Tuesday, October 31, 2006

South African mourning

Today, Pieter W. Botha, 90, passed away. Former president of South Africa (from 1984 to 1989), he used seggregation policies during his rules. However, the apartheid regulations were somehow loosened during his rule.
Botha was a controversial president. He led South Africa to isolate from the rest of the countries, and he represent one of the last icons of the apartheid in such country.
A hero? A tyrant?. I am not the right person to consider any of those; first because I am not South African; and secondly, because I don't remember the world as it was during his rule. So, now it takes effect: "History shall judge him".
May he rest in peace.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bad news, directly from Africa

The recent crash of an airplane in Nigeria, killing lots of people, is not the only bad news coming from Africa lately.
An article published today in The Globe and Mail (click here to read it) mentions the rise of a new kind of tuberculosis (TB), highly resistant to the drugs and antibiotics administered today to TB patients (which, by the way, are quite the same that were given to people a century ago). This disease, also referred to as XDR-TB, was diagnosed to more than 50 persons in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. According to reports, all of them but one died within a month.
A new drug is being reportedly developed, which will help fight this kind (and even more) of TB; however, the organization working on it (Doctors Without Borders) needs more funds and support to be successful on this project.
Would you like to help? Visit their web page to find more information about it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

"What's growing up in my garden?"

That's the question that popped in my mind when I walked outside my door last Thursday morning and noticed that three big white tubes (to give you an idea, the biggest was about 10 cm high, and the shortest, 4 cm) appeared suddenly in the lawn. They looked naughty.
I didn't give a lot of importance to the little tubes during the day, until I came back to my house and saw them once again. They looked exactly the same as they were that morning, but still, they were an enigma to me.
By then, many hypotheses started to arise in my head: "Are those some kind of cocoons? Or maybe somebody just planted those things there and they aren't even real? What possibilities are there that it is actually a spider-nest? (Because, by the way, I have nightmares with spiders)".
I could have made thousand of theories, all false perhaps. The only truth I knew is that they were something that I never saw before, and therefore, I wouldn't even touch them and I'd only wait and see what happens.
The next day (Friday, this means, today), I went out very early to the garden to see what happened with the mysterious tubes. Unfortunately, it was quite dark, but I noticed that something happened to them. They didn't look the same than the last day. However, I decided that it'd be better to examine them as soon as I'd be back from the things I was supposed to do. And I did so, slightly afternoon, I was back to discover one of the most amazing things I've ever seen: the tubes became mushrooms! and big ones! I wonder how can mushrooms grow up so fast: On tuesday night, there was nothing in the garden... by thursday, those big tubes appeared, and by friday, they were fully grown mushrooms.
What kind of mushroom are those that I found outside? After doing some research, I found out that their scientific name is Coprinus Comatus, but they're commonly referred as "Shaggy Inkcap" (its actual picture is on the right), a sort of fungus that commonly grow in lawns especially during the summer and fall, and which are found across North America (hum, now it makes sense!); some of these mushrooms have been found reportedly in Australia and New Zealand recently. They are indeed edible when they're in their youngest stages, but not when they start leaking the black ink from its cap (hence the name, ink cap).
However, although I found some information about them, I still can't explain to myself how did those mushrooms appeared precisely in my garden. But it was amazing to see them grow there: it's the first time that I see an organism grow so fast until maturity! And best of all: They aren't poisonous.
So, if you find some strange white tubes in your garden any of these days (especially if you live in North America), keep an eye on them: they could be Shaggy Inkcaps as well!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Historic Buffalo Sabres!

The Buffalo Sabres won their match against the New York Islanders in the NHL today. But winning to the Islanders is not historical, what is really historical is that today, the Sabres became the only team, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993-1994, to start their season with a 10-0-0 record. For a follower of this team (such as myself), this is really exciting.
What's next? Well, the Sabres can either beat the Thrashers in their upcoming game (who, by the way, are also playing good) to be the only team in history to start a a season with an 11-0-0 record, or... something else.
However, I'll tell you that the Sabres are having a hell of a season. It's really exciting to follow this team's games. And by the way: Forget if I said something regarding their new logo. It's ugly, but what the heck? The team is working well, and that is what hockey is all about.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The limit between honesty and stupidity...

