Saturday, May 31, 2008

World No Tobacco Day: 31 May

Today is World No Tobacco Day. And the World Health Organisation is calling on goverments to ban all tobacco advertisements. This is another step towards preventing young people taking up smoking. About time, I say!

The WHO has accused manufacturers of using increasingly sophisticated marketing techniques to ensare young people, particularly girls in poorer countries. The UN agency says the more they are exposed to tobacco advertising, the more likely people will start smoking.

In Russia, which has few anti-smoking laws, the number of female and adolescent smokers has tripled in the last decade. However, in Canada, where smoking and cigarette advertising has been severely restricted, numbers of smokers are at their lowest in 40 years.

The WHO also accused manufacturers of continuing to attract young people by "falsely" associating cigarettes with "glamour, energy and sex appeal". Most smokers take up the habit before the age of 18, with almost a quarter of those before the age of 10, according to the organisation. (BBC)

LO: Art Classes

Layout done with bits & pieces of leftover cardstock, a brush cut out from a very old scrapbooking magazine and chipboard letters. I used the insides of 'd' & 'o' to add more green to the layout.

This last year Ricky has been going to after school art classes held by Stephen Thomas, a well known painter here in Hong Kong. Every two weeks he comes home with a piece of art that has all of us exclaiming with wonder and delight! I knew that Ricky liked to paint but seeing how much effort he put into his classes, and what beautiful paintings he makes, has made me so much more proud of him!

Indian origin boy wins Spelling Bee in US

Don't mind me while I gloat a bit ... :-D First the Geographic Bee and now the Spelling Bee! Yay!!

A 13-year-old Indian-origin boy, Sameer Mishra, won the 81st annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on Friday. Mishra took home a cash prize of $35,000, while winning more than $5,000 in other prizes.

The boy from West Lafayette, Indiana, who often had the audience laughing with his one-line commentaries, aced "guerdon" - a word that appropriately means "something that one has earned or gained" - to win competition.

The second spot was bagged by Sidharth Chand, 12, of Bloomfield Hills, who stumbled on "prosopopoeia" (a word describing a type of figure of speech). This was Sidharth's first year at the bee. (TOI)

'La Nina' may be causing shark attacks

I heard about the shark attacks a few days ago. It was sad yes, but what upset me even more is the report that Mexican authorities have started killing sharks. I cannot understand exactly how many they would need to kill before they are able to bring nature under their control. Is there a certain number of deaths that will send the message to other sharks? Perhaps they'd like to eradicate sharks altogether so that tourists can surf and swim in peace?

Understanding why certain things happen, and taking precautions to avoid accidents is so much more sensible than the massacre the Mexican authorities have started of a creature who is in its natural habitat!

Cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures due to the La Nina phenomenon may be partly responsible for a spate of fatal shark attacks off Mexico's Pacific coast, a U.S. shark expert said on Friday. La Nina, which usually results in cooler than normal water in the Pacific, has moved the boundary between cold and warm water closer to the shore, and along with it, fish and their shark predators, George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research told Reuters. "One of the factors we're investigating is if there are special oceanographic conditions that might have contributed to the attacks," said Burgess but more research was needed before a definite cause could be found. (Reuters)

Soon we'll be downloading lessons into our brains

... seems a bit far fetched to me but then I hardly am the most informed person where the brain is concerned. Not sure though if I like the idea of d/l stuff into the brain. Messing with something Nature has perfected over millions of years is not to be taken lightly.

Photo: Biozine

Children will learn by downloading information directly into their brains within 30 years, the head of Britain's top private schools organisation has predicted.

Chris Parry, the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said "Matrix-style" technology would render traditional lessons obsolete. He told the TES that the Keanu Reeves thriller may not look like science fiction in 30 years' time. "Within 30 years, sitting down and learning something will be a thing of the past," Mr Parry said.

"I think people will be able to directly access, Matrix-style, all the vocabulary you need for a foreign language, leaving you just to clear up the grammar." (Telegraph)

Daddy's gonna eat your fingers!

I was packing for my business trip and my three year old daughter was having a wonderful time playing on the bed. At one point she said, 'Daddy, look at this,' and stuck out two of her fingers.

Trying to keep her entertained, I reached out and stuck her tiny fingers in my mouth and said, 'Daddy's gonna eat your fingers,' pretending to eat them.

I went back to packing, looked up again and my daughter was standing on the bed staring at her fingers with a devastated look on her face.

I said, 'What's wrong, honey?'

She replied,
'What happened to my booger?

Money showers for book publicity

I think this guy's marketing ploys are working - its made headlines worldwide! He is going to shower money (about US$11,000) from an airplane.
An Indonesian businessman will throw 100 million rupiah from an airplane on Sunday as part of a marketing ploy for his second book, organizers said. Tung Desem Waringin, author and motivational speaker whose first book was a bestseller, is known for his unorthodox marketing methods.

"Rather than spend a lot of money for unsuccessful marketing, better give the money to the people," Sidik said. Millions of Indonesians live on less than 2 dollars a day and the event comes at a time when the poor are still smarting from rising food and fuel prices. (Reuters)

Golf is actually beneficial healthwise!

I have always thought golf to be a game for folks who had a lot of free time and money (at least where I live you need lots of cash to be a member of a golf club), an excuse for making business deals outside the office and so on. Now it appears that golf might actually even be healthy - and add to your life expectancy! I am sure this is great news for golfers but I will be sticking to my yoga :-)

It has been maligned as a "good walk ruined". But golf could have greater health benefits than walking and even more strenuous forms of exercise, according to research in Sweden which shows that playing the game adds an average of five years to your life. "A round of golf means being outside for four or five hours, walking at a fast pace for six to seven kilometres, something which is good for the health," said Professor Anders Ahlbom, who led the study of 500,000 golfers.

