Today I was remembering Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) from a long time ago - 1967 - when I was living in Britain and the Beatles' film Magical Mystery Tour was played on TV.
At that time, this was very 'adventurous' of the BBC and it caused a lot of varying reactions. I remember enjoying it, though, and there were some excellent songs on the EP (remember EPs?) from the film - I Am The Walrus and Fool On The Hill spring to mind.
So for those of you who were around at the time, below is a short trip down memory lane - the intro to Magical Mystery Tour. And for those of you who weren't - enjoy th Beatles when they were pretty much at their prime.
I've just been over to the New 7 Wonders of Nature site to vote. The nominees have to be a clearly defined natural site or natural monument that was not created or significantly altered by humans for aesthetic reasons. They need to be a natural site, natural monument or landscape.
Anyone can vote - in fact you get to vote for 7 nominees - and on January 1st 2009 only one nominee per country will continue. In July, 21 finalists will be chosen, depending on the votes, and then you can vote again to determine the winners.
My first vote went to the Petrified Forest of Lesvos - located on the Island of Lesvos in the Aegean Sea.
This amazing forest ecosystem is made up of hundreds of lying and standing fossilized tree trunks which were covered by volcanic material and petrified in place 20 million years ago. Layers of volcanic ash have revealed pieces of trunks, branches, roots, seeds and leaves as well as fossilized animal bones.
It's free to sign up at the Photosynth site and the actual process of "synthing" your photos is easy, though I've found that you need to work at it a bit to get the best results. There is an explanatory video and you can see what others have created - the whole site is public, so whatever you do can be seen by others.
Anyway, you can see above a view in Corfu from our house, which I created on Photosynth. It would have been better had I had a better camera! On the left in the distance you just make out mainland Albania across the sea, which would have been clearer with a better camera. You can either click on the arrows top, bottom, right and left to move one at a time or click on the arrow in the top right-hand corner for it to play like a slide show.
I'm going to keep practising with it to see if I can get some good quality images. I'm still a complete beginner, but I think it's a great tool!
A complete working model has recently been completed of the Antikythera Mechanism, which many say was the first ever computer. The name comes from the Greek island near which it was found - in a shipwreck - over 100 years ago.
The mechanism is a geared device consisting of 30 gears in a highly complex arrangement and stands witness to the extraordinary mathematical and engineering capabilities of the Ancient Greeks. It is thought to date from between 150 and 100 BC and nothing as complex is known for the next thousand years.
The level of engineering in the mechanism is astonishing by any standards. There`are 3 main dials, one on the front, and two on the back. It is now understood to be dedicated to astronomical phenomena and operates as a complex mechanical "computer" which tracks the cycles of the Solar System. One of the dials on the back is even dedicated to the four-year cycle of the Olympiad Games!
Watch this short clip where museum curator Michael Wright describes how it works. It's quite fascinating! I'm always amazed at the brilliance of the minds in Ancient Greece!
Following my previous post about the murder of 15-year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Saturday, people in Greece have been enraged by the attitude of the policeman who shot him. Not only does he not at least show some sympathy for the family or show some kind of regret, but he has been trying to insult the character of young Alexandros.
Everyone is outraged by the killing and schoolchildren, students and teachers as well as others have been taking to the streets because of this tragic event and some police have incredibly continued their insensitive behaviour by firing their guns, albeit it into the air, in front of young children and in built-up areas with apartment blocks and balconies.
Someone put together the short video above with beautiful, gentle music in memory of Alexandros and called it Lullaby For An Angel. It's very touching.
On Saturday night, 15-year old Alexandros went out with his friends as usual. But this time Alexandros didn't come home. It was every parent's nightmare come true.
He didn't go to the usual cafeteria with his friends, but went with his friend Nikos, who was celebrating his name day, along with some others to another cafeteria. It was near the area Exarheia, the so-called "anarchists' ghetto", and as happens all too frequently, there were confrontations between the anarchists and the police.
A police car drove by the cafeteria where Alexandros and his friends were, and at that moment - according to the people who were there - a couple of the anarchists came by and threw some objects at the police car and shouted at them. They then ran off.
The two policemen got out of the car and walked back to the group of friends. Having worked for years in the area, they had developed their own "attitude" to young people. They shouted at the kids there in a demonstration of authority, and unfortunately the kids shouted back and threw a couple of empty plastic bottles.
A few seconds later, Alexandros was lying on the ground with his friend shouting, "He hasn't got a pulse!"
The two policemen were casually walking away.
Alexandros had a bullet in his chest. A bullet fired from a gun in the hands of someone who should never have been allowed to have one.
Alexandros was from a 'middle-class' family and had nothing to do with the extremists and anarchists, yet the anarchists used his death as an excuse to rampage and riot and set fire to the whole of Athens city centre. Several politicians used the incident to fire blame one side on the other.
But there were the others, mainly schoolchildren like Alex, who were shocked and angered in a way they had never been before and protested without violence. There is now a Facebook group which has been formed for him - Alexandros Grigoropoulos (it's mostly in Greek) - and there are already over 90.000 members since yesterday!
His parents? As a parent myself, I can't even allow myself to imagine it. Your child that you have nurtured through pregnancy, infancy and then played with, worried about, shouted at.... isn't there any more. I just won't allow myself to think about it.
Today Alexandros will be buried. His parents will have to live the rest of their lives...
