Tuesday, April 29, 2008
But big international take-overs take some time to accomplish ( EU needs to check the competition situation in each country etc etc...) and we were told that we'd not have new management in the first months.
But today the Scottisch flag flying outside has been lowered and we are currently flying a brand new Dutch flag next to the Maes flags.
We all found a can of Heineken beer on our desks with a welcome letter. The intranet had already slightly changed in lay-out and the e-mail address book contained 47000 new Heineken addresses. Other than that it was still business as usual. I guess we'll find out step by step what it's like to be part of the big Heineken group. I'm very curious and optimistic.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Remember that I explained here that a voting district in and around Brussels needs to be split into a bilingual area (Brussels) and a Flemish area (around Brussels). This district has been subjected by our highest court house and the government cannot organise legal elections before it is split. However, it is one of the topics that the Flemish and Wallonian politicians cannot agree upon.
While our government formations were dragging and dragging, the Flemish parties have voted their proposition in the parliament unilaterally using their electoral majority for the first time in Belgian history. All Flemish parties were united as were their frenchspeaking counterparts as well; Their so-called "5 minutes of braveness" turned out into a flop though: the formation attempt of Yves Leterme failed, the Wallonian politicians used some bureuacratical procedure that protects each cultural group in Belgium against such laws forced by one group upon the other. In the end this helped Yves Leterme to form his government after all as this delicate topic was off in the bureaucratical freezer and out of sight for a years was expected. Time enough to find a solution later on.
At least that was what everyone in Flanders was thinking. The Wallonian political parties have now all agreed to not use their protection measures to the limit. They've stopped the procedure that could have continued until next fall still. As a result, this bill comes back in the parliament on May 8th and the Flemish political parties can vote pro once again.
What a big risk they take?!, you might be thinking.
Not so...it's actually a brilliant tactical move. Yves Leterme is no longer president of the major Flemish political party, he is now leading our national government. His Flemish allies all want to vote for their bill and keep their point of view strong and they count on Yves' loyalty. If he holds the vote, it could mean a split with some of his allies.... all his Frenchspeaking counterparts say it's in his hands now. They want a negotiated compromise and count in his leadership to stop a vote in the parliament and to start negotiations. If the vote gets passed nevertheless, they'll leave the government.
Now that's what they call the sword of Damocles. Or brilliant tactics. Or bluffing.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
At one of the restaurants they offered snails as appetizer. I totally loved them. They were salty, totally different from the "Burgundy" style snails with garlic butter as we sometimes eat in France and in Belgium as an entree. I ate lots and lots of them. Far more than anybody else. Once started it was hard to stop.
The next morning we were ready for another big tour: the cathedral of Batalha, the pelgrimage town of Fatima and the Templar castle in Tomar. At the breakfast table I already felt cramps and I had to run off to the toilet urgently. When we got into the car and left on the windy road, the nausea got stronger and stronger. I concentrated on breathing slowly and deeply and watched the road. I knew we were almost in Batalha as we had done this road before on our way to Nazaré. I'd almost be free to get out of the car.
But when we reached the square in Batalha , my dad simply turned right and continued on the road. "Where are we going? I thought we'd visit the cathedral today?"
"Ah yes, we'll do that in the evening, we'll visit the furthest destination first, so we are now driving to Fatima".
At that moment my stomac gave up. My reflexes were just fast enough to open the car door before I started throwing up. It probably took a full minute before my parents realised where this sudden breeze of hot air and those funny noises came from and before they had had the reflex to pull over followed by my aunt's family in the car behind us. The sight of my hanging out of the driving car must have been quite 'interesting' for them :p. From then on it took another 3 stops of roadside furtilisation before my stomac was empty.
When we arrived on the big square in front of the basilica in Fatima I was amased by the long line of people crawling on their knees across the square towards the shrine following a line made up by different tiles, surrounded by their loudly praying families begging Our Lady for some kind of favor. On the left side there was a huge black wall where a huge mass of candles were burning. When approaching the wall the heat just hit into your face and made you back-up again. If you wanted to insist anyway in order add a burning candle, the candle itself was already soft and bent by the time you could place it there.
