Sunday, December 30, 2007

My 2007

Wow, another year has flown by. So what did 2007 bring for me?

And now I am ready to wave 2007 goodbye, to go and celebrate a cosy year-end with friends in The Hague and to welcome 2008.

Have a happy fantastic NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reminder: Jan 10, 2008 is day to read!




Over the last weeks I indulged myself into a book that was laying on my nightshelf already a couple of months like a little treasure "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. I had seen the book on display in so many bookstores and bestselling lists for a long time. When I finally saw that the second novel "A thousand splendid suns" was quite succesful as well, I was too curious to walk by again. Although it is not my habit to buy books at all, I took it home.

A couple of weeks ago I started reading and I must honestly admit that at first it didn't fulfill my high expectations. The first chapters sketch the background and intertwinned life of the 2 Afghan boys that led up to Amir betraying Hassan. Despite being very functional for the book, my preference goes out to stories where things keep moving and actions take place in real time.

But I got what I wanted! The events speed-up ever more and the reader is captivated by the sadness, hope, guilt-struggle, duty and horror (yes some passages are not to be read at the breakfast table) of the main character and his blood-stolling adventure. Knowing this is a fictional story doesn't take away the knowledge that similar events were truly happening in Afghanistan. It brings the book to a whole new dimension that takes your breath away and leaves you very silent at the end.

If you do not have anything to read yet, this is a book to choose!
And now I have to check whether they play the movie in any nearby movie theatre. Release date is 13/2/2008 in Belgium.


DAY TO READ campaign



Thursday, December 27, 2007

Namur

When I was writing before about the political struggles in this country , I also had to admit that I hardly know Wallonia either. Not counting the youth camps I did as a child in the Ardennes and the professional projects I had to do near Liege and Mons, I hardly ever come in Wallonia. Leuven is only 10-15 kms from the language border!

This morning at the breakfast table Jan all of a sudden proposed to go to visit something in Southern Belgium and since the alternative was to clean-up our office space in the basement and to arrange the last boxes that I got from my parent's home yesterday, the choice was not difficult.

After 45 min drive through a lovely rolling landscape we arrived at the political capital of Wallonia: Namen (Dutch name) or Namur (French name). (yes that's the joy of Belgium: we translate the city names to confuse all the tourists. ). It is a pitoresque small city, located at the confluence of the Sambre River and the Meuse River with a big citadel towering on the rock above the city.





The fortifications at the citadel


The city down below


The confluence seen from the citadel


Merry Christmas to all

I have spent the Christmas days with my family! I hope you did as well! All best wishes to everyone.








Sunday, December 23, 2007

My best Chistmas gift

I remember Christmas '84 very well. I was seven years old and as usualy we'd celebrate Christmas Eve at home. Then we would eat together, unwrap gifts and go to church at midnight.

This year I had gone with my parents to Ghent for some last minute shopping while my sister stayed home alone. When we came home, our neighbour ran onto our driveway. He was almost going to say something but when he saw me getting out of the car, he seemed to swallow his words again. He simply signed a big square in the air and pointed at his house and my dad immediately said he'd come over right away. I was looking back and forth from them but couldn't get their code language at all.

At that moment my sister bursted into the garage all confused.
"Something really strange happened when you were gone. Some lady came at the door and when I told her that I was alone at home she became very nervous. ..."
"...Then she acted so weird: she asked when we'd come home, and then she looked at the garden house and asked whether we used it..."
"...and then she asked whether we got along well with our neighbours. When I said yes, she simply left".
"...and she didn't come back. I don't know why she asked all those weird questions".

My parents didn't respond immediately but said that my dad first had to go to the neighbours to hear what it was all about.

After while he was back and then they revealed to us that they had ordered a present to be delivered to us this afternoon. But the lady had come earlier than agreed and knew the present was a surprise for my sister and me, so she didn't dare to leave the present behind with us. Neither in our garden house as my sister could go and look. So in the end she had gone over to the neighbours and given our present to them. Our neighbour would come and deliver it in an hour or so.

Wow, how exciting. My sister and I immediately started wondering what our mystery gift could bee. Our imagination went wild. While we had to help my mom setting the holiday table, we kept popping up guesses: a big trampoline, a slide, ... or an animal ...yeah a pet would be cool, although our mom would never let us have a pet. Our cousin had those very very cute kittens, but we could not have one....A cat would be cool, but maybe the present would be much bigger. If it sounded very loud, it would be an elephant! We'd hear boom boom boom on the driveway! And a mouse could ride on its back!

The fact that the present had come in a normal car, didn't matter to us at that moment. We got all excited in our imagination while my mom got more and more stressed and probably regretted their idea already.

