October Celebrity Birthdays

Curious who might be having a birthday this month?

Here’s a list of just a few celebrities who will be celebrating their annual trip around the sun in October, and some of the homes where they might be celebrating.

Kelly Ripa

October 2 is a weekday, so viewers will certainly be able to see her on her morning television show Live! with Kelly and Ryan. Hopefully she’ll celebrate on stage with the audience and crew, but she’ll certainly be celebrating with her family after work.

Maybe they’ll head to their mansion in Southampton, which is a 5,500 square foot house with five bedrooms, a great yard and a sweet pool. It set them back $2.35 million in 2004, and has been a great retreat for the family since then.

Kelly Ripa's house (Google Maps)
Kelly Ripa's house

Kate Winslet

Film icon Kate Winslet may turn 44 on October 5, but she’ll likely look as glamorous as ever. She may celebrate her birthday in her lovely home on the beach in Sussex, Great Britain.

She loves her eight bedroom beachside manor so much she’s even using it as the location for an upcoming Hollywood film, so it would make sense she celebrates there with her family if at all possible.

Happy Birthday, Kate!

Kate Winslet's House (Google Maps)
Kate Winslet's House

Simon Cowell

America’s favorite grumpy judge should remember that frowning can cause wrinkles, which you don’t want to see on your birthday. Simon Cowell turns 60 on October 7, and hopefully he’ll smile as he blows out all those candles.

If he’s in California filming America’s Got Talent or working on one of his many television projects, he has no shortage of homes to celebrate in without leaving the area.

His main LA home, bought in 2005 from Jennifer Lopez, has been significantly renovated to be more family-friendly. The new 10,000 square foot “dream home” includes an epic terrace off the master suite, tanning salon, screening room and areas for the live-in help.

Simon Cowell's House (StreetView)
Simon Cowell's House

If that doesn’t satisfy him, he can zip down the street to the home he bought in 2011 for $15.5 million, and promptly began an extensive renovation.

It includes cashmere-covered couches and an ottoman that turns into a television.

Simon Cowell's House (Birds Eye)
Simon Cowell's House

If he’s in New York, he can celebrate in his newly renovated town home, which he bought for nearly $11 million, and of course, immediately began to renovate.

The home overlooks Central Park, which would make a lovely setting for a rendition of “Happy Birthday”, on tune of course.

Simon Cowell's House (Birds Eye)
Simon Cowell's House

Bruno Mars

Any home for Bruno Mars has to have a lot of shelf space to hold all his Grammy Awards.

The Hawaiian crooner should serenade himself with “Happy Birthday” on October 8 in his lovely $6.5 million Los Angeles mansion.

He’ll have plenty of activities to choose from in his home, which includes a children’s wing, a wine cellar, steam room, dry sauna, infinity pool and heated cabana.

Bruno Mars' House (Birds Eye)
Bruno Mars' House

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman is everyone’s celebrity, from the people who love his X-Men character Wolverine to those who love to see him sing and dance in The Greatest Showman, and everyone will be wishing him a happy birthday on October 12. Aussie Hugh can celebrate his birthday all around the world.

He might eat cake and ice cream with his family in his Hamptons estate. The main house has been under renovation for four years, but the family stays in the gorgeous guest house when they visit, as often as their schedule permits.

Hugh Jackman's House (Google Maps)
Hugh Jackman's House

They may celebrate just down the road in the family’s New York City apartment, which they bought in 2008 for roughly $15 million. They actually bought a unit that spans three floors in the exclusive building in the West End.

Hugh Jackman's Apartment (StreetView)
Hugh Jackman's Apartment

Of course, the family may celebrate at home in Australia in their exclusive Bondi Beach apartment, which they bought for about $4 million. It overlooks the bay, has a state of the art kitchen,  and imported European wood floors.

Hugh Jackman's House (Google Maps)
Hugh Jackman's House

Drake

Hopefully Drake will celebrate his 33rd birthday at his Los Angeles home, which he bought in 2012 for almost $8 million. He claims he bought the house, which has a library, wine cellar, and indoor gym, for the pool, which is a huge, landscaped expanse that includes underground grottos.

The estate is nicknamed the “YOLO Estate” and it certainly lives up to the reputation. He hosts parties that are so awesome that the neighbors used to complain. Not for long, though, because Drake actually bought the neighbor’s house to resolve the issue!

If he’s in Los Angeles on October 24 to celebrate, the entire neighborhood will know about it, that’s for sure.

Drake's House (Birds Eye)
Drake's House

Having a birthday is usually fun, filled with song, celebration, good food and loved ones. But having a birthday as a celebrity is even better because you can celebrate on a whole new level, and choose among your many mansions where you want to party.

Tribute to 9/11

On the morning of September 11, 2001, airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in a rural area in Pennsylvania.

