Visiting the capital

23.02.2013 14:10

I spent the last week in Brussels. The CREW project I'm involved in at IJS has organized a couple of events there as well as a plenary meeting, so the past few days have been quite exhausting, not to mention the week leading to it spent in worries and preparations.

I haven't been to Belgium in a few years and this was the first time I actually flew in. The prices for flights from Ljubljana have always been unreasonably high, with kind of an urban legend going on that it's an unofficial way of the government subsidizing our national air line by paying high prices for frequent flights of various government officials.

In any case, my flight landed late at night and the Brussels airport was more or less dark and deserted. Dark, except for big, brightly lit LED boards with advertisements. These were giving optimistic visions of a bright and sustainable future all along the long path you have to walk from the gate to the train station. And the first of these was telling us in large, friendly letters that European Parliament protects our rights. I can tell you that coming from our small, unfashionable airport to this scene reminded me of a kind of certain not-so-optimistic science fiction stories. The fact that my hotel reservation came with a legal disclaimer about assistance with authorities did not help the issue either.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

The first order of business in Brussels was a workshop on TV white-spaces for members of the European Commission. As you might know, there is a lot of discussion going on about how to re-use the frequencies that were freed by the transition to digital broadcasts. As a project that also works in that field we presented our view on that topic to people working on spectrum regulation.

The visit to the European Commission offices was actually quite different from what I expected. I was anticipating a dusty, gray place with laser-printed passive-aggressive notices hanging around the hallways that I usually associate with government buildings here. Instead, the part of the Beaulieu 33 I saw could probably compete with Hekovnik on the number of colorful and inspiring messages stuck to the walls. Not to mention various, kind of silly posters regarding network security (in the fashion of "you don't share your toothbrush, you shouldn't share passwords either"). The security procedures as well, while visible, were pretty unobtrusive and mostly involved displaying a kind of a self-destructing badge (it got crossed-out with "expired" all by itself after a day through some kind of a chemical process I guess).

Carolina Fortuna giving a tutorial on ProtoStack

The other public event we held were CREW training days at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. I gave a tutorial there on how to use Jožef Stefan Institute's cognitive radio testbed in Logatec and the hardware I developed for various experiments. I'm happy that I received some positive responses to that. At least for me it was a big confirmation that the tools what we are developing at the Institute are actually useful to this research community and that we are contributing in a positive way.

While trying to enter the university building on Thursday we found ourselves in front of a crowd of protesters (there was a general strike in Brussels that day), so perhaps not everyone agrees with that. I'm not quite sure though whether the university itself or people employed there were the target of their protest or we just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I would say the latter, but on the list of offices on that particular address I couldn't find any kind of institution that would be worth protesting against in my opinion. Anyway, I was not able to understand any of their complaints through loud fireworks while we were entering the building under the watch of the local riot control police.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life

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