Monday, October 31, 2016

Haunting (4 min) Video: A Few Odd Minutes in Howard County: Patapsco Female Institute (Interview of Rob Gutro)

Earlier this month, Producer Tony Hoos of Howard Community College interviewed me about the ghosts at the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City, Maryland. This 4 minute video will give you an insight about what and who lingers there on this Halloween!

Haunting: A Few Odd Minutes in Howard County: Patapsco Female Institute 
Rob Gutro, author and medium in the Inspired Ghost Tracking group was interviewed about the ghosts that linger in this structure.  Go inside the ruins of a once-famous institute for young women. The former site of the Patapsco Female Institute is filled with history and some paranormal reminders of the past. From former students to wounded soldiers, these spirits seem to inhabit every floor.


The Election: Emails Don't Govern. Smart Candidates Do

The email stupidity in this political campaign is ridiculous. 
They're not Mrs. Clinton's emails Period. 
Emails DON'T govern.
(or Let's expose all of your private emails from your work day).
USE YOUR HEAD VOTERS- Would you rather have a dictator like Trump who has not put forth any positive policies, is hated by international leaders from Canada to Mexico to the U.K., is ready to put in right-wing Supreme Court justices to overturn and Outlaw gay marriage, R vs. W. To remove health care and turn it back to Insurance Companies (so they can refuse health care for pre-existing conditions and toss off college students from their parents' health insurance).
WHAT THEY STAND FOR- *I just finished reading "Stronger Together" the book of Clinton/Kaine that outlines improving immigration, civil rights, fixing Obamacare, new Veterans programs, clean energy initiatives, enhacing education, providing everyone with pre-K schooling and child care credits and so much more.
**-It's a total contrast to Trump's "Let's hate everyone except white (and straight) people and let's undo everything we've done in the last 30 years and replace it with nothing" policy.
     I just hope Americans are smart enough not to vote for a dictator-like egotist who has already incited hate group (and spiking KKK recruitment numbers). 

    Even if you don't like Mrs. Clinton AT LEAST she welcomes ALL PEOPLE. Use your head.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Outstanding Halloween-time Mystery: Murder She Wrote: Trick or Treachery

I just re-read a book that I read years ago- because it's an outstanding Halloween-time Mystery called "Murder She Wrote: Trick or Treachery" by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain. 
   I (Rob) have read most of the series (and love all of 30 plus of them), and since it's Halloween time, I thought I'd re-read this one. It will keep you guessing until the end and there are a good number of characters and all have motives. I highly recommend it!

ABOUT THE BOOK:  Jessica Fletcher gets spooked in this mystery in the USA Today bestselling Murder, She Wrote series...
   It's late October in Cabot Cove, and as Halloween approaches, something strange is in the air. The arrival of a self-righteous, fire-and-brimstone spiritual medium has some townspeople on the lookout for curses and evil omens; a reclusive, eccentric woman has others whispering that she is a real-life witch; and the upcoming annual Halloween party has Jessica Fletcher frantically searching for the perfect costume.
   Then the whole town ends up spooked when the alleged witch ends up dead in the graveyard, and everyone at the party is a suspect. Jess takes it upon herself to stir through a witches' brew of motives—and concocts a scary scheme of her own to make sure a guilty ghoul doesn't get away with murder...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Fun Way to Campaign: "Pantsuit Power" Flashmob!

With all of the negativity in political campaigning it was great to see some uplifting support from one party. One group of Hillary supporters decided to do something fun and positive!
    On Sunday Oct 2, 2016 over 200 pantsuit wearing Hillary supporters gathered together to perform a dance founded in unity, love, and inclusivity in New York City. Another group did the same on Sunday, Oct. 23 outside the Raleigh Convention Center dancing to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and wearing colorful outfits that they say Clinton has made her trademark.
   The NYC event came together in about a week. First, the idea for a punchy, uplifting dance video that would tell a story about diversity, difference and communal support. Then, 170 dancers, a few hours of rehearsals–and pantsuits. Lots of pantsuits.
  The result: the #Pantsuitpower Flashmob for Hillary dance video, performed at New York’s Union Square. It’s gotten nearly 2 million views on Facebook in a matter of days. (Source: Washington Post)



Event Organized and Video Directed by Celia Rowlson-Hall and Mia Lidofsky. Co-choreographed by Celia and Crishon Landers. Produced by Jillian Schlesinger and Liz Sargent. Edited by Jillian Schlesinger and Anais Blondet.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tom's Plumbing Repair and Recommendation!

