Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap year

Click here to see today's Google doodle, presenting a bunny leaping into the final day of February 2016.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Come on ladies, let's knock him out!

There’s a delightful story in yesterday’s newspapers about a criminal who couldn’t prevent his holdup in a boutique in Rennes (Brittany) from getting totally screwed up… by a few courageous female shoppers.

Towards the end of the afternoon, a heavily-built bandit dropped in to the shop Ombre des Marques in the Boulevard de la Liberté, and yelled out that he wanted to take their drawer full of cash, otherwise he would shoot everybody. Since the staff refused to obey this threat, the fellow stepped behind the counter and grabbed a heavy drawer containing the day's earnings. Meanwhile, a dozen female customers observed the surprising events unfolding in front of their eyes. One of them decided spontaneously to intervene. She cried out to the others: "Come on ladies, let's knock him out!" So, they jumped upon the big fellow, knocking him to the floor, and simply sat on him. The silly fellow was so busy holding on to the drawer of money that he couldn't even reach for the alleged weapon hidden (?) in his pocket.

Police arrived rapidly on the scene, where they admired the weighty work performed by the ladies.

A detective explained: "When we entered the shop, we saw that the bandit was stretched out on the floor, held down by the weight of the women. They're exceptionally brave ladies, because they didn't know whether or not the fellow was really armed."

The detectives congratulated the women, and set off to the police station with the captured bandit.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Best beaches in the world

Click here to access a lengthy and well-illustrated article in Britain"s Guardian newspaper on the top 50 beaches in the world. The list includes four French sites.

French site — Pyla dune, an hour's drive from Bordeaux

This huge sand dune is 2,7 km long, over a hundred metres in height, and a few hundred metres in width. The dune is located on the shores of the Atlantic, while its landward side looks out over a vast forest. This ancient dune is in perpetual but gentle movement, of an imperceptible kind.

French site — Morgat, Crozon peninsula, Brittany

French site — Bora Bora, French Polynesia

In my native land, Australia, the list includes a single beach: neither Bondi, Yamba nor Byron Bay. That absence doesn't surprise me, as I've never been impressed by Aussie beaches. I've found them hugely overrated, often boring and ugly, never poetic... but possibly dangerous.

French president visits the agricultural show

Click here to see a one-minute video of the rowdy visit of president François Hollande to France's annual agricultural show in Paris.

A few fellows actually vandalized the government's agricultural stand.

The idiots durely didn't realize that acts of that senseless nature are unlikely to win them supporters. On the contrary...

Friday, February 26, 2016

Buying a beach in New Zealand

This splendid beach named Awaroa is located in the Abel Tasman national park at the upper tip of the south island of New Zealand. This remote paradise of 7 hectares, 10 km from the closest village and only accessible by boat or helicopter, was up for sale for a few million dollars.

Last Xmas day, a New Zealand pastor named Duane Major decided to tackle the challenge by a crowd-sourcing approach. He rapidly received 40,000 pledges, amounting to 2.3 million dollars. Even the New Zealand government participated in the project, with a gift of 350,000 dollars. The pledges were even accompanied by poems from children, praising the beauty of the site.

That's the same nation whose citizens were most upset when France was testing nuclear weapons in that part of the world... before blowing up a Green Peace vessel in Auckland. Retrospectively, I have the impression that French authorities didn't really understand the kind of citizens with whom they were dealing.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

David Cameron is truly a pommy a-hole

The more I see and hear David Cameron, the more I'm inclined to designate him by means of the nasty old-fashioned Aussie slang term "pommy". There's no doubt about it, Cameron is indeed a perfect pommy specimen.

He has just produced a pure specimen of prickish pommy behavior in an allusion to Jeremy Corbyn.
“I know what my mother would say. I think she’d look across the dispatch box and she’d say: ‘Put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem’.”

New agriculture in France

The French organization Agence Bio has just published data that indicates an impressive rise in organic farming (referred to in French as agriculture bio).

The figures show that the acreage devoted to organic farming has risen by 17 % in a year, reaching 220,000 hectares,. That still amounts to merely 4.9 % of agricultural territory in France.

