Friday 31 August 2007

Sadness - an update

When I said yesterday that my readers were sad because they were on the computer instead of having sex I underestimated one of them -
But think of the multiple opportunities I have to ruin someone's day! In the space of 10 minutes, I can refuse 4 leave requests, heap curses on the head of the maintenance brigade and send out the relief sheets to completely the wrong place. Somewhere in the Lettings department, a very unhappy Allotments Officer thinks he is going to spend the week in the Shopping Centre - where they don't even have Allotments

A Modern Fairy Tale

This is the fairy tale that should have been read to us when we were little:

Once upon a time in a land far away, a beautiful, independent, self-assured princess came upon a frog as she sat contemplating ecological issues on the shores of an unpolluted pond in a verdant meadow near her castle.

The frog hopped into the princess' lap and said: " Elegant Lady, I was once a handsome prince, until an evil witch cast a spell upon me. One kiss from you, however, and I will turn back into the dapper, young prince that I am and then, my sweet, we can marry and set up housekeeping in your castle with my mother, where you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children, and forever feel grateful and happy doing so. "

That night, as the princess dined sumptuously on lightly sauteed frog legs seasoned in a white wine and onion cream sauce, she chuckled and thought to herself: “I don't effin think so”

NALOPKT - Internet acronyms

AFK – Away from keyboard
BBL – Be back later
BBS – Be back soon
BCNU – Be seeing you
BRB – Be right back
BTDT – Been there, done that
BTW – By the way
EM? – Excuse me?
FOAF – Friend of a friend
FOHCL – Falls of his/her chair laughing
FWIW – For what it’s worth
GMTA – Great minds think alike
HAK – Hugs and kisses
IMHO – In my humble opinion
IOW – In other words
IRL – In real life
KFY – Kiss for you
KPC – Keeping parents clueless
LMK – Let me know
LOL – Laugh out loud
L8R – (See you) later
NALOPKT – Not a lot of people know that
OSIF – Oh (dear) I forgot
OTOH – On the other hand
PAL – Parents are listening
PAW – Parents are watching
PIR – Parent in room
POS – Parent over shoulder
P911 – Parent alert
ROTFL – Rolls on the floor laughing
SMEM – Send me an e-mail
SO – Significant other
SOHF – Sense of humour failure
WYSIWYG – What you see is what you get
and my favourite
AAAAA – American Association against Acronym Abuse

If you would to see a more extensive list see –


Today's definition - Anaphora

Anaphora –
1. In language - using a pronoun or similar word instead of repeating a word used earlier. “He threw the ball which bounced..”
2. In rhetoric - the repetition of a word or phrase, often at the start of successive utterances and used for emphasis. e.g. “We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans...”

Thursday 30 August 2007


Right now, as you read this, an estimated 17 million people around the world are having sex!!!
And look at you -
you're on the b****y computer!!!!

Coffee Art

My future son-in-law, Mark, has a Blog entitled ‘Tales from an English Coffee Drinker’ – which even has coffee shades in its template. I suspect, therefore, that he will like one of the current crazes shown on the Sky News site – coffee art.


30th August

30th August -
On this day in
30BC Cleopatra, the seventh and most famous queen of Egypt, commited suicide.
1885 13,000 meteors were seen in 1 hour in the area of the sky around Andromeda
1888 Lord Walsingham killed 1070 grouse in a single day
1968 The Apple Label produced its first record - The Beatle's “Hey Jude”
1987 Ben Johnson of Canada ran 100 m in a world record 9.83 seconds.

Did you Know?

Answer to No. 1 – They were winners of the Epsom Derby
(The Minstrel – 1977;, Shirley Heights – 1978; Dr Devious – 1992; Commander in Chief -1993; Benny the DIP – 1997; Kris Kin - 2003)

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Peggy Babcock’s Tongue Twisters

Tie twine to three tree twigs

Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock

I saw Susie sitting in a show shine shop,
Where she sits she shines, where she shines she sits.

I want a proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot.

Book Dedications

I have written an article on book dedications and it has turned out to be a bit long so rather than host it on the Blog it can be found here -

Do you know?

The first in a series of questions to be answered in the following day’s Blog.

