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Thanksgiving Football

Thursday, Nov 25 2021 by

It’s Thanksgiving in the United States, and just after turkey, pumpkin pie, and grandpa telling bad jokes, comes the tradition of watching NFL football games.

For nearly 100 years the Detroit Lions have played a game on Thanksgiving. Since 1966, the Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving as well. And in 2006, the NFL added a third game, played in prime time with different teams selected each year.

So, in order to learn more about the game, and maybe throw in a random fact during a timeout, let’s look at who will be taking the field today.

Ford Field, Detroit, MI

The Detroit Lions are one of the oldest teams in the league, and have been in Detroit since 1934. They moved to a new stadium, Ford Field, in 2002. Named after the Ford Motor Company, of course, the stadium can seat at least 70,000 football fans. It cost more than $500 million to build!

A unique stadium, Ford Field has a roof to keep out the cold Detroit winter, but also has huge skylights to allow for more natural light. In addition to NFL games, the stadium hosts college football bowl games, and the occasional college basketball game.

Ford Field (Google Maps)
Ford Field

Jared Goff, Hidden Hills, CA

Jared Goff has been a successful quarterback his entire career, even taking the Los Angeles Rams to their first Super Bowl in nearly 20 years. In 2021, he was traded to the Lions, but he hasn’t sold his gorgeous LA-area mansion yet.

He’s earning about $25 million this year, so he can afford to keep the California home, which set him back nearly $5 million. It has 5,000 square feet, five bedrooms, a pool, of course, and more. Neighbors include Drake, multiple Kardashians, and The Weeknd!

Jared Goff's House (Google Maps)
Jared Goff's House

Soldier Field, Chicago, IL

This year, the Lions are playing the Chicago Bears. At home, the Bears play at Soldier Field, in downtown Chicago. The Bears are one of the original NFL teams, and Soldier Field is the oldest stadium in use for NFL games.

Soldier Field first hosted the Bears in 1971, but has been around since 1924! Before then, the Bears played at Wrigley Field, but they have loved their new home, and even undertook massive renovations in 2002.

And it needed renovations. Originally, the stadium had plank seating! When demolition began immediately after a game in 2002, fans waited outside and took home individual seats and other items discarded for the renovations. Bears fans sure are dedicated, right?

Soldier Field (Birds Eye)
Soldier Field

AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t the oldest team in the league, but they are among the most famous. The team was formed in 1960, and shortly after, began playing a regular Thanksgiving home game. Part of the reason they decided to have an annual game was because there wasn’t a lot else on TV to watch that day!

AT&T Stadium is relatively new, having been completed in 2009. It has a retractable roof, a massive high-definition television, and many other bells and whistles that people love, and sometimes, mock.

It holds 80,000 fans, making it one of the biggest stadiums in the NFL. But it’s not just used for the Cowboys; college football plays several games here each year, and even important high school football games take place here. In Texas, football is king.

AT&T Stadium (Dallas Cowboys) (Birds Eye)
AT&T Stadium (Dallas Cowboys)

Dak Prescott, Prosper, TX

Drafted in 2016 by the Cowboys, Dak quickly became the starting QB after Tony Romo was injured in the preseason. He rightfully earned a reputation as a star player, now ranking as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Dak lives in a gorgeous, 9,000 square foot mansion in Prosper, Texas, a small suburb of Dallas. The mansion set him back $3.3 million, and has seven acres of land, an indoor “sports simulation theater”, game room, outdoor pool, and his very own practice field!

Dak Prescott's house (Birds Eye)
Dak Prescott's house

Allegiant Stadium, Los Vegas, NV

The famed Oakland Raiders moved to Los Vegas in 2020, and now play in the Allegiant Stadium. On Thanksgiving, they’ll suit up in Texas to play the Cowboys.

Allegiant Stadium was built specifically for the Raiders, and cost $1.9 billion! It is home to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas football team, as well. Because the Raiders prefer to play on grass, and UNLV prefers to play on astroturf, the stadium has a unique design to have Bermuda grass for the NFL games, and turf for college games. The grass is actually on a roll-tray, so the entire field can be moved in or out as needed, kind of like a cabinet drawer.

When you have a budget of $1.9 billion, you can do anything, it seems.

Allegiant Stadium (StreetView)
Allegiant Stadium

Superdome, New Orleans, LA

The final game of the day will be played in New Orleans, between the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints. Now one of the most famous, or infamous, stadiums, the Superdome holds NFL games, NCAA basketball games, and college football bowl games as well.

It is famous for being the site of refuge for thousands of New Orleans residents who fled their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They stayed there for days in squalid conditions, with no food, power, security, or place to sleep.

The stadium was entirely renovated before it reopened in 2006, and serves as a symbol that the city is strong, resilient, and dedicated to surviving, and thriving.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Google Maps)
Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Football is part of the American tradition, and plays an important role in many Thanksgiving holidays. Games will play all day, starting with the Lions-Bears at 12:30 eastern, then the Cowboys-Raiders at 4:30, and finally the Saints-Bills game at 7:30. So no matter where you are when you want to watch a bunch of guys throw an oddly-shaped ball, you’ll be able to get your fill of football.

Happy Thanksgiving!


New York, New York!

Thursday, Nov 18 2021 by

It’s a wonderful town! And there’s no better time to visit than in November. You can catch the end of the gorgeous New England fall, with the leaves changing color, you can catch the start of winter as the season changes, and if you’re there over Thanksgiving, you can even watch the amazing spectacle that is the Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Or, you can just shop til you drop in the thousands of stores the city has to offer.

No matter what, your time in NYC will be well-spent!

Statue of Liberty

A gift from France in 1886, the Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of freedom, acceptance and the open arms of the United States. She stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, welcoming all who come into the city. Visitors can climb the 300 foot statue, take in her beauty from the base on the island, or get a great view from Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan.

