Bombs away

WW II is just around the corner, literally it seems. Let me take you back nearly 64 years and show you...

The 486th Bombardment Group of the USAAF was stationed at Sudbury, Suffolk. The group was reassigned from the 92nd to the 4th combat bombardment wing in November 1944 when things were about to turn even nastier on Mainland Europe. After the Norman invasion in June the advancing Allies had logistical problems. Supplies could not keep up with the pace of the advancement. There were no deep sea ports available, Antwerp harbour had not yet been cleared of German control. Allies had to put some mayor offensives on hold. Prime goal was to capture the Ruhr area, Germany's key industrial capacity.
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was the first mass-produced heavy bomber with four engines. It was most widely used for daylight strategic bombing of military and industrial targets. On November 16, 1944 lt Rapp and his crew flying B17G DL 43-37985 partook in Operation Queen. Their load was destined for the Düren area. Approximately 22,000 people lived in Düren at that time, and 3,000 of them died during this bombing raid. On the return run to Station 174 they got hit by German anti aircraft fire, which took out two of their engines. The crew bailed out from the aircraft, parachuting into friendly area of the 9th US Army.

The stricken bomber however crashed into a farm, destroying the home, outbuildings and killing two women. A tiny, commemorative plaque is on the side of a building close to the main road. It is one of three buildings still standing after the crash.The green arrow points at the third house, further down is the crash site. The perspex commemorator is hardly visible, good old curiosity compelled me to cross the road and take a look at it.

Today, North East of Sudbury hardly anything is left of AAF Station 174. It was decommissioned in 1945. Arial shots from when the base was operational and today's satellite image, we still see remnants of the runways, most buildings have been demolished. A small patch of green strip is still being used today by an aero club.
Loss of human life always is a tragedy, but the lives of two civilians is in stark contrast to the annihilation of thousands of lives the bomber was being part of just an hour or so earlier. I think we should commemorate that too and add a few lines to the ornamental tablet.

Giving It the Finger

Yes it does look like a severed finger (click image to enhance). No the neighbours did not call the police. Yes that is the little Tupperware container I use to feed the Mouser. No it is not a severed finger. Yes it is half of a Franfurter. No we do not serve human remains to the cat. Yes we did forget the Sauerkraut.


Breendonk, Memorial

So what to do when the Teens™ are here, utterly bored and the 'grumpy teen mode' switch has been turned to engaged?
That's right. You visit a concentration camp. We went to Breendonk.
Every year, 35,000 to 40,000 schoolchildren visit the Memorial. Since the Teens™ live on the wrong side of the border they are not going to be part of those thousands of kids any time soon. So we decided to pluck them from their pink clouds of ignorance, fantasy and the land where unicorns fart rainbows and land them right in the middle of the thing we call horrible historical reality. And as After Dinner Film we made them watch Der Untergang. Double whammy of history. I know, we are a pair of sadistic home schoolers by any standards.
Alas when we asked what their thoughts were on the visit Youngest Teen™ said: "It was nice".

*insert Picard facepalm here*

I don't think they got it. And they will probably answer in the negative when asked if they did anything nice during Spring break.
The Memorial's mission is so that no child can go away without having formed a precise idea of its history, and of racial and political persecution. I hope they have succeeded, because if they have symptoms of success are not noticeable.
When quizzed upon return home about the symbol of Nazism Middle Teen™ could not tell me it was a swastika. She not only failed to recognise it when shown, she just stated: 'I have never heard of that before'. [She did however remember a Father Ted episode (Are You Right There, Father Ted?) featuring. an array of WW II memorabilia. So a bit puzzled on that one].

Dr Livingstone was very impressed, ditto for me. This was my second visit. I had already been to the Memorial when I was about the same age as Middle Teen™ but it still grabs you by the throat no matter how many times a person gets confronted with the atrocities humans can commit. Breendonk is only a small speck on the gruesome map of concentration camps, but one which witnessed the same desire to annihilate the individual, which shared the same objective of enslaving and negating the human person.

