Wednesday, November 26, 2014

dogs are awesome

After a stray dog in Ecuador met a team of Swedish adventure athletes, he grew so attached to the squad that he ran for miles and swam along to keep up with them. Now Arthur the dog is world-famous — and it all started with a meatball.

Sweden's Peak Performance team was in Ecuador this month to compete in the Adventure Racing World Championship, in which athletes hike, kayak, and bike during a 430-mile endurance race through the Amazonian rain forest. It's the kind of race where athletes try to keep moving day and night (see an example).
Just before starting one stage, the team's Mikael Lindnord made friends with a dog, sharing a meatball with him. Lindnord thought that would be the end of it — but then the dog followed him, and essentially forced his way onto the team.
The team says that after six days, they "crossed the finish line with 5 members instead of 4 as the 12th top team in the world."
After some uncertainty, Lindnord managed to work out a way to bring his new best friend back to live with his family in Sweden: He and his teammates opened a Paypal account and mounted a Twitter campaign to raise money to bring Arthur home. They've also had him treated for a nasty wound to his back that he had suffered months before they met in him the rainforest. npr

Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai: New centre of the sporting world?

Where once, sport looked west for investment and inspiration, now it looks east.
The oil-rich billionaires of the Gulf have planted a flag at the heart of the sporting landscape in recent years. They have invested their inconceivable wealth across an array of sports into all corners of the world and now they are using their influence to bring sport to the region, as a global statement of their ambition.

Dubai has one billionaire per 200,000 people

Three Gulf states are at the heart of this extraordinary revolution: Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Dubai alone, you will find one billionaire in every 200,000 people.
In Abu Dhabi, a rival state in the United Arab Emirates, the figures are just as extraordinary. It is in the process of building the jaw-droppingLouvre Abu Dhabi,  having paid the world-famous Paris museum more than £400m just to use the name. While in Qatar, more than 14% of households have at least £1m of private wealth in the bank.
And it is that wealth, that influence, which has lured sport to the Gulf.
Take last week, for instance. On Monday, the row over Qatar's right to stage the 2022 World Cup rumbled on. On Tuesday, Doha in Qatar won the right to host the 2019 World Athletics Championships. From Thursday to Sunday, Rory McIlroy duelled with Henrik Stenson at theEuropean Tour's season-ending showpiece in Dubai.

Emirates Airways spent £172m on sponsors

Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and the rest of the Formula 1 circus were in Abu Dhabi from Thursday before contesting the final Grand Prix of the season on Sunday at the ostentatious Yas Marina Circuit, built at a cost of about £900m ($1.5bn).
The region is fast becoming a sporting hub like no other. Qatar, for example, will host world championships in boxing, swimming, squash, handball and para-athletics in the next 12 months as well as staging almost 40 other sporting events. bbc

Who are the families behind the wealth?

Abu Dhabi is ruled by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. His half brother, Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan (better known as Sheikh Mansour) is the man who bought Manchester City in 2008.
The family have ruled the emirate since the 18th century and pride themselves on 'respect for heritage, culture, tradition.'
The ruling family are complex with Sheikh Mansour one of 19 sons born to Abu Dhabi's long-term ruler Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His mother, one of six wives, had six sons, making her part of this vast family the most influential.
In terms of wealth? It is almost limitless. It is estimated that the family have as much as $1tn in overseas assets alone. Their investment in City represents loose change, in relative terms, even if they have pumped in excess of £1bn into the club since 2008.
Their football interests extend elsewhere, however. A company owned by Sheikh Mansour has recently agreed to fund the redevelopment of Real Madrid's iconic Santiago Bernabeu stadium  to the tune of £312m.
The work will include the creation of a hotel and shopping centre. But perhaps it is their move to expand into the United States that is more interesting.
In 2013, Major League Soccer and the iconic New York Yankees announced a pioneering deal to create an MLS franchise in New York in time for the start of the 2015-16 season - New York City FC was born. 
It is a development that could give Abu Dhabi a footing and profile in the United States that was previously unimaginable. A few months later, it was announced Sheikh Mansour and Manchester City added Australian side Melbourne Heart.
"You could look at things like the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Abu Dhabi golf championships and the investment in Manchester City as some of their most prominent global marketing assets," said Ben Faber, senior director at Fast Track Middle East, the company tasked with delivering City's fan loyalty programmes.

Roger Federer and Andre Agassi played tennis on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai in 2005

Lewis Hamilton claimed his second world title after victory at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The American Origins Of The Not-So-Traditional Celtic Knot Tattoo

What is the most cliched tattoo you can think of? Chinese characters? A tribal armband?

How about a Celtic knot? Those interlocking lines that look like ropes or basket weaving.

Last week I was in Ireland and decided to investigate the roots of this trend.

I spoke with Kevin McNamara at the Dublin Ink tattoo parlor.

"It would be a weird week in the shop if I didn't do at least, like 40," he told me. "That's not a literal number, but yeah, it's nuts."

Without Celtic knots and shamrocks, McNamara said, he would never have learned how to tattoo.

"The first couple months, or first couple years, that was how I made my money," he said.

Now, the Celtic knot is his retirement fund.

He said he can spot Celtic knot customers the minute they walk in the door: young, earnest and almost always American. Other telltale signs: the style of jeans they wear, fanny packs, baseball caps.

"And also they let you know that they're American, you know?" he said. "You don't have to worry about that."

The image of the Celtic knot is thousands of years old. It's carved into ancient stones all over Ireland. But it turns out the Celtic knot tattoo is a bit like the Chinese fortune cookie: American born and bred.

