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    A Sweet History of an Icy Treat

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    Every American person should know the old rhyme “You scream! I scream! We all scream for ice cream!”  In any country in the world, the word Ice Cream…

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    The Vatican City – History in the Making

    Tuesday, February 25, 2014

    Sited on the banks of the Tiber River, on a hill sits the Vatican City. It is a place that has one of the richest histories in the…

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    Web Design Through the Years

    Thursday, January 23, 2014

    The internet is a relatively new invention but boy have things changed in its short life! The internet has changed the way we live and it has been…

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    The iPhone – 7 Years and Counting

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    The iPhone is one of the world’s most iconic devices and, in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t very old. But when did it begin? Where did…

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    30 Years of Financial Crisis

    Sunday, January 5, 2014

    The world’s financial markets are destined to be stuck in a loop, forever repeating history, as overspending and bad business decisions result in financial crisis for everyone. This…

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The iPhone – 7 Years and Counting

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The iPhone is one of the world’s most iconic devices and, in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t very old. But when did it begin? Where did the idea come from?

The very first iPhone was unveiled in January 2007 at the MacWorld convention. Steve Jobs revealed what Apple had been developing for nearly 3 years and, for its time, it represented the cutting edge of technology.

The device was introduced as an iPod with a wider screen, controlled by touch instead of physical buttons. In short, it was a mobile phone and a device to communicate with the internet. At the time, Jobs told the audience that this device would “reinvent the phone”.

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Jan
11

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Seduction Community in the Spotlight

history of mens dating advice

In the beginning, there was Dear Abby – an American institution since the 1950s. Write in, and get nice, sensible advice on your dating dilemma. But the catch was that it was PG-rated, written by a woman and generally for them. Young men continued to get a lot of their dating advice from their peers in the locker room, and if they were lucky, an older male mentor who knew the ropes.

Away from the safe, clean-cut mainstream arena, there were always the racy magazines like Playboy which gave a totally different view. After finishing the articles, the attentive reader could go to the back and find books advertised with titles like “How to Pick Up Girls”. This classic by Eric Weber appeared in 1970, and included advice such as wearing bell-bottoms and marching in peace marches to pick up the hot hippies. The 1950s were gone, and men’s dating advice had moved on from how long you should wait to kiss a girl on the cheek at her doorstep. This was red-blooded and unashamed pick-up artistry! The term itself became part of the language, and the 1970s was a time when pick-up artistry flourished, albeit still underground.

Things changed as the 1980s brought in a different atmosphere. Reagan was in the White House, concerned parents were clamping down on rock and roll lyrics, and most importantly the specter of AIDS changed the whole dating landscape. The free-wheeling 1970s over, in dating advice magazines and on TV, there was understandably a focus on staying safe.

Moving into the 1990s, Oprah gave voice to women’s viewpoints on relations between the sexes, and ushered in the sensitive metrosexual. It was also a time of such bestselling books as “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” and “The Rules”. While the former was written by a man, it seemed to cater more to women and required men to “get with the program”. And the latter defined the 1990s dating scene with what was effectively game for women. It was the decade of women making the rules. It was a tough and confusing time to be a man in the 1990s, as men no longer knew whether to be a traditional macho male, or a Sensitive New Age Guy.

Towards the end of the decade, new things started to stir. AIDS was no longer front-and-center in people’s minds, Oprah’s “you go girl!” brand of feminism was mainstream, and the time was right for men to start something of their own. Most importantly, the Web was starting to provide a new platform for men to give advice on the dating arena. The internet would well and truly shake things up.

One of the first gurus of the new era was Ross Jeffries. Selling books and CDs from his website, he told the would-be Casanova that no matter how nebbish you might be, you could learn to charm any woman into bed. Jeffries was big on NLP, effectively a rebranded form of hypnosis. In many ways, he was like a holdover from the 1970s with his unrepentant focus on getting women into bed. Love him or hate him, he showed that there was a huge market on the internet for male-focused dating tips.

Next on the scene was David De Angelo. More family-friendly than Ross Jeffries, who could come across as misogynistic, De Angelo promised you could “Double Your Dating” through attending his seminars or buying his DVD sets. De Angelo offered some key concepts which at the time were breakthroughs to many young men. His audience were the “nice guys” created by the feminism of the 80s and 90s who now found that the jerks seemed to be getting all the girls. He told them to be “cocky and funny”, skating just on the socially acceptable side of jerkdom. De Angelo also introduced the concept of the “neg”, one of the most notorious (and misunderstood) concepts of new-school “Game”.

Basically, a “neg” is giving a back-handed or ambiguous compliment to a girl, such as “I love your hair – is it real?” or telling an obviously glamorous and beautiful woman “ you’re cute – like my bratty little sister”. Designed to get the attention of sought-after women used to getting fawning compliments, it was easily abused by novices, who would make these kind of remarks to less attractive and more insecure women, or turn them into outright insults. This was the kind of dating advice that had its place, but could easily go wrong, and tended to get bad press. De Angelo was everywhere on the internet in the first few years of the 2000s, as he was essentially a marketer and businessman using the dating advice for men arena as his stepping stone to bigger things. Now under his real name, he has gone on to become a hugely successful and wealthy entrepreneur.

