Friday, September 29, 2006

Quick Update

Hey folks. Just wanted to throw a quick update to the wind. Celeste miraculously got a phone call on Monday about a way better full-time job. It is on campus in the Mechanical Engineering building. Her job description is an "Extra Help". Basically the office she works for goes through this whole process of hiring new faculty. So there are many stages involved in that process, and she helps out in most of them. She gets paid good money too. Like almost $13/hour! That's way more than I ever made!

Also, we started rehearsals for Urinetown. It is such a fun script and score. The lyrics I think are the most clever part of the whole musical. They are hilarious! My favorite line is from Look at the Sky. For those who don't know that song, the main character is starting to dream of hope for a better future by following his heart and by looking at the sky. So one line in the song is, "Look at the Sky! There's a great big heart there! There's a heart in the sky. There just is. Don't ask why. It's the sky!" Too funny. It is a complicated show though, and sadly I don't think it will match the intensity and splendor of what the Egyptian Theater produced recently (at least from the comments I've heard). Our harmonies might not be as tight, and our acting not as polished, but it's still fun to be involved. If anyone has ever had the inkling to go to Chicago or St Louis or Indianapolis or Nauvoo, then come see us and the show, too! We're only about 2-3 hours away from any of those places. Urinetown performances will be the 8,10,11 and the 16,17,18,19 of November. So plan your visit accordingly (wink, wink).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Big News!! This is not a joke!

The Big News:Well after all the lies, teasings, April Fools jokes, and false program bios, THIS IS THE TRUTH!! Celeste and Brad Baillio are PREGNANT! May 28th is when the little guy is expected to shows its head, and his name will be Noah. It can not be a girl because no name can be agreed on. And as for the parents they have a new appreciation for goverenment aided programs. Brad and Celeste have been trying for 8 months and are soo excited!!!!

The Medium News: Brad and Celeste got cast as the romantic leads in "Urinetown the Musical." Do not be scared of the title. It takes place in a gotham-like city, where there is a water shortage and people have to pay to use the public bathrooms. Bobby Strong(Brad)leads a revolution against an evil company, and falls in love with the boss's daughter Hope Cladwell(Celeste). Anyone who wants to fly out to Illinois to see it, they have a brand new futon!!!!

The little news: Celeste got a part-time job at the Sears Hearing Aid Center!!! Not the cell phone kind, the old person kind. And boy is she excited to use her theater degree that took her 5 years to complete. She'll be using lots of diction and articulation. OHh Goody!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Here in Illinois

Well folks, it's about time we told you about Illinois. To be honest, after getting home from Europe, we were both really psyched up to come out here and face some new adventures. I mean, moving to a remote area, far away from family, friends and familiarity (say that 3 times fast) -- that's the definition of adventure. (Take my word for it, I looked it up).

Now that we're out here, adventure isn't always peak of the rollercoaster, or screaming downward at 60 mph. There's always the uphill climb. And boy can that part take a long time. Have you ever gotten stuck climbing the first ramp of a rollercoaster? And it takes like 10 or 20 minutes for the teenage-techinicians to figure out the problem and start the coaster back up? Well we're kinda in that position. We know good things are coming, and we're working hard to make them happen, but they just haven't come yet. And anticipation is a killer. So we make due. And we find happiness along the way.

One fortunate blessing was that our apartment turned out to be a pretty decent find. We were scared at first because we found it on the internet. There were no pictures of the actual apartments, just pictures of the picturesque surroundings. "The Garden Court" complex. Well, there are lots of pretty gardens, and luckily the apartment is fine too. It only had a tinge of cigarette smoke smell.
So, what have we been doing since we got here? Well watching TV of course! We were really excited to sign up for cable and get a DVR box. It's a pretty sweet invention. Reinventing the wheel and all that. So we have watched a bunch of TV shows -- both on the TV and Computer.

Here's a list of what's hot in the household:
* The 4400
* The Office
* 24
* Arrested Development
* Star Trek: The Next Generation (that's right...we're trekkies)
* Whose Line is it Anyways?
* Inside the Actors Studio
* 30-Minute Meals (Rachel Ray rules!)
* Amazing Race 10

As for school and jobs, well Brad's school is going ok. Not too difficult for now. It's kinda the same old engineering stuff. He is taking a robotics class which is pretty interesting. He has a job as an on-call tech support consultant. And he has agreed to help a professor restructure some labwork for an undergrad class. The problem is that right now he isn't being paid for that work. The professor is in "negotiations" to see if he can get some extra money, but nothing yet. We're keeping our fingers crossed because it'll pay for his tuition and give him a monthly stipend. Celeste is super frustrated trying to find a job. There's nothing in the way of theater, or theater teaching. That leaves clerical work, or substitue teaching, and it is just so tough to find a job. It really is who you know, not what you know. So she is ready to split at the seams with boredom and anger, but she manages. Hopefully we'll make it into Urinetown, the musical, and that will give us a creative and fun outlet.

