June 2009 Archives

Simple things

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It's been a pretty busy day at work with quite some stress but also with periods of relative calm. Looking back on everything that happened today, I think there is room for improvement - ain't there always? - but we did pretty well overall.

Based on a first oral interaction with our customer I think it's fairly safe to say that he was rather pleased, though he listed some issues that didn't really go as planned. A couple of those I also marked for improvement, which means I did my job as an observer well I suppose.

After getting home - aargh, hot car, hot sun, phone call while driving, sweaty - I took a nice cool bath and headed out for food. As I was walking home, I noticed a Muslima and her little daughter walking on the pavement towards me. The child was reaching for the flowers all the time but mom kept on telling her not to pick them. As I was about 2 meters away from them, I took a couple of steps to the left and picked a flower from our garden and gave it to the little girl when they were close by. Both mom and child thanked me, I smiled and wished them a very nice day.

Sometimes random acts of friendliness are excellent countermeasures against close minded racist propaganda - that unfortunately also decorates the street here. I hope they feel welcome in this neighborhood.

Call me anytime

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Since I couldn't sleep at all (various reasons, but the damn heat being the most annoying one) I hopped back out of bed around 2AM and finished the check up on that computer from a colleague. I think it's pretty close to running as smoothly as it'll get without popping in extra RAM and such.

While I was finalizing updates and patches on that machine, I used mine to browse the exciting new Android phones a bit more. Sure, I still have my trusty Motorola RAZR V3 and it does what I expect it to do (make and accept phone calls and messages) but my geeky heart aches for something new : a smart phone.

They're relatively expensive when compared to a regular "make calls and no frills" phone, but then again they also keep you in touch all the time, which seems fun. On the shortlist for the time being are the Apple iPhone 3G S, the HTC Magic, the HTC Hero (expected in July) and the not yet released Samsung I7500.

I was able to toy around very briefly with an iPhone from a colleague a couple of days ago (older model) and was impressed with some of the features and widgets it had. I haven't been able to lay hands on any of the HTC handsets yet, but the Android platform appeals to my "open standards" belief.

I'll be keeping an eye on some of the online shops to see what the final cost of these phones will be, but I expect they'll all sell in a €0 to €400 range depending on provider and tariff plan you get stuck with. I'd most likely go for a simlock free phone as that doesn't tie me down to a specific provider.

2call.nl lists the HTC Hero (with Sense UI on top of Android) Urban Brown for "only" €443,- whereas PDAshop lists it for €479,- and Phoneshop lists it for €469,- all of them without being tied to a provider. Expansys lists it for €520,- so there seems to be quite a spread. Maybe prices will fall in line a bit more as it becomes available? If you are able to get your hands on an HTC Hero for a better price - definitely let me know. I'm not interested in stolen or misplaced phones though :)

I am very aware that it is possible to get the phone for "free" when signing up for a 2 year plan, but for the time being those options are still rather limited in Belgium. Check out HotGSM for some bundles though (they don't have the HTC Hero on the page yet).

Too excited to sleep... or not?

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It's just past 8AM, I worked an hour later then originally planned and I just finished reviewing a scenario that has been written out in the past couple of months. I called in to work to give my feedback and view on some of the issues at hand and will shortly head to bed to catch some Z's. Tomorrow I'll be back at work around 6AM, Wednesday and Thursday it's late shift again, Friday a short 3h task is planned and Saturday and Sunday nights/graveyard shift again.

One would lose all sense of time and place with a schedule like that, but the sheer excitement and sense of appreciation drives me for the time being. Goodbye world, goodbye readers : I'm off to bed!

The King Has Stopped

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Seems like June 25th was a bad day all around for celebrities. After Farrah Fawcett replacing the now for the eternal, Yasmine singing her last notes, now The King of Pop has popped out for an eternity.

I brought home the computer of a colleague because he wants me to check it out. I specifically asked him to bring everything with him and I must admit that all cables are there : screen, mouse, keyboard, power cable, the works. The one thing missing though are the account passwords. I could relatively easy just hack my way through or around that obstacle, but I won't. I'm gonna head off to bed and give the fool a call later today.

