Q&A with Brussels Bicycle Manager

Frederik Depoortere has been Bicycle manager at Brussels Region for many years now. He kindly agreed to answer a few questions about life on the streets in Brussels, and what’s being done to improve it. First of all, I have to thank Frederik for taking the time to answer  –  and to do it in English, when almost all of his working day is spent in French or his native Dutch.

QUESTIONS

What principles or theories are behind/used in practice in Brussels for traffic management and specifically for cycling?

What 2-3 successes have you (you personally, your minister, your department) achieved recently the area of cycling improvements? Optional follow up: what next steps can you suggest to build on or expand their benefits?

Questions about danger and good practice: What do you do to improve your safety when you ride a bike in Brussels above and beyond what you think most people do? Would you suggest it would be good if others did it or is it just your personal way of handling?

ANSWERS

to improve my safety as as cyclist in Brussels (or anywhere, for that matter) ? Anticipate ! You never know if drivers have seen you or not. With a bit of experience, you know exactly which kind of manoeuvres are awaiting you, so you can stay away from dangerous situations. I’m convinced that all cyclists can learn these things ! Focus imho is too much on infrastructure (slow, costly) and other road users (there’s too many of them to change them all !!!)

  • The principles we try to put in practice since IRIS 1, is specializing the road network, the basis of most mobility plans : concentrate cars on certain roads, protect neighbourhood streets. For cyclists, this means you need segregated infrastructure on the big roads and mixed traffic – cycle routes through traffic-calmed streets.

Personally, I think most of the people on the different decision-levels are now aware of cycling and know who to call when they need me. There is a kind of general acceptance of cycling as mode of transport, at least on the administrative level, I consider it as my job to be available for everyone who’s looking for all thing cycling within Brussels.

The Brussels’ success is remarkable, because it goes against what is generally accepted as good practice in cycling : with very low-cost infrastructure (generalizing contraflow, road markings, cycle routes) we have been able to reach the same or higher levels of cycling as any other beginner city, be it Seville, Barcelona, Bordeaux, Paris, London or Vancouver…who are usually acknowledged for their efforts in building cycle infrastructure and reducing car use.

  • Not forgetting all efforts done on communication and education in the last 10 years (Corporate mobility plans, cyclings lessons at school…)

Of course, the next step is to transform the city physically, building a top-level cycle infrastructure on the inner ring is a first, very important step. Next we’ll need to solve some serious black spots (don’t mention Sainctelette…) to make cycling safer. On the other hand, it’s about time we make car driving a bit less easy.

concerning what car drivers do… basically opening doors without looking and turning right without blinking…speeding behind you on a hilly stretch. Dangerous things cyclists do ? Riding too close to parked cars !

Good News, Hopeful Outlook

Today I’m starting to post my series on “Good News” and Reasons to be hopeful 2017. Starting with these 4 points.

  1. A new law that requires French companies to guarantee their workers a “right to disconnect”
  2. Costa Rica got most of its energy from renewable sources in 2016
  3. Obama’s farewell address: excerpts that give reason to be hopeful
  4. Friends: notes on renewal, recovery, and more
1. No more emails outside the office in France

From today (1/1/17), French workers are no longer obliged to check out-of-hours emails under a new employment law. Firms will now have to negotiate over the intrusion into employees’ private lives.

 CLICK for the Story : No more emails outside the office in France

In DUTCH: Franse werknemer mag smartphone uitzetten

2. A small country with a big grid :  Costa Rica’s running on 98% renewable energy
OK – it’s a tiny country. But you gotta start somewhere. And this country is doing it, bit by bit. For over 250 days in 2016, they didn’t need to use any fosil fuel to generate electricity the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said in this story:

Costa Rica ran almost entirely on renewable energy in 2016

3. Obama’s farewell address

Obama’s farewell address contained a number of statements that reminded us of how things have improved, and are still getting better. I found these gave hope, and shed light where some might see only mist or even darkness. Here’s my own selection of excerpts from his farewell speech on 9JAN17. (Links to the full text are below the box)

After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on earth....

... democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity. The idea that, for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together, that we rise or fall as one.

.... the good news is that today the economy is growing again. Wages, incomes, home values and retirement accounts are all rising again. Poverty is falling again.

The wealthy are paying a fair share of taxes. Even as the stock market shatters records, the unemployment rate is near a 10-year low. The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.

Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years. 

Now I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, no matter what some folks say.