1 - Who were Shirley Heights, Dr Devious, Benny the DIP, Kris Kin, The Minstrel, and the Commander in Chief?

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Roger Tory Peterson

28th August is the birthday of Roger Tory Peterson (1908-1996). Born in Jamestown, New York, he was an American naturalist, ornithologist, artist, and educator, and held to be one of the founding inspirations for the 20th century environmental movement. In this century, no one has done more to promote an interest in living creatures than Roger Tory Peterson, the inventor of the modern field guide.

Peterson received every major American award for natural science, ornithology, and conservation, as well as numerous honorary medals, diplomas, and citations, including the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom. He died in 1996 at his home in Old Lyme, Connecticut. The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York is named in his honour.

Nothing makes the news....

Great 'cosmic nothingness' found

Astronomers have found an enormous void in space that measures nearly a billion light-years across. It is empty of both normal matter - such as galaxies and stars - and the mysterious "dark matter" that cannot be seen directly with telescopes.

The "hole" is located in the direction of the Eridanus constellation and has been identified in data from a survey of the sky made at radio wavelengths.
The void discovered by a University of Minnesota team is about 1,000 times the volume of what would be expected in typical cosmic gaps.

"It's hard even for astronomers to picture how big these things are," conceded Minnesota's Professor Lawrence Rudnick.

"If you were to travel at the speed of light, it would take you several years to get to the nearest stars in our own Milky Way galaxy; but if you were to go to this hole and enter one side, you'd have to travel for a billion years before you would get to the other side," he told BBC News.

The void is roughly 6-10 billion light-years away and takes a sizeable chunk out of the visible Universe in its direction.

The reason the void exists is not known. "That's going to be a challenge for people that work on the development of structure in the Universe. It's a very hot topic in the cosmology right now," said Professor Rudnick.

Recipe for Hash Browns

Hash Browns
There are many ways of cooking hash browns. This is not only one of the simplest but, of those I have tried, the one which yields the best results.
1 pound potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
2 tablespoons oil, such as sunflower
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Scrub the potatoes. They do not need to be peeled. Grate with a shred-size grater. Heat a 12-inch frying pan, preferably non-stick, over a medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter. When hot, add the potatoes and push down with a spatula to spread evenly in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the top with salt and pepper - be generous with the pepper. Fry until the bottom is browned and crispy (about 5 minutes). Do not try to flip until it is browned, or the potatoes might stick. Flip the potatoes, in sections if necessary, and fry another 5 minutes, or until browned and crispy on the other side. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200° F oven.

Quote of the Week

“I’m living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.” - e e cummings

Monday 27 August 2007

Early Retirement

When Matt Brooks, a Cheshire furnaceman, applied for early retirement in 1981 at the age of 63 he got a bit of a shock. He learned he was really 79 and should have retired in 1967.


According to Scope, on this day in 1576 -
Titan Italian artist, dies
Surely Gods cannot die so does it mean Titian (Tiziano Vecelli) was subsequently deified? Perhaps it was done in gratitude by all those Cardinals whose portraits he painted...

Cardinal Pietro Bembo by Titian

The 38 Minute War

On 27th August 1896 Zanzibar lost to Britain in a 38 minute war (9:02 AM-9:40 AM). After the Sultan of Zanzibar died his nephew Bargash seized power but the British, standing by with 5 warships in the harbour, ordered him to abdicate in favour of a candidate more conducive to a harmonious relationship with the British government. The ultimatum to do so ran out at 9 am and the warships promptly sank Bargash’s armed yacht, landed 900 marines to support the local ‘loyalist’ troops, and shelled the palace. Bargash fled to the German consulate and the war was over. Some people say it took 45 minutes but either way it is the shortest war on record. As a final affront to the self-esteem of the residents of Zanzibar the British demanded payment for the cost of the shells.

Sunday 26 August 2007

What price pests?

A friend of GB’s with whom he stayed in France recently has been using some of my photos to accompany his articles. Looking at the latest ones he has used led me to the following page.

What fascinated me, in the light of all the articles one can find on pest control of slugs, was the Google advert at the bottom of the page.

Who would want to buy slugs????


While downloading the Times crossword yesterday I came across BabyBarista.

