31 January 2010

Saggy pants are now on the ground

Some three years ago, I wrote about saggy pants being outlawed in the small town of Delcambre in Louisiana. Most people would have expected the fashion trend to be short lived. Unfortunately not.

CNN has reported on the cultural phenomena of General Larry Platt's audition on American Idol - spawning flow on responses and turning the video into an internet viral hit.



Original audition performance on American Idol


Jimmy Fallon

30 January 2010

Politics is never rational

The BBC News website (Dr David Runciman) has provided an explanation for the illogical approach by many to healthcare reform. Interesting points -
[I]t is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform - the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state - are often the ones it seems designed to help.

In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.

and

If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them.

They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best.

There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots.

As the saying goes, in politics, when you are explaining, you are losing. And that makes anything as complex or as messy as healthcare reform a very hard sell.

and

The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the patronising liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know what poor people ought to be thinking.

Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America's poorest citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the interests of its richest.

At last, a logical explanation of irrationality.

29 January 2010

Vindaloo against violence

A grass roots response to the ongoing concerns of assaults targeted at Indian students in Melbourne (though with no racial intent) is quite novel. Reported by ABC (Brigid Andersen)

Melburnians have always been known as foodies, but now they have a new reason to eat out.

The city's reputation has taken a battering in the last 12 months amid reports surfacing of racially-motivated attacks targeting Indian students.

Fed up with violence and the bad wrap her city was receiving, Mia Northrop decided to embrace Melbourne's love of food in a show of support for the Indian and migrant community.

On February 24, she is encouraging people all over Australia to take part in Vindaloo Against Violence.

Ms Northrop, who works as a digital media designer, says the idea is simple.

"The idea is that you just go to your local Indian restaurant and just dine on Indian food as a way of embracing the Indian community," she said.

"[My husband and I] wanted something that the maximum number of people could get behind, so it just kind of popped into my head.

"You can have this show of force that thousands of people are doing this same thing at the same time."

Ms Northrop, who lived in New York for several years, says she first heard about the attacks when she was overseas.

"Some of it had circulated overseas and was in the media there and I was kind of getting more and more appalled with what was happening," she said.

"Since the 2000 Olympics the overseas love affair with Australia seems to have soured. We've had a couple of incidents where there's been perceptions where we're perhaps racist.

"Things had been circulating [overseas] about [Australia's] immigration stance and boat people and then these attacks and then people were asking 'What's happening in Melbourne? What does the everyday person think about all of this? What's it like to actually live there?"

Ms Northrop says she is amazed at the response Vindaloo Against Violence has received.

She says the event has even attracted the attention of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has started following the Vindaloo Against Violence Twitter stream.

"I've actually been floored. There's been comments from all over Australia. We've had people from Sydney and Adelaide and Brisbane and Perth and Canberra, Hobart, saying 'Make this event national, I'm organising a thing in Canberra', 'I'm organising a thing in Sydney'," she said.

"We've got people from Tennessee and Vancouver and Singapore and Hong Kong saying 'We're going to do it here'.

"I don't know how they found out about it, but certainly people from across Australia, it's resonating with them."

'Mixed messages'

The Victorian Police have been accused of down playing the motive for the attacks, but Ms Northrop says that is not the point.

"I think we've been getting mixed messages. So it is confusing to work out what is the media hype and what is really happening," she said.

"But either way I think that people don't want this to be happening in their city.

"It's almost besides the point [whether the attacks are racially motivated or not]. The perception is out there ... either way, Indians are feeling unsafe on the street."

But there is no doubt the perception in India is that its nationals have being targeted in violent attacks perpetrated by Australians.

And Ms Northrop says she hopes word of Vindaloo Against Violence reaches India.

"My main aim now is making sure I can get it to the people that the message is supposed to go to, both here and overseas," she said.

"I'm hoping the Indian media will pick up on this."

She also hopes publicity surrounding the event will lead to a re-evaluation of behaviour in Australia.

"Everyday Australians don't accept racially-motivated violence. I think we want to shift the focus from what Indians need to be doing to protect themselves in terms of their safety, to finding out why is this happening in our society," she said.

"Who are the people who are doing this? Let's try and diffuse this criminal behaviour and get to the core of it. Flush out the reasons or the issues behind it."

Ms Northrop says Vindaloo Against Violence - an idea initially thrown around with family and friends - is now taking up all of her spare time.

"I initially sent it out to 100 friends on Facebook and then I put the Twitter account together and did the website and I really had no idea how it was going to be. It could have been me and 30 friends having some Indian food on a Wednesday night," she said.

She says all Australians can support Vindaloo Against Violence by registering online and going to their local Indian restaurant on February 24.

And she says if the traditional vindaloo is too hot for your tastebuds, tucking into a butter chicken, korma or rogan josh are all acceptable ways of showing your support for the Indian community.

"You can have whatever Indian food you like, there's certainly plenty to choose from," she said.

See also event on Facebook. Reuters India did report on it, as 'Australia seeks to curry favour with Indian', which was quite positive.

