Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Butchart Gardens, British Columbia, Canada

These beautiful gardens are among the best in the world. In 1909, Jennie Butchart began beautifying an exhausted quarry and soon welcomed friends and visitors to this landscaped sanctuary. Now The Gardens welcomes visitors from around the world to this jewel in the crown of Victoria, BC.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

And the best street to live is... ? It's up to you !

Our mission is to classify all the streets of every city in the world. Our goal is to help people around the world choosing the best place to live, work or play.

Choosing a place to live has impact on our health. Places with more green spaces, where you can do exercice  safely and with good atmosphere, contribute to improving our overall wellness. A new study has shown that living in a walkable neighbourhood has an important effect on whether a child is obese or not.

Prioritise areas with green zones and a good network of transports, contributes to improve the environment that surrounds us.

At the financial level, choose a central location with good transport network, possible means increased savings in the family budget. It is estimated that commute is the second highest cost that households have to suport. Easy parking and the existence of trade and services also contributes to reduce this cost.

Regarding the safety of persons and property, we can not overlook the reality of seismic risk and flood risk. It exists, and unfortunately, in many places of the world is a well-known drama. Make sure you do not live in areas of high risk, or if this is a reality, ensure that your property is adequately equipped to withstand these natural phenomena.

STREETICS gives you the answer to all these questions. It's up to you to value what is most important, and make an informed choice.

Monday, 22 July 2013

"Differentiating Standard of Living from Quality of Life"

"From the mainstream point of view, standard of living is everything in modern society. A high standard of living refers primarily to access to money and material wealth. By this measurement, we have enjoyed a very high standard of living in America for many decades now.
The average middle class worker lives in a comfortable home that would be viewed as extravagant from a historical perspective. The average middle class worker has access to clean running water, electricity, central heating and air conditioning, modern ovens, dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers. The average home is well furnished and contains at least one computer with internet access. Studies have determined that the average American household has 2.28 vehicles.
This snapshot points to a very high standard of living.
I suspect that, in our haste, we have sacrificed quality of life for this standard of living. Quality of life can only be defined by each individual but I would suggest that the term broadly refers to happiness and free time. In our rush to earn more and more dollars and buy more and more stuff we have forgotten about what is truly important.
I personally learned the importance of quality of life shortly after joining the rat race. I lived in a metropolitan area and worked at one of the mega banks downtown. I commuted to work each morning on the city light rail and my total commute time was roughly fifty minutes each way. Every morning I drove to the light rail parking garage, rushed on to the train, and spent the trip trying to drown out the noise pollution around me. Once downtown, we all flocked off of the train and rushed to our corporate buildings. Once at work, I spent nine hours a day in a dingy little cubicle that had an invasive fluorescent light right above it. My particular cubicle was one of many in a cube farm and I did not enjoy one moment of quiet or privacy all day long and I typically did not see the sunlight except for a brief moment here and there on trips to the restroom. After my nine hours in this pseudo-prison, I rushed back to the light rail station with my fellow rat-racers and proceeded to spend the return trip trying to drown out the noise pollution around me. Once back at the parking garage, we all flocked off of the train and rushed back to our cars to attempt to beat the traffic out. Roughly ten and a half hours had come and gone by the time I was finally back at home. I was compensated for exactly eight of those hours.
Needless to say, those days in the rat race wore me down very quickly. While I was able to afford a high standard of living, my quality of life was intolerable to me personally.
Now I am sure that there are many people who thrive in such a fast paced environment and for those people the corresponding quality of life may be acceptable and that is wonderful. But most of my colleagues at the office seemed to share my sentiments and so this article is written with them in mind.
I think that the most important thing for each of us to do individually is to determine what kind of life we would like to have. If you spend your time engaged in activities that are enjoyable and meaningful to you then your quality of life will be high.
We are conditioned to think that our material standard of living will automatically equate to a high quality of life. This is why we are told to get good grades in high school so that we can go to a prestigious university and then secure a high paying job as a doctor or a lawyer or a financier, or whatever it is. This view, however, assumes that a high income translates into a high standard of living which then translates into a high quality of life. But it’s not necessarily so.
At the end of the day, our time is really all that matters. At the end of my short time here on Earth, I imagine that I will look back and not care one bit about how much money I made. I will not care about what kind of car that I drove or how fashionable my clothes were. All that will be important, I imagine, is what I did to add value to myself and those around me. Did I take the time to develop wisdom and spirituality personally? Did I spend enough time with family and friends? Did I do enough to help those in my community or those in need? Was my life meaningful?
I suspect that, in my final moments, I will not care one bit about how high my standard of living was. But I imagine that my quality of life will mean the world to me."

