Wednesday, November 29, 2006
12.30: Lunch break
I put my rucksack on my lap and try to fish my lunch out. I can’t identify it immediately between all the stuff that’s in there, so I put my face over the opening to get a peek.
It’s the smell of lunch made by your mother. You know, whenever you went on a school trip. Stacks of sandwiches made with love by your mum and enough to feed all your friends too (and bribe the teacher). With a Mars bar for the morning snack and an apple for in the afternoon. Packed in aluminium foil, that you carefully unwrap sitting on a bench in the middle of the zoo, or in front of the museum. And after the official, educational part of the trip we’d go to a playground…
Monday, November 27, 2006
I couldn’t set my mind to work today. I had a lousy night’s sleep, lying around for ages, tossing and turning. I think I slept too much when I was ill last week. I also woke up in the middle of the night, I suspect when the person that steals blankets for a living who happens to lie next to me, had to go to the bathroom.
But the worst thing was waking up:
She: ‘Oh crap, it’s 7.05 already. You’ve forgotten to set your alarm clock. Wake up!’
Me: ‘Mmmph.’ Just great, I think, after such a night a miss my bus and train. I raise my head to make eye-contact with my alarm clock. Wait a minute, I didn’t forget to set it…
Me: It’s not five past seven, it’s five past six in the morning.
She: Oh, yes. You’re right... Sorry.
Thirty-five more minutes left to sleep, but of course I didn’t get a moment’s shut-eye anymore.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
I Like My Website Strong And Black
Last year I created the be.bart website to learn XHTML and CSS. For those of you who think I suddenly switched to Chinese, those are languages to make-up websites. My idea at the time was also to have a place to gather information that’s useful for me, but might also be useful to others. And to ridicule people without running the risk of violent physical reactions and bombardments with food items that are seriously over their consummation limit.
The result is a somewhat – erm – eclectic site with a lot of dead ends. You see, I made the site during a time when my situation at work (previous work that is) was infinitely less than pleasant. In fact, it was an all-out global conflict between yours truly and the powers that were supposed to direct the organisation I worked for. It was an incessant psychological war, and the site helped me to pass the many lonely hours when I couldn’t do anything because the executive board blocked me or got so much on my nerves that I just couldn’t get anything done. Then I changed jobs, got married, bought a house and a car and before you know it I barely had the time to set up and maintain this weblog. The website came to a dead stop, and it shows. So high time for a refurbishing exercise.
When I set up the website, I didn’t own a digital camera yet. So now I want to put more emphasis on my attempts at becoming a Magnum photographer. But making web pages with lots of photos directly in XHTML is a bit tedious and time-consuming to say the least, and also gives a result that is too rigid. So I started to look around for an application that allows you to do a What You See Is What You Get (if you’re very lucky) or WYSIWIG lay-out, while still having the possibility to tinker around with the code itself when it’s needed. I also wanted to continue with the use of CSS to determine the overall lay-out of the site.
There are very nice applications that let you do all that and more. They also cost all that and more. I don’t mind paying a bit for such a program, but I still have 24 and a half years of monthly instalments to pay for my house, which I’m also not willing to sell just to buy the likes of Adobe Dreamweaver. Before someone yells ‘Microsoft’, I did try Frontpage but I like my code to be W3C-compliant instead of in some Billgatian dialect. On the other hand there are loads of applications (even free ones) that are very easy to use and help you set up a website in minutes. Even a retarded cucumber can set up a website that way, but there’s generally no room for more (I tried CoffeeCup’s VisualSite Designer). If you want to add code you have to load it in another editor, assuming that this is at all possible. In between you have applications that try but fail to meet my requirements. They are difficult to handle, or rather they are unpredictable and give unstable results. I had a go at NVU for a while, but that wasn’t satisfying. I had to switch back and forth between NVU and my trusted (but not WYSIWIG) HTML Kit and NVU kept messing up the code.
So it’s either selling the house, get a lobotomy or make do with crap programmes. But then I discovered CoffeeCup’s HTML editor. I thought this was also a code editor, but it combines a code editor with a WYSIWIG graphical editor. Inserting photos is a snatch with this thing and although it has some quirks, it has the right balance between idiot-proof and being useful for technophiles and professionals. I have the feeling it will allow me to further learn website design and programming, without costing me an arm and a leg. So I hope it won’t be long before I can show you some results, although you shouldn’t expect a drastic re-design. It will be more subtle than that.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Marriage is all about caring for each other. So last week, when my wife had the flue, I cared for her. I brought her tea and sandwiches, I went to the pharmacist’s for drugs, I gave her healing kisses and I let her take naps with her head on my lap.
