Catalan

The Catalan government broadcasts a commercial on television urging immigrants to learn Catalan. If you live in a country, you have to learn the language of that country, isn’t it? I completely agree with this point of view, but then why don’t I speak Catalan myself????

When I decided to move to Catalunya, of course I decided to learn the local language.

Over here, there are two languages spoken: Spanish, which is the official language, and Catalan, which the people living here all speak in daily life.

I decided to opt for Spanish for a number of reasons. First of all, Catalunya is not so big, and Lleida is close to the border of Catalunya; if I drive 25 kilometres I am in a Spanish speaking area. Furthermore, Spanish is a language spoken all over the world, at least more than Catalan, and all people here speak Spanish besides Catalan.

The only drawback of my decision is that I have to learn to understand Catalan anyway, since this is what all people speak over here, but that has happened just by listening to the people and living with them.

So after almost one and a half year living here I speak Spanish really well, don’t I? Well, not…

The fact is that I hardly have studied since I lived here. I wanted to follow a language course, but all courses I could find started at hours on which I usually still am working.

So I depend on self-study. I have some books and CD’s, and with a little bit of self-discipline it should work. Right! So the problem is my famous (lack of) self discipline.

Seeing the advertisement of the Catalan Government made me realise my miserable level of Spanish. I think I am going to look around for a Spanish course again, because this has to change!

Our little house

You might have been wondering why I haven’t written about our house lately. Well, that’s mainly because we haven’t done a lot the last weeks.

But, things are going to change (at least a little but). I hope that when I come home for lunch this afternoon I will find some nice packages containing a desk for our working room and the remaining parts for our library. And once I have put them into place, I can finally unpack my old computer, and play a little bit again.

Furthermore we are going to select some curtains for our living room tonight. Once that is done only some things have to be done:

  • Put the doorframe of the bathroom and paint it.
  • Buy lamps.
  • Put a side table in the corridor.
  • Make something to hang our jackets.
  • Have somebody make a closet in the bathroom.

Not a lot, isn’t it?

Site change

After a little more than a year, my site has changed again.

Completely in line to the amount of work spent designing the site (30 minutes), this change was also a quick and dirty job. On the left site you can see a new ‘tool’: the blogroll. This is a list with blogs and other journal-like sites I visit regularly.

For those people thinking that it would be a good think if Jeroen would for once spend a little bit more time to create a decent site: you are absolutely right, this site sucks big time. But at the moment it works. I do have some plans to host it on my own server, for first I need to finish our working room and get a decent internet connection.

Sunny

Today I was going to write about the wonderful weather we have here in Lleida.

But something happened this morning that took away this desire to write about the weather.

When I went to work, I noticed that our car wasn’t closed. I must have forgotten to close it yesterday. I thought to myself that I have been really stupid, and went inside.

On the chair next to me was a package of paper handkerchiefs, of which I didn’t remember it being there yesterday evening. This made me a little bit nervous. I looked around, and indeed somebody had searched our car; the papers in the gloves compartment were in a slightly different place than usual.

I couldn’t find anything else, so I started the engine and put the radio to go to work. The weather was beautiful and sunny— dammit! They took my sunglasses!!!!!

Short, but worth while…

Because I am working on Fridays until 20:00 hours, it is not possible for me to fly to Holland on Friday evening. So this Saturday we woke up at 4:30 to be able to catch the first plane to Holland, which is not funny if you have a birthday supper the evening before.

We arrived in Harmelen at the beginning of the afternoon, and watched how my father and the neighbours were busy with the enlargement of their houses. The last weeks they haven’t been able to work a lot, due to the freezing cold in Holland (there are some things that I definitely don’t miss…). Work is making steady progress, and in a few months my parents will have 2 meters more living room (which they need urgently now that Sven is visiting them once in a while).

After this we went with my mother to the center of Harmelen city, to see the carnival wagons. After being a participant for many years and missing the carnival last year, it was a pleasure to see it from the side. Of course half of the village was on the streets (with the other half standing on one of the 20+ wagons), and I met a lot of old friends.

After seeing all, we went for a quick shopping round, to buy the things we miss most (cheese, peppermint, brylcream,…), quickly brought everything home and went to the carnival party to have a chat with my friends.

That evening Esther, Terry and Sven came for supper. Sven has changed a lot since I last saw him two months ago. He has grown a lot, is smiling and even trying to talk. It was great to see him again.

