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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

$383 million more cut from budget

A state oversight panel trimmed $383 million from agency budgets Thursday, bringing the total amount of cuts since July to more than $1 billion.

Education and health care, which make up roughly two-thirds of the state budget, will bear the brunt of the 7 percent across-the-board cuts. Earlier cuts tried to spare public schools and health care at the expense of state colleges and others.

Most state agencies said Thursday they do not know how they will implement the cuts or what services might be affected. read more...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beshear outlines budget cut plans

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday outlined his plan to help balance the state budget, which currently is facing an estimated $456.1 million shortfall.

Beshear said he hopes to offset some of the state’s declining revenue by increasing the state’s cigarette tax to $1 per pack from the current 30 cents per pack. The state projects that it can raise an additional $81.5 million by raising the cigarette tax.

Under Beshear’s plan, the state would nearly double the tax charged on other tobacco products, to 19 percent of the cost of the product, up from the current 9 percent.

In addition to the tobacco tax hikes, Beshear has instructed leaders of all state agencies to cut at least 2 percent from their budgets. State cabinets and agencies such as Energy and Environment; Tourism Arts & Heritage; and Public Protection, all have been instructed to cut 4 percent of their budgets. read more...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chidambaram prefers budget airline this time to travel

New Delhi (PTI): P. Chidambaram preferred to take a commercial flight for the third time while on an official tour to Chennai after becoming the Home Minister unlike his predecessor Shivraj Patil who flew only in special aircraft.

Chidambaram took a budget airline rather than flying first class, for which he is entitled, to inaugurate Bharat Kalachar Mahotsav in the Tamil Nadu capital. And, the Home Minister travelled without any of his personal assistants.

After taking over the charge of the Home Ministry, Chidambaram flew out of Delhi for the first time to Mumbai on December 5 for an assessment of the situation following the terrors trikes on November 26.

On December 8, the Home Minister went to Kolkata to review the law and order scenario in West Bengal. On both the occasions, he took commercial flights, sources said.

Shivraj Patil, during his four and half years tenure as Home Minister rarely travelled in a commercial plane for official work, sources said. read more...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

SC elderly, kids losing as budget cuts deepen

South Carolina's senior citizens may find it harder to stay in their homes, public school class sizes could get bigger and more public employees will likely lose their jobs as state agencies deal with the latest in a series of budget cuts that this week reached $1 billion.

It's part of the fallout of a sputtering economy that's only getting worse.

The latest cuts, ordered Thursday under the threat of a disastrous unemployment rate expected to hit the state next year, slashed $383 million from the now roughly $6 billion budget.

Agencies and universities that announced hiring freezes, layoffs, furloughs and service cuts earlier in the year said Friday that deeper cuts are being planned. Many, including the departments of Public Safety and Health and Environmental Control were still figuring out how to move forward. read more...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Culver to cut $60 million more from state budget

Gov. Chet Culver will cut $60 million more from the state's budget next week, he said Friday after the release of new estimates that indicate Iowa's revenue is shrinking.

Iowa will have $99.5 million less in revenue for the current budget year, which ends in June, than was projected two months ago, the three-member Revenue Estimating Conference said Friday.

"This is going to require real cuts and there will be real pain," said Iowa House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Democrat from Des Moines. read more...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fake fire calls, real budget woe

A city firefighter went too far faking 911 calls to protect his City Island station from a partial shutdown, but he was right to worry about the cutback's impact, neighbors said.

Nicholas Vrettos, 30, was busted Thursday on charges of calling in fake fire calls to insulate City Island's Ladder 53 from budget cuts.

The FDNY said City Island's lone firehouse was one of the least busy in the city. So while its engine company will remained fully staffed, its ladder company is slated to close at night as part of the cost-savings plan.

"Absolute foolishness unless they can give us a written guarantee that there will be no fires at night," said retired firefighter and City Island resident Edward Sadler, 92.

Firefighters would have to travel from other Bronx stations to battle nighttime City Island blazes, he said. read more...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why wolves howl, and how they connect us to nature

Answer: Whether or not a wolf howls at the moon is still unknown. What is known, however, is that there are very few sounds in nature which have captured our imaginations more than the sound of a wolf howling.

