Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Belgacom

Thanks Belgacom for first having a network outage in the 02 Brussels area in the morning where one of our distribution centers and one brewery could not be accessed anymore via the network. But apparently then you were only practising for the bigger work : an interruption in (all?) your international datalines during a couple of hours in the afternoon .

It sure makes a day more interesting if you cannot access the servers but you need to continue your operations. It was on my agenda to test my contingency plan this week and update it. But I had more a dry run in my mind, not a real test. I know which procedures to update now, so no need to do that over again!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

10 random facts meme

About 6 weeks ago, Luisa Perkins at Novembrance tagged me to play a 10 random facts meme. A little later she played another meme and but she wrote the following at the end 'Since almost no one responded to my last meme tag, I'm not going to tag anyone this time. ' I could feel her disappointment.
"Nooo nooo, trust me. I have commented on your first post that I would play. I just haven't done it yet, but I will."

So here I am 6 weeks later, in the sofa, wanting to post something but lacking inspiration for a story or something. An excellent moment to dig up her meme (while I am currently playing the Ralph Vaughan Williams - Tallis Fantasia music which she posted last Sunday).

So here's 10 random facts about me:

  1. I keep promises! It might take a long time but it try to keep them! ;)
  2. I am a champion in procrastionation ...but the slower my start, the more energetic and up to speed I get later on. If I get up too early in the morning, I struggle all day with fatigue and the tendency to go and rest. If I sleep in, have a long relax breakfast, read some books and "waste time",.... I'll get the urge "to do " something after a while.

    I am known at work to arrive late and to leave late. I get most of my work done in the hours before I go home rather than in the morning.
  3. I love to sleep in total darkness and silence. I don't understand that some people need light to sleep! Huh? Isn't that unnatural?
    Anyway, I am totally excited about the new windows we got a couple of weeks ago and the new light blocking curtains which we got this weekend. Woooohooo, quality sleep from now on :)
  4. I tend to study licence plates at cars and make up words from the combinations I see. Lately I am really intrigued by a bus which I often pass when I drive home. It says "KOE 917" (cow 917). Now I am looking for more driving animals :p
  5. I love recipes with mint. Mint is such a refreshing and delicious herb. Mint tea is the best. Mint in other dishes eg cucumber soup with mint, lamb with mint, .... Fantastic.
    but I hate eating mint candies. I don't like the cold sensation it gives in my mouth and it irritates my tongue and leaves me thirsty afterwards.
  6. I hate Anglo-Saxon facecloths...they are just square?? In Belgium and other European countries they form a little bag as they are stitched together at 3 sides....sooooo much more practical. Why don't they get adopted in the rest of the world? I don't get it.
  7. I love the Belgian historic cities! You should all come and visit them. So many beautiful buildings! Sometimes I get so thrilled and proud to live where I live.
  8. I learned to play the flute...but if I could do it all over, I'd probably start playing the oboe. It seems a much more mysterious instrument.
  9. I'm quite demanding for myself and other people. That's not my best characteristic.
  10. My writing always seems to be too lenghty. I have difficulty to make brief concise writing. I always elaborate. I rephrase and give examples. Even though I am afraid I bore people, even though I love to read concise messages, I don't manage to be concise myself .

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hans



Saturday evening I went to a concert from Hans (Van Cauwenberghe) in Temse together with my sister and our men. Luckily she had reserved our tickets as the amazing turnout of more than 30 people made the little polyvalent hall in the youth center almost a bit crowded :p.

But it was really fun concert though. The small crowd allowed Hans to interact well with his audience and created a houseroom atmosphere as if he was playing especially for us. Dutch songs full of feeling with a lot of attention to the accoustic music and with a lot of humor. We even got treated with slices of homecooked pizza that got distributed all along. Incredible!
But Hans always gives me a bit the feeling that he plays specifically for us as he always seems so truthfully happy to see us there. Either he's a great actor (which he is of course) or he sincerely is happy to have us in the audience. He even signed our CD's with a "to my neighbour girl" as he traditionally names us after all those years. When his band had to sign as well, they wondered how many neighbour girls he had in the audience...just 2 as a matter of fact on Saturday :-).

It's not like I've know Hans that well, as with 13 years in age difference he was studying for his exams while I was playing with my dolls in front of his house. I've seen him acting a banana in the garden while I was lurking through the window and I crossed him multiple times in the neighbourhood marching with big moves on bare feet on the middle of the street while studying his roles by heart. Did I already mention that he cultivates a healthy level of insanity??

