5 April 2024

200 Hours in Morocco - Watch this Video if You are Thinking of Visiting Morocco

 
This is a short but wonderful video about a visit to the beautiful country of Morocco. If you planning to visit Morocco, I would highly recommend a watch of this short and snappy overview of what the country can offer young adult visitors who are more interested in broadening horizons than partying till dawn!

As well as a whistle-stop tour of the country and its sights, sounds and food it also focuses on the profound impact that travel can have on a person.  The old saying “travel broadens the mind” is so true, but one thing that the video creator, Omro, points out too is about the sense of self (and one’s place in the world) that travel can also generate.  I think it’s something that many young people realise as they step into the world and discover it for themselves (that is, without the guidance of parents) and it can do nothing but good.

The video takes in a number of cities in Morocco, including Asilah, Larache, Marrakesh and Casablanca. More than an in-depth look at the country, the video serves as something of an appetiser – a taste of what Morocco has to offer which (as well as the glorious weather) includes culture (past and present), music and great hospitality. Oh and the food; this glimpse of the place shows some very, very tasty looking meals.  I think the Morocco tourist board should use this as one of their official  videos. It certainly made me want to pack my bags and head there.

Of course, being a (slightly) older traveller than Omro, I would probably do one of two things. I would either stay in one or two cities, instead of darting about or – and this is the temptation – make a longer stay of it in order to replicate Omro’s adventures there but at a more genteel pace! 

Of course, this video is intended to reflect the travel plans of a younger generation and it’s great to see that Omro and his cousin are interested in country discovery more than party recovery!  And so, with that truly terrible play on words, I will leave you to enjoy this terrific snapshot of Morocco.

30 March 2024

Tulkou


In Tibetan Buddhim a Tulkou (that is the French spelling) is the reincarnation of a master.  The lines of the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas are considered Tulkou lines so perhaps this is where the name of this animated short comes from.  Whether it is or not this short remains fascinating.  An old man, lonely and somewhat bad tempered, pulls a strange creature from the sea.

Man and entity somehow bond but the shape is drawn elsewhere, inexorably.  In order to let his new friend survive, perhaps the old man will have to sacrifice the company he has longed for.  Tulkou was directed by Mohamed Fadera and Sami Guellaï.

Dream Child


Intelligent animation allows your imagination to take flight and this is exactly the case with Dream Child (Rêve d’enfant in French), produced by Papy3D Productions. The animation is simply but exquisitely done. The animation tells the story of the relationship between a troubled mother and her son. This may sound somber and it probably is but I guarantee you won’t forget this short in a while.

Avalanche Fences Exposed!

For months of the year they lie beneath deep snow, trapping it so that avalanches can be circumvented.  But when the snow melts, what is beneath is exposed to the world.  In the summer months many visitors scratch their heads at the sight of avalanche fences and wonder what form of sheep or goat they might be designed to contain.

Image Credit
Their real purpose is often lost to the casual observer: to help keep roads, railways and towns – not to mention the people therein - safe from a sudden, often deadly avalanche.  In places like the Swiss and French Alps, where locals have had to live alongside the threat of avalanches for thousands of years, intricate systems of artificial structures have mitigated the risk of avalanches for almost as long.

The Smoke Seller


Life must be tough if you travel from village to village selling your one and only product, especially if that product is, simply, smoke.  Yet although our traveling salesman in The Smoke Seller (or in the Spanish El Vendedor de Humo) has a slow start in his latest pit stop, and has a moment of despondency, it isn’t long before he has the villagers eating out his hand…

This is a very handsome animated short which has the kind of moral twist in the tale that you might expect from a traditional fairy tale but I am afraid I have to admit I have no idea if this is an old story or not – perhaps you could let me know!  What I do know, however, is that it was created at the PrimerFrame School of Animation in Valencia, Spain and it has received a stack of awards. Bravo!

Cólera


Cólera quite rightly got amazing reviews on its release - and for more than just the reason that it is a one shot short film. Created by Spanish filmmakers Señor y Señora and starring one of Spain’s most talented and versatile actors, Luis Tosar, this is a morality tale with a twist. The population village round on a crippled outsider, who they fear and detest equally. Yet their act of intolerance will have consequences beyond their imagination.

