Places to eat in Berlin: Coa

It’s becoming a tradition that every time I attend a conference or travel anywhere interesting I post at least a couple of places to eat. Perhaps ironically, none of the places I am about to post about serve cuisine that you could reasonable call German.

It’s true – we’ve done coffee and cake – that well known German tradition. In an evening, however, besides our hotel we have been to a Chinese, an oriental fusion place and a Portuguese and Spanish restaurant.

A general warning to those eating out in Berlin – do not take for granted that the place you choose will take plastic – many don’t, and you should at least be prepared to pay cash.

Of those, the fusion restaurant was the first place we ate – Coa. Situated right in Potzdamer Platz it was an obvious choice early in our stay as we wandered around the dominoes of Mauerfall.

If you like noodles, you’ll do just fine here. The cuisine is an interesting mix of Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and Japanese. The surroundings are stylish, the service is friendly (and happy to converse in English) and the food is excellent. There is a great range of dishes from dim sum to noodles and everything we had was well prepared and tasty.

20 Jahre Mauerfall

Monday night saw the official celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the historic events which saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and paved the way for German reunification.

Sadly, the night was cold and wet – the rain was falling in torrents as we made our way to Potsdamer Platz and walked towards the Brandenburg Gate. We managed to stand right next to one of the large screens on which proceedings were to be shown – next to the gate and near the dominoes which were to topple during the night.

Cold it may have been, but the atmosphere was warm and friendly, with people from all over the world joining the celebrations. Within a few feet of us were some French students, Americans from across the USA, Italians, Germans, and Yorkshiremen.

The evening was a great mix of culture and spectacle. We were treated to opera (with a distinguished-looking Placido Domingo), the Berlin Philharmonic with Daniel Barenboim conducting, Bon Jovi and some other most likely very popular German bands that I’d never heard of.

There were also plenty of speeches from German and other European leaders, along with Lech Walesa and Michael Gorbechev (sorry if I’ve mis-spelled either of those – I’m composing with no internet connection).

The whole event was punctuated by the toppling of dominoes, which turned out to be done in stages, and topped off with a fireworks display over the Brandenburg Gate.

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Once over, a sea of people flowed to the U- and S-Bahns. It’s a testament to the efficiency of Berlin public transport that the sea of people managed to quickly pile onto a succession of trains to be whisked away from Potsdamer Platz.

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Most definitely a night to remember.

Ich bin ein Berliner

As you may know, TechE d 2009 EMEA is in Berlin this year. You may also know that this year is the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I’m here in Berlin, which means that I’ll try to blog what’s going on at TechEd. However, this post is all about the really cool idea Berlin has for the celebrations!

We arrived on Saturday and went out to Potsdamer Platz, not far from the Brandenburg Gate and German Parliament. We hadn’t heard about the 1000 dominoes, so we were really surprised and impressed.

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The line begins at Potsdamer Platz (where there’s a really cool sledding slope, too) and snakes it’s way past the Brandenburg Gate to the new government buildings. Each domino is about 7 feet tall, and is uniquely decorated. Next to every domino is a small plaque telling you who did the artwork and, if your german is up to is, which mine isn’t quite, their thoughts about the piece. Some are truly startling, and they have been painted by everyone, from schoolchildren to artists to local companies and charities. On the 9th of November, the day the wall came down, those dominoes will be toppled.

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You can follow the line all the way to the end, and there are thousands of people doing just that – all day and night. There are also wurst stalls, bier stands and stands selling gluhwein to ward off the cold. The atmosphere is absolutely fantastic!

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These pictures don’t really do it justice – I took them with my phone on Saturday night. I have more taken with my EOS but I’ve not sorted them yet, and I wanted to get this post up.

The TV crews must be having a field day. There is an incredible amount of technical gear here – cameras on tripods; cameras on cranes; and one really cool camera on a wire track ready to chase the falling dominoes.

The Brandenburg Gate is all lit up and has big grandstands around it, ready for the festivities.

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The building where the line ends is this fabulous work of modern architecture housing the national library.

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The big celebrations for Berlin Mauerfall are tonight. TechEd has carefully arranged it’s schedules so we have time to get there and join in. Here’s hoping the weather is good.

Joining in the background noise: I am now on Twitter

One of the reasons I enjoy conferences like @media is that I can be persuaded to change my mind on things. After a persuasive argument from Nick I’ve decided to alter my stance on twitter and give it a go for a while.

