The National Bird of Belize is the Keel-Billed Toucan. I have gotten a little bit of information on this beautiful bird off The Belize Zoo's website:
The Keel-billed Toucan, known as the "bill bird"locally, is the national bird of Belize. The most obvious characteristic of the toucan is the huge yellow, orange, red, green and black bill. The toucan's bill is amazingly dextrous and allows the bird to feed on a variety of tropical forest fruits.
The Keel-billed toucans are a very social bird and can often be seen in flocks of six or more birds. They are found throughout Belize's forests and nest in holes in tree trunks. They lay one to four eggs and the parent birds take turns incubating the eggs. This bird displays a rapid, heavy flapping of the wings when flying and calls with a creek creek sound, similar to a frog.
Toucans are primarily fruit eaters, feeding on a wide variety of tropical fruits of the forest. It feeds by snipping off the fruit and flipping its head back to gulp the fruit. Toucans will also feed on insects, lizards, snakes and event he eggs of smaller birds. http://www.belizezoo.org/zoo/zoo/birds/tou/tou1.html
I took this picture when I was at The Belize Zoo late last year.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
The National Bird of Belize is the Keel-Billed Toucan. I have gotten a little bit of information on this beautiful bird off The Belize Zoo's website:
Something very odd is happening in Guatemala in terms of the financial system. In the last five months two banks have gone bankrupt and during the chritmas season we experienced a lack of liquidity in the economy.
In octouber, authorities gave a press conference explaining they were going to take over the operation of the fourth largest bank in the country, this measure was taken to guarantee the payment to most of the clients of the bank. Even though that measure was taken, a lot of people lost their money. The authorities explained that they took that measure because management showed lack of resolution with some cases where the bank lost US$250 million in one very bad investment.
The crisis of lack of liquidity came a month and a half later because some manager at the central bank did not order the amount of paper money needed to cover the demand of the season, that was just a dumb act in part of our bureaucratic system.
And the latest case is of one small bank in which its owners stated lending money to each other and they fled the country amid the turmoil of rummors that spread so fast that all its clients started to ask for their money bank.
In both cases our authorities had showed very poor performance and because of that they have no more legitimacy with the people.
All three cases have deeper factors that explain better the situation but I don't want to bore everyone with the details.
There are several major reasons for car accidents of that proportion: high speed (speed limits in Bulgaria: 50 km/h in settlements, 90 km/h on country roads, 130 km/h on highways), wrong maneuvers, taking the right of way, alcohol, using broken or old cars, etc. Often roads are in bad condition and play a big part in severe accidents. Some blame the traffic police for not reacting quickly to dangerous situations such as traffic lights failure and congestions, as well as not being in places where accidents happen way more often than average. A great problem is corruption – a problem so big that some people regularly pay to get away. What is more, they think that’s normal and are even proud with that.
In recent years there have been several important changes in traffic rules: headlights must be on from the beginning of November until the end of March; seatbelts must be used anytime both in front and rear seats; young drivers (with less than 2 years of driving experience) are not allowed to drink and drive at all, whereas more experienced drivers can have up to 0.5‰ of alcohol in their blood, there is a campaign against corruption and hot lines for reporting it.
Potential measures include stricter exams for future drivers, increase from 24 to 30 in obligatory drive hours prior to obtaining a license, construction of special polygons for simulating extreme road conditions for inexperienced drivers, additional training for elderly drivers, keeping a list of dangerous drivers, cheaper insurance policies depending on good driving history, light panels along the roads for warning, video surveillance on highways, construction of more roundabouts, heavier sanctions against violation of Traffic Law, etc.
Last Saturday, our family attended the funeral of a beloved Uncle. Saying goodbye is difficult especially when it seems too early and untimely. But I believe that God always has a better plan for us. Time always heals the pain and lessens the sorrow.
Let me share with you some funeral customs/superstitions/beliefs practiced in the Philippines (some might be similar to other countries):
- The deceased is dressed in barong (traditional Filipino clothing for men) and white dress (for women).
- The deceased does not wear shoes in order not to hear their footsteps when their soul lingers nearby.
- People usually wear white or black during the wake or funeral. Bright colors, especially red is not worn during this time because it disrespects the departed.
- A person is strongly advised not to bring home anything from the wake or funeral like candies and food because it will bring bad luck.
- Some visitors do not say goodbye before leaving the wake because it brings bad luck.
- Children below seven years old are carried over the casket so that the dead will not visit the children after the burial.
- A black butterfly lingering in the wake or the funeral is thought to be the soul of the departed.
- It is advised not to go home directly when you come from a wake or funeral.
- Before going home, it is good to make a stop over where you can eat something sweet. It prevents you from bringing sadness back to your home.
Disclaimer: Not all Filipinos practice these customs but they are common beliefs and superstitions in our country passed on from generation to generation. I have noticed that over the years, the younger generation are slowly deviating from these beliefs.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Goya Awards (also known as the "Spanish Oscars")
The ceremony took place in Madrid on Sunday 28/1.
"Las manos" (The Hands)tells the real-life story of Father Mario Pantaleo, an Italian healing priest, who was able to heal by the touch of his hands.
The movie is inspired in actual facts in the life of this priest who lived the mysteries of faith and had “powers” to diagnose and heal diseases. A man who is also assaulted by doubts about the utilization of this “gift”; how he lives surrounded of humbleness and love and how he defies those that doubt his powers to heal and his fight against the zeal of the high authorities of the Catholic Church, the local government and the police.
And also BEST ANIMATED FILM !!!!
El ratón PEREZ
based on "TheTooth Fairy"
Sunday, January 28, 2007
The nominations for the 79th Academy Awards were made last week. This is the American movie industry's most prestigious award show- and what a show it is! The red carpet ceremony and presentation show will garner media and press attention around the world. With an estimated audience of over a billion people, it is probably the most watched awards show in the world.
The emphasis is on glamour, publicity, fashion, and gossip- all things Hollywood. It's all about being seen and talked about. Just being nominated is a big career boost, winning is worth so much more- publicity, film offers, leverage.
