Category Archives: Smörgåsbord

Saturday “Random Art” Smörgåsbord

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I’m not a very arty person. I could say: “Oh, but I went to a museum only 2 weeks ago, and I saw 4 plays last year”, all of which is true, but to be fair I don’t even remember when my next-to-last museum visit was, and the only reason I saw those plays is because a friend of Ts is an actress. It’s not because I don’t like arts – I just have a total and complete lack of passion for it. That, and it’s bloody expensive.
Still, I do believe art is important. Art is important because it is a way of expressing oneself, and expressing yourself is the start of everything, I feel. And it doesn’t have to be Art, with a capital. It can be small, it can be fleeting. The woman humming my favorite tune on the bus, she makes art. The drawings of my friend’s kids on my wall are art. Anything that was man-made, that moves you, in any way, is art. And you can see it on every corner of the street.

 
Ok, this may be a bad example of seeing art on every street corner, but it ís a very good example of how it can move people. Sand artist Kseniya Simonova, who won Ukraine’s got talent last year, draws a painting of how ordinary people were affected by the German invasion during WWII, which has moved audiences worldwide. The video has reached over 16 million views by now, so chances are high you’ve already seen it, but I never get tired of watching it… .

Have you ever gotten back from the supermarket to a dirty car which had “wash me!” written on it by some self-proclaimed comedian? Or even better: “also available in white”. I haven’t, but that has probably more to do with the fact I never owned a car than with being a good car washer. Now, imagine coming back from that same supermarket and finding your dirty rear window looking like this – wouldn’t that just brighten up your day? While I’m pretty sure Scott Wade, the artist who created this, is not exactly roaming on parking lots to surprise unsuspecting car owners, I feel it looks amazing. May this be an inspiration for you next time you see a dirty car!

 
I don’t know if I have any readers from London, but they might have seen this guy at work: for the past six years, Ben Wilson has spent days on end scouring pavements for discarded gum that he can bring to life. Each work of art can take anywhere from 2 hours to 3 days to complete, and so far mr. Wilson has created over 8000 of them, both for his own pleasure and on demand. It is more labour intensive than cleaning the streets of chewing gum with those steam-machines, but according to me the result is way nicer!

And if this is not Random Art, I don’t know what is. Knight Arts has been sponsoring Random Acts of Culture to take place in a variety of public places: Mozart at the Food Court, a little tango in an airport terminal, a “Hallelujah” in the shoe department – of the Handel variety, that is. They strongly believe in the potential of the arts to engage residents, and bring a community together – and for a brief moment in time, they do. Enjoy this performance of Toreador in a Miami shoe store, and be sure to check their website for more RAOCs!

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Saturday “Biodiversity” Smörgåsbord

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2010 was is the International Year of Biodiversity. The IYB is meant to help raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity, which goes beyond “I want my children to enjoy it” or “Any species could hold the cure for cancer and thus should be preserved”: biodiversity allows ecosystems to recover more easily from disaster, contributes to climate stability, … . Who wants to read more about it, can get more information here and here.
News on the disappearance of the tiger, of many fish species, … reaches us everyday, and draws a grim picture of the way our planet is headed. However, there áre positive stories of conservation and reintroduction, that show that not only are we capable of wiping entire species from the Earth’s surface: if we put our minds to it, we can take responsibility, reverse the consequences of our actions and book success, giving back other species the space they deserve.

 

Image via Wired Science

Fifteen years ago, America’s last eastern panther population had shrunk to several dozen individuals, riddled with genetic defects and too inbred to survive much longer. In a conservation attempt, 8 females from Texas were introduced to the population, with success: the panther’s population has tripled, and the occurrence of genetic defects is now reduced. In order for the success to continue, additional translocations will be necessary, and the population (and the habitat … ) needs to expand further, but the future is sure is looking a lot brighter for the Florida Panther. (via Wired Science)

