Saturday, December 29, 2007

Praha (ask for the horká medovina!)

Hi! It's December! I believe we last met in October, when I was telling you a story about Norway. I'm skipping several chapters (again) in order to update you on more recent happenings, specifically our pre-Christmas trip to Prague (the ancient city of). Prague is a dang old town - it started in the 11th century or so, and even the "New Town" goes back to the 1400s. As our guidebook said, when in Prague, never trust the word "new." Highlight: best hot mead ever!
The Praguers have a pretty high opinion of their city, too - they've been calling it Mater Urbium, the Mother of Cities for several centuries. The picture here is of the famous Astronomical clock from the 1400s, the Old Town Square, and the Týn cathedral.
The main reason I'm being so prompt about all this, however, is what we saw outside of Prague in the town of Kutná Hora. Absolutely the best part of our trip was seeing the ossuary there. This "bone church" is decorated with the bones of roughly 40,000 people, most of whom died in
a plague in the 14th century. The collection includes four free-standing bone pyramids, huge bone vases, a bone coat of arms (note the bone raven in the lower right-hand corner, pecking at the eye of a skull), and a bone chandelier containing every kind of bone in the human body.

There are a couple more pictures from Prague that I think are worth posting: One from the TV tower with giant babies, and the other from a cool baroque cemetery. As usual, more pictures are available from Heather's Photobucket page here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Ehli Family in Norway

Following a tearful parting with brother Jeff, gone to pursue his fortune in America, the Ehlis make their way north, accompanied by their trusty and strikingly handsome son-in-law, Joel. The voyage across the North Sea is long and perilous, but at last our craft makes landfall at the village of Sandefjord, where we manage to hire a worthy vehicle to convey us for the rest of our journey. Late in the night, the dauntless Ehlis are joyfully re-united with their intrepid and tireless Norwegian kinswoman, Sigrun, who is to accompany and direct us. Sigrun plies us with food and wine, and we rest for the night.

Arising with the dawn, our party ventures forth. The eerie light of the northern sun casts mysterious shadows, wherein may lurk any manner of trolls, nisse, tusse, huldre, or other wights of the Norse wilderness. After endless hours of driving through mountains, valleys, and woodlands, a ferry is found to take us across the fjord to Volda, near the ancestral home. There we meet more of Randi's gracious kin, who give us wonderful food, comfortable lodging, and pleasant conversation.

The next day begins with a visit to the churchyard where many of Randi's predecessors are buried. Paying our respects, we continue to the ancestral farmland itself, the fabled Velsvik. As we walk the familial grounds, we became aware of a bond reaching through the ages, linking us to this place. This bond is only strengthened by the seemingly endless supply of cakes, berries, and iced delicacies which we are subsequently served by our hospitable relations.

The following two days of our journey include a harrowing journey to Oslo over icy mountain passes, through the fjord of Geiranger, whose sheer slopes rise directly from the waterline to the knife-like peaks of ice, towering far above. It is here that the heroic Justin narrowly defeats a frost giant in single combat. Once safely in Oslo, after meeting more of the kinfolk and examining relics of the Viking age, we spend one last night with Sigrun and cast off once again for the shores of merry Scotland.

Further visual aids may be accessed here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The new digs

We moved to a new flat 3 weeks ago, but we haven't put up pictures of the new place yet. There are three reasons for this:

But, hey, it's warm, bright, and comfortable, and the view's not bad.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ehlis Invade Scotland!

Heather hijacks the Transport Museum
I'm way behind. Two months ago, my cousin Erik and our friends Robb and Andrew all came to visit at the same time! This post isn't about them: I'm going to go backwards. Last month, Heather's family (now my family) came to stay with us for a week, exploring pretty much the whole country. The kids all slept in the lounge-basically the coolest slumber party ever. Then we all (sans Jeff) got in our longboat and headed for Norway. Here are some pictures from the Scotland week. Oh and here's the link to where most of the pictures are, though you might have to sift through Norway.

Chillin' at Glasgow University

Ehli Kids @ Linlithgow

Ma and Pa Ehli guard Edinburgh
Heather decorates Linlithgow
Family picnic!
The gang in Luss
Gratuitous Glencoe Scenery

Sunday, June 17, 2007

You Don't Even Like Me: A poem by Joel

You don't even like me.
You wish that I had no legs.
You wish I had a wooden leg.
You wish I had an immaculately manicured handlebar mustache
And an allergy to aluminum foil.
You wish I spoke the language of the squirrels.
You wish I could teach you to navigate by the stars.
And you wish that I wore a red t-shirt everywhere.
You wish I smelled like bleach.
You wish I could water-ski barefoot.
And you wish I was a professional potato farmer.

Monday, May 28, 2007

James had a good title for this one.

I can't remember what it was, though. He and I and Pastor Matt went to some caves, deep inside Corsencon Hill (Robert Burns' substitute for Parnassus), near New Cumnock. These caves were previously used by the Craigdullyeart Limeworks, so there's a lot of good 19th-century retaining-wall type stuff inside. We also encountered wild, rabid, glowing ducks (not pictured). There are a couple more cave pics here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Bothwell. The audio experience.

