Saturday, 30 June 2007

Amsterdam Postcards Redux

DSC_8747I’m in Amsterdam once again for another meeting with our friends at RAVU. Like the last time, it is raining in Mokum. While Angie, Ollie, and I have come to know the Amsterdam scene well, Karen had never been before. We looked forward to showing her the sights of the city. We kicked off our tour of the city with a beer and a snack at Dam Square. Angie got friendly with our table-neighbors when she raised her umbrella (while under the canopy) and hit the lady next to her. None-the-less, we settled in and enjoyed our refreshments.

As per my usual practice, I was up at dawn to wander the streets to see what I could see. DSC_8759I was surprised by how crowded Amsterdam had become. I guess it was the start of the high season for tourists. Even at 5:00 in the morning there were many people wandering the streets, still drunk and still drinking. As you can see, garbage from over-night revelry was everywhere. I say ‘kudos’ to the city cleaning crews, who usually managed to clean things up just in time for the shops to re-open at 9:00.


DSC_8765 One constant in Amsterdam seems to be photo exhibits. On my last trip, there was the exhibit for the 2007 World Photojournalist Awards. This time was Steve Bloom’s exhibit “Spirit of the Wild” outside the Westerkerk. His photos are phenomenal. Click HERE to go to his home page a take a look for yourself.

Angie and I tried to repeat our York trip with a trip to Rotterdam, however the late nights and miserable weather conspired against us and we didn’t get to see much other than the inside of the train. Since Angie’s birthday is coming up on July 4th, we were joking about her age and I kept singing the commercial jingle “I’m a big girl now” over and over. I guess this sensitized me to little girls walking with their parents and I caught these two at obviously different life stages (and different dependencies on their parent).

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DSC_8803Back in Amsterdam, the sun came out and I met up with Ollie and Karen, who were on a shopping mission. I toured around the flower market. I think there was every flower known to man on sale there, if not in bloom, then certainly in seed or bulb form. I noticed that while many take in the canal boat cruises offered by tour operators, others rent small boats to tour around in. I was amused by the contrast between the multitude of bicycles and the reception offered by the flower vendors. There were “no bikes” signs everywhere. It was quite warm and many people were enjoying an ice cream, sitting on the steps watching people go by.

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A few streets away from the flower market, near one of the museums, I took in this display about the different kinds of trees in Amsterdam. Local school kids had completed small exhibits to go with the facts about the trees, which made it quite interesting.

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Angie had met up with Karen and Ollie for a beer (or two) in De Wallen (the red light district). I'm guessing everyone knows why it is called the 'red light district'? Of course it is because the 'working ladies' have red lights outside their windows to indicate their profession, but I have no idea why the colour used is red, but Wiki has some background here.

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Anyway, I tracked Ollie, Angie, and Karen down and we headed out for a bite to eat back near the hotel. Karen borrowed my camera and took a few shots of the scenery. Here is a great shot she took of the crowded alleyway near where we were eating.

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Seeing a sunset in A’dam was new to us (it has always rained before) and it was interesting to see how everything looked so different. The contrast in light lent itself to the more modern buildings of Amsterdam. I found this one a bit odd, though, with the way every floor was a walking way or gantry leading to an external fire escape.

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There are more photos from this trip and you can see a slide show of them HERE, although they are buried in with my other shots of Amsterdam and you won't get to the new ones until the end. (Hint, try using the file locater at the bottom of the show to advance to the shots you want to see)


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Friday, 29 June 2007

York

A KeeperIn between the AMBEX show and our next stop (The Netherlands for a RAVU meeting), Angie and I traveled to York. York is a lovely old walled city with lots of character. Since it dates back to the Roman Empire, it is an interesting place to ‘reflect’ upon history and our place in it! York is a mix of Modern, Medieval, and Victorian architecture. I quite enjoyed touring the Minster (Medieval). This was the first church I have toured were the local minister was present and asked visitors to pause and remember the less fortunate, which we did. The church had the usual Gothic arches and stained glass windows. It was quite impressive.

