Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Restaurant Review -Shanghai 360!

Hey there! Thanks for clicking by today! Everything`s hunky-dory with you, I trust... and no... hunky dory is not a type of fishing boat! Fill your mug, nudge a virtual doughnut or muffin onto your plate and sidle on over to the VIP table so I can bring you the latest restaurant review...

Yesterday, I had an appointment to see my doctor in Ottawa to get the results of the biopsy I underwent a few weeks back. Since Nong was off yesterday and my appointment was in the afternoon, we chose to drive up mid-morning and spend some time at the St Laurent Shopping Centre. We had not been there in about 8-9 years and it is the closest one to the hospital where my appointment was.

It was cyber Monday and the mall was not too busy...which suited us. We investigated the Food Court and it was quite a choice. Four Asian fast food restaurants! Japanese, Thai Express, Manchu Wok and a new one we had not seen before...Shanghai 360. After walking back and forth, we opted to try Shanghai 360 and it was a good choice. Lots of Chinese entrées along with either fried rice or noodles. Plus, and this is the Chinese first fast food place I have seen that offers Dim Sum... many kinds of steamed dumplings stuffed with beef or pork or chicken or shrimp.
I liked the look if the restaurant. It was clean, friendly and a little different. We were glad we tried it.

Nong had noodles, Shanghai fish and a veggie stirfry. I had the fried rice, Shanghai fish and honey garlic chicken. 

The fish was excellent...lightly battered, fresh not fishy and nothing was greasy...one of my pet peeves with many purveyors of deep fried foods. Even my fried rice was good and not greasy. 
It you find yourself in the east end of Ottawa and have got the hungries, we recommend giving Shanghai 360 a try. It`s in the food court on the second floor - St Laurent Centre.

Here are a few more pix I took of my fair lady and some of the Christmas decor.

See ya, eh!


PS: In case you are wondering, my doctor was pleased with the results of my biopsy and recommends just keeping me on an active watch...so I`ll do a blood test and see him every six months or so with the next biopsy in 1-3 years. 

Comments about yesterday’s post on a computer virus:

... from Mark in the U. K:

Bob, you have the opportunity with your blog to be educational, I enjoy reading many of them. But when todays story is actually a fake message that has no substance... just says everyone says its true so it must be true so pass it on and you do... to all your readers... then you have become a victim to the hoax and gave it a bigger audience.

This story has been been doing the rounds since 2006! The best advice to offer ANYONE with regards to virus's is to simply make sure your Anti Virus is always up to date, they have daily downloads to keep your PC ahead of the game. Also, google it... that will always tell you whats fake! :)

Dont stop what youre doing... this one is just a rotten tomato :)


... from Jim in St Marys, Ontario:

Good morning Bob
If you check snopes, you will find this a hoax. 
Have a good day.

Bob’s reflections:

Dang! That’s the second time my research assistant has messed up recently. I’m sending him for retraining. Never should have given him that coffee break!

Meanwhile, I appreciate the comments, fellas, and the advice, Mark. It is good to confirm that some people out there actually read my blog! 

Monday, November 30, 2015

New Computer Virus!

Hi ya! Glad you found time to click by today. Coffee's ready... and the tray of virtual doughnuts, muffins and pastries is a sight to behold. Grab a couple, fill your mug and c'mon over here to the VIP table while I tell you about a new computer virus you want to watch out for. Thanks to Audrey in Calgary, Alberta for sending this in!


In the coming days, DO NOT open any message regardless of who sent it
to you with an attachment called: BLACK MUSLIM IN THE WHITE HOUSE. It
is a virus that opens an Olympics torch that burns the whole hard disk
of your computer.

Directions: You should send this message to all of your contacts. It
is better to receive this e-mail 2 dozen times than to receive the
virus and open it. 

If you receive a message called BLACK MUSLIM IN THE WHITE HOUSE even if sent by a friend, do not open and shut down your machine
I don't recommend that you forward the notice you get, even if it is from a friend. Better to copy the message to a new document then email that... just in case something attached itself to the email you received. Could happen! An alternative would be to send a copy of this blogpost to your mailing list. I'd like that, too!

It is the worst virus ever announced by CNN. 

It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. 

