Fire, 2, 3, 4

^Kilauea, Hawaii

“This Hellish Desert Pit Has Been on Fire for More Than 40 Years”

There are places on Earth that are a little creepy, places that feel a little haunted and places that are downright hellish. The Darvaza gas crater, nicknamed by locals “The Door to Hell,” or “The Gates of Hell,” definitely falls into the latter category—and its sinister burning flames are just the half of it. Located in the Karakum Desert of central Turkmenistan (a little over 150 miles from the country’s capital) the pit attracts hundreds of tourists each year. It also attracts nearby desert wildlife—reportedly, from time to time local spiders are seen plunging into the pit by the thousands, lured to their deaths by the glowing flames.

So how did this fiery inferno end up in the middle of a desert in Turkmenistan? In 1971, when the republic was still part of the Soviet Union, a group of Soviet geologists went to the Karakum in search of oil fields. They found what they thought to be a substantial oil field and began drilling. Unfortunately for the scientists, they were drilling on top of a cavernous pocket of natural gas which couldn’t support the weight of their equipment.The site collapsed, taking their equipment along with it—and the event triggered the crumbly sedimentary rock of the desert to collapse in other places too, creating a domino-effect that resulted in several open craters by the time all was said and done. 

The largest of these craters measures about 230-feet across and 65-feet deep. Reportedly, no one was injured in the collapse, but the scientists soon had another problem on their hands: the natural gas escaping from the crater. . . . So the scientists decided to light the crater on fire, hoping that all the dangerous natural gas would burn away in a few weeks’ time.

. . . .

But . . . the scientists in Turkmenistan weren’t dealing with a measured amount of natural gas—scientists still don’t know just how much natural gas is feeding the burning crater—so what was supposed to be a few-week burn has turned into almost a half-century-long desert bonfire. 

Natasha Geiling, Smithsonian Magazine, May 20, 2014

^Githurai, Kenya

[photo: “|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|,” by Gerry Dincher, used under a Creative Commons license]

Snow, 2, 3, 4

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan ^

“It’s Snowtime in Dubai as Majid Al Futtaim Opens the Middle East’s First Cinema in the Snow” 

Majid Al Futtaim, the leading shopping mall, communities, retail and leisure pioneer across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, has officially launched the region’s first cinema in the snow and the world’s only movie theatre in an indoor ski resort. Snow Cinema by VOX Cinemas, which is proudly supported by Dettol, allows guests to experience the magic of movies on the snow-laden slopes of Ski Dubai, which has been crowned the ‘World’s Best Indoor Ski Resort’ for five consecutive years.

. . . .

Adding to the unique and immersive experience, moviegoers will have cinema snacks including VOX Cinema’s much-loved popcorn and a signature hot chocolate from Mirzam Chocolate Makers delivered directly to their seat. Guests can also order from a mouth-watering menu, which features savoury options, including roasted baby potatoes with Raclette, hotdogs and burgers; as well as decadent desserts such as festive mince pies and gingerbread Dutch pancakes as well as hot beverages including an exclusive Mirzam Peppermint Hot Chocolate.

. . . .

All guests at Snow Cinema will receive rental clothing (jacket and pants), fleece gloves, socks, boots, beanie hat, blanket, wireless headphones and a dedicated locker.

Zawya, December 10, 2020

[photo: “|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|,” by Gerry Dincher, used under a Creative Commons license]

Waves, 2, 3, 4

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[from Czechoslovakia]

“The Revolutionary Boat Powered by the Ocean”

A new design of ship in the Philippines is hoping to pose a low-carbon alternative to the country’s usual bangka [a trimaran with bamboo outriggers either side of its main hull], by working with the power of waves rather than against them. The ship is a hybrid model, using multiple internal combustion engines for initial propulsion but switching to wave energy while cruising in open waters.

. . . . .

The hybrid trimaran has this machinery – a wave energy converter – in the form of hydraulic pumps integrated into its outriggers. As the pumps move through the waves, they harvest the momentum of these waves, converting their kinetic energy into electrical energy, which will then be fed into a generator that will supply electricity to the ship. The electricity then provides propulsion via a motor. The more waves the trimaran encounters, the more power it can produce from those waves.

. . . . .

[T]he team is aiming to finish building the ship by the end of 2020, with a three-month sea trial scheduled for the first quarter of 2021. The vessel is expected to be capable of carrying 100 passengers, four vans and 15 motorcycles.

Rina Diane Caballar, BBC, July 15, 2020

[photo: “|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|,” by Gerry Dincher, used under a Creative Commons license]

Flowers, 2, 3, 4

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“The Netherlands’ Huge Flower Sector Wilts as Coronavirus Hurts Business”

The Netherlands accounts for nearly half of the world trade in floriculture products and 77% of flower bulbs sold globally. Top destinations usually include Germany, the U.K., France and Italy. The Dutch exports overall are valued at $6.7 billion and the sector accounts for about 5% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to [Royal FloraHolland’s Michael] van Schie.

Now revenue has dropped by 85% since last month, the cooperative spokesman says.

. . . . .

The decline comes as the Netherlands battles the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, 276 people have died in the Netherlands from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and the country has identified 5,560 cases of infection.

The Netherlands isn’t the only country whose flower sector is suffering. Kenya and Ethiopia are also important producers of roses, van Schie says. In Kenya, flowers are the second-largest source of currency after remittances. Seventy percent of cut flowers from Kenya are sold to Europe, most through an auction in the Netherlands. Farmers there are leaving their roses to rot.

