Thursday, August 30, 2007

How to make a boring conf call more exciting

If you are in a boring conference call meeting, you could spice up things by pouring your cup of coffee over your keyboard, desk, papers, your clothes and floor.

Advantages:
  • Nobody has seen it
  • It keeps you distracted for sure while you try to dry your keyboard and dive under your desk in order to mob the floor

Disadvantages:

  • It's hot and it stains your clothes that remain wet for quite a while!
  • People will probably hear your multiple curses & you might be toooo distracted to keep up with the meeting , so you'll have to explain anyway.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

First impressions are important

Since this week there are some rental toilets on the parking lot at work. I wonder what our visiting suppliers or people applying for a job will think of that. :)



...in case you are wondering: no there is nothing wrong with the toilets inside. The simple explanation is that there will be a yearly fundraiser taking place at our parking lot. But visitors to our company don't know that of course :p.




update 30/8: hmm now they've added tents and signs and flags etc...I guess it is already a bit more obvious. Too bad ;-)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Post Vacation blues

I often struggle with this, but now it came rather unexpected. Our little excursion to Zeeland wasn't a real 'vacation' to me. But it felt so rewarding , it felt as we've done so many different things and as if I've seen so many new landscapes etc.. and it sure felt longer than 2,5 days.

Anyway, coming home from a busy house with 4 adults and a noisy kid and seeing more friends, to an empty house was tough. I have another day off and this morning I really felt down. I missed the little guy and I catch myself to think in little phrases to myself :p. I had no-one to talk to and I didn't feel like doing anything. I felt lonely. I don't want to go back to work tomorrow where all problems are probably still piled up and where I have to finish off before I can go on my real vacation.
At home there's always chores waiting so i can never truly truly relax. Don't get me wrong, I spend plenty of time in the sofa with tv on and laptop nearby, not doing much really, but then there's always that guilt feeling "I shoud iron...gosh the is already a lot of dust on the floors, when will I clean the floors, etc...". I now realise that I was really stressed and really in need for a true vacation, rather than some day's off while staying at home as I had done the last months.

...one more week and we're off! And after typing all those posts and chatting with people , most of my blues is gone and I guess I might start mawning our tiny lawn.

Unexpected truth revealed

As I wrote in the previous post, Stef is becoming much more verbal and engages in little conversations constantly. Most of the time those are predictable as he comments on what he sees, what he is doing, what others are doing, ...or he repeats what we say to him.

Sometimes the conversation takes an unexpected twist, as when we had to wait a bit before we could sit down in the restaurant. We decided to make a small walk first, but we were waiting until some bags were put in the car. I was standing with Stef on my hand and Jan and my sister nearby some waste containers.

S: "It stinks"
S: "Mommy it stinks"
G:"Yes Stef, it stinks a bit over here. There are containers over there."
S: "Yes it stinks. Ellen just farted a little bit"

Oops!!

Stef is 2 years old!


an always active enthousiastic boy


Last week Stef turned 2 years old. He got to celebrate his birthday with his grandparents at home before he went on vacation, then with his other grandparents on vacation and yesterday a last time with us on vacation. I did not have my camera along, so I am recycling some recent pictures.

I thought he was so cute last year...but he's even more fun this year. Whereas last year he just learned how to walk and was wobbling around a bit uncertain and falling over every so many steps, he now races from one side to the other in the garden in a constant source of energy. He opens doors himself. And mostly, he got very verbal over the last months. One year ago he only knew some words which he did scream out loud "OPA" "BALL", ... His volume has not gone down at all, but his vocabulary has gotten wider. My nieces at the same age are far less talkative, but on the other hand more precise when they talk. Currently Stef repeats anything you say to him whether he can pronounce it our not. He can say all vowels but not yet all consonants so very often he sounds as if he has a hot potato in his mouth. And he comments all the time on what everybody is doing or what he sees.

The fact that he repeats everything is great fun as you can make him say whatever, which Jan greatly abused last weekend.

"Auntie Ellen is a bit silly"

"Yes Ellen silly"

"yes, I believe you auntie is very silly"

"ELLEN SILLY!!!!....Jan silly?"

"No no I am not silly at all"

"Jan not silly, auntie Ellen silly"


"Jan not outside...Jan no shoes...NO NO not outside, Jan shoes on, shoes on " (he's not allowed to go outside without his shoes on)...followed by some chuckling "hihi jan bare toes. daddy not bare toes. Ellen bare toes?? nooo Ellen no bare toes, Ellen shoes on"


Conversations like that start from the early morning when he starts up. Then we had the joy to wake up by the following

"Sssshttt Jan asleep...Stef not asleep anymore. Stef slept alot. Ellen awake?? nooo Ellen asleep. Sssst quiet" (while he keeps up the whispering for 3 words and than unconciously raises his voice). While his dad carries him downstares and tries to keep him quiet, he promises to be quiet followed by a lout "SEE YOU LATER" on the stairs. Greattt, I guess it was time to get up for us too :p. So when we got down and he could barely see our legs on the stairs, he already shouted "yes Ellen awake, Ellen no more sleeping. Look Ellen in pyama's. Stef also in pyama's".



Haha cute boy!




