The Elephant and the Rope

Your attempt may fail, but never fail to make an attempt.

As my friend was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.”Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.” My friend was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before?

How many of us are being held back by old, outdated beliefs that no longer serve us? How many of us have avoided trying something new because of a limiting belief? Worse, how many of us are being held back by someone else’s limiting beliefs?

Whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve!

So make an attempt to grow further…. Why shouldn’t we try it again?



Photo: A tiger salamander

Resembling its feline namesake, the tiger salamander has stripes over its gray or black body.


Map: Tiger salamander rangeTiger Salamander Range

Fast Facts

Average life span in the wild:
12 to 15 years
7 to 14 in (18 to 35 cm)
4.4 oz (126 g)
Did you know?
During courtship, a male tiger salamander sometimes impersonates a female in order to sneak in and deposit his spermatophore on top of a rival male’s.
Size relative to a tea cup:
Illustration: Tiger salamander compared with tea cup

Tiger salamanders’ markings are variable throughout their extensive range, but the most common marking resembles the vertically striped pattern of their mammalian namesake.

They are usually brown in color with brilliant yellow stripes or blotches over the length of their bodies. Their base color, however, can also be greenish or gray and their markings can be yellow dots or brown splotches. Some have no markings at all.

Thick-bodied amphibians with short snouts, sturdy legs, and long tails, tigers are the largest land-dwelling salamander on Earth. They can grow to 14 inches (35 centimeters) in length, but the average size is more like 6 to 8 inches (15.2 to 20.3 centimeters).

They are also the most wide-ranging salamander species in North America, living throughout most of the United States, southern Canada, and eastern Mexico. They live in deep burrows, up to two feet (60 centimeters) below the surface, near ponds, lakes, or slow-moving streams and are one of few salamanders able to survive in the arid climate of the North America interior.

Highly voracious predators, they emerge from their burrows at night to feed on worms, insects, frogs, and even other salamanders.

Their population is healthy throughout their range, but deforestation, pollution, and rising acidity levels in their breeding pools is affecting their distribution. Many are even killed by cars as they cross roads in the spring en route to or from their breeding sites.

Tiger salamanders are long-lived, averaging 10 to 16 years in the wild.



Photo: Great blue heron wading on long, thin legs

Wading on its long, thin legs, a great blue heron scouts for prey.


Map: Great blue heron rangeGreat Blue Heron Range

Fast Facts

Average life span in the wild:
15 years
Body, 3.2 to 4.5 ft (1 to 1.4 m); Wingspan, 5.5 to 6.6 ft (1.7 to 2 m)
4.6 to 7.3 lbs (2.1 to 2.5 kg)
Group name:
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Great blue heron compared with adult man

The tall, long-legged great blue heron is the most common and largest of North American herons.

Great blue herons are waders, typically seen along coastlines, in marshes, or near the shores of ponds or streams. They are expert fishers. Herons snare their aquatic prey by walking slowly, or standing still for long periods of time and waiting for fish to come within range of their long necks and blade-like bills. The deathblow is delivered with a quick thrust of the sharp bill, and the prey is swallowed whole. Great blue herons have been known to choke to death by attempting to swallow fish too large for their long, S-shaped necks. Though they are best known as fishers, mice constitute a large part of their diet, and they also eat insects and other small creatures.

Great blue herons’ size (3.2 to 4.5 feet/1 to 1.4 meters) and wide wingspan (5.5 to 6.6 feet/1.7 to 2 meters) make them a joy to see in flight. They can cruise at some 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 kilometers) an hour.

Though great blue herons hunt alone, they typically nest in colonies. They prefer tall trees, but sometimes nest in low shrubs. Females produce two to seven eggs, which both parents protect and incubate. Chicks can survive on their own by about two months of age.

The all-white color morph found in the Caribbean and southern Florida is often called the great white heron, but it is in fact the same species.



Photo: A camel spider

Despite some media reports, these arachnids are not half the size of a full-grown man. They are big though, reaching about 6 six inches (15 centimeters) in length.