You can see it not just in statistics. You see it in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum. But we’re not where we need to be. 

-------

For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, and Italians, and Poles, who it was said were going to destroy the fundamental character of America. And as it turned out, America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; these newcomers embraced this nation’s creed, and this nation was strengthened.

...

Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years, we've halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet....

political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

...

Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. 

...

I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

That faith I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change – that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined. I hope yours has, too. 

...

I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started. Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans – especially so many young people out there – to believe you can make a difference;
...

This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

Full Text of President Obama’s Farewell Speech

  1. from WSJ –  login required
  2. As delivered – from CNN Politics
4. Friends
Many of my friends have given me reasons to be hopeful in 2017. I want to meantion the teasers to a few of the ones who impressed me in 2016. I wont use names here, as I’m not sure about privacy and such.
  • One thought they might be dying – but fought back and got what was needed to keep on truckin’ for a while longer.
  • One had a black period, like a depression, and has climbed out of that darkness to get started once again with the business of living.
  • One, of a certain age, finished a Masters in 2016, and even considered a PhD, with the option still open.
  • One moved back from the relative wilderness of Alaska to a warmer, less wild, and much cozier place where it’s possible to be together with their spouse.
  • One, of a certain age, got gainful employment in their desired field of work.
  • One started a business, struggled and almost gave it up, as it bled funds. But held on to the dream, the vision, and the hope of delivering value.

To all these friends, and many more and many others, I admire who you are and how you’re handling things. I remain hopeful, and take inspiration and I salute you.

Inalienable vs Unalienable

Our dear daughter returned from a semester in Italy recently. She reported very good academic results. But when she said that in History class she’d learned about the Declaration of Independence and some “unalienable rights” I immediately had to correct her. “You mean inalienable.” But she stuck to her guns, probably because she was a good student and had learned. Well, I was too. And I had learned my American history IN the USA, from real Americans. They were teachers with names like John Cisco & George Heilbronner. (Giselle Lichtenberger taught Algebra and Calculus, but that’s another story).

This led us to use the internet where the search term “Inalienable vs Unalienable” gave “About 31.700 results” (see the top ones below).

 The long and the short of it is that we were both righ: Inalienable and Unalienable mean the same thing. According to Gammarist.com
English has changed since the founders of the United States used unalienable in the signed final draft of their 1776 Declaration of Independence (some earlier drafts and later copies have inalienable). Inalienable, which means exactly the same thing—both mean incapable of being transferred to another or othersis now the preferred form. Unalienable mainly appears in quotes of or references to the Declaration. Inalienable prevails everywhere else.
Which then means that I was wrong to think that my daughter was wrong. And that some things are just not what you think they are.
Inalienable, which means exactly the same thing—both mean incapable of being … Unalienable mainly appears in quotes of or references to the Declaration.

Are our rights ‘inalienable’ or ‘unalienable’? – The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/…/are-our-rights-inalienableorunalienable/
Jul 4, 2015 – Both refer to rights that cannot be taken away or transferred. … How did inalienable in early drafts turn to unalienable in the final Declaration?
People also ask

Unalienable vs. inalienable: A centuries-old debate, still unresolved …

www.cnn.com/2016/01/06/…/barack-obama-unalienableinalienable-gun-control/
Jan 6, 2016 – (CNN) With his new plan to curb gun violence already facing legal and political pushback, President Barack Obama on Tuesday made another …

Unalienable Rights vs Inalienable Rights – GemWorld

www.gemworld.com/usa-unalienable.htm
All individual’s have unalienable rights. Inalienable rights: Rights which are not capable of being surrendered or transferred without the consent of the one possessing such rights.

Unalienable Vs Inalienable – Tea Party Tribune

www.teapartytribune.com › Home › Topics › Constitutional Rights
Sep 8, 2012 – According to Black’s Law, “Unalienable: incapable of being alienated, that is, sold and transferred.” (P. 1523) So, the one vowel changes the entire definition and political outlook. An unalienable right is a right which is incapable (absolutely under no conditions) of sold or transferred.

The Grammarphobia Blog: “Inalienable” or “unalienable”?

www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2013/03/inalienableunalienable.html
Mar 15, 2013 – Which is correct, “inalienableorunalienable,” and which is in the Declaration of Independence?

