Veerle's Sidenotes

A collection of thoughts on subjects of my interest.

September 19 2023


This adorable electric scooter pays homage to the Honda Motocompo fuel-powered scooters from the 1980s. When fully folded, it resembles a suitcase, making it convenient to stow in your car's trunk or take it on public transit. Weighing in at 18.7kg/41.3lbs, it's light enough to lift comfortably, aligning perfectly with the demands of modern urban mobility.

With a top speed of 24km/h/15mph, a maximum range of 19.3km/12 miles, and a peak output of 490 watts, it possesses ample power to serve as a first- and last-mile solution, designed to meet the evolving needs of urban mobility. Honda says it reaches it topspeed in 7 seconds. Its suitcase-like shape also provides an ideal canvas for stickers, decals, and custom logos, guaranteed to turn heads!


Fits Any You, Any Where.

No word if the Motocompacto will be launched in Europe. All I could find is that it will be available in the US for $995 in November via selected Honda dealers. Make sure to take a look at the animation demonstrating how everything folds together. It's truly delightful!

September 07 2023

Hammerhead Karoo 2

Since you're subscribed to my Sidenotes, I assume you're aware of my deep passion for cycling. Around 2009, I acquired my first GPS cycling gadget, the Garmin Edge 500.

For years, my loyalty was exclusively to Garmin Edge GPS devices, including the 500, 800, and 1000 series. Despite my loyalty, I encountered several issues, such as software glitches and the power button wearing out over time. During that period, Garmin seemed to be the top choice with no real competitors. However, this landscape has changed for quite some time now. I've been using the Hammerhead Karoo 2 for the past few years, and I cannot express enough how satisfied I am with this device.

Hammerhead Karoo 2.

Hammerhead Karoo 2.

The contrast from the past is simply immense for me. Let me begin by highlighting the vast difference in navigation. When I was using Garmin devices, encountering overlaps in the route often led to confusion and uncertainty. The default "turn guidance" with prominent white arrows would appear as a turning point approached, causing distractions and a close-up view of the map. Personally, I disliked this feature, as I prefer maintaining a comprehensive overview of the roads.

In that state, the comprehensive overview of the route was lost, and to make matters worse, it was riddled with flaws, occasionally even directing you in the wrong direction. It was only after several months that a friend (Jered Gruber, to be exact) enlightened me about the possibility of switching off the turn guidance: "I always ride like that. I just see my line and I follow it." Great, problem solved, right? Well, not quite, because I have numerous routes with overlaps, especially the MTB ones. To cope with this, I used to memorize all the overlapping turns before starting and jotted them down on paper, keeping it in my back pocket as a backup. However, even with these precautions, things often took unexpected turns, leading us into adventurous experiences where roads would abruptly end in impassable fields or encounter roadblocks, forcing us to deviate from our planned route, resulting in a real mess to get back on our route.

Image by Alex Cohen.

Image by Alex Cohen.

Since I began riding with my Karoo 2, all those previous issues have completely vanished. Now, I still follow a yellow line on the screen, but this line comes with helpful direction arrows. However, the real game-changer is the map itself, which is by far the best I've ever experienced. It beautifully differentiates between roads with bike lanes, off-road trails, paths, and major roads with bike lanes, each marked with distinct colors and clear indicators. Even our regional biking network (Knooppunten netwerk) has its own purple colored lines. And when you are about to ride on an off-road segment, you'll get a warning that the road will go off-road counting down the remaining distance until your back on the hard surface.

In addition to the exceptional map, another aspect I appreciate about the Karoo 2 is the regular software updates that bring continuous improvements and new features. One particular feature that I've grown to adore, available for quite some time now, is the option to ride a route in reverse. It's become a favorite of mine, as it gives the sensation of exploring an entirely new route. In stark contrast, I struggle to recall any notable feature updates on the Garmin Edge devices throughout all these years. Moreover, the outdated GUI look reminiscent of the 90s has been a constant bother for me as a designer. If the device operated according to my preferences, the outdated GUI look wouldn't bother me as much, but unfortunately, I was frequently annoyed by its performance.

