One of the greatest words in the English language is ‘runaway.’ Because I always read it as ‘runway.’ And it always makes sort of sense that way, even though at the same time I also always sense a slight disturbance in the linguistic force. Because the word ‘runaway’ is always used by the sort of people who would come up with colourful ‘runway’ analogies to mask whatever colourful writing flaws they need masked.

And then realisation sinks in: run-a-way. And suddenly the world is normal again. (Wor-l-d, not wor-d.)

Rules that have been basic tenets of society for centuries

So there I was at the 24-hour grocery story getting whatever sketchy garbage it is that I eat, and only one checkout was open. So there was kind of a line, and as I’m on deck to pay for my stuff I notice there is this woman just pleading with the cashier. She is trying to get a refund for something, it is late, and she is desperate, but she is heroically polite about it. And the cashier is just giving her nothing, just turned away mumbling some bullshit quasi-excuse about how she can’t, how she has to serve the people in line first.

When I read this comic last week, at first I merely thought Winston Rowntree was back on the ball after a run of weaker (while sappy) strips. This one was good.

But when I came back to read the comments to this really rather simple set-up (a cashier, a woman trying to return a product, and the next shopper in line), I realized that this strip is not merely good, Rowntree has hit the ball out of the park.

Go brave his wall of text! Highly recommended!

What was the question again?

To the left: Richard Gdanski of 1984’s one-single-wonder Psycon, gracing the cover of Your 64. To the right: Ninja of South-African rappers Die Antwoord (photo by Xeni Jardin). It’s like they are twins!


The dude bird dude

There is still a chill in the morning air when I call Liam to the car. It is his birthday, and I am taking him to buy him a bird.

“Dad, where are we going?”

He already knows where we are going, he just wants to hear it again. I have already forgotten the name. “Duchattinier,” I manage to read before Liam tears the note from my hand. Since he started learning to read no text is safe from him.

“Doo-chat-i-neer, birds and bird sup-plies.” It is somewhere just off the highway.

A dry cough from behind the hedge. Liam sometimes calls the neighbour Mr. Sour Face though never to his actual face. “Elflord, mister Elflord,” I correct him silently. I almost said it out loud.

“That dude bird dude,” the neighbour says, his bald head suddenly peeking over the hedge. Duchattinier is known for being the only man in the country to sell dude birds.

I utter a short apology, and quickly manoeuvre Liam and myself into the car.

While we are driving Liam asks about the name of every bird he sees. Sparrows, jackdaws, and magpies I can tell apart but which is a blackbird and which a starling? I point to a bright yellow sticker on the inside of a window and say, look, a window swallow. A lame joke, but Liam thinks it is hilarious. From then on he keeps seeing window swallows everywhere.

A heavy chain with a lock is attached to the gate, as is a sign that I cannot read from the car. “Go and look what it says there,” I tell Liam. He clambers out, and walks to the gate.

“If you can read this you are staming too close!”

“Standing,” I correct him.

He shakes his head furiously as he climbs back in.

“Staming, daddy.”

Line trail, Abcoude

Today I went for a short hike along a small bit of the Defence Line of Amsterdam. As Wikipedia notes, this line, built between 1880 and 1920, became obsolete as soon as it was finished thanks to the inventions of the plane and the tank.

I got off at Abcoude station and walked 5 kilometres along the river Gein towards the Fort at Nigtevecht, and the same distance back.

Willow has suffered:

A fortification just outside the main fort:


Why helmets?

Mandatory bicycle helmet laws: why? What kind of injuries are bicycle helmets supposed to reduce or stop?

A cursory web search delivers two types of web sites, those of people and orgs vehemently against bicycle helmets, and those moderately in favour. The ones against point out that bicycle helmets rarely every help, but since you cannot prove a negative, there is little other data they can point to. The burden of proof lies with the pro-helmet group, but those tend to stick to vague statements along the lines of “a bicycle helmet protects you in the case of crashes, but also in the case of falls.”

Neither type of website tries to explain what kind of injuries a bicyclist is likely to have, and how a helmet would help against these injuries, or fail to do so.

This lack of data unfortunately and pro-actively turns any discussion about bicycle helmets into one fuelled purely by myths and assumptions, and a political one to boot.

The only figures I could find were at the totally unrelated blog of Toby Sterling, who points out that most lethal bike accidents in Amsterdam in 2006 were the result of bicycles stopping in the blind spot of large trucks, even though blind spot mirrors have been obligatory since 2003.

Well, internets, have you useful links for me?