But even more important than De Angelo and the marketers was the ragtag group of men who started to congregate on various internet message boards in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This was something new – men learning and sharing their dating experiences pseudonymously in real time. One of them was a young Canadian by the name of Eric von Markovic, better known as Mystery. Striding around the streets of Toronto in platform boots and a top hat, wearing a feather boa (“peacocking”), Mystery would perform magic tricks to the delight of young women, in the most flamboyant pick-up artist tradition. While perhaps not the greatest or most original of PUAs, he now had an online audience of eager acolytes who took his approach and went out on the streets to try to replicate it.

A movement was forming, and online forum posts were studded with enough jargon and acronyms to require a glossary. The online seduction community, or simply “The Community” as it was known, grew enormously as it bubbled up from the grassroots. Various gurus espoused their own approaches, such as “direct” or “indirect”. The most notorious would simply advise men to “get into sexual state” as they talked to women, and let their raging pheromones do the seducing for them. Others, building from Mystery’s more cerebral approach, built elaborate theoretical models which could be drawn up on a whiteboard like a physics problem.

The time was right for a breakout into the mainstream, and it occurred in 2005 with the publication of “The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists” by Neil Strauss. This book provided a window on “the Community” and revealed the techniques of Mystery and his followers, as well as their real-life stories. Suddenly, a whole new generation of young men were getting advice on women which wasn’t given by women or filtered through family values.

Within a couple of years, most young men were at least passingly familiar with this kind of approach to dating and women, especially after more media exposure like the VH1 show “The Pick-Up Artist” which starred none other than Mystery. Some people laughed it off, others drew out what they saw as valuable lessons. In the wake of this mainstream exposure, a number of companies and individuals sprang up, creating a small industry of dating and pickup advice through DVDs and coaching and “boot camps” where – for a fee – you could go out on the town with a seduction guru and learn the “crimson arts”. Many major cities have become accustomed to these groups of young men going out and practicing their techniques, with lesser or greater effectiveness.

With the level of information on pickup techniques reaching new saturation point, with every possible scenario for attracting a woman having it’s own book, DVD, and live coaching program, seduction community focussed turned to the effect the inner-psychology of the individual had on the outcome of the flirting and seduction attempts. This was known as ‘Inner Game’. Companies such as Authentic Man Program and The Attraction Institute developed structures and tactics for eliminating ones inner-roadblocks that were getting in the way of a successful seduction.

At this point, the PUA gurus and online communities are no longer new and novel, but they haven’t become exactly mainstream either. More recently, there has been less of a focus on “Game” and specific techniques to seduce women, and more emphasis on general self-improvement – fitness, finances, etc. – in order to increase not only success with women but overall life satisfaction. This definitely seems to be a more balanced approach than going out to hit on dozens of women every night.

There are other trends for men seeking to improve their dating success, such as an increased realization that American and Western women in general are not the only women in the world, and many men are reporting having better love lives from branching out to foreign countries. Whole online communities are devoted to the life of the budding international playboy, who enjoys not only the sights and food of other countries but also reports back on their success with the local women.

Meanwhile, there are totally different online communities, such as popular dating advice sub–Reddits, where a group of peers give advice either to the opposite sex or to their own gender. It could be considered a kind of crowd-sourced dating advice and unlike the “PUA” communities, gurus are shunned in favor of a more democratic and gender-equal approach. Men who identify as feminist or are in favor of a chivalrous approach to women will find a more friendly place for dating advice on mainstream sites like Reddit. One thing is for sure, there are many options and approaches to dating in 2014, and the spread of information is ensuring that men have plenty of information and advice to help them navigate this aspect of their lives.

Apr
21

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Charting The History Of The iPhone Jailbreaking Community

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While the iPhone has become one of the most iconic products on the market and Apple have redesigned how we view cell phones and technology in general, there has always been a view that it can be improved. When the first generation iPhone hit the market back in 2007 it was a revolutionary product and one that had not been seen before with its innovation and decidedly cool design. While the masses lapped up the iPhone in its default state through the various generations there was an online community that felt things could be improved.

How could you improve a device such as the iPhone?

Well hackers and other technological experts decided that the source code could be edited. While Apple tend to keep these things under wraps and protected many people felt that it could be edited just enough to enhance the device and make it seem like a completely different phone with new features.

Defining ‘Jailbreaking’

Many people have compared jailbreaking an Apple iPhone to the process of rooting an Android device.

While the basic concept may have similarities the process and what it actually does is quite different. For example when you root an Android device it reboots a whole new operating system,= onto the phone whereas this is not possible with the iPhone even given the skills of many modern day jailbreakers and those that take an interesting in hacking.

With a jailboken iPhone users can have a whole new experience with the device. While it serves many practical measures such as extending battery life by cutting down on unnecessary apps it also allows for for customizable features and being able to use the Cydia app store with access to thousands of new apps.

The Early Stages

As opposed to an elite network or group of computer hackers spending weeks on end trying complicated ways and methods to jailbreak the iPhone, the whole concept was first started by George Hotz otherwise known as ‘geohot’, a 17 year old who wanted to change his iPhone network. The New Yorker goes into detail how Hotz used a screwdriver, a guitar pick, and a soldering tool to jailbreak the first iPhone.

While the process has been simplified somewhat through jailbreakers such as iJailbreak4.com and can now be  completed without the need to take apart the device, this was an important step in the evolution of jailbreaking.

