30/12/2016

Trump and the LGBT community

by Sanne on

Not my president, Trump and the LGBT community
As a lesbian woman I am very concerned about things I currently see happening in the United States and then specially the things around the LGBT community. I may not understand everything completely and I do not understand the political system of the United Stated as whole, but all the news I read and hear is not good at all.

It was said to me that Trump, now that he is elected as president, he has to repay for all the votes from all those “true” Christians that gave him their votes and act on their wishes. Things like ruling out same sex-marriages and make it possible to deny services to people of the LGBT community (for those who do not know, LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual & Transgender… although I assume every one knows)

Once Trump claimed that people never should be discriminated on sexual orientation, it seems he has forgotten this claim completely.
Remember the matter of Kim Davis who refused on religious grounds to marry persons of the same gender? Trump gives support to the First Amendment Defence Act (FADA for short) and that will make discrimination like that of Kim Davis legal. And Trump said that he will not support the Marriage Equality Act.

FADA would prohibit the federal government from taking “discriminatory action” against any business or person that discriminates against LGBT people. The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBT people based on two sets of beliefs: “1. Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, and 2. sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
But reading above statement more carefully it also shows that this law can be used against unwed parents and single mothers.

There are also big worries among same-sex couples concerning the adoption of children. Conservative Christians claim that a child should be raised by a man and a woman, not by two parents of the same sex. his all may lead to that same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt children and that is of course something really bad.

It is said to teach creationism in school again and allow prayers into the class again. This is also bad for the majority of the LGBT community (and not alone for them). I am really convinced that a school should not be driven by religion.

It seems that the Trump administration is going to be very white and very male. This will be a big step back from the administration of Obama.
Trump’s administration hold people that want to keep Guantanamo Bay open, anti-abortion regulations, expanding coal-burning power plants, doubt climate change, opposes the raise of the minimum wage and much of this kind of things. Really scary.

Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of open and free minded people from the US, but it scares me to see that what is going on there.

Over here in The Netherlands also not everything as it should be. For me personally that worst thing that happened during the last years (since I changed jobs) was some name calling. Not nice, but I can live with that.
Sadly I have to say that right now I am very happy I am not living in the United States of America!

Sanne
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A look at Second Life

by Marissa on

Second Life is an online virtual world where people can meet each other and create their own content. It has already been around since 2003. I never had a look at it. This most likely because of the comments that I heard from Rob about it.
On one side he was amazed about the possibilities to create content in Second Life and the creativity of people connected to that. Basically you can create almost anything… clothes, houses, furniture, boats, trees. It seems that imagination is the limit here. And by scripts that you can add to the items that are created you can make them usable. For instance, by scripts you can sit on a chair in all kinds of poses, you can swim in water, you can work at a forge and so on and so on.
On the more negative side Rob told that the Second Life environment was completely ruined by jerks and misbehaving people who ruined the fun of others. This was among other reasons that many people turned away from Second Life and Rob with them. He said that it must be at least 9 years ago that he was for the last time there.

But some very beautiful pictures I have seen made me curious, so I decided to have a look at it. If not good, all I would have to do is delete the viewer from my computer (the “viewer” is the client application that you need to access the online world of Second Life).

So please meet the character that I created in Second Life:
Second Life character

The possibilities to create a character are endless. I had great fun with creating her and I think I managed a bit to make her look like myself. And I am pretty sure if I would really put more effort into it I would even get closer to it.

Apart from the character, the choices of clothes is really completely endless. And that is pretty awesome for someone who likes clothes as much as I do (Marion had a great influence in that *SMILE* ).

Let me show some examples of clothes my character can wear.
Second Life Clothes set 1
Second Life clothes set 2
Second Life Clothes set 3
Clothes are available in almost every possible style one can think of… the latest fashion, jeans & demin, beach & sports wear, classy and formal, seductive and sexy. All these clothes are made by the Second Life citizen themselves. Just as in normal live (or “first life” or “real life” as they call it in Second Life) the quality differs from lousy to good and extreme beautiful.

