Archive for January 2012

“Your Fingers Bleed, and You Enjoy the Suffering”

January 31, 2012

Novak Djokovic (born May 22, 1987 in Belgrade) embraces Rafael Nadal (March 6, 1986, Manacor, Spain) after the match. Photo by Aaron Favila of the AP.

“Your Fingers Bleed, and You Enjoy the Suffering”
The winner and loser coincide in emphasizing the beauty and intensity of the longest final in Grand Slam history
El País: “Te sangran los dedos y disfrutas del sufrimiento”
J.J. Mateo reporting from Melbourne January 30, 2012

While the drinks were handed out in the dressing room, with bags and more bags of ice arriving to fill the baths in which the tennis players would recuperate, the Serbian Novak Djokovic melted in an emotional embrace with his girlfriend, the beautiful Jelena. The champion took off the gold medal hanging on his neck and, in a sweet gesture, put it on her. “They give the same kind in the Games,” he said to hear in Serbian, as if in the couple’s minds London 2012 were already there.

Nole [Novak’s Spanish nickname, which rhymes with ole] had won his fifth major tournament, his third in succession. He was demolished. Beside him, his agent searched for the Serbian ex-basketball player Vlade Divac, who had lost his credentials [to be in the room], while techno music played in the background in anticipation of the party to come. “I’m ready for all of it,” he said, laughing, while he was directed to the fiesta with the clock already reaching four in the Australian morning: “A tennis player lives for matches like this.”

Rafael Nadal had left the dressing room before Djokovic arrived there. If the measure of a man is how he takes defeat, it’s clear that the Spaniard just not just any other man. “First of all,” he opened, with his emotions still fresh, “Congratulations to Novak and his team, who are doing something fantastic.” “This is one of the happiest defeats of my career,” continued the Mallorcan, pensive and surprisingly positive after losing the final. “I’m not trying to beat Djokovic; I’m trying to exceed myself. During this tournament, I played much better than I did in 2011. This might be the lost final that hurts the least because I did everything I could. I fought with everything I had. I ran as far as I could run. I competed with a player who, today especially, is brilliant. I took him to the limit, something I didn’t do in 2011. The passion, the hope, are here, and when someone has done everything he could, he isn’t obligated to anything more…I’m satisfied with myself. After a time in which I suffered without enjoyment, I enjoyed suffering. That is the path.”

In assessment of his play, Nadal recalls that less than a month ago, he wasn’t even practicing because his shoulder hurt; he arrived in Australia without time to work on the subtle change in the weight of his racquet head; 15 hours before his debut in Melbourne, he was crying in his room because he believed a knee injury would force him to abandon the tournament. A defeat after 5 hours and 53 minutes, after being up a break in the fifth set (4-2 and 30-15), should be a bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, he metabolized it in public like it was something positive and put on accent on something that is very much his: enjoying suffering.

“I absolutely agree with him,” noted Djokovic later, albeit with a face marked with strain and a cup within reach. “I’ve never felt anything like it. Everything hurts. You suffer. You try to wake up your legs. You try to push them one more point. Your fingers bleed. It’s already too much, and yet you continue, enjoying the suffering. That’s why I agree with Rafa,” he added. “To play almost six hours is incredible, simply incredible,” he said with surprise. “Hearing that it was the longest final in the history of the major tournaments [5:53] made me cry. I could have won in the fourth set, and Nadal made some serves and some incredible points. The match deserved to go longer. In the fifth set, either one of us could have one,” he continued. “I felt like my energy was dropping, but I knew that he was feeling the same thing as the time passed. I tried to maintain myself mentally. To control my emotions. When I saw I was down 2-4, I pushed my body to the limit. The two of us used all the energy in our bodies, down to the last drop. I believe that the title was decided by a little luck and a little desire. There should have been two champions,” he concluded.