Each year, it is important to look back and remember what happened and recommit ourselves to never forget; to honor those who died, those who have since fought to protect the United States and the world from terror, and those who live with the scars of that day and everything it impacted.

Twin Towers, New York City, NY

Since the late 1960s, the World Trade Center towers dominated the New York City skyline, a landmark for tourists and a destination for international commerce in the United States.

New Twin Tower
Photo Credit http://www.wikipedia.com

Early on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked two airplanes, Flight 11 and Flight 175, and crashed them into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center.

Damage to the buildings was so extensive that, roughly ninety minutes after the airplanes hit, the buildings collapse, and debris and fire caused all of the other buildings of the World Trade Center complex to completely or partially collapse.

World Trade Center Site (Google Maps)
World Trade Center Site

The area of impact was reduced to a mass of rubble several blocks wide, and was the center of intensive search for survivors, remains and clues as to who was behind the attack and what caused the seemingly invincible skyscrapers to collapse.

This area was nicknamed “Ground Zero” and became a place of mourning, hope and renewal.

Ground zero, World Trade Center Site (StreetView)
Ground zero, World Trade Center Site

Many displays of tribute and respect were erected throughout the city. Several more permanent displays were created, including works of art honoring the fallen such as this mural by Yakov Smirnov.

Yakov Smirnov's "America's Heart" mural (Birds Eye)
Yakov Smirnov's "America's Heart" mural

Immediately after the attacks, New Yorkers vowed to rebuild and remember, refusing to be subdued by the terrorists.

Construction of One World Trade Center began in 2006, and was completed in 2014. It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

One World Trade Center (StreetView)
One World Trade Center

An important part of the reconstruction was a museum and memorial to remember those killed, the survivors, and the first responders.

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum opened partially in 2011 and was completed in 2014.

9/11 Memorial - North Pool (StreetView)
9/11 Memorial - North Pool

The design of the memorial includes a forest of white oak trees and two square reflecting pools with deep waterfalls on the footprint of the two fallen towers.

9/11 Memorial - South Pool (StreetView)
9/11 Memorial - South Pool

Names of the fallen are written on parapets surrounding the pools, with the victims of the North building and related airplane honored at the north pool and victims from the South building and airplane at the south pool.

Additionally, the six victims from the 1993 attack are commemorated at the south pool.

South Tower Memorial, United Flight 93 (StreetView)
South Tower Memorial, United Flight 93

Here is a close up of some of the names of those who perished.

Garnet "Ace" Bailey 9/11 memorial (StreetView)
Garnet "Ace" Bailey 9/11 memorial

Pentagon, Arlington, VA

The Pentagon, the nation’s center for defense and military operations, is  located just outside Washington, D.C. About 26,000 people, civilians, military, work at the Pentagon each day.

Pentagon (Google Maps)
Pentagon

Shortly after the two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City, another hijacked airplane, Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon. Between the airplane and the Pentagon, 189 people were killed. The plane crashed through three of the five rings of the building before exploding. Fires burned for several days before being fully extinguished.

The nation’s defense team, headquartered at the Pentagon, refused to be swayed by the attack, and returned to work the very next day, in spite of the burning fires and chaos going on all around them.

An outdoor memorial to the fallen was constructed outside the Pentagon and opened on September 11, 2008. A wall on the perimeter of the memorial starts out at three inches high and goes to 71 inches, indicating the age span of those killed in the attack, from three years to 71 years old.

There are 184 illuminated benches, one for each victim. The name of a person is engraved on each bench, with the names of the airplane passengers facing upwards to the sky and the Pentagon employees facing north, toward the building.

There is also an illuminated flowing pool of water under each bench.

Pentagon Memorial (StreetView)
Pentagon Memorial

Pentagon Memorial

Photo Credit http://www.wikipedia.com

Shanksville, PA

The fourth and final airplane to crash that day went down in a rural area near Shanksville, PA.

Passengers and flight attendants on Flight 93 were able to place calls to loved ones, letting them know they had been hijacked, and were told that other planes had already crashed into sites in New York and Virginia.

Brave people on the plane stormed the cockpit, leading to the plane crashing in rural Virginia, rather than be used as a missile to hit an assumed target of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Had it reached its intended target, countless government leaders, employees and civilians would have been killed that day. It would have been a devastating blow to the American government and morale.

Flight 93 National Memorial (Google Maps)
Flight 93 National Memorial

The site quickly became a memorial for those mourning the loss of their loved ones. A nearby abandoned chapel served as a place of solace and communion for those mourning their loved ones, and it eventually became a makeshift memorial.

Flight 93 Memorial Chapel (StreetView)
Flight 93 Memorial Chapel

Forty victims died that day in Pennsylvania, 39 from the airplane and one on the ground. The memorial commemorates the fallen with a circle in the field designed to resemble an embrace.