The Dandelion - Whimsical World-Wide Weed

The humble dandelion. From your garden to almost the ends of the earth this small but conspicuous plant flourishes. Gardeners do not appreciate its presence, considering it a weed, even though its flowering usually indicates the beginning of the honey bee season and could be seen as a welcome sign. Its simplistic looking structure hides a few surprising secrets and its cultural resonance, especially in Europe is strong. Here is a short but sincere homage to one of the small wonders of our botanical world.

Let’s start with the names, both common and scientific. In English, dandelion is a corruption of the French. Originally it was called ‘dent de lion’ and the name came over in 1066 with a certain William and his Conquerors. It means ‘lion’s tooth’ and many people mistakenly believe it refers to the orange colored flower head, confusing the words beard and tooth.

26 March 2024

Exploring Exclusive Casino Bonuses for Enhanced Gaming Thrills

We won’t be far off if we say that online casinos have overtaken all aspects of traditional casinos. For one, the convenience online casinos give compared to their in-house counterparts is out of this world. At the same time,  you get to have as much fun and make as much money as you’d do while playing at in-house casinos. 

Meanwhile, another insightful addition to online casinos is the availability of bonuses. What’s even amazing is that learning how to use it doesn’t come with much hassle, like making the perfect latté. Bonuses can either come in the form of no-deposit bonuses, free spins, cashback, and even welcome bonuses. 

Without a doubt, online casinos are the best if you want more staking power than you’re willing to deposit in cash. More so, there are some exclusive casino bonuses for enhanced gaming thrills peculiar to some casinos and a special category of players; in this article, we’ll explore some of them.

Understanding Casino Bonuses

Again, likening it to the ease of making latté, there are not a lot of moving parts when it comes to knowledge of casino bonuses. Getting the hang of it shouldn’t be much of a hassle. 

  • Welcome Bonus

Welcome bonuses are available in pretty much any online casino that’s interested in a constant influx of new players. You’ll often find them offering from 50% and up to 200% top-up on your first deposit, then capping it on a specific amount. At the same time, you may be given a special withdrawal requirement that must be satisfied before you can cash out.

  • Free Spins

Free spin bonuses are available to both new and existing casino players. They often award you such when you’ve played on their platform for a while, or at least are a regular customer. Some dealers will show you the free spins that you can access when you’ve spent a specific amount or participated in a particular fixture or betting round.

  • Deposit Bonus

Deposit bonuses are specifically designed to keep a player spending with a platform, and this is a good example. You’re given a specific % of your deposit as a bonus on every deposit you’re making. The only difference between this and your welcome bonus is that these bonuses can occur at any time, depending on the online casino.

Types of Exclusive Casino Bonuses

Admittedly, a lot of exclusive casino bonuses are derived from your classical bonuses, the only difference is that you’re being offered on a bigger scale. For this article, we’ll be talking about just two types of exclusive bonuses. 

  • Deposit Match Bonuses

When casinos want to encourage you to make higher amounts of deposits, they often introduce a higher percentage match on deposits; more than what’s on their site that’s given to normal customers. It’s quite unclear how one qualifies for this type of bonus, but most users speculate that it’s available when you don’t deposit for a while.

  • Exclusive Free Spins Offers

This is when you receive more free spins on specific slots than what’s commonly obtainable. If you’re a slot enthusiast, this is one bonus you want to always watch out for as you get to relish the excitement of spinning the reels without spending extra cash.

Where to Find Exclusive Casino Bonuses

We can’t tell you for sure which casino brands are currently offering exclusive bonuses, and the exact criteria for eligibility. However, we can point you in the right direction, to start your search. 

  •  Casino Review Sites

This is arguably the best spot to find casinos that are running bonuses. What’s even great is that they make sure that you know the type of bonuses being offered so for players making special selections. Also, some will usually add quick reviews about the platforms allowing you to know what to expect when you go to their website. 

  •  Social Media Channels of Casinos

If a casino has previously offered exclusive bonuses, chances are that they’ll do it again. You want to follow their official pages on social media and wait for them to make the announcement. This method is quite effective when the casino owns an active social media account.

  • Affiliate Marketing Websites and Social Media Influencers

Oftentimes, when a new casino or an already established casino wants to run a massive bonus offer, they can team up with other brands. Usually, you’d find them on ads being run by affiliate marketers, showcasing their juicy offers. Other times, you’re likely to see an influencer talking about the latest bonus, and how you can capitalize on it.