My mom didn't allow me much time to look around but guided me to the covered sides of the square where I had to sit down as she feared that I might be suffering from a sunstroke. I pleaded that I already felt a 1000 times better now that I was out of the moving hot car but she was deaf for my arguments. I had to wait there while the rest of them were walking in the middle of the esplanade taking pictures.All of a sudden she had noticed on the other side of the square against the side walls a Red Cross post. "Come with me, we'll go and ask them whether they have something against motionsickness and nausea", said my mom. We quickly pointed to the others the direction wherewe were going and we crossed the square again in the Portugese summer heath.
The 2 volunteers didn't understand anything my mom was trying to explain to them in French and we didn't understand anything about their Portugese questions. Just when we were about to give up, they turned towards an open door in the wall behind them and a little nun appeared.
"Parlez-vous Français? Venez venez, suivez-moi" (do you speak French? Come in, come, follow me) and she directed us into the room behind the Red Cross post what seemed like a nice cool basement. Afterwards I realised it was indeed some kind of huge basement under the higher up terrasses outside. My mom tried to explain that we just wanted some kind of medication against nausea if that was possible, but the nun did not allow us to make a lot of interruptions.
"Suivez- moi" and she walked to an elevator in the back.
In the elevator my mom stated again that we just wanted to know whether we could get some kind of anti-nausea pill. "oui oui très bien, suivez-moi" (yes yes, very well, follow-me). Before we realised it we had arrived in a big building with long hallways, were zigzagging in them behind the nun and we were given a seat in a very busy waiting room with enquiry desks. The nun came back with a bunch of papers that we needed to fill in. They wanted our full address, name, medical history, ....all of it. Clearly that seemed like a bit of overkill in our request for some simple motionsickness pill. We both walked up to the nun gestering that there was some kind of misunderstanding and that we wanted to leave.
"Oui oui, n'ayez pas peur, asseyez-vous " (yes yes, don't be afraid, sit down) she said and gave us back the papers to fill in. As we were all confused and this nun clearly had her mind set to us filling in the papers, we gave in and started filling all the data that she had requested. It's hard to go into discussion with a Portugese Frenchspeaking nun.
After we had filled in the papers she told us to sit down again and repeated a couple more times "N'ayez pas peur" (don't be afraid) when looking at our confused faces. And then she disappeared out of the room. We were sitting nervously in a room buzzling with activity yet totally cut-off of the rest of the world. In this pre-mobile phone era we had no means warning our family outside who only knew we'd quickly go and ask for a pill at the Red Cross stand. The longer it took, the more stressed we were and wondering whether we'd had to try to escape out of this myriad of hallways by ourselves, ...yet we remained seated as instructed.
All of a sudden the nun appeared again in front of me and told me to come. However when my mom stood up as well, the nun pointed her back to the chair. "N' ayez pas peur Madame". She took me a couple of rooms further and introduced me to a doctor. Finally someone asking for the reason I was there. Hesitatingly I tried explain in my high school French about the snails, the morning diarrhea, the moving hot car. I did not have any words for vomiting though, so I had to resort to movements and sounds. The doctor kept his kind, interested, serious face throughout my explanation and was making notes.
In the mean time I heard in the hall way an approaching door knock and my mom's voice getting louder at each door "Goofball, are you in here". Surely she wasn't going to stay seated in the waiting room as soon as she realised the nun had actually left the room with me. So we were quickly reunited and she joined me while the doctor examined me.
A couple of minutes later I was declared fully healthy apart from some motionsickness or badly digested food (as we had guessed ourselves already). He explained us how to exit the building and gave us a prescription of Primperan. So an hour after we went to ask at the Red Cross post whether we could have something against nausea, I had had a free full check-up and I had a prescription but we still needed to find a pharmacy downtown to give me the medication. Outside we met my stressed uncle and dad again who were already in a state of rescue operation as we had been missing for an hour.
After our visit to the pharmacist we could continue our busy tourist schedule without further sickness interruptions. My mom still told me to stay in the shade, wear my hat and sit down as much as possible all day...which I did obediently when she was in sight.
Me sitting in the shade in the Templar Knight's castle in Tomar feeling perfectly fine
Thursday, April 24, 2008
- 1360 bottles of Diet Coke, not chilled
- 1360*6 mentos capsules in a tube
- 1360 crazy students
Count down to 3 and then watch this.
