Funny Van

In days of scorching heat a nice ice cream is a welcome treat.
Those vans are on the road 24/7. Everywhere you turn, there's one there.

Often licked never beaten.

The Donald Duck on the left looks really miffed.
Mihi. Those words never make me think of ice cream. I know, I have a dirty mind.

As seen on Kew Road, London



The old spinster (at the hop)

One of these big juicy hoppers was tanning itself on our parasol: Chorthippus parallelus. According to my little garden book it is a species with a little abnormalcy; it has tiny wings but is unable to fly. And the sound it makes is similar to that of an old sowing machine.


It's a start

That's right. I went for a spin on the old iron steed yesterday. In the blistering sun.
Yep, I am dead chuffed with myself.
And I did an extra 5 kms on the exercise bike at the gym earlier in the day. So that's well over 30,
That bit about the gym is something for an entirely different post...


Wasp hitches ride

One of the Teens™ saw it as they swung the car door open. It clung to the metal in between the chassis parts with a small extension. It feels papery. Must show the PhD students when they come round end of July to perform their studies and experiments on the wasps.
B.t.w.the biologist phoned me back. They're going to come and take a look our striped garden lodgers when his college is back from holiday. I'm curious. I hope they bring along their infrared camera's and loads of other geeky stuff.
He asked me: 'Are we allowed to dig there? A lot of people don't want their lawns messed up if they hear we need to dig'.
I replied: 'In the name of science, you may even dig up the whole garden'.


A Brief Question

As seen in Dr Livingstone's laundry bag:

Shop worker: "Calvin Klein. How do you spell that?"
Shop Supervisor: "Like you pronounce it"
Shop worker: "Ok, thanks."
[sets embroidery machine letters to 'Calven Klain']


Too easy

Just had to repost this because old Ratzi was down under a couple of days ago and mumbled some kind of apology.

By Matt Bors


Flag this

Today Belgium celebrates its version of Independance Day.
A patriotist nature is not inherently ingrained in Belgian genes. I don't think anyone can sing the country's anthem in at least one official language, let alone know all the words to the tune. The majority might just be able to hum it.

Flags only appear in the street here for very special reasons:
-the national team qualified for some football tournament
-a Belgian player has reached finals of some tennis tournament
-an athlete has reached the finals of some Golden League tournament
-flags need to be aired once in a while

I don't own a Belgian tricolore.
I do however own a pirate flag. It is now up our balcony and is visible from the street. It's there for some very special reasons:
I want to get people to start thinking about the sense or reason for putting up a flag on a special day.
And I want to protest against the way this country is being run by those bumbling nincompoops that make the country I live in the biggest enigma in Europe since the Rubic's cube first hit the shelves.


The Lawnmower Man

My lawnmower has left me in the lurch again. I just got it back from some local tractor dealer who also dabbles in repairs. I did manage to do some mowing, but then the traction failed again. And something smelled burnt this time. The teeth on the wheel axis are f*cked (inside the traction box). They'd never even opened it! (And mind you, there were a couple of the same machines waiting for repairs. And then they'd just blame it on being a cheap mower. Geddit?).
So 'to dabble' actually means nothing more than an amateurish attempt at fixing it. 18€ down the drain. All he'll ever get from me in the near future is some bad mouth to mouth advertising. And news (read: gossip) travels quite fast around close knit farming communities like this one. Luckily Dr Livingstone has emerged from the jungle that is called touring and has taken a look at it.

So all you'll ever need to fix a lawnmower is (in exact order as listed below):
-a hammer
-Dr Livingstone
-a trappist tripel (preferred brand: Westmalle)

We still are missing something I left off the list:
-spare parts

So result after ½ weekend: no mower, bank holiday monday, rain, high grass and a tipsy Livingstone.
I think I'll nip back next door and ask Mr Moleslayer™ if I can borrow his machine again...


Janis says:

Dr Livingstone is selling his car.
Prior to buying this one, he sold his RR Sport (I couldn't sit in the passenger seat and then get out of it in a civilized and orderly fashion) and needed a good, reliable car for driving long distances. So last year we went out for test drives in all kinds of classy vehicles.
He ended up buying the Mercedes E 320.
I fell asleep during the first little spin. Heaven. But Dr "I've been driving Range Rover since 1986" Livingstone was looking at the afore mentioned off roaders again within a few weeks of the acquisition of the Merc.
So we've been driving around looking at Ranges again.
So in a nutshell: if anyone would like to take it off our hands: send me a message with your email address and details (comments are moderated, so if it contains private info, I won't publish) and I'll give the Dr's contact details.

