Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Over £400 million lost

Over £400 million is lost in homes across the UK and Coinstar wants to find the UK equivalent to Edmond Knowles who cashed in 1,308,459 pennies (or $13,084.59) at his local Coinstar machine.If you think you are one of the UK’s greatest hoarders send us your story and we will contact you to learn more.

Coinstar, Inc. customer, Edmond Knowles, today broke the world’s record for the largest ever personal penny collection with a cash-in of 1,308,459 pennies (or $13,084.59) at Escambia County Bank’s Coinstar machine in Flomaton, Alabama.

The pennies, which Knowles stored in four 55-gallon and three 20-gallon oil barrels in his garage, weighed more than 4.5 tons. The collection set a new world record as well as broke Coinstar’s existing record for the most pennies cashed-in by a customer. The previous Coinstar record was 1,048,013 pennies (or $10,480.13) set in November 2004 in Barberton, Ohio.


Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Greedy Coins

A system of coins is called "nice" if it can represent any amount of money and the greedy algorithm -- repeatedly take the largest coin that will fit -- for making change always uses the smallest number of coins possible. The American system of coins -- 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 -- is nice since, for any number of cents A, the greedy algorithm for breaking A into a combination of coins will use the minimal number of coins. For example, a greedy breakdown of $1.38 is 2 half-dollars, a quarter, a dime, and then 3 pennies, and $1.38 cannot be obtained in fewer than 7 coins. Any total can be made by using only pennies.

The old British coin system is another matter. It consisted of a halfpenny, a penny, threepence, sixpence, a shilling (12 pence), a florin (24 pence), a half-crown (30 pence), a crown (60 pence), and a pound (240 pence). We ignore here the guinea, worth 252 pence. And let us take the indivisible unit as the halfpenny. This system is not nice: a greedy approach to 48 pence would use three coins (half-crown + shilling + sixpence), while it can be done using just two florins.


Monday, 29 December 2008

Standard time zones

Originally, time zones based their time on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT, also called UT1), the mean solar time at longitude 0° (the Prime Meridian). But as a mean solar time, GMT is defined by the rotation of the Earth, which is not constant in rate. So, the rate of atomic clocks was annually changed or steered to closely match GMT.

But on January 1, 1972 it became fixed, using predefined leap seconds instead of rate changes. This new time system is Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Leap seconds are inserted to keep UTC within 0.9 seconds of UT1. In this way, local times continue to correspond approximately to mean solar time, while the effects of variations in Earth's rotation rate are confined to simple step changes that can be easily subtracted if a uniform time scale ( International Atomic Time or TAI) is desired. With the implementation of UTC, nations began to use it in the definition of their time zones instead of GMT.

As of 2005, most but not all nations have altered the definition of local time in this way (though many media outlets fail to make a distinction between GMT and UTC). Further change to the basis of time zones may occur if proposals to abandon leap seconds succeed.

Due to daylight saving time, UTC is local time at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich only between 01:00 UTC on the last Sunday in October and 01:00 UTC on the last Sunday in March. For the rest of the year, local time there is UTC+1, known in the United Kingdom as British Summer Time (BST). Similar circumstances apply in many places.

The definition for time zones can be written in short form as UTC±n (or GMT±n), where n is the offset in hours. These examples give the local time at various locations at 12:00 UTC when daylight saving time (or summer time, etc.) is not in effect:

San Francisco, California, United States: UTC-8; 04:00

Toronto, Ontario, Canada: UTC-5; 07:00

Stockholm, Sweden: UTC+1; 13:00

Cape Town, South Africa: UTC+2; 14:00

Mumbai, India: UTC+5:30; 17:30

Tokyo, Japan: UTC+9; 21:00

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Sunday, 28 December 2008

The Tang Dynasty

The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China that lasted from 618 to 907. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire.

The Tang Dynasty, with its capital at Chang'an, the most populous city in the world at the time, is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization—equal to or surpassing that of the earlier Han Dynasty—as well as a golden age of cosmopolitan culture.

There were many notable innovations during the dynasty, including the development of woodblock printing, the escapement mechanism in horology, the government compilations of materia medicas, and improvements in cartography.

See full article at

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Township and Range

Fly across the heartland of the United States today and you will see below a vast checkerboard, with fields and roads and cities laid out in a precise north-south, east-west arrangement. Practically the only features that don't run by the compass are the ridges and valleys and streams.

Following the Louisiana Purchase and the exploration of the western United States "frontier," the federal government decided to sell as much of the land as possible to the public. In order to make the distribution as equitable as possible among a generally uncharted and very diverse two and a quarter million square miles, they decided to divide up the west with squares.

The General Land Office (later known as the Bureau of Land Management) started surveying west from Ohio. They established 34 sets of survey meridians and base lines which were the starting points for each region of townships. Thirty-one sets are in the western and southern contiguous United States and and three pairs are in Alaska. Originally surveyors named the earliest pairs by number (the first through sixth principal meridians); the rest are named for geographic features. Names include the Boise Meridian, Gila and Salt River Meridian, and the Mount Diablo Meridian.

A township is both a square six miles long on each side as well as the method to locate the north-south (horizontal) row from the base line where the township lies. In the graphic below, the township is located at Township 1 North because it is in the first row north of the base line. Ranges are rows of townships east or west of the meridian (vertical). In the graphic, the township is located at Range 1 East because it is in the first row to the east of the principal meridian.

Each 36 square mile township is divided up into 36 single-square-mile "sections." These sections are numbered sequentially from the northeast corner to the southeast corner.

The United States Public Lands Survey is known as a cadastral survey. Cadastral surveys are those which establish boundaries for land ownership. Since the primary purpose of the USPLS was to sell land, it was important for defining land boundaries.

Not all townships are exactly square. Due to the curvature of the earth, every few rows of townships there is a slight "jog" in the meridians to compensate. There are also portions of the survey where land was already owned and surveyed by different methods. California's Spanish land grants are a notable example. The grants were based on naturally occurring features such as streams so they are irregularly shaped islands among the squares of the survey.

Throughout the west, one can commonly find roads one mile apart and running in straight lines for dozens of miles. We can thank the USPLS for the "checkerboard" pattern which stands out on maps of the U.S. today.


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Types of Screwdrivers

Quality screwdrivers are judged by the kind of metal in the blade, finish and amount of grinding on the tip. Material used in the handle and bar attachment to the handle are other quality indicators.

If blade metal is poor quality, it will chip and crumble under pressure. If the tip is improperly ground and flares too much, it will rise out of the screw slot. If the blade is not attached firmly to the handle, it will eventually loosen and slip in the handle.


Several types of screwdriver tips are available-regular, cabinet, Phillips, Frearson, Torx, clutch- head, hex, Bristol multi-spline and square-tipped.

Regular tips are used with large, heavy screws. Tip is flared so it is wider than the driver bar. Quality drivers with regular tips should be accurately ground for uniformity. Blades should not taper too sharply from the tip, because an improperly tapered tip has a tendency to rise out of the screw slot.

Cabinet tips are similar to regular tips, but have no flare. They are straight for use with small screws and countersinking screws where regular tips with a flare would mar the wood or material on the side.

Phillips-head drivers are used on cross-slotted screw heads with modified U-shaped slots of uniform width. Screws of this type are often found on automobile trim and electric appliances. Sizes range from 0 to 4, with 0 being the smallest.

Frearson screw heads are similar to Phillips. They have cross-slots, but they are V-shaped slots with tapered sides. While a cross-slotted driver will fit many sizes of the type of screw for which it is intended, it is best to use drivers of the proper sizes.

Torx drive system provides six lobular drive surfaces mated from lobes of the driving and driven elements. Drive surfaces have vertical sides that permit the maximum torque application to assure reliable clamping force. All driving torque is transmitted as a perpendicular force to the driven element so there is no cam-out.

Clutch-head tips have four points of contact. They lock into the screw head when turned counterclockwise. The driver is unlocked by turning it in the opposite direction. Because of the many contact points, the tip will not damage the screw head.

Hex (hexagonal) tips are used in repair work in the electronics field, particularly in radio and television repair. They are used to tighten socket-set screws and usually come in sets. Some sets are attached to and fold into a metal carrying case. Other variations include T-shaped hex tools with vinyl grips and L-shaped keys for greater torque power.

Bristol multi-spline tips are the least common, with six points of contact. They allow torque to be applied evenly with minimum danger of damaging the screw head.

Square-tipped (Robertson type) screwdrivers come in five tip sizes for recess screws found in recreational vehicles and in furniture.

