diumenge, 31 de març de 2019

How do you make a tissue dance? You put a little boogie in it.

In the Q&A Interview made by The Guardian to Sheryl Crow, the last question is:

Tell us a joke
How do you make a tissue dance?
You put a little boogie in it.

It's a bit difficult to understand it for a foreigner. I'll try to explain it.

A tissue dance, according with https://activeforlife.com/tissue-dance/ works like this:

Every child places a tissue on his or her head. As the music starts, the children begin dancing. Parents should encourage as much movement as possible.

The goal is for the children to keep the tissues on their heads as they dance. If it falls off, the child can grab it and place it back on his or her head, but if it touches the ground, the child is out.

The last child left dancing wins!

But, what about the second part of the joke? Its a pun.

Boogie: / buːgi / (verb): When you boogie, you dance to fast pop music.
Bogey: / boʊgi / (noun): A bogey is a piece of dried mucus that comes from inside your nose.

So, if you put a bogey under the tissue is very easy for you to win in a tissue dance.


diumenge, 24 de març de 2019

Hard act to follow or tough act to follow

be a hard/tough act to follow (informal)​
to be so good that it is not likely that anyone or anything that comes after will be as good:
His presidency was very successful - it'll be a hard act to follow.
Cambridge Dictionary

The Guardian:
Apple's crown is slipping – will news and TV shows be its next big thing?

“It’s showtime,” reads the invite for Apple’s next big launch. It sure is. On Monday at the 1,000-seat Steve Jobs Theatre in Apple’s $5bn space-age campus in Cupertino, California, the company’s chief executive, Tim Cook, will unveil his big plans to become a modern media mogul.

Details of the plans are sketchy but it appears Apple will be launching a new platform for news publishers with paywalls – the Wall Street Journal is in, New York Times and Washington Post are not – and announcing a series of new TV deals and original programmes that will put it head to head with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and their rivals in streaming media as they fight it out to be the new kings of Hollywood.

Cook, who took over running Apple from Jobs in 2011, has a lot riding on the event. Jobs was always going to be a tough act to follow and while Cook may lack his charisma he has delivered on performance.

When Jobs died in October 2011, Apple was valued at about $300bn. It is now worth three times that. Cook – an operational whiz – has turned Apple into a cash-generating juggernaut that is the most valuable brand in the world. (...)

Joseph and Mary in Bed

St Matthew in the City, a progressive Anglican church in Auckland, New Zealand, has hit the news with their Christmas billboard. Joseph and Mary are shown in bed together, with Mary clearly not paying attention to Joseph. “Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow”. The sign has offended conservative Christians, one of whom took to the billboard with a can of paint only hours after the billboard was erected.

Glynn Cardy, priest at St Matthew in the City, explains some of the thinking behind the billboard.

“The Christmas billboard outside St Matthew-in-the-City lampoons literalism and invites people to think again about what a miracle is. Is the miracle a male God sending forth his divine sperm, or is the miracle that God is and always has been among the poor?”

“Progressive Christianity believes the Christmas stories are fictitious accounts designed to introduce the radical nature of the adult Jesus. They contrast the Lord and Saviour Caesar with the anomaly of a new ‘lord’ and ‘saviour’ born illegitimate in a squalid barn. At Bethlehem low-life shepherds and heathen travelers are welcome while the powerful and the priests aren’t. The stories introduce the topsy-turvy way of God, where the outsiders are invited in and the insiders ushered out.”

I couldn't avoid to have a look at the St Matthew in the City bilboard collection.

dissabte, 23 de març de 2019

Majdal Shams

Majdal Shams ( مجدل شمس.‎;   /    מַגְ'דַל שַׁמְס )

This week, we were be able read this news:

Trump provokes global anger by recognising Israel's claim to Golan Heights
Russia, Iran and Turkey condemn US president while Syria vows to recapture territory lost in 1967 war

Majdal Shams is a Druze town in the north of the Golan Heights. In fact it’s the most populated city in this occupied area.

