Stuffed birds on the road

I have seen a lot of standard stuff in people's cars propped up against the windows or on the rear shelf tray.
Kids, pets, cuddly toys, cushions that say 'I love my car'. The works. We've all seen 'em.
Yesterday I was driving behind a Skoda Fabia. I looked remodelled, with some chromed edges stuck on. It was also sporting a bat shaped sticker where the car brand logo should have been and I could distinguish the words 'Chiropoda" on the left. That's Latin for bat. Nothing odd there. A bat lover.
Or some geek thinking he's driving around in his batmobile.
But then I could see what was IN the car. And I had to look twice. No bobbing heads, no umbrella's, no panama hat.
I could see.... three stuffed crows.
Yes. I thought no one would believe me if I said so, so I took a snap with my phone. And I took the liberty of enlarging and tracing the silhouette of one bird (click picture for bigger res).
Now how cool/weird/normal/sad/goofy* is that?

*scrap accordingly

It puts a whole new perspective on someone saying they always drive around with a couple of birds in the back...



In The Bourne Identity, amnesiac Matt Damon escapes from mysterious tormentors with penniless Franka Potente and her vintage Mini Cooper. (That's the same tiny car that, in its current incarnation, Michael Caine drives in Austin Powers in Goldmember).

"It was the kind of car that her character, a gypsy, could have," says producer Frank Marshall. "It's got to be at least 20 to 25 years since that model was made. So it was an old car but it was also a hip car.

"When I was younger, it was a very cool car to have,"
he adds. "It was my fantasy to drive one of those across Europe, from ski resort to ski resort."

Marshall explains that the car seemed like an everyday car that would be found in Europe, where Identity is set. The Bourne character "does not have the Aston Martin that M would have given James Bond. He had to use his brains to get out of there. I mean, this is the only time you've seen a character take out a map before he went on one of these chases. And that's why he says to her, 'You take good care of this car?' "

The other thing that the Mini has going for it is that it is an outrageously small car, perfect for getting out of a tight spot or speeding through European alleyways and down some steep concrete stairs. In effect, it's perfect for a high-speed chase in a spy thriller.

After all, this was the car of choice in the classic spy movies of the '60s and '70s. (One of them, 1969's The Italian Job, starring Caine, remade with the new model Mini Cooper.)

But while Minis might be hardy, they cannot really take the torture that Bourne dispenses while determining his identity.

"We found five Mini Coopers to make the film," Marshall says. "We have one left."

by Andy Seiler USA Today


I'm no hero

Mouser gave ma a big scare today. Kitty was gobbling up some food I'd given it. I thought it was sneezing a few times, I wasn't looking. The strange noise persisted. Then I got up to have a look. It was looking at me with watery eyes. It looked like Cat tried to cough up a mouse, but it didn't happen. He was choking on something. He was breathing fairly rapidly, but breathing none the less. Only thing I could think of was do a quick google for 'clearing cat airway". Didn't find anything. Tried to do a kind of Heimlich manoeuvre by pressing on the lower area of the ribs on both sides a few short hits after another. Maybe some short bursts of air could dislodge the something that was causing Kitty distress. Nothing happened, but Mouser didn't run away. It jumped in front of the window to go outside and looked at me. So I let him out. I was kinda feeling guilty I could do nothing for the poor beast. But after half an hour Mouser was back. Right as rain. I don't know what happened. Cat seems fine now. Nothing weird going on. Did find a page on howstuffworks on how to save a choking cat. But if he would really go all strange on me, I'd take Velvet Claws to the vet without hesitation.


Rolled into one

Just something completely random today.
Star Trek meets Monty Python


Easy peasy

Date, compare, discuss. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. And there was another similar question about statuettes.
All those nightmares, all those worries. What for?
So I know if I get stalked in my dreams again by historic artefacts, I will most certainly NOT be quizzed about them.