In www.zenconomics.com

Thursday, 18 July 2013

"Change Your Neighborhood, Improve Your Health"

"Does where you live influence your health? Yes, and maybe even more dramatically than you might expect.
When a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offered a program in the 1990s to move families out of poor neighborhoods, it created a unique opportunity not only to improve people’s day-to-day lives, but also to study how a change in environment might impact their health over the long term. Now, more than a decade later, the researchers have found that families who moved to lower-poverty neighborhoods had lower levels of obesity and diabetes than those who stayed behind. What’s more, the improvements in health were as significant as those that typically result from targeted diet and exercise interventions or the use of medications to treat diabetes.
“The results suggest that over the long term, investments in improving neighborhood environments might be an important complement to medical care when it comes to preventing obesity and diabetes,” says study author Jens Ludwig, a professor of public policy at University of Chicago
The HUD program, called Moving to Opportunity (MTO), wasn’t originally focused on tracking people’s health. It was designed to study the effect of the residential milieu on employment, income and education in families with children living in cities with a 40% or greater poverty rate. But Ludwig and his team were curious about how the rise in poverty in the U.S. has also mirrored the increase in obesity and diabetes and wondered, Could neighborhood and social factors influence health outcomes?
The current study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first to conduct a social experiment that allowed the comparison of such outcomes in families — in this case, low-income single mothers and their children living in public housing — who were randomly assigned to live in different economic environments. Families who volunteered to join MTO entered a lottery, which randomly put them in one of three groups: those who received vouchers to move to a less disadvantaged neighborhood (with a poverty rate of less than 10%), those who got vouchers to live wherever they chose, and those who did not receive any vouchers or additional assistance.
Because of the randomized design of the program, scientists knew they could track and correlate changes in living circumstances to later health outcomes like obesity or diabetes. Most of the families — who were from Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York — were followed for an average of 12 years, during which they answered survey questions about their neighborhood, jobs and health.
Among the 4,498 single moms who volunteered for the program, those who were assigned to move to lower-poverty areas were 19% less likely to have a BMI of 40 or higher, the cutoff for morbid obesity, and 22% less likely to have glucose levels typical of diabetes, compared with those who stayed in public housing. “Neighborhood disadvantages contribute to obesity and diabetes,” says Ludwig, while “improving the economic situations [of families] improves their health.”
But what is it about our neighborhoods exactly that affects health? Previous studies have shown that poverty-stricken neighborhoods tend to be food deserts — lacking good sources of nutritious food — that contribute to obesity and ill health in residents. Poor neighborhoods also often don’t have parks, sidewalks or other safe places for physical activity. Lack of access to medical care and inadequate education about the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise certainly play a role as well.
And there’s something else that often gets overlooked: stress. Psychological stress due to financial hardship or chronic anxiety about physical safety can have adverse effects on people’s metabolism, leading to weight gain and conditions like heart disease and diabetes. The participants in the study undoubtedly had high stress — their motivation for enrolling in MTO centered around their desire to provide a safer environment for their families. Ludwig says half of the households reported at the start of the study that at least one family member had been the victim of a crime in the previous month.
Clearly, neighborhoods aren’t the direct or only cause of obesity or diabetes, but the study shows that they may play a previously unappreciated role in one of the biggest health challenges we face today. “We didn’t think of neighborhoods as having a health effect, but it turns out to have an effect in the ballpark of the size that we would see from medical interventions that address diabetes,” says Ludwig. That’s a huge boon for public policy makers, since it gives them another strategy for addressing the growing consequences of the obesity epidemic.
While previous studies have associated poverty and being part of a minority group to an increased risk of obesity and diabetes, the new findings offer stronger evidence to explain the connection. “This study raises the possibility that at least part of the elevated rates of obesity and diabetes among minorities compared to whites might be due to the fact that minorities tend to live in more disadvantaged neighborhoods,” Ludwig says.
And that suggests that when it comes to addressing the health problems of obesity and diabetes, simply improving medical care may not be enough. “People may need more than health care in order to be healthy,” he says."