Members of the public may not prevent miscreants from indulging in acts of violence by simply eating Indian cuisine, but the gesture of support would affirm the acceptance of Indian students within local communities. Besides, who could turn down a delicious vindaloo or rogan josh?

fresh


From Kirsty Griffiths at Cayman Islands to Daily Telegraph

The chicken being served perhaps volunteer to be eaten and are super fresh, or this one was looking for family members.

25 January 2010

Art attack

Precious artworks are unique items that are irreplaceable, so when they are damaged, feelings run high. A Picasso work was damaged a few days ago and the art world collectively sighed that the damage was repairable.

Statement by The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Accident Involving Picasso's The Actor

(New York, January 24, 2010)— An important painting by Pablo Picasso was accidentally damaged in the galleries of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Friday afternoon, January 22. A visitor attending a class lost her balance, falling onto Picasso's The Actor, a large, Rose-period painting that was painted in winter 1904-1905. The accident resulted in an irregular vertical tear of about six inches in length in the lower right-hand corner.

The painting was taken immediately to the Museum's paintings conservation studio for assessment and treatment. Fortunately, the damage did not occur in a focal point of the composition, and the curatorial and conservation staffs fully expect that the repair—which will take place in the coming weeks—will be unobtrusive. The painting will be displayed, as planned, in the forthcoming exhibition Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art—among some 250 works by Picasso drawn from the Museum's collection—that will be on view from April 27 through August 1, 2010.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) painted The Actor on an unusually large canvas (77-1/4 x 45-3/8 inches) that already had another painting on it. It inaugurated Picasso's shift from the Blue-period world of tattered beggars and blind musicians to the Rose-period imagery of itinerant acrobats dressed in costumes taken from the commedia dell'arte. The Actor has been displayed prominently ever since it was given to The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Thelma Chrysler Foy in 1952, and has been included in many major exhibitions of Picasso's work in Europe and America.

This is the work

picture from Pablo Picasso cubism

Of course, not all artwork are as protected as Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.


photo from Wikipedia

Art curators must have cringed watching the Mr Bean movie.

24 January 2010

Banksy at Sundance

A new documentary by Banksy will premier at the Sundance Film Festival called Exit Throught the Gift Shop.

Trailer


See also report by Animal NY on Shepard Fairey's spoiler.

Apparently, to coincide, there are reports that Banksy's works have been appearing in Park City, Utah - the home of Sundance. See The Salt Lake Tribute.




(photos via Animal NY)

Unfortunately, City Park officials have ordered the removal of most of the works (reported by Deseret News).

23 January 2010

Jesus rifles

GENERAL ORDER NUMBER 1B (GO -1B) lists the prohibited activities for US Department of Defense personnel present within the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR). Item 2.k states
Proselytizing of any religion, faith or practise.
From (US) ABC News Nightline


Rachel Maddow on MSNBC


The (US) Military Religious Freedom Foundation was, understandably, furious - statement
Albuquerque – Mikey Weinstein, the President and Founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the first organization to bring the now infamous “Jesus Rifles” to light publically, made the following statement after learning gun manufacturer Trijicon will stop imprinting bible verse citations on the sides of rifle scopes intended for the U.S. military:

“Its about time! Trijicon’s outrageous practice of placing bible verse citations on military-issued gunsights for weapons was an unconstitutional disgrace of the highest magnitude to our military and an action that clearly gave additional incentive and emboldenment to recruiters for our nation’s enemies. It is nothing short of a vile national security threat that, despite our nation’s efforts to convince the Muslim world we are not pursuing a holy war against them, our military and its contractors time again resort to unlawful fundamentalist evangelical Christian practices, even on the battlefield. It has been said that ‘civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.’ We can now only hope that the United States Congress and The Pentagon will comprehensively investigate how this catastrophe and countless other examples of military religious extremism infiltrates every branch of our honorable armed services. But for now, at least we can take solace in Trijicon's affirmation that it will expeditiously remove the bible verse citations from its scopes. We only hope that the damage from their actions is not yet beyond repair.”
Unfortunately, allies of the United States have also become embroiled in this controversy - Canada and Australia, both of which are also secular.

It is fair enough for the founder of a company that manufactures parts for weapons to be a devout Christian, but there is something disturbing about associating an instrument of killing (preferably only in self defence) with Christian teachings. It is also a disturbing trend that there are so many so called Christians who are hate-mongers.

Absolutely disgraceful.

22 January 2010

and higher it goes

Burj Khalifa's crown of being the tallest building, indeed human-built structure (at 828 m or 2,717 ft) is now under threat. There are plans for a building in Miami that will surpass this mantle.

Miapolis has been proposed for Miami, at 975 m (3,200 ft). From the developer's website
The design by architect Kobi Karp for Watson Island was inspired by the natural forms of the Florida landscape, with its undulating forms reflecting the motion of its multi cultural context and the surrounding ocean.

