Oye Marco, ¿y por qué le vas a Tigres?

Este es mi primer artículo en más que dos meses. Y el primero que escribo en español. Debido a estas circunstancias especiales, claro que lo voy a dedicar a la cosa más hermosa que existe en el mundo… ¡El fútbol!IMG_1720

Tengo doce años viviendo en este hermoso país, y todo el tiempo tengo viviendo en la sultana del norte. Desde el inicio le voy a los Tigres de la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, y como la ciudad está dividida entre Rayados y Tigres, todo el tiempo la gente me pregunta: Marco, ¿por qué le vas a los Tigres? En este artículo les escribo la historia.

Nací en la ciudad de Siegen, Alemania, y fui a la primaria en los últimos años de los ochentas. En el 1988, Alemania fue sede de la Eurocopa, y yo había terminado segundo grado de primaria. Era el tiempo para escoger un equipo. Por las figuras de la selección, y por geografía, mi elección estaba limitado al Bayern München, Werder Bremen, 1. FC Köln y Borussia Dortmund. Como me gustó el estilo de juego de Pierre Littbarski, y el ambiente en el estadio estaba bonito, igual el uniforme rojiblanco, me fui con el equipo del Colonia.

En el 1990 mis papás me llevaron a mi primer partido en el estadio. Y fue todo un éxito, un retundo 2-0 contra el Hamburgo, en lo que fue el último partido de Thomas Hässler con Colonia antes de ir con la Juventus. En este tiempo, Colonia fue uno de los grandes de Alemania, primer campeón en el 1964 y bicampeón de liga y copa en el 1978, constante referente en la selección.

Desde entonces he ido a muchos partidos en el estadio de Colonia, a solo una hora de Siegen. Es una hermosa ciudad, les recomiendo una visita. Pero este no es el punto. ¿Cómo me hizo llegar todo esto a los Tigres de México, y no a los Rayados, Chivas o el América?

Pues en el 2001 participé en un intercambio, y visité dos partidos en Monterrey. Uno fue el Tigres contra Cruz Azul. La máquina iba ganando 0-2, pero los Tigres mostraron garra, y le dieron vuelta para ganar 3-2. La afición nunca dejaba de alentar, ni perdiendo por dos goles. Otro partido fue el de Monterrey contra Atlante, quedaba 2-2. Me di cuenta que con los goles en contra se apagó la afición, cosa que no vi en el volcán. Esto me recordaba del Colonia, donde a pesar del marcador y la tabla, la fiesta no se acaba.

Desde entonces, de lejos, seguía a los Tigres- Aparte de lo mencionado, tanto el Colonia como los Tigres, tenían su mejor época entre el 1978 y el 1982, y contaban con dos campeonatos. El ambiente en el estadio siempre era ejemplar, ni los rivales locales podían con esto. Yo me identifiqué con esto, y hasta un amigo de Alemania, que va al Schalke, en otro viaje a México me exijo una playera de los Tigres.

En 2007, después de terminar mi carrera, por fin me mudé a Monterrey, ya con mis playeras de Tigres bien puestas. Y fue una época de mucho sufrimiento. Los Tigres estaban peleando el descenso, cambiando los técnicos como otros sus calzones. Al inicio los Rayados iban igual de malos, pero encontraron su Midas y con él dos campeonatos en 2009 y 2010. En este tiempo la gente más que nunca me cuestionó, porque no le iba la más grande de Nuevo León, pero yo seguía convencido que justo así fue.

Llegó el título del 2011 contra Santos, el primero en 29 años, y grité los goles como loco, aunque fuera en mi casa por falta de abono. Mis hijos lo vivieron conmigo, eran chiquitos, de 6 y 4 años. Pero yo corría como loco, solo con playera, por las calles nubladas de mi colonia, sin importar el frío, la llovizna y las nubes. Demasiado emocionantes eran los goles de Mancigol, Danilinho, y el hilo perdido Pulido. Ni tenía idea de lo importante de lo que iba a ser este mes de diciembre.

Se retiraron varios ídolos y todo parecía que la cuenta con el rival local iba a quedar en 3-4. Llegó el 14 de diciembre del 2014, cumpleaños 7 de mi hijo, y la anhelada cuarta estrella estuvo muy cerca, en su cumpleaños, con varios Tigres y Aguilas presentes. Pero la falta de disciplina, y un árbitro sin piedad lo negaron.

En el 2015, por fin le llevé a mi hijo al estadio por primera vez en su vida. Fue un 2-1 contra Chivas, el equipo de mi esposa e hija, y desde entonces él quedó muy fan por Gerardo Lugo. No lo culpo, fue un verdadero golazo en frente de nuestras narices. Les trajimos a las mujeres su playera de Chivas, pero solamente mi esposa iba a quedarse fiel a las Chivas rayadas.IMG_1869

Llegó la final contra Pumas. La vimos otra vez en casa, con vecinos. Todos estábamos de nervios, parecía cosa segura, pero los goles en contra cayeron en los momentos más inoportunos. Pero estaba Gignac en la cancha, les gustó a mis mujeres por guapo, y a mí por matón ante la portería. Y en penales, nunca había duda, mis Tigres se vieron tan seguros que tenía que ser la cuarta estrella.