There was only one, and it was Nole, a fearsome competitor and perfect communicator, a tennis player without limits who can dream of winning his own Grand Slam in the spring when he assaults Roland Garros [for the French Open], the only major he doesn’t have. Nadal left the court signing autographs, ready to devour a hot dinner waiting for him in the dressing room and leaving a word of farewell that reflects how he understands sport and life. The clock has already passed 1:30. He took the microphone before the people that packed Rod Laver Court and said, “Thank you for all the love that you have shown us and for supporting me in a match that I won’t forget, even though I lost it. I’m looking forward to returning here for many years and…continuing the fight.”


My Autistic Brother John’s Essay about “Of Mice and Men”

January 30, 2012
Of Mice and Men: a Report by John Smyth

Of Mice and Men was written by John Steinbeck in the 1930s about the sad conditions of the poor migrant farm workers who ate and slept at apartments made for them on farms.  This was called a “bunkhouse” in the book.  When they didn’t have an apartment at a farm, then they slept outside and quietly experienced the weather for better and worse. A way of seeing what they were was as performers who always played a bit part in the farm economy and died in a poverty that was all-encompassing personally, economically, and emotionally. Even when they were successful, they were tragic figures. And this was the setting for Lennie and George’s self-destructive experience.

Lennie and George early saw each man as a complement to the other.  George was small and smart. Lennie was autistic and big and strong. He was raised by his aunt and abandoned when she died.  George became a brother to Lennie who had no family. They always were together and Lennie followed George’s advice. Sometimes Lennie’s intuitive side let him appreciate that something was not right, but George’s logic always trumped it. Really, the very plot of the book revolves around the demonic mental side of man’s existence and his spiritual intuition to surrender to the way of the heart. As the plot unfolds, a choice is made to betray brotherhood and friendship for convenience and the will of a misunderstanding mob. Everyone loses innocence except Lennie, who gives his life but keeps his heart and goodness.
From the beginning, Lennie is taken advantage of. Sometimes he knows it and sometimes not. He is always surrounded by smarter, more worldly people. Sadly, they attempt to use him for their advantage. This is the world he lives in. Even his friend George is like this.  Always self-centered and successfully controlling, George is the world. The story compares the simplicity and purity of Lennie’s world to the sophisticated dirtiness of George and every other person’s cheap angle on life. I am impressed by the contrast and see it as a biblical allegory even Christ-like except Lennie has no mission to redeem.  But he is a lamb led to slaughter.
The story was so sad that I wanted to cry and I passionately wanted to scream and yell that it wasn’t fair for Lennie to die. Everyone else ends up ok but Lennie and his ignominious way end. I learned that horrible things happen to autistic people.  Our world desperately needs the goodness, simplicity, and pure, child-like intent of Lennie.  There is a Lennie in each of us.  Everyone’s Lennie wants to express itself and our George and the crowd kills it.  We need to care for our Lennies in the world and in us.
This book released many fears in me, especially the fear that if something happened to my family, I would be vulnerable like Lennie. And I am more motivated to educate and help people understand about autism. Everyone thinks we can help what we do and we can’t. When we do what we do, we never intend the bad consequences. Autistic people like Lennie need understanding and help. For all of us, we need to do more. A succinct statement is that Lennie could be anyone. All of us are in need of understanding and love. 

“I’m the Ambassador from North Korea,” Says Grinning DPRK Envoy When Berlin Police Ask to See His Fishing License

January 29, 2012

“I’m the Ambassador from North Korea,” Says Grinning DPRK Envoy When Berlin Police Ask to See Fishing License
Yomiuri Shimbun: 「私は北朝鮮大使」ほほ笑んだまま無許可の釣り
Sorihide Miyoshi reporting from Berlin January 22, 2012

German media are reporting that the ambassador from North Korea was caught fishing in a Berlin river without a license.

According to reports, Ri Si-hong was fishing on the banks of the Havel River when waterfront police asked to see his permit. The ambassador produced neither or a license nor a passport; he just smiled, said he was the ambassador from North Korea, and kept on fishing. The police took photographs and later confirmed he was indeed the ambassador.

Unlicensed fishing merits a 200 euro fine, but because the ambassador has diplomatic immunity, he will not be punished.

