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Friday, April 29, 2016

Interesting research...

Sometimes, you can read articles in the newspaper that are actually interesting. Like this one, publshed in today's edition of Het Laatste Nieuws (the latest news).

The article tells about Professor Jeroen Raes, who works for the KUL (catholic university Leuven) and belongs to the Department of Microbiiology and Immunology. He thus studies the substance which leaves our bowels.


And that is quite interesting! Because of an action by the government, most people living in Belgium sent in a sample of their faeces and the prof now has the largest databank in the world. "From their faeces you know the people," the prof says.

Everyone of us has about 1,5 kilo of bacteria in our bowels. Depending on what you find in the faeces, you can tell where the person is from, for instance. One sort of bacteria is only found in Belgians who eat dark chocolate, while Dutchmen will have traces of milky products...

Another thing you can notice from the study of faeces is the age and gender of a person. Well, you can't tell the exact age, but you do know whether the test person is a child, a young person or an older one, also the gender.

But there are more interesting facts to this study. Right now, the professor researches how you can make obese mice slender by a transplant of the faeces of slender ones. Better yet, there is also a link to autism. In this case study, it was noted that mice with autism always looked for their food at a given spot. Once transplanted, they also went looking on other places. Suppose you could to the same with people....

If I had a lot of money, this is one study I'd give money to. Same goes for the research on Alzheimer and cancer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Dawning of Scarlett

To mark the release of her YA paranormal novel, The Dawning of Scarlet, author Jennifer Osborn is doing a virtual book blast tour today.

Jennifer will be awarding a digital copy of The Dawning of Scarlett via iBooks to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour, Please use this rafflecopter code to place your comment:
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f1683/




Blurb

As a pale revenant—the vampire faction believing all life is sacred—sixteen-year-old Scarlett Ellis has learned to hide in the human world. She goes to night-school, works at a coffee shop, and her uncle Chasem trains her in martial arts. No matter what, she has to be prepared, because when she turns seventeen, she’ll be of Dawning age—and her biological father Apollo vows to see her dead first.

Expecting her Dawning to be impossible, she accepts the fact that she will become a rogue, forever hunted by revenant renegades and outcast by her own people. Scarlett thinks she’s prepared for this—until the curly-haired Nicholas Lightener walks into her life and asks her out on a date.

Torn between her feelings for Nick and the danger of the revenant world, Scarlett’s strange life is turned inside-out when she’s kidnapped and forced to do the one thing she swore she’d never do. Plus, she has no idea whose memories keep appearing in her dreams, or if they can even help her. Determined to free herself from a death sentence, Scarlett must fight to become who she was born to be.


Excerpt

He moves so fast it’s almost a blur. I force myself to quit thinking, quit reacting to every action and strike, but I do succeed in keeping him from hitting my body. After a few minutes of the blistering attack, I find my strength flagging. I become slower, and Chasem takes advantage of it, hitting me hard on the shoulder, and I drop one of my Kali sticks. Chasem drops both of his and reaches out, lifting me by the neck toward the wall, pinning me hard against it. 

"Never, ever give up! Do you hear me? Never!" he screams, his hot breath on my face. I squirm and struggle to get free of his grip but find I'm stuck.

His gaze is fierce, his lip curled up in a snarl. "Fight!" he screams again, but it's as if I can't convince myself that I can get free. My visions starts to darken from the lack of oxygen, and Chasem releases me. I collapse in a puddle, heaving hard and coughing, trying to suck air into my lungs though my burning throat.

I see Chasem pace for a few moments with his hands on his hips, like he doesn't know what to do. All around him, the mirrors tremble slightly, as if they’ll shatter at any moment. Chasem reaches for his water, takes a quick drink, then hurls the bottle toward the wall. I've never seen him like this. He’s usually so contained—tough, but contained. Now, he seems like a caged lion. 

He turns towards me and leans down. "You can't be like this, Scar. You can't. You have to keep fighting, no matter what. Do you understand? It will be a matter of life or death. Never surrender, do you understand?"



Author bio and links

After working in the legal and technical fields for many years, Jennifer Osborn took the plunge into full time writing in 2015. She is the award-winning author of The Shilund Saga and The Sentinel’s Insurgency.  When not writing, she listens to a different muse and creates paintings and collages of all sorts.

She lives in the Cincinnati area with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

You can find out more about her at

Facebook:  AuthorJenniferOsborn
Twitter: hondagirljen
Instragram: hondagirljen




Winter's back

Last week we thought spring was finally in the air. Right now we're back to winter, with even snow!



