Strike!

As you may or may not be aware, the Belgian public service unions went on a 24 hour strike yesterday, impacting most of the country’s transport infrastructure. Most notably, Belgian airspace was closed for the day meaning that all flights in and out of the country were cancelled. Most of the trams and buses were out of action and only half of the trains are running.

For me, these strikes are great as they make my train journey to and from the office so much more pleasant.

The thing is that, while only half the trains are running, the rail company (NMBS) is working to an alternative schedule that prioritises rush hour traffic. So disruption is kept to a minimum and crucially (for me) the intercity trains that I usually catch are running as normal.

It get’s better than this though because most people who can make alternative arrangements (such as driving to work or working from home) do make alternative arrangements. I can usually find a seat on the train, but today I was able to find a block of four seats, sit back, stretch out and read in comfort. It’s almost a shame that the seats don’t recline.

And so to the office.

As mentioned earlier, everyone who can work from home is working from home. In this case, that’s everyone with whom I normally share an office. And if you have ever worked in an open-plan environment I am sure you will appreciate just how pleasant it can be to occasionally enjoy a distraction free environment.

Since I was both shockingly punctual and amazingly productive in the morning, I figured I could justify taking my full lunch break and go for a bit of a walk.

Going home was even better. For the first time this year the train was actually on time, and the carriage was even emptier than it had been this morning. The only problem is that, being on time, I was home with the pizzas before the boys had returned from karate.

There have been several strikes over the past year or so and, while I am aware that they cause a lot of problems for a lot of people, I can’t help but hope we have a few more.

Getting to Know You

image-316 I haven’t been tagged by another blogger for a long time, but Baffled Mum has nominated me for the Getting to Know You challenge which spread from lauravent69 by way of bereavedsingledad.

Just copy and paste the rules and the questions listed below and tag at least two people to take the challenge. Use the “Getting to Know You” pic and pingback to this post. Easy!

So here goes

The Questions

  1. Name a moment in your life when you felt you were most courageous.
  2. If you had to choose only one breakfast cereal for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
  3. When have you felt the most scared?
  4. If you could sing like any musical artist, who would you choose?
  5. Do you collect anything?
  6. If you could live inside a tv show or movie, what would it be?
  7. Have you ever had a reoccurring dream? If so, what was it?
  8. What’s your Zodiac sign?

My Answers

  1. This is a tough one. I can’t claim to have had a difficult life, by any stretch of the imagination and, although we have had our share of difficult decisions, courage is not a word that I would apply to any of them. I suppose the closest I can come to is deciding to go freelance after being made redundant a couple of years ago. With a young family to support and a hard time limit imposed by the size of my redundancy payment, I had a few stressful months before I landed my first contract.
  2. Something crunchy and sugary. Golden Grahams spring to mind. That said, I don’t normally eat cereal these days. On weekdays I tend to grab something at the station on the way to work and at the weekend the twins will wake me up to demand toast. Because long, lazy breakfasts with plenty of toast are the best breakfasts.
  3. When the twins were born. The pregnancy had been a difficult one (not for me, obviously) and the twins were frighteningly premature. I’m not going to go into detail here, but I will say that the University Hospital in Leuven is absolutely fantastic.
  4. I’m a terrible but frequent singer. I know this from the number of times one or more of the boys will shout “stop singing!” at me. I am also a total victim for earworms — if a tune or lyric lodges in my mind, I will be humming or singing along to it for days afterwards. There is no singer I particularly aspire to sound like, but if I could sing Everything is Awesome in the way that I imagine Lee Brilleaux would sing Everything is Awesome, I would be both very happy and slightly terrifying.
  5. I don’t so much collect as hoard things. I have shelves and piles of books, DVDs, CDs… I even still have all my old VHS casettes and if I ever get around to pluggging the video recorder back in I might even watch them again.
  6. I’m going to cheat here because, if I was going to live in a fictional world it would have to be the Chiark Orbital, as depicted in Iain M. Banks’ The Player of Games
  7. I never remember my dreams.
  8. Monkey.

Nominations

  1. Claudette
  2. Inscius

Have fun!

