Saturday, 31 October 2015

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Free Internet

The Freedom on the Net 2015 report by Freedom House has ranked 88 countries for the freedom of their citizens on the internet.
The report found that internet freedom globally had declined for a fifth consecutive year, as more governments censored information of public interest while expanding surveillance.
Of the 65 countries assessed, 32 have been on a negative trajectory since June 2014.
The UK was awarded the same score as the prior year, placing the country 12th in the 2015 index.
The UK joined 13 other countries since June 2014 which have passed new laws to increase surveillance and joined a host of other countries criticised by the report for the manner in which it “stigmatised encryption as an instrument of terrorism”.

The top ten most free countries online:

internet freedom

The top ten least free countries online:

internet freedom
The report said of the UK:
Users’ rights still seem caught in the shadow of extensive surveillance measures used by the government to monitor the flow of information for law enforcement and foreign intelligence purposes.
In August, a former UN privacy chief said that UK surveillance was worse than in George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984.
The first UN privacy chief, Joseph Cannataci, told The Guardian:
Because if you look at CCTV alone, at least Winston was able to go out in the countryside and go under a tree and expect there wouldn’t be any screen, as it was called.
Whereas today there are many parts of the English countryside where there are more cameras than George Orwell could ever have imagined. So the situation in some cases is far worse already.
The way we handle it is going to be the difference. But Orwell foresaw a technology that was controlling. In our case we are looking at a technology that is ever-developing, and ever-developing possibly more sinister capabilities.
internet freedom


Happy birthday, Henry Winkler! Henry Winkler thumbs-upped his way into America’s hearts as the Fonz in Happy Days more than 40 years ago, and he hasn’t been out of the spotlight since, whether it’s playing himself in an Adam Sandler movie, a hospital administrator with a weird obsession with butterflies in Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital, or a pantomiming Captain Hookon the London stage. In honor of his 70th birthday, here are five things you might not know about Henry Winkler.


After graduating from Emerson College, Winkler applied to Yale University’s drama program. In his audition, he had to do two scenes, a modern and a classic comedy. However, when he arrived at his audition, he forgot the Shakespeare monologue he had planned to recite. So he made something up on the spot. He was still selected for one of 25 spots in the program. 


In the fifth season of Happy Days, the Fonz grabbed a pair of water skis and jumped over a shark. The phrase “jumping the shark” would become pop culture shorthand for the desperate gimmicks employed by TV writers to keep viewers hooked into a show that’s running out of storylines. But Winkler’s water skiing adventure was partially inspired by his father, who begged his son to tell his co-workers about his past as a water ski instructor. When he did, the writers wrote his skills into the show. Winkler would later reference the moment in his role as lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development, hopping over a dead shark lying on a pier.  


Winkler struggled throughout high school due to undiagnosed dyslexia. “I didn't read a book until I was 31 years old when I was diagnosed with dyslexia,” he told The Guardian in 2014. He has co-written 17 chapter books for kids featuring Hank Zipper, a character who has dyslexia. The most recent Hank Zipper book is printed in Dyslexie, a special font designed to be easier for kids with dyslexia to read. 


On one of his first days on the set of Happy Days, producers told Winkler that he just had to ride the Fonz’s motorcycle a few feet. Because of his dyslexia, he couldn’t figure out the vehicle’s controls, he told an interviewer with the Archive of American Television. “I gunned it and rammed into the sound truck, nearly killed the director of photography, put the bike down, and slid under the truck,” he recalled. For the next 10 years, whenever he appeared on the motorcycle, the bike was actually sitting on top of a wheeled platform. 


In addition to his roles on Arrested DevelopmentRoyal PainsParks and Recreation, and others, Winkler has popped up in a few unexpected places in recent years. He appeared for a brief second in the music video for MGMT’s “Your Life Is a Lie” in 2013. He later showed up at a Los Angeles music festival to play the cowbell with the band, too.


With the rate two rats multiply, within 18 months they could have upwards of a million offspring.