Hotz was by no means the only one to break into the source code and gain control of the iPhone OS. A separate group of hackers did so a few days after the first iPhone hit the stores and another team calling themselves the iPhone Dev Team released the first public jailbreak in October of that year. While it wasn’t as sophisticated as the jailbreaks we have at the minute and it did come before Cydia was released, it was a major step on the road to offering a jailbreak for everyone to use.

Birth Of Cydia

In 2008 Cydia was born.

We spoke above about what Cydia can offer and it was the iPhone Dev Team again that pioneered this concept of an alternative app store for Apple iPhone first generation users.

It was developed by Jay Freeman who is more commonly known online by the pseudonym ‘saurik’ and since its inception almost 6 years ago in 2008 the alternative to the Apple App Store has grown and grown. That being said the intention behind Cydia for jailbroken iPhone’s was never just to offer alternative apps. Instead it has also been used for new features and while the Apple app store allows various applications to be installed, Cydia can tweak your whole iPhone and add a new default feature or function via a simple download. For early users of the iPhone circa  2008-2010 this was a major advancement in technology.

Apple Strikes Back

Jailbreaking has never been a true ‘underground’ movement and Apple have always been aware of the existence even right back to its early days. In 2009 when iOS 3.0 was released by Apple, jailbreakers had to rethink their approach. Apple have specifically shut up shop and decided to stop the exploitation of the device via a jailbreaking method however it wasn’t long until this too was breached.

Georghe Hotz was back on the scene with the release of a jailbreak known as purplera1n that worked for all iOS 3.0 models and blackra1n came out to coincide with iOS 3.1.2.

The whole jailbreaking process increasingly became like a cat and mouse affair between the two sides; on the one hand Apple kept releasing security fixes to ensure that it became even more difficult to exploit the device and then jailbreakers such as Hotz and the iPhone Dev Team saw this as a challenge to exploit.

Another group calling themselves the Chronic Dev Team also came onto the scene and started to release jailbreaks of their own and used the base of Hotz’s jailbreak to work on Mac devices. 

The whole jailbreaking scene was quickly becoming an Apple vs the hackers scenario. Apple were doing their best to stifle the jailbreakers and keep their iOS and source code as tightly secured as possible however within days of every new release and security update they were finding that their code was being breached.

No matter what Apple tried to do it seemed as though they were always a step behind the jailbreakers.

Mainstream Jailbreaking

By 2010 jailbreaking was starting to be seen as a mainstream alternative to simply using the default iPhone device.

By now it was openly being used by hackers, tech geeks, and those interested in exploiting the iPhone in general and while there had been attempts at trying to bring it into the mainstream they so far had remain futile.

In 2010 however Comex released JailbreakMe 2.0, a jailbreak that could be accessed by simply visiting a website, paying a small fee and then having your iPhone jailbroken in a short space of time via the use of a tool. Up until this point jailbreaking required a certain degree of technical know how even for the average user. With this new process of jailbreaking the iPhone a normal user of the iPhone range could simply pay a fee to a website and have their iPhone jailbroken.

Apple wasn’t having any of this however.

Only a few weeks after the release of JailbreakMe 2.0 they brought out a security fix and iOS 4.1 that essentially stopped the tool from working. Like all Apple security fixes it is only a matter of time before they are breached again and rather than holding off jailbreakers and hackers for months at a time this was quickly turning into weeks and even days in some cases. As soon as a new iOS security fix hit the device and new jailbreak was on the scene shortly after.

Jailbreaking Becomes Permanent

The Chronic Dev Team were quickly becoming the most prominent iPhone jailbreaking group around. They came up with an ingenuous permanent jailbreak. Exploiting a bootroom vulnerability they released a permanent fix in 2010 and called it ‘SHAtter’ and it would jailbreak all current iOS models for life and not just until a new security fix came out.

Since then JailbreakME 3.0 has been released and even though Apple have been attempting to cover up their security breaches as BGR has explained.  This has become particularly true since iOS 7 has been released however over the past 4 years since jailbreaking became permanent there has been a much more wider acceptance of the process.

For example the first jailbreaking convention was held in London in 2011. Called MyGreatFest the event brought together jailbreakers and hackers from all over the world including the likes of the iPhone Dev Team, Chronic Dev Team and George Hotz.

Is Jailbreaking Here To Stay?

The history of jailbreaking the iPhone devices is an interesting one.

What started with a teenager messing about with the iPhone by using a screwdriver and guitar pic has evolved in a million dollar industry with countless services offering to jailbreak all iPhone’s and base band models. A simple Google search yields thousands of results for iPhone jailbreaking and the process really has become a mainstream attraction for users of the phone.

Apple themselves are struggle to counteract the popularity of jailbreaking. The legal status is a grey area however in most countries including America it is currently legal by definition however unlocking has since been outlawed and the issues of jailbreaking is due to be looked at again next year in 2015.

The creation of a permanent jailbreak has really boosted its appeal as there is no longer the need to have the process done over and over again. Indeed Apple have attempted to match the hackers by incorporating some of the main features of jailbreaking into their default device and this was evident in iOS 7 and the subsequent iOS releases including iOS 7.1.

The fact remains that jailbreaking doesn’t look like going anywhere soon.

It’s history is currently very short in the grand scheme of things. Trends come and go and 6 years is not a long time by any means however with literally millions of people using jailbreaking at the minute then there is no suggestion that it will disappear in the near future.

