Removed – a look at phone addiction


How often to you spend quality time with your family and friends?…a lot? Well, here is what it actually looks like (most of the time).

American photographer Eric Pickersgill photoshopped away the smartphones and digital devices from his portraits of everyday life. The results are -startling. Have a look for your yourself…




GIETHOORNS ( Goat Horns), the name originated from the first inhabitants’ discovery of hundreds of goat horns. 

Giethoorn is a village in the Dutch Province of OVERIJSSEL.  It is located in the municipality of STEENWIJKERLAND, about 5km southwest of STEENWIJK.

It used to be an auto-free zone, but nowadays, exceptions are made.  It became locally famous, especially after 1958, when the Dutch film-maker Bert Haanstra made his famous comedy FANFARE there.  In the old part of the village, there were no roads (though a cycling path was eventually added), and all transport was done by water over one of the many canals.  The lake in Giethoorn was formed by peat-unearthing.


Tourism has had a relatively small influence on the old traditional town.  The village, still only fully accessible by boat, is one of the several places commonly known as the Venice of the North or Venice of the Netherlands.


Giethoorn has 180 bridges.  Giethoorn is a very popular attraction among Chinese tourists.  The village of only 2,620 inhabitants sees between 150,000 to 200,000 Chinese tourists every year.


Since all transport is done buy boat, Giethoorn has punts (traditional flat-bottomed boats that are used for transport over the canals.  Giethoorn has a long shape and is separated into three tiny settlements : NOORDEINDE, MIDDENBUURT & ZUIDENDE. The DORPSGRACHT is the central canal that connects these separate settlements.  The farms and houses are separated from each other by small canals.  The BULTRUGBOERDERIJ is a common type of farm in Giethoorn.  It seems to have a large bump because the barn is larger than the house in front.

Giethoorn is so peaceful, so different and has such simple beauty, that it hardly seems real ——- gently gliding along small canals past old, but pretty, thatched-roof farmhouses.  You can turn down a side street (another small canal) and drift under a wooden bridge where an elderly resident may be strolling over to see a neighbour.


Giethoorn is Holland’s “water village”, and the loudest sound you can normally hear is a quacking of a duck or the noises made by other birds.  The little village is so dependent on its waterways that many houses cannot be reached by road.  When the postman delivers the mail, he travels by punt.


Boating has been a popular tourist attraction here for years, with 90km of canoe trails and scores of motorboats to rent, but now, instead of conventional outboard motors, the hire shops stock so-called WHISPER- BOATS ———– dinghies driven by electric motor.  There are three canal-side museums to visit and the SCHREUR shipyard, where the Giethoorn punt is built.

Earth as seen from the sky

Yann Arthus-Bertrand has flown over 100s of countries to create an extraordinary aerial portrait of Planet Earth as never seen before.  A poignant testimony to the breath-taking beauty and variety of Earth as photographed from above, and a timely warning of man’s impact.

The Heart of Voh

(1) THE HEART of VOH, New Caledonia : This image of a “heart-shaped” patch of land, which also adorned the cover of Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s book, is one of the most famous photographs from the ambitious project.  New Caledonia, a group of islands in the Pacific, has of mangrove that is quite low but very dense especially on the western coast of the largest island GRANDE-TERRE.  Inland where sea water only penetrates during spring tides, vegetation is sometimes replaced by naked and over-salted stretches of land called TANNE, like near the town of VOH  where nature has drawn a glade in the “shape of a heart”.

Oil residue landfill

(2)  OIL RESIDUE LANDFILL from the exploitation of oil sands, Fort McMurray, Canada :  Often, what may initially seem like an abstract painting, takes on a different meaning once you know what you are really looking at.  To obtain 1 barrel of 159litres of crude oil, one has to extract 2tons of peat and soil and 2tons of sand.  With the money from the oil, the population of the town very close to Fort McMurray has rapidly increased over the past few years.  However, even if this wealth is advantageous for the province of Alberta, Oil Companies and the inhabitants, it is at the expense of the environment of us all.

