Stork poop

OK, sounds gross, but it’s one of those questions you gotta ask!

Alsace and Southern Germany are filled with storks, as this snap of a village in Alsace shows:

But it makes you wonder: do storks poop into and onto their nests (as do many birds, such as pigeons), or do they keep their nests clean and make sure their body waste goes over the side, as this snap would seem to suggest:

How the wonders of the South French countryside are linked to the development of human intelligence

The fellow with the circle around his head is Saint Laurent – but not THAT Saint Laurent that you are thinking about!

But what does Saint Laurent have to do with Southern France, you might ask?

While driving across a lonely rural road from Nimes (a French village that a lot of tourists visit) to Beaucaire (a French village that a lot of tourists don’t), I spotted what looked to be a old stone building deep in a farm field. Because there were no angry tourist-hating French farmers with pitchforks around – and because the Gendarmes were probably all busy elsewhere looking after the protesting Gilets Jaunes, I took the liberty if not the risk of trespassing on the farm to take this wonderful snap:

I like the way the sun reflects off the stone and really highlights the building.

Fortunately, there was a sign just outside, so I quickly came to know this was the Cathedral of Saint-Laurent, dating back to the 1100’s.

And what does any of this have to do with the development of human intelligence?

Turns out that Saint Laurent was martyred in 258 for refusing to hand over the church’s riches to the local Roman emperor. What makes this very interesting indeed is while he was being persecuted for refusing to hand over riches, Rome itself was being ravaged by one of the first instances of the bubonic plague, the so-called Plague of Cyprian that killed thousands of people every day.

This is an electron micrograph of the plague, Yersinius pestis:

Interestingly, it has been show that Europeans today have increased resistance to this bacteria, most likely due to natural selection processes, i.e., the millions of people with less resistance were killed in the many outbreaks of the plague over the centuries.

This is what led me to speculate that, in a similar way, the Herpes virus has had a pronounced effect in the development of human intelligence.

Pickly pear in Provence

While traipsing about the southern countryside in Provence, I spotted this cactus hiding out behind another plant:

This is no ordinary French cactus – in fact, it isn’t French at all!  It is a species of cactus known as the prickly pear, and it is in fact an invasive species that was introduced to Europe – from America – back in the sixteenth century.

Interestingly, like a fool, I tried to pick up one of the fruits and received about one thousand little stingers in my finger. I was able to remove most of them – but now, three weeks later, as I write this post, there is still one lodged in my finger and causing me pain. Not quite sure what will happen, since try as I might, I can’t seem to remove it – or even see it.

A spacetime distortion over a medieval French village?

Continuing the series, this is a snap showing the medieval French village of Gordes,

Just left of center you’ll notice a very obvious distortion in the fabric of spacetime.  It is quite likely an intense gravitational rift opened at precisely the instant I took this snap – but no ordinary spacetime distortion was this, since the expected rainbow colors were not present. Most likely, the gravitational distortion which affected the light waves was accompanied by an intense magnetic field, and this triggered a massive anti-Stokes scattering phenomena which exactly compensated the light distortion.

But if you think this is amazing, then hold onto your hat: it gets even MORE amazing than this!

What is even MORE amazing than a spontaneous gravo-magnetic distortion of spacetime in a medieval village in France is that it occurred at precisely the location in which two separate photographs of the village were stitched together to create the panoramic picture shown above!

How amazing is THAT?!?!

For whatever reason, I don’t think my reasoning is that far away from what I‘ve seen some astrophysicists have used in discussing dark matter.  In an upcoming blog I‘ll probably mention Mr. Occam and his Razor.

The Amazing Cypress Trees of Provence

Southern France has some amazing, amazing trees.

I’ve written about the amazing plane trees of Provence.

I’ve written about the amazing umbrella trees of Provence.

And now, standing at attention like massive soldiers before storming into battle . . . the amazing cypress trees of Provence:

Interestingly, you can steal the unopened nuts off the trees, let them dry out the pop open at home, and grow your own cypress trees rather easily. I’ll show the steps in an upcoming blog entry!

What’s worse? The incredible fake drawbridge of Vincent Van Gogh – or his own fake buggy?

With this blog I would like to bring a true mystery to the attention of the art world – showing that one of the all time masters of art was, in fact, a con man.

First things first: this is the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh,

He lived in the south of France, and he made a number of paintings of tiny, almost microscopic horse-and-buggy on a mammoth drawbridge, just outside of the city of Arles:

He did this paintings in the late 1800’s.  Sadly, the Germans destroyed this bridge, along with many others, during World War II.  But thankfully for tourists, a “fake drawbridge” has been built to take its place. It is NOT easy to reach – well off the beaten path – so if you ever get here chances are, you’ll be the only one here to be looking at it!

But now we get to the fun bit – unless you are an art historian, in which you might find my opinion on this to be offensive if not downright hypostasy.

If you compare the tiny size of this fake bridge to that of the monster size drawbridge in his paintings, Van Gogh has grossly overestimated the size of the bridge – or else grossly underestimated the size of the horse-and-buggy crossing it. In both cases he made a gross error – and I find it amazing the public has not spotted this egregious error until now!

