Giants closer Will Smith is a ‘flawless’ All-Star

first_imgSAN FRANCISCO — There are many ways the Giants have described Will Smith’s dominance this season, but the highest compliment he’s received is also the one that most accurately summarizes his performance.As the Giants’ closer this year, Smith has been flawless.“He’s been a joy,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “When we put him in that role last year, he did a really nice job. He’s even done a better job this year. He’s been flawless.”After earning his 23rd save in 23 chances in Sunday’s 1-0 victory …last_img read more

Backsberg’s ‘green’ wine

first_imgThe first step in Backsberg’s green wineinitiative was a carbon audit, whichassessed the amount of CO2 producedfrom all winery activities, from vineyardto bottle. Michael Back, proprietor of BacksbergWine Cellars and environment nut. Vineyard planting systems have beenadapted to reduce the number of woodenpoles needed. A selection of carbon-neutral Backsbergwines.(Images: Backsberg)Susan de BruinRed or white wine? At South Africa’s Backsberg Wine Cellars there’s another choice: green. That’s because Backsberg has become one of only five wine producers in the world making carbon-neutral wines.Carbon neutrality means all the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere in the wine-making process is balanced by planting trees to absorb the equivalent amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. The other four carbon-neutral estates are Grove Mill Winery in New Zealand, Parducci Winery in California, ConoSur in Chile and Elderton Wines in Australia.Backsberg, which lies between Paarl and Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, is owned by Michael Back. Known as something of an “environment nut” on the estate, Back began his green wine initiative in 2004.“Care for the environment means care and concern for succeeding generations,” he says. “As custodians of the land, it is our duty to understand and recognise potential threats, and to mitigate against them for the benefit of the next generation.”The first step was a carbon audit, to assess the amount of CO2 produced from all winery activities, from vineyard to bottle – its “carbon footprint”.A carbon technician measured everything from electricity and fuel consumption to grape fermentation and transport of wine bottles to local and international destinations. Each activity was then calculated to produce a specific amount of CO2. The entire process followed the strict guidelines set out by the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emission.From the audit results, the carbon technician calculated the number of trees that should be planted every year to absorb the same amount of CO2 Backsberg produced in that year. This is known as “offsetting”.Backsberg then enlisted the help of South African non-profit organisation Food and Trees for Africa (FTFA). In 2006 FTFA was honoured with the Chevron Conservation Award in California for improving the quality of life for disadvantaged South Africans by planting 2.5-million trees.FTFA and the estate began a village greening programme in nearby Klapmust, an impoverished village that is home to the surrounding wine farms’ seasonal workers. The Klapmust community took the more than 900 trees on a voluntary basis, trees the estate continually monitors to ensure they remain alive and continue to keep Backsberg’s carbon offset in balance. On the estate itself, 3 442 additional trees have been planted over the last 10 years.All these trees finally won Backsberg classification as a Carbon Neutral Estate in 2006, with the right to display the “Carbon Neutral Approved” logo on its bottles. To keep its classification, Backsberg is required to submit a carbon audit every year.Package of green ideasBut Back wanted to do more than simply get a logo on his bottles. A committed environmentalist, he was determined to reduce the estate’s carbon footprint as much as possible. The estate now employs a fulltime environmental consultant to look at all aspects of the business and assess how they could be done in a more environment-friendly way.The estate now has a package of creative green ideas. All farm vehicles and tractors are run on biofuels made from recycled vegetable oil, and the large fuel-guzzling tractors have been traded for smaller ones. The estate now generates its own energy from solar power, and is looking at wind power. Energy demand has been reduced by implementing timers, low-energy bulbs and skylights.The old hot-water “donkey” system, last used over a half a century ago, has been reintroduced, using waste wood to heat the water for washing barrels. Vineyard planting systems have been adapted to reduce the number of wooden poles needed.Back has also reserved 10% of the estate for conservation of the natural habitat, some 40 hectares of Swartland alluvium fynbos. This delicate fynbos environment, one of only a few left in the area, will never be cultivated, even though it might hold soils suitable for more vines.Good economic senseBacksberg remains the only carbon-neutral wine producer in South Africa. But according to John Spiers, chief executive of the estate, other South African winemakers are increasingly interested in environment-friendly production. He said Backsberg’s green initiatives were fairly inexpensive, and will save money in the long term. “It makes good economic sense if you look at where the fuel and energy prices are going,” he says.More than this, Backsberg exports 35% to 40% of its wine to the US, UK and Europe. Recent market feedback from Wines of South Africa (Wosa), which markets South African wine internationally, indicated that the British, American and especially the German markets seek environmentally responsible products. “These three destinations want products that are not only linked to social issues, but also environmentally responsible,” says Andre Morgenthal, Wosa communications manager.Spiers believes it is still early days for the carbon neutral logo to play a deciding role in the minds of the international consumer. But he adds: “In future it will become very important, and then we will definitely benefit from it.”Useful linksBacksberg Wine CellarsFood and Trees for AfricaWines of South Africalast_img read more

