Category Archives: Europe

This ain't Disneyland

It’s more a WTFland: a Soviet bunker in Lithuania that has been reopened as a tourist attraction.

As Environmental Graffiti notes:

Tourists pay 120 LTL (€34.75) each to step back into 1984 as a temporary USSR citizen for 2.5 hours. On entry, all belongings, including money, cameras and phones, are handed over and under the watchful eye of guards and alsatians, tourists change into threadbare Soviet coats and are herded through the bunker.

Experiences include watching TV programs from 1984, wearing gas masks, learning the Soviet anthem under duress, eating typical Soviet food (with genuine Soviet tableware) and even undergoing a concentration-camp-style interrogation and medical check.

Most of the ‘actors’ are ex-Soviet soldiers, although the bunker is designed for school groups so it’s not as bad as it could be. But still, would you pay for the experience?

None to carry Iceman's torch

I meant to do more substantial blogging stuff this weekend but life had other plans. This is interesting though, if a little sad:

Gene scientists delving into the 5,300-year-old remains of Oetzi the Iceman, the mysterious mummified man found high in the Alps, say he most likely has no modern-day relatives.

Italian and British experts looked into the mitochondrial DNA — genetic material handed on down the maternal line — teased from Oetzi’s body at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is very stable, changing only gradually as it is handed down the generations, which means it is an excellent yardstick for genealogy.

Oetzi’s mtDNA belonged to a broad genetic category called K1, which is still common in Europe today, the investigators reported on Thursday.

However, modern Europeans today belong to three sub-lineages of K1, whereas Oetzi’s sub-lineage has most probably petered out.

Links o' the day, 23/10/2008

The journey so far… in numbers (Kathy Foley)

My Saks spree: How to spend $150,000 like Palin (Slate, chosen more for its oddness than me having an interesting in such shopping :P)

Is this the most eco-friendly car innovation since the hybrid? (Treehugger)

Leukemia drug halts, reverses MS (AFP)

New car targets 1,000mph record (Sky)

In Jordan, prayers for the persecuted (The National)

Fake cop busted after stopping real one (AP)

The return of micro-states? (Catholicgauze)

Dolls and toys that creep us out (Dark Roasted Blend)

X-rays made from Scotch tape (Boing Boing)

Links o' the day, 21/10/2008

The program for a supermajority. (Crooked Timber)

Ctrl-Alt-Del. (Robert Cringley)

Florida woman goes to jail over $7.45 bill. (AP)

Inconsistency irks with letter of the law. (Football365)

Reviving the fine art of cafe culture. (The Irish Times)

European economic weather map. (

Group says US used Ethiopia for dirty work. (The National)

And special mention for behind-the-times headline of the day:

Greens, greens, they’re good for your heart: study (AFP)

Diets worldwide that are rich in fried and salty foods increase heart attack risk, while eating lots of fruit, leafy greens and other vegetables reduces that risk, a groundbreaking study showed.

(The study was groundbreaking because it included developing countries, but this information is buried in the story.)

Passports for phones

Cory Doctrow doesn’t seem too impressed with Britain’s plan to require passports for the purchase of mobile phones; the move is aimed primarily at prepaid/pay-as-you-go phones. His objections are understandable enough, given the implications for civil liberties. As The Times reports:

The pay-as-you-go phones are popular with criminals and terrorists because their anonymity shields their activities from the authorities. But they are also used by thousands of law-abiding citizens who wish to communicate in private.

The move aims to close a loophole in plans being drawn up by GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, to create a huge database to monitor and store the internet browsing habits, e-mail and telephone records of everyone in Britain.

The “Big Brother” database would have limited value to police and MI5 if it did not store details of the ownership of more than half the mobile phones in the country.

I understand the concerns, I really do. However, I had to provide a copy of my passport when I went to buy a mobile in the UAE (and had to provide a copy or the original document for just about anything) and didn’t find it a big deal. I’m certainly someone who enjoys his privacy, so I guess I was just rolling with it. That said I’m fairly sure the UAE didn’t keep my details for use by the intelligence services.