Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine

This was the final stop on our trip. I had eaten some sketchy chicken in the airport, and I started to feel sick. I'm not sure if it was the chicken or something else, but I really started to feel under the weather the day we got there. And I felt sick for months afterward, actually. It was enough that I went to the doctor and had all kinds of tests that came back telling me nothing. After about six months or so I finally felt normalish again. 2013 was the year of unhealthiness for me. I'm glad that's over.

Photos:

This is the bed where I ended up sleeping a lot. I seriously slept a lot because I was feeling so sick. We stayed at Roxanne's parents' apartment. They were so nice to let me sleep there.


Other than sleeping, we walked a lot. We walked a lot around the city.

 

On any normal day I would have been all about riding this, but I just didn't feel up to it. Looks cool, though!

 

We also saw a bunch of statues.



And went to parks. We even ran into missionaries in this one.


There was even a church in the middle of this park. I thought that was pretty cool.


And there were a lot of tanks and missiles around. Here are some of the photos.



Here's the inside of a school building. I thought it looked pretty cool. We don't have very many old structures where I live, so it's cool to see these styles.


 And of course there were the potato chip flavors. It seems like a lot of countries have crab-flavored chips. I guess it's not that popular in the U.S. because I've never seen it here, but I've seen it in plenty of other countries. I also enjoyed that they have bacon-flavored chips!

 

And McDonald's had some different stuff, too. They had some pita-wrap-type stuff. I didn't look too closely. Food was unappetizing to me at this point, so I can't tell you much about the food.


One of my favorite experiences was going to a baptism and then going to church the next day. When we walked into church I thought that there was a girl that was staring at me and looked kind of familiar. After sacrament meeting she came up to talk to me, and it turned out that we did know each other! We went to the same university, and she was friends with my sister and other friends. She was there in Ukraine with her husband to adopt a child. It's crazy what a small world the church is. It's amazing how many times I have run into people I know at church in other countries.

I could go back to Ukraine. I was glad to go, and it seemed pretty cool, but unfortunately, I really wasn't feeling well at all while we were there, and that's too bad. I wondered if it could have been the yogurt I ate after arriving? I'm just glad I finally started feeling better. It had me worried for a while. I learned that I should take a little more time to plan my vacations and make sure I'm preparing myself sufficiently for any medical needs that could arise. I didn't even look to see if I should take any medications prior to going. When we went to Tanzania, we went to the health department and consulted with them and made sure we took vaccinations and suggested medications. I should have done this on this trip, as well.

The entire trip was fun, and I was glad to continue my adventures in the world!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Istanbul or Constantinople?

I'm going to try and catch up with photos from some of my vacations that I never uploaded. The last one I did was when I went to Tbilisi, Georgia in 2013. These are from that trip, as well, only this is the part when we went to Turkey!

We went during Ramadan, so the place was pretty festive. I thought Istanbul was really cool. I decided that visiting Istanbul was like going to a Muslim Disneyland! Why would I say this? It's because there were a lot of lines to go to the attractions (mosques), families were milling around, they had little carts that were selling food all around (corn on the cob was the most interesting to me), shops, tickets into the attractions that were like unto fast passes, and even light shows!

Here are some of the photos.

This is the Hagia Sophia. It was originally a Greek Orthodox Christian Basilica, but then it was converted into an Ottoman mosque.


It is so interesting because you can tell and see the Christian roots inside, as well as the conversion to the mosque.


Inside it, as well, they have the spot where the Byzantine Emperors were coronated.


Here is the Blue Mosque.


 It was beautiful inside.




Here's another mosque that was pretty cool. I can't remember what this one was called, though.


 The Blue Mosque is by Sultanahmet Square, where there was a suicide bombing earlier this year that killed 13 tourists. It's really sad, and I think it's terrible that people are willing to commit such terrible acts to try to manipulate people into a political position. Here is the Obelisk of Theodosius. It's in that square. The square used to be a Hippodrome (sporting arena) when Istanbul was Constantinople. It was originally built by the Temple of Karnak, which I saw on my previous trip to Egypt.


There's also a walled obelisk there. I think this is it. 