Have you ever heard a wolf howl? Maybe you have experienced the sheer magic of hearing wolves at the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park howl or maybe you have heard this mystical sound in movie theaters or on television. It's no surprise that we are captivated by the sound of a howl, for it somehow reminds us of our connection to the natural world, a connection that seems ever more distant. The great environmentalist Aldo Leopold once suggested that we had to be as old as a mountain to understand the howl of the wolf.

Let's examine what we now know about the wolf howl and reflect on what the wolf might be trying to tell us in the beginning of the 21st century. read more...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mac Geek Mike Lee is a committed atheist living a deeply spiritual life

One big thing I've learned over the past four years of writing this column is that a person's spirituality will often surprise you.

The way we connect with the divine is profoundly personal, whether we're members of an organized faith or prefer to blaze our own paths to God and Goddess. I've discovered that evangelist preachers aren't always prim and proper, scientists can wholeheartedly embrace ideas they can't prove, Buddhists aren't always tranquil and polytheists may happily believe in one God. Even atheists can have what I would describe as deeply spiritual lives.

The latter realization came by way of my interview this week with Mike Lee, a name familiar to Mac geeks around the world. Lee and his team developed the wildly popular iPhone app, "Tap Tap Revenge" (over one million downloads within four weeks of its release) and recently released Puzzllotto for the iPhone, an app that combines real-world charity with a digital adventure through a dark jungle populated by big-eyed critters and strange spirits. read more...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

WHEN NATURE CALLS : Boots on the ground a fun way to hunt December's deer woods

Years ago, as a greenhorn deer hunter, I enjoyed sitting in a deer stand about as much as I liked an impromptu switch-whipping from Momma. It was boring. It was tiresome. And more often than not, it was freezing cold. This, in turn, made me as fidgety as a couple of gray squirrels fighting for the last nut.

On the ground, that's where I liked to be. Not being confined to one area gave me freedom to see the hillsides or the liberty to jump from rock to rock on a winding dry creek bed. I could choose the tangled mass of an old clear cut or the silence of stalking through pines. The deer woods were my playground. Unfortunately, playing in the woods like this often led to deer scurrying for cover.

As the years seasoned me, I've learned to tolerate - if not appreciate - the necessity of finding a good area and setting up shop for hours at a time. No, it'll never be my preferred method but, man, sitting in these uncomfortable contraptions has sure helped me punch a lot of deer tags in the past 10 to 15 years. read more..

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nature triangle to woo tourists

- Government plans cottages & adventure sports to put Chandil on state’s tourism map

Jamshedpur, Dec. 14: Kayaking at Chandil, trekking at Dalma hills and an outing at Dimna lake — any tourist with a special room for nature in his heart would love to complete this circle, and that too in three days.

Cashing on this tourism triangle, the government plans to develop Chandil a hotspot for travellers with cottages overlooking the picturesque dam on the Subernarekha and making provisions for water sports still not witnessed there.

Tourism secretary Arun Kumar Singh today visited the Chandil dam and Dalma wildlife sanctuary. Seraikela-Kharsawan deputy commissioner Rajesh Kumar Sharma and Dhalbhum divisional forest officer A.T. Mishra also joined Singh on the recce. Singh also took a motorboat ride in the Chandil dam along with the two officials. read more...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Novices are Hollywood role-players

Baz Luhrmann, writer-director of the adventure epic "Australia," calls the decision his "biggest risk -- by far, the biggest risk -- in a film in which every risk was big."

Speaking from Rome, where he was premiering the $130-million historic action romance, which stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, Luhrmann wasn't talking about any of the set pieces that lend "Australia" its larger-than-life scope and sweep. He wasn't referring to the movie's cattle stampedes, its re-creations of World War II bombing raids, or even the movie's attempt to combine bodice-ripping romance with period western while tackling issues of social injustice.