There will be more demonstrations, anger, rioting, violence....
But one thing is certain.
Alexandros will never come home again.
This is Eric Clapton's song "Tears in Heaven" which he wrote when he lost his own child.
Take a look at this short video and then please consider seriously signing the petition against the planned development of a 2600 hectare resort on the Greek island of Crete.
Ecologists, archaeologists and politicians have all lent their voices to the protest against the construction of a 7,000-bed luxury resort on the virgin coastline.
The land is located in an area of the island that is a biological hotspot, rich in vegetation and rare plants. The 16-mile peninsula also contains archaeological evidence of farming techniques employed in the Mediterranean since antiquity.
Opponents to the scheme, led by historical ecologist Professor Oliver Rackham, from Cambridge University, argue that the multimillion-pound development is not suited to a region that in most other countries would have been designated a national park. If built, the Cavo Sidero project would comprise six tourist villages, three golf courses, hotels and other top-end facilities across 2,600 hectares (6,400 acres).
The British developers have rejected the arguments against the project, claiming that a comprehensive environmental impact study had been carried out. However, environmentalists fear that Greece could face a tourist development disaster similar to that suffered by Spain. "We have never faced anything as dangerous. It will lead to a massive urbanisation of the Greek landscape on the same disastrous scale ... seen in Spain," said Kriton Arsenis, a leading conservationist.
Just under 11,000 people, including more than 500 scientists and archaeologists from more than 80 countries, have signed a petition against the development and the Council of State, having already met, has said that it will investigate the issue and come to a decision next year.
As I write, people are signing the online petition and the number is fast approaching the 11.000 mark, though the original target was 10.000. Please lend your voice in order to prevent this destruction, by going to the site of the online petition HERE.
Many, many thanks!
I just read that there is expected to be a boom in the number of babies born in the USA in early August, 2009 - 9 months after Obama won the Presidential election! These are already being called Obama Babies.
It seems that celebrations after the victory went on well into the night and, well, we'll see the results of those celebrations in early August. Obama himself was born 9 months after John F. Kennedy was born, so I suppose he may well be a JFK Baby!
I remember quite a long time ago there were national power cuts, which meant there were no lights and no forms of entertainment powered by electricity, so, it was claimed, couples resorted to other forms of entertainment powered by something else. I can't recall if there actually was a boom in births 9 months later, but perhaps they should have been called Blackout Babies, or something similar!
I'm not sure how much research has been done into the subject, but I suppose there could be a lot of correlations between particular events and births nine months later. Here in Greece, there may well have been a boom after the national football team won the European Championship in 2004. It was such an unexpected and unlikely victory that the whole nation went into ecstasy! I suppose you could call them Otto Babies, after the national coach - Otto Rehagel - who incredibly converted a no-more-than-competent team into European champions, a feat that will certainly not be repeated in our lifetime. Perhaps if the Greeks were not so conservative on the issue of naming children, the baby boys born 9 months after the victory could have been called Otto! But the likes of Otto Papadopoulos doesn't really gel, does it!
I don't know what the "Blackout Babies" could have been called - Sparky, perhaps? I certainly hope we don't get a glut of Baracks and Michelles come next August!
I think that one of the main reasons for someone taking Holidays to Greece is the number and variety of islands here. There's no other country like it in that respect in Europe. A holiday on the Greek islands offers you the kind of relaxation you cannot get on the mainland.
Of course all of them offer the sea - and there are so many beaches to choose from! But they also offer spectacular countryside and other sights. Off the west coast there are the Ionian islands, including Corfu and Kefalonia, which are much greener than the islands on the other side of the mainland. Kefalonia is the island where the book and film Captain Corelli's Mandolin was set. So if you like what you saw in the film, then Holidays to Kefalonia is for you!
The large islands of Rhodes and Crete, south of the mainland, offer not only great beaches, but also beautiful countryside and historic sights - the ancient Minoan site of Knossos in Crete and the castle of the Templar Knights in Rhodes. Smaller islands include Santorini - an ancient volcano! - and Kos, not far from Rhodes.
All of the islands offer accommodation to suit all tastes and pockets, and I would definitely recommend that you should visit at least one of the Greek islands. Perhaps you could visit a different one each year!
I thought I'd share this rather amusing story I heard recently. It's to do with the way banks just issue credit cards to people without being asked - usually ending up with the recipients getting even more into debt and the banks increasing their income. This is a true story of something that happened here, by the way.
A man who received a credit card from his bank, without applying for it and without being asked, phoned up the bank to find out why it had been sent to him. He claimed that he hadn't asked for it.
The bank said that was true, but they considered him to be a good customer and had issued the card and sent it to him anyway.
"But I don't want it! I want to cancel it," replied the customer.
"Well, if you want to cancel it, you'll have to come to the bank with the card and we'll cancel it for you, otherwise, you'll receive bills from us every month," was the bank's reply.
So the man - who was a grocer - went to his bank to cancel the card and took two large sacks of potatoes with him. The bank manger was looked curiously at the potatoes, but didn't say anything. After they had finished with the cancellation, the grocer got up and started walking towards the door.
"You've forgotten your potatoes!" called out the manager.
"No, no," replied the grocer. "They're yours! I've already billed you for them, but if you don't want them, then you can bring them to my shop and we'll cancel the bill."
I take my hat off to that man!!