Obviously he is sometimes having difficulty coping with rules or the fact that he cannot get anything he wants. Since recently he then puts on his "angry" face with a sobbing lip and a frowned forehead after he runs of a bit. So far he usually cools off pretty quick so that's not too bad and I just think his face is so funny at that moment :p. When he was unwilling to clean up his toys before bedtime, he actually put his hands on top of his ears and we all could not help laughing. It looked funny. When the instructions got repeated, he tried to pretend even harder not to hear them and then covering an eye too. It wasn't very effective for him though. Oh well he'll learn. He behaved really well last weekend.

Vacation in Zeeland

My sister has rented a little vacation house for 2 weeks in Zeeland, the southern province of the Netherlands made up by the Schelde (=Scheldt) delta and she had invited us to come over. Although so close, I had already crossed the Belgian border, but never really far enough to cross the Western Scheldt and discover the myriad of islands, dams, deltaworks, wide polders, .... The advantage and disadvantage is that you don't go there if you don't have too, since it is not a fast pass-through area.

Leaving from Knokke, a bird would probably only need a 40 kms to fly, but it took us 1h30 to drive through the tunnels and over the bridges to arrive in the tiny village where my family was staying. Funny since it would only take us 1h30 as well from Leuven as it would be more a straight line to drive even though Leuven is a lot further.


We drove through the middle of nowhere to get to Terneuzen, where we took the fairly new Western Scheldt tunnel to cross the biggest river arm. I must say I was surprised that such a new tunnel did not have emergency lanes to the side and the emergency phones where on the right hand side, whereas the emergency exits on the left hand side...not very practical huh?

Anyway, the lack of emergency lanes anywhere despite the obvious place for it, annoyed us elsewhere in Zeeland too. On Sunday we saw a big accident on the opposite lane (pheww) and a huge huge traffic jam behind it because nobody could pass by. I had also heard that the opening of the tunnel would increase traffic in Belgium in that area dramatically and that we had not adapted to that etc etc...but seeing how poorly the tunnel was connected to big roads on the other side as well, I am quite confident that things won't be as bad as predicted. Let's say there's still some development opportunities there.


Sooner than expected we crossed het Veerse Meer (a former Scheldt arm). We found a little terras in the vacation village where we had a snack and we turned out to sit at 100m of the house where my sister's family was staying (they were still at the beach as they had expected us later on).

The little house was quite cute with a comfortable living room and kitchen both viewing the garden with big windows and behind the garden a big grainfield that was in the evenings full of rabbits, cats and hunting birds and probably a lot of invisible mice. The field was bordered by dikes on 2 sides where we could see the masts of sailing boats coming by. Very relaxing get-away view! Awesome! On the side there was a practical bathroom and on the topfloor 2 bedrooms with low roofs where we all stumped our heads a couple of times (not good idea though when you have a painfull back!). It actually turned out that my sister had a soar back as well, so we were sharing medication and tips and we both took turns laying down on the sofa.

After a lazy evening together, we had a lazy sunday morning in the house and garden, after which Jan and I left for The Hague. We had reasoned that we were already close...which is true theoretically but once again, we had not that many highways leading to the Hague. So it took us as long as if we had left from leuven almost! We did take the scenic road though, across the Oosterscheldekering (part of the famous Deltaworks ) which dynamically can close of the Eastern Scheldt in stormy weather and can regulate the amount of water coming in the delta. This way the water in the former river arms can remain salty and the mussle cultivation can continue to flourish. Mmmmm Zeeland mussels, we Belgians crave them! The Oosterscheldekering was less spectacular though than I would have expected. When on top of them, you actually don't see much at all. My mom had had a maquette for years in her class and it looked so much cooler there, probably because you could operate it and you could see the part below water too.




first part of the Oosterscheldekering

We crossed other dams and see barriers and drove over dikes etc....until we reached the oil depots of the Rotterdam seaport. What a change of scenery in only a few kms! From then on we were on territory that we knew well.

The baby visit was cute. The sun came out and we were out of the wind in the little garden, so I had to take advantage of that! Finally some sun that my body and my spirits needed so much! Sun that I had given up on for the remainder of this summer! Baby Anna prooved very very calm, willing to check us out a bit from her mother's chest, only to go to sleep later. Also her big brother was just amazingly quiet, building proudly big towers. Some glasses of champagne and pieces of melon later, I moved to the shade, but it was too late. I was as red lobster with my top burned into my chest. Ooops. Not smart, I know I know, but part of me does not regret being a big sunburned at least once this summer! Woohoo no more white shoulders!

We were just in time back in Zeeland to catch my sister to come back from the beach and to get ready to go out for dinner. In a nearby little port we enjoyed the nice fish of a cook who had his training in a famous cooking school in Bruges. ha, we couldn't go wrong, would we. Delicious fish soup and different types of fish for us all, what else can you eat when there's water around on all sides?

On Monday morning we all headed out to one of the many beaches surrounding all of these islands. At the edge of some big dunes, we spread out our towels and Stef enjoyed himself running up the hill and 'swimming' down on his belly and then destroying all towers that we were constructing for his sand castle, while Jan started building trenches around our little camp as if we were preparing for an invastion. After returning from the edge of the water with stef, we found towers all around. It was a real test for Stef's discipline, but he managed to leave the towers for another 20 minutes before he threw them all down.




When the sun came fully out, it was actually time to break up again, fill the threnches and take the little man home for some food and some sleep. A good occasion for Jan and me to borrow the bikes and to go out for a ride on the dikes towards the deltaworks, despite some threatening clouds.




