Winter is here

We actually have a decent layer of snow at last. It started snowing on Saturday evening and continued pretty much all the way through Sunday. It’s eased off now, but we are still seeing the occasional flurries.

It’s days like this that I light the fire and appreciate the fact that I am still working from home.

Flooded

Up until the end of last year I was doing quite well when it came to going for a daily walk and was managing to spend at least an hour a day walking. Things, however, have slacked off a bit since the New Year, though. When it’s a good time, it’s often too dark or too wet or too cold, or I’m just feeling too lazy. Consequently, I’ve only been managing three or four times a week during January.

So, even though it was a bit wet yesterday afternoon, I went for a walk anyway. What’s more, the twins decided they would like to join me.

It turned out to have rained a bit more than I had realised and, after trudging through some pond-sized puddles (and avoiding the lake-size ones) we came to the small bridge I usually cross on the way to a nearby forest.

We took a detour.

Digital Nostalgia

While clearing up a bit, I recently discovered a whole stack of 3.5 inch diskettes. Many of these were blank and had never been used — with my usual sense of great timing I bought a stack of 20 of the things, and a large case to hold them, just as they started to go out of fashion.

Of the ones that weren’t blank, most contain files and documents that I last looked at in the 1990s.

And then there were all the freebies that I had accumulated. Disks that had been mounted on magazine covers, stuffed with free and demonstration utilities for DOS or even Windows 3.1. Some of these I even remember. Most, however have been completely forgotten and none of them has been looked at since 2004 (or earlier).

One thing I do remember is OS/2. Not the disk so much as the actual operating system, which I used at work somewhere around the mid-1990s. We had a development tool that couldn’t run on Windows because… well, Windows wasn’t very good and this meant that the development team (me and one other person) had to dual boot between OS/2 and Windows 3.1.

I really liked OS/2 back in the day. It was stable, reliable and worked really well — which was quite a revelation when compared to Windows. And while the operating system never took off, it did manage to build a community of users which survived well into this century.

Time has, of course, moved on and I suspect that I doubt that it would stand any comparison with the operating systems of today, but when I was using OS/2 I did appreciate it.

As for the disks, I don’t have anything that could actually read them and doubt that any of them contain anything of more than passing interest, so into the bin they all went.

Almost a Winter Wonderland

I’ve complained often enough about the lack of snow in January, so I really should acknowledge that we actually did see some yesterday. What’s more, it has survived the night and is still visible today.

Apparently, between 2 and 8cm of snow fell across the country yesterday. While we’re very much at the 2cm end of that range, any snow is better than no snow.

It’s a toasty 5°C as I type this, so the snow isn’t going to last long. But it was glistening quite nicely when I went for a walk.

January

The weather forecast keeps promising snow, and the snow keeps on refusing to turn up. So, this morning, I took the photo at the top of this post with the intention of saying that it almost felt like spring.

And then it started to hail.

Lightly Seared in 2020

It’s nearly the end of the year, so now seems to be as good a time as any to take a look back at 2020. Looking back at the most popular posts that were actually written in 2020, and then excluding all of the ones that were just a link (or collection of links), I have come up with the following arbitrary selection of the best of the blog.

First up, and the most popular post written this year is Life’s too short for bad books in which I face the realisation that acquiring freebies gets in the way of buying books I actually want to read.

It appears that there are a fair few coffee drinkers looking at this site. The second most popular post is the one about my (not so new anymore) Aeropress. I’m still using it — a lot — and am probably now drinking even more coffee than I used to.

It being 2020, the Coronavirus can’t be ignored and nor can some of the absurdities that cropped up as various rules and restrictions conflicted with each other. Like this Spanish edition which revolves around working and cycling.

Surprisingly, since it was only written four weeks ago, my experience with Scratch comes in at number four.

Belgium held federal elections in 2019 and the coalition negotiations continued into 2020. Long into 2020. And in August, the country broke the record for the longest political crisis and longest period without an elected government.

The sixth most popular post on this site this year was Dead animal disposal. And I was slightly surprised that The sound of solitude, which wasn’t really about anything (I was trying to maintain a streak at the time), was the seventh most popular post on the site.

Oops is the amusing tale of backfiring public-spiritedness and number six in on-site popularity terms.

2020 was the year in which I started taking a camera with me when going for a walk. The photo I took of a Speckled Wood butterfly comes in at number nine.

All the way back in February, I talked about The Prisoner episode Hammer Into Anvil. In April, I was asked to reduce my working time to four days a week. In November I went Back to work. In October, we had a laptop disaster and an emergency upgrade.

I have been ranting about Brexit — on and off — for most of the year, but it wasn’t until December and the post Brexit Hell that anyone started reading any of these posts. That said, A classic of the genre, which was about Brexiters, was only slightly less popular.

And finally, Not a dragonfly was about a damselfly.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

So, 2020. It’s been quite a year and it’s still not (quite) over. And, with this being the first year for a long time that we will be spending at home, I’m at a bit of a loss. I have no last-minute packing to do, no long journeys to worry about and all of the presents are already under the tree.

So all that remains is for me to open a bottle, pour myself a drink and wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2021.

Eased and extended

Since Belgium went into second lockdown at the end of October, I have been saying that I don’t expect the country to emerge this time around until 2021. Looking at what is being said, it’s quite clear that the government is very wary of a repeat of the summer where the country started to ease the restrictions and was hit by a massive spike in infections.

There was a review of the current measures on Friday, utterly unsurprisingly, the current lockdown measures have been extended until mid-January.

There is, however, some easing of the current measures with non-essential shops being allowed to open from Tuesday. Restrictions still apply and shoppers are expected to quickly pick up their non-essential essentials and leave. For us, this means that broken bootlaces can finally be replaced. Museums will also be allowed to re-open, and swimming pools, oddly enough. But not cinemas.

Hairdressers also remain closed. I have threatened to cut my own hair already, and am coming close to going through with it.

And, with Christmas fast approaching, the number of social contacts remains the same and absolutely will not change, according to Federal Health Minister, Frank Vandenbroucke:

The decision for Christmas period is final. We want to offer people clarity even if this isn’t pleasant. It is better to be certain where you are heading, and we absolutely wish to avoid giving people false promises.

We’ve already reconciled ourselves that we won’t be visiting elderly grandparents in either France or the UK this year, and I do see the sense of this. Disappointing as it is, you can’t negotiate with a virus and a seasonal lifting of restrictions is a bit silly, to say the least.

All of this does, of course, mean no Christmas film and no Wonder Woman this year.

And we’ll be having a quiet Christmas at home.

And I really need a haircut.

Back to work

Those of you who have been following this blog for the past few months may remember that, back in April, I was asked to reduce my working time to four days a week. As of this week, I am now back to working five days a week.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On one hand, the additional income will be nice — especially in the aftermath of Christmas. We’re not going anywhere or seeing anyone, but presents still need to be bought and shipped.

On the other hand, I have become quite used to having my Fridays free. One day a week, on my own, has given me plenty of opportunity to actually get get quite a few things done.

On the third hand, I’m not the first to go back to full time working, and not opening my laptop on Monday to discover I am a(nother) day behind on a whole bunch of requests will reduce some of the pressure I’ve been feeling for the past few weeks.

I don’t have a fourth hand.

On balance, it’s probably a good thing although I can’t help feeling that, if everyone went down to working four days a week, we would all be a lot happier.

And I’m still working from home, so all is not lost.