Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Castles, Queens, and Volcanic Scenes

After the Real Mary King's Close tour, I ventured back to the Camera Obscura museum for some postcards, because I couldn't stop thinking abut them....

Young Love = Death

Wrinkled, old, tired lady...

...or younger, slightly less tired girl

An up-to-no-good security guard...

...or a disgruntled graduate
So fun...

From there I walked to the top of the Royal Mile which dead ends at the Edinburgh Castle. 

the castle

rainbows are common here

In pure tourist fashion I took the guided tour. It was however in Scottish...which is technically English, but in reality it is a complete foreign language to me at most times.  Despite the language barrier, I was still able to learn a  few things...

I particulary like the scandelous Mary Queen of Scots story.  Mary was queen of Scotland from 1542 to 1567.

She was only 6 days old when her father, King James V, died. She was crowned queen nine months later...a baby Queen! how cute =) 

She married Francis Dauphin of France and became queen consort of France until she was widowed at age 18. Mary then returned to Scotland and married her first cousin, Henry Stuart. Their union was unhappy and in 1567, there was a huge explosion at their house, and Darnley was found dead, apparently strangled, in the garden.

She again married the 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was believed to be Darnley's murderer. Well the town didn't exactly approve of this, and following an uprising against the couple, the 25-year old Queen Mary was imprisoned and forced to pass the crown down to her then one-year-old son, King James VI. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, Mary fled to England seeking the protection of her first cousin once removed, Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Mary had previously claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own and was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics. Perceiving her as a threat, Queen Elizabeth had her arrested and kept her imprisoned for 18 years and 9 months.  After this time, Mary Queen of Scots was tried and beheaded for treason for her alleged involvement to assassinate Elizabeth.  Yikes.

Well it was a sad end for Mary, but it was her son James, King of Scotland, who also united England and Irelnad under one crown during his rule.

This is the room Mary's son, King James VI, was born in:

King James' first view...if a baby can see at all that is

Also on display in the castle is Mons Meg, a huge cannon that was made around 1449 as a gift to King James II. 

Mons Meg's view of the city

that old couple is about to get it.

It's named Mons because it was made in Mons, Belgium, and Meg after Margaret of Denmark, King James III's wife.

A Dane in Scotland!

My other favorite Scottish monarch story was that of King Malcolm III and his wife, Margaret.  When Margaret recieved news of her husband's death during a battle in 1093...she died four days later of a broken heart.  I thought that was sweet. She was canonised in 1250  in recognition of her personal holiness, fidelity to the Church, work for religious reform, and charity. There St. Margaret's Chapel, is named after her on the castle campus.

Right over the side rail of the chapel was my favorite part of the tour...the pet cemetary.  Where all the royal dogs and cats are buried:

The pets and puppies even had their own tombstones.

Also on the tour was the Great Hall used for meetings, dinners, and fancy events:

a revolving wheel
The Great Hall, swords lining the walls

Isn't that good Norwegian wood?  Why yes it is!  Imported from Scandinavia back in the 1500s

What is now a World War II Veteran's Memorial:

no pictures allowed of the inside

A Prisoner of War Exhibit:

Interestingly enough, they had in the exhibit an old wooden door from a British POW ship that was transporting captured American soldiers of the Revoluntionary War.  Carved into the door was this image of an early verison of the American flag:

God Bless the USA
 This carving is a depiction of Lord Nord being hung by a noose. 
Lord Nord was the prime minister of Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.  It was his crippling taxes that sparked the American colonies' Boston Tea Party.

Another fun aspect of the tour were the drawing and mannequins in the prison museum...
lawn bowling in prison?

This prison guard was just doing his duty!

This prisoner is being tickled, I mean checked by the guard

And this guy is drunk.  Looks pretty accurate to me.

This guy they must have robbed from the Davy Crockett exhibit

After the castle tour I wanted to visit the Surgeon's Hall MuseumThe museum is one of the largest and most historic collections of surgical pathology material in the United Kingdom. It has been built to further the educational opportunities for surgical students and it was also from its earliest times open to members of the public to improve general public understanding of medicine.  It also houses the skeleton of one, William Burke. 

