Archive for April 2008

By the numbers!

April 27, 2008

During my trip I visited 6 museums: the Sex Museum and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; the Musea Brugge; the Jewish Museum, Bode and Pergamon Museum. Berlin (Bode and Pergamon are apart of “Museum Island”).

I tasted 36 new types of beer. By city, I drank 15 in Amsterdam, 5 in Berlin and 16 in Belgium. I kept a list; some of my new friends laughed at this and thought I was a bit nuts but whos laughing now!

As it turns out I had two beers which are on’s top 50 list: Rochefort and St Bernardus. Kwak gets a mention for coming with a wacky beer holder. Lindeman’s apple tastes like a green jolly rancher. Paulaner Muchener Hell gets a nod for the strangest name (but tastes like Sleeman’s cream ale to me). Amstel gold and Mae’s are tied as the best cheap beers, but, Berliner Kindl is the cheapest beer with the best accompanying story.

I have been called a “foodie” and I sure earned that stripe this trip. I gorged myself on all of the local dishes I could find. I feasted on Dutch frikadel (like a meat fritter which reminds me of haggis), stroopwaffels; sausages, potatoes and red cabbage (a Dutch favorite, apparently) and I had rabbit with chocolate and beer sauce (no, I’m not joking). I ate a Belgium “Bicky Burger” with fries topped with “Stoofvellesauce” (beer based gravy with chunks of meat), currywurst (a Berlin specialty-bratwurst cut up with ketchup or BBQ sauce with curry powder sprinkled on top), beer goulash with bread dumplings, and Bavarian apple strudel.

I took over 7 trains, over 10 trams, a handful of buses, a boat tour, I biked through the obstacle course that is Amsterdam and I took one taxi in Bruges. I can’t even begin to imagine how far I walked.

Oh, and I took over 614 photos.


Stories from continental Europe

April 27, 2008

Well I am back from my adventures abroad. I ended up staying at Amsterdam for three days, Berlin for three, Bruges for two and back to Amsterdam for another night. Trains are expensive last minute so I had to make some cuts.

I drank in the experience of these cities and I am left wanting more. Here are some highlights. I stayed up all night taking low light photos in Berlin. I drank fine Belgium beer to classical music in a classy beer bar. I slept in a Christian hostel, which had a 2 am curfew, in the heart of the red light district. I hiked up 366 steps to the top of the Belfry in Bruges to view the city to a soundtrack of deafening bells. I drank Berliner Kindl, a pilsner beer only available in Berlin, in a park a block away from Checkpoint Charlie with some locals. I sunned myself on a rooftop terrace in Amsterdam. This trip may have taken years of the life of my liver and zeros off my bank balance but I would do it all again in a second.

There is so much to say that I am bursting at the seams! I have to write some of this down before it is pushed aside by my work placement. Many stories will likely have to trickle on to the interweb later as I have to sleep so I am bright eyed and bushy tailed for work.

Oh boy/Europe ahoy!

April 17, 2008

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I biked to Loch Lomond (at least 19 miles one-way) and then I went to Parkour class. Most have heard of the sunny, sunny banks of Loch Lomond but I am willing to bet that Parkour is not so well known. Parkour is a essentially a French version of “free running” that is all about “the art of displacement”. Have you seen the newest and best, in my opinion, James Bond/007 movie, “Casino Royale”? When James Bond is chasing the scarred bomb maker through the construction site, the baddy is using Parkour. In the newest Die Hard, one of the baddies is well versed in Parkour too. Note: not only evil people learn Parkour. A person learns Parkour so they can efficiently escape danger. Free running is all about expressing yourself acrobatically/artistically; Parkour is all about the most energy efficient and quickest method to move to safety. To see a good guy using Parkour rent the movie “District B13”, awesome combat scenes. You can also check out some videos about Parkour, and Parkour training, on YouTube.

I learned about Parkour through, they have a good workout podcast and I went to the website to see if they were reviewing products etc. They were, and I eventually found some exercises for “Parkour” and was intrigued. I looked it up and I learned about the development of Parkour; I first learned about Georges Hébert. Hébert was a member of the French army and went to Africa where he developed a fitness regime based on the indigenous tribes he met. While in was in Saint-Piere, Martinique a volcano erupted and he coordinated the escape and rescue of 700 people. This changed his life, as it would for most, and his personal motto became “be strong to be useful”. The lifeguard portion of me loves that. Oh and Hébert later developed the rope course, fascinating person no doubt. The Belle family founded Parkour, in the form it exists today; the official founder is David Belle, but he received a lot of guidance from his father Raymond who was in turn influence by Hébert. For more information on the subject look up “Parkour” on Wikipedia.

Today I travel to continental Europe. I am flying into, and out of, Amsterdam. Apart from that, this journey will be very “gonzo”. I mean “gonzo” like the journalism style of Hunter S. Thompson, not the tire eating Muppet. So far, the plan is the stay with some friends in Amsterdam until Sunday (or Monday) then a clockwise tour of Europe. I am thinking it will be Berlin, Bern, Brussels and back to Amsterdam to fly out on the 26th. I like to fly by the seat of my pants, it keeps me on my toes.