No. Luhrmann's "risk" was casting Brandon Walters, who had never acted before, to portray Nullah, a central character around whom much of "Australia" is plotted and who also provides the movie's voice-over narration. read more...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Try the newest adventure in the Outaouais

Fall has always been my favourite season. There is something so beautiful about the leaves turning canary yellow, pumpkin orange and tomato red. This medley of colours against a backdrop of blue sky is hypnotic in its beauty. I feel like God decided to let loose and have fun by throwing a little paint around everywhere.

One of my fondest memories growing up is the fun we had raking leaves. My little brother use to go out first and spend the whole day raking. But he wouldn't make piles. Instead he would use the leaves to design and create a maze. It was an annual event, that even the neighbours children grew to look forward to and they would usually spend the whole day, up in their tree-house peering over at my brother, waiting anxiously till they could come over. Once he was done, everyone including my parents, would line up one behind the other and take turns, trying to find their way out without once looking up. (There were no walls, so if you looked anywhere else than your feet you would immediately see the exit!)

My brother has since grown up and seized creating colourful mazes out of dead leaves. Yet out of this experience I've grown to love mazes and seek them out wherever I go. It is for this reason that I had to visit the Outaouais countryside when I heard of the Eco-Odyssée adventure. The latter is no typical maze. It is made of 6 km of water trails with 64 intersections and shaped like an eagle. read more...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nautical and nice, Christmas Ships embark on new holiday river adventure

The Oregonian Staff

It is in the nature of the holiday season that by day, Richard Rich skippers a serviceable if aging and cluttered Tollycraft, but by night, he steers the crowd-pleasing firetruck, razzle-dazzling thousands of people on the banks of the inky Willamette for the Christmas Ship Parade.

"Some people drink. Some people do drugs. Some people have boats," Rich said. "It's so simple and true: A bad day on the water beats a good day at work."

For many of its 54 years, the parade ran on the Columbia River. Then 16 years ago, Rich, Jess Heitman and a few others decided the Willamette needed an edition, too. The parade is an all-volunteer event; any donations go toward insurance. read more...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Go Away, Give Back

Never heard of voluntourism? You will. Driven by the desire to fully experience a destination and to give back to it, more tourists are looking for opportunities to provide a volunteer service while on holiday.

Just this month, recommended volunteer vacations as a budget-conscious way for families to travel. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury hotelier Ritz-Carlton recently launched its worldwide Give Back Getaways program, offering guests the chance to volunteer their time to local groups dedicated to child welfare, feeding the hungry and preserving the environment. Next year, Philadelphia will officially incorporate voluntourism into its tourism brand, highlighting the metropolis as a "volunteer" destination.

As David Clemmons, founder of VolunTourism .org, frames it: "This is more than just putting heads in beds." read more...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Great gifts for the travelers on your list

A lump of coal, we realize, might be beyond your budget this holiday season. But if you've got any disposable income left, we have some suggestions for the traveler on your gift list. What follows are items my colleague Spud Hilton and I have field-tested over the last year and can personally vouch for. Also, keep in mind that just about all the things listed here can do double duty in your non-traveling life.

TSA locks: A great stocking-stuffer that's been around a while, but I'm amazed how many people don't have these. These locks, which airport security inspectors can open with a special key, are the only ones you're allowed to use on your checked luggage. They won't stop a determined thief or a crooked TSA inspector, but they'll persuade a casual miscreant to mess with someone else's luggage. They're available from many manufacturers and sold almost anywhere travel gear is found. The cheapest I've found is the Travelpro 4-Dial Safe Skies TSA Lock, which sells for two for $1.97 at

-- Piccadilly notebook: A virtual clone of the elegant but pricey Moleskine notebook at a fraction of the price. Leather-bound, Italian-made Moleskine notebooks have developed almost a cult following among journal-writing travelers, in part by invoking the names of Hemingway, Picasso and Chatwin as past users. But at $10 to $12, they're frightfully expensive. The Piccadilly's paper is marginally coarser than the Moleskine's, but otherwise it's such an exact copy, down to the packaging, that you wonder about copyright violations. But that's a question for lawyers. $3.99 at Borders. read more...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Local governments feel the pinch of budget hits

RALEIGH – From town hall to the statehouse, governments are cinching their belts in reaction to a sour regional and national economy, and the public is seeing early signs of the squeeze.