Map: Egyptian giant solpugid rangeEgyptian Giant Solpugid (Camel Spider) Range

Fast Facts

Average life span in the wild:
Less than one year
6 in (15 cm)
2 oz (56 g)
Size relative to a tea cup:
Illustration: Egyptian giant solpugid compared with tea cup.

Camel spiders became an Internet sensation during the Iraq war of 2003, when rumors of their bloodthirsty nature began to circulate online. Many tales were accompanied with photos purporting to show spiders half the size of a human.

For many years, Middle Eastern rumors have painted camel spiders as large, venomous predators, as fast as a running human, with a voracious appetite for large mammals. The myths are untrue. These creatures do not actually eat camels’ stomachs or sleeping soldiers, and they are not so large—but the real camel spider is still an amazing predator.

The camel spider’s history of misinformation begins with a misidentification. Camel spiders are not even spiders. Like spiders, they are members of the class Arachnida, but they are actually solpugids.

Camel spiders, also called wind scorpions and Egyptian giant solpugids (SAHL-pyoo-jids), are only about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long. Photos that purport to show creatures six times that size have misleading perspective—the spider is invariably placed in the foreground where the lens makes it appear much bigger than its actual size. True, they are fast, but only compared to other arachnids. Their top speed is estimated at 10 miles (16 kilometers) per hour.

Camel spiders are not deadly to humans (though their bite is painful), but they are vicious predators that can visit death upon insects, rodents, lizards, and small birds. These hardy desert dwellers boast large, powerful jaws, which can be up to one-third of their body length. They use them to seize their victims and turn them to pulp with a chopping or sawing motion. Camel spiders are not venomous, but they do utilize digestive fluids to liquefy their victims’ flesh, making it easy to suck the remains into their stomachs.



Photo: Pufferfish

Pufferfish are poor swimmers, but can quickly ingest huge amounts of water to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size.


Map: Pufferfish rangePufferfish Range

Fast Facts

Up to 3 ft (1 m)
Group name:
Did you know?
Some predators, such as tiger sharks and sea snakes, are unbothered by the pufferfish’s natural toxins.
Size relative to a tea cup:
Illustration: Pufferfish compared with tea cup

Biologists think pufferfish, also known as blowfish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and even air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines on their skin to make them even less palatable.

A predator that manages to snag a puffer before it inflates won’t feel lucky for long. Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

Amazingly, the meat of some pufferfish is considered a delicacy. Called fugu in Japan, it is extremely expensive and only prepared by trained, licensed chefs who know that one bad cut means almost certain death for a customer. In fact, many such deaths occur annually.

There are more than 120 species of pufferfish worldwide. Most are found in tropical and subtropical ocean waters, but some species live in brackish and even fresh water. They have long, tapered bodies with bulbous heads. Some wear wild markings and colors to advertise their toxicity, while others have more muted or cryptic coloring to blend in with their environment.

They range in size from the 1-inch-long (2.5-centimeter-long) dwarf or pygmy puffer to the freshwater giant puffer, which can grow to more than 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length. They are scaleless fish and usually have rough to spiky skin. All have four teeth that are fused together into a beak-like form.

The diet of the pufferfish includes mostly invertebrates and algae. Large specimens will even crack open and eat clams, mussels, and shellfish with their hard beaks. Poisonous puffers are believed to synthesize their deadly toxin from the bacteria in the animals they eat.

Some species of pufferfish are considered vulnerable due to pollution, habitat loss, and overfishing, but most populations are considered stable.



Felix Baumgartner




With a passion for expanding boundaries, especially in the air, Red Bull Stratos pilot Felix Baumgartner is an expert parachutist best known for completing an unprecedented freefall flight across the English Channel using a carbon wing.

Felix, born April 20, 1969, grew up in Salzburg, Austria where he dreamed of skydiving and flying helicopters and was inspired by astronauts on TV. He made his first skydive at age 16. After sharpening his parachute skills as a member of a Special Forces demonstration team for the Austrian military, he supported himself by repairing motorcycles before becoming a skydiving professional.

Eager to test the limits, Felix set a record for history’s lowest BASE jump (from Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue), twice set world records for the highest BASE jump from a building (Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and Taipei 101 tower), and even landed his canopy inside a cave in Croatia.

