Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela

Can you spare 67 minutes of your time helping others?
Every year, on Mandela Day, people around the world are asked by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to do just that.
By devoting 67 minutes of their time – one minute for every year of Mr. Mandela’s public service – people can make a small gesture of solidarity with humanity and a step towards a global movement for good.

If you would like to donate your own time to public service, here are some things you can do to take action and inspire change:
  • Make a new friend. Get to know someone from a different cultural background. Only through mutual understanding can we rid our communities of intolerance and xenophobia.
  • Read to someone who can’t. Visit a local home for the blind and open up a new world for someone else.
  • Help out at the local animal shelter. Dogs without homes still need a walk and a bit of love.
  • Help someone get a job. Put together and print a CV for them, or help them with their interview skills.
  • Many terminally ill people have no one to speak to. Take a little time to have a chat and bring some sunshine into their lives.
  • Get tested for HIV and encourage your partner to do so too.
  • Take someone you know, who can’t afford it, to get their eyes tested or their teeth checked.
  • Donate a wheelchair or guide dog, to someone in need.
  • Buy a few blankets, or grab the ones you no longer need from home and give them to someone in need.
To see all 67 suggestions for action, visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation site.

Via UN

Vampire Burial

a "vampire" grave
When archaeologists opened an ancient grave at a highway construction site near Gliwice, Poland, they came across a scene from a horror movie: a suspected vampire burial.

Interred in the ground were skeletal remains of humans whose severed heads rested upon their legs—an ancient Slavic burial practice for disposing of suspected vampires, in hopes that decapitated individuals wouldn't be able to rise from their tombs.
But the recent Polish discovery isn't the first time that archaeologists have stumbled upon graves of those thought to be undead. Here's what science has to tell us about a few of history's famous revenant suspects.
Read more here.

The Belgians!

On 21 July Belgium celebrates Independence Day. Moreover, King Albert II will abdicate in favor of his son, Prince Filip, this year. As long as life just goes on, the Belgians will not lose much sleep over it, I guess and hope. Meanwhile, some clever guy produced a YT clip about them "miserable fat Belgian bastards"...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What Is Music?

What is Music? from Christian Robinson on Vimeo.
Animated short documents children's understanding of music.

Animal Sounds In Different Languages

Bow Wow Meow - Animal Sounds in Different Languages from properniceinnit on Vimeo.
Ever wanted to know how different languages interpret animal sounds?

Featuring English, Mandarin, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Hindi, Canadian-French, Romanian, Japanese, Russian, Dutch, Bengali, Brazilian-Portuguese, Colombian-Spanish, Swahili and Mongolian.

I wanted to get as many languages as possible but had to draw the line somewhere. The video grew out of a conversation I had with some friends on a lunch break.

The Atlantic Wall

I visited the Atlantic Wall, an open air, military museum which preserves fortifications of the Atlantic Wall dating to the First and Second World Wars.The section of fortifications owned by the museum - over 60 bunkers and two miles of trenches - is among the best preserved sections of the defensive line in Europe. The fortifications survive because they were built on land belonging to Prince Charles of Belgium who decided not to destroy them after liberation. They were kept as a national monument.

The weather was hot yesterday, but the site is worth the sweat. Here are some of the pictures I took.

Sperm Crisis?

Are today's young men less fertile than their fathers were? It's a controversy in the fertility field, with some experts raising the alarm over what some are calling a "sperm crisis" because they believe men's sperm counts have been decreasing for a decade or more.

Experts here for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology annual conference last week debated the issue for an entire day.

Read more about it here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Cronut

You have probably never tasted it, but you have likely heard of it: the cronut.

The cronut

It rolled out in May at in New York City. Since then, it has taken off. A black market has sprung up, with scalpers selling them for up to . Social and traditional media have lit up with coverage, and imitators around the world are trying to tap in on the success.

Chef-owner Dominique Ansel only makes about 300 cronuts a day. Some customers camp out overnight to get their hands on one. And some leave disappointed: Cronuts always sells out.

Via NPR.

Bruce Springsteen @ Werchter: Jailhouse Rock

Raymond Loewy

Raymond Loewy, the hugely influential industrial designer who put his mark on the American automobile industry with groundbreaking vehicles such as the Studebaker Champion, Starliner and Avanti, died on this day in 1986 at his home in Monte Carlo at the age of 92.

Raymond Loewy
 Born in France, Loewy served as an engineer in the French army during World War I before completing his degree in engineering and moving to New York City. He had found success as a fashion illustrator by 1929, when Sigmund Gestetner, a British manufacturer of duplicating machines, commissioned him to improve the appearance of his company's product. Loewy revamped the look of the Gestetner duplicator, covering its protruding parts with a smooth shell mounted on a simple base. The design's success earned him a product design job at the Hupp Motor Company, where he began his long association with American automobile manufacturers.

