Saturday, 31 August 2013

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Only in England

A Kent town is thought to be the first in the UK to start putting up its Christmas lights - 115 days before 25th December.

Bosses at Tenterden Chamber of Commerce rigged up the lights on a tree on Saturday to test how they looked, and are going to add lights and decorations to nine other trees in the coming weeks.  The chamber's lights, worth £15 000, mysteriously went missing last year and it has been raising cash to fund new sets of lights and decorations.  However, a resident pointed out:

"It's still more than 100 days until Christmas and the sun is still blazing away.  Nobody wants to think about the cold winter coming up - we want to enjoy the sun while it lasts not start thinking about presents, turkey and snow."

My Photo
Quite- perhaps these lights deserved to get nicked too?  Seriously, £15k for sparkly lights?  Madness.

Back in Bangkok

Dunkin' Donuts Thai advert
Human Rights Watch said a Thai Dunkin' Donuts advert would cause 'howls of outrage' if it ran in the US. Photograph: Dunkin' Donuts
Dunkin' Donuts has apologised after it ran an advertisement in Thailandfeaturing a woman in "blackface" make-up. The advert, which was used to promote the donut giant's "charcoal donut", was called "bizarre and racist" by a leading human rights group.
Dunkin' Donuts chief executive in Thailand defended the campaign, but a spokesman for Dunkin' Brands told the Guardian on Friday it would immediately pull a planned television spot featuring the imagery.
"Dunkin' Donuts recognizes the insensitivity of this spot and on behalf of our Thailand franchisee and our company, we apologize for any offense it caused," Karen Raskopf, chief communications officer for Dunkin' Brands, said in a statement provided to the Guardian. "We are working with our franchisee to immediately pull the television spot and to change the campaign."
The Thai arm of Dunkin' Donuts had planned a poster and television campaign around the image, which it shared on Facebook. The advert shows a woman apparently wearing dark make-up and bright pink lipstick, with a 1950s beehive hairstyle. She is holding a "charcoal donut", out of which a bite has been taken. The slogan next to the image reads: "Break every rule of deliciousness."
The advert caused consternation on Friday morning, after Human Rights Watch said it would cause "howls of outrage" if it ran in the US.
Dunkin' Donuts Thai advertThe Dunkin' Donuts advert in full. Photograph: Dunkin' Donuts/Facebook
"It's both bizarre and racist that Dunkin' Donuts thinks that it must color a woman's skin black and accentuate her lips with bright pink lipstick to sell a chocolate doughnut," said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for HRW. "Dunkin' Donuts should immediately withdraw this ad, publicly apologize to those it's offended and ensure this never happens again."
The CEO for Dunkin' Donuts in Thailand, which is operated as a franchise, was initially bullish about the marketing. "It's absolutely ridiculous," said Nadim Salhani. "We're not allowed to use black to promote our doughnuts? I don't get it. What's the big fuss? What if the product was white and I painted someone white, would that be racist?"
Salhani said his daughter was the model used in the advert. He dismissed criticism as "paranoid American thinking", saying: "I'm sorry, but this is a marketing campaign and it's working very well for us."
The Associated Press reported that the advert had not "ruffled many in Thailand, where it's common for advertisements to inexplicably use racial stereotypes". The news agency said a herbal Thai toothpaste was available with the tagline "it's black, but it's good", while advertising for the Black Man brand of household mops showed a "smiling black man in a tuxedo and bow tie".

Go it Alone

Simon Calder looks at taking out the middle(wo)man and associated risks:

Cutting in the middle man (or woman) always used to be the essential strategy for long-haul flying. It was as though airline executives thought, "Let's see who's wealthy enough or foolish enough to buy at our published prices, and then we'll discount the rest like mad – but only through agents."

