Wednesday, January 30, 2008
This Is Spinal Crap
I took the week off, so I've been working my ass off at home. New DIY projects await me; 2008 has already started a month ago, so high time to get in gear. But before I can start breaking down walls and ceilings, I need a bit of space to work.
So this week I've been busy with my manhood, slapping some wood on it to be precise, to stop the leaking. I'm talking about my shed of course. One wall was made of old wooden blinds and when it rained, the water just seeped through. This made the tools on the shelves in front of that wall rust. So out with that old ugly wall and replace it with new planks.
I thought it was going to be easy, one day's work at most. But then I'd forgotten how the previous owners built things: with colossal pieces of lumber and twenty inch nails. To make things worse, there were two concrete pillars to remove as well and the shops were clean out of dynamite. On the positive side, my parents gave me a pneumatic hammer/drill for my birthday, so I finally had the chance to try it out. Together with some mean angle grinder action, those pillars were gone in no time. Well, in under four hours. One of them did scrape my leg as it went down, and if my sweater hadn't got caught in one of the iron reinforcement bars, it would probably have slit my leg right open. Isn't DIY loads of fun?
Anyway, I got that new wall mostly up by yesterday evening and I had to hurry today to finish it (in the rain) and paint it once the sun came out for a couple of hours. So the shed is almost finished, but so is my back. I'm trying to keep it as straight as possible while I type this, but it's hurting a lot. In fact, I had a lot of pain in my back lately, and these last few days did no good at all. I'll probably be all stiff tomorrow, so I can spend the rest of my vacation like a plant in front of the television.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I joined a group of bloggers/photo-enthusiasts yesterday to visit a photo exhibition by Stephan Vanfleteren. 'Yes', you say, 'isn't that the famous photographer with his pictures of the dark, grimey, smelly, empoverished underside of Belgium?' And you're totally correct, dear readers. It's such a pleasure to know that my readership is entirely composed of the upper strata of intellectuals all around the globe.
But enough wanking, let's see some pictures. Because when you visit a photo exhibition with sixteen amateur/semi-pro/pro photographers, it's not just about looking pictures but also about taking them. And take pictures we did, more so than a busload of japanese tourists on steroids.
It was the first time I visited Antwerp's Photo Museum - shame on me and my children and my children's children to the fourteenth generation. I'd be planning to for ages, and Artur's invitation seemed the perfect occasion.
Did I mention it is an exhibition about Belgium?
I was a bit surprised to see this picture, because I know this man. He's an old coal miner that lived close to my former office. He lost his leg in an accident, and in order to keep getting his social benefits, he has to have a medical examination each year to show that his leg hasn't grown on yet. True story, I'm not pulling your leg (yes, I know, but I'm very tired). For me, that story says as much about my country as Vanfleteren's pictures.
With 16+ people in the room with a camera, such scenes were very common: one person would take a picture, while a second photographer thinks it would be cool/funny to take a picture of the first one, while a third one would capture the second one shooting the first one and so on. There were probably five people taking a picture of me taking a picture of the two of them.
Afterwards, we went for a drink in the 'Zuiderpershuis' - an old pumping station turned into a cultural centre with a focus on the south. With so many cameras around one table, things got ugly from time to time. You know, people shooting each other and so on...
Inspired by Vanfleteren's work, I started taking pictures of ugly people... KIDDING - just KIDDING!
There were two groups: the (semi) pro's, sporting cameras like these that come with their own laser ranging system, doppler radar and refrigerator to keep your drinks cool. By contrast, the cameras of the second group, the amateurs, looked almost like those disposable thingies you can buy in theme parks or at tourist attractions.
Smoking can lead to some nasty effects, like photo geeks insisting on taking your picture.
After the drinks, a small group of us went for a walk in the city, to practice what we'd learned from the great master (and from each other).
Antwerp, the birth place of Bob and Bobette (or rather: Suske and Wiske). Antwerp - and many other Belgian cities - boasts a number of comics figures on such walls all over the city.
As light was fading, my trusty camera reached its limits. So time to get 'creative'.
One final picture, and then I had to run to get my bus. Wolf and Mrs.B were waiting for their diners.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Finally, after two months of hard labour, the report of my reconstruction project in Congo was finished. I included a lot of (technical) pictures, so I decided to print it in colour. The only catch is that I work on the third floor, while the colour printer is located on the first. And taking the elevator takes ages, which is not what you want when you're all tensed because of the millions of things you must think of and you have an endless stream of last-minute problems that keep popping up.
So I ran up and down the whole day to check on that bloody mix between a printer and the bastard child of a sloth and a lazy tortoise. Out of paper! Out of ink! Out of paper again! Other print jobs pending!