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Spanair Collapses So Quickly, Boarded Passengers Forced to Deplane

January 28, 2012

Spanair ClosingA passenger needs information from a Spanair ticket booth in Barcelona El Prat Airport. Photo by Carles Ribas.

Spanair Grounded by Grave Financial Problems
The end of a dream for an airline under the Catalonian flag
Its search for investors failed
The Generalitat declined to use more public money to save the company
22,771 affected by cancellations of this weekend’s flights

El País: Spanair se queda en tierra por sus graves problemas financieros
Cristina Delgado reporting from Barcelona January 28, 2012

Spanair could not convince Qatar Airways to support it, so at ten o’clock last night, it ran its final flight. Finding a new investor was its final hope to escape its financial problems. The Qatari company did not have a clear view of the business, and according to the Generalitat [Legislature] of Catalonia, a joint proprietor with the City of Barcelona of the majority of company shares, it feared that the European Union would demand the return of all public funding injections in the future. The failed search for investors precipitated the most feared outcome yesterday: the administrative council of Spanair met at about six in the afternoon, and from then they began preparing the annulment of all company operations. Up to 22,771 people will be affected by flight cancellations this weekend alone – 212 flights for that time frame have been cancelled.

At eight in the evening, a flight arrived to Barcelona from Bilbao. When passengers deplaned, company workers informed them that their return tickets would be annulled. “They’ve told us they won’t fly anymore, but they haven’t explained anything,” complained Martina Jiménez. She was directed to company counters, where the scene began to heat up. The airport monitors began to take red tints.

There will be a creditors’ meeting, according to company sources. Company president Ferran Soriano did not want to go into details however; instead, he evaded the question in an exercise of calculated ambiguity. “I can’t clarify at this time because this is not the matter I’m worried about at the moment. I’m focusing on operations. The legal measures and techniques we take will be decided in the coming hours,” he explained at about ten o’clock at night. He left the company administrative council to attend to the media for a few minutes, then returned to the meeting. He did not clarify what will become of the company’s some 2500 employees, nor the hundreds of others whose businesses indirectly depend on Spanair.

Spanair, founded in 1986, passed in 2009 from the Scandinavian SAS investment group to Catalonian businesses. It closed 2010 with €607 million in invoices and losses of €115 million. It had already lost €186 million in 2009. “Given the lack of financial visibility over the coming months, the company has opted to cease operations of its flights as a measure of prudence and security, and it will take all the appropriate legal measures,” read its announcement yesterday.

AENA (Spanish Airports and Air Navigation) and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport have initiated a plan to hurriedly relocate affected passengers. The airline’s competitors, including Ryanair, Easyjet, and Vueling, have begun to organize with Ana Pastor’s department to take on the passengers Spanair cannot transport. The company had planned 91 flights for today alone; 8695 people will be grounded if other companies to not find room for them. Last year, Spanair transported the fifth most passengers of any Spanish airline, 12.5 million.

€115 Million in Losses:
2010 Invoices: €607.9 Million
Pre-Tax Balance: -€124.9M
Losses: €115.7M
Company Funds: -€168.2M
Airplane Fleet: 33 crafts (19 Airbus A320, 5 Airbus 321, 9 McDonell Douglas)
Passengers Transported in 2011: 12.5 million in Spain; of those, 4.3 million in Catalonia
Stockholders: IEASA (84.7%) and SAS (11.6%) investment groups; others (3.6%)

Collapsing Airline Spanair Obliges Boarded Passengers on Flight to Madrid to Deplane
The affected passengers protest the lack of information and alternatives to the suspension of flights
El País: La aerolínea obliga a desembarcar a los viajeros de un vuelo a Madrid
Anthony Coyle reporting from Barcelona January 28, 2012

“They told us that they had cancelled all operations, and we had to get off the plane.” Catalonian airline Spanair’s cease of operations hit Luis Miguel Casas while he was sitting on a 20:55 flight from Barcelona to Madrid. Like the rest of the affected, the only instruction he received from Spanair was to be directed to the company’s client service windows in Terminal 1 of El Prat.

