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Sunday, 29 July 2007

powershot G7

Canon G7
Dear Canon,

I like your G7 Powershot camera and took one on vacation.

It is reassuringly well built and has many adjustments on it to make it both a simple point and shoot and also a highly customisable camera which can take quite clever photographs.

I wanted to see whether I could take a small camcorder and a small camera that together could take a wide range of shots yet fit into a tiny bag.

The camera has a more or less instantaneous shutter release when the button is pressed, rather than that lag that some cameras still have nowadays. Its quite heavy and has attractive styling reminiscent of a retro 35mm rangefinder.

The thing is, the wide angle of the lens isn’t quite wide enough for this to be the all-purpose pocketable camera. I know there is a bulky attachment to improve the wide angle, but I think it would be better to move the wideangle end of the lens down to something more like 28mm (equivalent) rather than extoll the virtues of a really long zoom range. I know zooms sell (like the camcorders with the impossible to hold 2000 times zooms). But let’s be practical. The sort of person that wants something like a G7 would probably like to be able to take pictures indoors and get in most of the action.

So when you release an update, bring the wide angle down a few more degrees without needing to add oodles of further zoom.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

satellite

gps_satellite_650.jpg
Before this journey, I updated the satellite navigation DVD in the car. It covers the whole of europe to street level and I suppose a few things had changed since I put the last one in about two years ago. It will be refreshing to have the whole of the M6 toll road now recognised instead of a section described alarmingly as 'off road'.

But what has also changed is the way certain things get described by the voice commentary in the latest version. The lady's voice now also says 'go straight ahead at the roundabout' as well as things like 'take the third exit on the left' which is a pleasing surprise, even more so with complicated instructions which do seem clearer. I've also found that deliberately ignoring an instruction and taking a different route is now rewarded with far less 'make a U turn where possible' and much better adaptation to the new route.

I do still take a paper road atlas too, though.

sounds of the city

royal2.jpg
There's something quite reassuring about living in the centre of a town. For a while I lived at the junction in the centre of a small town with a church with loud bells, a couple of noisy pubs (Bierbrunnen, in particular) - a Wienerwald restaurant and a cinema that also showed late night Turkish movies. The road junction had interesting traffic light sequences and was on a hill and if it snowed then cars would struggle, rev noisily and slither sideways and the pubs, cafes and cinema meant there was a reasonable amount of late night noise.

So tonight, here in Gothenburg, I feel quite reassured, in a well-established hotel which looks out onto a main thoroughfare with the same type of evening sounds. I've already been for a delightful candlelit meal in the nearby Kellaren and have been spending a few minutes watching the world go by. It may be past 10p.m. but its still good daylight here and it looks as if there will be a few parties before the sun starts to wake again at around 3 a.m.

Friday, 27 July 2007

dropping a columbian

magnum near columbianSometimes the only hit that will do is strong columbian.

We're talking Magnum here. Thats the ice cream known in UK as Wall's and here in Scandinavia as GB Glace. Pro capita ice cream consumption in Scandinavian countries is amongst the highest globally, and Sweden is only second to Finland for coffee consumption per head. So a magnum opus of ice cream and columbian coffee with crunchy bits and chocolate hits the wuzzometer pretty hard.

The only problem is the consistent Magnum moment, which affects most consumption.

Picture this; the wrapper is off, you've crunched through the top still slightly frozen chocolate, applauded the crunchy sub strata, tasted the top mouthful of ice cream and are just breaking into the swirly bit.

Then it happens; a segment about the size of half a watch strap falls from the lower corner, grazes clothing enough to indicate the presence of chocolate and falls to the ground.

The dilemma. Its a big enough piece of the experience to warrant a rescue operation...Does the rule of three apply (you know, if its on the floor for less than three seconds its still retrievable). Who is looking? What does the floor look like? Is there really enough to go around without that piece. But why o why does it always happen.

We should be told.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Norwegian wood

reindeer  in norway
Across the border today from Sweden into Norway. The crinkly bits of countryside were immediately visible. Norwegian scenery only does 'eleven'. Every twist and turn is something that makes you want to say 'whoa!'. So I'm not sure about "isn't it good, Norwegian wood?", but I know that Norwegian scenery is just great.