Kilamanjaro snow

(3) KILIMANJARO’S DISAPPEARING SNOW, Tanzania :  This snow, which is more than 11,000 years old is about to disappear : global warming, deforestation, very low levels of precipitation —–scientists are wondering why the snow on Africa’s highest summit which, at 5,895 mts tall, is gradually disappearing.

Sanaa Old Town

(4) SANAA’S OLD TOWN & AL KHBIR MOSQUE, Yemen :  Sanaa’s Old Town is a labyrinth of backstreets that smell of “myrrh & incense” — of which Yemen is the world’s largest producer.  It can be a difficult place to negotiate on foot.  But working from the air has its challenges too.  Aerial photography is complicated, the weather needs to be good, you need authorization which is complicated because a photographer is always seen as a “spy in a foreign land”.  So, it is expensive ——- much more expensive than takinh photos on foot or by car.

Louis Saint Laurent icebreaker

(5) LOUIS-SAINT-LAURENT icebreaker in Resolute Bay, Canada :  An icebreaker is designed to open up maritime routes.  Since 1969, the Louis-Saint-Laurent is the largest and oldest of these ships operating in Canada.  With its reinforced hull, its powerful propulsion and its prominent stern, it moves forward on the “ice floe” that it cracks and breaks with its weight.  From BAFFIN BAY to the BEAUFORT SEA, navigation requires the use of such ships to provide human establishments, located at the furthest northern point, with fresh supplies.

Strongbreen glacier

(6) STRONGBREEN GLACIER in KVALVAGEN BAY, Norway : Not many people live in the SVALBARD Archipelago, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean.  Increasing temperatures and climate change are causing the ice to melt, easing access to this region which may be full of gas and petrol.

Crystalline formations Kenya

(7) CRYSTALLINE FORMATION on LAKE MAGADI, Kenya :  Surounded by high volcanic plateaus, these alkaline waters have a high salt content.  And, though the lake is hospitable, is it far from habitable ?  Millions of small flamingos come to feed from micro-algae.  One cannot fail to mention that the lake’s SESQUICARBONATE CRYSTALS ——– the purest in the world —- have been exploited, for over a century, to produce sodium carbonate used in the glass and detergent industries.

Flooded Honda Industrial Park Thailand

(8) FLOODED HONDA INDUSTRIAL PARK, Ayutthaya Province, Thailand :  Not even the six-metre-high water protection walls were enough to protect the industrial area of ROJANA, where the Honda plant is located, from the rising muddy waters of the CHAO PHRAYA River (2011).  Although parts of the cars were removed before the flood, a thousand of them were submerged for months and ended up destroyed.  The plant will be rebuilt at a cost of $650 million.

