Jan 30, 2011

Classic Dream Theater radio interview from 1993.

Check out this radio interview to Dream Theater that was performed at WRZX-FM radio in Indianapolis, IN, July 6th 1993. 

As the video comment on Youtube very well says, this little gem features the whole band circa 1993 making an in-studio radio station appearence on WRZX in Indy. The band is interviewed by the hilarious DJ (who sounds like a stereotypical early 90's rock DJ) while they launch into spontaneous jams, musical jokes, and even a few full songs. The DJ uses a portable mic and goes around talking to the guys, while much laughing and jokes ensue. And they even played a Trooper cover.

The interview also clarifies a rumour that had been circulating about James LaBrie getting into a bar brawl, and he explains that in his own words: 

Jan 28, 2011

The Sandy River Flood.

On January 16th the Sandy River, swollen by heavy rain and rapid snowmelt, rampaged through residential areas and destroyed roads and houses in the state of Oregon, U.S. According to the information that officials provided, the river changed its course, crashing through residential yards that days before had been beautiful riverside settings. 

Alexandra Erickson and Tyler Malay, two freelance videographers and graphic designers, could record these incredible images of the violent and fast-moving Sandy River sweeping away trees and carving out parts of the East Lolo Pass Road.

Jan 24, 2011

NYC taxi trips in one single hour.

That amazing graphic there to your left represents one hour of rides in New York — the 4 p.m. hour, well known to New Yorkers as the most difficult time to catch cabs. 

This is shown in vivid colours by this data visualization made by Zoe Fraade-Blanar, who mapped pick-up and drop-off locations by NYC neighborhood, based on taxi-trip data from the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.
The wheel shows the neighbourhoods where the riders managed to get a taxi at that time and where they went.

It can be perceived how most of the late afternoon fares in the West Village and TriBeCa are leaving the neighborhood, while in the Financial District and East Village most of them are arriving. While almost all of the rides to and from Chelsea at that hour are to Chelsea. Even the few riders who hailed a cab from the Chelsea were dropped off in the same neighborhood. This is really an brilliant thing to make and definitely to look at. 

Thomas Edison's predictions of year 2011.

On June 23, 1911 the Miami Metropolis published predictions about the year 2011 from Thomas Edison in which he makes some amazing predictions about a future of golden automobiles, the discontinuation of gold as currency, the rise of steel and the death of the steam engine. 

You can read the full article here:

What will the world be a hundred years hence?

None but a wizard dare raise the curtain and disclose the secrets of the future; and what wizard can do it with so sure a hand as Mr. Thomas Alva Edison, who has wrested so many secrets from jealous Nature? He alone of all men who live has the necessary courage and gift of foresight, and he has not shrunk from the venture.

Already, Mr. Edison tells us, the steam engine is emitting its last gasps. A century hence it will be as remote as antiquity as the lumbering coach of Tudor days, which took a week to travel from Yorkshire to London. In the year 2011 such railway trains as survive will be driven at incredible speed by electricity (which will also be the motive force of all the world's machinery), generated by "hydraulic" wheels.

But the traveler of the future, says a writer in Answers, will largely scorn such earth crawling. He will fly through the air, swifter than any swallow, at a speed of two hundred miles an hour, in colossal machines, which will enable him to breakfast in London, transact business in Paris and eat his luncheon in Cheapside.

The house of the next century will be furnished from basement to attic with steel, at a sixth of the present cost — of steel so light that it will be as easy to move a sideboard as it is today to lift a drawing room chair. The baby of the twenty-first century will be rocked in a steel cradle; his father will sit in a steel chair at a steel dining table, and his mother's boudoir will be sumptuously equipped with steel furnishings, converted by cunning varnishes to the semblance of rosewood, or mahogany, or any other wood her ladyship fancies.

Books of the coming century will all be printed leaves of nickel, so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume. A book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound.

Already Mr. Edison can produce a pound weight of these nickel leaves, more flexible than paper and ten times as durable, at a cost of five shillings. In a hundred years' time the cost will probably be reduced to a tenth.

More amazing still, this American wizard sounds the death knell of gold as a precious metal. "Gold," he says, "has even now but a few years to live. The day is near when bars of it will be as common and as cheap as bars of iron or blocks of steel.

"We are already on the verge of discovering the secret of transmuting metals, which are all substantially the same in matter, though combined in different proportions."

Before long it will be an easy matter to convert a truck load of iron bars into as many bars of virgin gold.

In the magical days to come there is no reason why our great liners should not be of solid gold from stem to stern; why we should not ride in golden taxicabs, or substituted gold for steel in our drawing room suites. Only steel will be the more durable, and thus the cheaper in the long run.

