Winter Dusk

Jupiter and a brand new crescent Moon (with Earth Shine) yesterday at dusk.


Doorstep delivery

Mouser is going out hunting again. I haven't given it the fancy tinned cat food it has been enjoying the past two weeks. Kitteh turned up sporting a fresh field mouse. The butcher delivering fresh meat on the doorstep is not something of times long past.



I hadn't had one of these in ages.
I just OD'd on one of these.
Beware of the three B's!
Bread, banana & brown sugar.


Food Pareidolia

Festive foodstuffs at our casa tonight.
The Teens™ felt kinda embarrassed.


Indoor flying

Dr Livingstone has been flying his indoor copter. The Blade mCX RTF by E-flite. That's a synonym for grown-ups-play-things. Every time the battery has recharged, he starts flying the contraption around the living room.
Mouser doesn't like it, but at least it's not as scared as is was from that weasel ball from Prague. The helicoper's trim was a bit off and it kinda flew in silly circles. But it's been adjusted now. I've only flown it only once. I tried to land it on my desk, but failed miserably. After crashing it multiple times I decided I'd had enough.
Dr Livingstone is so exited playing with it, he's even bumped into one of the bookcases and managed to break something that was on one of the shelves. He promised me he'd superglue the bit that broke off...



Yves Leterme fails (again).


Omega Pharma retracts E-waves phone chip

News just in:
According to Belga Omega Pharma have just released a press statement saying they will stop the sale of the magical E-Waves Phone (y) Chip to chemists.
A huge mass of critical voices arose amongst scientists and bloggers after the press conference last week when the chip was launched with a lot of bells and whistles.
Intellectually honest scientists demanded a thorough testing of the chip. Which in my opinion is a very polite way of saying:"It's crap".
See, in this world the evidence needs to be supplied by the claimant.
Now Omeaga Pharma had it tested and -surprise surprise- the tests show it doesn't actually do what they claimed.
"This conclusion, and the fact that we take into account the criticisms of doctors and professors, has motioned Omega Pharma to stop the sale to chemists."
Oh and they have also issued an apology because the brouhaha of the press conference didn't actually coincide with the facts. (In other words; they were peddling porkies).
People who have bought the chip can now get a refund. Now who said there is no such thing as bad publicity?
So that's all right then?

Online Monkey

Plantin-Moretus's online monkey hadn't gotten its banana the day it typed up the text on the museum's 'Practical' webpage. I was looking for some directions on how to get there, where to park etc.
The Site warned me there was difficult access via the "Leien" and referred me to this site: http://www.deleien.be . I don't know what it intended to warn me about but I think someone forgot to pay the internet host and the domain name is up for sale now.
The Online Monkey also informed me that there was free access for people who were hadicaped.

Now my first thought was: Does Iranian Olympic Gold medalist taekwondo fighter Hadi Saei actually wear a cape? And why would I have to go dressed up like that to get into the museum for free?
(sidenote: If I was sitting at the counter, I'd let you in for free if you'd gone to all that trouble btw)
After my absurd reasoning I had to conclude it was just a typo. A bit of a no-no for a museum on the history of printing and all trade associated with printmaking. Including proofreaders and type-setters.
Oh and another thing: There is not a single sign post or map of the city anywhere to be found in poxy Antwerp. It's a bleedin' maze! Even Ghent is one-up on that point (though I hate to admit it).
And all the people actually living there are fully aware of the problem and kind of shrug their shoulders and go "yes, they should put up a few signs. But they're not gonna because everyone who lives here knows their way around".


Anyway, if you're ever in Antwerp, take out an entire day to visit the Plantin-Moretus museum. It is absolutely worth every minute of your time. It has a dazzling amount of important relics of the printing world, including two Gutenberg bibles. It's really enchanting and the 16th-18th century buildings are amazing. The walls are adorned with leather and every room has squeaky floorboards, but no moldy potato hidden underneath them (yes, that is another Blackadder reference). If you're a bibliophile like me you really have to go there..
Oh and pick up your freebies while you're there! I got a nice set of bookmarkers (12 pieces for every month of 2009) and two booklets on the history of typography and a catalogue of all the rooms and exhibits.


Moon Perigee

The Moon last night at perigee.
Only 356,566 kilometers from us.
So close you could almost touch it.


Omega Pharma quantum wave porkies: Follow up

A quick follow up on the Omega Pharma E-Waves Phone Chip scam:
The University of Ghent put up a press statement on their faculty website distancing themselves entirely from Dr Aelbrecht (of the company More Energy solutions). Find it here.

Apparently the Peter Aelbrecht putting the mumbo jumbo technobabble spin on the e chip scam is an entirely different Aelbrecht from the dr. Ir. of the same name who was attached to the Information technology research faculty at the UG.

