Esa Gentuza

27.07.2009

Codex Manenssis

xcelente artículo sobre los diputados españoles en XLSemanal. Como es usual, Perez-Reverte se sale de bueno… Yo de mayor quiero ser como él. :-)

Candidates for the European Parliament?

20.07.2009

Codex Manenssis

fter a few years without participating in any political election I changed my mind last month and exercised my right to vote in the European Parliament election. Being a Spanish wanderer myself and having profited from the benefits the EU gives its citizens when it comes to labor rights and resident permits across pretty much the entire continent, I figured it was my duty as a thankful European to show commitment to the public institutions that support this thing called Europe.

Obviously, the EU is far from perfect. The complexity of the construction process is daunting and it will surely take more than a couple of generations to start figuring out how the pieces of this huge puzzle of 27 countries and 23 languages fall together. The political, economical and social union those Brussels politicians tend to brag about is just an illusory thing in many aspects. They are so worried about building Europe that they’ve lost touch with the European citizens – they live in a realm where things happen much faster and easier than in reality. But nonetheless, all this does not mean that the idea (or the dream) of a united Europe is not worth trying. Actually, it is the only way for the Old Continent to have a voice and some influence in this globalized world.

Codex Statutes of the Order of St. Michael, 1525

But this post is not about the EU itself -it’s about the European Parliament election, and more concrete, about the Spanish political parties that ran as candidates in this past edition. When I opened the envelop the Spanish consulate sent me with all the necessary paperwork to vote via mail, and I saw the different parties my jaw just hit the table. Let me tell you one thing: if the political parties that one is to find in a given country offer any indication about that country’s sanity, I bet Spain is really messed up.

Let’s just take a brief look at some of the different parties that want to represent Spain in the EU Parliament :

• Partido Popular (PP): The “right” party (with some extreme-right touch to it)

• Alternativa Española (AES): The “extreme right” party (with some super-extreme-right touch to it)

• Frente Nacional (FN): The “super-extreme right” party (with some fascist-wannabe inclinations)

• Falange Española de la JONS (FE de las JONS): The fascist themselves

• Falange Auténtica (FA): The “we-are-purer-fascist-than-the-other-fascist” fascist

• Partido Familia y Vida (PFyV): The “conservative catholics” party

• Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE): The “incompetent left” party

• Partido Comunista de los Pueblos de España (PCEP): The “incompentent AND pathetic left” party

• Izquierda Unida (IU): The “united-but-still-incompetent-AND-pathetic left” party

• Movimiento Social Republicano (MSR): The “nostalgics”

• Izquierda Anticapitalista Revolta Global (IZAN – RG): The “anarchists”

• Iniciativa Feminista (IF): The “we-are-better-than-men-but-we-want-to-behave-like-them” party

• Europa de los Pueblos Verdes (LV): The hicks and rednecks (aka. independentists) from the Bask Country and Catalonia disguised as the greens

• Grupo Verde Europeo (GVE): The “greens” themselves

• Por Un Mundo Más Justo (PUM+J): The “stoners”. Literal translation: “For a more fair world”. Check the logo of the party here – it´s priceless.

• Partido Antitaurino Contra el Maltrato Animal (PACMA): MY FAVORITE!! The literal translation is “Anti-Bullfighting and Anti-Animal Abuse Party”. The logo is also priceless - check that bull vomiting blood in their website

Needless to say I had a difficult time choosing a party to vote for. There are some others but they are as laughable as the ones I just mentioned. I finally voted for “Unión, Progreso y Democracia” (UPyD), which I figured are the less bad ones since they are small and have not had enough time to get corrupted yet (the party was born just a couple of years ago). They are also a pro-laicism, center-bound party with social compromises but firm enough with state-critical issues. Or at least that is the way I see them… others will probably disagree. I knew they wouldn´t win, but it was the only party I could vote for without feeling nausea.

UPDATE: Now I know why so many Spaniards want to represent their country in the European Parlament… and it is not out of patriotic reasons. Mel just nailed it down here and here (sorry, only in Spanish). What you defend and propose does not matter… the goal is to get elected and enjoy life working for the EU.