Asia’s new hot spot: Macau

first_imgThe Las Vegas of the East is where you can also explore heritage sites, picturesque villages and intriguing museums.Day 1: Begin your holiday in this glitzy city, better known as Las Vegas of the East, by checking into the centrally located Sofitel Macau (Rua do Visconde Paco de Arcos; Senado Square, which is a shopper’s haven, is a 10-minute walk from here. You’ll go past fountains, designer stores and kiosks that sell everything from souvenirs to trendy accessories. After spending a couple of hours here, have lunch at one of the restaurants and then head to the Ruins of St Paul’s, a 15-minute walk away. See what remains of a 16th-century college and cathedral that were destroyed in a fire. Macau is a fascinating place to just walk around as it’s packed with churches, temples, and of course casinos, that come alive when the sun goes down. Have dinner at O Porto Interior restaurant (tel: +853 2896 7770) located at the Inner Harbour and indulge in Macanese dishes like codfish cakes, stuffed crab and egg tarts. Before calling it a day, try your hand at gambling at Casino Lisboa, one of the most popular and oldest casinos in Macau.Day 2: The Macau Tower, 1,109 ft high, the ubiquitous landmark of the city, is next in line. Go up to the observation desk and see this glamorous city spread out below your feet. Standing on the glass floor is quite an experience. Those who want to do something adventurous can try bungee jumping or sky walking, but if this isn’t your cup of tea, browse around the shops or catch a flick at the cinema. For lunch, tuck into Portuguese chicken and prawns at Restaurante Litoral (, about 10 mintues away from the Macau Tower. Make your way to the Grand Prix Museum (tel: + 853 8798 4180). You can find out about the history of this race and spot a number of cars that were used over the years. Up next is the Wine Museum (tel: +853 8798 4188), with a fascinating display of different varieties of wine. Sample a few of them before choosing which one to pick up. Have dinner at Rossio (, the Portuguese restaurant at MGM Grand Hotel and then walk into the casino, where you can gamble till wee hours of the morning. Day 3: Today is your date with Coloane Island, about 30 minutes away from the hotel. The picturesque Coloane Village here is quiet and surrounded with pastel coloured houses, perfect for a walk. After lunch at Lord Stow’s Bakery (, which is famous for its egg tarts, make your way to Hac Sa beach, just five minutes away. Spend the rest of the day at this four-km long beach, which is ideal for swimming and water sports.Day 4: Check out of your hotel, head to Cotai Strip and book yourself into a suite at The Venetian ( Cotai Strip, where most of the plush hotels and entertainment centres are located, is similar to The Strip in Las Vegas. No prizes for guessing that this resort takes inspiration from the Italian city, Venice, and even has a canal where you can go for a gondola ride. The Venetian is a destination in itself and you can easily spend the day shopping, at the spa, and of course gambling. Keep the evening for the Zaia, billed as one of the most spectacular shows in Asia. In these 90-minutes, you’ll witness acrobats and other lovely performances at a state-of-the-art theatre. Day 5: Explore Taipa Island, about ten minutes away from your hotel. Visit the Taipa House Museum and then keep the afternoon for shopping. You can pick up almond cookies from the Taipa Food Street. In the evening, go to City of Dreams ( and watch The House of Dancing Waters, a great water-based show opened last September, and is something not to be missed.Must knowGetting there: Fly direct to Hong Kong from any of the metros. At Hong Kong airport take the one-hour ferry to Macau. Cathay Pacific, Jet Airways, Kingfisher and Air India fly direct to Hong Kong from Delhi. Fare from Delhi Rs. 25,000 (approx). You can get visa on arrival. Currency: The Pataca (MOP$) is Macau’s official currency. 1 Pataca is equal to about six rupees. Most of the shops accept Hong Kong dollars as well. HK$ 1 is equal to about Rs. 5.Must do: Even if you are not into gambling, try your luck at one of the casinos. It’s an experience to remember. We recommend Casino Lisboa.Food tip: It may be tough to find vegetarian food, but there are a few Indian restaurants in the city. Aruna Indian Curry & Cafe House is at Taipa island. Travel tip: The weather is pleasant all year round. Dress light for summer.advertisementadvertisementlast_img read more