It is a fictional Blog - being an account of a pupil barrister undergoing the trials of pupillage at the English Bar. The entry for August 21, 2007 was most amusing -

It was Old Smoothie who pointed out to me months ago that medical records are littered with coded acronyms. In-jokes for the medics who don’t dream that those same records might one day end up in a court of law. The one he was at pains to explain was an entry he had spotted which said, “TUBE”. Apparently this was very commonly used in the past and refers to a “totally unnecessary breast examination.” Then there’s “NFN” or “normal for Norfolk” which refers, perhaps unfairly, to that particular county’s reputation for in-breeding. Curiously, the Scots apparently use Fife instead of Norfolk. One that you’d hope not to see on the record of anyone you are fond of is “TF BUNDY” which though I’ll spare you the full details basically stands for “totally [finished] but unfortunately not dead yet”. Oh, and of course, there’s “LOBNH” which is “lights on but nobody’s home”.

Well, that was all certainly an eye-opener for me. However, it doesn’t stop there as there’s also plenty to be gleaned from the medico-legal reports themselves. They’re often full of innuendo and you don’t have to think very hard to work out, for example, that when a male doctor fancies a patient he calls her “this attractive lady” or when she couldn’t fit through the door he describes her as “somewhat large”. However, today a doctor outdid himself.

Under marital status he wrote: “Single. Right-handed.”


On 26th August 1883 Krakatoa erupted with increasingly large explosions killing over 36,000 people.

An early Nineteenth century print of the island

Krakatoa is a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia. (Interestingly it is to the West of Java despite the 1969 film being entitled ‘Krakatoa East of Java’). The name is used for the whole island group, the main island (also called Rakata), and the volcano as a whole. It has erupted repeatedly, massively and with disastrous consequences throughout recorded history. The best known eruption culminated in a series of massive explosions on August 26-27, 1883.

The 1883 eruption ejected more than 25 cubic kilometres of rock, ash, and pumice, and generated the loudest sound in recorded history: the cataclysmic explosion was distinctly heard as far away asPerth, Australia, approx. 1,930 miles (3,110 km), and on the island of Rodrigues near Mauritius approx. 3,000 miles (5,000 km) away. Near Krakatoa, according to official records, 165 villages and towns were destroyed and 132 seriously damaged, at least 36,417 (official toll) people died, and many thousands were injured by the eruption, mostly from the tsunamis which followed the explosion.

Photo of the volcano of Krakatau taken in 1883 before the major eruption

The eruption destroyed two thirds of the island of Krakatoa. Eruptions at the volcano since 1927 have built a new island in the same location, called Anak Krakatau (child of Krakatoa).
The tsunamis reached heights of 40 m above sea level, devastating everything in their path and hurling ashore coral blocks weighing as much as 600 tons. Every recording barograph in the world documented the passage of the airwave, some as many as 7 times as the wave bounced back and forth between the eruption site and its antipodes for 5 days after the explosion. Tide gauges also recorded the sea wave's passage far from Krakatoa. The wave "reached Aden in 12 hours, a distance of 3800 nautical miles, usually traversed by a good steamer in 12 days". The volcanic dust veil created unusual sunsets across the globe for the next three years.

Saturday 25 August 2007

The Alder Centre

Hopefully I shall not generally get too serious in this Blog but the death of 11 year old Rhys Jones from gunshot wounds in a Croxteth pub car park last Wednesday still casts a gloomy pall over Merseyside. My friend Julie – an ex-pat living in London – commented “The news from Liverpool is very sad, but I do feel it could have happened anywhere today, unfortunately.” I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.

When our son David died Jo and I were heavily involved in the establishment of the Alder Centre which offers bereavement counselling for anyone affected by the death of a child.

Appointments can be offered at the centre, as a home visit (Liverpool and surrounding areas offered), or alternatively outreach clinics.

The Centre also established a helpline which is now run a s a joint initiative with Great Ormond Street Hospital and is staffed by volunteers, all of them bereaved parents.