Image via De Morgen

The Wild Coffee Forests of Kafa (does “Arabica” ring a bell?) in Ethiopia have been recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The former kingdom of Kafa, 475km southwest of Addis Abeba, holds more than half of the rainforest left in Ethiopia, and harbors a wealth of animal and plant species. As in many countries, the forest was cut on a large scale for decades, to make room for farm land, and for the production of charcoal and building materials. Fortunately however, this has changed, and with the help of Farm Africa, the local farmers have learned to grow coffee, fruit, … indigenous to the region which are less vulnerable than the crop plants they grew before. In addition, they can harvest honey, herbs, … in specified regions in the reserve. The new approach has been a success for both the farmers and the wildlife preservation, and resulted in the UNESCO recognition – a sure sign they are on the right track. (via De Morgen)

Image via US Forest Service

Crawford Path, one of the oldest and most popular recreation hiking trails in the US, used to be home to more than 95 percent of the world’s Robbins’ cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana), concentrated on just one acre of land. However, as popularity with the backpackers increased, the number of Robbins’ cinquefoil decreased accordingly, until the flower teetered on the brink of extinction. A recovery plan was issued, and in a conservation effort that took over 20 years, the plant was gradually reintroduced to the area, until it could be taken off of the list of endangered species some years back – the ultimate measure of success. Follow-up studies now show that the established population has remained stable and healthy, and the beautiful yellow flowers can now be found blooming again on the mountain slopes. (via US Forest Service)

The story of the Iberian Lynx is not a success-story (yet), but it may very well become one, and a very remarkable one at that. One major threat of biodiversity is the introduction of new species, which can easily destabilize a whole ecosystem: viruses previously unknown can do unseen damage to indigenous species who never had the chance to build resistance, new predators can virtually kill an entire species – the list of human-introduced invasive species is impressive. However, climate change may cause this type of invasion part of the strategy to save entire species. While this sounds contradictory, it may prove to be useless to preserve a species in its “natural” habitat, as that habitat changes and becomes unlivable for the “saved” animal. Other regions, on the other hand, may develop to be a more suitable habitat than the “historical” one. However, the widespread occurrence of one particular species (i.e. Homo sapiens) may strongly inhibit the animals to reach the new Promised Land. So why not help them a hand? It is called assisted migration and seems highly interesting, albeit controversial. But who knows, it may be the preservation technique of the future (and is certainly easier to do than genetically manipulate to species to adapt to its changed environment). (via Oregon Expat)

 
There is much more that could be done – that should be done, even, and it is highly unlikely we will be able to stop the rapid extinction of species any time soon, but the above stories show that it is possible, and that, in and of itself, opens possibilities. Who wants more positive stories may find some on the site of the Nature Conservancy, or just keeps an eye on his/her local journal: positive stories are everywhere, you just have to want to find them.

Saturday “!!!” smörgåsbord

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Initially the Saturday Smörgåsbord was intended as some kind of “happy news” item since I read this post by Jane from They call me Jane in which she sadly had to discover that while bad news is free, good news seems to come at a price. Literally. So I thought: why don’t I try to gather the positive things I read on the internet and post them according to some theme? But I quickly started to digress and instead just came up with whatever 4-5 items I could find on whichever theme came up in my head this week. So while I’m gonna try to return to that original spirit in the future, this week I’ll give you some things that may not directly make the world a better place, but that make me happy – which in a way is selfish, but as I often say: it is hard to make other people happy unless you’re happy yourself. So here goes my !!!-list:

 
Being with T makes me happy. It is not easy – it never has been and I don’t think it ever will be: 2 sets of female hormones multiplied gives not linearly or even squared, but exponentially magnified emotions. We are very different, we come from very different backgrounds and we have different interests, I sometimes feel we have more stuff keeping us apart than we do keeping us together. But in the end, after 2 years (yes, that’s a record, applause!) it’s still us. Her and me. Me and her. Us. We. And it makes me happy.

 
My new friends here in Lund make me happy. Many of them will be leaving soon, because that is how it goes in science: projects of a year, 2 years – people come and people go as the seasons change. It is hard for me, I like to build up something durable, friendship that lasts, and I find it not so easy to invest in a relationship which you know will end in 2 months. But that’s what I’m here to learn (well… partly) and judging by the people I’ve already met, I’m sure I will meet many more, interesting, lovely new friends.