Finally the doorbel rang and our dad went to open the door to let our neighbour in. He carried indeed a big box...but not at all a nice wrapped gift box. He was carrying a big cardboard diaper box. On the front there were 2 very big holes cut out of it and a belt was closing the box off. The box itself seemed to move a little bit.

When it was deposited in front of the Christmas tree, the opened the lid ... and a big grey Persian cat jumped out and ran to the other side of the room. She was big, much bigger than the little kittens I had been playing with when visiting my family. I was totally startled and a bit afraid of this long-haired animal that was moving around on the other side of the room.
My sister recovered first and went to kneel down at the door holding her hand out in front of her. Soon this cat came over and let herself be petted by my sister. My curiosity soon won my fear and I kneeled beside them to touch our new pet as well. Bijou also overwon her fear of this totally new environment and let herself be petted and gave a good approving pur.

From then on for the next 11 years Bijou has been my dearest pet, companion and friend. And every Christmas I have to think back to this remarkable present that we received under the Christmas tree.

Oud-Heverlee-Leuven

For the first time in my life I went to see a soccer game. Some of Jan's friends are fans of the local soccer team OHL (currently first position in 2nd national league) and have been asking us for a long time to come along. So today...on this freeeeeezing day, we decided to go along.

My main impression afterwards is that it was very cold, despite the layers of warm clothing. I think everyone was relieved when it was over. The game was a bit slow in the beginning as if nobody deared to run on the frozen field. I don't blame them: within the first minute somebody fell and probably dislocated his shoulder. Ouch.

But we were in the middle of the die hard supporter groups who didn't stop one minute of chanting. Their songs were very "educating" :p.
And we won: woohooo 2-0. :). Too bad there is no replay in live games to really see the goals close-up. And that had to be celebrated with some beers and jenever.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Music for Life


The Glass House is back in front of the train station of Leuven, with 3 radio DJ's from StuBru locked inside it without (solid) food. All across Belgium fundraiser activities are taking place, other DJ's skeeler around the country or hitch-hike across Europe with a bucket full of water, while in the mean time people line up in front of the glass house to pay for their request.
This is also happening in The Hague and I believe in Geneve as well.

It's great readio to listen to! And it's a great cause, as the world needs more drinking water and the projects from the Red Cross can help.


Winter time

Last year we had no winter at all. When December started mild and wet again, I feared we'd go the same way. But the last 10 days have been quite colds with freezing nights and this week also freezing temperatures during day time. And I love it!

Apparently the windless freezing weather keeps a lot of fine polluted dust in the air, so the smog alert is active again. For a couple of days we are only allowed to drive 90 km/h on most of the highways.

But when I looked outside today I did not notice any polution, I only noticed the absolute beauty of the nature where the night fog had been frozen in a delicate way.
Enjoy!






Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Christmas miracle?

You'll never believe it, but it looks like we'll get a new federal government sworn in this Friday and they should get the confidence of our parliament government on Sunday (poor guys, they'll have to work this weekend ;) )!

After 192 days our ex-prime minister Guy Verhofstadt has reached an agreement with 2 Flemish political parties (liberals and Christian-democrats) and 3 Wallonian political parties (liberals , Christian-democrats and socialists) to form an interim government. This government will have a 2/3 majority in the parliament and will be lead once more by Guy Verhofstadt for 3 months.

Yes, it is only a temporary one. The time was apparently ripe for all politicians involved to give up their mutual disagreements at least for 3 months to tackle some urgent issues in our country. I guess the pressure was too high to continue the in depth discussions and fight over words and comma's. The idea has been launched by the king and Guy Verhofstadt.

The discussions this week dealt about who would become in which domain, rather than a common agreement about a big visionary plan. After all, it's going to be for 3 months. The most urgent things will be tackled. In contrast to the current resiging government, this interim government is entitled to take new decisions since it is backed up by the parliament. At the same time they should prepare and work on the in depth agreements for the future government on socio-economic and legal matters and they should set-up a conference to negotiate about a state reform. Since they have a 2/3rd majority, they can actually commit to state reform measures. The deadline has been set for 23rd of March, when Yves Leterme should become Prime Minister of the new government....that is....IF they get an agreement by then, right?


So should we be happy?
  • Well, I suppose it's better than continuing another 3 months with the resiging government who is not entitled anymore to take new decisions, only to keep on managing the old ones.
  • It's good for the European institutions because Belgium was getting really behind in applying the newest European rules in our country and Europe had no negotiating partner in our country anymore.
  • It's good since it is a large majority, so a good base for new decisions supported by the parliament and potential state reform agreements.
  • But it's going to be tough since there are so many parties involved and there is no guarentee at all that it's going to be smooth. Why would it all of a sudden get easier?
  • this is really only a half half solution...but after 192 days, it sounds good enough unfortunately. We've proven to the world again that we are the champions in "compromises"
All in all, there is not that much changed. The counters in all our newspapers with "X days without a government" have to be stopped now and the rest of the world can stop worrying a while that this country is going to split up, while in fact the negotiations can go on for another 3 months.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Help, my family got elfed

Last year Jan was in funny Christmasmood and he got it again this year. Check it out here!