The memorial also includes a 93 foot “tower of voices” which holds 40 wind chimes, one for each victim.

9/11 Flight 93 Crash Site and Memorial (Google Maps)
9/11 Flight 93 Crash Site and Memorial

Between the three sites, the victims on the airplanes and the first responders who were killed during the collapse of the Twin Towers, nearly 3,000 people died that day. Many more have died since then due to exposure to chemicals and dust in the cleanup efforts and from exposure to the dust and toxins from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.

It is important to bear witness to the events of that day; it is important that we will never forget.

Cool Colleges

Labor Day marks the official start of school across the United States. Some schools start a little earlier, but by the time the holiday is over, school is back in session. Let’s look at some of the most famous universities in the US.

Harvard

The oldest, most famous and most prestigious university in the United States, Harvard University was founded in 1636 and has earned a sterling reputation as a center for educational enlightenment and intellectual influence.

Alumni include eight U.S. presidents, dozens of international heads of state, and countless influential government and economic leaders.

Harvard (Google Maps)
Harvard

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, the beautiful campus includes centers for medical, business, public service and more.

The university has 79 libraries in its system, centered around the Widener Library. It is the largest library system in the United States and one of the largest in the world.

Widener Library (Birds Eye)
Widener Library

Yale

Just a few hours away in New Haven Connecticut, Yale University is the third oldest university in the United States and competes with Harvard for intellectual acclaim. Like Harvard, it is one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Five presidents, dozens of Nobel Prize winners and 19 Supreme Court justices are among the alumni.

Yale (Google Maps)
Yale

While most colleges have fraternities and sororities, Yale has secret societies, the most famous of which is probably Skull and Bones. These societies have off-campus houses much like fraternities where members meet throughout their tenure at the school. Alumni, including the likes of both George W. Bush and John Kerry, remain very involved in the society throughout their lives.

Skull and Bones - Yale University (Birds Eye)
Skull and Bones - Yale University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Just down the street from Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT takes up only a small area of the city but has made a tremendous global impact in the science-related fields.

It boasts nearly 100 Nobel Prize winners, 41 astronauts and countless other important and influential scientists and researchers.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Google Maps)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Several buildings have been added to the campus recently, including the unique Stata Center, carry on a tradition of unique architecture for both academic and residential buildings.

Stata Center at MIT (Birds Eye)
Stata Center at MIT

Duke University

Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University has a reputation as a powerhouse academic institution, even tying Harvard and Yale for some prestigious rankings.

The university, founded in 1838, changed its name to Duke University in 1924 in concert with a significant endowment from tobacco and power industrialist James Duke. The school isn’t famous just for the academic output, but also for the beautiful campus.

Duke University (Google Maps)
Duke University

To some, Duke doesn’t mean just a great education but an excellent NCAA basketball team. The school, under Coach Krzyzewski, has had a reputation for putting together winning teams, which you can watch at Cameron Indoor Stadium, if you’re lucky enough to get a ticket.

Cameron Indoor Stadium (Google Maps)
Cameron Indoor Stadium

Stanford University

On the west coast, Stanford University was founded in 1885 by Leland Stanford, a former senator, governor and railroad tycoon.

The school has more than 80 Nobel laureates and dozens of successful alumni, as well as a reputation as a consistently good football school.

Stanford University (Google Maps)
Stanford University

After years of financial troubles, a provost guided the university to focus on entrepreneurship and finding opportunities for outside investment, making it the most successful school in terms of attracting outside startup capital and generating revenue from successful ventures. In fact, it is responsible for the development of Silicon Valley, which has become the global hub of technological and social media advancements and innovation.

The Hoover Tower is an 825 foot tall building that looks over the campus, and houses the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace.

Hoover Tower (Birds Eye)
Hoover Tower

These five institutions have reputations that carry weight around the world, and the alumni are likely to be successful in life and business. But for the vast majority of us who will only see these schools online or on television, we can enjoy looking at them here, and be grateful we didn’t have the homework, stress and school loan debt it takes to succeed at such a renowned institution.

Properties of Jeffrey Epstein

Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier and mainstay in elite New York and international circles, committed suicide on August 10 in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. He was awaiting trial for the sex trafficking of minors. It had been rumored that Epstein committed sex trafficking, exploited women and girls, and hosted sex parties and erotic activities around the world.

Epstein had a list of friends and acquaintances that included Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, former senators and businessmen, and even international royalty. Epstein had longstanding ties to the most influential and important people in the world, and rumors that they participated in sexual activities hosted or arranged by Epstein have been swirling for years. This, combined with speculation that he held blackmail material on them, have made his prosecution and subsequent suicide front page news.