Contact Details
Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust Alder HeyEaton RoadL12 2AP
0151 252 5391
9am-5pm Monday-Thursday, 9am-4.30pm Friday

0800 282986
7pm-10pm everyday; 10am-1pm Monday-Friday

Book People

GB recommended to me a couple of years ago a company called the Book People. They offer, at a fraction of the normal cost, paperback books across a range of subjects. Like a book club but without any commitment to buy further books. If you haven’t come across it the site is well worth a look and they have a mail out catalogue to which you can subscribe –

Seen on a Viennese Restaurant Menu

Helen and Ian are in Vienna for a wedding this weekend. I hope they don’t try eating at the Viennese restaurant which advertised the following on its menu –
Fried milk, children sandwiches, roast cattle and boiled sheep.

George Stubbs

Having recommended Scope (the site for seeing what happened on this day) I thought I should check out what happened today in history on their site. One of the more amusing things was the statement that George Stubbs was born on 25th August 1724 since the entry reads -

1724 George Stubbs England, animal painter (House Frightened by Lion)....

Presumably his work looked something like this –

Friday 24 August 2007

Not a Good Day

Today was not a good day for residents of Pompeii, Herculaneum, France (if Huguenot), Rome, Washington, South Africa (if black), and Kuwait (if Ambassadors) because on 24th August -

79AD Mt Vesuvius erupted, burying Pompeii & Herculaneum .
410 Rome was overrun by Visigoths - symbolically the fall of Western Roman Empire .
1572 King Charles IX ordered the massacre of thousands of French Protestants.
1814 The British sacked Washington, DC, and burned the White House turning it into a black house...
1961 Former Nazi leader Johannes Vorster became South Africa's Minister of Justice.
1990 Iraqi troops surrounded US & other embassies in Kuwait City.

Happy Birthday to Google Blogger

Happy Eighth Birthday!
24th August 2007 marks Blogger’s eighth birthday!

Origins of phrases

The phrase "rule of thumb" is said to have been derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb. It doesn’t because no such law existed. A more general law allowed the chastisement ‘in moderation’ of one’s wife but no ‘rule of thumb’ was ever mentioned. The phrase has been in circulation since at least 1692, when it appeared in print thus: "What he doth, he doth by rule of Thumb, and not by Art." (Sir W. Hope, Fencing-Master.) That makes it clear that the origin refers to one of the numerous ways that thumbs have been used to estimate things - judging the alignment or distance of an object by holding the thumb in one's eye-line, the temperature of brews of beer, measurement using the estimated inch from the joint to the nail, etc. It isn't clear which of these is the precise origin.

Smoked (red) herrings were once used to train hunting dogs by dragging the fish across the trail of the fox in an attempt to sidetrack the dogs. Poachers are also said to have used red herrings to sidetrack the hounds from the quarry which they then took.

John Dennis (1657-1734), a critic and unsuccessful playwright, devised a method of making the sound of thunder backstage. In 1704, Dennis's play Appius and Virginia was produced at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, using his new method. The play soon failed but shortly after the producers of a run of ‘The Scottish play ' used his thunder making idea. Dennis is alleged to have shouted “Damn then! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder.”

The two websites below are useful in tracing the alleged origins of some of the more interesting phrases in our language...

Thursday 23 August 2007

Sea Serpents

On this day in 1817 a sea serpent was sighted in Gloucester Harbour, USA......

They told me of a sea serpent, or snake, that lay quoiled up like a cable upon the rock at Cape Ann; a boat passing by with English on board, and two Indians, they would have shot the serpent, but the Indians dissuaded them, saying that if he were not killed outright, they would all be in danger of their lives...

The above report by John Josselyn in 1638 is one of the earliest sightings of an animal that would haunt the coast of New England, and especially the port of Gloucester, for more than three centuries and be seen by hundreds of people. The report is of a creature that science says does not exist: A sea serpent. The harbour of Gloucester, Massachusetts is located just north of Boston on the lower part of Cape Ann which juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Although sea serpent incidents occurred occasionally off the coast of Cape Ann and the rest of New England during the 17th and 18th centuries, it wasn't until the 19th century that the arrival of the sea serpent off the coast became a nearly seasonal phenomenon. The real action started in August of 1817 when two women claimed they had seen the creature swimming into the harbor. The same sea-serpent was seen at almost the same time by the Captain of a coasting vessel.