If stupidity was a crime, I'd imprison this guy for the rest of his life.
Back in April 2006, a man named Michael Simonson, 51, was arrested when trying to cross from the U.S. to Canada after he claimed in the Canadian customs that the purpose of his visit to Canada was to "engage in sexual activities with a 15 year old girl" from British Columbia, with whom he began an internet-based relationship by sending emails, chatting and sending other files.
This individual was arrested, and in his luggage, the authorities discovered that Simonson was carrying condoms, Viagra tablets, a digital camera, and other odd goods. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, the police found the (equally stupid) 15 year old girl who was waiting for the arrival of this man at the Bus Station, who actually explain the authorities that she was expecting to have a sexual encounter with the middle-aged man.
Today, Simonson was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment according to the U.S. laws, charged with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity and enticement of a minor.
Just as a friend of mine said, "the guy is not only a pervert, but he's an idiot as well!". Yes, he is. And one of the most severe cases I remeber to have seen, by the way.

For more details about this case, click here to read the article posted in The Globe and Mail.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

City improvements?

It seems that Venice, Italy, is a city in which the roads are becoming wider, and the local city hall has not invested a penny in that (what a deal!). Also, this expansion is not precisely because of the great affluence of boat traffic that runs through them: it is just because the water levels in the city are increasing, invading now even the "sidewalks", public squares, and other pedestrian routes.
It also looks like a great opportunity for clothing designers and brands: Wearing big, black, rubber boots is the latest fashion in this European City. People who wish to spend some time in restaurants, squares, or other outdoor activities should better wear special clothing; otherwise they could face a serious risk of getting a cold. So, should we expect to see water resistant articles being sold in the most exclusive boutiques worldwide? You never know.
Poor city of Venice... we all knew that it was sinking, but nobody expected that to happen so fast!

Photo by Reuters

Monday, October 23, 2006

Soccer in Argentina: A sport, or... ?

I've always wondered why is soccer so important for people in Argentina. I must say that it is indeed a good sport and some of the matches use to be exciting, however these adjectives just fall short in Argentina, where people think of soccer as an important (and, I'd dare to say, even essential) part of life.
This fanaticism is noted when you are able to read in newspapers around the world that fans from opposite teams in Argentina cause riots inside and outside the stadium, only to show their "support" to their team. It is not rare that, in some occasions, those riots have injured or even dead people as consequence. Could it be any worse?
Well, yes. I'm afraid to say that, although this behaviour seems to be the lowest possible, there are even more ridiculous things to criticize. Or, at least, there is one: The way they worship Diego Armando Maradona, a good player during the decade of the 1980's and half of the 1990's.
Believe me, it's not normal to think of a player the way the Argentinian fans (commonly known as hinchas) do. It's not normal to see a soccer player as a god, as many of them do. As a proof of that, consider this: some people in Argentina founded an institution named the "Maradonian Church". Who could believe that the case is so sad, that some hinchas come to the extreme of showing posters like the one in the picture below?

The text beside Maradona's face reads: "Thanks, god, for being Argentinian". And the guy holding the poster looks so proud of showing this message!!!

I summarize my thoughts about this phenomenon in two words: Simply pathetic.

Cheers, guys.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A tale of a King shooting on drunk bears

Once upon a time, there was a King named Juan Carlos who ruled in a country named Spain, who travelled to Russia to hunt drunk bears.
To be honest, I wish this was only a tale. But it seems that this situation goes beyond that, this is both sad and shameful.
According to a report that appeared today in the Victoria News Daily today, there is a scandal in Russia right now that involves the King of Spain as well, as supposedly, this individual travelled recently to the Russian region of Vologda to hunt bears. In order to make it "easier" for him, the hunt organizers provided him a captive bear named Mitrofan. And, just in case that Juan Carlos wouldn't find it easy enough that way, they also decided to feed the animal with vodka drenched honey, to diminish the possibilities that the Spanish monarch would fail his shot to kill the bear.
Truth? Fiction? I don't know. The Russian authorities have already begun an investigation to find out. However, what I can tell is that I wouldn't find really strange that, an individual that, among other things, uses to organize an annual sailing boats race in which, strangely, he wins year by year, and who also likes to show his sympathy for the most tyrannical heads of state around the world, would also love to hunt captive, drunk animals. I just can't understand how people with so little moral values can demand from other to respect them and to recognize them as rulers or personalities of countries (in this case, Spain).
If you're really keeping this type of habits, shame on you, Juan Carlos.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tow away or give away, you choose!

