Caturday: Box Edition

No Lolas Allowed
Cats and boxes go together like peanut butter and jam. In our household, if there’s a box, there’s a cat either in it or on it. That’s pretty normal, as even wild cats, such as lions and tigers, have shown a fondness for boxes. There’s just something about boxes that cats love.

Well, it turns out a couple of veterinary medicine researchers at Utrecht University have been studying this special relationship. Ruth Van Der Leij and Claudia Vinke have found that boxes significantly reduce a cat’s stress levels. In their studies, they looked at the behaviour of cats who were in a two-week quarantine at an animal shelter. Half of the cats were given a box and half were not. Those who had a box were significantly less stressed than their boxless counterparts and the box cats adjusted to their new environment more quickly. They also tended to remain healthier, due to reduced stress levels.

It was a month or so before we got a lot of boxes after we moved here, since the bulk of our boxes came much later. But we did pick up a few items in boxes when we first moved. Luna was appreciative. Lola sulked, while waiting her turn.
As you can imagine, Christmas is a good time for the cats with the arrival of lots of boxes. A little over a year ago, Luna and Lola got a particularly nice box. The perfect size to sit in and survey the surroundings, while still feeling kind of cozy. Add in a little catnip and it’s pure love. Here’s Luna rubbing on the edge, as if saying, “I love you, box!”
I love you, box!
Both cats liked it so much, I couldn’t bring myself to toss it. So I gussied it up a bit. I trimmed off the lid and then wrapped it in fabric and cut a fleece liner for it. We still have it, more than a year later. First up is Luna, followed by Lola. Luna does typically sit upright in it, while Lola tends to hunker down.
cat in a box
cat in a box
But don’t even think of getting rid of the box. The wrath of the cats will be rained down upon you!

However, some more catnip sprinkled in would be appreciated.
cat in a box
By the way, I’m up for the “Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs” competition. If you would like to vote for me, click the button below to get to the voting page. Much appreciated if you do! Voting runs through 15 February 2015. Thanks!
IX15 - Vote for this blog!

I’d Like To Thank The Committee …

Nobel Prize
All day I’ve been hearing Oprah’s voice in my head going, “You get a Nobel Prize! And you get a Nobel Prize! And you get a Nobel Prize!”

Ever since it was announced today that the European Union is the recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, there have been lots of jokes going around about everyone in Europe getting one of the awards.

Just in case mine gets lost in the mail, at least I can say I’ve seen a Nobel Prize in real life. Christiaan Eijkman won his in 1929 and it now sits in one of the main rooms of Utrecht University’s Academiegebouw on the Domplein. Eijkman was a professor at the university and he won his prize in medicine for the foundation of the science of vitamins. In all, 12 recipients of the prize have had some relationship with the Utrecht University.

I guess there are a lot more now …

Drift 15

A few weeks ago, I posted about the chimney on Keizerstraat that was part of a goldsmith/silversmith foundry run by the Brom Brothers. In doing some further reading, I discovered that a building on the next street over — along the Drift canal — was essentially the drawing room/technical office of the Broms. The building itself, dates back to the 1600s, I believe, and the Brom family simply renovated the facade of the building in the early 1900s. The renovation was done by architect P.J. Houtzagers. The hall of the building was redone in the Art Nouveau style, and it would seem that some of the hall’s renovation was done with the help of one of Houtzager’s students at the time, Gerrit Rietveld!

There’s a stone marker on the front of the building. You can see it in detail here. It was placed there to commemorate the Brom family and jeweler Leo Brom, the last of the Brom goldsmiths.

The building is an official monument now, although it is also still in use by Utrecht University. It currently houses the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, a research institute of the School of Law.

The Return of the Rain and the Students

This is what the weather was like yesterday. Bright sunshine, and just a glorious day.
Cafés and Restaurants
This is what the weather is like today. Rain, rain and more rain. And yes, the students were back for more initiation/introduction. Lousy timing!
I woke up to chatter outside the window and after peeking out, I saw a long, wet line of unhappy looking students. Gone was the singing and laughter from Saturday morning when the first batch went through this process. I don’t remember a second round last year, and I don’t know why they did another round this year. I did ponder the idea of actually asking someone about all of this today, but the early hour and the heavy rain didn’t really make me feel all that social.
Morning View
They started off sitting quietly in a row, with all their worldly possession grouped around them. They sat like that for quite a while, perhaps an hour or so. Then there was a sudden movement when they all got up and began digging through their bags.
Line Up
The white sheets returned and were bundled around various possessions, which seemed to also include a pair of white candles, which I saw grasped in the hands of many of the students this morning. They hung around for a while after that, still fussing with odds and ends and still getting rained on solidly. Eventually they began to move off, hopefully to get warm and dry.
Moving On
The upperclassmen didn’t let a little rain stop them from donning their full morning suits and drinking their glasses of champagne. Most had an umbrella to hand, but there was one who went umbrella-less and looked as soaked as the students. A few of his friends took pity on him on occasion and shared their shelter.
(this is my favorite shot)
Contrast [Day 236/365]
Perhaps the kindness inspired him, as the last of the students moved off, one had a little trouble managing all his bags and bits and pieces, so the upperclassman kindly gave him a hand carrying one of his bags. What a nice young man!
A Helping Hand

Initiation Rites

Street View
I was up early this morning and found myself wondering if the annual student invasion of the street was going to be tomorrow or next weekend, since they didn’t seem to be around yet. I’ve been expecting them all week. A little later, I heard some noise and saw someone walking past wearing a morning coat and carrying a walking stick. Aha! I was simply up before they were!

So yes, today was the annual induction/introduction/initiation/something-or-other at one of the student associations. Unitas, perhaps? I still don’t know exactly what they get up to or the reasoning behind this little ritual, but it always amuses me nonetheless. The (new?) students line up along the street with bags and sleeping bags and slowly work their way down the street to the back entrance of one of the associations. They’re watched over by upperclass (?) students — although only male students, even though the ones in line are both genders — and are occasionally given instructions by these well-dressed guardians. Every year they wear morning suits and drink champagne throughout the process. I don’t think all associations are quite so glamorous.
The Guards

There were a few things this year that were either new or that I just hadn’t noticed last year. For one thing, some of the students seemed to be singing the national anthem (multiple verses) throughout part of the morning. Secondly, toward the end of the morning, some of the last ones still to go started pulling out matching white tablecloths/sheets and started going through their bags and putting various items out on the sheet on the ground. It looked a bit like Queen’s Day, the national yardsale day.
There didn’t seem to be much rhyme nor reason to what they pulled out, although it did sound like they were given a list of items to put out. The upperclassmen seemed to be reading of cards of certain items. Whether they were contraband or simply a silly game, I have no idea. There seemed to be toilet paper and plastic plates among the items set out, so maybe the association was trying simply to stock up on some necessary items.
Bits and Bobbles
From what I saw last year, similar events are going on around town for various student associations. It’s a bit warm and humid today, but hey, at least it’s not raining. 😉