Hammerhead Karoo 2

Another problem I faced was the battery percentage issue. During long rides, it often became a concern, and I even encountered troubles when uploading my rides to Strava. However, since I started using the Karoo 2, I haven't experienced a single issue so far (knock on wood). The interface is aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly, and well-thought-out, and the touch screen functions seamlessly. I particularly appreciate the simple logic behind it, and the recent update that directly displays the sensor icons (speed, cadence, heart-rate, etc.) at the top of the screen is fantastic. It allows me to quickly see if they are properly connected, indicated by the icons turning green.

I apologize if it may come across as a rant towards Garmin, but I must be completely honest about my experience. The difference between my previous devices and the Karoo 2 is so immense that I can't help but rave about this remarkable device and the brand as a whole. Initially, I bought the Karoo 2 at a discounted price since my friend Geert had already purchased the Karoo 1. The Karoo 1 was a significant improvement over my Garmin Edge 1000, but it had some room for enhancement, mainly regarding its size. However, when the Karoo 2 was launched, it was the perfect solution, and we both decided to get one. To sweeten the deal, I received an extra heart-rate strap or a discount with my purchase (I can't exactly recall). When I faced issues with the strap as it stopped working, the support team promptly sent me an improved replacement for free. These new straps outperformed the Garmin ones by lasting much longer. Although it's a shame that one of them got misplaced somewhere in my house, I'm still on a quest to find it—a total mystery indeed.

If you are looking for an excellent GPS device, I can highly recommend the Karoo 2.  Currently, you get a 50% OFF on a Heart Rate Monitor with your order if you use the code 'K2-HRM'. In case you wonder, I am not sponsored by Hammerhead for saying this.

August 22 2023

Nature-inclusive Building

I wasn't familiar with the term initially, but after reading about it, everything falls into place. Extensive research consistently points in one direction: people not only enjoy better health but also greater happiness in green environments. Furthermore, with careful design that incorporates hiding spots and habitats with native greenery, we can contribute to the well-being of birds, hedgehogs, butterflies, bees, and numerous other wild creatures. This approach is known as 'nature-inclusive'.

I recently came across the plans for the 'Faunahuis', a versatile nature facility within Bos t'Ename, a nature reserve located in the Flemish Ardennes (Belgium). The nature farm should evolve into a prime example of nature-inclusive and eco-friendly architecture, exclusively utilizing renewable construction materials like wood, straw, and clay sourced from the nearby surroundings. It will serve as an educational space for students to immerse themselves in nature, a refuge for Natuurpunt employees, and a haven for a diverse array of wildlife.

Here's another example found in the construction of the Belgian pavilion, known as "The Green Arch," for the 2020 Dubai Expo. This remarkable pavilion seamlessly combines rich green vegetation with cutting-edge solid wood architecture. Its core purpose is to serve as a blueprint for sustainable progress, paying homage to the regenerative circular economy. It achieves this by utilizing biobased and geo-sourced materials, integrating bioclimatic principles and renewable energy sources, and emphasizing the preservation of biodiversity and the natural environment.

The Green Arch Belgian pavilion Expo Dubai, 2020 by Assar inclusive architecture.

The Green Arch Belgian pavilion Expo Dubai, 2020 by Assar inclusive architecture.

Not Well Know

It's worth noting that nature-inclusive building practices are still gaining traction in Flanders. Countries like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are considerably ahead in the field of nature-inclusive construction. For example, in the Netherlands, nesting boxes are a legal requirement in new-build homes. This approach not only promotes animal-friendly building but also plays a crucial role in preserving biodiversity.

Nature-inclusive construction is fundamentally about creating a hospitable environment for various forms of wildlife, including mammals, birds, as well as vital insects like butterflies and bees. However, its scope extends far beyond that. Embracing nature-inclusive principles yields numerous additional benefits. Your surroundings transform into a greener space and therefore more climate-resistant, providing natural cooling, and fostering a habitat for a diverse array of life forms.

