Househunting (part 4)

We didn't hear a word from the estate agent on Friday. Nor on Monday morning, so Dr Livingstone had to ring him up.
He gave us some cock and bull story about him being embarrassed to relay the bid to the sellers because it was an extremely low bid. Then he tried some strange story about they'd already got an offer from someone when the old price was still up. And that offer is supposedly 35K more than what we're bidding.

He's not a very convincing liar. He'd told us there was zero interest in the house when it was up for sale in July (with the old price) It is now being sold for 50K less than what it was costing in July. And now we're offering 45K less then the new asking price.

He's probably in a pickle as he probably promised these people they'd get a lot of dosh and it seems, frankly, no one's interested.
Well, we're the second people to go and view the house, the others never came back to him with an offer.

So there you have it. One house, on the market for nearly two months, one seller mortally ill and wanting to get rid of it before he pops it. And everyone else's purse is empty at the moment, as they've spent all their hard earned cash on holiday.

Dr Livingstone told the agent he should come back to us with a new price.

I wonder. I always lose at Monopoly. I expect this won't be any different.


Legacy of Death by Barbara Levy

I failed to mention another book arrived in the post this week (and yes, it was crammed in again, but the book emerged from the cardboard container unscathed).
I've been a bit absent minded, what with the house and everything.
Legacy of Death by Barbara Levy is the extra addition to my library.
It's a collection of anecdotes from the Sanson family. For seven generations they were France's executioners.
It's going to be a juicy read by all means. This book was recommended to me by Professor Bob, among other interests, he is a French history buff. I enjoyed Passionate Exiles (about the relationship between Madame De Staël and Madame Récammier by Maurice Levaillant) and this is something up the same alley.


Househunting (part 3)

We put in an offer on the house!


Househunting (part 2)

We visited the house for a second viewing today.
With some people who know a thing or two about building (Dr Livingstone's squash partner and a collegue of mine from the mill).
It doesn't have any construction faults as far as they could see (we'd even brought a ladder to mount the roof).
The only things we'd need to do as soon as our finances will let us is isolate the roof and walls. The electricity, heating and plumbing all seem in order. They didn't want to blow the trumpet too loud, but all their arguments boiled down to saying we should put in an offer and not be to slow about it either.
So we could move in right away when it is vacated (three to six months). Which would be swell. And be around february. (Just after we've been on vacation and I've finished my first semester exams).
We just need to adjust the cooking area. It's a bit on the low side. It has to go, but funds are lacking for the mo. I'll have to play the lottery now and then. I still foster the idle hope I will one day, eventually, win it.
The ugly bathroom (with brown eighties tiling and matching dreary coloured sink) has to go at some point, but we'll have to put up with it for the time being. I'll slap on a few coats of paint.
Once I've got my degree and start earning loads of money through organized crime (or line my pockets with state money), we'll fit one of those Italian design things in. (That's a joke by the way, for you touchy-feely people).
We can even rent out two of the stables to generate some extra dosh. I'm willing to muck out the boxes if I can live there and grow to a ripe old age with Dr Livingstone. Even though I am afraid of horses (they're so big!).


Charming word

A charming word I came across: defenestration.
The act of leaving a building in an uncomely fashion: not through a door at ground level.


Dava Sobel - Galileo's Daughter

I finished Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter the other day. The book had everything I had expected te read. After reading Longitude, I knew I was in for another good read on science history.
In June I had also read Steven Shapin's The Scientific Revolution for a more philosophical approach to the whole matter, encompassing a few centuries of -his conclusion- a non-revolution.
I even had to recommend the book to someone teaching at the history department at my university. The lady in question had never heard of Torricelli. She mistakenly proclaimed Blaise Pascal to be the inventor of the barometer.
Luckily she had corrected her mistake before she forwarded the handouts to all of the students.
So I highly recommend reading Galileo's Daughter. It discusses (among other things) Galileo's Inquisition Trail plus all the events leading up to it.
And I highly recommend Longitude too, if you haven't done so already.

So I added a little cartoon for comic relief's sake. But it is inaccurate (if you read the book you'll know why). And if you haven't or aren't planning on doing so, here are the reasons:

- Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter in 1610. He measured observed mountains on the Moon in 1609.
- The edict against Copernican doctrine wasn't issued until 1616.
- The pope 'in charge' as you will when the Inquisition Trial was in effect was pope Urban VIII. He didn't become pope untill 1623.
- The papal grudge against Galileo only took form around 1632 after the publication of his Dialogues.

Now I feel like a real pedant. And the cartoon isn't funny to me anymore. It is factually wrong.
Meh. Sometimes being a geek feels like a curse instead of a blessing.


Le Palais de Justice; humongously beautiful

I was on the train Monday. Next to me two American girls, in their late teens.
We entered Brussels. The Palais de Justice or Justitiepaleis veered into view.

Girl 1: - 'Wow. Look at that building. It's humongous!'
Girl 2:- 'Wow. Yeah. It's beautiful'
Girl 1: - 'What do you suppose it is?'
Girl 2:- 'I dunno. Maybe Congress?'
Girl 1: - 'Maybe the king lives there'
Girl 2:- 'We should ask Anne-Marie. She'll know. She knows everything.'
Girl 1: - 'Nah. She just pretends she knows everything.'

My heart warmed as they expressed admiration at the sheer awesomeness the colossal building by architecte artiste Joseph Poelaert radiated.
And beautiful at that!

I shall have to adjust my take on teenagers.


Househunting (part 1)

We've been looking for a house for well over three years now. Not that there is a lack of houses on offer on the market.
We're just so particular.
We've visited many over the last couple of years, having been very disappointed when physically viewing the piece of real estate. Everything looks so much better on photo.
Or we're just too slow and the property is snatched up immediately right under our very noses.

The househunting starts on the internet. Here are some criteria we use:
1) we want a detached house.
2) no near next door neighbours (they should at least be ten or so metres away from the communal property border.
3) out in the countryside or sparcely populated suburbia, not in mid city.
4) no rediculous pricing
5) I google the address to see what's near and what isn't (again neighbours! Because hell is other people).
6) No football or sports pitches nearby (light pollution)
7) No schools in the area (noise pollution). Descriptions like 'child friendly area' are definitely out!
8) Mouser has to roam around. So busy roads nearby are out.
9) Not too far from (or in a twenty mile radius) where we are now. We kindof like it here
10) Not in the landing approach corridor of the airport.

This evening we're looking at a very lovely bungalo. We're getting on a bit and Dr Livingstone's knees and my back are wasted, so having no stairs in the house would be a very big plus for future years, as we're not bound to physically improve over the years.
It has a nice space of green around it (the house stands on 19 acres), but not too much trouble for gardening purposes. Half of it is a field to stable a horse.
The house has a five year old new roof and heating. It has a ton of advantages over the house we've been renting the past six years. All rooms are bigger, it has double glazing, no fungus growing in the hall and upstairs, no stupid hedges to box us in like a green leafed prison.

Only drawback for Dr Livingstone is across the street: It is a wooded area, but they'll probably build houses there in the following years. And Dr Livingstone is worried about the pond the neighbours have. It will be infested with midges.
I'm not too worried about those, they only sting Dr Livingstone. I'm more worried if it is infested with Lithobates catesbeianus or bullfrog, an invasive species of toad that is very noisy and very dangerous to our native toads. The import has been banned in the EU (they used to be a very popular pond adornment). But those suckers can keep you awake at night, and I'm not known as a sound sleeper.

But, nevertheless, I'm all exited, of course. We just need to raise a couple of funds to pay for the lot if we decide to buy.
I played the lottery and the Euromillions last Friday the thirteenth.
Dr Livingstone didn't want to fill in the numbers, so I used different random number generators.
How ironic three numbers that were drawn were the birthdays of his three teens. 13, 27 and 29.
So we didn't get those either. I only managed to get two number correct. But you need at least three to win 2,5€.
I didn't even break-even with the purchase.
Doesn't look very promising.

Maybe I should offer students at the university to write dissertations for them, just to generate some extra income...
I hear Jean-Pierre Van Rossem has been doing it for years up in Ghent.


Review: The Art Thief by Noah Charney

I finished The Art Thief by Noah Charney last week.

I have two words for you: utterly awful. I'd expressed my doubts before I started reading, based upon the reviews I read on LibraryThing.

So why do I have a problem with the book? Where shall I commence? I have rather a lot of remarks, but they are just to numerous to list, and I don't want to spend too much time ranting over a less than mediocre debut novel.I'll just leave you to ponder the things I found most annoying.

- When the author describes a phone conversation he does so literally, like you'd be in a room with someone, only being able to hear one side of the dialogue.
Nothing wrong with that. Makes it more realistic. This is what we experience in real life, unless you're skyping without any headphones on.
But its the 'uhu's' and other sorts of stopwords that annoy me.

- The characters are one-dimensional, caricatural and shallow. From a LibraryThing reviewer: 'Ultimately, The Art Thief misses the ideal balance between the thriller (like The Thomas Crown Affair) and a more character-driven story.'

- The book gives you what it says on the cover '... an unexpected ending'. But so unbelievable, it really wasn't worth writing all the pages before the climax.

- Whenever a picture is described, Charney goes all Art History 101 on us. Which is mostly irrelevant to the story and in one instance even takes up five long pages. Like some freshman writing his very first paper.
The book falls over itsself to explain the workings of the art market. Even if this a first time reader who knows nothing at all about these dealings, it can alianate you. He tends to elaborate on non-relevant details. If I may make an analogy: suppose you're reading an espionnage thriller set in the Cold War era and some action takes place on a nuclear submarine involving a reactor technician. If the book would have been written by Mr Charney he'd have indulged himself in explaining how crucial the insertion of radioactive rods would be in the reactor. Spread out over five long pages.
One reviewer on LibraryThing put it like this: 'There was a pretentious tone throughout that I didn't appreciate.'

Mr Charney is a graduate of the Courtauld Institute and Cambridge. You'd think he'd check facts when writing about history in his book. After all, that's what you do as an expert on art crimes. Examine the evidence.
So why does he boldly state on page 37 that in Ghent there is a medieval tradition that a cat in a bag must be thrown from a tower on the New Year?
There were cats being thrown from towers probably all across Europe for all I know, but the one Charney should have been referring to is the tradition held to this very day in Ypres. And it wasn't on the first day of the New Year, but on the last year market day.
In the words of Charney's Caribinieri character Claudio Ariosto 'What a mistake to make'.

- To top it off there is a reading group guide at the back of the book with a Q&A. Mr Charney states that The Ghent Alterpiece is the most frequently stolen art work in the world. A word about this: He says he's been researching this. I very much doubt it since the work has been ascribed to both Jan and his brother Hubert van Eyck (a fact which he does not mention). Plus I can't really count soldiers making off with the painting (French troops in 1794 and the Nazi's in 1940) as a true theft that occured in secrecy. I'd call that looting. The most famous fase of stealing (what I'd call a true art theft involving stealth) occurred in 1934 and remains partially unsolved.
If I'd call a work frequently stolen, I'd mention Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid by Johannes Vermeer. It was stolen twice. Once in 1974 by the IRA and the second time in 1986.

- Again to a true art history scolar it is plainly obvious just how unimaginative Charney has shaped the non-existant Caravaggio stolen in the book. Good job on the fictional church name, but the picture he describes is very similar to one that exists. I'd bet some money on it he had this on his desk while typing up the story. It is the picture accompanying my rant, The Annunciation by Jan Janssens which currently resides in the Ghent Fine Arts museum.

Meh. I'm getting all worked up about this detective story. Again.
Just to sum up I'm using another reviewer's conclusion:
'This book had the raw material to be very decent, but the author lacks writing skill, the ability to recreate real life, and real people, and has too much ego in terms of injecting himself into the book.'

That is all.
Have a nice day.


The Rape of Europe

At last another book arrived today! Although I was not very happy with the handling (it was forced into the letterbox by the postman, the excess edges of the container folded back to fit the receptacle). As a result of this box stuffing my mail was an easy pray for the rain. Plus all the letters shoved in before got all crunched up. Luckily when I opened up the book there was no water damage (and it wasn't wrapped in plastic or bubble wrap).
So I finally own a physical copy of Lynn H. Nicholas's The Rape of Europe: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War.

Finally I got my Alibris bookmark that contains all the coupon codes for discounts.
Just a month short of it being of any help...
I'll have to get a new one.


Hard Copy ≠ To Copy

A fluff style trend piece in De Standaard newspaper (07/08/2010) scribbled together by Lieve Van de Velde talks about Granny Chic. Grey being the new blond.
A load of wimmins' mag drivel filler.

And surprisingly at the end of the item Van de Velde calls our attention to the two streaks of grey hair of Sandra de Preter and Christina von Wackerbarth...

Remember folks: You read it here first! (two weeks ago on 23/07/2010).


Don't do it teens!

Finally went to a doctor today who can help me get rid of my painful elbows. My physiotherapist had advised me to go and see someone but I'd been putting off visiting one (for over six months) because of the interference it would have with my school work. But it has severely been impeding the way I live. Everything hurts. Ironing, holding a book, gardening work, sleeping, stroking Mouser, holding a pot, typing,... You name an activity that involves using arms (or not), it takes ever so long to get work done.
So I rung up for an appointment last week, went in this morning at 9.20 am, went to the other hospital in town to get X rays and echo and by 10.30 I was driving back home. I love living in Belgium and its super duper health system.
In two weeks time I'll be hearing the results and then it'll probably be shock wave treatment (yeah baby!) to get rid of all the unwanted bone that has been hampering my tendons and what not. Shock wave therapy is a newer form of nonsurgical treatment. It uses a machine to generate shock wave pulses to the sore area (the same principle they use to crush kidney stones).

She reaffirmed what I'd heard from other doctors: I'm put together all wrong. The story of my life.
Hyperextenstion. My body bends ways it's not supposed to.
It did help with the Rhythmic Gymnastics I did as a teen. But probably is also responsible for all the problems I've experienced now that I'm older.

Sports: don't do it teens!