To me, the best thing is that nominations are not limited to Americans. Films and actors from many places can be recognized and non-English films can be assured of an American audience with a nomination.
For all the buzz check out:
Movie City News
About the Academy
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Last week something awful happened here which touched the whole country. A student had stabbed the director of his school. Fortunately the man was only severely wounded and didn't die, but it was terse.
Belgium is a quite safe country compared to others and such an event had never happened before. Everybody knew that such incidents happen in other countries, but nobody ever believed that it could also be here. We all saw on TV the damages caused by students especially in the USA and what is going on in their schools.
Belgian students are rather very disciplinated, of course bullying, mobbing, stealing etc. in schools also happens here, but not in such a great extent. We also have carjackers, homejackers, burglers etc. but compared to other countries, it's almost nothing. Besides of course the affair Dutroux, the pedophile who had sequestrated four little girls and killed two of them. He sadly became famous around the world
Now when the 16 year old boy had stabbed his director, because he had fired him from school for drug possession the whole country went upside down. The goverment was accused that there are not enough teachers, the parents were accused not to take care enough of their children and the children claimed that they are not safe anymore in school.
The Belgian likes to manifest and to go on strike, whenever they feel that something is wrong. So the 800 students of the school together with their teachers and parents, went on the street to manifest. They all walked over to the hospital were the director were and sang in front of his window. A delegation brought him flowers and the prime minister sent him his best wishes. The movement went to all schools around the country, protests were made and of course the press had a lot to write. The news at TV were longer than usual, because they talked a lot about what had happened.
Now the government has to review school saftey and students were invited to report on each other student who has not a corrrect behaviour.
It is sometimes comforting to live in such a small country, where finally you get the impression that you live in a big family, although we have our family fights too !
I must note at the start that Zimbabwean diet has probably had many influences over the centuries, so what I will refer to may well not be purely Zimbabwean…
The staple starch of Zimbabwe is maize, which is grown in great quantities, although less so now with droughts and so on. You will find people in the urban areas with maize gardens in their back yards, or in areas where there are no buildings (so that urban councils dread the start of the rains, as they have to go round chopping the plants down- it’s illegal); and rural families have fields of maize. Commercial farmers invest a great deal into maize, and grow it almost exclusively when the rains are here. Harvested maize kernels are milled into cornmeal (which we call mealie meal here), which is used to make porridge (which every Zimbabwean child eats, sometimes with milk and margarine mixed in, or with peanut butter), or a thicker “porridge” which we call sadza
Sadza is eaten on every occasion in Zimbabwe, sometimes very thick and hard, sometimes so soft it’s almost runny. It has a relatively bland flavor, when the maize is very refined, but is very tasty when less refined, although that makes it harder to cook. Zimbabweans are generally very good at providing for themselves in “natural” ways; most families will also grow muriwo (which I cannot for the life of me translate into English, but very loosely it is green leafy vegetables, with different varieties: choumolier, rape, pumpkin leaves, spinach and etc are all considered muriwo). Other things you may find in a traditional Zimbabwean garden are tomatoes, onion, cabbage, pumpkins, sugar beans, string beans, sugar cane, carrots, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts (groundnuts), round nuts (and other forms of indigenous nuts and beans), in varying quantities.
Zimbabwe has also normally had a lot of beef, and most Zimbabweans have been used to a basic meal of sadza, muriwo and beef stew. Shona culture has a great fondness for peanut butter. Peanuts are grown and ground down into a paste (peanut butter) by traditional means, i.e. using a flattened rock and a small round rock- which makes delicious peanut butter, very different from the processed shop variety. Meat and muriwo (in all its different forms) are often cooked in a peanut butter sauce (similar to the Malaysian satay sauce).
Maize is also partially ground down into samp, which I believe is a South African dish. This is often served in lieu of rice at weddings and funerals, and is a Southern African favorite. This can also be cooked in peanut butter.
Milk is also a “staple”. The commonest way it is consumed, apart from the usual (in tea etc) is soured, as amasi/mukaka wakakora, something very similar to cottage cheese but a lot more sour. This is considered a delicacy; it takes some effort to make, and is perhaps not eaten as much as it once was. A more watery version is packaged and sold as a cheap alternative to meat and muriwo (i.e. eaten with sadza).
We don’t often eat fish, but what there is would probably be trout (from the Eastern Highlands- we have trout fishing there), salmon or bream. Zimbabwe is land-locked, and its diet reflects that. I must mention here that Zimbabweans also eat some pretty exotic stuff- for example, flying ants, locusts/ grasshoppers, and mopani worms, a kind of caterpillar that feeds on the leaves of the mopani tree (indigenous to southern Africa). I myself have never tasted any of these dubious delicacies, being extremely squeamish and conservative that way, but a lot of Zimbabweans enjoy them.
Having said all that, Zimbabweans have become very partial to all kinds of cuisine, and things like rice are consumed in huge quantities. Most urban Zimbabweans no longer eat Zimbabwean cuisine exclusively, and you might go for dinner at a modern Zimbabwean home, and eat an “Indian” meal. We are very laid back, on the whole, about what we eat, and have accepted a lot of foreign influences, as evidenced by the plethora of “specialty” restaurants. Fast food is hugely popular here, as elsewhere, and we probably will soon have our own health problems associated with that. The only advantage we’ve had so far is that fast food here tends to be expensive, and most Zimbabweans only eat it occasionally. The most popular fast food is probably fried chicken (with chips), with pizza coming a close second.
Image: sadza and muriwo (sorry I made it look soooo unappetizing-it really isn’t...)
We have a three hundredth anniversary, a Swedish national symbol, to celebrate this year. Meet Carl Linnæus aka Carl Von Linné.
Probably the most internationally famous Swede that has ever walked this earth. In fact there is even places in the moon that is named after him!
In modern words we would have said that he started an ultimate cool trend. The nature trend. So what’s up with that?
Well, you see it was him that invented the taxonomy which set names on living things and put it into a hierarchy. Many of Swedens species and a lot of other countries species were named by him.