Loewy advocated longer, lighter vehicles that would be more fuel-efficient, a bias that was ahead of its time and clashed with the prevailing attitudes in Detroit. Among his design contributions over the years were slanted windshields, built-in headlights and wheel covers. The Loewy-designed 1947 Studebaker Champion, was dubbed the "coming or going" Studebaker, as it looked very similar whether viewed from the front or the back. His 1953 Starliner Coupe made a splash with its clean lines, lightweight body and relative lack of chrome—quite a contrast from the large, shiny vehicles popular in that era. (In 1972, a poll of American car stylists would pick the Starliner as the industry's best: As Automotive News announced, "The 1953 Studebaker, a long-nosed coupe, with little trim and an air of motion about it, was acclaimed the top car of all time.") Loewy also designed the classic Avanti and Avanti II sports cars for Studebaker.

Studebaker Champion 1947

Founded in the 1930s, Raymond Loewy Associates grew into the largest industrial design firm in the world. Among Loewy's other famous designs were the Lucky Strike cigarette package, the slenderized Coca-Cola bottle, the U.S. Postal Service emblem and the Exxon logo. His signature streamlined look spread to hundreds of products, from toothbrushes and ballpoint pens to refrigerators, but was particularly influential in the transportation industry. Loewy went from streamlining the trash receptacles at New York's Pennsylvania Station to designing the first all-welded locomotive (in 1937). Loewy also designed the modern Greyhound bus (and logo), the interior of NASA's Saturn I, Saturn V, and Skylab spacecraft, and Air Force One, which he redesigned for President John F. Kennedy, giving it the sleek white missile-like exterior it has today.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


royal cartoons in The New Yorker.

The Rich Get Richer

Harmonic Fields

The wind is currently playing 500 instruments and thus creating another symphony in Genk (Belgium). This art project was set up by Pierre Sauvageot, who found inspiration in Bali where local people use wind chimes as scarecrows.

John Lennon visits Happy Days

Those were the days. Loved watching The Fonz! 


Here's a definitive sign that Americans have taken multitasking way too far: They're looking at their smartphones while doing it.

Nearly 20 percent of young adult smartphone owners in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 34 use their smartphones during sex,and nearly 1 in ten U.S. adults who own smartphones use them during sex.

The survey from Harris Interactive on behalf of startup Jumio did not ask respondents what they are "using" the phones for. Perhaps there's something much more kinky going on here. Probably though it's just a lot of people surreptitiously glancing at their iPhones to see if they got a text or a new comment on their Facebook post.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Terry Gilliam / Monty Python

Bazz Is Ready For Work

Bazz isn’t just wearing adorable doggie sneakers and a scary-looking perma-cone of shame. And he’s not headed into space. He’s trained to sniff out American foulbrood, a quick-spreading disease that infects bee larvae and wipes out beehives.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Can I Just Have One More Moondance With You?

Since it is one of my faves, here is a priceless version of Moondance, brought to you by Van, George Benson, Etta James and some other talented folks. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Interspecies Internet?

Apes, dolphins and elephants are animals with remarkable communication skills. Could the internet be expanded to include sentient species like them? A new and developing idea from a panel of four great thinkers -- dolphin researcher Diana Reiss, musician Peter Gabriel, internet of things visionary Neil Gershenfeld and Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet.

Johannes Stötter Art

Great stuff from Johannes Stötter

Via Bored Panda

Holding The Human Heart

Immersion: what the NSA knows about you

Looking for an intuitive way to understand the kind of data the N.S.A. has been collecting on all of us? A team at MIT has developed a helpful graphic for GMail users. "Immersion" is a program that reads only the meta data from your email – precisely what the N.S.A. is collecting from telephone and internet records – and creates a visual web of interconnectedness between you and the people in your inbox.

What’s the big deal about collecting this information? If you’re of the mind to give Immersion a try, you can get a sense of the kind of information it can reveal, particularly over time. According to The New Yorker's Jane Mayer, you don’t need to know the content of conversations to get the gist of what’s going on. Mayer’s post points out that you might make an appointment with a gynecologist, then an oncologist, and then you may make a series of calls to close family members and friends. What’s going on? It’s not hard to deduce that you’ve received a diagnosis of cancer. Likewise, journalists who count on anonymity to protect their sensitive sources can be outed easily with meta data. And lest you think you are carrying on an extramarital fling unnoticed, meta data can reveal that, too.
This type of intrusion is easy to minimize because meta data is not meaningful or even familiar to most people. Intuitively, we are more concerned with revealing the content of our conversations. Yet if we are to fully understand the significance of this type of data mining, we must present the data in ways that hit home. Immersion is one such way. Check it out.