Sisyphus has an easy job

Getting history wrong or being ignorant of historical facts is a bit of a pet peeve for me and the Dr. We have been trying, at every given opportunity (and for a very long time) to make up for the lack of instruction The Teens™ have received (or not as is the case) on this and other areas.
Edit: -ignore the brackets; double negation counters my own point-
The insufficient acquaintance with the things mentioned above spurred me to inflict a little coercive persuasion upon them. Slight and subtle. How to go about this impossible task in a sly and cunning fashion?
A while ago I bought a history board game. An easy one. Trivial Pursuit is too difficult for them, I usually always win and they hardly get any questions right. Even after pitching them several hints, it's just no use. So the questions of this board game have been derived from history lessons given in primary schools (10-12 year olds). Subjects vary from prehistory to modern times. The Teens™ are well above those ages. So one would think they would get almost all of the questions. Just a few mishaps:
Eldest Teen™ does not know in what year Columbus discovered America (well actually landed on San Salvador
). And she thought the reason why the Americans entered WW II was the bombing of New York.
Middle Teen™ does not know the Eastern Roman Empire is also know as Byzantium, let alone there were two Empires. It is even more distressing when you know she is currently in her 3rd year of Latin and her memory is completely void of these basics.
Youngest Teen™ is not participating in our little mind re-education project. She sits with us in the room and sneers some remarks if her sisters get the answers wrong.
Even when playing the game a few days in a row and getting the same questions over and over again they still don't know. Nothing sticks. It is all rather depressing. Alas, alas. Sisyphus has to continue eternally. I think the education where they live is very insufficient. Even the geography lessons resemble a bad joke from a Christmas cracker. They are hardly able to name countries of the European Union and their capitals. Let alone any other countries. Or just simply situate them on a continent.
Education standards in the North of the country are far better than the southern part, at least at the secondary level. Kudos to the southern universities for supplying most of the Nobel prize laureates. Why is there such a huge difference? Ever since education was federalized in '88 it has been very dramatic.

"The life-history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community. From the moment of his birth, the customs into which he is born shape his experience and behaviour. By the time he can talk, he is the little creature of his culture, and by the time he is grown and able to take part in its activities, its habits are his habits, its beliefs are his beliefs, its impossibilities his impossibilities" R. Benedict, Patterns of Culture. Boston, 1961

So hard luck to them, they live on the wrong side of the border.
*facepalm and minute of silence*

Remedying it with these playful band aides on the gangrenous wound of general knowledge is just to no avail. Without support and encouragement from their huge whale omelet of a mother it will, sadly, remain status quo. Unfortunately they are currently having to put up with Dr Livingstone and a historian in the making. Better known to them in the affectionate terms 'a whining pain in the ass'.

But I did achieve something. Although I should classify it under Pyrrhic victory. I told Middle Teen™ Napoleon made her lose the game. She actually asked me when he was born (1769), when he seized power (1799), when he was banished to Elba (1814) and when he got a good bashing from the Duke of Wellesley. Armed with these facts she is repeating them aloud so she can memorise them in time for our next game. Anyone for a round of Waterloo?



Snowcat is not amused. Mouser is wondering what is going on and why the rain does not trickle down like it normally does.

Art Figurines

A slight return to Bosch and Bruegel: I own two figurines modelled on grotesque characters featured on well known works made by the Masters.

The DEVIL ON NIGHT-CHAIR figurine. It is a very delicate thing. It's about 6 cm tall but very brittle. I put it just in front of some Bosch related books on the shelf. Had to move it up a notch because I was afraid Mouser would try and get at it.
During Bosch's lifetime scenes from hell were very popular and every man would be well acquainted with visions of hell. To remind everyone of the impending doom patrons ordered visions of hell for altar pieces. These triptychs or polytychs would remain closed throughout the year and only be opened on liturgical feastdays. The shock of the horrifying images and the countrebalance of Paradise could have been a simple method to keep the rabble in check. Saint Gregory and Dante are prime examples of Dialogs on visions of journeys through hell. Bosch must have been familiar with the Divina Commedia and la Visio Tungdali e i Dialoghi and them and given him inspiration galore. This devil, crowned with a cauldron, symbolises the diabolical inferno fire. He is sat on a night chair, in the process of excreting tormented souls. His pitcher shaped footwear symbolises dipsomania. The devil is featured on the triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights
on the right panel.

A second figurine is the Fallen Angel with Clarion. The trumpet wielding former angel tries a last post on the instrument while turning into a hellish creature. The transition is not yet complete. It has some insect/bird/fish-like features. It can be found on The Fall of the Rebellious Angels at the bottom right.
Popular figurines can be bought in most museum shops or check out Parastone workshop's Mouseion collection online.



Mark Ryden came to preeminence in the 1990’s during a time when many artists, critics and collectors were quietly championing a return to the art of painting. With his masterful technique and disquieting content, Ryden quickly became one of the leaders of this movement on the West Coast.