Flower power

Every zodiac sign is associated with a flower in God’s garden.
HoneysuckleARIES : The honeysuckle ——— Bees never resist the lure of the honeysuckle, its sweet scent and its honeyed nectar.  ARIES too tend to be the centre of attention, given your magnetism and charm.  But the honeysuckle is also a vine that clings to those around it and asks you the same this week, are you entwining yourself to persons and issues that aren’t your business ?  Choose your battles wisely.  The aroma of honeysuckle offers discrimination, it allows you to decipher the difference between true and false.  Honeysuckle also transforms anger into love and everyone knows how fiery the Ram’s temper is.
Poppy flowerTAURUS : The Poppy ——— Poppy as in popular : steadfast and devoted, you may not be sultry like Scorpio or fashionable like Aries but you are who everyone counts on as a true friend.  Your winning attributes are your simplicity, honesty and loving nature.  This week poppy asks you not to be stubborn or fixated on certain ideas but to go with the flow.  Certain concepts you are holding on to have become outdated and you need to change with the times.  TAUREANS can be tough.  The poppy seed (khus khus) has traditionally been used in Indian kitchens as cooling food.  Poppy oil is a natural painkiller.
LavenderGEMINI : The Lavender  ——- Like lavender landscapes green meadows with flecks of psychic purple, your creativity and intellect  contributes to the ideas of those around you and offers unique solutions.  Lavender asks you to make your health your first priority this week as you are ignoring aches and pains to get work on time.  Procrastination is bad in itself but with regards to health it can be fatal.  GEMINIS usually suffer from insomnia and stress-related ailments.  Sipping lavender tea diminishes hyperactivity and lighting a lavender-scented candle in your bedroom will help you to sleep better.
Iris flowerCANCER : The Iris —— Named after the Roman Goddess of the rainbow due to its iridescence, Iris is a flower that symbolises  majesty and royalty.  CANCERIANS too despite their initial introverted approach rule maternity and cardinal leadership.  This week you will feel threatened by some malice and spite but Iris reminds you that your position expects you to respond in a dignified manner.  Be practical, not emotional.  The perfume of Iris opens up your soul and your third-eye, encouraging the shy Cancer to come out of its shell.  Iris helps you seek out inner beauty and be true to yourself.
Marigold flowerLEO:  The Marigold  ——- Marigold is heady, rich and luxuriant.  Like LEO, it suggests a love for the finer things in life.  It is often wreathed into garlands offered to Hindu Gods.  Marigold gifts you  with the skills of extroversion and natural leadership.  The flower also reminds you to be gracious with those who are less fortunate than you this week.  You will have to walk that extra mile to help an acquaintance through troubled times.  You may feel selfish but your kind heart will get the better of you.  LEOS are more susceptible to rashes and skin breakouts and a tea made out of the petals of marigold can cure most skin ailments and oily complexions.
ChrysanthemumVIRGO :  The Chrysanthemum  ——– The Chrysanthemum is one of the most common and overlooked flowers in the Indian garden but it also has a simplicity and a durability that make it a popular choice among gardeners.  Like the chrysanthemum it is your resilience and your practicality that are your strengths.  VIRGO is called the virgin because you are not easily swayed by the lures of this world.  This week, Chrysanthemum urges Virgo to avoid complicated tactics to solving situations.  You will find easy answers if you keep it simple and minimalistic.  The Chinese steeped chrysanthemums, rock sugar and wolfberries in a kettle and sipped the tea as an antidote to heart attack.
Rose flowerLIBRA :  The Rose  ——- Renowned for its beauty, the rose is lesser known for its other virtues.  Its scent helps you to find balance which is especially beneficial  to LIBRA as you’re constantly confused.  Rose promotes artistic ability and encourages the sense of aesthetic.  It is also graceful and helps us to overcome the sense of awkwardness that a teenager experiences during adolescence.  Rose aske the LIBRAN to put themselves first this week rather than get involved in other’s dramas and get rewarded with ingratitude.  Have a hot bath with rose petals immersed in warm water.  It will balance you inner scales and help the perpetually lost Libran find a sense of direction.
Hibiscus flowerSCORPIO : The Hibiscus —– The SCORPIO perceptiveness is profound and intense but its energy can often be overwhelming and self-destructive, which is why Scorpio is represented by venom.  The antidote to calming your own vices can be found in the soothing Hibiscus.  Its scarlet petals represent your vitality and passion.  Hibiscus has been used in Ayurveda to aid digestion and provide cooling in summers which is ideal for the SCORPION constitution.  Hibiscus asks you to be gentle on yourself this week, to focus on your beauty and not on your flaws.  Hibiscus juice tastes almost like red wine and is used as a medicine to combat alcoholism.  Of all the signs, Scorpions are most susceptible to addiction.
DandelionSAGITTARIUS :  The Dandelion  ——– Horses love to snack on dandelion. They are an equine eatable.  Life is never boring around a SAGITTARIAN they are wacky and fun.  The dandelion is equally quirky among flowers, it looks like a fur-ball.  Strife can make the zany SAGITTARIUS boring and dandelion urges you to not to get too staid.  Stop taking things too seriously or get overly philosophical.  Embrace your inner child and let go of your worries.  Live freely.  Sagittarius often gets the sniffles, and dandelion tea naturally contains anti0allergens that can clear respiratory passages and offer relief to nasal blockages.
Jasmine flowerCAPRICORN :  The Jasmine  ——- CAPRICORNS are very competitive and take themselves too seriously.  Jasmine is light and floral., relieves stress and is renowned as an aphrodisiac.  This makes Capricorns and Jasmine the perfect combination, because jasmine negates all the Capricorn flaws.  Jasmine is the exotic flower of potency and tells Capricorn to  stop having doubts in their love-life and to be more trusting in their romantic relationships.  The Capricornian skin is most brittle to the effects of age and wrinkles.  Steep jasmine petals in sesame oil to make an exotic anti-aging oil.  Dab this on your face before you sleep and you will never grow old.
Orchid flowerAQUARIUS :  The Orchid  ——- The orchid is an aerial plant. It does not grow on soil like most plants but dangles off the bark of other trees and absorbs moisture from the air through its roots.  The orchid looks down on other blossoms and is a perfect representation of the AQUARIAN intellect and lofty thoughts.  However, orchid asks Aquarius not to be too haughty this week as you may rub a loved one the wrong way.  Accept that everyone has the right to choose their path and not everyone ascribes to your ideas.  Orchids can mimic other plants like vanilla, citrus and rose and their scents.
Lotus flowerPISCES : The Lotus  ——- The Lotus bears the secret knowledge of watery depths beneath much like PISCES.  It represents the Piscean intuition and sensitivity and the enlightenment that can be acquired from meditation and stillness.  This week, Lotus reminds Pisces that purity and perfection may seem unattainable to most but not to you.  Your watery constitution requires many nutrients that terrestrial foods do not provide.  Include lotus seed and water-chestnuts in your diet.
 ———–Nolan Lewis

