Jaspa Does The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

ALS Ice BucketI have to admit that I was caught a little off guard on Tuesday, when an American friend of mine, Katherine, nominated me to take part in the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge. I mean, I expected that Rich and Sue’s names would come up sooner or later, but not for a second did I suspect that someone would challenge me personally.

So, how could I say no?!

 

 

Before the current campaign, I for one was more-or-less unfamiliar with ALS. I’d vaguely heard of it by its other name, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but I didn’t really know what it was. Now, thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge, I’m much better informed. So are millions like me. The money raised means we’re that much closer to curing this debilitating disease. And we all had a bit of fun in the process. Amazing!

Yet over the last week or two, there’s been some criticism of the Ice Bucket Challenge’s success. An uncharitable few – no pun intended – claim that ALS doesn’t affect enough people to warrant the attention and donations it’s been getting. It all sounds like sour grapes to me. Let them tell those suffering from ALS, or with loved-ones affected by it, that there are more ‘worthy’ charities. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Whether you’re for it or against it, you have to admit that whoever came up with the Ice Bucket Challenge is a marketing genius. I wish I had someone like that helping me promote the Jaspa’s Journey books!

If you watched the video above you’ll know that after completing the Ice Bucket Challenge myself, in turn nominated my fellow Jaspa’s Journey characters. And I’m proud to say, they stepped up:

I also nominated all my followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr… and WordPress. Which means you!

I’d love it if anyone who accepts this nomination, or who has already completed the Ice Bucket Challenge, would post a link to their own video in the comments section below, so I can add them to this post. To get the ball rolling, here’s Rich and Sue’s offering:

And don’t forget to donate!

While you’re cooking up original ways to take part in the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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The Most Redundant Sign In The World?

This week’s photo themes from Nancy (of Nancy Merrill Photography) and Frédéric (of the Daily Post) are respectively Signs and Dialogue.

Combined, these two themes got me thinking about how signs tell a story. They speak to us. They’re informative.

And often amusing.

I love humorous signs. Especially when they’re not meant to be.

Rich has taken dozens of photos of a signs that have tickled his sense of humour over the years. Unfortunately, most of them are buried in his tens of thousands of photographs, both digital and film. One day I’ll have to take the time to sort them out. I think they’d make a good blog post.

But for today, one sign in particular sprang to mind when I saw that Ailsa (of Where’s My Backpack?) had chosen Edge as her word of the week.

Last month, I described how we found the Grand Canyon full of smoke when we visited its North Rim in November, 2011. What I didn’t reveal in my previous post was that as we stood at the edge of this mile-deep slash in the Earth’s surface, we discovered one of the most random and unnecessary signs it’s ever been my pleasure to see:

It's a good job they warned us, otherwise we might not have noticed the enormous hole in the ground otherwise known as the Grand Canyon

It’s a good job they warned us, otherwise we might not have noticed the enormous hole in the ground, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon

If you have any photos of humorous or daft signs, please feel free to post them on my Facebook page. Perhaps I can do a follow-up blog of the best ones!

Sue demonstrating just how redundant this sign is

Sue demonstrating just how redundant this sign is

While you’re contemplating the uselessness of this sign, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Via Appia Antica Roman Road

Last Friday I wrote about my recent visit to the incredible 2000-year-old Roman Arena in Pula, Croatia. Today I’m returning to Ancient Rome, to a structure that’s even older.

Everyone knows of the Romans’ love of roads, the military super-highways of their day. One of the earliest examples was the Via Appia Antica, the Appian Way. The first section of the road, which began at the Forum in Rome, was built in the year 312 BC by Appius Claudius Caecus, after whom it was named. In 190 BC, it was extended all the way to Brundisium (modern day Brindisi) in southern Italy, 350 miles from the Empire’s capital.

The Forum in Rome marked the start of the Via Appia Antica

The Forum in Rome marked the start of the Via Appia Antica

The fact that original sections of the Via Appia Antica still survive is a testament to the skill with which it was constructed. In 2010, I visited a stretch on the outskirts of Rome itself, still lined by mausoleums where the Roman elite were buried.

