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.



Nothing like a bit of honesty to make everything crystal clear:

Thanks to Dr Livingstone for curtailing my web browsing activities in this direction.


Science vs magic

Time for a Fuck Yeah! moment.

It's from the 1982 direct to video animation feature called Flight of Dragons (loosly based on the book by the same name).
Oh, and yes, that is James Earl Jones voicing the red wizard Ommadon.

So what is the moral of the story and what have we learned today? Please always bear in mind:

Anyone whose teachings and power is based on superstition and the ignorance of others is gonna get a kick in the nads from science and logic.


Satan beer removed from shops

The religious fundies are at it again in the US of A.
This time they've complained about the delicious Belgian beer Satan.

/rolls eyes

Read the full story in this linky.

"There is a Bible-thumping crusader behind every tree," says Charlotte Rowell, the owner of Noble Union. "We feel very strongly about enforcement of underage consumption laws and responsible drinking. But what I do have a hard time tolerating is the intolerance of religion. Were this to be taken to a legal battle, we would certainly win the right to keep our beers in the market."

Do it! Go for it! I'll toast to that!
All hail to the ale and long live Satan, Duvel and Lucifer.

And to top it off I give you that well known Flemish saying:

"In heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here"


Stealth Cat

Always a big hit with Mouser.


Funny Money

This totally cracked me up when I saw the front page of the newspaper yesterday.


Fantastic Contraption

I'm addicted. Another time waster. It's top notch geeky stuff. So bookmark this right away.
It's a fun physics game. The aim of the game is to build some weird machine to get some pink object to a pink goal while having to conquer various physical obstacles. Here are some different, weird and wonderful contraptions. Try the tutorial and then start building. It's really easy to pick up. It does not involve speed or any of that, just some imagination and cunning. Enjoy!


A safe investment in troubled times

In light of all these credit crises and banks on the brink of bankruptcy, where is your money safe? Stuff it in a sock and hide it under a mattress?
I think I've got the solution in just two words: Buy art.
It’s very simple. Invest some of your savings in art. It is a fairly sound investment without too much risk involved. It doesn't lose its value during a financial crisis, even in times of war or supreme inflation. You do however need to know what exactly you are buying, if it turns out you've bought a fake, that's money down the drain. But a quick internet search and some browsing through Art Indexes can give you a fairly good idea what items you might be interested in are going for and have been going for for several years.
Dr Rachel Campbell has done some interesting research on this topic.
Mind you: I am not talking about the top end of the market here. The art market can collapse (remember the Japanese companies buying up impressionist paintings because stocks were falling). If you've got more than half a million euros to spend (-sorry - invest), that would be something to worry about.

I don't know where my little country stands on this issue but some European countries are looking into the possibility if it is at all possible to incorporate works of art into pension trusts.
And if you don't have room in your house, the insurance unaffordable or the conditions to keep it are not up to scratch: Rent it out to a museum. Rent comprising of restoration, climate controlled storage and/or insurance. But always bear in mind that even storage facilities are prone to fire.
If it is a work of national importance, I'm sure public funding of your Shurgardist practice won't be a point of discussion. If it is, you can always sell it with a profit to the museum or state in question. Some mayor art works have been bought by governments to keep the work of art inside the country, rather than see it disappear into a collection on another continent.

So I'm going on a scouting trip next week, an auction house has some viewing days, auction is in two weeks time.
The work from the artist I've got my eye on has been selling for much less than it has been valued for about a decade now. But alas, I can't attend the auction in person, when I need to do the bidding I have a class. So doing it over the phone is out of the question too. I could send off the standard email to the auction house to do the bidding for me, but I'm not sure how honest they would handle my bid. They are a respectable hotel de vente but I am and always will be a sceptic till my dying day.

But nonetheless: Going, going, gone!


2008 Ig Nobel Prizes

It's that time of year again. I love the Ig Nobels. For those of you in the dark: The Ig Nobel Prizes are a parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year in early October — around the time the recipients of the genuine Nobel Prizes are announced — for ten achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think."
The 2008 Ig Nobel winners, awarded Thursday at Harvard University by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine (italics mine):

NUTRITION: Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence for demonstrating that food tastes better when it sounds better.

I like my food to be dead and silent before I ingest.

PEACE: The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.

If I live in Switzerland and forget to water my plant, is that an offense?

ARCHAEOLOGY: Astolfo Gomes de Mello Araujo and Jose Carlos Marcelino for showing armadillos can scramble the contents of an archaeological dig.

They love to dig, even without PhD's.

BIOLOGY: Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert and Michel Franc for discovering that fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than fleas that live on a cat.

When he says "Jump", you ask "How High?"

MEDICINE: Dan Ariely for demonstrating that expensive fake medicine is more effective than cheap fake medicine.

That probably explains why homeopathy is so expensive.

COGNITIVE SCIENCE: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero, Akio Ishiguro and Agota Toth for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.

Judging by the names of the researchers are that Sudoku puzzles perhaps?