Felix was named to Vienna’s Street of Champions and nominated for a World Sports Award and two categories in the NEA Extreme Sports Awards. A licensed gas balloon pilot, he has earned private helicopter licenses in Austria and the United States, as well as a commercial European helicopter license, and he is an advocate for the nonprofit Wings for Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation. In training for Red Bull Stratos, Felix divides his time between Switzerland and the United States, but, he says, “The air is where I am at home.”



Thinking space: Austrian sky-diver Felix Baumgartner sits in his trailer during the preparations for the final manned flight of the Red Bull Stratos mission in Roswell, New Mexico on Saturday

Thinking space: Austrian sky-diver Felix Baumgartner sits in his trailer during the preparations for the final manned flight of the Red Bull Stratos mission in Roswell, New Mexico on Saturday


Daredevil: Baumgartner approaches the capsule with crew with whom he has been preparing for the mission for five years

Daredevil: Baumgartner approaches the capsule with crew with whom he has been preparing for the mission for five years

Fearless: Felix, pictured here on a previous dive in July, plans to jump from the edge of the earth's atmosphere on Tuesday

Fearless: Felix, pictured here on a previous dive in July, plans to jump from the edge of the earth’s atmosphere on Tuesday

Felix's long-planned plunge

Austrian Felix Baumgartner, pictured at a news conference in New York, will leap from an aircraft 23 miles above New Mexico, in an attempt to jump higher and faster in a free fall than anyone ever before


At such high altitude, Fearless Felix will be able to see the curvature of the Earth and will free-fall for 20 minutes before landing

At such high altitude, Fearless Felix will be able to see the curvature of the Earth and will free-fall for 20 minutes before landing


Australian photographer Martin Pugh captured this image of the Whirlpool Galaxy which combines fine detail in the spiral arms with the faint tails of light that show its small companion galaxy being gradually torn apart by the gravity of its giant neighbour. A closer look shows even more distant galaxies visible in the background.

Australian photographer Paul Haese captured a spectacular view of Venus passing in front of the sun in the rare ‘transit’ in June this year. This is a spectacular view of the active Sun, streaked and blotched with filaments, sunspots and prominences. Venus, a world almost exactly the same size as the Earth, seems dwarfed by the scale and power of our local star.



Photographer Tunç Tezel captured the earthly lights of towns and villages, spread out beneath the heavenly glow of one arm of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Making the most of an August night, the photographer got this shot after trekking out to the Uludag National Park near his hometown of Bursa, Turkey.



Japanese photographer Masahiro Miyasaka captured an icy scene in Nagano, Japan, with the blue stars of the Pleiades glowing overhead. Despite the icy glow, blue stars are actually much hotter and more massive than red stars.


American photographer Robert Franke used narrowband filters to increase the detail in this image of the ‘Witch’s Broom’ nebula – the remnants of an ancient explosion in deep space. Part of the Veil Nebula, the ‘Witch’s Broom’ is the glowing debris from a supernova explosion – the violent death of a massive star. Although the supernova occurred several thousand years ago, the gaseous debris is still expanding outwards, producing this vast …



American photographer Michael A Rosinski’s image blends artificial light, swarms of fireflies, and the long arcs of star trails overhead, captured using long exposures.



Crowds around the world gathered to watch the rare moment when Venus passed in front of our sun earlier this year. Photographer Chris Warren captured this image in Blackheath, London, in one shot using a ‘Hydrogen-Alpha’ filter, when the clouds briefly parted to allow a glimpse of the event.



British astrophotographer Damian Peach captured this series of stills of the surface of Mars – offering a complete picture of the hostile world currently being explored by Nasa’s Curiosity rover. It shows the gleaming north polar cap of frozen water and carbon dioxide, the red equatorial deserts and the darker southern highlands. The photographer has captured an amazing level of detail, including wispy clouds in the thin Martian atmosphere.



Quotes of the day

Quote of the Day
Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.
James M. Barrie

Love Quote of the Day
There is room in the smallest cottage for a happy loving pair.
Friedrich Schiller

Art Quote of the Day
Filmmaking can be a fine art.
Terri Windling

Nature Quote of the Day
We may achieve climate, but weather is thrust upon us.
O. Henry

Funny Quote of the Day
You’re only as good as your last haircut.
Fran Lebowitz


The Seed

An Ancient Tale of Honesty

In the Far East the emperor was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or his children, he decided to do something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, ““It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.” The children were shocked, but the emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today–one very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor.”

