Sunday, April 26, 2009
Out Of Europe
Today, my nephew Ibe is baptised - staring Mrs.B and myself as godmother 1 and godfather 1 (my brother in law's brother and sister-in-law are godfather 2 and godmother 2 - that kid's going to be spoiled by all the presents he'll get at New Year). My sister does the catering, so I expect an avelanche of cakes, sandwiches, cheries-with-meatloaf, croissants, soup, applesauce, pancakes, etc. etc.
And tomorrow morning I leave for Congo, which means you'll have to miss me for two weeks unless I get the opportunity to leave some status reports in the comments to this post.
I'll take no less than four domestic flights on this trip and I'll be travelling through various parts of the tropical rain forest in an area best known for it's periodic Ebola outbreaks. So if I don't make it back, decide amongst yourselves who gets what part of my enormous porn collection.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Fish On Sticks
This Tuesday, we had our annual Christmas dinner. No, I don’t mean Easter dinner, I didn’t mix things up. Now that tulips and crocuses are popping up, our office organised a late Christmas party.
Last time we went to a horrible Mexican restaurant, and before that to a rather good Rwandese restaurant in the famous Quartier Matonge – the Congolese part of town in Ixelles/Elsene. Now we had decided on a Japanese restaurant. I was rather excited, because I’d never eaten Japanese food before. On the other hand, I dreaded any confrontations with raw octopus, raw (or fried for that matter) jellyfish or raw fish in general – especially poisonous ones.
I also hoped that my chopstick-handling-skills would match those of my esteemed colleagues, who all seemed to have a lot of experience with Japanese restaurants.
The final choice was a restaurant on the Chaussée de Wavre/Waverse Steenweg – right next to Matonge. The place was packed when we arrived, so the food had to be good, right? We were guided to a private room in the back, where there was one long, low table – Japanese style. It had a slight modification in that there was a big hole underneath the table to accommodate Europeans that are not accustomed to stay seated with crossed legs for more than five minutes.
Truth be told, I’ve NEVER been served so fast after entering a restaurant, not even in a fast-food restaurant. We had barely taken our shoes off (mandatory) and gawked at the snails that were served as ‘hors d’oeuvre’ when we received our plates. Most of my colleagues had opted for the menu of the day, which was… raw fish. I had opted for grilled fish instead, and got a very nice grilled side of salmon, which had been salted to cure it I think. A bit in the way of Portuguese ‘Bacalhau’. It was served with cabbage with a dressing and a side of vegetables in a sweet-and-sour sauce. After trying a snail – too raw, not enough pepper – I attacked the salmon with my chopsticks, but after successfully bringing three pieces to my mouth without bombarding my immediate neighbours, the waiter brought us little bowls of soup. It was very nice, but a bit annoying to get everything in random order.
We had to wait for ages before we got anything to drink, but that’s the only complaint that I have. As for the battle of the chopsticks: I proved to be quite handy with them compared to most of my friends. I even gave advice to some people about how to hold and use them, cocky bastard that I am.
All in all, it was a nice experience, but it all went too fast. This had the serious downside that after an hour or so, we could return to work. Last year in the Rwandese restaurant we had to wait so long that the afternoon was almost over when we finally had finished our meals. So we didn’t have to go back to work.
Japanese efficiency is no good in a restaurant.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Next Monday I’m leaving for the ‘We’ll-Be-Democratic-When-We-Feel-Like-It’ Republic of Congo. So what better time to get a pneumonia, or a severe cold? However, it could also be a life-threatening case of allergy. I really can’t tell: I’ve got a dry throat, runny eyes and a runny nose, which all indicates to an allergy. But this morning I got up with the cough of coughs. With a cough like this, I should become a chain-smoker. It would be a shame to have lungs like these without ever having smoked.
Between opening my eyes and making my lunch, I sounded like a Russian Trans-Siberian diesel train that missed out on its yearly maintenance and overhaul for the last 40 years. Then it got somewhat better, in that I could breathe for three minutes at a time in between these retching spasms. People on the bus looked at me.
So when I arrived in Brussels’ Central station, I dove into the nearest pharmacy and bought me a nice big bottle of coughing syrup. At work, I carefully read the prescription, to find out what the absolute maximum dose was before actually falling into a coma and dying. It said: ‘an adult person should take no more than 3 to 4 doses per day of 15 ml.’
After the first dose of 22ml I felt pretty Ok. Lo’ and behold: it worked. Not that the coughing stopped outright, but I was able to work.
An hour later my coworker started to throw angry looks at me, so I took another dose.
Yet another hour later, I felt it was time for a third dose. I started to note a happy, rosy mood coming over me. Work was suddenly less unpleasant (I had been checking accountancy records all morning).
