Saturday, October 31, 2009

World's largest cruise ship sets sail from Finland

The world's largest cruise liner on Friday began its maiden voyage to Florida, gliding out from a shipyard in Finland with an amphitheater, basketball courts and an ice rink on board.

The 16-deck Oasis of the Seas spans 1,200 feet (360 meters) from bow to stern. Its 2,700 cabins can accommodate 6,300 passengers and 2,100 crew.

Commissioned by Royal Caribbean International, the ship cost euro1 billion ($1.5 billion) and took two and a half years to build at the STX Finland Oy shipyard in Turku, southwestern Finland.

The liner has four swimming pools, volleyball and basketball courts, and a youth zone with theme parks and nurseries for children. There is also an ice rink that seats 780 spectators and a small-scale golf course.

It features various "neighborhoods" - parks, squares and arenas with special themes. One of them will be a tropical environment, including palm trees and vines among the total 12,000 plants on board. They will be planted after the ship arrives in Fort Lauderdale.

In the stern, a 750-seat outdoor theater - modeled on an ancient Greek amphitheater - doubles as a swimming pool by day and an ocean front theater by night. The pool has a diving tower with spring boards and two 33-feet (10-meter) high dive platforms. An indoor theater seats 1,300 guests.

Accommodation includes loft cabins measuring 545 square feet (51 square meters) with floor-to-ceiling windows. There are also 1,600 square feet (150 square meter) luxury suites with balconies overlooking the sea or promenades.

One of the "neighborhoods," named Central Park, features a square with boutiques, restaurants and bars, including the "Rising Tide" bar, which the shipping line describes as "the first moving bar at sea."

It moves up and down three decks, allowing customers to get on and off at different level promenades.

Engineers at shipbuilder STX Finland said environmental considerations played an important part when planning the vessel, which dumps no sewage into the sea, reuses its waste water and consumes 25 percent less power than similar, but smaller, cruise liners.

"I would say this is the most environmentally friendly cruise ship to date," said Mikko Ilus, project engineer at the Turku yard. "it is much more efficient than other similar ships."

The liner was due to make its U.S. debut on Nov. 20 at its home port, Port Everglades in Florida and will be officially named on Nov. 30.

It will embark on its first cruise - a four-day trip to the port of Labadee in Haiti - on Dec. 1.

The Oasis of the Seas was due to call in at the English port of Southampton before continuing its voyage across the Atlantic.

STX Finland is building a sister ship - Allure of the Seas - for Royal Caribbean which is due to be launched in 2011.

Source : The Jakarta Post
Picure : National Geographic

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Want prosperity? Index ranks Finland as place to be

For those who value their freedom of expression as much as health, wealth, and prosperity, then Finland is the place to be, with an index ranking the Nordic nation the best in the world.

The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index, published on Tuesday and compiled by the Legatum Institute, an independent policy, advocacy and advisory organization, ranked 104 countries which are home to 90 percent of the world's population.

The index is based on a definition of prosperity that combines economic growth with the level of personal freedoms and democracy in a country as well as measures of happiness and quality of life.

With the exception of Switzerland, which came in at number 2, Nordic countries dominated the top 5 slots, with Sweden in third place followed by Denmark and Norway.

The top 10 were all also Western nations, with Australia (6th place) and Canada (7th place) both beating the United States, ranked 9th. Britain came in at number 12.

In Asia, Japan was the region's highest ranked country at number 16, followed by Hong Kong (18th place) and Singapore (23rd place) and Taiwan (24th place).

Dr. William Inboden, senior vice president of the Legatum Institute, said the lower rankings for Asian nations were largely due to their weak scores for democracy and personal freedoms.

"Many Asian nations have good economic fundamentals, but the Index tells us that true prosperity requires more than just money," Inboden said in a statement.

"Democratic institutions and personal freedom measures are letting some Asian nations down. Furthermore, countries which have low levels of economic stability, such as Cambodia, finish even further down in the overall rankings."

Cambodia came in the 93rd slot while China, with its tight political controls, came in 75th despite booming economic growth.

And the world's least prosperous country? According to the Legatum Index, it is Zimbabwe, with Sudan and Yemen close runners-up.

The index combines objective data and subjective responses to surveys.

source : Yahoo

Friday, October 16, 2009

The tolerant Tengger tribe

At the foot of Mount Bromo, the sound of the dawn drums rose from several mosques in the middle of the Hindu Tengger settlements, as Hindus prepared for their annual Yadnya Kasada ceremony.

