30.4.09

SPEED ON
THE RIVER

My friend Tommi is coming over from Finland
for his annual visit in a few weeks time.

He wanted to go on a Thames cruise
but I've booked us to do this instead!

The jet boat leaves from St Katharine's Pier
next to the Tower and the hour long trip
takes us (the potential
James Bond's!)
to the
Thames Barrier and back.

Judgind by
the video on the company's
website it's going to be fun!


CREATIVE

Check out these creative escalator ads.
I particularly like the hair one!

LIST

KOFI COMES
HOME

Aah, what a nice story!

When Sarah and Ian Hawley's beloved moggy
Kofi went missing from their Nottingham
home three years ago, they feared
they would never see him again.

But against all the odds and in an amazing
twist, Kofi somehow made the 140-mile
(225 km) journey to Ipswich and thanks
to help from the RSCPA, has now
been reunited with his owners.

The couple, who now live outside Rotherham,
first got Kofi and his brother, Ted, from an
RSPCA rescue centre when they were
just nine months old but in
2006 Kofi disappeared.


A member of the public in Ipswich recently
reported a stray and he was picked
up by an RSPCA inspector.


As he was micro-chipped, they were able
to trace the owners and the happy
reunion took place over
the Easter holiday.


Mrs Hawley said:“I was amazed when I got
the call to say Kofi had been found in Suffolk.
We had given up hope of seeing him again.
He seems happy and we will gradually
reintroduce him to his brother Ted once
he's settled back in. I am so pleased he
was microchipped as otherwise he really
would have been missing forever.”


She added that when he was found he
was skinny and full of scabs but now
he is eating lots and running a
round looking very happy.

Mrs Hawley said: “I always thought he could still
be alive but I really didn't expect to see him again.
I don't know whether he jumped into a van
or was picked up by someone but
it's just good to have him back.”


MOOSICAL

The hills are alive with the sound of music
after an Alpine farmer compiled a CD
of his farm animals' favourite tunes.

Livestock expert Franz Köberl, 41, has been
serenading the animals on the family
farm in Birkfeld, Austria, with his
accordion for more than a decade.

Franz and his family, who all play instruments,
stage live concerts for the animals to help
with milk yield or to keep them calm.


"Whenever they see me coming over the
hill with my accordion, they come running
and gather around to listen to the tunes.
They prefer Strauss - although I and my
family would rather hear
Mozart," he explained.


"We found that Norma, Norli, Nanni and
the rest of the 20 cows have a clear
preference for classical music."


"In particular they seem to like the waltz. They
are more likely to be sitting down taking
the weight off their feet and obviously
enjoying the music whenever a waltz is
playing - and that also means they are
producing more milk," he added.


NO SWINES
HERE

Swine flu?
Not in the Jewish state.

"We will call it Mexico flu. We won't call it
swine flu," Deputy Health Minister Yakov
Litzman, a black-garbed Orthodox Jew, told
a news conference Monday, assuring the
Israeli public that authorities were
prepared to handle any cases.

Under Jewish dietary laws, pigs are considered
unclean and pork is forbidden food -
although the non-kosher meat is
available in some stores in Israel.


28.4.09

APRIL ART 2009
PART IV

Please click on the images
to view larger versions.
















SPRING WATCH
2009 PART V

Last weeks warm days have done the trick:
the strawberries have burst into
bloom. The chives and parsley
are thriving as well.

GERALDINHO

Remember Gerald, the big grey cat that
used to come for daily visits and meals?

Well, after he went sadly missing last
November...another grey one
started coming for daily snacks
about a month ago!

This one looks so much like Gerald we've
named her Geraldinho! She's very friendly,
likes cuddles and most of all food, in
fact she's a bit of a bottomless pit!

The problem is she hasn't got any teeth (!)
so only soft food will do and the chewing
takes a bit longer than usual...


COUCH

ESPRESSO BOOKS

Launched in London last Friday, the
Espresso Book Machine can print any
of 500,000 titles while you wait.

It's not elegant and it's not sexy – it looks like
a large photocopier – but this is being billed as
the biggest change for the literary world since
Gutenberg invented the printing press
more than 500 years ago and made the
mass production of books possible.

Housed at Blackwell's Charing Cross Road
branch in London, the machine prints
and binds books on demand
in five minutes.


Signalling the end, says Blackwell, to the
frustration of being told by a bookseller that
a title is out of print, or not in stock.

Blackwell hopes to increase the titles to over
a million by the end of the summer – the
equivalent of 23.6 miles of shelf space,
or 50 bookshops rolled into one.

The majority of these books are currently out-of-
copyright works, but Blackwell is working with
publishers throughout the UK to increase
access to in-copyright writings, and says the
response has been overwhelmingly positive.


