Friday, 24 July 2009

Straitjacket or straightjacket?

Straitjacket is often misrendered as straightjacket.

It's neither intended to make you sit up straight nor to scare you straight, and the wearer's arms are usually twisted up like a pretzel. The 'strait' in 'straitjacket' is the same as in 'dire straits', or, for that matter, the Strait of Gibraltar. Strait is an old-fashioned word for 'narrow' or 'confined', or, in a figurative sense, 'strict' or 'righteous'. The straitjacket was meant to combine both, confining a mental patient for his own good.


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Paraguayan Dining Etiquette

Whilst you are eating, it is more than likely that you will be offered second helpings of food. It is considered good manners to graciously accept another helping. You should also be aware that it is polite to leave a little food on your plate once you have finished. This shows the host or hostess that you have been sufficiently fed and have not been left hungry.


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Cad, bounder, rake, heel & blackguard

The word cad is a good example. Interestingly, its history is similar to that of the word 'snob'. Originally 'cadet', this was applied to servants in the 18th Century, before universities used it to refer to the boys from the town. The meaning then drifted to mean someone from the lower classes who attempts to secure relationships with well-bred women.

A bounder is someone similar, but the term, from the late 19th Century, may be slightly less derogatory. This 'would-be stylish person' is 'beyond the bounds' of acceptability. Rotter is another word from the same era.

A rake is not quite the same thing. This is generally applied to those who act with debauchery within the upper social circles. The Rake's Progress is a well-known series of paintings by William Hogarth, completed in 1734, which chronicle the decline of a young debauched spendthrift.

Calling someone a heel or a blackguard is tantamount to calling them a criminal. 'Heel' is 20th Century American slang, presumably in the sense of the heel of a shoe being low to the ground. 'Blackguard' is 18th Century and may derive from the black livery of servants.


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Crack on

Crack on - Continue doing something with energy

"We had to CRACK ON to get everything finished on time."


Monday, 20 July 2009

Lift/Elevator Etiquette - During the ride

It is generally believed that unless you know someone in the lift, or have been conversing while waiting, it is best to not engage in conversation while the car is in motion. Loud singing, whistling and other noises are strongly frowned upon.

Most people will keep their eyes fixed to the overhead number display rather than looking around at other passengers. However, unless there is an indication of discomfort, looking around at the others is permissible as long as you do not invade their privacy(such as looking into purses for example).

A rule that would most apply at this point, although should be attended to earlier is to reduce or preferably eliminate body odour. This applies to strong perfume as much as it does to not having showered for a week. The interior of a lift is a small space and odours travel to each individual aboard. What one considers to be a pleasant aroma is highly subjective. Similiarly, food and alcoholic drinks should not be consumed in a lift. Soft drinks are generally acceptable


Saturday, 18 July 2009

Even Homer nodded

There's an old saying, "Even Homer nodded," meaning that even the great ones could produce ordinary works.


Friday, 17 July 2009

Armstrong's 'poetic' slip on Moon

Neil Armstrong missed out an "a" and did not say "one small step for a man" when he set foot on the Moon in 1969, a linguistic analysis has confirmed.

The researchers show for the first time that he intended to say "a man" and that the "a" may have been lost because he was under pressure.

They say that although the phrase was not strictly correct, it was poetic.

And in its rhythm and the symmetry of its delivery, it perfectly captured the mood of an epic moment in history.

There is also new evidence that his inspirational first words were spoken completely spontaneously - rather than being pre-scripted for him by Nasa or by the White House.


Thursday, 16 July 2009

The sociolinguistics of English middle names

I just picked up and put away a book I'd bought in a second-hand bookstore before going to Romania in 1978, called "The Balkans in our Time", by Robert Lee Wolff, a mid-century Harvard historian.  I realized that he's yet another example of a generalization that must somehow tell us something about how language works: Anglo-elite American academic historians often use their full middle name.  Samuel Eliot Morrison and Henry Steele Commager come readily to mind, but Robert Lee Wolff fits the pattern, as does another more recent writer, Walter Russell Mead.  And Andrew Dickson White, the first president of Cornell, was a historian. It's hard to search for these on Google, but I'm pretty sure I've noticed others, and I can't think of people who use their middle name and *aren't* American academic historians, except for good ol' boys like Billy Bob Thornton and Jerry Lee Lewis.


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Understanding Cricket

For those who will be watching The Ashes cricket series between England and Australia starting in July (2009) (or who live outside the old British Empire and wish you were):

In order to assist people who are not familiar with the game of Cricket, we offer this explanation.

Cricket is a game in which there are 2 sides - one out on the field, and the other in.

Each man in the side that is in goes out, and when he is out he comes in, then the next man goes out until he's out and then he comes in.

When the side that is in is all out, the side that has been out goes in, and the side that was in goes out and tries to get out the side that went in.

Sometimes there are men still in and not out when the side that is in is finally out.

When both sides have been in and out, including those not out and no longer in - that is the end of the game . . . .

from uk.rec.humour

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Frozen Smoke / Aerogel

Aerogel is a manufactured material with the lowest density of any known solid.

It is derived from a gel in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. The result is an extremely low-density solid with several remarkable properties, most notably its effectiveness as a thermal insulator and its extremely low density.

It is nicknamed frozen smoke,solid smoke or blue smoke due to its translucent nature and the way light scatters in the material; however, it feels like expanded polystyrene (styrofoam) to the touch.


Monday, 13 July 2009

Strange Puritan names

A name is sometimes a ridiculous fate. For example, a man afflicted with the name of Kill Sin Pimple lived in Sussex, in 1609.

In the spring of that year, the record shows, Kill Sin served on a jury with his Puritan neighbors, including Fly Debate Roberts, More Fruit Fowler, God Reward Smart, Be Faithful Joiner and Fight the Good Fight of Faith White.


Sunday, 12 July 2009

Charles Darwin - WereWolf Slayer?

Brian Regal, assistant professor of the history of science at Kean University, says that Darwin's On The Origin of Species was responsible for the death of the werewolf legend. You see, a monster that is half human and half wolf makes "no sense from an evolutionary point of view," says Regal.


No peace for the wicked

"Nothing ever lets up around me: things are always popping."

The saying derives from the Bible (Isaiah 48:22 and 57:21), where it appears without the modern irony: 'There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.'"


Saturday, 11 July 2009

Types of Beer in Scotland

Another form of classifying beer has its roots in Scotland where beers are categorised as ‘Mild’, ‘Light’, ‘Heavy’ and ‘Strong’ ales:

  • Mild Ale are dark in colour, with relatively few hops, and was traditionally consumed by heavy industrial workers, such as miners. Mild beer is still enjoyed in industrial regions, despite the closure of many industries.
  • Light Ale, in Scotland, is dark in colour, bottled and of a low to medium strength. In England, the term purely denotes a beer that is bottled.
  • Heavy beers are more popular in the North of England and Scotland, and are medium in strength and pale in colour. Although the taste is ‘full’, it is not ‘heavy’ as such, being full of subtle flavours and aromas.
  • Strong Ale, thankfully, is exactly what it says, a dark and very strong beer, somewhere in strength between a porter and a barley wine, so between 6% and 9-10% volume.

Admittedly, the best way of determining the strength of a beer is to look at the label! However, the classifications pointed to above outline the changes that have occurred in the beer market in recent years. Notably, the classifications, ‘Mild’, Light’, Heavy’ and ‘Strong’ Ales were also referred to, respectively, as 60 shilling, 70 shilling, 80 shilling and 90 shilling beers - their price reflecting their strength. More notably, there are pockets of the country where the above distinctions (and their respective ‘monetary’ names) would still be recognised, although you’d have to pay a little more these days for your pint.


Friday, 10 July 2009

Answering Mobile Telephones

Mobiles are usually a work phone or a personal phone, and you can answer them accordingly. Remember that if you don't recognise the number it could be anyone on the other end.

Non-UK answering techiniques

Different countries have different methods.

  • Spanish: digame (speak to me) or just plain si (yes)
  • Russian: slooshio (listening/ready)
  • German: Answer with your surname. Anything else is considered impolite.
  • France: A quick 'allo usually suffices.
  • Italy: Pronto? or Si.
  • Japan: Use moshi moshi, which is a contraction of moshimasu, moshimasu (I am going to speak), or a simple hai (affirmative).

Answering the telephone can be very important- remember it's those first impressions that really count. Make sure that you choose a formality that suits the occasion, and that your voice sounds bright, cheerful and efficient.


Thursday, 9 July 2009

Types of dice

Ordinary Standard Dice

Casino Precision or Perfect Dice

Crooked Dice

Backgammon Precision Dice

Cubic Dice Without Spots

Polyhedral Dice

Dice Alternatives and Substitutes

Novelty, Souvenir and Promotional Dice

Antique Dice


Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Actual call centre conversations

Customer: 'I've been ringing 0800 2100 for two days and can't get through to enquiries, can you help?'.
Operator: 'Where did you get that number from, sir?'.
Customer: 'It was on the door to the Travel Centre'.
Operator: 'Sir, they are our opening hours'.


