Bye bye Belgium

So I went to FOSDEM part 5

And so it’s Sunday night, my last night in Belgium but more importantly, my last chance to see some of my friends in the flesh for, in some cases, another year or more. I always say the same thing about OggCamp it’s the one time every year I get to speak face-to-face with some of the people I talk to every day on the Internet.

Put clean underwear on.

Ade told me to come along to Little Delerium Bar on the Rue au Marche aux Formages, see what I mean? All the bars try and get “Delerium” in their names, and the street names are stupidly long as well. After a nice hot bath, I don’t have a bath at home, in fact, I suspect it’s been thirty odd years or more since I had a bath! So after my bath and putting on clean underwear I made my way to the initial rendezvous, oh god, I’ve started writing French now. As usual, I was clutching my phone and following Google maps when two guys suddenly said “Give us your phone!” in my very best Anglo Saxon I replied “F..k off!” and carried on walking. To be honest, I was slightly amazed because the street I was in was fairly busy. Fortunately, the bar was not far away, and as I entered, I was greeted, as always, enthusiastically by Ade and Ilka. We had a swift beer larger, and once Fab and Katie arrived, we all headed off to the Noodle bar which it turns out was only three doors along.

You want rice with that?

I’m not sure why Ade said it was a Noodle bar? All the dishes I looked at were rice based. On the menu was various base dishes consisting of, as I said, rice with various spices and herbs and then you choose what meat you wanted such as the staple for most oriental food outlets, chicken. I’d already spied the dish with three chillis when Ade said “I might have this, the one with three chillies.” so Ade and I chose that although Ade didn’t have any meat because apparently, he doesn’t eat animals entrails. It didn’t take that long and the food to start arriving, Fab had a soup whichappeared to be attacking his nasal passages and throat “That’s strong” he exclaimed: “How many chillis is in that one?” I asked. Fab replied that it was one chilli and the blood drained from Ade’s and my face. “We’ve ordered a meal with three chillis. What the hell will it be like if you one chilli meal is killing you!” I replied. Fortunately, Katie came to our rescue and said that basically, Fab is a wuss when it comes to spicy food. LOL

My friend has a bar.

We had a great time in the noodle bar, Fab and I fell about at a joke that I really can’t go into, but I thought I was going to wet myself at one point. Who says Germans don’t have a sense of humour. Sadly Dan Lynch hadn’t made it to the food, which was probably lucky because the poor owner didn’t seem to have much cutlery probably from previous visits by Liverpudlians? The lack of utensils was that bad a few of us were reduced to using a couple of sticks to pick the food up! Ade’s friends, I still can’t remember their names? Said that a friend of theirs had a bar and that we should go there for a drink so off we all went. We grabbed a table suitable for our group, well it wasn’t hard, the place was empty. And settled down for a few drinks.

Dan arrived with Bradley Kuhn and another guy, again, I didn’t get his name? What a terrible person I am. I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account of the evening but it was really enjoyable and a great end to what had been a brilliant weekend. I actually left with Katie; I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t walk her to her hotel. I don’t know what I was thinking of, I just said “Oh, my hotel is in the opposite direction to yours.” and left her. It wasn’t until I got back to my room that I realised what I’d done. I still feel bad now! Sorry, Katie. 🙁

How much to Brussels Airport?

Having eaten the sumptuous breakfast of a boiled egg, two cakes and two coffees, I went back to my room and packed my case making sure the boxes of chocolates I was under instruction to bring back on pain of death were packed carefully and securely. No, I made a mistake, I didn’t know what time checkout was, and my flight wasn’t till around 4 pm so like a fool I checked out at 10 am. They let me put my bags in a cupboard, and I went for a fairly long walk around the town. By midday, I’d had enough and decided that I may as well wait at the Airport and that given I had to catch the train and no Red Hat staff was around to help me this time the extra time would come in handy. I dragged my bag across the cobbles and entered Brussels Central railway station. Trying to be brave I attempted to work the ticket machine. To be fair to myself, I got through the process up to the point of paying. Now I knew contactless wouldn’t work so inserted my card but the machine didn’t seem to want to offer me the option of keying in my pin? I tried a couple of times and gave up especially as I saw on the notice board that a train bound for the airport was due in ten minutes. I quickly spied the sales desk and joined the queue of only two people in front of me with a group of girls at one counter and a guy at the other. Why is it whenever you join a small queue the person in front is a complete and utter PITA? I have no idea what ‘the girls’ were doing, but to me, it looked like they were trying to find a destination that matched the meagre amount of money they had on them! The guy at the other window was just as bad; he seemed to think he was stood at the ‘Friendly chat’ counter as I watched the minute hand hurtle towards the appointed time of the IC train to the Netherlands. Finally, it was my turn, and as is always the case within 30 seconds I’d completed my transaction and was hurtling down to platform three ready push anyone over that got in my way.