12 March 2024

Transforming Player Experiences: The New Age of Cross-Platform Gaming


The gaming industry is witnessing a monumental shift that is redefining how games are played, developed, and experienced. Cross-platform gaming stands at the forefront of this transformation, breaking down barriers between different gaming devices and platforms.

This evolution enables gamers to play their favorite titles on PCs, consoles, and mobile devices seamlessly, fostering a more unified and inclusive gaming community. The significance of this shift cannot be overstated, as it marks a new era where the focus is on accessibility, convenience, and bringing players together irrespective of the hardware they own.

 The Genesis of Cross-Platform Play: Understanding the Origins

Cross-platform gaming’s roots can be traced back to early efforts by game developers to bridge the gap between PC gamers and console enthusiasts. Initially, these efforts were limited by technological and platform-specific constraints, making true cross-platform play a challenging feat to achieve.

However, as technology advanced, developers began to see the potential benefits of a unified gaming ecosystem. This realization sparked a movement towards creating games and online environments that could support players from different platforms, playing together in real time.

The Technological Evolution: Breaking Down Technical Barriers

The technological advancements necessary for cross-platform play have been significant. Developers have had to overcome numerous challenges, including differing operating systems, network protocols, and hardware capabilities.

The introduction of cloud computing and more sophisticated game engines has played a pivotal role in this evolution. These technologies have enabled game developers to create flexible and scalable games that can run across multiple platforms without compromising performance or quality.

The Impact on Game Development: A New Approach to Creating Games

Cross-platform gaming has fundamentally changed the game development process. Developers now often design games with cross-platform play in mind from the outset, considering aspects such as scalable graphics, adaptable controls, and unified online services.

This shift requires a more holistic approach to game design and development, prioritizing compatibility and user experience across all platforms. It has led to the emergence of new development tools and platforms that facilitate the creation of cross-platform games.

Enhanced Social Connectivity: Bringing Gamers Together

One of the most significant impacts of cross-platform gaming is its ability to enhance social connectivity. By allowing players on different devices to interact and play together, it breaks down previous social barriers within the gaming community. This integration fosters a more inclusive and expansive online community, where friendships and rivalries are no longer limited by the platform.

This level of integration is akin to how online casino game apps have made it possible for players to switch devices without losing progress or quality of play, setting a new standard for accessibility and convenience in the gaming world.


Major gaming platforms and services have played a crucial role in the adoption and expansion of cross-platform gaming. Companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have gradually embraced cross-platform play, recognizing its benefits for the gaming community and the industry as a whole. This acceptance has been instrumental in accelerating the growth of cross-platform gaming, with major titles and franchises now offering cross-platform capabilities.

The Benefits for Game Publishers: Expanding Market Reach

Cross-platform gaming offers significant benefits for game publishers and developers. By making games accessible across multiple platforms, publishers can reach a wider audience, increasing the potential for higher sales and engagement. This approach also allows for more efficient marketing and distribution strategies, as publishers can target gamers on various devices with a single product.

The Challenges and Solutions: Navigating the Complexities

Despite its many benefits, cross-platform gaming is not without challenges. Issues such as balancing gameplay across different platforms, managing cross-platform progress and purchases, and ensuring fair play and security are significant concerns.

However, the industry is actively working on solutions, such as developing standardized protocols for cross-platform play, enhancing security measures, and creating more sophisticated matchmaking systems to ensure a fair and enjoyable experience for all players.

Future Trends and Possibilities: Envisioning the Next Frontier

The future of cross-platform gaming holds exciting possibilities. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more seamless integration between platforms, including virtual reality and augmented reality devices. The ongoing development of cloud gaming services is also likely to play a significant role in the future of cross-platform play, offering gamers unprecedented flexibility and access to a vast library of games across all their devices.

The Impact on Gaming Communities: Fostering a Unified Community

The rise of cross-platform gaming has had a profound impact on gaming communities. It has led to the creation of more unified and diverse communities, where players from different backgrounds and with different preferences can come together. This inclusivity enriches the gaming experience, creating a more vibrant and engaging community culture.

 A Unified Gaming Future: Embracing Cross-Platform Integration


The transformation brought about by cross-platform gaming is reshaping the landscape of the gaming industry. It represents a shift towards a more inclusive, accessible, and connected gaming world. As this new era of gaming continues to evolve, it promises to bring even greater opportunities for players, developers, and the industry as a whole.

