Blogging Again…

I’ve been a bad blogger lately.  I got distracted. First, I got the new Mac operating system OSX (which is awesome by the way).  Then I got Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii (equally awesome though even more addicting-just the thought of it makes me want to skip work today hehe). I started a webpage on deviantart.com which is kind of like a myspace for artists where you can upload your work (check it out at http://www.deviantart.com/free2rocknroll) I’ve been doing a lot more arty stuff in preparation of going back to college to get a degree in graphic design.  I also took a trip to Denmark and Sweden.  I’m hoping to put some of my pictures up soon so stay tuned.  See you around!

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Map Out The Places You’ve Been

Vodpod videos no longer available.I found this cool website that allows you to map out all of the places that you’ve traveled to. Check it out at Travbuddy.com. I was a little disappointed to find out that even with all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve only seen 5 percent of the countries in the world. This year I’ll be knocking out some big ones though, with possible trips to India, China, and maybe Sweden (Yeah I know that sounds random…I’ll explain it to you later) Needless to say I’m really excited. Especially about India. The culture and architecture there is really amazing. What’s the coolest place you’ve ever been?

A Long Week…

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Wow these last two days have really sucked. They needed help at the airport because of the crazy winter weather we’ve been having lately, so I volunteered to stay yesterday after my shift was over to help. I ended up working 13 hours straight. The roads were a mess last night after the constant pounding of ice and snow we received, so they put us up at a hotel close by the airport (which to our surprise ended up being really nice). The receptionist there was really sweet too. She was from Belaruse and had a cool Russian accent. She let us raid the kitchen at ten o clock at night, since the pizza delivery guy from Dominos had previously announced to her that he wasn’t getting paid enough to drive on the icy roads and was going home.

Today I pulled another double shift, finally leaving after 12 hours. I feel like I live at the airport. I’m back again tomorrow morning too! Luckily its only a six hour day. I should be back to blogging tomorrow. All kinds of stuff has come out about Senator McCain that I want to comment about plus I’ve got a good idea for some new cartoons. Hope you’ll check out the page again this weekend! Have a good one!

Kiyomizu-dera – Dec. 31 07

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The next day, instead of getting lost again, we decided to just take a taxi to wherever we wanted to go. Our first stop: Kiyomizu-dera temple. It’s one of the biggest and most famous temples in Kyoto. And probably one of the most beautiful places we visited in Japan. You can see the main gate in this picture.

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The temple dates back to 778, but the present buildings were constructed in 1633. The temple takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu (清水) means pure water, or clear water.

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Revelations from the Dead

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The room was dark, illuminated only by the hall lights shining through the small door windows at each end of the room. The sweet sickly smell of formaldehyde filled the air, making me feel even more uncomfortable than I was already. Long rows of silver tables lined the sides of the room. On top of the tables lay human bodies… dead bodies, covered for the moment with blankets, their creepy silhouettes sending long shadows up the sides of the whitewashed walls. I shuddered as I walked forward, following Mai through the gross lab. “OK, I can do this”, I thought. “If she can do it, I can”. This room was the place where medical students learned the ins and outs of the human body; dissecting people donated to the university for just that purpose. She had wanted to show me this place for weeks, and last Wednesday I had reluctantly agreed.

We walked between the lines of bodies over to one near the center of the room. “Let me find the lights”, she said, momentarily leaving me alone, as she walked into the darkness. I scanned the room again. There were probably twenty or so tables stretching out on either side of me. I was surrounded by the dead. Thoughts of movies I had seen about zombies, their reanimated bodies throwing off their sheets, stiff arms held in front of them, moaning for the blood of the living, filled my head. “OK don’t freak yourself out”, I said to myself. “Calm down. It’s just dead people. ”

The lights shuddered on, their florescent bulbs slowly warming up until the room was bathed in light. “This place is kind of freaky”, I said to her. “Yeah, you get used to it” she replied moving toward the body assigned to her for dissection. She stood in front of the body and slowly pulled down the sheet, leaving his head still covered, but revealing the body of a man, his skin pale from the embalming process, chest cut down the center. At his feet were most of his internal organs, just sitting on the table, like they had accidently fallen out and were waiting to be gathered up by their owner. She washed her hands and put on some white sterile gloves. “This is his heart”, she said picking up one of the organs at his feet. It was a little bigger than I had imagined, a pale pinkish brown and roughly the size of a human fist. “Isn’t it cool?”

I was shocked. The fear of the dark, unknown, funny smelling room was gone. Now I was just incredibly curious. It was amazing. Someone’s heart that had beat in this man’s chest his whole life was being held in her small hands. “Wow… thats awesome. So…How does it work?” I asked. She pulled aside the flaps of skin that were covering his chest, pointing out the man’s funny naked lady tattoo on his upper chest in the process. His rib cage, which usually protected his most important organs, was gone. His lungs had also been removed, but you could still see most of his main arteries in his hollowed out chest cavity. You could also see his airway, which led down from his mouth and nose to where his lungs used to be. It wasn’t as gross looking as I thought it would be. Probably because he had been drained of all his blood. His insides were mostly just brown and dry looking, not the wet, animated thing you would find in the living.

