Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pissing Dutch

Dutch are well known for their water related civil engineering and their liking for water sports. This combination has also made Dutch become leaders in male urinal innovation (Japanese lead the female related R&D).
Barcelona mayor Clos, in his civic drive, should visit the Netherlands and learn some of the key elements that make civism and human nature compatible. Some of the solutions are simple and, at the same time, ground breaking. As an example I will give the fly engraved in Schiphol airport urinals. Airport statisticians working in the janitor department report that the amount of spilt urine has gone down by 80% what had as a consequence a reduction in force of 20% of the janitor crew and 30% reduction of the cleaning chemicals used to wipe out such a corrosive substance. Between you and me, it is also fun aiming at the little insect.
But this is not all, partying Dutch males who after drinking an undisclosed amount of beers need to give back to nature what they ingested, can make use of the highly sophisticated portable urinals strategically located near bars and other alcohol serving entities, as you can see in the picture. There have been some sightings of females using this facility, although no documented proof has been provided. For the time being, I consider it a pure rumor.
However I would like to warn mayor Clos not to go on a shopping spree and buy this standard equipment from The Netherlands. With my 5 ft 11", I find it sometimes difficult to use the Dutch urinals who have been designed for the Dutch, who are, in general, 4 to 6 inches taller than the Catalans. So, Mayor Clos, please buy a customized version. Otherwise so much pulling and stretching may result in infertility problems which may reduce, even more, the dwindling birthrate in Catalonia.

Out of modesty, I will not comment on the Japanese innovations for female users of the lavatory facilities. Fake waterfall background music to mask physiological noises and remote controlled joysticks to direct the toilet bowl water jet, are things I have no experience with.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Zom una nazió

Last Sunday I arrived in Barcelona in a surprise visit to my younger sister. It was her birthday and I decided to show up without warning. It took her a few seconds to recognize me, but I made her day. It was worth while flying for 10 hours 5000 miles.
We ate cake, blew the candles and drank an excellent cava, Juvé i Camps.
She treated me for dinner at a “tapas” bar at the Rambla Catalunya called “Ciutat Comtal”. They have excellent “tapas”, but it is a real “guirilandia” in miniature. It was full of foreigners and half guiris like me. “Tapas” are great. I had two plates of Jabugo ham and Andalusian “chocos” (squid) to show my support for the Andalusian national caliphal reality and “Padrón” peppers and Galician “navajas” (razor clams) to show my support for the Galician national Celtic reality and, of course, a heavily boycottable Catalan “cava”.
A few days ago, I had emailed my friends telling them that I would be in BCN for a day and asking them whether they would have some time for lunch. They all replied positively with only one condition. Lunch had to be short, not more than 2 hours (1:30pm to 3:30pm). I arrived a bit late (1:35pm), the place was a bit hard to find. The first one, J, arrived at 2.05pm, the second one, L2, at 2.25pm and the third one, L1, at 2.30pm. We had a good lunch and a good conversation. At 4.30pm, they had to “rush” to work. However, do not get the impression that the did not work his 9 hours or more. For sure they were in the office until 8 or 9pm. Barcelona, what a great place!!!

Once again, I was able to verify personally that all those lies spread by the biased media, (Libertad Digital, some contibutors to Barcelona Reporter, ABC, El Mundo, etc.) have absolutely no foundation. This is my experience of one day as a customer in Barcelona:

Lunch - El Balanci - waitress: Portuguese - I started ordering in Catalan - Waitress replied in Spanish – I switched to Spanish
Dinner – Ciutat Comtal - waiter: Filipino - I started ordering in Catalan - Waiter replied in Spanish – I switched to Spanish
Police Station (for national ID renewal) – policeman: Castilian, probably from Valladolid or Burgos – I asked my question in Catalan – Policeman replied in Spanish – I continued asking in Spanish
Airport security – screener: from South America, probably Peru – She asked me to remove my laptop and belt in Spanish. – I obeyed in Catalan.

As you see, “zom una nazió” .

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Catalanity test

This is a simple Catalanity test.
Watch this video of Pau Casals addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations, the day that his hymn of the United Nations was presented.

  1. If tears come to your eyes and you get goose pimples on your skin, you are a real Catalan
  2. If you get upset, you are a Spanish nationalist who most probably votes for the Popular Party
  3. If you feel nothing, you are not a Spaniard
  4. And if you are a Spaniard and still feels nothing, you'd better brush up your English

History of the unofficial hymn of the United Nations

One such song, or hymn, was written and performed at the United
Nations on 24 October 1971, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the United Nations, by Maestro Pau Casals of "Catalonia". The words were written by poet W.H. Auden of the United Kingdom.
The two, though they had never met, were brought together in this unusual collaboration by then United Nations Secretary-General U Thant. For centuries, poets and musicians have sung in praise of war and celebrated victories in battles. U Thant was intrigued by the fact that there existed no hymn to peace.
Pau Casals was a personal friend of his, and when approached by U Thant, he readily agreed to write the music. As the Secretary-General explained, the song was to be based on the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations. Although it would not be formally adopted as the official anthem of the United Nations, U Thant hoped it would be performed on appropriate occasions.
While Casals greatly liked the ideas contained in the preamble, there was no way he could put music to such a document. The task to write an appropriate poem, based on the theme of peace and ideals enshrined in the preamble, fell on W.H. Auden, then regarded as the greatest living English poet. When a representative of the Secretary-General approached the poet, he immediately agreed to write the poem. In three days’ time, Auden finished writing A hymn to the UN, which was then set to music by Casals.
On 24 October 1971, the Orchestra of the Festival Casals, with the Maestro himself as conductor, presented the hymn in a première performance at UN headquarters.

