Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vietnam Memorial

The Vietnam Memorial in New York City, also known as the Vietnam Veterans Plaza was built in 1971. The site was formerly named Jeanette Park, in honour of The Jaenette, i.e. the flagship of an ill-fated Arctic expedition (1879-1881). 



In 1982 this site was chosen to house the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Plaza and Memorial currently stand as the city's testimonial to the young men and women who served during the Vietnam War. 



For those who do not know, the Vietnam war stemmed from the USA's efforts to contain the spread of communism in South-East Asia. By 1954, the end of French colonial rule left Vietnam divided into a communist North and pro-West South. The United States hence supported South Vietnam with military advisers and later (1960s) with ground troops. By 1969, more than half a million Americans were serving in that area. 



President Richard M. Nixon began U.S. troops withdrawals but also widened the conflict with campaigns into Cambodia and Laos. Peace talks commenced in 1969 and ended in 1973. American forces left and prisoners of war were repatriated. 2 years later, the South fell to the communists. 


2.9 million Americans had served in Vietnam; 58.000 were killed and 300.000 were wounded. It is believed that 3 million Vietnamese across both sides perished during this conflict. 

A man sleeping with his dead wife

A man from Vietnam has dug up his dead wife, putting her in a special pouch and sleeping with her because he cannot live without her. Despite his wife being dead since 2003 he has achieved to continue sleeping with her, whilst being pressurised by the local authorities to finally bury her. 


The 57 year old Lee Van buried his wife and for a year was sleeping over her grave, when he finally dug her up. He took her home and put her in a plaster case that has a human form. This of course is a hazard for the area, but Lee seems to not take anyone's advice into account. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Paphos Castle

Paphos Castle is located on the edge of Paphos harbour. It was built during the Byzantine era as a fort in order to protect the harbour. It was then rebuilt by the Lusignas in the 13th century, after it was destroyed in the earthquake of 1222. In 1570 it was dismantled by the Venetians. When the Ottomans captured the island they restored and strengthened it.


It has served as a fortress, a prison and even a warehouse for salt during the British occupation of the island. It was declared a listed building in 1935 and represents one of the most distinctive landmarks of the city of Paphos. 
The castle itself is a stunning stone walled castle built on the harbour. There is an arched battle way bridge that connects the castle to the harbour itself. The view from the top platform is magnificent and from here one can see Kato Paphos. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Skylon

The United Kingdom wishes to enter the field of space transport with the Skylon spacecraft. It is a revolutionary vessel with a unique design, 84 metres long, being able to carry goods and passengers with a very low cost. It can be used for commercial or scientific purposes, for example transporting satellites. It can also facilitate in the upcoming space tourism. 


The first plan for this project was produced in the 1980s by the British Aerospace and Rolls Royce. However "Hotol", the name given to the proposed spaceship, had major technical weaknesses, which meant that the construction was abandoned. 
The Skylon has an important advantage, it can use a common airport for landing and take-off. Britain sent a draft of Skylon to the European Space Agency (ESA) which replied by giving positive feedback, finding no serious technical failures and problems. ESA is even thinking of contributing towards the construction of the vessel , whilst the total cost of the project is estimated to range between 9-12 billion dollars. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Street art in Athens

Art is not only found in galleries or personal collections. Fantastic art is easily found in big cities, mostly to promote various ideas, but also to give a colourful background to the grey dullness of the buildings. One example is found in the centre of Athens, especially the Keramikos and Gkazi areas in the centre of the Greek capital. 


















Saturday, November 26, 2011

The white dessert with the countless ponds

The national park Lencois Maranhenses is located in the North -Western coast of Brazil. It is a white dessert with no vegetation. The unique factor of this national park is the amount of rain that falls on it, which surpasses 160 cm, 300 times more than that which falls in Sahara, North Africa. 



The water forms small ponds scattered all around this dessert, even 50 km from the coast. If you want to visit it  you can do so with a helicopter or even dip into the clean waters of any pond.!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bishop of London in St. Sophia

Yesterday evening the Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dr Richard Chartres Bishop of London gave a talk at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sophia, Moscow Road. The event was organised by the Anglican & Eastern Churches Association (AECA),  the oldest organisation based in the U.K. which promotes relations between the Anglican and the Orthodox Churches. Representatives from both the Orthodox and the Anglican Churches were there, including Archbishop Grigorios of Thyateira and Gr. Britain, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, Bishop Angaelos of the Copitc Church, priests from the Serbian, Antiochean, Russian and Romanian churches.


The evening began with Vespers. The choir consisted of priests and chanters from various Greek Orthodox churches from London. After Vespers the Lecture took place in the Church. The Bishop of London's talk was entitled: "Anglican-Orthodox thoughts on present discontent".  This talk took place in a time of extreme anxiety for the Christian Community. The Bishop of London explained how Orthodoxy is not and should not be considered an exotic religion, but part of the Christian Ecumenie within Britain. 


