I am a London-based Digital PR/Social Media/SEO Consultant, music producer/anorak, deep sea diver, avid cyclist, worldwide traveller and football-loving technology bod! This page functions as a kind of online scrapbook/resource featuring my favourite blog posts and news items as well as my own personal reviews and recommendations in the worlds of music, sport, travel and technology!
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Interestingly, Rob said he couldn't believe it when his travel agent told him a couple of months ago that his visa extension for a year had been rejected after living and teaching in Saigon for over 10 years!
He asked why, but received no coherent answer.
Many expats who have been caught unawares by an “abrupt change” in visa renewal regulations are angry and upset about receiving no advance notice or explanation.
The latest immigration rules allow foreigners without a work permit to extend their visa twice for three months each. At the end of the six months, they will have to leave Vietnam.
Monday, 28 December 2009
Sunday, 27 December 2009
This is the first time I've attempted to go long-haul and back to the UK on my New Zealand passport alone - other than to the Southern Hemisphere and back. I thought it'd be interesting to see how easy it really is in today's climate...After a fairly lengthy conversation with passport control just now, it turns out than any Antipodean entering the UK from abroad, automotically gets issued with a 6 month UK visa but apparently its 'open to negotiation' as to whether I will need one or not upon showing my birth certificate and proof of residency. According to the Jamaican guy I spoke to, he said that a lot of the time, if you just show your address or birth certificate, they'll let you through permanently without the need for a 6-month visa...no questions asked.. If this really is the case and the majority of illegal immigrants realise this, there must be an unprecedented level of foreigners entering the UK using similar methods...with forged proof of address and fake birth certificates..very easy to forge.. After all this however, the irony will probably be that I'll have to go via Belfast or some such place...fingers crossed I won't have to...
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device
As many of you may know, I'm currently taking a 3 week soujourn around Vietnam to visit some friends, follow the Vietnam war trail and well, generally drink cheap beer, eat amazing and exotic food, dive in some of the most spectacular waters on the planet, get a killer (lobster-like) tan and escape the grim realities of freezing and miserable Jan/Feb London life before heading back to the digital marketing/social media world of geekdom that I inhabit these days. What I've decided to do, rather that limit my experiences to the comfort of my own mind, is to document my travels on a (semi) regular basis through a new blogging platform called Posturous that I thought I'd try out... I'll try my best to upload photos and input general blog entries at http://tekkedup.posterous.com/ for you all to read if your interested. To start, I thought I'd provide you with a background on Vietnam:
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu was one of most elegant women of the 20th century.In the 1950s and 1960s,she was first lady of South Vietnam. She was born in 1924 in Hanoi,Vietnam.In fact, she was compared with ladies such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (former first lady of the United States), Dewi Sukarno (ex-first lady of Indonesia), Grace Kelly ( former princess of Monaco) and Eva Duarte de Peron (former first lady of Argentina).In the 1960s, Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu popularized the traditional Vietnamese "ao dai" (long dress). She currently resides in France, where she is writing her autobiography.She speaks fluent English, Vietnamese and French.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam is the home to Historic City of Hue-one of the ancient wonders of the world. During the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945), Hue was the capital of Vietnam. More than 10 palaces in Hue provide some of the best remaining examples of Vietnamese architecture in Asia. It is the monument that best symbolizes Vietnam. Hue has been recognised as a World Cultural Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Hieu Ngan Tran is one of the Vietnam´s best known and well-loved athletes. She is a taekwondo athlete who competed in the women´s featherweight category at the 2000 Olympic Games and won the silver medal. The silver medal for Vietnam was the first ever won by that country in Olympic competition.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam is famous for its hospitality, and the average visitor will have no difficulty in adapting to local traditions.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The Vietnamese film industry has been honoured at film festival and award ceremonies around the world. The prizes attained include the Golden Lion for best film awarded by the Venice International Film to Anh Hung Tran´s Cyclo (1995) ; the Jury Prize awarded by the Sundance Film Festival to Tony Bui´s Three Seasons (1999); and the Grand Jury Prize awarded by the Pusan International Film Festival to Luu Hynh´s The White Silk Dress Press (1999).