Interesting libraries

One would think there are only so many ways to interest people in checking out a book  or just plopping down and opening a book.  Have a look at these “improbable libraries”.



It is composed of 4 towers that are shaped like “open books”.  They are built around a sunken and thickly forested courtyard.  It was constructed in 1996 to replace a former library structure that could no longer accommodate expansion.  It is one of the largest in the world boasting a 22-story structure.
(2) READING CLUB 2000 ——– Manila, Philippines



It was started when Hernando “NANIE” Guanlao thought of a way to honour and preserve the memory of his parents who inculcated in him the “love for reading”.  He gathered his old text books and set them outside his Manila residence to test if the community would be interested to borrow and read them.  They were.  Twelve years later, NANIE’S Library grew to contain 2,500 books.  As an additional service, he also runs a “BOOK BIKE” service, where he delivers books to poor areas in Manila.
(3) STOCKHOLM PUBLIC LIBRARY ———– Stockholm, Sweden



This is Stockholm’s first library to apply an “OPEN-SHELF DESIGN”.  It opened in 1928.  When architect Gunnar Asplund and librarian Fredrik Hjelmqvist decided that the people who would patronise the library could fetch their own books, librarians, all over the globe, rejoiced.  Recently, its “self-service” model was revitalised b more drive to infuse a “check-outs and returns” automation system.
(4) TRINITY COLLEGE LONG ROOM ——– Dublin, Ireland


The Long  Room Trinity College

Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest University also houses the largest library in Ireland.  The “oldest” and “rarest” of its collection is kept in the “LONG ROOM”.  With its more than 200,000 volumes, it is the largest “single-chamber” library in the world.  The “LONG ROOM” grabbed the “limelight” once again, recently, for being the “unofficial” inspiration for the Jedi Archives in the movie Star Wars —- Episode — 2 : Attack of the Clones.
(5) THE KENYAN CAMEL LIBRARY —– Serving Nomadic Population in Kenya