-holds breath-

How's that for anecdotal superstitious mumbo jumbo?
My sceptic mind does not give in to silly little fantasies. I wonder how many students fail exams because of those kinds of 'educated guesses'. Could that be ranked among some superstitious beliefs held by many athletes? Professional tennis players are famed for being very superstitious. To read up on some: try this article for some bullshit anecdotal evidence. Apparently it is called inductive reasoning.


These modern birds...

I'm playing the part of peeping tom in the garden. Got my camera at the ready. Snapping everything that moves. Well, can sit still for a moment so I can focus. I'm shooting with 210 mm so the focus depth has no room at all for getting it nearly right. But these modern birds... What a cheeky stare it just gave me. And it's got a cheeky call too. It kinda sounds like 'Tchurr..urr..urr'. Currently it is running amok on the blossoms of our neighbour's walnut tree.
It gave me the plain willies when I enlarged the picture and took a good look at the blue tit. Does it know something I don't?


Another bad night. I'm eager to get this Mesopotamian Art exam out of the way. This time some Assyrian relief carvings had it in for me.

Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me

Luckily my dream didn't have a dwarf in it.


Cat NOT stuck up a tree

Mouser darted to the back of the garden. I couldn't quite see what it was after, some bushes obscured the view. But then the hunted party climbed up a tree. Velvet claws failed to follow. Think it's a question of weight ratio vs. twig bendability. Kitty kept miaowing at the base of the hazel. I went down to have a look. It was a Sciurus vulgaris. It's the first I've seen of them this spring.
Poor thing scared out of its wits. I took a snap and went back indoors. Cat was lurking about, but lost interest. Squirrel didn't come down for another two hours. If it had had pants they would have been soiled.
I'll try and get a better picture some time soon.

He's been taken up!

No one can make this up. Really. I expect every blogger is having a field day with this news item. He's been taken up! I know where he is. Well, he's in heaven, isn't he? They do say priests are in some ways closer to God...
How can he tend to the needs of his parishioners suspended in mid air? Is this a dog collar wearing version of Steve Fosset? Well, I can guess where it all went pear shaped;

"In addition to being an experienced sky diver he also had a floatable seat and a parachute with him."

i am about to spot the flaw in the plan here: It didn't say if he was a good swimmer though...
You know what he forgot to take with him? His bible of course. If he really believed in the power of prayer he wouldn't have felt the need for a parachute either.
I think this was just God's way to tell him to stop clowning around. I can just hear Him say:

"If I wanted you to fly I would have given you wings and not party balloons"


Tight corners

Cats do not fit in tight corners. Mice however... Velvet Claws brought me a specimen when I was soaking up some sun today. And let it go to play a bit. And then... Mouser couldn't reach. The mouse hid behind one of the wheels of a container. I think kitty got bored after half an hour. That or the sun got too hot on its black fur.


Latest version of Firefox prone to bugs...

Look at Mouser just there. Sweet or what? It's been sleeping off its nightly escapades. Kitty had brought me a fine specimen of Microtus agrestis and just left it in front of the kitchen door. There was quite a ruchus in the middle of the night. When I turned on the lights to see what all the hissing and moaning was about, it turned out that two cats were fighting over the lifeless rodent. How very efficient.
Mouser was out hunting all night and come back in the morning riddled with ticks. One of them was nearly too big to remove with the special tick tweezers.


Caption Competition

These spring to mind:

"Sorry, I didn't have time to shave this morning"

"Well he did ask if I wanted something extra for the weekend"

"This is not what I had in mind when I asked for a parting in the middle"

"Global squeeze puts old-time skill of sheep-shaving back in demand"

Poor thing has been running around like that for two days now. I think my neighbour has gone completely bonkers.
How goofy must you be to shear a sheep like that? I bet he's got not a clue in the world how to wrestle one to the ground and shave it the proper way.

Medieval Purple Haze

The Medieval Mind. Very classy intro. Made by RKCR/Y&R

"The four-part series, co-produced by The Open University, will explore the mindset and lifestyle of medieval citizens and will reveal what motivated people who lived between 800AD and 1400AD and what beliefs we share with our ancestors."