Herbert N. Straus House, New York, NY

On July 9, 2019, as Epstein was being arrested in New Jersey, FBI agents raided his gigantic home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

The home, one of the largest private residences in the city, is over 50,000 square feet, and has nine floors, a fifteen foot wood front door and heated sidewalks!

According to reports, it is decorated from floor to ceiling in elaborate, eclectic and sometimes bizarre decor, including a stuffed black poodle on top of a Steinway grand piano and rows of glass eyeballs designed for English soldiers.

Jeffrey Epstein's House (Google Maps)
Jeffrey Epstein's House

Mansion, Palm Beach, FL

Epstein spent a lot of time in Florida, hobnobbing with celebrities, and hosting events that were rumored to be sex parties with underage girls.

In 2005, the mother of a young woman pressed charges against Epstein in Palm Beach, leading to his pleading guilty to prostituting an underage girl and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Epstein was allowed “work release” where he could leave the prison for 12 or 13 hours a day to work and conduct business; treatment that is extremely rare in the U.S. judicial system and drew significant criticism from victim advocates and others.

Jeffrey Epstein's house (Birds Eye)
Jeffrey Epstein's house

Little St. James Island, U.S. Virgin Islands

Epstein owned a small island in the Caribbean, complete with a house that has, according to rumor, hosted “sex parties” for princes, American politicians, and wealthy individuals from around the world. He is alleged to have flown them to the island on his private airplane nicknamed the Lolita Express.

The island was raided in August 2019, in a search for more evidence against Epstein and his associates in relation to cases of sexual exploitation.

Jeffrey Epstein's House (Google Maps)
Jeffrey Epstein's House

Zorro Ranch, Stanley, NM

Among all the rumors of Epstein’s exploits that surfaced in the summer of 2019 were allegations that he had parties at his New Mexico ranch. The ranch sits on over 8,000 acres of land just outside Santa Fe.

Neighbors say Epstein threw parties so big that they would drown out the light of the stars.

He also supposedly wanted to use the ranch as a breeding facility to seed the human race with exceptionally attractive people by impregnating attractive women with his own DNA.

Jeffrey Epstein's House (Google Maps)
Jeffrey Epstein's House

Apartment, Paris, France

Epstein also maintained a residence near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, for when he visited the country for business or personal affairs.

Epstein purchased several units within the property at 22 Avenue Foch for a reported 1.5 million Euros in 2002.

With the scandal developing in the United States, French officials have begun investigating Epstein’s activities in Paris.

Jeffrey Epstein's Apartment (Google Maps)
Jeffrey Epstein's Apartment

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Mansion, Manchester, MA

Among all the people associated with Epstein and his alleged crimes, Ghislaine Maxwell’s name has come up most often. The British socialite was known as his girlfriend, best friend and associate. She coordinated many of the activities that have been the source of criminal allegations, and has been named by many accusers of playing an active role in sex trafficking.

As of the summer 2019, she lived in a mansion in Manchester, Massachusetts with her boyfriend, but she has evaded law enforcement in the days after Epstein’s death.

Jeffrey Epstein's Apartment (Google Maps)
Jeffrey Epstein's Apartment

While Epstein will not be held accountable for his alleged criminal activities, leaving victims unable to obtain justice from him, the intense media exposure and public attention to the events of the summer have all but ensure that the case will continue to be investigated, giving them some closure.

It is likely that others, even high profile individuals, will be implicated in the crimes and further criminal prosecution will take place.

American Ninja Warrior Filming Locations

Summertime in the United States is a great time for families to bond over baseball games, barbecues, and the hit television show American Ninja Warrior, which has over the last several seasons become a major summer hit.

Families across the country gather around the television each Monday night to watch amateur athletes compete on obstacle courses that are increasingly wild, challenging and entertaining for viewers. The person who completes the course in the fastest time wins $1,000,000 and the right to the title of America Ninja Warrior for the year.

The show holds five regional competitions across the country, finding the best ninjas to compete in the finals in Las Vegas, which will be aired later this summer.

Universal Studios, Los Angeles

The show holds a regional competition in sunny California, and there’s no better place than the Los Angeles Universal Studios back lot. Universal Studios is where many of the best television and movie shows are filmed.

Universal Studios (Google Maps)
Universal Studios

The wildness of the salmon ladder and warp wall fit right in among the massive and spectacular filming locations like the full-fledged airplane disaster set.

Airline Disaster (Birds Eye)
Airline Disaster

Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta

Across the country in Atlanta, Georgia, fans gather from across the southeast to cheer on the athletes as they compete on the course, running and jumping through the obstacles on their way to Las Vegas and the chance to compete for a million dollars.

Atlanta Skyline (StreetView)
Atlanta Skyline

The show is filmed outside the Mercedes Benz Stadium in downtown Atalanta, where the Falcons NFL team play, concerts are held, and other major events take place.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Google Maps)
Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Oklahoma State Capitol, Oklahoma City

In downtown Oklahoma City, hopefuls have the chance to compete for a million dollars in the shadow of the state capitol building.