I love snow! I admit – I had forgotten all about how wet and cold it can be if you actually have to wait for an hour to catch the bus after a Lady Gaga concert at 1 am, but there are few things that give me such pleasure as taking a long walk through a snowy landscape on a freezing clear blue sky-morning. There is something about the serenity of it that is soothing, and calming. So I was very happy when yesterday I woke up and saw the snow whirling from the sky… it only lasted a day, and I am so looking forward to the thick blankets of snow I hope will be covering Lund soon – and long. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to ski again this year … . Now thát would make me happy.

Dancing the Lindy hop in Atascadero, Californi...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned my love of dancing before, but just in case I didn’t: I LOVE dancing. Tomorrow will be my last class of Lindy Hop this semester, which I’ve been dancing as a lead (never like a guy to tell me what to do :) ), and while it’s becoming more and more challenging, I’m already looking forward to the second series next year. For those who don’t know Lindy Hop: Wikipedia and YouTube are your best guides. The best thing is you can dance solo jazzroutines, if you like, or grab a partner – anything goes. Also: it is one of the few partner dances where the girl actually also has a say (unlike the stiffer ballroom dances I have done before). I love watching, I love the jazzroutines and I love the partner-Lindy, there is just so much joy to be found and variations are endless. So if you like dancing and haven’t done it yet: do Lindy Hop. You’ll love it. I promise.

“From November 10 to 20: Change your profile picture by a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do likewise. Why this game? So we can see a real invasion of childhood memories on Facebook!”
I am normally not one to follow Facebook-statuses… but I did this time, and so did many of my friends. And it indeed brought some great childhood memories back.

 
(For more !!! visit Momalom or Bad Mommy Moments.)

Saturday “Wordy” Smörgåsbord

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I love languages. I always have and I always will – I love playing around with words, meanings, expressions, … and each language seems to have its own peculiarities, making it more suit for a certain situation. French has a high level of drama embedded in it, while Portuguese means love, and romance. English is more robust, solid, and to the point, and Dutch is very good at handling day-to-day business. Needless to say, I first fell in love while being on a French language course, I had a Portuguese boyfriend for 2 years, all work-related communications are in English and my mother tongue is Dutch. As a result, I often find myself blending words and expressions from each of these languages in whatever language I’m speaking at that particular moment, because, well, they simply fit better with what it is I’m trying to say. I give you: my favorite words and expressions.

 

French

Coup de foudre horizontal

Image by Twistiti via Flickr

Le coup de foudre“. Literal translation: “struck by lightning”, in other words: love at first sight. But “love at first sight” just doesn’t reflect the BANG of the moment, the instant recognition, the “(s)he takes my breath away”-kind of feeling. I also like the presence of “fou” (crazy) in “foudre” and the (undoubtedly coincidental) likeness of the word to “se foutre de” (not giving a crap) (“foutre” then again seems to have its origin in the Latin “futuere”, “to have intercourse”, which is equally applicable). So when you experience le coup de foudre, you feel struck by lightning, and you don’t care about anything else, you’re crazy for that person, and … well … it’s clear what you’re aiming at.

 

Portuguese

"Fado", one of the Azulejos at Estra...

Image via Wikipedia

You could roughly translate “saudades” with “homesickness”, but as with “le coup de foudre”, it just doesn’t fit. Homesickness is what you feel when you’re 7 years old and you go on a summer camp alone for the first time. Saudades… saudades is a sense of longing, intensely, with your whole mind and body for something/someone/someplace you cannot reach now (and possibly never). It is a feeling that encompasses much more than simply “missing”, and it has a strong component of melancholia and nostalgia attached to it. Fado is particularly apt at translating this feeling into music although, strangely, I don’t like the typical high-pitched fado-voices. Maybe I’ve had my share of saudades with the long-distance relationship I was in to last me the rest of my life :).

