Year End Greetings

December 18th, 2009

A very politically correct way to start.  But I do not guarantee that it will stay that way.

For a while now, I have been thinking about how I will finish the year on my blog and what I should do for my readers.  Several days ago, there was quite a spectacular sunset in Brussels and therefore I decided to take a few pictures from my apartment – this would make a nice Christmas Card.

If you are sick of the standard Christmas Music that you can hear along the street, in shopping malls and Nancie’s car, press on the icon below and you will be entertained by some real Christmas music while you read the rest of the post (I hope, as I have never done this before…).

Procession (Benjamin Britten)

I have had to change my level of consciousness when it comes to sunsets.  I am just not used to thinking about it at 4PM.  In Brussels, at this time of year, unless you are ready at that time, the sunset will be over before you know it.  This one developed over several minutes and therefore I was ready when the light really became quite nice

AptSunset1

After the sun went down, and as the lights int he city start to come on, the contrast can be even more interesting.  In the distance you can see the Atomium – one of the symbols of Brussels (the other is the Manekenpis, which we will discuss later…).  The Atomium was built in 1958 (it has the same age I have) for the World Exhibition that was held that year.  It was supposed to stay only 10 years, but when it came time to decide what to do with it, the population of Brussels massively protested against its destruction.  It has been renovated recently, but I have not yet had an opportunity to visit it.  The name Atomium comes from the fact that it was supposed to represent an atom of matter – remember that it was not long before that time that great advances were made in the understanding of the structure of the atom and people were still fascinated by this.

AptSunset2

I guess a “year end” greeting is not complete without a short, or long, diatribe on what I have been up to this year.  Fortunately, I can just refer you to the other posts in this blog, and tell you to catch up on your reading if you want to know all that I have done.  There is not much more to report since my return from Athens, except for the arrival of my new bookcase (made in Germany!) so that I can finally unpack the last of my boxes.  Well, that is probably overstating reality! One never, absolutely never finishes unpacking from a move.  There is always a box that remains, with junk that you just cannot understand why you actually took it along.  However, dutifully, on the next move, you carefully repack the content of the box, and take it along again.  So, within the limits of what is actually achievable given the fourth law of moving dynamics, I am done unpacking.  You all know, I hope, the third law of moving dynamics … It says that no matter how hard you try, the level of junk always increases.

Well, a few days ago, the well-laid plans for my “year end” greetings were turned up-side down. It all started with a mysterious sign that appeared in my weather station, and a weather prediction that I did not quite understand.

Take a look at this picture I took…

BarometerSnow

The top section typically shows the predicted weather for the next 12 hours.  I had already seen a picture with clouds, the moon and ‘blinking’ things above the clouds which I took for stars.  I interpreted that sign as ‘clearing weather’ and in general it was proven to be true, if usually very short-lived.  However, today, the stars are shown below the clouds!  Something told me that I was not looking at this correctly, so I opened and actually read the instruction manual (ignored until then, of course).  I was told there that the ‘stars’ underneath the clouds are actually snow flakes! WOW! What are those?

Then I noticed something else I had not seen before.  Notice the short horizontal line in front of the temperature.  That is not a reflection, or a malfunctioning liquid chrystal but is actually intended to be there.  It indicates that the outside temperature is really less than zero. I did not know you could do that! After a little surfing on Internet, I was able to make out that when the temperature is below zero, it cannot rain, but instead snow flakes fall and collect on the ground.  All of the above, of course, is intended for all my friends who live near the tropics or near the equator, and may not be familiar with this phenomenon, which I myself had been very glad to miss for many years. Part of the “educational” service also provided by this blog…

Well, to make a long story no longer than it needs to be (please no comments on this), the snow finally did arrive on Thursday afternoon.  The weather forecast (not mine, but from the official meteorological office where people with university degrees are paid to tell us what the weather will be like tomorrow) had indicated an accumulation of maybe one centimeter – nothing to worry about.  However, one colleague, who lives North-East of Brussels and was already on vacation, told us that he had just received 7 cm of snow at his home, and the front was moving towards Brussels.

The snow increased and finally, it started to accumulate even on the streets – I decided to go home before traffic stopped to a standstill.  I fell on my bottom on the first step I took outside the office – not used to the slippery stuff anymore I guess.  It took me twice as long as usual to drive home, a whole 30 minutes! Steering was more wishful thinking than anything else; let’s not talk about breaking – in a world with no friction, this becomes very, very approximate, even with ABS.  But I made it safe and sound and here are some views from my apartment while it is still snowing.

AptSnow1

In the foreground is the roof of the public swimming pool right below my apartment.  You can see the accumulation of snow of the railing – we ended up with about 10 cm of snow, and this is very unusual for Brussels.

AptSnow2

It continued to snow overnight, but not enough to keep the roads slippery.  On Friday, the snow stopped and the sun appeared.  The view from the apartment ‘improved’ with the setting rays of the sun.

AptSnow3

I Like the contrast in this picture between the houses and church which are exactly as they were 100 years ago or more, and the very modern buildings in the background, built in the last 20 years.

AptSnow4

As I am writing this post, the sun has set, leaving a last impression with snow-covered roofs and the steam escaping from the heating system for the swimming pool.

AptSunset3

Here are some real Christmassy views from the park near my apartment.

JosaphaSnow1

JosaphaSnow2

JosaphaSnow3

On these very seasonally correct scenes (unless you are from Down Under), let me wish all of you “Season’s Greetings” (political correctness again) but more specifically, a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  All the best in 2010. (1094 Page Views)

One Response to “Year End Greetings”

  1. David Ingon 22 Dec 2009 at 23:27

    I was really amused at your rediscovery of instruments that forecast snow … and then the rediscovery of how slippery steps can get. It’s funny how those years in tropical climes have taken off your edge.

    If I start hearing about how you’re cold and never seem to warm up, that could be a sign of late maturity (i.e. old age).

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