As was to be expected, Exquisa in Hasselt scored very well. The spontaneity and warmth of this couple is so catchy and apparently the food and atmosphere is good too.
So the second nomination was between Leuven or Antwerp. And with one point difference, Leuven got nominated again. Aaaaargh. So let's all vote for Leuven again. Despite Lien's fear that My Restaurant will become boring without the famous Ghislaine, Leuven must remain in the race a bit longer.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Gosh and we thought we had already last September an incredible deal when going on vacation to the USA. Geez we were much too early! We should go back again :p.
But it's not good though. This evolution is not good for the world economy.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Soon after our arrival, my aunt, uncle and cousin had arrived as well and we started exploring the magnificent area over the next days. Each evening after a tiring tourist day where we visited the nearby historic sites, we would come home to our quiet and spacious villa where we soon felt at home.
One evening we got home and my mom and my aunt started preparing dinner quickly as we were all starving. I had noticed upon our arrival that in one of the storage rooms at the back the light had been left on. That was fairly strange as the doors had been locked all week. Maybe the neighbour had access for the chickenfood and had left the light on. My uncle went to check it out.
10 minutes later, he had not returned yet and my cousin went to look for him as dinner was almost ready.
10 minutes later both of them were still gone. They had probably run into the neighbour and we were sure that my uncle had gotten himself into a conversation with the Portugese. So I went out to call them for dinner. While I descended and walked to the backside of the house I could hear my uncle talking. Aha, he had indeed met the neighbours and had kept talking while losing track of time. The door was open slightly and the light was still on.
When I opened the door wide open, I froze still. This was not the bare grey garden storage room I had expected at all. And the 3 pairs of eyes staring back were not my uncle, the neighbour or my cousin. I stared at the tv playing in this living room and at the people who had turned around. I had not moved in the door opening yet when some of the people in the room pointed to the right.
I moved hesitantly into the next room that was a fully equipped kitchen. A Portugese mama was preparing a deliciously smelling meal while my uncle was sitting at the kitchen table with a drink in his hands . With a mixture of French and Dutch and lots of gestures he managed to keep some sort of conversation going. My cousin turned around and grinned to me "These people live here". Yes indeed, I was realising this myself. I had not overcome my surprise shock yet and could only stumble "Dinner is ready, we are waiting for you guys".
After that I raced out of the rooms as if I was bitten by a snake and I hurried back up the stairs to 'our safe home'.
'There's a couple of families living at the backside of the garages', I announced when coming in again.
This was later confirmed by my uncle and cousin who could explain to us that these people traveled a couple of days a week from market to market only to return every so many days home. The next days we waved when we saw a mini-van stuffed up to the roof turning on the drive-way. Gosh, what a story to tell at home, I thought. I didn't know yet that this wouldn't be the major story of our trip in Portugal just yet.
Interested in more soapie stories? Check out the rules here and find other participants at Brillig's site.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
When you think Expo '58, you think "Atomium", the weird blown-up iron crystal representation which still is one of the weirdest pieces of architecture in Belgium. When I saw all the flash-backs in the news, I had to think of all my foreign readers on my blog here and I figured I wanted to make a nice post about the Atomium.
All of a sudden I remember having read somewhere that you can't publish a picture of the Atomium just like that. Some googling learned me indeed the following:
The image of the Atomium is protected since its construction. It's mandatory to gain approval from the asbl/vzw Atomium and the SABAM, before copying or broadcasting the image of the Atomium. It is also necessary to mention "copyright asbl/vzw Atomium". (source)
And it's apparently quite costly and SABAM does amuse itself googling for pictures. Years ago they claimed a 5000 BEF fine per week on the internet. Currently it would cost 91,54 euro to publish a picture on the internet. That also counts for vacation pictures uploaded to Flickr or any online photo album as well. Yikes! No wonder that the architect's children gain 30.000 Euro per year from the Atomium copyright. And yet....which tiny piece of the tourists and the internet population is aware of this??? Just google a bit, use the tag Atomium at flickr, ...and you'll get multiple pages of results. The internet is full of pictures of this building. I know one of my readers actually has posted marvellous pictures on her blog (and I will not make a hyperlink now...I don't want to guide SABAM to anybody).