This is the Serpent Column. It was a bronze pillar that was also at the Hippodrome. Back then it had a serpent head.


 Also around that same area was a park and a fountain. Like mentioned before, we were there during Ramadan, and one night they had some festivities going on there. It was packed with people. The night life around Sultanahmet Square was pretty and festive.

This one reminded me of the grass areas at Disneyland.


Maybe the Blue Mosque is like the castles at Disneyland?


And these are like the light and water shows?




And here are some shops.


I love the Christmas lights!


We also happened upon the Basilica Cistern. It was pretty cool. There were fish in it.


And Medusa's head holding up some pillars.


This cistern was in the Bond movie "From Russia with Love." I'm sure you wanted to know that.

Not too far from the cistern was Topkapi Palace. We saw part of it, and the part we saw was pretty awesome. I loved all of the mosaics. They were so cool



And then we hung out in a park for a bit. We walked so much, and I got tired sometimes. Here were some bridges. I love bridges!


 One of the most famous places in Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar. Some guy... I can't remember if it was like the guy at the front desk of the hotel or one of our waiters asked Roxanne and me if we wanted to go to his house for one of the Ramadan meals. We said no because we wanted to go to bed so we could go to the bazaar in the morning. Well, duh... since it was Ramadan, pretty much almost every place was closed the day that we tried, including the bazaar. This is the closed bazaar. Sadness.


It's okay, though! We went a couple of other days and times! This is what it looks like normally.

 

We walked up and down the streets so much. This is what I saw pretty much every day.


 One time I was walking by with Roxanne and her dad, and one of the merchants basically wanted to buy me off of them because I guess he thought they were my parents. It was likely some kind of foolish flattery to get our attention so we would buy stuff from the guy, but it really backfired because it offended Roxanne because seriously, she is not married to her dad, and she is definitely not old enough to be my mom!

Oh! The food! I thought the food was super good! This was my favorite. They were some kind of dumplings/pasta with a yogurty sauce or something. Delicious!



And here are the chips that I always try to check out for the flavors! I know I tried some, but I can't remember what the flavors were. There was probably some kind of yogurt herb one. Maybe kind of like tzatziki but not. Or maybe a kebab. The actual kebab we had was super delicious.


And McDonalds had a McTurco, which is a flatbread sandwich. They also had a walk-through window outside on the street, instead of a drive-through window. I got ice cream from there regularly. Or the Burger King one. They both had delicious ice cream, and I got hot walking so much. Whenever I'd buy one it seemed to start a cascade of people getting the cones. They should have paid me for doing such a great job of advertising their ice cream everyday.


 But my favorite thing about Burger King is that they delivered. We totally ate at the one by the airport on our layover through Istanbul on the way home, and there were dudes on bikes that would take and deliver the burger orders. I was like, AWESOME!


One thing that was interesting about when we were eating is that sometimes old artifacts were all around us, even while we were eating!

 

They have so many artifacts, they have no idea what to do with them. We even saw a bunch just chilling down an alleyway at the side of a building, like people didn't know what on earth to do with this garbage. I wanted to volunteer to bring some of it back to the states. I'm sure I could find a museum in the U.S. that wouldn't mind an exhibit like that. Basically, we saw oodles of this type of stuff on the trip.

 

I should say that one of my most favorite places I went to was the Great Palace Mosaic Museum. It was pretty awesome. It just had a bunch of stuff like this, but I really liked it.

 

 Oh, I forget. We went on a few tours. We went on a water tour where we were able to see things like this and a lot of the houses on the shore. I'm sure notable people lived in them, but let's be honest. I didn't care who lived in those houses.


We were also able to go to on a bus tour that went from the Europe part of the city into the Asia part of the city. That was cool. It made it so I've been to five continents with Roxanne, which I think is pretty cool. We also went by Taksim Square where there were a bunch of protests at the time. It seems like there's always some kind of political turmoil whenever I travel. It makes the travel difficult. I felt happy that I was just on a bus, but we saw people being put into police vans or something. I'm starting to feel like my travel plans are cursed. I think this was Taksim Square, anyway. The protestors are not pictured.