Customer usage will be monitored closely over
the next few months as they want to pin down
pricing (likely to be around the level of
traditional books) and demand.

They then hope to roll it out across their 60-store
network, with its flagship Oxford branch
likely to be an early recipient as well as a
host of smaller, campus-based shops.


CAT BURGLAR

This is the story of Henry - a real-life cat burglar
with a peculiar taste in swag – socks.

The mischievous moggy has brought back
more than 50 socks to puzzled owner
Anne Brandon in the past three months.

She is desperate to find out who they belong
to, so she can return the plundered booty.

Anne, 67, a retired admin worker, of Charles
Street,
Loughborough, said: "It's getting really,
really embarrassing. I've got a huge bag full
of people's socks and I have no idea where
they are coming from. I've been round to
my neighbour's houses and asked if they're
missing anything from their washing
lines but no-one seems to know
what I'm talking about."


"One neighbour told me she sees Henry walking
along her wall with socks in his mouth all
the time, but where he gets them from is a
mystery. I just want people to contact
me so I can finally give them
their stuff back."


Henry's owner believes the socks are being
taken from neighbours' washing
lines or clothes baskets.


"He's a very friendly cat and everybody in
the area loves him. He's always going into
people's houses, so he's certainly not shy.
No-one has complained, but I'm just
desperate to return these socks."


To help Anne reunite the socks with their
owners, there's a
socks gallery on the local
paper's website. If you recognise them,
call Anne on 07951 788398.


A PUSS IN BOOKS

A Kent library has been visited almost every
day for two years by its own "puss in
books", the council has said.


Fidel, an eight-year-old black cat, turns up
at
Deal library almost every day
while his owners are at work.


He spends the day on his favourite blue
chair and leaves when he sees
his owners arriving home.

Staff say they have never tried to encourage
Fidel with food and used to put him
outside when he first began to visit
but he always came back.

Heather Hilton, district manager for the
Library, said: "Fidel certainly seems to
like coming here and he's very
popular with our customers."

"I think he's a bit of an art critic too because
we sometimes see him examining the
pictures on the gallery wall," she added.

A spokeswoman for Kent County Council which
runs the library said Fidel was such a "dedicated
customer" that he sometimes arrives
before staff and can be found
waiting at the front door.

Fidel is a rescue cat, whose owners chose
him from a local sanctuary after he
was found abandoned in a flat in Deal.


ARE YOU SURE?

This

was in yesterday's The London Lite
readers letters page.

Are you quite sure visited London
London? You sure it wasn't just a
nice dream or some parallel
universe lovely London?


27.4.09

GRUMP

NICE SPRING PIC
OF THE DAY

HOGZILLA

A rescued hedgehog that is four times
the size of normal hedgehogs
has been put
on a diet.

Huff Puff was taken to the Furze Pig Hedgehog
Rescue Centre near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire,
after she was found shivering under a shed last
October. She was in poor health and
weighed a mere 250 grammes.

Maureen Webb (above), who runs the centre,
said she was fed a normal amount of cat food
but had been
"growing and growing".

Huff Puff tips the scales at 2.04kg (4lb 6oz)
while the average female hedgehog
weighs about 600g (1.3lb).


Mrs Webb said she had now reduced Huff Puff's
food intake.
She said the hedgehog, which
weighs the same as a small cat, was
named after its "stroppy nature".


"If you touch her she literally goes 'huff puff'.
It's quite normal and for hedgehogs it's
a natural defence mechanism. But she
does it to extreme - she does
everything to extremes."


BE WARNED:
IT STINKS!

Visitors to Kew Gardens are being advised to
keep their distance when the world's smelliest
flowers come into bloom this week.

The Titan Arum emits stench of rotting
flesh, an odour so stomach-churning
that it is colloquially known as
'the corpse flower.'

Native to Indonesia, the plant flowers
just once every six or seven years but
experts at Kew predict the event will
happen in the next few days.

Twelve of them are housed in garden's
Princess of Wales Conservatory among
hundreds of other tropical plants.


The plants produce cream and pink flowers
while in bloom and the base of their stems
release the sickening odour for around three
days when the Arums are ready to pollinate.


Conservatory co-ordinator Phil Griffiths says
visitors should expect a 'strong and pungent'
scent which comes in waves and smells
like something is dead and rotting.


The plants make the unpleasant smell to
attract flesh-eating beetles who crawl into
the flowers and become trapped, covering
themselves in pollen in an effort to
escape.
The flowers then wither
allowing the insects out.


The largest Arums at the gardens weigh about
200lb (90kg) and can grow at a rate of
quarter of an inch an hour. It takes four
members of staff to repot the plants.


Sir David Attenborough invented the
name Titan Arum after capturing its
flowering on film for his BBC TV
series The Private Life of Plants.