A few others recently have suggested that I should sign up to the microblogging system even if I didn’t plan to use it, just to make sure I got the nickname I wanted and nobody else could use it. I’ve never really bought into that kind of approach, and sometimes I wonder if that is as key an indicator as to the lack of importance I have personally come to place in social networking tools. I’m old enough that my first instinct if I want to socialise is to pick up the phone and arrange a pint with a mate.

At significant part of that change in stance is due to a realisation that twitter provides an intriguing way for me to keep in touch with people like Nick in a way which doesn’t demand a response in the way that IM certainly does and email ought to. Twitter simply gives a commentary on Nick’s life as he decides to tell it and I can respond if I want to.

Exactly what I will tweet, I don’t know. Inanity in all it’s forms frustrates me, so I won’t be keying in anything that pops into my head at any time. However, there’s no point deciding to try something and not then using it. That means I’m likely to post either useful nuggets about the technologies I deal with, or my thoughts on bigger issues.

A timely example of this came overnight with the domination of the news by the death of Michael Jackson. Twitter was being used this morning as an interesting barometer of the public response to the news: 15% of all tweets since the news have been about Jackson’s death. Apparently the previous high for a major event was 5%. I find that interesting from two angles: Firstly, that the twittering masses take such an interest in the event and more interestingly how the data is presented as an indicator of general interest.

In an effort to put some heart into my use of twitter I also downloaded a trial of Twikini. My first impressions are favorable, and I’ may well post more on that later.

For now, if you want to find me on twitter, look for @rikhepworth and my usual cartoon head and shoulders mugshot.

Speaking at VBUG Newcastle in July

Andy Westgarth and the guys at VBUG Newcastle very kindly invited me to speak about and demo some of what I consider to be key features in Windows 7 and Server 2008. If you read the blog and would like to see what I really look like, are interested in the topic of the talk or interested in VBUG in general, come along!

The venue is Newcastle University (a campus I’ve never visited before so I’m quite looking forward to that). For more information Andy has details on the VBUG site. In order to make sure the event doesn’t wither through lack of interest, please register yours on the VBUG site. To copy some of it here, however:

Topic: Key features in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2
Overview:
Key features in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. A look at the new features in Microsoft’s upcoming operating systems that will really make a difference to how we work. The session will a broad overview of new features with demos of the cooler ones to add an element of risk to proceedings. Come along if you want to learn more about technologies such as BranchCache, DirectAccess, Virtual XP Mode and more.

Location: Room 118, Claremont Tower, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, GB

Price: FREE

Things to do in Seattle: Gameworks

As you probably guess, Richard and myself were in Seattle for a short conference last week. The evening entertainment on one night was a trip to Gameworks. If you like playing video games with your mates, going head-to-head at things like Sega Rally, then you’ll have a good time in Gameworks.

I’m not the worlds greatest gamer, and I tend to struggle when it’s games that don’t use keyboard and mouse. Richard and I seemed to do best at the stand-up shooting games, the first of which was (to a non-hunting Brit) a hilarious hunting game where you had to blast moose with a pump action shotgun and avoid shooting cows.

I’m guessing that it wasn’t a terribly popular game, as my paltry efforts at taking down wildlife got me a high score.

Imagine my surprise then, when the following morning’s pre-session rolling slides said the following:

Gameworks notables. "All Rambo Team", Rik/Black Marble Limted (Extreme Hunting)

Places to eat in Seattle: Etta’s Seafood

On our arrival in Seattle, Richard and I had a great meal in Etta’s Seafood, which is not far along the road from Pike’s Market, heading out with the bay on your left. The food was excellent – fantastic chowder and a burger cooked just to your taste. A warning though – if you’re a wee slip of a lad like I am you may find the portions daunting. It was a friendly, charming place and great welcome to the city.

Things to do in Seattle: Baseball

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We had a great night tonight. Our visit to Seattle coincided with three home games for the Mariners, and I went to my first baseball game tonight. Not only was it a fantastic match, going right down to the last pitch, but one of the batters obviously realised I was a baseball newbie and kindly hit me a ball as keepsake!

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Places to eat in Seattle: Lowell’s

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Richard’s an old hand in Seattle, so he suggested we ate breakfast at Lowell’s down at the Pike Place Market. I’m really glad he did – the eggs benedict were fantastic. We ate great food with a fantastic view of the bay. If you’re ever in Seattle I can wholeheartedly recommend that you try Lowell’s while you’re here.