cerebral museum

Belgium Part 1: Godverdikkelinge in Dentergem with the Van Meenen Family (also beginnings of the Beer Awakening)

Posted in Uncategorized by Cassandra on June 2, 2010

Belgium's about the same size as Maryland. it's also known as the unofficial capital of the EU.

Lisa and I decided to visit some friends of hers in Belgium this April. After minimal planning, and finding a 7 euro flight, we spent the night at the airport in order to make our 6AM flight. 3 hours later, we’re in Belgium, a little ways outside Brussels. After a short wait, we found Regine and Geert in the airport, who welcomed us with hugs and a ride to their home in Dentergem. It’s a small town in the North-West of Belgium, and the Van Meenen’s have lived there since Geert and Regine married. I haven’t met nicer people than them in a long time. Seriously awesome folks… they’ve traveled the world together, have chickens and gardens, own a pub that’s been in their family for 3 generations, their family imported hamburgers to Belgium, they study and speak 4 or 5 languages, and are unbelievably generous. I am so, so thankful to have met the Van Meenen’s. These people know how to live.

We spent a couple of days around Dentergem.. riding bikes to barnyard bars with Tim (Geert and Regine’s son), hanging out with their friends in the town, partying in Gent with Tim and his friends, climbing up too-small stairways, eating fried things, and sleeping in lofts. After that, we took a day trip to Bruge with Geert and Regine, where and had a Belgian waffle that gave me a sugar high for 3 hours, saw an old cloister island, watched dozens of swans in the moat-like river, and found alleyway 4 story pubs with fireplaces and some of the best beer I’ve ever tasted. Later still, they were nice enough to take the train to Brussels with us and show us all around the biggest city, ate very well, saw insane architecture and the famous little peeing boy statue (Manneken Pis), and I got to check out some of the diplomatic offices. Such a good trip… Lis and I are so lucky to have met these wonderful people.

Tim and the lovely Regine with the best burger I've tasted in Europe, it comes from a recipe her father brought after his mid-century trip to find work in the States. She had endless stories passed down from him and his time in Vegas serving Frank Sinatra at a bar on the Strip back in the day.

flower blooming in Geert's garden

busted up bikes in Gent

fresh paint next to traditional Gent buildings


cathedrals in the center of Gent

Gent canals... seriously surprised we didn't fall in

tiny old pub in Gent

I finally discovered my taste for beer in Gent. I’ve always, always hated it, but thanks in part to my dear friend Selma’s persistence and the serious aficionados I met in Belgium, I can now say there are a few I like. Also, I took a photo of a lot of different ones I tried in Belgium for Jon, partially to make him jealous and partially because I love him. So, be prepared for foamy hoppy malt onslaught ahead.

a favorite

at the bicycle bar in Gent. this was my favorite place... steady flow of CCR, ZZ Top, and Zep in the background, lit solely by candles, all types of bikes hanging off the ceiling/walls, weird good beer that you don't get to choose.. you just drink what they give you, and some total characters lurking= my kind of place.

Geert's little homemade greenhouse... we got to eat some of the sprouts. so good!

borrowed bikes, color coordination unintended but a sign of the deux-ex-awesome going on.

just outside Dentergem on our ride. I can guarantee you there's no artificial anything going on at this farm.

barn pub

barn/field venue and pub.. would be so rad to see a show here. owned by some old trust fund hippie, but nobody around here's complaining about what he decided to do with it.


sitting in the Sint Canarus brewery trying their finest.

Belgian goodness

Geert climbing the ancient wind powered mill, on top of Dentergem's Mt. Everest.

I can’t say enough good things about this trip. I have more photos but, again, they’re not fit to post yet so I’ll have to wait a little while until I figure out the computer stuff.

I forgot the most important thing, though, that I learned in Belgium. In the wise words of Geert Van Meenen:


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Gogol Bordello in Madrid

Posted in Uncategorized by Cassandra on June 2, 2010

Quick note– went to see Gogol Bordello for a second time last week with Lisa, Drew, and Natalie. Saw them last time in Dresden, Germany and it was amazing, if below freezing outside. This time was just as awesome, if not a better show. They played some of their new stuff and we danced in and out of the mosh pit for hours… went home happily bruised and riding a tsunami adrenaline wave. I have some really rad friends. Too good.

Natalie, Pet-ah, me, Lisa and Drew before the carnage

Here’s a video someone else shot at the concert. We must’ve been standing right next to whoever filmed it. In fact, I think you can see me in front at the 4:00 minute mark. So so good:

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Père Lachaise and savior astrophysicists

Posted in Uncategorized by Cassandra on June 2, 2010

(note: this is out of order. I went to Belgium before this, and have a ton more photos of Paris, but wasn’t able to format them correctly yet… so look out for those posts in the coming weeks)

Had to leave Paris early due to the Icelandic volcano canceling my flight. I wasn’t happy to cut my trip short but unfortunately couldn’t miss class meetings, so I ended up taking an unplanned 18 hour bus ride along the Western coast of France, down through Basque country, and on to Madrid. The bus station was apocalyptic and completely jammed with bodies waiting, rushing, sleeping, running in circles like chickens with their heads cut off. I was exhausted just surveying the scene from the floor above.

(warning: amateur/gratuitous science-y paragraph ahead)

The ride was hellish.. the seats really aren’t made for anyone over 5’9″ and I’m a good 6’1″. On the bright side, however, I sat next to an astrophysicist from DC the whole way. Met him in line, the guy had a really soothing voice which was weird in the middle of the mayhem happening in the bus station. I was alone at this point, and thankful to have some conversation. After we settled into the bus, trying to nap and failing, we got to talking and he schooled me on NASA’s current politics. Way interesting. Basically manned space missions are unnecessary other than for PR, but take up ten times the budget of other far more necessary and innovative projects. He is a researcher from New Mexico and tried to speak in layman’s terms when explaining what exactly he does, but I think I got the gist and it’s so interesting. Basically, this guy is one of a few heading a project to launch into space a new system of data collection, based on three distantly spaced satellites which, with the slight gravitational pull from hundreds of different sources that pulls them each very slightly, transmit information on the ripples of space-time in the fabric of the universe. Intense. He talked for hours about it, and I finally came to understand it as different from other, now-used forms of info gathering in that, with photos of all different wavelengths you can see information in different ways, but with the primordial gravitational waves, you can hear them. Like putting an ear to the ground of the history of the universe. So his team gathers all of this data and has to de-code it in order to make sense of the patterns, which takes a lot of effort, but can yield incredibly exact and new types of information about merging black-holes, collapsing stars, and new galaxies. Also,I learned that  this project that he’s helping to lead could be funded for ten years with the budget of just ONE manned mission! GNARLY. This dude was so awesome… I kept thinking about how lucky I was to have sat next to him. Made the waking hours of those 18 hours go by much more quickly.

(regurgitation of beyond my mind capacity science lesson over)

Anyway, I was trying to say that I didn’t have time to get in everything I wanted to (though, truthfully, this would take months, if not years, in a city like that), but was able to squeeze a cemetery visit in on my last morning. So stoked I made the decision to get up early and see it, and was especially glad when I got to the hellhole of a bus station/7hour wait in line to get on a bus (though I already had bought/printed my ticket) later in the afternoon.

Might as well have spent the morning wandering in a peaceful respite in the beyond beautiful Père Lachaise.

Jimmy M. legendary, to say the least.


more spring

After a couple of hours, and feeling decidedly alive, I rounded the corner to the metro station and came across this, which rounded out my last morning in France nicely.

Au revoir, Pareee!

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