Multi-bit screwdrivers allow the user to have a number of different types of tips in one tool. Some products keep the interchangeable bits in a self-contained unit.

Offset screwdrivers are designed for removing and inserting screws in places where it is impossible to use a straight-shank screwdriver. They are available in many combinations of slotted and Phillips-head tips and with ratchet-type mechanisms.

Many screwdrivers have magnetized tips, convenient when guiding screws to holes or otherwise inaccessible areas. They also retrieve dropped screws and nuts. Others have split points that can be expanded in width to fill the screw slot and hold screws when guiding into inaccessible areas. A spring clamp that fits over the screw head, holding the bit in the slot, serves a similar purpose.


Handles are made of wood or plastic. Top-quality wooden handles have a bolster on the screwdriver bar which helps hold the bar to the handle. The one piece bars in heavy-duty wooden handles extend through the handle and are headed over on the end with a metal cap. Plastic handles should be made of fire and heat-resistant materials. If properly designed, they give excellent grip. Rubber or vinyl is often used as a non-slip or insulating cover on plastic handles.


This group includes offset screwdrivers, used in places impossible to reach with ordinary drivers; screwdrivers with external screw-gripper or screw-holder blades to start screws in hard-to-reach spots; and offset screwdrivers with ratchets.


Hex-nut drivers are similar to screwdrivers, but have tips more like wrench sockets than screw tips. They are used mainly on small nuts and in confined areas such as electronic equipment, instruments and car ignitions. They come in several sizes and styles, with a fixed-size or variable-size "socket" at the end to adjust to various nut sizes.


A spiral-ratchet screwdriver uses a mechanism similar to a push-pull drill. It has an adjustable chuck to permit interchanging different size driver tips and drill points. Ratchets are designed to drill and remove screws. Driving action is provided by pushing straight down on the handle.


These screwdrivers feature a 360° ball as a handle with a ratchet mechanism that eliminates the need to grip and re-grip during the driving process. The wider gripping surface generates more torque than conventional screwdrivers. The amount of additional torque varies with the model. These high-torque ratchet screwdrivers come with interchangeable blades.


Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Some foreign words and phrases

Pax in bello: peace in war.

Per centum: by the hundred.

Post meridiem: after midday.

Post mortem: after death.

Prima-facie: at first sight.

Quondam: former.

See more at

Monday, 22 December 2008


"Salmon" seems to be another example of the work of meddlesome scholars.

The Latin source was "salmon", but it became "saumon" in Old French and from there became "sa(u)moun" in Anglo_Norman.

The long-absent "l" was apparently retrieved from Latin, though never pronounced in English, by the meddlesome scholars.

from alt.usage.english

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Top 10 Stolen Books

Scotland has had £223,000 gone missing from their libraries, largely from people not returning them. In the past, sterly-worded letters were about all the culprits would get, but the libraries are beginning to turn people over to collections agencies.

The Top 10 List of Books Stolen:

  1. Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets
  2. Lovers And Players
  3. The Diamond Girls
  4. All Rebus novels
  5. DSA Theory Test For Car Drivers
  6. Street Child
  7. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
  8. Discworld books
  9. The Stand
  10. And Then There Were None


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Vote Early and Often

The cynical phrases "Vote early -- and often" and "Vote early -- and vote often" are variously attributed to three different Chicagoans:

  • Al Capone, the famous gangster;
  • Richard J. Daley, mayor from 1955 to 1976; and
  • William Hale Thompson, mayor from 1915-1923 and 1931-1935.

All three were notorious for their corruption and their manipulation of the democratic process. It is most likely that Thompson invented the phrase, and Capone and Daley later repeated it.


Friday, 19 December 2008

Memetic phrases

A catch phrase (or catchphrase) is a phrase or expression recognized by its repeated utterance. Such memetic phrases often originate in popular culture and in the arts, and typically spread through a variety of mass media (such as literature and publishing, motion pictures, television and radio), as well as word of mouth. Some catch phrases become the de facto "trademark" of the person or character with whom they originated, and can be instrumental in the typecasting (beneficially or otherwise) of that actor. This is especially the case with comedy actors.


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Magic, our Maurice!

Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt! was a popular ITV situation comedy which ran from 1974 to 1977. It starred Bill Maynard and was created and mostly written by Alan Plater. It was made for the ITV network by Yorkshire Television

The show was centred around the bungling exploits of Selwyn Froggitt, a burly, balding, good-natured council labourer (Maynard) usually clad in a donkey jacket, with pretensions to intellectual competence (he carried the Times rolled up in the pocket of his donkey jacket, although was hardly ever seen reading it, preferring to tell people that "There was an article about it in the Times") and an urge to improve his life and that of everyone around him. Froggitt was on the committee of his local working men's club, serving as concert secretary in charge of booking 'turns'.

Froggitt was fundamentally and spectacularly incompetent at everything he turned his hand to, being equally inept at his day job (digging holes and/or filling them in!), Do-it-yourself at home, and booking acts for the club.

The show was notable for a number of catchphrases: Maynard's Magic, our Maurice! accompanied by two thumbs up, his mother's (Megs Jenkins) Don't open that cupboard, our Selwyn, things fall out! and almost everyone at the club's A pint of cooking and a bag of nuts, Raymond. Raymond the barman (Ray Mort) was fond of answering the telephone with a number of highly fictitious and fanciful addresses.


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Tuna Sandwich Stolen

A Heartland woman reported to police a strange burglary at her home. The place was ransacked, but the only things taken were a tuna sandwich and four beers.

The 52-year old woman lives in the Levi Carter Neighborhood, near 16th and Ames Avenue. She told Omaha Police when she returned home on Saturday, December 6th she noticed a window was broken, and when she went inside the home was trashed.

The thieves had searched high and low, apparently for something of value to steal, but settled for the sandwich and beer.


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Jones and and and and and ...

A signwriter was asked to produce a sign "Jones and Son".

His client complained, "There is not enough space between Jones and and and and and Son".

Monday, 15 December 2008

World's Biggest Coin

Canada has seized bragging rights for the largest legal tender piece of money in the world, thereby eclipsing the old European record.

The coin in question, with a face value of $1 million Canadian, was issued in 2007, and three people have already grabbed one of their own, although it's doubtful they ambled off with it in hand without help, or at least a sturdy wheelbarrow.

This monetary item, issued by the Royal Canadian Mint, is twenty inches in diameter and one inch thick. It's made of 99.999 percent gold bullion and weighs 220 pounds (100 kilograms). One side of the hefty coin has the face of Queen Elizabeth and the reverse shows a cluster of maple leaves, one of Canada's most well-known symbols.

Its scalloped edge is reminiscent of the country's old-style nickels. The side with the maple leaves has the English words "Fine gold", then "100 KG", followed by the French words "Or pur", which translates as "Pure gold". One of these coins takes six weeks to make.

The editor of Canadian Coin News, Bret Evans, said, "They're (the Canadian Mint) not doing this because there is a huge demand for 100-kilo gold coins. They're doing it because it gives them some bragging rights in having the largest pure gold coin in the world. They'll kick the Austrians out of the Guinness World Book of Records".

Canada's mint will get a higher international image because of this coin, it's believed. The previous record holder for large coins was the seventy pound 100,000 euro piece from Austria with a fifteen inch diameter. One interesting note about the new coin is that it can't be bought for face value. Getting one for yourself, because of the rising cost of gold, currently means you have to shell out roughly $2.7 million Canadian. Of course, if the price of gold should tumble, your coin may be worth less than face value by weight, although it will always be redeemable for that million dollar value.


Sunday, 14 December 2008


Khartoum is one of three sister cities, built at the convergence of the Blue and White Niles: Omdurman to the north-west across the White Nile, North Khartoum, and Khartoum itself on the southern bank of the Blue Nile.

Khartoum has a relatively short history. It was first established as a military outpost in 1821, and is said to derive its name from the thin spit of land at the convergence of the rivers, which resembles an elephant's trunk (khurtum).

Khartoum grew rapidly in prosperity during the boom years of the slave trade, between 1825 and 1880. In 1834 it became the capital of the Sudan, and many explorers from Europe used it as a base for their African expeditions.

Khartoum was sacked twice during the latter half of the 19th century -- once by the Mahdi and once by Kitchener when the Mahdi was ousted. In 1898, Kitchener began to rebuild the city, and designed the streets in the shape of the British flag, the Union Jack, which he hoped would make it easier to defend.


Saturday, 13 December 2008

A List of Stupidities

'Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.'