In a previous post - Collecting Olives - I described how we collected the olives that were for eating and not to make oil, and the start of the process before they were ready to go on the table to be eaten.
As I said, we cover the olives in water in jars (see photo above) for 20 days, changing the water every day. Well, after the 20 days have passed, what you do is change the water again and add 3 tablespoons of rock salt. You leave them like this for 3 days. After this, you remove the water and cover them in half water, half vinegar and leave them for another 3 days.
When that has passed, you put them in glass jars, covered in olive oil. It is recommended that you place in the jar either 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 tablespoon of parsley or 1 quartered lemon and some celery leaves.
The olives are now ready to eat. And are especially delicious for having been collected from our own trees!
First of all, my apologies to Taylor Coleridge for the post title!
I imagine that the economic crisis is getting the same amount of media coverage everywhere else as it is in Greece. However, it seems that here the crisis has been an opportunity or excuse for all the stuff that has been bubbling just under the surface for quite a long time now to come out into the open.
While in other countries the interest rates are being cut, in Greece the banks have not only not cut the rates, but have actually increased them! This has acted as a catalyst for all the financial and economic woes to burst to the surface. Greeks - the people not the country - have the highest rate of indebtedness in Europe. If you look at the following factors, it won't be hard to understand why.
The salaries and wages in Greece are amongst the lowest in Europe and yet the actual cost of living is one of the highest! What this has led to is a situation where people are using their credit cards just to cover their basic living expenses. Of course everyone knows that this is not a solution, but people are in such a desperate situation that they can see no other way to survive. Now, combine this with the fact that interest rates on credit cards are the highest in Europe and I think you can get an idea of how fragile things are here!
Banks are acting as if they are a law unto themselves as regards interest rates and their treatment of customers. Even though a law has been passed that they cannot repossess or auction people's houses for debts of less than 20.000 Euros, there are still cases of people losing their houses for debts as little as 700 Euros! They have increased interest rates and cut down on the number of loans that they grant - both personal and business. We now have a situation in Athens where loan sharks are putting up posters in the street and hanging around banks to get the custom of those rejected by the bank!
I don't know how we're going resolve this situation, but it seems that in Greece, at least, we are heading not just for the bubble to burst, but for it to explode in glorious technicolour. As I said in my post title, there is money around but most of us cannot see it. I am no economist, and perhaps I am a bit simplistic in my outlook, but surely we have the intelligence and the knowledge to be able to find a way of using the resources that exist to ensure that we can all live comfortably.
I heard on the news the other day that the treatment of illegal immigrants to Greece is the worst in Europe. Now, I don't know what the standards are or how it was measured, but it made me think.
Greece is always promoting the 'Greek hospitality' and yet what does this treatment of illegal immigrants indicate? Now, I'm not condoning illegal immigration, but one would have thought that if one has a hospitable nature, then one wouldn't treat these people in a worse way than than anyone else does. Or am I wrong?
Another item on the news related that a priest who was christening a child, refused to complete the ceremony unless two Islam friends/relatives, who were present, left the church! An isolated incident? OK, yes, but still!
It makes you think that perhaps this hospitality is just expressed when material benefits can be gained. A couple of years ago, Corfu had applied for Corfu Town to be listed as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site and a representative came here to make a report. This representative, however, was going to wander round the town incognito - nobody would know who she was (we did know that it was a woman!). So one of the Members of Parliament for Corfu told everyone in the town to be on their best behaviour and be kind and hospitable to all the visitors on that particular day, as we didn't know which one of them might be the UNESCO representative!
It was like saying it doesn't matter how you treat the visitors on all the other days!
Now, I've travelled to quite a few countries - both in Europe and other continents - and what I've found is that there are hospitable people everywhere - without exception. In the same way, there are definitely hospitable people in Greece (though I don't know if I would include the taxi drivers in that group!) and there are also inhospitable people.
I know a lot of you who have come to Greece on holiday will say the people were marvellous, warm and hospitable. I'm sure they were. Some of them would be genuinely hospitable and others would be like that because you were visitors with money. But the thing is that whatever country you visit you will find the people like that.
If you live in a country, then you will start to see the reality. I firmly believe that there are hospitable and inhospitable people everywhere. Greece has just used it as another marketing tool to try and encourage tourism. If you want to come to Greece, please do - there are many good reasons, that I won't list in this post, for you to do so. But don't come expecting to find the most hospitable people - we're just the same as everyone else in that respect.
We may be going through an economic credit crunch caused by, to put it simplistically, spending more than we have, but there is an ecological credit crunch coming up - and who is going to bail us out when that happens?
WWF publish a Living Planet Report every 2 years and the 2008 edition has just been released. And the news is not good - as if we really didn't expect it. Put simply, we are using up earth's resources so quickly that we have got ourselves "into debt" and by the mid 2030s, according to the report, we will need 2 planets to maintain our lifestyle!
Just as reckless spending causes a recession, so reckless consumption of our natural resources is "depleting the world’s natural capital to a point where we are endangering our future prosperity."
Our global 'footprint' now exceeds our capacity to regenerate by about 30%. The 5 countries with the largest footprint are the United Arab Emirates, USA, Kuwait, Denmark and Australia. The 5 with the lowest are Bangladesh, Congo, Haiti, Afghanistan and Malawi.