Alas it is non-streamable if you live outside Blighty. But I'll find a way round that.
There is a medieval quiz on the BBC site. I you do poorly they lob a Chaucer quote at you:

"One ear it heard, at the other out it went."

If you get an acceptable amount of questions correctly you get Abelard:

"The first key to wisdom is defined, of course, as assiduous and frequent questioning"

Facebook cliques

I was just browsing the Entertainment 'n Arts selection with more than 5,000 members.
Some of these groups on Facebook... Honestly.

-All You Need Is Love, But A Chanel Bag Is A Glorious Substitute
-If Gay Marriage is Good Enough for Dumbledore, it's Good Enough for America
-Keep Political Correctness Out of Sesame Street

*rolls eyes*

The winner for the most surreal group name is...

Appreciation society for the random Singh in Eastenders

This one is runner-up:

Eddie Izzard Pokes Badgers With Spoons

And I might just join this one:

Sooty and Sweep appreciation society

Armchair General


Lucrezia Borgia buys tinned cat food

Mouser has been amassing an impressive array of rodents roaming the garden. It's left tons of them for us to see. I haven't been feeding kitty anything for a couple of days now, a spot of fasting indoors will do that velvety clawed beast a world of good. But suspension of rations means a killing spree. Which means a higher risk of worms gestating in his inner works. Last time I gave him the Drontal mashed up in some left over paté. A day later he was experiencing a spell of the old Montezuma's revenge. So I nipped down to the shops just now, and bought a small tin of cat food. Mouser is very picky when it comes to munchies. Alas grinding up some pills and serving them disguised as freshly slain mice is just not going to happen any time soon.
So I opened the little container, that drew the rascal into the kitchen, I kneaded the pulverized pill in the chicken & liver guck and served it while little Velvet Claws was making quite a ruchus to see what I was doing.
It gobbled it up as soon as it got in pig out-distance. But it did not devour all of it, I think it got tho the point where it started tasting very foul to a cat. I have to admit I felt a little like Lucrezia Borgia. But then again, it's kind of my way of revenge for Mouser vomiting on the carpet earlier today.

A scolding from The Past

I've had a horrible night. Haven't slept very well.
Currently I am studying for my exam on Mesopotamian Art. There are a lot of different periods, each of them have significant traits. Just like you would for instance tell a Renaissance and a Baroque painting apart based on differences in subject, style, etc. there are ways of distinguishing between e.g. Old Akkadian dynasty and Neo-Sumerian periods. So I'm immersing myself in architecture, pottery, relief carvings, sculpture,... the works.
Yesterday I was delving deeper into sculpture dating from the Neolithicum to the Ur III period. And guess what? Some statuettes ended up in my dream. They were telling me I kept putting them in the Uruk period, when clearly they were Early Dynastic. So I promised them I'd take another look at them today. When I said I didn't know they were from Tell Asmar because they hadn't told me, they reacted as if they were insulted to no end. "Ignorance is no excuse. You could come see us in the museum."
How's that for a warning from the past? It was horrible, I didn't sleep a wink. The little figurines scare the hell out of me. What with those big, inlaid eyes. Just staring.
Archaeologists have thought these objects served the purpose of depicting the eternity of the presence of the 'adorant' in the temple with their perpetual prayers for the god. Their gaze fixed on the deity, hands folded across the chest. Men usually are bear-torsoed, with a woolly frock. Woman have a sort of cape, draped across their body but always leaving the right shoulder uncovered (except the early statuette found in the Diyala river from the Uruk period whose upper bodies are left uncovered).
And another thing. What the statuettes clearly didn't know is that they are no longer on display at the museum. It has been almost five years now since it was plundered. I am talking about the Iraq Museum in Bagdad. Over on Derek Fincham's blog Illicit Cultural Property, you get a very good idea how bad it was and still is if you select all articles tagged 'Iraq'. He has some excellent links to articles, papers, research and world wide policy.
I still hope I shall be able to visit the Museum when it is reopened. Let me rephrase that. IF it is reopened. But I cannot say I will have the opportunity in my lifetime as the situation look very bleak right now. I know this does all sound very pessimistic, but it is a tragedy for all humankind to lose its heritage. All I can do now is see the collection online as it once was. The Oriental Institute in Chicago has an extensive database on the Lost Treasures of Iraq. If you go to the official Iraq Museum page you can see it is as empty as all display cases are now.