"People play golf into old age, and there are also positive social and psychological aspects to the game that can be of help." The effect was stronger for golfers from blue collar backgrounds than players with professional jobs, the study found. The lowest death rates were found among players with the lowest handicaps. They are 47 per cent less likely to die at any time than non-golfers of the same age. "Maintaining a low handicap involves playing a lot, so this supports the idea that it is the game itself that is good for the health," Prof Ahlbom said. (Telegraph)

In-flight Big Brother spycam watching you constantly

This maybe how surveillance on European flights will be conducted soon. European airlines are testing and considering the implementation of a system that has a CCTV facing every passenger. And more that scan the aisles. And this all will be connected to a software (here's the scary part) that will track and analyze facial expressions to detect terrorists about to act.

A prototype European system uses multiple cameras and "Big Brother" software to try and automatically detect terrorists or other dangers caused by passengers. The European Union's (SAFEE) project uses a camera in every passenger's seat, with six wide-angle cameras to survey the aisles. Software then analyses the footage to detect developing terrorist activity or "air-rage" incidents, by tracking passengers' facial expressions.

As crew and passengers move around they often obscure one another, causing a risk the computer will lose track of some of the hundreds of people it must monitor. To get around this, the software constantly matches views of people from different cameras to track their movements.

"It looks for running in the cabin, standing near the cockpit for long periods of time, and other predetermined indicators that suggest a developing threat," says James Ferryman of the University of Reading, UK, one of the system's developers.

Other behaviours could include a person nervously touching their face, or sweating excessively. One such behaviour won't trigger the system to alert the crew, only certain combinations of them.

Ferryman is not ready to reveal specifically which behaviours were most likely to trigger the system. Much of the computer's ability to detect threats relies on sensitive information gleaned from security analysts in the intelligence community. More Here

Cruel Olympic Merchandise is unofficial

Whoever came up with this stupid idea, and the manufacturers, should be put behind bars! I hope that officials in China can stop this at once and are able to prevent anything similar from happening again. If they had stronger copyright laws, which were actually enforced, then this would not have happened at all!

Animal welfare groups have described sales of live goldfish trapped inside unofficial Olympic merchandise in China as “shocking”. Waterfront traders in Qingdao, where Olympic sailing events will take place this summer, have been selling the fish inside heart-shaped novelty plastic key rings.

A cheerful picture of a boy called Huanhuan - one of five mascots for the 2008 games - is printed on the front of a sealed plastic bag containing the fish, with no room to swim and a short supply of oxygen inside.

The RSPCA spokesman said: “The fish would have little oxygen available and it would be impossible to feed the fish. “The fish would survive just a few hours, and would be lucky to make it from the manufacturers to the point of sale. “This product shows a shocking lack of respect for a living thing and should be withdrawn from sale. We are shocked and appalled. It is a gimmick and shows no respect for the animals at all. We can’t understand why anyone would want to buy such a thing.” (Telegraph)

Friday, May 30, 2008

LO: Outward Bound

Last October Ricky went to a camp called Outward Bound Hong Kong. He was going to stay away for a week and I was worried how he would manage, if all would go smoothly. And of course, my worrying was so not necessary - he did very well!

Unlike my daughter, who is very trigger happy with the camera (this presents a different kind of problem - every time she goes anywhere I need to make her an album!), Ricky forgot to take photographs. After some asking around I managed to get these ones from a few friends. Seems like boys his age do not care about taking photos! It is a good thing I took a couple of shots of him when he was leaving, looking so natty in his orange shorts and matching socks ... LOL!

Journaling is by Ricky: I had a lot of fun in my Y6 camp. I did rock climbing which was a lot of work. I also did kayaking which was a lot of fun. Jack was my partner. We got stuck on the rocks. I learned how to build a raft. One day we went camping. We stayed out the whole night. We slept under the stars. Next day we went hiking. Boy was it hard! We hiked for eight hours. I did jetty-jumping. I wore a life jacket and jumped with both feet first into the sea. I did not like it when sea water went into my nose. The cafeteria was great with burgers and fries.

Becks gets Posh a vineyard for her birthday

Is'nt it nice to be loaded? I too had the idea of treating myself to a vineyard a long time ago - ran short by a few dollars .. ;-) So I settled for a bottle of wine!

The England and LA Galaxy footballer is said to have paid a seven-figure sum for the Napa Valley winery which will be run by a specialist team. The Sun reported that the couple, who became wine “buffs” while living in Spain when Beckham played for Real Madrid, plan to bottle their own top quality lines for themselves, friends and family. The sportsman is said to have revealed the surprise by handing his Spice Girl wife a bottle with her name on the label during a day trip to a winery in the area last month. (Telegraph)

Venomous snake bites man on penis

This has to be a man's nightmares come true! I am so glad that the tourist survived and that his identity has not been released. So at this point I can confess that I was guilty of laughing when I imagined the scenario in my head.


A tourist in Australia is lucky to be alive after being bitten on the penis by one of the world’s most venomous snakes. The man was having a roadside toilet stop when the deadly brown snake emerged from the bush and lunged at his crotch. It bit him on the end of the penis but did not release a significant amount of toxin through its fangs.

Paramedics rushed to the aid of the tourist, who was on a road near the town of Laura, on the wild and rugged Cape York Peninsula of Queensland. The incident happened a month ago but has only just come to light after it was confirmed by medical staff. The man, whose nationality was not released, was extremely fortunate to be alive but also “shocked and embarrassed” about where he had been bitten, an ambulance spokesman said.

Brown snakes are among the most common species of snake in Australia and are often encountered around farms, in bushland and even in suburbia. They cause more deaths from snakebite than any other species. (Telegraph)

Marco Tempest phone cam magic #1

e-Break more productive than a tea break

Employees should be allowed to surf Facebook while they are at work, experts claim. Psychologists say surfing the internet actually makes workers more productive because it boosts moral and helps reduce stress.

Top British firms, including Credit Suisse and British Gas, have banned workers using social networking sites, as they say staff spend too much time chatting with friends when they should be working.