An idle sub project of visiting Sweden was to do some elk and reindeer spotting. Here in Norway its "What kind would you like? I'll just arrange for them to walk in front of you." The northern nights stay light even later than where I'd been in Sweden, so the Beatle's story about talking till two has a lot of truth.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

sundborn

Carl and Brita SPAmongst today's travels was a stopover in Sundborn, which was the home of the famous Swedish painter named Carl Larsson. The guide books tell you to look at the Swedish design of the house, which used contemporary ideas from other parts of Europe, but created a style which is now a characteristic of 'traditional' Swedish. I found the house more appealing because of the way the family life had been portrayed there.

Described as small, for its day I suspect it was quite a well-off middle class property although it did eventually have to house Carl, his wife Karin (also a painter and later a designer) and their six children.

My trip around the house was with a chatty Swedish guide - in Swedish, so I had to guess most of what was being said, but overall I found the place quite endearing and with a reasonable amount of wry humour from Carl Larsson in the way the place was decorated.

This house has now become one of the most famous artist's homes in the world and shows the development of his paintings using the colour reproduction technology of the day (circa 1890-1910).

There are conventional paintings in oil and watercolour and also what must be some of the fore-runners of the modern day cartoon, not as actual cartoons, but using styles we would all recognise today. I gather he did also produce some sequential stories in this form although I have not seen them. At the end of the tour are a large collection of paintings and drawings including a wall fresco, more paintings of his family as well as what looks like a life-size Will Young in *ahem* just a cap going for a stroll in the woods (I was told to put that last piece in).

Something that comes across strongly is Larsson's love for his family and the many and enjoyable ways they are depicted as well as the sheer volume of his output, not just in paintings, but also as wall frescos, such that hardly a portion of the home is untouched.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

shoes, ships, sealing wax, cabbages and kings

gamla stad with tourists
It's really too difficult to blog about even a day trip to a capital city and to incorporate more than a scratch of what one has seen and learned. I've taken photographs and a short video as a way to help jog my own mind about this, but for anyone trying to get more than a glint of the coverage it would be a challenge.

Take shoes: alongside the usual trainers and athletic walking boots storming the pavements, there's a preponderance of clog like shoes too. I looked in a shoe shop and they are actually called - clogs. Different from the dutch wooden clogs sold as souvenirs, these are a hybrid between flip-flops and a clog like appearance - multi coloured and sometimes decorated.
DSC_2111.jpg
And ships: there's the Tall Ship event in Stockholm this coming weekend and the city is in preparation. There are already people walking around with 'Tall Ships 2007' lanyards around their necks - I assume they must be organizers. I've been out on the water today, along to the home of the King at Drottningholm - which is a few kilometres through the archipelagos and the site of a rather splendid palace and grounds.
stockholm palace drottningholm
The Kings and Queens of Sweden have had a tumultuous past, with a kind of partial acceptance of the role by the government and people in what is technically a constitutional monarchy. In the past, there have been times when govenment forged the assent of the royals to the legislation of the day.

SInce despotic King Gustav the Third built a superb theatre in the grounds of the palace but was finally assasinated for wasting money back in the 18th Century, through to the assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986, there has been a sometimes bumpy ride for leaders in Sweden.

All seems to be in balance now, although we mustn't forget the murder of the Swedish foreign minister - Anna Lindh - once tipped to be the next prime minister, back in 2003, but stabbed to death in a famous department store in central Stockholm.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Stockholm

DSC_2028.jpg
Stockholm feels as a city that it should have a larger population than the estimated 750,000. It is spread over about 14 islands and has a series of interconnecting bridges between areas which can look distinctly different from the old town of preserved buildings, to the relative modernity of a large mainly glass culture centre in another area. There's also a lot of below street level walk-ways which are a way to provide protection in the cold of Winter. Parts of the sea and rivers freeze at that time.

But right now, Sweden is out in force, shopping and wandering through the lanes and alleys of the town, enjoying coffee, waffles and ice cream and planning day trips to the country side. All of Sweden stops for a few weeks in July- the main vacation season, taking advantage of the short Swedish summer.