Read more: http://healthland.time.com

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

"Best Streets in the world"

"Some streets have that special punch! They’re not simply thoroughfares that lead from one place to another, but are attractions in themselves. Here’s a list that evinces instant recognition- ones that you must walk through when you're visiting their cities. Often regarded as a ‘sight to see’ and savour, these streets truly are destinations in their own right. 

Lombard Street, San Francisco
The Crookedest (this is America so not ‘most crooked’) Street in the World is how Lombard Street is better known. Paradise itself for steering wheel acrobats and a new one for collectors of superlative phenomena, this street has a record eight switchbacks. Designed in 1922 so that San Franciscans could negotiate their way past the steep mound of Russian Hill, this crooked cobbled motorway has since become a tourist delight. Helped by the cause that most people want to get beyond it to well-mapped attractions like the Presidio, Telegraph Hill and the Coit Tower and appreciate bird’s eye views of Alcatraz and the deep blue bay, the street is a straightforward fun thing. 

What’s so special about it?
Apart from 8 hairpin turns, plenty. It offers a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay and The Rock. The street is lined with low hedgerows and from spring until fall bright pink and blue hydrangeas are abloom. There are some lovely mansions too in this block, some of which you may recognise from the movies (check out house no. 900 – think Jimmy Stewart’s dwelling in Vertigo).
Bringing a car down is not for everybody, and come summer (the peak of the tourist season) it’s not for anybody. To avoid the huge traffic jams that occur, because of the curves, we suggest that you walk instead. Stairs cut into the side of the hill will lead you straight up or down without diminishing the value of your encounter with that really really wonky street!

Champs Elysees, Paris
Definitely one of the most well known avenues in the world, the Champs Elysees stretches from the imposing Arc de Triomphe all the way down to the sprawling square of Place de la Concorde. This broad avenue is lined with trees and with designer shops and haute couture boutiques as well as brands like Zara and Benetton making it the beat of the swish set as well as the upwardly mobile. Coffee shops spill onto the pavement, bars get filled as evening sets in, as do cinemas and theatres – the Lido is also on this avenue. Nothing beats an afternoon spent sitting on a street side cafe on the Champs Elysees in Paris sipping a cappuccino and watching the world go by. 

What’s so special about it?
The Champs Elysees stand for chic, style and elegance. Luxury store Cartier and Louis Vuitton stand next to popular international brands like Gap, H&M and Sephora, so there is something for everyone. Towards the Place de la Concorde the avenue is shaded by tall green trees, gleaming fountains and flower beds and to the south behind the towering trees stand the Grand and the Petit Palais that house many a museum filled with treasures. 

Victoria and Albert Waterfront, Cape Town
Blessed with great climate and the stunning Table Mountains, Cape Town is South Africa’s premier tourist destination. Jutting into The Pond, surrounded by blue, the Cape is amongst the prettiest coastal cities in the world. The Victoria and Albert Waterfront, or the simply the Waterfront, is one of its greatest attractions. Recently refurbished into a glitzy promenade, the waterfront has it all. Hosting an estimated 20 million visitors annually, it pampers them with its astounding range of activities, entertainment, gourmet food, fast food junk, pubs, bars, general stores, speciality shops, street musicians, cinemas, discotheques, historical buildings and the harbour.

What’s so special about it?
Lots. Whoever’s in charge of developing Cape Town tourism obviously knows how to keep guests entertained. On the waterfront there are 17 cinemas including an IMAX theatre, 260 speciality shops, countless designer clothing boutiques, restaurants with foods from Italy, England (wonder why?!), France and elsewhere in Africa, the huge Two Oceans Aquarium which you can also view from a helicopter, penny ferries to Robben Island where political prisoners including Nelson Mandela were imprisoned. There’s a Crafts Market and at the Red Shed Workshop you can witness the making of these crafts, there are many historic buildings, and there are many groups of free-spirited buskers to keep the music going through the day. Come evening and the waterfront becomes the place where the Cape’s trim and trendy are headed. Don’t miss it when you’re there. 

