28 November, 2010

Winter neighborhood

We have had snow since Thursday and the temperature is still falling and the snow is getting thicker and heavier.

I enjoy watching the snow falling though I am sufferring for a heavy cold and slippery. I've been waiting for this moment since the day I came here in England. I am so very grateful to the Almigthy for letting me to actually experience snow.

27 November, 2010

The first taste of the first snowfall

This morning I have awoken to massive snow scenes, there was a skiff of snow on the ground and rooftops. At last, it's started snowing. Half of the UK is covered in snow at the moment. Only small flakes though.

I wanted to go out and throw snowballs straight away but not that there was enough snow for that!

What a beautiful day in the North of England... bright, crisp and dry, just lovely. There is a slight chilliness... although i guess those who have to travel to work will not think that!

There is only one thing to do on a day like today... yes, build a Snowman, might even take a picture.

26 November, 2010

Consultation on Tier 4 Student Visa in UK

The announced consultation on Tier 4 visas will be addressing ways of reducing the number of students coming to the UK whilst also continuing to attract the “top students to the top universities”. These include:

  • for adult students, focusing Tier 4 on higher level courses and those offered by Highly Trusted Sponsors
  • introducing tougher entry criteria such as English language competence
  • requiring evidence of academic progression for students extending their studies
  • limiting students’ entitlements to work and to sponsor dependants
  • improving the accreditation and inspection process for education providers
The Home Secretary draws attention to the issue that perhaps “people imagine students to be those who come here for a few years to study at university and then go home - that is not always the case”. Whilst the student immigration route remains high on the Home Office’s agenda it is questionable how much effect new restrictions will have.

Research published by the Home Office in September 2010 - The Migrant Journey - shows that, despite the high number of people entering the UK on Tier 4 visas, 79% of them had left the country within 5 years. Of the remaining 21%, 6% were still studying and 7% were in work. Less than 5% had been granted settlement.

The indication here is that whilst student visas may account for high numbers of people coming into the country they also account for many of the people leaving the country. The proposed measures under review in the consultation will no doubt be effective in reducing net migration, but will not address the question of migrants achieving settlement. The question of whether reducing the number of people settling in the UK seems to remain unasked for the time being. It will certainly be interesting to see how the the migrant journey looks in five years’ time.

25 November, 2010

Facebook banned for hours in Saudi Arabia

Users of the widely-popular Facebook were only able to access the website around sundown.

According to a source at the Telecommunications Agency in Saudi Arabia, the site was restricted most of the day because it did not conform with social values.

Facebook, which has over 200 million active users, was temporarily restricted in Pakistan and Bangladesh earlier this year due to a group on the website that was planning an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day", which led to massive demonstrations by people in both Muslim-majority nations.

The best countries to retire to

With the weather turning icy, thoughts begin to turn to sunnier climes, not just for the Christmas period but for life generally.
The number of Brits trying life abroad has grown significantly over the past few decades — there are more than a million Brits living abroad, according to the Institute for Public Policy research.
And it's not just students taking a year out to 'discover' themselves making pots in a shack in Peru, but older Brits too. According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, an extraordinary 38% of over-55s are planning to relocate in the next few years.
So if you fancy retiring somewhere abroad, which countries should top your wishlist?
Quality of life
HSBC Bank International has recently published parts of its Expat Explorer Survey, encompassing the views of more than 3,000 expats across more than 100 countries to find which nation performs best in various different areas.
And it found a clear correlation between those countries that offer a great quality of life to all expats, and that nation's popularity among silver expats — those looking for a new country for their twilight years.
But what does quality of life actually mean? The survey took into account a range of features, including the following:
  • accommodation,
  • food/diet,
  • entertainment,
  • healthcare,
  • work life balance,
  • social life,
  • commute to work,
  • opportunities for sports
  • opportunities for travel,
  • the ease of organising schools for their children,
  • the ease of learning the language,
  • how easy to make friends,
  • healthcare and utilities,
  • weather,
  • how easy to fit into the new culture/lifestyle.
The top nations
With that in mind, below are the top 15 ranking nations for overall quality of life according to the Expat Explorer Survey.
3South Africa
15Hong Kong
Some of the top-performing nations boast extraordinarily large numbers of retirees among their expats — in Spain, just shy of 40% of all expats are retirees, while France (33%), South Africa (24%), Thailand (24%) and Canada (17%) also boast a large proportion of retired expats.
Perhaps a touch worryingly, the UK finished 23rd in the survey, behind nations like Qatar and Mexico, but just ahead of Russia and India. And you can't blame that entirely on the weather.
If you can't make your mind up on which nation you'd like to retire to, why not have a read of Ditch Britain for somewhere better!

