arian. Not only that, but the Arian theology buttoned itself onto the existing beliefs of the Goths who worshiped a father / son deity which had the father more divine than the son.

The council of Nicea gave christianity the Nicene creed with its use of the term "consubstantial" or "homoousios" which basically put an end to Arianism in the core parts of the empire. So these beliefs were anathematized and life went on in the empire with the Arian Goths on the periphery. Theodosios in the late fifth century had seen to it that all pagan worship ceased, and made all sorts of deals with the Goths to give them land for military service, despite their Arianism.

At some point, though, the goths were tired of sitting on the other side of the Danube and the time came for them to cross the river and make a bid for Rome. They managed to take much of Northern Italy. Rather than raze and rebuild, the Goths did something politically clever, in that they allowed the local population to continue their worship as they were wont to do, and introduced a parallel hierarchy of Arian clergy to tend to the Arian Gothic elite, which managed in this way to keep itself separate from their Trinitarian subjects.


So - Italy and especially Ravenna at this time (until Belissarius, essentially) was home to a coexistence of two very different "Christian" sects.

The reason for all this blah blah blah is that a) the art of the orthodox and heretical differs in the details in a way which is interesting to note and b) many formerly Arian buildings were taken over by Trinitarians after Belissarius re-conquered Italy for Rome. Belissarius we'll talk about some other time.

Against this backdrop, we can now move into the baptistries, and it is finally time for some of what might be the last glimmer of classically inspired sculpture before the renaissance came along. K and I particularly like the guy in this image as we both independently saw in him the patron saint of ironing. I am not sure who this funky low-relief guy is, but he stands below the dome of the baptistery of the orthodox.

The first recorded extreme ironing aficionado

The baptistery of the Orthodox is of course more notable for the mosaic decoration adorning the vault depicting a belts-off-trousers-down Jesus in the water being baptised by JTB.

JTB and the skinnydipping JC groove on down in the Jordan wid da pijins(or something)

Christ is depicted as a fully grown bearded man. He is God, consubstantial, coeternal. Compare with later when we visited the slightly earlier baptistery of the Arians.

JTB and the skinnydipping JC groove on down in the Jordan wid da pijins (or something)
Doesn't JC look a little dumpier, beardless and more boyish - like he is not quite as fully divine as the Father?

So after baptistery fun in these octagonal buildings displaying the last embers of truly classical art, we were ready for a visit to a good old fashioned basilica with three naves and some processional mosaics with repetitive undistinguishable saints parading towards the Christ figure. On the north side the saints process, walking from a depiction of Theodoric's palace towards the east. On the south wall, the lady saints are walking from the harbour towards the east. Have I not mentioned Theodoric? Did I throw him out at you without any explanation? His mausoleum had a brief mention in the previous Ravenna text.

Theodoric the goth, then. He was king of the Goths who had come to scare away those who had overrun Italy at the behest of Zeno, emperor of the Romans. The Goths had then set themselves up in the ruins of the empire in the west. Taking on Roman airs and titles, playing the system from the inside and letting the roman aristocracy carry on as before. The gothic kingdom was ruled from Ravenna from the Palace pictured in the mosaics of the basilica of Saint Apollinaris. From the palace helpfully labelled "PALATIVM" in the mosaic. From the palace which is less than forty yards down the road from the mosaic depicting it.

The Palace of Theodoric, setting off point for the procession of saints depicted in the basilica of Saint Apollinaris.

Theodoric's palace, in the mosaic, featured members of his family standing in the porches. Members of the royal family with haloes (normal for imperial portraits of the time) adorning the porches. And then along came Belissarius, strong -man of Justinian and restorer of orthodoxy to an Italy suffering under the heretical Goths.

And there, in the basilica of Saint Apollinaris, first to go were the Arian Saints. Up went the Orthodox saint names... and then away go the family of Theodoric. In their place, some very fashionable curtains were put up. You can see above the curtains where the haloes would have been, but more obvious, and highlighted in green in the next image, are the body parts painted outside the gaps and over the columns. They were never taken away - it is not known why and the hands of Theodoric's family are still there to be seen by whoever should visit the church.

