New Yorkers Celebrate “Good Riddance Day”

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A giant paper shredder set up in Time Square was responsible with getting rid of all the bad bits of 2010.

This Tuesday, on the fourth annual “Good Riddance Day” held by the Times Square Alliance, people had the chance to free themselves from all the unpleasant memories of 2010, by writing them down and “feeding” them to the paper shredder. There to help were also a sledgehammer and a dumpster. Everything from ex-es, bills, eviction notices to political statements will be destroyed and recycled into toilet paper. And, even though weather conditions weren’t exactly ideal, there were plenty of participants and more are to be expected until Friday night. People who want to shred their bad memories of 2010, but cant make it to Time Square, can just send an online message and the staff will dump it into the shredder, for them.

Organizer Lori Raimondo says: “You can trust me: none of these memories will ever be seen again once they enter this truck.” Although their reasons to be there differs, one thing is certain – every one of the participants had something to get rid of before new year’s eve:

“I’m getting rid of my new job. I got rid of it in February, but I got a new one last month, so I can finally say ‘good riddance’ to it.”

“I said ‘good riddance’ to all negative energies in my life. All negative friends, all negative exes, all vices, anything that was negative in 2010. Out with that, in with the new.”

“It’s about turning your back on those bad things that you want to get rid of from the last year, either personally or in terms of the world, because the world is always a little bit crazy. Life is always a little bit crazy.”

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Italian City Drives Its Tourists Up the Wall

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Climbing buildings has become a tradition for the Italian city of Sondrio. For several years now, passionate climbers have been gathering here to take part in the now famous  Sondrio Street Climbing festival.

This year, the event has managed to bring together around 200 professional climbers from all over the world, all eager to start climbing some of the oldest, most important buildings in the city. “It is the new sport of the future and we are pioneering it – street bouldering. And with the Sondrio Street Festival we have established ourselves as the world center for street bouldering,” a spokesman of the council explained.

Last year, 75 climbers showed up for this offbeat event, but the numbers of people interested in street bouldering is definitely on the rise. On December 18, over 200 climbers took part in the various events that included scaling granite columns, stone walls and even a 40 meter tall bell tower. Just like last year, winners were rewarded with a delicious pizza and pints of beer.

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Dolls Compete in Miss Barbie Beauty Pageant

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Do you remember how much you loved giving your dolls make-overs, when you were a little girl? Well, that wasn’t as childish an activity as you might have  thought – doll-obsessed grown-ups compete during Miss Barbie beauty pageants, every year.

This one’s no joke, folks, people actually go out of their way to come up with trendy outfits and makeup for their dolls, in the hope of winning a doll beauty pageant. And in order to qualify for the global contest – Miss Barbie Universe – first they have to win national events, like the one recently hosted in Venezuela. Before entering the stage and facing the judges, dolls go through the same preparations as real models: they have their hair brushed, get original hair-dos, try out their dresses and go through make-up sessions.

Contestants in the Miss Barbie beauty pageants have their own names, body measurements and even made-up professions that help impress the judges. I’m not sure what the actual prize is for winning this offbeat beauty contest, but I’m sure it doesn’t even begin to compare to the pride of the doll’s owner.

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Great Walker Completes Journey Across the Great Wall

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Robert Loken, a 42-year-old Norwegian engaged in the journey of a life time, following his 21-year-old dream of walking across China’s Great Wall, has finally achieved his goal.

Robert Loken sold his house, quit his job and embarked on his trip with nothing else but the courage and ambition of conquering the Great Wall. It did not matter whether he would be the first to do it or the fastest, so he took his time and just started walking. His incredible journey began last April from Gansu province’s Jiayuguan, the Wall’s western most point, and ended 601 days and 6,000 km later, on Dec. 2nd, in the eastern most point, in Liaoning province’s Dandong.