This doesn't make me happy

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Zangeres en presentatrice Yasmine overleden (Dutch)

I haven't been an avid follower of her musical career as such, but over the past couple of years I came to appreciate her "easy listening" songs for the beauties they were. Most of her songs I found to contain multiple layers that you only started understanding when really listening to her music. Who takes the time to really listen to music anymore nowadays?

I'd recommend Pret-a-porter (1997) and Blauw (1999) in case you know nothing of her repertoire.

Yasmine official site.

Schedules

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I just received my schedule for July and have made the appropriate updates on the site. Just so you know, the schedule posted here is just an aid and no guarantee you'll find me at home on days marked as "off". It just gives you a slightly better chance to be able to reach me, lol :)

Anyway, I hope it continues to prove useful to those that need/use it.

Paper and steam

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When I woke up this morning, head filled with snot and a sore throat, I decided not to waste my one day off from work by giving in to some illness. Instead I finally am doing preparations to get that bedroom wall redecorated after I had some issues with excess water pouring out of my walls a couple of years back.

Back in the days my insurance company kindly offered me a settlement to get the whole room redone, but I decided to keep the cash and do the work myself. Sounded like a very good plan, but it has left me sleeping in a bedroom with a ruined wall for years. Not that I really minded, when you're asleep you don't really notice, do you?

Anyway, about a year or so ago, I picked up some new wallpaper and had set my mind to redoing that wall. It ended up in a corner where it sat... till now.

I've already washed down the bare wall - it's drying now - and am now collecting everything I need to get the job done. I know I own most of the tools, but where exactly they are seems to be another issue altogether, lol.

So I'll be spending an hour or two fighting with 2.5m long bands of heavy wallpaper next... or I could head off to the sauna and relax instead. Damn, why did I think of that just now?! Now I'm very tempted to just put the job aside and go do the fun thing instead :(

Note : I'm very well aware that a certain someone has offered to come give me a hand several times over the past years to get that redecorating job out of the way, for which I still am very grateful. However, if I can't even make myself do this simple thing, I ain't worthy of any help offered.

Update : I'm covered in wallpaper glue head to toe, but the result seems rather spiffy, if I say so myself. I'm not claiming to be a top of the bill decorator, but I'm pleased with my work so far. Hopping in the shower in a couple of moments, after cleaning up the room and tools.

New week

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A new week is about to start and I'm still more or less recovering from that night out on the town on Friday. However, as much as I hate to admit it, you all were correct : it was the right thing to do.

Off to work, will keep you updated on news as it happens.

Here we go

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As a countermeasure against all you irresponsible people that believe I should be going out instead of going to bed, I've arranged that I'll get a phone call tomorrow at 4:30AM on both my home as well as mobile phone in case I don't answer the first one.

Sorry, I can't just put aside my character flaws and tell everyone to go fuck themselves (and risk not to show up at work).

Male Macho Pig!

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Statement : "Men don't break out the vacuum cleaner and tidy the place up unless they think it helps them score pussy."

Agree, Disagree? Discuss.

More importantly... does it work?

A star is born (x56)

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For those of you that have been hiding under a rock for the past couple of days, this entry is all about Kimberly who supposedly got tattooed with 56 stars instead of the three stars she requested. If that still doesn't ring a bell, click here for a ton of links, photographs and other fun.

Being tattooed myself (about 12h in total) - not in my face though - let me set some things straight :

I can't imagine anyone falling asleep during a tattoo session. There's needles poking ink in your skin at a rates of up to a 100 punctures per second. Some describe it as the worst pain ever, others compare it to being scratched by a cat. Everyone is different and yes, the pain does fade a bit as endorphins are released and your body gets accustomed by the sensation of the stinging, but when another section of your skin is being worked on, it starts all over again.

(Update : Kimberly now claims that she didn't fall asleep, but that she passed out, caused by the tattooist putting the needles too deep into the skin on her head. Right...)

You don't fall asleep, unless you're drunk or under the influence of drugs or whatever. Should that have been the case - seriously, I don't know - the tattooist as well as the customer deserve to get shot. Don't take permanent decisions whilst under the influence. Don't tattoo on people that are not within their mind (which includes people being unconscious). Not too hard, is it?