En el torneo el Clausura 2016, era el momento de quitarse la espina de liguillas contra el veciono. Pero dos factores pesaron… Un partido de ida en casa donde los Rayados aprovecharon las oportunidades mejor, y un partido de vuelta con mucha garra, con una dupla genial entre Sobis y Gignac, pero el árbitro quiso ayudar. En fin, ninguno de los penkales entró y al final otra vez se perdió. El Tuca estaba convencido que se la pagó al árbitro, y no me quería quedar atrás.IMG_2648

Un año después, otra ve en diciembre, la final contra las odiadas águilas del América (sorry, pero son lo mismo que el Bayern en Alemania, un equipo que no sabe perder sin afición de verdad), la cuestión era lo siguiente: Le pesa más a Tigres a inactividad, o al América el cansancio del mundial de clubes. Resultó que las dos cosas. Mientas Tigres tardaba en entrar en su ritmo, con el tempo el América se cansó.

Cuando ya casi todo estaba perdido, en el último minuto, hasta con Nahuel en media cancha, llegó el mejor centro de Damm, el gol de Dueñas, y lo que seguramente era mi gol más emocionante en todo el tiempo siguiendo a Tigres. El partido se fue a penales, y otra vez Tigres mostró su seguridad en las mismas. La quinta estrella llegó, el más campeón de Nuevo León.

Siguiente torneo, y por fin que dió la revanca contra Rayados en luguilla. Y de qué manera!!! El 6-1 estaba lleno de golazos, y hasta justo fue el marcador, tanta superioridad se mostró en la cancha. Quisiera decir que soy el extranjero más Tigre del mundo, pero para ser sincero, Gignac me quita este título! Que manera de callr  los vecino con goles!

En este tiempo me iba a comprar la playera con cinco estrellas, pero estaba muy convencido que habría más muy pronto, así me esperé. Y ya en la siguiente final estaba presente Tigres otra vez, y la verdad, Chivas contó con su árbitro de cajón. Tigres jugó muy bien hasta la final, y en la misma no tanto, pero quedó un sabor amargo. En esta ocasión no iba a ser, pero yo quería mi camiseta con seis estrellas. Y qué bien que me quedé esperando…

Orta vez diciembre. ¡¡¡LA FINAL REGIA!!! La ida me tocó en la posada del colegio, en pantalla grande. Los Rayados tomaron ventaja, riéndose primero, pero qué clase de gol metió Enner Valencia!  ¡¡¡Qué productos de gallina!!! Todo quedaba para la vuelta. Otra vez en mi casa. Otra vez con carne asada. Otra vez con frío, pero sin quitarme la playera de Tigres. El gol temprano de Rayados subió los nervios, pero no me la quitaba.

El resto es historia… Vargas anota con mucha cooperación del portero Rayado, Meza hace el partido de su vida, tanto en la defensa como anotando el gol de la victoria, y la defensa resista todos lo ataques de los Rayados, incluso un penal regaladísimo. La primera final regia, la sexta estrella, y el 10 de diciembre son de Tigres por siempre!

Aquí hago un paréntesis, porque en lo que iba el inicio del 2017 fuimos al estadio varias veces, aprovechando las oportunidades que no ofrecía el primer equipo. Nos fuimos a la Concachampions, un sufrido, pero al final retundo 3-1 contra el Herediano, esta vez con toda la familia, y todos, incluyendo mis Chivas, pidieron volver al estadio. Aprovechamos para ver un 7-0 del equipo femenil contra el Querétaro, y volvimos cuando mi mamá nos visitó desde Alemania, contra Chivas, aunque fue lo que hasta la fecha era la última vencida del año futbolístico. Pero todo esto no importó, lo importante es que mi hija ya se hizo Tigre. Entre las actuaciones de Akemi Yokoyama en la defensa, los centros de Jaqueline Ovalle y los goles de Belén Cruz, ya no podía resistir ella, y toda la familia se hizo fan.28471545_10156395289473984_5917432620170693623_n

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El año 2018 es para el olvido para el equipo varonil, como consolidación quedan el titulo Champions Cup, primer título internacional, pero a un solo partido, y el campeonato de goleo de Gignac. Ah, y mi nueva playera con seis estrellas y el nombre y número de Gignac, esto ya no podía faltar.

El equipo femenil por el otro lado, repitió la hazaña y ganó su campeonato en el estadio al lado de La Pastora,  y está en la final otra vez, en esta ocasión contra el América. Y si todo sale como queremos, ahí estaremos el día 15 de diciembre, un día después del cumpleaños 11 de mi hijo, para alentar este gran equipo.