At night it was carnival time again. I dug up the old box with clothes and took out the pharaoh suit. Maria José chose my old clown suit; since it was already too big for me, it looked great on her. You can find a photo of us on my image gallery.

At twelve o’clock the music stopped and I heard Berry’s voice through the microphone. This is what I already feared! I had to come to the front, and Berry explained in public that I came from Spain to celebrate carnival and my birthday in Harmelen. He gave me the present on behalf of the ‘brothers’: some Belgian beers, ‘dropjes’ and nuts (glad we didn’t buy those that afternoon).

After waking up on Sunday and receiving the congratulations of my parents, we still had some time left, so we went to Montfoort to see the carnival over there…

10 Nov 1994

A long time ago…

In 1994 I was studying chemistry at Utrecht University. I was doing research to the use of Partial Least Squares Regression for the automated interpretation of infrared, and for this I needed a powerful computer (Apple Macintosh LC II) which had a great feature: Internet!!!!!

I quickly discovered the usenet groups (until today the most underestimated internet application) and started posting in several groups.

Today I run across one of these messages, dated 10 Nov 1994. There should be more messages wandering around, and possibly some of them are older… In this message I am using a DDS e-mail address, and if I remember well, before this one I was using a HackTic address.

freeBSD, Part 1

After all the troubles described below, I decided to try to install freeBSD.

Since my laptop does not have a CD player I tried to install it over a serial cable connected to my other laptop, which does have a CD player. The laptop with the CD player runs Windows 98, which does not support this kind of connections. Therefore I booted it from my muLinux floppy and entered the basic configuration details. Funny how an operating system on a simple floppy disk can accomplish many things I cannot do with a 100+ Mb Windows installation.

Before this I already prepared two freeBSD boot disks to start up the setup procedure. I booted my laptop from the first disk, inserted the second disk when prompted, hit enter to start the setup program, and… reboot!

Time to read the manual (I know, I should have done that part before). Tried the same thing again, this time with the boot -h option, but with the same result. Mmmm… Maybe my floppies are corrupt, since I do remember having some troubles creating them. So I enter them in the other laptop, and they function perfectly…

I guess I’ll have to do some more reading. One of the things I am thinking of is that my old laptop does not have a lot of memory, so maybe it is not able to contain the whole setup program.

MuLinux, Part 3

In December last year, I described on this site how I installed MuLinux on my IPC Porta-PC laptop. I installed the WKS, SRV and X11 add-ons, so I had a working graphical user interface and the necessary e-mail (mutt) and web (lynx) applications. The only thing missing was the internet connection, and I wanted to configure my PCMCIA modem for this.

Unfortunately, this was the moment that things started going wrong, I was not able to activate PCMCIA. As everybody knows, the power of Linux is that it is open source, so you can fix everything yourself.However, I am not a kernel hacker, so this option is unusable for me.

Instead I put all the error messages in an e-mail, and send it to the muLinux mailing list. Within an hour I had some responses, one of them being from Michele Andreoli, the creator of muLinux (try this with Windows!). They gave me some more options to try, but the conclusion was that in creating a tiny linux distribution, Michele had to cut out PCMCIA modem support (ethernet cards are supported however). Game over…

I do have a ‘normal’ serial modem which I could use to connect to the internet, but I want to use this modem as well for my desktop system. So the options are: using a serial modem or install another operating system which does support my PCMCIA modem.

Basketball

The last years I haven’t done a lot of sports.

When I was younger (yes, I’m becoming an old man) I used to cycle every day to school (11 kilometres) and I have been playing table tennis and volleyball.

After I finished school, the only sports I did was the weekly paaltjesvoetbal at Jong Nederland. But now that I’m living in Lleida, I even stopped doing that, but it is time for a change…

As the title of this message already suggests, basketball became the sport of choice. It is one of the most popular sports here in Lleida, and the local club is quite successful. I am not playing in that club, but only incidentally on Sundays together with some friends. We play on the square of the school oposite of our house, which I call our virtual garden (we only have a balcony).

Last Sunday was the first time I joined the basketball group. The weather was great, it felt like spring. And my muscles still tell me that I was playing too fanatically.

Next weekend I probably cannot play (good start, isn’t it?), because Maria José and I plan to go to the pyrenees for some snow fun.