They do not seem to have much on me. But then I do not really make much use of GMail.


Monday, July 8, 2013

A Circus Lion

The UK government recently announced that a ban prohibiting the use of wild animals in circuses in Britain would come into effect in 2015.

 How many big cats, elephants and other animals watch the world through the bars of cages, without ever having known the infinity of wilderness? Knowing, instead, the blurred scenery of tarred roads, as they travel in gaudy procession from town to town.

read more

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Eternal flames

Eternal flames mark only our most important shrines – but nature has them aplenty. This one, burning behind a waterfall veil in Erie county, New York, has now been studied in detail.

The flames can arise in places where natural gas seeps continually from underground rocks. When the flow concentrates into a strong "macroseep" and ignites, the resulting flame need never go out.

The one in Erie County is 20 centimetres tall and burns about a kilogram of gas a day – mostly methane, although it also contains the highest proportions of ethane and propane ever recorded in a natural seep. The chemistry of the gas revealed that its source is a known shale formation about 400 metres down.

Local tectonic events have "naturally fracked" the underlying rocks. The researchers suggest that such sites might present good opportunities for hydrocarbon exploration without resorting to artificial fracking.
Seepage of natural gas has important implications for the atmosphere too. Almost a third of the methane in air comes from natural sources: natural gas seeps and wetlands are the biggest.

Size Zero

The fashion industry is not a pretty business. One of its own, Kirstie Clements describes a thin-obsessed culture in which starving models eat tissues and resort to surgery when dieting isn't enough

One of the most controversial aspects of fashion magazines, and the fashion industry, is models. Specifically, how young they are and how thin they are. It's a topic that continues to create endless debate, in the press and in the community. It's a precarious subject, and there are many unpleasant truths beneath the surface that are not discussed or acknowledged publicly.

In the late 1980s models were generally drawn from a pool of local girls, who were naturally willowy and slim, had glowing skin, shiny hair and loads of energy. They ate lunch, sparingly for sure, but they ate. They were not skin and bones. I don't think anyone believes that a model can eat anything she wants, not exercise and still stay a flawless size 8 (except when they are very young), so whatever regime these girls were following was keeping them healthy.
There were signs that other models were using different methods to stay svelte like fainting on a more than regular basis or spending time in hospital "being on a drip". Such was the fate of fit models. A fit model is one who is used in the top designer ateliers, or workrooms, and is the body around which the clothes are designed. That the ideal body shape used as a starting point for a collection should be a female on the brink of hospitalisation from starvation is frightening.

read full article

Weight loss thanks to Online Social Networks?

Online social networks (OSNs) are a new, promising approach for catalyzing health-related behavior change. To date, the empirical evidence on their impact has been limited.

Using a randomized trial, the impact of a health-oriented OSN with accelerometer and scales on participant’s physical activity, weight, and clinical indicators was assessed.

A sample of 349 PeaceHealth Oregon employees and family members participated in the research scheme (iWell OSN) or a control group and were followed for 6 months in 2010-2011. The iWell OSN enabled participants to connect with “friends,” make public postings, view contacts’ postings, set goals, download the number of their steps from an accelerometer and their weight from a scale, view trends in physical activity and weight, and compete against others in physical activity. Both control and intervention participants received traditional education material on diet and physical activity. Laboratory data on weight and clinical indicators (triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, or low-density lipoprotein), and self-reported data on physical activity, were collected at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months.  

At 6 months, the intervention group increased leisure walking minutes by 164% compared with 47% in the control group. The intervention group also lost more weight than the controls (5.2 pounds compared with 1.5 pounds). There were no observed significant differences in vigorous exercise or clinical indicators between the 2 groups. Among intervention participants, greater OSN use, as measured by number of private messages sent, was associated with a greater increase in leisure walking and greater weight reduction over the study period.

The study provides evidence that interventions using OSNs can successfully promote increases in physical activity and weight loss.

read full article here

The Advantages of Not Saying You Are Sorry

Most apologies exact some toll on the offender, as it can be embarrassing to admit a mistake publicly or even to just one other person. And, as with Deen’s apology, the offender often suffers additional penalties as a result of the admission of guilt. Confession of a wrongdoing can damage a relationship, lead to loss of status or power, or even result in the termination of employment. These common costs may help explain the seemingly widespread reluctance to say, “I’m sorry.”  From politicians and professional athletes to friends and co-workers, denial of culpability is far too familiar.