Henderson County readers can no longer spend Sundays at the library. Nonprofits like the Asheville Art Museum are getting a little less help from taxpayers. Job seekers applying with Buncombe County government are out of luck.

Most changes are barely perceptible except to public employees, but the shortfalls anticipated by number crunchers have the potential to show up in the form of delayed building projects, unmet energy-saving goals and a lack of affordable housing.

Cuts in the safety net will come at the worst possible time, Henderson County Manager Steve Wyatt said. read more...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trip expenses travel upwards at majority of South Carolina agencies

COLUMBIA -- Despite state budget cuts that have curtailed services and furloughed workers, more than half of state agencies that reported travel expenses last month increased their spending compared to October 2007, according to records maintained by the state's comptroller general.

Most of the 37 agencies, commissions and committees that spent more on travel in October did so by double digits, and some raised travel spending by 100 percent or more, according to an analysis by The Greenville News.

Four agencies -- the Commerce Department, Educational Television, the Arts Commission and the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department -- posted expenses for traveling outside the country in October, according to the records. All but 19 of the 73 agencies reporting travel expenses posted out-of-state travel spending in October, records showed. read more...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Trip expenses travel upwards at majority of South Carolina agencies

COLUMBIA -- Despite state budget cuts that have curtailed services and furloughed workers, more than half of state agencies that reported travel expenses last month increased their spending compared to October 2007, according to records maintained by the state's comptroller general.

Most of the 37 agencies, commissions and committees that spent more on travel in October did so by double digits, and some raised travel spending by 100 percent or more, according to an analysis by The Greenville News.

Four agencies -- the Commerce Department, Educational Television, the Arts Commission and the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department -- posted expenses for traveling outside the country in October, according to the records. All but 19 of the 73 agencies reporting travel expenses posted out-of-state travel spending in October, records showed. read more...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Going for green travel in San Diego

Our mission -- beyond celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary -- was to spend a weekend in San Diego in as eco-friendly a manner as we could, given two realities. One: Southern California's transportation system was designed by car salesmen. Two: We're really cheap.

Both realities landed the trip in the "nice try" category, and I'm sure there's a polar bear somewhere grousing about us. The experience also revealed a frustrating reality about trying to plan an eco-friendly weekend getaway: It's expensive, the kind of disincentive that suggests "eco-friendly travel" may still be more marketing gimmick than a trend that will do the world some good.

My wife, Margaret, and I live in Irvine, on Amtrak's Surfliner route, which we chose on a recent Friday instead of driving the 85 miles to downtown San Diego. With a AAA discount, the two round-trip tickets cost $75.60. Our car gets about 22 miles per gallon, which would've meant a gas tab of about $30 at the time we took the 190-mile round trip. (It would be even cheaper now.) Advantage: driving.

But then, if we had driven, we would have missed some of the prettiest stretches of beach and ocean on the West Coast, between Dana Point and Oceanside, where the train track crowns a bluff above surfer-specked breakers. Advantage: train. read more...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Adventure on the urban edge at Millard Campground near Pasadena

No one seems to know exactly when Millard Campground was converted from a day-use-only picnic spot near a nice waterfall into L.A.'s most convenient place to snore in the woods. Or, for that matter, if and when it might be converted back.

But on any given Saturday, it's clear that word has spread about this quick 'n' easy overnight retreat -- the closest place to the city in Angeles National Forest to park, pitch a tent, put up a hammock, plunk a hot dog on a stick and pretend for a starry night or two that Los Angeles (a stone's throw away) doesn't exist.

"We used to come up here a lot when we were in high school," says Richard Maldonado, a La Puente-based truck driver and one of about 30 overnighters, young and old, communing with nature on a recent weekend at Millard, a five-site trail camp tucked in a forested canyon above Altadena -- and just two miles from the nearest Starbucks. "And now, for the first time, we're bringing our kids. So it's like a new phase begins." read...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

'Australia' falls flat by borrowing from the classics

Hugh Jackman, a resourceful, good-humored star with the Old School knack for playing rugged and courtly, has just been named People'sSexiest Man Alive. Nicole Kidman, who can be an imposing woman of action (see the thriller Dead Calm), has become a critical favorite for her daring and accomplishment. For my money she was the Sexiest Woman Alive, if only for a few brief moments, in the Baltimore-shot Invasion.

