But we succeeded and it's wonderful now to walk around on our socks (with floor heating underneath) on the soft smooth wood that looks so much healther.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
But we succeeded and it's wonderful now to walk around on our socks (with floor heating underneath) on the soft smooth wood that looks so much healther.
This government is mainly made up by the same ministers as the former with some shifts. Yves Leterme and Jo Vandeurzen who will both be subject to a parlementary commission investigating the "Fortis" deal do not come back and some more ministers have been replaced, but most faces are familiar.
They have the intention to continu until the next federal elections in 2011 rather than being a temporary government that would stop in June 2009 when there's already regional elections planned. Hmmm, we'll see. Who's placing a bet that by mid 2009 new quarrels and (regional) election stress make them give/break up anyway?
Monday, December 29, 2008
2. Real tree or Artificial?
Artificial tree....it's so sad to see a real tree dying in your living room, although I miss the smell of a real tree though. And matching branches by color code in a holder doesn't really get you in the Christmas mood. But once it's done, I like it.
3. When do you put up the tree decorations?
When Sinterklaas is back to Spain (so after Dec 6th)
4. When do you take the tree down?
When the 3 kings are back home (Epiphany on Jan 6th)
5. Do you like eggnog?
They don't sell it in Belgium, but I like it because it's a Canadian memory (even though I never tasted it I think)
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Check it out here
8. Easiest person to buy for?
People who have moved into their first owned house :-)....lots of potential presents
9. Do You have a nativity scene?
Nope...I'd like to have one one day, but I'm not searching for one actively
10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Both depending on how personal the contact is and whether I have the postal addresses.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
can't have been that bad as I don't remember anything right now.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
"Little match girl" ....a movie we had on video starring the little girl from the Cosby Show. Brought me to tears each time I watched it as a child but I loved it.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Dec 23 or something :p...so imagine the look on my face during a recent trip to Ireland in NOVEMBER when a waitress asked me whether I had finished my Christmas shopping yet. I should have answered her that I had even finished my Easter shopping for 2010 already!
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
16. Lights on the tree?
Yes of course!! White ones
17. Favorite Christmas song?
18. Travel for Christmas or stay home?
Travel the full hour to our parent's place :)....unless they come to our place.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
I wouldn't have a clue. How many are there? Rudolf I, Rudolf II, Rudolf III, Rudolf IV, ...
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Neither, currently I have a ribbon. We used to have the traditional "Piek" at home but that seems out of fashion in the last decade.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Lame songs in the stores
23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
Red-Gold-White....although any theme is ok as long as there is a theme!
24. Favorite Christmas dinner?
Fondue or Gourmet....cosy and no stress for anybody
25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
Saturday, December 27, 2008
There is a very special reason for that. It's because January 8th is a day to read. You remember the real reading in those things that we call books? A whole bunch of papers full of print with numbered pages to turn in between 2 cardboard sheets. And if that's really really to hard, read a magazine or something, anything printed that you hold in your hands.
You ask why? Well, Soccer Mom in Denial has a very good reason to launch this day for the 2nd year in a row. This is what she tells us:
Because according to a report released last year reading books is linked to civic engagement. This National Endowment for the Arts reports that young folks aren't reading like they used to. Get this:
- only 30% of 13-year-olds read almost every day
- the number of 17-year-olds who never read for pleasure increased from 9 percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004 - that is 1 in 5 kids don't read for fun
- Almost half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 never read books for pleasure
- The average person between ages 15 and 24 spends 2 to 2 1/2 hours a day watching TV and 7 minutes reading
According to Diane Gioia, the Chair of the NEA,
"The poorest Americans who read did twice as much volunteering and charity work as the richest who did not read. The habit of regular reading awakens something inside a person that makes him or her take their own life more seriously and at the same time develops the sense that other people's lives are real."
A year later, that quote still gives me chills. It shows that reading can transcend poverty, help people think beyond themselves.
That is why I'm asking folks, myself included, to take time one day in January to stop blogging - for the entire day or part of the day - and use the blogging time to read. Last year over 100 folks got in touch with me to say they were suspending blogging for the day to read. So read a book. A magazine. A newspaper. Take the button and please paste it in a post as well as your sidebar (link back to http://denyingsoccermom.blogspot.com/2008/12/day-to-read-2009.html). Write about this. About what books, magazines, newspapers mean to you. Write a couple of posts about writings that have taken you to another place. Then Thursday, January 8, 2009 turn off your computer and read. Then on Friday, January 9th, write a bit about what you read.
I don't need a fixed set day in order to pick up a book. I love reading. Books are fun and I hope you think so to or I hope you are willing to discover so. On the other hand, I am not nearly reading as much as I'd like too. TV, computer, other media are all so demanding on me and I give in. And I'm always surprised by how long it takes me to finish a book.