A short time-out for a pause at “Betty’s”, hosted by cheerful staff before hitting the streets again to see the small but impressive Norman Keep / Tower. Nearby was a local who had obviously built up a rapport with the local geese. On the way back to the train station, we came across “The Shambles”, which appears to be the source for the English term “in a shambles”. Local butchers heaped their wares out on “shammels” for customers to select their choice from. Shammels became the name of the road, which then became Shambles, which was then used as a metaphor for things in disarray, much like the meat on the original “shammels”. Our route back to the train station took us along the city wall, where we ran into Bryan Singleton and his wife. What are the odds of that happening?!

For a slide show of all of the Harrogate and York photos (which are part of the larger UK trip set), click here.

I'm quite far behind in my posting. I have posts for trips (and photos) for Amsterdam and Newfoundland yet to post. With any luck I will do that this week-end. Also, I'm close to understanding why Blogger screws up the photos (you may have noticed that some have horrible 'jaggies' while others are fine). Until I get it figured out, its best to view all the photos over at my Flickr site, where there are no compression issues and the photos should show well.


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Thursday, 28 June 2007

AMBEX

DSC_8724Last year Medusa had a limited presence at the AMBEX. What a difference a year makes! This year, we had Angie, Ian, Steve, Karen, and Oliver working the booth as well as running two user group sessions and hosting customer dinners.

We stayed at the Crown Hotel. While the name leads you to believe it is a lovely, upscale English hotel, the reality is that it is a ‘has-been’ in a state of disrepair and frequented by hard-core partiers. Karen, Angie, and I were slightly nauseous and I suspect the water is contaminated by old pipes. To be fair, the management has engaged a reputable construction firm to complete some renovations!

The de-Crowned Hotel



Our partner in the U.K., CSC, had a booth (or ‘stand’ as the English say) and we provided the talent for the demonstrations. The booth was near the entrance and generated a lot of traffic, which kept Karen and Oliver quite busy.

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The rest of us managed a number of user group sessions. Tim, Susan, and Paula from EHS gave lead-off presentations on the Nova Scotia take on things and they did a fine job.

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All of this didn’t stop our brain storming sessions over large glasses of special, idea generating liquids. Unfortunately, we were unable to solve all of the world’s problems in the limited time the magic solution generated its effect.

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Click here to go to the slideshow with all of the AMBEX photos (as part of the UK trip photo set)


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Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Last Day in Windermere

A Nicer NicheI’d had my eye on the decorations at Cedar Manor since I arrived. I attempted to take some shots the night before, but the narrow hallways meant I kept getting in the way of the other guests. At 5:00 a.m., however, no-one else was up so I was able to shoot away to my heart’s content. I loved the way they had tucked in a chair into an alcove. I thought the black versus pink very complementary. There was also a little stained glass window at the top of the alcove.

Niche


After an hour of shooting, I noticed the rain had let up, so I quickly hiked back up to Orest Head. It was quite windy and cold, but the sun broke through the odd time, letting me take a few snaps of the surrounding countryside, including a panorama of Lake Windermere itself. Its best to click on the panorama and view it in Flickr by selecting "All Sizes" and then picking "Original".



Windermere Lake Panorama

Back at the hotel, it was time to pack up and catch the express back to Manchester Airport where I met up with Oliver, Karen, and Ian for the drive up to Harrogate and the return to work.

The full set of Lake District photos are here.


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Monday, 25 June 2007

More Postcards from the Lake District

Lake Windermere on a Dark and Stormy DayI seem to be quickly getting over jet lag, as I was able to get up with a normal 8 hours of sleep and hit the trails at 5:30. By 6:00, I was at the top of Orset Head looking out over Lake Windermere. While today is another downright miserable day (more rain and driven winds), I can imagine the view from here is spectacular on a clear day. I decided to stay in Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere, thinking I might like to nip in out of the rain for a mug-up or a pint. I circled the town on one of the many walking trails, taking in the sights all the while the rain fell and the wind blew.I began to understand why the stone is a favourite building material. Rain and wind would make short work of any wooden structure. Even the lake was frothy!

The local parish church offered a short respite from the storm. I had a lovely chat with the one of the church wardens, who filled me in on the local history and offered up many interesting tidbits. For example, Windermere was commonly frozen over in the winter, but hasn’t been for many, many years, perhaps another victim of global warming. The church dates back to 1480 and was re-done in Victorian times. There are nice stained glass windows, but the thing that took my eye was a beautiful etched glass work done in 2000. It has an elegance I haven’t seen in a window before. The setting and the theme certainly had a lot to do with it.