To find a sensible fare you had to buy through specialist firms such as DialAFlight, Trailfinders or Travelbag, who routinely undercut prices charged direct by the airlines. Their edge has steadily eroded, and most carriers now sell direct to the public at the same fares as, or sometimes less than, the agents can charge.
Going through a middle man can still work a treat. Agents often have access to "IT fares" that the airlines supply in an under-the-counter fashion, for sale at low prices only if bundled with accommodation as an "inclusive tour". These are especially useful to evade the ridiculous fares that many airlines still charge for short trips to the US which don't include a Saturday night stay. Suppose you want to go to New York on Monday for three nights: even though Manhattan has some of the priciest hotels on the planet, booking a BA flight plus the Holiday Inn in a single transaction saves over £600 on the air fare alone.
This month, I thought £760 return to the west coast of the US, as offered by Icelandair, was an excellent fare. But it turned out to be £18 cheaper through the agent I ultimately bought the ticket through. And for anything more complicated than a simple there-and-back journey it is worth going through an agent, even if the cost is a few pounds more. You get professional guidance through the travel minefield, with advice on everything from passport validity to money-saving dodges.
Stelios Haji-Ioannou cut out the middle man in spectacular fashion when he founded easyJet in 1995: "I had no allegiances, I had no friends in that industry. I just said, 'This doesn't make sense, we will not do it'," he told me. The no-frills airline even considered a cartoon depicting Stelios driving a stake through the heart of a travel agent, with the slogan "At easyJet, we know how to deal with bloodsuckers". Today, the airline works cheerfully with the traditional travel trade.
Last weekend, however, the perils of the middle man were revealed to thousands of prospective guests at hotels across the world. At around the time I was boarding my flight home from Seattle, thousands of customers were being told that booking through the website had turned out not to be such a brilliant idea. The firm that owned the accommodation site, called Navelar, had gone bust, and many supposedly confirmed reservations had been cancelled. Customers had paid in good faith, but the money had not been passed on, and the bookings were void.
Most of the British travellers affected by the failure will ultimately get their money back through the financial provider whose cards they used. But finding, and funding, alternative rooms at short notice is proving costly and stressful for many travellers.
The collapse revealed the labyrinth of complexity that can stand between the weary traveller and a good night's sleep. Often, there is not merely a single middle man, but a tangle of interested parties taking slices of the action .
Angle on the tangle
Many of the victims of the collapse had found the firm through the price-comparison site, Trivago. "We don't take any money from consumers," insists the firm, but it gets paid for each lead. Suppose a search on Trivago led you to; you might imagine that the latter had deals with individual hotels, enabling it to offer the "best possible price" that it promised prior to checking out of the commercial world. Nothing of the sort: it sourced the rooms through various wholesalers, such These intermediaries take a cut, of course. By the time the Chancellor (in the case of UK bookings) has helped himself to 20 per cent VAT, precious little remains for the hotelier.
The principle of bulk-buying – where the more you order, the lower the price – works well for baked beans. But for hotels, particularly individual, family-run properties, the extent of margins that are extracted before the guest reaches the reception desk are alarming.
I use search engines to get an idea of price levels, but I always then contact the hotel direct to see what it is offering; with the exception of one property (in Norwich, oddly), the quote has never been more than the many sites promising "the lowest prices" and has often proved less.
Worldwide webs
Many of our top travel companies are foreign, and we benefit from the most competitive travel industry in the world partly because of the UK's openness to overseas enterprises. Kuoni, the long-haul specialist, is Swiss – as are the owners of Monarch. BA's holding company is based in Madrid. And UK travellers have access to a web of worldwide offerings. But before you buy online through a company found via a price-comparison site, find out where it is based. Then form a judgement about the value the firm adds. was located in Hamburg, which does convince me of its expertise in helping UK guests find British hotels. While there is no suggestion that any other provider is in financial trouble, I won't until I next visit the fine city of Casablanca, where it is based. And I shall leave slumbering undisturbed in its home city, Hong Kong


We Will Get Stronger

Tottenham Hotspur is a different place this season. They have only played two league games so far and their squad is still in flux – and will be, presumably, until Monday night – but there is already a new feel, a fresh taste to work at Spurs.

While Arsenal, who finished one point ahead of their north London rivals in each of the last two years, have allowed themselves to drift, Tottenham have been increasingly enterprising and ambitious.

Spurs' new training facility in Enfield – this will be their first full season there – is rated by experts as Europe's best. And while the buildings and pitches are all very good, the true resource is the players, the improved recruitment of whom has enhanced the environment.

"There is a lot of competition," said the Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen at Tottenham's base this week. "The quality of the players is very high, so they train at a very high level." The contrast with Arsenal is obvious. "I think it's always good, whatever the result was last season, to have some freshness in the team, to be competitive with each other. I think the mood on the training ground is very good. I think everybody can feel that, especially because we won the first two games."

Spurs began their summer by signing Roberto Soldado, Nacer Chadli, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue. Vertonghen praised Soldado's pace and ability to win the ball back but was particularly impressed by the strength of the other three. "If you see those guys, they are all tall guys who have pace but physical power as well."

It was in midfield that Spurs lost fourth last year, after Sandro's knee injury in January, but there seems little danger of a repeat this time. Paulinho is the relentless goalscoring dynamo that they needed while Capoue is a remarkable player – an incisive passer who can control the tempo of a game but with the pace and strength to tear through the opposition. It is barely necessary to point out that they, like the rest of Spurs' signings, would have improved Arsenal this summer.

"They have just so much power," said Vertonghen of his new midfield. "I think the best example was the game against Swansea; they just run through people and they have good quality on the ball as well. They can give us some extra power to do better than last year."

Since then, Spurs have confirmed the signings of the Romanian Vlad Chiriches and Argentine Erik Lamela, with the Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen also joining for €13.5m (£11.5m). When Vertonghen was asked on Wednesday about Eriksen, with whom he played in Amsterdam for four years, there was a very knowing smile. Little wonder.