Goals

I’m not a big believer in New Years Resolutions — if a resolution is worth making, there is no point in waiting for an arbitrary date change. And a resolution made just because the date has changed, probably isn’t worth making.

That said, there are some things that I do need to improve upon.

The first of these is my weight. Although I’ve never been much of an exercise type person, I have been relatively active for most of my life. However, over the past decade or so, this has become less true and middle-age spread has started to set in. Back in October, my partner bought me a hybrid smartwatch and I was forced to face up to just how inactive I had become. I’m not going to cut down on my eating or drinking but I have made some changes to ensure that I walk further and more frequently — and it seems to be having an effect. So I now have to keep this up — seven more kilos to go.

I also want to catch up on my embarrassingly large pile of unwatched DVDs. I have accumulated a significant number of books and DVDs over the years and, with the onset of fatherhood, have found that I have a lot less time to read and watch films. For the books, I have very nearly caught up — commuting by train helps a lot — so now I need to find time to catch up on that pile of films. For some of them, the boys are now old enough that we can watch them together; for the rest, I shall have to step away from the internet a little sooner when Fridays come around and put a film on instead.

Since I have pretty much caught up on my pile of unread books, I shall be both adding to it and attempting to read more books. In 2018, I read 26 books — I 2019 I am aiming to read 30. You can see how close I get to this by following me on Goodreads.

And finally, I want to get better at Go. This is a game I started playing back in 2017 and I’m still terrible. Go may well be the perfect abstract game — the rules are incredibly simple and anyone can learn them — but the strategies that can be employed are fiendish. I’m getting better though — I still lose a lot more games than I win, but at least I now know why I keep losing. More practice is needed, more books must be read and more people must be badgered to play and hopefully, by the end of the year, I will have improved on my utterly awful 25k ranking on OGS.

Lists like this are never comprehensive, but this one will do for now. So all that remains is for me to wish a Happy New Year to anyone who visits this site. Hopefully 2019 will be an improvement on 2018.

Decoupling

When I last moved my blog, I exported my posts archive, used Vim to correct all of the internal links in the XML file and then imported it into the new instance. I don’t think an option to export and import media even existed back in 2010. If it did, I didn’t see it and simply FTP’ed the images from the old site to the new.

With the move to WordPress.com I encountered a couple of glitches. The first one was my own fault — I forgot to fix the links which means that there are still some posts on here posting to images on the old server. Those images are still there, so this isn’t a problem — yet.

Slightly more concerning is the fact that not all images seem to have been transferred. This could either be because WordPress didn’t always neatly organise it’s media files by year and month, or it may just because I have too many of them. Again, this isn’t a problem while the files can still be found on the old server, but I don’t want to be dependent on having to indefinitely maintain a bunch of old domains.

So I am thinking of hosting my media files elsewhere. Media Goblin is my first thought, which would allow me to host images elsewhere while retaining control over them.

I’m not in any great hurry just yet, but decoupling my posts from my images does strike me as an effective way of maximising flexibility at minimal cost.

Another task for 2019, I think.

Archives Imported

It’s taken a little longer than expected, but I have finally gotten around to importing the content from the old blog.

It all went pretty smoothly, although I have noticed a few misbehaving links. I shall go back and check those in the near future — and have a tinker around with the available widgets and alignment options.

But for now, everything is here.

And we’ve moved

If you are landing here about now, you will know that my previous blog was vandalised by script kiddies. I no longer have the time or motivation to do worry about the security and maintenance that self-hosting involves, and I have become increasingly ambivalent about the domain name I was using.

So here I am on WordPress.com.

Next up: importing (and possibly cleaning up) the self-hosted archive.

Pizza in the sun

Some time ago our barbeque finally collapsed. We’d had it for a good many years and, although it was badly rusted in places, we had hoped to keep it going for one more year. I can’t complain, but it would have been a little less panic inducing if the collapse had happened when it hadn’t been full of hot charcoal.

We replaced it, and quite quickly, with another similar one. When we did so, we also treated ourselves to a combined fire-pit, barbeque, and pizza oven.

We have used it as a fire-pit several times already. When stuffed with wood it does a rather good job of keeping the terrace warm as the evening starts to cool.

Yesterday, we had a go at making pizza on it. The result was really rather tasty.