Saturday, October 13, 2007

Green Flight

Offset your flights carbon emissions

UNIGLOBE Travel Green Flight ProgramUNIGLOBE Travel's Green Flight Program

UNIGLOBE Travel's Green Flight Program is one of the ways you can achieve your CO2 reduction goals.

UNIGLOBE Travel's Green Flight program is getting much press for its ability to provide companies in Canada with the mechanism that has, for a long time been missing to meet carbon emission offset goals. One way to achieve these goals is to purchase carbon offset credits from UNIGLOBE Travel that are calculated on the number of miles flown in an aircraft generated by companies business, conference or employee incentive travel.

The monies collected from the credits are then invested into environmental programs supported by Environment Canada.

Sound like a program for the environmentalists?

Think again. Pick-up any newspaper or magazine and you will likely find an article on how companies are buying carbon offset credits to achieve their environmental goals of reducing Canada's carbon emissions.

What exactly is the Issue?

Air travel accounts for approximately 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that by 2050, emissions from global air travel will account for 5% of the total human climate change impact.

Air travel causes the release of more than 600 million tonnes of the world's major greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

Air travellers obviously contribute to greenhouse gas emissions by having to fly, often out of sheer geographic necessity and the tourism industry finds they leave a larger footprint on the environment than they'd wish. With growing public awareness of sustainability both locally and abroad increasing pressure is being placed on the tourism industry to deliver a solution that creates sustainable growth opportunities for businesses and the industry as a whole.

The Opportunity

Canada's only aircraft greening program is the Green Flight Program by Vancouver based UNIGLOBE Travel (Western Canada) Inc.

Launched this year, the program provides an opportunity for the airlines passengers to purchase carbon credits in order to offset a portion of the CO2 that is emitted by an aircraft during their flight.

"We want to make sure we have an opportunity to address what has now become a very clearly stated need of our customers to do their traveling more responsibly", says company president Michelle Desreux.

By first visiting UNIGLOBE Travel's website, an airline passenger can not only calculate but also purchase the amount of carbon credits they need to offset their portion of CO2 produced. The calculations are based on three things:

- the mileage of the flight
-
flight-related CO2 emission data from Environmental Canada: and

- the average cost of carbon credits purchased by UNIGLOBE Travel's program partner Baseline Emissions Management Inc.

UNIGLOBE Travel Green Flight Program

How much does it cost?

Our customers can offset as much or as little carbon emissions as they like. For instance a return flight from Vancouver to Toronto would cost as little as $22.75 to offset the emissions created from one traveller flying.

Investment in Sustainable Technologies

Carbon offset credits purchased through UNIGLOBE Travel's Green Flight Program are invested in Western Canadian projects that meet the criteria set out by Environment Canada's Environmental Choice Program. Environmentally friendly projects such as wind power, producing a continuous stream of greenhouse gas emission reduction.

Chocolate Destroyer

An expert chocolate-maker has resigned after he was caught squashing truffles at a rival manufacturer's shop.

Barry Colenso, former top chocolate-maker at Derbyshire-based Thorntons, damaged the truffles at Hotel Chocolat in Nottingham.

The store manager said staff found £63.50 worth of truffles damaged. The firm decided to take no further action.

Thorntons has declined to comment on the situation, but issued a statement saying Mr Colenso had resigned.

'Squashed truffles'

Mr Colenso, who designed a giant 390kg (860lb) edible chocolate billboard last Easter, has also not been available for comment.

Thorntons is currently in the process of recruiting his replacement.

Lynn Cunningham from Hotel Chocolat said: "It was quite extraordinary really.

"The staff observed Mr Colenso handling a number of truffles in a way that made them suspicious.

"When we checked the truffles later they had been squashed and damaged."

She said Hotel Chocolat was told by Thorntons that Mr Colenso had "handled the truffles inappropriately".

"We just want to move on now," she said.

LOLCats


Some internet trends are destined for greatness: movie spin-offs and billion-dollar sponsorship deals. But not all of them. As you read this, hundreds of geeks are hunched over laptops wasting their valuable young brain cells making LOLcats. It’s very simple. Find a picture of a cat (or other cute creature). Add a stupid caption in large white text. Post the image on a message board. The name comes from LOL – Laugh Out Loud.

