Wednesday, 31 January 2007

OTA Wordless Wednesday

amsred2.jpg
red sky over a red part of Amsterdam
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Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Amsteldijk

altmann.jpgThere are two rivers running through Amsterdam; the Amstel and the Ij. The Amstel is famous for the Heineken Brewery and this evening a group of us found a rather pleasant restaurant on the bank of the Amstel, close to the brewery, where we enjoyed an evening of "boisterous debate".

Anne Frank

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Related to my stay in Amsterdam, here's a direct link to Anne Frank's House. If you can't visit Amsterdam, visit the site. If you can visit Amsterdam, visit the house.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Rembrandtplein

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Because I'm working during the day in Amsterdam, I only had part of the evening to visit the town. Early this evening, I met some colleagues, who were somewhat blitzed from their flights from Atlanta and San Francisco. I still had a further couple of meetings, whilst they took an incredibly early dinner in order to get some sleep before our early start on Tuesday.
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I wandered from the hotel a little later, and here's a couple more snaps of Amsterdam at night, around the narrow streets and the cafes and bars, close to the hotel.
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And, eventually, returning to the hotel, via tram, to escape the evening rain.
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Sunday, 28 January 2007

in the port of Amsterdam

amsterdam canal
I'm back in Amsterdam for a few days. I did spend a lot of time in Amsterdam a few years ago. Its a very compressed city, with the energy lines created by the concentric canals that force much of the life into a small area. I was previously based by the Damrak, which is a central and bustling pedestrian area that drives from the train station to the centre of the city. Every visitor to Amsterdam will walk some part of the Damrak.

The turnover of tourists on short breaks through Amsterdam is huge. With the pretty network of canals, the unique architecture, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank's house there is plenty for normal sightseeing.
amsterdam
Amsterdam also has de Wallen, a famous central red-light district. These "Hoerenbuurten" are common in Dutch sea ports and the one in Amsterdam is always busy with sightseers. De Wallen is also the centre for the Dutch Koffie shops, which, along with coffee, sell cannabis.

This time I'm staying in Heerengracht, right by one of the main canals. Here's Amanda singing a bawdy tune about this buzzing city.

Amsterdam

ps and in the post below, I've added an original version.

Jacques Brel


Naomi's comment prompted me to add this fantastic version of Amsterdam sung by its writer, Monsieur Jacques Brel.

java glitch

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I notice the javascript formatting on rashbre central isn't working properly today. It looks as if leiderlich mein server in Germany ist kaput. I will merely drink coffee and ignore for the moment.

UPDATE: I sent a message to the helpful folk manning the engine room and they reset the misaligned sprockets. Should all be working again.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

connections

I thought I'd try a post using words from today's most popular global technorati tags. Some of my have tried this in the past.
Bush Windows
With George in the speaking about and there is much feedback from on the continuation of the bloody .

The is unseasonally warm and we can view scenes of people for as well as upgraded versions of and other .
Microsoft Vista
Some are waiting for to be released and even for Monday's with its heightened although many expect an backlash like the way that and with have made a come-back.
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Much of the new is made in and this represents the emerging . Of course, today's take most of this for granted, with and access to the , sometimes by linking to a , , , or .

I think thats enough links for one day.

Friday, 26 January 2007

happy clappy

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Regular readers of rashbre central will know that this site normally spins positive and has 'there is fun going forward' as something of a catch phrase. So the recent posts about bad weather and broken down trains are something of an abberation. But of course, there is a reason for this, best expressed with the formula:

( [W + (D-d)] x TQ ) / (M x NA)

This equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.

I know you are all recognising this as the familiar depression formula, used to calculate the most depressing day of the year, which is somewhere between Monday 23 january and yesterday. Here in the Northern hemisphere, days are getting longer after 21st December, but the cyclonic weather systems have started to take their customary hold in January, bringing low, dark clouds and this year high winds and then snow to Britian.

Most people have broken their healthy resolutions six to seven days into the new year and many of us have eaten our way through the remaining Christmas chocolates and the content of the fridge.