Statue Of Liberty (Birds Eye)
Statue Of Liberty

Times Square

Times Square is one of the most vibrant places on Earth, especially at night. It has been a center of theater activity for over a hundred years, and after a span where the area struggled with crime and adult themed shops, it has cleaned up its image and become the heart of the city. In addition to fun shops and shows, it’s the center of the world on New Year’s Eve, when the ball drops in Times Square.

Empire State Building (Birds Eye)
Empire State Building

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is a complex of nearly two dozen buildings in downtown New York that houses much of NBC’s New York operations, as well as many other businesses and corporations. Tourists love to gather outside in the early morning to watch live tapings of the Today Show, and enjoy the Christmas decorations and go ice skating at the Lower Plaza in the winter.

Rockefeller Center Lower Plaza & Rink (StreetView)
Rockefeller Center Lower Plaza & Rink

Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn was completed in 1883, and is an architectural masterpiece in the New York City skyline. It was constructed largely by manual labor, where men risked their health and lives to build the bridge. The bridge is open to both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and people love to stroll across the bridge, especially on a sunny day.

Brooklyn Bridge (Birds Eye)
Brooklyn Bridge

Woolworth Building

When the Woolworth Building was built in 1913, it was the tallest building in the world. When it opened, President Wilson flipped a switch and lit up the building with over 8,000 light bulbs, an engineering marvel at the time. Avant-garde in architecture and design, the building has an elevator decorated with Tiffany glass and cast iron. Visitors can enjoy the unique building from outside and the lobby, but because the building is now owned by private corporations, guests cannot tour the other floors.

The Woolworth Building (Birds Eye)
The Woolworth Building

Irish Hunger Memorial

In the 1840s, Ireland suffered from a dramatic and extended famine where nearly two million people died or left the country in search of better lives. A large portion moved to New York City, and it had a significant impact on the city’s culture and demographics. In the north end of Battery Park is a half acre memorial that includes an authentic 19th century cottage donated from a village in Ireland. It honors both the Irish who came to the city and those who died in the home country.

'Irish Hunger Memorial' by Brian Tolle (Birds Eye)
'Irish Hunger Memorial' by Brian Tolle

High Bridge Aqueduct

Aqueducts have been used for thousands of years to efficiently move water. The Croton Aqueduct system brought water to New York City, and where it crossed the Harlem River, the city constructed the High Bridge Aqueduct. It was used for about 100 years before being closed. In 2015, it was reopened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, connecting High Bridge Parks in the Bronx and Manhattan and providing a wonderful outdoor resource for the city.

High Bridge Aqueduct (Google Maps)
High Bridge Aqueduct

White Horse Tavern

New York is not short on great places to eat and sites full of cultural importance, but the White Horse Tavern combines the two. Operating since the 1800s, the West Village establishment became famous as a gathering place for writers, poets and bohemians in the 1950s. Famous artists including Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson and even Jack Kerouac (though he was kicked out multiple times) met, drank and mused here. Come raise a glass in their memory, but bring cash since they don’t take credit cards.

White Horse Tavern (StreetView)
White Horse Tavern

What makes New York City great is that there is something for everyone, from the classic attractions to the out of the way memorials, from the big skyline to the small eateries. No matter your style, interests, or budget, you’ll find something to take your breath away and somewhere to spend an amazing day in New York City.


Happy Birthday, Whoopi!

Saturday, Nov 13 2021 by

Whoopi Goldberg was born today in 1955, making the world a funnier, and more entertaining world! She got her start in comedy, but has been involved in some of Hollywood’s most moving and memorable films, and is a mainstay on the long-running and very popular daytime talk and news show The View.

So on this icon’s birthday, let’s learn a little more about Whoopi!

Chelsea-Elliot Projects, New York City, NY

Whoopi was born  Caryn Elaine Johnson in Manhattan, to a Baptist minister and a homemaker. Despite her Baptist father’s influence, Whoopi identifies as Jewish, and adopted the name Goldberg in her early years, with the influence of her mother.

Whoopi was raised in the Chelsea-Elliott Projects, a large housing project on the west side of the city. The development has four buildings and houses more than 1,000 families.

In addition to Whoopi, the Chelsea-Elliott Projects produced several other superstars, including several members of the Wayans family, including Damon Wayans, Jr. and others!

Chelsea-Elliot Projects (Birds Eye)
Chelsea-Elliot Projects

HB Studio, New York City, NY

Whoopi had an early and obvious talent for comedy, and that’s how she earned her moniker we all know her by today. She was dedicated to becoming a better comedian and actor, so she attended the renowned HB Studio in Greenwich Village. Some courses and events are free, but others require auditions and acceptance before allowing students to attend.

Whoopi’s classes paid off because after taking classes, her career took off! Other famous actors who had studied at the Studio include Bette Midler, Jack Lemmon, Marlo Thomas, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Herbert Berghof Studio (StreetView)
Herbert Berghof Studio

Steven Spielberg, Pacific Palisades, CA

While Whoopi started out as a comedian, her big break in Hollywood came when she starred in The Color Purple. She was specifically cast by super-director Steven Spielberg, in 1985, and she was nominated for several awards for her role in the moving drama.

Steven owns real estate around the world, but his main residence for decades has been a five-acre estate in the tony LA-area Pacific Palisades. The director spent $6.5 million on the home, and promptly renovated it down to the nails. When he rebuilt it, he was sure to add a hobbit-themed living room. The estate, which overlooks the Pacific coast even has a vineyard, something that is rare, even in LA.

