Sunday, July 31, 2011

A house worth 507 euros!

Indian company Tata Group, which became known as the maker of the cheapest cars in the world, now has manufactured the cheapest house for only 507 euros. This house can be completed within a week. The basic package given with this price includes a 20 square meters house , with walls (exterior and interior) from coir and jute, while its life expectancy is estimated to be approximately 20 years. The company, however, plans to offer prefabricated houses that contain windows, roofs, doors and many more.

Although this has a limited life expectancy, it can be a solution for thousands of poor and homeless people which could even be paid by the state. In subsequent drafts of the Tata Group, most advanced projects are being constructed, equipped with solar panels and porches, addressed to a wider audience.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Great Jobs

Here I will show some examples of people with great jobs, probably a few of the best jobs in the world. However this is a subjective matter, since everyone has different interests. Nevertheless these few paradigms are, I believe, objectively (up to a point) good jobs. 

Ben Southall managed to stand out among 35.000 people around the world for one of the finest works in the world. This job involved him swimming, exploring and relaxing on the island Hamilton, whilst simultaneously having to write on the island's blog. However this could seem ideal, he will eventually receive $111.000 for the six months working on the island.

The perfect job for a 6 year old. Little Sam Pointon wanted to become the director of the National Railway Museum in New York, after the resignation of the previous director. He even sent the museum a letter, which was entitled "Application for Director", requesting an appointment for an interview. The staff were very enthusiastic with this application and took little Sam on board, making him Director of Entertainment. His work description is to advise the "adults" how he believes the museum can become the most amusing one for young kids.    

Friday, July 29, 2011

European Institutions

I am sure not everyone knows how the European Union actually functions. All we hear on the news is that Brussels has decided this or that. However I am sure it is worth explaining the European Institutions, especially for those living within the EU. 
The institutions of the European Union form the framework for cooperation between the (current) 27 member states. The European Commission is the only one that can initiate legislation. It submits its proposals to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, in order to be approved or rejected. The parliament also has responsibility for supervising the 27 commissioners and is the only institution with the power to fire them. Commissioners are appointed by the Council of Ministers and then approved by the parliament.
When legislation is finally passed, the European Court of Justice makes sure it is interpreted uniformly across all the member states.
The Court of Auditors is the watchdog for the budget, checking that the money is being well spent.

The European Commission is the only body that can propose legislation within the EU. It is seen as the driving force behind European integration. The commission is made up of 27 commissioners, each with a responsibility for a policy area, such as agriculture or enlargement, each being appointed by the member states and are usually senior politicians. Nevertheless, their main focus is to act in the general European interest and not to advance the interests of their own countries.
The Council of Ministers is where member states have their say. This can bring together government ministers from each country, ambassadors and even government officials. The Council of Ministers, formally known as the Council of the European Union, should not be confused with the European Council, which is the name given to regular meetings, summits, of the EU heads of state. Under the Lisbon Treaty the Union has for the first time a full time President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, from Belgium, serving for 2,5 years. This treaty has also given the EU a new foreign policy supremo, Baroness Catherine Ashton from Great Britain.
The parliament is the only direct elected body within the European Union. It holds regular plenary sessions in Strasbourg and retains a secretariat in Luxembourg; however members of the parliament do most of their work in Brussels. This is where they examine draft legislations in committees and consult with the Commission and Council of Ministers. The parliament has the power to sack the Commission, it holds hearings on new commissioners and has the last word on about half the spending in the EU annual budget. Its powers, however, have been gradually increasing.  A majority of EU legislation requires to be approved by both parliament and the Council of Ministers before it becomes law.
The European Court located in Luxembourg rules on disputes over EU treaties and other Union legislation. Its decisions are binding on EU institutions and member states. The latter can be taken to court for failing to meet its obligations under EU law. Big fines can be imposed for non-compliance with the courts' rulings. The court hears actions brought by individuals seeking damages from European institutions, or the annulment of EU legislation which directly concerns them. It also clarifies points of European law at the request of courts in member states. It complies of senior judges from each member state, who hold office for a renewable term of six years.
The European Central Bank located in the German city Frankfurt is responsible for monetary policy within the eurozone.  Its main goals are maintaining price stability and safeguards the value of the euro. It does this together with the eurozones' national central banks, by setting interest rates, conducting foreign exchange operations and managing national foreign reserves. The bank is formally independent, along the lines of the German Bundesbank. When taking decisions on monetary policy, neither the ECB nor the national central banks are allowed to take instructions from the EU institutions or member states.
The EU relies on a number of smaller bodies to keep it running. There are various agencies found across the continent dedicated to every aspect of European life.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer holidays in the ancient world