A section of the Via Appia Antica, on the outskirts of Rome

A section of the Via Appia Antica, on the outskirts of Rome

The mausoleum of Roman noblewoman, Cecilia Metella

The mausoleum of Roman noblewoman, Cecilia Metella

In 1302-3, Cecilia Metella's tomb (just visible on the extreme left) was incorporated as a defensive tower into a Castrum (basically, a castle)

In 1302-3, Cecilia Metella’s tomb (just visible on the extreme left) was incorporated as a defensive tower into a Castrum (basically, a castle)

It was an amazing experience to walk on the very stones laid there over 2300 years ago by Roman craftsmen and slaves. In places, the surface of the road is scoured by long, deep ruts made by centuries of pedestrian and wooden-wheeled traffic.

Sue on the Via Appia Antica

Sue on the Via Appia Antica

Even during the day, it was easy to imagine a midnight Roman funeral procession heading down to one of the mausoleums. Or a Legion marching smartly out on a routine patrol, or perhaps to war. Or the 6000 men from Spartacus’s slave army, crucified along a 120 mile stretch of the Via Appia Antica in 71 BC.

The remnants of a mausoleum along the Via Appia Antica

The remnants of a mausoleum along the Via Appia Antica

This post was inspired by the theme Roads, from Cee of Cee’s Photography.

If the Via Appia Antica makes your imagination run riot like mine, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my brand new websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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2014 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix

In about half an hour’s time, the lights will go out to signify the start of the 2014 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. The start of an F1 race is always a happy-sad time for me. Happy because I love Formula 1. Sad because I always wish I was sitting trackside watching the action live.

Which is exactly what I was doing four weeks ago at the last Formula 1 race, the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix, at the Hungaroring outside Budapest.

IMG_1177Now, for those that don’t know, there’s a lot more to a Formula 1 weekend than just the race on the Sunday afternoon. There are practice sessions, qualifying, support races, pit walks… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first thing we did when we got to Budapest was spend a couple of days exploring the city itself. I wrote a brief post while we were there, and there’s definitely more on the way about our visit to this beautiful city. In the meantime, feel free to check out Rich and Sue’s Vienna to Budapest album on Flickr.

IMG_0826Although the cars didn’t roll out until Friday morning, our first foray to the track was actually on Thursday evening, when everyone with a valid ticket was invited to attend the Pit Lane Walk. This was our one chance to see the cars really close up, so of course we jumped at it.

IMG_1112The crowds were mental, in an enthusiastic and friendly kind of way. We bypassed the all-too-brief driver autograph sessions, and instead took our time wandering down the Pit Lane, gawping into the garages at the super-hi-tech cars inside.

IMG_1021During a similar event at the 2006 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, Rich and Sue got their photo taken beside David Coulthard’s car in the Red Bull garage.

Montreal 2006 - inside DC's garageNo such luck this time, but we did get to see McLaren practicing their pit stops up close and personal, which was almost as cool.

Video of the McLaren F1 Team practicing their pit stops:

We were at the track bright and early on Friday, to get our first glimpses of Formula 1, 2014-style. There’s been a lot of talk about this year’s engines being too quiet. And although the current cars are undeniably quieter than their forerunners, we soon discovered it just meant you could hear other noises that used to be drowned out. Like the squeal of brakes being tortured. Very exciting!

IMG_1649IMG_1387IMG_1469Saturday saw some great action throughout the day, including a thrilling GP2 race. But the main event was the F1 Qualifying session. There were dramas of all kinds, from Lewis Hamilton’s (one of the Championship contenders) Mercedes bursting into flame, to a brief rain shower just before the third part of Qualifying, which resulted in a big crash right in front of us. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and we went home full of expectation for the following day’s climax to the weekend.

IMG_1696Video of the incident at the start of Q3:

Sunday morning was characterised by warning flashes of lightning and grumbles of thunder. Then, with less than an hour to go before the big race, a torrential downpour soaked the Hungaroring (luckily, we were under cover). The short but intense shower meant the race started under damp, slippery conditions.

IMG_1837Video of the run down to the first corner:

Rain continued to threaten throughout the afternoon, but in the end never returned. Yet the stage had already been set for one of the most exciting races of the season, won by amiable Aussie, Daniel Ricciardo.

IMG_1919IMG_1953The 2014 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix certainly kept us discussing it animatedly all the way to, Zagreb, that evening. And ever since, to be honest.

