Sunday 30 April 2006

Parachuting into Antwerp

Diamonds are for mugs
My most recent escape from the Netherlands in the light of the over-subscribed Queen's day celebrations had me hop over to Antwerp, in Belgium.
Antwerp is considered the diamond capital of the world in terms of the commercial and processing activity.
However, if you ever have the good fortune of having your relations in tow, they would like magpies be attracted to the glitter of fool's gold that adorns the shopping windows of the jewellery shops that make up the neighbourhood of Antwerp Central Station.
Besides, work is at hand converting the cul de sac Central Station into a conduit station so that visitor do not agonise about the possibility of getting lost when the train they have boarded goes in one way and reverses out in continuation of the same journey.
Could it be the stench of diamonds?
That work which has been going on for about 3 years has created a London moment in an area that could be 4 kilometres square as the digging has definitely ruptured the sewage systems that no hotel has the blessing of good breathable air to which the residents are already accustomed.
That London moment refers to the 19th Century parliamentary contract to clean up the Thames which had an unbearable stench that the lawmakers just could abide; it would however take more than a parliament in Antwerp to find the source of those odorifiers. More so, I am amazed that the good citizens of Antwerp have not yet had their fill of the situation to demand appropriate action.
Then, as I walked down a street, I came upon an advertisement in Flemish - Dutch spoken in the Belgians - this on translation would read in context.
"Your mind is like a parachute, it works better when open"
Too true, the function of a parachute is to harness the invisible but tangible properties of air to ensure a gradual and safe landing or to stop a high velocity vehicle.
The parachute of the mind
The use of parachutes requires knowledge, preparation, application, timing, deployment and poise as the exercise comes to a halt.
So, also, the mind, free of the ignorance that is coloured by generalisations, prejudice, hypocrisy, stubbornness, rumour, gossip and every perpetuating influence that keeps truth from having precedence, is open to assess information, objectively, meditatively, contemplatively and ruminatively to arrive at decisions, if necessary.
We have however been caught up in situations where the mind is not open, just as the parachute should open.
Jumping to conclusions
In an exchange between a parachute instructor and a pupil in a class as the airplane reached jumping height, this ensued.
Instructor: Class, I have taught you all you need to know about parachuting.
Pupil: Sir, what if the parachute does not open?
Instructor: Then, my friend, you will be jumping to a conclusion. [1]
Many a time we have jumped to conclusions, but thankfully, not as conclusively as a hapless and unlucky parachutist.
It concerns me though that the Iranian Nuclear Crisis already has a conclusion of regime change - Iraq, comes to mind. Its resolution could probably be more about how the Americans allow their parachute to open than how the Iranians decide whether or not to use a parachute.
[1] (Recalled from an article I read in the Reader's Digest years ago)

Saturday 29 April 2006

Queen's day - For pomp and bric-a-brac

A Queen and a day
Today marks what is officially known as the Queen’s birthday (Koninginnedag – Queen’s Day) in the  Netherlands.
In fact, it is not the birthday of the current Queen, who was born in the 31st of January 1938 but that of Queen Juliana her mother who abdicated the throne in 1980 and was both on the 30th of April 1909 but died just over 2 years ago.
Being a low country, in the northern hemisphere, it was considered that celebrating the Queen’s birthday should be left in April when the weather is more clement and the atmosphere is much more brighter in the spring.
Then you say, but it is Saturday, the 29th of April, well, we, the Dutch (a term of association and integrated endearment) are a rather peculiar people, or rather we elect the most interesting politicians and endure the machinations of slothful and impeding bureaucrats.
Nothing official but plenty personal
Basically, we have the least number of public holidays in Europe for starters, being a Christian country, Good Friday is not legally a public holiday, but we celebrate Ascension Day and Pentecost which are 40 and 50 days after Easter Sunday respectively.
The next Christian holiday is Christmas and Boxing Day, both known here as First Christmas and Second Christmas days, when booking events, always clearly state which Christmas day you are booking and not many know what Boxing Day is about.
Besides the Queen’s Day, we do not celebrate May Day considering we have had many workers’ revolts and socialist influences, we celebrate May the Fifth every 5 years which is in commemoration of the liberation of the .
The immovable weak end
The most peculiar aspect of our holidays is that all holidays that fall in the weekends, stay within the weekend, unlike other countries were holidays get moved to the next working day of the week.
However, this year, since the public holiday falls on a Sunday which is a day of rest (Christian), it has been moved forward to Saturday, the day before which presumably is another day of rest (Judaism). This is not to say there is anything remotely anti-Semitic about the decision, I would presume the Major of Amsterdam – Job Cohen would have acquiesced without rancour.
Pomp and bric-a-brac
So, unlike the where the Queen’s Birthday is celebrated with pomp and pageantry, in the , everyone is allowed to trade on the pavements without a permit. It could easily be a bric-a-brac-a-plenty day where discards are discarded for cash.
The Queen chooses a city to visit on that day whilst revellers, citizens, tourists, peasants and all, crowd into Amsterdam that it is impossible to do anything decent than get inebriated with Dutch lager or beer and embark on an irresponsible pub-crawl, hopefully picking up a bargain which in your sobriety would show how much of a dork you have been.
Escape from the mob
As for Amsterdammers, we just vacate the city, seeking out some village or camping site to escape the mob; one cannot afford to be in a crowd where a majority roam in wide-eyed exclamation at the sight of mundane and everyday things.
If there are any memories of the Queen’s day, it would be of things too sorry to tell mum anything about.
Meanwhile – Happy Birthday, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Many happy Returns.