Just as some nations are economically in debt to other nations, so there are 'ecological debtors' - nations whose national consumption has outstripped their biocapacity. At the moment, more than three quarters of the world's population live in countries that are ecological debtors. What this means is that we are supporting our current lifestyle with ecological capital from other countries. It is frightening to read that if we all had the USA's consumption patterns, then we would need 4,5 planets to live on!
Another factor coming into play now is our 'water footprint'. The Mediterranean area is facing greater and greater water stress and 5 of the top ten countries with water footprints are from that area - Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. Around 50 countries are suffering moderate to severe water stress.
'Sensible' people always go on about 'good housekeeping' - spending what you have and only borrowing when you know you can pay it back. What we are doing with the planet we are living on is completely at odds with that, however. Do we need to reach the point when the crunch actually comes before we face the situation? It will be too late then. As I mentioned above, there is nobody to bail us out of an ecological crunch when it comes. On TV here, we are seeing more and more people in the USA who have lost their homes and are having to live in tents or their cars; if we lose our global home, where are we going to live?
Many people perhaps believe - maybe even just subconsciously - that it won't happen in their lifetime. What about the next generation, who are going to have to pick up the tab? Would you spend money recklessly all your life and just say, "I'm going to die and my children can just pay off all my debts."? What kind of a parent does that?
Anyway, the good news is that, according to the report, that it is still not too late - the trend is not irreversible and we have the means to do something about it.
Food Force is a free educational video game telling the story of a hunger crisis on the fictitious island of Sheylan and has been produced by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian agency.
The basic themes that are demonstrated through playing the game are:
- What is hunger and who are the hungry?
- Why are people hungry and malnourished?
- What can we do to help end hunger?
Though designed for children aged 8 - 13, the game can appeal to a variety of ages and each mission's gameplay is unique in order to increase that appeal. The idea of the game is to motivate young people to become actively involved in the fight against hunger and to work together to free the world of hunger.
Food Force follows on from the WFPs successful Free Rice game, where by answering some vocabulary questions correctly, you donated rice.
To find out more about the work of the World Food Programme and ways in which you can help, you can visit their site.
We went collecting olives yesterday. We have a few trees that have what are called Kalamon olives, which are the ones you eat rather than make into oil. You may be familiar with Greek Kalamata olives - Kalamata is a town and area in the Peloponnese, Greece - well, the Kalamon olives are that type.
You collect these so-called "table" olives directly from the trees, rather than spread nets underneath, which is what you do with the olives that you use to make oil. We will be collecting those olives in January.
Here, you can see a bowl with some of the olives after they were picked. You don't eat them straight off the tree, but there is a simple process you put them through before they reach your table.
One of the great things about blogging is that you "meet" so many people from so many different places. In a sense, blogging opens windows onto other countries, ways of life and ways of thinking.
I came across the blog from someone in Italy - Andrea's Weblog - and I found it gave me a feeling for the life in that country and the everyday thoughts and concerns of someone living there. The blog is written in Italian, but Andrea has kindly provided translation into 6 other languages.
Corfu has a particular affiliation to Italy, not just because it is geographically the closest part of Greece, but because of the influence of the Venetians, to whom the island belonged for hundreds of years. Witness to this influence is the architecture, musical heritage and some of the local dialect still dates back to that period.
So it is great to be able to connect with people from that country and following their blogs - as with Andrea's Weblog - helps you "get into their heads" to a certain extent and gives you a much broader perspective and much more open mind.
I find these blogging connections are invaluable and one of the most important aspects of the bloggers' world - if not the most important.
Now I don't normally get involved in politics, and this blog will not go in that direction, but I came across this short clip with John Cleese giving his views on Sarah Palin and I just had to share it with those of you haven't seen it.
I grew up when Monty Python first appeared on TV and I always have time for what any of its members have to say. The Michael Palin that Cleese refers to, by the way, for those of you who don't know was also one of the members of Monty Python.
The island of Corfu has a musical heritage - going back mainly to the time that the island was under Venetian rule, hundreds of years ago. There are now traditional Corfiot songs and dances, as well as the 19 brass bands, or "philarmonikes", which everyone knows about. However, I believe that culture is an ongoing process and there are modern musicians from Corfu that are equally (if not more) important.
So, continuing my Lists of 10, I'm posting 10 contemporary bands and musicians from Corfu. This is not an exhaustive list - though it is pretty eclectic! - and I'm not claiming that they are the best 10. The only thing I would like to say is that I have a personal preference for the first 3 - Dead Eyes of Youth, Kore Ydro and nVerne.
At the bottom of the post there is a YouTube clip from Kore Ydro, if you want to listen to them.
I've just discovered these British and American sites, where you can set up your own webpage to raise funds for the non-profit organisation or charity of your choice. The UK site, which was the first, is Justgiving and the USA site is Firstgiving.
The UK organisation has been around since 2001 - the brainchild of Zarine Kharas - and Firstgiving was set up in 2003. I've only just heard of them, but I suppose that's because they can only work with UK and USA charities and non-profits.
I think it's a great idea, and enables people to easily set up their own standard site and raise money for whatever charity they wish. In the UK there is the added benefit that Gift Aid can be added, so that for every £10 that's given, almost £12 goes to the charity. In the time that they have been going in the UK, 6,210,796 people have raised £344,490,538 for 5,642 charities through Justgiving and in the US, 1,322,516 people have raised $72,918,876 for 14,865 non-profits through Firstgiving!
