The Crystal Gallery Ice Sculpture Contest in Anchorage, A Review

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Last year I was in anchorage in early December, just a bit too early to catch the completed ice sculptures of this annual competition. I still got some interesting pics, but as I didn’t get the final products, what I got never quite found its way into the blog. This year, I’m stoked, because I’m in town later than before, and that means I get to check out the completed work.


So, let’s have a look at the completed projects for this year’s Crystal Gallery Ice Competition.


We can begin with this spectacular bit of minimalism, well placed in front of a colorful tree. It takes courage for an artist to run with an idea like this. Such a simple composition and so profound, all of it beautifully executed.

I really like this one.

??????????????????????????????? Now this piece, here is some real talent. I mean, the symmetry of it…

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Liberia: The nation founded by the USA

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Global Consilium

liberia-26910_1280 copy

Liberia had not been in the international spotlight since its two deadly civil wars left profound human and economic damages between the late 90’s, and up until the year 2003, when the second Liberian civil war finally came to an end. Lately, however, the small West African nation has had all eyes on its ferocious fight against Ebola, which has claimed the lives of thousands and has threatened to de-stabilize the political and economic outlook of the already impoverished and fragile nation.

While Liberia battles to stay away from the eye of the storm, not surprisingly the international community has been asked to step in to help solve the emergency. However, among Liberians and other international actors, one country has more responsibility than others: the United States.

Liberia gained its independence in 1847 and became the world’s second black republic after Haiti. However, its historical ties to the United States…

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A Real Photobomber


Australia surfers ‘photobombed’ by spinner shark

Eyewitnesses said the shark leapt out of the water twice

Surfers at a competition in New South Wales were in for a surprise when they found themselves in the company of a large spinner shark.

Spectators saw the shark leaping in and out of the water near Coffs Harbour, close to the surfers and swimmers.

The moment was caught on camera by local resident Steph Bellamy, who said the shark “photobombed” her picture..

Source: BBCNews Read more

Car Runs 1 Million Miles on 8 Grams of Thorium



In breaking news on the energy and technology front, Laser Power Systems, a U.S. company based out of  Connecticut is developing a method of automotive propulsion using the element thorium to produce electricity. The results far surpass anything currently powering automobiles. To put it in perspective, 8 grams of Thorium produce enough power for a car to drive 1 million miles.

Gravity-free espresso

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Making gravity-free espresso in space really is rocket science

Specially designed ‘ISSpresso’ machine overcomes absence of gravity by firing pressurised water through capsule of coffee

The ISSpresso machine weighs about 20kg – the same as all the science instruments on the Philae comet lander put together. Photograph: Lavazza

Perhaps one of the last barriers to the human conquest of space has been removed; a space-rated espresso machine has now been delivered to the International Space Station (ISS).

The device was made by two Turin-based companies, Lavazza Coffee and engineering firm Argotec. It is called the ISSpresso and was delivered by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in the early hours of Monday morning, when her Soyuz space capsule docked at the orbiting habitat.

Making coffee in space is difficult, especially espresso, which relies on 94°C water being passed through ground coffee under high pressure.

On Earth this is achieved with the help of gravity. The ground coffee is placed in a perforated container, the water is heated and shot on to the coffee to drip into the cup. In space there is no up and down, so things don’t naturally fall.

Source: TheGuardian Read more

Medieval Festival in Reims Champagne


Cooking Class

20140810-193701.jpgJune 2014. I am a big GOT and LOTR rings fan. The geek inside of me loves medieval films and books. Luckily we were in Reims Champagne in time for the Medieval Festival.  It was held at the perimeters of the grand Notre-Dame de Reims. The kings of France were crowned in this cathedral. People came in costumes like knights, serfs, magicians, ladies, elves, and more. I wish I wore a costume too!  There were concerts, booths, magic shows and tournaments.  Booths were selling medieval food and merchandising.  Some participants pitched tents and cooked their own food to reenact this era. It was20140810-194128.jpg20140810-193623.jpg20140810-193549.jpg20140810-193436.jpg20140810-193403.jpg20140810-193318.jpg20140810-193341.jpg so festive!

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Going to Pot


Can Zambia save its environment with marijuana?

Green party’s presidential candidate Peter Sinkamba is promising voters to cut country’s dependency on mining – by growing and exporting marijuana

Peter Sinkamba on campaign trail in Chingola city, part of Zambia’s copperbelt. Photograph: Courtesy of The Independent Observer

For decades, Zambia has staked its economic fortunes on copper mining. But when voters in this southern African nation go to the polls in January to select a new president, at least one candidate will be looking to send that tradition up in smoke.

On Friday, Peter Sinkamba will announce his candidacy on the Green party ticket to replace the late President Michael Sata, who died on 29 October from an undisclosed illness. Sinkamba, regarded as Zambia’s leading environmentalist for his battles against the country’s big copper mines, is running on an unlikely platform, especially in this socially conservative nation: legalising marijuana.