Chandni Chowk, Delhi
When the Mughal emperor Shahjahan shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi in 1650, he made a magnificent citadel, the Red Fort, to house the court. Lal Qila, as the Red Fort is known, was the administrative hub of Shahjahan’s Delhi, while its commercial centre was Chandni Chowk. Literally `Moonlight Square’ (a name given because of the reflection of the moon in the waters of the canal which ran down the centre), Chandni Chowk was a beautiful stretch of land, tree-lined and busy, the very essence of the exotic East.
Chandni Chowk is today, if anything, busier than ever before- and the very epitome of chaotic, crowded India. Stretching the length between the Red Fort and Lahori Gate (one of the main gates of the Walled City), Chandni Chowk bustles with activity all through the day. From off the main street, narrow lanes- locally called gallis and kuchas- weave their way into the heart of the old city; and tiny squares known as katras, demarcated on the basis of trade, stand alongside the main road. Kuchas and katras, as in the time of the Mughals, are still devoted to a single commodity: Kucha Chowdhury sells cameras and photographic equipment; Ballimaran is the place for spectacles, Dariba Kalan is the street of the jewellers, and Parathewali Gali, besides churning out the most sinful of ghee-laden parathas, has diversified into selling saris too. And that’s not all- flowers, sweets, bridal wear, theatrical costumes and masks, kababs, groceries, spices, paper, virtue- all are sold in Chandni Chowk. 

What’s so special about it? 
Everything. No part of Delhi can perhaps match Chandni Chowk for history, spice and sheer exotica. More than any other corner of the Old City, this stretch of road throbs with reminders of the past- Gurudwara Sheeshganj, where the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed at the orders of Aurangzeb; the Sunehari Masjid, the Town Hall, and Bhagirath Palace- once a palace owned by the famous Begum Samru, now a dilapidated structure devoted to the sale of electrical goods. And history isn’t all of it; there’s poetry here too- in the tiny Gali Qasim Jaan, where the tottering haveli of Mirza Ghalib still stands; there’s food and commerce, religion and trade- and an overwhelming sense of interesting discoveries to be made at every other corner. 

Ginza, Tokyo 
The sprawling district of Ginza is one of Tokyo’s primary attractions. All the things that make Tokyo the city that it is are crowded here in one half a square kilometre area of brassy boutiques, high art, technological centres, cultural clutter, restaurants, coffee houses, office workers on the move and youth with streaks in their hair and the tiniest mobile phones on window shopping missions. 
But one thing that Ginza is and the rest of Tokyo certainly not, is that it is well planned and laid out in neat grids. That happened due to an accident, which paved the way for the occident. A huge fire ravaged this part of town in 1872 and a British architect was handed the responsibility of replacing tinderbox Ginza, a maze of wooden buildings, with something that was a little less likely to go off at the hint of a spark. He made Ginza into a west-west experience; with nary a care for the hot climate and the shortage of space, Ginza came to be a precious oddity, pretty brick houses and wide tree lined boulevards. It was all very pleasant to look at but nobody wanted to inhabit the hot brick contraptions. The government put a real cheap price tag on this piece of real estate and the heat be damned, the lost status as the place of reference for all things chic was eventually restored to Ginza. The origin of the name goes back to the 1600s when Shogun Tokugawa Leyasu minted his first coins – Ginza literally means ‘the place where silver is minted’. The name is still relevant. The district may have lost some of the edge on glamour to newer upstarts but Ginza is still the grand old dame of posh. It’s a snooty area and the fun of going there as a visitor is that you aren’t at all required to make a fit. 

What’s so special about it?
You don’t see remains of turn of the century British suburb architecture anymore since most of it was levelled in the 1930s earthquake. But you do see towering skyscrapers and get lots of a-sight-a-second pleasure. The main shopping drag is Chuo-dori. Ginza corner is dominated by the Wako clock tower; the Wako building is now a department store but was originally a small shop where the line of watches called Seiko or precision were first constructed. Ginza is where you find the Sony building, the Kabuki-za theatre and the post-modern Sana-ai building. Check out the Bridgestone Museum of Art if you have ¥ 700 to spare, catch up on news and views at the World Magazine Gallery. Go gin-bura (Ginza strolling) and get a kick from knowing you’re on the most valuable bit of real estate anywhere in the world, ¥ 9 million per square metre. 