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Madame Nguyen Thi Binh became the first female vice president of Vietnam in 1992. She became head of the Vietnamese women´s movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Like its Thai cousin, Vietnam is world-famous for its traditional cuisine. At Paris´s top restaurants, visitors can savor the true taste of Vietnamese cuisine.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam has long been famous for its magnificent temples and palaces.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Third World.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The development of traditional Vietnamese sports is vital to the preservation of Vietnamese culture. Takraw, or kick volleyball, is a traditional sport in Vietnam. In this sport, a ball is passed from player to player by hitting it with the head and feet. Takraw also is widely played in Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The bio-diversity of Vietnam is one of its greatest riches.The country has six world´s biosphere reserves: Can Gio Mangrove Forest, Cat Ba, Cat Tien, Kien Giang, Red River Delta, and Western Nghe An.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The United States of America recognizes Vietnam as an independent country since 1995. In 1996, president Bill Clinton appointed Douglas Peterson to serve as United States ambassador to Vietnam.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam is world-famous for its animal wildlife. This wildlife -which includes elephants, buffaloes, tigers, monkeys, rhinoceroses, snakes and turtles- attracts thousands of tourists to Vietnam each year.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam maintains diplomatic relations with 140 countries in the world, including France, China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Canada, South Korea, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Russia and Malaysia.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Ha Long Bay is generally considered to be the most beautiful scenery in the whole of Vietnam. It consist of 1,969 islands and islets situated in the Gulf of Tonkin. This zone is known for its spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. It is one of the most popular spots in Asia. Ha Long Bay has been recognized as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam joined the United Nations in 1977.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam. It is the most important economic, industrial and cultural center in the country.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The best-known Vietnamese works of art the thousands of pagodas found throughout the country.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The education has received increased emphasis in Vietnam since the country became independent in 1976. Certainly, Vietnam has greatly increased the number of schools in response to demands for educational opportunities by the people.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...In 2000, Bill Clinton,who was president of the United States (1993-2001), was given a hero´s welcome in Vietnam as he became the first American president to visit the Asian country.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The "ao dai" is the most popular national costume in Vietnam.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam is one of the ten member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Hanoi is well known for its famous restaurants. Some of the restaurants are built along the Red river to provide diners with a riverside view of Hanoi´s sunset.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam hosted delegates from 21 contries at the 2006 APEC Summit.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a World Heritage Site in Vietnam.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...AmeliaVega, Miss Universe 2003,went to Hanoi to attend the 2003 Miss Vietnam pageant.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam competed at the modern Olympic Games for the first time at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The 11th Taekwondo World Championship was held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in June 2001.
DID YOU KNOW THAT....Like Carlos Noriega (Peru), Abdul Ahad Mohmad (Afghanistan), Jugdermedidiyn Gurragcha (Mongolia) and Salman al-Saud (Saudi Arabia), Pham Tuan was one of the best astronauts in the Third World. He was the first Vietnamese astronaut and the first Asian in space. Pham Tuan flew aboard the shuttle Soyuz-37 in July 1980. He was in space for more than 7 days. Pham Tuan was given a hero´s welcome when he returned to country after completing its historic orbital space flight.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam is one of the best-watered areas in Southeast Asia. Five main rivers flow eastward across the country. They are Mekong, Red Can, Srepok and Black.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Hanoi hosted the Fifth Asia-Europe Summit Meeting (ASEM) in 2004.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam has rich mineral deposits (oil, coal, gas, manganese, bauxite and phosphates), large forests, and good farm.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The Scent of Green Papaya was the first great Vietnamese movie of the 20th century. This film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Category at the 1993 Academy Awards. The movie enjoyed the highest-grossing opening in Vietnam film history.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam has eight idols:Anh Hung Tran (film director), Pham Tuan (astronaut), Thuy Tran (modeling agent), Nguyen Thi Phoung (ecologist), Hieu Ngan Tan (sportswoman), Madame Ngo Dinh Nho (former first lady of Vietnam), Tony Bui (film maker) and Nguyen Thi Binh (vice president of Vietnam).
