QUETZALCOATLUS: The flying dinosaur taller than a giraffe

(c) M. Witton via G. Trivedi

One of the largest pterosaurs, or flying reptiles, ever to flutter above the prehistoric skies was the Quetzalcoatlus. When resting, this giant of the clouds was taller than a modern-day giraffe, and considerably stronger. Tearing through the air at 130 kilometres per hour, Quetzalcoatlus was said to be fond of snacking on juvenile dinosaurs that strayed too far from their parents, while its smaller flying cousins, the pterodactyls, settled for fish. Its height met it could very easily look a giraffe in the eye, which may well be an unpleasant experience for the giraffe.

With a wing-span of around fifteen metres, half the length of a red London bus, Quetzalcoatlus may well have been the largest flying reptile, and indeed the largest flying animal full-stop, of all time. Compare Quetzalcoatlus’ over 30 feet wingspan with the world’s current largest flying bird, the Andean condor, whose span reaches about 10 feet, and you can readily appreciate how a flock of Quetzalcoatlus would have easily darkened the sky as they flew above you. Despite these astonishing bodily proportions, this pterosaur is considerably less well known outside the palaeontologist community. 

Quetzalcoatlus was named by its discoverers in honour of the Aztec feathered-serpent god Quetzalcoatl and is believed to have weighed close to 100 kilograms, necessitating its plane like wingspan. It was one of the last prehistoric reptile species known from the fossil record and disappeared during the great Cretaceous extinction of 65 million years ago, which most scientists believed was caused by a meteor or comet slamming into the Yucatan peninsula in now what is known as Mexico. Like other prehistoric reptiles, Quetzalcoatlus was a victim of the collapse of food chains that occurred in the millennia after this cataclysm. The species is said to have existed for around five million years before its demise. Its remains were first discovered by Douglas Lawson from the Maastrichtian Javelina Formation, a fossil bed located in Big Bend National Park of Texas, United States of America in 1971, although extensive interest in the wider community and the media did not take off until three decades later. Interestingly, the reptile’s remains were not found in fossilised marine sediments like others of its family, such as Pterodactyl, who would travel miles out to sea to hunt. Instead Lawson, who was a geology student at that time at the University of Texas-Austin, unearthed Quetzalcoatlus in the preserved remains of a river bed, which intrigued many palaeontologists trying to unmask the lifestyle and feeding habits of this unique and fearsome creature.

 

Like other pterosaurs, which also had phenomenal wingspans, Quetzalcoatlus could stay airborne due to the aerodynamics of its leathery wings, which worked rather like those of a glider aircraft, but also because its skeleton was lighter than that of land-based dinosaurs. The bones were spongy and contained large air pocket to help reduce drag while in the air, a trait shared with modern birds, who some scientist believe are descendants of smaller flying relatives of Quetzalcoatlus. They were estimated to glide at elevations of 10,000 to 15,000 feet with very minimal movement of its tarpaulin-like wings to save on expending energy. It controlled its flight movement by swivelling and adjusting its flexible wing tips and flexing the three fingers on the wing’s leading edge – along with subtle head movements to alter the flow of air over its body while soaring above the marshy swamps and grasslands of the prehistoric US and Canadian east coasts.

Even with its aerodynamics, flight take-off must have been a lot of work for Quetzalcoatlus. As it lived millions of years ago, there is no way of determining exactly how it took to the skies and glided (not actually fly, as modern birds generally do). An analysis of the animal’s remains suggest that it had to run across the ground for a distance before catching the wind and soaring up above, as a plane must use a runway in order to gain traction for flight. That analysis suggested that Quetzalcoatlus used all four of its limbs to help it get airborne. Its heavily-muscled front legs helped it vault into the air, while the back legs, which were more lean and spindly, played a secondary support role, and were more necessary for when the pterosaur was walking on land. Some hypothesise that Quetzalcoatlus made life easier on itself by launching itself off the tops of sheer cliffs and exploiting thermals of warm air rising from the sea’s surface.

Quetzalcoatlus was built not only for flight, but also for the kill – at least as some scientists surmise. With an elongated neck, rather like the giraffe in the artist’s impression above, the pterosaur could see for metres around as it searched for prey in the grasslands of prehistoric North America. Its bill was also extremely lengthy and robust and it had no problem with picking up smaller dinosaurs and devouring them. It even was believed to have used its jaws to impale some prey as it hunted them. Some scientists think that Quetzalcoatlus was rather more like a giant prehistoric vulture, using the bill to pick the rotting flesh from corpses or the abandoned kills of other carnivorous dinosaurs. A clip from a BBC documentary on flying reptiles shows that Quetzalcoatlus searched the ground for recently slaughtered dinosaurs and used its jaws to tear chunks from the carcass, but also capable of swallowing whole smaller live prey that dared to get in the way. Its discovery near an inland river also suggests that Quetzalcoatlus’ diet was not much different from its coastal relatives, and that it subsisted on a diet of molluscs and crustaceans, using its beak to probe the sands for burrowed prey much like the oystercatchers seen on our modern beaches. Alternatively it may have behaved as a seagull, fluttering just above the warm shallow seas of the late Cretaceous and plucking fish from just below the waves. No-one is one hundred per cent sure.

It was a member of the Azhdarchidae, a family of advanced toothless pterosaurs with unusually long, stiffened necks. Members of this branch of the reptilian kingdom occurred all over the Americas. Among palaeontologists and the wider prehistoric literature, it is known as a pterodactyloid pterosaur, due to the long ‘dactyls’ (fingers) it possessed. Its full Latin name was Queztalcoatlus northropi. In addition to the nod to the Aztec religion, the formal name also honours John Knudsen Northrop, the founder of the Northrop aviation company, who was interested in large tailless aircraft designs resembling Quetzalcoatlus. The earliest known pterosaurs lived about 220 million years ago in the Triassic period. They were the first vertebrates to achieve the use of daily flight, a legacy now evident in bats and birds. Quetzalcoatlus, if alive today, may well have made the skies more hazardous to human airborne traffic, but would have inspired awe and profound respect (and possibly a great deal of fear) among the ant-like humans that it saw milling across the ground from its vantage point thousands of metres in the skies above.