Even though he's not quite a 'BV' (famous Flemish), I was quite proud to see him act for years in one of the most popular tv soaps on tv, ...as if I have any contribution in his career. It's cool to say to your friends in school that this actor is your former neighbour.
And while I pretend here to be his biggest fan ever, I must in all honestly admit that we hadn't seen him performing in years except occasionally on tv. But now that he started up a new band under his own name Hans and he came to play in my sister's town...we just had to go.

It is getting more and more confusing for me though as I see flashes of his dad while he's performing. It switches back and forth from his dad to himself...which is absurd since I've never seen his dad perform like that at all. Funny how people can look physically so much like their parents.

I can recommend the tour! Next Tuesday is the cultural center in Bierbeek the place to be! Check it out.

Eurosong

ooooooooooooooh it's that bi-annual time again: the Flemish Eurosong preselections have started. Yihaaa bring them on:
  • the kitch,
  • the ballads,
  • the novices still singing out of tune,
  • the flashy dresses,
  • the harsh jury critics and their adorations
  • the hyperactive enthousiasm of Bart Peeters
  • the gossips that will appear in the media soon
  • ...

I love Eurosong. I do. Great to spend a Sunday evening brainless searching for our own personal favorites. So what did tonight bring?

=> a very stereotype Eurovision song contest song mixing Celtic and Eastern influences into one big melting-pot. Lots of calculation has been happening here, but I kinda liked it.
=> 2 teenagers bringing a pop-song with contageous enthousiasm
=> Brahim bringing a good soul song. Very weird experience to see him without head though!
=> a gothic song missing the rock and being terribly out of tune. Why on earth is Katrina such a fan of her?
=> an SM act with electro-pop that certainly would draw attention and that much to my surprise doesn't sound to bad (despite my dislike for Betty). Funny kitch!

Hmm I voted for the last :p

PS: Eurosong is hot already in blogging land. Here's the impressions from Kerygma and Michel Vuylsteke.

Hup Heineken Hup

Lots of googling was going on at work on Thursday morning. Search terms used were "Heineken, S&N, Carslberg, take-over,..." . It resulted in speculations that Carlsberg would withdraw its bid as they would have problems to finance the offer, the share of S&N was under pressure, that the due dilligence negotiations would have revealed that too much profit had been assigned to the UK (-> going to Heineken) that was actually from Kronenbourg (-> going to Carlsberg), ....

But just before noon we found that the "put-up or shut-up" deadline had been extended once again by 24 hours. Hmm no news yet. The googling could stop and we could go back to work :p.

When I arrived at work on Friday morning I expected not to find any news before noon either, but much to my surprise the announcement was already on our intranet and all the newspapers.
...

So what was destined to happen was no confirmed:
"the Carlsberg and Heineken consortium made a formal offer of 800 pence per share to take-over S&N and the S&N board of directors had agreed and recommended the bid. "
You can read about it here, here, here and here (in Dutch), and here, here, here and here (in English).


If my boss ever reads this: sorry I didn't make my planning last Friday. Somehow the remainder of the day was filled by
  • colleagues coming by and talking about getting taken over by Heineken,
  • by a meeting (combined with a 5-country conference call ) with 2 of our international S&N IS directors that are based in Belgium so they could share the information they had about the concortium and the next steps to all of their IS teams.
  • by a general personel information session by our French CEO showing the same Heineken, Carlsberg slides and the next steps

We learned that it will still take 3 up to 5 months before the deal and take-over will be closed, because all kinds of legal matters need to be taken care off and the EU commission needs to study all competition situations in each country involved etc... That is if no 3rd party makes a higher offer in the mean time. And afterwards it'll take a year to split S&N between Heineken and Carlsberg. Pfff I fear that all new projects will be on hold for a long time before they can be launched. :( :(

All in all, everyone remained rather calm in Belgium (especially after our CEO promised not to start selling 'karnemelk' in the cantine...whaaahaa he's funny). We had all seen it coming and now we're waiting to see what happens next. We didn't have to deal with the emotions as the Scottish who see one of the last remaining Scottish firms disappearing from the London Stock exchange and the last UK owned brewery going to foreign hands. Personally I see change as an opportunity for new projects and I hope they come soon. I hope Heineken will prove to be a dynamic firm.

And now I have to start training to get rid of our Belgian automatism to make very insulting jokes about Dutch beer and some brands starting with an H. Oh gosh that is not going to be easy! ;)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I must gooooo!

This afternoon this arrives in our e-mail

"Hi all,
Tomorrow morning between 9 AM and 1 Pm there will be an interruption in the water supply in our headquarters.

