Tuesday 30 September 2008

Uranium ore

Do you want to test your Geiger counter? Look what I found on Amazon!

Strictly gambling

Saturday’s show was good but Sunday’s was even better – Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennet well-deserved their standing ovation for their ‘I’m still Standing’ Jive.

In the dance-off the departure of Gillian Taylforth and Anton was a real shame – she was by no means the worst of the ladies and their dance was worthy of week three or four...

As promised, here is my forecast for the Strictly last eight, in order, -
1) Rachel Stevens & Vincent Simone
2) Austin Healey & Erin Boag
3) Christine Bleakley & Matthew Cutler
4) Lisa Snowdon & Brendan Cole
5) Andrew Castle & Ola Jordan
6) Cherie Lunghi & James Jordan
7) Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup
8) Mark Foster & Hayley Holt
We shall see...

Monday 29 September 2008

Where is Moses?

I showed Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s picture ‘The Finding of Moses’ on my posting about bulrushes It was done semi-tongue-in-cheek because I knew it wasn’t his picture ‘Moses in the Bulrushes’ but, at short notice, I couldn’t find a copy of that ‘famous’ and much quoted picture on the web.

However, having now searched diligently I still cannot find a copy. Nor, indeed, can I find a reference to where it is held. Is it now in some private collection, hidden away from the world. And, if so, what happened to all the copies that were once made that allowed the bulrush mistake to become so universally accepted?

I quite like this ‘Among the ruins’ by Alma-Tadema. But where, oh where, has Moses gone?


On Sunday I did a posting about a Reedmace which prompted GB to comment that they were what he had thought of as Bulrushes – so what was a Bulrush?

That is one of the worst of all possible questions to try to answer! The Reedmaces (Typha species - of which there are two in this country) are not found in Egypt so they are definitely ‘out’ as far as Moses and his Bulrushes are concerned. This family was once almost always called reedmace but became known as bulrush (or sometimes bull-rush) after a painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. His Moses in the Bulrushes allegedly showed the baby in a basket among plants which are clearly of the genus Typha. (Interestingly – I can’t see anything but Delphiniums on the version on the internet; which is also printed facing both ways...!) After that, the name bulrush, formerly applied almost exclusively to Scirpus (or Schoenoplectus) lacustris attached itself to Typha latifolia (and lesser bulrush to T. angustifolia).

Scirpus (or Schoenoplectus) lacustris – the 'proper' Bulrush – is also known as the Common Club-rush or Common Club-sedge and it is not a rush. It is a member of the sedge family. It reaches a metre tall and grows in slow-moving rivers and lakes. Here you might think the question was answered but, oh no!, there is more to come.

The species of British rush commonly known as Bulrush by many people are the Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) and Hard Rush (Juncus inflexus) which look very similar and are very common in damp grassy places (the former being mainly lowland and Southern and the latter mainly mountains and Northern). They are found throughout Europe and in N Africa. But they grow on the land (admittedly often marshy – rather than in the river itself and aren’t deep enough to hide a decent size shopping trolley – or Moses basket!

And, as if that were not enough, we have the generally accepted theory in Egypt that Moses was found in his basket among Cyperus papyrus - The Egyptian Paper Plant. This is the true papyrus of antiquity used for paper-making thousands of years ago. I haven’t got a photo of the plant itself but if you haven’t fallen asleep by now you can see it by Googling it...

So, GB, whichever species you call Bulrush there’ll be people happy to argue with you. Personally, I try to avoid the word altogether!


Some people are just so imaginative – it never ceases to amaze me. How about this from a webpage I stumbled across... I don’t know the creator or I would most certainly be happy to give him or her credit!

Sunday 28 September 2008


I have some Reedmace (Typha latifolia) in the boggy part of the garden, next to the ponds. It produced plenty of leaves this year but has yet to flower. I'm hoping it will do so next year because it is most attractive (as seen here at Exeter Univeristy).

Description: Reedmace - often mistakenly called Bulrush and known by Americans as Cattails - are grasslike plants with strap-shaped leaves 1 to 5 centimeters wide and growing up to 1.8 meters tall. The male flowers are borne in a dense mass above the female flowers. These last only a short time, leaving the female flowers that develop into the brown cattail. Pollen from the male flowers is often abundant and bright yellow.

Habitat and Distribution: Reedmace is found throughout most of the world. Look for them in full sun areas at the margins of lakes, streams, canals, rivers, and brackish water.

Edible Parts: The young tender shoots are edible raw or cooked. The rhizome is often very tough but is a rich source of starch. Pound the rhizome to remove the starch and use as a flour. The pollen is also an exceptional source of starch. When the reedmace is immature and still green, you can boil the female portion and eat it like corn on the cob.