The new pipe Tom installed
If you have metal drainpipe under your kitchen sink, you may want to replace it with plastic PVC
pipe. Last weekend, Tom noticed that the metal pipe was wearing thin. So, after a trip to Lowe's he worked with our friend Will to replace it with PVC pipe.
  As always, it was a perfect job (look at the photo right). I (Rob) wish I knew how to do those things! So, if you don't, I recommend marrying an architect because he knows how things come apart and go together.
  The PVC, or plastic pipe won't corrode or thin, like the metal pipes do. So, next time you're under your kitchen sink looking for something, look at the pipe.

Here's a How to replace the pipe guide:
OR if you like VIDEO:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hysterical Musical Video "The Nasty Woman" -RANDY RAINBOW

It's another hysterically funny musical Randy Rainbow Song Parody.
This one uses voice and video from the third debate to the song ""The Lonely Goatherd"!  
You'll remember this show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.    This is brilliant and really, really funny, because Randy even plays on the "Puppet" comment. Enjoy!

BONUS: Sound of Music "The Nasty Goatherd" Song with the puppets!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Explored Maryland's "Senior Dog Sanctuary!"

On Sunday afternoon we visited a dog rescue that we learned about called "Senior Dog Sanctuary." 
Dogs looking for forever homes
They were having an open house, and had a live band, food, games, and were selling things for dogs and tee-shirts for humans, and doing a raffle. 
The Sanctuary
   We're partial to senior dogs, because they're usually trained to a degree, are much more mellow than puppies, and are laid back. Our kids Dolly and Franklin are now considered seniors, while Tyler is in his prime. :) 

One of the dogs available for adoption

  Anyway, the rescue has quite a number of dogs, and they're all looking for forever homes. 

 The rescue is  located at  8336 W B & A Rd, Severn, MD 21144.
MISSION STATEMENT: Providing a permanent safe haven for senior dogs who are unable to be cared for by their owners, who are abandoned or abused, or face euthanasia. Tel.  443.742.0270. Email: 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Part 3: Where do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Issues: ISIS, Foreign Policy, Death Penalty, Trade

In order for people to make an EDUCATED decision this November about the Presidential Race, we're posting positions here.     Now, YOU can compare their positions yourself over the next 2 days and make an educated decision.

The Source is About the website: "This is an unbiased comparison of the political positions and policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, candidates for president from the Democratic and Republican parties respectively."


Comparison chart

          Donald Trump                                                Hillary Clinton

Political Party              Republican                                                     Democratic

Position on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)Trump has lambasted all trade deals — including the TPP —saying they weren't negotiated well and the terms should have been made more favorable for the United States. Clinton was more measured in her public response to the TPP. When she was Secretary of State, Clinton and her staff worked to finalize and pass the TPP trade agreement.
Position on Death Penalty Supports the death penalty; and advocates mandatory death sentences for those who kill police officers. Clinton supports the death penalty; believes it has a place in a very limited number of federal cases.
Position on Syria and ISIS (Daesh) Prefer not to have boots on the ground; rather eliminate ISIS main funding; that is to destroy the oil extraction, refineries, etc. "Bomb the s**t out of them[ISIS controlled oil fields]" Clinton supports a no-fly zone, as well as training Syrian rebels. She is for strong U.S. involvement in fighting ISIS, short of deploying boots on the ground.
Position on Iran Trump has said he would reject the Iran nuclear deal and renegotiate it. In favor of Iran agreement. As Secretary of State, laid the groundwork for sanctions on Iran and negotiations on the agreement.
Position on Afghanistan Afghanistan War was necessary. Maintaining a presence there is necessary because of proximity to nuclear-armed Pakistan. Maintain troop strength to about 5,000 soldiers. Clinton has said she'd be open to maintaining some troops in Afghanistan as necessary.
Position on TARP (2008 Wall Street bailout) Trump supported the Wall Street bailout (TARP). "Nobody really knows what impact it's going to have. Maybe it works, and maybe it doesn't. But certainly it is worth a shot." Clinton supported the TARP bailout of financial institutions on Wall Street.