All these new players give Spurs more tactical options than they had last year, when they often relied on Gareth Bale to win games for them.

"We have more opportunities to play more tactics," explained Vertonghen. "We have way more power than we had last year, I think, and we still have our pace, and we can play different kinds of games. We played Man U away with a lot of counter-movement and at home we want to make the game, so I think we can do both now."

This all means that this year's Spurs team – as well as those in future years – are already better equipped than before. They have started this season with two clinical 1-0 wins, an improvement on last season, when they lost at Newcastle United before throwing away winning positions at home against West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City.

"We are one year older all of us, we have a little more experience, and I think we know a bit more how to win," Vertonghen said. "Last year we conceded in our first two home games two goals in the last minute, and I don't think that's going to happen again now."

Of course, Spurs did improve last year – largely thanks to Bale – but again finished a point adrift of Arsenal, consigning them to another year of the long slow haul of the Europa League.

This is particularly frustrating for Vertonghen, who feels that his side were superior. "It was painful, yes, because we thought we were a better team than Arsenal at the end. We were all very disappointed, especially because we thought we were supposed to be comfortable."

Anything can happen on Sunday and throughout the season but the growing confidence at Spurs is very understandable. They have the momentum and Vertonghen is not worried about the expectations from fans and media.

"Of course, there is a bit more pressure if you bring bigger players in. I think it is good to have some pressure, it keeps us at a high level as well, so maybe it is a pressure that we need," he said. "We can handle that; we think we have to finish in the top four. Our goal is the same."


Cool Cities- 10

10. Auckland, New Zealand: 

The capital of the north island of New Zealand, it is the most populated urban part of the country.

Cool Cities- 9

9. Perth, Australia: 

Cooler days and autumn colours make this a favourite time to experience the vibrant life of the state capital of Western Australia and one of the world's most isolated cities, currently booming on the back of the state's mineral wealth.

Cool Cities- 8

8. Helsinki, Finland: 

Helsinki comes alive when the temperature soars, the brief window of the Nordic summer fomenting a party spirit in Finland's capital. Between June and August, the sun scarcely seems to set on a metropolis that ranks as continental Europe's northernmost capital.

Cool Cities- 7

7. Sydney, Australia: 

Sydney is one of those places where you may feel you know the city already, with key famous landmarks like the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge

Cool Cities- 6

6. Adelaide, Australia: 

The city was laid out by Colonel William Light, with a green belt of 1,700 acres of parkland separating the city from its suburbs.

Cool Cities- 5

5. Calgary, Canada: 

The largest city in Canada's Alberta province packs a punch with contemporary galleries, independent shops and thriving nightlife

Cool Cities- 4

4. Toronto, Canada: 

Start at the Toronto Music Garden on the shores of Lake Ontario, designed by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who was invited by the City of Toronto to map a garden on the theme of Bach's first cello suite.

Cool Cities- 3

3. Vancouver, Canada:

The largest city in British Columbia has long lured filmmakers, drawn by its dazzling Pacific location.

Cool Cities- 2

2. Vienna, Austria: 

The former Habsburg capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire retains the architectural grandeur of its powerful rulers. Their legacy forms most of Vienna's tourist attractions, from palaces to museums, complemented by an overlay of outstanding Secessionist buildings and a still-dynamic cultural scene.

Cool Cities- 1

1. Melbourne, Australia: 

Australia's second city may not have the glamour of Sydney, but its colonial heritage and multicultural dynamism more than compensates.

Cool Cities- Intro

Melbourne has topped the list of the best cities in the world to live in, according to a new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
Vienna in Austria and Vancouver in Canada came in second and third place respectively on the Global Liveability Ranking.

Cities across the world are awarded scores depending on lifestyle challenges faced by the people living there. Each city is scored on its stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

This is the third time that the Australian city has topped the list. Unfortunately, UK cities fared worse on the list with London coming 55 out of 140 cities while Manchester was ranked 51.

The report also shows that livability across the world has fallen by 0.6 per cent and that Damascus in Syria has seen the biggest decline in living standards over the last five years.

Next from TInd

Sci Fi Factuals

Happy Spurs Fans

Tottenham transfers: How can you not be excited?
Erik Lamela is pure box office (Picture: AP)