The full set of Lake District photos is here.


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Sunday, 24 June 2007

Postcards from Hellvellyn

The LocalsJonathan was a guide in this area years ago and recommended I try the Hellvellyn hike up from Glenridding in the east. The weather was miserable, so I decided to approach Hellvellyn from the west at the Thirlmere Reservoir. This would allow me to turn around from the top and descend right back to the bus stop, making for a much shorter trek. A map of my hike is on Map My Run. You can overlay the satellite view as well as click to see the elevation. The distance was about 7 miles but the maximum elevation was just over 3,000 feet, for a climb of 2,400 feet.




On the way up, I met a small party who had camped out over night up on the fell and were just making their descent. The trail up was pretty rough but near the top it turned into something suitable for an ATV or a 4x4. With no tree cover, the wind was bracing, but navigation was very simple, aided by a number of stone markers.




The locals call their small ponds ‘tarns’.This is a view from Hellvellyn looking east. In the background, you can see Ullswater (Lake) where Glenridding is. Red Tarn is in the foreground.
The trails must get heavy use and erosion looks like it is a huge problem. The National Trust and local volunteers are trying to rebuild the trails and brought these stones by helicopter to aid in the reconstruction. The decent into Glenridding, while longer than the ascent up Hellvellyn, was much easier. The switchbacks helped. There is no “old growth” forest as there is in Canada, and trees are bunched together in groves. Stone fences are everywhere here, even at the tops of the fells. I hope that they use local stone, as to carry the stone up would be back breaking.

Even though there are many stone fences in Newfoundland, we think of them as old relics, left over from another time. Here they continue to be working, every day items. I guess that’s what gives it a very English feel.

There is also a lot of green (which is really yellow) and little bit of colour really stands out. The hike was about 15 km and took the better part of 4 hours, with lots of stops along the way for photos.




I spent a couple of hours in Glenridding waiting for the bus back to Windermere. It is a tiny town, formerly dependent upon mining. The mines have run out and its stock in trade these days is tourism. The tourists come to see the local wildlife. I saw a number of different species of Bimmer’s, Porsche’s, and Lotuses (Loti?).





The tourists are certainly well heeled and they certainly seem to go through tyres!




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Saturday, 23 June 2007

Postcards from The Lake District

I should always be in such good company! I sit and write this in the Lake District of England where such famous writers as William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter composed their works. Unlike them, I tend to maul the English language.



The trip here was long, if uneventful. I had a 2 hour wait for the Transpennine Express from Manchester Airport to Windermere, so of course I took some photos. The only thing that was half-way interesting was some metal chairs on the platform, but it’s always good to exercise the mind’s eye.

I’m staying at the Cedar Manor, a lovely little hotel than has been converted from a manor house. There is a little garden out front, complete with the prerequisite white table and chairs. Jonathan and Carolyn Kaye operate the Cedar Manor, having given up the bright lights of London for the more rural Lake District only three weeks ago. Jonathan was “in the bar business” when not traipsing around the world tacking Kilimanjaro and Everest. If you ever plan a trip to the Lake District, I’d recommend staying here. The rooms are comfortable (well above the usual English standard), the food enjoyable (also well above English standard) and the hosts knowledgeable of the local area, especially for walks and hikes.

To battle jet lag, I went for a short walk around Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere. While it looks like a typical small English town, there is a heavy tourist bent to it. The Lake District is a very popular tourist spot and even the garbage has a high class feel to it. Speaking of which, it seems to me the European equivalent of the discarded Tim Horton’s cup is a discarded Seagram’s bottle. This guy seemed to be a bit bitter about being left behind.



Lake Windermere is the largest of the Lake District lakes so there is a lot of water activity, including sailing. These boats were lined up ready to head out for a group lesson.


The Lake District is also known for its hiking. Steep hills (fells) and sheltered valleys make for interesting hiking. Don’t let the absence of trees fool you: the verticals are as challenging as anything in the Rockies.


As in the south of England, there are lots of public paths crisscrossing the land. The locals have seen it all and only stop and stare when hikers amble past.




