You’ve got to be kidding!

Posted by batman on Jan 27th, 2009
2009
Jan 27

The human race never fails to amaze me – there’s always one wiseguy that thinks that the existing competitions are too boring, and wants to create something highly unique. Some of them are just crazy, but some of them are actually irresponsible if one looks at the amount of wastage that can be generated. There are after all people that haven’t had a decent meal in a week, but that’s one for another day.

I hope you enjoy these ones…

Rock Paper Scissors League

Exerpt from Wikipedia:

The United States of America Rock Paper Scissors League is a national competition league for the hand game rock paper scissors. The first national champion was crowned on 9 April 2006 at the USARPS League Championship, which was held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada and televised by the A&E Network on 12 June. The champion is awarded a $50,000 cash prize.

See: Official USARPS website

Tuna Chucking

A very interesting sports competition is taking place in Australia – tuna throwing. The contestants twirl the frozen fish around above their heads (a rope is tied to fish’s tail) and then toss it far ahead vigorously. Sean Carlin, a former Olympic hammer thrower is the absolute champion in the tuna-throwing competition. His record is 37.23 meters, the local Adventure newspaper wrote.

Fortunately (for the environment, economy and plain common sense), organizers of the Tunarama Festival, held each January in Port Lincoln on the remote Eyre Peninsula, are altering the highlight event – by replacing the actual tuna with polyurethane replicas. Previously, the tail came off, the fins came off, the eyes fell out and then the underbelly broke, and it really got to be extremely messy.

See: Daily Waste

Bog Snorkelling

This year a record number of entrants donned a snorkel, flippers, and in many cases fancy dress, to cover 120 yards in a peat bog in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Mid Wales. Just to make it that bit harder, they weren’t allowed to swim using conventional strokes, with officials insisting they doggy paddle or hold their arms out in front of them. Despite the rain, which turned the car park into something resembling a bog itself, hundreds of people turned out to witness the eccentric spectacle. Competitors came to the event from as far afield as Australia. Some took part in their pyjamas, some in camouflage – and one man even had an ironing board and iron strapped to his back.

See: Metro

Stinging Nettle Eating

Nettles first came to the fore at the Bottle Inn around 1986 when two farmers were having an argument as to who had the longest nettles on their land. The Landlady then was Francis Vincent who commented “What makes you to think you have the longest nettles, we’ll have a competition open to every one in the area and we’ll see who has the longest nettles”! The Longest Stinging Nettle Competition was born. The competition had been running for three years when local hospital porter and Ex Guardsman, Alex Williams entered a stinging nettles 15’6″ long, he said at the time “If anybody beats that I’ll eat it.

An American couple on holiday staying in the area came up with a nettle 16′ long and Alex true to his word, promptly ate the nettle!! (though to this day, he disputes the measurement). After that traditionally if Alex didn’t win the competition, he ate the winners Nettle. In 1997, when Shane Pym became landlord of The Bottle Inn, he decided to have a musical celebration of the Summer Solstice, the idea being a kind of Medieval Fayre with jugglers, stilt walkers etc.. One night at the bar looking for something as a side show to the event we now call Midsummer Madness we suggested to Alex that we might put him in a corner of the beer garden and and challenge anybody to eat more nettles than he could.

As Alex pointed out throughout the course of the day he was likely to consume a great deal of stinging nettles, we therefore decided to run a competition calling it the World Stinging Nettle Eating Challenge and putting Alex forward as pub Champion. Thus was the Stinging Nettle Eating Challenge born. It has been a successful competition gaining much media interest nationally and inter-nationally.

See: The Bottle Inn

Swamp Soccer

Swamp Soccer originates from the swamps of Finland in northern Europe. Started by some cross country skiers who were training in the swamps during the summer months, Finland held its first tournament in 1997 with 13 teams. Now this event has become a massive football competition with over 200 teams. Annual tournaments now also occur in Sweden, Iceland and of course the UK.

