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        December 29th, 2005:DPL again
        A wider view of the Detroit Public Library murals.

DPL murals wide

DPL head, progress, rocket, artist having a freudian moment

DPL murals ealier


        6.30am December 29th, 2005:Blow out
           Biking across the east side the Trek took a puncture. Probably down to some low tire
           pressure (my fault) and the trail-like conditions in a few rougher streets. Stupidly
           all the repair kit was in another backpack so I had to hawl the Trek across the eastside
           to B3 in GPP. That's a fair way to drag a bike with a busted tire and not some of the
           best parts of the city to be immobilized in. I passed 3 recently burnt out properties (1 still
           smoking), 1 burned out car and 2 wackos yelling at invisible folk. This may not sound like
           much but that's only along one 5 mile stretch of road. Flipside: As I've always found in
           Detroit, whilst in the 'safe city' I used to live in I'd have taken sarcasm from kids and
           possibly a few threats, across the east side all I got were a few howyadoin's & sympathetic
           comments. This is not the view most people get of Detroit.         

           A couple of updates. As some have blogg'd elsewhere the UA window-murals (sic) have now moved
           to a much smaller building at Fort and Livernois. And yes, the dirty shame is now just a
           vacant lot.

Fort & Livernois

A now vacant lot


        3.30am December 27th, 2005:A dirty shame
        Heading rapidly down Detroit's vacant lot highway.

A dirty car is a dirty shame - on the side of a dirty burned out old garage (now an empty lot)


        6.30am December 23rd, 2005:More Murals
        OK, good point, if you don't live in Detroit then talking about the famous Rivera Murals
        without PBlogging a shot is a bit pointless. So here you go. There's a collection of fine
        shots at the DIA site, but I like them early in a winter morning when their
        color is overlayed by intense natural light and shadow...


        1.30pm December 24th, 2005:The night before Xmas
        Joined S and family on a visit to Greenfield Village (part of the Henry Ford museum).
        This living museum has evening openings around the holiday season. These afford the rare educational
        experience of being both spectacle and classroom. The village is lit from end to end by gaslight, candlelight and replicas
        of Edison's original electric lights. A rare collection of significant historical buildings, the village was brought
        together by Henry Ford who had each of them dismantled and transported to this location in detroit.

In The SchoolHouse

        Sadly the candlelight made capturing the people almost impossible as anything not
        completely still blurred to nothing. Even with the ASA pushed to 1600 it was a tough
        call to grab the shots here that were all handheld.
        [Comment to Nikon: where the heck're the WB setting for lamplight, gaslamps and cooking fire?]


        7.30am December 22nd, 2005:Public Library
        With a view to preventing this Blog becoming no more than a daily weather report I've decided to
        move the cycling report to a pane in the top right that I'll update even when not posting.
        DFunk has followed DBlog to post some impressive shots from the art deco interior of the
        Guardian building - one of the US's tallest brick structures. To stay on theme then, here's a shot
        of a Mural from inside Detroit's equally impressive Public Library. Built in 1915 this building
        exemplifies the hope and pride of a rapidly growing city.

        Interestingly in the transport mural you can see depicted the cycle industry out
        of which the local motor industry developed. In the period depicted these were both on a par with
        equestrian transport. Whilst nowhere near as famous as the murals in the DIA, these add
        much to the splendid setting of the upper floor gallery and reading rooms.

        Next time you pass the library note the ordering of the good and the great listed around
        the building's top floor. Whilst mostly period or discipline linked individuals are grouped,
        Ceaser and Cicero, the destroyer and defender of the Roman republic are placed together.
        Would either have been entirely comfortable with such a close posthumous association?


        Januray 4th, 2006:14 Minutes
                The Freep is reporting that in the last 3 weeks we've had 14 whole
                minutes of sunshine. And so, even though I got out over the last week
                there wasn't a whole lot of picture taking going on. Below then is another
                shot from the archives - this one Jan 2005 - when I used to live up on Woodward.
                From the 11th floor you could look out over midtown and the near west side to the bridge.
                It was a great view, but honestly I don't miss it. Give me the river anyday!

