Sunday, December 31, 2006

New year, how does it feel?

This post is dedicated to all those people who feel sad and melancholic because of the end of 2006, and also for those who feel nervous and insecure because of the beginning of 2007.
Changing our calendars from December 31 to January 1 is for most people a reason to celebrate and, for some who have strong beliefs and superstitions, to perform some sort of rituals to "appeal" good things for the new year (like, for example, wearing red underwear or new clothes).
In rough terms, for people who don't follow any Christian or Catholic faith (religions for which, to be honest, I'm not sure what exactly is the meaning of the new year), the Gregorian or Julian new year that begins each January is nothing more than passing from one day to another. In its very core, it's just like if we were passing from March 31 to April 1 in any year, or from June 4 to 5. So actually, this day is like any other throughout the year. The particularity for this specific date is that we also have a little change in the last digit of the year, which essentially, doesn't affect our way of living.
Still, people who regard the new year in a very spiritual manner (different than the religious one) consider it a time for a "new beginning". Some others take it as an ideal moment to make promises to themselves, like 'This year I promise myself to lose some weight', or 'I promise myself that I'm going to do well in my studies'. I think that it's good to have new beginnings and to undertake new challenges and opportunities always; and my personal belief is that "new beginnings" may be taken every day... whenever you need them, and whenever you want them. There's no need to wait for a specific date to do so.
Another factor that really influences certain individuals in this date is nostalgia. Some people regret the things that they didn't do in the ending year: "Oh, I wish I would have done xxxxxx", and "I regret not having spent some more time with xxxxx" are common thoughts for the last day in the year. For people who think like that, I can tell you that there's no point on being so negative. There's always a tomorrow, and although there's no way to recover time, there's always a new chance to do the things you want. Forget about the date, each day is a new day.
Not amazingly, in some cultures December 31 and January 1 are not special dates in the calendar. Many communities follow own calendars that don't necessarily match the beginning of their year with January 1st. Just to cite some examples, the Jewish Calendar considers that the first day of its year is Tishrei 1. This date normally moves in the Gregorian calendar from year to year, usually taking place sometime between early September and late October. The Islamic calendar observes the first day of the month of Muharram as the beginning of its year. This one, just as the Jewish Calendar, is ruled by the moon, so the beginning of Muharram varies every year compared with the Gregorian calendar. The next beginning of Muharram is going to be during the second half of January 2007. Another example is the Chinese calendar, which observes a lunisolar pattern. For this calendar, the new year begins on the night when the second new moon after the winter solstice occurs. The approximate time in the Gregorian calendar when this occurs is around the second half of January and the first half of February.
Essentially, there's no reason to feel melancholic or nervous about the year that is ending, and the one that is just about to begin. The way I see it, the new year celebration gives people a good excuse to share and spend times with the family and friends, and it constitutes a good engine that keeps economies moving.
So enjoy wisely the day, and happy new year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Glowing pigs

To test genetic modifications in animals is something that I am opposed to, but still there are people out there who claim that such practices are useful. Thus, I want to believe that there exists a boundary between useful and destructive experimentation on animals.

According to a well known newspaper, in the northern Chinese city of Harbin, three pigs were born. The peculiarity of those animals is that their tongues, snouts and hoofs have an unusual fluorescent green color.

Such eccentricity was made possible because of the work of a group of scientists at the Northeastern Agricultural University in the above mentioned city. What they did was to extract certain proteins from medusas, which are able to create bioluminescence. Then, they injected such protein in pig embryos, which developed well formed pigs with fluorescent parts of their bodies that glow in the dark.

What I find more annoying is that these scientists claim that their “success” will encourage further research about the properties and usage of mother cells (can somebody please tell me what’s the link between changing the color to some poor pigs and developing cures from mother cells?). So it looks that they are really satisfied of destroying nature and they even invite some others to join their campaign.

I don’t know exactly what was the purpose of doing that kind of experiment. Is it the way in which those scientists want to celebrate the upcoming Chinese year of the pig?

In my opinion, these types of practices should be banned. To genetically modify an animal’s natural color does not provide any benefits to science, but it does probably harm the creature’s health and life.

