Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gnome city

It's mushroom weekend in the forests this weekend !  But we only need to step out of our door to see the different types of fungi spectacularly flourishing everywhere.


It's fall!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Made in Belgium: Das Pop

Das pop   originated in Ghent and brings unpretentious , somewhat kitschy  but surely catchy pop tunes.

Since Bent Van Looy, the singer, participated last year in the tremendously popular quiz series 'The slimste mens' (the smartest human) and made it to the final, the band now finally has a face to me.  When I hear them on the radio I can't help visualising Tintin and I can't help but finding them tremendously sympathetic, spontaneous & smart :p





You - 2002


Underground - 2009


Wings - 2009

Monday, September 27, 2010

Clothing

Visible breath in the morning but with a bit of sun at noon quite enjoyable at best or chilly and gloomy at worst....aaah this weather drives me nuts when I have to pick my clothes in the morning.  It's been rainy and grey for weeks now so my nice white linnen skirt hangs forgotten in the closet and combining it with black leather boots would be totally redicilous.  So jeans once again???   Or do I have some more dressed pants that are not too winter looking but that do not require too open dressed shoes either?  Do sneakers combine with winter pants anyway?
But a cotton shirt of blouse is way too cold in our old office, where the calender rather than the temperature is apparently the only objective criterium to turn the heating on  (4 more days....4 more days of warming my hands at my cup of tea!!!).  But I am not ready yet to wear a high collar thick sweater !!!  And they don't fit under my narrow blazer...If I take out a real winter jacket already, I'll melt though.


I hate those weeks where neither the winter neither the summer clothes seem approriate and nothing combines anymore.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

While paint was drying...

we went out for a walk in the cold rain in the woods near the German border.  Despite the weather that reminded me that winter will arrive very soon in this area   (note to self:  buy extra scarf, hat, gloves and bring them over),  the landscapes along this short easy walk was quite stunning.

The Ruhr river, known for the big industrial area in Germany, starts in these magic boglands  and flows gently for a bit through Belgium before crossing the border.



Some more boglands with a beautiful little black lake


The Schwartzbach, another little creek at the German border (the trees you're looking at are German).



And then it was time to heat ourselves up with a hot chocolat , and some more painting to do :p

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Let there be....

"Let there be heating radiators in the living room again "  
we exlaimed in the early morning  and we saw that it was warming up again

"Let there be fibre paper on the walls in the hallway " 
we said in the next hours and we saw that it was looking a lot cleaner already

"Let there be curtains hanging at the bedroom window "

we stated and we saw that it looked quite cosy & warm


"Let there be a functioning dishwasher "
we  whispered  and we were ready for some rest

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Made in Belgium: The Claw

"We are an Irish band but this tour is a Belgian tour and this is a homecoming"
Bono exclaimed last night.   We already knew that but we all cheered extatically to hear it confirmed by Bono himself.

Stageco is a Belgian company located in Werchter, home of one of the world's biggest rock festivals, just outside of Leuven and their experience in building festival stages, have made them a regular supplier of Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones or even Obama's inauguration stage..... and also U2.  And the  3 Claws used for the 360° tour (3 because it takes 5 days to set-up, 2 to take down) that are touring around the world at the moment are locally made here.  And Bono took a bit of time to wave to Hedwig De Meyer from Stageco who was in lead of the production at the moment (and sent some flickering screens back on stage as a response :p)
We've actually seen one of the convoy's coming by on the highway just before the tour kicked off in Spain last summer.  Passing such a convoy of 90 trucks......pretty impressive  is an understatement! 






Also the expendable screen is Belgian technology from XL Video  filled up with LEDS made by Barco...yes Belgian too.


The fact that also a little movie was played during the show with Frank De Winne, the Belgian astronaut who led the ISS space center during a few months in 2009 , that Adam praised U2's formerly Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck  and that the Edge was glad that Belgians outnumbered any other nationality in their crew since they brang the beer as well   was obviously all welcomed by a big applause.   Ha, Belgians can be patriotic sometimes.

And of course we are proud that we made the most innovative, impressive tour concept and that we found some Irish boys that seemed well cast to take part in the show with some nice songs ;)

It's a beautiful day!