Home Alone- 3

The couple obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie TV series who transformed their semi-detached home into a log cabin

The couple obsessed with the Little House on the Prairie TV series who transformed their semi-detached home into a log cabin
A couple obsessed with TV series Little House on the Prairie have transformed the living room of their semi-detached home into a log cabin to look like the set from the show.

Peter Szwajgier, 40, and his fiancĂ©e Alicja Druzkowska, 38, gave their 1930s home in Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire, a rustic makeover for a taste of the wild frontier. The couple spent £1,200 on 60 wooden logs that were cut to size and nailed onto the walls of the living room of their £110,000 three-bedroom property.

Szwajgier said he and Druzkowska were inspired to change their home after getting hooked on episodes of the 1970s hit series Little House on the Prairie. Little House was a U.S. drama about a family living on a farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s. (Source)

The couple who transformed former railway carriages into three holiday homes

The couple who transformed former railway carriages into three holiday homes
It's a first class idea that is also an original alternative to other accommodations out there. The Old Station in Allerston, North Yorkshire used to be a working railway station, but it has been converted into a family home and guest houses. The idea has proved to be a hit with visitors, and the houses evoke romantic images of the great age of steam trains as seen in Brief Encounter and The Orient Express. The homes are owned by Carol and Mark Benson. Mark, 55, who still has a day job as a surveyor for Network Rail, made the railway station their home. (Source)

Home Alone- 2

The couple who converted a church (yes, with its own cemetery) into their home

The couple who converted a church (yes, with its own cemetery) into their home
A nondescript exterior and a yard dominated by headstones give no indication of the residential nature of this historic church in Kyloe, Northumberland. A couple decided to buy and readapt the structure, investing nearly three times the purchase price into renovations over the course of several years. 

The exterior remains mostly untouched, save for skylights running the length of the roof. Inside, the owners took a similar approach. Restoration is more prevalent than renovation, with original stained glass windows throughout, and repurposed church fixtures abound. Much of the original seating was refinished and placed throughout the home, and unused wood and building materials were fashioned into a dramatic staircase leading from the main living space to an upper-level library. 

The choice to live in a church is an unorthodox one, but this home's owners managed to salvage a structure that might have otherwise been doomed to deterioration and abandonment. (Source)

The man who turned his house into a feline fantasy

The man who turned his house into a feline fantasy
A man with 18 cats decided to turn his home into a feline paradise, adding in colorful ramps, walkways and tunnels for the animals to play on.

The unidentified cat lover, whose house is located in Goleta, California, spent a whopping $35,000 on the renovation, which included the addition of a spiral walkway, tiny stairs leading to various kitty ledges and climbing poles that double as scratching posts.

More importantly, he also installed a new ventilation system to ensure that the air is regulated—a necessity for a home housing so many animals.

Despite all the cat accouterments, the house looks surprisingly normal from the outside; a pretty stone patio decorates the lush backyard, which is surrounded by palm trees. (Source)

The couple who is taking decorating cues from The Simpsons

The couple who is taking decorating cues from The Simpsons
A fridge full of Duff beer would make Joel Hamilton and Marcia Andreychuk's kitchen even more “eeeeexcellent.” But for now, the Calgary couple are fine with transforming it into a replica of the one from the Simpsons, complete with orange and purple cupboards, lime green appliances, and carrot adorned curtains.

Hamilton, 35, is a lifelong fan of the show that's spanned 26 seasons and is part of the pop culture lexicon. A framed picture of the cartoon kitchen hangs on the wall as their inspiration, and the couple figures their real-life tribute is about 80% complete. The cost so far? About $2,300 estimates Andreychuk, 43, who noted the checkered floor made up the bulk of the price tag.

Andreychuk sewed the carrot curtains herself. The countertops, appliances, and cupboards have been touched up with colorful contact paper. Andreychuk said they weren't planning to extend the tribute to the living room and bedrooms. (Source)

Home Alone- 1

The man who destroyed his house to build a massive indoor aquarium

The man who destroyed his house to build a massive indoor aquarium
We all love fish, right? Well, maybe not as much as Martin Lakin, who almost destroyed his house to install a 5,000-liter aquarium right in the middle of it.