24 November, 2010

Prince and Kate set wedding date

St James's Palace has also said the wedding - including the costs of the church service, music, flowers, decorations reception and honeymoon - will be paid for by the Royal family and the Middleton family.

The public will pay for associated costs like security. Downing Street announced that the wedding day would be a public holiday.

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, private secretary to Prince William, said the couple chose Westminster Abbey for its "staggering beauty", 1,000-year Royal history and intimacy despite its size.

By coincidence April 29 is the feast of St Catherine of Siena.

Mr Lowther-Pinkerton said those planning the nuptials were very conscious of Britain's precarious finances.

"All parties involved in the wedding, not least Prince William and Miss Middleton, want to ensure that a balance is struck between an enjoyable day and the current economic situation," he said.

"To that end the Royal family and the Middleton family will pay for the wedding."

He said this move drew directly from the precedent set by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh's wedding in 1947 and Charles and Diana's nuptials in 1981.

Mr Lowther-Pinkerton said William and Miss Middleton were "completely over the moon" about their engagement.

"I've never seen two happier people, which is absolutely fabulous to work in that sort of environment," he said.

"They're on Cloud Nine, like any other newly-engaged couple. They're now getting stuck into organising their wedding. They are very much in charge of the arrangements for the big day."

The couple announced their engagement last week, nine years after meeting as students at St Andrew's University, sparking fevered speculation about where and when they would tie the knot.

Immigration is no joke

It is a major decision that involves all aspect of your life. People who are planning to permanently settle in a foreign land must put importance into having all their papers and requirements processed the legal way.

If you are working and living abroad without the proper documents, you are putting your reputation and future at risk. Peace of mind will definitely be elusive when instead of adjusting to your new environment or concentrating on your job, you are playing hide and seek with the authorities.

Many people who are discouraged by the tedious requirements and procedures one has to go through at the embassy. This is the reason why many bravely dare to enter a foreign territory with an illegal status. Even though some people managed to emerge victorious by eventually being granted legal status, aspiring migrants must not look at this a source of inspiration.

In UK, illegal immigration is a serious issue where the rules are strictly implemented. Moreover, if you are an illegal alien, you and your family will be denied many benefits.

For one, finding a decent and good paying a job will be a big burden. You will not be permitted to apply for an insurance. Your child will not be allowed to enroll in school.

People migrate overseas for a purpose, whether for economic, cultural, or educational reasons. Achieving those goals can be likened to a camel passing through the eyes of a needle if you are an illegal alien. Spare yourself of the emotional and physical trauma of illegal migration by going through the legal process.

22 November, 2010

UK to cut immigration

David Cameron has insisted it is "perfectly possible" to cut immigration to the tens of thousands a year.

MPs have cast doubt on whether a limit on numbers from outside the European Union can significantly reduce net migration from its current level of almost 200,000 a year.

But, in an interview with Sky News, the Prime Minister indicated he remained committed to more than halving immigration and insisted that it was achievable.

"If you stand back and look at the big picture, actually immigration between Britain and the rest of the EU is pretty much in balance," he said.

"It's between Britain and the rest of the world where it's got out of balance and we have this large level of net migration into the UK.

"That is partly economic migration. It's also about large numbers of people coming to settle in the UK. It's also about a lot of people abusing the student regime.

"So I think if you tackle all of those things it's perfectly possible - it's my ambition - to get to net migration from the rest of the world coming down to the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands."

The Home Affairs Select Committee warned recently that the cap would make little difference to overall immigration and could damage the economy.

The issue has caused friction within the coalition, with Business Secretary Vince Cable expressing concern about the ability of firms to bring highly-skilled employees to the UK.

Mr Cameron told the Commons this month that the cap should not affect intra-company transfers and that he wanted "much better immigration control without disadvantaging business".

