I was invited to speak at the PICNIC festival in Amsterdam. I was presenting OpenStreetMap and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team again, a slimmed down version of this presentation. I followed after Helena Puig Larrauri presenting the “Standby Taskforce”, and then we sat together and took questions. You can watch that whole thing here:

I had the impression I was bringing OpenStreetMap to a very new audience which is always worthwhile. In this case the session had a journalism theme to it. It was organised by European Journalism Centre. Big thanks to them for inviting and Continue reading “HOT at PICNIC”


I used to post to my blog about various holiday travels. I wont try to catch up on the past two years, but here’s a little post about Strasbourg where my girlfriend and I spent a pleasant long weekend (avoiding jubilee). Some photos mainly. Photos of food mainly. Strasbourg is in the Alsace region of France on the border with germany, which has some great specialities.


I had this in a restaurant in London once where it was described as “Alsacian pizza”, but it’s not a pizza, it’s a “tarte flambée”. Thinner than a pizza with no tomato, but with white creamy sauce.


“Choucroute” is the french word for sauerkraut, but you can also order a full dish named choucroute, which is the pickled cabbage with assorted meats swimming around in it.


This one’s called “Baeckeoffe”, which I hadn’t heard of before, but wikitravel told me to try it, so I did. It’s a hot-pot of pork, spuds and other veg.

In case you thought Strasbourg was all about food…

View from Strasbourg cathedral

This is the view from the top of the cathedral. Lots of steps to climb. A good way to work up an appetite.

Strasbourg Petit France

This is the “petit France” and on the right there is a very nice restaurant with friendly waiters. I’m still talking about food aren’t I?

Tell you what. Here’s a skeleton:

Archealogy museum skeleton

Can’t remember if this one is stone age or bronze aged or iron aged… but it’s old. The archeology museum in Strasbourg talks about how human settlers were in the region going back at least 600,000 years, since before they’d sussed out how to make fire!

Trip to Shanghai

Last week I went to China. You know, that place where everyone lives. In fact I was in Shanghai, the most populous city in the world (by some definitions)  I’m kind of ashamed to say it’s the first time I’ve been to Asia. My bounding box just got a whole lot wider. I was invited there to give a talk on OpenStreetMap and the Haiti story, which was a fantastic opportunity in itself. I shall blog more on that (coming soon)  but just being in this mega-city was an amazing experience, helped along by some excellent hosting.

Buses and taxis whisked us around the brightly lit streets. I was always impressed by the neon-lit multi-level flyovers and spaghetti junctions:

Shanghai Shanghai flyovers Shanghai Shanghai

We had  a trip to the Shanghai Expo. VIP access allowed us to mostly skip the gigantic queues, although amusingly we were denied this at the UK pavilion:

Shanghai Expo Shanghai Expo Shanghai Expo UK

We had some time to take in other Shanghai sights. The night-time boat trip was particularly spectacular:

Shanghai Shanghai Shanghai temple Shanghai

We had a look around the antique market and other shopping areas:

Dong Tai Road antiques market Shanghai Ancient chinese shopping plaza

We had some wonderful (and sometimes weird) chinese meals:

Fish in sweet sauce Roast Duck Moon soup No english menu

All in all a pretty spectacular travel experience. I thought I’d put a few photos here in case you missed my usual showing off live-photo-streaming while I was out there. More pictures on flickr.This wasn’t a holiday though. As I said, I need to follow this up with some more details of the OpenStreetMap talk I gave, and thoughts from the conference.

Brazil Holiday 2009/2010

In case you missed all my gloating tweets (@harry_wood), I’ve been away in Brazil in the baking summer sunshine for the past three weeks. Here’s some pics:

beansmercado municipalvertical favelasambaSao Paulo tube stationmortadelaplaying with planesIlhabela sunsetkayakingIlhabela guarda solplantssunburnchristmas dinnerskewering chicken heartsGuarhulosdune buggiescoconutFortaleza busy market streetTheatro Jose de AlencarCentro Dragão do Marsand dunesFortaleza new years eve chaosFortaleza new years fireworks 2010Fortaleza beach parkchurrascaria

There’s more on facebook too.

Another great Brazil holiday. I’m starting to get to know the girlfriend’s family a bit better despite not really speaking Portuguese at all.  Spent Christmas with them this time. Lots of amazing food! I can feel a new years resolution coming on… Learn some Portuguese. I gathered a fair bit more mapping data for the São Paulo map, and meeting the other paulistano mappers was a lot of fun. We also got away from São Paulo for some beach time in Ilhabela and Fortaleza. We saw in the new year there, with spectacular fireworks on the beach.

