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Sunday, February 28, 2010

I MADE IT TO LONDON*


It never really stopped raining during my four days in Amsterdam, with the temperature 40 degrees F or lower, but I really liked that city. Somehow, because the weather has totally disrupted travel, my flight made it to London, where it was heavily raining. DC in two days, then, New York City. Will it snow again?

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Welcome, my latest two countries:

#138:

VIRGIN ISLANDS POPULATION: 109,825

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Background
During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.

Map data ©2010 Europa Technologies - Terms of Use


#139:

FIJI POPULATION: 944,720



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Background
Fiji became independent in 1970 after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987 caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE. Re-elected in May 2006, QARASE was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA, who initially appointed himself acting president but in January 2007 became interim prime minister. Since taking power BAINIMARAMA has neutralized his opponents, crippled Fiji's democratic institutions, and refused to hold elections.

Map data ©2010 Europa Technologies - Terms of Use



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Number of visitors to this site: 30,447

Visitors this week: 4,927

Number of countries: 139

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

THE CHILE EARTHQUAKE

Well, Hawaii dodged a bullet. We survived the tsunami from Chile. You can click on Hawaii Tsunami Information for the latest.

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I'll keep the latest information at the top. The tsunami reached a height of about 6 feet in French Polynesia.

As of 12:20PM, there was a recession of 3 feet and a rise of 3 feet around Hilo. Thus, it's official, a reasonably significant tsunami affected Hawaii. Thank heavens, the 35 foot Hilo monster of 1960 did not materialize this time. At this point, nothing official from a largely abandoned (one person was shown walking to the shore) Waikiki Beach, although there are three surfers awaiting something. Not too smart. The reef off Ala Moana Beach did show for a while, exhibiting some receding waters.

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Well, we now all know that an earthquake, measured with a Moment Magnitude of 8.8, struck just off the coast near Concepcion, Chile at 06:34 GMT (03:34 Chile and 20:34 Hawaii). A tsunami warning has been issued, and Hilo is expected to be affected at 11:19 Saturday morning. It was almost half a century ago (22May60) that the largest earthquake on record (9.5) hit Chile, causing 61 deaths in Hilo.

Honolulu arrival time is 11:25 AM. Sirens were delayed to blare at 6AM. CNN has featured the state and I have been watching for hours. Anyway, one report seems frightening:

The Pacific tsunami warning centre said the quake had generated a wave that could cause destruction along nearby shores "and could also be a threat to more distant coasts". It issued a tsunami warning for Chile, Peru and Hawaii, while Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Antarctica are also on alert.

"Chile probably got the brunt force of the tsunami already. So probably the worst has already happened in Chile," said Victor Sardina, geophysicist at the centre. "The tsunami was pretty big too. We reported some places around 8ft. And it's quite possible it would be higher in other areas."

The centre warned that waves up to 4.8 metres high could hit the coasts of the Hawaiian islands, with the first reaching Hawaii at 9pm GMT. "Urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property," the centre said in a bulletin. "All shores are at risk no matter which direction they face."


The recent Haiti quake was a 7.0, so how much more powerful was the Chile earthquake today? At one time, the Richter Scale was used, so the shaking amplitude in Chile was about 60 times worse. Today, however, the Moment Magnitude Scale is used, and the resultant quake was about 600 times more powerful in the amount of energy released.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

EATING IN AMSTERDAM



There are no Top 100 restaurants in Amsterdam. For lunch I went to Cobra, located next to the Rijksmuseum. I ordered a beer, jenever (Holland gin that has no smell of juniper) and a dutch sausage dish. What came was a hotdog with a lot of vegetables.



I asked, what is a typical lunchtime meal in this country. My concierge said some kind of sandwich. But, isn't there some restaurant that serves a typical Dutch meal? No, he said. Okay, then, what can you recommend for dinner. He made a reservation at a family diner which serves comfort food for the Dutch only a few minutes walk away. So I went and ordered their special of the day. I got what amounted to a tossed green salad with Gorgonzola cheese (you would think they would use some type of Dutch blue) and steak. The beer was Heineken draft (which was unusually
sweet), the french fries came with mayonnaise (which was also slightly sweet) and the beef had a teriyaki type sauce, also sweet. Not exactly the Dutch meal I imagined, but, I guess, this is what they eat here. I've already forgotten the name of the restaurant.

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CULTURE IN AMSTERDAM




Let me start today with new countries visiting my site. #136 is:

FRENCH POLYNESIA POPULATION: 287,032

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Background
The French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll after a three-year moratorium. The tests were suspended in January 1996. In recent years, French Polynesia's autonomy has been considerably expanded.

Map data ©2010 Europa Technologies - Terms of Use



Country #137 is:

CAMEROON POPULATION: 18,879,301

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Background
The former French Cameroon and part of British Cameroon merged in 1961 to form the present country. Cameroon has generally enjoyed stability, which has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as a petroleum industry. Despite a slow movement toward democratic reform, political power remains firmly in the hands of President Paul BIYA.

Map data ©2010 Europa Technologies - Terms of Use



As you might know, you can click on the "Visitors" box on the right and view details of these and other countries.

It was raining this morning, so I just went to museums. The I amsterdam card costs about $50 for a day or $65 for two. You can catch all modes of transport (not the wet ones, although a canal tour is provided) plus go to most museums for free. Other attractions, including restaurants, give a 25% discount, but the Ann Frank Museum is not covered. It is located a three minute walk from my hotel, but every time I wandered by, there were long lines.

The national museum of the Netherlands is the Rijksmuseum. However, the main building is being renovated, and only the Philips Wing is open. Normal entry: $13. What is shown is a depiction of art which features the country when it was most powerful (1568-1648). Many of the paintings are more than 500 years old, but amazingly, they look so fresh as if just finished. The details are incredible and colors rich. The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn (1642) is the showcase exhibit.

The Van Gogh Museum is outstanding, first opened in 1973, but with an exhibits extension in 1999, where Paul Gauguin is currently featured. The entry fee is a stiff $20 or so, although free if you are under 19. There must have been at least a thousand viewing the mostly paintings and maybe double that. As might be expected, most were under 19.


Vincent Willem van Gogh, was, I guess, an expressive (post-impressionist) painter, who was born in this country in 1853. He does look like Kirk Douglas, who portrays the painter in Lust for Life, co-starring Anthony Quinn, who played Paul Gauguin. But Vincent was a mostly a slouch, working in art dealing and sketching, until, at the age of 27, having no real training, he decided to become a painter. He never was able to sell anything in his first three years. His brother helped him survive. However, in the decade of his creativity, he produced around 2,000 artworks.

His early work was dark, with a lot blacks. By the mid 1880s he had moved to Paris and was influenced by Peter Paul Rubens, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Japanese Ukiyo-e woodprints. He then began to add color and shifted to pointillism.


























This was the transition period when photographically perfect renderings (as are featured in the Rijksmuseum) began to shift to symbolism and mystery. He painted Sunflower specifically for Gauguin's room when he moved in with him in 1988. van Gogh had a huge influence on the Modernists.

He was mentally disturbed, suffered from syphilis and had epilepsy. Actually, the latest speculation is that he had a congenital brain lesion drowned by absinthe. Remember, he cut off his ear (only lower portion of left lobe) after a quarrel with Gauguin and gave it to a prostitute, plus he shot himself with a gun, feeling he was losing it at the age of 37, and never recovered.


He died a pauper, but his Portrait of Dr. Gachet, painted the year he died, has a current value of $138 million (owned by Ryohei Saito). I bought a reproduction of Irisis because the flower color was blue. The original is valued at $101 million.
























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