When getting back it was time for cake and presents as we had not celebrated Stef's second birthday yet (although for Stef himself it was the third celebration!). And too soon it was time to pack up and drive towards Belgium again. What a great short vacation. Those 2 days felt as if I had been gone a lot longer and it sure had done me good! And I fell in love with Zeeland....I actually want to spend there a longer vacatin once in the summer as well! And maybe once a weekend in winter, to go and make long walks along the water ! Zeeland...I'll be back!

Reduced mobility

After a very stressful week at work dealing with failing software, ignorant suppliers and stupid users, I was so glad that the weekend had started! Wooohoo, I had great plans: on Saturday we'd go to see one of my best friends at the Belgian coast. We had not seen each other in months, although we talk regularly, but somehow our agenda's had never matched recently to get together. A couple of weeks ago we had simply fixed August 25th "to do something together" in our agenda's. Last week I was always too stressed, too tired and lacking inspiration as to find an activity for this Saturday. Finally we both realised that we were both searching too hard for an activity: why just not get together, go for a walk and a drink and that's it? She lives near the beach in a touristic Belgian coastal city and the weather was promising, so hey, that sounded a great plan in its simplicity.

As we are then already at the coast, we'd simply drive up north one day early and go and stay at the vacation house that my sister was renting in the south of the Netherlands near the coast and a lake. We had planned to go there on Sunday and Monday but we'd show up already on Saturday night. And on Sunday we'd drive up and down to The Hague for a babyvisit with our friends there.

Lots of great plans! I was pretty excited when getting up. But then something shot in my lower back when sitting on the toilet. Aoch. Damn.

Grr getting dressed was a struggle, walking up and down the stairs was a struggle too. Darned, I did not want to cancel our plans. I wanted so desperately go and see my friend and go and visit my sister on vacation. I let Jan paint the bathroom shower on his own while I was keeping my back hot with cherry pit pillows and I spent the next hours slowly and carefully packing my little suitcase. While packing, I really wondered whether it would be a smart thing to sit for 3 hours in a car today though. You can't sit 100% straight in a car and getting in and out is risky. nevertheless I kept packing slowly including muscle cream (that type that starts feeling hot when applied) and cherry pit pillows and extra sweaters to keep my back warm and I kept hoping it would improve enough to leave.

By noon walking was a bit more easy as long as I kept my self straight up without bending or turning and when Jan was finished and ready I didn't mention my back much anymore and got in the car. I could sit straight in a chair at Sandra's place as well if things got too bad after the car ride.

Driving went fairly well and once in Knokke we went for a nice walk through town and along the beach, buying ice creams etc...I kept myself ok with some sweaters knotted in my middle as long as I held myself nice and straight but when I turned unexpectedly a bit, a big pain shot ran through my body. 'keep straight, keep straight'.

I was so glad to be there though and not having to change my plans! Woohoo the weekend could go on. Afterwards we drove to the Netherlands and arriving there, I was in a lot more pain though. Most of the evening I spent on the sofa with my legs up and with a painkiller. then it slowly improved each day.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Coincidental encounters

Despite my painful memory to my last youth camp and the insurance troubles, I had not lost my enthousiasm for the organisation. I had reached the age that I could start taking courses to become one of their youth leaders, helping organise camps and guide children on a summer camp.

I was thrown in front of a group of 14 year olds on a camp in Switserland (don't worry, together with more experienced leaders!). We danced, we sang, we played ball games, went swimming, ...but most of all we hiked in the mountains. Not all 14 year olds are that excited about hiking, nevertheless the highlight of the 10 days is a 2 day hike with an overnight stay in a cabin at the top of one of the nearby mountains. These were sometimes private owned, but other ones were occupied by students doing a summer job for the same organisation, responsible for taking care of the cabin and receiving the hungry teenagers.



Every 5 days they could come down to the valley for.. I don't even know why...to get some social contact maybe and a day off? Apperently they were down in the vacation center when I was teaching all the kids our 'camp dance' on one of the first days. Afterwards they were teasing me that one of them would have really been watching me. No big deal, they were trying to match us with every male in the neighbourhood, so I did not pay much attention to their words. Although I did ask more specifically which of the guys it was :p. Anyway...I had been too busy teaching a dance for 140 kids for the first time to notice any additional fans. Fortunately, it was hard enough as it was, to battle my nerves. But I did well. It was only a bit embarrasing that later on that day my group started singing very loudly an existing child song about a gnome with his name ...each time he walked by. Grrr nasty little buggers! Fortunately my group did not go and stay in "his cabin"!


His vacation period was over at the same moment as ours, so he actually had to go back to Belgium with the same train. You can imagine what my team was singing on the platform while waiting for the train...and again when we had to change for the chartered international train in the next city. I tried to make them stop singing when he was in the neighbourhood, but that only stimulated them even more.


So once we were well on the road and my troup was more or less behaving themselves in the assigned compartiment, I walked through the train to search him to appologise for my inpolite bunch of kids singing that mocking song. Yes he had noticed that. He wasn't too happy with the song either, but he didn't seem upset about it. We talked a bit, I learned about his student job up in the mountains and what he was studying at university etc...Some polite chit-chat and then I really had to go back to my group.



----(insert some unfosed images and make a very soap opera like jump in time!) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



After university I joined a big international consulting firm which has a constant need of fresh flesh. The economy was booming big time, the e-bubble was about to explode but we were all still ignorant about that and the company was hiring half an army of freshly graduated unexperienced known-alls. I was one of them :p. We all stuck together in this world of suits, we started general training, we went out for lunch together in the big jungle of our capital, etc... After a couple of weeks we were sent for training to Chicago so we could learn how great and fantastic our company was. Obviously we were the best and we'd achieve spectacular results.