A Sweet History of an Icy Treat

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Every American person should know the old rhyme “You scream! I scream! We all scream for ice cream!”  In any country in the world, the word Ice Cream brings to mind memories of summer. Hot hazy days lounging in the shade with a dripping cone of the icy treat.

Ice cream is the ultimate treat but where does it come from?  The history if ice cream stretches right across the world.  In Italy, it’s called gelato, in India, Kulfi and in Japan its Mochi. Everywhere enjoys ice cream so let’s delve a little deeper into its history.

The Origins of Ice Cream

There are some who say that ice cream came from the Far East, with Marco Polo. Yet others say it was Catherine De Medici who took it to France when she moved there to marry King Henry II.

It’s unlikely that either of these stories is the truth because ice cream goes back much further than that.  What we eat now bears almost no resemblance to what ice cream used to be. Passages in the bible refer to King Solomon partaking of cool ice drinks throughout the harvest season.

Alexander the Great from Ancient Greece drank iced drinks that were flavored with wine or honey. Between 54 and 68 BC, while Nero reigned Rome, there were ice harvest from the mountains. The ice was kept in ice houses, which were deep straw covered pits and used to make icy drinks.

The First Frozen Ice Cream

The first instance of anyone eating frozen sweet treats is believed to go back to the Tang Dynasty, between 618 and 907 AD.  The emperors were thought to have eaten frozen milk confections, made with milk from cows, buffalo or goats and heated with flour.

Camphor was harvested from evergreen trees and added to give it a flavor and a better texture. The entire mix was then put in metal tubes and stored in ice pools until it was thoroughly frozen.

In the Medieval era, it’s thought that Arabs would drink icy concoctions called sherbet (sharabt in Arabic). This would be flavored with quince, pomegranate or cherry.  As time went by, this type of dink would become a favorite of the European aristocracy with the Italians being the first to master it followed by the French.

From Sorbet to Ice Cream

In the 17th century, ice drinks would be made into desserts. Sugar was added and thus we saw Sorbet.  The man responsible for writing the first ever recipe for sorbet and also for creating one made with a milk base, was Antonio Latini, a man who worked in Naples, for a Spanish Viceroy.  This milk sorbet is commonly considered as the first proper ice cream.

The first Café in Paris, called Il Procope, was opened in 1686 by a Sicilian man called Franceso Procopio dei Coltelli.  It because a popular place for intellectuals, such as Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon and Victor Hugo to meet up.  It was here that gelato was first served.  Gelato is an Italian version of sorbet and was served in tiny eggcup size bowls.

At about the same time, the French were beginning to experiment with something called Fromage.  Nicolas Audiger, a French confectioner, wrote a book called La Maison Reglee in which he noted down several different Fromage recipes.

These were made from fruit flavored ice and one that he noted included cream, orange flower water and sugar.  He also suggested that if the ice were stirred while it was freezing, air would be introduced and the result would be fluffier.

You could be mistaken for thinking that Fromage was cheese but it wasn’t and it is not clear why they chose this name. One thought is that cheese molds were used to freeze the desserts or it could just refer to the French for any edible substance that had been compressed or molded.

When Ice Cream Arrived in America

We cannot really pinpoint the exact time when ice cream arrived in America. It is widely belied though that is arrived in the early 1700’s, with European settlers.  By now there had been a few books published on confectionary, containing recipes for ice creams and ice drinks.

Housewives served these desserts to houseguests, molded in the shape of animal, vegetables and fruits, thanks to special molds that had been developed for the purpose. In 179, New York opened the first ever Ice Cream parlor and in the summer of that year, President George Washington is thought to have spent around $200 (a lot of money back then) satisfying his craving for the sweet icy treat.

Records from his home in Mt Vernon indicate the Washington also owned a few ice cream pots, fashioned from pewter and tin. It’s also recorded that Thomas Jefferson had a few ice houses, capable of being able to hold around 62 wagonloads of ice as well as untold amounts of ice cream.

The Lincolns also gained a taste for ice cream. Before Abraham Lincoln became President and even during his presidential term, his wife, Mary Todd, would hold strawberry parties for friends to celebrate the Berry season. Fresh strawberries would be served with cake and ice cream.

A popular Treat in America

The history of ice cream is firmly embedded in countries across the whole globe and is now very comfortably at home in the States.  It is now, quite possibly, the most popular of all desserts and around 9% of all the cow’s milk produced in the country is made into ice cream.

Apple pie may still be considered as popular but it is generally served with a scoop of ice cream on the side. It looks as though, no matter where it started life, ice cream is now planted firmly in the States, and is also a popular treat in many other countries.

The Right to Speak Freely

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In 1783, George Washington spoke to a group of Military officers, telling them “If freedom of speech is taken away, them dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” Unlike today’s modern world, freedom of speech has not always been a right and, particularly in America, the government has not always preserved it. The tradition of freedom of speech has been challenged by several hundred years of war, of changes in culture and of legal challenges.

1790

After listening to a suggestion made by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison secured the Bill of Rights, of which the First Amendment is a part of, ensuring it was included in the US Constitution. The theory of the First Amendment is that it is there to protect people’s rights to free speech. In practice, it is more of a symbolic gesture.

1798

President John Adams took umbrage when his administration was criticized and made a successful push for the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Sedition Act was aimed at those people who supported Thomas Jefferson and it was passed to restrict people from criticizing any President. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson took over the presidency and the law expired. John Adams party would never again be in a position of power.