[Update 2004.01.21]: Changed link to JNH

Website v4

The site you are reading now is my 3rd personal web site. You might think that it is not that great, but you have to keep in mind that I created it in less than an hour. When I was making it, I was busy with my move to Lleida, and didn’t have a lot of time to hack code. In fact, my intention never was to keep it this long, it should already have been replaced with something better!!! In my mind I am already designing V4, but it might take half a year more before you will be able to see it (first I have to finish our working room, so I can put a decent computer to work with).

One of the things I want to implement in V4 is a history of my sites, in other words, I will copy V3 as it is now (with only removing some interactive options), add V2 (I still have it on disk) and recreate V1 from my memories. The nice thing of the four sites together is that they show the development of personal web sites through the years:

  • V1: I created my first site in 1993 when I was still studying. Internet was new and after playing with gopher I installed Mosaic on my Macintosh and made my first page. In fact it was nothing more that a bulleted list with my favourite sites.
  • V2: In 1997 I bought myself a new computer with modem. With my internet connection came some space on the server for my personal homepage. I installed FrontPage (like everybody in that time), chose a nice theme and typed in my texts. Later I linked my CD database to this site, gaining a lot of links from music lovers.
  • V3: The site you are reading now, created in 2001. In the meantime I had learned that FrontPage creates bloated, non-standard pages, so I created this site as a pure site. Written completely on Notepad. I installed two perl scripts (NewsPro and Image Gallery) to handle the dynamical content, and that’s it!
  • V4: As my sites always have been used mainly for testing purposes, I will go one step further. V4 will be hosted on my own server, and I will probably use the Zope Application Server, with Plone on top of it. Besides my old sites, I will probably continue to write short stories about my life (even though I know that I am not the greatest writer), but I will probably split them into personal and technical stories. The comments feature is almost never used, so I will replace it by a conventional guestbook. I have a lot of other ideas, but I won’t bother you with it now…

Besides my personal sites, I have been working on three more sites. After V2 was up and running, I created (also with FrontPage) Youth Games, a collection of games in Dutch and English. The site was a big success, but I didn’t have the time to maintain it. Another FrontPage site was the DDC (Dooie Donders Club) site. In fact is was the same site as V2, but with another theme. I hope that after I have created V4 I will have time to make another DDC site, but for this I need some help from my brothers. The site I currently spent the most time on is Fimcap, but I’m sure you all have visited this site already…

Update 2003.06.11: In the mean time I have updated this site and imported all news items. Although in this message was written that you are looking at V3, in fact I would consider this V3.5 or even V4.

Bob de Builder has left the building

After five days of hard work, my father has gone home again.

The result of all this hard work? Four painted doors!!! I know, it doesn’t sound like it was a lot of work, but trust me, he did a lot! I have been wrestling with those doors myself before, and I can tell you that it takes a lot of time. The biggest problem is removing the old paint. The doors have been painted at least three times before, with three different types of paint. The oldest layer turns into some sticky mess as soon as you try to remove it, and turns into stone on your tools. Besides that, the fine structure carved into the doors don’t make it easier to clean them…

Because of the hard work, my father did not have a lot of time for social contacts, which is a big crime in this country! Therefor all social activities were propped into Saturday.

In the morning we had breakfast in the house of a friend of the parents on Maria José. Since this was a special occasion, they’d fired up the grill to prepare a big pile of meat (and that for breakfast!!!!)

After the breakfast we took a short walk through the yards and went home to prepare ourselves for lunch. After being home for only one our, we went to the house of the parent of Maria José, te eat soup, french fries and… a chicken!! I wasn’t really hungry when I went for lunch (understatement), but after lunch I felt just as stuffed as the chicken I had been eating. I was happy to sleep a little after lunch (my father of course continued working), knowing that in the evening we would go to a nice restaurant to eat some more…

Working

The work in our house is making big progress…

Yesterday my father arrived to fix the last important things, like removing the paint from the doors and painting them. When I came home for lunch today I was surprised: he almost finished the first door already! And he is staying until Sunday, can you imagine how happy we are!

Tomorrow will be a busy day in ‘Casa Sangers’, since Lilian and Ruud will visit us. They are having a short holiday in Barcelona this week, and will drop by for a day…

Computer tips

I spend quite some time behind the computer, at work as well as at home. Mostly I use the computer for only four things: read my e-mail, read some web pages, create web pages and write documents. Over years I have tried to make my life as easy as possible, and I would like to share here with you how I am doing. Although I use both Windows (98 & XP) as Linux, I will focus here on Windows.