THAT CONCLUDES THE COMPARISON. Make an educated decision.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Part 2: Where do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Issues: Taxes, Minimum wage, guns, economy, global warming, Iraq

In order for people to make an EDUCATED decision this November about the Presidential Race, we're posting positions here. 
    Now, YOU can compare their positions yourself over the next 2 days and make an educated decision.

The Source is About the website: "This is an unbiased comparison of the political positions and policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, candidates for president from the Democratic and Republican parties respectively."


Comparison chart


                                                 Donald Trump                         Hillary Clinton

Tax Policies

New federal income tax brackets: 0% (< $25K individual/$50K couple), 10%, 20%, 25%; eliminate AMT; Lower corporate tax rate to 15%; Trump's tax plan would cost the federal government $9.5 trillion. Increase taxes on high-income earners. New tax bracket of 43.6% for incomes >$5mn. Clinton's tax plan is estimated to get $200 - $500 million in higher revenue for the federal government.
Economic Policies Declare China a currency manipulator. A one-time repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at 10% tax rate, followed by an end to the deferral of taxes on corporate income earned abroad. Higher minimum wage. Encourage corporate profit-sharing via a tax credit for 2 years.
Position on Minimum Wage Comments all over the map. In Republican debate said wages are "too high", but later said $7.25 an hour is too low. "I think people should get more". Wants to let states set the minimum. Clinton proposes to increase the minimum wage to $12 nationwide.
Position on Government Regulation "Cut" the EPA. "We can leave a little bit" [of the agency in place rather than abolishing entirely] More stringent regulation on environmental issues like fracking and drinking water.
Position on Iraq Trump claims he opposed Iraq war before the invasion. However, is on record for hesitatingly supporting it in Sep '12. Expressed early concerns about the cost and direction of the war a few months after it started. Clinton voted to authorize military force in Iraq; later opposed troop increases and pushed for withdrawal.
Position on Global Warming Trump has tweeted "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." He has said he would renegotiate America’s role and obligations under the U.N. global climate accord. Supports a mandatory cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Has called for more regulations on fracking but not outright bans. Expressed doubts on drilling for oil in the Arctic but not called for stopping.
Position on the Keystone XL Pipeline Initially Trump said he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline "immediately". His new position is that he would reject the pipeline unless TransCanada Corp. gave the U.S. a “big, big chunk of the profits, or even ownership rights.”  Her position now is "I don't think we need to have a pipeline bringing very dirty oil, exploiting the tar sands in western Canada, across our border."
Position on Gun Rights Supports 2nd amendment rights; opposes new gun-control laws; "Enforce existing laws"; "fix our broken mental health system"; "defend rights of law-abiding gun owners";"allow military personnel to carry weapons on military bases & recruitment centers" Supports a stricter assault weapons ban, and background checks being required for a greater number of gun sales.  Wants more legislation for gun safety.
Position on Marijuana Legalization Has said: "[marijuana for] medical purposes for medicinal purposes it’s absolutely fine." Donald Trump is on record claiming (in 1990) US drug enforcement is ‘a joke’ and all drugs should be legalized to ‘take the profit away from these drug Reclassify marijuana to be a less restricted drug than it is right now, but do not legalize it. ‘Wait and See’ approach to recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana should be available, but only in ‘extreme conditions’.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Just re-read: Crisis on Infinite Earths (DC Comics Novels) by Marv Wolfman

In 1985 there was a 12 issue comic book series from DC Comics that brought together every single
superhero and many villains that have ever appeared in the line of comics since the 1930s. All of them were brought together to fight an evil that threatened to destroy the multiverse (that is multiple realities / multiple Earths, planets and other galaxies vibrating at a different speed and co-existing).
   The graphic novel was awesome and my all time favorite.
 -In 2000 it was made into a paperback novel (no illustrations) called "Crisis on Infinite Earths (DC Comics Novels)" by Marv Wolfman and told from the point of the Flash. I re-read it last week and although I enjoyed it, I much prefer the illustrated version (graphic novel).
  If you want to read the story - get the graphic novel -and it's now 31 years old!!  - Rob

About this novel: Trapped in a timeless limbo, Barry Allen, the Flash, can only watch in silent and helpless horror as, one by one, countless universes fade from existance in order to feed the insatiable need for power of the Anti-Monitor, a being from the anti-matter universe of Qward. Under the guidance of the Monitor, his benevolent opposite, the super-heroes and villains of all realities are brought together for a last, desperate stand against the forces that promise the literal end of all existance.