The number of French farmers who've abolished pesticides and chemical fertilizers has risen by 8.5 %. They now amount to 28,725. There again, that's merely 10 % of farmers in France. The Agence Bio organization evaluates this agricultural group at around 69,000 full-time employees.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Exposure of the Great Barrier Reef to ocean acidification

An alarming article has just been published in Nature on the subject of threats of a new kind to the coral of the Great Barrier Reef.

Coral calcification has been declining for several decades. There are several possible causes, such as increasing temperatures, pollution, excessive fishing, development of destructive infrastructures, multiplication of invasive creatures, etc. But ocean acidification is now looked upon as a likely explanation. In the case of the Great Barrier Reef, it is clear that the damage is more rapid and worse than what scientific observers had originally envisaged.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Turning the ugly pages of French testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific

The president François Hollande has just been on a trip to French Polynesia, where he thanked local people for tolerating 30 years of nuclear testing. He spoke frankly and solemnly, in particular, of the impact of these activities on the environment and public health.

Click here for an extract of the president's speech. "Without French Polynesia, France would have no nuclear arms." Over a period of 30 years, France carried out 193 nuclear tests on the atolls of Mururoa and Fangataufa. These tests have given rise to many cancers in the archipelago. Ever since the end of the testing in 1996, the  citizens of Polynesia have been asking constantly for indemnities, without success. The president hopes that this situation will now evolve positively.

Click here for an excellent in-depth explanation of the infamous Rainbow Warrior attack in 1985 (one-hour interview in French of Jean-Luc Kister).

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Celebrating the centenary of the horrors of Verdun

Today, in France, the nation is celebrating the centenary of the most horrible butchery in European history: Verdun.

On the morning of 21 February 1916, a vast German offensive was set in action at a quarter past seven. For the next ten hours, the 1,291 German field guns fired more than a million shells, along a front of 20 kilometers. Within ten months of warfare, some 700,000 soldiers were slain: 379,000 French and 335,000 Germans.

Since early this morning, a sad movie clip has been reappearing whenever I click upon the main Verdun website. We see naked soldiers strutting robotically around the courtyard of an asylum. Clearly, they're brain-damaged. It's a terrible illustration of the ghastly psychiatric consequences of war.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Simon and Garfunkel “Sounds of silence”

Click here to listen to a 1966 presentation by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in the French city of Provins. Christine and I were living in Brussels at that moment, and our daughter Emmanuelle was born towards the end of that year.

Three ways of looking at living entities

A Faccebook user, David Hillis, made this interesting three-part chart:

  • The EGO section, inspired by the egoism of Homo sapiens, places a male human being at the summit, while more modest creatures (such as a human female) are located further down.
  • The ECO section, inspired by an ecological outlook on various kinds of living creatures, includes the above-mentioned pair of human beings, together with various specimens of living creatures and plants that exist in the vicinity of humans.
  • The EVO section, inspired by an evolutionary approach, is a slice of a tree trunk whose circular rings designate groups of living entities whose members are equally distant, timewise, from the start of life.

Umberto Eco has left us

Umberto Eco, born on 5 January 1932, was a distinguished Italian linguist, specializing in semiotics. and a successful novelist, author of The Name of the Rose (1980).  This first novel sold several million copies, was translated into over 40 languages, and gave rise to a movie in 1986 by the French director Jean-Jacques Annaud, with Sean Connery in the role of Brother Guillaume de Baskerville, an ex-inquisitor investigating the suspicious death of a monk in a monastery in Northern Italy. Click here to view the opening of this powerful movie. Personally, I look upon this work as a total success, compared with the total failure of the infamous book and movie by Dan Brown.

Friday, February 19, 2016

All's well that ends well

David Cameron's marathon in Brussels seems to have culminated in a happy ending, enabling him to return to London with sufficient benefits to convince his fellow citizens that the United Kingdom should remain a member of Europe.

But I hope that this is not merely another Antarctic penguins story...

Antipodean penguin-counters probably screwed up

You might have found my title a little hard to understand. Well, an Antipodean penguin-counter is simply an Australian or New Zealand technician whose job consists (among other activities) of counting penguins. Now, this job has intrigued me since I came upon news of the disappearance in Antarctica of no less than 150,000 Adélie penguins, which were probably annihilated by the arrival of a gigantic iceberg.

