Sunday, 21 December 2008

Work and study transformed by personal Wiki

I'm continuing to get acquainted with ConnectedText and marvelling at how easy it is to use and how powerful. ConnectedText is a personal Wiki. A wiki is intended for fast editing of a large set of hyperlinked pages using a simple text-based language. A personal Wiki keeps the easy language and hyperlinking, but drops the multisuer aspect. Rather than using directories and files to organise your documents, you hyperlink them using the document title as the address. They also support dynamic categories. ConnectedText is not the only product in the field as witnessed by the Personal Wiki article on Wikipedia.

It makes me annoyed with myself for not having thought about it before and having gone through all the hassle of installing and configuring Media Wiki on my laptop. Now I have to migrate everything from MediaWiki to connectedText but that isn't proving as bad as I thought: export from MediaWiki as XML and then use a quick-and-dirty Java program to use Xerces to pull out each article into a seperate file.

I've also bought Luminotes, which has to take the prize for simplicity and ease of use. I hope it will serve for people (mention no names) I know who are not as savvy with computers and have lots of information to manage.

Both of these products are excellent: ConnectedText is more powerful and sophisticated bu more difficult to learn (but not to use) and Luminotes is both easy to learn and use but is much simpler (but no categories). For personal use, MediaWiki is not much more powerful than ConnectedText (actually less so) and very complicated to install and demanding of system resources.

I'm using ConnectedText to manage my study notes for the the Open University course “S104 Discovering Science” I'm doing, but it soon spilled over into several other fields.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

African Restaurant Kim Bu Mbu

Last night dinner at this restaurant that was new to me although it's apparently been there for a year now. Interesting design with adobe walls separating the booths and African wood carvings to decorate. Curious sheet metal tables with box-like chairs that slide out like filing cabinet drawers. Dishes from Congo, Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa. Had a salad of (cooked) carrots with rocket, with an orange sauce, followed by brochette of sword fish and pineapple which I enjoyed very much. The dessert of mango purée was also very good. At calle Colmenares, 7 (Chueca, behind Ministerio de Cultura), Madrid. Telephone 91 521 26 81. Reservation advisable.

On the way back we walk down the Paeo del Prado in front of the Botanic Gardens to see the open air exhibition of bronze sculptures by Baltasar Lobo.

Art from the Monastery of Montserrat

Madrid has a number of exhibition spaces owned by the non-profit foundations of large companies. Caja Madrid (savings bank) opened its Casa Encendida a few years ago, then this year came the Caixa Forum owned by the bank of the same name. Yesterday I visited the one run by the BBVA, a large bank, what was once the palace of the Marquis of Salamanca, which is opposite the one owned by Mapfre the insurance company.

The exhibition, which opened at the start of October, is of paintings and architectural masonry from the Monastery of Montserrat which, to quote Wikipedia is:

Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey located in the Montserrat mountain, in Monistrol de Montserrat, in Catalonia. It hosts the Virgin of Montserrat, and the Publicacions de l'Abadia de Montserrat, a publishing house, the oldest press in the world, still running, with the first book published in 1499.

The monastery was attacked by Napoleon's troops in 1811-1812 and left a ruin, and pillaged after the dissolution of the monasteries a few years later. Later in the nineteenth century it was rebuilt and the remains of its architectural stonework gathered together. Over the following hundred years the monastery received donations of art works until today it has an important collection. The exhibition includes works by Catalan painters, and well-known ones such as Dalí, Picasso, Monet, Sisley, Pisarro, Sargeant and one by Degas who currently is the subject of a one-man show at the Mapfre Foundation just across the road. It continues a until 7 December.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Science Marathons: On Scientific Method

I've stopped blogging for the past couple of months as I've been busy studying the Open University course “S104 Discovering Science” which has meant severely cutting back on other activities.

On Thursday I went attended a couple of science lectures at the Spanish National Museum of Science and Technology or Museo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (unfortunately their website is only in Spanish although the printed brochure is also in English).

These “marathon” events are held about once a month and last from after lunch until Spanish dinner time. Students at participating Madrid universities can do a short assignment afterwards and gain credits towards their degrees. As I have to work I was only able to attend the second half. The first lecture was about the “Discovery and Development of Penicillin” by Dr Pedro García Barreno, of the Complutense University. The second was called “Naming and labelling. Taxonomic Methods in Natural History” by Dr. Santos Casado de Otaola of the Autonoma. The rather cramped room was almost full, with chairs in the corridor for latecomers. There are eight of these days planned. The next one is on 27 November, “Origins. Universe and Earth. International year of Planet Earth.“ A good initiative to get the lectures out of the campus and to appeal to a wider audience (like myself).

