A Great Escape to the Norwegian Fjords

Rachel Maria Taylor and Jody Daunton journeyed to Norway for the latest issue of their outdoor lifestyle magazine Another Escape.

This is the view from the Skagfla farm, which rests on a small mountain shelf 250 meters above the waters below. Across the fjord you can see the spectacular Seven Sisters Waterfalls. The boat gliding through the water is a ferry that can hold up to 50 cars, which puts in perspective the great expanse of the fjord.

Deep fjords, tall mountains, and thick forests were just the beginning of what they discovered — Norwegians have a close relationship with their natural surroundings (the concept is known as friluftsliv), truly embracing nature and enjoying the outdoors as a way of life.

Water rushes down the mountains and over the cliffs into the fjords.

You can see outtakes from the adventure here, along with an excerpt from the published story. Look out for Another Escape Issue Five this fall.

A scenic ride from Hellesylt to the village of Geiranger.

NORWAY – Bordering Sweden, Finland, and Russia, with a ragged flank that disappears into the pitted bed of the Norwegian sea,

Mountain refuge hut at the top of Romsdalseggen. A much-appreciated respite when hiking in wind, rain, and snow on the Romsdalseggen Ridge.

Norway is a slender spool of craggy peaks, vaulting waterfalls, mirrored lakes and fjords, and woolly forests.

Co-founder Rachel Taylor stands on a precipice overlooking the village of Geiranger and the fjord.

To the west, the landscape is carved out by glaciers, with the abrupt slopes of the Scandinavian mountains towards the North Sea.

Many buildings in Norway traditionally have turfed roofs. Sheep and goats are often put on the rooftops to eat down the grass, which is exactly what this cheeky chappy is doing.

Numerous corridors of valley connect this raw, imposing topography to the spruce-carpeted hills of the east.

In the remarkable Vellesæterdalen valley, the Velleseter Cabin rests on an exposed hilltop at an altitude of 418 meters.

And while the north is characterized by fjords, mountains, vast snowfields and some of Europe’s largest glaciers, the south is a gradation of urban living, agricultural lowlands, fells, and docile coastal living.

DNT padlock and key. The DNT has an elaborate networks of trails and cabins across the whole of Norway that are open access for all to use. The keys are available from local tourist and DNT offices.

At every point of the compass, Norway’s landscape is arresting; a lush, undulating conduit forfriluftsliv that craves no less than pure abandonment to its mysteries.

A selection of cold meats including muskox and reindeer, which are native to the region; locally caught smoked salmon; klippfisk, a Norwegian dried and salted cod; locally made jams from the abundance of local berries; and the quintessential sweet brown cheese that tastes almost like fudge.

Literally (and inadequately) translated as ‘free air life,’ the phrase is, at its most fundamental, a deep appreciation for and interaction with nature.

The view from Kaldhuseter cabin, looking out across the lake towards the Tafjordfjella Mountains.

This entry is excerpted with permission from Another Escape, where the article originally appeared. Read more about the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv in Another Escape Volume Five.

A traditional little cabin tucked away in misty mountainside.
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Rogers stirk harbour plans skyscrapers for abu dhabi’s maryah plaza

rogers stirk harbour + partners has been chosen to complete their first project in the middle east, a mixed-use development in abu dhabi’s al maryah island district.

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

in addition to residential apartments, four water-adjacent towers will also contain a 5-star hotel and a host of retail outlets.

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

the masterplan also includes landscaped parks, art galleries and a range of community centers seeking to create a diverse public realm that maximizes connectivity across the site.

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

richard rogers stirk harbour partners al maryah plaza abu dhabi designboom

The biggest 5 organized crime groups in the world

Cyber crime is grabbing the headlines these days, but the largest criminal gangs are still making most of their money from drugs, sex, and extortion.

It’s tough to go even a few months without seeing the effects of organized crime on the economy and everyday life. The most salient example these days is the rash of thefts of credit card data from big-name retail chains like Home Depot and Target.

While these threats are headline-grabbing and particularly frightening because e-commerce is a relatively new phenomenon and businesses and consumers aren’t totally sure how to protect themselves from hackers, it’s still a drop in the bucket in terms of overall organized crime earnings.

A 2013 survey from Javelin Strategy and Researchestimates that the annual total loss to Americans due to identity theft was roughly $20 billion. But much of those costs comes from efforts to prevent identity theft or recover from its effects, rather than what thieves earn from their crimes.

Compare that to estimates of pure revenue from other forms of organized crime like the drug trade and human trafficking: the Organization of American States estimates that the revenue for cocaine sales in the U.S. has reached $34 billion annually.

When you add the market for other illicit drugs and revenue generators like human trafficking and extortion, it becomes clear that organized crime is still making most of its money from its legacy businesses, despite the fact that criminals are always looking for new ways to make a buck.

So, who are the biggest organized crime gangs around the world and how do they make their money? Organized crime revenues are very difficult to estimate, as criminals often spend a significant amount of time trying to hide what they make.