UPDATE 2: Joder, si antes los voto antes la lían (link). Lo dicho, me voy a hacer mi propio partido y me presentaré a eurodiputado. Se admiten nombres :-)
 

Money as Debt / El Dinero es Deuda

28.05.2009

Codex Manenssis

have a couple of buddies that are quite far from being what I’d call prolific email writers. We might exchange three or four (maybe five under exceptional circumstances) emails every year, and apart from the past and the memories we shared our friendship relies on scattered meet-ups that our busy schedules allow us to organize every now and then, less often that we’d like.

The good thing about this irregular email communication pattern is that when I see their names popping up in my inbox I automatically know that there’s gotta be something VERY interesting in the email.

I just got one of those emails with a link to probably the best documentary/video I have ever seen in the last months. It’s called “Money as Debt” and it explains the financial foundations of our western society. If you are wondering where the ultimate roots of this financial crisis are, how we ended up being in such a chaos, and what we could do to get out of it then you really need to check the video. It’s very basic economic stuff, things that everybody should know (and many of you do know or at least heard about) but very few people have stopped to think what they really mean. I didn’t have - and the video really opened my eyes.

It’s true that I don’t totally agree with the last 10 minutes where the author gives his solution for the problem… but nonetheless the video is worth every minute you spend watching it. Here you have the link (watch out because the entire video is split into 5 parts).  I hope you like it as much as I did.

—————————-

Codex Manenssis

engo un par de colegas que no son precisamente lo que diría unos prolíficos escribidores de emails. En el transcurso de un año a lo mejor intercambiamos tres o cuatro emails, quizá cinco bajo circumstancias excepcionales, y además de las vivencias y los recuerdos que compartimos en el pasado podríamos decir que nuestra amistad se mantiene gracias a esas pocas veces, muchas menos que nos gustaría, que nuestras apretadas agendas nos permiten compartir un par de cervezas.

Lo bueno de tener una comunicación tan irregular con ellos por email es que cuando su nombres aparecen de repente en mi inbox automaticamente sé que el mensaje contiene algo MUY interesante.

Acabo de recibir uno de esos emails con un link al que probablemente sea el mejor documental/video que he visto en meses. Se titula “El Dinero es Deuda”, y explica mediante ejemplos muy sencillos los cimientos financieros de nuestra sociedad occidental. Si te estás preguntando dónde están las raíces de la crisis financiera que nos acosa, cómo diántres acabamos en semejante situación y qué diablos podríamos hacer para salir del atolladero, entonces pincha en el link y empápate con el documental. Es teoría económica muy sencilla que todo el mundo debería saber (de hecho, muchos de vosotros lo sabréis ya o lo habréis oído en multitud de ocasiones) pero que muy pocas personas se han parado a pensar en lo que REALMENTE significa. Yo no lo había hecho, y el video me ha abierto los ojos.

Aunque no estoy totalmente de acuerdo con los últimos 10 minutos del documental donde el autor expone algunas recetas para salir de la crisis, el resto video realmente merece la pena. Y lo mejor es que está traducido al español. Aquí tenéis el link:  Espero que os guste tanto como a mí.

PA.

The Facebook Effect

05.05.2009

Codex Manenssis he first time I heard about the “Google effect” was 6 years ago during a lunch break in Germany. I was deep in my thoughts, wondering if the hardness of the lamb meat I was munching was due to an old age death or to the cook inability, when I overheard a conversation from the next table. Apparently a program manager in Munich wanted to hire a new engineer and after having a successful and convincing job interview with her, he just thought about finding out what Google had to show when looking up her name. And he found something very interesting indeed: some pictures of hers totally drunk in a big party. She was hired after all, and the pictures topic was dropped to a mere anecdote to laugh about. But if the program manager had been stricter, or if the interview had been less successful, those pictures would have been fatal for her job application. 

Codex Augustine, La Cité de Dieu, Paris, Orosius Master, 1400-1410I also remember that after laughing about the whole picture issue, the conversation degenerated in a virtual, dick-measuring context where instead of centimeters or inches, my lunch companions compared how many Google hits they got with their names and their professional successes when looking up themselves. “In the second hit you can see the latest article I wrote in that magazine, and in the fourth or the fifth the open source program I developed in my free time last year” “Man, that’s nothing - you gotta look at my results. In the very first hit you can see my whole professional background, and in the second conference I will be giving next semester…”. I was sort of surprise that someone could be so proud of what Google threw at him when searching for his name… until I came to the conclusion that if you were a socially handicapped computer nerd with a stiff spine and a clear inclination for work-alcoholism and egocentrism, looking at those google hits was the closest thing to an autofellatio you could come up with.