In the immortal words of Janis Joplin:

Oh Lord, wont you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends,
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So oh Lord, wont you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

For Sale:
Mercedes E 320 CDI V6 Break Elegance FULL Option (04/2007)
Colour: Iridium silver (ext.), Leather anthracite and woodgrain (int.)
Engine: Diesel (155 Kw/ 211 Pk) = interesting car tax for Belgian residents!
Cylinders: 2987 cc (6)
80-litre fuel tank
Transmission: Automatic
Kilometers: 24000 km
Price (incl. VAT + Viasat tracking system) 54,000 €

-Elegance version
-Viasat tracking system (for insurance purposes)
-Full spare tire alloy 16"
-Foldable electronic tow hook

Transmission, suspension & Wheels:
-16" alloy wheels (4) - 5 twin-spoke design (225/50)
-Parameter steering - speed sensitive
-7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic transmission with Tipfunction and Speedtronic cruise control
-AirMATIC Dual Control – semi-active air suspension with self-levelling and adaptive damping suspension
-Twin oval exhaust pipes in polished stainless steel
-Protective plate under carter
-EU4 Norm Diesel particle filter

Exterior, paint, trim and upholstery:
-Wood and leather steering wheel to match interior appointments
-Leather upholstery
-Metallic paint
-Roof rails

-Driver & passenger seat - electrically adjustable with memory and Pre-Safe seat positioning
-Dynamic multi-contour seats + front seat backrests (Memory Pack)
-Front seats - heated & comfort ventilated
-Electric glass sunroof with rain-sensor closin, infra-red reflective & heat-insulating glass
-Door mirrors - electrically adjustable, folding and heated
-Automatically dimming rear-view mirror and driver's exterior mirror
-Garage door opener
-Parktronic - audible and visual parking aid, front and rear
-Luxury automatic climate control - includes digital display and four-zone control
-Sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors - extendable
-Interior lighting in rear with integral reading lights
-Ambient interior lighting front, dimmable
-Storage compartment with 12 V socket in the front centre console
-Centre armrest, rear – with storage and cupholders
-Storage compartments under front seats

-CD changer in centre console – 6-disc MP3 compatible
-Includes radio and single CD / DVD in centre console, providing navigation information for most of Europe and TMC (Traffic Message Channel)
-Surround sound system – Harman-Kardon LOGIC 7®
-12 high-performance speakers and additional amplifier
-Cockpit Management and Navigation Display (COMAND)
-Simultaneous use of navigation and audio CD possible
-Linguatronic – voice activation of telephone, satellite navigation and specific audio functions
-Hands-free facility and telephone aerial on roof
-A separate cradle for mobile phone
-Bluetooth module fully compatible with most phones (iPhones incl.)
-Aux. input (for iPods)

Security and safety:
-Headlamps – Bi-Xenon with headlamp wash, dynamic range adjustment and cornering lights
-ISOFIX child seat fixing points in rear

Load compartment:
-Additional loading floor – with storage tray
-Storage box – behind rear seats
-Tailgate – opens / closes automatically
-Compartment cover - opens / closes automatically

list continues ad nauseam...



The Sting

I was trimming the hedges with my landlord the other day and he got stung by a wasp (He was wearing a ridiculous pair of shorts at the time, so he kind of deserved it). They were coming out of the ground, we probably disturbed them when their entrance to their nest was covered with leaves (yes, it is in the ground). So he went out to buy some stuff to get rid of them.
Today we found another nest, a behemoth one by the look of the entrance. I think it is about a fist wide.
I called a PhD student from the University of Leuven to come and take a look. He's looking for some nests for his research. His thesis title is: "The maintenance of complex social behaviour: an integrated study for conflict-reducing mechanisms in wasps". That doesn't sound bad, I just don't have a clue what it's about but I hope he can help us get rid of these two colonies. He wasn't in so I left a message on his answering machine, I hope he calls me back today, I'm curious to find out how this will pan out. And the landlord is eager to get shod of them.



Hair To Go

I just had to go. It always takes three hours before I walk out of there again. I always bring some Private Eye copies with me to make the waiting a bit more bearable .
I don't engage in small talk. Hairdressers really have nothing to talk about anything I would even consider remotely interesting. I'm not interested in their private lives, what happened to so and so in a soap or which boutique is worth a visit. Most conversations are mind blowingly uninteresting. (See what I did there?) They give new meaning to the word pointless. They take it to a next level. Don't get me wrong, hairdressers are very nice people but the only thing I actually really look forward to is the head massage I get when they're shampooing. And the free booze.


Thermometer goes where?