See: Swap Soccer

Cheese Rolling

If you’re a whiz at cheese rolling, you may want to head to Brockworth in Gloucestershire, England, at the annual Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll held each May. The ancient festival dates back hundreds of years and involves pushing and shoving a large, mellow, seven- to eight-pound wheel of ripe Gloucestershire cheese downhill in a race to the bottom. With the wheels of cheese reaching up to 70 miles per hour, runners chase, tumble, and slide down the hill after their cheese but don’t usually catch up until the end. The winner gets to take home his or her cheese, while the runners-up get cash prizes.

See: How stuff works

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What happened to Juan-Pablo Montoya

Posted by batman on Jan 26th, 2009
2009
Jan 26

montoya.jpgHis time in Formula One was aggressive, confrontational, and in-your-face – and that’s why so many people loved him. He was a breath of fresh air in a staid and stuffy environment, where no-one was allowed to say or do anything that would cast the sport in a bad light. He was relatively happy during his time with BMW-Williams – he had some measure of freedom to be himself. But his time at McLaren Mercedes was just a disaster – way too formal, too strict and with far too many rules – Juan Pablo would unfortunately never survive under Ron Dennis’s dictatorship!

He left the McLaren-Mercedes team midway through 2006 to pursue a career in NASCAR, and after two years away from the sport, appears to have no regrets about leaving Formula One. “Formula One drivers are convinced that they’re so much better than anyone else,” Montoya, who races for the Chip Ganassi team, said. “When I was in F1, every week I was on the podium. It was cool, but is it satisfying? It wasn’t, because it was the most boring races. The guy who started in front of you would drive away from you and the guy who was behind you would drop away from you, unless you messed up in qualifying and then you need to have a different pitstop strategy to beat them.”

Whereas Formula One revels in the romantic notion of presenting the zenith of style and grace, Nascar delights in being bold, brash and loud. The supercharged road cars steam around predominantly oval tracks, with hundreds of overtaking manoeuvres per race. Fans park their motorhomes on the track infield, barbecuing and drinking as the drivers race around them. At the end, the race winner does not spray Moët et Chandon, but Budweiser.

“It’s boring,” Montoya said. “It’s a shame because the technology these cars have and the amount of companies that are involved is unreal. I don’t know how big companies do it for such a long time without results.”

In Nascar, there are more than 40 cars racing wheel to wheel for up to three hours. “It’s harder here,” Montoya said. “When you run fifteenth, sometimes you think it sucks. But look at the big picture: fifteenth here is like sixth or seventh in F1, because there are twice as many cars. The incredible thing is here I run fifteenth or twentieth on average and there are four or five weeks in the year where I have a chance of winning. In F1 if you run sixth or seventh, you run sixth or seventh the whole year.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re running for the lead, or for 30th, you’re always racing somebody. That’s much better.”

Juan Pablo Montoya’s Pedigree

1998 – Won Formula 3000 Championship
1999 – CART Rookie of the Year
1999 – CART Series Champion
2000 – Won Indianapolis 500
2001 – Joined Formula One
2001 – First Formula One Win (Italy)
2002 – Finished third in Driver’s Championship
2003 – Finished third in Driver’s Championship
2007 – NASCAR Cup Rookie

His 2008 record

During 2008 he competed in 36 races, completing 96% of the laps. He had no wins or poles, and ended with a ranking of 25. He had two top 5 finishes, and three top 10’s. His best result was a 2nd place at Aaron’s 499 on April 27.

I just don’t get oval circuit racing

What is it about oval circuit racing that grabs the imagination of the American’s? Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking it – its just that I don’t see the attraction for seeing 30-40 equally matched cars, stuck in top gear an at maxuimum revs, following each other around a small oval track. There are no corners, no driving skill in the traditional sense (although I realise that it must take some pretty awesome car control to keep a car at high speed on banked circuits), no real overtaking – just the slipstreaming behind the cars in front. In a 200 lap race, the pace car can come out several times, bunching the field right up to where they were when they started. What is the point then of trying to break away and establish a lead? I just far prefer the European Formula One series instead of the American IndyCar series, and for instance the Australian V8’s instead of NASCAR – there’s just more to it – high speed straights, slow corners, heavy braking zones – and it just seems more like racing.

