The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 7: The granite goliath.

Welcome back folks!…

#7 on my lists is a mountain. And it happens to be in China. ‘Fair enough’, I hear you say ).

But… it’s the only mountain on this list. Some of you will say ‘fair enough’ to that, too. But I’m certain many others won’t. For I know there a mountain fans who will insist there MUST be more, since there are so many OMG mountains with OMG walks thereon and OMG views therefrom. So, before I get to this entry, first, a bit of an explanation as to why there’s just one mountain!…

First, there are a great many volcanoes in the world, yet in this unashamedly elitist list, there’s just one volcano. Sure, it happens to be the ‘king’ of the list (it’s the king of the volcanoes too), but still: just one. And that’s it: I’ve mentioned before the clearly objective fact (!) that volcanoes are superior to mere mountains in terms of aesthetics; so why would there be more mountains in this list than volcanoes?

Second: when it comes to mountains, to reach the mind-blowing views that they can offer (incidentally, enhanced by the euphoria you get when the effects of altitude sickness start to take hold), you need to climb, and climb, and climb, and climb significant distances – normally up steep slopes. Now, my list is populated exclusively with objects that can be visited by practically any adult with a bare minimum of physical fitness. For example, a 10-15km trek across easy (not too steep) terrain, like walks to and around Krenitsyn volcano or Englichek Glacier.

Yes, besides physical preparedness, there’s also the fact that some objects require a not insignificant budget to get to, which might push them off-limits to some. However, the financial side of things is beyond the scope of discussion re my top-12.

Third, the other contenders for the only mountain to be featured on my list also happen to be in China. There are simply that many oh-my-grandiose mountains in this huge country. So I decided the single mountain simply had to be a Chinese one and not a mountain in any other country. Ok, I think I’m exhausting this caveat-proviso build-up, if not losing the thread completely. Enough! And the single mountain is…

No. 7. Mount Hua, China.

A humungous hulk of granite with practically vertical walls more than two kilometers high. The views of the mountain itself and from the mountainside are out-of-this-world. There’s no other way to describe it:

Read on…

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 6: The grandest canyon.

Next up on my Top-12 – still stateside, and in fact just 500 kilometers away from Entry No. 5 (Delicate Arch in Utah) – we have Entry No. 6:

Grand Canyon, Arizona, U.S.A.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Grand Canyon isn’t the world’s largest – neither in terms of width, depth or length. But in terms of it’s meditative-ruminative-reflective & zoning-outative suitability – it beats the rest by a long way, at least those I’ve seen personally or seen photos of on the net.

Read on…

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How to quit smoking – my proven method!

Hi folks!

May 31. Mean much to you? It didn’t to me – as I never ‘needed’ outside help with… quitting smoking! But I’ll get to that in a bit… However, I did look up a ‘no smoking day’ or some such just recently – to see if it coincided with my sudden urge to tell you about my own method for how to quit smoking (which works by the way – at least, it did for me). And it does coincide – almost: World No Tobacco Day is coming up in a couple of weeks – on May 31. So, in the timely spirit of a general anti-smoking drive this sunny month of May, herewith, I give you, ladies and gents, boys and girls,How to Quit Smoking – the Kaspersky Red-Button Method’!

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit this, but I was a heavy smoker for something like 35 years! I knew early on it wasn’t a healthy habit, and that I really should quit, but somehow I never got round to it: there was always something more urgent to be stressing about! I just wasn’t ready for the serious preparation needed – both psychological and moral.

Yep, the whole ‘getting psyched’ for the big event kept putting me off the idea of quitting. Even a book entitled something like ‘The Easy Way to Quit Smoking’ didn’t work: flicking through it one day I came to a page by chance, which gave calculations of how much money I’d save if I quit. Nope, not for me: book quickly closed, and it’s been on the bookshelf since.

I did it differently. And here’s how…

Read on…

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There are museums above the Arctic Circle too: who knew?!