1873

In 1873 the Federal Comstock Act was passed, granting the US Postal Service the authority to be able to censor mail. In particular, it was aimed at letters containing material that could be classed as “obscene, lewd and /or lascivious”.

1897

The desecration of the US Flag was officially banned in South Dakota and Illinois, Pennsylvania in this year. This ban was to last almost 100 years before the Supreme Court declared the ban as unconstitutional and lifted it.

1918

In this year, the Sedition Act was passed to target socialists, anarchists and any other left-wing activists that were against the participation of the US in World War 1. This marks the nearest point to which the US Government came to adopting a model of government that could be classed as Fascist and nationalist.

1940

The Smith Act, or The Alien Registration Act as it was officially known, was aimed at any person who recommended the replacement of the government, i.e. who wanted the current government overthrown. It also made it a requirement that all adults who were not US citizens were to register for monitoring purposes with government agencies. In 1957, the Act was weakened by the Supreme Court.

1942

The Fighting Words Doctrine was established by the Supreme Court, with a definition stating that laws that restricted the use of insulting or hateful language were not necessarily a violation of the First Amendment.

1969

Students, who were punished because they donned black armbands to demonstrate their opposition to the Vietnam War, went to the Supreme Court where it was ruled that they are covered in the Free Speech Protection mentioned in the First Amendment.

1971

The Washington Post started a series of publications on the Pentagon papers. This was a copy of a US Defense Department report which had been leaked and concerned the relations between the US and Vietnam between 1945 and 1967. The papers revealed that there were a number of embarrassing and highly dishonest foreign policy messes made by the US Government. The government made several futile attempts to stop the publication but were never successful.

1978

The Supreme Court granted power to the Federal Communications Commission to levy fines against any network that broadcast content that was considered to be indecent.

1996

Congress passed the Communications Decency Act. This was a federal law, aimed at applying indecency restrictions, classed as criminal law restrictions, to the internet. Just one year later, the Supreme Court, struck the law to its knees.

These are just some of the notable points in history pertaining to the freedom of speech and the long battle to gain it. Many governments, not just in the US but everywhere, have attempted to bring about laws that would effectively silence people and ensure that they controlled what could and could not be spoken, published or broadcast.

Many governments have tried and many governments have failed but there is no doubt that this is a battle that will continue to the end of time.

The Vatican City – History in the Making

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Sited on the banks of the Tiber River, on a hill sits the Vatican City. It is a place that has one of the richest histories in the world and is one of the most influential. The religious history that surrounds the Vatican City crosses centuries and is now the embodiment of many of the most important parts of the cultural history of Rome.

The Vatican City is home to the Roman Catholic Church headquarters. There you will find the central government for the Church, the Bishop of Rome, otherwise known as the Pope and the College of Cardinals.

Every year millions upon millions of people travel to the Vatican City, primarily to see the Pope but also to worship in St Peter’s basilica and to view the wonders that are stored in the Vatican Museums.

The Beginning of the Vatican City

Technically speaking, the Vatican City is a country, an independent city-state and is the smallest in the whole world. The Vatican City’s political body is governed by the Pope but, and not everyone knows this, it is many, many years younger than the Church.

As a political body, the Vatican City has been classed as a Sovereign State since 1929, when a treaty was signed between the Kingdom of Italy and the Catholic Church. That treaty was the end result of more than 3 years of negotiations on how certain relations should be handled between them, namely political, financial and religious.

Although the negotiations took 3 years, the dispute actually began back in 1870 and neither the Pope nor his cabinet would agree to leave the Vatican City until the dispute was resolved. That happened in 1929 with the Lateran Treaty.

This was the defining point for the Vatican as it was this treaty that determined the City as a completely new entity. It was this treaty that split the Vatican City from the rest of the Papal States that were, in essence, most of the Kingdom of Italy from 765 through to 1870. Much of the territory was brought into The Kingdom of Italy in 1860 with Rome and Lazio not capitulating until 1870.

The roots of the Vatican City go back much further though. Indeed, we can trace them back as far as the 1st Centruy AD when the Catholic Church was first established. Between the 9th and 10th Centuries right on through to the Renaissance period, the Catholic Church was at the top of its power, politically speaking. The Popes gradually took on more and more governing power eventually heading up all of the regions that surrounded Rome.

The Papal States were responsible of the government of Central Italy until the unification of Italy, almost a thousand years of rule. For a great deal of this time, following their return to the City in 1377 after an exile to France that lasted 58 years, the reigning Popes would reside in one of a number of palaces in Rome.   When the time cane for Italy to unify the popes refused to recognize that the Italian King had a right to rule and they refused to leave the Vatican. This ended in 1929.

Much of what people see in the Vatican City, the paintings, sculpture and architecture, was created during those Golden years. Now revered artists, people such as Raphael, Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo made the journey to the Vatican City to pronounce their faith and their dedication to the Catholic Church. This faith can be seen in the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s basilica.

The Vatican City Now

Today, the Vatican City remains a religious and historical landmark, as important now as it was then. It receives millions of visitors from all around the world, visitors who come to see the beauty of the City, to take in its history and the culture and to express their belief in the Catholic Church.

The influence and the power of the Vatican City were not left in the past though. It is the center, the heart of the Catholic Church and, as such, because Catholicism is still one of the single largest religions in the entire world, it remains as a highly influential and visible presence in the world today.