Oudezijds Achterburgwal, RLD, Amsterdam
Come away a little from the Centraal Station on Amsterdam’s main drag Damrak, head east in pursuit of such ecclesiastical treasures as the Oude Kerk (the Old Church) and find yourself slap bang in the middle of the city’s famed red light district. The RLD, as it’s known to those on familiar terms with it, is probably the one site that every visitor to Amsterdam checks out. By day and by night, the wide windows of its large stately mansions feature women and men in various stages of undress. With sundown, neon lights come on inside these windows bathing the streets outside with a deep pink glow. In fact, it’s from this phenomenon that the generic term ‘red light area’ takes its cue. 
The Red Light District, and the main street in it, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, is a symbol for what makes Amsterdam, Amsterdam. It’s liberal attitude towards soft drugs (coffeeshops are places where you buy a packet of dope) and sex have made many think of the city as more “civilised” than any other in the world! 

What’s so special about it?
The best of the RLD is on Oudezijds Achterburgwal: Amsterdam’s Moulin Rouge, Absolute Danny, which is one of the earliest shops to be managed entirely by women, the Casa Rosso and De Bananenbar. Very close to area are the Oude Kerk and the Gothic Nieuwe Kerk, important landmarks in Amsterdam. The place is buzzing night and day with casual sightseers, mellow students, hobos and hippies. No time is closing time in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans
Bourbon Street or Rue Bourbon in the French Quarter of New Orleans is the place to head to if it’s an eclectic collection of bars, pubs, jazz clubs, Cajun Creole restaurants and residences that you seek. Posh hotels share the road with strip parlours, and merry makers from around the world congregate at what is New Orleans’ most famous street.
Named after the great Bourbon rulers, the street was for long a dignified residential area at the heart of the new capital of French America. It was part of the original plan when New Orleans was constructed so that the capital could be shifted from Biloxi in Mississippi to someplace nice in Louisiana. Today, New Orleans is synonymous with jazz, blues, soul and the alternative. And the one-stop destination for capturing all these and more is undoubtedly Bourbon Street.

What’s so special about it?
It buzzes with activity 24 hours of the day, everyday. No visitor to New Orleans gives Bourbon Street a miss because from a nail clipper to a deliciously potent Rusty Nail one can get everything here. The special buzz though, is definitely reserved for the annual New Orleans Mardi Gras parade. The parade does not actually pass though the French Quarter but the shops and pubs here gear up for the big event anyway. And since attitudes towards risqué behaviour are the most relaxed in this part of town, some of the greatest carnival colour finds its stage here. 

The Magnificent Mile, Chicago
In the windy city, the most rewarding walk you can take would be the one down the Magnificent Mile. Located at North Michigan Avenue, just a couple of blocks off Lake Michigan the Magnificent Mile finds a place in the top ten Greatest Avenues of the world, because of its wonderful setting, historic buildings, tree lined avenues and of course the shopping and the wining and dining options. At last count Michigan Avenue’s 2.6 million square feet of retail space had 460 stores, 2 unique museums, 436 restaurants and 22 million visitors every year to gain its place on top ten list. 

What’s so special about it?
Brace yourself to be hit by in your face retail therapy as this is where shopping greats like Gucci, Neiman Marcus, Apple, Lord & Taylor, Brooks Brothers, and Hermes, as well as Bigsby & Kruthers, a renowned local retailer have their outlets. Michigan Avenue is the ultimate shopping experience, tailor-made to your needs. Great restaurants dish up a variety of cuisines here and at the end of the day there really is nothing left to desire in food, fashion, furniture or anything else that money could possibly buy. The best part is the glaring variety offered by it all. You can dine in style at the Signature Room at 95th, the view is excellent by night, especially on days when fireworks go off at the lake piers. Alternatively, for caffeine freaks, Starbucks isn’t hard to find either. 
The downside? Store prices may sometimes reach dangerously high levels, and if you’re looking for a good bargain over a good buy, then for you, this Magnificent Mile will just have to transform itself into the window-shopper’s dream come true."

In, "http://www.journeymart.com"

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Vegetation may cut crime

In a 2001 study in one Chicago public housing development, there were dramatically fewer occurrences of crime against both people and property in apartment buildings surrounded by trees and greenery than in nearby identical apartments that were surrounded by barren land. In fact, compared with buildings that had little or no vegetation, buildings with high levels of greenery had 48 percent fewer property crimes and 56 percent fewer violent crimes. Even modest amounts of greenery were associated with lower crime rates. The greener the surroundings, the fewer the number of crimes that occurred.
Greenery lowers crime through several mechanisms. First, greenery helps people to relax and renew, reducing aggression. Second, green spaces bring people together outdoors, increasing surveillance and discouraging criminals. Relatedly, the green and groomed appearance of an apartment building is a cue to criminals that owners and residents care about a property and watch over it and each other.

