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23 November 1999 (in English only)

The Y2K bug means $$$
I have been astonished to read in the Newsletter my company sends to its employees that our group is spending 17 million US dollars to fix its computer systems so they are "Year 2000 compatible". 17,000,000 $ ! They seem to be proud to announce this figure. I would be ashamed. It is a blunt demonstration of the inefficiency of the so-called "Information Technology" (IT) staff. Whilst we all agree that coding a date with two digits for the year was saving expensive memory space twenty years ago, our IT people probably could have guessed that the century would change, some day. You don't need to be Nostradamus to predict this. I am convinced that fixing this "bug" at its source, say 15 years ago, would have cost little.
You all know that the Macintosh was launched in 1984 (the year of George Orwell's Big Brother), and that its original system was OK until 2019. Last year, i.e. more than 20 years before problems would arise, the Macintosh Operating System (Mac OS) was changed to cover a time span starting 30,081 years AD and ending in year 29,940.
Realising that my company has lost 17 M$ this year not only makes me sad, or at least nervous, but I also wonder who has pocketed the money. Probably the "Y2K Team" my company had to hire to do the job, and innumerable IT consultants seizing this opportunity to make a quick buck (or a few millions thereof). I cannot assure I will burst in tears next year, when they have lost their lucrative job.

22 November 1999 (in French for a change)

Mégawatts et cellophane
Entendu hier à la radio: 40 % des jeunes férus de musique (pop, hard et autres) sont atteints de problèmes d'audition. Les décibels produits d'un coup de potentiomètre détruisent de façon irréversible les cils qui forment l'essentiel de notre système de "réception" auditive, dans l'oreille interne. À tous ceux qui se balladent avec des écouteurs aux oreilles pour annihiler le bruit du métro ou de la rue, ou qui passent leurs "Saturday Nights" enfiévrées dans des boîtes disco où l'on ne peut commander sa prochaine bière qu'en hurlant, et où les mégawatts de la sono semblent être un argument de vente, je prédis une surdité précoce.
À l'opposé, les bonbons enveloppés de cellophane sont un outrage acoustique pour tous les auditeurs d'un récital de musique classique...
Rapportez-vous à mon article "Silence" à la page "Opinions", écrit il y a deux ans déjà...

20 November 1999 (in English)

An 11-year old sex maniac ? ?
Once again, America demonstrates the inconsistency of its citizens and of its laws. The United States are claimed by many - and often rightfully - as the country of freedom. But today, a boy of eleven is in jail for having reportedly fondled "sexually" his sister, aged five or so (I've read this, but not noted the details). The alleged crime is incest. I don't know who reported the facts to the police, but that person should probably be in jail instead of the boy...
Most of us have had outbursts of sexual curiosity in our childhood, and we've not all turned into sex maniacs. This event is for me as ridiculous as the sexual harassment affair of Pres. Clinton with which I started this column (see below).
See also my topic "More sex, less violence" in my "Opinions" page.

23 May 1999 (in Franglais)

Surfer sur le web ou sur un CD ?
Une étude sérieuse de l'ENSSIB* démontre que l'acquisition des connaissances est bien meilleure en mode "séquentiel", c'est à dire en lisant un document dans un ordre pré-déterminé, qu'en mode "navigationnel" tel qu'il nous est proposé sur Internet ou sur un CD, où l'on peut sauter d'un sujet à l'autre grâce à des liens "hypertexte".
Des sujets ont été soumis à un test où la même information était fournie d'une part de façon linéaire, d'autre part sous forme d'hypertexte. Pour minimiser la différence possible, la version linéaire était proposée à la lecture sur un écran et non sur papier. Le résultat du test est sans appel: ceux qui ont eu la version linéaire ont beaucoup mieux retenu l'information que ceux qui ont surfé sur la version hypertexte.
Que l'on me comprenne bien: je ne prône pas le retour à la version "tout papier" de l'information. Au contraire, je suis un fervent partisan de l'hypertexte pour la recherche des données à étudier. L'informatique rend ici des services inouïs. Mais une fois que l'on a trouvé ce que l'on cherchait, mieux vaut imprimer le document, particulièrement s'il est long, et l'étudier sur papier.
Par ailleurs, trop de producteurs de CD et de pages web ne se soucient pas assez de l'organisation de l'information qu'ils proposent, et laissent le lecteur errer d'écran en écran sans leur donner une vision claire des chemins conduisant à cette information.

*ENSSIB = École Nationale Supérieure des Sciences de l'Information et des Bibliothèques. Leur adresse Internet est

Une étude complète et sérieuse de ce sujet se trouve à l'adresse

24 April 1999

Vaclav Havel
A politician needs principles and good manners
This is what Vaclav Havel told his audience in New York when receiving an honorary doctor of laws in 1991. Click on the link to see the text.
Version en français.