But researchers at Goldsmith College, London, said the bans are losing firms £4 billion a year because demoralised employees are putting in less effort at work. The study of 1,700 employees found most workers felt more productive after an “ebreak” surfing the internet than they did after a tea break. (More here: Telegraph)

2" gun pendant threat to security!

Some guy, called Guy, who works as a security agent with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, had this to say about a 1.7" long gun shaped pendant with no moving parts. Guy said "How do you know it is not a real gun?" and "Who knows if there is a gun that small that can shoot bullets? You don't know that. They followed the rules."

What next!!?!

Photo courtesy of Marnina Norys

Kelowna Airport in British Columbia has bad ass security. They know how to shake you down, and nothing gets past them. And if you don't want a hassle and a half at their security checkpoints, one thing is clear: don't try to bring a gun onto the plane - even if it's under two inches in length, has no moving parts, and is hanging from a necklace around your neck.

On Monday, Marnina Norys, a Toronto resident and PhD student studying Social Political Thought, was put through the bureaucratic and culture-of-fear rigmarole while trying to board a place in Kelowna - all because she wore a necklace with a pendant in the shape of a gun (the classic Colt45, and the actual pendant depicted in the above photo).

Hijacking a plane using a tattoo of a gun or the latest issue of Guns & Ammo magazine are just as likely scenarios. (Link) via Boing Boing

Sell unwanted gifts from ex BFs here

If you have a gift or momento from an ex and all that comes to your mind when you see it is 'What did I see in him?' then you need to visit this website

A website has been set up which allows ex-girlfriends and wives to sell on unwanted gifts from former lovers. allows women to trade rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings and watches and commiserate over lost loves in the process.

Among gifts featuring on the site is a diamond key necklace priced at $75. Its seller, bassoonchick997, wrote: "This was given to me by an ex-boyfriend of mine for Christmas 2006. He didn't pick it out or even buy it, his mother did. "I love the necklace but it brings back the memories I have of him and I don't want that any more." (Telegraph)

Gross stuff in face creams

The market now is so congested. People have so much choice. How does one make one's product stand out from the rest? With makers of creams & lotions the solution is to put in something really weird and tell every one what a breakthrough it is! I am going to be double checking what is in my face cream.

Ladies, next time you reach for your favourite face cream have a peek at the label because the ingredients might be a little more exotic – or off-putting – than you realised. Snake venom, snail slime, shark eggs and even placenta have been found in skincare products on sale around the world, according to research by Mintel.

The American firm Syence Skin Care Laboratories produces Skin Venom Memory Cream, which is based on a snake peptide venom said to mirror the effects of Botox and conquer wrinkles. Although available in Britain, it does not come cheap at £180 per 50ml.

Chinese women can snap up a product by Profael Specialty Skin called Nourishment, which contains bee mucus, while in Colombia, users of Bonnie Baba de Caracol Moisturising Cream are rubbing extract of purified snail slime into their body.(Telegraph)


It's good to focus on what's important.

Consider yourself warned

Let's get all bases covered

Clearly, you're not wanted on this property!

And who said politics is boring?

Like, how many was that?

and my personal favorite . .

Plumber needed at warp speed!

I posted a while back about the toilet in the space station not working. Well, on May 31 the shuttle Discovery will be making a delivery and we hope that there are some plumbing spare parts in the cargo. Otherwise its back to using bags!

Uncontacted Amazonian tribe found

A group called Survival International estimates that there are over 100 uncontacted tribes worldwide. And here are photos Brazilian Government officials took as they flew with a helicopter over one tribe in the Amazonian Basin. Can you imagine how startled these people must have been?

Amazon Indians from one of the world's last uncontacted tribes have been photographed from the air, with striking images released on Thursday showing them painted bright red and brandishing bows and arrows.

The photographs of the tribe near the border between Brazil and Peru are rare evidence that such groups exist. A Brazilian official involved in the expedition said many of them are in increasing danger from illegal logging.

Of more than 100 uncontacted tribes worldwide, more than half live in either Brazil or Peru, Survival International says. It says all are in grave danger of being forced off their land, killed and ravaged by new diseases. (Reuters)

Ghost Goblets

This is a brilliant idea! A sure conversation piece at any party. I'd love to get my hands on a set... or three.

Buy them at CocktailVibe - via Boing Boing

Rare Javan Rhino footage

Just when a motion triggered camera was recording the extremely rare Javan Rhino, it decided that it was camera shy. Threw a tantrum like many Hollywood celebrities and wrecked the camera! Take a look at the video here: Rhino Video

The world's rarest rhinoceros has been captured on film by a specially installed camera in the jungles of Java, Indonesia. But the female rhino, which was accompanied by a calf, promptly charged the camera, sending it flying. The animals are at severe risk of extinction, with only 60-70 animals left in the wild. A spokesperson for WWF said the footage provided an unusual glimpse of the rare beasts in their natural habitat. (BBC)

Many cot deaths may be caused by infections

Common infections could be a major cause of cot death, doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital have discovered. Doctors there investigated 546 sudden infant deaths and found that in half of the cases that had been classed as "unexplained", potentially dangerous bacteria were found in the baby's body.

Cot death can include cases in which a cause of death is found on examination but it cannot be determined why the baby died. The bugs included staphylococcus aureus and E.coli which can cause serious problems without any outward signs. And the bacteria were in almost the same concentrations as in cases where the cause of death was determined as infection. (Telegraph)

An interesting comparison

A loo is like a committee meeting. People come with a lot of pressure, sit, create a lot of noise, and ultimately drop the matter!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

HQ to ancient Pharaonic army discovered

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered what they say was the ancient headquarters of the Pharaonic army guarding the northeastern borders of Egypt for more than 1,500 years, the government said on Wednesday.

The fortress and adjoining town, which they identify with the ancient place name Tharu, lies in the Sinai peninsula about 3 km (2 miles) northeast of the modern town of Qantara, Egyptian archaeologist Mohamed Abdel Maksoud told Reuters.