Samsung Electronics
Caller: 'Can you give me the telephone number for Jack?'
Operator: 'I'm sorry, sir, I don't understand who you are talking about'.
Caller: 'On page 1, section 5, of the user guide it clearly states that I need to unplug the fax machine from the AC wall socket and telephone Jack before cleaning. Now, can you give me the number for Jack?'
Operator: 'I think you mean the telephone point on the wall'.


RAC Motoring Services
Caller: 'Does your European Breakdown Policy cover me when I am travelling in Australia ?'
Operator: 'Doesn't the product name give you a clue?'


Caller (enquiring about legal requirements while travelling in France ):
'If I register my car in France, do I have to change the steering wheel to the other side of the car?'


Directory Enquiries
Caller: 'I'd like the number of the Argoed Fish Bar in Cardiff please'.
Operator: 'I'm sorry, there's no listing. Is the spelling correct?'
Caller: ‘Well, it used to be called the Bargoed Fish Bar but the 'B' fell off'.


Then there was the caller who asked for a knitwear company in Woven.
Operator: 'Woven? Are you sure?'
Caller: 'Yes. That's what it says on the label; Woven in Scotland '.


On another occasion, a man making heavy breathing sounds from a phone box told a worried operator:
'I haven't got a pen, so I'm steaming up the window to write the number on'.


Tech Support: 'I need you to right-click on the Open Desktop'.
Customer: 'OK'.
Tech Support: 'Did you get a pop-up menu?'.
Customer: 'No'.
Tech Support: 'OK. Right-Click again. Do you see a pop-up menu?'
Customer: 'No'.
Tech Support: 'OK, sir. Can you tell me what you have done up until this point?'.
Customer: 'Sure. You told me to write 'click' and I wrote 'click''.


Tech Support: 'OK. In the bottom left hand side of the screen, can you see the 'OK' button displayed?'
Customer: ‘Wow. How can you see my screen from there?'


Caller: 'I deleted a file from my PC last week and I have just realised that I need it. If I turn my system clock back two weeks will I have my file back again?'.


There's always one. This has got to be one of the funniest things in a long time. I think this guy should have been promoted, not fired. This is a true story from the Word Perfect Helpline, which was transcribed from a recording monitoring the customer care department. Needless to say the Help Desk employee was fired; however, he/she is currently suing the Word Perfect organization for 'Termination without Cause'. Actual dialogue of a former WordPerfect Customer Support employee. (Now I know why they record these conversations!):
Operator: 'Ridge Hall, computer assistance; may I help you?'
Caller: 'Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect.'
Operator: 'What sort of trouble??'
Caller: 'Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away.'
Operator: 'Went away?'
Caller: 'They disappeared.'
Operator: 'Hmm So what does your screen look like now?'
Caller: 'Nothing.'
Operator: 'Nothing??'
Caller: 'It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type.'
Operator: 'Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out??'
Caller: 'How do I tell?'
Operator: 'Can you see the C: prompt on the screen??'
Caller: 'What's a sea-prompt?'
Operator: 'Never mind, can you move your cursor around the screen?'
Caller: 'There isn't any cursor: I told you, it won't accept anything I type.'
Operator: 'Does your monitor have a power indicator??'
Caller: 'What's a monitor?'
Operator: 'It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on??'
Caller: 'I don't know.'
Operator: 'Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that??'
Caller: 'Yes, I think so.'
Operator: 'Great. Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall.
Caller: 'Yes, it is.'
Operator: 'When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one??'
Caller: 'No.'
Operator: 'Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable.'
Caller: 'Okay, here it is.'
Operator: 'Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely into the back of your computer.'
Caller: 'I can't reach.'
Operator: 'Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is??'
Caller: 'No.'
Operator: 'Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over??'
Caller: 'Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle - it's because it's dark.'
Operator: 'Dark??'
Caller: 'Yes - the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window.
Operator: 'Well, turn on the office light then.'
Caller: 'I can't.'
Operator: 'No? Why not??'
Caller: 'Because there's a power failure.'
Operator: 'A power......... A power failure? Aha, Okay, we've got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in??'
Caller: 'Well, yes, I keep them in the closet.'
Operator: 'Good. Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from.'
Caller: 'Really? Is it that bad?'
Operator: 'Yes, I'm afraid it is.'
Caller: 'Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them??'
Operator: 'Tell them you're too stupid to own a computer!!!!!'

from uk.rec.humour

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Euclidean algorithm

The Euclidean algorithm is an efficient method for computing the greatest common divisor. It is named for the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid, who first described it.

The GCD of two numbers is the largest number that divides both of them without leaving a remainder.

The Euclidean algorithm is based on the principle that the greatest common divisor of two numbers does not change if the smaller number is subtracted from the larger number.

See <>

Monday, 6 July 2009

Court Card Design

The Jack of Spades, Jack of Hearts, and King of Diamonds are drawn in profile, while the rest of the courts are shown in full face, these cards are commonly called "one-eyed".

The King of Hearts is shown with a sword behind his head, leading to the nickname "suicide king".

The Jack of Diamonds is sometimes known as "laughing boy".

The King of Diamonds is armed with an axe while the other three kings are armed with swords.

The Queen of Spades appears to hold a sceptre and is sometimes known as "the bedpost queen."

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Indictable, Either Way, Hybrid & Summary Offences

In many common law jurisdictions (e.g. the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, United States, India, Australia, New Zealand), an indictable offence is an offence which can only be tried on an indictment after a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is a prima facie case to answer or by a grand jury. In trials for indictable offences, the accused normally has the right to a jury trial, unless he or she waives that right. In the United States, a crime of similar severity is usually referred to as a felony although it too proceeds after an indictment.

In English law the term refers to either way and indictable only offences. An either way or hybrid offence allows the defendant to elect between trial by jury on indictment in the Crown Court and summary trial in the Magistrates' Court. However, the election may be overruled by the court of first instance if the facts suggest that the sentencing powers of a Magistrates' Court would be inadequate to represent the seriousness of the offence. Some offences such as murder and rape are considered so serious that they can only be tried on indictment at the Crown Court where the widest range of sentencing powers is available to the judge.

A summary offence, also known as a petty crime, is a criminal act in some common law jurisdictions that can be proceeded with summarily, without the right to a jury trial and/or indictment.

From and

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Sicherman Dice

An unusual pair of dice. One has sides 1,3,4,5,6,8. The other has sides 1,2,2,3,3,4. Martin Gardner reported on the discovery of these dice by a certain Colonel George Sicherman, of Buffalo, New York, in a 1978 article in Scientific American.

What is special about these dice? When you roll a normal set of two dice, and add up the total of the two faces, you get scores ranging from 2 (when you throw two 1's) up to 12 (when you throw two 6's). However there is also a certain probability of each score. Throwing a total of 2 has a 1 in 36 chance of happening, as does throwing a 12. Some scores are much more likely. Throwing a total of 6 has a 5 in 36 chance of happening, and can involve throwing two 3's, a 4 and a 2, or a 5 and a 1.

Sicherman Dice behave just like a normal set of dice, in that the chance of throwing a combined total of 2 is 1 in 36, and of throwing a total of 6 has a 5 in 36 chance of happening. There is no other arrangement of numbers on 2 dice that will replicate the behaviour of normal dice (excluding dice with blank or zero faces, or negative numbers!)

So any game that you can play with a normal set of 2 dice can also be played with a set of Sicherman Dice, with no difference in the outcome!

However the odds of throwing a double are not the same as a normal pair of dice. You might like to work that one out for yourself!


Friday, 3 July 2009

Toilets in Lord of the Rings

The truth about toilets in Middle-earth

I cannot understand why people keep complaining that "in Middle-earth, nobody ever goes to the loo". This presumption is simply false.

For example, there is this wonderful descriptive passage when Pippin uses one of the famous water toilets of Minas Tirith: "Pippin flushed and forgot his fear." (LotR, RoTK, Minas Tirith)

from rec.arts.books.tolkien

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Ambulance crashes on way to Ambulance crash

In a seriously bad dose of karma, a Minneapolis ambulance rushing to the scene of an ambulance crash has crashed.

The first ambulance crash involved a taxi that didn’t get out of the way at 3:15am Saturday morning. 15 minutes later the second ambulance called to attend to injuries in the first ambulance crash hit a minivan driving without its lights on.

A spokesman for the ambulance operator told local media that an ambulance accident “creates a domino effect in which medical resources are reduced and people in need of medical attention are impacted,” although I’m not sure he meant more ambulances would crash.

Three people involved in the two ambulance crashes were taken to hospital by a third ambulance that managed (third time lucky) to get to both scenes without hitting anything.