        Take the time to visit some of the other blogs linked to on the right, the photomaniacs post shots
        irrespective of sunshine, whilst DetroitBlog positively avoids it!


         December 20th, 2005:Report
        (Downtown-Midtown Cycling. Ice: OK, Snow Major R: Good, Snow Minor R: Improving, Snow Sidewalks: Improving, Temp: -3C to -11C [Double Glove], Road report: here)

        Good to see DetroitBlog making the news. He made the local press about a year back, but this time
        there's a 'photo' as well. DBlog was one of the main first-hand sources of information I used
        when moving to Detroit in 2004. His descriptions of downtown convinced me that this was not the
        hell-hole some had described. Of course back then his Blog was mostly about drinking, falling off
        of his veranda and repeatedly buggering up his shoulder. That has mostly changed.


         December 19th, 2005:Report
        (Downtown-Midtown Cycling. Ice: OK, Snow Major R: Good, Snow Minor R: Improving, Snow Sidewalks: Improving, Temp: -6C to -11C [Double Glove], Road report: here)

        Sort of chilly out there at the moment.


        December 18th, 2005: Coolest thing
        Give this a few minutes to load, and see it through:

                  JCB song

        ps ... JCB=CAT

        December 18th, 2005:Gone Fishin'
        (Downtown-Midtown Cycling. Ice: OK, Snow Major R: Good, Snow Minor R: Variable, Snow Sidewalks: Variable, Temp: -3C to -12C [Double Glove], Road report: here)

As I have to cycle a round trip of 10 miles a day into and out of work I'm including a short daily cycle report describing downtown cycling conditions for anyone thinking of taking a ride.

                   Whilst there are fewer cyclists around than in high summer I still see a few people every day.
                    Most of my colleagues at work however take the view that this sort of behaviour
                   warrants prescription medication. I in turn have the same view of Ice Fishing.
                    Drilling a hole in the ice and sitting by it for hours on end in the freezing cold.
                    Could somebody please explain this ... bring on the meds!

         Oh yeh, Go Lions, [sigh].

December 17th, 2005:Looking back
(Cycling. Ice: OK-Poor, Snow Major R: Good, Snow Minor R: Moderate, Snow Sidewalks: Poor, Temp: -3C to -12C [Double Glove], Road report: here)

         Detroit sadly lost a number of fine older buildings this year.

Several burned down such as the piquette market [left & above] whilst Illich pulled down the fine and recoverable Madison Lenox Hotel [Top]. Currently the Mayan window designs painted onto the windows in Gaudi'esque style [Below left ]are being removed [Below right] from the United Artists building on Bagley prior to the superbowl.

As Detroit moves to close its second museum within twelve months to cut costs (The historical museum, the Belle Isle Aquarium having closed over the summer), it is sad to see more cultural assets lost. As well as those shown here, a number of other major buildings including several architectually notable churches were lost, in general to fire. These have been largely replaced downtown by parking lots but elsewhere the empty shells are scheduled only for mandatory demolition. Whilst Detroit's downtown and midtown districts thrive, to the annoyance of a few, residential districts continue to accumulate vacant lots and empty buildings. A major effort to restore the residential properties in Brush Park immediately bordering the Super Bowl location is very welcome. These are some amazing period properties. It is only sad to see some of the lost brickwork being replaced by wooden structures.


11am December 17th, 2005:Reflective


December 15th, 2005:Wight Out [image]

Some serious snow, a further 5-8 inches today on top of the couple of inches we had left from the last snowfall. Walking (the Bike's on a short Florida vaccation - looking at beachfront properties) to the store along Jefferson showed that folks were treating the accumulation on the road with caution, few if any were 'flooring it'.

This reminds me of a day about 8 months ago when after a thaw and a freeze there was a lot of ice on the roads. Crossing Jefferson by the Ren I saw car come out from the underpass at speed. Given the dim underpass and bright daylight he didn't immediately spot that the lights were against him and there were people on the crosswalk. When he did he was perhaps 150 yards from the lights and he slammed on his breaks. And slid. And slid some more. All four wheels locked solid and the car slowly going sideways on him. He must have gone the full distance with locked wheels and just managed to slide up to the lights.