THE ALPHABET
FROM THE AIR

The first Google Maps alphabet, featuring
all 26 letters,
has been created from satellite
images of natural features and buildings
by Rhett Dashwood, a graphic
designer from Australia.

The 32 year old concentrated his task in the
Australian state of Victoria and took just six
months to find every letter. The time-
consuming challenge consisted of slowly
scanning Google Maps looking
for suitable letters.

Please click on the image
to view a larger version.


"I found them exactly as you think I might have," he
said. "Slowly moving from page to page over the
maps and visually scanning. I put some simple
restrictions on my project, like sticking to my
home state of Victoria and not manipulating
(rotating or Photoshopping) the
images in any way."

"There were no short cuts to finding them, but
I did sense patterns emerging the further
I searched which helped to guide how
long I spent looking in particular
areas," he says.

People have now begun emailing him letters
on Google Maps from all over the world.

While searching for letters, he came
across a perfect "250" (above) as well
on farmland near Heywood.


THE MANY FACES
OF JAMES

I don't know if this guy is
totally nuts or a genius!

Last year James Kuhn promised to paint
his face with a different design every
day for one year. He has now
finished his challenge.

Since his story first appeared in October,
the 46-year-old from Three Oaks,
Michigan has amassed fans from
all around the world.


And he will not be bored now he has finished his
year in faces. He says: "I am going to continue
doing faces regularly, just not every day. I've
started working on my first children's book,
illustrated with face paintings. The writing
part of the story is finished and ideas
for the illustrations are popping
into my head all day long".


–. --- --- –. .-.. .

Google is marking the birthday of Samuel
Morse by translating its name into
dots and dashes for the day.

Visitors to the search engine's home page this
morning were met with the code "–. --- --- –. .-.. ."
instead of the usual Google logo.


The witty doodle honours Samuel Finley
Breese Morse, the inventor of the single wire
telegraph, who was born on April 27, 1791.


A talented painter who was admitted into
the Royal Academy, Morse only turned his
hand to inventing in 1832, after meeting
an expert in electromagnetism
on a sea voyage.


He later patented his idea for a transmitting
messages over electrical wires, which quickly
became the standard method of swift
long-distance communication. Every letter
of the alphabet was translated into a
combination of dots and dashes in the
code to which he gave his name.


NOT
SYNCHRONISED

Go Niklas!

The world's only male synchronised swimmer
is fighting international rules that have
banned him from competing at
London's 2012 Olympic Games.

Niklas Stoepel, 17, is one of Germany's top
youth synchro-swimmers and the only
boy in his high school team of
girls in Wattenscheid.

But swimming's international ruling body
FINA has banned him from representing
his country and refused to allow
him to compete overseas.


"They rejected the request. I believe that
officials just don't want to see any men in
this sport," said Niklas, who shaves his
legs and wears women's costumes
covered in sequins.


"You can already sense that at the national
level many of the judges are more strict in
their scoring of me than they are with my
female competitors. It's not fair - but I
haven't given up my dream of one day
competing in an international
championship," he added.


26.4.09

IVY ATTACK

It was a sunny Sunday here in SW19 so I decided
to tackle the jungly ivy which had taken
over half of the back fence in our garden.

It needed to come down, it was buckling
under its own weight and would've
eventually collapsed anyway.

It's a veritable space fest down there now so
I'm thinking of popping down to the garden
centre and buying a couple of nice
climbers
...not guys in silly lycra shorts and odd
looking shoes but some flowering plants!


KB dragged herself away from her busy
schedule of
wine drinking and doing bugger
all to be a hand model (above) for me!


23.4.09

CRASHED

HOUSE HUNTING
ALA ANTS

Tiny radio transmitters were fitted to
ants by scientists to study their
house-hunting habits.

Researchers at the University of Bristol placed
radio-frequency identification tags to the
backs of the rock ants which measure
up to 3mm in length.

Two thousand of the tiny transponders would
fit on to a postage stamp.
The scientists then
watched the way the ants chose between
two nest sites to make their home.


The ants chose the superior nest even though
it was nine times further away than the
alternative, which was not as well built.


When a colony of rock ants needs to emigrate
to a new nest, scouting ants first discover
new nests and assess them before leading
nest-mates to the new nest to prepare it
before the rest of the colony emigrates.


Dr Elva Robinson, from the University's School
of Biological Sciences, said that 41% of the
ants that visited the nearer, poorer
nest later switched to the nest
which was further away.

Only 3% of the ants that first visited the far nest
switched to the near nest.
"Each ant appears
to have its own 'threshold of acceptability'
against which to judge a nest
individually," she said.


"Ants finding the poor nest were likely to switch
and find the good nest, whereas ants finding the
good nest were more likely to stay committed
to that nest.
When ants switched quickly
between the two nests, colonies
ended up in the good nest.