All this time he had to face temperatures raging from -22C to 40C, scorpions or snakes, but as Robert himself admits, it was all as he imagined it would be. There were definitely some difficult moments, to say the least, one of them being when Robert blacked out for two hours due to high fever, while crossing the snowdrifts in rural Shanxi province. Luckily he had managed to put up his tent beforehand. “If I had lost consciousness, I would have frozen to death in the snow.” He also had to cope with dehydration, scorpions under his tent, snakes, wild dogs chasing him, but he never once thought about giving up. You would think isolation was a big issue as well, but Robert says that although he was physically alone, he always considered the Wall as being his companion “When I went in a town to stock up on food or relax, I would always greet the Great Wall as a friend when I come back.” Keeping a blog was also very helpful and “inspirational”.

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Kobe Luminarie – Japan’s Festival of Light

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Kobe Luminarie is an extraordinary light festival that takes place every December, in commemoration of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995.

The first edition Kobe Luminarie took place in December of 1995, as a memorial to the lives lost in the terrible earthquake of January 17. It was entitled “Dreams and Light” and was a message of hope that two and a half million people came to see, on the first day. Following the success of the first festival, Kobe Luminarie became a yearly event that celebrates Kobe’s remarkable recovery from disaster.

Various light decorations are created from millions of small light bulbs and LEDs, from bright arches to citadels and whatever else Italian designer Valerio Festi and his team decide on. Since the name of the festival comes from the plural of the Italian “luminaria” -which means light decoration – the decision of employing an Italian team must not have been incidental. Every year, the theme of Kobe Luminarie changes, and that has people from all over the world coming back year after year, to see the new light structures. Approximately five million people attend the Kobe Luminarie every year.

Apart from the beautiful light structures, another impressive aspect of Kobe Luminarie is that it relies on its audience to keep going. Visitors support the event by putting coins in the donation boxes set up around the brightly lit structures, and this assures the funding for next year’s festival. A great way to show appreciation, considering the entrance if free of charge…

Just to be clear, Kobe Luminarie has nothing to do with Christmas, despite the common colorful-lights theme. This year, the festival of light took place between December 2-13, and was named “Il cuore nella luce” (The heart in the light).

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Peruvian Inventor Paints Mountain White to Restore Glacier

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Eduardo Gold, a Peruvian inventor, came up with the ingenious idea of painting the mountain peeks in white to restore the glacier on Andes mountains.

It seems that this phenomenon is due to global warming and Eduardo Gold’s idea is based on a very basic principle stating that if  solar light is reflected onto a white or light colored surface it goes back into the atmosphere,thus preventing the excessive heating of the ground. In the last years alone, Chalon Sombrero peak has lost almost 30% of its glacier.

Gold is not only willing to solve this problem, having painted 2 hectares in 2 weeks, but has also found a way to get financial help. This idea won him the prize in the “100 Ideas to Save the Planet” competition, for which he submitted at the end of 2009. The prize, awarded by the World Bank, is of about $200.000 (£135.000).

There is one more important thing to be mentioned : The paint he uses is a mix of ecological ingredients like industrial egg-white, water and lime.

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Environment Crisis Spawns Artworks Visible from Space

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Environmental organization 350.org has just kickstarted the world’s first global climate art project, where the Earth itself is the canvas for incredible artworks visible from space.

The worldwide exhibit includes sixteen art pieces in twelve different countries, but they all have the same purpose – raising awareness about climate change. Created just before world nations leaders gather in Cancun, Mexico, for the UN climate meetings, these giant artworks will catch the attention of everyone, including aliens, since they are visible from outer space.

Trying to get leaders to accept 350 parts per million as the target for stabilization of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, members of 350.org have organized the masses around the world into living works of art, visible from space. I’m not sure this is enough to impress corporation-controlled governments to do the right thing, but their efforts are definitely commendable. Take a look of what they achieved, below:

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Raisin Monday at St. Andrews University

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Freshmen have always had it a little rough in college, but at the St. Andrews University, in Scotland, their plight at the hand of senior students has become a celebrated tradition called Raisin Monday.