Why? Why? While their pre-history is unclear, LOLcats first appeared in online forums such as SomethingAwful.com (the site contains a lot of very juvenile humour and bad language) in 2006. These forums are like huge chat rooms where internet memes are born and evolve. Their users adopt and reject new in-jokes all the time. By January 2007, the now hugely popular LOLcat blog “I Can Has Cheezburger” was launched. By June 2007, LOLcats should be dead, having gone the way of the Hamster Dance (warning: very irritating site).

Linguistic analysis: In April, ICHC posted a helpful guide to speaking LOLcat: “Step three: Misspell everything. There’s no wrong way to do this.” Text-message style abbreviations are essential: “OK, thank you, goodbye” can be reduced to KTHXBAI. Other blogs have attempted to explain the intricacies of LOLcat syntax. Anil Dash writes: “The evolution of these grammars online can be very difficult to track down.” David McRaney has written an even longer and more fun-sucking explanation of the Lolcat phenomenon: "The great thing about all of this is how we can see new languages forming out of a new medium, and since the pace is abnormally fast, we can watch it evolve over weeks instead of decades."

Build your own: Things got easier for the LOLcat generation in April, when LOLcat Buildr appeared – a super-simple web page which lets anyone turn any picture into a LOLcat. There’s even a button to send your creation to ICHC.

Why cats? Most of the cats come from Cute Overload, a blog which collects all kinds of (unadorned) cute animal pictures. Everyone likes cute animals, right?

Update: Since this story was written, Lolcats have taken over teh internets. Blogger Stephen Granade recreated the Star Trek 'Trouble with Tribbles' episode as a series of Lolcat images. Then Gawker created Lolgays (warning: men in glittery thongs). There are also, inevitably, plenty of LolGerbils (warning: several misspelt references to gay sex).


Personal JR Notes: I think the cats are cute and have been sending them out on myspace for some time.

Vatican Secrets for a price

Vatican publishes Knights Templar papers

By FRANCES D'EMILIO, Associated Press Writer Fri Oct 12, 7:53 PM ET

VATICAN CITY - It's not the Holy Grail, but for fans of "The Da Vinci Code" and its tantalizing story line about the Knights Templar, it could be the next best thing.
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Ignored for centuries, documents about the heresy trial of the ancient Christian order discovered in the Vatican's secret archives are being published in a limited edition — with an $8,377 price tag.

They include a 14th-century parchment showing that Pope Clement V initially absolved the Templar leaders of heresy, though he did find them guilty of immorality and planned to reform the order, according to the Vatican archives Web site.

But pressured by King Philip IV of France, Clement later reversed his decision and suppressed the order in 1312.

Only 799 copies of the 300-page volume, "Processus Contra Templarios," — Latin for "Trial against the Templars" — are for sale, said Scrinium publishing house, which prints documents from the Vatican's secret archives. Each will cost $8,377, the publisher said Friday.

An 800th copy will go to Pope Benedict XVI, said Barbara Frale, the researcher who found the long-overlooked parchment tucked away in the archives in 2001.

The Knights Templar, which ultimately disappeared because of the heresy scandal, recently captivated the imagination of readers of the best-seller "The Da Vinci Code," which linked the order to the legend of the Holy Grail.

The new Vatican work reproduces the entire documentation of the papal hearings convened after Philip IV of France arrested and tortured Templar leaders in 1307 on charges of heresy and immorality.

The military order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was founded in 1118 in Jerusalem to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade.

As their military might increased, the Templars also grew in wealth, acquiring property throughout Europe and running a primitive banking system. After they left the Middle East with the collapse of the Crusader kingdoms, their power and secretive ways aroused the fear of European rulers and sparked accusations of corruption and blasphemy.

Historians believe Philip owed debts to the Templars and used the accusations to arrest their leaders and extract, under torture, confessions of heresy in order to seize the order's riches.

The publishing house said the new book includes the "Parchment of Chinon," a 1308 decision by Clement to save the Templars and their order.

Frale said the three-foot-wide document probably had been ignored because a catalog entry in 1628 was "too vague."

