Belgium by bike

Belgium, specifically Ghent had quite a few interesting bicycles. We also went biking with our friends. Katja was quite happy to be biking on the road and touring the inner city. … though the cobblestone did give her some troubles.

Bike culture surfaces in interesting ways. For example some interesting hitches exist as these are embedded into concrete walls.

Bike hitch.
Bike hitch in wall.

I took some photos of the different ways that parents move their kids about.

Seat behind driver and seat between driver and handlebars.
The long Yuba with room for two or three kids behind. Foot rails and front basket.
Child facing front and back.
Two kids in a bucket with shoulder straps.
Shoulder straps.
With a cover
Two kids upfront.
Two seats in the back.
Two seats with a rail.
Cargo bike in Switzerland
Bike in Germany with full waterproof surround pouch and two batteries.
Full waterproof bag.
Child carrier in Germany
Bitwin in model.

Staying fit

I’ve been checking out Apple fit while traveling in Europe. It has been very motivational. One night I went for a jog, another for a brisk walk just for the sake of closing rings.

I have found I get more steps in if I plan a reasonable distance between waffle sellers, ice cream shops, and French fries sellers.

The Industrialized Nation

As I work through family history research and visit some of the contexts I which that history occurred one of the interesting things is the longevity of various members of our family. My memories of “old” family members mostly included various boring trips to small apartments in the Bronx with my parents to visit my dad’s aunts or uncles. In my memories these people got cancer and died, or died of heart attacks. The real cause of death may have been otherwise. I might be creating a convenient narrative around the cause of death.

A recent medical study in the USA suggests that the Bronx does have a higher than average rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. My own grandfather was diagnosed and lived a significant portion of his life in the Bronx.

Thrift store in the Nottingham metropolitan area supporting cancer research.

As I have gotten older I have often wondered why there is an apparent up-surge in the types and rate of cancers (and diseases like Alzheimers and leukemia). Many point to genetic dispositions and gene based therapies. I find these narratives hard to believe. If we take a long term evolutionary view on the development of humans, which I also don’t concede to, then why didn’t cancer attack and kill off humans in their development?

As I learn more about risk management in business, the structure and approach in scientific studies (often looking at single factor contributors), and the role of regulation in environmental protection and sustainability (to limit the liability of companies and to secure the resources needed by companies through time), it seems that I believe the gene-based foundation for cancer less and less. That is, I believe that most cancers are the body reacting to something external, rather than something body-internal. I’m not currently prepared to take a strong position on this, but that is what seems to be the more believable story. We see this with asbestos and sun-based skin cancers.

If cancers are really reactions to environmental conditions, and they are more prevalent over the last 3-4 generations, then my assumption is that they correlate with the activities introduced within the context of the Industrial Revolution, the petrochemical and plastic production chain, and modern impacts of the application of pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and petroleum products to life processes. (For example one medical equipment sterilization company released atmospheric gas which are attributed to a significant increase in cancer in area residents.) We now come into contact with more plastics than at any point in humanity’s history. Plastic permeates the globe. I was at a park yesterday Where wood and natural materials were treated as “high end” upscale materials. Our generation is presented with interesting combinations of food allergies that people are diagnosed with, but very little investigation (at the individual case level) has gone into the treatment of these specific foods or how seed stock might have been modified from even 20 years ago.

I find the connection between how humans perceive and experience their environment and how industrial processes are interconnected to the dwelling environment interesting.

Nottingham skyline from Nottingham castle.

The larger context of how industry and big philanthropy dollars ends up guiding the outputs of nonprofits and charities is interesting. In the case of the second hand shop mentioned previously, I wonder what kind of research they sponsor. That is, can they ever sponsor enough cancer research to actually create change in the highly profitable industrialized petrochemical industry? Perhaps the best kind of cancer research is the kind of research that doesn’t seek to heal cancers, but to find and develop alternative economic industries to those which mandate the use of chemical products.

Seton Sands Holiday Park

Becky and I decided to extend our time in Scotland and use that time at Seton Sands Holiday Park. It is an interesting place, from business model to target clients. Becky and I had three goals all of which were met:

  1. We needed to make a quick decision for a place to go with preference for Scotland over England. We had eurail ticked and could go anywhere there was a train station.
  2. We have kids ages 3 and 7. Most of the places in the highlands that were interesting to us had explicit “no kids” policies—what is it about the culture here that excludes children from most places?
  3. From a young person perspective we needed interesting things to do and learn about.

Seton Sands was our choice. We knew very little about it so we gave it a go. It had a pool, playground, an walkable beach, and archery. We did it all.

Without a car our range to engage with the surrounding community was curtailed. The bus is not cost prohibitive, I just didn’t find out about it till late. (We did take the bus to the Edinburgh Waverley station for only 5£ which was a great price for 4 people.)

Bus schedule.