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Bir Tawil Triangle

The Bir Tawil Triangle is a desert of sand and rocks on the border between Egypt and the Sudan. It is also officially the most undesired territory in the world. Bir Tawil is the only piece of land on Earth (*) that is not claimed by any country – least of all by its neighbours. For either of them to claim the Bir Tawil Triangle would be to relinquish their claim to the Hala’ib Triangle. And while Hala’ib is also mainly rock and sand, it is not only ten times larger than Bir Tawil, but also adjacent to the Red Sea - so rather more interesting.

This bizarre situation started out with what is supposed to be the simplest of borders: a straight line. By the Condominium Treaty of 1899, the British drew the line between Egypt and what was then still known as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan at the 22nd parallel north, resulting in a straight-line border of about 1,240 km (770 miles) from Libya to the Red Sea. Bir Tawil was to the south of that line, Halaib to the north.

Straight-line borders are not uncommon in the sparsely populated Sahara desert, from Egypt all the way to Mauritania. But the border between Egypt and the Sudan apparently proved a bit too straight. In 1902, the Brits amended it in three places. A small area north of where the Nile crosses the border was handed over to Sudanese control on account of the local villages being more accessible from the south. The Wadi Halfa Salient is still Sudanese, but claimed by the Egyptians, who solved most of the problem by submerging all of the villages in the salient in Lake Nasser after the construction of the Aswan Dam.

The Bir Tawil Triangle was handed over to Egypt because a tribe on the Egyptian side of the border used the area as grazing lands (Bir Tawil apparently means ‘water well’). Conversely, the Halaib Triangle (which touches the Bir Tawil one) went to Sudan because the locally dominant tribes were based in the Sudan.

Actually, Bir Tawil is less of a Triangle than a Trapezoid, its northern edge (the 22nd parallel) 95 km long and its southern edge, around 30 km to the south, 46 km long. Its total area is just over 2,000 km². The Hala’ib Triangle is about 20,500 km² in size.

De iure, the conflict between Egypt and the Sudan over Hala’ib and Bir Tawil is still unresolved, although Egypt has asserted itself as the de facto administrator of the larger of both areas in the 1990s. I have been unable to ascertain whether either country exerts any practical control over Bir Tawil, leaving open the exciting possibility that it is indeed the only officially ungoverned territory on Earth.

(*) No country officially occupies any part of Antarctica, but this is only because the 1959 Antarctic Treaty froze any existing territorial claims to the continent.


Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Ace high

In early card games the kings were always the highest card in their suit. However, as early as the late 1400s special significance began to be placed on the nominally lowest card, now called the Ace, so that it sometimes became the highest card and the Two, or Deuce, the lowest. This concept may have been hastened in the late 1700s by the French Revolution, where games began being played "ace high" as a symbol of lower classes rising in power above the royalty.

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Monday, 29 June 2009


Cobblestones are stones that were frequently used in the pavement of early streets. "Cobblestone" is derived from the very old English word "cob", which had a wide range of meanings, one of which was "rounded lump" with overtones of large size. "Cobble", which appeared in the 15th century, simply added the diminutive suffix "le" to "cob", and meant a small stone rounded by the flow of water; essentially, a large pebble. It was these smooth "cobbles", gathered from stream beds, that paved the first "cobblestone" streets.

Note that Cobble is a generic geological term for any stone having dimensions between 64–256 mm (2.5–10 inch). A cobbled area is known as a "causey", "cassay" or "cassie" in Scots.

Use in roadways

Cobblestones are typically either set in sand or similar material, or are bound together with mortar. Paving with cobblestones allows a road to be heavily used all year long. It prevents the buildup of ruts often found in dirt roads. It has the additional beneficial advantage of not getting muddy in wet weather or dusty in dry weather. A disadvantage is that carriage wheels, horse hooves and even modern automobiles make a lot of noise when rolling over cobblestone paving. In England, the custom was to strew the cobbles outside the house of a sick or dying person with straw, so as to dampen the sound.

Cobbled streets are highlights in several cycling competitions such as the final Champs-Élysées stage of the Tour de France and the Paris-Roubaix road race as riding upon them is technically more challenging than riding on asphalt.

Cobblestones set in sand have the environmental advantage of being permeable paving, and of flexing rather than cracking with movements in the ground.

Use today

Cobblestones were largely replaced by quarried granite setts in the nineteenth century. Cobblestone is often wrongly used to describe such treatment. Setts were relatively even and roughly rectangular stones that were laid in regular patterns. They gave a smoother ride for carts than cobbles, although in heavily used sections, such as in yards and the like, the usual practice was to replace the setts by parallel granite slabs set apart by the standard axle length of the time.


Thursday, 25 June 2009


Scotland's favourite word, according to a poll by BT Openreach, is numpty. Derived from "numps", an obsolete word for a stupid person, rather than the more obvious numbnuts or numbskull, the term implies general idiocy, often in my experience accompanied by windbaggery. Which explains why you will most often find it used in connection with members of the Scottish Parliament.

But numpty is a multi-purpose word, with great flexibility - my husband, for example, calls me "numpty-noo", an affectionate variation (I hope). With its plosive "p", it is a word capable of withstanding being hurled across football terraces - "Heid tha ball, ya useless nuuuuumpties!" - or gently remonstrating with a small child -"I know you didn't mean tae forget your gym kit, Hamish, but you'll look a right numpty in your vest and pants and nae mistake."


Wednesday, 24 June 2009

John Charles Elton Le Mesurier De Somerys Halliley

John Le Mesurier (born John Charles Elton Le Mesurier De Somerys Halliley; 5 April 1912 – 15 November 1983) was a BAFTA Award-winning English actor. He is most famous for his role as Sergeant Arthur Wilson on the popular 1970s BBC comedy Dad's Army.

Le Mesurier was born in Chaucer Road, Bedford, Bedfordshire, England in 1912.[1], the son of a solicitor, Charles Elton Halliley and Amy Michelle Le Mesurier, who was from an ancient family from Alderney in the Channel Islands. Le Mesurier was educated at Sherborne School, and began to study acting at the age of 20, using his mother's maiden name (common in the Channel Islands) Le Mesurier (pronounced 'Le Measurer') as his stage name.


Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Tobler's First law of geography

The first law of geography according to Waldo Tobler is "Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things."

This observation is embedded in the gravity model of trip distribution. It is also related to the law of demand, in that interactions between places are inversely proportional to the cost of travel between them, which is much like the probability of purchasing a good is inversely proportional to the cost.

It is also related to the ideas of Isaac Newton's Law of universal gravitation and is essentially synonymous with the concept of spatial dependence that forms the foundation of geostatistics.


Monday, 22 June 2009


The fungi (singular fungus) are a kingdom of eukaryotic (1) organisms. They are heterotrophic (2) and digest their food externally, absorbing nutrient molecules into their cells. Yeasts, molds, and mushrooms are examples of fungi. The branch of biology involving the study of fungi is known as mycology.

(1) A eukaryote is an organism with a complex cell or cells, in which the genetic material is organized into a membrane-bound nucleus or nuclei.

(2) heterotrophic - Requiring organic compounds of carbon and nitrogen for nourishment

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Epidemic or Pandemic?

Epidemics and pandemics refer to the spread of infectious diseases among a population. The difference between an epidemic and a pandemic is two-fold. First a pandemic is normally used to indicate a far higher number of people affected than an epidemic, and a pandemic refers to a much larger region affected. In the most extreme case, the global population is affected by a pandemic.

An epidemic is defined by an illness or health-related issue that is showing up in more cases than would be normally expected. However, in the case of a pandemic, even more of the population is affected than in an epidemic.

Let's take a hypothetical example and assume several people contract the same flu-like symptoms in a particular area. Let's further assume that cases show up across the state, but the concentration remains localized in a few original cities. Some cases even turn up elsewhere in the nation, but the illness doesn't catch on elsewhere. In the hubs where it is seen the infection rate remains more than you would expect to normally see. This is a classic example of an epidemic.

Now let's take that same scenario but imagine the rate of infection started growing exponentially so that more and more cases were cropping up locally. When the rate of infection grows very fast it is likely, given favorable circumstances, that the epidemic grows into something more. Now we start seeing cases across the nation and the rate of infection is exceeding even that of an epidemic. It turns out in our hypothetical scenario that most of the population in the nation becomes affected by this flu. This is a pandemic.

To put a finer point on it, if the entire nation was affected but the rate of incidence never rose above that of an epidemic, it would still be considered an epidemic, even though the disease was nationwide.

Conversely, you might have a small population in a remote area of Africa, for example, that is nearly 100% affected by an illness or health problem. Because the incidence is so high, and the area relatively widespread in that it is affecting an entire population, this could be termed pandemic.

You can see with these subtle but significant differences how the terms might be confusing, but normally epidemics that grow out of hand due to the nature of the disease and other factors, turn into pandemics.

A pandemic may be regionally localized if it involves more cases than a simple epidemic; and an epidemic may be widespread if not enough of the population is affected to term it pandemic. Though in this latter case, you might still see it termed pandemic by some, just because the geographical area is so widespread.