Beyond avoiding the embarrassment and potential penalty associated with admitting a wrongdoing, new research by Tyler Okimoto and colleagues in Australia suggests that there are deeper internal motives for our refusal to apologize. Okimoto's research shows that those who refuse to express remorse maintain a greater sense of control and feel better about themselves than those who take no action after making a mistake.
Such findings may seem paradoxical, given the common wisdom that we should take responsibility for our actions and say we are sorry if we do harm. Indeed, research confirms the benefits of apologies for both victims and offenders. For victims, an apology serves as a form of moral restitution. When you apologize to a person you have offended, you convey a sense of power to that person. The victim can accept or reject the apology, and can extend or withhold forgiveness. As a result, the balance of power shifts from the offender to the offended. Victims may assume a position of superiority when they take the moral high ground and offer mercy to the guilty party, or they may gain a sense of power over the transgressor by denying pardon. Thus for victims, the culprit's admission of guilt and contrition can be restorative.

There are upsides to apologies for the offenders too. By acknowledging personal mistakes and conveying remorse,offenders may diffuse anger and decrease the impending punishment or penalty, enhance their image in the eyes of the victim and other people, regain acceptance in a social group, or restore personal relationships. They may even reduce their own sense of guilt.

Given that apologies offer a relatively simple way to mend relations and heal wounds for victims and offenders, why do people refuse to apologize? Beyond escaping punishment, there may be some psychological benefits to standing one's ground. For example, adopting a self-righteous stance may feed one's need for power. If the act of apologizing restores power to the victim, it may also simultaneously diminish the power of the transgressor. Thus actively denying any wrongdoing may allow the offender to retain the upper  hand. If one cannot deny an error entirely, minimizing the error may be the next best thing.  Perhaps one reason that many felt Deen’s apology rang hollow was that she attempted to mitigate the severity of her infraction by stating that she only made the racial slur once, with a gun pointed at her head.


read more

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Van Morrison- BBC Four Sessions (Full Concert, 2008)


Precious Time
Magic Time
I’m Not Feeling it Any More
Song of Home Playhouse
End of the Land Vanlose Stairway
Help Me
One Irish Rover
That’s Entrainment
Keep it Simple
Behind the Ritual

What The Amazonian Tribes Can Teach Us


We at the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) have had the great honor and pleasure of collaborating with the Waurá people since 2003, when ACT and 14 tribes of the Xingu Indigenous Reserve of Mato Grosso state began collaborative ethnographic and land use mapping of the Reserve.   Following the completion of mapping, ACT provided material support to enable the Waurá and other Xingu tribes to mobilize against the first of a series of planned hydroelectric dams in their territory, effectively (at the time) delaying its construction.  As one of the most activist groups of the region, the Waurá also requested that ACT sponsor overflights of their territory to allow them to conduct surveillance for illegal activities.   
ACT provided material and supplies (including food and hammocks) to the Waurá for border fencing, signing, and general surveillance, and also provided fuel and replenishment parts for Waurá boats to permit them to travel to the border region with greater frequency and to monitor the rivers to prevent illegal incursions by outside hunters and fishermen.

Capacity building has been an essential element of our partnership: ACT has sponsored training for the Waurá in land monitoring and park ranger techniques, GPS utilization, basic computer use, forest fire control, environmental pollution control, first aid, outboard motor maintenance and repair, project proposal writing, project management, accounting, and institutional strengthening for indigenous associations.  In 2009, the Waurá were visited by a delegation from the Skoll Foundation—Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, and David Rothschild—who were able to observe firsthand the Waurás’ struggle to organize themselves and other Xingu tribes to decide the fate of their cultures, their rivers, and their forests.
From a cultural perspective, ACT has also sponsored multiple exchanges between the Waurá and indigenous leaders from other regions of the Amazon as well as North America, supported their expeditions through culturally significant sites outside the Reserve in order to improve their documentation, and helped them to take essential steps to preserving the integrity of their primary ancestral site outside their current territory, the Kamukuaká Cavern.
In 2010, three structures were completed for the benefit of the Waurás’ Tulukai indigenous association: an office to house administrative work and meetings; guest quarters to receive visitors, especially from the government and NGOs, and to provide a workspace for visitors; and a kitchen to provide for those visitors and associated meetings.  With this construction, the Waurá became able to conduct the majority of their association business within their primary community, bringing others to temporarily reside with them and hold meetings in context.

In 2011, with ACT’s help, the Waurá began construction of a second village, Ulupuene, to enable them to better protect the reserve’s southwest border.  Subsequently, ACT supported the creation of a new association for the Waurá, also named Ulupuene on the Batovi River.  ACT staff made a first visit to the new village in April 2013.

Currently, ACT is partnering with a Brazilian NGO partner, SynbioBrasil, to provide technical and logistical support to the Waurá, who are determined to protect their territory and traditions while reconciling their need to adapt to an ever-changing world. Though, the outside world has closed in on several sides, as Ken Brecher saw during his fieldwork, the Waurá remain a proud and traditional people, determined to protect their forest and their culture. They need our help to make this possible.

What The Amazonian Tribes Can Teach Us