36279762_10156752556148984_66852905423994880_nNo importa si gana o pierde. Seguir a Tigres ha sido tan bonito en estos años, el ambiente en el estadio es verdaderamente incomparable.

 

 

 

 

Pero estoy seguro que el equipo femenil pueda levantar otra copa. Por nada cambio este equipo por otro, pase lo que pase! Me quedé sin voz en cada uno de los campeonatos, también en los finales perdidos. Valió la pena pasar por los tiempos difíciles, y no cegarme por unos éxitos puntuales de los vecinos. No importa lo que traiga el futuro, ser Tigre es lo máximo!

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P.D.: De igual manera le sigo al Colonia. El amor a la playera no se quita nunca! Y al rival se le respeta. Suerte en esta liguilla a Rayados, que la copa que quede en Nuevo León!

 

 

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It’s just a Shirt!

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. It has followers all around the globe. I myself am very passionate about it, and I have my favorite teams in both of my home countries, Germany and Mexico, which I both faithfully follow. There are so many nice stories to tell, how soccer brings people from different cultures together and brings out the best in people. And I wanted my first article about this sport to be one that tells such beautiful stories. Unfortunately, recent events cast a giant shadow over the soccer-passionate city that I live in. Which means that this article has a very sad background, but I feel the urge to write about it. But first, let me give you some basic information about the soccer teams in my city, Monterrey in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Monterrey is host to two teams. The blue and white striped team of Club de Futbol Monterrey is often referred to as Rayados, and so will they in this article. The club was founded in the year 1945, most of their time playing in the stadium on the field that belongs to a private university. Since 2015, they have a new, very modern stadium on their own. Their ultra fans call themselves “La Adiccion” (the addiction) and the nickname for the team is “La Pandilla” (the gang).

The other club is Tigres de la Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, short just Tigres. They play in yellow and blue uniforms and were founded in 1960. Their playing ground belongs to the public university. Currently the club is planning to either remodel that stadium or following the example of Rayados and build a new stadium. Their ultra fans go by the name “Libres y Lokos” (free and crazy), and also often call themselves “Los incomparables” (the incomparables).

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With my Tigres shirt

It is safe to say that there is a tendency for Rayados for have more followers of the higher socio-economic classes, and Tigres the more humble classes, however, this has mingled a lot over the past decades. Both clubs had spent a great part of their history being not so meaningful teams, the big teams mostly played in the center of the country. It took until 1978 and 1982 for Tigres to win the first two championships of the city, and Rayados winning their first title in 1986.

But in recent years this all changed. In 2009, Rayados started their time of glory. Within only five years they won two national championships and three North American Champions Leagues. Also, in these years, whenever both local teams would meet in play offs, Rayados would be the winners. This happened in a total of five occasions over 13 years. As for 2013, they were the clear number one in the city when it comes to trophies, they were aspiring to get their name to be mentioned with the big ones.

However, suddenly the momentum changed. Rayados fired their coach, Tigres didn’t, they understood they were in a long term project. And it paid off, in the recent years since 2014, they have one three local championships and one international title. In the recent two meeting in the play offs, Tigres would beat Rayados, the last occasion being the first ever final being played between the two. Suddenly, Tigres are the owners of more titles, and the momentum seems to favor them.

Enough being said, I don’t want to bore you and more. Of course, whenever the two teams play, there is a lot of trash talk going on, and many people place bets, where the loser has to pose with the other team’s shirt, or shave their head, or pay some money whatsoever. This happens all around the world. Not to mention, there are many couples and families with fans from both teams. I support Tigres, and have many friends who do the same, just as many friends support Rayados. And of course I have also made provoking comments towards them, as well as they have made provoking comments towards me.

The issue is the following. Since Tigres won the final, on Rayados’ home field, the tone had become more and more aggressive, especially between the two ultra groups Libres y Lokos y La Adiccion. Last Sunday, groups of these two ultra organizations met on a street, both groups on their way to the stadium in the latest edition of the “Clasico Regio”. What happened next is well documented, thanks to numerous cell phones of bystanders.

The group of Libres y Lokos started throwing rocks at the Adiccion, and they soon responded the same way. From the background, a car approached and tried to run over Libres y Lokos, at this moment, they started running away and were pursued by people from la Adiccion. Most yellow hooligans managed to escape, but the blue hooligans captured one. They stabbed him in his side, undressed him and threw rocks at him, especially at his head. When they left him unconscious, they ran away. He is 21 years old and got serious brain injuries from this. He might survive, but will never be the same again.

The game afterwards had lost all its significance and in my humble opinion should have been cancelled. The players must have felt the same, because the game was very boring, nothing really happened, and nobody even seriously tried to score a goal. On TV we could see visiting fans (Adiccion) chanting “Los vamos a matar” (we are going to kill you).

On the next day, representatives from both teams met with the federation and established to ban these two hooligan groups from the stadiums. Probably other teams in the country will follow. But is this really enough, will this fix all the fanatism that is going on in the country when it comes to soccer?