Of course the only year I’ve ever not been at home for Christmas, and the UK has it’s first white Christmas in years. Gah! It’s quite a shock to be back in the cold #uksnow after the heat of Brazil. In fact my baggage didn’t make the flight connection at Madrid on the way home, so I had to head home from heathrow without my big jacket (Given the level of competence on show by the Spanish iberia staff organising connecting flights, this wasn’t a surprise) At first I thought this wouldn’t be a big deal, since I had fortunately stuffed some trousers and a fleece in my hand luggage, but the 10 min walk from my local tube station to my house was a chilly welcome back to the UK. I could feel my sun tan peeling off.

So… 2010!  Happy Christmas and Happy New Year!

Liverpool. Cathedrals, Beatles, etc

Went to Liverpool last weekend. Fabiana wanted to go sight-seeing there before she heads back to Brazil.

We stayed in Jurys Inn, which was good value, but a bit travelodgish, and breakfast was unpleasantly busy. Nice shiny new building though. Near the Albert Dock. There’s lots of shiny new buildings in Liverpool actually. Some of the shopping areas are spectacular, and we saw them adding the final stone cladding to outside of a snazzy new river front museum of Liverpool. We’ll have to go back for that one.

We also saw the modern (but not quite so brand new) architecture of the Metropolitan cathedral. Seeing the bells ringing at the front was pretty cool. There’s another “Liverpool Cathedral” in Liverpool which is less well known I suppose, being as it’s a boring old normal cathedral, but we wandered over to check it out, and it was well worth it actually. It’s massive! We called in at the liverpool tate for some art too, but unfortunately left this until we were knackered and could hardly stand up any more.

We did those things on Sunday. Our priority had been to go see “the Beatles Story” museum. I vaguely remember wanting to go into this as a kid while the parents were dragging us around art galleries and boring shops in Albert docks. Didn’t go then, probably because it’s quite expensive. £12 for an adult. Not sure if it’s worth it really, but it was quite interesting.

It really does tell the “story” of the Beatles from beginning to end, which gives you a feel for what a bonkers time it was (the 60s I mean). The Beatles were lucky, as any band which reaches megastardom is, but they were lucky to have struck at just that time too, before we’d had any megastar bands before, and seemingly just as the world was ready for some cheeky chappies from Liverpool. I also learned the sad story of their manager Brian Epstein, who was a friendly, enthusiastic, supportive guiding force who did a brilliant job of launching them on the world stage, but eventually he died of an overdose of anti-depressants. The Beatles fell apart shortly after. You don’t really hear his tale as much as the John Lennon shooting thing.

Afterwards on the Saturday night we headed to the Cavern (where the Beatles played lots of gigs). We went into the cavern pub instead of the cavern club, but then I think I read that neither of them are really like the original anyway. Quite good though. Saw some live music.

After eating we found a chaotic street (here I think) full of drunken party goers surrounded on all sides by blaring music from pub/clubs. We went into one which was a 90s bar. A “90s” bar! Are we far enough away from the 90s to start having 90s bars?? The cheesy banging dance music brought back a few memories… yes apparently we are far enough away.

2009 etc

I’ve been having a chilled out week back home in Yorksestershire. Fairly subdued New Years celebrations last night, due to many friends choosing to do something different from the usual. “What?? What d’you mean you don’t want to get together and get drunk?”. Bah! Everyone’s getting old. I still managed to guzzle quite a few beers washed down with quite a few glasses of bubbly.

My older sister lost in our little competition for who would be the first to not show up to the family Christmas. Guess that means the world is my oyster next year. I no longer need to feel compelled to be here. But I always enjoy Christmas here. It always involves lots of food, and is usually a reasonably chilled out experience if you ignore the family arguments. This year we brought Grandma up to Yorkshire with us which probably made us all argue slightly less.


luxur kebabs hatsheput  detail abu simbel great pyramids step pyramid snorkelling hurghada desert cairo

Before coming back for Christmas we had a holiday in Egypt. We decided to sneak that one in there since Francine is currently out of work, and we were both feeling the need for some warm sunshine. We had a fair bit of that, plus snorkeling on the red sea, a Cruise on the Nile, and visits to the pyramids and many other ancient Egyptian temples.

We found it to be quite a culture shock dealing with taxi drivers and the people selling stuff in Egypt. Of course you know about these things from reading a description, but going through the process of haggling and the worry of whether you’re getting a sensible price for something was surprisingly stressful. After a while it felt like we got better at it, and almost enjoyed it at times, but at first it was quite unpleasant. The best example of this was a taxi driver who was so determined to demand extra money from us that Francine resorted to flinging open the doors while it was speeding down the motorway to force him to stop while we discussed it! It’s a shame I only studied my wikitravel printout in detail after this happened (excellent information about Cairo taxis)

Luckily we’d booked onto a guided tour for most of the Holiday. I imagine you could have a fairly miserable holiday doing stressful transactions for every meal and every mode of transport if you decided to go it alone, or maybe I’m just not adventurous enough. In any case the guided tours of all the temples were excellent. Two Egyptians talked us through about ten different temples and other sights. They were obviously very knowledgeable (qualified Egyptologists) This was travel talk booked via travelmood.