So I'll be in again this year.
If you want to know what I was reading a year ago, check it out here. Or simply click on the label books below to find some more books I loved last year! If you play too, make sure you leave soccer mom in denial a comment so she can add you to her list.
I am really curious to see on Jan 9th (or 10th or ...) what you've been reading. Since I'll be recovering from some minor medical action myself, I might need some extra tips (yes that again, it has turned into a recurring problem...this time planning to get rid of it for good and planning to give myself enough time to rest and recover...and read)
Friday, December 26, 2008
- A lazy morning
- Walking in the freezing quiet city
- Going shopping with my sister and buying the perfect jewels and shoes that match the white dress.
- Smiling at a little boy who loves his chocopudding
- Eating "gourmet" (don't know the term in English...it's not the English word gourmet) with a glass of red wine
- Moving all furniture to one side of the living room to scrub the floor in order to prepare it to get oiled tomorrow
- Phoning my dad who is home since Christmas Eve by the way!
- Procrastinating in front of tv
- Soaking in a hot bath
I hope the remainder of my Christmas vacation looks like this :)
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I sure need to do a lot of channel surfing on the radio in December and I never need to put on CD's.
But since 3 years there's a new radio tradition in Flanders (longer already in the Netherlands): Music For Life . 3 radio DJ's from Studio Brussel lock themselves up in a (mostly) glass house without solid food, present for 6 days non-stop while listeners can come by and request music in exchange for a gift. All receipts go to a forgotten disaster and related Red Cross projects. It's been landmines, lack of clean water previously and this year's theme were mother and children refugees. Last 2 years the glass house was in Leuven but this time it had moved to Ghent (lots of pictures and reports at Gentblogt).
Music for Life indirectly modified my vacation plans as my colleague had already requested vacation 6 months ago during this MFL period as they were training for a big sponsored walk of 81kms to the glass house for which they raised more than 8000 euro! He was not the only one organising something. The newspapers reported that Music for Life was already a hype 4 days before its kick-off with a record amount of actions registered at the Red Cross. When listening to the radio the last week, you'd think every school, company, youth organisation, student pub, ... had been running for money, washing cars, selling cookies, organising Christmas markets, etc... So heartwarming and moving.
The campaign tv-spot was right on: the intro of a very popular prime-time soap called "Home" is played but instead of the normal actors you see images of refugees. Very much an effective smack in the face!
Nevertheless it was hard to predict if last year's record amount would be able to get broken, knowing the financial and economical crisis etc and the government's resignation (last year the federal government had topped off the amound with 1 million €, a third of the total amount).
But the record was broken again and a great 3,5 million got raised (1 million from the federal government after all was "given", ...although they can only execute the actual payment as soon as there is a government again :p).
Great great news, great way to start Christmas Eve. Although I can't get the critical side-note published in De Morgen out of my head either: It's very easy to be all sympathetic and warm and fusy with the far-away image of those poor refugees...but not a word is being said about the situation of the "illegals " in our own country that we want to go home. Are those a sort of refugees as well ? That makes you think, right?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
But the king, after many many consultations, had refused the resignation of the prime minister. In order to solve the problems, the state reform negotiations were transferred to the regional governments and got out of the federal spotlights. By the end of september the radical Flemish nationalistic NVA, the political party linked in a kartel to Leterme's party CD&V , lost its patience with their big brother in the government and the lack of results. NVA decided to break-up the kartel and no longer support the government. Pheww, that did relieve some of the negotiation stress on the federal government and gave them some more breathing space to govern while their regional colleagues would now negotiate about a new future state structure.
And then the financial crisis hit our country and the biggest Belgian (-Dutch) bank FORTIS got into trouble at the end of September. While Lehman Brothers got bankrupt, Iceland became a broke country, our government got together with their Dutch and Luxemburg colleagues and nationalised Fortis on 28th of September. The Belgium government got the Belgian part (the one that was in trouble!), the Dutch government got the Dutch part (healthy) etc...
Leterme was glimming with pride on the press conference, finally able to show off his power to make swift decisions for the first time in his government.
But the stock markets were not convinced, the actions for Fortis were crashing further, rumours about new trouble arose and in the weekend of Oct 5th our government quickly sold the Belgian Fortis to the French PNB Paribas. By this action, Leterme had prevented Fortis of going bust and Belgium going bankrupt and had he saved the savings of so many Belgians according to him.
He had probably not expected the wave of Belgian protests since thousands of Belgians had lost an incredible amount of money in the shares of Fortis (formerly considered one of the most safe, stable and robust companies) which had now become worthless. They soon gathered in a law firm who contested the sale of Fortis without consultation of the share holders.
Leterme also claimed on Dutch tv that the European commision wasn't available that weekend and could not be reached. The Dutch Commissioner Neelie Kroes simply called Leterme a liar as a response, something that was wildly covered by international press and put some shadows on Leterme's proud actions.