Also, “organized crime” is a loosely defined concept. Anything from a vast drug smuggling ring to a handful of car thieves can be classified as organized crime groups, and the cohesiveness of organized crime organizations around the world varies widely.

Some groups, like Japan’s Yakuza, are highly organized and hierarchical, allowing economists and crime fighters in Japan to attribute much higher revenue totals to Yakuza groups than others around the world. Here are the top five criminal gangs, ranked by revenue estimates:

745

1. Yamaguchi Gumi—Revenue: $80 billion

The largest known gang in the world is called the Yamaguchi Gumi, one of several groups collectively referred to in Japan as “Yakuza,” a term that is roughly equivalent to the American use of “mafia.”

The Yamaguchi Gumi make more money from drug trafficking than any other source, according to Hiromitsu Suganuma, Japan’s former national police chief. The next two leading sources of revenue are gambling and extortion, followed closely by “dispute resolution.”

The Yakuza date back hundreds of years, and according to Dennis McCarthy, author of An Economic History of Organized Crime, Yakuza groups are among the most centralized in the world. While other East Asian gangs like Chinese Triads, which are a loose conglomeration of criminals bonded together mostly by familial relations,

Yakuza are bound together by “elaborate hierarchies,” and members, once initiated, must subvert all other allegiances in favor of the Yakuza. Even with the Japanese government cracking down on Yakuza in recent years, this centralized structure has made it easy to attribute a massive amount of revenue to this single gang.

2. Solntsevskaya Bratva—Revenue: $8.5 billion

Russian mafia groups sit on the other side of the organizational spectrum from Yakuza. Their structure, according to Frederico Varese, a professor of criminology at the University of Oxford and an expert on international organized crime, is highly decentralized.

The group is composed of 10 separate quasi-autonomous “brigades” that operate more or less independently of each other. The group does pool its resources, however, and the money is overseen by a 12-person council that “meets regularly in different parts of the world, often disguising their meetings as festive occasions,” Varesi says.

It’s estimated that the group claims upwards of 9,000 members, and that it’s bread and butter is the drug trade and human trafficking. Russian organized crime in general is heavily involved in the heroin trade that originates in Afghanistan: it’s estimated that Russia consumes about 12% of the world’s heroin, while it contains just 0.5% of the world’s population.

3. Camorra—Revenue: $4.9 billion

While the Italian-American mafia has been severely weakened in recent decades by law enforcement, the Italian mafia in the old country is still running strong.

Despite years of efforts from citizens, journalists, and government officials, the local governments in Italy remain linked to and protective of various mafia groups, to the point where a 2013 study from the Università Cattolica and the Joint research Centre on Transnational Crime estimated that mafia activities generate revenue of $33 billion dollars, mostly divided among Italy’s four major mafia gangs.

Camorra is the most successful of these groups, raking in an estimated $4.9 billion per year on everything from “sexual exploitation, firearms trafficking, drugs, counterfeiting, gambling … usury and extortion,” according to the report. And Camorra has been at it a long time.

Based in Naples, the group’s history dates back to the 19th century, when it was formed initially as a prison gang. As members were released, the group flourished during the bloody political struggles in Italy during the 1800s by offering protection services and as a force for political organization among Italy’s poor.

4. ‘Ndrangheta—Revenue: $4.5 billion

Based in the Calabria region of Italy, the ‘Ndarangheta is the country’s second largest mafia group by revenue. While it is involved in many of the same illicit activities as Camorra,

‘Ndrangheta has made its name for itself by building international ties with South American cocaine dealers, and it controls much of the transatlantic drug market that feeds Europe.

It has also been expanding its operations in the U.S. and has helped prop up the Gambino and Bonnano crime families in New York. In February, Italian and American police forces arrested dozens of ‘Ndrangheta and Gambino family members and charged them with crimes related to the transatlantic drug trade.

5. Sinaloa Cartel—Revenue $3 billion

Sianola is Mexico’s largest drug cartel, one of several gangs that has been terrorizing the Mexican population as it serves as the middleman between South American producers of illegal drugs and an unquenchable American market.

The White House Office of Drug Control Policy estimates that Americans spend $100 billion on illegal drugs each year, and the RAND Corporation says that about $6.5 billion of that reaches Mexican cartels.With an estimated 60% market share, Sinola cartel is raking in approximately $3 billion per year.

Despite the fact that Sinaloa’s leader was arrestedFebruary, the cartel seems to have avoided the sort of bloody—and costly—succession battle that has plagued some groups when a leader is taken out of commission.

Afarin Sajedi’s Portraits of Women Redefine Strength

These colorful, sometimes discomforting portraits by Tehran-based artist Afarin Sajedi present a unique image of strength.

They are the many faces and mixed emotions of modern Iranian women, particularly the pain and joy felt upon leaving the safe walls of home.

She is heavily inspired by Heinrich Boll’s Clown, seen in her use of makeup, while Gustav Klimt’s color palette strongly influences her use of agressive colors like red.

This is also evident in her subject’s costumes worn similarly to traditional hijab headwear.