A Hymn to the UN
Music: Pau Casals Words: W.H. Auden

Eagerly, musician.
Sweep your string,
So we may sing.
Elated, optative,
Our several voices
Playfully contending,
Not interfering
But co-inhering,
For all within
The cincture
of the sound,
Is holy ground
Where all are brothers,
None faceless Others,
et mortals beware
Of words, for
With words we lie,
Can say peace
When we mean war,
Foul thought speak- fair
And promise falsely,
But song is true:
Let music for peace
Be the paradigm,
For peace means to change At
the right time, as the World-
Goes Tick- and Tock.
So may the story
Of our human city
Presently move
Like music, when
Begotten notes
New notes beget
Making the flowing
Of time a growing
Till what it could be,
At last it is,
Where even sadness
Is a form of gladness,
Where fate is freedom,
Grace and Surprise

This fact sheet was issued by the Public Inquiries Unit,
Department of Public Information, United Nations.
Tel.: 212-963-4475; Fax: 212-963-0071; E-mail:

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ian Llorens versus the European Union

A close relative of mine, who also happens to live in Massachusetts, got published the attached letter in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia. He tells me that when you send a letter to La Vanguardia, several things happen: they always give it a haircut, without any reason, even if the letter is relatively short. They love to edit it. The result is very often a little bit awkward, but the truth of the matter is that the try to keep the essence of the message.
The second thing that happens is that they correct your spelling and grammar mistakes, even though Bill Gates takes care of the first ones through his outstanding word spell check (in this case for Catalan). But my relative never learnt Catalan at school, it seems that it was banned when he studied, and from time to time, he makes some grammar mistakes, like making intransitive transitive verbs. He does not feel bad about it, however, because in the Valencian variety of Catalan, the construction would have been correct. There is always a loophole.

This is the English version of the article:
"Second class language
What Aleix Vidal-Quadras did when he voted against the use of Catalan in the European institutions, was to condemn the Catalan speaking community to become second class Europeans. The fact that Gaelic and Maltese, spoken by far less citizens and both of them co-official with English, can be used and not Catalan, discriminates us absolutely.
I would have understood that limits are imposed on languages spoken by less than 25 million people due to cost reasons, but this targeted discrimination is a violation of the rights of Catalans, citizens of the Balearic islands, Valencians, Galicians and Basques. I advise the Catalan government and institutions to file a class action lawsuit."

This is the original modified version in Catalan:

"Llengua de segona

El que va fer Aleix Vidal-Quadras en votar en contra de l´ús del català a les institucions europees és condemnar la comunitat catalanoparlant a esdevenir europeus de segona classe. Que es pugui utilitzar el gaèlic i el maltès, parlats per menys ciutadans i ambdós cooficials amb l´anglès, i no el català, ens discrimina absolutament.

Hauria entès que es posessin límits, per motius de cost, a la utilització de llengües parlades per menys de 25 milions d´habitants, però aquesta discriminació és una violació dels drets dels catalans, balears, valencians, bascos i gallecs. Recomano a la Generalitat i institucions catalanes que endeguin una acció col · lectiva als tribunals."

For those who do not know him, Aleix Vidal-Quadras is one of the vice presidents of the European parliament. He is a Catalan, member of the right wing popular party and he was the swing vote against the resolution to allow us to be able to communicate with the Eurochamber in Catalan. He is a clear example of why Catalans have never won any war in the last 600 years, there was always a "botifler" (traitor) that would sell our interests. Note that out of 14 vice presidents, there are 2 Catalans, that's 15% of the presiding body. I really cannot understand.

When asked, Aleix said that he had voted against due to technical reasons, the complexity of having even more languages in the E.U.

This is my answer to that:
  • You know my opinion about languages in the EU. Only English should be use by the people who work there (most probably a more legally acceptable compromise would be, however, that the 3 european union languages that are also official in the United Nations, become the three working languages in the EU: English, Spanish and French)
  • Communication between the citizens and the EU should be in the official language of the citizen. A webportal set up and paid by the regional or national government, should act as intermediary.
  • What you you cannot do is a targeted ethnic discrimination. If you are Maltese, you can use your small little language, if you are Catalan, you cannot. THIS IS A CIVIL RIGHT VIOLATION. Therefore I encourage all you Catalans to file a complaint to the European Ombudsman following this link.
  • Finally I would like to add that all these problems will be solved in 15 to 20 years. Today I attended a series of speaches/presentations at the JFK Library in Boston organized by MassMedic. One of the keynote speakers, Ray Kurzweil talked and demonstrated the future of interpretation with the improvement in computation. He predicted that in the next decade, google-kind interpretation algorithms will be built in our cell phones in such a way that when you call a colleague or friend in Germany, you will be speaking English and your counterpart will be hearing the same conversation in German. Both the software and the computation power will be available in any handheld device. I start to wonder why I learnt 9 languages. Looking from this perspective, Mr. Vidal-Quadras becomes irrelevant.