Wednesday, January 09, 2008


In Belgium, we have a cheese brand named Philadelphia. In their commercials, to emphasize the heavenly taste, they always show angels, eating Philadelphia in heaven. But the name always makes me think of the Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia. So to me, their angel commercials don't evoke heavenly cheese, but AIDS casualties...


Monday, January 08, 2007

Nasa TV

Through a window of the International Space Station (ISS), I can see the dark nocturnal earth underneath slowly rotating towards a new day. On the bent horizon, the atmosphere can be distinguished as a thin blue streak. Just above that streak, the first rays of harsh white sunlight begin to peak over the horizon, slowly blinding the sight. I watch this spectacle for a couple of minutes, when suddenly the station's creaking intercom radio jumps on : My, my ! At Waterloooo Napoleon did surrender... The familiar song continues for about a minute, and is then interrupted by a very American voice : Good morning ISS! This is Houston, I hope you liked our little wake-up song, time to get to work, folks!

No, this is not a movie scene from a science fiction film.
It's NASA TV, a streaming internet TV channel where you can follow NASA missions in real time. Just check out the mission dates, and tune in via I watched the space shuttle Discovery mission STS-116 last month and it was great. You can actually hear all the communications between the shuttle and mission control. It's really exciting, especially when you know how little it takes to turn the mission into an infernal disaster (Challenger, Columbia) For example : when Challenger re-entered the atmosphere (an incredibly dangerous procedure) after completing its last mission ever, a loose heatshield tile made the spacecraft desintegrate completely when soaring very high over Texas. Now, when Discovery re-entered last month, I was following every step of it on Nasa TV, and along with the flight controllers in Houston, I held my breath when the re-entry process commenced, and let out a big sigh of relief when the orbiter finally became visible in the skies above Florida. It really is fantastic when you can watch such a spacecraft touch down safely when you've followed almost every step of its mission in real time from behind your TV screen.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Some thoughts on Martial Arts

D E P A R T U R E - 2003 :

About three years ago, I decided that I wanted to study some kind of martial art. Just to keep myself in shape in a fun way. The problem was that I had no clue about them, I even didn't know the difference between karate and judo, so to speak. So before I chose one, I did a lot of looking up on the internet. I read about karate, judo, taekwondo, kungfu, aikido, kendo, etc. I went through many articles and discussions about which one of them was the most effective, but almost every article came to a different conclusion, I think because everybody finds his own martial art the most effective. Because I was clearly unable to select the most effective martial art, I chose the coolest looking one : Kung Fu. Even today I still find Kung Fu the most spectacular, exotic and most pleasing to the eye of all martial arts. I started studying White Crane and Long Fist at the Belgian division of Yang's Martial Arts Association.

A W A R E N E S S - 2005 :

The training was hard, but my fitness increased and the muscles started to grow. After practicing for a year or so, it got to me that there were two problems. The first one was a physical problem. Kung Fu is the art of the Chinese, very little, very skinny and above all very lean men and women, not much unlike circus acrobats. I am a big guy, and not the leanest one there is. I think I do have a lot of muscle strength, but in Kung Fu, speed and agility are much more important. The second problem was that it became clear that the incredible stories of the hidden power, the secret techniques and incredible efficiency of Kung Fu, were just a myth. It may have been effective hundreds of years ago, for persons with a very small body and little strength, and in a time when martial arts were not trained as a professional sport, but I am sure that no Kung Fu artist will endure long in a mixed martial arts fight. And that is how I slowly started to apprehend that the question about which martial art is effective or not, was not that difficult to answer at all : organise a tournament where every fighter can compete, regardless of his style and see who wins : mixed martial arts (MMA) was born.