His plan, first announced in April, calls for cannabis’ legalisation for medicinal use in Zambia, which would be a first in Africa. The surplus crop would be exported abroad, earning Zambia what Sinkamba claims could be billions of dollars.

At stake is an opportunity to diversify Zambia’s economy while beginning to clean up the environmental degradation left by close to a century of intensive opencast mining.

Copper has long been Zambia’s national treasure, having fired the country to middle-income status in the 1960s and 70s. But by the late 1990s, tumbling copper prices sent the country’s mining income to its lowest levels since independence from the UK in 1964.

Mining has since rebounded. In 2012, copper exports amounted to $6.3bn (£4bn), or nearly 70% of Zambia’s total export market. But many Zambians now find their country’s dependency on copper stifling. Local communities suffer from environmental impacts like toxic sulphur dioxide emissions from refineries.

In an interview with the Guardian in his hometown of Kitwe, the Copperbelt’s largest city, Sinkamba said his marijuana proposal would wean Zambia off its addiction to mining by prioritising its fledgling agricultural sector.

“Historically, we’ve been the kind of people that have consumed a lot of marijuana,” said Sinkamba. “It is massively cultivated across the whole country [for the black market] … So what we’re saying is, look, let’s come out of it and legalise it.”

Sinkamba reckons that Zambia could capture up to 10% of a global marijuana market – estimated at $140bn by the UN in 2005 – which would make it more lucrative than copper mining. In a shadow budget released earlier this year, the Green party claimed marijuana exports would boost GDP by over 68% by 2021.

Experts on the international drug trade, however, caution that Sinkamba’s scheme might be half-baked. According to John Collins, an international drug policy researcher at the London School of Economics, the export of marijuana for recreational use would run afoul of the 1961 UN single convention on international narcotics control.

Nor would marijuana exports necessarily be all that profitable, added Jon Caulkins, a cannabis expert at Carnegie Mellon University, who pointed out that it would take less than 10,000 acres to grow all the THC (the main constituent in marijuana) consumed in the US. Zambia has about 87.4m arable acres.

However, Collins called Sinkamba’s plan “entirely doable” if he can take advantage of loopholes that exist in international drug law for medicinal drugs. Israel, for example, last year considered a plan to export medicinal marijuana to the Czech Republic, but shied away out of concern that becoming an international drug dealer would look bad politically.

“I think the key for Zambia is that they may view the economic returns from the industry as outweighing political concerns which would limit countries like Israel going too far down this route at the moment,” he said.

In any case, Sinkamba is a dark horse in the election. But he insists that his proposal has struck a chord with a disillusioned, and very young, electorate.

On the streets of Kitwe, Sinkamba is greeted by young people with cries of “Legalise!” belted with the same vigour as anti-apartheid activists in South Africa once chanted “Amandla! [power].”

“When we look at the trends, the world is going in the direction of legalising marijuana,” said Sinkamba. “But we don’t want to be the last ones. We want to be the first ones.”

Source: TheGuardian

10 things we didn’t know last week

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1. America used at least 1,000 ex-Nazis as spies in the Cold War.

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2. Scratching an itch really does make it itch more.

Find out more (Daily Mail)

3. Two per cent of Anglican clergy are not sure whether God is “more than a human construct”.

Find out more (The Times)

4. New York has its own species of frog that has gone undiscovered for decades.

Find out more (National Geographic)

5. There have been lions in London since the 13th Century – arriving either in 1210 or 1235 – although they may have died out briefly under Henry VI in 1436.

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6. Sage enhances your brain’s performance.

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7. The consumption of French fries and pizzas on the world’s second largest cruise ship rises if there are more Americans and children on board.

Find out more (New Yorker)

8. The Ritz in London still uses traditional keys rather than key cards.

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9. Danish people enjoy a long-form version of the happiness gene serotonin, while people from Britain and the US have shorter forms.

Find out more (The Independent)

10. Musicians have the same life expectancy as Zimbabweans.

Find out more (The Times)

Source: BBCNews

Why Vinyl Sounds Better Than Digital

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   IF YOU COLLECT vinyl or are old enough to simply have vinyl, you’ll probably agree that the sound of a record is different from that on a tape, CD or digital file like MP3 or wav. Digital music lacks richness, something only analogue can deliver which I guess explains why many music listeners still stick to the record player. It isn’t even about the sound system you have. A record that isn’t scratched will sound fuller and more pleasant on the ears regardless of device it is played on compared to digital.

What happened to the sound? Modern mass produced music all sounds the same – and there’s a reason for this. The production methods used by producers and the labels result in a loss of range in the music piece once it is finalised and fully edited.analog vs digital

Due to the format, vinyl has a greater range in volumes…

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A Shining Example


I don’t often quote China as a shining example, but…

China bans stars who have used drugs from national media

Jaycee Chan, the son of Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan, was among celebrities caught using drugs this year

China’s media watchdog says that stars who have used drugs or visited prostitutes will be banned from state television and other media outlets.

The ban is meant to keep the industry healthy, reported China Daily.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said recent cases had set a bad example for the country’s youth.

Source: BBCNews Read more

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