American Ninja Warrior episodes were filmed earlier in the year, but contestants and audience members do a great job of keeping the results a surprise for the viewing audience.

Oklahoma State Capitol (Birds Eye)
Oklahoma State Capitol

Tacoma Dome, Seattle/Tacoma

Seattle and Tacoma are two of Washington’s largest cities and often share sites and resources, including the Tacoma Dome, which hosts concerts, sports events and other major events.

American Ninja Warrior is filmed onsite, attracting contenders from across the Pacific Northwest.

Tacoma Dome (Google Maps)
Tacoma Dome

Downtown Cincinnati

For those from the east and northeast United States, Cincinnati is the best location for competitors seeking a path to Las Vegas. On the banks of the Ohio River, ninjas run, jump, and muscle their way to the buzzer for their shot at the opportunity to become the next American Ninja Warrior.

"PNC Tower" by Cass Gilbert (Birds Eye)
"PNC Tower" by Cass Gilbert

The Strip, Las Vegas

After qualifying and elimination rounds at each regional location, the best ninjas from across the country meet in Las Vegas where they compete under the dazzling lights and energy of the Las Vegas Strip, making the event even more exciting for both contestants and viewers alike.

Las Vegas: The Strip - Google Earth (StreetView)
Las Vegas: The Strip - Google Earth

Each year the course is revised to be more difficult, taxing the athletic ability, metal acuity and psychological endurance of the athletes. Ninjas have time between their qualification and final rounds of competition to prepare for the increased challenge, but even the best struggle to complete the crazy obstacles.

In the eleven seasons, only two people have completed the course. Recently, the show has instituted a cash award for the competitor who makes it through the most of the course in the shortest time, even if they don’t complete it and win the $1,000,000.

The final episodes will air over the next few weeks on Monday nights on NBC. Be sure to tune in for the drama as we watch to see if America gets a new Ninja Warrior.

 

 

Earthquakes!

There’s nothing more terrifying than the moment the very ground beneath your feet begins to shake, becoming unstable, and even crumbling away from you. Earthquake!

Earthquakes occur when faults in the earth’s crust move, causing the ground to shake as the earth’s crust is forced into new positions. Earthquakes can be felt hundreds and thousands of miles from the epicenter, and they can cause significant damage, even when communities and people are prepared.

Earthquakes happen all the time throughout the world, but because they are generally minor, occur over water, and don’t cause much damage we don’t hear about them. However, when they’re big, they strike on or near land, or they cause damage, the whole world takes note.

Here are some recent headlining earthquakes.

Ridgecrest, California

The first week in July, 2019, has seen several earthquakes near the town of Ridgecrest, in central southern California. The town is closely tied to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

Tremors were felt hundreds of miles away, including in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The largest quake felt was rated 7.1, but because of substantial protections and planning, there has been relatively limited damage and no loss of life.

Because there have been multiple earthquakes over several days, scientists cannot say that the series is finished, or if more are on their way.

U.S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology (Google Maps)
U.S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology

Tohoku, Japan

On March 11, 2011, a record 9.0 earthquake struck northern Japan. As an after-effect of the earthquake, a large tsunami struck the region shortly after, bringing a wall of water more than 100 feet high on shore, washing away homes, buildings, and even, sadly, people.

These aren't supposed to be here (StreetView)
These aren't supposed to be here

It left debris and carnage in the wake, damaging more than half a million structures and destroying nearly 200,000.

Destroyed house (2011 Tōhoku earthquake) (StreetView)
Destroyed house (2011 Tōhoku earthquake)

More than 15,000 people perished from the earthquake and tsunami. It also caused significant damage to three nearby nuclear reactors, causing Japan’s public to worry about a nuclear disaster for years following the disaster. However, due to careful planning and some good fortune, the damage was not worse.

Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant (Google Maps)
Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit near Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. More than 220,000 people were killed and more than 1 million people died.

2010 Haiti earthquake epicenter (Google Maps)
2010 Haiti earthquake epicenter

Due to the country’s poor infrastructure, many people were left without adequate housing or access to water and sanitation, furthering their suffering and struggle to recover after the earthquake. Tent camps were constructed, financed by international donations, and some people have turned these temporary shelters into permanent residences.

2010 Haiti Earthquake Recovery Tent Camp (Google Maps)
2010 Haiti Earthquake Recovery Tent Camp

 Sumatra-Andama, Indonesia

On December 26, 2004, the third largest recorded earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia. The earthquake and subsequent tsunamis killed more than 225,000 people in 14 countries across southern Asia, and left devastation and ruin in its wake. The earthquake lasted between eight and ten minutes.