Can you imagine what could happen if you brought the original invoice (the one you got when you bought your car) inside your vehicle, in a city where the car theft is a serious security problem? It's like giving the thief your consent to him to sell the car legally after he stole it, only by making some minor modifications to the serial number in the car and the invoice as well, and by changing the owner's name, which is a free and easy step in many countries.
Unfortunately for the people living in Mexico City, this is their case. The amount of cars stolen per day in that place raises frequently, and it looks like the local authorities, instead of giving a hand to their decent citizens, are trying to ease the thieves' "work".
A new regulation issued by the City Hall states that, in order to avoid the car being towed away from a restricted place to park when the driver (or any other passenger) is sitting still inside the vehicle (which, by the way, is very frequent in Mexico), the person should show the original invoice of the car; which has to be stored inside it. Otherwise, the owner will have to pay an additional $150 pesos fine (about $13.50 US dollars) when he or she recovers the car from the yard.
Weird, isn't it? So what would you prefer to have? your car towed away, or given away!!!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

That ain't enough, Mr. Ignatieff

Michael Ignatieff is the strongest candidate to occupy the leadership of the Liberal Party in Canada. In recent days, he pronounced himself against the "war crimes" committed by Israeli forces during the war in Lebanon that took place this summer.Stephen Harper, as a clever Prime Minister, immediately banned such comments, qualifying them as "anti-Israeli"; however, Mr. Ignatieff refused to apologize for this comments and he even claimed that he said such affirmations based on reports made by international organisms, such as Amnesty International.
And now, to show his "sympathy" and "neutrality" towards Israel, Michael Ignatieff announced that he'll take part in a visit to Israel next month, in which a visit to the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is also scheduled, "to listen to their point of view".
C'mon, Mr. Ignatieff!! We all know that you're traveling only to gain supporters for your campaign, as you have constantly showed your lack of sympathy for the State of Israel (which hurts many of your potential supporters, by the way). You should learn some international diplomacy from Mr. Stephen Harper, who has led Canada (which, I'd like to remember to you, is a multicultural country) to a tolerance environment.
I hope that the rest of the candidates to lead the Liberal Party are more aware of this situation.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Yankee mourning

This was a bad season for the New York Yankees; and not only because they failed to make it to the playoffs. In an airplane accident that reminded lots of people about the 9/11, Cory Lidle, a pitcher for such team, died yesterday.
According to some newspapers, the causes of the accident in which Lidle crashed his small Cirrus SR20 airplane against a luxury apartment building in Manhattan have not been determined yet; however, the sad part of this that a young sportsman died (and I wonder if there were any inhabitants of the apartment in which the aircraft crashed - hopefully not).
Lidle spoke many times to the media about his interest in flying, and the joy he had while flying his plane. So this was, along with baseball, his passion.
The Yankees, the MLB and the whole sports world are mourning this tragedy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It rains over wet soil: Nuclear bombs and rotten carrots


Tough news just keep arising from every single corner of the world. And if the "successful" nuclear tests performed by North Korea yesterday weren't enough, here in our beloved western hemisphere of the globe, we're experiencing some fear about what's going on in North Korea, and about what we drink.
"And about what we drink?", I wrote? Sadly, yes. There are some bad news coming from Toronto lately through Reuters*, which mention that two persons are hospitalized and paralized after drinking carrot juices coming from the United States, affected by the toxin that causes botulism. In fact, an alert was issued by the FDA in such country after the first case of botulism for drinking carrot juice was confirmed.
However, although the federal authorities in Canada issued the warning all across the country, the first two cases appeared. According to the authorities, there haven't been reported any other cases outside Toronto; nonetheless, please keep in mind to AVOID BUYING ANY BOTTLED CARROT JUICE IF ITS ORIGIN IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Botulism is a VERY SERIOUS disease that may cause several irreversible health problems, and in the most severe cases, it can lead to the patient's death.
Be aware of the alerts and warning issued by the authorities regarding this public health concern.
*Click here to read the original note by Reuters

Monday, October 09, 2006

While driving your car, what are you thinking of?

