Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Monday, June 28, 2004

This blog is being moved...

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

More pictures from the soon-to-be Casa Schenk. I went there with my wife and baby after work today and snapped a few shots with my phone, so sorry about the quality. On the plus side, they'll load fast...

Tuesday, June 22, 2004
New Baby, New Job, New Car and Now... New House!

Yesterday evening my wife and I went looking at some real estate. Just looking, really, as we were just getting started with looking for a house of our own. We wanted to get a bit of a feel for which houses cost how much and to be able to compare the quality a bit.

But after just having seen three houses we already lucked out: a nice late sixties bungalow-type house with large basement, two garages, new (heated) stone floors, a new kitchen, a new bathroom and a recently re-done roof, all surrounded by a nice garden and in a nicely wooded neighbourhood with a lot of open housing and large gardens. Just in front of the house accros the street is a small patch of forest and a playground, where my wife used to go to the Chiro (a youth movement not unlike the boy/girl scouts).

Also included: a very nice stone porch, a stove for wood or coal, ceiling to floor windows in the living room (double glazing, no less) and electric shutters. The house is situated in a quiet neigbourhood, just five minutes from a Mcdonalds and ten minutes from a large highway. Major stores and shops are also within driving distance.

And all of this for just 169.500 euros, because the owners were an elderly Dutch couple who badly wanted to move back to the Netherlands where their children and grandchildren were.

We put in a bid for the house and now all we need to do is secure a loan from the bank. Normally, that shouldn't be a problem, but if it is the bid is considered invalid and we won't have to pay anything.

Anyhow, never thought it would all go so fast: three months ago it was just me and my wife in a rented house and now we're a family of three with a house and a car. And I'll be working at home.

New Space Age?

Despite being largely pushed to the background by the Belgian media in favour of much more important news like the start of large road maintenance works in Antwerp, among other things, the first private spaceship ever to actually reach space flew yesterday. See here at - Private craft soars into space, history - Jun 21, 2004, for example.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Nice article from some journalist who has obviously just learned about blogging. She almosts makes it sound like a dangerous addiction, like drugs or alcohol. Won't somebody think about the children?!? Read the whole thing, if you're a blogger and up for a laugh: For some, blogging is a way of life...

Friday, June 18, 2004
Hectic Days...

Sorry for the light blogging the past few days. Life is quite hectic at the moment, with the job switch coming up, buying a second hand car, looking at real estate... Things should start settling down a bit in a week or so.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Too Funny!

Frank Vanhecke, president of the Flemish Block, the extreme-right party that got 24% of the vote in the regional elections this Sunday, doesn't know how to operate a fax machine. Blogger Luc Van Braekel made some screenshots of a newscast showing Vanhecke faxing a blank fax with a coalition proposal to his main opponent because he put in the paper the wrong way up. Everything is in Dutch, but the pictures speak for themselves...

Jahjah on the American Radar

LGF reports on a article about Abu Jahjah, leader of the Arab European League in Belgium, who recently got somewhat less than one percent of the vote in the regional Flemish elections with his MDP, the Muslim Democratic Party (wonder if that 'D' is the same as the one in 'DDR').

In it, Jahjah makes some pretty strong claims about subjects ranging from 9/11 to 'Zionist occupation' and also compares assimilation to rape and facism. But do go and read it for yourself, it is highly entertaining and enlightening if you don't know Jahjah already...

Coalition Formation

Looks like the Green party announced they don't want to be part of the new regional Flemish government. That leaves just four options for coalitions, most of which are extremely unlikely. Either a combination of any three of CD&V/NVA, VLD/Vivant, SP.a/Spirit and Vlaams Blok (Flemish Block), or CD&V/NVA and Vlaams Blok. And the combinations with Vlaams Blok are very unlikely due to internal party resistance and the risk of voter revolt.

So that leaves the only possible coalition: CD&V/NVA+SP.a/Spirit+VLD/Vivant, a mix of six parties combined in three cartels. Opposition would be Green party, Flemish Block and one representative of the French speaking minority.

My prediction? Long coalition talks, a tough term for the new government (six parties in a coalition, three of them not present in the federal government) and huge gains for all opposition parties in the next federal election... Any other Belgians or Flemish care to comment? (Keep it polite please, consider Godwin's Law in effect)

P.S.: Google it if you don't know what Godwin's Law is...

New Toy

Just got me a Treo600 smartphone this weekend, as I will soon have to hand in my current mobile phone to my soon to be ex-employer. I must say it is rather nifty and even comes with a built in camera!

Not half bad for a pic snapped with a phone/organiser/walkman, no?

Sunday, June 13, 2004
Regional Elections

Well, the numbers are in and in Flanders the results are quite interesting. The Flemish Block, an anti-immigration, tough-on-crime party has received 24% of the vote, an increase of 5% or 8% (depending on if you compare with the previous federal elections of 2003 or the previous regional elections of 1999). The CD&V/NVA (christian/nationalist) cartel party got 26%, an increase of 0,3% or 4%.

Both socialists and liberals (economically liberal, that is) got somewhat less than 20% each, seen as a clear loss for these parties that make up the current federal government. And the Green party is back, with 7 or 8%.

Seems like coalition talks are going to be quite complicated. Technically only CD&V/NVA and the Flemish Block can form a two-party government. But in Flemish/Belgian politics, a coalition with the Flemish Block is 'not done', due to inter-party agreements (called the 'cordon sanitaire') in 1991, when the Flemish Block first made big gains in the polls.

So that leaves open three big options: the big three (christian democrats/socialists/liberals) or christian democrats with one of the other big ones (liberals or socialists) combined with the greens.

Liberals, socialists and greens together is not possible mathematically. Theoretically a government of Flemish block together with either liberals or socialists and greens is also possible, but I think that will be the day when hell freezes over due to an ice age caused by flying pig emissions.

The most interesting thing about this is that a copy of the federal government on the regional level has become impossible. That is a first in Belgian politics! Interesting developments lie ahead.

Back Home Already...

Seems they had enough people to count ballots, so when my name came up I was sent home. Yay, that means sitting in front of the TV with a cold beer, watching the results come in for the rest of the day...

Getting Ready...

I'm getting ready to go out and vote, and later today count votes... ain't democracy great? Thanks, D-Day veterans!