Miapolis is about innovation and creativity. The Pan-American plaza with Dancing Fountains will offer free daily shows, a major indoor theme park for the whole family, a full service trade center for the “Gateway of the Americas,” an exciting public amphitheater and the stunning promenade 30' high on Biscayne Bay.

The observatory and rotating sky-lounge will offer to millions of people an unsurpassed view of South Florida and the Caribbean from the top of the world (see the Design page).

Miapolis is an economic engine, and a sensible and rational solution for the local economy by resolving the Jungle Island debts while producing $942 million annually in tax revenues, and no taxpayer funds required. More importantly, Miapolis creates 46,000 construction and 35,000 permanent jobs (see the Proposal page).

Miapolis would provide constant and free worldwide exposure of Miami, increasing tourism, international trade, passengers and cargo for the airlines, MIA and the Port of Miami, and will benefit all of Downtown by attracting millions of visitors annually (see the Economic Impact page).

The height approval by MIA/FAA is required, but our arguments are powerful and undeniable. The safety issue affect all of the people of Miami. Our proposed solution should be adopted, as it is a flight procedure in use at R. Regan International Airport and already approved by the FAA. A no fly zone over South Beach, the Port of Miami and Downtown should and must also be adopted now to protect the present and future core of our economy and to allow for the approval of Miapolis. The benefits to MIA and the airlines are vast. The County has the power to mandate these changes (see the Overview page).




Reported in Miami Herald, 2010 January 08.

Locating the huge building on an island would avoid the casting of a massive shadow over downtown. No doubt, somebody is already planning a building 25 metres taller to reach a tidy numbered one kilometre high. Someone who may feel the need to compensate for other inadequacies.

21 January 2010

24/7 and then the world

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), our publicly funded broadcaster (with three digital channels so far (ABC1, ABC2 and ABC3) and extensive radio coverage is highly respected for its current affairs and news services. They have just announced plans to offer a dedicated 24 hours news channel. From media release
The ABC will launch Australia’s first free-to-air 24-hour television news channel in 2010.

The ABC’s Managing Director, Mark Scott, said the ABC’s commitment to quality news and current affairs would enter a new era with the creation of the new digital channel.

The channel will provide live continuous news coverage of major breaking stories from Australia and around the world. Broadcasting around the clock will enable the ABC to increase its in-depth coverage of local, national and international affairs through background features and analysis, combined with the ABC’s unrivalled long-form current affairs reporting.

“No media organisation in the country is better equipped to deliver this channel than the national broadcaster,” Mr Scott said.

“We can draw on the investment already made in the ABC, through its major newsrooms in every state and territory, 12 international bureaux and 60 regional newsrooms, to deliver to Australians a top-quality 24-hour news service that is comprehensive, independent and up to the minute.”

New programs are also being developed specifically for the channel, focusing on world news, national politics and business. Many of the ABC’s existing television news and current affairs programs will also be featured.

A continuous news centre with a new state-of-the-art studio, in the foyer of the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters, will serve as the engine room of the new channel. The ABC will also take advantage of its multi-platform capabilities, ensuring that audiences are able to keep up to date with news developments in different formats and across an array of devices.

The ABC’s capacity to “go live” with in-depth, continuous news coverage will extend to Australia Network, ensuring the ABC’s audiences in 44 countries also benefit from the new channel.

The channel will commence with no additional funds from the Government for content. Significant changes the ABC has made to news and television production processes, taking advantage of new technology, will allow the broadcaster to reinvest in new programming.

The news channel will be launched on the ABC’s HD channel, adding to the suite of services offered by the broadcaster on ABC1, ABC2 and ABC3. Further details of the new channel, including the program schedule and launch date, will be outlined in coming months.

Mr Scott said the ABC had been systematically preparing for the establishment of a 24-hour news channel in recent years. He said the project was a vital part of its charter obligation to inform the public and provide “innovative and comprehensive broadcasting services of a high standard”.

“ABC News Breakfast on ABC2 has shown how effectively the ABC can deliver live breaking news, tapping into the full resources of the national broadcaster,” Mr Scott said.

“By putting TV cameras in radio studios, we have already been able to put on television some of the outstanding agenda-setting radio interviews from ABC programs such as AM, PM, Radio National Breakfast and a range of local radio programs.”

“And over the past week we have witnessed the ABC’s capacity to cover breaking news with the crisis in Haiti. Our correspondents have provided dozens of live crosses into radio, television and online bulletins and programs.”

The ABC’s News Director, Kate Torney, said the News Division was committed to delivering news of the highest standard to audiences across a range of programs and platforms.

“ABC journalists around the country and around the world produce hours of original, quality content each day. The news channel will give Australians more flexible access to our best reporting and analysis, along with an opportunity to watch breaking news as it happens,” Ms Torney said.

"Australians can tap into news from the national broadcaster when they want it and where they want it through the new 24-hour news channel and also from services like ABC News Online, ABC News Radio and ABC Mobile.

“Our audiences look to the ABC to provide independent, quality news reporting and analysis they can trust. With the launch of this channel, Australians will be able to access the country’s most comprehensive news coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Director of Television, Kim Dalton, said ABC TV was fully embracing the benefits of digital television by creating another genre-specific channel.

