Beggars and begging

While watching the French Chess championship in Nancy last month, a lady sitting next to me said that she regrets giving one Euro to a teenage beggar with a non-French accent. According to her, in less than a second the one Euro disappeared from the beggar’s palm while a 10-cent coin emerged from his sleeve. She was embarrassed being told in public that the 10 cents won’t buy half a loaf of bread thus she grinned, “You won’t get a penny from me again.”

Recently, while entering a supermarket, a young woman with a baby caught my friend’s attention and thought of giving them some money on her way out. Fair enough, an hour later there was a woman with a baby at the same spot; however, they had different faces and other physical attributes, hairstyles and clothes. She concluded that the ones she saw earlier on had finished their shift.

I’m ambivalent when it comes to beggars: my heart says give while my mind dictates otherwise. A few months ago, I read an article about an Austrian Police’s revelation that beggars in Vienna are tied to the Eastern-European mafia. Apparently, the mafia requires women, children and the disabled from Rumania to bring in 80 Euros a day by begging and subject them to violent abuse when they fail to do so. Consequently, a new law has been introduced to make professional begging illegal in Austria.

Des nouvelles de Ogura Noboru Hanshi (小倉昇範士) - Maître de iaïdo 8ème dan

(Traduit de l'article de Sachié intitulé "News about Ogura Noboru Hanshi (小倉昇範士)")

On m'a demandé de contacter Ogura sensei il y a environ deux semaines. Je lui ai téléphoné immédiatement et nous avons discuté pendant 18 minutes. Comme d'habitude, j'ai adoré parler et rire avec lui.

Pour faire court, Ogura sensei va super bien!

Il pense souvent à ses ardents disciples en Europe. Toutefois, il ne peut voyager à l'étranger pour le moment car sa maman âgée de 97 ans a quelques ennuis de santé et réclame une attention constante.

Ogura sensei enseigne partout au Japon et doit souvent se déplacer jusqu'à trois jours maximum, auquel cas ses soeurs prennent soin de leur mère. Il promet du fond du coeur qu'il reviendra enseigner le iaïdo en Europe dès que sa maman ira mieux.

Il vous demande de continuer à vous entraîner vaillamment pour parfaire votre technique! Courage! Keiko gambatte kudasai!

Pour information, voici son agenda d’entraînements pour 2013:

... en savoir plus ...

News about Ogura Noboru Hanshi (小倉昇範士)

I was asked to contact Ogura sensei two weeks ago or so. I telephoned him immediately and we chatted for 18 minutes. As usually, I enjoyed talking and laughing with him.

To make a long story short, Ogura sensei is alive and kicking!

He often thinks of his ardent disciples in Europe. Though, he cannot travel abroad at the moment because his 97 year-old mother is frail and needs constant care.

Ogura sensei teaches all over in Japan and is often away three days maximum, while his sisters look after their mother. He faithfully promised that he will come back to Europe to teach Iaido as soon as his mother gets better.

He asks you continue your hard work! Keep it up! Keiko gambatte kudasai!

For your information, here is his training schedule:

... read more ...

Preventing Strokes

A stroke occurs when brain cells die because of lack of oxygen impacting on the person’s mental and physical abilities. This happens when: a) blood clot blocks an artery carrying blood from the heart to the body; or b) blood vessel breaks interrupting the flow of the blood to the brain. Its effect on the patient depends on which part of the brain the stroke takes place and how much damage has been done. Those with a small stroke have minor problems and recover completely. Serious strokes can lead to disability or death.

According to (seen on 26/7/13), the risk factors of stroke are: over 55 years old, middle-aged women with clinical depression, male, family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking cigarettes, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, high levels of amino acid in the blood, cocaine use, birth control or use of hormone therapy, heavy use of alcohol; men from divorced families have a higher chance.

The prevention of stroke is based on a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that walking for at least 30 minutes each day reduce the risk of stroke for women. The food known to help fight against stroke are: tomatoes and other antioxidant fruits and vegetables, beans, oats, almonds, soy, salmon and other fatty fish, and those rich in potassium (e.g. bananas, potatoes, prunes, raisins) and magnesium (e.g. barley and cornmeal). Meanwhile, the bad triggers are processed food with fatty or unhealthy ingredients in the form of preservatives and colourings.