SOURCES:
Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind
Gautam Trivedi ‏, Twitter https://twitter.com/Gotham3
“DINO FACT FILE – QUETZALCOATLUS, ABC/BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation http://www.abc.net.au/dinosaurs/fact_files/volcanic/quetzalcoatlus.htm
“Quetzalcoatlus” – Bob Strauss, About.com – Education – Dinosaurs http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/aviandinosaurs3/p/quetzalcoatlus.htm
“10 Facts About Quetzalcoatlus Everything You Need to Know About the World’s Biggest Pterosaur”  Bob Strauss, About.com – Education – Dinosaurs http://dinosaurs.about.com/od/otherprehistoriclife/a/Quetzalcoatlus-Facts.htm
“Quetzalcoatlus” – Wikia Dinopedia http://dinosaurs.wikia.com/wiki/Quetzalcoatlus
“QUETZALCOATLUS” – ZoomDinosaurs.com Dinosaur and Paleontology Dictionary, EnchantedLearning.com http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/dinosaurs/dinos/Quetzalcoatlus.shtml
“Pterosaurs” – Big Bend National Park Texas, National Park Service/United States Department of the Interior http://www.nps.gov/bibe/naturescience/pterosaur.htm
IMAGE CREDIT:
Gautam Trivedi ‏, Twitter https://twitter.com/Gotham3
VIDEO CREDIT:
“Quetzalcoatlus – Flying monsters” – Paleo Studio (via ‘Flying Monsters’ series from the BBC), YouTube GB (29 December 2013) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAQX6RbtjFg

 

IN MEMORIAM: To dearest Ajaybhai – my blogging angel

(c) Ajay Mody {Ajaytao}

It is with heavy heart and deep sadness that we mourn the passing away of Ajay Mody, also known as Ajaytao, blogger of “Ajaytao2010” and the “Ajaytao Botanical Photography” blogs. He left this world on the 10th August 2014 after a short illness at his home in Mumbai, India.

Ajay was an incredible blogger,  a great friend and a proud Mumbaikar. I was humbled, yet reassured, by his kind and spiritual take on life. His imagery was moving and beautiful. He loved nature, loved children and loved life. He has been a great blogger and a firmly loyal friend to many of us.

United by a common knowledge of Gujarati language and our love for blogging, I first encountered Ajay in April 2013 after I stumbled across his blog, possibly after he had visited one of my articles and liked them. The simple imagery of flowers, exotic birds and the kindly smile of a young neighbour on her favourite tricycle that was the highlight of Ajaytao 2010 in those early days of our friendship soon warmed my heart to what I appreciated as a kind and gentle soul. I related to Ajay as a fellow introvert and a keen photographer, and soon developed a respect for him as an elder brother. It was no surprise that I took to calling him “Ajaybhai” – literally “Brother Ajay”. In our first conversation, responding to comments left by him on my blog’s information page, he complimented my rather derisory attempt at speaking Gujarati, and always addressed me too as his brother and friend.

Apart from his sheer talent as a blogger, Ajay also struck me with his generosity and support for the Half-Eaten Mind as we marked our second year of operations. He often sent various blogging awards my way, and indeed probably a third of the awards we picked up were thanks to my new and illustrious elder brother in the blogosphere. His comments were sweet and reassuring, but he did not hold back from telling me I made a mistake if I did. But this was rare, and never in a harsh voice, but merely to guide and notify. I looked up to him, the way he blended powerful imagery with quotes from the famous and the historical, and was slightly jealous, in an admirable way, of the many hundreds of followers he had acquired. Ajay was someone I looked up to and aspired to be like.

Ajay made many friends and supporters during his few years blogging. He was probably one of the most enthusiastic and patient bloggers I have met in my more than two years at WordPress. Yet he was never an overly proud man. Obviously brimming with a talent and wit that was apparent as soon as you visited his site, Ajay always expressed himself boldly but in another way, was quite understating in the skills and mastery of language and visual that he had. Many of his images were profound and detailed, yet were calming. Glimpses into the beauty of nature. Ajay must have made quite an impact on behalf of the world battle to safeguard the environment beyond his laptop and camera.

The last time I wrote to Ajay was a day before his passing, when he posted an article on his worsening health. I knew that Ajay was advanced in his years and had a heavy blogging schedule, yet always kept things going on Ajaytao2010. Only a few weeks previously, he had started two more blogs and was branching out into one of them, which was a homage, an online gallery of his invitingly vivid photography of plants. Botany was one of Ajay’s pet loves, and one which he could happily wipe Magnus Magnusson over the studio floor with had he ever appeared on Mastermind. Unfortunately old age did take its toll on my good friend and he was confined to home due to a cardiac issue. Though his heart troubled him, he made happiness blossom in all our hearts.  His dedication to blogging was so strong, that even though the doctor handling his condition advised him against using the computer, Ajaybhai still wanted to give it his all to the thousands of fellow bloggers lovingly following his every post. I told Ajay, in that friendly jokey joshing way that we Mauritians always do, that his doctor must have surely made a mistake and that he should get a second opinion. I wished him a speedy recovery and glowing health…as you do. 

I am still reeling from the shock as I type this. I am tearing up but trying to keep a brave face. I was not even aware of Ajay’s departure from this world until I visited another blogging friend, Serena, and saw on her site her own dedication to this shining bright light of the blogging world.

I can understand that he passed away from a heart attack brought on by the protracted illness on that Sunday morning with his friends and brother passing on the sad news to those who had called Ajay’s home in Mumbai to check up on him.