Please take into account that the toilets will have no water either during those 4 hours".
Huh??? "take into account". What do they mean by that? Are we forbidden to go to the toilet? Are we supposed to hold ourselves during 4 hours? Or are we allowed to go without the ability to flush the toilet? Were they offering us any solution or alternative such as lots of buckets of water or a rented toilet somewhere or something????
And shouldn't they warn about anything else e.g. how was the cantine going to prepare all the dishes?
I had already heard that there was a leak in the water supply coming to our office, which is standing a bit remotely. Clearly last week's flooded toilet was not the only plumbing problem around the building :(. And I understand things need to get fixed and that requires probably closing off the main supply line for a while.
But can they truly demand that you are present in an office without sanitary provisions during 4 hours?? I don't think they can without taking measures of some kind!! Those who know me well know that you can totally stress me out by forbidding me to go to the toilet during a certain time. In that case I must go even more.
Since my morning meeting got cancelled and I can technically work from home, I told my boss I'd arrive in the office at the start of the afternoon. He didn't protest so that's nicely arranged. I took it into account, right?
update:
I had a good morning at home, drove to work since I had meetings in the afternoon and there I discovered that somehow the water had just been cut off at noon. 6 hours later, it was still off and the toilets are in the mean time disgusting as you can expect. There was no communication whatsoever to explain the delay in the interruption. Great.
Let's hope we have normal sanitary provisions tomorrow! ....or I could hang out at home again. Hmmmm, tempting.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Will I change employer next week or not, ..that's the question?

If you want to know...follow this type of stories in the news this week! Do I get a Dutch flag ready (if Heineken and Carlsberg succeed they will split up S&N and Heineken will acquire Alken-Maes who is my employer)? Or stil a Scottish one? Or maybe a totally different one?

I sure have my nose in the newspapers this week!

What I could have blogged about last week

So I was a bit quiet last week because my energy levels were pretty low. Each night I went to bed early, got a good night, got up refreshed....but by the time I got home again in the evening I felt dead tired again. The days simply seemed too long and besides work, not much other activities were happening.

So you missed potential blog posts about :


  • A very cosy cheese fondue evening with my cousin visiting us.
  • A system user at work being so frustrated that her computer frooze again and took it out at me and threw down her phone receiver in the middle of the conversation....after which I felt pretty angry and went over to her desk to tell her not to react so childish when I was trying to help her. ...after which I still remained pretty pissed off for another while nevertheless.
  • the time that I walked to the coffeemachine at work in the late afternoon and heard a lot of water falling in the men's bathrooms and saw water starting to flow into the hallway. Nice to find out at time or I might have arrived the next morning at a flooded desk :p.
  • the frustration that cleaning new windows takes much much longer than anticipated and also the joy of having 'clean' new windows.
  • the fact that I am still reading after Jan 10 in "the road to Mecca'. We've been already through Andalusia, Marocco, Algeria and Libia.
  • the second episode of Spam wasn't as funny as last week. Maybe it was due that I wasn't so dead tired anymore as the previous week and therefore not so giggly about everything.
  • Jan has baked terrific Greek olive bread sandwiches. Mmmmm. I want more of them!
  • ...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Quiet

I'm tired lately.
Although I am not working on any major project right now, the day-to-day ad-hoc follow up of thousands little things at work keep me much busier than planned.
I have tons of thoughts racing through my head lately making it rather unclear and I can't distill any structure in it.
My nose is running slightly, but it's not like I am having a cold yet.
I can't keep up with all of your posts, my feed reader is exploding.
The pictures I wanted to post about Bruges will not get posted tonight either.


I guess I am a bit quiet online lately. Oh well, so be it... I am off to bed now! Have a good night of sleep.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I was reading on January 10th!

Soccer Mom in Denial launched this brilliant plan to promote reading: on January 10 we'd skip posting on our blog and reading electronic feeds etc....on January 10th we'd pick up a book and read! Since I love reading it was not difficult to jump on the bandwagon!



During my Christmas vacation I took the time to read 'The Kite Runner'. I started the year reading "Sold" from Zana Musen. It tells her shocking life story when she was growing up in Birmingham but got sold by her dad and was forced to live for 8 years against her will in Yemen before she managed to escape.



After 2 books about islamic countries with rather shocking stories , I decided to balance it off with yet another book about the islamic world. Why not make it a theme winter, right? Believe me, after this, I'll be back to a good simple "who dunnit" detective without too much sense of realism ;).