These gifted Australians should have been sensational together as lovers in the sprawling Australia. Without the material to make their intimacy tingle or their passion explode, they seem what they are in real life - just good friends, albeit here, friends with benefits.

And Australia, set in Australia's Northern Territory, a land of romance and adventure, should have been a terrific epic, but instead is a lavish family time-killer. If Disney still made live-action holiday spectaculars, this could have been a Disney film.

Unfolding from 1939 to 1942, it contains episodes of sweeping adventure, such as a half-dozen drovers heading up a 1,500-head cattle drive, a Japanese attack on the port city of Darwin, and the daring rescue of dozens of orphans from a bombed-out island mission. continue...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Game for the big adventure

IT wasn’t the best of starts. Going to Senegal without sunblock, insect repellent, shorts or flip flops at the hottest time of the year was not the smartest move I’ve ever made.

Throw in the lack of a non-compulsory but allegedly highly recommended yellow fever jab and surely I’d have been forgiven for thinking this was set to be a holiday from hell.

But the beauty of my visit to west Africa was that, despite these omissions, it turned out to be exactly the sort of trip of a lifetime you’d see advertised in a brochure.

Our group sampled The Senegal Experience, which gave us a whistle-stop tour of some of the activities and hotels on offer in this delightful West African country.

There were so many breathtaking sights that I’m surprised that I avoided the need for oxygen therapy. continue...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Dakar Rally: Volkswagen tackles big challenge

The biggest motorsport challenge on new terrain: on 03 January 2009, the legendary Dakar Rally after 29 editions in Africa will be run in South America for the first time in its history. Four Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 vehicles will cross the starting ramp in Buenos Aires.15 legs will take the "Dakar" drivers through Argentina and Chile from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back through regions which make extreme demands on man and material. The Volkswagen team starts to this new era with the self-confidence of successfully contested rallies and fully focused on a big task.

"The team is looking forward to the event with incredibly eager anticipation. At the same time, the Dakar Rally's debut in South America is one of the biggest challenges Volkswagen has tackled so far," says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "With two wins and a second place in three events, the Race Touareg has been extremely successful this year. At the `Dakar' we'll give everything to add the greatest victory of all to this tally. Everyone in the team knows that we're strong enough to reach this goal. Yet the sport and particularly the Dakar Rally always offers surprises. We will work with concentration in order to prevail against strong rivals in extremely tough conditions."

Four Race Touareg vehicles, four seasoned factory teams

The four Volkswagen factory duos possess a wealth of experience: the two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz (Spain) will be navigated by the renowned cross-country rally co-driver Michel Perin (France). Giniel de Villiers (South Africa), with four overall wins the most successful Volkswagen driver in cross-country rally sport, relies on instructions by his co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz (Karlshof). Mark Miller (USA) and his "co" Ralph Pitchford (South Africa) in June celebrated the one-two win together with their team-mates de Villiers/von Zitzewitz as the runners-up at the Rallye dos Sertões in Brazil. A German duo is formed by Dieter Depping (Wedemark) and co-driver Timo Gottschalk (Berlin) at their debut in the Race Touareg they celebrated third place at the Central Europe Rally. read more...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch-located near Jasper, Arkansas

JASPER, Ark—As many families stack firewood, stock cupboards, and remove wooly sweaters from storage, it seems counter-intuitive to turn their thoughts to summer vacation plans. Yet, seasoned travelers know once the calendar reads 2009, the most popular weeks and accommodations are snapped up quickly.

This is especially true for those whom have their hearts set on highly sought after destinations, places like NW Arkansas’s Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. The Western Dude ranch with Southern hospitality is winning the favor of travelers from every corner of world. Add to its growing popularity the brief “high season,” a capacity of just 13 families, and a tendency for guests to return the same time each summer, and it’s apparent why making reservations months in advance is advised.