27 March 1999 (in English again)

Does War bring Peace ?
Of course, I don't have a solution for Kosovo. But I cannot see how bombing a country can stop a civil war. It will create more cohesion among the Serbs. A part of the world's opinion will soon see them as victims rather than agressors. They already started retaliation against the Kosovars. Like in Iraq, it looks that only the elimination - political or otherwise - of the country leader might bring some change.
Is NATO the world's policeman ? Will Turkey be the next target to stop its oppression of the Kurds ? How about Congo, Sierra Leone, etc ? If it had been demonstrated, that a military strike could solve political problems, I might change my opinion, but I am still looking for successful examples...

3 March 1999 (in Europanto)

Europanto ?
Quis est idioma inventatum por alcun journalista Italiano-Gallo-Helvetico-Belgo cujus nomen est Diego Marani. If desirare, posse descubrire hejus prosam in articulo de pressa helvetica about ultimo filmo franzoso "Asterix und Obelix versus Cesar".

20 February 1999 (en français seulement)

Exploits sportifs ?
La radio nous rebat les oreilles depuis quelques semaines à propos d'un certain Vannier qui traverse le nord du Canada avec son téléphone portable et des traîneaux à chiens.
J'admire les aventuriers, et tous ceux en général qui tentent de se surpasser eux-mêmes. Cependant, l'intérêt de la chose pour l'humanité toute entière - ou en tout cas pour les auditeurs de France-Info - me paraît singulièrement restreint, surtout quand on apprend que la piste qu'il suit avec son attelage est ouverte tous les jours par des engins motorisés à chenilles...

Isabelle Autissier fait naufrage dans la zone la plus désertique et inhospitalière des océans austraux, au cours d'une course à la voile en solitaire. Bravo au skipper italien qui la suivait à une centaine de milles et qui l'a sauvée. Ce sauvetage est certainement un exploit. Mais si la navigatrice française s'était perdue pour de bon, j'aurais gardé mes larmes pour des catastrophes plus sérieuses.

Un autre, dont j'ai oublié le nom, escalade en vingt-quatre heures trois somments vertigineux des Alpes en hiver, pour y être "récupéré" chaque fois par un hélicoptère qui le pose au pied du pic suivant. Pourquoi les media nous infligent-ils ces nouvelles qui n'en sont pas ? Simplement parce que ces aventuriers sont subventionnnés par des sociétés commerciales, et que celles-ci ont besoin de publicité indirecte. Encore que dans les cas cités, on ignore qui sont les sponsors.

L'aventure est une affaire privée, à moins que l'aventurier ne découvre des choses qui font progresser la connaissance de l'univers. Ceux qui prennent des risques effroyables et meurent dans l'Himalaya ou dans les mers antarctiques le savaient. Et je ne vois pas ce que nous autres avons à y gagner.

Voir aussi: le foot selon Desproges ;-)

7 August 1998 (This one in English)

Sports = $$$ + Chemistry
I am not a great fan of [watching] sports. I could do without the sports section of the TV News or the ever-intruding corresponding chapter of France-Info.
But it is there, and you cannot escape... The names of football and formula 1 champions are hammered so frequently through the media, that you unwillingly end up being familiar with Alberto Tomba and Pete Sampras. I am not against sports as a principle. On the contrary, I think it is a good idea to exercise physically to compensate for our sedentary life. See also my July chronicle "Panem et circenses" in this respect.
Man seems to need idols that they can worship. This was true 2500 years ago, and still is, inasmuch as worshipping other gods has become out of fashion. So the new age idols are to be found in the show-biz and sports. The idols of the Greeks were semi-gods, and had been created by man's mind. The problem with today's idols is that they are made of real bones and flesh. But the bigger problem is the ocean of money surrounding them. I am not familiar with the mechanics of sports finance, but one can't help being astonished when hearing that Mr. Zadim Mbwele has been transferred from the Milan AC to Manchester United for $ 15,000,000.
Pierre de Coubertin said "the important thing is to participate", but today the important thing is to win. All methods are used. Biochemistry, for instance. A lazy champion won't be a champion for long, but one without steroids won't either.
I admire the will and efforts of these champions, when they are genuine. But taking drugs to win is just not fair play. I thought fair play was the essence of sports. Maybe I am seriously old-fashioned.