Steven Spielberg's House (Birds Eye)
Steven Spielberg's House

St. Paul’s Catholic Church, San Francisco, CA

After starring in The Color Purple, Whoopi went on to make several other box office hits, but one of the all-time most popular was Sister Act. The comedy, which centers around a group of nuns acting as witness protection for a loud-mouthed Las Vegas singer, was largely filmed on location at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in San Francisco.

The church, which is still in use, has actually been used in other television shows and movies.

St. Paul's Catholic Church (Birds Eye)
St. Paul's Catholic Church

Joy Behar’s House, Sag Harbor, NY

Whoopi has done it all in acting: comedy, stage, serious film making, and sitcom work. But for the last 14 years, she has served as a co-host of the daily morning talk show, The View. It is the most-watched talk and news show on daytime television.

Co-host Joy Behar has been on the show since its inception in 1997. Joy has loved owning expensive real estate, and her most recent investment was a home in Sag Harbor, in the Hamptons. The home is around 100 years old, and cost Joy top dollar, as it wasn’t even for sale when she decided she just had to buy it!

Joy Behar's House (Google Maps)
Joy Behar's House

Whoopi’s Current Home, West Orange, NJ

Whoopi has owned several homes and apartments, many in or near New York City. In 2009, she bought a home in West Orange, New Jersey, for just under $3 million. The 100-year home in a gated community has 23 rooms, including eight bedrooms, a gym, pool, and more, spread out over 9,450 square feet.

Whoopi, a born-and-bred New Yorker, felt she needed to leave the city in order to have enough privacy to live her life comfortably. West Orange is a great choice as it’s close to the city,  and has so many other celebrities and wealthy people that no one bothers the highly-recognizable celebrity.

Whoopi Goldberg's House (Birds Eye)
Whoopi Goldberg's House

Since today is Whoopi’s birthday, it would be great to celebrate her by watching some of her work. And since she has starred in more than 200 shows and movies, there’s sure to be something that everyone likes. So sit back, sing a little Happy Birthday, and celebrate Whoopi with whatever show works for you!

Happy Birthday, Whoopi!




November's Deep Dive into History: Guy Fawkes Day

Friday, Nov 5 2021 by

“Remember, remember the 5th of November!” While these words are unfamiliar in the United States, every school age child in the United Kingdom can recite them from memory. The story behind the words is one of attempted treason, a fight for religious freedom, and the attempt to unify a divided country.

Birthplace in York, UK

Guy Fawkes was born around April 13, 1570, in the neighborhood of Stonegate, which is in present-day central York. He was baptized on April 16, which indicates he was born on April 13, due to the tradition of baptizing babies at three days old. His house still stands, and has been turned into a pub. The pub has made much of its famous former resident, and it’s a fun place to visit if you’re touring the area.

In his youth, Guy’s family members were Catholics at a time when the state religion was the Church of England. Some were privately Catholic, and others practiced openly. His family suffered because of their faith. When he was 18, Guy left England to fight for pro-Catholic causes in Europe. He was away for more than a decade, before he returned.

Guy Fawkes Inn and birthplace (StreetView)
Guy Fawkes Inn and birthplace

Guy Fawkes’ House, Dunchurch, UK

Despite the name, Guy Fawkes didn’t own the home that now bears his name in Dunchurch. Instead, the house, which used to be an inn, was a meeting place for plot conspirators. They met here, in central England, a few times over the summer of 1605, and according to some reports, members of the group waited here for word of Guy’s efforts on the night of November 5.

The former inn has since been nicknamed “Guy Fawkes House” and has been turned into a private house. While the house is not open for tours or visits, it dos have a historical marker on the front, to identify the historical importance of the former inn.

Guy Fawkes House (StreetView)
Guy Fawkes House

Palaces of Westminster, London, UK

The conspirators working with Guy Fawkes resented that the new King James was protestant and actively oppressed Catholics. They planned to blow up the Palaces of Westminster, to kill King James and push public sentiment back towards Catholicism.

The group stashed several barrels of gunpowder underneath a storage area within the Parliament compound. On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes was guarding the undercroft when he was discovered, foiling the treasonous plot and setting off a nationwide search for his co-conspirators. The buildings that would have been blown up by the Gunpowder Plot were mostly destroyed in a fire in the 1800s.

Palace of Westminster (Birds Eye)
Palace of Westminster

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

When the buildings didn’t blow, and they got wind that Fawkes was arrested, the rest of the plotters fled, hiding in places all across England. Several ended up at Warwick Castle, one of the oldest castles in England. They raided the barn, stealing horses and other items, as they planned to fight the King’s Men who were pursuing them across the country.

Today, visitors love to see tour the castle and extensive grounds. They even do medieval reenactments on the grounds. The ties to the Gunpowder Plot enhance the castle’s deep ties to English history.

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Tower of London, London, UK

Guy Fawkes, captured red-handed, was taken to the Tower of London, where he was tortured and beaten for days, until he eventually gave names and details about the conspiracy. Eventually, other associates were captured and held in the Tower.

During his torture and subsequent trial, he was housed at the Queen’s House within the Tower compound. His trial was brief, he was found guilty, and sentenced to hanged, drawn, and quartered.

On January 31, 1606, Guy somehow managed to break his neck during his hanging, thereby hastening his death and avoiding the torture that otherwise would have been part of his punishment for high treason.

Tower of London (Birds Eye)
Tower of London

Statue of Guy Fawkes, Bridgewater, UK

Shortly after the foiled attempt, people lit bonfires in the streets of London to celebrate the safety of the King. In an effort to enhance unity by creating a public villain, King James encouraged people across the country to celebrate the event by holding massive bonfires on November 5.

These days, celebrations include massive bonfires where Guy Fawkes is burned in effigy, as well as fireworks displays. People love the events, and it’s an important tradition across the United Kingdom. While Guy is still burned and reviled for fun, he is in a way revered and admired in the country. After all, if it hadn’t been for him, there wouldn’t be bonfires fireworks, fun foods, and celebration every fall! The town of Bridgewater holds spectacular bonfire festivities, including masked parades and homemade cannon!