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Stonehenge, United Kingdom

Posted by batman on Jan 22nd, 2009
2009
Jan 22

stonehenge1.jpgThe stones we see today represent Stonehenge in ruin. Many of the original stones have fallen or been removed by previous generations for home construction or road repair. There has been serious damage to some of the smaller bluestones resulting from close visitor contact (prohibited since 1978).

Construction
In its day, the construction of Stonehenge was an impressive engineering feat, requiring commitment, time and vast amounts of manual labor. In its first phase, Stonehenge was a large earthwork; a bank and ditch arrangement called a henge, constructed approximately 5,000 years ago. It is believed that the ditch was dug with tools made from the antlers of red deer and, possibly, wood. The underlying chalk was loosened with picks and shoveled with the shoulderblades of cattle. It was then loaded into baskets and carried away. Modern experiments have shown that these tools were more than equal to the great task of earth digging and moving.

The Bluestones
About 2,000 BC, the first stone circle (which is now the inner circle), comprised of small bluestones, was set up, but abandoned before completion. The stones used in that first circle are believed to be from the Prescelly Mountains, located roughly 240 miles away, at the southwestern tip of Wales. The bluestones weigh up to 4 tons each and about 80 stones were used, in all. Given the distance they had to travel, this presented quite a transportation problem.

Modern theories speculate that the stones were dragged by roller and sledge from the inland mountains to the headwaters of Milford Haven. There they were loaded onto rafts, barges or boats and sailed along the south coast of Wales, then up the Rivers Avon and Frome to a point near present-day Frome in Somerset. From this point, so the theory goes, the stones were hauled overland, again, to a place near Warminster in Wiltshire, approximately 6 miles away. From there, it’s back into the pool for a slow float down the River Wylye to Salisbury, then up the Salisbury Avon to West Amesbury, leaving only a short 2 mile drag from West Amesbury to the Stonehenge site.

Construction of the Outer Ring
The giant sarsen stones (which form the outer circle), weigh as much as 50 tons each. To transport them from the Marlborough Downs, roughly 20 miles to the north, is a problem of even greater magnitude than that of moving the bluestones. Most of the way, the going is relatively easy, but at the steepest part of the route, at Redhorn Hill, modern work studies estimate that at least 600 men would have been needed just to get each stone past this obstacle.

Once on site, a sarsen stone was prepared to accommodate stone lintels along its top surface. It was then dragged until the end was over the opening of the hole. Great levers were inserted under the stone and it was raised until gravity made it slide into the hole. At this point, the stone stood on about a 30° angle from the ground. Ropes were attached to the top and teams of men pulled from the other side to raise it into the full upright position. It was secured by filling the hole at its base with small, round packing stones. At this point, the lintels were lowered into place and secured vertically by mortice and tenon joints and horizontally by tongue and groove joints. Stonehenge was probably finally completed around 1500 BC.

Who Built Stonehenge?
The question of who built Stonehenge is largely unanswered, even today. The monument’s construction has been attributed to many ancient peoples throughout the years, but the most captivating and enduring attribution has been to the Druids (altho since shown to be erroneous). The best guess seems to be that the Stonehenge site was begun by the people of the late Neolithic period (around 3000 BC) and carried forward by people from a new economy which was arising at this time. These “new” people, called Beaker Folk because of their use of pottery drinking vessels, began to use metal implements and to live in a more communal fashion than their ancestors.

Present Day Stonehenge
Situated in a vast plain, surrounded by hundreds of round barrows, or burial mounds, the Stonehenge site is truly impressive, and all the more so, the closer you approach. It is a place where much human effort was expended for a purpose we can only guess at. Some people see it as a place steeped in magic and mystery, some as a place where their imaginations of the past can be fired and others hold it to be a sacred place. But whatever viewpoint is brought to it and whatever its original purpose was, it should be treated as the ancients treated it, as a place of honor .

