Thursday, December 31, 2009



Around the World: 27 Fabulous New Year’s Eve Fireworks!

Posted: 31 Dec 2009 10:00 AM PST

[ Filed under Geography & Travel or in the Art & Design category ]


Auld Lang Syne and good riddance recession of 2009! Making noise and fireworks on New Year’s Eve is believed to have originated in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck. Whether you make a New Year’s resolution or not, be sure to celebrate 2010. Yes, the fireworks can be harmful and dangerous, but they are spectacular without a doubt. In the United States, most of us have seen the ball drop in New York City and have also seen the fireworks, if not in person then on TV. But worldwide, we unite as one to welcome the new year with fireworks, so here are 27 fabulous New Year’s Eve firework celebrations from around the world.



(image credits:fyrverkerifabriken,realaworld,City of Stockholm)

In Sweden, New Year’s Eve is a highly social time when friends get together, often setting off fireworks. Major firework displays can be enjoyed along the waterways of Stockholm and over the magnificent harbor in Gothenburg. At the strike of midnight and the start of the New Year, you would hear, “Gott Nytt År!”

From Russia With Love



(image credits:Dan Heller,lamoen,all best wallpapers)

In Russia, New Year traditions include a New Year’s Tree known as Novogodnaya Yolka which has a bright star on top and the tree is decorated with sweets. Another tradition is the arrival of Father Frost or Ded Moroz along with his granddaughter Snegurochka, the snow girl. Children wait for them as they bring New Year presents and keep them under the New Year’s Tree. To make Father Frost happy, children sing songs. Of course, no New Year is complete without a family get together, delicious meals, and fireworks. Look how lovely they are! С Новым годом!

Sydney, Australia


(image credits:treehugger,TopNews,wikipedia)

Technologically advanced Sydney, Australia, kicked the door closed to recession heavy 2008 with a 3.4 million dollar fireworks extravaganza. Over 1.5 million joined in the New Year’s Eve celebration and watched never-before-seen pyrotechnics that displayed simulated lightning, thunder and even rain. Sydney launched digitally from seven barges, seven city buildings, and the bridge itself, creating 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects.

Fireworks Around The World


(image credits:matthia,funshun,len_skapp,expressmonorail,expressmonorail)

Does it not seem that we should be a more united world? At least at New Year’s Eve, we celebrate very much the same in most places on this planet. At top left, we see New Year’s Eve fireworks at Kopavogur, Iceland.  At top right is a common image for a grand finale of fireworks. At Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, Cinderella’s Castle is surrounded by fireworks. At middle right, the crowd oooh’s and aaaah’s at the fireworks over Victoria Harbor. Lastly on the bottom left, Disney celebrates the with over-the-top fireworks at Illuminations, Reflections of Earth.

More Fireworks From Around The Globe


(image credits:randysmusic1965,locomotivebreadth,funshun,,tom_bennett, ntisocl)

At top left, Hong Kong welcomes the New Year with a spectacular display of lights and sound. To the right, the boom sizzle and pops to accompany these fireworks were over Lake Union in Washington State. At bottom left, London does it up big on New Year's Eve with their firework's display, like this pink wheel. In Seattle, the Space Needle is for once not the highlight in the night sky, still lovely but paling next to the vibrant colors of exploding fireworks.

Recall the past fondly, but grab happiness in the New Year!


(image credits:japantravelinfo,charness,ci123, u m a m i,shaolintiger,Stuck in Customs)

In Japan at top left and in Pittsburgh at right, major fireworks light up the midnight sky with excitement and hope for the future. No matter where on the globe, most people reflect on the past year and times gone by. The song Auld Lang Syne asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten, promising to remember people of the past with fondness. People toast the New Year with high hopes like in Singapore at middle right. On the bottom left, The Eye of Malaysia is not what holds the eye this time but the brilliant pyrotechnic show. In Texas, at bottom right, Lake Austin is filled with boats that hold people of all ages in wonder and appreciation of the fireworks.

