Friday, 31 December 2010

The Final Word

Yes, that's your lot for this year.  Tomorrow dawns at some point but I would suggest we may be kicking off a  little later than usual, if at all.  It's been a glorious year and looking back we've had some huge highs and just the odd low to blight the altitude peaks, but whatever has happened is now in the past and we look forward to what 2011 will bring.

Have a super time tonight, party until the wee hours and let your hair down but always remember to drink sensibly and safely.  Or some other nonsense like that. 

See you all in the New Year and we'll be carrying on as before, have no fear.  :o)

Check Please

Over 31 miles of receipts are printed every day in America.

Never Rains, It Pours

Stuck Alone
 








Traveller's Tip- Last of 2010

Been cutting onions, garlic or some other pungent stuff?  Wash your hands and then rub a little bit of toothpaste into your fingers before rinsing.  It works a treat.

Big Puff

It seems Gordon Ramsay has not only fallen out with his in-laws but his hair is going the same way.  It has bee reported that Ramsay has had a £30 000 hair transplant to go with his teeth whitening and Botox injections to flatten out his crinkly chin.

Which should make it easy for the next victim of his bullying, foul-mouthed tirade to have a simple come back; fuck off, baldy.   What a big tart.  :o)

Bad Timing?

Estonia is gearing up today for historic New Year's festivities to celebrate the tiny country becoming the first former Soviet republic to adopt the Euro.  The currency changeover will officially start at midnight on 1st January, marking the beginning of the end of the Estonian Kroon and a final step in the Baltic state's efforts to become the 17th member of the Eurozone after achieving independence in 1991. 

We wish them well but wonder if now is the best time to join the ailing currency?   Only the passage of time will tell if it's a good decision and see if the Euro can recover.  I hope so, as a unified currency is far easier for the casual traveller and so we'll keep our fingers crossed.  That, and the fact we had such a marvellous time there when we last visited,

Anyway, more details at the Independent.

For Auld Lang Something or Other

The big night approaches and this year everything will be different ... or will it?

The rigmarole of dressing up to go out in weather that laughs at anything not the colour of sludge. Why bother? The cold, cheerless journey that deep down you already know is not worth the hassle. Whose idea of a good time is this? Ticket prices so inflated they would make a Weimar German balk. Door queues long enough to feature as a traffic incident. The enforced jollity of a battery farm of party-goers, few of whom know each other well, let alone like each other. The Olympic sprint to get as drunk as possible (despite the extortion at the bar) before The Big Moment. And of course, the bit when everyone cheers the bongs of midnight, as if they carried any more real-life significance than any other midnight. Why do we do this? The alcohol-marinaded man who flails around for a hug before confidently laying down this nuanced judgment: "Next year cannot be any worse". (His forefathers predicted the same in 1065, or 1938.) The two hours wait for an Astra masquerading as a minicab. Giving up and accepting volatile (but inevitably seatless) transit on the prison-on-wheels they laughingly call the New Year's Eve nightbus. The silent totting up of how much this expedition has cost. And to what end? Running the gauntlet of still-stewed revellers on the road outside your house. The grey daylight peeping in through the curtains. The certain knowledge that a quiet night in with the radio would have been better spent. The solemn resolution that next year you will do just that.

Nice bit in today's Guardian on what (not?) to do tonight.  :o)

Recycling Bags

From tomorrow (1 January, 2011) Italy's hundreds of thousands of retailers will be banned from giving their customers plastic bags.

The Italian government is thought to be the first in the EU to outlaw the use of polythene bags (although Ireland imposed a 0.15€ levy on them in 2002 that drastically cut their use) and as Italians are plastic bag addicts, who use a fifth of all the bags distributed in the EU, the ban will make a very real difference.

More at the Guardian.

Random Searches

Osama bin Laden was not placed on the No Fly List until October 2007.

An official at the Department of Homeland Security explained, "that [placing bin Laden on the list] was so obvious that no one thought to do it."

Wood for the trees.

No Room at the Inn

The hotel has been fully booked for the past few days and has even needed to turn potential guests and walk-ins away.  Good for business and hopefully a sign of good things to come in 2011.  I know the boss man is rather chuffed.

Very Smart

Khun Saeri has just popped up to see us and he was clutching two boxes which were very prettily wrapped in gift paper*.  "A present for the New Year" he beamed as he handed the two boxes over to me.

My package contained a very smart smart/casual short sleeved shirt in a light green, which will do very nicely for the next formal-ish evening out and wifey has a lovely red top, both quite probably chosen by the insightful Mrs S.

Many thanks once again and we're rapidly running out of space to store things.  :o)


*Even the paper matched- I had green and wifey had red to suit the presents inside. 

Still Shite

I thought perhaps, maybe Air Asia have sorted out their website for on-line bookings after recently having successfully picked up a few flights.  Erm, no.

The site is just as piss poor as before and once again we have been kicked out and now blocked.  No doubt it will take several days before we can pursue our access and by then prices will probably have risen.  (We figured if we book before the new year it may be cheaper.)

Anyway, we are currently stuck in KL after flying in from Colombo, Sri Lanka and need to get to Bangkok and then we need a return trip to Siem Reap (via Phnom Penh) to meet up with Duncan before our final two month stint in Thailand.

Bloody bollocks is what I say to their rubbish site- although luckily it is a completely different situation with their flights and services in person.
The Guardian recommends the top 100 football Blogs to follow in 2011:


The Swiss Ramble

Essential reading about the business of football, with a depth of knowledge that makes it stand well out from the crowd. twitter.com/swissramble

In Bed With Maradona

An outstanding variety of football stories from around the world and through the ages are told here by an ever-growing collective, among them a personal favourite this recent piece on Justin Fashanu's spell at Torquay. twitter.com/inbedwimaradona

Zonal Marking

Michael Cox launched the tactics-porn site last January and says "it was inspired by [Jonathan Wilson's] Inverting The Pyramid and the standard of punditry on British television, in very different ways". Disclaimer: the good man himself writes a chalkboards column for this parish every Monday. twitter.com/Zonal_Marking

Football Further

AFP sports journalist Tom Williams blogs on all things French football, and also provides some rather handsome tactics pieces. twitter.com/tomwfootball

Billsportsmaps.com

A vast array of maps, locating the teams that took part in everything from last season's Blue Square Premier promotion and play-offs map to the 2010 Copa Libertadores last-16 map. Packed full of hidden treasures.