Some of these clothes are for free, but most you have to buy. Oh, wait a minute! Buying? For that you need money!
Correct. And here we come to what makes Second life roll (and bring profit to the company behind Second Life). Second Life has it own currency, the so called Linden $. With this currency you can buy things the people sell in their shops (which can be clothes or furniture and anything else up to complete houses and castles).
You can earn these Linden $ by doing jobs in Second Life, as an help desk manager in a shop for instance. But there is a more simple and faster way: Buy it directly from Linden Labs (the company behind Second Life) with a credit card or through Pay Pal (and there more payment sources). This is one way Linden Labs makes profit from Second Life.
Another way is renting land to Second Life citizens where they can places houses or anything they would like to do there. For this you need a paid account for Second Life. You pay a small amount of (real life) money for that every month and that gives you certain privileges over none paying citizens as direct support and the privilege to rent land.
Second Life landscape 1

One of the nicest things of Second Life is that you can meet people literally from all over the world. In the short time that I am there, I spoke with people from all kind of origins. Alaska, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Bulgaria, Italy to name a few.
Most of them a very friendly and decent folks. A joy to talk with. I have a learned a lot about other countries and their cultures.
Sure, there are jerks like everywhere else. I just ignore them. They keep bothering me, I block and mute them. And for the few with discriminating or racist slurs, there is the option to report them with Linden Labs, who will look into it and ban them from Second Life if the claim was correct.
But as said, most people are very friendly. I had some real great chat about all kind of subjects like religion, politics, culture, art, music and many more things. That is the nicest thing of having some many people around you. There is so much knowledge and experience.
Second Life landscape 2

There are many things to see in Second Life. There are places where people reconstructed places and buildings from the “real world”. The monastery of St. Micheal is an example of this.
Some people made very realistic looking area’s after their own fantasy, such as “West of the Rain” and “Netherwood”.
And so there are area’s for role players were you can be an elf, drow, dwarf or gnome. “Avilon” comes to mind. And oh, there are area’s with zombies and vampires!
And so there many more things for people to enjoy. Large parks, harbours, airports, jungles, forests, castles, rail road stations and much more.

It amazes me to see the creativity of people with what they build things in Second Life. They put a lot of time and effort in it. And yes, the pictures of landscapes I am placing with this article are places made by citizens of Second Life. Apart from resizing there was no processing the pictures with Photoshop or anything like. This is how it is out there. It is really amazing!

And yes, I do know that there are also many awful and ugly places there. But you learn to pass them and ignore. Just fly over them… Yes, you can fly in Second Life :-). Beside that there is a very nice way of travelling in Second Life. When you found an interesting place, you can create a landmark in your inventory. Just clicking it and you travel back to the location of the landmark. And it is very nice that you can share these landmarks with others.
Second Life landscape 3

I also do know that there is more erotic side to Second Life, as there is a more darker side to Second Life. But I choose not to get involved in that. And that is simple, every area in Second Life has a qualification (G = General, M = Mature, A = Adult). You can simple define that you don’t want to able to enter area’s with a certain qualification. So uncheck adult in the preferences of the viewer and you won’t be able to enter an adult area. To that: If it is not clear to Linden Labs that you are an adult (18+), you won’t be able to enter an adult are at all.
For the rest, see something you don’t like: leave! Simple as that.

Second Life landscape 4

For me Second Life will be for that time that I will visit it a place to meet nice people and explore amazing area’s :-).

Marissa

 

 

(Credit screen shots: Marissa)


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Ancient Greece and America

by Mel on

As we all know it is often said that Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer, discovered America, which is a bit weird to claim as there were already living humans, so it was already discovered. Anyway this must have happened somewhere around 1490.
It is also said that Leif Erikson, a explorer from Iceland, travelled to America in the 11th century.
This is all very interesting. But what would you say if I tell you that the Ancient Greek already knew about America?

I cannot proof anything, but there are some very interesting references in some ancient writings. I admit right away that there are many who claim that this is not correct (and I leave out those who cannot stand the idea that it was not Italy/Spain or Iceland/Norway who made it first to America).

Lets have a look at what we know.

Plutarch, a Greek biographer and essayist, who lived 46 AD to 120 AD, describes in his book Moraliaa a great continent located 5,000 stadia (about 800 kilometres) away from an island called Ogygia, which is 5 days travel westward from Britain.

Ogygia

Some claimed that Ogygia was Atlantis, but lets not go that way. The Maltese have long claimed that Ogygia is actually Gozo, the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago. Some say Ogygia was in the Ionian Sea. People as Strabo of Alexandria said that Ogygia was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. And then Roderic O’Flaherty, an Irish historian, claimed that Ogygia was Ireland.

Euripides makes a reference in his tragedy Hippolytus of a land on the far edges of the Atlantic ocean.
Hippolytus: “Alas! What do you mean to do? Will you not even wait for the passage of Time for my case, but banish me immediately from the land?”
Theseus: “Yes, beyond the Black Sea and the edges of the Atlantic, if I could, such is my hatred of you.”