Guy Fawkes Carnival statue (StreetView)
Guy Fawkes Carnival statue

Now that you know more about this cool British holiday, you can celebrate too! Get some fireworks, snacks, and have  a small bonfire in your backward, and recite the words to the famous poem by John Milton:

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!


The Most Haunted Places around the World

Sunday, Oct 31 2021 by

It’s Halloween, and everyone wants a little spook today! So dim the lights, put on some scary music, and read about some scary, haunted, and creepy places around the world.

The Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas

The Driskill Hotel is a gorgeous, four-star hotel in downtown Austin Texas. It’s also one of the most haunted hotels in the world. Built by Colonel Driskill in 1886, it went bankrupt within a year, and has struggled over the years many times to turn a profit.

Many people say the hotel was cursed from the start; it was built with blood money: money earned selling beef to the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.

The ghost of Colonel Driskill has been seen throughout the hotel, as have others, including a jilted bride. But the most compelling story is of Samantha Houston, a little girl who died at the hotel when she chased her ball down the stairs and tumbled to her death. She has been seen and heard playing on the grand steps of the hotel. Haunted indeed.

The Driskill Hotel (StreetView)
The Driskill Hotel

In 1563, the regional king built a fortress city for his younger son. However, it was foretold that no building in the city could be taller than the home of a local religious leader. When this vow was broken, the religious man cursed the fort. Or, perhaps, a wicked wizard tried to win the heart of a beautiful woman, who scorned him. With his dying breath, he cursed the city.

Either way, everyone in the region considers it to be haunted, so much so that they even prohibit any visitors between sunset and sunrise to avoid accidents caused by the ghosts! Naturally, people looking to have personal encounters with the paranormal make visiting this place–after dark–a top priority.

Bhangarh Fort (StreetView)
Bhangarh Fort

The Fairmont Banff, Alberta, Canada

There’s something about hotels that lend themselves to be haunted. Perhaps it’s the people traveling in life, they end up traveling after death. The Fairmont Hotel in Banff is a remote, gorgeous luxury hotel set in the mountains of Canada.

The hotel, completed in 1886, burned down just a few years later. Since then, it has been haunted. One ghost is a happy one, a bellhop who finds satisfaction helping guests even in the afterlife. Others, however, are not so happy. In the room where a man murdered his family, some travelers have reported being smothered with pillows, hearing screams, or seeing bloody fingerprints.

It’s striking to imagine so much pain and horror among some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (Google Maps)
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Corvin Castle, Romania

Another gorgeous structure with scenic landscapes, Corvin Castle in Romania is one of the largest castles in Europe and one of the most beautiful structures in the country. Built in the 1400s, the castle sits on the border between historic Christian and Muslim clashes.

One of the most haunting stories is that Turkish Muslim slaves were held at the castle; promised freedom if the dug a well. More than a decade later, for some reason they were not granted their freedom. A message is purported to read “You may have water, but you have no soul.” Bones have been found throughout the castle, documenting a history of oppression worthy of hauntings.

Corvin Castle (StreetView)
Corvin Castle

Paris Catacombs, France

The city of Paris has been inhabited for nearly 1,400 years, and have been burying their dead in the city for as long. In the 1700s, the cemeteries were dangerously full, and the city decided to dig out tunnels underneath the streets for the dead. Over the next decade, they covered the walls, ceilings and everywhere with bones.

Catacombs entrance (Google Maps)
Catacombs entrance

It was opened to the public in 1874, for concerts and other novelty events. Immediately, people reported paranormal events. It’s really cool to tour the catacombs, but be sure to never go alone, or after dark. Reports abound of voices encouraging you to go deeper and deeper, eventually getting lost and becoming part of the catacombs forever.

Ossements in the Paris Catacombs (StreetView)
Ossements in the Paris Catacombs

Tower of London, UK

If there’s one place that’s going to be haunted, it’s got to be one of the oldest and most storied prisons in European history. The Tower of London held thousands of prisoners over the years, but the most famous ones include Anne Boleyn, Jane Gray, and even young princes Edward V and Richard. These individuals met their untimely deaths while at the Tower, and are said to still be present to this day.

A White Lady, and a Gray Lady, are some of the more-frequently seen otherworldly guests. There are even reports of a haunted bear who has attacked the Beefeater guards!

Tower of London (Birds Eye)
Tower of London

Whether you are inclined to believe in ghosts or not, it’s clear that there is paranormal activity, and it’s all around the world. Let’s just hope that if you encounter a spirit who hasn’t crossed over, it’s a friendly one just wanting to help you with your luggage, and not a haunted bear or murderous husband.

Happy Halloween!


A Playoff Season to Remember!

Friday, Oct 22 2021 by

After an unusual playoffs in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, baseball is back and the post-season is a crazy one!

The Yankees and the Red Sox, the 2020 World Champions Dodgers, and more were all in contention for the title of World Champions for 2021! Let’s take a look at some of the teams who made it to this season’s playoffs.

Dodger Stadium Los Angeles, CA

The Los Angeles Dodgers, 2020 World Series Champions, play at Dodger Stadium, and have been there since 1952, making it one of the oldest stadiums in use in major league baseball. The Dodgers started out in Brooklyn, but a disagreement about a new stadium led to the franchise moving across country to LA, where they have been ever since.

Nicknamed “Blue Heaven on Earth”, the stadium has a reputation as a “pitcher’s park” meaning it’s great for no-hitters and perfect games. It is the largest-capacity stadium in the MLB, and is a fun stadium to attend because of LA’s good weather.