And guess what, it turned out to be contagious. It also affected my sister's family!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It looks like Christmas in Leuven




Hot Chocolatemilk and lots of warming songs

The choir I joined this year traditionally sings downtown for a good cause: "Noot voor Nood" (note for need). All across Belgium choirs team up to sing in the middle of the Christmas frenzy and collect money for a child cancer fund.



During the rehearsal last Wednesday a list was passed along with 2 colums: "will attend" and "hot drink". I figured that it'd be a quite cold day out, so I was glad I could sign up for getting a warm drink and I put 2 crosses.
Afterwards they came to thank me that I was going to help cooking hot chocolatemilk and I was asked how much I could bring. I must admit I was totally stunned that I had myself somehow gotten into chocolatemilk duty and I stumbled "2 liters". The next day I realised my thermos did not have the capacity for 2 liters at all. So I ended up buying a new thermos.
This noon Jan helped my cooking the chocolate milk, since due my dislike of chocolate it would risk being very very weak. But he threw in extra real chocolate and vanilla sugar and I am was confident I had the best hot chocolate milk in town.


A little bit nervous because I hardly knew half of the songs (most of them are 'common knowledge' among the choir members, hence they were rehearsed very quickly), I bundled up as if I was going to a pole expedition and I joined the others downtown. All decorated with red Christmas heads we started singing and soon enough the people stopped and formed half a circle to listen to us for a while before they went on on their Christmasshopping. Only some boyfriends felt obliged to stay much longer until they were freezing as well. I kept myself as close as I could next to the other soprano's and when I wasn't to sure about myself I looked down at my papers closely, which resulted in hiding my mouth in my scarf, masking my mumbling :p. But some ex-choir members joined along as well as some sympathisants, so I was not the only one improvising along :D.




After more than an hour we were more than happy to stamp our feet and warm up our fingers and throats with the hot hot chocolate. Even I enjoyed my cup.
The second hour went by much faster, much smoother and by the end I really started to know how to sing/improvise along the songs. Nevertheless I was very happy to relief my frozen feet by the end of our concert! Boy did they hurt when we started walking home! note to myself: put 2-3 pairs of socks on next year!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Are you Bob?


The yearly Bob campagne is getting up to speed again. He's the designated driver at parties who does not drink alcohol. In 1995 the Belgian Institute for Traffic Safety switched from very repressive campagne towards the fun Bob campagne to promote the alcohol-free designated driver idea. They stress the fun aspect: "choose a Bob and let the party start", "Being Bob is fun and cool and makes you popular". Everyone who passed an alcoholtest got a Bob keyhanger and they became a hype. Fairly quickly "being Bob" became a new expression. The succesful campaign has truly triggered a mentality change in Belgium. Whereas drunk driving was more or less still socially accepted in the 80ies, it is not anymore. Nowedays it is comon to arrive at a dinner party and the hosts asking "who is Bob tonight" so they know where to put the water bottle nearby. I think originally Bob actually stands for something like "bewust onalcoholische bestuurder" (concious unalcoholic driver), but now it's just a term on its own. Everyone can be Bob.

From 2001, Bob became an export product and the campaign is currently used in 17 European countries. In the Netherlands it is a verb: Do you Bob or do I Bob? I hope the campaigns are just as good and effective elsewhere as they have been in Belgium.


Unfortunately there are always people that do not want to learn. People who do not think. People who take risks. For Belgium I kinda have the feeling we've come to a standstill. Everyone knows that at year-end there are police controls everywhere so everybody watches out. But what for the rest of the year? You only need one drunk driver to cause tragedy!


Are you going to be Bob these holidays? I'll drink alcohol....and sleep over at the location of the parties :-). What about you?

Wanted

On January 7 and 8 we will get our new double sided windows. Hurraaaay hurraaaay, much less noise in our bedroom, less los of heat. Whooohoo, I've been counting down to that day for months, years! But we need to free up some parking space for our supplier. For that you need to get a permit from the police and you need to put the signs up.

Now we have a choice: either we get some signs ourselves or the city of Leuven can come and place them for us...at a cost of 98€ .

So here's my question: is there any contractor, people who renovate frequently, ... reading this blog willing to lend us the roadsign E1 for a couple of days in the beginning of January? Or can anyone tell us where I can rent it for a decent price? I've found them in Huurland for 10€ a day but there is no Huurland nearby Leuven. Any other store nearer by? Anyone????