I had expressed my doubts on Dr Aelbrecht's academic provenance in my Omega Pharma is peddling porkies post and the fact he was dubbed the 'radiation expert' of the UG, and had wondered why no one from the university had contacted the news desks spouting this disinformation earlier.
Now is this due to some sloppy reporting on behalf of the journalists or has Mr. Aelbrecht knowingly taken advantage of the position of his namesake to lend himself some more credibility?
The similarity is just too close for comfort.
I'm not aware if any corrections or apologies have been issued, especially from the public broadcaster who dedicated a lot of air time to the scam.
It's not because a company gives a press conference it's actually news or gobble up everything they claim as the Gospel. Guys, 'cmon.
And here was little Mrs B wondering if it was April Fools already.


Murder & Revenge at the Hair Salon

Morning coffee at the hair dresser. I'm reading Bloodfeud by Richard Fletcher. It's about murder and revenge in Anglo-Saxon England. Eleventh century history is not everyone's cup of tea, but the book is a fun, delightful read and gives a nice, clear explanation on why people were slain and the backstabbing going on prior and subsequent to the invasion of William of Normandy in 1066. Even though there might be some confusion as to the names everyone had. Ælfhelm, Ælfflæd, Waltheof, Eadwulf, Ealdred, Oswulf. And my favourite: Tostig.
"Did you hear about hat guy who got stripped and ty-rapped to a lamppost with a notice on his back saying he was a thief?"
So I'm reading about how King Harald of Norway and his ally Tostig had both met their deaths in an immense carnage and suddenly the hair dressers start yapping to each other, trying to outperform the noise the blow-dryers are making.
News nowadays suddenly seems so trivial.


List time

I'll just jump on the blog bandwagon and churn out one of those 'name x things' or 'have you' lists that go round once in a while:

1. Started your own blog (What are you reading right now?)

2. Slept under the stars (I hate camping but I've done it)

3. Played in a band (I have, until my drum kit caught fire. Yes it does sound Spinal Tappish but at least I didn't explode)

4. Visited Hawaii (Nope, but I'd like to go there and re-enact entire scenes of Magnum PI)

5. Watched a meteor shower (And plenty of 'em)

6. Given more than you can afford to charity (Can I consider myself a charity? Mihi. Btw still accepting donations...)

7. Been to Disneyland (The Paris one)

8. Climbed a mountain (And came down a hill?)

9. Held a praying mantis (Why would I want to do that?)

10. Sang a solo (My life should be turned into a musical)

11. Bungee jumped (And lived to tell the tale)

12. Visited Paris (I've even been kissed underneath the Eifel Tower)

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (Going swimming during an electrical storm is exhilarating)

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (Singing and linocutting (a printing art form) and I've also managed to turn bickering into an art form)

15. Adopted a child (I don't suppose my little darling Mouser counts)

16. Had food poisoning (No and quite pleased about it)

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (I'm not keen on hights)

18. Grown your own vegetables (I once grew some lettuce, but instead of growing into a nice crop like shape it grew upwards and measured about a meter). 

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (Doh! I've never been to the Louvre)
20. Slept on an overnight train (I took a sleeper train to Portugal once, which was very cool)

21. Had a pillow fight (I never had pillow fights as a child, only as an adult)

22. Hitch hiked (yeppers)

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (I was stoned out of my skull and kept falling asleep, so I stayed home because I was useless)

24. Built a snow fort (On the rare occasion there was ample snow when I was a kid, I built a tower with a slide and other kids had to pay tribute money to come on the fort and go down the slide)

25. Held a lamb (every season they break loose and we have to put them on the right side of the fence) 

26. Gone skinny dipping (Frequently but not lately)

27. Run a Marathon (No, and I'm not planning on doing so in the near future either)

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (I've not been to Venice or Italy (yet))

29. Seen a total eclipse (sun or moon eclipse? Hah!)

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (I've seen more sunsets than sunrises. I'm not an early riser myself)

31. Hit a home run (No, I was a gymnast as youngster)

32. Been on a cruise (Not on one of those ships where they get food poisoning all the time. I've done boating trips though. I'll count that as a cruise)

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (nooo)

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (I've been there, but it's only castle ruins left)

35. Seen an Amish community (No, but I've made fun of one)

36. Taught yourself a new language (Well, I'm still trying to get to grips with Norwegian)

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (Are you kidding me? Hungry like the wolf)

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person (Nope, Italy va bene)

39. Gone rock climbing (I usually take the stairs)

40. Seen Michelangelos David (Still in Italy... so no)

41. Sung karaoke (ah, the things you get up to while in higher education...)

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt (Nope)

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (I'm also known as Mrs Scrooge)

44. Visited Africa (No, It's got scary insects, I'm not going there any time soon)

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight (Coincides with the skinny dipping)

46. Been transported in an ambulance (Yes, but it was only for a short feature film and I had to play dead)

47. Had your portrait painted (No, it would be a waste of canvas)

48. Gone deep sea fishing (Nope)

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person (It's the Italy thing again)

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (yep, the year after I was there A View To A Kill was in movie theatres)

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (No, I don't like not being able to breathe normal)
52. Kissed in the rain (mmmm)