So far, it’s been a great place for the Dodgers, as they’re playing against the Atlanta Braves for the National League Championship.

Dodger Stadium (Birds Eye)
Dodger Stadium

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL

The Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in 2020, and just like the Dodgers, the Rays made it back to the playoffs, but they lost in the first round against Boston. Tampa was awarded an expansion team in 1995, and the Rays started playing in 1998. They have made it to the playoff several times, and gotten to the World Series twice!

Tropicana Field is unique in that it’s the only stadium with a roof that doesn’t retract, and it’s the smallest stadium in the league, holding about 43,000 fans. The stadium is older than the team. It was built to help attract a baseball team. Things worked out for Tampa, and with one of the best records in the league, this could be their year!

Tropicana Field (Google Maps)
Tropicana Field

Fenway Park, Boston, MA

Possibly the most storied venue in all of sports, Fenway Park in Boston has been home to Boston’s Red Sox since 1912. Despite being one of the smallest stadiums, Fenway Park has one of the best atmospheres in all of baseball. The fans are dedicated, the game is up close and personal, and with features like the Green Monster in left field, it feels familiar even to first-time attendees.

The Red Sox have been playing ball since 1901, have played in 13 World Series, and won nine. The 86-year “Curse of the Bambino” was broken in 2004, and they’ve won three more championships since then.

Fenway Park (Birds Eye)
Fenway Park

Oracle Park, San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Giants started out as the New York Gothams, but moved to the west coast in 1958. They have some of the best records in the league, playing 20 times in World Series, winning more games than any other team (due to having been around since 1893), and winning the Championship eight times.

This year, they played against the defending World Champions the Dodgers, and lost in what was likely one of the most evenly matched series in years.

The Giants have played in several stadiums, and currently play in Oracle Park, right on the Bay, giving it a gorgeous, view. It may be chilly like Candlestick Park, but it’s not as windy. Engineers worked hard to reduce the wind exposure in the stadium, making it about half as windy as “The Stick”.

Oracle Park (Google Maps)
Oracle Park

Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago, IL

While the name isn’t that impressive, Guaranteed Rate Field on the South Side of Chicago is home to the White Sox, who have a great record this year. The White Sox, one of the oldest teams in the entire MLB, and one of the original teams in the American League, went 87 years between World Series wins, second only to the Chicago Cubs, who went more than 100 years before championships!

While we know they won’t be contending for the World Series this year after losing their against the Astros, they have a lot of potential and will be sure to come back swinging next year.

The White Sox played in Comiskey Park from 1910-1991, when they upgraded to their current location, built across the street from the old field. The new ballpark pays tribute to the old one in many ways, including arched windows in the front facade, an “exploding scoreboard” fitted with fireworks to celebrate home runs and wins.

Guaranteed Rate Field (Birds Eye)
Guaranteed Rate Field

As the postseason heats up, fans are paying closer attention to the games, and now even if you can’t talk balls, strikes, and pitching averages, you can throw out some useful commentary on where the teams are playing and how they’ve done in the past.

Play ball!


October's Deep Dive into History: the Beheading of Marie Antoinette

Saturday, Oct 16 2021 by

Marie Antoinette, one of the most famous queens in history, was the wife of the ill-fated Louis XVI of France. During her husband’s reign, the country devolved into the French Revolution, which led to the beheading of the King, and then the Queen, on October 16, 1793.

Birthplace, Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria

Born Maria Antonia at Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria on November 2, 1755, Marie Antoinette was the last girl and second to last child born to Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.

The Hofburg Palace was the imperial palace for the Hapsburg Empire, which ruled Austria, Hungary, parts of Germany, and eastern Europe. It is now the official residence and office for the President of Austria. Construction of the palace began in the 1200s and has continued to this day, with additions, enhancements, and upgrades taking place on a regular basis.

Portions of the building are open to the public for tours.

Hofburg Palace (StreetView)
Hofburg Palace

Childhood Retreat, Hetzendorf Castle, Vienna, Austria

Maria Antonia and her siblings spent much of their time at the Hetzendorf Castle, which was a hunting “lodge” in the 1700s outside the capital city. As Vienna grew, it engulfed the former rural land, and the castle is now part of a neighborhood in Vienna.

The castle was enlarged by Maria Theresa, and her children spent time there both in their youth and as adults, when they sometimes were without homes or royal residences.

Hetzendorf Castle (Birds Eye)
Hetzendorf Castle

Versailles, Paris, France

When she was 14, Maria Antonia was betrothed to Louis XVI, the future King of France. Upon her marriage on May 16, 1770, at Versailles, her name changed to Marie Antoinette, and she became known as the future Queen of France.

The couple, along with the entire royal court, lived at or spent much of their time at Versailles, the ornate, elaborate, even excessive palace located just outside Paris, the capital city.

Versailles is one of the most famous palaces in the world, with good reason. It has the famous Hall of Mirrors, with more than 350 mirrors, and was so luxurious that even the chamber pots were made of silver and gold.

Palace of Versailles (Birds Eye)
Palace of Versailles

Bedchamber at Versailles

Among the 2,300 rooms at Versailles is the queen’s bedchamber, an ornate and beautiful room covered with tapestries and gold leaf. However, the room is also full of history, and sadness.

During the time of royalty, it was required that the queen, and any woman of the royal blood, give birth in public. This was to ensure that the child was indeed of royal blood and fit to rule. After eight years of marriage, when Marie Antoinette finally went into labor, being present at the birth was the most important event of the year.

Marie-Antoinette's Bedchamber, Versailles (StreetView)
Marie-Antoinette's Bedchamber, Versailles

Hamlet at Versailles

Marie created a small retreat on the grounds of Versailles called the Queen’s Hamlet, a small but complete working farm. Here, she often retreated from the formalities of palace life, held small gatherings, and spent time with her children.

