A run across Africa

Imagine the possibility of running across the whole continent of Africa! Well, Russell Cook, known as "Hardest Geezer," proved that this is very possible by running the entire length of Africa. Even though he completed his race, he faced many challenges which include an armed robbery, visa issues and injuries.

He was determined to complete this run because he had struggled with mental health, gambling, and drinking. By taking on this challenge, he was able to make a positive impact by raising almost $1 million for charity.

Cook started his journey in South Africa's southernmost point on April 22, 2023 and completed it in Tunisia on April 7, 2024. The journey took 352 days, it was 9,940 miles (16,000km) long and he ran through 16 countries. When he completed his race, all he really wanted was a strawberry daiquiri​ to celebrate his huge accomplishment!


Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms are a sign of spring. There are festivals in many countries to celebrate the bloom of these flowers. The flowers don’t last long and fall off after a week. In Japan, people have picnics under the cherry blossom trees. This is called hanami.

The US also has this tradition because Japan gave them cherry trees in 1912. The flowers mean new beginnings. Now, people sell things that taste like cherry blossoms, such as ice-cream and cookies. They also watch the weather to see when the flowers will bloom.


The evolution of video games

Video games have changed a lot in the last 30 years. In the 1990s, Nintendo's Super Mario Brothers looked very high-tech.

In 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved was released. It was the first game where a player could explore a limited 3D map. The engine also allowed the player to have different experiences. For example, the enemies acted differently every time you played the same map.

Do you know how to rest?

Our society has taught people to always work hard. People are learning how to be more productive, but they also have the idea that they should always be busy. These people think "busy" and "productive" are the same thing. When these people finally rest, they feel bad. They think they are lazy. They might even work until they break down from tiredness.

American psychotherapist Sarah McLaughlin says 70% of visits to the doctor are because of stress-related issues. She suggests we start taking care of ourselves as much as we try to complete tasks. She says that we need to think more realistically about ourselves, “If this task does not get done today, it does not mean I have failed. It just means that I will get to it tomorrow.” Here are some pieces of advice from two psychotherapists, McLaughlin and Pantha Saidipour, on how to forget about work before resting:

Death Stranding video game

I don't play video games. I get addicted and spend too much time playing them! But a friend who is a gamer told me about a new game called Death Stranding, by video game designer Hideo Kojima. In this game, gamers help each other win. One player can build a bridge or road, then leave it there for other players to use. The point of the game is to bring a broken world back together. The reviews of the game are mixed—there are good and bad things about it—but I like the idea of a game based on working together rather than against each other. So many video games are about trying to beat other players. But, as my friend said, this is a different kind of game. You help each other out. The point is to connect people, both in the game and among gamers. I still won't play Death Stranding, or any other video game, but I'm glad to hear about one based on the value of working together.

Urban birdwatching

Birdwatching is a popular pastime across the globe. Some people take it very seriously, buying expensive gear and traveling all over the world to see rare birds. Most people, though, just have a good pair of binoculars and stay closer to home. 

But what if your home is a big city? What birds can you see in a city besides really common ones, like pigeons or crows, that are often pests and boring to watch?

I thought that way until I watched a film called, Birders: The Central Park Effect. The lake in the middle of Central Park is the only large body of water for miles on that migration route, so flocks of birds use it as a stopover. You can see birds there—in the middle of a huge, busy city—that you'd normally only see in the wild. And even in winter and summer, between migrations, there are lots of different species to see.

Call it soccer, like the Brits did

In the early 1800s in England, football and rugby existed as different variations of the same game. Aristocratic boys came up with the shortened terms “rugger” and “soccer” to differentiate between Rugby Football (from Rugby School, in Warwickshire, England) and Association Football.

According to a letter to The New York Times, published in 1905: “It was a fad at Oxford and Cambridge to use “er” at the end of many words, such as foot-er, sport-er, and as Association did not take an “er” easily, it was, and is, sometimes spoken of as Soccer.”

But by the 1980s, Brits started to turn against the word. “The penetration of the game into American culture,” Stefan Szymanski, a professor of sports economics at the University of Michigan writes, “has led to backlash against the use of the word in Britain." 

Vlogging about Japan

Nagoya-based husband-and-wife vlogging duo Rachel and Jun Yoshizuki run the YouTube channel Rachel and Jun. Their on-the-ground accounts of daily life in Japan have been viewed more than 200 million times.

They belong to a community of “J-vloggers”: YouTubers who attract millions of views by sharing their insights into Japanese culture, including anything from a tour of a Japanese high school, to what it’s like to stay in a tiny room in a capsule hotel, and what it’s like to be multiracial in Japan.

“All of us [J-vloggers] get comments from our audience that they went to Japan because of us, or they started studying Japanese because of our videos, or they visited this city because we made a video about it,” Rachel says.

New Year 2018

With the end of the year drawing closer, the pressure is on to figure out how to greet the Year of the Boar. If the dwindling number of viewers staying in to watch NHK’s annual music showcase “Kohaku Uta Gassen” is any indication, more and more people in the Kanto region are choosing to head out for less traditional celebrations. 

A good soundtrack can be key to a proper New Year’s celebration and there are more than enough options in and around Tokyo to satisfy a variety of musical tastes. Countdown Japan is a music festival that will take place at the sprawling Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture, kicking things off on Dec. 28 and continuing until the early hours of the new year. Around 180 acts will play over the course of four days.

Video games in the 2024 Olympics?

The closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics saw Tokyo teasing the 2020 Games with a video featuring Pac-Man and Mario. The 2024 Games in Paris, however, might take things a step further.

Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris Olympic committee, says he plans to hold talks with eSports officials and the International Olympic Committee about adding competitive video games to the Games.

Sport and money

The footballer Neymar has dismissed suggestions his world-record £198m move to Paris Saint-Germain was motivated by money and instead insisted he moved to the French capital for “a new challenge”.

“I wanted something bigger, a bigger challenge. This was about ambition,” Neymar said. “I was never motivated by money. I thought about the happiness of my family, regardless of money.”

Nasser al-Khelaifi, the PSG owner, said “For me Neymar is the best player in the world. With him our project will grow even stronger. Let’s enjoy Neymar.”

The transfer has not been well received by everyone, however. The international players’ association released a statement demanding an investigation into “anti-competitive, unjustified and illegal” Fifa transfer rules.