Check in desk at CitizenM Hotel Amsterdam

The CitizenM is a sort of luxury 3-star hotel, an oxymoronic concept that works out pretty well if you are looking to save money on a trip, without compromising on hygiene or safety.

Our Hallway at CitizenM Hotel Amsterdam

We chose the one near the Amsterdam Zuid rail station, about 25 minutes to the Central Station on the #5 rail line.  We arrived at a high-tech self check-in counter, and a helpful young multi-national staffer walked us through the process.   Taking a pair of electronic room keys that double as bar tabs and luggage tags, we headed up to our room.  Walking down the hallway, you get a feel for the high-density approach that characterizes this innovative new hotel chain.

Back half of our room

The rooms are on the spartan side, with a high-tech euro-hip look that apparently doesn’t require closets. The back half of the room is dominated by the bedcouchthing, a wall to wall mattress topped with a duvet and a pair of pillows.  A small night stand with lamp is attached to the left front, and a small blog-writing desk with lamp is attached to the right front. A chair under the desk is the room’s only movable furniture.

Shower Cell CitizenM Hotel Amsterdam

The front half of the room is dominated by a pair of pods that look like transporters from a sci-fi movie. One of these is the shower cell, which only operates when the round glass doors are fully shut.

Throne Room CitizenM Hotel Amsterdam

The other pod serves as the throne room.  It actually does function without the necessity of fully shutting the doors.  But you might want to. A small sink stands close to the two cells with power sockets in three languages, a mirror, and room for a hairbrush and deodorant.  A curtain can be drawn between the plumbing section of the room, and the sleeping section.  Its small, but hip and efficient.

Bar and Food at CitizenM Hotel Amsterdam

 

The CitizenM doesn’t offer room service, but it has a lively bar with a food area that is available around the clock.  It has a small breakfast bar that runs almost until noon.  Evening always has one hot meal choice, and a set of prepared Japanese and Indian meals that can be microwaved.  The prepacked sushi doesn’t need heating.  The bar is well stocked.  And they’ve got free loaner bikes.

 

The Colors of Music

September 19th, 2014

Dirk's 'Instrument'

I had a very interesting encounter today with a synaesthetic Friesien.  After a long ride on a loaner bike from our Amsterdam hotel, I decided to cool off in Beatrixpark.  On the way in,  I’d noticed some obscure signage about an art project, so on the way back, I decided to investigate.

"The Colors of Music"

I first noticed a sort of modern Stonehenge, of upright white panels, each dated on what appeared to be the rear.   Entering the circle, I was confronted with a series of brightly colored panels, staggered in 3 concentric rings, but at first, the view just wasn’t coherent.

Off Center View

I recognized the artist, Dirk Halze, from the picture, still wearing the same hat, and he came over from his easel of plastic paint pots to chat.   He explained that when you were standing in the center of the circle, indicated by an orange plastic upright that was suitable for leaning on, that the panels became a contiguous panorama.  Moving to the center, the panels suddenly popped into alignment.

View from the Center

Dirk further explained that he had synaesthesia, and when he heard music, he sees it in color.  He’s a fan of Mahler, and this not-yet-finished project is a visual depiction of that composer’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major.  He also told me that he was from Friesland, apologized for being able to understand English better than he could speak it, and mentioned that he’d spent a lot of time in Germany.  I offered to speak in German, and that’s mostly how we worked it out.

Dirk Hakze at his easel

In 2012, Dirk premiered “The Colors of Music”  on the beach in Harlingen.  The current project, which is described as the 14th edition, was started on July 24 and will run until October 14.  An interesting experiment in the connection between the visual arts and music, I’m not sure the current location, sandwiched between a school, a parking lot, and a construction site, is as favorable, let alone noticeable to passers by, as a North Sea beach.  He’ll be performing further editions of “The Colors of Music” in Germany, and then in Austria, completing his tour in Vienna.

Barrel Racing

September 5th, 2014

 

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Elizabeth tells me that every girl in Texas wants to be a barrel racer.

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It had more competitors than any other event at this year’s Holmes County fair rodeo.

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Calf Roping

September 1st, 2014

Calf Roping

The Calf Roping was the best part of the rodeo at this year’s Holmes County fair.  There were a lot of contestants in an event that demands multiple cowboy skills.