"Unfortunately, there was an archiving error, an error in how the document was described," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from her home in Viterbo, north of Rome. "More than an error, it was a little sketchy."

The parchment, in remarkably good condition considering its 700 years, apparently had last been consulted at the start of the 20th century, Frale said, surmising that its significance must not have been realized then.

Frale said she was intrigued by the 1628 entry because, while it apparently referred to some minor matter, it noted that three top cardinals, including Pope Clement's right-hand man, Berenger Fredol, had made a long journey to interrogate someone.

"Going on with my research, it turned out that in reality it was an inquest of very great importance," she said.

Fredol "had gone to question the Great Master and other heads of the Templars who had been segregated, practically kidnapped, by the king of France and shut up in secret in his castle in Chinon on the Loire."

Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templars, was burned at the stake in 1314 along with his aides.

The surviving monks fled. Some were absorbed by other orders, and over the centuries, various groups have claimed to be descended from the Templars.

As for Clement, he "was a hostage in French territory" on the eve of what historians would call the Avignon period of popes, Frale said.

She said the parchment reveals the cardinals reached the conclusion the Templars were guilty of abuses but not "a real and true heresy."

"There were a lot of faults in the order — abuses, violence ... a lot of sins, but not heresy," she said.

These included forcing new recruits to "reject Christ in words and spit on the cross," in imitation of the violence suffered by knights when captured by Muslims, Frale said. New members were kicked and punched if they refused to undergo this kind of hazing, she added.

Philip had "confiscated all the wealth of the order, which he used to pay his debts," said Frale, who has written three books about the Templars. "Had the (order) survived, it's clear that Philip ... would have had to give back all" the wealth.

"But the king of France had already spent it," she said.

__

On the Net:

Vatican secret archive, http://asv.vatican.va

Publishing house, http://www.scrinium.org

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lipstick Lead

FDA to Look Into Claim of Toxic Lipstick

The Associated Press
Friday, October 12, 2007; 7:49 PM

WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration said Friday it would look into claims from an advocacy group that certain lipsticks contain potentially dangerous levels of lead. Similar claims in the past have not been confirmed, the agency said.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said that a third of the 33 red lipsticks examined by an independent lab contained a level of lead exceeding 0.1 parts per million _ which is the FDA's limit for lead in candy. The FDA does not set a limit for lead in lipstick.

The organization commissioning the lipstick study says its goal is to pressure companies to remove toxic chemicals from their products and replace them with safer alternatives. The lead tests were conducted by an independent laboratory last month on red lipsticks bought in Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Hartford, Conn., the organization said.

The FDA said concerns about lead in lipstick have been raised occasionally in the print media and on the Internet.

"These concerns have not generally been supported by FDA's own analysis of products on the market. In the present case, we are looking into the specific details of the issues raised," said Stephanie Kwisnek, a spokeswoman at the FDA. "We will need to confirm the factual basis of these reports independently in order to determine what action, if any, may be needed to protect public health."

The trade association representing the cosmetic industry acknowledged "negligible" levels of lead in some lipsticks, but said it is not intentionally added.

"Consumers are exposed daily to lead when they eat, drink water and breathe the air," said John Bailey, an executive vice president at the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association. "The average amount of lead a woman would be exposed to when using cosmetics is 1,000 times less than the amount she would get from eating, breathing, and drinking water that meets Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards."

Star Trek goodness

Two new bits of casting for you STAR TREK fans today; Simon Pegg (HOT FUZZ) has signed on to play 'Scotty', the Starship Enterprise's chief mechanic, while John Cho (HAROLD AND KUMAR, or the MILF kid) is onboard to play Sulu, the helmsman. I never really expected - with JJ Abrams in charge - that this film would get another othan a dynamite cast, but I thus far haven't heard anything about this movie that I don't like. Eric Bana's recent casting as the film's villain, Nero, is my favourite of the bag, but Pegg and Cho are great too. Cho's next project is going to be the Oscar magnet and early contender for greatest movie ever made in the history of the world by humans, HAROLD AND KUMAR 2, while Pegg can be seen in David Schwimmer's directorial debut RUN, FATBOY, RUN. All that remains now is to see who's gonna land that Kirk role!