“As the country’s leading multi-platform broadcaster, ABC TV offers viewers true choice – be it landmark Australian programming on ABC1 or our kids channel, ABC3,” Mr Dalton said. “The addition of a news channel to our current line-up ensures that viewers can select the type of quality Australian content they want to watch and enjoy it both on digital television and online.”
Fantastic news. Being publicly funded, the ABC does not need to compete for viewers using tactics common to commercial broadcasters including appealing to the lowest common denominator, particularly for news.

As expected, Rupert Murdoch's Sky News, a subscription service, are against the plan (reported, ironically, by the ABC) claiming that this service is already available to the public and neglecting to acknowledge that this is not to all of the public, only those who (can afford to) pay.

I would add that the content, respectability and quality of news by the ABC is as high as the BBC. I would hope that the signal could be made available via satellite globally to subscribers similar to BBC World as a means of also funding operations.

Here is the promo


Lastly, the ABC is largely unbiased (despite conservatives claiming otherwise), in contrast to a privately owned news network, owned by one rich and powerful person who has a tendency to influence how news is covered and delivered.

19 January 2010

carpe carp

Carp is a declared noxious species in Australia and once caught, it is illegal to return it to a waterway. See New South Wales Department of Primary Industries - Carp (under freshwater pests).

In the United States, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has developed a market for carp as food, as a means to reduce number. Reported by NPR

Building off a state-developed marketing plan, a group of Louisiana-based companies has started a joint venture that will put Asian carp on retail shelves within weeks.

The fish are being marketed as silverfin, the name it was given in a marketing plan developed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The agency is promoting recreational and commercial applications of an invasive fish that has caused huge problems for boaters in northern states.

Rather than poisoning the fish to get rid of them like northern states have done, wildlife officials are opting to make them an appetizing meal.

As for the taste?
Parola said that it's a cross between scallops and crab meat. "Consumers will love it," he said.
Carp has been eaten in the from of gefilte fish (ground) for years.

In Australia, not many people would eat carp, not even people from Asian backgrounds who have better choices with ocean fish. Polish migrants do prepare carp in aspic, if they are patient with the small bones.

Still, it is something our fisheries pest control authorities could learn from Louisiana.

18 January 2010

Die beste Currywurst der Welt

I love all kinds of wurst including Weißwurst, Bratwurst und Blutwurst. Even the popular Currywurst. Deutsche Welle reported on a gourmet snack bar in Hamburg attracting accolades for its Currywurst.
Food and Drink | 15.12.2009
Saucy sausage curries favor with food critics


A restaurant in Hamburg is going all out to cast the currywurst in a prettier light

The good old German currywurst is poised for fame. A restaurant in the northern city of Hamburg apparently does the dish so well that it even squeezed a tingle out of the hardened taste buds of the Gault Millau critics.

Exactly who invented the currywurst - that is to say, who came up with the sloppy idea of dousing a boiled sausage in ketchup and curry powder - is one of those disputes which will go on forever.

Hamburg, Berlin and the industrial Ruhr region all lay claim to this culinary delight, but if, as the saying has it, the proof is in the eating, then the city on the Elbe is the winner. And that's thanks to Curry Queen, a little place which left a pleasant taste in the mouths of some of the world's toughest food critics.


Curry Queen in Hamburg - queen of the curried sausage

When owners Sascha Basler and Bianka Habermann received a letter informing them that they would be featured in the 2010 edition of the highly renowned Gault Millau eating guide, they couldn't believe it.

"We thought it was a fake," Basler told Deutsche Welle. It was the first time a fast-food joint had made the list. But "fast-food joint" isn't quite accurate.

"We consider ourselves a wurst restaurant," said Habermann. Their large menu veal, duck, beef, pork, bison and rabbit sausages - cooked on a volcanic rock grill to keep fat to a minimum and served with different strength curry powders.

Gourmet gurus tend not to joke around and the ranking was, indeed, very real.

Feast niche

Basler and Habermann are relatively new to the gastronomy game. They both come from a music background, but after a decade and a half of seeking their luck in a thankless industry, they were ready for a new challenge.

The idea for their current venture came after they entered and reached the finals of an international cookery contest.


Eating in style

"We thought there was a real opportunity for a high-level snack bar," Habermann said. Thus, Curry Queen was born and for two years now, wurst connoisseurs have been enjoying exotic sausage varieties in a classy atmosphere, with dark wooden tables and deer antlers on the walls.

Guests can choose from seven different curry mixtures. There are also four different home-made potato salads on offer, as well as home-made ketchup and even organic red wine from Mallorca.

However, French fries - the currywurst's standard snack bar accompaniment - are not to be found in Curry Queen. "We wanted to have clean air in the restaurant," explained Habermann. "To put in a big exhaust fan, we'd have to renovate, and we've avoided doing that so far."

Next year, Habermann and Basler plan to open a second restaurant in Hamburg and ultimately have their sites set on a nationwide chain.