Part 1: Where do Presidential Candidates Stand on Issues? Immigration, Health Care, Gay Marriage, Women's Rights

Be an informed voter
In order for people to make an EDUCATED decision this November about the Presidential Race, we're posting positions here. 
    Now, YOU can compare their positions yourself over the next 2 days and make an educated decision.

 The Source is About the website: "This is an unbiased comparison of the political positions and policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump."

During the 3rd Debate- We were Horrified personally to hear Trump say he will appoint Supreme Court Judges to "repeal Roe V. Wade" and "repeal gay marriage" among other things. 


Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton comparison chart

Donald TrumpHillary Clinton

Political Party Republican Democratic
Alma Mater Fordham University, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School Wellesley College, Yale University
Date of Birth June 19, 1946 October 26,1947
Place of Birth Queens, New York City Chicago, Illinois
Current Position Businessperson - The Trump Organization 67th Secretary of State, former (1/21/2009- 2/1/2013)
Position on Immigration Build wall on Mexican border, make Mexico pay for it; allow legal immigration; triple number of ICE officers; deport all "criminal" aliens; defund sanctuary cities; end birthright citizenship; increase prevailing wage for H1-B visas Supports the DREAM act and a path to legalization for illegal immigrants that includes learning English and paying fines; toughen penalties for hiring illegal immigrants; voted for fence along Mexican border. Supports Obama's executive action.
Position on Healthcare Get rid of Obamacare; Let insurance be sold across state lines. Premiums should be tax deductible. Allow HSAs for individuals. Block grants to states for Medicaid instead of cost sharing. Expand Obamacare. 3 sick visits free before deductible. Tax credits for premiums and out-of-pocket expenses over 8.5% and 5% of income respectively. Expand Medicaid via 100% matching funds to states for 3 years & more funding for enrollment programs.
Position on Women's Rights and Abortion Changed stance. Now in favor of outlawing abortions, except in cases of rape, incest, or life of mother; supportive of non-abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood. *Supports punishment for women who get abortions.  Strongly supports Roe v. Wade; does not oppose restrictions on late-pregnancy abortions (with exceptions for health of mother); judges should protect women's rights; rated 100% by NARAL. Vehemently opposes defunding Planned Parenthood


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Beware - A New "Mortgage Scheme"

We know that some people are desperate to buy a house, but don't have the down payment. Well, we
urge those people to wait or they may fall prey to the latest scheme.
  In the Baltimore Sun on Sunday, Oct. 16, we read about it and one of the mortgage companies that are doing it.
HOW IT WORKS: They provide the down payment in exchange for a "Stake" in the sale of the ENTIRE home price.
WHEN SELLING THE HOUSE: The lender gets the amount of downpayment they contributed plus 40% of the equity. This in addition to the 4% interest on the mortgage if the homebuyer elects to secure the loan through him.
WHY PEOPLE DO IT-  To live in 
Buyer Beware!!
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU PAY OFF THE HOUSE - YOU STILL OWE! -Once you pay off the mortgage you'll still owe the Lender 40% of the value off the house to finally own in.
BOTTOM LINE-- If you can't afford the down payment, you shouldn't buy a house. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Laureen's Visit Part 3: Reconstructing George Washington's Boyhood Home

In this last blog about our friend Laureen's visit, we're going to take you to the site of George
Washington's boyhood home and how it's being reconstructed. We visited Fredericksburg, Virginia and came upon George Washington's Ferry Farm.

WHAT IS GEORGE WASHINGTON'S FERRY FARM? - located at 268 Kings Hwy, Fredericksburg, VA and the property overlooks the  Rappahannock River. 