Meet the LIBRARY CAMELS of Kenya, who carry books and some camping gear.  Travelling librarians need a place to rest after a long journey across the desert.  The caravan caters to nomadic communities which are mostly illiterate due to lack of access to books.
(6) TAIPEI PUBLIC LIBRARY —- Beitou, Taiwan

Taipei Public Library

Taipei Public library1

The most “eco-conscious” building, in the country, is also a famous library in Taiwan.  It received the highest EEWH rating lately : the DIAMOND RATING for being the most “eco-friendly structure” in the country.  All wood used for its construction, came from sustainably-managed forests.  It also uses “PHOTOVOLTAIC CELLS” for generating power.  To insulate itself from the heat of the sun during daytime, its roof is equipped with 20cms “layer of soil”.  This building is also designed to collect rainwater to be used for toilet-flushing.  Not to forget, they have an interesting line-up of books.


Perugia sandro penna_007_tavoli

It’s not an “alien ship” you are staring at.  It’s not a “pink bubble-gum candy” designed by Hello Kitty, either.  It’s a POWER HOUSE of books, providing library services for the people of Perugia, Italy.  This is a public library named after the poet —- Sandro Penna.  It features “rose-coloured” glass walls designed to let sunlight in during daytime and at night it creates a “rare glow”.  The architect who designed it, Italo Rota, made a “3-storey disc” to exude an appearance of an “alien flying saucer”.
(8) MECHANICAL LIBRARIES —— Serving readers 24 hours a day in Beijing


In a district in Beijing, machines account for 31.6% of books loaned.  Even if you are fighting a good fight against the machine overlords, you’ll have to agree that anything that increases the number of books the public consumes —- can’t be all that bad.
(9) STUTTGART CITY LIBRARY —— Stuttgart, Germany



This amazing weird-looking structure is designed by Korean architect Eun Young Yi.  When it opened in 2011, it got mixed reviews from library connoisseurs, architects and even the locals.  It’s been ridiculed   and described as a “2-tone Rubik’s Cube” and a “box-shaped jail” for books.  But, it’s a HAVEN FOR NERDS.
(10) BILLY BOOKCASE ——- Sydney

IKEA Create World's Longest Outdoor Bookcase On Bondi Beach

In 2010, IKEA built the world’s “longest” outdoor bookshelf on Bondi Beach near Sydney.  The feat was in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the company’s BILLY BOOKCASE.  The shelves were filled with roughly 6,000 books and beach-goers were asked to trade in one of their own books for a copy on the shelves.



This library isn’t one for “subtlety” ————- Its exterior ensures you know that this is a library.  The building, which is clad in 22 of the favourite titles by local readers, might be one of the more memorable in the US.



A military-surplus 1979 Ford Falcon has been turned into a library by the artistt Raul Lamesoff, who drives it around  Buenos Aires handing out books.  He calls it, of course, “ARMA DE INSTRUCCION MASIVA ( Weapon of Mass Instruction).

Coolest heritage sites in India – Part 1

India’s Cultural and Historic Sites are numerous and spread across the entire country.  Many have a legacy dating back to more than a 1,000 years.


diskit monastery

diskit monastery statue


Located in rugged, mountainous terrain, DISKIT MONASTERY was established in the 14th century and is affiliated with the “yellow-hat” sect of Tibetan Buddhism.  The Monastery overlooks the Nubra Valley, one of the greenest places in an otherwise arid landscape of Ladakh.




These tall “cenotaphs” stand in memory of the Bundela Kings who ruled from the small town Orchha for nearly 300 years.  They are just some of the many ancient structures around Orchha built during their reign.

MEENAKSHI TEMPLE, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Madurai temple, India

Meenakshi temple 1000 pillar hall

Meenakshi Temple

Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple.

Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple f3808391

Although the current structure is about 400 years old, the Meenakshi Temple is known to have a history of more than 2,000 years.  Even today, it is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for people of the region.