Unalienable not Inalienable rights in the Declaration of I | National Myth

nationalmyth.org/how-the-declaration-of-independence-was-hijacked/
Jun 21, 2013 – When unalienable was replaced with inalienable it diminished the original … On the contrary, no human legislature has power to abridge or …

“Unalienable” vs. “Inalienable” | Adask’s law

https://adask.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/unalienablevsinalienable/
Unalienablevs. “Inalienable”. 15 Jul. The following is an email exchange between myself and one who listens to my be radio shows. The listener was …

Inalienable vs Unalienable – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScP9gz0Vc6Q
Jul 3, 2015 – Uploaded by Tom Owens

Inalienable vs Unalienable … Inalienable Rights, Where Do They Come From? – Duration: … Michael Sandel …

Truths Can Be Inalienable or Unalienable – Copyediting.com

https://www.copyediting.com/truths-can-be-inalienableorunalienable/

Jul 2, 2015 – Truths Can Be Inalienable or Unalienable. We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent, …

 

Xenophobia: Word of the Year 2016

On this, the first day of 2017, first up is news from the language world. I was deeply touched when I heard Dictionary.com’s 2016 Word of the Year is Xenophobia. Here are some excerpts

…  This year, some of the most prominent news stories have centered around fear of the “other.” Fear is an adaptive part of human evolutionary history and often influences behaviors and perceptions on a subconscious level. However, this particular year saw fear rise to the surface of cultural discourse. …

… Dictionary.com defines xenophobia as “fear or hatred of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers.” It can also refer to fear or dislike of customs, dress, and cultures of people with backgrounds different from our own….

… While they are distinct phenomena, racism is often the basis of xenophobia—boiling simply down to the sentiment, “I don’t like you because you don’t look like me.” …

… The 2016 Word of the Year is sure to spark discussion. Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at University of California, Berkeley and former US Secretary of Labor, shared his take on Dictionary.com’s choice in a video.

SEE the 3 minute video here.

Robert Reich concludes the video saying “Despite being chosen as the 2016 Word of the Year, xenophobia is not to be celebrated. Rather it’s a sentiment to be fought.”

I can only agree.

Dark Days are Time for Hope

Trump has come true. Trump is coming through. Trump’s coming to you. Anyway it’s written, it sounds bad to me. When a nightmare like this happens, it’s time for hope. My first and abiding response to the election was a call to solidarity. To bring friends and family closer together, share stories and support each other. To be strong for one another.

Which is why I was heartened by this opinion piece by which appeared recently in the Guardian’s series on Reasons to be hopeful in

Randy’s new blog – tips & suggestions welcome

Hello! This blogging stuff  is a brave new world for me – or at least a new adventure. I’ve just jumped in at the ripe old age of 55, and without a lot of know-how on the publishing side. Getting the site up was a first success. It took 12 hours or so, just a bit longer than I hoped after reading HOW TO START A BLOG From scratch, in 20 minutes… but the step by step guide was very helpful.

On the other hand, getting the rest of it looking and acting like I want is taking longer still. There are just too many options, and each one has many possibilities. Like the background picture – which is SO much in the background that you can only see 3 edges…

I want it to be simple and clean, so the reader can easily find the next most interesting item, whether it’s text, photos or anything else.

My desiderata include:
– Home/Main area with choice of post: latest post or Selected item

– Subject/topic areas where texts can be added easily, including: Family, neighborhood/GAQ, cycling, local politics, News you can use, guest posts,

– contact page -with name, brief profile, email, LinkedIN, Twitter…
– Reviews of books & movies – –
– Links
– Separate area for photos, movies, other

Any suggestions, or tips on how to do this easily are most welcome.

Poverty in Belgium declined in 2015

The number of people in Belgium suffering material deprivation declined slightly last year. (NB: NOT written by RR/Milestogo.eu)

Thursday, 14 April 2016 Source – click here

According to a report published on Thursday (14 April) by EU’s statistical office (Eurostat) the number was 646 000 people or 5.8 % of the population (compared to 5.9 % the previous year).

The proportion of persons severely materially deprived in the EU continued the downward trend observed since its peak in 2012 (9.9%).

In 2015, 8.2% of the population or around 41 million people in EU were severely materially deprived, meaning that they had living conditions constrained by a lack of resources such as not being able to afford to pay their bills, keep their home adequately warm, or take a one week holiday away from home.