Travel to America

Dr. Minas Tsikritsis, a Greek-Canadian scientist who studied Aegean Scripts, says that it is possible that the Ancient Greek visited America. He points out that there are too many references in the ancient texts are correct. The mentioned distances to travel are correct, as is the route that is described.

And there more references as the ones that are mentioned.

If the Ancient Greek really visited America I can not proof. That they were aware of the “Great continent” to the west is quite sure in my opinion.
Anyway, seeing what my ancestors all have done, I would not be surprised at all!

Mel
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Paprika powder from Hungary

by Rob on

Paprika powder
Everybody likes it to get presents (at least I think so). And so today I was happy when I got those two nice little bags with paprika powder as present.

Let start with some nice to know information of the paprika:
Paprika powder is made of the fruit of the “Capsicum annuum”-plant. In some countries paprika is called bell pepper and that causes a lot of confusion. Paprika is native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Paprika seeds were imported to Spain in 1493, and from there spread to other European, African, and Asian countries.
The most common colour of paprika is green, yellow, orange or red. More rarely, brown, white, lavender, and dark purple paprikas can be seen.

And the paprika powder that was given to me is real good stuff. Not the supermarket quality, but real good paprika powder. Just like “my Greek oregano”, only the flavour tells you enough. And not only the flavour is good, but the taste is even more wonderful. I will safe this for when I am preparing some special recipes.

These gift bags were brought along from Hungary. The name paprika comes from the Hungarian language. The paprika plays an important role in Hungarian cuisine. It was introduced relatively late in to Hungary (most likely in the 18th century) and only since the beginning of the 20th century really popular.

The powder in the white bag is Édes paprika powder, which is sweet of taste. The red bag contains Enyhén Cispos paprika powder and this one is more spicy of taste.

Using these powders in the kitchen will be great fun!

Rob

 

 

(Credit photo: Rob)


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Game of Drones
And then there is a new comic book of Suske and Wiske” (or Spike and Suzy as they are called in English) again. This comic book has the catching name “Game of Drones” and I think that everyone will see where this title is taken from (“Game of Thrones”, for those that didn’t know). This is book 337 already again and it was released on 6 December 2016.

For those that didn’t know, I am collecting the comic books of Suske and Wiske. And I think that I can say that I have a nice collection of them. Around 250 books. So quite some, but not all of them, so still looking for those that I am missing. Although I don’t have the illusion to get them all. Some of the older ones are really collection items and because of that expensive.

The storyline of this album:
When Barabas lets his lab being remodelled by a contractor, he does not realize that this contractor is controlled by Krimson. This contractor places cameras and microphones everywhere and follows the comings and goings of the professor closely.
Barabas is working on a brand new invention. He has developed some kind of remote control that works on brain waves. It allows you to control all kind of devices remotely. That is why he builds drone versions of all its famous devices like the Gyronef, the Terranef and Vitamitje. The old Vitamitje doesn’t agree with this and chooses freedom.
But the brain waves device has apparently an affect on the person who wears it. And it is this that Krimson wants to make use of. He uses the brain waves on Jerom which promptly takes the side of evil …

If you wonder where I am tonight? I am on the couch with a bottle of beer and my new Suske and Wiske book.

Rob
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I am ready for skating!

by Marissa on

Skates / Skating
It seems that this is the coldest November that we have since 20 years. And yes, this evening on my bicycle from my work to home I felt freezing cold.

At home I turned the heating a bit up and the warmth spread through my room I started the feel comfortable again.

Then I realized that when the weather would stay like this, soon the ice would become thick and strong enough for some real serious skating. So I after dinner I went up to the attic to get my ice skates. Last time I used them I stored them clean and in good condition away. So all I had to do was to remove the dust and polish the leather. The irons were still very nice sharp, so no worries about that.

When I placed the ice skates in the shed, ready to be picked up when I need them, my father smiled and gave me a big hug saying: “Clever thinking, deerneke. I will do the same tomorrow”.

Back in my room I also made sure that some very warm clothes are ready to grab for when the big moment is there!

I AM READY!!!!!

Marissa

 


(Credit picture: Public domain, see Free Cliparts & All Archive)


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Heretic Christmas

by Rob on

Although “tradition” seems to proclaim that you should not decorate your house for Christmas while “Sinterklaas” (which is celebrated in The Netherlands among other countries) is still in the country, we will start with the Christmas decoration this weekend.

I know that I have talked before about Christmas and its origin, but it is something that keeps my interest and every year I learn something new.