Not to mention the suction sound from the emptying of the bank account, the prompt arrival of the credit card bill and the long delay since that early pay cheque in December. Why even the TV characters of East Enders are throwing themselves out of first floor windows.

But there's no place for Seasonal Affective Disorder around at rashbre central. We are all singing, dancing and prancing as we realise the rest of the year will be getting better and better.

Out with the bad and in with the good.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

britishness?

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I see "testing for Britishness" is back in the news in the UK at the moment, with new study materials due any time now, although there's a creeping internationalisation like the recent removal of the little crown from British pints, in favour of the CE symbol, which is French for Conformité Européenne.

The test includes a question about the distinction between, "the United Kingdom" and "Great Britain". Similarly, the date of the last successful invasion is known by many as 1066, but the date of the last failed invasion in 1797 (the French tried it), is probably known by a much smaller minority. And although some people will know about the Act of Union in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, I'll bet a lot more people don't know anything about it.

So maybe the questions about how to pay a phone bill, or "which National cricket team do you support"? will be used as part of this strange screening process. Or perhaps a trip down the pot noodle mine

In the mean time, pass the HP.
hp.jpg

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Wednesday, 24 January 2007

wrong kind of snow

snowtube.jpg
London has received its first snowfall of the season and, yes, the trains didn't work properly. For London commuters, this is not a surprise and the two cliches for travel disruptions are, in Autumn, "leaves on the line" and in Winter, "wrong kind of snow".

So today's light dusting caused Network Rail to admit that if there had been more, the electric point heaters would have switched on. And they would have used more anti-freeze on the switchy bits. So the 'loose wet snow' pressed between the points caused them to jam and not switch the tracks.

"When you get extreme weather conditions there will be disruption," the spokesman said, referring to the overnight sprinkling. Good to see the senior executives have just been paid bonuses for the improvement in reliability.

OTA Wordless Wednesday

casino.jpg
lost in the casino
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Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Juke Box Brits

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One of the best specimens of a mammoth with its huge tusks was found in 1860 in the area now known as Ilford, Essex.

Popular urban myth is that Queen Elizabeth I crossed the river at Ilford and named it an 'ill ford', although Ilefort existed from Saxon times and in the Domesday book, known as Hile-ford - a ford in the River Hile (now the River Roding).

Fast forward to pop music times and Ilford became the centre for the Britannia Music mail order business, eventually leading to a series of annual awards, known as the Brittania Music Awards, subsequently shortened to 'The Brits'.

Nowadays, Ilford and Britannia Music (now of Jersey) have nothing to do with the mammoth music industry and Mastercard sponsored event which is a precursor to the American Grammys.

So here's the Brit Juke Box of nominations; check out any of the 40 plus tracks.

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Monday, 22 January 2007

awash

mscnapoli.jpg
My fence panels destroyed by the wind are nothing compared with the stricken container ship "MSC Napoli" off the coast of Devon at the moment. Apart from the 3,500 tonnes of oil, there are 2300 containers on the ship, which could take a month to remove individually.

Some 200 have already fallen into the sea, creating some interesting flotsam and jetsam being washed up on Branscombe beach, including a consignment of 50 BMW motorcycles, which seem to have been assisted from the beach by various members of the public.

In scenes reminiscent of Moonfleet, there were people on the beach looking for interesting items which are supposed to be described on a special form for the Receiver of Wreck. Barrels of wine were amongst the items washed up, although the L'Oreal beauty products were probably easier to carry.

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Sunday, 21 January 2007

last Sunday's stroll

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Paris, France - on the Strip
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Venice, Italy - at the Venetian Hotel, with its indoor canal and gondolas
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Beijing, China - in the Bellagio Hotel
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Hotel Corridor, looking like something from da Vinci
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Indoor shopping, with the Mall's control over day and night-time
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The Strip meets Flamingo Road, Nevada - showing a more American perspective

wind

screenshot_01.jpgOctober and March are supposed to be windy months in the UK, but now we are getting an unseasonally mild but very blowy January.