Families with dependent children are affected more than households without children. 8.3% of households with two and more adults with children suffer from severe material deprivation, compared with 6.0% for those without dependent children; and severe material deprivation hits 17.3% of single parent families, compared with 11.0% for single adults without dependent children.

The most affected countries are Bulgaria (34.2 %), Romania (24.6 %) and Greece (22.2 %). The countries with the lowest rates are the Scandinavian countries and Iceland with rates from 1 to 3 %.

The rates in Belgium’s neighbors were as follows: Netherlands (2.5 %), France (4.5 %) and Germany (around 5 %).

Screen shot from the article with ad for BMW. A strking contrast

Greece Saved? How The EU and IMF “help” hurts those needing healthcare

Greece is saved we heard – but is it? The troika ‘solution‘ includes the standard International Monetary Fund prescription reducing healthcare

Just when people need it most, healthcare is denied them. There is more and more poverty. Depression, suicide, intravenous drug abuse and domestic violence increase across Greece. But there are few doctors and healthcare staff left. And no money to pay them or for essential supplies.

Health care is something which has always mattered to me. I emigrated from USA to Europe over 25 years ago because of the high levels of disparity between rich and poor -, the haves & have nots. It felt wrong that while the HAVES could buy “the best medical care in the world” the great majority could not. And tens of millions had few or no healthcare available to them.

As the son of a school teacher in the 1970s, it was a big advantage that we had some medical and dental insurance coverage. But a decade later I left USA because there were tens of millions who could not afford to see a doctor – not for preventive visits, and not even for emergency care.

In the 80s in the USA, people died in ambulances in places where the Hippocratic oath to “do no harm” did not apply to the guards at the hospital doors. Nor to the staff at the registration desks – where cash and credit cards were not enough. Those without hospitalization insurance were turned away.

I was in Belgium in the 90’s – and heard that things were so bad that the federal government had had to step in. There was a law that said that refusing treatment was illegal. Was this a joke? Did they really need a law to say that doctors had to treat people? Wasn’t it obvious that  people who needed health care or medical treatment would get it>?  That doctors would heal?

I could not believe that things had gone so far. I called up an old friend from university who was working as a doctor in an emergency room in San Francisco and asked. “Yes it’s really terrible,” he said. I agreed, until he added. “We treat them minimally and get them out the door as fast as we can.” But why? “If they cant pay, we cant give them free services.” That was the end of the story.

In the 2000’s I learned that rates of disease and infant mortality in US cities comparable to 3rd world. A risk of them becoming breeding grounds for new diseases or variants of existing ones that could threaten the general population. There was therefore an argument for selfish altruism: to provide at least enough health care for the common good. But as far as I know things have not improved enough.

In all of that time I was very glad that I lived in Europe, where I was required to be registered with a health insurance company, where 50-75% of my medical and dental costs were refunded. And almost 100% of hospitalization costs too. People debated the merits of  the different systems: refunding patient payment versus cash-less medical care; doctor shopping & medical tourism; over-prescribing & excess consumption of pharmaceuticals; the benefits of negotiated prices and the potential consequences for research and development. I still appreciate these kinds of discussions and arguments because they deal with the basic issues of the cost and benefits of considering health care as a basic right. Alongside requiring education for all, in the EU, it’s normal that people have access to health & medical treatment. If one cannot afford it, care is still provided.

But this normality is gone in Greece. Health care is being reduced, nay decimated, under the terms imposed by the European troika  (European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) and the new Greek government.

What are things like there now?

  • “Education & health care are a catastrophe now” said an observer, a Greek friend living in Brussels named Giorgos.
  • “Everyone has seen salary cuts of 30-40%. 26% have no job, and under age 23, it’s over 50% unemployment.
  • In hospitals you must’bring your own’ everything, including bandages and needles. But the system works, because many people work for free or very little money).
  • In Kos, one health facility which had 23 staff now has three: a psychiatrist, an orthopedist and an ENT (ear/nose/throat specialist).
  • In a microbiology department of a hospital in Heraklion only two of the original seven staff remain.

In the provinces, estimates are that 10-15% of staff remain, while in Athens about 50%, according to the president of the Greek Federation of Scientific Health Personnel in January.

Greek news reported in January that “Hospital emergency room (ER) services have stopped”.  This has a tremendous impact on the lives of people because It has been the source of medical treatment. The ER effectively gave free service: they treated the patients in need before asking for payment.

Citizens go the the ER because 40% all of the other health services have collapsed. In the past, medical care was covered by insurance. But no longer.