Therefore a significant amount of people watching ensued. How people engage with their environment is beautifully amusing. How did such a place come into existence? And what is the life of people like who find the seton sands value proposition satisfying?

From a US perspective Seton Sands is a 400-500 place trailer park. Here they call them static caravans. That is they think of them as closer to fifth-wheels or camper-vans than homes. This makes me suspect that there are significant tax advantages to running a “resort” this way. It is as if they can do without building permanent infrastructure or land improvements. The trailers are made from the finest grade aluminum and plastic that investment dollars can buy. No doubt it is an interesting entrepreneurial solution to a gap in the prevailing tax code. I’m concerned with the longevity and long term sustainability of the business model. That is, these materials in the USA have a life expectancy between 15-20 years. So what kind of profit margin allows for this many trailers to be refurbished that often? If the long term business plan is to build a more permanent structure at some future time then why are they selling timeshares and full trailers?

It seems then that the “public” is a victim of a profiteering scheme under the auspices of the offer of a holiday service and hospitality industry. Then the same “public” will later be straddled with managing these homes (or trailers) via the garbage disposal process in 25 years. In my childhood many of these types of structures were used as primary housing facilities in the region my mom was from. Families were of unmotivated to spend the money to remove the structures from the property and let them rot in place for an additional 30 years. It is just now that some more permanent structures are being built in that area and some of the older trailers are being moved to landfill locations. When we look at the rest of Scotland there are building going back centuries.

In my view there is something grounding and calming about homes and furnishings made from natural fibers, wood, metal, and stone. In a way these materials connect Scotland (and its peoples) to its heritage and projects Scotland’s capacity to thrive into the land’s future.

With regards to the service that Seton Sands offers, I have mixed impressions.

We arrived early to check-in knowing that there was no early check-in but the cleaners were still hard at work an hour after checking time. When we did get in there were crumbs on the floor, and counter, a broken hanger in one of the closets, a dripping heater in one of the bathrooms, and some left-behind articles in one of the foot rests. Then the key we were left for our place didn’t fit our lock and we had to get that sorted as well.

As a parent I have found that my attitude is often reflected back to me via my kids. So we did the best we could with these issues and moved on quietly as possible. It has been our experience as AirBnB hosts that that the people hired to be cleaners are doing honest work, it is just that the type of people filling these roles generally aren’t the most detail oriented. The overall condition of our place was clean and comfortable.

As international travelers we didn’t have access to UK mobile networks at reasonable rates and therefore relied on Wi-Fi at the guests services building and the local grocery store. We bought a local SIM card for the network 3. Reception was 3 bars of 3G or one bar of 4G. To make matters worse setup process involves an app. Their app only accepts credit card payments from cards with a registered address in the UK. We got around this by transferring a payment via the service

From an US perspective the minimart was well stocked for a campground store and reasonably priced. It was branded by a local grocery chain and therefore carried familiar products beyond the typical “holiday” opportunistic purchase snacks.

The Haven staff were all polite and friendly. Even if they had never encountered a credit card that required a signature or a declined credit card because the issuer doesn’t allow the holder to declare that they are leaving the country or going on a trip (sorry USAA you used to be the best).

The fellow guests and target audience of the haven is interesting. Maybe it is Scottish people, but it might be the people who visit the haven. It seems that everyone smokes or vapes. COVID was not too long ago. And social medical conditions common to industrial nations such as diabetes and cancer are common. It is amazing how many people pretend they are locomotives with their vaping devices. The smoke/vape is crazy. Just waking behind these people I feel trapped. And then to know that all of this vape was either in their lungs or mouth. The public consciousness and/or concern for others is a bit of a cross-cultural cognitive hurdle. Would the haven loose customers if they banned smoking from their premises? I went down to the main building with the Resturant and people line the doorway to smoke. Then the Resturant plays loud music inside the facility. I was looking for a quiet place to write and work for an hour or so. Towards the back of the restaurant is an outdoor patio. To my disappointment it was reserved for smoking.

My final hope is that the wasp nest in the roof of the building outside the front door of the arcade is taken care of before someone is stung.

With regards to people watching, it was interesting to see the kind of inter-body touching, (hand holding, kids and parents, hitting, etc.) expressed. It was also interesting to watch the speech dynamic and learn the local understanding of “shouting”. That is, shouting is the name of a speech register. In our US based context shouting and yelling are collapsed in meaning and just mean loud voice. It was then interesting to see how dads discipline their kids. One kid I saw was scolded with strong swearing words. Another 7 year old who had acted out was picked up and carried off for scolding. Discipline actions were received in different ways. The kid who had acted out continued to be obstinate, while the kid scolded with strong swearing amended his ways. What tools do parents have really? Gentle yet effective parenting seems to be as rare as well prepared organic meals. It is amazing how many kids here consume candies. Both kids and parents seem to think it “normal”.