According to professor of Classical Archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, M.A. Tiverios, those who first introduced holidays for purposes of relaxing were the ancient Romans. Although we all believe that this is a practice magnified today, we never considered that it was a habit that began thousands of years ago. 
In ancient Greece people travelled frequently. They even preferred to travel by sea, not of course during the winter period. The sea was seen as a more secure, faster and comfortable way of getting from A to B. Many were the reasons that made them travel and leave their city for a bit, mainly professional and health reasons, for example visiting the famous medical centres of Asclepieia of Epidauros and Kos, and also for religious reasons. They used to visit sanctuaries such as Olympia in order to participate in various religious events and attend the Olympic Games, they attended famous festivals, for example the Panathinaia and the Great Donysian in Athens, they also visited shrines, oracles (the most famous within the Hellenic World being the one dedicated to Apollo at Delphi to consult the deity in order to address a problem). Also a minority travelled the known world in order to observe the interesting sites of their time, i.e. site seeing.  

The rich Romans on the other hand had more than one country house, so the holidays did not take place at the same house and location each time. The holiday villas exist from the second century B.C., when the distinction between private and public life of the Roman aristocracy is made clear. The cottage represented the meaning of otium (leisure, life in rural areas) as opposed to the concept of negotium (duty, political activity). The holiday destinations preferred were the coastal areas and green mountainous slopes, in general areas with a healthy climate.The Roman nobility showed a strong preference for the Bay of Naples and the green hills around Rome. They resorted to the seaside in the spring months and the mountains in the summer period. They did this so they would avoid not only the hot weather but also the masses of people who resorted on the beaches. Many of the vacation mansions quickly evolved into a self and social recognition, emphasising the high social status of the owner; they were amazing with their wealth, having galleries, libraries, swimming pools, gardens with fountains and baths. Many aristocrats even built their houses near the sea, on the beach, in order to fish from their house and in many cases even from their bedrooms. The most luxurious also had farms that fed rare fish, including myrrh, a delicious dish for the Romans. 
A city in the Bay of Naples, which was particularly preferred by the Roman aristocrats, emperors and their families was Vaia, today known was Baia. It was not just a famous seaside resort but also a cosmopolitan spa town since it had hot springs. Often during the night, members of the high society would  travel around with their boats, whilst being accompanied by women with  low morals, often swimming naked and getting very drunk. However this was not a practice for only the aristocrats. During the 1 and 2 century A.D. many middle class people visited and holidayed in these areas. Naples was also the favourite tourist place for the intellectuals and lovers of Greek culture.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Google is changing our memory!

Google and other search engines are changing the way human memory works, according to a new study. These search engines give us every day thousands of solutions and facilitate various problems on a daily basis.  
The survey, which is the first to examine the influence of search engines on human memory, was conducted by psychologists of Columbia and Harvard Universities together with the University of Wisconsin. The results found indicate that the way with which our brain saves the various data has altered significantly because of the certainty that some of the problems and issues will be found and answered on-line.  

According to experts the Internet has now developed into a dominant form of what psychology calls "transitional memory"; memories that are out of our minds but we know where and how we can access them. Previously this was found in experts or in books in our local libraries. Today internet has taken over, showing its vivid presence in our modern daily life. 
As shown from this survey, we all demonstrate a tendency to forget the things we are sure we can find on the internet while trying to remember those that we know that we cannot find on-line. We also remember where we can find the information needed instead of remembering the actual information. Does this mean that we are getting dumber or substandard or that we rely on the internet too much, is a matter for another research. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weirdest taxes in history

- Tsar Peter the Great of Russia taxed those who had a beard and required them to carry medals, admitting that their beards were ridiculous. 
- This next tax seems ridiculous and quite impossible for a government to convince its citizens to declare all their income to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). That is why it seems crazy telling citizens to declare money earned from drug trafficking. The instructions for completing the tax return from the U.S. IRS claim that "illegal income, such as money from illicit drug trafficking should be included in the income statement form 1040, line 21".
- In ancient Rome a tax known as the release tax, which essentially required money from someone who was no longer a slave. There are some paradigms where the owners were forced to pay this amount, but normally the former slave had to pay 10% of his "slave" value.