The thing that puzzled me most was that this sad news — which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 12 February 2016 — did not say whether observers in Antarctica had in fact found traces of countless dead penguins. I imagined therefore that their crushed bodies were hidden beneath piles of ice and snow.

Information on the alleged catastrophe had been supplied by researchers on climate change from the University of New South Wales and New Zealand’s West Coast Penguin Trust, who had published an article on 2 February in the review Antarctic Science, edited by Cambridge Journals Online. In fact, I don't subscribe to those publications. So, I failed to double-check the story.

I now learn that a New Zealand academic named Kerry-Jayne Wilson has stated: "I don't know who started to spread that information, but we never said that 150,000 penguins had died. The birds probably migrated to some other place, to await better weather." As you can see, the plot does not thicken. It actually thins... like melting blocks of ice.

Now, while we're looking forward to more precise information concerning the alleged catastrophe in Antarctica, let me tell you a great penguin story, which took place in Sydney back at the time I used to live there. My mate Jimmy (who told me this true story) was contacted by his friend Bob, who did delivery jobs for Taronga Park Zoo.

Bob: "Tomorrow afternoon, Jimmy, I'm supposed to drive down to the wharves to meet a ship from Antarctica, pick up a rare species of penguin and take it to the zoo. But I've got to get my van repaired, so I can't carry out this task. It's a well-paid job. Here, I'll give you all this money if you're prepared to replace me. All you've got to do is pick up the penguin at the wharves, and then take it to the zoo."

Everything worked out well. Jimmy picked up the rare penguin, as requested by his mate Bob. But, towards the end of the afternoon, they all met up unexpectedly in the middle of the city. And Bob was surprised to see the penguin walking down the street alongside Jimmy. Bob was furious.

Bob: "Jimmy, what the hell are you doing here with that penguin? I gave you cash, and told you to take the penguin to the zoo."

Jimmy: "Calm down, Bob. I took the penguin to the zoo, exactly as you asked me. We had a great time there, all afternoon. The penguin loves the zoo. He was thrilled above all by the monkeys and elephants. But we've still got a lot of money left over. So we decided to come back here to the city to see a movie."

BREAKING NEWS: Click here to access yet another article, published today in French, concerning the alleged plight of the Adélie penguins.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

To be in Europe, or not to be in Europe?

That is the question, concerning Britain's future relationship with Europe, to be handled in Brussels today and tomorrow.

Donald Cameron and the European president Jean-Claude Juncker

The United Kingdom is indeed a member of Europe today, and most Europeans hope sincerely that this will remain the case.

For the moment, Britain is not exactly a typical member of Europe. The UK doesn't use the euro currency, and it is not a signatory to the Schengen Agreement of 1985. Meanwhile, Britain is seeking further special concessions from the European members. And, within the next day or so, we'll probably know whether Britain's demands have been accepted or rejected at Brussels.

Prize-winning photo from an Australian

Warren Richardson is a freelance photojournalist currently working in Eastern Europe. Born in Australia in 1968, he is a self-taught photographer who undertakes long-term projects dealing with human and environmental issues, as well as assignments for newspapers, magazines and companies. He has lived in Asia, the USA and Europe, and during a period in the UK and US he worked in celebrity photography. While working on the Serbian-Hungarian border in 2015, he was one of a group of journalists covering the refugee crisis who were beaten by police. His next project will see him walk to the Arctic Circle, to continue his refugee stories, and then explore the effects of human-induced climate change on the world. He lives by the proverb: "We have not inherited the land from our fathers, we have borrowed it from our children."
Australian photographer Warren Richardson

Richardson's award-winning photo

Hope for a New Life

A man passes a baby through the fence at the Hungarian-Serbian border in Röszke, Hungary, 28 August 2015. Warren Richardson had been camping here for five days when a group of 200 refugees arrived. They started to attempt to cross the frontier, while making sure to avoid the police. The entire operation took several hours, and Richardson's prize-winning photo was taken at 3 o'clock in the night, without a flash, so as not to attract the police.