I visited the museum for the first last year during the Noche en Blanco when the museums stay open all night. It has a fascinating collection of scientific instruments and technological inventions brought together from a number of independent institutions. Such a shame that such a noble effort should be housed in a side wing of an retired railway station with hardly even any effort to adapt the building. Compare it to the art museums just up the road with their bloated mega-budget extensions (read my post New Prado Museum Extension). How narrow minded governments can be. Nonetheless it seems a brave initiative on the part of the museum and the universities to mount such an ambitious programme of lectures in the face of manifest indifference by the ministry of Science and Innovation.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Reading "Wandering in Eden: Three Ways to the East Within Us"

While I was on holiday I had the opportunity to read this book (see the book page on LibraryThing). I found it quite by chance at a car boot sale. I recognised the publisher, Wildwood House, by whom I also have two excellent books, "Tao Te Ching" and "Chuang Tsu: Inner Chapters". It was published back in 1976. I wonder what became of Wildwood House? It doesn't seem to be active any more.

book coverThe author's idea is that the "East" is not some far-off foreign culture but that East and West are aspects that make up the whole of the human mind, rather like masculine and feminine, and that in the West we need to rediscover this lost facet of ourselves. This is rather like the idea that men need to rediscover our lost or repressed feminine aspect and vice-versa. He also notes that in the orient, Western outlook and behaviour also became popular in the 20th century. The book has three sections:

  • The Way of the Body
  • The Way of Emptiness
  • The Way of Things

The Way of the Body is examined in its manifestation in Indian art, especially sculpture. The Way of Emptiness is seen through the eyes of Chinese poets and artists, with some amazingly modern-looking illustrations from so many centuries ago. The Way of Things is discussed in terms of Japanese, especially Zen philosophy and art.

The author arrives at a synthesis of oriental philosophy and show the way it relates to Western religions and the Western idea of God and the Universe. I found it fascinating to read and tremendously enlightening. I also liked the discussion of the place of science in human awareness and of humanity as the eye of the universe; the universe is able to contemplate itself through human perception. A pity it is out of print although there seem to be copies available second-hand online.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Two Historic Gardens in Tenerife

Entrance to the Orotava Botanic GardensThe hotel in Puerto de la Cruz was tantalizingly close to the botanic gardens and we drove past it every day but didn't manage to visit it until the last day. It's official name in Spanish is Jardín de Aclimatación de la Orotava or Orotava acclimatization garden. It was started during the reign of King Carlos III in 1788 (the Age of Enlightenment) as a halfway house for acclimatizing new exotic species from the colonies and to investigate their possibilities for cultivation in the rest of Spain. Planting began in 1792. According to the explanatory leaflet, French naturalist Andre Pierre Ledrú prepared the first catalogue of plants in the garden (I suppose the didn't keep one from the start).

The garden is surrounded by a high wall (the garden is alongside one of the main roads into Puerto de Santa Cruz). It is rather odd that being built in what was at the time open countryside, the garden is so compact (only two hectares) and was surrounded with this high wall. Perhaps have to guard the rare plants against thieves in a secure compound? After two centuries the trees and large plants have rather outgrown the modest space and seem to be looking over top of the wall as if longing to escape. Building work is under way to extend the site to double it's present size up the hill inland.

One of the most impressive plants was the so-called bat flower, Tacca chantrieri. Rather shocking at first this is a large dark brown almost black group of flowers with tendril-like protrusions (petals?). I'd never seen it before. There are, as one would expect, many exotic and tropical plants, growing outdoors in what is politically part of Europe. the garden is now run by the Canaries Agricultural Research Institute (ICIA Instituto Canario de Investigaciones Agrarias), where there is an offical information page about the Botanical Garden.