53. Played in the mud (albeit accidently)

54. Gone to a drive-in theater (No, but I would like to)

55. Been in a movie (Being that corpse in the ambulance again)

56. Visited the Great Wall of China (Nah)

57. Started a business (Internet=serious business)

58. Taken a martial arts class (Yes, I actually had a demo judo class taught by Ingrid Bergmans)

59. Visited Russia (No, alas, top of my list is Putingrad*)

60. Served at a soup kitchen (No)

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies (No)

62. Gone whale watching (Yep, but the whale had snuffed it because it had washed ashore)

63. Got flowers for no reason (That sweet Dr. Livingstone...)

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (Yep, the dark Leffe afterwards was an awesome reward)

65. Gone sky diving (No way)

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (I've been to Breendonk a couple of times, a forced labour camp)

67. Bounced a check (Cheques are so last century)

68. Flown in a helicopter (Yes and nearly fell out of one for the record)

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (I couldn't care less)

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial (No)

71. Eaten Caviar (Mmmm caviar)

72. Pieced a quilt (I'm not a shriveled up prune you know)

73. Stood in Times Square (Nooo)

74. Toured the Everglades (Nooo)

75. Been fired from a job (I've never actually had a job)

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London (Yep, but it will bore your pants off)

77. Broken a bone (How's an ankle for a bone)

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (since I wasn't driving it, technically I wasn't speeding)

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (Nooo)

80. Published a book (I wish, but who would want to depart with their hard earned cash to read my ramblings?)

81. Visited the Vatican (Nooo, that still in Italy last time I checked)

82. Bought a brand new car (I love my lovely Mini)

83. Walked in Jerusalem (Nope)

84. Had your picture in the newspaper (On several occasions thank you very much; even in colour!)
85. Read the entire Bible (I have sadly enough. Both the Old and New one)

86. Visited the White House (No, but I hope Mr Obama will invite me in the course of his term to discuss the role of the US in the world as a global actor)

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (No, we're not cavemen. I pay people to do that for me)

88. Had chickenpox (One in my eye to be more precise)

89. Saved someone’s life (If it involves giving blood then yes)

90. Sat on a jury (No, I haven't but I'd do it if I were asked)

91. Met someone famous (I have an extensive list)

92. Joined a book club (Online yes)
93. Lost a loved one (Several)

94. Had a baby (Thankfully no)

95. Seen the Alamo in person (If it's that movie starring Dennis Quaid then the answer is yes)

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake (No, that's got to taste icky. I would go and see Spiral Jetty by Judd if I was within spitting distance of Salt Lake)

97. Been involved in a law suit (Hell, yeh)

98. Owned a cell phone (And curse at the montly invoices that come with them)
99. Been stung by a bee (I trod on one by accident)

100. Read an entire book in one day (Even -dare I say- two!)

*aka Saint Petersburg

48/100 Not bad.
I must go to Italy, and the US to up that score a little.

And publish that book.

And piece that quilt.


Omega Pharma is peddling porkies

Omega Pharma is peddling porkies. In a big way.
I even saw Dr. Peter Aelbrecht claim the egg being boiled between two cell phones to be real.
How many times has that been debunked?
Something puzzles me about Mr Aelbrecht. In televised interviews he is dubbed the Radiation Expert of the University of Ghent. Now, I may have missed this part but didn't he cease working as a uni researcher almost a decade ago?
Maybe some people over at Imec could illuminate me on this subject of his affiliation with the UG (I know you guys have been lurking on the blog through webproxy).
I just chuckled all the way through the Omega Pharma press release. It's a real screamer and riddled with techno babble.

Here's a small excerpt:
"Their E-Waves Phone Chip beams a quantum physical information wave, which is in counter-phase with the harmful components of the electromagnetic waves — thus neutralizing the potentially harmful waves, as demonstrated in various studies and tests."

Let me run that by you again:
"Their E-Waves Phone Chip beams a quantum physical information wave,"
That's just gobbledygook. A red flag goes up when I spy the word "quantum". I will therefore deduct a minimum of ten legitimacy points.

We continue:
"which is in counter-phase with the harmful components of the electromagnetic waves — thus neutralizing the potentially harmful waves,"
If you cancel out electromagnetic waves... well then you're going to have what techno lay people call -a very bad line-. You are actually messing with the performance of the phone.

It goes on:
"as demonstrated in various studies and tests"
Impressive nonappearance of footnotes = epic fail.

Now, I'm not going to pick the whole terrible thing apart, I have a life you know.
Ok, just one more...

"Artificially created electromagnetic radiation interferes with the natural electromagnetic field. In particular for high frequency radiation (between 3MHz and 10 GHz), as can be found in mobile telephone use or DECT applications, there is a growing international consensus that frequent exposure to such radiation can be potentially harmful. On October 8, 2008 this consensus was reinforced with the publication of the interim findings of the worldwide Interphone study, conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO)."

A growing consensus of potential harm? Of interim findings? They're really being economical with the truth yet again and streaching the use of qualifiers here.

From the Omega Pharma website:
Omega Pharma promotes creativity and entrepreneurship.