Odd words: those that most people don't know

I've often felt that certain ordinary words (either in English or in French) have a curious tendency to remain unknown by people who are not native speakers of the language in question. I shall refer to them simply as odd words. For example, the trivial English adjective "sole" (meaning "only", as in "the sole candidate") appears to be an odd word for many French people who've learnt English at school. I don't necessarily understand why such odd words come into existence.

In everyday French it's easy for me to discover odd words. In most cases, they're French words that I myself have taken ages to know and use. As in English, it's often hard to understand why such and such a word might fall into this category. Here (in my opinion, which might be misguided) is an example:

In the title, I would suspect that "mouise" is an odd word for most English-speaking readers who've learnt French at school. We see that Sarko is in such stuff. But what in fact is it? Well, basically, the journalist is using polite language (?) to say that Sarko, for the moment, is waddling in shit.

This "mouise" term means "gruel" or "porridge", and it probably comes from a Dutch noun akin to "muesli". In our English culture, we all recall that Oliver Twist dared to ask for a second serving of such muck.

I suddenly recall one of my favorite jokes. A slave driver informs his hungry men that he has some good news and some bad news: "The good news is that the chief allows you to survive by eating shit. The bad news is that there won't be enough shit for everybody."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hydrogen-powered drone

Click here to access an article on a fabulous hydrogen-powered drone.

Problems of Richard Dawkins (and me)

Click here to discover a letter from Richard Dawkins.

Having fallen down the stairs at Gamone last year, I can better understand the present health problems of Richard Dawkins (who did not fall down stairs), and I even have the physical possibility of sympathizing with him to a certain extent. I must nevertheless point out that, unlike Dawkins, I did not in fact suffer any kind of cerebral attack. But my fall damaged various elements (nerves) in the vicinity of my right eye and cheek, and I consider that I still haven't reached the end of a lengthy period (over seven months) of convalescence.

During my stay in Brittany, I realized (with great joy) that everything in my brain appeared to be perfectly intact when I discovered that I could build and update the following website on my Macintosh:

Funnily enough, since this was a state-of-the-art website of the HTML5 kind, it was quite impossible for me to inform anybody that I had indeed discovered proof that my software aptitudes were totally unharmed. Certain people, hearing me talk enthusiastically of my successful development of this Châtelus camping website, may have thought that I might in fact, on the contrary, be demonstrating nasty brain damage...

When did the stethoscope come into existence? And who was the inventor?

Nobody imagines a medical doctor, today,without a stethoscope.

I've just noticed that today happens to be the inventor's birthday. He was a Breton, named René Laennec, born in Quimper on 17 February 1781. Apparently he made his discovery of this device while watching children in Paris, who were playing with a long wooden beam. One child would simply scratch one end of the beam with the point of a nail, while another child would plac his ear against the other end of the beam, enabling him to hear the scratching sounds.

Laennec rolled up stiff paper to form a cylinder which could be held against the patient's chest, enabling the doctor to listen clearly to the patient's breathing and heart beats.

French singer Jain

Jain (real name Jeanne Galice) is an exceptional 24-year-old French singer who writes her own words and music. Her exotic style is partly due to the fact that she lived for a while in the Congo when her father moved there as a French military officer. As for her visual appearance, she decided upon the standard straight dark dress in order to avoid any conflicts with her music.

Reactions of Dawkins to his cerebral attack

Click here to access interesting remarks from Richard Dawkins concerning his recent cerebral attack. Then click the Play button.

Who's the American presidential candidate called Watson?

Click here to access a website that's designed to promote an American presidential candidate named Watson. You'll soon discover (if you don't know already) that this Watson candidate happens to be an AI: that's to say, an artificial intelligence. In other words, of a more down-to-earth nature, Watson is merely a complex piece of computer software, capable of tackling problems (answering questions, above all) that used to be handled exclusively by bright human beings.

This AI software became famous when it succeeded in defeating a human contestant to win America's favorite quiz show, Jeopardy.

Since then, there has been a steady US buzz of superlatives aimed at convincing the people of the world (well, let's say, the people of God's Own Country) that this software tool is... well, awesome.

