Drosophila, fruitflies, have little water content it seems. At least that is what I am led to conclude from today’s empirical data. As I opened the door of the microwave to warm some soup for lunch a fruitfly followed the soup bowl into the device. I closed the door and started the device for 3.5 minutes at 600 Watts. As I opened the door to retrieve my soup the fruitfly flew out as well and continued its life unchanged. Here ends my lab journal.

Favorited Postcards from Italy by Rory Ou.

I love this story about the Italian postal service, chiming with my own experience with them over the years, and especially how the author takes it as the reason for naming her blog Poste Italiane. Added to the feed reader.

Accepting the uncertainty of the Poste Italiane, and sending my postcards anyway: that’s the essential spirit of this blog.

Rory Ou

Eight months into Brexit UK organisations still haven’t sorted out the basics of sending things into the EU, I recently found. I wanted to order something from the Royal Academy of Arts webshop, where the order form simply didn’t provide delivery options for the EU. I could have my order shipped anywhere in the world, except the EU. Nepal, Nigeria, Nicaragua all fine, but not Netherlands. This strikes me as odd, because in this case there’s no reason to not simply put all EU customers into the RA’s existing ‘rest of world’ column to decide on delivery fees. We’re all third countries now as seen from the UK, meaning that there’s no difference anymore between us and the rest of the world. Of course I know it currently can take a while for there being haulage capacity, influencing delivery times, but that’s a different thing than not being willing to even send it out.

The original idea was to have a framed artefact shipped. The odd as well as outsized size of the artefact means it isn’t easy to have it framed locally, while the RA offered a good price on a frame.

Being confronted with no EU delivery, I had to find someone in my network who lives outside the UK in a third country that is not in the EU (nor the EEA, and not Switzerland). So that that person could receive the goods and then forward it to me. Such forwarding should be easy. Everybody else in the world knows how to send things to the EU. Unlike the RA in the UK it seems.

I found my friend Peter, who lives in Canada, willing to help out as middleman. I realised sending something big framed and with a large glass pane across the Atlantic twice just to get something across the Channel once, apart from being silly also might be risky to the package. So I settled on the slightly less silly option of acquiring the artefact unframed so it could be send on that wide-ranging route rolled up in a basic cardboard tube. The RA promptly dispatched my order to Canada the next day. Where Peter received it and forwarded it to me by regular mail (see RA, you could have dropped it at the post office down the road). I paid the import duties and VAT as you do when you get something from third countries, and I took delivery right on E’s birthday as intended.

Thus it came about that the RA was unwittingly sending an artwork into the EU. International cooperation circumvented the Brexit blockade.

Now all that’s left to do is get it framed locally.


Running the chain on the Medway in 1667, 1788 print by Reinier Vinkeles after a drawing by Jacobus Buys, license Public Domain, source Rijksmuseum. In my case it was simply the mail man doing their regular work, allowing the package to cross the inexplicable blockade.

This exhibit at the Leiden national museum of antiquities about Doggerland seems worth a visit. The Guardian has a nice article about how many archeological finds from what is now the North Sea but was inhabited land eight thousand years ago, have been collected on the beaches (because Dutch beaches are replenished with sand brought in from further out at sea) by people walking on the beach.

Stephen Baxter wrote several books about a speculative history in which the inhabitants of Doggerland successfully defended against the rising sea and mesolithic tsunami that in our timeline created the southern North Sea. In his books Doggerland became an early and powerful centre of civilisation, taking on the role that ancient Rome had in our actual history. I enjoyed reading those books, and I think it might be fun to ‘backfill’ my memory of reading them with how the actual archeological finds connected to Baxter’s starting point look.

Stephen Baxter wrote Stone Spring, Bronze Summer and Iron Winter, aka the Northland trilogy, on this alternative history.


A 1929 German plan to turn the North Sea into a giant polder, basically recreating Doggerland, with dams from Norfolk to Jutland and across the Channel (shunting the Rhine and Thames southwards to the Atlantic). Image source Dutch National Archive, no known copyright restrictions.