Saturday, December 29, 2012

About the craft of (digital) imaging

I shoot a lot of pictures. I mean, a whole lot. About ten thousand a year these days, or even more. All sorts of subjects. Too many to mention. I have eventually uploaded most of them on Flickr. 22514 to be accurate as of the writing of this (that's twenty two thousand... that's right!). Hundreds of viewers have looked at them in the last nine years for more than 14 thousand times, which means a great deal of my posted photographs have never been viewed by anyone else but me, and this mostly during the shooting/processing time. Do I care? Not sure, as to me Flickr is a backup facility in the first place. Indeed, I wouldn't know where to look in my archives to find certain photographs that I shot in the past. I keep all my analog negatives since the mid seventies, but ever since digital imaging became popular (some fifteen years ago) I betsa, there's a set on my Flickr account where I put my shots, even those created before Flickr was around. I've been a Flickr member from early on you see, right after it was created in 2003, so no troubles about finding an old digital frame.

In honesty, I'd want my viewers to 'like' my frames; not quite in the Facebook 'like' kind-of-thing, but really 'like', as in 'I do like your work'... Don't know why I'd want that, as I am neither earning any income on my 'photography', nor I intended to, but I suppose it's an 'ego' thing. On the other side, an image is like the 'written word'. It creates emotion, like joy, awe, sadness, fear, horror, love, and all we 'feel' as living humans. I'D LIKE TO BELIEVE THAT MY PICTURES CREATE SIMILAR EMOTIONS AMONG SOME OF MY LOYAL VIEWERS, LIKE THESE SAME PICTURES CREATE IN ME.I'd dare say this: in the first place, I am creating my images for myself. It's the journey I enjoy, not so much reaching the destination. But if the result is genuinely 'liked' by someone, just knowing that makes me feel a lot better. I don't believe many viewers love my pictures though. I am not such a popular photographer after all. Even in my own family I hardly find support by anyone. They all seem to ignore my work, and instead, they seem to admire others. But like we say in this country, 'de goûts et de couleurs, on ne discute pas
'. In general, I try not to photograph subjects that seem to turn on most people on Facebook, Flickr and Instagram, especially pets, although they are sometimes hard to avoid (like a little cat and two dogs that I photographed in Samothrace last November). I also don't seem to photograph popular subjects in ways people seem to like and feel good about. So be it. I can't pretend I photograph like others, famous and/or infamous, and I shouldn't care either. Innit?

I always enjoyed creating images. For many years I loved to do 'artistic' painting, with oil and water colours, and later acrylics. I loved sketching, although I am not too good at that. I enjoyed painting a lot, particularly with oils, 'a la prima' in my early canvases, and by layering for better transparency, much later. You see, I was an autodidact and had to learn the skill quite slowly by reading a myriad books on the subject by experts and charlatans alike. Much later, I taught myself to 'paint' digitally and have created various images, of which I consider the grapes shown here my personal best. Had I not applied the techniques of oil and water painting though, I would have never achieved that digital result. I posted a Flickr set of photographs of my paintings thru the years, from the age of 8 until recently. That 'work' has been the foundation of my love for images. However, I am nowhere near to consider myself as an artistic 'painter'. 'Amateur replicator' would have been a better attribute. I cannot create 'new' scenes. I simply copy others's work, photographs or paintings. There's always a certain thing is some image that urges me to do exactly the same and achieve a similar result. Even in photography I often do that... In museums, I tend to study paintings that impress me from a real close distance. In so doing, I try to discover what the artist did to achieve the very outcome that shook me so much. And then I start replicating it. With mediocrity most of the time. I'd really like to have been more like some artists and craftsmen that I love, but I tried... and failed. I wasn't born for that, apparently. You see, a real painter creates images based on his life experiences and talents. He/she tells us things. His/her visions of reality make us feel emotionally moved. This is what art is (should be) all about.

From my early age I was fascinated with photography. I remember my first camera at ten. A popular and extremely cheap model from the then Soviet Union. I guess a product of the post Stalin era for the folks in Communist Russia. It wasn't Lubitel though, if you thought so. It was another brand, that looked a bit like today's point-'n-shoots. Lubitel was far too expensive for a ten-year old those days. I remember the first time someone shot a color picture of our school gang. We had to wait for weeks as there was no lab in our hometown for color development, and it had to be shipped to Thessaloniki. And it also cost a fortune then. I think, I must still have that print somewhere in my archives.

I later bought a lot of gear for myself, and you simply don't want to know the money I spent in buying semi to pro material in the last thirty five years, that is. That includes many analog and digital cameras but also analog development and printing gear up to doing 4x5 inch negatives, a Toyo medium format studio camera and a field camera for my daughter, when she was a photography student.

I am fascinated by two elements in photography, sharpness and lighting. I want my subjects to pop out of the frame, regardless they are viewed on a print or a monitor. It's my weak spot, you see. I love... not simply love, I am utterly passionate about the sharpness in an image. Most people don't care, but I do. Click on the old man's portrait for a larger view, that I met in Kamariwtissa, by the port in Samothrace last November. See what I mean. Although, this was done with natural lighting, without the study of the subject for hours, it was just a snapshot. I shot four frames, but this I like most! That's what I mean with sharpness. To be able to count a subject's hairs in his moustache and eyebrows. AND MOST SKIN PORES. Unfortunately, only Carl Zeiss glass is able to boast that level of resolution, and cameras like the Hasselblad H4D-40 and medium or large format cameras with digital backs can produce results lot better than this. But I will never be that rich to afford this type of gear; for the time being I'll stick to my full frame 5D Mark III DSLR by Canon, and it's best of breed 135 fixed focal telelens.

Sharpness is my very number one thing, like I said, but lighting and composition come right after. I love studio photography with total light control conditions to the level I have built one of my own 20 years ago, in my loft. It's rather small, but it gave me the opportunity to experiment with interesting lighting sources and colours thru the years, until digital image processing came by. I used to use the Swiss Elinchrom flash system, which is nowhere suitable for real pro's but is more than adequate for amateurs like myself. Soft-boxes and loads of accessories for pointing and colouring light in different ways were added to my collection. These days I have abandoned most of it, and only use an IlluStar soft-box source of continuous light beam (a rather cheap one) with additional reflectors (and sometimes add the modelling lamp light of my Elinchroms - go figure) and a good Sirui carbon tripod. As for composition, I learned and mostly apply just the basics. Rule of thirds, golden ratios, that sort of thing. Don't bother much during shooting either as I shoot in high resolution most of the time, and I do crops afterwards. Not everybody can be like Henri Cartier Bresson, after all... What I know is this though. When I look thru my DSLR's prism, I have to like what I see. I won't press the shutter otherwise. No way. Even with the no-waste of analog negative nonsense arguments and the reusability of Gigabyte large memory solid state cards (SSDs) it makes no sense to me to shoot something that I deplore.

