Archive for April, 2008


Good fortune

Here’s kind of a funny story. One Sunday after church, one of my fellow tenors asked me if I would mind taking a few pictures of him and his wife in front of the church, because they were putting together some kind of family album and everybody needed to make a contribution. I said sure, no problem.

So we went out to the front of the church and I took a couple of pictures. At this point I did an incredibly Brent-like thing and dropped the camera about a metre and a half onto the hard cobblestones on the church square, after which the camera stopped working. Well, you could tell it really wanted to work, it kept trying to extend the lens and such, but we humans could see that something on the inside had been completely dislodged, and that lens was staying put. Of course I apologized profusely, said I would pay for the repairs/new camera, whichever they wanted to do, and left their presence feeling very stupid but determined not to cry over any spilt milk (easier said than done, but whatever).

So R. sent off the camera to be repaired. This took some time (of course, this is the Netherlands). A few Sundays later, R. came to me and said. “Oh Brent, by the way. The Media Markt called us and said we could come pick up the camera, so we went down there to see them. Happily they presented us with a package and said ‘Here’s your camera!’, but we just looked at each other, turned back to them and said ‘Uh, no, actually this isn’t our camera’. So now we have to wait even longer to see how much the repairs are.” That was fine with me.

On a more recent Sunday, I was again accosted by R., who this time had some good news. Basically it boiled down to the fact that the Media Markt had lost their camera, and had therefore been obliged to refund the purchase price to R. and his wife, who had then simply bought themselves the same camera that I had broken. What’s more, the price of that camera had dropped 10 euros since they bought it. So now they have a new camera, and are 10 euros ahead. Thanks Brent!

Stuff like this never happens to me. And it just proves my theory that insurance is for chumps.

Quote of the day:
Good fortune, like bad, can befall when least expected.”
– From ‘Into the Woods’, by Stephen Sondheim



Ik kom dus net bij M. vandaan,
Waar alles weer naar wens geweest is.
Wij waren weer ontzettend aan
De port, daar waar het altijd feest is.
Haar kamer is nooit opgeruimd,
Toch ben ik altijd goed geluimd –
Ik voel me bij haar altijd vrij
Om dat te zeggen, waar ik blij
Van wordt. Het ging dus om muziek,
Mens loopbaan, mannen, poëzie,
Zelfs psychofarmacologie
En M.’s bescheiden zink-techniek.
Wij zetten ‘t leven op z’n kop
En konden ons geluk niet op.


Lost in translation

Yesterday at work, at around 16:45, the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM) called and wanted 220 words translated for that day. So I got to translate it – it was kind of fun, the topic was the Geotruck, a kind of mobile video-gaming bus offering climate education to secondary schools. So I translated at top speed and today, there it was.

Just thought some of you might be interested in what it is I do all day.

Random quote:

There are two great tragedies in life. One is not getting your heart’s desire; the other is to get it.”
– (Was this Oscar Wilde?)


Dodecahedron (and snub is back)

Hi y’all. Last week at work I made a dodecahedron out of my magnetic sticks and ball-bearings. Here it is:

Actually, only the blue sticks form a dodecahedron. I had to use all the red, green and yellow ones to stabilise it since it’s made of pentagons, and pentagons aren’t naturally very stable. The thing kept collapsing.

And yes, that’s a snub disphenoid in the background.

Random quote:

Me: “Where are all the good-looking guys?”
M.: “Grooming.”
In the pub last Saturday night


Sphere Pattern

Hello All!

Here is the pattern I used to make my stockinette spheres. At the moment there are two sizes, but stay tuned for a third.

Yarn: Any, but this is a great project for stash-busting all those sock-yarn leftovers!
Gauge: Shouldn’t matter, but try not to make the fabric too loose, otherwise you’ll see the stuffing.

Small size (golf ball):
CO 16 stitches using a provisional cast-on (I used the Invisible Crochet cast-on II from Eunny’s blog).

Note: each row in this pattern ends with a wrap/turn/slip first stitch. Make sure the stitches on either side of this process are fairly tight, or you may end up with loose stitches.

Row 1: Slip 1 purlwise, K13, wrap yarn around next stitch, turn.*
Row 2: Slip 1 purlwise, P11, wrap next stitch, turn.
Row 3: Sl1 purlwise, K9, wrap & turn.
Row 4: Sl1 purlwise, P7, wrap & turn.
Row 5: Sl1 purlwise, K to end, knitting wraps with stitches.**
Row 6: Sl1 purlwise, P to end, knitting all wraps with stitches.
Repeat these 6 rows 7 more times (8 times in total), then move on to Finishing (below).

Medium size (cricket ball):
CO 31 stitches using a provisional cast-on (I used the Invisible Crochet cast-on II from Eunny’s blog).

Note: each row in this pattern ends with a wrap/turn/slip first stitch. Make sure the stitches on either side of this process are fairly tight, or you may end up with loose stitches.