Island Romance and Fireworks


(image credits:Fireworks,Fireworks)

Although many famous firework displays are in major cities around the world, could there be anything more romantic than having your own private show on the beach? Fireworks on an island might be one of the best ways to celebrate. Happy New Year! May 2010 bring you happiness, good health, success and wealth, and all good things!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Featured Travel Sites of 2009: Travel Blog

Featured Travel Sites of 2009: Travel Blog

Link to Travel Blog

Featured Travel Sites of 2009

Posted: 29 Dec 2009 01:34 AM PST

It's that time of year again when all sorts of lists are trundled out. For the last tuesday of the year here is a review of the featured sites of 2009.

---- WhichBudget ----

WhichBudget is a budget airlines directory. Search for low cost airline flights by selecting your departure and arrival destinations.

---- BusJunction ----

The low cost bus service has become popular in the US over the last few years and you can compare prices with BusJunction. Search the likes of Megabus, Bolt Bus, and Chinatown Bus here.

---- Ponzi Tree Contest - ----

The Ponzi Tree Contest by is a fun way to participate in a pyramid scheme without having to pay up any cash. If you have a blog just stick a badge on your site and they will plant a tree.

See your trees multiply, and be responsible for thousands of trees planted in your name.

---- Germany Christmas Markets ----

December in Europe means Christmas Market time, and some of the best markets can be found in Germany.

---- Embassy World ----

Directory and search engine of the world's embassies and consulates.

---- Luggage Limits ----

Luggage Limits details baggage allowance information on all routes and ticket classes for over 60 airlines. Avoid expensive airline luggage fees by preparing before you go.

---- Holiday Pad ----

Holiday Pad is showcase of unusual, wonderful and downright weird ideas for a holiday.

---- UrbanRail.Net ----

UrbanRail.Net is a reference of urban railways worldwide. Includes information and maps on subways, tubes, undergrounds, U-Bahns, Metros and city railways worldwide.

---- Whatsonwhen ----

Worldwide events guide and travel inspiration.

---- Dine With Locals ----

Dine With Locals pair tourists with locals to meet and eat dinner in their home and exchange a bit of national culture. Experience a home cooked meal of authentic, local cuisine and a taste of local culture, or be a host and enjoy a night getting to know international people from around the world.

---- Iglu Dorf ----

Stay in an Iglu at the Iglu Dorf Igloo Villages in Switzerland, Andorra and Germany. You can sleep overnight or just visit the village. Igloo-Villages are open from 25th of December until April and bookings are available from mid October.

---- ---- is a frequent flyer management site where you can track all of your reward points in one location.

---- Monastery Stays ----

Monastery Stays is a booking service for monastery and convent accommodation in Italy. Accommodation is open to everyone and there are over 100 destinations to choose from.

---- FreeToDo ----

FreeToDo list free admission attractions, activites and events in UK and Ireland, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

---- Airbnb ----

Airbnb is an online marketplace that can turn your place into a B and B. Anything from a spare room to an entire apartment can be listed. You can set your own price and you can accept or decline each application.

For prospective lodgers, you can search for destinations and read user reviews of listed accommodation.

---- The Ultimate Thailand Explorers ----

Tourism Authority of Thailand has taken a leaf out of Tourism Queenslands marketing book and have set up The Ultimate Thailand Explorers. Promote Thailand via social media and you could win cash and a trip to Thailand.

TAT is sending 5 couples to explore Thailand's top five destinations. To enter this competition upload your audition video on Youtube and complete an application form on the site.

---- Distance Calculator ----

Measure the distance from one place to another. The site also generates a suggested map on how to get there.

---- FlightCaster ----

With FlightCaster, you can learn about flight delays even before the airlines notify you. You can find FlightCaster at or download it straight to your iPhone or BlackBerry.

---- Atlas Obscura ----

Atlas Obscura is a collaborative project with the goal of cataloging all of the singular, eccentric, bizarre, fantastical, and strange out-of-the-way places that get left out of traditional travel guidebooks and are ignored by the average tourist.

---- ----

Comprehensive Airport WiFi Guide with Rating and WiFi user comments

---- The Matchmaking Flight ----

The Matchmaking Flight will be matching singles in the sky from LAX to Auckland, New Zealand flying Air New Zealand on October 13, 2009.

---- StoodThere ----

StoodThere lists the Top 100 landmarks to stand in front of and get your photo taken.