But now I am enjoying "De weg naar Mekka" (the road to Mekka) by Jan Leyers. He is a Belgian singer mostly known from the succesful group Soulsister. Some of you might know "The way to your heart" from Soulsister which even got high in the US hit charts! After Soulsister dissolved, he started a solo career as singer-song writer but he also became a tv host of talk shows and cultural programs. (by the way Soulsister just reunited and is going on tour again!)



After 9/11 Jan Leyers rode his motorcycle following the route taken by one of the Crucades as a TV documentary "De schaduw van het kruis" (the shadow of the cross). His style is a bit like Michael Palin but with more interviews. I read that book and really enjoyed it and found it very educational and entertaining.
In 2007 his travels through the islamic world are broadcast on tv in a succesfull tv series where he meets ordinary people in the street in all the countries but also interviews imam's, professors, visits koran schools, etc etc... He tries to learn whether we are really dealing with a clash of cultures or not. It was very very interesting so when the book was published this fall....I bought it for Jan.



And now I am reading it before he even got a chance. After my islam horror stories in the 2 previous books, I figured it'd be nice to get a more balanced view on the islamic countries by reading this book myself. I've not progressed very much, but it's very interesting. I really like his smooth writing style, the descriptions of the places he visits and the people he meets.


Too bad for the Englishspeaking, but the book is not translated in English yet! But I recommend it to those who can read in Dutch!



SPAM

Hihi, I am still giggling about the new satiric newsprogram on CANVAS. Well done, this will become a hit. Great humor to end a long working week with full of well-found sharp references to the news of the past week.

Aaaah, it's great to discover good new tv programs!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Reminder


Don't come over here tomorrow! Pick up a book as we will all be reading. Check out Soccer Mom in Denial to read more about the initiative!


Before and After

From old wood full of little curves to alumium frames and a stricter plasterwork with more symmetry...




Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mwah

You read the story elsewhere. We all seem to experience the same thing: we start a blog for multiple personal reasons such as keeping a journal of our lives, staying in touch with friends abroad (hello there in the Kootenays!!! I miss you), ...


but then someone leaves a comment and you are totally thrilled. You know some other people who have a blog and they refer once more to other blogs and out of curiosity you start reading some other blogs as well. And something touches you and you leave a comment on their blog as well. After a while you get the feeling that you start knowing some other people a little since you keep track of their daily adventures, rants, challenges, successes and since they keep track of yours. And when you write a new post, you don't only hope that your real life friends come by to have a look and if you're lucky even leave you a comment, but you also hope that your blogging friends will stop by as well.


Jenn in Holland is one of them and apparently she has the same experience with blogging. It inspired her to award us with a new award:


"It's my desire to hand some of that love and kindness back around to those who have been so very, very, very good to me in this bloggy world. My hope is that those who receive this award will pass it on to those who have been very, very, very good to them as well.It's a big kiss, of the chaste platonic kind, from me to you with the underlying 'thanks' message implied."





Thank you Jenn for this big bloggie kiss! And all of you in that bloglist on the right hand side....consider yourself bloggie kissed as well.

special request


Double Glass

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah we have new windows!

And this time we paid them to plaster as well, as we didn't feel like getting into our plastering habits anymore ourselves. They'll finish off tomorrow.

Double glass, more warmth, less noise....wooohoo.




PS: yes we were able to get some signs from friends. Thanks J & K!!

Sieve

I have already introduced Looking into in the past: a joint venture photoblog of Allison at Soccer Mom in Denial and Jenn in Holland. Each day they continue to share their beautiful view on the world.


Last month they've already published one of my pictures and today I am the guest photographer at Looking into once more. Please go and check it out over there!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Expensive?

In the news in Belgium today (eg here or here) : the cost of styding in Belgium has risen x2,5 over the last 20 years. A student at university without a grant who lives at home with his/her parents needs currently about 2000€ for a year (tuition, books, computers, socio-economic activities, transport, ...) . 20 years ago the average student needed 1030€ for the same thing. When they have to rent a room, it runs up to 5000€.

.....

  • 250% over 20 years is more than an average inflation indeed
  • 5000€ is not something you can throw on the table just like that
  • we have one of the highest tax levels in the world (2nd place after France?) and we expect something in return
  • ....
    ....
  • But can we maybe realise how lucky we are to live in a country where qualitative studying is affordable for almost everybody without getting totally ripped off ?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

American presidential candidates

Now that I have less to blog about the Belgian political situation, I could start following the American elections.