The town sat at the start of a military road joining the Nile Valley to the Levant, parts of which were under Egyptian control for much of the period, the government's Supreme Council for Antiquities said in a statement.

The inscriptions mention three Pharaohs -- Tuthmosis II, who ruled from about 1512 BC and who built one of the military installations along the route, Seti I and Ramses II, who between them ruled Egypt from 1318 to 1237 BC, it added. (More: Reuters)

An ancient Egyptian inscription which was found in what archaeologists believe is the fortress town of Tharu in northern Sinai, is seen in this undated handout photo made available May 28, 2008.

These morning walks are killing me!

(Thanks Michi!)

Great publicity stunt by little known Indian actor

I read this article in detail a while back - it was all over Indian wired news. Some guy called Manoj Tiwari (never heard of him before) was being honoured by the Government of the Netherlands with a stamp. His face would be on the stamp and I wondered 'Why?' Now it seems the question should have 'Really?'

Not many might have heard of Bhojpuri film superstar Manoj Tiwari getting an honour by the Netherlands government that would do, say, even Bachchan proud! According to Tiwari, the Royal Dutch government recently issued a postage stamp in his honour. Fickle trade circles began talking in tones of awe and wonder at the "reach" of the Bhojpuri superstar.

But the wonderment was short-lived as soon the news caught the curiosity of Patna-based teenager, Nawal Kishore Kumar. Surfing the Dutch government's website, he found to his utter shock that no such stamp had been issued to "honour" Tiwari.

Kumar then wrote an email to the Netherlands government's public information officer, H ter Laak, to lift the cloud of controversy. Laak replied to Kumar in which he writes, "Thank you for the email. No postage stamp on the actor has been issued." (TOI)

Infra red to track shoppers

What else are they going to come up with for marketing analysis? I find this a bit unnecessary and cannot get my brain around exactly how the numbers will provide any extra help to all the marketing statistics already out there. But best to know where all we are being tracked, I always say.

Supermarket shoppers may soon find their movements tracked by infrared beams as stores try to influence their buying choices. Under the surveillance scheme sensors similar to those used on automatic garage doors are placed in aisles around the perimeter of a store in what is known a "racetrack" formation. They emit infrared light and record the number of times the beam is broken by a shopper, the direction the person is heading and the exact time. Results can be used by supermarkets to establish the "closure rate" of products - how many people bought a product as a percentage of those who passed by. (Telegraph)

Blackberry & India govt to resolve security concerns

Further to this, the makers of Blackberry, RIM is now going to meet with Indian officials, even though RIM is declining to comment. Obviously RIM would like to market the Blackberrys more aggressively in the sub continent - it is a huge market. I would love to know the exactly how they manage to resolve this. Who will give?

Blackberry-maker Research In Motion will again meet Indian officials on Thursday to find a solution to concerns raised by security agencies, a telecoms ministry official said. India's security agencies have said the BlackBerry e-mail device posed a risk as e-mails sent using it could not be traced or intercepted and the government has written to RIM asking it to put servers in India.

"There is a meeting tomorrow," an Indian official said, who did not want to be identified. A spokesman for RIM in India declined comment. Indian Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja said last week the Canadian firm had assured the government to come out with a solution in two months. (Reuters)

UFO explodes over Vietnam?

Well ... truth be told the Vietnamese are still investigating and for now it is classified as a 'UFO'

An unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash. "The explosion happened at about 8 km (5 miles) above the ground, and perhaps it was a plane, but authorities could not identify whether it was a civil or military aircraft," VNA said in a report headlined "UFO explodes over Phu Quoc Island."

Soldiers were sent out to look for wreckage and survivors, and local authorities contacted airlines in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, but received no reports of missing aircraft, the official state news agency added. (Telegraph)

Canada going to get tough on copyright at border crossings

The federal government is secretly negotiating an agreement to revamp international copyright laws which could make the information on Canadian iPods, laptop computers or other personal electronic devices illegal and greatly increase the difficulty of travelling with such devices.

The deal would create a international regulator that could turn border guards and other public security personnel into copyright police. The security officials would be charged with checking laptops, iPods and even cellular phones for content that "infringes" on copyright laws, such as ripped CDs and movies. The guards would also be responsible for determining what is infringing content and what is not.

The deal could also impose strict regulations on Internet service providers, forcing those companies to hand over customer information without a court order. On top of these enforcement efforts, ACTA also proposes imposing new sanctions on Internet service providers. It would force them to hand over personal information pertaining to "claimed infringement" or "alleged infringers" - users who may be transmitting or sharing copyrighted content over the Internet. (Link) via Boing Boing

Alzheimer's risk reduced by regular asprin

I remember reading about a study that proved that curry, or specifically turmeric (which is a main ingredient in curry) reduces the risk of Alzheimer's by removing the brain plaques linked to Alzheimer's. Now we find also Asprin, or ibuprofen help reduces the build up of plaques in the brain.

Taking popular painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen could lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, a study has found. People who used the over-the-counter medicines were 23 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's than those who did not. Previous research has provided conflicting results on whether non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs cut the risk of Alzheimer's and, if so, which ones work best. It is thought that the anti-inflammatory action of the drugs reduces the build-up of plaques in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's. (Telegraph)

Women in Film

The 'morphing' is remarkable - I found some of the in-betweens so pretty too! Whoever put this together deserves some BIG accolades:

50,000 visitors to Bedroom Temple

What started out as a shrine for the couple to pray in has now become a regular temple with all Hindu rituals and festivals being observed and carrying out blessings for weddings, births and deaths. Apparently wishes made there come true!! So interesting!

A couple have had more than 50,000 visitors to their home since they turned their spare bedroom into a Hindu temple 29 years ago. Sushila Karia, 57, and her husband Dhirajlal, 68, said they built the shrine because the nearest alternative was 45 miles away when they moved there 29 years ago.

