Friday, 24 September 2010

Mini Countryman

The largest Mini yet has four doors, roomier rear bucket seats, available all-wheel drive, and the look of an SUV. The cargo area has generous underfloor storage, folding rear seatbacks, and a pass-through. Powertrain choices include the 1.6-liter naturally aspirated or turbocharged four-cylinder engines found in other Minis, matched with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Both engines get a slight horsepower increase for 2011. The Countryman is expected to sell for about $30,000.

Bottom line

With extra room and AWD, the Countryman will be more practical and versatile than other Minis, but it seats only four. We hope it won't lose the agility and sportiness that make Minis fun to drive.

Nissan Juke

Aimed at young buyers, the Nissan Juke is a sporty crossover based on the Versa hatchback and is meant to combine attributes of a small car and an SUV. The U.S. version has a direct-injection, turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that will deliver 180 hp. It is matched with either a continuously variable automatic transmission or six-speed manual. Front- or all-wheel drive will be available. Pricing is expected to start at less than $20,000. Standard features include six air bags, antilock brakes, and ESC. Optional features include leather seats, push-button start, navigation system, and power sunroof.

Bottom line

The Versa did well in our testing, which gives the Juke a good starting point. Although the Juke is big on style, the interior is snug, especially the backseat.

Most intriguing cars for 2011

Chevrolet Cruze

The compact Cruze is headed to the U.S. after making its debut in Europe and Asia. Buyers can choose from three trim lines and two four-cylinder engines, including a new 1.4-liter turbocharged version that Chevrolet says will achieve as much as 40 mpg on the highway with a manual transmission. Either engine is available with a six-speed automatic or manual transmission. Ten standard air bags, electronic stability control with rollover sensing, and OnStar are among the safety features. The Cruze will be priced between $17,000 and $23,000.

Bottom line

We've had a chance to drive early prototypes of the Cruze, and it looks like a great leap over the mediocre Cobalt. The Cruze is much quieter and has a more spacious and refined interior.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Astrological sign for 2010

Year 2010 Overview

A lot of last year's difficulties, if you think about it, boiled down to a lot of fiddly little details getting in the way of you realizing your dreams. Let's be honest about it, Aries: struggling with the small stuff just isn't your style. In the next year, you'll find that a lot of these pressures ease off, to the point where your biggest issue may be other people's ability to keep up with you!

The months surrounding your birthday will bring more than the usual amount of Spring Fever. You'll be facing an urge to bust loose from your limitations and, properly handled, that energy will push you to new highs as far as you General satisfaction with life. The summer will find you speaking your mind more with those who are closest to you. You may not have been shy about expressing yourself before, but it's as if you needed to find just the right words.

In the past, knowing what you want out of life and getting the co-operation of those closest to you haven't always gone hand in hand. That theme will carry on throughout much of the year, and will come to a peak again in December. At times there may be frustrations, but if you keep a level head, you'll probably find that those around you really are on your team, ultimately.

Year 2010 Career

Brace yourself for big changes in your work and money life, Aries! This is the year when a lot of your past potential and promise come out. Two eclipses in your career sector (one in January and one in July) will set the stage for a major shift. Some of this will be the fulfillment of things you've been working on quietly for some time, and part of this will simply be thrust on you by circumstance.

Either way, change is good, and will lead to a greater sense of long-term fulfillment on your part. Pluto also continues its long-term travel through your job zone. Pluto is a planet that demands a deep and committed response, whether you thought you were ready for it or not. This isn't at all necessarily bad or difficult news. No one is every 100 percent happy with their work and money life, it seems, and that basic sense of mild ongoing dissatisfaction can be what propels you towards greater career heights. June and July may see you seriously contemplating a change in direction as far as what you do for a living. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities.

As far as actual cash on hand, the news appears to be more good than bad -- especially in September and October. The last year probably wasn't too comfortable (but lacked any serious shortages). The next year will provide stability. No big lottery wins, in other words, but lots of chances to get smaller expenses in line. Keep an eye on the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.

