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Phi Ta Khon Festival: 22-23 June 2012

Posted by arnon_k On May - 30 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

The Phi Ta Khon festival is unique to the Dan Sai district in Loei Province and reflects the local Isan belief in ghosts and spirits. Held once a year, it is part of a grand merit-making festival known as the “Boon Luang” festival.

The origins of the Phi Ta Khon Festival can be found in the tale of Lord Buddha’s last great incarnation before attaining Enlightenment. In Buddhist accounts, it is said that when Prince Vessandara, the Buddha’s penultimate incarnation, returned to his city, it was such a joyous occasion that the village spirits came forth to join the welcoming parade. This very colourful and vibrant Phi Ta Khon procession is the central focus of the celebrations.

In a lively re-enactment of the tale, the young men of the community dress up as “spirits” wearing long trailing costumes made from colourful strips of cloth sewn together.

The hideous-looking Phi Ta Khon mask which is made of dried sticky rice husk is painted in bright red, green or other colours, and features the characteristic long pointed nose. This completes the transformation. The clanging sound of the square cowbells worn around the waist announces the presence of the spirits who wield phallic-shaped long-handled swords decorated with red paint. The good-natured, fun-loving spirits mingle among the crowd, teasing and amusing all who take part in the procession. Spectators and visitors are welcome to join in the fun.

There are two types of “spirits” featured in the Phi Ta Khon procession namely the “Phi Ta Khon Yai” — the supreme Phi Ta Khon, and the “Phi Ta Khon Lek”, the ones that are commonly found. The making of the Phi Ta Khon Yai involves the performance of a sacred ritual to seek the blessings of the supreme powers before work on the Phi Ta Khon Yai masks can be initiated. It is also a task reserved exclusively for the descendants of families in which the tradition of making Phi Ta Khon masks has been practised for several generations. The Phi Ta Khon Yai is made of bamboo and is dressed in either male or female attire.

Contact information:

Accommodation in Dan Sai District
Phu Pha Nam Resort
Tel: 042 078078-9

Rang Yen Resort
Tel: 042 809511 – 3, 042 809514

Lay Leelawadee Resort
Tel: 042 801277

SB Resort
Tel: 042 891918

Na Thum Nam Taeng Homestay
Tel: 042 892339,891583, 042 086 8624812

Accommodation in Phu Ruea District
Phu Dara Resort
Tel: 042 801138-9

Phu Ruea Busba
Tel: 042 899330, 042 899229

Phu Ruea Resort
Tel: 042 899048, 042 899042

Baan Thongchai Resort
Tel: 042 899116

Contact information:
Tourism Authority of Thailand, Loei Office
Tel: +66 (0) 4281 2812
Fax: +66 (0) 4281 1480
E-mail: tatloei@tat.or.th This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Phu Ruea Resort
Tel: 042 899048, 042 899042

Baan Thongchai Resort
Tel: 042 899116

Contact information:
Tourism Authority of Thailand, Loei Office
Tel: +66 (0) 4281 2812
Fax: +66 (0) 4281 1480
E-mail: tatloei@tat.or.th This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

IMPORTANT: It makes sense, that before travelling far to attend an event or festival that you double check dates and times first.

‘Sorcery’ makes Sony’s Move a magic wand

Posted by arnon_k On May - 30 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — When “Sorcery” was demonstrated during the Sony presentation at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2010, it was touted as the quintessential game for the new Move motion controller, showcasing how action can be directed with the new device.

Fast forward two years, and “Sorcery” doesn’t quite live up to expectations of what the Move system could be. Despite some controller issues, it still offers a fun experience though.

In it, you step into the role of Finn, a young apprentice in the art of magic who is thrust into battle against the dark forces to save a faerie princess, Erline. The princess, by the way, is a cat with a very long tail.

As the game progresses, Finn discovers the ability to cast new spells, which the player casts using the Move controller. A flick of the wrist helps you select your spell and target your enemies. The navigation controller keeps Finn moving while you blast bogeys and assassins with the wand controller.

Spell selection is done by holding down the Move button, then making the appropriate gesture to select your spell — down for an earth spell, counterclockwise for an ice spell and so on. Switching spells is quick and very responsive.

Players can also combine spell effects for more powerful attacks. Using an ice spell three times will freeze an enemy and allow them to be shattered with a magic missile. A whirlwind can be created with an air spell, then using a fire spell will spew fire bolts all over the place.

However, targeting your opponents gets a little tricky. Players are supposed to aim higher for foes located on a higher level than Finn, but those shots don’t seem as consistent as level ones. Unfortunately, the foes on ledges and stairs seem to have no problem raining down shots on you.

Also, when multiple foes start attacking, that flicking action can be a bit hard on the arm and shoulder. Take frequent breaks or else suffer the aches later.

The player will collect raw materials to make potions that restore health and enhance spell abilities. There is also treasure to be found, and it can be used to buy more materials for those potions. Interestingly, once you create a potion and drink it, you never have to make that potion again. The only potions to be reused repeatedly are health potions, which can be bought or found but not created.

The Move controller creates the potions. You are asked to go through the motions of grinding berries, sprinkling dust or pouring a liquid into a cauldron, and then must stir using the wand controller to mix the ingredients together.

Despite being a role-playing game, there is no traditional “leveling up.” Any advancement happens through the potions you create and quaff and the spells you find as the game progresses.

The game’s dialogue is funny and spirited. There are plenty of quips and one-liners but unfortunately no chances for players to retort. The voice actors for Finn and Erline project real emotions into the characters and help the players feel empathic to their fears, their jokes and their hopes.

“Sorcery” should be the right game for the Move controller, and in many ways, it is. The action flows well, the story is easy to follow and the characters are noteworthy.