The other thing I try to always avoid is the presence of excess white and black luminance with no recognisable texture. Especially in the dark areas. I'm trying to keep my frame tonality spectrum nicely in the middle and avoid pixel occurrences near the 256 or 0 value extremes. Although I don't do much High Dynamic Range photography myself, I prefer frames with the correct shades of grey, especially in a picture's dark and highlighted areas. I studied Ansel Adams's zone system years ago, and although there's no need to apply it in digital photography too much, the awareness taught me the skill about where exactly to measure incident and reflected light in my scene to achieve a certain look on the final frame. Notwithstanding my digital gear is quite rich is technologies to ensure superb light measuring, I intensionally stick to manual controls, most of the time. Simply because they are quick, give the best results, and I don't seem to forget what I need to do next. Those with similar equipment like mine know exactly what I'm saying. Actually, I have eventually switched from Nikon to Canon not so much for the latter's countless functions that I always seem to forget, but for its frame processing capabilities under the most controversial scene lighting conditions, and the quality of it's glass... point blank!

I do shoot photographs quite instinctively; when I see something that I like, I point the camera, measure the light for middle gray reference where I want it to be and 'click'! The result that I eventually maintain for post processing is what I view and like on the camera's LCD display; however, this is no more than 80% of my final frame. Camera's don't do more than that for me, because of lens aberrations, focal length related geometry distortion, scene crops, and other shortcomings; so I got to interfere with software to bring the image to it's 100 percent output quality, before I decide to let others than myself see it. And I always do photograph in RAW. CR2 to be accurate.

Talking about software, I systematically avoid Photoshop. Photoshop is cheating. With it you don't 'improve' images. You simply 'create' them almost from scratch. Sometimes, you don't even need a photograph to create an image. This is not photography. It's called Illustration, if you ask me.. Most agnostics call any manipulated image a 'Photoshopped', which is great advertising for Adobe, but it's also not always true. Many stand-alone packages or plugins exist today to apply effects of all sorts (OnOne Software is a great supplier of such that I sometimes would use for monochrome effects). Photoshop is great for illustration purposes but it is cheating photography. I prefer Adobe Lightroom for post processing. I also own Apple's Aperture, but I prefer Lightroom. Sorry Steve!

There are things that I always do in Lightroom on quasi all my photographs. Before anything I do apply lens profile corrections to get this out of the way. To this end, I used to employ the DXO Optics imaging package in the past, but ever since Lightroom offered similar functionalities I abandoned DXO. As a sharpness addict, I tend to increase sharpness and radius, and add extra clarity and maybe some vibrance next. I am shy on saturation though. I avoid it in general, or at least I manage it selectively, colour by colour. Above controls are the minimum I do on each and every frame.

I've been testing Light Painting techniques recently.
I then deal with lighting. I use the tone curve for contrast and control of highlights, lights, darks and shadows, and additionally whites, and blacks but often I impact specific areas of my scenes with the brush, by adding or subtracting light and/or color. It's there where my years long struggles in oil painting paid off. Most people I imagine would be rather clumsy at that, or wouldn't even know where to start adding or reducing photons. Thankfully I seem to do, I think. I finally use graduated filter controls to add or subtract light and color, or even correct underlying color tints on larger areas. Lightroom has an outstanding ability to impact images with graduated filters like no one I know. If there would be one thing that I'd still keep on Lightroom if an Adobe comedian decided to eliminate all its other functions, that would be the graduated filter. I simply love it. It really changed all my image looks ever since I started using it.

I rather lied earlier about Photoshop. There are still a couple things I do use it for, and I invoke it from inside Lightroom to that purpose. These are a) perspective corrections and b) Liquify filter. Lenses tend to curb parallel lines, especially wide angle lenses, and perspective cropping corrects that. As for the Liquify filter, it is great to impact the geometries and curves of any picture, especially portraits. I often do adapt people's looks, not exactly the texture of their skin to make them look younger, but the shapes of their facial characteristics, to make them look nice to see. I think I rather became good at that thru the years. I do very subtle corrections though, here and there, that improve personas often to a rather considerable level, but are not too far reaching per se. If I did too much, that would be too obvious to spot and look fake. Like some paper adds of glamorous models, men or women. I also try to avoid Liquify if I can, other than in my own autoportraits! I'll stay 'young' on my own picture portraits of myself for a very long time, you see... Praise 'Liquify' as my double cheeks are forever gone. Again this is an area where my own past of portrait painting helps me a lot. In practice, sorry to admit, I only know a couple of people that I photographed in my life, who don't really need no Liquifying at all. Nature took care of that and they are simply beautiful as they are, no matter how you shoot them. Liquify is a tool rather for the rest of us. Also, it is mostly women who want to look beautiful in their photographs. Men don't care much. So, Liquify is mainly a tool for female portraiture. Like I said, men don't really care a didley squat. I think...

Last but not least, the final things I use Photoshop for are the spot healing brush and the cloner (stamp tool), mostly for making freaking cables and TV antennas disappear from landscape photography, especially in Southern Europe. Cable pollution and TV antennas there reached epidemic proportions. Ever since I have known them. Not that the situation in small town and rural US is any better, but anyways. I simply hate cables and TV antennas in pictures.
That's about it. If you ever wondered how I do photography, this was in a nutshell. Don't forget one thing though. Tools are important in creating photographic images that pop! Images that create emotions inside the soul of your viewers. Tools include your photographic gear, artificial subject lighting and post processing software (we haven't even touched upon printing and color calibration and balancing). But, with all the techno-goodies of the world, if you are unable to vision in your mind's eye a scene beyond the level of mediocrity, then even if you spend an entire fortune on imaging your output will still be a piece of crap. Like the old saying goes: GIGO!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What's wrong with Apple?

