Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend log

Had a blast at badders on Thursday and back to the traditional curry with a few pints at the Glass House afterward. I'll so miss both of those and all my new friends when I move back home. Friday night went with Paul, Dave, Dave, and Carl to the Oktober Fest in Warrington(the other Paul and Dave couldn't unfortunately make it but maybe simpler that way). It was beer heaven with over 70 real ales, porters, stouts, IPAs, ciders, etc on tap. I can't honestly remember how many I tried but I know my original 9 half pint tokens were well gone (and by half pints it was usually 3/4 pint to be fair) and the lads kept going to buy more :-). Without dinner I'm surprised I managed that but I guess some of those beers were like a meal in and of themselves.

I had planned to go down and check out Cardiff yesterday but recovering from a thick head took most of the morning and then pretty unmotivated to go anywhere with the blah weather and cozy house. Maybe next weekend? I used the time instead to catch up on some mail, finish moving preparations, watch some shows, make some cookies, etc. Also wrote some letters and am shipping off some gifts for some of my friends who have had babies recently.

I'm not a big fan of TV but every so often my friends recommend something and I get hooked. Most recent case of this is Dexter. I've slashed my way through the first two seasons and am getting bang up to date. Quality show that...last one I enjoyed this much was Lost. Its funny how much time can be wasted on Youtube as well :-). I highly recommend searching for the Human Skateboard stop animations, truly hilarious.

As for movies, I don't see too many of those either but randomly watched The Wind That Shakes the Barley a couple weeks before my trip to Dublin which helped put a bit of perspective on things when I went to the Kilmainham Gaol. I give the movie an 8*, thought it was nice.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Spent an excellent weekend in the fine capitol of the Republic of Ireland. Arrived on Friday night and got soaked through from the rain in wandering Parnell street looking for the hostel. Didn't hit it off well with anyone the first night, but that was ok because I was shattered anyhow.

Saturday I set off early and spent about 5 hours in the National Gallery, who's collection really amazed me. This photo is part of the National goes on and on inside eventually merging into a newer galler with some really imposing modern architectural lines. Get to this area and see the Irish artists exibition near the cafe.

Things I liked:

Harry Jones Thaddeus - Market Day
Roderic O'Conor - Farm at Lezaven, Bretonne
Daniel Maclise - Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife
Signac - Lady on the Terrace
Beatrice Lady Glenavy - The Intruder
William Orpen - The Holy Well
John Laverly - The Artists Studio
William John Leech - Convent Garden, Brittany
Pietra Della Vecchia - Timoclea Brought Before Alexander
Also they have a magnificent Caravaggio there called The Taking of Christ that seems like it was recently re-discovered and is on loan through a private collection.

Later I wandered through temple bar...lots of street performers, shops on Grafton street, passed loads of cafes and pubs. Made my way to the James street for a tour of Guinness. This is very touristy but probably for the best considering how many people come to see this place. They've done some nice things with the old parts of the factory and displaying artifacts like all the old bottles or the 9000 year lease for the land. The vantage point from the gravity bar at the top is not to be missed.

Made my way back to the hostel to rest and see where people were going for the night. Struck up a conversation with a couple of guys from Newcastle who invited me to join them. We went to many pubs, my favorites being the Porterhouse (the red porter is top notch there) and Oliver St John Gogarty's with some great live music blasting through the place. From what I recall each had about 3-4 levels of lounges and bars...and some great beers, ales, porters, etc on tap. We also went to O'Sheas and The Brazen head, probably a couple others (gets hazy). We eventually ended up at "the Church" which really seemed creepy similar to Alma de Cuba in Liverpool. But I guess if it takes a nightclub to save a building and get young people back into church then I'm all for it.

These two pubs in Temple Bar are not to be missed:

Oliver St John Gogarty

The Porterhouse

I woke up on Sunday morning, thankfully safe back in my hostel bed with the vast majority of my cash being the the only thing missing (can blame no one but myself there). I stocked up on the great breakfast they include with the accommodation (the Bunkhouse), and set off to see a few more things before flying back to UK. Wandered around Trinity College, National Museum of Archeology, Kilmainham Gaol (very moving), Modern Art gallery, Chester Beatty library, walk around Dublin Castle, and one last stroll through temple bar. There was this terrific puppeteer with his ornery little marionette playing tricks on people, dancing, looking up women's skirts, so funny. Temple Bar is one of those districts you could go back every weekend for 6 months and check out the different shops and pubs, taking in the street performances, sounds trite but ahhh it was so cool!