Yesterday 4 Irish men arrived in Brussels to sing that it was a beautiful day!  I sang together with 69999 other people that I'd follow.

We had to wait for more than a year before the 360° Tour by U2 arrived in Belgium but it was sooo worth waiting for.  Jan and I were there when they kicked off the European Vertigo tour in the King Baudoin Stadium 5 years ago and that was great, but now U2 surely lifted the concept of big concerts is stadiums to a higher level.

The warming up was done by Interpol. Their name didn't ring a bell until I heard some of their songs that were familiar. We enjoyed them.

But of course we all sat anxiously waiting until Bono, The Edge, Larry & Adam  walked casually in full stadium lighting to the stage. They only needed a few minutes and the concert was going at full speed. 
Aaaaaah goosebumps  for Miss Sarajevo,  an exploding mass at Elevation, a fun party at "I'll go crazy if I don't go crazy tonight" (loved the djembe here!) , the claw at its best in "City of blinding lights".  Which other top group can line up top hit after top hit while still omitting so many of them?  U2 might not be the only super rock band in the world but surely the only one that has managed to keep up their level during 3 decades.

Gosh what a fabulous concert....wish I was there again tonight!


Unlike so many people that were stuck on the parking lot for hours after the concert, I had learned from the stories from unfortunate colleagues 5 years ago (and stories from others trying to leave from the Madonna concert). I really didn't want to spend that much time among 10000's other cars but since the night train tickets had already been sold out by the time I went to buy some, I chose to go and park my car at the exit of the main parking lot at noon already (and go back & forth home by public transport).  Good choice apparently. Pheww.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Made in Belgium: Raymond Van Het Groenewoud

"Raymond"....we don't need to name his full name anymore: Raymond is Raymond and we all know him. We've all known him all our lives so it seems and his songs have been embedded in our memories. As a kid in the youth organisation we play-backed to "Je veux l'amour", as teenager we thanked our favourite substitute teacher with our own versioin of "Liefde voor muziek" and we sang "Vlaanderen boven" at the campfire , we sent each other moving powerpoint presentations with the music of "2 meisjes" on it in the nineties.... We've seen him in a little tent for a fund raising activity of the local youth organisation and we've seen him on plenty of festivals. For 15 years he was the official all night closing concert at the Gentse Feesten.

And yet I think we'll only realize what a great artist he is when he's gone. Humor, philosophy, absurdism, political statements, ...all is mixed in his texts whereas his music ranges from rock, intimate ballads, jazz, ... He's a creative octopus, although I must admit that for years I thought he surely had to be also the ugliest Belgian artist we had :p.


2 meisjes - 1996

(2 girls on the beach, they are reading fashion magazines, they look around and dream about prince charming....)




Je veux l'amour - 1980

(I sang everywhere, I've filled halls, I've emptied halls, i've had applause, I've known misery, ....

I don't know why but artists usually only have one request:
I want love
I want love wherever I go, wherever I stand,
before I die, before I perish

....

I want love for me and for my dog, who waits all night faithfully for me in the car
...for my friends who can't find the road to my concert tonight, ....

and I also want money, money to buy presents to hand out to everyone so they would love me.)





Liefde voor muziek - 1991

(yesterday I went to see a movie and what I saw made me happy and touched me deeply,
I saw Prince's grandfather preceding in a service
not one like here where many store owners come with a grey soulless suit to listen to a mumbling old priest...no no it was a group of excited monkeys and the most crazy of them all was in front

and it went on
and it was building
with so much style
and so much fire
it was the love for music

so I wondered, my dear believers, why the white are so much more uptight than the black.
are we truly so bothered by our civilisation?
...
pull me out of the Flemish clay , give me a drummer and make me happy
....)




Gelukkig zijn - ?

(To be happy, I'd give everything
away what is too much
no more stress to my boddy
being happy....)




Meisjes - 1977

(girls
they break us , sir
they drive us nuts , sir
mmm girls

...
girls, are the most beautiful things on the earth,
there's nothing that can match their beauty
it's Van 't Groenewoud who told you so)






Vlaanderen boven - 1978

(Flanders above all,
where they can praise the Lord
where people are important
where the bellies are significant
Flanders outside
where the birds whistle
Flanders my country
at the North Sea beach
...)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Gnomes, waterfalls, mudd & colleagues

Especially for all Canadians who read this blog, I now present the Belgian Niagara Falls....locally known as the waterfalls of Coo.