Let me add myself to the scores of zillions of bloggers, 'professional' reporters and pretentious buggers who, all of them indeed with no exception, think they know stuff... not? Let me utter my frustration that has built up to incredible levels as I been watching AAPL's zig-zagging with no underlying trend in sight, against all 'fundamentals' and 'technicals' odds! There have been days when the selling and market cap dropped so hard that there seemed to be no support whatsoever. Nonetheless, the active volumes during a day's trading that eventually led to almost 30% decline of the company's valuation since September last, are at an average of 22 million shares, which is less than 2.5% of all shares outstanding (yep, AAPL's got less than a billion shares in all). Hefty speculators moved the company's stock to the south for almost one third of its value by dealing a mere 2.5% of the stock. Kinda crazy... 2.5 percent of owners (the brave and bold speculators that is) moved and reduced the paper value of the remaining owners's 97.5% part by roughly one third, that's give 'n take a trivial 200 billion greenbacks.

For a company like Apple with its sound fundamentals that we know in terms of a) current quarterly revenues and profits in absolute value, b) market share and margins in percentage values, and c) the perceived market value of their brand and a standard P/E ratio being appallingly low, what is currently happening to the stock is utterly nuts. Various reporters are struggling to put their finger and pens on the rationale behind based on market events around Apple's fundamentals, and often will jump prematurely to conclusions in childish manners making themselves laughable in the light of real events, when the latter eventually come out in the open. Take for example Apple's iPhone 5 launch in China. The day itself many geniuses and Reuters reporters alike explained AAPL's day drop to a lackluster reception of the iPhone in China. No long queues were observed before store opening, and therefore wishful thinkers and Apple haters (dudes, get a life) rushed to predict Apple's loss of momentum and (illegal copier) Samsung taking over, again! Jeez! Hold me or I'll faint now! Few days later, when the real news hit the streets from Apple's own formal Press Releases about a shy 2 million iPhones sold there over the first weekend after the launch, naysayers had to chew copies of their articles printed on toilet paper. Despite that, on they were all over again to find another doom story that'd explain the roller coaster.

Now the facts are: No company of such a humongous market cap and the kind of fundamentals it demonstrates should experience volatility like this. I'm talking both in absolute and percentage values now, right? These days Apple is adding more hard cash to its reserves annually than the market cap of most successful companies operating on Earth. It's products are market leaders, not only in terms of market share alone but in terms of setting quality, functionality, ecosystem and flawless design standards for consumers to swear by, and Asean geniuses in China, Korea, and Japan to shamelessly copy them, like their local culture taught them. (Actually it's our own fault, western capitalists, who have sent all our manufacturing to the Far Easteners to earn more short term profit for ourselves, leading to the total economic demise of the West like sawing off the tree branch we are resting upon. As for our political leaders who allowed this exodus to happen, well, what can I say? They'd rather go to the bushes and cut wood instead.). Especially the shameless desperados from South Korea have such a nerve and arrogance that I swear, next time I think of buying something made in there, and Samsung in particular, I wish I lose all my savings in a flash and become a vagabond! I betsa most of you reading this will think the same!

Nonetheless, despite what logic dictates, and what the stats of a thousand years history of stock trading tell us, against all odds indeed, AAPL is still dropping beyond comprehension. Seems there's no bottom to stop at. There are even a few comedians out there claiming AAPL will eventually have to fall into double digits (imagine this happening for a moment to a company that's left with more cash than its market cap... it's gonna be like when time progresses ahead kinda 'backwards', and the future becomes the past; Hawkins predicted this once to happen when the Universe will start shrinking again into a singularity...). Seems to me like kinda like the world coming to an end this Friday when elementary school math deficient Mayas presumably suggested long ago.

I believe there must be something happening that many suspect but nobody seems to publicly admit. A conspiracy theory of some sort. You see, what happens to a company's stock is utterly fundamental in terms of public credibility and long term health and company stability and success. If one imagined that a company's stock becomes extremely risky to trade because of volatility, most conservative investors will stay out of it despite potential pay-offs, and won't touch it even with a pole. In the case of Apple, and because of its current footprint on our daily activities, ignorant media and their pathetic agents will seek further sensation arising from a share drop to justify predicting the unimaginable: a catastrophic failure for the biggest company human history ever seen. And I am afraid, by pulling the leverage (2.5 vs 97.5) for a sustainable amount of time and daily overweight short-selling will eventually cause a self fulfilling prophecy to occur and potentially kill the dream. A typical behaviour observed among the most self destructing mammals on earth: the average US citizens!

There might be those freakin' hedge funds to blame. Or HFT for that matter. But why Apple? Google is trading at 22 times earnings and recovered all its recent losses galloping ahead towards new historic all time highs, again. AMZN trades at multiples that even Jeff Bezos has difficulty grasping. So, why Apple? Is it because people hate them so much? Is it Samsung, or Google, or Microsoft who hide behind this, pay reporters and bloggers alike to create the FUD and trigger hedge funds to act as they do? Why doesn't Apple management react at this at all? Apparently they think it's normal and they don't seem to care much. And right they are. It's only us who look at this from the outside that get real pissed with so many naysayers acting against the best human entrepreneurship ever existed... I'm sure St-Steven from above is looking upon us and has a hell of a laugh.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


In my recent trip to Greece, and the prefecture of Evros in particular, I came across scores of locals, Greeks and Turks, living side by side in a geography tormented by wars and rivalries during at least a thousand years. Our recent memory (1920's) is filled with atrocities performed by the armies of each of the two countries upon the other side's civilian populations, and each of us on either side has been systematically brainwashed in the years that followed by respective politicians and political parties into deep hatred for each other. It's been so bad that feelings seem to have been embedded deeply in people's emotions and culture that to a Greek, for instance, the French attribute "tête de Turc" finds its true meaning of a scapegoat. Blame the buggers for everything wrong happening to us, that is. Especially in the current crisis climate to justify our appalling behaviour and abusive habits.

My recent trip opened my eyes for good. I visited for a few hours Edirne, in Turkey's European segment, just a few miles east of the border with Greece. I felt a little uncomfortable, under the influence of my own personal brainwash during my youth, by elder family members and the Greek State, especially when crossing the border and being stopped for lack of a Visa to enter the country. An interesting point, Greek nationals don't need a Visa to enter Turkey these days, but the rest of us, carrying non-Greek passports need to pay 15 Euros for a six month tourist Visa! That will teach me to abandon my Greek papers...