My wanderings today included several of the islands, some of the stores (Harry Potter everywhere!), a few smaller shops, some museums (which are free) and the inevitable coffee shop along the way. Sweden loves its coffee and remains a Starbuck free zone.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Stockholm evening

tsarskij sad
Stockholm arrival during early evening.

Time enough to locate a hotel in the Gamla Stan (old town) and then after dropping some bags in the room to fall out into the mid evening and find a restaurant.

Tonight, it was a Russian place called Tsarskij Sad, just behind the hotel. I'd already done a short stroll to check for other nearby interesting places - and there were quite a few - but the Russian stood out as both inviting and interesting. So I tried Russian bread, cucumbers, pickles and a kind of pie called Kurnik. Yum.

Amused to see a lone diner in the nearby Italian reading the new Harry Potter; yes its reached Sweden too.

meander

S-Gota Hotel.jpg
Changing plans for today meant re-jigging hotels too. The first challenge was to back out of the one in the current town without a large penalty. I reckoned that charging last evening's meal to the hotel bill would help and sure enough they were gracious about letting us leave a day early.

So then it was off across Sweden with no particular place to go. We opted for a diagonal route on a meaningful but minor road and I lazily tapped a destination into the Sat-Nav in the general direction, so that I could have some verbal assistance from the car if needed.

We aimed for the large lakes in the middle of Goteland adjacent to the Goteland Canal which links the east and west coasts of Sweden between Goteberg and Stockholm. It turned out to be a good decision, with pretty scenery and some attractive stopping points, including a lovely hotel on the canal, but alas the only room at the inn was one a tiny one with bunk-beds, so we decided to keep moving.

Indeed, we also tried a large ex-monastery on the shores of Lake Vattern, but the spook factor from the previous evening was a little too powerful- together with the promise of evening bats, so we kept moving instead and took a late afternoon decision to push on to Stockholm, which at this point was a mere 250 kilometres away.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

spooky castle town with mud

Why Kalmar?
Kalmar in Sweden is on the eastern coast around 300 kilometres south of Stockholm. It was supposed to be the venue for a two day pause in the travelling, in what was expected to be a delightful hotel set in grounds overlooking a tranquil view of the sea.

Not quite.

The hotel was in grounds which were were being converted into an area to contain a new cultural centre. Most of the surroundings were a building site. There was no real view and the room was really too small to house occupants and baggage at the same time.

Nothing for it, after a stroll around the town, it was easy to make a decision to pull the plugs and move on a day early. Late afternoon meant an overnight stop here was inevitable and so evening saw me pulling a heavy case or two up some steep stair into a poet's garret.

By the second drink everything seemed better accompanied by a plan for an early morning departure.

Its reassuring to know that a whole trip would have some moments of texture and this was one of those episodes. So after a walk through the 'muddy' parkland adjoining the castle (a great test for some recently acquired flip-flops), it became an evening watching Swedish subtitled television and then preparation for an early departure towards the Gotecanal and onward towards Stockholm.

Friday, 20 July 2007

making it all fit together

lund houses
One of the interesting features of this type of vacation is the road trip nature of it. Sometimes I take vacation all in one place, or maybe two, and other times keep on movin'.

This is one of the latter and already just a few days in, there has been considerable change of scene and different locations. At the moment, its been a combination of sea, lakes and hills with small towns mainly with mediaeval times in their backgrounds. As the journey progresses there will be mountains and cities as well, but even after few days, it starts to become difficult to remember the exact sequence of travel. I can see why people keep journals.
campbell.jpg
And the journal I've cracked into whilst travelling is the Alistair Campbell extracts related to the Tony Blair years. I'd decided to dislike this almost before I started it, but have actually found it quite interesting and strangely human in the way it describes things. Campbell has a reputation as a spin meister and presumably ther has been some fairly careful editing of the content of the diaries, not least to stay legal in what is said.

Nonetheless, the amount of minor detail, dealt with in a clipped journalistic style, suggests that large chunks of the text must be fairly accurate renderings of what actually happened. Being a day by day account, it would be quite difficult to retrospectively doctor the entire storyline, particulalrly where so many different events overlap.