Today things were similar but due to snow rather than ice. I saw a white Ford Van brake to make a turning. He didn't slow much at all, slid right past the turn with front wheels locked right against the slide. And given the forecast and Detroit's infrastructural incapacity to clear snow it's going to be a fun day for many on the commute home. Luck all!


5.25am December 10th, 2005:American English

It takes time to acclimatize to the differences between US & UK english. There are times you get caught out. Like when I recently posted a note on a blog about jacking into the wireless network, UK: "connecting to", US: "making a mess on the carpet". A bit of an embarrassing snafu! On the bright side though I can call someone a 'complete wanker' over here and get no more than a puzzled look. Not the customary broken jaw.

DB is traveling over to Japan to spend the holiday with friends and partake of saki in Sendai's near legendary Raccoon Dog bar. This gives me an excuse to post a shot of the local block brewery. Give the place a try, their Stout's not at all bad - Jos Campau and Wight St by the river.

Time to spray some more super lube on the Treck and hit the snow.


6.40pm December 8th, 2005:Cold Ducks

And yes ... if you were wondering. Fingers did get darned cold whilst the camera gabbed this shot. Particularly as the camera was sat on my gloves.

Comment 6.07am December 11th, 2005:Browser Workout

A few links to work-out your broadband browser setup. I've been messing with links that kick-in web applications. Strangely the Google Earth links work fine in Firefox but on IE it opens Winzip and you need to double-click in winzip to open G-Earth...

Recommended Vaccation Destinations (Requires Google Earth & Windows XP?):

Lake Garda, Italy
Glenwood Springs, Co
Hells Mouth, Wales

Track & Video of the Day (Requires iTunes (US only?)):

Sterephonics, Handbags & Gladrags (cover of the Rod Stewart original)
Sting, Desert Rose (Video)


10.00am December 10th, 2005:Ice!

Andy @ BTT just set up a very cool FRAPR account. Check it out

This guy better move soon or he'll be here till spring

An inimical environment.


6.30am December 10th, 2005:Spock v McCoy

There's a software dev list I lurk on, let's call it RealEasy, where two of the oldest and most well respected veteran developers started having a little spat. It snowballed as these things do and they're now at the point of name calling and besmurching each others credentials as members of the human race. If they live around here one of them will soon turn up on the others porch bearing an array of firearms. And the origin of this deep feud? "Your code has more than one exit point per function [you mother]".

When Eggheads collide, it's straight out of the farside!


6.03pm December 7th, 2005:Ozone

The folks at BTT and B3 were spot on. This spray on water repellent lube with paraffin is magical. I cleaned off caked mud with an (old) toothbrush and then sprayed on the lube. Then sprayed some more, and some more. Although possibly using the whole can was a bit over the top but heck, Detroit deserve its own ozone hole. It might even warm the place up! Anyhow it did the trick the bike's racing through the snow and salt like a bike with a whole can of super lube sprayed up its jacksy (do stop me if I'm getting too technical).

On a note of similar engineering wizardry I met the guy who runs a nearby alehouse over the weekend. He was atop a ladder messing with some cables. "Whatchadooin?" said I in a neighborly, please give me free beer, but don't ask for too much in return, sort of a way. Turned out that he'd been taken by some eco-bug and decided to power the lights on the pub roof using an array of photovoltaic cells. It worked perfectly. When the sun shone the lights were an array of bright jewels. At night though things were mildly disapointing. He was thus reconnecting the lights to the mains.

If it were fiction no one would believe it.


6.59am December 7th, 2005:Creatures from the ID

God save us from random acts of iTunes!

It's maybe about 1am and after a last flick through the blogs,, CNN and the weather you're drifting off to sleep. In the twilight zone between full sleep and waking you recall a song from decades back. Waking a bit you try and recall the words but can't. A moment later the deed is done. You role over, wake the dozing laptop and pay the ferryman 99c. And now it's yours, that song from the early 80s, or the one from 5 years back that never made the charts. Immediately and without listening you slip away into sleep.