Saturday, 20 June 2009

Doctor Who, The Daleks and Continuity Errors

The Daleks appeared in the second ever Doctor Who story, and rocketed the series to immortality. Those early Daleks were crude, though. Powered by static electricity, they were unable to leave the metal floors of their city and could be disabled by being pushed onto a carpet (or a conveniently-placed cloak).

When they returned, they had been improved, with little radar dishes on their back to receive power being beamed to them so that they could Invade Earth. From then on, they seem to have developed the Generic Monster Robot Infinite Internal Power Source and there was no stopping them (except, of course, when the Doctor stopped them, which was every time). Yet when the Doctor travels to the original creation of the Daleks in Genesis of the Daleks, there is no sign of this earlier form.

See more at

Friday, 19 June 2009

To calve

1. Release ice, e.g. "the icebergs and glaciers calve"

2. Birth, e.g. "the whales calve at this time of year"


Thursday, 18 June 2009


A sett, usually the plural setts, is a broadly rectangular quarried stone used originally for paving roads, today a decorative stone paving used in landscape architecture.

A sett is distinct from a Cobblestone by being quarried or shaped to a regular form, whereas a cobblestone is generally naturally occurring. They are also sometimes generically referred to as Belgian Blocks.


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Red rain

Red rain in Kerala was a phenomenon observed sporadically from 25 July to 23 September 2001 in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Heavy downpours occurred in which the rain was primarily red, staining clothes and appearing like blood. Yellow, green, and black rains were also reported.

It was initially suspected that the rains were coloured by fallout from a hypothetical meteor burst, but the Government of India commissioned a study which found the rains had been coloured by spores from a locally prolific aerial algae. Then in early 2006, the coloured rains of Kerala suddenly rose to worldwide attention after media reports of a conjecture that the coloured particles are extraterrestrial cells, proposed by Godfrey Louis and Santhosh Kumar of the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam.

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Purple Dye

The first purple was produced from a type of water snail – the Murex brandaris or spiny dye-murex, known in recent times as Haustellum brandaris. This snail produces a gooey secretion which when exposed to sunlight turns purple. This can be used for dyeing cloth and had the unique property in ancient times of being both a striking colour and colour-fast. It didn't come out in the wash but actually improved with washing.

These snails were common in the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East. We know from archaeological sites in Qatar that the locals made purple dye from crushing up vat loads of these snails as long ago as 1800 BC. By 1500 BC, the use of Murex for making purple dye was common throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, with mounds of crushed snail shells being found both in Crete and at Ugarit in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon). The purple dye industry really took off a few centuries later around another Phoenician city, Tyre (modern Tyr). It became the world centre of production of the purple dye, which became known as 'Tyrian Purple'. The name 'Phoenicia' is from an old Greek word meaning 'Land of Purple'. The people themselves called the country Canaan.

The best dye was made by extracting the organ that produced the dye from the snail rather than including the whole snail in the mix. This was a labour-intensive task. It took the organs from 250,000 snails to make an ounce of dye, so it was extremely expensive.


Monday, 15 June 2009

Orange County

Orange County is a county in Southern California, United States. Its county seat is Santa Ana. The state of California estimates its population as of 2008 to be 3,121,251, making it the third most populous county in California, behind Los Angeles County and San Diego County.[1]

The county is famous for its tourism, the home of such attractions as Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, as well as several beaches along more than 40 miles (64 km) of coastline. It is also recognized for its nationally known centers of religious worship, such as Crystal Cathedral, Saddleback Church, and Calvary Chapel. It is often portrayed in the media as an affluent and politically conservative region.


Sunday, 14 June 2009

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever (also called yellow jack, black vomit or vomito negro in Spanish, or sometimes American Plague) is an acute viral disease. It is an important cause of hemorrhagic illness in many African and South American countries despite existence of an effective vaccine. The yellow in the disease name refers to the jaundice that affects some patients .

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Black Death

The Black Death, also known as the Black Plague, was a devastating pandemic that first struck Europe in the mid-late-14th century (1347– 1350), killing between a third and two-thirds of Europe's population. Almost simultaneous epidemics occurred across large portions of Asia and the Middle East during the same period, indicating that the European outbreak was actually part of a multi-regional pandemic. Including Middle Eastern lands, India and China, the Black Death killed at least 75 million people.

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Friday, 12 June 2009

'Millionth English word' declared

A US web monitoring firm has declared the millionth English word to be Web 2.0, a term for the latest generation of web products and services.

See full story at

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Burnt Sienna

Burnt sienna is an iron oxide pigment: a warm mid brown colour.

Chemically, burnt sienna is formed by burning raw sienna (Terra di Sienna).


Wednesday, 10 June 2009

China Red

Vermilion, sometimes spelled vermillion, when found naturally occurring, is an opaque orangish red pigment, used since antiquity, originally derived from the powdered mineral cinnabar. Chemically, the pigment is mercuric sulfide, HgS, and like all mercury compounds it is toxic. Its name is derived from the French vermeil which was used to mean any red dye, and which itself comes from vermiculum, a red dye made from the insect Kermes vermilio.The words for the color red in Portuguese (vermelho) and Spanish (bermellón) derive from this term.

Today, vermilion is most commonly artificially produced by reacting mercury with molten sulfur. Most naturally produced vermilion comes from cinnabar mined in China, giving rise to its alternative name of China red.


Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Cell phone elbow

If your pinkie and ring fingers tingle or feel numb, you might not want to pick up that cell phone to call the doctor.

Too much cell phone use can lead to overextending nerves, causing what doctors call "cell phone elbow."

Orthopedic specialists are reporting cases of "cell phone elbow," in which patients damage an essential nerve in their arm by bending their elbows too tightly for too long.


Monday, 8 June 2009

Types of Saw Blades

Types of saw blades and the cuts they make

Blade teeth are of two general types: Tool steel or carbide. Carbide is harder and holds a sharp edge much longer.

Band Saw Blade

A straight blade welded into a circle. Used mainly at sawmills & steel service centers. Preferred over circular saws due to less waste.


In woodworking, a cut made at (or near) a right angle to the direction of the grain of the workpiece. A crosscut saw is used to make this type of cut.

Rip cut

In woodworking, a cut made parallel to the direction of the grain of the workpiece. A rip saw is used to make this type of cut.


A circular saw blade with many small teeth designed for cutting plywood with minimal splintering.

Dado blade

A special type of circular saw blade used for making wide grooved cuts in wood so the edge of another piece of wood will fit into the groove to make a joint. Dado blades can make different width grooves by addition or removal of chipper blades of various widths between the outer sadaio blades. This first type is called a stacked dado blade. There is another type of dado blade capable of cutting variable width groove. Das. An adjustable dado utilizes a movable locking cam mechanism which causes the blade to wobble sideways more or less. This allows continuously variable groove width from the lower to upper design limits of the dado.


Saturday, 6 June 2009

Pigments & Pigment Groups

A pigment is a material that changes the colour of light it reflects as the result of selective colour absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which the material itself emits light.

Pigment groups

  • Biological origins: Alizarin, Alizarin Crimson, Gamboge, Indigo, Indian Yellow, Cochineal Red, Tyrian Purple, Rose madder
  • Carbon pigments: Carbon Black, Ivory Black, Vine Black, Lamp Black
  • Cadmium pigments: cadmium pigments, Cadmium Green, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Orange
  • Iron oxide pigments: Caput Mortuum, oxide red, Red Ochre, Sanguine, Venetian Red, Mars Black
  • Chromium pigments: Chrome Green, Chrome Yellow
  • Cobalt pigments: Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Violet, Aureolin
  • Lead pigments: lead white, Naples yellow, Cremnitz White, red lead
  • Copper pigments: Paris Green, Verdigris, Viridian
  • Titanium pigments: Titanium White, Titanium Beige
  • Ultramarine pigments: Ultramarine, Ultramarine Green Shade, French Ultramarine
  • Mercury pigments: Vermilion
  • Zinc pigments: Zinc White
  • Clay earth pigments (which are also iron oxides): Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre.
  • Organic: Pigment Red 170, Phthalo Green, Phthalo Blue, Prussian blue, Quinacridone Magenta.

From Pocket Wikipedia,

Friday, 5 June 2009

Aniseed balls

Aniseed balls are a type of hard round sweet sold in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. They are shiny and dark brownish red, and hard like Gobstoppers, but generally only 1cm across. They are generally sold by weight, for example by quarter pound (or the equivalent in metric, 113 grams, which is mandated by law), in traditional sweet shops in the UK and Ireland.

They are flavoured by aniseed oil, have a very strong aniseed flavor, and last for a long time in the mouth before dissolving.

In the center of the ball is a whole rapeseed that can be crushed.