I'm only on about page 100 at present-just past the Blair visit to Clinton at the White House, but admit, to my slight surprise, that I'm enjoying this story of the yet to be elected Tony Blair and his band of politicos as they try to make a plausible bid for power.

I'm not sure whether there are lessons being learned, but I do expect that Campbell's journal will become one of the defining descriptions of the Blair years.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

faaborg

Danish Kro
Moving through Denmark today, past a few of the Kros, that stand by the roadside. "What's a Kro?" I hear you ask.

Its a kind of Danish 'Bed and Breakfast' location - very unique and family owned and somewhere I've stopped at in past visits to Denmark.

Today we stopped at one on the way to Faaborg and enjoyed a lunchtime Smorgasbord of herring, cheese and ham, before moving on to Faaborg for our overnight stop.
Band playing in Faaborg
We had not realized that Faaborg was having a special evening party in the town, complete with a rock band and stopped a while to listen before, tonight, dropping in to a local Fotex supermarket to pick up a light snack to take with us for the evening.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

nightwatchman and triple XXX

Dagmar Hotel in Ribe
There's a great old progressive rock track called the Nightwatchman. I don't know who its by, but its someone like ELP, King Crimson or Brian Eno and has some haunting electric guitar chords which wail into the sky.

I was in the town of Ribe tonight and wandered out from the Hotel Dagmar at 22:00 (in the daylight) to take the tour of the town with the Nightwatchman. There were about 30 of us that had decided to join him as he sang his verses to us, the town and the sky and patrolled to the edges of Ribe, which is a small mediaeval town in southern Denmark.

It did progressively get darker, but the photo I took of the Hotel at the end of the tour was somewhat later, when the hotel was shutting off the lights to leave just candles burning for the short night.

The town of Ribe was once a major centre in Denmark; the largest trading port and did well until around 1580 when there was a bad town fire and then 1635, when there was terrible flood, followed by plague from which Ribe didn't ever really recover its trading position.

"Dronning Dagmar ligger i Ribe syg - Queen Dagmar lies in Ribe, sick", as the old Danish folk tune goes,

In some towns in Europe you see the three XXX on signs and as a symbol. Amsterdam has it as the town symbol, for example. They mean, if you see them, no Fire, no Flood, no Plague.

XXX

préjudice


A slightly out of sequence post, because I actually saw the Die Hard 4.0 movie on Sunday. I did originally post a link to the trailer, but had to delete it because it was one of those fancy film studio links to a version that insisted on autostarting, which I felt was kinda rude. So here's the trailer with the option fo you to click to start it.

My main gripe though, was the cinema's other trailers for films before the one with Bruce started. There were three different "lets be rude to the French" situations. If it had been about, say, a social minority, there would have been an outrage, but it stuck me that the American studios are using France as a new place to kick.

Humour is fine, and I know the Anglo Saxons don't always see eye to eye with the French (if you take my 1066 Norman meaning) but this seemed to be that the studios have decided that French bashing was okay. Not cool. Très répréhensible.

The film? Does what it says on the label - my summary:"Computer psycho steals password to US infrastructure involving unwitting cop Bruce. More determination to resolve after daughter kidnapped. Car, helicopter, plane chases and explosions as Bruce resolves in oily vest with final fix-up ambulance scenes. Fade to 5.0"

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

sun

sunset in the land of often midnight sum
I consider the sun to be a powerful symbol and rashbre central uses it in the main blog logo (stonehenge at summer solstice). So imagine the delight of visiting the land of the midnight sun. Admittedly, the trip is first via the delightful Denmark (of which I am sure there will be more), but then on to a place which manages to keep the sun in the sky throughout July even if it does have to pay it back in December.

So on the way, it was a great pleasure to see what were effectively two sun-sets, one behind some clouds and then a short time later one against the horizon of the sea.

harwich to esbjerg

ship.jpgNext stop, Esbjerg. That's after travelling to Harwich to catch a ship across the North Sea. I'll be in Scandinavia for the next few days and probably have limited access to internet and so forth. The bags are packed and I'm ready for a 'port out starboard home' crossing and then some unstructured time in Denmark and Sweden.

