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I love Europe.

If you cross the border from Germany to the Netherlands on the E30 you’ll know why. A few kilometers before you leave Germany, there are a signs informing you that you’re about to enter the Netherlands. Now if you’re not from Europe (or if you’re from the UK or Switzerland … well, as I wrote, if you’re not from Europe) then you might expect that one has to stop to have his passport inspected. Admittedly, one has to slow down from 120km/h to 100kh/h for about a kilometer, but that’s it.
I had crossed this border several times before in my life, but I still had a tear in my eyes. It’s just such an overwhelming feeling to cross a border without actually noticing it. I’ll also never forget my time in Saarbrücken, when I could simply go jogging into France along the Saar river and I never quite new, where the actual border was.  No sign whatsoever. (The signs you see on the Google map are only for the boat traffic on the river.) The only indication was a restaurant which had its menu posted in French, and so it’s a fairly safe guess that one has left Germany. I wish the islanders (British and Irish) could share the same experience.

Ah, that really made my day.

While I was running up la vallée de la jeunesse today, I was passing a group of frisbee players on inline skates. I was really thinking/hoping: “Please accidentally through it so that I can catch it.”

And this is exactly what happened! One of the guys through it to hard downhill and I could nicely jump and catch it. 🙂

Unfortunately, I slightly screwed up the “thumber” (forehand throw) afterwards as the disc was far too light for my taste (I guess about 135gr, as opposed to the proper 175gr Ultimate Frisbee weight).

I always enjoy exceptions to the rules of common wisdom or traditional thinking.

Last weekend I attended a wedding party. So far nothing unusual (though for me this was only the second wedding within the last 16 years). I only knew the bride and nobody else. So far still nothing too unusual. The thing which did not agree with common wisdom and traditions at all was that I had only met the bride once (!) in my life for about four hours two years ago.

I feel extremely honored that I was still invited, even though this was not an enormously huge celebration (< 60 people). I’m also extremely happy that things like this can happen in life, that some people you simply find inspiring and stay in touch.

“Les salons de Modeste, c’est une spécialité de la ville de Fribourg. Une fois par an, entre 20 et 30 personnes ouvrent leur salon à ceux qui veulent bien leur rendre visite. Le principe: sur la base d’un choix totalement aléatoire, les personnes qui ont envie de participer à la Saint-Modeste se rendent dans l’un ou l’autre des salons ouverts à cette occasion pour une rencontre conviviale, sans autre but que la rencontre elle-même.”

Last night there was the “salons de modeste” in Fribourg. The selection criterion this year was “passions”. That is, you had to think of a passion, say “dance”, and then of it’s first letter, “d”. The local newspaper would then tell you which host would be “responsible” for you. Your host, which you’ve probably never met before in your whole life, would then offer free food and drink to all people who share passions starting with the same letter.

I went with a friend who’s keen on tennis and as I recently discovered tango, we decided to go for the host for the letter “t”, or actually for the prefix range “su-to”. A funny experience. You knock at somebody‘s (or rather Johanes’) door and that person is then “obliged” (… of course, these are volunteers) to offer you food and drink for the evening. So we got to enjoy homemade sushi (which actually tasted better than any sushi I’ve ever had in a Restaurant, including Japan) with 6 other people. What an absolutely brilliant “institution”! By the way, the place itself was also interesting and very original. It was actually a hobby garage with a somewhat improvised kitchen and “salon” on the second floor. Though this “floor” was more of a balcony, surrounded by a balustrade and with clear few on the two cars on the lower level. There was a clear smell of motor oil when you entered, but I stopped noticing it after about 10 seconds and it certainly did not spoil the taste of the meal.

However, the organizers made one mistake which might have unpleasant consequences for one of the hosts.

A 27-yr old girl living in a shared appartment also volunteered to be a host and she was responsible for “ru-st” (I think). As an example word from this range the organizers put “sexe” (the French spelling of “sex”). What’s worse, the address of the location included a remark “you have to go around the building” (so it sounded a bit “dodgy“) and she also gave her telephone number as the place is apparently not easy to find.

Now, obviously, the girl did not name “sex” as her passion to the organizers. And “sexe” was just one example word from the prefix range. But I really don’t want to know how many “prank calls” she got or what kind of people she might have accidentally attracted.

It is really funny to see how many people think that my French is better than their English, although it really clearly and objectively, without any modesty is not.

French has the great property that it allows you to pretend that you actually speak it quite well if (i) you have a good pronunciation and (ii) you know about 50 to 100 colloquial expressions and sounds.

E.g., never pronounce the “oui” for yes as you learned it in school. The high-pitched “ee” sounds at the end is to be avoided at all costs and must be replaced by a sound similar to the German “ä”, as in the English “rabbit”. Also make sure to use “truc” (meaning “thing” in colloquial French) for every noun which you don’t know. And don’t even think about constructing a phrase such as “I’m not sure. Let me think about it.”. Just say “J’ai pas.”.