IMG_1886IMG_1937IMG_1970If you’d like to see more photos from our weekend at the Hungaroring, visit Rich and Sue’s Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix Flickr album.

IMG_1512While you’re dreaming of what it would be like to be a Formula 1 racing driver, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Pula’s Roman Arena

Maybe it’s because I wrote a blog about the Croatian town of Pula this time last week, that my mind went straight back there when I saw this week’s Photo Challenge themes.

The Pula Arena is the sixth largest Roman amphitheatre in the World. And while it may be a little frayed around the edges, it’s remarkably well preserved. I hope I look as good when I’m 2000 years old!

IMG_1377We arrived in Pula in the evening, so our first proper view of the amphitheatre was after dark. It looked so menacing, basking in the orange(ish) glow of spotlights. It was easy to imagine thousands of Romans pouring through its gates, to witness goodness-knows how many unfortunate gladiators entering the deadly fray in the Arena.

IMG_2350IMG_2346IMG_2349The next morning we were heading on to Slovenia, but as anyone who read my recent blog about the Colosseum will know, I’m fascinated by amphitheatres. Well, all things Roman, really. So we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a closer look at the Arena before we left Pula.

IMG_2364Braving an early morning rainstorm, we headed back to the amphitheatre. And we were all so glad we did. If anything, the virtually complete walls of Pula’s Arena were even more impressive from within.

IMG_2391IMG_2368IMG_2387It still amazes me that, after 20 centuries, Pula Arena is still being used as an entertainment venue. Although, presumably, the attractions are a little less bloody these days.

IMG_2375IMG_2374This post is inspired by the themes Fray (from John of the Daily Post), Orange (from Ailsa’s of Where’s My Backpack?) and Arches (from Sue of A Word in Your Ear).

IMG_2390While you’re still marvelling at Pula’s incredible Arena, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Italy in Black & White… Mostly

As I said in my post on Sunday, Rich doesn’t often alter his photos beyond cropping and a bit of contrast enhancement. But occasionally he will dabble with Black & White, as was the case after our trip to Italy (among other places) in 2010.

In each of the following photos, we felt something in the original colours distracted from the subject, so I got Rich to convert the offending articles to Black & White. Although sometimes he didn’t go the whole way. And since it’s Italy, arches abound!

Courtyard of the Palazzo Publico (the town hall), Sienna

IMG_2250Although the reds of the bricks are nice, the dull grey sky and green water stains down the tower spoil the original

Siena (8x12)

The Colosseum, Rome

IMG_1972In the flat, overcast light, the colours of the crowd’s clothing draw the eye too much, and for some inexplicable reason make the photo look like it dates from the 1970s! (click here for more photos of my visit to the Colosseum)

Colosseum (8x12)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

IMG_2308Again, the strong colours at the tower’s base demand too much attention, but Rich left the red flag at its summit (because Sue really liked it)

Pisa - red flag

Pompeii and Vesuvius

IMG_2042Yet again, the colourful group of visitors right in the centre of the photography was too intense, but the more subtle hues of Vesuvius and the sky were quite pleasant, so Rich converted the foreground to Black & White, while leaving the background alone

Pompeii (8x12)

This post was inspired by the themes Black & White, from Cee of Cee’s Photography, and Arches, from Sue of A Word in Your Ear.

If you’ve enjoyed these shots of Italy, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my brand new websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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Liebster Award

A big Thank You to the Flying Goannas (isn’t that a great name, by the way?!) for unexpectedly nominating me for a Liebster Award!

For those that don’t know, the Liebster Award is presented to lesser-known bloggers by their peers. In turn, the recipient nominates their own favourite bloggers for the award. As a consequence, cynics have compared it to a chain letter. But I prefer to think of it as like-minded people telling you you’re on the right track!

Here are my answers the questions posed by the Flying Goannas in their nomination:

1) Your worst GPS moment?

Funny you should ask, since one of my favourite hobbies is geocaching, a world-wide scavenger hunt based on GPS technology.

Without doubt, my worst geocaching experience was my very first attempt. Imagine the scene… Rich and Sue have just got a new puppy (Crumpet, aka The Toad), who is suffering from a wicked bladder infection and so has very little control, if you know what I mean. We can’t find the cache, but do discover a swath of freshly-broken glass, requiring Rich and Sue to take turns carrying the frequently-leaking puppy. Then, about an hour after we arrive home, Sue gets a phone call from the bank… Turns out that while we’d been failing to find the cache, and getting soggy from puppy pee, someone had broken into the car, stolen Sue’s wallet, and gone on a spending spree for power tools and the like.