And what on earth has happened to the Bagdad Museum Project? Where is John Simmons and the alleged 15 million $ in aid he received from a so-called private company? baghdadmuseum.org is available as a domain name. Any takers?

Anyway, I did keep my promise to the statuettes, where ever they may be. I hope I sleep better tonight.


Do I really HAVE to choose?
Every time I want to get started on something, Mouser wants to sit on my lap too.
Mr Frisky here looks up at me as if it is saying "Choose wisely Young Skywalker".
And puts paw on keyboard during a skype session.

"This lap ain't big enough for the both of us."

SPOILER ALERT: the computer looses out in the end.


Just saying...


I always feel uncomfortable when someone asks me what I would like for my birthday. Modesty always makes me say 'a kiss' or 'don't spend your money on me' or something equally nauseating. But now I've sussed it out. I'm a few years behind. But I did it. I've made a wish list for my iTunes account. Well, it's an iMix. So if someone wants to buy me some songs as a prezzie, I just give them the url and Bob's your uncle. They can decide how much music they want to lavish on me. I'm not sure if someone gives you a song as a gift if it disappears from your iMix. I don't think so, I'll have to look on the iTunes FAQ page.
And I'll have to update my Amazon Wish List when I've got some time. I'm looking forward to that. It'll be my own treat when I've finished with these exams and the paper I'm working on.

Oh wait. Dr Livingstone banned me from buying more books. I don't think our insurance will stand for it. What with all that paper indoors nowadays. And we're running out of space to put all my books. I suppose I could get rid of a few. Those old moldy ones about photography from the 60's. Or should I? Could become quite collectable in thirty years time or so. But technically receiving books is not the same as buying books. So I suppose I'm in the clear on this one.


The Sack of The Big Apple

I listen to Professor Tronchin's lectures. She teaches a History of Western Art course at The Ohio State University.
But I cannot believe the analogies and the comparisons she sometimes uses in her lectures. Take the lecture on Greek Art for example About 55 minutes into her talk she is describing battle scenes with Centaurs and Greeks from the Archaic and Classical Period and is placing them in social and political context:

"They were able to overcome an opponent, who was almost as strong as they were. And even in some cases might have been even stronger. And again we have to bear in mind, always, that story of the Persian War, that Athens actually fell to Persia. Athens was invaded by the Persians. This was a Greek September 11th, their city was destroyed. Nevertheless, the Athenians were able to overcome that, to push the Persians out. That aspect of tension is something that makes story telling in Greek Architectural sculpture always very interesting and surprising."

She compares the sacking of Athens by the Persians during the Persian War to ... 9/11.
How's that for non-relevance. Just a few quick points here:

-The USA had not been invaded nor subjected to rule from another empire prior to the attack.
-The city of New York was not sacked, and not twice in ten years time either. The attack on the Twin Towers does not amount to a sack (plunder, rape, overall destruction, enslaving, carrying off riches) of a city state.
-The Persians ran into a lot of trouble and a harsh Greek Winter turned the tables on them.
-A terrorist attack differs enormously (as in day and night) from an army advancing on homeland.

Need I go on?

If she were making the analogy for the sake of a materialistic destruction scale, she could have chosen a better example. The skin of history only stretches that far. I could kinda see where she would take the 9/11 comparison as an impression left on the minds of the peoples, but nevertheless I still feel it has been chosen very poorly, especially from an academic perspective.

Now let me compare something.
I believe Professor Tronchin IS Joan Rivers. We just haven't been told yet. Now there's a turn up for the books eh?

It'll all make sense in the end...

This is doing my poor little head in, I can feel my brain throbbing:

If Solo and Identify are activated in different Presets than Solo will not deactivate the Preset with the activated Identify.