And finally we went up a hill and got to take a fantastic photo of part of Istanbul at sunset.


It was beautiful. The trip was fantastic. I hope that Turkey can become a bit safer and more politically secure so tourists can feel more comfortable there. It was a great stop on the trip!

Saturday, January 02, 2016

The 2015 Movie Post

Hello, to all the people still receiving my transmission.

Here are my previous years' posts: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005.

Sometimes when I do these posts, I go back and see how many stars I gave the movies on Netflix. I didn't give any movie this year five stars. In fact, I gave all of them on this list four stars, which explains why I had such trouble figuring out in what order I should put these and which one gets my number one position. I find that time really figures it out for me. Some movies I tend to watch a lot more and some movies I never really watch again. This means that, when in doubt, I will pick the one I think I would probably view more often than the other ones.

Okay, so I give you my list (yes, there are spoilers):


1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - I should be ashamed to admit that I've seen this movie three times already, but I guess I don't care because the buttery popcorn is good. The funny thing is: I don't LOVE this movie. I think it's good, certainly, but I also felt like they just sort of took Episodes IV - VI and repeated them, only in one movie. And they gave a lot of nostalgia references so everyone would cheer and wet themselves out of geekish delight. But the thing is... the nostalgia references didn't really do anything for me. They were cool in Episodes I - III because it was so nice that Padme told Anakin to hold her, just like Leia did to Han in Episode VI, but in this one I felt like they were marking off a checklist of nostalgia to hit, like maybe a short Disneyland ride would do. But I liked all of the new characters, so that was good. Rey is simultaneously awesome and suffering from Trinity Syndrome, but I think that her character somehow succeeded in spite of the syndrome. So ultimately, I know I'm going to be able to suspend my criticism and enjoy it for the buttery popcorn movie that it is, however much I end up watching it. Also, it reeked of J.J. Abrams: "Here is a little bit of information, but I'm just giving you some clues so you can endlessly debate this online and build up your own anticipation for the answers that may or may not be given in the next two movies."

2. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - I guess I like spy movies. I really liked the retro-ness of this movie, as well as the humor, silliness, and implausibilities. It was sort of like a Bond movie to me but with two guys instead of one and supposedly a continual love interest instead of a new one each movie (well, for one guy, at least). I also really like it when movies go to touristy sites like they did at the Spanish Steps in Rome in this one. It's cool how they can do it, even though the movie takes place decades ago. The Spanish Steps just don't change that much (they're being refurbished right now).

3. The Martian - I don't think I'm going to watch this movie repetitively because it's sort of like Castaway, only in space (a little boring watching the same person trying to survive the whole time), but it was a well-made, interesting, and occasionally humorous movie. So, it succeeded.

4. Jurassic World - This was basically the same movie as Jurassic Park. It really was, only updated with a romantic undertone and with Sphero-like technology (just like Star Wars because apparently spheres are the cool new way to do things). But it was a good time, and I laughed at the jokes, so it was good.

5. Ant-Man - This movie only succeeded because it recognized what a ridiculous premise it was and made a joke out of the movie. I mean, the plot and everything is pretty dumb, but the movie made you laugh, so it was good.

6. The Little Price (Le Petit Prince) - So I guess this isn't out yet in the U.S., but I saw it on the plane, which is a huge reason why I saw so many movies this year (boring, sleepless flights). The story is simultaneously cute and weird, the animation is simultaneously awesome and terrifying, and it was just a fun, different movie. The movie makes a number of thoughtful observations about life, so if you're not into a movie with a message, you probably don't want to watch it. I liked it, though.

7. McFarland, USA - Maybe I like feel-good sports movies? I'm not sure. Anyway, I enjoyed this movie. I like that it contained a quinceaƱera and generally the Mexican culture. I don't have anything else to say about it.

8. Inside Out - This was a unique and cute movie. It was fun and clever, and I think I could see it again and like it.

9. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - I gave it four stars because I must have liked it, but this movie is extremely forgettable to me. I can't totally remember what happened in it, but it was a spy movie and had action, and I think it was probably good. The fact that I can't remember it very well should say something about it. It wasn't my favorite MI film, but I know for sure it wasn't as bad as the second one.