Even our selves, the Homo Sapiens is named by him, placed among the primates. He himself said that he couldn’t do it different since he had found none what so ever evidence that we didn’t belong there. (very wise man huh? *lol*)
He wasn’t only interested in how flowers had sex, but also the whole world which made him to a true scientist. He travelled all over the world, exploring unknown land. How cool wasn’t that, to be the very first?
So when we Swedes are travelling, we're actually just following his foot steps ;-)
The celebrations starts tomorrow, the 28th of January in Växjö and it will continue through Sweden with a lot of different events and ends the 15th of December at the Ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi, In the northern part of Sweden.
What's a better thing to celebrate than the nature of living things?
(Read more about it on the site about Linne jubileet 2007)
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Most people know our Dutch beers, especially Heineken is well known all over the world.
Today, we read in the newspapers that the price for the basic ingredients for beer, named 'hop' en 'gerst', went up drastically. Prices went up even 60%.
Interesting is that one of our largest brewers Heineken already predicted this in September 2006. Their prediction was mainly based on the fact that other aspects in the brewing process became more expensive. Think of glass, plastics, beercans and obviously energy which is needed plenty in the brewing process.
This means that beer will be more expensive in the future, not only in the Netherlands but probably worldwide, so prepare!
Closing the gap...from the Netherlands
My husband and I saw this interesting shop at Laguna, Philippines. It was eye-catching because of the colorful displays of pinwheels, lamps, bird houses and many more so we just had to stop. It was a very simple shop but we were amazed by the beautiful, handmade products made of recycled items. They sell cute bird houses in different colors and sizes. Some were real bird houses while others were made into lamps. The store also sells hand painted mail boxes and lanterns. I adore the lovely pinwheels and we bought several of them for our garden. We met the man who makes these beautiful creations. My husband and I admire him for his ingenuity and creativity. I think it's great that he was able to make money using recycled items such as corrogated plastic and PC boards. His gift for transforming scrap materials into a beautiful work of art is astounding.
(Taken from My thoughts on...bleaching)
This past week, Jamaica cracked down on the sale of skin bleaching products and will launch a public awareness campaign about the dangers of bleaching. As much as I applaud this, I think it's too little too late, as bleaching has become fully integrated into the ghetto subculture in Jamaica. If you go to any shop within the inner-city, you can find rows upon rows of soaps and creams that promise to give you that clear, light complexion. What they don't tell you is the side effects of these products, such as an increased risk of skin cancer, nausea, shortness of breath, convulsions and delirium. With such obvious health hazards, you'd wonder why people would engage in such a practice. But many of the users, mostly young teenage girls, believe that the advantages, such as easier access to jobs, high salaries and wealthy men, outweigh the disadvantages. And besides, it's nothing more than a simple fashion trend to them.
I believe this bleaching trend originated not with Buju Banton's song "Mi nuh stop cry...", but much further back, to the days of slavery, when our ancestors were ruled by white masters. Eventually, we learned to equate light colour with power and wealth. As some the plantation owners left Jamaica for jolly ol' England, the remainder and their offspring mixed with the populous, so brown became the new "high class" colour, though white is still prized. And to think that after all the progress black people have made, all the blood sweat and tears spent on gaining the freedoms and respect that we now enjoy, this inferiority complex is still ingrained in the collective psyche of our people! And on the heels of Martin Luther King Day at that! Well I for one am proud of my skin, apart from the fact that it's acne-prone. The Government is also at fault, as they should also help to uplift poor people by providing them with opportunities. If this is done, hopefully Jamaica will one day be a country where its people "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I found this lighter at the neighborhood convenience store today.
Do you notice what is remarkable ?
This lighter is equipped with a small pen.
When you smoke and come up with a brilliant idea,you can push the button on the side of this lighter and the head of the pen will come out.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Alvaro Murillo stands next to a melting pot where the sugarcane juice boils at a sugarcane processing plant known as Los Trapiches in Tacares, about 40 km. west of San Jose, Costa Rica Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007. Los Trapiches, which is powered by a water mill, was founded 101 years ago and still produces handcrafted toffee, molasses, and other sugarcane byproducts, daily consumed by Costa Ricans. (AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera)
Monday, January 22, 2007
Abbe Pierre, a priest who became the conscience of the French nation during more than half a century of campaigns for the homeless, has died at the age of 94.
The resistance fighter-turned-ecclesiastic regularly topped French popularity polls, beating sporting icons, pop stars and politicians.
President Jacques Chirac led tributes to the priest who had been in failing health in recent years and died in a Paris hospital early Monday of a lung infection.
Chirac expressed his "immense respect" for Abbe Pierre and said that "all of France is deeply touched. It has lost an immense figure, a conscience, an incarnation of goodness."
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin praised Abbe Pierre as a man of "great heart and commitment" who had shone a compassionate spotlight on poverty and homelessness.
"All the people of France will miss him," Villepin said.
The priest set up his Companions of Emmaus movement for the homeless after World War II during which he had been a resistance fighter and helped French Jews escape to Switzerland.
He was a Christian Democrat member of parliament from 1945 to 1951 but his campaigning first achieved national attention with a radio broadcast made on a bitterly cold winter night in 1954.
"My friends -- help! A woman froze to death at three o'clock this morning," he said in the broadcast in Paris.
Almost 40 years later, Abbe Pierre, in his trademark cassock and black beret, by then bent and frail, launched an almost identical appeal, this time directed at France's political leaders.
"Elected officials: it's time to act so that everyone has a lodging... France must build, it has the resources," he said in August 2003.
At the time a new wave of homelessness was becoming apparent in France. The phenonemon has continued to grow despite the efforts of groups such as Emmaus which now works in more than 50 countries and has 10,000 apartments and homes in the Paris region alone.
The president of the French Muslim Council, Dalil Boubakeur, spoke of a profound sense of loss at the news of Abbe Pierre's death.
"We would like to express our deepest respect and total admiration for the life of this man of God which was devoted to defending the powerless and the rights of the poorest to live with dignity," Boubakeur said.
