Posts in de categorie « In english»:

Oct 27 2007

Look what the cat dragged in

one deceased mole

Stepping out the door these days, we’re almost in for a surprise every day. One day it’s a bird, the next day a mouse, that Mirre – our pussy – brought home as a trophy of her nightly wanderings.

Her specialty is mole-catching though. A new mole had moved into the tunneling system under our lawn just weeks ago. And his game is already over. Last year she caught at least 7 or 8 moles.
I feel really sorry for the mole, but am glad I don’t have to set traps or worse to get rid of it.


Oct 25 2007

Enchanté

Starting today, I’m a hero. No really, stop your laughter, I am a hero.

This blog was added to the portfolio of Adhese‘s blogvertising product Enchanté! In their words: “Houbi is our latest Enchanté Hero. It is a sweet personal blog, partially in Dutch and partially in English. It is coming all the way from … Balegem … who said that only big cities should have their own blog? Aha! Check Houbi out and enjoy.

This doesn’t pay any bills as of yet, but it opens up this blog for advertisers who would want to depart with some hard-earned cash. Contact adhese, plan a campaign, and be sure to select houbi.com in the targets.

As my kid Daan said today, playing in his Esprit-sweater with his Fortis-sponsored Plop-piggybank filled with soon-to-be-worthless eurocents: “let the money flow in”:

Daan en de Plop-spaarpot

Oct 19 2007

Slideoo: a cool tool for displaying your Flickr-photos

New to this blog: a flash-based banner on top displaying photo’s from my flickr-photostream. It’s on the homepage and on the archive page for this post (so if you don’t see it right now head over there

Was tempted into making this after reading on Mashable about a Belgian startup called Positiveluck, who just launched this service called Slideoo (or is it Slide∞ ?).

Writing a tutorial for this webservice would be quite simple:

  1. Go to slideoo.com

  2. enter a Flickr username (Preferably your own, if you don’t want to go into lengthy arguments with Flickr-users about whether or not an API can steal data)
  3. choose between a photoset or the photostream (newest photos on top) of that user
  4. Customize if you want small, thumbnail, medium or large images, and set options for width and the number of pictures to fetch)
  5. Hit “Create your Slideoo”.

Slideoo then quickly compiles the images into a horizontally scrolling flash-movie. It also provides you with the embed code to integrate your slideshow into the platform of your choice (Typepad, Myspace, Facebook, Blogger … most popular social networks and major blog platforms are represented through the magic of the cool widget-distribution network Gigya.

Cool, ain’t it? It ain’t eyepopping as other flickr-mashups as e.g. Tiltviewer, but I bet that will make you grow tired of it less quickly.

There is still room for improvement in the service, certainly:
The top functionality wanted would be to have a “random” function, so that on each reload the displayed photos would be different.
Another one is to distribute the flash-file, as integrating the thing on your blog now risks slowing down your site in two ways: the flickr-api has got to respond (but that’s taken care of by internet-giant Yahoo), ànd slideoo has got to be able to handle the traffic.
And third: I’m sure some smart kid could write this in javascript + ajax instead of Flash, which could render it more accessible.


Oct 18 2007

Gravatars on WordPress

Tech news of the day is that Automattic (the company behind WordPress, the blogging platform used by all wildly popular bloggers such as yours truly) has acquired Gravatar (a webservice that make it possible for a person to have one avatar across the entire web).

A gravatar, or “globally recognized avatar”, is actually simply an 80×80 pixel image of your choice that follows you from weblog to weblog appearing beside your name when you comment on gravatar enabled sites. WordPress had it’s own competing avatar-system since August last year, but now will be able to compete better against rival systems such as MyBlogLog. They will now be integrating the two systems in a next release of WordPress.

Integrating gravatars on a wordpress-blog right now is not terribly difficult, as is clearly explained in the WordPress-codex. If you know your way around in the admin-area it’s just a matter of five minutes. Upload the plugin, activate it, and change one line in the comment-part of your WordPress-theme. The plugin takes care of “hashing” the email-adresses of your commenters, changing it into a link to an image on the gravatar.com website.

My php-code for a comment now became:
<li style="background: url(<?php gravatar("","","http://houbi.com/gravatar.gif") ?>) no-repeat;
padding : 0 0 0 100px; height: 100px;">
<?php comment_text() ?>
</li>

This sets up the gravatars as background images of a list and moves the comment text to the right. If the gravatar.com returns no image for a commenter a plain grey image is used.