A couple photos of the jail where many Irish revolutionaries were held and executed early 20th century:

A part of Dublin Castle, taken from nearby Chester Beatty Libary

The restored gate near the jail where you can find the modern art gallery:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

weekend log

Well I'm back in UK, going on week 3 now. Spent my first coherent weekend alone and managed not to go insane (last weekend was in recovery from the prior two weeks of training, partying, and orienteering). Roughly a month left in UK until I rendevouz with Megan and the kids again state side.

Friday watched Get Smart (featuring Steve Carell)... found it very good and laughed out loud but it had me feeling nostaligic. I'll soon be seeking out the 1960's series again to get a fix of the real Maxwell Smart.

Saturday I wandered around the annual Vintage Rally and Steam Organ festival at Victoria Park in Widnes. These pipe organs on display are some absolutely amazing pieces of nostalgia that have been painstakingly restored. They really rock too, you can almost feel the wind in your face standing in front of these things.

Other things to see included a model boat regala on the pond, shire horses, antique cars, antique motorcycles, all sorts of old engines working on display doing various tasks like water pumping, midway games, big band, probably more.

Later I also washed both cars inside and out, and some other chores. After that, I sat down to Youtube and watched the first debate. I'm impressed with both candidates, I really am. I think Obama is the better debater of the two and comes across very sincere and respectable. But having said that I can't pick an overall winner of the debate. Both men have excellent character and I feel this election is certainly not a "lesser of two evils" scenario, not in my book. I support McCain because of his direction of getting our books in order and curbing govt spending. He's also a great deal maker and a centrist. We've needed someone like him for a long time, as I generally believe minimal federal govt is better. I don't buy the "more of the past 8 years" argument. Everyone knows he's not a Bush administration insider.

Today I did laundry, went for a run (abt 2 miles this time huffing and puffing), flogged some stuff on eBay (including Megan's old Peugeot) and watched the movie Babel (giving it 9*, very heavy stuff). Amazing how fast the weekend went by when I had no plans at all going into it, totally unlike me!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In Support of COSI Toledo

I've already said my piece about COSI Toledo. Even though its services are now greatly reduced, I still feel the same about supporting it wholeheartedly. I understand it is going back on the ballot for Lucas County.

Here is a link to my stance from two years ago:

In Support of COSI Toledo

Also here is a persuasive argument by Dan Johnson a while back in the Free Press

COSI levy will preserve important asset

In the mean time I have visited many more natural science and history museums across Europe with my family...most recently NEMO in Amsterdam. They created a terrific public terraced space on the roof which incorporates oversized board games, sandy play areas, a long waterfall and paddling pools for kids to play in. At the top there is a bar / cafe. Amsterdam is now on my favorite city list right along with Paris and Copenhagen. All the greatest "living" cities I've seen that attract creative industry, talent, and investment have excellent museums, parks, architecture, education, public transportation, and pedestrianized areas.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A night out...

We visited the art museum Glass Pavilion for the first time tonight. I was mildly skeptical of it while being built, but it really turned out nice. Its worth a visit if you've never been.

Afterwards we visited Murphy's and I have to say I was let down. The cover was too high, drinks too high, and the place was not as lively as the past times we've visited.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back in T-Town

Well, as many of my friends and family know we're in the process of moving back to our old home in Toledo. We're finding many changes but then again some things never change. One thing I have to get off my chest is we've been indulging quite a bit in the dining scene, easy to do in this town especially when you're busy with moving stuff. We can't seem to get enough of Johny's Lunch on Sylvania and is a great family restaurant and I highly recommend it. Oh how that buffalo dog keeps me coming back. Last night it was Shorty's on Monroe...excellent beer selection and some of the best BBQ / coleslaw around.

I've been walking around downtown each day on my lunch break with my colleague Al. He's got the scoop on quite a few of the projects going on, always curious whats being done with this building or that. As far as changes go I have to say I'll miss the old Bijou, a simple art deco theater. I'm sad to hear about the presumed fate of the United Way it is an architectural landmark that is able and worthy of standing the test of time.