For my Dutchspeaking readers: kan iemand ons de bordjes voor een parkeerverbod uitlenen of verhuren begin januari? thanks!!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Queen or not Queen, that's the question

In December I always get a musical orgasm, in December I have the radio on much more than usual, in December I sing along much more often. That's because all Flemish national radio stations broadcast a top xxx . That's maybe not very original if they all do it, but I forgive them with pleasure.


Q-music kicked it off with their top 1000 in the first week of December. The Radio Donna took over and started their week marathon top 2000. Their top was for the first time in the 2nd week of December rather than in the holiday week from Boxing Day to New Year's Eve. That was very very strange. For 16 years they had a top xxx on the 31st of Dec with number 1 at 7 o'clock when I come out of the bathroom with make-up ready to party towards the new year. The last 7 years that was a top 2000 but still with its ending just before the New Year. So I am very disoriented right now, my entire biorhythm is broken as I just heard the number one of their top 2000....Does that mean I have to get ready for some fireworks in a couple of hours? Where's the party? Damn, I am not ready ;)


Q-music has already 3 years Bryan Adams "Summer of 69" on number one, but on Donna that spot has been taken since ages by Queen "Bohemian Rhapsody". Since a couple of years there is campaigning going on to kick Queen off that spot (launched by Donna itself, probably 'cause they fear the predictability of their top, I assume). Queen or not Queen, that was the question.....and the answer is Bryan Adams. The >104000 voters have decided that Bryan Adam's "Summer of 69" is the best song ever. At least something we can agree upon in this country :p


So this is what the Flemish public (of large commercial radio stations) consider the best songs ever:


Q-music:
1 BRYAN ADAMS -SUMMER OF '69
2 GUNS N' ROSES - NOVEMBER RAIN
3 QUEEN -BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
4 GORKI - MIA
5 ROBBIE WILLIAMS - ANGELS
6 METALLICA - NOTHING ELSE MATTERS
7 CLOUSEAU -AFSCHEID VAN EEN VRIEND
8 U2 - ONE
9 AC/D- THUNDERSTRUCK
10 DEEP PURPLE - CHILD IN TIME
11 MEAT LOAF - PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHT
12 NIRVANA - SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT
13 ANOUK - NOBODY'S WIFE
14 MARCO BORSATO - ROOD
15 METALLICA - ONE
16 AEROSMITH - I DON'T WANT TO MISS A THING
17 U2 - WITH OR WITHOUT YOU
18 BON JOVI - ALWAYS
19 GOLDEN EARRING - WHEN THE LADY SMILES
20 P!NK - DEAR MR. PRESIDENT


Donna:

1. Bryan Adams - Summer of '69
2. Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
3. Gorki - Mia
4. Metallica -Nothing else matters
5. U2 - With or without you
6. Deep Purple - Child in time
7. Clouseau - Afscheid van een vriend
8. Nirvana - Smells like teen spirit
9. Goo Goo Dolls - Iris
10. Meat Loaf - Paradise by the dashboard light
11. Guns'n Roses - November Rain
12. Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven
13. Stan Van Samang - Scars
14. Robbie Williams - Angels
15. Aerosmith - I don't want to miss a thing
16. Mika - Relax, take it easy
17. Bryan Adams - Everything I do, I do it for you
18. Coldplay - Clocks
19. Clouseau - Domino
20. Dire Straits - Sultans of Swings

So what to do next? December is not over yet! Next Wednesday Studio Brussel start for the 2nd time their fundraiser campaign "Music for life". In collaboration with 3FM in the Netherlands where this action exists already much longer, 3 popular DJ's will enlock themselves in a glass house here in front of the train station in Leuven. During one week they will not eat (they do drink fruit juices) and they play song requests that people pay for. Last year the action was a huge success with long line-ups in front of the house 24/7, ...It became a fantastic hype covered all over in the media. The music that was played was fantastic, so I am really looking forward to it. This action goes on until Christmas Eve.

Before the end of the year they also broadcast their "timeless top 100".
And Radio 1 broadcasts their top 100 of Belgian music on Dec 29th.


Aaah Aaaaah Aaaah, it is a musical orgasm isn't it?
Who would you vote on number one in such lists?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Police escorts

Now and then it happens that you see some motorized police escorting a fancy car through traffic. It always triggers curiosity and frustration. Curiosity as I always want to know who got that escort: does the numberplate looks like 01 or 02 or ...(royal family), is it a P... numberplate (parliament representatives), does it have little flags (foreign heads of state), ... But usually it is really none of those and I just remain behind wondering frustrated why those other persons happen to be so special that they get to cruise through traffic?