Other Uses: The dried leaves are an excellent source of weaving material you can use to make floats and rafts. The cottony seeds make good pillow stuffing and insulation. The fluff makes excellent tinder. Dried reedmace are effective insect repellents when burned.

(Edibility and uses - courtesy of Edible and medicinal plants of Alberta)

Merseyside Derby

The Merseyside Derby took place yesterday. Liverpool had the ball in the net four times in five minutes. One was (rightly) disallowed for the ball being out of play. One was disallowed (wrongly) for a ‘push’ . Is there anything in the rules to say a player has to move out of his opponent’s way when he is backed into? Referee Mike Riley once again demonstrating his unfitness to referee an under 10’s match let alone a Premier League one.

Fortunately the two goals from Fernando Torres were enough to settle the match.

By 62 minutes the Everton’ fans’ were leaving their ground in droves. With 79 minutes gone Mike Riley, the world’s fussiest referee, gave Everton’s Cahill an undeserved red card which took everyone except Riley by surprise! This was in addition to the six yellow cards he’d already given. It was amazing that the footballers managed to play at all with such a stifling adjudicator. Steven Gerrard nearly got his hundredth first team goal for Liverpool but the goalkeeper palmed it away and he stays on 99 for the moment.

Liverpool beat Man Utd 2-1 a fortnight ago at Anfield. Now we’ve beaten Everton at Goodison. Soccer can be good, despite the referee...

Saturday 27 September 2008

The Geegees

A geegee is a word for a horse used by children or in adult slang. One website I came across suggested the name was simply children's slang because horse was too hard to say and gee-up was a term used to get a horse to go. In fact it's origins are far more interesting and relate to the fact that today is the last chance of the year to see the horses under starters orders at Chester racecourse.

Chester Racecourse is the oldest racecourse still in use in England. The racecourse is known as The Roodee, a name derived from the Saxon word Rood meaning a cross and the Norse Eye meaning an island: The Island of the Cross. In Saxon times the site was all but covered by the Dee except for a small island with a stone cross. The 65 acre racecourse lies on the banks of the River Dee. Races originally took place on Goteddsday (Shrove Tuesday) and St George's Day, both major festivals during the medieval period, however, beforehand the site was home to the famous and bloody Goteddsday football match. This was organised on the site in the 16th century after the silting up of the River Dee exposed an 85-acre water meadow. The game was however very violent and, in 1533, banned by the city, to be replaced in 1539 by horse racing. The mayor at this time, during the reign of Henry VIII was Henry Gee. He made the decision and his name led to the use of the term "gee-gee" for horses. Victors were awarded the "Chester Bells", a set of decorative bells for decorating the horse's bridle, and later the "Grosvenor Gold Cup", a small tumbler made from solid gold (later silver). However, the racecourse was at that point still just an open field, with the first grandstand built in 1817 and the first admittance-fee not being taken until 1897. At just over a mile around, it is the smallest racecourse in the UK.

Henry Gee died in 1545 but his name lives on.

Rubber Ducks and Global warming

What do rubber ducks and global warming have in common?

See anewsblog2008.blogspot.com/

Friday 26 September 2008

Hamlet on Facebook

I don’t know much about Facebook – I’m more a Friends Re-united sort of person. But when I found William Shakespeare’s Facebook with a news feed about the latest in the Hamlet saga I just couldn’t resist reading it....

The last twelve months

The last twelve months or so has proved quite a busy time for the Edwards family.

In September 2007, Helen and Ian moved into their new home at Frog End, Exeter.

Around the same time, Jo moved her counselling practice into new offices in Rodney Street.

Then, in May, we lost Bryony – she became a Greenwood! Not that anyone can truly get rid of their genes – she’ll always have some of the Edwards traits! Helen was a bridesmaid and Richard an usher.

Later in May, GB’s cancer was diagnosed as being on the move which was very worrying for a while but it seems to have responded to treatment and in himself he is as bright and perky as ever.

In August Richard got his BTec Diploma in Media (with triple merits) and in September he started at Liverpool John Moores University doing a degree in Media and Cultural Studies with Screen Studies.

And now Helen has resigned from her job and is aiming to spend some time at home getting done all those things that have been on the back burner for ages.

I wonder what the next twelve months will bring...

Thursday 25 September 2008


I have mentioned before my interest in the finding of new animal species and those which were previously thought to be extinct. The blog “Free your Imagination” is ideal for keeping up-to-date with the new / re-discovered species and The Olive-backed Forest Robin (Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus) from Gabon and the discovery of the smallest of the world’s 3,100 snake species (Leptotyphlops carlae) in Barbados are the two latest postings.