---- Is This Your Luggage ---- is the site of a photographer who collects lost luggage, photographs it, then tries to find the owners.

---- ---- is a collaboratively written travel guide with a non-profit approach (inspired by Wikipedia). Anyone can add a guide, whether it is somewhere you have been or of your own home town.

---- Kids with Cameras ----

Kids with Cameras is a non-profit organization that teaches the art of photography to marginalized children in communities around the world. View photos taken by kids in Calcutta, Haiti, Jerusalem and Cairo.

---- Harefares ----

Harefares index the routes of nearly all low cost airlines in Europe.

The great feature about Harefares is that it shows you alternative airports close to your chosen departure and arrival airport. This opens up possibilites that you may not otherwise have been aware of.

---- FON ----

FON is the largest WiFi community in the world. Community members, Foneros, share some of their home internet connection and in return gain access to free Wifi worldwide.

The site has a searchable map of wifi hot-spots around the world, and if you don't have a home to offer wifi, you can but FON wifi Credit.

---- earthTV ----

earthTV - the world's biggest remote controlled TV camera network broadcasting 24h live video footage from locations locations in Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Oceania.

---- Pintprice ----

You might be familiar with the Big Mac Index put together by The Economist.

Another site has come up with a worldwide comparison index: Beer prices from 206 countries with the help of thousands of beer drinkers.

While the type of beer may vary, making it not truly like the Big Mac Index, it's a fascinating way to compare the cost of living around the world.

---- Literary Traveler ----

People have long been visiting destinations from books or visited places that gave their favourite writers inspiration.

Literary Traveler provides travel writing featuring writers and the places that they have travelled. The site also includes a range of literary tours.

---- Lewis and Clark Trail ----

National and state parks, historic sites, campgrounds and RV parks, museums and other points of interest are easily located on our online maps.

---- Escape Artist ----

A huge directory of international real estate, overseas jobs, living overseas and other expatriate resources.

---- England Rocks ----

I have known that England rocks for quite a while, but now it's official. England Rocks has been put together by Enjoy England, the domestic marketing arm of VisitBritain.

The website lists Englands impressive rock heritage with the help of Google Maps. Places that are of pop cultural significance are marked on the map. You can plan a Beatlemania pilgrimage or see the London home of Jimi Hendrix.

---- iStopOver ----

iStopOver is a hometel (Home + Hotel = Hometel) market place where you can rent space in someone's home as an alternative to hotels. You can also rent space in your home and make money and meet new people.

---- Pet Airways ----

Pet Airways is an actual airline (albeit a small one) where pets are the passengers. The pets fly in the main cabin, not in cargo.

---- Sleeping in Airports ----

If you are really on a tight travel budget or have a flight that leaves at a ridiculous hour in the morning sleeping at the airport might be a better option than paying for accommodation.

Sleeping in Airports was put together by Donna McSherry in 1996 and now has over 5800 reviews of airports that readers have slept (or tried to sleep) in.

Reviews including the best and worst around the world. Tips for sleeping comfortably and safely while grounded, articles, news and other strange places to sleep.

---- Monk for a Month ----

Monk for a Month offers you an authentic Thai Buddhist experience. Study and train with Buddhist Masters, learn from 25 centuries of wisdom and be ordained as a novice monk.

---- The Rickshaw Run ----

The Rickshaw Run is a race in India using the iconic Indian motorised rickshaws. The Spring Rickshaw runs is on from 11th Apr - 26th Apr.

---- The Man in Seat Sixty-One ----

The Man in Seat Sixty-One is Mark Smith, who has captured the adventure and romance of train travel. The site details how to travel From London to everywhere in Europe by train, as well as other places around the world.

---- The Currency Commission ----

The transition of currencies to the Euro in 2003 was a relatively smooth process. There are still people though that have old European currency that was not converted into Euros, and the old currency can no longer be converted at banks.

The Currency Commission exists in order to continue exchanging old outstanding banknotes into Euros, US or Canadian dollars.

---- St. Patrick's Festival ----

On the 17th of March every year it is not uncommon to see people with green hair staggering around with a green beer in their hand. Yes, St. Patrick's Day is here.

