History Channel Airs Evolve

first_imgA new 13-part series on the History Channel, called Evolve, begins with an episode on the evolution of the eye.  To sell the story, the blurb needed to cast Evolution as an inventor: They are one of evolution’s most useful and prevalent inventions.  Ninety five percent of living species are equipped with eyes and they exist in many different forms.  Learn how the ancestors of jellyfish may have been the first to evolve light-sensitive cells.  Discover how dinosaur’s evolved eyes that helped them become successful hunters.  Finally, learn how primates evolved unique adaptations to their eyes that allowed them to better exploit their new habitat, and how the ability to see colors helped them find food.Evolve seems to be used as a verb here.  If dinosaurs evolved eyes, and primates evolved color vision, were they doing it with purposeful intent?  Did they know how to commandeer the mutations necessary to give natural selection the raw materials on which to tinker, in order that the required function for survival would emerge?  This would certainly not represent the new-Darwinian view.  The terminology seems misleading.    The series relies heavily on CGI animations.  These, however, depend on the imaginations of current-day people – not historical records.  History used to be defined in terms of written records.  Since this subject matter lacks written records, maybe the channel should be renamed the Prehistory Channel.  The hour before also contains an animated episode set in prehistory from the series Jurassic Fight Club about a supposed cannibal dinosaur.  Perhaps as a bow to those who respect written records, though, is the episode following Evolve.  It is entitled “Noah’s Great Flood” from the series Mega Disasters.  The film treats the Biblical story as myth, however.  It popularizes the theory of Ryan and Pitman that the Noah legend grew up out of a theorized historical megaflood restricted to the Black Sea region (see 04/06/2002).    Illustra Media has been a leader in exploring the origin of life and complex organs from the alternative intelligent design perspective.  Readers familiar with Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet may not be aware that they have also produced films about history for which there are written records: about Jesus Christ and the Exodus.  Their titles have just been gathered into one website at ApologeticsDVDs.com.    Speaking of history on an unrelated topic, space program buffs will get a thrill out of finding “the most comprehensive compilation ever of NASA’s vast collection of photographs, historic film and video” at NASAimages.org.  The collaborative website between Internet Archive and NASA was launched July 24.Evolution thrives on visual propaganda and the power of suggestion.  Animation fills in the holes in their story.  Don’t be fooled.  Carl Sagan weaved animation tricks decades ago in the Cosmos TV series.  In one of the most egregious cases of visual propaganda for evolution ever shown, his animators depicted a single cell morphing into one animal after the other, till the final output was upright-walking man.  The number of conceptual, evidential and philosophical obstacles he leaped over in a single bound makes Evel Knievel look like a pogo-stick rider.  OK, Carl, if you want to play the Imagination game, even Homer Simpson can do a better job evolving than that.  And Guinness Beer at least got the direction of evolution right.(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

iPhone to Android: One Week with the Nexus S

first_imgWhat it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces Because podcasts are an important part of my mobile experience, I quickly sought a way to replace them. What I found was a dedicated app from Google that is supposed to function as a podcast player: Google Listen. Although it’s a Labs project (meaning beta or early release), it sounded perfect: “search, subscribe, download and stream” it said. What more do you need? Only one problem: Google Listen required an SD card to store its downloads to. The Nexus S doesn’t have an SD card slot, so Google Listen wouldn’t work. (This problem appears to be solved by one of the latest updates, however.) My first thought at the time: this would never happen with Apple. Tags:#Google#mobile#NYT#Product Reviews#web But Wait, Where’s my Google iTunes?One of the first major pain points I hit from the iPhone to Android transition was iTunes withdrawal. Although I rarely purchase music from iTunes these days (MOG, a $10 per month, all-you-can-stream music service fulfills my needs), I do use iTunes for music and podcast management, organizing my apps, and downloading or renting TV shows and movies.There are third-party services that allow you to copy over your media libraries from