Gabriel Aparicio was one of the first to go there. While there was still no line. The cease of operations did not even affect him. His flight to Denmark was already ruined because he had forgotten his National Identification Card. But after he was directed to the company window, he was informed that “the company is not flying to Copenhagen anymore.” They did not give him credit.

Half an hour later, as the line began to extend across the airport, Spanair distributed a note to affected passengers with an information number (902-131-415). It also told them an it had created a rest area with children’s and breast feeding rooms.

Luciano Días flew to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands today at eleven in the morning. “They’ve told me to sort it out for myself, more or less, because they didn’t know anything,” he said with indignation while he waited in line.

Martina Jiménez, from Bilbao, had been thinking she’d spend the weekend in Barcelona. As soon as she stepped off her plane, she was told that her Sunday return flight “wasn’t going to take off anymore,” in her words. “They didn’t let me know anything about what was happening, and they didn’t offer to return my money either.” She was lucky enough to recover the €80 she spent on the round trip, though.

Others had to fill out a claim form. This was the case for Josefina Domínguez: “They haven’t given me any options. They told me the system was blocked and nothing more.”

The players for L’Hospitalet’s water polo team did not have the option of waiting in El Prat. They had a game at one in the afternoon the next day in Las Palmas on the Canary Islands. “They’ve offered us a morning flight with Air Europe, but that won’t do because we won’t arrive in time.” The game, which had already been postponed, was cancelled.

While complaints were processed, the line of passengers – stuck to their mobile phones – was grouchy. There were tears as well. Others, like 29 children and two monitors who were returning from a ski trip at La Molina, took it with humor: “Do you guys have something to do tomorrow?” one shouted.

The cease of operations also obligated scheduled flights from Las Palmas at 21:55 and Valencia at 23:30.

Twitter Will Block Messages in Certain Countries if they Violate Norms or Beliefs

January 27, 2012

Indicted 12-Year Old with BlackberryA 12-year old boy departs from a court in Manchester, where he participated in robberies coordinated on social networks. Photo by Nigel Roddis of Reuters.

Twitter Will Block Messages in Certain Countries if they Violate Norms or Beliefs
El País: Twitter bloqueará en algunos países los mensajes que violen normas o creencias
The company announces its social network has entered some countries with different ideas about the “countries” of freedom of expression and should be coherent with them.
El País staff report from Mexico City, January 27, 2012

Full liberty no longer fits inside a tweet.

A tweet is a message of 140 characters or less that can be written on Twitter if the user is a member of this social network, which counts for more than 100 million tweeters throughout the world.

But these 140 characters cannot include – or will no longer include – all the liberty in the world, because Twitter has just announced that as of now, it is willing to block messages that “authorized entities” of certain countries consider offensive or illegal.

Twitter has announced the new measure on its corporate blog. It is a short, generic message with a basic idea: “Almost every country in the world agrees that freedom of expression is a human right. Many countries also agree that freedom of expression carries with it responsibilities and has limits.”

The social network explains that it has expanded to many countries, some of which have different ideas about the “contours” of freedom of expression.

The company, in this public note, does not define very clearly what kind of content could be blocked, who qualify as “authorized entities” (an expression included in its usage policy), and finally, what requirements Twitter will establish for hypothetical petitions from these “entities”, be they governments or other organizations, to block messages in certain territories.

Until now, when Twitter censured a message, it could no longer be seen anywhere in the world. Now it has refined its process, so it can vet messages in only the countries that ask for vetting, leaving them visible to the rest of the world. For the moment, the measure has not been put into practice. The business has announced that when it vets a message, it will inform the affected user, and those who cannot access the content will be informed of the blockage and the reason for it.

The only example the social network gives of a censurable message is pro-Nazi content in countries where the National Socialists ruled, like France or Germany, which now have laws prohibiting this kind of message.