WHAT'S THE RECONSTRUCTION ABOUT?  - We learned that the original home, barn, and buildings were all destroyed. The original site was lost over time and after the original building was razed, it disappeared after being overgrown with grasses and covered in dirt.
  Another building was built on the property and owned by a religious group. It stood for decades.

The house is still being framed in Oct. 2016
In 2006 it was purchased by the George Washington Foundation who brought archaeologists to hunt for the foundation. They found it - about a 10 minute walk from the newer building.

REBUILDING STILL HAPPENING IN 2016 - Once the foundation was uncovered, and a blueprint of the original house was found, the reconstruction started and was happening when we were visiting. They're building a replica of Washington house on its archaeological footprint, reconstructing the kitchen and outbuildings, and recreating the period landscape. 
 CAN YOU HELP?  Yes. You can Donate  to give as part of the Campaign to restore the home.

Looking up at the house from the Rappahanock River
HISTORY - George Washington was 6 years old in 1738 when his family moved to a farm in Stafford County, Virginia. The Washingtons called this place the Home Farm but it later became known as Ferry Farm because people crossed the Rappahannock River on a ferry from the farm to the town of Fredericksburg. The Washingtons did not own or operate the ferry but used it frequently to get to and from town.

Archaeological dig still happening
A COOL IPAD TOUR - Explore Ferry Farm with the iPad tour, Uncovering George Washington’s Youth—updated for Phase 1 construction. 
  The ipad has about 14 locations you can walk to that have significance in the archaeological dig and where buildings stood during Washington's time. 
   Back in the Visitor's center you can view the archaeology laboratory and “The Science of History at Ferry Farm.”

BOTTOM LINE - It's really interesting to see how this site is being "Brought back from the ashes." Well worth visiting. 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Laureen's Visit Part 2: Fredericksburg, Virginia: Kenmore and Chatham Houses

Rob, Laureen and Tom
In Part 2 of our friend Laureen's visit, we'll take you to two historic places in  Fredericksburg,
Virginia:The  Kenmore and  Chatham House.

THE KENMORE HOUSE EXPERIENCE - Well, we never got the tour. After driving 90 minutes to get there, we were met with the choice of waiting over  45 minutes for the first 30 minute tour or nothing. We could not even walk the grounds. So, we left.

Kenmore House that we didn't get into
WHAT IS THE KENMORE HOUSE?  Kenmore, also known as Kenmore Plantation, is a plantation house at 1201 Washington Avenue in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Built by George Washington's sister, Betty Washington Lewis, and her husband, Fielding Lewis, this beautiful, Georgian-style, brick mansion reflects the pre-Revolutionary-War wealth and status of the Fredericksburg merchant.

VISITING THE COOL CHATHAM HOUSE -This was a really nice and much better experience. This house is managed by the National Park Service
and well-run. It had 2 NPS employees on hand to greet us and both were friendly, very knowledgeable and accommodating. There was also no fee to visit this property. This was a totally opposite experience from the Kenmore House (so go here instead).

About the Chatham
 WHAT IS THE CHATHAM HOUSE? -Chatham Manor is the Georgian-style home completed in 1771 by farmer and statesman William Fitzhugh, after about 3 years of construction, on the Rappahannock River in Stafford County, Virginia, opposite Fredericksburg.  Today Chatham is part of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Front Entrance to Chatham

HISTORY - Built between the years 1768 and 1771 by William Fitzhugh. In addition to the main house were dozens of supporting structures: a dairy, ice house, barns, stables. Down on the river was a fish hatchery, while elsewhere on the 1,280 acre estate were an orchard, mill, and a race track!

FAMOUS VISITORS - George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln and President-elect William Henry Harrison. 

Tom and Laureen in the Gardens (created in the 1920s)
SECOND OWNER-  After Fitzhugh, the Chatham was owned during the Civil War by James Horace Lacy, a former schoolteacher who had married Churchill Jones's niece. As a plantation owner and slaveholder, Lacy sympathized with the South, and at the age of 37 he left Chatham to serve the Confederacy as a staff officer. His slaves left after the war and his fortune went from $180,000 to $2,000. (Served him right for having slaves in the first place). 
More gardens

CIVIL WAR HEADQUARTERS - Northern officers initially utilized the building as a headquarters. In April 1862, General Irvin McDowell brought 30,000 men to Fredericksburg.