In between the priceless art houses in the Museums, the beautiful architecture that is St Peters Basilica and the religious significance of the Pope, the Vatican City has become one of the most popular destinations in the world for travelers. It is the embodiment of some of the more significant parts of both Western and Italian history, opening a window onto the past, a past that lives on today.

A Browse Through the History of the Internet

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Unlike many things we take for granted these days, like a light bulb or perhaps the telephone, the invention of the internet cannot be attributed to one single inventor. It is something that has evolved through the years and is now one our biggest recreational pastimes.

We can pinpoint the beginnings of the internet by going back to the Cold War when the Americans used it as a weapon. For many years, it was used as a method of communication between researchers and scientists, for them to share their data with one another. Today, it is used for just about anything and, for some, life without the internet would be unthinkable.

Enter the Sputnik

October 4th, 1957. The Russians, then known as the Soviet Union, launched Sputnik. This was the first man-made satellite, sent into orbit, to circle around the earth. It was a failure; all it dis was tumble around in outer space, with no real direction, sending back the odd bleep from the on-board radio transmitters.

Failure it may have been, the USA still saw it as a threat, a warning that they needed to take notice of. While some of the brightest minds in the USA had spent their time designing televisions and cars it would seem that the Soviets had been directing their energies elsewhere – on something that would help them win the Cold War.

It took the launch of this satellite to make America sit up and think. Subjects such as chemistry and physics began to appear on the school syllabus. Government grants were provided for corporations to invest in research and development.

The Federal government began to form new agencies and, so, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) was born. Alongside NASA another Department of Defense Agency appeared. The Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA for short, was set up for the development of space-age technology – rockets, computers and weapons.

ARPAnet is born

One of the main concerns with Sputnik from the point of view of the scientists and the military experts was the effect a Soviet attack could have on the telephone system. The biggest fear was that the whole system would be destroyed in one fell swoop, leaving the Americans without any form of communication.

In 1962, J C R Licklider, an MIT and ARPA scientist came up with a solution. He proposed a “galactic” network, a series of computers that could communicate with each other, which would allow government leaders to talk to each other even if the telephone system were destroyed.

In 1965, yet another MIT scientist came up with something called packet switching, a system of sending information from one computer straight to another.

The way that packet switching works is it breaks data into smaller blocks before sending it on its way. Each block, or packet, can then find its own route to its destination and, without this system, the entire network would still have been open to attack.

“Login”

In 1969, ARPAnet, as the system became known, sent its very first message. It was called a “node to node” communication and it went from one computer, housed at UCLA inside a research lab to another one in Stanford. At that time, each computer was about the size of a small house.

The message they sent was very short and very simple – LOGIN – but it still managed to bring down the ARPA network and the Stanford computer received only the first two letters of the message.

The Growth of the Network

By the time 1969 had ended there were 4 computers connected to ARPAnet but, throughout the seventies, the network began to grow, In 1971, the University of Hawaii’s ALOHAnet was added to the network followed a couple of years later by those from the London University College and Norway’s Royal Radar Establishment.

As these networks began to multiply it started to become difficult to integrate them all into one universal global network, called the “internet”. By the end of the seventies Vinton Cerf, a computer scientist, had found the solution to this by coming up with a way for all of the computers on these mini-networks to talk to each other. It was called “Transmission Control Protocol” or TCP for short.

He later added another protocol into the mix called “internet protocol” and that is what we know today as TCP/IP.

The Beginning of the World Wide Web

This protocol turned the entire series of mini networks into one big worldwide network. During the eighties, scientists and researchers alike made use of this new network to send each other files and date, from one computer straight to another. However, in 1991, everything changed again.

Tim Berners-Lee, a computer programmer from Switzerland, gave us the World Wide Web. This was a system that could be used, not just to send data and files between computers but also as a place of information, a web if you like. This was somewhere where anyone could go to find information about things. This was the internet, as we know it today.

Since then, the internet has evolved beyond recognition. In 1992, at the University of Illinois, a group of researchers and students got together and produced Mosaic. This was the world’s very first internet browser, a very sophisticated one for its time, although later its name was changed to Netscape.  Mosaic made it easy to search the internet for information; it let users see pictures as well as words, both on the same page for the very first time.

Mosaic also allowed users to use things like scrollbars and links that you could click, to navigate their way around the web. In the same year, Congress allowed that the web could be used for commercial use of. Because of that, a number of companies began to set up websites, and e-commerce entrepreneurs started to sell goods and services on the internet and now, with social sites like Twitter and Facebook, it is a complete world of its own.

 

A Hallucinogenic History of Pyschoactive Drugs

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There is no doubt about it, drugs do have a long and lasting effect on society, perhaps none more so than those that come under the heading of psychoactive. What is a psychoactive drug though?

The medical definition states that a psychoactive drug is one that has an impact of sorts on the mood, the way of thinking and the behavior of the person taking it.  This is done by way of manipulation of the central nervous system.

Human beings have a long history of using these drugs, going back many millennia.  While it is not possible to list every single instance of a psychoactive drug being used, we can find some of them. The earliest instances of this type of drug come from plants and fruits that have the ability to alter mood.

