Sunday, January 30, 2011

A 'Tiger Mother' rebuttal from across the ocean

I shouldn’t have bought two copies of Amy Chua’s controversial new book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," because I don’t want to encourage her, but I lost the first copy two hours after I left the bookstore. I can be scatterbrained like that. Fittingly, this is the kind of personal flaw that Chua scorns in her book, which has ignited fierce public debate about parenting styles in the East and West.

Chua is Chinese-American, and a professor at Yale Law School. With "Tiger Mother" she has ignited a firestorm of argument, self-reflection and anger among U.S. parents by claiming that she has the answer to a question Western moms and dads have been asking for ages.

An excerpt from her book that recenly ran in the "Wall Street Journal" prompted more than 6,600 online reader comments.

“A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too,” she writes. “Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it.”

Not far into the first chapter, I concluded that the book is more sinister than a smug mother‘s bragging.

It is a chauvinistic, arbitrary and degrading piece of work, not to mention aggressive (that title!) and staggeringly pretentious -- Chua claims her eldest daughter was “reading Sartre” at the age of three, when it turns out she just recognized the words "No Exit."

It is also hilarious, mainly because if you don’t laugh you’ll weep with rage at a woman who -- without a whisper of irony -- compares her youngest child to “a feral horse,” describes their relationship as a battle for which she had to “re-arm,” bloodier than “all-out nuclear warfare,” and whose argument relies on stereotypes and syllogisms (e.g. “playing the drums leads to drugs”) that are far beneath a scholar of Chua’s standing.

Her daughters, she preaches, were never allowed to attend a sleepover, be in a school play, choose their own extracurricular activities or get any grade less than an A.

They had to be the “number one student in every subject except gym and drama."

Chua advises that if your children must engage in sports, “the only activities [they] should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal, and that medal must be gold.”

And that, dear white people, is how you raise a genius.

The biggest problem I have with Chua’s position is not her draconian parenting per se. It isn’t even her racist approach to this book.

Rather, it is the author’s assumption that a) all parents want the same, narrow model of success for their children, b) all children thrive on the same, narrow path to that success, and c) only Chinese mothers take that path, so any woman who doesn’t is not a Chinese mother.

My mother is Chinese. To say otherwise would be literally wrong. She was, by Chua’s standards, heathen in my upbringing, as she allowed me to interact with other children for fun and also let me play the clarinet.

According to another of Chua’s rules, which are presented as bullet points at the start of her book, there are only two acceptable musical instruments for your offspring to learn: the piano and the violin.

As early as the preface, she tells us her piano-prodigy kid played at Carnegie Hall, which is impressive but probably not grounds to spurn all other forms of musical talent.

For the record, my little sister played the drums and she is, so far, narcotic-free.

I think my mum is liberal by most standards, and I’ve turned out okay. It’s certainly not because she indulged my whims, or "protected" me from doing difficult tasks out of fear that it would hurt my self-esteem -- tendencies Chua attributes to non-Chinese parents.

I think it’s because she was more courageous than the Tiger Mother. She faced up to myriad shades of gray where Chua sees only black and white.

When I was 12, my parents sent me to one of Britain’s most prestigious all-girls boarding schools, admired for its sterling exam results and top admission figures to Oxford, Cambridge and the Ivy League. By 13, I had developed a crushing eating disorder fuelled by anxiety.

Instead of blaming me for buckling under the pressure -- something Chua surely would have done -- my mother understood that I was responding badly to a system of learning and to an environment where independent thought was stifled in the blinkered pursuit of excellence.

It had gone too far.

She sent me to a different school, where more freethinking educators focused on flushing out and nurturing their pupils’ natural interests, whether academic, artistic or athletic.

Where Chua sees that “nothing is fun until you’re good at it,” my parents and my teachers saw the other side of that logic: most children are already good at something, which means it is fun from the start. If you allow them the little space they need to discover it, they will want to do the work without you hysterically waging “war” on them.

It’s easy to stand over your kids, forget their individuality, and make sure they succeed according to what you think that means. It seems much harder to let them go and figure life out for themselves, with the confidence that you have done and will do all you can to guide, rather than bully, your children.
READ MORE - A 'Tiger Mother' rebuttal from across the ocean

12 reasons to visit Tokyo in 2011

1.  Watch the tallest tree grow

The event of 2011 will be the continued rise and eventual completion of the Tokyo Sky Tree. Set for completion in December, the tower will be the world’s second-tallest at 634 meters.