 I knew the museum was closed on weekends, but one of the dcotors I met during my work visit had mentioned that he was a fellow at the museum and his office was nearby.  I thought maybe, just maybe if I walked past the building I might run into him and he might give me a private tour.  Or if someone was in the office I might try using a little charm and a little name dropping and see if I could have a look around...."Hi, I'm Julie.  I love science.  I'm a friend of the doctor's..... can I umm see your organs, bones, and corpses?"

I walked past the building and noticed the door was open.  I thought alright, this is my lucky day!  I walk up and there is a man at a desk.  I ask him if ti is ok to look around.  He says sure go ahead, the exhibition hall is on the 2nd floor.  I walk up the stairs where two middle eastern/Indian-looking women are standing dressed in colorful, jeweled robes and headresses.  I think, "This is weird,"  but whatever.  The girl hands me a piece of paper, thanks me so much for coming, and tells me to enjoy.  Something is not right.  I go through the double doors into a large room.  The perimeter of the room is set up with tables as in a trade show or festical where everyone has a station.  EVERYONE in the room is dressed in ethnic robes and headresses and looks Indian.  I look down at the paper the girl handed me and it reads big and bold across the top: "SULTANTE OF OMAN."  ....Boy am I in the wrong place.  I am the only caucasion in the room.  I am the only person wearing pants....I feel so incredibly awkward in my Kmart puff coat and purple nikes with the bright green shoelaces... I take one big loop around the perimeter, pretending I am genuinely interested and meant to be here...not wanting to seem awkward or lost.  For some reason, I don't think I was all that convincing... 

I head out the door, back downstairs to the man at the desk.  I ask him where is Surgeon's Hall?  He chuckles and says it is in this building, but the entrance is around the side.  And it's closed.  Fail.

So I stopped by the nearby police station where they have on display a business card holder made from the skin of William Burke:
Recyclying is encouraged in Scotland
Well I didn't want to end my day on a failure, so I decided to climb to the top of Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano...with all my shopping bags, yes... and starting at 4:30pm when the sun is just about starting to set, yes... and after I have been on my feet and walking around since 9:30am, yes.  I am not always the most rational planner.

The starting point

There lovers were hogging the highest point!

Tired, cold, hungry...desperate.

night falls

After a few toe stubs and ankle turns, the wind picked up and it became highly realistic that tripping and falling while being blown off this moutain is going to become my guarenteed cause of death.  Luckily, I gathered the strength in my ankles to control my loose feet for a few moments longer and made it down alive... 1.5 hours later not too bad, albeit cold, dark, exhausted, and ...Ah yes! que the rain...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ice Pops That Will Make Your Eyes Pop

My wonderful niece, the always entertaining Gwendolyn Kapusinksi, also known as the talented star of the Chef Gwen Cooking Show, is at it again. This time Gwen has entered herself into a contest for Uncle Ben's Rice recipes for the chance to make it to the big screen.

Check out her new video entry.

Don't forget to vote for her!

Wouldn't you like to be her guest?

She has also starred in other episodes including Valentine's day Perfect Perfect Pizza

Valentine's day deviled eggs

Gwen has been successful in the video making business for some time now, starring in motion pictures chronicling her early years:

Her first steps....

Her first visit to Aunt Bridgie's ...

Her first day at school...

Multiple Wizard of Oz impersonations.

A spectacular Word Girl enactment

And her first bmx bike video....

So what do you say? Does she get your vote?

She even memorized the presidents for you.

If you would like to see more of Gwen on a bigger screen, vote here and help her win A $50,000 cafeteria makeover at her school and a chance to guest star on the Rachel Ray show.

Vote for Gwen.

Pass it along. And vote everyday!

Search for:

Chef Gwen's Rice Pudding Ice Pops!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kilt or Skirt?

Question: what do Scottish men where under their kilts?

Answer: socks and shoes

Question: what's the difference between a skirt and a kilt?

