Revolutions and Revelations

This body I’m inhabiting has now accompanied the Earth on fifty turns around the Sun. Yes, that’s right, fifty years ago my little eyes first encountered our star and I began my journey.  Every summer, when the planet tilts its northern pole forward in homage to the fusion reactor that keeps us all alive, I eat cake in celebration.

(Can you tell I’ve been translating a book about astrophysics and space travel?)

It’s an epic moment, to be sure. On a number of levels. Epic enough that I have decided to finally reveal what Gydle means. Continue reading

The dragonboat adventure

"Dragon boat budapest 2010" by Lajos.Rozsa - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dragon_boat_budapest_2010.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Dragon_boat_budapest_2010.jpg

In the depths of the winter, after a kundalini class, a friendly fellow yogini named Francie asked me if I’d be interested in trying out dragonboating. Keep in mind I was riding the high that you can only get when your dormant kundalini serpent has been awakened from its lethargy by a series of repeated squats, twists, full-body dancing and gut-wrenching planks. I was feeling pretty damn invincible. And keep in mind that Francie is very cheerful and bubbly and convincing. “The name of the team is the Saggin’ Dragons! We have so much fun!”

In retrospect, I should have noted the fact that, unlike me, Francie does the three-legged planks without collapsing in the middle of the set.

Dragonboating! I thought. What a great idea! We’re living right next to the ocean, I should do something on the water! I know how to kayak. How hard can it be?

“Sure,” I said. “Why not?” Continue reading

Eat sh*t and … thrive!

IMG_1040Everybody’s talking about the microbiome these days. If you’re not taking probiotics, you’re probably eating sauerkraut and swilling kombucha. I know I am.

What’s the Microbiome? I’m glad you asked. See, the human body is made up of about 10 trillion human cells. And that same body is also home to 100 trillion bacteria. Your mouth, nose, armpits, bellybutton, skin and especially your gut are teeming with thousands of different species of bacteria. Collectively, they’re called the microbiome. If you took them all out, they’d weigh about 2 kilos.

And then you’d die, because they play a crucial role in keeping you alive. Continue reading

Huh? Say What?

There are so many things that don’t translate between languages. I could list reams of French one-word concepts that cannot be captured quite right in English. Every time I see one of them in a text I’m supposed to be translating I cringe. Vulgarisation. Valorisation. Territoire.

And then there are the turns of phrase. I understood that péter un plomb or péter un cable meant to be really pissed off, but for the longest time I had a really hard time visualizing someone farting out a bit of lead shot or wiring. In French yoga, downward facing dog is chien tête en bas. But I heard chat a tomba. The cat fell. Indeed.

So my interest was piqued when I received EPFL’s weekly Science question for translation last Sunday. There is, apparently, a word – or rather, one syllable – that has the same meaning in every language in the world. Continue reading

Fantastic Friday

It’s Black Friday!

I’ve been seeing this everywhere this week – BLACK FRIDAY!!

Just a quick reminder, folks – I’m currently living in Canada, where yesterday wasn’t Thanksgiving and today is not a holiday. Apparently, in an effort to keep the good people of Canada from driving across the border, or at least clicking their mice and spending their credit card dollars on websites across the border, Candian retailers have jumped on the “holiday shopping” bandwagon otherwise known as Thanksgiving.

This whole thing is just so wrong on so many levels. Continue reading

Neatnik, Swiss-style

A while back I wrote a post on stereotypes. Okay, it was a long while back, when Harold Camping was predicting that the world was about to end. In that post I recapped some pretty standard Swiss stereotypes:

The Swiss go on eating Rostis and chocolate and dipping day-old bread into oozing pots of cheese fondue, occasionally heading down into their fallout shelters for another bottle of Chasselas or Pinot noir, which they deftly open with their ever-handy Swiss army knives, accordions playing cheerily in the background.  When they’re not conducting secret bank deals involving covert Carribean cash transfers, that is. Or cleaning their ovens with toothbrushes. Or hiking up an Alp behind a herd of fat cows whose bells ding and dong sweetly into the picture-postcard valley far below.

Today, I came across something that made me laugh. It’s a story of a Swiss person who has taken the Swiss neatnik stereotype to such an incredible extreme that he completely defies another Swiss stereotype: the one that says the Swiss have no sense of humor. It seemed like an appropriate thing to share on April 1st. It’s no joke, though. Continue reading

You want fries with that?

Gydle has been silent the entire month of November. No excuses, I just didn’t have anything to say. Then I woke up this morning and my brain was teeming with ideas. Was it something I ate?

First, I have a great gift idea.

I got an e-mail the other day from “American Gut.” Imagine my excitement! The Human Food Project is live on IndieGoGo. For only $99 and a stool sample, you can get a list of the microbes colonizing your gut. Upscaling is a bargain – it’s $180 for two samples, $260 for three and a mere $320 for a family of four! Continue reading

Holy hairballs, Batman! It’s not junk after all!

Greetings from hibernation nation. I did say I’d come out if something really big happened. Guess what? One of my current scientific obsessions was Big News today! No, don’t go away – it’s not the microbiome. It’s my other obsession: junk DNA. I’ve written about it before, here and here and here.

In a stunning “no doh?” development, a vast international array of researchers has discovered that the 99% of the human genome that was considered “useless junk” isn’t junk after all. Continue reading

Humming


This morning after Brendan left – very early – to take the first written exam in his series of maturité exams, I decided to be really decadent and go back to bed for a few minutes. Marc was in the bathroom getting ready for his day –  humming and humming and humming.

No recognizable tune, just a series of little contented-sounding hums.

It reminded me of a passage I read yesterday in What I Loved” by Siri Hustvedt.

Continue reading

A big fat F

I’m reading “The Shallows” right now (thank you Matt, my local independent bookseller, for another eye-opening tome). It addresses how the Internet is changing our brains. Did you know that you read differently online? Eye-tracking studies have shown that the vast majority of people read the first two or three full lines of text on a web page,

and then

their

eyes

drop

down

a few

lines,

quickly.

Then they may once again scan about halfway across the page

for a couple more lines, before finally letting their eyes continue

down

the

left-hand

side

fast,

to the

bottom.

Their eyes

make

a “F”

pattern.

(“F” for Fail?)

Avg. time on ANY page?

19-27 seconds.

Bye.