--Mariah Carey


'Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life,'

--Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for federal anti-smoking campaign.


'I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body,'

--Winston Bennett, University of Kentucky basketball forward.


'Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,'

--Mayor Marion Barry, Washington , DC .


'That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm just the one to do it,'

--A congressional candidate in Texas


'It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.'

--Al Gore, Vice President


'I love California . I practically grew up in Phoenix '

--Dan Quayle


'We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need ?'

--Lee Iacocca


'The word 'genius' isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.'

--Joe Theisman, NFL football quarterback & sports analyst.


'We don't necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people.'

--Colonel Gerald Wellman, ROTC Instructor.


'Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.'

--Department of Social Services, Greenville , South Carolina


'Traditionally, most of Australia 's imports come from overseas.'

--Keppel Enderbery


'If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there'll be a record.'

--Mark S. Fowler, FCC Chairman


from uk.rec.humour

Friday, 12 December 2008

A scissor, scissors and shears

The noun "scissors" is treated as a plural noun, and therefore takes a plural verb ("these scissors are"). Alternatively, people refer to this tool as "a pair of scissors", in which case it (a pair) is singular and therefore takes a singular verb ("this pair of scissors is"). (In theory each of the two blades of the tool is a "scissor" in its own right, although in practice such usage is seldom heard.)

The word shears is used to describe larger instruments of similar kind. As a general rule:

  • scissors have blades less than 6 in (15 cm) long and usually have handles with finger holes of the same size.
  • shears have blades longer than 6 in (15 cm) and often have one small handle with a hole that fits the thumb and one large handle with a hole that will fit two or more fingers.


Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Numero sign

The Numero sign or Number sign is used in many languages to indicate ordinal numeration, especially in names and titles, for example, instead of writing the long

   "Number 4 Privet Drive"

one would write the numero sign so:

   "№ 4 Privet Drive",

and spoken as if written out in full.

The numero symbol combines the upper-case Latin letter "N" with a superscript lower-case letter "o", sometimes underlined, resembling the masculine ordinal indicator.

According to the OED, the term is from the Latin numero, which is the ablative form of the word numerus (NVMERVS in inscriptions, meaning "number", with the ablative meaning "to/by/with the number").

Similar forms exist as the word for "number" in Latin-derived languages: numero in Italian, numéro in French, and número in Spanish and Portuguese.


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Walking and talking backwards

Tennent's Pilsner - Famous Dog Advert

Original Transmission Date : 1994

Why I like this advert : One of two very clever adverts where they had to learn to speak backwards in order to achieve the effects you see here.

Video clip at about 2/3rd down the page at

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


The Feudal System was introduced to England following the invasion and conquest of the country by William I (The Conqueror).

The system had been used in France by the Normans from the time they first settled there in about 900AD. It was a simple, but effective system, where all land was owned by the King. One quarter was kept by the King as his personal property, some was given to the church and the rest was leased out under strict controls.

The King

The King was in complete control under the Feudal System. He owned all the land in the country and decided who he would lease land to. He therefore only allowed those men he could trust to lease land from him. However, before they were given any land they had to swear an oath to remain faithful to the King at all times. The men who leased land from the King were known as Barons, they were wealthy, powerful and had complete control of the land they leased from the King.   


Barons leased land from the King which was known as a manor. They were known as the Lord of the Manor and were in complete control of this land. They established their own system of justice, minted their own money and set their own taxes. In return for the land they had been given by the King, the Barons had to serve on the royal council, pay rent and provide the King with Knights for military service when he demanded it. They also had to provide lodging and food for the King and his court when they travelled around the country. The Barons kept as much of their land as they wished for their own use, then divided the rest among their Knights. Barons were very rich.


Knights were given land by a Baron in return for military service when demanded by the King. They also had to protect the Baron and his family, as well as the Manor, from attack. The Knights kept as much of the land as they wished for their own personal use and distributed the rest to villeins (serfs). Although not as rich as the Barons, Knights were quite wealthy.


Villeins, sometimes known as serfs, were given land by Knights. They had to provide the Knight with free labour, food and service whenever it was demanded. Villeins had no rights. They were not allowed to leave the Manor and had to ask their Lord's permission before they could marry. Villeins were poor. 


Thursday, 4 December 2008


Q: The broadcast media seem to have decided that "Ralph" should be pronounced "rafe". I've known of, for example, Ralph Richardson and Ralph Vaughan Williams for most of my life, but suddenly and fairly recently they've become "rafes". Any justification for this?

A: "Rafe" is the traditional English pronunciation. "Ralph" is a modern spelling-pronunciation, and hence associated with the newly literate in an age of general literacy. The Norman "Radulf" (Radulphus) became "Raulf" - and "Raoul" in France

from alt.usage.english

The 20 most hated cliches

According to an online survey, cliches like "at the end of the day", "24/7" and "literally" are among the most reviled. Here are 20 more that particularly irk Magazine readers.

1. My vote for most irritating cliche has to be "basically". I even manage to irritate myself by using it, although I do try not to.

2. A few minutes ago I said "basically" was the most irritating cliche. I've changed my mind: "To be fair" is the most awful thing anybody can ever say, particularly since it is invariably followed by a biased and utterly unfair comment.

3. My most hated expression has to be "to be honest". What does it mean? Are you normally dishonest then? To my shame you might even catch me saying it.

4. It has to be "going forward", used by business people/politicians, as in: "Going forward, we need to do...X." Since time is irreversible, it's totally unnecessary. No one experiences life "going backward".

5. As far as irritating cliches go, the phrase "the fact of the matter is" must top the list. The fact of the matter is, that it rarely is the actual fact of the matter. It is usually just the speaker's own opinion.

6. Overused cliches I dislike are "let's face it" and "let's be honest".

7. The worse cliche I hear is "touch base". If anyone knows where that came from please let me know so I can go back in a time machine and stop it from ever being said. I have a feeling it was a 1980s invention.

8. I was looking at your well-worn phrases and although "at the end of the day" is a bad one, I absolutely detest anyone saying "110%" or "150%" or any other variant. It is 100% and nothing more. You can't get more than a whole. I'm glad I got that off my chest...

9. My old boss used to tell us that everything was "in the pipeline". One disgruntled staff member commented that this pipeline seemed to be a very long and very clogged-up sewer.

10. The phrase I hate is "the reason being". Particularly when used by people who are trying to sound educated. They invariably show off their lack of education with the next phrase.

11 and 12. "I'm not being funny but..." is one of THE most annoying things that a person can say, and is usually followed by a highly irritating and officious remark. Beginning a sentence with "You know" is another one, especially popular with sportsmen such as David Beckham. Please make these and other irritating cliches illegal.

13 and 14. I hate, hate, hate it when people invite me to "touch base" with them at a later date. Or how about when someone announces that they'll have made a decision "by the end of play today"? However, possibly the most annoying of all cliches must be when those misguided amongst us declare the importance of "singing from the same hymn sheet". "Go do one", I say...

15. "Can't get my head round it" - a ridiculous thing to say!

16 and 17. Cliches to hate: 1) Basically 2) A raft of proposals 3) To roll out (new initiatives etc).

18. "Don't just talk the talk, you got to walk the talk". How annoying is that?

19. "Lessons will be learned". Most pointless and annoying cliche ever.

20. The use of the word "actually". I find it so annoying when listening to reports on the Today programme that I end up "actually" counting the times the word is used.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

HP Sauce Early Day Motion

"That this House deplores the retention of the picture of the House of Commons on HP Sauce labels following the decision by new owners Heinz plc to remove production from the historic Aston site to Holland, making the 125 employees redundant; believes that Heinz should not exploit this symbol of Britishness to sell a product no longer made in the United Kingdom; and calls upon the Administration Committee to remove HP sauce from all House dining areas until the jobs are reinstated or the House of Commons picture is removed from the label."

- Early Day Motion 2728, House of Commons, 12 October, 2006.

See full HP Sauce sory at

The Hawthornden Prize

The oldest of the major British literary prizes was founded in 1919 by Miss Alice Warrender. It is awarded annually to an English writer for "the best work of imaginative literature," which is liberally interpreted and thus may include biography, travel, art history, etc, as well as fiction and drama. There is no competition; books do not have to be, and in fact cannot be, submitted. A panel of judges decides the winner. Young authors are particularly encouraged. The current value of the prize is £10,000.