Picking a gravatar for yourself is not very difficult either:
1. Go to http://site.gravatar.com/signup and put in your email address.
2. Go to your mail program, find the mail support@gravatar.com has just sent you, and click on the link inside the message.
3. Choose a password (you will need this if later you’d decide to select a different picture).
4. Create Your Default Gravatar. You do this by either uploading a file from your local computer or network, or by finding a nice image from the web. Don’t worry too much about the size of the image, you can “crop” (cut away superfluous parts) or scale the image in the next step.
5. Crop or Size Your Image. With the slider you can resize, with the square you can pick a different part of the image.
6. Select how “adult” your image is (a way for prudish webmasters to filter out knobheads from other kind of knobheads, wankers from other kind of wankers etc…).
7. Apply the image you’ve now created to your Email Address

Et voilà, you’ve now become the owner of one shiny gravatar.

All that’s left to do after that in order to see your gravatar in all it’s glory here on this blog, is making a comment here.


Oct 13 2007

Gross foods from around the world

Akiou's birthday!
Flickr-Photo: Akiou’s Birthday by Akane*.

All the way up on Digg and Reddit and a myriad other aggregator-sites came popping up an article called “The 6 Most Terrifying Foods in the World” from Cracked.

Never one to shy away at the first signs of danger, I looked into them a little closer. And then, went beyond to find EVEN MORE FRIGHTENING food from around the world (nailbite, nailbite).

For starters, these are the ones Cracked came up with:

  • Escamoles – ant maggots (Mexico):
    “Oh, I’ve read about escamoles (es-ca-MO-lays), usually called ant eggs, but also “ant spawn” or, most accurately, “ant larvae.” Writers often remark that Mexicans “consider this pre-Columbian foodstuff a delicacy,” straining every drop of cultural superiority from the word “delicacy.” This word, as commonly understood, has no relation to “delicate,” “delicious” or “delight.” It means barf. A thousand times barf.”
  • Balut – fetal duck egg (The Philliphines):
    “Balut is a popular Filipino street snack and is essentially a duck egg with a fetus inside, typically between seventeen to twenty days in gestation. In the Philippines balut is so popular that it is equivalent to what the hot dog is in the U.S.”
  • Pacha – sheep’s head (Iraq):
    “Pacha is a slowly cooked combination of sheep’s head, stomach, feet, and other parts in a broth.”
  • Baby Mouse wine (Korea):
    “Used as a cure all in rural parts of Korea, it’s made by stuffing a hoard of two to three day old mice into a bottle of rice wine and leaving it to stew for, ooh, a good year or so.”
  • Casu Marzu (Sardinia):
    “Casu Marzu is a sheep’s milk cheese that has been deliberately infested by a Piophila casei, the “cheese fly.” The result is a maggot-ridden, weeping stink bomb in an advanced state of decomposition”.
  • Lutefisk (Norway)
    “To make lutefisk, catch yourself a cod. Take out the bones, skin it, salt it, and hang it out to dry for several weeks until it hardens and smells like a dumpster. Then, bring it inside and soak it in lye for several days. Yes, lye — a substance defined by dictionary.com as “a strong caustic alkaline solution of potassium salts, obtained by leaching wood ashes. It is much used in making soap, etc.” … You end up with a gelatinous blob that slithers down your throat and makes you wish you had cooked a turkey for Christmas dinner like a normal American.”

Onto our main dish: it’s not very hard to find other food that’s as least as gross as those… The things people eat, you wouldn’t believe (said he, in a posh British accent, munching on a Belgian chocolate)!

