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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French Chocolatier Creates Floating Chocolate Boat

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George Larnicol, a 55-year-old French chocolatier, managed to create and sail a 3.5-meter-long boat made of chocolate.

On Saturday, September 25, the walled city of Concarneau, in north-western France, hosted an event unique in the world – the launch of a full size chocolate boat. George Larnicol, the mastermind behind this crazy creation, first attempted to sail a chocolate boat on August 15, but the boat crumbled to pieces when turned over from where it was mounted. But one small failure wasn’t enough to make Larnicol quit, and on Saturday, he returned to Concarneau port, with a new chocolate boat named “Bateau Chocolat II” (French for Chocolate Boat II)

The 1.2-ton-heavy boat had a sugar framework, while the rest of it was made entirely of pure chocolate. It took Larnicol and his team one and a half months to complete, working eight hours a day, which adds up to a total of about 400 hours.

George Larnicol and a friend got in the chocolate boat and sailed in it for a bout an hour, waving proudly to the audience, and smiling the whole time. The attached electrical motor allowed the Bateau Chocolat II to reach a top speed of 15km/h.

Chocolatier George Larnicol, who owns a chain  of chocolate shops in western France, promised to build a giant 12 meter-long yacht, with two masts, made of 6 to 8 tons of chocolate, sometime in 2012. That’s going to be a sight to be hold, and you can bet you’ll read about it on Oddity Central.

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Ice Boats Are Good Just in Theory

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BBC science show Bang Goes The Theory set out to test inventor Geoffrey Pyke’s claim that ice boats could be used during World War 2, in case steel supplies ran out.

Geoffrey Pyke suggested suggested it was possible to build unsinkable boats using a special material called Pykrete – a mixture of ice and wood pulp. In theory, the icy material could be moulded into any shape and because of its slow melting rate, could carry troops and vehicles for long distances. The idea was first mentioned during the early 1940s, but it sounds like a good idea for modern times, as well, so the guys at Bang Goes The Theory decided to test it out.

The team mixed 5,000 liters of water with the hemp-like wood pulp, moulded the mixture into the shape of a boat and froze it in one of England’s largest ice warehouses, in Tilbury, Essex. It took three weeks to freeze the boat, before it was transported to Portsmouth Harbor. The crew prepared for a trip to Cowes, on the Island of Wight, but son after the boat was launched on the water, it began taking water. Before they even got comfortable in their icy boat, the crew had to abandon ship and swim to the rescue craft.

But this test wasn’t enough to disprove Pyke’s theory. According to experts there are several explanation for the recent Pykrete failure, and they include water temperature and size. Geoffrey envisioned his revolutionary material used to create 1,000-ton carriers, not half-a-ton boats, because a large ice surface requires a lot more energy to start melting. Also the waters of Solent Bay are far warmer than the Atlantic, where the carriers were meant to be used.

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The Bikini Track Sprint – A Horse Race for Women

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An Australian horse race arena has caused great controversy when it announced it will be hosting an annual horse  race for women dressed only in bikinis.

When they came up with the idea of a women’s horse race, the guys at The Gold Coast Turf Club in Queensland, Australia probably thought something like “if guys come to the race track to see horses run, just imagine how many of them will come to see beautiful women dressed in skimpy bikinis  do the exact same thing.” The Bikini Track Sprint is scheduled to take place on December 4, with over 150 girls racing for the prize of 5,000 Australian dollars.

Believe it or not, in a poll conducted by a local tourism website, just 27% percent of voter said they find his kind of event degrading for women, while the other 73% were perfectly alright with it. Even the members of Women in Racing, a Gold-Coast group that promotes racing, said they can think of better ways of marketing races, but they’ll back anything that has something to do with racing.

The chairman of The Gold Coast Turf Club agrees there will be a few raised eyebrows at the event, but that the club will do everything in its power to attract really competitive girls and give the audience a real race.

The Bikini Track Sprint isn’t really an original idea. The American horse track Hollywood Park, in California has been organizing similar events for quite some time, and their success probably inspired the Australian race track to come up with their very own horse race for beautiful women in bikinis.

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