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Here are some of the more interesting deals, websites and other travel tidbits that have come across our desk recently.

lRelated Stowe, Taos join other premier resorts in collective for ski pass
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$479 per person for 3 nights each in Rome, Venice and Florence has a package that includes three nights each in Amsterdam, Paris and Rome, flights between cities and round-trip air. Cost depends on dates and city of departure. We checked dates in late October from Chicago and turned up a price of $1,512 per person double occupancy. For the same date but from New York, the cost was just $1,390.

•If you like to plan well in advance, the Online Vacation Center has six-night Germany cruises aboard Viking Cruises in late 2016 priced from $1,949 per person double occupancy for a riverview cabin. That includes round-trip air from Boston or New York and a $500 gift card. Air add-on is $100 from Baltimore, Chicago or Orlando. 800-780-9002,

• is a monthlong celebration of the culinary scene in Santa Barbara, Calif., with special events and festivals, tasting menus and lodging deals.

Hostel Fish is billed as an upscale hostel, offering rooms in downtown Denver from $45 a night per person plus tax. 303-954-0962,

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has brochures for its 2016 offerings available online or by mail if you go to lists 11 ultra-packable dresses for travel at

SmarTours has its listing of 2016 Europe tours available at

Look at foodie tours in San Francisco at

Hurtigruten is so confident you’ll see the Northern Lights on its classic Norway winter cruise that the company says that if you don’t, it’ll give you another voyage free. compares Norwegian Cruise Line vs. Carnival Cruise Line at

NightSwapping matches travelers around the world looking to share home stays.

Ding Darling Days will be Oct. 18-24 at the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Fla.

Prices include taxes and fee unless otherwise noted. Deals and websites listed here have been checked for availability as of press time, but the listings are not an endorsement.

Phil Marty is a freelance reporter.

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

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Shine St. Petersburg Mural Festival: This festival running through Sept. 12 will showcase nearly a dozen large-scale murals around the arts districts of St. Petersburg by internationally renowned and local artists, including the French graffiti crew 123Klan and St. Petersburg native Michael Vasquez. The festival is part of SPF 15, a new celebration of the arts running Sept. 11-27. 9 a.m., Edge District, 11th Street and Central Avenue, St. Petersburg. Free.

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Community Harvest at Columbia Restaurants: During the month of September, 5 percent of lunch or dinner checks will be donated to area non-profit groups and local charities. Locations include Columbia Sand Key in Clearwater Beach, St. Armand’s in Sarasota, the Tampa Riverwalk and Tampa International Airport, 11 a.m., Columbia Restaurant, 2117 E Seventh Ave., Tampa. Menu prices vary. (813) 248-4961.

Coffee with a Curator: The Math Behind Escher’s Tessellations: A special monthly talk presented by one of the Dali Museum’s education team. HCC math professor Kathryn Pantelis explores the relationship between mathematics and Escher’s visionary patterns. 10:30 a.m., Dali Museum, 1 Dali Blvd. (Bayshore Drive SE and Fifth Avenue SE), St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 823-3767.


Kids Golf Free: Kids ages 15 and younger can join a paying adult for one free round of golf on the First Tee of Clearwater Junior Tee’s which provide shortened, manageable distances for children. Through Oct. 31. 6:30 a.m., Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club, 3030 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Free.


Last Comic Standing, 10 p.m., NBC. Now it’s really time to bring the funny on. The top 10 contestants face off in five head-to-head showdowns. The winners then advance to the finale.


Controversy-prone RB singer Chris Brown hits the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre with Kid Ink, Omarion (Cheerleader), Fetty Wap (Trap Queen) and Teyana Taylor on Friday ($18-$92.50).


Find restaurant and bar reviews at

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Update: After High Times had difficulty finding a venue for a 2015 Cannabis Cup event in the Portland metro area, organizers pulled their application, the Oregonian reports. High Times is still considering an Oregon location for the 2016 Cannabis Cup.

Earlier Report:

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland will host a massive marijuana event the same month that the drug becomes legal in Oregon.

The Cannabis Cup is coming to Portland in July 2015, High Times confirms.

High Times, which currently produces six Cannabis Cups in locations where marijuana is legal or has legal medical programs, will add Oregon as its seventh destination next year.