For those concerned that green spaces may foster crime and illegal activity, evidence now exists that the opposite may be true.When adjacent to residential areas, green spaces have been shown to create neighborhoods with fewer violent and property crimes and where neighbors tend to support and protect one another. These are the findings of scientists at the Human-Environment Research Laboratory of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studied green space alongside public housing in Chicago. Other researchers who are conducting similar studies across the country are finding similar results.

The factors that explain these findings emphasize the importance of greenery in community and personal wellness.Time spent in natural surroundings relieves mental fatigue, which in turn relieves inattentiveness, irritability, and impulsivity, recognized by psychologists as precursors to violence. Green spaces also support frequent, casual contact among neighbors. This leads to the formation of neighborhood social ties, the building blocks of strong, secure neighborhoods where people tend to support,care about,and protect one another.

In a 2001 study in one Chicago public housing development, there were dramatically fewer occurrences of crime against both people and property in apartment buildings surrounded by trees and greenery than in nearby identical apartments that were surrounded by barren land. In fact, compared with buildings that had little or no vegetation, buildings with high levels of greenery had 48 percent fewer property crimes and 56 percent fewer violent crimes. Even modest amounts of greenery were associated with lower crime rates. The greener the surroundings, the fewer the number of crimes that occurred.
Greenery lowers crime through several mechanisms. First, greenery helps people to relax and renew, reducing aggression. Second, green spaces bring people together outdoors, increasing surveillance and discouraging criminals. Relatedly, the green and groomed appearance of an apartment building is a cue to criminals that owners and residents care about a property and watch over it and each other.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Zurich - a Unique Mixture

"As a “metropolis of experiences” by the water, with a magnificent view of the snow-capped Alps on the horizon, Zürich Downtown Switzerland offers a unique mixture of attractions – over 50 museums and more than 100 art galleries, shopping paradise with international brands, traditional businesses and urban Zürich labels, and the most flamboyant and lively nightlife in Switzerland. Recreational activities range from a visit to the riverside and lakeside bathing areas in the very heart of the city, to a spectacular hike on the Uetliberg mountain. Zürich is like a gourmet menu – its secret lies in the quality of the ingredients.

The city of Zürich lies in the heart of Europe and at the center of Switzerland, on the northern shores of Lake Zürich. Its multicultural flair and the variety of leisure activities on offer attract guests from all over the world to this “region of short routes”. Zürich is quick and easy to reach, whether by train, plane or private vehicle. Its international airport has direct connections with over 150 destinations. Just a 10-minute train ride from the airport and situated right in the city center, Zürich’s Main Railway Station is regarded as a central European railroad hub.

A total of 380,000 people live in this experience, science and business center. Thanks to its top-quality infrastructure set amidst natural surroundings, it is a popular place for study and research.

A typical feature of Zürich is its high concentration of art galleries; along the Rämistrasse “art mile”, the galleries are just a few minutes’ walk apart, while at the site of the former Löwenbräu brewery they even stand side by side. In addition to renowned art galleries, the world-famous auction houses, Christie's and Sotheby's, have branches in Zürich, which is considered to be one of the world's major art trade centers.
The city alone is home to over 50 museums, some 14 of which are devoted to art. The museum of fine arts, the Kunsthaus Zürich, boasts a significant collection of paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos. In addition, it has an extensive collection of works by Alberto Giacometti. Another highlight is the Rietberg Museum, one of the leading centers of non-European art in the world. Just a stone's throw from Zürich's main station, the Swiss National Museum – housed in an over 100 year old building reminiscent of a fairytale castle – contains the country's most comprehensive collection of exhibits relating to Swiss cultural history.

The people of Zürich call shopping for pleasure “Lädelen” or “looking around the shops” – and there are almost no limits to this in Zürich. Every quarter of the town has it own individuality in shopping terms. The world famous Bahnhofstrasse in Zürich has made a major contribution to Zürich’s reputation as a shopping paradise. It is the first port of call for lovers of luxury: watches and jewellery glint not only in the windows of Beyer, Bucherer, or Türler; top class fashion and accessories may also be found at Bally, Bongénie Grieder, or Feldpausch; top international brands can be found everywhere, and even the department stores Jelmoli or Globus may surprise you.