Some winners

1919 Edward Shanks - The Queen of China

1927 Henry Williamson - Tarka the Otter

1935 Robert Graves - I, Claudius

1960 Alan Sillitoe - The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

1989 Alan Bennett - Talking Heads

1999 Antony Beevor - Stalingrad

2006 Alexander Masters - Stuart: A Life Backwards 

See the full list at

Monday, 1 December 2008


  • Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are almost dead?
  • Why do banks charge a fee on 'insufficient funds' when they already know there is not enough money?
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars; but have to check when you say the paint is still wet?
  • Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?
  • Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?
  • Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
  • Whose idea was it to put an 'S' in the word 'lisp'?
  • If people evolved from apes, Why are there still apes?
  • Why is it that no matter what colour bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?
  • Is there ever a day that mattresses are not in a sale?
  • Why do people constantly return to the fridge with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?
  • Why do people keep running over a piece of cotton a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?
  • Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?
  • How do those dead insects get into those enclosed light fittings?
  • When we are in the supermarket and someone rams our ankle with a shopping trolley then apologizes for doing so, why do we say, 'It's all right?'  Well, it isn't all right, so why don't we say, 'That really hurt, why don't you watch where you're going?'
  • Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?
  • In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?
  • How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?
  • And my FAVOURITE...... The statistics on sanity is that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends -- if they're ok, then it's you.

from uk.rec.humour

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Legal Maxim quotes

  • Justice is better when it prevents rather than punishes with severity
  • It is fraud to conceal fraud
  • A public right cannot be changed by private agreement
  • No cause of action arises from a bare promise
  • The trodden path is the safest
  • He who spares the guilty threatens the innocent
  • Every innovation occasions more harm and and derangement of order by its novelty, than benefit by its abstract utility
  • That which necessity compels she excuses
  • The laws are adapted to those cases which most frequently occur

Extracted from

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Roche limit

The Roche limit, sometimes referred to as the Roche radius, is the distance within which a celestial body held together only by its own gravity will disintegrate due to a second celestial body's tidal forces exceeding the first body's gravitational self-attraction. Inside the Roche limit, orbiting material will tend to disperse and form rings, while outside the limit, material will tend to coalesce.

The term is named after Édouard Roche, the French astronomer who first calculated this theoretical limit in 1848.

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Friday, 28 November 2008

How to Train Your Brain to Think Like a Genius

  1. Visualize and Realize
  2. Connect the Dots
  3. Master Lucid Dreaming
  4. Forget the Facts
  5. Read, Read, Read
  6. Write Your Ideas Down
  7. Employ Bloom's Taxonomy
  8. Use Your Subconscious
  9. Don't Give Up
  10. Forget about Failing

See full article at

Thursday, 27 November 2008


During the 70's Bonanza was shown regularly on BBC television and for young kids like myself it represented a thrilling recreation of the wild west.

Bonanza got its name from the Comstock Lode which was "an exceptionally large and rich mineral deposit" of silver. Virginia City was founded directly over the lode and was mined for 19 years. Ponderosa was an alternative title of the series, used for the broadcast of syndicated reruns while "Bonanza" was in first-run on NBC.

See full article at

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Davis Municipal Code on Safes

8.14.130 Security measures


(1)Commercial establishments having more than the cash to begin the next day's business on the premises after closing hours, or those businesses designated by the Police Department as being highly susceptible to theft because of items or materials they have on the premises, shall lock such money or items in a safe with a minimum rating of TL-15. The safe shall weigh at least 750 pounds or shall be equipped with suitable anchors. Re-locking devices are required. Businesses required by section 8.14.140(b) to have a silent intrusion alarm are considered businesses highly susceptible to theft and are required to have a TL-15 safe in compliance with this section.

(2)A business that would be subject to a high risk for robbery of classified materials or large amounts of cash shall have a TXTL safe. Businesses required by section 8.14.140(a) to have a central station silent robbery alarm are considered businesses subject to a high risk of robbery and are required to have a TXTL safe.


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Timber Joints


In this type of joint one piece crosses over the other.


These two ‘bridle joints’ are used when a light frame is needed. for example, a picture frame. One part of the joint fits into the other part and is glued permanently in position.


These are used when making tables or cabinets and they are very strong when glued together.


This is another example of a mortice and tenon joint. However, in this example a piece of dowel rod is drilled through the mortice and the tenon. This helps keep the joint together even when it is under great pressure. This is used as a joint on chairs and other pieces of furniture so that the joints do not break apart when extra weight is applied.


If the mortice and tenon joint is to used as part of a frame a secret or sloping haunch is used. The tenon does not show on the outer side of the joint and it gives greater gluing area, adding to the overall strength of the joint.


This is a very strong and attractive joint. The tenon has two slots and when it is pushed into the mortice wedges are tapped into position. The wedges hold the joint together firmly and they also give the joint an interesting look.

See more and photos at

Monday, 24 November 2008

Fuller's Earth

Soft, greenish-grey rock resembling clay, but without clay's plasticity.

It is formed largely of clay minerals, rich in montmorillonite, but a great deal of silica is also present.

Its absorbent properties make it suitable for removing oil and grease, and it was formerly used for cleaning fleeces (‘fulling’). It is still used in the textile industry, but its chief application is in the purification of oils.

Beds of fuller's earth are found in the southern USA, Germany, Japan, and the UK.


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Measuring the girth of a tree

The girth ( circumference) of a tree is – or at least should be – much easier to measure than the height, as it is a simple matter of stretching a tape round the trunk, and pulling it taut to find the circumference.

As a general standard, tree girth is taken at 'breast height'; this is defined differently in different situations, with most foresters measuring girth at 1.3 m above ground, while ornamental tree measurers usually measure at 1.5 m above ground; in most cases this makes little difference to the measured girth. On sloping ground, the "above ground" reference point is usually taken as the highest point on the ground touching the trunk, but some use the average between the highest and lowest points of ground.

Some of the inflated old measurements may have been taken at ground level. Some past exaggerated measurements also result from measuring the complete next-to-bark measurement, pushing the tape in and out over every crevice and buttress.

Modern trends are to cite the tree's diameter rather than the circumference; this is obtained by dividing the measured circumference by Pi; it assumes the trunk is circular in cross-section (an oval or irregular cross-section would result in a mean diameter slightly greater than the assumed circle). This is cited as dbh (diameter at breast height) in tree literature.

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Saturday, 22 November 2008

All over again ...

Q: If you do everything, you do "it all". If you do something anew from the very start, you do it "all over again".
Now - if you do everything anew from the very start, and you want to emphasize that you really do every bit of it, do you do "it all all over again" or "it all over again"? Or are both equivalent?

A1: I would say I'll "do everything over again."  I don't like a doubled "all," even if you put a comma between them.  I suppose "do everything all over again" would work for serious emphasis.

A2: If you want to emphasize that you redo the whole thing, you do indeed "do it all all over again".  At least, I would.

from alt.usage.english

Friday, 21 November 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know


1. Handle a blowout

2. Drive in snow

3. Check trouble codes

4. Replace fan belt

5. Wax a car

6. Conquer an off-road obstacle

7. Use a stick welder

8. Hitch up a trailer

9. Jump start a car

Handling Emergencies

10. Perform the Heimlich

11. Reverse hypothermia

12. Perform hands-only CPR

13. Escape a sinking car


14. Carve a turkey

15. Use a sewing machine

16. Put out a fire

17. Home brew beer

18. Remove bloodstains from fabric

19. Move heavy stuff

20. Grow food

21. Read an electric meter

22. Shovel the right way

23. Solder wire

24. Tape drywall

25. Split firewood

26. Replace a faucet washer

27. Mix concrete

28. Paint a straight line

29. Use a French knife

30. Prune bushes and small trees

31. Iron a shirt

32. Fix a toilet tank flapper

33. Change a single-pole switch

34. Fell a tree

35. Replace a broken windowpane

36. Set up a ladder, safely

37. Fix a faucet cartridge

38. Sweat copper tubing

39. Change a diaper

40. Grill with charcoal

41. Sew a button on a shirt

42. Fold a flag

Medical Myths

43. Treat frostbite

44. Treat a burn

45. Help a seizure victim

46. Treat a snakebite

47. Remove a tick

Military Know-How

48. Shine shoes

49. Make a drum-tight bed

50. Drop and give the perfect pushup


51. Run rapids in a canoe

52. Hang food in the wild

53. Skipper a boat

54. Shoot straight

55. Tackle steep drops on a mountain bike

56. Escape a rip current

Primitive Skills

57. Build a fire in the wilderness

58. Build a shelter

59. Find potable water

Surviving Extremes

60. Floods

61. Tornados

62. Cold

63. Heat

64. Lightning

Teach Your Kids

65. Cast a line

66. Lend a hand

67. Change a tire

68.  Throw a spiral

69. Fly a stunt kite

70. Drive a stick shift

71.  Parallel park

72. Tie a bowline

73. Tie a necktie

74. Whittle

75. Ride a bike


76. Install a graphics card

77. Take the perfect portrait

78. Calibrate HDTV settings

79. Shoot a home movie

80. Ditch your hard drive

Master Key Workshop Tools

81. Drill driver

82. Grease gun

83. Coolant hydrometer

84. Socket wrench

85. Test light

86. Brick trowel

87. Framing hammer

88. Wood chisel

89. Spade bit

90. Circular saw

91. Sledge hammer

92.  Hacksaw

93. Torque wrench

94. Air wrench

95. Infrared thermometer

96. Sand blaster

97. Crosscut saw

98. Hand plane

99.  Multimeter

100. Feeler gauges

From Popular Mechanics at

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Bulldog clip

A BULLDOG clip is a clip manufactured under the BULLDOG trade mark owned by Setten IXL Limited.