Things You Learn

For instance, I appreciate having large windows to let in ample light as it enhances my well-being, but it's essential to recognize that for birds, windows are a leading cause of fatalities. An American biologist named Daniel Klem Jr. estimated that in the United States alone, between 100 million to 1 billion birds perish annually due to collisions with windows.

It's interesting to note that opponents of wind turbines might present a different perspective. The house sparrow is one of the significant casualties of the construction industry. In Brussels, its population has declined by a staggering 95 percent since 1992, and in Flanders, there has been a 42 percent decrease since 2007.

On a personal note, my garden used to be devoid of house sparrows. Several years ago, I initiated a feeding regimen using all-season seeds, and over time, I cultivated a garden that fulfills some key preferences of house sparrows, like hedges and shrubs for shelter. Additionally, I ensured there was water nearby for drinking and bathing. Although they didn't appear right away, with persistence, a pair eventually arrived, and through patient observation, they transformed into a family that now returns each year. Over time, the group has expanded to about 15, and it's truly delightful to witness the young sparrows being nurtured and learning the ropes.

Things You Can Do

De-paving is the starting point for everything, as most people likely understand by now. Following that, an abundance of greenery, ideally in layers, from ground covers to plants and shrubs, all the way up to trees. If you then refrain from using pesticides, avoid fertilizers, and reduce mowing, you're well on your way. Nature takes care of the rest, if you permit it.

Creating Nesting Sites

Numerous aesthetically pleasing options exist to offer nesting spaces for wildlife. For instance, when planning your home, you can consider incorporating built-in nesting stones. These special bricks, designed to replace standard bricks, serve as ideal nesting spots for birds, butterflies, bees and bats. If you haven't included this feature in your initial design, you can also choose to install birdhouses.

Demo wall built-in bricks at Acasus, Provincial Center, West Flanders.

Demo wall built-in bricks at Acasus, Provincial Center, West Flanders.

Around the house

Green: provide enough green in your garden with plants, shrubs, flowers and trees. Don't have a garden? Then a facade garden or a roof garden is also a good solution! Ivy and vines have the capacity to reduce the temperature of a wall by as much as 15 degrees, which is a significant benefit, particularly in urban areas where the impacts of climate change are more pronounced.

Incorporating solar panels on your green roof can increase your yield by an extra 4 to 6 percent.

Green roofs have enormous potential as they provide food, shelter and breeding grounds for various animals. Always choose native plants, trees and shrubs. Green roofs also offer cooling benefits both inside and outside the building. The vegetation acts as a heat buffer, providing insulation that keeps the interior up to 4 degrees cooler during the summer, eliminating the need for air conditioning. This can result in electricity savings of up to 7 percent.

Incorporating solar panels on your green roof can increase your yield by an extra 4 to 6 percent. This is due to the fact that solar panels achieve their best performance at 25 degrees, and each degree beyond that temperature could result in a potential power output reduction of up to 1 percent.

Even during heatwaves, a green roof doesn't exceed 35 degrees in temperature, significantly cooler than a black roof, which can reach scorching temperatures of up to 80 degrees in direct sunlight. Moreover, there are winter benefits too, as heating costs typically decrease by an average of 3 percent.

Feeding systems: Animals eat their food in different ways. See which animals live in your area, and adjust your systems accordingly.

Water: Provide a water source. That can be something small such as a water dish, but you can also resolutely go for a wadi or shallow pond.

What benefits animals also benefits humans. There's substantial evidence demonstrating that things like birdsong, for instance, have a calming and stress-reducing impact. Absolutely accurate. I find immense pleasure and relaxation in waking up to the melodious song of the blackbird, for instance.

July 31 2023

The Badger Divide

The journey from Glasgow to Inverness spans an impressive 339km, encompassing epic mountain passes, forested trails, and crossings over lochs and rivers, all amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Scottish Highlands.

The Badger Divide captured by Jered Gruber.

The Badger Divide captured by Jered Gruber.

The name "Badger Divide" is a clever wordplay, inspired by the well-known bike-packing route in Baja, California, called the "Baja Divide." On a bicycle, the Badger Divide promises a fantastic off-road adventure, featuring more than 5000m of altitude gain. Here's the route on Ride with GPS.