The first court dealing with the Fortis sale decided that the government had had no other option that weekend in such an urgent and serious situation and that therefore the sale without share-holder consulation had been legal. But the share holders didn't accept that just like that, so they went into appeal. On Dec 12th the court of appeal put the sale on hold and frooze all the decisions taken. From then on the government started cursing at the share holders, blaming of putting the country at risk, and trying to find a way in continuing the sale anyway . All analysts say that the situation in the mean time is totally different though and that there are plenty of different options to look at: a merger of different Belgian banks, further nationalisation of Fortis, ....
But the government clearly didn't want to consider any other options, stubbornly holding on to their first action taken.
And then the rumours rose about contacts between the court judges and the government and their kabinets. On Dec 16th Leterme gave the parliament an overview of contacts that have taken place between his team and judges or their relatives etc... in a letter. His coalition partners didn't even know about this before he talked to the parliament which hurt their trust in him.
The next day the president of the Court of "Cassatie" (the highest court in Belgium), Gishlain Londers, sent a letter to the president of the House of Representatives declaring that there's clear indications that the government has tried to influence the court's functioning and decisions.
Those are serious allegations that touch the base of our democracy: the independance of the different powers. For all was clear that Leterme was dead and all demanded his resignation. Yet the government itself declared that there was a war going on between institutions and that they had done nothing wrong.
Leterme (coming from Ypres) acted as a lonely soldier in the trenches, continuing to fight and being oblivious that the battle was already lost. Or as Yves Desmet wrote in his editorial : the government had been shot dead by the letter but they didn't realise they were politically dead already. So they asked to shoot again: they asked Mr Londers a new letter with more explanation, which he did. On Dec 18th a new letter was received by the parliament stating once more that there are clear indications of influence (a judge's husband, CD&V party member, phoning with the kabinet of the Prime minister, a judge claiming to be ill, more contacts and phone calls). The ministor of Justice immediately resigned at that moment and an hour later Yves Leterme announced the resignation of the entire government....Clearly he didn't want to take the blame alone and took everyone with him. Another political crisis, this time Belgium and its structure was not the point of discussion. The government Leterme I has lasted exactly 9 months.
Somehow I don't think this government truly wanted to influence the court judges. I think they are just such control freaks and didn't think another phone call would do any harm. Stupid if that was the case!!!
And so the king Albert II is busy again, receiving politicians and looking for a way out. No Christmas vacation for him and the recording of his traditional Christmas message had to be postponed as it's not clear what he is supposed to say now (and the message needs to get approved...by the government. hahaha) (although they worked around that on our national holiday as well somehow as on July 21st we were without government as well). And as they showed on the news (reporters are camping at the gate anyway), the queen had to go out on her own as her husband was busy. Did you know she drives the cutest small Italian white Fiat? Pretty cool that she can drive around on her own by the way without a series of security cars behind her tail.
We'll probably get a new government with the same political parties, but some other players (Leterme is not getting on stage anymore for sure) and I'm pretty sure they only try to stay on road until the regional and European elections in June. ....I dare to bet for a lot of money that in June we'll have regional/European AND federal elections all together. By then they need to figure out a way to organise legal elections though if they haven't managed to split up the electoral district around Brussels yet (background here). I think that would be a good thing as the same political parties would be in the coalitions so less competition between regional and federal levels as well. The only ones who oppose to a temporary government is the CD&V. Hmm would they fear losing a lot of votes? I wonder why? They'd better use those 6 months to finally show what good government looks like.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
I've done the things in bold.
1. Started your own blog (dugh, where do you think you are reading this)
2. Slept under the stars (at the World Youth Jublilee in Rome and in Cologne)
3. Played in a band (euh playing the flute in band at school doesn't count I suppose, neither a chamber music group at the acadamy as it was part of my mandatory curriculum?)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (yes in Anaheim California with a group of fun crazy exchange students in '96)
8. Climbed a mountain (depends what you name climbing a mountain....I did plenty of easy hikes in the mountains, sometimes to a top though)
9. Held a praying mantis (nope, I caught a lot of grashoppers as a child though, we shook them very hard in our hands and then sold "tame" ones to the neighbours who were crazy enough to buy some. The poor grasshoppers had such a concussion that they didn't move anymore the first 10 minutes).
10. Sang a solo (yes at RYLA I had to sing my national anthem and since I was the only Belgian there, I had to sing solo. Then again, nobody knew what I was singing and whether it was correct. Actually I don't know the Belgian national anthem like many Belgians don't, so I sang a Flemish one).
11. Bungee jumped (yikes, that'll never become bold!)
12. Visited Paris (yes with school and for work)
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning (hihihi, this list has a Flemish version and 16 has "Eaten in the Come Chez Soi (a top star restaurant in Brussels) So funny they replace food poisoning with the Come Chez Soi. Neither options are bold though).