In the aftermath, the clubs are really eager to help solve this problem once and for all. But the two ultra groups are not. The police is looking for a few identified people for attempted murder, but they are one the run and long gone. The Adiccion released an official statement where they are worried that they look like the culprits, emphasizing that they had not started it. Libres y Lokos are reacting in a similar way. They have not learned a thing!

On Wednesday, both teams had their next home game, and each team sent a player to the other stadium and give a message of peace, and they were received with applauses. This is a good start, but hopefully only a start.

Since I am an educator, I decided to start my own initiative with my students, who also support these teams in great numbers. I invited all the middle school students, as well as teachers, to bring their jerseys, and swap them with a friend for a photo. The message was to be very clear: We are all passionate about the same thing. It is just a shirt! Nothing more!

Reactions were very divided. In general, teachers of course liked the idea. So did about half of the students. The other half clearly did not like the idea. I tried to convince them, telling them that nobody would force them. They could just bring their shirts for the activity and if they felt uncomfortable, didn’t have to participate actively.

Some students even made comments like: I will never put on that shirt of the other team! It will give me some disease! Can I burn it after I used it? I was shocked to hear this, but emphasized the positive reactions of other students.

The turnout on the next day was not what I hoped it to be. Many students had “forgotten” the shirt, although I sent a reminded and even got positive parent reactions. In the end, we got some nice pictures, and of course I also participated, of course setting the example for the kids. In the end, it’s only a shirt! There is nothing bad about it.

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With a borrowed shirt from the opposing team

I do want to give a shout out to a few girls who did not only swap for the photo, but decided to wear the other shirt for the entire day at school. That’s the spirit! Analyzing closer I can summarize the event on three dimensions: Girls were more willing to participate than boys. Younger students were more willing to participate than older students. Tigres supporters were more willing to participate than Rayados supporters. I don’t want to interpret too much into the latter, maybe this is due to my paper as a role model and since I support Tigres, maybe more students from that camp decided to follow me.

Maybe we should turn this into a bigger campaign and plan on a longer time scale. Clearly, we still have a long way to go. Students have to be educated, as well as parents, as well as our friends, workmates, neighbors, etc. I contacted both clubs and some reporters, inviting them to pass the message forward and hopefully make a viral hashtag, but so far there has not been any reaction. Well, I did receive lots of positive comments on the photo I posted on facebook, which I highly appreciate.

Parents and educators all over the world. It is okay to be passionate about the team of our choice. But it is not okay to send out violent messages, especially to our kids. They will follow our example, no matter if we set a positive or negative example. So let us give them messages of inclusion. Let us show them that we are all friends, no matter which colors we chose. And let us not forget that we need each other. As for today, Tigres and Rayados have the two highest-billed teams in the national soccer league, and they are always among the contenders for the championship. They both only got their because they had a strong opponent. Without each other, they most likely would still be some meaningless teams at the bottom of the table with empty stadiums, not known beyond the limits of the city.

I apologize for rambling on for so long on this topic. But it matters to me. I don’t want my kids to be afraid to go to the stadium, or to even wear their jersey in public.

 

Bullshit on a very big Scale

This weekend marks an important astronomical date, it is time for the southward equinox. This means that as for this day, every place on the planet receives 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. For the coming months, nights will become longer in the northern hemisphere, while the southern hemisphere will receive more and more daylight. This is reason enough for me to dedicate this week’s piece to one of my passions, astronomy. But it will not really be about the equinox, it is rather about some common misconceptions about astronomy that I have encountered in all these years.

Throughout the history of our species, people have been looking up into the night sky. They have studied the movement of all these tiny dots of light they could see, and as is it our nature, they have seen pattern, and have connected dots to form constellations, which were often attributed to gods and other mythical figures. It is not surprising that to this day, there is a lot of wisdom, but also a lot of bullshit. And it isn’t always easy for people to draw the line between what to believe faithfully, or what to question skeptically and maybe even dismiss as untrue. Especially in this age of the internet, where all kind of information is accessible to everybody, the tendency is for people to rather believe things that they are told without taking the time to question them. In this article, I want to address some of these stories, that could be easily dismissed as untrue by anyone, with just a little research and thinking.

“Tonight Mars will appear as bright and big as the moon in the sky.”

This story is one of those unsinkable rubber ducks, it gets recycled all the time. And on social media I can see many homo sapiens – and not so sapiens – sharing it without even the slightest doubt. But they should doubt it. This is an easy problem of proportion. Every middle school student can do the math in their sleep. The moon is, on average and rounded, 400,000 kilometers away from us. And it has a diameter of roughly 3,500 kilometers. On the other hand Mars is, at its closest point, about 58,000,000 kilometers away, with a diameter of 6,800 kilometers. Let us simplify this. The diameter of Mars is about twice as big the the moon’s. This means that it would appear the same size in the night sky if it came as close as two lunar distances to us.Image result for mars

Well and this is it, no more research or math to be done. How could Mars ever get that close to us? Its closest point is at over 140 lunar distances! And it is on a stable orbit around the sun, and so is Earth, while the moon is on a stable orbit around Earth. There is no way, that Mars suddenly would “jump” into a position that close to us. So the next time you read this claim, just point your friends at the solar system’s distances and orbital mechanics.