This virus was discovered yesterday afternoon by McAfee. There is no
repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus destroys the Zero
Sector of your hard disk, where vital information function is stored.

Verified by    snopes.com 

Sounds like a doozie and one to be avoided, eh! SOme of these messages are valid while others aren't. Best to be on the safe side. Although you may be tempted, pouring coffee on your keyboard will NOT remove the virus!

Many innocent programs you download, come with unheralded attachments that are harder to get rid of than Alan Harper or cockroaches. If you do download anything, go to your list of programs and check if anything else downloaded itself. I usually check to see if anything else came in on the same date. If you don't recognize it, uninstall it ASAP!

See ya, eh!


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cornwall earthquake felt in parts of Quebec and N.Y. state

G'day to you! How're you doing today? Ready for a big mug of tasty coffee and a virtual doughnut, muffin or pastry? I don't see why not, do you?. Hey...fill your mug, grab a treat and c'mon over here to the VIP table while I fill you in on our very own earthquake! Uh-huh...you heard right...an earthquake this week right here in Cornwall, Ontar-i-ar-i-o.
Saturday, November 28, 2015, 8:37 PM - People in eastern Ontario were rattled by an earthquake in the early morning hours Saturday, with reports of shaking in and around Cornwall, Ont. The quake was felt in Montreal and northern New York.
Earthquakes Canada rates the tremor at magnitude 3.6, though the United States Geological Survey (USGS) later rated it 3.3, which is relatively low on the scale. It struck in upstate New York, 15 km south of Cornwall. I think the difference between the Canadian and US magnitude rating is due to conversion from Canadian to US...same as our dollar, eh!
However, its relatively shallow depth of 5 km made it noticeable to residents of the region, and reports of shaking have come in from eastern Ontario, upstate New York and Montreal.
No damage has been reported, but the Cornwall Seaway News said residents heard a loud crack before the rumbling started, lasting about 20 minutes. Nong said she heard the crack (sounded like a big bang). Me? I slept right through it. Didn't hear or feel a thing...including Nong trying to wake me up. No sir...when I sleep, I sleep and that's it.
Are earthquakes in the area common? Maybe not too frequent but we do get them. For example...
Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 10:53 AM - Towns in the Ottawa Valley were rattled by an earthquake Tuesday evening.
Natural Resources Canada confirmed the tremor, giving it a rating of Magnitude 3.8. It struck a little after 7:30 p.m.
While quakes of that magnitude are usually too weak to cause any noticeable damage, they can still be felt, and NRCAN says it was felt in Pembroke and Petawawa.
The Barry's Bay-based Valley Gazette newspaper reported it was felt during a council meeting in the town of Killaloe.
So there you go...no damage...no large splits in roads... just a bang so I am told and I had a good sleep while it was all happening!
See ya, eh!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Syrian Refugee Feeds Berlin Homeless as Way to Give Back to German People

Ah-salah-malaykum und guten tag! Yup...mixing up Arabic and German, what! Good to see you spiral down today. It's always a treat to see you and speaking of treats, fill your coffee mug, grab a virtual muffin or doughnut (aside: I just made a dozen oatmeal raisin muffins this morning. Want one?). Why mix Arabic and German. Read on...

Despite having lost everything, a Syrian refugee is doing his bit to return the kindness extended to him by German locals. For the past year, Alex Assali has been serving hot meals to the homeless in Berlin in order to “give something back to the people that helped him.”

Assali arrived in Germany in 2007, after fleeing Damascus on foot because his life was in danger for posting negative messages online about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He changed his name, adopted a new identity, and did his best to become not a burden but a blessing for his adoptive country. Since August last year, he has offering free food to those less fortunate than him.

A photograph of Assali standing on the side of a busy street, behind a table laden with hot rice, gravy, and bread, was recently posted to Facebook by his friend Tabea Bü. She revealed that Assali sets up a table outside Berlin’s Alexanderplatz station every Saturday and serves about 100 homeless people. The photo was shared thousands of times, and Tabea said they were overwhelmed with the positive comments.

I cannot begin to understand what he went through, but I’m so glad to have met him and to see what he does,” she wrote on Facebook. “He really has lost everything; he had to leave his family back in Syria because people wanted to kill him. Even though he doesn’t have a lot, he goes on the street and distributes food to the homeless. His motto is ‘give something back to the German people’… God bless him, he is a blessing for so many more.”