Berlin snack bars, be warned.

Even the Kartoffelsalat is a good idea. See - Curry Queen.

Most train stations (Hauptbahnhof) in Germany have sausage stands, Munich in particular having some great ones. In Berlin, these are also found on street corners. Curry Queen has raised the bar. A lot.

See also visual

17 January 2010

Just in case it's not obvious

Some wit in Michigan has decided that we've all been missing a punctuation/symbol for sarcasm and want to sell it to us for US $1.99.



From SarcMark
Stupid Idea? Think About It!

With the spoken word, we use our tone, inflection and volume to question, exclaim and convey our feelings. The written word has question marks and exclamation points to document those thoughts, BUT sarcasm has NOTHING! In today’s world with increasing commentary, debate and rhetoric, what better time could there be than NOW, to ensure that no sarcastic message, comment or opinion is left behind Equal Rights for Sarcasm - Use the SarcMark




O RLY?

If you have to explain sarcasm, then it has defeated the intent. If somebody can't tell, then you may as well hit them with a wet fish.

What next? Comedians having to explain their punch lines?

16 January 2010

Pat Robertson is an idiot

Satan hits back at Pat Robertson via Minneapolis Star-Tribune (as dictated to Lily Coyle)
Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action.

But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished.

Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"?

If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll.

You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan
Also reported by NPR.

Here is Pat Robertson's rant on The 700 Club, broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network


Here is a rebuttal by H.E. Raymond Joseph, Haitian Ambassador to U.S. on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show


Help for Haiti: Learn What You Can Do

13 January 2010

hybrid cuisines: Indian-Chinese

Monica Bhide who writes a great food blog called A Life of Spice wrote an interesting article for NPR about her favourite cuisine 'Indian-Chinese'.

If I had to pick my last meal, the dishes would all be Indian-Chinese: chicken Manchurian (batter-fried chicken served in a spicy chili-and-soy sauce), Sichuan paneer (Indian cheese with Chinese spices), Indian-Chinese fried rice, and a dried green chili chicken. These dishes don't come from a cuisine that I dreamed up, but from one very popular in India called Indian-Chinese. It is much spicier than the milder Cantonese Chinese food that most Americans are familiar with. Almost any menu in an everyday eatery in Delhi and Mumbai will list several Indian-Chinese dishes. On our family trips to Mumbai, the first meal we eat out is not traditional Indian, but Indian-Chinese.

Early settlers from southern China ... assimilated into the local culture, and their cooking took on local Indian flavors. The result is a satisfying hybrid cuisine, created from two very different communities and food cultures.

The Chinese have been residents of India for more than two centuries. India's largest Chinese population has historically been in Calcutta, a populous city in eastern India. The Hakka, early settlers from southern China, brought with them the traditional styles of Cantonese and Hakka cooking. They assimilated into the local culture, and their cooking took on local Indian flavors. The result is a satisfying hybrid cuisine, created from two very different communities and food cultures.

Bhide also described cooking techniques and provided recipes for her favourite dishes. Read more.

It is quite fascinating that over several hundred years, that the blended cuisine still resembles Cantonese food, albeit improved in taste. The question is, whether it is truly a hybrid cuisine or merely Chinese food slightly modified for the Indian palate, in much the same way that so called Chinese food in many countries would be unrecognisable in China itself.

In Singapore and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia, an 'indigenous' cuisine developed through the blending of Chinese (settlers) with local Malay so much that it ceased to be hybrid and became unique - known as Peranakan or Nonya.

Similarly, Lousiana Creole cuisine developed in Louisiana through a blending of many great influences.

12 January 2010

the hottest curry

The hottest curry is apparently not found in India, where vindaloo might be considered rather spicey (and of Portuguese in origin via Goa).

The hottest curry is phaal (or phall) which originated in British Indian restaurants. One of the most well known restaurants serving phaal is the Brick Lane Curry House in New York city. Their description
An excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor, for our customers who do this on a dare, we will require you to state a verbal disclaimer not holding us liable for any physical or emotional damage after eating this curry. If you do manage to finish your serving of curry, a bottle of beer is on us.
Chicken $17 Lamb $18 Goat $19 Fish $19 Shrimp $20 Paneer $15 Tofu $15 Vegetable $14
Only a bottle of beer and a certificate as a reward? It should be on the house, especially at those prices.

There is an Indian store about ten minutes walk from my office called Bharat International Spice and Sweet Centre that serves cheap meals. I usually ask for extra spicey, particularly for the vindaloo, and there was one time when I asked that they make it super hot. Unfortunately, the cook decided to ensure my meal was really really hot with probably half the sauce made of chilli and I could not finish it. It was the last time I asked for super hot.