I already found an interesting Dutch tool to determine your own personal "compass" for the American elections. Apparently I should vote for John Edwards. His position is somewhere in the middle of all the liberals, who seem to position themselves quite closely to each other whereas the republicans have more differrences among themselves. At least, according to this tool. I have no idea how accurate it is, but it's interesting as a first introduction.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Nemo 33


Yesterday we went scuba diving with the diving club in nice clear water of 33° (86F). And we only had to travel half an hour far....to Nemo33. This is the world's deepest pool located at the edge of Brussels, specially designed for divers with a platform at 5 m, one 10m with lots of windows at the restaurant/bar, a passage way with 2 air-filled caves at -7m and -9m and a deep pit going down to -33m.

There are quite strict rules on what you can take inside (no own material except goggles , fins and computer), how much time before admittance you have to register, who can enter the building (+12 years only), ... And 'naturally' in Brussels you have difficulty getting any drink ordered, getting any information, ...when you ask your questions in Dutch. Grrrr, how hard can it be to serve a glass of water in Dutch? Or to explain the rules which get announced out loud every hour in both Dutch and French? Brussels is such a great bilingual city (grin).

But the dive was quite nice. I had not been diving in the last 10 months but it went much better than I had anticipated. Obviously diving in a pool isn't as exciting as diving in the wild nature, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. Since my diving buddy had difficulties clearing her ears, we didn't manage going all the way down, but that's fine by me. 21,5m is my record nevertheless and I'm sure we'll go back sometime with the club, so I can get to those 33 meters another time.




Everybody waving at the parents and supporters in the bar



Smile...you're on camera





Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year's Dive in Scheveningen

If I didn't convince you in my last post yet that the Dutch are a little crazy, read about this tradition: on the first of January at noon, thousands of them race into the cold North Sea. The little dip in the cold water (4°C) would wake them up and cure them from any hang-over they'd have.

This year there were 10000 of them in Scheveningen (there are more dives elsewhere in the Netherlands but Scheveningen is the main one) and there were 2 crazy Belgians that joined them in the frenzy....and 2 Belgian women and kids watching from a safe far distance ;).



The atmosphere and wacko music was ready




The sponsor was present




The crowd was ready





And off they went at noon




Splash splash splash Brrrrrr


Are these the 2 brave Belgians??



Ah no ....here are our 2 brave Belgians!

New Year's Eve in The Netherlands

I hope you've all had a very pleasant New Year with a fancy party or just a cosy evening at home, as you like it the most!

We had the pleasure to spend the evening with very good friends of us in the Hague. While arriving in the late afternoon, we figured that there was a house on fire in one of the neighborhood streets as a thick black smoke came out of the street...but it only turned out to be kids already setting little fires and exploding little bombs hours ahead of midnight!






We had a splendid evening with loads of excellent seafood, champagne and fun little kids to play around. It was a very relax evening among friends, exactly as I had expected it to be.


The entire evening there was already fireworks in the neighbourhood going off. So we had to teach the children that this was a fun thing; that it was nothing to be afraid off in order to prepare them for the inferno that would burst loose at midnight. With every boom we enthousiastically cheered "yeaaah fireworks!". We know that in the Netherlands, just about everybody launches heavy fireworks. There are strict regulations, stricter than in Belgium, which results in a Dutch invasion in Belgium in December in any shop that sells fireworks. In Belgium there is also ever more fireworks launched by citizans in the street but it is not yet comparable with what happens in the Netherlands at all.


When the clock had struck 12 and all the wishes and kisses had been exchanged we got out of the door to enjoy the spectacle. People nextdoors were rolling out a few meters of bombthingies in the middle of the road, after which they set the thing on fire. Cars driving by had to simply avoid the fireworks on the street. Those bombthingies were rather popular, other neighbours had them as well later on.




A couple of houses further on the other side, one after the other great professional looking fireworks were launched from a bottle at 2 m in front of them on the sidewalk. Nutters, what if it falls down at the moment of getting launched???? Across the street one big cardboard box of fireworks after another got unloaded from the back of a car. There surely isn't an economic crisis in the Netherlands if they can buy so much fireworks! It was fun but I must really admit that I did not always feel at ease at all. With the smoke in the air and light flashes near and far and sizzling sounds coming by, I sometimes wondered how different this really was from a city getting bombed (thinking back at CNN images of Sarajevo or Bagdad or something). Only people wouldn't be there outside cheering with a glass of champagne in their hand as their reality would be a little different than ours!

If you don't believe me, also check out Jenn's testimony of her fireworks experience in the Netherlands!


And you know what the biggest wonder was: while some explosions were so loud that I ducked down and lost half of the champagne in my glass, the toddlers in the house slept through it all!