That conversation had an impact on me, though. I had never thought about all the information, good or bad, unintended or deliberated that the Internet could provide about a given person. For some time I became a paranoid web user and started using cookies trackers, web anonymizers and all kind of weird stuff to stop the Internet from knowing about me. Then, with time, and as it usual happens with this sort of things, I started finding it annoying and got back to my normal web-browsing behavior.

Until last month, when I was told from different people that, under certain circumstances, you can get someone’s Facebook albums’ pictures as Google hits when looking up his/her name -even if his/her security settings are correctly configured. All the information you have inside Facebook is so perfectly well linked, and so highly interconnected with your friends’ accounts, that all that it takes to expose the entire information chain is just one account with wrong security settings. I was even told about special Facebooks applications that are able to look for security leaks to recompose someone’s profil without having direct access to it. Not only your pictures, but your affiliations, political views, religious beliefs, hobbies, likes, dislikes… anything you thought it was safe to share with your friends might be publicly accessible to someone with the right skills.

Now, who might be interested in that, anyway? Lots of people. Some of them are not worth worrying about, such as marketing companies trying to ascertain consuming or behavioral patterns to launch more successful marketing campaigns. They’ve been doing or trying to do that for a long time, so what? But some others could be really worrisome.

Your future employer, for example. There are already a bunch of companies in the US and some other countries like Germany whose only goal is to gather information about people. Those companies are contracted by major employers before hiring someone in order to get as much information as possible about the future employee. Totally legal. And the social networks like Facebook, Tuenti and the like are virtual paradises for them. Just think about all the information that you, personally, have already shared. Think about all the information about you that your friends and contacts have, deliberate or unwillingly, shared with more people. Now try to come up with some prejudices, ideas, images, gut feelings and conceptions about your person, right and/or false, that someone might come up with when having access to all that information… Really scary.

Codex Die pelgrimage van der menscheliker creaturen, Southern Netherlands, Guillaume de Deguileville, 1440-1460We all have heard about the tracking cookies and how some entities in the Internet try to keep track of your surfing habits and the pages you visit in order to know more about you. That is peanuts in comparison to the Facebook effect. People are loading the Internet with personal information and not all of them are aware of the consequences that might have. And I am not trying to be apocalyptic here, but Facebook might not be the “close circle” you are taking it for - just think twice next time you upload a picture or write a comment in it.

Of course this new social trend is far from stop: Google just came out with the so-called “google profiles”. According to Google, ”a Google profile is simply how you present yourself on Google products to other Google users. It allows you to control how you appear on Google and tell others a bit more about who you are. With a Google profile, you can easily share your web content on one central location. You can include, for example, links to your blog, online photos, and other profiles such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. You have control over what others see. Your profile won’t display any private information unless you’ve explicitely added it. Needless to say, your google profile will come up as the first hit if someone looks for your name. The perfect lure for big egos with stiff spines…

PA

What kind of shitty and hypocritical society are we living in?

30.04.2009

Codex Manenssisccording to Unicef close to 20.000 people die EVERY DAY because of the lack of any food.

One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year - are caused by poverty.

An estimated 600m children live in absolute poverty. Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases.

Over 1 billion people live on less than 70 cents a day with nearly half the world’s population - 3 billion - surviving on less than twice that amount.

More than half a million women die in pregnancy and childbirth every year - one death a minute.

Of the around six billion people in the world, at least 1.2 billion do not have access to safe drinking water

More than 2.4 billion people do not have proper sanitation facilities, and more than 2,2 million people die each year from diseases caused by polluted water and filthy sanitation conditions

The annual dairy subsidy in the EU amounts to $913 per cow per year; EU’s aid to Africa is $8 per African per year 

The top 1% of the world’s richest people earn as much as the poorest 57%

(…)

And our western society is suddenly all worried because there is a slight possibility for a new virus-related pandemia.  Seriously… WTF?.

PA

La Fauna de las Conferencias

28.03.2009

Codex Manenssis

Ya sea como presentador o como oyente, en estos dos últimos años he asistido a más conferencias y ferias de tecnología software que en los ocho anteriores. No sólo tengo la suerte (o desgracia) de ser el máximo responsable y coordinador de al menos un gran evento en Alemania y de otro en los USA, sino que además dependo de las conferencias que otras empresas organizan (principalmente Microsoft) para intentar conseguir las grandes cantidades de información y contactos que mi perfil profesional requiere. Solamente en el 2008 asistí a más de 20 eventos entre seminarios, jornadas informativas, ferias tecnológicas, workshops, y conferencias similares, la mayoría de ellas súper interesantes y de cuya asistencia me beneficié enormemente.