Dearest Ajaybhai. Thank you for supporting me and inspiring me to reach new heights and for your steadfast support for my little east London blog. Your kindness and motivation, direct or indirect, was one of the reasons that I knew blogging would always be a part of my life. You were always a bright star illuminating the community and though the light here on earth has been extinguished, I know that now you are brightening up the heavens. May God/Bhagavan give you eternal Moksha and liberate your soul from all suffering and I offer my deepest condolences to all of your family and friends in this saddest of times.

Goodbye, Ajaybhai, my friend. May the heavenly flowers fill your heart with joy as much as the ones on Earth did.

II राम राम II

IMAGE CREDITS:
Ajay, Twitter https://twitter.com/Ajaytao2010
“quotes rip quotes for friend tumblr rest in peace poems rip quotes” – Pics & Photos http://funny-pictures.picphotos.net/quotes-rip-quotes-for-friend-tumblr-rest-in-peace-poems-rip-quotes/img1.funscrape.com*en*friendshipnotes*529.png/

 

HUMOUR MOMENT: A cheesy joke from the Co-Operative

(c) The Co-Operative Food

 

Q. What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?

A. Nacho Cheese!

This Saturday’s Humour Moment is dedicated to the cheesy joke. These are the sort of mildly hilarious jokes that make you titter and groan in equal measure. Humour-wise they smell worse than an entire overturned lorry of Stinking Bishop fromage on the North Circular, but are incredibly useful for entertaining the little ones as they grapple with their Cheestrings, Babybels and Dairylea Lunchables.

This picture was originally published by the Co-operative group of companies from the U.K. The Co-operative Group is an ethical company that is involved in various services such as funeral care, insurance, banking and retail. It was shared on the Twitter account of the Co-operative’s Food division which runs a chain of low-cost supermarkets in Britain. The Co-Operative Food are running a competition for ‘Tell A Joke Day’ where customers are invited to contribute their own food-related jokes, with the best ‘culinary comedian’ receiving a voucher entitling them to a discount on their groceries. Employees and shoppers often affectionately call the institution the ‘Co-Op’ for short, and their supermarkets are a well-loved and long-established face on the British high street. I used to live in Forest Gate (east London) for two years and our nearest supermarket was a Somerfield branch in Woodgrange Road. The Co-Op bought the Somerfield chain in around 2009, and the Somerfield stores took on the conglomerate’s branding and shopfront design. I always found their food to be cheap and usually of high quality although there was not much choice in the Woodgrange store, due to its smaller than average size. I began following their Twitter account a year after I moved out of Forest Gate for nostalgic reasons.

While not the biggest fan of cheesy jokes, I would rarely say no to a warm bowl filled to the brim with cheesy nachos drizzled with salsa and herby sauce. When I was working at my old office in Victoria, central London, a group of us colleagues would visit a local pub, the Witton Arms, where we would share our company with a complimentary bowl of nachos infused with melted cheddar, salsa and chopped jalapenos. I relished these nachos, as the softness and creamy taste of the melted cheese was an intriguing contrast with the crunchy texture of the crisps. The salsa helped to give a Mexican taste sensation with its spicy tomato aroma contrasting the more subdued flavours of the cheesy nachos. The nachos were high in demand as the beers made us hungry and were a good conversation starter as well as a food starter – although thankfully not the inspiration for any dodgy jokes. I haven’t yet tried to make this delicious, yet simple Mexican dish at home, but I can tell you this sort of snack would be ideal for any party, especially birthdays and informal get-togethers. Goes great with movie nights too, so you can give the popcorn and microwave a rest.

Here’s a bunch of more incredibly lame cheese themed jokes that will melt your mind….:

Q: What happened after an explosion at a French cheese factory?

A: All that was left was de brie.

Q: What do you call cheese that is sad?

A: Blue cheese.

Q: How do you get a mouse to smile?

A: Say cheese! 

Q: Which genre of music appeals to most cheeses?

A: R’n’Brie

Q: When should you go on a cheese diet?

A: If you need to cheddar a few pounds

Q: What is a cannibal’s favourite cheese?

A: Limburger

Q: Which is the most religious cheese?

A: Swiss, because it is holy.

Q: What hotel do mice stay in ?

A: The Stilton

Q: What did the Cheese salesman say?

A: That cheese may be Gouda, but this one is Feta!

Q: What group of cheese has been known to fly?

A: Curds of prey! 

 

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter https://twitter.com/VShah1984
“Cheese Jokes” – Jokes4US.com http://www.jokes4us.com/miscellaneousjokes/foodjokes/cheesejokes.html
IMAGE CREDIT:
The Co-operativeFood, Twitter https://twitter.com/CooperativeFood

 

 

RAKSHA BANDHAN 2014: HEM rakhi greetings to my sisters…and for all

(c) El Sol/Flickr/Compfight

This Sunday is the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan, which celebrates the special bond between brothers and sisters. On this day, siblings get together. The sister ties a length of specially designed string around the brother’s right wrist and prays for his wellbeing and long life, while the brother gives her gifts and sweets and re-affirms his protection and care for her. It can also be celebrated between male and female cousins and even nowadays with friends.

It is observed by Hindu, Sikhs and Jains in countries such as India, Mauritius, Nepal and in expatriate communities across the globe. In my religion it takes place on the full moon day of the month of Shravan. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, Raksha Bandhan translates as “tie/bond of protection” and has its roots in the pastimes of God as mentioned in our holy scriptures. One such story is that “Deity Lakshmi tied a rakhi onto the wrist of the king Bali thus making him Her brother and therefore helping liberate Lord Narayan i.e. Vishnu. That day as per the Hindu lunar calendar was ‘Shravan Paurnima (Purnima)’.”