- Oliver Cromwell established a tax which concerned any dispute with the king, although he wasn't a king himself, in 1655 mainly referring to the nobles within England, after he took power. Cromwell used part of this money in order to fight against several nobles. 
- In England in the 14th century several taxes and poll taxes were introduced. This led to the establishment of a crazy one, imposed on everyone since it taxed everyones' existence, i.e. just because they were alive they had to pay tax for it. Many peasants revolted, making it the beginning of the highly destructive revolt of the peasants. 
- The Nobel Tax. The financial rewards of a Nobel Prize are taxed by the U.S. IRS. This sounds strange, since Alfred Nobel has stated that the prize is awarded to those who have provided the greatest benefit to mankind.  Someone is exempt of this tax only if the money is donated to a charitable organisation or to the government. 
- Taxes on immigrants and foreigners are not at all uncommon, even in the 20th century. Canada began to tax the Chinese immigrants in 1885 and ceased in 1923. This was done in order to ban the entry of Chinese immigrants in the North American state and not because they had a sudden change of heart. 
- Salt tax. This is one of the greatest examples of a problematic and reckless idea and tax in history. The tax on salt is partially responsible for the decline of the Chinese Empire, the French salt tax contributed towards the French Revolution and Gandhi took part in a protest against such a tax in 1930, laying the groundwork for a movement of independence of India from British rule. 

Αν φαίνεται ακατόρθωτο για μια κυβέρνηση να πείσει τους πολίτες να δηλώνουν όλα τα εισοδήματα τους στην εφορία, φανταστείτε πόσο τρελό είναι να τους λέει να δηλώσουν τα χρήματα που κέρδισαν από διακίνηση ναρκωτικών. Κι όμως, οι οδηγίες για την συμπλήρωση της φορολογικής δήλωσης από την Αμερικανική IRS (Internal Revenue Service)επιμένουν ότι "παράνομο εισόδημα, όπως χρήματα από την διακίνηση παράνομων ναρκωτικών, πρέπει να συμπεριλαμβάνεται στην φόρμα δήλωσης εισοδήματος 1040, γραμμή 21" !!!.

ΠΗΓΗ!: ...Anoixtomualos...: Οι 10 πιο παράξενοι φόροι στην ιστορία

Αν φαίνεται ακατόρθωτο για μια κυβέρνηση να πείσει τους πολίτες να δηλώνουν όλα τα εισοδήματα τους στην εφορία, φανταστείτε πόσο τρελό είναι να τους λέει να δηλώσουν τα χρήματα που κέρδισαν από διακίνηση ναρκωτικών. Κι όμως, οι οδηγίες για την συμπλήρωση της φορολογικής δήλωσης από την Αμερικανική IRS (Internal Revenue Service)επιμένουν ότι "παράνομο εισόδημα, όπως χρήματα από την διακίνηση παράνομων ναρκωτικών, πρέπει να συμπεριλαμβάνεται στην φόρμα δήλωσης εισοδήματος 1040, γραμμή 21" !!!.

ΠΗΓΗ!: ...Anoixtomualos...: Οι 10 πιο παράξενοι φόροι στην ιστορία

Monday, July 25, 2011

FYROM or Macedonia?

On 18 July 2011 the United States House of Representatives published a Bill to authorise appropriations for the Department of State for fiscal year 2012, and for other purposes. On pages 52-54 of the Bill it analyses the topic of FYROM, referring also to its relations with Greece. 

The text states : 


17 (a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds the following: 

18 (1) Greece has demonstrated an enormous good 
19 will gesture in agreeing that ‘‘Macedonia’’ may be 
20 included in the future name of the Former Yugoslav 
21 Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as long as that 
22 term is combined with a geographic qualifier that 
23 makes it clear that there are no territorial ambitions 
24 on the part of the FYROM with regard to the his-
1 torical boundaries of the Greek province of Mac-
2 edonia. 