Extra Tidbit: Cho is the lead singer of a band called 'Left of Zed'.

WTF: Sex Bots

Forecast: Sex and Marriage with Robots by 2050

By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

posted: 12 October 2007 04:46 pm ET

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Humans could marry robots within the century. And consummate those vows.

"My forecast is that around 2050, the state of Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize marriages with robots," artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands told LiveScience. Levy recently completed his Ph.D. work on the subject of human-robot relationships, covering many of the privileges and practices that generally come with marriage as well as outside of it.

At first, sex with robots might be considered geeky, "but once you have a story like 'I had sex with a robot, and it was great!' appear someplace like Cosmo magazine, I'd expect many people to jump on the bandwagon," Levy said.

Pygmalion to Roomba

The idea of romance between humanity and our artistic and/or mechanical creations dates back to ancient times, with the Greek myth of the sculptor Pygmalion falling in love with the ivory statue he made named Galatea, to which the goddess Venus eventually granted life.

This notion persists in modern times. Not only has science fiction explored this idea, but 40 years ago, scientists noticed that students at times became unusually attracted to ELIZA, a computer program designed to ask questions and mimic a psychotherapist.

"There's a trend of robots becoming more human-like in appearance and coming more in contact with humans," Levy said. "At first robots were used impersonally, in factories where they helped build automobiles, for instance. Then they were used in offices to deliver mail, or to show visitors around museums, or in homes as vacuum cleaners, such as with the Roomba. Now you have robot toys, like Sony's Aibo robot dog, or Tickle Me Elmos, or digital pets like Tamagotchis."

In his thesis, "Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners," Levy conjectures that robots will become so human-like in appearance, function and personality that many people will fall in love with them, have sex with them and even marry them.

"It may sound a little weird, but it isn't," Levy said. "Love and sex with robots are inevitable."

Sex in 5 years

Levy argues that psychologists have identified roughly a dozen basic reasons why people fall in love, "and almost all of them could apply to human-robot relationships. For instance, one thing that prompts people to fall in love are similarities in personality and knowledge, and all of this is programmable. Another reason people are more likely to fall in love is if they know the other person likes them, and that's programmable too."

In 2006, Henrik Christensen, founder of the European Robotics Research Network, predicted that people will be having sex with robots within five years, and Levy thinks that's quite likely. There are companies that already sell realistic sex dolls, "and it's just a matter of adding some electronics to them to add some vibration," he said, or endowing the robots with a few audio responses. "That's fairly primitive in terms of robotics, but the technology is already there."

As software becomes more advanced and the relationship between humans and robots becomes more personal, marriage could result. "One hundred years ago, interracial marriage and same-sex marriages were illegal in the United States. Interracial marriage has been legal now for 50 years, and same-sex marriage is legal in some parts of the states," Levy said. "There has been this trend in marriage where each partner gets to make their own choice of who they want to be with."

"The question is not if this will happen, but when," Levy said. "I am convinced the answer is much earlier than you think."

When and where it'll happen

Levy predicts Massachusetts will be the first jurisdiction to legalize human-robot marriage. "Massachusetts is more liberal than most other jurisdictions in the United States and has been at the forefront of same-sex marriage," Levy said. "There's also a lot of high-tech research there at places like MIT."

Although roboticist Ronald Arkin at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta does not think human-robot marriages will be legal anywhere by 2050, "anything's possible. And just because it's not legal doesn't mean people won't try it," he told LiveScience.

"Humans are very unusual creatures," Arkin said. "If you ask me if every human will want to marry a robot, my answer is probably not. But will there be a subset of people? There are people ready right now to marry sex toys."

The main benefit of human-robot marriage could be to make people who otherwise could not get married happier, "people who find it hard to form relationships, because they are extremely shy, or have psychological problems, or are just plain ugly or have unpleasant personalities," Levy said. "Of course, such people who completely give up the idea of forming relationships with other people are going to be few and far between, but they will be out there."