This way to Check-In

Watching my journey on Google maps, I knew where to get off but to be honest they announce stations in English anyway. I made my way up the three flights of stairs and entered the airport. OMG! I’m glad I came early. The security clearance was jam-packed with hundreds of people, it felt like it took well over an hour to get through, interestingly I’d forgotten to take my belt off, and yet the alarms didn’t go off? I walked through Duty-Free and went to look at food. Stopping off at the STREET FOOD bar I saw “Flemish Stew” OMG! Meat! I’m having that! Oh no, I wasn’t. €28.00 for a portion of stew! Are you having a laugh? A cheeseburger was €17.00 I doubt I’d pay £10.00 for a burger back in the UK let alone seventeen Euros. I went to another food outlet and bought what was effectively a ham and cheese toastie and a coffee for about €10.00

I’d seen the sign saying “This way to the boarding gates” but figured the small seating area by the shops and cafes was more entertaining than sitting by a gate watching tarmac and the odd plane. By now it was around 2 pm and (Luckily) I thought: “Meh, maybe I’ll go and have a look at the gate?” I walked through what can be described as a hallway that bore left and low and beholds was a 37-mile concourse! Oh my Christ! Pete starts to walk smartish towards the first moving path escalator, he then walks smartish over that, and then the second one and the third one! Finally, I arrive at what is supposed to be my gate, but no! Now I have to go down the two-level ramp, walk through a couple of corridors, down some steps and through a set of doors and there is my gate. What the actual f….
The thing is, imagine if I’d stayed in what I thought was the lounge area for flights? Actually, thinking about it, Rome airport is the same. That’s one huge long terminal running the length of the runways.

We are now boarding, have your boarding pass ready.

Everyone surged towards the desk, everyone surged onto the bus taking us to the plane, everyone jostled to get on the plane. Here’s what I never understand about ticketed things, we all have a seat be it on a plane or a concert yet people still feel the need to be in front of the queue or first in line. There’s just no logic to it. I could understand if people were made to get in seat order “Those at the back of the plane first please, those at the front could you go to the back of the line.” this explains why it takes so long to get onto flights because some idiot at the front of the plane has rushed to get on first with their oversized bag masquerading as ‘carry on’ luggage. There was one thing that happened that made me laugh with regards hand luggage; I saw lots of people with those pull along cases who had draped an additional bag on top, cheeky swines! The airline staff were having none of it and walked along the line tagging their cases and telling them the cases would have to go in the hold. I so hope they were charged, but I doubt it.

Tea please.

And with that we were loaded and taxing down the runway. No sooner had we taken off and refreshments were offered, we’re on a 55-minute flight to Birmingham, but some people might be hungry I suppose? As the sterwardess came level with my seat I piped up “Could I have a cup of tea please?” the plane still climbing and after completing the length of the plane the stewardess returned to the galley and after a short while started to make her way back up the aisle despensing the orders. She handed me my cup of luke warm tap water and teabag and I proceeded to make my drink. Now I like to let my tea brew for a bit and so after a few minutes I removed the bag, poured in some milk, raised the cup to my lips and suddenly the captain announced “Prepare to land” LOL

Au revoir Belgium, it’s been emotional

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Brussels and at FOSDEM, will I go again? Who knows? But if I do go back at least, I know what I’m doing now.

Thanks for reading and a very special thanks to Ade Bradshaw and Dr Ilka Bradshaw, Fabien Schershel and Dr Katharina Sherschel and last but not least, the man with the big heart Dan Lynch for all the hugs. 🙂

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Touch my Burger.