I retrieved two blown out fence panels before I'd even unpacked from my USA visit yesterday and neatly stashed their remains behind a wall for shelter.

By this morning, because of last night's further high winds, one panel had scattered itself around the nearby grass again. It looks as if I will be doing some involuntary gardening today.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

z

tv.jpgSo I'm back in the UK now, having spent around ten hours on the plane, which left Las Vegas during Friday afternoon and arrived at London Gatwick around 11.00 on Saturday.

By the time I'd collected baggage and car and driven home, it was around 13:00.

I am a tad tired now.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Tao

tao_nightclub.jpg
I've been nightclubbing tonight at Tao, which looks Buddhist inspired and should be somewhere in the Pacific Rim.

It is multi level, draped in lush velvets and silks, with waterfalls and a hand carved 20 foot high Buddha that floats peacefully above an infinity pool. There's a huge main room and a separate chill-out area.

There was a sushi and sashimi service and a separate chef assisted buffet. The DJs were spinning hot music and upstairs in the sanctuary area of the club there were living visual effects, candles and views to the strip.

taonapkin.jpg75 napkin night pictures from tonight's Tao, here
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The way.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

voodoo lounge

voodoo.jpgTonight included a visit to the Voodoo Lounge which was on the 51st floor looking out to the Strip. The venue was rammed with people inside, though the roof balcony had plenty of space as well as a brilliant view of the entire area. I guess the low temperatures were keeping people inside.

OTA Wordless Wednesday

hotbabes.jpg
only in Las Vegas
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Tuesday, 16 January 2007

jet

jetclub.jpg
Jet Nightclub this evening.

A multi floor ultra-lounge, with three dance floors and three separate sound systems.

Amazing cocktail bars and buffet food. TT was my beverage of choice.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Lucy's perfume

beatles_540
This evening I visited Cirque du Soleil's show called 'Love', featuring tunes from the Beatles. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I consider Cirque du Soleil to be more performance arts rather than circus, and have seen other shows by them including 'la Nouba' and 'Quidam'. The fusion of Beatles music and a Beatles theme worked well for me combining some signature Cirque moments with a fair treatment of the Beatle's songs.

This was no Beatles tribute or attempt to run chronologically through the catalogue. I liked it for this, because it avoided the trap of somehow preserving the Beatles in a pure 1960-1970 time-warp. By treating it as music to be performed to, I'm sure it is a more realistic extension of the thinking of the music in its time. Before Sergeant Pepper, no one knew what to expect from that album, and I think the same can apply to the modern Cirque du Soleil treatment. There was a very slight Beatles chronology to the events (post World War 2, Beatles form, Beatles in Germany, Beatles get big, Beatles go psychedelic etc.), but this was a very lightly applied motif compared with the general spectacle of great staging to accompany Beatles songs.

For a Brit, it was interesting to see an American lens applied to this visioning, with quirky portrayals of Britain. At one point I nearly gasped when blazing Klu Klux Klan crucifixes depicted the time when the Beatles fell out of favour with middle America after Lennon's famous 'Christ' statement.
LOVEstage
By great fortune my seat number was A9, which happened to be right in the middle of the front row, so my view was completely immersive for the show. Count 5 from the right in the front row to see my seat. The 2000 seat setting is 'in the round', with a square-ish stage which was divided into four areas before the show started. There were gentle back projections of clouds as we all walked in and instrumental Beatles numbers playing before the show kicked in.

And kick in it did. Loud, fast paced and breathtaking acrobatics along with Beatle's characters (Mr Kite, Sergeant Pepper, The Eggman etc.) driving the tacit storyline. When I saw La Nouba, or other Cirque du Soleil shows, there has been a general reference to the circus aspect as the show runs, with different acts such as high-wire and dancers appearing in turn.

This show was extremely seamless with just couple of slower moments when presumably some machinery or costume change was under way. It is difficult to describe the vaulting lofty approach used, with truly 3D staging, high into the air being used for many of the numbers. Psychedlic bubbles, rooftops appearing from under the floor and then flying into the roof, silk parachutes enveloping the entire audience from a flying bed, spiraling, floating, elevated dancers all made appearances. Signature elements of Cirque du Soleil were there too, such as appearance of characters ahead of their main activities and quirky little trains of strange objects running across the stage.