18 July 1998 (In English again)

Make love, not war
Well, the title is a teaser only...
My subject is serious: everyone seems to agree that war is an ugly thing. Most Western governments are adamant about that. But some (France, the USA, even the sweet Switzerland) have a well developed war industry. They don't call it a war industry, they call it a defence industry, but what they produce is lethal weapons.
OK, let them produce arms and train and play with them and continue a peace policy within their boundaries and with their neighbours. My only objection is - again - the money that the taxpayer has to give the State so it can play with its toys of death.
But unfortunately, they don't keep their toys for themselves: they sell them. To whom? To whoever wants to buy weapons. And not all of those who want to buy weapons keep them as domestic toys. Many of them soon decide to attack the next country.
So, we are selling arms to countries that want to fight a war with their neighbour. Then, when the war is declared, our government makes serious statements and asks UNO for intervention. A few months later, sometimes, our government sends its own troops to prevent the war from taking exorbitant dimensions. And our government - look, it can be French, American or Swiss all the same - issues another few serious statements, and the local (French, American etc.) media cover the issue and declare how dangerous it is for our sons to fight for peace in a merciless war.
Forget the money it costs the taxpayer. The whole process is hypocritical. If we didn't give these countries sophisticated weapons, they may fight with bows and arrows, and it would be cheaper and easier to stop them. Anyway, they wouldn't kill as many people.

29 July 1998 (Still in English)

Make love, not war (numbers)
Numbers from an article by Jérôme Bindé in the French daily "Le Monde" (29 Jul 98)
At least 1.3 billions of humans are living in a state of absolute poverty. 800 millions suffer from hunger or malnutrition. More than 1 billion have no access to health, education and drinking water.
The world (the rich world) has enough resources to give everybody a roof, potable water and basic sanitary equipment for less than US$ 100 per capita.
To achieve this, the world (the rich world) would have to invest (I am saying "invest", not "spend" or "donate") 130 billion dollars.
How much does the world (the rich and the not-so-rich) world spend for weapons and military equipment ? The answer is: US$ 800 to 920 billions per year...

July 1998 (Not in Latin)

Panem et circenses (sequel)
Most, if, alas, not all, of the Western population being more or less adequately fed with bread, what about the circus games?
As I said in May, as long as the people is busy calculating goal averages and dreaming about the millions of dollars involved, they don't focus on more critical issues.
The Roman Emperors had found this to be a warrant for domestic peace...
I came back from Asia on Saturday, 13th June, and as I went shopping in the afternoon, the streets were surprisingly not congested. I realised some time later that some of the first football games were in progress. As far as traffic is concerned, I wish there were a world's football cup every Saturday afternoon...

Another good thing was: apart from a few English and German hooligans who came to create violence, the whole event was rather peaceful and friendly. Most teams were multiracial, and each of the players was equally worshipped by the supporters. Now that it is over, will racial violence resume?

18 July 1998 (Not in Latin, but not in English either)

Corruptio Optimi Pessima
Je n'ai rien contre le fait que l'on assigne devant les tribunaux les notables qui ont quelque peu profité de leur position pour faire ratisser leur jardin privé par des employés municipaux. Ceci a dû coûter quelques milliers de francs à la communauté.
Mais que dire de ceux qui, par maladresse ou négligence, ou parce qu'ils ne savent pas le métier pour lequel ils sont payés grassement dans des entreprises publiques, ont embarqué lesdites entreprises dans un naufrage total (voir Crédit Lyonnais). Et ce sont nous, les "cochons de payants", qui doivent par nos impôts régler la facture. Les "responsables ne sont pas coupables", et ne vont donc pas en prison.
Pour ma part, je pardonnerais plutôt au Maire qui s'est trouvé un petit avantage en nature...

1 May 1998 (French only)

Les Français et l'Euro
Considérant que 40 ans après l'introduction du "franc lourd" on trouve encore des gens qui comptent en ancien francs - et que la presse, jusqu'à récemment, prenait un malin plaisir à maintenir cet état de fait en parlant de "millions de centimes" - on se demande combien de décennies seront nécessaires pour que les Français pensent en Euros.
À mon avis, la meilleure solution serait de ne plus faire du tout référence au Franc dès que possible. Comme le taux de change Euro/Franc sera moins facile à manier que le facteur 1/100 appliqué à l'introduction du Nouveau Franc, le jour où tous les salaires et les prix seront libellés en Euros seulement, ils ne se fatigueront plus à ce calcul mental délicat.
Ceux d'entre nous qui voyagent savent que l'on peut s'adapter à d'autres monnaies assez facilement pourvu que le séjour à l'étranger soit assez long ou se répète fréquemment.
Que l'on ne nous bassine donc pas avec les difficultés à venir: supprimons le Franc dès l'an 2000, et le tour sera joué.

17 January 1998 (English only)

Mr. President accused of sexual harassment
This issue is absolutely ridiculous. Was the lady assaulted by Clinton? She doesn't even pretend so. He may or may not have put his pants down. So what?... Is such a subject important enough to mobilise the world's press? Are there no better subjects of thinking and discussion? Is that act, if there was one, worth 2 million bucks of damage?
The last "Lolita" film doesn't find a distributor in the USA. Rambo and Star Wars, or whatever is the present equivalent, don't have this problem. It's interesting to remember that "Deep throat", 30 years ago, was a success. Times are changing...

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