Thursday, 4 June 2009


The 18th Century was known as the 'Age of Reason'. It is ironic that one of the most famous people from that era is King George III (1738 – 1820) of the United Kingdom, who was mad. During his periods of insanity, the ruling was done by his son George, Prince Regent, giving us the term 'Regency' for this particular period.

There have been various attempted diagnoses of the madness. One of the most popular theories, although by no means proved, is that the king suffered from 'porphyria', a disease named after the colour purple, as it causes the urine and faeces to have that hue.


Wednesday, 3 June 2009


The Valley Works in Rhydymwyn is a Government owned site that was for years so secret that it was never even shown on maps of the area.

It has now been transformed into a nature reserve and a site of historic interest, that’s now open for managed access.

The Valley Works acquired its’ name 1939 when the Ministry of Supply instructed ICI’s Special Products Division to construct a factory and storage area in the Alyn Valley close to Rhydymwyn. The factory was to manufacture mustard gas. In the years 1940-1959 it was involved in the manufacturing, assembly or storage of chemical weapons or mustard gas in bulk containers. During the years 1947-1959 the tunnel complex held the majority of the country’s stock of mustard gas.


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Munsell color system

In colorimetry, the Munsell color system is a color space that specifies colors based on three color dimensions: hue, value (lightness), and chroma (color purity or colorfulness). It was created by Professor Albert H. Munsell in the first decade of the 20th century and adopted by the USDA as the official color system for soil research in the 1930's.


Monday, 1 June 2009

LSD - old money

LSD was the abbreviation for £:s:d, pounds, shillings and pence; otherwise known as 'old money': the pre-decimal coinage of the UK until 1971.

LSD is an abbreviation of the Latin words libra, solidus and denarius.

  • Libra, a pound weight in Latin,
  • s. is an abbreviation for shilling in English,
  • d. stands for denarius or denarii (a Roman coin)


Sunday, 31 May 2009


In music, ornaments are musical flourishes that are not necessary to carry the overall line of the melody (or harmony), but serve instead to decorate or "ornament" that line. Many ornaments are performed as "fast notes" around a central note.


In architecture and decorative art, ornament is a decoration used to embellish parts of a building or object. Architectural ornament can be carved from stone, wood or precious metals, formed with plaster or clay, or impressed onto a surface as applied ornament; in other applied arts the main material of the object, or a different one may be used.


Saturday, 30 May 2009


The evening dress for men now popularly known as a tuxedo takes its name from Tuxedo Park, where it was said to have been worn for the first time in the United States, by Griswald Lorillard at the annual Autumn Ball of the Tuxedo Club founded by Pierre Lorillard IV, and thereafter became popular for formal dress in America.

It became known as the tuxedo when a fellow asked another at the Autumn Ball, "Why does that man's jacket not have coattails on it?" The other answered, "He is from Tuxedo Park." The first gentleman misinterpreted and told all of his friends that he saw a man wearing a jacket without coattails called a tuxedo, not from Tuxedo. This all took place at The Autumn ball, which still exists today.


Friday, 29 May 2009

White's Green (Blue?) Tree Frog

The Australian Green Tree Frog, simply Green Tree Frog in Australia, White's Tree Frog, or Dumpy Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea) is a species of tree frog native to Australia and New Guinea, with introduced populations in New Zealand and the United States. The species belongs to the genus Litoria. It is physiologically similar to some species of the genus, particularly the Magnificent Tree Frog (Litoria splendida) and the Giant Tree Frog (Litoria infrafrenata).

The Green Tree Frog is a large species compared with most Australian frogs, reaching 10 centimetres in length. The average lifespan of the frog in captivity, about sixteen years, is long in comparison with most frogs. Green Tree Frogs are docile and well suited to living near human dwellings. They are often found on windows or inside houses, eating insects drawn by the light.

Due to its physical and behavioural traits, the Green Tree Frog has become one of the most recognisable frogs in its region, and is a popular exotic pet throughout the world. The skin secretions of the frog have antibacterial and antiviral properties that may prove useful in pharmaceutical preparations.

The common name of the species, "White's Tree Frog", is in honour of the first person to describe the species, John White. The Green Tree Frog was the first Australian frog scientifically classified. The species was originally called the "blue frog" (Rana caerulea); although the Green Tree Frog is green, the original specimens White sent to England were damaged by the preservative and appeared blue. This is because the colour of the frog is caused by blue and green pigments covered in a yellow layer. The preservative destroyed the yellow layer and left the frog with a blue appearance. The specific epithet, caerulea, which is Latin for blue, has remained the same. The frog is also known more simply as the "Green Tree Frog." However, that name is often given to the most common large green tree frog in a region, for example, the American green tree frog (Hyla cinerea).

From Pocket Wikipedia,

What did thought do?

"You know what thought did? He didn't do anything - he just thought he did."

A piece of nonsense which basically points out the futility of thinking that something has been done without actually going and assuring oneself that it has in fact been done. So for example

"The basement's flooded!"

"But I thought I turned the faucet off..."

"Well, you know what thought did."


He buried a feather and thought it would grow a chicken

He pi***d in bed and thought he was sweating.

He pi***d on his head and thought it was raining.

He followed a muck-cart and thought it was a wedding


Thursday, 28 May 2009

Pontefract cake

Pontefract cakes (also known as Pomfret cakes and Pomfrey cakes) are a type of small, roughly circular black sweet measuring approximately 2 cm in diameter and 4 mm thick, made of liquorice, originally manufactured in the Yorkshire town of Pontefract, England.

The original name for these small tablets of liquorice is a "Pomfret" cake, after the old Norman name for Pontefract. However, that name has fallen into disuse and they are now almost invariably labelled "Pontefract cakes".

Originally, the sweets were embossed by hand with a stamp, to form their traditional look, but now they are machinery formed. The embossed stamp was originally a stylised image of Pontefract Castle.

The liquorice root used in these cakes was exported to Australia for the first time by a member of the famous Carter family who hailed from Pontefract.

Healthcare professionals have warned against overindulgence on Pontefract Cakes after a 56 year old woman was admitted to hospital after overdosing on the confectionery.


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

US Government Advice on the Swine Flu Pandemic

My fellow Americans, our country faces a deadly threat and we must prepare ourselves to meet this threat.

To minimise the spread of Swine flu, please buy at least 2 weeks worth of provisions and store them in your home. Buy canned food, bottled water, flash light batteries and also panic buy as much duck tape as you can possibly lay your hands on.

If you don’t already have a secret nuclear bunker in your back yard located under the swimming pool, now might be a good time to consider having one installed. I also urge you to panic buy as much gasoline as possible. Keep you car task full, so you can evacuate the area at a moments notice. Please also keep an emergency supply of gasoline in a 50 gallon drum in the basement of your home.

Use the duck tape to seal the doors and windows of your house (assuming you don’t have a secret nuclear bunker) This will help to stop germs from entering your home.

Listen to the radio and keep the supply of extra flash light batteries near it. Wait for the all clear to be broadcast and stay inside until it is.

Under no circumstances should you go outside or start to riot. Please do not use the 50 gallon drum of gasoline to make Molotov cocktails. You should not attempt to purify your neighbourhood by burning down the houses of suspected swine flu victims.

Thank you for cooperation.

US Government Plague Control Committee

from uk.rec.humour

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Fun Practical Jokes to Play at Work

Having trouble getting through the workday without falling asleep at your desk?

Here are a few pranks that are sure to liven up the cube farm.

(NOTE: Don't be stupid enough to actually try any of the items below, or you'll find yourself in jail, in the hospital, or, even worse, in the unemployment line!)

  1. Change the settings in a coworker's word processing software so that any instance of the letter "x" is auto-corrected to read "xxx."
  2. Introduce the new intern by a different name to each person he/she meets.
  3. Tear a few graphic pages out of an adult magazine, slip them into an assistant's large photocopying job.
  4. Babble incoherently to a co-worker then ask, "Did you get all of that?"
  5. TP the VP's office...while he/she is in the room and on a conference call.
  6. Post a fake memo on the office bulletin board announcing Friday as "You're the Boss" Day, where all employees are to come into work dressed as a member of upper management.
  7. Pass around a sheet of paper asking other staff members if they'll sponsor a co-worker in a spelling bee for dyslexics.
  8. Wander the halls, slapping your head repeatedly and mutter, "Will you please shut up?"
  9. Wrap plastic wrap over the urinals in the executive washroom.
  10. Turn off the receptionist's ringer.
  11. Pretend you work at a collection agency during your lunch hour. Call your imaginary clients and loudly threaten bodily injury if they don't "pay up."
  12. Tape a piece of toilet paper to your shoe--the longer, the better--and do a few laps around the cube farm and through the cafeteria.


Thursday, 21 May 2009

Roman Roads

The Romans were famous for their roads. They built roads so that the army could march from one place to another. They tried to build the roads as straight as possible, so that the army could take the shortest route.

How the Road was Built...

