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Skeptical About Nearly Everything

photo: bistro at villiers

At first I thought 'Au Bois d'Acacia' was
a fancy-wood dealer.

Plus Two 'Official' Miracles

Paris:- Sunday, 14. February 1999:- It has been a week of mostly bad news - except for President Clinton handily beating his rap; thereby freeing up news resources for real stories. I will probably lose my free subscription to SkepticMag's 'Hotline' newsletter for the first story below, but I can always re-sign for it under a phoney name.

If you are not familiar with the magazine, the last issue's reminder of Charles Darwin's birthday on 12. February 1809 was particularly welcome. Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln share the same birthday, which may not be known to all US readers who have been celebrating the President's birthday this weekend.

"Some Thoughts On the Cosmos and Those Who Think We've Been Visited and Those Who Think We Will Never be Visited Because We are Alone" is a typical headline from this magazine which has plenty in it to think about.

Michael Shermer, the editor, says you can subscribe for free by visiting the magazine's Web site and I can confirm this. With features like 'How to Fake Your Own UFO Photos,' this magazine can be a lot of fun. Now back to our regular program:

Lourdes Marks Its 66th Miracle

Although 70,000 ill and infirm people visit Lourdes annually, only 66 have been 'officially' confirmed by the church as having being healed. The church experts have examined 6,500 cases since 1858 and rejected 6,434 of them.

The last previously confirmed 'miracle' was in 1976. The latest case developed as a result of a visit to Lourdesphoto: boulangerie near villiers in 1987 by a man paralysed with multiple sclerosis since 1984. 'Official' confirmation of the new 'miracle' was delivered last week, 12 years after the fact.

It's pure chance, having all these corner establishments in one issue. Here, a closed bakery.

Lourdes is very touchy about its reputation. It has its own doctors study the cases for a very long time. Temporary 'miracles' are never made 'official.' Asked to explain this particular 'miracle,' a doctor associated with medical office of the Lourdes Grotto said that medicine is not an 'exact science.'

A skeptical doctor said multiple sclerosis could go into remission for prolonged periods and there could even be 'exceptional' remissions. But he added, faith alone can not make infections or tumors go away or restore tissue forever lost by multiple sclerosis.

Dubious Statistics Department

What else to call the finding of a survey about living conditions in France that has reported that 80 percent of the French eat lunch at home? Who are all those people eating in restaurants and fastfood joints?

The survey results mentioned students, the retired, and part-time workers to justify their conclusions. Apparently, only manager types in the big cities have their midday meals in restaurants. Not quite so astonishing was the percentage of 84 for those who dine at home in the evenings.

The findings also showed regional differences, with the French in the north bolting their food down in 19 minutes, while those in the south-west took twice as long, mainly because of a greater number of courses.

More astonishing, according to the study, was the finding that time spent on breakfasts has increased from 16 to 18 minutes during the week, to as much as 21 minutes on the weekend.

If my toaster wasn't so slow, I bet I could slash my breakfast time to six minutes and still do its four courses.

Miraculous Air Collision

The 165 passengers of an Air France flight were really happy to get off an Airbus A320 at Montpellier last week, after it was hit by a glider while making its landing approach.

While the pilot was informing passengers of expected turbulence on the flight path, a glider pilot was using the strong local updrafts to gain height. This is why the glider centre is there at Saint-Loup, but the glider wasn't supposed to be so high.

The two craft touched, leaving a 20 centimetre scratch on the left wing of the Airbus, which managed to land on schedule. The glider pilot brought his machine back to its base in one piece too.

Note - A careful reader of Metropole - in December 2001 - has pointed out several serious errors in the above story. Follow this link for the corrections to these bungles.

Holidays in France

According to studies, 90 percent of the French have their holidays in France. There has been a three-day exhibition at Paris-Expo to flogcartoon: dud classic roadster local holidays to the natives. If it were not for Rétromobile, I would have gone too.

Maybe this is what France is all about. It is not only fairly big, it is also small enough to be handy. I missed the car racing out at Le Bourget over this weekend - partly because it would take me almost longer to get there than to fly to Madrid - but mainly because there are too many events and no matter how close together they are, it is not possible to do them all.

Old cars are fun, except for the funny noises they make sometimes.

Although everybody already knows about their favorite place at the seaside, on the mountains, or in the interior - 500 exhibitors were still at Paris-Expo with stands to try and convince us to go elsewhere, for a change.

Another 'fact' emerged and it claims that only two percent of the French book holidays through agencies. From another source, I heard that all tourist statistics are cooked up in some back room. That they are 'cooked' seems without doubt.

While true facts are hard to come by - you can't get statistics about people who stay overnight with relatives or friends - and many commercial operators may not want to give out exact figures for competitive reasons - the whole thing of the numbers of tourists or vacationers is pure speculation. Nobody 'knows' and there's no way to find out.

In summer, when Paris appears to be deserted, the papers will run stories about the 35 or 65 percent of Parisians who only take holidays once every four years. This will be followed a couple of days later by a feature about how to survive in the city with all the shops closed.

I propose keeping one number in mind. Going on holiday - 61 million. Staying home - 61 million. Foreign visitors - 61 million. Number of French residents - 61 million, not counting the homeless.

The TGV Moves East, Slowly

After about 218 years of haggling, the contracts and the plans for building the TGV line to Alsace have been signed and stamped with approval, and the money to build it has been budgeted.

The line, expected to be complete on 1. January 2006 - in the next millennium! - still faces environmental hurdles around Paris, as four points of departure are foreseen.

The Paris-Strasbourg run is expected to takeposter: italia 1999 two hours and 19 minutes from the Gare de l'Est. I cannot find a figure for the actual time, but I think I figured out the fast time would cut more than a hour from the current time for the journey.

Sports News Roundup

Many sportspeople were bumped off over the weekend by unstable snow conditions in the mountains. This is not including the 18 chalets wiped out by avalanches near Chamonix during the week. Many more were probably bumped off due to heavy traffic on account of the beginning of school holidays combined with bad road conditions.

I don't want to be overly negative about winter conditions in France, since residents here seem to firmly believe in 'douce France' regardless of what the weather is actually doing.

Lots of snow on the TV-news looks very nice and fluffy, but it is often very dangerous - even to the people on the lookout for it.

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