“During the next solar eclipse, we will weigh 1 kilogram less for a few minutes.”

Okay, okay, I get it, I would also like to drop another kilogram. But there are more efficient ways. So, what happens during a solar eclipse? The moon gets exactly between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on the planet. So, yes, both the moon and the sun are lined up on the same side of our planets. And yes, their gravitational pull on us adds up. Here is the thing, although the sun is huge, so is its distance from us. And the gravitational force decreases with the square of the distance. Furthermore, haven’t we all learned that the moon’s gravitational pull is responsible for the tides on our planet? Right, because is pulls much stronger than the sun over all the distance.Image result for solar eclipse

Still both gravitational forces combine at this moment during an eclipse. But the difference is nowhere near a kilogram, it is rather at the order of magnitude of micrograms. And technically, this is still wrong, because the amount of kilograms in you won’t change because of an eclipse. This is your mass. Your weight is the force of gravity on you, and it is measured in Newtons. There is even more, every month, even though there might not be an eclipse, we still have a new moon. This is when the moon and the sun are on the same side of our planet, but do not exactly line up for an eclipse to happen. But the gravitational pulls are still nearly in the same direction, and we don’t see people making this weight loss claim during a regular new moon.

“The World is going to end on (insert date here) and it was predicted by (insert name here).”

This one also comes back all the time, possibly more frequently than the other two combined. Very often these claims are made by some religious leaders, being used as an argument to repent and follow Jesus right now. Anyway, this article focused on astronomy, not religion, that one is on my list for another occasion. The details for all the apocalypses vary, but the degree of baloney is always the same.

Often this is attributed to a mysterious planet Niburu that will suddenly come out of its hiding place, and collide with the planet. Or we will be swallowed by a black hole. Or all the planets will line up, messing with gravity on our planet, which might fling us into space. Sometimes it is because the calendar of an ancient civilization suddenly ended, which means they knew something thousands of years ago. Or it is just that computers cannot handle the jump from the year 1999 to 2000, and they would reset to 1900, leaving us in utter chaos

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Well you guess it, just like Mars cannot jump into a closer position, the not even existing Niburu can’t either. And the gravity claim was just explained in the section about eclipses. And of course the ancient calendars ended somewhere. So does our calendar. It ends, on December 31st, every year! And then a new cycle begins. Civilizations like the Mayans didn’t write down all the cycles for the history of the planet, just as we don’t. When December 31st comes your buy a new calendar and you throw the old one in the trash. Last but not least, even twenty years ago computers were powerful enough to handle years with four digits.

What is interesting though is one thing when you look at all the recent apocalypse claims. They do coincide with either and equinox or a solstice. These are the turning points of the seasons, on March 21st, June 21st, September 23rd and December 21st. And just as interesting, though not surprising, nobody comes forward after a non-apocalypse to let the world know that they were wrong about it. They either make cheap excuses, or just change the date, or remain in complete silence, counting on the world to forget about it. Usually it is a combination of all three, if we just wait long enough.

“There is no gravity on the moon.”

This is a common statement that I hear from my students in eighth grade, year after year, before they had classes with me. I don’t want to rant to much here. Of course by the end of the year, my students know better. Gravity is a force of attraction between two objects, and it is proportional to their masses. Every object has a gravitational field around it. Gravity is a weak force, it only becomes significant if at least one of the two objects has a significant mass, such as a planet for example. And the moon has a great mass, therefore it has a strong gravitational field around it. It is about one sixth the strength of the gravitational field on Earth’s surface, but it is there. Just look at the astronauts on the footage from the moon landings. In fact, you can kind of experience it for yourself, just jump around in a swimming pool. Buoyancy gives you a lift, making you fall more slowly, but you still fall.

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What would really be interesting is sports on the moon, if it were possible. Just think about a homerun in baseball, a basketball slam dunk, a field goal in American Football, or a service on a tennis court, all in a lower gravity environment. If you need some help imagining, there is a great episode of Star Talk with the great Neil deGrasse Tyson, all about this topic.
“The position of the planets determines our personality and our fate.”

I saved the big one for last. Astrology! I don’t really believe in it, since we Virgos tend to be skeptical. But to be sincere, when I was younger I would take this more serious, and even read books about it. But sooner or later I would notice that there is nothing to it. First of all, there are 12 zodiacs, which means there would be only twelve kinds of personalities? And whatever the horoscope predicts, will happen to all people from that zodiac, which would be over half a billion people each?