How very true. Being creative with facts and making a quick buck during the Christmas season (=the entrepreneurship bit) is something they really go for.

The part that worries me is that it will be sold through chemists, it lends some kind of air of legitimacy to it.
Ah well, they'll just put it next to all that homeopathic hogwash they sell (which, incidentally, is still being repayed by our Glorious Health System).

EDIT: I have awarded this marketing scam riddled with fraudulent claims by Omega Pharma the much dreaded Mrs B's Official Seal of Epic FAIL!

ps: Check out the follow-up post on this scam here



Seasonal depression.
It's that time of year again. Here's something to get everyone through the day.
A cute little Loldonkey with a rubber ducky.



Reverse Logic

I was on the scavenge again for a free Mini fleece blanket. Before I could enter the Mini site this challenging box appeared. Thankfully I grasp the concept of reverse reasoning but I'm sure loads of people do not. Or just do not understand one or the other language.
I wonder how many people end up clicking on the button that still leads to a page in a language they don't understand.
Someone's been thinking about this one. I think it's very clever.


Another One

Another freebie:
Invaders Must Die. New single by The Prodigy. Available for free download on their site here.
Doesn't sound bad either. Has that typical Prodigy sound to it. Starts out with a little rumble/tingle like No Good and then a reminiscent Breathe kick up.
For a limited time only! That's a Merry Christmas from the band to the fans. Full Album out in March 2009.


Science is everywhere!

As mentioned before, I'm not one to pooh-pooh freebies. So here to share with you all:
Interested in science? Even only slightly? Wanna know what the Belgian government is spending our pennies on?
Sign up for a free subscription today. Go to the science connection website and start clicking. Past issues available for download too.

From the Science Connection website:
The Belgian Science Policy has launched a new magazine "Science Connection". This free publication (five times a year) is designed to provide an in-depth review of the office's various components. Those who are keen on space, the arts or scientific trends will definitely be astonished at the items on offer in this publication issued by the "Ministry of Knowledge".

Ministry of Knowledge. Miniknow? Good thing they added those brackets themselves...

So this gets a big thumbs up and Mrs B's prestigious and much sought after Official Seal of Approval.
Remember, only if you see this Seal you know it has been verified and scrutinized for the sake of it's trustworthiness and guaranteed hours of pure, unadulterated fun by me personally.


Train of thought

Mrs B's train of thought:
1) I have friends in my neighbourhood?
2) Is someone stalking me?
3) Wait. What? I have friends? Friends. Plural.
4) Where did they come from?
5) Someone has a crush on me?
6) Crush Messenger? WTF?
8) There is no 7)
9) I get confused by spam banners.


Scientific Outreach with a difference

Dance your PhD winners were announced on Thursday!
For those of you who have never heard of it: It's a dance contest for people with PhD's.
Researchers from around the world are asked to interpret their Ph.D. research in dance form, film it and post it for all the world to see on YouTube.
For a quick run down on this year's winners: navigate here.
For a complete list of entries with videos check here.
So who said scientists were locked in an ivory tower? Last year's winner was an Oxford achaeologist sporting nothing more than a translucent loincloth.


The Elf Treasure

I feel sorry for the guide we got when visiting the Aachener Domschatzkammer on Tuesday.
Trust me to be in his group and ask him questions he did not have the answer to (I swear I didn't do it on purpose).
One of my fellow students pointed out he resembled Legolas, Elf of Mirkwood. I haven't seen any Lord of the Rings movies, but I did seem to remember that in popular folklore elves tend to have pointy ears and do not have pierced eyebrows.
Funnily enough there are several exhibits made out of Elfenbein (=German for ivory) on display and that made me chuckle all to myself.


Our Western Heritage

War, rape, pillage, bloodfeud, combat, mutilation.

I love the Middle Ages. Now if only I could remember all the details about roughly 700 years worth of information on economic, political, religious and cultural matters, my trial examination on Thursday will be a breeze.


6.67 x 10E-8 dyne

Dr Livingstone dreamt this little gem up yesterday. Here's his contribution to science philosophy:

"All sex really boils down to is actually just two people trying to overcome gravity."

That makes me stop and think about the first gravity experiments that were carried out by dropping balls from the Tower of Pisa...

I really read too much into these things...


Napoleon is a kitchen utensil

Because Dr Livingstone broke the wing corkscrew (I told you it wasn't me!), he went out and bought one of those designer ones to replace it.
I have a severe case of pareidolia: I think it looks just like the silhouette of Napoleon in hat and cloak, legs a little astride.


It wasn't me (really)

Honestly, how many times have you heard that someone broke their wing corkscrew?
What was that? I have a 'Never' at the back. Thank you.
Moldy corks break, glass might shatter on a rare occasion, even eyes get poked out now and then when the contraption is used to remove a stubborn stopper (I once had a narrow escape as an interested moppet).
Ours has broken in two. Is it a severe case of metal fatigue? Or just plain old overuse?