However, I don’t recall mentioning my interest in cryptozoology. For an article on cryptozoology see The Editorial.

So long, and thanks for all the penicillin

It has been reported that some dolphins were stranded off Massachusetts last year while trying to enter the United States without the necessary paperwork - apparently to obtain medical services. The dolphins, many of them with serious medical conditions, several pregnant, were stranded near Cape Cod in what appears to have been an attempted illegal immigration akin to that by the Cuban boat people.

While we have no evidence of dictators running amok within the dolphin world, it is clear that these dolphins needed significant medical attention and that they chose Massachusetts as their entry point to the USA for a reason. Massachusetts only recently enacted universal healthcare. It would seem, therefore, that these dolphins were going there for that purpose. Does this demonstrate an amoral attitude among dolphins?

Wednesday 24 September 2008


The Muslim Holy month of Ramadan ended last week. (For a description of Ramadan see my blog from 2007.) For a wonderful set of pictures depicting Ramadan this year see


Do you know how Google got its name? According to Google Milestones, in 1997 Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Stanford computer science grad students, decided that the BackRub search engine they had created needed a new name. After some brainstorming, they went with Google - a play on the word "googol," a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. The use of the term reflected their mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.
Google Milestones is a page about the history of Google – well worth reading.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Muddy footprints

A man enters your house, even though the front door and windows are locked. You’ve left the back door wide open. He sneaks up to your TV and changes the channel settings. Then he gets the remote and hides it behind a cushion on the settee. He sneaks out again and, as all this has taken place while you were asleep, you know nothing about it. Next time you try to use the TV everything has gone haywire and the manual is no use because it doesn’t bear any relationship to what is happening on the screen. The only clue that something has happened behind your back is the muddy footprints on the carpet.

Sound familiar? It should do. It’s what happens every time Microsoft and others do one of those ‘essential’ updates on your computer. I have my updates set to automatic on my desktop computer but I’ve got so fed up of this happening on my laptop that I turned off the updates twelve months ago. So far nothing on the laptop has exploded despite the threat of viruses that the updates are supposed to kill. But the hassle of finding my way around revised systems on the desktop has kept me busy for ages. Today all the settings on my windows mail have been revised behind my back. More work to do....

Not more Strictly!

Yes, every week-day. Claudia Winkelman is back with Strictly – It Takes Two. It’s the only show that makes me think about watching TV as a primary rather than secondary (or very low down) priority. It’s even better that it comes immediately after Eggheads so I can have an hour on the computer, watching TV at the same time. Unfortunately, Eggheads is a repeat of an old series but you cannot have everything.

Flavia and Phil Daniels were the first to join Claudia on the couch. When we’ve seen the girls next week I may be so bold as to put my expected order of departure on the Blog. That will take some courage...

Monday 22 September 2008

Happy Birthday, Shèlah,

As I mentioned below one of the first things I do in the morning – assuming I’m well and not too busy – is check Google Calendar. What I fail to do most of the time is check next week’s calendar. That is one of the effects of being retired from the real world. Mondays therefore tend to take me by surprise.

So when I switched on this morning I found that I had failed to send a birthday card to Shèlah. I need a PA – which is precisely what Shèlah was in days gone by, my PA. Deservedly, she has since moved onwards and upwards and is now in senior management. She has also been a really good friend over the years and I’m fortunate that she will have taken my grovellingly apologetic e-mail at face value and accept that she is sent Lots of Love and Best wishes for Many Happy Returns of the Day...

I'm so excited

One of the things that I have failed to mention in the past about “Strictly Come Dancing” is the music. I’m not convinced that the professional dancers always choose the most appropriate music or song for the dance concerned. I think there has been the occasional mistake in that regard but generally the choice is as exemplary as their choreography. But the songs themselves are brilliant (and well performed). Some of them bring back personal memories for me – but not, I hasten to say of dancing! I shall try to list some of my favourite songs over the Strictly season and do a posting on them. "I'm so Excited" was one of the best from this first Strictly weekend.

Phil and Flavia are out – the first of the couples to depart from Strictly. I’m not bothered about Phil but over the years I have come to enjoy the different personalities and looks of all the professional dancers and I shall miss Flavia.

Lilia, the Russian Minx was in the dance-off and I don’t think she will last long either unless her partner Don Warrington improves drastically.

I wake

GB did a blog simply about waking and getting up on Saturday. It made me realise how much I like the start of the day – if I have nothing planned that needs immediate attention. So on Sunday, waking went something like this....