I'm sure it'll make sense to someone. somewhere, somehow,...


Springtime (part 6)

Mrs B taketh and Nature giveth back.
One animal slain, another has emerged.
Fresh from the womb. Who said Fjords can only be found in Norway?
Equus caballus. This is the third one I've known to been born here. This one seems to venture further away from its mother than the other two, born in consecutive years past. How very cuddly these animals are. And smelly. I've never taken to horses, but these Fjords are very gentle creatures. They'd get the occasional sugar beet I'd pluck from the adjoining field when going for a little stroll. So now there's five of them. I still haven't sussed out why our neighbour actually breeds them. He's been up to the field where they graze just once to see if they're ok.

Weird spam

This is the weirdest spam to date I have ever been sent:

"So there was poor old Rocket Man, stuck in that car without his rocket pack or even his special helmet with the one-way eyes, trying to steer and stop the car and open the side door, all at the same time.
When he tried to thrash away from the hypo she told him to sit still and be good or what was going to happen would happen without the benefit of even light anesthesia."

It continues:

"He spoke it aloud this time as he stepped into the huge and stuporously warm West Country kitchen.

Yes this is the sort of spam I get. I really don't like Stephen King. But it beats getting info on how to buy loads of cheap drugs and how they can help 'enhance my performance'.
But then again. Reading King could be the equivalent of taking a sleeping tablet. So it still amounts to the same thing.

There has to be a first time for everything...

Oh noes! I've been Rickrolled! By a forum admin no less.
This is the first time it happened to me. For those of you not familiar with this internet phenomenon:
Read this interesting article news article first and then read text below.

From Urban Dictionary:

A recent developed term that pertains to a user being tricked and led to a youtube.com video produced by "cotter548" which directed users to the music video of "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley.

A person will try to trick, or "rickroll" you by means of displaying any false information, or commonly a false "video" that shows interest to the community; deception.

The term was developed by users on forums that have located the video and have known that is has no particular value or even remotely related to the game/community which is directed to develop anger by the user who clicks the link.

"Rickrolled" is a fruition of the earlier word, "Duckrolled" which is the same meaning of deception.
The practice of tricking people into viewing this song is called the Rickroll, trolls who do it are called Rickrollers, and people who are tricked by this are "Rickroll'D" or "Rickrolled"

This term and practice is being spread out mainly by the gaming community and by online forums. Usually a user may announce a video that has probably been leaked or a video that has value to the community; when the link actually leads them to the same video created by "cotter548" called "Rickroll'D" or "Rickrolled."

In due time this term may cause conflict among forums; due to false information spreading out coming into conflict with true information; or by means of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

Tee Hee, I disguised the link using snipurl.com. Clever eh!


An Engineer’s Guide to Cats

Via Skepchick. +3 Internet-points for Rebecca!


All creatures great and small

I am genuinely upset.

*Strolls over to drinks cabinet*
*Pours herself a drink to steady hand*

I am still very much affected by what just happened.

*Pours another drink*

This weekend I decided to engage in the first bit of gardening I was able to do after my lung illness. So there I was worrying about my little aches and pains if it would trigger yet another collapse. There was a nice breeze up, trying its very best to blow away the stench that had been lingering outdoors ever since our proximate farmer sprayed about 22,000 liters of manure on the fields at the back of our patch of land. Just as I was finishing up the borders before putting the lawn mower away after trimming 3,6 acres of moss ridden lawn I went over a patch covered with leaves and old bits of twigs...
And then the mower caught something and the engine failed.
I thought it was a stone. So I tilted the machine on its side. And then I got the fright of my life.
A hedgehog! It was stone dead, I'd killed it.

*Pours another drink*

It was an instantaneous death. The little neck snapped and the chest was twisted in a very strange shape. A little red line marked where the blade had ripped across its little throat.
I wouldn't know what to do if had been badly maimed and still alive. Probably phoned the vet or the animal ambulance.
The poor little bugger. It was a probably still in hibernation or just about to give birth. According to my Garden Wildlife Book by Mark Golley :

The female builds a nest of grass and leaves in which to give birth (a similar nest is built for hibernation). Individuals only really make contact with each other after hibernation (which lasts from October to March or April), when mating takes place.