Some replace their hijab with helmets and plastic bags, while others express themselves by piercing their skin with utensils.

No matter how they are outfitted,  Sajedi’s women hold onto their bold spirit underneath.

Study finds sarcasm improves creativity, reasoning in conversations

A study found people who make or hear sarcastic comments may develop greater creativity and cognitive or reasoning functions than sincere statements. It proves that “naturally creative people” are more likely to use sarcasm on conversations.

Expressing and understanding sarcastic comments forces the brain to switch to abstract thinking, effective in boosting creativity, according to the study Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. The process showed “sarcasm has the potential to catalyse creativity in everyone.”

Researchers of INSEAD, a graduate business school in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and Harvard and Columbia Business Schools, analysed the result after giving random dialogues to participants with simulated sarcastic, sincere or neutral conversations, and then testing their creativity through reasoning tasks.

The researchers then concluded that the process of abstraction or a person’s act of dealing with ideas rather than events helps the expresser and the recipient of sarcasm to realise the true meaning of a sarcastic conversation.

By realising the contradiction between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions, creative thinking develops.

“This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking,” co-author Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School said.

In addition, sarcasm would also improve creativity three times if used between people who have mutual trust, researchers suggest. The trusting relationship will prevent development of negative perceptions, and if conflict occurs, it won’t disrupt the creative gains for both parties.

The researchers hope the results will encourage people to make and take sarcasm in appropriate circumstances to practice its creative benefits.

Further work needs to be done to better understand how the tone and content of specific kinds of sarcasm such as sarcastic criticism, complements, or sarcastic bantering affect communication in different relationships as well as the cognitive processes of individuals.

The true true size of Africa – Cartography

 

Click to the picture for higher resolution

LAST month Kai Krause, a computer-graphics guru, caused a stir with a map entitled “The True Size of Africa”, which showed the outlines of other countries crammed into the outline of the African continent.

His aim was to make “a small contribution in the fight against rampant Immappancy”—in particular, the fact that most people do not realise how much the ubiquitous Mercator projection distorts the relative sizes of countries.

A sphere cannot be represented on a flat plane without distortion, which means all map projections distort in one way or another. Some projections show areas accurately but distort distances or scales, for example; others preserve the shapes of countries but misrepresent their areas. You can read all the gory details on Wikipedia.

Gerardus Mercator’s projection, published in 1569, was immediately useful because it depicts a line of constant bearing as a straight line, which is handy for marine navigation.

The drawback is that it distorts the shapes and areas of large land masses, and the distortion gets progressively worse as you get closer to the poles.

(Africa looks about the same size as Greenland under the Mercator projection, for example, even though it is in fact 14 times bigger.) This was not a big problem for 16th-century sailors, of course, and the Mercator projection remains popular to this day.

In Mr Krause’s map (above) he seems to have used the shapes of the countries from a Mercator projection, but has scaled up the outline of Africa, without changing its shape, to show the appropriate area. An alternative and arguably more rigorous approach would be to repeat the exercise using an “equal area” projection that shows the countries’ areas correctly while minimising shape distortion.

These two properties are the hardest to balance when showing the whole world on one map. I decided to rework Mr Krause’s map using Gall’s Stereographic Cylindrical Projection (1855) with two standard parallels at 45°N and 45°S. Distortions are still evident at the poles, but for most countries shape is maintained, and their areas are shown correctly.

As you can see (below), the results are distinct from Mr Krause’s map. But however you look at it, his point is a good one: Africa is much bigger than it looks on most maps.

By Planting Miniature Gardens On Abandoned Bikes, This Project Helped Clean Up Tokyo

A good way to make an invisible problem more visible: put a flower on it. 

Abandoned bikes are a challenge in every city, but perhaps nowhere as much as Tokyo, where a staggering two million bicycles are left behind on city streets every year.

Despite the size of the problem, Tokyo locals tend to take it for granted. Inspired to help change that, a bike-sharing company called Cogoo decided to create a campaign to make people take a second look:

They collected dozens of old bikes, turned the bike seats into flower planters, and then parked the bikes back on the street.

“Cogoo wanted to raise people’s awareness by making this ‘invisible’ problem more visible,” says Kenta Ikoma from TBWA/Hakuhodo, the ad agency that worked with Cogoo on the campaign.

“We realized that people appreciate flowers on the streets even though they pay little attention to bikes left on the streets. This led to the idea of turning those bikes into an art gallery displaying ‘Saddle Blossoms.'”

The experiment worked. As people stopped to look at the tiny gardens, they also read tags on the back of each saddle linking to more information about why the project mattered. Ultimately, fewer bikes ended up on the street.

“We ran this campaign at two universities which were unsuccessful with conventional campaigns such as posting signs or putting stickers on bikes to encourage people not to leave their bikes,” explains Ikoma. “After the campaign, they were able to reduce the number of discarded bikes by 40%.”

The campaign even inspired local government to start making more of an effort to clean up piles of old bikes. If it could work in Tokyo, could it work elsewhere?