As there is a lot of new retro-publications appearing for the Expo's anniversary, the rules would be softened a little bit this year : amateurs can publish a picture right now without cost after applying for a written permission at SABAM. Well screw them...I wouldn't want them to get overly busy, so I won't bother them.
The city of Mechelen was also aware of this rule and wanted to organise an exposition. Hence they organised a competition for 100 photoshoppers who'd erase creatively the Atomium out of family pictures. They got informed that any pictures where the silhouet of the building was still visible is not acceptable either. Argh, how annoying can you get?
To some level I understand this building copyright protection for commercial agencies. And that a brilliant architect has created a building that actually turned into a national landmark has to be credited to this architect in some way.
But isn't bugging simple families not one step too far? Sharing pictures over the internet is what modern technology allows us now. But apparently the law doesn't give us the same permissions. Can't this be considered as "fair use"?? Apparently not for the Atomium.
So you cant published pictures anymore taken by other people, but you cannot be certain about publishing your own vacation pictures either??? Well at least not for "recent buildings" because the copyright only lasts until 70 years after the death of the architect. So you're safe for old cathedrals etc... What an advantage for tourists in Europe ;).
The Atomium is not the only case:
- In Belgium this would also be the case for any building made by Victor Horta , the Flagey building, the NATO buildings, Berlaymont, The European parliament (not much left for Brussels tourists: simply don't post pictures of Brussels to be certain ;-) ).
- In France the lights of the Eifeltower are protected, so no pictures by night!
- the Lone Cypress (a tree!) in California
In at least 3 languages it gave a big text explaining that TV recordings take place at these premises. If you decide to dine in the restaurant, you declare your agreement to the fact that they are allowed to tape any conversation and film the entire time etc etc.
You give permission to VTM to commercialise any of the material etc etc..
Despite the fact that I like watching the program, I had already made the reflection that I wouldn't want to dine in any of the restaurants right now. You never know what they'll broaddcast. Just imagine that you choke over something, start a big coughing and it is all filmed in close-up and comes on tv, and maybe later in a successful DVD or whatever. Hahaha, just imagine.
It was quite a long list and I don't remember the exact phrasing. But it sure put me off! It's really a Big Brother warning before you can go in. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I only thought of that when was already further away. When I walked by again on my return , Jelle was having a smoke outside. I am truly not a assertive up-front groupie that would walk up to him , congratulate him with last weeks win and ask if he'd pose next to the sign.
..so no picture of the visitor rules. I simply walked on at the other side of the square :)
How I feel with a Coke in my hand after a morning of reading, a noon of shopping and an afternoon of tiring condition training in the swimming pool
For more Singular Saturdays go visit Jenn in Holland.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Today one of his pictures gets featured on Looking into .
I have already introduced Looking into in the past: a joint venture photoblog of Allison at Soccer Mom in Denial and Jenn in Holland. Each day they continue to share their beautiful view on the world.
Please go and check it out!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
And indeed: I've had 2 neighbours named Jan, my yoga teacher is called Jan, I have 3 cousins with the name Jan etc etc... and I am living together with a Jan. But don't worry, he's pretty unique though. :-)
Update: After reading Novembrance's Friday grammar lesson, I'll correct this last sentence ;).
here it is: But don't worry, he's unique to me though.
In February during a walk with Jan downtown, I noticed that one of the empty pubs had a big banner hanging "soon on VTM". ...Immediately I had to think of 'My restaurant rules'. Could it be that there would be a Flemish version starting? Soon I learned that they would indeed start a Flemish version and my fear that it would be a weak copy of the original turned out to be untrue.
Together with other bloggers apparently, I sat in front of my tv each Tuesday and Thursday and saw 5 couples in each of the 5 Flemish provinces start-up their restaurant, renovate it, hire personnel, choose menu's, ... with all their ups-and downs. We laughed at the jalousy tantrums of the already famous Ghislaine, Yanaika's hang-over, we shook our heads over the stress-sensitive Micheline, etc...
And last week the first 2 restaurants got nominated for closure: Ghent and Leuven. Ghent and Leuven for God's sake, the only 2 cities that I feel truly connected to! How unfair! I couldn't care much if Oostende, Antwerp or Hasselt would close, but Ghent and Leuven were my two hometowns and it felt like an offense.