the computer to Android, but they aren’t provided by Google and are often incomplete, lacking features and functionality. DoubleTwist, a popular application which has been called the “iTunes for Android,” doesn’t allow you to subscribe to podcasts if you’re a Mac user. The other thing I really missed by leaving iTunes behind was video. Where do you get video on Android? And I mean professional content, not “user-gen,” YouTube videos and Internet webcasts. I mean Hollywood-produced stuff. Current TV shows, movies? The answer: you don’t, not really. There’s no Netflix app for Android (yet), there’s no iTunes ecosystem, there’s no Hulu. The few apps that do allow for streaming either include you having to configure software on your PC (Orb), subscribe to a service (Slingbox) or they offer limited selection (mSpot Movies). It’s an oddball mix. That means the easiest way to get movies and TV shows to your Android, sorry to say, is bittorrent. You torrent the file, drop into into DoubleTwist (or another media management app) and sync. Of course that’s wrong, and it’s illegal. So don’t do it!The Killer Apps (& the Rest)Then there are the apps. There was an interesting discussion on the Internet recently where a longtime Apple insider John Gruber asked: where are the killer Android apps? He wanted to know about the Android exclusives, the Instagrams and Flipboards of the Android world, that is. He didn’t want to count the innovative keyboard replacement apps like Swype or homescreen replacements like Slide Screen, because those couldn’t exist on Apple, so that’s not a fair comparison. OK, fine. Nor did he want to count Google’s own apps because… wait, what? Because Google’s apps are far, far better on its own OS than on iPhone, perhaps? Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagement As a (relatively) new mom, the one thing my smartphone needs to do and do well is take great photos. Google touts its camera as being able to take “stunning photos and videos.” I disagree. The camera couldn’t get an action shot of my 1-year old to save its life. Try after try after try. When I shared this information on Twitter, a discussion flared up on FriendFeed, where my tweets are archived.As one user (Johnny Worthington) explained, it’s not just the megapixels that matter when it comes to taking photos. The camera’s sensors matter too. Even Apple CEO Steve Jobs pointed this out in his keynote address, saying, “megapixels are nice, but what these cameras are really about is capturing photons and low light photography. So we’ve gone from 3 megapixel to 5 megapixel, but we’re using a backside illuminated sensor.” Long story short, moving toddler + varying lighting conditions + iPhone = great photo. On Android, those same conditions lead to a series of blurred images.Another minor bug with the photo gallery occurred when I uploaded a photo taken vertically directly from the gallery to Facebook (handy feature, by the way), it posted horizontally. Maddening. Happens every time.On yet another occasion, after posting pictures to Foursquare using the new check-in feature, I later returned to the phone’s photo gallery to find that all of my newest pictures were gone. Pictures that only existed on the phone, because I had yet to post them elsewhere. (I guess I should have left Pixelpipe enabled, hmm?) While my husband teased that it must be “user error,” I pulled out a bag of tricks left over from my Windows days – I rebooted the phone.Sure enough, upon restart, the phone noted it was “checking USB storage” for errors and when it completed the boot up, the photos had returned.Oh, Android.Battery LifeSupposedly, the battery life is supposed to be improved on the Nexus S – Engadget, for example, got 20 hours during heavy use. I’d love to know how. My Nexus S battery can’t make it through a day. Even after pairing down the apps to just those from “responsible” developers, making heavy use of the Android Task Killer app, the battery just drains. The most common activity that leads to drains appears to be the Web browser, from what I can tell. Although, according to the phone’s battery drain monitor (an included Android tool, if that tells you something), the top offenders are the display, Google Maps, Android System, Cell standby, Android OS and Wi-Fi. Yes, just my phone being a phone.Comparatively, my iPhone, jailbroken no less, can make it much, much longer. It will still have a charge even if I forget to plug it in overnight, for example. The Nexus S would just die.Plus, while in use, the phone really heats up. Cold winter? Break out the Nexus S. That’s a hot little handheld… literally.iPhone or Android? Granted, I’ve mostly focused on the glitches and problems I had with the Nexus S, some of which were even corrected before I posted this (e.g. Google Listen). I don’t want