Marriage is also about sharing. So she shared her viruses or bacteria with me.
Marriage has good days and bad days. So today I have a bad day, because I’ve got the flue.
This morning I woke up because someone was pounding with a hammer between my eyes. My eyes themselves felt as if someone was pumping fluid into them to blow them up. My sinuses were reaching their bursting-points too. And someone was inflating balloons in my ears. To top it all off, I got a mild cough and enough snot to supply a medium-sized metropolis. So I ate aspirins for breakfast which helped a lot and gives me a false sense of healing. Because from the moment I try to move an arm or a leg my muscles feel like a colony of vampires sucked the life out of them.
But the worst part is having to watch crappy TV-programmes all afternoon. I hate being ill, I can’t stand the boredom.
Monday, November 20, 2006
I Know What You Did Last Evening
Being married to a wife that doesn’t drink alcohol is quite practical, because it allows you to slosh down – let’s say – a bottle of white wine, a bottle of excellent 1992 Bourgogne (name escapes behind veils of mist) and some small change in pints. No worries about how you’re going to get home…
However, it is very annoying that you can’t escape the details about how you’ve made a fool of yourself the evening before. Normally when everybody drinks at the same rate, such information is safely washed away by the alcohol. Although you may suffer from sudden flashbacks the next morning, when you’re recovering from you hangover in you warm but moist and smelly bed. This happens to me mainly when there was a dance-floor in the vicinity and the DJ played decent music for a change. The next morning I may experience some sudden and heavy flashbacks of my on the floor with my legs spread apart in a Michael -Jackson-meets-Prince imitation. So very wrong. So very painful. I usually cover my head with my pillow in shame, it helps a lot. But on the whole, these flashbacks are rare, although they may linger for several days and give me the occasional jolt of shame and disgust.
But when your wife’s still sober and fresh by the end of the evening, she will leave no detail of your scandalous behaviour, ridiculously wild claims, very politically incorrect but loudly proclaimed opinions and other socially unacceptable faux-pas uncovered. She takes revenge for listening for endless hours to your blabbering, by providing you with a detailed account of what you said and how everyone else looked at you in stunned disbelief / utter disgust / immense boredom. Oh the shame! It will take weeks before you recover and dare to phone your friends again. It will be months before you take the risk of setting a mere glass of kiddy-champagne or root beer to your lips in their presence. And that’s what it is all about: preventing that such evenings repeat themselves too often.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Kofi Anan, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations is leaving in a couple of months. For Secretaries-General (General-Secretaries?) this is an excellent moment to kick some arses and make bold statements. No-one’s going to kick him out at this point anymore.
Last week, Anan launched a vigorous appeal to ban cluster-bombs. For those of you who don’t do their shopping in the Middle-East, cluster-bombs are containers that are dropped by planes or shot by artillery and that contain a multitude of small bombs that scatter and kill people over a wide area. Fortunately for the poor sods in that area, not all of them explode. Unfortunately for the people that return to that particular area, the bastards can go off anytime and without warning. Children are attracted to the small bombs, because they look like toys (often complete with mini-parachute). So hooray for Kofi and his fight against cluster-bombs! Incidentally, Belgium is the first and only country that banned the production, use and trade of that junk on its territory. Other countries might follow that example, if it wasn’t for the pressure of some very powerful countries that make a nice living out of producing them, with the United States taking the dubious lead.
I really support the Secretary-General in his fight, but I would like to see some attention for another important global problem: undersized washing basins in men’s rooms. These things make tens of thousands of victims a day, which gives you an idea of the importance of this problem. You see, I’m one of these rare men that washes their hands after going to the loo. But there are just too many men’s rooms that have these miniscule washing basins in which you can barely dip the tops of your fingers. A garden gnome is liable to braking his fingers in that teeny-weeny bowl.
But the worst part is that these contraptions are so small that the water just splashes everywhere! So when you leave the restroom you look like a Alzheimer's patient that has tried to take a wee while operating a pneumatic drill in a major earthquake. There are conspicuous drips on your shoes. There’s moist on your trousers right at the level of your private parts, as if you put ‘him’ away when you weren’t even half finished. And half of the time you look drunk because you slammed your head into the mirror when you bent over to catch the soap that’s fallen off the tiny rim.
Maybe Hezbollah and the Mossad are fighting out an undercover war, installing those bastard mini-basins wherever they can. It’s a lot less conspicuous than a cluster-bomb.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Mrs. Bartlog has the flue. It started on Saturday evening when we were entertaining some of her old college friends. I slaved the whole day in the kitchen to prepare what must have been the Worlds Most Humungous Wok Dish For Seven Persons Ever. The recipe is quite easy: take 35 metric tonnes of veggies (onions, paprika, carrots, mushrooms (two 40-foot containers) tomatoes and soy sprouts), add one shipload of giant shrimp tails, half a shipload of monkfish and half a shipload of scallops. Forget the cuttlefish rings in the refrigerator so you can wonder the next day what the hell you’re going to do with a truckload of them for just two persons. Serve with China’s year supply of rice and India’s year supply of curry sauce. Oh, and for starters we had cauliflower and endive soup with bacon.
