Five Things #11

In The Fish of Lijiang by Chen Qiufan a workaholic office worker is diagnosed with a stress-induced illness and sent to the rehabilitation center in Lijiang. The city isn’t as he remembers it, though, and then the story takes the sort of left turn that you would expect from someone like Philip K. Dick.

Dr Beth Singler discusses Blade Runner, Zhora, her snake, and the ethics of sexbots and slavery.

Simon Brew argues that obsessing over box office receipts puts us in danger here of giving movie studios even more excuses to avoid risks in favour of staying within the boundaries of mainstream fare.

Nnedi Okorafor defines Africanfuturism.

Denzil at Discovering Belgium visits the Menin Gate for the Last Post.

Quote of the day: The sociopath’s sociopath

Johnson then moved on to his familiar Brexit lies. Parliament had blocked Brexit for the past three years. He still hasn’t quite realised that no one has done more to block Brexit than himself – first by leaving Theresa May’s government and voting against her deal, then by pulling his deal and demanding an election after his withdrawal agreement had won a comfortable majority in the Commons.

John Crace


I think I’ve mentioned before that Wednesday night is pizza night. I come home to an empty house on Wednesday evening because the boys are all at karate, and go straight out to the local pizzeria. By the time I return, freshly cooked pizzas in hand, the boys are changed, hungry and ready for the evening meal.

So, to yesterday and, as I was walking up the main street I was struck by the lack of a welcoming neon glow ahead of me. It wasn’t long before my worst fears were realised: They were closed!

After an emergency phone call to my partner and a quick detour past a supermarket (handily open until 7:30pm) we had a stack of frozen pizzas and the immediate crisis was averted.

It’s not unusual for restaurants locally to take a couple of weeks off during quieter times. I was a little surprised, though, that they didn’t have a notice up to let customers know when they would be back. So I looked up their website when I got home and it was here that the next bombshell fell.

They have changed their opening days.

They are no longer open on Wednesdays.

Not ever.

We are going to have go somewhere else for our Wednesday pizzas.


Claudette has a couple of posts detailing a recent run-in with an email scammer. I’m reminded of the time, earlier this year, that we were blitzed by phone scammers.

Several people in the area were complaining about the calls, so I imagine someone had managed to get hold of a list of phone numbers and was working their way down it. Repeatedly. Three or four times a day, according to some people.

Inevitably enough, one of these people called us while I happened to be at home and my partner thrust the phone into my hand and asked me to make him go away. She has a touching faith in my social skills.

What follows is from memory and, therefore, not entirely accurate, but it’s close enough.

Having been passed from one person to another, our scammer felt the need to start his script again from the beginning. And it was painfully obvious that he was following a script — so much so that it felt like I was listening to a recording. (As a side note, if you are going to call random people in Flanders, it’s worth knowing a little bit of Dutch.)

Off he went:

I’m from Microsoft and we at Microsoft have detected a problem with your computer…

Okay. I get that you really want me to believe that you are calling me from Microsoft, but what is the problem?

Click. Rewind.

I’m from Microsoft and we at Microsoft have detected a problem with your computer. At Microsoft we have detected that your computer has been hacked over the internet…

Three “Microsofts” and two “detecteds”. You are never going to win at Just a Minute, but what do I need to do about this?

Click. Rewind. I’m sure you get the picture.

So I put the phone on speaker and let him run through his script until he had to stop to take a breath. At this point, I expressed suitable concern and a willingness to let him and all his pretend friends at Microsoft help me solve this devastating but previously unnoticed problem.

Now that he thought I was convinced he passed me over to his Super Leet Haxor, or Supervisor, who informed me that I would first need to open Internet Explorer.

I could see where this is going. Open a browser, visit some frighteningly dodgy URL and download a bucketload of malware. So I said, “OK, give me a moment while I turn my computer on.”

And while he waited, I carefully placed the phone handset on top of the coffee grinder.

And turned it on.

Blankenberge and Bruges

Today is a public holiday and, because none of the boys had any activities planned for Sunday, we decided to go out for the day. So the normal Sunday morning lie-in was cancelled and we made the two hour drive to Blankenberge.

This is a nice little seaside town and one that we may well return to when the weather is a bit less wintry. Going to the beach in November isn’t clever, which is why we went to visit the Serpentarium. Handily, we have ZOO memberships which (for an annual price) gives us free entry to Antwerp Zoo, Planckendael and the Serpentarium.

The Serpentarium isn’t large — it took us less than an hour to see everything — but there is a lot to see. They also bring a snake out every hour, which provides an opportunity to interact with the animal, although I was a bit disappointed to discover that we weren’t able to actually handle the snake.

And then we were done and, after a spot of lunch, we headed into Bruges.


Bruges is a lovely old town and, by parking just outside the city we were able to park for free. So after a twenty minute walk, we came face to face with the fact that, for a family of five, every activity will set us bach about €50. This will only get worse when the twins are a little older and start paying higher prices. So while there were plenty of places we would have liked to see — most notably the Historium — we gave most of these a miss and, instead, too a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city.

We need to look into what sorts of deals or tourist memberships we can find, but we will certainly be going back.


The Safety Dance

The Safety Dance was released by Canadian band Men Without Hats back in 1982. According to

The writer/lead singer, Ivan Doroschuk, has explained that “The Safety Dance” is a protest against bouncers prohibiting dancers from pogoing to 1980s new wave music in clubs when disco was dying and new wave was up and coming. New wave dancing, especially pogoing, was different from disco dancing, because it was done individually instead of with partners and involved holding the torso rigid and thrashing about. To uninformed bystanders this could look dangerous, especially if pogoers accidentally bounced into one another (the more deliberately violent evolution of pogoing is slamdancing). The bouncers did not like pogoing so they would tell pogoers to stop or be kicked out of the club. Thus, the song is a protest and a call for freedom of expression.

The song’s video is well worth seeing, not least for the rather anachronistic medieval stylings, but I have to admit that I am rather taken by the more recent version recorded by and the marvellously named Danish band, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour.

Voting for lizards

In So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, Douglas Adams wrote:

“[Ford said] “.. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur. “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going in for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.”

I suspect Spinninghugo may have been thinking of this when he suggested that you don’t vote tactically.

Five Things #10

For He Can Creep by Siobhan Carroll is a dark fantasy about Jeoffry, a cat who fights demons, Jeoffry’s human, a poet, who is confined to an insane asylum, and Satan, who schemes.

Stephen Dowling suggests that cats are more social than we realise.

Margaret Schotte asks how the sailors of early modern Europe learn to traverse the world’s seas. The answer: they learned maths.

Nick Barlow argues that the first past the post electoral system is a significant factor in why British politics is broken.

And Luke at Start Your Meeples suggests four opening strategies for Hive.

Quote of the day: The Gorgon will not be slain

With a sustained display of incompetence, cowardice, delusion and ideological mania, British politics has created a situation so monstrous and writhing with venom that the public cannot bear to look at it. Brexit is like the mythical Gorgon that turns to stone all who meet its gaze. It must instead be stalked indirectly, using the monster’s reflection in their polished shield.

Rafael Behr