Calf Roping

He’s got to lasso the calf from the saddle of a galloping quarter horse, which has to be well trained enough to instantly stop on a signal from the rider.

Calf Roping

and keep enough pressure on the lariat to keep the calf relatively constrained, but without pulling it over.

Calf Roping

Once the cowboy reaches the upright calf, he has to wrestle him down to the ground.

Calf Roping

Most of the contestants carried their piggen’ string in their teeth.

Calf Roping

Assisted by the horse, which is backing up to keep the lariat tight, the cowboy quickly ties together three of the calf’s legs. 

Calf Roping

Once he’s finished tying off the calf, the contestant signals with his arms to stop the clock.

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The cowboy has to remount his horse and wait for 6 seconds to demonstrate to the judges that the calf is completely immobilized.

Calf Roping

And then another calf shoots out the chute.

Bareback Broncs

August 23rd, 2014

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I thought this Bareback Bronc rider at the Holmes County fair got off to a bad start with a very lively horse. And then the horse fell over.

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After a short wrestling match on the ground, the rider managed to hold on when the horse got back up.

Saddle Bronc

He ended up using two hands, so he was disqualified, but it seemed like a morale victory, and the crowd gave him a good round of applause.

Bareback Bronc

As rodeos go, this one was on the small side, with only a couple competitors in the Bareback Bronc  event. This guy in the orange chaps ended up with a higher score.

Bareback Bronc

I’ve got some more rodeo shots to blog, but the light was best for this first event, fading pretty quickly.  Hopefully, next year’s fair will be held in the new fairgrounds, on higher ground, and hopefully with better light.

Making A Splash

August 17th, 2014

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After 2 years of debate, Elizabeth and I finally decided to take the irrevocable step of hiring Marvin the Yodeling Yoder to remove 6 of the maple trees between cabin and pond.  Arriving for an initial consultation, Marv admitted that he’d never dropped such large trees into a body of water before, but after considering the logistics, he started to exhibit some enthusiasm.  Even in a lifetime of tree felling, I assume that there are always new challenges.

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A couple weeks later, on a lovely spring Friday, Marvin’s driver delivered him, a suite of Stihl chainsaws, and a JD tractor. Elizabeth, my parents, and I all pulled up chairs and cameras, and prepared to enjoy the show.  Marvin loves to yodel after dropping each tree, which is always a treat.  Combined with the added excitement of the big splashes, tidal waves, and the added complication of aquatic extraction, it was the most fun I’d had since the day all the cement trucks arrived to pour the foundation walls.

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Its no small matter to end a life that has lasted longer than my own, even it if is just a tree, and there’s no going back.  The tumbling trees in the first two images can also be seen 4 decades earlier, at center left above, a November 1976 shot showing the excavation of the pond (dozers are digging the dam in the background).  Checking several stumps, I was able to count 60 about rings, representing a relatively short but eventful life for a sugar maple.

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As shown in the somewhat cluttered Spring 2013 view, It was apparent as soon as we moved into the cabin that we’d eventually take down more trees.  The inconvenience of fishing them out of the pond was only part of our hesitation, though.  The development of a woodland, even one that has been thoroughly pawed over for 150 years, raises aesthetic questions about our relationship to the land, and practical issues about ongoing maintenance.

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The improved view above also includes a slice of lawn 2.0, a recently top-soiled, graded, and fertilized area of turf that now requires the regular ministrations of a used Lawn-Boy, courtesy of the Amish wizards at Charm Engine. Elizabeth has taken the weed eater to the tree-free slope between house and pond several times this year, and I’ve gingerly explored the adjoining slopes with tractor and brush hog.  While we love being close to nature, there’s an appeal in conquering it, too. It isn’t a question of whether more trees will come down and more petroleum-enabled mowing will take place. Its only a question of how far civilization spreads.

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There’s a reason that country people usually don’t build their houses in the middle of the woods, and it involves more than the soothing satisfaction of surrounding yourself with a putting green. Besides the annual summer millipede plague, and a ceaseless series of teething rodents, the trees represent a potential threat to the cabin. As we learned this week, when the wind is strong enough, falling trees don’t feel compelled to obey the law of gravity.  A nocturnal snotbuster of a storm this week brought down a dead tree, taking out the Internet dish. Marvin had offered to take that one down too, but I enjoyed seeing the woodpeckers and assumed that it when it did fall, it would be in the opposite direction.