Same image as before with highlighted body parts

Not far from the palace and cathedral of Theodoric sits an unassuming building for which you really have to be on the look out or else very much into the back-street narrow-alley form of exploring new places. Inside is the tomb of Dante.

K emerges from the tomb of the poet

In Ravenna we discovered a very nice café type thing with good hot chocolate and also were lucky enough to catch the first day of the sales.

The next day we were off to Classe - the city named after what it did... Classe takes its name from Classis - fleet in Latin - for it is here that the imperial fleet would moor in the days when the empire was run from Ravenna.

O lamb of God...

In Classe we found the last of Ravenna'a UNESCO inscribed buildings - the church of Saint Apollinaris in Classe. More mosaics, this time curiously pastoral, to bid us good bye as we set off doen the fog filled autostrade towards Ancona - a place known to me from childhood voyages as a harbour town with no intrinsic interest.

How wrong I had been! Ancona is a harbour town - yes, it's position and what have you make it a perfect place for setting off across the Adratic to a number of destinations.

The first surprise - seeing as we had arrived about an hour early, we had time to explore - was the triumphal arches on the waterfront. I did not remember them, of course, the last time I had been through there I didn’t know what a triumphal arch represented and what the roman empire was. My sole source of information had been "Carry On Cleo" with Kenneth Williams as a rather camp Caesar acting opposite Sid William's raunchy Mark Anthony, but I digress.

Triumphal arches in Ancona with a view to the church on the top of the hill

The foreground arch in the picture as far as I can recall was set up by Napoleon. The one behind was set up by Trajan. The Ferry was delayed arriving - and therefore would be delayed in departing - by about five hours, so we had a good chance to walk about and get to know the city a little. We decided to walk up to the church on the hill overlooking the harbour and were rewarded with the exteriors of some baroque buildings on the way up and fine views from the top. Of course, all this was not really quite so exciting as the building at the top.

The old cathedral on top of the hill in Ancona

We were confronted by the rather gothic entrance with the arches all one inside the other, flanked by lions taken from somewhere I don't recall. The basilica itself was originally just a standard basilica, and took on its cruciform groundplan in about the 13th if I remember. The great thing about it is that in the basement you can see a bunch of Doric column bases from what used to be the old temple of Aphrodite which would stand above the harbour - sailors being sailors in all centuries no doubt had much to do with this choice of deity for the old temple.

The boat came, we boarded and set off again for Patras and later Athens.

The Venice / Ravenna trip was over, six days after commencing, the write up finished some five hundred and forty days after commencing. Hmm.

Now time to start writing up what came after Venice: Istanbul/Constantinople in June 2005 etc, Sikinos / Ios and Ikaria in August 2005, Meteora in September 2005, Paloumba for the epiphany of 2006, Paloumba for the first day of Lent of 2006, and Kastelorizo for the eclipse of 2006… all coming soon, oh yes.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


AAAAArg: "SilkQuit Meter v2.60" Just downloaded I am so close to lighting up again... 6364 ciggies not smoked in the ten and a half months since I quit. I must keep thinking about this today.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Venice, redux

Finally putting up some moving pictures from Venice - there aren't many of these, but here is the first attempt. The footage was captured by my mobile phone, a battered and now-ailing Nokia 5410...

White soil on the marmara...

Chalky soil or posibly rock-salty soil on the marmara.

Still playing with this toy...

Monday, June 26, 2006

You tube - new toy

Testing testing

1, 2, 3

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Alright alrighty

So OK like chill. I've been busy elsewhere doing some editing to wikipedia articles about subjects I like to think I know a little about. I have managed to stay out of a revert war on one touchy subject, and so far most of what I have written has stayed written.