The modern age has not been altogether kind to Stonehenge, despite the lip service it pays to the preservation of heritage sites. There is a major highway running no more than 100 yards away from the stones, and a commercial circus has sprung up around it, complete with parking lots, gift shops and ice cream stands. The organization, English Heritage, is committed to righting these wrongs, and in the coming years, we may get to see Stonehenge in the setting for which it was originally created. Despite all its dilapidation and the encroachment of the modern world, Stonehenge, today, is an awe-inspiring sight, and no travel itinerary around Britain should omit it.

Other Links

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge

http://www.stonehenge.co.uk/

Content credits : http://www.britannia.com

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Photo Stitching for Panoramic Effects

Posted by batman on Jan 21st, 2009
2009
Jan 21

Photo Stitching is a process whereby several photo’s are taken in sequence, and then using a software package (I have used Canon’s Zoombrowser EX, which came with my Canon 350D) to “stitch”, or join the photo’s together, to form one, wide (or high if you want) photo. These are some examples of what I have achieved.

Photos these days can be quite large – my 350D of 8 megapixels yields photos in the order of 3 Mb minimum. Merging about 5 of these photos can easily result in a stitched photo of 15 Mb. For the purposes of this webpage I have had to reduce the size and quality of these photos quite substantially in order to make it render in a reasonable timeframe. Rest assured – the originals are of a much higher resolution!

Stitching can be used to create a panorama (5 wide x 1 high), but can also be used to create much higher resolution e.g (3 wide x 3 high) with an 8 megapixel camera will result in an image of roughly 8 * 9 = 72 megapixels, for you to do with as you please.

I am by no means an expert, and these were accomplished with minimal hassle – I seriously believe that anyone with a decent camera and software can produce images like these within minutes.

Some tips & tricks:

  • Try to keep a constant line through all of them e.g. the horizon works like a charm
  • Rather have too much overlap, than too little
  • Try to keep all photo’s equi-distant i.e. don’t have your leftmost photo closeby, while your rightmost one is far away – you’ll get undesirable curvature effects
  • You will need consistent lighting across the entire sequence e.g. avoid bright sunshine at one end, and shade at the other end
  • Naturally all of the shots must be taken with identical camera settings i.e. don’t fiddle with your focal distance, apertures or shutter speeds between sequences
  • Unexplained hiccups do occur – see Yzerfontein below
  • Practice makes perfect – the fun is in the trying and experimenting

The Orange River, Namibia

The view from the mine.jpg

St Helena Bay, South Africa

20081130_st_helena_bay.jpg

Yzerfontein, South Africa (almost good)

20081130_yzerfontein.jpg

Bains Kloof, South Africa

20081130_bains_kloof.jpg

Table Mountain, South Africa (taken by renowned photographer Shafiq Bailey, CT) – Canon 1000D

TableMountainView.jpg

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The Inauguration of President Barack Obama

Posted by batman on Jan 20th, 2009
2009
Jan 20

barack-obama-2.jpgToday, on the 20th January 2009, Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated into the Presidency of the United States of America. He is the 44th president of the United States, succeeding President George W. Bush who was, in the opinion of many, the worst president yet. There wasn’t exactly an abundance of sadness as President Bush left the stage.

Anecdotes are aplenty at grand occasions such as this – one of them going something like “It needed a Clinton (President) to fix up the mess left by President H.W. Bush – will it take another Clinton (Hillary) to cleanup after the latest President W. Bush?”

Much of this inauguration has an Abraham Lincoln flavour to it. Reference was made during President Obama’s speech, and even the menu at the presidential luncheon was slanted towards the tongue of the great man. Its no coincidence then that 2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.

Interestingly enough, one of the most popular webpages was that containing the menu for the inauguration luncheon held in the Statuary Hall.

Senator Joe Biden first took his oath of office from Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

At noon President-elect Barack Obama became President Obama when Chief Justice John G. Roberts led him in the Oath of Office found in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Unfortunately Chief Justice Roberts stumbled through the leading of the oath, leaving Barack seeming nervous and missing his words. However he followed this up with a magnificent and powerful oratory, fluent and eloquent. Gone was the boyish, smiling, nervous fellow – here was a stern and determined man, hard and unlikely to take nonesense from anyone. Here seems to be the leader America has been calling out for.

See his full inauguration speech here.

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

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