In its user policy, Twitter specifies that it is trying to respect “local laws”, but it does not let users know what local laws will prevail over users’ freedom of expression.

Scientific Research on Bigfoot Begins in Earnest

January 26, 2012

Bigfootprint?A sample of a 40 cm (4/3 ft) footprint that might belong to Bigfoot. Photo of Idaho State University Professor Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum’s collection taken by Tetsurō Yamada.

Scientific Research on Bigfoot Begins in Earnest
Yomiuri Shimbun: 未確認大型類人猿「ビッグフット」、真剣に研究
Tetsurō Yamada reporting from Washington, DC January 24, 2012

“Bigfoot”, a large humanoid ape species said to reside in the northern U.S. whose existence has never been confirmed, has become a subject of scientific research: Idaho State University has debuted the first online scientific journal about it and other such hominoids.

Bigfoot is thought to be bigger than a gorilla and to walk on two feet. There have been reports of footprints and sightings in the North Pacific United States for years on end. However, many of these calls have been pranks or cases of mistaken identity, so the scientific world has long ignored the subject, putting the species in the same category as UFOs and ghosts.

Recently, however, there have been discoveries of prints from huge feet that slipped on the earth, complete prints with ridges akin to fingerprints, prints from not yet fully developed skeletons, and prints with evidence of wounds. A group of researchers is researching the possibility that Bigfoots exist, stand more than 2 meters tall, and are the descendants of the Gigantopithecus, a 3m tall giant hominoid ape that went extinct about 100,000 years ago and which may have crossed the Bering Strait while it was still above land and dispersed throughout northern North America. This would make it a cousin of Asia’s “Snow Man” (or Yeti).

The e-journal is called the The Relict Hominoid Inquiry and like other journals prints articles by professional researchers. The first edition includes folklore and pictographs of the Mayak Datat, or “Hairy Man”, which once lived in California.

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Japanese Parliamentary Counsel Presents Legislative Amendments Necessary for Country to Join Hague Convention on Custody of Children from Failed International Marriages

January 25, 2012

Japanese Parliamentary Counsel Presents Legislative Amendments Necessary for Country to Join Hague Convention on Custody of Children from Failed International Marriages
Yomiuri Shimbun: 国際結婚破綻時の子供の扱い、日本でもルール
January 24, 2012

A set of legislative amendments that would be necessary for Japan to join the The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which sets international standards for the custody of children from failed international marriages, was released by the Parliamentary Deliberative Counsel (an advisory organization) on the 23rd.

The proposed legal plan establishes the process and guidelines for a non-Japanese person to request the return of a child his former spouse brought back to Japan with her. If the Japanese parent rejects a family court order for the child’s return, the court could empower an executive officer to seize the child and return her to the other country, according to the third item regarding refusal.

The Deliberative Counsel will report to the Justice Department in early February. The executive branch plans aims to bring the new set of bills to the floor of Parliament in mid-March.

If both parents of a child under age 16 from a failed international marriage are from countries that participate in the Hague Convention, then if one parent takes that child to a foreign country without the other parent’s permission, the other parent has the legal authority to force the child’s speedy return to his country of residence.

Japan is the only G8 country that does not participate in the convention. Last November, Prime Minister Noda told President Obama in person that he would propose the necessary laws to change this during the coming parliamentary session.

ハーグ条約The Hague Convention Process for Returning a Child from a Failed International Marriage
[This is what would happen if a Japanese parent took a child back to Japan. The left column shows the parent in the foreign country, and the right column shows the participating agencies in Japan.]
1. Parent from Foreign Country A requests assistance from Japanese Foreign Affairs Department’s central office
2. The Foreign Affairs Department confirms the child’s residency and tries to help reconcile the situation.
3. The parent files for a request for the child’s return with a Japanese family court. He can also do this directly, skipping steps 1 and 2.
4. The family court orders the Japanese parent to return the child.
5. The child is returned.

[Translator’s Note: The article doesn’t mention that the convention allows a family court to refuse to order the child’s return if doing so would endanger the child’s welfare.]

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