Aún así, para mí la vida de conferencia, sobre todo en aquellos eventos cuya duración se extiende por más de un día y el factor hotel toma una importancia considerable, es sinónimo de empacho. Empacho de información, porque desde que entras el pabellón eres bombardeado sistemáticamente con tantas novedades, noticias, demostraciones, videos, primicias, folletos, ofertas, y publicaciones que no sabes ni por dónde empezar; y empacho de comida, porque después de las largas horas de trabajo, cuando el cerebro no puede procesar más información y estás hasta las pelotas de oír jerga tecnológica, el estómago toma el control del cuerpo y te abandonas inconscientemente a los apetitosos bufetes de comida. Cuando por la noche llegas al hotel, sueles tener la cabeza y el estómago como un bombo; y cuando finalmente termina la conferencia y regresas a casa, tu cuerpo necesita al menos un par de días para procesar de forma definitiva toda la información y calorías que te has metido pa´dentro.

Lo curioso es que, independientemente del país donde se organiza la conferencia, y quizá debido a ese particular ora et labora tecnológico y gastronómico en el que los asistentes se ven embebidos día sí y día también, la gente tiende a desarrollan patrones de conducta muy definidos y fácilmente reconocibles. Lo que recojo a continuación son algunas anotaciones de mis cuadernos de campo en los que, a modo de Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente, intento describir la fauna tecnológica y sus patrones de conducta en el hábitat del pabellón de conferencias. :-)

El “sabelotodus vulgaris”: Este bisho ha sido desde siempre una parte fundamental del ecosistema conferencial. No tiene un hábitat definido, y para desgracia de las demás especies con las que convive es fácil encontrarte con él en el sitio más inesperado, desde las primeras filas del auditorio en donde monopolizará los minutos de preguntas intentando demostrar que sabe más que el presentador, hasta en el mingitorio más recóndito del pabellón, en el que utilizará el minuto que dura un pis para demostrar al pobre compañero de meada lo extenso de su conocimiento. Aunque no suele ser peligroso, una alta exposición a su compañía puede resultar muy extenuante.

Códice GKS 3466 8º: Bestiaire, England, c. 1300El “sabelotodus tocacojonensis” es una peligrosa variedad del sabelotodus que ha de ser evitada a toda costa. Mientras que un vulgaris simplemente intentará demostrarte lo inteligente o capacitado que él es, el tocacojonensis intentará convencerte de que tienes que imitarle y adoptar sus métodos, o si no, ser considerado un idiota redomado. Sienten una atracción especial por otras especies que leen libros o trabajan con los ordenadores portátiles en el pabellón de conferencias, y normalmente se acercan a ellas entonando distintos cantos como: “Como puede ser que estés leyendo esa falacia? Si te interesa este tema te puedo recomendar un par de libros mucho mejores…” o “No me puedo creer que estés utilizando Güindous. Deberías hacer como yo y utilizar Pollinux, que es un verdadero sistema operativo… ”, y otros similares. Especial atención si empiezan a hablar de una cosa llamada open source. Evita el tema o dalos la razón instantáneamente, porque de otro modo serás excomulgado, desterrado, lapidado, crucificado, inhabilitado, y hecho un paria de por vida.

El “supremus marmotum” es también otro viejo conocido nuestro. Es tan común que no solo habita en conferencias y grandes eventos, sino que también se le puede ver con relativa facilidad en pequeños ecosistemas como presentaciones ejecutivas y workshops. Esa facultad tan especial de la que hacen gala de quedarse traspuestos independientemente del tema tratado en la presentación les hace fácilmente reconocibles. Algunos especialistas en conferencias hablan de distintas subespecies dependiendo de cómo se quedan dormidos: con cabeceo hacia delante o hacia detrás, con o sin disimulo, con mirada perdida en el infinito o ceño fruncido entre cabezadas… en ocasiones se ven maravillas de la naturaleza que combinan ronquido y baba a los 10 minutos de haber empezado la presentación. Observados a cierta distancia pueden producir gran divertimento.