At the mosque, people prayed as another day of fasting began; in the Luhur Potent Temple, the shaman priests — the religious leaders of the Hindu Tenggerese — prayed too. Whatever their beliefs, all prayed devoutly, none disrupting the others.

The time of Yadnya Kasada is special for the Tenggerese because it is held every full moon in the month of kasodo (the tenth month). In this year, this festival fell on Sept. 5 and 6, coinciding with Ramadan.

But it causes no conflict in the community.

Although they have converted to Islam, Achmad Zaini, 35, a Ngadisari villager from Sukapura subdistrict, Probolinggo regency, and Satugia, 30, an Argosari villager from Senduro Lumajang subdistrict, still take part in Hindu rituals.

“Although I’ve now converted to Islam we still celebrate Kasada as our traditional ceremony,” Achmad says.

“It’s the same for any Tenggerese who are Christian. And there are plenty of Tenggerese Muslims who throw chickens, goats and flowers into the crater of Mount Bromo.”

Satugia also packed several kilograms of vegetables from his garden into sacks to be taken to the top of Mount Bromo. After performing dawn prayers, Satugia and several others got into a big truck for the hour-long drive to the famous mountain.

“Before we had access to a vehicle, we used to walk from our village to the Bromo area, which took more than four hours. Now we’re too lazy to walk, because I might break my fast because of fatigue,” Satugia said.

According to tradition, offerings are thrown into the crater of Mount Bromo to recall the sacrifices of the ancestors, and to make offerings to the Almighty in return for blessings of fertility and security.

The Tenggerese believe that the Kusuma god, the son of Rara Anteng and Jaka Seger, who was sacrificed to the spirit of Mount Bromo, is their ancestor.

Sutomo, one of the elders of Argosari village in Lumajang said that most of the Tenggerese, who live in 19 villages and four regencies –Probolinggo, Lumajang, Pasuruan and Malang – are Hindu.

However, since the 1950s, many have converted to other religions, especially Islam and Christianity.

“Islam, and the other immigrant religions, entered in a peaceful manner and without any confrontation,” he said. “There are no conflicts in our society even though people have different beliefs.”

Sutomo is among the first generation of the Tenggerese-Lumajang who has embraced Islam. His father, Imam Supii, joined the Islamic Union Party.

Although his father was sympathetic with Islam, he did not convert. Sutomo joined the Islamic Youth Organization in 1962, although at that time he was a Tenggerese Hindu.

“In 1948, many scholars came to the Tenggerese settlement. I converted to Islam in 1971. Since then every year there have always been Tenggerese who have converted to Islam, whether because of marriage or because of personal awareness,” he said.

According to data from the Argosari village office, of the region’s 3,468 residents, 1,380 are Muslim.
Sutomo said Tenggerese who had embraced Islam had similar lives to Indonesia’s other Muslims, and many have joined Islamic organizations Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah.

What all the villagers have in common is their piety, whatever their faith.

“Like Bali, the Bromo area is visited by many tourists and all sorts of liquor are available. However, no villagers dare violate the customary rules that prohibit gambling, adultery, theft and drinking liquor. All the liquor is just for the tourists,” he said.

This piety, however, does not translate to fanaticism.

“There is no group such as the Islamic Defenders’ Front [FPI] or hard-line Islamic group here. And there are no raids or appeals in the fasting month for shops that sell liquor to close down for the fasting month. We also do not prohibit people to eat and drink in front of us when we are fasting,” he said.

“Our customs and religious beliefs run in harmony here. We’re always open to religious differences, such as the rule of polygamy. Although Islam does not prohibit polygamy, all the Tenggerese have rejected polygamy,” he said.

Punishments apply to those who break social rules. According to Kartono Noto Raharjo, village head of Ngadas subdistrict in Sukapura Regency, any married man caught having an affair is fined 50 bags of cement, as is his co-offender; if the affair results in pregnancy, the couple is fined 100 bags of cement and expelled from the village in shame.

“This rule also applies to Tenggerese teenagers. If they are caught having sex before marriage they will be fined 50 bags of cement and made to marry.”

With one bag of cement priced at Rp 50,000 (US$5), the fines — up to Rp 5 million — are onerous, given the average monthly income of the Tenggerese is less than Rp 2 million.

Martiam, the village head of Argosari in Senduro subdistrict, Lumajang, also said there was no conflict or ill-feelings between Muslims and Tenggerese Hindu beliefs or those of other faiths.

“The Muslims here do not question their neighbors who follow different religions and look after dogs and sell food made from pork. We are used to dealing with stray dogs and occasionally they lick our feet,” he said.