Personally, I got to know IBM quite well, having started my professional career in programming with that company in Australia, in the years 1957 to 1961, before working with their programming teams in Paris and London, in 1962 and 1963. Since then, I've also become quite familiar with the field of artificial intelligence. Well, in my humble opinion, much of what we hear from IBM as far as AI is concerned can be brushed aside as pure marketing buzz, business-oriented hype.

Bush brother's curious tweet

The fellow known as Jeb Bush, brother of the ex-president George W Bush, is the governor of Florida. He's also a contender in the Republican primaries aimed at the forthcoming presidential election. Well, Jeb Bush has just offered the people of the nation a weird tweet:

Maybe it's time to face the facts, and call a spade a spade.
The symbol of America is indeed a personal firearm.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Is there anything truly “Antipodean” in this blog?

Well, yes: me, the author. According to a fuzzy dictionary website, an Antipodean is “a person who comes from Australia or New Zealand”. But there’s little point in examining that kind of definition any further, because it’s neither rigorous nor reassuring.

When I started this blog, on 9 December 2006, I had the impression that my main readers would probably be members of my family back in my native land. In fact, I’ve always had many readers in France and in the USA.

Later on, I widened slightly the sense of the Antipodes concept to encompass what might be termed an upside-down world. In Europe, throughout the 15th to the 19th centuries, people were fascinated by all kinds of variations on the theme of mondus inversus, in which things would happen in quite a different way to familiar events in our real world. Animals would get humans to work for them. Buffoons would reign, while kings would be their clowns. And, in the antipodean vision of exotic lands on the other side of the globe, people would walk on their hands, with their legs in the air.

If there are readers of my Antipodes blog who might still imagine that it deals with my native Australia, they're going to be more and more disappointed. Let me explain. Once upon a time, I had a fairly good idea of what was happening in my native land, because I could regularly look at newspapers through the Internet. These days, unfortunately, that is no longer the case. There are fewer and fewer Australian newspapers, the quality of those that remain has dropped frighteningly, and the few remaining newspapers have put padlocks on their information. Even the terribly boring newspaper from my birthplace (Grafton, NSW) is only accessible to paid subscribers. I'm convinced that this crazy situation is rapidly destroying the little that remains of Australia's written press.

Nicolas Sarkozy

After 11 hours of questioning, the assessors concluded that Nicolas Sarkozy should be brought to trial for illegal financing in 2012 in the context of the presidential election.

In French law, the notion of being "brought to trial" doesn't mean that the person in question is actually guilty. Consequently, this assessment does not imply that Sarkozy will be prevented from competing as a candidate in next year's presidential election. But it doesn't render his theoretical candidacy any easier. For the moment, there are at least three powerful candidates from Sarko's party in the forthcoming competition. The cartoonist Plantu imagines this situation as follows:

Candidates in the water: Fillon, Juppé and Copé.

Latest Tim Minchin song

Click here for some background information.

Old websites that I built in Flash

For many years, my favorite website development software was Macromedia Flash. Here is a list of various websites (in English, French or both) that I've developed in Flash:

Elements of my birthplace Grafton (Australia)

My brother Don Skyvington.

Labyrinths of Chartres and Lucca.

All the Earth is Mine [novel].

Quest for the Holy Grail [satire].

Lewis Carroll’s descent from the Skeffington family.

Maître Bruno, le premier chartreux.

Terres du Royans au Moyen Age.

Plans du Royans établis en 1780.


Lisa. Dialogue avec un être virtuel.
Divination à l’aide des cartes Tarot.

Mes contacts avec Tinos (Grèce).

A few years ago, in accordance with the politics of Apple's Steve Jobs, I decided to abandon Flash and replace it by the latest HTML approach. Today, I no longer have access to any Flash development software. Consequently, all the above-mentioned Flash websites are in a state of limbo, since I have no means of modifying any of their elements whatsoever. So, if I wished to modify one of these websites, I would first have to translate the code into HTML.

Alas, for the moment, I have better things to do with my time and energy. Therefore, it is highly likely that these old Flash websites will remain in their present state of limbo for quite some time... They provide excellent examples of what are called legacy websites.