Zürich boasts the highest density of clubs in Switzerland – here, you can never turn up too late. From a house music party in the legendary Kaufleuten to Greatest Hits from the Eighties at the oldest club in the city, the Mascotte, to a gay event at the Labor Bar – parties really get going after 11.00 pm and continue into the wee hours of the morning. Here, there are no official closing times. In summer, nightlife can be found not only in the clubs, but also outside in the open air; the venues where visitors bathe and relax during the day are ideal places to flirt and dance at night.

In summer, the banks of Zürich’s rivers and lake are buzzing with activity. Here, everyone from street artists to party-goers to business executives can be found enjoying the sun. With no fewer than 40 swimming facilities – 18 of them outside in the open air, including on the lake and by the river – Zürich has the highest density of public bathing areas in the world. In recent years, these venues have developed into veritable leisure centers. During the day, guests relax in, on or by the water, while after dusk, the waterside areas are transformed into bars and lounges offering a varied cultural program, with events ranging from readings to theater, sport and poetry slams through to concerts. These venues are regarded as the ultimate meeting place on a mild summer evening.

In Zürich, you can get to the woods within just 10 minutes from any point in the city. Barbecue areas, educational trails and hiking paths delight nature lovers by guiding them past lakes and rivers, through woods and meadows, up hill and down dale. Lake Zürich, which extends right into the city itself, invites visitors to enjoy boat trips lasting between one and seven hours. Depending on the route, the boats cruise leisurely past romantic villages as far as the charming harbor town of Rapperswil. The Chinese Garden, situated in the Zürichhorn park, was presented to Zürich by the city of Kunming and is one of the most important gardens of its kind outside China. This gift was a token of thanks to Zürich for its assistance in developing Kunming’s drinking water supply.

The melodious tones of Advent concerts intermingle with the scent of the many delicious items on sale at Zürich's Christmas markets. The Advent period only lasts a short time, which means that the calendar of events is all the more tightly packed. Highlights range from the traditional Christmas market in a picturesque Old Town setting to the largest indoor Christmas market in Europe, held at Zürich's Main Railway Station. Or from Christmas concerts and theater to the Live on Ice ice-skating rink. Furthermore, at Switzerland’s largest New Year’s Eve party, visitors and locals alike welcome the New Year in style with a spectacular fireworks display organized by Zürich's hoteliers."

in www.zuerich.com

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Quality of life in Singapore


Quality of life is often used as a shorthand for measuring how good one feels about one’s life. There are formal procedures for calculating this measure that includes factors such as economic, social, physical, political and spiritual well-being. Singapore may be the smallest country in Southeast Asia but it has emerged as one of the best places to live in Asia with a very high quality of life measurement.

Singapore is known for its materialistic culture. People in this nation push themselves in pursuit of the 5C’s – cash, car, condo, credit card and country club. There is constant pressure to excel even at a very young age and this places a lot of stress on the society. Despite this stress, Singapore emerged as the ‘Happiest country in Asia’ in a study reported by ABC News. 95% of Singapore residents appreciate the clean, safe and efficient society. The study also showed that in Singapore, family is the most important unit and despite materialistic goals, the family and community always takes precedence. This is turn helps build a content and happy society.

Singapore is known for its stable political climate. Despite being considered centralized and authoritarian, the political culture is pragmatic, rational and based on the rule of law. The highest goal of the government is the survival and prosperity of this small nation. This often means, having to make unpopular but hard and wise decisions in the interest of the nation. The government believes in being pro-active and thinking for the future. 

According to Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore has been able to attract some 9000 multi-national companies, because it offers First World conditions in a Third World region. Good governance is having a good system that will ensure the country survives, so that citizens have secure lives. In 2012, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy ranked Singapore #1 for having the best bureaucracy in Asia. The World Economic Forum’s ‘2011 – 2012 Global Competitiveness Report’ also reaffirms that Singapore has the highest public trust of politicians and the least burden of government regulation. According to corruption watch-dog Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index’, Singapore is perceived to be the least corrupt nation in the world.