Ethical questions

The possibility of sex with robots could prove a mixed bag for humanity. For instance, robot sex could provide an outlet for criminal sexual urges. "If you have pedophiles and you let them use a robotic child, will that reduce the incidence of them abusing real children, or will it increase it?" Arkin asked. "I don't think anyone has the answers for that yet—that's where future research needs to be done."

Keeping a robot for sex could reduce human prostitution and the problems that come with it. However, "in a marriage or other relationship, one partner could be jealous or consider it infidelity if the other used a robot," Levy said. "But who knows, maybe some other relationships could welcome a robot. Instead of a woman saying, 'Darling, not tonight, I have a headache,' you could get 'Darling, I have a headache, why not use your robot?'"

Arkin noted that "if we allow robots to become a part of everyday life and bond with them, we'll have to ask questions about what's going to happen to our social fabric. How will they change humanity and civilization? I don't have any answers, but I think it's something we need to study. There's a real potential for intimacy here, where humans become psychologically and emotionally attached to these devices in ways we wouldn't to a vibrator."

Levy is currently writing a paper on the ethical treatment of robots. When it comes to sex and love with robots, "the ethical issues on how to treat them are something we'll have to consider very seriously, and they're very complicated issues," Levy said.

Levy successfully defended his thesis Oct. 11.

Oh goodness

I know I wasn’t the only one shocked to see footage from JOHN RAMBO, Sylvester Stallone’s second attempt at regaining past glory by bringing one of his two most iconic character (the other being that boxer guy). And I’m not talking about the extreme violence. I’m talking about seeing an elderly Stallone with long hair, acting in a role that is usually reserved for people half his age. But then again, this is one of those things where no matter how old you are, it kinda works. Stallone is Rambo. I’m sure when Arnold returns for TERMINATOR 7, we won’t even flinch. It’s called being ‘iconic’, try it some time.

But I made a mistake. I shouldn’t have called this fourth installment JOHN RAMBO because Lionsgate has just announced a name change, and it’s…wait for it…wait for it…RAMBO TO HELL AND BACK. Why they decided to change a simple, emphatic title for one containing a cliché, I’ll never know. But really, who cares what it’s called? This is RAMBO 4, and that’s that. It comes out on January 25th.

Santa vs. Zombies

In one of the weirder stories of the day, Hollywood Gang, the fellas behind 300 have optioned the rights to the graphic novel "The Last Christmas," written by actor-comedian Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan. Now, I know what you're thinking, we've had enough of shitty generic Christmas movies that more than likely star Tim Allen, but rest assured, this one has a little bit of a kick: The story follows Santa Claus as he withdraws from normal life and turns his back on Christmas. When he emerges from seclusion, he has to find a way to save the world, and Christmas, from being overrun by demons, zombies and other bad guys. From what I can tell, the story takes place after the Apocalypse, but I can't for the life of me figure out where the zombies and demons came from. Still, can't wait to see how this turns out. It's about time we had a fat guy with a beard as an action hero!

Extra Tidbit: Brian Posehn played the Wedding Minister in FANTASTIC 4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER.

Thundercats - hoooooooo!

Thundercats Director, Thy Name is O'Flaherty
Videogame vet calls upon Sword of Omens to give him sight beyond sight.
Thunder! Thunder! Thunder! Thundercats, ho!

That's the cry being heard from Jerry O'Flaherty -- who, as Variety reports, has just been tapped to direct Warner Bros.' CGI Thundercats feature. O'Flaherty's previous filmmaking credits include...well, nothing, really. From the article:

The project marks the first feature directing gig for O'Flaherty, who served as an art director on such bestselling games as "Gears of War" and "Unreal Tournament 3" for Epic Games and the "Command and Conquer" series from Westwood Studios.

O'Flaherty tells Variety that making the leap "feels like a natural thing," especially given how closely some games have tried to mirror the film experience in recent years. The article goes on to report that the director will work with Thundercats screenwriter Paul Sopocy on a new version of the script.

If you didn't grow up in the '80s or aren't otherwise familiar with the Thundercats, Variety offers the following synopsis, which we realize will sound, to the uninitiated, like nothing so much as the 'shroom-fueled ranting of a lonely college freshman:

The origin story expands on the major heroes and villains from the animated series, with the plot focusing on Lion-O coming of age as the leader of the Thundercats...The property revolves around a group of humanoid cats who must flee the planet of Thundera, which is destroyed. Once crash-landing on another planet, Third Earth, they must thwart Mumm-Ra, an evil sorcerer bent on killing them off.