We talked with Dan Skye, the Editor in Chief of High Times, about what Oregonians can expect from the event next year.

Skye, who was on his way to the 27th annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, said the Portland event will be something of a marijuana trade show, bringing together vendors who work in the marijuana industry.

“It’s a chance for the public to see all these new businesses and check out some of the cannabis merchandise,” he said.

Since marijuana will be legal, vendors will be able to offer free samples of products including edibles.

But Skye was quick to point out that the Portland Cannabis Cup will be a ticketed event open to people 21 and older, which differs from other marijuana-centric events like Hempstalk that are open to people of all ages.

Hempstalk denied permit for 2015 event at Waterfront Park

“IDs are checked, you have to be 21. We follow the rules rigorously. We are very up-front about what we are doing here,” he said. “The fact is, it is legal. Everybody should get used to that. If you look at the evidence in Colorado there is no damage to the so-called social fabric.”

The event will also feature educational seminars and national music acts – past Cannabis Cups have included performances by Cypress Hill and Ice Cube, and Skye hopes to add big-name musicians to the Portland bill.

The Denver event, which is held on April 20 (an unofficial marijuana holiday), attracted around 40,000 people and 500 vendors.

While Skye doesn’t think the Portland event will draw as many people, it’s still expected be a huge event for the city.

For Skye, the main purpose of the Cannabis Cup is to help remove the stigma around marijuana.

“It mainstreams cannabis, makes people see there are viable businesses cropping up around cannabis,” he said.

And he’s elated that pot has been legalized in the state.

“We’re really thrilled that Portland turned the page on this,” he said. “It makes economic sense, it makes social sense.”

A location for the 2015 Portland Cannabis Cup has not yet been chosen.

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(CNN)The triathlon is a trinity of sport. It trebles the demands on an athlete, and perhaps that explains why the contest enjoys increasing popularity.

What athlete or adventurer doesn’t like a challenge, especially one triply so?

Here are thoughts at-large on the disciplines and the disciples of swim, cycle, run.

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One of the world’s biggest festivals have just revealed the second selection of artists to grace the 4 day event that takes over Amsterdam in October. With over 1600 confirmed artists, at 100 different venues around Amsterdam, there is nothing you couldn’t see if you decided to attend. For its 20th anniversary, ADE is going all out and giving fans the best of the best. Below you’ll find the next wave of artists to be confirmed as they join the previous announcement.

If you haven’t looked into it, ADE is one of those events you will want to check out at least once in your life. There is so much music and more, why not?!

Âme, Andrew Weatherall, Andy C, Awanto 3, Bakermat, Barnt, Beesmunt Soundsystem, Benny Rodrigues, Bicep , Bingo Players, Blawan, Boris Brejcha, Boys Noize, Clouds, Dâm-FunK, Dannic, Davide Squillace, Delta Funktionen, Derrick May, Detroit Swindle, Dimitri, Dixon, DJ Bone, DJ Jean, Dominik Eulberg, Dusky, Eats Everything, Eelke Kleijn, Eprom, Falco Benz, Fatima Yamaha, Fedde Le Grand, Felix Da Housecat, Floorplan, Gabriel Ananda, Gallowstreet Brass Band, Gerd Janson, Goldfish, Gramatik, Gui Boratto, H.O.S.H., Heidi, Hernan Cattaneo, Hot Since 82, Howling, Interstellar Funk, Jackmaster, James Zabiela, Jamie Jones, Jennifer Cardini, Job Jobse, John Digweed, John Talabot, Josh Wink, Kaiserdisco, Kerri Chandler, KiNK, Kölsch, Laidback Luke, Loco Dice, M.A.N.D.Y., Magda, Mano Le Tough, Marc Romboy, Marco Bailey, Marcus Worgull, Mark Knight, Masters At Work, Max Cooper, Maya Jane Coles, Michael Mayer, Miss Melera, Miss Nine, Mount Kimbie, Move D, Noir, Oliver Koletzki, Optimo, Paco Osuna, Patrice Bäumel, Paul Ritch, Pete Tong, Pig Dan, Popof, Prosumer, Rachel Green, Recondite, Richy Ahmed, Ripperton, Roman Flügel, Roog, Sandrien, Scuba, Sevdaliza, Skream, Soul Clap, Stephan Bodzin, Steve Rachmad, Stimming, Tama Sumo, The Advent, The Black Madonna, Todd Terry, Tom Trago, Torus, Vato Gonzalez, Voices From The Lake, Weval, William Kouam Djoko, Young Marco and many others.