Up and down I ran, at first taking two steps at a time at first, then one at a time, and in the end I hade to rest every five steps or so. Yes, I am in bad shape after the yearly stuff-your-gob-a-thon that is the month of December. And I admit that my decision to take the stairs may have been inspired by the moans and groans of my scales – not to mention the looks my wife's been giving me lately. If I continue like this, I may have to take drastic measures, like exercising. Although cutting off a leg may be a more realistic option.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Keith warned me that my comments disappear and reappear at random. I checked it out at Haloscan, and I can't find anything wrong apart from a message that it was more than three months ago since I last logged in (yup, that's me) and that they'd archived my comments. Maybe it's that, anyways it seems to be functioning now and your comments have not been deleted, least of all by me.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
After two winters in our new house with only one (electric) stove, we’re getting fed up with freezing up while we work on our computers, turning into giant ice cubes when we take a shower and waking up only to find that our blankets are covered in ripe. Two weeks ago we went to a building fair to look around for prices of different types of heating systems. We definitely want to get rid of our accumulators (we have two, but we only use one) because of the truck loads of money we have to ship each month to the electricity company. Accumulators are also notoriously difficult to use: either it’s too hot or it’s too cold every time the weather takes a turn and you didn’t see it coming or you simply forgot to crank the bloody thing up or down.
On the other hand, installing central heating in a house that you already use is not exactly a snitch. Installing the radiators and the heater is not so difficult, but then you have to link them with copper or plastic tubes. This will mean breaking open walls, floors and ceilings of rooms that are in use. And did I mention the baby and his allergy of loud noises during his frequent napping times? My initial optimism about this job has sunk to deep-sea levels.
But first there is the question of what type of heating we want. Gas prices are soaring at the moment. A super efficient condensation heater will save you 15%-20%, but that is exactly the amount that the gas prices are rising. We looked at wood pellets for an alternative, but although this is better for the environment in the end, this type of heater costs about ten times as much as a gas heater. If we’d have the money we’d do it, I guess, but even with subsidies this is way too expensive.
Meanwhile, I’ve been measuring up the whole house to calculate how powerful our heater must be, how many radiators we need and to plan how on earth we’re going to lay this tubing. Both Wolf and the cats are very surprised to see me crawl through the house on hands and knees, dragging a meter behind me. So far I’ve done the ground level floor, next weekend I can start on the first and second floors (or second and third floor for you American viewers).
Friday, January 18, 2008
Bon Au Beau
At the moment, my life is utterly boring. Apart from going to work, working, coming back from work and thinking about work, nothing much is happening. So why not reflect on happier times when I roamed freely through the Congolese Jungle and discovered this tribe of apemen. Allright, they weren't apemen and they weren't living freely in the jungle either - not yet. So here are the promised pictures of our distant cousins, the Bonobos, in the Bonobo political asylum of Lola Ya Bonobo west of Kinshasa.
As you can see, they live behind wires, but this is by no means a zoo. The centre is built on an island or peninsular surrounded by a river. You can spot Bonobos if they feel like coming to the fences, otherwise you'll only hear them in the woods.
Spot the Bonobo: we heard them, but we couldn't see them with the naked eye. With my 200mm zoom lens at maximum I finally found this male Bonobo resting on a branch.
They have all the facilities they could dream off.
This fellow made a huge display when we approached.
The local population is actively involved in the conservation and reintroduction effort. It is very important for the future of the animals that Congolese people understand how wonderful but vulnerable the Bonobos are. At first, the plans for the implantation of the centre were met with scepticism from the locals, but because they were involved from the beginning, they are very supportive. And it also gives them a source of income.
This female looks as if she's had quite a life behind her. Most animals here are saved from poachers, often as very young babies that were taken away after their mothers were shot for bushmeat. Hunting Bonobos is illegal, and trading them as well, but in a country like Congo 'law and order' is as real as a Star Trek episode.
That baby boy is really exhausting her, look at her face. I guess it's a boy, don't ask me why...
This is the... well known... Bonobo beatle. Yes, that's right. I discovered it and called it Criterus Nonsensis Bartii.
The park is surrounded by a stream and has dense vegetation where the Bonobo families can hide. If they don't want to be seen, you won't see them, but they know the people that take care of them and will generally come out when they call. Until they're fed up with visitors - and photographers - that is.
Bonobos are masters in flower arrangements, apparently.
Eating the Bonobos is strictly forbidden, which is a shame as there is no snackbar on the premisses. Bonobos and many other animals in Congo are on the brink of extinction, not in the least because of the armed conflicts of the last decade. Poor farmers fled into the tropical forest and had no other means of survival than what the forest could provide. And for poor people, bush meat is often the only meat they can afford, apart from the odd chicken. There's also a lively trade in bushmeat between the countryside and the big cities.
Taking pictures isn't easy here, most animals can only be seen from a long distance and there's always a wire fence in between.
In these buildings, the baby orphans are raised by a group of human volunteers that act as foster parents. It's a very demanding job as the little ones need 24h supervision. The little ones often arrive with a trauma because they saw how their mother and the other members of their family were butchered.
Claudine André, born and bred in Congo, is the person who almost single-handedly raised the centre from the ground. She is friendly but determined, which is exactly what you need when you want to protect wildlife in the middle of an ongoing war.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
It seems just a blink of an eye ago that we held this little fragile mini-baby in our hands. Our Wolfy is growing fast and learning new tricks, such as:
- Sitting up on his own (and licking cows).
- Eating bread - or rather, turning it into a mushy ball of slime that he can spit out if he has enough. On the other hand, he'd eat the whole bread if you would let him.