In the Vatican, French cardinal Roger Ethchegaray said Abbe Pierre's death "affects all of humanity for a simple reason: he never strayed from the cause, declaring war on poverty and putting first those who suffered the most."
Abbe Pierre was born Henri Groues into a large and well-off family in the southeastern city of Lyon, on August 5, 1912. After schooling under Jesuit monks, he entered the Capuchins, one of the humblest Catholic orders and was ordained a priest in 1938.
After the war Pierre ran into an ex-convict who had similar ideas, and together they renovated an old building in the Paris suburbs to provide shelter for the homeless.
In 1949 the first Emmaus community was born, named after a village in the Christian holy land where Jesus Christ was said to have appeared to his disciples after his crucifixion.
The "companions of Emmaus", as they call themselves, live mainly by recycling and reselling what other people have thrown out.
Pierre was awarded the French legion of honour in 1992.
In 1996 he ran into controversy over statements he made in favour of his close friend Roger Garaudy, a Communist writer who had converted from Catholicism to Islam and who had called into question the reality of the World War II Holocaust. The row nevertheless failed to dint the priest's enduring popularity.
In his later years Abbe Pierre lived in the Paris suburbs.
More news here :
Spanish is spoken in Mexico, Spain, most of Central America, the majority of countries and half the population in South America, over half of the Caribbean population, a large percentage of Andorrans, Equatorial Guineans and Belizeans, and almost 43.000.000 people in the United States .
According to Wikipedia, current estimation accounts up to 400 million, making Spanish the second language in the world in number of speakers (after Mandarin Chinese) and the most widely spoken and the most widely studied Romance language. It is arguably the most widely studied foreign language for native speakers of English due to its perceived sense of practicality in a largely globalized 21st Century, as both languages have similar numbers of native speakers, are very widely dispersed on a global scale, and are spoken in many countries. For similar reasons, it is also the most widely studied foreign language in Brazil, which is almost entirely surrounded by Spanish-speaking nations.
Spanish originated as a Latin dialect along a remote crossroads strip among the Cantabria, Burgos and La Rioja provinces of Northern Spain (cf. Glosas Emilianenses in San Millán de la Cogolla, La Rioja). From there, its use gradually spread inside the Kingdom of Castile, where it eventually became the principal language of government and trade. It was later brought to America and other parts of the world in the last five centuries by Spanish explorers, colonists and empire-builders. Spanish is one of six official working languages of the United Nations and one of the most used global languages, along with English. It is spoken most extensively in North and South America, Europe, and certain parts of Africa, Asia and Oceania. Within the globalized market, there is currently an international expansion and recognition of the Spanish language in literature, the film industry, television (notably telenovelas) and mostly music.
Let’s learn a few spanish words and sentences!
How are you?: ¿Cómo estás? ¿Qué tal?
I’m fine, thanks, and you?: Yo bien, gracias, ¿y tú?
What’s your name?: ¿Cómo te llamas?
My name is…: Me llamo…
How old are you?: ¿Cuántos años tienes?
I’m 26 years old: Tengo 26 años.
Please: Por favor
Where are you from?: ¿De dónde eres?
I’m from Spain: Soy de España/español
I love you: Te quiero
I’m sorry: Lo siento.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
There are years when summer heat and sunny weather keep longer and go deep into the autumn. This is usually called “the Indian summer”. I tried to find a similar term for these unbelievable warm, sunny winter days we had here in Romania. Maybe I should call it an Indian autumn, so that I use the term properly, but it has nothing to do with autumn, as it’s not raining at all and the sky is clear an everything feels like spring.
So, we had Christmas last month and this time of year we used to fight snow and cold winds. We used to feel our feet and noses frozen, drink hot wine and tea, stay inside and enjoy our blankets and warm clothes. That would be a normal winter. Which is not the case this year. The sky is blue, the birds are singing, early spring flowers are blooming, people walk in the parks, children ride their bikes wearing just shirt, a warm wind blows drying the ground.
It feels nice, I enjoy it. I feel as happy and full of life as I use to feel when spring comes. The problem is…it’s not spring. It’s clearly not winter. Whatever it is, I don’t think it’s good. Change is good and you can’t avoid it. Change is progress, new sensations, new attractions. You must enjoy change. However, this is a really scaring change, and even if now it feels good (we all like warm weather better than cold) I wish we had our cold feet and nose winter back. I’d rather have the usual caught, running nose and fever and have a normal, old fashioned four seasons year. This Indian spring could mean no fruits, no grains, floods or drought and who knows what other weird things Romania never experienced and therefore can’t be prepared to face. (L.G)
I believe this is a real threat. Maybe we should think more on how we can face global warming..
Tourists love coming to the tropics for the nice warm weather and the sea. Although most people come for snorkeling and diving, watersports are very popular also. There's kiteboarding which I have never tried, windsurfing, tubing which I love and which I have posted a picture of. I am on the tube with my sister in law. It is a lot of fun. There's also jet skiing, canoing, fishing, and so on.
All in all, Belize is a nice country. There's something for everyone.
This weekend the weather was so nice again in Istanbul ( due to global warming, I think...). We went for out Yedikule area, near the seside. We walked and brothe fresh "sea air". This cat was sitting on the grass and it was so happy. It was little bit difficult to get this picture. Hope you like it....
The Lebanese opposition, who are still holding their open–ended–sit–in for the fifty third day today, has called for a general strike on this coming Tuesday. The protests and sit–in are being held in
Needless to say, the pro–government parties have called on Lebanese not to comply with the calls for strike but to go about their businesses as usual.
This strike was described by the opposition as the first of several escalatory moves aiming to achieve an early election and at the formation of a new government.
The government on the other hand is carrying on with the plan to hold the international aid conference (
More on these and other topics from
The photo is from the center of
A 19-year-old Indonesian woman died of bird flu on Friday after being hospitalized for three days in the West Java town of Garut, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of the capital, Jakarta, said health ministry official Nyoman Kandun. It raised the country's death toll to 62.
"She had contact with dead poultry six days before hospitalized," Kandun said.