Football Management

(Dr) John Beech "offers commentary on current (and, to a much lesser extent, historic) issues in the management of English clubs and, as appropriate, the governance of the clubs and leagues". It's well worth digging into. twitter.com/johnbeech

Twohundredpercent

The breadth of coverage again impresses here as English football (and its clubs in crisis) get a thorough analysing. twitter.com/twoht

The Run Of Play

One of the best designed blogs on the list, this is "a blog about the wonder and terror of soccer". That tells you where the blog is based, but it covers far more than just MLS. Here are just two examples why you should read it. twitter.com/runofplay

The Ball Is Round

Trips abroad, trips around the non-league and just flat-out good writing. Enjoy. twitter.com/theballisround

The Seventy Two

An excellent compendium for the Football League fan, David Bevan helms this collection of writing on the lower divisions. (Disclaimer: you may have read David's guest articles on our Football League blog.) twitter.com/the72football

European Football Weekends

If you can look beyond the big plug from the Guardian on its homepage standfirst, you'll find the thoroughly enjoyable writing of Danny Last and friends as they make their way around the continent, from FC United to FC Copenhagen. twitter.com/dannylast

The Equaliser

Just two of the stand-out features on this blog: 20 greatest managers and my favourite footballer. twitter.com/equaliserblog

Les Rosbifs

Tracking and interviewing much-travelled English footballers as they build their careers - and lives - around the world. Fascinating. twitter.com/lesrosbifs

Iain Macintosh

Damn. Fine. Writing. A special tip of the cap for the Woodlands and Heidenheim Chronicles. twitter.com/iainmacintosh

Back Page Football

An interesting perspective on a range of football from the Premier League to the A-League, especially good on its 'ones 2 watch' feature. twitter.com/bpfootball

The Football Ramble Blog

Beyond their excellent podcast lies a collection of writing from some brilliant writers. twitter.com/footballramble

Two Footed Tackle

Another blog with a fine podcast, "the opinions here range from the extremely cynical to the gloriously bright-eyed, from Premier League title race excitement to bitter non-league conversion". twitter.com/twofootedtackle

Gibfootballshow

Andrew Gibney covers a range of European football topics (with a special love for Ligue 1) as well as producing a weekly podcast. As the man himself says: "Gibfootballshow is my mistress and she speaks French." twitter.com/gibfootballshow

Magic Spongers

'Literally corner' is enough to make you want to read Adam Bushby and Rob MacDonald's blog. twitter.com/magicspongers

Football Fairground

A tidy range of articles and podcasting opinions on French, German, US football and more. twitter.com/FutblFairground

Ghostgoal

A thoroughly entertaining range of views and features, a favourite being The Mark Burke Story. twitter.com/ghostgoal.

Rinaldi's Blog

Like Italian football? Like an enjoyable read? Here you go. twitter.com/ginkers

The Real FA Cup

Disillisioned and think modern football is rubbish? Then get your mojo back in the lower reaches of English football. twitter.com/therealfacup

The Scottish Football Blog

Does what it says on the tin. And does it well. twitter.com/ScotFootBlog

Soccer AM/MW

Luckily, it's got nothing to do with the Saturday morning programme, focusing on a range of topics in the Football League and below. twitter.com/soccerammw

One Foot In The Game

One of the points of a blog is to have a good old rant, something this blog does admirably. twitter.com/1FITG

The Two Unfortunates

More fine Football League views and analysis. twitter.com/twounfortunates

A Football Report

An impressive volume and standard of writing from around the globe on this blog, where you'll struggle not to find an interesting read. twitter.com/afootballreport

Play The Game

Straight outta Denmark, "aiming to strengthen the basic ethical values of sport and encourage democracy, transparency and freedom of expression in world sport." What's not to like? twitter.com/playthegame_org

In The Stands

A light touch and good use of embedded videos makes this one easy on the eye and mind. twitter.com/In_The_Stands

Fútbolita

"The alternative female voice for Latin American, Spanish and Italian football online," and well worth a gander. twitter.com/futbolita

Football Shirt Culture

Keep on top of the latest updates in kit news/designs around the world, from online club polls to commemorative editions. twitter.com/footballshirt

Who Ate All The Pies

Today we spell irreverence, P-I-E-S. twitter.com/ollieirish

Hasta El Gol Siempre

In the Argentinian football corner, writing out of Buenos Aires, by way of North Somerset, Sam Kelly blogs on "more fútbol argentino than you can shake a mullet at". twitter.com/HEGS_com

Mirko Bolesan

An intriguing and rewarding blog that deals with "football's oddities". Which I guess is right if it's a site that reviews the 1986 ZX Spectrum release, 'Peter Shilton's Handball Maradona!'. twitter.com/mirkobolesan

Left Back In The Changing Room

There's plenty of good perusing to be had around Rob Marrs's blog. twitter.com/MarrsioFootball

The Football Express

A quick glance at the tag cloud on this blog front page gives you a fair clue as to what to predominantly expect here: tactics, Serie A, Premier League and South American analysis. twitter.com/rcammisola

The Best Eleven

Videos, lists and maps (this naturalised Qatar players one is good) make this an arresting read. twitter.com/thebesteleven

Defensive Minded

Celebrating defenders and defending (you'll be surprised to learn), the kind of blog that Ossie Ardiles has nightmares about.

Kickette

Football gets the female touch for "all things fun, fluffy and footie-related". You're intrigued, aren't you? twitter.com/kickette

Santapelota

Not the most regularly updated blog, but when you see how detailed the tactical treatises are, you'll understand. twitter.com/santapelota

Talking About Football

Tim Hill's 'Dissection of' pieces are just one reason to delve into this excellent blog. twitter.com/timhi

101 Great Goals

Goals, misses, ludicrous footballer adverts and much, much more make this required watching and reading. twitter.com/101greatgoals

Just Football

The breadth of coverage is what stands out here, from Barnet to the Apertura. twitter.com/justfootball

Three And In

Again, the wide variety of subjects covered stands out. twitter.com/threeandin

Pitch Invasion

'The Big Picture' archive is just one of the reasons this US-based, but global-themed blog warrants your attention. twitter.com/pitchinvasion

du Nord

Bruce McGuire's bitesize-structured daily wraps on MLS and beyond make for a different style of blogging. twitter.com/dunord

The Offside

Compiling more than 300 individual team blogs from around the globe into a busy, hectic-looking site, this remains an excellent place from which to delve into a huge archive. twitter.com/theoffside

Britski Belasi

English-language Slovakian football blogs might not face the hottest competition, but that doesn't lessen the quality of this one. twitter.com/britskibelasi

The Free Beer Movement

"Beer is the medium. Soccer is the message," is this blog's mantra as it downs one blog on US football before swiftly moving on to another. twitter.com/freebeermovemnt

Where's The Tea Hut

A ground-hopping tour of the non-league, with recent trips ranging from Newquay to Bacup Borough, via the £12 admission of Harrogate Town.

Matthew Craven: Drawings and Illustrations

Comprising a beautiful array of drawings and illustrations. A delight. twitter.com/matthewcr

cahiers du sport

Portuguese football blogging at its best. twitter.com/cahiersdufoot

Snap, Kaká, and Pop!