Year 2010 Romantic

There's a lot of activity in your love life this year -- you'll be a little like a Ram in springtime! Most importantly (and regardless of what state your romantic life is in now), Saturn in your house of committed relationships is going to have you closely questioning and examining any partnerships you may currently have. If you have nothing on the go like that now, you will still find that your attitude towards long-term commitments is likely to undergo a lot of change. You will likely find you take the entire subject more seriously -- or the subject will take you more seriously!

If there is an existing committed relationship, your partner is going to be a valuable source of grounding for you this year. Old issues will be bubbling to the surface (especially in September and October) that may prove to be a challenge. More likely, though, what will be challenged are your preconceptions about that other person in your life, what they mean to you, and what responses this should draw from you.

As far as the potential for new romance (or injecting new life into an existing one), July and August bring new life. If there was ever a year to find new love on summer vacation, this is it!

Regardless of the state of your love life, you'll certainly be drawing a lot of attention this year. The first three months of 2010 will find your stock rising with others. Iif you're looking to develop something new, January through March is your best time to be in circulation. Chances are excellent that love will find you.

Saturday, 22 August 2009


Ramadhan, The Month of Fasting

The Meaning of Ramadhan
Ramadhan is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. For Muslims, Ramadhan is a "month of blessings" marked by prayer, fasting and charity.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. The others are: belief & testimony in The One God (Shahaadah); prayer (Salah) - five times a day at its appointed times; alms -giving (Zakat) – approx. 2.5% of fixed assets annually; and pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah (also spelled Mecca) at least once in a lifetime.

The third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one's spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadhan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Qur'an, giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds.

As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate and learning thankfulness & appreciation for all of God's bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.

When the fast ends (the first day of the tenth month of the Islamic calendar –Shawwal) it is celebrated for three days in a holiday called 'Eid-ul-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Gifts are exchanged. Friends and family gather to pray in congregation and for large (in the number of attendees) meals. In some cities fairs are held to celebrate the end of the Fast of Ramadhan.

Who Fasts in Ramadhan?
While voluntary fasting is recommended for Muslims, during Ramadhan fasting becomes obligatory. Sick people, travelers, and women in certain conditions are exempted from the fast but must make it up as they are able. Perhaps fasting in Ramadhan is the most widely practiced of all the Muslim forms of worship.

The Sighting of the Moon
Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The much-anticipated start of the month is based on a combination of physical sightings of the moon and astronomical calculations. The practice varies from place to place, some places relying heavily on sighting reports and others totally on calculations. In the United States, most communities follow the decision of the Islamic Society of North America, which accepts bonafide sightings of the new moon anywhere in the United States as the start of the new month. The end of the month, marked by the celebration of 'Eid-ul-Fitr (also called just “ ‘Eid “), is similarly determined.

From Dawn to Sunset
The daily period of fasting starts at the breaking of dawn and ends at the setting of the sun. In between -- that is, during the daylight hours -- Muslims totally abstain from food, drink, smoking, and sexual relations. The usual practice is to have a pre-fast meal (suhoor) before dawn and a post/break-fast meal (iftar) after sunset.

Islam follows a lunar calendar which means that the months of the year are measured according to the revolutions of the moon around the earth (each month begins with the sighting of the new moon).

Because the Islamic lunar calendar (hijri) is approximately 11 days shorter than the solar or Gregorian calendar, Islamic holidays "move" each year.
This lunar calendar gives every month an opportunity of rotating through every season completing a cycle in which every month does not exceed 29 or 30 days.

Thus, since Ramadhan begins on October 4th or 5th one year, the next year it will begin on September 24th or so. The entire cycle takes around 35 years. In this way, the length of the day, and thus the fasting period, varies in length from place to place over the years. Every Muslim, no matter where he or she lives, will see an average Ramadhan day of approximately 13.5 hours.

One may eat and drink at any time during the night "until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night." [2:187]

The good that is acquired through the fast can be destroyed by five things –the telling of a lie, slander, denouncing someone behind their back, a false oath, greed or covetousness.