Please join us in hoping for a "Lion-O's" breakfast cereal tie-in.

Why to Hate the French

30 reasons why we hate the French


Last Updated: 12:01am BST 12/10/2007

As Les Rosbifs and The Frogs scrum down for tomorrow's Rugby World Cup semi-final, Alex Clarke and Jules Eden remind us of the infuriating habits of our cousins across the Channel

Diary of a rugby widow
The ultimate roast beef recipe
Michael Fish: 'It wasn't me - the French were to blame'
Rugby World Cup: Where are the Scrummies?
In pictures: Top Rugby World Cup totty

1. Because they're losers
Rugby matches played by England against France since 1906: 89. We've won 47; they've won 35. Draws: 7.

France captain, Raphael Ibanez
Loser: France's captain, Raphael Ibanez

2. Because they're aggressive
Wars fought against France since 1066: 35. We've won 23; they've won 11. Mutual defeats: 1 (American War of Independence).

3. Because of Napoleon
200 French streets, monuments and institutions commemorate the era of Napoleon, the inventor of totalitarian dictatorship.

4. And because of the Napoleon Complex
While Napoleon was actually 5ft 6.5in tall, his aggression may have stemmed from "strikingly small, infantile and undersized genitals", as revealed in his autopsy. The organ in question measured 1.25in.

5. Because they make love more than anyone else
On average, that's 137 times a year; we only manage 119 times.

6. Because everyone believes they're great lovers
But when asked about Napoleon's love-making, French good-time girl Marguerite Josephine Weimer remarked that the Duke of Wellington was "beaucoup le plus fort". Today, just 23 per cent of French people are happy with their sex lives compared to 25 per cent of Brits.

7. Because they love yappy dogs
More than nine per cent of French dog owners have a poodle.

8. But they won't clean up after them
French dog owners refuse to pick up the 5,840 tonnes of dog-doo dropped on their streets each year.

9. Because they're allergic to customer service
In London eateries, it takes an average 3.4 minutes to get a glass of water once a waiter has been alerted; in Paris it takes 17.9 minutes.

10. Because they're rude
The "Paris Syndrome" is a medically recognised type of depression which afflicts foreign visitors, caused by the sustained rudeness of French people to outsiders.

11. Because they can't wait
Many French men still prefer the convenience of a trottoir to the public WC.

12. Because they lack humour
Before the Revolution, the French spoke of l'esprit (wit), or la farce (joke) but the word "humour" had no equivalent. Not until 1932 did the French Academy allow l'humour into the language.

French poodle
Yappy: a quite ridiculous French poodle

13. Because we've been allowed to believe that French women don't get fat
Current diet books claim that French women are thin because they eat only fresh produce, and slowly. However, French obesity rates are exploding and one in four French women is on some kind of mood-altering medication. Of course they're not hungry – they're stoned.

14. Because they do things the wrong way
The French take more suppositories than the rest of Europe combined. In 2006, they shoved 235 tonnes of pharmaceuticals up themselves. That's equivalent to 1,850 Gérard Depardieus (approx.).

15. That goes for their wildlife, too
In 1998 alone, 25 million geese and ducks were force-fed in battery farms to make foie gras: the €20 hors d'oeuvre.

16. Because they love Jerry
In 1963, Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor was voted "Best Film" in France. Le Roi du Crazy, as Lewis is known over there, holds the Legion of Honour, traditionally awarded only to victorious French generals: pretty rare.

17. And they hate Gerry
In 2005, national treasure Gérard Depardieu announced he was leaving France because: "Only the British understand me… They have a great sense of humour. It is the French who are cretins".

18. Because they think their cooking is the best in the world
They boasted 26 three-starred restaurants in the 2005 Michelin Guide. However, the guide is a French institution. Could that be why the UK had only three? Coincidence, non?

19. Because of their incessant wining
Does France still make the best wine? Not if you go by the infamous Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, when an English wine merchant organised a "blind" tasting before a jury of French experts. To their horror, they rated Californian wines as winners in both the red and white wine categories. The French press first denied any tasting had happened, then claimed the results were fixed.

20. You can't trust their wine labels either
In one 2002 case, a Burgundian vintner got jailed for rebottling 4,000 hectolitres of Algerian plonk as a much more expensive Bordeaux.

21. Because they took the cow pat… and turned it into a hat
Well, that's what the beret is, isn't it?

22. Because their legendary "Va Va Voom" is a lie
They only spend an average 19.2 minutes on foreplay. The British take 22.5 minutes.

23. Because 50 per cent of them don't even associate sex with pleasure
And 23 per cent say they would be "relieved" not to have sex for several months.

24. Because they patented the kiss
In fact, there is no actual word for "French Kiss" in French. It is simply embrasser avec la langue (literally, to kiss with the tongue). Colloquially it is referred to as rouler une pelle (to roll the spade). Only in Quebec is it "frencher".

25. Because they're big bullies
The French shoot, poison, trap, crush, stuff and then eat almost anything smaller than themselves. Box-nets are laid down across the Aquitaine countryside to trap skylarks, while Languedoc hunters blast turtledoves out of the sky.

26. Because the French health service is the best in the world
However, during a 2003 heat wave, the French health services, rated as a "world best" by the WHO, failed to prevent the deaths of 16,300 elderly people.

27. Because their country doesn't work
Employers have to pay social security taxes equal to 48 per cent of each employee's salary, so they take on fewer people, and France's unemployment rate has hovered around 10 per cent for a decade.

28. Because they get up our noses
Forty per cent of French men, and 25 per cent of women, do not change their underwear daily – and only 47 per cent bathe every day (compared to 70 per cent of the British).

29. Because they invented Sadism
France is not only the birthplace of the Marquis de Sade but also of Renault's flirty series of Ben and Sophie "Eiffel Tower v Blackpool Tower" TV ads. Talk about torture…

30. Because it's taken them a thousand years to admit we're better than them
"The standard of life of the British is higher than that of the French," said M. le President Nicolas Sarkozy, in his 2006 autobiography. Finally.

  • 50 Reasons To Hate The French by Alex Clarke and Jules Eden (Quetzal Publishing UK)
  • Star Secrects

    From
    October 13, 2007

    Star secrets

    We can’t all afford foie gras, caviar and truffles, but that shouldn’t stop us thinking like a three Michelin star chef. To introduce his new book, Gordon Ramsay discloses the recipes that made his reputation – and reveals the five tips that every serious home cook should know

    Gordon Ramsey

    1 Timing

    So many people misunderstand timing. They think it’s about everything coming together at the same moment. They’ll think, the chicken will be ready at 1pm, so I’ll put the potatoes on at 20 to, the carrots at 10 to and the peas at 5 to. Then, disaster – they're trying to carve the chicken, mash the potatoes and drain the veg all at the same time. I wouldn’t even try that with a brigade of 15 chefs. No, what a professional chef means by timing is getting everything prepared as far ahead as possible, so that two thirds of the work has already been done and you’re just bringing together the elements for the grand finale. That means having the meat ready up to half an hour before and parboiling your vegetables and refreshing them in cold water, ready to be warmed through in a pan with a splash of olive oil. It means frying your mushrooms in olive oil and reheating them in butter. And it means turning the final stages of cooking into an assembly line, which is much easier to control than starting everything from scratch and cooking it right through. Less stress, better results.

    2 Seasoning

    Salt and pepper are the building blocks of any kitchen. It’s the first thing I teach my new chefs – to season with confidence and, where necessary, subtlety. Too many people wait until the end to season their dishes. That way your taste buds just get clobbered with uncooked salt or pepper. Better to add it at the beginning of cooking so the raw taste can be cooked out and it has time to enhance the flavour of your ingredients. And keep tasting, all the way through cooking, to see how the flavours evolve. Finally, don’t limit yourself: salt and pepper are only the beginning of the story. We always season fish or seafood with a squeeze of lemon or lime at the end and, increasingly, we’ll use whole bunches of herbs to infuse a soup or cream sauce, or add cloves, vanilla or cinnamon to a fish stock. Be bold. Be adventurous.

    3 Cooking fish

    Given how popular sushi has become, I’m amazed at how squeamish people are about eating their fish anything other than nuked. Believe me, if the inside is a bright white, the outside will be dried out and woolly. No, you want the inside of your fish slightly translucent, like the inside of an oyster shell. Start with a medium-hot pan, add two parts olive oil and put in your seasoned fillet of fish, skin-side down. Don’t worry about it sticking – once it has caramelised, the fillet will release itself. Prodding and poking will just make it fall apart. Once it is 80 per cent cooked, gently turn it over, add one part butter and keep basting it. Add the butter too early and you’ll end up with a blackened pan – and burnt-tasting fish. Finally, allow the fish to relax, during which time it will continue to cook. Like vegetables, it can be held for five minutes, and then flashed in a 200C/Gas 6 oven with a little stock to warm it through.

    4 Cooking meat

    The secret of cooking meat is in the resting. I find it so dispiriting when I cut into a steak and watch all the juices leak out on to the plate because it hasn’t had time to relax and reabsorb all that goodness. Start with your meat at room temperature – if you take it straight from the fridge, the outside will be burnt before the centre has had time to heat up. And remember, 85 per cent of the cooking is done in the pan, the remaining 15 per cent as it rests. For a rare fillet steak, for example, give it two and a half minutes on each side and let it rest in its own juices for three. Then, just before serving, roll it in its juices again before flashing it through a hot oven. A final word about duck: of all meats, it goes cold the quickest because it is so lean, so don’t slice a breast into more than three or four slices or it will discolour and turn an unappetising brown colour.

    5 Perfect custard

    It’s worth perfecting your egg-custard recipe as it is the base for so many things, from ice-cream to crème patisserie. Follow these three golden rules and you won’t go wrong. First, always use fresh vanilla pods – the difference between those tiny seeds and vanilla extract is like night and day. Second, when you bring your milk and cream to the boil, take it off the heat the moment it starts to boil; even another 30 seconds will completely change the consistency. And finally, don’t add the sugar to the egg yolks until the last second and you are ready to whisk it, otherwise the sugar will dissolve into the egg and lose the strength to make the custard thicken as you need it to.

    Monday, October 8, 2007

    Goonies Sequal

    ‘Goonies’ Sequel An ‘Absolute Certainty,’ Says Astin
    2 Comments | Published by Brian Jacks on Monday, October 8, 2007 at 2:45 am.

    Sean AstinBack in August, the “Goonies” rumor mill went into overdrive when Corey Feldman revealed to MTV News that talks had resumed for a possible animated sequel to the classic 80s flick. Now his co-star Sean Astin has weighed in, exclaiming that as far as he’s concerned, “Goonies 2” is an “absolute certainty.”

    “The writing’s on the wall when they’re releasing the [”Goonies”] DVD in such numbers,” enthused the fan-favorite actor, who garnered acclaim in such films as “Rudy” and “The Lord of the Rings,” and is now appearing in the baseball epic “The Final Season.”

    According to Feldman, numerous plotlines are floating around, with his favorite involving the children of the original Goonies embarking on an adventure of their own. That idea’s a home run for Astin, who says the real-life growth of the actors should factor heavily into a “Goonies 2.”

    “Steven [Spielberg] and Dick [Donner] and all the powers that be … they really feel like the thing that made the movie strong was that it was about kids, so they really want to make the next movie about kids…the next generation of Goonies. And they’ve had a hard time tackling that.”

    Like Feldman, Astin sees the passing of the torch concept to be a logical progression for the franchise. “I have three children,” he said, “and Corey’s got a kid now [too]. So as we now all have kids who are coming into the age that we were when we made the movie, it’s more likely to me that they’ll figure out how to design a story that will satisfy the older audience in terms of connecting with the original 1985 Goonies, and then [also] create this new thing.”

    While Astin admits it’ll be difficult to recapture the magic, he’s confident that the “creative lightning” will strike that allows the project to move forward. “I remain as open-minded and willing to participate as I have ever been,” he declared.