Saturday, December 28, 2013

A letter to President Rouhani of Iran

A report from the Baha'i News Service states:
'The seven imprisoned Iranian Baha'i leaders have written a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, commenting on his proposed "Charter of Citizen's Rights."
During his campaign for election earlier this year, President Rouhani promised such a Charter, saying it would aim to end discrimination on the basis of race, sex or religion.'
Time will tell if actions will flow from these fine words.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rupunini explorers

In October a team of scientists and students headed into the Rupunini. According to this report by Dr.
Andrew Short of the University of Kansas the aim was to:
'to conduct a rapid biological assessment of the Rupununi Savannah, a sprawling tropical grassland peppered with rock outcroppings and forested mountains.'
This first report describes their plans.

A followup report describes their trip inland and starting work. Dr Short comments:
'Over the next two weeks, we'll sample rivers, streams, and lakes across the southern Rupununi. Combined with the data gathered by the water quality and fish teams, we can generate a holistic picture of the health of the region's watershed.'
Hopefully there will be another report soon.

ITCZ arrives with record rainfall

On November 27th Georgetown experienced severe flóoding as intense rainfall began in the very early morning and lasted for about 6 hours. Away from the capital rainfall was less.
According to the Hydrometeorological office as reported in the Chronicle the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) "shifted from its last position, to about 6 degrees North of the equator bringing it directly over Guyana's Coast."
"This 6 hour rainfall of 128.9mm or 5.1 inches which was recorded at the Botanical Gardens was the highest recorded data analysed for Georgetown since 1892... This morning's rainfall had an intensity of 21.5mm per hour, compared to 6.9mm per hour in 2005".
Where I live some 10km away the rain was heavy but not unusual for the season.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Modern slavery

Slavery is still with us. A BBC news item on a report just out describes the current stare of affairs:
Nearly 30 million people around the world are living as slaves, according to a new index ranking 162 countries.
The Global Slavery Index 2013 says India has the highest number of people living in conditions of slavery at 14 million.
But Mauritania has the highest proportional figure with about 4% of its population enslaved.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Guyanese author writes fantasy novel

The book: The Cripple and the Staff .

Author: M M Mancey available at Amazon (print and ebook).

Let me confess some bias here - the writer is my daughter. However it is a good read, better than many a fantasy book I have read over the years.
It does have some good reviews too. I only wrote one of them... An excellent first book. Needless to say there are very few Guyanese writers of fantasy or science fiction.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Belief in God Can Improve Mental Health Outcomes

A thought-provoking item but no surprise to those with a spirtual orientation:
" A new study suggests belief in God may significantly improve the outcome of those receiving short-term treatment for psychiatric illness."

Sunday, June 30, 2013

O3B satellites launch

New developments in internet by satellite. Until now this has been done using geostationary satellites far from Earth which has meant a problematic 600ms delay in browsing, phone calls and gaming. This new company, as reported in this BBC news post, will be using satellites in a lower medium earth orbit giving quicker more responsive access. Service should start later this year.

"O3b is targeting parts of the world that currently have poor fibre-optic infrastructure.
With support from blue chip companies such as Google, it believes its network can change the broadband experience for millions of people by providing an alternative "fibre in the sky" to backhaul traffic."


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Google Street View continues to expand

Thanks to continued technological advances it is now possible to become an armchair tourist and visit (some) distant lands virtually using Google Steet View. North America seems to have the best coverage but some other countries also have good or partial coverage - I have not come across a list but see Wikipedia which has a map showing coverage.

After touring some places in the UK I discovered that some important Baha'i sites can be visited including some in Israel (the gardens in Haifa, Bahji, part of Akka) and also the Houses of Worship in the US and Australia (search for Bahai Temple Australia etc). See this post for links.

Google has an excellent gallery with many collections of locations.

Now we need Street View for Mount Roraima and Kaiteur falls...

Friday, April 19, 2013

IT in university level education

Came across two interesting and relevant articles.

First from MIT Technology Review concerns MOOCs (massive open online courses) which are attracting attention but are really only getting started.
"As online education platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udacity burst onto the scene over the past year, backers have talked up their potential to democratize higher education in the countries that have had the least access"
"One of the major challenges for MOOCs—which so far mostly come from U.S. universities—is to tailor the content of courses to a diverse worldwide audience with any number of combinations of language, educational, motivational, and cultural backgrounds."
Doing one of these well is a major effort and requires many skills (e.g. graphics) not just a lecturer with a bit of training. Hopefully these courses will endure and be refined and improved over many years. Sustaining motivation is problem and most students find standalone online courses difficult to complete unless they are short.

And secondly is a rather critical article from Information Week about the use of IT in the university classroom:
"Professors at top research universities are highly skeptical of the value of the instructional technologies being injected into their classrooms, which many see as making their job harder and doing little to improve teaching and learning."
Note that while this may be indicative this a not a proper survey.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A historical note - Guyana tramways

Here is a page describing something which most of us know little about - tramways in Guyana or rather, British Guiana.
"In 1848 the British built a railroad, 5 miles long, from Georgetown to Plaisance, which was the first railroad on the South American continent...
A street railway began carrying passengers in Georgetown in 1877."
Thanks to Mr Allen Morrison.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A determined thrush

 Despite several attempts to dissuade it this bird kept trying to nest inside our kitchen. Because of the climate there are always open windows or vents which it can use to come in. It did give up eventually. Cruel I know but poop all over the wares was not on.

Identifying it was a bit difficult as there are several similar birds however I believe it was a Black-billed Thrush.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Guyana woodpecker

One of my daughters caught this picture of a woodpecker in our backyard on the mango tree.

It looks like either the Crimson-crested Woodpecker or the Lineated Woodpecker. Mostly likely the former.

Good thing it was not eating the mangoes... it is welcome to the bugs. Thanks Wikipedia!