This is turning out to be some transfer window. When supporters from other clubs, mostly rival clubs, sit back and applaud the shift we’ve put in then you know you’re doing something right.
In the past (most of the 1990s and early 2000s) Spurs spent a lot of money, mostly on marquee signings and never on methodical acquisitions that would work as part of a bigger picture. A template. A blueprint. Looking back, we never really had a vision or something tangible to work towards. To be fair, the era I’m remembering saw the birth of the Sky Sports Top Four and they stood head and shoulders above everyone. At least two of the four did (Man Utd and Arsenal). We never stood a chance.
Times have changed and are still changing. We compete every season for a place in the Champions League. When people cite Spurs as being in for a shout for the title (be it a very tenuous shout), nobody falls about laughing. We’ve been in amongst it during the past few seasons. We didn’t have the sustained quality to perhaps truly push for the title but we’ve been unlucky in missing out on CL football, on more than one occasion.
This has been a summer time that only Tottenham Hotspur can produce.
Whereas some teams are trying to hold onto the past, we’re attempting to craft our future, displaying unrelenting ambition in building towards a squad that can fight at the top (and for silverware).
I’ve spent all summer discussing Gareth Bale. The inevitable has now happened. Spurs have for the first time refereed to the transfer. I’m not fussed about the no-show training controversy. He shouldn’t be allowed to train considering he’s about to be sold for around £90M. Also, his petulance (be it his own or his agents influence) probably helps us all with detaching ourselves from emotive reflection.
He’s gone. The king is dead. Long like the king. Elvis has left the building. Say hello to the Beatles (you can thank Gareth Crooks for that particular gem).
Erik Lamela is pure box office. Pace, goals, assists, dribbles. Tough and elegant. Played out right for Roma, cutting in. But started on the left for his first club (River Plate). He’s an exceptional talent. A different type of player to Bale, but one that will no doubt entertain the White Hart Lane faithful and provide us with some flair, trickery and heart in mouth moments.
Vlad Chriches (now confirmed) is a centre-back . A much required addition to bolster our backline having sold Caulker.
Christian Eriksen (not yet confirmed) is much maligned. Splits opinion. Very highly rated, but now over-rated by some, but probably under-rated thanks to the very same hype he generated when he burst onto the scene. Only 21 years of age. Might be the answer to that missing creative outlet.
Add these to Soldado, Paulinho, Capoue, Chadli.
Not forgetting Holtby.
This has been a summer time that only Tottenham Hotspur can produce.

Be patient. But for the love of God, enjoy it.

Watching the Rip Off

NEW rules require all energy bills to explain in full detail how customers are being ripped off.
Get it, read it, accept it
Get it, read it, accept it
Clearly-labelled charges on the new bills include Standing Charge, Handling Charge, Fake Handling Charge, Lying Charge, Lying To Government Charge and We Didn’t Think You’d Notice This Charge.
A typical bill will begin with the words Dear Hapless Masses, and then state exactly how much of the money you pay is spent on organic veal for the chief executive’s dog to eat.
A spokesman for industry watchdog OFGEM said: “Everyone knows they’re having hundreds of pounds a year flat-out stolen from them by their energy provider, but it can be very difficult to work out what that money is being spent on.
“The new billing system has a pie chart to show exactly what percentage of your annual bill goes to escort services, how much goes directly to Vladimir Putin and how much is simply pissed away.”
Norman Steele of Warrington said: “Apparently £26.25 of my annual bill was spent on containing nuclear leaks, and £267.85 was spent on covering up nuclear leaks. Which obviously I’m fine with.
“But it says here that 21 per cent of my bill goes on paying shady heavily-armed mercenaries to guard oil and gas supplies.
“It’s a bloody outrage. I mean, that’s what I pay my taxes for.”

Keepie Up

FOOTBALL fans are furious that matches are diverting attention away from the transfer market.
Keep football abstract
Keep football abstract
They want games in the Premier League to be put on hold so they can focus on their true passion, the pure thrills of the player marketplace.
Chelsea fan Donna Sheridan said: “A goal, three points, top of the league, who gives a shit? All I want to know is who’s triggering whose contractual buyout clause.
“How am I expected to pay attention to the game when I know the incredible spectacle of who owns Roberto Soldado’s image rights is being played out behind the scenes?”
Football agents, their paid shills in the media, and players all agree that who’s employing who is more exciting than wasting time kicking a ball.
A leading Chelsea manager, speaking anonymously, said: “The most elegant approach would be to total every club’s wage bill and the money they’ve spent on transfers, and the highest gross wins the title.
“If football wants to be taken seriously, then it needs to take the cameras from the grass to the boardroom.”
Spurs fan Wayne Hayes said: “The last day of August is enthralling – last-minute swoops, botched medicals, helicopters to eleventh-hour signings. Then unfortunately the fun’s over until January 1st.”