The woman's death is the fifth human bird flu fatality in the country since Jan. 9. Before that, Indonesia had not recorded any cases for six weeks -- a lull that led some Indonesian officials to say they were succeeding in beating the disease.
The spike in cases has prompted the government to plunge into an all-out campaign to clear several provinces -- with the highest number of bird flu cases -- of fowl, starting on Friday with the capital, where four people had died in the past week.
"Quick and concrete actions are needed to prevent more victims," Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso, who goes only with one name, told el-Shinta radio station on Saturday.
He gave Jakarta residents two weeks to surrender or sell their birds before officials would go door-to door confiscating fowls to rid its teeming streets of backyard chickens.
The governor also said Jakarta had plans to relocate its traditional bird markets from downtown areas, but gave no details.
People would say at counters, offices and on the phone something like:
"Good morning, could you please be so kind and give/send me this and that?"
And after a successful transaction the parties would exchange something like:
"Thank you very much, have a nice day!"
Positive energy all the way and everywhere.
Today most and more data/document/services interchanges are electronic.
Using different protocols and standards such as XML and EDI
Saturday, January 20, 2007
January 21st is a sad anniversary for us "loyal" French : that day our king Louis XVI (16th) was killed, beheaded, on what is now called "Place de la Concorde" in front of what is now the Crillon palace hotel.
When our king walked on the booth from where he would be killed, he tried to speak, to say that he was forgiving to all the people, but the stupid and uncultured revolution guys started the drums so that the majority of the crowd could not hear.
When his brother Louis XVIII took back power in 1815, he exhumed XVI's remains, and they now rest, with those of his wife Marie-Antoinette, in Saint-Denis's Royal basilica, near the "Stade de France" World Cup stadium...
This sunday, January 21st, several masses will be celebrated and offered to God for the soul of our king. And a ceremony will take place on the Concorde square, as every year.
This is my country's flag my beloved Kuwait :D
Each one of the colors used in it represents a part in a famous old Arabic poem, the poem was written by a poet called Safei Al-Deen Al-Helli (صفي الدين الحلي : sorry but the link is in Arabic I could not find one in English about the poet) that part of the poem in Arabic says:
Black symbolizes defeat of the country's enemies; green symbolizes the fertility of the land; red is symbolic of the enemies' bloodshed, and white represents purity.
This flag was officially declared as The State of Kuwait's flag in the 7th of September, 1961.
علم = "pronounced" Alaam = Flag
Belgium is also famous for it's comic artists. Peyo created the Schtroumpfs (original name) and published his first comic in 1959. It quickly became a very big success and were translated into over 50 languages. The English speaking people know them under the name "Smurf". An advertisement featuring The Smurfs was even designed for the UNICEF . Peyo has created other comics such as Johan and Peewitbut, and Steven Strong (Benoît Brisefer) perhaps less known abroad. He died in 1992.
Very famous is also Hérgé the inventor of Tintin which he started to create in 1929. His comic was named Tintin & Milou, which had been translated into Tintin & Snowy in English.
The series is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century, with translations published in over 50 languages and more than 200 million copies of the books sold to date.
He also was the creator of Quick & Flupke which had a big succes in the French and Dutch speaking countries but the English version of Quick & Flupke was produced only in the early-1990s, and consisted of only two books. The text in the English volumes is not lettered in the same way as other Hergé books in English. The two English volumes are collections of strips that the editors consider to be the best Quick & Flupke comics. The English edition comics are all coloured, and named 'Double Trouble' and 'Two of a Kind'. Hergé died in 1982.
For girls Marcel Marlier invented Martine. The first book, "Martine à la ferme" (Martine at the farm), was published in 1954, followed by over 50 other books, which have been translated into many different languages. These books acknoledged such a big success because of its educational content.
There are a lot more of very famous belgian comic designers. They all have a big success in France and Holland because all books are always edited in the two official languages (french and flemish/dutch).
All Belgian children have been rised with these comics since their publication and it still continues. In all households you will find at least one of these characters.
Friday, January 19, 2007
This is my final post with basic information about Costa Rica. In the first one I briefly told you about the location and language of Costa Rica, among other things. In the second one I shared with you some facts about the demography of my country and now in this one I will share with you some information about the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. I hope you enjoy it!
From next week on I will blog about the daily life in Costa Rica and current news, although every once in a while I may post basic information like this one.
Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. While the country has only about 0.1% of the world's land mass, it contains 5% of the world's biodiversity. Over 25% of Costa Rica is composed of protected forests and reserves.
One national park that is internationally renowned among ecologists for its biodiversity (including big cats and tapirs) and where visitors can expect to see an abundance of wildlife is the Corcovado National Park.
Tortuguero National Park is home to spiders, howler and white-throated Capuchin monkeys, the three-toed sloth, 320 species of birds (including eight species of parrots), a variety of reptiles, but is mostly recognized for the annual nesting of the endangered green turtle and is considered the most important nesting site for this species. Giant leatherback, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles also nest here.
The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve hosts 2,000 plant species including numerous orchids. Over 400 types of birds can be found here, as well as over 100 species of mammals. Costa Rica as a whole has over 800 species of birds. The entity entrusted to do genetic and biochemical prospection on Costa Rica's biological wealth is the INBIO (Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad), and it is allowed to collect royalties on any biological discoveries of medical importance.
There are about 1,250 species of butterflies and at least 8,000 species of moths. Butterflies and moths are common year round but are more present during the rainy season.
Invertebrate species make up most of Costa Rica’s wildlife. Of the estimated 505,000 species, about 493,000 are invertebrates (including spiders and crabs).
Costa Rica is home to around 175 amphibians, which include frogs and toads.
Notable frog species in Costa Rica include Red-eyed Tree Frog, a few species of Poison Dart Frogs, the semitransparent Glass Frogs, and the large Smokey Jungle Frog.
Some notable toad species in Costa Rica include the ten species of Bufo toads, and the Giant toad a huge toad known for its wide appetite.
Information taken from Wikipedia.org
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I wish all of you a Happy New Year Inshallah :-)
It’s difficult to compress the traditions and culture of a people into a short post, and even more difficult to speak about those of a country, as if they are one homogenous thing. But I will try!