If you’d like to check out the full lineup and more about ADE, you can check out the website right here!

About Nick Pesavento

Hi I’m Nick! I am going back to school soon to round out some pre req’s before attempting my Ph.D in physics. I love this music and cannot imagine my life without it. Having a passion for this music, this culture allows me to write about any part of it with excitement and determination.

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SEPTEMBER 1 ? Several buttocks, to be precise, plus their “forward-facing” equipment and a bevy of bosoms. All of them naked, yet coated in elaborate body paint. And I can testify that every centimetre of those bodies had been painted.

After two months away in (comparatively) conservative France and England, this was my adopted city’s wink to welcome me back into town. Cycling past this colourful crew, I kept my glances discreet and rearranged my face to give an impression of nonchalance. I’m trying to fit in like the locals, remember. But then I noticed our Dutch neighbours looking as baffled and amused as I felt and it occurred to me that there are still some things that will surprise even the unfazed Amsterdammers.

A Google search revealed that August 15th was Amsterdam Bodypainting Day and what I’d seen was the march through the streets that followed the application of the paint itself on the Rembrandtplein — an appropriate spot for the job.

Rembrandt would have been proud. ? Picture by Dr FeelgoodReading this, my respect for the body painting models soared: to walk naked through the streets covered in body paint took (ahem) balls; to stand naked and in public while it was applied would have taken real courage.

Bodypainting Day was started in 2014 in New York City by Andy Golub to celebrate the promotion of body acceptance, artistic expression and human connection through art. There are a number of philosophies behind the event, from the building of trust between artist and model, and the importance of being yourself free of status symbols, to reclaiming public spaces and examining the purpose of art.

It was certainly an arresting event and one that I expect will gain in popularity in years to come, especially in this city that revels in the freedom of self-expression. Next year I’ll be prepared for the parade, but still wildly unlikely to model for it.

On the topic of popular events, last week Amsterdam hosted SAIL, an event that claims to be the largest free public event in the world. As the name suggests, this extravaganza of tall ships and other noteworthy vessels celebrates the city’s maritime legacy, having been first held in 1975 to mark Amsterdam’s 700th jubilee.

The first event was such a success that it was decided to repeat it every five years (a huge amount of organisation is involved) and, since then, SAIL has gone from strength to strength, with ever more boats and tourists visiting from all over the country and, indeed, the world.

A mere handful of the thousands of boats at SAIL 2015. ? Picture by Penny VegterLast week, thousands of boats in a huge variety of shapes and sizes accompanied the “stars of the show” ? a stunning array of tall ships from many different countries ? along the North Sea Canal and into the IJ harbour behind Amsterdam Central Station.

There were so many masts visible in this area that it was easy to envisage the city as the vibrant port it was during its Golden Era, when The Netherlands ruled the waves.

Not only sailing boats are represented; newer naval craft and unusual vintage ships also sailed majestically into the harbour, to periodic bursts of cannon fire, while pleasure crafts carrying merry (most boats in Amsterdam are well-equipped with on-board bars) spectators chugged alongside.

A lot of Amsterdammers have been grumbling about how many events are being held in August (and the consequent surge in visitors to the city), but event organisers need to capitalise on good weather in this country while they can.

This is probably the reason that the Amsterdam Grachtenfestival (canal festival) took place over these past few days — a celebration of classical music held in diverse locations across the city, including physically ON the canals themselves.

Spectators can rock up to these concerts on foot or by bike, but of course the real way to see them is from a boat floating on the canal itself. This is where you’ll see the die-hard culture vultures reclining in comfortable boats, a glass in the hand, a bottle in the ice bucket.

Spectators watching a concert from their boats on the Prinsengracht. ? Picture by Dr FeelgoodAmsterdammers might grumble, but there’s nothing quite like relaxing with friends while classical notes drift across the water at dusk, bouncing gently off the walls of monumental buildings.

Although Europe is struggling economically and geopolitically at the moment, European countries have always cherished their history and culture. The policies and funding that support and enhance their heritage — whether buildings, art or cultural festivals — serve in turn to boost tourism and national pride.