I’d say that to genetically modify animals without a real potential benefit of doing it is really sick and disgusting. If experimentation in China will keep going the same way, don’t be surprised if in the future you go to a Chinese restaurant and the color of your food is fluorescent!

Photo by Reuters

Friday, December 29, 2006

Office Depot, indecisive about the origin of its products

A world of curious mistakes...
It looks like globalization is really hitting hard some companies, in the sense that they're being quite inconsistent when deciding the place of origin of certain products... or maybe it's just a funny mistake.
No need of more words to introduce this post, which can explain itself with a simple image of the label of a product that I bought today at a local Office Depot store:
Just in case that the image looks quite blurred in your screen, I'll write down the text on the label:
"Made in China for / Fabriqué aux E.U. pour Office Depot, Inc. 2200 Germantown Road. Delray Beach, FL 33445 Copyright 2004, Office Depot Inc."
In French, the text "Fabriqué aux E.U." literally means "made in the U.S.". So certainly a simple translation of "Made in China" in a brief label is fatally flawed.
Weird, ain't it?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Beware of the dog!

I apologize beforehand with all those individuals who'll feel hurt about my comments in this post, but there are good reasons to expose the following.
Believe me, I like animals. I really do. I consider that they are beings that in many ways contribute to preserve life in our planet. Some animals, like the ones who serve as pets and live in urban areas (frequently dogs), have a direct positive impact in human life too, like guide dogs do.
But there's something that we can't forget about dog pets: They're still animals, and as such, they are more driven by instinct than reason. That means that they don't always react to stimuli in an intelligent way; I would even dare to say that, regardless of how docile they usually are, there's always a latent inherent risk on their behaviour. There are many examples that could be cited to defend such theory, probably the most famous is the case of a French woman called Isabelle Dinoire who underwent a partial face transplant in November 2005 after her own dog mauled her while sleeping.
Other cases have been reported in various parts of the world. Here in Canada, for example, just today appeared a note in The Globe and Mail (one of the most important national newspapers) where it's documented a case of a couple of unattended Rottweilers that attacked a two year old boy in Ontario without an apparent reason (click here if you wish to read the entire note from The Globe and Mail).
Myself, I have been attacked by dogs in the past. I have seen people with serious injuries because of bites of domestic dogs. And not only that, but just today I had a scary situation with a dog. For no reason, some dog (I think a German Shepherd) appeared today in the street where I was walking, it barked at me and was really willing to attack me. I am really lucky to say that I was able to escape the situation without any kind of injuries.
And all because of what? Because of irresponsible people who own dogs at homes and don't lock them or place them in areas where they can't attack people in the streets, or even put them a muzzle for other people's safety. The most common, selfish and ridiculous thing that I always hear from people who own dogs and don't have any consideration for others is "he doesn't bite" or "he doesn't attack people". In the most extreme cases, I've seen dog owners that walk it around without even a leash. That's a popular way of underestimating the dog's innate aggressiveness. But when attacks do happen, it's always the same excuse: "Oh, this is strange... this is the very first time that my dog attacks a person".
Do you own a dog? I'd suggest you to keep it off the reach of other people when you're not able to keep an eye on it. And when you do keep an eye on it, like when walking around the streets with your pet, use a leash to control it (and if your dog is a big and strong one, a muzzle as well). There exist regulations in many places in the world where it's stated that dogs' owners are responsible for any damages or injuries that the animal causes to third parties. So don't be one of those irresponsible owners, and avoid some trouble to yourself and your dog too!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day 2006, Gerald Ford's death and the end of Saddam