Well that about raps it up.

Final Europe post

Munich, Fussen, Dachau -- Munich was really just our launching point to see the castle in Fussen and the concentration camp in Dachau. We did spend an afternoon there on a tour bus. It was interesting, but not terribly so.

Fussen was awesome. We went to see the Neuschwanstein castle. It was built by "Mad" Kind Ludwig. He was obsessed with Wagner and swans, so he dedicated the castle to both (people think he was probably gay, or atleast highly effeminate). Each room had murals and paintings done portraying one of Wagner's operas. It was interesting. His main bed chamber had intricate woodworking done so that a secret door was hidden in the wall. The woodwork was so fine that it completely hid the door seams. From the outside, the castle was a magnificently beautiful sight. It is the "sleeping beauty" castle, from what I understand. Disney took the idea from this caste? Something like that. Anyways, it is gorgeous.

Dachau was depressing and eerie. It was one of the main concentration camps of the Germans. It was a training ground for the SS. Many SS soldiers left Dachau to run other concentration camps in the same manner (or worse). Many people died here. It was built to house roughly 6,000 people, but ended up holding 60,000 by the end. It was more of an intermediate camp, so not many people died here like at other places, but there was still a crematorium. Most people died of disease and starvation, while others died from terrible medical experiments. We only spent an hour or so there because it was too grim and eerie, but of great historical importance.

That about raps up the trip. It was so fun. There is still a lot more we can say about the trip, so ask questions anytime. Enjoy the pictures. We have tons of film. Hopefully you can enjoy vicariously all the things we did. Enjoy!

Yet more of this Europe nonsense?

Florence -- The David is most certainly a sight. Celeste and I just sat there and looked at it for 15 or 20 minutes. It was a peaceful setting and an enchanting statue. I wasn't that thrilled going in, but it really did affect me more than I thought it would. (I could have done without the $15 entrance fee). The Uffizi gallery had a lot of Boticelli works that were cool. The Birth of Venus was one. Also there was a Caravaggio work of Judith and Holofornes that I liked. The coolest thing about the Uffizi was the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit. They had 3 paintings by him, and a whole special exhibit dedicated to his life and his workshop. It showed all the awesome things he invented and thought up. He was an incredibly gifted and inspired man.

Venice -- Venice was very romantic. We enjoyed just riding the boat taxi down the main waterway. The most fun was feeding the pigeons in St. Mark's Square. Seriously, best $2 we spent the whole trip. The birds would fly up to your hand or shoulder or head just to get a peck at the birdfood. It was super fun. There were millions of them too. At night in the square, the restaurants have live bands that play classical music and you can wander and enjoy them. Very romantic. Oh, and by the way, we spent like $100 buying Gelato. We bought it as much as we could. It's simply delicious.

Salzburg -- Celeste went nuts here because of the Sound of Music ties. We took pictures in 3 or 4 spots where the movie happened. The city is basically now a living monument to Mozart. They have mozart concerts all over town. The castle (which we unfortunately didn't see) has concerts, and in all the churches. What we did do was see the Opera "Abduction from the Seraglio" by a cast of marionettes. It was very entertaining. I really enjoyed it (even though it was all in German, with very few english subtitles). It was neat to see all the different things they could do with the puppets.

Prague -- Downtown Prague is very unique. All the buildings are pastel colored. The city has a lot of Art Nouveau architecture along with Rococo and a little Gothic. There was a clock tower that was supremely intricate and precise (particularly for its time). We went into another cathedral and saw some really beautiful stained glass windows. The colors were so vibrant. Here we also visited the Jewish sector of town. It was very interesting. We saw a Jewish graveyard, where bodies were just buried on top of previous graves. There were 3 or 4 synagogues that had info about the Czech Jews. One was a memorial to all the Czech Jews that died in WWII. ALL their names were written on the walls of the synagogue. The place flooded a couple decades ago, so they went back and re-wrote all the names. Touching place. The most interesting to me was what life was like for the Jews in the ghetto, and what caused them to get persecuted and killed. They were a prosperous people that helped nobles and kings alike, but catholic intolerance and economic pressures gave them all sorts of trouble. Eg. when transmogrification became an official Catholic doctrine (the belief that the sacrament wafer and wine actually turn into the REAL body and blood of Christ after it is blessed) there were rumors spread that the Jews were desecrating the sacred wafers. That caused pogroms and deaths, etc. There was even a law made that allowed only the first child of Jewish families to get married. It was incredible what lengths people went to for racial/cultural discrimination. Hiss and a by-word indeed. Also in Prague we saw what is termed a Black Light Theater. Basically everyone on stage is dressed up in complete black outfits and a black light shines on stage to illuminate neat things. So props come out and appear floating in air, they do special effects tricks to show light and colors in a new way. They had a girl on a wire flying around. It was interesting. I bet Adam and Anjilla would have liked it alot.