As promised, here is audible evidence that we were, indeed, walking in the forests around Bothwell castle, in which the discerning listener may indeed hear the chirping of Scottish birds and the buzzing of Scottish bees.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Bothwell Castle

Near scenic, rural Uddingston, by the verdant banks of the upper Clyde, lies the impressive, hulking ruin of Bothwell Castle. This medieval/renaissance castle (it's a mix, you know!) is the best one Heather and I have visited so far, for two main reasons: 1. It's actually a castle- not a mall, a tourist trap, or a museum (though they have their place). 2. They let you climb it! Also amazing is the forested land surrounding the castle, which acts as a buffer against encroaching (modern) civilization. Remind me to post a sound clip of the birds chirping... Heather has posted an album of pictures from our recent visit. I especially enjoy the picture of the castle earthworm.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stirling Castle: No copper added

Aaron accompanied us to Stirling, where we saw Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument. If the name rings a bell, it's because I went there last year (although I suppose you could remember the name from UK history, as the site of several famous battles between England and Scotland, led by Mel Gibson). Last year, there was a picture of the Wallace Monument as seen from Stirling Castle.
Here I include the answering photograph: Stirling Castle as seen from the Wallace Monument. Heather has posted several more images, all of them quite charming. Aaron took the really good picture of the bridge.

Friday, April 13, 2007

We did it!

Aaron Pettis visited us this week, and we all had a good time together, walking aimlessly for miles and miles and finding parking lots to stand in. During our survey of the Finnieston area of Glasgow, we found something that is sad: an abandoned piano, completely dismantled, in an alley.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yeah! Balkan Ceilidh!

In Banchory, we saw Jani (Janos) Lang & the Balkan Ceilidh band! I'm all about multicultural fusion music, and this was its acme. The band features Jani on fiddle (Irish, Balkan, Gypsy, Scandinavian, and Scottish styles). I can't find a website for the Balkan Ceilidh, but I did find a sample of one of Jani's songs that they played at the concert: The Wind that Shakes the Paprika. Jani is a funny guy as well as a fiddle genius, and his song introductions and descriptions were the other best part of the show.

Here's the site of his other Hungarian Anglo-Irish band, Fianna (where I got the audio sample, and where more of the same await you), and here's a brief profile of Jani.

Bonus: Here's a whole Fianna song: Da snock oda smaalie. Not very Balkan, though.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Banchory Weekend

Heather has recently posted a Flickr set from our weekend up in Banchory (Aberdeenshire), where we stayed with our friend Michaela and her parents. Highlights of the weekend included: cow chasing, ruined castles, Balkan Ceilidh music, good fish, and warm butteries.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Newspaper headline nouns superfluity confusion!

Here is a headline from the BBC news today:

Balloon crash safety changes call

When I read a sentence, I usually look for the various parts of it that help me decipher its meaning. In English, we usually have at least one noun and one verb per sentence. In the sentence 'the cat fell,' for example, you have a clear ACTOR, the cat, and something that the cat did, which is fall.

It is an established tradition for newspaper headlines to include only the parts of a thought necessary to get the meaning across while still sounding URGENT. The BBC, whose ability to sound URGENT is always clearly evident, has nevertheless been doing a pretty terrible job lately at the whole 'making sense' bit. Why is this?

Newspaper headlines like

Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor

though not what you would call a complete sentence, make the actors and actions contained within the articles' text evident through inclusion of a standard complement of subjects, verbs, and objects, almost always in that order. This is how we communicate in English; we can figure out that the word 'bomb' should be taken as a verb because it occurs where we expect it to. The BBC's headlines, though, have been increasingly consisting of lists of nouns with no verbs at all.

Even in this dire situation, sense can usually be made of the headlines. A mild case, like

Obese mothers-to-be 'a burden'

includes helpful adjectives, articles, and punctuation (imagine the BBC copy editor's panic upon reading Obese mothers to be a burden!), and sticks mostly to nouns that are lexically unambiguous (can't be used as verbs). Slightly murkier, but still intelligible, is the recent headline

Hunt for clues to Indonesia crash

which contains two nouns that, without context, could function as verbs. Is the BBC commanding us to hunt? Does the hunt crash? What are the clues to Indonesia? But we are thinking, reasoning beings, after all, and surely some verbosity must be sacrificed for URGENCY and quickness of reporting.

Read today's example again, though.

Balloon crash safety changes call

There is only one noun in this whole headline that cannot be construed as a verb ('safety'). When you read a sentence expecting at least one verb, as most readers of English tend to do, such a buffet of potential action words can be staggering. Even more so when none of these 'verbs' makes the headline understandable. Not until the bewildered reader consults the text of the article (which is disappointingly dull compared to the Dadaistic headline) does it emerge that the BBC is hammering us over the head with one big, unwieldy compound noun with its head at the very end (call). What they are trying to tell us is that there has been a call for changes to crash safety guidelines in (hot air) ballooning. Sometimes reading the BBC feels like playing charades with Yoda...

Stay tuned for further special report: BBC noun club plot giant success. (Like the ambiguity in that one!?)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The movie that ate my computer.

If anyone wants to see the movie that I spent 60 solid hours making for my church, you can download it here now!

[5/18/07 - fixed video URL]

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Not this kind...

Here are some photos of the demolition of Partick Central Station. This kind of destruction is not my hobby. Those apartments in the background look like better candidates...

Photos by Ewan Crawford. Used by permission.

Monday, February 05, 2007


I fried some sliced porridge today for lunch. It's nice!

Friday, February 02, 2007

RIP Partick Central Station (1896-2007)

"Workmen yesterday sealed off the former Partick Central Station booking office in Glasgow in preparation for knocking down the building, which is thought to date from 1896 and has been praised by Historic Scotland and the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust."
(link to the Glasgow Herald article, and another in the Evening Times.)

Partick Central Station was built in 1896, in the middle of a bridge, but was more recently used as an auction.

They're going to use the site for a park or a Tesco.

We wanted to try to turn the building into a coffee house...