By tying this wristband (raksha) onto your wrist I am binding you just like the powerful and generous King Bali was bound by it. O wristband, do not get displaced.”

The rakhi is the string adornment presented by the sister around her brother’s wrist, usually made up of silk or cotton. It can be simple or have an elaborate design featuring paste or semi-precious stones, religious symbols and beadwork inspired by Indian traditions in embroidery and crafts. They are usually coloured red, but can be of many bright colours, often in the same rakhi. There are even children’s versions that feature cartoon characters and some are equipped with miniature toys, although some feel this trivialises the sanctity of the festival.

Raksha Bandhan is a unique and remarkable festival that celebrates and highlights the unbreakable bond between siblings and between families. That even though the rakhi may eventually weaken and fall off, the importance of caring and treasuring your siblings can never fall away. The sacred bond should always remain strong. The rakhi is beautiful yet strong, just like a sister’s love, and as every sister is different and special in her own way, so is every rakhi. By seeing the rakhi firmly tied to his wrist every day, the brother is reminded that his sister is always there for him and likewise he is poignantly reminded of her love and compassion in his life and his need to support her. As a family member, as a sister, as a confidante, as his best friend.

On this auspicious occasion, the Half-Eaten Mind presents a selection of Raksha Bandhan festival themed wallpapers for you to download and send as virtual greetings for your dearest siblings today.

I dedicate this article to my sweet and wonderful sisters Sherrie, Alia, and Anjali.

 Though they don’t all officially celebrate, I want to be thankful for them being in my life and being the blossoms that bring fragrance to my happiness. I am blessed to share my life with each and every one of you xxxxxxxx

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

A Sister Like You
Someone who will understand
Who knows the way I feel
In every situation
Her concern is very real
Someone who has walked my ways
Who knows my every need
Times when she would see me cry
Her heart would nearly bleed
Everyone should have a sister
Just the way I do
Richly blessed is what I am
To have a sister like you

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

(c) Imagesbuddy.com

(c) Cute Harry via Free Images Wallpapers

(c) theback-benchers.com

(c) CommentsKart.com

(c) original designer via R.D. Hajare

(c) Fun2Pix.com

(c) Fun2Pix.com

(c) TotalBhakti.com via India-Forums

SOURCES:
“Raksha Bandhan” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raksha_Bandhan
“Rakhi: The Thread of Love – About the Raksha Bandhan Festival” –  Subhamoy Das, About.com – Religion-Spirituality-Hinduism hinduism.about.com/od/rakhi/a/rakshabandhan.htm
“Raksha Bandhan: History, Significance and Purpose” – Hindu Janajagruti Samiti www.hindujagruti.org/hinduism/knowledge/article/raksha-bandhan-history-significance-and-purpose.html
“Raksha Bandhan Poems and Sayings – Rakhi 2014 English and Hindi Poems” – Happy Raksha Bandhan 2014 rakshabandhanfestival.com/raksha-bandhan-poems-and-sayings-rakhi-2013-english-and-hindi-poems/
IMAGE CREDITS:
El_Sol, Compfight via Flickr compfight.com/search/rakhi/1-3-1-1
“Happy Raksha Bandhan Greetings Graphic For Share On Myspace” – Imagesbuddy.com www.imagesbuddy.com/img/raksha-bandhan/page/56/
“Raksha Bandhan Wishes for Brother” – Cute Harry via Sarah [Team FIW], Free Images Wallpapers (1 August 2014)  www.freeimageswallpapers.com/raksha-bandhan-wishes-for-brother.html
“Raksha Bandhan wallpaper 2012, Happy Rakhi wishes images photos pics” – The Back Benchers Team, TheBack-Benchers.com (31 July 2012) theback-benchers.com/raksha-bandhan-wallpaper-2012-happy-rakhi-wishes-images-photos-pics/
“Happy Raksha Bandhan Graphics” – CommentsKart.com (31 July 2013) www.commentskart.com/2013/07/31/happy-raksha-bandhan-graphics-4/
“happy rakshabandhan” – Via Rajesh Hajare, RDH Sir’s Official Website (20 August 2013) rdhsir.mwb.im/happy-rakshabandhan.xhtml
“Happy Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi Wishes to Brother and Sister” – Jeetu Aneja, Fun2Pix.com/FUN2PIX (5 August 2014) www.fun2pix.com/happy-raksha-bandhan-rakhi-wishes-to-brother-sister/
“Happy Raksha Bandhan To All!!” – ‘tiny15′, India-Forums/Cyberax (20 August 2013) www.india-forums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=3708215

 

 

 

MOAF 2014: A photo collection from the Mauritian Open Air Festival

It’s that time of year again.

For the second time and after a two-year gap, the blog editor in his capacity as the official representative of the Half-Eaten Mind took a trip to Down Lane Park, in north London to visit the Mauritian Open Air Festival, the biggest outdoor celebration of Mauritian culture, music and food outside of the island itself. This is my first return visit since 2012, and what can I say, it is even better than back then.

(c) animatedimages.org

While I made my own journey there through London’s tricky weekend commuting lines, I had the pleasure of meeting up with one of my sisters (Anjali), my Mum, two of my aunts (Aunties Fifi and Fareeda), and my cousins Shaun and Soraya. We first did a tour of the stalls, sampling authentic food from our country, such as dhol puri (flat bread with a filling of lentils and with a curry sauce containing butter beans), napolitaine (cake-like biscuit with a covering of icing, usually pink), pudin vermicel (dry pudding made with vermicelli pasta) and the usual soft drinks, as the temperature was hitting 25 degrees Celsius. The youngers ones went off to get Mauritian flags painted on their cheeks, before my family managed to deftly secure themselves ringside seats near a pair of deafening woofers.