The device is commonly used for temporarily binding sheets of paper together and a popular range is one which consists of a rectangular sheet of springy steel curved into a cylinder, with two flat steel strips inserted to form combined handles and jaws. The user presses the two handles together, causing the jaws to open against the force of the spring, then inserts a stack of papers and releases the handles. The spring forces the jaws together, gripping the papers firmly.

BULLDOG is a registered trademark throughout the world in relation to stationery equipment. Its registration as a trade mark in the United Kingdom dates back to 1944.


Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) numbers among the greatest philosophers of all time. Judged solely in terms of his philosophical influence, only Plato is his peer: Aristotle's works shaped centuries of philosophy from Late Antiquity through the Renaissance, and even today continue to be studied with keen, non-antiquarian interest. A prodigious researcher and writer, Aristotle left a great body of work, perhaps numbering as many as two-hundred treatises, from which approximately thirty-one survive.[1] His extant writings span a wide range of disciplines, from logic, metaphysics and philosophy of mind, through ethics, political theory, aesthetics and rhetoric, and into such primarily non-philosophical fields as empirical biology, where he excelled at detailed plant and animal observation and taxonomy. In all these areas, Aristotle's theories have provided illumination, met with resistance, sparked debate, and generally stimulated the sustained interest of an abiding readership.


Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Signboards and notices can simply indicate the bare facts about their purpose; or sometimes the originator can enliven his with a bit of humour thereby making it more memorable. Some examples . . . . . ...

Over a Gynaecologist's Office: --- Dr. Jones, at your cervix.

In a Chiropodist's clinic --- Time wounds all heels.

On a Septic Tank lorry: ---- Yesterday's Meals on Wheels

On a Plumber's van: --- We repair what your husband fixed.

On another Plumber's van: --- Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.

On an Electrician's van: --- Let us remove your shorts.

On a Maternity Room door: --- Push. Push. Push.

At an Optician's : --- If you don't see what you're looking for you've come to the right place;

On a Taxidermist's window: --- We really know our stuff.

In a Vets waiting room: --- Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!

At a Radiator Shop: --- Best place in town to take a leak.

from uk. rec. humour

Monday, 17 November 2008


A psychiatrist (also archaically called an alienist) is a physician who specializes in psychiatry and is certified in treating mental disorders.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

Rebuff, refute and repudiate

Refute is sometimes used to mean 'deny or contradict without argument or proof' (although many people think this is wrong), and in this sense it can be confused with repudiate, which means to reject the authority or validity of something: He repudiated the accusation (because it was invalid, there was no evidence for it). Repudiate can also mean 'refuse to have anything to do with something': She repudiated all our offers of help. In this meaning it overlaps with rebuff, but usually refers to the offers rather than the person making them.


Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Island of Poveglia

Frequently referred to as Italy's island of horror, Poveglia is a small island in the Venetian Lagoon. Although there were small settlements on this island at certain points, it was still largely uninhabited. During the first outbreak of the bubonic plague, the city of Venice decided to use this place as a dumping ground for victims of the Black Death, dead or alive. Those who showed the slightest/most trivial signs of the fabled disease were dragged from the city and thrown into pits of rotting corpses. It is said that much of the island's soil consists of human bones and remains and fishermen avoid venturing anywhere near the island so they won't catch rotting human body parts.

As terrible as this already sounds, in the 1920's, a mental hospital was built. The patients immediately issued complaints and reports of hearing screams and voices and even seeing full bodied spirits of the plague victims. All of these were ignored, it didn't help that the main doctor performed procedures that were most inhumane. Eventually, this doctor began witnessing the same things, which drew him to insanity. There are many different stories about his demise, but the most common is that he was thrown off the bell tower next to the hospital and was buried in the tower.

The hospital has been abandoned and the island has returned to it's uninhabited state. It is said that the island is a true place of horror, with the ghosts of both black plague victims and mental hospital patients that were used for torture. Locals say that if you are to venture anywhere near the island at night, you can hear screams and cries of agony and fear. Rumour has it that the bell in the bell tower even rings on occasion.


Friday, 14 November 2008

William Wyon

William Wyon, RA (1795 – October 29, 1851), was official chief engraver at the Royal Mint from 1828 until his death. He was influenced by the master of relief sculpture, John Flaxman. Wyon was a highly visible proponent of the Neoclassicist vogue, and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1838.

Wyon was born in Birmingham, England. In 1834 he modeled the head of Princess Victoria, who was 15 years of age at the time. This work was subsequently used for the City Medal struck in 1837 to celebrate Victoria's first visit to the City of London after her accession to the throne and another medal also issued in 1837 commemorating her visit to the Guildhall. The name of William Wyon is well known among coin and medal collectors because of his prodigious output and artistic skill. He designed “The Young Head” which graced Victoria’s coinage from 1838 to 1860 on the pennies and the rest of the coinage until 1887. Notable among his medallic work are the obverse designs for the prize, juror and other medals for The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in 1851, the year of his death.

Wyon's City Medal was the model for the head on the line-engraved postage stamps of 1840-79, beginning with the Penny Black, the world's first postage stamp, the embossed stamps of 1847-54 and the postal stationery 1841-1901. The primary die used for the embossed issue was engraved by Wyon; the 1s and 10d stamps have the initials "ww" along with the die number at the base of the neck. His design also influenced the surface-printed stamps first printed in 1855.

Wyon is buried under a simple rectangular York stone slab at West Norwood Cemetery.


Thursday, 13 November 2008

Diet Rules

  1. If you eat something, but no one else sees you eat it, it has no calories.
  2. When drinking a diet coke while eating a Mars bar, the calories in the Mars bar are cancelled by the diet coke.
  3. When you eat with someone else, calories don't count as long as you don't eat more than they do.
  4. Foods used for medicinal purposes "never" count (e. g. hot chocolate, toast, Strawberry cheesecake).
  5. If you fatten up everyone else around you, then you look thinner.
  6. Movie-related foods do not have calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel (e. g. milk fudge buttered popcorn, chocolate mints and Toffee Rolls).
  7. Biscuit pieces contain no calories. The process of breaking the biscuit causes calorie leakage.
  8. Late-night snacks have no calories. The fridge light is not strong enough for the calories to see their way into the calorie counter.
  9. If you are in the process of preparing something, food licked off knives and spoons have no calories (e. g. peanut butter on a knife, ice cream on a spoon).
  10. Food of the same colour have the same number of calories. Examples are water-cress and pistachio ice cream.

from uk.rec.humour

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Odd Book Titles

"The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats, and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India".



"The 2007-2012 Outlook for Bathroom Toilet Brushes and Holders in Greater China".



"The doctrine of life-annuities and assurances, analytically investigated and practically explained, together with several useful tables connected with the subject, Francis Baily, edited from the original, with the modern notatation, and enlarged both in the extent of the treatise, as well as in the variety of tables, including a table of deferred annuities on single lives, Carlisle four per cent.; and several others on the English life Table, by H. Filipowski, Late of the Standard, the Colonial Life Offices, Edinburgh, and of the Royal Insurance Office, Liverpool, Author of a Book of Antilogarithms, etc. etc. etc."


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

High Tea & Low Tea

High Tea is often a misnomer. Most people refer to afternoon tea as high tea because they think it sounds regal and lofty, when in all actuality, high tea, or "meat tea" is dinner. High tea, in Britain, at any rate, tends to be on the heavier side. American hotels and tea rooms, on the other hand, continue to misunderstand and offer tidbits of fancy pastries and cakes on delicate china when they offer a "high tea."