This morning when leaving Leuven, I spotted the orangje helmets as well of the motorized police when they left the highway , with a big bus on their tail and some more police. On the bridge there was more motorized police on the look-out as if they were expecting more busses or cars to take this exit to get escorted. In the bus there were young people with sweaters on with some little stripes on its sleeves. Huh? Who the hell were they?
While I drove onwards, I notice the exceptionally high number of police vehicles driving in the direction of Leuven. They came from different districts.

Then I finally realised that they were all going to the funeral of Kitty Van Nieuwenhuyze. She was a young police inspector, 23 years old and graduated last year from the police academy. She joined the police force in a little town at the outskirts of Brussels. Last Tuesday she responded with her partner an emergency call of a potential break and entry/robbery. When arriving on the scene, they got caught immediately in a rain of gun fire. Kitty has even never been able to get out of their police car.

When seeing those busses with young police inspectors on their way to their colleague's funeral, the tragedy hit me much more than when I had heard the news on the radio the week before. All of a sudden I didn't feel like singing along with the radio anymore on my way to work. Sometimes this world doesn't make sense at all.

Who moved my Blackberry

Don't forget to mark January 10th in as a day to read! If you don't have any inspiration for a book , if you are afraid of literature with a capital L, I dare to make a small recommendation for some corporate satire.


If you are familiar with the corporate world, if you know some managers who need a bigger office to fit in their ego, if you wonder why people who only sell hot air seem to make promotions anyway, ... this book might seem very familiar.

If you are totally keen on modern technology and modern conversations, you'll feel at ease in this book that is solely composed via e-mail messages.




I finished this book in a couple of days, so that means it has the capacity to drag you into it. In the week afterwards Jan has finished it in his turn and he has not read books in months!




Monday, December 10, 2007

Come to the Light

One of the blogs I daily look forward to, is Looking into : a joint venture photoblog of Allison at Soccer Mom in Denial and Jenn in Holland. They are both great photographers that show me the beauty around me that I don't notice on my own. Fabulous buildings, sculptures, murals, publicity signs, stairs, fallen leaves, ....all are captured by them and turned into beauty.



After months of visiting I finally dared to send one of my own pictures to them and today one of my own pictures is on their site. Woooohoo, I am the guest photographer at Looking into today. Please go and check it out over there!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Spoiled by my parents

In case anyone was wondering: we are still renovating. We've had color consultants come over to advise us over the colors we'll use to paint all our white walls. So 2008 has a lot of outstanding painting work still. But in the mean time my parents are frequently working in our house. With a lot of patience and accuracy, my dad is restoring our old staircase and getting it ready for some colorpaint.




and my mom has made me this Christmaspiece as attention drawer.


Jan and I have done our part as well though. Now that Sinterklaas is back to Spain, it was time to set-up our Christmas tree.

The Belgian political soap: back to start


Belgian politics??? Hmm not quite what you had in mind when you saw the soap opera sunday button, I am sure. If you really hate politics, you can better leave again and come back in the next days when I'll post about other stuff. But trust me, there isn't a country with more soapy politics than Belgium right now. For those of you that haven't been reading my posts in the past 6 months, I'll summerize in one sentence: We are without a federal government for 6 months now and the negotations to form a new government are a real soap while the rest of the world fears the splitup of the country.
If you want background, go and check here. This story even got linked to from the Wall Street Journal and in the online newspaper Theissue.com. So although it is extremely lenghty, I dare to recommend it to anyone who tries to make sense of it all!
So what has been happening in those last months? Check here (the elections), here (reflections after the elections), here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Whaa, isn't all those links a proof that it is a true soap??
So last time I wrote about the formation of our federeal government, Yves Leterme was trying to form a government, but since the Frenchspeaking didn't give in quickly enough, the flemish parties in the parliament have forced a unilateral vote to split up an electoral district. The Frenchspeaking saw it as the start of our country's split-up, a true provocation etc and used for the first time ever a procedure to stop bills forced from one part of the country upon the other.
In the mean time that seems ages ago, as the following has happened:
  • The frenchspeaking parties demand a sign of goodwill for the state of Belgium before they want to continue any negotiations....the Flemish parties are insulted and refuse such a sign
  • The king (hence Yves Leterme) suggests to make a government with only socio-economic topics while all state structure reform would be referred to a council where all Belgian political parties can participate and prepare a new state reform.
  • CD&V (the party to which belongs Yves Leterme) and their radical ally party changes its mind and demands from the Frenchspeaking parties guarantees that a state reform will take place before they continue negotiations. The press comments a lot on this 180° turnaround of Yves Leterme.
    (=> since they negotiate with parties that do not have 2/3 majority, it is impossible to agree upon such a reform themselves....hence to demand guaruantees from the other negotiating parties is quite ridiculous in my mind).
  • The presidents of the parliament the the Senat talk to all political parties to see whether they can organise a council to prepare a state reform with support of all political parties.
  • After a time of inactivity Yves Leterme starts up his negotiations again in silence and he works on the last twist points being a potential state reform and its degree of change.
  • A Wallonian housewife organises a national "pro-Belgian" demonstration. In the week before it, the Frenchspeaking newspapers spend multiple pages to this demonstration, mobilising people to come.
    In the Flemish press, only the day before it gets briefly mentioned that such a demonstration is pending.

