Monday, October 31, 2005

Hot end of October

Wow it's so unbelieveble but last days have been so unusually warm for the end of the October. We actually broke the day's record in our history yesterday: 21C (at some places up to 23C) on the 30th of October.

Jan and I took the occasion to walk up to downtown Ghent from where I lived and to enjoy the city in the fall sun. We clearly weren't the only ones with that idea (oh well we couldn't all go into the traffic jam to the sea). Some impressions.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Winter saving time petition

Oh cool, I just realise we are switching to winter time tonight. Yeah even one more extra unexpected hour this weekend!! yeaaaaaaah :-). I always love switching to winter saving time. We should switch to winter time every day! Let's start a petition.

Who votes with me???? Everyday an extra hour!!!

Unexpected extra (warm) free time

Well I was supposed to work this weekend, since we'd go life with a new software system next Tuesday.

It would have been quite tight and risky however since I couple of bug fixes would only arrive this week, the hardware would come end of this week, there was a national strike (also in the platform) that messed up our cut-over planning, some data needed rechecking and the end-users asked for more excercise in the new software system before going life. Anyway, the decision was made to postpone the go-life in order to have a more robust switch and in order to avoid all risks. It gives us a couple of more weeks for more training and double checking every thing. We'll be able to use them well.

As a result I have an unexpected weekend, since I thought I'd be working. Great to have no plans (well, that didn't last long though) and 2 days of time. Good to do some relaxing, clean up house, do some shopping and enjoy the fabulous weather. Can you believe it: it's above 20C at the end of October here!!! Incredible but very very enjoyable. I'd not mind it if it kept like this for another month or so.

On Friday there was a national strike in belgium because the government wants to raise the age of early retirement. The government really does not have a chance since our pensions will soon get unpayable and Belgium has one of the lowest activity rates in the world for +55 years! Nevertheless the unions are raising this to a national conflict and have organised the second national strike in 3 weeks time. Our entire team went to work on the platform but the roads were empty and their was very little activity. It was really weird. Their might be more strikes to follow. I don't get it. Well I do get it, I'd like to retire early as well if I could.... but it's not realistic to do so. oh well, had already enough political debates on it on tv, so I won't start one here either.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bad communication, misunderstandings and useless waiting

One week before go-life. Stress levels are clearly rising among the team members. Still so much to do, will we make it???

Today seems to be the day of misunderstandings causing the software company phoning the director in the UK that we probably could not go life because of all the issues we were logging, causing him to phone one of our team members, causing confusing here, causing other parallell phone calls and e-mails that are crossing each other etc.... Great... what would be a go-life without confusing and stress huh...

And now due to some wrong communication, the firewall are down again at lunch time for some testing, so we have now 15 people wiggling their thumbs while waiting until we can continue our work. Argh. Fortunatly internet still works, so I can quickly add a little blog here :-). Next training should start in 20 minutes. Lets hope they keep the network up then. I know the techies need to still switch a bunch of stuff and run their tests, and every timing is now bad timing really. The eternal struggle between techies who need to take the system down now and then and functional people who want to keep it up :-).

oh well, I can still laugh about it all, I had a very good sleep last night so I can handle it all today :-).


Friday, October 21, 2005

Stef and Renée almost 2 months

Stef and Renée are almost 2 months old, growing like crazy and learning how to smile!!

Stef very amused about being a winner

Renée working her charmes

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Life as expat in own country

Since this week we start the implementation of new software at one of our distribution platforms. We have been working and preparing this project for the last 4,5 months and now the software is more or less (hmmm!) ready. So the entire team moved their desks to an improvised room at the platform.

Right now we have 2 weeks in which we do the final testing, fixes etc... and in which we train the end users in the new system (not always a good combination to do at the same time!!). I am giving a couple of training sessions as well. Tough in another language!

It's in Liège, a big industrial city in the east of the country near the German border. It would make 90 -120 min drive for me to get here, so I am staying in a hotel all the time. there are actually quite a few of the team members staying in the hotel since we expect to work a lot of overtime in the coming weeks.

As a result it feels like I am being an expat again, although I am still in my own country. We found our rhythm right away: working long days, going to the hotel, waiting in the bar until everyone is down again in order to go out for dinner, walk around in the city to choose a restaurant, go and eat in a restaurant, (some then go out for another drink), get back in the hotel room, telephone, watch a little tv or read a few pages in a book, fall asleep .....

Being in a small hotel all the time is not very exciting, but somehow I manage to get more sleep than I do at home. I am offline all the time, so not tempted to chat with everybody , neither can I do any household chores. And I don't loose time commuting, so I can sleep longer. But I do miss chatting with you all though! Can hardly make it to check my mail her a couple of times a day :(.