...selected paragraphs from Being Intelligent Gifted


突然、義弟が再婚するという知らせがあった。彼は、やんちゃでプレイボーイなので、来夏の結婚まで持つかは分からない。いや、彼は本気か? <神妙にお縄を受けて共暮らし> (時実新子)。「とにかく婚約はメデタイ。楽しもう」と、彼らの住むベルギーにむかった。





Our world is indivisible

It’s supposed to be summer here in France but last week it felt like 10°C, there was a severe flooding in the south-west and it’s overcast most days. Summer heat waves in Australia have increased over the last 50 years. The world’s average temperature is now 8°C warmer than a century ago and such increase can lead to even more extreme climatic events, such as very hot days with bushfires and substantial storms and rainfalls.

The Earth is wrapped in a layer of greenhouse gases which makes conditions right for life (for us to live) by keeping our planet warm and protecting it from cold (known as greenhouse effect). Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main actor of the greenhouse effect. When excessive amount of CO2 is released in the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) for our energy use, climate change occurs; and inefficient use of this energy damages our planet.

On 17th June 2013 I went to a public meeting on climate and energy. The speaker, Mr. Pierre Radanne, spoke about ‘transition energétique’: the reconstruction in 1996, the petrol crisis in 1973 and the current situation (i.e. global obligation, national responsibility and individual action).

He emphasised that we’re paying for the ignorance and behaviours of previous generations, and this should stop. In France, for example, the consumption of energy are: residential comfort (e.g. heating) – 27%, food 18%, information & education 8% and leisure 8%. How can we reduce these figures? Someone from the audience divulged how her school managed to reduce its energy consumption by 50% by changing heaters and appliances.


source: France Info (June 29, 2013)



source: Der Spiegel (June 28, 2013)

source: The Guardian (June 30, 2013)









Dublin Core

Global education on First-Third World divide

Last week when I was tidying up our computer room, I noticed that our son’s Year 7 (5ème in France) History and Geography textbook was opened on pages with articles on health and education in Mali and Finland. There were statistics on income, life expectancy and literacy rate (i.e. 15-24 years old in Mali it’s 36% for men and 23% for women whereas in Finland it’s 100% for both groups).

I thought it was an opportunity to expand the subject, but why question on the reasons for such differences was met with resistance expressed in these phrases: "We’ve not learnt that yet," "It’s not included in our lesson" and "Our test won’t be on that."

Formal education (school) should not only be about learning by heart facts and figures and passing exams, but applications and making connections. Three billion people, which is almost half of the world’s population of 7 billion, live on less than 2 Euros (US $2.55)/day and many of them don’t have adequate education, shelter, safe water for drinking, and access to health and social services. Since most of us in developed (First World) countries don’t belong to this group, why should we bother, especially that we also have our own problems? It’s because we live in a globalised Earth and are both part of the problems and solutions.

In one of my previous articles, I discussed poverty in developing and Third World nations and their high birth rate due to the necessity to have children who can help provide and care for families (children are social and welfare insurances, especially during old age); historical and political experiences (e.g. colonisation, wars and conflicts, natural disasters, poor governance and corruption); and global realities (e.g. unfair trading, policies and practices in rich First World countries. Thus, there’s no need to repeat it here.

Ethnicity and Crime

The media have reported, and continue to focus, on two “ethnic Chechen” brothers, who have lived legally in America for 10 years, as perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three persons and injured about 200 people last April 14.

The emphasis and interest on their “ethnic origin” has brought back memories of my PhD thesis. Based on survey of public perception, content analysis of newspaper articles and examination of police and prison statistics in Queensland, Australia in the 80s, I concluded that:

Newspaper reports on Asian criminality reflect public perception more than the official records (police and prison data) and that Asian-born migrants had lower crime rate than the Pacific Islander-born and the general Australian population.