The Ancient Civilizations

The Egyptian, the Chinese, the Indians, South Americans and Sumerians, to name but a few of the ancient cultures, used alcohol, opium, cannabis, psychedelic (magic) mushrooms, peyote and coca leaves.

The Middle-Ages

This was the year of psychoactive plants and much use was made of belladonna and psilocybin mushrooms, mostly by shamans for the purpose of healing. Also widely used were coffee and distilled alcohol.

Renaissance

The most used psychoactive ingredients in this period we tobacco, coffee, distilled alcohol, opium and tea. The tea would have been made from the leaves of certain plants, not tea as we know it today.

Early Industrial Revolution

This was the era when techniques were developed to refine the drugs.  They made morphine from opiates; they came up with hypodermic needles and rolling machines for tobacco. All of this served to increase the abuse and the chances of addiction to these drugs.

20th Century

The drug scene picked up speed, if you will pardon the pun, in this era.  We got better at distributing the drugs; we made newer drugs from synthetic ingredients and so began the era of drug regulation.  We got prohibition and the exclusion of marijuana and all this served to do increase the use.

Today

The drug business is huge these days, with vast amounts of cash. Believe it or not, terrorism has played its part in exacerbating the situation, opening up new markets and new channels for distribution.  Certain countries thrive on the growth of cocaine, cannabis and other such drugs.

When the 21st Centruy dawned, we saw a huge increase in so-called club drugs, such as Ecstasy and GHB although this increase was only for a short time. Instead, alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamines increase in use.

Prescription drugs became the drug of choice, mainly because they were so easy to get hold off.  Psychoactive drugs had found their home and they were to stay.  Despite early regulations that ruled marijuana illegal, many US states have now declared it a legal substance for medical purposes only.

Psychoactive Classification

Psychoactive drugs are generally known either by their trade or street name:

  • Uppers – Cocaine, Methamphetamine, caffeine, nicotine
  • Downers – Opioids, heroin, alcohol, sedative hypnotics
  • Psychedelics –  LSD, MDMA
  • Psychiatric medications – anti-biotic, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety drugs

Hallucinogens

The history of hallucinogenic drugs goes back around 2000 years. The Native Indian used the Peyote cactus, psilocybin mushrooms were used by the Mayans while the use of Cannabis began in 3000BC in China.

It is widely believed that psychoactive and hallucinogenic drugs were largely responsible for the creation of some cultures.  They were a major influence of art and religion for the Mayans. Peyote is thought to have been the influence of religion of the Huichol Indians in Mexico.  The list could go on because, somewhere though history, psychoactive drugs have had a major influence on society in one way or another.

The foods you eat

What may be worrying is that many of the common psychoactive ingredients can be found in the food you consume on a daily basis. Coffee, tea and chocolate, not to mention anything with alcohol or tobacco in it. Many prescription drugs, though they may seem to be relatively harmless, also contain psychoactive ingredients.  So, the next time you feel higher than normal or inexplicably down, take a look at what you are consuming for the answer first.

Web Design Through the Years

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The internet is a relatively new invention but boy have things changed in its short life! The internet has changed the way we live and it has been responsible for the creation of thousands upon thousands of jobs that simply would not exist without it.

One of those categories of job is web design, something that we would sorely miss now if it disappeared.  What would we do without the animations? The colorful backgrounds, the fancy writing and the music playing in the background?

When did it Begin?

In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee developed the very first web browser, and it was called WorldWdeWeb, although it was later renamed as Nexus. At that time, only text could be displayed on a web page. No fancy fonts, no pretty pictures or videos, just simple plain text, with links underlined in blue.

In 1993 Mosaic was released, the first ever web browser that allowed developers to add images to their web pages.  It was able to support .gif images and web forms, a massive leap forward for the time.

Design was not brilliant because of the constraint of the browser and to a limit in bandwidth programmers rather than designers designed most websites.

Mid 1990’s to 2000

By the mid-nineties, Netscape was the top web browser but it was soon knocked off its pedestal by internet Explorer and so began the war of the browsers.  Around this time, web design began to get a little more complex, using frames and tables as well as images.

Animated .gif images could be used to create buttons on sites and JavaScript began to appear on some websites.

From 1998, we began to see the introduction of web development tool kits. Remember DreamWeaver? GoLive?  These began to be more popular as they gave a larger number of users access to web page creation.

Jobs in web design began to grow as more designers were offered jobs to build sites.  Flash technology also made its appearance during this era of web site design although it was not all that popular to start off with.

2000 -2004

In the year 2000, the bubble burst and hundreds of thousands of web businesses crashed. However, while this may have put the clamps on things for a while, it was not for long.  Web design standards began to pick up again.

Now we started to see a better class of design. We got designs that were not based on tables, we got transparency with .png images and CMS began to grow in popularity.  Content management System was a program that allowed designers to publish content on the web. They could go back in and edit what they had published and modify it as they saw fit.

2004 – 2007

Web 2.0 was born in 2004. This was the era of bold websites, sites that were aimed at communities. There was bold typography and shiny gradients. Corners became rounded, edges softened and web design, once again, took off at the speed of light.

Websites began to be more functional and needed more in the way of an interface to work properly. Widgets were introduced all over the place to help integrate one site with another. This was more often, where a social network site was involved, lining outside feeds to the site, or lining from the site to a blog.

2008 to the Present

Web site design has evolved incredibly over the last few years and one thing that has given it a push, unbelievably, was the iPhone. Mobile website design was introduced, allowing people to view sites properly on their phones.