In other news a lot of travelling, bad sleeping habits and bad eating habits all taking their toll, especially in the light of K not being around at the weekends to look after me. She's helping to look after her sister's kids at the moment and won't be back for another ten days... waaaaaa!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

So, where is groupie??

Where are you, little miss "I've disappeared for a month and a half leaving my fans with a feeling of huge empiness"?

(that'll learn her!)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Roger Waters in Athens... Should I go or not?

Decsisions decisions...

If I go, I miss two otherwise also mutually exclusive events. My choices are as follows:

1. Go to Roger Waters concert (practically all Sunday)
2. Go to Selinitsa with the caving seminars (totally all weekend)
3. Pick up K from the airport after not havng seen her for a full five weeks

There is no way to do a combo. Selinitsa is five hours drive from Athens.
K has urged me to go and not miss on the event. The tickets are priced at either ~50 or ~100 Euro.

Roger Waters, man. Doing all of DSotM live. I don't think I should miss that. Selinitsa will be there next year and the year after. Have a look at some Photos of Selinitsa by Satoshi Goto and Elias Kazais in Elias' album at the Selas photos site.

It is one of the more beautiful horizontal caves in Greece, frequently visited by beginner cavers and well worn cavers alike. The latter visit not least because of the cave diving opportunities and the recent link between two systems made by our friends at the SPELEO club.

Basically, I'm going to Waters and I am probably going to delay my flight to Sofia a few hours on Monday to allow me to sleep and stuff.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Prespa est magna divisa in partes tres

As part of easter holiday excursions, we visited the Greek side of Prespa. In easter period 2004 we had visited the northern side as well as Ochrid with K. Just the Albanian side left now for easter 2008!

Had a run in with another blood-sucking arthropod while up north. This time of the suck and go type, rather than the suck and stick around with your head in the host's body type. On the back of my neck. Been dousing the swelling with extracts of natural stuff as packaged and sold by Korres.

Going to the country again tonight. I am so behind on my trip reports that it really is not funny any more. The peppers have become edible, they have ripened and reddened and swelled, and I have done a whole bunch of travelling, but said nothing about it at all outsdie. This whole blogging stuff is a lot tougher than the writing I used to do in my diary as an angst-ridden hormone-driven adolescant public-schoolboy.

Oh well.

Still writing up the final chapter to Ravenna and keep getting stumped by the Goths. Don't want to write stuff which ain't right (as if anyone would notice, anyway) but finding it hard to remember things off the top of my head and finding it harder to be arsed to go look things up. I feel, though, that it must be written. I am so looking forward to knowing that somewhere, out there in cyberspace, some sola-scriptura "christian" of one of the American denominations will come across the description of the arian heresy I have prepared for my piece on the baptisteries in ravenna and will sit and think, and maybe, just maybe, a lightbulb will go off above their head which will lead to better things.

When Ravenna part II is published, the piece will be dedicated to that lightbulb chap or lassie.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

V for vendetta

Yeah, so we went to watch it and it was a very well made film and thought provoking in all the right places.

The big and nagging question remains - in a similar situation, how would I react?

I figure I would probably sit there in my conservative (literal, not political) mindset, acting and arguing in favour of the status quo so as to cause as few ripples as possible while at the same time giving in to my aquarian revolutionary urges and keeping illicit stashes of contraband, much like both of the characters who help Evey during the film, because dammit, it is the right thing to do.

The right thing to do, of course, is like acorns: horses love them, but they are not palatable to most people.

I am so glad they never show us his face. That would have been a big mistake.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ixodes Ricinus, come on in, your time is up

The worst thing about pulling a blood sucking parasitic arthropod off your dick is not really being able to brag about it that much. I mean - come on, who wants to brag about having an eight-legged little fucker hanging by its proboscis off his cock?

Ah - the wonders of the internet and the anonymity it brings. So while I may not have the sang froid to sit and write to friends about this most enriching of experiences, the existence of a blog allows one to talk of such things with impunity.

