New Computer

This past week my wife informed me that the monitor for our current PC gave out. It was a Samsung 15″ LCD screen which was pretty cutting edge when we bought it in CT about 4-5 years ago. A practical person would probably have only gotten an LCD screen but being me, I discussed it with my wife and we saw this as a great opportunity to finally upgrade out computer. I was using a hand me down computer from my sister in law since I was able to bring it back to life but this time around I decided to purchase one, I think this is the first computer I have purchased since 2001 which means I was due anyway.

I went over to Circuit City and Best Buy and compared prices and at the end of the day, Best Buy had the best package. I was able to get an HP Pavilion Elite with an Intel Quad Core PC, 3 Gigs of RAM, and 640 GB hard drive. Thats some serious muscle compared my old Pentium 4 with 512 of RAM and only 220 GB hard drive. I have gone through the basic setup sequence for the new computer but I haven’t had the time to install all the programs that I normally put on a computer to make it run well.

The package from Best Buy came with an all in one printer/copier/scanner but I’m saving that as a backup for when my current printer finally dies which will be a long time. We also decided to change the monitor that came with the package. I originally wanted a Samsung 22″ monitor but they didn’t have any at Best Buy so I went ahead and got an LG monitor instead which looks just as good as the Samsung and was actually cheaper as well. The picture on it looks fantastic so far so I am very pleased with the purchase.

The only part that I’m disappointed in is that I can’t expand the PC any more than I have. I was going to try and cannabilize some of the parts from my old desktop but there’s no more room inside the chassis. I guess thats the price you pay for getting an off the shelf PC instead of building it but I didn’t want to go through the hassle anymore. The only thing I foresee having to purchase is a USB hub for the computer because there aren’t enough ports currently.

I’ll write an update on my progress on how things are going with the new comp although I expect things to go fairly well. I’ll also give my impressions of Windows Vista since it came with the computer.

New Bowling Ball

This weekend I got a new bowling ball called the Hammer Black Widow Pearl. I was using a different ball for the past two years that I bought in Tampa called the Power Groove by Brunswick. Sadly that ball has run its course and it was a beginner ball to begin with. I got the ball on the advice of my father in law who’s very much into bowling and was able to advise me well on what kind of ball to purchase.

I tried this sucker out today and man does it hook! When I used to try and hook my old bowling ball, it would hook a little bit and not hit where I wanted it to get a strike. I took my new ball and threw it like I threw my old ball and holy crap did this bad boy hook! Normally where I would hit close to the center, I totally missed most of the pins and hit maybe one of the back pins on the edge of the lane. Needless to say I need to make some huge adjustments to my game but I’m very happy with the over all performance of the ball. It’ll just take a few weeks to get used to it. As you can see, it looks totally bad ass too which is nice 🙂

International Travel Stinks

Up until this point, my trip to Brussels was fine until I got to the airport. I travel quite a bit for my job so I know what I can carry on a plane without much trouble when flying domestically. On the way here, I had my standard 22” rollerboard bag along with my back pack. That’s pretty standard for most business travelers in the US since there are plenty of people just like me hopping on to planes getting ready to go consult somewhere. I was perfectly fine coming here to Brussels with my rollerboard and my backpack as well, so it made things really simple.

However I just finished passing through security and everything but I am minus my rollerboard because the agent at the desk said I had too much stuff. Obviously the standards of what can and can not bring on a plane to stuff in an overhead bin are a bit different here. I had to check in my rollerboard which right now is totally pissing me off. I had my jacket on and I don’t need it going to Florida where its currently 80 degrees outside. I was so mad that I didn’t even get a souvenir for myself to remember the trip. Now I have to wait in baggage claim which sucks all kinds of ass, I also had to unlock my bags for security screening since they don’t accept TSA locks either, they would have just broken them and I paid a pretty tidy sum for my locks. The only thing that would be of value is a game I got for my wife that I took to play on the plane.

I haven’t had good experiences with checking in luggage which is why I’m pretty upset about it now. If my shit ends up lost or damaged someones ass at United is gonna feel it. On top of that I gotta WAIT for it at baggage claim and then I have to wait for a bus to take me to my parking garage. I just need to be home already, I’m so done with this trip!

I’m done in Brussels

Well so far most of my trip has consisted of eat, sleep, work, for the week days while I’ve been here. My current client has offices here and so far I’ve stayed till at least 7PM every night. The cool thing though is that there is a taxi service that took me to and from the client site in Brussels so I didn’t have to worry about that at all. It was normally a nice relaxing ride into the office until the fun began in earnest for the day. Anyway enough about work…….