to take away from what the Nexus S’s many strengths are – the complete Google Experience, the Voice Actions, the integrated Google Voice and Skype calling, the portable Wi-Fi hotspot, NFC, Navigation, a better keyboard, and, although I didn’t mention it – the speedy, well-equipped Web browser and a usable copy-and-paste (still needs improvement, though).At the end of the day, however, can I switch to Android? I guess not. I took my waterlogged iPhone to the local i-Hospital and they’ve repaired it. A new cable, a battery and $160 dollars later, my iPhone is ready for pick up. I haven’t gotten it just yet. I’m going to give the Nexus S until the end of the month to change my mind, before switching back. After 30 minutes of frantic searching, I found my iPhone. Under four inches of water. In a pond. Sunken deep into the sandy bottom. The story of how it got there isn’t all that interesting – it involves chasing a squealing toddler running towards the water’s edge – I never even heard the quiet sploosh at the time, when the phone slipped out of my pocket somehow, and into the water. But the horror I felt seeing the shiny little Apple logo glinting in the afternoon sun beneath the rippling surface is something I won’t soon forget. My iPhone. Destroyed.Luckily for me, I had a backup. For over a week, I had been playing with the brand-new Nexus S, Google’s latest flagship Android device, running the stock version of the Android mobile operating system code-named Gingerbread. But I hadn’t switched over to make it my primary device. Now I had no choice.We’ve been a dual iPhone/Android household for some time now, because my husband bought the Galaxy S (AT&T Captivate) shortly after it launched and I had the iPhone 4, after an upgrade from the 3G. I’ve had plenty of time to go hands-on with Android, delving into both the OS and the flourishing application ecosystem. I’ve installed, configured and tested many apps on the Galaxy S, and for a while, I was even jealous that he had the newer phone. Android felt more modern, more functional and more “tweakable” than the iPhone. The screen was bright, it had widgets, live wallpaper, built-in navigation, voice-activated everything and a notification system I still long for. It seemed like a step up.But now I wondered: can Android be my permanent device?Before getting started, understand that this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive review. I don’t review gadgets, nor does ReadWriteWeb. We know there are plenty of other places where you can get detailed specs, analysis, and descriptions of everything about this phone, from hardware to software. This is not that. Not by a long shot.Getting Set UpInitially, once I got over the shock of the iPhone’s unfortunate death, I was excited to try the Nexus S. I installed widgets and apps and set up the phone to work with my Google Voice account. That alone was a major plus. On Android, you don’t have to launch a separate app to make a Google Voice call – it’s integrated with your phone. You can make outgoing calls via Google voice, send and receive text messages through Google Voice, even access visual voicemail messages with the app – and they’re transcribed.Or, if you prefer, you can use Skype Out to make calls, too. Again, just by pressing the phone button.These are great features.Talking to Your Phone sarah perez Related Posts I went in search of replacement apps. Unfortunately, outside of the Google app ecosystem, the apps I found were a huge step down in terms of functionality. One I tried called Podcast by Magma Mobile just stopped playing my podcast in the middle of an episode because the podcast I was downloading in the background completed. As I tried to figure out what was going on, I somehow even ended up playing two podcasts at once. That shouldn’t even be possible!I found that for some podcasts (CNET, Engadget, TWiT, e.g.), it was actually preferable to use their own dedicated app. But this leads to a disjointed experience, where features, controls and user interface vary wildly from app to app. It’s true. Google Maps has 3D. Google Navigation gives you spoken, turn-by-turn directions. Google Voice, as noted above, is built-in and integrated with your phone. On the Nexus S, Google Tags is the first mainstream NFC (near field communications) app that lets you scan NFC tags, soon to be a revolution in mobile advertising and mobile payments – just wave your phone by a poster with an NFC tag, and your phone will take action, opening the Web browser and navigating to a particular Google Place page, perhaps, like Google is testing now in Portland.Gmail, Calendar, Voice Search, Google Earth, YouTube, etc. – all the Google Apps are built-in. The phone is the complete Google experience where Google’s latest innovations have a chance to shine, instead of