Friday 28 April 2006

iDumbo is going iDeaf

iDesign for iTrendies
I was just beginning to settle down into the notion that one of the best things about the iPod might be because those things do not have iJumbo headphones.
In the pre-iPod days, there were many with their collections of CDs carted about for playback in their portable CD players who had headphones that make you think elephant ears were small.
Nothing wrong with that, however, when you got on the bus or train the drone of the vehicle engines could not drown out that frustrating monotonous note that you heard without being able to piece together the whole music.
It was like there was not enough to give you the persistence of hearing to help you concentrate on other things.
Subconsciously to annoying knowledgeable reaction you find that the noise is more a distraction because of the disorder, a complete nuisance at that.
The quest for the MP3 grail
Now, I belong to the pre-iPod generation when looking for a solution involved good research rather than following the latest fad or trend.
I had acquired motivational speaking material from those 7-ways ideas to faith affirmation talk that you get from Pentecostal circles.
The MP3 could be played back on my computer at home or work, but not on my CD player – so the research began for a player that could play back MP3 files – that was in 2001.
Not only did I want one that could playback but it should be able to read MP3 tags – these being labels that allow information input of track name, track number, album, artist, and genre and so on.
In the process I got the MP3BookHelper application which allows prodigious amounts of tagging and tagging formats including the renaming of files to the tag information.
Then I had to get an MP3 merger that allows fragments of related and consecutive MP3 material to be merged into one contiguous file.
TotalRecorder allowed me to record streaming audio to audio files with the MP3 format using the Lame converter.
Before long I had a library of MP3 files for which a CD based MP3 player would not suffice having the limit of 640 to 700 megabytes.
I needed a multi-gigabyte MP3 player and in the end, I got the Creative DAP Jukebox also known as the Creative Nomad, the more recent offering is NOMAD Jukebox Zen which can handle 20 or 60GB.
This had 6GB of space, could handle all audio file formats, could read all MP3 tags, manageable on both device and from computer.
There was a community of users who provided tools, accessories and ideas about how to get the best out of my jukebox, in fact, I though it was quite hip to see a female passenger with a jukebox only a few months after I got mine.
iJuggernaut of music
Before you knew it, out came the Apple juggernaut and the history of MP3 players was re-written.
So, everyone who seems to be carrying their music has a plastic-looking “ergonomic” device with a set of usually-white ear-plug headphones, it has become so common, it is common.
So, twice today, having thought the design of the headphones had the avoidance of social nuisance built in; I was completely wrong.
Having an iPod with iDesign headphones does not stop iDiots from keeping the volume at a reasonable level for their hearing.
The generation of young trendy people who have sown for the future a guarantee of being hard of hearing leading to deafness early in middle-age are many and sad, besides generally lacking in good social and community skills.
There is no telling iDumbo that iPods are really for personal entertainment; they should keep the volume down.