Still up above the Arctic Circle, after our excursion of the phostpates mine, it was back to the town of Kirovsk. It’s not only a mining center, it’s a skiing one too. I really hoped we could get a half-day of downhill skiing in, but it wasn’t to be; as often is the case – ‘we’ll have to do that next time’. The ‘cultural program’ this time was somewhat more modest: a visit to the town’s museum! It’s rather small, but all the same there’s plenty to see.

In room 5 there’s a collection of mineral stones – around a thousand of them! Wonderful! It reminded me of my once uttering ‘Mom, I want to be a geologist!’

Oh my geology! So many! All different somehow – in terms of chemical make-up, color, shape. Odd names too – many I’d never heard of:

Read on…

Remote working – even miners do it.

Hi folks!

I’d heard a lot about modern mining equipment that works autonomously, i.e., without a miner nearby controlling it. Well now I’ve seen it in action too – the other day, when I paid a visit to Phosagro in the Khibiny Mountains on the Kola Peninsula – inside the Arctic Circle! – in the northwest corner of Russia, not far from the Finnish border.

Here’s a robo-miner drilling into rock, all on its lonesome:

Whereas today’s ‘miners’ sit in a brightly-lit, air-conditioned office operating joysticks occasionally and checking the progress of the robots on a bank of screens:

Read on…

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 5: Red rocks rock.

If it’s possible to be able to choose one’s kings and queens among volcanoes, bodies of water, and bodies of iced water, to be able to do the same for the world’s mountains-and-rocks elite is much more difficult. First – there’s just so much rockinesses around the world. Second – there are so many different kinds of it. Therefore, I’ll list them according to geography. And first up is…

No. 5 – Delicate Arch, Utah, U.S.A.

A profoundly fantastical construction.

Now, if you believe the theories put forward as to how other, similar natural arches and rocky formations were formed – including by wind, erosion, the occasional earthquake, and many millennia – all well and good. But how can you rely on such theories for this masterpiece sculpture? No. Can’t be. Clearly this is the work of aliens, or possibly a clever ancient civilization from around the time of the dinosaurs, which decided to bury something big and round, and billions of year later – we get this delicate fossilized construction:

Read on…

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 4: The glacier you’ve never heard of.

Oh my glacier. The ‘big ice’ theme appears in various places around the world today, from Alaska, via Greenland, to New Zealand. Alas, glaciers are fast melting, but there’s still a long way to go before they do so completely. Meanwhile ,the Antarctic ice sheet continues to feel nice and cozy underneath the polar vortex, and is thus the most significant ice zone on the planet. But none of these big icynesses can compare to a not-too-well-known glacier in Kyrgyzstan (who knew?!). I’m referring to Engilchek (aka Enilchek, or Inylchek). And it’s landed on the No. 4 spot in my Top-12 (after Nos. 1 and 2&3).

No. 4 – Engilchek Glacier, Kyrgyzstan.

It too is melting at speed, but today you can still walk atop it for a full 50-60 kilometers, taking in the grooved-out streams that run across it in the most unusual of directions. This ‘water’, too – like fire and folks working – can be looked at forever:

Read on…

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. Nos. 2–3: the queens of water.

An old nugget of wisdom states that ‘one can look forever at three things: fire, water, and other people working’. We had ~fire yesterday, with volcanoes that occasionally breathe fire. So logically, today, it’s water’s turn…

No. 2: Victoria Falls, on the ZambiaZimbabwe border.

Aka Mosi-oa-Tunya, these are the most wonderful waterfalls in the world; also the largest by area of falling water. Length – 1.8km; height – over 100m. A spectacle you can stare at forever, just like in the wise old saying ).

The falls are even better when there are rainbows:

You can stroll up and down the full length of the falls; in some places you can walk up right to the edge of the cliffs.