Four generations of the Johnson family work the 500-acre spread, where families journey from far as London and Rome to the retreat in the heart of the Buffalo River Wilderness area. Known as one of the cleanest, most scenic rivers in the United States, The Buffalo carves a path through the mountains forming towering sandstone and limestone bluffs as high as 440 feet, the tallest in the Ozarks. Visitors may explore caves, bluffs, waterfalls, old cabin sites, waterfalls, and may even spot a local black bear. But the river wilderness is more than a place of natural beauty as well as the site of the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. It is, in the words of the National Park Service, "an island of time and space, a valley where turn-of-the-century lifestyles and landscapes still exist.” Some guests are drawn to the ranch as a place of solace, to be inspired and refreshed by nature. Others travel here to satisfy an appetite for adventure. For many it’s an ideal place for both experiences. read more...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

MENIFEE: Charter effort emphasizes nature, reflection

MENIFEE ---- There soon could be a school where class time is set aside for reflection and team-building, and where students are urged to explore nature as a way to tap into their innate curiosity.

Robyn Rogers is hoping to start a charter school in the Menifee area that would use a curriculum based on the principals of Outward Bound, an adventure-education organization that leads wilderness trips around the world.

Known as Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, the teaching framework is used at schools throughout the country. It stresses values such as self-discovery, respect for the natural world, and collaboration and competition.

Rogers, a former public school teacher in Oregon, taught for a year using the expeditionary learning philosophy at a charter school in Oregon. She said the innovative philosophy doesn't clash with state educational standards.

"We do pull all of our curriculum from state standards," she said. "It's just the way we present the information, the framework we use, is much more hands-on, much more authentic. It just intrinsically engages the kids."

Rogers will hold an informational meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Grace Church in Quail Valley for those who might be interested in starting Aberdovey Charter School.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The topping point

Being gifted helps, but there are other factors involved in achieving success, writes Malcolm Gladwell

It's hard to resist Malcolm Gladwell. He's so darn enthusiastic. Reading one of his books is like sitting at the kitchen table while he runs about his house, pulling research studies out of file cabinets, thick biographies off bookshelves, and spreadsheets from his laptop. "Check this out!" he exclaims, and "Can you believe this one?!" Then he gets serious. "You know how important this is, don't you?" he asks. Beneath the force of his passion, all you can do is nod, even if you're not quite sure what you're agreeing to.

Gladwell terms his best-selling books "intellectual adventure stories." The latest, "Outliers," tells "The Story of Success," as the subtitle puts it, explaining how and why some people are more successful than others. The explanation is not simply that they are the best, Gladwell repeatedly proclaims, but rather that their aptitude has been enhanced by advantage and opportunity - because of family background, circumstances, and chance.

Only Horatio Alger would find this thesis shocking - and it should be noted that Alger was born in the 1830s, the same decade as the self-made titans of American industrialism, whose success, Gladwell argues, had everything to do with being born at the exact moment to take advantage of the industrial transformation of the economy during the 1860s and '70s. In other words, Alger's rags-to-riches narratives may have represented what he thought he was seeing around him, but the reality was more complicated.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nature worth saving for future generations

The arguments regarding protected status for Gold Butte can go on forever and ever. As a lifelong Nevadan, a lover of back country and the off-road life, I cannot see why some people are upset.

I love to ride my ATV, but I never believed that gave me the right to ride it anywhere I pleased, regardless of signs or fragility of the terrain.

As a younger person I hiked the Grand Canyon. Next to Nevada sites, it is my favorite place to be.

But I can no longer hike those trails or ride the mules because of age and infirmity. However, I am not joining the fight to put a cog-wheel train in so I can once again go to the bottom of the canyon and back. I would never, so long as there is breath in my body, agree to putting any more man-made contraptions in this most glorious of places.

The point is, nobody on this earth gets to go everywhere he wants by any means he can devise to go there. Why do some people think we can just tear up all of Nevada because it is in the desert?

I am willing to sacrifice getting to some places to preserve them for those who will follow me and will be able to hike in. Hiking in, or going by horse or mule, is integral to the adventure. The simple sound of silence is soul moving.