Hameau de la reine - Marie Antoinette's playhouse (StreetView)
Hameau de la reine - Marie Antoinette's playhouse

Many accused the queen of playing at farm life. Along with the supposed remark to starving people “Let them eat cake,” rumors about the Hamlet fueled her reputation as being out of touch with the people of France.

The Hamlet fell into disrepair after the Revolution, but Napoleon restored portions of the estate, and others helped restore it to its original design in the 20th century.

Queen's hamlet in Versailles (Google Maps)
Queen's hamlet in Versailles

Tuileries Palace, Paris, France

The Tuileries Palace was built in the 1500s as the imperial palace and was the official home of French royalty for three hundred years. Even when the Court was moved to Versailles, the palace in Paris was still an official residence.

Louis VXI and Marie Antoinette, in the heat of the Revolution, were forced to move to the Tuileries, to be watched by Revolutionary leaders. From there, the family tried to escape, but were caught and brought back, facing further punishment.

In 1871, the Tuileries were burned down, and only the Louvre was saved. The gardens and gathering areas still exist, and are some of the most-visited places in Paris.

Jardin des Tuileries (Google Maps)
Jardin des Tuileries

Prison in La Conciergerie, Paris, France

In 1793, the royal family was moved to the La Conciergerie, which was originally a palace, but turned into a prison. Many prisoners of the Revolution were held here before being taken to their execution by guillotine.

Marie was held here for months, with absolutely no privacy or any of the amenities she was used to as a royal. She was tried for various crimes and found guilty.

It was from here that she was escorted to her execution at what is now the Place de la Concorde. On October 16, 1793, the 37 year old former queen of France was forced to ride in an open wagon to her execution. Along the way she was jeered and mocked, but she remained composed until the very end. She was beheaded just after noon.

After her execution, she was placed in an unmarked grave.

La Conciergerie (Google Maps)
La Conciergerie

Tombs at Basilica of San Denis, France

After years of revolution, dictatorship, and chaos, the monarchy was restored. The bodies of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were exhumed and buried alongside other kings and queens of France in the Basilica of San Denis.

This cathedral has long been important to royal France, being where queens are crowned, and royalty have been buried for a thousand years.

King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France (StreetView)
King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette of France

While she lived only 37 years, the beautiful, shy, and fun-loving Marie has become one of the most famous, and imitated, queens of all time. Her royal status  belied the struggles of her life: leaving her family as a ten to marry a stranger, giving public birth to an heir, and falling from grace and fortune to nothing.



October 8 Bond. James Bond.

Friday, Oct 8 2021 by

The latest installment of the James Bond series, No Time to Die, comes to US theaters on October 8 after three Covid-related delays, and it’s certain to be worth the wait. Daniel Craig leading up the cast for the fifth, and final, time. In honor of the film, let’s take a look at where some of the most exciting and memorable scenes have taken place.

MI6 Headquarters

MI6 is the nickname of the super spy agency, Secret Intelligence Service. Its headquarters in Vauxhall, in London, is a mainstay in the James Bond series plots. It is where Bond works with his supervisor, M, and the super cool research agent Q, who constantly creates amazing spy tools, fast cars, and other gadgets to help Bond always gain the upper hand.

MI6/SIS headquarters (StreetView)
MI6/SIS headquarters

Dr. No’s Lair, Crab Key, Jamaica, Featured in Dr. No

The first James Bond film, Dr. No, was filmed largely onsite in Jamaica. The evil villain Dr. No has a secret lair in Crab Key island, where he tries to use radiation and other tools to try to start a war between the Americans and Russians. Fortunately, Bond is able to overpower the evil scientist and avert a third world war. And at the end of the day, he has a new love interest, of course.

007 Dr. No's Crab Key Island (Google Maps)
007 Dr. No's Crab Key Island

Fort Knox, Kentucky, Featured in Goldfinger

In the third installment of the series, James Bond discovers an evil man running a global gold smuggling ring. Bond tracks Goldfinger, for whom  the film is named, to Fort Knox in Kentucky. Here, Bond fights the evil villain who is trying to rob the gold depository. Bond, along with the troops stationed at Fort Knox, were able to save the day. Later, Bond and Goldfinger fight on an airplane and Goldfinger is tragically sucked out the window to his death before Bond ends the film stranded in the water with the beautiful Pussy Galore.

Fort Knox, U.S. Bullion Depository (Birds Eye)
Fort Knox, U.S. Bullion Depository

Himeji Castle in Japan, Featured in You Only Live Twice

In the fifth Bond film, James Bond is investigating the mystery of a hijacked American spacecraft. Clues lead Bond to Japan, where he crosses the islands on the tail of another SPECTRE villain. On the way, Bond encounters ninjas training at Himeji Castle, which is the largest and most popular castle in the country. Eventually, Bond discovers a secret SPECTRE lair inside a volcano and prevents the US from launching nuclear weapons at the USSR.

Himeji Castle (StreetView)
Himeji Castle

Pyramids of Giza, Featured in The Spy Who Loved Me

In The Spy Who Loved Me, Bond is paired with a Russian spy to track down a missing submarine stolen by an evil businessman and scientist Karl Stromberg. The team travels across Egypt, including to the Pyramids of Giza, as they track down the scientist and search for answers about the submarine. Stromberg wants to start World War III and create an underwater world, but Bond and his Russian spy partner work together and are able to avert nuclear war and kill Stromberg.