Can you believe it, it's colder now than it was in December or January...

The weather really is playing tricks on us. Care to share what your weather is like?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What we can't miss on our holiday...

Some people, who have all the time of the world it seems, keep themselves busy with all kinds of inquiries.

Travel organisation Lowcost Holidays (the name says all) did research among 7500 tourists from different countries and asked them what they would not miss on their travels.

The results:

We Belgian need our wash-cloth (we're about the only ones on earth, beside the French who used this for our toilet)



The French prefer cheese



The Russians need a game of cards



The English want their home tea




The American take along toilet-paper



Travellers from Hongkong always take along paper tissues



So, what's the item you can't miss while going on a trip???



Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Trouble with Seduction

Who will be the first to surrender???

Author Victoria Hanlen is doing a Book Blast tour to promote her latest novel, The Trouble with Seduction. For this occasion, Victoria will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Important: please use this Raffecopter link to post your comment: 
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f1672/

Blurb

Rebellious, Scandalous and Irredeemable

Sarah, Lady Strathford is ready for a little harmless frivolity with a man of her own age and her own appetites…surely that’s not too much to ask! After the death of her beloved husband years before Sarah is ready for an adventure… Enter the dashing, roguish – and baffling – Mr Cornelius Ravenhill.

Ravenhill, however, is not the gentleman he seems, and soon Sarah finds herself battling against the corrupt and harsh world around her as it threatens to destroy all she holds dear. The question is, will her seduction at the hands of Mr Ravenhill prove to be her saviour or her downfall?



Extract

“So you wish to be my lover, Mr. Ravenhill?” Two guileless pools of blue gazed back.

Damen gulped, shocked she’d put into words a thought he’d kept at bay since their first meeting. “No! That’s not what I… I mean, it’s not entirely… More to the point…”

He glanced around. A carriage quickly approached from the rear. Had they heard? The woman did not embrace subtlety or coy airs. He’d never considered himself easily surprised, but sometimes she said the most astounding things. Was she purposely trying to fluster him?

“Let me square away the team.” He rapped the reins, sending the horses into a trot down a side trail, hoping the distraction would give him time to collect his scattered thoughts.

She’d misconstrued his intensions; well, maybe not entirely, but he would now have to be very careful how he phrased his next question – one for which he desperately needed her agreement in order to find his brother’s assailants. He cut a quick glance toward her, while trying to determine her state of mind.

Was her little upturned nose twitching mischievously or was she deep in contemplation? He couldn’t tell. Tiny freckles scattered across her pronounced cheekbones. From the sides of her bonnet, unruly flaxen curls bounced in the breeze.

Her eyes sparkled as they traveled over his arms, across his shoulders and up his neck. With determination, he resisted falling into them.


Author bio and links



Award winning, historical romance author, VICTORIA HANLEN, has worked at a wide range of jobs, from fashion, to corporate business, to treading the boards of stage and professional opera. A lifelong writer, she once put her skills to use in PR and advertising. But her favorite form of writing is stories with happily ever afters. Her first book, The Trouble With Misbehaving, was published in February 2016. Victoria and her husband live in rural New England surrounded by a host of wildlife.
She enjoys hearing from readers at:


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Saturday, April 23, 2016

World Book and Copyright Day

Today is for those who write and read. Alas, not so many read anymore. A lot of youngsters don't touch a book but rather play on their iPhone or iPad.

Of course, this doesn't mean a lot. When my sister was a kid, she did not read either. But now (she's in her fifties) she does read, albeit occasionally. I, on the other hand, have done little less than reading all through my life... and as a consequence, I began to write my own novels.

In Stratford-On-Avon they are remembering one of the greates authors of all time, William Shakespeare. His work has lasted throughout time and is still a masterpiece. How beautiful his words are!



I think it is good for children to grow up in a family where someone reads. I had the good luck to have a granddad who adored books, and who read to me when I was only 1 or 2 years old. He even did this in French. His favorite author was Alexandre Dumas, and without realizing it, I listened to Les Trois Musquetaires or La Tulipe Noire or La Reine Margot. And don't ask my why, but I do know what the last one is about! The other two I read later on, when I could hold a book in my little hands as well. Before I was ten years old, I had read all the books in our local library twice or more than than.

And I must confess I still have a fondness for those authors I used to read when I was much younger: Catherine Benzoni, Alexander Dumas, Catherine Gaskin, Laurie McBain, Katherine Woodiwiss, Margaret Campbell-Barnes, Dorothy Eden, Phyllis A. Whitney, ...