Really, be ready to see below the immense water volume that plunges itself the full 15 (or 13 depending on the source you check) meters down. Once upon a time one of the prime tourist attractions in Belgium and mistakenly named as Belgians highest water fall (the highest is next to this castle).




Since 5 years the location has been invaded by well-known Gnomes, such as "Kabouter Plop" , who live there with their tv friends in some really small sort of Belgian sort of Disneyland: Plopsa Coo.
Quite a good location to organize a family day as employer where you can hang out with your colleagues and see them riding some flying bikes with their toddlers instead of seeing them in meetings :). Always good fun.


Fortunately the colleagues with no (more) small children were not forced to listen to the repetitive Studio 100 children series music songs all day and we could do some mountain biking , kayaking or dropping in the beautiful Ardennes around.

We were dropped in a tiny village in the area and made our way back without any problem through the beautiful nature.





Saturday, September 18, 2010

Guide for renovation idiots

  • Never use tape to protect the things next to the object you want to paint: it's much nicer if you smooth the paint over the edges.

    If anyone after you wants to repaint, they don't need to bother taping things off anymore either since there's already paint stains . They'll be very grateful to you.

  • Decorate all walls and ceilings and hey, why not cupboard sides as well with styrofoam tiles.
    If you are a heavy smoker then you get the bonus effect that these tiles hold your smoke for you to enjoy forever and ever.

  • If you like the cottage style with heavy beams on the ceiling , first put the styrofoam tiles, then the beams. Because you first need to break down the beams before you can ever replace the ceiling tiles....which will surely discourage you to ever do so.

  • Always stick the wallpaper directly on the plaster plates without painting them first: you'll never be able to separate them apart anymore. Always stick next layers of paper on the previous ones....pulling off paper is for losers.

  • First put the wallpaper, then tile the floors to ensure the bottom part of the paper is nicely cemented to the tiles.

  • Be creative with electricity...think literally out of the box by pulling a wire from a plug to dangle it further towards a self-created plug.

  • If there's only space for either a bathroom sink or a laundry washer, take the laundry washer. Sinks are overrated anyway.

  • If you need to drill some nails in the wall to attach e.g. a coat hanger, they are more firm if you drill them right through the wall. They can become a decorative ornament in the other room.

  • ....

In all honesty, I've never seen such a guide in reality but I've seen more than enough proof that it must exist.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Made in Belgium: Baloji

Baloji isn't quite the most mainstream commercial artist. After a difficult youth he joins the hiphop band Starflam but they quite in 2003 after which Baloji doesn't have the ambition anymore to make music.

But then he got a letter from his biological mother in Congo from whom he had not heard since he was 3. His father, a Congolese business man had taken him away at that age and had brought him to "the country of Marvin Gaye" where Baloji lived in foster families. His mom had recognised him on a music channel on tv and asked him what he had done in the last 20 years.

His first solo-album "Hotel Impala" is his musical biography which he brings her personally in 2007 as an answer. His 2nd album "Kinshasa Succursale" has been recorded in Congo in collaboration with some of the most well-known artists there to dig further in that more authentic Congolese sound.


His music isn't exactly material for commercial hits and a lot of airplay on the radio, yet he is often found on music festivals. My French isn't good enough to understand his raps more than some bits and pieces here and there and that's a real pity as I feel I'm missing out. I wish I could grasp more what the music is about.




Karibu ya bintou




Où en sommes-nous




Coup de gaz



Congo video

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The end of bloglines

"As you may have heard, we are sorry to share that Bloglines will officially shut down on October 1, 2010. "

Well I hadn't heard it yet until I opened my Bloglines feeds last Friday. According to their blog, they have a different focus (Ask.com) and the rss push model on the internet has become less/ir-relevant due to the social communities where data is shared on a peer-to-peer basis.

Well I can see how the latter would impact their user-base. They forgot to add a last aspect that Bloglines is also notorious for technical outages. The Bloglines plumber or the red exclamation marks next to a feed are far too well-known for any of their users. That's the reason why I had added my most favourite feeds in google reader as back-up if Bloglines was once again down.