Upon first glance Ryden’s work seems to mirror the Surrealists’ fascination with the subconscious and collective memories. However, Ryden transcends the initial Surrealists’ strategies by consciously choosing subject matter loaded with cultural connotation. His dewy vixens, cuddly plush pets, alchemical symbols, religious emblems, primordial landscapes and slabs of meat challenge his audience not necessarily with their own oddity but with the introduction of their soothing cultural familiarity into unsettling circumstances.

Viewers are initially drawn in by the comforting beauty of Ryden’s pop-culture references, then challenged by their circumstances, and finally transported to the artist’s final intent – a world where creatures speak from a place of childlike honesty about the state of mankind and our relationships with ourselves, each other and our past.

Clearly infused with classical references, Ryden’s work is not only inspired by recent history, but also the works of past masters. He counts among his influences Bosch, Bruegel and Ingres with generous nods to Bouguereau and Italian and Spanish religious painting.

Over the past decade, this marriage of accessibility, craftsmanship and technique with social relevance, emotional resonance and cultural reference has catapulted Ryden beyond his roots and to the attention of museums, critics and serious collectors. Ryden’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a recent museum retrospective “Wondertoonel” at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Mark Ryden currently lives and works in Los Angeles where he paints slowly and happily amidst his countless collections of trinkets, statues, skeletons, books, paintings and antique toys.

I think his work is very refreshing, disturbing to some people, but very familiar when looking at other surrealist artists from past decades. Bosch and Bruegel are two of my favourites.

Dashing through the snow...

WTF? Just a little bit worried about climate change today. Spring-like Christmas, winter-like Easter. Global Warming the plus side: At least all the chocolate eggs that haven't been found by nippers all over the country aren't going off or melt for a while. Hmm.

All together now:
"I'm dreaming of a white Easter
Just like the ones we never knew"



Easter has been cancelled until further notice

Know your world

Okay, guilty as charged. I'm addicted. But I got to level 12!


New word for today

Facepalm! (Click on image to view full res)

more xkcd

This one is just so spot on!


Springtime (part 5)

Erithacus Rubecul



Springtime (part 4)

It's spring. Most of you will probably be going:'No you're wrong there Mrs B, spring starts on 21st of March." If you are using the Gregorian calender. Scientifically speaking it is spring! Vernal equinox was an astronomical fact this morning!

Springtime (part 3)

Meleagris gallopavo ♂ Since a month this turkey has been turning a bright blue, showing off it's peacock like tail stance and makes some silly noises.


A run-in with the neighbour

Mouser is strolling around the garden. I see kitty puff up like a blow fish. Hardly visible on the right is Zohra, Fence Minder™. It is a huge hairy dog, scared of cats.

Very Sad News

Arthur C. Clark died. He was diagnosed with post polio syndrome a couple of years ago.

Here are some of his quotes:

"The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion."

"How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean."

"I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarius and we're skeptical. "

From an interview he did in 2000 :
Clarke's private life remains a mystery. He was married briefly to an American, Marilyn Mayfield, now dead, whom he met while diving in Florida in the 50s. Asked whether he is gay, Clarke always gives the same puckish pro forma answer: "No, merely cheerful." The answer, presumably, lies in the "Clarkives" - a vast collection of his manuscripts and private writings, to be published 50 years after his death.

Springtime (part 2)

Adalia decempunctata x2. Everything comes in twos this time of year. Including these little chappies trying to make a twenty out of two tens. Geddit? (that was one for all you nature geeks out there). click on the image to view a better resolution.


Springtime (part 1)

Spring is here again. I'll be posting some pictures in the next couple I took outdoors. First up is an Equus caballus (Fjord breed, yearling) ♀ Click image to view a higher resolution.


How not getting a vaccine can harm you in a big way

About a month ago this was in the news but the international media only picked up on it a couple of days ago. Not a big fuss here. It's quite simple: Be a responsible parent. No exemptions unless serious medical risks involved. End of argument. Laws enforced to prtect public health. 'Nuff said.
And this is a nice little know fact to illustrate the dangers of not getting a vaccination against polio. What a way to go. Talk about ironic. Getting killed by one of your inventions.

"In 1940, he contracted polio at the age of 51, which left him severely disabled. This led him to devise an elaborate system of strings and pulleys to lift him from bed. This system was the eventual cause of his death when he was accidentally entangled in the ropes of this device and died of strangulation at the age of 55."