The couple, who have a son and a daughter, had begun just by praying in the room as a family after their move from north London. But they felt that they wanted something more and shipped 17 marble statues of gods and goddesses from India and installed them in the room. (Telegraph)

Naples filth gets unmanageable

Red tape, corruption and the mafia make this once beautiful city into a putrefying pustule on Silvio Berlusconi's backside. Let's see what his iron fist will get done. For the sake of the common man in Napoli I hope that this is one instance where Mr. Berlusconi can match his words by his actions.

Beneath the mountains of festering waste, Naples is a city descending into chaos. Officially there is an estimated 50,000 tonnes of uncollected rubbish in the Campania region, 5,000 tonnes of it on the city's streets. But drive around and it soon becomes obvious that this is an extremely conservative estimate. Wherever you go outside the city centre there are enormous piles of rubbish rotting in the sun. The smell gets so bad it is often just burned - and as the temperatures soar so do the frustrations of the beleaguered Neapolitans.

For Campania, with a population of some six million people, there is, today, according to the council, just one viable dump. The three incinerators they are building as part of the solution are all hopelessly behind schedule. One, in Acera, is still at least five months from completion, and has recently run out of money. The 70m euros (£55m) needed to finish the job has been frozen as part of an investigation into corruption involving the regional governor, Antonio Bassolino, and 27 others. (BBC)

Harry Potter saga prequel

JK Rowling has written a prequel to the HP saga for charity. I am sad that it is only 800 words. She could write a book. At least I wish she would!

A year after the seventh and final Potter book was published, Rowling has conjured up a new story to be auctioned for charity next month. It is sure to provoke a bidding frenzy – her last Potter-related tome written for charity, an illustrated book of fairytales called The Tales of Beedle the Bard, fetched almost £2 million in December last year.

Rowling was one of 13 authors invited by Waterstone's, the bookseller, to fill an A5 storycard that will be auctioned off on June 10 in aid of two charities, Dyslexia Action and English Pen. All were told they could fill the card in whatever way they wished. To the organisers' amazement, Rowling, 42, supplied the 800-word, hand-written prequel. (Telegraph)

More details here: Reuters

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A French Thief

I am off to la-la land. A very cute joke sent to me by Michi (Thanks!) before I leave you :-)

A thief in Paris planned to steal some paintings from the Louvre.

After careful planning, he got past security, stole the paintings and made it safely to his van. However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.
When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied,
'Monsieur that is the reason I stole the paintings.

I had no Monet

to buy Degas

to make the Van Gogh.

See if you have De Gaulle to send this on to someone else.

I sent it to you because I figured I had nothing Toulouse.

Bonne Nuit!

Pisa Tower safe for 300 years

I remember when we were there and saw a lot of work going on. I was worried about how good the job would be and reading all the reports on how it was tilting was not very reassuring. Now I see '300 years' and I am happy. 300 is a good number. I am sure 300 years from now they'll do an even better job!

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has been saved for another 300 years and is no longer moving, according to the engineers in charge of the rescue operation. "All of our best hopes have been confirmed. We can now say that the tower will not move again for at least three centuries," said Michele Jamiolkowski, a Turin-based engineer who led the project to stabilise the tower.

The tower currently leans 13 feet off centre, and has been straightened by 14.5 inches since 1999 thanks to a £20 million restoration project. As an added bonus, the authorities plan to reopen a "secret wonder" of the tower. Until 1935 it was possible, by entering a side door of the tower, to gaze upwards through its seven storeys to see the sky. (Telegraph)

The Future of Computers

Guess who I found on Facebook?

The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao - he has his own FB profile and I think it is the real deal because of all the official photographs & stuff. I just became a 'supporter'- I am happy with the way he dealt with the Earthquake.

Very different from the Military Junta in Burma who are surely committing crimes against humanity with their actions!

Surfing Hippo endangers itself

Poor Hippo - he's just having some fun. And that may end up costing him his life. I hope the wildlife rangers can think up some solution other than killing the animal.

(Image from Reuters)

A footloose hippopotamus which has been tracked down the South African coast for months has fascinated locals by surfing in the waves. The hippo has repeatedly swum in the breaking waves but was finally captured on film by a local photographer near the east coast holiday town of Ballito yesterday. The creature, which can weigh almost two tons, paddled in the white water and swam as the force carried him forwards.

The hippo, thought to be an adult male, has been moving south since March but is now approaching the outskirts of Durban. Lionel van Schoor, a wildlife ranger from KZN Wildlife, a conservation group in KwaZulu-Natal, warned it might have to be shot dead if it did not turn around because they could not use tranquiliser darts. He said: "This one would drown if we darted him in the water, and if we tried to dart him on the beach, he would run into the water for safety and again drown when the drug takes effect. "If the hippo moves any further south there is huge risk. If he does not retrace his own steps and move back north, there is little hope for him."

Hippos, whose name comes from the Greek for "river horse", have been recorded surfing before but only very rarely. They generally prefer fresh water. (Telegraph)

Toilet in Space Shuttle not working!

Okay ... just the liquid disposal is not working. The solid disposal is still functioning - thank the heavens!! Still ... I wonder if there is a stench in there? Does smell travel in space?

The international space station's lone toilet is broken, leaving the crew with almost nowhere to go. So Nasa may order an in-orbit plumbing service call when space shuttle Discovery visits next week. Until then, the three-man crew will have to make do with a jury-rigged system when they need to urinate.

While one of the crew was using the Russian-made toilet last week, the toilet motor fan stopped working, according to Nasa. Since then, the liquid waste gathering part of the toilet has been working on-and-off. Fortunately, the solid waste collecting part is functioning normally. (Telegraph)

Sky divers balloon leaves without him

By now you must have heard of the poor French skydiver whose attempt to sky dive from the edge of space became a joke because his balloon got away. It is all over the news - I feel so bad for the guy! Here is a video.