Exterior of the house shows where the portico was removed
A UNION HOSPITAL - Fredericksburg was a disastrous Union defeat. Burnside suffered 12,600 casualties in the battle, many of whom were brought back to Chatham. The place was really gutted inside by soldiers using the wood paneling for fire fuel, and writing graffiti all over the walls.

GHOSTLY ENERGY - In one room on the far north side of the house, we watched a 12 minute film of the history of the house and property. We both felt VERY uncomfortable in that room and learned that it was where the "Surgery" was located. We were told that the room was covered with blood and many died there, while others lost limbs. 

Nice view of Fredericksburg in the distance
FINAL OWNER, MANY RENOVATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS - Chatham's last owner, industrialist John Lee Pratt. Mr. Pratt purchased Chatham from the Devores in 1931. He refinished it, added extensive gardens, the famous music note railing in the back of the house, and a gazebo with the god Pan in it.

WHO IS PAN? - Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs.
A musical railing in the backyard of the Chatham

In 1975 he willed it to the National Park Service.


Laureen and Tom looking at Fredericksburg
Gazebo with Pan the flute player

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Laureen's Visit Pt1: Ellicott City, La Cakerie

La Cakerie's cupcakes!
Our friend Laureen visited us for 4 days over the last weekend and since she's visited several times before we tried to find different things to do, out of the ordinary. Two of her requests were to explore IKEA and revisit Old Ellicott City, so we did that on Day 1. I also took Laureen to a very special and awesome bakery in Towson, owned by our friend Jason Hisley

Jason, La Cakerie Owner and Master chef
LA CAKERIE- - La Cakerie is an artisan bakery offering a wide variety of seasonal products and the most elaborate cakes you'll ever 11 W Allegheny Ave Towson, MD 
We decided to enjoy a  gourmet cupcake and a drink! These are the best-ever cupcakes, cakes and pastries!!
Many shops still boarded up on Main Street

Laureen outside the Railroad museum- still closed
Dumpsters still stand as renovations continue
ELLICOTT CITY - Old Ellicott City, Maryland suffered from an historic flood during the early part of the summer of 2016 when strong thunderstorms basically sat over the 1700s historic town for hours, dropping 6.5 inches of rain. That historic rainfall upended sidewalks and created rushing 3-4 foot raging rivers in the main street (it's in a valley and there are a LOT of hills and streets that feed into it). The flash flood washed away cars and destroyed most of the shops on Main Street. Now, 3 months later, they're mostly still under reconstruction, and just one shop was open. 

NEXT: Fredericksburg, Virginia: Kenmore and
Chatham Houses  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Italy Blog #61: Hadrian: a Great and First Openly Gay Emperor

In this Italy blog, we'll look at a special figure in Ancient Italian history who was a great leader and he was openly gay. His name is Hadrian, and his statues were in the Vatican Museum along with a statue of his lover.
 In fact, Hadrian suffered intense grief after his lover died and virtually saw him as a god. In 2008 the U.K. Independent published a great article about Hadrian, which we're sharing here).

Hadrian the gay emperor

WHO WAS HADRIAN?   Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus was not only a peacemaker who pulled his soldiers out of modern-day Iraq. He was also the first leader of Rome to make it clear that he was gay.  Born: January 24, 76 AD, Baetica;    Died: July 10, 138 AD, Baiae, Italy
THE EMPEROR: After being made emperor AD117, he inherited a Roman Empire in its prime, which had thrived on a policy of endless expansion and conquest.

Antoinous, Hadrian's lover
His first move, within hours of coronation, was to withdraw his troops from Mesopotamia, now Iraq, and fortify the empire's boundaries by building his eponymous wall in northern England and others in the Danube and the Rhine valleys, ushering in a new era of peace. The reign that followed can be traced through 200 ancient treasures (which were on display in Britain in 2008).

