“subversive” museum podcasts…

the new york times has an interesting online front page feature about “subversive audio museum tours” available via podcasting: unofficial audio guide to museums done by “art hackers”, students and professors of art taking you on a more critical, but also more original and entertaining tour of museums. the NYT article specifically talks about NY’s museum of modern art (moma) and the audio guides available from art mobs but there are other audio tour guides out there, podguides.net, for example, collects audio tours through towns and cities; the podtrip site has an audio tour for the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia in burlingame, ca, usa. some more audio tour podcasts sites can be found via podcastalley

checking out the links page of the podguides site i noticed podsites.com…they are using apple’s ipod notes features to create podsites: think web sites for ipods! apple’s ipod notes format allows us to link to other notes files, to directories, to songs, and images (you can even lock the ipod user into the notes application…)

interesting stuff all that.

greasemonkey-ing around with the guardian digital

while i really like the digital guardian, one feature of it that i really don’t like is the stupid pop-up window when displaying an article or a page as PDF — i’ve got a really nice PDF viewer (kpdf) and don’t really like embedded PDF pages…so, when i stumbled the other day over the firefox extension greasemonkey it sounded like just the tool to get rid of those annoying PDF pop-up windows.

greasemonkey allows you to write little pieces of javascript that get executed for either specific or all web pages after they’ve been loaded but before they get displayed. actually, “little pieces of javascript” is probably an understatement as one can do quite powerful stuff with this tool. probably the best tutorial is the diveintogreasemonkey tutorial by mark pilgrim. after a little hitch — when specifying the URL(s) for which a greasemonkey script should trigger, you need to specify either the whole URL or a regular expression, just the base URL won’t do — i had my itch scratched. here’s the greasemonkey script that disables the PDF-pop-ups on the digital guardian web site:

// digitalguardiannopdfwindows.user.js 
// version 1.0 // 2005-05-22 
// Copyright © 2005, Dirk Husemann 
// Released under the GPL license 
// http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html 
// 
// -------------------------------------------------------------------- 
// 
// This is a Greasemonkey user script. To install it, you need 
// Greasemonkey 0.3 or later: http://greasemonkey.mozdev.org/ 
// Then restart Firefox and revisit this script. 
// Under Tools, there will be a new menu item to "Install User Script". 
// Accept the default configuration and install. 
// 
// To uninstall, go to Tools/Manage User Scripts, 
// select "Digital Guardian: No PDF windows", and click Uninstall. 
// 
// -------------------------------------------------------------------- 
// 
// ==UserScript== 
// @name Digital Guardian: No PDF windows 
// @namespace http://d2h.net/ 
// @description greasemonkey script to prevent digital guardian pages
// from opening PDF in their own window 
// @include http://digital.guardian.co.uk/guardian/* 
// @include http://digital.guardian.co.uk/observer/* 
// ==/UserScript==  
window.openPagePdf = window.openPagePdfLocally; 
window.openStoryPdf = window.openStoryPdfLocally; 

what am i doing here? well, the digital guardian and observer websites use a javascript based layout system to display the digital guardian and observer content. they have two functions for displaying PDF pages: openPagePdf() and openPagePdfLocally(). the former is the one that causes a pop-up to appear while the latter is just opening it — which is what i want.

funnily enough they use both functions for the PDF link: if you open the link by clicking on it, openPagePdf() gets used (ouch), if you open it in a different way (moving focus to it and then hitting the enter key?), openPagePdfLocally() is invoked. as i don’t want the pop-up-window variant, all i had to do was to redefine openPagePdf() as openPagePdfLocally() which these two lines of javascript do:

window.openPagePdf = window.openPagePdfLocally; 
window.openStoryPdf = window.openStoryPdfLocally; 

(the second line does the same thing for story PDFs.

if you have the same itch to scratch, you can install my greasemonky script from here (obviously you need greasemonkey installed first 🙂

from northcourt to adliswil in one day

(nice title, huh? 🙂 after one last breakfast at the northcourt we pack, say goodbye and are off — the weather is brilliant again after yesterday’s rather rainy day, from easy-vauxie’s CD player the national trust “for ever for everyone” CD is providing a very fitting musical backdrop to our tour via brightstone, the military road, freshwater bay and then yarmouth to the ferry.