  1. First, the army builders would clear the ground of rocks and trees.
  2. They then dug a trench where the road was to go and filled it with big stones.
  3. Next, they put in big stones, pebbles, cement and sand which they packed down to make a firm base.,
  4. Then they added another layer of cement mixed with broken tiles.
  5. On top of that, they then put paving stones to make the surface of the road. These stones were cut so that they fitted together tightly.
  6. Kerb stones were put at the sides of the road to hold in the paving stones and to make a channel for the water to run away.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Euler, Leonhard (1707-1783)

Swiss mathematician who was tutored by Johann Bernoulli. He worked at the Petersburg Academy and Berlin Academy of Science. He had a phenomenal memory, and once did a calculation in his head to settle an argument between students whose computations differed in the fiftieth decimal place. Euler lost sight in his right eye in 1735, and in his left eye in 1766. Nevertheless, aided by his phenomenal memory (and having practiced writing on a large slate when his sight was failing him), he continued to publish his results by dictating them. Euler was the most prolific mathematical writer of all times finding time (even with his 13 children) to publish over 800 papers in his lifetime. He won the Paris Academy Prize 12 times. When asked for an explanation why his memoirs flowed so easily in such huge quantities, Euler is reported to have replied that his pencil seemed to surpass him in intelligence.

Euler systematized mathematics by introducing the symbols e, i, and f(x) for a function  of x. He also made major contributions in optics, mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. He made significant contributions to the study of differential equations. His Introducio in analysin infinitorum (1748) provided the foundations of analysis.  He showed that any complex number to a complex power can be written as a complex number,  and investigated the beta and gamma functions. He computed the Riemann zeta function for even numbers.


Tuesday, 19 May 2009


A neologism is an invented or artificial word.

For example, when scientists invent or discover something new, it requires a name or some other way of referring to it. Sometimes it is named after the inventor or discoverer, like Murphy's Law, and sometimes this leads to a new word entering the language, like 'diesel' for the engine invented by Rudolf Diesel and the fuel it runs on. At other times a new word is used that finds its way into everyday language (or is at least recognised by nearly everyone). A good example of this is the word laser, which is an acronym of Light Amplification through the Stimulated Emission of Radiation and was coined in 1959 by Gordon Gould1 based on the acronym 'maser'2. Similarly, 'radar' stands for 'RAdio Detection And Ranging and was coined by US Navy researchers in 1942. New words in science are often based on existing words, especially Latin and Greek ones, like the term invented by Marie and Pierre Curie for the newly discovered phenomenon 'radioactivity' which shares a Latin root with the name 'radium' for one of the radioactive elements. (And after the potential of radioactivity was fully realised by the wider scientific community, Marie had a element named in her honour, 'Curium'.)


Sunday, 17 May 2009

Wenger "GIANT" Swiss Army Knife

The biggest Swiss Army knife in the world

What more can we say... just look at the picture and marvel at THE WENGER GIANT of all Swiss Army Knives...

This is the largest Swiss Army knife ever built. It weighs in at nearly 1 kg (2lbs). What it does not have, you do not need.

It is really intended for collectors of Swiss Army Knives and collection display, as opposed to a pocket tool, it is just TOO BIG for practical use.

This Wenger Swiss Army knife is NOT a pocket tool, it is for display - collector's only.

Please do not purchase if you are under the belief that it is the top of the range Wenger Swiss Army knife, that is the Wenger ULTIMATE. This unit is made to order for collectors of Swiss Army Knives.


Saturday, 16 May 2009

Mistakes on a CV / resume

These are from actual resumes:

  • "Personal: I'm married with 9 children. I don't require prescription drugs.
  • "I am extremely loyal to my present firm, so please don't let them know of my immediate availability."
  • "Qualifications: I am a man filled with passion and integrity, and I can act on short notice. I'm a class act and do not come cheap."
  • "I intentionally omitted my salary history. I've made money and lost money. I've been rich and I've been poor. I prefer being rich."
  • "Note: Please don't misconstrue my 14 jobs as 'job-hopping'. I have never quit a job."
  • "Number of dependents: 40."
  • "Marital Status: Often. Children: Various."


  • "Here are my qualifications for you to overlook."


  • "Responsibility makes me nervous."
  • "They insisted that all employees get to work by 8:45 every morning.
  • “Couldn't work under those conditions."


  • "Was met with a string of broken promises and lies, as well as cockroaches."
  • "I was working for my mom until she decided to move."
  • "The company made me a scapegoat - just like my three previous employers."


  • "While I am open to the initial nature of an assignment, I am decidedly disposed that it be so oriented as to at least partially incorporate the experience enjoyed heretofore and that it be configured so as to ultimately lead to the application of more rarefied facets of financial management as the major sphere of responsibility."
  • "I was proud to win the Gregg Typting Award."


  • "Please call me after 5:30 because I am self-employed and my employer does not know I am looking for another job."
  • "My goal is to be a meteorologist. But since I have no training in meteorology, I suppose I should try stock brokerage."
  • "I procrastinate - especially when the task is unpleasant."


  • "Minor allergies to house cats and Mongolian sheep."


  • "Donating blood. 14 gallons so far."


  • "Education: College, August 1880-May 1984."
  • "Work Experience: Dealing with customers' conflicts that arouse."
  • "Develop and recommend an annual operating expense fudget."
  • "I'm a rabid typist."
  • "Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain operation."

from uk.rec.humour

Friday, 15 May 2009

Types of Chairs

Armchair - high back, low-back, stick back & with writing desk

Barber chair - with stool

Conversation chair

Dentist chair

Dining chair

Easy chair

Folding chair - folding rocking chair & folding dining chair

Hall chair

Invalid chair

Lawn/Outdoor chair

Lolling chair

Lounge chair

Office chair - with wheels & with arms


Rocking chair

Roundabout or Corner chair

Shaving chair

Side chair

Stacking chair

Straight chair

Swivel chair

Table chair

Throne chair


Writing chair


Thursday, 14 May 2009


When members of the armed forces are promoted, and these promotions are published in the London Gazette, the person is said to have been “gazetted”.

Being "gazetted" (or "in the gazette") sometimes also meant having official notice of one's bankruptcy published.


Tuesday, 12 May 2009


British people place considerable value on punctuality. If you agree to meet friends at three o'clock, you can bet that they'll be there just after three. Since Britons are so time conscious, the pace of life may seem very rushed. In Britain, people make great effort to arrive on time. It is often considered impolite to arrive even a few minutes late. If you are unable to keep an appointment, it is expected that you call the person you are meeting. Some general tips follow.

You should arrive:

  • At the exact time specified – for dinner, lunch, or appointments with professors, doctors, and other professionals.
  • Any time during the hours specified for teas, receptions, and cocktail parties.
  • A few minutes early: for public meetings, plays, concerts, movies, sporting events, classes, church services, and weddings.

If you are invited to someone's house for dinner at half past seven, they will expect you to be there on the dot. An invitation might state "7.30 for 8", in which case you should arrive no later than 7.50. However, if an invitation says "sharp", you must arrive in plenty of time.


Monday, 11 May 2009

I am just going outside and may be some time

Captain Oates was the 'very gallant gentleman' who walked to his death in a blizzard, hoping to save his comrades on Scott's disastrous South Pole expedition in 1912. As he crawled from their tent on to the ice in temperatures of -40 °C, Oates achieved immortality with the famous parting remark: 'I am just going outside and may be some time.'


Sunday, 10 May 2009

Lake, Grubb and periscopes

A periscope, is a optical device for conducting observations from a concealed or protected position. Simple periscopes consist of reflecting mirrors and/or prisms at opposite ends of a tube container. The reflecting surfaces are parallel to each other and at a 45° angle to the axis of the tube. The Navy attributes the invention of the periscope (1902) to Simon Lake and the perfection of the periscope to Sir Howard Grubb.

For all its innovations, USS Holland had at least one major flaw; lack of vision when submerged. The submarine had to broach the surface so the crew could look out through windows in the conning tower. Broaching deprived the Holland of one of the submarine’s greatest advantages – stealth. Lack of vision when submerged was eventually corrected when Simon Lake used prisms and lenses to develop the omniscope, forerunner of the periscope. Sir Howard Grubb, designer of astronomical instruments, developed the modern periscope that was first used in Holland-designed British Royal Navy submarines. For more than 50 years, the periscope was the submarine’s only visual aid until underwater television was installed aboard the nuclear powered submarine USS Nautilus.

Thomas Grubb (1800-1878) founded a telescope making firm in Dublin. Sir Howard Grubb's father was noted for inventing and constructing machinery for printing. In the early 1830s, he made an observatory for his own use equipped with a 9-inch (23cm) telescope. Thomas Grubb's youngest son Howard (1844-1931) joined the firm in 1865, under his hand the company gained a reputation for the first-class Grubb telescopes. During the First World War, demand was on Grubb's factory to make gunsights and periscopes for the war effort and it was during those years that Grubb perfected the periscope's design.