A retired French paratrooper’s daring bid to skydive from the edge of space came to a farcical end when the balloon that was to take him almost 25 miles up drifted off without him. After two decades of preparation and $20 million of investment, Michel Fournier, 64, could only look on helplessly as the helium balloon lifted off from North Battleford airport in the Canadian state of Saskatchewan, leaving him stranded on terra firma in his pressurised capsule.

It was the latest dashing of a life-long dream for Mr Fournier, who had planned to perform what has been dubbed Le Grand Saut (The Great Leap) from almost 25 miles up after a two and half hour ascent to the edge of the stratosphere — about four times higher than the cruising altitude of a commercial jet. But his capsule never left the ground after the balloon detached itself while being inflated. (Telegraph)

Dinner in the Sky

I first became aware of this company early last year. I find this a novel concept. They have been spreading to other cities and may soon be coming to one near you.

Now ... I can see the folks eating, I can see the chefs, I can see the pianist. But I cannot see a toilet. If someone has been on one of these dinners, please let me know what happens if nature calls halfway through dinner? Were you given any special instructions before lift off?

Click here for more info: Dinner in the Sky

Chubby Cheeks - the Beauty secret of Jolie & Hepburn

I could not find any photos of either Jolie or Hepburn to post here - everything where their cheeks looked slightly chubby was under copyright. So a photo of Lily will have to do - her cheeks are chubby enough! Click on the link to see Jolie & Hepburn and their chubby cheeks. And yes, I am going to file this under 'Health' because I do hope this is a trend away from the anorexic looks we have been subjected to the last decade or so.

Chubby cheeks are the secret to a youthful appearance and attracting the opposite sex, according to new research. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons claims that fatty deposits underneath the face help to keep people looking young and beautiful.

Scientists hope that the findings, which explain why sudden weight loss can make people look older, will help them develop techniques to halt the signs of aging.

One suggestion is that fatty deposits are injected beneath the skin to plump up cheeks. "From the irresistible urge to pinch the cheeks of infants to our admiration of Hollywood stars like Audrey Hepburn and Angelina Jolie, we've known for a long time that cheeks are vital to what we consider beautiful," said Joel Pessa, a surgeon and co-author of the study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the society. (Telegraph)

What happens when Galaxies collide?

Rag-and-bone man leaves 300 BC Gold Cup to Grandson

I love stories like this! Does it not want to make you go up to your attic and look through everything again? Just in case it is not all junk? :-)

The grandson of a rag and bone man who acquired a small metal cup is in line for a windfall after discovering it is a pure gold vessel dating back to the third or fourth century BC.The piece could be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The 5½ in cup, believed to be from the Achaemenid empire, has two female faces looking in opposite directions, their foreheads decorated with a snake motif.

Experts were baffled by the piece, but laboratory analysis of the gold put it in the third or fourth century BC and that it had been painstakingly crafted from one piece of gold. The Achaemenid empire was based around Persia, but at its height stretched from Iran to Libya. It was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330BC. (Telegraph)

Ban Cluster Bombs

Help ban cluster bombs.

Sign the Avaaz Petition!

Cluster bombs are one of the most dangerous weapons of today. The majority of their victims are civilians, affecting millions worldwide. They have absolutely no place in a conflict situation.

This week governments have gathered together in Dublin to outlaw this dangerous weapon. This is a historic meeting of the international community. Some governments are trying to undermine and weaken the treaty with loopholes and exceptions. They are trying to position the arms trade over the importance of lives of people like me.

Rich governments don't always listen to victims, but they will listen to you -- their citizens. Please send a strong message to your government now that calls for a treaty with no exception, no loopholes, and no delays.

Twins seperated at birth meet after 28 years

Just like something from a day time soap! Or a Bollywood film!! The twins are separated at birth and then meet by chance after many years. I hope this ends well with millions of dollars being paid out by the hospital.

Spanish twins who were separated at birth due to a hospital mix-up have met by chance 28 years later. The two Spanish women, who have yet to reveal their identities, were born in a hospital in Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, where one of them was switched by mistake with the baby of another family. Two of the three women involved in the mix-up have grown up in a family that was not their own.

One of the twins has now instructed a lawyer to sue the hospital."It happened by chance," he said. "The friend was working in a shopping centre. The other twin came in one day to buy clothes. The sales assistant tried to greet her with a kiss thinking that she was her friend, but the customer refused. "The surprised sales assistant then called her friend who assured her that she had not been in to the shop." When the other twin came back to the shop a few days later, a meeting was arranged between the two sisters. (Telegraph)

Right to Die card

A controversial new "right to die" card is being offered to the public in the UK that allows anyone to refuse treatment in a medical emergency. Who carries it, and why?

It's a morbid question, but one that many of us have pondered at least once. If I hadn't just escaped that dreadful accident, where would I be now? Would I rather be dead than depend on others to keep me alive? A new card seeks to address that very question. Available in pubs, banks, libraries, GP surgeries, even some churches, the Advanced Decision to Refuse Treatment (ADRT) card sits snugly in a wallet or purse and instructs a doctor to withhold treatment should the carrier lose the capacity to make decisions, because of an accident or illness.

Dubbed the "right-to-die card", it's being seen by some as a short-cut to euthanasia. But its backers say it is a practical way of implementing the Mental Capacity Act, which came into force in 2007. The act allows adults to draw up "advance directives" stating what sort of treatment they don't want should they lose capacity. They build on the principle of "living wills" but, crucially, mean that doctors are legally bound to abide by a patient's wish to refuse life-sustaining treatment. (Paula Dear, BBC)

New underwater wine storage technique

This is most interesting. I will have to make a note in a RL diary somewhere (not my Google calendar because wired things change so fast I am sure I won't be using the same calendar for a couple of decades) to check 20 years later how the wine is different because it was stored underwater.

