Monthly Archives: August 2010

News of the week

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Anything that struck me because it was shocking, interesting or simply hilarious : my news of the past week.

    International

  • Russia is on fire.

    It is thoughtful to give the dog a mask, but it may be more effective if it was actually, like, covering his nose?

    Fires are raging across Europe – in Portugal the Andancas festival was evacuated [PT] due to approximating fires (as a result our Belgian pride and glory AedO [NL] couldn’t finish their final performance) and in Spain 2 firefighters lost their lives, but the situation is especially bad in Russia. The first rain in 6 weeks has finally cleared the skies in Moscow from the thick layer of smoke in which the city was covered, but the fires are all but under control. Several nuclear sites are threatened, including the Tsjernobyl area where the soil is still heavily contaminated with nuclear particles. A blazing fire could possibly throw these back in the air, allowing winds to spread them across the continent. A German expert however claims this holds no real threat.
    Somehow I’m reluctant to just shrug my shoulders and say “If you say so.” …
    National

  • 2 Sudbury schools are starting on September 1st.
    September 1st will be the start of a brand new school year not only for a whole lot of children, but also for 2 new schools in Antwerp and Ghent. They will be Sudbury schools, which are most easily described as a school where kids do what they want, how they want it and when they want it. The philosophy seems to be that if a child doesn’t want to learn to read, it shouldn’t – it will discover in due time that it is quite necessary to be able to read and will be all the more motivated. All rules are set up by the children themselves in a democratic way. It seems too good to be true, but my main concern would be that the school in Ghent has no building yet.
    Will they just ask the kids where they want to go to every day?
  • Ghent University is in the top 100 of the Shanghai Jiaotong World University Ranking.
    As an alumna of GU I am obviously pretty proud – eat this, Leuven! (Apologies… couldn’t help myself.) The ranking is highly criticized, since it focuses mainly on scientific output and research (Nobel Prize winners, etc) rather than education, which puts European Universities at a disadvantage. Still, Ghent made it to spot 90 and Lund, my future employer, ranks 67th. Berkeley, here I come!
    Technology

  • Get the solar panel spray, dear, we’re running out of power!
    I have honestly no clue even as to how to begin on developing them, but scientist report they have invented a plastic solar cell that works even on cloudy days. The cell is different from conventional solar cells and can use the infrared rays of the sun to convert into energy. The best part is not so much that they could be up to 5 times more effective than current solar cell technology, but that they would be available as a spray-on, allowing them to be sprayed on walls, clothing and even windows. A car covered with it could use them to continuously recharge its batteries. Talk about the future!

    On a somehow related note, new wind turbines are being developed that would look like trees, with the leaves harvesting power each time the winds “flaps” them. Well, they would certainly be more aesthetically pleasing than the current versions!

A recap of 2 weeks of blogging

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This is a response to a call from Jane to post today on anything we learned/value/wonder/… from/about/… blogging. Admittedly, this blog is barely a few weeks old, but I have been blogging (on and off) for some time, and especially these last weeks I have been doing a lot of ‘research’ on the subject (solely for the benefit of my own blog, obviously, not because I – imagine – like reading blogs). For what it’s worth: my list of wonderings.

  • I love blogs of strong, self-confident women with children and a good sense of humor.
    It is so predictable I am slowly turning into a cliche myself. I always try the “intellectual” blogs, with views on actuality and politics, with new scientific discoveries and Big Opinions on moral and social issues – I feel I should know about these things. Form an opinion of my own. Truth is, in most cases I couldn’t care less and all I really wanna read is how yoga elicits murderous feelings on a beautiful morning and which weirdo jobs people have practiced over the years. It makes me feel like a voyeur, peeking into other people’s lives. I only comfort myself with the idea that, if they didn’t want me to know, they wouldn’t put it online. The strangest thing is, while blogging is supposedly a men’s world and all, I only encounter women’s blogs. Or maybe those are the only ones capable of keeping my interest. Now there’s an idea.

  • American people are religious.
    And not only that, they are very much into the whole empowerment thing. I know this observation seems to have nothing to do with blogging, but it is only through blogging that I come to understand the religiousness of American people. Or rather the omnipresence and naturalness of it. I have never set foot in America (for the record, I’m European), and while I got a faint media-based idea of the average American as a conservative God-bless-America capitalist (fortunately, friends have assured me reality is different), I always had the idea that this whole religion thing was but a cover up. Just an excuse to accomplish a hidden agenda. I think I still don’t grasp the full impact of religion on people’s lives, but it just strikes me – people BELIEVE. Small things: “Today after church …” Huh?! They talk about their church and community, they sign comments with ‘God bless you’. They go to Bible study groups – I think I couldn’t even go to one if I wanted to, solely for the lack of it. They quote the Bible in their posts! And this comes from people who otherwise profile themselves as Democrats (which, as I understand it, is the more ‘progressive’ party?). When I cry out : “my god” (mind the small caps) or “Jesus Christ”, it’s just… something I’ve taken over from television. Not in America. To someone who can count the number of friends and family going to church weekly on one hand (mostly out of habit rather than out of conviction), it is a VERY strange experience. But interesting, too.
  • Everybody uses my layout.
    Ok, this probably isn’t true. But about half of the blogs I am following has the same layout as mine. The other half has layouts which I have considered. It’s creepy.
  • Republicans don’t blog.
    Again, probably not true – maybe WordPress is a Democrat bastion which Republicans refuse to use, I don’t know. If it matters what kind of ketchup you eat to be politically correct, I imagine the blogging platform is even more important. Either way, it seems that I only get to read blogs from people with Democrat sympathies. Which may not be so strange in itself (lots of explanations possible), but what strikes me the most is that I KNOW these things. And I’ve been reading those blogs for … 3 weeks? Any other nationality bloggers I haven’t a clue how they would vote (and I follow Portuguese, French, British, Belgian, Canadian, …), but Americans seem to have this need to position themselves. You’re not just American, you’re a Democratic American or a Republican one. One person seemed to be undecisive, and actually wrote he had trouble finding a job cause future employers couldn’t figure out whether he was a Democrat or a Republican. What’s that all about? Meanwhile I still don’t know the difference between the two. I urgently need to visit this country.
  • All bloggers want to be writers.
    Okay, again, maybe not all. But the number of journalists is astounding, and many bloggers seem to either have finished a novel, are in the process of writing one, are thinking of writing one or simply just aspire to be a writer while knowing perfectly well they’ll never get there but maybe if this blog-thing works out they’ll get the confidence to one day sit down and start (wow, quite the sentence there). The worst part of that is… I’m one of them, lol.

  • Reading blogs is addictive.
    No further comments required.

The many uses of an erase board

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One of the rules of blogging seems to be that you have to be original, and not just repost other material. Well, I’m just gonna wipe my feet on that piece of advice and post the story of Jenny, who – supposedly – quit her job through a series of pictures because her boss called her a HOPA (or HPOA, whichever). She then send these to all her colleagues and, meanwhile, exposed her boss is a Farmville addict.

I mean, this is funny! At least it falls into my category of humor. Given the quality of the pictures, the fabulous facial expressions, a certain add from theCHIVE and – though I hadn’t paid attention to it AT ALL – the very sitcom set-like setting in which the pictures were taken, chances are high it’s a troll, although honesty requires me to say I fell for it (I’m naïve. So sue me).
UPDATE: it is now officially a hoax.

In any case, it shows that eraser boards truly are multifunctional. They can serve to remember your grocery shopping, as magnetic board or as a resignation letter! Some people push it even further and use them to get their camera back. Gotta love it.

A pictorial guide to avoiding camera loss

A pictorial guide to avoiding camera loss


Thanks to Anon for pointing me to this last link.

On running and not running

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ING city run Ghent, where I hope to run next year

T. and I go running on a (more or less) regular basis. Hers is more regular than mine, I have to admit. But I try. And I’ll run three times a week in Sweden. Promise. (Ehm… .)

I never feel like going for a run, really, though generally I get into it after 4 or 5 minutes. It’s the whole changing clothes, changing shoes, thing that puts me off, I think, it’s such a hassle: you go running half an hour but what with all the prep and shower afterwards you loose an hour or more. But anyway, T. has more character than I have and it seriously helps to get my lazy ass up and running (although yesterday I was actually cleaning the fridge when I had to stop to go running, so not so lazy that time ha!) – so there we went. A 44 minute lesson (T. bought an mp3-player and is doing the 5-10km Start to Run thing), I was getting all mentally prepared – and physically, I might add, cause Evy (the “trainer” on the tape) demands we do a warming up: some jogging (running in preparation of … running… never quite got that) and waving your arms around, and skipping. I try to see it as a good deed: make people smile by making a fool of yourself, skipping ridiculously while waving your arms. I assure you they don’t see THAT very often in the city.

So, retorical question: what happens when I wanna start a nice jog 10 days before starting a new job abroad? Indeed, I sprain my ankle. Now, I have fairly long ligaments and flexible joints (you don’t wanna see how I can bend my knees), so I rarely have any serious injuries – I sprain my ankles on an almost weekly basis. But one day, several ice packs and soothing cream layers later, it STILL hurts. I can walk, yes, but that’s about all you can say. Just now it took me 10 minutes to go to the bathroom. Now let me tell you:

I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!

I need to transport some 30kg of personal belongings across half of Europe next week, I’ve already subscribed to dance classes in September, I NEED MY ANKLE!

I’m giving it one more day and night’s rest, but if it’s still painful tomorrow, I’ll go see a doctor.

My news of the week

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Anything that struck me because it was shocking, interesting or simply hilarious : my news of the past week.

    International

  • Proposition 8 was overturned in the state of California.
    In november 2008 Proposition 8 was passed during state elections in California. As a result, same-sex marriage was no longer allowed in the golden state. Last Wednesday, however, a judge decided the amendment is unconstitutional. Now, if they had found it consitutional, it was high time to change the consitution. I have heard a lot of arguments against gay marriage but “public schools may teach our children gay marriage is ok” is by far the dumbest. That it is morally inacceptable that LGBT people would marry, is NOT a christian decision to be made (remember separation of church and state? you wouldn’t let muslims pass a law on kerchiefs, would you?). We are talking adult people here, fully sane and aware of what they are doing. If they both don’t find it morally despicable what they do in their bedroom, or to be married to a same sex partner, why should you care? Even if you feel you have to protect them against theirselves because they will go to hell, leave them be. Weird as it may sound, they have the right to go to hell, if they want to.
  • 65th anniversary of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
    A sad anniversary, especially since this did not so much end World War II (okay, it may have helped), as start a new era, an era of nuclear threaths, cold wars, and distrust between states. A few years back Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto released a video showing all 2053 nuclear detonations between 1945 and 1998. It is a slow, painful time-lapse map of human foolishness. I don’t claim to have the solution to all worldly problems (if only), but I’m pretty much convinced nuclear bombs shouldn’t be part of it.
    National

  • Bishop Vangheluwe paid his cousin considerable sums of money.
    It was not hush money, but compensation for suffered damage. With all due respect, but if you abuse someone for years, and afterwards pay him large sums of money, you are asking him to keep his mouth shut. If you realize that what you have done is wrong, you turn yourself in at the police station, instead of buying off your guilt. More easily said than done, I know, but especially someone in his position should have the courage to stand up and take responsability. It is a matter of respect.
    Interesting

  • Kazachstan strikes back. While the original Borat movie is still on the black list in Kazachstan, Kazachstan director Erkin Rakishev plans sweet revenge. “My brother Borat” will tell a different story and reveal Borat is nothing but a fraud. I always found it a bit childish of Kazachstan to be so sensitive on the subject (djee, it’s a MOVIE), but really, I like their way of getting revenge – now let’s hope they can find a decent camera to record the movie.
    Funny

iWant

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I’m not a nerd. Or a geek. I am no particular fan of Apple (I have never owned a single piece of technology of their making) and frankly I often find the enthusiasm of Mac-fans somewhat disturbing – sure Windows ain’t perfect, but it has served me all my life perfectly well so why should you care, anyway? But in the past year 4 of my direct colleagues (oh well, former colleagues) have bought a MacBook Pro, the number of iPhones owned by friends has risen exponentially and I admit I was intrigued by this sudden wave of Apple-craze.

And thus I have a confession to make.

I would love to have an iPad.

I KNOW!

It’s just an e-reader with extended functions, it’s not extendible and has no added value whatsoever for my life – sure, I need a new laptop (like in, the screen is broken and not even taking that into account it just won’t start up, so yes, really need a new laptop), but while the cheapest iPad comes at around the same price as a cheap Windows-laptop, it is hardly a full replacement. But it’s so … elegant … . And pretty. I love the graphs when you flip a page. I love the picture slide show and the movie viewer. I just love the whole damn thing.

But it is a drag to type on (I’m used to typing blind and for me it just doesn’t work on that flat screen) and I feel it’s WAY to expensive to even consider to buy. In addition to that, a study revealed that while the thing is meant for people who like to read books and watch movies, it is primarily a gizmo for rich salesman which are described as high educated, selfish and unfriendly. And I don’t really wanna be associated with that ;).

But, after singing the praise of the iPad recently to a friend of mine and drawing the same conclusion as above – it just won’t do as a laptop replacement – he offered to sell his old MacBook to me for a small price. JEIJ! So no iPad for me, but I’m flexible, a second-hand, in-good-shape MacBook will do just as fine. And who knows, with the release of the iPhone 4 I may be able to lay my hands on a not-too-expensive second hand 3G or something. Within the year, I’ll be just as Mac-crazed as the rest ;).

Gentlemen prefer blondes… but they marry brunettes

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So. Let’s talk about hair. You know, that what’s growing out of your head? Cause I am seeing a LOT of it these days.

For the coming few weeks, until I leave for Sweden, I’ll be staying at my girlfriends’ place, which has a number of consequences. One of them is I have had to leave my cat behind, and while in itself that’s a tad depressing (for me, at least, I am convinced the cat himself couldn’t care less), it does have a significant advantage : I won’t be constantly covered in cat hair any more. Because however much I brush (both the cat and my clothes), or wash (only talking clothes here), or vacuum clean, the hair ALWAYS finds a way to stick – which is pointed out to me on practically every occasion I see my mother. She also has a cat, but while hers is grey and leaves only little, barely visible hairs behind, my cat is a big (6 kg) (yes, 6) reddish Garfield type of cat, and his orange hairs stand out like a sore thumb. But, so I thought (o, how naive) : no more Simba, no more hair. Which is correct. In a way. Cause I am no longer covered by small, orange hairs, instead I am covered in long, blond hairs derived from… my girlfriend indeed. She loses more hair than my cat and honestly – I’m almost surprised she has actually any hair left! It is on the floor, on my clothes, in the bed and it even comes out of the washing machine in tiny knots, all shiny as if saying : here I am again, thought you’d get rid of me easily, didn’t you?

And thus I have learned why it is that gentlemen prefer blondes… but rather marry brunettes.

Two sides of the same coin

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Last weekend, I went visiting a friend of mine who had given birth recently to a beautiful baby-boy. At least, that was the intention, for it turned out many of my friends had gathered for a surprise good-bye party. Which was… great! I mean, I’ve always wanted to have people throw me a surprise party : it seemed so cool to have people organise something for me. Apart from having a fun party for which I wouldn’t have to do a thing (more on the contrarary, if I would be helping out, there would hardly be a point in it being a surprise party), the idea of my friends going through all that effort and secrecy just for me to have a good time really gives a boost. And once I got over the first shock it was just amazing (though frustrating cause you kinda wanna talk to everybody but obviously that is just impossible), but I must say, if you expect a baby and instead you get bunch of smiling friends and a camera in your face – it leaves you baffled. And happy ;).

But. There’s always a but. Because when you get home, thinking of “your” evening, of all these people, at that very moment it strikes you. Why those people were there. Why they went through all that trouble and secrecy. Not because I’m such a wonderful person who deserves a surprise party now and then (which I obviously do), but because I’m leaving. It was a goodbye party. I won’t be seeing most of these people again for a year, maybe even two years. It is not like the decision has been made there and then, that I would be leaving, that decision has long been made. But I feel like I only realise it now, like only now I FEEL what I’m about to do: leave my friends, family, partner, cat, house, … behind for a considerate amount of time and start a new project on my own. And it’s damn scary.