Saturday, 9 May 2009

Quarantine for lonely Afghan pig

Afghanistan's only known pig has been quarantined because of fears over swine flu, officials from Kabul Zoo say.

The pig, a curiosity in a country where pork products are illegal, lives at the zoo, where he had previously enjoyed grazing next to deer and goats.

However visitors expressed fears that the animal could be carrying the H1N1 virus and he was moved into isolation.


Friday, 8 May 2009

Swine Flu British Government Advice FAQ

Q. What’s is swine flu?
A. It’s a new strain of flu, that may develop into a pandemic.

Q. Is this likely to develop into the end of the world?
A. CERTAINLY NOT! Remain calm, this is not Hamageddon.

Q. What should I do if a major outbreak hits the UK?
A. Simple… Dress like Whacko Jacko at an airport and don a face mask.

Q. I hear there is a rash associated with the illness how should I treat it?
A. Get to a chemist quick as you can and buy some Oink-ment

Q. Is it safe to eat pork?
A. Yes! Swine flu is a respiratory infection, just try not to inhale any fumes from your bacon sandwich.

Q. Are politicians more like to develop the illness?
A. No! But they are very susceptible to infections like lying swine flu.

Q. Will many Brits die?
A. Solidly built British geezers will survive anything, only weedy Quiche eating salad munchers should be concerned.

from uk.rec.humour

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Structure of the Roman Army

The Roman army was broken down into different groups to have a clear chain of command during battle.

The smallest unit was the conturbenium, which was a group of eight soldiers. These men marched together and shared a tent or a room at a fort. Ten conturbenium made up a century (only eighty men on average) which was commanded by a centurion. Six centuries would be combined to make up a cohort. Then ten Cohorts would be combined to make up a legion or about 6,000 men.

The first cohort of the legion was usually twice the size of a normal cohort, and had the best soldiers in it. The legion, all of which was infantry, was the backbone of the Roman army. "Each legion contained four lines, or groups, of soldiers. The front line soldier was the velites, who was trained to throw spears at the enemy. Behind the velites was the hastatus and the preinceps. These soldiers did most of the fighting. They had light armor and used swords. The last line was the triarius, who wore heavy armor". In addition to the legionaries, auxiliary cohorts of cavalry or specialists such as archers, would also be part of the unit.


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Origin of Mayday

Our modern celebration of Mayday as a working class holiday evolved from the struggle for the eight hour day in 1886. May 1, 1886 saw national strikes in the United States and Canada for an eight hour day called by the Knights of Labour. In Chicago police attacked striking workers killing six.

The next day at a demonstration in Haymarket Square to protest the police brutality a bomb exploded in the middle of a crowd of police killing eight of them. The police arrested eight anarchist trade unionists claiming they threw the bombs. To this day the subject is still one of controversy. The question remains whether the bomb was thrown by the workers at the police or whether one of the police's own agent provocateurs dropped it in their haste to retreat from charging workers.

In what was to become one of the most infamous show trials in America in the 19th century, but certainly not to be the last of such trials against radical workers, the State of Illinois tried the anarchist workingmen for fighting for their rights as much as being the actual bomb throwers. Whether the anarchist workers were guilty or innocent was irrelevant. They were agitators, fomenting revolution and stirring up the working class, and they had to be taught a lesson.

Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engle and Adolph Fischer were found guilty and executed by the State of Illinois.

In Paris in 1889 the International Working Men's Association (the First International) declared May 1st an international working class holiday in commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs. The red flag became the symbol of the blood of working class martyrs in their battle for workers rights.

Mayday, which had been banned for being a holiday of the common people, had been reclaimed once again for the common people.


Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Victorinox or Wenger?

Swiss Army Knife - Victorinox or Wenger?

Elsener, through his company Victorinox, managed to corner the market until 1893, when the second industrial cutler of Switzerland, Paul Boechat & Cie, headquartered in Delémont in the French-speaking region of Jura, started selling a similar product. This company was later acquired by its then General Manager, Theodore Wenger, and renamed the Wenger Company.

In 1908 the Swiss government, wanting to prevent an issue over regional favouritism, but perhaps wanting a bit of competition in hopes of lowering prices, split the contract with Victorinox and Wenger, each getting half of the orders placed. By mutual agreement, Wenger advertises as the Genuine Swiss Army Knife and Victorinox uses the slogan the Original Swiss Army Knife. However, on April 26, 2005, Victorinox acquired Wenger, thus once again becoming the sole supplier of knives to the Swiss Army. However, on the consumer side Victorinox has stated that it intends to keep both brands intact.

In 2006, Wenger produced a knife with 85 devices and 110 functions to commemorate Wenger's 100th anniversary in the Swiss Army knife business. The Giant, as it's called, is a novelty collector's item that is nearly 9 inches thick, and retails for about U.S. $1200 (See complete list of implements, p.4).


Sunday, 3 May 2009

Mapping the Seven Deadly Sins

Last month, the Las Vegas Sun reported on an unusual study in which researchers attempted to map the distribution of the seven deadly sins. Researchers primarily looked at Nevada, which for some unexplained reason is associated with sin, but the maps they put together for the U.S. as a whole are far more interesting, particularly the maps showing standard deviations from the mean. They arrived at these maps by finding a statistical stand-in for each sin:

  • envy is represented by thefts,
  • wrath by violent crime,
  • lust by the rate of sexually transmitted diseases,
  • gluttony by the number of fast food restaurants per capita, and so on,
  • with pride as the aggregate of the other six.

The Sun calls it “a precision party trick — rigorous mapping of ridiculous data.” More fun than useful. Via Catholicgauze.


Saturday, 2 May 2009

Egg War

The Egg War is the name given to an 1863 conflict between rival egging companies on the Farallon Islands, 25 miles off San Francisco. It was the culmination of several years of tension between the (Pacific) Egg Company, which claimed the right to collect the eggs on the islands, and several rival firms. The resulting violence claimed two lives, but left the Egg Company in sole control of the islands' eggs. Its victory was short lived; the company sold the rights to use the islands in the late 1870s and the federal government removed all egging companies from the islands in 1881.


Friday, 1 May 2009

Longest name for a person

The award for the longest name for a person belongs to a German immigrant to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The name he was given at birth, and which somehow fit on his passport was:

(First and "middle" names)
Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvim John Kenneth Loyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor Willian Xerxes Yancy Zeus

(Last name)


In case you didn't notice, he has one given name for every letter of the alphabet plus his surname. Needless to say, he shortened it, and was commonly known as Mr. Hubert Wolfe, though officially it was said that he signed his name Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff, Sr.


Thursday, 30 April 2009

Walter Hunt and the safety pin

Walter Hunt had no trouble thinking up new ideas. First he invented a machine to spin flax. Then he invented a fire engine gong, a forest saw, a stove that burned hard coal. His inventions worked, but he just did not have the knack for making money from them. One day in 1849 Walter Hunt wanted to pay a fifteen-dollar debt to a friend. So he decided to invent something new.

From a piece of brass wire about eight inches long, coiled at the center and shielded at one end, he made the first safety pin. He took out a patent on his invention, sold the rights to it for four hundred dollars, paid his friend back and had three hundred eighty-five dollars to spare.

Then he watched his latest brainstorm go on to become a million dollar money earner for someone else.


Wednesday, 29 April 2009

J. R. R. Tolkien Available as E-books for the First Time!

HarperCollins e-books is thrilled to announce that the works of J. R. R. Tolkien are now available in e-book format for the first time ever! You can now read The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, and The Children of Húrin on your favorite electronic reading device.


Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Bridewell Palace, London, UK, was a royal palace, then a home for the poor, a house of punishment, prison, hospital and ‘house of occupation’ over its 350 years of use. Its name became synonymous with correctional institutions and there are Bridewell prisons throughout Great Britain and Ireland as well as further afield.


Sunday, 26 April 2009

Doughnut Inventor

Hansen Gregory, an American, claimed to have invented the ring-shaped doughnut in 1847 aboard a lime-trading ship when he was only sixteen years old. Gregory was dissatisfied with the greasiness of doughnuts twisted into various shapes and with the raw center of regular doughnuts. He claimed to have punched a hole in the center of dough with the ship's tin pepper box and later taught the technique to his mother.


Saturday, 25 April 2009

Cell phone service atop Mount Everest soon

Mobile phone services will soon be available on top of Mt Everest, the world’s tallest peak. The service, which will operate on both GSM and CDMA handsets, will be introduced by Nepal Telecom (NT), Nepal’s largest telecom company.

“We are planning to commence the service by mid-June this year,” Anoop Ranjan Bhattarai, chief of NT’s satellite division, told Republica. “We hope it will provide an alternative to those currently relying on satellite phone services such as the one provided by Thuraya.”

NT is extending its cell phone network to the top of the world with the help of a satellite antenna, which will soon be installed in Gorak Shep, located at an altitude of 5,160 meters. NT has installed satellite antennas in around seven locations in the Mt Everest region, including Lukla and Namche Bazar, located at 2,800 meters and 3,440 meters above sea level, respectively.