    In the end 35000 demonstrators walk through Brussels to support the Belgian state. Most of them come from Wallonia , nevertheless there are also Flemish delegations walking along.
  • 400 Wallonian students hug with Flemish students in Leuven.
  • The daughter of one of the Flemish negotiators borrows her dad's blackberry and sends an e-mail to one of the Frenchspeaking negotiators to ask her to stop attacking her dad.
  • In the second half of November there is general optimism in the media that there will be a government before Christmas. Also Yves Leterme claims to be very close to an agreement now. All parties now claim that any day that the negotiations take is one day too much and that this country needs a government urgently.
  • The national parliament votes a bill to "split up Belgium immediately". The vote is intiated by the Flemish parties and except for Vlaams Belang (a seperatistic party) and some people of NVA, all representatives vote against the bill. Hence is proven that there is NO political majority in Belgium to split up the country and the Flemish have given their sign of goodwill to the Frenchspeaking parties after all.
  • Bart De Wever, negotiator for the radical NVA, claims in a interview for a frenchspeaking newspaper that Belgium has no added value at all for him.
  • Yves Leterme has a note ready that is ok for MR, CDH, CD&V and VLD....they only wait for an answer of NVA anymore (the very small party that got allied with CD&V, the political party of Yves Leterme). In the end NVA states not to be happy with the nota as it doesn't guarantee the state reform well enough.
  • The next day CD&V changes mind, not willing to give up their alliance with NVA, and Yves Leterme starts working on his note again much to the disapproval of all the other negotiators and who are not willing to compromise much more.

    Even the Flemish press starts bashing CD&V and NVA and Yves Leterme. The press doesn't talk about tensions between Flanders and Wallonia anymore, but wonders what's wrong with those politicians and how they could have lost touch with the people that much. Words like "theatre", "farce",
  • Yves Leterme gives all the other negotiators an ultimatum by 1/12 to answer on some questions , if not he gives up his formation attempt.
    Journalists know already that he already wanted to resign at the king before he gave the ultimatum. So the ultimatum is only to blame another party???
  • As was expected , CDH, the Wallonian Christian Democrats refuse the ultimatum. Yves Leterme's second formation attempt crashes almost 6 months after the elections!!

    Nevertheless he gets a standing ovation from his political party when he arrives there. (this has received a lot of criticism in the press).
    CD&V also demands that Yves Leterme has to become prime minister in the government.
    (huh...in Belgium it is tradition that who succeeds to form a government becomes prime minister.... Yves Leterme has had 2 attempts and has kept this country busy for 6 months, so how can they even demand such things anymore?? And if he can't get them to agree on anything during that time, how is he supposed to have the leadership later on to lead a government??? )
  • The king assigns our liberal resigning prime minister Guy Verhofstadt to start another information round to check any options.
    => to which degree can the resigning government that currently only can manage the current affairs without any power to take new decisions, get new powers in order to make some urgent decisions that are needed for this country...with the support of the parliament?
    => can there be negotiations with more political parties to form a government that has a 2/3rd majority....(more and more parties seem to be in favor of this at the moment!!).
    => can we form an asymmetric government with parties of different political families across the language border eg flemish socialists without the wallonian socialists etc...
  • The head of the Wallonian liberals MR is furious at the head of the Wallonian social-democrats because she has claimed in the wallonian media that she is the only protector of the frenchspeaking rights.
  • Yves Leterme compares the Frenchspeaking press with radio Milles Collines, proclaiming they have a hidden political agenda and make him look bad on purpose. (what the hell...how dares he to make such a comparison) (whine whine whineeeeeeee, he feels like such a martyr). These statements got so much reaction that it even triggered questions on the Euro-African top.
  • A big national poll shows that new elections wouldn't shift the cards very much among the political parties, but Guy Verhofstadt now gets preference above Yves Leterme to become Prime minister

Usually I try to stick to the facts without sharing too much my personal opinion. This time I did add more comments in italic than I am used to. Can you tell I am fed up with this bunch of immature politicians that only think of their ego? Can you tell that the people that were supposed to take the lead, have disappointed me greatly? The press certainly is, I totally am. This is not a clash between 2 language groups anymore, this isn't a clash between 2 cultures anymore....it is simply a political strategy game already for the next elections, it is simply a clash between ego's. How disgusting! This soap is no longer fun to watch. It has become shameful and sad. And unless Guy Verhofstadt can get them all aligned rather quickly, there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet.