Banda Aceh, Indonesia, was hit by the earthquake and nearly demolished by the tsunami. The tsunami struck in at least three waves, leading to increased casualties as individuals saw the first waves recede and thought the worst was over, only to be swept away in subsequent waves.

2004-12-26 - Banda Aceh, Indonesia (Google Maps)
2004-12-26 - Banda Aceh, Indonesia

The city has created a tsunami museum, which helps commemorate and remember the terrible events of that day.

Tsunami Museum (Google Maps)
Tsunami Museum

Entire towns and cities were destroyed. Lhok Nga in Indonesia, was completely leveled by the earthquake and at least 15 large and small tsunamis. However, the town has been largely rebuilt, though the scars of the terrible day are still evident.

2004-12-26 - Lhok Nga, town destroyed by the tsunami (Google Maps)
2004-12-26 - Lhok Nga, town destroyed by the tsunami

We are reminded of how quickly things can change; whether it’s an earthquake or related tsunami, things can change in an instance. The threat of the “big one” is always looming. Be careful and be prepared!

 

Iceland is Nice!

Iceland: the island of fire and ice, volcanoes and glaciers.

This tiny island nation of just over 300,000 people is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and one look at it’s unique features makes it clear why!

Reykjavík

The capital of the island country is small enough that it feels more like a town, but it still has the vibrancy of any global city. The city is particularly famous for it’s nightlife, with more than 100 bars and clubs for the city of 100,000. Icelanders head out to bars late at night, so plan to stay out late if you want to live like a local.

If you really want to fit in, try the national dish of pickled shark!

Reykjavík
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The city places a high value on arts and entertainment, as can be seen with the beautiful Harpa Concert Hall.

Finished in 2011, it’s modern features are in stark contrast to the traditional feel of much of the city’s architecture, but it’s modern glass facade is actually inspired by the basalt features known throughout the country.

Harpa (concert hall) (StreetView)
Harpa (concert hall)

Hallgrímskirkja

Iceland’s relatively recent development has encouraged very modern and avant garde architecture, including the Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland.

The church was inspired by a famous waterfall, as well as famous rock formations, and finished in 1986, paying homage to a historic Icelandic poet.

Hallgrímskirkja (Google Maps)
Hallgrímskirkja

Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn is part of a wider geothermal area, created roughly 2,000 years ago by the still-active volcano Krafla. The area is filled with breathtaking geographical wonders created by the volcano, including lava formations, giant waterfalls, deep caves and geothermal ponds.

Visitors can hike in the caves and along the waterfall and swim in the ponds, but they must be careful as some are dangerously hot.

Those Game of Thrones fans with a keen eye may recognize some of the landscapes, as the show has been filmed on location.

Mývatn ("Game of Thrones") (StreetView)
Mývatn ("Game of Thrones")

Goðafoss Waterfall

This waterfall is known as the Waterfall of the Gods. Legend has it that when Iceland converted to Christianity around 1000 AD, the local ruler threw all pagan statues into the waterfall, committing himself and the country to Christ.

Visitors can hike around the waterfall and enjoy the spectacular views of Iceland’s pristine landscapes.

Goðafoss (StreetView)
Goðafoss

Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal saltwater lagoon that is soothing both for the soul and the body. The beautiful, sky blue water and volcano-formed landscape allow visitors to relax in the spa-like water.

The water itself has healing properties, including high levels of silica and minerals that relieve skin diseases and refresh the skin and body.

Blue Lagoon - geothermal spa in Iceland (Google Maps)
Blue Lagoon - geothermal spa in Iceland

Eldfell Volcano

Iceland was formed by volcanic activity over thousands of years, but it is still being formed and changed by active volcanoes, including Eldfell Volcano on the island of Heimaey.

Eldfell erupted over several weeks in 1973, requiring major intervention to prevent the island from being abandoned permanently.

Tourists can check out the results and learn about living cooperatively with nature.

Eldfell volcano (Google Maps)
Eldfell volcano

Contrary to it’s name, Iceland is the hot place to be these days, and tourists are coming in ever greater numbers to view for themselves the breathtaking natural wonders and participate in the unique and strong cultural traditions of the people.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Has a New Home–Check Out the Cast’s Homes!

Americans love their crime shows and the comedies. With Brooklyn Nine-Nine you don’t have to choose!

The slapstick comedy surrounding Andy Samberg’s character Jake Peralta, his boss, Terry Crew’s Captain Raymond Holt and the precinct was a breakout success on Fox in 2013, but after five seasons, the network cancelled the show. NBC rescued the show, and fans, by picking up the series and ordering another season, which premiered January 10, 2019.

As the show has a new home, it’s a great time to see homes of the cast and creators too!