3 (2) The FYROM continues to utilize materials 
4 that violate provisions of the United Nations-bro-
5 kered Interim Agreement between the FYROM and 
6 Greece regarding incendiary rallies, rhetoric, or 
7 propaganda, and United Nations-led negotiations be-
8 tween the FYROM and Greece have so far failed to 
9 achieve the longstanding goals of the United States 
10 and the United Nations to find a mutually accept-
11 able, new official name for the FYROM. 
12 (b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Con-
13 gress that all United States assistance to the FYROM 
14 should be conditioned on the FYROM’s willingness to en-
15 gage in meaningful discussions with Greece in accordance 
16 with United Nations Security Council Resolution 817. 
17 (c) LIMITATION.—The Secretary of State may not 
18 use funds authorized to be appropriated under this Act 
19 for programs and activities that directly or indirectly pro-
20 mote incendiary rallies, rhetoric, or propaganda by state- 
21 controlled agencies of the FYROM or encourage acts by 
22 private entities likely to incite violence, hatred, or hostility, 
23 including support for printing and publishing of textbooks, 
24 maps, and teaching aids that may include inaccurate in-
1 formation on the histories and geographies of Greece and 

What is important is to see that, although the US has recognised (in 2004 with President Bush) FYROM as Macedonia, here it uses the term FYROM. The United Macedonian Diaspora published a leaflet, signed by Metodija A. Koloski (President) explaining that the Greek lobby in Washington is to be blamed for this, expressing in bold letters "Are we going to let the pro-Greek lobby in Washington, D.C. succeed?! NO!" 
However it is, from a Greek point, questionable how President Bush came to the conclusion that FYROM should be recognised as Macedonia. That being said it is again questionable how around 130 countries have accepted this name for the small Balkan state.   
Greece has shown up to now that it will not tolerate this historical false name and the fact that another country wishes to adopt part of Greek history. This was emphatically shown when the previous PM Konstantinos Karamanlis vetoed FYROM's acceptance within NATO in 2008 in Bucharest.  
For those who like history it is essential to express the following, which are issues supported by the Greek side and the international community, i.e. professors (even in FYROM) and people who have actually read a book or two.!
It is proven by historic documents and archaeological discoveries which can be found in all the history books and museums in Greece and around the world that ancient Macedonians were Greek. The most important archaeological discovery in Macedonia is the tomb of King Philippos II. It was excavated in Vergina, Greece in 1978, and it proves beyond any doubt the Greekness of Ancient Macedonia. All the finding are characteristic of the Greek culture and all the inscriptions are written using the Greek language. Among the discoveries of this tomb is the Vergina sun, which was the symbol that FYROM attempted to use on its flag, initially. 
According to historical books, including those analysing the Ecclesiastical History of the Slavs, the Slavs descended into the Balkan region not before the 6th century, long after ancient Macedonia was homogenized with the rest of Greece. This is evident through Byzantine sources explaining the relations between the Byzantine Empire and the new neighbours, i.e. the Slavic groups. They do not have any historical, cultural or linguistic ties with ancient Macedonia and they would be really foolish if they officially claimed that they did. There is no historic or archaeological evidence connecting them with ancient Macedonia. In any case occupying 25% of ancient Macedonia land does not give them the right to steal the Greek-Macedonian history and culture. The Macedonian civilization was part of the ancient Greek civilization. It is part of Greece's national inheritance and it cannot be used by anyone else. 
It is a shame that many countries have recognised FYROM as Macedonia, showing their ignorance to historical facts, making them non-reliable. I am sure England would not accept the Nazis state that Winston Churchill was German, or the USA would not accept its Founding Fathers being stolen by the Japanese. Why should Greece then accept this historical, cultural, linguistic and religious fallacy? However Greece is not the only country which has been bullied into this problematic relationship and status. Bulgaria is also a neighbouring country expressing its dissatisfaction. A paradigm is found here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Winged Sandals

Want to learn more about Classical mythology, ancient Greek history and the main heroes who formed the ancient world? A site created by the Melbourne University and ABC staff is the "Winged Sandals". 
Here one can find stories and games which were deliberately chosen to represent three realms: the Gods who live on Olympus, the mortals and monsters who occupy the Earthly Realm and the dead who live in the Underworld. Hermes, who is the navigator and messenger God, is the only character who flies between the realms. 