I’ve never experienced anything like it on a gravel bike - and I dream of the next time, if there ever will be a next time.

- Jered Gruber

Last year in the fall, my photographer friends Ashley & Jered Gruber embarked on this incredible adventure. Jered's storytelling skills are unmatched, and I can't do justice to the tale, so I highly recommend reading it for yourself. It's an unforgettable photographic journey you won't want to miss! But if reading or looking at pictures isn't your thing, don't worry; there's a captivating movie about it as well, which you can watch below.

July 11 2023

Tycho - Time to Run

Scott Hansen, also known as Tycho, is an artist I've been a fan of for quite some time, and I regularly enjoy his music while working. Recently, he resurfaced with a refreshing new piece titled "Time to Run."

Tycho - Time to Run

This particular track represents Tycho's first original release in a couple of years, apart from his noteworthy collaboration with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. In this latest creation, Tycho ventures into new artistic territory by embracing a band approach, while remaining faithful to his fundamental artistic principles.

"Time to Run" features Zak Brown on the guitar and Kaelin Ellis on drum. Tycho embarks on a new rhythmic direction, while maintaining his distinctive atmospheric synthwork, resulting in a more uplifting journey than his well-known sound. The mixing contributions of Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear add an enchanting touch.

In a statement, Tycho shared his profound connection between music and meditation, which has been a constant presence in his life and served as inspiration for the song. He reflected on his past as a competitive runner and how he would mentally replay loops of songs to manage the stress of races, focusing on rhythmic elements to find a sense of calm and maintain his pace. Tycho expressed that running has provided him with a unique form of clarity, a deeply human experience that fosters a profound connection between the mind, body, and nature. With "Time to Run," he endeavors to translate these ideas into musical expression.

My goal was to approach the composition from a new angle and let the rhythmic elements take the lead. I cast the melodic elements that have come to define the Tycho sound in a new light by juxtaposing them against a new foundation that takes cues from funk music.

- Scott Hansen aka Tycho

Accompanying the release of the track is a captivating music video directed by Patrick Elmore, which beautifully weaves together the overarching theme of running with a nostalgic energy. The video captures the excitement of spectators, the guidance of coaches, and the watchful eyes of officials as the runners gather at the starting line. As the race begins, the runners disappear into the surrounding woods, symbolizing their escape from the pressures and physical exertion of the moment. Despite the intense strain, the music carries them forward, fueling their relentless drive to keep running without looking back. Ultimately, the storyline of the video encourages viewers to liberate themselves from the burdens imposed by others, inspiring a sense of serenity and fulfillment. This message is embodied by the subject of the video diving into a refreshing natural pool of water, symbolizing a moment of liberation and tranquility.

July 04 2023

Sven Van Hees - Airflow

I've been an avid enthusiast of the 'chill' genre for as long as I can remember. Defining 'chill-out' can be hit or miss in many playlists, but one constant presence in mine throughout the years has been Sven Van Hees. He is undeniably the Belgian maestro of this genre. A crucial aspect of the 'inspiration' experience is being transported to a different world, and that's precisely what his new album 'Airflow' accomplishes. Each time you listen you discover a new background sound, especially with a headset. His music serves as an instigator for creativity and productivity.

Sven Van Hees - Airflow

I'm extremely happy & proud to present you my brand new album AIRFLOW! It's been one heck of a journey, probably the longest time i've worked on an album ever but I can't wait to share this one with you all.

- Sven Van Hees

This album possesses all the essential elements to establish itself as a future classic. The deep blues vocals of 'Cowasaki' combined with the Afrobeat Orchestra's chilled-out Ethiopian groove create a captivating fusion and it sets the tone of things to come perfectly.

The title track, "Airflow," along with "Beaver Fever," "Flowbama," and "Sventennial," continues the enchanting journey, showcasing divine vocals, exquisite arrangements, and dreamy guitars, all bearing the trademark Sven Van Hees' distinctive touch.