Monday, 16 July 2007

tiger tattva


Now that I've found that streamclip thingy, its so quick to recut some old videos onto iMovie. This was something from 8mm video, which I originally edited ages ago on a PC with Adobe Premiere and now I've just dropped it back into iMovie, rebalanced the colour and added some quick titles.

Five minutes and a mini tiger epic.

I was editing it at DV quality but have squished it down to 3Mb on disk so that it loads quickly. That's smaller than the original mp3 soundtrack for the whole movie.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Harry Potter plot ending spoiler dilemma

Someone sent me the seventh Harry Potter ending.

It was a few weeks ago.
I don't know whether its true.
The whole thing may be a hoax.

Gabriel allegedly hacked the Bloomsbury Publisher website and archived the story ending found on an employee computer. I decided not to publish it at the time it was sent, back on 19th June. Of course it would have rolled into my June archive by now...

Don't look and I'm not giving you a link.

sunday morning mug of tea

sunday papers
Early morning visit to the shops to buy some milk, oh, and a newspaper to read.

The Observer.

As well as another newspaper to get the free gift of the Prince album, which was inside a plastic bag with the magazines.

UPDATE: The CD is pretty good too. Prince fans won't be disappointed!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

streamclip

sony dcr sr72e.jpg
I'm getting ready for some vacation during next week; heading North towards Scandinavia. I've decided to take a camcorder in the back-pack and thought it would be interesting to experiment with a hard disk based system. So I'm using a very small Sony DCR-SR72E which is not supposed to be compatible with Apple computers. There were warnings all over the box.

Of course, I threw away the box at Heathrow airport to simplify carrying the bits and then did the same with the manual and the rather basic software provided when I got home. Instead I just plugged it into my iMac to see what would happen. "Hello", it said, "I'm a Sony camcorder". Then it showed me a directory structure and all of the little MPEG2 sections of test video I'd recorded. Yippee.

So I dragged them into iMovie just to see what would happen. Much faster to edit than tape, and more selective too.

They all played, but no sound. So I looked at the file type - MPEG2 (muxed), it said. Hmm.

So what can I use to unscramble the perfectly good sound from inside the files?

Streamclip.

I then dragged the files from the camcorder onto Streamclip. "what format would you like?", it asked, and gave me about 50 to choose from, including High Definition upscaling.

I settled for a simple, morose, broken down frankfurt.mov made from a few of the test clips and Yay, everything worked with conversion much faster than realtime playback.

You can enjoy me having a hotel breakdown in the video but, hey, I now have a perfectly fine hard disk based camcorder thats smaller than my SLR and works brilliantly with my Mac. Even if it says it won't on the box.

Expect Nordic video later!

Friday, 13 July 2007

sign o' the times

prince guitar
rashbre central likes the music of Prince and indeed we have tickets for the upcoming concerts at the O2 dome in August having been too jetlagged to see him at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas earlier in the year.

In the UK Prince sold around 80,000 copies of his last CD, so its kind of interesting to see that the new one called Planet Earth is to be given away on Sunday in the Mail. The normal circulation of the Mail on Sunday is about 2.4M and this time they are printing 3 million, of which 50,000 have been ordered by the HMV Shop.

With the structural changes to the music industry, this is an interesting development, although we don't want music to become so free that it eventually stops being created.

Purple Rain sold sold more than 11m copies and with the gigs the artist formally known as Prince was doing in Vegas every night and the upcoming 21 nights at the Dome, I don't think he is short of a fan or two.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

hofbrauhaus

Hofbrauhaus.jpg
My second trip to Germany this week, this time to Munich.

No visit would be komplett without a visit to ein Bierhalle and we managed to get along to the Hofbrauhaus at around eleven in the evening.

We stayed long enough for 'ein Prosit der Gemutlichkeit' and then wandered on to a nearby club Brenner which seemed to be suitably lively for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Sunday, 8 July 2007

what was I thinking?