Occupying the stage was local Mauritian talent DJ Vish who played a succession of classic and new sega and soca hits in between acts. We also got to see live performances by Synergy, Belgian rapper Supershane, Mauritian singers and husband-and-wife team Laura Beg and Alain Ramanisum, who are like chalk and cheese in looks and personalities, but actually compliment each other very well in their mission to keep Mauritian musical culture as relevant as ever. Alongside them was Jean-Claude Gaspard. His longevity and back catalogue could easily make him the Mauritian equivalent of James Brown, but with less of the exuberant shouting and booty-shaking. He and Alain spellbound the hundreds-strong crowd with faithful and peppy renditions of the kind of classic songs like ‘Bhai Abou’ that my mother grew up listening to. Other highlights were the gorgeous and very elastic members of the Jalsa des Iles sega dance troupe (a reliable MOAF fixture) and the superbly breathtaking Omaz Sega Band, as well as a meet-and-greet with Mr. and Miss England. All of this plus a funfair amidst the serenity and tranquility of a inner London park. Just like myself, MOAF is a diverse and awe-inspiring amalgamation of the best of England and Mauritius. Well maybe not so much myself.

There were some funny and downright strange moments. The distinctive smell of cannabis wafting through the air at a couple of points, a malfunctioning turntable, unicorn balloons floating off into the stratosphere, crazy family dance-offs, arms stacked to the top with plates of food and a drunken fat concertgoer in a red t-shirt and Switzerland cap who couldn’t help but invade people’s personal space with his inebriated attempts at the sensuality of sega dancing. All this while a drone armed with cameras hovered across the ecstatic flag-waving crowd. It is probably no coincidence that ‘Mauritian’ and ‘madness’ both begin with the same two letters. I kid, I kid!!.

Though I nearly lost my hearing because of standing too close to the speakers, it was a great day to be had. It’s not often that I get chance to really involve myself in Mauritian culture but MOAF is the perfect time to do so. Us Mauritians certainly know how to party. This event is the latest reincarnation in a long tradition of outdoors cultural events for the UK’s Mauritian community, and I would say it is the best such event yet, that really makes me glad to have Mauritian heritage and to be a part of a very unique and positive-minded people and island. Plus you get tonnes of freebies. Everyone loves freebies.

 

To celebrate MOAF and all good things Mauritian, we have brought you exclusive and perfected photos of the event, taken by myself and Anjali and edited/improved using our reliable fixture, the pizap website. For those of you who have not yet had the chance to be at this spectacular festival, this will give you an idea of what it is like to be right there.

 

Nissa la monte!!!

  • The special MOAF flyer and CD of sega songs sent to me via post. This was a free thank you gift for ordering a couple of tickets online for this event.

  • A stylised view of apartment blocks near Tottenham Hale station on my way to Down Lane Park. Tottenham, in north London is home to many Mauritians and is the venue for MOAF every year in August.

  • My lunch – Mauritian style. Dhol puri (like a tortilla stuffed slightly with dried lentils), a can of soft drink and ‘napolitaines’ bought from a stall run by ‘Mauritian Temple’ volunteers.

  • Me and my younger sister waving the four-colour flag proudly.

  • All smiles at MOAF 2014!!

  • Selfie of my sister with my cousin – with obligatory Instagram filter. So sweet these family snaps!

  • What is life without some random Mauritians to rub shoulders with.

  • An infographic explaining the meanings of the colours in the Mauritian flag.

  • We were fortunate to meet one of the guest singers from Mauritius backstage. Jean-Claude Gaspard has been in the industry for decades and is highly respected on the island.

  • Sega dancers from the group “Jalsa des Iles” strutting their stuff on the purpose built stage.

  • Popular modern sega singer Alain Ramanisum speaks to the audience.

  • Mr. Ramanisum was quite the talker and really got the spectators fired up!

  • Laura Beg, romantic chanteuse and dearly beloved of Alain, also got her chance to warm up the audience.

  • Jean-Claude Gaspard – an old-school sega stalwart made two appearances on stage, singing several classic songs beloved of my mum’s and aunts’ generation.

  • Bright and sensual, the swirling dresses and fluid movements of the sega dancers brightened up the stage. All eyes were on their story in motion.

  • Even the singer was an explosion of tropical hues, like a million Hawai’ian flowers had clustered together to lend a burst of riotous colour to his vibrant vocals.

  • The singer owns the stage while young men with the distinctive and hefty Mauritian drum or ‘ravanne’ tap out some percussion beats. The ravanne is a signature instrument in the sega tradition.

  •  He belts out a classic while the accompanying singers take to the ‘catwalk’ promenade of the stage. No, they are not doing zombie impressions!

  • A closer look at the ravanne quartet. The drumming was incredibly intense in that way that Mauritians know how to be.

  • The lead singer from a band, Synergy. He sang soulful English numbers over a Mauri-style backing beat. I remarked to my sister that he did look rather like a Mauritian Bruno Mars. Also reminds me of that unfortunate sergeant from the Police Academy films.

  • Two of the Jalsa dancers in a sort of sega ‘waltz’.

  • A traditional singer with a modern twist.

  • Mr. and Miss. England 2014 also put in an appearance. They had recently visited Mauritius and the Miss even spoke some accented but good French.

  • A wide-view of the attendees at MOAF 2014 looking towards the Ashley Road end of the park. The crowd was several hundred by around 5:00 pm.

The Half-Eaten Mind visited the Mauritian Open Air Festival, in Down Lane Park, Tottenham on the Sunday 3rd August 2014.

 

If you wish to see the pictures from the Mauritian Open Air festival in better and higher resolution, then visit this link to the Mauritian Open Air Festival 2014” album on the Half-Eaten Mind Flickr page.

Further links and info:

IMAGE CREDITS:
piZap www.pizap.com
“Mauritius Flag: Animated Images & Gifs” – animatedimages.org www.animatedimages.org/cat-mauritius-flag-826.htm
…and of course, Vijay and Anjali Shah, siblings and photo-geniuses!