Anyway, everyone like the food and we had a jolly good time but by the end of the evening my co-dishwasher for life became very tired and developed a fever. So for the past couple of days I’ve been promoted to Maker of the Royal Tea and Fluffer of the Pillow. Very distinguished and all that you see. Her stomach was a bit queasy too, so I prepared some light and otherwise easily digestible meals such as wild boar stew in red wine gravy with bacon and mushrooms served with creamy mashed potatoes, and rabbit in Flemish beer sauce with thick applesauce and boiled potatoes. Maybe tomorrow I should make some spaghetti with steamed veggies or something, or else she won’t make it to the end of the week.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
I don’t know what’s happening with me lately, but I sleep like a mattress-tester that’s addicted to sleeping pills. It’s like I’m catching up with a century or so of sleep. The renovation work in the weekend has slowed down lately, mostly because we ran out of renovation money and also because we’ve been inviting people that were on the brink of forgetting that we once were there friends, relatives or neighbours. So my body seems to take the opportunity to nap, sleep, doze and snooze as much as possible. And who am I to protest against that?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Dumb And Dumber
This morning a couple of students entered my train compartment and planted their bums next to me and in front of me. The two girls started – or rather continued – a conversation that involved a lot of volume and words, but was as devoid of intelligence as the election campaign of the US conservatives. I almost ate my newspaper in chagrin as Princess Loudmouth at the opposite side of my table started explaining in detail who of her friends fucked whom in all the detail and description you’d find otherwise only in the bubbliest of soap opera’s. The Marquise d’Echo-Brain at my left side feigned utter disbelieve to gather every last juicy detail.
Then they started about school. It seemed they were all students of the Brussels Film School. That may sound impressive at first, but from my observations I’d say that a lobotomised egg can pass the exams there. Some highlights:
- The girl in front of me said ‘Borat’ was a great movie. Nothing wrong with light entertainment but you’d expect a more critical vision of a would-be professional in the moving images.
- All three of them were complaining that they had to see ten films in the film museum in Antwerp or Brussels, but all these historically important films that they showed were soooooo boring and they found nothing of their taste. Apparently there is no Jerry Lewis retrospective running at the moment.
- The subject turned to software, an important instrument for coming movie-makers. But Princess Loudmouth was soooo confused because of all the formats (MPEG, QuickTime, etc.)
- She also asked if the others had the ‘Adobe’ program. Adobe is not a program, it is a firm with a lot of graphical software, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, the PDF-reader/writer Acrobat and yes, a film-editing application called Adobe Premiere.
- To top it all off, Princess Loudmouth found Google too difficult to handle and said that installing a program was just too complicated for her. Yes, that’s right. Don’t waste your time on acquiring basic computer skills. Hollywood is eagerly awaiting your arrival!
By the time they finally got off the train, I wrote an entire script for ‘The Brussels Chainsaw Massacre’.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Please read this post in silence. And don’t breathe so loud.
This may be the last time you’ll find me alive.
We invited the neighbours here yesterday. It was fun. We had a lot of drinks. Well, I did anyway. As if half a crate of beer (that’s 12 beers here) wasn’t enough, I also sipped down half a bottle of whisky (Chivas Rigal, mmmmmm…)
Today, I had two aspirins and two glasses of coke for breakfast, but the hammer is still pounding. I have a very slight hangover, or as we call it here in Belgium, I have a tomcat. And in a moment we’re going to a brunch with my two sisters in law. It is doubtful that I will survive. It was nice knowing you. I put you in my testament, I leave you all my CDs.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Wednesday was a holiday, so we had the day off in the middle of the week. And given that this week the kiddies don’t have to go to school, a lot of adults ‘made the bridge’ or took the week off altogether. So the bus was almost empty this morning, as it was yesterday. Plenty of space in the trains too. And the European district of Brussels is so empty you hear your footsteps echo between the office blocks.
I’m alone in the office too, my boss is still on maternity leave and my colleague called in yesterday to say that she’ll be absent until the end of the month in the best case scenario. So I arrive in the morning, start to work with the rustling of the computer fans on the background, eat lunch on my own, start rattling on the keyboard again in the afternoon and then close up to take an empty train back home.
IT’S SO DEPRESSING !!!