Three important things happened today: One of them is the Boxing Day, celebrated across Canada and some other countries in the Commonwealth. Another one is the ratification of Saddam Hussein's condemnation to death. The last one (but not least) is former US President Gerald Ford's death.
As for the Boxing Day, it's not a surprise to see how people massively congregate in shopping centres all across Canada to take advantage of the sales and offers available only during this day- myself being part of the bargain worshipers.
My personal experience this Boxing Day was very deceiving: There were no items that really satisfied my expectations. It is my philosophy, if I can't find anything that I really like, then I don't buy anything. I think that it helped me to save some money today.
However, my philosophy is not precisely shared among the vast majority of people in Canada. In fact, I think that the Boxing Day is a very clever move year by year: It helps to increase largely the sales, which keeps moving the economy. I'm not sure of what impact does the Boxing Day has every year in the Canadian economy, but it'd be interesting to find out (if you have any idea about this, please post a message!!).
I'm sure that Saddam Hussein (right) doesn't really appreciate this Boxing Day as many residents in Canada did. Today, the former Iraqui dictator's sentence to death was confirmed.
Just as I mentioned in a post back in November, I don't think that killing Saddam is a wise idea. Not even close to that. In fact, I believe that his execution will only carry more problems to the region (Click here to read the related post). However, the decision was made by a Court there in Iraq, and according to the Iraqi law, the sentence should be executed in no more than 30 days counting from the day when the appeal trial is officially dismissed.
After all, it looks that South Park's prediction in the movie "South Park: Bigger, longer and uncut" about Saddam's death wasn't right: He will not be killed by some wild boars. But it seems that there's no way for him to avoid the sentence.
Also, this day will be remembered in the future as the day when former US President Gerald Ford (left) passed away, at age 93. The causes of his death have not been confirmed yet. It may be related to the pneumonia that he had been suffering through all this year, or maybe to the heart crises that he suffered twice during 2006. However, this is a very sad news. A country mourns.

Photo by AP

Monday, December 25, 2006

December 25, a curse for communism

A couple of events that have changed the course of history have taken place in a day like today, December 25:
  • In 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu, communist dictator in Romania since 1965, is condemned to death for crimes of genocide and is executed the same day in the city of Targoviste along with his wife, Elena. Such executions marked the end of the communist era in Romania, making it also the only country in the former Soviet bloc that overthrew its regime in a violent way.
  • Exactly two years after Ceausescu's death, and following the unilateral declarations of independence made by Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Latvia, Georgia, Armenia, Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan (which led to an imminent fall of the Soviet regime), Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as the president of the USSR. This event meant the very final episode for the Soviet Union, giving rise to what would be known thereafter as the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the rebirth of many countries as sovereign nations.
This is a world full of coincidences, indeed.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Despite the fact that December is regarded by many people in different countries (most remarkably in the western hemisphere) as the time of the year when peace, friendship and good intentions should reign, there are zones in the world where such feeling is just not shared. One of them is the Horn of Africa.
In what is feared to be the beginning of an imminent war, there have been several clashes in Somalia lately. The government in that country has been seriously weakened in recent years by the spreading of an Islamic militia movement, known as the Islamic Courts Union (or ICU), that has been gradually taking control of the southern part of Somalia including its capital city, Mogadishu.
What exactly is the purpose of the ICU? Some of its members are trying to develop a system based on the Islamic Sharia law as a method to end the high rates of crime recorded in the country, which is regarded by some inhabitants as a necessary step. However, some other members of the militia are aiming to impose in Somalia an Islamic state... pretty much the same idea that took the Taliban movement to power in Afghanistan some years ago.
The Somali government is aware of the ICU's power and intentions, so they were forced to look for some help to fight them: the big neighbor, Ethiopia, considered that the ICU could also represent a menace for them, so they recently decided to take part of the battles in order to backup the Somali government's cause.
Obviously, the UIC militia didn't like the idea of having some foreign support for the Somali government. The intervention of Ethiopian forces has begun a series of battles, mainly in the Somali area known as Baidoa, that could unleash an international conflict that will involve Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea. The lattermost nation has traditionally had a hostile relationship with Ethiopia and is allegedly giving support to the ICU movement.
The situation has been worsening in the last days, and although some international organisms (such as the Arab League) have been actively trying to convince the parties to negotiate, it looks that it won't get any better. It looks like a full-scale attack is imminent.
This is precisely what the world doesn't need right now: a large-scale conflict in a zone of the world where hunger and poverty have nearly devastated the local population. Hasn't Africa had enough suffering in the last centuries? Why would some individuals keep trying to bring instability to the region? Those are indeed questions that need a profound socio-political analysis to be answered.