Kerst marktplaats/Christmas market

The origin of Christmas

That Christmas is not an Christian celebration by origin is generally accepted I think. The origin of Christmas goes way more back then Christianity.

Celebration the birth of Jesus on 25 December is based on pagan traditions or better said, by celebrating it on that day the Christian Church tried to get rid of these pagan traditions. According the bible Jesus was born in fall somewhere between 4 and 7 before AD…. that is, if Jesus has ever existed at all (but that is another discussion).

It all started with the midwinter celebrations. Ancient Germanic tribes celebrated on December 21 that the days became longer. Yule or winter solstice was celebrated throughout Northern Europe. Often with all sorts of cults and rituals. Of some celebrations is known that the oak tree was central.

In the Scandinavian languages Christmas is still called Jul.

Although the dating as December 25 predates pagan influence, the later development of Christmas as a festival includes elements of the Roman feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra.

Kerstversiering

Customs of Christmas

Christmas, and all the customs around it, is one big collection of influences of all different cultures.

The Christmas tree itself find it origin in pagan believes. Way before Christianity in Europe people already decorated there homes around Saturnalia (in December). They decorated living trees with small pieces of metal to honour their god Bacchus.
Decorating a home with evergreen boughs was strictly forbidden by the Christian Church in the 3rd century. And the decorated Christmas tree, as we know it now, is only since mid 19th century around.
There have been quite some disputes around the Christmas tree. In America William Bardford, a Calvinist, tried to “stamp out these pagan traditions of Christmas”.

The Christian custom of “kissing under mistletoe” is related to what used to be a sexual agreement of the Druidic sacrificial cult. Also nice to know is that the berries of the mistletoe are poisonous and were used during Druid rituals to poison their human sacrificial victim.

In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas

Christmas

And then Santa Claus

Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 and later became Bishop of Myra. He passed way on 6 December 345. It was not before the 19th century that he was named to be a saint.
He was one of the bishops who worked on the new testament in 325 (Council of Nicaea) and there they described the Jews as “the children of the devil” who sentenced Jesus to death.
The Nicholas cult spread North through Italy and people started to give each presents on 6 December, the day that Nicholas passed away (We here in The Netherlands, and other countries, we still celebrate “Sinterklaas” on that date).
In Northern Europe the celebrations around Nicolas were adopted by German and Geltic pagans. As they merged Nicolas into their own culture Nicolas lost his Mediterranean appearance. He got a beard, was dressed in cold protecting clothes and mounted a horse that could fly.
To please the pagan people in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church Nicholas cult adopted Christmas and taught that they should give gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.
Early 1800’s Washington Irving wrote a satiric novel about the Dutch culture called “Knickerbocker History”. In that novel a white bearded man riding a flying horse called “Santa Claus” (“Sinter Klaas”) was more then once mentioned.
Some years later Clement Moore wrote. after reading “Knickerbocker History”, a poem about Santa Claus. And with this poem the 8 reindeers and the delivering of the presents through the chimney were introduced.
From 1862 through 1886 Thomas Nast made many cartoon images of Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly. He almost completed the image of the modern Santa Claus. Nast placed the home of Santa Claus on the North Pole, give him his elven helpers and the book with good and bad deeds of all children of the world.
In 1932 Coca Cola hired Haddon Sundblom to make an advertisement with Santa. Here Santa got his cheerful and chubby face. Coca Cola insisted on a bright and red suit.
And there is was… Santa Claus, a mixture of a Christian crusader, a pagan god and an commercial idol.

Happy holidays everyone

Rob

 


Credit photo’s: Rob)


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Lesvos, the Green Island

by Mel on

Lesvos map small

(Click on the image to zoom in)

When Marion and Rob invited me to write here on their weblog I was honoured as it shows the friendship that we have built together. When they asked me if I would be willing to write here some articles about Lesvos, the island where I was born and were I still live, I was even more honoured. I am proud on the island that I can call my home. And with asking me to write about Lesvos they opened the Box of Pandora, as I can keep on telling about Lesvos. But I promise to hold back (at least I will try *grins*).