"Individual ants did not need to comparatively
evaluate both nests in order for the entire
colony to make the correct decision."


Dr Robinson said the study showed that
ants are better at house-hunting
then humans.


"On the other hand, animals - including
humans - who use comparative evaluation
frequently make 'irrational'
decisions," she said.


"The ants' threshold rule makes an absolute
assessment of nest quality that is not subject
to risks, so simple individual behaviour
substitutes for direct comparison, facilitating
effective choice between nest sites
for the colony as a whole."


EVOLUTION

First there was Evolution Of Dance I (which
incidentally is the most watched video on
YouTube ever: 118,380,491 viewings and
counting) and now there is...
Evolution Of Dance II!

Both by motivational speaker Jud Laipply
are hilarious although personally
I think number 1 is better.

So how did it all come about?" I started working
on becoming a speaker in 2000. I got a great
piece of advice from a mentor: I needed to
come up with something that was unique and
different. Something that no one else did and
could become my calling card to help people
remember my messages and me," he says.


"I milled this over in my head for about 6-9
months when I finally hit the idea of how much
dancing had changed. I quickly wrote down
the first several that came to mind, 12 to
be exact - and listed them out. I still have
that piece of paper to this day. Since
then the dance itself has
evolved and changed."


HAPPY THERIDION
GRALLATOR

Scientists have found themselves raising
a smile when studying this creature -
the happy face spider.

It has developed bizarre markings giving
the appearance of a smiling face.

The spider, Theridion grallator, which measures
just a few millimetres across is harmless to
humans. It has evolved the patterns
to confuse predators.

It is under threat of extinction in the
rainforests of the Hawaiian
island chain in the Pacific.


Dr Geoff Oxford, a spider expert from the
University of York, said: "I must admit
when I turned over the first leaf and
saw one it certainly brought
a smile to my face."


"There are various theories as to why the
spider has developed the markings it
has, one of these that it may be
to confuse predators."


"When a bird or other predator first sees
a prey item it has not seen before there
is a moment before it decides
whether to eat it or not."


"I don't think the smiling face is enough to
put off a bird though, but it would be nice
to think so. Not all happy-face spiders
have such striking markings, and some
are nearly all orange or all blue."


Dr Oxford, who has been studying the spiders
since 1993, said that the unusual markings
of the arachnid had made them a symbol
of all of Hawaii's threatened wildlife.


"They are ambassadors for all the
threatened invertebrates, insects
and spiders on Hawaii," he said.



WHOOPERS

These endangered whooping crane, pictured
flying through the air in V-formation,
are making the long journey south in
a unique human-led migration.

Travelling 1,250 (2011 km) miles over a three-month
period the birds follow a specially constructed
ultralight aircraft from central Wisconsin
to the west coast of Florida
starting each October.

The journey is the result of efforts by conservationists
to increase the population of whooping cranes
in the wild, which had declined to just
15 in 1941, although numbers have
now risen to approximately 200.


To combat the threat of extinction of North
America's tallest bird (1.5 meters (5 ft), US
Fisheries and Wildlife Services teamed up
with the Whooping Crane Recovery Team
to breed a secondary flock who will
migrate down the eastern seaboard.


Led by conservation group, "Operation Migration",
the annual journey from Necedah National
Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, sees as many
as 20 whooping cranes making the
trip south to the Florida refuge.


"The migration takes around 80 days to
complete," said 59-year-old
lead pilot Joe Duff.


"The problem with reintroducing these birds
is they learn the migration route by following
a parent. As there is no parent generation
we become the surrogate parent and we
teach them to follow our aircraft and
we lead them on their first migration.

Thereafter they are on their own
and they return as wild birds."


Mr Duff and his team, who are to be awarded
the Conservation Partners Award from the
Department of Interiors in Washington this
week, have led over 100 birds south in this
secondary migration project from 2001.


The complicated process begins before the birds
are even born.
"We start the procedure at
the Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre in
Maryland where the largest captive
flock of Whooping cranes
are kept," he said.


"We start playing the sound of the aircraft
carrier engine and the brood call
before the egg hatches."

"Once the birds are about 50 days of age we
ship them out to Wisconsin before they learn
to fly because once they learn to fly then the
first thing they see from the air
is where they home to."


Using a specially constructed ultralight,
complete with cameras, GPS system and an
amplifier system to broadcast calling
sounds, Mr Duff and his four man team
can cover 50 to 100 miles per day at a
speed of 38mph (61 km/h).


However, conditions can only be achieved
during smooth air conditions,
which restricts flying time.


"We can only fly for that very calm cold period
first thing in the morning right after
the sun rises when we only get an
hour of dead calm air."


"So we have to wait for calm days and
for days where there is no ground fog or
until the frost clears in the mornings so
we have a very narrow weather
window we can use."