One of the signs posted on Alex’s table reveals that his is part of a Syrian Christian project to help the homeless or anyone in need in Germany. “Our target is to give something back to the people who helped us,” it reads. “We are not consumer people but we are people who love tender. We want to be a positive part in the German community. Want to be one hand (Syrian and German citizens) to help the others and help each other.”

“Yesterday, I was allowed to go with him and help, I am so fascinated by this man,” Tabea Bü wrote on Facebook. “Yeah, so I have this feeling like, God bless him as he is a blessing for so many more people! THANK YOU ALEX! ” Her photo eventually found its way on Imgur, where it has been viewed almost 2.9 million times.

Since then, Tabea said that both her and Alex have received supportive messages from all around the world.

Following all the attention he got online, Alex was contacted by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, for a short interview. “When I came to Germany, all the people were friendly and welcoming to me. They helped me learned the language and showed me around the city. On my first day in Berlin, when I came from Frankfurt, I couldn’t find the refugee centre, so an old lady took me by the hand and led me there herself. Many German gave me something. Now it’s my turn to give something back,” he said.

“I know what it’s like to have nothing, to lose everything, to live on the streets. I can understand the plight of the homeless in Germany and I I feel very close to them.”

Alex Assali studied computers in Germany, and currently works as an IT engineer. His favourite hobby is cooking.

Good for you, Alex! Your heart is in the right place.

See ya, eh!


Friday, November 27, 2015

Kids Place Warm Clothes on Street Posts for the Homeless to Pick Up

G'Day, eh! How are you doing? Thanks for clicking by today. I appreciate the company. Ready for a refreshing mug of coffee and a virtual treat? Go for it! Got a great story for you today about Canadian kids helping the homeless...

A group of Canadian kids are already spreading a bit of Christmas spirit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, by wrapping warm clothing around lamp poles for the city’s homeless to pick up and use. The unusual sight of warmly dressed poles caught recently the attention of locals, who stopped to click pictures to share on social media.

Every year, Tara Atkins-Smith collects warm clothing from her community, in order to give to the less fortunate. This year, she took to Facebook to call for donations and the response was overwhelming – their front porch was overflowing with bags of clothes. Since the family was traveling to Halifax on November 15 with their daughter Jayda and seven of her friends to celebrate her 8th birthday, Tara decided it was the perfect time to teach the children valuable life lesson.

The kids spent time handing out coats to any homeless they encountered on the streets and tied the rest around lamp posts for others to pick up. Each of the clothing items had a tag attached that read: “I am not lost. If you are stuck out in the cold, please take me to keep warm.” According to Tara, the experience  helped the children better understand the plight of homeless people having to brave the harsh winter on the streets. “When we got back in the car after an hour on the street, they were all freezing and crying for the heater to be on and complaining because they were cold. And they were bundled up,” she said.

There is no way to be sure that the coats left hanging on street posts were actually picked up by the homeless, but Tara says she\s not too worried about that. “I’m not saying it has to be homeless people, you know, someone who may work may need that jacket and not be able to afford it,” she said. “We just want to put out there that there’s always help to be found. I don’t want anybody to ever feel hopeless.”

By next morning, all the jackets, mittens, and scarves on the posts were gone. Photographs of the inspiring project have been shared about 8,000 times on Facebook, and got over 10,000 likes. Tara, who did something similar in Toronto in December last year, says she’s already planning next year’s coat drive. She’s hoping to spread the word well ahead of time, so more people can contribute. And she also wants to add $5 fast food gift cards so the recipients can also enjoy a hot meal.

“We’ve had help from others when we were in need, and we knew how great it made us feel,” said Zachary Atkins, Tara’s husband.

Way to go kids! Showing the Spirit of Christmas!

See ya, eh!


Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Patient Will See You Now

Hi ya! How're you doing today? Traffic in the cyberlanes congested as usual? Not to worry... you've made it this far and the coffeepot is just to your right. Lift and pour... lift and pour... great exercise, I say. Heft a megamuffin onto your plate for added strength training. Now on to the topic of the day and I'll spare you the anatomical jokes for once...

Professional patients now help train would-be doctors, especially in the most delicate and dreaded of exams (gynecological and prostate), where a becalming technique improves outcomes. 

