Tuesday, November 24, 2015


by Madeleine Kando

After Brussels was put on the highest terror alert, with schools, universities and the subway system closed down, the authorities asked the public to stay silent on social media about ongoing counter-terror operations.

The public responded by flooding Twitter with cat pictures, one funnier than the next. Rather than give in to fear, Belgians have shown that the best way to fight terrorism is with humor and pezazz !

Here are some of the posts I found on humo.be:


Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Brief Message to our French Friends

Here is an e-mail I sent to my friends and relatives in Paris and in France:

Ca fait une semaine que cette horreur est arrivée. Nous pensons sans cesse a vous, et a Paris, la ville d’ou jaillis toujours l’espoire et l’illumination pour le reste du monde...

Sachez donc que meme ici, de l’autre cote de la terre, la grande majorite des gens pensent a vous, du matin au soir. C’est etonnant...et bien, quand-meme: Que meme les petits provinciaux qui n’ont jamais quitte leurs petites villes et leurs campagnes si loin de chez vous, realisent que quelque-chose d’horrible et mondialement important s’est passe a Paris.

Quand on heurte Paris, la terre entiere le sent, et en souffre. Notre coeur appartient a Paris. Nous sommes tous des Parisiens.(translation next) Read more...

Friday, November 20, 2015

San Francisco: A Jekill and Hyde City

by Madeleine Kando

I am flying back home to Boston, after a two-week stay in the Golden City. The weather is perfect and from my window seat, I watch the scenery roll by. Snow capped mountains make way for desert as far as the eye can see. Dried up river beds meander through hazy valleys and metamorphose into a quilt of fields of every imaginable shade of green.

Then, the landscape is suddenly pockmarked with fracking pads, indiscriminately encroaching on the pristine wilderness, like a giant circuit board. The landscape changes constantly. Now we are flying over a collection of small lakes connected with hair thin filaments that are probably turbulent rivers up close. I can never get enough of flying cross country. The sheer size of this continent boggles the mind, and while my co-passengers prefer to close their window shade to take a nap, I spend these cross-continental flights with my face glued to the glass, cranking my neck until it hurts.

As the distance between me and San Francisco increases, the monotonous drone of the engine slowly washes away the images of this morning's walk from my hotel room on Van Ness to the coffee shop on Polk Street. The early morning sun accentuates the trash, the dirt on the pavement and the leathery skin of a homeless man sitting against the wall. He is not sleeping or begging, just hugging his knees, his head hidden in his folded arms, as if he wants to disappear from the world. On my way back, I look for him and spot him from a distance. As I pass him, I look for a cup, but there is none, so I gently slide my folded dollar bill between his fingers, but he doesn't react. Like a statue, he has become part of the fixture of the city. He knows it doesn't matter, whether he is alive or not, whether he moves or not. He knows nobody cares and neither does he.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Twenty Four James Bonds

We recently saw the latest James Bond - SPECTRE, with Daniel Craig. It’s a fine movie. It is the usual combination of extreme violence, sex, intrigue and travelogue. The scenery includes Rome, London, the Moroccan desert and the Austrian Alps. I won’t reveal the plot because I don’t want to be a spoiler, and because I don’t think I can figure out the plot. It doesn’t matter, because most of the pleasure is visual, including spectacular fights on trains, boats, helicopters and buildings, and gorgeous women such as the Italian Monica Bellucci (who happily makes love to Bond after he murders her husband) and the French Léa Seydoux (as the daughter of a terrorist but now an ally and lover of Bond’s).

As you see, much of the plot is nonsensical, and requires suspension of judgment, but this has always been so with Bond movies, and it hasn’t been detrimental to their enjoyment. Read more...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Full List of James Bond Movies



Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Rape of Paris

 On November 13, terrorists murdered one hundred and twenty nine innocent victims in Paris. There were several simultaneous attacks across the city, but the bulk of the deaths occurred at a rock concert. There, many of the victims had first been held hostage. The siege ended and eight attackers died, either as suicides or shot by the police.

Paris. The Charlie Hebdo bloodbath is barely ten-months old, and now this. I am a Parisian. I grew up there. I went to French elementary and secondary schools. I have been back to Paris a hundred times. It is not possible to love a city more than Paris.

Now what? At first, we say: we must DO something. We must stand up to terrorism. We must fight back. Sure.

I don’t know what this means. Being angry is fine with me. I AM angry. After Charlie Hebdo, I deplored the fact that most Europeans were insufficiently outraged (see Charlie Hebdo and Europe’s Inability to Get Angry). This bloodbath will strengthen nativist European forces such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Viktor Orbán’s Conservative Party in Hungary, Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom in the Netherlands and others on the Right. We will hear, more loudly than before, that there is a war going on against the West, waged by radical Islam.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Most Human Telecommunication still Requires Stupid Wires

On October 25, there was an article in the New York Times by David Sanger and Eric Schmitt titled Russian Presence Near Vital Undersea Cables Causes Worry. Here is the passage that got me:

“The role of the cables is more important than ever before. They carry more than $10 trillion a day in global business, including from financial institutions that settle their transactions on them every second. Any significant disruption would cut the flow of capital. The cables also carry more than 95 percent of daily communications.” 

A few days later (Nov. 4), the Christian Science Monitor added:

“...a network of fiber-optic cables does crisscross the world’s oceans, connecting countries and continents. Each cable is about three inches thick. At its center are several fiber-optic fibers that transmit data as pulses of red light. Submarine cables carry around 99 percent of transoceanic communications... That means 99 percent of telephone and Internet data that crosses an ocean – from Europe to the US, from Canada to Asia, from Iceland or Australia to anywhere else – travels through a thin strand of optical fiber bundled into a cable and laid across the ocean floor.” Read more...