Thursday 27 April 2006

DeepThroat II exposed too early

Privilege acquired and opportunity squandered
The Presidency of the United States of America confers on the person occupying that office great privilege and opportunity.
Privilege in that the electioneering that canvasses a population of just about 300 million people confers a de facto leader of the free world title that appeals to the possible aspirations of the global populace of just over 6 billion people.
Opportunity comes from realising that that position of leadership can be used with such deftness, diplomacy, vision and wisdom to bring to fruition aspirations that affect humankind for the better even if those goals are pursuant of national interests.
There are only a handful of presidents that that used but privilege and opportunity in that context – Abraham Lincoln as he fought to the Union and the Abolition of Slavery; Franklin D. Roosevelt as he fought to defend America and joined the Allies against Nazism; Dwight Eisenhower as he battled Communism with the sense of experience from the World War II and Ronald Reagan as his time saw the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.
These presidents were not faultless in other policies and ideas, but history serves them well in terms what they did beyond the confines of fortress America.
Absolute Power can corrupt absolutely
On the other hand, this privilege and opportunity also allows for the exercise of executive power that sometimes appears to undermine the whole concept of transparency in democratic governance.
One such example was Watergate where the Presidency having been involved in illegal activities to undermine anti-war political opposition and the Democratic Party.
A member of the FBI known as DeepThroat fed the press with details of this reckless abuse of power and the lengths to which the Presidency went to conceal their illegal activities, some of which was to use state secrets and executive privilege to thwart efforts to get to the truth.
This lead to the resignation of President Nixon, however, we did not get to confirm who DeepThroat was till May 2005 that identity was kept secret despite all speculation for just about 30 years.
The dilemma of right or wrong
Obviously, that revelation lead different comments, some glad that service was done for democracy by exposing corruption in the Presidency and others who were concerned about the way in which the highest office in the land was undermined by what was seemingly unpatriotic.
These views can leave one in a quandary, but the issues are clear, if laws are being broken, they should be exposed and dealt with regardless of who is involved in breaking the law.
Basically, nobody should or must be above the law, it may well be that those in office take due consideration of the consequences of their actions as they contemplate the extra-judicial use of their privileges.
Also, whilst, there are clearly stated rules which may lead to dismissal if certain personnel in service of the nation make unauthorised contacts with the press; that matter of consequence also informs the fact that there are no objective and independent means of addressing abuse in the system.
Hence, personnel do have to break the rules to expose greater abuses of the law and executive power that the system would self-servingly conceal from scrutiny and the exercise of justice.
A scapegoat of the truth
It is then unfortunate that a long-serving member of the CIA was dismissed just six days before retirement for unauthorised contacts with the press; some recent leaks have involved revealing that the CIA had operated illegal prisons in Eastern Europe or that the Presidency had approved the surveillance of American citizens without allowing for clearly delineated due process of checks and oversight of the legislature and judiciary.
The Presidency railed about the fact that this was the most highly classified activity of national Security and that it was utterly unpatriotic to give up information that could undermine the War Against Terrorism and give terrorists the advantage that would have been lost to surprise.
That case is probably arguable that the Commander-in-Chief being the President does have untrammelled powers to protect the American People; however, it does not confer the right to ignore the need to subject all decisions to oversight even if the activity is of a highly-classified nature.
No way else to state the truth
In these matters, the only way to expose this abuse of executive office would have been to have the press hounds on the matter to scent out the facts and get the culprits.
Having subjected everyone of authority to a polygraph test; one cannot deign to imagine what questions were asked, but seeing what Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib offers; it would be remiss not to bring some of those interrogation techniques short of torture to bear on the hapless CIA staffers to nail their quarry.
Whistle-blowers are an endangered species as people in power create a climate of fear and tension that allows for illegal or even criminal activity to go unopposed and unpunished, searing the consciences of observers who know that things are wrong but they cannot do anything about it.
For services to democracy to curb the abuse of presidential power and the culture of secrecy that perpetuates the desire to engage in criminal activity under the guise of National Security - Mary O'Neil McCarthy, I salute you.

Wednesday 26 April 2006

What exactly is wrong with me?