usually after two weeks of vacation i’m itching a bit to get back home, get back to work, back to hacking ;-)…this time though (for the first time really), i’m sad to leave — have we fallen in love with the island? hmm.

from lymington it goes back through the new forest to the M27. as predicted two weeks ago by steve, traffic coming into the new forest is heavy — as we drive out of lyndhurst there’s a 2 mile long queue of cars waiting to eventually get into the village.

originally we had intended to visit one of the national trust properties (making use of our new membership 🙂 but decide not to stuff too much into the afternoon and have a little picknick while still in the new forest…after that it’s a straight drive back via the M27, the M3, and the M25 until we reach the ring road around heathrow airport: the challenge now is to find our way back to the ncp flightpath car park where easycar has its heathrow presence — and it’s literally in the last second that i spot the turn-off from the ring road and the right hole to disappear through. the interesting question (of the day really): will the easycar attendant declare easy-vauxie clean (in which case we get our £10 cleaning deposit back) or will he declare it dirty (and easycar gets to keep our deposit) (and, if he were to ask me, i’d declare it dirty, really) — well, he has a look through, returns, and declares it clean! leaving me wondering what a dirty easycar must look like? half the isle of wight in the boot? enough bird droppings to have the colour of the car officially changed?

we board the shuttle bus to terminals 1, 2, & 3 (for some strange reason terminal 4 is not served), get off at terminal 2, make our way through a seemingly endless maze of underground tunnels to the heathrow express station and then on to terminal 4.

getting our boarding cards is easy due to e-ticketing, getting rid of our luggage is not: we are way to early and have to wait for 50min before we can drop our luggage off — it’s slightly overweight…hmmm…strange, it can’t be those books and souvenirs, really…it’s got to be the accumulated dirt from our walks and that pesky dust from the coastal path! anyhow, british airways is nice and accepts both bags (but puts a heavy! tag on both of them)…then it’s through security, the duty free shop, the pret a manger place for something to eat, and then for one final cider and guinness at the terminal 4 pub.

the flight back (leaving a bit late) is at times a bit shaky but calms down on the last leg to zurich. we arrive after 22:00, wait for 20min for our luggage to reappear and then take a taxi home (a rather jerky, that is, dangerous, taxi driver & a bill of CHF 88.00!). while we are glad to be home again, we are also sad to have left the isle of wight behind…

a rainy last day…[part 3]

back at the ranch, err, back in the lady gordon suite of our the northcourt.

the roman villa at brading is worth a visit. a large, wooden building sits like a shell over the remains of a roman villa — mainly lots of marvelously well-conserved mosaics. the villa was build in the 5th century by a bloke called pollonius who got “exiled” to the isle of wight after making fun of the then roman imperor caesar gallus aka the caesar the cock — well, originally, caesar the cock had him on death row; luckily for pollonius — and somewhat unfortunate for caesar the cock — caesar the cock had it coming from other people as well and bit the bullet [chewed the sword?] before pollonius was due to go west; the successor in command of the roman empire translated pollonius death penalty into a exilement and sent “poor old” pollonius to the farthest corner of the roman emipire: the isle of wight (so, you could argue that pollonius didn’t go west but did).

what astonishes me is how accurate, realist almost, the artist(s) creating the mosaics about 16 centuries earlier have captured human bodies: in the maid fleeing apollon the back of the naked woman (unfortunately we don’t get a different perspective 😉 looks almost three dimensional — this in contrast to pictures and paintings from later centuries (i.e., medieval art capturing the human body rather crudely, on a kindergarten-level almost). also, the building techniques back then were pretty high-level as well: different tiles for covering a roof and: they were standardized throughout the roman empire! (we don’t even manage to standardize on electrical plugs within europe [“welcome to switzerland, none of your plugs will work here.”]).

we briefly browse through the “shop”, don’t stay for tea in the “café”, and are on our way back to northcourt.