There was another plane having technical difficulties, so our flight got filled up until the last seat. We could sit closeby each other, but not next to each other. One colleague hadn't shown up. She was very precise but nobody had seen her at check-in or at the gate and we could not reach her anymore by phone. We had waited as long as possible to board, but at one point we could not wait anymore. She'd show up in Chicago 24 hours later with an incredible soap opera story of her own ...that I should maybe steal and fictionise and post another time. But anyway, while boarding, we had no clue where she was. Obviously we were talking with each other and signalling while we were making up scenario's of what could have happened. And as soon as the seatbelt signs were off, we ran through the plane to look for her...but she was not on the plane.

When walking through the plane I had caught someone staring at us and later on I had the impression that this man was actually listening to our conversations as well. This annoyed me. Couldn't he mind his own business? Yes I know we were talking across rows sometimes or walking around, but that wasn't an excuse to openly listen along! Once I had noticed this, I started feeling eyes in my neck and I couldn't help sending an annoyed look backwards. Finally he asked us whether we were going to this training. Yes we did. It turned out that he had joined our company a couple of days after us and he had seen us in the office. But we had been too busy with our little group to notice him.

We introduced ourselves and at the moment he said his name and his hometown, I exclaimed "Yes and you were in a cabin in Switserland in '95 and you studied x". I had said that out loud before I even conciously realised recognising him. We both looked at each other in astonishment! "yes I did" he stumbled.


Talk about a coincidental encounter! Funny thing is that he would have never ever recognised me. So if I hadn't, we would have been colleagues and we would have known each other but we would have never realised that this was in fact our second encounter. By coincidence, we also left the firm in the same month. In the mean time, we became faithful lunch buddies if we were both in the office and good allies in a sometimes challenging work environment. We kept in touch online and it became a sport to fool each other with strong made-up stories...and we still do sometimes.

If a soap opera would make up such a "coincidence" with charachters from the past showing up again, I'd say it was a bit too far stretched. But hey, sometimes reality can beat fiction.



If you want to read more soap opera stories, check out Brillig or walking kateastrophe, to find other participants.

Wanted: software ghostbusters

Our software has turned nuts. Seemingly totally random people can open tasks, cannot open tasks, cannot log in, etc... When opening up random login names of colleagues appear on the screen, ...

What the hell??????

So I had the joy phoning around all the time to check who was still working, who could take over which task, where I could launch jobs for others in order to keep the process going, .telling everybody to log off so we can reboot some servers, ... while on the other hand phoning with technicians, making ever failing tests, .... Nice crisis management with moments full of stress, adrenaline, confusion and fatalism and boredom at the same time! I did not even notice the sun came out today. I only realised when going home late this evening, that I was so hot not only from stress but simply because the weather had turned out nice.

The 'good' news is we still don't know what is going on, so I am expecting a similar day tomorrow. At least I know it won't be boring. I think I am off to bed now with a stomac full of comforting take away fries!

Country without government

Leterme can pack up his ambitions to become prime minister again: his attempts to form a government coalition failed today 2,5 months after the elections. Back to start again. I did predict it would take at least all summer to form a new Belgian government. Now I think it's going to take even longer. All political parties in this country seem to be extremely stubborn this time and having completely different view on Belgian's future.

We'll probably get a Frenchspeaking politician trying to negotiate now. We have to respect a balance of course in this country, even in troubled political times :p . So I think Flemish parties won't give in at all as they probably blame Leterme's failure on the Wallonian point of view. I wonder if the Frenchspeaking parties will want to give in when the so hated distrusted Leterme is not leading the negotiations anymore.

Turkish media is apparently already putting in the news that Belgium is breaking up. Hmm I think we have more elasticity than that. It's not the first time that a government takes months get formed in Belgium. I am surprised though that nobody has moved a single bit on their points of view so far yet. Someone will have to give in though or we will never have a federal government anymore. And then we need to get new elections in the near future, as some are already predicting.

I wonder whether we'd get a Frenchspeaking prime minister. That hasn't happened in ages,...definately as long as I live! I don't think it would hurt our country.


....to be continued .

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

fall is coming

The summer smoothness of traffic seems to be over. It's clear that most people are back to work and that the roads are slowly clogging up again. Combined with the gloomy weather, it sure feels like fall has started. ....Kids, get your bags ready, school is starting soon!

...and then I am off on vacation.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Renées birthday party



Next Friday, Renée will turn 2 years old. So yesterday it was time to get together in the family for a birthday party. The restaurant had a slide, swing, inflated castle, a sand corner and there were some animals. And the predicted rain only came late at night. Needless to say that the children had a ball.


Presents presents presents





Sunday, August 19, 2007

Picture riddle: find the differences 3

It's been a while but here's another picture riddle. You know the trick: sharpen your brain and find the differences :p.

The warm-up:



A little harder:





The most difficult (but I do hope you see the difference!):


Friday, August 17, 2007

I hav a lissle pwoblem

As a teenager I prefered to go on youth camps rather than going on vacation with my parents. The latter was 'not cool' anymore, the presence of other hormone driven teenagers was prefered! During 10 days we hang around on the beaches of the Gardon river in the south of France in the shadow of the famous Roman aquaduct "the Pont du Gard" where we swam in the river, hiked, camped and played silly games. Couples got together and broke up again with great ease all around me and I was watching it all as an outsider.