Afternoon tea (because it was usually taken in the late afternoon) is also called "low tea" because it was usually taken in a sitting room or withdrawing room where low tables (like a coffee table) were placed near sofas or chairs generally in a large withdrawing room. There are three basic types of Afternoon, or Low Tea:

  • Cream Tea - Tea, scones, jam and cream
  • Light Tea - Tea, scones and sweets
  • Full Tea - Tea, savories, scones, sweets and dessert


Monday, 10 November 2008

Wollaston Medal

Awarded by the Geological Society of London, to "geologists who have had a significant influence by means of a substantial body of excellent research in either or both pure and applied aspects of the science." Funded with a bequest by William Hyde Wollaston.


Sunday, 9 November 2008


Q: Do most people in the UK think of members of the House of Lords as being MPs?

A: "Member of Parliament" is the formal designation of a member of the House of Commons. For example my local MP is, in full: Rt Hon Jeffrey M. Donaldson, Member of Parliament for Lagan Valley.

The title "Member of Parliament" or "MP" applies only to members of House of Commons. The phrase "Members of Parliament" is the plural form for members of the House of Commons.

To refer to MPs and members of the House of Lords as a group it is necessary to use a phrase such as "members of both Houses (of Parliament)" or "members of the Lords and Commons".

It is possible to use "members of parliament" to refer to Lords and MPs as a whole, but there is a serious risk of misunderstanding.

At the annual formal opening of parliament, at which MPs and Lords crowd into the Lords' chamber, the Queen addresses those present as "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons".

(The equivalent in Canada is the Speech from the Throne by the Governor General in which she addresses the members as "Honourable Senators, Members of the House of Commons".)

from alt.usage.english

Saturday, 8 November 2008

The World's Strongest Acid

None of the  strong acids traditionally listed in a chemistry text holds the title of World's Strongest Acid. The record-holder used to be fluorosulfuric acid (HFSO3), but the carborane superacids are hundreds of times stronger than fluorosulfuric acid and over a million times stronger than concentrated sulfuric acid. The superacids readily release protons, which is a slightly different criterion for acid strength than the ability to dissociate to release a H+ ion (a proton).

Strong Is Different from Corrosive

The carborane acids are incredible proton donors, yet they are not highly corrosive. Corrosiveness is related to the negatively-charged part of the acid. Hydrofluoric acid (HF), for example, is so corrosve it dissolves glass. The fluoride ion attacks the silicon atom in silica glass while the proton is interacting with oxygen. Even though it is highly corrosive, hydrofluoric acid is not considered to be a strong acid because it does not completely dissociate in water.


Friday, 7 November 2008


The Bethlem Royal Hospital of London, which has been variously known as St. Mary Bethlehem, Bethlem Hospital, Bethlehem Hospital and Bedlam, was one of Europe's first and most notorious psychiatric hospitals.

The word Bedlam has long been used for lunatic asylums in general, and later for a scene of uproar and confusion.


Thursday, 6 November 2008


Wood is derived from woody plants, notably trees but also shrubs. Wood from the latter is only produced in small sizes, reducing the diversity of uses.

In its most common meaning, "wood" is the secondary xylem of a woody plant, but this is an approximation only: in the wider sense, wood may refer to other materials and tissues with comparable properties. Wood is a heterogeneous, hygroscopic, cellular and anisotropic material. Wood is composed of fibers of cellulose (40%–50%) and hemicellulose (15%–25%) held together by lignin (15%–30%).

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The McNaughton Rules

In 1843, Daniel McNaughton opened probably the biggest can of worms that exists in law when he shot and killed Edward Drummond, Private Secretary to the then British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. The murder was a mistake; McNaughton meant to kill Peel. His defence was based largely around the fact that for years he had suffered from paranoid delusions, namely that Peel's Conservative Party was trying to kill him. McNaughton was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and was committed to Bethlem Hospital, and thence to Broadmoor Criminal Asylum shortly after it opened. The case gave cause to great debate in the House of Lords, resulting in the McNaughton Rules, which, although having no statutory basis, were afforded the same status as actual law.

In summary, these rules state that a person cannot be held responsible for a crime if they were 'labouring under such a deficit of reason from disease of the mind to not know the nature and quality of the act; or that if he did know it, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong.


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Ham in the Hamburger

Have you ever bumped into the anecdotal or philosophical question: 'why is there no ham in a hamburger?'

This question is often used as an example to demonstrate the complications generated by homonyms in folk etymology, or to remind us to widen our horizons.

The standard answer, of course, is that in reality the hamburger is named after the German city of Hamburg. It follows the same naming pattern as numerous other foodstuffs, like the kasseler (a cured pork thing from Kassel), the manchego (a cheese from La Mancha) or mayonnaise (the amorphous white stuff from Menorca).

The fact that one will find the word 'ham' in 'hamburger' is mere coincidence.


Monday, 3 November 2008

Dressed to the nines

This expression, meaning "very fashionably and elaborately dressed", is recorded from the 18th century.  "The nine" or "the nines" were used to signify "superlative" in numerous other contexts.  Theories include:  9, being the highest single-digit number, symbolized the best; a metanalysis of Old English to then eyne "to the eyes"; and a reference to the 9 muses.


Sunday, 2 November 2008

Semantic saturation

Semantic saturation is a cognitive neuroscience phenomenon where intense repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning for the listener, who can only process the speech as repeated meaningless sounds.


Saturday, 1 November 2008

Maxim Gun

In 1881 the American inventor, Hiram Maxim, visited the Paris Electrical Exhibition. While he was at the exhibition he met a man who told him: "If you wanted to make a lot of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each other's throats with greater facility."

Maxim moved to London and over the next few years worked on producing an effective machine-gun. In 1885 he demonstrated the world's first automatic portable machine-gun to the British Army. Maxim used the energy of each bullet's recoil force to eject the spent cartridge and insert the next bullet. The Maxim Machine-Gun would therefore fire until the entire belt of bullets was used up. Trials showed that the machine-gun could fire 500 rounds per minute and therefore had the firepower of about 100 rifles.

The Maxim Machine-Gun was adopted by the British Army in 1889. The following year the Austrian, German, Italian, Swiss and Russian armies also purchased Maxim's gun. The gun was first used by Britain`s colonial forces in the Matabele war in 1893-94. In one engagement, fifty soldiers fought off 5,000 Matabele warriors with just four Maxim guns.

The success of the Maxim Machine-Gun inspired other inventors. The German Army's Maschinengewehr and the Russian Pulemyot Maxima were both based on Maxim's invention.

In 1912 the British Army transferred its loyalties to the Vickers Gun and lighter Lewis Gun. However, in the First World War, several of the minor European armies continued to use the Maxim Gun.


Friday, 31 October 2008

One fell swoop

Q: What does "fell" mean?

A: It means fierce or deadly. "Fell" is arguably close to being archaic. Apart from Tolkien, I know it only from the oft quoted phrase from Macbeth "One fell swoop". Which is often misquoted as "One foul swoop", precisely because of the unfamiliarity of "fell" to modern English speakers. But "fell" may yet be saved by the popularity of Tolkien - or even by the "Fell Beast" collectibles sold following the movies.

from alt.usage.english

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Hamida Djandoubi

Hamida Djandoubi (c. 1949 – 10 September 1977) was the last person to be guillotined in France, at Baumettes Prison in Marseille. He was a Tunisian immigrant who had been convicted of the torture and murder of 21-year-old Elisabeth Bousquet, his former girlfriend, in Marseille. Marcel Chevalier served as chief executioner.


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Buckland tries to eat his way through the entire animal kingdom

I have just finished re-reading Simon Winchester's "The Map that Changed the World" which is about William Smith and the founding of modern Geology. Winchester is a marvelous writer with a knack for really interesting digressions. One that made me laugh out loud is this piece on the Former Dean of the School of Earthly Sciences at Oxford, William Buckland:

"He tried to eat his way through the entire animal kingdom, offering mice in batter and steaks of bison and crocodile to guests at breakfast, but reserving the viler things for himself — he declared that he found mole perfectly horrible, and the only thing worse was that fat English housefly known colloquially as a bluebottle. His sense of taste seems not to have been ruined by such experimentation — he once found his carriage stranded in the nighttime fog somewhere west of London, scooped some dirt from the road and tasted it and declared to his companions, in relief, "Gentlemen — Uxbridge!"