The ultimate vision was to create a website which would inform, educate and entertain. Winged Sandals has animated stories, interactive games and an on-line version of the Delphic Oracle all presented with a focus on entertaining and engaging young audience. Although being primarily targeted for children aged 6-12, it is a site which adults can also enjoy and learn a plethora of facts about the Classical World. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Daily air travel

This is a very interesting video showing the daily global air travel. Its fascinating to see where most aeroplanes travel too and which countries cater for most of the air traffic in the world, on a daily basis.!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Alternative London Underground Maps

London Underground is the largest one in the world. It carries more than one billion passengers a year. Statistically speaking it makes around 3.5 million journeys on a daily basis, having 11 lines and 270 stations. The Underground is currently running more services than ever before on the 140 year old network. 

One of its main features and iconic images is its map, which even frequent travellers need in order to get from A to B. Harry Beck is the designer of the original and widely used tube map, however he has not depicted the stations geographically but schematically. That is why Mark Noad has created a new geographical version of the map, showing all stations in positions closer to their actual locations. Even the River Thames has a more realistic shape. However it seems a bit "rough" and messy, unlike the schematic map used by London Underground.  

A very interesting map is the one below, showing exactly which stations and lines are underground and which parts are overground. Someone who takes the tube often knows these facts, but its quiet ironic to see how nearly 50% of London Underground is actually overground. 

These are merely a few odd maps, copying the original and official one used by TFL. We can only wait and see if artists and sketchers will use their imagination to draw crazier tube maps.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Personal Sculpture

Recently I went to a friend's house and talked about art and future exhibitions. He is Alexis Kapraras, who is a painter, sculptor and icon painter. He is going to have an exhibition soon and he told me that he wanted to make a man's sculpture.

I offered to help him, although I think he helped me more in many ways. 

I saw this as an opportunity of being a 'model' for an artist. I mainly wanted to see how art is created, what the artist goes through in order to achieve his goal, how long this process takes. It was a life experience for me.

Here I will post various pictures from this personal experience in order to show the progress of this sculpture.

Alexis, our sculptor, is originally from Cyprus. He currently lives in London with his family. The whole process took place at his house.

Alexis began using wood, clay, a stand, nails, plaster, water, soap and measuring tools (used for thousands of years). He had to be really precise with his measurements. He used simple materials which get the job done and which have been tried and used since the beginning of art!

It is interesting to point out that the whole process took about 25 hours, including the breaks we took, meaning having a cider, some ice cream, crepes, bits and bobs and a chat with Alexi, his wife Athena who is also an artist, Poly (their son) and various friends. 

Of course the interesting part was when I helped with the plaster. It was a long but fantastic process. This part took place in the garden shed whilst listening to classical music. 

Alexis told me that when he is in the shed finalising the sculptures he can only listen to classical music, which you have to be there to understand why. In the mess of the materials there is a calming motion and a sense of creativity.

Before finalising with the plaster, the clay was inevitably destroyed, reminding me of the Mandala, the Buddhist art which when created is quickly destroyed. However in this case we retain the form through the plaster. 

Using two types of plaster, Alexis slowly chipped of the outer layer of the cast. Slowly but gradually we had the final apocalypse of my head. Whilst it was still clay, I have to confess, I wanted to punch it. This of course changed when I saw the plaster sculpture appear. 

The end result, I am sure everyone will agree, is great and is an exact copy of my head. The details are magnificent and evident. Now all I can do is wait for the coming exhibition and see how Alexis will use this sculpture. I would just like to thank Alexi for this great experience he gave me and hope that all goes well with the coming exhibition. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

St. Sava, Serbian Orthodox Church in London

I recently visited the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava in West London. This church is one of several Serbian Orthodox churches in Great Britain. It is under the auspices of the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade and belongs to the Anglo-Scandinavian diocese, headed by Bishop Dositej.

Most Serbs settled in London after W.W. II, who were soldiers and allies of Britain. A huge influx was evident after the recent war in Yugoslavia. Currently it is estimated that some 40 thousand Serbs live in the British capital, including the surrounding areas. 