Jack Lang's blog on all things Brazilian football, in case the name hadn't given it away. Really rather good. twitter.com/snap_kaka_pop

Davey Talks Balls

David Dickson actually talks sense. twitter.com/dkdickson

This Day In Football History

Memories of every single date since this blog began almost two years ago, handily illustrated with accompanying videos more often than not. twitter.com/BrianSeal

The Spoiler

"Where sport meets porn," claims this blog, selling it somewhat short. But I bet you want to click on it now. twitter.com/thespoileruk

Off The Post

Videos, blogs and a podcast complement this blog dedicated to celebrating the offbeat nature of the game. twitter.com/offthepost

A More Splendid Life

You may have already come across Richard Whittall at Pitch Invasion (including his fascinating 'football, blogs and newspapers unite?' series), but here he focuses predominantly on MLS, as well as other subjects. twitter.com/RWhittall

The Score

'The Footy Blog' section of the Canadian site may include contributions from our own Paolo Bandini, but don't hold it against them. http://twitter.com/theScore

The Global Game

A site that "says 'no' to big soccer and yes to soccer as a game for women and the marginalized, as a place of resistance". Full of truly fascinating articles. twitter.com/TheGlobalGame

EPL Talk Network

Well-established it may be, but this remains one of the most consistent out there, along with its host of sister sites. twitter.com/epltalk

Football and Music

Because they can co-exist, despite what Kevin Keegan might have you think. twitter.com/FootieAndMusic. It's probably also worth mentioning Obscure Music And Football while we're here too.

Defensive Midfielder

With a heavy lean towards the Bundesliga, Martyn Fisher provides tactical match report breakdowns from around Europe. twitter.com/bundesliga_wrap

Football Italia

The Blog Italia section remains packed full of pieces from some of the best writers on their subject around. twitter.com/footballitalia

Holding Midfield

Joshua Askew and guests add interesting tactical dissections to other features. twitter.com/LeJask

Six Pointer

A good variety of content from Chris Mayer, a fine purveyor of Belgian footballing information among other things. twitter.com/chrismayerv1

11 Tegen 11

For lovers of Dutch football tactical analysis, this should be right up your street. twitter.com/11tegen11

Ffwtbol

Welsh football, get your Welsh football here. twitter.com/ffwtbol

Studs Up

The accompanying blog to Chris Toy's entertaining online comic. twitter.com/christoy

Argentina Football World

An excellent source for anyone wanting to acquaint themselves with Argentinian football. twitter.com/@ArgentinaFW

Bagsy Not In

Opinionated, attention-grabbing and featuring a wide variety of content. twitter.com/bagsynotin

The Football Hobo - Alan Smithy

A new arrival on the scene, but the early signs are good. twitter.com/alansmithys

Polly's Pause For Sport

Not solely a football blog, but it is the predominant content, as Dominic Pollard recently discussed. twitter.com/DominicPollard

The Cynical Challenge

James Appell's blog and podcast succeeds in tackling topics beyond the obvious. twitter.com/jamesappell

Cold Tuesday Evenings

Some lovely YouTube finds on top of non-league and upwards updates. twitter.com/coldtuesdayeves

Surreal Football

You had me at Isaac. twitter.com/SurrealFootball

My Football Facts & Stats

Statistics, trivia, history and analysis that will make you lose hours as if they were minutes. twitter.com/myfootballfacts

The Goalkeepers' Union

When you first log on to a blog and see a review of the 1988 Reusch Toni goalkeeping glove, you know it's one to bookmark.

Avoiding The Drop

Like Deadspin? Then there's a fair chance you'll like this. twitter.com/avoidingthedrop

Danger Here

The regular football pundits/commentators quotes collection and videos makes this a humorous must for the list. twitter.com/dangerhere

Polish Football Scout

There's nowhere better to polish up on your Polish football. twitter.com/polishscout

Gannin' Away

More travels around Britain's league and non-league grounds, and further afield. twitter.com/HuddoHudson

Beat The First Man

Keeping its eye on the ball to spot the best football videos and photographs you might have missed. twitter.com/BeatTheFirstMan

Three Match Ban

Predominantly Premier League-themed, but worth it for Dan Mobbs's 'Guess the star of English football from their classic football sticker' quiz alone. twitter.com/ThreeMatchBan

Nordic Football News

Specialising in the Finnish and Norwegian game, with added coverage from the rest of the Nordic nations. facebook.com/pages/Nordic-Football-News

Soccerlens

Set up by Ahmed Bilal in 2006, this remains one of the best-known blogs on the scene. twitter.com/soccerlens

Laligathemidlandsview's Blog

Interesting pieces focused on Spanish football. twitter.com/LaLigathemids

False 10

Another blog favouring the bitesize entry round-ups and one to keep an eye on. twitter.com/false10

Foul Throw

Short, sharp and to the point. twitter.com/FoulThrowBlog

Scheidt's Footballing Miscellany

Any blog and podcast named in honour of the Celtic shambles is good by us. But it gets in on its content too. twitter.com/Scheidtcast

Stoppage Time

Global coverage with a particular strength in Asian football. twitter.com/StopTimeBlog

Upper90 magazine

"Two football-loving university graduates, sick of dire journalism and average football blogs online, team up to bring a fresh look at the world of football." It's what they'd want written here. twitter.com/upper90magazine

Dispatches From A Football Sofa

Weekly musings on a range of subjects. twitter.com/gregtheoharis

Football In France Is Rubbish

... but it's still well worth reading about on this blog.

Football On The Wire

Token references of one of the Guardian's favourite TV programmes may seem why this makes the cut, but the graphics, such as this, help to make it stand out.

Albion Road

An excellent resource as well as a good read.

The Shin Guardian

Predominantly focused on the MLS and US national teams, with added Premier League coverage and more thrown in. twitter.com/shinguardian

The Andersred blog

Primarily focused on breaking down the Glazers' work at Old Trafford, this just makes the list due to interesting pieces on other clubs' debts and finances, among them Spurs and Barcelona. twitter.com/andersred

Saints 1885 Subbuteo Blog

A guilty pleasure, but anything that digs out this interactive scoreboard can never be a bad thing. I should also really make mention of Peter Upton's Subbuteo Tribute site too.

Siem Reap Factuals

Energy & Fuel

Savong School is located in Bakong District, part of Siem Reap province which despite the tourism boom based around Angkor Wat remains the second poorest province out of 24 in all Cambodia.

What do they use for lighting and cooking? In the west we take household energy for granted, that‟s for sure. Electricity is there at the flick of a switch. It is relatively cheap. But in rural Cambodia the fuel and energy needed for cooking, lighting or other household appliances is a really expensive component of the household budget.


The figures for household lighting tell some of the story. In Cambodia, outside the cities, just 8% of home lighting is powered from the national grid. By contrast 17% is battery powered—and a typical system is for a village to have one businessperson making a living by charging car batteries and for households to swap charged batteries for their discharged batteries, for a dollar or two.


Meanwhile 70% of households use kerosene lamps for lighting.