(Media reporting should be socio-culturally sensitive, non-discriminatory and not contribute to negative stereotyping, prejudice and victimisation of law-abiding immigrants and refugees).

In the USA, there’s an over representation of African-and Spanish-Americans in the criminal justice system. There are economic, psychological and ideological reasons why an individual commits a crime. Members of immigrant and ethnic groups may not be more criminal than the majority in the population; however since they are more visible, they attract more police attention and their deviancy or criminality becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.







Are you emotionally gifted?

Are you emotionally gifted?

Last week, in our Business English class, we had a role play on hiring the best person for a middle level position, i.e. choosing one of these 2 job applicants: A) a qualified person with little experience but is more likely to integrate well in the workplace; B) a highly experienced and technically savvy individual. Without hesitation, my 3 students explained why they would choose applicant A, who they described as “the more emotionally intelligent of the two.” When I asked for further explanation regarding emotional intelligence, they spoke vehemently about good interpersonal skills, ability to manage emotions, resilience, foresight, quick thinking, effective decision making and optimism – a cocktail of personality traits and cognitive & emotional intelligence.

Personality is one piece of the human triangle that defines us as a unique individual. It is made up of patterns of feelings, thoughts and behaviours that remain stable throughout our lives. Like personality, cognitive intelligence (Intelligence Quotient – IQ) doesn’t change. In my book “Intelligence, Giftedness: Pre-cradle to Post-grave” I explored the subject of IQ as ability and potential - the brain. In this article, I concentrate on the third side of the triangle known as emotional intelligence/quotient (EQ) - which is about awareness and 'touch'.







Horse meat and lies on our plates

Indians eat snakes, Thais - insects (such as crickets), Japanese - sharks, Chinese - dogs and cats, Filipinos - balut (fertilized chicken embryo) and bagoong (putrid-smelling fermented fish or shrimps). So, what’s the fuss about horse meat?

About a kilometer from where we live there used to be a butcher that specialised on horse meat. Coming from Australia, I thought it was weird to think of horse as “la viande”. I supposed this butcher shop closed down because of declining consumption and competition from less expensive meat products. This lean source of protein and iron was from horses bred and killed in France for human consumption. As we know, with globalisation anything can find its way from and to any parts of the world. For example, between the Romanian abattoir and the French supermarket, there are: food brand Findus, food manufacturer Comigel, meat processor Spanghero and a Dutch trader.

As well, with the economic crises some companies look for supply chain opportunities that may include unethical practices. Accordingly, it is vital to impose international food labelling standard that provides a level playing field for food producers and sellers, and for consumers (wherever they are) to get information about their food that is clear (i.e. easy to understand, legible and visible) and not misleading.

Innovation and Luxembourg, Suffering a Brain Drain!?

Ten years ago, when I started going to the Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg (BNL - the National Library of Luxembourg), the “poverty” of the library (e.g., infrastructure, resources, services, etc.) of the world's richest (if not mistaken) country shocked me. The BNL was so underdeveloped, when compared to many public and private libraries in the USA. More surprisingly, many libraries I had visited in Brussels, Paris, and other cities were not so nice, either.

(Just note that some BNL librarians appear to be cold and distant at first. But, when they get to know you, they can be friendly, very helpful, and even sweet.)

Over the last ten years, the BNL has improved dramatically, and has become one of the best/favorite libraries I know in the region so far. Although I still miss some aspects of American libraries – for example, specialized librarians (e.g., law librarians) and more conducive, competitive, extremely intense, and intellectually stimulating atmospheres for studying, I am OK with the BNL. Hope that it keeps improving in coming years.

However, talent management in Luxembourg concerns me/us greatly.

It is obvious that Luxembourg has an advantage in attracting people because of competitive salaries, benefits, etc. But, it may not be so good at retaining their top talents in some sectors (though, of course, there are really talented people in Luxembourg, but some of friends have been disenchanted. They have moved to other companies and countries with better opportunities).

There seems to be something dysfunctional: something does not ignite, but undermine the passion of people.

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