An architect warned him the bizarre renovation would make his whole house collapse. He went ahead with it anyway and tore the house in Rochester, Kent, apart, as his bemused wife Kay and son James looked on. Apparently the tank was so huge they could even swim in it before the fish arrived.

The tank cost around £50,000 ($75,000), but with the half ton of live coral, complex machinery (including an automated sunroof), pumps and computers that run the aquarium 24 hours a day, Martin reckons the total cost is around £150,000 ($230,000). Now that it is complete, it's home to more than 120 fish. (Source)

The couple who transformed their home into an airplane

The couple who transformed their home into an airplane
Lovebirds Steve and Vicky Everson took their marriage to new heights after spending £40,000 ($60,000) to turn their modest home into a plane. The pair transformed the two-up two-down terraced house in Bacup, Lancs into a replica of a Boeing 737.

The aviation project started in 2009 after they created a flight simulator in the spare room of their previous home in Milton Keynes. After moving north, they put it back together again. It was so big it stretched from one side of the house to the other.

The couple, who even tied the knot in a Concorde four years earlier, regularly take up to 12 passengers in their "airplane," on simulated “flights” to New York and Hong Kong. Broadcast engineer Steve, 42, said: “Everyone thinks we're a bit eccentric, but you have to do what makes you happy.” (Source)

The neighbors who built a pub between their houses

The neighbors who built a pub between their houses
Two neighboring couples have given a whole new meaning to the term "local pub." Kelvin and Samantha Mayes joined forces with Robert and Helen Sheldon to construct a mini pub between their houses for just £80 (around $110).

The Outback Pub was named as such because it's "out the back"—and now the quaffing comrades don't have to leave the enclave of their homes for a social drink. The foursome from Willenhall, West Mids built a shed-like enclosure and filled it with seating, tables, glassware, pub paraphernalia, and a blackboard sign was saying, "We never close."

They used mostly recycled items, which they mainly procured from eBay, including a disco ball. The most expensive item was the £40 roof. Bus seats have doubled up as banquettes, and the bar is an old work surface. The couples aren't just DIY-savvy, they also brew their own drinks to enjoy at this unique locale. (Source 1 | Source 2)



The Cause Of Human Motivation - Dilbert by Scott Adams

We Like NF

You can't tell just by looking at it, but the Moon Parka from North Face is an extraordinary piece of outerwear. That’s because it’s woven from a synthetic spider silk that took over a decade to develop. 
Spider silk’s incredible properties have made it a popular subject of scientific research. More flexible than nylon and five times stronger than steel, the material could have revolutionary applications in everything from bulletproof vests to suspension bridges. The only problem is that “farming” the amount of spiders required to produce this much silk is pretty much impossible. That’s why some teams, like the Japanese biomaterials company Spiber, have been looking into synthetic sources to create these remarkable proteins.
Their version of synthetic spider silk, called Qmonos, is made through a fermentation process using bioengineered microorganisms to manufacture the silk proteins. The final product is the result of 10 design iterations and 656 gene synthesis variations made over the course of 11 years. Unlike actual spiders, these engineered cells are capable of quickly producing silk proteins on a commercial scale. 
Spiber showcased the technology in 2013 when it unveiled a synthetic spider silk cocktail dress, but North Face’s Moon Parka will be the first example of the material used in a production-ready wearable item. The jacket is just a start, and the company hopes that Qmonos will one day be utilized in the automotive and medical fields. The Moon Parka goes on sale in Japan in 2016, and though there’s no word yet on the price, you can expect it to go for much more than your typical North Face jacket.

Booze Q & A

Whether you tend bar professionally or are just a home mixologist, at some point, someone will want to play a round of "Stump the Bartender" to test your knowledge. As craft cocktail culture has evolved, the questions have gotten a little more … interesting. To supplement your cocktail knowledge, we’ve put together a list of questions often lobbed at bartenders.


