Part of me had hoped the crew of space shuttle Atlantis would go rogue and refuse to return to Earth. Maybe just for a short joyride, a few extra orbits and the proud proclamation, "You'll never clip our wings!"
But the astronauts landed right on schedule. It marked a safe and successful close to NASA's 30-year shuttle program.
Space fans around the world are experiencing mixed emotions with this milestone. Some say it's a sad day for America, left without a way of lifting humans into orbit. They remark with irony that Russia has now won the space race, as U.S. astronauts will be forced to buy rides on Soyuz. FULL POST
If you browse through pictures of the Chinese national basketball team on their official website, you may notice a famous face missing.
Hours after announcing his retirement on Wednesday, Yao Ming was already consigned to history by China's basketball association. But netizens have fonder memories of the 7-foot-6 basketball giant who spiked China’s interest in the NBA. FULL POST
In fact, all flat-faced animals can no longer fly on Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific airline starting Monday.
The ban on Brachycephalic (that's the technical term) dogs and cats stems from health concerns. Their short snouts and snub noses can cause difficulty breathing during air travel.
Cathay Pacific cites " increasing concern in the industry" as a reason for this move. British Airways reportedly has a similar policy in place.
As a pet owner, I can empathize for the problems this will create for many people. But as a proud beagle-lover, I have to wonder why you like such goofy looking animals!
From Harry Potter's roots in Edinburgh's Old Town (where a young Joanne Rowling started scribbling her saga) right up to the climactic, cinematic Battle of Hogwarts, Scotland has cast its spell over the series. And just as Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy had viewers salivating over New Zealand, the Potter movie anthology has done a first-class branding job for my home country.
A quick admission before I proceed. I am a former employee of VisitScotland, the national tourism board. Indeed, I was working for the organization in London when the first Potter film was released. Times were hard. The motherland was still reeling from the double ignominy of the foot and mouth outbreak and Madonna’s Highland wedding to Guy Ritchie. We were grateful for small mercies, such as Madge’s decision to leave her leotard at home.
Then, with a wave of his little wizard wand, Harry Potter breathed new life into our industry. Hagrid’s hut sprung up on a Highland hillside. Small Scottish children hopped aboard the Hogwarts Express as it chugged its way west from Fort William. The national newspapers were full of it. The rest of the world would follow.
Much attention has focused on filming locations such as London’s Kings Cross Station (bearing a remarkable resemblance to its neighbor St Pancras) and Gloucester Cathedral (whose corridors are recognizable as the haunt of Nearly Headless Nick and Moaning Myrtle). But for me - and millions of Potterphiles - the majesty of the wizarding world is most potent in its landscapes. These made me homesick as a 21-year old in London, just as they do as a 31-year old in Hong Kong. And, as such, I offer you my five favorite Scottish Potter scene-stealers:
He entered the NBA with a promise like few others. Yao Ming brought a rare combination of talent and the ability to unlock a massive new market for the sport. Nine years later, reports say Yao is set to retire. And despite his best efforts, the sad truth is his career wasn’t what it could have been.
Yao could have been the NBA’s next great center. The NBA has a long history of dominant big men leading their teams to the title, from George Mikan in the 50s, to Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Shaquille O’Neal. Yao was drafted at the height of Shaq's dominance in 2002, but he had the tools to take him on.
Shaq’s strength and weight made him an unstoppable force in front of the basket. But Yao’s ability to shoot from further out forced Shaq to leave his comfort zone and chase him; physically moving a seven foot tall obstacle from the hoop. And Yao was a full four inches taller. In their eagerly awaited first meeting, Yao demonstrated his height advantage by blocking Shaq twice in the first few minutes. The Rockets won that game, and Yao had arrived.
But success didn’t quite follow.
Around T-5 minutes to the launch of shuttle Atlantis, I overhear a man say, "The uncertainty makes it exciting." Thousands of us have been sitting in the Rocket Garden of Kennedy Space Center for the last five hours. And in the last few minutes, butterflies started to flutter in my stomach. We were so close... but the blast off could still be called off at any second.
The odds seemed stacked against Atlantis lifting off on the first try. Clouds rolled in overnight Thursday and refused to blow over. NASA rated the weather as only 30% favorable for launch. "The Sunshine State" was not living up to its nickname... and was threatening to disappoint around one million space fans.
We had arrived at KSC shortly after 5 in the morning. The last thing I heard on the radio was an announcer saying, "You know that shuttle launch today? Not gonna happen. It's raining." The security guard at the front gate also joked, "The launch is cancelled." I didn't laugh.
Before I have even written a word, there it is, laid out for all to see, in that picture: I am a huge Harry Potter geek.
I am one of those fans who pre-ordered the books and stayed up all night to finish them so no-one could spoil the ending for me. I have seen all of the films on their opening weekends, even taken days off work to see them on opening night, and I have seen most of the movies more than once in the cinema. But there is more. I have hung out in the crowd of not one, but two of the London premieres, snapping pictures of the stars. I own all the DVDs (including double copies of some) and yes, this weekend I am hosting a Potter viewing party.
So, as you may well imagine, this month's release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" is both a source of great excitement and gloom for me.
Why? Well, because to quote the tagline of that film for all you Muggles out there, "It all ends here." The final instalment of a film franchise that has clocked up more than a thousand minutes of screen time and over $6.3 billion at the box-office to date premieres on July 7th, and is released worldwide on July 15th. Four years have already passed since the last in JK Rowling's best-selling series of books was published, and with the author swearing she has no more books in the pipeline, this is the end of an era for fans of Harry, Ron, Hermione and Hogwarts.
But before regaling you with how the wizarding world has become nothing short of an obsession, I have a confession to make.