Traveling To Africa Monday 13 August 2007
So Wednesday I'm off to Africa with Danny. This may well become my most adventurous trip to date, but I've never been so badly prepared, I just haven't had the time. This is what we want to do:
  • Fly to Kampala (Uganda) on Wednesday
  • Go rafting on the Nile in a grade 5 current on Thursday. That's the highest grade and we're guaranteed to be slung out of the boat a couple of time, but it's supposed to be safe because there are no rocks to crash on.
  • Go to Kigali (Rwanda) on Friday. This is where our actual planning stops :)
  • Check out lake Kivu and climb a volcano.
  • Go to Bujumbura (Burundi)
  • Travel along lake Tanganyika to Kigoma (Tanzania)
  • Take a train + bus to Arusha (Tanzania). This will be a 30h trip at least
  • Go on a safari in the Serengeti for 4 or 5 days (nothing arranged yet)
  • Climb Mount Meru (4566m) if there's time
  • Head to Dar-es-Salaam and on to Zanzibar from where we fly back home on September 8th.

If it all works out our route will look like this (click here to see it in Google Maps where you can zoom in).

The safari was originally the main purpose of the journey but now that we've decided to go through Rwanda, Burundi and the heartland of Tanzania, far from the tourist route, I'm far more excited about that. If we can't go through Burundi we'll have to change everything though and will either cross Lake Victoria by boat or go back to Uganda and through Kenya to get to Arusha. I'll update this site with my whereabouts regularly.
Movies The Simpsons Movie Friday 10 August 2007
Finally a movie of what was my favourite cartoon until I got into South Park. It's a like a long, rather good episode, and the visuals got a nice upgrade from the TV series. Got a few good laughs, but it's not really hilarious. 6.5/10 .
Books "Antwerps schrijven" is finished Wednesday 8 August 2007
As of today my book Antwerps schrijven (writing Antwerpish) is 100% finished and ready to go to print. It is 187 pages and the ISBN number is 978-90-5927-175-3. I've worked like crazy the last 10 days tweaking the layout, learning Adobe InDesign along the way. Below is the title page (not the cover).
Update: Well at the last minute I got permission to include a poem by Hugo Claus (Flanders' most famous writer) in my book so I've had to make some changes for that and now it's 191 pages :)
Internet Slashdot rules Wednesday 8 August 2007
A little sample of why Slashdot is my favourite site. There was a news item about a frozen bacteria that was thawed after 8 million years and is alive, and while reading through the comments I squirted my coke over my laptop when I came upon this comment...

I know it's been a LONG time, so let me be the first:

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to You,
Happy Birthday dear bacteria,
Happy Birthday to You! 
Photos Luxemburg pictures Tuesday 31 July 2007
Last week was my birthday and to celebrate that me and Lotte spent a long weekend in Luxemburg, a country I hadn't really visited yet. We visited Luxemburg City and Echternach, made two walks in the forests around Echternach, and visited the medieval castles of Vianden and Bourscheid. Here are the pictures!
Gaming Rock on Nintendo Monday 16 July 2007
Almost two months ago I wrote how the Nintendo stock I bought in late February at 203 euro/share had gone up 25% in just three months. Today, the stock price is 305 euro, so now I have 50% profit in just five months! :)

Update 25th July: 9 days later and the stock price is up to 353 euro and my profit to 75%! Seems the market is catching up on the success of the Wii.
Language Sunday 15 July 2007
I've just launched the site which will promote my book about the Antwerp language and will hopefully become the number one site about that. This site is just a placeholder for the real thing, which will be a full-fledged portal with growing content. Deadline is november when my book is published.
Movies Die Hard 4.0 Thursday 12 July 2007
Nice action movie with some scenes that are delightfully over the top. Shame of the stupid clichés though, e.g. hero smacks villain against the ground, then turns around and starts casual conversation with sidekick so villain can stand up and attack him again. You'd expect the scenario writers of an expensive production like this to make more of an effort. 6/10
Books Karen Armstrong - A short history of Islam Monday 9 July 2007
This is an excellent account of the history of the islamic world - the scope is wider than the title suggests. Most "world history" books are really about European history, and it's very interesting to go through history from a different perspective. Of course the focus is on islam itself, and I learned a lot, e.g. about the strife between sunnis and shias and about the prominent islamic theologians. The only minus is that the author is strongly biased towards religion and tends to stand up for islam the way muslims do, e.g. by continuously referring to the peaceful statements in the quran while completely ignoring the agressive statements. Still, strongly recommended to anyone who wants to learn about islam. 8/10
Architecture New Seven Wonders of the World Sunday 8 July 2007
One and a half years ago I wrote about a world wide poll to determine a new list of seven wonders of the world. Well, the results are in:
  • Chichén Itzá, Mexico
  • Christ Redeemer, Brazil
  • The Great Wall, China
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Petra, Jordan
  • The Roman Colloseum, Italy
  • The Taj Mahal, India

A poor choice, except for the Colosseum and the Taj Mahal. Petra and Macchu Picchu are also fantastic but only because of the nature. Having Chichen Itza on the list while the Egyptian pyramids didn't make it shows that you can't get a serious result from an online poll.