Irish descendants and expats put on their own celebrations but the biggest party, of course, is in Ireland.

St. Patrick's Festival is Ireland's official celebration for Ireland's national holiday - St. Patrick's Day.

---- V Australia ----

With airlines closing and general doom and gloom in the airline travel world some good news with an new airline beginning operations.

V Australia is the new airline brought to you by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group. It will initially fly between Sydney and Los Angeles and it's the first new airline to take advantage of the open skies deal between the United States and Australia. Previously only Qantas and United were allowed to operate between the two countries.

---- Not For Tourists ----

Not For Tourists is the the website of the guidebook of the same name. The guide covers local attractions beyond the obvious tourist attractions of a city, uncovering interesting bar and eateries that you might otherwise miss when visiting a city.

So far they cover the most popular US cities as well as London.

---- The Best Job In The World ----

Tourism Queensland is seeking an island caretaker to house-sit for one of the natural wonders of the world. If you were thinking of applying the application process closes this week.

---- FreeNYC ----

FreeNYC is a guide to the best free and cheap events in New York City.

---- Icehotel ----

The Icehotel hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden is a hotel made entirely of snow and ice blocks. This was the world's first ice hotel and the hotel lasts for about 5 months before melting away by June.

---- Jumbo Hostel ----

Jumbo Hostel is, like the name implies, a hostel in a jumbo. The hostel is in an actual Boeing 747 parked and anchored at Stockholm Arlanda Airport.

---- Inauguration Day 2009 ----

The Inauguration of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth U.S. president will be one of the biggest travel events in the history of the United States. Millions are expected to travel to Washington D.C and the official site covers events, maps and how to get there.

---- Skycar Expedition ----

Skycar expedition is a bio-fuelled flying car that will travel from London to Tombouctou in Mali.

---- Like-a-local ----

Like-a-local is a site where you can connect with the local life in major cities via people who live there. You can choose to Live, Go or Eat with a local, and see parts of a city that a regular tour couldn't possibly accommodate.

My Round the World Adventure

My Round the World Adventure

The Weekly Photo: Bay of Islands

Posted: 29 Dec 2009 02:56 AM PST

Dock in the Bay of Islands New Zealand
Bay of Islands, New Zealand

©Nomadic Matt's Travel Site. Learn to have your blog pay for your travels!



Living Fossils: 10 Plants & Animals With Staying Power

Posted: 29 Dec 2009 10:42 AM PST

[ Filed under History & Trivia or in the Animals & Habitats category ]

For so-called “living fossils”, the maxim “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” would seem to apply. Surviving relatively unchanged for tens, even hundreds of millions of years, these very special plants and animals have each managed to find a successful ecological niche and have stuck with it.



Living_Fossils_1b(images via: English Country Garden, CS-Music and Balmoral Drive)

Horsetails are an unusual group of plants that reproduce via spores instead of seeds. Now limited to a single genus, Horsetails were once the dominant plant of the prehistoric world, first appearing in the Devonian period approximately 375 million years ago. Today’s Horsetails, oddly enough, are poisonous to horses.

Living_Fossils_1x(image via: Arcadia Street)

Kings of the Carboniferous period when giant dragonflies and six-foot long millipedes thrived in the planet’s supersaturated oxygen atmosphere, ancient relatives of Horsetails called Calamites soared up to 90 feet high as they competed for sunlight with the world’s earliest trees.

Monkey Puzzle Tree


Living_Fossils_2b(images via: Travel Blog, Travel Pod and Jackson’s Nurseries)

Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria trees are an ancient species of evergreen conifer that is today only found in some parts of Argentina and Chile. The trees have oddly scaled branches – the scales are actually leaves – and have distinctive bark likened by some to reptilian skin. The trees are tough and hardy, and can grow to heights of 130 feet and diameters of up to 6 feet.

Living_Fossils_2x(image via: M. Alan Kazlev)

Samples of Monkey Puzzle trees were first brought to Great Britain in the early 19th century and by the 1850s the trees were being grown at botanical gardens. As for the unusual name, it’s said that a visitor to Pencarrow Garden in Cornwall, upon observing the odd tree, suggested that “It would puzzle a monkey to climb that”. Monkey Puzzle trees are often used by artists to ‘flesh out” prehistoric scenes, like the one above from the BBC TV series “Walking With Dinosaurs” that features an Allosaurus on the prowl.