SAIL is a perfect example of a cultural event founded on heritage that boosts its country’s economy, lifting the spirits of tourists and residents alike.

While we lived in Asia, we were frequently disappointed by the ease with which historical buildings were pulled down in pursuit of a capitalist “here and now” dream.

In our part of India, for example, historical bungalows were frequently pulled down to be replaced by steel and glass apartment blocks; an entire walled village hundreds of years old had a highway built through it; and officials were easily persuaded by a wad of cash to fell trees that stood in the way of developers.

For the sake of future generations, national pride, aesthetics and — ultimately — tourism, I would urge people and politicians of Asia to treasure their history and the homes and monuments that enshrine moments in time. Imagine Venice without palazzos, England without cottages or Amsterdam without the magnificent houses from its Golden Era.   

They would be charmless, in stark contrast to the glorious, varied, historical and atmospheric Amsterdam that tourists flock to today.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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The Scottish Premiership season commences this weekend and fans can expect to see a swarm of new faces run out for their side for the first time.

It has been a busy period of transfer activity as teams look to strengthen and build on their previous campaign.

With gaps to fill, many clubs have been looking outside of the Scottish border for new talent.

Alongside club stalwarts and players familiar with the Scottish game, which players will help shape the season?

Dedryck Boyata

Boyata celebrates scoring the winner against Qarabag

Dedryck Boyata (Celtic)

Celtic built their title-winning side around a solid foundation at the back last season.

Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer were at the heart of a defence that kept 22 clean sheets in the league. With the latter returning to parent club Manchester City, manager Ronny Deila has been quick to find a replacement.

Dedryck Boyata

signed a four-year contract this summer,

ending a nine-year stay at Manchester City and the 24-year-old has already looked settled among his new team-mates. A goal on his competitive debut against Stjarnan, followed with the winner on Thursday, helped Celtic secure a

1-0 first leg lead

over Qarabag.

Celtic will be looking for this form to continue as they chase a fifth consecutive title.

Danny Ward

Danny Ward will be looking to secure the number one spot at Pittodrie

Danny Ward (Aberdeen)

Last season, Aberdeen had their best league campaign since the 1993-94 season as they secured second place. This season, they will be looking to improve on the promising strides they have taken under Derek McInnes.

The Dons have strength in depth in most departments, but the

acquisition of goalkeeper Danny Ward from Liverpool

on a season-long loan looks to have been a smart piece of business.

McInnes deployed both Jamie Langfield, 35, and Scott Brown, 30, between the sticks last season, but the early indications seem to point to Ward being given the opportunity to stake a claim to be the club’s number one this season.

Impressive displays in the Europa League qualifiers have strengthened the 22-year-old Welshman’s position and he could be a key factor if the Dons are to push Celtic all the way in this season’s title race.

Darko Bodul

Darko Bodul has big boots to fill at Tannadice

Darko Bodul (Dundee United)

Nadir Ciftci’s £1.5m departure to Celtic

this summer has left Dundee United boss Jackie McNamara with a position to fill in his forward line. McNamara will be hoping that Croatia Under-21 cap Darko Bodul will be the man to do the job.

At 26, Bodul has plenty of experience throughout Europe. Beginning his career in his native Austria with First Vienna, Bodul has also had spells with Dutch sides Heerenveen, Ajax and Sparta Rotterdam, as well as stints with Nacional of Portugal, Austrians Sturm Graz and Danish outfit Odense. He left Austrian Bundesliga side Rheindorf Altach at the end of last season.

Bodul made his pre-season debut in a United shirt during the 2-1 defeat by Queens Park Rangers, coming on as a second-half substitute before starting in the 1-0 friendly defeat by Watford, lasting an hour before being replaced. McNamara described his new signing as

”technically gifted, skilful and a penalty box goal scorer”.

With some impressive teams on his CV and a two-year contract, United will hope to see the best of Bodul in the coming season.


Sneijder poses in his new colours after his unveiling

Rodney Sneijder (Dundee United)

He may have the most famous name in Scottish football, but Dutchman Rodney Sneijder wants to

be his own man at Dundee United.

The younger brother of Galatasaray midfielder Wesley, Rodney was

signed on a two-year deal

after his release by Almere City in his homeland. It marks the first time that the 24-year-old midfielder has played for a club outside of the Netherlands.