I wake. This is the third time this morning since ‘morning’; technically begins at midnight. The first at half past one – trip to loo. Then five fifteen – tablets and another trip (too much information?). Then five forty five – switched on the computer and went back to bed for fifteen minutes. Six o’clock – up.
Checked Google Calendar and all the blogs and wrote e-mails to GB, Helen and Mark/Bryony describing yesterday’s events, such as they were, Put a new picture and quote on this blog. Wrote a Pensby blog. Watched the sun gradually rising – something that can only be told by the degree of light behind the Nursing Home at the back. It will be ages before it strikes any of the buildings or garden.

Went downstairs and fed the cats while preparing breakfast. Brought breakfast back up to bed and lay there eating and reading for a while.

Eventually – eight o’clock – got up properly and went downstairs to do the usual cleaning and tidying jobs before heading out into the garden. Impatient to get the lawn mown but will have to wait for a more civilised hour. In the meantime I have plants to move around, weeds to get rid off and a murky pond to study. One of the ponds has gone a dirty grey colour – something it has never done before – cannot fathom why. And so the day is begun in earnest. Won’t be long before Jo is up and we’ll share a coffee, perhaps do a crossword..

Sunday 21 September 2008

Strictly Come Dancing

Strictly is back. Whoopee!

I loved Kristina Rihanoff and John Sergeant’s dance – it looked like the bride and her father on the evening of the wedding. Bruno described it as 'endearing'. Even Craig called it ‘warm and honest’. He definitely deserves to survive the first night but how long after that he'll stay in is another matter.

In with a good chance at this early stage looks to be Austin Healey – the Leicester lip; (and I wrote that as I watched the show and before Len said it was the best first dance from a man he had ever seen). Andrew Castle was good as well; as Bruno said, compared to previous GMTV presenters, Fiona and Kate, he is Fred Astaire. I’m sure Camilla’s legs have grown even longer since last year!

We have still to see the girls perform but Rachel Stevens is undoubtedly my favourite at this stage – not necessarily favourite to perform well but simply my favourite. In the group dance Christine and Lisa took my eye while Jodie looks set for an early exit.

For those who missed the first night, these are the contestants for 2008...
Cherie Lunghi & James Jordan
Andrew Castle & Ola Jordan
Christine Bleakley& Matthew Cutler
Austin Healey & Erin Boag
Gillian Taylforth & Anton Du Beke
Don Warrington & Lilia Kopylova
Heather Small & Brian Fortuna
Gary Rhodes & Karen Hardy
Jessie Wallace & Darren Bennett
John Sergeant & Kristina Rihanoff
Jodie Kidd & Ian Waite
Mark Foster & Hayley Holt
Lisa Snowdon & Brendan Cole
Phil Daniels & Flavia Cacace
Rachel Stevens & Vincent Simone
Tom Chambers & Camilla Dallerup

Days with my Father

If you want to visit a website that will take only five minutes of your time but impress you for a lot longer, try Days with my Father by Philipo Toledano.
I found the format a but strange (and too wide screen for my desktop) and it was a while before I realised there were words alongside the pictures but the words matter little – the photos tell the story quite adequately without any words. Very moving.

Saturday 20 September 2008

The Angry Penguin

Every so often I StumbleUpon a new Blog that seems worth reading. Today, taking a rare break from doing my own blogs, I came across Angry Penguin. If you feel like reading the blog of a complete stranger on the other side of the world I think it’s worth a visit. If nothing else it shows that wherever you live the issues in the modern world are pretty much the same for all of us!

Erudite concepts

If you're not familiar with the work of Boswell D. Rabbitsmith, he's the erudite scientist who once said: "I woke up one morning, and all of my stuff had been stolen and replaced by exact duplicates." His mind sees things differently to most of us. He also makes his living as a comedian by the name of Steve Wright. Here are some of his gems:

1 - I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

2 - Borrow money from pessimists -- they don't expect it back.

3 - Half the people you know are below average.

4 - 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

5 - 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

6 - A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.

7 - A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

8 - If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.

9 - The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

10 - I almost had a psychic girlfriend, but she left me before we met.

Friday 19 September 2008


If you suffer from migraines you may find my article in The Editorial of some value.

It contains a number of ideas for lessening the impact of migraines but concludes - “At the end of the day, the only two real solutions I have found are Imigran and gel masks. Imigran is available on prescription or, now, direct from the chemist but at some unGodly price per tablet and you have to fill in a form giving your show size to get them. But gel masks are well worth every penny spent on them so if you don’t have one and you suffer from migraines go out and buy a couple now!”

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