It's ok for now, it can be really fun to all go out in a group every night. But I don't wanna think yet how long this is going to take, neither when I am going to do my household chores in the weekend combined with all the other things I want to do!

Monday, October 17, 2005

East-Indian birthday party dinner

Last saturday a lot of my friends came over for a birthday party that we hosted in East Indian style. After Jan's third visit to India recently, we had a lot of inspiration in meals to make etc...

I must brag a bit here on Jan who did a fantastic job in cooking all afternoon way to many different dishes so we could present my friends with lot of Indian appetizers and a whole buffet of vegetarian dishes and curry's etc.... He imported for doing this I believe a 20 different herbs that I cannot find here in Belgium. This enabled us to give the curries that specific strong specific tasts. Mmmmm. And the good thing is: we have sitll lots of left-overs in the freezer now ;-).

We needed only a few herbs

The buffet

Jan had bought me a traditional outfit and he was wearing one ourselves. we had quite fun, I hope my friends did as well.

The indian cook was a very happy guy

The hostess

We have windows!

yeaaah we have windows. Last Wednesday until Saturday, they have been putting in windows at our house. One more day of work and it'll be finished!!! :-).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I want windows!!!

Pfff after 2 months of delay, they would finally start working on our windows today. But I went to check this evening and they hadn't started yet. Aaarrrghhh I want windows!!!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Too cute

You must admit: he is just too cute not to post this

Long weekend in London

Portobello Road , Notting Hill, London

The weekend in London was very nice, relaxed and filled with good exotic food. I love the cosmopolitan atmosphere in the city - you hardly hear any decent English on the streets - and also the more village type atmosphere you can find in the districts away from the busy typical turistic center (e.g. Notting Hill & Greenwich).

The Royal Naval College in Greenwich

We ate such good food and the choice of little exotic restaurants and lunch bars is enourmous, as is to be expected in such a city. We made a small culinair tour of the world: Japanese; Pakistani; Persian; Mediterrean; British and Mexican food :-).

When I arrived on my birthday, I got to see Jan again who had just gone back from India and VAE and he could finally show my his new appartment.

On Friday we met Allison Witthingham's mother and her friend who were on a tour through Europe. We had fun being "Belgian experts" in guiding them through London. Pretty absurd situation huh.

Sherry and Marny outside at Buckinham Palace

We also enjoyed the musical Chicago very much. It was the first time I ever saw a musical and I feared a little bit that I'd find the singing in a play a bit artificial (as I do with the drawings of cartoons => yeah yeah silly me I know). But that wasn't the case: the singing, the story, the dancing, ... it all came together well.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

In London

I send you all a big hello from London... a bit older, and maybe a bit wiser? Not so sure about the last :-)

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Crazy sisters

For all of you who sometimes think I am crazy, here's the proof that it must be in my genes! Some images of my online chat this afternoon with my sister :) . enjoy

Suggestion for msn users : it's really fun to both have your webcam working and then start immitating all the available winks in msn messenger.

Short haircut

Jan is currently in India and therefore I have the weekend for myself. I enjoyed it by first of all taking the time of to relax and do things I enjoy.
This afternoon I started a big operation to catch up with some household chores that I didn't manage to do last weeks when I was so tired and coming home late at night (and in the weekends we worked in the house!). It's fun: I had more energy and I can make a fresh new start for the new week with freshly cooked food, a clean house, etc...

But the most exciting thing this weekend was getting a new haircut. It had been quite a while since I went to the hairdresser so even though my last haircut was fairly short, it had grown long again. I just let the hairdresser do her thing and the result is shorter than last time but I like it very much. It feels so energetic to have this short hairstyle :-).

Unexpected visit

Last Tuesday I was checking my mails and much to my surprise I read that Frank and Barb Wloka (Canadian friends currently living in Moscow) were in Leuven. Since I haven't seen them in 3 years (I then enjoyed their hospitality in Moscow) and Belgium is a small country, we arranged to meet each other on Wednesday evening. So instead of driving home to Ghent, I drove the opposite direction.

I picked up Barb at the hotel and we walked first to our house. I had fun touring Barb around in our house that we are renovating in Leuven and to show her the progress and to discuss with her about our ideas and plans :-).

Later on the evening, Frank had come back from his meetings and we enjoyed a delicious Indian meal. Time flew by and we talked and talked and talked. I honestly had the feeling that we have always seen each other, it didn't feel like 3 years had gone by at all. Then you know that some friendships will last forever, despite the distance and time. Barb and Frank, thanks for the chat and I am looking forward to meeting you again someday, somewhere this world (Brussels, Leuven, Moscow, Creston BC, ..... your choice. But I suggest Ghent ;-) ).