Photo by AP

Saturday, December 23, 2006

MBA: The international experience

To take a major in business administration anywhere in the world is not an easy task. In order to provide a quality education to the students, universities have to take into account that businesses around the globe are becoming more international and, in fact, in some years time having an international focus to manage organizations and companies will be a must, regardless of the size of the organization or the markets in which it is present. Why? The reason is very simple: Everyday, there are more commercial agreements and communication tools that make it much easier to provide products and services in different markets... and which are able to bring international competitors to our own locations as well.
At Yale university, they think that they're offering a state-of-the-art MBA program that, among other features, includes a mandatory international trip to either Costa Rica, Tanzania or Singapore. The purpose of this trip is to live real international situations that will help students involve more easily and effectively in the role of decision making, but with a more international scope.
About this "revolutionary" method, Joel M. Podolny, dean of Yale's School of Management, says: "We are at the beginning of what over the next five years will be a tremendous change in business education".
Yale is not the only institution that is thinking of implementing such program. According to the same source, other high class universities in the United States, such as Stanford, are realizing the importance of having some international experience to provide students with a complete business education. They can therefore be adopting the same kind of programs in no time.
Guess what? There are universities that have taken a step before the institutions I mentioned before. There are universities in Canada that have been applying international experiences for at least three years; the results haven't been very surprising: Students have stated that such trips have enormously contributed to their formation during the MBA and, among other things, some of them regard that type of activities as necessary in a program of this nature.
So I guess that universities like Yale or Stanford are right when thinking of requiring international experiences in their programs. That's the way the businesses will move worldwide in no time. But those universities shouldn't make quite a thing of revolutionizing the way of teaching an MBA, take into account that it's a Canadian invention!

Thanks to Allen for the information for this post.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The online undercover cop

How amazing is to see that some authorities are really taking seriously the transformation of our everyday life with the incorporation of high tech elements and faster communications. It is not only that police departments across the world are now more effective in storing data from people to make it easier to track and identify criminals, but there are some specific organizations, such as the Hamilton Police Department in Ontario, Canada, that are finding really creative ways to take advantage of the popular services available in the web, to which many users have access, to perform their job more effectively.
It is just that the fore mentioned Police Department succeeded in trapping an alleged murderer with the help of YouTube. The operation was not really complex: the authorities only had to upload a video, that was 72 seconds long. Such video was actually the closed circuit television (CCTV) of a store, in which the suspect appeared.
The crime that they were prosecuting was the murder of a 22 year old person named Ryan Milner. He was stabbed after a hip hop concert that took place in Hamilton. Considering that fact, their reasoning was that potential witnesses of the crime would be people between their late teens and their early twenties, who probably spend a lot of time surfing through the web... and probably, watching videos. Then YouTube would be the ideal channel to spread the images and to see if somebody can recognize the suspect.
Surprisingly, the video was watched around 40,000 times. Some people provided useful information about the suspect to the Police, which led to the eventual capture of the individual that the authorities were looking for.
If you're thinking of looking for the video in YouTube, I'm afraid to say that the Hamilton Police Department decided to remove it from the web, as there is no further need to show it because they already caught the person (named George Gallo, 24) they were looking for.
However, although we're not able to watch the video anymore, it is necessary to make a special recognition to the Hamilton Police Department for their creativity and astuteness to solve that specific crime. Are we witnessing the beginning of a new era in criminal investigation and prosecution? Time will say.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tired of scoring scarcity in hockey games?

Do you follow hockey games? Are you sick of watching games with a low amount of goals?
If that's your situation, it is very likely that some people inside the NHL are feeling exactly the same way.
According to a report that appeared today in the Victoria News Daily, the league is evaluating the option of using larger nets so the amount of goals per game may increase.
Jarome Iginla, currently playing for the Calgary Flames and a member of the NHL's Competition Committee, stated however that this measure would be a last resort. The league is analyzing other options that allow to increase the goals per game without the need of radically changing the rules of the game.
I think that modifying the size of the nets would be a good idea to achieve that purpose, as long as the new measures are not too different from what it is now. Otherwise, we could expect to watch future games with a scoring frequency comparable with modern basketball games. Anyway, if there are other options on the table, it would be good to hear them first, before determining the best solution for scoring scarcity in the NHL. Just as Iginla says, "when you look at other sports, they have made big changes over the years".