From what I can see, it seems very simple to set up your page and get up and running. There is also space at the bottom where the people who have donated are listed along with the amount and their comments. I don't know if it's possible for someone who wishes to remain anonymous, not be publicly listed.
Anyway, it seems such a simple idea that empowers so many people to be able to raise money easily.
Well, I couldn't let this go by without writing a post about it. This is the kind of story that you expect to see in newspapers on April 1st. An April Fools Day joke!
But, no. The Guardian ('Neglect and disrepair' leads Corfu dissidents to seek split from Greece) and the BBC (Pressure for Corfu autonomy grows) put out stories about people in Corfu wanting independence from Greece for the island! This is so ridiculous - an April Fools Day type story, as I said - that it doesn't even merit any discussion. And yet, a serious newspaper and the, supposedly, most serious British television channel both put it out. It is akin to the New York Times publishing an article about Derbyshire (an English county) wanting independence from the rest of Britain!
The person from Corfu who told them that this was a serious issue here (I won't give his name, but you can see it in the reports anyway) is entitled to his own views, but surely reporters from the Guardian and the BBC should be able to recognise cranks, and if not, then they have no business being involved in the serious media.
Because it is this that is the problem. Not that some crank - and he is recognised as such by the majority of people living in Corfu - wants to create an independent Corfu for his own greater glory, but that the Guardian and BBC should swallow it and broadcast it as something newsworthy.
The story was covered in the News on all the Greek TV channels - but the story was about how such well-respected media as the BBC and the Guardian could take such drivel as being serious!
Along with a lot of other people here, my personal rating of these "bastions" of the British media has taken a considerable nosedive.
Here's a chance to win $15 in a competition at the Youth Ministry Ideas blog.
All you have to do is blog about the competition post and then leave a comment. This is another of the Win it Wednesday competitions that are held at the Youth Ministry Ideas blog every ....Wednesday!
I grew up as a child in Scotland, and I remember one summer, when I was very young, they sold cans of "Scottish Air" to the tourists. Obviously, if you close an empty tin in Scotland, then it contains Scottish air.
The amazing thing was that lots of tourists bought these empty cans - especially those from one particular country (which I won't name, as probably most of the visitors to this blog will be from there)!
I was thinking recently that this could be an ingenious solution to the air pollution in Athens! Seal lots of empty cans, each with their little bit of smog, and sell them to the thousands of tourists that come here every year! That way we could get the air pollution out of the country - can by can - and not only that, but make some money as well!
"Greek Air" doesn't really have much of a ring to it, so probably we'd have to think of something else to call it. What we need is the right packaging and marketing (as with everything else) and Bingo! we've solved the pollution problem! It's spread around all those other towns and countries that send us their tourists.
So, I just need a marketing genius ....plus someone to provide the capital to buy all the empty cans. Any offers?
The island of Corfu is called Kerkya in Greek. The most popular explanation for the origin of the name is based in Greek Mythology.
Poseidon (see photo below) is supposed to have fallen in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, who was the daughter of Asopus, an important mainland river, and Metope, who was a river nymph. He abducted her - which seemed to be quite common practice with the gods at the time - and took her to an unnamed island.
Being completely in love with her, Poseidon named the island after Korkyra, and this gradually evolved into Kerkyra. They had a child called Phaiax, and the inhabitants of the island were thereafter named after him - Phaikes, which later evolved into Phaeacians.
So now you know!
I've just been looking through National Geographic's Online Store. Boy, has NG come a long way since the time when they just had the classic yellow magazines!
The first thing that struck me was how well-designed the site is. Everything is very clearly set out on the home page, so that you can easily see what is available and comfortably navigate wherever you want.
You can choose to search by Theme (Animals & Nature, Culture & History etc) or by Product Type. It's in the latter that I hadn't realised just how much quality variety is available in their store. Books, magazines and DVDs I had expected - highest quality, of course - but I honestly hadn't expected so much else. As well as calendars and posters, there are cameras, clothing, software, home goods, travel & outdoor gear and so much else!
There is a separate National Geographic Channel shop within the store, and there is also a Kids' Shop. This latter has a range of items including back-to-school essentials.
I'm still having a look through it all, but I've already earmarked the 10 Best of Everything book, the Scotland Wall Calendar and possibly one of the Animal Mouse Pads.
By the way, there's 20% off all the books at the moment.
Anyway, I'm much of an online store fan myself, but this site is a great exception.
I've posted a couple of photos taken from our house in Corfu. There was a bit of a heat haze, so they aren't as clear as I would have liked.
The valley in the photo below can be seen from the front. We built the house ourselves - well, not literally ourselves, we employed builders - and we eventually moved in, it has just been raining and there was a double rainbow in the valley, so we immediately christened it Rainbow Valley. It really is amazingly calming to sit and gaze over it, especially in the early evening. There is still an awful lot of work to be done on the land around the house, as you can probably see, but we are working on it gradually.
The hill in the photo above is called Swallow Hill. Some say that's because it has the shape of a swallow when seen from above, others that it is because there are so many swallows here in the summer. I tend to believe the latter. It really is wonderful in the summer to see all the swallows - they are not afraid to fly close to you - they dive and swoop in such a magnificent way. I was thinking that they must be the dolphins of the sky. And when there are a few of them sitting together, you can here them just chattering away to each other! Wonderful!