The scramble on all fours
There was a time in West Africa as Europeans traverse the land exploring, charting and discovering land, people, rivers, resources and trade route that this area was know as the White Man’s Grave – the scourge of malaria and yellow fever decimated who dared visit.
However, the knowledge of the land did help in what eventually became known in history as the Scramble for the Partition of Africa. My vision of scramble makes those conquering tribes look more savage than the natives and the land they were scrambling for.
To paraphrase the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, it involves moving or climbing on all fours to struggle unceremoniously for a possession – Africa’s land, people and resources.
Dragons be there in the unknown
However, know the lay of the land is very useful, but that common knowledge is hardly available to the Chinese whose government considers topological maps classified and even edits out certain detail of maps ensuring they are too unreliable for motorists to consider using those directions for journeys to the hinterland.
Dragons be there, begins to make sense.
However, reading the travails of my friendly blogger in Nigeria on NaijaBlog as he tries to shake off the problems with malaria and other diagnosed issues, I do wonder about how health issues in Africa are properly addressed for the main populace.
Trivialising malaria
I do remember in when I lived in Nigeria, every fever was classified as malaria and we almost all self-medicated especially where there was no health insurance with a family doctor service attached.
Fortunately, in my early years, we always had the luxury of a family doctor and treatments that dealt with most ailments that afflicted us.
The treatment for malaria then involved the ingestion of a component of quinine normally as chloroquine sulphate and marketed as nivaquine. My father was always able to use that medication without problems; my mother however could not tolerate that drug.
At that time doctors were aware of the intolerance and contra-indications usually manifesting as itching palms and soles that it was sometimes administered intramuscularly with an antihistamine.
None of which worked for my mother despite the fact that she did tell the doctor who thought he knew better that the drug should be off limits – he eventually learnt as my mother bloated up in reaction to the drug – an emergency ensued and eventually she was fine.
Banking on the inefficient
Then, I never knew malaria was that much of a scourge as we all considered it to be, so it is sad that as we marked the Africa Malaria Day, the World Bank was found wanting in the way they publish results, offer financial assistance and provide effective drugs for the treatment of malaria.
This accusation appeared in the Lancet a very reputation science journal and is corroborated in the flimsy defence that the World bank gives as to the projected spends rather than what they have done.
I would hate to question the competence and vision of the president of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz (neo-con proponent of the Iraq War as US Deputy of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld) in ensuring that the goals of the World Bank are met effectively, efficiently, fully and accountably most especially in public health issues all around the world.
This topic is not one of those where governments have to meet the political, moral or economic pre-requisites of the American sense of good governance but one of urgency in preventing catastrophe in desperately affected areas.
Diagnosing the Brief Illness
The more serious issue pertains to a disease called Brief Illness because a majority of published obituaries in the Nigerian newspapers seems to have people who have succumbed to Brief Illness.
Maybe for reasons of circumspection the real causes of death cannot be published most especially if it is related to AIDS, there is another problem of proper diagnosis on the one hand and the other of useable medical histories.
From the tale of my NaijaBog friend, arriving at a proper diagnosis has been fraught with convention and opinion; the former on the assumption that he has malaria and the latter that it might be typhoid or something else.
It is a shame that there is no proper codification or analysis to pin this issue down, that he has therapeutic amelioration for malaria only to end up with another diagnosis related to some bacterial infection.
Many Nigerians do not have the benefit of a good diagnosis of their ailments for effective treatment to be administered for a guaranteed recovery for diseases and ailments that would not last days in better-equipped and knowledgeable settings.
You are now because of history
Where we have Nigerians of means who can avail themselves of international medical expertise; the lack of a medical history or poor knowledge of genetic issues leave doctors in the West having to deduce problems, which may not be common to their demographic.
For instance, cosmetic surgery works well for Caucasians, but those activities require a different approach with black skin for the fact that scarring is more obvious.
The lack of knowledge of pre-disposed, pre-existing, congenital or even tropical conditions when consulting Western medical personnel means paying for care will not result in an equivalent cure.
Personal miracles lacking verifiable proof
Beyond medicine we have the hold of herbal or traditional medicine where medicine men, witch doctors or even religious soothsayers offer all sorts of cures for every kind of ailment.
There is a possibility and many do get cured from their testimonies, but not many can provide medical proof of a pre-existing condition that has received a touch of the miraculous.
Part of the society is also entranced by superstition that it is possible for some to believe that a serious or chronic medical condition is as a result of some voodoo activity of enemies or detractors.
The witch doctors feed into this mentality milking the victims of all resources, comforting the hapless customer with fear in the hope that some remote coercion can lift the hex off the person leading to a cure.
It makes you wonder which century we are in.
Tackling the bottlenecks
The approach to medicine in Africa needs to change; we have not been able to grapple with healthcare enough to address health properly.
The governments and ministers who thwart every attempt to objectively address health issues with religious and ignorant pronouncements need to be brought to book first then condemned for trying to turn that challenge to their rotten opinions into a race or religious argument.
We cannot continue to sacrifice Africans to ideology and politics when there is much to be done to deal with issues that decimate some of our most productive talent and resources.

