Radio Astronomy Explained

17 Oct

My brother is a radio astronomer.

When I asked him what that means, he said: I send radio waves out into space, and based on what comes back, I form an image of what is out there.

Oh, I said, like what I do with e-mails.

He looked at me and raised an eyebrow.

I love it when he does that.





In Her Shoes

2 Oct

The house around him was empty and quiet, the hallway had an air of recent desertion. On the top shelf of the rack he saw the shoes, shouting out at him in the fiercest colour of the rainbow. Red, high-heeled, not to be messed with. He took off his socks. Carefully he picked up the pumps, one in each hand, letting the heel slide between index and middle finger. He sat down on the stairs, placed one shoe next to him and put his foot into the other one. With his toes pressed together and his heel barely fitting, he managed to get his foot in and keep it there.

“Guess you can marry the prince now,” he chuckled.

Then he put on the other shoe as well, and tried to stand up. As soon as his body was completely upright, he felt the pain in his toes exploding.

“Why are you wearing my shoes?”

He looked up in surprise and saw her standing in the doorway.

“Ehm… I just wanted to know what it felt like.”

“And what does it feel like?”

“It hurts.”

For a moment the sternness in her eyes seemed to waver.

“So now you know,” she said.




(The idea for this piece of writing comes from a writing challenge on Schaap Schrijft. Thank you for the inspiration!)


30 Sep

We all have bad habits. All of us. And I´m not talking about the guilty pleasures, the smoking or the binge-watching, I´m talking about the ones we are unaware of. That´s the worst part of it. That we don´t realise about them. Because they are right there, in our blind spot. We cross other people´s boundaries but we don´t see it. We talk too much, but we don´t hear it. We brag, annoy, irritate, neglect, manipulate or harm, all without recognising that this is what we are actually doing. And when we do become aware of these bad habits (because we´ve crossed one line too many, because someone bluntly tells us, or because we find ourselves in a situation where it simply cannot be denied), then this bad habit explodes in our face and hurts us to the core. Then we can either run from it and shout: this is not me, this is not what it looks like AT ALL, I have NOTHING to do with this. Or we can let that feeling of repulsion wash over us and serve as our catharsis. We can say: yes, this is me, but I´ll do better from now on. I have made this mistake, and I accept it. I accept myself. I am, after all, a human being. I will learn from it instead of hate myself for it. And now I will move on.

The Post and the Lemonade Stand

18 Sep

(Warning: might have some spoilers, regarding the film The Post. But not really big ones, because the story itself is history, so it´s like saying “the Titanic sinks”.)

True storytelling isn´t just about the story you follow consciously. It´s also (or even more so) about the stories that you undergo unnoticed and that stay behind on a deeper level. I came across a beautiful example of this when yesterday I watched The Post, a film Spìelberg made last year about The Washinton Post trying to publish the Pentagon Papers.

The messages of the film are very clear: the government should not obstruct the freedom of the press, and women can run a business.

To clarify that second message, we have the lovely Meryl Streep playing the part of Katharine Graham, the woman who took over the Washington Post after her husband died. We can see her struggle as she tries to become the leader no one expects her to be. The indefensible statement by Samuel Johnson that she quotes (*) to give her daughter an idea of what she was up against, gives us but a glimpse of the internal and extrenal obstacles she had to overcome.

The first message, the one concerning the freedom of the press, is also conveyed in a very explicit way. For the thicker ones among us, there´s even someone at the end of the film saying loud and clear, and with tears in her eyes:

“The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill their essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”

Message received, loud and clear.

This morning I wasn´t thinking about the film anymore. I was pondering over some other issue, that had to do with parenting. How can we teach girls to go for what they want? How can we teach them to stop asking for things in the hope someone will give it to them (and getting frustrated when that doesn´t happen), but on the contrary take active, concrete steps towards the fulfilment of their dreams?

And that´s when a few scenes of the film came back to my mind. But they didn´t have Meryl Streep in it. They weren´t about Katharine Graham overcoming her fears of being a weak leader. It was about something I had noticed but hadn´t given much importance to up until then.

When the journalists get together at Ben Bradlee´s house to work through the Top Secret Pentagon Papers that are lying spread all over Bradlee´s living room floor, Bradlee´s daughter is outside the house selling lemonade at a self-made lemonade stand. While everybody is hastily rummaging through the stacks of paper and frantically typing away to get an article together in time, this little girl offers them drinks and cashes the money. And later, when everyone has gone home and Bradlee is left alone in the kitchen with his wife, she shows him the money his daughter made that day.