French winegrowers have submerged 276 bottles of local drink deep in an artificial lake and will keep them there for decades to see how they differ from bottles stored above ground for the same period. A dozen frogmen placed the bottles of Arbois wine, kept in wire crates, 60 metres below the surface among the ruins of a sunken 12th century abbey in Vouglans, in the Jura region of eastern France.

Built by monks of the order of Saint Bruno, the Chartreuse de Vaucluse was submerged in 1968, when France's electricity operator, EDF, created a huge dam and France's third largest lake. Every 20 years, a crate of 24 bottles will brought to the surface to test how the wine has changed, in parallel with the normally conserved bottles, according to domain Henri Maire, which organised the operation. (Telegraph)

7 Dwarves of Menopause

OMG! Another baby put up for sale!

I simply cannot believe it! Another couple, this time in Canada put their 7-day old baby up for sale on Craigslist. Are these people like sheep? Following what someone did without thought to the ramifications of what they are doing?

A couple has been arrested in what Canadian police said on Tuesday was an apparent offer to sell a seven-day-old baby girl on Craigslist for C$10,000 ($10,100). A woman who saw the offer on the popular website alerted police who tracked down the 23-year-old mother and 26-year-old father using a cell phone number that was listed in the advertisement.

Vancouver police said the couple told investigators the offer was a hoax, but were arrested for public mischief with other criminal charges possible as the investigation continues. "There are so many questions here," Constable Tim Fanning told reporters. Police said the advertisement described the baby as "very cute" and "unexpected" and that its parents, who could not afford to care for it, wanted to give it a good home. The child was put in the care of social workers. (Reuters)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Watch people chasing cheese downhill!

Maye next year you can join in too! Perhaps not as famous or as exhilarating as chasing bulls in Pamplona, but this activity has its excitement and its participants from all over the world too.

The wind and rain didn't stop thousands of people watching the annual cheese roll in Gloucestershire, England. Competitors from around the world flocked to Gloucestershire to take part in a sporting event with a difference, the giant cheese roll. As the cheese rolled down the hill, dozens of people ran, slipped and tumbled after it. Paramedics were on the scene to assist the injured and mud-covered competitors.

Cheese rolling is thought to date back centuries. During rationing between 1941 and 1954, the wheel of cheese had to be substituted with a wooden circle containing a token piece of cheese inside. (Reuters)

4 women venture into place thats 'Male Only' since 1060

I'll admit I did not know that there is this place called Mount Athos in Greece that has been off bounds to women since 1060!! Now I wish I did not know because it looks very beautiful and I want to go see it and I can't!

Four Moldovan women accidentally breached a ban dating back to 1060 when they were dropped off on the Greek monastic peninsular of Mount Athos. They told police they had sailed from Turkey after paying $6,300 to two Ukrainian people smugglers, but were unaware they were breaking Greek law.

Women are banned from Mount Athos, home to 20 monasteries and considered Orthodox Christianity's spiritual home. Police held the group, and one officer said "they were forgiven" by the monks.

The four women, aged between 27 and 32, and a Moldovan man, aged 41, were discovered by the monks at the weekend. Under Greek law, breaching the ban can lead to a jail sentence. Women - even many female domestic animals - have not been allowed on the mountain since a decree banning women was issued by Byzantine Emperor Constantine Monomachos in 1060! (BBC)

Man pardoned 86 years after execution

I am against the death penalty and the following case clearly demonstrates why the death penalty should be abolished everywhere! Can you imagine what was going through the mind of this poor fellow that no one would believe in his innocence? And such a heinous crime too! And someone got away with murder!!

A man hanged in 1922 for the murder and rape of a young girl in the southern Australian city of Melbourne was posthumously pardoned for the crime on Tuesday after new tests found crucial evidence against him was flawed.

Authorities in the Victorian state pardoned Colin Campbell Ross, who was hanged for raping and murdering a 12-year old girl and dumping her body in an alley in 1921. "This really is a tragic case where a miscarriage of justice has resulted in a man being hanged," Victoria's Attorney-General Rob Hulls said on Tuesday. "This pardon is a recognition that there are serious doubts about Mr Ross's conviction for murder."

Australia is a strong opponent of the death penalty, with the last hanging taking place in Melbourne in 1967 when petty criminal Ronald Ryan was executed for his involvement in a prison escape, during which a prison guard was shot dead. Hulls said the case was a warning to anyone who believed Australia should re-introduce the death penalty, which was formally abolished in Victoria in 1975. (Reuters)

Small Fry Giraffe

This adorable baby giraffe is 5ft tall but that is small by giraffes standards. She was born in January of this year and was 2 weeks premature. I want this guy's job!

Most babies who measured 5ft would be considered big - but newborn giraffe Margaret is seen as unusually small for her species. The female Rothschild giraffe was born prematurely at Chester Zoo after mother Fay went into labour two weeks early. Mother and daughter are now doing fine and, thanks to hand-rearing by her keepers, 10-day-old Margaret is now tipping the scales at just over five stone.

Tim Rowlands, team leader of the giraffes section, said: "Margaret is one of the smallest giraffe calves we have ever seen. "Fay isn't the largest of giraffes and Margaret was also early which might go some way to explaining her size.(Sky)

Indian Govt wants to spy on Blackberry messages

.... but the makers of Blackberry have refused to decrypt messages - I like how they insisted that the technology would not allow them to! India is not the only country that does not allow widespread use of the Blackberry because of fears that these devices may be used for terrorism. So if you need to provide an ID card to buy a cycle, what documentation would you need to supply to be able to use a Blackberry?

So, as I see it slowly the Governments (not just the Indian Govt. mind you) are clamping down on our freedoms, finding more ways to keep tabs on us, but it does not seem to be affecting the terrorists in anyway. Last I checked Bin Laden was just fine somewhere and bombs exploding and people dying with fail safe regularity.

The Canadian manufacturer of Blackberry mobile phones has rejected demands by the Indian government that it help decrypt suspicious text messages. The firm, Research in Motion, says its technology does not allow any third party - even the company itself - to read information sent over its network.