Answer: you wear underpants under a skirt

Today Edinburgh hosted France in a six nations rugby match. The streets were filled with French people all weekend. And the Scots were all walking around singing in their kilts. The game started at 4pm and needless to say by the time darkness fell, everyone in the city was pissed...drunk that is. Walking down the street dodging piles of puke, I heard a drunk Scottish woman hollering at a drunk Scottish man.  She was accusing him of wearing underpants under is kilt. The drunk Scottish man grumbles that he ain't wearin' no underpants under his kilt, he ain't wearin' nothin.' She kindly says she does not believe him and to please show her proof (with a few slurs and expletives thrown in)....

The Scottish lad was indeed not wearing underpants under his kilt.

Photo courtesy of the interwebs.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Close in Auld Reekie

Auld Reekie is the ol' timey slang name for Edinburgh.  The city was old... and it reeked.  As I previoulsy mentioned, before toilets were invented the residents of Edinburgh used to throw their fecal waste in the streets.  The butcher used to throw the left over cow guts in the street.  The leather maker used to throw his leftover skin soaking solution (aka horse urine) into the streets.... Luckily it rains often and it never gets too hot around here.

Today was my first full day on my own in the city. I woke up at the crack of 10:30am.  In my haste to see as much of the city as I can in one day, I decided to skip the shower (waking up earlier would be out of the question).

I grabbed a chicken bake and a cappucino at the bakery on my way to the Old Town.  I started walking around 11:30 and didn't stop but for maybe 40 minutes until 7:30pm.

My first stop:  The Real Mary King's Close

Closes are old narrow walkways in between the densely crowded buildings in Old Town Edinburgh.  The closes ran prependicular to the Royal Mile which is the main street that headed out from the castle.  The closes provided a nice little slope down to the loch (a slope to drain their toilet buckets that is).  They were labeled after the important people or businesses that were located on them.  Not too much is know about Mary King, but it is known that she paid very high taxes, inferring that she made a lot of money and was worth a lot of money.  She was a merchant. Her husband had died.  She took over his business. This somehow gave her the right to vote back in the 1600s.  She was a big deal.  And she lived on this close around 1629 and hense the close was named after her.

Mary King's Close is now completely underground. In the 1800s (that's a guess) it was partially demolished and buried under the Royal Exchange which is now the House of Chambers.   It has recently opened up to the public as a tourist attraction. The complex has became shrouded in myths and urban legends; tales of ghosts and murders, and stories of plague victims being walled up and left to die.  It has been a popular target for ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts. 

Life wasn't easy on the close back in the day.  One story tells the tale of a mother/daughter duo.  The mother wanted to see her daughter married to a nice, successful man.  She conned a rich man into marrying her daughter by promising him a nice expenisve salary.  The two are wed.  But momma doesn't pay up.  The disgruntled husband obtains a court order that momma must pay him.  He shows up at the house with his orders in hand and she madly clubs him over the head with a fireplace poker.  Kills him.  The daughter walks in and screams in horror.  The poilce sirens (aka babies crying) go off.  Neighbors start turning on their lights.  The police show up.  The two laides are arrested for murder. 

Now in those days punishment was harsh,  They didn't use imprisonment as punishment.  Torture and death were punishment.  Imprisonment was intended to hold on to you until you could be properly tortured and killed.  If you were a nobleman, you would be beheaded.  If you were a commoner, you would be hanged.  But if you were a woman, your hands would be nailed to your knees, you would be dragged down to the bottom of the close, you would be deposited into the festering loch, and left to slowly drown.  That was the fate of the murdering mother-in-law.  The wife, on the other hand would have been equally as guilty, however, Scottish law at time stated that an unborn child shall not be killed under any circustances.  And luckily for the lady, she was obviously pregnant.  Her life was spared.  She escaped from Edinburgh, moved to London, had her baby, and lived happily ever after...Let's face it that's probably not how her story ends, but no one knows what happened to her.

Times were even tougher in the closes once the plague hit.  The last time the plague hit Edinburgh was 1645.  Ships coming into port to drop off goods also dropped off some very unwanted invaders...rats!  Some of these rats carried around tiny little fleas and some of these fleas carried inside of them the microorganism, Y. pestis, a deadly bacterium that was the culprit behind the black plague.

With cramped quarters and dispicable sanitation standards the rats ran a muck.  And if the rats were happy, eating, and mating then the fleas were happy, and eating, and mating; and the plague was happy and spreading and killing.  There were pretty serious outbreaks of serious illness and mortality amongst the tenants of these unclean streets and closes.