During Idul Fitri, citizens embrace non-Muslims and offer hospitality, he said. And vice versa: During the Karo holidays or the Tenggerese holiday and Yadnya Kasada, Muslim citizens also celebrate.

“Whatever the religion, we believe that we are still Tenggerese and have a responsibility to maintain our heritage and traditions of our ancestors,” Martiam said.

“Although we follow different religions, we are still working in the rice fields together and we built a mosque by working together.”

Ayu Sutarto, a Jember scholar who has lived on the slopes of Bromo with the Tenggerese for five years, said that the Tenggerese community was like a miniature version of the Indonesian people who hold firmly to the values of Pancasila.

Despite their different beliefs, the Tenggerese society is friendly and open.

“Although they hold onto their traditions strongly, they are very tolerant about the differences,”
he said.

“There are never any conflicts related to religion there. There is no exclusion of Tenggerese people who choose to embrace another faith, whether Muslim or Christian.”

Source : The Jakarta Post

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Boyzone's Stephen Gately dies in Spain

Singer Stephen Gately, a member of the Irish band Boyzone, died Saturday while vacationing on the Spanish island of Majorca, the group's Web site said Sunday.
His four bandmates were to travel to Majorca, the posting said.

Gately, 33, was in Majorca with his partner, Andrew, the Web site said.

It did not offer Andrew's last name.

No further details about Gately's death were immediately available.

Boyzone made history in the United Kingdom with 16 consecutive Top Five hits, according to Ticketmaster's Web site.

It's one of Ireland's best-selling bands, with six No. 1 singles in the United Kingdom, and four No. 1 albums, Ticketmaster said.

The group, which separated in 2000 to pursue solo projects, reunited in 2008.

Its greatest hits album -- "Back Again ... No Matter What" -- was released last year.

Gately joined the band in 1993 after answering an audition ad. "A lot of people didn't think we would make it out of Ireland back then," he said previously on the group's Web site.

"We were overwhelmed when Boyzone began to take off, it was incredible."

source :

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

UNDP : Norway is the best place to live, Indonesia is ranked in 111th

Have you ever wonder which country is the best place to live ? Well, here are the results according to UNDP.
Norway takes the number one spot in the annual United Nations human development index (UN HDI) released Monday but China has made the biggest strides in improving the well-being of its citizens.

The index compiled by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) ranks 182 countries based on such criteria as life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

Norway, Australia and Iceland took the first three spots while Niger ranks at the very bottom, just below Afghanistan.

China moved up seven places on the list to rank as the 92nd most developed country due to improvements in education as well as income levels and life expectancy.

Colombia and Peru rose five spaces to rank 77th and 78th while France -- which was not part of the top 10 last year -- returns to the upper echelons by moving up three places to number 8.

The UNDP said the index highlights the grave disparities between rich and poor countries.

A child born in Niger can expect to live to just over 50, which is 30 years less than a child born in Norway. For every dollar a person earns in Niger, 85 dollars are earned in Norway.

This year's index was based on data from 2007 and does not take into account the impact of the global economic crisis.

"Many countries have experienced setbacks over recent decades, in the face of economic downturns, conflict-related crises and the HIV and AIDS epidemic," said the UN development report's author Jeni Klugman.

"And this was even before the impact of the current global financial crisis was felt."

Afghanistan, which returns to the list for the first time since 1996, is the only Asian country among the bottom ten which also include Sierra Leone in the 180th spot, just below the Central African Republic.

The top ten countries listed on the index are: Norway, Australia, Iceland, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Switzerland and Japan.

The United States ranks 13th, down one spot from last year.
And for Indonesia, has been ranked in position 111th, one level above Honduras.

See the complete HDI Rank Country here

Source : yahoo news

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Journey to Prague

Several weeks ago, me and my colleagues went to visit the city of Prague in Czech Republic.
We went from Nuremberg, Germany with a bus.
One of the unique about Germany's transportation is, if you had a plan to travel, then you'd better buy the tickets in advance, like us, we got 50% discount for booking 2 weeks in advance.

The travel time was approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. Along the way you'll find very beautiful scenery.
The bus officer would come to surveyed you one by one, to ask your purpose visiting Prague and for how long. No need to worry, it's just a routine questions.
But make sure you brought your passport and for the visa, it has become one package deal if you visit the European Union.

Arriving at the main station of Prague, I was surprised with the classic form of the building, a little bit old, but it's beautiful.
Then we headed to ground floor, because one of the officers say 'everything is under the ground'. Amazing... 4 floors below the ground... Wow...