Dangerous creatures in my native land

I was shocked yesterday by a banal story I came across in a local newspaper in Australia. The tragic news article involved this common reptile known simply as a Brown Snake.

A snake of this kind had bitten a six-year-old girl and, in spite of rapid medical attention, the child did not survive.

When growing up in rural Australia, I was perfectly aware of the dangers of various specimens of wild life such as snakes and spiders... not to mention more exotic beasts such as crocodiles and sharks. But I was never greatly stressed by such threats. Funnily enough, my everyday rural existence here in France has made me aware of the various kinds of behavior that would be unwise if Gamone were in fact located in my native land. Here, for example, when I catch sight of some kind of snake, I certainly don't think of killing it.

Once upon a time, in the land that would become Australia, there was a particularly dangerous beast known as the Marsupial Lion.

To put it bluntly, this animal was about as bad as a wild beast could possibly be. But I'm joking, of course. Maybe it was a charming companion... if only you didn't upset it, particularly when it was hungry or angry, or both.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Still more right-wing candidates to come

In the context of next year's presidential election in France, this is an updated presentation of right-wing candidates from the group associated with the ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy. You'll notice that Sarko himself is not yet present in the list.

From left to right: Alain JuppéFrançois FillonHervé MaritonFrédéric LefebvreJean-Frédéric PoissonNadine Morano and Jean-François Copé.
We're also awaiting the candidacies of Bruno Le Maire and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.

One of their left-wing opponents said that Sarko's crowd will soon be big enough to make up a football team. But can we be certain, when the new season starts next year, that the former captain will still be running around excitedly on the playing field?

Personally, I wouldn't bet on it. Not at all...

CIA chief: "Paris was a failure of intelligence"

Hopefully, French politicians and security folk will listen attentively to these words from CIA chief John Brennan, who used the CBS show "60 Minutes" to judge the recent terrorist affairs in Paris. He was interviewed by the CBS correspondent Scott Pelley.

John Brennan: Paris was a failure of intelligence. All but one of the eight terrorists were French citizens, trained by ISIS in Syria. They returned, unnoticed, and attacked six locations killing 130 people.

Scott Pelley: What did you learn from Paris?

John Brennan: That there is a lot that ISIL probably has underway that we don't have obviously full insight into. We knew the system was blinking red. We knew just in the days before that ISIL was trying to carry out something. But the individuals involved have been able to take advantage of the newly available means of communication that are--that are walled off, from law enforcement officials.

Scott Pelley: You're talking about encrypted Internet communications.

John Brennan: Yeah, I'm talking about the very sophisticated use of these technologies and communication systems.

Scott Pelley: After Paris you told your people what?

John Brennan: We gotta work harder. We have to work harder. We need to have the capabilities, the technical capabilities, the human sources. We need to be able to have advanced notice about this so that we can take this-- the steps to stop them. Believe me, intelligence security services have stopped numerous attacks-- operatives-- that have been moved from maybe the Iraq to Syria theater into Europe. They have been stopped and interdicted and arrested and detained and debriefed because of very, very good intelligence.

I hardly need to point out that John Brennan was not referring, in that last sentence, to French intelligence.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Poor-quality fuzzy drawing of a boat

This low-quality drawing is so amateurish that it looks like the fuzzy work of a child. So, I would understand you for thinking it's worthless.

Well, it is indeed an uninteresting work of art... but I was prepared to pardon its weaknesses when I learnt that this was an authentic sketch of the barque Caroline which had reached Rottnest Island near Perth (Australia) in 1829, conveying the Henty brothers James, Stephen and John, accompanied by a few Spanish merino sheep. Four years later, on 6 August 1833, my great-great-grandfather Charles Walker had been employed as a steward aboard that same ship when he arrived in Sydney.

As for Rottnest Island, that was a lovely playground for my son François and me when we used to go sailing on the Zigeuner in 1986. So, at a personal level, this fuzzy drawing is a precious document.