After the fourth dose, I started to feel groovy, man. You know, when you’re going for stuff and shit and then you go like ‘whaaoow dude’ and everyone’s like totally hip man?
My productivity started to suffer after the fifth sip of syrup. Luckily, it was dinner time and my lunch absorbed some of the drugs. But then the cold turkey hit me. I needed another shot.
By the end of the afternoon, my cough wasn’t improving anymore, but I got a hell of a headache on top. I thought about taking an aspirin, but one addiction a day is quite enough.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Finally, after months of pleading, I got a new computer at work. Saying that my previous work machine was a tad old is an understatement. Instead of bits and bytes, it worked on gold ducats and papal decrees. Every time I hit the ‘enter’ button, I could hear the midget inside sliding beads on his abacus.
Apart from having a negative clock speed – glaciers wouldn’t believe how slow it was in the end – its display was suffering a slow and painful death. In fact, I had a series of crappy monitors at the end. The first one turned blue and purple on irregular intervals. Then our network administrator gave me another worn down display that was so bad that I’d need glasses if I’d watched for a day longer. Finally, I got one that was fine most of the time, although in the morning it would present me with a variety of striped patterns moving up and down or from left to right or diagonally across my screen. Still, it was the best of the three.
I can’t tell you how much time I lost with that thing. In the morning, I would turn it on and then I’d go for a long stay at the toilet. When I’d returned, it was time to log in and then wait a bit before I could start Outlook. Once I’d hit the Outlook shortcut, I’d have to wait again for fifteen minutes for it to open and check for my mails. So thirty to forty minutes after my arrival, I’d have my computer at my disposal to finally get some work done. Opening documents would also take ages and in the evening I’d have to start to shut down all applications and the computer fifteen minutes earlier or I’d miss my train.
But now all of that is behind me! After creating an uproar in our weekly service meeting and calling my colleagues to take up arms and start the revolution of the working proletariat against the filthy capitalists of the direction (I kid you not, I really put it like that, waving my fists and everything), management finally gave in. The best part was when the netadmin said that he hadn’t even had to buy a new one for me, because he had this one in reserve. Reserve for what? In case his computer broke down?
Anyway, I’m happy as a toddler now with my new toy. As a consequence, the glorious revolution of the working class came to an abrupt end because its leader was bribed by upper management. Marx would turn around in his grave.
One disadvantage of these pre-installed business computers is that it is still not a standard practice to make the distinction between the system partition, with Windows and all the applications, and the data partition. So if anything dramatic happens, and you have to reformat your system partition, you wouldn’t loose your data too.
I didn’t want to reformat the whole disk, but I didn’t have access to Norton’s Partition Magic either. I rarely modify the partitions on the computers at home, so why buy such an expensive application then? So I looked around on the internet for a bit, and I found this little gem: Easeus Partition Master Home Edition. It works just as well as Northon Partition Magic, it is very easy to use, it offers every kind of option you can imagine and it’s for free!
It’s fantastic. With my new computer installed completely as I want it, I almost feel I could be productive!
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Sharing Is For Loosers
A month ago, we took advantage of one of the first nice days to take Wolf to the playground.
He learned to climb on the slide all by himself. To celebrate this momentous occasion, he crowned himself the Supreme Head Tyrant of the Slide. Other kids were banned from the slide from that moment forth, as far as he was concerned. Sadly for him, we used our Omni-Overruling Parental Veto and spoiled his day by allowing other kids on the slide. He then made a daring bid for power over the swings.
This was also the first time that he actually touched the sand, although not with a lot of enthusiasm.
Friday, April 03, 2009
How Clean Does Clean Have To Be?
'Didn't you notice anything when you came in?', asked Mrs.B when I returned home from work today. Her stern look tells me that I better had noticed it, but what can it be? It's not that she has a new haircut. Not that I'd notice that, but luckily I remember that she has an appointment with the hairdresser's tomorrow, so that can't be it.
'The car', she says in a voice that tigers use to inform their prey that they're going to pounce... right now.
'Go look outside.'
I obey, like the good little strong independant man that I am.
'Ah, I see. You've cleaned the inside of the car. Very good, it was so dirty.'
The tigress' look tells me that insulting her right before the pounce will do nothing for my chances at survival.
'I! Did! The! Outside! As! Well!!!'
'Really?', I reply while digging my grave even deeper than it already was. 'At first I thought you had, but then I saw the roof was still dirty.'
'Well yes', Mrs.B admits, 'I didn't clean the roof.'
'Look, and there's dirt on the bonnet too, and on the windows. And on the wheelcaps.'
'I did all those, but I can't get the dirt off! Look, it's etched into the paint!'
'Maybe we should wash the car more often', I reply while trying to remember when we've last spunged it down.
We did wash it since we bought it, three years ago. I mean, at least once.