Coming back to the church, it was built in 1903. It was originally an Anglican Church dedicated to Saint Columba. It was consecrated as an Orthodox Church in 1952. The building is very spacious (as seen through the pictures). It has a modest brick interior, decorated with beautiful frescoes, which are copies of works from the walls of Serbian monasteries dating back to the 13th century from the territory of Kosovo and Metohija. What stands out is the Iconostasis, made in carved walnut and richly decorated with magnificent icons. What is also weird for me (from a Greek Orthodox view) is that the church does not have chairs, although they did have some on the sides. 

In front of the altar are two thrones, one for the bishop and the other for the Serbian royal family, who where in the past exiled in London. Even Queen Elizabeth II sat there in July 1957, where the baptism of Maria Tatiana, daughter of Prince Andrew of Yugoslavia took place. 
 A Sunday school exists there where students of all ages learn the Serbian language, history and theology. The church, together with the surrounding buildings are regularly visited by local schools in order to learn about Orthodoxy and Serbian culture. It is evidently a lively community and a centre for Serbian Orthodoxy. For those who do not know where it is located the address is: 89 Lancaster Road, W11 1QQ.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Turks save the newspaper Apogevmatini

A Greek newspaper based in Istanbul, Turkey, called "Apogevmatini" was saved by many Turks from certain closure by requesting to subscribe. 
Michalis Vassiliadis, the publisher of this Greek newspaper, had announced at a ceremony of the Research Centre TESEV  that Apogevmatini, issued in Istanbul since 1925, would close on July 12th 2011, on the newspaper's birthday, due to economic problems. The speech was broadcast live and a young Turkish student in Holland then took a great initiative and started a campaign on the Internet entitled "Do not close the Apogevmatini". 

Within a couple of days the number of those who supported the campaign through facebook reached ten thousand. However further support was emphasised due to the fact that Turkish academics, writers, politicians, journalists and students were seeking to become subscribers. Michalis Vassiliadis explains whilst being deeply moved "the Turks have reached 200 subscribers". He was astonished when a university professor called in requesting the newspaper's bank account number in order to subscribe, moments before she had a surgery. Oral Calislar, a known journalist, also called asking to subscribe. "What is happening is unbelievable" says Michalis Vassiliadis.  

That is why the publisher of the newspaper felt the need to thank them by posting for the first time in the Apogevmatini's history a text in Turkish stating: " Dear friends, you became subscribers without knowing Greek We celebrate today our birthday but without you we would be mourning. It would have been the last day of the life of our newspaper Apogevmatini of the Greeks of Constantinople, which has been issuing for the past 86 years". The Greek Consulate stopped funding the newspaper. Greek businesses halted their adds. This situation was devastating, since the newspaper lost 150 euros daily. The help given by the Turkish citizens gave hope and life to the Apogevmatini, for at least a couple of months. However a permanent solution should be found soon. 
The first issue was circulated on the 12th of July 1925. According to the current publisher it sold over 30.000 copies. It was bought by Greeks and Turks (who had come from Greece after the population exchange in 1922). When Michalis Vassiliadis became its publisher it only sold 80 copies. He succeeded to sell it to all 600 Greek households in Istanbul. However the economic crisis brought the income level to an all time low, making it impossible to carry on publishing the newspaper. Nevertheless the end is not near, due to the support of the newspaper's newly Turkish subscribers.   
It is important to keep a newspaper like the Apogevmatini alive in Istanbul, where a small Greek population still exists. It is moving to see how many Turkish citizens have seen the seriousness of the situation and have actually helped tremendously. Actions like this one highlight how people can and should help each other in difficult circumstances, despite deriving from different backgrounds.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

An underground city

Coober Pedy is a small city in Australia, with a population of about 3.500 citizens. It is famous for two reasons. The first and important reason is the production of opal, a type of precious rock found in abundance in the region. The mining area is responsible for 70% of the global production of opal. 

The second reason why this city is famous is the fact that its citizens live underground. It is a habit that began in the beginning of the 20th century when the first miners who settled there lived in mines and caves in order to avoid the extreme summer temperatures of the Australian desert. 

Today this situation has become a way of life for many of them who live permanently in the city. Temperatures normally reach 40 degrees Celsius, whilst the highest temperature recorded is 47 degrees Celsius. This is the main reason why the underground houses have become more and more popular, where conditions are more stable. 