As it turns out my work placement starts on April 28 and not May 5 as I was previously told. I will post the details of my placement sometime after my first day. I have maneuvered myself to do something awesome!

Top 5 songs about archaeology

April 5, 2008

Have you every wanted to be an archaeologist? Well it seems these artists have thought about it too!

Here’s the list followed by the lyrics and a brief explanation.
5. “Dig” by NOFX (Punk)
4. “Archaeologist” by Wintersleep (Alternative)
3. “Dig it” in Disney’s movie “Holes” (Musical)
2. “The Court of King Arthur” by Gruff Rhys (Alternative?)
1. “Traffic in the sky” by Jack Johnson (Folk-rock)

Number five
“Dig” by NOFX (Punk)

Underneath the city lies the ruins of mankind.
The excavation was a financial success,
With artifacts of gold.
The arrowheads went straight to the Smithsonian,
The rest was melted down and sold.

This song is clearly about an archaeological excavation. It’s down at number five due to questionable ethics. Seriously, no self-respecting archaeologist sells artifacts. Also an archaeological excavation is more like buying a car than an investment. You are never going to make money back, unless you strike oil in the process. Actually I stand corrected you can try and pull the whole “heritage tourism” thing. NOFX is still my favorite punk band, archaeology content aside.

Number four
“Archaeologist” by Wintersleep
Note- Canadian content!
See also Wintersleep’s song “Dance Macabre” with the line ‘all my friends are skeletons’. We, archaeologists, do see dead people. I don’t know if we’re friends, I would say we have a work-relationship! Insert visual picture of a skeleton by an office water cooler, with a mop nearby.

The archaeologists found
Some little boy’s remains
Staying by the fire and clouds

Packed up and shipped to London
Discard, discard the rotted parts
As if they’re hardened lungs.
Belly of a whale,

This song is gosh darn catchy and raises some ethical issues about archaeology.
The line about “discarding rotted parts” is clearly a reference to the Spitalfield crypt clearances. Honestly what do you do when the bodies are still…juicy? Do you display human remains? Do you rebury them after you have studied them?
Ok, I’m stretching it with the ethics bit but I really want to put this song in. It also breaks up the potential “dig” theme. Archaeologists do a lot more than just dig. Rumor has it that the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) is going to change its name for a similar reason. Not all archaeologists are necessarily in the field. Welcome to the realm of post-modernity (still hate that term) inclusiveness.

Number three
“Dig it” in Disney’s movie “Holes” (Musical)

You gotta find something never found before,
If not, we’ll just have to dig some more.

I don’t take showers and I don’t brush my teeth
That’s all I do is dig holes eat and sleep

This is archaeology from an excavator’s perspective, well an excavator with poor hygienic practices. A running joke amongst archaeologists is that shovel bums are like mushrooms: left in the dark and fed shit. If there is poor communication within your unit/crew that feeling of “just keep digging” is very real. Also, I have talked with some ‘TV archaeologists’ and the first lines accurately express the pressure to “make good television”, mind you no one will stay on TV if they don’t brush their teeth or shower. Apparently, the movie/song is actually about a work camp but I will remain blissfully ignorant.

Number two
“The Court of King Arthur” by Gruff Rhys (Alternative?)
Aside: Gruff was formerly apart of Super Furry Animals. I found this song via Dr. Martin Rundkvist who called his post, about the song, “Super Furry Archaeology”. I am glad others make archaeology jokes too.

Digging deeper I hit on an ancient lump,
Lift my spade up,
And dig a bit deeper,
Must be careful with my magnetometer,
Excavation takes a long time;
First I survey,
Then I dig through the lime.

Good lord! It seems like some research about archaeological methods was employed when writing this song. Personally I have never dug through lime and generally, geophysics, i.e. the magnetometer, is used before the spade but I’ll take what I can get. It’s hard to think of archaeological terms that rhyme so I will cut Gruff some slack. Partially due to his awesome name. This song dropped a spot for the use of ‘radiocarbon-dating’ as a lame double entendre, those lyrics are not included but can be found through the above hyper link.

Number one
“Traffic in the sky” by Jack Johnson (Folk-rock)

Puzzle pieces in the ground
But no one ever seems to be digging
Instead they’re looking up towards the heavens

The answers could be found
We could learn from digging down
But no one ever seems to be digging

This song is number one due to its subtly. This song is probably also the most well known.
Oh, Jack! A dedicated few of us are digging down and let me tell you this “puzzle” very tricky. You know what helps unravel the puzzle, funding! Nudge, nudge.
Way to stick it to those star-gazing, glory hogs! Clearly, Jack is taking sides. When the geologists/archaeologists eventually face off against the astronomists/astrophysicists in an academic Jets vs Sharks style battle, Jack mother-effin’ Johnson has our backs! Folk does make crappy fight music though.

Honestly, do you know how hard it is to find archaeology-themed lyrics?! I am sure there are many more that I missed. Feel free to drop me a line and lets see if we can bump this list up to 10!