In the heart of downtown “Puerto” we visited another unusual garden, called “Sitio Litre”. The name Litre is a corruption of the surname of Mr Little, a British merchant who bought the propeerty in 1774. It has been cultivated by British gardeners ever since. After 230 years it claims to be the oldest surviving garden in Tenerife. It was being cultivated well before it was bought by Mr Little twenty years before the Orotava garden was first planted. It is notable also for the illustrious visitors over the years including Sir William Wilde who published his “The Narrative of a Voyage to Madeira, Tenerife, and along the Shores of the Mediterranean,” in 1840, the multitalended Sir Richard Burton, German explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and more recently novelist Agatha Christie. In 1875, botanical painter Marianne North was a guest and painted several pictures of the garden which are in the gallery at Kew Gardens. Reproductions of the paintings at the Sitio Litre show how it was then. The advertising for garden makes much of their orchid collection but I wouldn't recommend going for the orchids, it's historical interest is more than enough reason to visit.

I had also hoped to visit Bananera El Guanche, a commercial garden about bananas and other crops grown on the island that is widely praised in tourist guides but I was disappointed to find that it has closed down, and seeing it from the road appears to be abandoned.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Band concert in the park

Caught the end of a concert in the nearby park, Parque de Peñuelas. I could hear the music faintly as soon as I got out the door. Around this time of year, under the trees in the park the city council puts out chairs and invites a municipal band from one of the towns around Madrid to visit. This week it was the “Music Band - Musical Association” from Villarejo de Salvanés, a town well-known to me (from the motorway) as the home of the Cuétara biscuit factory that we go past on the way to the coast. The bands are mainly wind instruments but mostly woodwind, with clarinets, flutes, bassoon, saxophone and some brass, and percussion. The music was a selection of tango, pasodoble, Zarzuela (operetta) and the Ross Roy overture by Jacob de Haan. As an encore they played a “chotis” (Madrid folk dance) and an elderly couple got up and danced. These concerts have been going on for a few years now and I think it's about time the park had a bandstand. I noticed that the council have raised the height of the wall around the nearby outdoor swimming pool to stop the noise affecting the residents of the nearby apartment blocks. They could spend some money on a simple bandstand.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Zarzuela at the Theatre and the Plaza Mayor

Two Zarzuela shows in one week. Go to the Plaza Mayor to see a free show of Zarzuela by the composer Federico Chueca in his cenenery year. There was a chorus of Zarzuela people but the star performers were more well-known crowd-pullers Manu Tenorio, Diana Navarro, Esperanza Roy, Charo Reina, Las Supremas de Móstoles, and others I wasn't familiar with. We were able to sit down as there were several thousand plastic chairs. There were four giant video screens which were useful as we were so far away it was difficult to see the performers on stage, which gives a good idea of the size of the Plaza Mayor. The main performance is tonight, Saturday; yesterday was the dress rehearsal.

Earlier in the week I went to the theatre (Teatro de la Zarzuela) to see La Leyenda del Beso (The Prophecy of the Kiss).

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Paloma's Birthday Party

Today is Paloma's birthday, and yesterday night we all went to her party at El Atril. The bar isn't what it used to be. Now there's only one table and the board games and most of the pictures that gave it it's character have gone (the pictures are in the basement). The music is the same eclectic mix of seventies nostalgia, contemporary pop and salsa. They don't bother to crush the ice for the “mojitos” any more. Had to wash all my clothes this morning as the reeked of tobacco smoke; so much for the supposedly harsh anti-smoking legislation in Spain.

But we all had a good time. Feliz Cumpleaños, Paloma.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Bob Wilson's Lady of the Sea at the Matadero

Go to see this production at the “Naves del Español” an annex to the national theatre, the Teatro Español at the “Matadero,” the old slaughterhouse complex along the road from where I live. It was a production by the Teatro Español in collaboration with Change Performing Arts

The play is a rewriting of Henrik Ibsen's classic by the late Susan Sontag and directed by Robert Wilson. We enjoyed it very much. The last of Wilson's works I saw was “Einstein on the Beach” “Teatro de Madrid” (back in 1992?).