13 November, 2010

London bus will be phased out from 2012

London Mayor Boris Johnson has unveiled an all-new London bus. It uses an efficient hybrid drivetrain that makes it the most fuel efficient bus ever to hit the capital.

Built by Wrightbus, the as-yet-nameless double-decker also sees the return of the traditional open rear platform, allowing passengers to jump on and off quickly.

It features two staircases to make embarking and disembarking quicker and the open back can be closed off if necessary.

Passenger comfort has been prioritised, too. The bus has a torque limiter in first gear to allow it to pull away smoothly - so falling over in the aisles should be a thing of the past.

It is packed with modern technology, including an aluminium spaceframe chassis similar in principle to that of the Audi R8 supercar.

The diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain uses a battery-powered motor at the rear to boost power. It also improves economy by making less work for the diesel engine. Noise will be lower than ever.

The battery is charged by a generator linked to the 4.5-litre diesel engine. Hybrid buses are already on the streets of London, but Wrightbus claims that this is the most efficient by some way.

Testing will begin in early 2011 at a closed track, before the bus hits the city's streets later that year. The current London bus will be gradually phased out from 2012 and this version will eventually make up the entire 8,000-strong fleet.

12 November, 2010

Harry Potter Premiere in London

Head to the magical Harry Potter premiere London event at Leicester Square to celebrate the release of the seventh adventure in the blockbuster series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.

Red carpet event
Promising to be a highlight in the calendar of many an aspiring witch and wizard, the Harry Potter premiere London celebrity screening celebrates the launch of the penultimate film in the fantasy series. The red carpet world premiere at Leicester Square is bound to be a popular affair, with hundreds of fans turning up to cheer on the stars of the film as they make their way along the red carpet and into the cinema.

All star cast
Starring the likes of Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 also boasts an impressive line up of veteran actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane and Michael Gambon. Fans will no doubt be craning their necks to see which of the stars from the film will be stepping out onto the red carpet for the Harry Potter premiere London event.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Picking up from the dramatic end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the Deathly Hallows Part 1 sees Harry, Ron and Hermione leave the comparative safety of Hogwarts in their quest to defeat the Dark Lord, Voldemort, once and for all. Combining magical special effects with dramatic storytelling and the hint of romance, the latest film is destined to become another blockbuster adapted from the bestselling children's books by J.K. Rowling. Fans can see the film for themselves shortly after the Harry Potter premiere London event, when The Deathly Hallows Part 1 goes on general release on 19th November 2010.

11 November, 2010

Harry Potter Location in UK

To celebrate the UK release of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1' on 19 November 2010, I put together ten of favourite Harry Potter filming locations. The much-loved teen wizard has appeared at various places all over Britain so jump on your broomstick and discover the magic…

Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland
On its way to Hogwarts, in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' (2002), the flying Ford Anglia lands on Glenfinnan Viaduct, on the West Highland line between Fort William and Mallaig in Scotland. There’s a regular diesel service, but if you want to cross the viaduct in a Hogwart's Express-style steam locomotive, West Coast Railways run the Jacobite Steam Train during the summer season (May to October).

Glencoe, Scotland
Push further into Scotland to see Glencoe where the dramatic landscapes around Hogwarts were filmed. You'll recognise the Steall Falls at Glen Nevis from the Tri-Wizard Tournament in the 'Goblet of Fire' (2005). The rugged beauty and natural drama of the Scottish highlands are the perfect background for the first two Harry Potter films - where the Quidditch matches were filmed against the backdrop of Glen Nevis (also used for 'Braveheart', 'Rob Roy' and 'Highlander II').

Bodleian Library, Oxford, England
Oxford University’s famous Bodleian Library starred in three of the Harry Potter films. The medieval Duke Humfrey's Library was used as the Hogwarts library and the elaborately vaulted Divinity School became Hogwart’s infirmary. Tour this historic place of learning to see where Oscar Wilde, C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien once studied.

Durham Cathedral, England
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was realised on film in a bewildering number of locations throughout the UK. One of the most spectacular is Durham Cathedral, one of the UK’s finest Norman buildings. Durham’s elegant cloisters became the snow-covered quadrangle, where Harry sets the owl flying in the first film and is also the scene of Ron’s slug vomiting in ‘The Chamber of Secrets’. The cathedral chapter house is the venue for Professor McGonagall’s class teaching the young wizards to turn animals into water goblets.