One "teaching associate" of Eastern Virginia Medical School told The Washington Post in September that the helpers act as "enthusiastic surgical dummies" to 65 medical colleges, guiding rookie fingers through the trainer's own private parts. 

The prostate associate might helpfully caution, "No need for speed here," especially since he will be bending over for as many as nine probings a day. 

A gynecological teaching associate, mentoring the nervous speculum-wielder, might wittily congratulate pupils on having a front-row sight line the "GTA" will never witness: an up-close view of her own cervix. 

No thank you! Uh-uh! No way José! I've had five of those probes in the past year and a bit and that's enough, already! Nine a day??? That would take some dedication (or maybe a finger fetish?).

See ya, eh!


Source: Washington Post, 9-3-2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Man Generates Almost No Garbage in Two and a Half Year Trash-Free Experiment

A totally splendid good day to you! I hope you are in good health today (or at least as best as can be expected, eh). Pour yourself a mug of coffee (don't use a disposable stir stick) and a virtual doughnut or muffin (without the paper lining). C'mon over here to the VIP table while I tell you about Darshan's quest to be garbage-free.

Darshan Karwat, a post-doctorate at the University of Michigan, is making headlines for having maintained an incredibly frugal and sustainable lifestyle during his student years. The man gave up fast food, new clothes, and even toilet paper, until he got to a point where his trash for an entire year fit in just two plastic bags!

Karwat, who is originally from India, started the trash-free experiment when he lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and managed to keep it going for two and a half years. In the first year, he produced only 7.5 lbs of trash, and in the second year, he brought that number down to a meager 6 lbs, which is a mind-blowing 0.4 percent of the 1,500 lbs of yearly trash produced by the average American.

Looking back, Karwat says that his inspiration to start the project came from an episode of the radio show The Story, on which he heard of a British couple who lived trash-free. “I walked home from my laboratory at the University of Michigan and told my roommate Tim that I thought I could do better – I’d live trash- and recycling-free and that I’d start soon,” Karwat wrote in an essay forThe Washington Post. “And just like that, I began an experiment in individual activism in the face of large environmental problems.”

His trash mostly consisted of a few chip bags, glass milk-bottle caps, fruit stickers, and broken glass. He obviously had to make lots of sacrifices to achieve this – he stopped buying any kind of packaged food including cheeses, only drank milk from recycled glass bottles, and gave up on buying new clothes or stuff for his home – no gadgets, furniture, or even mugs. He began carrying his own fork, spoon, plate, and a bowl everywhere he went, just to avoid plastic cutlery.

“I needed to change the way I lived, and I needed some parameters,” he told The Washington Post. “Everything apart from food scraps (which I’d compost), toothpaste and soap (which were too difficult to recover), and toilet paper, counted as trash or recycling. I collected my refuse – concert tickets, stickers, plastic tags, packaging, glass, you name it – and didn’t throw it away.”

“I had to get creative,” he added. “When a restaurant furnished a napkin-wrapped fork and knife, I asked the server to change them for cutlery without the napkin. I’d remember to say “No straw!” after asking for water and to make sure the veggie burger I ordered didn’t come with a wooden pick holding it together. I did what I had to do, and it was awkward.”

But he did make a few exceptions. “I couldn’t always control other people’s behaviour, so junk mail wouldn’t count as my own recycling. I wasn’t going to be a bore and instruct a dinner-party host on how to reduce trash. And if someone gave me a gift – a token offered from the heart – I accepted it.” He also separated his requirements of single-use materials at his lab, from his personal habits at home.

Although Karwat didn’t give up toilet paper initially, five months into the experiment he realised that he’d have to, in order to be truly trash-free. And for him, that was the biggest challenge – he admitted that it was unreasonable to give up at the beginning. But eventually managed to get over the ‘gross factor’.

“Deep-rooted in culture’s psyche is its obsessiveness with its sanitary ways, toilet paper, and paper products chief among them,” he wrote on his blog when he made the decision to stop using toilet paper. “The ecological impacts of our standards of sanitation? Hmm. And so a few months ago, I gave up toilet paper. That’s right. No ‘recycled’ toilet paper, no toilet paper whatsoever. I use a little water bottle, and… my… hand. And take it easy, I still use soap.” (That's basically how traditional toilets in Thailand work).