The tower will not be open to the public until 2012, but the structure is already attracting tourists.

But spare a thought for the poor old Tokyo Tower, a prime tourist destination across town now looking increasingly minuscule, if still providing a red and white beacon among the towers.

2. Things will be cheaper

In 2010, the yen soared against foreign currencies, making prices for visitors ridiculously high.

This year, however, Bloomberg Businessweek predicts that the yen will fall by at least 10 percent against the dollar.

This means tourists will get more for their yen, and may mean that the country beats the 2010 figure of 9.44 million visitors.

3. Get the latest games first

The release of Nintendo’s 3DS is just around the corner, and it could be a game changer.

By the time the Tokyo Game Show holds its annual bash in September, it’s anybody’s guess what the market will look like.

And let’s not forget the ladies of the show, who attract as much attention as the games themselves.
4. Mooch around the manga madness

The Tokyo International Anime Fair is in a spot of bother. The annual showcase of all things anime and manga may this year face a boycott.

The problem? Tokyo is looking to ban the sale of manga depicting such acts as rape and pedophilia to minors.

Whatever your take on the controversy, this event may be worth a visit if only to see what the cavernous Tokyo Big Site looks like empty.

5. Swing your hips at Asia's biggest music festivals

2011 will see more festivals in the Tokyo area than ever before. As well as the huge Summer Sonic, which this year will be headlined by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Strokes, there are a host of other events.

All Tomorrow’s Parties will curate its first Tokyo show in February, headlined by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, while local bands -- including one made up of teachers -- will be performing in Kanagawa Misaki High School at the School of Rock event in March.

For dance music fans, Big Beach Festival in June will be headlined by Fatboy Slim and Carl Cox (careful -- this event ends at 8 p.m.).

6. Soak up the art

Tokyo has long been known as a major city for art, and in 2011, there are a number of events to enjoy. Roppongi Art Night, which has attracted more than half a million people each year since it started in 2009, returns on the last weekend of March.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu will be the venue for the Yebisu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions, a festival that explores the interconnection of various forms of media in the world of art.

This year’s festival, “Daydream Believer,” examines the way artists have interpreted daydreams. And for those looking for the work of a master, the works of one of the greatest in history, Leonardo Da Vinci, will be on display at the Tokyo National Museum between March and June.

7. Clown around at the latest Cirque du Soleil extravaganza

Kooza, a new show by Cirque du Soleil, will arrive in Tokyo in February. The show returns to the traditions of acrobatic performance that have made the circus a global household name.

The show was written by David Shiner, a clown who has nearly three decades' experience working in the trade, and tells the story of the characters a loner meets while he is looking to find his way in the world.

8. Get electrified at Tokyo's motor show

The automobile industry in Japan has in recent years undergone change, moving away from the traditional gas-guzzler car that characterized the 20th century to more environmentally friendly vehicles using cleaner technologies.

With Nissan having just released its Leaf electric car, the focus at this year’s motor show, which takes place between November 30 and December 11, will likely be the future, greener car.

9. See the shape of the future

Is it a little presumptuous to say Tokyo Sky Tree is less than pretty? The huge structure is essentially bricks, mortar and metal, with little concern for greenery and nature.

Questions such as the above will likely lead to heated debate and a great deal of ideas at this year’s 24th World Congress of Architecture that takes place in Tokyo in September.

The event will be held at three of Tokyo's iconic architectural gems, Tokyo International Forum, Yoyogi National Gymnasium and the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center.

10. Tire yourself at the Tokyo Marathon

It may not have the romance of the annual Hakone Ekiden, but the Tokyo Marathon has seen its popularity rise in recent years.

Registration for the event on February 27 closed in August last year, but there is still a chance to watch participants, including world record holder Haile Gebrselassie, run the 26 miles.

And of course, Joseph Tame will be streaming his run with a camera strapped to his head.

11. Binge on beautiful ballet

With the closure and demolition of the Kabuki-za in Ginza last year, it may be time to leave the traditional Japan performing arts behind and head to The New National Theater.

David Bintley, director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, has taken over as artistic director there.

Widely regarded as one of Britain’s best choreographers and dancers, Bintley has promised to bring a more modern outlook to Tokyo’s ballet world.