And so it is that sometimes when I wake up I find these little gifts from the subconscious sent c/o the twilight zone & the ferryman. Sometimes they're great. 3 Doors Down "be like that", Rod Stewart's "Tom Traubert's Blues" or John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane". But this morning I woke up to find 12 tracks of Gregorian Chant "Nova Schola Gregoriana" and the complete second series of the 2004 Battlestar Galactica remake (I never even saw the first series)!. How goddam freaking random is that!!

iTunes ... don'd feed them after midnight!


7.11am December 6th, 2005: Home

This is the Dickensian workhouse in which I keep my few bundled rags. We've lines of kids being fed on gruel around the back. Honest.


5.52am December 5th, 2005: Home Game

A first, a non Detroit shot! I managed to get back to the UK for a week last month. This is part of the Wellcome Trust's Genome campus
just south of Cambridge.

Whilst there I bought an ancient road bike with a wonky front wheel for nothing from a junk shop and spent a few days
cycling around with no breaks and steering that contacted the pedals when turned more than 2 degrees. Quality.

Back in the real world. Sunday comes. The fans gather. The Lions lose. It's becoming a tradition.


6.20am December 4th, 2005: BTT Kit Test

So we've an inch or so of lying snow and a bit more on the way. That gets a point over who went with the no snow prediction.

Yesterday was cool but clear and I decided to test out some stuff I just got through the post from Beat the Train (In Detroit).com aka generationzero/bike. Their usual stuff is biking logo'd summer gear but they've just brought out winter oriented hoodies and I mailed straight away for one. Wearing the hoodie under a NorthFace denali jacket with double gloves and double socks I was set to go. From homebase headed up jefferson to Au Bon Pain at Campus Martius. Great yoghurt, great pastries, but their french roast tasted like cigarette buts. Undrinkable. From there up Michigan to Trumble to try and spot the house SO8M was talking about earlier this week. But there were too many to choose from and I quickly gave up. Swung around WSU and still needing coffee headed into the Meetery Eatery in the ground floor of a building I used to live in. I'm guessing this is the place DetroitBlog was slamming in his parade post, and certainly it isn't what it was when Sonya and Jerry used to run the place with only a little help. But the service was still friendly, the coffee was great and the people a mixed bunch from the Creative Studies Inst. Thinking about last nights run in with deep water on Attwater I decided to head on over to B3 (Bikes Blades and Boards) in Grosse Point. I needed some batteries and silicon oil for the bike and wanted to look in at a few other places. Best way to get from Midtown to the Points is along Forest. No question. More direct than jefferson, not the traffic hassle of Mack, the whole street is one smooth tarmac run, very unusual for the eastside. Temperature the whole time was around -4C (24F) and it was a quick run. At the Chrysler Plant you have to switch down onto Mack but by that point Mack is wide enough not to be the drag-strip it is further west. The only incident was in GPP where a female SUV driver decided to play the "I can drive within a millimeter of you" game on a clear street. Moron.

B3 on Mack at the border of GP and GPP is a great place, always lots of kit to look through and the folk are friendly enough. In a way I prefer Cycle and Fitness up in Royal Oak or Courtesy Cycles in Windsor as more hardcore bikeshops, but it's a heck of a pain to get up to along woodward and there's talk of a tunnelbus strike. Having fixed up the bike I swung by MooseJaw to grab some winter boots and took more great coffee in at Carribou. From there it was a slow meander back along the "parks to the points" route. Basically staying as close to the river as possible - windmill point, then the bridge to detroit, then meandering between Freud and the parks. All in all a 30 mile roundtrip and 2.5 hours. The whole time the BTT hoodie was spot on. It's a lighter hoodie than some I have but still a dense enough weave to keep out the wind. The hood keeps the wind off the ears and the body is a good comfortable material. I should also add that it has very cool logos. A B/W BTT logo on the front and full color beat the train in logo on the back. Highly recommended - it also came with a couple of fridge stickers.


