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Don’t cross the border from Luxembourg to Belgium if you have a suitcase of money in your car. That’s the kind of advice a few well-off Germans would have appreciated a few months earlier.

A gang of criminals, pretending to be policemen, made at least €500k during the last years by stopping business class cars with German number plates and somewhat elderly drivers, returning from Luxembourg via Belgium to Germany.

The cars were then searched for unusual amounts of money with the apparent claim that the policemen had to verify whether the money was not forged. Apparently, it is not that “unusual” for people to go to Luxembourg, to withdraw around €10-20k in cash and then to come back to Germany.

The police believes that not all the poor victims filed charges later on, as some might be afraid of being sued for tax fraud. After all: why would you go to Luxembourg to withdraw considerable amounts of money in cash?

I have to admit that I kind of admire the style of these criminals. Nobody got hurt or was even threatened.  Anyways, you can read the full story (in German) here.

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If this was an email, it would be look something like this:

Subject: Fwd: Fwd: WG: Fwd: Transparent Computer Screens

Message: Dude/Dudess, check out this amazing slideshow on Flickr!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/w00kie/sets/180637/show/

—————

I don’t like sending mass emails with fun stuff (though I don’t mind receiving), but I have to admit the link above would be worth it.

Handball is, after soccer/football, probably the most popular team sport in Germany (and, in case you happen to care, Germany is currently the “reigning” world champion in men’s handball, with the women coming 3rd in the recent world championship).

I’m not a big fan of the sport, but at least I knew that Germany had a professional handball league called “Handball Bundesliga“. Now it doesn’t exist anymore.

Instead, “we” now have a TOYOTA Handball-Bundesliga.

I wonder if the NBA will also be replaced by the DAIMLER-CHRYSLER-National-Basketball-Association. Or how about ministries? “The following statement by the secretary of state is brought to you by Lockheed Martin. Secretary of state – we never forget who we’re working for.”

PS: Just to “explain” the sarcasm above (in case you’re not familiar with all the evil companies on the planet): Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest defense contractor and THEIR slogan is “We never forget who we’re working for.”

… a small grocery store has a choice of three different cards for the 65-th wedding anniversary (called “Star Sapphire Anniversary”).

Two weeks ago, Switzerland experienced a political earthquake whose tremors will be felt for the next years.

To understand and “appreciate” the whole situation you need to know (i) that there’s no president or chancellor, who has any significant power, (ii) that Switzerland has been governed by a coalition of the four major parties for the last 50 years, without any significant party in the opposition (… except for maybe the Green Party), and (iii) the government, consisting of seven ministers, is elected by the parliament and the distribution of the seven seats among the coalition parties is agreed before the elections and most of the time the seven “old” members are identical to the seven “new” members.

Now imagine this:

A populist party (SVP), which gets its votes on the right end of the political spectrum, becomes the strongest party in the Swiss parliament for the second time in a row. So far no surprise. This success was mostly due to its campaign against foreigners (with posters showing three white sheep kicking a black sheep out of Switzerland), spearheaded by its leader Christoph Blocher. So far still no surprise.

Now what really was surprising is the following: only one of the seven “old” ministers was not re-elected – Christoph Blocher, the head of the biggest Swiss party. Instead one of his fellow party members, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, was elected, without even officially running for the post and while she wasn’t even there for the election.

Although he was quite popular among the voters, he did not make many friends outside his own party during the last four years, as he often publicly criticized his fellow colleagues in the government, which is against all rules of Swiss collegiality.

Of course, I feel a certain personal satisfaction for his defeat, but he might be able to cash in on his role a martyr now and gain even more votes next year. At least his party now officially entered into the opposition … although they still have two out of seven members in the government!?!

I realized in horror yesterday that the Cookie Monster on Sesame Street is no more. Well, he still exists but he’s no cookie maniac anymore. (At least not in the US.) It already died a few years ago but I simply didn’t know.

Apparently, some sick bureaucrats without any childhood thought that a monster who constantly eats cookies is not the kind of role model that modern kids should grow up with. A similar fate seems to have struck Oscar the Grouch, a maniacally depressed monster who lives in a trashcan. Again, not exactly the usual role model in time of political correctness.

I don’t know the current status on German TV. Can anybody tell me?

I just found out that our dog doesn’t want to get up anymore. He is already quite old (about 16 years) but I hope that he’ll manage to pull through so that I’ll see him again in November.

I still remember when we got him. How I trusted him from the beginning. How he was “my” dog at the beginning, until I went to England. How he would sleep in my room. How any line between man and animal was washed away in a playful fight.

Zottel is a great dog. He broke some things. He stole a lot of food from tables. He sometimes farted horribly. He sometimes barked a lot when there were visitors. He hardly ever followed orders. But he never hurt anybody.  He enjoyed being patted. He was always friendly and playful. He gave a lot of comfort to my mom. Despite everything, he always gave so much joy to the people around him. He was loved, he is loved. And I think he knows this as he lies on a blanket under a linden tree in our garden.

20 million people have been left homeless by this year’s monsoon in South East Asia. I simply cannot imagine disasters of this scale. Somehow my brain is lacking enough related sensory experience to construct a “feeling” or a true understanding of what this means.

Of course, “rationally” I understand the meaning and could give definitions, but I still feel inapt to grasp the whole image. I also know that I will cease to exist, probably in a few decades, but this concept is also far more abstract to me than the fact that 11 is a prime number.

I guess, evolutionary speaking it could be a feature (rather than a bug). Genes which would allow you to truly understand things such as the vastness of space, your own impermanence, or the suffering in the world, would probably drive you “mad”.

There’s no domain where euphemisms are in more wide-spread use than for job names.

Window cleaners don’t exist anymore (http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=529732007). But suddenly a vision clearance engineer might be dangling with a mob in front of your window. Even the poor toll booth collectors must have all been hit by a comet or so, because now on highways you are served by coin facilitation engineers. And you won’t find any ads for student jobs working as supermarket shelf stackers, because they are looking for stock replenishment advisers … who are just as poorly paid.

Here are a few more examples:
Education Center Nourishment Production Assistant – Dinner lady
Domestic Engineer – Housewife
Waste Removal Engineer – Garbageman/Binman (… I can never quite make up my mind, whether to stick to British English or, as suggested by the spell checker in Google/Wordpress, to American English/spelling).

If your job title does not have “manager”, “architect”, “officer” or at least “engineer” in the title, then you better go and look for alternatives.

Now don’t get me wrong. I generally think this is a good thing. Certainly these things sound much nicer and probably feel better to the employees, especially if it comes with an ever so slight increase in respect.

Still, just for fun, I’d like to advocate a bit of dysphemism. (What? You don’t know what dysphemism is? Well, I didn’t either. But http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dysphemism told me.) Why not give very plain and dull or negative sounding names to perfectly respected and even admired jobs?

Here are a few suggestions. Please feel free to comment on and improve them.

Astronaut – tin can traveler
Surgeon – organ plumber
Politician – people’s servant
Mathematics professor – computer
Firefighter – oxidation inhibitor (… not very negative, but somehow less heroic)

I wish you a not so horrible period without daylight.

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