being begrudgingly admitted into a curated app marketplace after FCC pressure demanded it, as Google Voice was, at long last, on iPhone.That said, working with the non-Google apps was an odd experience. Of course, the mainstays are there: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, Amazon, IMDb, Pandora, Pixlepipe, Skype, WeatherBug, etc. But the features and functions of each app are tucked away in menus and settings, with no real consistency from app to app. There’s a surprising amount of configuration that has to be done with the apps, too. For example, in CNET’s app, I was surprised to find it hadn’t updated the podcast list – you have to tell it to download new episodes and when. After installing Pixelpipe, I was surprised to find that, after taking a photo, I was immediately prompted to share it via Pixelpipe – a handy feature, but on by default? That’s odd. I had to shut it off, or hit “cancel” after every snap. The Magma Mobile podcast app oddly began running in the background, providing me with “notifications” from “Magma Mobile News,” which, if tapped, took you to a list of news about new Android apps and updates. It was like I had installed some sort of adware on my phone. And I had to kill the app from running with the ever-present Advanced Task Killer app. Sigh.For the second time, I thought: this would never happen on iPhone. Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can choose to do more on Android out-of-the-box. I mean, who doesn’t want a mobile hotspot? But sometimes that openness felt too open. I’d rather apps ask before they integrate, for example.So what apps did I end up installing? Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Amazon, Kindle, Angry Birds, Barcode Scanner, Best Buy, Bump, CNET Audio, DoubleTwist, Dropbox, Engadget, FiOS Mobile Remote, Grocery iQ, IMDb, Google Listen, mSpot Movies, picplz, Pixlepipe, ShopSavvy, Skype, SwiftKey and Swype, Microsoft Tag, Tango, Target, Trapster, TripIt, TweetDeck, Waze, WeatherBug, Where’s My Droid and Yelp. That got me going, now I’m hunting for the unique and interesting apps, and exploring the popular homescreen replacements.Taking Photos Something as simple as texting a friend or performing a Google search can be done via voice. With the Nexus S, you can really talk to your phone. Voice access is everywhere – on homescreen widgets, a “voice” button on the new Android Gingerbread keyboard, or you can just press and hold the Search button. Voice Actions, a new pre-installed feature on the Nexus S lets you give the phone commands. You can send texts, start phone calls, ask for directions, launch Navigation, see a map, launch the browser, configure an alarm, play your favorite music and more.And anywhere there’s a blank text box, you have the option of hitting the voice button instead of having to type in letters, one by one. If you choose to enter text the old-fashioned way, however, the new Android keyboard works well. With auto-suggested word completions appearing above the entry box, (very much like the SwiftKey app allows for although not quite as smart – it doesn’t appear to be an adaptive system), typing is much faster than on iPhone. The Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technologylast_img read more

Northern lights in Jammu and Kashmir

first_imgOne of the best months to visit Srinagar is during April when the Tulip Garden is a riot of coloursAs per lore, there are two types of travellers to Kashmir those who have done the Manali-Leh-Srinagar-Jammu road route, and those who have not. If you haven’t attempted it yet, pick up that rucksack and get going, because from the spellbinding valley of Kashmir to the cold desert of Ladakh and on to the hills of Jammu, it’s a heady mix of terrain offering new experiences at every bend.New ConnectionsThe gleaming red and blue Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit passes 13 stations across KashmirThe landscape I was transfixed by had distinct colour spectrums. It began with the brilliant blue of the sky, followed by a magnetic white of snow-clad mountains and in the foreground was the yellow of mustard blossoms. I was at a hamlet a l-ittle ahead of Budgam. Around me were excited children, their pretty mothers, and a few men in grey pherans trying hard to look impassive. Quite soon there was a whizzing sound at a distance and within minutes a reddish-blue streak blazed past us. The children squealed, waving at it animatedly. Their shy mothers joined in as well and the up-till-now expressionless faces of the men reflected enthusiasm. Till a few months back they would have called it ‘red snake’ or ‘long bus’. Now accustomed to it, they proudly pointed out to the valley’s first train as it raced past their homes. The thrill the train generates continues to resonate as it chugs through