Viewing the falls from both sides of the border is highly recommended, which takes up a full day as crossing the Zambia–Zimbabwe border takes some time. The day after, if one’s purse permits it – getting an aerial view from up in a helicopter can’t be beat:

Insider tip! If you do go for a helicopter flight, make sure to arrange it in Zambia. In Zimbabwe the choppers fly real high, with no acrobatics. In Zambia – just the opposite: super low and in Star Wars mode!

Apparently you can swim in the river up top real close to the edge of the cliff the water falls from! You’re attached to a safety rope, just in case, but still. Or if that doesn’t float your boat you can… float in a boat on same river up top near the edge. Alas, though I’ve visited the falls twice already, we never got round to this clearly mandatory undertaking. As I often say: next time.

Another important thing: choosing the right season to visit. The best time of all is in the dry season, when the water level isn’t so high – this is around fall and winter. In spring and summer – rain season – the Zambezi is too high and fast-moving, meaning you might not be able to see much at all of the waterfalls for all the spray/mist in the air:

In wet season you need to walk off to the sides to catch a proper glimpse:

So what about runner-up waterfalls? There are two worthy of mention – the Niagara Falls and the Iguazu Falls: both similarly fabulous falls, but not quite as large and magnificent as Victoria. Remarkably, I’ve never been up close to the former. As to the latter – I’ve been a full three times, and viewed them from probably every single angle possible, and at different times of the year:

I have seen the Niagara Falls from a plane. I’ve even been near them (on the ground) before, but for some completely unacceptable reason we didn’t drive over to this completely must-see natural phenomenon. The photos I’ve found on the internet though do testify to their being significantly smaller in scale and grandiosity than Victoria Falls.

If you do ever make it to Iguazu, don’t miss its unique attraction: going on a motor boat behind the waterfalls. No, really! The world’s most invigorating shower you could ever wish to take :) ->

Continuing the water theme, here’s water of an altogether different kind: not wild and white, but calm and… turquoise…

No. 3: Bora Bora, French Polynesia, South Pacific Ocean.

If ever there were an instruction manual on ‘How to Create Paradise’ for the gods or whatever else creates life in the universe, photos of this place would run the whole way through it. Anomalously beautiful atolls with volcanic cliffs in the center, surrounded by ’50 Shades of Blue’:

Pristine ocean, exotic marine life, perhaps the most ideal climate possible (tropical but temperate), friendly locals. Like I say: paradise.

Come on, corona, hurry up, darn it, and be off with you – for good. Then we can have the world open up again and get back to places such as Bora Bora. Ooh. Can’t wait…

Turquoise water runner-up? Exuma in the Bahamas. I’ll let the photos do the talking. But be careful – you might be blinded by their brightness! Another 50 Shades of Blue, but not of a volcanic kind – it’s a long archipelago surrounded by sandbanks:

Another runner-up: the limestone terraces of Huanglong in China. A bit like Turkey’s Pamukkale, but painted bright turquoise, and much larger in scale:

And not far from Huanglong is the Jiuzhaigou nature reserve and national park. Cascades of lakes and waterfalls, crystal clear – yet somehow turquoise! – water in lakes, and a freakish forest of horizontally growing trees under that same crazy-colored water, and all that set in the most picturesque of mountainous landscapes:

And that completes this H2O-themed portion of my Top-12 Ultimate Natural Beauties of the World. Next theme – also H2O, but of a very different kind: ice!…

The 12 most beautiful places in the world. No. 1: the king of the volcanoes.

Hi folks!

Things do seem to be getting better generally around the world on the covid front (with exceptions), but there’s still plenty of lockdown and quarantine and travel restrictions – so much so I’m still pretty much grounded: none of my usual globetrotting (be it work or non-work-related) to new, interesting, far-flung places, and my blogpost-reports thereon a short while after. But never mind: I’m sure things will be back up and running shortly. And in the meantime?…

In the meantime: archive digging – into some of the most beautiful places on the planet I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, most of which feature on my Top-100 List of Must-See Places on the Planet.