Sigh.
Soap Opera Sunday is hosted by Walking Kateastrophe this week, so be sure to check it out and find much more entertaining soapy stories that are surely much better than my post today. For everyone playing along, please link your SOS post there. Everyone is invited to play! See the rules here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Changed my mind

I was four years old and I had been a good girl the last weeks: I had been quiet when I had to listen to my teacher, I had cleaned up my toys, .... So I was ready for Sinterklaas.

My parents had already enquired what I was going to ask to Sinterklaas and I knew quite well what I wanted this year. There had been a nature documentary with little lion cubs in it and that would be a great playmate in our garden. I could perfectly see me gooffing around with my pet cub in the grass, rolling, chasing each other. Ooooh and it was going to be a really soft cub. Very fluffy! I was going to be special as all the other kids only had cats and dogs and I was going to play with my lion cub. But they could come over as well to play!!! I was looking forward to it.

My parents had a very worried look on their face when I told them my wish. And they tried to explain me that you cannot keep a wild lion cub in the garden. They told me he'd become dangerous etc...But they didn't understand. I wanted one that remained little. I knew already that there exist midget rabbits and poneys that remain small. I wanted the same thing, but for a lion. And we'd be great friends and have a lot of fun: my cub would not hurt me. It wasn't going to be a problem.

So when the teacher in school let us draw our Sinterklaas drawings and our wishes, I tried to draw a lion cub. And I told everyone that Sinterklaas would bring me a cup. All the adults were annoying as they all told me the same thing: that a lion cub was dangerious and could not kept in our garden. But Sinterklaas would understand me, so I was not really worried.

The big day got close and I was a really good girl. The Friday before December 6th, Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten traditionally visited our school. All excited I went to school with my mom, who was an elementary school teacher in the same school where I was going to the kindergarten. At our arrival there was already loud Sinterklaassongs playing through the loudspeakers of the playground and some of my friends were dancing. After lunch we all gathered on the playground to wait for the arrival of Sinterklaas. I was so nervous! I was holding my teacher's hand and staring at the gate.

But all of a sudden we heard lots of noice from the other side of the playground where a couple of Zwarte Pieten arrived with 4-5 on one bicycle, zigzagging towards us with a lot of noise. We all sheered and waved to get the attention of the crazy Zwarte Pieten and sung our songs even louder. Right after them, Sinterklaas arrived in our school in a much more solemn way and got welcomed by our school director.

Afterwards Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten visited our class and they read in their big book to see if we all had been good children. We sung Sinterklaas songs for him and handed him our drawings,... I was a bit too impressed and too shy to go and ask Sinterklaas personally for my little cub. But that was ok. Sinterklaas knows everything and he would know what I wanted. In the evening we all gathered on the playground again to say goodbye to Sinterklaas and his crazy Zwarte Pieten who performed their last acrobatics and then they left through the gate.

As always I ran upstairs to my mom's classroom where I played a bit until she was ready to go home. First she had to pick up something in the teacher's room. When she came out again, she was joined by...Sinterklaas!!! Sinterklaas had forgotten something, had come back and had been drinking a cup of coffee with the teachers in their teacher's room. Wow, I got to see Sinterklaas a second time and this time I didn't have to share his attention with all the other kids!!

My mom asked me "Goofball, have you told Sinterklaas already what you would like to get this year?" while she seemed to send a strong look at him.
Shyly I shook my head.

"My dear Goofball, what is it that you wish to receive from me this year", Sinterklaas asked me directly.
"...eumm, I would really like to get a little lion cub, Sinterklaas"

Sinterklaas pauzed a bit and touched his long white beard with his white gloves and the big ring on his finger while he was looking at me.
"A little lion cub, I see.... Hmm, actually I had already a doll that you can feed and that can go on a potty for you in mind. I had the idea you'd really love that. Wouldn't you enjoy such a doll do you think? "

While I was still staring up at Sinterklaas's long white beard and his friendly face, the magic of a doll that could be fed and that could go on a potty struck me and I nodded enthousiastically. "Yes Sinterklaas"


That night I already dreamed about my new doll that I'd receive after I had put my shoe at the fireplace , filled with sugar and a carrot for Sinterklaas's horse!
In the morning of December 6, I stormed down the stairs to find a doll that could be fed and that could pee on a potty. It has been my favourite doll throughout my childhood!

....and my lion cub??? Well Jan bought me a little stuffed one when he heard of this story :).


PS: want to read more about Sinterklaas and this tradition? Look here. And over at Fourier Analyst who did an excellent job of explaining it all: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V and Part VI.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Day to read

Allison over at Soccer Mom in Denial read an article last week about a National Endowment for the Arts report that young folks aren't reading like they used to.