The Indian authorities have been reluctant to allow the widespread use of Blackberries in the country. They fear militants and criminals may take advantage of the secure system. A number of other countries around the world have expressed similar fears. (BBC)

You Tube & Net freedom threatened

Viacom is suing You Tube for 1 billion dollars because You Tube did not manage to rid it site of unauthorized video. These include TV programs and other stuff, like the documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' which was viewed 1.5 billion times. But what are the ramifications of this case if Viacom wins? Will You Tube be forced to shut down? OMG!!! I hope not! I need my cooking shows and my gag shows and my 'how-to' videos!!

A one billion dollar lawsuit against YouTube threatens internet freedom, according to its owner Google. Google's claim follows Viacom's move to sue the video sharing service for its inability to keep copyrighted material off its site.

Viacom says it has identified 150,000 unauthorised clips on YouTube.

In court documents Google's lawyers say the action "threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information" over the web. The search giant's legal team also maintained that YouTube had been faithful to the requirements of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act and that they responded properly to claims of infringement. In papers submitted to a Manhattan court, Google said it and YouTube "goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works".

Viacom disagreed that either firm had lived up to that standard and said that they had done "little or nothing" to stop infringement. (BBC)

New Bond novel to mark 100th anniversary

It is called Devil May Care and it is the newest of the Bond novel written by Sebastian Faulks in the style of Ian Fleming. And it is set in the period of the Cold War. Wonder who the Baddies are and I hope the Russian Communists do not get upset again!

A new James Bond novel is being unveiled more than 40 years after the last in the spy series was published. Entitled Devil May Care, the book, by Sebastian Faulks, is the 15th to feature suave secret agent 007. Its launch, onboard HMS Exeter at Tower Bridge in London, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bond creator Ian Fleming.

The plot of the book, said to be written in the style of Fleming, is being kept a closely guarded secret. So far all that is know is that the adventure takes place in 1967, during the Cold War, and takes 007 to Paris, London and the Middle East. But its publisher has said it marks a return to Bond's original character after many screen adaptations. (BBC)

Tag Album from scratch.

Here is a quick project with some extra photos leftover after I finished our 2007 summer travel albums. I wanted to make a gift album for my mother. She had not actually come with us so a small album with just a select few photos of the main attractions would be enough.

I wish I was in a country where I could just go out and but a small album, preferably one with chipboard covers that I could personalize. But the reality being what it is, I had no small albums with me and no possibility of buying one that would not take 3 months (surface post to save on costs!) to get here. So I had to make one from scratch. And guess what – I ended up using just three sheets of cardstock for the whole album! How’s that for economy?

I selected a ‘Tag’ design because of its simplicity. And a really heavy cardstock – Club Scrap makes some really nice thick quality cardstock. Add to the fact that I have piles of it right at my finger tips and it was the perfect choice! So go with the best you have. Measure an existing tag and make adjustments in size to get the maximum number of tags from your 12 X 12 cardstock. For example the actual tag size in the photo is 6½” X 3½“ but I cut my tags 6” X 3½” so I got 6 tags from each page. And I had a small strip left from one edge for any finishing touches to the album.

If, like me you have cardstock with some kind of design on one side, arrange the pieces so that printed sides are facing each other. This is what it should look like:

On only one side of the cardstock, lightly pencil a ½“ or 1 cm (I usually work in metric) margin.

This margin is where the hinge will be attached. You need to pencil it in only on one side of the cardstock. No need to flip and pencil on the back side.

I used two tags, glued together, for the front and back covers. Here, if you wish, you can substitute with Buckram and use a laminating glue to stiffen up the covers.

You can use the original tag as a template to pencil in the corners of all your tags. I then used a deco scissor to cut them, just to add interest.

Punch a hole in the centre of one tag. Using this as a template pencil in the place where you will punch holes on all other tags. This way even if you are slightly off centre, all pages will be the same.

Get all your supplies together. I had a small brochure from our trip. I used a lot of the titles, words and designs from this booklet in my album.

While working your pages take care that all pages on the right hand side will have the penciled margin whereas the flip side, or the left hand side, will not need any penciled margin.

If you look at the photo below you will notice that the lower 3 pages have a margin allowance. Sometimes, the photo may go all the way to the edge, but this part of the photo will be of no interest and will be covered up by the hinge.

The pages on the top are worked all the way to the edge because they will be entirely visible.

Once all your pages are ready select a piece of cardstock in contrasting colour for the hinge. The width of this piece should be the same as the width of the tag. The length will be determined by the number of pages in your album – but try to keep to about a maximum of 16 pages in your album so you can work with the standard 12X12 cardstock. I started with a 3 ½ “ X 12” long piece.

Starting with a valley fold, pencil in a dashed line at exactly 1 cm intervals. In between the valley folds, pencil in mountain folds with a straight line. You will get alternating mountain and valley folds at ½ cm intervals. The number of valley folds should be 2 less than your pages. Mountain folds should be 3 less than the number of pages. For example, for 14 pages, I had to mark 12 valley folds and 11 mountain folds.

Using a bone folder, crease & pleat, to make an accordion hinge as shown in the image. Leave one end long. This will be the top part of your hinge. Leave yourself some extra space for creativity!

The back cover, where I glue two tags together, was not glued in its entirety. I left a small opening at the edge between the two cardstocks. I slipped the end of the hinge into this opening, gluing it down. This way the end of the hinge is not visible at the reverse of the album.

Now apply bookbinding glue sparingly to the side of the page where you have penciled in your margin. Attach the page to each successive fold of the accordion and hold down till fixed.

Once all the pages except the top cover are glued, decide on a look that you prefer for your hinge finishing. I just used a decorative edge scissor and then outlined it with a pen.

Here is what your finished album should look like. I really like this sort of album when I go heavy on the embellishments because the accordion hinge can accommodate some really 3D embellies!

To see the pages up close, click here

Enjoy creating!