"What is evident is that the Anglican Church must recover a patristic mind". The speaker spoke about the fact that a spiritual development and not so much a development of knowledge is what is needed in order to maintain a development of theology. 
There are numerous difficulties in communicating the Gospel today. A solution is to develop a right tone in conversation. A paradigm given to all Christians is the Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew, who in 1995 organised a Symposium on Religion, Science and Environment. This event showed how church leaders must speak in our modern world.


The Bishop of London analysed the challenges faced by many Christian Communities, referring to the current situations in both Greece and Egypt, that are going through social, economic, political and ethical turmoil. However the speaker also applied it to British society. The leaders of this land believed that God would be marginalised and that the rest of the world would follow. However this is not evident, especially after the events of 9/11. The story is, nevertheless, very different. We are now turning towards God's Wisdom. The editor of the Economist wrote a book entitled "God is Back", hence if the Economist believes it, it must be true. Also Dr. Richard Chartes encompassed the importance of God in Education, fit for the 21st century. There should be religious literacy and spiritual awareness in our modern society.


In order to achieve these goals a new language should be found, promoting freedom, discipline and responsibility. All Christians should promote a global conversation and a creative dialogue.


(In this picture Fr. Savvas Vasileiadis, the Bishop of London and the writer)

The talk ended with the wish of recovering the Divine Wisdom. We need to try and preserve paradise on earth, if we do not achieve this then we will be responsible for the (negative) consequences. What I found interesting was that the Bishop of London, together with a couple of Anglican priests, expressed the view that they felt like home at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Sophia. The evening's epilogue took place in the Church's crypt were a lovely and friendly reception gave an opportunity to all the attendees to speak and exchange views on numerous matters.

Junk food reduces the IQ of children

According to a new research which took place in Britain junk food reduces the IQ of children. Scholars under the auspices of the School of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, indicate that children who often eat poor quality foods have a low IQ. Specifically, scientists studied over time nearly 14.000 children, born in 1991 and 1992, examining them regularly when the children were 3,4,7 and 8 years of age. Parents recorded in detail the type of foods and beverages consumed by the children and at the age of eight and a half  went through an IQ test. 


The difference between the two groups, the junk food and the healthy food consumers, is small, however it shows when the children are in first grade at school and have to go through various things in life. Nevertheless this research has to continue in order to identify if these effects are evident in later life. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Byzantine Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Among the numerous artefacts from around the world found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), one exhibition stood out for me, that from Byzantium.



Many of the objects exhibited in this cosmopolitan museum are well known, since they are depicted in many books, when referring to the Byzantine Empire, i.e. the first Christian Empire. The visitor can admire the countless icons, bibles, crosses and liturgical objects. 



Illuminated manuscripts written in Greek were considered one of the greatest art forms by the highly literate and sophisticated clerical and secular elite of Byzantium. Over the centuries many works were commissioned for use in important churches.



The "Jaharis Lectionary", depicted above, profoundly shows, through its richness, tempera, gold, ink on parchment and leather binding, that it was probably made for the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. 



The cross in Byzantium had a prominent position, since it symbolised Christ's Passion and his victory over death, the cross was ubiquitous in the Byzantine world. Beginning with Constantine I's vision of the cross on the eve of the battle with his rival Maxentios in 312, the cross was associated with the emperor; it became an imperial insignia on the battlefield and a fixture in court ceremonies.




The cross played an important role in religious and civic life. Crosses were processed through city streets during times of natural disaster and enemy attack and in commemoration of there events. They decorated churches, official buildings, municipal structures, homes and all manner of domestic and personal goods. 



Monday, November 21, 2011

Solutionism

A strange and unique equation has been written on a huge blackboard, 14 meters high. Via twitter and the internet in general, thousands of people tried to answer this difficult and giant puzzle. The answer eventually was the number 7 billion, which represents the number of the world's population.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Skin

The largest organ of the human body is our skin; it does not only cover us and make us look presentable, but without it we'd literally evaporate. An adult carries 3.6 kilograms and 2 square meters of it. Skin acts as a waterproof, insulating shield, guarding the body against extremes of temperature, damaging sunlight and harmful chemicals. Skin is a huge sensor packed with nerves for keeping the brain in touch with the outside world. At the same time, skin allows us free movement, proving itself an amazingly versatile organ. 


Skin colour is due to melanin, a pigment produced in the epidermis to protect us from the sun's potentially cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays. Dark-skinned people produce more numerous and deeper-coloured melanin particles. People with the darkest complexions are native to tropical regions, particularly those with few densely forested areas. 
Fair skin is an adaptation found in people from the northern latitudes, where the rays from the sun are relatively weak. Here the benefits of dark skin are outweighed by the need for bone-strengthening vitamin D, produced through exposure to UV rays. However sunnier environments bring the risk of serious skin damage. Australia, where the majority of the population is of northern European descent, has the world's highest rates of skin cancer, accounting for more than 80 percent of all cancers diagnosed there annually.