I found a picture of a statue in Majdal Shams. It pictures a moustachioed man with Arabic clothes in fight attitude. Other figures in the same statue show a woman crying with a dead man in his lap.

It depicts the Druze uprising against French colonialism in the 1920s. The moustachioed man with a sword is the Sultan Al-Atrash (1888-1982). Let it be J.R. Wolff who tells us about this area.

Grace under fire on the Syrian border: The Druze of Majdal Shams by J.R. Wolff
Residents of the Druze border town told him their future may be with Israel but their hearts are in Syria

Dark clouds move over the peaks of Mount Hermon before I hear the compressed thud of a shell explosion reverberate in my chest. The pop, pop, pop of muffled gunfire in short bursts comes soon after.
Thud: A dull, heavy sound, such as that made by an object falling to the ground.

I don’t feel comfortable with how exposed I am and take cover behind a rock outcropping.
Rock outcropping: (cat: Aflorament rocós).

Just ahead, picturesquely framed between the rocks and orchards is Quneitra Province, Syria. Up on a hill, shimmering in a lone ray of sunlight, an Assad regime flag sways atop a gun battery and watch tower.
Shimmering: Shine with a soft tremulous light.
Sway: A rhythmical movement from side to side
Atop: On the top.

For more than five years, Assad’s army, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other warring factions have engaged in fierce fighting just yards away from where I stand on the other side of the unassuming 1967 ceasefire fence that runs along the tan, rugged slopes of the Golan Heights.
Tan: a yellowish-brown color.

The US State Department recently issued a travel warning, forbidding its employees to visit the region on personal travel. And in recent weeks, skirmishes between Israel and Assad’s regime have reported to have taken place nearby.
Skirmishes: An episode of irregular or unpremeditated fighting, especially between small or outlying parts of armies or fleets. (cat: Escaramusses, topades)

Just then voices begin to scream in a language I don’t understand. I turn and a group of men approach me menacingly from a pickup truck. They’re moving fast.

One man points his fingers at me and makes a machine gun noise. I dread that I somehow crossed over into Syria without knowing it.

Then I make out some words, it’s Hebrew. These men, in plain clothes, work in some capacity for the Israeli Army — and they’re now warning me in Hebrew and broken English that this is a very dangerous place to be. A restricted area.
Make out: If you make something out, you manage with difficulty to see or hear it.
In some capacity: If you do something in a particular capacity, you do it as part of a particular job or duty, or because you are representing a particular organization or person.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, but evidently the man found it funny and studied me with a cockeyed look of disbelief.

“Are you a crazy American?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say with a grin.

Then he reaches into a backpack and offers me a choice of freshly picked apples. I take a big red one and clean it on my jeans.

For a few moments we chat amiably with no understanding except that we are not harmful to one another.

Behind us, Syrian Druze men in traditional outfits with thick mustaches and white knit hats drive farm vehicles towing tons of apples — their cash crop.
Crop: Harvest (plants or their produce) from a particular area. (cat: collita)

Moments later a group of young Israeli soldiers on patrol come up from an obscured access road that parallels the fence. The rightfully regard me with suspicion but my apple-bearing friend speaks to them and they soften.

I ask about the shots I heard. “How close?”

“Fighting comes right up to the border,” one soldier tells me. Despite looking like a middle school student, I’m struck by the gravity in his voice. “We see it at night.”

His young cohorts look on uneasily, tasked with defending Israel’s northern border from the mayhem in their neighbor’s yard.
Mayhem: Chaos

I ask which groups are operating beyond the fence.

“It’s everyone fighting everyone,” he says shaking his head, indicating the utter chaos that is Syria.

It’s late afternoon and the soldier makes it clear that I should leave before nightfall.

More bursts of gunfire ring sporadically out as I walk away.

In need of a drink to calm my nerves, I set out to find a bar in the nearby Druze town.

Up ahead is Majdal Shams. A Druze village on the Israeli side of the disputed border with Syria.

* * *

Cruising slowly in my rented car, I spot a young woman carrying groceries and approach her for directions.
Cruise: If a car, ship, or aircraft cruises somewhere, it moves there at a steady comfortable speed.