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
- Flemish version: been inside the upper boll of the Atomium
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (yep on the schooltrip in Paris)
20. Slept on an overnight train (yep coming back from one of the many Switserland camps)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked (yep from the Red Mountain skihill in Rossland, BC back to town, in the back of a pick-up truck)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort or a sand castle (yes many many sand castles, still building them with my nephew every summer)
25. Ate lamb chops (mmmmmmmmmmmm)
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon (nope, never will do so either)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse (I was in Canada when there was a total eclipse in Belgium. :( )
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
Flemish version: scored at Korfball
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (yes not very difficult for most Belgians)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (several of them, at school though)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied 3
8. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing (in high school)
40. Seen Michelangelos David
41. Sung karaoke (I think it was "Girls wanna have fun" from Cyndi Lauper)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa (yep Egypt is an African country)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight (each vacation)
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (pff no too many people, too expensive, wasn't interested)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (yes yes yes scuba diving of course, multiple times!)
52. Kissed in the rain (eum, since Belgians kiss to great each other, probably yes. But I don't think I've been making out in the pouring rain yet though)
53. Played in the mud (yep, sold mud pies to the neighbours too as a kid. We had a mudbad in Turkey as well)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater (ah yes, a good old Canadian memory)
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Been in Russia (yes, in Moscow)
60. Served at a soup kitchen
Flemish version: "served soup"...(yes plenty of times, I love soup)
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (on Vancouver island)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (I should! I really should)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (checks??? Checks don't exist anymore in Belgium for quite a while now)
Flemish version: at the cash register with a blocked bank card
68. Flown in a helicopter (with the avalanche control team above the mountains in British Columbia to check up on the Highway 3 Summit pass)
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy (there's all still at my parent's place and my nephew now plays with them when visiting)
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar (yup, in Moscow. I like it)
72. Pieced a quilt (don't have the patience for that, and quilts are not very "fashionable" here either)
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (yep with those same exchange students from point 7. We hiked it all the way down and up in a day. Hot hot hot and dusty. But the best experience of our 2 week tour!)
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican (at the World Youth Jublilee in Rome )
82. Bought a brand new car (I've been spoilt and driven company cars for 9 years now)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (hehe, hard not to get in the Canadian local newspaper if you are a foreign exchange student in a small town. I think I was at least in it once a month).
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox (no I'm vaccinated as a child and once again at high school in Canada)
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (how do you define famous? my childhood neighbour is a tv actor)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person (who's that?)
Flemis version: seen Adamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day (I did that all the time as a kid. One day I finished 4 books)
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
But it's broken since last week. Very very inconvenient as I'd really need it right now. My agenda, already quite full as it is, got extra filled with crashing servers and incompetent suppliers requiring late night evening shifts at work and with frequent trips to the hospital and due to some sleepless nights with some urgent required catching up of sleep.
So without telepathy I don't manage to post regularly anymore. Oh well, i'm sure you can do without me for a bit.
I'll leave you with a beautiful picture Jan took in Reims and that totally fits the time of the year. Enjoy.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Marzipan fruits and other marzipan figures! The bakery displays in Belgium are a true delight for the eye at the moment!!! (and the stomac obviously)
"Mariaatjes" or Mary figures. I've never seen them anywhere abroad. The closes I can describe them is marshmallow...but they are not marshmallow though.
Nic-Nac's... or little cookies that get thrown out in great quantities by Zwarte Piet. There's the "letter" version or those iced gems with colorful sugartops.
Speculoos cookies, once again often in the figure of Sinterklaas himself.
One thing we do NOT eat at Sinterklaas is pepernoten. Sinterklaas knows the Belgians have good taste ;)
It really is already December 6th and yet I met Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten in the sportcenter today. It looks like he's working
As was to be expected last Wednesday was a long and exhausting day. My dad went into neurosurgery to get "Deep brain stimulation" to treat his symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
The meticulous procedure took 8,5 hours and takes place without any anesthetics. My dad had to stay awake and participate in small motoric excercises when some test electrodes got inserted, attached to the stimulator and their effect measured. In the end one final electrode got inserted in each brain side. My mother and sister were alternating in the surgery room to assist my dad. Needless to say my dad was completely exhausted when his bed got wheeled back in the room.
The doctors gave him now a few days to rest, but in the coming weeks they'll have to work and test the most optimal stimuli. So it really is too early to know the end result yet, but my dad is already on a very low dose of medication. So we took the first hurdle and we cross our fingers for the coming weeks. Another surgery is scheduled to implant the electrode's wires and the neurostimulator in the abdomen. .....
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
often sleepless nights,
are your tough reality
to get surgery
Hope, joy, fear and stress
Your future gets defined now