“It works, and it feels much better than wiping your a** with a piece of paper.” *

Giving up on so many things also meant that Karwat’s social life took a beating. Bringing his own glass to parties to avoid using paper cups wasn’t cool, but in the end, he thought it was all worth it because he was able to prove that people could follow sustainable lifestyles if they choose to. And when he looks at the big picture, he doesn’t believe his life really changed all that much.

“In many ways, though, my life didn’t change much,” he wrote. “I had grown up in a humble setting in India, where I was accustomed to consuming as little as possible. I was a member of the People’s Food Co-op in Ann Arbor, where I bought my produce unpackaged. I didn’t even have to become a recluse. Rather, my quality of life improved. I learned to be more present in my choices, and I learned what is important to me, regardless of what others think.”

Karwat believes that if he could live a trash-free lifestyle, anyone can. And he says more people should give it a try, to be able to make a dent in America’s $52 billion trash industry that produces 250 million tons of trash every year. “We don’t have to go back in time to heed environmental boundaries,” he said. “We just have to be creative. What began as a one-year experiment ultimately lasted two-and-a-half years, the rest of my time in Ann Arbor.”

*Are you old enough to remember Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg? In Jack's famous book 'On the Road', he and Allen are talking about how they washed themselves with water after using the toilet instead of using toilet paper and one of them commented that they must be the only two people in the USA with clean butts!

See ya, eh!


Comment from Cousin Robin (U.K.):

 There are thousands of level crossings in Britain.

Bob's response:

Oops! Now where did I get that information from? I shall send my research assistant to bed without supper! Turns out there are more than 6300 level crossings in the U. K.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bob's Rail Rant!

Well, hey there! I’m delighted that you took time to spiral down from cyberspace to visit my little virtual café today! Don’t you wish Vial Rail was half as fast as the cyber network? Beam me to Toronto, Scotty! Well, that may not happen for a while but I have some thoughts I’d like to share with you as soon as you pour yourself a mug of coffee and get a virtual muffin or two to munch on as I bend your ear.

This past weekend we took VIA Rail from Cornwall to Oshawa to see my sister and my Mum (to celebrate her 95th birthday). It was a good trip but we were in the second to last seats in the last car...kind of like the tail and you know how those whip around. The train was shaking side to side (as they all do and me too sometimes), making clanging noises as though some one was dropping metal pots and pans and it struck me that the rail bed could probably stand a makeover. I must plead ignorance as to how often it is looked at and how closely.

Then as we left Kingston, the conductor announced that we were travelling at a slow speed because we were following a freight train. Aha! The trouble is that VIA Rail (which originated as a combined passenger service of Canadian National Rail (CNR) and Canadian Pacific Rail (CPR) shares the rails with the freights.  

What they need is a set of dedicated passenger rail lines. (Oh, I can hear it now “The cost would be staggering!") True, it would...but it wouldn't have to be done in a day, would it? 

If the government stopped throwing money at every other country in the world that has its problems and threw it instead at things IN THIS COUNTRY that really need fixing (you know what they are...more help for seniors...more doctors and nurses and hospitals and less wait time for health services... serious help for our aboriginal people...more services for veterans and wounded warriors... and a special budget to get Canadians some decent, up-to-date, high speed rail service, etc...etc...)

Do you remember the Turbo? It was Via Rail’s attempt at a high-speed rail link between Montreal and Toronto...which is an extremely busy corridor connecting Canada’s top two populated cities and several smaller cities, universities and colleges in between.  It failed miserably  because the rail bed could not handle the speedy trains and assorted other problems such as scheduling and sharing with the freight services.

Speaking of freights, the last time we used VIA Rail, we were lucky enough to catch an earlier train which promised to deliver us to our station almost three hours ahead of our planned ETA...except that around Kingston again, we were told there would be a delay because...wait for it...there was a disabled freight ahead of us. Are you beginning to get my drift here?