And to make me feel even worse it told me this too:

The gentle pointed face and the entire underside are covered in coarse pale buff hair. Note the teddy bear button black eyes and the slightly upturned snout.

My neighbour was out and about himself. He said: "Ah don't feel to bad about it, just say a little prayer before going to bed tonight"
Me:"I don't believe in a god. And furthermore according to your religion I don't think animals have souls so they don't go to heaven anyway. So having a little pray would fall on deaf ears"
He had apparently never thought about that. Which I thought rather odd him being a practising catholic and what not. He must have had to learn the catechism by heart as a boy and wondered about animals if one of his pets died?

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful:

The Lord God made them all

*shudders visibly*

Because, being the heathen I have always been, I prefer this Monty Python version to the C.F. Alexander original:

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
Al things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot.

Each little snake that poisons,
Each little wasp that stings,
He made their brutish venom,
He made their horrid wings.

All things sick and cancerous,
All evil great and small,
All things foul and dangerous,
The Lord God made them all.

Each nasty little hornet,
Each beastly little squid,
Who made the spiky urchin?
Who made the sharks? He did.

All things scabbed and ulcerous,
All pox both great and small,
Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
The Lord God made them all.


So I fetched the shovel, dug a hole, put my victim in it and covered it with dirt. So long little fellow. May all the insects you had been feeding on 'till I mowed you down have a feast on your little carcass. Ironic how nature works.


Napoleon has humbugged me!

As mentioned in a previous post Napoleon turned out to be the Middle Teen™ nemesis. To add some colour to our little history-pestering-rants we decided on another brain-feeding excursion with her. So to Waterloo! On the webbers I read there'd be artillery demonstrations. I thought those had been restricted because the Lion's Mound was becoming unstable due to the vibrations of canon fire. But I can't find any confirmation anywhere reliable. Just some newspaper clipping from 1999. And it's been well over ten years since I remember hearing about that. It has become obvious that recent history does not exist if it is not on the internet. Urban legend rumour has it. Or it could have been an old April Fools joke?

Not a lot of people about, but then again it was pissing down, with very cold gusts of wind.
I wanted to count the steps while ascending, but lost count half way. When I stopped to take a picture I forgot the number I'd reached. But I looked it up and it's 226 steps before you get to the cast iron lion. It's facing France. So this is the equivalent of giving a nation the finger about two hundred years ago. Sacre blue!

It must be a spectacular view from up there if they do the battle re-enactments. And very informative to see all the troop movements. Warfare then was more comparable to a chess game.

The Mound was built on the spot where, allegedly, the Prince of Orange got wounded during the battle. The exact facts will be enveloped by the shrouds of history but there are two stories as to how the Prince left the battle field. Both of them on a litter. Story #1 says his horse got shot from under him, he then took a bullet in the shoulder and was carried off on an old door from a nearby barn. Story #2 says he merely fainted and had to be carried off. So not a glorious exit. We can see which sides both stories are coming from. But dad was pretty proud of his son and erected the Lion.
Funnily enough, when viewed from a satellite it looks like a breast with an erect nipple. Click picture to enhance (yes, that pun is intended).

Next to the mammiform landmark there is a panorama. It is one of a handful surviving in Europe today. Panoramas were very popular during the 19th century. Panorama Mestdagh in Scheveningen is a unique example of one. I will dedicate an entire post on painted panorama's later on. The panorama in Waterloo is in very poor shape. They are currently redoing the façade and are giving the roof a once over too. Inside things are an abomination. The painting is affected by water stains in several places. It is in very poor taste to let such a work go to waste. The yearly income this landmark rakes in could be put to good use to help preserve this panorama. Not just for the sake it being attached to Waterloo because it depicts the battle, but of the importance of it being a unique monument.