The caption of this engraving read "taken from life as appeared in Gloucester Harbour, August 23, 1817."

There were eighteen sightings of the "sea serpent" in 1817. Most from Gloucester, but a few from different parts of New England. Most of the reports were very similar: A snakelike creature, sixty to one-hundred feet in length, with the head the size of a horse and the body the diameter of a barrel. Observers noted that the creature swam with a vertical motion and his body appeared as "humps" behind him. A very full and credible report was made by Cheever Felch aboard the United States schooner Science with confirmation from various officers of his crew.

Reports off the New England coast continued strong through the 19th century. Twelve sightings in 1839, nine in 1875 and thirteen in 1886. A total of 190 for the whole one hundred years. Sea serpent reports became fewer in the twentieth century: A total of 56, and most of those before 1950.

There have also been many sightings of a sea serpent that supposedly lives in the Chesapeake Bay, USA. Appropriately the creature has been nicknamed "Chessie." Enough reports have been filed about Chessie that Mike Frizzell, Director of Project Enigma, a study of the Chessie phenomena, was able to correlate it's appearances with motion of Bluefin fish in the area, suggesting that the serpent uses the fish as a food source. The description of Chessie is so similar to the Gloucester sea serpent that some have speculated that the New England creatures migrated south to the Chesapeake Bay at the beginning of the century.

Elephant version of the Daniel story

In 1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in his parent's homeland of Kenya after graduating from Liverpool University . On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one hind leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed but allowed Mbembe to approach it, which he did, slowly and very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it.

As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with what Mbembe described as 'a rather curious look on its face', stared at him for several tense moments. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away into the bush.

In July 2007, Mbembe was walking through Chester Zoo with his teenage son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son John were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its hind foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe was convinced this was the same elephant. Despite the notices he climbed over the concrete barrier and jumped across the muddy ditch into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and they stared at each other in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, lifted its leg, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe' s legs and slammed him against the wall, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

P.S. Chester's elephants are Asian ones - fancy not noticing the ears!

Wednesday 22 August 2007


More than 50% of the people in the world have never made or received a telephone call. But in the USA it is estimated that 4 million "junk" telephone calls - phone solicitations by persons or programmed machine - are made every day!

Genuine News Headlines

Plane Too Close To Ground
Crash Probe Told

Stolen Painting found by Tree

Ability to Swim may save Children from Drowning

Cold Wave linked to Tempertatures

British left waffles on Falkland Islands

Police Kill Youth in Effort to Stop his Suicide Attempt
(I particularly liked this one. Suicide is against the law. A law officer killing the perpetrator of a crime which would lead to the death of an individual may be quite legal. So, it seems, the police did the right thing!)

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Moel Ffamau

21st August 1956 -

On this day in 1956 I “climbed” my first mountain – Moel Ffamau in North Wales – with GB and Dad.

Couch Potato

The term couch potato – which certainly does not apply to anyone in our family – was first coined in 1976 by a friend of American underground comics artist Robert Armstrong. In the early 1980S Armstrong registered it as a trademark. The term eventually entered common American vocabulary, generally defining one who unceasingly watches television as a form of "Transcendental Vegetation (TV for short)." The phrase was entered into the Oxford English Dictionary in 1993. In earlier times Dr Johnson had the similar term bedpresser in his dictionary to refer to “a heavy lazy fellow” but whether he watched the world go by in his underpants is something upon which he does not elaborate.

(Note the Dan Quayle spelling of potato!)

That Favourites Problem

Most people I know have a load of favorites (sic) / bookmarks and are presented with two problems. Firstly, because they use two machines (or more) the link they are after may not be on the machine they are using. Secondly, they are disorganised. (The bookmarks not the people!) The principal example of that is having differently named folders on the different machines and not bothering to label them correctly because it is easier just to hit the ‘add to favorites’ button.

I have a way around this that I have used from my earliest computing days. It consists of a webpage with my links on it. This can either be stored on all machines and updated from one to the other as and when or can be uploaded to a website. Although I use the former method, the latter is preferable since it stops the problem of having two different sets of amendments going at the same time which can easily lead to losing the latest additions to one machine. I use the latter method for Jo’s page to save me accessing her machine and anything she wants added she can just e-mail to me.