I had to take Mouser to the doctor yet again today. Nothing nearly as visibly scary as last time, and I had planned this trip a bit more carefully.
Something I never dreamt of doing a year ago, but it was Dr Livingstone's suggestion: I bought a cat carrier. I went down to the local store where they have everything. And I mean everything; from bikes for your flea circus to critical reef tank apparatus. I wanted one without those metal bar things on makeshift hinges. I could never get the cat to stay in the box when I'd be fumbling about trying to get the darn cagy bits to stay in some sort of orderly locked albeit secure position. So I got, what I call, the beauty case model. It hinges in the middle and locks with a simple latch & slide.

Mouser was pottering about indoors, so I arranged everything for a swift catnapping. Basket open, blanket with Mousersmell on the bottom. Keys in the door to lock up. Wallet, kitteh passport and ear jewelry aka handsfree set already paired and in place. Keys in the ignition, familiar towel draped over my leather seats so Velvet Claws can't scratch.
Putting the cat in the carrier was childs play. But then I had to lock it properly. Didn't want to risk it popping open at the most inconvenient time or place. The darn thing wouldn't close. In the shop it was really easy, it was fast shut in the bat of an eye. Why didn't it work now?
Mouser's panic yelping made me nervous and my paws were getting sweaty too. Then I saw the box was out of its original shape because Mouser was trying the Houdini Escape Impression and the sides didn't interlock where they were supposed to. Then kitteh suddenly setteled down, the two halves finally snapped into place and we were off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Cat.

There were some people in the waiting room. A mother and child with their rodents and vermin. All caged up separately. A white rabbit (minus hat), a hamster and a 15 year old deaf Terrier. The owner gleefully mentioned if it wasn't as deaf as a post it would probably would have started yapping at Mouser's whaling. I replied if it wasn't for the carrier, Mouser would probably scratch the little bugger's eyes out. Funnily enough if I google "Houdini escape cage" all the links I get are hamster related. Just fancy that!

Then a woman with a caged pigeon entered. She had a shelter for those wounded and/or stray excrement dive bombers . The one she had with her had a ring that was too tight and it's poor little paw was desperate for some good blood circulation. She was there to have it removed. "These pigeon breeders disgust me. Once a pigeon has a slight problem, they discard it and it has to fend for itself." She also had a huge Dalmation, but it was still in the car. "He won't come out. He's scared". She pointed to the window, her car was parked right beside it and I looked out. A huge sad looking dog on the passenger seat stared back at me.
Good thing it was still in the car, Mouser would have wetted that blanket in a flash.
Then some pensioners with an old little dog came in and a young boy with his father and a striped adorable kitten.

The vet ushered us into the consultation room. The examination table was strewn with hairs. "I'm sorry for the mess, I'll clean this away first. That bunny lost some hair" Good thing it wasn't an angora, we would have had a nice warm sweater there.
So she had a look at Mouser's head. "The swelling is a lymphoid infection, it'll have to have some antibiotics. I'll see if Mouser's running a temperature." Her assistant wasn't there, so I had to hold Velvet Claws when the thermometer had to go in.
Cue lolcat: "Thermometer goes where?"
Kitteh made some objection noises when we had to hold her down, but I think it was surprise that made it stop and puss fell eerily silent. I guess this was the moment of insertion.
She then gave Mouser a shot of antibiotics. I hope the swelling goes down.

Cue vet:"What a sweet little cat, so adorable and calm. If it wasn't for my own cat, I'd say this was the nicest cat I have ever seen".
I don't know what kind of cool drugs are lying about in her surgery, but she must be on something.
We lovingly put her back in the carrier, without any noisy complaint whatsoever. Then the vet told me about her cat's ongoing attempts to eat her canary. Think Sylvester and Tweety.
Speaking of more loony tunes:
Act two of the opéra bouffe yelping in the car, Mouser even tried to burrow out of the carrier and gnaw through the plastic slots in the side.

She's very sedate now. Just like last time. Purring and plucking, she's on my lap while I'm blogging as we speak. Even having the intermittent nap and dream (with full blown ear, whisker and paw movements). She'd been miaowing ever since we got back in the car for the drive home and she didn't even leap out of the carrier when I opened it.
Ahh, look at it there, so sweet. Content cat. Our little cuty mice catcher.


Marble adding machine

If your brains have a bad day, or the dmx widget to quickly calculate dip switch settings on your desktop isn't working, try this.


He's been taken up! (again)

Being the heartless heathen I am, I blogged about the flying priest when he went missing back in April.
Apparently his body has been found. DNA has to identify him but another source states:

"Based on the clothes, back pack and shoes we assume it is the body of the priest"

See, no mention of a bible anywhere.
And don't say I told you so.