10. Avengers: Age of Ultron - Yeah, so I think this wasn't my favorite one because I haven't really felt the extreme need to watch it again. The making of this movie reminded me in some ways of all that is wrong with the TV show Agents of Shield. It's not terrible, but it's not really that great. They have good characters, but they also spend a lot of time on things that you don't care about at all. I think this movie took itself too seriously or something. I like the humor parts of these movies, and this one just wasn't funny enough, I guess.

I also saw the following movies:

Spectre - This was probably the worst of the Daniel Craig Bond movies, maybe tied with Quantum of Solace. It's probably about in the middle of the Bond movies in general, if I were to rank them, which I never have. Remember, the rankings I posted previously were my sister's. It was still good, though, just not my favorite Bond film.

San Andreas - This was such a Dwayne Johnson movie. Holy cow. If people actually are like the people in these movies, America is doomed. It was so corny, but hey, it was a popcorn flick with explosions, so if that's your thing, you'll probably like the movie.

Everest - I didn't like this movie. It made me sad and cold.

The Visit - This was a legitimately creepy movie. Especially the poop parts. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. Also, the rapping kid was kind of hilarious. Not the best of M. Night's movies, though.

Home - This was cute, but I didn't love it, probably because I was tired when I watched it. I think a lot of kids would like it, though. It reminded me of Lilo and Stitch in some ways.

Fantastic Four - It wasn't bad. I liked it okay, but it took itself way too seriously. It's like the movie thought it was cooler than it was.

Minions - I know I was supposed to laugh, and there were some slightly humorous parts, but I guess it just wasn't really that great. The minions were never the good part of Despicable Me to me, anyway.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 - It was okay, and I think I actually liked it better than I liked the book.

Insurgent - Divergent just seemed like it was better for some reason. I guess I don't really care about this series. Maybe you had to have read the books to like it better?

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - I actually liked the first movie, so I thought I'd give this second movie a chance. It was basically the exact same movie as the first one, only not as fresh or entertaining. I'm over these movies, so they don't need to make another one.

Cinderella - This movie was really well-done for a live action version of Cinderella. I think I just prefer to watch the cartoon, though.

Terminator Genisys - I liked this one pretty well. I know a lot of people didn't really like it, but I thought it was good enough. I didn't have exceedingly high expectations, though. Arnold did a fine job, and the plot was fine.

I also saw from 2013:

Philomena - It was alright. Kind of a slow-paced drama but alright.

All Is Lost - It was like Castaway, only I didn't really care for it.

Frequencies - It was a trippy movie. I had to go back and watch a few parts again after I watched it. I kind of enjoyed it. If you like trippy thinker movies, this one is for you.

I also saw from 2014:

Million Dollar Arm - I liked it. It was entertaining.

Big Hero 6 - I think I need to see this again, uninterrupted and without distraction. I think it was good, but I think the location where I saw it was too distracting to fully enjoy the movie.

Meet the Mormons - It was fine.

Into the Woods - I think they did a good job, especially the song "Agony." I like the story and the music, so I will probably eventually buy it.

Unbroken - I liked this movie. It was pretty good for a historic prisoner of war movie. It kept my interest.

The Imitation Game - I liked this movie. It was a good biopic. I didn't know about the code-breaking or the history of the movie, so it was interesting.

The Theory of Everything - I thought it was okay. I didn't love it, but it was alright.

Noah - I didn't like it. The acting wasn't very good, the plot wasn't great, and the protagonist character was the worst.

Movies I still want to see from 2014:


The Fault in Our Stars
If I get around to it ever, I'll also watch the Planes movies and The Book of Life.
I also added Ida
I also added Belle

Movies I still want to see from 2015:

Tomorrowland (even though I heard it's meh)
Tangerines (the one from the country of Georgia)
Creed
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Joy
Once I Was a Beehive
The Good Dinosaur
The Intern
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Thanks for reading! Do you have any recommendations for me?