Cooking is the big user of fuel however, and in Siem Reap 93% of households use firewood for cooking. A small percentage use charcoal. This is expensive, and increasingly so, and wood is going to be in increasingly short supply in years to come.


Vietnam has faced a similar crisis and one increasingly used option is the development of bio-gas generators, using animal manure. Tens of thousands of these units—cess pits with a domed „collector‟ have been installed successfully. So far there does not appear to be a similar program in Cambodia. Another solution is to install wood stoves with a much more efficient design - and again, initiatives along this line are apparent in Africa, but not so far in Cambodia.

Short Takes

Power to the children. Many thanks to fund raising efforts from a Singapore school, the SOC now has a solar converter installed. These are extremely useful in Cambodia—turning bounteous sunshine into 12v electricity via batteries which are used to power TV sets, radios, or charge up laptops and mo-bile phones. No-tech to Hi-tech in one single jump.

Fish and Chicken. Meanwhile with the second fishpond com-pleted, also courtesy of the Singapore students, the next step is a chicken farm. A Tasmanian community (Newstead College) has raised money for this project which again enhances the capacity for the SOC to be more self-sufficient in terms of food. Work on the fencing begins in early January.

Communication improvements. We‟re getting more systematic with communications and while this newsletter will continue—out every couple of months, sponsors of children at SOC will get quarterly statements giving progress on each child. Elsewhere, to facilitate a smoother volunteer experience and avoid peak-time clashes, we‟ve added a Volunteer Bookings Calendar to the web-site so you can check ahead.

Letter from Duncan

The zone around Siem Reap and Angkor Wat is largely gov-erned by a regional authority: the Apsara Authority and until recently it has taken a fairly hands-off approach to such issues as building permits. Where in the UK, USA or here in my little country - New Zealand - it might take weeks or even months to get permission to build a house or even make additions, in Siem Reap we‟ve experienced no such hassle. The school went up with scarcely any intervention, and so did the library and the SOC buildings.

But this year the Apsara authority has been flexing its muscle. One of its mandates is to ensure that the traditional character of the region is being preserved and this causes real difficulties for locals. If you want to build a new rural house, then in theory it has be traditional in style—made of native hardwoods and con-structed on stilts. Of course there‟s another law which says you are not allow to fell traditional hardwood timbers, and the pen-alty for getting caught is extremely steep. You are fined, your timber is confiscated and if its on a truck, then the truck is con-fiscated as well. So herein lies the riddle: how do the people of Siem Reap region make progress?


This year Savong encountered the problem three times. The first was during the construction of the medical centre when the authority delayed the work unexpectedly. Four weeks ago dur-ing the rainy season, Savong decided to put in a few concrete slabs as raised paving so the kids could avoid getting muddy. Again the authority came in and halted progress: this time de-manding that all concrete and bricks be removed or else these would be confiscated. It took a meeting between Savong, the Authority and the local police to come to a suitable agreement. Most recently, plans to build the fence for the new chicken run have had to be modified. Fences are usually started with a base layer of bricks to stop sand and soil erosion—but not this time: the Authority has deemed that the fence have no brickwork.


While Savong finds these things frustrating, I‟m glad at these times that he‟s there to navi-gate the problems and find solutions. This is where overseas-run NGOs can sometimes run into real grief—tangling with a changing bureaucratic landscape.
There are other difficulties in the neighbourhood from time to time, and these are not bureaucratic. Last week a small group of unemployed boys—they‟re referred to as gangsters—were har-assing students as they spilled out into the night-time after class. One evening a fight broke out, with these boys attacking some of the students.
The teachers were quickly onto the scene, Sopheak phoning the police who have an office just a few hundred metres away. They broke up the fight and at three of the gangsters was later apprehended.


Now here comes the tricky part. What would you do? On Savong‟s say-so the police offered to send the gangsters to jail for a year. (Justice, such as it is, is swift in Cambodia.) It would be Savong‟s decision the police said.
I spoke to Savong about this decision and he wasn‟t sure what to do—to offer some kind of restorative solution or to take a hard line. He told me: “Whatever I do, it must be seen by my students to be the right thing.” So on that basis he went to dis-cuss the options with the students who were affected.


In the end Savong met up with the gangsters and their families at the police station and in light of their ages (around 20, 21) Savong gave the offenders a second chance even while the po-liceman (whom I‟ve met—a genial man) played “bad cop” and urged jail. The meeting had its effect, and we frankly doubt if the gangsters will be trouble again. Again, Savong was adept at navigating the local system.

Savong's School Round Up 2010

All the following articles/posts can be found on the main website (Savong) and have been lovingly crafted by Duncan, our amiable Kiwi pal who continues to burn the candle at both ends with full time work and helping enormously with the school/orphanage.  See you in Siem Reap in April/May of 2011, mate, first round is on us.

Well, 2010 is all wrapped up and it has been a monumental year for Savong‟s project. During the last 12 months the school has experienced record attendance, four senior stu-dents have been granted uni-versity scholarships, the num-ber of children in care of the Savong orphan Centre (SOC) has increased to 35, the SOC has a more sustainable food supply thanks to the new fish ponds and vegetable gardens, and the centre has introduced two community schemes—one in the form of sewing classes for local women, and the sec-ond in the form of a health clinic which provides free medical diagnosis and care for the local community.

The growth has been matched, mostly, by an expanding support base for the project with an increased number of volunteers and individual sponsors, as well as sig-nificant fund-raising initiatives in Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand—each making a timely difference.

All growth comes with a few pangs and two issues include Savong‟s sheer busy-ness (he‟s stretched too thin) and consequently inconsistent communication with arriving vol-unteers.
Another issue—increasing and fairly unhelpful pressure from the local Apsara authority who are placing real restrictions on new building, paving and fencing work.

Cha Senh, one of the boys at the SOC cools down at Kulen Mountains waterfalls. The children have been on a number of whole-day excursions this year and these greatly enrich their experience as a group.

Ein Guten Rutsch to You All

Why do Germans call New Year's Eve Silvester? And what's with all the mustard-filled doughnuts, firecrackers, and melted lead? The Local has the low-down.

No your friend isn't planning to ring in the New Year with someone named Sylvester instead of you. Silvester is the German name for New Year's Eve – owing to the fourth century Pope Sylvester I. Eventually made a saint by the Catholic Church, his feast day is observed on December 31.

St. Sylvester’s day became associated with New Year's Eve with the reform of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, when the last day of the year was fixed at December 31. But despite the holiday's Christian name, many German New Year's traditions can be traced back to the pagan
Rauhnächte practices of heathen Germanic tribes, which took place at the end of December and beginning of January.