Photo by Reuters

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Borneo: A sanctuary of unknown species?

There are people out there, including myself, who are still touched because of the news of the functional extinction of the Baiji in China. It is indeed a loss that represents how destructive can be the human development and how important is to take some care about sustainable ways to keep out civilizations running.
Fortunately, not all have been bad news lately in the field of biology and diversity of species: According to a report that has appeared in many different channels, including Yahoo news, some unknown species (allegedly more than 50) of different types of living creatures, including fish, reptiles and plants, have been discovered in the island of Borneo. These discoveries were carried out during a research that took place between July 2005 and September 2006. This island, shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, is considered to be one of the only remaining natural refuges of endangered and endemic species such as Bornean gibbons, sun bears and long-nosed monkeys.
Among the species discovered, there is a kind of tree frog with bright green eyes, a tiny fish that measures about 0.9 cm (paedocypris micromegethes) and is believed to be one of the smallest vertebrates on Earth, a catfish with big teeth that has the ability to stick its belly to the rocks, several kinds of ginger, and a large-leafed plant.
The scientists involved in the project believe that there is still a considerable amount of species yet to be discovered in the area. This research leads to a simple conclusion: In order to be able to preserve these species' habitat, it is necessary to adopt business strategies that involve a sustainability-oriented mentality. Some of the industries that operate in nearby regions and that could represent a danger for these species are the production of palm-oil, rubber and pulp.

For more information about the discoveries, click the following address or copy and paste it in your browser's address bar:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More news from China: Goodbye, Baiji!

A research carried out in the Yangtze river in China during the last weeks, which came to an end some days ago, suggests that the Yangtze River Dolphin (also known as Chinese River Dolphin or Baiji) is "with all probability" extinct. And the reasons are obvious:
  • Environmental poisoning, caused by the industries that throw their wastage to the river.
  • Boat navigation through the Yangtze, which sometimes causes crashes that pollute even more the water.
  • Overfishing, as since times of the Cultural Revolution some factories to produce bags made out of Baiji skin were established.
  • The construction of dams throughout the course of the river, from which the Three Gorges Dam, expected to be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world when it reaches full operation in 2009, could probably had the most significant impact in the Baiji's environment.
It is remarkable to say that some previous efforts were made to preserve the species in captivity. In a first attempt, some Chinese river dolphins were collected and transported to an aquarium in Wuhan to encourage their reproduction there. All of the captive dolphins found it difficult to adapt themselves to such life and they died shortly after their arrival to the centre. Another effort consisted of a plan to transport the remaining dolphins (as of June 2006) to the Tian-e-Zhou lake, not too far away from the Yiangtze. However, the lack of funds and time to perform this project made it impossible to save the Baiji that way as well.
But not all the environmental problems in the Yangtze find an end with the extinction of the Baiji. It is suspected that several other species living in such river, like the Chinese Paddlefish, could face the same fate in a short run because of the operation of the Three Gorges Dam, the excessive fishing, and the rapidly worsening quality of the water.
This recent extinction demonstrates once again how unsustainable is being the development of the world. A species that lived for perhaps 20 million years was just exterminated by humans in much less than that. What's next? Some "greener" measures have to be applied, and quick. Is it that the Natural Step will be the philosophy of the future? Any clue on this?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Human rights in China: Are they for real?