It is one of the undoubted benefits of technology that it is possible for people to live wherever they choose and still be able to pursue a career or earn money. I, for one, would find it extremely hard - if not impossible - to go back to living in a large city.
A couple of years ago I started typing some names from my old school days into Google, to see if any of them came up. I was astonished to see one of them - that I had gone right through primary and secondary school with plus a bit after - came up right at the top the list. He was apparently now living in San Francisco and was considered a real expert in the world of Photoshop, had written several books on it and travelled around doing workshops and seminars.
I went to school in Scotland, and I hadn't seen him since just after that time - I went off to Greece, and he did whatever he did and eventually ended up in California. So, I made a mental note to contact him. As usual, I put it off and off, and when I did eventually get round to it, I went back on to the web to find him and found that he had recently passed away.
I was shocked and stunned, even though I hadn't been in touch for so many years.
His name was Bruce Fraser and a site has been set up, dedicated to him - Bruce Fraser Legacy.
This was the saddest of my discoveries of old schoolmates.
Two others that I also went to primary school with that I already knew as being well-known, but whose websites I found, were Ken Stott the actor, perhaps better known in the UK, and Donald Runnicles, who was Musical Director at the San Francisco Opera for years and next year will become General Music Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin as well as Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
I was looking at an old school photo where we were all together - at about 7 or 8 years old, and went into a good old introspective mood thinking about that time, and what lay ahead of each one of us in our lives.
For those of you that don't know what Gryffindor is (and I suppose there must be some of you out there!), it's one of the four Houses at Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter books. Harry Potter, himself, and his two sidekicks, Hermione and Ron, were all in Gryffindor.
Anyway, I've just found this great, fun site - sorting-hat.com - where you find out which House you belong to. You just answer a few multiple choice questions and then they tell you what House you belong to and give you a badge to put on your site. I must admit I could kind of guess which answers would make you a Gryffindor, but they were the answers I would have chosen anyway (honest!).
You can also take a Final Exam, which has questions about all the books, but I haven't done that yet.
Anyway, I must go now - I've got Quidditch practice this afternoon!
Oh, and just to remind you (see my previous post), J. K. Rowling's latest book The Tales of Beedle the Bard is available from Amazon on Pre-Order - before its official release.
I had heard about GoodSearch for quite a while from various sources and I finally decided to check it out. Basically, it's a way of searching on the web as you normally would, and having money donated to the cause you choose for each search you make.
GoodSearch is a search engine which donates 50% of its revenue to the charities and schools designated by its users. As I said, you just use GoodSearch exactly as you would any other search engine. It's powered by Yahoo!, so you don't need to worry about the search results. The money GoodSearch donates to your chosen cause comes from its advertisers — the users and the organizations do not spend anything.
They have recently also added GoodShop, where you can shop online and a percentage of the revenue again goes to the cause of your choice.
Socrates would be turning in his grave faster than a lamb at Greek Easter!
To help his students find answers to their questions, he would, in turn, ask them questions so that they could use their own minds to find the answers themselves.
Nowadays, in Greece, schools just encourage pupils and students to learn things parrot-fashion. It is extremely rare to find teachers helping pupils to learn how to learn. For exam questions, you are required to regurgitate specific paragraphs or pages in order to get the marks - not to express yourself in such a way as to show that you have actually understood something.
To this end, the state also dictates exactly which books schools should use and doesn't leave it to the schools themselves to decide what would be best to cover the curriculum. Pupils don't even do scientific experiments themselves! In no way are they encouraged to discover things for themselves or to learn to think for themselves.
This has enormous repercussions on society and on the way it functions. People have grown up not to question or think for themselves, and leads to the dearth of innovative thinking and even basic common sense!
It really is such a "Greek" tragedy that a country which - quite rightly - is proud of its heritage from the great minds of 2500 years ago, should now be so lacking in thought and innovation.
Socrates was condemned to death for what he did. I think we should now be saying, "Come back Socrates! All is forgiven!"
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is the title of Harry Potter author, J. K. Rowling's latest book, due to hit the bookshops on December 4 this year. However, you have the opportunity to order it right now through Amazon - either the Standard Edition or the Collector's Edition.
The book has 5 fairy tales, which are illustrated by Rowling herself. Not only that, but it has the commentary,footnotes and historical background for each fairy tale from Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, who "brings his unique wizard's-eye perspective to the collection", to quote the blurb.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is published by The Children's High Level Group (CHLG) and all net proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the Children's Voice campaign.
"The Children's Voice campaign is run by CHLG. It campaigns for child rights across Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe where over a million children and teenagers are growing up in institutions, often in unacceptable conditions. In most cases they are without adequate human or emotional contact and stimulation, while many only just survive without life's basics such as adequate shelter and food."
The Collector's Edition is sold exclusively by Amazon and features an exclusive reproduction of J.K. Rowling's handwritten introduction, 10 new illustrations, metalwork and clasp, replica gemstones, and tucked in its own case disguised as a wizarding textbook from the Hogwarts library. (Available in limited quantities)
This weeks awareness post is about The Prem Rawat Foundation - http://www.tprf.org/ A major part of the Foundation's work is to help people most in need by providing nutritious food and clean water. TPRF has provided millions of free hot meals to people in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Middle East. They partner with non-profit organisations such as Friends of the World Food Program, Oxfam, Action Against Hunger and the Red Cross, to reach a greater number of people in the field more rapidly.