With a few simple rules like that it’s fairly easy to generate sequences of acoustic patterns which sound like authentic French.

I really, really dislike getting up without at least 7.5 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, I “had to” do it this Monday morning to witness the Morgestraich in Basel.

At exactly 4h00 in the morning, all the city lights go out and bands of piccolo and drums players start parading through the city with lanterns. To get an idea of what this “looks and sounds like”, watch the first 2 minutes of this video. Of course, the effect is much stronger when you’re actually there.

What I really enjoyed was the fact that the parade did not follow any simple, non-intersecting path as all the other parades I’ve seen in my life so far. They would “randomly” turn left or right at some point and walk straight through the crowd. Of course, all in a carefully choreographed and planned manner. [This is Switzerland we are talking about here.]

During the day (and after more sleep) there were more “standard” parades of also more typical marching bands. Still, their paths often intersected which made the whole thing more interesting.

I also have to revise my image of the peace-loving Swiss: there was a confetti war going on all afternoon!

An important thing to know (which I fortunately did know): you better buy a sponsor’s badge before the event if you don’t want to get “stuffed”, i.e., if you don’t want your orifices to be filled with uni-colored paper shavings. A similar thing would happen to people who come up too close to a float and try to get some of the candy that the waggis on the floats a offering.

You can see some pictures I took during the event here.

I have to admit that the whole event would have probably been only half as enjoyable, had it not been for our perfect hospitality club host Claudia. (The person in front is the other culinary expert.)

I also learned a couple of new Swiss-German words:

Schnitzelbank. (If you can’t read German, see the second meaning in the English Wikipedia.)



Today I went to CopyQuick (which Sarunas kindly told me about) to ask them to print “Le petit prince” on a t-shirt. Apparently, judging from the confused look on the clerk’s face, this is not a standard thing to do.

He couldn’t tell me any exact price but suggested that (i) I prepare the copies in advance (by grouping pages etc.) and that (ii) I select a subset of the about 90 A6 pages. (i) would be no problem (… except that I’ll have to go back to the shop for the color copies of the drawings) but (ii) ….well, selecting a subset would be difficult. After all, it’s really about having the book, and not just a few nice illustrations from it. I estimated that by shrinking the size quite a bit and by using the sleeves etc. (which I wanted to do anyways) I could fit about 40-50 pages on a single shirt.

A clever friend of mine, whose space-time coordinates coincidentally agreed with mine this afternoon, then had the original idea of also printing something on the inside of the shirt. Then I could wear it inside-out to read the second half. I thought about this for a while, but currently I favor her second proposal: just print it on two shirts. Then I could wear “part 1” on Monday and “part 2” on Tuesday (… yes, of the same week, in case you’re wondering about the hygiene of a computer scientist).

Now I just have to play a bit with how to actually arrange the pages.

I also think that I’m actually not infringing any copyright laws, as Antoine de Saint Exupéry died more than 50 years ago. So, if I remembered the “critical threshold” correctly, the Disney characters will also become part of the public domain in 8 years, as it will then be 50 years that their inventor Walt Disney went to see his maker.

Fish Love was a fantastic play! It was really incredibly well done, extraordinarily creative and just very, very funny (but not in the slapstick kind of way). If you’re in or around Lausanne, I most highly recommend that you go and see it in the theater at Vidy. A bit of a shame that only one person gave standing ovation though 🙂

In fact, it inspired me to do something which I know I will deeply enjoy. But this will be a separate post.  🙂

Having a bad day? Then maybe this song will cheer your up:

Ren & Stimpy’s “Happy, happy, joy, joy”

What? Still wearing frown? Well, nothing the Happy Tree Friends couldn’t cure. Just search on youtube for any of their 3 minute cartoons.

Of course, some argue that it’s best not to worry about being happy, as the less you try consciously, the more you might succeed. Philip Hamerton writes in his “The Quest of Happiness”:

“The doubt has often been expressed whether it is of any use to concern ourselves about happiness at all. The less we think about it, the less we consciously aim at it, the more probable it is, according to this view, that we shall attain enough of it for our needs. If this is really the case, happiness must be strangely different from all other objects of human desire. Suppose that the object in view is wealth, or learning, or reputation – does it seem probable, in the nature of things, that a fortune will be made the most surely by the man who never calculates, that scholarship will be attained by an idler who never reads, or that fame will be the reward of the infertile and unproductive intellect? The truth is that those who affirm the uselessness of the pursuit of happiness are generally engaged in following it themselves, but indirectly; and I may be permitted to observe that the directness or indirectness of the road that is taken does not alter the nature or the end.”

Anyways, if you can read German then a sure way to be happy is to look at these images (which are Uli Stein cartoons, not to be confused with Uli Stein).


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