That said, a few miles further on appeared Edirne with its markets, its people, its school going kids, and its places of worship and public baths. The place reminded me of the towns and villages I grew up. If I were dropped there from outer space, I couldn't tell the difference between those folks and the ones I consider compatriots because of my DNA. Our guide, a Greek from Sterna, near Orestias, fluent in Turkish, seemed to be extremely well acquainted with the locals, and especially shop owners in businesses where he is a regular customer. Cost of living in that part of Turkey is obviously much lower than over the border in Greece, for the simple reason Turkey has been quite clever to stay out of the EU to this day. Let them become the new member in a 'United States of Europe' and they are up next to join our prestigious club of PIGS (or iPIGS, if you added Italy to the bunch of EU 'losers'). At least for now, despite all, Turkey is a member of the G20. So, many Greeks cross the border and do their shopping in centres and malls on the other side, whereas richer Turks come over to Greek resorts for weekends and normal vacationing. In other words, nobody should bother anymore about what happened hundred years ago; get over it and get on with life.

The picture I am posting here is one with our guide socialising in brotherhood with a couple of fish traders, posing as the best of friends. We often see our political leaders pose for photographs the same way, but in my shoot all three men meant their feelings and didn't pretend like usually politicians do.

Similar encounters I witnessed in spades during the full four to five hours I have been there. On a given moment I saw a local taylor, working in his five sq meters shop, jump off his chair at the sight of our guide and kiss the latter's hand with respect. He was so immensely glad to see him. He shouted that our guide was the nicest person on earth, and when I later asked our guide what the reason of such an affection was he replied: It's nothing serious... I only happened to have brought him some work long time ago as I was passing by, and ever since every time he sees me he's getting emotional.

I think regular people only want to live in peace and prosperity, where possible. And mutual respect and dignity. Especially those simple Turks, struggling to earn their daily loaf, like the terribly poor street shoe-polisher we engaged for a turn, and when we asked what we had to pay he responded "whatever your heart desires Effendi". They all seemed such a loveable bunch, ready to do anything we asked. Affectionate and friendly and hospitable like the rest of us Greeks, usually claiming 'hospitality' as a key characteristic of our ethos by genetic connection to our forefathers in Antiquity. Forgot to mention the exquisite taste of their meals at a price you could hardly feed one person in our part of the world. And it were three of us!

During my journey I shot several portraits of people I met, and later uploaded them to Flickr as a set. Since then I have asked quite a few friends to guess who were the Greeks in those pictures, and who our brothers the Turks. To the present day I found nobody, who could guess it right hundred percent. We are so similar in looks and character that it is indeed practically impossible to tell the difference. I know that many from both sides would rather have us nourish hatred for each other, and would actually beat the sh*t outta me for having said that, but I am pretty sure I am right. And I also came close to hating myself for being so 'blind' to reality for so long, and maintained the sort of negative feelings that both Greek and Turkish governments and their agents, along with the biased one-sided stories I heard from my refugee parents have built into my unconscious fifty five years ago.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Victoire de Samothrace

Although I lived in Alexandroupolis from birth to the time I went to college, and the island of Samothrace looked so conspicuous in the Aegean sea horizon with its skyline only a handful miles to the south, I never managed to visit the island, until a few weeks ago. I was actually invited by a good friend to tour the entire prefecture of Evros and take photographs (more than 2500, in all, I shot) of its National Parks (yes, there are two mind you, Dadia and the Evros Delta), its ancient sites (I visited six at least older than a thousand years to more than 2 thousand, Mesimvria, Samothrace, Doxipara, Traianoupolis, Didymoteichon with the oldest Mosque in Continental Europe - the whole of Europe actually - and Our Lady Kosmoswtira in Ferres), countless churches large and tiny and scores of priceless Byzantine icones, and of course Edirne in Eastern Thrace occupied by the Turks (aka Adrianoupolis, located a few miles East of Kastanjes at the Northern border between Greece and Turkey). I also shot a series of portraits of locals and challenged friends who saw them to guess who were the Turks and who the Greeks in the series.

The trip to Samothrace however was something quite different. The island has got very much the atmosphere of any Greek island, with a stunning landscape, reminiscent of Kefalonia as it combines wild mountainous views with the peaceful coastal scenery and beautiful sand and rocky beaches. I won't attempt to describe the island in detail for two reasons: 1) I only stayed less than 24 hours in all, and what can you possibly manage to see in just 24 hours,? and 2) I feel more comfortable about showing my pics than describing things. So, I rather not talk and show you the pictures instead, with a myriad hyperlinks posted above and hereunder.

I am sure you can find out a lot about the island and its history in a thousand places anywhere on the net, and maybe many more photographs even better than mine... or whatever, but anyways, I did my thing and feel good about it.

There's a mountainous site in Samothrace with an ancient temple and many ruins (incl. a theater) facing north (the same way Delphi faces south). There's a museum there too. Apparently the works to excavate the area and unearth the ruins was supported by an American humanist (Carl Lehmann). There's a plaque at the entrance of the museum. However, I don't quite know the exact story about how the famous statue of Nike (Victory) of Samothrace found its way to the Louvre in Paris, France, where it is being exhibited to this day, but the fact is that the museum only carries a replica. I have displayed a picture of this replica in the beginning of this post.

As I was wondering around in the museum, for less than half hour in all as it was actually very small, and in November I was probably the only visitor of the day (maybe the week), I asked myself about the pain my compatriots have been going through for years to repatriate the Elgin marbles back to the Parthenon. Now, that's a different story. No foreigner had the right to steal those works from their natural habitat regardless the excuse, and the Elgins should really come back, as there's a dedicated museum opposite the Acropolis today that is world class venue and the best place to house the Parthenon marbles.

How about the Nike statue though? Should it leave the Louvre and come back to Greece? It depends. If it came to Greece it would be probably sent to some Athens museum and not back to Samothrace. But if in a million years one decided to bring it back to Samothrace, what then? Well, I'm not going to put any point of view forward to avoid being lynched by my compats. I will only mention, that a) I couldn't believe the appalling state of the road leading to the archaeological site (probably only worth of Samothrace's (famous for their taste) goats jumping from stone to rock to climb the hill - at least the equally mountainous Delphi is serviced by a motorway) and b) the salle that they would presumably put the original Nike (unless they decided to build a new museum - but with what funds, one wonders). See for yourselves hereunder where they display the replica to grasp my point...

I guess, on a regular day at the Louvre, the authentic Nike statue meets more visitors than during an entire year it's cousin replica does on the island. So, if the purpose of this whole exhibition is to show the world the greatness of Ancient Hellas in all its glory and what our ancestors have achieved in the domains of arts and all the rest, then you better put it somewhere where at least people get the easy way to go and see. With thousands of flights arriving to Paris in its three airports daily, and millions of folks visiting the Louvre, I rest my case.