  • Durian (Sri Lanka, India …):
    A fruit as big as a football, covered with tough spiky skin. The pulp is pale yellow, with shape and consistency of raw brains. Smell has been compared to rotting flesh, old gym socks, or sewage. Yet the taste has been called so exquisite that a European explorer of the 1700’s claimed it was worth the journey to experience it; “the King of fruits.”
  • Fugu (japan):
    Fugu (blow fish) is a fish which contains deadly poison in the organs. Despite the risk, fugu dishes remain as special feasts in Japan.
  • Surströmming (Sweden):
    Some say surstromming, a fermented herring, smells like rubbish left out in the sun for days. The Baltic herring is fermented in barrels for months before being put in tin cans, where the fermentation process continues. Some say it is simply rotten fish, which smells like rotten fish. Others argue it is the finest of delicacies.
  • Natto (Japan):
    “Natto is a Japanese original and traditional food. Natto is a fermented food made of soybeans. Natto has a certain characteristic flavor, therefore some people do not like it. Also natto has sticky paste on its surface, and once it is stirred, the sticky paste increases its volume and becomes more sticky. When you get natto with spoon or chopstick, you will find that the paste pulls a part of as if a spider web. This is another case why some do not like natto.”
  • Hakarl (Iceland):
    In Iceland, fermented shark or hakarl is made uniquely. Just bury a shark in sand for three years, dig it up and dig in.
  • Grilled spiders (Cambodja):
    “They’re black, hairy, have eight legs and are delicious when fried with garlic and butter. Originally eaten out of necessity, the burrowing beasts have become a gastronomic landmark of the Skuon region.”
  • Oversized hamburgers (U.S.A.):
    “Starting last weekend, a Pennsylvania restaurant put a 15-pound burger on its menu, claiming the largest burger available anywhere. Any two people who can eat it within a three-hour sitting get it for free. For everyone else, it costs $30.” 1 pound = 454 g, so that’s a whopping 7 kilo!
  • Bhut Jolokia / Naga Jolokia Pepper (India):
    Weighing in at 1,001,304 Scoville heat units, the Bhut Jolokia chili from India has been named the world’s hottest pepper by the Guinness Book of World Records. Just to put that into perspective, the jalapeno sits at a meager 10,000 SHU.
  • Tordi (Sardegna) / Ortolan (France):

    “Tordi are small, 10cm-long songbirds that feed on the island’s plentiful myrtle berries. They are netted and poached, then served cold, three or four at a time, garnished with myrtle leaves. Their eyes are black, haunting, their necks spindly. They look like a plateful of baby dinosaurs. You are supposed to eat them whole – everything but the beak – in a few crunches”.
  • Giant steak (The America’s):
    “The FREE 72oz. STEAK dinner is still flourishing at the Big Texan. More than 40,000 people have attempted to consume the Free 72oz. Steak dinner since 1960. About 7,000 have succeeded. People from all over the world continue to visit us to take the challenge and claim the bragging rights.”
  • Haggis (Scotland):
    Haggis in Scotland is a “delicacy” wherein a sheep’s stomach is filled with oatmeal, organ meats, fat, spices and fruits and then boiled. Looks vile!
  • Fresh blood (Kenya):
    The Masai people in Kenya shoot an arrow into a cow’s neck, collect the blood and mix it with fresh milk for a refreshing drink.

As a desert: Closer to home, there’s also plenty of yuck about, so no need to go all “Oy, these foreigners are so gross” about it. Show these to any foreigner, and you’ll annihilate 10 years of foldering by Tourism Flanders in one go!:

  • we eat horses, don’t we
  • bloedworst (blood saucage)
  • américain préparé (raw minced meat with egg yolk, our version of the French Steak Tartare, eaten as sandwich-spread)
  • friet met stoofvlees én mayonaise (fries with meat-stew-sauce ànd mayonaise)
  • brussels sprouts

Bon appétit!


Oct 10 2007

Getting Radiohead “In Rainbows”: .torrent, mp3-bloggers or the official site?

Radiohead - In Rainbows on Flickr

News of the day is of course the release of Radiohead’s surprise album “In Rainbows”. The upcoming release leaked out only 10 days ago, and took the music industry by the balls: fans had the choice of pre-ordering a beautiful but expensive tangible package, or a no-frills “pay what you want” download. Brilliant marketing idea, or the last nail in the coffin of a dying industry, time will tell … But as 10 October came, interest now luckily is shifting from the music distribution to the real stuff: the songs. And I wanted to hear them, as quickly as I could.