12. ... or just because Tokyo is Tokyo

Many have argued that Tokyo is the best city in the world. And with a flashy new airport, it's even easier to get to than ever.

With some of the best food on earth, maid cafes, cat cafes, rocking live houses, predictive vending machines, and cutting edge fashion, plus snazzy taxis to get around in, you couldn't ask for more.

Walk off the beaten track and you may bump into some of the cities more curious folks like the manga man, rooftop farmers, street dancers and anime cars. Not to mention the dekotoru trucks. And it's only a short hop to the beach too.

So if the truth be known, coverage of one-off events doesn’t do the city justice. What makes the place special is all the curiosities that cry out, "only in Tokyo."

READ MORE - 12 reasons to visit Tokyo in 2011

Sterile Giant Tortoise Lawnmowers

STERILISING giant tortoises and setting them free on a precious eco-site may not sound like the ideal way to restore a Galapagos island to its former glory. But it's one that seems to be working on Pinta Island, the original home of famous giant tortoise "Lonesome George".

Conservationists freed 39 sterile tortoises on Pinta last May in the hope that they would regulate the native vegetation, which has returned with a vengeance ever since invasive goats were eradicated in 2003. The hope is that the tortoises will create clearings where native sun-loving plants can thrive. They had to be sterilised to ensure they wouldn't colonise the island, leaving it free for subsequent recolonisation with the EspaƱola tortoises most closely related to Lonesome George.

Vets this week described how they sterilised the 14 female tortoises sent to the island by removing their ovaries (The Veterinary Record, DOI: 10.1136/vr.c6520). The 25 males were sterilised by removing their phalluses, which are only used for mating.

The latest news from the island is that the tortoises were quick off the mark. "They immediately began eating the herbaceous plants, and the effects of their trampling have also been dramatic," James Gibbs, head of Project Pinta, told New Scientist. "They've had a big impact in a very short time." Gibbs and his colleagues will return to Pinta in May.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ithaa The Maldives Undersea Restaurant

Ithaa is a mostly acrylic undersea restaurant and it lies 16 feet below sea level at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. The five meters width and nine meters long restaurant has a capacity of 14 people. Ithaa\’s entrance is a spiral staircase. Visitors are amazed in undersea restaurants 270 degree view of crystal water and varied marine life and forget about the huge price. Meals cost from US$120.00 to US$150.00.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Green Living Room Walls

Green walls and roofs are growing (no pun intended) more popular every day in both private home designs and public design projects, but one interior designer has taken the idea to the next level, bringing to life interior wall surfaces with real greenery.


From a green wallpaper design built of actual moss to a delicate-looking moss-made room divider, there is an apparent two-dimensional organizational aesthetic at work but, at the same time, there is an organic randomness as well as a tangible texture and depth across each surface – all part of an intentional interplay between nature and human design orchestrated by Japanese designers at Nendo.


These naturally beautiful green designs are set against stark white backgrounds to bring them out in sharp relief from their surroundings. Areas of denser moss on vertical surfaces also serve to compliment the horizontal fields of deep ocean blue carpeting throughout the spaces.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fulton Nautilus Submarine

Submarine Nautilus was first tested in 1800, therefore it is often regarded as the Nautilus submarine in the world's first test. The basics of its development following the experiments made by Cornelius Drebbel.
Nautilus was first designed in 1793 and 1797 by an American inventor named Robert Fulton. Which he later lived in France. Proposal submission manufacture the Nautilus project was rejected several times but finally granted after a long struggle by the Minister of Marine.
At the time of Napoleon to see the Nautilus, he showed interest to look at directly. But when the test turns out to damage suffered by the Nautilus is severe enough, and eventually Napoleon decided that Fulton was a fraud. He thought that the French navy has no interest in weapons that could endanger the lives of his crew.
Seeing the French do not have a fascination with these findings, the British finally took over the Fulton study with pay of 800 pounds. Fulton then ordered to make Nautilus a second for the UK maritime forces. After his studies, eventually managed to help win the war Nautilus Trafalgar and prove that the study Robert Fulton was not dangerous. After that Fulton dumped and finally chose to go to America in 1806 by leaving a letter on such findings, which eventually was published in 1920.
 Cornelius drebbel 

Robert Fulton

letter fulton

Description of Fulton Nautilus Submarine

Name: Nautilus
Creator: Robert Fulton
The first trial year: 1810
Experimental design: 1793 - 1797
Place of manufacture of the first: Perrier boatyard, Rouen, France
Length: 21 ft, 3 inches (6.47 m)
Diameter: 6 ft, 4 inches (1.93 m)
Propulsion: Using a screw propeller or when it appears on the surface of the screen





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Monday, January 24, 2011

What happens when a dog fight with Hedgehogs

Dog Face After Fight With Porcupines

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Block of Wood on Top of an Iceberg: How Did It Get There?