DID YOU KNOW THAT...More than 20 million people in Vietnam ride a bicycle.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam has an area about 1 per cent as large as that of the United States.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Le Duc Tho was a diplomat who always worked for a unified Vietnam. He was born on October 14, 1911, in Phan Dinh Khai,Vietnam. Certainly, Le Duc Tho worked with Henry Kissinger (secretary of state of the United States) to end Vietnam war, and in 1973 the two men were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The award citation said, "On January 23 of this year a ceasefire agreement was concluded between the United States and the Vietnamese Democratic Republic.At its meeting on October 16 the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Storting decided to award the Peace Prize for the 1973 to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, the two chief negotiators who succeeded in arranging the ceasefire after negotiating for nearly four years..."
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam has been chosen to host the 2008 Miss Universe. Vietnam won the right to host the 2008 Miss Universe by one vote over Japan.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...President George W.Bush became the first U.S. president to visit Vietnam in the 21st century.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam is about 8 times the size of Switzerland.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam competed at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha,Qatar. It finished 19th in the medal count, with 23 (3 gold), trailing China, South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Iran, Uzbekistan, India, Qatar, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Hong Kong, North Korea, Kuwait and Philippines.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...Vietnam is famous for its beautiful beaches along the Pacific Ocean: Bai Chay, Tran Phu, Nha Trang,China Beach,Mui Ne Beach,Hon Chong Beach and Bai Tam.
DID YOU KNOW THAT...The 7th Summit of the Francophonie was held in Hanoi,Vietnam
Saturday, 26 December 2009
HO CHI MINH HIGHWAY, Vietnam — If relentless American bombing didn't get him, it would take a North Vietnamese soldier as long as six months to make the grueling trek down the jungled Ho Chi Minh Trail. Today, you speed along the same route at 60 mph, past peaceful hamlets and stunning mountain scenery. The trail, which played an important role in the Vietnam War, has been added to itineraries of the country's booming tourist industry. Promoters cash in on its history, landmarks and the novelty of being able to motor, bike or even walk down the length of the country in the footsteps of bygone communist guerrillas.
Women on bicycles make their way along a section of the newly built Ho Chi Minh highway near Vinh,Vietnam. David Longstreath, AP
Many sections of the old trail, actually a 9,940-mile web of tracks, roads and waterways, have been reclaimed by tropical growth. But a main artery has now become the Ho Chi Minh National Highway, probably the country's best and the largest public works project since Vietnam War ended 30 years ago.
The highway, more than 745 miles of which are already open to traffic, begins at the gates of Hanoi, the capital, and ends at the doorsteps of Ho Chi Minh City, which was known as Saigon when it was the former capital of South Vietnam.
In between, the route passes battlefields like Khe Sanh and the Ia Drang Valley, skirts tribal villages of the rugged Central Highlands and offers easy access to some of the country's top attractions — the ancient royal seat of Hue, the picturesque trading port of Hoi An and South China Sea beaches.
We began a recent car journey in the newly rebuilt city of Vinh, along one of the trail's main branches. Here in 'Vietnam's Dresden,' every building but one was obliterated by U.S. bombing, which attempted to stop the flow of foreign military aid through the city's port. American pilots also suffered their greatest losses of the war over its skies.
Nearby, in the rice-farming village of Kim Lien, is the humble hut where Vietnam's revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh was born and a museum dedicated to his turbulent life. Given Ho's standing as a national icon, the village draws an average of 1.5 million domestic visitors and a smattering of foreigners each year.