I had noticed that there was one cute guy, J., in my group though. He looked quite good and he had a heartwarming smile. I wanted to get to know him better as he seemed nice but he never gave me any special attention. Too bad, I wouldn't have minded a bit more attention from his side. The camp went by and we were all having a good time.


After our 2 day hike, we all spent a lazy day on our camp terrain and for once we didn't go to the beach. Instead we started playing "Dikke Bertha" (fat Bertha), a sort of "catch me if you can" game where you all have to run from one side of the terrain to the other and the cather needs to catch you and lift your feet from the ground. If succeeded, then there are 2 catchers...it goes on until everybody is caught.
I must have been a real light weight since I was caught right from the start :p. And so I was running around like a mad woman trying to catch other people and lift them up. Sometimes you can catch them but they can snatch loose and run off again, ...the hardest thing is usually to control them and lift them up. I concentrated on J but I couldn't even stop him let alone lift him up. Every time he smoothly slalomed in between the many catchers and arrived swiftly on the other safe side. That annoyed me...I had to catch J!


Together with some other catchers we decided to work together and concentrate on J. With about 5 others we all ran towards J. We could grab his T-shirt, but we only seemed to slow him down. However that was enough for us to get a better grip and to pull him to a standstill. It was a chaotic struggle with 6 people pulling and pushing. J was proud enough not to have 5 girls catch him so he didn't give up and tried to free himself as we were trying to get organised to lift him up together. All of a sudden I feel a hard knock right in my mouth. While twisting and turning, J's elbow had landed in full force in my mouth.


Ouch!


My tongue had no freedom to move anymore as it bumped right into my upper teeth that seemed to be in the middle of my mouth now. The warm feeling of blood was spreading. My hands were covering my lips and behind them there was a gap. I knew that if I took my hands away from my mouth, my teeth would fall out. That thought horrified me. My front teeth were pushed all the way back and my tongue kept on bumping into them in a rather painful way.



In shock I had remained in the middle of the field whereas the others had not noticed immediately what had happened and had run off after J a bit. They realised quickly that I was hurt . "My zeeez, my zeeeez " was the only thing I could stumble with tears in my eyes. While the camp responsible had come and asked me to put my blooded hands down, I only shook my head. I didn't dear. Finally she pulled my hands down. My teeth didn't fall out, but I was still bleeding.

I could see in her face that she didn't know what to do right away.



The local kitchen personnel took some initiative: one of them phoned a local dental sergeon whereas the other one calmed me down "tu est en chock" "calme-toi, tout est bien" "tu es en chock" and she handed me a glass of sugar water with a straw. For the first time I had to smile and I realised what a funny sight I must be. Together with the camp responsible and the kicthen lady, we drove to Remoulins.


The dentist pushed somehow my 2 upper front teeth back in place and glued them all back together. That would last me 3-4 days, enough for me to get back home to Belgium, contact my own dentist and get a final solution. I was happy that I didn't need to take a decision about prothesis etc right away.


I phoned my sister to tell her the good news:

"Hi sissss, I hav a lissle pwoblem...my zeeezz are knocked ouzzz...you hav zsso arrange an appoinmen for denis in 2 days ..." You have to know that it was exaclty 1 month before she was getting married. I envisioned myself on all the wedding pictures with a smile as if I was 6 years old.

A new call was made from Belgium to Poland where my parents were on vacation at that moment. While I was happyly high from the painkillers and from my yoghurt diet during the last 24 hours on the camp, my parents had a sleepless night and a stressfull return to Belgium.


I came home 12 hours before them and we had not been able to contact our dentist yet. All the others from the camp decided to have a first reunion already on that same evening at the movie theatre in Ghent. So why wouldn't I join them, huh? As a result I was watching The Flinestones movie, while my worried parents got home. And when I got home I greeted them with a big grin :)



So how did it end?


Well, we were able to contact our dentist who actually returned from the coast where he was on vacation to start treating me!! I had dental surgery to remove the rooth from one tooth that had been broken off at 2/3rds. The other tooth got magically saved by the quick intervention in France. I lived for 3 weeks on a "fluid diet". Best diet in the world, I can recommend it! Weight los guaranteed and a deep hate against any yoghurt product for a long time. The surgury threats came out of my mouth, 3 days before my sister got married. I had a nice big smile when she said yes and I managed to play the flute in service even though I had hardly been able to practise!

My one tooth still needs to get decolorised from time to time. Despite everyone's predictions that it would fall out within 10 years, it still seems relatively firm after 13 years although it barely has a root.

The struggle and discussions with the camp insurance are not entirely over yet. Grr.


And J? Ha, I guess I somehow did get some special attention from him on the camp, but it wasn't quite what I had expected. J didn't really know how to behave after it happened. I give him the benefit of the doubt and think he was embarrassed. He had a very painful elbow with my teeth clearly marked into them. He never asked how I was though, he never apologised. Not very polite huh. I ran into him again at university, but he hardly remembered me. Never seen him anymore afterwards.



If you want to read more soap opera stories, check out Brillig or walking kateastrophe, to find other participants.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Treasures of the past

"Do you realise that your old desk is still full of your stuff?"
"Surely you have enough storage now in your renovated house"
"Next time you come by, you could
...