It lacks the immediacy of hitting the favorites button but tends to make you more disciplined in what you decide you are really likely to revisit and has the advantage of adding value judgements by either positioning or direct text.

All that has to be done then is to make this the home page in your browser and ‘hey presto’ easy access to all your favourite sites...

Monday 20 August 2007


With regard to GBE's plastercast comment in the blog on the first beauty contest (which I've just realised had no title) did you know that if you click on the photos in my blog you get a bigger version ? That is assuming I’ve posted it in a larger size than appears on the page...

I might also point out that I shall always endeavour to use photos which are either my own or in the public domain. The Ferrari was, sadly, not my own... I cannot say the owner of the faux fur particularly appealed so ownership of her was not one of my ambitions.


I presume most people know that if you want to define a word you can put ‘Define: word’ into Google and it will list definitions from a host of sources. I was amused to find a glitch in the system the other day. When I put in ‘Define: Black Hole’ one of the definitions was “the point in the sky that is directly over the head of the observer.” Since the site seemed to be an educational one I went to it out of curiosity. Guess what the header of the page was -

Directions: Match the vocabulary words on the left with the definitions on the right.
There then followed a list of words and a list of unrelated definitions alongside them – so presumably Google would, for example, define an eclipse as...... the force by which a planet or other such body tends to draw objects toward its center.


On this day....

I have always been fascinated by diaries, journals and by things that happened ‘on this day’ in the past. Over the years I have looked at a lot of ‘On this Day’ type sites. In my view the best all round one remains one that I found very early on and which I have come to rely upon as the most accurate. It is run by Scope Sytems, a US electronics firm. The entry for the current day can be found at
and that for any other day of the year at
So far the site has had over 8 million hits so I am obviously not alone in liking it. As with most such sites it has an American bias so you have to ignore references to the Phillies and Yankees (apparently ‘sports’ teams that play some sort of bat and ball game).... You also have to ignore the fact that it uses the present tense, a most annoying habit...

Amongst the things that happened on 20th August...

1896 The dial telephone – remember them? - was patented (pronounced ‘paytented’ or ‘pattented’ depending upon which side of the Atlantic you are on. I wonder what they say in New Zealand?)

1940 British PM Churchill, in a speech to the Commons, said of the Royal Air Force, " Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few "

1965 The Rolling Stones released "Satisfaction" (their first #1 US hit and in my view their best ever song).

Sunday 19 August 2007

Black Holes

Following the cyberspace blog I decided to look up Black Hole to see if there was a synonym. Although I didn’t find one I confirmed that I pretty much knew what one was – “When a very massive star goes supernova, the resulting energy can squeeze the star's mass into a very small but super massive object know as a "black hole". A black hole has so much gravity that not even light can escape from it.” But I realised I had never really understood why light couldn’t escape. The answer is simple. To escape would require a speed greater than that of light, which is not allowed.

On this day in 1888 the first beauty contest was held – at Spa, Belgium, It was won by an 18 yr old West Indian. (That same year Karl Benz began selling petrol driven motor cars.) Neither the winner nor the car looked anything like this!


August 19th 1960 saw Sputnik 5 carry two dogs (Belka and Strelka) and assorted rodents into space. They became the first animals to return to Earth alive from orbit. Belka means Squirrel and Strelka means Little Arrow. Whilst NASA lists the 2 dogs as crew members it doesn’t include the names of the 40 mice or two rats...

At the moment I am more concerned about things that disappear into cyberspace – and do not return to earth.... A few times during the creation of an e-mail (for which my browser uses Word) everything disappears (presumably through pressing a combination of Control and Shift while hitting a particular letter?). I tend to call this disappearing into Cyberspace as if it were a void, a sort of black hole in or between computers. I know others who use Cyberspace in the same way and yet when one checks the definitions of Cyberspace, of which there are dozens, none look upon it as a void but rather as a totality. The whole World Wide Web and inter-connectivity of computers. “Coined by author William Gibson in his 1984 novel "Neuromancer," cyberspace is now used to describe all of the information available through computer networks.” In which case – does anyone know what the black holes in cyberspace are called?