1st option: buying/downloading it through the official site. I personally was willing to shell out 5€ for it. (If they sell albums through Itunes for 10, I’m guessing that half of that is going to middlemen of all sorts, so the other half is for the band, who in this case was willing to sell to me directly). But no dice: the site is excruciatingly slow and I only managed to get to the basket after lots of attempts, no luck in getting any further. They should’ve partnered with amazon.com or akamai or something …

Second choice: torrent-sites. Easy enough to find links for the .torrent of the new album (just search google for .torrent radiohead in rainbows and you’re there !). A link for “Radiohead – In Rainbows – Reatil (sic) – 2007″ looked promising enough, and there were 210 seeders and 144 leechers when I tried the file. But for some reason, the bits only trickled in as slow as a snail on downers in a traffic jam on a hot summer’s day. Hmmm…

Next up: mp3-blogs. Through some fine links such as here and here, I came to know of the service of music blog aggregator “elbo.ws”. On their radiohead page, it was very easy to listen to all the tracks from the new album, as they were posted on music blogs around the net. No waits, no frills, plenty of opinionated articles in between the tracks … 10/10…

Tracklist:
1 15 Step -> listen to it here
2 Bodysnatchers -> listen to it here
3 Nude -> listen to it here
4 Weird Fishes/Arpeggi -> listen to it here
5 All I Need -> listen to it here
6 Faust Arp -> listen to it here
7 Reckoner -> listen to it here
8 House of Cards -> listen to it here
9 Jigsaw Falling Into Place -> listen to it here
10 Videotape-> listen to it here

Conclusion: the mp3-bloggers won this race, hands down. The official site could not cope with the enormous interest. The .torrent sites were for some strange reason not up to their usual speed. There I had it: a good idea of whether I want to still shell out my 5€ for the album. And that idea is: yes it’s worth it.


Oct 4 2007

Druppeldraad

druppels op een (was- en spinnen-)draad

Dauwdruppels op een wasdraad, dauwdruppels op de draad die een ondernemende spin erover heeft gegooid. Soms moet dat niet meer zijn…

Dewdrops on a washing line, dewdrops on a thread a busy spider has thrown over it. Sometimes these kind of simple things can hold so much beauty!

Tried quite a few shots, but it’s the one with least focus and the smallest DOF (depth of field) that captured the poetry of the moment best.


Oct 2 2007

Talk to your daughter, before the beauty industry does

If you’re going to watch only one commercial this year, this one is not a bad candidate: Dove onslaught. “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does”, is the message. Can’t help but feeling it’s kinda twisted that the sponsor of this campaign is Dove, who are themselves in the business of thigh-firming cream and skin lotion, but nonetheless: a powerful message. And a brilliantly edited movie!

As soon as she gets home this evening from her daycare, I’ll have a word with my daughter for sure!
Maud, sit down for a minute, I have something to say to you. No matter what anyone wants you to believe, no matter what the commercials and billboards say to you, you are you and that is a good thing. Don’t let anyone talk you into believing your eyes are a bit crooked or your nose is a bit thick or your thighs look like that man from Michelin, you’re beautiful just the way you are“, I’ll say to her.
“Da da, mmm oohoh mmmm iiiiiie” is her most likely answer.

Maud met ballen


Oct 1 2007

The permalinks that were temporary

Since discovering the “WordPress Automatic Upgrade“-plugin for WordPress, I finally was happy with upgrading quickly to the many new versions as they are released… It’s a highly recommended plugin, since it makes this complicated and scary backup/update operation easy as pie.

So when they announced the 2.3 version of WordPress on September 25th, I dutifully did the upgrade. Everything went fine, except for one thing: as a result of this upgrade, my permalink structure is broken.

Unfortunately my webhost Yahoo doesn’t support the use of .htaccess files on the server (the normal way wordpress-installations do their mod_rewrite-magic). To have their customers still enjoy friendly permalinks, they distributed a plugin. And that plugin fails miserably in 2.3 as one of the novelties of this new version is “a feature we call canonical URLs which does things like enforce your no-www preference, redirect posts with changed slugs so a link never goes bad, redirect URLs that get cut off in emails on similar to the correct post, and much more.”

On the scale of the universe, this is of course close to nothing. On the scale of this blog, it is of a magnitude the scale of an reasonable earthquake. You see: permalinks are meant to be permanent, and changing them amounts to starting a new blog from scratch: most of your incoming links are null and void and will vanish in a few weeks.

So all the people who came here looking for posts such as
links and how to improve em“, or
Goose – Bring it on” or
IE7 Page Zoom – Is this for real?” or
Joanna Newsom – Ys” or
Myspace song ripper” or
any of the old posts in this blog that still generate lots of traffic … Sorry folks: follow the new links. I’ll try to make these permalinks as permanent as possible …


Sep 24 2007

New photo layout

With a bit of css and a bit of niftycorners-javascript, the pics seem to come alive much better. Kewl.

This picture is of a so-called “Pot Marigold” (in het nederlands: goudsbloem), an edible flower for the herb garden.


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