It's widely known that using the cell phone, making up, drinking beverages, and smoking are distracting factors that could negatively affect the performance of a driver, and which exponentially increase the possibility of having a collision. But what about the drivers who don't seem distracted while driving? Are they really safe?
Last friday, a small note appeared in the Victoria News Daily paper, which claimed that approximately 75% of the people who drive usually think of other things rather than concentrating themselves in driving safely (this means, paying full attention to the traffic signals and the activity patterns showed by surrounding cars).
Do you feel identified with this behaviour? There's more, check these facts: Most of those drivers comprised in the 75% claimed that they usually think "about sex" when driving (the note isn't explicit enough to tell what do they mean by that; however, I find it weird), whereas a smaller portion admitted to use to think about work and job-related stuff.
Obviously, although the facts sound funny, they definitely aren't. These issues represent a great risk of having an accident with serious consequences for the individual himself (or herself) and for third parties.
So next time you drive your car, forget about work or sex, and concentrate yourself in what you're doing!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

New flag, same country...

This week, the Kingdom of Lesotho decided to change their National Flag. Please say goodbye to the former flag:

And welcome the new one, which looks like this:

I guess it's time to update our almanacs. Which one do you like most? I think that the new design is way much serious and visually friendly than the other one.

Cheers to the people from Lesotho!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Safeway + Woolworths = Safeway?

While talking to a friend that visited Australia recently, I found out that there was a chain of supermarkets named Safeway in that country. "Safeway... Safeway... sounds familiar to me", I thought.
And yes! How wouldn't it sound familiar to me if it's the store where I buy all my groceries each week here in Canada? How great that they, apart from the stores open all across the US and Canada (which look somehow like the one on the left), have stores in Ausralia as well!
Sorry to tell, that's not the case. Or at least, it's not right now. Safeway stores in Australia were part of the US based company, but some years ago, the subsidiary company was sold to an Australian retailer named Woolworths (hmmmm... where have I heard some similar name before??).
Since then, the Safeway stores in Autralia changed their logo and they're slogan. They look like the store in the picture on the right, which is a model inspired in the Woolworths' design. The strange part of all this, is that Safeway in Australia only keeps its original name in the province of Victoria (the rest of the Safeways across Australia were renamed Woolworths). How come they're allowed to use the same name than the American company? Doesn't that infringe the trademarks rights? (Please note that, by writing down these statements, I DO NOT try to imply that Safeway in Australia, or its parent company Woolworths, are actually breaking any laws), I'm only curious to know how is this agreement (if any) actually working.
Do you know something about this strange case? Please share your knowledge through a message! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rusia and Georgia, the hostile relatives

Well, who could deny the historically close relationship that has existed between Georgia and Russia? Let's not forget that, while the USSR existed, Georgia and Russia were fully integrated to such union, and even one of the most (sadly) remembered Soviet leaders, Joseph Stalin, was born in Georgia.
But what could lead two of the more long lasting allies to fight between them, until the point that they break all kind of diplomatic relations and communications? The answer is easy: Four spies.
To be honest, the relations between both nations have been quite bad since 2003, times since the Georgian goverment has blamed Russia of interfering on their western relations. And now, the situation is serious.
During the last days of the past month, four members of the Russian Intelligence were arrested in Georgia, along with other ten Georgian citizens, accused of espionage.
This act caused the anger of Russian authorities, who brought the case to the members of the UN Security Council, demanding a hard condemnation of the Georgian acts.
And now, while an official resolution is formulated at the UN headquarters, both countries decided to cut off any kind of communication to each other.
What would be the next step? For them, to try to get a peaceful solution for their conflict, and for us, to hope not to have another regional war towards the end of this year.
Comments? Please post your messages.