I have less forgiveness for tearing down interesting buildings after seeing thousands of well preserved buildings in towns all over UK and Europe. The vast majority of those structures probably make no business sense in restoring, but after time I think people really appreciate seeing an era reflected in architecture.

I haven't blogged about it yet but before we left England we took one last road trip to the continent. I'll try to write about it and post pics but the path was basically Brighton, Canterbury, theme parks near Paris, Ghent, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, ferry to Hull and then back home.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Center for Alternative Technology - Wales

Today we took a long drive down into North Wales, past lake Bala and nearby Machynlleth to visit CAT. This has been on our list of todos for a while and we were just waiting for a nice day (not too many of those this summer unfortunately!).

This is a wonderful facility that started life as a mine many years ago, evolved into somewhat of a hippie commune, then into an educational project, and now it has grown into something larger which also doubles as a public tourist destination for learning about alternative energies and sustainable living.

Here are some pictures from a very enjoyable day and one we won't forget...

Visitors center at the bottom of the hill(this is where you pay)

Gravity / water powered tram to take you to the top

Disused wind turbine with cutaway so you can peek inside at the mechanicals

Dining hall, picnic area, student apartments (larger set being built in the background). Not pictured is an adventure playground behind me that the kids had a lot of fun with.

Composting area shows many different designs for home composting as well as a example of what a community could invest in (like they have) to use a hot composter which is housed in this building.

A tunnel made from reused wine bottles, these guys know how to party

Straw bale construction theatre, very comfortable inside due to the ventilation and thermal mass of the walls.

Also at the site are ponds / gardens showcasing different types of farming, irigation, and fertilizing. There are many interactive hands on exhibits that teach about wind, solar, geothermal, and even fuel cell technologies. Building techniques are covered including a neat display of a basic green roof growing 3 different types of cover. At the end of it all there is an excellent book store and gadget shop. This place is really worth the visit for anyone (especially families) who are into green living, energy independance, and sustainability. Judging from the building plans and diagrams the place will look a lot different in about 5 years time.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Cotebrook Shire horses

South of us about 15 miles, near the Blakemere shopping area and Delemare Forest is a terrific horse farm by the name of Cotebrook. It makes a great family day out, highly recommended. These horses are beautiful, gentle, and enormous. The owner was friendly and enthusiastically telling about the pedigree of these champion horses. There are some other farm animals and various birds around the place which were fun to see.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Klimt Exhibition

Today I took off work, dropped the kiddies off at school, and took Megan to Liverpool to see the Gustav Klimt exhibit at the Tate gallery. We had a pub lunch and a nice walk around the new section of town near the John Lewis...all looks very nice.

I'm do enjoy the design of arts and crafts movement and art nouveau... subjects I'd like to learn more about. I've very much enjoyed visiting various Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Renee Macintosh buildings. Some of Macintosh's art was also featured in this Tate exhibit.

There was more than just paintings, you could see sculpture, furniture, and architectural models of Klimt's contemporaries and friends. Its a special exhibition not to be missed by anyone interested in art and design.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Weekend Roadtrip - Windsor & Walsall

We took a weekend trip down south to Windsor for a pilgrimage to Lego Land. Had a fantastic day out and absolutely perfect weather. Short queues, and our tickets were free from redeeming Tesco points...can it get any better?

After the park closed we went for a nice noodle dinner in Windsor at the local Wagamama. Gotta love that hot chili ramen with an Asahi black lager, yum yum can't get enough. The castle in Windsor is really imposing, wouldn't mind touring it someday!

On our walk along the Thames there was a bridge taken over by tango dancers, that was interesting to watch, people from all walks of life and all ages having a good time.

We stayed the night back up north in Walsall. Had a leisurely breakfast (good as normal from Village Hotels) and a swim in their pool. Then we walked Walsall for a few hours. Their New Art Gallery is fantastic... hosting huge collection of Jacob Epstein sculptures. They also had these cool of Albrecht Durrer wood carvings, along with many other impressive works by a wide range of artists from renaissance to modern.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Megan and her friends were attending a dance workshop in Saltaire this weekend so I was on my own with the kids in Bradford.

Lister Park is a good sized swath of green space on the north side of town. It has some lovely landscaping, fountains, and sculpture. The building in this picture is the Cartwright Hall which is in the center of the park, it contains a nice art gallery but is currently under renovation. There is also a small lake where paddle boats can be rented in the summer. There is a good sized play ground and also lots of paths to explore. I think we'll go back someday!