For a while now my parents had been gently but repeatedly encouraging me to finally clean out all my documents, pictures, ...and other stuff that I had left in my old room a couple of years ago when I moved to my appartment in Ghent. Since I didn't need any of it urgently, since I lived at that time at 15 min from my parent's place, since I did not have that much storage space in my appartment, I had left it in my room.

But slowly 'my room' is not longer purely my room. I have my own house now.

Since the Belgian culture has its root in catholicism, august 15th (the assumption of the virgin) is a national holiday. I took the day to indeed start sorting a bit of my past that is still stuck there in my cupboards. It's amazing what comes by: magazines about the youth camps I helped organising, a declaration to the police that my wallet got stolen 7 years ago, ....

I am not done at all but today I got home with some treasures of the past: 2 boxes of old pictures and 150 cassette tapes, .... wow, what a nostalgia trip! I've been flipping through some of the pictures lately. Memories of trips come by, family reunions etc...
Oh gosh and what the hell am I wearing in half of them? What's up with the oversized wide T-shirts? And I had such long hair, I cannot imagine anymore. I am surprised that a lot of those trips are already so long ago, I look so young in them. What? how can that be? I am not old yet, nevertheless I clearly look so 'childlike' in them.

There's also some evil thought welling up in me....I think I'll be scanning some of these in the future and facebook them. Hahah because there are quite some 'facebook' friends coming by too. Wouldn't it be nice to share them? :p

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Noooooooooooooooo

How cruel to take all my hope away : this is what I had to read in the newspaper today.

"No more summer this year. The summer of 2007 is over. The weather forecasts do not show any period with warm, dray and sunny weather anymore for the coming weeks."
"The next weeks will be like the rest of the summer: unstable, predicts De Mey. We don't have to count on a long period of nice weather in September either."

Well, they sure know how to make me depressed. That's exactly what you need to point out to me to push me down and take my energy away. I'll crawl now under my desk and cry a bit. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh.


It'd better be good weather in New England! I need some serious sun catching up to do!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bathroom progress

It's been fairly silent on this site lately about our renovations. However our house is not finished yet and my father-in-law has progressed on plastering the shower with special cement-plaster (we cannot use normal plaster since we want to paint the shower rather than putting tiles on it...normal plaster sucks up water too much).

However the bathroom still needs some other plastering finishing touch and needs to get painted and that's a job Jan and I can do together. In summer months there are so many other things to do, but we finally jumped in our working clothes again.
It was hard to get starting again at first...I really wanted to do something else, yet I also want to get this bathroom finished one day. So I had to bite through the sour apple (Dutch expression, don't know if it translates well). First you have to wrap up everything...what a dreadful secure little job. This morning it was already easier to get going again although I woke up with very very sore shoulders after sanding the shower wall.

Yesterday we did some more plastering and sanding and we've applied a very very glass fiber sheet on the wall, something we've done before in the dressing. It comes in handy when you need to smoothen old renovated walls with new walls etc.. Today we've painted the first layer. The white paint really is lightening it up...although I think we'll need to add some color, maybe around the bath and near the toilet. We'll see. We start off in white as usual and we can always add color later on. First finish the painting and then add the glass shower wall and the milk glass window towards the living room....and we can start using this bathroom! yeah.



before and after first layer of paint

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Spanish braveheart

Recently I found out that Brillig is well known among her blogging friends for her strong 'soap opera' stories. Now she invites us all together with her partner in crime, walking kateastrophe, to share our strong stories full of drama, broken hearts, emotions or actions for her Soap Opera Sunday Show.



Cool but I don't have any spectacular stories, so I thought. But this vacation period gave me some inspiration.



As a child I went always went on vacation with my parents during the summer months. We loaded up the car and my sister and I camped on the backseats. We sang a lot, I played with a doll, we waved to other Belgian cars on the road, I was following the map, ... while we were heading south. As our car at that time did not have the luxury of air conditionning, my parents always put big towels behind us on the seats. Somehow it created already a vacation feeling in the car for me. My mom always prepared her 'beachsalad' for us on the first day, so we could picknick on one of the parking lots along the highway. Those were always full of adventures, especially the very big ones in the south of France near Montpellier: hundreds of tourists, people picknicking, people refreshing themselves in the big bathrooms, all kinds of languages,... One time we were having a break on a very very hot day, when a man comes to spread out a little carpet in the grass next to us. "Ah what a great idea, I should have blown up the inflatable mattrass and have a nap in the shade outside as well", my dad said, only to realise at that moment that the man outside started doing his prayers in the direction of Mekka next to our car.

In '85 we had booked an appartment at the costa de Ahazar. We had slept overnight in the south of France and had crossed the border with Spain in the morning. In the beginning of Spain there is some kind of parking lot with a passenger hallway across the highway so that you can park on the parking going south, but cross the highway and go to the restaurant located on the parkinglot of the highway going north. We stopped there for lunch, but my parents had heard of a lot of thefts happening on such parking lots, so we parked on a spot that would be visible from the restaurant.



We took the elevator up with our big reflex camera and my parent's purses with us and crossed the highway, which I found quite exciting to see all the cars racing underneath us. While we were having lunch, we kept an eye on the car as planned. I remember that another car parked next to us and had both his passenger doors open for a while. "oh another one that is getting changed", my mom said.



All of a sudden my sister curses "Something moved in our car"

"oh it's probably the towels that waved up a bit, I left the window open a slight crack"

"No seriously, there is someone in our car"



Before we realise it, she jumps out of her chair like a launched rocket and races out of the restaurant into the hallway. At the same moment we see with our other eye indeed a guy casually stepping out of our car, getting in the other car next to it and starting to back up.