WHAT WAS HADRIAN FAMOUS FOR? - Aside from being openly gay, Hadrian was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. Hadrian is known for building Hadrian's Wall, which marked the northern limit of Britannia. He also rebuilt the Pantheon and constructed the Temple of Venus and Roma.
WHO WAS HADRIAN'S LOVER?  - Hadrian's male consort, Antinous, accompanied him on his travels around the empire. Several items about Antinous were found including a poem written on papyrus, featuring the two men hunting together, and memorials to the dead lover at Hadrian's villa in Tivoli. Although it was not uncommon for his predecessors to have taken gay lovers alongside a female spouse, Hadrian was unique in making his love "official" in a way that no other emperor had before him.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ANTINOUS? - When Antinous drowned in mysterious circumstances, Hadrian was so distraught that he chose to commemorate the young Greek by naming an Egyptian city in his honor. What was unusual is that he had a lot of flings, and then after his lover drowned in the Nile AD130 he made him a god.

A CITY NAMED FOR HADRIAN'S LOVER - Hadrian was clearly bereaved and he had lots of images put up. When a city was founded close to the spot where Antinous drowned on the east bank of the Nile in Egypy, he named it Antinopolis. 

Full Article:


Monday, October 17, 2016

Italy Blog #60: Vatican Guards and Outside the Vatican Buildings

Rob outside St. Peter's
In this blog we'll take you outside the Vatican to look at the buildings and explain about the Vatican Guards. 

The Vatican is the world's smallest state, the center of Catholicism, and home to the Pope. 

DID YOU KNOW ? - The Pope's properties are regulated by the 1929 Lateran Treaty signed with the Kingdom of Italy. Although part of Italian territory, some of them enjoy immunities, similar to those of foreign embassies

WHERE DID THE NAME "VATICAN" COME FROM ? - The name Vatican City was first used in the Lateran Treaty, signed on 11 February 1929, which established the modern city-state. The name is taken from Vatican Hill, the geographic location of the state. "Vatican" is derived from the name of an Etruscan settlement, Vatica or Vaticum meaning garden, located in the general area the Romans called vaticanus ager, "Vatican territory".
St. Peter's Basilica from the outside
The Etruscans were a powerful, wealthy and refined civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. 

SWISS GUARDS OR VATICAN GUARDS - The Swiss Guards, Italian Guardia Svizzera, corps of Swiss soldiers responsible for the safety of the pope. Often called “the world's smallest army,” they serve as personal escorts to the pontiff and as watchmen for Vatican City and the pontifical villa of Castel Gandolfo.
A Vatican Swiss Guard

Vatican museum outside
Outside the Vatican Museum

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Great Classic Collection: Superman: Sunday Newspaper Classics 1939-1943

This week I just finished reading a hardbound book collecting Superman newspaper comic strips from 1939 to 1943. "Superman Sunday Classics 1939-1943."
  Superman debuted in the world in 1938, and his creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (writer and artist) developed a Sunday newspaper strip in addition to the comic book (Action Comics and Superman Comics). 
   This is a GREAT collection. Over the course of the 4 years, you'll see Superman's chest symbol change from an upside down triangle to a diamond shape, and the colors outside of the "S" go from black to yellow. It's also over this time that Superman begins flying instead of just leaping. Really awesome time in the development of the character.
   Of course the stories were great. It was a much simpler time, and Jerry Siegel was a great writer and knew how to keep your attention. Joe Shuster was a fantastic artist, too. 
   You can find it on, and some copies are even below a dollar ! WOW. - Rob
ABOUT THE BOOK:In the late thirties, when Superman was making his ground-breaking debut in comic books, his legend was simultaneously being propagated in Sunday newspapers.
 Collected in this deluxe edition are the first three years of the classic Sunday Superman comic strips as written and illustrated by the Man of Steel's creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster.
  In these timeless tales, the Man of Steel challenges saboteurs and racketeers, saves runaway trains and plummeting planes, defeats giant robots and begins his lifelong rivalry with his greatest nemesis, Lex Luthor.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Science News: Dogs Learn More Efficiently Than Human Children

We love Science. When I give lectures about how pets like dogs, are intelligent, I explain the science of behaviors, learning, and even how it has been proven that they have the same emotional responses that humans have. Now  a recent scientific study at Yale University with dogs and then children tested their ability to problem solve faster. Dogs won. 
   It's really not a surprise to us, since we see how smart our dogs are figuring out puzzles and how do to things. Here's the info about the study and a brief video explaining the experiment.************************************** 