Oh, there is one more piece to this puzzle...level crossings. England hasn’t had level crossings in 50 + years! Why do we still have them? Back to our trip this past weekend. We arrived on time but I heard on the news the next morning that the train from Ottawa to Toronto, which follows a rail line down to the main Montreal-Toronto line and then connects with that, had a disagreement with a car at Belleville. If we had been on a later train Sunday, we would have been caught in that mess. Thankfully nobody was killed this time but level crossings need to be gotten rid of... sure it is expensive up front to do that but one at a time, eh (pick the most dangerous ones first, right) and get it done. It will save lives and reduce to almost zero delays caused by accidents. Look at the seven (was it) killed when a VIA Train plowed into an Ottawa transit bus a couple years back because of faulty signals...at a level crossing.

Japan has its Shinkansen bullet trains that travel around 300 km an hour and they are working on 400+! These travel all over Japan and cut travel time by up to 75%  of the old time. China has the same. What about us? North America seems to be ridiculously archaic in its rail travel.

What would I do about it?

1. Dedicated rail lines for passenger travel.

2. Build a brand new rail bed designed to handle high speed trains. Start with the major corridors.

3. Hire a Japanese consulting company to tackle this. If we want the best, we need to get the best experienced help we can...and that would be from Japan.

4. Get a much more focussed maintenance program in force. Every night in Japan the trains stop at midnight. Immediately 6000 workers are out inspecting the trains, the rail lines, using the latest diagnostic equipment, making repairs and replacing rail beds, rails, signals, and rolling stock as needed. "But what about the people who need to be in Toronto early in the morning?" If we had high speed trains travelling at 300 km/hr, don't you think we could get them there quickly in the morning? 

5. Get rid of all level crossings...all of them. No more accidents. No more accident causing delays. More lives saved.

Our new federal government, together with our provincial governments could make it happen if they get their priorities straight. Helping refugees is a nice thing to do (I read where one of the ‘refugees’ entering Europe was caught with 40 + fake passports. For what purpose would that be, I wonder?) but shouldn't we be concerned with the needs of our own people first?

Rome wasn’t built in a day but as the classic joke goes, “How do you eat an elephant? Answer: “One bite at a time!” That is how a completely redesigned and rebuilt modern rail system would have to proceed : “One bite at a time!”

Speaking of these pachaderms, you could call them Very Immense Animals, right? Slow moving...plodding along the same way they did decades, even centuries ago with little change in character or speed. Sounds like another V-I-A we know, doesn’t it?

And the rant endeth here...

See ya, eh!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Man Creates His Own Country in Utah Desert

Hiya! How're you faring today? Ready for a lively mug of arabica coffee and a virtual treat? Of course you are. Help yourself Say...ever wanted to own your own country? I have...the republic of Bob. I'm still working on it. Meanwhile, here's a fellow who has done it.

Meet Zaq Landsberg, a New York artist who created the ultimate escape from hectic city life – his own country in the middle of nowhere!

It all started in 2005, when Zaq managed to acquire a two-acre piece of uninhabited land in a remote Utah desert for a mere $610. Believe it or not, he actually bought it on eBay. On his first visit to the site, he installed a red-and-yellow flag bang in the middle for future identification. Not long after that, he was struck by an idea – why not turn the area into a sovereign nation named after himself? And that’s how the nation of Zaqistan was born.

“When I bought the land, it was right after Hurricane Katrina, and it was a pretty dark time, politically, in our country,” he said. “I thought, ‘I can run a country better than these clowns.’ So I started creating something out of nothing in the desert.” And that became the nation’s official motto: “Something from nothing.”

Zaq now visits Zaqistan for a few days every year, creating artistic monuments on each visit. The nation now has a victory arch, a bed of plastic wildflowers, and a geodesic dome that had vanished for two years due to high winds. He’s also got a border patrol gate with a giant robot sentry, and sells realistic $40 passports through his website. Zaq doesn’t plan on building any cabins on the site though, because there is no water source nearby. The nearest town, Montello, is about 60 miles away.

Some of Zaq’s closest friends are proud owners of Zaqistan passports, and they occasionally visit the place to ‘hang out’. His girlfriend, Ana Fisyak, recently applied for citizenship. Although she’s a ‘city girl’ from Brooklyn, she visited the sagebrush-covered nation a couple of months ago, and apparently had a great time. “We made our own coffee, cooked rice and beans, saw plenty of scorpions, and slept under the stars,” she said. “I’d never seen the Milky Way before and that was incredible. It would be nice to have a porch and some rocking chairs – we’d be all set then. With beautiful sunrises and sunsets, that’s all we really need.”