But how do I whittle that 100-strong list down to a mere dozen of the very best, most must-see, totally OMG places? Actually, it’s rather simple.

It’s all about… time: how much time you spend at a place, how much time you’d want to spend there ideally, and how many times you’d want to go back there for more.

Even among the ‘elite members’ of the best places on earth, there are some many you don’t spend a great deal of time at – nor would you want to. You arrive, you are bowled over, you stroll around the place for an hour or two, you purchase the proverbial (or real) t-shirt, you place the proverbial (or real) check on your list of ‘beens’, and that’s it: all done in no time at all, and you’ll never go back, because – why would you?

But then there are the places – in particular, the views – you just want to get back to, sometimes over and over, and once you are there you want to stay there, gawping, forever. The paysages that hypnotize, take the breath away, blow the mind; and sometimes there’s a bonus: those paysages change over time. And it is these ever-so-special places that make up this mini-series on the best of the best of the best places on the planet…

So I’ve shaved and sheared and pruned my Top-100 and been left with some 20 best-evers: the world’s most magical mountains and volcanoes, the most delightful deserts, the most wonderful waterfalls, and so on in that vein. Yes, and by ‘that vein’ I mean: natural wonders of the world – nothing man-made (maybe a Top-20 of those comes later?!).

And I won’t be ordering the 20 by snaking round the planet as I’ve done in the past. The ordering this time will be a little different. And I’ll start off with nothing less than… the most fabulous, most fantastic, most grandiose natural object on the planet!

Of course, it’s the most fabulous, most fantastic, most grandiose object on the planet – in my opinion, for there can be never be full objectivity here. All the same, it is the most beautiful natural landscape I have beheld personally in my life ever. And here it is…

Krenitsyn volcano, Onekotan, Kuril Islands, Russia.

A monumental spectacle. A ‘live’ picture constantly changed by the unbelievably unstable weather conditions of the Kurils. A colossal volcanic caldera with a lake inside it, out of which rises the cone of a new volcano:

Read on…

The year that was 2020 – and the money side of things.

Hi folks!

It’s been a little over a year since this darn biological contagion swept the world and hit businesses hard – especially small and medium-sized businesses. Almost immediately it was clear some companies weren’t going to fare well. But I also wondered how the cybercriminals would behave. And what would happen to our company during this potentially long period of quarantine?

On the whole of course it was obvious that cybercrime wouldn’t suffer that much. The bad guys carried on ‘working from home’ as usual. Nothing much changed for them, apart from potential victims spending more time online due to quarantine measures and lockdowns. And, of course, the internet didn’t lose any bandwidth because of this biological virus.

But what about our business, which takes the fight to those very same cybercriminals?

A year ago, I expressed my belief that our company would be affected by two vectors: one negative and one positive. On the one hand, some of our customers would face difficulties, and some, alas, would go bankrupt. We’ll obviously lose those revenues. But on the other hand, there would be companies that started investing more resources in cybersecurity because their employees were working remotely and the cybercriminal world would most likely become more active. How we’d manage these two vectors would directly determine our own results.

So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I’m pleased to tell you that we’ve just announced our financial results for the past year. ‘Why in April?’ you may ask. Because we wanted to do a financial audit first.

And so…*drum roll*…

It’s time to tally the numbers and sum up the results of the past year. We even held a press conference to mark the occasion, informing journalists of our financial achievements.

Despite the now notorious bio-virus pandemic, the global economic crisis, and all kinds of geopolitical instability and uncertainties, our results weren’t only not bad, but were actually very good! After a year of covid, we not only survived but also grew! And that was despite an almost complete relocation of our K-folks from the office to remote working with all the associated costs and restructuring, mass provision of our products to the needy, and all sorts of other various unforeseen things.

All righty. I’ll start off with the biggie: the company’s global revenue for 2020 reached $704 million – an increase of 2.8% on 2019.

Read on…