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Of course horoscopes are only vague, never specific. And people only focus on the hits, not the misses. I do not want to get into too much detail here, the characteristics of psychics might as well become an article on its own. But I do want to mention that technically there should be 13 zodiacs, Ophiuchus being the one left out, and some of them would only last for about 10 days, while others up to 45 days. But 13 in not the number of months, and attributed with bad luck, so why not arbitrarily throw one of them out? It’s not rocket science, right? It’s not science, period! So go ahead and read your horoscope, and enjoy it for entertainment purposes, but don’t think there is anything true about it. Whatever happens to you that was predicted by the horoscope is a mere coincidence. For every person like that there are thousands of people where the horoscope did not come true. And the same goes for the typical personality traits that go with each zodiac. I know, if you read the description of your zodiac, it sounds a lot like you. But so do all the others!

To conclude, don’t feel bad if you have believed one of these stories or a similar one, or might have even shared it. I think the main problem is that space is huge, far bigger than we possibly can picture. And so are the distances between the objects in the solar system. So we tend to underestimate them. For example, we all picture the asteroid belt of a solid region where the asteroids constantly bump into each other, and it is hard to penetrate for any vehicle. But space is so big that these asteroids are far away from each other, so far that you could stand on one and not even be able to see the others.

The misunderstandings about gravity are probably because it is a force that is everywhere, and we do not really see what causes it. Additionally, we live in an environment where the gravitational field has a strength of 9.8 N/kg, no matter where you go. We have never experienced any other gravitational force (unless you are one of the lucky people who went to the moon or the ISS, but I doubt that these guys are reading my blog). You cannot blame anyone for misunderstanding something they have never experienced.

I have kept it to some myths about the bodies in the solar system, and decided not to open the box of the moon landing conspiracy – yet. The same goes for the common (wrong) hypothesis of my students that heavier objects will fall faster. I will describe that and the quick lab experiment in another article as well.

All I hope to achieve with you, dear reader, is that whenever you read a claim like the ones made in this article, you just take a short moment and question the information and the source. It might only take you a few minutes and not even involve complex math. And believe me, it feels good when you actually notice what is wrong about a claim and do not fall for it.

On a final note, remember that the universe is an amazing place. There is all kind of fascinating stuff going on. There is no need to invent stories to make it more interesting. Just go with reality and try to understand what is really going on.

Here are some podcasts you should consider if you want to learn more:

https://www.startalkradio.net/

http://www.astronomycast.com/

http://podcast.sjrdesign.net/

And here are some great astronomy blogs to follow:

https://www.universetoday.com/

http://www.badastronomy.com/index.html

And finally, the sources of the images used:

Gravity on the moon: http://www.virneth.co.uk/topGravity/gravity0.php

Solar eclipse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ-UHxPHh9A

The end of the world: https://smashmeme.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/the-world-is-ending/

The zodiac: https://twitter.com/13_ophiuchus/status/668487135922663424

Mars: https://www.businessinsider.com/mars-to-be-the-brightest-it-has-been-in-15-years-2018-6

 

Long live our Country!

Here we go again. At least where I live it is that time of the year. Mexico is celebrating its most important national holiday of the year. No, it is not Cinco de Mayo, as many might believe. On September 16 it is the 208th anniversary of the Mexican independence. Actually the whole month of September is known as the month of patriotism. Reason enough for me to compare and contrast a little the pros and cons of patriotic holidays.

Why am I even doing this? Well, coming from Germany I had not been used to so much national pride. Sure, I had seen examples on TV< especially from the United States and France. But in Germany, when I grew up not many people openly expressed their pride to be German. Since World War II there was too much baggage attached to it. Besides, our national holiday had been moved to October 3rd in 1990, so quite recently, to celebrate the reunification of the two previously separated parts of Germany. People don’t go to work, and our country’s leader give some public speeches, and it is nice to reminisce those moments from the Berlin Wall going down, but October 3rd is not really known as an emotional, colorful celebration as it is in other countries.

The picture in Mexico is totally different. During the weeks before the holiday, you can purchase Mexican flags in all sizes, soccer shirts, blouses, necklaces and earrings in the national colors, smaller and huge sombreros, pretty much everywhere on the streets as well as in malls. The day before the event schools have a special flag assembly, and students, teachers and even principals come dressed with either Mexican colored shirts or traditional outfits, painting the flag in their faces. It looks kind of like when the Mexican soccer team is playing.

On the day of the event families or friends gather together for a big party, which even won’t be affected by the typical heavy September rain showers. Everybody prepares at least one typical Mexican dish, which all guest together will be sharing in a buffet-type dinner. No matter if they usually like to listen to regional music of 80s pop in English or whatsoever, on this day people listen to traditional, folkloric songs from past times, from late legends such as Pedro Infante, or still alive oldies, take Vicente Fernandez for instance. Everybody sings along and of course there are many songs to dance to, like El Mariachi Loco, El Jarabe Tapatio, and many more. No, not La Cucaracha. And of course there is tequila that night, lots of good tequila.