(I plead not guilty, Your Honour)


America's new superhero?

Is this the face of America's new superhero?

It could turn out his legislature could be a lot like the plot of Superman III:

Disguised as an Army general and a WAC officer, McCain and Palin give Obama a chunk of republicanite as a gift, and are dismayed to see that it appears to have no effect on him. However, the compound begins to produce symptoms: after a flying, ambitious start of his presidency Obama becomes selfish, which causes him to delay in rescuing the troops serving in far away countries, delaying environmental and health reforms and to question his own self-worth.
As the budget cuts take effect, Obama becomes depressed, angry, and casually destructive, committing petty acts of vandalism such as blowing out the Olympic torch and straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Republicans, seeing this, create new plans and order a supercomputer to be built.
Obama sullenly assuages his depression with a drinking binge, but is overcome by guilt and undergoes a nervous breakdown. After nearly crash-landing in Afghanistan, he splits into two personas: the evil, selfish Obama and the moral, righteous Obama. The evil Obama and Obama, the embodiment of his remaining good qualities, engage in an epic battle. Although Obama is initially overpowered by his alter ego, he eventually takes the upper hand, feverishly strangling his evil identity until it fades from sight. Thereafter he is restored to his benevolent former self and continues to save the world and is elected to a second term.


Finally The Crazies (that whole Reagan entourage that was reanimated) are going to get turned out of the White House. I can't wait to see the look on Dubya's face in January. If you're going to miss the bushisms, download the iBush, "The Artificial Oval Office Occupant Simulator". (Mac OS X only). It makes political statements much like a certain Mr. G. W. Bush might do. Passes the Turing test every single time you click the button. Actual quotes make up over 90 percent of the statements generated by the application, the other 10 percent being filler material.
Mr Obama is going to have a lot of hard work to do in the New World. Let's hope it is not just all talk but he surrounds himself with some good advisors. It'll be a rough four years. But I'm glad so many people went out to vote.
There is one thing that gets up my nose every time I hear it. They always blurt out 'God bless America'. I don't get it. Not fair on all the atheists and people who dig Vishnu. And they keep saying it in the imperative. No wonder the country has been going downhill. The mythical creature they seem to be referring to obviously hasn't been blessing it.
Maybe the slaughter of a few innocents on the altar of democracy might help?


A Total shambles

As we are not house owners, we are stuck with the heating facilities in the house we rent. They still haven't been updated, the gist being: the windows are still all single-glazed and the roof has never been isolated. It is not the best way to cut down on our carbon footprint. But our landlord is of the penny pinching kind and does not give a toss about doing the environment a favour.
So we had some polluting heating fuel delivered today. Luckily we've been eagle-eying the oil prices the last couple of months to get the best price at the right time.
We've managed to pay just as much as the price was last year. And according to our inside informant, and his company's estimative calculations, the price of heating fuel will go up 1/3rd by December. The dollar is expected to gain on the euro and will push up prices.
After having parted with a good sum of money, the man from the oil supplier gave us a free calendar for 2009. It was titled 'Sea & Ocean' and displayed a plethora of yummy nature images mostly by Benoit Stichelbaut.
This oil company, one of the six so-called supermajors, has been desperately trying to restore its image after several serious pollution events in the last decades. Like what? you might ask.
Oooh, lemme think. Remember the huge oil spill of the Erika back in 1999 that severely polluted about 400 kms of French shores? Ironically, or should I say shamefacedly, some of the worst hit areas from that oil spill have been included in this latest charm offensive.
The Breton island of Belle Ile-en-Mer (featured in May), the peninsula of Quiberon (September), the Raz foreland with lighthouse (April) and another light house on the rocky shore of South Finistère (November) are just a few which I have managed to identify. They look suspiciously oil-free.
A shot of "Tierra del Fuego" at the Cape Horn (June), notorious for being one of the most hazardous shipping routes in the world, has also been included to remind us all of the kind of huge storms that broke Erika in two and made her leak her cargo.
Oooh. What's that word I'm looking for? Painful?
And to top it all off it says on the back "With our best wishes for a Happy New Year".
Well, I'm sure all those volunteers and locals who helped clean up the huge mess still think of New Year nearly ten years ago as one they'll never forget, certainly not a happy one.

I think it is in very poor taste and am absolutely appalled by this inappropriate and crass kind of advertising.
It's even worse than that memorable balls up at the Sunday Times in the early seventies of last century (click picture to enlarge).
Or even the recent sensitive display at The Daily Torygraph of an advertisement for the musical 'Gone with the Wind' juxtaposed with a very gripping picture of Burmese children orphaned by Cyclone Nargis.