"Soulful Jazz" and funky beats take center stage in "Bear Necessities" and "Liquor all Over." The energetic Afrobeat tracks, "Afrosphere" and "Coca Cabana," have the power to ignite any beach bar with their uptempo rhythms. To conclude the album, we have "Return to Soles Bar," a homage to Sven Van Hees' cherished beach bar in the Dominican Republic. It serves as the perfect tune to wrap up an album that can only be described as pure listening bliss.

This musical Journey (best enjoyed in a hammock with cocktail) sets the sound of my summer 23! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

June 27 2023

Belgium Second Largest Food Waster in Europe!

That this bit of news went unnoticed in the media is truly astonishing. It turns out that in 2020, Flanders wasted nearly 900.000 tons of edible food, an amount sufficient to provide nourishment for over 800.000 people for a year. Unfortunately, this places Belgium near the bottom of the European rankings, with only Cyprus performing worse.

Belgium Second Largest Food Waster in Europe!

The Seriousness of the Problem

Flemish policy does not recognize the seriousness of the problem and the Court of Audit also explicitly commented on how Flanders (barely) combats food loss. Go read the report 'How Flanders fights food waste and food loss' (PDF in Dutch)

On paper, Flanders follows the international objectives and wants to reduce food loss by 30% between 2015 and 2025. According to the new figures, food loss fell by only 2% between 2015 and 2020. In practice, moreover, the main focus is on valorisation: using food waste for animal feed, to generate energy or to compost.

The food industry's impact is remarkable as evident from the analysis. The combined edible and non-edible food losses reach nearly 2 million tons. However, according to the report, 99% of this waste is repurposed for animal feed, energy generation, or incineration. While re-allocating surplus food to other sectors may be applauded, it remains an insufficient policy approach, especially when compared to our neighbouring countries. The food industry in Belgium discards 161 kg of food per person annually, whereas the numbers are significantly lower in the Netherlands (59 kg), France (29 kg), and Germany (19 kg).

Within the existing system, the production of food carries inevitable environmental, climate, and health consequences. Notably, food loss alone accounts for a staggering 8% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Ever since I began using Hellofresh several years ago (418 boxes so far), I have noticed that we no longer waste any food. That's the wonderful aspect of this system - everything is perfectly portioned, and as an added bonus, it promotes healthy eating.

Source: Bond Beter Leefmilieu 

Photo by Ella Olsson at Unsplash

June 20 2023

Hydrogen Sea - Candy

No, this isn't a part of the 'hopium' hype campaign of Hydrogen but new music from my own soil, Belgium. Prepare for a refreshing musical treat from PJ Seaux and Birsen Uçar, as Hydrogen Sea unveils their latest single. Aptly titled "Candy", this song offers a delicious addictive glimpse into their forthcoming fall album. Mark your calendars for two exciting performances: November 22 at AB and November 30 at Paradiso, where they'll showcase their new material. 

Tickets are already on sale.

"Candy" features Birsen Uçar's enchanting vocals, accompanied by lively drums, guitar, and percussion. The song is an uplifting homage to the sweet sources of joy and comfort in our lives. While embracing a carefree and cheerful ambiance, the talented duo from Brussels doesn't shy away from acknowledging the thrilling unrest beneath the surface. Collaborating with producer Luuk Cox, they effortlessly capture a lush and dynamic sound in "Candy," infusing it with a sun-soaked and happiness essence that sets the stage for a delightful start to the summer season. This little taste makes me look forward to the rest of the album.

Hydrogen Sea - Candy
June 14 2023

Volvo EX30

I don't prefer SUV's, but I do like smaller cars, especially EV's. While VW pledged the ID2 (4,05 meter), it will take several years for that car to arrive. However, the recently unveiled fully electric Volvo EX30 (4,25 meter) in Milan last week fits the bill.

Volvo EX30

It boasts Volvo's expected safety features and holds the record for the smallest CO2 footprint among all Volvo cars so far. I can't deny my admiration for Scandinavian design. The EX30 captures Volvo's design essence in a compact package. A balanced and refined exterior is achieved through a lengthy wheelbase, ample wheels, and symmetrical overhangs. Its electric nature is evident in the self-assured front, enclosed grille, and digitally rendered trademark Thor's Hammer headlights.