Rack & Stack

Lionel Messi is arguably the finest footballer on the planet.
He brings untold joy to millions of fans every season, just by twirling his feet around at great speed. Unless, of course, you are a fan of Brazil or Real Madrid, or any team who happens to be on the receiving end of the diminutive Argentina and Barcelona player’s magic.
Messi can do things with a round ball that others can only dream of doing. But can you put a price tag on that? Well, it would appear you can, if his reported base salary of £13.5m is anything to go by.
However, should Messi be paid more than a nurse or a firefighter or a journalist? Okay, so perhaps he deserves to pick up a slightly bigger pay packet than a hack journo, but what about the other two, whose job is it to keep people alive? Shouldn’t ensuring others’ survival be worth more than running round a football pitch every few days? Don’t they and others deserve to be paid somewhere nearer Messi’s multi-million salary? And that’s before he even picks up endorsements and add-ons. There aren’t too many nurses out there with lucrative sponsorship deals.
Anyway, if the thought of toiling away from 9 to 8 every day (seriously, who works 9 to 5 any more?) makes you glum sometimes, here’s something to make you even more miserable.
A web app has been launched through which you can see how far your salary goes compared to Messi’s. The app also includes Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo (salary: £10m), Chelsea’s Fernando Torres (£13.9m) and Juventus player Carlos Tevez (£4.7m).
Simply titled, ‘You VS Professional Footballers’, the app was designed by internet marketer Peter Brown, a 21-year-old from Bromborough in Merseyside.
By typing your own salary into the app and selecting one of the footballers, you can find out how many years it would take you to buy just one supercar, and how many the player could buy in one year. The app even lets you know how much money both you and the footballer are earning per second.
‘Footballer salaries are always a hot topic and people are constantly comparing their salary against themselves and other occupations,’ said Brown. ‘This app highlights just how lavish footballer lifestyles are.’
The app calculates how many Lamborghini Gallardo cars, each costing about £180,000, the footballers can afford, as well as Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watches, which can set you back about £12,000.
If Messi wanted to pack in football in Spain, move to Britain and have the option of watching a Premier League game every week with his family, friends and entourage, he could buy 774 season tickets for all 20 clubs in the top flight here. Buying each team’s most expensive season ticket would cost a total of £17,444.70.

Piece of Fairy Cake

BEING a chef is not as nearly gruelling as chefs claim.
Put it in the oven then relax
Put it in the oven then relax
Chef Tom Logan admitted that despite the obsessive machismo of celebrity cooks like Gordon Ramsay, the work is not especially manly and could even be done by a child.
Logan said: “It’s not as physically demanding as people make out. Food isn’t heavy. Have you ever struggled to pick up a piece of bacon?
“Sure, sometimes you need to be quite strong to get the lid off a jar, but if Jamie Oliver reckons it’s hard work stirring a cake mix, I can only conclude that he must be incredibly weak.
“Maybe instead of whining about it he should join a gym and get some muscles on him.
“Then there’s all this bollocks about long hours. If you’re working in excess of 80 hours a week, either you haven’t got enough staff, or maybe you’re just shit at cooking.
“It’s not even that pressurised. If you bugger up a risotto, you just make a new one.
“You can’t do that if you’re an air traffic controller and you’ve just crashed a load of planes into each other.”
Logan conceded that busy periods were sometimes stressful but this could be overcome with a secret chef’s technique known as ‘drinking some sherry’.
However fellow chef Wayne Hayes disagreed: “Cooking the food is easy, but what tires you out is all the shouting and generally acting like a twat.
“Plus you have to threaten people. The food doesn’t come out right if you don’t threaten people.”

Look at Me

TEENAGERS about to start university are developing absurd new personalities in an attempt to seem interesting.
Troubled and full of mystery
Troubled and full of mystery
Experts are predicting this year’s student personas could be the most ridiculous yet, as social media intensifies the pressure to be unique.
18-year-old Tom Booker has decided to call himself ‘Tommo the Poet’ and begun wearing a trainer on his left foot and a boot on the right.
He said: “‘Tommo’ is a visionary wordsmith who gets laid most nights, as opposed to ‘Tom’ who works in the stock room at Argos and puts concealer on his spots.
“I’ve written the names of some musical icons on my stationary, after googling ‘old punk bands’.
“I’m going to tell everyone that my parents were punk poets who died of drug overdoses.
“It’s kind of true, I mean they’re dead inside from doing their corporate finance jobs. I still love them though of course.”
Emma Bradford is soon to start her first year at Warwick, and plans to call herself ‘DJ Bass Monkey’.
She said: “No one knows I’ve got a pony and I want to keep it that way.
“My university persona is urban and hedonistic, with a big coat, but still somewhat open to meeting rich boys and marrying into money.”
Careers advisor Julian Cook said: “Pretending to be cool for the first time can be intimidating.
“The main thing is don’t spray people with saliva when you talk and write the details of your ‘most illegal experience’ on your wrist for easy reference.”


brontophobia is the fear of thunderstorms.

Letters of Note

In 1949, just a few years after surviving the bombing of Dresden as a POW, 27-year-old aspiring author Kurt Vonnegut submitted a written account of the event to The Atlantic Monthly for consideration, along with two other pieces. Below is the rejection letter he later received from the publication's editor at the time, Edward Weeks.

Of course, Vonnegut's experience as a POW later served as inspiration for his 1969 novel, Slaughterhouse-Five.

A much-needed transcript follows. Image kindly supplied by Thomas Vance. 