ECONOMICS: Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tyber and Brent Jordan for discovering that exotic dancers earn more when at peak fertility.

I think this paper involved some long nights of research.

PHYSICS: Dorian Raymer and Douglas Smith for proving that heaps of string or hair will inevitably tangle.

Were they working on STRING THEORY? -zing!-

CHEMISTRY: Sheree Umpierre, Joseph Hill and Deborah Anderson for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu and B.N. Chiang for proving it is not.

I knew coke cleaned the pipes, but who would have thought someone would take it literally?

LITERATURE: David Sims for his study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations."

I have nothing more to add.

Source: Annals of Improbable Research.


My top 10 of fictional butlers

The title says top 10, there are many more great butlers out there, but I have chosen those who have stood the test of time and have managed to secure a place in my tiny memory. I could name many more, but I have ranked them in order of their best traits I think a butler should posses if he wants to serve his master to his best ability. I'm not sure if I should include a spoiler warning, so I've mentioned it just there in passing.

Here's a top ten of my favourite fictional butlers:

10. Lurch

Although his domestic tasks are somewhat rendered problematic by his physical appearance, his vocabulary restricted to grunting short phrases, he does play the harpsichord at a virtuosic level. And that always goes down well with the Addams Family dinner guests. The Ted Cassidy portrayal of the zombie butler is the one performance that is worthy of note when conjuring up a mental picture of the manservant.

9. Coleman

Coleman portrayed by Denholm Elliot in Trading Places knows his duties well as a servant to a wealthy commodity broker (Dan Ackroyd). Alas, he is easily bribed and switches his loyalty to whomever happens to dangle an even larger pay packet in front of him.

8. Max von Mayerling

In Sunset Boulevard (1950) Erich von Stroheim's character keeps the myth of stardom alive for his employer Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson).
He sacrificed his career as a movie director. And also because he was madam's first husband. Talk about the loyalty trait. That's a high score on Mrs B's butler list.

7. Oddjob

The mute Korean servant (Harold Sakata) to Mister Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) is a snappy dresser. Although very well mannered and sporting a nicely kept moustache, be sure to start running if he takes his steel-rimmed bowler hat off to you. Even if your name is Pussy Galore or Shirley Bassey.

6. "Nosey" Parker

Although talking with a cockney accent and bunged-up nose, the former safecracker and cat burglar is an International Rescue agent along with his employer Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward. He chauffeurs her modified pink Rolls Royce called FAB1. His services and loyalty are indispensable to IR and Lady P.

5. Hobson

Hobson has many fine qualities, which an employer might expect of his butler. When the rich heir apparent is slightly eccentric and an alcoholic following character traits in Hobson (Sir John Gielgud) go down very well to keep Arthur (Dudley Moore) in check:
-his blatant honesty: "You spoiled little bastard!"
-his usage of put down lines:
"Arthur: Hobson, do you know what the worst thing is about being me?
Hobson: I should imagine your breath"
-his unshakable logic
"Arthur: Girls don't wear ties! It's the perfect crime! All right, some girls wear ties, it's not the perfect crime - but it's a pretty good crime!
Hobson: Yes; if she murdered the tie, it would be the perfect crime. "
-his ability to contain a crises (the slaps around his master's face)
-being on the lookout for gold diggers:
"Linda: Oh, I have plans for tonight. What should I wear?
Hobson: Steal something casual. "
-his father figure approach to Arthur: "Arthur; do your armpits".

4. Alfred Pennyworth

Again a surrogate father figure, now to orphaned millionaire Bruce Wayne, with a healthy dosage of cynicism and sarcasm thrown in. As a retired actor, former RAF medic and a former agent for the British intelligence agency MI-6 (who worked in occupied France during the Second World War) Alfred is the ideal employee to serve underground hero Batman and live in chum Robin at Wayne Manor. He takes care of business when his master is away and maintains the equipment in the Bat Cave.
Among these things the list of Alfred's other accomplishments is impressive: skilled in archery and swordsmanship, capable of impersonating Bruce Wayne on the telephone, can remove bullets, is able to perform arthroscopic surgery and other advanced medical procedures, has a talent for rose breeding and dabbles in computer and electrical engineering.

3. Wadsworth

This butler with Socialist friends will wait upon your guests at your murder/dinner parties of mystery. He will keep your guests entertained if you are late for your engagement. He will also lock up any murder weapons they happen to have in their possession. Wadsworth does tend to lose keys to doors, will tote guns at your dinner guests and turn lights off at given times. On the plus he can be very witty, is very eloquent, resembles Tim Curry in physical appearance and provides you with three alternate endings. If you do not have a Clue, he is your man for the domestic job.