If you had the pneumonic plague you would first notice signs of fever, headache, weakness.  Then followed by the rapid onset of pneumonia, with shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, the victim would vomit profusely sometimes watery or bloody sputum.  Their hands, feet, and tongue would turn black. The person would puke so much their organs would rot.  Not able to obtain any nutrients, they would die.  If you had the bubonic plague you would have all of the above plus large pus-filled boils that would cover your body.
Now the medicine at the time was nont very advanced, but it was pretty obvious that the disease was spreading from person to person.  The Bubonic plague occurs when an infected flea bites a person or the Y. Pestis enters into a new host from a break in the skin of the infected victim.  With the infected victim covered in open, pussy sores,  this presented a very opportunistic situation for the bacteria.  Pneumonic plague is spread in airbourne particles from person to person.  With the infected victim coughing and puking their brains out, this also presents a very opportunistic and uncontrollable situation....
Once symptoms of the plague became apparent, there was little hope for the sick person.  The sick people wouild be quarantined for 2-6 weeks until their symptoms inmproved or until they died, whichever came first.  Most of them died.  In Mary King's Close it has been rumored that in a desperate measure to reduce contamination over 300 plague victims were entombed alive.  Portions of the close were bricked up until the plague had passed.

John Paulitious was the doctor of Edinburgh at the time who attempted to care for the plague victims.  It is no surprise that he also died of the plague in June 1645, less than 6 month on the job. He didn't really stand much of a chance. In a panic, the town council promised a large to the second plague doctor in Edinburgh, George Rae.

Dr. Rae was a much more successful plague doctor.  He dressed in a truly frightening ‘costume’ designed to protect him from the plague as they perceived it at that time... as bad air and an infestation of the devil. He wore a large beaked mask along with a leather cloak, goggles, and big clunky boots. The mask was filled with sweet smelling herbs to keep out the "evil air." Iit actually did serve as a modern day type gas mask, preventing him from contracting the pneumonic version.  His intention with the black leather cloak, goggles, and boots ...was again to keep the bad air from reaching his skin and again to scare away the evil spirits.  The get up also provided an unintended alternative protection for the doctor...protecting him from the biting fleas and rats:

During his care the residents also developed more preventative measures to keep the plague from spreading.  Once a person began showing symptoms, a white sheet was hung outside the window to let other know to stay away. Once the ill were put in quarantine the clean-up crew would come in and burn everything in the house to destroy the bad air.  The smoke from the fire also drove away the rats, and with it, the plague.

Dr. Rae survived the plague epidemic and was able to help so many sufferers. He also started using a hot iron poker to burst open and sterilise the wounds of bubonic victims.  This gave them a 50/50 chance of survival.  And hey, that's plenty better then guarenteed death.  There were not however, any anaesthetics available in Edinburgh at that time.. ouch...

The Edinburgh town council never intended to pay the large salary which was promised to Rae, as the plague doctor wasn’t expected to survive. It is not known if they ever paid up, but it was reported that George Rae rigorously pursued the town council for the money for years....

I don't know about you, but if this guy was knocking at my door demanding money, I would give it to him!

The celebrity of the close's supernatural residents is Annie, a ghost child who (so the story goes) scared the daylights out of a Japanese psychic in 1992. This lady had been unimpressed by the tour until she arrived at one of the many small rooms. There she was suddenly struck by an overwhelming feeling of sickness, hunger and cold and, when she tried to leave claims she felt the ghastly tug of a ghostly hand on her leg.

Poor Annie's life has been fleshed out and it is believed that she had been left to die by her family after becoming infected with the plague. Since then, people from round the world have come to "Annie’s room" leaving gifts for her which have become a nice little shrine to the little girl ghost.

Other reports of ghostly activity come from staff members:

At around midnight on Saturday 10th May, the general manager at “The Real Mary King’s Close”, Stephen Spencer activated the infra-red camera to check that the computer system had been switched off for the night. The camera is static and was installed just a couple of months ago to take photographs of tourists, as a keepsake for them to take home with them. Stephen certainly got more than he bargained for; not only was the system still on, but a large ghostly image was captured apparently standing in front of the archway.  You can see the picture here.