We loved Northampton so much last time we decided to come back again. This time visiting Nick & Joe in their new house near the old lift testing tower which was looking spooky in the nighttime fog.

For a wild Northampton night out, we went and played bingo! It was quite good… as an experience. …I mean …I suppose it’s something everyone should try at least once.

….maybe just once in fact.

Northampton Bingo
Bingo announcers (or whatever they’re called) have a funny way of reading out numbers. e.g. “Four and six, forty-six…. All the threes, thirty three….  nine and one, ninety-one….” and so it goes on. It goes quite fast, and one interesting aspect of the rules we didn’t really realise at the time: If you are lucky enough to get a “line” or two lines or a “full house” you have to shout out as soon as the number has been called out. If they’ve moved on to the next number, you’ve missed it! No prize money for you! Would have been quite annoying to find this out the hard way. As it was, we didn’t get any lines or full houses, but then it seemed like quite a big bingo hall. Probably 200-odd people. So the chances were pretty slim. Everyone groans each time somebody wins, which was quite amusing to join in with.

South France holiday

Aigues Mortes rampartsI said I would blog about my nice holiday in the South of France (catching up on a blogging today)

We were staying with a bunch of friends in a villa somewhere between Nimes and Montpellier (map). September was pleasantly hot but never too hot, and pleasantly un-crowded with tourists in the various places we visited: Montpellier, Nimes, Pont do Gard, Carnon Plage, Petite Rhone, and Aigue Mortes. I was surprised by the number of things to see in these places. Even the local un-touristy towns like St Christol and Somieres, were fun to look around, with charming historical steets, and a mediterranean sun-baked atmosphere.

It was great to catch up with Nick again, and Latham’s antics with Beany’s pink poker set were highly entertaining. On this holiday I learned to play poker properly for the first time, having tried and failed to understand anything on many previous occasions. I think I’m missing the part of the brain which is good at remembering card game rules.

So I should present you with all my gloriously sunny holiday snaps now… but I can’t. I carefully separated out my photos so that all the boring photo mapping pictures of street signs were seperate from my proper holiday snaps. I then left my holiday snaps on a laptop locked in a cupboard in the other office. I’ll stick ’em on facebook eventually.

Among the mapping pics I did find this nice picture of the medieval walls of Aigues-Mortes. This was a highlight of the holiday actually. Running around the castle walls like a medieval knight carrying a message for the king… with only 20 minutes to go until our parking ticket ran out! In fact I’ve created the article for Aigues-Mortes


I am back from a week’s holiday in the South of France. Immediately I’ve dropped into a firestorm* of emails to respond to, things to to prepare for, and political fires to extinguish.

So I will blog about beautiful French vineyards and other such relaxing things ….later.   Right now I’m too busy and more importantly I’m just not in the mood.

* “whirlwind”, “quagmire”, “steaming heap of poo”.  What’s the right word here?

Swirly Sweden

I was sent to Sweden last week to give a training course in GH Tester . This was very stressful for various reasons, and hard work. I spent the whole three days in a hotel/conference centre just outside Arlanda airport near Stockholm, which seems like a terrible wasted opportunity to go see Stockholm or do something more interesting, but in between working and stressing there was no time.

I think the training course went well though, which is quite satisfying to look back on. Other good things about the trip…

There was a funny guy from Finland on the course. We got chatting about how he goes on big moose hunting expeditions. Apparently as a young Finnish hunter he partook of the tradition to drink a cup of blood from the first beast he killed. Warm and quite salty he told us.  He also talked a lot about saunas. Apparently in Finland there is ludicrous ratio of saunas to people. One for every family. And when farmers settled into a new area of the wilderness, they would build a sauna first, and then the farmhouse.

I got to fly BA from the new Heathrow terminal 5. I didn’t approve of Heathrow expansion, but they’ve done it now, so might as well enjoying being in a nice modern airport. I also enjoyed BA’s headrests on the way out, but not on the way back (Headrest designers please design them so that you can rest your head to sleep. It’s not rocket science)

And this view over Sweden on the way home was nice.

View over Sweden’s swirly lakes

I was looking at the swirly arrangement of these lakes on the Stockholm map So here’s a challenge for you: See if you can work out exactly which lakes on the map we can see in this photo. I couldn’t.

UPDATE: There’s quite distinctive little island in view in the photo, which wasn’t rendering properly before on the map. Having fixed this, it’s clear that the view is looking North Northwest with plane being about here.