It was on one of Ho's birthdays, on May 9, 1959, that construction of the trail began with the establishment of Military Transport Division 559, made up of 440 young men and women. Over the next 16 years, the trail, which also wound through neighboring Laos and Cambodia, carried more than a million North Vietnamese soldiers and vast quantities of supplies to battlefields in South Vietnam despite ferocious American air strikes.
'There are some who argue that American victory would have followed the cutting of The Trail,' writes John Prados in 'The Blood Road.' 'The Trail undeniably lay at the heart of the war. For the Vietnamese of the North the Ho Chi Minh Trail embodied the aspirations of a people ... hiking it became the central experience for a generation.'
At Dong Loc, 18 miles south of Vinh, we stopped at one of many memorials to the thousands who didn't complete that hike — a hillside shrine with the tombs of 10 women, aged 17 to 24, killed in bombing raids. Joss sticks, flowers and the articles of female youth — pink combs and little round mirrors — lay on each of the last resting places.
'School children come here every day. It's important in educating the young about the sacrifices of the old generation,' said Dau Van Coi, secretary of the local youth union guiding visitors to what was once a major trail junction. Exhibiting no hostility to American visitors, he noted that U.S. warplanes dropped more than three bombs per 10 square feet on the area.
Farther down the trail, at the Highway 9 National Cemetery, bemedaled veteran Nguyen Kim Tien searched for fallen comrades among the 10,000 headstones. An elderly woman and her daughter wept before three of them — those of the older woman's father, husband and a close relative.
Although it's still a trail of tears three decades after the guns fell silent, Ho's road looks decidedly to the future.
'We cut through the Truong Son jungles for national salvation. Now we cut through the Truong Son jungles for national industrialization and modernization,' said former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet when the 10-year project began in 2000.
The government says the highway will stimulate the economy in some of Vietnam's poorest, most remote regions, relieve congestion on the only other north-south road, National Highway 1, and increase tourism revenue. Besides conventional tours, several companies offer mountain biking along sections of the trail and expeditions on Russian-made Minsk motorcycles out of the 1950s.
However, the highway has sparked domestic and international criticism that it will lead to further decimation of Vietnam's already disappearing forests, attract a flood of migrants into ethnic minority regions from the crowded coast and disturb wildlife at several protected areas. The Switzerland-based World Wide Fund for Nature has criticized the project as 'the single largest long-term threat to biodiversity in Vietnam.'
So far, little of the officially hoped-for development is evident. In central Vietnam, one drives for long stretches meeting just the occasional Soviet-era truck, decrepit tractor or water buffalo-drawn cart as the highway winds through valleys flanked by spectacular limestone cliffs.
At some places like the A Shau valley town of A Luoi, just a few shacks and farm houses when seen five years ago, a mini-boom is clearly afoot. There's a bustling market selling baskets of fruit, Japanese watches and delicious French bread, and newly built houses abound.
From the highway, which expands to four lanes as it runs through the crossroads town, Dong Ap Bia looms in the hazy distance. American soldiers called it Hamburger Hill because of the number of lives ground up in the 1969 battle on its ridges.
Almost all traces of American presence in A Luoi have vanished. Only the old people can point out the helicopter landing field, now a school playground with a decrepit merry-go round featuring three little airplanes. The laughing youngsters who crowd around the foreign visitors know nothing of the war.
By Denis D. Gray, Associated Press RELATED ITEMS Ho Chi Minh Trail Tours: http://www.ridehochiminhtrail.com Active Travel Vietnam offers motorcycle tours that last seven to 18 days; www.activetravelvietnam.com.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Monday, 21 December 2009
A concept-map exploring the Left vs Right political spectrum. A collaboration between David McCandless and information artist Stefanie Posavec, taken from my book The Visual Miscellaneum (out Nov 10th).
Of course, the political spectrum is not quite so polarised. Actually, it’s more of a diamond shape, apparently. But this is how it’s mostly presented via the media – left wing vs. right wing, liberal vs. conservative, Labour vs Tory. And perhaps in our minds too…
Well, certainly in my mind. Researching this showed me that, despite my inevitable journalistic lean to the ‘left’, I am actually a bit more ‘right’ than I suspected.