Clearing some files today, I stumbled across this old 'home movie' from a trip to Disney. Most people are content to do something with family and friends, so I smiled when I saw this slightly bonkers edit from 2003.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

radio planet

logik dab radio.jpg
Bizarre good luck today when I was buying a couple of light bulbs. The local Curry's where I bought the bulbs (halogen specials not sold in Tesco) also had a pile of these little radios on sale- reduced to 1/3 of their original price. The interesting thing is its an Internet radio. As rashbre central is bathed in enough wifi to fry a chicken, I thought I'd give it a try.

In the store I looked at the deceptive lack of sockets aound the back, noticed the little bass duct and a headphone socket, so I took a punt and brought one back to base.

And its plug and go. It found a stack of the local wifi signals, asked for the WEP passwords and then proceeded to download about 6,000 radio channels of the entire planet, sorted into countries and genre.

So I dialled a couple I knew: KFOG of San Francisco and Whole Wheat Radio of Alaska, then listened to a few at random from Tokyo and SWF3 from Germany. Sound quality is fine for a small radio. Tuning so many stations is a little laborious, but its kinda fun to have quite good quality world radio for less than a tank of gas in the car. And it somehow found my iTunes library too and lets me select from that and build playlists.

I like the sort of analogue pioneering spirit of it- only less than 10,000 users globally at the moment. Three years and all radio will probably be like it.

Friday, 6 July 2007

clearly

th_1695.jpgI have a new windscreen!

Yes - the man with the van arrived today (actually two men in two vans) to fix the windscreen on my car. A motorway hazard nowadays seems to be that little loose bolts and bits fly off of other vehicles and occasionally clip the windscreen of the car. Sometimes they bounce off without incident, but occasionally they leave a little dink.

I've already had the autoglasiers out once to re bond the windscreen from small chips, but this time it was too much. Something hit the car and bounced away and at the time I didnt think more of it. When I parked and looked at the passenger side of the screen, there was a 20cm crack in the glass. Well beyond the prescribed safety limits. Its laminated glass, so no immediate worry that it would break, but I needed it fixed.

So my car was going into the garage for a service, but my insurance wanted me to have it done via a roadside service. No problemo. I called them up and they arrived at the appointed time. Excellent. Slight problem. It was raining. No worries, I could move the car underground at the multi story in our office. Ooops. The van was too tall to get into the car park. Then we checked the glass. Wrong type. It didn't have the 'rainsensors' and 'headlight sensors' on it. Bye-bye Mr van man.

Two days later, a big van like the last one and a small van that was car park compatible showed up. It wasn't raining. They had the right glass. And in less that one hour I have a shiny new Pilkington glass windscreen.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

pub

coke blakA simple gathering tonight at the pub - One large table, a selection of fast food and a few drinks.

At one point today I'd considered giving it a miss, as a consequence of not actually getting home until about 01:30 and then getting up at 06:00 today.

In the event I joined the gang and sipped some coke.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

meza

Alex celebrates
Stumbling out of Meza well after midnight on knowing that I'd got to be somewhere for 8am and that I still had to go home was a small dilemma I've just experienced. Still we had a good evening, helping Alex have a bit of a celebration. And to my surprise I'd managed to get to Wardour Street first, even past the messy roadworks of Soho.

Of course, this part of London was still in full zing at that time of evening and the dinging tricycles were out in force.

Monday, 2 July 2007

two princes

Two Princes
A few of us joined the throng at the Concert for Diana hosted by Wills and Harry in Wembley. My first visit to the new stadium and I did wonder about the security and delays as a consequence of the recent London Mercedes-bomb attempts around Haymarket. As it turned out, although there was strong security, the event was fairly easy to get into and a good afternoon and evening of entertainment.

Mainly mainstream acts, and with a strangely American segment at presumably a key time for overseas markets, it was a fun and sunny way to spend Sunday afternoon.

We started sitting towards the back of the stadium, in what we later discovered were the wrong seats. The place we moved to was much nearer the front and directly under the seating of the Princes. We also had Jamie Oliver, Jules (Jamie's wife) and Alan Kerr from the Friday Project as nearby seating companions.

There will be more on Christina's site, where I'm told some of the acts get a mention too.