Now Laurette Onkelinx (PS) wants to change current tattoo law following a number of questions/suggestions posed by Katia della Faille (open VLD) :

* The size of the tattoo must be documented in the contract between the tattooist and client beforehand.
* All tattoos should be thought through during a one (or more) day period in which the client can change their mind.

Sure enough, these new proposals sound balanced and not too ridiculous, don't they?

I've never visited a tattoo artist to get some "off the wall" flash art tattooed into my skin, so what I'm describing here is how things usually go for a unique piece of art, also referred to as "custom" pieces.

The customer walks into the tattoo shop, usually with a very detailed idea about what they want, and where they want it. A long conversation with the artist follows in which a couple of things are verified : is the idea technically possible? As an artist, am I capable of doing it? Is the customer certain about their idea and placement? Does the design (in case one is brought in) fit the intended placement? Does it need alterations? Etc...

Most of the time, the artist has nothing but a couple of rough sketches to work with, descriptions and ideas, and that's when the real work starts : not by picking up a tattoo gun and going to work, but by drawing out the full piece on paper, often over the course of several days after which the customer is contacted to come in to take a look. This may very well happen a couple of times before everyone involved is satisfied.

Once the drawing is approved, it is transferred to the skin and last minute changes may be done to make sure the lines and images flow properly with the body structure. Only once all that is done, the actual tattooing can commence.

I've always found that I need a bond with my artist in order to be able to work with them - I don't just walk into a random shop or artist asking for this or that tattoo.

All that taken into account, the new proposed laws won't change much for those who have thought things through and are getting custom work done.

The "I'm-on-vacation-and-the-sun-is-out-and-that-tattoo-looks-so cool/cute/sexy/hardcore/badass" kind of people though will be affected. No more walking in and out 30 minutes or an hour later.

Laws don't prevent stupidity, believe me. If an idiot wants to get tattooed, they'll find a way. If they find out that they'll have to wait and come back a day or two later to get that tough "Taz" tattooed on their butt, they won't come back at all. They'll end up at a shady scratcher that works in the living room in conditions that are far from sterile and whom doesn't care about the law. The idiots will just end up with worse tattoos, which in itself is a good thing : it makes them easier to spot.

Maybe I should support those new tattoo laws after all?

Choices

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Go out on Friday evening/night, all night long, probably have loads of fun, and suffer for it in the morning, or...

Stay home, taking into account that I'll have to wake up at 4AM on Saturday to give training for 10 hours straight (06h00 till 16h00) and that it'll be the first shift of many to come?

Advice anyone?

Grrrr

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I assumed my readers were security and update minded, especially since I mention the importance of keeping the computer and program(s) you use up to date every now and then. I was looking at some stats gathered and here's what irks me about browser updates and patches :

Firefox :

75,68% of visitors use 3.0.10
3% of visitors use 3.0.11
12,61% of visits were done using 3.5 (which is a preview release that I've been testing)
5.71% still use 2.0.0.20
2.40% use 1.5 or 3.0.x

All things taken into account, 83.79% of visits are done using an insecure firefox browser, which disappoints me. The 3.0.11 version was only released last week though, so maybe I should give it some more time... not! Get patching/updating, slackers!

When looking at Internet Explorer, we get :

52.16% uses version 7.0
29.86% uses version 6.0
17.99% uses version 8.0

Unfortunately, I can't get more detailed versions about IE usage, as it seems minor versions are not being reported. Let's just broadly assume that about 18% of our IE users is using the latest version, which still leaves a whopping 82% using older version. Get updating as well, will you?

If you've never tried the Secunia Personal Software Inspector (download) to get a quick overview of what software needs your attention, do so now. It's free, it's easy and it'll help you become more aware of issues you never knew about.

Think!

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I just received a mail confirming my successful purchase of tickets to see Rammstein, yay! However, now I've got some more serious topic to write about : "Lange Wapper aka Oosterweelverbinding".

June 24th 2009 is the final day to file a complaint against the building permit for the Lange Wapper Brug which would be built by BAM and follow a trajectory that runs over the city of Antwerp. Apart from the fact that it would massively change the currently skyline of Antwerp, the traffic it attracts would also be responsible for pushing out tons of fine and ultra fine dust in the air, leading to even more pollution and related deaths.