There are approximately 2,700 different species of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are attracted to the colour blue more than any other colour. They prefer children over adults – so when you go out walking GB take a child dressed in blue with you... But if that doesn’t work – Allegedly the itch from a mosquito bite can be soothed by cutting open a clove of garlic and rubbing it on the bite.

Mind you, I should think most of the British miosquitoes have drowned this week..

Saturday 18 August 2007

Juan Manuel Fangio

Fangio in a Maserati 250F

On this day in 1956 Fangio won his fifth and last World Championship. He was 46 years old and retired the next year. Juan Manuel Fangio (1911-1995) dominated the first decade of Grand Prix racing and his record of five World Championships stood for 46 years until Michael Schumacher beat him. He achieved the titles with four different teams (Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati), a feat that has not been repeated. For these achievements, and because of the time in which they were accomplished, he is considered by many as the "greatest driver of all time".

Juan Manuel Fangio driving a Mercede-Benz W196
in the 1986 Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

Genghis Khan's missing grave

On August 18, 1227, during his last campaign against the coalition of Jin Dynasty and Western Xia, the Mongol leader Genghis Khan died. It has been speculated that he fell off his horse, due to old age and physical fatigue (he was about 65 at the time). The Galician-Volhynian Chronicle alleges he was killed by the Tanguts. But there are persistent folktales that a Tangut princess, to avenge her people and prevent her rape, castrated him with a knife hidden inside her and that he never recovered. Like ouch! After he died, his body was returned to Mongolia and, according to legend, the funeral escort killed anyone and anything across their path to conceal where he was finally buried in accordance with his wish for an unmarked grave. Legends state that his grave was stampeded over by many horses and then had trees planted over it with the permafrost also doing its bit in hiding the burial site. But local folklore says that a river was diverted over his grave to make it impossible to find (the same manner of burial of Sumerian King Gilgamesh of Uruk.)


According to Dr Johnson’s Dictionary bookful referred to a person who was full of notions gleaned from books and ‘crouded with undigested knowledge’. I wonder what the computer equivalent is – webful or netful perhaps?

Friday 17 August 2007

Fantastic Fiction

I read a fair bit of heroic fantasy – good escapist stuff – most of it of no great literary significance. A site I find of great value when working my way through some of the series is
It lists the works of all major authors and tells you the consecutive order of the various series.

Pierre de Fermat

On August 17th 1601 Pierre de Fermat, lawyer and amateur (yet most notable) mathematician who needed wider margins, was born.

Fermat's Last Theorem states that
xn + yn = zn
has no non-zero integer solutions for x, y and z when n > 2. In his notebook Fermat wrote “I have discovered a truly remarkable proof which this margin is too small to contain.” It took three centuries for someone else to prove it.

On this day in 1961 the building of the Berlin Wall began and in 1962 the Beatles replaced Pete Best with Ringo Starr. And in 1987 the Nazi Rudolph Hess died, aged 93, after 46 years in Spandau Prison.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is the name on Oprah Winfrey’s birth certificate. But it is not the name her parents intended – they named her after Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law in the Bible. The birth certificate was misspelled. What is even more amusing is that her fame is such that the Microsoft Word spellchecker (hereafter always to be known as the spillchucker) accepts Oprah and rejects Orpah (for whom it suggests Orphan). Even when you put Orpah in Google it leads you to the Biblical character but at the same time asks if you meant to search for Oprah!

Thursday 16 August 2007

Amazon pre-orders

Do you ever pre-order books from Amazon? It can be well worthwhile because they often do good value offers on pre-orders which disappear once the book is published. However, beware! There are times when the price comes down just before publication. So, for example, months ago I pre-ordered the latest Terry Pratchett Discworld novel so as to get it as early as possible. It is my version of waiting for the latest Harry Potter. When I went to the site to check when it was due out I discovered it was six pounds cheaper than when I first pre-ordered it. Needless to say I cancelled my order and re-ordered it.

Fallopian Tubes

Helen and Ian are having to investigate the drains of the house they propose to purchase and Ian wrote in an e-mail today “At 1pm today we will be going through the house equivalent of a laparoscopy, probing deep into the underbelly of the house and hopefully laying all our fears to rest...”