She lowered the heart down into his chest. “This is where your heart is”, she said. When you breathe oxygen flows down this tube here into your lungs. When your heart beats blood flows into the arteries in your lungs where it picks up oxygen, it then flows back into your heart where the oxygenated blood is pumped throughout your whole body. Then it comes back around and the whole process starts over…It’s a little more complicated than that, but thats the basics.

“Thats awesome”, I said again in awe. She pulled out a couple more body parts and told me what they were and how they worked too: the lungs, the liver (his wasn’t looking so great…too much drinking probably) the spleen and appendix. To her amazement I was into it. I kept pointing and asking “What does that do?” She was happy to tell me.

I couldn’t believe how amazing the inside of a human body was. It made me want to get in better shape, to eat better, and exercise, to preserve the wonderful machinery inside of me. I could see why religious believers had described the body as god’s temple and invented a soul to explain its animation. In a way it made me long for my religious days, so I could easily explain away the bodies incredible complexity, it’s amazing inner workings that we’re mostly unconscious of during the day. Evolution seems all the more wonderful when looking inside of a person. How did our circulatory system develop? How about our complex brains? What an amazing piece of work the human body is. And how precious are our short lives. I’ve been all over the world, but that day in the gross lab I saw the most unbelievable thing I have seen in my whole life. I saw how complex, how stunning my own body, my own existence is, and I vowed to live my life to the fullest.

Lost & Found in Kyoto – Dec. 30 ’07

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We started wondering around Kyoto after dropping off our stuff and ended up getting on the wrong bus line. Whoops. Needless to say for the hundredth time we ended up lost. I took a picture of this map (one of the few that had English on it in Kyoto) so we wouldn’t get even more lost. It didn’t work out too well. But this does give you a cool look at Kyoto.

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See the “You are here” mark on the map? This is it! It’s the Kamo River which runs straight through Kyoto. The riverbanks are popular walks for residents and tourists. In summer, restaurants open balconies looking out to the river. Though the water level is usually relatively low (like the picture here), during the rainy season, these pathways sometimes flood in their lower stretches. We decided to follow the river to get unlost.
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These trees were growing along the river…why are they wearing skirts?
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Finally a major landmark! We found the Kyoto Gosho, the Kyoto Imperial Palace where the Emperor once lived. However the Emperor has been staying in Tokyo since 1869 during the Meiji Restoration. This is just one of the entrances to the huge Palace. The inside is only open to the public twice a year: on the holiday that celebrates the Emperor’s birthday (December 23) and on January 2nd for the New Years Holiday.

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You can see here how huge the grounds of the Imperial Palace are. You can barely see the end of it in this picture. Some of the trees are ancient too and the old limbs are being held up by wooden poles cemented into the ground.
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We oriented ourselves from the Imperial Palace and found Nijō Castle! It was a sweet place from the outside! But sadly we couldn’t go in because they were gearing up for New Years Celebrations.
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The front of the castle. We assumed the sign said ‘Closed for New Years’ (because many other places were) but we weren’t sure.

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This is a cool picture. It looks kind of creepy! It had gotten dark while we were exploring the castle grounds. The surface area of the castle is 275,000 square meters, of which 8000 square meters is occupied by buildings! It’s crazy big!

Check out some more new pictures I put on my previous Kyoto post!

Arriving in Kyoto – Dec. 30 ’07

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This is what we rode to Kyoto. It’s the Shinkansen aka the Bullet Train aka the fastest train in the world! It can travel around 275 mph (though it was probably doing less). Even with that it took around 3 hours to get to Kyoto from Tokyo!s5000635.jpg
This is Kyoto Tower its one of the first landmarks you see when you exit the train station. Its a 131 meter observation tower that overlooks all of Kyoto. Sadly we didn’t get to go to the top because we were only spending one day in Kyoto and had other things to see.
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Not sure the name of this one, but we passed this shrine on the way to our hostel. s5000648.jpg
There are literally hundreds of shrines of various sizes in Kyoto so seeing them all is an impossibility. This one is connected to a person’s house.
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Another temple with the traditional style Japanese paper lanterns.
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This is where we stayed in Kyoto. It was a cute little hostel called Costa Del Sol (not really the name of a place you’d imagine finding in Japan haha) This is a traditional style Japanese room called a washitsu. It had the old style tatami mats and sliding doors. Very fun! And yes this was our whole room. It was very comfy though!
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The view from our room! Pretty cool huh? You can see the Japanese style tiled roofs of the neighboring buildings and Kyoto Tower in the background.