See
- BBC guide on eating Indian food in the UK
- Adam Richman taking up the challenge in New York (Man versus Food)

11 January 2010

Taking the Bible literally

Right-wing Christian conservative puritans could be considered extremist in their views, particularly those who interpret the Bible literally in order to preach hate. Tibor Krausz has written a brilliant article in Killing the Buddha magazine. Excerpt
Notwithstanding Bible-thumping puritans who claim scriptural authority for their censorious prudery, the Good Book is replete with lewd metaphors, sexual innuendo, and outright obscenities, often starring some of the Bible’s most famous characters.
and

Far from being embarrassing anachronisms in a timeless tale, the naughty bits do much to enrich biblical stories by affording us insight into the beliefs and ideas of ancient Israel. As literary depositories of antiquity’s customs and beliefs, the biblical texts are fascinating documents. It’s when antiquated religious prescriptions and practices are treated as an enduring moral authority that trouble starts. Taken together, the Bible advocates a rather curious set of “family values.”

Take incest. Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters couldn’t have perpetuated the human race without it. And while early Israelites prized virginity, they also considered it a mark of hospitality to offer their wives and daughters to male guests for complimentary sexual services, just as it was a father’s right to sell his daughter to be a “maid servant” (Ex. 21:7).

In the famous story of Sodom, Lot, the nephew of Abraham, volunteers his virgin daughters to placate randy Sodomites seeking to “know” his male guests—two angels in disguise, as it happens. Later, while he’s in a drunken stupor sheltering in a cave after God’s destruction of Sodom, Lot is raped by these same daughters to “preserve the seed of our father” (Gen. 19:32).

Deuteronomy, meanwhile, prescribes the amputation of a woman’s hand for grabbing a man’s family jewels, or “secrets”—even those of an attacker as she comes to the rescue of her husband (Deut. 25:11-12). A biblical scholar, Jerome T. Walsh, has argued that the text in fact stipulates another punishment: the shaving of the offending woman’s pubic hair to shame her. Either way, incapacitating an attacker in a tried-and-tested method would seem preferable to letting your husband perish lest you overstep the bounds of propriety. Not by the lights of the Bible, though.

Not even the most devout can afford to interpret the Bible too literally—selective reading is inevitable. Yet many people still think that without the Bible (and religion in general), we’d all be morally adrift in a sea of licentious barbarism. Judging from many a biblical passage, the reverse is true: sexual civility requires ignoring scripture.

Bible-thumping scripture-citing fanatics are unreasonable. One can counter argue their claims, but as they won't listen to anybody else, there is no point in arguing with them.

09 January 2010

What you didn't know about Yemen

From BBC News, excerpt
The territory now known as Yemen has loomed large in British consciousness since Victorian times when Britain ran the area around the port of Aden.

The UK-Yemeni relationship dates back to 1839, when the strategically crucial southern port was conquered by the British East India Company.

It was ruled as part of British India, until it was made a Crown colony in 1937.

Pressure for the British to leave South Yemen grew in the early 1960s and following a bloody few years of protests, attacks and civil war between royalists and republicans they were driven from Aden in 1967.

The North Yemen Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) were then formed, but years of fighting ensued before unification in 1990. However division, conflict and corruption remained and still does.

The early links with Britain had led to Yemeni immigrants forming some of the oldest Muslim communities in the UK - particularly in the port areas of Liverpool, South Shields and Cardiff.

With Aden being the main refuelling stop for ships between Britain and the Far East, many of the seamen went to the UK to work and then settled.
The capital is Sanaa.

Surely intelligence agencies would have been paying attention to Yemen following the attack of the USS Cole (navy destroyer) in the port of Aden on 12 October 2000.

08 January 2010

shaped

My ADSL2+ speed has now been shaped to a slow dial up speed equivalent as I have gone over my monthly quota of 22 gigabytes at peak times.

Re-downloading previously purchased music from eMusic at year's end (irrecoverable from the broken laptop) used up a lot of my quota.

Checking out music video clips on YouTubes also uses up a lot of bandwidth.



It is going to be a long wait until Thursday! I must save big downloads for morning off peak times.

07 January 2010

Top 50 French celebrities

Le Journal du Dimanche has published its list of the top 50 celebrities in France, based on a poll conducted by Ifop.

Former tennis player turned pop singer Yannick Noah was voted France's favourite celebrity.

Amongst the list of actors, singers, comedians and footballers, there was not one philosopher. Perhaps the days of the 'celebrity philosopher' are gone. Perhaps people realised that much of the pretentious gibberish was rubbish after all.

05 January 2010

The tallest, but for how long?

Burj Khalifa (برج خليفة‎ "Khalifa Tower") was officially opened overnight (8pm Dubai time, Monday 04 January 2010). It is the world's tallest human-built structure at 828 m (2,717 ft) (those deep sea platforms anchored towards the sea-floor apparently don't seem to count).

Associated Press vision of the opening


Burj Khalifa towers over the previous tallest, Taipei 101, which was only 509.2 m (1,671 ft). Of course, there was a high price paid for its construction, particularly by migrant workers from southeast Asia (see BBC News report).

The National (United Arab Emirates) has reported that there are plans to build an even taller structure, at 1.1 km tall, in Saudi Arabia called Kingdom Tower.