These are considered offensive at all times, but are most offensive during the Fast of Ramadhan.

Devotion to God
The last ten days of Ramadhan are a time of special spiritual power as everyone tries to come closer to God through devotions and good deeds. The night on which the first verses of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet, known as the Night of Power (Lailat ul-Qadr), is generally taken to be the 27th night of the month. The Qur'an states that this night is better than a thousand months. Therefore many Muslims spend the entire night in prayer.
During the month, Muslims try to read as much of the Qur'an as they can. Most try to read the whole book at least once. Some spend part of their day listening to the recitation of the Qur'an in a Mosque (Masjid).

Preservation of Qur’an
During this month Huffath (Muslims who have memorised the entire Holy Qur’an) recite a thirtieth of the Qur’an, word for word and accent for accent in congregational prayers on a daily basis after the night prayer, which is approximately an hour and a half after sunset, for the duration of the month (approx. 30 consecutive days), until they have completed the whole Qur’an.

Muslims believe this is one of the ways in which the Qur’an has remained intact since revelation more than 1400 years ago.

Food in Ramadhan
Since Ramadhan is a special time; Muslims in many parts of the world prepare certain favorite foods during this month.
It is a common practice for Muslims to break their fast at sunset with dates (from a palm tree), following the custom of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This is followed by the sunset prayer, which is followed by iftar –The actual break-fast meal. Since Ramadhan emphasizes community aspects and since everyone eats iftar at the same time, Muslims often invite one another to share in the Ramadhan evening meal, the breaking of the fast “break-fast.”
Some Muslims find that they eat less when breaking their fast during Ramadhan than at other times due to stomach contraction. However, as a rule, most Muslims experience little fatigue during the day since the body becomes used to the altered routine during the first week of Ramadhan.

The Spirit of Ramadhan
Muslims use many phrases in various languages to congratulate one another for the completion of the obligation of fasting and the 'Eid-ul-Fitr festival. Here is a sampling of them:
"Kullu am wa antum bi-khair" (May you be well throughout the year) - Arabic
"Elveda, ey Ramazan" (Farewell, O Ramadhan) - Turkish
"'Eid mubarak (A Blessed 'Eid)" - universal

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Bad news about delete

It's always fun to write about research that you can actually try out for yourself.

Try this: Take a photo and upload it to Facebook, then after a day or so, note what the URL to the picture is (the actual photo, not the page on which the photo resides), and then delete it. Come back a month later and see if the link works. Chances are: It will.

Facebook isn't alone here. Researchers at Cambridge University (so you know this is legit, people!) have found that nearly half of the social networking sites don't immediately delete pictures when a user requests they be removed. In general, photo-centric websites like Flickr were found to be better at quickly removing deleted photos upon request.

Why do "deleted" photos stick around so long? The problem relates to the way data is stored on large websites: While your personal computer only keeps one copy of a file, large-scale services like Facebook rely on what are called content delivery networks to manage data and distribution. It's a complex system wherein data is copied to multiple intermediate devices, usually to speed up access to files when millions of people are trying to access the service simultaneously. (Yahoo! Tech is served by dozens of servers, for example.) But because changes aren't reflected across the CDN immediately, ghost copies of files tend to linger for days or weeks.

In the case of Facebook, the company says data may hang around until the URL in question is reused, which is usually "after a short period of time." Though obviously that time can vary considerably.

Of course, once a photo escapes from the walled garden of a social network like Facebook, the chances of deleting it permanently fall even further. Google's caching system is remarkably efficient at archiving copies of web content, long after it's removed from the web. Anyone who's ever used Google Image Search can likely tell you a story about clicking on a thumbnail image, only to find that the image has been deleted from the website in question -- yet the thumbnail remains on Google for months. And then there are services like the Wayback Machine, which copy entire websites for posterity, archiving data and pictures forever.

The lesson: Those drunken party photos you don't want people to see? Simply don't upload them to the web, ever, because trying to delete them after you sober up is a tough proposition.