With five lively exterior hues, like trendy Cloud Blue and vibrant Moss Yellow (inspired by coastal lichen growth in Sweden), it exudes character and individuality If you missed the Milan unboxing, watch it below.

There's no one-size-fits-all battery for powertrains. With the EX30, they offer three powertrain options and two battery types, giving you the freedom to choose what suits your needs. This approach allows them to provide an attractive entry price (around EUR 36.000) for the EX30. Regrettably, the starting price in Belgium is EUR 38,900. That model has a single-motor option with an LFP battery.

We know that price and cost of ownership is still one of the biggest challenges when people consider switching to an electric car.

- Jim Rowan, chief executive Volvo

I love that the EX30 offers five ambient lighting themes, each inspired by a unique Scandinavian landscape. These themes subtly shift in color, creating a serene atmosphere inside the car.

You can choose from the warm sunlight filtering through forest leaves, a sunset on the Swedish west coast, the mesmerizing northern lights, the golden summer skies of Swedish midsummer, or the vibrant ambiance of an urban sunset. To enhance the experience, you can even pair each lighting theme with a matching ambient soundscape.

Volvo EX30

The EX30 is a viable choice for me when my Polestar 2 lease is ending. I aim to downsize anyway and maybe take it even a step further by opting for car-sharing, such as BattMobility. After all, a car remains stationary 90% of the time. While an ideal scenario would be to pick one up when I need one, unfortunately, options like these are currently unavailable in my area. Early adopters are always like that 😊

June 08 2023

Polestar 4 Surrounded by 90,000 Tulips

As you might know, I am a Polestar customer myself and I always liked the way they approach their advertising. For example they brought 90,000 tulips to the launch of Polestar 4 at Auto Shanghai. Bringing creative ideas to life sometimes requires moving heaven and earth. The team of Polestar took up the challenge to transform the technical room for the launch of an e-car into a sea of ​​flowers in just a few weeks. The results exceeded their expectations, but putting on the show was no walk in the park. As an environmental responsible company they recycled the tulips afterwards.

The first thing I noticed was the scent. That's something you cannot plan or experience when looking at computer renderings

- Pär Heyden, Head of Brand

Get in on the behind-the-scenes action with the video below. If you want even more detail there is a write-up on their site that contains a deeper insight into this remarkable event booth design. Go read it because it contains some interesting nuggets.

May 31 2023
Energy Transition

Solar, Wind Covered Belgium’s Entire Electricity Demand

Our high-voltage transmission operator Elia announced on their LinkedIn page that Belgium provided enough solar and wind electricity on May 29th to cover the country’s entire demand for the first time ever. 

Landscape photography of grass field with windmills under orange sunset.

Landscape photography of grass field with windmills under orange sunset.

The record took place between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm. Together, solar and wind generated 8.303 MW. For example, instead of shutting down windmills if there is too much electricity, a customer oriented market model would mean that everyone can benefit from such low or even negative prices. You would participate in the market by charging your electric car or using your heat pump at moments of excess energy. No, this wouldn't be a hassle as all of this can be done automatically by using an energy management system like Smappee Infinity. You would be financially rewarded when you consume electricity at times when there is a lot of renewable energy and also help keep the grid in balance. The future is all about flexibility.

Image by Karsten Würth on Unsplash.

May 28 2023

No Mow May

Like each year I'm taking part in 'No Mow May'. Here in Belgium known as 'Maai Mei Niet'. Well I'm not doing it only in May but the whole year round. We only mow like 3x a year. Why? Well by not mowing your grass in May, you provide a lot of bees and butterflies with crucial food sources. 

Flanders has about 2.5 million gardens. They cover 10 to 12 percent of the territory. On average, half of a garden is lawn. So if each of us makes his or her lawn more flowery, even just a little, it can have a big impact. Every square meter of extra blooming flowers provides extra pollen for our insects. Doing nothing has never been so good for our biodiversity.

My backyard garden

My backyard garden

My nectar score

My nectar score

Common Bleu butterfly

Common Bleu butterfly

Brown Argus butterfly

Brown Argus butterfly