This kind of visual approach to mapping concepts really excites me. I like the way it coaxes me to entertain two apparently contradictory value systems at the same time. Or, in other words, I like the way it f**ks with my head.
I’ve got a few more of these coming from my book. They do a similar act of mind-flossing. Stay tuned.
Oh and if there’s enough demand, we’re going to do a signed, limited edition poster run of this image before Christmas. Email informationisbeautiful [at] gmail [dot] com if you’re interested
The original design concept was “something like a rosette”. But Stefanie did an amazing job taking it way further.
(I’ll be doing a ‘Great Visualizers’ piece on her in the future. But you can see some of her work here: itsbeenreal.co.uk. My particular favourite are her literary organisms. Truly beautiful and very informational. Yum.)
Earth In Space Thanks to Steve Haddock for that one. Apparently this map is secreted on Google Earth somewhere. Can anybody find a link for it? Thanks!
And on a similar theme – the undiscovered country, Antarctica, grokkable for size.
(Apols. I lost the original link for this image. If anyone knows where it comes from, please let me know so I can credit)
Mark Coleran – Visual Design for Film An “INCOMING EMAIL” alert in 200 point text suddenly flies across your monitor. Only the movies eh? This talented dude, Mark Coleran, is responsible for many movie infographical displays. Normally you only see them fleetingly reflected in Denziel Washington’s anxious glasses. But today they are in unveiled in their full glory for a long, proper look.
Why Are Europeans White Skinned? North Europeans are the palest humans in the world. Why? Here’s a clue: Blame Alpen. Explore this fascinating theory and nice story on skin colour.
(Thanks to Peter Ayres) Knol, “Google’s Wikipedia”, rules BTW.
Mind Mapping A Mind Map Lunchbreath’s amusing dig at Mind Mapping (which I personally find rubbish)
There’s a bunch more hand-drawn infographical goodness on LunchBreath’s Flickr Stream.
Hmmm, strangely map themed this time. If you’re still hungry for more infographical morsels, check out the last selection.
In the meantime, if you come across any visual delights, please send them through."
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Sunday, 13 December 2009
I haven't had much of a chance to sit back and absorb my RSS feeds this week due to constantly being out at various bashes here, there and everywhere but here's some interesting snippets of social media-related news that thought I’d share:
Not sure if any of you manage or maintain a Wordpress blog and Twitter feed for your clients but if so, this is well worth a read:
One trend in digital we should all try to avoid in 2010:
A free ‘To Do’ list app:
Two new free tools I’ve just discovered for finding the traffic of a popular website (and comparing it to another site) by entering the URL into compete.com . Or quantcast . This data is far more accurate than the charts Alexa and other free tools offer.
Daily summaries of your friends’/clients’ Twitter posts:
Five Free Facebook Tools to Enhance Your Social Media Campaign:
Nice post on Google real-time search:
4 Functions of Social Media:
M & S Christmas rant:
Post on content:
An average day on the internet:
Some thoughts on Tiger Woods from an old colleague:
Tied to the Noughties:
Cool/interesting/creative stuff to watch :http://thegingermonkey.blogspot.com/2009/12/lego-stop-motion-animation-car-racing.html
Just when we thought street art was dead the buildings of the city are once again adorned with work worthy of getting on a tube just to go and have a look at. There's plenty of it too courtesy of artists involved in the Lazarides 'Grifters' exhibition which opens in Rathbone Place later this week. Lazinc.com and Wallkandy's Flickr stream are the places to watch to find out locations and see the best pictures of the artists in action. On Tuesday I took a copy of Laz's published locations and set off around town in the freezing weather to see what I could find. Pictures below:
Paul Insect in Southwick Mews, Paddington
Vhils in Oval Road, Camden
Invader in Charlotte Road, Shoreditch
Mode 2 in Rathbone Place, off Oxford Street
Charlie Isoe, Kean Road, Holborn