Lesvos, created by volcano’s

Lesvos Petrified forest
Lesvos is a volcanic island, but the volcano’s that created the island are already for thousands of years inactive. Al around the island you can find proof of its volcanic origin, like the warm springs of Eftalou, the volcanic rock structures you find all over the hill and mountain slopes, the also empty landscape of the western region caused by the volcanic ashes and of course the Petrified Forest there, which wouldn’t have existed without volcanic activity and ashes.
Even the rock where the Church of Panagia Glykofilousa (The well-known “Sweet Kissing Virgin” church of Petra) is built on is of volcanic origin, it is a so called “volcanic neck” (tubes connected to an underground magmatic chamber from where in the distant past magma moved up to the surface). So sorry, it is not a meteorite that fell down from the sky as some still want to claim. I will tell the legend of the Panagia Glykofilousa church in another article.
And so there are many more evidences around the island of its volcanic origin.

So how to name Lesvos

Lesvos Green Island
So lets have a look at the origin of the name Lesvos.
There have been many names from prehistoric times up to recent history like Lassia (“Densely forested”), Aiyeria (“Home of the sun tanned people”), Imerti (“Longed for”), Aithiope (“Sun drenched island”) and Makaria, after king Makaras (there will be an article on Makaras and his daughters).
It is said that Lesvos got its name from a brother-in-law of King Makaras, named Lesvos.
But it is also said that the island got its name from an ancient settlement at the headland on the bay of Kalloni which was named Lesvos (there were magnificent ruins found in that area).
Another explanation is that island was called “Lesvi”, which means the Green Island and over time this changed in to Lesvos.
Lesvos…. Lesbos…. and to make it even more confusion, the island is also called Mytilini after its capital city.

Mythology on Lesvos

Orpheus cave
You cannot talk about Greece without talking about the Greek Mythology and especially not when you are talking about Lesvos.
Lesvos is mentioned in the travels of Homer. Odysseus battled King Philomileidis (and won). Lesvos has been under attack of Achilles several times. Apollo had a sanctum on mount Lepetymnos (the people of Lesvos worshipped specially Apollo and Artemis). Matriketas had his observatory on the top of mount Lepetymnos. The tomb of Palamides, the inventor of letters and numbers, was on the slopes of the same mountain.
And the list of mythical events goes on and on. Such beautiful stories to tell.

Lesvos and the prehistory

The history of Lesvos goes way back into the prehistoric times. Many fossils of animals and plants were found. Spectacular was the discovery of the fossils of giant apes of the Paradolichopithecus family, the very oldest in Europe.
But also fossils of insects, crocodiles, horses, camels and other animals that nowadays cannot be found any more on the island.

Foreign powers

Byzantine flag
Throughout the history Lesvos had been threatened and occupied more then once by foreign powers.
There are some periods that needs to be mentioned. Of course the Roman period, The Byzantine Period, The Hegemony of the Gattelusi, The Turkish Period and the last occupation during World War II by Germany.
It is said that apostle Paul visited Lesvos. Same is said about Pompei. And of both I am not convinced that it is true.
So again enough to write about.

Monasteries, churches and chapels

Lesvos Limonos
Lesvos knows many monasteries, churches and chapels.
There are some well-known monasteries as the Monastery of Limonos (with the valley of chapels) or the Ypsilou Monastery (built on the crater of a dormant volcano).
Although I am not religious, I am very interested in these old monasteries and churches, they are very important to the history of Lesvos and without them the island would not have been the same.

Saphho

Lesvos Saphho rock
Of course there are the stories of the poet Saphho who caused the connections between Lesvos and lesbianism. Many stories and myths going around her. Very interesting historical stuff with an influence on nowadays life.
(On the photo the rock that might be the one where Saphho committed suicide, although other stories tell she died of age).

Historical sites

Lesvos Abandoned settlement
And then there are the historical sites around Lesvos, like the Ancient Watermills of Petra, the Temple of Aphrodite (Mesa), the Castle of Molivos, the Ancient Theatre in Mytilini (room for 15.000 spectators and yes, the theatre in Rome was inspired by this one), Pyrra (one of the 5 ancient cities of Lesvos…. and there is so much more.

Cities and towns

Lesvos Mythimna
Lets not forget the many beautiful cities and towns there are on the island: Think of Mythimna (Molivos), Stipsi, Sigri, Petri, Petra, Skala Eresou, Plomari, Kalloni and many more. Each of them unique and with their own stories. Some of these stories will end up here on the weblog.

There is really so much to write about when it comes down to Lesvos. Marion and Rob, you really opened the Box of Pandora!
Lesvos Pandora's Box

Mel

 

 


(Credit map Lesvos: Welcome to Lesvos Island

Credit photo Orpheus Cave: Public Domain (see http://www.pd4pic.com/hellbrunn/ )
Credit picture Pandorra’s box: Athens Times
Credit all other photo’s: Mel)


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