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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.

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Memorable quote from Crocodile Dundee.

That’s not a punk. THAT’s a punk!

These are James Randi‘s occupations given on his Wikipedia page.

I stumbled upon his webpage reading up on dowsing, levitation and sungazing.

If you believe in dowsing, please have a look at this great discussion (with lots of references) here.

If you want to know how levitation works, have a look here and also look at the corresponding Wikipedia articles, such as this one or this one (which was used by David Blane).

Finally, if you believe in sungazing (if you even knew that it “existed”) please have a look at this page.

It has always bothered me that I can get certain things into my rational head, but I still can’t “fully understand” them as I can’t get them into my “heart”.

To start with the gloomiest example:  Of course, I “know” I’ll die. But just like 99.99% of mankind I can’t “step out of myself” to understand what this really means. I can’t understand it with my heart.

Less gloomy: The universe appears to be huge, mind-boggingly huge. Possibly finite but without edges (just as the surface of a balloon does not have any edges to an ant), but certainly very, very big. Though I’m happy to “compute” with “infinity” in a mathematical sense, I have no real idea what infinite space really “means” (or even a single light year).

Least gloomy: In fact, I don’t even know what it means to live on this very planet with 6.5 billion other human beings. But this I begin to understand ever so slightly better thanks to “Breathing Earth“.

The ecological aspect (trying to display CO2 emissions) of this site I still fail to understand, but the idea to have simple dots appear to represent a birth/death somewhere on this planet, I somehow find very accessible.

So if you’re into “strange” experiences, then just go to the site and let it “run” for a while and really try to “understand” that a yellow dot means that a new person in that country was just born and a brown dot means that a person in that country just died.

… but so true.

“9/11 TM“.

They should really add this statement to the news: “nine-eleven is a trademark registered by the US government.”

Just found here.

… you’ll find the map of Europe (and especially of Germany) for the CNN weather forecast somewhat surprising. 🙂

[Follow the link above and you’ll see what I mean …]

At least, if the election is for attorneys or judges.

I wasn’t aware of this but district attorneys in the US can actually be elected. Why is this a problem? Well, imagine you’re in Texas (… that’s where a lot of problems come from …) and now imagine you can choose between an attorney, who actually wants to give a fair trial to everybody and is willing to let innocent people run free and a law-and-order kind of guy, you makes sure your prisons are always filled to the roof. (And if there’s no more space left, there’s always the electric chair … or what is the standard execution method in Texas?)

People don’t like to see long debates. They want to see actions.

Surprisingly, Craig Watkins, a black democrat, somehow managed to become the district attorney in Dallas in 2006. And, unbelievable as it may sound, he’s become famous for getting people out of jail! Innocent people that is. Like Billy Smith, who served 19 years in prison for rape until a DNA analysis finally proved his innocence. [His whole case was a set-up. Even his own lawyer was in on it and did not even call the key witness of the defense.] Probably needless to say that Billy is also black.

Yesterday, there was a very interesting report on Craig Watkins in the “Weltspiegel” Journal. It probably, just like me, is too biased in favor of Watkins (… just Google for him and you’ll find lots of people against him). But, hey, if there are white republican Texans on the one side and a black democrat attorney and innocent black “criminals” on the other side then I’m always quick to jump to foregone conclusions.

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 …

Just before leaving Maastricht Sunday afternoon, I saw something I’d like to see more often:

Two men kissing on the lips in public. (One was getting on the same train and they were saying goodbye.)

 The only thing that bothered me about this is that, for a split second, I felt uncomfortable and I turned away just a fraction of a second earlier than I’d have done in the case of a kissing heterosexual couple.

 In a sense it makes me sad that I even noticed it at all. I’d very much like to live in a world where neither I nor anyone else would have noticed anything unusual at all. But, at least for myself, I feel that I’m over-sensitive to such issues and that I’d probably be just as tolerant but far more relaxed and natural if I didn’t even know that there was any issue to be sensitive about in the first place.

 (I guess most people reading this blog are somewhat like-minded anyways, but if you for any reason feel inclined to fall for the standard “But homosexuality is unnatural”-argument, you mind find the following link interesting and surprising: Homosexuality in animals)

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