Row 1: Slip 1 purlwise, K28, wrap yarn around next stitch, turn.*Brent\'s Balls
Row 2: Slip 1 purlwise, P26, wrap next stitch, turn.
Row 3: Sl1 purlwise, K24, wrap & turn.
Row 4: Sl1 purlwise, P22, wrap & turn.
Row 5: Sl1 purlwise, K20, wrap & turn.
Row 6: Sl1 purlwise, P18, wrap & turn.
Row 7: Sl1 purlwise, K16, wrap & turn.
Row 8: Sl1 purlwise, P14, wrap & turn.
Row 9: Sl1 purlwise, K11, wrap & turn.
Row 10: Sl1 purlwise, P8, wrap & turn.
Row 11: Sl1 purlwise, K to end, knitting wraps with stitches.**
Row 12: Sl1 purlwise, P to end, knitting all wraps with stitches.
Repeat these 12 rows 7 more times (8 times in total), then move on to Finishing.
Cut yarn, leaving a long tail. Using a darning needle, thread the tail through the rear loop of each of the 8 selvedge stitches forming the ‘top’ of the sphere, repeat, and pull tight. Now use the kitchener stitch to graft the loops of the provisional cast-on to the live stitches still on the needle (don’t forget to insert stuffing/bell/polystyrene ball first!). Thread the remaining yarn through the rear loops of the 8 selvedge stitches at the opposite end, repeat, and pull tight. Use the remaining tail to hang up the sphere somewhere, or thread it through the sphere itself and cut off.

*To make a wrap, slip the next stitch purlwise onto the right needle, bring the yarn to the other side of the work (i.e. if you’re knitting, bring it to the front; if you’re purling, bring it to the back), put the stitch back onto the left needle, return the yarn to its proper side, and turn the work.

** To knit a wrap with a stitch, insert the needle under the wrap from front to back (when looking at the right side) or from back to front (when looking at the wrong side), then insert the needle into the stitch (either knitwise or purlwise, as required) and then knit the stitch and the wrap together.


Golden Gate

Recall, dear reader, one weekend
(Or two) ago, I went to see
In Heidelberg, my dear friend
Maria Pia (or “MP”).
Well, one thing I may not have said
Is that MP is quite well-read,
And keeps her bookcase stacked repletely,
Tastefully, and very neatly.
There, amongst the shelves, I chanced
Upon a book by Vikram Seth,
“The Golden Gate”, that took my breath
Away, for reader, as I glanced
Inside it, there, succinct and terse,
The story was expressed in verse.

“A modern epic!” was my thought,
And so next day MP and I
Went off into the town and sought
An English copy I could buy
(For MP’s book, to my frustration,
Was in Swedish – a translation).
And though in town we had a ball,
We couldn’t find the book at all.
But even though I’d been deprived,
I swore that when I got back home
I’d seek out this elusive tome.
But once in Utrecht I’d arrived
And found my bike (I always doubt it)
I totally forgot about it.

And so imagine my surprise
At standing in my doorway, where
This afternoon, before my eyes,
A package lay upon the stair.
I saw that it was from MP,
Which made me smile gleefully.
I tore it open (couldn’t wait) –
And there it was: The Golden Gate.
I knew that there was nothing for it:
I headed straight for a café,
Got something sweet and read away.
And my opinion? I adore it!
For those who have the time to spend, it’s
Worth the read. I recommend it.

(Thanks MP!)



This story happened a while ago, but I thought I would tell it now anyway, as I’m blogging and all. As you may or may not be aware, the Netherlands is a country of bicycles. Because the landscape is so flat (and perhaps because the Dutch are oh-so-economical), over the last 150 years or so the bicycle has proven to be a very popular form of transportation in this country. There are almost as many bicycles here as people, and they come in all shapes and sizes, from the huge family rolls-royce model with two child seats and saddlebags for the shopping, to the tiny fold-away ones you can take on the train without even having to buy a ticket for them (again, very economical). They even have a mobile street bar propelled by the patrons.

One particularly useul species of bicycle is the bakfiets, or ‘container bike’. It’s a bike with an enormous receptacle on the front that you can use to transport things like, oh I don’t know, home-grown vegetables to market, street organs, Ikea purchases, that type of thing. So when one of Michiel’s neighbours dumped an irresistible 2-seater couch in front of their house, we both agreed that the only thing to do was to get a bakfiets and get it over to my place toot-sweet. So I rented one for the afternoon for 3 euros from the biological vegetable farm down the road, went down to Michiel’s and chucked the couch into it.

Of course, it didn’t fit.

So, with one hand on the handlebars, and the other holding the couch in place, I cycled along the busy road at a glacial pace for 20 minutes, and miraculously made it back to my place with both me and the couch in one piece. Then, happy with my accomplishments, we unloaded the couch and proceeded to carry it up the stairs.

Of course, it didn’t fit.

So I removed one of the handrails and managed to get it up the first flight, around the corner and into the doorway of the second flight of stairs.

Of course, it didn’t fit.

This time there wasn’t even a handrail to unscrew, so I had to concede defeat and take the couch back down the stairs and onto the street. And when I returned to it around half an hour later, it was gone! The economy of the Dutch proves to be advantageous yet again!

Just before I go, here’s another fine example of Dutch bicycle technology:

Random quote of the day:

Counting is for people who can’t dance.”