Between her broken English and my caveman Hebrew, her eyes light up as she recognizes the name of the bar and gestures for me to…follow her. She would lead me in her car.

Now this I wasn’t expecting.

And although unsure, I go anyway. Tailing her all the way across town, zig zagging through windy roads and roundabouts until at last she slows down and points out the window—it was the place I was looking for.
Tail: To tail someone means to follow close behind them and watch where they go and what they do.
Windy road: (of a road or river) following a curving or twisting course.

I pull alongside her. She has a big smile and wishes me well in Arabic.

It becomes clear to me, as she headed back to the other side of town, that she went far out of her way to guide me — a total stranger — to a bar.

“That was exceptionally kind,” I think to myself as I walk up the steps.

I enter the bar and immediately see why my friend recommended it. Pictures of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, it remind me of my days in Austin, Texas.

I take a long pull of beer and hunch over a plate of nuts. I glance to my right and the guy sitting next to me is looking at me curiously. Early twenties, dressed sharply in black, he looks like he could be an actor or musician.
Pull: Pull is the opposite to push. In this case, speaking about beer, in Catalan and Spanish we have the same sense: tirar una cervesa)

We exchange nods and I can tell that we’ll be friends. Sometimes you just know.

“You from here?” I ask.

“Of course,” he says in perfect English, as if there were no other place he could possibly be from.

But he’s more curious about the American guy and asks why I’m here.

“I’m a writer,” I tell him. “I respect the Druze people and I’ve wanted to visit Majdal Shams for a very long time…I wanted to see for myself, to learn about what’s happening here.”

He raises an eyebrow. “You know about us?”

“Yes,” I nod. “And I want to learn more.”

The Druze are an often persecuted ethno-religious minority in the Middle East, the largest communities residing in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. Their faith, an Abrahamic offshoot, is kept secret from outsiders. By and large, they have survived by showing loyalty to the ruling nation they live under.

Before Israel obtained the Golan Heights in 1967, Majdal Shams was a Syrian Druze village. And despite being under Israeli control, in the minds and hearts of most residents it still is.

It’s a village caught between nations. Courted by Israel to become “Israeli” and wooed by Syria to remain “Syrian,” (Assad’s regime considers the Majdal Druze to be Syrian citizens.)

And what it means to “be Syrian” is a rapidly evolving concept.

“Israel trusts us and wants us,” he tells me. “But that is not our identity, we are Syrian.”

For decades, Israel has made great efforts to entice the Golan Druze (of which Majdal Shams is the largest village) to become Israeli citizens.
Entice: Seduce

“Do you have an Israeli passport?” I ask.

“No,” he says shaking his head.

“How about a Syrian passport?”

“No passport,” he says. “Travel papers only — our nationality is: ‘Undefined.’

“If you wanted to…could you have an Israeli passport?”

“Yes,” he says, but he’s quick to explain that nobody does.


He laughs, “Because nobody would ever talk to you again.”

“Social suicide?”

He nods.

And they have overtures from Syria too; having the option to pursue a free education in Damascus.

Others Syrian Druze, however, even if they don’t take Israeli citizenship, take advantage of many of the benefits Israel has to offer.

And while resentment towards being under Israeli control is evident by the amount of Syrian flags on display — resentment towards Jews is not something I personally experienced.

“I have lots of Jewish friends,” he tells me. “I respect the Jewish people. I have Muslim friends, Christian friends, Jewish friends.”

“People are people,” I say.

He nods slowly, “People are people.”

Unlike the vast majority of Israel’s Druze citizens who proudly serve in the military and obtain very high ranks in the army and government; Majdal Shams residents are exempt from mandatory military service.

“Does anyone from this village volunteer for the army?” I ask.

“Nooo,” he says shaking his head for emphasis. Again, this would be unthinkable.

He expresses that while life is good for them on the Israeli side, he simply could never imagine the idea of fighting for the Jewish state; a country their fathers and grandfathers fought against.

It’s not personal, it’s just not who they are in this village.