He was a great skeptic, particularly where Catholics were concerned. Once, led to a dark stain on the flagstones of an Italian Cathedral, which the local prelate insisted was the newly liquefied blood of a well-known martyr, he dropped to his knees, licked the darkened spot, and announced that in fact it was the urine of a bat."


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Sherbet, Sherbert, Sorbet

Now the name of a frozen dessert, the word sherbet appeared in English in the seventeenth century, meaning “a cold fruit drink,” and developed two spellings reflecting its two pronunciations, sherbet (SHUHR-bit) and sherbert (SHUHR-buhrt). Today both spellings and both pronunciations are regularly encountered in both British and American use, to the discomfort of some purists, who argue that only sherbet is acceptable.

Meantime, food fanciers have reborrowed this word in its French form, sorbet, pronounced both in the French way (sor-BAI) and an anglicized (SOR-bet). Standard English now uses all three forms, although Edited English usually clings to sherbet and continues to italicize the French sorbet as foreign.

Australian English now uses sherbert, both alone and in compounds, as another name for beer.

From The Columbia Guide to Standard American English at

Monday, 27 October 2008

Top 10 Most Amazing Prison Escapes

Maze Prison Escape : In the biggest prison escape in British history, on 25 September 1983 in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, 38 Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners, who had been convicted of offenses including murder and causing explosions, escaped from H-Block 7 (H7) of the prison.

Alfred Hinds : “Alfie” Hinds was a British criminal and escape artist who, while serving a 12 year prison sentence for robbery, successfully broke out of three high security prisons.

The Texas Seven : The Texas 7 was a group of prisoners who escaped from the John Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas on December 13, 2000. T

Alfred Wetzler : Wetzler was a Slovak Jew, and one of a very small number of Jews known to have escaped from the Auschwitz death camp during the Holocaust.

Sławomir Rawicz : Rawicz was a Polish soldier who was arrested by Soviet occupation troops after the German-Soviet invasion of Poland.

Escape From Alcatraz : In its 29 years of operation, there were 14 attempts to escape from Alcatraz prison involving 34 inmates.

Libby Prison Escape : The Libby Prison Escape was one of the most famous (and successful) prison breaks during the American Civil War.

Pascal Payet : There can be no doubt that this man deserves a place on this list - he has escaped not once, but twice from high security prisons in France - each time via hijacked helicopter!

The Great Escape : Stalag Luft III was a German Air Force prisoner-of-war camp during World War II that housed captured air force personnel.

Colditz Escape : Colditz was one of the most famous German Army prisoner-of-war camps for officers in World War II.

See full item at

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Hawking Radiation

Hawking radiation is thermal radiation thought to be emitted by black holes due to quantum effects. It is named after British physicist Stephen Hawking who worked out the theoretical argument for its existence in 1974. Hawking's discovery became the first convincing insight into quantum gravity. However, the existence of Hawking radiation remains controversial.

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Airline Announcements

A United Flight Attendant announced, 'People, people we're not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!

On landing, the stewardess said, 'Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you're going to leave anything, please make sure it's something we'd like to have. '

'There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane'

An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a 'Thanks for flying our airline.' He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, 'Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?' 'Why, no, Ma'am,' said the pilot. 'What is it?' The little old lady said, 'Did we land, or were we shot down?'

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Ronald Reagan, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: 'Whoa, big fella, WHOA!'

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced, 'Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because sure as hell everything has shifted after a landing like that.'

Another flight attendant's comment on a less than perfect landing: 'We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.'

Overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo, Texas on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain was really having to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo . Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!'

'Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and, in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.'

As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses...... except for that gentleman over there.'

Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City .. The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, 'That was quite a bump, and I know what y'all are thinking. I'm here to tell you it wasn't the airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it wasn't the flight attendant's fault, it was the asphalt.'

After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix , the attendant came on with, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Capt. Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we'll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.'

Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement: 'We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you'll think of US Airways.'

Heard on a Southwest Airline flight - 'Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing and if you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em.'

A plane was taking off from Kennedy Airport . After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, 'Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, non-stop from New York to Los Angeles . The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax... OH, MY GOD!' Silence followed, and after a few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and said, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!' A passenger in Coach yelled, 'That's nothing. You should see the back of mine!'

from uk.rec.humour

Friday, 24 October 2008

Sentences Ending With Prepositions

A traditional rule of grammar is that one should never end a sentence with a preposition. Facetiously stated, the rule is, "A preposition is something you should never end a sentence with." Although it is generally advisable to structure sentences so that they do not end in prepositions, as this makes for more elegant writing, many dispute that ending a sentence with a preposition is incorrect English, especially when there is no convenient way to reword the sentence.

Sometimes the "correct" wording is humorously awkward, as in, "Mr. Hunter cursed his memory of the milkman, away with which his wife ran."

Winston Churchill once put a preposition at the end of a sentence and was called to task for it. As the story goes, Churchill replied, "That's the sort of pedantry up with which I will not put."

Another interesting sentence that plays with sentence-end prepositions is, "Aw, Mom, what'd you bring that book I don't like to be read to out of up for?" If the book in question was about Australia, the number of prepositions at the end can be increased from five to eight: "Aw, Mom, what'd you bring that book I don't like to be read to out of about Down Under up for?" "Down Under" is used in this sentence as a single noun rather than as two prepositions, but we needn't let a technicality like that ruin our fun.


Thursday, 23 October 2008

Nationality or ethnicity idioms

  • Chinese walls - Chinese walls are regulatory information barriers that aim to stop the flow of information that could be misused, especially in financial corporations.
  • Chinese whispers - (UK) When a story is told from person to person, especially if it is gossip or scandal, it inevitably gets distorted and exaggerated. This process is called Chinese whispers.
  • Double Dutch - (UK) If something is double Dutch, it is completely incomprehensible.
  • Dutch auction - If something is sold by setting a price, then reducing it until someone buys it, it is sold in a Dutch auction. It can also mean that something is changed until it is accepted by everyone.
  • Dutch courage - Dutch courage is the reckless bravery caused by drinking too much.
  • Dutch treat - If something like a meal is a Dutch treat, then each person pays their own share of the bill.
  • Dutch uncle - A Dutch uncle is a person who gives unwelcome advice.
  • Dutch wife - A Dutch wife is a long pillow or a hot water bottle.
  • For England - (UK) A person who talks for England, talks a lot- if you do something for England, you do it a lot or to the limit.
  • French leave - To take French leave is to leave a gathering without saying goodbye or without permission.
  • Go Dutch - If you go Dutch in a restaurant, you pay equal shares for the meal.
  • Good Samaritan - A good Samaritan is a persoon wh helps others in need.
  • Greek to me - If you don't understand something, it's all Greek to you.
  • If you'll pardon my French - (UK) This idiom is used as a way of apologising for swearing.
  • Indian file - If people walk in Indian file, they walk in a line one behind the other.
  • Indian giver - An Indian giver gives something, then tries to take it back.
  • Indian summer - If there is a period of warmer weather in late autumn, it is an Indian summer.
  • Like Chinese arithmetic - If something is complicated and hard to understand, it's like Chinese arithmetic.
  • Mexican standoff - When there is a deadlock in strategy and neither side can do anything that will ensure victory, it's a Mexican standoff.
  • More holes than Swiss cheese - If something has more holes than a Swiss cheese, it is incomplete, and lacks many parts.
  • Perfidious Albion - England is known to some as perfidious Albion, implying that it is not trustworthy in its dealings with foreigners.
  • Scotch Mist - The phrase 'Scotch mist' is used humorously to refer to something that is hard to find or doesn't exist - something imagined.
  • Slow boat to China - This idiom is used to describe something that is very slow and takes a long time.
  • Spanish practices - Unauthorized working methods that benefit those who follow them are Spanish practices.
  • Stars and stripes - The stars and stripes is the American flag.
  • Too many chiefs and not enough Indians - When there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians, there are two many managers and not enough workers to work efficiently.
  • Young Turk - A Young Turk is a young person who is rebellious and difficult to control in a company, team or organisation. 


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Bloom's Taxonomy

COGNITIVE LEARNING, one of the three domains from Bloom's Taxonomy, emphasizes intellectual outcomes. Benjamin Bloom identified six levels within the cognitive domain. The six levels are: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

The Six Levels of Bloom's Taxonomy

  1. Knowledge is a starting point that includes both the acquisition of information and the ability to recall information when needed.
  2. Comprehension is the basic level of understanding. It involves the ability to know what is being communicated in order to make use of the information.
  3. Application is the ability to use a learned skill in a new situation.
  4. Analysis is the ability to break content into components in order to identify parts, see relationships among them, and recognize organizational principles.
  5. Synthesis is the ability to combine existing elements in order to create something original.
  6. Evaluation is the ability to make a judgement about the value of something by using a standard.


