Coronabsurdity of the day

This is brilliant.

Belgium and The Netherlands have taken different approaches to the coronavirus, with Belgium ordering all non-essential shops to close and the Dutch allowing the shops to stay open as long as they take measures to enforce social distancing.

The towns of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog are, in fact, a single town that straddles the border between Belgium and The Netherlands. Inevitably enough, someone built a shop across the border.

So what do you do when you have conflicting rules as to whether you can open or not?

You open half a shop:

Continue reading “Coronabsurdity of the day”

The Belgian shutdown has started

You can tell things are getting bad when Belgium gets a government. This is, of course, only a temporary government — negotiations are still ongoing for the new federal government — but prime minister, Sophie Wilmès now has powers for six months to take measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic without requiring parliamentary approval.

The first thing this government did was to declare a declare a nation-wide shutdown as of noon today. Until 5th April, we are all expected to stay at home except for essential reasons, such as food shopping, or outdoor physical activities which can only be done with people living in the same house.

They are trying to avoid calling this a lockdown for fear of negative connotations. But that’s what this is.

Compared to yesterday, we’re not that much affected. I’m already working from home and Eve is still able to take the boys out in the afternoon in order to prevent us all going stir crazy. Because I am not walking to work at present, I have taken to taking a walk around town before I start working and again when I have finished. This is still allowed as long as I don’t talk to anyone.

In slightly more positive news, a citizens’ initiative has been launched aiming to bring together isolated people with volunteers available to gather and deliver essential shopping. The idea from Covid Solidarity is to make shopping list templates for printing out available to people who find themselves isolated.

Once completed, the list may be placed in a visible position in front of one’s house so that a neighbour can pick it up and set about making the necessary purchases.

The shopping is then deposited without physical contact, and reimbursement for purchases made is handled directly by the person lending assistance and the person being assisted, according to the procedure detailed on the site.

And two Dutch universities are looking into whether a vaccine for tuberculosis can be used to boost immune systems which may mean fewer and less severe infections.

Five Things #26

Safe, Child, Safe is an Obsidian and Blood Short Story from Aliette de Bodard. I now want to read the whole of this Aztec noir fantasy series.

Kristin Andrews and Susana Monsó point out that rats are sentient beings with rich emotional lives, and ask why they don’t get the same ethical protections as primates.

It’s a Brewtiful World visits Brasserie Cantillon, where he first discovered the joy of lambics and geuzes.

Hannah Wallace visits the town that stopped big bottled water.

Will Bedingfield looks at the strange evolution of conspiracy theories leading to coronavirus misinformation. Think before you share.

Five Things #25

Sonya, Josephine, and the Tragic Re-Invention of the Telephone by I. S. Heynen is a powerful slice of dystopian fiction.

Chris Grey suggests that Brexit is going feral, and examines the consequences.

Denzil visits The Vlooyberg Tower near Tielt-Winge.

Ben Orlin asks What Makes a Great Teacher? With answers from four great teachers.

And another wolf has been sighted in Belgium. This time in Liège.

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.