Yes and no. Potato vodka only makes up between one and five percent of what’s on the market. Most of the rest is made from grains like wheat, but some distill from grapes, corn, sugar, or even milk. The potato wasn’t introduced to Europe until the 1500s, but the word “vodka” first appears in print in 1405, as part of a medicinal recipe. Early vodka was made from grain, just as it is today. The potato connection is thought to have sprung up in the 1700s or so, and by the early 1800s it was the dominant base for the spirit.


In a nutshell, the number is around 600-800 individual grapes, or about 10 grocery store-sized clusters. What you can buy in the produce section typically contains three clusters, so, in theory, you could make a bottle of wine out of three bags. So why is some wine so expensive? Just as organic produce is more expensive to produce, grapes that are dry farmed (made without irrigation) or organically or biodynamically produced cost more to grow. Their yields are also usually smaller, so the wine that those vineyards produce is more expensive.


Although 95 percent of bourbon was produced in Kentucky as of 2013, bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S.A. That is, as long as it’s distilled from a mixture of grains that’s at least 51 percent corn, contains no additives other than water, and is aged in new oak barrels. There’s not a minimum age requirement to be called bourbon, but to be labeled as a “straight bourbon,” it must spend at least two years in oak barrels. 
However, if it’s aged for less than three years, there’s a possibility that it might not be legal to label it as whiskey. Some countries, including Canada and the EU, require that a spirit age for three years to be called whiskey. As a result, some bourbon is labeled as “bourbon,” but not “whiskey,” overseas.


Under Canadian law, all whisky produced there can be labeled as “rye whisky,” “Canadian rye whisky,” or “Canadian whisky.” More than two centuries ago, Canadian whisky makers started using a bit of rye to add spice and depth to their booze. Consumers who wanted this more complex style would ask for the “rye whiskey,” and it stuck. More interestingly, this slang was in use more than 150 years before the U.S. passed regulations requiring that “rye whiskey” must be made from 51 percent rye. The Canadian Food and Drug Regulations is a little different. To be labeled rye, the whisky must “possess the aroma, taste, and character of Canadian whisky.”


Put simply, decanting whiskey or wine is done by pouring a bottle into another vessel before serving it. For wine, decanting does two things. First, it separates the liquid from the sediments that might have settled in the bottle. Second, it forces oxygen into the wine itself, which can “open up the wine” to release more complex flavor and aromatic compounds. For whiskey, it’s mostly for show. Oxidization reactions happen much more slowly for distilled spirits, meaning that any changes in the appearance or taste will happen over a much longer period of time.


The only thing worse than a man you can't control is a man you can.
Margo Kaufman


Red-letter day


In earlier times a church festival or saint's day; more recently, any special day.


This comes from the practise of marking the dates of church festivals on calendars in red.
The first explicit reference to the term in print that we have comes from America. This is a simple use of the term "Red letter day" in the diary of Sarah Knight - The journals of Madam Knight, and Rev. Mr. Buckingham ... written in 1704 & 1710, which was published in American Speech in 1940.
The practice is much earlier than that though. William Caxton, referred to it in The boke of Eneydos, translated and printed in 1490:
"We wryte yet in oure kalenders the hyghe festes wyth rede lettres of coloure of purpre."
red letter dayThe term came into wider use in 1549 when the first Book of Common Prayer included a calendar with holy days marked in red ink; for example, Annunciation (Lady Day), 25th March, was designated in the book as a red-letter day.
The term is sometimes written without the hyphen - 'red letter day'.

The Phrase Finder

Handy Tips

Forget two triangles and a toothy grin; this Halloween, take your jack o'lanterns to the next level. We asked Marc Evan, co-founder of Brooklyn-based Maniac Pumpkin Carvers—whose crew carves everything from corporate logos for Martha Stewart and the Yankees to replicas of Escher, Klimt, and Van Gogh paintings on as many as 400 pumpkins a season—for a few tips. "We look at it as this new art medium," Evan says. "For us, it's this really fun material to work with, and we’re always trying to push the boundaries of what we can carve into a pumpkin." 