Cue God (bis):
"If I wanted you to fly I would have given you wings and not party balloons"

Hooters in the garden

Dr Livingstone spotted an owl perched on a tree in the neighbouring field a couple of evenings ago with his sharp little eyes (yes- that is a James Bond reference).
I saw it again around the same time last night. It's a Strix aluco or the Eurasian Tawny Owl.
I decided to brush up on my owls.
A resource I very much recommend are the owlpages.com.
It has a lot of very clear info, pictures and sounds too.
When the Dr tries to imitate its typical standard wow-wow-hooo hoot I always burst out in laughter. It think it actually scares them away more than the flying mousers pay any attention to it.
I suspect it sounds to the owls like what it sounds like to us: a Dutchman speaking English. You can always tell he's Dutch because of his outrageous accent.
About the piercing coo-wik sound Dr Livingstone is mistaken. What he thinks is the sound made by a juvenile calling out is actually a cry for expressing aggression. (But then again he might not be too far off: Sometimes these two things are not very far apart. Hooded, bored, juvenile delinquent teenagers are on the rampage again since school is out for summer).


Longitude for insomniacs

My sleepless nights are spent looking at the skies.
The waxing and waning moon are a feast for the eye of the insomniac.
In the picture I took a couple of nights ago, on the border of the lit crescent, you can clearly see two big craters. They disturb the clean rim of sunlight/shadow transition. The rim of the cratered moon surface facing the sun is dark, the illuminated crater bed resembling a freckle on a white ivory nose, a little flaw on an impeccable sickle-shaped lit curve.
The bottom crater is called Petavius and is 188 km wide. It is named after the French Jesuit theologian Denis Pétau (not the best looker in the bunch if you glance at his -dare I say- ugly mug).
The other crater is 127 kilometers wide and sports the name Langrenus crater. It is named after Michel Florent van Langren, a selenographer (selenography: the scientific mapping of the moon) and engineer who lived and worked in the 17th century. He is regarded to have made the first map of the moon under the patronage of the Spanish Crown. I was familiar with the crater, but ignorant of where the name of the selenological bowl-shaped cavity actually was derived from.
Mr van Langren is quite the interesting Renaissance man as it turns out. No 'scolarly' education (although his father Arnold was in the same line of work), but skilled in navigation, cartography, cosmology, military, civil and naval engineering,...
I'll delve deeper into his longitude solving, time permitting. He devised a way of determining longitude through the moon at sea through use of the illumination and eclipse (i.e., darkening) of lunar mountains, frequent phenomena like the moons of Jupiter, that could be observed from all points of the earth.
The Brits claim it was a Yorkshire clockmaker who solved the longitude problem, albeit a century later (but I'm just saying this off the top of my head). I suppose it was much more accurate and reliable in absence of celestial objects but I'll definitely have to read up on that before I post anything stupid. I have a little paperback by Dava Sobel on my shelf on John Harrison, so that could probably answer my question.
As soon as I've finished the book on the Byzantinian empress Theodora (by Paolo Cesaretti), I'll get stuck into that one.


Identity Crises

My facebook profile is having an identity crises. It’s not sure if I’m a man or a woman.
In the profile there is a drop down box that says ‘select sex’. I can only choose ‘male’ or ‘female’, not ‘yes please’.

So what could be confusing about my Mini-Feed?
“Please choose how we should refer to you”

I would prefer ‘Your Highness’ but that is just never going to happen.

Facebook is simple and easy when it comes to personal details:
‘Single’, ‘in a relationship’, ‘engaged’, ‘married’, ‘in an open relationship’ or ‘it’s complicated’ (which actually means that’s none of your sodding business).

That is a for cry from the complicated 29 options you can tick on the yearly tax form. As lesser evils go, filling in the tax form is not made any easier by the plethora of personal details the tax collectors are asking you for. Every option corresponds to a very specific financial situation. Even if you’re dead, you still have to fill in the tax form.
But alas, there is no ‘it’s complicated’ box to tick.


I thought I'd just drop in

I heard a dull thud, looked around, saw nothing. Then I looked up. There is was. A little bat. Probably fast asleep up in the roof and probably relaxed a bit too much and let go of whatever it was hanging on to. Fell out of its bed so to speak. I got the old camera out. It lay quite still. Probably a bit dazed and confused, just like me in the mornings.
Then it, very gently, started to move about. Poor thing started to slide off the little roof above our kitchen door. It's made of plastic so no grip whatsoever for a bat just dropping in. I ran down to the garage to fetch some gloves in case it would teeter over the edge. I had read there is a chance they carry rabies so a thick glove was in order. It stopped short of the edge and had turned round. So I got the camera out and got a pretty picture of the little rascal. It was trembling (with fear?). It started moving again so I got the gloves on the ready too. But then it folded its wings open and....poof....it took off, did a couple of swerves round the garden and then disappeared.