The journey towards a fully integrated gaming ecosystem is still underway, but the progress made thus far points towards a future where the lines between different gaming platforms are increasingly blurred, creating a unified gaming experience for all. 

As we look forward, the potential for innovation within cross-platform gaming is boundless. The next steps involve not only refining existing technologies but also exploring new avenues for connectivity and gameplay experiences. Developers and publishers are poised to delve deeper into the realm of AI, leveraging it to enhance matchmaking, in-game interactions, and personalized gaming experiences.

Furthermore, as the global internet infrastructure continues to improve, we can anticipate a reduction in latency issues, making real-time cross-platform play more accessible and enjoyable. This ongoing evolution will likely introduce new genres and gaming experiences, further enriching the gaming landscape.

The future of gaming is not just about playing together; it’s about creating a shared experience that transcends physical and digital boundaries, ushering in an era of gaming without limits.

10 March 2024

About a Planet


We have featured the Fermi Paradox and the Great Filter together in all their shudderingly inconceivable horror but together they certainly explain away why we have never been contacted by intergalactic voyagers.  About a planet by Leonardo Cavaletti shows us this whole concept in a few minutes using through a short and stylised procedural animation.  Yet even if we must not expect a knock on our planetary doorstep, hope springs eternal!

The Sunshine Boy


Can we ever truly know our children? We can only hope so but sometimes parents can get things horribly, terribly wrong.  This animated short, directed by Naaman Azhari takes us in to the thoughts and feelings that a mother has about her child and how unaware – blissfully or otherwise – she had been about the true nature of her offspring.  Inspired by true events, this may well put a tingle down your spine – it is difficult but compulsive watching.

Wakinyan: Thunder Spirit


Wakinyan is a Lakota word meaning thunder, or thunder spirit. The language is one used by native people of the American Great Plains.  Creator Martin Lisius photographed the content during the spring of 2016, mostly in Texas, Colorado and the Nebraska Sandhills. It required thousands of miles driving, and being exposed to “biting flies, gooey mud, blowing dust, and long nights”.  The result though, is superlative: the thunder spirit does indeed persist.

What is a Mermaid's Necklace

If you were wandering along a beach and came across one of these, would you know what it is?  Folklore tells us that it is a mermaid's necklace.  Who knows how she may have lost it and how it came to be on your beach but it is easy to imagine many legends springing up about these peculiar objects.  Of course there is a scientific explanation and the fact that it can be found on our sibling site, The Ark in Space, might suggest that it is a biological one too...  Why not pop over and discover what a mermaid's necklace truly is?

Image Credit Dystopos

Spring!

It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  ~Mark Twain

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.  ~W. Earl Hall

Bastei: Amazing Bridged Bastion of Saxony

Bastei in German translates as bastion and you can easily see why this name was chosen for this towering rock formation, situated on the River Elbe near Dresden in the German Free State of Saxony.  Towering almost 200 meters over the river below, Bastei was formed by water erosion over a million years ago. In recent times it has become such an object of fascination that a bridge linking a number of the rocks was constructed, and is itself something of a marvel of Victorian age engineering.

Although the bridge is a destination in its own right, when you are on it you realize just how high it soars above the Elbe.

Do Now Writing Prompts for English: Free Writing or Exam Style

Presented here is a collection of 40 engaging "Do Now" activities tailored for GCSE English. However, they can be used for any English specification. I designed them to try and combat something very specific. I refer to it as "exam paralysis" – a phenomenon where students find themselves frozen during exams, struggling to write spontaneously within time constraints. This not only squanders precious exam time but also hinders their performance potential in terms of final grades.

To address this issue, I developed a series of prompts and activities aimed at fostering free writing. This approach boosts confidence, encourages honesty in expression, nurtures writing skills and voice, emphasizes the writing process over the final outcome, and aids in overcoming writer's block. These activities are not intended for grading; rather, they serve to empower students to write creatively and authentically. Oh and quickly too, if they stick with it!

Recognizing that this approach may not suit every teacher's preferences, I have also adapted the prompts into exam-style exercises. Here, content, organization, and technical accuracy are assessed. The "free writing" set prioritizes rapid writing development and confidence building, and I will actively engage with students during the process, offering comments and encouragement. The "exam style" set, on the other hand, entails more formal feedback or a focus on achieving specific objectives.