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Nacho Duato Dance at the Teatro de la Zarzuela

Go to see the Spanish National Dance Company (Compañía Nacional de Danza) at the Teatro de la Zarzuela. The bill included three works:

  • Hevel (choreography Nacho Duato)
  • Quintet (choreography William Forsythe)
  • White Darkness (choreography Nacho Duato)

The first piece, getting its first performance, was excruciatingly tedious, both choreography, sound, and set design. The William Forsythe piece was much better and the third, which I had seen before in the same venue, I think, was wonderful and saved the evening.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Otto Dix, Portrait of Hugo Erfurth: Techniques and Secrets

Go to Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum to see the mini-exhibition Portrait of Hugo Erfurth: Techniques and Secrets. The occasion was a guided tour for the friends of the museum. The picture is part of the museum's permanent collection. The resoration department have made an in-depth study of it using state-of-the-art imaging and other techniques, and the exhibition brings it back together with the original preparatory drawings and photographs from collections in Germany, and a picture by Dürer similar to ones that might have influenced the artist in the 1920s. The exhibition continues until 18 May 2008.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

King Lear, Rey Lear

Last night went to see the new production of Rey Lear (aka King Lear) at the Centro Dramático Nacional (National Theatre) here in Madrid. Directed by Gerardo Vera. I so much enjoyed his production of Divinas Palabras just two years ago in the same venue and had high expectations of this, but I was disappointed. The whole things seemed flat, the actors often seemed like they were reading from a book, and used microphones so it often wasn't clear who was speaking, especially as the stage was dark all the way through and we only got to see the actors clearly when the lights came on when they took a bow at the end. The rest of the audience seemed very pleased, but I was not.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Honey and Beekeeping Fair in Pastrana

Go to Pastrana, in Guadalajara province to visit the annual honey and bee keeping (apiculture) fair (Feria Apícola) in the small town of Pastrana.

White houses in a narrow street in PastranaPastrana is very ancient town, founded in the 13th century by the military religious order of Order of Calatrava as part of the repopulation effort after the expulsion of the Moors. Buildings of recent centuries are conspicuous by their absence. When the Holy See turned against military religious orders, the King confiscated the monks' property took over the town, giving it to the dukes. The dukes built the imposing fortified-looking palace in overlooks the town square, the Plaza de la Hora.

The Beekeeping Fair takes place in a large marquee installed in the Plaza. There were stalls selling honey and derived products from local producers. These ranged from pure honey and royal jelly, to hand creams, candles, and furniture and shoe polish. There was also mead (called in Spanish “hidromiel”) and from Galicia stronger liquor. there were also stands aimed at the bee-keepers themselves, with equipment and services and the Ministry of Agriculture providing advice.

Shiny metal honey centrifuges on exhibitor's standThe fair is the largest one of sector in Spain. It takes place each year in the second week of March. The fair has a webiste (in Spanish) www.feriaapicola.es.

After lunch we returned to Madrid taking a detour around the by the Embalse de Entrepeñas reservoir which is popular for water sports and has a number of housing developments that I've so often seen from the air and wondered where they are. Then went on to the picturesque town of Trillo, in the steamy shadow of the nuclear power plant.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Concert by Escolanía del Misterio de Elche, in Calpe

Go to the “Merced” parish church in Calpe. The children's choir of the Elche Mystery Play (Escolanía del Misterio de Elche). The mystery play is a tradition dating back to the 15th century and is performed over several days each August, in the city's cathedral. Elche is a town south of Alicante, famous also for its 200,000 palm trees. The choir had brought with them a supply of palm fronds for the church's Palm Sunday celebrations which are not far off now. The parish priest apparently had sung with choir before as he joined the choir in one of the songs from the mystery play. The church, near to the new Mercadona supermarket and the better known camping site of the same name, is quite new (2007) and serves the rapidly growing Playa de Levante and Benissa.

The choir in the church

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Afternoon at the Zarzuela

Go to a matinée performance at the Teatro de la Zarzuela. Zarzuela is a Spanish variant of operetta. There's an excellent Web site about it at zarzuela.net and all in English.

The current production is “La Generala” (something like “Mrs General” or “The General's Wife”, referring to the wife of a Venezuelan army General), a romantic comedy about penniless recently-deposed king and queen from an imaginary central European kingdom who have gone to live in exile in England. They plot to manoeuvre and cajole their son into marrying a wealthy princess. The programme notes for the production are by British musicologist Andrew Lamb, translated into Spanish. The original article, La Generala: When Vienna Comes to Madrid is published in English on zarzuela.net and the plot synopsis is helpfully in English the printed programme. Andrew Lamb's article is so thorough that there isn't much more for me to say here. It was first performed in 1912 at the Gran Teatro de Madrid, now no longer in existence, but which I read with curiosity in an article on the Madrid Histórico website was once where now stands the Instituto Francés or French Institute, but which burnt down in 1920, the current institute conserving the original façade, which I must remember to investigate next time I'm in the area.