We wandered the city centre which has some decent shops and a good central square.

The highlight of the weekend has to be the National Media Museum... really a must see if you are in the area if you are at all interested in the history and production of television, photography, animation, or just want to check out a vintage TV show in their TV Heaven theatre. Admission is free but if you want to try the simulator or Imax you'll need to pay for it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Scotland road trip 2008

I know its been quiet on the blog front as of late. Have spent the majority of my time planning and taking our Scotland road trip. If you want to see pictures you can visit my photostream at:

We had a great experience even though we looked for and didn't see:

1) Nessie
2) Dolphins
3) Salmon swimming upstream

We did see amazing scenery, castles, cities. Sampled great food, saw many native animals including the oh so cool highland cattle.

I could see myself going back and spending more time up north, visiting even more remote areas like Orkney, Skye, Staffa. I think the highlight of the trip for me was the isle of Arran; place has great features hiking through varied terrain and forests, picturesque villages, ancient monoliths, interesting geologic formations, 2 castles, a beer brewery, distillery, cheese factory (where you can stop and watch production at all 3 I believe).

A great trip and a hard one to top, though we will certainly try. Here are some of my favorite moments:

Saturday, March 01, 2008

a walk in the park

We've been meaning to make it to the Sankey Valley Park in Warrington ever since, well, we moved here. Its at the western edge of the city centre, and close to a house we nearly leased.

There is a real ale pub called The Maltings nearby where you can park, enjoy the beer garden, and then take a long walk in either direction along the canal. There are interesting little bits every so often like a huge sculpture of an archery board and arrows stuck into it (arros about 20ft tall) or playgrounds for children.

One other nifty feature we found is a good sized hedge maze, though it needs a little TLC it was still fun.

Here is what it looks like from the sky...

View Larger Map

Monday, February 25, 2008

New line of family tree

After gleaning a bit of seemingly insignificant information from my father last night on the phone I found a whole new section of my family tree! This branch reaches back to a man named Charles Harrison born in England around 1815. I'll be adding some good information based on records effortlessly dug up including an 1880 Census record and a 1910 one. My mom, late step grandmother, and many others have helped uncover my roots. I plan to learn whatever else I can about them and document them.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Toledo downtown... reminiscing


Toledo downtown... reminiscing

What a depressing list of of businesses closing or leaving downtown Toledo. Obviously not a comprehensive list, whats your favorite thing that has disappeared? Mine has to be that Socrates ice cream shop on St Clair. I will always fondly remember the intimate live music venues upstairs at Divas. Oh, and those grinders from Ballacino's across the street!! I remember long club nights and concerts at the Bijou / Asylum / whatever other names it took. Its kind of funny that my wife of 11 years was there one night the same night as I, but we didn't meet and didn't know each other then. I was upstairs with my ears bleeding from Urge Overkill and she was downstairs with all the tearful poetic types with October Project.

The area was at one time an enjoyable place for me to work and hang out. With the two way traffic introduction it got more congested in the mornings and afternoons. In my opinion the number of menacing transients it was constantly rising (especially in and around main branch library). I wonder what it will be like when I come back in 18months?

Ann Arbor sounds better and better all the time...sure they have their share of transients and congestion but they also have the businesses and people to make it worth while!

Today we went back to Chester, shopping and eating a bit in town center. If I were to settle in the northwest of England, that would probably be the town. When I read about towns like Waterville and Toledo being among the best places to live, I cannot even laugh because it hurts to fathom such a thing.

movies rated

Last King of Scotland - Great movie, great story, great acting. Some pretty horrific scenes near the end, not for the squeemish! A young Scotish med school grad goes to Uganda in the 1970's during Amin's coup and period of civil unrest. He naively gets mixed up in affairs that are way over his head. Trouble ensues. 8*

Interstate 60 - Recommended by a colleague, very straightforward story of an american genie granting a wish to an high school graduate. He is character is tempted and tested at every turn of the road trip. Really a simple movie with not great acting or screen play, but a fun story for easy watching. I love the town of Morelaw where everyone is a lawyer, in the background you see an ambulance drive by with a mob frantically chasing it. 6*

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Format wars are over?

It sounds that way, at least for this generation of hi def. I've been noticing more announcements of this type from Gizmodo over the past few months. It sounds like Toshiba will officially announce and pull out support for HD-DVD.