Here is a short video about a food-aid facility the Foundation opened in northeast India.
And another thing I finally got round to doing - signing up for the Million Blog List. I'd been seeing the badges on various blogs over the last 2-3 months and kept meaning to go and check it out.
Basically, it's an attempt to see how long it will take to get one million blogs listed. It has been going since April this year and this blog is number 1935, so one wonders if it's going to speed up, because at this rate - well someone else can work it out!
Perhaps once it starts to gather momentum it will build up more quickly. So, what are you waiting for? Go and join the list!
For several years, I had heard from friends in the UK about how funny the comedy series, The Office, was. Although it has been shown in 60 countries apparently, it has never made it to Greece.
Like those films that you keep telling yourself that you should see, but never actually manage to get round to, I kept telling myself that I must get the DVD of the series.
Well, I finally got round to it - and I'm really glad I did. It really does capture the characters of people I am sure that we've all come across at one point or another in our working lives, and the fact that they deliberately used "unknown" actors and actresses made it all the better as you weren't thinking of any of the characters as being a particular actor playing a part.
I don't often laugh out loud, but watching this DVD with my son, we were continuously breaking up - especially with the interactions between Gareth and Tim, for those of you that know the series.
I don't really need to say anything to the UK readers, but if you are going to get one comedy DVD, then let this be the one. As well as having both series and the Christmas Specials, it also has various extras including a documentary about how it was made and deleted scenes.
As I mentioned in my post about the Corfu Donkey Rescue, I've decided that I'm going to do some regular posts on issues that I feel we should be aware of - hopefully once a week. If you have anything that you would like me to post about, please let me know.
Today I want to look at The Hunger Site. Until I checked out their site, I didn't realise that they have been going since 1999. They have found an incredibly simple way to use the internet so that people can easily donate to help alleviate hunger - and for free. By just clicking on their button.
Apparently over 300 million visitors have donated more than 500 million cups of food since their foundation.
I know I am shocked by the hunger figures. In a world with a population of 6 billion, 1 billion are suffering from hunger or malnutrition. I really can't believe that we are doing this!
And 24.000 people per day are dying from hunger or hunger-related diseases!! Threequarters of these are children under five!
At least the good news is that the figures are dropping. Twenty years ago, the number was an incredible 41.000!
So please, just click on the button and do what you can.
The first Starbucks opened in Corfu a few days ago, not long after the company announced that they were closing 600 shops in the USA.
It seems like another example of Corfu following a trend years after it was a trend, and when in fact it is actually a "has been". All the indications seem to be that the "light" of Starbucks is swiftly being extinguished.
One reason is basic economics - with rising food and fuel prices a $5 latte is simply too expensive. Another and perhaps more important reason is that it is no longer unique. Although Starbucks brought the coffee culture to the mass market, you can get a variety of good coffees at most places now at a better price and without the silly names.
People have also become disillusioned with the company due to their alleged unethical practices. Last year, Ethiopia campaigned to get fairer prices for their coffee from the world's coffee giants - in particular, Starbucks. Apparently growers were getting about $1.10 a pound, which was nowhere near enough for them to make a decent living. The roasters can sell the coffee on for about $20 - 26 per pound and the retailers can make about 52 espressos from a pound, which brings them an income of up to $160!
An Ethiopian spokesman was quoted as saying, "This ratio needs to change. Our people are barefoot, have no school, no clean water or health centre. They are living hand to mouth. We need $4 a pound minimum, that's only fair."
On top of that, a couple of years ago this short video came out showing health conditions in a Starbucks shop (not for the squeamish!)
And finally, another basic question - is the coffee actually any good? This may be subjective, but it seems that over the years more and more people have been complaining about the quality of the coffee. As one person said, "Starbucks is for people who don't like coffee"
So, how will Starbucks do in Corfu? Apparently 70% of the 600 shops closing in the USA were opened within the last 18 months, so the omens for a new shop do not seem to be good.
But even if it does do well - do we really want it here?
I have just a new free social network – Corfu Connection. This is for lovers of Corfu, people who are interested in finding information about it and also for those living on the island.
If you are from Corfu and have a product, service or event that you want to promote, then join Corfu Connection and let us know all about it and make friends with others. Artists, writers and musicians from Corfu can showcase their work. If you want to know more about Corfu, then come and make friends with the people living there, who can help you.
Promote yourself, upload photos, videos, music and list any events that you are organising or know about. Create your own groups or join one. Get connected!
I want to start having regular posts about various "worthy causes". To kick off, I'd like to write about one that is right here in Corfu - the Corfu Donkey Rescue.
The sanctuary is a registered charity that was started several years ago by an Englishwoman living here, and does tremendous work to care for these terribly neglected animals on the island. To find out more about their work and also how you can "Adopt a Donkey", please visit their site http://www.corfu-donkeys.com/
This is a short video that was produced for YouTube.
Most nations measure their well-being by the Gross National Product (GDP) but I was interested to find out the other day that the small nation of Bhutan measures it by GNH - Gross National Happiness.
Apparently this has been going on for many years now. A recent visitor commented, "Bhutan seems much happier than countries that have a materialist rather than moral ethos. Relationships are rather equal, there's very little status anxiety."
The four pillars of Bhutan's GNH are the promotion of equitable and sustainable socioeconomic development; preservation and promotion of cultural values; conservation of the natural environment; and establishment of good governance.