Códice GKS 3466 8º: Bestiaire, England, c. 1300El “vultrus gorronus” es otro clásico del ecosistema conferencial. Su hábitat suele reducirse a las zonas de exposiciones de los pabellones, allí donde las distintas empresas disponen de stands donde muestran sus productos a los visitantes. Normalmente en estos puestos, tras haber mostrado interés por el producto y haber charlado con los representantes durante algunos minutillos, los visitantes reciben pequeñas bagatelas (camisetas, llaveros, ratones y similares) llamadas takeaways. Dado que la dieta del gorronus se reduce mayoritariamente a estos pequeños regalos, es muy común verlos olisqueando y escrutando cada stand en profundidad para averiguar que pueden sacar en claro si les dan rollo a los incautos representantes durante 5 minutos. Lo curioso de este espécimen es que a pesar de la dependencia casi vital de takeaways que han desarrollado, la Naturaleza no les ha dotado de ningún sitio natural donde almacenarlos, así que suelen arrastrar grandes e incómodas bolsas de plástico en donde van metiendo toda cosa que cae en sus garras.

El “porcus incritus” es una especie que merece nuestra atención no por su apariencia (fácil de reconocer y no muy agradable) sino por su interesante ciclo vital. Estos bichos tienen un periodo metamorfósico de unos 3 días. Esto hace que en conferencias cortas de un par de días no les dé tiempo a completar la incubación y apenas se les pueda ver. Sin embargo, si la conferencia dura más de 3 jornadas entonces pueden completar la metamorfosis y a eso del cuarto día empiezan a eclosionar por doquier. Entonces pueden verse en toda su extensión: cuero cabelludo grasiento, camisetas manchadas, pantalones arrugados, deportivas olorosas, barbas descuidadas… y un cierto aura sobaquil-inglera bastante desagradable si tienes la suerte de tenerlos sentados al lado. Estos han de ser evitados a toda costa.

Códice GKS 3466 8º: Bestiaire, England, c. 1300Terminaremos esta primera entrega de la fauna de las conferencias con el “huevonum empanatus”, bicho curioso donde los haya por su capacidad de crear problemas y situaciones totalmente dantescas. No hay una única característica típica por la cual es fácil identificar a estos goofies de las conferencias, pero las que más se repiten son mirada vobina perdida en el infinito, lentitud de reflejos (“este está aplatanao perdido”), despiste mayúsculo, nula capacidad de orientación, y sensación generalizada de que viven en un mundo paralelo al nuestro. Suelen venir dotados de un coeficiente intelectual bastante elevado para cosas técnicas, pero desafortunadamente esa capacidad no hace acto de presencia para cosas mundanas y del día a día. Entre las acciones protagonizadas por algunos empanatus que recuerdo haber visto en los últimos años tengo que destacar las siguientes: mirar la hora en un reloj de muñeca mientras se aguanta una cocacola abierta con la mano del reloj… justo encima de un laptop encendido y abierto. Tropezar con una bandeja llena de comida y poner perdido al personal con toneladas de espagueti y tomate (esto, por cierto, acelera la incubación de los porcus incritus). Caerse por unas escaleras mecánicas arrastrando a unos cuantos por no haberse dado cuenta que eran las que tenían dirección de subida y no de bajada. Dejar caer el teléfono móvil desde el bolsillo de la camisa en la olla de la sopa del día. Y tirar medio stand al coger la mochila del suelo y haberse enganchado una de las correas con la infraestructura metálica del chiriguito. Increíble…

En otra ocasión analizaremos al “ingenierus vulgaris”, que con sus multiples variantes (ibericus, germanicum, americanii…) constituye el bicho más común de la fauna del ecosistema conferencial.

PA.

Frase del Mes

26.03.2009

“Yo seré capaz de chuparme la polla antes de que tú seas un guitarrista de éxito”

(… me dijo un colega cuando, al reírse de mis prácticas guitarrísticas, le comenté que algún día tocaré la guitarra decentemente).

Vaya oda a la flexibilidad de la columna vertebral. Como suelen decir las papeletas de rascar no premiadas: “Siga intentándolo” :-D

PA.

Some more pictures from 2008

09.02.2009

Codex Manenssis have been very busy with work lately and I haven’t had much time to blog :-( . But what I finally got to organize last years’ pictures, and I found some nice ones I thought I should post here. You know, better late than never.