Sound was clear and sounded like my own personal surround stereo. I subsequently discovered it was! I had three speakers built around my seat; 2 in front and one behind my head.

And we had songs from every era of the Beatles, all of them familiar, yet often remixed in mainly gentle ways.

And being so close to everything, I could breathe Lucy's perfume from the sky as she swooped past, trailing glittering diamond lights.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

rewind

las vegas sign
Saturday I watched three and a half movies at a single sitting. Yes, I was flying long haul.

First was "The Last King of Scotland", an initially light and increasingly chilling portrayal of Idi Amin's brutal rule in Uganda. Intense performance by Forrest Whitaker as Idi Amin and a good counterpoint with James McAvoy as a Scottish doctor who whimsically travels to Uganda and then through naivety and recklessness gets caught into the racheting events. Great and immersive cinematography, use of colour and shape, sharply produced soundtrack make this an excellent (though sometimes harrowing) film.

Next up; The Departed: A Scorcese crime pic with Leonardo di Caprio and Matt Damon. I missed the start of this and was somewhat confused initially because I thought it was clever cutting between two diffreent timeframes (cop and cop as undercover villan), before I realised that di Caprio and Damon were really two different people. Not the smartest casting, or maybe the gin was working by this stage. Anyway, a taut cops vs bad guys movie with lots of subterfuge and 'tough guy talk' and a pretty high body count. The film had around three endings as well, in order to tidy up all of the loose ends from the various scanarios. Great Jack Nicholson menace as "Mr Bad" and twists and turns expected of the genre to the very end. No doubt will become a classic of the genre.

Then; a few minutes of Jackass 4; Nope. Not my thing. So I watched the Devil wears Prada without sound whilst I listened to my ipod and enjoyed afternoon tea.

Then; Snakes on a Plane; Totally inappropriate to watch this whilst flying on a 747, whilst a time-bombed box of non indiginous and somewhat indignant snakes get messy with a planeful of passengers. Mad mayhem - but I suppose it delivers what it says on the label. I only seleected it because I knew we were near to the destination and didn't care how much of it I saw.

And now, touched down in Las Vegas, with all eight hours of the film viewing recovered to spend again.

Friday, 12 January 2007

no comet

Yesterday was not a great evening for travelling, with gale force winds that delayed the prior plane to Frankfurt by four hours. My flight only spent around an extra hour and a half on the tarmac. On the outbound I was sitting near the back of the plane and could feel turbulence even during the take-off. We finally swished our way to Germany and did one of those 'Navy' style landings where all wheels touch down together.

Bump.

And then coming back this evening, from my window seat I assigned myself the task of looking for the McNaught comet which is within viewing range at the moment. I knew it was supposed to be somewhere to the west and we were above the clouds, but I think it was too light for me to be able to find it. The clouds were in two layers, with cotton wool below and languid whispy ones above. As we approached Heathrow I saw numerous other planes skittering around just above the cotton wool layer but, alas, no comet.

Maybe I'll look in the dawn sky to the South-East again in the morning.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

terminally pretty

flatbed ford
I just watched a documentary about the emergence of Californian music centred around the Troubadour in Los Angeles. One of the bands that formed there was the Eagles, and last night I kept hearing "take it easy" running through my head.

You know the one...
Well, I'm a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
slowin' down to take a look at me


Now I've travelled Arizona's Route 66 (though its hard to find nowadays) and know the corner in Winslow, thenearby frozen-in-time Williams and the beautiful and mystical Sedona. On Saturday, I will be in the adjacent State of Nevada and I can tell the whole area is seeping back into my subconscious.

But first I'm off to Frankfurt, Germany before, on Saturday, making the trip to the desert.