2. Mr. Edmund Blackadder, Esquire

Blackadder is a very intelligent individual and speaks several languages such as French and Mongolian. He is of noble descent but because his family has fallen on hard times and he is forced to live his life in servitude.
His domestic chores consist of answering the door and delegating most of the work to the servants.
He often steals and sells off his employer’s valuables and is prone to use lies, insults, corruption and ready wit if it suits the betterment of his financial position.
Blackadder even does chores beyond the scope of his duty: He advises on who to lend patronage to, writes the Prince's speeches, rigs elections, woos future brides and is instrumental to keeping the royal bosom free of arses.
The butler has even thought to have attempted re-writing Dr Johnson's famed dictionary in barely one night. Further ambitions in the world of writing condensed in the form of a novel called 'Edmund, a butler's tale' written under the pseudonym of Gertrude Perkins.
King George III often mistakes him for Prince George, whom he serves. He was not without ambition, although his bid to get into the House of Lords failed epically, rumours surfaced he went on to rule as George IV when the Prince Regent was killed by the Duke of Wellington in a duel fought by canon.

1. Crichton

The Admirable Crichton (1957) as portrayed by Kenneth Moore is occupying the number one spot. Crichton deserves to be top of the list because I think he is the only butler who I deem resourceful enough and possesses the skill to cope in a crisis situation without lying, cheating or the use for gadgets. On the London estate he is the indefatigable butler, the real master of the household. He always keeps his place and knows that crossing the boundaries of class is fine on a desert island, but not in Loam Hall, England.
Even after having tasted the role-reversal of master and servant; being addressed as 'Governor' for two years by Lord Loam and his family and being on the brink of marrying his eldest daughter Lady Mary, Crichton still honours the tightly regulated social structure upon return to Old Blighty.
Knowing your place is still the most desirable trait in a butler.

I haven't seen The Admirable Crichton in years. And, as I have been used to, my memory is quite good at confusing things. I have been under the assumption that it was Bob Hope who played Crichton. But it seems I have been confusing two movies. I was thinking of the mock English butler he played in Fancy Pants (a tandem with Lucille Ball). How he got transported from the American Wild West to a tropical island is beyond me but it is not the first time my mind has been playing tricks on me. Perhaps I saw them around the same time and got the two muddled up.
I do really like Lewis Gilbert's work, he has directed a plethora of brilliant movies (think Alfie, Sink the Bismarck, Shirley Valentine, Educating Rita, You only Live Twice,...) and was very fortunate to have met him and get a few pointers from him during a film workshop he led at the 16th International Fantastic Film Festival a decade ago.
The short feature I was working on as a DOP was total crap (the plot, if you can call it that, if I remember correctly, was about some kind of demonic free masons come Opus Dei clan eating babies; very Dan Brownish –avant la lettre). The most memorable thing of the whole production was that I did get to do some stunt driving in an old cream coloured Lada (with fake tiremarks on the hood) disguised as a taxi in the busy Brussels traffic.
Ah, the joys of no budget film making.
It always brings tears to my eyes.
(Read that last sentence as you wish).


Mrs B goes Cyrillic

Hello my Eastern European friends!
Someone stumbled upon my ramblings and this is what the blog header looks like in google translation.
If I translate it back and forth with google translation it's fine. But if I input МИР В СООТВЕТСТВИИ С МИССИС Б into Babelfish it churns out this translation: PEACE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE MISSIS B
Which is very cool and positive, but alas not accurate.


Cushion the impact

My first semester at university started last week. One of the auditoria where we have classes on the history of the Middle Ages has these awful wooden seats. The kind that used to adorn trams primarily in the first half of the twentieth century. Sitting on them for an hour is very much like sitting on a miséricorde. Or, in keeping with the course matter, a Medieval torture rack.
So I decided to give my derrière the benefit of the painful doubt and bought one of these. In turquoise! Yesrday I used it the entire day and still could get out of my seat like a spring chicken! Well, not quite but nearly as fast as all those fresh faced eighteen somethings.
The Dynair ball cushion (to give it its proper name) is made out of some kind of thick, durable, floppy rubber filled with air. It works like a normal cushion but it also exercises your muscles, even the tiniest movements make your back compensate the wobble motion. I'd recommended to everyone who has to sit down for hours on end at a desk. It's not expensive (I paid 40€) and you can claim it back tax wise (ergonomic back strengthening office stuff). I've got the 33cm version, I was taken aback a little because of the size (I thought it would fit into my hangbag, but it's slightly bigger than the entire bag). I have one of those Avolites 'From Rock to Opera' messenger bags and it fits handsomely in there. And I still have some room left for an A4 binder and my box of sandwiches.
So I'm taking this Togu thing everywhere I go from now on. (And yes it does sound like something a vegetarian might eat).There is one little snag. I feel like I'm wearing the hat with the tall feathers in the Muppet sketch. Those who come and sit behind will know what I am talking about.
And if people inquire why on earth I'm sitting on a frisbee I usually have to mention in passing it is not for hemorrhoids.
I've also discovered an advantage, though it might only be me. Sometimes the chairs are too low to adopt a good hight for typing. I get shoulder aches and tennis elbow from having to work in that strained position. I can adopt a more relaxed stance now, even when I'm just at our kitchen table having dinner.
And I just like to stand out from the crowd too. I like to feel special.