I got the general drift of what a laparoscopy must be but as the term was new to me I looked it up – ( -

The insertion of a long, thin, lighted, telescope-like instrument called a laparoscope into the abdomen through an incision usually in the navel to visually inspect the contents of the pelvic and abdominal cavities. Other small incisions may also be made and additional instruments inserted to facilitate diagnosis and allow surgical correction of abnormalities. The surgeon can sometimes remove scar tissue and open closed fallopian tubes during this procedure.

Makes me wonder what T****y Road’s equivalent of the fallopian tubes are... Think I’d rather not go there!

The Urban Dictionary

I love finding new words and phrases and learning the origins of our language. It is not just the language of the conventional or old dictionary which interests me but new words as well. When GBE came across the site I fell in love with it and subscribe to its word of the day. Wikipedia defines Urban Dictionary as ‘an online dictionary whose definitions are written by users. With an Alexa ranking as one of the 2000 highest web traffic sites, Urban Dictionary is touted as the "Internet's unofficial slang authority" for definitions.’ Just reading that led me to find a new word – Alexa.

Alexa Internet, Inc. is a California-based subsidiary company of that is best known for operating a website that provides information on the web traffic to other websites. Alexa collects information from users who have installed an "Alexa Toolbar," allowing them to provide statistics on web site traffic, as well as lists of related links.

Alexa also operates the Wayback Machine (another new term). This service allows users to see archived versions of web pages across time—what the Archive calls a "three dimensional index." Snapshots become available 6 to 12 months after they are archived. Users who want to permanently archive material and immediately cite an archived version can use the Archive-It system instead. As of 2006 the Wayback Machine contained almost 2 petabytes of data and was growing at a rate of 20 terabytes per month. Its growth rate eclipses the amount of text contained in the world's largest libraries, including the Library of Congress. The name Wayback Machine is a reference to a segment from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in which Mr. Peabody, a bow tie-wearing dog with a professorial air, and his human "pet boy" assistant, Sherman, use a time machine called the "WABAC machine" to witness famous events in history.

And if you are wondering what a petabyte and terabyte are –
a byte is 8 bits and a bit is a binary digit, taking a value of either 0 or 1. For example, the number 10010111 is 8 bits long, or in most cases, one modern PC byte.

kb (kilobyte) is 1000 bytes
MB (megabyte) is 10002
GB (gigabyte) is 10003
TB (terabyte) is 10004
PB (petabyte) is 10005
or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes
then come EB (exabyte); ZB (zettabyte); YB (yottabyte)
and so ad infinytum....

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Why is life full of questions?

And why do computers and technology misbehave? Everyone says Blogger / Blogspot is easy to use and yet what happens when I first try to upload a new post into my new blog – this:-

The front page says there are two posts and yet only one appears and the second one I did has vanished into cyberspace. We will see if this post works.
Another question - why does the Blog say I have posted the entry at a totally different time to GMT - it seems to be about 8 hours out. (Sorted this now...)

Anyone who looks at my profile will notice that I have used a photo from the mid 1980s. It was taken by the Liverpool Echo photographer as I sat at my desk just after hearing that Knowsley had been granted a reprieve by the Boundary Commission and was not to be added to Liverpool. I was so relieved and so pleased that all our hard work had paid off that I forget to be self-conscious. So I use the excuse that it is a ‘natural’ photo of me and forget the vanity of liking a picture that has twenty years’ fewer facial lines and twenty years’ more hair on it.

The Three Wise Men

According to the Gospels there were three gifts but none of them mentions how many wise men there were. The Magi were supposedly Zoroastrian astrologer-priests but their number varies from between two and twenty. Added to which the translation of Magi could mean Persian court officials, some of whom were women and none of whom were noted for their wisdom. So the three wise men could have been twenty stupid women! So now you know.

Every start must have a beginning

And this is it. Once more I have changed the format of how I present my 'daily' cogitations to the world. After having seen (ablative absolute) Mark's new Blog I decided to widen the scope of my daily postings to include not just the insects and plants of my garden - with which most folk will be bored by now - but also odd things I come across or think about as the day progresses.

Blog Archive