Image: Thomas Vance

The Atlantic Monthly

August 29, 1949

Dear Mr. Vonnegut:

We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted to for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, "What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?" have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.

Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.

Faithfully yours,

(Signed, 'Edward Weeks')
Letters of Note

Talk to the Hand

Now there is a scientific definition of “personal space.”  Researchers from University College, London have defined it as a space 8 to 16 inches from a person’s face. The fact that the need for personal space varies from person to person is common knowledge, but this study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to create a numerical definition of it.  

Researchers from England’s University College London recorded the study subjects’ blink reflexes at varying distances from their faces. They chose to study blink reflexes because they are defensive responses to potentially dangerous stimuli, according to researchers Chiara Sambo and Giandomenico lannetti. 

After studying blink reflexes, the researchers compared the results with results from anxiety questionnaires. They found that the people who scored high on the anxiety text tended to react more strongly to stimuli eight inches from their face than those who got low scores. 

The study supports previous research that found that people with anxiety traits need more personal space than those without anxiety traits. 

Researchers say they believe their new findings could be useful for seeing how good people are at determining risks in certain jobs, particularly those which present dangerous or threatening situations.

Daily Dose

Random Maps

Gay rights around the world
Click to enlarge (Max Fisher/Washington Post)
Click to enlarge (Max Fisher/Washington Post)


atychiphobia is the fear of failure.