Yet I didn't have much difficulty to choose. Although Leuven seemed the underdog , more uncertain with many blunders in the serving, I liked their style much more. The "Charlekijn" in Ghent wants to serve "honest" down to earth menu's, but the concept of the game is to find a new top-restaurant. I'd prefer a little bit more sophistication myself both in the food, the serving and the decoration of the restaurant. D'Hoogeschool in Leuven still had to gain experience, but it has its concept right.
Kris and Angelo from Ghent are the archetypes of a rebellous stubborn inhabitant of Ghent. That can be very cool, but you have to balance on a thin line in order to avoid becoming arrogant. It is funny to see the pictures of the jury upgraded into mock pictures at the kitchen walls, but it's less funny when you yell at each criticism "the game is manipulated" , "rubbish", "assholes", ... The other provinces took some of the jury's criticism at heart to grow and learn from it, but Ghent could only curse and walk away. I must admit that it started to work on my nerves very much.
The general expectance was that Ghent would be able to mobilise a big fanbase and that they'd win. They probably did....but much to my surprise Leuven won tonight and Ghent has to close. I think their modesty and underdog postion has won the hearts from the other provinces. Yeaaaaah, I must say I cheered tonight.
So only 4 more restaurants open. Oostende should close next in my humble opinion. Running a restaurant while you can't stand that women come in because you imagine them all hitting on your fiancée or mocking you, isn't the best attitude, Ghislaine.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
Go for a walk and enjoy some typical Dutch landscapes? ...dunes, dikes, lots of water, a historical little city full of historic monuments and static houses?
Or go in the water looking for lobsters and their friends?
Well that's already more than 2,5 years ago. Today Renée and Stef went for the first time to school! Yes to school.
A special moment for the kids and for the parents (and the auntie as well!). They will go for the coming weeks part-time to school and part-time to their familiar daycare. Also for Luisa there was a change: she already goes to school since November but has now started to go full-time!
Hurray for Renée, Stef and Luisa!
Stef first a bit quiet and anxious while waiting at the schoolgate but quickly playing enthousiastically
In Belgium most children start school between 2,5 and 3 years. It's not mandatory to go to school yet. Since stay-at-home moms are rare here and childcare is no longertax-deductable anymore after the age of 3, most people send their little ones to school at that age. And the daycare centers only take children until 2,5 - 3 years anyway, so the children start feeling that they are the oldest, that their friends leave for school and that only new babies arrive. So usually they are ready for it. They must be pottytrained though.
Af far as I've heard 2,5 is one of the youngest ages in our neighbouring countries to start school. Obviously the kids don't go to a school yet where they have to sit on benches and study. There's 3 - 3,5 years of kindergarden before they go to elementary school. The kindergarden teachers are fully trained pedagogues who focus in teaching the children language and motoric and social skills in a very playfull way.
Luisa's speech has really evolved to longer, fuller and correcter sentences over the last months. I am curious to see Renée and Stef change in the coming weeks. Haha, I wonder how long it'll take before they come home with some curses that they've picked up at the playground. :p
Thursday, April 3, 2008
What are the odds that it happens on the same way that your heel breaks off in a meeting?
What are the odds that both things happen in the same week that the hot water boiler is broken down resulting in a week camping without central heating and hot water (but with a gas fire and an electric water cooker?)
Oh boy, I think I need to play on the lottery this week!
Last minute I realised that this long skirt makes me look smaller. My pair of neglected short black boots with high heels would make me look taller. Trinny and Sussanah would be proud of me. Although nothing can beat the comfort of flat shoes, nothing can beat the elegance of high heeled shoes. As An wrote last week: shoes define the style of your outfit.
So today's theme was elegance! Yep, I felt very elegant when walking out of the meeting room, over the parking lot to my car...slowly step by step... with only one heel left on my boots and the other one in my hand
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Some people turn it into a sport though to find the people behind popular blogs. Or to find out who has launched some of viral marketing. We all leave traces behind: IP address registrations, google profiles, etc... Those who know where to look, can often find us.
No wonder that today there's a big fuss in the Belgian blogosphere since one of this blog experts turned his expertise into a little tool. Go here to use the unanonymizer. You only need to type a blog URL and it will come up after a while with a list of potential authors given the traces it can find.
It sure gave me a fright when I tried it out. Scary stuff. I'm sure going to have to rethink my online activities.