the chinars from Baramulla to Qazigund, connecting north Kashmir with its southern tip. The rail-route was made operational in parts, with the entire 119-km section becoming fully functional in October last year, unfurling a whole new dimension of travel in the valley.On board the gleaming red and blue Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit (DEMU), the Indian Railways has introduced a public address system that announces the approaching station and there’s internal heating too. It takes about two hours to cover the entire distance-dotted with 13 stations aesthetically dressed in local architecture-in the comfortable chair car. In winters, when snow blocks all surface routes, there is no better option than the train for touring the valley as its snow-cutting cattle guard clears tracks as it moves ensuring you don’t have to postpone plans for a white holiday.Helicopter rides to Vaishno Devi are an easy and quick option for pilgrimsUp till now the only way Jammu was linked with Kashmir was via the Jawahar Tunnel on NH 1A. Recently, the much-awaited Mughal Road was thrown open for light vehicular movement. This centuries old route that traverses mountains over 11,000 ft connects Bafliaz-Poonch in the Jammu region with Shopian district in the Kashmir valley. It’s a fair weather road and will remain inoperative in winters, but summers should see a rush descend here to experience a drive on a historic path.Even though most travellers still prefer the road adventure, some pilgrims have been giving the traditional trek to Jammu’s holiest shrine a miss, and hopping on to the fastest mode of travel to visit Vaishno Devi. The option of helicopter tours allows devotees to make a flying visit, literally, to the goddesses’ abode and be back to base in matter of hours after seeking blessings. Certainly, gone are the days when pilgrimage was all about an arduous journey!Festive TreatSnow cycling is a popular sport during the Gulmarg Snow FestivalThe State makes for innumerable pretty postcard shots, yet if a spot had to be ranked among the 100 must-see in your lifetime, that honour goes to the Dal Lake, which remains spellbinding. But what comes close is Gulmarg in the winters, when every inch is covered in snow. The best way to witness this heaven is by taking part in the Gulmarg Snow Festival organised by J&K Tourism. Taking place in December, this officially starts the winter sports of the season. Gulmarg is among the best places for skiing in the country and the snow festival has a variety of winter sports like snow baseball, rugby, snow cycling, night skiing and ice skating. But since the past two years giving a tough competition to it is the country’s first tulip garden-Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden. During its season, from March to April, it’s a riot of colour with over 1.2 million tulips of 70 varieties greeting visitors. A Tulip Festival is held to mark the blooming spell and a slice of Kashmiri culture is on view then. Inspired by the enthusiastic tourist response to tulips, another floral paradise got due recognition with the introduction of the Saffron Festival on the events calendar last year. Held in the backdrop of the picturesque lilac fields at Pampore, on the outskirts of Srinagar, the visitor learns the art of picking the saffron flower from farmers besides getting to savour zafran-flavoured fare. The flowering season is from end of October to beginning November.Swinging at the GreensBattery-operated vehicles are used at Dachigam National ParkThere is no better way to enjoy the charms of this picturesque State than a game of golf. Kashmir is home to some of the best golf courses in the country-Gulmarg Golf Club in Gulmarg, Kashmir Golf Club and Royal Spring Golf Course in Srinagar. Now golf tourism is being promoted in a big way by hosting many golf tournaments here. The peak season for golf in Kashmir is from April to November when the weather is perfect for this game.Friends of NatureThe road from Manali to Leh offers stunning landscapesDuring a recent trip, as I moved from one geographical spectacle to another, sipping butter tea, savouring the subtlety of zafran kehva or letting robust masala chai warm me, I noticed a silent revolution across the State. Unanimous in essence, its colour was ‘green’, and not what you suspected. With a view to resurrecting the region’s ecology, eco initiatives are being given a boost. At Dachigam National Park, near Srinagar, it’s battery-operated vehicles that ferry you around the park as you try your luck at spotting the hangul. In Katra the prasad you buy at ‘Bhaint’ shops to offer Ma Vaishno Devi is no longer handed over in plastic bags but is neatly packed in jute bags; and in Leh, you can check-in at the State’s first ecotel, Poplar Eco Resort, built with mud and