Instead of recognizing a single day as the winter solstice, the Germanic tribes observed twelve
Rauhnächte – hairy nights, so called due to the furry forms of the deep winter demons – or Rauchnächte – smoky nights, due to the practice of smoking the spirits out of one’s house on January 5. Bringing very little sun to the northern regions, the twelve Rauhnächte were considered days outside of time, when the solar and lunar years were allowed to re-synchronise. Silvester took place right in the middle of the twelve Rauhnächte

As in many other countries, the Germans celebrate
and was the night of the god Wotan’s wild hunt, a time of particular commotion and celebration. Silvester with fireworks, champagne, and boisterous social gatherings. Making noise is key: the ruckus of fireworks, firecrackers, drums, whip-cracking and banging kitchen utensils has been driving away evil winter spirits since the days of the Germanic Teutons. One of the most famous German firework displays takes place at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Private celebrations with Böllern

Besides being a fun spectacle, the light of pyrotechnic displays also provides a surrogate sun during the dark
(firecrackers) are also common. Silvester night. Suffering the winter bleakness in their northern regions more than anyone, the Teutons feared that the sun, which they thought of as a wheel that rolled around the earth, was slowing to a stop during the darkest days of winter. Perhaps as a sign of protest, they lit wooden wheels on fire and sent them rolling down mountains and clubbed trees with flaming cudgels. These practices are likely forerunners to the Silvester firework tradition.

The belief that the sun was slowing to a stop also led to the German tradition of doing no work on New Year’s Eve: everything should stand just as still on earth. Above all no one should do any laundry, because the god Wotan made his rounds with his army of devils for a wild hunt during Silvester and would be terribly angry if he got caught in any clotheslines.

Because the twelve
Rauhnächte – now associated with the twelve days of Christmas made famous by the partridge in a pear tree – were days outside of time, all manner of supernatural events were possible. Spirits of all sorts charged through the night, either embodying the horror of winter or chasing it away. These figures still emerge in the Perchtenläufen of the Alpine areas of Germany, when troll-like forms cavort about with bells to drive away winter. Perchtenläufen take place in different Alpine cities between Advent and January 5, the last of the Rauhnächte.

The
Rauhnächte were also a time when the future for the New Year could be divined. Silvester in Germany still calls for oracle traditions, which often take the form of party games. Bleigießen (lead pouring) is the most popular Silvester fortune-telling tradition. Party-goers melt small lead forms with a candle in an old spoon and pour them into cold water. The lead hardens into a shape that supposedly bears a certain meaning for the New Year. An eagle, for example, indicates career success, while a flower foretells that new friendships will develop.

Other oracle traditions on
Silvester include swinging a pendulous object, such as a necklace or watch, and asking it a yes-or-no question. If the pendulum swings in a circle, the answer is “yes,” if it swings vertically, the answer is “no,” and if it swings horizontally, the answer is uncertain. Bibelstechen involves opening the Bible to a random page, closing one’s eyes and pointing to a random verse. The verse should provide some information or advice for the coming year.

Those who stay home on
Silvester in Germany are likely to be watching the 1963 TV recording of the British comedy sketch “Dinner for one”. The programme is an indispensable German New Year's tradition since 1972 and holds the Guinness record for being the most frequently repeated TV show in history.

Anyone in front of the telly will probably be wolfing down jelly doughnuts too. But watch out! At some point some Teutonic jokester thought it would be funny to put mustard in one or two of the
Pfannkuchen as a funny surprise for his New Year's party guests.

For those who go out on Silvester, good luck charms and New Year’s greetings are often exchanged. Acquaintances may give good luck charms to each other in the form of ladybugs, four-leaf clovers, horseshoes and pigs. The phrase
Guten Rutsch! is another common Silvester greeting. While many Germans now use it to wish someone a good “slide” into the new year, the word Rutsch more likely comes from the Yiddish word Rosch

So to have a
– which means beginning or head. Guten Rutsch! is simply to have a good start to the New Year! 

It's Not Just Britain

The number of people receiving jobless benefits will be dramatically slashed next year, saving taxpayers nearly 1€ billion, according to German officials. 

Daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Thursday that the Federal Employment Agency (BA) and Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen agree that in 2011, there would be around 7% fewer recipients Hartz IV long-term unemployment benefit compared with this year.

About 950 000 people who are ending this year on Arbeitslosengeld II long-term unemployment benefits are expected to return to the job market next year, the BA estimates.

The total saving to the government would be about 900€ million.

More at the Local.

Three Weeks To Go

Nearly, as we fly out on the 20th for a night at the Tune hotel at KL and then land in India on the 21st January.  Very much looking forward to seeing what this massive country will have in store for us, although leaving BKK will be a wrench.  Still, ktelontour means we have to do some travelling and so we'll be hitching up the rucksacks and heading into our next adventure.

And we'll be meeting up with Shaz & Dave, whom we haven't seen in fully two years.  Now that will be fun.

Not Quite Got the Hang Of It

We handed out a few small gifts to the hotel staff on Christmas Eve and I think everyone appreciated our quaint "Christian" custom.  However, the guys don't seem to understand that just because we did so they are obliged to reciprocate.  Since then we have received all kinds of wonderful presents from luxury soap, to exotic fruit baskets and to traditional good luck desserts, which are given to encourage good health, wealth and happiness.

OK, they are intended as New Year's gifts but the point remains, those that have the least offer the most and we are truly touched at the generosity.  The Imm Fusion Hotel, where we live for half of the year and proudly call the staff our friends- which takes care of the "happiness" part.

Wifey's hand is responding to the physio exercises which is slow and painful but heading in the right direction, so we have the "health" issue sorted (almost).  So that just leaves the "wealth" bit.

Ah yes, as they say "two out of three ain't bad"- and with the Baht now closing down onto 45 to the pound, it looks like that one will be eluding us.  *sigh*

Petrol Up Again

Motorists face sharp increases in petrol prices in the new year as two tax rises coincide with an increase in the cost of oil, motoring groups have warned.

Increases to VAT and fuel duty will come into force next Tuesday (4th January, 2011), which will mean a typical family with two cars (how quaint, this is now the norm) will find its annual petrol costs rise by £104 to more than £1 700, according to the AA. 

Oil prices in New York yesterday increased to more than $93 a barrel and with freezing conditions affecting America and mainland Europe, experts predict a barrel of oil could soon pass the $100 mark.

The Conservatives previously pledged to introduce a “fuel duty stabiliser” to cut taxes on petrol when oil prices are high, however, Cameraman has failed to introduce the policy and ministers are now likely to come under pressure to offer help to motorists.

Hope no one is holding their breath...

Flying Down

Analysis by the Civil Aviation Authority shows that international business travel to and from the UK fell by 4.6% in 2008 and 22.2% in 2009, with a further slide in the first half of 2010.

Hardest hit in 2009 were routes between the UK and European Union, where volumes declined by 25%, and between the UK and North America (down 20%).  Both regions were particularly hurt by the crisis in the financial services industry, which saw a sharp fall in the numbers of bankers flying.

While the latest data shows a recent pick-up in business travel with global economic recovery, the first half of 2010 remained 28% below 2008's level-  though a contributory factor was the closure of European airspace due to Icelandic volcano disruption.

