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Friday, January 20, 2006

Le Pigeon Voyageur

Sunday, Herman and I went to visit Uncle Gerard and Tante Marie Louise in Zottegem. Uncle Gerard is a passionate pigeon breeder and racer. He loves his birds and now, nearly 80 years old, he takes care of them every day. For a long time pigeons have been parts of my life between Uncle Gerard and Reuters.

It all started long time ago when Noah sent out three doves after the flood; one of them returned with an olive branch, a sign of reconciliation with God and thus a symbol of peace. The great empires of Carthage, Egypt, and Rome made full use of them. China had in fact organized a postal system based upon the use of messenger pigeons.

Knowledge is power, and at one time the surest and swiftest way to deliver this knowledge was with racing pigeons. The racing pigeon was the special prerogative of kings, princes, and nobles of all kinds throughout history. In the past it was against the law for a common man to own pigeons. After the French revolution, when everybody was allowed to raise pigeons, the first races were organised in Northern France and Belgium in 1800.

In the 1850 Julius Reuter founded the news service that globally still carries his name 150 years later. The Reuters news service was actually founded as a line of pigeon posts between Aachen and Brussels. He first started with 40 pigeons and had at one point up to 200 birds going back and forth carrying news and information.

The most successful modern racing pigeons were bred in Belgium.

The homing pigeon of Belgium is the result of the crossing of the Cumulet of Antwerp with the Smerle of Liege. The Cumulet was described by Mr. Andre Coopers, secretary of one of the Belgium Societies in 1868, as being of Flemish origin with white eyes, and having a habit of flying so high that it was gone from sight for several hours. The Smerle, he advises, is of Wallon origin, with a short beak and having several recurved feathers on its neck. It did not fly as high or as long as the Cumulet, but it was much more rapid.

It pleases me that the bird is a successful cross of something from the North and the South of Belgium.

Tante Marie Louise does not remember much these days but she was happy to see us and I was very happy to see her.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Long Tail

Looking up from the tip of the Long Tail.

I started this blog after reading, by chance, all the blogs' entries about the Web2.0 Conference in San Francisco, last year. Only then I realized that blogs were the big thing of today. I thought I was OK with email, MSN and Skype but then I understood that I must have a blog to understand all the new developments on Internet for people like me. I called myself LCD “Lowest Common Denominator” of Internet users. If I can do it then all those people out there who are trying to reach me have done it right.

So after reading and researching I now understand: Web2.0, Tags, Creative Commons, Flickr, Mashup, Feedburner, RSS, Adsense and many other new words that were totally unknown only three months ago.

I feel empowered and up-to-date. I can read all the blogs about blogs from “Les Blogs” in Paris. I might even go to the 2006 Web2.0 Conference in SF and have a look around.

I have a stand in Technorati of 1,059,666. I do not know how many blogs are tracked by this site but I feel deep inside that I am the last of the ”Long Tail” and that Chris Anderson and David Hornik would be very proud of me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Helleborus Niger

For the first time I have seen at the flower shop the “Christmas Roses” to plant outside in the winter. Elegant and sumptuous, nodding, pure white blooms are 2” across and centred with a crown of golden stamens. Held nicely above the evergreen foliage, the large, pure white, waxy flowers carried singly on stiff upright stems and the dark, leathery, almost untoothed foliage are a small miracle of nature.

I planted them in two elegant urns outside the house and since December they have been subjected to snow, icy rain, wind and the harshest of weather and here they are blooming and growing like a charm.

I will plant them everywhere in the garden to bring joy to these cold winter days.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Looking for Fireworks

It used to be relatively easy to buy fireworks for the New Year celebration. We never bought them because we are not very fond of them. We love watching fireworks but it never downed on us to actually buy them.

Already last year when Stavros asked to bring them from Belgium we were too late and did not buy any. But this year Stavros asked for fireworks a week ahead and we could not go to his house for New Year and say we forgot them.

So we did not look for them until Friday the day before the end of the year. Herman and I were sure to find them as usual at Carrefour as every year. In the past years you could see everywhere the colorful displays at the entrance of the stores with all kind of fireworks types from very small to super sized rockets and bizarre looking boxes.

So on Friday we discovered that contrary to previous years we could not find any fireworks anywhere. Herman by some strange idea decided to call Carrefour in Mechelen. He thought Mechelen is on the way to the Netherlands, so if we had to stop, Mechelen was a logical place. The lady that answered the phone said that it was already two years that Carrefour did not sell fireworks and we could maybe find the in a special store that sold newspapers in the Hoogstraat, downtown Mechelen.

So we went looking for the Hoogstraat and after a while we got there; after asking in the shops around we finally found the place. It turns out that two years ago the law was changed on the sales of fireworks. Only special stores with good security and a license were allowed to sell them. In the back of the store there was a display of fireworks of all kinds. All of them came from China with big letters in Chinese.

We asked the salesman for something nice but not too big, not too dangerous and not too fiery. We bought some number 1 and number 2 rockets – the smallest we could find – and a big box with ten different shapes of candles and other kinds of fireworks. Very happy with our treasure hunt we went to Bloemendaal.

On Saturday night, midnight, together with the rest of the Netherlands, Stavros and Herman started to light all the fireworks we bought. One after the other, flying in the air like fire flowers or spurting fire stars in the street, the fireworks did their magic trick mesmerizing Alexandros and Irini and making children of us all.

Good bye Old Year, hello New Year with lots of bangs and all the glitter.

Like London, Sydney and Copacabana our street was full of people going “Hoo” and “Haa” with every “bang”. Now that we know where to go, next year we will get more and better fireworks.

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