As a consolation, see the site (right) where the original statue was put thousands of years ago. It's about twenty meters further up from the point I shot that picture, they told me. A nice, no, a superior view, towards the sea and the Saos mountain. And during the night, with clear skies, the most beautiful view of a starry outer space that in the forty years I have been living in Belgium I even forgot it existed. I even saw the Great Bear, almost hidden below the Northern horizon this time of the year. And our Milkyway Galaxy, my God... it all looked so close. Stretch and you'll grab a star! Make a wish!

I know many 'riches' from Alex/city 40 miles to the North, two hours by a local Ferry, maintain a holiday home on the island. Many even spend their weekends during the entire year, and not only in the summer. They must be the luckiest folks on the planet, especially if you think that they can abandon for the weekend the garbage dump Alex/city has been turned into in the last 40 years, and come to Samothrace instead to live at least a couple days a week like kings in France, in a venue close to Paradise, real close!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bonami Workshop

A slideshow based on a photo-shoot I did yesterday at the premises and workshop of this very up-market and exquisite quality display mannequins from Aalter, Belgium. I have written about them not long ago in the same blog.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Transactional Analysis Test

I attended a class to learn and practice Transactional Analysis 32.5 years ago, almost to the day. It had such an impact on me that I have used it in my daily life ever since, at least when the stakes were high. For many years I have also been teaching TA basics in various classes at the University or in Business School classes, for more than 10 years now. I haven't met many in my life who were practicing TA, but I've met a few folks here and there, in any case. We were kinda like belonging to a clan of some sort, although it ain't that bad at all. It's a good theory and tends to explain well many of the things that are happening in our lives and the way we face and address everyday situations. Download this PDF kindly offered by Dr. Solomon on her blog. This will provide you with a great description of the TA Basics.

A few months ago I taught a sales class in Athens, Greece, and I found out that one of my participants was also a practicing TAer and a certified teacher for a US based training company. He showed me a questionnaire that they used to test someone's TA scores in terms of the weights of someone's respective ego states. I found it quite interesting, and I decided to translate it in English (it was given to me in Greek) and to send it to friends and acquaintances. The way to fill it is simple. Answer all questions/statements. For each one you decide which column fits best to your character. Each column carries a weight. Never is 0, Seldom is 1, ..., Always is 4. You decide which column fits you best and write down the column weight in the cross-section cell (between the statement row and the best suitable column). You then send me the filled-in table and I'll send you back your scores in terms of ego states, your dominating one, your strongest, and weakest states, and whether your adult risks to be contaminated by your child or parent... and stuff like that. It's fun. Just do it...

Here it is (click on it for larger view).

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Trackers, f*** off!

You surf to your heart's desire and spiders and crawlers sent by evil marketeers watch your every step wherever you go. Until someone sells you a tracking strangler like the one I'm using on one of my browsers. Not that they'll discover anything worth mentioning I wouldn't like them to see, but the sheer thought that people keep watching my surf promenades together with those of 100s of millions of others just pisses me off. Look at the screen capture here. As I was watching the Burning man burning night on a live broadcast (sorry, webcast) there were 7 sneaky a-hole crawlers sent by ruthless marketeers with Google on top (be no evil, remember?) watching my moves... with 1047 having done this since a few days that I installed the tracking stopper. Go figure. That's one of the reasons iPad apps are way better. You don't have to put up with crap like this. In the spirit of the burning man, lets burn down these f*ckers. Install tracking stoppers everywhere you use browsers of any sort. I only hope they work as advertised...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Buy - Hold - Sell

CUT 1: The last few days the most valuable company in the world got even wealthier. Right now Apple's estimated market capitalisation is close to $630B. In absolute numbers and not counting for inflation only Microsoft during Gates's reign (1999) was able to boast a value that close ($619B). But history of record breaking obviously ignores inflation and rationalisations, and Apple has de-facto become the company, which now holds the record of being most valuable in the History of Mankind.
Financial channels like CNBC and Bloomberg's keep interviewing AAPL's analysts about its next stock move, that is, is it gonna still go up, stay put, or roller-coaster downhill? Although you hear all sorts of opinions, at least as many as those analysts sharing them, there is a figure, a ratio actually, that everybody seems to respect. This is the P/E ratio. P/E seems to be like the holy grail to all investors, traders and pigs that get slaughtered alike. It's also called 'multiples', meaning how many times (multiples of) the annual earnings per share (EPS) equals the current trading value of the stock (one share).
If you select any given industry, and calculate the respective P/E for many of its members, and then average it, you get that industry's average P/E. Apple's P/E these days is less than 16. This is quite a reasonable number and very close to the technology industry's average. What does this mean then? Well, analysts, who explain their point of view about companies they closely follow, after they provide their deep thoughts and arguments that range from a company's fundamentals (product launches, revenue growth, profit margin, market penetration, brand value, etc) to its stock behaviour technicals (moving averages, and scores of ratios to blow out your brains... kinda like driving forward by looking at the rear mirror, etc), they then almost never omit mentioning, "well, on a second thought, its multiples are still on the low side, in other words, the stock is still cheap!".
To grasp the meaning of this, consider Amazon compared to Apple: If Apple had multiples anything close to Amazon's (almost 300) would be worth a cool 12 trillion dollars today! If you considered Facebook with a multiple of 110, that's 7 times Apple's multiple, that is to say, if investors and traders valued Apple as much as they 'seem' to (hype) be valuing Facebook, would bring Apple to a market cap of 4 trillion dollars and change! Or its share at a value of $4.2K a pop! Does it sound astronomic ??? Is it too much? Buffet wouldn't think so, I reckon, with his BRK-A's shares trading at an equally cool $128K a piece as we speak...
Now let me ask you something: Is it reasonable to 'reason' like this? Apparently some people do. Although, be careful, it seems that in real life, even if the P/E was proven a reliable measure for many companies on average, it is prudent to assume that there are limits in what the investment and trading community will emotionally accept as a total cap figure for any given company at a well specific moment in time. I don't believe anyone is ready yet today, for any public company on Planet Earth, to touch a trillion dollars in market cap, any day soon. I don't know what it is, but a trillion dollars sounds like a shedload of money. It can raise the dead!