The commentator went on to say, "What really struck me is that as a matter of policy, there is very little extreme poverty. Bhutan realises that a redistribution of wealth that favours the poor most is better for producing happiness."
I also found this video on YouTube. Quite old, but interesting nonetheless.
Continuing the theme of vegetable oil as car fuel, I've just heard that a rally is being organised this August running from London to Athens - with cooking oil fuelling the participating cars!
Londoner Andy Pag (on the left in photo below) will head a team of 30 cars travelling across Europe in the "Grease to Greece" rally powered only by chip fat and cooking oil and begging oil from restaurants along the route.
The organisers are calling it a 'Fat-Finding' mission across Europe!
Andy says, "The idea is to see if using waste vegetable oil for long distances is practical and feasible, and to have a bit of a laugh on the way. We want to do a banger rally with no carbon footprints."
The cars will travel through Germany, Austria and Italy before following the Adriatic coast down to Greece.
The rally organisers' website explains that being environmentally friendly is just one of the advantages of using vegetable oil, running your vehicle on vegetable oil is also cheaper.
For details visit the website www.fatfinding.com
I was amazed to read the other day that thousands of people in the UK are producing their own biodiesel fuel for their cars. The incredible thing is that they are using waste vegetable oil, which would have been thrown out anyway, and it is costing only 15p per litre, as opposed to at least 1.25 UK pounds sterling that 'normal' fuel costs! If you have to buy the oil, then it will go up to 45p a litre, but that is still much, much cheaper than prices for fossil fuel.
You can make the fuel with specially manufactured processors that start from around 900 UK pounds sterling - but you should easily recover the cost in savings made over the first year of use.
In the UK, you are allowed to make 2.500 litres of fuel yourself tax-free, and I am wondering what the situation is in other countries. I feel pretty sure that here in Greece it will be pretty impossible for anyone to do likewise - there are so many rules, so much bureaucracy and I doubt if the big boys selling fuel will allow it to happen in the foreseeable future.
However, this does seem to be an ideal solution. The vegetable oil is recycled, it costs less and according to Ecotec Resources, who manufacture the processors to produce the biodiesel fuel -
Biodiesel is a perfectly suitable replacement for fossil diesel, in fact it has better lubrication qualities than fossil diesel and recent tests by Porsche on behalf of Mercedes proclaimed that the qualities of Biodiesel could extend an engines life considerably.
Aside from its better running qualities, it is, more importantly, better for the environment, biodiesel is biodegradable and non-toxic, and typically produces about 60% less net carbon dioxide emissions than petroleum-based diesel, as it is itself produced from atmospheric carbon dioxide via photosynthesis in plants.
Well, what are we waiting for ?! It should be interesting to see how this develops and what reactions will be from the large oil companies and other interested parties!
Contemplation is another up and coming Corfu Band. Behind the group is a singer and composer called Spiros, who studied music from the age of 14 at the Greek National Conservatory of Corfu. He took classic guitar lessons and after three years took some lessons in electric guitar with one of the best guitarist in Corfu, Michael Koromios. He also learnt to play some basic things on guitar, bass guitar and keyboards on his own.
When he was 18, he took opera and piano lessons at the Ionian Conservatory for two years. At the age of 14 he started composing his own music and words dreaming that one day he would have the chance to record his songs.
Following a break, he took lessons in classical singing again at the Ionian Conservatory. In the year 1996 Spiros decided to write songs for a Rock Opera, the main concept of which will be taken from his forthcoming book "The Road to Revolution". The story talks about seven chosen saviours against the future's tyrants of the universe. The Rock Opera has the same title as the book and will be released in two parts.
In the year 2007 he recorded the main songs from “The Road To Revolution” in Athens at the Fragile studio with the co - operation of Vangelis Yalamas, bassist of Fragile Vastness. Many well-known guest musicians participate in all the songs, such as Theodoris Gotsis ex-Horizon's End, Yiannis Fasoulakis from Odes Of Ecstasy, George Tzitzifas from Bare Infinity, Myrto Toumpa from Fallen Within and many more.
If you are looking for a local travel agent, the reputable companies are members of the Association of Corfu Travel Agents. Their website is http://www.aocta.gr/
The following 31 beaches and 1 marina have been awarded Blue Flags.
Municipality Beach/Marina name
KORISION Ag. Georgios Handicap Friendly
ACHILLION Ag. Gordios
MELITIEON Ag. Ioannis Strogylis Handicap Friendly
MELITEION Ag. Mathaios
ESPERION Ag. Stefanos
AGIOS GEORGIOS Agios Georgios Handicap Friendly
THINALIO Almyros Handicap Friendly
CORFU TOWN Alykes Potamou Handicap Friendly
ACHILLION Benitses Handicap Friendly
ESPERION Canal d'Amour
FEAKON Dasia Handicap Friendly
PARELION Glyfada Handicap Friendly
CORFU TOWN Marina Gouvia Handicap Friendly
CORFU TOWN Kommeno
CORFU TOWN Kontokali
KASSOPI Nisaki / Krouzeri Handicap Friendly
PALEOKASTRITSA Paleokastritsa Handicap Friendly
THINALIO Perithia / Ag. Spyridonas
FEAKON Ypsos Handicap Friendly
The Blue Flag works towards sustainable development at beaches and marinas through strict criteria dealing with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and other services.