Who are your favorites?

Friday, April 22, 2016

First Bowie, now Prince

The music world has lost another great artist: His Purple Majesty died yesterday, aged 57. Much too early.



I'm not exactly a fan of Prince, but I do appreciate some of the songs he made: Purple Rain, Kiss (especially in the version of Tom Jones), 1999, Sign of the Times, to name a few.

There have been a lot of deaths in 2016 already. They'll all be missed...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II

Today, Queen Elizabeth II of England turns 90 and she's still going strong! Perhaps she wants to do better than her mum? (The Queen Mum became 101, btw) Her husband, Prince Philip, is already 94.


Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, so she's been on the throne for 64 years now. already longer than Queen Victoria, who had the previous record.

I admire the way in which Elizabeth keeps going on, even after all the mishaps and tragedies (the failed marriage of Charles and Diana, the death of Diana, the adventures of Fergie, ...) She really is Queen in heart and soul.

As those who read this blog will know, I have it for strong women. My own grandmother was quite like the Queen. She also became rather old, just like her mother (I hope I can go the same way!). But I do have one advantage on Her Majesty - at least I can say my lineage goes back to William the Conqueror!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Shred

Being older than half a century, I am still one of those person who listen to the radio. In fact, I turn on my radio as soon as I get up - and it keep playing until it's time for the news on TV (which is at 7 p.m.).

My favorite radio station is Radio 2 and in the afternoon, from 1 to 4, there is a program in which there is a contest named 'The Shred'. You hear one chord of a pop song (mostly an older one) and then you have to guess which song it comes from. Sometimes it gets very difficult, and the amount you can win goes up and up. Last Friday The Shred was finally guessed and the winner got 1030 Euro in his bank account.



Nowadays you can mail your answer, but I never have a clue. The one time I knew which song was meant, I tried to phone but never got in...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Some politicians should better keep quiet!

The past few days, there has been a lot of commotion about saying of some of our prominent politicians.

Kris Peeters, Minister of Work & Economy in the federal government, made (nearly) everyone mad by claiming 'we all live above our station'. You should see the reactions on Facebook and Twitter, and the letters posted in the newspapers! Hello? Are you living above your station if you are only earning 1085 € net per months, of which you have to pay the rent, gas and electricity, plus food? People who get that little have to scrape to reach the end of the month!  And really, if you are paying 54% in taxes, you don't get rich. So Minister Peeters should better have kept quiet.



Another guy who did it, is Jan Jambon, Vice-Premier and dealing with Internal Affairs. He claimed that 'a significant part of the muslim community was dancing at the news of the attack of 22nd March'. He should know better as well.



People in high places should be very careful with what they're saying. Because every word you utter will be weighed and valued...

The same goes for teachers. We all know we have to be careful in what we say and do, as to never offend any of our students, colleagues or parents.

Doesn't the old saying go: Speaking is silver, keeping quiet is gold?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Windows 10 on an old computer

The pc I'm working on is advanced in years... Already more than 8 years old, and still working fine. (It's an Acer, and must not have been built on a Monday...) I'm lucky with this one. The two before that were gone in less than a year. The first one got caught in a fall of my mother, so I bought a new one and that only lasted about a year. Afterwards I got the one I'm working on right now.

Months ago, I read in the newspaper that Windows 10 wouldn't work on a computer older than 2 years. Well, I've just installed it and it works fine!

Of course, I'll still have to get used to some of the new functions, but then we're not too old to learn, even when nearing 60!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Finally: spring is in the air

This afternoon the sun began to shine. The days before were cold and we always got a bunch of rain. Not so pleasant, because you expect better weather in April. I remember that last year it was already quite warm.

But hey, now the sun is out and they expect beautiful and sunny weather for the coming days, with a rise in temperature as well.

So it's finally time to put away the winter stuff and take out the lighter coats and shoes. No more socks for me! I never put on socks between April and October. I don't have cold feet very often.



And it's nice to see the flowers popping up wherever you look. I don't have a garden myself (hate all the work it needs) but I can enjoy well-kept gardens from others...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Brussels Airport: soon back to normal

The trouble with the air traffic controllers is over. They're back to work - probably because there was too much protest from others with equally taxing jobs who need to work until they're 67...

