PAPERLESS POST: Experiencing a new breed of e-card

 

They say that life is full of surprises and great things. And, indeed, you’ve just run into a whole bunch of them. Your sister has just had a baby boy, your friend has got his wedding date finally confirmed and the tinpot dictator of a manager at the office you have had to force yourself to be rictus grin nice to is leaving for a new position. Card buying season is making its presence felt but that same life of surprises usually consists of working all the hours thrown your way while juggling gym, hobbies, family time and all that jazz. You haven’t bought a greeting card since Take That split and running from pillar (box) to post (office) to buy stamps and envelopes just seems, well, tedious.

Even if you manage to get time to go out and actually do some shopping around, you will inevitably find yourself either stuck at the supermarket looking for an off-the-shelf card with a generic printed message and a pen that hopefully will not run out of ink halfway through writing in the blasted thing, or you’re at a stuffy printer’s shop trying to haggle a discount on a thousand wedding invites to be delivered ASAP. Because you procrastinated. And procrastination is a thing. You really need something more instant and fuss-free.

 

So send an E-card they said, it’ll be novel, cute and quick as a flash they said. But aren’t e-cards a bit tacky and cheap-looking? Surely good old card and paper seems like, well, you are actually even slightly bothered about this momentous and life-changing special occasion. Not forgetting that actual invitations and cards you can hold in your hand, keep and read at your leisure has a great permanency and intimacy that a few hundred pixels on a screen just cannot achieve. Well think again.

While in days gone by, e-cards were the height of gawdy electro-kitsch with their eye-bruising colours, goofy Clipart images and cat memes galore, a company based in the design capital of New York made the very smart decision a few years back to drag the much-maligned e-greetings industry kicking and screaming to the drawing board for a makeover fit for the 2010s.

Paperless Post is an online company that offers a wide selection of online invitations, ‘save-the-dates’, greetings e-cards and flyers to suit every occasion. Their stated ambition is to produce customisable online stationery that enables customers to create well-designed and personal items for that extra-special touch.

With their contemporary and inspiring creations worthy of a design gallery, not to mention their cute pigeon logo harking back to the days of carrier pigeon post and Yankee Doodle cartoons on a  Saturday morning, Paperless Post have become well-established enough to have scored collaborations with leading designers and lifestyle brands in the U.S., including Kate Spade New York, Oscar de la Renta, Jonathan Adler, and Rifle Paper Co. The company has generated more than 85 million cards to date, both in virtual and printed format, so even traditionalists and people who simply don’t have a computer or an internet connection that ever moved past dial-up can still receive an invite or card via Paperless.

I was invited by Paperless Post to try out their services for myself and had a go making a greetings card for the Hindu festival of Diwali – one of my favourite occasions, which you can see at the beginning of this review. The first thing that struck me about their website was just how amazingly appealing it was to my ‘inner designer’ ‘s eyes. With heaps of prominent imagery framed in soft pastels on just the home page, the site alone could win a design award or two.

While many websites that invest heavily in aesthetics end up neglecting the basics of good navigation, Paperless Post strikes a happy balance between the two. All of the company’s categories of offerings, such as graduation, birthday and festivals, are in a clear, minimalist and straightforward menu up top, so no need to go on an Livingstonian expedition around the site to find what you are looking for.

Like pretty much every e-tailer, you first need to sign up and create an account. You can go for the usual option of registering via an email address, but for the social-media-savvy, you can also sign up via Facebook or Google accounts too. Once done, it’s just the small matter of choosing a design and stationery item. Paperless offers both pre-designed customisable templates and an ‘upload your own’ option that enables you to upload photos and create something truly personal.

I chose to create a Diwali card. I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of designs which were culturally appropriate as well as gorgeous. I selected the ‘Under the Toran’ design with its array of flowers in a garland suspended on a luxurious white heavy paper background.

 

Once you have chosen your preferred style, it’s time to customise. There is a lot of flexibility in the choices, and you can adapt nearly everything from the typeface, colour and size of the card text, to the background behind the card when it’s opened and the colour and feel of the cyber-envelope to put your card in. The attention to detail offered by Paperless Post is such that you can add a vintage letterpress effect to your text and add the finishing touches of a cute little stamp and postmark to the front of the envelope upon completion. There’s the possibility too of choosing the pattern you prefer for the inside of the envelope, which Paperless Post dubs the ‘liner’ – very posh!

I found the user interface intuitive and offering a lot of wiggle room, although manipulating the text for the inside of the card was quite fiddly at first, but I soon got the hang of it, aided by the fact I had some experience designing graphics online using third-party websites. Although you don’t have to be a design expert, some technological prowess is helpful, although those who really struggle can get guidance from the ‘Help’ page.

 

To move between different stages you can click the ‘next’ and ‘back’ arrows (as seen in the image above) or on the menu to the left. The menu is also where you can find the patterns you need and you can play around with different combinations of design to see what fits and what looks great before you finalise everything.

Once the card or invite is complete, you can type in the recipients’ names and emails, and save them into a handy ‘address book’ for future use. The site also offers the option of reviewing the finished product by sending a test copy to yourself, as well as an RSVP facility for your loved ones to respond with messages or other details. You can also track the progress of your item once it’s sent, and even see if it has been opened yet, so no more barely believable claims about ‘the invitation must have got lost in the post’.

Paperless Post uses its own in-house virtual currency, simply called coins, which you will need to purchase before using the site. Coins can be spent on design elements and mailing out to recipients and it’s said to cost less to send an e-card en masse to, say, a hundred people, than if you went out to the local printers and ordered a bulk lot. You also save a bundle on postage and stationery costs too. Prices are not immediately clear when you choose designs, but you can see how many coins you have in your account via your dashboard.

The website was quite clear and helpful in leading me on my journey from template to sent email, with a varied range of different contemporary designs and styles to choose from. I really liked the concept of a card without the paper (and paper cuts). It is a cool and personal touch, and ideal for the environmentally conscious and those who like the instant nature and realistic feel of sending a Paperless Post e-card. It’s also money-saving (as in not having to go out and buy a card, envelope, stamps and all that malarkey) so making Paperless Post ideal for much convenience and less headaches. The sort of inner peace that you just can’t obtain from running around trying to get cards printed and posted before the party plans go up in ink and smoke.

The card I designed was so realistic and detailed, right down to the texture of the ‘paper’, that I had to honestly remind myself not to try and peel it off my laptop screen. The animation of the envelope appearing onscreen and opening to reveal the card emerging is a nice little gesture too, another sign of the attention to detail Paperless Post is famous for.

I guess the supermarket card display won’t miss me too much now I can get my cards straight from a cute website and its little pigeon.

Paperless Post

paperlesspost.com

 

DISCLOSURE: The author was sponsored by the company mentioned in this review and received an incentive in order to fully utilise the product, but opinions and experiences mentioned in the post are the author’s own.

SOURCES:

Helen Chuchak, Anagram Interactive

Paperless Post.

 

 

 

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AMBIGUOUS OBJECT ILLUSION: An incredible new design by Kokichi Sugihara

For centuries, optical illusions have fascinated people with their visual tricks, appearing as something and then something else, only to be something else entirely. From the ‘rabbit duck’ illusion that appeared in the US magazine Harper’s Weekly in 1892 (said to be the world’s oldest) to the Magic Eye three-dimensional cacophonies of colour that were the rage twenty years ago, optical illusions have mesmerised and shocked.

Now the deception has really gone 3D. The advent of 3D printing technology for plastics has opened up a new stream of possibilities for artists of groundbreaking optical illusions. One artist who has embraced this is Japanese academic, Kokichi Sugihara, who has released an incredible new design, titled ‘Ambiguous Object Illusion’.

 

The artwork consists simply of a blue plastic toy with holes. When turned around ninety degrees, the objects holes change from diamonds to circles without any alteration to the fabric of the design. Turn it around again and the holes suddenly increase in size as well as changing shape to triangles and a diamond with curved sides. Introduce a mirror into the mix and things get more surreal, with the object’s reflection completely different to how the real deal appears to our eyes. A closer inspection of the little plastic thingie reveals it has wavy edges, which affect how the object is perceived depending on the angle.

Sugihara’s ambiguous art projects have been a hit online and in 2016 they helped him become a finalist at the Best Illusion of the Year Contest, as well as taking first place in the same competition in earlier years. A mathematician on the faculty of Japan’s renowned Meiji University, his mathematical engineering skills, combined with a love of art, has already produced novelties such as an artwork where a marble appears to be rolling uphill, and another where a circular pipe appears rectangular. Of particular note is his artwork ‘Ambiguous Garage Roof’. His interest in illusions stems from his research in the 1980s on automating the analysis of perspective drawings, including computer programmes that examined the objects featured in the designs of famous optical illusionist M.C. Escher.

The optical illusion works because the holes or cylinders are based on a shape which is halfway between a circle and a square, with the side edges formed as waves. Two sides dip up, and two sides dip down. When combined, the shape is ‘corrected’ depending on which shape is projected into the mirror. Your eyes and brain’s visual cortex do the rest. It is complicated physics and not something this poor author can adequately explain. Nevertheless this mind-frying trick is very confounding.

SOURCES:

PhysicsFun.

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

RΛMIN NΛSIBOV, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/RaminNasibov

“Kokichi Sugihara” – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokichi_Sugihara

“How Does The Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion Work? This Mystery Has The Internet Stumped — VIDEO” – Maddy Foley, Bustle (5 July 2016) https://www.bustle.com/articles/170704-how-does-the-ambiguous-cylinder-illusion-work-this-mystery-has-the-internet-stumped-video

 

 

URUGUAY AND ITS CAPITAL: A South American success story

The small South American nation of Uruguay, tucked away on the continent’s east coast between Brazil and Argentina, may be not as as well known as its bigger neighbours when it comes to the world stage and the everyday person, but the country is being lauded as a success story that has been financially and politically sound beyond many people’s expectations… and is on the rise.

In the past fifteen years, Uruguay has spearheaded economic growth on the continent with an interannual growth rate of 2 per cent under three successive governments of the country’s centre-left Frente Amplio coalition, bringing new wealth and the attentions of the moneyed and savvy to it and its cities.

 

The biggest beneficiary of Uruguay’s success has been its capital, Montevideo. A microcosm of old Spanish America with its vintage buildings, alongside the recognisable signs of modern city environments, Montevideo has been voted the Latin American city with the highest quality of life, as well as joining the club of the world’s thirty safest cities. On top of that, Uruguay’s capital is also at ninth place in terms of purchasing power per inhabitant in all of Latin America.

Montevideo not only offers great culture, but also great investment opportunities for those who want a part of the success story. Many of its neighbourhoods, including Punta Carretas, Pocitos Nuevo, Parque Rodo, Buceo and Villa Dolores, are highly sought after by both property investors and people searching for a better standard of life. They have attracted a lot of attention from investors owing to their decent selection of amenities, such as nightlife, transport links, and a high rate of urban development. The city is experiencing massive demand especially for new family sized homes as well as properties for singles and couples, as more people from outside Montevideo and Uruguay are drawn to the city’s prospects.

Montevideo, with its population of only 1.5 million inhabitants, is also a magnet for tourists, who flock to see old colonial architecture as well as the beaches of the Atlantic and the Rio de la Plata region. This massive river forms part of Montevideo’s allure, fringed with nature reserves and protected areas displaying the biological diversity of natural Uruguay. The city is experiencing a quiet boom in tourism, as more people discover its charms and magic.

Perhaps it will take a lot less than fifteen years for little Montevideo to become maybe the new Rio de Janeiro of Uruguay, or even the Barcelona of South America.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Alexander Ochoa, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/AlexanderOchoaQ

“De Hispano América Uruguay, de Uruguay Montevideo, de Montevideo Pocitos” – Grandes Medios (30 March 2017) https://www.grandesmedios.com/uruguay-montevideo-pocitos/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Streets of Montevideo” – Héctor de Pereda, Flickr (26 January 2008) https://www.flickr.com/photos/hdepereda/3093337942

OUR HIGH-TECH FUTURE: 5 technologies that will shape our tomorrow

Have you ever wondered what kind of technologies will become established in our world in the next 20, 30 or 50 years? Super-thin mobile phones with holographic screens, robot servants, perhaps those flying cars from the Back to the Future films we are still waiting on?. Well I do not keep a crystal ball in my bedroom, but in August 2017, Spanish-language online magazine TecNovedosos played soothsayer and predicted what technologies we might be using and experiencing in our daily lives in the future, perhaps as early as the next decade.

Technology has made leaps and bounds in the past few years. Just remember that only ten years ago, smartphones were just getting on the market, and you can realise the rapid strides we have made in innovation. Here are the five technological developments that could be coming to a house, high street or hospital (maybe) near you.

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and clones

In 1996, the world witnessed the birth of the world’s first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep. Today we have robo-lawyers that can help fill out asylum applications, virtual holographic assistant on the London ‘Tube’ and every other website seems to have a chatbot. Virtual assistants like Siri and Google Assistant are now a standard feature on many phones. In the future, these ‘e-ssistants’ could become more human-like, perhaps crossing into physical technology as cyborgs, which could talk like us and be almost indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood humans.

Super processors

British scientists are said to be working on a ‘quantum computer’ the size of a sports stadium. This super-comp will have processing power far greater than any current system we have in place currently. It is hoped that this massive hunk of circuitry may unlock cures for diseases that now cannot be treated, solve complex scientific problems and even the enigmas of life.

Smart objects

The ‘internet of things’ is a interconnected setup where electronics like your refrigerator, microwave and heating systems, for example, are linked up via the internet to enable you to run your house and life better. For example, your fridge could tip you off if your milk is about to go off, or if you need to stock up on carrots. An IoT fridge could even place the shopping order for you based on what it detects inside it. In the future, advances in nanotechnology could see microscopic computing systems incorporated into everyday objects such as clothing and hygiene devices, that could even be controlled by your voice. Imagine telling your mop to jump out and start cleaning your kitchen.

Surgical nano-robots

We already have robots that can perform surgery and tiny endoscope cameras that can be swallowed as a pill. Future developments in nano-technology could point the way for microscopic robots that can be delivered into the bloodstream via a simple injection and identify or even obliterate harmful viruses or cells, such as that found with cancer.

A longer life

Some scientists think that within the next century, humans will not find it strange if they make it past their 150th birthday. Researchers in the US working with genetics have found ways to switch off the genes associated with ageing in human bodies. By deactivating them, they could extend the lifespans of certain cells. By 2030, it is hoped that doctors will be able to make their patients live longer just by doing a bit of genetic tinkering, without harming the patient’s health.

What other technological developments do you think will revolutionise our future in the next ten years? Please leave your ideas in the comments section below this post.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Alexander Ochoa, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/AlexanderOchoaQ

“Las 5 tecnologías que cambiarán el mundo en los próximos años” – ANews via TecNovedosos (14 August 2017) https://www.tecnovedosos.com/tecnologias-cambiaran-mundo/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Future Connected City: 2086” – JCT 600, Flickr (12 August 2016) https://www.flickr.com/photos/143789194@N03/28650310590

 

ONLINE AND BORED?: Some fun sites to pass the time

Right now, I am off work for three weeks because of annual leave and the Christmas and New Year break, so I spend some time on the Internet. Every once in a while, the dark brooding spectre of boredom casts its long shadow upon me, and I found myself in front of the laptop, fingers twitching. I literally cannot think of anything to do. When boredom strikes, and I do not want to leave the laptop’s side, I fill up the dead time by Googling something, binge-watching YouTube videos, browsing the Facebook newsfeed or checking out some graphic design.

Until today that is… a journalist with the website Citispotter has been kind enough to dig up some impressive sites that are the perfect medicine for when boredom strikes. Give the cat videos a rest and have a look at these fun websites which will change your outlook on life, keep your fingers occupied and make boredom yesterday’s news.

 

Silk – Interactive Generative Art weavesilk.com

This is a website where you can generate your own art of fiery wisps of smoke like something out of a progressive rock video or something. Release your inner punk artist and make pretty thangs!. You can also save and share your designs. Silk is also available for download on iPads and iPhones.

Simon Game freesimon.org

The online version of the cult 1980s memory game invented by Baer, Morrison and Cope. You have a round device with buttons that plays a sequence which you have to repeat. Good brain exercise!

Online Eye Test – PersonalEYES personaleyes.com.au/online-eye-test

It is always important to have regular eye tests at the opticians, but what if you are stuck at home, you are not going out and the opticians are closed. Well’ you can try an online eye test like the one linked above and see if your peepers are up to scratch. Ideally it’s best to use a desktop computer so you can keep the approved distance from the screen.

FamilySearch familysearch.org

Run by the Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) from their headquarters in Utah, USA. FamilySearch is the world’s largest genealogical portal, where you might be able to find details of your ancestors and long-lost relatives. Who knows, you may have royal blood?

Prey preyproject.com

This is very handy if you want to keep a close eye on your electronic goods. Oriented towards safeguarding our iPhones/iPads/Mac Airbooks, Prey lets you track and find your devices with a single account, should they get stolen or lost. Around 8.5 million devices are protected by Prey. The tracker can even take a secret picture of the thief if they start using your device as well as gathering data useful for the police or the courts.

Documentary Heaven documentaryheaven.com

Do you love to sit back with a hot chocolate and David Attenborough or Bear Grylls on the box. Now you can watch documentaries on your PC for free with Documentary Heaven. Current must-watch highlights include docs on the Cassini spacecraft, former EastEnders actor Ross Kemp exploring the Libyan migrant crisis and a report on torture in American prisons.

Codecademy codecademy.com

A personal favourite of this article’s author, Codecademy is a free online coding school where you can learn HTML5, CSS, JavaScript and other computing doohickeys at your own pace. The courses are broken down into easy to digest lessons with lots of interactivity and guidance. There are also fun side projects and quizzes to test your new skills. Coding has been described as the literacy of the future, so this could be a game-changer for your future career.

Rainy Mood rainymood.com

If you are not only bored but unable to sleep, then this might be right down your street, or bedroom. Rainy Mood plays different kinds of sounds associated with rain, making it also ideal for people relaxing and studying. Just don’t fall asleep on your device and wreck it by drooling over it.

calibre – E-book management calibre-ebook.com

This is a handy utility for people who love to read but are crap at organising. Download Calibre and it will organise your e-books into virtual libraries. Not only that, but apparently you can use it to create your own books and sync your collection with your other devices.

Duolingo duolingo.com

A renowned website where you can learn major world languages for free with assessments to reinforce your learning. The lessons are fun and gamified and you can learn at your own pace and even in your lunch breaks.

Freerice freerice.com

Not only do you get to end your boredom, but you can also help end world hunger with Freerice. Play its multiple-choice quizzes and every time you win a quiz, 10 grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme. Created by John Breen in 2007, Freerice makes altruism fun.

SOURCES:

HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind

“17 Interesting Things You Can Do On Internet When You Are Getting Bored” – Samia Subhan Qureshi, Citispotter (19 November 2016) http://citispotter.com/17-interesting-things-you-can-do-on-internet-when-you-are-getting-bored/?utm_source=0fbf7af4023e137b83d442372117db9c

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Free stock photo of computer, desk, electronics” – Burst, Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/computer-desk-electronics-indoors-374074/

 

SULLEE J: Pay Homage ft. Fudge

 

Accomplished Baltimore rap artist Sullee Justice (Sullee J) returns with a brand new single off his fresh new EP album “Spear”, released this past Wednesday. The single, “Pay Homage” is a special collaboration with local talent Fudge, with production by Valentine Beats.

Pay Homage focuses on the passion that fuels an artist as they head for their big break and struggles they face as they try to climb to the top of their game. One hundred percent animated and with backing vocals from both Sullee and Fudge, you hear the struggle told as a story while navigating life, police corruption, Islamophobia, crime and other issues of now. Even the Donald makes an appearance sitting in the Oval Room, voting people off like he was an America’s Got Talent judge.

The video highlights the hypocrisy in the American mainstream media, particularly against the Muslim community and how certain circumstances are staged in order to encourage hatred against a minority.

Pay Homage’s amazing new video can be viewed on the official GlobalFaction YouTube channel and you can also listen free of charge and download it to your Spotify album here.

officialsulleej.com

#TeamJustice

 

 

SOURCE/CREDITS:

Team Justice, GlobalFaction

FACEBOOK COMMENTS: Three new comment tricks (tested out by HEM News Agency)

If you are a regular Facebook user, then you are probably really big on leaving comments on pictures, posts and videos you like (or make you want to kick in your computer screen). You have seen all sorts of comments, ranging from the downright weird and the abusive, to declarations of love (finished off with a tonne of hearts and heart-eyes emojis, no doubt), mini essays on intellectual topics and politics, and gushing comments. You probably know your way around Zuckerberg’s pet project very well. Right? Well maybe not! Let me explain.

As you may know, Facebook has recently introduced many major and minor changes to the website experience and interface design, for example adding extra emojis to show reactions to posts (instead of the bog-standard thumbs up like) and introducing Twitter-style round display pictures for personal profiles and public pages alike.  But did you know there are three more ‘Easter eggs’ to be discovered, when you write a comment using certain special words? Well, you are about to find out here (thanks to BetterMe). The author will also be testing them out himself live and giving his own impression, because you know sometimes it has to be seen to be believed.

 

  1. Congratulations!!

This one is really epic and perfect for the party people. So your sister has announced her engagement, your best mate is having a baby, or your housemate has just winged a new promotion at work. What do you say? Well surely a congratulations is in order!. If you type in the word ‘congratulations’ or ‘congrats’ into the comment box, your screen will suddenly be filled with a cascade of cartoon balloons and confetti. It is brief, lasting a few seconds, but it is really cute and contemporary and just adds to the happy atmosphere. While the standard congrats earns a flurry of orange and blue party stuff, if you congratulate the birth of a baby, you get instead pink or blue balloons depending on whether the new bundle of joy is a girl or boy. Mood mode made!

2. Heart-to-heart

Feeling in lurve? Fingers twitching to spread some virtual affection to your bestie, bae, or even bro (nothing wrong in a little bromance!). Give that extra oomph to your affections by typing ‘XOXO’ into the comment box. Your screen will fill with hearts (sadly, I tested this at the time of writing and it appears not to be working) so you can drop some love on your loved ones’ newsfeeds.

3. Give them the thumbs-up

Apparently, if you type in the word ‘Rad’, your screen will become a waterfall of thumbs ups. The unmistakable Facebook fist of appreciation is a highly recognisable symbol that has become a defining moment of social media. Unfortunately at the time of writing, this feature appears to be not working also, so I am a little disappointed. 

 

So while sadly, only one of three of these comment gems appears to be working in the UK at least, do not fret. You can also spice up your comments by inserting an image by clicking on the small camera icon to the right inside the comment box, or to make things really interesting, throw in a GIF by clicking on the GIF icon to the immediate right of the camera one. The GIF feature is one of Facebook’s latest and has proved a huge hit. It makes use of extensive GIF libraries run by GIPHY and tenor, two influential animated image repositories.

You will become king/queen of comments in no time…

SOURCES:

Marie Hiles via Facebook.

“3 Facebook comment secrets that you didn’t know” – Giuzel Sadiieva, BetterMe/BetterMe.tips https://betterme.tips/8381-3-facebook-comment-secrets-didnt-know.html#8381

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Facebook Favourites Menu” – Mixy Lorenzo, Flickr (30 October 2011) https://www.flickr.com/photos/ladymixy-uk/6328712598

LONELY PLANET: Travel guide’s top destinations for 2017

This time last year, renowned travel and adventure guide Lonely Planet published a list of recommendations for travellers in 2017, for top countries and regions that the adventurous globetrotter just had to check out. Lonely Planet got together with people in the know, and spoke with numerous publishers, travel authors and members of its travelling subscriber community. It then compiled their recommendations in the magazine ‘Best In Travel’, listing the ten best cities, regions and countries the energetic and fun-loving trip junkie must visit for this year. Yes, 2017 is only good for three months more, but these destinations are planning to stick around for much longer, and are perfect for your 2018 travel plans.

 

COUNTRIES:

Canada – The land of the maple leaf, ice hockey and scrummy Tim Horton’s doughnuts made the number one slot in Lonely Planet’s guide. According to the guide, Canada’s rise to the top was helped by the election of its prime minister Justin Trudeau, whose arrival in Ottawa heralded a wave of national optimism. Other factors cited included the favourable exchange rate for Canadian dollars and the festivities the country is organising to celebrate 150 years of confederation which created Canada as a single political entity.

Colombia – after decades as a no-go zone due to an ongoing civil war, Colombia recently saw the signing of peace treaties between the government and far-left jungle rebels, and finally after 50 years of conflict, things are looking up for this undiscovered South American locale. This hope and the country’s outstanding natural beauty, vibrant culture and friendly people means Colombia takes the runner-up prize.

The top 10 countries – 

  1. Canada
  2. Colombia
  3. Finland
  4. Dominica
  5. Nepal
  6. Bermuda
  7. Mongolia
  8. Oman
  9. Myanmar
  10. Ethiopia

CITIES:

In first place for the best cities to visit in 2017, is the picturesque southern French city of Bordeaux. Lonely Planeters rated Bordeaux for its fine gastronomy, and no surprises, its vineyards and wine-making. After Cape Town in South Africa in second place, Los Angeles in the US came third, for its cultural, gastronomic and commercial diversity. Neighbouring Mexico’s Merida appears in fourth position, buoyed by its nomination as American City of Culture 2017, and its food culture.

The top 10 cities – 

  1. Bordeaux, France
  2. Cape Town, South Africa
  3. Los Angeles, USA
  4. Mérida, Mexico
  5. Ohrid, Macedonia
  6. Pistoia, Italy
  7. Seoul, South Korea
  8. Lisbon, Portugal
  9. Moscow, Russia
  10. Portland, USA

REGIONS:

Latin America has done favourably well in the most rated regions by Lonely Planet. Leading the pack is the Peruvian region of Choquequirao (Apurimac Valley), which was lauded by travellers for its unique opportunities to immerse oneself in the local Inca culture. Latin America is also represented at sixth place, with Chile’s Aysén in southern Patagonia, home to breathtaking glacial waterfalls fuelled by the snow-capped mountains of the Andes. The water in Aysén is said to be so fresh and cool, it imparts a unique flavour to the local beer.

The top 10 regions – 

  1. Choquequirao, Peru
  2. Taranaki, New Zealand
  3. Azores Islands, Portugal
  4. North Wales, United Kingdom
  5. South Australia
  6. Aysén, Chile
  7. Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia
  8. Georgia Coast, USA
  9. Perak, Malaysia
  10. Ring of Skellig, Ireland

Best in Travel also showcases the top 10 value-for-money destinations globally as well as rankings of places to experience in Asia, Europe and the United States, as well exploring 2017’s newest travel trends.

You can see Lonely Planet’s recommendations at lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel

DISCLAIMER: Lonely Planet has not endorsed or commissioned this article. This feature is based on a Spanish-language article from a third party.

SOURCES:

HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind

Tweet Hispano, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TweetHispano

“Los mejores destinos turísticos para viajar en 2017 según ‘Lonely Planet’ ” – GrandesMedios.com/Grandes Medios (26 October 2016) https://www.grandesmedios.com/mejores-destinos-turisticos-2017/

“Best in Travel 2017” – Lonely Planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Free photo: Luggage, Holiday, Travel, Summer – Free Image on Pixabay – 1149289” – stux, Pixabay (29 December 2015) https://pixabay.com/en/luggage-holiday-travel-summer-sea-1149289/

SCIENCE EXPERIMENT: Making plasma in the microwave

 

A cool science experiment you can carry out at home in your kitchen for next to nothing in cost, and a chance to see plasma in action. Plasma is a state of material that is rarely encountered naturally on Earth but is a core component of stars.

The plasma is generated by a combination of combustion and the microwave’s electric fields. Electrons are pushed back and forth, colliding with air molecules. It is these collisions that science says causes the formation of a ‘plasmoid’ which being hotter that the surrounding air, causes it to rise up to the top.

This experiment is quite easy to set up and uses things like jars and matches that you can find around the house. Be warned however, that you should do your research beforehand, as the plasma experiment can go wrong if not set up properly. Also it’s best not to use your flatmate’s expensive microwave just in case.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Elle Eff, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Elle_Eff247

Science GIFs, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Learn_Things

Chemical Reactions, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/ChemistryReacts

“Make a ball of plasma in a microwave” – Amie, Wonder How To Science Experiments/WonderHowTo, Inc (6 September 2008) https://science.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-ball-plasma-microwave-194331/

“Q & A: Plasma from a flame in the Microwave” – Tom, Ask the Van/Department of Physics – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (22 October 2007) https://van.physics.illinois.edu/qa/listing.php?id=819

VIJAY’S VIRASAT: Restaurant with a familiar name

Those of you who have been following this blog since the earliest days will now that the editor/blogger/journalist (i.e. me) who runs the blog is named Vijay. Those who know me in real life also know of my reputation as a bit of a foodie. So the next bit will be quite interesting.

I live in Ilford, just east of the big smoke in the United Kingdom they like to call London, and within a 5 or so mile radius from my home are three establishments involved in the food industry that bare my name. First, there’s Vijay’s Chawalla, a Gujarati vegetarian restaurant located in Green Street, Upton Park. I was fortunate enough to visit the Chawalla many eons ago and their fare is amazing and sumptuous. Jumping back to Ilford again, you can take a trip down the High Road to Seven Kings, where you can buy all your kitchen staples at Vijay’s General Store, situated on the Green Lane. Now before you all start thinking I’ve turned into some kind of Richard Branson figure, buying up stores and restaurants, living it up on a yacht moored in Monaco, and giving Tesco et al. nightmares in the boardroom, I do not own the above mentioned establishments. I’m just lucky enough to have the same first name. And of course, my family and friends use the resto names as good ammunition to tease me with.

 

 

Recently a new Indian restaurant has joined the Vijay’s club. With the catchy and alliterated desi name of Vijay’s Virasat, this eaterie found its forever home in Horns Road, Ilford, not far from the junction of the A12 motorway (Eastern Avenue) and Ley Street, just north of where HEM News Agency’s HQ is based. The area around the junction is a shopping and eating out paradise, home to many high street stores, homeware vendors and other restaurants such as Mirage and Restaurant Oasis. This part of the Newbury Park district lies slap-bang between two residential areas, so guaranteeing a healthy footfall from a business perspective.

Vijay’s Virasat  was brought to you by the Vijay behind the aforementioned Chawalla, and a Indian sweet shop called, not surprisingly, Vijay’s Sweet Mart. For three decades, my very astute namesake has been bringing vegetarian Indian food to the denizens of east London, and with Virasat, this is their first foray into the curry-and-poppadom sort of Indian cuisine most people in the UK are familiar with.

The restaurant, which unlike the other businesses in the Vijay’s portfolio offers non-veg in addition to veg, is a modern celebration of the culinary crossing over and intermingling of British and Indian cultures that took place during the days of the Empire, as well as the influences on Indian cooking from Central Asia, Portugal and the lands of Arabia. After many centuries of this cultural mixing in the kitchens of south Asia, it has culminated in the menu of Vijay’s Virasat, with its Mughal and regional influences, with a little East African food thrown in for the British Asians who came from there.

You get the standard things and dishes you would find in a Indian restaurant, such as a tandoor (clay oven) for making naans and chicken dishes and the usual curries, rice, rotis, snacks etc etc. There are two different types of starters available, with a choice of vegetable, chicken, lamb and seafood mains to tantalise your tastebuds.

Some unusual and different menu highlights include the ‘Chicken Lollipop’ (chicken drumsticks deep-fried in a Chinese batter and then tossed in a hot garlic sauce), the ‘Chicken 1965’, which is not a dodgy electro music outfit but “spicy fried chicken tempered with curry leaves, mustard seeds and chillies”, Konkani fish masala, chilli and garlic flavoured naans and matka kulfi, a type of ice cream.

Thankfully for my reputation, Vijay’s Virasat has largely been a hit with London’s spoilt-for-choice diners, with the restaurant achieving a rating of 4.7 out of five stars on Facebook, but hey that’s how us Vijays roll!!

I have not yet had a chance to sample the dishes and the ‘rapturous experience’ of dining at the Virasat, and it certainly looks good. When I get round to it, I’ll tell you all about it.

 

SOURCES/IMAGE CREDIT:

Vijay’s Virasat, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/vijaysvirasat/

Vijay’s Virasat http://vijaysvirasat.com/ 

“About Us” – Vijay’s Virasat http://vijaysvirasat.com/#about-us

“Menu” – Vijay’s Virasat http://vijaysvirasat.com/#our-menus

“Reviews” – Vijay’s Virasat, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/pg/vijaysvirasat/reviews/