wood, in the traditional Ladakhi way.A homestay in Ladakh is a wonderful way to experience the local cultureLadakh homestays is also an eco-project to aid the conservation of the snow leopard. The incentive of income generated through homestays–in Hemis, Sham, Zanskar and Lungnak-leads to the whole-hearted involvement of the local community in protection of wildlife. Also part of the programme is the option of alluring snow leopard treks conducted by local naturalists.Getting NostalgicSmiling women from LadakhIt needed a regrettably hostile conflict to make seldom heard Drass, Batalik, Turtuk part of popular parlance, and open up new areas for travel. The Drass War Memorial, off the Leh-Srinagar highway is a tribute set amidst viewing distance of combat indicators such as Tiger Hill and Tololing. The memorial is inscribed with names of martyrs, and as personnel on duty narrate incidents of their bravery, it’s hard not to get moist-eyed.These experiences are overwhelming, just as a lot else is in this State, each being singular and special in personality.advertisementadvertisement Fact fileDiesel Electrical Multiple Unit Bookings for the train can be done at nr.indian.gov.inMughal Road Mughal Road is 84 km long and stretches between Bafliaz town in Poonch district to Shupiyan in Pulwama districtadvertisementVaishno Devi helicopter tours Visit www.vaishno-devi.com for fares and timingsGulmarg Snow Festival To be held from December 24 to 26 2010Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden Located at the foothills of Zabarwan hills in SrinagarTulip festival To be held in April 2010. For details contact Jammu and Kashmir Tourism; tel: (0194) 245 2691Saffron Festival To be held in October 2010Dachigam National Park 22 km from SrinagarPoplar Eco-Resort Shenam Fort Road, Leh; tel: (01982) 253 518; www.poplar-ecoresort.comLadakh homestays Snow Leopard Conservancy, India Trust, Shangara House, Main Tukcha Road, Leh; tel: (01982) 250 953Snow leopard treks Ultimate Destination, Gangba Complex, Changsa Road, Leh; tel: (0) 99069 79464The Drass War Memorial, off the Leh-Srinagar highway sees many visitors through the yearDrass War Memorial 4 km from Drass, off the Leh-Srinagar highwaylast_img read more

India secrets: Sikkim

first_imgNetuk houseIdeal for those who want to experience the posh of the past, this aristocratic homestay will give travellers a taste of local life with the added comfort of luxury. Decorated in local style with bright cheery interiors and local Sikkimese textiles, the house is a charming old-fashioned retreat. The family-run ‘hotel’ offers local hospitality along with lovely local spreads for discerning foodies. Festooned with Buddhist prayer flags and a warm and friendly vibe, Netuk House comes with an added charm: expect enriching evenings listening to local lore over many cups of chai. There are also gorgeous uninterrupted views of the snowclad mountains. Tibet Road, Gangtok; Tel: (03592) 222 374Pastanga villageTo get the real local feel, you must experience living with  a Sikkimese family in a typical village. Stop by Pastanga village, in Assam Lingzay just outside Gangtok, a truly beautiful spot right in the lap of nature. This little village is flush in rhododendron and magnolia flowers and a wide variety of bamboo species. It is truly a fascinating destination for nature lovers as it provides spectacular walks and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges. Pastanga is also the starting point for the exciting Khedi trek, rich in biodiversity, popular with adventure enthusiasts. You can enjoy local traditions, dances and music during your stay here. There are nearly ten government approved homestays which are all very reasonable and accessible. 28 km from Gangtok; www.keeppastangasikkim.orgThe teen jhurey trek Starting from a place called Golitar, this is a wonderful nature trek for all those who seek adventure. The richly forested area is known to be the home for various species of wild animals and birds. For those who like the peaceful sport of angling, the hike to River Bhusak is perfect. This is a one day hike but the scenery and the fish at the end of the line are worth the journey. The hike starts from Syari, four km from Gangtok. One can get equipment on hire from local travel agents and you take a local guide along.  25 km from GangtokLocal pickles Sikkim has three major communities–the Lepchas, the Bhutias and the Nepalese–and each of them contribute to the state’s varied cuisine and culture. Apart from the regular momos and thukpas, available at nearly every corner store and restaurant, the foodie should not return from Sikkim without trying some of the local pickles. A must try is sidra ko achar, a pickle made out of a small dried fish called sidra and eaten with rice and dal. For vegetarians, there is the exotic chhurpi ko achar. Chhurpi is a local fermented cottage cheese and is widely used in Sikkimese cuisine; the pickle in mustard oil and spices is quite a tasty accompaniment with plain rice. There is also mesu or fermented bamboo shoot pickle, shimi ko achar or the string bean pickle and the extremely delicious hot dalle and bamboo shoot pickle.  Pick up a bottle at Gupta Tea House or Rainbow, on  M.G. Marg. Also check Sikkim Supreme Factory near SingtamLess known brewsA butter salt tea churned inside a bamboo container is  a popular drink that helps keeping you warm, and thus is consumed in large quantities in the winter. While chaang or the local beer is the most popular drink, other variants of it are also worth a try. These include simal tarul ko jaanr, which is a fermented cassava root alcoholic drink and raksi, a clear rice wine with a strong aroma. Homemade rhododendron and ginger wine can be found in local villages. Kanchan berry juice, a recent favourite, is also rather delicious and comes with medicinal values. A local homestay would be the best place to find these unusual brewsGonjang monasteryEstablished in the year 1981, this monastery, one of the less known in the state, belongs to Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism. Located on the outskirts of the city, the peaceful environment and the prayer chants make it a destination worth a visit, especially it is fairly free of crowds. One can also admire the beauty of the town from here. A host of annual events and festivities add colour to the calm. www.gonjangmonastery.orgGreen foodWhile in this lush green state you will be surrounded by  a mindboggling variety of plants and vegetation that will immediately serve to soothe city-jangled nerves. And while all of them are beautiful, some of them even taste good. Locals have learnt how to use many of the local leaves and ferns in their cooking and have turned them into great delicacies. Try the popular nettle soup or sisnu, prepared out of the local edible varieties of nettle which is served with steamed rice. Wild edible fern or ningro is another leafy treat that is usually mixed with cottage cheese and turned into a delicious curry. Another leafy delicacy is gundruk, the fermented and preserved leaves of radish, mustard and cauliflower. These are soaked in water and cooked before consumption and form an excellent side dish with meat, fish and vegetable dishes. These dishes will be available at homes and homestays rather than restaurants–act like a local and ask for them and enjoy the surprised smiles. And the food. If you stay at a homestay, you will have the best option to try local food. Otherwise ask a your hotel for the best option. Still waters performanceWhat’s a hill holiday without the strums of  a guitar? This folk-rock band from Gangtok with a repertoire of punchy originals in English and Nepali is unmissable. To catch  a gig, check out the schedule at the lovely bohemian pub called Little Italy in Deorali, or Cafe Live and Loud on Tibet Road, another popular hangout for music lovers. You can check the local paper for listings of their shows.Stitch a bakuThe lovely brocade dresses that the local women wear come in a variety of colours, patterns and fabrics. Pick up your desired fabric and take it to Lhasa Tailors or Classic Tailor to get an outfit tailored to your or your partner’s size and specifications. For a great range of designer bakus and honjus, a traditional Tibetan outfit, make your way to Gaari Designs.  Lhasa is near Old Children’s Park; Classic is on M.G. Marg; log on to www.gaaridesigns.comHouse of bambooThis small restaurant tucked away on a quite lane is known for its food and warm ambience. Tibetan delicacies, spicy Chinese fare and a variety of momos, all at a very reasonable price, make this a great option. Definitely try their lip-smacking beef chilli and gyathuk, special noodles cooked with vegetarian or non-vegetarian soup. Their rice preparation with pork is also quite delicious and everything is between the astounding price range of Rs. 40 and Rs. 180. On Nam Nang Road.advertisementadvertisementGangtok: Lily Tshering BhutiaAn avid trekker, Lily is director of a specialised travel company that organises high altitude treks. She lives in Gangtok but feels most at home in the great outdoors, especially the rhododendron forests in her home state. Lily is also a foodie and her two loves can be seen here!Outside Gangtok: Trek to RachelaThis trekking route is an absolute paradise for nature  lovers, with a wonderful array of flora and fauna all along the way. Starting from a place called ‘Hathicheray’, which translates to ‘elephant pass’, you walk for about three and a half hours, after which you reach a place called Mulkharga Lake. This is a great place to set up an overnight base camp