Baffling: How did this block of wood end up on top of an iceberg? (Credit: Jodie Smith)

I've heard the Southern Ocean attracts a hardy individual but a block of wood on an iceberg is ridiculous.
This lonely piece of timber was spotted on the top of a small berg at 66 degrees south, just north of Commonwealth Bay.
Wildlife watchers near Aurora Australis' bridge first thought it was a relaxing seal but it was soon apparent it was rectangular in shape.
How it got to such a prominent position, instead of just floating around, is anyone's guess.
A wider view of the baffling block. (Credit: Jodie Smith)

Since it is lifeless and non-magnetic, its baffling position won't be due to the fact that we are very close to the south magnetic pole.
Yes, we are near the wandering point in the earth's surface where the geomagnetic field lines are vertical, rather than lying across the planet from pole to pole.
Normal compasses don't work in this region. The one I have brought on board is now confused by all the iron in the ship. 
The south magnetic pole was positioned on the Antarctic continent 100 years ago. It has since wandered out to sea due to changes in the Earth's magnetic field.
Do you have a theory on how the block of wood came to rest on the iceberg? Leave it in the comments.

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Amazing smoking volcano in Indonesia

indonesia travel mount bromo 
The smoke and ash from Bromo will hopefully not be blowing in your direction when you visit.

If lazing around on beaches is too boring and hiking rainforest mountains is too much of effort, try a trip to Mount Bromo. It's a perfect option to witness one of the most magnificent sceneries in the world without the excretion of blood, sweat or tears.
Mount Bromo is an active volcano in East Java, Indonesia, 2,329 meters above sea level in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park
Located near to four other mountains, the volcano complex is an adventure travelers’ playground. The series of escapades on offer start in the small hours with a thrilling yet bumpy off-road jeep ride in the dark. This is followed by a stunning sunrise above a live smoking volcano crater, an adrenaline-rushing horse-back ride on a desert of ash, and finally a hike to the crater rim itself. 
The complete combination makes Bromo one of the most-visited destinations in Indonesia. 
indonesia travel mount bromo
Wrap up warm if you plan to stand on the crater edge in the early hours.

Watching the sunrise

Though the smoking craters are not actually the highest tip of the Bromo complex, this works to the area's advantage since it’s possible to view them from an even higher crater edge. The entrance fee to the peak viewing point is IDR 25,000 (US$2.80) per person. 
Prepare warm outfits as the temperature around Bromo dives down to two degrees Celsius in the morning, even if sea level temperatures down below are in the high 30s. For travelers packing light, jackets for rent can be found around the area.
The easiest –- and most fun -- way to explore Bromo is by renting a four-wheel-drive jeep from the locals in the villages around Bromo for IDR 300,000-500,000 depending on the length of the journey. The adventure needs to begin at about 3 a.m. if you aim to catch the sunrise.
The harrowing drive up Mount Penanjakan is a small price to pay for admission to the sunrise show. Our favorite orange orb could inspire even the blackest of hearts as it rises from behind the volcano's steaming clouds, surrounding desert and savanna.
Less crowded view points also exist on Mount Cemoro Lawang, along the trail to Mount Penanjakan.
indonesia travel mount bromo
Hiring a jeep to explore the area is the only sensible way to get around.

The adventure continues

The next destination is the valley inside the volcanic ring. The jeep rides some fairly weather-beaten tracks from Mount Penanjakan to the lush savanna that resembles a scene from "The Sound of Music" in Austria. 
Once arriving, jump off the jeep, tell the driver to kill the engine, and close your eyes. Feel and listen to the wind breeze. Then open your eyes. It’s a whole different world compared to the flat black ash desert that could be seen from the top of Mount Penanjakan. 
Further along the winds blow the ash desert to lightly break the silence. The area is known as “The Whispering Sand” (Pasir Berbisik). The volcanic ash and sturdy rocks scattered on the caldera make it feel like you've arrived on the moon. 
Then set off from the lunar landscape via the most popular activity: horse riding around the crater.
indonesia travel mount bromo
Get on your spurs and explore at a more leisurely pace on a local steed.

