Åndalsnes is situated at the head of the Romsdalsfjord. It sits at the end of the Rauma railroad line which runs through the wild Romsdal Valley. The town of 2,200 residents is surrounded by the majestic Romsdalshorn and Trolltinder mountain range. It is well-known for its furniture production, textile and ready-made clothing industries. There are no historic buildings in the town because it was completely razed during hostilities in 1940. At that time the British mined Norway’s Territorial water to prevent their enemy from getting iron ore from Narvik. Norway issued a strong protest and threatened war, but were almost immediately invaded by Nazi Germany which destroyed the town.
The Ketchikan Creek flows down from the Misty Fjord National Park through the heart of downtown Ketchikan before flowing into Thomas Basin Boat Harbor. Creek Street, on the left side, became a red-light district in 1903 when the City Council ordered bordellos to relocate across the creek from the townsite. More than 30 houses of ill repute lined the creek over the years. When prohibition was passed some of them became speakeasies as liquor was snuck in through trap doors in the floor of the bordellos. It was until 1953 when the City Council finally outlawed prostitution at which point Creek Street became a mixed residential and commercial area. Today it mainly a tourist area.
The large opening in the center of the Pantheon’s dome (the oculus) is the only source of light for the building, which means the building has been open to the elements for two millenia . It is the best preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings. It was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome. The original Pantheon was destroyed along with other buildings in a huge fire in 80 AD. Domitian rebuilt the temple and it burned again in 110 AD. Not long after the second fire, construction started again, and it was rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in about 126 AD. This Pantheon has stood ever since. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same at 142 feet.
One of the most unexpected things we have encountered during our travels was seeing a pod of Orca whales while we were in the Galapagos Islands. We were on our way to snorkel with the green sea turtle when our zodiac driver made an abrupt u-turn. He raced to the area where he thought he had spotted a whale. The first breach was a single whale that came up behind me, so I missed it but my wife saw it. No one on our zodiac was ready with the camera for that one, but as we followed them for about 30-45 minutes it turned out that it was an entire pod, not just a single Orca. We were able to get some great shots of multiple breaching at the same time. I have posted some of these previously, but had to share them again since it was the most unexpected event we have experienced.
Chaoyang is known as China’s “fossil city”. It is located in the Liaoning Province in northeast China, approximately a four-hour train ride from Beijing. During the 1990′s many new and unique fossils were discovered in this region. Some of the finds completely revolutionized the palaeontology community’s ideas of dinosaurs and shed new light on the origin of birds. It was the discovery of feathered dinosaur fossils that caused all the excitement. The fossils have been dated to 124 million years ago from the lower Cretaceous period. At that time there was a shallow lake in the area that was buried under layers of mud and volcanic ash which preserved the skeletons of many creatures in tact. The fine shale formations created by the ash even preserved the traces of their feathers. The Sihetun Geopark Fossil Site is where the feathered dinosaur fossils were first discovered within the thin layers of shale.
Here is my entry for this weeks travel theme “short.” While the Chinese people are not known to be tall (Yao Ming excepted), this young women is shorter than most. I was taking photos along the Bund in Shanghai and turned around to see this young lady taking photos of her family. I liked the fact she was holding her corn cob in her mouth as she tried to line up the photo and that her shoes were a few sizes to big, which added interest to the photo.
For all of you who have been blaming the ACA (aka Obamacare) for higher rates, and everything else you can think of, let me share with you the letter I received today from my insurance carrier. They were happy to inform me that I could continue with my current plan for one more year (this is because they only do renewals 1 year at a time) without experiencing any changes (except they are shifting the policy year date to December 31 where my current policy starts on March 31 of each year). Not a surprise because I already knew my plan met the minimum requirements of the ACA, so I wouldn’t need to change unless I wanted. Then in bold print in the first paragraph of the letter it says “With the new laws, your current plan is likely (yea right, likely) to be less expensive than other plan choices out there.” But then here is the kicker. When you turn to the next page they informed me that they are raising my premium by 22.14%. This has nothing, I repeat NOTHING, to do with the ACA since my plan already exceeds the minimum standards. However, if I want to be disingenuous I am sure I could get booked on Fox News to blame the premium increase on Obamacare. This 22.14% increase is on top of the 39.36 % total increases I have seen over the past 3 years. I have already been investigating alternative plans that my wife and I can get through the exchange. We have identified a gold-level PPO plan that will provide us with a lower annual deductible, however the annual out-of-pocket is a little higher for my plan but not hers, and the monthly premiums will be 36.21% less than we would pay if we continue our current policies. So it looks like we will be switching to a plan we can obtain through the exchange. But here is what is really annoying, the PPO gold-level plan is offered by Cigna. The same company that I have now, who told me in BOLD print that “your current plan is likely to be less expensive than other plan choices out there.” Insurance companies suck and they will lie to your face, even when they know they are offering plans through the exchanges that are less expensive than your current plan. So for all of you out there who are blaming the ACA for everything you need to stop complaining, do a little of your own investigation and what you will find out is that it is the insurance companies that are the ones putting the screws to people. If they can trick you into paying for a more expensive plan, even if they have good plans that are less expensive, they will screw you in a heartbeat. One final point, Cigna is a private insurance company so this is not a “”government take over” of my health care insurance.
Here is my entry for this weeks travel theme “connections”. As we were heading back to our hotel in Xi’an the clusters of telephone lines caught my attention. It is not your typical tourist photo, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the travel theme.