Here is an interesting podcast on Midgley's inventions and life

New hobby

Any takers? Bonsai kitty. I like the tag line
"Didicated to preserving the long lost art of body modification in housepets"


If I can't bring it indoors...

... I'll just have to eat it outdoors. And bleed all over the floor in front of the door. And spill some guts around too. Neener neener. You just try and stop me Mrs B. Even if there are gale force winds today.


The cat cam rOOlz! 


Up up up and away!

I missed the launch, tinterweb was disrupted so I couldn't watch Nasa TV. Some webpals stayed up over on the other side of the Atlantic but couldn't see anything. But Endeavour is away and will be docking with the ISS in two days time!


And I thought Ireland was bad...

Okay, so I blogged about the turkey going to Eurosong. I should have shut my big dopey assed mouth, shouldn't I. This is Belgium's entry for the Songcontest:

You can call me Alistair any day, but I know a great song when I hear one. That Alice in Wonderland act is not doing anything for me. I suspect we'll end up last yet again. Even the turkey has a better chance. At least you can stuff it once it's passed it sell by date.

We'll go down in history yet again as that boring little country the whole world makes fun of... Everyone remembers the Belgian dip from Austin Powers...

Hey guys, guess what, we've got frikkin' soul!
We could have had a winner on our hands with this massive song instead:

I'm gonna sit quietly in a corner somewhere and cry now.


I haven't been posting much, I've been rather busy researching a paper. And I had to do an exam, which I passed with flying colours. Education standards need to up a bit I think, this was one of the questions: Discuss the differences between Memlings triptych and Van der Weyden's Last Judgement polyptich...

-slaps herself in the face-


41 years today...

On this day 41 years ago he daughter of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin requested political asylum at the United States Embassy in India. Matt Datillo has a podcast on this somewhere. Check his podcast out via iTunes. Search for Matt's Today In History.


Fav word for today



On the up... well almost

In a previous postI thought something got lost in translation.
Today, it seems, both banners are still different but in a slightly different way. 149749099 people have seen the 'lucky banner' since I checked last time. But what's up with the Frenchies? Still stuck on 999999 afraidy waidy. 'Com on! Lets break a million!
Oh, hang on. I'm supposed to be the 1 millionth visitor. So I've won what? Promise I'll try again later... Keep watching this blog


Status of Earth

Just to be clear on this


Got him!

We've caught the little bugger and set it free in the garden (see picture: Taken when I just set it down on the grass). Poxy rodents. Apodemus sylvaticus or the long tailed field mouse as it is commonly know. I let Mouser into the living room this morning and -as cats do- started to look for the bloody thing. Nothing found. So I did a bit of studying and Mouser came and joined me on my lap. I heard some creaking noises from the printer (I thought our 'guest' had crawled into the paper tray. No such luck. Then a couple of hours later after Mouser had finished a beauty sleep it set off on patrol again. Mousecatcher made some noise telling me it had found the cheeky thing. And lo and behold! It had clambered up some wires and hid under an other printer. The little rascal was all worn out. It had peed and pooped right there. I gather it has eaten a printer chip that was just lying there and has gotten a case of the indigestion. Not the only one having trouble stomaching these outrages prices being charged for original printer cartridges. Anyway, I secured the mouse under a plastic container (Tupperware rules!), slid a hard cover under it and released it back into the garden. It didn't want to move a lot. It does still blink its big black eyes and turn its cute little ears. So I tried to make it scuttle towards some leaf covering. It did just that. I'm glad it's out of the house. Who knows what disgusting diseases and fleas it has brought with it. Mouser is settling down again. We're starting on Jacques Daret in a moment.

Cat & Mouse & Human game

It's been very bad weather out. Still is. Mouser was out. I heard it calling at the window to get in. So I opened up. It jumped in. Mouser probably thought it could bring its little new found friend inside out from the storm. So there you go. We've been chasing this mouse for over four hours now. I've had to sit down once in a while, my oxigen level isn't up to standard yet. The cheeky field mouse is just too fast for me to catch. It's started taunting me and went and did a nutmeg when under siege from Mouser. The bleedin' cat can't find it from time to time. I have to use a laser pointer and some whistling to direct it to its prey. But I don't think Mouser is trying very hard. I've seen it pounce on mice outdoors and it got it every time only by pouncing once. I'n turning in for the night. I'm closing the living room doors so neither can get out.
I expect to see some results on my desk in the morning Mouser!