 

English
I have a strange love-hate relationship with English. I feel very comfortable in it (yes, “in”, not “with”), it has a strange familiarity and its vocabulary houses a number of truly great words.

Apt.
Incontestable.
Furiously.
Eloquent.
Embroidery.
Worthwhile.

It’s not so much the meaning of the word in itself, but rather how the word image matches so well with what it means. However (another favorite of mine), they should be written the British way. It should be “colour”. And “flavour”. “Flavor” just doesn’t do “flavour” justice – it’s so bland, it doesn’t really taste like anything. The pronunciation, on the other hand, should be South African. Or Irish. You gotta love the South African accent, ya!


My main problem with English though is that I seem to be talking it all the time. Even when I talk French, or Dutch, English words and expressions wriggle (beautiful one, also!) their way into my sentences until I’m not sure which language I’m speaking. Whatever. There you go. You got me there! Please? No way. Oh my God. We have similar expression in Dutch, but they just don’t seem to do. And now that the vast majority of my communication is in English I have not only taken up the habit of literally translating English expressions into Dutch (“it doesn’t make sense” just doesn’t make sense in Dutch, trust me), but half of the nouns I use are either English or anglicisms of some sort. I have never understood how people could forget their mother tongue, but sometimes I feel I’m well on my way ;).

 

Dutch
Ah, marvelous, versatile Dutch … the number of dialects alone make it worthwhile studying. However, since my parents decided – in a fit of insanisty, I’m sure – to raise me in “General Dutch”, my dialect skills are below zero. I understand it to a certain degree, but it stops there. And thus I specialize more in the other end of the language spectrum: the academic, elite kind of speech. I’ve often heard I manage to make the simplest things sound complicated, as I use a vocabulary which seems to belong more in the 8 o’clock news than in a conversation between friends. I’m particularly fond of conjunctions, such as “daarentegen” and “desalniettemin”. Basically, a words need at least 4 syllables to be even considered being placed in my vocabulary ;).
However, one two-syllable word needs mentioning.

Goesting.

Like “saudades”, there is no simple translation for this one. Goesting is a desire for something, but it comes from deep within, you know? Like when you come back from a long walk, and you just feel goesting for a beer. It’s much stronger than just feeling like a beer, it’s something you need. Or when you have this special little feeling, after dinner, you’re really stuffed, and content, but you just would wanna have a cookie. That’s goesting. Of course, it applies also to other… non-food… things, so ladies – beware if you get near a guy with a pair of trousers full of goesting… . He might not have a strawberry ice cream with whipped cream in mind.

Strawberry ice cream

Image via Wikipedia

Saturday “Halloween” Smörgåsbord

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In Belgium, we don’t have the strong Halloween tradition as they do in the US – sure, the shops and marketeers have jumped on the money-wagon: pumpkins, black spiders and fake cobwebs decorate black-and-orange colored displays, and some student club or school may organize the occasional Halloween party, but that’s about as far as it goes. I remember last year or so, we had trick-or-treaters at our door, and we were like: “Eh, what exactly are we supposed to do now?” They were lucky we even had candy in the house.
So while the whole trick-or-treat’ing isn’t exactly my type of… eh… candy, I see no reason not to enjoy the Halloween treats I see popping up everywhere! (all pictures have been shamelessly copy-pasted from the original websites)

Of course, I’m a scientist, so I’ve got a weak spot for geeky stuff, but I really love these candy blood slides. Basically it’s just sugar so they won’t taste like much, but you have to admit they look truly awesome!
Recipe can be found at forkable (via TYWKIWDBI).
 