The brain drain has been huge. Everyone who could leave has left. Greeks tell of family who left to do any kind of work abroad. “There are Greek doctors working in Denmark and in Sweden, ” Giorgos said. “I know two (Greek) doctors who went to work in Saudi Arabia. He’s an MRI radiologist and she’s private doctor. They had to have work to pay their debts” (over 5000 euro per month).

Poverty is increasing. Depression, suicide, and domestic violence is up across the country. When the people need help and care, it’s not there because the medical care system has been hollowed out. These are the consequences of many factors. But chief among them are the demands and requirements of the EU troika. Instead of Europe providing a safety net or any form of help for the people who will need it most, the health system which was in place has been cut out from under them.

Greece and the euro “were saved” said some. But at what cost to the Greek people -and to all of us Europeans? The terrible consequences for the most vulnerable living in Greece are becoming clearer every day.

PS In Brussels the healthcare services were swamped but able to handle the hundreds of injured in the bombings at the airport and metro (March 2016). If that wasn’t there, how many more would have died? How many thousands will die in Greece due to the cuts imposed by the troika?

 

A version of this piece was published in AROUND EUROPE http://www.qcea.org/wp-content/uploads/…/Around-Europe-367-AprMay2016-v1web.pdf

2016 – A year of firsts

Frieda arranged and self-financed a trip to the USA where she had a summer work experience; she started her final year of school, figured out what she wanted to study at University, applied to several and got herself an interview at Cambridge. She applied to a few other UK schools including Edinburgh, and sees options in Berlin, Munich & elsewhere. She’ll be making her final choices in 2017 and will start the New Year for the first time with friends in London.

Now she’s not going to like me saying this very much, cos it makes her sound like a kid – but …Esther started going out without adult chaperones, to concerts and a house party, and even overnighting 2-3 nights in a youth hostel in Gent with friends.  Evermore so in these trying times! Well before finishing her first year of Italian studies, she told us she wanted to do a semester exchange with the European school in Varese, Italy. This was another first for us all. We visited there with Ben and Esther in July, meeting the lovely Irish and Italian family who offered to host her. We thoroughly enjoyed the region and its people so much that we could consider living there. Esther started the semester in September, came home for one week in November, and re-joins us just in time for Christmas.

Ben turned 9 this Spring and this year has been a turning point for him. He’s continued coping very well with his weekly hours of learning support for dyslexia. He’s outgrown many little boy behaviors; for example since the summer he’s only rarely come to cuddle with us which we miss. He’s too big to sit on our laps for any time.He looks forward to watching the Kids News called Logo, on tv, loves looking up and watching Nerf Wars on Youtube, and planning his treehouse with multiple rooms, balconies, electricity, kitchen, …. He’s ever so social, during the summer he went out in the neighbourhood “Friend Hunting”. But, he finds the pickings poorly. He’s just started to be able o walk longer distances to classmates’ homes, and that is a nice development. Recently, over dinner he’s told us that he misses his sister Esther. In the weeks before her return said that the family is not complete and he was looking forward to her return even more than to Christmas Day! (Maybe that’s partly ‘cos he also just stopped believing in Santa & the German gift delivery myth of the “kriskind”.)

Sicily

We went on some great trips in 2016. Sicily in the spring time was an exciting trip with plenty of discovery for all of us on our week-long Easter break. We had a few high points including a day wandering around inside Roman and Greek ruins which were quite well preserved. Another day spent visiting town where our friend Giuseppe was visiting his mother. We got a private tour of some restricted parts of the monumental village church from his uncle, the priest. Frieda said she was able to understand some of what uncle priest was saying, which was amazing as he was speaking a particularly colorful local dialect. But the highest elevation was certainly our overnight stay in the Refugio, the only hotel high up on the active volcano Mt Etna. Clambering with the kids around and inside caldera and crateri was something I’d looked forward to for many years.

That trip was an anxious one because the bombing of Brussels airport happened just days after we’d left, and where we were to return. At first we spent lots of time clustered together in front of a tiny TV watching news in Italian or French as that was all it provided. And using lots of our Italian 3G credit to get what we could from back home and other sources. The airport was closed and no one knew exactly when it would reopen. In a day or two or a month or two or when? No one from our Air Italia could give us any information, and they refused to accept any responsibility to get us to our contracted destination. So the next few days I anxiously sought information about where we would be arriving and how we would get from there to Brussels.