Blueray has won, which I think is bad for most people due to the more expensive production costs and more proprietary nature. I for one, am not looking forward to more years of confusing region encoding woes. But at least I can start thinking seriously about a hi def system and no longer worry about the unsolved format war.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A day in Liverpool

Megan had a day of dancing workshops with her friends today (arabic-flamenco and ATS - american tribal style). We dropped her off in the morning on Lark Lane and then made our way to Liverpool city centre.

I really love the Walker art gallery in Liverpool and would recommend it to anyone. Some refer to it as the "National Gallery of the North" because it is a massive collection. There is a nice area at the start for children to unwind. When they are done playing or making their own masterpieces you can get some clip boards and go on a hunt for certain art works in the galleries using their pre-made maps. They have different themes also so you can always come back again for a different hunt. I like the gallery for the terrific Rennaisance paintings and the sculpture room.

Here are two not so random patrons:

Right next door to the gallery is the central library which is also enormous. Right next to that is the World Musuem which covers natural history and science. It is 5 stories of dinosaur bones, aquairum, Egyption artifacts, interactive geology displays, Asian artifacts, planetarium, and more. It is all very very family friendly and completely free.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Tonight I saw a play in Manchester at the Lowry based on The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. This is a story that I loved reading, like many of Kafka's strange short stories. Megan was meant to go along but alas our daughter fell ill and she stayed behind to look after her. I'll be repaying the favor tomorrow by watching the wee ones while she dances all day at a work shop with her friends.

The stage was split on two levels, the dining room and Gregor's bedroom straight above. His bedroom is oriented so you are looking straight down (e.g. bed is bolted to the back wall for optical illusion). The actor playing Gregor did some really cool athletic things to make it look like he was defying gravity, well, he was actually defying gravity with most of what he was doing!

The performance was amazing and I'm really glad I didn't just give up the tickets.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Yeah, its an action movie about 8 years old and it has Brad Pitt in it so why am I watching it now? A friend recommended it, had my doubts but actually pretty good for the genre. I gave it an 8 on my IMDB list.

I also saw Layer Cake over the weekend which pales in comparison (gave it 5). I may be biased having read Stephen Connolley's book first (which was better than I expected).

Have also picked up with watching Lost season 4, probably the only show on TV I care to watch these days. Top Gear also, sometimes.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Birmingham UK

We spent a weekend city break in Birmingham. I've posted a photo set to my flickr account that shows plenty of cool photos around city centre and the Bull Ring shopping area. We spent time in the main art gallery both days, attended the Chinese new year kickoff in Chinatown, and walked through plenty of the markets and posh shopping.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Another year in the United Kingdom

Many family and friends know, but for those who don't, I'm going to be working in UK for a further year. So as much as I miss reading the uplifting news as published in the Blade every day and resounding from the AM radio waves of WSPD, I've got to forge forward and see as many cool European cities and museums and parks and ???? as I can. We'll most likely move back to Toledo in July 2009.

But seriously, we are missing family and friends many of whom have taken the opportunity to come to the UK and see us, and then let us show them around. For those who haven't, get that passport ready and give us a shout!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Whats up with me? Random thoughts...

Posts have been sparse lately for a reason... have been quite busy upon return from the states and what spare time I do have I've been planning out our next trips. What spare time I don't have I've been depriving sleep and watching a few movies. TV and movies are not something I see much of, people who know me can attest. Thats why when there is one on I get strangely hypnotised and cannot in good faith carry on a conversation with someone when one is on.

Anyways, in the month of January I saw several good movies which I've added to my vote history at IMDB.

I read the book L4yer Cake and will be watching the movie this weekend. Before that I read the books Chasm City by Allistar Reynolds and Roots by Alex Haley.

Last weekend we celebrated my son's birthday and also went to the Lowry in Manchester for family fun day.

I've been loosely following the US primaries and am very pleased to see McCain moving ahead. I voted for him in 2000 in the primaries and feel he can do a good job for the country. I wouldn't mind seeing a minority or a female in the white house, but not for that reason alone. I wouldn't support a move towards national health care or more social entitlements, especially after living in UK for a while.

In a few weeks time we'll be visiting Buxton and the Peak District. After that I'm planning a two week trip around Scotland. In may I'm considering Norway. The family will be quite busy this spring!!