Monday Sep 15, 2008

Back to Brussels

I am back to Bruxelles for NESSI steering committee tomorrow. I had dinner at the Bar à Tapas. Not particularly Belgian, but good all the same.


Sunday Jul 20, 2008

A day at home, a view of Brussels

I have been busy travelling the last couple of weeks and returned to my home office to do a pile of filing. You can see from my my feed some of the places I have been and also some stuff thats been on my desk waiting to be bookmarked or otherwise dealt with.

Over the weekend, I was looking at Firefox add-ons.

I was fortunate enough to stay at the Sofitel Europe in Brussels last week which was having a cheap week, or maybe day; it is close to my meeting's location, this is at the north end of the 'Place Jourdan', and the location of the finest chip shop in Bruxelles.


Place Jourdain


Saturday Mar 15, 2008

Are the English giving up with foreign languages?

Earlier this week, the Guardian reported that Cambridge University had finally dropped the requirement that undergraduate students have a language GCSE (16+). I remarked that I thought it a shame, and that the english education system should teach foreign languages, but it was pointed out to me that the national curriculum no longer mandates a language at GCSE and so Cambridge's previous policy would in future conflict with their and the government's goal of opening Oxbridge up to more state sector applicants. It seems to be a fact that english schools find it harder to get higher grades in languages than other subjects and that the pressure of the league table places has led a number of them to drop languages very rapidly.

Its yet another example of allowing the difficult to fall out of the education system.

Back in December, when I visited the EU Parliament building. I was taken aback by the number of languages spoken in the EU, since the translation booths are situated around the hall, and it is a very physical demonstration of europe's linguistic diversity. There 23 official languages. I have had it pointed out several times in my recent travels that the ubiquity of English means that I don't have to worry, to which I have two replies. The first is that, when I was at school, no-one had any idea of whether the EU was going to work or not nor how English would become so pervasive. I was offered the opportunity to learn both French and German, which I did with varying degrees of success. Secondly, its very rude to assume that others will learn your language, particularly if you are in their their country. I wish I could do better, but it seems the UK's educators disagree.

The map below is off the European Union and references the EU membership page.


Countries of the EU


On the EU membership page itself, the map has an HTML image map which displays the languages by country as you hover over each country. Interesting how such an old technology has such descriptive power. I wonder if I could have used an <IFRAME> to include this on the blog, although including other peoples material without permission in a way that is not clearly hyperlinked is not very good manners.


Thursday Jan 31, 2008

About: my december visits to Bruxelles

Most of the articles about my trips to Bruxelles in December were written much later but backdated to about the time of they occurred. The other pictures I took can be viewed at my Brussels set at

When writing about Bruxelles, I have mainly used the french language place names because I speak it better than I speak Flemish, which isn't hard. I am aware that linguistic politics is very sensitive in Belgium and that Brussel/Bruxelles is a designated bilingual city. I hope that an Englishman's efforts to recognise any foreign language will be acceptable. (Interestingly Google maps uses the flemish street names, or at nay rate, I havn't worked out how to use their French language ones.)

View Larger Map


Friday Dec 21, 2007

About Tin Tin

After a high minded day yesterday, we walked across the lower town to the belgian comic museum CXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. This has one gallery on belgium's most comic famous export, Tin Tin. I know there are some that believe that Tin Tin comes from Teeside, but that's not the case. The museum shop seemed to have every single Tin Tin book ever, including the first which is in black & white and called Tin Tin in the land of the soviets. The museum had a number of other exhibits beyond Tin Tin, as it seems that Belgian comic authors have been prolific over the years and the building is worth visiting itself as an example of Victor Horta's architecture; lots of iron and glass. The picture below is actually outside the Tin Tin shop elsewhere in Brussels, but I thought you'd like to see it.


The Tin Tin shop


That's me that is.

We caught the train out to the airport and found ourselves in the tender care of Flybe. Our flight was cancelled and while we were put up in a 5\* hotel, the airline pays a 2\* rate. The room was great but they really jerk you around once your in this fix.