The highlight of course happens at 11:00 at night. The President, and all the mayors perform El Grito, and it is live on national and regional TV. This is where the music stops at all the parties, so we can watch it. It takes about five minutes, where those authorities reenact the chants from the actual night of independence by Miguel Hidalgo, ending in the triple chant VIVA MEXICO, together with all the crowd. This is finally followed by fireworks. On the next day, it is the actual holiday, probably to cure all those hangovers from another world. Anyway those who are able to go, watch the military parades held in all major cities. Wow, what a contrast between Germany and Mexico!

There is absolutely no question that I enjoy this holiday, and I will actively participate. I recommend everybody to come to Mexico at this time of the year. Everything is decorated beautifully, and it is simply impossible to escape the vibes. At this time, it is like the country can forget about all the problems it has, like low salaries, high crime rates, corrupt police and politicians, a very dumb president, difficult relationship with the USA, decaying economy etc. All of Mexico is united when El Tri is playing at the FIFA World Cup, and every year on the traditional national holidays.

On the flipside, I do want to question national pride a bit. In the 21st century we live in a globalized world, it is very easy to stay in touch even from opposite sides of the planet, and from above, let it be airplanes or the International Space Station, there are no border liens to be seen. Or even better, take Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot thoughts. Evolutionary speaking we are all one big family, this is a point of view and don’t get tired to emphasize to my students. So, why so we still think in these categories of us versus them? We have so many other problems, like all the permanent damage we are doing to the planet. This should have priority.

Well, it is also important to remember our history, where we come from. Sure, this is probably the top argument that everybody will give. I agree, it is also important for us Germans to remember all the terrible mistakes being made not even eighty years ago. And these mistake currently appear to repeat in the United States. But just as well as German people like me are not the people from back then in World War II, today’s Mexicans are not the people who fought for the independence. Every generation is different and has different qualities and challenges.

To sum it up, I think we should not interpret too much in it. I unquestionably prefer holidays like this one over religiously motivates holidays. We should hold on to our beautiful traditions, and Independence Day is definitely one of the biggest. Dia de los Muertos in November is another beautiful one, but I shall write about that one when the time comes. Let us simply enjoy the beauty of this event, no matter how disconnected we might be from the original people who fought back in 1810. There is no need to compare with other countries, it is not a competition and we are not at war anymore.

Whether you are Mexican by blood, or like me just a foreigner living in the country (Mexican by choice, so to speak), VIVA MEXICO to all of you! And when it is your turn in your country, enjoy it too. Even in Germany. As boring as it might be, you do have a day off.

Resultado de imagen para viva mexico

Sounds perfect to me

Have you ever heard yourself? I mean, have you? Of course, you might say. I have heard my voice many times on recordings and it sounds so embarrassingly different. But this is not what I am asking about. We all have experienced this many times. And this question is neither about all the stupid nonsense that you are saying, I am not referring to content here. So maybe I should rephrase the question.

Have you ever heard the way you speak? Have you ever consciously listened to the way you pronounce things? Especially when you are talking in a foreign language? This is what this is really about. It is about accents, a really fascinating topic. I started going down this rabbit hole during this week, and there is a background story, a little anecdote, if you will.

At school I am required to speak English all the time, which is my second language. The students pretty much only know me that way. So as it happened that I was talking to a Spanish teacher in the hallway, in Spanish of course, which happens to be my third language, some students from my homeroom heard me and later told me that I would sound really funny when I speak Spanish. After having lived in Mexico for 12 years, I think of myself as very fluent, and am not really aware of my German accent as I speak, in the moment. The point is, that people who hear me speak immediately identify me as foreign. I have heard recordings of my Spanish, and I know about my accent, and of course I have an accent in English as well. But when I am in a conversation, I hear myself speaking completely accent-free.

So here we go, with the help of my eighth graders I found myself a nice little research topic. Why is it, that we do not hear our own accents, but are fully aware of them when other people speak? This is a really fascinating question, and if any of my students are reading, remember we have science fair coming, there is an idea for you. But as usual, I am drifting off in a different direction.

The first thing that came to my mind was the Dunning Kruger Effect. I will spare you the details, because you can find them in many articles, for example in the Wikipedia entry, or in the original study by… guess whom… Dunning and Kruger! Anyway, what their study shows is that our human brains are very good in over-estimating their own capability. We tend to think of ourselves as being better in certain skills than we really are. Take driving for example, it is always the others that suck at driving. But we personally are of course one of the best drivers on the road. We should get recognized with a medal for being an example of good driving, it is always the others who break the rules and commit mistakes. Sound familiar, right? Anyway, the Dunning Kruger Effect especially refers to the bottom, the people who have low skills. According to the study, they are simply not able to evaluate their ability or lack of ability. On the other hand, high ability people wrongfully assume that tasks should be as easy for others as they are for themselves.