There is no doubt that China is gradually emerging as a country fully integrated to the global community: Its economy is booming, the political system is encouraging the development of a strong private sector, and freedom of speech is getting stronger. However, from time to time, there are some news coming from such country that make me think that something is still missing to reach the level of prosperity they're targeting.
Perhaps that "something" is located in the field of human rights. China is not only the country that records the highest amount of capital executions in the world year by year, but also it is noticeable that the violation of the most essential rights of people is a real concern that some non governmental organizations and nations have expressed.
A good example of these violations claimed by many occured a few days ago in the city of Shenzhen, located in the southern province of Guangdong, where the local authorities decided to apply an exemplary punishment to sex workers and some pimps who operated in the city (where, by the way, the activity is illegal): They were paraded in public areas, all wearing yellow smocks, handcuffed and gagged. Then, their names were revealed when standing in front of a jeering crowd, and after that, they were taken to prison without having a previous trial.
What the authorities in the city saw as a tactic to overcome a social concern that has been increasing in Shenzhen in recent years, was seen in other parts of China and the world as a clear violation of human rights, that makes remember the punishments applied during the Middle Ages, or even those applied during the Chinese Cultural Revolution a few decades ago. Some people have raised their voices to support the prostitutes' cause and to protest against the violations of human rights, and even, there are allegedly some lawyers that have committed themselves to the task of defending those women's rights.
However, not everybody feels the same way. Some people have cheered the measure, arguing that prostitution in Shenzhen has become a prosperous industry.
Are these methods acceptable or not? I wouldn't take them as acceptable. To sentence somebody to a punishment without even the opportunity of defending themselves before a jury does not fit the socially accepted models for the 21st century. The Chinese authorities should be more careful with these details if they really want to clean their image in the upcoming years.

Photo by AP

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A contemporary Soviet territory: Transnistria

Little is known about the Trans-Dniester Moldovan Republic, often referred to (by those who have heard of it before) as Pridnestrovie or Transnistria. The reason for which it is not known worldwide is very simple: It is not recognized internationally as a sovereign entity.
This territory comprises a tiny strip of land limited by the Dniester river to the west, and the Ukrainian boundary to the east, north and south. The total area of this strip is 4,163 km², and the largest city, Tiraspol, is claimed to be the capital.
Although in 1990 it declared its independence, followed by a series of bloody battles in the region, this unrecognized republic constitutes today an autonomous region in Moldova.
But what makes such place interesting? Regardless of the political disputes that surround it, it seems to be a very well hidden bastion of the Soviet era. The proclaimed flag for this territory resembles a lot the one that waved on the Soviet hoists, as also does the coat of arms; some of the tourist attractions include a Soviet tank in the central square of Tiraspol and a monument of Lenin right in front of the parliament buildings; the communications, mass media, and education system are controlled by the Transnistrian authorities, and yet the government is run by people who were formerly appointed by the USSR to rule the area.
I don't know whether the self proclamation of this territory was to defend some Soviet ideas or only to show the inconformity of people living there with the Moldovan nationalism and its close relationship to Romania; however, the truth is that this de facto republic, submerged in poverty (if it was recognized as an independent republic, it would have the lowest GDP per capita in Europe), corruption, and organized crime, is starting to allow private businesses to operate and grow. So even some of the Soviet traces are gradually vanishing from here. But still, in a referendum celebrated this year (non recognized internationally, and for which there is a dispute on its credibility), there exists a popular will to be recognized as a republic totally independent from Moldova.
Please note that I'm not for or against the recognition of this place as a separate nation, and although I don't share communist or Soviet ideas, it is one of the curiosities of our world, isn't it?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The aquatic Robin Hood