OTA Wordless Wednesday

bruges street
Sometimes it is just fun to wander
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Tuesday, 9 January 2007

ringing

iphone.jpg
The final version of the Apple iPhone (above) is surprisingly similar to the rashbre lab reconstruction(below).

But then the lab did have the Apple patent to work from. Need to wait until June before they are available in the High Street.

iphone 4
The iPhone uses technology called Multitouch instead of a keyboard or pointer, and runs Mac OS X, which is also used on modern Macs and is a Unix variant. Predictably is has iTunes synchronisation and the full range of browser, email and similar applications. The 11.6mm thick device features a wide screen 3.5-inch, 160 dot-per-inch colour screen.

Along one side, there is a ring/silent switch and volume controls. On the silver back is a 2 megapixel digital camera. The bottom features a speaker, microphone, and iPod dock connector.

The quad-band iPhone has wifi and bluetooth and also incorporates a proximity sensor that deactivates the screen and turns off the touch sensor when the device is lifted to the face. It behaves like an iPod and supports video as well as contact scrolling for phone contacts.

The iPhone's text messaging looks like iChat and a touch keyboard appears on the screen below. Apple has also included its Safari Web browser and a version of Mail as well as a variation of dashboard widgets.

Great demo here

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Monday, 8 January 2007

time takes a cigarette

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The clocks in the lounge of rashbre central have only just been adjusted back to GMT from Daylight Saving Time.

This has been less of an inconvenience than expected, including to visitors, who have been mildly relieved to gain another hour during their visits.

rashbre central time (RCT)
Originally something of an oversight, this meant that parts of rashbre central were inadvertantly on Central European Time, whilst the kitchen and some other areas had retained their British identity.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Big Sister?

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Jade and Betty
Channel 4 seems to be eating itself at the moment, and the viewers seem to be enjoying it.

We have the American "Devil wears Prada" knockoff of Ugly Betty, where a minor American actress spends pre-screen hours getting prepped to look less attractive in a sitcom whose plotline is almost the Lauren Weisberger novel. I wonder whether the 'inner beauty' will be sustainable, or whether the show will need an 'LA' moment where she morphs back into her un-remodelled self?

Or a different kind of Devil with filmmaker Ken Russell now an honorary member of celebrity Jade Goody's family in "Big Brother Celebrity Edition"?

Strange how things sometimes overlap.

felicity

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Discernable changes now we are past the shortest day of the year. Many say the shortest day forms the start of Winter, but I'll assume that the start of December is more appropriate in the United Kingdom.

Persephone may still be in the underworld at the moment, with Demeter lonely and the ground hard, but as I left home this afternoon at around 4pm there was still daylight and even a red sky.

Maybe these are very early signs that the days are lengthening, even if we still have cold and frost. But as I took down some twefth night lights, I could already see early buds forming on the trees. The Eleusinian mysteries may be myth, but hold close to the season.

Saturday, 6 January 2007

ultraviolet

ultraA short television fix yesterday included stumbling across a movie that seems to have bypassed cinemas completely on its way to the playstation.

That so much gloss and probably cell-by-cell cgi treatment could blend with such a poor script is remarkable.

T&A based derivative futuristic vamp(ire) Manga clone vs humans delivered in ultrasillyvision.

Precis of movie below.

Friday, 5 January 2007

cube

nespresso.jpgSo I'm now a member of the expresso sipping set with my fine new cube, which promises all manner of beany delights, via a capsule system. Santa brought it with about a dozen flavours to get started but I was a little sceptical when I discovered that the only way to order replacements was online.

Having now tried the order system, during Christmas week, and getting back the package of additional capsules within three days, I'm quite impressed. I mainly drink filter coffee in one variation or another, but am conscious how much can get tipped away. So these little capsules deliver a wide variety of bean types (expresso, lungo, cappucino etc) fast and in just the required amounts.

Right now I'm enjoying a Latin American Livanto.

Thursday, 4 January 2007

T13 : Get Cape; Wear Cape; Fly

clockW.gifThis is my first chance for any reflection since the start of the new year, delivered in the form of a Thursday Thirteen. I couldn't help but also look back through blog entries as part of this process. I normally only spend about ten minutes a day dropping in an entry, which varies from questions about the amount of sugar in a doughnut, to some commentary about current events, usually with a vaguely relevant picture and often using a snap that I've taken myself.