The performance started at six, attended by what seemed to be mainly a mixture of elderly people and young children with their mothers. Being Wednesday the tickets were discounted, a bargain at only €11, and I was back home in time for dinner.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Modigliani Show at Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Go to the Thyssen-Bornemisza art museum for a guided tour of the newly-opened exhibition “Modigliani and His Times” organised for the friends of the museum. I wasn't very keen, thinking it was all female nudes but it was very enlightening and much more interesting than I expected, with stone sculpture, portraits and even landscapes, in a variety of styles that reflect the diversity of art movements that were current while Modigliani lived in Paris. The guide was wonderful and knowledgable, talking continuously for an hour without notes. Unfortunately, it just whetted my appetite for more, leaving me feeling I needed had even more time to learn about the art and its history.

As is the custom at the museum, half the exhibition is staged at the “Casa de las Alhajas” run by the Caja Madrid savings bank, a former jewellery showroom converted into an exhibition space. I always mean to visit the other half of these exhibitions but never seem to get around to it.

The exhibition continues until 18 May 2008.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Don Juan at the Teatro Español

Go to the theatre to see a new production, “Don Juan, Príncipe de la Tinieblas” yet another reworking of the timeless Don Juan tale this time by Catalan author Josep Palau i Fabre, known for his poetry and translations and as an authority on Pablo Picasso.

This was only my second visit to the Teatro Español. The first time was over ten years ago, to see Molière's The Imaginary Invalid. I was surprised to find the place more than half empty, on the first Saturday of its run. Maybe the critics had been hard on it. For once the constant whispered chatter of the women next to me was amusing “Shocking! Look how he's treating her!”, “Look he's dead”, “No he isn't, he moved his arm”.

As usual the programme gives plenty of waffle but not a lot of meat. I'm not really interested to know the names of the theatre's cleaners and who's in charge of the heating, but I would like to know when the play was written. It was assembled by the director, Hermann Bonnín, from shorter pieces written by Palau i Fabre when he lived in Paris, in the 1940s. I understood that it was written in Catalan, as before the performance began they announced the names of the translators, which they had presumably forgotten to mention in the programme. It's set in 1940s Barcelona. I particularly liked the way the characters moved around the empty stage to create a structured space. In (for me) an unusual twist to the tale, at the end Don Juan falls in love with a woman who turns out to be the personification of death and is seduced by her. She leads him to hell where he is tried by a jury of women and condemned to be faithful to the woman of his choosing, for eternity.

Technology Worship in Boston

In a BBC interview inventor and visionary Ray Kurzweil, attending a get-together of futurologists at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, claims that “Machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence by 2029.” and “tiny robots implanted in people's brains to make them more intelligent”. That's really great news. At last my feeble mortal brain won't have to try to work on its own.

So technology will save us. Technology will make us happier? Wiser? More fulfilled? Help us truly understand why we're messing up this world? I think not. As we become ever more helplessly dependent on technology produced by the likes of Mr Kurzweil. Dependant on technology for awareness of what's happening on the other side of the universe while we can't even understand what's happening around us. Technology to help overcome the barriers caused by... technology.

Ray Kurzweil developed omni-font character recognition software (that could recognize printed characters in any font). The problem at the time was what to do with it. It is a feature of modern technology, that it is self-perpetuating. Rather than being developed to satisfy real human needs, technology develops by its own momentum (often to inflate the stock price of companies that develop it). It survives and grows independently of those it is supposed to serve, and drives its own development. Technologists than come up with (increasingly far fetched) justifications for their innovations. As Kurzweil himself says: “Like a lot of clever computer software, it was a solution in search of a problem.” Having stumbled almost by fluke on applying existing optical character-recognition technology to help the blind to read printed text, like many technologists he seems to extrapolate this to reach the assumption that all people are handicapped by the lack of “advanced” technology. There is a trend towards using people with disabilities to justify introduction of technological dependence by stealth. People with disabilities are thus “given” an illusory “independence” by technology. Independent of what? Of their fellow human beings. Independent of other humans, but dependant for ever on technology. OCR meant that blind users could seem to read (in fact they were innately no more able to read text than they had been before), overcoming sensory disability but becoming dependent on technology. In practice, the voice technologies that seemed so liberating have caused a crisis in literacy and learning among the blind. For the general population, the growth of mass-media technologies like television, radio and mobile communications has produced a generation in which even those who can see text are increasingly unable to read it adequately. While the blind have overcome one disability, the general population has acquired another.