Things I have learnt today, include:

  • Girls will tend to get upset at the idea that there is a parasite stuck to your todger - avoid telling them if at all possible, especially when they are half asleep at half past seven in the morning.
  • The little fuckers will come off if you pull them by hand - all this bollocks in the literature about using tweezers is crap, you cannot get a decent grip on the fuckers with tweezers.
  • Ticks are arachnids, making them descendents of some of the very first land dwelling animals. Ever.
  • Most ticks are sexually dimorphic - the male and female look different.
  • Lyme disease is not very prevalent in Greece, although the main carrier, Ixodes Ricinus is.
  • Top tip - don't go camping in a place where large mammals (cows) have been roaming around.
  • It's like totally mind-blowing to feel that you have become part of one of these parasite life cycle diagrams showing many hosts and carriers and knowing that you were the human host in all this, man.

The whole experience this morning, well, part of it, brought back one of my most vivid memories of my brief but colourful military service. While I was serving in a guard house in the middle of nowhere, somewhere where I am not allowed to talk about, one of things I would do to pass the time when not reading translations of ancient poetry, would be to sit and record the markings on the turtles which lived within the confines of the barracks. They say that no two turtles have the same markings, and having a teenage head stuffed to the brim with Victorian idiocy I set about to record what we had onsite, in an effort to see whether any pattern would emerge potentially proving them wrong.

None did.

I still have the drawings, done in biro on the back of spent Gitanes packets. I remember being very pleased with them at the time, although I have no idea what I would think of them now. I think I know where they are, though.

Anyway - to the point - as payback for the poor turtles who would sit for maybe an hour at a time and model for me, I would flip them over and take out the ticks stuck to their legs and neck, poor hapless bastards. I am not sure I did not imagine it, but more than once, I think I heard the turtles sigh appreciatively as I would pull a tick from their exposed skin. These of course were ugly huge red ticks - not at all like the small black one I had found this morning - but the gasp of satisfaction I remember hearing coming from the turtles stayed with me. I too almost gasped in the same manner this morning, such was my own feeling of relief at being free from the tick. There had been no real pain or discomfort attached to my experience. The whole thing was more psychological than physical, but still, at that moment I had connected once more with my reptilian friend from fourteen years ago.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Kastelorizo Total Solar Eclipse - Part I

Well, let me tell you about the eclipse...

We got to Kastelorizo on Monday morning, having traveled on the "Dodekanesos Pride" from Rhodes in all of two and a bit hours. I had slept for nearly the whole journey as we had woken up that morning in the school building of Afentou (very kindly donated by the municipality) before dawn. Bleary-eyed and unsure of our footing we descended to the bus stop for Rhodes, treated to a stunning display in the eastern sky of the heavily waning moon together with a very bright Venus. See you again in about 60 hours I thought to myself as the bus pulled up and we argued with the driver over where to put the ridiculous amount of crap we were carrying.

Crap. Defined in this context as: Tents, sleeping bags, clothes and food for seven overnights in a free camping environment, cameras, tripods, personal SRT kit, caving ropes and anchors, in short: crap. Oh, and a bicycle.

On board the "Pride" there was only so much time for people watching before sleep overtook each of us in turn. There was just enough time to notice that there were an extraordinary number of geeks on board with film (rather than digital) cameras around their necks which made me want to paraphrase Obi-Wan: "Dodekanesos Pride: You will never find a more wretched hive of nerds and geekery. We must be cautious." They were amateur astronomers fer chrissake! Real life accountants and engineers, probably.

And after sleeping, we arrived.

And there was Kastelorizo, Megiste, laid out around the harbour in the sun. We met up with the Mayor, he gave us the help we had asked for in our letter. Before we had had a chance to sit and order a frappe we were heading off to the first pot hole of the week - but this is a slightly different story for the caving pages, later.

So there we were, with George the guy who runs the Beautiful Megisti Restaurant and drives the island's only taxi, taking Kostas and myself up past the airport with a fishing boat captain called Kykkos and Tassos, the guard of the island's archaeological collection who was going to show us a hole where he had lost a goat about forty years previously.