Jan 19, 2011

Rare 1770 map of New York restored with amazing results.

Every day we get a new chance to learn something new. Does the name of Bernard Ratzer say anything to you? It might. I had never heard of it though.

I just read this story in the New York Times of a 241 year-old map of the city of New York that has been discovered and found in a pretty bad condition and restored to such a good state that is almost hard to believe.
It was discovered among other maps and maps and prints that were warehoused at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Map cataloguer, Carolyn Hansen, started to unfurl the crispy, tattered and brittle map, she heard it rip. She didn't keep pulling, but enough of the map was open to reveal a name: Ratzer. The name of Bernard Ratzer is invoked as something of a Da Vinci of New York cartography, and the map was an early edition of his best-known work: a Bernard Ratzer “Plan of the City of New York” in its 1770 state.

It is, no doubt, a great discovery. But what is most amazing about it is how brilliantly the restoration went, as you can see in the picture. You can click on it for more a bigger size, but for a more detailed view try this interactive feature in the New York Times in which both maps, before and after restoration (as it is now behind plexiglass), can be viewed in detail. And if you are interested in the details of the restoration process, you can also check the full  NY Times article out. 

Jan 18, 2011

Ricky Gervais - Golden Globes 2011 Opening Monologue.

Ricky Gervais has been the host of this year's Golden Globes, and his opening monologue has been somewhat controversial in Hollywood. The British actor has made a career out of discomfort, but if anything else, he was really funny and his introduction was great. And some of those people and movies he mentions do deserve it all right.

I think that this kind of stuff should be done much more often -specially in the States I guess. Ricky Gervais is a European and he was brave enough to do this in the land of the political correctness, which in my view is kind of something. It's irony. British humour. Check it out: 

Jan 17, 2011

Winter in Yosemite National Park.

Check out this beautiful video taken over the 2011 New Year weekend when a winter storm drifted into Yosemite National Park (California/Nevada). You can also check out other videos from the same author in his collection on Vimeo.

The Game Begins: New "A Game of Thrones" trailer.

This one looks much, much better. I didn't entire like the images that I have seen so far, but if this is the post-production quality that we are going to get in the series it can really be something. The fight to claim the Iron Throne is about to begin in this series based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. What do you think?

Jan 11, 2011

London's Mail Rail.

You might not know that there exists an underground train line in London that has never carried passengers. 

This line crosses London from East to West, and not many people know that it exists. It is the Mail Rail, the train used by the Post Office to transport large volumes of letters and packages among its main offices. 
It was designed as a mail delivery system in the early 20th century and it stopped working in 2003 due to the lower costs of transporting the mail above ground, and as a Royal Mail spokesman said in that year, the service costs more than four times as much due to the huge drop of postage in the city. Sometimes though, there's a train going through the line to keep the system in working conditions. 

During its busiest period, these trains transported up to four millions of letters per day. Each train took 26 minutes to go through the 37 kilometers that separated Paddington from Whitechapel, including 1 minute stop in each one of the stations. However, during the 90's, the e-mail sentenced this system of mail transportation to death little by little. It is nowadays inactive but kept in working conditions, although it has an uncertain future.

You can learn much more about the Mail Rail in The Unofficial MailRail Website and also in the following video which briefly tells its history: 

Jan 7, 2011

£2 coin with a spelling mistake goes unnoticed for five years.

The Royal Mint has just admitted that they have produced a £2 coin with a spelling mistake. That's ok, everybody makes mistakes... but this particular mistake was made five years ago when these coins were released. 

These £2 coins were made to mark the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and have the words ‘Pemember the fifth of November’ engraved around the outer rim. 
Apparently, the mistake was noticed last June by a collector in Suffolk, Albi Pinnion, after he was given a £2 in change at his local pub. Even though the coin was produced in 2005 nobody had seen the mistake yet, and even though he e-mailed and wrote letters to the Royal Mint, they didn't want to acknowledge the mistake for some reason. Since then, he has gathered up to 20 of these coins. 

There are some of these coins being auctioned at eBay, and it seems that this coin hasn't been the only one discovered with a mistake and also being auctioned. In 2008 there was a batch of undated 20p appeared in circulation in the UK, some of which were sold for thousands of pounds each on internet auction sites, and as Mr. Pinnion said, "They offered £50 for every 20 pence piece returned to them so you can see why they don’t want to admit mistakes. If they were all returned it could have cost them 10 million pounds."

Jan 6, 2011

Car-towed guy skiing through New York.

Some days ago we were talking about the huge blizzard that hit New York before NYE and how the city was covered in snow, making life quite hard for the New Yorkers. 