Well, as I mentioned, I have been speaking Spanish on a daily basis for twelve years, and I am fluent in it. So I can humbly say that I am not on the low end of the spectrum at this particular skill. That means the Dunning Kruger Effect may play a role here, but is not a satisfying explanation.

I had to go and simple google to get some more ideas. And of course I found several interesting articles. And article by Wired Magazine from 2014 examined exactly my question: Why is it so hard to lose an accent? (Technically it is a little different from my question, since I am more concerned about the awareness) As it appears, this might be hard-wired into our brain. A main reason for accents is the fact that languages have different sounds, and there are sounds that simply don’t exist in our native language. According to the article, already babies at the age of 10 months react less to sounds that are not part of their language. The article states the example of the “r” and “l” sound, which are absent in the Japanese language.

Our brain is very selective, and it learns to focus only on the sounds that are part of our native language(s). When it hears other, foreign sounds, it ignores, or rather substitutes them with familiar sounds. Hence the lacking awareness of an accent, our brains are hard-wired to do so. And as we get older, this tendency gets more and more intense. As the study states, there is a direct correlation between the strength of a person’s accent and the age at which they started learning that language. There you go, I have a weaker accent in English, which I started learning at the age of 10, and a stronger accent in Spanish, which I started at 22 years old. I don’t even want to imagine what it sounded like to the people in Paris this summer, when I tried to tell them in French that I don’t really speak French.

We could conclude here, but the rabbit hole goes deeper. It is not only the second and third language, we even have accents in our first language. There are many regional accents and they also depend on social groups. We tend to speak the way the people speak that are surrounding us. So, as much as we try, nobody really speaks the 100% true standard language. We all have our little quirks. Try to listen to yourself consciously. Depending on who you are with, you tend to adapt to their way of speaking, a simple thing of imitation. This relates directly to our ability to empathize. So what about people on the Asperger spectrum, who have a hard time with empathy? Maybe they won’t adapt to the accent of their partners as much. This sounds like another interesting research project for a science fair. Oh, right, drifting again…

So, I don’t want to go deeper into this with my article. But I would love to do so in a discussing with you, the reader. My simple question from the beginning has so many layers to it, instead of an article this could easily become an entire book.

I just want to close with a description of what my accent would be like. Remember that we replace unknown sounds with familiar sounds. Spanish has a few sounds that don’t exist in the German language, mainly the sounds for “r” and “rr”. It took me years to kind of learn to pronounce the “rr” and it still comes out wrong now and then. Since the single “r” in Spanish is easier to me, I often use that to go in place of the “rr”, unconsciously of course. There are many more sounds from the English language that are missing in German, like the “th”, “w”, “j” and soft consonants at the end of words, only to name a few.

But in my head I pronounce them correctly all the time of course. Amazing, isn’t it? To myself, I am a 100% fluent, accent free, Spanish speaker. Which makes recordings of myself, for instance on WhatsApp, much more embarrassing to me. And the same for you. Just try it. Listen consciously to yourself when speaking to people from different regions in your native language. Record yourself speaking in your second language and listen to it. I dare you!

 

Here are a few articles and a good video from my journey down the rabbit hole for your further consideration:

“I don’t have an accent – or do I?”

http://confidencelearningservices.com/no-accent-reduction/

 

“Why it’s so hard to lose an accent”

https://www.wired.com/2014/09/whats-up-with-losing-accents/

 

“The Dunning Kruger Effect”

https://thedecisionlab.com/bias/dunning-kruger-effect/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5s3cBRCAARIsAB8ZjU3yaToN-VWECXpdNQNU6K38Dy01vebDVphVccy8kcEglQl-uKX3i3MaAjRnEALw_wcB

 

“How to do a German accent”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezrFZ8zBzTE

Finally Getting Started

So, here we go. I finally found the courage to start a blog. What will it be about you may ask? It will be about anything that I feel like writing about. As the name of the blog suggests, it is about all possible things that are of interest to me, and I hope to get you readers thinking about them, too.

My name is Marco, and I am originally from Germany, but have been living in Mexico for over decade. Hence the name of the blog, which is Spanish for Marco & German. and also happens to be the name of the pre-Euro currency in Germany.

There is a good chance that a great variety of topics will be covered. As a middle school teacher, education and teaching are obviously big issues, as well as math, science, languages and psychology. Besides, I am a huge fan of many sports, Netflix binge watcher and video game fan, and a friend of skepticism and reasoning.

So you can expect a great potpourri. never really knowing what will come next. Or… when the next article will show up. I was wondering if I should make this a weekly, biweekly, monthly or… whatever-ly thing. But life (and procrastination) get in the way and sometimes ideas will just pop up, so I will go with the flow.

I hope you will enjoy the ideas that I share with you, and that you will also share your in the discussions.

“Don’t worry about your weirdness. Embrace it! Somewhere in the world, there is somebody who is just as weird about that same thing.” — myself

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