Cabbage smell in Luxembourg

Have you notice the rotten cabbage smell in Luxembourg last sunday? It's the Burgos paper mill near Arlon.

"Most odors associated with kraft paper mills result from the use of sulfur in digesting wood and sawdust. In the digestion process some of the sulfur is converted to reduced sulfide compounds (TRS). TRS gases, which have very distinctive odors, are primarily hydrogen sulfide (H 2 S, rotten egg smell), methyl mercaptan (CH 3 SH, rotten cabbage smell), dimethyl sulfide (CH 3 SCH 3 , rotten vegetable smell), and dimethyl disulfide (CH 3 S 2 CH 3, rotten vegetable smell)."


Perle Mesta

Perle Mesta was an American society figure, political hostess, and U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg (1949-1953). She supported Harry S. Truman's run for the White House, and was rewarded with the ambassadorship to Luxembourg.

Mesta was the inspiration for Irving Berlin's musical, Call Me Madam, "a satire on politics and foreign affairs that spoofs America's penchant for lending billions of dollars to needy countries, it centers on Sally Adams, a well-meaning but ill-informed socialite widow who is appointed US Ambassador to the fictional European country of Lichtenburg. While there, she charms the local gentry, especially Cosmo Constantine, while her press attache Kenneth Gibson falls in love with Princess Maria" (Wikipedia).


Life on Mars

Photographs taken in 2004 by the NASA space probe - Mars explorer Spirit - appears to show a human shaped object, a the creature with a huge head making its way down a mountainside. I think it's Chewbacca.

Old news

"The technology behind Google's great results

As a Google user, you're familiar with the speed and accuracy of a Google search. How exactly does Google manage to find the right results for every query as quickly as it does? The heart of Google's search technology is PigeonRank™, a system for ranking web pages developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University.

Building upon the breakthrough work of B. F. Skinner, Page and Brin reasoned that low cost pigeon clusters (PCs) could be used to compute the relative value of web pages faster than human editors or machine-based algorithms. And while Google has dozens of engineers working to improve every aspect of our service on a daily basis, PigeonRank continues to provide the basis for all of our web search tools."

"Why Google's patented PigeonRank™ works so well

PigeonRank's success relies primarily on the superior trainability of the domestic pigeon (Columba livia) and its unique capacity to recognize objects regardless of spatial orientation. The common gray pigeon can easily distinguish among items displaying only the minutest differences, an ability that enables it to select relevant web sites from among thousands of similar pages.
By collecting flocks of pigeons in dense clusters, Google is able to process search queries at speeds superior to traditional search engines, which typically rely on birds of prey, brooding hens or slow-moving waterfowl to do their relevance rankings.

When a search query is submitted to Google, it is routed to a data coop where monitors flash result pages at blazing speeds. When a relevant result is observed by one of the pigeons in the cluster, it strikes a rubber-coated steel bar with its beak, which assigns the page a PigeonRank value of one. For each peck, the PigeonRank increases. Those pages receiving the most pecks, are returned at the top of the user's results page with the other results displayed in pecking order."

"Where does Google get its pigeons? Some special breeding lab?

Google uses only low-cost, off-the-street pigeons for its clusters. Gathered from city parks and plazas by Google's pack of more than 50 Phds (Pigeon-harvesting dogs), the pigeons are given a quick orientation on web site relevance and assigned to an appropriate data coop.
Isn't it cruel to keep pigeons penned up in tiny data coops?
Google exceeds all international standards for the ethical treatment of its pigeon personnel. Not only are they given free range of the coop and its window ledges, special break rooms have been set up for their convenience. These rooms are stocked with an assortment of delectable seeds and grains and feature the finest in European statuary for roosting.
Note: This page was posted for April Fool's Day - 2002." (the whole story here)


Cine Marivaux

Cine Marivaux, at the corner of Rue St. Zithe and Rue Dicks, is going down.
Built in 1928, designed by the architect Jean Warken, the main entry doors and the ticket booths were renewed by Jean Prouvé in 1939. From 1987 to 1998 the cinema was enlisted in the luxembourgish Inventaire supplémentaire des sites et monuments. Then it was declassified. Now it will be destroyed. The corner of the building is supposed to be preserved. The city will have more 2,900 m2 of office space and 12 apartments.
Jean Prouvé was a French designer and architect established in Nancy(see Wikipedia).

«In 1949, the French government under Charles De Gaulle hired Jean Prouvé, a French designer and a favorite of contemporary collectors, to build prefabricated housing for the country’s African colonies. In what may be the earliest example of modern prefab, Prouvé created Maison Tropicale, an aluminum paneled building that could be packed into a cargo plane. One of the surviving prototypes, here at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City, New York.»

In 1955, Prouvé designs an homeless low-price prefabricated house for Abbé Pierre: "la maison des jours meilleurs" ("the house of better days"). Sponsored by Persil, the house was built on the Seine's dockside, in Paris, but later not officially approved by the Ministère de la reconstruction. Le Corbusier said that is was "Admirable, je n’en connais pas de plus belle".