Monday was interesting because I tried a traditional Belgian vegetable with lunch called Wutluff (I can’t spell it, I’ll look it up later) but my co-workers who work on the European side of the ocean said that is a very Belgian thing to eat so I figured why not give it a go. It actually didn’t taste that bad, I was told that its an acquired taste but it tasted a bit like corn to me although it has no resemblance to corn at all. The rest of the fare was pretty easy, chicken and potatos. I ate a really simple meal on Monday evening due to the fact that I was wiped out and really didn’t want to venture too far from the hotel. Needless to say that I didn’t get to do anything but sleep that night.

Tuesday night was a bit more interesting. I went out with my boss and European co-workers who gave us a little driving tour of the city. I was able to see things like the Palace of Justice and the Royal Palace from the car, we couldn’t really stop because it was late and there was no place to park and take pictures. No matter really, I can get pictures from the internet. We ended up eating at this Belgian place that was really close to the place where I ate lunch on Sunday. Just for fun I took a picture of the really expensive chocolate shop that I visited (of course the place was closed!) and so were all the other stores except the restaurants. I ended up having a traditional Belgian beef dish which I probably wouldn’t be able to pronounce at all but it was still pretty good. It was basically a steak but it was marinated with Cherry Beer which I thought was rather interesting. I also had shrimp croquets as an appetizer. Although Belgium is the a great land of beer, I didn’t end up drinking any simply because I don’t like the stuff and it would go to waste. I’m told that there are at least 350 different varieties of beer brewed in Belgium which for such a small country is really a ton of beer. Most of it is available for sale in a grocery store so that’s pretty neat too. My co-workers knocked a few back but I kept myself sober (I know I’m boring but eh) and it was almost midnight by the time we were all done.

Tonight is Wednesday and I will be heading to the old homestead tomorrow morning. For some odd reason I wasn’t able to print my boarding pass online. No matter, tomorrow I have a taxi to the airport so I know I’ll be well taken cared of. I didn’t buy any souvenirs for myself but there really isn’t anything I want to bring home. I took a bunch of pictures tonight of the Grand’Place at night which I hope will come out well. Overall, I’d say I had a pretty good time here in Brussels. Now I can scratch that off my list of places that I’ve visited. J

Trip to Brussels

This weekend I had to travel to Brussels, Belgium for work. As is my personal policy, I can’t say who I work for currently or what client I’m on because that’s just asking for trouble but I can go ahead and blog about the things I see here in Belgium while I’m here.

Well first things first, the beginning of my trip started with me going to the airport at Ft. Lauderdale. I have to say that I’ve never seen FLL that busy EVER. All my normal parking spots were all taken which pissed me off. I had to park really far away in the Palm Garage which requires taking a bus or taking an extremely long walk which is totally un-acceptable but all the other levels in my normal garage were taken. I’ll deal with that when I get home though. Hopefully I won’t be too inconvenienced.

Next I discovered that I forgot to charge up my iPod last night so that wasn’t a good thing. The flight to Washington DC was pretty uneventful and I concentrated on reading one of the books that I bought for this week. I was able to find a power outlet at the Washington DC airport which was nice so I was able to charge it up to the max just before I boarded my plane. I have so many books I’ll be busy for a few days just reading everything I have. I’m also hoping to get in a little bit of shopping since I want to get some chocolates for my wife while I’m here.

I forgot how awesome big planes are. I used to the smaller commuter jets or mid size planes. There isn’t a lot of room on those and economy is economy whether or not you’re flying domestic or international but the headroom is greatly improved and you also don’t feel the turbulence as much. I also was fed on the plane, I think its almost been at least 5 years since I’ve had an actual meal on a plane. The fare has improved I think but then again its really hard to mess up pasta. I wasn’t able to sleep on the plane since technically as I write this its 3:!5AM EST and in Brussels its currently 9:15AM. There was also some good movies showing on the plane so that helped me pass the time. I saw Surf’s Up which I originally wanted to see in the movie theater but never got a chance to do so. They were also showing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix but the audio was all messed up so I only watched a few parts of that.

Right now I’m at my hotel in the city of Brussels. I’m currently writing this master piece in MS Word because I don’t have internet access. Internet access for 24 hours is 20 Euro’s which is quite a lot. I’m used to hotels where I have some status where I get free internet and free waters. I’m on a high floor so the view is pretty nice but the room is super small. I forgot how much smaller everything is in Europe compared to the US. I would say that my hotel room is no bigger than one of the smaller bedrooms in my townhouse whereas in Texas, my hotel room is bigger than my master bedroom at home. I’ll post pictures when I get a chance, right now I don’t have my USB/SD Card adapter so it’ll be hard for me to transfer pics but I think I can figure out a way to do it. Being its Sunday, I’m going to head on over to the Grand Place where all the tourists go to take some pictures of the excellent architecture and maybe do a little shopping while I’m there. More to come in the next few days!

My first impressions of Brussels

I’ve been walking around Brussels all day so far and I think I have a good impression of the area already. For the most part, I can say that its not what I expected at all. I thought that being Europe and not to mention the seat of the European Union, that this place would be pristine. I know those are high expectations but I think it was a reasonable assumption.