At the same time, teams or workmen are very busy to rebuild the departure hall of the airport. There was a lot of damage, but luckily not to the structure of the building. So after the cleaning up of the ruins, the rebuilders could start. They've put new glass in the windows and doors, they are painting, placing new tiles on the floor, ... With a bit of luck part of the departure hall should be open next month already and by the end of June the entire building should be ready. This would bring the operations of the airport back to as they were before the terrorist attack.


So hopefully our next trips won't have to be annulled. Next month we'll be flying to Marseille, in July to Venice, in August to Stockholm, in September to Dublin and in December to Budapest.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike compose song for Belgian Red Devils

Now that the European Soccer Championship is coming closer, it's time for a song. The honor went to the DJ-duo Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, who presented their song in Tomorrowland style.

It's like dum-dum-dum and so on. If you call that a song, ok, but I don't think I'd buy it!!!


And if it will make the Red Devils win the championship, that's another question. I wouldn't put up my hopes too high.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sometimes strikes aren't acceptable

I don't have anything against unions (my own Dad was a union man) and also nothing against the right to strike.

But in some cases I don't think it's acceptable. Like people working in police-forces, hospitals, schools...

Yesterday, the people working for Belgocontrol on Brussels Airport went on strike (well, technically they did not strike but were 'ill') which meant that airplanes could not take off or land. They are protesting against the fact they have to work until they are 58!



Well, most other people have to work until they're 67. I still belong to the lucky ones who can go as planned, but with the new pension system my sister needs to work at least until she's 65 instead of going on 60. So why are those people complaining? They have a hectic job, watching all those planes flying over, but I'm sure it's not more difficult than keeping an eye on every student in a class for 50 minutes at an end, doing your job teaching. As a teacher you have to be a trained psychologist, a nurse or doctor, a parent, next to being the one who shares knowledge. But our job isn't considered as 'difficult'. No, most people think we do nothing but look forward to the next holiday (which we do, indeed, but then because we're dead tired after a couple of weeks).

So no, I don't have any consideration for these actions. They should go back to work. The airport has suffered enough after the terrorist attack three weeks ago and is only slowly getting back to normal.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big Brother is watching you!

Do you sometime have the feeling that something isn't right?

Well, I've been feeling this for a while. Odd things happen in my house. Some weeks ago I returned from some errands and the doormat was not in its place. And only two days ago, I was putting away pots and pans in the space behind the kitchen (goes to the cellar, where we keep potatoes and wine bottles) when I noticed some items were not in their usual place. Now I'm a person who always puts things in their exact place. When they move only 1 mm I'll spot it.

Weird, eh? It's not the first time this happens. It all started some years after my then boyfriend disappeared (which is now practically 25 years ago). He'd always hinted he worked for national security. I don't know this for a fact, but I must assume it is - or was - true. Fact is, he's disappeared. And then, some years later, I got a phone call, in which someone was asking for him. I told that person I hadn't seen JP in years.

But since then both my sister and I know that a person (or persons) unknown enter our house when we're not there. They can pick the locks without forcing them. And they always leave a clue, like the displaced items. Are they looking for something? I wish I knew. Then I could look for it as well and hand it over. But the only left from JP is a black-and-white picture I've kept for sentimental reasons.

Now most of you will laugh at this,think I have a vivid imagination. Of course, I'm an author, so I do have one vivid imagination, but this is something I don't need to invent. If I wrote the novel it could be titled The Spy Who Loved Me...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Be aware of frauds!

Those who read my blog will know by now that I live in an old house - almost 100 years old. So there is always something that needs fixing.

Some things we can do ourselves, like hanging wallpaper or painting. My sister is even able to do some minor plumbing. But there are problems we can't fix ourselves and therefore we need others.

Until a year or so ago, I used to have a good person to do chores.  A cousin of my father, in fact. He had his own company and they did all kind of odd jobs. You only had to call him, and he came looking. Their work was not too expensive (family rate) and was very well done. But alas, this cousin passed away and nobody took over the company.

Since then we're a bit lost. At the seaside, there are plenty of companies specialized in small chores, but here in Dendermonde they are hard to come by. When searching the net, I came across a person offering to do chores, so I made contact and he came over to see what needed to be done.

But as soon as he entered the house, the alarm bells went off. The prices he mentioned were way too low to be credible. He also did not take notes or made calculations. Then he offered to do the job, but I should pay half the money in advance. Hello???

Further research proved he was a fraud, in fact condemned for similar facts before. Apparently, he'd tricked more than 50 people in the area already.  So no, I'm not going to wire him any money. But right now, I'm still looking for someone trustworthy to do the job!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Who's going to win tonights The Voice UK?