In October we had a wonderful birthday-weekend in San Francisco. We went to the (in)-famous Alcatraz island, took the typical pictures in the prison, rode the cable car, and walked around the city. But the best thing was when we rented a tandem bike and rode along the beach all the way down to the Golden Gate bridge. I was so excited about crossing the bridge on the bike that I took a small video with my camera. Lots of fun!

In November we took a hike to Snowlake before the weather got all nasty and rainny. The landscape is absolutely awesome up there - it really reminded me the Alps in Germany. We also went up to mount Si, which is the mountain you could see on the TV series Twin Peaks (yes, it was filmed over here). The nice thing about mount Si is the birds on the summit, which you can feed nuts from your own hands. I am really looking forward to this summer to be able to go hiking again. But this time I will bring my fishing rod with me… I am sure there’s gotta be some big trout in those lakes. :-)

PA

Communication or Kommunikation?

17.01.2009

Codex Manenssisy German colleagues in Princeton sent me this link (only in German, sorry) with an interesting text that talks about the differences between the way English and German native speakers communicate. The main point the author makes is that, mostly because of politeness reasons, indirectness is king among Anglo-Saxons speakers. What they say doesn’t necessarily correspond to what they mean. The author gives some examples: if after hearing a colleague’s proposal an American reacts by saying I wonder if this is really the best solution or I’m wondering if we might need more time, or We might want to review some parts of the proposal, all those phrases actually mean “No, I don’t like it”. If a girl asks her best friend if she likes the new red shirt she is about to buy, and the friends says Don’t you think the blue one would match better the color of your eyes?, that means “No, I don’t like the red one”. If the girl asking were German, a culture where conversations are mostly driven by directness, she would probably think What the heck is she talking about? I asked her about the shirt, not about my eyes… And so on.

Since I find this topic very amusing and interesting, and Michael asked me to contribute from my neutral position as a Spaniard working with Germans and Americans by confirming (or refuting) what the article says, I thought I might as well made the topic public from my little corner in the Internet. So here it goes.

Although I agree with most of what the papers conveys (yes - the average German speaker is direct; yes -the average English speaker is indirect; and yes- those two facts can lead to a lot of communication breakdowns between the two cultures), I’d like to make a couple of comments from my outsider’s perspective (Warning!: I am about to generalize big time here, and therefore my comments might not be entirely fair to every English and German native speaker. I hope you understand what follows is just what I have experienced in my 8+ years of experience in the UK, Munich and Seattle when working mostly with geeks and engineers. Also, don’t take this as a lesson coming from an expert - After all these years living abroad and being married to an American, I still have big communication issues myself… :-) ).

1.- To state that Americans don’t want to say what they think because they don’t want to hurt people feelings or be rude is, in my opinion, a big simplification that misses the whole point. My theory is that for the majority of the Anglo-Saxons, especially for North Americans, the word “communication” means much more than in other cultures. For them to communicate is an end in itself; it is an act that goes beyond its intended and basic functionality of trying to make a point across. For me the English verb “to communicate” has a totally different connotation than the German verb “kommunizieren”. Theoretically they mean the same, but practically the English verb has a lot of implicit aspects that are missing in the German counterpart. That’s why North-Americans have turned communication into an art; that’s why they have revolutionized in many ways how people communication to each other. Just think of advertisement in the US, or of any political public speech in the US. I have never seen an American engineer giving a boring technical presentation, whereas I have witnessed presentations by Germans (and Spaniards, and Italians, and French, and Russians, and Indians, and Chinese…) where I was already sleeping before the presented had started his second sentence. Now, the phrase “No, I don’t like it” is too simple, too basic, too mundane, too ordinary for the American communication standards. It’s like eating a plate of plain pasta without tomato sauce versus eating a nice, well presented plate of spaghetti carbonara with bacon and boiled eggs with some aromatic herbs on top of it. Both things accomplish its mission: provide the body with nutrients. But obviously the second one is much more enjoyable and takes into account many subtle things that the first one obviates. For the pragmatic and direct Germans (and many other cultures) those subtle things don’t matter, they don’t give a damn crap about them because the important thing is not to starve (aka. to make your point across when you talk). For a North American to say a simple “No” is like two portions of plain and tasteless pasta.

