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There’s currently an interesting exhibition on “Dieu et la pub” (god and advertisement) in the foyer of Lausanne’s town hall.

It shows both how god and religion is used in ads, but it also shows ads for (Christian) churches. I have to say “Chapeau!” to the people in the ads department of the Episcopal Church. They had a number of very clever posters trying to sell “their” religion as hip and sexy.

In fact, it is an interesting thought on its own, whether there should be more (or any?) commercials for religions on television and so on. I could very well imagine some “sinning flat rates”:

“Pray just once per month, and be as bad as you can be.”

“Choose our all inclusive religion package: Direct email contact to more than 300 officially recognized deities! Complete with our ‘All-you-can-pray’ offer!”

“Does your current religion provider require too much faith from you? Are your current god’s response times too slow? Then change your religion provider now!”

“Get blessed now, pray later.”

“Two saved souls for the price of one. [This offer is only valid until the arrival of the next prophet.]”

Hmm…, this gives me an idea. How much does it cost to broadcast a TV ad? Maybe I should start with a few radio ads. Given what other ads I have to listen to, it should not be too difficult to get past their quality control. Too bad that I just missed April Fool’s Day!

Let me know, if you have other good ideas for slogans. One could at least run a paper campaign on campus. One would just have to design an entertaining but not offensive website and put the URL on the posters.

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And it’s from yourself.

Last Tuesday it was April Fool’s Day. Being a geek and at all, I sent messages with fake “from” headers to two of my colleagues. In both cases the sender was the recipient.

As in once case I had misspelled the last name in the same as in an earlier message, the recipient could easily identify the source of this prank. So then I got a message “from” my boss saying how disappointed she was by me that I abused EPFL resources and how I should be a role model for the PhD students. 🙂

Fortunately, my boss does not use the official EPFL address but her gmail address to send messages, so I could also easily identify the message as a prank messages. Additionally, the full email header revealed the use of an usual smtp server hosted by xult.org.

Anyways, the take-home message is:

1. You should never trust the “from” header (or any header) in an email you receive.

2. You can easily send fake messages (e.g., from “president@whitehouse.gov”) to friends of yours using this website.

This is a picture of a barbershop window saying (among other things): open non-stop.
This is a note on the same window saying: closed for lunch break.

Recently, for a small user study, I went through hundreds of pictures on flickr. But this one beats them all!

If it is not photoshopped, then it shows the strangest (and possibly the cutest) creature on this planet (… and this includes tigons, platypi and tardigrades).

It appears to be an “alpacapillar”, i.e., a mix between an alpaca and a caterpillar. [Unfortunately, I can’t claim the credits for this hillarious play on word…]

(If you don’t know this phrase, then maybe you’re interested to read up on the cultural reference.)

If you’ve recently been to Germany, you will have noticed the rampaging hoards of youngsters/mobsters  terrorizing innocent, law-abiding, conservative voters. Glad that there are politicians such as Roland Koch who come to our rescue by proposing much harsher youth laws and boot camps.

Of course, not that the numbers indicate any recent rise in crime among youths, or not as if the judges are in favor of such measures, or not as if boot camps actually worked in the US, but, hey, who needs proof in an election campaign?

In my (limited) understanding, it is much more the supportive institutions such as this one, which actually help to put the trouble kids back onto the right track.

[Apologies that all the relevant links point to German pages, but currently there’s an incredibly stupid (in my opinion) debate going on concerning “Germany’s most urgent problem”: criminal youngsters. If you happen to live in Hessen, please, please don’t let Roland Koch get away with this cheap populist campaign.]

Tomorrow I’ll finally meet Jacqueline. I’ll try to make her do exactly what I want.  🙂

Jacqueline is the “daughter” of Sylvia and all three of us will participate in the La Marmite at the Course de l’Escalade.

“La Marmite” is just fun run over 3.4 km … in costume. We’ll all put on funny/silly cloths and have Jacqueline in our middle. Jacqueline, in case you haven’t realized yet, is a life-size puppet. So we’ll try to make it look as if there are 3 runners, although there are really only two. We’ll see how this goes.  🙂

… when he throws a rubber shoe at a referee. Yesterday, this day finally arrived for me.

I finally went to my first impro theater match. A local team competed (yes! Competed!) against a team from Southern France in the discipline of improvised acting.

For one reason or another (… though I’m not sure what that one reason or the other could be …) it is customary at such occasions to give rubber shoes to the audience to throw at their discretion … usually at the main referee (who’s there to make sure that the actors act out the theme and, e.g., actually use rhymes when the category demands rhymes).

I certainly enjoyed the whole experience but I must admit that I was in a bit too deep with respect to the language. If it had been in German or English, I surely would have laughed my a..rm of, but in French, well, c’était pas si drôle.

Still, the overall experience was certainly refreshing and I can recommend it even to not-even-close-to-native speakers.

We recently discussed differences between “good manners” in Switzerland and the rest of the world. Overall, nothing really too shocking. I guess most things are reasonably standardized within Europe.

What did surprise me was how little most people question the (non-)sense of these rituals.

Most people would jump to defend “good manners” by claiming that they are a sign of respect for the other person(s). True – but only to a certain point in my opinion. Of course, when somebody talks you should show some respect and try to listen (and the other person should show respect and not exploit your patience). Of course, you should greet others to acknowledge their presence … but already their the dilemma starts.

In (at least the French part of) Switzerland it is really customary to follow up the “salut”/”bon jour” by an almost obligatory “ça va?”/”comment allez-vous?” … to which you’re obviously obliged to reply by stating that you’re doing just fine, before you return the ball into the other person’s half by repeating this empty phrase. This even happens in text messages on mobile phones and on the radio when random listeners call in to a show. I don’t like this.

Of course in 90% of the cases the other person doesn’t really care, how you are, and he doesn’t need to. Still, if he enjoys these kind of things it’s his right to pose the question. But what really annoys me is that I then have do something dishonest and play along. I’m not sure where the sign of respect is in this whole thing. It seems more of an insult to me.

Even if it’s a friend it should not be the first thing to ask IMO. Personally, I need a bit of time to “warm up” and build up a certain connection before I feel comfortable to reply (and ask) honestly. It’s happened to me before on various occasions that friends about whose state of well-being I really care first reply to my ping-pong question by stating that they are fine, only to tell me 1 minute later that they are actually not feeling too well at the moment. In email communication it’s slightly different though. There this “warming up” phase is more difficult to achieve and obviously I can take all the time I want before replying to a friend. And here I also have more of a liberty to ignore it if I don’t feel like given an honest answer (which is never just a simple “Fine. Thank you.”).

Overall I guess good manners (just like other rituals) help people to make sense of the world by providing some guidelines and fixed patterns. They also help to reinforce the distinctions between social classes. But I don’t think that most of them help to create an atmosphere of warm, honest and relaxed inter-human communication.

Sometimes I still find the idea strange that anyone could “own” land, at least if it’s not used for food production and if it exceeds certain reasonable dimensions.

One of the strangest pieces of land owned by anyone is close to Lausanne. Have a look here for a picture. You can find these 3 m² of concrete somewhere around here. [I don’t remember exactly where as I found it when I went running on Saturday.]

I find it quite sad that somebody puts up a sign to keep people off this tiny pier. As you can see from the picture, there’s not really anything to vandalize, even if you wanted to. Of course, I also realize that he probably more or less “has to” put up a sign (and a fence) as he could be held responsible if somebody jumps off his pier and breaks a leg or even drowns.

Crazy world we live in …

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