Pigeon: Impossible

What happens when you're a secret agent and a pigeon gets trapped in your briefcase? Go check out Pigeon: Impossible


Not today thank you

I have a trial examination today and I'm not ready. I have done the whole course, I've seen it, read it and tried to memorize it. But I tend to forget very easy stuff and words. I'll probably botch up and confuse everything.
I so want to go down to the gym and flex my aching muscles and joints.
But I can't until after.
Ah well, as Hercule Poirot would say: 'I will do this by using the little grey cells'.
Unfortunatly I have killed most of them off by consuming alcohol over the course of several decades. The spud-faced nippers in my class are still one step ahead of me. But I suspect they will catch up by way of binge drinking in no time.
First puberty. But then: Ah! Maturity!
And then: Oh no! Dementia!
Alas impaired reasoning is bothering me at the moment.
I just hope I do not forget to turn off the gas when I leave for uni...


Oh! Look a squirrel!

This little fellow has been rummaging around the garden lately. Sciurus vulgaris. I only see it in the morning, they're only active that time of day in winter.
Maybe it's the same little poor bugger I saw back in spring when Mouser was in hot pursuit.
I don't know how it seems to remember where it stashed its nuts, or whatever it's saving for harsher times.
It looks to me the animal kind of happens upon them per chance.
Like someone looking for car keys and having to retrace their steps to find out where they could have gone.
Everytime we're doing the washing up I can see the squirrel raiding Mr Moleslayer's™ garden. The walnut tree is a very popular venue.
I've been keeping a camera on the ready to make a nice picture of the creature, but they are very twitchy, easily frightened and can dart off in a flash.
Yesterday it was on the other side of the house tucking away some goodies. I managed to snap the little redhead, but I hope to get some better pictures sooner or later.


I haz a Michelangelo

Breaking news!
A Belgian art historian in training has shocked the art world by discovering photographic evidence suggesting Michelangelo owned a cat and the animal was the artist's main inspiration behind the famous ceiling painting of God creating Adam in the Sistine Chapel in the Apostolic Palace.



A New York second

With Newtonian Time the physical concepts associated with time and space are considered to be "absolute" and to flow "equably" (in Mr Newton's own words) for all observers.
Then Mr Einstein came along and defined time as something relative to the observer.
A unit of Plank Time is the amount of time it takes a photon to move Planck length (For those of you who don't know: The length at which the Schwarzschild radius and the Compton length are equal).
A New York Second is defined as the time between the light turning green and the cab driver behind you blowing his horn.

No matter how you define time, don't forget to change it on Sunday (If you live in Europe & Russia)! Or on Saturday evening before you go to bed.
Everyone gets to sleep an hour longer! I bet Mouser's routine will be all messed up, kitteh cat will now do everything an hour earlier. I've noticed the past year its habits have gradually shifted too. Velvet Claws used to wake me every morning at 5h20 sharp. But it's been sloping toward the twenty to six mark.

Our concept of time is based on the position of the sun. Normally it should be in zenith at 12 o'clock. On Saturday it's at it's highest point in the heavens at 13h26. Because of the added hour it will be 12h26 on Sunday, sneaking a bit closer to the ideal situation.

For astronomers Winter Time has an added advantage: we get to watch the stars a little earlier!

Picture is a still from one of my favourite silent movies Safety Last starring Harold Lloyd (1923).



I don't know how Velvet Claws did it, but it wanted to jump on my lap and on of its paws skidded sideways onto my computer and started downloading Flip4mac. I'm glad Mouser didn't delete the file I was working on or download porn.
Or even worse still, the Lolcat widget.


Check ink level

She: Hi there, I'd like to buy new cartridges for my printer.
He: What kind?
She: I've written the brand and make down.
She hands him the note.
He: Ok, we have those in stock, how many to you need?
She: Er, two?
He goes off and gets her two cartridges with black ink and pops them on the counter.
She looks at the boxes.
She: No, no, I meant two of each.
He: Two of each?
She: Yes, two black ones and two white ones.
He looks at her. Silence.
She clarifies: It's a black and white printer.
He without flinching: You're printer can only hold one cartridge, Miss.
She: Ah.



The City of Rant

The seminar I attended some time ago was in Ghent. I have never actually had 'a thing' for that city and it has not grown on me during the time I spent there.
Ghent is very unappealing when you enter city limits, be it by train or by car. Everywhere you look there are dilapidated buildings in dire need of repair, streets are littered with rubbish, broken glass and yobs of all sorts.
According to one local I only saw the most run-down part of town, but I beg to differ. The city center has a lot of boarded up houses too. Even the posh ones have undismissible weeds growing right in front of the front door. Why is the prevailing sense I get from this provincial capital 'It'll all be over in a few years so why even bother'?
The city is steeped in chaos. If you're not familiar with the layout of the town: forget using a car.
There is never any parking space. Even all the underground and ring road parking areas are mostly full. Granted, it is a medieval city that just got bigger, but great urban planning is something that never actually got a foothold here. Trying to circumnavigate a maze blindfolded is easier. One-way streets and closing off streets to traffic, the Ghent way of making it a more 'livable' city, are not actually doing anything for it. Long-term parking is not possible. Three hours tops is what you're allowed to do here, even outside of the ring road. There is a long term parking option on the ticket vending machines, but none of them work. I tried six of them on different routes. Even the pay by sms doesn't work. Every major city is using the same service provider. But not Ghent as it seems. Getting contradictory messages about if you've paid or not is very confusing.
So if you get to Ghent: steal a bike. Forget about renting one. You'd probably look like be like a staggering zombie looking for fresh brains. I could not find a single shop or bike renting facility. It takes ages to get anywhere on foot and there is no clear plan of the city or the public transport anywhere to be found on the ring roads. If it's pissing down like it can do over here, even if you're carrying a brollie and have waterproof clothing: You'll still arrive soaked to the bone. Even the inside of your shoes and socks will be drenched. Why? How? Uneven trottoirs with big holes containing murky grey water. Uneven tiles harbouring water. If you step on them, they move a little and squirt the gritty water upon the sock area. Some borders on the street are veritable swimming pools and the less agile pedestrian is sure to get drenched when a car drives through the Canal-sized puddles.
Cars rarely stop when you're a pedestrian using a crossing which is very odd, thoroughly anti social behaviour and very illegal. Most walkways are a shambles. They are of the cobblestone type and too narrow to walk on because people park their bike diagonally across or have ugly plants growing against the facade of their dwelling.