CUT 2: Adam Johnson is a smart kid and a Bloomberg 'analyst', 'interviewer', 'strategist', you name it. He always looks well brushed and gorgeous to watch. Bloomberg seems to be paying a lot of attention to the looks of their TV presentators (with some exceptions, of course). Back to Adam though, I don't know how much of the analysis he shows on those humongous surface computing screens, literally out of the 'Minority Report', but his stuff is for sure cool, most of the time. If it's his thinking, then well done, Adam! Namaste.
Well, yesterday Adam said something quite interesting. I will only make some comments here just to demonstrate the type of thinking (albeit simple and straightforward one would argue) that goes thru the mind of the so-called financial strategists, who, like modern day Delphi oracles, do their best to predict the future, and conclude the inevitable (the only conclusion an investor or a trader is really looking for) sell, hold, buy!
Well, Adam referred to the Financial Industry in his analysis. He mentioned other industries as well, but his focus yesterday was upon Banks and Insurance companies. He simply said that right now more than 90 percent of all the financial sector companies are trading above their 200-day moving average. That's too much! Way too much, he implied.
The 200 day moving average is a popular measure among technical analysts, especially when current share values cross above or fall below that average. It is actually the average value that you obtain if you take a stock's closing price for the last 200 trading days from today. In other words, it tells you at what average price during the last 200 trading days investors 'valued' a company's stock. (Note: to identify potential stock movement trends, technical analysts also like to plot the 50 day MA on top of the 200 day as well. If the 50-day MA happens to cross below the 200 day it'd suggest a downward trend for the stock. That's because investors seem to be (wanting to) pa(y)ing in the last 50 days less than what they (were prepared to) pa(y)id during the longer period of 200 days. Like it or not, that's how technical analysts reason).
So Adam said that so many Financials trading above their 200 day MA is not 'good' news. That was far too good to be true. Regardless what other sectors were doing, this couldn't be kosher. So, Adam asked his assistants to go look for similar moments in the past, where the percentage of financial companies trading above their 200 day MA appeared similar to the present. Especially since the banking industry didn't yet seem to have crawled out of the woodwork. Adam reasoned by the simple premise that what goes up must eventually come down. The golden rule of trading, that is...
Not surprisingly, Adam proved his thesis to be reasonable. Touching gently his fancy transparent surface computer screen, he showed us four similar periods in the past of likewise behaviour, and he conspicuously circled the tops of those trends in his periodical curve. We seem to be at one of these very tops right now, as we speak, he said. This is quite interesting! Given he has been talking about percentages there was an upper limit to where those peaks could possibly go. That is 100, right? Well, he sez, what happen(ed)s next? Not surprisingly, what goes up must eventually come down to keep the wave flowing. That's the name of the game, right?! Then, out of 'nowhere', he carried forward and superposed upon his displayed curve (showing the pct of financials above the 200 day MA), a new different graph. That of the S&P 500 index over the same period of time. Surprise surprise! Right after the banks reached their 200 day MA related peaks the S&P seemed to have plunged into the deep south. QED! And this happened for the last 4 times, Adam said! Why not now, then? And he said that staring thru the camera with his cute Hollywood soap star looks that would practically melt down the vast majority of US teenage girls and alike. He was in fact saying... kiddos, if you hold financials, off-load them or brace for a free fall. Or do hedge some, or short sell, or anything at all. Pleeeease!
The question now is, is he gonna be proven right? Or not? Stand-by... Gonna be fun, as always.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cohen loves Ghent... and Ghent loves Cohen !

The podium (shot with an iPhone) in front
of Sint-Pieter's Abbey in Ghent.
I'm probably one of the least qualified persons on the planet to dare critic the Great Troubadour of our times Leonard Cohen. My knowledge in poetry, song lyrics and literature is at best elementary, same thing as in music. I like a few styles, I am less keen on other, like most of us. However, I happened to attend Cohen's concert in Ghent, yesterday and I wanted to share the experience with my scarce blog audience, provided they'd be interested.

Ever since Cohen started his recent world tours, out of which also the CD "Live in London" and the corresponding DVD came out, Ghent has been a permanent venue in his touring. First I heard about, I was deeply surprised, as Ghent is 'nothing special' to most Belgians or otherwise who live elsewhere
. Ok, it is a 'famous' medieval city with very rich history... fine, so much is true. Also, in recent years, due to the skilful work of visionary city mayors, it's been cleaned up, streets and canals, and became quite attractive for city tourism and inspiring promenades.

For reasons only known to himself, Cohen 'lost' his heart in Ghent, and ever since he started touring again several years ago, he seems to be coming back to Ghent every single year! He's even launched his 2012 world tour that just started this last Monday (or was it Sunday?), by offering his first five (!) concerts this week alone
in the heart of Ghent, at the Sint-Pieter's plein (plein = a square). Which, Marc Didden, a known Flemish commentator, proposed to rename into the 'Leonard Cohen Square'! So much Didden loves Cohen. The square is located in the shadow of the University Library tower, a reputable Art Deco (Henry van de Velde) building in the city Academic Centre, right in front of Sint-Pieters Abbey, a genuinely Medieval setup. The landscape is indeed a sober and attractive background to Cohen's equally sober podium right in front of the Abbey. I reckon nobody else than Cohen could actually perform at that very spot with the required humility and respect without irritating the overly religious, who rather protect 'old' monuments from potential blasphemy by all sorts of contemporary commercial abuse.

Cohen is the sort of singer-poet-songwriter whose style is such that you either love or hate. A bit like Dylan, whose singing irritates as many as it fascinates (I belong to the latter partition, my youngest son to the former).

I must admit, until 'Live in London' came out, I had no particular knowledge of Cohen and his work. I knew of him, I had also heard Suzanne and Hallelujah, like most people, but that was it. OK, maybe there was his "...First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin..." tune too that my fellow colleagues combined with other songs into a musical pot-pouri to pl(t)ease me during my 40th birthday, an innuendo to my ambitious business expansionary activities then... I also knew he spent some time in Greece that he seems to be snubbing entirely in his world tours these days. Initially I thought it was Crete... much later I learned it was the island of Hydra.

I must say, the 'Live in London' album shocked and shook me inside out. I became an instant addict. I hated myself for having ignored Cohen all those years, blindfolded by the requirements and 'golden cage' insulation imposed upon me by my own corporate lifestyle. Life is simple, far simpler than you think. Cohen spoke of life and love in most of his songs. Romantic, deep and genuine love seems to be his mantra, and the main theme in many of his inspiring lyrics. "Dance me to the end of Love", or "There ain't no cure for Love". He also spoke about perfection (that many of us inside the insane corporate landscapes are obsessed about reaching), or, better said, the lack of it, in a way that brought to you sheer shivers. I felt my corporate arrogance getting shredded to pieces. "Forget your perfect offering, there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in" (Anthem).