Those who like it REALLY scary do not have to resort to fake candy blood, though… how about a real, non-candy spider? ThinkGeek sells oven-baked Tarantula’s for a mere $24.99. Apparently, these are much healthier than the “normal fried tarantulas you can get all over”. Ehm… yeah… . From their website: “Every Oven-Baked Tarantula is baked in its native Cambodia, and collected from monitored sources (to protect the tarantula’s natural population). Each one is baked, crunchy, and just a little hairy – but ready to eat right out of the package. Just don’t forget to remove the fangs first. Then, enjoy your yummy Cambodian delicacy – your very own Oven-Baked Tarantula.“. Insect lovers can also delight on Giant Toasted Leafcutter Ants, but I think I’ll just stick to the Giant Bleeding Heart Gummy Candy. (via Geekologie)

These witch’s hats are made with Nutella, so how on earth could they possibly not be delicious?? I haven’t tried to make them myself (yet), but the recipe seems easy enough so that even I should be able to handle it… .
Recipe at Virginia Hughes.
 
 
My favourite, however, (though you probably know them already because if I remember well they got Freshly Pressed some time ago) are these Yummy Mummy Cookies from Hershey’s (who, apparently, have a whole range of Halloween recipes… I need to check those out). Chocolate cookies coated in white chocolate, that beats even Nutella! They seem a bit more complicated (read: labour-intensive) to make than the Witch’s Hats, though, so I might need to get my sister to help me with them, but I’m betting they’re worth it. (via No empty chairs)
 

On a more serious note, much of the chocolate that will be given out on Halloween will not be child-friendly. I am not referring to any obesity-related matters, but to the (still widespread) occurence of child slavery in the cocoa industry. And it would be rather unfitting to make the children ringing your door happy with something other children suffered so heavily for, wouldn’t you agree? So please consider to Fair Trade your Halloween and pass out chocolate that makes ALL children happy!

Saturday “Nobel” Smörgåsbord

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So, now that all Nobel Prizes have been awarded, I thought this week’s Smörgåsbord could be about this year’s winners! After all, they are Swedish, and I am in Sweden…
and then I though maybe I didn’t really have the right background to be presenting all these Big Important People and their (honestly pretty astounding) research/accomplishments to you. But… I could give you a selection of my favorite Ig Nobel Prizes!

The what?!?

The Ig Nobel Prizes for Improbable Research, which honor achievements that make people laugh first, and then think.

Among the winners this year were Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and her team, which perfected a method for collecting whale snot, Lianne Parkin and co-workers for showing that wearing socks over your shoes reduces the risk of slipping on ice, and Richard Stephens and colleagues, who won the Ig Nobel Price for Peace for confirming that swearing indeed helps relieve pain. Here is some more remarkable research that first makes you laugh, then think.

For those of us who have often tried to explain something by making analogies, the phrase: “You’re comparing apples and oranges!” is undoubtedly familiar, and is generally perceived as being a telling blow to the analogy since it is generally understood that apples and oranges cannot be compared. After being the recipient of just such an accusation, Scott A. Sandford from the NASA (!) Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California decided to see if this statement actually made sense.
“(…) the statement that something is like comparing apples and oranges is a kind of analogy itself. That is, denigrating an analogy by accusing it of comparing apples and oranges is, in and of itself, comparing apples and oranges.” He then proceeded to prove that apples and oranges can indeed be compared and, more importantly, are remarkably similar.
Interestingly, in Belgium we generally say: “You’re comparing apples and pears.”. I wonder if that makes more sense… .

The Peter Principle was first formulated by Laurence Peter, and published in 1969. The Principle states that men and women in hierarchies climb the professional ladder until they reach the level of maximum incompetence. While this may seem completely irrational, scientists have shown, using computer models, that if you assume that 1) the best members are rewarded with promotion and 2) the competence at the new level in the hierarchical structure does not depend on the competence at the previous level (since both levels often require different competences), the Peter Principle not only holds, but is

unavoidable and leads to an average decrease in efficiency of 10% – promoting the worst employees on the other hand increased efficiency by 12%. A more elaborate explanation can be found here.
I think it just comes down to this: if people are good at their jobs… let them do them! If people are not good at their jobs, well, maybe they’d better do something else. People who are doing a good job deserve a reward, but promotion may not be the best one.