- Swimming, soaking his mother and sucking on FOUR fingers at a time.
- Playing on his belly
I'm very pleased with this last picture, because I would never have been able to take it without my new flash. I bounced the light on the ceiling here, to prevent the bars from casting shadows on Wolf and his toys. The toys are an additional challenge in taking pictures of Wolf in his play pen, because there are generally so many of them that it's difficult to spot the baby.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Wouldn't you know, I'm nominated for the Belgian blog awards, or Bwards. I thought the 'b' stood for Bart, but then I found it refered to my fatherland, which is also nice.
I found out by accident, because a number of people started dropping by from the Bwards site. I checked it out and apparently you can vote for your favourite websites. It's just the first round, so there are about 3000 people in front of me, and I don't really suspect that I could win. I mean, who would vote for me? You know me, dear readers, I'm by far not vain enough to rally people to vote for me. Modesty is my middle name. Quality, not quantity is what matters – although getting a higher ranking would certainly lure more readers in my nets.
Now off you go. To any site of your liking I mean, it's entirely your choice.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
A Man And His Shed
When we were looking for a new house, I made sure there was a shed in the garden. Because what is a man without a shed? Nothing, I tell you.
The shed is my exclusive domain. There's practically nothing there that belongs to Mrs.B, apart from some garden equipment and pots and fertiliser and things. It is stuffed with all things male, such as power tools and big pieces of lumber and testosterone.
And rubbish, plenty of it. So much that it had become impossible to get in, unless you made a silly kind of dance jumping from one free spot on the floor to another. The previous owner also made a mess of the shelves he made from various pieces of scrap wood and metal. Inconveniently low beams kept a stack of all sorts of old pieces of hardboard and timber in the air. I couldn't really stand in there and I kept bumping into the wooden beams. And then there were the leaks, I couldn't figure out where but water was seeping in and a lot of the wood was starting to rot. It smelled of mildew, and I'm allergic to mildew.
So for the last two weekends I've been busy tidying up the place. I dragged all the old wood out and cut the beams below the ceiling. Luckily, this didn't affect the stability of the shed in a negative way, as Mrs.B feared and as I discovered simply by trying out. The wood is for the neighbours' stove, this is the second winter they'll be able to warm their house with pieces of ours. The old rickety shelves went out too. I managed to crush my tumb between the handle bar of the lawn mower and one of those shelves, I can now plant coconuts by pushing my tumb in the ground. And on the very end, I broke my hammer.
That's right, I was firmly engaged in a battle of minds with a stupid piece of wood that just wouldn't come off the wall. No wonder, since it was attached to the wall with those big old hand-made square nails that were probably used to hang Christ on the cross. I threw in everything I had, and then my hammer went 'crack' and it broke off just underneath the head. Poor hammer, I had it since university (it's mandatory equipment for Belgian college students).
But now at least the shed is clean and empty. All my stuff is in neat plastic boxes of various sizes. All I have to do now is buy new clean empty shelves to stack the neat plastic boxes in an orderly way. This way, I'll be able to keep my shed tidy for, say... oh at least four days.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
We have a wireless network at home. That's not really astonishing news, but it is supposed to be a wired network. I went at great lenghts to pull cables throughout our house, drilling holes in walls and floors, fixing wires in the wall or underneath the stairs, trying to hide everything as much as possible.
But now we have a wireless network, because the cats have eaten the wires. That's right, they've gnawed right through solid Cat5e UTP network cable. We've put them on a diet recently, because they were really getting to fat. But it's not asif they are starving with hunger, not nearly enough to make them eat electrical wiring when there are plenty of doves and crows in the garden to hunt down. Which they do with great regularity; I've found the remains of a pigeon only last weekend.
So now Mrs.B can't print from her new laptop downstairs on her new printer-fax-telephone-copier-scanner-espresso machine in her office upstairs. And she can't reach her files on the laptop from the computer that she uses for emailing.
It won't be long before she can't use her laptop anyway: I've noticed that the cats have gnawed half through the cable of her mouse too. She will be forced to use that slide-your-finger-over-the-square thingy, which is a bloody nuisance to use. When I tried it, I opened all sorts of applications and documents and stuff.
But then again, it is only natural that cats chew on mice.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Happy New Year, from little Wolf, Mrs.B. and myself of course! May your bank dump all its black money by accident on your account. May your sex life be filled with multi-orgasmic experiences. May your health remain excellent, despite the many multi-orgasmic experiences and the laden bank account that allows you to buy five tons of chocolates a day. May your inner beauty shine through and may your outer beauty make your friends jealous as hell. And may your colossal New Year's hang over fade away in a day or three.
As for ourselves, who knows what 2008 may bring. But we hope that it will be a bit more tranquil than 2007, which was a very busy year, as usual. But if you know I got a rotary hammer drill for my birthday-Christmas-New Year's present, than you know how tranquil it will be in this little house on the prairie of ours.
I hope I'll have more time to write on my weblog in 2008, and to read the blogs of other people! Things have been so busy lately that I scarcely had time to visit my internet friends and casual acquaintances. But I will be back, I promise!
So you still have a bit of time left to change your URL before I return.