I'm sure the enforced closure of UK's airports due to snow won't have helped the figures and increased APD is also another contributing factor to lament.  Still, what do I care about business travel- we do budget by the bucketful.  

More at TTel.

End Run

Book publishing industry analysts predict the first decline in worldwide, printed book production in 2012.

Dancing to Victory 12

Slovenia's players celebrate after striker Zlatan Ljubijankic scored a goal during their Group C first round 2010 World Cup football match on June 18, 2010 at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg

Get down: Slovenia's players celebrate after striker Zlatan Ljubijankic scored a goal against the United States during the 2010 World Cup

Dancing to Victory 11

Djibril Cisse of Sunderland celebrates with Kenwyne Jones after Jones scores their third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Sunderland

Pas de deux: Djibril Cisse (right) of Sunderland celebrates with team mate Kenwyne Jones

Dancing to Victory 10

In 1974 Wimbledon's Men's Singles champion Jimmy Connors leads the dancing at the end of tournament ball with Women's Singles champion Chris Evert

Singles or doubles?: In 1974 Wimbledon's Men's Singles champion Jimmy Connors lead the dancing at the end of tournament ball with Women's Singles champion Chris Evert

Dancing to Victory 9

Samie Parker #18 of the Kansas City Chiefs does a dance next to the goal post after scoring a touchdown

American smooth: Samie Parker of the Kansas City Chiefs does a dance next to the goal post after scoring a touchdown

Dancing to Victory 8

rouch's robot

Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's 200 Metres Final during day six of the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium on August 20, 2009 in Berlin,

Nut and Bolt: Usain Bolt of Jamaica strikes his static 'dance move' after winning a sprint gold medal in Berlin

Dancing to Victory 7

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France celebrates match point during the first round match against Robert Kendrick of USA on Day One of the Wimbledon

Tsong and dance: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga celebrates with a jig after beating Robert Kendrick at Wimbledon

Dancing to Victory 6

New Zealand All Blacks captain Richie McCaw (centre) leads the players as they perform the Haka

Bump and grind: New Zealand All Blacks captain Richard McCaw (centre) leads the players as they perform the Haka

Dancing to Victory 5

England's Peter Crouch celebrates after scoring during their international friendly soccer match against Hungary at Old Trafford

Mashed Potato: Peter Crouch celebrates after scoring during their international friendly soccer match against Hungary

Dancing to Victory 4

Rugby star and former husband of Charlotte Church Gavin Henson gazes into the eyes of dance partner Katya Virshilas during BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special

Rugby ball: Rugby star Gavin Henson gazes into the eyes of dance partner Katya Virshilas during BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special

Dancing to Victory 3

Roger Milla of Cameroon celebrates scoring his first goal during the World Cup eighth final match between Cameroon and Colombia at the San Paolo Stadium on June 23, 1990 in Naples

Pole dancing: Roger Milla of Cameroon celebrates after scoring against Colombia during the 1990 World Cup

Dancing to Victory 1

Our last "lazy posting" of the year see TTel check out victory dances- it's a tad tenuous but I'm not feeling to creative at the moment.  We'll bung them up over the next few posts, then.  :o)

Kevin Pietersen (C) and the English cricket team perform the sprinkler after winning the fourth test during day four of the Fourth Test match between Australia and England at Melbourne Cricket Ground

Watering can-can: Kevin Pietersen (centre) leads the England cricket players in the 'sprinkler' routine at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Dancing to Victory 2

Brett Lee of Blues celebrates the wicket of Ed Joyce of the Sharks (unseen) during the Airtel Championship League Twenty20 game NSW Blues v Sussex Sharks

Twist and shout: Australian Brett Lee can't contain himself after taking a wicket in a Twenty20 game

I Want a Pay Rise

Being nice to your boss won't get you a pay rise according to a new study, which showed that only aggressive negotiators get what they want.

Researchers found the most effective strategies for securing a bigger salary were to be assertive and “not take no for an answer”. Workers who initiated pay negotiations and pursued a raise aggressively had the most success, the study found.

Employees who had “done their homework” in advance of negotiations also earned themselves more holidays and perks such as mobile phones and company cars, but more risk-averse employees, who compromised in the hope of not souring relationships, fared the worst as they eventually caved to management wishes.

Why can't one be nicely aggressive?

Cosy Britain, a Soft Touch

Almost 750 000 welfare claimants refused to work or gave up jobs to claim benefits, new figures have revealed. 

Ministers said the data from the Department for Work and Pensions, suggest that over the past decade, thousands of people have attempted to “play the system” and avoid work.  The figures show that over the last decade, 744 000 people were “sanctioned” and had their benefits reduced for refusing to comply with rules meant to push them towards employment.

About 177 000 people receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance refused jobs they were offered and another 444 000 left jobs voluntarily and made a claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance.  A further 123 000 people faced sanctions when claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance after losing their job through misconduct.

Under previous rules, people refusing work or leaving employment without good reason faced “variable length sanctions,” having their benefits cut for between 1 and 26 weeks.

More at TTel.

The People Speak

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is France's most irritating celebrity, according to a new poll. 

The Italian-born singer-model came top of a list of "personalities you want to smack" published by the French magazine VSD, with a slap-rating of 52%.  Behind her came the actors Alain Delon and Gerard Depardieu and footballer Eric Cantona.

According to VSD, Bruni-Sarkozy's fall from grace is partly due to her "grande bourgeoise" lifestyle and partly to an antimonarchical "Marie-Antoinette" syndrome among the French public. The president's wife is most unpopular among other women.

Funny, I'd have put her in second place- her husband is well worth lamping.

How Could We Not?



And from Top of the Pops (1978) too.  :o)

What a Coincidence

Bobby Farrell, the frontman of the 1970s disco group Boney M, died on the same day as Rasputin- the subject of one his biggest hits.

Farrell, just 61, had performed in St Petersburg midweek but had complained of breathing problems before and after his show, according to his agent.  Staff at his hotel discovered him after he failed to answer a wake-up call.  Coincidentally, the date of his death, 29th December, was the same as Grigori Rasputin, the infamous Russian mystic who was an adviser of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, who died in 1916.

Rasputin was the name of a 1978 Boney M hit, reaching number two in the British charts. 

Johnny Foreigner Doing a Bunk

Councils across the UK wrote off thousands of parking tickets worth millions of pounds in the last two years as they cannot trace drivers of foreign-registered vehicles to which they have been issued.

A range of 20 councils and Plod Farces across the UK which had passenger and freight ferry terminals, ports and other major transport hubs near or in their area responded to a Freedom of Information request.  Among the highest value of tickets written off were areas including London, Portsmouth, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

More at the ES.