Dirty skies

Air in Luxembourg City is dirty, and getting dirtier. The average level of nitrogen oxides is around 50 mcg in Hamilius and Bonnevoie, above the european limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter. Nitrogen oxides means diesel cars.
Because of the way a diesel engine works, with an excess of air inside the engine (rather than "just enough" as in a petrol engine, which is what causes CO emissions), nitrous oxides are more likely to be formed. The nitrous oxides combine with low level ozone to form smog. Diesel engines emit high levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), and in addition, a complex mixture of gases many of which are known or suspected cancer causing agents. Diesel exhaust exacerbates asthma and causes inflammation of the airways. Diesel exhaust is an important contributor to airborne concentrations of fine particle pollution, especially in urban areas.
This means that most european governments are supporting (fiscally or directly) low CO2 emitting diesel cars that are still responsible for deteriorating air quality in major cities. Since diesel versions are more expensive them the petrol versions of the same model, I guess the auto industry bosses most be happy.


"How easy is it to crack Luxembourg?" or First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin, and then Luxembourg

Amazing. Two podcasters hit iTunes Top20 by spending one day in Luxembourg (the whole story here and here).


Cleaner Skies

Europe is finally doing something about the fastest growing source of the pollution that causes global warming: air travel.
The «Clean Sky» Joint Technology Initiative created by the European Commission for the 7th Framework Programme for Research is a research programme plan for greener european air transport. The goals are to obtain, by 2020, a 50% reduction of CO2 emissions, a 80% reduction of NOx emissions and a 50% reduction of noise.
Flying by jet plane is the least environmentally sustainable way to travel and transport goods. Aeroplanes are responsible for at least 3,5 % of global warming. This figure is expected to reach 15 % by 2050.

Some more numbers, from http://www.dontfly.org/:

One-way flying distance in kilometers: 2000
Liters of crude oil consumed by one person, two-way flight: 274
Number of persons traveling in your group: 2
Liters of crude oil consumed by the group/family, two-way flight: 549
Liters of carbon dioxide released to atmosphere by the group/family, two-way flight: 740093
Tonnes of carbon dioxide released to atmosphere by the group/family, two-way flight: 1,354
Euros would cost to buy carbon emission allowances (if aviation was not excluded in the EU carbon dioxide trading scheme): 5
Euros more the flight would cost, if aviation fuel had the same tax as road transport fuel in EU: 447
Days, equivalent to idling a family car nonstop (motor running - car not moving): 20
Equivalent to driving with a family car, kilometers:

«Perhaps you're thinking of flying off to a warmer climate, basking in the sun, listening to the waves from your bedroom?
Or maybe you're looking for something more unusual? - Visit deserts which were once the cradles of ancient civilisations, see rivers of ice crack and flow down mountain slopes, or paddle through flooded forests...
Maybe you're visiting old friends or bringing some warmth to your grandchildren far away, Or are you jetting off to an business meeting or an international conference, to play your part in shaping the future of our planet? Yes, that's right, whatever your reason, all you have to do to make the world warmer is get in a plane! CO2, NOx, and H2O emissions from aircraft contribute substantially to the greenhouse effect. So, as this melts the icecaps, the sea-level will rise, drowning those coral islands, flooding those forests, perhaps bringing the waves right into your bedroom. Meanwhile advancing deserts and freak storms may destroy our farms and cities. Will our grandchildren thank us for the exciting warm world they inherit?» (


Village people

Several robbers impersonating policemen have been active in Luxembourg in the last days. They wear dark clothes, baseball caps, and speak French. On the pretext of checking something inside the house (a water meter, for example), they gain access to the victim's houses and steal whatever they can.
The police has warned the population about this scam, and reminded that luxembourgish police officers speak luxembourgish. In case of doubt, call the nearest police station, and don't let anyone into your house. If you don't speak luxembourgish (more then 40 % of the residents are foreigners, according to STATEC) always call the nearest police station.
This language issue can put a touch of manichaeism into the whole situation: speaking luxembourgish is good; any other foreign language is bad.

(PS: Luxembourgish biker cops are easier to identify: think Village People!)



TANSTAAFL is an acronym for the adage "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch," popularized by science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which discusses the problems caused by not considering the eventual outcome of an unbalanced economy. This phrase and book are popular with libertarians and economics textbooks. (Wikipedia)

"Citing disagreements with the organization, Intel Corp. said Thursday it has abandoned the One Laptop Per Child program, dealing a big blow to the ambitious project seeking to bring millions of low-cost laptops to children in developing countries.""Intel decided to quit the nonprofit project and the OLPC board because the two reached a "philosophical impasse," Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said. Meanwhile, Intel will continue with its own inexpensive laptop design called the Classmate, which it is marketing in some of the same emerging markets OLPC has targeted." (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080104/ap_on_hi_te/intel_one_laptop_per_child)