Water scarcity is a serious problem. It gets worse year by year and its effects are particularly notorious in the poorest zones of cities in developing countries.
One of those cities is Mexico City, one of the largest (and, according to some people, the largest) cities in the world. Located in a valley that originally contained a lake, over which the city was built, this city is today home for millions of people. Originally, the water to supply the city was pumped up from the underground lake; however this technique brought as consequence the sinking of the city and with it, serious damages to buildings and roads. The pumping method was discarded and a network of pipelines was built to bring water from rivers outside the jurisdiction of Mexico City. However, the water supply keeps being quite inefficient.
This phenomenon is specially notorious in the east side of the city, in a zone known as Iztapalapa. This is one of the most densily populated districts in Mexico City, and one with the lowest income per capita rate too.
This week, the newly appointed Mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, went to this part of the city to evaluate the lack of water problem for the neighbours, where he stated the following:
"There are people who sweep [the streets] with water. We'll take down the 'waterie' that they receive, so they can know how does it feel like and let's see if they understand that way".
The proposal was to reduce the supply in the western side of the city (where some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods are located) to bring more water to the east, a proposal seen as a "Robin Hood" initiative in which Ebrard will take water from the rich to give it to the poor. This obviously brought the upset of some western neighbours and government representatives, who claimed that making that would be an error, as there are several sectors in that side of the city where the population has also low incomes and where some other services lack from time to time too.
I think that a Mayor of a city should really be concerned to apply win/win strategies in their jurisdiction, and not thinking of win/lose ones. Thus I wouldn't agree that taking water from some neighbourhoods to suppy others is a good idea; perhaps the real solution would be to expand the pipeline network and to build some treatment plants to recycle water.
But still, this Mayor has a point for him: there are indeed (not only in Mexico City, but almost in every city in the world) some individuals that make an inappropriate use of the water. Some people wash their cars and sidewalks with water running from the hosepipes, and there are others who, knowing to have a water leak in their houses, they do nothing to fix it. That is wrong to do, I guess. It's time for mankind to found a real water culture that creates awareness of the big problem that may arise in upcoming years if we don't start caring about water right away.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Well, ride horses if you wish... and try some Lomilomi to relieve stress!

It looks that my comments about the horse riding activity really hurt some people's feelings -- sorry about that. I like horses, and I agree with those comments that argue that horses can actually provide a good health therapy. That's a good point; anyway, I don't feel like riding them. Nevertheless, I believe that everybody has their own free will. If you do like to ride horses, that's pretty good. I don't.
Now, I can tell you guys that I've had a week full of pressure. I was wondering about what methods are effective to combat stress, and it came to my mind a Hawaiian technique from which I heard but never had the chance to know in depth: the Lomilomi.
This technique, called sometimes only "Lomi", consists in applying massage with palms, fingers, fingertips, hands, and forearms. Sometimes, the masseur or masseuse can also utilize other instruments such as sticks or stones to perform the massage.
Lomilomi has a very long history in Hawaii. It is recorded that some of the old ruling chiefs enjoyed of these massages some centuries ago.
Today, Lomilomi has gained popularity in many other regions of the world, particularly Japan and the United States. There exist some parlors that offer this service, however, in certain places (such as, ironically, Hawaii), a Lomilomi masseur has to be certified by law. If you wish to receive this kind of service, please check for local regulations so you can make sure that you go to a genuine Lomilomi massage parlor.
This doesn't look like a bad idea for stressed people, does it? An interesting contribution of Hawaii to the world indeed!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Say no to horse riding

One of the things I've always been more reluctant to perform is riding horses. I'm officially against it. Horse riding is an obsolete activity, which involves a lot of cruelty towards the animals, and serious risks to the jockey. But still, for some reason, it looks that some people enjoy that supposed sport.
It is pitiful to say that today I can add another example to my extensive list of the dangers that horse riding may carry. I just heard in the news that during some equestrian contest at the Asian Games currently held in Doha, Qatar, a South Korean jockey just died after falling from his horse.
Kim Hyung Chil, 47, fell down from his horse after the animal tried to clear an obstacle. The animal's approach was not successful, making it to fall down as well. The whole weight of the horse, that may have ranged from 690 kg to 900 kg, landed over the South Korean jockey's body, squashing him severely. He was taken to a nearby hospital unconscious, but he was declared dead shortly after.
After hearing of this news, I keep wondering why is horse riding still seen as a luxurious and positive activity, even when we're well entered into the 21st century?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sunny, shiny worst place on Earth