Dogs ignore bad advice that humans follow

    Dogs are less likely to follow bad advice than children, according to a new study conducted at the Canine Cognition Center at Yale. In contrast to children, dogs only copy a human’s actions if they are absolutely necessary for solving the task at hand, according to a recently published study appearing in the journal Developmental Science.
  “Humans often fall prey to the bad advice of others” said Laurie Santos, director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale and senior author on this study. “Children tend to copy all of a teacher’s actions, regardless of whether they are necessary or not.”
  For instance, in one study previously conducted at Yale by Dr. Frank Keil and colleagues, children watched a demonstrator solve a puzzle by first moving a lever and then lifting a lid to pull out a prize.    
   Although the lever was completely irrelevant for solving the puzzle, children repeatedly performed both actions, even when they were in a race to solve the puzzle as quickly as possible.
The new study shows that dogs will leave out irrelevant actions when there is a more efficient way to solve a problem, even when a human repeatedly demonstrates these actions.
FULL Article:

Friday, October 14, 2016

Italy Blog #59: Vatican's Dead Pope Display

This blog of our May 2016 Italy trip seems more suitable for Halloween. As we mentioned in an earlier blog, it was the "Jubilee Year" for the Catholic Church. Whenever that happens the church goes into the crypt and brings up the glass coffins of dead popes to display. It's a weird custom.

WHAT'S WITH THE DEAD POPES ON DISPLAY? - The corpses of Padre Pio and Croatian Saint Leopold Mandic (1866-1942) were  on display after being paraded through the city in 2015. They bring them out and if they haven't decomposed, they fix 'em up. 
The NY Times reported: Padre Pio’s face mask is made of silicone, the rubberlike polymer, not silicon, the semi-metallic element. Padre Leopoldo’s mask is made of plastic; his corpse is not “enhanced” with silicon.

  • Padre Pio's body was exhumed in southern Italy in 2008 and partially reconstructed with a silicone mask
  • The mystic monk, was said to suffer from stigmata during his life, has been venerated by Pope Francis

  • Dead Pope #1
  • He was declared a saint in 2002 and at his shrine in San Giovanni still attracts thousands of visitors annually 
  • Dead Pope #2's glass coffin from an angle
    Dead Pope #2
  • He was accompanied on the trip to St Peter's by another Saint Leopold Mandic (1866-1942), a Croatian Capuchin who was, like Pio, celebrated for his skill in receiving confessions - a quality Francis wants to champion during the Jubilee year. 


    Thursday, October 13, 2016

    Italy Blog #58: St. Peters Basilica, Pieta and The Dome

    Tom outside of St. Peter's
    In this blog, we're moving from the Sistine Chapel (in Rome) into St. Peter's Basilica (they're connected) where we'll show you the famous statue of the Pieta and a gruesome custom of displaying dead popes in glass coffins. Yeah, really.

    ABOUT ST. PETER'S- The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, or simply St. Peter's Basilica, is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome.

    The  Pieta
    THE PIETA - The Pietà is a work of Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti, housed in St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City. It's pretty large. It's  5′ 9″ x 6′ 5,″ In 1497, a cardinal named Jean de Billheres commissioned Michelangelo to create a work of sculpture to go into a side chapel at Old St. Peter’s Basilica.
    The scene of the Pieta shows the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ after his crucifixion, death, and removal from the cross, but before he was placed in the tomb. 
    FAST FACT - It was carved out of one block of marble. 

    St. Peter's Altar

    these are the dimensions of St. Peter’s basilica relevant for our little project (via Wikipedia):
    Inside the crowded St. Peter's
    Interior length:     693.8 ft.
    Interior width at transept:     451 ft.
    Interior width of nave:     90.2 ft.
    Interior height of dome:     393 ft.

    St. Peter's dome
    VATICAN FACTS - The land covers 44 acres and 900 people live there.

    ST. PETER'S BASILICA DOME - The dome was designed by Michelangelo, but he died before it was finished. It was completed in 1566. It marked the highest spot in Rome and stands 300 feet high than anything else.

    Gift/Memorial Suggestions

    Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
    What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
    We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
    DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
    Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

    About us

    We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

    Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

    Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
    Wondering what home project to do next