Having begun his career at Ajax, Sneijder will be looking to kick-start his time in Scottish football when the season gets under way. With United looking to rebuild after the recent departures of Gary Mackay-Stevens and Stuart Armstrong to Celtic, it would appear that he will likely get the opportunity to do so.

Sneijder may get his first chance on the opening weekend as his side face Aberdeen at Tannadice this Sunday.

Juanma Delgado

Delgado made his competitive debut in the League Cup first round

Juanma Delgado (Hearts)

After winning the Championship last season, Hearts will be determined to re-establish themselves as a top-flight club after their season in the second tier.

Robbie Neilson has conducted a squad overhaul as they look to build upon their title success. The conclusion of Genero Zeefuik’s loan spell from Groningen has left a void up front that Neilson will be looking for Juanma Delgado to occupy.

The 24-year-old Spaniard joins from Greek Super League outfit Kalloni

on a three-year contract.

At 6ft 2in, the former Levante youth player will have a presence in the forward line that Neilson will require to meet his ambitions of

finishing in the top six this season.

He is described by his new manager as “a good player, technically very good, great in the air and has good link-up play – and he’s a great character”.

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AMSTERDAM — Dutch authorities advised Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs to avoid traveling in international trains last year.

Jacobs made the revelation on Sunday during a speech near the eastern city of Arnhem, days after an armed Islamist attempted to kill passengers aboard the Thalys train, which connects Paris to Amsterdam.

“The events illustrate the threat is real not only for Jews, but for all in Europe because we are in the same boat,” Jacobs told JTA ahead of the event, where 500 people convened to note the 40th anniversary of his years in service of Dutch Jewish communities.

The police advice was due to Jacobs’ official function, for which he often appears on television, making him easily identifiable, he said.

Jacobs, a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, whom Dutch officials have often described as a “bridge builder” for his interfaith and outreach work, said the wave of violent anti-Semitism that began in the early 2000s in Europe “poses a dilemma for bridge builders because now we are seeing elements to which one does not want to serve as a bridge.”

He also said that growing anti-Semitism is causing him to doubt “whether to advise members of the community to stay, or to leave.” In addition to hundreds of Jews who convened at the event in Oosterbeek near Arnhem, the gathering also was attended by senior politicians, including former speaker of the Dutch lower house, Gerdi Verbeet, senior police officers and prominent rabbis of the Rabbinical Center for Europe and leaders of other faiths. Also in attendance was Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands Haim Divon.

Jacobs, whose home has been vandalized five times in recent years and who is currently under police surveillance, has said that if not for his responsibilities to the Jewish communities of the Netherlands, he would leave for Israel.

In 2012, Jacobs was made an officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau — among Holland’s highest honors — by Beatrix, who was then Queen of the Netherlands.

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Scientists understand how neurons, the smallest computational units of the brain, behave during tasks, but how brains learn to make efficient choices is unknown, in particular when the brain’s working memory is involved.
In his thesis, Jaldert Rombouts, PhD student in the life sciences research group at Centrum Wiskunde Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam, investigates neural networks, mathematical models inspired by the brain. In particular he studied how such networks can be trained through reinforcement learning. The researcher developed a biologically plausible neural network model that can learn to remember past events in order to use them in the future. The results of this research are relevant for the development of self-learning systems.

To build his model Rombouts combined insights from neurosciences with theoretical principles from machine learning such as ‘Temporal Difference Learning’. Since the late nineties, this theory is of great interest because it connects mathematical principles with observations in the brain, and sheds light on how animals may learn from reward and punishment.

He shows that neural networks can learn complex behavior and remember which information is relevant and which isn’t, just by rewarding and punishing the model appropriately. “According to this principle a telephone might be trained to change the volume for calls under certain circumstances”, he explains. “The telephone is “rewarded” when the call is answered and “punished” by not doing so. In this way, behavior can be adjusted in the right direction.”

According to Rombouts, self-learning systems can be applied in many process and product innovations. “Programming is one of the most expensive components in product development, and self-learning systems may yield significant savings.”

Rombouts will defend his dissertation “Biologically Plausible reinforcement Learning”, 4 September, 2015 at VU University of Amsterdam. Promotors are Prof.dr. Pieter Roelfsema (Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience) and Dr. Sander Bohte (CWI).

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