Fall Out

dean-martin-and-jerry-lewisDean Martin and Jerry Lewis formed the most electric comedy team in the history of show business.  Joining together in the summer of 1946, their act caught on like wildfire.  A combination of Dean Martin’s smooth, cool, baritone-voiced suave and Jerry Lewis’s incredible, creative, explosive, comedic brilliance, Dean and Jerry were the top act in all of show biz from the late forties through the mid-fifties.
Finally, after 16 films (all of which made money, the pair never had a box-office flop), a TV series (“The Colgate Comedy Hour”), several radio shows, and scores of frenetic, unforgettable live appearances on stage and in clubs, Dean and Jerry decided to end their lucrative partnership.  On July 25, 1956, 10 years to the day after they teamed up, Dean and Jerry officially called it quits.
The split was filled with acrimony and bitterness.  For many years after the split, Jerry refused to listen to Dean Martin records.  (By all accounts, Jerry took the break-up much harder than Dean. The night of their split, Jerry had to sleep under sedation. In contrast, according to Dean’s wife, Dean came home, she made him a fried egg sandwich and they watched some television together, all as if nothing had happened.)
In September of 1958, Jerry was making a guest appearance on “The Eddie Fisher Show”.  Jerry was talking about singing on the show, and in a huge surprise appearance, Dean walked in the studio while the show was on the air.  “Don’t sing! Just don’t sing!” Dean said.  Jerry proceeded to chase his erstwhile partner around the studio.
Later that year, the two were both shooting movies on the Paramount Studio lots.  “I’d see him tooling around the lot in his little golf cart with his name on it in lights,” Dean recalled, “When he saw me, he’d duck around a corner.”
Dean had Jerry brought to his dressing room for a drink. “Now, isn’t this better than ducking me?” Dean asked.   Jerry replied “Yep,” and, “I felt pretty good about it.”  Then Jerry left.  “The next time he saw me, he ducked me again,” said Dean.
In 1960, four years after the split, Dean and Jerry were both performing at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.  After Dean’s closing show, Jerry made a surprise appearance on stage.  Dean introduced his ex-partner from the stage. Jerry came on and the two clowned around together for 15 minutes.  Dean sang “Come Back to Me” to Jerry. Jerry joined in and they sang the song together.
Later in 1960, Jerry was exhausted from filming his movie “The Bellboy” in Florida and had to cancel his engagement at the Sands.  Dean heard about Jerry’s problem and graciously filled in for him.
In 1964, in a strange scene in show business history, the Beatles had come to Hollywood to perform a concert at the Hollywood bowl.  A huge line of movie stars, including Edward G. Robinson, Kirk Douglas, Doris Day, Burt Lancaster, etc. had lined up to meet the Fab Four in person.  Jerry Lewis was in the line to meet the Beatles, but when he spotted Dean Martin in the line, he quickly hurried away and left the affair.
In 1976, there was the much publicized Martin and Lewis reunion on national TV on Jerry’s annual muscular dystrophy telethon.  Touched by Dean’s surprise appearance, Jerry wrote Dean a letter that night and asked to see him again.  He never received an answer from Dean.  He kept trying, but still no answer.  At this point in time, Jerry wanted to reestablish a friendship, or at least some kind of relationship, with his ex-partner.  Dean, on the other hand, seemed to hold no real animosity for Jerry, but he just wanted to be left alone and to go his own way.
Then came the worst day of Dean Martin’s life.  On March 20, 1987, his beloved son, Dino Jr., was killed in a plane crash. (Dino was a captain in the Air National Guard.)  Jerry later said, “That was the day he died.”  Although Dean had seven children, Dino was, by all accounts, his special favorite (and his first born).  At Dino’s funeral, a quiet, hidden figure turned up.  It was Jerry Lewis, deliberately acting low-key, so as not to draw any attention.  He stood at the back of the church and remained there quietly throughout the service.
Dean did not at first know Jerry had been present at the service.  After the funeral, Dean got word his former partner had showed up for his son’s funeral.  Touched, he told an aide to get Jerry on the phone.  Late that night, Jerry received a phone call.  “Hey Jer”, said the very familiar voice.
According to Jerry,
We talked for about an hour. He cried, I cried. I said, “Life’s too short, my friend. This is one of those things that God hands us, and we have to somehow go on with our lives. That’s what Dino would have wanted.”
At a loss for words, Dean kept saying, “Jer, I can’t tell you.”
After the funeral, Jerry told his wife what he knew in his heart, “Honey, it’s just a matter of time. Dean’s gone. That boy was the most important thing he had in his life.”
Jerry wanted very much to see Dean in person, but Dean preferred talking on the phone. Jerry respected that.  He continued to call Dean whenever he could.
It was well-known that Dean was very careless in taking care of himself and his health after the death of Dino Jr.  Jerry tried to get Dean to change his reckless ways. The conversations always began the same way:  “Hey Paul, how you doing?” (Jerry often referred to Dean as “Paul”, Dean’s middle name).  “I’m doin’ just fine, preacher.”-  “Listen, you’ve got to take better care of yourself, stop the drinking and the crappy diet. Millions of people love you. You’ve got the world in your pocket.”-  “Yes preacher.”
Dean and Jerry had run into each other four years previously, by complete accident.  In 1983, Jerry and his wife, Sam, were dining together at La Famiglia in Beverly Hills (Jerry had no idea this was Dean’s favorite restaurant).  He spotted a lone figure dining at a red leather booth by the front door.
As Jerry said, “My first reaction was a double take at how much Dean had aged… My partner had always looked so magnificently handsome and youthful… whether it was the effects of the sun for all those years, or the accumulated sadness of his life, or just the genetic luck of the draw, I don’t know. But it deeply saddened me.”
Jerry walked over to Dean’s table.  “Wanna have a drink?” Dean asked.  “I don’t drink”, replied Jerry, “I used to work with this guy who drank all the time and breathed on me- I’ve had all the booze I can take for one lifetime.”
“It was playful”, recalled Jerry, “but I felt that I was imposing on him. With age, his reserve had grown… He truly wanted to be alone. I touched his arm, gave him a wink, and went back to my table.”
Ten minutes later, a waiter brought over a champagne bucket, covered with a cloth napkin.  “Compliments of Mr. Martin”, said the waiter.
Jerry removed the napkin and saw six bottles of Diet Coke sitting on ice.  He laughed and brought his wife over to meet his ex-partner.  They chatted briefly, but both Jerry and his wife felt and understood Dean wished to be alone.
In 1989, Dean was playing Bally’s in Las Vegas.  On Dean’s 72nd birthday, a huge birthday cake was wheeled out by his ex-partner.  Dean and Jerry hugged. The crowd went berserk as the band played Happy Birthday.  “You surprised me”, said Dean, with tears in his eyes.  “I love you and I mean it,” said Dean, as he hugged his old friend.
“Here’s to 72 years of joy you’ve given the world,” said Jerry, “Why we broke up, I’ll never know.”
On Christmas day 1995, the great Dean Martin passed on at the age of 78.  Jerry did not attend Dean’s funeral.  He did, though, appear at the memorial service.  Jerry was asked to speak of his ex-partner and friend.
He told the crowd, “You are so lucky that you knew my partner and my friend. I will not fall into the drone of pain about death, but I will ask you to just yell ‘Yeah!’ that he lived… that he was with us for all that time. ‘Yeah! Yeah!’ And that, my friends, is my celebration of his life. Long may he drink!”
After the service, Jerry saw Frank Sinatra.  “Well, we lost the big gun, my friend”, said Frank.  “We didn’t lose him,” replied Jerry, “God just placed him elsewhere.”