Pyramids of Giza (Google Maps)
Pyramids of Giza

The Demilitarized Zone, Featured in Die Another Day

Die Another Day starts with Bond infiltrating a North Korean military base to uncover information about conflict diamonds. He is captured and held as a prisoner by the North Koreans until was to be traded in a prisoner exchange at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Eventually, Bond tracks the evil villain back to the DMZ. There, it’s revealed the villain, Graves is secretly a North Korean Colonel who is planning to cut a path through the DMZ to allow North Korean troops to invade South Korea. After a high-stakes fight on an airplane, Bond kills the villain and once again saves the day and the world.

Guard Post (OP) Ouellette (Google Maps)
Guard Post (OP) Ouellette

Lake Como, Italy, Featured in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig made his Bond debut in Casino Royale in 2006, and has been the lead in the series ever since. In Casino Royale, Bond travels across Europe playing high-stakes poker and other risky games to track down a man intent on using a planned terrorist attack to make a fortune. After averting disaster but losing his lover, Vesper Lynd, in the process, Bond tracks the evil villain Mr. White to a house in lovely Lake Como, Italy. There, he shoots the villain in the leg and introduces himself as “Bond. James Bond”.

James Bond's House (Casino Royale) (Bing Maps)
James Bond's House (Casino Royale)

Westminster Bridge, London, Featured in Spectre

In the 2015 Bond film Spectre, Bond goes rogue to avenge the death of M, and find a reason for all the suffering he has endured. From Mexico to Austria, to Morocco, Bond is on the trail of SPECTRE once again, only to end up back in London. There, it is revealed SPECTRE is attempting to infiltrate MI6 itself, and only Bond and his trusted team can stop it. After preventing a major catastrophe and murder of his newfound female companion, Bond must fight one more battle against Blofeld, the founder of SPECTRE. Bond bravely shoots down Blofeld’s helicopter, which crashes into London’s Westminster Bridge. Bond ensures Blofeld is arrested, and then leaves with the lovely Swann. He has saved the day once again.

Westminster Bridge (Birds Eye)
Westminster Bridge

Bond has traveled the world countless times as he’s saved the world from nuclear attack, avoided World War III, and prevented terrorists from seizing control of national intelligence, gold supplies, and more. It’s going to be a wild ride from the start in Bond’s newest film No Time to Die, premiering in the US on November 20, 2020.







There's No Doubt It's Gwen's Birthday!

Sunday, Oct 3 2021 by

Gwen Stefani is having a birthday today, and she has a lot to celebrate as she turns 52. Just married this summer to Blake Shelton, the singer, songwriter, television personality, and fashion icon has it all going for her. Let’s take a look at Gwen’s life, and where she might be letting her favorite crooning cowboy sing her Happy Birthday.

Childhood Home, Anaheim, California

Gwen was born and raised in southern California, in a middle class family. She grew up in Anaheim, near Disneyland. She and her older brother were part of the band No Doubt since their teenage years, and their first album was named after the street they lived on: Beacon Avenue.

Gwen Stefani childhood home (Google Maps)
Gwen Stefani childhood home

Current Mansion, Los Angeles, California

While she’s a million miles away in terms of fame and wealth, she actually lives pretty close to her childhood home. She and her new husband Blake Shelton recently moved into a $13.2 million, 13,000 square foot home set on 1.6 acres in LA.

The couple bought the house in May, and are still settling into the newly-built home that has three floors, private theater, pool, spa, four car garage, and an outdoor kitchen, which is all the rage these days. Gwen’s touch is all over the house, with snake-print paneling in the living room, and huge pictures of Blake on the walls.

Gwen Stefani & Blake Shelton's House (Google Maps)
Gwen Stefani & Blake Shelton's House

Ten Point Ranch, Tishomingo, Oklahoma

Blake and Gwen got married on July 3, at Blake’s Oklahoma ranch. Blake bought the ranch as he rose to fame, and has become an integral part of the small town of Tishomingo.

The 1,300 acre estate originally had a 2,000 square foot home, but Blake and Gwen recently completed work on a lakeside mansion on the property. Importantly, the property also has a small chapel built by Blake specifically for Gwen. It was at this small building that he proposed to her, and it was here in a private ceremony that the two were married on July 3, 2021.

The mixed family have made the ranch a real home, and they spent a lot of time here during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Blake Shelton 10 Point Ranch (Google Maps)
Blake Shelton 10 Point Ranch

Gwen and Gavin’s Mansion, Los Angeles, California

Before meeting Blake, Gwen was with Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale for 20 years and married for 13, but the couple divorced after a cheating scandal.

The powerhouse music couple owned several homes including a mega-mansion in Los Angeles. Due to the unique design and high price tag, it took several years and price drops from $35 million to $24 million to find a buyer.

The modern mansion had 12,000 square feet, seven bedrooms, ten bathrooms, a funky kitchen, full gym, infinity pool, tennis court and… a chicken coop. Before being owned by Gwen and Gavin, the only previous owner was Jennifer Lopez, so whoever bought the house got a lot of cool music cred along with it.

Gwen Stefani & Gavin Rossdale's House (Google Maps)
Gwen Stefani & Gavin Rossdale's House

Gwen and Gavin’s Mansion, London, UK

The former couple also had a home in London, which makes sense because Gavin is British. They enjoyed spending vacation time there, as well as using it as a resting spot when the family traveled around Europe.

The $6 million home in the posh neighborhood of Primrose Hill was a perfect place for the musical family, with Jamie Olivier and Daniel Craig as neighbors. They lived on the top floors of the building and leased out the lower floor, which was broken into in 2014. Fortunately for Gwen and Gavin, the thieves were not able to access their private area.

In the divorce, Gavin retained ownership of the Primrose Hill building, as well as other property in Europe.

Gwen Stefani’s House (Birds Eye)
Gwen Stefani’s House

Harajuku, Japan

As Gwen branched out in her musical and fashion careers, she drew on fashion from Harajuku, a district in Tokyo, Japan, known for its fashion, art, and high-end shopping. The area has a global reputation for trend-setting fashion and culture, which drew Gwen’s attention.