Horse riding on ash

In the middle of the caldera, there are locals renting horses for around IDR 100,000 for an hour's ride. These horses are available to be ridden freely, though the owners will tag along and if given your camera, will have a field day filling it with shots from all angles. 
Majestically standing in front of Mount Bromo is Pura Luhur Poten, a temple used by the native Tenggerese people for the annual Yadnya Kasada sacrificial ceremony. 
After trotting around, there are 253 steps to be climbed up to the sulfuric crater. However, hiking is prohibited if the volcanic activity is considered too dangerous for tourists to come close, as happened in early November 2010.
The complex was formed by repeated eruptions each of which created new volcanoes and calderas. It began with the eruption of Mount Nongkojajar, which reached the height of 3,000m, then continued with the formation of Mount Ngadisari, Old Tengger Mountain, Mount Keciri and finally the current peaks of Mount Cemoro Lawang, Lautan Pasir (Sea of Sand), and Mount Bromo itself. Mount Bromo is now the only active peak.
indonesia travel mount bromo
Despite the moon-like environment around Bromo, the valleys below are lush and green.

Tenggerese -- the native people of Bromo

Historical disunity of Muslim and Hindu Javanese people led to most Hindus moving to Bali, but some others settled on a plateau near Mount Bromo. Rara Anteng, the daughter of King Brawijaya of Majapahit, together with her husband, Joko Seger, descendant of Brahmana, led those who stayed in Java. The name Tengger came from the abbreviation and combination of Rara Anteng and Joko Seger.
The Tenggerese now inhabit the villages around Bromo -- Ngadisari, Wonokitri, Ngadas, Argosari, Ranu Prani, Ledok Ombo and Wonokerso.
The Tenggerese have a big annual festival known as the Yadnya Kasada or Kasodo ceremony. The event lasts for about one month, starting from the 14th of the 12th month of the Javanese calendar, or December into January. 
In this ceremony, the Tenggerese sacrifice rice, vegetables, fruits, flowers and livestock by throwing them into the Bromo crater to ask for blessings from Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa and the Trimurti gods (Siwa,Brahma and Visnu). This ritual originated from Rara Anteng’s and Joko Seger’s sacrifice of animals and plants in order to replace their 25th child -- who was supposed to be thrown into the crater.
indonesia travel mount bromo
Mount Bromo, with Mount Batok in the foreground, looks like something from another planet.

The most dazzling easy-to-reach volcano

There are several options available to reach this jewel of East Java. The starting point is one of the big cities around Bromo -- Surabaya or Malang. Flights to Surabaya are frequent from other cities in Indonesia, while flights to Malang are only available from Jakarta.
From Surabaya, take a bus to Probolinggo then change to a mini-bus to Cemoro Lawang (two to three hours). Alternatively head to Pasuruan, then a minibus to Tosari (1.5 hours).
From Malang, the routes are more adventurous. A microbus runs to Tumpang (30 minutes) then a four-wheel-drive takes you to Ngadas (1.5 hours). From Ngadas to the caldera, the route will directly pass Mount Bromo. Alternatively head to Purwodadi (30-minute bus ride), change to a minibus to Tosari (1.5 hours) then to Wonokitri, which is 14 kilometers away from Bromo.
If you have your own transport, it’s possible to drive the whole route yourself.

Other things to see

Madakaripura waterfall is located at the lower part of the park. There are five waterfalls to see with an adventurous track along the river to reach them.
For those with a more adventurous soul, Mount Semeru is a must-hike mountain. Semeru is the highest mountain in Java, towering up to 3,676 meters above sea level. It is also known as The Mahameru (The Great Mountain). A high level of physical fitness and a pre-obtained permit are required to climb this mountain.
Lake Ranupane is the usual starting point for Mount Semeru hiking and something to be seen in itself. The atmosphere around the lake is serene due to the eternal mist surrounding the area.
READ MORE - Amazing smoking volcano in Indonesia

Funeral of Mafia Boss in Taiwan

Senior politicians and gangsters gathered at the funeral of Taiwan mafia boss Lee Chao-hsiung. Also more than 20,000 people gathered to see the procession led by 108 black limousines – a symbolic number in Chinese Buddhism.
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