The end of the story was peaceful and human. Just as we got out of Liege airport, a bus from Brussels Airlines was ready to depart. We had not flown with them but the driver graciously welcomed us and insisted there would be no fee. And just before the bus was to go, Ben said he had to go. Well, the driver said he would wait, but not long. We decided not to take that risk, as nice as he was. We also didn’t want to hold up the bus full of people either. Arriving in downtown Brussels, and then taking local public bus, (this was now several days after the bombings), it was my experience that people were much nicer and friendlier with strangers than usual. It was a heart-warming experience to come home to.

We’ve all had to make a number of adaptations to our daily lives. And they have changed over time. As parents we had different aspects to focus on: security, education, and family management. The first instinct was to just snuggle up and keep everybody close and safe from all of the possible harms in the outside world. That lasted about 3 1/2 minutes especially with Frieda and Esther who have been used to going out and about on their own in the big city for quite some time. The streets we use were patrolled by heavily armed soldiers in camouflage uniforms. Also in the train stations and in the metros and so on. That’ll take some getting used to, and now it seems almost normal. But it’s quite an eerie normal to me. It took more than a little while before we first agreed to let Frieda & Esther go out without parents to destinations like shopping centers and multiplex cinemas. But we did, even though the metro station that was bombed is very close to the one we use all the time.

A big challenge on the education and family management side of things was how to talk with our children about terror, terrorists, being terrorized, and maintain some perspective. Finding age-appropriate words, terms and examples was a trick. Tough is trying to talk about anything like this kind of a threat in your town at the dinner table with Ben who’d just turned 9, and 2 sisters with much more mature but still developing their own understanding of how the world works; except when it doesn’t. That’s one thing when mom and dad know what’s going on and use different perspectives to engage and share this with them. It’s quite another thing when mom and dad are not sure what’s going on, how much news to believe and count on, or even how much to just act like usual.

Several things have helped us along the way in putting these horrific events into context. They include our Muslim neighbors and friends. Starting with lovely Kadhir, who ran the shop at the corner, making and selling his fantastic couscous. We miss him terribly since the current shopkeepers are nowhere near so friendly and kindly. Kadhir still sells couscous at our market and lives just down our street with his wife and 2 boys, respecting Muslim customs and traditions. But has always been like good normal people who reject violence and hatred. He was our prime example to help explain to Ben that what the terrorists did was not something innate to being Muslim.

In the follow up to the bombings, a couple of unnerving developments came even closer to our home. The first involved a police video showing one of the bombers walking away from the airport explosion site, walking 6 or 7 miles toward the city center. The videos lost track of him about 150 yards away from our kids’ school bus stop. First we were struck by the fact that there were so many video cameras that they could use to show him walking step by step over such a long distance. Then we wondered why he came by here. Was it related to what I saw a couple hundred yards up the street from my office,  a 7 minute walk from home? A scrum of 10-15 reporters was gathered facing the entrance to a house that was guarded by police. Turns out that one of the suspects lived there, or was trying to. He’d been released due to lack of sufficient evidence against him.

After a while we got back on with our lives, more or less, as I said, with some changes. We needed to do the planning for our big summer vacation to Indonesia. Esther made a great little film of our time there. As her dad I have to say it’s great, but then again it really, really is 🙂 Check it out : UPLOAD & ADD LINK

 

But that’s just one more 2016 first on the list

  1. Bali, Lombok, Java; oh my, and and What Happens if I Faint in Doha Airport?
  2. My first Quaker German Yearly Meeting – with Frieda
  3. Our nearly finalized second house purchase in Spa, Belgium
  4. Renovations planned for our Brussels home: the never ending saga?
  5. Selling the cargo bike –a moving story (please giggle or groan if you must)
  6. Reassessing career development & options – I needs a spicier title for this
  7. Job changes and challenges
  8. Death and disease: friends and stars including Richard & Andy; Bowie & Cohen,
  9. Baby stories NEW! Drax: Mystery baby from planet X. Fact or Fiction?
  10. Brexit & US elections: how they touch us
  11. Amazing Madonna, the 23 year old cat we still like to pet
  12. Next door neighbors burgled under my nose
  13. Dupuytren: hands & feet
  14. Dupuytren: hands & feet – miracle solutions and nonesuch
  15. PREMIERE! Renate & her Charlie Squints Band at our Charles Quint annual street party (incl pictures!)