It´s just a detail in the film, it hardly takes up any space. But it´s such a great message: girls can set up a business and make money. They can, just as well as men. And they shouldn´t be embarrassed about it.

What a charming symbol that lemonade stand is!

Message received. Slowly and subtly, but deeply imprinted.


Pin by Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza on Cezanne and his ...


(*) “Sir, a woman´s preaching is like a dog´s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

Thundercats And Polkadots

15 Sep

The one and only Thundercats Polkadot Backpack!



25 Aug

It turned out to be a good idea, taking that sabbatical year. Such a good idea, in fact, that I’m not exactly willing to throw myself back onto the job market. That would actually be a wrong strategy. Below I will put, as this self-imposed birthday tradition demands, a list of things I’ve done this year. But the most important achievements are a few insights I gained.

Insight one. Because of my physical condition (aura migraines) I am not suited for contract work. Despite my enthusiasm, high work ethics, drive and passion, I am not a desirable employee, simply because I have to take up so many sick days. If I could work in a flexible system, where I had to reach monthly deadlines and I could divide my time the way I saw fit, then I’m sure I would manage. But for obvious reasons you cannot do that when you are teaching.

Insight two. Creativity is valuable. I always saw singing and writing as some kind of tampering on the side, something that might be interpreted as attention-seeking behaviour and which should therefore be practiced in stocking feet. But there is a difference between the desire for approval and the desire to share your art. An artist asks his audience for attention (a commodity that is becoming rather rare these days), but  (s)he has something to give to that audience in return. Enjoying the work of someone who is really good at it, can be a great experience.

Insight three. When you are good at something, it is your duty to become even better and share your work. If you can do something that makes other people feel happy, moved, interested or understood, then you have to mute that inner voice that says you are unworthy and that you should stay in your comfort zone. When people say you made them laugh and/or cry (with emotion, not with shame on your behalf or frustration), then you know you are on the right track.

Insight four. Jealousy from others is also a good indication that you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing, but I am convinced that true artists are humble and supportive of one another. That real artists want to cooperate instead of compete, because they know that their voice and style are unique, so there’s no real competition anyway (on the condition that as an artist you are being true to yourself). They know when they are needed and they know when they don’t match and should therefore make way for someone else. They know that essentially it is about the art, and not about them.

So much for the insights.

And now, as for what I did this year:

  • I wrote a short novel
  • I wrote the story for a short musical for children
  • I performed with the jazz band at the local Saint Cecilia dinner
  • I started singing in a funk band
  • I performed with the funk band in Valencia
  • I won a karaoke contest (next time I’m going to be in the jury, because competing is becoming a bit embarrassing)
  • I assisted my daughter during her first year of music theory and saxophone classes (I think that’s something worth mentioning, because it is a job in itself, some kind of musical coach)
  • I trained the dog (didn’t feel like work, but when you compare the stuff he can do to what the other dogs around here do, I think it’ s fair to say his education is a job well done)
  • I sewed a few bags that turned out really nice
  • I managed some emotionally very stressful events without any more damage than some hair loss

Out of those insights and achievements I’ve distilled three words that I will use as a guideline this coming year: SING – SEW – WRITE. That’s what I’m going to do (apart from taking care of the household and my family, of course). Three signposts on the bumpy road that is life. Let’s see where they lead to this coming year…




About Listening To A Noisy Body

20 Jul

I know pain is a signal, and we´re supposed to listen to it and act on it to stay healthy. But it´s not always that simple.

Imagine a classroom where everybody´s talking and shouting, and you can´t make out a single word of what is being said. I think it´s the same thing with your body: you can´t listen to the signals if there are too many signals. (When that happens, maybe you need a severe teacher who screams “SILENCE”. and then throws in a punishment. I guess that´s what migraine does.)

But even when most of the children in that class are quiet, there are some kids who are always talking. And you´re so used to it that you don´t even realise anymore. Until you walk past someone else´s classroom and notice the perfect silence. That´s what happened to me when I read the sentence “You´re back is not supposed to hurt”. I asked my husband: does you back hurt? He said: no. And I said: you mean, like, never? You don´t feel your back when you get up in the morning or swing your upper body? And he said: no, of course not.


Time to start taking the noisy kids seriously.