As I said before, Zimbabwe has two main ethnic groups, the Shona and the Ndebele. The Shona are the larger group, but there are many other groups as well: the Kalanga, the Shagaan, the Tonga, the Venda, the Sotho, the Nambiya, and various other small groups. The significance is that the term “Zimbabwean culture” is probably a misnomer.
Much of our culture has been lost to Westernization- which, if you ask any young Zimbabwean woman, is not necessarily a bad thing! For instance, when serving food, you are expected to kneel before presenting it; and there is a process of hand-washing that can be a right pain. Most families are quite laid-back about such things. However, certain traditions are pillars of how we view ourselves, and are (so far) preserved. Most of these focus around big life events: marriage, birth, death, and so on. One of these is lobola, the paying of a bride price by the man’s family to the woman’s family, usually done a few months before a civil or church ceremony. In Zimbabwe two kinds of marriage are recognized: civil (done at the magistrate’s court or church), and common or customary law (which is after the payment of lobola). However, most young people choose to do both the traditional lobola payment, as well as a civil wedding. The upshot of this is that weddings are a very costly affair, and it is a long process between a couple’s deciding to marry, and their actually being together. Lobola is a very complicated process, with many significant parts to it, and much meaning: I would need a separate post to explain it all (and perhaps in future I will).
Polygamy is (officially) discouraged in our society, but two or three generations ago, it was very much a part of our culture. I tried to create a family tree the other day, but quickly realized that things in Africa don’t work the same way as in the West! My great-grandfather had 3 wives, and his father before him had six wives- and those are just the ones that are recognized. This means that Zimbabweans often have huge extended families; in fact, I do not know half of my “cousins”, and would probably only recognize many of my relatives by their surname! Surnames here are usually the names of animals, or else something to do with the characteristic of an ancestor. You may meet someone who is called “the one who does not plough”, if you translated!
One other thing to note is that Zimbabwean women have special rights in our culture. Most people have assumed that African women are not emancipated, because of such things as the kneeling I mentioned above, and the fact that so much of the work is done by women. However, in my country today, most women enjoy a great deal of freedom. It is true that we spend a lot of time in our headscarves and “sarongs” (which we call Zambias, for some reason!), perhaps bent over a fire; but so many women are now very well educated, and speak up for their rights. Our society is more or less egalitarian; certainly more so than the average African society. We have the honor of having had the first female vice-president in Africa- a sign, I hope, of how progressive Zimbabweans are :)
(ps Jane am still investigating that ecosystem question).
"Kyrill" is the name of the storm that currently ravages Germany and surrounding countries.
What we here refer to as an "Orkan", English language meteorologists tamely call a "European windstorm." It hasn't been too bad where I am, but people have left work and schools early today in order to get home safely, after warnings were issued to that effect.
I honestly don't remember when there was that much fuss made about a storm. Naturally, air traffic as well as trains are hopelessly delayed and probably will be until the storm has passed. Let's hope everyone's home safe, having some tea, watching TV or reading, and enjoying the fact that they don't have to be out there.
Is nothing to be proud of, but I'll do it anyway.
First of all, no, Israeli cooking does not mean kosher cooking, since about 70 to 80% of the Jewish population isn't religious, although many are traditional, and since a large percentage of the total population is not even Jewish, being mostly Arab/Muslim, Arab/Christian, Arab/Druse, or some sort of former-foreigner.
Like the U.S., Israel imports diverse styles from the many lands of its residents and neighbors, and as its one of the countries where people are always trying to get into rather than out of, more keeps coming in.
Nevertheless, the tenets of kosher cooking do play an important role in modern Israeli cuisine. But you have to take them and thrown them at the native influences from Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, and Egypt, with a huge dash of fast food culture brought back from the U.S., India, and Thailand, and the resulting mess is what you can expect to sift through to find food here.
Let's start with kosher. First of all note that religious Moslems eat Halal food, which is akin to kosher, and generally what is kosher is also halal, although the reverse is not always true. The major exception would be alcohol, which Moslems can't eat or drink in any way. Add to this the large sway of the religious Jewish rabbinate over industrial affairs, and it is generally hard to get blatantly non-kosher items like pig meat and so on in Israel, although not impossible.
Kosher laws are very complex in detail, but on the surface not too hard. Only kosher animals (domesticated herbivores) or deers, herbivorous birds, and fish that have fins and scales may be eaten. Even so, animals other than fish have to be killed in a particular way and their blood removed as entirely as possible.
Meat and milk may not mix (fish doesn't count as meat). Most products and plants require supervisors to ensure that the owners don't try to cheat this process in order to save money, so most kosher food products bear a kosher certification. This is not necessary on many items such as fresh fruit, eggs, etc.
That is the bulk of it. There are other details, such as checking eggs for bloodspots (Jews are fanatical about not eating any traces of blood), Jewish supervision over wine and bread products, and not eating around a certain nerve in an animal, but not much more. And foods may not be prepared on the sabbath. The rest is the details.
In order to ensure not mixing meat and milk, religious Jews keep separate dishes and silverware in their house for meat and milk, and usually separate ovens and sinks as well. Almost every kosher restaurant serves one or the other, not both.
But in Israel, while the majority of restaurants in the capital are kosher, the majority elsewhere are not. Even so, the culture of separation between milk and meat runs deep in tradition, and even non-religious Jewish families will generally not mix them in their cooking. The same goes for pig products, although modern secular Israelis are sometimes "davka", which means doing it just to do it.
That's the kosher aspect.
Otherwise, Israel is a Mediterranean country, and it's food reflects this. There is a lot of cheeses, including goat cheeses, yogurt, humus and other chickpea products, the native Israeli plants and fruits, such as sabras, olives, and dates, and native Israeli spices, such as rosemary, fennel, and hyssop. Add to that a lot of nightshades, such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers.
The vegetables in Israel are often bought at local markets and are excellent quality and super-fresh, often sold the day they are picked. Except for the ubiquitous pitas and laffas (bigger pitas), breads are crusty breads, not Wonder-soft white squishy things. Both of these are very inexpensive, due to some price controls.