One boy, named Ling, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it, carefully. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Ling didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by–still nothing in Ling’s pot.

He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow. A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But his mother asked him to be honest about what happened.

Ling felt sick at his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace. When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful–in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other children laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey, nice try.”

When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the emperor. “Today one of you will be appointed the next emperor!”

All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. He thought, “The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”

When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Ling,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!”

Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you.Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it.Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!”

If you plant honesty, you will reap trust
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.
If you plant perseverance, you will reap victory
If you plant consideration, you will reap harmony.
If you plant hard work, you will reap success
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation
If you plant faith, you will reap miracles.
If you plant hard work, you will reap success.

So, be careful what you plant now;
it will determine what you will reap tomorrow.

The seeds you now scatter will make life worse or better for you or for the ones who will come after you. Someday you will enjoy the fruits or you will pay for the choices you make.

“Whatever You Give To Life, Life Gives You Back”

Two thousand years ago someone else told the same story with fewer words, “What you sow, so shall you reap”. If you know who said this, nothing else needs to be said.


Camels and llamas can cross breed.

You may be familiar with cross-species breeding. The most notable example is the mule, a cross between a donkey and a horse. Another prominent example made popular by Napoleon Dynamite is of course the Liger. The Liger, despite what the movie would have you believe, really just looks like a very bulky, very large maneless lion with faded stripes.

Crossbred animals are usually sterile, so they can’t reproduce on their own. New hybrids have to be made from the parents species. A llama and camel, when crossbred, produce what is called a cama. So far, only one has ever been documented.

She was born in 1995. She was humpless and with a long fluffy coat like a llama, but had ears and long, strong legs like a camel. You can see the cama, along with her parents, on the right.


There is a small island near Bali that openly sells and embraces magic mushrooms.


The island is called Gili Trawangan, and is a small island where magic mushroom milkshakes are sold out in the open. Trawangan is only two hours from Bali by boat or twenty minutes by plane. There, numerous shops sell the milkshakes and there are signs saying things like “Mega Maximum Radical Mushrooms – Your Return Trip To The Moon.”

Even though the island has a strong Muslim culture, most of the young people eat mushrooms. Apparently, some people there are more angered over teenage drinking than mushroom use.

Stranger still is that though consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms there is fine, if caught smoke weed one could spend five years in jail. If caught dealing weed, one could even get the death penalty.




In the 2002 Iraqi election, Saddam Hussein’s campaign song was Whitney Huston’s ‘I will always love you.’


There’s a lot to look forward to during election time; conventions, debates, catchy beats. You know what I’m talking about; those upbeat tunes that ring like freedom at rallies, speeches, and pretty whenever a candidate walks into a room.

And for hundreds of years, U.S presidential candidates and leaders from all over the world, have continued the tradition of embarrasing themselves by choosing the wrong song. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein carefully picked out Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” for his sham campaign in 2002.

Syrian pop star Mayyada Bselees’ Arabic cover of the love ballad (originally written and performed by Dolly Parton) was broadcast on dawn-to-dusk radio spots from Baghdad to Basra. So there you go folks, Saddam Hussein will always love you.

An NFL player once got the game ball for pooping on the sideline and nobody noticing!


At the end of every victory, coaches in Football teams usually get what’s called the Game Ball. It’s a ball that was used during the game and commemorates the victory. They coaches usually give the game ball to a player, group of players, or coach that performed particularly well during the game.

Sometimes, however, it happens for gross and bizarre reasons too. Wes Welker, wide receiver for the New England Patriots said in an interview that teammate Larry Izzo once had to make an emergency #2 and couldn’t get to a bathroom. So he took a dump in the sidelines. What’s more, nobody found out at the time. For this, he got the game ball.

Apparently this wasn’t a point of shame for the player. Welker said that Izzo would be upset if he tried to claim that the poop didn’t happen. He even claimed that the game ball was his most prized possession and he even has Super Bowl rings!