Top 10 Strangest Stories of 2010

Ripley’s reveal their Top Ten strangest stories of 2010:

Bearded Woman Finds Son: Vivian Wheeler was born with hypertrichosis (werewolf syndrome) and as a hermaphrodite (both male and female reproductive organs) and was told she couldn’t have children. But at 29, she gave birth to a boy, who was promptly taken away from her by her boyfriend and put up for adoption. In 2010, after years of searching, Richard Lorenc found his mother and they were re-united.

Ripley the Dog: The living, breathing big pile of fur found in a ditch in Houma, La., turned out to be a one-year-old poodle. As he was being shaved, the vet decided to name the pooch Ripley, because “Believe It or Not!, there is a dog under here.” The before and after photos garnered world-wide attention and less than 6 weeks after being discovered, Ripley was well enough to be adopted. Believe It or Not!

Longest High School Football Game Ever: A high-school football game in Texas turned into an endurance battle as Jacksonville beat Nacogdoches in 12 overtimes, 84-81, breaking the old record of nine extra frames. The game ended at 12:54 a.m., after the young boys battled for more than five hours.

Spray-on Clothes: Forget about all the medical breakthroughs in 2010, for surely it will become known as the year that scientists developed an instant, sprayable, non-woven fabric that can be sprayed onto a nude body to form clothes that not only cover, but can be taken off, washed, and worn again.

Deep Fried Beer: In a competition at the Texas State Fair, Mark Zable unveiled Fried Beer. In a patented process, he puts beer into a doughy pocket and deep fries it. The quick fry hardens the crust, but the beer remains a fully potent brew. Those who sampled it were carded!

Dead Body in a Car for 10 Months: Shortly after a homeless woman in California was befriended by a motorist, she died unexpectedly. The driver, not knowing what to do with the body, drove it around for 10 months, next to a box of baking soda to help negate the smell. The corpse was discovered by police who smelled the stench, looked in the car and saw a leg poking out from under a pile of clothes.

Man Shot in Head Finds out 5 Years Later: A man living in Germany walked around and functioned normally for five years without noticing he had been shot in the head. The .22 caliber bullet was found when the man went to the doctor to have what he thought was a cyst removed. All he could remember was that it probably happened in 2005 at a New Year’s Eve Party and that he was “very drunk.”

Dog Chews off Man’s Toe: A 48-year-old Michigan man credited his dog Kiko with saving his life by chewing off his diseased big toe as he lay passed out in a drunken daze. The terrier gnawed off his right big toe which turned out to be badly infected due to Type 2 Diabetes. The dog ate off the diseased tissue and left the rest untouched.

Woman Tries to be the Fattest: A 42-year old, mother of two wants to become the world's heaviest living woman. Donna Simpson currently weighs more than 600 pounds and her desire is to top 1,000 pounds. She works as a model on a website called supersizedbombshells.com, where the curious pay to watch videos of her eating or walking. She spends nearly $750 per month in groceries for herself and admits that she is as hungry for attention as she is for the junk food she eats every day.

Cat Predicts Death: Oscar the cat lives at a nursing and rehabilitation center in Providence, R.I. He roams the halls, is generally unsociable, and spends little time with anyone who has more than a few hours to live. He rarely errs in his predictions and this year extended his predicting streak to 50. He senses death and cuddles with the elderly patients until they pass. 

Back to the Name Game

Play it Again, Sam

The city of Casablanca has had at least one nightclub called "Rick's" since 1946. The city of Ricks, New Mexico has had a nightclub called "Casablanca" since 1971.

Job of a Life Time

Only one in ten Brits is currently in the career they dreamed of as a child,  it has been found.  More than nine out of ten admit they are "totally dissatisfied" with their current job and would "quit tomorrow" if they had the chance.

Nearly two-thirds still harbour ambitions of pursuing their childhood dreams, with the majority having done so for more than ten years, but a lack of contacts, courage and confidence means less than a fifth of the UK workforce has taken active steps towards making a career change.

Recycling

Scientists working at Amazon have developed a new technology which they claim could mean the end of unwanted presents.  The on-line retailer has been granted a patent for a "gift conversion" system which allows users to swap dodgy presents before they even arrive.

It's said the system would allow users to "blacklist" friends and family who frequently give bad gifts and set "rules" for their presents.  This could be an automated exchange for another item, a different clothing size or gift vouchers.

Always assuming your relatives shop at Amazon in the first place.

Outstanding



During a Greek second-division match against Levadiakos, Veria FC found themselves in front of goal with a clear chance of scoring, but within just 11 they'd missed five sitters, each of which should have ended with the ball in the back of the net.  To compound matters, they lost the game 0-1.  :o)

Bring a Bottle

After TUC general secretary Brendan Barber’s claimed that 2011 will be ‘horrible’ and will see cuts in jobs and real cuts in living standards, tickets sales for this years TUC New Year’s Eve party have fallen away dramatically.

Barber insisted that celebrating the dawn of 2011 would be another example of ‘the bourgeoisie using the blood of the workers to oil the wheels of capitalism’.

Organisers of the event have tried to play down Mr Barber’s claims by insisting it will be ‘a really fun party with some great entertainment and a disco after,’ but New Year’s Eve revellers seem reluctant to buy tickets in the fear that the party might serve to highlight the patriarchal hegemony inherent in the system.

“Just because 2011 has all the signs of being a truly miserable year for vast numbers of the population, that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate,” insisted party organiser Jenny Scott.
“Everyone needs to let their hair down once in a while regardless of whether they are shackled by the ruling classes.”

The Public and Commercial Services Union’s New Year Hootenanny has also experienced poor ticket sales after leader Mark Serwotka insisted that anyone letting off a party popper on New Years Eve should be shot.

“Wearing fancy dress or inhaling helium from a balloon so your voice goes squeaky is playing into the hands of this government.”

“We must stand firm and show them that we mean business, and you can’t project that if you’re eating brie and cranberry parcels and dancing to the Ultimate Disco Party Mix.” he urged.

NT.

2 Q @ the po

As the latest government figures showed that one in five people will live to be 100, post offices have begun preparing for exponential growth in their queues at locations around the country.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said its figures suggested 10 million people – 17% of the population – would become centenarians, causing chaos at Post Offices, and forcing the Queen to outsource centurion birthday card production to the lowest Philippine bidder.

A Post Office spokesperson told reporters, “We are embarking on a twenty-year building programme which will provide sufficient queuing areas around all Post Offices for the thousands of doddery old dears who need a second class stamp but don’t trust the dispensing machines.”

“If we do nothing, in a few years we could face scenes at every post office reminiscent of the queues at a Twilight premier, except it will reek of the piss from old women being a bit racist instead of over-excited teenage girls.”
An ageing population is the largest concern for many economists, who claim that unless you can find a way for a deeply-unpleasant ninety year-old woman to be productive, the future economy is absolutely screwed.

Economist William Matthews told us, “If we could somehow harness the energy created when a group of old people get together to moan about young people, then perhaps we could solve the global energy crisis overnight.”