Many of the bigger websites created mobile versions of their sites specifically for the smartphone and the tablets that were fast becoming popular devices.  On the internet itself, the large and fast growing social network sites created more widgets for user to put on their blogs and other websites created widgets designed to go on social network sites.

In design, typography increased tremendously and grid-based designs are fast becoming the norm.

Today, website design is a huge business. Designs are more complex yet less cluttered. Early websites were difficult to navigate; today, a well-designed website is enough to ensure your business will succeed.

In terms of design, where the internet goes from now is anyone’s guess. We have color, we have fonts and we have images. We can even embed videos into websites now so who knows where the next trend will take us.

 

 

30 Years of Financial Crisis

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The world’s financial markets are destined to be stuck in a loop, forever repeating history, as overspending and bad business decisions result in financial crisis for everyone. This has been the pattern in the world since the financial industry began.

A look back over the last 30 years or so sees the same pattern repeating itself – excessive and unrestrained exuberance, poor regulations, poor accounting and a sense that “it won’t happen to me”.

This is a look at some of worst crises to hit the world markets since 1980 and how, it would seem, lessons are never learned.

1982 – Latin American Sovereign Debt

This crisis occurred when a number of  Latin American countries, who had been irrationally spending and running up deb for years, suddenly took stock and realized they had no hope of paying it back.

Mexico, Argentina and Brazil were the biggest culprits, using borrowed money for infrastructure and development. Their economies were in a boom period and banks were happy to loan money. In just 7 years, the debt in Latin America quadrupled.

The crunch cane when the world went into recession in the late seventies – interest rose, currencies fell and, in August 1982, the then Mexican Finance minister, Jesus Silva-Herzog, declared that Mexico could not pay.

1980’s Savings and Loans Crisis

While the problem in Latin America was being resolved another one was taking place in America.  The Savings and Loans crisis lasted for more than a decade following the breakdown of more than 700 different savings and loans associations in America.

It happened because each of these associations was lending money long term at fixed rates but was using short-term cash.  Interest rates went up, many companies were insolvent but, because of a stream of deregulation that happened when Ronald Reagan was the president, many managed to appear as if they were actually still solvent.

1987 – Stock Market Crash

Despite what happened in the eighties, lessons were not learned and another two crises happened before 1989. The biggest one was the stock market crash of 1987, now commonly known as Black Monday.

Stock markets around the world fell fast, including the US where the Dow Jones lost 23% of its value in hit. There is still, to this day, much debate about the cause of the crash but the consensus seems to be program trading and its growth.

It lasted only a very short time and. By December of the same year, the markets were on the up again and everything was back to normal, as if it had never happened.

1989 – Junk Bond Crash

This one resulted in a rather significant recession in the US and there is still disagreement about the cause. Most people point the finger at the buyout of UAL, costing $6.75 billion, while other says it was the Ohio Mattress Fiasco.

Whatever the reason, the result was one of the most expensive to ever hit the US and it resulted in the closure of one of the largest investment banks in the US, Drexel Burnham Lambert, who dealt heavily in Junk Bonds.

1994 – Tequila crisis

This one was kicked off by the sudden devaluation of the Peso in Mexico and it resulted in an interest rate crisis of massive proportions.  The cause of it was the new President abolishing tight currency controls that were put in place by his predecessor.  His reasoning was that, although they stabilized the market, the controls also place a huge strain on the country’s finances.

Before he took power, banks were lending at low rates and with Chiapas, one of the poorer southern states, rebelling, the peso fell in value by almost 50% in the space of a week.  The US bailed Mexico out to the tune of a $50 billion loan and the economy picked up almost immediately.

1997 – 1998 – Asia Crisis

Over 15 years after the LatAm crisis in 1982, history repeated itself in Asia.  The Thailand currency, the baht, collapsed in July 1997 after the government was forced it float it on the market.

Thailand was in debt in a big way, money it could pay back even before their currency broke down and the financial crisis quickly spread across Asia. Once again, the IMF came to rescue with a bailout to the tune of $40 million but the exact same thing happened in Russia just one year later.

1999 – 2000 – Dotcom Bubble

Once again, the financial markets forget everything that had happened in the past and the result was the burst of the Dotcom bubble in 2000.  Preceding the crash, stocks in technology and internet pushed the stock format into a bull market, crating millionaires overnight.

The fact that so few people actually made any money was largely ignored and hysteria continued to build until the inevitable burst in 2000. The economy put the brakes on and interest rates went up, resulting in companies going bust everywhere.

2007 – Date – Global Financial Crisis

A mere few years after that crash, the world went into its nastiest meltdown yet, resulting in the European Sovereign debt crisis.  Many major financial institutions collapsed and this is considered to be the worst crisis to hit since the Great Depression.

There are many causes to this crisis but the main starting point was when the US housing market crashed.  That crisis is ongoing to this day and, although many countries are now struggling out of the depths, it is expected to be several years before full recovery is experienced.

Have we learned our lessons?

Probably not. It seems that the world’s financial markets are stuck in an endless loop of repeating themselves. Markets boom, prices and interest rise. It reaches a point where it can’t be sustained and everything crashes to the floor.

Every time there is a crisis, new regulations are brought out to prevent a recurrence. It doesn’t work and there are those that believe we need the crashes to make the world a stronger place

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