When backs are better than fronts – 6

Continuing the series, it is quite usual in architecture for the front side of an object (the facade) to be the most embellished and visually interesting.

But sometimes that doesn’t happen.

In a recent blog I provided a good example of this by the amazing, incredible, almost unbelievable Wülflinger Unterführung – a passageway at the Winterthur train station whose very existence is clouded in intense mystery, and whose tiny design and very steep steps would prevent it from being implemented today:

Well, if you find yourself in Winterthur – and if you are NOT afraid to enter deep, dark places, then you will be greeted by an amazing example of “backs are better than fronts.”

Because this is no ordinary passageway!  It is lined with railroad-related works of art, such as this:

And this:

Rise of the machines – the AMAZING French Robo-Stores

Continuing the series, in the event of a zombie apocalypse France is really the place you want to be.

There are now many “superstores” that are not accessible to people at all. You do all of your shopping online, 100%, then you drive to the warehouse where it is loaded automatically into your car:

If you can open the trunk of your car remotely, then in fact you can obtain your groceries or other items without making any physical contact with either zombies or French citizens.

Rise of the machines – the AMAZING French Robo-Hotels

France would be almost the perfect country during the next global pandemic, since it’s possible – without too much inconvenience – to live life here without having to interact directly with other human beings.

Fully automated grocery stores are one example. You order your groceries on their website from your home, and when you drive to the store they are all ready to be loaded into your car.

The amazing French robo-hotels are yet another. The chain called B&B is one of my favorites (but there are many others):

The rooms don’t use a key for entry; rather, they have a little touchpad into which you enter a code to open them.

As shown above, and in more detail below, outside the hotel there is a kiosk. You can use your credit card to order and pay for your room – and the machine will print out a paper with the code to your door.

Amazing Grasse: medieval village of perfume

The French culture is obsessive compulsive in many regards.

For one, there are a few villages that are not just well known for a particular trade, but in fact are obsessive about it.

Theirs in central France is one example I’ve blogged about. 90% of all cutlery in France is made in the tiny village of Thiers.

Grasse in southern France is another.  Here is a snap I took while in Grasse, overlooking the valley below:

Grasse’s claim to fame is the perfume industry. Almost two thirds of all scents in France are manufactured here.

Brain exploding experience – Gordes!

If you have a brain and you like your brain, and you don’t want your brain to accidentally explode, then you should best avoid this place!

Because visiting Gordes in Southern France is a truly brain exploding experience!

Here is a snap is the spectacular village of Gordes, located in Southern France:

The village dates back to Roman times and is located high on the top of a rock outcropping. Over the centuries the stone buildings and the rock outcropping itself have merged and melted into one another.

I’ll post a few more pics when time permits but with a long delay in between. Too many snaps of this place, too frequently, and there is a good chance your brain may explode!


Unbelievable plague of birds in Southern France

While driving across the French countryside in Southern France, I happened upon an usual sight – a dark gray cloud that I though was smoke from a fire.

But as I got nearer, I realized it was no smoke and no fire, but rather thousands upon thousands of birds!  This sight was so spectacular I had to stop and take a snap. The birds you see here are just a tiny, tiny fraction of them – many, many others were located on the other side of the building. Conservatively, I’d have to estimate there were at least 1 zillion birds:

Now, I’ve seen beautifully choreographed flights of birds in the skies above Rome, tracing out Lissajous-like figures. But this was nothing of the sort. It was a chaotic mess.

I have speculated about plagues of swallows in France. Sadly, I am not a bird watcher, so I can’t tell you why these birds gathered here, in the middle of winter, and what exactly they were hoping to accomplish.

Würm flowers

Continuing the series, I took this snap in a field in Alsace,

What’s amazing to me about it are two things. The plants are stuck on the ground and remind me of starfish.

And the high number of flat, polished rocks is certainly a vestige of the last ice age in this area, in which a massive glacier (known as the Würm) covered this area.


Minerals in rural France are MIND BLOWING – 3

Continuing the series, I’ve warned you that Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and Sainte-Croix-aus-Mines are places where tourists are advised to keep out.

Keep well out, that is, except for two days every year, during the summer, when they become home to one of the world’s LARGEST and most MIND-BLOWING gem and mineral show on the planet, namely, the Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines International Gem and Mineral Show.

During this time, the villages are visited by literally hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world.  And every square inch of the villages is occupied by the stands of gem and mineral dealers from all over the world (52 countries at last count!) selling their gems and minerals.

The village center is filled with dozens upon dozens of stands:

The church courtyards are all filled with dozens and dozens of stands:

And in fact, during these two days, each and every village office building is open to the public and filled with yet more stands. No space goes unwasted. For example, the local indoor pool is also filled with stands:

Minerals in rural France are MIND BLOWING – 2

Continuing the series, I’ve said that Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and Sainte-Croix-aux-Mines are extremely rural French villages where even tourists are advised to stay well away.

Well, if you do risk life and limb and find yourself here, you won’t be surprised to see vestiges of the Roman mines everywhere.

Here, for example, right in the middle of the downtown area there is an ancient Roman mine shaft that has been turned into a flower garden.