Get this:


  • Only 30% of 13-year-olds read almost every day
  • the number of 17-year-olds who never read for pleasure increased from 9 percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004 - that is 1 in 5 kids don't read for fun
  • Almost half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 never read books for pleasure
  • The average person between ages 15 and 24 spends 2 to 2 1/2 hours a day watching TV and 7 minutes reading

  • According to Diane Gioia, the Chair of the NEA,
    "The poorest Americans who read did twice as much volunteering and charity work as the richest who did not read. The habit of regular reading awakens something inside a person that makes him or her take their own life more seriously and at the same time develops the sense that other people's lives are real."

This information inspired her to invite us all to stop blogging for one day on January 10, 2008 in order to read a book instead.


DAY TO READ campaign




As if she has special powers, the same day all Flemish media bring the news that we don't teach our children a reading culture anymore. Although international research says that the Flemish kids have average reading skills (Belgium = 13nd place, Flanders = 6th place, Wallonia= 34th), they score very poorly in their attitude about reading. The reasons for that would be:


  • schools spend less time on reading assignments

  • kids don't get stimulated enough at home to read

As a kid I sure loved to read! I devored books.


When I was in music school, I got caught a couple of times with my music scores on the desk, my hair hanging down on the side facing the teacher, my arm nicely moving up and down marking the rhythm and my lips mumbling as if I was singing along...but with a big reading book on my lap.


And then I had to practise the flute each day. But sometimes a book just had to get finished. But I knew my parents would comment if I'd skip my flute practise. So I closed my door, taped myself playing a couple of songs....and then played the tape while I was reading in my book. Never got caught doing that!! Sorry mom, dad if you are reading this! I did make it through 10 years of music academy, so I guess it wasn't too bad.


As I wrote in my book meme I have never found books that mesmerised me so much as child books. Nevertheless I am still reading regularly, a bit with ups and downs. I always am reading one book...a book that travels up and down to work each single day, and travels on my passenger seat in the car. You never know I might end up in a huge traffic jam, right?

So I am taking up Allison's challenge. It might stimulate me to get in a reading up again :). Are you accepting Allison's challenge as well? Will you be reading a book on January 10th?

Shake that ass

aaaah I am back, in case someone was wondering. Just spent 4 long days at work as the project I have been coordinating over the last couple of months went live: the upgrade of our distribution ERP software to a newer version. Such switches can only be done over the weekend, so I camped out in the office for a couple of days with some colleagues and a British technician from our supplier.

This morning I got up very tired, very grumpy. Luckily no major problems got reported, besides some questions from confused users etc... Let's hope the invoices come out ok tomorrow and we can cheer!

Tonight I finally made it since 5 weeks again to the stepaerobic. Boy was that a weird lesson! A new Columbian teacher was leading it while are regular teacher was making notes in the back so she got evaluated. I don't know what was up as I came in slightly late, as always. Apparently she wanted combine Latin salsa music with the step aerobic which is a cool idea. But it was very chaotic, improvised and her microphone did not work. So we were just trying to mimic her latin dance/jump/shakes while she started searching a different song with a different rhythm every 5 minutes. Some people gave up and left, one person sprained her ankle and while our regular teacher was off to search for ice, the Columbian girl decided that we no longer needed our steps but that we would do some Columbian dances. Some more ass shaking came along while we were all trying to make some pathetic attempts to look like the new Shakiras. There's nothing wrong with that, but it'd be nice if she considered a little bit our lack of 'latin' genes in our body and take it step by step. After all it was a step class no? :p.
Anyway, it was a weird class, but it did get a weekend of computerwork out of my system.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Student Humor

Even on a quiet Sunday morning, it is obvious that Leuven is a student's city when you come across a trail like this along the road.




Monday, November 26, 2007

Confession

Very often I've been tempted to join on Facebook one of the many many "I hate Crocs" groups eg. I Dont care How Comfortable Crocs Are, You Look Like A Dumbass. because I think they are really ugly shoes. But since this weekend, there are Crocs in our house as well. Big black ones with that winter wool in it. There are Jan's, not mine.

But I have to confess that they are pretty damn easy to slip into when I am running around on my socks and I realise that my mobile is still the car on the other side of the street. So I've been spotted crossing the street with a pair of Crocs that is many many sizes too big combined with white socks. Me! I guess I'll better stop making fashion statements about Crocs huh :p.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Good weekend

Tomorrow I go back to the office after staying 2 weeks indoors. The healing of my cyst is going really well this week and the pain is now totally gone. So I start mingling in the masses again and my friend Sandra came over this weekend to make the transition smoother.


We visited downtown Leuven and Heverlee trying to show her unknown places, we shopped together, we tasted samples at the market, we played boardgames, we fantasized about our diving vacation together next spring, .... Good times!