Have you ever though of a place as "the worst place on Earth"?
If I thought of a place as the "worst on Earth", I wouldn't think of a sunny land, full of palm trees at the rim of the ocean, located in an exotic island. I could think of a thousand features that the worst place on Earth could have, but the ones I mentioned would not be included in such description for sure.
I was recently seeking information about such so called worst place on Earth. And my surprise was excessive when I found out that the worst place to live on Earth, according to some studies published in the last months and years (in which some issues, such as access to good health care facilities, safety, and transportation systems, were analyzed), was a sunny beach, full of palm trees and coconuts, in an exotic location in Oceania. I'm talking about Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea.
Yes, my surprise was absolute when I read that it's a city ruled by heavily-armed gangs (called raskols), where the murder rates are by far above those of other big cities in the world like Moscow, the amount of yearly rape cases are among the highest in the world, the AIDS is spreading very quickly, and the health care facilities lack some essential equipment.
How accurate are those versions that claim that Port Moresby is indeed the worst place in the world to live? I read some opinions about these concerns from people who visited this city, and people who actually live there. Some of the opinions claimed that there are some problems indeed in Port Moresby (like in any other city in the world), but they still thought that the general description given about the city was exaggerated, and its accuracy was not close to reality whatsoever. Contrary to that, others thought that Port Moresby can be fairly called "the worst city to live in the world".
Personally, I've never been there. I wouldn't know then how is life in that city, and I can't be neither for or against qualifying it as a bad place to live. But some international warnings have been issued when traveling there.
Have you had any experience in Port Moresby? Share it! Post a message.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rage against the Machine's prophecy? Testify!

I remember that some years ago, when I was in middle and high school, I used to be a fan of a (now extinct) band named Rage Against the Machine. That excellent band of the 1990's was formed by Zack de la Rocha (vocals), Tom Morello (guitar), Tim Commerford (bass), and Brad Wilk (drums).
I listened their music pretty often. I can barely remember another band whose lyrics would be as powerful and straight as the ones that Rage Against the Machine had for their songs, so it was not difficult to remember the whole lyrics for certain songs. One of the things that I remember most was a certain line in their song "Testify", contained in the album "The Battle of Los Angeles" (1999), in which Zack sang (or, more appropriately said, rapped) the following:

Mr. Anchor, assure me
that Baghdad is burning...

Although I understood that the song had something to do with oil, I never really understood what that specific line was talking about. Was that a referral to the Gulf war in 1991, or were they foreseeing the beginning of the war in Iraq some years after the release of "The Battle of Los Angeles"?
Whichever it is, "Testify" is still a fresh song to listen... and, if some of you are wondering whether this song speaks bad about Baghdad or has something against it, please be sure that it doesn't! It's worth to listen the song indeed!
By the way, by any chance anybody knows what happened with Zack de la Rocha? I haven't heard a lot about him since the band was disbanded.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A short post: a handful of thanks to you..!

I wanted to publish a special note today to thank all the people who have taken their time to write comments for this blog. It is a real delight for me to read your thoughts and to know that you find this blog interesting and nice. Although I've always said that writing is one of my favorite pastimes, I'd say that receiving such kind of feedback from people who read this blog is the part that I enjoy most of posting stuff here!! Thanks very much for coming back and posting your comments, opinions, suggestions, and thoughts... Please keep doing so!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A new heart, 39 years now and counting

It's often heard that the first successful heart transplant was a notable step given in the medicine field.
It was precisely a day like today, December 3, but in the year 1967, when such surgery took place at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The operation was performed by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, and the recipient patient was a 55 year old man named Louis Washkansky. Unfortunately, this patient only lived for eighteen days after the operation, passing away for reasons that were not related to the heart transplant.
The performance of this surgery rocketed Dr. Barnard's fame, making him one of the best remembered surgeons of all times. Also, it opened new horizons for the medicine and surgery fields: After that transplant, Barnard was able to perform several further similar procedures, being successful in all of them.
But the evolution of heart transplants has gone further than that. A lot of improvements have been made to the procedures related to such practices, adding new technologies and knowledge to the whole process; this has allowed to boost the prognosis of success on the surgery. In recent years, the prognosis is estimated to be 72% of chances for male patients and 68.5% for female patients to still be alive 5 years after the transplant.
One of the most notable changes that have been adapted to the most recent procedures was the practice known as the "Living Organ" transplant, in which instead of freezing the donor's heart after injecting potassium chloride into the organ, the heart is connected to a machine called Organ Care System. This machine helps the heart to keep beating with fresh blood through it at its normal temperature without the need of utilizing the potassium chloride nor the ice. This procedure helps to maintain in good conditions the organ for much longer than the freezing method as well.
What new wonders will arise in medicine? Who'll know...?