Again with the Europe and the flavin'

Cordoba and Sevilla -- These two towns were amazing in their own right. They were two very Moorish towns for a long time. Cordoba had an immense "Cathedral" which was actually both a Visigothic church and then a huge Mosque. It was really beautiful. Visiting Spain and seeing these blends of culture, I found myself identifying spiritually more with the Jews and the Muslims than with the Catholics. I didn't get that feeling as much in other countries, but certainly here. We saw a cute magic show on the street late at night in Cordoba. The coolest trick was the last one. She had a kid sign a random card. He stuck it in the deck. She pulled out a pad and drew an orange tree. Pulled out an orange, cut it in half, then pulled out an "abnormal seed" which was indeed the signitured card. Crazy!
By the time we hit Sevilla, we were a little tired of paying the Catholic church money to see their churches and we'd seen enough palaces, so we didn't really do much that day. We did walk down to the local park where there was this huge semi-circular structure. It served as goverment offices, but it had a pretty fountain and some huge spires. The cool thing about Sevilla was the Flamenco dance we saw that night. It was awesome. It was this one solitary dancer, but she had lighting-quick feet. It was so beautiful. Flamenco uses soft curling hand motions and graceful flowing arms, along with quick agile feet. The she would explode with quick turns and slaps. It was incredible.

Madrid -- we came back to Madrid to see the Temple (our temple), Retiro park, and a bull-fight. The bull-fight was really sweet. It was a fight for beginners, so they weren't that great. It was scary seeing them doing the matador and toreador stuff. It was also really sad because they weren't very proficient in the killing stroke, and it would only make the bull bleed more and cause it more agony. However, the bulls had their fun too. The last bull was incredible. It was a powerful beast weighing in at 530 kilos (that about 1000 lbs folks). He almost clipped one of the helper dudes before he ducked behind the fence (think Bugs Bunny here if you can't get a mental image). Then he tore apart a whole section of the fence. He could have jumped through but he got distracted and sped off to the other side of the ring. Luckily they repaired the fence. Then while the matador went in to make the final blow, he lingered too long and got flung to the floor. The bull tried to gore him and stepped on him, but he rolled away in time and finished the job. It was crazy!

We flew into Milan very late at night and got up early the next morning and left for Rome.

Rome -- Rome is Rome. Everything is Enormous. Those Romans sure knew how to do it big. The Vatican was impressive. I liked above all a painting done in the Constantine room. It was a painting with a roman statue in pieces on the ground, and on top of its pedestal sat a crucifix. To me it symbolized the complete 180 Constantine did to the religious and cultural state of the Empire. Also impressive was Raphael's School of Athens and the Cistine Chapel. Honestly folks, to me the Cistine Chapel is a little over-rated. The ceiling is so high up, you can't really appreciate it that much. Also we saw the Pieta by Michaelangelo. Also a jipped experience because it was literally 50 feet away behind protective glass. We could hardly see it!! It was very disappointing, even though it looked very beautiful. The Pantheon was an architectural wonder. (Think of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons). The perfect circle hole in the ceiling was really hard. They had to construct the celing with increasingly lighter material so the base could support the weight. The upper portion is made entirely of pumice (volcanic stone). That was cool. And of course the Coliseum was enormous and generally cool to see for its biggness.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Europe Installment #2

Here is the second installment of our Europe trip.

Madrid -- We mainly went to the Prado. Tons of famous Spanish paintings. It was tedious for me because I had already been there, but also in a different way. I realized that such great art-work deserves a much more detailed appreciation. It slights the masters' work to have to pay a $7 entrance fee and rush through the museum in 3 or 4 hours to see everything. Each masterpiece deserves frequent visits, and a careful study. It is a great shame that they are located so far out of reach, and that a repeated $7 fee would tax most people's budget. This day in Madrid also was a terrible one. We spent about 2 hours walking around trying to find a place to eat. We just were looking in the wrong places. Finally we decide to use the Metro and go somewhere else.We ended up at our destination (tired, grouchy and hungry) only to find out that it didn't open for another 2 hours (It opened at 8:30pm to start dinner). That's Spanish siesta for you. So we people-watched in a nearby park until dinner. It was a crazy, painful day. We learned alot about each other that day.