R E V E L A T I O N - 2006 :

In Brazil, they knew about MMA for several decades already (it was called Vale Tudo or Everything Goes), but it wasn't until the beginning of the nineties that MMA became popular in the USA and later on in Europe. The first major MMA events in the USA were all won by Royce Gracie, showing that his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (also called Gracie Jiu-Jitsu) was by far the most effective martial art at the time. Royce Gracie was a member of the Gracie family, who were teaching their finetuned Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil since the early 1900s, before Royce and his brother introduced the style in the USA. After brutally showing the world the effectiveness of the style, by beating Boxing champions, Karate stars, KungFu masters, Judo black belts and almost every other martial art representative, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) became a popular sport in the USA and has never stopped increasing in popularity ever since. The first MMA tournaments in the USA also showed the importance of ground control. Standup-only styles like (kick)boxing standed no chance in a MMA fight, because if the fight goes to the ground, which it almost everytime does, these styles have nothing to offer. Conclusion : if you want to be a succesfull fighter you have to be skillfull both in stand up (Muay Thai, Kickbox, Karate, ...) and grappling arts (Judo, BJJ, Wrestling, ...)
Before I knew all this, I didn't want to study a grappling art like Judo or Wrestling, because I didn't want to roll around on the floor with smelly, sweaty men all the time. But I discovered a very good BJJ club in Leuven (Exit BJJ), and I went to check it out and after a few lessons I was convinced that this was it! The greatest thing about BJJ is that you can practice all the techniques at full speed, full power and while your opponent is fully resisting. And therein lies the secret of effectivity in real combat or competition. When I used to study KungFu, we only could practice the techniques very slowly and only if the opponent did exactly what the teacher said he had to do, we never trained in full. When I'm groundfighting in BJJ (it's called 'rolling') it sometimes happens that a fellow student or the teacher says : you should try this or this the next time you roll with someone (and it's always a very simple technique that even a rigid overweight guy like me can pull off). And when I actually try the technique, even sometimes for the first time and on a fully resisting opponent, it actually works like a chime! And about the fact that you're indeed most of the time embracing (with arms ànd legs) smelly, sweaty men, well... it's only gay if you make eye contact :-) Because the club where I train BJJ offers training sessions with an emphasis of using BJJ in MMA, I 've also began taking an interest in this relatively new sport. And whatever people may think about MMA, often seeing it as a very brutal, unelegant non-sport, with animals bashing each other on the face as hard as they can, I must say that I am more and more convinced of the incredible complexity of it, and the sublimation of perfect timing, insight and technique in multiple martial arts that it requires to become a succesful MMA fighter.


Friday, January 05, 2007


Why do so little people wonder about the origin of the term 'okay'? It's weird because we use it so many times a day, and people around the whole world use it, in many different languages. Yet, nobody asks himself where it comes from. Neither did I, until last night, when I was lying in my bed and thinking of K.O. and T.K.O. (Knock Out and Technical Knock Out). Suddenly I realized that I never heard an explanation of where the word O.K. came from. I was too lazy to get up and look it up, but it was the first thing I did in the morning. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it, okay? Many different theories, which one makes most sense to you?


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Coming up next time...

3 posts : one about superheroes, one about the marvels of NASA TV and one with some thoughts about martial arts


Monday, December 25, 2006

Fan Sniffing

I just noticed something funny. If I move my pc from my place to another, for example to a LAN party, or to my parents house, or to the repair shop, and let it run for some time while at this other place, the spinning fans inside the computer make the local air run through its interior. Then, when I take the computer back to my place again, and start it up and the fans start spinning, for a couple of seconds, I can smell the air from the place it has last been running in, and if I close my eyes it's almost like I was back there. I find this a good illustration of the (recently proven) fact that olfactory stimuli can trigger memories in a much more realistic and complete way then auditory or visual stimuli can. It is thought that it has something to do with the olfactory system being neuroanatomically profoundly connected with the limbic system (emotion centre).


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Back in full force

That's right. I know it's a very long time ago since my last post, and I apologize for that. I know it's not the way to keep people reading my blog. But I will try to explain me being idle for so long. First of all, I have to point out that all the posts up to this one were made in the exam period, last june. And when it's study time, I always like to find excuses for not having to study, in this case, posting messages to my blog. So when my exams were finished, I did't need the excuse anymore so the urge to post every couple of days diminished quickly. Secondly, I was on holiday for several weeks during summer. So I even didn't have time to post, even if I would have wanted to. The good thing about these vacations however, is that I can post a lot of stuff about them, especially about the last trip, which was to the USA.
In spite of me being rather busy these days - I study dentistry right now, and there's a LOT of obligatory practical classes - I will try to get my posting rhythm back as it was. Anyway, thank you for still passing by and see you very soon!