It isn’t a very deep game, but as an introduction of sorts to Sony’s Move tech, it doesn’t have to be.

“Sorcery” is now available for the PlayStation 3, and only uses the Move motion controller, navigation controller and Eye camera. It is rated E 10+ for Everyone 10 years of age and older due to fantasy violence, mild blood, and mild suggestive themes. This review was done using a provided retail copy for the PS3.

Google kills 250,000 search links a week

Posted by arnon_k On May - 30 - 2012 2 COMMENTS

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — It may surprise you that there is a rapidly growing number of websites Google intentionally hides from you. Google doesn’t want that to be a surprise anymore.

The search giant said Thursday it would begin chronicling the thousands of requests it receives daily to take down search results that link to copyrighted material. Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) said it receives upwards of 250,000 requests to remove links to pirated content each week.

When Google receives notifications from copyright holders that it is linking to a website that violates their copyright, Google undergoes a process that usually results in the removal of search results that link to that website.

The number of requests to take down links has soared in recent years. In fact, Google said it is now receiving more removal requests each week than it received in all of 2009. Last month, Google got 1.2 million such requests from 1,000 copyright holders to remove links from 23,000 websites.

For the first time, the company added all of the removal requests for search since July 2011 on its online transparency report. The two-year old report initially just displayed government requests to take down content from Google’s servers. But it now includes copyright holders’ requests, which dwarf the number of take-down requests from governments.

It’s a lot to keep track of, but Google has good reason to want the public to know about removal requests for pirated search links.

In January, the company fought hard — and won — against two congressional bills that would have cracked down on copyright infringement by forcing companies such as Google to refrain from linking to those sites.

The current U.S. anti-infringement law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, puts the onus on copyright holders to notify Google when it is displaying or linking to pirated material. The controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act would have shifted that onus to Google, putting it on the hook for content that it links to.

Google is trying to demonstrate that the current system works just fine. Despite the incredible ramp-up in requests, its average turnaround time for removing content that infringes on copyrights is 11 hours.

“We believe that the time-tested ‘notice-and-takedown’ process for copyright strikes the right balance between the needs of copyright owners, the interests of users and our efforts to provide a useful Google Search experience,” said Fred von Lohmann, Google’s senior copyright counsel.

When copyright holders believe there is content Google is linking to that violates their copyright, they first fill out a form on Google’s website. Google’s computers will then try to determine whether the claim is legitimate. After an automated review, a human will take a look at the request as well.

Google said it ultimately approves about 97% of the requests. But the company insists that it is working hard to weed out illegitimate claims.

For instance, Google said it recently rejected a request from a major entertainment company that asked the search leader to remove a result that linked to a newspaper’s negative review of a TV show.

Determining what’s kosher and what’s not puts Google’s team of copyright lawyers in a difficult position, especially as the requests grow astronomically. But the group, based in its Silicon Valley headquarters, would rather maintain the status quo than face government intervention.

“We’ve been working with copyright owners for years to make this an efficient process,” said van Lohmann. “As policy makers look at potential copyright law changes, we want to make sure they have the benefit of actual data.”

Official: 160 girls poisoned at Afghan school

Posted by arnon_k On May - 30 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — A hospital in northern Afghanistan admitted 160 schoolgirls Tuesday after they were poisoned, a Takhar province police official said.

Their classrooms might have been sprayed with a toxic material before the girls entered, police spokesman Khalilullah Aseer said. He blamed the Taliban.

The incident, the second in a week’s time, was reported at the Aahan Dara Girls School in Taluqan, the provincial capital.

The girls, ages 10 to 20, complained of headaches, dizziness and vomiting before being taken to the hospital, said Hafizullah Safi, director of the provincial health department.

More than half of them were discharged within a few hours of receiving treatment, Safi said. The health department collected blood samples and sent them to Kabul for testing.

Last week, more than 120 girls and three teachers were admitted to a hospital after a similar suspected poisoning.

“The Afghan people know that the terrorists and the Taliban are doing these things to threaten girls and stop them going to school,” Aseer said last week. “That’s something we and the people believe. Now we are implementing democracy in Afghanistan and we want girls to be educated, but the government’s enemies don’t want this.”

But earlier this week, the Taliban denied responsibility, instead blaming U.S. and NATO forces for the poisonings in an attempt to “defame” the insurgent group.

Taliban tightens grip on Afghan schools

There have been several instances of girls being poisoned in schools in recent years.

In April, also in Takhar province, more than 170 women and girls were hospitalized after drinking apparently poisoned well water at a school. Local health officials blamed the acts on extremists opposed to women’s education.

While nearly all the incidents involve girls, earlier this month, nearly 400 boys at a school in Khost province fell ill after drinking water from a well that a health official said may have been poisoned.

The Taliban recently demanded the closure of schools in two eastern provinces. In Ghazni, the school closure was in retaliation for the government’s ban on motorbikes often used by insurgents. People in Wardak said the Taliban has been a little more lenient and has allowed schools to open late after making changes to the curriculum.

Tortured Afghan teen: ‘The same should be done’ to attackers

The battle indicates broader fears about Afghanistan’s future amid the drawdown of U.S. troops in the country.

NATO leaders last week signed off on U.S. President Barack Obama’s exit strategy from Afghanistan, which calls for an end to combat operations next year and the withdrawal of the U.S.-led international military force by the end of 2014.

During the Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001, many Afghan girls were not allowed to attend school. The schools began reopening after the regime was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. However, observers say abuse of women remains common in the post-Taliban era and is often accepted in conservative and traditional families, where women are barred from school and sometimes subjected to domestic violence.

Afghan Education Minister Dr. Farooq Wardak told the Education World Forum in London in January 2011 that the Taliban had abandoned its opposition to education for girls, but the group has never confirmed that.