These are constructed by specific companies in undertaking the underground homes and the cost is similar to that of building a normal (overground) house. There are also several museums, shops, churches and hotels, all located underground.   

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The road with the most turns in the world

Hyde and Leavenworth Road in San Francisco is known for having the most turns in the world. It has 8 consecutive turns while the speed limit is only 8 km/h. 

This route is downhill, located on a steep hillside. That is why the bends were created in order to limit the vehicles' speed. At least they have decorated it with beautiful flowers and trees, making it probably the most green road.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Euro Crisis Song

Looking at the Guardian site I came across this interesting video entitled "The Euro Crisis Song". On the site they try to explain how we have reached the current economic situation, whilst the Euro is continuing its decline, spreading to more and more countries within the Union, having unimaginable and dramatic consequences. The Guardian explains that through this video it tries to decipher the whole crisis. This was created by the Guardian and Studio 20 NYU. Through its site it also advertises that anyone can have a go. 

Musically I have to say that it is interesting and quite nice. However this video is forgetting the difficulties produced by the current economic situation within Europe. Explaining only parts of the problem, I don't expect a song to illustrate in less than 4 minutes the whole problem, but this is in a way mocking and downgrading the seriousness of the events taking place not only in Greece but also in Ireland and Portugal, with many countries probably following. It is a shame that a newspaper like the Guardian has produced a video like this. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Virtual Tour of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Ever wanted to visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, today known as Istanbul? Well this can be achieved for free through the Virtual Tour of the Greek Patriarchate via an internet site. Through this site the visitor can have a tour of the Church of St. George, the surrounding buildings and the outdoor grounds.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has been located  in the Fanar region of the city and specifically at the Church of St. George since 1602. It was used as a monastery during the 16th century. St. George has had a turbulent history; it was destroyed in parts due to many causes and eventually was repaired. In 1941 it was destroyed during the fire in 1941. However repairs took place commencing in 1989 and was completed in 1991.
Enjoy the tour! 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Coffee helps women, not men, in stressful situations

Caffeine enhances the performance of women in stressful situations, but has the opposite effect on men, according to a new study. Psychologists from the University of Bristol in Great Britain found that only a few cups of coffee are enough to throw down the confidence of men, while reducing their ability to solve problems. 
Caffeine is a stimulant drug known to counteract the drowsiness and fatigue. Furthermore previous studies have shown that it offers protection against diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, gout and diseases that attack the liver. 

This time researchers wished to study the effect of coffee drinking in both sexes, whilst they are in stressful situations, such as being in an important meeting in the office. For this purpose they separated men and women in to 64 groups in same sex pairs, giving them coffee with and without caffeine. After each pair was asked to complete a series of tests, for example carrying out negotiations or solving puzzles and memory problems. It was found that the ability of men to perform in stressful situations significantly reduced when they consumed caffeine. It took them an average of 20 seconds longer to complete puzzles, compared with those who had drunk decaffeinated coffee. On the other hand women who consumed caffeine completed the tests 100 seconds faster than the rest. The survey results can be found in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Failed prophecies regarding the end of the world!

Even in the 21st century we have people believing and stating that the end of the world is near, giving specific dates, as did pastor Harold Camping this year, not once but twice. However this is not a new phenomenon. Many have expressed their views on this matter. Some of these are:

William Miller had a passion of reading the Holy Bible. He used to read it over and over again and reached to the conclusion that between the lines the end of the world is evident. He believed, through his research, that the Second Coming would take place between the 21 March 1843 and 21 March 1844. Thousands followed his beliefs. Together they came to the conclusion that the end of the world would occur on the 23 April 1843. Chaos prevailed. Hundreds of families sold or gave their properties away, since they wouldn't need them due to the fact that Jesus was coming again. On the 24 April many stopped believing in Miller's teachings. Nevertheless many still kept their belief to William Miller, forming the Seventh Day Adventist Church. 
 The dangerous tail of the Halley Comet. In 1881 one astrologist studied the comets and discovered that within their tails they have a deadly gas, similar to cyanide. The study was published, but no one took it seriously, not until a few years later (1910) everyone realised that Halley's comet would pass so close to Earth so the tail would touch our planet. Many newspapers across the globe asked the question: Will this plunge our earth in a deadly gas? However they were re-assured by the greatest scientists of the time who stated that there was nothing to be afraid of. 
The Millennium Bug. Many believed that the beginning of the new millennium would bring the end of our civilisation due to technology. The problem was first identified in 1970, where scientists revealed that most computers would not be able to tell the difference between 1900 and 2000. Although no one knew what the result would be, many theories arose. Weapons sales increased and many celebrated the coming of the new year and the new millennium in bunkers. A solution was found to this problem, which cost (as many believe) about 600 billion dollars. However nothing happened!
The ice are melting! SOS! Richard Noone believed since the end of the world did not come from the computers it would come from the melting of the ice, as analysed in his book "5/5/2000 Ice: The Ultimate Disaster". According to his book, the ice in Antarctica on the 5th of May 2000 would only have 3 miles of depth. Also on the same day the planets would form a perfect alignment. This could be a magnificently catastrophic end of the world, however the sales of his book were, I believe, more important to him.
We have been hearing for years now that the end of the world would occur in 2012, as believed by the Mayans, Nostradamus and other scholars and representatives from various religions and eras. However 2012 is not the last date given to us through other prophecies. An Orthodox monk, Fr. Maximus, states that the end will come in 2018. Newton is believed to have written on the back of an envelope, just before he died, that the end of the world would come in 2060. 
However if we are to see this from a Christian perspective we have to acknowledge that although the Book of Revelations explains how the end will come, it does not give us a date. Even when Jesus was asked he replied that only the Father knows that, meaning that only God has that knowledge. It is not important to know exactly the date, but as the parable of the ten virgins emphasises, we have to always be ready for the Second Coming. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

First cinema in Athens

Just before the official opening of the first cinema in Athens, the Athenians came in contact with the whole aspect of a cinema in 1897. The first projection of a moving image caused vivid reactions. The new entertainment was a central topic within the Athenian society and a cause of countless publications. 

In 1907 the first cinema opened in the Greek capital. Although cinemas were spreading all over the city, many theatres had special screenings in order to cater for the demand. 
Today it has become one of the main form of entertainment not only in Athens but world wide! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The most famous toys ever!

Everyone has played with toys, at least during the 20th century where mass production of toys was a worldwide phenomenon. They have become a part of our lives. Children enjoy them immensely, although even when they grow up they remember the years where all they did was play. They are, inevitably, imprinted within our minds and thoughts, taking us back to a happy and relaxed time of our life. 
All of the toys are timeless. Many from different generations have played with them. Some of the most famous toys in the world are:
The Yo-yo, one of the oldest toy and gadget. it was even used in the 5th century B.C. However in the 1920's it received its current form. The first yo-yo factory was founded in the U.S. in 1928 and began selling 300.000 yo-yos daily. 

Viewmaster, everyone has looked through the viewmaster in order to see Disney cartoon characters or historical monuments. 

Slinger, the colourful spiral which excites children and adults, although I think there is a limit to the time you can play with it. Yet again it is an exciting thing to have around the house.

Barbie, the ultimate toy for girls. The Barbie empire exists since 1959. Ken was later introduced showing girls, from a young age, about relationships.

Hula Hoop, is probably the most pro-fitness toy, invented in the 1950's. It isn't only used by children; adults use them in gyms and at home for exercise. The first months of its launch 25 million hula hoops were sold. 

Lego, everyone has played with them, building houses, cars, trains, walls. Lego has even got a Legoland, near London.  

Rubik cube, a colourful riddle is widely known. It was invented by a Hungarian inventor during the 1970's. It is a difficult toy to solve. Last year a second version of the Rubik was sold in all major toy stores.

My Little Pony, "The Toy" of the 1980's, being not only a toy but also a T.V. series. This was a girl's toy, with its wonderful and various colours, with cute names, hearts and glitter. 

Buzz Lightyear, this toy actually received its name from a real astronaut, who was awarded by NASA, being a member of the Discovery project in Space. Buzz is one of the most famous toy due to the 3 Toy Story films. 

Transformers, alien machines which can transform into various vehicles, planes and weapons. Although they were introduced years ago, the idea excites every boy who acquires one, even to this day.