I will call the city the token of post-urban poverty and have coined the term as of now.
It is quite a shame that a city with 900+ listed buildings leaves a gloomy impression on someone who loves architecture and all things old.

Oh and everywhere the city smells of cabbage.
You can imagine my delight at entering the Small Beguinage. Escaping from the hustle and bustle from the city.
I must be getting old.


Chocks away!

I'm holding my breath every time I hear roaring propeller engines overhead.
Test flights with 'new' C-130 of the Belgian Air Force have started!
The transport aircraft (for the 15th-wing in Melsbroek) had been spotted at the Melsbroek airbase shortly after Sabena Technics in Zaventem had finished service on the winged cargo haul.
The 'new' plane was purchased from the American company Evergreen with money from insurance companies. It replaces the C-130 that was destroyed by a fire in one of the hangars of Sabena Technics about two years ago.

The technicians worked on the C-130E for eighteen months to make it meet the same requirements as the ten other C-130H's - a more recent version of the Lockheed aircraft - from the Belgian army.

The plane was built in 1965 and was used for weather observing duties in the United States. According to Evergreen the C-130 has clocked about 20,361 flight hours and the wings have been replaced.

According to the Ministry of Defense, the unit will officially be handed over to the military in early December once tests have been completed.


Birds 0 - Mouser 1

Velvet Claws has been giving a demonstration of its awesome slaying powers.
Unfortunately Mouser has been practicing and refining deadly ninja techniques on the winged inhabitants of our garden instead of the burrowing ones.
It must have a pretty big bird judging from the size of the feathers strewn across the lawn.
Kitteh is back on the all mouse diet now and is purring and falling asleep on my lap as I'm typing up this post. Bliss!


Postman Prat

Everyone who lives in my country knows the state run postal services are a bit slow (In more than one way).
If you enter a post office it's like stepping into a time machine. Someone's slow nephew got a job there in the seventies and they're still sitting at the same dreary desk thirty years on.
Delivering mail has somewhat evolved. No more time for the cheery postman to sit down with the old folk and have a bracer before heading off doing the remainder of the delivery round on his bicycle.
They use cars nowadays in remote parts like these and certainly don't have time for chitchat.
We had to lay big rocks in front of our snail mailbox to rescue our front lawn. The postal vans would just drive up right next to the container, lower the window and pop in the letters without even getting out of the car. You can imagine the grass not standing any chance of survival when it gets run over five times a week.
Something has puzzled me all along: It is a postman's job to put the letters in the box or ring the bell if there is a parcel that needs to be delivered (They always used to ring twice). Well then why don't they do just exactly that?
They have a parcel, someone needs to sign for it. They just need to walk up to the house, knock on the door, let someone sign for it and hand over the goods.
But that's too straight forward, isn't it? What do they do?
They jam it between the metal bars that doubles as the support for the mailbox. Even if it does say 'fragile'.
Or they slip, along with the letters, a notice saying they've been to the door, no one answered it and you can pick up the parcel at the post office. Even when they never bothered to get out of the car!
This has happened on a number of occasions and this week was no exception. While in full view of the house, I saw the postman pull up in his little red van, fill the letter box and scarper off as fast as he could. When I went and opened it there was one of those notes. Dr Livingstone rang the post office to complain. They contacted the driver and rang us back (within five minutes, mind you!) he'd come round again with whatever he was meant to deliver in the first place.
When he came back about three hours later he didn't say anything except grump at me and made himself scarce as quickly as his lazy legs could carry him.
And you know what happened the following day? Dr Livingstone went to empty the letterbox and found some letters in the middle of the street!
Another telephone call.
I once had to send off a parcel, so I had to go to the post office. I had to pay an astronomical amount to ship it. I asked the man behind the counter: "Does it cost less if I break it myself?".
He didn't get it.
The postals'd better brace themselves when their monopoly ends, I suspect they're in for a bit of a shock.