Singapore boasts of a competitive, corruption-free, open business environment. The Port of Singapore is one of the busiest in the world as the country focuses on electronics and chemical exports to richer industrialised nations. However, over the years, Singapore has diversified its economy and today it has become a research & development hub, bio-medical hub, banking and finance center and in recent times the health-care destination of Asia. Today, Singapore is a knowledge-based economy and attracts multinational investments. Its open trade policies, social stability, world-class infrastructure and international communication links, are some of the reasons why foreign investors flock its shores. This is despite the fact that land and labour costs have risen sharply and employers have to pay a sizable portion of their employees’ salary to their Central Provident Fund.

Singapore is the second most competitive economy in the world according to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Index of Economic Freedom’ Singapore is the second freest economy in the world. The country is also known for its low tax regime. In Singapore, personal income tax rates start from 0% and are capped at 20% for residents while non-residents are taxed at a flat rate of 15%. The corporate income tax rate in Singapore is approximately 8.5% for profits up to S$300,000 and a flat 17% above S$300,000. The GST or VAT rate is only 7%. Furthermore, there is no dividend tax, no estate duty, and no capital gains tax.

Singapore’s social and ethnic fabric is a unique blend of cultures and people – Malays, Chinese, Indians and expats from various countries. Singapore’s lifestyle is multi-cultural with each of these ethnic communities maintaining their unique way of life and at the same time living harmoniously. Singapore’s society is cosmopolitan due to the influx of foreigners in recent times. Along with it comes an openness towards people and respect for all. People are amiable and courteous to each other. High emphasis is placed on communal and racial harmony. Singaporeans are honest, highly disciplined and extremely hard-working. There is respect for seniority, authority and social norms. While individualism is prominent, Singapore is a society that honours collectivism. Racism is taken seriously in the country. The Singapore government has laid down five basic ‘Shared Vales’ to develop a distinct Singapore identity – nation before community and society above self; family as the basic unit of society; community support and respect for the individual; consensus not conflict; racial and religious harmony.

Singapore is also known for its strict law enforcement procedures, for combating crime and other offences. While popular opinion holds that the country is extremely rigid and rule-bound – with heavy fines and caning as punishments – the legal framework has contributed to Singapore’s stability and security. Women can move about freely even late at night, without the fear of being harassed. There has been no instance of mass shooting, serial killing, terrorist bomb attacks or civil unrest. Expatriates continue to cite safety as one of the most attractive features of living in Singapore. 

Singapore’s population enjoys one of the highest levels of health and nutrition in Asia. The country is also renowned for its world-class health infrastructure, technological advancements in the health-care industry, expert doctors and specialists. The health-care environment is clean, efficient and safe.

Since Singapore is a knowledge based economy, great emphasis is placed on education. The education system arms individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to survive in a globally competitive environment. Singapore’s public schools have high standards of teaching and learning, with many of its students winning International competitions.

There are several reasons for Singapore’s success in education. An updated syllabus relevant to the changing times, a highly competitive environment, streaming students according to academic ability, a system based on meritocracy and esteemed teachers are some of the factors behind its success story. Most educational institutions provide scholarships and financial assistance to students from lower income households."

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Living Street

A Living Street, as described in wikipedia, " is a street designed primarily with the interests of pedestrians and cyclists in mind and as a social space where people can meet and where children may also be able to play legally and safely". 

There's a new trend around the globe trying to make cities more "pedestrian friendlly". In England, "Living Streets" is working since 1929 to make streets safe, attractive and enjoyable. It defends that on streets where we want to walk in, people are healthier, happier and more sociable.

It follows a strategy focused on people-friendly public spaces. Streets not just designed as traffic corridors, making sure that public places are high quality, clean, safe and attractive. Ensure that walking is the natural choice for short journeys, inspires people to walk more.

Today the approach is focused on two broad areas : slower traffic speed and measures to improve safety for pedestrians; inspire people to walk as part of their working day, and, improve the quality of the walking environment.

The "Living Streets Alliance" has as mission "to promote healthy communities by empowering people to transform our streets into vibrant places for walking, bicycling, socializing, and play."

"The Living Streets Alliance seeks to inspire urban improvements for walking, cycling,  public transit, and healthy community and neighborhood life through outreach, education, and advocacy pertaining to alternative modes of transportation and basic improvements to the physical condition and design of roadways and the public right of way."

This month a book was released, about making better streets and better places. It is free to download at http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/councils-must-acknowledge-community-voice-says-living-streets .