The thing I found facinatiing some twenty months since I started, was just how much gets captured in even just those fleeting entries, whether its the words, the comments from others, the digressions to other folks' blogs, the varied locations or just the amusement.

But the most intriguing part was the way time has behaved - conventional wisdom says time speeds up, but if anything the process of writing down entries has stretched it out.

So, here's around thirteen entries from 2006.

1) January : Saw the year in from rashbre west, in Florida. Then later in the month, off to Brussels and Barcelona. And my car heater broke. Lucky I was away such a lot.

2) February : Helped Christina get her website started. And she's still borrowing my server space and flickr library. Seems a lot longer since that pivotal expresso.

3) March : We ran the music mixing experiment with one of Christina's tracks which featured a foodblender. I started editing the NaNo novel from last November and arbitrarily started a 'Free link Friday', which created about 30 links.

4) April : My iPod broke, and I published instructions about how to dismantle it, which has continued to receive hits every month, ever since. Short version, use a guitar plectrum to get inside the case. Then the rest drops out fairly easily. The most likely loose connection is where the hard drive connects to the circuit board. Use electrical tape to re-secure. I also set up rashbre.tv and Simon from Holyhoses developed the definitive version of Christina's track called wind

5) May: A blogging adventure whilst in Barcelona, meeting the delighful mar and mr.mar! And in addition, a visit to the Princes Trust, which was royally attended. Oh, and a couple of bloggers set out to find out about me! Some of us prefer our anonymity.

6) June : Solstice, Mountain biking, world cup and the convent.

7) July : The Bootleg Beatles, a visit to New York, a field in Priddy Folk Festival, a visit to Dublin, Ireland and a treasure hunt in the English countryside.

8) AugustWarhol at the Fringe gets four stars in the Scotsman. Brief stops in Sweden and Verona earlier in the month.

9) September : Kate and Neal's big day; Newcastle and the Malmaison effect and travels mixed with helping Julie collect tunes from pop concerts.

10) October : Germany and Connecticut, plus a quick trip to Milan as well as several trips to Chelsea, SW3.

11) November : My second attempt at a NaNo novel. Although I did enough words, I've only written about one third of the story, interspersed with my business time in France. My strategy is to try to get the first 'novel' finished before I tidy the second one.

12) December : Off to America again, including the John Lennon Tribute. A late build towards the festive season, but including a bit of a jam session now that I've learned a few more guitar chords.

13> 2007 : Let's just say its starting well!

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Wednesday, 3 January 2007

OTA Wordless Wednesday

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bicycles of Bruges
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Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Brugge

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Brugge is a very walkable city, yet has many areas of great contrast. And of course, although the buildings are mainly quite old, they are still fully functional and in great condition. The hotel I've been staying in derives from 1470 and has been through a suitably torrid past leading to its recent renovation to modern boutique styling, yet still maintaining most of the old architectural features.

I gather Brugge started to issue coins back in the 9th Century, although almost certainly the original inhabitants go back a few hundred years further when the city would have also been a fortress to provide protectiion from lurking pirate ships.

There was a golden period to around the twelfth century where Brugge had good sea access and fortifications, making it a great staging post and creating a woollen market.

Later, Brugge also opened a Bourse (Stock Exchange) and this created further wealth for the area. Then the city turned towards arts as well, with the famous Flemish School of painting deriving from Brugge as well as William Caxton's first book in English being printed in Brugge.

So, by the 15th century, Philip the Good (the Duke of Burgundy) had set up his court in Brugge attracting a number of artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe.

Later, the river's silting allowed Antwerp to become a preferred port and this saw the start of a decline for Brugge as a key commercial centre.

But this rich history has served well nowadays for a town packed with architectural interest, many small cafes and bars, fine restaurants, artistic views on every street corner and of course the waffles and chocolates for which Belgium is well known.

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