Celebrating curiosity

Today is International Darwin Day, which aims to inspire people to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin. There are events taking place around the world, none of which we attending — it is a school night, after all.

We will not, however be ignoring the day entirely.

For Christmas, Alex received a box of Frightful First Experiments which we have been working through ever since. We are intending, tonight, to harness the power of static electricity. But given that Darwin was a biologist, here’s an experiment we did earlier.

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Double Bronze

I mentioned, briefly, that Macsen had another karate tournament yesterday. He did well, coming third in both the kata (knowing the moves) and the kumite (the actual fighting) sections.

He even managed to join the rest of us in time for the pancake frenzy.

So Sunday proved to be a rather successful day all around.

How was your weekend?

Happy Palindrome Day

Today’s date — 02/02/2020 — is a palindrome. What’s more, it’s a Palindrome in both European and American date formats, which makes it doubly special. We shall, of course, be celebrating with beer and pancakes.

That’s not entirely true. The local youth group organises a pancake day every year on the first Sunday in February, and every year we go along to support it — and eat unlimited pancakes. The fun starts at 3:00 this afternoon. Well, for the twins and I anyway.

Macsen has another karate tournament — something else that also always takes place on the first Sunday in February — so he and his mum will be joining us just as soon as they can.

We will probably be skipping dinner tonight.

Five Things #22

Domesticated by Timothy Bastek is a zombie story that reminds me of the fact that I never got around to seeing Fido.

Denzil delves into the strange history of Neutral Moresnet.

Tremors recently turned 30. Jennifer Ouellette celebrates the most perfect B movie creature feature ever made.

First it was wolves, now it is otters. Thirty years after they were declared extinct in Flanders, the animals have started to make a comeback. There’s still a long way to go, but things are looking positive.

Jamie Foster and Christopher H. Hendon explain how to make the perfect cup of coffee – with a little help from science.

Of beer and beavers

Sunday saw Macsen competing in the Flemish karate championship, which left me at home with William and Alexandre. After a morning playing board games, we decided to take advantage of the bright, dry (but cold) weather and head out to the Totterpad, a nearby nature walk.

Bernard the beaver lives in his beaver castle next to the visitor center. When he wakes up one morning, he notices unknown footprints around his castle. He decides to look for the maker of those strange traces. Along the way he has to walk over a tree bridge, crawl into a bird’s nest, do a totter trail and much more.

It’s a nice walk, and one we have followed a fair few times. It’s not too long, but there is plenty of opportunity for exploration and several activities along the way.

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I am also rather fond of the fact that the walk ends (or starts) at the recently refurbished visitor centre and bar, De Watermolen.

The pub was a lot busier than I’d expected so, after having ordered a drink each for all of us, we had a bit of a trek to find an available seat. While looking for a seat, I kept hold of the hot chocolates in order to minimise the risk of hot drink spillage in a crowded bar. This left the twins to handle everything else.

I think the sight of a nine-year-old wandering around a bar, beer in hand, may have raised a few eyebrows.

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The walk home was shorter and more relaxed, the boys having finally burnt off some of their energy, until we reached the point at which we exited the path. Here there is a dry ditch surrounding a picnic table and the twins thought it would be a good idea to roll down the hill.

It’s been dry all weekend, so I thought nothing of it. Until they stood up. Covered, from head to foot, in mud.

This is why we have a washing machine.

Macsen came fourth in the championship. A good result that only just missed his being on the podium.

Five Things #21

KT Bryski provides a very different take on the story of Red Riding Hood in The Path of Pins, the Path of Needles.

In 2008 Rian Dundon spent 9 months on the road with Fan Bingbing, China’s biggest movie star, and gained a firsthand look at the country’s celebrity-industrial complex.

There are exactly two wolves in the wild in Flanders at present. Pups could be on the way.

Nick Tyrone discusses three things the left gets wrong. Repeatedly.

Ben Orlin presents The Game of Snakes. All you need is a pen and a bit of paper.

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results

In Belgium, rumour has it that the latest pair of royal informants to take on the role of forming a federal government is looking to make a coalition proposal which could consist of the Francophone socialists and the Flemish nationalists.

The elections were held in May of last year and there have been several (failed, obviously) attempts to assemble a government.

The problem here is that Belgium has no national parties — the Flemish parties campaign in Flanders and the Francophone parties campaign in Wallonia. Because of this, national elections look more like a pair of regional elections that happen to be held at the same time. This is compounded by the fact that Wallonia tends to vote left and Flanders tends to vote right, and exacerbated by the fact that none of the Francophone parties trust the separatists of the N-VA, who are the largest party in Flanders by some distance.

We’ve been here before. I’m far from convinced that things will be any different this time around.

Five Things #20

Water: A History by KJ Kabza is a remarkable and moving story of human colonists on the planet of Quányuán which is arid to the point of being uninhabitable. Wetness is a concept left back on Earth but this doesn’t stop one elderly woman from stepping outside the safety of the colony whenever she can for the brief opportunity to fully experience the outside world.

Christine McLaren meets the citizen scientists in Australia who are reforesting the ocean.

Denzil visits The See-Through Church of Borgloon.

Steve Royston reminds us that political movements are fine, as long as they’re regular.

Chris Grey looks ahead at what happens next with Brexit and the battle between remembering and forgetting.

The End of Christmas

Today marks the end of our Christmas break. The visitors have all gone home, the spare bed has been folded up for another few months and now all that remains is to clear up a bit and start getting ready for school and work tomorrow.

The tree is still standing, of course, but it will be disassembled and put into storage before too long.

But first, I shall start scrolling through the long list of articles and blog posts that I haven’t gotten around to over the past couple of weeks and start catching up.

How’s your 2020 going so far?

That was the year that was

This is not a resolutions post, because I don’t do resolutions. That said, now is as good a time as any to take stock of where I am right now.

Looking back at where I was this time last year, I am quite pleased to be able to say that I do now have my weight under control. When I was younger, and cycling to work every day, I used to be able to eat and drink whatever I wanted with no need to worry. I’m older now, and commuting by car and by train, and back in 2018 I finally had to admit that it wasn’t my shirts that were shrinking.

I needed to lose a few kilos and, importantly, I wanted to do this in a manner that would be sustainable. I know what I’m like and I know full well that gym memberships and calorie counting are not things that I will continue with for any length of time. Instead, I have attempted to make some changes to my lifestyle and behaviour (more walking, less snacking) and it seems to have worked. My weight has fallen from 92 kilos to a near-optimum 81.3 kilos. I am not planning to make any further changes to my behaviour and, if I stick with my current habits, I should be able to stay reasonably healthy for the foreseeable future.

I also wanted to catch up on my unwatched DVDs. Finding time for this is still a bit of a struggle, although as my eldest son gets older, the range of films that can be added to our Saturday night film is slowly growing. I have stopped buying DVDs though and am no longer mentioning films when people ask about Christmas and birthday presents.

I am pretty much caught up on my unread books list and did reach my target of reading 30 books in 2019. That said, some of the books were very short — some of them not even long enough to be called a novella — so this feels like a bit of a cheat. I will give myself the same target in 2020, but this time with the aim of reading two and a half actual novels a month.

I’m still rubbish at Go. Improving, slowly, but I still lose way more than I win. I am not really trying to improve my game either at the moment, just playing for the fun of playing and seeing how things go (pun intended).

And that’s it really. I am going into 2020 much the same as 2019, but more so. There are other things I would like to fit into my life, but the challenge is always working out where to find the time, so I’m not mentioning any of these until I have some idea of the how.

All that’s left, therefore, is for me to wish everyone a very Happy New Year.

See you in 2020