 

FRANK LAMPARD: Ex-Chelsea footballer to sign short-term contract with Man. City

The English and ex-Chelsea footballer Frank Lampard has announced this past Friday that he is planning to sign up with rivals Manchester City in a short-term contract, reports the Guardian newspaper. The ‘shock’ move could occur within the next week or so and will mean that Lampard could end facing the Blues (Chelsea, his old team) twice while playing in City’s kit. Lampard will then switch nations to play for an American team being developed by the Mancunians. City will be squaring off against Chelsea, and Lampard’s former teammates, at their Etihad Stadium on the 21st September, which he may well feature in if his contract is signed and stamped.

Manchester City currently has an investment in the US soccer leagues, running a team, New York City, who will appear for fixtures in the new Major League Soccer tournaments. However the New Yorker eleven, which will begin kicking about in March next year, may well have Lampard back on their team sheet once his temporary contract with owners City is rolled-up, meaning they can transfer him to their MLS franchise. Lampard signed a two-year contract previously with NYC FC, after vacating Chelsea and English football earlier this year. The former Chelsea midfielder had previously turned down an opportunity to appear in Melbourne, Australia for another of City’s international club ventures, while also becoming a signing priority for Queen’s Park Rangers, who he also declined. The 36-year-old has now made it clear that he favours a spell with Manuel Pellegrini’s side. According to Metro, Lampard has rejected the prospect of playing football in Australia as he had expressed a desire to remain in England,which will seem confusing for many as Lampard will be flying across the Atlantic once his stint in Manchester has run its course. He had also previously stated that he would not want to appear for any other Premier League team apart from the Blues after leaving Stamford Bridge.

The move to New York will see Lampard keeping his levels of fitness up as he nears the end of his active career and will also benefit Manchester City in making him free and available for their Premier League and Champions League squads. He is likely to sign a six-month contract which will run until he begins pre-season training with New York. The Lampard signing also means that City can increase the number of English players on their teams to counteract criticism that English clubs are too reliant on foreign players and not making enough use of home-grown talent. For Lampard, who is only a handful of years from making his retirement from the game, it will also keep him fresh in the eyes of England national team manager Roy Hodgson, who has considered him one of his star players. City hopes to have Lampard on the training field with them before their Community Shield clash against Arsenal, on Sunday 10th August.

Frank Lampard recently spoke about the importance of keeping fit ahead of making his debut in MLS, scheduled for March 2015 at the earliest.

I will have to keep fit. I’ll have to train at the very top level, whether that’s on my own or with a club somewhere, I’ll have to see,’ he said at his New York City unveiling.

‘Of course I’ll keep fit and make sure my levels don’t drop too much. When we come here for pre-season I want to be ready to go. I want to fly out of the blocks. I don’t want to come out sluggish.

The ‘shock move’ by Lampard is bound to raise eyebrows among many in the Premier League, especially at his old side Chelsea, where he became a legend of the team affectionately known as ‘Chelski‘ after thirteen trophy-packed years with them. The move may well be even more of a shock for Chelsea’s fans, who worshipped him in his days playing for the south London side at their hallowed home in Stamford Bridge. Many may well see his joining of one of their biggest Premiership rivals as a Judas move and a betrayal, while others have described it as a chance for Lampard to make his last few years playing professionally a success and an guiding inspiration for the young and fresh-faced American footballers he will encounter in the ‘Big Apple’.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com
“Frank Lampard set for shock short-term move to Manchester City” – Steve Brenner, The Guardian – Sport/Guardian News and Media Limited (1 August 2014) www.theguardian.com/football/2014/aug/01/frank-lampard-short-contract-manchester-city
“Frank Lampard to make shock loan move to Manchester City to maintain fitness ahead of MLS debut” – Vaishali Bhardwaj, Metro – Sport/Associated Newspapers Limited (1 August 2014) http://metro.co.uk/2014/08/01/frank-lampard-to-make-shock-loan-move-to-manchester-city-to-maintain-fitness-ahead-of-mls-debut-4818766/
“Frank Lampard Close to Shock Move to Manchester City” – Chris Deeley, FTB PRO (1 August 2014) www.ftbpro.com/posts/chris.deeley/1139858/frank-lampard-close-to-shock-move-to-manchester-city
IMAGE CREDITS:
Getty Images via Zemanta.

 

 

DVLA DATA SELLING SCANDAL: Motorists’ details sold to car parks for fine chasing

Scottish newspaper The Daily Record reports today that the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) is under fire for allegedly selling on motorists‘ personal details, such as names and registered addresses to private car parking firms to chase unpaid fines. The DVLA’s selling of the data has controversially been said to have cost the British taxpayer £1 million to date. Drivers have expressed outrage after the DVLA processed 2.6 million requests from owners of car parks in order to put pressure on motorists who have failed to pay outstanding parking charges and fines.

The DVLA, which holds data on all registered drivers in the United Kingdom at its central offices in Swansea, Wales, has been said to have made an income of £6.7 million from the secretive data deal.

Ironically the agency was forced to pay a total of £7.6 million to furnish driver’s details to the parking firms, which caused it to have a shortfall of £900,000, all of which was made up from taxpayers’ contributions. The DVLA is believed to charge a fee of £2.50 for administrative costs to parking companies acquiring its licence data, but then each final request ended up costing £2.84 after processing.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation – which own the RAC motoring club and driver assistance network, commented on the scandal: “Essentially you have got taxpayers bankrolling private companies.

“It is absurd that hardworking men and women are effectively subsidising private parking firms.

 

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rival motorist assistance company The AA (Automobile Association) also spoke out against the DVLA’s selling of people’s private details in the name of revenue making. Its spokesperson Luke Bosdet said: “It’s a double whammy of these parking enforcers chasing up every fine that they can possibly pin on the drivers to maximise their profit while costing the taxpayer for the privilege.

Hugh Bladon from the Alliance of British Drivers said: “First of all, our details should be held within the DVLA and not allowed to go anywhere except perhaps to the police.

“I’m surprised at the figures as my understanding was the DVLA were making a profit out of this. If they are making a loss they should stop.

The DVLA’s selling of its registration only came to light recently when several motorists reported receiving letters from a debt collection company and private parking ‘enforcer’ called ParkingEye. One driver in Scotland claimed to have found a ‘Parking Charge Notice’ at their home from the company. Gavin Bell opened the notice only to find he had been hit with a £85 fee after the firm claimed he overrun a pre-agreed thirty-minute stay while parked at a piece of private land in the town of Airdrie. Angered at the steep charge, Bell refused to settle the charge and made a Freedom of Information request to the DVLA after discovering they had sold his name and postal address to ParkingEye. 

Gavin, 35, from Cambuslang, near Glasgow, said: “The DVLA handed over my details with seemingly no questions asked. You would think they would have to show some kind of just cause.

“When I found out the fee for getting driver details is so low it effectively just encourages these private firms to ask for the information whether there’s any merit to the case at all, I thought it was crazy.

 “It costs more than it brings in to administer.

 

English: A car park from above.

English: A car park from above. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The letters sent from the parking firms, which are often printed on thick, officially headed paper to people’s home addresses are made to resemble ‘statutory penalty charge notices’ in a bid to confuse and scare drivers into assuming they have broken the law and must pay up immediately. In reality, the notices hold no ground legally at all. Firms use the letters to demand immediate payment of fines and charges and threaten car owners with increases and penalty charges which can double or triple the debt, if not worse. However, these are considered as ‘civil contracts’ legally, which means that the police will not bring non-paying motorists to court and that the parking operator cannot force a driver to pay the outstanding demand unless the claim is taken to a civil court first and a summons is issued. Nevertheless the letters have proved a lucrative ‘money-spinner’ for dubious parking firms eager to claw back what they feel they are owed, and they will still send out letters even for small amounts. In fact many parking firms have been said to have struck up deals with private landowners to collect parking fees from their lands at no additional cost to the landowner.

In response to the Daily Record’s uncovering of the secret handshake of data between the DVLA and parking companies, the agency replied and acknowledged there was a shortfall in the cost. They said: “DVLA sets fees to recover costs – we do not aim to make a profit.” The scandal over the selling of private data to companies solely out to make a profit is sure to anger many drivers and the general public already shocked by governmental ineptitude over the data of citizens, including losing thousands of names and addresses on USB memory sticks and patients’ records going missing from NHS clinics and laptops. Many private companies in the UK, such as banks and retail stores will sell the debts of customers to private debt collection firms for a pittance, who then threaten debtors with legal measures and bailiffs if money owing is not cleared. Councils and other local government bodies have also sold on the contact details of people owing rent arrears to private firms for many years, legally. This is however the first time that a national-level government agency has been implicated in doing the same.

 

SOURCES:
Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind
The Daily Record, Twitter https://twitter.com/Daily_Record
“Revealed: Government sell motorists’ details to private car park bosses chasing fines.. and it costs taxpayers £1million” –  Lynn McPherson, The Daily Record and Sunday Mail (27 July 2014) www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/revealed-government-sell-motorists-details-3920642?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed
IMAGE CREDITS:
“File:DVLA.svg” – Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency/Kashmiri (via www.dft.gov.uk), Wikimedia Commons (28 January 2013) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DVLA.svg
“File:Car park -8.jpg” – heartbeaz, Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (13 July 2008) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Car_park_-8.jpg

 

PHOTO MOMENT: Cute kitten hug

(c) @CRrrr_7

#غرد_بصورة حنان الأم

(” The tenderness of a mother <3 “)

A mother tabby cat embraces her kitten while another waits its turn in this affectionate picture shared by a tweeter with the handle @CRrrr_7, also known as ‘Syria Hurah’.

Mother cats (the female of the species is called a ‘queen’) have a very nurturing and caring relationship towards their kittens. Kittens are born blind and solely reliant on the mother’s care. As soon as the babies are born, the mummy cat will lick and clean their fur and gently guide them towards her nipples to take their first feed. She will even use this method to help the kittens go to the bathroom. As the kittens get older and more steady on their feet, mother will teach them the rudiments of cat life, such as hunting. I have personally observed the elaborate cleaning rituals of mothers with their kittens, as much as human mothers (and fathers) will take time in bathing their babies. The mummy will use her velcro-like tongue to manage the baby’s fur and maintain close contact with the kitten, even cleaning behind its ears. Mother will fall asleep with their kittens by their side and will watch them play, although sometimes the little ones become a bit too boisterous, causing Mum to disappear onto a nearby windowsill for some much-needed peace and quiet.

IMAGE CREDIT:
سـوريـا حُــرّهـ , Twitter https://twitter.com/CRrrr_7
SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय } , Twitter https://twitter.com/VShah1984
اپۈ ڣىڝڵ ÂŁHÀRBĮ,  , Twitter https://twitter.com/BCc1978
“How Mother Cats Take Care of Kittens” – Kitty Angell, PetPlace.com, Embrace Pet Insurance www.petplace.com/cats/how-mother-cats-take-care-of-kittens/page1.aspx

VERSATILE BLOGGER: This weekend’s gift from Inese

Today, the Half-Eaten Mind receives its fifth badge of the Versatile Blogger Award from accomplished and passionate photographer Inese, who lives in County Tipperary, Ireland. Inese runs her own blog and natural photography portfolio, “inesemjphotography” (Inese MJ Photography).  Her photograph blog is a heart-warming collection of natural places, plants and animals around her home in southern Ireland, as well as street scenes in the Irish capital, Dublin (Baile Atha Cliath – Irish). She also does a side run in portraiture for babies, older children and families, and has used her camera skill to sweeten the special moments of many families. Inese is also a family history (genealogy) enthusiast and doting grandmother to two little girls, which has helped inspire her passion for creating lifetime memories of children.

Photographs mean memories. It is lovely to have a studio shot now and then, but after many years your loyal pet,  your toy horse, or your favorite tree will matter as much as your sweet little face. I am not only taking your portrait; I am making memories for you.

- Inese

(c) Inese MJ Photography

(c) original designer via Inese

Inese herself picked up this award from Aquileana, a friend of the HEM who writes on historic topics in English and Spanish. She was very honoured and grateful to receive this award and likewise, I am very happy and honoured that Inese has chosen to pass on this award to me. :)

Inese’s award article:

FOX NEWS

Here are the Award Rules:

1) The nominee shall display the Versatile blogger Award logo on her/his blog.

2) The nominee shall nominate ten (10)  bloggers she/he admires, by linking to their blogs and informing them about it.

Here are the bloggers I nominate for this award. Please visit their blogs!

1. http://asterisk15.wordpress.com/

2. http://sachemspeaks.wordpress.com/

3. http://seansmithson.com/

4. http://mstranquility.com/

5. http://rabirius.me/

6. http://taylorgraceauthor.wordpress.com/

7. http://ashiakira.wordpress.com/

8. http://africolonialstories.wordpress.com/

9. http://marinakanavaki.com/

10. http://detectingblackpool.wordpress.com/

Congrats to all the lucky nominees. Acceptance isn’t compulsory, but my love and respect for you all and your work is always there!

 

SOURCES/IMAGE CREDITS:
“FOX NEWS” – Inese, inesemjphotography (26 July 2014) http://inesemjphotography.com/2014/07/26/fox-news/
Homepage – Inese, inesemjphotography http://inesemjphotography.com/

PHOTO MOMENT: Khalsa Aid – a selfie against war

with Vipul Bhundia (contributor)

(c) Khalsa Aid

“ALL SIDES IN ALL WARS NEED TO STOP KILLING/ TARGETING CHILDREN.

God bless the children in war zones …”

Today’s photo was shared on Facebook by my cousin. A devout Sikh man silently protests against the killing of children in wars across the globe. His placard, written in thick black marker pen on a piece of paper, reads: “Please STOP killing children in wars created by grown men!! – @Khalsa_Aid

Khalsa Aid is an international non-profit organisation and humanitarian charity founded in 1999 according to the Sikh principle of ‘seva‘ or selfless service onto others. Drawing inspiration from one of the original ten holy gurus of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Khalsa Aid follows his teaching that Sikhs should “recognise the entire human race as one”. The charity first saw action during the Kosovo war of 1999, when a call was answered to send volunteers to the stricken ethnic Albanian population there who were being persecuted by the Yugoslav army under then president Slobodan Milosevic. Two trucks and a van with aid donated by the Sikh community in the UK were driven all the way to Kosovo.

Since then, Khalsa Aid have helped the victims of wars and disasters in places as diverse as Syria, Haiti, Libya, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to war and disaster, the charity’s volunteers, who often offer their assistance with immediate short notice, also take part in anti-drug programmes, art therapy and helping on water purifications projects.

Currently the conflicts in Syria and in Palestine has seen children suffer inexorably. In Syria, where numerous rebel factions are fighting a protracted war against the government, it has been estimated by the Oxford Research Group think tank that 11,000 young Syrians have perished in the three years since hostilities began. The situation has seen thousands of families flee into neighbouring countries where children are crammed into makeshift refugee camps with little food or educational facilities. Many have been traumatised by the horrors they witnessed, seeing family members slaughtered in front of them or the relentless sounds of bombing and gunfire. The deliberate targeting and summary of Syrian children, especially young boys, has become so perverse in its frequency, that one BBC journalist described the targeted torturing and killing as “a war on childhood”.

Meanwhile the recent flare-up of tension between Israel and Palestine has already seen whole families wiped out by missiles, while the latest phase of the decades-long tension began when three Israeli seminary students were abducted by an unknown militant group and murdered. In a retaliatory attack, a Palestinian teenager was abducted and then set on fire alive. As Israel mounts operations against Hamas rocket launching sites with the Gaza Strip, their disproportionate approach has seen children in Gaza bear the brunt. A recent incident that saw widespread condemnation was the shelling of four boys from the same family who were playing a cops-and-robbers style game on a beach.While enjoying a moment of peace from the sounds of falling bombs, a warship positioned in the Mediterranean sea caught sight of them and began firing.  All four died, while in the aftermath the Israel military claimed that it thought the boys were militants launching an attack on them.

There are hundred of armed conflicts still going on, where children pay the ultimate price. Raped, murdered, abused, and even enlisted as soldiers themselves, war becomes a very horrible and soul-destroying place. For tens of thousands of children across the world, childhood isn’t fun and games. What should have beeen an idyllic time of happiness and smiles instead becomes one of tears and pain. No war ever begun because of a child, but it is they who suffer the most.

KHALSA AID

http://www.khalsaaid.org/

Office 7-8, 111 Whitby Road, Slough, Berkshire, SL1 3DR, United Kingdom.

Phone: +44 (0)1753 567457

E-mail: info@khalsaaid.org

IMAGE CREDIT:
Khalsa Aid, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Khalsa-Aid/163220440824
SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“About” – Khalsa Aid, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Khalsa-Aid/163220440824?sk=info
“Khalsa Aid – How it started” – Khalsa Aid http://www.khalsaaid.org/whoarewe.html
“Syria conflict: Children ‘targeted by snipers'” – BBC News Middle East, BBC (24 November 2013) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25055956
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