Of course, the whole thing was just a clever money-making scheme anyway - they must have raked in millions from online advertising and SMS votes. Someone on Slashdot suggests the following list, which makes a lot more sense:
  • The internet
  • The electric grid
  • The Voyager probes
  • The Global Positioning System
  • The Human Genome Project
  • Nuclear power
  • Cochlear implants
Music Lyrics from Trois Couleurs: Bleu Tuesday 3 July 2007
My favourite piece of film music is the "Song for the Unification of Europe", composed by Zbigniew Preisner for the 1993 movie Trois Couleurs: Bleu by Kieslowski, which is also one of my favourite movies. I saw it again last weekend and that inspired me to put up the lyrics of the song (a passage from the bible book I Corinthians 13 in ancient Greek) as I know a lot of people are looking for those but don't find them.

The song can be heard in full during the final act of the movie. Here it is...

Books Richard Dawkins - The God Delusion Monday 2 July 2007
The most famous of the recent waves of atheist books deals with all the topics that might come up in a discussion between atheists and religious people: the existence of a flying spaghetti monster or other types of gods, the root of morality, Darwin's discovery of evolution, the atrocities motivated by religion, etc. It's a neat overview of how rational common sense deals with these issues, but it's kind of boring to agree with everything and I'd already thought of most arguments myself. It should be mandatory reading for all children being indoctrinated with religion, but that'll be for another century. The most interesting parts to me were those where Dawkins speaks with passion about the many mysteries of the universe that science is only beginning to tackle. So I should probably have read another of his books. 7/10
About me Traffic Jams and Audio Books Saturday 23 June 2007
Well luckily I have a nice new car because since last week I'm doing a project on the far side of Brussels and as a result have to spend 3 to 4 hours per day in traffic jams. More than ever I can't understand how traffic wasn't an issue during the last Belgian elections.

Anyway, I got a built-in media player in my car and to make life tolerable I'm now collecting podcasts and audio books to put on a USB stick and listen to while stuck in traffic so that 20% of my life isn't completely wasted. I find it very hard to follow an audio book as my thoughts always drift off, hopefully practice will improve that but I doubt it. By finding the right audio books I still hope to get to a point where I actually enjoy sitting in my car and listening to them.

I've listened to "I, Robot" by Isaac Asimov while I had my training program in Brussels, and I've tried to start on "The Idiot" by Dostoyevski, but I'm gonna focus on non-fiction for the moment because it doesn't matter so much if I miss a minute there. Right now I'm 'reading' Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" which is quite entertaining, and I have Sun Tzu's "The art of war" and Karen Armstrong's history of islam lined up. I also like to listen to the Battlestar Galactica podcasts but I'll save those for when I rewatch some episodes.

My car's media player has the incredible limitation that it can't fast forward or rewind through mp3's (but then it's a Microsoft product so what did I expect) which is a problem for long audio tracks. Luckily I found mp3DirectCut which very easily lets me cut up mp3's in chunks of 5 minutes or any other size.
About me New Smurfmobile Friday 15 June 2007
Here are some pictures of the new Smurfmobile - actually my new company car. This was the first time I got to choose a car freely, so I chose carefully. I didn't know anything about cars a few months ago but I reviewed all available models and finally settled upon an Alfa Romeo 159.

My mind was pretty much made up when I found that third picture of a black-beige interior on the web - I loved it immediately and just had to have it, and now I do :) The first two pics are of my car. It wasn't available in smurfy blue, but black is the next best thing!
Politics Ron Paul Wednesday 6 June 2007
It turns out the most interesting candidate in the US Presidential election is a Republican: Ron Paul. While all other candidates are the usual corporate stooges, this guy has a reputation for being uncorruptible, clear libertarian ideals and a voting record that is consistent with those ideals. For example, he voted against the Iraq war because he is a non-interventionist, and he is in favour of legalising all drugs.

Naturally, the USA's political establishment and corporate media are spitting him out, and this provides some interesting spectacle. The movie below shows an excerpt from the most recent debate between the Republican candidates on Fox News.

Ron Paul points out that the 9/11 attacks were a response to American policies in the Middle East - which is a sacrilegious things to say in the USA. The Fox News anchor twists his words into a suggestion that the USA "invited" 9/11. Ron Paul explains the "blowback" principle as it is being taught by the CIA, citing the example of the USA's support for the Shah ultimately leading to the hostage crisis in Iran. Rudolph Giuliani, the favourite to win the Republican nomination, then attacks him for saying that the USA "invited" 9/11 - though it was the Fox News anchor who said that - and draws big applause for it.

As the other movies on this page show, the Fox News anchors and Republican Party officials continue to spin this exchange after the debate. When viewers vote for Ron Paul as the winner of the debate they start spinning that, saying he must have supporters spamming the vote. The last movie shows an item on CNN next day, which puts up the hysteric headline "Blaming the US for 9/11" even while Ron Paul is explaining what he really said. Time Magazine published an article called "How Rudy won the second debate" which says "Ron Paul offered Giuliani a historic slam-dunk [that] reduced Paul to history."

All of this provides an interesting, in-your-face example of corporate media steering public opinion and destroying the credibility of someone who does not follow their agenda. Naturally, Ron Paul doesn't stand a chance against media power, but he has a lot of support among independent minds and thanks to the internet they may succeed in preventing him from being marginalised. In any case he's already adding value to the greatest show on earth: the US presidential elections. I expect Al Gore to join the fun in a month or two.

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