Building more roads and highways is not the correct solution! Build more roads and you'll attract more traffic, which basically makes it a vicious circle with no way out. What's next? Turn Belgium into a gigantic highway in order to accommodate the ever increasing stream of traffic flowing through the country? Once there are highways everywhere, add 20 years and you'll be looking at the biggest parking lot ever seen.

I've been personalizing my complaint and will be sending it out on Tuesday, using registered mail. For more info concerning filing a complaint, check out the following websites : stRaten Generaal - Ademloos.

To look at the complete file concerning the permit(s), point your browser here : Openbaar Onderzoek Oosterweelverbinding (dutch only).

The website of BAM NV can be found here : BAM NV. (Dutch/English)

I do understand that some of my readers won't agree with my point of view, and truth be said, I don't even mind them disagreeing. Not seeing things the same way makes for better solutions, providing there's ample discussion and all parties are equal.

Think for yourself - it's the only advice I can offer. If you need help or advice on how to file a complaint, feel free to mail or even call me. There is NO need to live in Antwerp in order to file a complaint!

Rammstein, maybe?

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As soon as I got home from work - which is about 35 minutes ago - I turned on my computer to be all prepared to order tickets for the Rammstein concert on December 10th. I surfed to the GoForMusic site to be greeted by an "All servers busy" message, followed by an internal server error, and various other messages that made it clear that the servers were - once again - crashing under the load. Mind you, this was at 07u40 - twenty minutes before sales would start!

Furiously refreshing several tabs at once, I suddenly was greeted by an emergency-sales page that allowed me to pick various types of tickets and I immediately ordered what I needed. When I refreshed, the first category of "standing" tickets going at 44.5 euro a piece were already sold out. I looked at my clock : 08:05AM. Phew... those things go fast! I did get a reservation number for my order, but I won't be happy until I got my confirmation mail though!

It seems the servers are stabilizing now though as I can relatively easy refresh and surf the site for the time being.

Update 08:19AM : "standing" tickets at 54.50 a piece : sold out
Update 08:21AM : "seat" tickets at 54.50 a piece : sold out

Old times

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Time to hit the bed and catch up on sleep. Have not been feeling too well last night, suffered from a headache which no doubt was caused by an acute lack of sleep, but meeting up with that old friend yesterday was totally worth it. The kids were pretty active though, so our talk got interrupted every other second.

Plan to meet up again after their holiday and head out for a meal then so we can properly catch up and chat over good food and drinks. Never knew meeting old friends could be this much fun.

Will attempt to order tickets for Rammstein on Friday morning, wish me luck!

Week to come

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I washed the car - oh no, it shrunk! - went over to the shopping mall to have some photographs taken, and tomorrow I'll get my drivers license changed/renewed (required for my job) and maybe pop in at the hairdresser as well. Wednesday afternoon I'm off to meet with an old friend, should be fun.

Working night shifts all week, so it's taking quite some time out of my "potential sleep" time, but I'll make sure I don't overdo it and sleep too little. I ain't 25 anymore :)

Elections 09 - an overview

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With the elections past us, I'll be pointing out why some political parties got handed to them exactly what they deserved, why some didn't and my view on things. This is based on global trends, not withstanding that there may be very large discrepancies on a local level, and focus is on the Flemish part of the country. The situation in Wallonia is totally different.

CD&V : A clear winner in this election. People seem to fold back to what they've known for a zillion years and apparently where swayed by the "good government" slogan the party has been waving around. Replacing Yves Leterme with Kris Peeters has proven to be good marketing and diversion - people tend to forget quickly. Fortis anyone?

open VLD : Massive loss and not all that unexpected. If the people smell fraud or feel left out, rest assured that it will be dealt with swiftly in an election. Fortis stock sale anyone?

Vlaams Belang : Massive loss. Voters have left Vlaams Belang and flocked to N-VA and LDD, which could mean that their "Our Land, Our People" theme is not as strong as they'd have figured. I remain convinced that Belgium is a country that is open to new people, not matter where their origins lay. Internal bickering probably didn't help either.