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England
Grab your broomstick and head to Alnwick Castle, the site of Madame Hooch’s flying lesson in the first film. Discover 700 years of history, spectacular gardens with water sculptures and one of the world’s largest treehouses. Alnwick Castle was also used in 'Robin Hood Prince of Thieves' (1991) and 'Elizabeth' (1997).

Leadenhall Market, London, England
The entrance to the wizard’s pub, 'the Leaky Cauldron', is an optician in Bull’s Head Passage in Leadenhall Market in the City of London. Leadenhall is a superb example of a Victorian covered market with an ornate painted roof.

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, Wales
One of Wales’ top surfing beaches, this stretch of golden sand was chosen as a location for Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour‘s Shell Cottage in the latest instalment of the franchise. It’s no stranger to film crews and has also served in Ridley Scott’s 'Robin Hood' (2010) as the backdrop to the climactic battle with the French.

King’s Cross Station, London, England
The Hogwarts Express departs from ‘Platform 9 ¾’ of King’s Cross Station, which is actually the arched wall between Platforms 4 and 5. If that seems short on magic, head towards the entrance to Platforms 9, 10 and 11 on the west side of the station. There you’ll find a trolley disappearing into the magical realm through a wall marked ‘Platform 9 ¾’.Outside you’ll see the Neo-Gothic facade of St Pancras where the Weasleys’ magical Ford Anglia takes off in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' (2002).

Reptile House, London Zoo, England
London Zoo's Reptile House is where Harry first discovers his gift for talking with snakes in 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone' (2001). If you fancy chatting to snakes, or any other animals for that matter, London Zoo's the place.

Gloucester Cathedral, England
If you scare easily, then be careful if you visit the Cathedral of Gloucester, which has been a place of worship for over 1,300 years. While you may not meet Nearly Headless Nick or Moaning Myrtle in these halls, an ancient wooden door leads down to the old crypt, said to be haunted by monks from the old Gloucester monastery. Scenes from the first two films were shot here including the shots of Harry and Ron hiding from the troll.

Feast of Sacrifice, a national holiday

Very nice Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has declared August 30, 2011 a National holiday, in celebration of the Eid’l-Adha or the the Feast of Sacrifice.
In proclamation number 234, Aquino cited Republic Act 9849 which provides that Eid’l Adha, one of the two greatest feasts of Islam, shall be celebrated as a holiday.
Celebrated by Muslims worldwide, Eid’l Adha is an important religious holiday that commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael for Allah.
The Islamic event is usually celebrated for at least three days in Arab and Muslim countries.

04 November, 2010

London Bridge?

Tower Bridge in London is often incorrectly referred to as London Bridge, well me too, the bridge was on the other side. The bridge spans the Themes River, and is firmly ensconced as an iconic symbol of London itself. The reason for the bridge was the rapid development of commerce between the city of London and East End.
The Tower Bridge was designed and built between 1886 and 1891. Its distinctive design features two stately towers that are connected by horizontal pedestrian walkways. The walkways used to have a negative reputation as being a hangout for prostitutes and pickpockets, but now they are open to the public as a feature of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The bridge is very popular among tourists in London because it affords magnificent views of the city.

Autumn is here!

This is that time of year when the leaves turn red and gold, and there's a little chill in the air.

The scientific explanation of autumn is “the day of the year when the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving southward. This day is known as the Autumnal Equinox.”

One source explained that it's a common belief that the “earth is further from the sun in winter than in summer.” But actually, the Earth is closest to the sun in December which is winter in the Northern hemisphere.

What's the difference between fall and autumn?

Some think the difference depends on where you live in the world. For example, in the U.S., fall follows the summer season. In the U.K., autumn follows summer.

Others say that autumn is the start of a new season, when the weather cools down and leaves change color. Fall begins when the leaves have fallen to the ground and the cooler weather sets in.

The last source described autumn or fall as “one of the four seasons,” It signals the earlier arrival of night, and the change from summer into winter in September in the Northern Hemisphere, or in March in the Southern Hemisphere.

Whatever they call it, I enjoy the new season! I'm having fun picking apples, rolling around in the leaves, and a walk in the crisp air.

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