Since 'Live in London', I have been following his 'life' and new albums from nearby. I even iTunes pre-ordered his latest 'Old Ideas' album to be among the first to experience it. I have even heard a pre-release of the album's first song 'Going home' at the online version of New Yorker, and, needless to say, taken by storm. The power of his verses is inexplicably grand!

So,it must come as no surprise to no-one that I decided to go to this concert in Ghent, maybe my last chance to ever see him perform in a live performance, I thought, ever. We're both getting old, you see... In retrospective, I'm glad I did. Here's why.

It sounds unheard of, but I think I must have been in only three concerts in my entire life. That's it! Three! One+one+one! Led Zeppelin in Ghent as well, Dylan at the Vorst Nationaal in Brussels, and yesterday's the third and last. After Led Zeppelin's I came out half deaf until the next morning, Dylan was a sad and shameful train-wreck, that kept the audience short of throwing garbage to the podium only out of respect for his legacy.

On the contrary, Cohen's was the sort of concert that I wouldn't mind going for the rest of my living days. Well done! Perfect! Despite what he himself thinks about 'perfection'.

I love professional work. I mean the kind of work that manages concerts like yesterday's where EVERYTHING seems to be going right and be done exactly like it is supposed to. The logistics, the installations, the execution, the crews! Well done Mr. Project Manager! Well done a thousand times. Namaste.

The concert was supposed to start at 20:00 pm, and you know what? It did! Whereby, a bunch of ticket paying morons still kept coming in three quarters into the programme! Ghent is not the kind of city to get easily lost, right? What happened to them?

Right from the first song the concert became a continuous enjoyment of sight and sound. And this continued for the following 4 (!) and change hours. It sounds crazy, but if there's anything negative to say about it at all, it's the number of tracks they sang. Too many. Even their bonus segment had its own extra bonus. Incredible! I started aching bad on my neck and back, as the seats didn't quite offer the type of comfort the middle aged like myself do typically need. And, speaking of middle aged, the audience was actually made of a majority of 'tea-drinking' geriatrics. Mostly from the generation of baby-boomers and before that, so to say. I almost felt 'young' among them buggers. Some also seemed like they were still deeply in love with their life partners regardless whether the latter were of the same or the opposite sex. A couple dared dance to Cohen's 'Take this Waltz' tune in front of the Podium, and everyone could see them! Whatever, let's not be too cranky here. It's always good to see people attracted to each other, regardless of their sexual preferences. There isn't by far enough 'true' love left in this world, that's for sure... And it is in lovers' real lives that Cohen's verses find their true meaning.

His performing musicians and singers were simply incomparable, to use Cohen's own adjectives. Kudos to all. However, I wanted to stand still just for a split second, and pay my respects to that phenomenal virtuoso Javier Màs, player of the bandurria, a 12 string Folk Spanish guitar. Màs must have been part of Cohen's band from the times of 'Live in London' at least, as far as I could say. The man is for sure possessed by the Greek daemons and Roman genius of the Gods of Music! You see his fingers moving and think, I could do that too! Then you listen to the sound that comes out of his playing and you suddenly realize that you are a witness to the supernatural presence of Orpheus and Apollo. Blimey! I just couldn't describe the feeling. You simply stay breathless and can only react by shedding few tears for your inability to share the moment with your loved ones not present! Thank God it was dark and reactions to feelings were kept private. We were immensely fortunate to experience his three/four song solo performances, of which his very first (I forget the song name) was a new improvisation and different than the one I heard in the "Live in London" album. I wish I could record that piece of divine execution. Unfortunately, I didn't! I'll regret this for the rest of my life. As a parenthesis, I have ringtoned two or three segments of Javier Màs's work from 'Live in London' to set up alarms and wake-up calls on my phone. I'm especially fond of his introduction to the "Gypsy wife" song, a composition in its own right, albeit a bit too brief, that combines Greek bouzouki, Italian mandoline and Spanish classic guitar sounds into a magical harmony. Señor Javier Màs, I bow to you.

I could go on and on. But as I said, who am I to judge that Monstre Sacré called Leonard Cohen? Only thing I could do here is to humbly, very humbly indeed, pay him my deepest respects for his superb performance and pleasure he gave me, and do that with
equal gratitude and humility as his, shown each and every time he greeted us at the end of each song with a rather conspicuous bow and the raising of his hat!

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

For the love of Nature...

Floriade! I heard about this event some 30 years ago, early on after I emigrated from Greece to Flanders. The Netherlands, as world famous it is by its tulips, is not only the Kingdom of Het Huis van Oranje, but also the Kingdom of God's best gifts to man, flowers and greens. Floriade is a flower festival organised every ten years and this year it is being held in Venlo with the theme "Be part of the theatre in nature; get closer to the quality of life".
Floriade 2012 features five themed areas on a site of 66 hectares.