Nevertheless I found them much more easy to use than Google Reader. The latter catches new posts faster, but I don't like the user interface. It seems too overloaded with frames, the fonts & colours aren't attractive, it doesn't let me indicate posts as read or unread the way I want, it isn't compact enough so I must scroll all the time, ...

Seriously, do you think this is attractive?





But I want to have my feeds grouped together. Despite the fact that more and more information is shared on twitter & FB , I don't think they can replace a feed aggregator. Chances are that if you are a blogger and I'm visiting you, that you have seen my visits for quite some time now and that I leave regularly comments. Because once I like a blog, I start to feel connected and I want to keep following. I do tend to stick around loyally and I want to stay up to date. There's some people that I'm connected to on FB indeed and yes, they do post their posts on their wall as well. But FB or twitter updates have a short attention span. A few minutes later some people have "liked" a dozen nonsense pages or they've requested for the tenth time that day to "please click to save my icebear" or that other crap that pollutes the feed all the time. Geeez, can you please all stop doing that? (or can you forgive me that I block you, alternatively?)
A lot of the (mainly North-American?) bloggers I followed several years ago have stopped blogging altogether after being seduced by FB or Twitter (boohoo they also seem to have stopped coming by :-( ) . The blogosphere has changed for sure. But blogs remain a more substantial reflection on people's thoughts, life events or creativity and when I've eg been offline for a few days, it's nice to still find all those outstanding posts in the feed reader.

So now I'm looking to replace Bloglines and I'm trying Netvibes.com. So far I like the lay-out, the extensive flexibility in reading list lay-out, options to share mark tag , etc.... Not sure yet but I don't think I'll miss Bloglines at all.






Sunday, September 12, 2010

Magic bog lands

Even when the weather changes, or maybe especially when the weather changes, to grey wet foggy sadness, the bog lands are magical to visit. While the fog visibly climbed up the sloped moorlands in a rush to reach Germany (I guess they didn't want to mess with Deutsche püntklichheit) , we enjoyed a long walk through woods and bog lands of Belgians biggest nature reserve "the High Fens" around the highest point of Belgium. The vast amount of untouched nature is extremely rare in a crowded country like Belgium and therefore such a treasure to visit.









While searching our way through the swampy trail, we found several little frogs. Bigger wildlife remained hidden to us unfortunately.

Progress on a lazy day

We've renovated a great deal last weekend and progressed well.

It was a nice sunny day, probably one of the last summer days to enjoy so we walked around through the valleys of the nearby villages and enjoyed our day.

We adore the regular sight of some highlander cows that seem to be bred more and more in the area to potentially graze on the moor lands. Aren't they adorable?


Despite the sun, there was plenty of evidence that the automn is just around the corner. This aminita is probably still very young as it's head wasn't opened yet.


Since the area is scattered with "ski's for rent" signs we went to one of the nearby skihills just for the heck of it. Funny to see it deserted in full summer. So this is one of the most impressive rare down-hill ski slopes in Belgium :) . No wonder we're never featured on some winter olympics :D. Here you can see what it looked like last winter.


In the afternoon we enjoyed the sun in Malmédy.


When we got back, we lounged in the garden until the electricity technicians had finished their job in replacing all the doubtfully manipulated/fabricated plugs in the house. Aaaaah, it's nice to see changes in the house when you didn't need to do anything yourself for a change.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who needs more sand?

In the area of Tilburg & 's Hertogenbosch you cannot only visit the Efteling amusement park or the Beekse Bergen safari park, you can also build sand castles or imagine yourself a roaming bandit in the desert. Nope there's no nearby beach, yet no lack of sand in the Loonse & Drunense Duinen. Apparently it's send blown here at the end of an ice age. And despite many centuries where the settled people in the neighbourhood tried to tame the blowing sand hills by planting woods, there's still some left and is currently protected in a Dutch national park.

And it is a marvellous place!













Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Made in Belgium: Pitty Pollack

In the beginning of the nineties the Flemish showbizz was enriched by a singing teacher. She grew up singing together with her sisters and in 1990 she scored a major hit with "Poor, stupid & ugly". After all these years I still really enjoy that song. I love her voice, I love the lyrics.