The car left us half way between the airport and the rubbish dump. There on a curve in the road was a man sitting in a fenced area containing a tent, three telescopes and link to a diesel power generator for the telescopes' tracking drives. He was called Kostas and was looking a little worse for wear after only two nights in the wild. He was there with a group from Thessaloniki who had been to the 1999 eclipse in Bulgaria and were looking for a better shot at totality here. He explained to us that where he was he would get some seven or eight seconds more totality than those in town and started telling us stuff he had translated from the Espenak bible. I let him know we were not completely uninformed and we set off to look for our hole, but not before we had spotted a nice hill slightly to the SW of Kostas where we would get the same view as him, but slightly better - a view with a clear horizon on three sides.

Within the first hour of arriving, we had found an unexplored pothole and found the place from which we were going to observe the eclipse.

Things were looking good.

To be continued...

Saturday, March 25, 2006


The first members of the team have arrived on Kastelorizo already. There is already a huge number of people there, hotels are bursting, astronomical equipment fills every available space. Well, that's what I've been told so far.

We leave tonight for Rhodes / Rodos. We sleep on the boat, then we cruise around Rhodes town for a day and then we set off for the island, arriving on Monday morning.

Silence until well into the first week of April.

Time to get ready for the boat.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 giving clear skies is giving clear skies for the 29th. The excitement is becoming increasingly unbearable.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Peppers swelling

Last week before we go. Far too much to do yet. Every possible angle is uncovered. Too much chaos in my mind and no chance to untangle all the tangled threads. The good news is that we have some pollinated ovaries, which are now swelling into little peppers.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

We have pollen!

We have pollen - I did a bit of insect-work with a q-tip today... It's all getting very exciting in the pepper corner of the living room.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Something is happening in the pepper pots... Full update is imminent!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Easy-Rabbit Recipe

Or what I did with the rest of the rabbit after having made the Caneloni I haven't got round to showing off yet...

This is basically the easy chicken recipe, but now that chickens are slightly frowned on, and due to the fact that I had about 800 gramnmes of rabbit left over after making the caneloni, and about four portions of rice left over after saturday's cooking, we decided to make easy rabbit.

Step one:

You put your rabbit in an oven-proof dish having salted and peppered it. Then you get the contents of a Knorr (or equivalent) Onion Soup sachet and cover the rabbit with this. Then you get a tin of pineapples in natural juice cut them up into sort of eighths of a circle and put them on top of the meat. Then you pour the rest of the contents of the tin into the oven proof dish and then you fill up the tin with water and pour that into the oven proof dish. Foo! this recipe writing stuff is tough work. OK on to Step 2:

Step two:

So, put the thing in the oven at about 180-190 degrees centigrade, which is about between 355 and 375 in old money. Every 15-20 minutes I would turn and baste the meat and add more liquid to the Onion Soup Pineapple sauce if necessary.

After about 45 minutes to an hour, you are ready. The final image shows Korinna putting in some rice so it can soak around in the juices and sauces before being served.

Step three:

Serve (probably can be done more neatly than is shown in the picture). We usually have one of Korinnas salads with this meal.

So - there it is... easy rabbit.

I realise that use of the ready soup is a cop-out, but it is meant to be easy, after all.

Chicky Thursday

Yesterday was the last day in the calendar before Easter Sunday on which we can eat meat. So we ate meats. Oh yes. Meats from two different classes (Aves, Mammalia) and three different species (Chicken, Pig, Goat). My usually tough stomach has been complaining all day. We got about ten days to finish off all cheese and what have you before Lent starts in earnest. One year I will fast properly.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ravenna - Jan 2005, Part I

Here's one I prepared earlier, as they say... it follows on from the last Venice installment: Venice

Two nights and two days in fog choked Ravenna followed. Our ambitious plan was made easier by the fact that the mausoleum of Theodoric and the chapel of Aint Andrew were both closed for restoration work. That left only six (if I am not mistaken) UNESCO protected feats of the mosaicists art for us to go and gawp at. Fortunately, cameras are allowed here, although the fog cut the available light to a minimum and I had to use all my tricks to be able to shoot decent shots (not that I managed with 100% success, mind you).