Book of Hours, Johan de Luc, Paris, 1525That is the reason why they don’t say a simple “yes” either. If they like something they sort of over do it for European standards. They go brilliant, fabulous, cool, they even change the pitch of their voice… simply because they don’t want to have plain pasta. The text talks about this topic too, giving the example on how Americans get frustrated when, for example, they give presents to their German friends and these don’t add any spice, or salsa, or salt, not even butter to their reaction when opening the present. The Americans simply think the Germans did not like the present (Actually I should say Europeans and not only Germans, because that happened to me with a couple of Americans too… :-) )

So the bottom line here is: when talking to North Americans remember to add sauce and condiments to your sentences. Also, be aware of the side dishes that come with the main entree… if you neglect them you are probably missing the tastiest portion of the meal.

2.- In my opinion, a large portion of the German population (at least those who studied engineering and other technical stuff) missed class the day they taught non-verbal communication. And let me tell you that their lack of that sort of soft skills gotta be really bad if such as an unobservant person like myself can notice it. That’s why they need to have a direct, explicit communication, because getting or sending the message through non-standards, implicit channels is out of the question. The North American saying I wonder if this is the right solution is probably communicating This sucks in other ways such as eyes or hand movement, shoulder position, or something like that. But that goes unnoticed for the pragmatic German who is just concentrated on processing the literal meaning of the spoken words. (I guess this could also trigger a debate on the differences between men and women and the way they talk and communicate, but I better leave that for another occasion).

The funny thing is that I am currently reading a super fascinating book called Chryptonomicon (thanks a lot, Zane!), highly recommendable for any pretending geek, that shows how Germans and Allies dealt with cryptography and secret information channels during WWII. The efficiency, directness and pragmatism that lead the German Wehrmacht to conquer almost the entire European continent, failed to be the appropriate tools for the German intelligence office that was supposed to intercept and decrypt the enemy’s messages. They simply lacked the necessary empathy and subtleness for it. They had basically lost the information war even before the British had actually broken their codes and had built the Enigma machines. But, hey!, that’s okay. The average German is intelligent, highly educated, focused, efficient, disciplined and deeply analytical. If they were good communicators too (well, hundreds of tons of extra flexibility and improvisation capabilities wouldn’t hurt either) they’d be la crème de la crème, and the rest of us would be pretty screwed because Adolfito would have won the war.

So let’s better learn how to deal with the ways other cultures communicate. They are not better or worse, they are just different, and since we all are in this same world we are condemned to understand them and make ourselves understood.

The floor is available to whoever wants to add any comment to my theory. :-)

PA.

The US will Desintegrate in 2010

06.01.2009

Codex Manenssis

eez! I knew that the American economy was pretty messed up and that most of the political and economical experts foresee a couple of really tough and difficult years ahead… but I couldn´t believe my eyes when I happened to find this header while browsing the Wall Street Journal website. And no, it wasn’t April’s Fool issue.

This apocalyptic vision comes from a Russian professor in Moscow, by the name of Igor Panarin, who is far from being a nobody in Russian society. As the article says: “A former KGB analyst, he is dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy for future diplomats. He is invited to Kremlin receptions, lectures students, publishes books, and appears in the media as an expert on U.S.-Russia relations.

Unkown Codex

Mr. Panarin states that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar (God… even more?). Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the U.S. will break into six pieces (warning!: Jaw-dropping sentences follows) - “California will form the nucleus of what he calls “The Californian Republic,” and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of “The Texas Republic,” a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington, D.C., and New York will be part of an “Atlantic America” that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of Northern states Prof. Panarin calls “The Central North American Republic.” Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China”.

Here you have the map of the division. I have to admit I have no words to describe it.

He goes further to say: “It would be reasonable for Russia to lay claim to Alaska; it was part of the Russian Empire for a long time.” I really wonder how in the world the current Spanish government missed the opportunity to hire this genius. With his intelligence and his anti-Americanism he would definitely fit right in among many Spanish ministers. Not to mention the huge possibilities that would mean for Spain to be able to claim Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, California, Guam, and Puerto Rico. After all, they were a part of the Spanish Empire for 300 years. What the heck is Zapatero doing? Oh well, I bet he is probably scared of hiring someone as witty and clever as himself…

You can read the entire article in this link of the Wall Street Journal Website.

At least the good thing is that I still have a year and a half to learn Chinese. How do you say Seattle in Mandarin? By the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR! :-)

PA.