Well first thing that really caught my eye was all the graffiti. Now I’m originally from lower Connecticut so I took quite a few trips to NY in my time so I know how bad graffiti can get, especially before the Guiliani administration basically cleaned up the city. The graffiti here is almost to the extreme. I mean I’m used to it being on store gates and on signs but almost every store front I saw had some sign of graffiti on it. What was especially bad in my view was that there was a huge amount of them on national monuments. I saw this huge statue of King Albert and there was nothing but graffiti all over it. It wasn’t very picturesque but I snapped a pic of it anyway just to show how much graffiti was on it.

The cleanliness of the city itself reminds me of NY at night. Lots of trash on the sidewalks waiting for pickup and generally stinking up the town, spew! I expect this from NY but not of Brussels. I guess I was just expecting more. I’ll have to set my expectations a bit lower the next time I travel to a European country. I’m sure the country side is probably pristine. Maybe I should start heading to those areas in the future if I decide to vacation here. I just know that I won’t be going anywhere in this town alone at night because some of the places here just seem outright creepy to me and I don’t exactly blend in well with the Europeans with the black hair, olive skin, and slightly slanty eyes. Haha! That might make me a target to get mugged since I know I look like I don’t belong.

Shopping so far has been underwhelming but that’s due to the fact that everything was closed. There were some chocolate shops open but that’s to be expected since it’s a huge draw for tourists. I went out to eat at this little place somewhere in Brussels and the food wasn’t bad but things really didn’t start to pick up until around 1pm. The service was SLOW. I’m an American so I’m used to getting quick service so I can eat and leave. I attribute this to a difference in culture. Things seem to move slower here and at a more relaxed pace whereas I am going to where I need to be with purpose, even if it is just wandering around with no particular direction.

The chocolate shops that I’ve seen around town so far have been pretty impressive overall. I like this chain store called Neuhaus. I might try and go to a place called Mary’s if I can find the time. Their chocolates are supposed to be excellent and I have to bring something back home for my wife before the week is out. I’ll have to do some more research online or something but I know I’ll be able to find her something that will satisfy her palette.

Hotel accommodations might have to be a separate post but I’ll just give it a spiel here. I forgot how small everything is here. The elevator can fit 6 people very snugly which is not good for me at all. I need my 3 feet of personal space. My hotel room is about the size of my guest bedroom at my house. I feel so spoiled by the privileges that I have at the Hilton. I’m used to a monster room, decent TV, free waters, free breakfast, and free internet. Here everything is extra so that’s a strike against this place already. I can live without internet access though, this just means I don’t have to work while I’m in my hotel room. It’s a good thing I bought a truck load of books as well as my wife’s PSP. I have plenty of games, reading, and tunes to keep me occupied.

Well that’s the first impressions I have so far. There will be more observations later on as the week drags on and as I see other places in Belgium. I probably won’t get to post this blog until I get home but I needed to jot all this down before I forgot about it. Gotta love MS Word sometimes.

The Grand’Place and Surrounding Area

This morning I went out for a walk with my boss to look around the great city of Brussels. I know sounds a little weird but its better than going out alone in a strange city. The one place that keeps on grabbing my attention in all the guide books that I’ve read on Brussels is Grand’Place. This location is pretty nice I must say. The guild halls that surround the square are very impressive in terms of their architecture. It was a little difficult for me to take pictures today because there was a marathon being run in Brussels today and it ended at the Grand’Place.

The square itself is made of cobblestones giving it that old world feel. There was also a huge tower that made up one of the sides of the square. There are lots of little gaps in which a person can walk through to get to some other areas. I walked around the entire area for a while trying to find different sites. There was a small open air market, tons of small shops (all of which were closed, apparently nothing is open on Sunday’s which really stinks) and there were a few other sites that I went to but at the moment have a difficult time remembering. I’ll explain more on that in my next blog post.

One place that is worthy of mention is the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinee. I’ll admit the name doesn’t really give anything away but what it comes down to is that this place was a comic strip museum. I had a semi hard time finding this place because its not identified anywhere on the building and the site I originally thought was where the museum was was nothing but a huge crater. It’s only after I walked down the street a little bit did I find the actual museum. Apparently the popular comic Tin Tin is Belgian and they had a whole museum dedicated to Belgian Comic artists. The museum only cost me 7.50 Euro’s which isn’t bad at all. The lack of English placards on the exhibits was a bit challenging because I couldn’t understand anything that was on them but it was nice to see all the different types of cartoon comic strips that Belgium has produced over the decades. I was able to take a lot of pictures while I was there. One thing that I thought that was amusing was that the Smurf’s were created by a Belgian artist so there was a whole exhibit on them.

OK, time to write a different blog entry describing my current impressions of Brussels.