Corinna wrapped against the cold as effectively as Lazarus wrapped against death on this early Christian sacrophagus

After finding our way into town in the morning, and finding a place to park - something not as easy as it sounds - we headed off to the Saint Vitale and mausoleum of Galla Placida complex where we spent quite a while walking around and marvelling at the mosaics.

I suppose I could go off on the Justinian / Theodora tangent right now and that would lead us through the Belissarius / Procopius / Narses tangents and back to the goths and all that jazz, but I'd probably forget to write about how it is that I first came to want to come to Ravenna and whether or not you can tell that Saint Vitale is an architectural copy of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Constantinople.

One thing I was not prepared for was the material used for the windows - a sort of yellow rock cut thin enough to be translucent and used for window material in San Vitale, the mausoleum and others of the old churches we visited.

We walked across the garden to the tomb of Galla Placida where the mosaic work was far more classically roman-looking than what we are used to miscalling Byzantine. Despite the figurative art having one foot firmly in the Greco-roman tradition, the geometric designs were incredibly forward looking and modern to our eyes.

Geometric patterns on the vault of the mausoleum of Galla Palcida.

Leaving the mausoleum / Vitale area we drove to the cathedral and museum. The chapel of Saint Andrew was closed, but we managed to see the exhibits in the museum, which included some good early mosaic work and of course the amazing ivory throne of Maximian, bishop of Ravenna. I remember friends ("Hi, James!") doing late Roman art courses getting all excited about this throne of some bishop in a place I hadn't heard of, called Ravenna. This was a long time before my "Byzantine" or late roman awakening. The throne was a masterpiece of ivory work of the period and it is good to look at. We have nothing in the eastern empire of this sort (meaning the flammable sort).

We walked around the city centre of Ravenna, which is beautiful enough and hides a number of later churches which no doubt are just as exciting to those who call the 17th or 18th centuries their own.

The baptisteries and St. Apollonaris are next and they require some introduction into the whole Arian / Orthodox thing and probably also the whole Goth business. This is a different chapter.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Total Solar eclipse in Kastelorizo II

Further to a previous post about viewing the total solar eclipse from Kastelorizo, I am happy to announce that I received just now my express mail box with 25 pairs of solar shades and a nice piece of aluminized mylar whatsit for making some coverings for my camera and telescope. It all came from these guys: Rainbow symphony.

Now, just have to sort out how we're going to go and how we're going to come back. And a whole lot of other stuff. More later this week.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bird flu, mortality, immortality and related crap

Kastamonu, Samsun, Erzurum... if things were different, I might have been there now: the eye in the storm of a full blown family panic. As it is, I never made it to any of Kastamonu, Samsun, Erzurum.

I am concerned for Turkey and of course for when the jump will be made, but in a very detached sort of way.

I am not concerned about like whether I will get it. I will take my precautions, and if I am to outlive the pandemic, then I outlive the pandemic and tell the tale later. If I am to go in the pandemic in an unmarked mass grave with lime poured on top of me - well, yes, that sucks, but I'll be dead - so no sweat. We all die, you know. Whether we have managed to do all we want to do so that when we go we can feel we have justified our time here is something different completely. We are all dieing. Question is what are we doing about it - not about the fact that we are mortal, about the fact that once we are gone, we are gone. We can't write bullshit 15-syllable poems after death now, can we? We can't draw in chalk and charcoal after death.

We can't - but who is to say that so many of the other pleasures of life are lost? Who is to say that the sunset is lost, or that the crashing of the waves on the rocks is lost and who is to say that the joy to be gained from a nicely stratified and folded piece of limestone is lost? We are part of the natural world and we return to it. While we are alive, our bodies and our humanity prevent us from being one with the rocks, one with the trees, one with the surging sea and one with the stars as they wheel over the earth in their great circles.