The traditions of Raisin Monday date back to the early days of St. Andrews. New students (also known as “bejants” and “bejantines”) had to show their gratitude to seniors, for showing them the ropes around campus, and a pound of raising was considered an expensive and tasty enough sign of appreciation. With the passing of time, some freshmen started ignoring the custom, so senior students came up with of receipts written in Latin acknowledging the receipt of the pound of raisins. If one of the freshmen students didn’t have such a receipt, he would get doused in one of the local fountains. Another reason for a dousing was the challenge of the receipt, by a senior, for mistakes in written Latin.

Throughout the years since St. Andrews University opened its gates in 1410, the traditions of Raisin Monday have changed according to the times. Nowadays, new students have to buy seniors a bottle of wine as a token of gratitude, and the dousing in water fountains has been replaced by a general fight with shaving foam.

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Iron Man Fans Showcase Homemade Suits in London

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Two die-hard Iron Man fans chose the streets of London as the best place to show off the cool homemade costumes they worked so hard to complete.

32-year-old John Bekkensten, from Norway, is an established sculptor for the movie industry, with works featured in blockbuster hits like “Gladiator”. “Braveheart”, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and others. But John is also a big fan of Iron Man, so apart form his official projects, he spent over a year replicating the costumes of the popular hero and his sidekick, War Machine, out of fiberglass and plastic.

John ended up wearing the much cooler War Machine costume, while his buddy got the chance to be Iron Man. Together they got on double decker buses, took picture with London guards and managed to stun pretty much everyone they passed by.

If you’re interested in cool movie props, be sure to check out John Bekkensten official site.

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American Sculptor Carves World’s Biggest Halloween Pumpkin

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You might think you had your hands full with this year’s Halloween Pumpkin, but American sculptor Scott Cully had to carve his way through a 1,800-pound giant pumpkin.

Scott Cully has made a name for himself by carving overgrown pumpkins, and he even held the previous record for the world’s largest jack o’lantern, but this year he managed to beat his own record and get another mention in the Guinness Book. It took him two days, working at a pace of 100 pounds per hour, to work his way through the giant pumpkin, grown by Chris Stevens, from Wisconsin, but he managed to do it just in time for the big Halloween party. The event took place at the New York Botanical Garden, and it’s probably still on display, so you can check it out, if you’re in the Big Apple.

Scott Cully started carving pumpkins in 1988, when he and his wife got his hands on a 400-pound pumpkin, and, inspired by a few bottles of quality English hard cider, they began carving it into a jack o’lantern. Then he just kept on creating new designs, into bigger and bigger pumpkins. Using just a handful of kitchen utensils, Scott stays true to the tradition of creating jack o’lanterns, by creating scary Halloween pumpkins, with big mouths that kids can slide their heads through, and big threatening teeth.

Believe it or not, Scott Cully absolutely hates pumpkin pie. Ironic, isn’t it?

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World’s Biggest Sushi Mosaic Created at Shanghai Expo

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Sushi may be a Japanese dish, but that didn’t stop a team of Norwegian chefs from creating the world’s largest sushi mosaic, at their country’s pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.

As China celebrated its ten millionth imported Norwegian salmon, last week, Norway decided the creation of a giant sushi mosaic would be a great way to recognize the milestone. Norwegian chefs arranged 8,734 sushi pieces into a beautiful mosaic depicting the intertwined Norwegian and Chinese flags.

Relations between China and Norway have been a bit tense since a Norwegian committee  awarded the Nobel Piece Prize 2010 to Liu Xiaobo, a jailed Chinese dissident, on October 8. By emphasizing on the importance of salmon in the diplomatic relations between the two nations, Norway hopes to come to better terms with  China.

Check out the making-of video of the world’s biggest sushi mosaic, at the bottom. It takes a while for the chefs to actually start arranging the sushi pieces, but it’s worth it.

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Vaulting at the World Equestrian Games 2010

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If you thought riding a horse was difficult enough, equestrian vaulting will seem like an impossible feat. Still, it’s practiced worldwide, and it’s even an event at the World Equestrian Games.