A few years ago, I was surprised to learn that an Australian lady whose maiden name was Sheridan Henty had purchased a house in the neighboring village of Pont-en-Royans. She was a descendant of the Henty pioneers who had reached Western Australia aboard the Caroline. Sheridan showed me a book on her Henty ancestors by Marney Bassett, and that's where I found the fuzzy drawing.

Learning how to splash around in the sea

Who are these people, splashing around like water babies? Are they holiday makers? Is this their initial contact with the gear they're wearing? Well, they're medical staff, attached to the French organization Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).

They've jumped into the cold water at Concarneau (Brittany) with the aim of learning, in a hands-on fashion, how to intervene in saving refugees who've been thrown into the sea. Within a week or so, at Marseille, they'll be getting aboard a German patrol boat called Aquarius and sailing to the Italian island of Lampedusa, to await the arrival of refugees fleeing from Libya.

Click here to visit the English-language website of this exemplary French body.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Phone spam

In France, we often receive phone messages from crooks who leave a fake phone number (which generally starts with 0899 or 0892) and ask us to phone back. This has been the case, for example, since a new law about compulsory smoke detectors came into existence.

Citizens in France can complain about this costly rubbish by calling

0 811 02 02 17

or by contacting the French government website at

Click here for a short article on this subject.

Darwin Day

Charles Darwin was born on 12 February 1809.

It's wonderful that this birthday of one of the greatest scientists falls just one day after one of humanity's greatest scientific discoveries.

What counts above all is belief

The day before yesterday, this nice-looking American cattle rancher named Cliven Bundy was arrested in Portland (Oregon). The Federal criminal charges against him were contained in a 32-page summary. It’s all a very American story, so I’ll let my readers use the Internet to look up the facts for themselves. In any case, I would imagine that Bundy will be protected and brought to salvation by a guardian angel of one kind or another, for he's a Mormon and he surely has God on one side… along with arms on the other.

Busy intellectual might calm down a little

I often have the feeling that our hero Richard Dawkins works too much. Why doesn't he set aside some of his multifarious preoccupations (for example, atheism) and simply calm down a little? Of course he surely knows personally what he's doing, and why.

This morning's news indicates that Dawkins suffered a mild stroke, last Saturday, leading to the cancelation of his planned trip to Australia and New Zealand. Readers might have noticed that Dawkins is already back on the Internet, suggesting that his stroke was fortunately quite minor.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Biggest declaration ever of big science

This afternoon (in France), we were told that the gravitational waves imagined long ago by Albert Einstein were indeed a reality.

I watched the press conference of representatives from the European team.

Birth of a black hole...

All the data concerning this gigantic discovery is amazingly complex and largely incomprehensible for ordinary people. We do however realize that our universe, an incredibly astounding entity, can be grasped by the minds of scientists. By the brains of godless human beings. And that alone is a thought that makes me proud to be an atheistic specimen of Homo sapiens.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

French military liquor

That document was made available through the Gallica website (owned and operated by the national library in France). The alcohol-inflamed declaration dates surely from the end of World War I. Here's my attempt at translation:

Strong liquor, victory liquor

Anti-alcoholic weepers, with fake philanthropy and make-believe pity, have nothing to do with the opinions of our new France, victorious and ready to allow her armies to suffer inevitable revenge from the defeated.

Pinard and Gnôle are military liquors, ideal for French armies facing conflicts that will emerge inevitably from the rigorous application of peace treaties.

If the money owed to us by our former enemy is not in fact paid, then we shall never be moving towards peace. Liquor flasks from the military mess must not be filled with water.

Something got screwed up at the end of the jewellery holdup

Something went seriously wrong with a jewellery holdup in Paris. Click here to watch the video. Instead of taking French leave with the sack of treasures they had just unearthed, the two bandits got locked up in the cylindrical glass doorway. And this little problem drove them as mad as a couple of cut snakes. (Aussie slang, hard to explain.)

Let's hope they took advantage of the comedy, for they're unlikely to have an opportunity of participating in this kind of fun for the next 20 years or so, from inside their prison.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Year of the Monkey

I feel reassured (God knows why) by the fact that Chinese astrologers consider that we're moving into the year of the Monkey. Better still (although I'm not sure what it means), the year of the Fire Monkey.