"Why would I want to be one with the hermit crab chasing the tidal pools lest it dry in the heat of the sun?" I hear you cry... "Why would I want to be one with the arctic poppy as it twists itself continuously around chasing the never setting sun?"

I need to write more about nature and mans place both within and outside nature. I have no time now. I have a pandemic to panic about.

Venice - Jan 2005 Part V

Next morning - the morning of the Befana we woke a little later than we had wanted and did not make it to the regatta - some other time perhaps. We did manage to pluck up the courage to go to the supermarket, where we got some amazing cheeses and hams for the homemade sandwiches we were intending to eat in the courtyard around the St. Maria of Murano.

We checked out of the Giardinetto and set off with our packed meals for Murano, passing the cemetery island on the way. We did not stop off to look around, although I dare say it will be as impressive and beautiful as our own Proto here in Athens.

An island populated by cypress trees - Venice's cenetery

We ate in the courtyard of the Santa Maria after our visit. Again no photos allowed of the mosaic work, such a disappointment - but definitely worth visiting if one is a fan. Full length theotokos - complete with cross-shadow (if I am not mistaken - it was a year ago). Hmmm I'm confused - why would there be a cross shadow in a church that never had iconoclastic bishops? Very confused. Either there was no cross shadow and I am imagining it, or I am remembering this correctly, in which case, Venice was more under the influence of Constantinople than not. Iconoclasm and the whole cross shadow business is a subject for another time, though. I can't remember where I have seen it most pronounced, but I know I have been there more than once - so probably in St. Sophia itself - or one of the Thessaloniki churches.

The church of Santa Maria in Murano in daylight

On our walk around and some way into the almost frenzy of shopping for glassware, we ran across this chappie in the photo below. He runs a third or fourth generation glass works and happened to be in the place on the Befana public holiday.

Corinna and I had both been to Venice before, at ages near enough the single figures. Both of us recalled very little of our previous visits apart from the very vivid memories of the glass works. This man put on a performance for us, heating and blowing and shaping and spinning the bottle for us - I was surprised to hear the sound the glass makes while red hot is pretty much the same sound it would make when cold when he beat it slightly with his tongs.

We thanked the man for the demonstration and headed back to the Lido to pick up the car. We crossed from the Lido to the ferry port in very dense fog and then crossed the bridge and set off for the other daughter of Constantinople on the Italian Adriatic - Ravenna - some two hours drive to the south.

The fog stayed dense all the way there. We got very lost, not having a decent map of Ravenna, but found the hotel Piccolo, booked through the internet. It was so-so, but cheap and the staff were friendly.

Venice - Jan 2005 Part IV

Well, one year on and so many other journeys to write about as well. The rest of this write up of Venice will be necessarily brief and based around the photographs. After Torcello, we returned to Burano, where every building really is painted a different colour.

Burano - happy colours, fishing town

This gives a very characteristic and happy look to the island. The vaporetto drops you off in front of a rather nice bronze nude and an open space with grass and trees which functions as a park.

In Venice, the canals share traffic signs with normal road systems everywhere…

The sun gets lower over the lagoon - January 5 2005

We walked around the town looking at the lace work and painted houses, stopping for some pastries along our walk. From Burano, we made our way to Murano with the sun hovering on the horizon dangerously close to setting. We walked along the banks of the canals of Murano looking in the windows of the shops and deciding to come in the next day on the vaporetto for a better look.

Corinna and I pose for a timer-shot in central Murano

One of the definite things to come back for was the church of Santa Maria - described as having one of the best full length Byzantine theotokos mosaics ever, and certainly nicely tarted up in full twelfth century brick and masonry extravagance.

The church of Santa Maria in Murano, under night lighting

Resolving to be back the next day for a look inside, we set off for home, the long way round, taking the vaporetto towards the train station and then cruising the grand-canal back towards St. Zaccaria and off to the Lido again.