I love science

I really do.
And Dr Livingstone of course, that goes without saying!


I can haz caffeine?

The caffeine test. So what kind of superpowers does it really give you?
I ended up as overly-caffeinated and I haven't ahd a drop of the brown stuff today.



So Mouser had been moonlighting across the road. And now it seems our Little Rodent Terror has given Mr Moleslayer's™ wife a bit of a fright. They have a greenhouse bordering on one side of our garden. As she was inside the glass paned shelter, Mouser emerged from underneath her tomatoes and it freaked her out.
Apparently Mouser'd made a cosy little corner there for kitteh afternoon naps. I'd often wondered on rainy days when it'd been out all day and then turn up on our doorstep feeling all dry, warm and fluffy.
They needn't complain, it's been doing overtime on rodent control now.
I think we are entitled to at least half of the crops in that veg shed.


The eyes of the Eifel

One of our favourite hiking spots in Europe is the Vulkaneifel in Germany.
We've come to appreciate this strange landscape and its wonderful wanderwege.

This region has everything a geologist could hope for if he should choose to go on vacation to get away from it all. It has minerals, bizarre rock formations, caldera, sparkling water, delicious food and Hefeweizen.

We decided, taking into account this could well be one of the last agreeable weekends before Fall manifests its true nature, to go and get some fresh air with the Teens™.
Two of them anyway. Eldest Teen™ has gone and dislocated her knee (again) by, according to her, tripping over her own feet.
/rolls eyes

First thing we did when we entered the Vulkaneifel Landeskreis was go to the shops and buy loads of Spätzle. It's a thick egg based noodle only known in the German-speaking world. Dr Livingstone would sell his mother just to have a plate of the Swäbian speciality, so in keeping with the cross border shopping tradition of Belgians flocking to Luxemburg because of its well known virtue of cheap petrol or interesting banking system, the Dr and I just have to return home with a truckload of spätzle every time we are in the vicinity of the foodstuff.

First village we stopped for morning coffee had a main street that had had a very unappealing makeover, the obligatory castle ruin on the hilltop and the factory that saves the town from anonymity. The valley of the Kyll was shrouded in the dense fog and it was a bit nippy.
After drinking a Gerolsteiner Sprudel in -er- Gerolstein and a short, brisk walk over to the ruins of Burg Gerhardstein (built in 1115) we made it back to the car all in 20 minutes. The low mist was starting to evaporate when we left.

When we were walking along the rim of the Schalkenmehrener Maar we tried to con the Teens™ into thinking that the Eifel Tower was originally built in this region and then later transported to Paris for the World Exhibition. They almost fell for it. Only when Dr Livingstone asked: "Is this True or False?" they started thinking about what he had actually said and carefully tried: "I thought it was named after Mr Eifel".

The Schalkenmehrener Maar is part of the Dauner Maar group. The info on the site is very interesting. It is only in German however. But hey, a little German hasn't done anyone any harm. Well, er, not in the last sixty years or so any way.

-sorry, had to go for the easy stereotypical German joke there-

These three lakes were formed by volcanic activities around 10,500 years ago. I say activities and not eruptions with a good reason. There were enormous gas explosions. Although that could have something to do with the sauerkraut.
There are advantages to having these craters. They make for excellent walking paths, stunning & rewarding views and dotted around the area there are numerous villages sporting spas. Even the Romans weren't misinformed and came there for the waters (geddit?). Digging is what they like down there so next to lots of pretty crystals and interesting looking rock formations some Roman villa remains have been found. A lot of info can be found on the site of the Maarmuseum. It also has some cool links to sites that monitor volcano and quake activities.

On previous visits to this area we had seen a little white church, but no village, on the edge of the Weinfelder Lake. Or Totenmaar, Lake of the Dead, as it is known around these parts. It is an eerie name, and a very interesting history it has. The village that was originally there was abandoned during a plague infestation in the 16th century. The church still served the population in the area. In the beginning of the 19th century the bishop of Trier ordered the church to be demolished and the stones be reused for the betterment of the Schalkenmehrener Church. People rallied and were able to keep their church and restore it after years of neglect. Till this day people from the area still bury their dead in the cemetery.
In the picture painted by Fritz von Wille we can see the vegetation was held in check by sheep and why the place is called Totenmaar.

There are a good amount of clearly marked hiking and nordic walking -shudders- paths connecting the three lakes. There is ample parking space (everywhere actually) so you can make your walk as long or short as you please. And here's Mrs B's golden tip for the full experience: go and make the climb up to the Dronketurm. The sight from the 10,5 meter tower is awesome on a sunny day. If you're lucky (and brought your binoculars with you) you can see Trier.

Hotel Schneider is excellent to unwind after a tiring hike and:
1) drop unto a comfy chair on the sun-drenched patio
2) order a nice, big, foaming Paulaner
3) order a hearty meal to stock up on some much needed calories for the return trip
4) repeat #2 as often as needed.

Clara Viebig once said of these lakes they were "The eyes of the Eifel" and I couldn't agree with her more.