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There He Is

Found him
Today I found out about the history of Where’s Wally (known in the US and Canada as Where’s Waldo).
The iconic, elusive man in the red-and-white striped shirt was first hidden away in 1987 by British illustrator Martin Handford.
Handford had been drawing since he was a boy, and was particularly fond of viewing and drawing crowd scenes. He felt crowds contained a certain kind of excitement, and he liked to capture it on paper.
After three years of art school, Handford started working as a freelance illustrator, drawing crowd scenes for a variety of magazines and advertising companies. He got the idea for a whole book made up of crowd scenes and approached a publishing company about it in 1986. The art director suggested that he make a character to act as a focal point in his pictures of crowds to encourage people to look at the picture more closely.
After a bit of thought, Handford came up with the distinctive Wally/Waldo character. The round glasses and pom-pom on top of Wally’s head were definitive of Wally’s personality, which Handford described as something like a “train spotter”—a phrase used in England in the 1980s to describe someone who was a bit daft.
In Handford’s own words,
I gave him that look because when I originally thought of the character who was lost in all those scenes, I just imagined the reason he was lost was because he was slightly idiotic and didn’t know where he was going.”
Handford soon started designing the two-page spreads that would make up the first Where’s Wally? book. It took him as many as eight weeks to finish each picture, which were filled with various other characters doing a myriad of entertaining things. Some of the spreads contain upwards of 3,000 to 4,000 tiny figures, which understandably take some time to create—not to mention the crazy backgrounds, which include everything from a cake factory to a band competition.
The first Where’s Wally? book was published in the UK in 1987 by Walker Books, followed by publication in the US by first Little, Brown and Company, then Candlewick Press. It featured Wally visiting a bunch of familiar places like the beach and train station.
The books have since been widely published throughout the world in nineteen different languages to date. Wally’s name is often changed for these different editions.  For instance, he’s “Waldo” in the US and Canada, “Charlie” in France, “Walter” in Germany, “Ali” in Turkey, “Efi” in Israel, and “Willy” in Norway.  All total, the books have sold well over 50 million copies and are still going strong.  Not bad for what essentially are just books of drawings of a bunch of crowds in various settings.
Bonus Facts:
  • Where’s Waldo? was on the American Library Association’s list of top 100 banned books from 1990-1999. What could be so offensive about Wally? On the beach scene there is a picture of a cartoon woman lying on her towel topless. She was covered up in the 1997 special release of the book.
  • Throughout his many adventures, Wally can be found all over the page. Handford says there’s no formula for finding Wally, but that doesn’t mean scientists haven’t considered him an interesting point of study. In 2009, researchers made some discoveries about how the brain searches for objects using the Where’s Wally? books as a reference. Participants in the study were simply asked to “find Wally.” While they searched, their eye movements were recorded. It was discovered that the number of tiny eye jerks, called microsaccades, increased dramatically when Wally was found. Dr. Martinez-Conde explained the significance of this research, saying, “This link can help with future advances such as creating neural prosthetics for patients with brain damage or machines that can see as well as humans.”
  • So far, Wally’s adventures are detailed in seven main books (though there have been many spin-off books), the most recent of which is Where’s Wally? The Incredible Paper Chase, which was released in 2009. But books aren’t the only places you’ll find Wally hanging around these days. His image can also be found on cereal boxes, a comic strip, a TV show, film, video games, and various other merchandise.
  • You can even find Wally in real life—or try to. In 2011, a world record was set for the largest gathering of people dressed as Wally: 3,872 Wally look-alikes in Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland. The record broke the previous record set in 2009 at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA, which had just 1,052 participants. In September 2009, a Where’s Wally? recreation took place in Chicago, featuring the main cast of characters, including Wally, Wanda, Wizard Whitebeard, Odlaw, and Woof. The characters were hidden throughout downtown Chicago and people were encouraged to try to find them.
  • You might even stumble across Wally while you’re browsing Google Earth. A project called “Where on Earth is Waldo?” was started up by Melanie Coles, a Media Arts student based in Vancouver, Canada. Coles designed a Waldo template that could be painted on roofs and made it available to everyone online. That means dozens of these 54-foot long Waldos could be popping up on rooftops near you, and you can find them by zooming around on Google Earth. Coles won’t divulge the location of the one she painted for the start of her project, because what’s the fun of a game of Where’s Wally if you know exactly where he is? However, she hopes that more people will participate in the game and have fun attempting to find her painting.


Europa League Draw

Group A: Valencia, Swansea, Kuban Krasnodar, St Gallen.
Group B: PSV Eindhoven, Dinamo Zagreb, Chornomorets Odesa, Ludogorets Razgrad.
Group C: Standard Liege, Salzburg, Elfsborg, Esbjerg.
Group D: Rubin Kazan, Wigan, Maribor, Zulte Waregem.
Group E: Fiorentina, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Pacos Ferreira, Pandurii Targu Jiu.
Group F: Bordeaux, APOEL, Eintracht, Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Group G: Dynamo Kiev, Genk, Rapid Vienna, Thun.
Group H: Sevilla, Freiburg, Estoril, Slovan Liberec.
Group I: Lyon, Real Betis, Guimaraes, Rijeka.
Group J: Lazio, Trabzonspor, Legia Warsaw, Apollon Limassol.
Group K: TottenhamAnzhi Makhachkala, Sheriff, Tromso.
Group L: AZ Alkmaar, PAOK Thessaloniki, Maccabi Haifa, Shakhter Karagandy.