So I went to FOSDEM part 4

Now that I’m an expert on the Belgium Tram system I dispensed with a Taxi and made my way to the Tram stop. I like the Tram especially when it nearly hit the silly woman driver, and we all shot forward out of our seats. Drama over we headed for the end of the line Legrand on the Avenue Louise. A short walk down the road and past the embassy of Uraguay and I was back at FOSDEM. To be honest, it was pretty much the same procedure as Saturday, into building H and pick up a program. The first talk on my list was Solid: Taking back the web through decentralization. I thought it was a pretty good presentation and I learned that “Permissionless Innovation” is evil. I also had, as far as I was concerned, a brilliant conversation with Fabien Scherschel on the ownership or personal data. The speaker asserted that even a “Like” on a website was your data although Fab disagreed. It might sound soppy, but I thoroughly enjoyed that chat with him and will place it among the other cherished memories of the FOSS community.

https://ui.assets-asda.com/g/v5/005/714/5010333005714_280_IDShot_3.jpegI didn’t fancy the next talk and so went for a bit of a wander. I did poke my head in a couple of talks in buildings U and H, but on the whole, I kinda wasted a couple of hours. During that time a visit to the food vans was called for. Avoiding the Pasta van like the plague, I headed towards the burger van: “What’s a Mexican burger?” I asked. The guy serving, totally oblivious to food hygiene standards, promptly picked up a meat thing with his bare hands that I had just seen him tweak his ear with and showed me a reconstituted meat product that looked exactly like those frozen pretend rib steaks you can buy. “It is this, very spicy,” he said in a heavy Belgian accent. Figuring that a dip in his fat fryer was likely to kill what was ever on his fingers, I agreed to pay the €5.00 (I think it was €5?). It wasn’t that bad tbh, pretty much as I expected. I did make a mistake though, in my defence, I didn’t know, but now I understand the trick. You go to the chip van first, buy some chips then get in the burger queue. If you’re lucky, you’ll still have a fair amount of chips left to go with your burger. TaDa!

bing? BING?

Back in the Janson building (J) it was time for Open Source at DuckDuckGo. Pretty much all of the talk was focused on how DuckDuckGo respects your privacy and doesn’t evaluate your searches so that next time you go on Facebook, there’s an advert for haemorrhoid cream.  It was a pretty good talk on the whole with lots of insights as to how browsers cache and process your data. Ade Bradshaw enjoyed it that much he went down to meet the two presenters and ask a few questions. It was only later when we were having a meal that he revealed that DuckDuckGo uses Bing as it’s backend search engine! Bwhahaha poor Ade was mortified, it was like someone had asked to snog him and promised “No tongues” and then promptly stuck their tongue in his mouth!

Next up was Crostini: A Linux Desktop on ChromeOS well what can I say? It struck me as yet another talk that was unrehearsed, or at the very least ‘bad luck’ was descending on the Janson building? The speakers seemed to have a lot of trouble getting the slides to work, and after a while, for me, it started to sound like the Teacher in Charlie Brown.

I did go to another talk in the AW building, but I can’t seem to find it on the booklet? But it was about identifying places and structures on Wikipedia so for example instead of talking about something by a bridge actually identifying and expanding upon the bridge. It was OK, the only thing that shocked me was at the end during the Q&A section someone said “How can people help?” the speaker seemed taken aback and didn’t really have a response. I did get in touch with them and suggested the obvious, email, GitHub, website blah blah blah. But I got the feeling they either felt it was their own little baby or was totally shocked anyone else would have an interest?

Bring me my Axe!

I didn’t stay for the closing of FOSDEM sadly on the way back Dan Lynch sent me a text asking where I was because he’d not seen me all day which actually made me kinda sad if only I had stayed for the end? Still, I knew I was seeing him later at the Noodle bar along with Fab, Ade, Ilka and Katherin and Ade’s friends whose names I forget, sorry.

On my way back I walked past the Axe bar again. Who’s bright idea was it to allow drunken punters to lob axes at wooden walls! I stood and watched through the window as a guy tried to stop his axe bouncing off the wood panel and embedding itself in either his foot or his skull. Amazingly I was to discover they even have these axe throwing bars in the UK. I’m truly surprised our Health & Saftey Executive doesn’t have a fit over these establishments.

Strangely, I enjoyed Sunday more than Saturday. For a while I couldn’t figure that out then I realised it was because on the Sunday I knew where I was going and what to do.  I did say we would hear about Fab and the chilis in this post, but I’ll hold that over for the next and final blog post of “So I went to FOSDEM”

 

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