Crinoids (Sea Lillies)


Living_Fossils_3y(images via: McGill U, Geochristian and Black River Fossils)

If ancient oceans can be compared to modern forests, then Crinoids were the trees. These ancient progenitors to echinoderms like sea urchins and starfish built their stem-like structures from minerals extracted from seawater. The tiny calcified discs that made up Crinoid stems are extremely common in fossil-bearing shale and limestone dating back to the Ordovician period, a time roughly 475 million years ago when the only life on Earth – plant or animal – lived in the sea.


Living_Fossils_3b(images via: NOAA, The Deep and Photo Synthesis)

Today’s Sea Lillies and Feather Stars, though much less common in number and range, haven’t changed all that much from their Crinoid ancestors and live their lives pretty much the same way: filter-feeding tiny organisms from passing currents. You’d think that after a half-billion years Crinoids could learn something new, say, like how to walk… well guess what:

Crinoid Crawls!, via Somarinoa



Living_Fossils_4b(images via: Bogleech, Danielle Caceres-Bricheno and Seashells By Millhill)

The Chambered Nautilus is the sole remaining representative of the nautiloids, a group of marine creatures that can be traced back to the Cambrian period approximately a half a billion years ago. Yes, billion.

Living_Fossils_4mm(images via: Best Stuff and 251 Research Lab)

Though they may superficially resemble cephalopods like squids and octopi (not to mention Futurama’s Dr. Zoidberg), the Nautilus’ eyes have no lenses, its 90-odd tentacles have no suckers, and it finds its prey using organs called rhinophores that can detect certain chemicals in ocean water.


Living_Fossils_4y(images via: 34th and 8th and Home and Garden Webshots)

Nautiloids were once rulers of the seas, sporting a bizarre range of shell designs ranging from tightly coiled to open spirals to “party hat” cones up to 13 feet long! Cthul’hu most definitely approves.

Horseshoe Crab

Living_Fossils_5a(images via: NC Coastal Reserve and Tree Of Life)

Horseshoe Crabs are not crabs at all, being related to scorpions, spiders and ticks. They may also be related to ancient giant sea scorpions, at one time the world’s largest and most feared predators… luckily that time was 420 million years ago.

Living_Fossils_5b(image via: Fotopedia)

Horseshoe Crabs are jawless, have 5 pairs of legs and 9 eyes. Not bizarre enough? Horseshoe Crabs have blue blood – copper, not iron, is used in their version of hemoglobin: hemocyanin.

Living_Fossils_5x(images via: Archosaur Musings and Marinebio)

Fossils of extinct Horseshoe Crab species have been found in rocks dating back 445 million years, to a distant era when trilobites were abundant and most animal life existed in warm, shallow seas. Indeed, it can be stated that today’s Horseshoe Crabs are the closest living relatives of trilobites.


Living_Fossils_6a(images via: Comiya, CV Biosupply and CBC News)

The poster child for living fossils, Coelacanths were known strictly from the fossil record dating back almost 400 million years and were thought to have died out at the end of the Cretaceous Period along with the dinosaurs. Then in 1938, headlines were made when a trawler caught a live one off the east coast of South Africa. Since then, Coelacanths have been caught (though rarely) in other locations and live ones have been observed in their natural habitats.

Living_Fossils_6b(image via: MFS Updates)

Coelacanths display dark, mottled scales and their lifespan is unknown. A recent sighting of what seems to be a newborn baby Coelacanth was recorded by a Japanese research team in early 2009 and showed the fish to have a rich, indigo blue coloration set off by lighter spots.

Living_Fossils_6c(images via: Eltwhed, Cryptomundo and HyScience)

Coelacanths are lobe-finned fish, thought to resemble those ancient fish species that evolved into the first land vertebrates over 350 million years ago. Indeed, the closest taxonomic relatives of Coelacanths are lungfishes and tetrapods (four-legged vertebrates).

Goblin Shark

Living_Fossils_7a(images via: Richard Ellis Gallery and Shark-en)

Even among sharks, a group of marine creatures that has changed little over many millions of years, the Goblin Shark is an oddball. Not much is known about this denizen of the deep ocean but the few available facts are enough to rate noteworthiness: growing up to 11 feet long, the Goblin Shark sports a bizarre upper “snout” that acts as an electrical receptor to help it locate prey. It has extendable jaws lined with sharp teeth that pull any prey animals into its mouth.

Living_Fossils_7b(images via: Kaphoto, Australian Museum and Facts for Projects)

Goblin Sharks are predominantly pink in color with contrasting bluish fins. The pinkness is caused by the sharks’ semi-transparent skin allowing the color of its blood to show through. Some say Goblin Sharks are the ugliest fish in the sea – considering the image above lower left, it’s hard to argue.



Living_Fossils_8a(images via: NZ Photo, Wildlife Extra and The Mantis Shrimp)

Tuataras are found in New Zealand and the current 2 species are the only survivors of the order Sphenodontia, which dates back roughly 200 million years. Tuataras grow to be about 30 inches long and have an unusual and unique dental arrangement: two rows of teeth in the upper jaw that overlap a single row on the lower jaw. Though true reptiles, Tuataras have certain bones in their skeletons that are shared with fish.

Living_Fossils_8x(image via: New Zealand 2009)

The Tuatara’s main claim to fame is its relatively well-developed parietal eye: a “third eye” on top of its head. The eye has a lens and retina (covered by scales in adults) though it is not used in conjunction with the other two eyes. Instead, it’s thought that the Tuatara’s third eye may note changes in light cycles that the creature uses to regulate its circadian rhythms. Some other reptiles, amphibians and fish have parietal eyes, though not to the extent of those possessed by the Tuatara.


Living_Fossils_9a(images via: Rainforest Conservation, Iwokrama and Ranger Paul)

The Hoatzin is in many ways more a throwback than a fossil, mainly in respect to the claws juveniles exhibit on their wings. These bizarre, quite un-birdlike claws assist the young Hoatzins in staying on tree branches. Hoatzins are rare in the fossil record with only a portion of a 50-million year old skull having been found to date. Their relationship to modern birds, even with the aid of DNA testing, is still very murky and subject to interpretation.


Living_Fossils_9y(images via: Berkeley U and ETSU)

Hoatzins are found in a large portion of South America’s Amazon river basin where they are not considered to be threatened. Though humans have historically eaten Hoatzin eggs from time to time, the flesh of the birds are said to taste bad. Even getting close to a Hoatzin is problematic due to a foul, manure-like odor the birds create in their digestive system and release when they feel menaced – this attribute has given the Hoatzin the informal name of “Stinkbird”.



Living_Fossils_10b(images via: Motivated Photos and Daily Mail UK)

The “Duck-billed Platypus” of Australia is a Monotreme, a mammalian genus that split off the Mammal family tree at a remote time in the past. Platypus relatives in the fossil record go back approximately 167 million years to when the dinosaurs ruled the world. Even with all that time in which to evolve, the Platypus remains primitive compared to today’s placental mammals.

Living_Fossils_10c(image via: Wildwatch)

An egg-layer, the Platypus secretes milk for its young but has no nipples: milk is excreted through skin pores and collects in grooves on the female’s abdomen. The creature’s superlative skill is in detecting prey though electroreception: the Platypus’ duck-like bill is designed to sense muscular contractions in its prey, chiefly worms and molluscs.

Living_Fossils_10x(image via: Animal Diversity Web)

The Platypus is one of a very few mammals that are venomous – a trait is shares with several tiny shrews and solenodons (shrew-like creatures). Only male Platypuses are venomous and use sharp spurs on their webbed hind feet to deliver venom to predators and/or rival platypuses. The venom is extremely painful to humans and it’s said that victims suffer from excruciating pain for days, weeks and on occasion even months!

Though their long, uneventful existence on Earth can be interpreted as proof of biological success, many of these “living fossils” have survived only because their habitats have undergone a minimum of change. Recent and future climate change will undoubtedly effect plants and animals whose basic forms and physiognomies have remained static. Can they adjust after evolving so little for so long?

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