Equestrian vaulting is best described as gymnastics and dancing on horseback. Its origins are pretty unclear, with some saying it originated in ancient Rome, and other claiming it came from he island of Crete. One thing is for certain – horseback vaulting has been around for over 2,000 years, and it’s still a entertaining and exciting sport. Vaulting is particularly popular in countries like Germany and France, but it’s gaining a lot of followers in other parts of the world, like Brazil Australia or the United States.

In competitive equestrian vaulting athletes compete by themselves or in teams of two or more. Both the vaulters and the horse are judged according to their performances and receive scores from 0 to 10. Beginners perform their routine during the horse’s walk, while experienced vaulters perform on the horse at a canter. Horses used for vaulting are trained especially for this kind of events, and they are controlled by a lunger who keeps them moving in 15-meter circles.

The components of a vaulting exercise include a mount and dismount, as well as various maneuvers like kneeling, standing, handstands, flips, and tossing teammates into the air. While the vaulting horse is not saddled, it does wear a surcingle fitted with special handles that help vaulters.

The latest vaulting exhibition took place at the World Equestrian Games 2010, and was won by the US team. You can see an entire vaulting routine, in the video at the bottom.

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Kung Fu Sisters Organize Combat Tournament to Find Suitors

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When you’re a deadly martial arts expert, traditional dating just doesn’t cut it, so you have to take special measures to find your soul mate. In the case of sisters Xiao Lin (22) and Xiao Yin (21) we’re talking about a martial arts tournament for suitors.

The two young sisters, from Foushan, East China, said they’ve tried dating agencies, but the men they met were too weak, and they could easily beat them. Since they want their special half to be stronger than them, they decided to bring back an ancient tradition called Bi Wu Zhao Qin – a tournament in which the warrior princesses of old found their men.

The three-day tournament will take place in their home town, and will have challengers compete in an archery event, carry weights over sharp bamboo spears, and finally, beat one of the sisters in full contact combat. I take it this isn’t a challenge for gentlemen…

The two kung fu sisters will give their opponent the chance to choose between open hand combat and any weapon, but they warn everyone that they won’t be holding back: “If they can’t beat us they aren’t worthy”, said Xiao Lin. Only after they’ve beaten one of the sisters can the suitors take off their masks to see the face of the one they’re going to marry.

A combat tournament for a girl’s hand in marriage sounds pretty honorable, even fairytale-like, but in this modern day, I doubt too many suitors will go through these challenges for a girl whose face they can’t even see.

via Metro.co.uk

Crazy Halloween Traditions: Underwater Pumpkin Carving

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As Halloween draws ever closer, pumpkin-carving enthusiasts take their pumpkins and carving tools for a session of underwater pumpkin carving.

It might sound like a weird event, but underwater pumpkin carving is pretty common in the US, with several competitions being organized in Florida, South Carolina, Lake Tahoe or Pennsylvania. Contestants put on their diving gear and drop down to a depth of less than 30 feet, where they try to carve the most intricate jack-o’lanters, and claim the top spots. All the gear is supplied by the organizers, so contestants need only bring their talent and inspiration.

While it may sound like a fun thing to do, carving a pumpkin underwater is a pretty difficult task, considering the buoyancy of the pumpkin (at least until you cut the lid off) and Newton’s third law of motion (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction).

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Orlando Creates World’s Biggest Human Smiley Face

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Five hundred people wearing yellow and black ponchos gathered in Orlando to create the world’s largest human smiley face. At fifty feet in diameter, the human smiley face was about the size of a basketball court.

On October 1st, in celebration of the World Smile Day, a giant smiley face was spotted on the top parking deck of the new Amway Center arena. It was made up of hundreds of smiling people dressed in black and yellow, who stood shoulder to shoulder for a good ten minutes. The human smiley face was a result of Orlando’s World Smile Search Campaign, which looked for people who had smile stories to share with the world. In half a year, over 20,000 stories were received, and some of the people who shared their stories were invited to be apart of the smiley face.

The human smiley face of Orlando was acknowledged as the largest smiley face in the world, but I seem to recall a very similar event took place in 2008, in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, and it looks like there were a lot more than 500 participants there. Maybe they just didn’t invite a Guinness official?

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