Andy Samberg

Andy Samberg, who rose to fame on Saturday Night Live before becoming even more famous starring as Jake Peralta on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, lives with his wife Joanna Newsom in the Beachwood Canyon area of Los Angeles.

Their estate, named “Moorcrest” was purchased in 2014 for $6.25 million. The home includes a domed atrium, backyard pool complete with a cave, and has great attention to detail blending Moorish and Art Nouveau styles throughout the home.

Andy Samberg's House (Google Maps)
Andy Samberg's House

Terry Crews

Long before he became known as Captain Raymond Holt, Terry Crews had a successful football career, playing for the Rams, Redskins and Chargers. Then he transitioned into acting, and in 2013 landed on the cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

He lives with his wife and some of his five children in a lovely Santa Monica mansion complete with guest house and pool.

Terry Crews' House (Google Maps)
Terry Crews' House

He also owns a downtown Los Angeles loft, where he spends time working on creative projects and when he needs to be closer to the city. The open-concept loft is his “man cave” and retreat from the world where he can seek inspiration for his comedic and design endeavors.

Terry Crews
http://www.latimes.com

Michael Schur

Michael Schur is the magic behind many of the iconic television shows of our era, writing for shows including The Office, Parks and Recreation and of course Brooklyn Nine-Nine. His writing emphasizes the characters and their growth, often in uplifting and amusing ways, which engages viewers and develops positive fan followings wherever he goes in his career.

He has lived in the same Los Angeles home with his wife and two children for several years.

Michael Schur's House (Birds Eye)
Michael Schur's House

Kyra Sedgwick

Most famous for her role as a tough-as-nails police officer in The Closer, Kyra Sedgwick had a fun and popular guest appearance on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She has since remained a huge fan of the show and continues to speak highly of the time she was able to work with the cast and crew.

She and her husband, Kevin Bacon, raised their two children in a gorgeous home in Sharon, Connecticut.

Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick's House (Birds Eye)
Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick's House

Like most actors, she also maintains a residence in Los Angeles, California. She and Kevin have owned this mansion complete with outdoor pool since 2012.

Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick's house (Birds Eye)
Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick's house

While Andy, Terry and the rest of the cast are nowhere near the trendy borough and it’s eponymous bridge, since filming takes place in California, it’s fun to watch the show about New York’s coolest, and funniest, borough.

Brooklyn Bridge (Birds Eye)
Brooklyn Bridge

Viva Mexico!

There’s never a bad time to travel to Mexico because the weather is always great and there’s something for everyone to enjoy, from vibrant culture to fascinating history to relaxing beaches. Mexico has been inhabited for more than 13,000 years, with rich and varied cultures that are still visible today.

Mexico City is a great place to start your visit. A capital long before it was colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s, the city was built largely on an existing lake to fulfill a prophesy given to the Aztec people. Now, Mexico City is a thriving city of about 9 million people, with more than 21 million in the surrounding area, making it the largest metro area in the western hemisphere!

Zócalo

The Zócalo, or Plaza de la Constitución, is the central plaza in the heart of the downtown historical district. Its importance predates settlement by the Spanish, and is very large, able to hold about 100,000 people at a time. It is the center of politics in the city, and the blocks around the plaza are full of entertaining activities and nightlife. Tourists love to gather here and see indigenous dancers perform, listen to musicians, eat delicious food and enjoy the atmosphere of the city.

Zócalo, Mexico City (Google Maps)
Zócalo, Mexico City

Metropolitan Cathedral

On the north end of the plaza is Mexico City’s great cathedral, the Metropolitan Cathedral. It is the largest cathedral in North and South America, and is the center of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico.

La Catedral Metropolitana (Google Maps)
La Catedral Metropolitana

Construction on top of an existing holy site started in 1573 and was completed in 1813. It has a clearly Spanish Gothic design and is an architectural treasure in the city.

"Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral" by Claudio de Arciniega (StreetView)
"Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral" by Claudio de Arciniega

Templo Mayor

Also downtown is the Templo Mayor, the region’s main temple of the Aztec people, who predated the Spanish conqistadors of the 1500s. The massive temple was dedicated to multiple Mexica gods.

The temple was partially destroyed by the Spanish and largely forgotten for hundreds of years, but better technology and an increased interest in the region’s indigenous history led to its discovery and excavation in the 20th century.

It is now a museum and a must-see for any visitors. It provides a thorough history of Mexico.

Aztec ruins of Templo Mayor (Google Maps)
Aztec ruins of Templo Mayor

Chichén Itzá

The Mayan people were a pre-Colombian people who lived in southern Mexico who constructed large temples and buildings from stone. Their sturdy construction has outlasted their civilization, and because they are so well-preserved we can learn a lot about these people who met an unfortunate and calamitous end at the hands of Spanish colonizers.

Chichén Itzá is a well-preserved Mayan city on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Millions of tourists flock there each year to see the temples and ruins.