Both sets are customizable to accommodate the needs of your learners. Utilizing a "Do Now" activity can be particularly effective for jumpstarting learning, especially at the outset of a class session or week. It serves as a means to assess prior knowledge and provide instant feedback to students.


8 March 2024

Star Trek: Discovering the TV Series - New Book


How well acquainted are you with Star Trek? A few years ago, Tom Salinsky, a lifelong science fiction enthusiast, podcaster, and author, recognized that his knowledge of the franchise was lacking. Not anymore...

While there are undoubtedly many other sci-fi enthusiasts who share this sentiment, Tom's commitment was unparalleled - he decided to write a book. He embarked on a rigorous two-year mission to watch every episode from the inception of The Original Series to the conclusion of Enterprise, committing to viewing one episode per day without fail, regardless of circumstances.  That's slightly bonkers but it appears to have worked.

After some meticulous planning, Tom calculated that by following the transmission order and treating feature-length episodes later split into two for syndication as one, along with considering each movie as one episode, he would commence on New Year’s Day 2022 and conclude with the final episode of Enterprise on Christmas Day 2023. This ambitious endeavor encompassed a total of 723 episodes, each accompanied by Tom's succinct review.

The resulting book - Star Trek: Discovering the TV Series chronicles the initial phase of this journey, encompassing the 79 television episodes of The Original Series, the animated series revival of the 1970s, the first six original movies, and the entire run of The Next Generation. Additionally, the book features insights from prominent fans, authors, actors, and broadcasters, offering their perspectives on beloved episodes.

Beyond celebrating the series' achievements, acknowledging its missteps, and appreciating its boldness, Star Trek: Discovering the TV Series provides intriguing behind-the-scenes anecdotes. It also offers a comprehensive overview of the groundbreaking series, unveiling familiar elements at unexpected junctures.

Readers are invited to ponder trivia questions such as the first mention of the Federation, the establishment of Kirk's era in the 23rd century, and the abandonment of money in the future. Moreover, the book sheds light on surprising revelations, like the earliest appearance of a Holodeck in the 1974 episode "The Practical Joker" from the animated series.

Whether you're a devoted aficionado or a casual viewer, this book offers an immersive experience, accompanying Tom on his daily expedition through the highs and lows of one of the most iconic and cherished series in the universe.  The book is available here.

26 February 2024

Powering Through Projects: A Review of Makita Tools in the UK


Makita has long been synonymous with quality, durability, and innovation in the world of power tools. With a wide array of offerings catering to both professionals and DIY enthusiasts, Makita has established itself as a go-to brand for those seeking reliability and performance. In the UK market, Makita's presence is robust, with a diverse range of tools available to tackle any project. Let's delve into the assortment of Makita tools available in the UK and explore what makes them stand out.

One of Makita's standout offerings is their cordless power tool range, powered by their renowned LXT battery system. From drills and impact drivers to circular saws and angle grinders, Makita's cordless tools offer the freedom of movement without sacrificing power or performance. The convenience of not being tethered to a power outlet makes these tools ideal for both indoor and outdoor projects, whether you're building a deck or installing kitchen cabinets.

For those who prefer corded tools, Makita offers a comprehensive selection as well. Their corded drills, sanders, and saws are built to deliver consistent power and reliability, making them indispensable in professional workshops and construction sites across the UK. With features such as variable speed control and ergonomic designs, Makita's corded tools are engineered to provide maximum comfort and efficiency during extended use.

In addition to traditional power tools, Makita also offers a range of specialty tools designed for specific tasks. From concrete vibrators and rebar tiers to tile cutters and pipe threaders, Makita's specialty tools cater to professionals working in specialized trades, providing them with the precision and reliability they demand.

What sets Makita apart from the competition is their commitment to innovation and technological advancement. With features such as brushless motors for increased efficiency and longer tool life, as well as smart technology integration for enhanced performance and user experience, Makita continuously pushes the boundaries of what's possible in the realm of power tools.

Furthermore, Makita's dedication to sustainability is evident in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and minimize environmental impact. By developing energy-efficient tools and implementing eco-friendly manufacturing practices, Makita is leading the way towards a more sustainable future for the construction and woodworking industries.

The assortment of Makita's tools in UK offers something for everyone, whether you're a professional tradesperson or a weekend warrior tackling home improvement projects. With their commitment to quality, innovation, and sustainability, Makita remains a trusted choice for those who demand nothing but the best from their tools.