As she toured, she had a four-member group that served as her entourage and backup dancers, which she called the Harajuku Girls after the district. They toured with her, appeared at events, and helped promote her fashion line and music.

Takeshita Street (StreetView)
Takeshita Street

Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino

In 2020, Gwen started a stage show at the Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, but had to cancel the show due to Covid-19. However, she has resumed the show at the resort and casino, playing there in October and November 2021.

The resort and casino is located on the Las Vegas Strip, famous for its gambling and entertainment, both for families and adults. This hotel was originally Aladdin’s and renovated and rebranded as Planet Hollywood in 2007. The massive hotel has nearly 2,500 rooms, upscale restaurants, and the Zappos Theater, where Gwen will perform, and where Britney Spears performed for four years.

Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino (StreetView)
Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino

Gwen has been entertaining and performing for nearly 30 years, but her career, and personal life, as as trendy and fun-filled as ever. As she celebrates her birthday today, first as wife to Blake, she will certainly be full of joy and happiness, looking forward to her next trip around the sun. Happy Birthday, Gwen!


The Unsolved Crimes of the Zodiac Killer

Friday, Oct 1 2021 by

The fear a serial killer can strike within a community is profound and only truly ends when the serial killer is brought to justice. The Zodiac Killer terrorized the San Francisco, California region by attacking at least seven people, four men and three women, between December 1968 and October 1969.

During the ten months that the killer was active, he taunted the public by sending letters and puzzles to the media to promote his crimes. What made his reign of terror more frightening was that his victims were assaulted at various times and in various fashions, making it harder to track him. He claimed many more victims than are officially linked to him, and there are several unsolved crimes that could have been committed by him.

Lake Herman Road attack

The first two Zodiac victims were teenagers David Arthur Faraday and Betty Lou Jensen, murdered on December 20, 1968. The two were on a date, and had parked at a “lovers’ lane” on Lake Herman Road in Benicia. According to the investigation, the killer pulled aside their vehicle, exited his car, ordered the two out of their vehicle and shot them one at a time.

Zodiac Killer - Lake Herman Road attack (Google Maps)
Zodiac Killer - Lake Herman Road attack

Blue Rock Springs attack

The next known victims were killed on July 4, 1969. Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin were together in a parked car when another car came along side them, shooting into the car from the passenger side. Ferrin died at the scene but Mageau survived. Later that night, a man called the police station taking credit for the Blue Rock Springs attack as well as the one on Lake Herman Road the previous year.

Zodiac Killer - Blue Rock Springs attack (Google Maps)
Zodiac Killer - Blue Rock Springs attack

The next month, the killer began sending letters and cryptograms to the local newspapers, often demanding the letters be published to avoid a killing spree, threats he never followed through to completion. It was in one of these letters that he gave himself the nickname “Zodiac”. The cryptogram was alleged to include his identity, but when cracked, it was nothing more than a typo-ridden explanation of his bizarre motives.

Lake Berryessa attack

On September 27, two college students, Bryan Hartnell and Cecilia Shepard, were on a picnic at Lake Berryessa when a man wearing a hood and sunglasses covering his face threatened them at gunpoint, making Shepard tie up Hartnell with rope, then tying her up. He then stabbed each of them multiple times.

Later in the evening, the police department received a call from the killer reporting his act. Shepard and Hartnell both initially survived the attack and were able to provide details about the crime and the attacker, but Shepard died two days later.

Zodiac Killer - Lake Berryessa attack (Google Maps)
Zodiac Killer - Lake Berryessa attack

Presidio Heights attack

On October 11, 1969, cab driver Paul Stein was attacked and murdered by an apparent passenger, who shot him in the head, took his keys and wallet, and a portion of Stein’s bloodstained shirt. He used pieces of Stein’s torn shirt to later taunt the police .

While the crime was witnessed by local teens, miscommunications in the report and description of the suspect led to the police likely encountering but not stopping the killer just minutes after the murder.

The Zodiac Killer later claimed to the media that he had spoken with police just three minutes after the murder, further taunting the police and terrifying the public. He thoroughly enjoyed communicating with the media, even getting a famous lawyer to appear on a talk show at his request.

Zodiac Killer - Presidio Heights attack (Google Maps)
Zodiac Killer - Presidio Heights attack

Modesto attack

Kathleen Johns was a young pregnant mother who was driving near Modesto when she was encouraged to pull over by another driver. The driver informed her that her tire was loose and offered to tighten it. Instead, he apparently loosened it so that when she attempted to drive, it fell off and she was forced to accept a ride from him to a service station.

Instead of helping her, he drove her and her child around for about 90 minutes before she was able to escape. Four months later, in a letter to a local paper, the Zodiac Killer took credit for Johns’ abduction.

Possible Santa Barbara attack

Several unsolved crimes are often linked to the Zodiac Killer, either because he took credit for them in media correspondence or the method of attack matches his known patterns.

On June 4, 1963, two high school seniors were murdered on a beach in Santa Barbara County. They were bound, unsuccessfully, and then shot multiple times each. If this were committed by the Zodiac Killer, it would have been one of his earliest known crimes.

Possible Zodiac Killer - Santa Barbara attack (Google Maps)
Possible Zodiac Killer - Santa Barbara attack

The Zodiac Killer continued to send messages to the media, with the last confirmed message sent in February 1974. Several unauthenticated letters were also received over the years, along with countless forgeries claiming to be from the killer.

While the case is cold, having been more than 45 years since the last known contact, local police forces are still investigating the crimes. In May 2018, stamps were sent to be analyzed for DNA evidence, but the results have not been released. Even after all this time, the Zodiac remains one of the most mysterious and famous serial killers of the 20th century.