Monday, 20 October 2008


Pachinko is a Japanese gaming device used for amusement and prizes. Although pachinko machines were originally strictly mechanical, modern pachinko machines are a cross between a pinball machine and a video slot machine.

The machines are widespread in establishments called "pachinko parlors", which also often feature a number of slot machines. Pachinko parlors share the reputation of slot machine dens and casinos the world over — garish decoration; over-the-top architecture; a low-hanging haze of cigarette smoke; the constant din of the machines, music, and announcements; and flashing lights. Modern pachinko machines are highly customizable keeping enthusiasts continuously entertained.


Sunday, 19 October 2008

Top Mad Scientists

#11. Dr. Robert Cornish
Robert Cornish is a scientist who, in Berkley, CA, 1930, managed to resurrect 2 dead dogs by placing them on a seesaw to circulate the blood and injecting them with a mixture of adrenalin and anticoagulants. Not surprising he was able to find a human volunteer for his experiments with a man condemned to be executed, and the state denied him permission for fear he could do it.

#10. Beaurieux
During the head chopy frenzy of the French revolution, Beaurieux decided to test the hypothesis that the head survived the blade for about half a minute. He discovered that immediately after decapitation the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds. In another experiment he yelled at the severed head, it apparently opened it’s eyes in response to it’s name.

#3. Johann Dippel
Lord Dippel worked in the most famous laboratory in the world, Castle Frankenstein. Yes,  THE Castle Frankenstein. It’s real and so is he. His experiments in anatomy, immortality, alchemy, and alleged grave robbing may have inspired the tale of another famous resident of Castle Frankenstein.

#1. Nikola Tesla
No living man has ever been closer to a comic book super scientist then Nikola Tesla. He pioneered the radio and radio control technology which seamed like magic at the time but we now take for granted. He also invented a number of things that will always seem like magic, including the spark shooting Tesla Coil, light bulbs that glow from no known power source, and a pocket sized device that could create devastating earthquakes. His eccentric mannerisms and bizarre vaguely Austrian (actually Serbian and trans-European) accent lead to the iconic german Mad Scientist of film, television and cartoons.

See the full list at

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Police Radio

The following 15 Police Comments were taken off of actual police car videos around the country.

  1. "Relax, the handcuffs are tight because they're new. They'll stretch out after you wear them awhile."
  2. "Take your hands off the car, and I'll make your birth certificate a worthless document."
  3. "If you run, you'll only go to jail tired."
  4. "Can you run faster than 1200 feet per second? In case you didn't know, that is the average speed of a 9 mm bullet fired from my gun."
  5. "So you don't know how fast you were going. I guess that means I can write anything I want on the ticket, huh?"
  6. "Yes, sir, you can talk to the shift supervisor, but I don't think it will help. Oh, did I mention that I am the shift supervisor?"
  7. "Warning? You want a warning? O. K., I'm warning you not to do that again or I'll give you another ticket." (My personal favorite.)
  8. "The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not: Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?"
  9. "Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy, and step in monkey DOO."
  10. "Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven."
  11. "No, sir, we don't have quotas anymore. We used to have quotas, but now we're allowed to write as many tickets as we want."
  12. "Just how big were those two beers?
  13. "In God we trust, all others we run through NCIC (National Crime Information Center)."
  14. "I'm glad to hear the Chief of Police is a good personal friend of yours at least you know someone who can post your bail."
  15. "You didn't think we give pretty women tickets? You're right, we don't."

from uk.rec.humour

Friday, 17 October 2008

London tunnel network put on sale

A secret network of tunnels 100ft (30m) under central London has gone on sale.

The Kingsway Tunnels were built in 1940 as deep air-raid shelters which could accommodate 8,000 people.

They have since been used as a public record library and a telephone exchange. The Post Office took over the tunnels after World War Two.

Now its successor, BT, is selling the 77,000 sq ft of space, and the firm hopes the sale could attract offers of about £5m.

Access to the mile-long system of horizontal and vertical shafts is through unmarked doors in the street on High Holborn.

See full story and pictures at


Thursday, 16 October 2008

You forgot Poland

Reply to someone pointing out a dinky little detail that you didn't mention, but which is basically irrelevant, to demonstrate what a completely anal-retentive idiot you consider them to be.

You: "Of course, James Bond was played by Roger Moore, Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan."

Idiot: "You forgot George Lazenby."

You: "Yeah, well, you forgot Poland."

From the George W. Bush comment to Senator John Kerry in the 2004 American election debates.

Kerry: ...  when we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the United States. That's not a grand coalition. We can do better.

Bush: Well, actually, he forgot Poland. And now there's 30 nations involved ....


Wednesday, 15 October 2008


Maxim - a saying that is widely accepted on its own merits

Hiram Maxim - an English inventor (born in USA) who invented the Maxim Gun that was used in World War I.

Legal Maxim - an established principle or proposition

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


Cinnabar (German Zinnober), sometimes written cinnabarite, is a name applied to red mercury(II) sulfide (HgS), or native vermilion, the common ore of mercury. The name comes from the Greek, used by Theophrastus, and was probably applied to several distinct substances. Other sources say the word comes from the Persian zinjifrah, originally meaning "lost".

Cinnabar was mined by the Roman Empire for its mercury content and it has been the main ore of mercury throughout the centuries. Some mines used by the Romans are still being mined today. It is generally found as a vein-filling mineral associated with recent volcanic activity and alkaline hot springs.


Monday, 13 October 2008

Important Grammar Rules

1. Don't abbrev.

2. Check to see if you any words out.

3. Be carefully to use adjectives and adverbs correct.

4. About sentence fragments.

5. When dangling, don't use participles.

6. Don't use no double negatives.

7. Each pronoun agrees with their antecedent.

8. Just between you and I, case is important.

9. Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.

10. Don't use commas, that aren't necessary.

11. Its important to use apostrophe's right.

12. It's better not to unnecessarily split an infinitive.

13. Never leave a transitive verb just lay there without an object.

14. Only Proper Nouns should be capitalized. also a sentence should.

15. begin with a capital and end with a period

16. Use hyphens in compound-words, not just in any two-word phrase.

17. In letters compositions reports and things like that we use commas

18. to keep a string of items apart.

19. Watch out for irregular verbs which have creeped into our language.

20. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

21. Avoid unnecessary redundancy.

22. A writer mustn't shift your point of view.

23. Don't write a run-on sentence you've got to punctuate it.

24. A preposition isn't a good thing to end a sentence with.

25. Avoid clichés like the plague.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

plump or plunk?


–verb (used without object)

1. to drop or fall heavily or suddenly; come down abruptly or with direct impact. 

2. Chiefly British. to vote exclusively for one candidate in an election, instead of distributing or splitting one's votes among a number. 

–verb (used with object)

3. to drop or throw heavily or suddenly (often fol. by down): He plumped himself down and fell asleep. 

4. to utter or say bluntly (often fol. by out): She plumps out the truth at the oddest times. 

5. to praise or extol: road signs plumping the delights of a new candy bar. 


–verb (used with object)

1. to pluck (a stringed instrument or its strings); twang: to plunk a guitar. 

2. to throw, push, put, drop, etc., heavily or suddenly; plump (often fol. by down): Plunk down your money. She plunked herself down on the seat. 

3. to push, shove, toss, etc. (sometimes fol. by in, over, etc.): to plunk the ball over the net; to plunk a pencil into a drawer. 

–verb (used without object)

4. to give forth a twanging sound. 

5. to drop heavily or suddenly; plump (often fol. by down): to plunk down somewhere and take a nap. 


Saturday, 11 October 2008

Crooks ram police car at The Timber Yard

Criminals escaped by reverse-ramming the police car that pursued their vehicle after they were disturbed committing a theft at Weston-sub-Edge.

A member of the public alerted the police after witnessing a theft in progress at The Timber Yard, Buckle Street at about 10pm on Saturday.

Officers arrived in a Gloucestershire Constabulary Ford Focus estate car from Stow police station and pursued the intruders when they drove off, towards Saintbury Hill, in a silver Vauxhall pick-up truck.

The offenders deliberately reversed the back of the truck into the front of the police vehicle, causing minor damage to the Ford.

They then drove off and got away.

Nobody was hurt and the police do not yet know if anything was stolen from the Timber Yard.

By Simon Crump, Crooks Reverse ram Police Car (from Cotswold Journal), at