For a couple of years now, I've been following The Voice UK. I watch a lot of BBC, so it's no wonder I watch this program and not The Voice of Flanders.

Four contestants are left after last week's semi-final: Kevin, Lydia Lucy, Jolan and Cody. I'm not a betting person, but my vote would go for Jolan or Cody. Unfortunately, not being English, I can't vote! (This is the same for lots of things in the UK: can't get a card for Marks & Spencer, for Boots, ... You have to have an address in the UK to do so.)




Anyone else watching The Voice UK? Who is your favorite?

Friday, April 8, 2016

End of the holidays

The Easter holidays are coming to an end, and next Monday it's back to work.

Well, we've had a nice rest. The weeks before the holidays were pretty hectic. Chris was close to a nervous breakdown. So we could really use those days off.

The firsr week of the holiday - because of a canceled trip - we did some painting. Once the job done, we went to the seaside to spend the remainder there. We got some nice days, when it was even possible to hang the washing outside.

And we had a nice meal in a new restaurant, La Guera. The chef is a young guy, but I'm sure he'll go far. I can certainly recommend having dinner there!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Does a safe place exist?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question should be 'no'.

Yesterday, our Prime Minister Charles Michel met the international press, claiming Belgium was again 'a safe country'.

I wouldn't dare to go as far. Who can foresee what might happen? If we could do this, we'd all have what we wanted...

The only thing you can do is try to keep everything as safe as possible. This goes for nearly everything.

Most people think their house is a safe place. But if you check the records, most of the fatal accidents occur just at this home... A fall off the stairs, slipping on something in the kitchen, a kid pulling a pot with boiling water (or oil) of the fire, ....

Driving a car is just as dangerous. Many accidents there too.

The chance of falling victim of an explosion (by bomb) is much smaller than any of the above mentioned.

So no, there are no safe places, but we should all keep our eyes open and be aware of the risks we are taking. Awareness makes you less of a victim

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Abandoned houses evoke your fantasy

Because the weather is not too good, I am reading a lot. Right now, I'm nearly finished with The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, starring Special Agent Pendergast. In it features a - seemingly - abandoned mansion at Riverside Drive in New York city.

Isn't it strange how we begin to imagine things when we see such an abandoned house? I remember that in my student days, when I took the train to and from Ghent every day, we always passed a house where nobody seemed to live. It really worked on my fantasy. I began to imagine I got inside of this house, finding .... whatever, but it should be really spooky!



It's that same house which figures in the opening story of Face in the Mirror and Other Stories, my collection of short stories.

Many authors have used abanboned houses in their novels, and of course many movies play with the idea.

Have you ever entered an abandoned house? If so, did anything strange happen???

Monday, April 4, 2016

Brussels Airport is open - but how???

Since yesterday, the national airport of Belgium is busy again. But just so... Only three flights left the airport. Today around 8 flights would leave or arrive and tomorrow they head for 40 or 50 flights.

But getting to the airport is quite something. You have to pass six or eight security posts at the least! It takes about 4 hours to get to your gate.

Don't they realize this makes us the laughing stock of all the world? The terrorists are laughing out loud when they heard about these measures.

Security - after the calf has drowned. If someone wants to let a bomb explode, he or she will do it wherever. If not inside the airport, then outside.

When Brussels airport wants to reclaim its position as one of the busiest airports here in the west of Europe, they will have to cut down on the double-checking (or triple, ...) of all passengers. You want to be in your plane in about an hour, not much longer.

And nobody knows how it is going to continue. Flights can only be announced one day ahead (!) I don't call that doing business.

Well, the trip to Marseille will probably fall the water as well. I just hope the situation will be back to normal when we take our two trips during the summer holidays.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Other grave behind King Tut's?

Lots of tourists have already trampled into the funeral chambers of Pharao Tutanchamon. But now, 3C scans made by the American-British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves have disclosed that at least two other rooms are behind the one where the tomb of Tut was found.

Wild expectation is that the other rooms might contain the tomb of Nefertiti - the scan indicates metal and organic matter. But other scientists say this could be a mighty disillusion. 'There could be just a hammer and a dead bat," says Olaf Kaper, who works for the University of Leiden (Holland). 



It will probably take some time before we know anything for sure, because the egyptologists are still trying to find out how to open up the closed chambers. 

I just love such stories! As a little girl I dreamed of becoming an archeologist and finding that missing treasure....