In 1999, Dr. Len Fisher of Bath, England and Sydney, Australia, and professor Jean-Marc Vanden-Broeck of the University of East Anglia, England, and Belgium (oh, allow me some chauvinism while my country still exists!) shared the Ig Nobel Prize for Physics for calculating the optimal way to dunk a biscuit, and calculating how to make a teapot spout that does not drip, respectively. The latter research was actually supported by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Science Foundation, since the mathematics that explains the flow of tea also apply to the resistance of waves to a ship’s hull. Which is… fascinating.
One year later, the Physics prize went to Andre Geim of the University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, for using magnets to levitate a frog. Interestingly, this is the very same Andre Geim who won the (“real”) Nobel Prize for Physics this year for his completely unrelated (and by far less exciting) research on the two-dimensional molecule graphene.

Sleeping

Image by kaibara87 via Flickr

However, the life of a scientist can be hard. Ryan Shaun Baker found himself breaking up with his girlfriend after conducting exhaustive research on the factors influencing the amount of sleep he was getting. Based on whether or not he had attended social activities, read in bed, felt ill, … and whether he slept alone or not, he was forced to conclude that his girlfriend, in effect, proved to be sleep retardant. While I feel he did not have sufficient proof supporting his conclusions, I must say I appreciate a man who values a good night’s sleep.

 

And I haven’t even talked about the bra which can be converted to a protective face mask or that high-prized fake medicine is more effective than low-prized fake medicine, and all the questions that have been answered: is Kansas as flat as a pancake? (no, in fact, it is flatter), do cats always land on their feet? (only when they fall from at least 2 feet), how do you get girls interested in science? (with a good-looking (male) teacher) and why doesn’t a woodpecker get a headache?

Should you have your own little research going on which you think will benefit the world, you can send it in for publication in the Annals of Improbable Research, and/or nominate your or other’s research for the Ig Nobel Prizes next year. In each case, head over to their website if the above stories even mildly amused you… they got a lot more going on on there!

Saturday “Beautiful” Smörgåsbord

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The midnight sun as captured by Isilmetriel, via Oregon Expat.


The Aurora Borealis as captured by the AuroraMAX webcam in Northern Canada, via Wired Science.


A macro image of a fly drinking from a dew drop by Radoslav Radoslavov Valkov, winner of the Young Environmental Photographer of the Year 2010, via Oregon Expat.


Waterdrops acting as a refracting lens for the flower in the background by Steve Wall, via Smashing Magazine.

Saturday “Belgian” Smörgåsbord

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Lisa reading a Tintin comic book.

Even Lisa reads Tintin! (Image via Wikipedia)

For as long as Belgium exists, I will be proud of it! We may have the most indecisive politicians in the world, but we also have chocolate, beer, Tintin, the saxophone and amazing maps, … we have it all, we have it good, and we should be proud of it! So despite the current political crisis, I thought I’d use this week’s Smörgåsbord to highlight some of the good stuff coming from Belgium recently…

To start off, Sam Sulmont (25) has made it to the shortlist of 125 finalists of the YouTube Play. A Biennial of Creative Video competition. The competition, which was organized in conjunction with the Guggenheim Museum, aimed to discover and showcase the most exceptional talent working in the ever-expanding realm of online video. Sulmont’s movie, “Sounds in the key of Z”, paints a rather depressing view on life, as a man wearing a gas mask wakes up, wanders around in an old, worn-down building and finally dies in front of a non-functional television. The experimental short was Sulmont’s thesis at the Narafi film school in Brussels. Ironically, his exam jury wasn’t easily convinced by “Sounds in the key of Z” and Sulmont only just passed. Whether he has made it to the final 20 who will see their work on display at the New York Guggenheim from Oct. 22-24, will be announced on October 21st. (via De Morgen, screenshot from “Sounds in the key of Z”)

United Pepper, a Belgium-based eco-tech company, is setting high standards to their products. Not only do they want to produce “green” electronics by avoiding the use of PVC and flame retardants, two chemicals of particular concern when old electronics are disposed of, they also want to produce them in a fair trade manner. Since there really are no globally agreed fair trade standards for electronics, the company took general principles outlined by the World Fair Trade Organization – no easy task, given the global nature of the electronics supply chain – and applied them to their manufacturing partner in Vietnam. Greenness and fair trade aside, who wouldn’t want such an adorable-looking webcam? (via The World, image used with permission from United Pepper)