No pictures were allowed during the tour unfortunately because of laws regarding pictures on government property (the close is belowe the current House of Chambers).  I did get my picture taken during the commercial aspect of the tour.  My photo did have a few orbs in it, but everyone else's did as well in practically the same spot.... I have not been converted into a true believer.  But I highly recomment the tour.


Friday, February 24, 2012

What do you call an indirect reference to an eye doctor?....An optical allusion!

Why did the blind man get promoted? 

..because he no longer required supervision...

(Julie original)

Today in Scotland I came to the realization that a joke is to words what an optical illusion is to art. 

Hmm is "art" the best word? Images?  Matter? Why am I even trying this.  I hate analagies. I could always find an association between everything... I failed that section of the SATs over and over and over again.

A joke is to audio what optical illusions are to visuals.

Is that any better?  Am I starting to make sense?

It makes so much sense to me... but then again I am alone in a 200 year old hotel room, thousands of miles away from anyone who would put me in my place and I'm a few glasses deep. 

In all honesty though why do I love jokes? 

Becasue they're funny, duh. 

Ok, that wasn't funny..

Jokes make you think twice about the same word... :
  • supervision....super vision?  
  • Hoof- hearted..... Who farted?
  • Why'd the chicken kill himself... to get to the other side... of life ...not the road
  • I eat mop who?....ew
  • armies and sleevies
  • interrupting cow....moo
  • red paint blue paint
Well I guess not all jokes are based on a double meaning word play....  I am disproving my own theory. Right when I thought I was having a break through...

I've broken through all right...

.......................losing it..........................

............lost it............


*Re-Fill Intermission*


Feeling refreshed!  Now, what was I saying?  Something about how much I love a good joke? (Who doesn't?) Trying to segway into my new found love for optical illusions? (is segway even a verb?).... Failing? ... Yep, that's where I left off.  Well, let's just uncover what sparked that embarassing downward spiral into confusion... 

Start simple: 
  • Today after work I went to Camera Obscura in Edinburgh
  • Work ran late so we had to scramble through some back alley ways to get there on time
  • Just kidding this is the driveway behind the hotel:

  • We arrived late to the museum and missed the 20 minute guided tutorial so I'm not even too sure what a camera obscura is but it has something to door with mirrors, images, and optical illusions.
  • At the top of the museum are some pretty great views of Edinburgh:

  •  Inside were some pretty entertaining optical illusions
Ok, so we have all seen a fun house mirror before...big whoop

shake my hand... my own hand

  • But doesn't this look fun!?
that was a rhetorical question

  • Here are some lights
The lights seem to go far back but they are only a few inches deep ..ok photos aren't that exciting ...tough crowd tonight

  • Then we got to play around in a mirror maze
running into mirrors hurts

I quickly learned to locate mirror vs. non-mirror by picking out the oily smudges from previous clutzes

  • Guess what's for dinner?
Bore's head
Hey, who are you calling a bore!?

I finally remembered how I originally got the idea for this blog! It's where I get all my greatest ideas....from where I get all my Linsanity updates, my  engagement updates, my baby picture fixes, my NJ weather forecasts.... you guessed it....


Today on facebook my cousin posted this:

And this made me associate jokes with optical illusions....because most jokes start with an accidental slip up.

Nope, still can't do it... something is still missing in the association..  I just don't think I can pull it off.  Not tonight... Not like this... This blog should be scrapped..




I now present you with my favorite part of the Camera Obscura museum... the artwork:

Pretty cool huh?  I don't really get it but I think it looks cool.

Which running monster man is bigger?
They are both the same size... Were you fooled?  I was.... I always am.

What do you think is on a man's mind?

a balding streak on the side of his head?  or something more feminine?

Alright museum there are children here!
kids like dolphins

Which way does the water fall?
M.C.E.....may cause epilepsy

An old hag on the street?
or your future wife?

The Mona Lisa
Queen of Cat and Bunnies

The Face of Vanity?

A gossiping group of girls?!

Nice donkey
what's the tail supposed to be....

Bald boobies

High flying!
bed jumping

And my particular favorite....

The End.