04 January 2010

chess boxing 2

I previously wrote about chess boxing in July last year, of the popularity this new sport was gaining in Germany.

This morning, on Australia's ABC News Breakfast (broadcast on ABC2), there was a report on chess boxing in London by Emma Alberici (London correspondent).


transcript (Boston Globe should read Dome of Boston Arms or 'Boston Dome')

UK's ITV1 London Tonight program reported on chess boxing in April last year when the sport was just emerging.



It should be an Olympic sport!

See
- World Chess Boxing Organisation
- London Chess Boxing Organisation

03 January 2010

10 to watch in 2010

Self-explanatory press release from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from a month ago

Tigers, Polar Bears and Blue Fin Tuna Among the Most Threatened Species in 2010, Says World Wildlife Fund

Iconic Animal Populations Being Decimated by Habitat Loss and Poaching: Climate Change Emerges As Clear Threat on WWF’S Annual Watch List


For Release: Dec 02, 2009
Kerry Zobor
kerry.zobor@wwfus.org
202-495-4509

WASHINGTON DC, December 2, 2009 – World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today released its annual list of some of the most threatened species around the world, saying that the long-term survival of many animals is increasingly in doubt due to a host of threats, including climate change, and calling for a step up in efforts to save some of the world’s most threatened animals.

WWF’s list of “10 to Watch in 2010” includes such well-known and beloved species as tigers, polar bears, pandas, and rhinos, as well as lesser-known species such as bluefin tuna and mountain gorillas. WWF scientists say these, and many other species, are at greater risk than ever before because of habitat loss, poaching, and climate change-related threats. This year’s watch list includes five species directly impacted by climate change, as well as the monarch butterfly, the species at the center of an endangered biological phenomenon. Tigers are at the forefront of this year’s list, with the official Year of the Tiger slated to begin in February 2010.

“We have an urgent window of opportunity in which to step up and pull back some of the world’s most splendid animals from the brink of extinction,” says Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, WWF’s Managing Director of Species Conservation. “We urge everyone who wants to live in a world with tigers, polar bears, and pandas to make it their New Year’s resolution to save these amazing and threatened species before it’s too late.”

WWF’s “Ten to Watch in 2010” list:

Tiger

Panthera tigris altaica Amur tiger Lying in the snow
© Kevin Schafer / WWF-Canon

New studies indicate that there may be as few as 3,200 tigers (Panthera tigris) left in the wild. Tigers occupy less than seven percent of their original range, which has decreased by 40 percent over the past ten years. Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push some tiger populations to the same fate as its now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Asia. Tigers are poached for their body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, while skins are also highly prized. Additionally, sea level rise, due to climate change, threatens the mangrove habitat of a key tiger population in Bangladesh’s and India’s Sundarbans. The upcoming Year of the Tiger, 2010, will mark an important year for conservation efforts to save wild tigers, with WWF continuing to play a vital role in implementing bold new strategies to save this magnificent Asian big cat.

Polar Bear

Ursus maritimus Polar bear Hudson Bay, Canada
© Kevin Schafer / WWF-Canon

The Arctic’s polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have become the iconic symbol of early victims of climate-induced habitat loss. Designated a threatened species for protection by the Endangered Species Act in the U.S., polar bears will be vulnerable to extinction within the next century, if warming trends in the Arctic continue at the current pace. WWF is supporting field research to understand how climate change will affect polar bears and to develop adaptation strategies. WWF also works to protect critical polar bear habitat by working with governments and industry to reduce threats from shipping and oil and gas development in the region and with local communities to reduce human-bear conflict in areas where bears are already stranded on land for longer periods of time due to lack of ice.

Learn more about the impacts of climate change on polar bears

Pacific Walrus

Odobenus rosmarus divergens Pacific walrus Males at "haul-out" Round Island, Alaska, United States of America
© Kevin Schafer / WWF-Canon

The Arctic’s Bering and Chukchi Seas are home to the Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens), one of the latest victims of climate change. In September of this year, up to 200 dead walruses were spotted on the shore of the Chukchi Sea on Alaska’s northwest coast. These animals use floating ice for resting, birthing and nursing calves, and protection from predators. With Arctic ice melting, the Pacific walrus is experiencing habitat loss to the extent that in September 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that adding the walrus to the Endangered Species Act may be warranted.

Learn more about the impacts of climate change on walruses

Magellanic Penguin
Once threatened primarily by oil spills, Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus), now face a larger threat as fish are displaced by warming ocean currents, forcing the birds to swim farther to find food. Last year hundreds of Magellanic penguins washed up on beaches around Rio de Janeiro, many emaciated or dead. Scientists have speculated that changes in ocean currents or temperatures, which may be related to climate change, could have been responsible for their movement more than a thousand miles north of their traditional nesting area in the southern tip of Argentina. Twelve out of the 17 penguin species are currently experiencing rapid population decline.