Half in panick, confused and scared we grab all of our stuff and run off as well. While wait for the elevator across the hallway we see from the window that the thief car has left and parked about 10 cars further, repeating his scenario with the open doors. 'oh damn, he is forcing the doorlock that way', my mom cursus. The elevator took ages to go up again to come and get us. My sister was in the mean time down at our car, not knowing the thief was still around.

When we finally got down, my sister was already in our car, checking whether anything had been stolen. We signaled to her that the thief was just 10 cars further, forcing another lock.



Then all things went even faster. The thief must have noticed that we were on to him and backed up with screaming tires. Once again my sister reacted fast and impulsively, running up to the thief car and clutching on to the drivers door that had its window open. For a while she could keep up with the accelerating car. Obviously she had to give up her grip and our intruder raced off the parking lot on to the highway. Her attempt to blown the horn of his car and attrackt even more attention in the hope to get help, had failed.



Within a couple of minutes the police was with us. In fact the parkign is guarded, but he knew when there was a change of guards. We had written down the numberplate but that would be of no use as he'd change his plates right away, so they claimed. Before the next toll booth, he'd have different number plates. In all our stress and confusion we'd never thought to actually take a picture, since we had the camera in our bags.



Oh well...I was shaking on my legs and incredibly proud of my big sister who got lectured by my parents though for her impulsiveness. He could have hurt her! All in all we only had a broken door lock...and a day to never forget anymore.

United 93

We are watching the movie 'United 93' on tv....I have goosebumps on my arms. Gosh this is no fiction.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nonchalant, distracted or just rude

I don't get it: you hand out a business card to a supplier, you send then an e-mail and you sign with your name. And then you get a reply with your name spelled differently.
...I reply again and sign with my name...
...and they reply again with my wrongly spelled name (although it is ok in the e-mail address).

This happens to me all the time: on internet helpdesks, in e-mails, in letters, etc...Since my name is very uncommon in French, it always gets transformed to a French equivilant. Also British people like to take a different version, although it does exist in English.


Well, it annoys me. I don't know if it is nonchalance, absent-mindedness, automatism of the others or just plain rudeness? But it annoys me. I am very close to specifying closely in capitals how to spell my name, the next time I reply to such an e-mail. Would I then be rude??

Thursday, August 9, 2007

This cracks me up each time




I love this spot! The other versions are good too, but this is the best.

....Boo....

Blubberdeblubberdeblub

Of course, we had had 3 lovely summer days...it couldn't possibly last longer huh. I'd be asking for too much.

In some towns at the coast they had as much rain in 2 hours as usually in one month with inondations as a result. The recreationpark Plopsaland got flooded and had to be closed yesterday. Today towns in the east got flooded. Now Germany starts fearing inondations.

What can I say? Blubberdeblubberdeblub?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Limburg cycler's paradise

During the previous week we had planned to finally get our hands on those last walls in the bathroom and to start plastering and paiting them so we'd be able to finishe that last room as well. We've really lost a bit of our renovating rhythm here and we should pick it up again.

But that is not really what you want to do when it's finally a nice hot sunny weekend after a real crappy summer month. I immediately envisioned me on a towel in the sun with a good book (I just generously replenished myself at the library last friday!) in our little garden. But Jan had already called his brother to ask whether they felt like joining us in a bikeride.

I was a little hesitant since last time was really fun but also left me in pain for like 4 days. I'd be a little embarrasing to drop out of breath in front of Jan's family. But if I don't make more biketrips more often, I'll never get better at it either.

Turns out that this trip was a good boost for my cycling self confidence:
* I finally figured out that I am usually riding a too small gear, causing me to peddle like crazy and wearing me out. .... hmm I really have too many gears on my bike to grasp with my brain, but I seem to improve
* Jan's brother and sister-in-law actually thought he is riding really fast: no wonder I can't keep up with him!!!


Once again I was impressed by the signaling of pleasant bikeroads in loops that the Flemish government has been developping in recent years. Little by little Flanders seems to catch up to the Netherlands as a cycling country! It was a great trip along the canal and in the woods, probably more rewarding than an afternoon on a towel. And we got to stay for yet another great summer night BBQ!














Schmeklich, es war sehr gut

Finally the summer weather got its act together, just in time for the BBQ that my sister had organised for our German relatives that hopped over. They aren't really close family but we are almost their only family as my greataunt who married a German after WWI has only had one daughter who had one daughter who only had one daughter!!! But all those generations have kept in touch with their Flemish roots.


We entertained Stef a bit while my sister and brother-in-law got all things ready.




When my family showed up, I could not remember any German. I don't know much German anyway, but I definetely cannot produce any at the fly. So as usual I was really quiet at the beginning of the evening. Especially when I wanted to play with Ben, who is 6 weeks younger than Stef, I struggled with the communication and I thought he was throwing strange looks at me as if I was making one blunder after another. Probably not, he was probably just wondering who the hell I was as. Last time I saw him, he was only a couple of months old!


Later on the evening I started to mingle myself more happily in the conversation and joined the others while inventing new German words one after another. Fortunately Nicole and Marco understand our Germish made-up words that really turn out to be Flemish words that we make sound German. Betsy, if you read this, I had to think of you and wondered what you'd make of my babbling :p.