with lush greenery all around and a truly breathtaking view as the day breaks. Next morning, continue the trek towards Ramitey Dara. The trek takes approximately two and half hours and passes through stretches of evergreen forest and rocky terrain dotted with caves. The landscape keeps changing and the route meanders through dense bamboo forest and startling pink rhododendron trees. This trek is also fantastic for the variety of birds that one can see along the way. This part of the trek takes most part of the day and will culminate at the gorgeous Rachela Pass. The area is dominated by the Lepchas and one can see their traditional houses along the way. The campsite has a small pond and an old forest reserve bungalow. After a night’s rest, you can trek up two kilometres to the actual pass and enjoy the magnificent view. Rachela is on the border of Sikkim and Bhutan and thus a fairly sensitive and restricted area. While there are tour operators who might bring you up here illegally, please take care to take prior permissions from the forest and tourism departments; Tel: (03592) 221 634; www.sikkimtourism.travelMust do: SikkimStay: Homestay in kewzingImmerse yourself in local culture at Kewzing, a timeless Bhutia village that rests against a backdrop of magnificent mountains. This is the place to stay if you want a first-hand experience of Sikkimese rural life. The rooms are simple but clean and cosy, and the meals, served in the family kitchen, are tasty and wholesome. Activities include birdwatching, excursions to the monasteries dotting the rambling countryside and even working in the fields with the villagers!Kewzing Homestays; Tel: (044) 3988 1000;  www.mahindrahomestays.comEat: MomosIf you are the sort who ventures into Sikkim House in Delhi or momo joints all over north India’s hillstations, then Sikkim is your heaven. Every nook and corner will serve big juicy dumplings filled with the meat of your choice (a number of them). Happy feasting on perfect, thin, meaty momos. In Gangtok, a good place to try is M.G. Market.Shop: Thangka scrollsDepicting Buddhist themes and symbols as well as other religious iconography, thangkas are canvas scrolls that are often framed with silk. Genuine thangkas are made with only vegetable or mineral dyes, and each colour has its own significance; white stands for peace, while gold represents enlightenment. While only Buddhist monks once created thangkas, they are now available in most handicrafts stores. Try the small shop near Rumtek Monastery, about 24 km from GangtokSee: PellingYour usual lazy hillstation filled with friendly people, this is where you can get great views of the mighty Khangchendzonga. Brave the walk to Pemayangtse, about three km from Upper Pelling, for the famous Pemayangtse Monastery, one of Sikkim’s holiest. 120 km from Gangtok.advertisementlast_img read more

Port of Rotterdam Tests Autonomous Navigation

first_imgzoomImage Courtesy: Port of Rotterdam The Port of Rotterdam Authority has started testing autonomous navigation with a floating lab in preparation for the next step in autonomy.The authority converted a patrol vessel into a floating lab that collects data, including data about the vessel’s operation and power.“By making these data available to the business community and education, further research can be conducted into the introduction of autonomous navigation and the Port of Rotterdam can make further preparations for this,” the authority noted.The Port of Rotterdam Authority has equipped a former patrol vessel (RPA3), the so-called floating lab, with cameras, sensors and measurement equipment. In this way data is obtained about weather and water conditions and about the vessel’s operation, power and engine.As well as autonomous navigation, the floating lab will test other applications. The use of cameras will be tested, for example for automatic inspection of quay walls or detection of objects in the water. The combination of sensors on the water with land-based sensors to develop a network and smart infrastructure will also be investigated.The Port of Rotterdam Authority signed its first partnership for data exchange from the floating lab with Captain AI. They are adding artificial intelligence to the data, which enables computers to be trained as artificial captains to navigate independently through the port.“By cooperating with other parties, including by making our data available, we aim to promote the development of new technologies and investigate the impact of these on the port and port facilities,” Ronald Paul, Port of Rotterdam Authority COO, said.“We expect the arrival of autonomous navigation to further increase the safety and accessibility of the Port of Rotterdam and, moreover, it will be an effective aid for skippers and shipping traffic controllers.”last_img read more