[photo: “|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|,” by Gerry Dincher, used under a Creative Commons license]

Sand, 2, 3, 4

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“Who Is the Sandman?”

“It’s a bit difficult to trace his origins because stories about the Sandman are part of an oral tradition,” says Dr. Maria Tatar, professor of German Studies, Folklore, and Children’s Literature at Harvard University. “I don’t think you can trace the Sandman to Denmark or Germany. I feel confident that there are similar figures in other cultures because so many of the jolly, child-friendly creatures are shadowed by a disciplinary evil person. Who invented the Sandman? Who knows!”

The Sandman’s first foray onto the page was in 18th-century German dictionaries, which briefly described the German idiom “der Sandmann kommt”—”Sandman is coming”—which was used to tease particularly sleepy-looking children. The first story about the Sandman and his doings was published in 1818 by German writer E.T.A Hoffman. “Der Sandmann” begins with an exasperated nurse telling a story about a mythical creature who throws sand in the eyes of little children who won’t go to sleep, causing them to fall out of their sockets. The Sandman then collects the eyeballs in a sack and carries them to his home on the dark side of the moon, where he feeds them to his children.

“‘Der Sandmann’ became an important story in psychoanalytic circles because Freud made so much of it in his essay ‘The Uncanny,'” says Tatar. “Hoffman’s story is a fairy tale for grownups, really—his Sandman is this dark, predatory monster. It definitely wasn’t written for children.” . . .

Jesslyn Shields, How Stuff Works, January 28, 2019

[photo: “|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|,” by Gerry Dincher, used under a Creative Commons license]

Ink, 2, 3, 4

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https://vimeo.com/126220314
https://vimeo.com/6794856


“Student Uses Invisible Ink to Ace Ninja Report”

A Japanese student aced an assignment on ninja culture by making her own invisible ink from soybeans in a stealthy move that impressed her professor.

Eimi Haga, a member of Mie University’s ninja club, turned in an essay on a visit to a museum about the nimble assassins with an attached message to heat it before reading.

“I knew that I needed to take it home and put it above a stove,” said Yuji Yamada, who teaches Japanese history, including ninja culture.

“She replicated what is written in records of ninja art. She strived to prove what was written actually works and went through a trial-and-error process. I was impressed,” he said.

When the characters of Haga’s essay revealed themselves in the heat, Yamada—who had promised his students extra marks for creativity—decided to award her an A.

Toshifumi Kitamura, Japan Today, October 15, 2019

[photo: “|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|,” by Gerry Dincher, used under a Creative Commons license]

Streets, 2, 3, 4

 

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“The Good, Bad, and Irrecoverable—Romania’s Lost Children”

Nearly three decades ago, Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceaușescu fell, along with his state-run orphanages. The streets were flooded with unwanted children, some who were privately adopted, others who made homes in the sewers and streets. Today, with some reintegrated into society, some still homeless, and some dead, Ceaușescu’ children have grown up.

. . . . .

In the early 90s, street kids boomed as the children flocked to Bucharest, the only city with an underground rail system. Children would visit their family and friends back home, recruiting more children to the city. The average age was just seven-years-old.

“After Ceausescu’s fall it was complete chaos, and we call this chaos freedom,” explains NGO Save the Children social worker Leonard Andreescu.

Under Bucharests’s streets emerged Lord of the Flies-esque societies, organised systems with leaders. According to Andreescu, these systems were arranged “fantastically.”

“The sewer systems are warm, they hooked them up to water and power. They had a long string of lights down the tunnel systems—if you entered, but didn’t know the password, they would turn them off.”

Of the original children living in the streets, Andreescu estimates only 300 remain, with most of these now being adults. But this doesn’t indicate an improvement in social services, said Andreescu.

“One third are dead. One third are reintegrated into society. And one third still live on the street.”

Samantha Dixon, Euroviews, April 27, 2017

[photo: “|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|,” by Gerry Dincher, used under a Creative Commons license]

Chairs, 2, 3, 4

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“Bauhaus Movement: Every Time You Sit Down, Thank the German Art School”

Every time you plop yourself down in a chair at work, rush to your favorite seat in class, or lounge at your desk at home, you can think the Bauhaus Movement. The Bauhaus was originally a German arts school started in 1919, whose teachings eventually developed into an art and thought movement that inspired a generation of artisans, architects, and designers around the world. [April 12] was the centennial celebration of Bauhaus, and Google marked the occasion with a front-page doodle.

Hungarian furniture designer Marcel Breuer was one of the first and youngest students at the Bauhaus. He was quickly recognized for his carpentry skills, and in short order became the head of the school’s carpentry shop. Eventually, Breuer designed two pieces of furniture that changed chair design forever: the Cesca Chair and the Wassily Chair.

The Cesca was the first chair made out of a combination of tubular steel and caned seating that was also mass-produced, and has since become a common chair in offices and homes. . . .

[The Cesca] eventually became the blueprint for countless chairs after it. Cara McCarty, the former associate curator at the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art considered it to be a pivotal invention in furniture design.

“It’s among the 10 most important chairs of the twentieth century,” she told The New York Times in 1991.

Danny Paez, Inverse, April 12, 2019

[photo: “|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|,” by Gerry Dincher, used under a Creative Commons license]