There's actually no evidence of Celtic tattooing, according to Anna Felicity Friedman, a tattoo historian who runs a blog called TattooHistorian. In fact, while people in other parts of the world have been tattooing themselves for thousands of years, the practice only came to Ireland in the last century.

The Celtic knot tattoo seems to have started on the American West Coast in the 1970s and '80s, part of a trend in tattooing called blackwork: big, black geometric designs — much bolder than the old-school mermaid or cobra.

"Blackwork is sort of the more PC term for what used to be called tribal tattoos," Friedman says.

Some of the early designs came from Native American or Aboriginal patterns. The style took off.

Tattoos that mark heritage have always been popular, says Friedman. Combine the trend in blackwork with a desire to mark European heritage, and you have the Celtic knot, which spread across the U.S. and over the ocean to Europe.

It was sort of the "lite rock" radio station of tattoos: pretty, bland and inoffensive. It could work for women or men. It didn't have biker or sailor connotations. And it implied heritage and history.

At Dublin Ink, Irishman Greg Donne is getting a geometric pattern on his right shoulder. On his left shoulder, an intricate Celtic knot has begun to fade.

"Ah, it was the very first one I got. You know, when you're just getting a tattoo and you don't know what to think," he said.

He was 19, he explained with a shrug.

Tattoo artist McNamara has a lot of ink on his body.

So does tattoo historian Friedman.

But their personal tattoo collections do not include a Celtic knot. npr

Hookah smokers are inhaling benzene

High levels of benzene, a chemical in crude oil and gasoline, are present in hookah smokers and nonsmokers after they attend social events where the water pipes are used, a new report says.
Benzene exposure is a known risk factor for leukemia. Since there are no safe levels of benzene exposure, interventions to prevent or reduce hookah smoking or regulate the tobacco products are needed, say the authors.
“Hookah smoking involves tobacco which is simply hazardous to the health of those who smoke it, and those who socialize or live with them,” Nada Kassem, who led the study, told Reuters Health in an email.
Burning charcoal is needed to heat the hookah tobacco to generate the smoke, said Kassem, who is the associate director at the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health at San Diego State University.
“In addition to inhaling toxicants and carcinogens found in the hookah tobacco smoke, hookah smokers, and non-smokers who socialize with them, also inhale large quantities of charcoal combustion-generated toxic and carcinogenic emissions,” she said, adding that benzene is present in both tobacco smoke and the burnt charcoal emissions. msn

Monday, November 17, 2014

atlantic bay scallops

dodo bird

Plate V in: Hugh Edwin Strickland, The Dodo And Its Kindred, Or The History, Affinities, And Osteology Of The Dodo, Solitaire, And Other Extinct Birds Of The Islands Mauritius, Rodriguez, and Bourbon. London: Reeve, 1848.

astronaut and lunar lander 1966

Astronaut and lunar lander, 1966, illustrated by John Polgreen.

comet of 1882

The comet of 1882, as seen from Streatham, Endgland on November 4, illustrated by T.E. Key.

cuzco and pisac, peru

machu picchu, peru

the town below machu picchu


inca bridge



alpaca party

Monday, November 10, 2014

Solar Bike Path Opens This Week In The Netherlands

A Dutch project that integrates solar panels into a bike commuter path will officially open this week, on a special roadway outside Amsterdam. Power generated by the SolaRoad's panels will be funneled into the national energy grid.
The project in the town of Krommenie is being called the world's first public road that includes embedded solar cells. The crystalline silicon solar cells are encased in two layers of tempered safety glass, mounted in a concrete housing.
The equipment is part of pre-built concrete slabs that SolaRoad says have been refined in years of testing. The company says it's been a challenge to produce energy-producing slabs that are both durable and rideable by thousands of cyclists a day.
"It has to be translucent for sunlight and repel dirt as much as possible," the company says. "At the same time, the top layer must be skid resistant and strong enough in order to realize a safe road surface."
The section of the path that's opening this week is some 230 feet long. Its creators call it a test of an idea that could someday lead to roads that generate the same power that electric cars use to travel on them. npr

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sex 'emerged in ancient Scottish lake'

Scientists believe they have discovered the origin of copulation.
An international team of researchers says a fish called Microbrachius dicki is the first-known animal to stop reproducing by spawning and instead mate by having sex.
The primitive bony fish, which was about 8cm long, lived in ancient lakes about 385 million years ago in what is now Scotland.
...Prof Long added that the discovery was made as he was looking through a box of ancient fish fossils.
He noticed that one of the M. dicki specimens had an odd L-shaped appendage. Further investigation revealed that this was the male fish's genitals.
"The male has large bony claspers. These are the grooves that they use to transfer sperm into the female," explained Prof Long. bbc

republican take over for the 2014 midterm elections

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

coastal flooding by tropical cyclones and sea-level rise

Jonathan Woodruff, Jennifer Irish, and Suzana Camargo
Nature; Vol 504; December 5, 2013

…the Western North Pacific has been the most prolific tropical cyclone basin over the instrumental record, both in terms of the overall number of tropical cyclones (30% of global activity) and peak tropical cyclone wind intensities (Fig. 1). However, in recent decades this basin accounted for neither the majority of economic nor human losses from tropical cyclones. These records have been held by two of the least active tropical cyclone basins, the North Atlantic (10% of global tropical cyclone activity) and North Indian Ocean (5% of global tropical cyclone activity), respectively. Since 1970, around 65% of all lives lost as a result of tropical cyclones occurred within the North Indian Ocean — equivalent to more than half a million deaths3. Over this same period, more than 60% of all economic losses from tropical cyclones took place in the North Atlantic — amounting to around US$400 billion3.