a nice attraction for a rainy afternoon (well, at least part of — unless you are easily entertained like the 2-3 year old toddler who couldn’t get enough of letting crayons roll down the slopping walkways inside the roman villa cover building: he clearly could have spent all day doing this this and loved it 🙂

a rainy last day…[part 2]

the beach house café in bonchurch has, alas, closed its doors for the last time last winter (health & family reasons) — which is a pity because it was one of the nicest beach front cafés on the isle of wight…so we turn around and (with the rainy rain in our back) walk back to ventor: plan B is the spy glass inn

we seem to be just ahead of the crowds (people really start coming in in droves after we settle down, probably nothing to do with us though [i think]) and manage to obtain a nice little table in the back: dorothee chooses a lemon sole, i absolutely have to take the pint of prawns…while we sip our drinks (pint of cider for mrs h, a half pint of guinness for mr h) “today’s entertainment” arrives and starts playing: john grace at the piano!…quite nice 🙂

we enjoy our lunch (lots of liberating prawns for me, a very nice sole for dorothee)…the spy glass inn is — as always — worth a visit!

next on our last day agenda is the roman villa at brading…again, stay tuned 🙂

a rainy last day…

we are sitting in the 20th-styled rex in ventor (OK place, a bit more pretentious than what reality can vouch for…tables [plastic coated MDF aspiring to be lacquered solid wood reminiscent of an earlier century) a bit on the wonky side: each time i hit the keys the table wobbles along; the pot of tea for two, though, has a very decent size and the view across ventor bay to the south is fantastic!), it’s our last day on the isle of wight today and the weather is very sympathetic: it’s raining…we’ve already spent another fortune at the national trust shop in brighstone (fruit cake in a tin & 2 CDs for me, 3 sets of postcards & a gardener’s tea towel for dorothee), have gone slowly around the south end of the island — having had a look at the haunted manor house hotel where we staid ages ago (lots of house for sale in that part of the island which is surprising because it seems to me to be one of the most prettiest spots of the island) — and have now parked easy-vauxie in the closest pay & display car park around the corner.

as the rain has subsided a bit just a moment ago we decide to go for a walk along the sea front towards bonchurch and have a look whether nice little café on the sea front in bonchurch is still alive — and, if it is, have lunch there…stay tuned 🙂

“…against the wind”

the weather is a bit more overcast than so far in our holidays, but it’s staying dry — although we had contemplated visiting the roman villa in brading, i somehow have no, null, nix motivation for driving. it never takes any convincing to get my wife to agree to a walk, so that was that then: another walk! we decide to go for a nice lunch to chale to the wight mouse inn…this time we follow the footpath out of shorwell up to westcourt farm and then keep eastwards and on the road through little atherfield, atherfield green, atherfield farm, until we reach the hamlet of pyle, where we have a break on the green (someone else’s favourite spot & view as the bench put up there in memory of him attests — and i can see why…) before climbing the hill and taking the path into chale.

we have another splendid lunch at the wight mouse inn (complete with an apple crumble soaked in custard, yummm!) and then make for the coastal path to follow through this time all the way to shepherd’s chine. the strong, gusty wind that has been with us in the morning now hits us with full force — and makes the walk along the cliff edge a bit of a nerve-testing endeavour. in places the coastal path has crumbled (unfortunately no custard here) away and only half of it is left. the longer we walk the stronger the wind gets, the gustier it beomes. nevertheless the view across the sea and the shore is fantastic. both the sun and the clouds chasing one another across the sky create ever-changing light–shadow patterns on the glittering water…finally we reach shepherd’s chine and turn inwards. shortly before we reach shorwell we have the first few raindrops on the isle of wight this holiday, but before we have time to really get our rain gear out and donned it has already stopped again.

back in our b&b we realize that our jackets and trousers have taken on a slight reddish hue: sandblasted by the wind on the coastal path!

“for ever for everyone”

today’s programme: safeway at newport (another round at the ATM-fruit-machines), freshwater bay (deposit easy-vauxie at the park & display), dimbola lodge (for lunch), tennison downs (walk), the old fort at the needles (for the ritual viewing of the needles)

as northcourt still does only accept checks or cash and we still don’t do the former anymore (or rather swiss banks don’t) we need to obtain another round of the latter in newport. having learnt from our previous round of playing the zero-armed-ATM-bandits we go for the nat west ATM and also strike gold (respectively, pounds) with the ATM next to it. then it’s a brief sortie inside to buy enough stuff to have a £ 5.00 bill and get free parking 😉 just buying a couple of mineral water packs and some apples (as we did last time) won’t be to clever: we still have one 6-pack of mineral water (each a whooping 1.5l) to go through, so:

  • we start of with today’s guardian, followed by
  • a copy of the latest topgear magazine (very useful as it contains a preview of the highlights coming bbc 2 topgear series [starting may 22])
  • some typical british toffees (“werther’s original”)
  • some apples

…and walk out of the store with a £ 10 bill.

after having stocked up on £-notes, apples, toffees, and topgear magazine — in short: the essential stuff — we are off to freshwater bay via the less scenic route through the north west of the island (instead of along the coast). the weather is, again, fantastic: lots of sunshine and a stiff breeze (“moderate breeze” as we find out later in the lighthouse café at the needles). we make it for an early lunch at dimbola lodge café (one of our favourite places on the island) and then are off on foot across tennyson down to the needles.

despite the fantastic weather very few walkers are out and about, and we have the whole of the downs for ourselves most of the time. the wind is lending a helpful hand and pushing us uphill and we arrive rather quickly at the memorial of alfred lord tennyson. the view is breathtaking (especially if you turn into the wind 😉 but with the very strong wind blowing it’s not really a good place for reading the papers — and we are off again: the needles.

taking a more southern course across the down we approach the the needles battery from the top past the old guards’s cottages. the whole of the needles battery (and tennyson down, really) are national trust property and as we pay for our entry i keep thinking that we really ought to join the national trust one of these days as we enjoy their properties very much and it’s a rather good cause. the national trust’s motto — “for ever for everyone” — sets a much welcomed counter point to most of the one-quarter-horizon thinking and mentality and brings the long now project to mind, another project with a long term view of things.

having seen most of the museum exhibitions at previous visits we head for…the café 😉 from where we enjoy a splendid view of the needles, have a nice cuppa, and learn from the installed wind meter (the kind blowing outside, that is) that we’ll be facing a “moderate breeze” on our way back — although, judging by the force of the wind we face later, i’d argue that the anemometer must have been having a cuppa as well, inside, the wind speed was more that of a “fresh breeze”, really…

after tea we descend from the café (it’s located in the top of the tower) and go underground to reach the headland viewing point for a view towards the needles!

on our way out i decide that now is as good a time as any to join the trust: the national trust volunteer is almost more excited than i am and is very friendly, fills out the forms, hands us the national trust welcome pack (oops, there go another 2 pounds of our weight allowance) and heartily welcomes us to the national trust (and, also refunds the today’s entry tickets).

on the way back we have tennyson down completely to ourselves, which is a fantastic experience — inspite of the “fresh breeze” trying to keep us at the needles…

so: for ever for everyone

paradise found…

mottistone manor must be one of our most favourite places — and we walked all the way from northcourt following the bridleway on top of the downs to long stone and then, almost via the back door, to mottistone manor, with lots and lots of bluebells in the woods around mottistone. the garden at mottistone has been redesigned since we last visited, but we like the new design as well as we did the old. for most of the afternoon we just sit in the garden, look across the mottistone towards the sea, and just enjoy life: paradise found…

unfortunately, paradise closes at 17:30, so we take the 17:32 bus back to shorwell.

a fantastic day. thanks!

isle of wight walking festival

we are on a walk around “scenic shorwell and district” — we and about 15 other walkers. it’s the “scenic shorwell and district walk” of the isle of wight walking festival! which started at 10:30 just about 100m up the hill from the northcourt. the weather is quite nice and we get talking with a couple of co-walkers.

even though in the morning i was not very enthusiastic about going on a “mass” walking tour, i start enjoying it — aided by the fantastic landscape and the equally fantastic views we get of pretty much all of the isle of wight (from the northern parts we even have a rather good view across the solent towards portsmouth and southampton).

after about 5 hours, richer by two certificates and two stickers, we are back at northcourt — and manage to beat the other couple who are also staying at the northcourt to the hot water supply (ok, i’m a tiny bit sorry about that, but then the hot shower was really nice after that 5 hour walk 😉

early dinner at the crown. i try my hand at today’s guardian sudoku — and fare considerably better than last night and manage to solve it (perhaps it helps that i start tonight before and not after the first pint? could there be a correlation? hmm, clearly further research is required…)