Israel became fairly well-known in the fifties through the eighties for their great citrus, which always made little sense to me. Yes, it has the right climate and the citrus is phenomenally good, but the amount of water they take to grow in this parched country, and how much of it must have gotten exported, seems in retrospect to have been a rather silly idea. Still, they really are good.
Jewish wine in the diaspora was known for ages as sweet and disgusting, but modern Israeli vinters produce Internationally outstanding wine, and they're not only kosher but kosher for Passover.
Israeli salad is finely chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and green peppers, with lemon, techina, and green onion sprinkled on.
The Israeli fast food of choice used to be falafel, but Israelis love U.S. food the way that U.S. used to love French food (before France fell out of favor). So the popular fast-food is now hamburgers and pizza, with a close second the great number of Thai food places that opened after a great number of Thai workers came to Israel. Strangely, there are also many Philippians in Israel who work as caregivers, but I don't know of any Philippines cuisine or restaurants.
Another fast food favorite are dozens of types of borekas (phyllo-dough wrapped white cheese, potatoes, or onions and mushrooms) and rugeluch (rolled chocolate or poppy seed cakes).
Israeli youth often travel after army service. Unfortunately, many of them can be rude visitors, but many of them aren't, and they often bring back cuisine ideas with them. So we have a major influx of Indian restaurants and cooking styles, as well as Nepalese, and Brazilian (favorite destinations).
Another surprise is that, while you will find some well-known "Jewish" recipes in Israel, such as kugels and cholent, you will be hard pressed to find others. Israel has no knishes, for instance, and lox and bagels are very recent arrivals and still expensive. And the kugel is "Jerusalem kugel", which is noodles in oil, pepper, and caramelized sugar, not the other kugels that are prevalent around the world.
There are grilled meats and rotisserie meats (called shawarma), seemingly always sprinkled with paprika and cumin. And most salads, soups, and side dishes seem to have bay leaf and peppercorns in them.
Lots of Sephardi and Mediterranean tastes are accustomed to very spicy foods, such as hot pepper paste (schug) or hot peppers in general. Often secondary salads served with meals may have pickled vegetables, such as zucchini, pepper, or carrot, and usually a little spicy.
Other Moroccan or Syrian influences include kube (meat of potato wrapped in cracked wheat and fried), couscous, shakshouka (hard eggs fried with tomatoes, onions and garlic), and jachnins (fried breads). From Iran come lentils and beans, meats and fruit together, and peas. From Lebanon comes taboulli salad and lamb kebabs (chopped lamb wixed with green spices wrapped around a shish-kebob stick. From Greece and Turkey come Mousakka, stuffed grape leaves, olive oil and goat cheese salads, and Baclava honey-pastries. From the sea come many types of fish, although mostly snapper and dennis.
Due to long periods of shortages of meat, Israel developed an amazing soy foods industry, and their soy patties, hot dogs, and shnitzels are also ubiquitous and quite good even. Real chicken shnitzels are also available, but avoid the ones they call "American" shnitzels, and they are more soy protein than chicken, and the mix doesn't work. There is also a lot of ground chicken and turkey, compared to ground meat.
Israelis drink a lot of coffee, followed by Coca-Cola products and tea or mint-tea. Milk is used primarily for breakfast cereal and coffee, and rarely drunk straight.
Around the year, certain holiday foods become prevalent. I don't know the Muslim or Christian ones, but the Jewish ones include fried dough-nuts near Hanukkah, matza-based products near Passover, milk products two months later for Shavuot, and honey products around Rosh Hashana (for a sweet year).
And in Israel, they say "B'teyavon", which means "to your taste". I find that they usually say it just as I am about to take a bite, which causes me to spit most of my food across the table, but I'm sure it's an accident.
Press coverage of the reality TV show "Celebrity Big Brother" is going around the world at the moment.
In it, a contestant from India (a famous actress) is being systematically racially abused by several of the other contestants, most notably "Jade Goody", a previous contestant. I don't want to replicate the astonishingly vile things that she's said here.
The regulator for television, OFCOM, has received over 20,000 complaints in the last few days. The channel broadcasting this refuses to do anything; in fact, they are having it good so far, as viewing figures for the programme are up by 60 percent this week.
The main thing is ... not all residents of the UK are like Jade. She is of low intelligence, speaks whatever comes into her mind, has no tact, avoids honest work but still desires wealth via whatever route, and has no moral, social or ethical awareness or skills. In the UK, these people are collectively known as "chavs".
Thankfully they form a minority, an unwelcome one at that; they are one of the reasons why there has been a surge, in recent years, of people emigrating to better countries.
So if you see news reports of this programme, featuring a foul-mouthed young woman who is shouting racial abuse - that's her. Not most of us.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Yet again, it has failed to snow here on Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. Some of the hills on the distant Scottish mountains have a light smattering of snow, as do some of the taller hills on the nearer island of Harris. But here? Nothing. And it is already the second half of January. My friends in Norway tell me there has been little snow this winter and there is concern; perhaps news of global warming is correct.
The weather instead has chosen to be mostly warmer, but also constantly wet and windy. It isn't just here; further down south and across England, there have been several weeks of storm after storm. It affects these parts especially, as the fishermen cannot get out of harbour; some fish workers in Stornoway have lost their jobs due to the lack of incoming fish to be processed of late. So, not so many scenes of late like the pictured one, which is of a fishing boat entering Berneray harbour.
Today 17th of January is the memorial day of "The South Hyogo prefecture Earthquake in 1995".
The damage of that giant earthquake was...
- 6,436 dead
- 3 missing
- 43,792 injured
- 104,906 houses complete collapsed
- 144,274 houses half collapsed
- 6,148 houses complete burned
- The amount of damage totaled more than 10 trillion yen.
Big ceremony was held in Kobe today.Deceased family members got together and prayed for the souls of dead.
You may know TSUNAMI is a Japanese word.
Japanese are familiar with small earthquakes in daily life.
But many foreigners living in Japan may be frightened that they experience many earthquakes.