I then ask about the civil war raging less than a kilometer away. A war that many of their relatives are caught in.

Have the more than five years of war changed any of their allegiances towards Syria?

And to my surprise, he tells me that one of the local holy men is encouraging people to move towards holding an Israeli passport (it seems for practical reasons, certainly not as a sign of a new identity)— but so far it hasn’t caught on…at least not in this village.

“Aside from your relatives in Syria,” I ask. “Do you also have family in Israel?”


“And they serve in the army and fight for Israel?”

“Yes,” he acknowledges matter of factly, “and we talk about all this.”

But his village is in a different situation than those of his Israeli kinsman. And depending on where a Druze village is located, that’s who their loyalty will be to.
Kinsman: Relatives

This is key to understanding how the Druze endure. As a minority in the Middle East, they survive by faithfully serving the regime under which they live. And just as the Druze are integrated into modern Israel, the Syrian Druze were protected and lived well under Assad.

“The Druze people just want to be safe,” he says relating to their situation and identification with Syria.

“I’m a Jew,” I tell him. “We’re in the same boat.”

It’s silent for a moment as we exchange glances of mutual understanding.

“So what’s the story here?” I ask him. “What’s happening here that nobody’s talking about?”

And yet again, the theme of change bubbles to the surface.

The Druze religion is famously secretive. Their holy texts remaining a mystery and inaccessible to outsiders for centuries.

“And now,” he tells me with an ironic grin, “the holy book was uploaded to Google. My friend’s mother is religious — she didn’t want to believe it!”

He went on to explain that the text’s meaning and symbols, however, are only decipherable to a Druze holy man; so the text itself being available on the internet doesn’t actually reveal much. But still, for the older generation — this is unchartered territory.

My friend is thinking about grad school, like his relatives who got advanced degrees in Damascus. We talk about going fishing sometime and I tell him to look me up if he comes to the States. We warmly shake hands. At the door he recommends a cafe and points me in the general direction. “Just ask anyone on the street if you get lost,” he says matter of fact. “They will all help you.”

Conspicuous as the only outsider, I pass all walks of life as I wander through the winding, impeccably clean streets. Young people wearing the latest western styles…kids in school uniforms laugh in groups…older men in religious attire…women with traditional headdresses…They all smile warmly as I walk by.
Conspicuous: Standing out so as to be clearly visible.

Eventually I come to notice that almost all the drivers and farm workers have slowed to wave.
Wave: If you wave or wave your hand, you move your hand from side to side in the air, usually in order to say hello or goodbye to someone.

And this wasn’t the begrudging or obligatory veneer of “hospitality” that I’ve experienced in other places — it was the real thing, something you see shining in a person’s eyes. And yet, the gunfire in the distance reminds me that I’m in an active war zone. And everyone here has skin in the game.
Begrudging: Envy (someone) the possession or enjoyment of (something).
Veneer: A superficial appearance, esp one that is pleasing

At the cafe, I meet a female resident who speaks a bit of English. I ask about their identity as Syrians and if the village has changed since the war started. “We’ve heard the entire war,” she tells me before repeating the question in Arabic to an older man sitting nearby. He begins to speak very fast — she translates from Arabic:

“The town has changed one hundred percent,” she relates from him. Though quickly adding: “But not because of Israel or any other country…but because the people themselves want to. Nobody told us.”

She went on, “It’s different now…the young people are becoming engineers, doctors, professionals…”

“I imagine you have family in Syria?” I ask.

“Of course.”

“Are you ever able to see them?”

“Syria is not a good place to visit,” she says, as if the very thought gives her the chills. “We see them in Jordan,” she tells me, explaining that she has relatives in both Lebanon and Syria. And since both states are hostile to Israel, Jordan has become a central hub for family reunions.
Give someone the chills: (cat: posar la pell de gallina, tenir calfreds)

I say goodbye and a cold gust blows from Mount Hermon. I’ve been in Israel for months and it’s the first time I wish I had a sweater. The seasons are changing, but only now am I aware of it.
Gust: A brief, strong rush of wind.