Give Gold Butte a chance. The people will come. I will visit the periphery, and be delighted with that. Many years ago I was there with a geology class, and I could do the hike then.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In Nebraska City, take a Tree Adventure hike to get close to nature and history

NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. | Standing on the terrace of Lied Lodge on a cloudless fall morning, tour guide Carol Crook pointed out Arbor Lodge, the white frame mansion of J. Sterling Morton, rising just above the treetops.

In the foreground stood an experimental plantation of hazelnut trees, testing more than 100 varieties against long-term blight and a testament to Morton, the founder of Arbor Day. As if on cue, a blue jay flew across in front of the panorama. More than 170 species of birds have been identified on these grounds, Crook told us.

When Morton and his wife, Caroline, arrived in southeast Nebraska in 1855, “Nebraska City was a river freight town,” Crook said. The couple built a small cottage and immediately began planting trees on their 168-acre plot of prairie land. As editor of the Nebraska News, Morton exhorted his readers to plant trees and care for them.

In 1872 Morton pushed for Arbor Day to be declared in the young state of Nebraska. Leading others to find seedlings of the cottonwoods and burr oaks that grew along the banks of the Missouri River and nearby South Table Creek, he organized an observance in which schoolchildren and their parents across the state planted a million trees. Some 800 more non-native trees Morton had ordered didn’t arrive in time and were planted the following week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

High adventure in Pahang

From the sandy white beaches to the highest peak in the peninsula, Pahang offers more than just a holiday. It gives an opportunity to be one with nature and to learn about the environment besides appreciating the natural heritage.


Long stretches of white sandy beaches on which one can just laze around and do nothing but enjoy and drink in the beauty of the sea. With turquoise blue waters and nice green hills across the horizons, it is a beautiful place to be to enjoy peace or alternatively to ride the rolling waves.

Pulau Keladi, Pekan

This is the Royal Silk Weaving Centre in Pahang. Famous for their woven silk materials, the centre makes them specially for the royal house, dignitaries and also for sale to patrons who visit. Called kain tenun Pahang or Pahang woven material, it is also sold by the National Craft Centre around the country and in the state capital Kuantan at Kompleks Teruntum.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Of culture, nature, Adventure with luxury

Eighth wonder of the world, Sigiriya Rock, is one of the most popular destinations in Sri Lanka. It never experienced a dull moment even when the overseas arrivals are low. Sri Lankan visitors to the great heritage site increased with every year.

To accommodate the inflow of travellers, more and more hotels and resorts are being added. The latest is the 'Kassapa Lion Rock' Hotel, which has a great location overlooking Sigiriya and Pidurangala rocks.
Ideally located in the heart of the cultural triangle, on a ten acre land facing the magnificent Sigiriya and Pidurangala rock in the midst of a small village named Digampathana, it is just 20 minutes away from the Dambulla town and ten minutes drive from Habarana.

'Out of all the hotels, we got the best view of the rocks. Most of the promotional materials ignored Pidurangala, which is equally important as a historical and as an archeological factor. We promote both rocks' explained Nilan Wickremasinghe, Director of the hotel. read more...

Monday, December 1, 2008

`Twilight' time: Vamp tale seeks blockbuster bite

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Girl-meets-boy stories are not the usual stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, even when it's girl-meets-vampire.

Neither are stories created by women, with a predominantly female audience, shot on a bargain budget with a cast of relative unknowns and released by an independent distributor trying to establish a niche among Hollywood's half-dozen studio behemoths.

Yet Summit Entertainment has good reason to believe "Twilight" will have more box-office bite than your typical teen soap about an awkward high school babe and her cool new mystery beau.

"Twilight" has a few stunts and clever visuals, but it's far from the special-effects extravaganzas that dominate the movie business. It was shot for $37 million, a pittance compared with big studio movies that can cost four or five times more.

What "Twilight" does offer is epic star-crossed romance, melodrama, peril, an attractive young cast and an action-packed finale. But mostly, it has arguably the most passionate fan base of any literary adaptation since Harry Potter. read more...