But she’s quick to admit that she’d never live there, even if her application does go through. “It’s like being on the moon,” she said. Well, actually it’s more like Mars – hot, windy, red, and rocky – so much so that NASA had the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) set up in the area, where researchers dressed in space suits live in isolation to experience life on  the red planet.
“It’s an extremely remote and inhospitable place,” added Michael Abouzelof, another Zaqistan passport holder. “There’s no reason anyone would want to be there. “When I looked at the bushes, I just thought, wow, mad props to this guy for pulling this off.”

“It’s pretty harsh,” Zaq agreed. “Incredibly hot during the day, cold at night, with gale force winds that come in occasionally. I’ve grown to like it, but it’s about as far away as you can get.” But that hasn’t stopped him from spending $10,000 on ‘improving’ the nation. 

“My ultimate goal is for Zaqistan to one day become a legitimate country,” he added. He does pay property taxes every year, so officials say that what he’s doing isn’t illegal. But they can’t fathom why he’d want to make such a barren piece of land his nation. “As this two-acre experiment continues, I urge President Landsberg to adopt baseball as his country’s national pastime,” Congressman Ron Bishop, whose district Zaqistan comes under, joked. “The great sport of baseball has served America well, and it can do the same for Zaqistan. Few sports can unite the people of a fledgling nation like America’s pastime.”

Zaq, on his part, welcomes questions about his motive behind going rogue. And his response is simple: “There is no legal standard for what is a country and what is not. I would describe Zaqistan as a de facto sovereign. The government isn’t recognising Zaqistan sovereignty, but they’re not stopping me from doing my thing out there.”

“Nobody has hassled me,” he added. “And one reason is because things are so spread out. I own a speck of desert in this vast desert where there’s no one. They’d have to find me first.”

“Zaqistan is here to stay and it will be here for a very long time.”

Bus tours to Zaqistan begin Wednesday. I hope the tent hotel is up by then.

See ya, eh!


Sunday, November 22, 2015

World’s First Automobile Vending Machine

What? Buy a car through a vending machine? You're kidding me, right? Hey there... a treat to see you as always. Fill your mug, snag a virtual muffin or pastry and bring them over here to the VIP table so's I can tell y'all about the newest trend in the automotive world...

Thanks to used-car website Carvana, it is now possible to buy your own set of wheels at the touch of a button, from the world’s first and only coin-operated car vending machine in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s err… not cheap, but cheaper than  buying a car the old fashioned way.

The company has been working on the concept for the past two years – their original car vending machine was installed in Atlanta in 2013. But they’ve spent time on improving the design, in order to take user experience to the next level. “Our new Vending Machine is a state-of-the-art, multi-story structure that delivers our customers’ cars by merely inserting a custom coin,” said Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia.

The machine consists of a five-story glass tower that can hold up to 20 cars at a time. Inside the tower are a ‘welcome centre’, an automated delivery system, and three delivery bays. The tower basically serves as a pickup point for used cars that customers purchase through the website, enabling competitive pricing and eliminating delivery costs.

Clients can access a long list of specifications, ratings, reviews, and lots of other details about the cars they’re interested in on the Carvana website. They even get virtual tours that point out every nick and scratch on the body of the car. Once the car is chosen and paid for, the company usually delivers the car to the customer for a seven-day trial period. This usually means that the delivery costs are worked into the price of the vehicle.

But with the Vending Machine, customers are able to go pick up their cars straight away. It’s a win-win model that allows Carvana to cut down on staff and overhead, and save customers about $2,000 as well. According to the company, it also makes for a great buying experience – placing an oversized coin in a slot and watching their car roll down automatically.

“Carvana’s mission is to create a better way to buy a car, and this new Vending Machine will be a one-of-a-kind experience that mirrors just how simple and easy we’ve made it to buy a car online,” Garcia said. He added that the company plans to build more car vending machines in the future.

Well how about that, eh! Never had such high-falootin' nonsense in my day! I mean...how the heck can you kick the tires?

See ya, eh!