“All these antennas can smoothly handle around 3,000 calls at once,” Bhattarai said. “But we will increase the number of terminals depending on the traffic in the region.”


Thursday, 23 April 2009

Why Pencils Are Yellow

Pencils have been painted yellow ever since the 1890s.

And that bright color isn't just so you can find them on your desk more easily!

During the 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China. American pencil makers wanted a special way to tell people that their pencils contained Chinese graphite.

In China, the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their pencils bright yellow to communicate this "regal" feeling and association with China.

The rest, as they say, is history. Today, a the majority of basic hexagonal graphite writing pencils sold in the United States are painted yellow!


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

siemens & mho

The siemens (symbol: S) is the SI derived unit of electric conductance.

It is equal to inverse ohm.

It is named after the German inventor and industrialist Ernst Werner von Siemens, and was previously called the mho.

In English, the term siemens is used both for the singular and plural.

The 14th General Conference on Weights and Measures approved the addition of the siemens as an SI derived unit in 1971.


Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Does your shirt fit?

A well fitted dress shirt should first and foremost be comfortable; this is different for every man. Larger men are usually complimented by a looser fit while petite and thin men are complimented by a more form cut. In general, though, a shirt should:

  • Allow two fingers in the collar when buttoned.
  • Be tight enough around the wrist so that the cuffs must be unbuttoned to slip them off.
  • Have long enough sleeves so that you can raise your arms like wings and not pull the cuffs down the forearm; they should be short enough so that you don’t have more than 1 inch of fabric bunching near the cuff when your arms hang.
  • Shoulder points that extend to the end of the shoulder and no farther.
  • Have room in the chest and waist to pinch out 1-3 inches of fabric (depending on fit desired).


Monday, 20 April 2009

Types of pencils

The key types are

  • Graphite pencils for office, school & home use
  • Color pencils for school, home or artist use
  • Carpenter pencils
  • Cosmetic make-up pencils

The major sub-categories of graphite pencils are

  • advertising specialty pencils for custom imprint purposes (hexagonal and round shapes)
  • golf pencils (hexagonal and round)
  • designer theme pencils (includes licensed character/sports pencils, holiday themes, and other decorative themes ( generally round)
  • artist quality graphite drawing and sketching pencils
  • standard branded writing pencils (mostly all hexagonal shaped painted a single color)


Sunday, 19 April 2009

Roll, Pitch, and Yaw

Imagine three lines running through an airplane and intersecting at right angles at the airplane's center of gravity.

  • Rotation around the front-to-back axis is called roll.
  • Rotation around the side-to-side axis is called pitch.
  • Rotation around the vertical axis is called yaw.


Saturday, 18 April 2009


Officially known as 2003 VB12, this object is the most distant body known that orbits our Sun. It is at present over 90 AUs away, 3 times as far as Pluto.

Sedna is about 1800 km in diameter, slightly smaller than Pluto.

Sedna is definitely not the "Planet X" that many astronomers anticipated before the discovery of Pluto. Planet X was supposed to be a much larger object.

Sedna is not even officially a planet at all. That classification decision is up to the IAU and they are not likely to decide to do so.


Friday, 17 April 2009

Strunk & White

The Elements of Style (also known as Strunk & White) is an American English writing style guide. It is one of the most influential and best-known prescriptive treatments of English grammar and usage in the United States. It originally detailed eight elementary rules of usage, ten elementary principles of composition, and "a few matters of form" as well as a list of commonly misused words and expressions. Updated editions of the paperback book are often required reading for American high school and college composition classes.


Thursday, 16 April 2009


German brothers Frederick and Gerrit Braun, 41, have spent nine years and nearly $16 million constructing the world’s largest and most elaborate model train environment called Wunderland.

The miniature world is housed in a formerly vacant building in Hamburg, Germany. The six miles of track traverse through some of the world’s most famous landmarks, from the snowy mountains of Switzerland to the bright casino lights of Las Vegas.

The exhibit is now open to the public, but has another five years and seven miles of track to go before it is completed.  It currently uses 700 trains with 10,000 cars, 900 signals, 2,800 buildings and 4,000 cars. There’s no official estimate for the final numbers when the project is completed in 2014.

Wunderland currently features six regions including America, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Germany and the Austrian Alps.  As co-creator Frederick stated, “”Whether gambling in Las Vegas, hiking in the Alps or paddling in Norwegian fjords - in Wunderland everything is possible.”

The little world automatically shifts between day and night thanks to 250,000 tiny lights and managed in a high-tech control room.

See photos and more at

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Beer and 7 year olds…

A handful of 7 year old children were asked 'What they thought of beer'.

'Beer makes my dad sleepy and we get to watch what we want on television when he is asleep, so beer is nice. '

'My Mum and Dad both like beer. My Mum gets funny when she drinks it and takes her top off at parties, but Dad doesn't think this is very funny.'

''My Mum and Dad talk funny when they drink beer and the more they drink the more they give kisses to each other, which is a good thing.'

'My Dad gets funny on beer. He is funny. He also wets his pants sometimes, so he shouldn't have too much.

'My Dad loves beer. The more he drinks, the better he dances. One time he danced right into the pool.'

'I don't like beer very much. Every time Dad drinks it, he burns the sausages on the barbecue and they taste disgusting.'

'I give Dad's beer to the dog and he goes to sleep.'

'My Mum drinks beer and she says silly things and picks on my dad. Whenever she drinks beer she yells at Dad and tells him to go bury his bone down the street again, but that doesn't make any sense.'

from uk.rec.humour

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Kings Play Chess On Friday, Generally Speaking

Want to remember the hierarchical classification of animals?

This is an old but useful mnemonic:

    • Kings - Kingdom
    • Play - Phylum
    • Chess - Class
    • On - Order
    • Friday - Family
    • Generally - Genus
    • Speaking - Species

Another mnemonic is - Kings Play Chess On Fat Girls Stomachs.


Monday, 13 April 2009

The Unclassified Laws of Etiquette

From a book called Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms, published in 1880.

  • Never exagerate.
  • Never point at another.
  • Never betray a confidence.
  • Never leave home with unkind words.
  • Never neglect to call upon your friends.
  • Never laugh at the misfortunes of others.
  • Never give a promise that you do not fulfill.
  • Never send a present, hoping for one in return.
  • Never speak much of your own performances.
  • Never fail to be punctual at the time appointed.
  • Never make yourself the hero of your own story.
  • Never pick the teeth or clean the nails in company.
  • Never fail to give a polite answer to a civil question.
  • Never question a child about family matters.
  • Never present a gift saying that it is of no use to yourself.
  • Never read letters which you may find addressed to others.
  • Never fail, if a gentleman, of being civil and polite to ladies.
  • Never call attention  to the features or form of anyone present.

See full article and list at

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Jam tomorrow

Meaning: Some pleasant event in the future, which is never likely to materialize.

Origin: This derives from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871), in which the White Queen offers Alice 'jam to-morrow':

'I'm sure I'll take you with pleasure!' the Queen said. 'Twopence a week, and jam every other day.'

Alice couldn't help laughing, as she said, 'I don't want you to hire ME - and I don't care for jam.'

'It's very good jam,' said the Queen.

'Well, I don't want any TO-DAY, at any rate.'

'You couldn't have it if you DID want it,' the Queen said. 'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day.'

'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected.

'No, it can't,' said the Queen. 'It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know.'

'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'


Saturday, 11 April 2009

WD-40 History

In 1953, a fledgling company called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry, in a small lab in San Diego, California.

It took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out. But they obviously got it right, because the original secret formula for WD-40 which stands for Water Displacement perfected on the 40th try is still in use today.

Convair, an aerospace contractor, first used WD-40 to protect the outer skin of the Atlas Missile from rust and corrosion.

The product actually worked so well that several employees snuck some WD-40 cans out of the plant to use at home.

A few years following WD-40's first industrial use, Rocket Chemical Company founder Norm Larsen experimented with putting WD-40 into aerosol cans, reasoning that consumers might find a use for the product at home as some of the employees had.

The product made its first appearance on store shelves in San Diego in 1958. In 1960 the company nearly doubled in size, growing to seven people, who sold an average of 45 cases per day from the trunk of their cars to hardware and sporting goods stores in the San Diego area.

In 1961 the first full truckload order for WD-40 was filled when employees came in on a Saturday to produce additional concentrate to meet the disaster needs of the victims of hurricane Carla along the U.S. Gulf coast. WD-40 was used to recondition flood and rain damaged vehicles and equipment.

Then, in 1969 the company was renamed after its only product, WD-40. Since that time, WD-40 has grown by leaps and bounds, and is now virtually a household name, used in numerous consumer and industrial markets such as automotive, manufacturing, sporting goods, aviation, hardware, home improvement, construction, and farming.