Learn more about the impacts of climate change on penguins

Leatherback Turtle
The largest marine turtle and one of the largest living reptiles, the leatherback turtle, (Dermochelys coriaceathe) has survived for more than a hundred million years, but is now facing extinction. Recent estimates of numbers show that this species is declining, particularly in the Pacific where as few as 2,300 adult females now remain, making the Pacific leatherback the world's most endangered marine turtle population. Atlantic turtle populations are more stable but scientists predict a decline due to the large numbers of adults being caught as bycatch and killed accidentally by fishing fleets. Additionally, rising sea levels and higher temperatures on Atlantic beaches pose a new threat to turtles and their offspring. Nest temperature strongly determines the sex of offspring, and a nest warming trend is reducing the number of male turtles. WWF aims to conserve leatherback turtle migratory pathways - by working with fisheries to decrease bycatch, by protecting critical nesting beaches, and by raising awareness so that local communities will protect turtles and their nests.

Bluefin Tuna
The Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is a large migratory fish found in the western and eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. Bluefin tuna is the source of highest grade sushi. Bluefin tuna fisheries are near collapse and the species at serious risk of extinction if unsustainable fishing practices in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean are not stopped. A temporary ban on the global trade of bluefin tuna would allow the overexploited species to recover. WWF is encouraging restaurants, chefs, retailers, and consumers to stop serving, buying, selling, and eating endangered bluefin tuna until this amazing species shows signs of recovery.

Mountain Gorilla
Scientists consider mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) to be a critically endangered gorilla subspecies, with about 720 surviving in the wild. More than 200 live in the Virunga National Park, located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Rwanda and Uganda. War has been waged in areas around the park, with gorillas subject to related threats such as poaching and loss of habitat. Conservation efforts have led to an increase in the Virunga population by 14% in the last 12 years, while the mountain gorillas other home, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, has experienced population increases of 12% over the past decade. Despite this success, the mountain gorillas status remains fragile, and WWF is working to save the great ape’s forest habitat in the mountains of the heart of Africa.

Monarch Butterfly
Every year millions of delicate monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) migrate from North America to their winter habitat in Mexico. A well conserved and protected high-altitude pine and fir forest in Mexico is essential for the survival of the overwintering of monarchs, which has been recognized as an endangered biological phenomenon. The protection of its reproductive habitats in the United States and Canada is also crucial to saving this species migration, one of the most remarkable natural phenomena on the planet. World Wildlife Fund, in collaboration with the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature, has designed an innovative conservation strategy to protect and restore the Monarch butterflies wintering habitat in Mexico, so butterflies are protected from extremes weather and other threats. WWF is also supporting local communities to establish trees nurseries that are reintroduced to the monarch butterfly reserve, creating at the same time new sources of income for the owners of the monarch forests.

Learn more about the impacts of climate change on monarch butterflies

Javan Rhinoceros
Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List (2009), the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is considered the most endangered large mammal in the world with only two populations known to exist in the wild, for a total number of less than 60 animals. Highly prized as a commodity in traditional Chinese medicine, Javan rhinos have also been brought to the verge of extinction by the conversion of forest habitat to farmland. WWF has been involved in protection and conservation of the Javan rhino since 1998, supporting forest rangers to undertake increased patrolling and protection activities, conducting surveys of the rhino population, raising awareness of the importance of the rhinos to local communities, and supporting park management. Last month, using highly trained sniffer dogs, WWF found traces of the extremely rare and endangered Vietnamese Javan Rhinoceros, of which no more than a dozen are thought to exist.

Giant Panda

Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in a tree. Wolong Panda Reserve, Sichuan Province, China.
© Bernard De Wetter / WWF-Canon

An international symbol of conservation since WWF’s founding in 1961, the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) which numbers less than 2500 in the wild, faces an uncertain future. Its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China has become fragmented, creating small and isolated populations. WWF has been active in giant panda conservation for nearly three decades, conducting field studies, working to protect habitats and, most recently, by providing assistance to the Chinese government in establishing a program to protect the panda and its habitat through the creation of reserves.

Learn more about the impacts of climate change on giant pandas

# # #

Note to Editors: Photos of all “10 to Watch in ‘2010” species are available. Please contact Kerry Zobor at 202-495-4509 or at kerry.zobor@wwfus.org. More information on all species featured is available at www.worldwildlife.org.

It is quite shocking that tiger numbers are so low. Just as shocking is that only one media outlet, The Guardian reported on this, although a little late on 3 January 2009.

02 January 2010

Doctor Who - goodbye and hello

The BBC screened the final special episodes (in two parts) of the tenth Doctor Who on Christmas Day and New Year's Day. It was also a farewell to the tenth Doctor (David Tennant) as he regenerated into the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith).











... and he's still not ginger (haired).

A recent poll of 2000 people voted David Tennant as the most popular Doctor Who of all time.

I'm not sure how the new one will go. His catch cry appears to be "Geronimo".



More from
- The Guardian
- Daily Mail
- BBC

01 January 2010

lamebook

Abraham Lincoln once said "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt" - unfortunately this does not seem to apply to facebook users.

lamebook is a seriously addictive website that showcases idiocy, with examples submitted by users.



Happy New Year!