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The 2014 Movie Post

Hello? Is anybody there? I know I haven't blogged in a year, but fear not, I still remember my password. This tradition actually does a few things for me: 1 - It helps me keep up my ratings on Netflix, 2 - It helps keep my queue updated with what movies I actually have a desire to watch, 3 - It reminds me of how much garbage is out there that I'm missing (thank goodness), and 4 - It actually helps me to pick movies that I might enjoy watching in the future. Also, I enjoy your comments and suggestions.

Here are my previous years' posts: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005. Oh my goodness! This is my tenth one! We should do something to celebrate!

YAY!

That's all.

It was hard for me to pick the order this year because most of the movies I watched this year were just okay. I didn't give any movies five stars on Netflix this year, and I only gave 3 of them 4 stars. The rest that I considered in the "like" category were all just okay. And some of them were teetering on the edge of dislike. But none of the dislikes were absolutely terrible. Ah well. I now give you my top ten list.



1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - I think I actually liked this movie more than the first Captain America movie. I felt like the plot was good, and the pace, characters, and lines produced a really entertaining and exciting movie. I can probably watch this movie over and over.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy - When the trailers aired for this movie I thought to myself, "Self, the comic book movies are now taking a cliff-dive down a terrible toilet of corn and mediocrity, starting with this movie." And then people whose opinions I value saw it and liked it, so I gave it a chance and what do you know? They set up the characters and humor in a good way, and it worked. I really thought it was going to be terribly horrible, but then it ended up being fun. I even enjoyed it the second and half of a third time that I saw it.

3. X-Men: Days of Future Past - Okay, okay. This was not my favorite X-Men movie, but it was still quite enjoyable. Somehow, even though I am getting a little tired of these comic book movies, they keep making them and not making them horribly. I enjoyed this one. I shouldn't have, what with the whole timeline thing and Wolverine adulation, but I did.

3.5 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - This is 3.5 because I finished my reviews and forgot to include this one. It has been about a year since I've seen it, so I guess that's why I forgot about it. Maybe? Good thing I saw that it's on Netflix and it reminded me to add this. Anyway, I liked it, and I saw it twice, so it stood up to multiple viewings. It feels like they rebooted the franchise, which leaves me a bit skeptical, but I did enjoy the movie as a whole. It's not going to be even in my top 3 of Jack Ryan movies, but I like them all, so this one is up there, as well.

4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - This movie was not nearly as good as the first one, but it was still a decent and quality fun time. I actually think I enjoyed the Christmas Special (or whatever it is) better than this second movie, but it was still good.

5. Edge of Tomorrow - I am a little embarrassed that this is so high up on my list, but I ended up seeing this one twice and enjoyed it both times. So I guess it deserves a spot on this list. It's basically an action/sci-fi version of Groundhog Day, but it still worked. Oh, but it is so Tom Cruisey, so be careful that you can handle the Tom Cruiseiness of the movie.

6. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies - I watched the extended versions of the other two movies of The Hobbit before I saw this one, and it may have resulted in an overdose of Peter Jackson. The white orc and the ice... blah. And Tauriel... blah. And that one guy from Lake Town who just ran around looking for gold... I just don't even want to see him again. Ultimately, I think there should have just been two movies. I'm really glad they made these movies, though. They're not terrible, but the ways in which they diverged from the books weakened the movies, actually. But it did make me want to go and watch The Lord of the Rings series again, so there's that.

7. The Monuments Men - For me this movie isn't terribly rewatchable, just because it's not really exciting, but it was interesting and enjoyable for the first time. I enjoy that it is loosely based on a true story, and anything that makes history entertaining to watch is a good thing.

8. Interstellar - This movie was good to watch, but I checked my watch twice in it (solely as a hyperbole... I totally don't wear a watch), and there were parts that I couldn't understand because I think the sound editing wasn't done correctly. I also feel like there were some plot problems, like "nobody in their right mind would make these decisions" types of plot problems, but it was entertaining enough. And what was in the black hole... I just ... well, it's fiction, so fine. I'll look past it.

9. Divergent - I didn't read the books, and I can feel some extreme cheese coming on in future segments of this series, but the movie was actually pretty entertaining, and I could watch the next one.