Thursday Dec 20, 2007

Republican Democracay

We then walked over to the European Quarter, as we wanted to visit the debating chamber of the European Parliament. We went via the Place Jourdain, where we bought some 'frittes' from Maison Antoinne. This is a stall which has an arrangement with the surrounding bars so you can eat indoors and warm up with your drink of choice, coffee or schnapps. The parliament building permits visits to the debating chamber, as they should;, we pay for it. So we went there and had a look round.


The EU parliament chamber.


Outside the the building there are plaques and flags for each of the member states, together with a statue of a women holding the Euro symbol. The buildings are contemporary and stark contrast to the Hapsburg grandeur of the Upper Town. In the park beside the parliament building is a section of the Berlin Wall, with its graffiti presumably untouched from when it was in Berlin. One of the wipeout games we play at home is 'countries of the EU', this is fun because its changing so rapidly and because of the various states that countries can occupy. States can be in negotiation to join, members, euro zone members or Schengen treaty signatories. So when we entered the chamber, hanging above the chamber are the the translation booths, and while there are 27 member states, there are 23 official languages, so one booth for each language really brought home the linguistic diversity of today's European Union.


Art in Bruxelles

Today we walked over to the Upper Town in order to visit the "Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts" to look at the Magrittes. We were rather impressed by the Social Realists and came across a couple of pictures by Laermans, which were a bit of a find. The museum is located in one of the palaces that the historic, dynastic rulers no longer require. After this, we walked up to the park. This is not in the best of states in the middle of winter, but the views across the lower town are pretty impressive, although I wasn't able to get a decent picture, even today's digital cameras aren't good enough to capture that sort of horizon. (Or at least mine isn't). The whole area is very impressive, Royal Families have always been able to get hold of, if not good then at least grandiose architects. I think that the style is rather understated, however, the scale is not.


Royal Palace, Brussels



Wednesday Dec 19, 2007

Birthday in Brussels

Back to Brussels for a flying visit, but planning to stay on for a couple of days to enjoy the sights, food and drink in Belgium's and the EU's Capital. Today, after my meeting, opposite the Berlaymont, we walked around the lower town looking for somewhere to eat. We enjoyed the "Winterfest" at La Bourse & Place St. Catherine and returned to the Grand Place and were able to enjoy the opera and lights together, having eaten some Tapas, with a rather fine Rioja. A Faustino No 7.


Hotel de Ville, Grand Place


While I had broken one of my rules by working on my birthday, it was a good way of spending it. I rather enjoyed the atmosphere.


Monday Dec 10, 2007

Hi Tech in Europe

And back to Brussels for a bit of EU politicking. Last time I traveled through Heathrow and the journey home was terrible. This time I travel through Southampton and the journey out is fine. I get to the Sun Office on the airport estate, do my meeting and have an easy ride into the hotel in the city centre.

I am attending the NESSI AGM. I wrote about it last time I visited Brussels in November, but it is having its AGM over the next two days. I will be commenting on it, but the slides and AV files will appear on its web site.


Tuesday Nov 20, 2007

We're all in Europe now!

I travelled over to Brussels for a meeting of the NESSI steering comittee, to which I have just been appointet; its one of the EU's NGOs in the IT industry, representing major IT vendors, which advises the commission on its ICT R&D budget.

Its a long time since I have been in Brussels, and with these ninja trips, its hard to get to know the town. I'm a bit fed up my rough guide didn't turn up on time, but it won't be the last time I'm here so I have next time to look forward to.

I visited the Sun offices at Rondpoint Robert Shuman, which is opposite the EU Commission building, but I was too busy to take any photographs with my camera, which I had managed to remember to bring, and the picture I took with the phone was so poor I have deleted it. Its undergoing a re-furb, (the building not my cameras), and is not looking its best at the moment. I had a quick look at flickr to see if anyone had some good (CC) pictures, but flickr's default is all rights reserved and I couldn't find any. (Since I publish under a BY-NC-SA creative commons licence, I suppose this is one of the reasons I am so popular with schmapp. Since most people publish on Flickr with the defaults, I am not competing with a lot of people.) The EC head quarters building's name is the Centre Berlaymont, and if you search flickr with Berlaymont as a tag, you can find some pictures. I'll post mine when I get some worth posting. I expect to be back here soon.





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