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Selfie Stick Self-Defense Classes

Had to happen, didn't it? Hey...thanks for clicking by today. Park your selfie stick by the door, pour yourself a deliciously refreshing mug of coffee and grab a virtual treat or two. Snap. Gotcha! You didn't even see me sneak around behind you with my own selfie stick and snap us munching away, did you? You have to stay on your guard...

With more and more people buckling to the selfie-stick trend, a self-defense sports school in Moscow has come up with a unique combat class where students learn to use the stick as a weapon.

“In many countries, assaults on tourists have become a frequent occurrence, and the only instrument of self-defense that travellers always carry on themselves is a selfie-stick,” the M-PROFI sports center said in an online statement. Clicking photographs on an expensive smartphone attached to the end of a stick can easily mark a person out as a tourist, making them a vulnerable target for robberies. In such cases, it only makes sense to wield the tool for self-protection.

The self defense classes are supported by a group known as the ‘Association of Safe Selfies’. “It’s time for the selfie-stick to be used for a purpose other than to take photographs,” the group’s president said, adding that self-defense methods using the tool have actually become a worldwide trend called ‘mpd-fight’, short for monopod-fight.

Becoming a proficient mpd fighter only takes five training sessions, and according to an M-POFI spokesperson, the self(ie)-defense art can be very efficient in fighting off practitioners of boxers, wrestling and mixed martial arts.

Unfortunately, mpd-fighters might not be able to use their skills in public places where selfie sticks are banned, like Disney parks and football stadiums in the United States.

How could you possibly get into trouble in a football stadium? Just because you've had a few beers and so have the 100-odd people surrounding you who are wearing the opposing team's colours is no reason to...

"Hey fellas, can we take a picture together? Got my selfie stick right here... Hey...give that back right now or I'll..."

See ya, eh!


Friday, November 20, 2015

Introducing Rex Specs – Protective Sunglasses for Dogs

Hi there! G-r-r-reat to see you! What'cha been up to since yesterday? Tell me about it over a mug of coffee and a virtual doughnut or muffin, why don't'cha? Just before you do, here's a story with more bark than bite...

A dog-loving couple from Wyoming have invented a revolutionary new product in canine care – doggy protective sunglasses. The sporty goggles are meant to shield dogs’ eyes from intense sunlight and other harmful effects that can cause eye problems. Priced at $79.95 a pair, ‘Rex Specs’ are made with polycarbonate lenses and a soft foam frame that snugly fits on the muzzle so that dogs can freely open their mouths.

Aiden Doane, 31, and Jesse Emilo, 33, said they got the idea for Rex Specs after their own dogs developed eye ailments because of extensive hiking in the mountains in Jackson, Wyoming. Their German Shepherd got Pannus – an eye inflammation caused by UV rays, while their fair-skinned husky suffered from chronic sunburn around the eyes. The couple realised that protective gear could have prevented the ailments, but they couldn’t find high-quality goggles specially designed for canine use.

“The options for eye protection at the time didn’t stay in place, or offer a large field of view,” Doane said. “This was discouraging when we took the dogs into the mountains for the adventures they love – so we started making our own goggles for them out of materials we had around the house.”

That’s how they ended up creating Rex Specs, a product that effectively protects the eyes from sunlight, dust, and strong wind. It has round lenses for a full range of view and straps that hold the glasses firmly, yet comfortably, in place.  Less disciplined dogs might take time to get adjusted to Rex Specs, and may even try to shake the glasses off, but with time and training, every dog can be taught to wear them.

“When introduced properly, and methodically, the dog will adjust and grow comfortable with them,” Doane said. “However, to help them stay on, and in place, the strap system holds the goggles securely to their face.” The current Rex Specs models are more suited for larger breeds of dogs, weighing between 30 and 100lbs, but they’re working on a model for smaller dogs.

“Since founding Rex Specs, our goal has been to develop and provide a protective K9 eyewear that can stand up to the level of activity we enjoy with our dogs,” the company website states. The glasses have already been adopted by the US military to protect the eyes of their K9s.

Well, why not, eh? Dogs have pretty darn good vision as it is but for certain situations and as noted above, eye ailments, these sound like a good idea.

"Hey Marge, there's a dog crapping on our lawn!"

"Whose dog is it. Do you recognize the dog?

Nah...it's wearing sunglasses so I don't know whose dog it is!"

See ya, eh!