Some chaps in historical uniforms were pottering about at the foot of the Hill. They represented soldiers from the 8th Imperial artillery regiment They had a little cannon they fired with half a charge and without a cannon ball. Apparently it took 8 men to fire a canon. Well, six actually and two in charge of the charges.

But the French, apparently, still have not digested this defeat. The only come back ze costumed sergeant gave me was: 'But we did win in Austerlitz'. He also told me they were planning on removing the lion from its socle and put the Imperial eagle in its rightful place. And then he got lost in his own chuckles. But to put it in Old Throat-slasher Wellington's words as he could have told Napoleon on the eve of the battle:
"When a man soils a Wellington he puts his foot in it. Yours with sincere apologies for your impending violent slaughter, Arthur Wellesey, Duke of Wellington."

But it does look like Old Bony did win here as the vivid memories of the conflicts have waned. The souvenir shop in the basement of the Panorama displays nothing but Napoleon stuff. From the commemorative tankard to the small imitation bronze statuette and the tea towels. No mention of the victors anywhere. So he's back. With a vengeance.

"Stand by cannon for loading procedure... Stoke. Muzzle. Wrench. Crank the storm barrel. Pull tee bar. Check elevation. Chart trajectory. Prime fuse. Aim... FIRE!"

For some good podcasts on Napoleonic history or indeed the battle of Waterloo check out Professor Bob Packett's site and the Napoleon 101's.


Animals in paradise

I have a widget on my computer which I very much enjoy. It's the Rijksmuseum widget and treats you daily to a new painting from the Rijksmuseum collection in Amsterdam. If you press the refresh-like arrow the canvas flips over and on the back you can read a small summary of what the painting is about. And there is a clickable link to the pages dedicated to the work over on the Rijksmuseum site. Very well done, very high quality, lovely jubbly for iconophiles like me. Today's featured painting was Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem's 'The Fall of Man' painted in 1592.
The page featuring this artwork has another interesting feature. There is a function you can engage. The "Read This Page" function reads the page aloud, so it can help disabled surfers. That is a very good idea, and also a requirement. National institutions need to comply to disability access rules and this includes websites. So I tried it. It's very good. And very annoying at the same time. The text reads: "They refer to the various human temperaments." And the voice reads it as: "They refer to the various human link temperaments." It actually says 'LINK'. Every time there is a word with a link it does that.
I like this painting because of a very silly detail. The monkey and the cat. It is the sweetest bit of the Mannerist work. It's not the most scientific reason why I like it, but it will do for this blog post.

"The ape next to Adam refers to the 'sanguine' (hot-blooded, lustful) temperament, which it was thought to be particularly typical of men. The cat, lovingly cradled by the ape, symbolises the choleric (cruel, nasty) temperament, to which women have tended ever since the Eve."

At first glance both mammals look the best of chums. Sweet little monkey and itty bitty kitty cat are so fluffy and lovable. It would make everyone fill up with a warm glow of cuddles and smiles. It makes me smile too but for a very different reason. I don't know about you, dear reader, but to me it looks like the monkey is in the process of loosening its choke-like hold on the cat just for the sake of the picture. Bearing in mind the epic Monkey/Bird debate this has a double meaning not every art historian is able to fathom. Monkeys are just soo done with the birds. Bring on the cats.