6.41am December 3rd, 2005: Dark Times

Tuesday of this week I accidentally left the bike's lights on overnight. Come wednesday morning, nada, not a glimmer. Both LEDs dead. So after that I was leaving work before dark. Until Friday that is. When S suggested going for a beer downtown and we agreed to meet at the Hard Rock Cafe by Campus Martius. S flew his messerschmitt down Woodward and I took the bike down John R. Because of traffic and parking S arrived some time after I did and by the time he'd arrived I'd had a look around. Loud drunk rich crowded. Not a good start, S got a beer and immediately sent it back as flat and tasteless. We hung around for a bit mostly trying to lip read over the 70s rock, but soon decided to move on to the Block Brewery instead. And this is where the fun started, Steve went for his vehicle (actually a souped up audi with a binary accelerator) and I grabbed the bike.

By now it was well after dark and I'm not so comfortable on night roads without working bike lights. I snaked through downtown mostly keeping to the empty sidewalks. But having crossed jefferson down to Attwater there's really no choice. The sidewalk ends. Then the streetlighting ends. There's perhaps a mile and a half of dark straight road. I'm pretty confident along this stretch though, I ride it 2-3 times a day. So even in the pitch black I was OK with it. However if you know Attwater you'll be familiar with the section by the old LaFarge cement plant. Here the daily deposit from dozens of cement trucks has made one side of the road a canyon of deep ribs and ice cold pools. Nobody rides that side of the road, trucks, cars, everyone moves to the left side. I once drove with a guy from out of town who didn't know the area and he almost got his car stranded on the bad side. So I was riding the good side of the road in the pitch dark when about 300m ahead a car turns along Attwater. He immediately picked the good side of the road and had right of way. Without lights I wasn't going to risk going head to head with him. So you can imagine it. Pitch dark, 20mph, sudden turn into the canyons. The bike bucking up and down wildly. And suddenly a deep plunge, through the surface ice and into water that came up to the front fork. FORK! I felt water splashing over knee level and the bike and I were still heading in the wrong direction. There was no way I could see getting out of this without a slide. But just when it looked like a gonner, the wheel bucked and we were heading out over a steep pile of cement that I couldn't see but could feel through the wheel. After that it slowly leveled out.

But man that was tough! I got to the Block Brewery (once again ahead of S who had to detour around the project). As soon as S got there he saw the mud, the water, the cement splattered everywhere and made some comment about perhaps buying a jeep. Yeh... one day. Anyhow the BB was great as always, good beer, good music, nice folks.

The before and after ... Anyone got a hose?


10.30am November 27th, 2005: From the Hill

After 18 months in Detroit I finally got around to facing the Spanish Inquisition that is US border control. Having once had a bad experience with these guys I've put off visiting Windsor until now. But I have to say ... Detroit sure looks prety from over here. The view from the hill:

The PhotoManiacs over at DetroitFunk have some excellent pages on the local taggers and silhouetters. Taggers get everywhere and there has to be a SuperBowl market for hoodies bearing some of downtown's most well recognized logos. After all, if we have a group of rich execs sticking FCUK outside a thousand buildings, then the precedent was set for me...
Check it out

Comment 11.30am November 25th, 2005: Harbor Freezing-Over

A sign of a stretch of really cold weather, the Harbor in Tricentennial Park is beginning to freeze over. It'll likely be January before the River starts to freeze and the freighters stop until the spring.


2pm November 24th, 2005: Woodward ThanksGiving Parade

A fun, if cold, Detroit Thanksgiving parade. The -8C and 50kph winds made it damned cold and the high winds meant that the balloon floats sadly weren't used this year.

Even so, the whole route down Woodward from the DIA to Campus Martius was lined with kids of all ages, bundled up against the cold:

Its got to be darned cold down on that sidewalk!

Most of the folks parading seemed to be excelling through their shear enthusiasm:

Even the accountants and their briefcase drill were coping ... just:

However a few of the musicians whose hands had to be lightly gloved looked like they deserved a medal!

And that's it for this year. The camera worked fine with the cold but the bike computer faded out at c. -8C



Poison the information machines