Pumpkins grow on vines and rest on the ground, so the stem is never meant to support the fruit’s weight; a pumpkin without a stem means it’s been handled—or more likely mishandled—a lot. To ensure you’re getting the freshest pumpkin, look for one with a greenish stem. “If a pumpkin has been sitting around, the stems will dry out and get brittle,” Evan says. “The greener the stems the better. We also like when they have a big, thick stem, which is an indication that the walls of the pumpkin will be thick as well. The thicker the stem, the heavier the pumpkin and the better it is for carving or sculpting.” Also avoid pumpkins with blemishes, soft spots, or bugs, as you would when picking out any other kind of fruit.


“Part of the fun of pumpkin carving is that pumpkins come in so many shapes and sizes,” Evan says. “We actually almost prefer some of the really awkward ones. They can inspire some unique designs.”


Evan recommends drawing out what you plan to do before you ever make a cut on your pumpkin. “We’ll print out a bunch of references to get inspiration,” he says. “And then we’ll draw our design with a pen onto the pumpkin and start carving away.”


You can buy your pumpkin whenever you want—“they should last a really long time until you carve them,” Evan says—but wait until you want display to start carving. He and his crew at Maniac Pumpkin Carvers usually create a pumpkin just 24 hours before an event, and once they start carving, they don't stop until a pumpkin is finished, which can sometimes take 10 hours. “We’re working with a perishable food item,” Evan says. “As soon as you cut into it, it’s starting to decompose. It's unpredictable—we’ve had some carved that last three weeks but then others three days. At home, it’s kind of safe to carve it within two or three days of when you really want it for. But if you want it for Halloween, you shouldn’t carve it at the beginning of October.”


“Pumpkins don’t oxidize as fast as an apple or avocado would, but if you leave it out on the counter over the course of just one day, you do see the change in the structure of the pumpkin,” Evan says. “It’s losing a lot of moisture, so one thing we do while carving is we’re constantly spraying it, trying to keep it wet. That helps it to stay workable.”


Evan and the Maniac Pumpkin crew will use whatever it takes to carve a pumpkin, including paring knives, lemon zesters, rasps, Exacto knives, saws, and clay sculpting tools. “Ribbon hoops that are normally effective on clay work great on pumpkins,” Evan says. “One of our favorites actually is a linoleum cutter, normally used in print-making—it’s great for doing intricate designs and line work. Really, anything that is sharp can be useful.”
Still, for scooping, you can’t get much better than what comes in a kid’s pumpkin carving kit. “We love those little plastic orange scoops,” he says. “But you can also use big spoons—we have a couple of big, wide salad serving spoons that we’ve snapped the handles off of, and those work really great.”


Removing the top not only messes with the structural integrity of the pumpkin, it also cuts off the vine, which supplies the fruit with nutrients and moisture until it's all dried out. “When you cut around it, you’re kinda cutting off that lifeline that’s keeping the pumpkin fresh,” Evan says. “So we like to keep that intact.” Likewise, cutting off the bottom is a bad idea because “pumpkins give off so much water when you cut them that all that liquid can start oozing out onto the table or whatever surface the pumpkin is on and really make a mess.” Evan favors cutting a hole in the back of the pumpkin instead.


There’s no getting around it: You’ll have to get a little dirty scooping out the inside of the pumpkin. But if you find the goop that gross, Evan suggests donning rubber gloves.


Leaving bits of pumpkin goop inside your jack o’lantern is a big no-no. “Those are gonna start getting moldy and then it’ll spread to the walls of the pumpkin,” Evan says. “When we scrape the walls really thin and get every last little stringy bit out, the walls are almost drier and seem to stay that way longer before they start to break down.”


Evan recommends LEDs or CFLs. “They get really bright, but they don’t give off heat,” he says. “You want to keep the pumpkin as cold as possible, and if you have a heat source inside of it, the pumpkin is gonna start to cook inside. Which actually can smell nice, but doesn’t help with the longevity of the pumpkin.”


Nothing you can do will add weeks to your jack o’lantern’s life, but there are things you can do to add a few days. “Our favorite thing to do is, when it’s done with display, we’ll wrap it up really tight with plastic wrap and keep it some place really cool, preferably a refrigerator,” Evan says. "If it’s cool at night, near a cool window or in a garage will also work.”