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Friday, 22 June 2007

More Portraits

A quick post before I hit the road again. This time I'm off to England. I am planning to do some hiking up the The Lake district before going to a trade show in Harrogate. Last week the Spa Meister (Oliver) asked me to take some publicity shots of a couple of his staff. It was a great experience, although I'm finding portraiture is very different than other types of photography.


Not only do you have the higher degree of interaction with the subject, but there is a finite time difference. Instead of reacting to the subject, you have to think and plan ahead. I think it is much more challenging than anything else. Photogs like Annie Leibovitz are brilliant (go check out her latest 20 cover shots for the current issue of Vanity Fair). Hopefully I'll get more experience and develop my skills in this area further. I've posted the rest of the shoot in the Portrait set on my Flickr site. I'll close out with a shot of Ollie in his new spa (under construction).

Ollie, Spa Meister


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Friday, 8 June 2007

Caution: Runners Ahead!

The Cabot Trail Relay is a road race that starts and ends in Baddeck, NS. Runners complete 17 ‘legs’ that make a loop around the Cabot Trail with each runner tackling a single leg (hence the ‘relay’ nature of the event). Technically, it is not a relay, since each leg is a mass start and not all runners have to finish the previous leg before the next leg starts. Runners ‘compete’ for individual times on the leg and an overall, cumulative team time for the event. This was the 20th running of the CTR and I think it was the 15th year for the Boondock Harriers. Barry Diggins, a long time Harrier, owes me a history with a bit more specifics.


The focus for many teams is less on the competition and more on the having fun, but the highlight for the Harriers this year was beating the Great Canadian Honking Goose by over 40 minutes. For me, the highlight was my taking on Leg 4 (Smokey). Smokey is a 20km run with a bloody great big mountain in the middle. I was very apprehensive about running Smokey because of the hill. Run a hill too hard and you can’t finish; run a hill too easy and you will end up last. I’m waaaaaay too driven to want to end up last in anything and not finishing is not an option! In the end, I’m very happy with how I did. While I could have taken Smokey a shade harder, but there is no way I could have caught the person ahead of me. I’m just not in their league. Now that Smokey is out of the way, I’m wondering if taking on North Mountain next year is in the cards?

This year’s event was just as sociable as previous years, with just as many wacky costumes and with just as much eating and drinking. Everyone had a good run on their leg (at least no one threw up, as in past years!). There was no rain this year, except for a short shower. I have posted photos taken during the run at my Flickr site. You can look at them one-by-one, or in a slideshow. If you run the slideshow, make sure you turn comments on by clicking the ‘i’ in the middle of the screen (move your mouse there first).

Many thanks to Paul, Tom, and Dave for sharing their photos.


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Tuesday, 5 June 2007

More Headshots

It's not often I get to post a photo of me (and please, no comments about Anderson Cooper), mainly because I'm always the one taking the photo. I finally found time to finish the company headshots (see slide show here). They are the same style as the ones I took earlier, except for a shot of Craig Fraser, which I took in the server room. I must say, I found the two flash, off camera approach great for this sort of shot.

I'm scanning in the last of the Cabot Trail Relay shots now and should have 70+ pics to post by the week-end. Mean time, off to Dallas to try and woo another customer.
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Sunday, 3 June 2007

EMS Chiefs of Canada Conference

I was in Winnipeg for the first time in about 15 years last week. Oliver, Brent and I attended the EMS Chiefs of Canada conference that was held there. It is a small conference, as these things go, but its always good to get out and meet people in the industry.



We got to meet a number of people and Oliver and Brent demonstrated our software for a number of potential customers. We were also able to get caught up on industry rumours.

Ollie correctly guessed that MarCom material for Siren would be in short supply, so he whipped up three 2' by 3' posters ON THE PLANE. He then convinced a local print shop to stay open an extra hour to print them out. The results were outstanding (that boy has talent).



I was out for an early morning walk / shoot when I came across these girls. They were hootin' and hollerin' for the Senators to bring the Cup back to Canada. It was a publicity stunt that Scotiabank put together. Apparently, 'peggers would rather see the Ducks win than a Canadian team. The next thing you know, they will want to separate!

To see the rest of the photos from last week, click here.


I have a ton of photos from the Cabot Trail Relay. I'm waiting on some slides to come back from the lab before I finish off the post. As I'm off to Dallas this week, I probably won't get them completed until next week-end.


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