Mayan ruins of El Meco (Bing Maps)
Mayan ruins of El Meco

Temple of Kukulcan, or El Castillo

The Temple of Kukulcan is a tribute to Kukulcan, the feathered serpent. Snake designs are carved along the steps leading up to the platform at the top of the temple.

View of Chichen Itza from El Castillo (StreetView)
View of Chichen Itza from El Castillo

The 91 steps on each of the four sides, plus the platform total 365, the number of days in the year. This, plus the interesting illuminations and shadows caused by the sun that are visible during the spring and autumnal equinoxes, lead many to believe the Mayan people had an advanced understanding of science and astronomy.

Temple of Kukulkan (StreetView)
Temple of Kukulkan

Cancún

Of course any trip to Mexico would not be complete without a trip to the beach, and there’s no more spectacular beach city than Cancún. It borders the Caribbean, and is famous for its beautiful beaches, excellent SCUBA diving and fabulous nightlife and entertainment.

Cancun (Google Maps)
Cancun

Hotels are built right on the waterfront, so you can go from your high rise hotel room to the ocean in a matter of minutes!

Hotel Riu Cancun (StreetView)
Hotel Riu Cancun

If you don’t want to spend all your time in Cancún at the beach, there are plenty of Mayan ruins you can visit, including El Meco, which have only recently become available for tours. Like other sites, there are large temples and pyramids that provide an excellent insight into Mexico’s rich history.

Mayan ruins of El Meco (Bing Maps)
Mayan ruins of El Meco

From fast-paced city life in the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere to ancient wonders to relaxing beaches, you cannot go wrong with a visit to Mexico! Viva Mexico!

 

 

The 91st Academy Awards

The Academy Awards, often called the Oscars, is Hollywood’s night to shine. All the industry’s elite, the actors, directors, musicians, and behind the scenes talent, gather together to recognize the best work produced in movies in the last year. They walk the red carpet and discuss their wardrobe, thoughts on nominees and celebrate a year of fabulous films.

Holywood Sign (StreetView)
Holywood Sign

The industry’s most coveted awards will be given out this Sunday, February 24, at the Dolby Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The theater, which opened in 2001, was designed with hosting the Oscars in mind.

Originally called the Kodak Theater, the Dolby Theater got its new name from a sound company that works closely with the movie industry.

Dolby Theatre (Birds Eye)
Dolby Theatre

Everyone will be hoping that the Academy recognizes their hard work and talent. Most will go home empty handed, honored just to have been nominated; let’s look at some of the celebrity homes that might have a new statue on the mantle come Monday morning.

Christian Bale

Christian Bale, a constant presence in film since his youth, has already won one Oscar, in 2010 for Best Supporting Actor in The Fighter. This year he has been nominated for Best Actor for his performance in Vice.

He has multiple homes around the world, including two homes in the Los Angeles region. He has a home in Brentwood Park, which he purchased in 2017 for about $9 million.

Christian Bale's House (Google Maps)
Christian Bale's House

He lives with his family in a Sullivan Canyon ranch, which he purchased for $13.5 million in 2008.

Christian Bale's House (Google Maps)
Christian Bale's House

Amy Adams

Amy Adams has been both critically acclaimed and loved by the public for her roles for decades. She has been nominated for six Academy Awards but has yet to win, including this year for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Lynne Cheney in Vice. Hopefully this year she won’t go home empty handed.

No matter what, she’ll be returning to an awesome home, a mansion in the enviable Beverly Hills area of Los Angeles.

Amy Adams' House (Birds Eye)
Amy Adams' House

Spike Lee

Spike Lee, a famous director and producer, has been nominated for Oscars before but this is first Academy nomination for directing, for his movie BlackkKlansman, which has several other nominations. If he wins, it will be his first Oscar.

Lee, in spite of his Hollywood career, spends most of his time in New York City, where he cheers for his beloved Knicks and Yankees. He has a nice townhouse in New York, as well as other homes in Massachusetts and California.

Spike Lee's House (Former) (StreetView)
Spike Lee's House (Former)

Rachel Weisz

British actress Rachel Weisz is nominated alongside her castmate Emma Stone for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Favourite. Rachel already has an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, which she won in 2005 for her role in The Constant Gardner.

While Rachel is British, she spends most of her time in New York, and sometimes on her farm outside the city. She bought the 1700s era farm house and surrounding land in 2008. While she doesn’t spend most of her time here, it would be an ideal place to retreat from the media and enjoy a little quiet time after the Oscars, with or without a statue to take home.

Rachel Weisz's House (Birds Eye)
Rachel Weisz's House

It will be exciting to watch the Academy Awards, admiring the amazingly dressed celebrities, rooting for your favorite films, stars and directors as awards are given out.