Reading e-mail

Did you know that there are two protocols to read your e-mail? We have POP3 and IMAP.

Most people use POP3, but IMAP is far better. Why? First of all, because IMAP leaves messages on the server, so you can see all your e-mail from any location (I know, web-based mail can also do this, but has a lot of other inconveniences). You can also create folders on the server.

At home I am still using a 28k8 modem to connect to the internet. If I want to read an important mail, but somebody has sent me a big file just before it, I’ll have to wait for the big mail to enter first. Not with IMAP!!

With IMAP, first the headers of the messages are downloaded, and then I can decide which message I want to download to my computer. So I can skip the big message and read the important message first.

Like most people I am using Outlook Express for my e-mail. I know that I can install a better mail program, but why should I if OE comes preinstalled?

There are however some things that I really don’t like about OE, but fortunately they are easily fixed.

The biggest problem is quoting. When replying to a message, Outlook puts the cursor and my signature above the original message. If after a while I want to read the entire thread of the message, I’ll have to scroll down to the first message, read it, go up to the next message, read it, go up…

Anyway, it would be a lot easier if everybody would write their messages under the original message (and trim the message!!!!). I am using a very simple program that fixes this problem automagically: OE-QuoteFix. By the way, when reading a threaded message, it uses colour coding to show the different replies. Really handy!!!

Read web pages

Lets continue with Internet Explorer. I use it not because it is the best, but because I can’t deinstall it and don’t have disk space for a better browser (Mozilla). As somebody who designs web pages I can tell you how horrible IE is…

Even though it is a bad browser, it has some features that are unknown to many people.

For example, I really hate pop-up screens (I know, this site has them, but read on…). To disable them, I changed the security settings of IE so that JavaScript will be disabled (tools → internet options → security → internet → high). JavaScript is used by many web sites, but mostly for features that I am not interested in (pop-up screens, tracking of my behaviour, fancy menus, etc…). If I notice that a site really requires JavaScript, I simply add the site to my trusted sites. But until now that was only necessary for four sites.

Create web pages

I know that not many of you create web pages, so I’ll keep it short.

The greatest tool I have found is HTML-Kit. It is free and can do a lot more than its name says (HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, XSL, JavaScript, VBScript, ASP, PHP, JSP, Perl, Python, Ruby, Java, VB, C/C++, C#, Delphi / Pascal, Lisp, SQL, and more). But if I need to quickly change something, I usually use Notepad (see below).

Write documents

One tip: You don’t need Microsoft Word for everything!!!

Why not? Because the application is way too big (I only use 5% of the options), because Word files are way too big (ever received a Word document under 200k?) and more important: Word documents can only be read by Microsoft Word.

In other words, if I send somebody a Word document I force him to use a really expensive text editor!!

Most texts I simply write in Notepad, since most texts are short and don’t need any make-up. If I want my headers to appear in another font, I’ll switch to WordPad. Easy enough, isn’t it??

The holiday season is over

Today at lunchtime we have removed all the Christmas decoration from our house; the holiday season is definitely over.

As this was our first winter in our own house, we have bought the decoration little by little, some things even in Holland. But after the Three Kings (if you want to know how we celebrated it, read my story of last year) it was time to remove everything.

The result of this first year is a big box with decorations. The only thing we have to do is find a place for our tree. It is quite big (way too big for our little balcony or our patio) and at this moment it is blocking the entrance of the house. We will try to find a home for it next Saturday, and hope that it will survive until next year.

At least our living room looks a lot bigger now…

Happy New Year!!!

A new year has started, and it has started very well for me. This was the first time that we celebrated New Year in Lleida. We spend the last evening of the year with our family; eating, drinking, talking, watching television…

At midnight I participated in a typical (hilarious) custom: eat a grape on every bang of the clock, and thus ending up with twelve grapes in your mouth!!! Maria José was not able to finish her twelve grapes, because she was rolling on the floor laughing.

A little after midnight we went to visit a friend at home. She was supposed to go with us to the pub, but got ill that day (poor girl…). We had some more glases of cava, parked our car at home and went off to the Pentagrama. I always like to go to the ‘Penta’ because they play a lot of music from the eighties.

The next day we woke up incredably early, at twelve o’clock. We had a short breakfast and a quick shower and went off to the new year’s lunch. In the afternoon we were painting in our house. Since we are living there we haven’t worked a lot, so it still isn’t finished yet. This extra free day gave us the opportunity to work a little bit.