In the last decade she became mother of 2 daughters and returned to teaching. I think we lost one of the most sympathetic singers.

Poor, stupid & ugly - 1990





Silly coincidence - 1992




Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Waiting for Godot

The British voters were stressed after May 6th because their election result had given none of the 3 political parties an overall majority. Ugh, a hung parliament, what a horror. For a full 5 days the country was government-less, at perilous risk of floating without any direction in the North Sea. Thank goodness they had not drifted off yet during that long week.

The Netherlands had elections on June 9th and Belgium had its elections on June 13th....both countries are still waiting for their new government to be formed. In both countries a formation attempt failed last Friday (once again).
Who wants to place a bet which country will have a government sworn in first? By when?

In the Netherlands 10 political parties had representatives elected in the house of representatives but the seats are in such a way divided that at least 3 political parties need to form a coalition to get a majority in the parliament. Only 4 combinations are possible but since some political parties veto each other, the options are rather small. Yet the difference between those around the table seem that deep that they've had already 4 failed formation attempts.

So what about Belgium? Ha, good question. Well we're probably waiting for Godot.
As predicted before the elections, parties that distrust each other are forced to sit together at the table. Well at first the media seemed quite optimistic though, although I didn't quite understand.
We had a "tsunami" election, at least in Flanders. After 3 years of political instability , mainly due to the unability (to form) any government that agreed upon a state reform and organize some regional/linguistic disputes, the NVA had grown from a little sattelite party that needed to team up with a big mainstream party in 2007 to the biggest party in Flanders (27%). After years that the Wallonian political parties had blocked off any reform, the Flemish had voted the party that promotes civic regionalism and that openly strives to a Flemish independence in the long run in a non-revolutionary way to a party that could no longer be ignored. On the other side of the language border the socialist party PS was the clear winner. 2 clear winners ....despite their differences would have no other choice but to bridge the gap in between them and convince some other needed parties alongside with them.

It was quite interesting in the beginning as the 2 circled around each other, sniffled and surprisingly seemed to get along. Bart De Wever, the president of the NVA, didn't have the ambition to become the prime minister of the country he wants to slowly dissolve so Elio Di Rupo, the president of the PS smelled his chance to become the first Frenchspeaking prime minister in Belgium since 1974. And Bart DW agreed on forming a government without the liberal parties that the PS had so much difficulty with.


But did the Frenchspeaking political parties all of a sudden want to reform the country? Could they all of a sudden live with the Flemish vision of "confederalism"? Did they finally realise that they created what they feared by blocking all reform negotiations: more and more nationalism in Flanders?

And what would Bart De Wever do? His party had grown so much due to their reputation never to compromise. Their core was made up by Flemish democratic hardliners who are convinced that politics at the Belgian federal level simply don't work anymore. But he had won the election by all the new voters who were not at all convinced that Flemish independence should be the end goal but who simply wanted to send out a clear message that they were fed up.
So would he make compromises this time? Or would he make outrageous demands (in the eyes of the opponents) so that all formations would fail and he could prove that the federal government doesn't function anymore.


It looked positive for a long time. Unlike 2007-2008-2009 there were talks about the content of the needed reforms, no longer about the question whether we needed a reform. But the Flemish say that more responsibilities for the regions also requires financial reform. And here the water was way too deep. Bold statements came back, threats, leaks, ....all the crap is back. And we're waiting for Godot while all the politicians are having coffee with the king again who needs to calm down the tensions. I bet he longs for his retirement!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Uber Dutchness




Beekse Bergen


Last Saturday an extended Belgian family was reported in the Dutch safari park "Beekse Bergen" . All animals responded differently to this news event.


"I'll be at the look out, I'll see them coming from far"
"Oh well it's not as if we'll have to share our food anyway".


"Cool, would they come and play with us in the water?"


"Groovy, we can chill together if they bring me some beer"



"I'm gonna guard my food! I've heard those Belgians love good food"


"Run run!"



"Hey you, pay attention when I tell you something!"


"I need to wash up"

"I'm gonna warn the others!"


"Oh no oh no, I don't want to see them!"



"Are they there yet? Are they Telenet customers? Pooooooo"