Authority says that the probability of the happening big earthquake around Tokai area (including Tokyo) in coming 30 years is more than 50%.
Government hastens to build or strengthen the houses with more strict architectural standard.
World market sees that one of the big country risk of Japan is earthquake.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
This is the time of the year when both local and international tourism flourishes in this part of the world and Mar del Plata is one of the premiere resorts.
Apart from the beach Mar del Plata holds a very peculiar attractive feature: It is said that no other city in the world hosts so many theatre shows. Every evening Mar del Plata guests have a wide range of shows to choose from: Comedies, Concerts, Music Shows - the whole artistic world (actors, singers, bands,etc) moves to this city for about 3 months and are part of the "BIG CAST" that keeps the city live at night.
At this season Mar del Plata is certainly one of those places that never sleeps.
A few days ago I found a baby pigeon whose wings were not yet strong enough for her to fly. Worried that she could get crushed by traffic, I brought her home where she is doing well and becoming quite domesticated!
I've always observed pigeons (finding them to be cute birds), but now that I have one in my care, I notice them even more. Inevitably, in every coutry I've visited, I've seen these birds - and they look the same (to me anyway) the world over. Here in Trinidad we just refer to them as 'pigeons'. I've never heard them called by any other name. Yet I know (because they are seen as scavengers) in other countries they are regarded as pests and called names like "Sky rats". What name do you have for them in your country?
Monday, January 15, 2007
For today's snack, I had Sumang Magkayakap, a popular Filipino delicacy made of sweet sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves. Magkayakap, when translated means embrace. The suman are wrapped in separate banana leaves and tied together, resembling a tight embrace. The secret to a delicious suman is its special brown sauce made of sugar and coconut milk.
Next week, the World Economic Forum will be descending upon the small alpine resort of Davos again, bringing with it a cavalcade of world leaders from government and the economy plus their sundry sidekicks. So, don't be surprised if you cannot get access to your boss' boss during the next few days - if she happens to be really important, chances are that she'll be in Switzerland, pretending to discuss the world's fate. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to spending a few sunny days in Athens, Greece, starting tomorrow.
BOOM BOOM BOOM BO BOOM BO BO BO BOOM!
The Ati-Atihan festival is marked by the ceaseless, rhythmic pounding of drums and the loud chanting of words like "HALA BIRA!" It is held every January in the town of Kalibo in the province of Aklan on the island of Panay. Participants of the Ati-Atihan paint their faces with black soot and wear bright, odd costumes as they dance in the streets. It is a feast honoring the Santo Niño (Child Jesus) which is celebrated on the second Sunday after Epiphany. It is a special day with processions, parades, dancing, and merrymaking.
Kathmandu sees many foreign language films festivals in Kathmandu, not just Bollywood and Hollywood flicks.
One after another, it's now time for British Film Festival in Kathmandu. The sixth edition of the yearly event was inaugurated by the British Ambassador Andrew Hall yesterday evening in Gopi Krishna Cinema Hall. Over the past several years, we have seen many language-based film festivals that are organized either by the foreign embassies in Kathmandu or non governmental organizations that have gotten some kind of assistance from those missions. Those festivals are primarily targeted to the learners of the related language. "Our main target audiences are young learners, students and young professionals along with a wide range of senior officials," states a press release issued by the British Council, the organizer of the British film festival in Nepal. The festival will go to Pokhara at the end of this month.
I was talking about the waves of foreign film festivals in Nepal. I recently attended French film festival and, before that, Spanish film festival. Kathmandu also sees Chinese film festival. The market here in Nepal is overwhelmingly dominated by Bollywood (Hindi) and Hollywood films. Films from these two groups are so much popular that people stand in queue to get tickets for the shows. With that craze in background, some people might think Nepal doesn't see Indian film festival and American film festival. That would be wrong. Even Indian embassy and American mission do organize Indian film festival and American Film festival. We can see alternate films from those big industries. Indian embassy organized a traveling film festival last year, I think, screening old films while American Center organized a month-long screening of many rarely heard American films several months ago in Kathmandu. Theaters in Kathmandu.
These festivals are definitely useful for the young crowd in Kathmandu who will get opportunity to explore into different cinematic worlds that are not available in mainstream film market in Nepal. For instance, I couldn't have seen a film like Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noël) in any theater in Kathmandu if there was no British film festival organized. I enjoyed the oscar nominated anti-war moive on the inauguration day of the festival yesterday as I was there to report the event. The British Council press release further states, "We feel that film festival is an extremely effective way of enabling large numbers of predominantly young, educated people to widen their views of the world and, in this case, provide them with vivid impressions of modern Britain."
If anyone is reading this and is interested in attending the festival (which is free of cost), feel free to visit the Council reception in Lainchaur to collect the ticket. Because I am a reporter, I already got a few from the Council.
Note: The blogger is a Nepali journalist who started first blogging site (United We Blog!) in Nepal. His personal blog site is Wagle Street Journal.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
There is still snow outside and the streets can be icy. This means the Carriage Tour companies aren't working because of the danger to the horses. I miss seeing the horses and hearing the 'clop clop' of their hooves hitting pavement as they pass by my home.
I posted a series of photos of the carriage horses at my photoblog.
In these months when many countries have their winter, we Belizeans have lots of wet weather! Because of winter up in the USA, Belize gets a lot of cold fronts, many of which are wet cold fronts. It never gets that cold here which is a great thing for us. The lowest would be somewhere aroun 60 degrees way up in the hills.
However, we do get a lot of rainy weather from time to time. As for today, it has been a rainy day. Burst of showers throughout the day. Not that good for all the tourists that come to our island to enjoy the sun and the sea.
Belize is known for having the second largest barrier reef in the world! Here is an underwater picture taken:
And to close off, I just want to say thanks to those who commented on my first post. It is nice to get feedback from my posts. So yes, it is a beautiful place to live, not at all the worst place in the world. I do take it for granted from time to time, but I guess that is inevitable. And as far as the question about the population, it is approximately 287,730, which is a July 2006 estimate.