Good news from the Belgian army also! Conform the Oslo Treaty from 2008, we have destroyed all our cluster bombs. Cluster bombs have killed and injured thousands of civilians during the last 40 years and -unfortunately- continue to do so today even long after a conflict has ended. One third of all recorded cluster munitions casualties are children. 60% of cluster bomb casualties are injured while undertaking their normal activities. So far, the Convention on Cluster Munitions has been signed by 108 countries, 41 of which have also ratified it. Unsurprisingly, the USA, Israel, Russia, and China are among those countries who have not signed.
(via De Morgen, image under Fair Use via Cluster Munition Coalition)

And to finish off on a lighter note, the hidden camera show Benidorm Bastards has won the top award of best program of 2010 at the Rose d’Or television festival in Switzerland. Seven old people drive the kids crazy in this guerrilla-style show, in which the wrinklies get one over on the youth, for a change. But I’ll let the Bastards themselves do the talking… Enjoy!
(roughly every other prank is without dialogues, so it’s even enjoyable for non-Dutch speakers)

Saturday “loo” Smörgåsbord

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This weeks Smörgåsbord was intended to be on clever waste-reducing solutions with a wink – curiously, they all seem to be related to bathroom visits. Whether this reflects a bias in my searching abilities or rather an unexplicable bathroom-love of the developers, I do not know.


Conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta is the man behind the Park Spark Project in Cambridge, Massachusetts (I never knew there even was an American Cambridge!) in which dog poop is used to power an “eternal flame” monument. This shows how “going green” can be interpreted not only in terms of drastically changing the way we live or relying on scientists to develop better, renewable sources of energy, but also in terms of simply changing perspective and questioning the role and possibilities of technology, both old and new, in our lives. In a later stage, Mazzotta wants to involve the community to gather ideas as how to best use the flame – currently proposals range from a shadow-projection box or a popcorn stand to a teahouse. (image: Park Spark Project ; via Wired Science)

And while we’re at poop, do you also feel a sting of guilt when using more than 3 squares per sitting ever since Sheryl Crow proposed a ban on this anti-environmental behavior? Well, feel guilty no more, here is the White Goat from the Japanese company Oriental which converts used office paper to rolls of toilet paper! Every roll takes about 40 shredded A4 sheets and 30 minutes to make, saving an estimated 60 cedar trees annually. The machine went on sale last summer, but at $100 000 a piece I wonder how many they actually sold … . A video of the machine in action can be found here. (image and idea via Geekology)

Besides tons of toilet paper, bathroom visitors also use liters of water washing their hands afterwards. Now, we wouldn’t want to be responsible for a decline in hygiene by putting a ban on handwashing, but to encourage people to think about how much water they actually use Yan Li, a Chinese designer/engineer, has devised this Poor Little Fish basin. While using, the level of water in the bowl gradually falls, threatening the fish with untimely death; it will go back to the original level once the water stops running. Of course, the water doesn’t really come out of the fishbowl and the fish is never in any real danger – I fear otherwise some people would actually want to kill the little swimmer. (image and idea via Geekology)

Another clever solution for reduction of water consumption during toilet visits is this award-winning two-in-one sink and urinal designed by South Korean Yeongwoo Kim (anybody else feeling an Asian constant through these stories?). The Eco Urinal is designed to use the water that was used for washing hands to flush the urine. Thus 1) the water is used twice, reducing overall consumption, 2) less space is needed, and 3) people are encouraged to “keep their sanitation”. I actually wonder which of these will be the prime reason for success. (Image and idea via Geekology)

NOTE: If you are reading this on the day it was posted, shame on you! Today is Offlining day, which invites people to switch off and enjoy a day offline (more info at the link). In my defense all I can say is I thought it was tomorrow… I must have confused with Talk like a Pirate-day