  • Environment
  • Green Engine
  • Relax & Heal
  • Education & Innovation
  • World Show Stage
It also has a Cable Car of 1,100 meters. Very clever!
Since I missed every single Floriade since I came here (1982, 1992 and 2002) I promised to myself to visit the Venlo event for sure, since, one never knows, maybe I don't live to see another one, or feel too fatigued to walk around its venue exhibits in ten years from now. Indeed, Floriade is almost an event of a lifetime. Equipped with my 5D and my standard 24-105 AF IS Canon zoom, I arrived at the parking on July 31st, right about the event daily opening time of 10am, and thank God for that, since the walk in a full parking terrain from one end to another counts the best part of one km, or more. One risks to be dead tired (certainly at my age) before one even reaches the shuttle-bus stops! However, I was pretty close to the entrance as I got here rather early, lucky me... Off the driver's seat, I put on my youngest son's walking shoes, and there I was, ready to go, loaded with a few kgs of Canon gear.
The entire organisation of the venue, inclusive logistics, efficiency, cleanness, buildings/landscape and pavilion architecture, concepts and quality of exhibits, shops, souvenirs, restaurants, coffee-shops, even an open theatre with a huge daylight video screen of immense proportions to entertain visitors with the Olympics latest, up to the traditional frittes-mayonnaise for the Belgo-Dutch lunch enjoyment, an ultramodern amphitheater for live music performances, what can anybody say??? Only the Dutch can manage venues like these. They even re-worked their motorways around the venue with new bridges and secondary roads leading to hotels and parkings that are even too new to display in Google's maps satellite view . For fun, visit the spot north of the crossing of A67 and A73 near Venlo in Holland in Google and see the current configuration on the standard map view first. Then switch to the satellite view. You are not gonna believe your eyes how much work they put into it. The satellite view shows the way it was before the Floriade, whereas the map view shows all that was built for the needs of the event! Unbelievable! Just for a show that only lasts April to October 2012.
The Dutch, being Dutch (entrepreneurial, that is to say) already declared that all the buildings and infrastructure will be reused for businesses after next October. My compats should think about that each time they drive outside the premises of the Athens 2004 Olympics village, shame on them!
There's so much to say about Floriade 2012... Big! Real BIG! Huge really! In all its aspects. A must go! Since I can't write as good as I shoot pictures, I rather say it with my shots and leave the writing to the skilled. I took a total of 750 pictures, incl. panoramic shots. Of those, a total of 655 I have eventually published on my Flickr account. I grouped them by 'my' themes in a total of 15 sets, of which my personal preference goes to their Orchids, displayed as a slideshow here.
If you've got nothing else to do and can't free up the time to visit the Floriade itself in Venlo before it ends in October, see my work as your second best option... I'm sure many visitors shot millions of pictures, but not many are as addicted to amateur photography as I am, to shoot more than 700 pictures in less than 10 hours, a full battery charge and 12 GB of flash cards filled to 'card full' status, and then spend 20 hours developing them and group them in 17 Flickr sets (!) to present the best possible view of the event, for the pleasure of those who don't plan to go.
Between you and me, some of my shots are too flattering to the objects they represented on camera. Better than the real thing, so to say... It's because, one, camera lenses see more than human eyes, especially when they get close to their subject via zooming. And two, I like colours a lot, so I did my usual thing to add some personal tint and 'artistic' interpretation here and there. For my own visual enjoyment...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

For the love of art...

Bad art!
All three of my kids studied 'creative' crafts after high school, diametrically opposite of what I did when I was their age. I became a technologist and a technocrat. They are earning their dough in 'creative' occupations. Nothing wrong with that, although it took me some time to digest. 
A long ago, I remember, out of sheer curiosity, I tried to start a conversation with my eldest of two sons, about what they taught him at school 'art' was and what makes a work of an artist 'good art', as opposed to all things commercial and bad art. Needless to say, he had no concrete answer to that, because there's simply no real answer to the question. Do we like a particular Arles work of van Gogh above a 'similar' of Gauguin's because a critic said so, or because we see something different? And how to explain that some of us like works of Picasso and Braque above those of de Kooning and Pollock? How does someone explain the process by which an artwork's colours, shapes and forms, and perhaps movement elicit such feelings inside us, and we feel that this is indeed what art must be all about?
A few days ago I happened to browse thru the photography portfolio of someone who's recently known notoriety as a UI designer for Apple's iOS devices. In his website he presents his core skills and work, but also says that he is a 'photographer' and shows off a number of his photographs. I somehow sensed that he is the sort of photographer that Bryan Adams also calls himself. More like gifted amateurs, I'd prefer to call them both. I must be honest, I thought his photographs were not too bad... at least that's what I thought. Don't shoot me for that! But I must also admit that my skill in discriminating good from bad art is close to non-existent. So I decided to ask a friend, who I believe had far more advanced capability in deciding good art, and discriminate it from bad art. She is an author and a journalist in her day job, but she also loves the arts in most of its forms. I asked her to tell me what she thought of this guy's photography. This is an excerpt of her response:

...They (
note VJK-D: his photographs) conveyed to me this look of self-indulgence... I remember that the ones he shot in Morocco almost wiped away altogether my initial desire to visit the country, and made disappear the romantic dispositions that I gained after seeing that documentary years ago, as I already told you, about Fez. I simply despise our (note VJK-D: hypocrite empathy and arrogant contempt we show towards 'lower class' people) approach as :
  • the Rich towards the Poor 
  • the West towards the East, 
  • the Strong towards the Weak
Many photographers and authors often do that, and it’s become a banal cliché for sure. I am looking for love and affection for the beautiful, the hope, and indeed life itself. We have already been lost in meaningless and lifeless things; we have been hardened... I want the artist to make me teary about the things that exist around me. There he comes, a total stranger, from some place far and away; he looks at them, he embraces them, he describes them in words, or by means of images or animations, and shows them to me again, to enliven me to restart doing, for instance, gardening, or cooking, to caress them with enthusiasm because they are not meaningless, because this is what life is, what the sun and the rain of every single day undeniably are.

The reason I blogged this is because of a number explicit and concrete elements she explains genuine art lovers 'see' in artworks, that I rarely experienced in the past being stated in those words. I simply wanted to share the experience. That's all...

Monday, July 16, 2012

More good news

Screen capture of Reuters RSS on July 16th, 2012
Nowadays it appears to be more entertaining to read obituaries than Reuters news reports. Read here their recent titles from a screen capture of my Reuters' RSS, from my Google homepage this morning. Even the one news report -- third story from the top -- about a company acquisition (these are usually positive news) is the result of a hostile take over that seemed to have initially failed. What can you say? What will ever bring remedy to this? Is this really a 'traditional' economy low? But, why does it last so long? Lack of leadership on both sides of the pond? Definitely one of the reasons. Old sins of our middle-aged generation of baby-boomers? Abuse of the environment? Too few taking control of too many resources with too many left struggling for survival? I thought the global village would be a solution to all our problems. A divine panacea, so to say. Dream on, dude. We are all fucked up, plain and simple!

The worst July in recent years...

People watching the first leg (swim) of yesterday's Triathlon in Oudenaarde,
East Flanders, Belgium! Has been pouring rain all day!
Actually, most July months ever since I stepped into Belgium, 40 years ago this July, has been like this. What is so wrong with this country? Most of Europe (at least the Southern part) is hot and burning with temperatures closing or above 40 degrees, and we got 12 degrees over here. Our northern coastline tourism is already dead by now, and people dress like in autumn and winter. My fingers as I type this feel like frozen, and I got to wear socks to feel the blood flowing back in my taws. Come to think of it, I don't even care about the freezing temperatures. But how about that freakin' rain? What is it any good for? I reckon, when God decided to define weather for every country in the world, he probably felt he needed a leak and came to piss all over Belgium. Flanders in particular.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Triathlon of Flanders

Triathlon of Flanders, a set on Flickr.

First Triathlon of Flanders organized in Oudenaarde and the Flemish Ardennes. July 15th, 2012. With pouring rain. What else?