According to Kurzweil, “...we use our technology to expand our physical and mental horizons” I would suggest that the horizons we need to expand are inside our minds and technology increasingly has the effect of stunting our perception of them.

He goes on “We'll have intelligent nanobots go into our brains... to make us smarter.” Isn't that just what we need. As real human wisdom becomes increasingly scarce due to in large part to the now ubiquitous “new technology”, we'll have yet more technology to help us along.

By saying that machines will achieve human-level intelligence, is to say that humans are only as intelligent as advanced machines. Well some of us have varying degrees of wisdom, and “think” otherwise. Being human is not about number-crunching, data-gathering, or about remembering quantifiable facts. Being human is about love, feeling, insight, intuition, faculties that are increasingly under threat as technology stunts our ability to to relate to ourselves, each other and the world around us and our ability to perceive that we're not just underdeveloped robots.

The same story is reported unquestioningly in the Guardian newspaper and they include some real nuggets like “They identified sunshine as a 'tantalizing source of environmentally friendly power'.. But capturing that power, converting it into something useful ... poses a challenge”. Where have you been for the past few million years? And again “clean water, which is in short supply”. Clean water would not be in short supply if abuse of technology didn't pollute it and mess up the climate.

The BBC article lists fourteen “challenges facing humanity” identified by the group of experts presenting their report at the meeting:

  • Make solar energy affordable
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Reverse engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Advance personalised learning
  • Explore natural frontiers

Most of these are about overcoming the problems caused by technology itself. So what do we need to overcome the shortcomings of technology? Of course, you guessed it, more technology. A technological “fix”. They chant “Please let us try just once more. We're sure to get it right this time.” And so we do. Then what do we need to overcome the problems caused by the fix? More of the same. No! What they propose is not solutions, but simply more of the same problems. Technology is in the hands of technologists (and universities and governments) in the pay of corporations. More is not better and their thinking is blinkered by the very technology they try to sell.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Wine Tasting Event

Wine growers Fabio and Juan hosted a tasting of their organically-grown wines for this season. The event took place at the Patio de Maravillas, a former school that had been abandoned for seven years and was “occupied” last summer and turned into an “autonomously governed multi-purpose space.”

This year they have produced a white wine (Airén grapes), a young red (Tempranillo grapes) and a red wine aged in American and European oak barrels. All last year's production has been sold, and the coming season's wine is already assigned to customers, even before it's produced.

View of the wine testers in the patio de Maravillas

Last year they increased production from 250 to 1200 vines (70% white grapes, 30% red) in the vineyards at Carabaña and moved the winery to Ambite. Production follows organic farming principles and no chemicals are added to the wine, even when this is permitted by regulations. We all tasted the three types of wine, guided by José an oenologist (wine expert) of Bodegas Tagonius, in Tielme, so as to appreciate the finer points. This year they plan to plant and/or graft new vines in the vineyard, where the vine is dead, wild or missing altogether. There are about 250-300 still to do.

There was printed documentation available but unfortunately only on paper; let's hope that this year they get around to putting it on the Web so everyone can read it.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

No End in Sight for Madrid Tunnel Works Cleanup

A walk along the Manzanares river to look at what if any progress has been made in the cleanup operations following the completion of the tunnels. The area was supposed to be landscaped and handed back to the people of the city, but following the press fanfare staged as part of the election campaign. But since the elections in May 2007 the area seems to have been forgotten about. Probably not forgotten about, just put on hold until the next campaign comes around.

Tunnel works on Madrid's M30 ring-road seen from the BridgeThey've managed top plant trees along a pathway opposite the Vicente Calderón football stadium but even that is half-finished, with no proper entrance or exit: we managed to get in through a gap in the wall at one end and out again through an improvised car park on waste ground at the other.

The rest of the area has been more or less cleared of machinery and rubbish, and they've put street lamps along what looks like it will be perhaps a cycle path, but nothing more. The area is still fenced off, and pedestrians look on longingly at the Arganzuela park we used to enjoy, now reduced to a wasteland.