I suddenly remember the admonition to be out by sundown. It spurs a thought. Through all my encounters, and though nobody would dare say so — I sensed (perhaps wrongly), a collective identity evolution. The Assad regime flags — like a photograph — a reminder of a Syria that now exists in memory only. And then there was the tacit (yet unsaid), sense of relief of living on the more secure side of the border. And the unmentioned, yet ever-present fear of what might happen to the Druze in Syria should Assad fall and they have no protection from the radical groups vying for power.
Vying: Struggling

And though not “Israeli” by any means, many of the young are seeking careers and lifestyles that are closer to a Tel Aviv ethos than any way of life that can be found in Syria. In fact, many of the people I spoke with regularly travel to Tel Aviv and Haifa and recommended their favorite hangouts.
Favorite: Used in States; in British they use favourite
Hangout: If a place is a hangout for a particular group of people, they spend a lot of time there because they can relax and meet other people there.

I mull something my friend at the bar told me. Even though drinking is ostensibly outlawed by their faith, the bars are always packed on the weekends. “Most of the young people here aren’t religious. They want to drink and have a good time.”
Mull: Thinking about

I feel goosebumps from the fall wind. Perhaps this is what slow change looks like.
Goosebumps: Small raised areas that appear on the skin because of cold, fear, or excitement (cat: pell de gallina)
* * *

Yet again, I take a wrong turn and become lost looking for my car.

I ask a woman in her front yard for directions. She speaks English, and before I know it, her entire family comes out of the house to greet me. Within moments, her husband returns from work in construction clothes and shakes my hand. Her son, in his early twenties, has a ginger beard and looks like he could be my younger brother. He pulls me in for a warm handshake and explains where I need to go.
Greet: When you greet someone, you say 'Hello' or shake hands with them.
Ginger: Ginger is used to describe things that are orangey-brown in colour.

And as it turns out, he’s just returned to Majdal Shams from the Israeli university where he finished his engineering studies. He speaks highly of his time living and learning among Israelis. And while I don’t ask about his passport or “identity,” he doesn’t seem to display any conflict with receiving an Israeli education.

He is just about to begin his career. His energy contagious — alive with hope and excitement.

* * *

As I saw the village getting smaller in my rearview mirror, I felt something stirring inside. Something Majdal Shams left with me. And it wasn’t the adrenaline of proximity to the war, though that was there too. It was something the people themselves impressed upon me — grace — a quality the heart knows before the mind can grasp it. That human something that exists beyond the confines of nations and religions and labels that can so easily divide us.
Stir: If something stirs you, it makes you react with a strong emotion.

They say you only get to know someone when you see how they act under pressure. And since a village is nothing but a collection of people — you might expect a people living in a war zone, and without a settled nationality, to be jaded and angry and suspicious.
Settled nationality: A established nationality
Jaded: Tired, bored, or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something.

Think again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR J.R. Wolff writes short stories, television pilots, and just completed his first novel. Most recently he worked as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. J.R. is a California native and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin

dimarts, 19 de març de 2019

Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field.

Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field.

Vlastimil Hart, Petra Nováková, Erich Pascal Malkemper, Sabine Begall, Vladimír Hanzal, Miloš Ježek1,Tomáš Kušta, Veronika Němcová, Jana Adámková, Kateřina Benediktová, Jaroslav Červený and Hynek Burda.


Introduction: Several mammalian species spontaneously align their body axis with respect to the Earth’s magnetic field (MF) lines in diverse behavioral contexts. Magnetic alignment is a suitable paradigm to scan for the occurrence of magnetosensitivity across animal taxa with the heuristic potential to contribute to the understanding of the mechanism of magnetoreception and identify further functions of magnetosensation apart from navigation. With this in mind we searched for signs of magnetic alignment in dogs. We measured the direction of the body axis in 70 dogs of 37 breeds during defecation (1,893 observations) and urination (5,582 observations) over a two-year period. After complete sampling, we sorted the data according to the geomagnetic conditions prevailing during the respective sampling periods. Relative declination and intensity changes of the MF during the respective dog walks were calculated from daily magnetograms. Directional preferences of dogs under different MF conditions were analyzed and tested by means of circular statistics.