At level 1 you'll find food court, game center and also money changer. You must exchanged your Euros here with Korun Ceskych (Czech currency),
because not all restaurants and stores accepted Euros. But I suggested you not to exchanged too much at the station, just exchanged to buy a ticket only,
because you'll have low rates, you better trade it out later, because in the tourist area or near the Vltava river there's plenty money changers and banks are open every day with a better exchange rate. The rates at the station usually 1 Euro = 22.10 Cr, but in the bank you'll have 1 Euro = 25 Kr.

The stairs to subway was really steep, its about 20 meters high.
We bought 24 hours tickets for all transportation for 100 Kc, which can be used for all types of transportation, from trains, subways, buses and trolley.
For additional information, at each station, hallway, buses, trains and trolley, all equipped with cameras (CCTV), so I felt more secured.

We drove to our apartment which already booked via the Internet, 1400 Kc for 1 night, 3 beds.
After taking a short rest, we were rushing to explore this city.
Starting from the restaurant on the street, because it was lunch time. Be careful to order food here, because if you ordered bread here, then you'll be charged for extra tax, if you ate at a restaurant in hotel, then you'll be charged for seats per person.
But even so, the food taste was pretty good here, and worth to try, after all its cheaper than in Germany.

In the Old Town Square we found ongoing street party, where hundreds of young people gathered and danced near dozens of vans/trucks carrying huge speakers with rock/metal music.

It's very noisy here, but it's also exciting because many of those wearing unique costumes. You do not need to worry about riot, because many policemen were guarding this party.

Then we headed too the famous Astronomical Clock, which already a lot of people lined up in front of the clock to see the 'action' every one hour.
For those who wanted to explore the city with more relaxed, you could rented a horse-drawn carriage which can accommodate about 4 people.

We've around the city until it reached the edge of the Vltava river. Here, we were offered a boat tour up the river, such as 'Little Venice' with the price for 290 Kr plus snacks and drinks that you can choose by yourself.

It was really exciting and fun too, because the tour guide explained about some historical of the city, important events and sometimes made a funny joke.

We were all fascinated by the beauty of this city from the river. After touring the river to a small canal for 40 minutes and are happy to take photos, we walked on the bridge filled with tourists, while enjoying the night view from here.

Apparently the scene more beautiful at night than during the day, but do not forget the time, because about 10 hours of the night, the roads were pretty quiet and you'd better went back to your hotel.

Tomorrow morning we are looking for breakfast at fast-food restaurant and it's true price is much cheaper than in Germany.
After breakfast we ride the tram around the city, we hasn't had a clear goal ... After about far enough,
we got off the tram and under the direction toward the 'Little Eiffel Tower' or the Petrin Tower.

To get to the Petrin Tower Park and you need to have the tram which takes you to the top of the hill, you don't need to pay for this streetcar, because it includes in 1-day ticket.

When you reached to the top of the hill, you will find a very beautiful garden, full of roses and of course the Petrin Tower.
Since the tower was opened at 10 a.m., so we're walking around the park and having some pictures.
After the tower was opened, I bought a ticket for 100 Kr to climb this 60 meters high tower.

There are 2 levels of the tower, the first 20 meters tall and if you continue the journey you will reach the top of this tower.
I felt really satisfied when I reached the top of this tower. It only took less than 10 minutes to climb this 299 stairs. Although I was a little afraid of heights, but I didn't want to waste this beautiful view from the top of this tower.
Unfortunately, my camera's battery was out while on the tower, so I missed to take a picture with a group who wore unique costumes, just like a traditional costumes.

From Petrin Tower we headed to the Castle of Prague using tram.
Once again I was fascinated with the architectural style of buildings here. The architecture was influenced by the Christian culture of 18th century (my thought).
What I'm confused, at that time how do they can make the building of this grand and beautiful, with great detail.

Unfortunately, to entered some certain rooms in the palace, you must have a special ticket.
There's so many guard who guarding this palace, and some of us took a picture with them.
The scenery outside the palace was also very beautiful, because the palace was located fairly high on the hill.

After we finished for walking around this palace and we also a little but tired, so we decided to have lunch in a restaurant near the Old Town Square.
Time passed so quickly, because at 3 pm we had to returned to the main station where our bus was waiting to went back to Nuremberg.

Wow, it felt great for visiting this historical city. Do not forget to buy some gifts and souvenirs when you visit this city.
The journey to this city would gonna be an unforgettable experience for me.


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