Crumpet as a puppy

Crumpet as a puppy

Unsurprisingly, it was more than a year before the GPS was retrieved from the back of the drawer where it was frustratedly abandoned. Although to be fair, since then we haven’t looked back. So far I’ve found over 5300 geocaches, spread across four continents, 39 countries, eight Canadian provinces and all 50 US states. Which all goes to prove, If at first you don’t succeed…

2) Do you enhance your photos and why or why not?

I generally use Rich’s photo’s, since they’re yet to make a regular camera small enough for me to operate. He doesn’t usually enhance his photos beyond straightening, cropping and (more recently) adding a Jaspa’s Journey logo. Occasionally, Rich might play with the contrast or brightness but not very often. To be honest, I don’t think he really has the patience for that sort of thing.

On rare occasions, Rich has been known to experiment with black and white. For example, I particularly like the photo of Pisa below, in which he left the flag at the top of the tower in colour.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

3) What’s your worst menu mistake?

A soft-shelled crab po-boy in Miami.

I normally love crab, but didn’t realise it would come whole in this case. It looked like a great big spider on a bun! I couldn’t eat it.

The Miami skyline from Key Biscayne (Rich didn't take a photo of the offending sandwich)

The Miami skyline from Key Biscayne (Rich didn’t take a photo of the offending sandwich)

4) The weirdest place you’ve slept?

Långholmen Prison, Stockholm. Check out My Night in a Swedish Prison for the whole story!

My 'cell' in Långholmen

My ‘cell’ in Långholmen

5) Your best accidental encounter?

This is a tough one.

A throwaway comment on the deck of a cruise ship in Alaska leading to a friendship that lasts to this day?

A detour to find a geocache in rural Ohio, which took us past an old-fashioned, 50s-style drive-in restaurant with fantastic ice-cream sundaes?

Heading out of the woods to avoid a bear while hiking in Whistler, British Columbia, only to find another bear eating grass beside the road?

Or just last month, bumping into a couple in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, only to discover they were Canadian? (And then helping them back to their car on the other side of the park when it closed.)

There are so many contenders.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

6) The place you’d most like to go back to?

Another tough question, since I rarely leave a place without feeling I have unfinished business there!

That said, my normal, automatic response to this question is Venice. But since that particular wish came true (for the second time) only last week, I should really pick somewhere else. So I’m going to go with the ghost town of Kennecott, Alaska.

In fact, Kennecott and Venice are so important to me, they’re going to be the settings for the next two Jaspa’s Journey books.

Kennecott ghost town, Alaska

Kennecott ghost town, Alaska

7) When you make a TV series about your travels, what will it be called?

Now this one’s easy… I Think I Need A Bigger Bucket!

Jaspa's Journey Logo (Bigger Bucket)

Here are some of my favourite blogs, which I in turn nominate for a Liebster Award (in alphabetical order):

Jaap Kroon

Robert Rayner

Shooting Venice and Berlin

Something For Pok

Travel Monkey – The Adventures of Kongo

Travel Tales of Life

Wise Monkeys Abroad

 

My questions for my nominees are:

1) What made you decide to write a blog in the first place?

2) Of all the blogs you’ve posted, which is your own personal favourite?

3) What is the absolute #1, must do item on your Bucket List?

4) If you were exiled from your home country, where would you live, and why?

5) Hot or Cold? Do you prefer the baking heat of summer or the chill days of winter?

6) Not including family or friends, who would be your ideal travelling companion, and why?

7) Character or Clutter? When photographing landscapes, places, etc., do you like to have people in your pictures, or do you feel they detract from the subject in question?

 

For any nominees who would like to participate, the ‘rules’ are:

Post the award on your site

Link it back to the person who nominated you

Answer the 7 questions posted by the person who nominated you

Nominate other deserving blogs

Post 7 questions for the blogs you nominate

 

If you agree with the Flying Goannas, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal, or through my websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

 

Posted in Jaspa's Journey, Photography, The World, Travel, Writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments