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2008-11-29 20:03

Public Health Advisory Note: Don't eat the toxic whales!

"But why on earth not?", you exclaim or ejaculate, "They are so exceptionally tasty!"

Fair point, but they are also increasingly toxic:

Er lijkt een einde te komen aan een eeuwenoude traditie op de Faerer-eilanden. Een lekker stukje walvisbiefstuk bij het avondeten is er niet meer bij: het vlees blijkt een hoge dosis kwik te bevatten.

It seems to be the end of the road for a centuries-old tradition on the Faroes island. No more delicious whale-steak for dinner: the meat appears to contain high levels of mercury.

All right then: which of you hippies has been feeding mercury to the delicious whales? Eh?

2008-11-29 19:44

Things almost entirely as they should be, a Winter Special

The Zwarte Pieten are out in force in the winkelcentra, the supermarkts are full of Beaujolais Nouveaux (one of our favourite mercantile invented traditions, as our Varied Reader may recall) and the Switzyland's Pocket Rocket, Simon Amman, has won the first skihoppning competition of the season.

If it wasn't for little Boris's upset stomach (a bug which is epidemic in all our neighbourhood's children) and our own sore throats, we would consider that all was pretty much well with the winter.

(Needless to say, Twinkletrees are not susceptible to installation until after Sinterklaas has set off back to Espain. But we don't really mind that.)

2008-11-24 14:21

Sinterklaas and the longest dag of the year

Sinterklaas was making a personal appearance at our Secret Forest Workplace on Zaterdag, and it seemed an opportunity too good to pass up. Boris van 't Blad doesn't really understand the Sinterklaas thing, but he likes other children and he likes toys. (In both cases this largely amounts to bashing them or trying to eat them, but still.)

The trouble started on the Groningen ring road, where the overnight hail had compacted into a treacherous layer of ice and matters didn't improve on the northern stretches of the motorway, but as we got further south it cleared up. Too late for our peace of mind, but early enough that we were at least on time.

At ten o'clock, to our horror, we realised that there was a support act and that said support act was a clown. The Countess and we are not very keen on clowns; this being one of the many things we have in common with all right-thinking people.

Then it turned out that the good Sint himself has a policy of only talking with childrens of an age and cognitive development to talk back, which is not in itself unreasonable but meant that Boris had another two hours to wait before he got his present. And given that he'd declined to nap in the car, that was at least an hour and a half too long to expect much cooperation from him.

Then, after a visit to the Imperial parents-in-law, we decided to risk the road home. Only to find that the car was annoyed not to have been consulted, whereupon it promptly threatened to overheat. Overheating in the sneeuw seemed fairly implausible but our years of training have taught us the folly of neglecting red dashboard lights, so we promptly stopped at the next exit.

Thankfully, there was a cafe there because the breakdown service was a bit overwhelmed by the prevailing snkaos and we were told that it would be an hour and a half before they could attend to us. Needless to say, Boris continued to decline the option of napping. Needlesser still to add that his judgement in these matters showed every bit the maturity of his (fractional) years.

The breakdown man tinkered and pronounced the cooling system fundamentally sound, but as soon as we had Boris installed and drove off the red light came back on. So we navigated a non-motorway route home, a route that included the infamous Road of Death that runs between Emmen and Groningen and for which the local paper's editorial staff no doubt have a keyboard macro for their many stories about accidents.

The mix of blizzard-level sn, slush and hail, on top of an increasingly fractious baby and an unfamiliar and notorious road turned out not to be an especially happy one, and with the Countess on industrial-strength (for the Netherlands - they don't actually work or anything) pain medication after jaw surgery on Thorsdag, we were quite literally in the driver's seat for the whole journey.

Boris did get a nice train made of wooden blocks which he has decided is good to bash and/or put in his mouth, but he also got a bit of a cold into the bargain, and he's still a bit under the weathers. As for that matter is the Countess (with her jaw and the cold we had last week), and as for that other matter so are we, with an exciting new cold for this week. And the car is spending the dag with the car doctor to see if there really is anything wrong with it.

We'd quite like to say we wouldn't do that again in a hurry, but - contract-permitting - we'll do it all over again next year. Oef!

2008-11-24 11:44

The snkaos was indeed general, all over Europe

Every time Blighty gets some sn, it succumbs to chaos. And every time this sequence postulates itself as a causal relation, British persons exhibit the opinion that only they could achieve so much chaos from such a moderate quantity of weather.

And this is our cue to link ourself to the Great Chain of Causality by pointing out that this is by no means the case. So let's have a necessarily incomplete roundup!

  1. Norway? Snkaos:

    Snkaos i trafikken

    Snkaos in traffic

  2. Chermany? Snkaos:

    Mehr Eis- als Schneechaos

    More ice than snkaos

    (A technicality, says us.)

  3. The Switzyland? Snkaos:

    Verkeerschaos in Zwitserland door sneeuwval

    Trafficchaos in the Zwitsyland after snfall.

The lesson, Varied Reader, is clear to see. Sn causes kaos, more or less everywhere.

2008-11-18 20:41

Retail is hard, let's go shopping!

Our sister paper, the London Doshbladet, reports:

To strengthen their economies, policymakers have to encourage their people to go shopping.

We're doing our best, even for dear old Blighty: with the pound in the state it's in, and let's face it it is, we can import a shiny new greyish-market netbook (as the kids are calling them) for a lot less than the asking price here, and as a bonus we can get Windows not-installed on it into the bargain.

To say nothing of the amounts of money we're contemplating spending on New Tent, but we're not ready to talk about (or for that matter buy) that yet.

2008-11-18 20:22

Belgium, king of brewers

It is after all the nature of bier to be Belgian:

"Nous sommes extrmement heureux de vous annoncer la conclusion de cette transaction historique", a dclar Carlos Brito, CEO de la nouvelle entit Anheuser-Bush InBev, commentant le bouclage de la reprise d'Anheuser-Bush par InBev.

"We are extremely happy to announce to you the conclusion of this historic transaction", declared Carlos Brito, CEO of the new entity Anheuser-Buch InBev, commenting on the historic transaction in which InBev bought Anheuser-Buch, and which he is extremely happy to announce to us.

Personally we are extremely happy to tell you that our bier of choice at the moment is Jever, from the Friesisches Brauhaus just across the border in Oost Friesland. Until it's up and we go back to the Oettinger from Lidl or back to Chermany, whichever comes first.

2008-11-16 16:37

Mondag Review of Stuff: Books we don't read

By which we mean dictionaries. We love dictionaries, of course. Monolingual dictionaries of various langwidges, bilingual dictionaries of various langwidges, we love them all.

Our latest acquisitions were the somewhat matching pair of Cherman-Dutch and Dutch-Cherman Prisma woordenboeken ("voor school, kantoren en huis"), of which the 1962 Cherman-Dutch volume by drs. J. A. H. van Gemert has become our current Cherman dictionary of choice.

On just the first page you can discover that Cherman aal means the same as Dutch aal, and that abbakken means afbakken and abbestellen afbestellen.

And while the print is rather too small for our beleaguered eyes, and there is a notable preference for cognates over Dutch words we might happen to know (usually relegated to second or third choice), we can mostly get by with it, and that makes us childishly happy.

2008-11-16 16:03

Enfranchise me harder!

We were pleased to discover that we get to vote in the Waterschapsverkiezing (water authority elections). Water is a more than usually sensitive issue in the Netherlands, what with most of the country being made out of reclaimed zwamp, and the management of water is important enough that it is managed (at least partly) by democratic processes.

In previous cycles this has not especially involved the parliamentary political parties, but this time round they are indeed represented. We had been of the opinion that we didn't really aspire to party-political water and had planned to vote for one of the water-only technocratic lists, but that was before we read the election prospectus.

Because we were reminded that there is a water issue that we specifically care about: the so-called blue algae in the supposedly recreational lake in the sports complex Kardinge, a short bicycle ride from our neighbourhood. We want it de-algified for zwimming, and we want this for next summer if at all possible.

Last summer there was another and 2007 zwemverbod, and that is by no means to our taste:

Onderzoek van het waterschap Noorderzijlvest heeft uitgewezen dat er drijflagen met blauwalg aanwezig zijn in de zwemplas Zilvermeer (waterplas bij Kardinge). Voor de plas geldt een zwemverbod.

Research from the Noorderzijlvest water authority has established that there are patches of blue algae in the swimming lake Zilvermeer (the lake by Kardinge). Swimming in the lake is thus prohibited.

And it turns out that exactly one(1) of the party lists mentioned a concern with blue-algae-related restrictions on the recreational use of water, so we voted for them. As it happens the party in question was the Social Democrats, and well done them.

The campaigns for next year's Yoorpean Parliament elections are allegedly also getting started now and we also get to vote in those, which we are also rather looking forward to. But in any case, we're off the mark as a participant in Dutch elections and it feels pretty good. Hoorah for democracy!

2008-11-06 20:02

Macro zonder micro

Brian von Timber dusts off a hoary old chestnut of a problem: can it be argued - in the overlapping styles of game-theorists, microeconomists and p-theorists - that a given individual is rationally justified in exercising their democratic right to vote.

Casuistries aside, we suspect that it probably isn't rational behaviour. And casuistries further aside, we suspect that it makes absolutely no difference whether it is or not.

One of the many excellent things about the very excellent fivethirtyeight in this electoral cycle has been the road trip coverage of Obama's justly-celebrated "ground game" of getting people registered to vote and getting them also subsequently to vote.

Game theory, p-theory and other flavours of fetishised rationality were conspicuous - if you are sensitive to such things - in their coverage only by their absence.

Broadly, this reminds us of two(2) things:

Firstly, that much of the appeal of Slavering Slavoj Zizek is precisely that he works with models of behaviour that are based on recognisably human forms of irrationality; and secondly (and more tendentiously) that micro-level explanations in the social sciences and related disciplines don't get to claim the intellectual high-ground just because they're micro-level.

(Recall also that classical thermodynamics - still a staple of undergraduate physics - predated any satisfactory theory of atoms or molecules.)

All of which makes us wish all the more that we had actually stolen a 1968 Dutch school textbook on macroeconomics over the weekend, when we had the chance. (It was awesome, Varied Reader: Keynesiasm still ruled OK and the main contrast was between Soviet-style command economies and western-style capitalisme.)

2008-11-05 18:01

Oh all right then: calloo callay

We've seen various roundups of newsbladet's front pages celebrating the victory of Mr Obama, but none of the morningkrants in the Netherlands had a result, and we couldn't find a copy of the avondkrant when we took Boris out for a wandel in the afternoon.

Our own krant, which rather specialises in cute, had a blank space with a dotted line around it in the morning edition, and produced a pdf to print and plak in when it was all done and dusted.

We understand that the entire world is now partying vigorously to express its various mixtures of joy and relief, although so far as we can tell our neighbourhood isn't. We'll have a quiet celebratory Jeverbier of our own in a bit, but it's crate-changing time and it's still out in the schuur.


2008-11-05 14:03

State of the Boris Address

Boris is asleep for his afternoon nap, and hoorah for that.

Today he climbed halfway up the stairs (a first, largely due to the difficulty of getting permission to do so), he has decided that the computer is if anything even more interesting than the television (on or off) which itself outranks remote controls. Cables bearing electricity and lamps he has himself broken are also top attractions; we await with no great impatient Steven "Ping-Pong" Pinker's explanation of why that was a good idea on the Savannahs of old.

In the last few days he has also expanded his vocabulary considerably, adding "mamamama" to the established "babababa" and "dadadada" and the various vowel-only noises that have long been in his repetoire. He's also slightly more plausibly directing sounds at persons, although there is as yet no obvious intent at having them signify anything in particular.

And he'll sometimes sit down long enough to get through the two(2) simplest texture/picture books. (Farm animals and dinosaurs, which are after all also the cornerstones of our own conceptual universe.)

He's not showing any obvious signs of caring who's president of where though, and we slightly envy him that.

2008-11-04 20:17

Cuspiness, slightly postponed

So the Free and Democratic Republic is finally set to choose a successor to Chimpy W McFuckwit, and good riddance, but we're not going to stay up for the occasion this time.

We stayed up for rather too much of the 2000 edition, although we didn't make it to the hanging chads, and the bewilderment of that occasion - to say nothing of the minor accident we inflicted on a company car on the bleary-eyed drive to Coventry the next day - rather put us off another attempt.

Plus we're a timezone further away this time round, and we're in charge of Boris van het Blad for a bonus Woensdag edition of funtime.

The Poor Man strikes a suitably elegaic note:

We are on the verge of, quite likely, choosing today as our next President a highly-qualified black man, instead of a crazy white man representing a disliked political partys failed agenda. Perhaps as few as 45% of participating adults, here in the early November of AD 2008, will vote for the crazy man promising failure. There are certainly all kinds of fascinating reasons why people do what they do, and it is one of lifes mercies that I dont have to listen to them. It would be wrong to impute all the votes for McCain to racism, or to impute the votes for Obama to its absence, or to get too excited about the Triumph of Progress because perhaps as many as eleven out of twenty adults in the country, for reasons possibly perfectly bizarre, are willing to avail themselves of an alternative to shitting the national bed.

We hope to wake up and find that we no longer need regular updates from the Poor Man or Sadly, No! or any of the others who've become must-reads under the current regime, which would be a shame in a way and not a shame in so very many others.

(The amount of enthusiasme we can summon for the probable election of a centre-right Christian Democrat is not normally very high, but context counts for a lot.)

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