10. The Lego Movie - It was humorous and fun, but I didn't like it as well as everyone else did, apparently. I got a little bored in it. I think it's brilliant that they made a successful movie off of a toy. Sure, there are the brilliant and awesome video games, too, but that makes it even more amazing that they made a successful movie off of a toy turned video game turned movie. Congrats, Lego people.

I also saw the following films:

I, Frankenstein - This movie was like walking into the middle of a conversation and having to figure out and catch up on what was going on. There was almost too much of an other-worldly set up to smoothly enter the movie. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really that great, either. Entertaining enough, though. It reminded me of Van Helsing, which I didn't love.

Veronica Mars Movie - I didn't feel like the movie kept the charm from the TV series. Of course, I didn't fundstart this movie, anyway, so I didn't really need the movie. That being said, I still enjoyed it. It's forgettable, though. I can't really remember what happened. I think there was a wedding?

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I - At this point, I am just along for the ride. I read the books before any of the movies came out, and I felt like the books got decreasingly good over time. However, I think the movies are all okayish.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - I feel like I already saw this movie, and I don't think these are as good as the ones with Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. I know the comic book crowd seems to like them better, but I just don't.

The Maze Runner - I haven't read these books, so I don't really know how they're going to end, but I'm not really that intrigued, either. It wasn't terrible, though, so when my friends want to see the next one, I won't refuse to go or anything, especially if it's cheap Tuesday with the dollar popcorn. Yum.

Maleficent - I just didn't really like this movie. I like Disney's Sleeping Beauty a lot, and I didn't feel like this movie was ... well, it wasn't even really that good. I thought the plot was too far off of Disney's Sleeping Beauty movie. Maybe I need to read the actual fairy tale, but if it is anything like Maleficent, I'll just pretend the original is the Disney's Sleeping Beauty version because blah.

Godzilla - I had never actually seen a version of Godzilla before. My brother tells me that I must see a Japanese version, but... I didn't love this one. I didn't care about the protagonists at all. It seemed so corny. It was kind of like Pacific Rim with big monsters dueling each other in the ocean. I guess I'm not really into that.

Non-Stop - Oh, Liam Neeson, you are just not an action star to me. I felt like this movie had so many problems.

Transcendence - This is another one of those where I didn't actually see the whole thing, but I did see the end, and I can't imagine any beginning that would have made that ending interesting or plausible to me.

I also saw some movies from 2013 that I had wanted to see:

Oblivion - It was alright. I think it would be boring to watch a second time, though.

The Wolverine - This was possibly better than the other Wolverine movie that they made, but it's a toss up. It felt like a lot of drama.

The Lone Ranger - This movie was just too full of itself to see its problems. It was way, way too long and had a bout of Peter Jacksonitis. It felt like it should have or at least could have been good, but it just wasn't.

42 - I enjoyed it, but I feel like it kind of abruptly ended. It didn't feel like a conclusion.

G.I. Joe Retaliation - Very forgettable.

Gravity - Long. Kind of boring, but okay. It was Castaway in space, so you know, not really rewatchable at all.

Captain Phillips - Again, if history can be presented in an entertaining way and still maintain some kind of historical accuracy, good for that movie.

The Book Thief - This wasn't as good as the book, but it was still good. I think it's depressingly cute.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Just along for the ride.

I also saw from 2013:

Austenland - It was exceedingly cheesy. Almost cheesier than the book, which was really cheesy. I can't say that I liked it, but I can't say that I disliked it, either.

Saving Mr. Banks - Interesting. Enjoyable, especially the music.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - I really enjoyed this one. I think I just enjoyed seeing the various places around the world. It was a visually-captivating movie. I watched the scenery.

Justin Bieber's Believe - Just kidding.

I still need to see from 2013:

Planes

I kicked off:
Riddick

And I added:

Philomena
All Is Lost
Frequencies

Movies from 2014 that I still want to see:

Million Dollar Arm
The Fault in Our Stars
Planes: Fire & Rescue
The Book of Life
Big Hero 6
Meet the Mormons
Into the Woods
Unbroken
The Imitation Game

I'll probably add more to this list when I get other recommendations, so please feel free to recommend.

The End