Bi-tyrely propulsion

Trust me to go cycling on the day all flies and winged insectivore-like things come alive and take to the skies. And I didn't have any sunglasses with me. So I could only peddle along looking sideways, down or squinting my eyes. And keep my mouth shut. I don't like having my extra bit of protein administered in the form of a bug. Trust me to, on one of the first sunny days of spring, see a Peacock butterfly (Inachis Io), fresh out of hibernation, and squish it under my front tyre. I didn't do it on purpose. I was working my way up an extremely steep climb, had just conquered the hill, and all of a sudden the ruddy insect gently fluttered right in front of my bike and set itself down. I swerved to avoid it (in a Danneels-on-Claus sense), but to no avail. Its wings were open. It's quite large when unfolded. I'd say about 5 cms. That's nearly the width of my wheel.
A bit further down the road a very nasty looking terrier was observing me from a distance. As I neared it hid behind a tacky looking letterbox. And then it lashed out. Luckily I was peddling along in a low gear and managed to get away from the beast as quick as I could. Alas the ruddy poo factory could outrun me and nearly sank its teeth into my trouser. The owner should have a rabies shot.
But I misinterpreted the map. Instead of relaxing and whizzing down what, in my imagination resembled a ski jump slope, turned out to be a huge motivation killer. I had to do the decent thing and had a very steep ascent of 30 meters up spread out over just 400 meters. And not on a road. Only mud and some remnants of what looked like ground brick.
When I nearly hit the 18km mark I wanted to go home. I know where I was at the time an I knew a short cut, not on the map. I had driven over it many a time before. In a car. How steep it was, and how utterly milk shaky it felt! Again, battling with gravity, being shaken like a James Bond martini, but I made it. I could hear the drinks cabinet hailing me already. Just had to pass the dreaded crossing. I call it the 'stupidity-test-crossing'. It is a T-shaped crossing. In the middle there is a kind of a lowered cobblestone triangle. It allows for a division of the road and can still let farming vehicles pass over it (They had to amend it the first time round. It was too high. Tee Hee. Trucks and buses couldn't make the turn). To the right are two lanes. One for turning right and another return lane. A third lane is only for cars coming from the other street and turning right there. The blue and green lines indicate a correct way of turning into the street. The red line shows the little detour all the idiots make. This has been bugging me ever since they redid the road last year. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have seen people take the red line trajectory.


8 years ago today...

Eight years ago today an enigma coding machine was stolen from Bletchley Park. Now read on...

Police said the thief is thought to have carried the cipher machine, which looks like a large typewriter, out of the museum in broad daylight, on a day when the building was open to the public.
It is one of only three such machines in the world, and its value is estimated at more than £100,000.
Christine Large, the director of the Bletchley Park Trust, said, "This particular one was extra special because it was used by the German SS and was made to a higher standard than the ones which were used in the field. We can only hope we get it back."
It's thought the machine may have been stolen to order. It is thought more than one person may have been involved in a carefully-planned operation.
The machine was secured in a glass cabinet which had not been broken. There was an alarm system in operation as well as volunteers watching over the collections.
The theft comes just a week before a new security system was to be installed.

Bletchley Park, a stately home in 50 acres of grounds, was known as Station X during the war. There, British agents succeeded in cracking the Enigma code - a cipher with 150 million million million possible combinations which the Germans thought was unbreakable. By 1945 there were 10,000 mathematicians, linguists and chess champions working there, decoding up to 18,000 messages a day.
The methods they used - inventing machines which ran through large numbers of possible positions in a short period of time - meant the work at Bletchley Park paved the way for the invention of the modern computer.
Their work is said to have shortened the war by several years. Winston Churchill referred to the staff as "the geese that laid the golden eggs, and never cackled".

Station X was a secret until 1967, but is now a popular tourist attraction.

The machine's whereabouts remained a mystery until in September 2000, police began receiving letters from a man saying he was acting on behalf of someone who had bought it. The letter writer demanded £25,000 for its safe return.
The museum agreed to pay the money, but a 6 October deadline was not met.
Two weeks later, BBC television presenter Jeremy Paxman opened a parcel at his office at Television Centre, London. It contained the missing Enigma machine.
No ransom was paid. The machine was missing three of its four encryption rotor wheels, but they were later also returned safely.
Police arrested antiques dealer Dennis Yates in November 2000. The 58-year-old from Derbyshire admitted sending the letters to the police, and sending the Enigma machine to Jeremy Paxman. He was jailed for 10 months.
During his trial the court heard he had become involved in events which spiralled out of his control.
He had received death threats from those he was working for, and has never named the mystery buyer to police.
Those who carried out the theft have never been caught.

©BBC website

Be sure to check out Dirk's excellent website on cipher machines & cryptology and blog on a trickload of other interesting stuff.

I'm still waiting

I'm a big fool for not having been fooled today. Yet. April 1st is not over yet.