Microsoft Xbox One to launch on Sept 23 for Rs 39,990, comes with voice support

first_imgMicrosoft on Wednesday announced that its Xbox One console would come to India on September 23. It will be sold at a price starting Rs 39,990. The Xbox One will be exclusively available via Consumers can pre-order the console starting August 6.  Starting September 1, Microsoft will remove all Xbox-related products, including the Xbox 360, from brick-and-mortar shops in the country. The company said that all Xbox-related hardware and software (games) will be available only on  Microsoft will also sell the Xbox One Kinect bundle for Rs 45,990.Xbox One will be exclusively available via Amazon India.The Xbox One will be available with five first-party games — Dead Rising 3, Forza 5 GOTY Edition, Killer Instinct, Kinect Sports Rivals, Ryse : Son of Rome. Microsoft said that third-party games for Xbox, like Titanfall and Tomb Raider that are already available in the global market, will also be available in India with the new console.The decision to go with Amazon-only sale is interesting for Microsoft given that a lot of consumers in India still buy their games and gaming consoles from electronics stores in the country. However, Anshu Mor, who heads the Xbox division in India, believes that it is the right decision.”Amazon for us is a great partner in many ways. They do everything for consumers and that’s the kind of experience we want to give to our fans for both the Xbox 360 and the Xbox one. In the actual stores I can do very little to explain to someone what Halo is,” said Mor. “(On an Amazon webpage) the consumer will get a full view of what we are offering. We have planned a lot of fan engagement and campaigns with Amazon. We will also make sure our consumers get to experience the consoles offline but we will not sell them in the retail channel.”advertisementMor contends that logistically the online model is better for Microsoft.”In retail our ability to provide a delivery experience was not there. Now, there are options for me to provide you a better delivery experience,” he said.Samir Kumar, director (category management) at Amazon India, said the company was “excited to be the partner of choice for Microsoft’s entire Interactive Entertainment Business portfolio in India”.”We are the fastest growing eCommerce platform in the country today and this partnership is a validation of the faith customers and sellers place on our brand,” said Kumar.Consumers who pre-order the Xbox One will get a copy of Fifa 2015 for free. People who have the Kinect bundle will get a copy of Fifa 2015 and Dance Central Spotlight for free. In addition, the first 1000 customers will get special offers worth Rs 10,000, including Rs 3000 discount on purchase of a second Xbox One controller, gift cards worth Rs 1,500, 2 Blu-ray movies (The Amazing Spiderman 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Rs 2,000 discount on a selected range of speakers and Rs 1,000 discount on a selected range of backpacks.In India, Microsoft will offer voice support in the Xbox One, allowing consumers to control the console through voice commands. The Xbox One controller will cost Rs 3,999. The price for the Kinect for Xbox will be announced next week.The Xbox One will face challenge from Sony’s PlayStation 4, which was launched in India in January. PlayStation 4 is available on online sites like and as well as in offline stores.Mor believes the late entry in India is not a problem for the Xbox One. “The delay will not have a dramatic impact on the market size for us. There are some hardcore Xbox fans who would just wait. It’s also important to understand we are trying to create a market out here. The market for gaming products in India is not very large,” he said.He added the Xbox One was coming to India with a better portfolio of games than its rival.Microsoft is also bringing exclusive content with the Xbox One to India. The lack of local content was earlier cited as a reason for the late launch of the Xbox One in India. Without going into specifics Mor revealed Microsoft was working with 10 content creators for local content. “There are four areas we are looking at – movies, music, sports and education. We are trying hard to bring a few (content-related) apps at launch. But if not on the day 1, they will launch soon,” he said.Reddigton remains Microsoft’s distributor for the Xbox One and Xbox 360.Follow writer on Twitter @DigitallyBoneslast_img read more