El Escorial/Segovia -- El Escorial was built as a burial grounds/monestary for the dead kings. It was a gargantuan palace of sourts where the Hapsburgs lived and other successors lived. It was truly amazing. The crypt was a really neat place. The marble was all dark maroon, and there was gold linings throughout. It was a sight. Segovia you might have heard me talk about from the mission. This was the castle where my "emergency transfer" story takes place. It was a very peculiar sensation retracing my steps with my wife in tow. The aquaduct is also an amazing sight. Crazy to think the Romans built it, and it still stand today.

Aranjuez/Toledo -- Aranjuez is another palace. We figured out that the Spanish monarchy had a different palace for every season. This was the Spring palace. It has a beautiful garden and park. We took a little mini-train around the town and through the gardens. The told us stories about how the monarchy would raise elephants, zebras, camels and a slew of other crazy animals in that park for entertainment. Aranjuez acted as a great river-port to ferry across the Tajo river. So there were royal boats and a royal dock, etc. It was just a pretty place to be - very relaxing. Toledo is my favorite city of all times. Since I had already seen pretty much all there is to see as a missionary, we reviewed some of my favorite sights. Of course we went to the huge gothic cathedral. It is almost sickening to enter. It tears at my heart to think all the pain the Catholic church brought to Spain and other peoples when I walk in that place. Other churches didn't effect me the same way, but that one does. Santa Maria la Blanca and the Museo Sefardi. la Blanca was a synagogue for a long time, then the Moors took over Toledo and transformed it into a mosque. Then when the Catholic Kings kicked everyone else out, they changed it into a church. One building, 3 very distinct cultures/religions. My favorite place. The Sefardi Museum talked about the Sefardic Jews living in Toledo and other parts of Spain. I love this place also because of its interesting history. After most of the Moors were kicked out, the one that stayed had to convert to Catholicism. These people still had a culture and heritage behind, and it was termed Mudejar. It is a very arabic style of architecture and design. So the Mudejars decorated the Jewish synagogues for work. What results is a very interesting blend of culture that is simply beautiful.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Europe is a Master Blaster (who out there knows what I'm talking about...)

Well hello folks! Man it seems we've been gone for so long, and so much happened while we were away.

Well, on to the juicy details.

The trip consisted of the following itenerary:
Interlaken -- a Swiss town in between 2 magnificent lakes
Carcassonne -- a French town with a historic castle/city look
Banyuls sur mer -- a beach town near the France/Spain border
Madrid -- the old stomping grounds
El Escorial/Segovia -- Kings burial place/Old castle, Roman ruins town
Aranjuez/Toledo -- Summer Palace and gardens, and Old spain capitol
Cordoba -- Moorish capital of Spain
Sevilla -- Flamenco center
Madrid -- bull-fight
Rome -- Vatican Museum, La Pieta, Pantheon, Colesuem
Florence -- David statue, Boticellis, and other famous paintings
Venice -- town of romance, St. Marks Square
Salzburg -- Sound of Music, marionette show
Prague -- Black Light Theater, Art Nouveau town, Mozart concert
Munich -- Olympic Stadium, jumping point for next 2 days
Fussen -- Schloss Neuschwanstein (awesome castle)
Dachau -- concentration camp during WWII
Zurich -- home sweet home, here we come

There was just so much to see and experience. As we write down this itenerary, we are once again amazed at everything we saw. We are attaching pictures also so you can get a taste of the trip. We'll hit the highlights of the trip first, and then if you have questions you can post comments and we'll respond, and so on.

Interlaken -- We went hang-gliding here. It was an incredible rush. You just start by running off a mountain, then whoosh, you're airborn. It was a tandem flight of course, but it was so much fun. Lake Lucern was so beautiful. The country was beautiful. It is the most gorgeous place on earth we think. I (Brad) particularly love it because it is forested and mountainous. Tallenbach Falls was another awesome sight. It is a convergence of tons of snow run-off. It has 10 different cascading waterfalls that you can go up and see. It was powerful. Truly an amazing sight.

Carcassonne -- This was a neat experience because it is the town that our favorite game is based on. Some of you (maybe all?) played it with us last Christmas or sometime since. The town was an old fortress for the Cathars back in Medieval times. We saw a mock-joust there. It was fun. Plywood lances that splintered. Choreographed sword fights. What I liked the most about Carcassonne is that it reminded me of Toledo, Spain. I saw 2 old women gabbing it up early Sunday morning and it reminded me of my mission. Then I sensed that Aaron and I served very similar people and I felt closer to him knowing that our mission experiences were probably very similar.

Banylus sur mer -- Our intention was to go snorkeling at this Reef Preserve, but it turned out too innaccesable for us with packs etc., so we just chilled at the beach - the Mediterranean beach! It was fun playing in another ocean. The beach was a pebble/rock beach. It was very different. Also, the beach was open for nudity, so several women (and most of them aging) were laying out without tops on. That was certainly a bizarre sight!