One of the largest and oldest monasteries in Ladakh is the YUNG-DRUNG Monastery in Lamayuru Village, affiliated with the “red-hat” sect of Tibetan Buddhism.  The Monastery stands in a rugged landscape which was once under the waters of a deep, high-altitude lake.

MEHRANGARH FORT, Jodhpur, Rajasthan


Mehrangarh Fort


The Mehrangarh Fort was established in the 15th century on the top of a hill to provide safety from attackers.  The current structure, built in the 17th century, now showcases opulent interior palaces and houses a museum of cannon and other arms.

MYSORE PALACE, Mysore, Karnataka 



mysore palace interior

One of the most luxurious palaces in the region, the Mysore Palace celebrated 100 years of existence in 2012.  The elaborate lighting arrangement, which is turned on only on Sundays an festivals, adds to the glory of the site.

AMBER FORT, Jaipur, Rajasthan




Initially built in the last decade of the 16th century, Amber Fort has since gone through many makeovers.  The interior is generously decorated with murals and mirror work.

PADMANABHASWAMY TEMPLE, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala




The 18th century Padmanabhaswamy Temple, in Kerala, is known for its large mono-lithic idol, its pathways decorated with  a series of pillars and intricate wood carvings.




Khajuraho is a small town with dozens of ancient temples dotting its landscape.  They were built over a span of 200 years, between 950 and 1150 AD.  The Temples are known for the erotic sculptures and intricate carvings on their walls.




Founded in the 15th century, the Thiksey Monastery is noted for the similarity of its structure to that of Poatala Palace in Lhasa.  The stupas or chortens are commonly placed in front of Tibetan monasteries to ward off evil forces.


Award-winning Italian artist, Guido Daniele has an exceptional talent —– he can transform human hands into HANDIMALS —— hyper-realistic animal portraits.
handimals-hand-paintings-11With a career spanning 40 years, Guido began to explore and experiment with ‘body art, using the human body as a ‘canvas’.  Gradually, he perfected the art of making his models contort their bodies into specific positions and using his painting handimals-hand-paintings-8skills to turn them into realistic portraits and scenes.
In 2000, an art director asked him if he could paint animals on people’s hands ——–without using photo-shop.  “After I tried doing it, I was the 1st one to be positively surprised with the beautiful result,” he said.  “I did handimals-hand-paintings-7not know that a great artist, from Florence, Mario Mariotti, did the same artistic research before me.  From 2000 onwards, I began my research on the HANDIMALS.”
handimals-hand-paintings-9That same year, Guido released his world-famous HANDIMALS series, consisting of 77 highly detailed animals, painted on to hands that were twisted and manipulated into various positions to form beaks, trunks, feathers and more.
handimals-hand-paintings-6Guido believes that his work is so well received, because ‘hands’ ——- after the face ——– are the most expressive part of the human body. handimals-hand-paintings-5 “So seeing hands transforming into so many different things, such as animals or natural environments, is something that surely fascinates people, both children and adults.  I just look at my hands and try to imagine all different things and animals they could turn into.”
handimals-hand-paintings-4Guido revealed that he wanted to be an artist ever since elementary school.  “I was only 5 years old, when my teacher asked me to make a greeting card for the Headmaster,” he recalled fondly.  handimals-hand-paintings-3“It was obvious that I was the most creative and artistic child in the whole school.  So, after that episode, all my classmates began to ask me to do their drawings and caricatures.”
handimals-hand-paintings-2“I want to try to paint all what is possible to paint on hands and bodies : animals, flowers, materials, architectures, objects, cars, dreams,” he said.
handimals-hand-paintings-1“Now I am 62 years old, I only have 20 years more to find my artistic visionary in this world, in this life.  In my next handimals-hand-paintings-10life, I would like to be a doctor, surgeon, inventor or scientist and do something to make the human life less suffering —— build a better world.
Guido, who now lives and works out of Milan, is often contracted by some of the world’s biggest advertising agencies ——— they regularly use photographs of his ‘body art’ in various endorsements.  His work has also been used to help promote charities, such as the WWF.