Results: Dogs preferred to excrete with the body being aligned along the North–South axis under calm MF conditions. This directional behavior was abolished under unstable MF. The best predictor of the behavioral switch was the rate of change in declination, i.e., polar orientation of the MF.

Conclusions: It is for the first time that (a) magnetic sensitivity was proved in dogs, (b) a measurable, predictable behavioral reaction upon natural MF fluctuations could be unambiguously proven in a mammal, and (c) high sensitivity to small changes in polarity, rather than in intensity, of MF was identified as biologically meaningful. Our findings open new horizons in magnetoreception research. Since the MF is calm in only about 20% of the daylight period, our findings might provide an explanation why many magnetoreception experiments were hardly replicable and why directional values of records in diverse observations are frequently compromised by scatter.

Keywords: Magnetoreception, Magnetosensitivity, Magnetic field, Magnetic storm, Magnetic alignment, Dog, Canid, Mammal

dissabte, 9 de març de 2019

La trampa de la diversidad de Daniel Bernabé

«Llegaron a España las guerras culturales, conflictos en torno a derechos civiles y representación de colectivos que situaban lo problemático no en lo económico o lo laboral y mucho menos en lo estructural, sino en campos meramente simbólicos. El matrimonio homosexual, la memoria histórica, el lenguaje de género o la educación para la ciudadanía empezaron a copar portadas de los medios y a crear polémica.

¿Estamos afirmando que los ejemplos mencionados carecen de importancia? En absoluto. Es importante que un grupo social pueda tener los mismos derechos civiles que el resto o reconocer desde las instituciones nuestra historia y la dignidad de los republicanos olvidados. Lo que decimos es que estos conflictos culturales tenían un valor simbólico en tanto que permitían a un gobierno que hacía políticas de derechas en lo económico validar frente a sus votantes su carácter progresista al embarcarse en estas cuestiones.»

Extraña paradoja la que plantea este libro: ¿son los sistemas de privilegios, opresiones y revisiones una forma efectiva de enfrentarse a la desigualdad?; ¿dónde quedó, entonces, el conflicto capital-trabajo? Sin embargo, debemos dar una respuesta urgente a estas preguntas, si no queremos que la fuerza de lo colectivo se acabe diluyendo en el irremediable individualismo de lo identitario.

En un mundo donde lo ideológico se ha convertido en una coartada para afirmar nuestra personalidad aislada, el activismo se esfuerza en buscar las palabras adecuadas para marcar la diversidad, creando un entorno respetuoso con nuestras diferencias mientras el sistema nos arroja por la borda de la Historia. Ya no se busca un gran relato que una a personas diferentes en un objetivo común, sino exagerar nuestras especificidades para colmar la angustia de un presente sin identidad de clase.

Ha llegado el momento de tener unas palabras con la trampa de la diversidad…


Aquesta és la presentació d'un llibre que arriba per despertar-nos una mica ja que Stéphane Hessel sembla que no ens va arribar a indignar. Recomanat si tens prou valor per llegir-ho.

Aquesta mateixa setmana, altrament dita la setmana del Fairy, ens han recordat que un dels més condecorats membres de "los cuerpos y fuerzas de seguridad del estado" va matar un obrer per l'esquena però que fou indultat en la nostra exemplar transició i que un altre, no tan condecorat encara, es va oferir voluntari a Tejero el 23F. Tots dos estan declarant per salvar la democràcia que "nos hemos dado entre todos" del "dislate" de las "murallas humanas". 

Per acabar podem gaudir d'aquesta iniciativa publicada en La Vanguardia:

Barcelona acoge la caminata mundial de mujeres directivas impulsada por Hillary Clinton y Madeleine Albright. CaixaBank impulsa esta primera edición en una caminata de 3,3 kilómetros que unirá la sede de CaixaBank con Caixaforum Barcelona

sempre sense oblidar una mostra de solidaritat: