Sunday, June 27, 2010

How to Become a Shaolin Monk – The Ten Steps

1. Precept 1

Agility – The body must be agile, fast and alive with energy. If you take any step you hand must make a corresponding quick movement. The movement of all body parts must be completely coordinated. If about to strike do not even look at the shadow of your hand, never attract attention to your fist. Only if you improve your skills constantly will you reach the pinnacle of your combat potential.

2. Precept 2

‘Motion and rest of two arms and two feet must be in coordination and in supplement of each other’ It is believed that the motion of the heart is in control of how energy or ‘chi‘ is distributed to the whole body and originates at the cinnabar or ‘dantian’ field i.e. three to five centimeters below the navel.

How the chi is vibrating affects how the body will behave. If the chi flows freely the body will be heroic and tough like a tiger or dragon. When the body’s force and energy combine it is manifested by the ability to ‘exert astonishing sounds.

3. Precept 3 It is believed that during a fight all the five elements should be uniquely fused. The five elements of nature interact constantly and to understand them they should be observed. An understanding of the laws of birth and the ’surmounting of the five elements’ enables a Shaolin warrior to absorb the meaning of combat arts.

Each element originates with unified chi energy, the force which causes the body to act. If you grasp these concepts you will have incredible strength. Blood and chi are required to be in harmony and if so the Shaolin warrior will have superior health and strength.

Precept 4 for a Shaolin Monk

You must know and understand the eight-point theory of ‘ba tiao’. For example you move up and down and retreat in such a way that your retreat seems to be an advance. Following this law, the eight successes will be phenomenal. Precept four aims at learning how to make swift movements up and pliable, soft downward movements. All movements will be supremely coordinated.

During combat you need to be prepared to take on an enemy who appears, disappears and reappears. An enemy can be as dangerous as a tiger which has been let out of his cage but if you can turn and defend yourself in an instant from both front and rear you are a divine protector of combat arms who is guarded from all sides.

You need to be able to protect the left and the right very quickly. When retreating, you must decoy your enemy in a trap. Be furious as this will help you. Small birds who take their chance can fly over a high mountain!

Precept 5

‘Your gait must be as stout as that of gods’. It is a better idea to make five more steps than to make a mistake by one qun (one qun is equal to 3.2 cm approximately)’.

Movements during combat vary. Measured steps or ‘gun bu’ must be separate from each other by not more than three chis (one chi is equal to 0.32 m). As your life is always at stake in combat you must step carefully. Steps that are steady should be separated from each other by five chis. Steps that are too big are equal to two gongs (in ancient times one gong was equal to five chis).

Quick stepping (kuai bu) is equal to one zhan (one zhan is equal to 10 chis). A horizontal leap is made with the energetic force of thighs and feet. Spilling steps (zhan bu) are great upward leaps taken to break out of encirclement.

Precept 6

This rule pertains to the knowledge of arm and leg movements during combat. Shaolin fist work is unique in the discipline. Each punch should ‘pierce the enemy and cut him into pieces’. An arm should bend without bending and unbend without unbending. This is so the enemy can’t follow your movements and can’t get a good view of your punch.

The arms must separate the thorax with great speed. Training and activity of sinuous body parts determines how much force the arms have. Punches must take your enemy by surprise, so he can’t avoid the blow. The arm should make an accurate cut, flying upwards obediently and readily, or, if required, go down.

It does not matter in what way the body is twisted or if your hands are bound, it is believed that you might free yourself, ‘like a swallow has always a chance to find water springs.’ If one hand is pinned down or both hands are restrained, you can punch with a stone elbow into the enemy’s pudenda from below.

Seven leg works also exist:

“qi” – uprising
“fan” – overturning
“lo” – tumbling
“zhin” – advance
“ti” – kick
“qai” – kick
“zhuan” – kick.

The five natural elements bond to form a single “chi” and feet act in unison from the front and behind so you cannot be approached. Warriors must move step-by-step and make no sound but those of ‘punches of infuriated soles touching the ground after strikes. The legs are like ferocious tigers or dragons in the sky’.

Precept 7 for a Shaolin Monk

This rule demands the simultaneous advances of arms and legs. During combat arms and legs act together and depend on each other. This means when you advance towards your enemy the legs, arms and torso act in complete agreement.

The following qualities are to be achieved: mind, body obedience, manhood, speed and fury.

Mental work or ‘gong’ means that during a fight one must depend on your mind. Body obedience or ’shun’ means you must train for a long time to make movement natural. Manliness or ‘yong’ indicates that you should work out bold plans and achieve them boldly. Speed or ‘ji’ demands that during hand-to-hand fighting you must act quickly. Fury or ‘hen’ must be present only at the moment when you attack.

You are encouraged to watch over enemy’s stances and positions and understand them with a view to finding his weak points. Never start fighting and deliver blows without thinking about and studying your enemy.

Precept 8

This rule relates to the concept of ‘all-round defense’. It concentrates on its unique manifestations and timely pursuit. The rule of cover or ‘ting’ relates to permanent protection in the front, from the behind, from the left and from the right. Apart from these areas one need to remember that the enemy may strike from above and from below.

‘Zhe or the rule of distinct manifestation is used for work of arms, body, head and heart. All movements should be clear and efficient at the moment of action. Your shout should frighten your enemy. ‘You should be able to win without a fight, only with your loud laughter’.

The rule of pursuit or ‘zhui’ relates to of using any opportunity to pursue your enemy. Never give him a chance to collect himself. When an enemy’s steps become faster you should use the chance to attack him.

Precept 9

The three human elements namely: eyes, ears and heart intelligence should be in harmony at all times. Eyes must be attentive and active and monitor the enemy’s movements constantly. Keep the ears alert to sense movements and rest.

Precept 10 for a Shaolin Monk

This rules advises warrior monks to use their sinews. ‘Shen’ is the ability to use spiritual sources. Sinews are chiefs of bones and if they tremble, “chi” energy is wasted. It is believed that sinews are transmitters of information from the three senses (vision, hearing and mind).

There are several attributes required by Shaolin warriors and you will need to attain them if you want to become a Shaolin monk.

1. To be as graceful as a cat

2. To be as aggressive as the tiger

3. To step like a dragon

4. To act like a lightning stroke

5. To shout like thunder

6. To move like a gust of wind

7. To stay like a nail

8. To be as heavy as a mountain

9. To be as light as goose down

10. To be soft as cotton wool

11. As hard as iron

If you are serious about your intent to become a Shaolin monk you will need to study, understand and practice the ten basic precepts of combat until you have mastered them. Still this is only the beginning; there is a wealth of skills and techniques to discover as well. For in depth information oh how to become a Shaolin monk read ‘72 Secret Arts’ (now in English) compiled by Jin Jing Zhong.

Those are the Ten Basic Precepts of Combat Arts. To achieve them, one must work a lot. The most valuable quality for mastery of combat arms is persistence. One must persistently practice pugilistic arms and weapon use.

One should remember that only the noble men of high morals may be taught the true combat art. On no account a bad man who does not follow true “dao” (the way) should be taught.


The Curse of King Tut's Tomb

Although people are often frightened of mummies, it is untrue that finding a mummy can lead to a curse on the discoverer. Author Christine El Mahdy believes that those who first expressed fear of mummies were the Arabs, who conquered Egypt in A.D. 641. Arab writers warned people not to tamper with mummies or their tombs; they knew that Egyptians practiced magic during funerals. And the paintings on the walls of Egyptian tombs seemed to suggest that mummies could return to life and seek revenge.

The idea that mummies had magic power eventually appealed to the imaginations of authors. After the first ghost story about a mummy's curse was published in 1699, many more followed. But the longest lasting episode involving a mummy's curse was the discovery and opening of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1923.

This story has been told many times, but fact and fiction are usually blended. Two recent authors who have separated the facts from the myths are Christopher Frayling and Nicholas Reeves.

First, the facts: Lord Carnarvon, who had funded the search for King Tut's tomb, and archaeologist Howard Carter entered the king's burial chamber on February 17, 1923. On or about March 6, Lord Carnarvon was bitten by a mosquito on his cheek and became ill. Reported in the media, this event caused many people to jump to the conclusion that King Tut's tomb was cursed.

Many famous people volunteered their theories to the press. For example, Marie Corelli, a popular novelist at the time, expressed her thoughts in a letter published in New York and London newspapers. In part, her letter read:

I cannot but think some risks are run by breaking into the last rest of a king in Egypt whose tomb is specially and solemnly guarded, and robbing him of his possessions. According to a rare book I possess . . . entitled The Egyptian History of the Pyramids [an ancient Arabic text], the most dire punishment follows any rash intruder into a sealed tomb. The book . . . names 'secret poisons enclosed in boxes in such wise that those who touch them shall not know how they come to suffer'. That is why I ask, Was it a mosquito bite that has so seriously infected Lord Carnarvon?

Corelli reported that the Egyptian author also warned: "Death comes on wings to he who enters the tomb of a pharaoh."

Her concerns seemed to be on target when Lord Carnarvon's condition worsened. The mosquito bite became infected, he contracted pneumonia, and on April 5, he died. The legend of the curse became fact and was enhanced by many rumors. Here are five of the most famous rumors - and the real truth behind them:

Rumor 1: On the day of the tomb opening, Carter's pet canary was eaten by a cobra (a symbol of the ancient pharaohs). The truth is that, although Carter had a pet canary, he gave it to a friend named Minnie Burton to watch, and she gave it (alive and well) to a bank manager.

Rumor 2: At the moment that Carnarvon died in Cairo Hospital, the lights across Cairo went out for five minutes. Actually, around the time that Carnarvon died, the hospital lights did go out for a few moments. Within a few weeks' time, this fact was twisted into the more interesting rumor. As Christine El Mahdy points out, the lights in Cairo are notorious for going out without warning - even today.

Rumor 3: Carnarvon's dog Susie, back in England, howled and dropped dead at exactly two o'clock in the morning, the time that Carnarvon died. No one knows whether this story is true or not, but it seems suspicious, especially since Egypt and England do not share the same time zone. The story might be a bit more believable if Susie had died at two o'clock Egyptian time.

Rumor 4: Over the door to King Tut's tomb was an inscription that read "Death shall come on swift wings to him that toucheth the tomb of the Pharaoh." Notice that this inscription closely matches the quotation Marie Corelli cited from the ancient Arabic text. Even today, it is easy to find books that report this inscription as fact. For example, in his recent book about mummies, author John Vornholt writes, "In an outer chamber, they [Carter and Carnarvon] found a clay tablet that read: 'Death will slay with his wings whoever disturbs the peace of the Pharaoh.'" This is simply not true.

Rumor 5: Most of the people present at the opening of the tomb met untimely deaths. Again, Vornholt writes that "13 of 20 people who were present at the opening of King Tut's burial chamber died within a few years." Vornholt does not give his source for this information, but it is clearly incorrect. The truth is that the newspapers at the time had a field day with the curse. Whenever anyone related to Carnarvon or the discovery of the tomb died, the death was taken as proof that the curse was in effect.

However, Egyptologist Herbert E. Winlock examined the evidence some 12 years after the tomb's opening. Of the 26 people present at the opening of the burial chamber, only 6 had died within the next 10 years. When King Tut's sarcophagus was opened, 22 of the 26 people were present, but only 2 of them had died within 10 years afterward. Finally, only 10 of the 26 people had watched the unwrapping of the mummy. And none of them had died within the next decade! In fact, many of the people who had the most contact with the king's mummy lived long and productive lives.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

What is the rarest animal in the world?

The Pinta Island tortoise - Without argument, this turtle is one of the few species of Giant Galapagos tortoises and the rarest animal in the world since there is only one left alive. Lonesome George is the sole surviving member of the Pinta Island race, the giant tortoise being a symbol for the fragility of the Galapagos islands, and a constant reminder for vigilance and conservation of the species. The species was considered extinct until 1971, when a lone example was located by rangers. Since then, the Charles Darwin Research Station has been searching for a female tortoise, even posting a reward of $10,000 to those that find one.


The Clockwork Atom Bomb by Dominic Green

Dominic Green's story first appeared in Interzone (IZ) magazine, issue 198, May/June 2005. It topped the 2005 readers' poll as the most popular of the year. Dominic's earlier story, 'Send Me a Mentagram', (IZ 192) was reprinted in the 21st edition of The Year's Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois; 'The Clockwork Atom Bomb' will feature in the 2006 collection.

The story has also been shortlisted for a Hugo Award, in the category of the best SF short story of 2005. The Hugos - the science fiction equivalent of the Oscars - are based on the votes of science fiction fans worldwide.

In 'The Clockwork Atom Bomb', a UN weapons inspector discovers that an African nation is making alarming use of future technology.

Dominic Green comes from Bakewell, Derbyshire, and now lives and works in Northampton. He is an alumnus of Wellingborough School and St Catharine's College, Cambridge.

Dominic writes short stories and novels but success with the latter has eluded him to date. He hopes his new popularity will help him find a publisher for his novels so that he can follow in the footsteps of Interzone alumni Alastair Reynolds, Stephen Baxter and Greg Egan.

Many thanks to Interzone for granting permission to reproduce 'The Clockwork Atom Bomb'.


International PEN

International PEN, the worldwide association of writers, was founded in London in 1921[1] to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere. PEN originally stood for "Poets, Essayists and Novelists",[2] but now includes writers of any form of literature, such as journalists and historians. Other goals included: to emphasise the role of literature in the development of mutual understanding and world culture; to fight for freedom of expression; and to act as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned and sometimes killed for their views. It is the world’s oldest human rights organization[3] and the oldest international literary organization.


Thursday, June 24, 2010


The birds-of-paradise are members of the family Paradisaeidae of the order Passeriformes. The majority of species in this family are found on the island of New Guinea and its satellites, with a few species occurring in the Moluccas of Indonesia and eastern Australia. The family has forty species in 13 genera. The members of this family are perhaps best known for the plumage of the males of most species, in particular highly elongated and elaborate feathers extending from the beak, wings or head. For the most part they are confined to dense rainforest habitat. The diet of all species is dominated by fruit and to a lesser extent arthropods. The birds-of-paradise have a variety of breeding systems, ranging from monogamy to lek based polygamy.

The family is of cultural importance to the inhabitants of New Guinea. The trade in skins and feathers of the birds-of-paradise has been going on for two thousand years, and the birds have been of considerable interest to western collectors, ornithologists and writers as well. A number of species are threatened by hunting and habitat loss.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Does an Herbologist Do?

Herbology is a traditional practice of medicine based on the use of plants, minerals, and fungi, and their medicinal properties. It is sometimes referred to as both medical and botanical herbalism, herbal medicine, and phytotherapy. A herbologist is a physician who studies and utilizes the use of plants and their extracts as a more natural and direct approach to healthcare.


Glenn Beck

Glenn Lee Beck (born February 10, 1964) is an American conservative radio and television host, political commentator, author, and entrepreneur. He is the host of The Glenn Beck Program, a nationally-syndicated talk-radio show that airs throughout the United States on Premiere Radio Networks. Beck is also the host of a self-titled cable-news show on Fox News Channel.

As an author, Beck has gained success with six New York Times-bestselling books, with five debuting at #1.[1] Beck is also the founder and CEO of Mercury Radio Arts, a multi-media production company through which he produces content for radio, television, publishing, the stage, and the Internet.

Beck has become a well-known public figure, whose provocative and often polarizing views have afforded him media recognition and popularity, along with controversy and criticism. To his supporters, he is a champion in defense of traditional American values from secular progressivism,[4] while his detractors say he promotes conspiracy theories and uses incendiary rhetoric.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Rip Van Winkle

"Rip Van Winkle" is a short story by the American author Washington Irving published in 1819, as well as the name of the story's fictional protagonist. Written while Irving was living in Birmingham, England, it was part of a collection entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon. Although the story is set in New York's Catskill Mountains, Irving later admitted, "When I wrote the story, I had never been on the Catskills."


Chaz Michael Michael's Quote

"Showing off. Figured out how to work the Google on the internet machine."

Reference: Will Ferrell as Chaz Michael Michaels

Nintendo 3DS

At this year E3, the surprises were more of the latter, and no one amazed me more than Nintendo with a handful of amazing announcements. The most important one was the Nintendo 3DS, which promised 3D without the glasses. I was skeptical of this at first. I mean could this really be true? If all these high-tech companies can’t figure out the glasses bit, how could Nintendo?

Well, the Nintendo 3DS is legit. It works beautifully, almost like magic. Your eyes naturally drift to the 3D screen and just stay there, hypnotized. The effect feels like you’re looking at one of those 3D baseball cards, only this feels more real. What makes this device so brilliant is that there’s a viralness to the experience.

The 3D isn’t something that can be translated on video or on a glossy magazine. It’s something that needs to be seen to be believed, but once you glance at the screen, it’s hard not to be sold on Nintendo’s new hand-held. It’s something that may be as important as when games went into another type of 3D — from sprites to polygons.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Holy Squid!

Like something straight out of a Jules Verne novel, an enormous tentacled creature looms out of the inky blackness of the

deep Pacific waters.

But this isn't science fiction. A set of extraordinary images captured by Japanese scientists marks the first-ever record of

a live giant squid (Architeuthis) in the wild.

The animal—which measures roughly 25 feet (8 meters) long—was photographed 2,950 feet (900 meters) beneath the North Pacific

Ocean. Japanese scientists attracted the squid toward cameras attached to a baited fishing line.

The scientists say they snapped more than 500 images of the massive cephalopod before it broke free after snagging itself on

a hook. They also recovered one of the giant squid's two longest tentacles, which severed during its struggle.

The photo sequence, taken off Japan's Ogasawara Islands in September 2004, shows the squid homing in on the baited line and

enveloping it in "a ball of tentacles."

Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum in Tokyo and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association report

their observations this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"Architeuthis appears to be a much more active predator than previously suspected, using its elongated feeding tentacles to

strike and tangle prey," the researchers write.

They add that the squid was found feeding at depths where no light penetrates even during the day.

Giant Breakthrough

Despite people's fascination with this deep-sea behemoth, the giant squid's life and habits have remained largely a mystery.

The little information known has been mostly based on dead and dying specimens that were caught by commercial fishing boats

or washed ashore.

The mysterious creature has inspired countless sea monster tales and has been the subject of various scientific expeditions.



UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) was hampered from the outset by resistance from numerous members of the United Nations Security Council to becoming deeply involved first in the Arusha process and then the genocide. Only Belgium had asked for a strong UNAMIR mandate, but after the murder of the ten Belgian peacekeepers protecting the Prime Minister in early April, Belgium pulled out of the peacekeeping mission.

The UN and its member states appeared largely detached from the realities on the ground. In the midst of the crisis, Dallaire was instructed to focus UNAMIR on only evacuating foreign nationals from Rwanda, and the change in orders led Belgian peacekeepers to abandon a technical school filled with 2,000 refugees, while Hutu militants waited outside, drinking beer and chanting "Hutu Power." After the Belgians left, the militants entered the school and massacred those inside, including hundreds of children. Four days later, the Security Council voted to reduce UNAMIR to 260 men.

Following the withdrawal of the Belgian forces, Lt-Gen Dallaire consolidated his contingent of Canadian, Ghanaian and Dutch soldiers in urban areas and focused on providing areas of "safe control". His actions are credited with directly saving the lives of 20,000 Tutsis. The administrative head of UNAMIR, former Cameroonian foreign minister Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, has been criticized for downplaying the significance of Dallaire's reports and for holding close ties to the Hutu militant elite.

The US government was reluctant to involve itself in the "local conflict" in Rwanda, and refused to even refer to it as "Genocide", a decision which President Bill Clinton later came to regret in a Frontline television interview in which he states that he believes if he had sent 5,000 US peacekeepers, more than 500,000 lives could have been saved.

The new Rwandan government, led by interim President Théodore Sindikubwabo, worked hard to minimize international criticism. Rwanda at that time had a seat on the Security Council and its ambassador argued that the claims of genocide were exaggerated and that the government was doing all that it could to stop it. Representatives of the Rwandan Roman Catholic Church, long associated with the radical Hutus in Rwanda, also used their links in Europe to reduce criticism. France, which felt the US and UK would use the massacres to try to expand their influence in that Francophone part of Africa, also worked to prevent a foreign intervention.

Finally, on May 17, 1994, the UN conceded that "acts of genocide may have been committed." By that time, the Red Cross estimated that 500,000 Rwandans had been killed. The UN agreed to send 5,500 troops to Rwanda, most of whom were to be provided by African countries. This was the original number of troops requested by General Dallaire before the killing escalated. The UN also requested 50 armoured personnel carriers from the U.S., but for the transport alone they were charged 6.5 million U.S. dollars by the U.S. army. Deployment of these forces was delayed due to arguments over their cost and other factors.

On June 22, with no sign of UN deployment taking place, the Security Council authorized French forces to land in Goma, Zaire on a humanitarian mission. They deployed throughout southwest Rwanda in an area they called "Zone Turquoise," quelling the genocide and stopping the fighting there, but often arriving in areas only after the Tutsi had been forced out or killed. Operation Turquoise is charged with aiding the Hutu army against the RPF. The former Rwandan ambassador to France Jacques Bihozagara has testified, "Operation Turquoise was aimed only at protecting genocide perpetrators, because the genocide continued even within the Turquoise zone." France has always denied any role in the killing.


Friday, June 18, 2010

The Starry Night

The Starry Night (Dutch: De sterrennacht) is a painting by Dutch post-impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh. The painting depicts the view outside his sanatorium room window at night, although it was painted from memory during the day. Since 1941 it has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Reproduced often, the painting is widely hailed as his magnum opus.


Thursday, June 17, 2010


In cryptography, SAFER (Secure And Fast Encryption Routine) is the name of a family of block ciphers designed primarily by James Massey (one of the designers of IDEA) on behalf of Cylink Corporation. The early SAFER K and SAFER SK designs share the same encryption function, but differ in the number of rounds and the key schedule. More recent versions — SAFER+ and SAFER++ — were submitted as candidates to the AES process and the NESSIE project respectively. All of the algorithms in the SAFER family are unpatented and available for unrestricted use.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Taurine in energy drinks: What is it?

Caffeine and taurine are not similar substances. Caffeine is a stimulant, and taurine is an amino acid. Taurine supports neurological development and helps regulate the level of water and mineral salts in the blood. Taurine is also thought to have antioxidant properties.

Taurine is found naturally in meat, fish and breast milk, and it's commonly available as a dietary supplement. Some studies suggest that taurine supplementation may improve athletic performance, which may explain why taurine is used in many energy drinks. Other studies suggest that taurine and caffeine act together to improve athletic and perhaps even mental performance, although this finding remains controversial.

Up to 3,000 milligrams of supplemental taurine a day is considered safe. Any excess taurine is simply excreted by the kidneys. Moderation is important, however. Little is known about the effects of heavy or long-term taurine use. It's also important to remember that other ingredients in energy drinks, such as high amounts of caffeine or sugar, can be harmful. For example, too much caffeine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, interrupt your sleep, and cause nervousness and irritability.

To ensure peak performance, don't depend on energy drinks and supplements. Instead, focus on a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy foods, include physical activity in your daily routine and get enough sleep.


Monday, June 14, 2010

How To Improve Night Vision

Let’s break this myth together. Even though, it is true, that being a human we don’t have a very good night vision, it is possible to improve the night vision largely with the help of few methods. Actually, night vision largely depends on some factor and although it is not possible to drastically improve one’s vision, it is possible to better it. Explore the following pointers to know how to improve one’s night vision.

Tips for Improving Night Vision

* Use your peripheral vision for night. The structure of the eye is such that it has ‘rod’ and ‘cone’ cells and while cone cells are better in color detection, rod cells are capable in catching movement and are better for low light. To increase night vision, you need to not to directly look at something and glance sideways that means using rod cells more.
* Keeping your eyes adjusted to the dark also helps in improving night vision. If you are entering a dark area from a much-lighted one, close your eyes before you enter the dark area. You can squint or keep one hand on your eye also.
* Practice makes a man perfect and it can improve night vision too. Shut out all the lights, close the shades, and try seeing the room in dark. You would find that with time your night vision has improved.
* Using the rod cells, scan the dark area instead of staring at one object. Keep your eyes flicking forth and back and you would be able to see better in dark.
* You also need to avoid looking directly at the bright light sources while you are navigating in the dark in order to see better in dark.
* Allow ample time for your eyes to be able to adjust to the dark. It takes around 25 to 30 minutes for eyes to entirely adjust to the dark.
* Smoking weakens the ability to see in the dark. Avoid first hand and even passive smoking to help you increase your night vision.
* As rod cells are active during dark, try searching for shapes and form and not colors in the dark.
* Take vitamin A supplements and other vitamins and minerals for improving night vision. You can also take carrot and carrot juice to help you increase the night vision. Nutrients like Lutein, Ginkgo Biloba, Bilberry, Zeaxanthin, etc helps in improving night vision.
* The eye patch of pirates also may help increasing the night vision. Keep one hand on one eye and try looking from the other eye when moving from light to dark or dark to light.
* Squeezing eyes for almost ten seconds when in dark, also may help you see better.
* Eating a piece of sugar helped the Soviet Special Forces to see better in dark. Actually, night vision depends largely on the sugar level in the blood.
* You need to remember that these are just some methods of improving night vision and if you still find impaired vision at night, you need to consult a physician for thorough examination.


Aspheric lenses

Aspheric lenses are any lenses whose surface angles and profiles are neither part of a sphere nor part of a cylinder. Conventional or non-aspheric lenses have the same curve across their entire surface, like a ping-pong ball. Aspheric lenses accomplish the same amount of refraction but are flatter and slimmer.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Organic oils

Organic oils are also produced by plants, animals, and other organisms through organic processes, and these oils are remarkable in their diversity. Oil is a somewhat vague term in chemistry; instead, the scientific term for oils, fats, waxes, cholesterol, and other oily substances found in living things and their secretions, is lipids.

Lipids, ranging from waxes to steroids, are somewhat hard to characterize, and are united in a group almost solely based on the fact that they all repel, or refuse to dissolve in, water, and are however comfortably miscible in other liquid lipids. They also have a high carbon and hydrogen content, and are considerably lacking in oxygen compared to other organic compounds and minerals.



Aleşd (Hungarian: Élesd) is a town in Bihor County, western Romania. It is located in the east of the county, near the border with Cluj county.

Aleşd is located on the main railway line between Oradea and Bucharest. Consequently, it is served by frequent rapid and intercity (IC) trains from Cluj-Napoca, Bucharest, Arad and Timişoara.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe (June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962), born Norma Jeane Mortenson, but baptized Norma Jeane Baker, was an American actress, singer and model. After spending much of her childhood in foster homes, Monroe began a career as a model, which led to a film contract in 1946. Her early film appearances were minor, but her performances in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950) were critically acclaimed. In a few years, Monroe reached stardom and was cast as the leading lady in such films as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, The Seven Year Itch, and Some Like It Hot.

The typecasting of Monroe's "dumb blonde" persona limited her career prospects, so she broadened her range. She studied at the Actors Studio and formed Marilyn Monroe Productions. Her dramatic performance in Bus Stop was hailed by critics, and she won a Golden Globe Award for Some Like it Hot.

The final years of Monroe's life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for being unreliable and difficult to work with. The circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of conjecture. Though officially classified as a "probable suicide," the possibility of an accidental overdose, as well as the possibility of homicide, have not been ruled out. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute.

In the years and decades following her death, Monroe has often been cited as a pop and cultural icon.


Friday, June 11, 2010


A hero (hera or heroine for females) (Ancient Greek: ἥρως, hḗrōs), in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion.[1] Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice – that is, heroism – for some greater good of all humanity, originally of martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.

Stories of heroism may serve as moral examples. In classical antiquity, hero cults – veneration of deified heroes such as Heracles, Perseus, and Achilles – played an important role in Ancient Greek religion. Politicians, ancient and modern, have employed hero worship for their own apotheosis (i.e., cult of personality).


Ether 12:27

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Reference: Ether 12:27

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Hat Man

One of the most common descriptions of a shadow being is that of a tall man wearing a wide brimmed hat. Details vary as to whether he has no facial features at all or glowing eyes of red or yellow. Some speak of only seeing this creature once in their life, others have reported seeing several sightings concentrated in one area. The similarity lies in the stature of the creature and the hat it appears to be wearing. There is also the general consensus that it is malevolent in nature.

One thing is certain, this Hat Man is believed to have been seen in places all over the world. In this country (USA), there seems to be an emphasis of sightings in the northeast, however it is certainly not indigenous only to those areas. One of the things that sets the Hat Man accounts apart from some of the other shadow entities is the interest this creature appears to show to those who have seen it. While many shadows are seen out of the corner of the eye, only to disappear when one focuses on them... the Hat Man seems to want to be seen. This seeming intelligence of the entity is possibly what gives it the negative perception that it has.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dolan people

Dolan (Uyghur: دولان, Simplified Chinese: 刀朗, or 多朗) refers to a people or region of what is now Xinjiang Province, China. People who call themselves Dolan can be found in the Yarkand River valley, the Tarim River valley and the Lop Nur region of present-day Xinjiang. Though modern Dolan people now speak the vernacular dialect (usually Uyghur), the term refer to an earlier culture and civilization in the region. The history of this people is little known. Some scholars and travelers believed the Dolan of the Yarkand River valley to be a Kyrgyz or Kazakh group that settled in the area during the Qing Dynasty. This belief was based on their noticeably different physiognomy and language, and their semi-nomadic lifestyles.

Some of the aspects of Dolan culture that remain to the present day include the unique style of music and dance. The music is performed with chants, plucked and bowed string instruments, and drums. This music is now grouped into a category of Uyghur Muqam music, although the instruments and musical characteristics are very different from the Uyghur 12 Muqam.

The plucked-string instruments used to perform Dolan Muqam or Dolan Meshrep are different than their counterparts in Uyghur folk music, and usually contain a large set of sympathetic strings that resonate with certain key tones, similar to the lutes and fiddles of India and the near east.



The panacea (pronounced /pænəˈsiːə/), named after the Greek goddess of healing, Panacea, also known as panchrest, was supposed to be a remedy that would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. It was sought by the alchemists as a connection to the elixir of life and the philosopher's stone, a mythical substance which would enable the transmutation of common metals into gold.

A panacea is also a literary term to represent any solution to solve all problems related to a particular issue.


Chinese herbology

1. Agastache rugosa[8] - huò xiāng (藿香)[9]
2. Alangium chinense[10] - bā jiǎo fēng (八角枫)[11]
3. Anemone chinensis (syn. Pulsatilla chinensis)[12] - bái tóu weng (白头翁)[11][13]
4. Anisodus tanguticus - shān làng dàng (山莨菪)[14]
5. Ardisia japonica - zǐ jīn niú (紫金牛)[15]
6. Aster tataricus - zǐ wǎn (紫菀)
7. Astragalus propinquus (syn. Astragalus membranaceus)[16] - huáng qí (黄芪)[17] or běi qí (北芪)[17]
8. Camellia sinensis - chá shù (茶树) or chá yè (茶叶)
9. Cannabis sativa - dà má (大麻)
10. Carthamus tinctorius - hóng huā (红花)
11. Cinnamomum cassia - ròu gùi (肉桂)
12. Cissampelos pareira - xí shēng téng (锡生藤) or (亞乎奴)
13. Coptis chinensis - duǎn è huáng lián (短萼黄连)
14. Corydalis ambigua - yán hú suǒ (延胡索)
15. Croton tiglium - bā dòu (巴豆)
16. Daphne genkwa - yuán huā (芫花)
17. Datura metel - yáng jīn huā (洋金花)
18. Datura stramonium (syn. Datura tatula)[18] - zǐ huā màn tuó luó (紫花曼陀萝)
19. Dendrobium nobile - shí hú (石斛) or shí hú lán (石斛兰)
20. Dichroa febrifuga[19] - cháng shān (常山)
21. Ephedra sinica - cǎo má huáng (草麻黄)
22. Eucommia ulmoides - dù zhòng (杜仲)
23. Euphorbia pekinensis[20] - dà jǐ (大戟)
24. Flueggea suffruticosa (formerly Securinega suffruticosa) - yī yè qiū (一叶秋)[21]
25. Forsythia suspensa - liánqiào (连翘)
26. Gentiana loureiroi - dì dīng (地丁)
27. Gleditsia sinensis - zào jiá (皂荚)
28. Glycyrrhiza uralensis - gān cǎo (甘草)[22]
29. Hydnocarpus anthelminticus (syn. H. anthelminthica) - dà fēng zǐ (大风子)
30. Ilex purpurea - dōngqīng (冬青)
31. Leonurus japonicus - yì mǔ cǎo (益母草)
32. Ligusticum wallichii[23] - chuān xiōng (川芎)
33. Lobelia chinensis - bàn biān lián (半边莲)
34. Phellodendron amurense - huáng bǎi (黄柏)
35. Platycladus orientalis (formerly Thuja orientalis) - cèbǎi (侧柏)
36. Pseudolarix amabilis - jīn qián sōng (金钱松)
37. Psilopeganum sinense - shān má huáng (山麻黄)
38. Pueraria lobata - gé gēn (葛根)
39. Rauwolfia serpentina - shégēnmù (蛇根木), cóng shégēnmù (從蛇根木), or yìndù shé mù (印度蛇木)
40. Rehmannia glutinosa - dìhuáng (地黄) or gān dìhuáng (干地黄)[24]
41. Rheum officinale - yào yòng dà huáng (药用大黄)
42. Rhododendron tsinghaiense - Qīng hǎi dù juān (青海杜鹃)
43. Saussurea costus - yún mù xiāng (云木香)
44. Schisandra chinensis - wǔ wèi zi (五味子)
45. Scutellaria baicalensis - huáng qín (黄芩)
46. Stemona tuberosa - bǎi bù (百部)
47. Stephania tetrandra - fáng jǐ (防己)
48. Styphnolobium japonicum (formerly Sophora japonica) - huái (槐), huái shù (槐树), or huái huā (槐花)
49. Trichosanthes kirilowii - guā lóu (栝楼)
50. Wikstroemia indica - liǎo gē wáng (了哥王)


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How to Build a Knife

step 1

First thing's the blade!
The design of your knife is the single most important element of its construction. In my designs I try to find the best compromise between functionality and looks. I abhor inefficient fantasy designs and have a profound dislike of Persian-style blades--you know, the kind shaped like a banana--but if you like a specific design, go for it.

First, plot out the blade and handle shape on graph paper. Try to get it as close to actual-size as you can. The less changing you have to do to the design once it's on the steel, the better.

Now you need to decide how to attach the handle to the blade. There are three common methods of doing this: a full tang, a partial tang, or a through-tang. A full tang has the same profile as the handle of the knife, and the meat of the handle is formed by two slabs of wood (scales) to either side of the tang; most good knives are made this way. The knife I'm making here is a full tang knife. A partial tang is the most inconspicuous of the three and, in my view, the hardest to make. In this design the tang is a rod that protrudes back from the blade and is completely hidden inside the handle, secured with a rivet or two. Japanese swords and sushi knives are made this way, though the latter is secured with a cuff rather than rivets. A through-tang knife is similar to the partial tang except that the tang extends all the way through the handle to be secured by a nut or by peening on the other end. Ka-bars and most turned-handled knives are made this way. Choose whatever best suits your project. There is plenty of info on the web if you're not going to make a full-tang knife, though I recommend it for a first project.

step 2

Ingredients: choosing and finding materials for your knife
Next: choosing and obtaining materials. You'll want a carbon steel (NOT stainless), such as 01, which I used for this knife. There are other steels out there, but 01 is good to start with. You don't want stainess steel because it has to be sub-zero tempered, which is bad. It also doesn't make as fine a blade. You'll want a slab or bar about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. I believe my steel was 3/16. You'll also need handle material, such as wood, micarta, bone, leather, cord, stone, gem, another type of metal, mammoth ivory, or meteorite. Believe me, they've all been done. For my project I decided to use Purpleheart wood. It's my favorite type because it's unique, beautiful, tough, and above all, cheap. You'll also need pins or rivets and epoxy to attach the handle. I used a brass rod for my pins.

The first picture is me with my chosen slab of steel. Notice the missing sock--this is vital to the success of the project ;-). I got it from a Northern Tool Supply, an industrial metal and tool supply warehouse a few miles from me. Finding steel was one of the most difficult parts of this project for me, because I live in a pretty rural (Maine is pretty much all rural) area and there's not a whole lot around. You can salvage steel from saw blades and the leaf springs from cars of you can't find a commercial dealer, but chances are you can.

The second picture is of the Purpleheart wood, which I got at Atlantic Hardwoods, a flooring and marine hardwood supplier in Portland. Again, there's probably something near you, just try the yellow pages or the internet.

After you have the steel, trace your design onto it in permanent marker. You'll notice that my tracing is a little bit bigger than my design--I had to elongate the handle to fit my hand, and the blade just didn't look good unless it was a good inch longer than the grip. Now you're ready for the next step.

step 3

Rough cutting the blade--the easy part
Now it's time for the really fun part. Here's what you're going to need:

A hacksaw or jeweler's saw and several blades
An angle grinder with a hard wheel and flap wheel
Files (if necessary)
A drill
A vise
Necessary protection (glasses, gloves, jacket if you don't like sparks)
And a steady hand

Step one: cut out your blade using a hacksaw or jeweler's saw. If you're using a thick piece of steel, go with the stiffer hacksaw. I recommend standard, medium-to-fine blades. If you're using a relatively thin piece of metal and you have a jeweler's saw, you can cut out a pretty close profile which will save you some grinding in the next step. I just cut out a rectangle around my basic shape--using a hard, steel-cutting wheel, you should be able to grind through the excess pretty quickly. See picture one, below.

Step two: slap that blank in a vise and start grinding. Use the hard wheel on your angle grinder to cut away excess metal from the profile of the blade. This should be pretty self-explanatory; you're just cutting out a shape. The different colors that appear along the edge are just products of low-level heat changes in the steel, and won't compromise its strength or finished look. Remember those colors, though, you'll be using them to your advantage later when you heat-treat the knife. See picture two below for an action shot, and three for the completely cut-out blade.

Step three: grinding the edge. Use the flap wheel (the one with flaps of coarse sandpaper) to gently and EVENLY grind a slope to the middle of the steel. Don't go past the center, because that will give your edge a dip--and you don't want that. Picture four is of the job at this step, half done. Grind the other edge the same way, until the edge becomes an edge. If you think you're starting to go too far, STOP! Be patient. This is possibly the most delicate step in rough-shaping the blade. Work the edge evenly, so that it's straight and consistent. See below, picture five, for the finished shape.

Step four: drill rivet holes. Make sure you use a drill bit the same diameter as the rod or rivet you plan to use. They can go anywhere and be any number, so get creative. Sorry, I don't have a picture of this...if you can't figure it out, try making something simpler, like a birdhouse.
Rough cutting the blade--the easy part

step 4

Finishing the blade (first time, no joke)
Before heat-treating the blade you'll need to finish it. Of course it's fitting that after the most fun part of the process, you need to endure the least fun part. Nevertheless, it's important. Why? To ensure you put out a quality product, of course. I also decided to add some simple filework to my blade during this step. To finish the blade, you'll need:

Sandpaper, grits ranging from 60 to 220. I use a sanding wheel and power drill to save time.
A sanding block, even if you're also using a sanding wheel.
Time. Lots and lots of time.

This step is fairly self-explanatory. The first picture below is early in the process, sanding with a rigid sanding wheel. These things aren't necessary, but I do recommend them for rough finishing. I saw 'em at the hardware store and thought I'd give them a spin. Ha-ha, I made a pun.

Work through through the successively finer grits until you reach about 220 grit. There's definitely a technique here--first of all, don't skimp. You'll regret scratches you don't take the time to remove during this step. Always work each successive grit perpendicular to the direction you worked the one before; so if you sand the blade lengthwise with one grit, sand across the blade for the next grit. Also, be sure to cover all the visible surfaces of the blade. Give special attention to the ricasso (the area where the blade meets the handle) and the spine/handle edges of the knife. It's better to sand part of the blade that will be covered than to leave a visible part of it unfinished. I'm sorry I don't have more pictures of this bit, but it's boring and I guess I forgot to take them.

Now, for that filework. You can see the process in the last three pictures below. First, choose your design and mark out even spaces on the part of the blade to be worked. Second, draw the pattern on the knife, using the marks as guides. I chose a pretty simple zig-zag pattern, but you can see a couple other possibilities on picture three. There are literally infinite possibilities for filework, but I'd try a very simple one on a first project. Bad filework can ruin an otherwise good knife. In the last picture you can see how I filed out the pattern. Use needle files. It's pretty simple; just be careful not to scratch the side of the blade. I did in one or two places, but later sanded the scratches out.

Once you've finished sanding and you've done any other ornamentation, you're ready for the next step: heat treating.

step 5

Heat Treating--for the little pyro in all of us
Here's probably the most technical part of the entire project--heat-treating the blade. You can use either a coal forge (as I did), a gas forge, or a torch. The last should only be used on small knives--maintaining high heat on a big blade would be hard with just a torch. See picture one below to see me starting the fire.

Heat-treating consists of two steps, hardening and tempering. In hardening, you heat the blade to a critical temperature and then quench it. This changes the structure of the steel so it's extremely hard but also pretty brittle. A knife in this stage, if dropped, can crack or shatter like glass. The next step, tempering, is done by heating the knife to a lower temperature, around four hundred degrees. This makes the knife less brittle, while still keeping a relative amount of strength.

Now, You'll need a hardening bath. For 01 steel, you should use oil. Different types of steel require different methods of quenching--oil quench, water quench, air quench, etc... again, I recommend 01 steel because it's easy to heat treat and doesn't require anything more complicated than a bucket of motor oil. See picture two. You should be able to immerse the blade completely. The second thing you'll need for hardening is a magnet. This will help you determine the hardening temperature, because at that point the steel becomes non-magnetic. See picture three--I keep the magnet on the hood of my forge, specifically for this purpose.

Now to start. Make a fire on your coal or gas forge or light up your torch--heat the blade by the spine, so as not to burn off the edge. Steel will burn off or melt into an unusable foam-like metal mousse if it's heated too high.
So, you're going to heat the metal to a medium-high orange heat, until the steel becomes non-magnetic. Just tap it against the magnet while it's glowing, and if it doesn't stick, it's ready. At this point you'll want to let the steel cool slowly in the open air, a couple times. This is called annealing, and relieves stresses in the steel cause by the rolling and milling process. After you've annealed (three times is a good round number), heat it to the same temperature you have been, but instead of annealing it, plunge it into the oil bath. Wear gloves because there's going to be some fire here. See picture eight. When you take the knife out it'll be smoking and the entire room should smell like the French fry tent at the county fair. To test the edge, run a sharp file over it. If it's hard, the file should skitter over the edge without making a mark, as in picture ten. You've hardened the blade at this point, so be careful. It'll break if you drop it.

Now, there's not much you can do with the blade until you temper it. Put out your fire, go inside, and preheat the oven. Your steel might have come with tempering information on it. If it did, chose your hardness from the sheet and use that temperature. You'll want a medium hardness for a knife. The eleventh picture of this step is an illustration of the tempering colors--these are a visual aids for measuring the temper of the blade. The higher the temperature, the softer and springier the blade will be. Try to shoot for a brown or purplish color, which will usually show up at about 400-450 degrees. If you don't know exactly what temperature to use, go for 425 degrees fahrenheit. Put the blade on the middle rack and let it cook for one hour. When the hour's up, the knife is ready. Congratulations. You've officially made a blade--though to turn the blade into a fine piece of cutlery, you'll need to do a little more work.

step 6

Finishing the second time: son of a...
So you've finished heat-treating the blade, and you may have noticed some inconsistencies on the blade--namely, tarnishing, and if you're lucky, scale! Scale is that flaky stuff that formed on the blade when you quenched it during hardening. Lucky for us, though, it isn't flaky enough to just flake off. You'll need to repeat the same finishing process you did earlier, though this time you'll be going to a somewhat higher grit. You already know how to finish the blade, so get to work. Take your time, and be sure to get the scale this time--that stuff is pretty tricky. Go past 220 grit and continue until you reach about 350 or 400. At this point, you're ready to polish the blade. The polishing isn't strictly necessary, but I did it because I could and it also looks really nice. You'll need a bench grinder, a heavy polishing wheel and at least the black polishing compound (emery stick).

Attach the wheel to the grinder. If you're lucky you'll have an actual polishing grinder--the kind with a tapered screw to hold the wheel. If you're like me you'll have to take your normal grinder and make a spacer out of duct tape to keep the wheel tight. Either way, the polishing is about as self-explanatory as the finishing. One thing to remember is NEVER to contact the wheel with the edge of the knife in a way that will make the edge catch. This is bad and I'm not responsible for injuries incurred should you be this careless. When you have to polish the spine side of the blade, hold the cutting edge angled well away from the wheel. Be sure to get the spine and handle edges of the blade as well. When you're happy with the finish, you can proceed to the final step--making the handle.

step 7

Getting a grip
Here's the last leg of the race, the run from third to home. Hopefully by now you've chosen your handle material--I'll be using wood and securing it with brass rivets and epoxy.

First, cut your handle slabs. Of course, if you're making a partial tang or through-tang knife this part will be a little different. With a through-tang, you'll most likely be drilling a hole through the handle lengthwise. With a partial-tang you'll also be cutting slabs, but you'll be cutting a channel in each one and gluing them back together. Find info elsewhere on the web if you're doing this--it's out there. My project is full tang, so it'll have two slabs on either side of the tang. Use a table saw or a chop saw if you have one. A hand saw will also do, but you'll have to plane the side of the wood that contacts the tang if it's rough-cut.

First, file down and sand the end of the wood in the ricasso area. Once it's glued you won't be able to shape it any further. Do this by placing both pieces of wood back-to back in a vise and filing them at the same time, as in picture four. This will ensure that both pieces are even. The rest of the handle doesn't have to be cut to shape--in fact, it shouldn't be as this leaves more room for error.

When you're ready, mix your epoxy and spread it on the back of one of the slabs. Lay one of the slabs onto the handle, as close to where you want the handle to be as you can get (picture five). Try not to get too much epoxy on the blade--it can be removed, but if there's a lot of it you'll be in trouble. Put the blade and slab in a padded vise until the epoxy has set enough to be rubbery and not wet--now, carefully, drill through the holes in the blade and though the wood using the same diameter bit you used to drill the handle. Repeat the process with the other slab--attaching it to the remaining side of the handle, putting it in the vise (picture six), and then drilling back through the holes you just drilled to complete the rivet holes. Wiggle the drill in each hole to leave just enough space to peen the rivet.

Scrape any epoxy off the blade with a Brillo pad and, for stuff close to the handle, a razor blade. Be careful with the razor, though, because it can scratch the blade and do other considerably more invasive things to you. Now, put the handle back in the vise and let it dry overnight. At this point you should tape the entire surface of the blade, to prevent scratches

When the epoxy is dry use a jig saw and/or a SurForm file to cut the wood down to the handle. Use a finer file to refine the handle until it's in its final shape. At this point, put your rivet rods in the holes, cut them so that they're about an eighth of an inch above the wood, and peen the ends down with a small ball-peen hammer. See picture eight for how this should look. Once all the rivets are peened, file them down and sand the grip up to about 150 grit. By now it should look like a knife. Just a couple more steps and it'll be done.

Using the tripoli brown compound and a NEW polishing wheel (I.E. you'll have one wheel devoted entirely to the brown compound), buff the wood grip. This should be easy--just a couple passes over the wheel and the wood will be brought up to a nice semi-luster. Take the tape off the blade, and you're ready for the FINAL step, sharpening.

step 8

Getting your edge on
Now, what use is a knife without a sharp edge? Answer: nothing, really. So get out your stone and your steel and get to work. There's a wealth of info on sharpening out there, but here's a primer that will get you there with a minimum of reading.

You should have a good sharpening stone--big, and ideally double-sided. You'll also need some sharpening oil (mineral oil works fine), and a sharpening steel if you like. You'll find the last one in most any kitchen.

Spread a thin layer of oil on the rough side of the stone. Now, hold the blade at a 45-degree angle from straight along the length of the stone and a 20-degree angle from the surface, using your thumb to prop the blade up. That might be a little hard to understand, so look at picture two for an illustration. Picture three just shows the proper edge angle, about 20 degrees as noted previously. Move the blade across the stone in a cutting direction. Sharpen the tip by raising the handle up and rotating it so every part of the tip has contacted the stone. See picture four for a visual aid. Trust me; once you do it it'll be easy to figure out. Flip the blade over every few strokes to get the other side of the edge. Test the edge with your thumb. Once you can feel a clear, sharp edge on every part of the blade, repeat the process on the finer side of the stone.

Now, use the kitchen steel to put the final, fine edge on the knife. There's not much special skill here, just keep that 20-degree angle you used on the stone. You probably know how to use a sharpening steel already if you've ever cooked, but if you haven't it's simple. move the knife in a cutting direction as you did with the stone, making sure every part of the edge contacts the steel. Alternate between each side of the blade on each stroke. Give it about ten to twelve strokes, and it's done. Keep in mind that the steel does not sharpen the blade by removing metal--instead, it reshapes a microscopic flake of steel on the edge of the knife known as the thinning metal burr. You'll have to steel-sharpen the knife often and occasionally stone sharpen it to maintain the edge.

To test the edge, hold a piece of copy paper in one hand and, cutting near where you're holding it, try to slice the paper into strips. If it tears or won't cut, sharpen the blade again using the fine side of the stone. If the blade is sharp, though, you'll be able to slice the paper into ribbons.

step 9

Finished! And some of the mistakes I made along the way.
Well, there you go. A finished knife. I'm happy with the way it came out--yet I'm not immune from mistakes. Picture two shows my most egregious error--when I drilled the holes through the first handle slab I hadn't let the epoxy set fully, and the slab slipped before I drilled without me noticing it. It was only after I drilled three of the holes that I realized that the wood wasn't covering part of the handle. Fortunately I one of those holes was in the right place, and I was able to gently move the wood back into the right position before it dried. I continued along with the project and disguised the holes with two plugs of Purpleheart wood. Since I took the picture the wood has darkened and the plugs have become a little more blended with the handle. I kind of like them--they add a little character to the blade.

The third picture is hard to see, but it shows a hairline fracture on the spine of the knife. At first I thought it was just a tough scratch from when I did the filework, but I realized later that it was on both sides of the blade. It's small and I don't think it really compromises the blade's strength, as it only extends about three eighths of an inch in.

I guess this section is just here to let you know that we all make mistakes, and you shouldn't punish yourself for making them. Building a fine knife is something to be very proud of, and a few mistakes make it no less amazing.

Edit: due to popular demand and my own copious amounts of free time, my sheathmaking instructable is now up. Check it out:


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Memo From Mexico, By Allan Wall

More Hypocrisy: How Mexico Handles Its Own Illegal Immigration

How are Central Americans treated in Mexico? Just fine, according to President Vicente Fox,

"Every year more than 250,000 Central Americans cross the [Mexican] border. They are treated with respect, and are offered a better place to stay and new opportunities." [Newsflash: HR4437 Rejected!—By Mexico’s Meddling Government]

But Jose Luis Soberanes, president of the CNDH (National Commission of Human Rights) doesn’t agree with Fox.

Soberanes has reported that Central American and even Mexican migrants in Mexico are subject to abuse at the hands of police and military personnel, and that immigrants are detained in municipal prisons.

According to Soberanes, "the Mexican government mistreats ‘indocumentados’ that cross its territory, it keeps them in jails, in overcrowded conditions, many times without food, without medical attention and overall, violating their human rights."

Mauricio Farath, another CNDH official, reported that in some Mexican states, Central Americans "go to the municipal jails, where they stay for days and weeks. In some small rooms there are dozens of them and they do not separate the men and the women." [CNDH: Aquí se criminaliza a los ilegales, Victor Ballinas Enviado, December 21st, 2005]

Later, Jose Luis Soberanes put it this way

"We demand that they [Americans] treat us well, and we are incapable of treating Central Americans well."

[Exigimos que a nosotros nos traten bien, y somos incapaces de tratar bien a los centroamericanos.] (Presidente promete ‘pelear’ por los paisanos by Jose Luis Ruiz, Universal, March 29th, 2006)

In 2005, Mexico detained 240, 269 illegal aliens in its territory. Of that total, 42% were from Guatemala, 33% from Honduras, with most of the rest being from El Salvador.

All three of those countries are poorer than Mexico (more on that later).

I recall some years ago in the state of Quintana Roo in southeastern Mexico. There were quite a few Guatemalans on the bus I was traveling on. At a checkpoint, the Guatemalans were unceremoniously yanked off the bus and their papers rifled through. It seemed like an everyday occurrence.

Mexico is certainly within its rights to control its own immigration policy. Mexico has the right to detain and deport illegal aliens. (For that matter, Mexico has the right to expel legal aliens if it so desires).

According to Mexico’s Ley General de Población, Article 123, illegal aliens can be fined and sentenced to up to two years in prison.

"Se impondrá pena hasta de dos años de prisión y multa de trescientos y cinco mil pesos, al extranjero que se interne ilegalmente al pais. "

Usually though, they’re just deported, as Article 125 allows. [PDF]

The Mexican immigration agency is the INM—Instituto Nacional de Migracion). But it is not the only agency that enforces immigration law. The Mexican military helps. And so do local Mexican police. In fact, by law, all Mexican police, regardless of unit or level, are required to enforce immigration law.

(On that point, we could surely learn from Mexico).

Enforcing the law is one thing, abuse of authority is another. And that’s what frequently happens to Central Americans in Mexico. The illegal aliens are victims of both corrupt authorities and private criminals. Corrupt officials often shake them down for bribes. Some are robbed, raped or even murdered. Not much is done about it.

In a recent AP piece Mark Stevenson reports that

"Undocumented Central American migrants complain much more about how they are treated by Mexican officials than about authorities on the U.S. side of the border, where migrants may resent being caught but often praise the professionalism of the agents scouring the desert for their trail." [Few Protections for Migrants to Mexico, AP April 19th, 2006]

Most illegal Central Americans enter Mexico to pass through to the United States. But some stay and seek work in Mexico. Some Mexican employers now prefer Guatemalans to Mexican workers. (Guatemalans doing work Mexicans won’t do?)

Just to put things in perspective, consider the economic differences between Mexico and most of her Central American neighbors.

Mexico’s GDP per capita is $10,100 (higher than the world average of $9,300.) Here, in descending order, is the GDP per capita of each Central American nation:

Costa Rica $10,100 , Belize $6,800 Guatemala $5,200, El Salvador $5,100,

Honduras $ 2,800, Nicaragua $2,400

As you can see, except for Costa Rica, which ties with Mexico, all the others have a lower GDP per capita than Mexico.

Another useful socioeconomic barometer is the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) which takes into account life expectancy, education and adjusted real income. The list goes from #1 Norway to #177 Niger, the U.S. is #10. Mexico comes in at #53 (a better score than some eastern European countries).

Mexico’s Central American neighbors, with one exception, have worse HDI scores than Mexico: Panama (56), Belize (91), El Salvador (104), Honduras (116), Guatemala (117).

Among Central American nations, only Costa Rica, at #47, scores higher.

(Isabel Lyman is a VDARE.COM friend and home school activist and her parents came from Costa Rica).

So with the exception of Costa Rica, all the Central American nations are poorer than Mexico.

There are even illegal alien flows between the Central American nations. Costa Rica has its own illegal immigration problem with illegal aliens from Nicaragua. And when I visited Belize, I met an illegal alien from El Salvador.

We always hear how Mexico is poorer than the U.S: Well, most Central American countries are poorer than Mexico. It doesn’t stop Mexican authorities from detaining and deporting their citizens, does it?

What about profiling? Recently near Mexico City, police shot Mexican construction worker Robert Lugo. Because Lugo had dark skin and work clothes, the police mistook him for a Central American. (Mexican police kill man in illegals raid WorldNetDaily, April 19th, 2006

Several years ago, I wrote a VDARE.COM article about seven Mexican Indians who were mistaken for Guatemalans, imprisoned for 10 days, and almost deported to Guatemala.

Illegal alien stories regularly appear in the Mexican media. Here are a few recent ones:

1. In Chiapas a few months back, local police were chasing Guatemalan illegal aliens. They shot an illegal and his Mexican smuggler (both lived). Fifteen illegal aliens were detained. [Balean policies a inmigrantes guatemaltecos Siglo, Feb. 13th, 2006]

2. In a tragic accident in April, 80-85 Central American illegal aliens were riding in a truck which crashed into a trailer (both drivers and some of the illegals fled the scene). Known casualties: 9 of the illegal aliens died, 16 were wounded. [Mueren nueve indocumentados en acidente en Chiapas, 26 April 2006, Universal]

3. A 15 year old illegal immigrant girl from El Salvador arrived to a Mexican metropolitan area and wound up working as a prostitute. Her pimps kept control of her by threatening to report her illegal status if she didn’t do what they said. Finally, she was fed up with her harsh treatment and sexual abuse. She escaped and turned herself into immigration authorities. The immigration authorities imprisoned her, incommunicado, in a cell in the basement of a government building, with a man as her roommate. The press didn’t discover it for two months. [Siglo – Mantienen incomunicada a una salvadoreña By Luis Alberto Morales Cortés, April 30th, 2006]

Now this ought to win some kind of award for sheer chutzpah: Bush, Fox and Canada's Harper recently met at a summit in Cancun.

Fox was both agitating for Mexican illegal aliens in the U.S. and boasting about fighting illegal immigration in Mexico:

"On our southern border, we are very active in patrolling, in construction of [immigration] stations, to stop the illegal migrants that enter Mexican territory and return them to their country, always with full respect for their human rights."

"En la frontera sur estamos muy activos en el patrullaje, en construcción de estaciones para detener a los migrantes ilegales que entran a territorio mexicano y regresarlos a su país, siempre con el pleno respeto a los derechos humanos", dijo Fox. [Privilegian la seguridad en Norteamérica Natalia Gomez Quintero y Jose Luis Ruiz Universal, March 31st, 2006]

So why is it good if Mexico controls immigration and bad if the U.S. does?

So, while demanding rights for Mexicans illegally in U.S. territory, Mexico defends its own territory by detaining illegal aliens from countries poorer than Mexico. Many Mexican officials abuse these illegal aliens.

And yet, you don’t see Central American illegal aliens marching through the streets of Mexico, demanding their "rights."

You don’t see the governments of Guatemala and Honduras meddling in Mexican internal politics.

Why not?

Because they all know that Mexico wouldn’t tolerate it.

But up north, Uncle Sam tolerates illegal aliens in the streets demanding legalization and constant meddling in U.S. politics by Mexican officials.

No wonder they don’t respect us!

American citizen Allan Wall (email him) resides in Mexico, with a legal permit issued him by the Mexican government. Allan recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here his "Dispatches from Iraq" are archived here his website is here.


Illegal Immigration Counters

Illegal Immigration Counters



Dear Church,

The passage of the recent health care bill by the U.S. federal government was a significant piece of legislation that will go down in history as a tipping point in the life of this nation. This bill was almost 50 years in the making, and the process of getting it passed was no small feat. I feel compelled to share with you some of my thoughts about what has occurred, and some possible ways that the church of Jesus Christ in America may be able to respond to this legislation. I am convinced that the church needs to be informed regarding what is occurring in this nation, as well as have a Biblical response to some of these significant events. The church must not continue to be silent. What I’d like to do in the next few minutes is take a look at this new health care bill first, from strictly a legal perspective, and then as a follower of Jesus from a Biblical perspective. I urge you to please take a few minutes to read through this. I do believe this directly applies to your life and will be worth the time you spend to consider what I’m about to share with you.

A legal perspective

As you may be aware, this new healthcare law mandates that each and every American purchase and be covered by some type of health insurance. This is truly historic as this is the first time in the life of this nation that the American government has required its citizens to engage in economic activity and purchase something simply for being alive. This is different, for example, from being required to have auto insurance because individuals are not required to own a car or drive. It is a choice. I do not have a choice regarding being alive, however, and thus being required to purchase health insurance. This will have a dramatic affect on our nation as there is an estimated 46 million Americans who currently do not have health insurance, but will now be forced to purchase coverage either out of their own pocket, out of taxpayer’s pockets, or a little of both. While many people will continue to debate whether or not this is a good thing, one thing is certainly clear about this government requirement for citizens to purchase something under the penalty of law.

It is unconstitutional.

This nation is a democratic republic whose federal government is given the ability to govern by the powers expressed in the federal constitution. The only way that the federal government can be legally given power to do something that the U.S. constitution does not specify, is by constitutional amendment. Any authority that is not expressly given to the federal government by the U.S. constitution falls to state and local governments. This is not my opinion; rather this is clearly spelled out in the 10’th amendment to the U.S. constitution:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (10’th amendment, U.S. constitution)

The U.S. government has the expressed power to impose taxes, print and regulate money and monetary policy, regulate interstate commerce, etc… there is nothing in the U.S. constitution that allows the federal government to demand that its citizens engage in economic activity and buy something however. This new health care law demands that all citizens obtain health insurance or pay a fine. This demand is not constitutional no matter how essential politicians may consider health care insurance to be.

Let’s be clear; the penalty for disobeying this law is a fine and is not a tax. There is a difference between a fine and a tax. The federal government has the power to tax you, but not to demand that you obtain insurance or be fined. This is new territory and is an entirely new power that the federal government is attempting to impose on its citizens without the proper constitutional authority. Because of this violation of power, many groups and at least 14 state attorneys general are bringing suit against the federal government in hopes that the courts will strike down this law as unconstitutional.

A Christian perspective

Just because a law may be unconstitutional and un-American however, does not necessarily make it unbiblical. I’d like to take a few moments to speak to you not as an American, but as a follower of Jesus. While I am an American citizen, scripture states that I am also a citizen of another kingdom. Scripture implores us to respect governmental authority and obey the laws of the land we’re living in. It is also true, however, that the kingdom of God takes precedence over the laws and governments of mankind if there is a conflict. That is the question that should be asked by each Christian in regards to this new law. Does this new healthcare law pose a conflict for me as a follower of Jesus who belongs to the kingdom of God?


While I do not expect everyone to agree with my assessment and follow my example, I feel compelled to share with you my response to this new law. Many American Christians will not be immediately affected by this new law because many are already covered by health insurance of some sort. Many will continue to be covered by their insurance providers with no change in the short term. This is not the case with my family however. My family and I are apart of the 46 million people who have had no medical insurance coverage, and I am thankful to be in this position for such a time as this!

My family and I have gone without health insurance for almost 4 years now. When I was an institutional church pastor, my family and I were provided with medical insurance by our supporting church. After I left that position to engage in the ministry that we are now involved with (illuminate), we lost medical insurance coverage. The price to obtain new health insurance was not an option for us after that. A lack of health insurance, however, is not an excuse to not obeying God and following Him where He leads, so we decided to follow Him and trust him to take care of us. He always has!

Just before this healthcare bill was passed, I decided that my family and I will not be purchasing health insurance anytime soon and if we are fined by the federal government because of this decision, we will not be paying that fine as well. I am convinced that this new law is an immoral law that I cannot participate in for a couple of reasons.

1. This new law will greatly expand the culture of death and infanticide to new levels in this nation.

I have heard the misguided reasoning of some suggesting that abortion rates will actually decrease as a result of the economic benefits of many due to new access to health care. This is naive thinking at best and comes from believing the lie that crime is rooted in economic inequality (Marxism). Remember, abortion is murder and murder is a crime. Scripture teaches that crime (violating God’s law) is a result of an evil heart and does not come from a lack of money or health care. Scripture clearly teaches that the real problem with the human race is not a lack of money or resources; rather it is a sinful heart and rebellion against God.

Because abortion services have been defined as ‘reproductive health’ issues for many years, unfortunately the loopholes in this bill will ensure that abortions will greatly increase as a result of this bill. Don’t take my word for it; this legislation was hailed as victory by Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is the largest promoter of child murder both in the U.S. & in the world. I could go on and on about how bloody and evil this organization is, but that is another article for another day. I simply say that Planned Parenthood, in keeping with the principles of its founder, would not celebrate anything that was not good for the culture of death. They never have. Every Christian should be aware of the history of Planned Parenthood, and know why its founder started this organization. You will be horrified. This organization receives millions of tax payer dollars annually as well.

The Supak amendment that congressman Stupak tried to introduce to the U.S. House of Representatives was opposed by Planned Parenthood and was rejected by the House. Had Stupak’s amendment passed, it would have strictly restricted federal dollars going to pay for abortions. Because this amendment did not pass, unfortunately there are now many loopholes regarding abortion funding in the new healthcare law. As a state & U.S. senator, and now as president, Barak Obama’s actions have defined him as the most aggressively pro-death politician to occupy the White House in history. His pledge to sign an executive order, (which can be undone with the stroke of a pen), to protect life in regards to this new healthcare law cannot be taken seriously. I’m afraid that it was simply a stunt by the president to get this bill passed. In my opinion, trusting Obama to protect human life is like trusting Adolph Hitler to protect the Jews.

2. The second reason that this law is immoral is because it is based on the lie that healthcare is a necessity.

This lie states that a vital right and necessary component of life is medical insurance. I know that the world’s system teaches this here in the west, but shame on us in the church for believing this! I can’t tell you how many Christians take jobs that they should not take simply because of the health benefits. Many times this causes them to live in places that they should not live, and distracted from doing the things their heart desires to do simply because of health benefits! There are worse things in life than losing health benefits. The necessity of health insurance is a western invention that is crippling the church from taking stands that need to be taken.

Did Jesus have health insurance?

Did the early church?

Do most of the people living in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East today?

No! I remember seeing believers in China and India faithfully serving God and living life without health insurance and they were just fine. I know of poor Chinese and Indian pastors and evangelists who travel the county on foot or on bicycles doing the work of the LORD. Do you really think they have health insurance? Do you think they would refuse to do what the LORD asks of them because of a lack of benefits? If they get sick, they pray for healing and are healed. If not, they rest until they get better, or they die. This is a way of life for most of the world, and we in the west are no different.

For the most part, my family and I have not been to the doctor for the past four years, and we are fine. I am the healthiest I have ever been, and I rarely get sick. If we get sick, we pray for healing or we rest because that is our primary care options! We are fine. Benefits, or the lack thereof, will not prevent us from being obedient. If we ever need health care in the future, I’m sure the LORD will provide it as He has done in the past, but I refuse to be forced into an immoral system based on a necessity that simply does not exist. Much of the church does not have the credibility to speak out against this healthcare bill because of the hypocrisy of their actions based on this lie that health care is a necessity. Let me say this again…

HEALTH CARE IS NOT A NECESSITY! (Who told you that it was?)

Did you know that there is no ‘public option’ in this healthcare bill that was just passed? That means that this healthcare bill is built upon the back of the private healthcare industry. While most Christians opposed this bill out of the fear that tax payer dollars would go to subsidize private health insurance policies that cover abortions, many refuse to see that their current private medical insurance providers already cover abortions in their medical coverage! How can you oppose your tax dollars going to pay for abortions or to fund organizations like Planned Parenthood who promote and perform abortions and not be opposed to funneling your money to your current insurance provider who most likely already pay for the abortions of their policy holders? Would you do business with an organization which funnels money into the sex slave industry or which supports genocide? No way! This is not different in any way.

If you cannot find a medical insurance company that refuses to cover the murder of babies, are you willing to drop your medical insurance provider because they take your money and cover the murder of other people’s babies?

If you were not willing to do it when medical insurance was an option, will you do it now that it is mandated? Civil disobedience against this law will only happen if we reject the lie that health care is a necessity. Healthcare is not a necessity, and yes I am advising that Christians disobey this new healthcare law.

No doubt that many of my evangelical friends will quote this statement from Jesus as justification for not opposing this new law:

“…Then render to Caesar (government) the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25)

This scripture states that some things belong to the government, and that ALL things belong to God. This was a brilliant statement made by Jesus that in no way gives man’s government authority it was never intended. The right to take innocent life cannot be rendered to government because it does not belong to government. This right belongs to God alone and has been the basis of our law as well. Since it is not government’s right to take innocent life, this right cannot be passed on to citizens or insurance companies as well.

Because the government has no inherent right to take innocent life, they have no authority to mandate that I purchase immoral insurance policies from companies that promote and fund this illegal activity as well. If they do, I will not abide by this law the same way Daniel did not abide by the law that stated he could not pray to God, or the way the early church disobeyed Roman law by refusing to pray to Roman gods, or the same way the church in Asia and the Middle East currently refuses to stop assembling together despite laws against it.

Remember, many of us get frustrated when we feel powerless. Many feel stuck because we have mistakenly perceived politicians in Washington to have let us down, now we are stuck. This is not the case at all. No person or government has the authority to order us to engage in immoral economic activity unless we let them. They can pass a law, but it is only affective if we abide by it. Can you imagine what would happen if the approximately 50-100 million Christians who opposed the health care reform bill would simply opt out of the system, and refused to pay the fines?

What if 50-100 million people joined these federal law suits?

What if 50-100 million Christians in this nation left the current system and joined Christian health co-ops that refuse to cover abortion, yet help create a ‘pool’ that serves to help offset medical expenses? There are national groups like this in existence now even though they may not satisfy government requirements for health insurance coverage. ( , or )

While civil disobedience against this immoral law is only a suggestion, there is coming a time in which true followers of Jesus will have to engage in civil disobedience and opt out of the world’s system of commerce and living. This is clearly expressed in scripture. If we take the Bible seriously, then we know that there will be a time in which people will be required by the government to take the ‘mark of the beast’ as it is described in the New Testament simply to conduct business and live. This system will not develop overnight; rather I am convinced that the ‘666’ that scripture speaks of is a symbolic perfection of man’s system that is already here now. (Rev. 13:17-18) If we are dependant upon man’s system for life and not on God’s system, when that time comes will we be ready for that day? This era could be closer than we think it is.

While the church has been entirely too quiet regarding the holocaust of abortion in this nation, it is my prayer that this new healthcare law will cause all Christians to evaluate the role they may be passively playing by being apart of the current system. Before we see a re-awakening and purifying of the American church, the issue of abortion will certainly have to be dealt with. I’ll leave you with these commands from scripture:

“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you…I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;” (2 Cor. 6:17, Rev. 18:4)

For this re-awakening,
Jamal Jivanjee


When A U.S. Citizen Is Deported From Mexico

Don't you just love it when the media actually writes a story about real people? Marc Lacey does precisely that in the New York Times with his article "An American's Lament: 'I Was Deported, Too.'" Lacey writes about "Crash" and "American wanderer" who was found in Mexico without papers after being asked to join a police line-up, and was actually deported back to the Mexico / U.S. border. Here's the best part of the article:

He said he was taken away and later found himself in a police lineup. He said he had been told that a woman had been robbed in Acapulco by a blond man with a goatee. Looking at the other men in the lineup, Crash said they could have been his brothers, all of them blond and with goatees.

He was not chosen as the robber but said he was sent to jail nonetheless, which was not an altogether unpleasant experience for Crash. "The cell was better than some of the 300-peso hotel rooms I've stayed in," he said. "The only thing was that it had bars."

He said he spent about a week there while the American Consulate prepared travel documents for him. When informed that he was going to be deported to the United States, he said he initially could not believe it. "I thought to myself, 'You've got to be kidding. This is a joke. You're deporting me from Mexico?' "Crash said. "I told one of the guys, 'This gives you great satisfaction, doesn't it?' He said, 'You've been doing it to our people for years.' "
As it turns out, Americans make up a tiny portion of Mexico's deportees, who are usually Central Americans crossing Mexico's southern border with Belize and Guatemala. The 350 Americans sent home in the first nine months of this year represented just over 1 percent of the 28,778 deportations carried out by Mexican authorities. In contrast, Mexicans represent nearly two-thirds of America's deportees.
Marc Lacey - New York Times (13 December 2008)

Lacey does well to mention that the vast majority of deportees from Mexico are Central American, but still this guy "Crash" he interviews is like so many U.S. citizens I've met in Latin America: a wanderer. When he's returned to the U.S. he just walks back over into Mexico. Broke he's actually offered a bunch of marijuana and beer to smuggle unauthorized migrants into the U.S. and gets caught doing it. U.S. officials send him back to Mexico with a warning.


Vote on border dispute leaves Slovenes divided

Nestled on the Slovenian coast, the town of Koper with its winding cobbled streets, Venetian mansions and Gothic cathedral, is a picturesque and unassuming place. But it is at the centre of a battle raging in the Balkans, which could bring down Slovenia's government and sour already prickly relations with Croatia.

The dispute over the maritime border between the two states dates back to the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, when both countries laid claim to the Bay of Piran, a seven-square-mile expanse of the Adriatic Sea. Croatia wants the border to remain as it is, down the middle of the bay and touching Italian waters, but Slovenia – which is almost landlocked – says this continuously impedes its ships from gaining direct access to the high seas.

Tomorrow, Slovenes will vote in a referendum to decide whether to have the matter settled through international arbitration – with a panel of five judges including a Slovene and a Croat – making a binding ruling that would end the dispute once and for all.

Recent polls show the public is split 50-50. In the capital, Ljubljana, a group of students said they would vote yes "just to get any problem off Slovenia's back" and two smartly dressed elderly ladies, sipping coffee and munching cake at the Hotel Slon, were of much the same opinion. However, 53-year-old Bostjan Hloverz was more sceptical. "Those in power are washing their hands," he said. "It's not a small thing to let foreigners decide once and for all about our future."

Others are critical of the centre-left government for spending €4.3m on the ballot at a time of economic crisis across Europe. "We're counting every euro cent now," said retired teacher Antonela Remajn. "How can they spend so loosely at a time like this?"

The Bay of Piran, shared with Croatia and Italy, is seen as the gateway for goods into central Europe, to Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria. There are frequent accusations of Croatian customs officers boarding Slovene ships and intimidating crews as they cross through foreign waters.

"Koper is the link between the Mediterranean and central Europe. Croats see it as a rival for their port of Rijeka," explained former foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel in an interview.

Slovenia, which has been a member of the EU for six years, blocked Croatia's path to joining the 27-member club in 2008 and again in 2009 over the maritime demarcation issue. Last autumn, the two sides agreed to the international arbitration plan, but while the Croatian parliament signed off, the Slovenian government decided to give the public the final say.

The main opposition party has called on Slovenia to reject the deal, calling it "capitulation" and evidence of a "servile mentality".

A "no" vote could topple the centre-left government. Prime Minister Borut Pahor has hinted he would resign if the vote went the wrong way.

But Foreign Minister Samuel Zbogar dismissed such speculation. "We don't want to link the destiny of the government with the destiny of the agreement," he told The Independent. "We want people, when they go to the booth, to just consider the agreement itself, about solving the problems with Croatia once and for all."

The referendum is being closely followed by Brussels watchers. The European Stability Initiative said: "If Slovenians vote 'no', it will be a godsend to opponents of EU enlargement, playing to every Balkan stereotype. If even Slovenia and Croatia, two traditional allies with no history of conflict, cannot resolve their disagreements, what hope is there for the rest of the region?"