Stef was actually thrilled that there was a baby visiting as well, more than that he had a playmate of his own age now. I guess 2 years is still to young to really play together huh. After making clear to Benedict that his toys were his own with a repeated "mine mine" and after lots of encouragement of all adults present, Stef accepted to share them with Benedict. However every so many minutes Stef had to check up on the baby only to run away with his finger on his lips "ssssht baby asleep". She was indeed a very calm very happy baby! And now that I look back to the pictures of Benedict as a baby, the ressemblance is remarkable!



Ben enjoying Stef's car






watching the stars before the little ones headed to bed

Monday, August 6, 2007

I'm into folk at Dranouter

It must have been 7 or 8 years ago when I went to the folk festival in Dranouter and I immediately fell in love with this sympathetic music festival at the French border. Since then I've not skipped many years (see proof here, here or here). This year the Friday evening line up ath the main stage with Kadril, Altan, Bart Peeters, Starsailor and Axelle Red was particularly attractive, so I convinced Jan to take Friday off as well...and off we went.


The 'parking' grassfield was already quite full so we had to hobble all the way to the end. The advantage is that less cars are coming by so it might still be possible the guess the original colour of my car unlike the first cars. Anyway, I had been smart enough not to wash my car the previous week because I know from experience that you return with a dust covered car.
Katrien often a partner in crime at Dranouter couldn't make it but we could surprise a fan in line for the ticket office with Katrien's free ticket. We did make them promise to drink lots of beer...after all our free tickets came from Alken-Maes ;).

After a traditional exploration of the festival area and the location of the tents and the little market stands and food stands while listening to Kadril at the background , we spread our blanket out at the Flamundo tent and enjoyed the atmosphere.



After a while we moved to the outside of the Kayan tent because I really wanted to hear Altan.
[flashback 12 years: I am an exchange student in Canada late at night and as usual my host dad has put one of his celtic CD's on just before he goes to bed. At first I got tired of the ever same music but slowly I had learned to appreciate this late night ritual. It started to calm me as well and after a couple of months I knew both CD's by heart. I made sure I had a tape copy before I moved on to my next host family.] From then onwards I regularly listened to celtic music and that love for the traditional celtic melodies has grown to a love for folk music in general. ...one of those CD's had a song from Altan. I don't really know Altan beside that one song but I wanted to see them and listen to them to see what else they would perform.

They bring quite traditional folk, but in a fun way that got my feet tapping on the ground again. I was just laying on our blanket outside on my back looking at the clouds and listening to the jigs and ballads from Altan. "Life is great" crossed my mind :).

As was to be expected the Kayan tent really filled up before Bart Peeters hit the stage. I knew Bart Peeters from his endless list of tv shows he presented, the comedie series he made and as a teenager I was a fan of the Radios. I had heard he was now singing again in Dutch but I didn't really now his repertorium until we saw him recently on tv with a life concert. It was great and we immediately bought the live CD on iTunes and it has played lots of times since in the car where I gladly sing it along with a loud voice :). During the concert I realised that I was not the only one knowing all the songs: there were 10000 people singing along! In his usual contagious enthousiastic style he connected with the audience and got us all going. His world music with foreign mucisians and weird instruments is really swinging, alternated with more kitchy semi-serious love songs that brought many arms waving in the air.

When Bart jumped during such a love song into the audience to hug a girl and to hand his microphone to her boyfriend who proposed to her, you couldn't hear yourself screaming anymore. When afterwards he started one of his biggest Radios hits "I am into folk", at a folk festival, the tent exploded. Whoa, great concert! And I was not the only one to think so: in some newspapers this was named one of the most memorable concerts of the summer.



We could still enjoy the end of the hyperactive Toujours Jaune and toured the stores once more. We watched some north-African Rai from Les Boukakes in the Palace tent where some people where clearly freed from any inhibition to dance as a result of their alcohol consumption, regardless their lack of dancing skills.
Dranouter really has the atmosphere of a summer village! It's very big, yet it never felt "too big" to me.


Starsailor was however very disappointing. I am not sure whether the guy is struggling with a depression, but he sure sounded like that. In the mean time we started struggling with fatigue and the cold and I started to realise that I could not put up the effort of staying 2 more hours before Axelle Red would hit the main stage. I was torn between my rational who told me that we'd soon be too tired to drive for another hour and between my emotions who had been looking forward to see Axelle Red. As usual my ratio won, especially because I also felt that Jan wasn't very motivated to stay much longer either.

Once warmed up in the car though, my usual grumpiness when tired got strongly fed by the disappointment of leaving "early" and not seeing Axelle Red while we are there. Despite the fact that I had made the choice myself, I did not manage to control my own disappointment though and not being angry at myself for being a whimp and not persisting. Pff it's hard to think clearly when being tired. Once I got into bed though, I was quickly gone to the other side of conciousness!


this was by the way an indirectly sponsored post :p.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Candid camera

I am so glad there is no candid camera in our bedroom...

now tell me ...is there a smooth and efficient (and elegant) way to change the duvet cover sheets on your own of a double bed? Everybody is running around the bed about 100 times and then pulling the corners and shaking up and pulling again , right? Right?

Greetings from Brussels

After his big blunder on our national holiday (singing the French national anthem rather than the Belgian), the jokes continue to circle about Yves Leterme. I guess he asked for it. Hehe, got this in the mail and I thought it was funny.

While he's still trying to form a national goverment, he seems to have found to make a short excursion to Brussels euh Paris, or was is Brussels after all?