“As it is, old people will significantly outnumber teenagers in the coming years, raising the terrifying spectre of gangs of old people roaming the streets, intimidating the rest of us, and scavenging for whatever they can find to top up their meagre pensions.”

“Or we could just take a long hard look at Logan’s Run and realise they had the right idea after all.”

NT.

Top 10 stories of 2010

From WikiLeaks and the Afghanistan War to volcanos and earthquakes, 2010 had them all- according to global post:

WikiLeaks
 
1) WikiLeaks The end of secrets. WikiLeaks is a game-changer that highlights the potency of the internet.
Like it or not — like Julian Assange or not — WikiLeaks has changed the nature of confidential information, especially government documents. No government, corporation, army, diplomat, celebrity or anyone else can be absolutely sure that what they write, video or photograph will not be made public on the web.
Assange started off 2010 by releasing a riveting, unsettling video of a U.S. helicopter gunship attacking suspected Iraqi insurgents which turned out to be unarmed Iraqi civilians and two Reuters cameramen.
WikiLeaks ended the year with the mega-release of 250,000 U.S. State Department cables and Pentagon documents that had an impact in every corner of the world. Add to that the ongoing drama of the sexual misconduct charges against Assange, the attempts to shut down WikiLeaks and the hackers’ revenge — and you’ve got the story of the year.


 
2) Afghanistan War — The ongoing conflict between the U.S. forces and its allies versus the Taliban has been at the top of the news. U.S. President Barack Obama’s controversial counterinsurgency strategy led to the downfall of U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal and the return of Gen. David Petraeus. Talks with the Taliban were debated. U.S. aid projects designed to build support among Afghan civilians inadvertently channeled funds to the Taliban, as uncovered by GlobalPost.
No progress was seen in locating and hunting down Osama bin Laden. The border with Pakistan was both impenetrable and porous. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke died saying the Afghanistan war must be stopped. But it goes on into Year 10.

 
 
3) EU financial crisis — The euro started off 2010 as a stable and highly valued international currency. Then the Greece debt crisis showed the weakness of the loose economic system allowing each country to run up its own deficits and balance its book — or not. We learned about the PIIGS — Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain — all countries with economies so highly indebted that they would need to be bailed out. Germany came to the rescue of Greece, but can it carry all the other countries? This story continues.


4) Haiti earthquake — The cataclysmic earthquake shot Haiti to the top of the world news on Jan. 12. More than most natural disasters, the quake exposed the extent of Haiti’s dysfunctional government, poverty and lack of basic infrastructure. The outbreak of cholera and the chaotic elections kept the Caribbean nation in the headlines but no solution to the country's misery appeared.


 
5) North Korea — The world’s bogeyman, Kim Jong Il, was in fading health and prepared a successor, a previously little-known son, Kim Jong Un. But to take over the reins he had to show the world he is as frightening a wild card as his father. The sinking of a South Korean warship and the shelling of a border island followed. North Korea's nuclear program worried neighbors and distant countries alike. North Korea looked belligerent and unstable. South Korea and the United States scrambled to find a strategy to contain North Korea, without much luck. China appeared not to know what to do with its loose cannon ally.

Iraq: U.S. troops withdraw
 
6) Iraq The United States forces withdrew some 90,000 combat troops from Iraq by Aug. 30 but that was not the end of the story. Iraq continues to be a turbulent cauldron of violence and instability. More than 4,400 U.S. troops were killed in the Iraq War and at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians. The March 7 election resulted in an unwieldy government not fully in control, as ethnic and Islamic rivalries exploded into violence. The Christian minority was a target of bombings. Ordinary Iraqis cannot see when the country will enjoy stability and prosperity. And the United States still has 49,000 troops in Iraq who are to be pulled out by the end of 2011.
The Iraq story is not over. Not by a long shot.

South Africa World Cup
 
7) World Cup — Vuvuzelas, great soccer, Nelson Mandela, striking stadiums, Shakira. South Africa’s success in holding a festive World Cup was perhaps more noteworthy than Spain’s 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final on July 11. Despite the dire predictions of many doomsayers, the tournament took place without any major incidents of crime or violence. It was an exhilarating success not just for South Africa but for the entire African continent. There were countless gripping matches and scores of glorious goals. And who can forget the prescient predictions of the late, great Paul the octopus? This was the best good news story to lighten up 2010.

Pakistan floods
 
8) Pakistan floods — The floods that swept through Pakistan put approximately one-fifth of the country underwater and made a staggering 20 million people homeless. The devastation — estimated to cost $43 billion — and the human suffering highlighted Pakistan’s precarious state. Widespread corruption prevented effective government action. Add to that Pakistan was in an undeclared civil war against insurgents who made the border with Afghanistan uncontrollable. Terrorist violence broke out across the country. Pakistan received just one-fifth of the aid requested by the United Nations and is still recovering from the floods. It shows little progress in resolving the corruption. The floods highlighted that Pakistan is a weak, uncertain ally for the United States.

Mexico Drug War
 
9) Mexico’s drug war — Pitched battles between Mexican army and drug gangs. Attacks on police stations by drug runners. Bodies disintegrated in vats of acid. Decapitated heads in refrigerators. Underground tunnels between Mexico and the United States. Mexico's drug war threatened to rage out of control along the border with the U.S. The lawlessness jeopardized the Mexican government but it also pointed to a deep, continuing problem of drug abuse in the United States. The Mexican drug cartels are merely supplying the demand.

Chile Miner
 
10) Chile earthquake and Chile miners — Chile hit the world's headlines when an earthquake rattled the remote southern part of the country. The damage and deaths were relatively contained but the temblor shook down some big new buildings, exposing that some construction did not meet Chile’s codes.
As the country recovered from that disaster, 32 miners were trapped in a shaft a half a mile below the earth’s surface. There seemed little hope for the miners, until a drill reached the chamber where they were trapped and a note came back saying they were all alive. More weeks followed and we tuned into their ongoing drama. Chile’s president welcomed them when they finally were brought to the surface. Another story with a happy ending.

Indonesia Vvolcano Mt Merapi
 
Bonus: Volcanos — Iceland and Indonesia — 2010 the year of volcanos. Who can forget Eyjafjallajokull? That's the Icelandic volcano that erupted in March 2010. The giant cloud of ash it sent into the sky disrupted air traffic across Europe on and off until May 2010.
Then in November, across the globe, Mount Merapi erupted in Indonesia, killing more than 100 people and threatening the city of Yogyakarta.

The Final Curtain

Perth, Australia has the highest ratio of playhouses to residents of any city in the world.

It's just a pity they have nothing to show in them...

No Go For Skype

China has announced yesterday that it is making the use of Skype illegal after it said that all internet phone calls were to be banned, apart from those made over two state-owned networks, China Unicom and China Telecom.

Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are already blocked in China and Google closed down its Chinese servers last year after heavy government pressure. 

More at TTel.