Monday 24 April 2006

The defence of the YesMen Generals

A time to go
The clamour for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld has not gone unnoticed, as retired generals have wrangled with each other taking on whether or not to defenestrate the embattled Secretary of Defense (American spelling).
To date, a 4-star General, two 3-star Generals and four 2-star generals have voiced their opinions about the fitness of Mr Rumsfeld for the duties that he has been assigned.
In the numbers game, of all retired generals, this could be insignificant, but when viewed in the context of the fact that six of those generals have reported up the chain in his tenure, you begin to wonder if it is the generals or the secretary that is the issue.
Yes, from the Generals
However, two other 4-star Generals have come forward to defend the tenure and abilities of Donald Rumsfeld; they being General Tommy Franks and General Richard Myers.
One could feel great sympathy for their stance since they represented the highest link in the chain between the forces and their political masters.
The risk of having both their reputations and legacies sullied is evident if tactics and modalities surrounding the execution of Iraqi war and peace are brought under the harsh light of unrelenting scrutiny.
However, if people in authority cannot speak up when they should on matters of expertise, principle, honesty, integrity, tactics and/or experience, they are bungling miscreants not worthy of giving counsel to anyone.
This was not helped by the fact that the Secretary of State in the person of Condolezza Rice did say there were tactical errors regarding the execution and process of the Iraqi war when she was in the UK powwowing with Jack Straw.
Donald can dismiss, disdain and disparage
Rumsfeld in his characteristic manner dismissed her comments with the flippant “I do not know what she is talking about”.
It goes without saying that Mr Rumsfeld’s arrogance sometimes beggars belief, the unparalleled hubris with which he singularly deprecates other views to the elevation of his opinions is dangerous at best and globally lethal at worst.
Since the Abu Ghraib episode, anybody of useful and commendable reputation has asked for Rumsfeld to step down, for the sake of loyalty, dignity and possible self-pride.
However, he has stuck to the position, clammed shut and irretrievable from the Pentagon whilst the White House engages in the Window-dressing of changing staff to raise the popularity of the president.
Sack him for the polls
I could almost promise an amazing 10 to 15 point surge in the president’s popularity if he left that office this afternoon. Changing the press secretary, budget director, chief of staff or some other brown-nosing functionary would do nothing to budge the downward spiral of squandered opportunities the president finds himself in.
Enter the Economist through a piece by Lexington and suddenly, I read a whole message that shows the Rumsfeld should long have been pensioned off to some home for bureaucratic bottlenecks and enemies of reasonable discourse.
Yes, from the generals, again
Here, we find that General Tommy Franks is considered a one-dimensional strategist and General Myers is a yes man– call me anything but never a yes man.
Then we hear from Dr. Henry Kissinger who would be so welcome for trial in any international court of justice commend Donald Rumsfeld as “the best practitioner of the art of bureaucratic infighting” he had ever seen.
It is then no wonder that he can disparage the Secretary of State, dismiss the opinions of the generals, deny that there is a problem anywhere whilst opportunistically linking his efficacy to the wishes of the president to keep him there.
Load bearing furniture
A contemporary assessment of the Bush Presidency is beginning to look like a case of moving around the furniture to keep a building from collapsing; furniture might bear up the building for a while, but the problem is structural and fundamental.
Some of the major players in the President’s team need to be sent packing of which Mr Rumsfeld is the chief liability and millstone around the president’s laden neck.
An opinion worthy of attention
The Economist says this better as the casualties of the tactical errors continue to rise in Iraq and in America; Mr Rumsfeld is worth the greater sacrifice for the nation and fatherland, regardless of the idea changing horses mid-race, it might be the right thing to do to win the race and turn this sordid matter around – once and for all.

Sunday 23 April 2006

Why Brussels doesn't work

Enduring the pain of travel
Whilst I am not a jet-setter in reality, I am probably the railway train equivalent of one.
This time, I did not have to run for the train and there were enough people in the first class area for me not to have to bother about safety, security, company and over-arching awareness requiring me to sit in the other class with a first class ticket.
Strangely, the last time I did that, a man got on my coach with his own music, he started to play the guitar; in the first class area, I could have told him to stop; here, I probably would have the guitar smashed over my head.
I listened as the “out-of-tune” guitar strummed The Caterwaul featuring Banshee and Hyena in D-minor – allegro.
The things we do to endure the pain of travel.
See Brussels and weep
This time, it was Brussels (forget the spelling, it has as many variants as a meaningless anagram where s, x and l may feature, all depending on your mother tongue).
It is the capital of Europe, they say, and it probably is a microcosm of what is so wrong about Europe and nothing is happening to remedy it.
It is the where you have heard so much about the great statue and having found the statue, you are utterly under-whelmed – great is used in the context of myth not size.
I saw Europe through the use of one of those dreaded self-service station lockers.
Lucky locks for working lockers
Basically, there are three sizes with different prices; the instructions are available in an electronic panel with buttons for one of four languages – Flemish (The Dutch spoken in Belgium), French, German and English.
You put your baggage, luggage, wares whatever in, close the door and the lock engages, the electronic panel/screen then shows you the price, put in your coins and you retrieve a bar-coded ticket.
When retrieving your luggage, just show the bar-coded ticket to the supermarket till scanner and the door automatically opens.
Now that is a process that works with the technology offered.
Here be dragons of Brussels
How do you give this system a Brussels perspective?
Look at the pricing in Euros – 2.10, 2.60 and 3.10, now that is easy if you were in South Korea you could pay with your mobile, or some other system would allow the use of a money card.
You need coins here, chinking coins. Some of you might wonder, why wasn’t the pricing rounded off, well, that might be the price a committee had arrived at to balance equality of access with a break-even possibility. Really?
Okay, let us break it down with numismatics; you are allowed to use Euro coins that offers the choice of 1 and 2 Euros, then Euro-cents which have 50, 20, 10, you cannot use 5, 2 or 1 Euro-cent(s).
Big deal! You say, I’ll just put in the money and get change – Oops, it wants the exact amount.
Then put any amount above the price you need to have your luggage safe, it spews out the extra money, then everything you put in and the door opens.
Why, am I having this problem, I do not have 10 Euro-cents on me and all those prices require you have 10 Euro-cents regardless of how rich you are.
I probably have a hundreds of Euros of coins below 50 Euro-cents in a drawer at home; you suddenly wished you had installed that device that could have teleported that 10 Euro-cent coin immediately.
Aha! The smart people who designed this system probably have a coin exchanger around like they do in Amsterdam and hopefully it dispenses all denominations. Zilch!
Switch to anger management, do not hit your head against the locker, you need it to think.
Service desk, closed!
Probably, I might perchance have that elusive coin in one of my million pockets, starting with the first, none, and finally, a stray coin which must have slipped into some cranny in my baggage materialises like a gold coin out of a fish mouth.
Perspiring, exhausted, irate but determined, the last coin goes in and my baggage is secure.
Exactly, the locker is a symptom
This is the sense of frustration that greets every European, many of us are Europhile, just as we need to use the lockers, but every aspect of daily life is complicated all the more by ideas that suit every metric but the people.
The prices on the lockers could easily have been rounded off; it is easier to ask someone to change money for you than to ask for spare change.
People are more likely to have two 50 Euro-cent pieces than five 10 Euro-cent pieces.
In many senses, it shows how Europe was designed with a customer in mind, but the customer probably does not have the resources to avail themselves of the potentials.
Beyond that, many decisions are about national self-interest rather than community values, it informs why the Common Agricultural Policy cannot be reformed, nimble East-European Countries are feared by Old Europe and big countries can flout the economic rules for maintaining the stability of the Euro.
Europe is not working
The “one size fits all rules” do not work for that fact that it is a seriously unequal partnership of nations with almost nothing in common, more reason why the constitution was rejected by two of the founding nations.
Viewing Europe through a the locker regime in Brussels Central Station is probably a bit frivolous, but it also happens to be the station where a kid was murdered in a crowded place for not giving up his MP3 player. It probably informs the solemn and numerous bouquets of flowers placed at the entrance to the concourse.
Even in crowds, safety is relative and security is uncertain if you are in Brussels – that is the Ode to Joy of the Europe we live in today.
Update - July 2008
The lockers at the Brussels Central Station now takes money rounded off to 50 cents or the Euro.