LDD : Relatively new party, lead by big mouth Jean-Marie. Has been shouting and making bold statements all the time, but offered very little solutions. It's very easy to yell that something is wrong, but unless you actively work on a solution to fix it, shut up. People have seen right through the charade, and don't they make the 10% cut the party itself had hoped for.

N-VA : Relatively new party that scored very well. Probably attracted all the voters that are convinced that Flanders needs more liberty and independence, yet were not all that convinced by the other themes Vlaams Belang was shoving down their throat. Results of N-VA + CD&V are better compared to 2004 when they formed a cartel, which is rather strange.

SP.a : Pretty big losses and I don't really see a reason for it as of yet. The fact that they were in the current government probably dragged them down along with open VLD, yet CD&V managed to escape that same trap.

Groen! : Small loss at some levels, yet gain 2 seats in Parliament. Not even close to the 10% cut Mieke had hoped for. Their alternative "green economy" plan didn't rally the people as much as it could have. In times of uncertainty most people fold back, and only few push towards new horizons. Without the current financial and economic crisis, things might have been different.

SLP : New party, didn't make the 5% minimum anywhere. Since I don't know anything about their program and have been following politics in regards to this election, this could very well mean that they've got an issue with profiling themselves.

PVDA : Didn't make the 5% minimum, and was not included in most debates nor election overviews beforehand, while SLP was. Doesn't seem all too democratic to me - either you include all parties or you include none. Paying attention to just the same old established parties only enforces the brick wall new ideas and parties run into.

Something that was very obvious is that even though these were European and Flemish Parliament elections, people voted for people and not for programs! Take a look at how the results differ from region to region depending on whether or not a top politician lives in that city or region. I fear that this will only make the inclusion of local or regional "celebrities" more prevalent. It doesn't really matter anymore what it is you stand for, or what program you support, but how marketable you are. Poor Belgium, poor people, poor judgment.

Too lazy to go postal

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It's the first day after a full weekend off and already I feel as if I'm working in a home for the old and crippled. If it ain't that, it's just like kindergarten with too many ADHD kids running around and acting like babies. Am I really that difficult a person? The only thing I ask is that people do their friggin' job the way it should be done!

I've got two deaf people, one who keeps on calling in ill and one who's rather insecure while he shouldn't be. What have I done to deserve this?

A place to call home

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I got up a bit too early so I'll be heading off to do my duty and go vote for whom I believe most in. Well, I wouldn't even call it a duty but rather a privilege instead. Yes, I find voting extremely important and the TV will be on to keep an eye on the first results as they roll in.

I bet some - not to say most - of my colleagues wouldn't understand why I find it so important and even some friends and family may look at me as if I were a freak if they read I'm watching such a boring and mandatory event with interest. Feel free to ask me about the reasons why next time we meet.

Oh, for those that didn't catch it on TV (it was broadcast on Friday June 5th if I recall correctly) : HOME (by Yann Arthus-Bertrand).

Update : I'm back, let the results roll in :)

Oh, I do frown at people that take their car to drive over to the polling station that's less than 500m from their door and then park where ever they can find a spot, blocking the road, handicapped parking lots or bicycle stalls. Use your frigging feet or cycle there people. Stop being lazy a bastard!

Yes, I did cycle over there. I do all of my shopping on foot since I've got stores and all a couple of hundred meters away, so I had to first get the bike ready : check tire pressure (way too low - inflated them), check brakes, re-grease chain and gears, do a short test ride. Grabbed my helmet and went voting.

Three days, 30 hours

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I'm preparing my laptop to take it to work tomorrow so I can easily keep track of changes I need to make in a next version of the training document I've prepared. I just hope that I won't run in too much trouble when converting it from an Office 2003 format to the Open Office format I use on my personal machines.

Just to be on the safe side, I'll be heading off to work a tad bit earlier - as if starting at 6AM ain't early enough as it is, lol - to print out a few copies to work with during the day.

Three days of monitoring, helping and training a 2nd operator to be able to complete a number of basic tasks and provide support for the 1st operator, I'll have my work cut out it seems. I'll also be monitoring and evaluating a couple of other 2nd operators that have been working the job for a longer time now.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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