Well, it seems that not everyone was having such a tough time. Some crazy people actually enjoyed the deserted, snow-loaded streets in the middle of the blizzard. This guy got his skis and a car, and had a lot of fun. He attached a rope to the car and zipped down Park Avenue at 40 mph. That may not seem too fast when you are in a car, but it must be quite exhilarating outside, in the middle of the storm, when you know that you or the car can crash at any time -even into people, as the guy almost did once. They were nice enough to make a video for us to see:

Jan 4, 2011

'Mudlarks' on the banks of London's River Thames.

Look at these guys of whom I just learned about. They call themselves Mudlarks, and what a mudlark is, according to Wikipedia, is someone who scavenges in river mud for items of value, especially in London during the late 18th and 19th centuries [...]. More recently, metal-detectorists searching the foreshore for historic artefacts have described themselves as "mudlarks". 

The Daily Mail published this article (a very interesting one on the occasion of the finding of the only known complete ball, chain and lock that was found in the banks of the Thames and that you can see in the picture to your left) in which they say that mudlarks are history enthusiasts, some of whom have been likened to amateur archaeologists, have special permits to search and dig the foreshore from the Port of London Authority. Digging on the north side of the Thames between Westminster in central London and Wapping in the east of the city is strictly prohibited because it is so rich in archaeological deposits.
There are only 51 'official' mudlarks who have achieved this recognised status -- through the Society of Thames Mudlarks -- by recording their finds through institutions like the Museum of London. Many have become experts in periods of English history through the many thousands of historical artefacts they unearth.

Well, I was just taking a look at the blog Spitalfields Life, and this entry strongly caught my eye. In it, the blog's author interviews Steve Brooker, the man with the ball, chain and lock in the picture. During the interview, Brooker shows us some of the objects from his personal collection that he has found during seventeen years of scouring the bed of the Thames, including a knuckle guard from a medieval gauntlet, a renaissance rapier handle or a clay pipe from 1600. 

It's fascinating to see the hard work that these people do to find these pieces of history, and one can only imagine the amounts of time that they spend on the banks of the Thames and the effort that they put digging into the mud. 
If you feel like looking a little more into what they do, they have a couple of websites worth seeing, where they show many of their findings: 

I found the amount of things that can be found in the banks of London's river really surprising, as well as how enthusiast these people are on what they do. You can also read these two articles, one from the Daily Mail, and another from The Guardian, on the finding of the ball and chain. They give a little insight on how it could end there... the lock is fastened, so it was probably locked to someone when it fell... What happened to the prisoner?

The BBC made this interview with them which is absorbing as well:

Jan 3, 2011

We are on Facebook.

English as a World Language proudly presents its new page on Facebook

Now you will be able to comment the blog entries on Facebook, start or join discussions about the page topics, upload pictures and keep up to date with the new posts as soon as the blog is updated.

You can join this page on Facebook by clicking on the "Like" button to your right below the Translation box in this very blog or go to the very page by clicking the big black Facebook button next to it and Liking it there.

Welcome everyone!

Jan 2, 2011

England in the early 1900s.

I just came across some amazing visual records of how everyday life was in Britain at the beginning of the twentieth century. They have been released by the British Film Institute, and there are many other examples to watch on their Youtube Channel, although some digging is needed in order to find them as they have them mixed with other kinds of films. And they have a lot.

Some of them are commented and are a delight to watch and see how the cities, the people and the customs were in those times. The first one, although not having an audio commentary, depicts a number of scenes shot around central London, taking in locations such as Hyde Park Corner, Parliament Square and Charing Cross Station. We see crowds of people disembarking from a pleasure steamer at Victoria Embankment, pedestrians dodging horse-drawn carriages in Pall Mall, and heavy traffic trotting down the Strand.
There are plenty of famous landmarks to spot here, including Big Ben, the National Gallery and the Bank of England, and it is fascinating to see the similarities between the customs of "then" and "now" - the dense traffic (mainly horse-drawn, with the occasional motor car) is highly reminiscent of today's London rush hour, whilst advertising on public transport is clearly no new phenomenon - in one scene, an advert for Nestlé's Milk seems to be plastered on every other vehicle.

The second one does have a very enlightening audio commentary, and depicts a tram ride from Forster Square in Bradford in 1902:

This one is set in Wigan in August 1902:

And the last video, set in 1904 in the Victoria Pier, in Blackpool:

Jan 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

Well, we are in 2011 already. 

Unlike the usual shabby show that Madrid puts up when the 12 bell chimes finish ringing, the Brits of course did it properly last night. These is London's spectacular midnight fireworks display, welcoming 2011. Happy New Year!

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