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.


Friday, 10 April 2009

Greek Mythological Triplets

The Fates, or Moirai, were the three goddesses of human destiny. They were represented by three spinning crones: Clotho, who spun the thread of life; Lachesis, representing chance, who measured it; and Atropos, the inevitable, who cut it.

The Furies, also known as the Erinyes or Eumenides, were the three hideous goddesses of vengeance, conceived from the drops of blood spilt when Chronos castrated his father Uranus2. Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone had snakes for hair, had wings on their backs and lived in the underworld.

The Graeae were three old hags, sisters of the Gorgons, whose cave the hero Perseus had to visit in order to find the whereabouts of Medusa. They were blind and toothless except for one eyeball and one tooth which they passed between one other.

The Graces, on the other hand, were daughters of Zeus who personified beauty, charm and joy. Euphrosyne, Aglaea and Thalia have been famously represented in oils by Raphael and in marble by Canova. One version of the famous sculpture 'graces' London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Sirens were three sea nymphs, Parthenope, Ligeia, and Leucosia, daughters of Calliope, who seduced passing seamen with their singing, so that they stopped sailing, became shipwrecked on their rocky island and eventually died of hunger. After Odysseus, having been tipped off by Circe, defied them by having himself tied to the mast, having plugged his fellow sailors' ears with wax. The Sirens consequently threw themselves to their deaths.


LGA banned words

Here is the full list of 200 words which the Local Government Association says should not be used by councils:

Across-the-piece, Actioned, Advocate, Agencies, Ambassador, Area based, Area focused, Autonomous, Baseline, Beacon, Benchmarking, Best Practice, Blue sky thinking, Bottom-Up, CAAs, Can do culture, Capabilities, Capacity, Capacity building, Cascading, Cautiously welcome, Challenge, Champion, Citizen empowerment, Client, Cohesive communities, Cohesiveness, Collaboration, Commissioning, Community engagement, Compact, Conditionality, Consensual, Contestability, Contextual, Core developments, Core Message, Core principles, Core Value, Coterminosity, Coterminous, Cross-cutting, Cross-fertilisation, Customer, Democratic legitimacy, Democratic mandate, Dialogue, Direction of travel, Distorts spending priorities, Double devolution, Downstream, Early Win, Edge-fit, Embedded, Empowerment, Enabler, Engagement, Engaging users, Enhance, Evidence Base, Exemplar, External challenge, Facilitate, Fast-Track, Flex, Flexibilities and Freedoms, Framework, Fulcrum, Functionality, Funding streams, Gateway review, Going forward, Good practice, Governance, Guidelines, Holistic, Holistic governance, Horizon scanning, Improvement levers, Incentivising, Income streams, Indicators, Initiative, Innovative capacity, Inspectorates, Interdepartmental, Interface, Iteration, Joined up, Joint working, LAAs, Level playing field, Lever, Leverage, Localities, Lowlights, MAAs, Mainstreaming, Management capacity, Meaningful consultation, Meaningful dialogue, Mechanisms, Menu of Options, Multi-agency, Multidisciplinary, Municipalities, Network model, Normalising, Outcomes, Outcomes, Output, Outsourced, Overarching, Paradigm, Parameter, Participatory, Partnership working, Partnerships, Pathfinder, Peer challenge, Performance Network, Place shaping, Pooled budgets, Pooled resources, Pooled risk, Populace, Potentialities, Practitioners, Predictors of Beaconicity, Preventative services, Prioritization, Priority, Proactive, Process driven, Procure, Procurement, Promulgate, Proportionality, Protocol, Provider vehicles, Quantum, Quick hit, Quick win, Rationalisation, Rebaselining, Reconfigured, Resource allocation, Revenue Streams, Risk based, Robust, Scaled-back, Scoping, Sector wise, Seedbed, Self-aggrandizement, Service users, Shared priority, Shell developments, Signpost, Single conversations, Single point of contact, Situational, Slippage, Social contracts, Social exclusion, Spatial, Stakeholder, Step change, Strategic, Strategic priorities, Streamlined, Sub-regional, Subsidiarity, Sustainable, Sustainable communities, Symposium ­­, Synergies, Systematics, Taxonomy, Tested for Soundness, Thematic, Thinking outside of the box, Third sector, Toolkit, Top-down, Trajectory, Tranche, Transactional, Transformational, Transparency, Upstream, Upward trend, Utilise, Value-added, Vision ­, Visionary, Welcome, Wellbeing & Worklessness.


Thursday, 9 April 2009

Harland and Wolff

The Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast was once the largest in the world.

Founded by Edward Harland in 1861, then joined by Gustav Wolff, the yard has built many famous ships including the Titanic and HMS Belfast.

At its peak during the Second World War, the shipyard employed 31,000 people who built over 170 ships, from corvettes to aircraft carriers.

The shipyard’s two giant cranes, Samson and Goliath, have dominated the Belfast skyline since the early 1970s. They’re a permanent reminder to the people of Belfast of the city’s engineering giant. There was a national outcry at the suggestion they be moved and they are now listed as historic monuments.

The Harland and Wolff shipyard has the world’s biggest dry dock, a mighty 556m by 93m

Today the company has reinvented itself for a new industrial age, as it now makes any large-scale metal engineering construction including offshore wind farms, oil rigs, and bridges. And sometimes they even build and repair ships.


Wednesday, 8 April 2009

O tempora o mores!

O tempora o mores! is a famous sentence by Cicero in his First Oration against Catiline.

It translates as Oh the times! Oh the customs!

In his opening speech against Catiline, who had previously tried to kill him, Cicero deplores the viciousness and corruption of his age. Cicero is frustrated that, despite all of the evidence that has been compiled against Catiline, who has been conspiring to overthrow the Roman government, and the fact that the senate has given senatus consultum ultimum, Catiline has not yet been executed. Cicero goes on to describe various times throughout Roman history where consuls have killed conspirators with even less evidence. Sometimes, in the case of former consul Lucius Opimius' slaughter of Gaius Gracchus (one of the Gracchi brothers) based only on "quasdam seditionum suspiciones" certain suspicions of insurrection.

This sentence is now used as an exclamation to criticize present-day attitudes and trends, often jokingly or ironically.!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

People you REALLY need to be nice to in the Office

The PA to the boss

The person in charge of coffee

The person who can lift stuff

The geek

The person who knows where the bodies are hidden

The Commissionaire

See more at

Monday, 6 April 2009

Mr Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance …

Mr Utterson the lawyer was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow lovable.

The first line of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Loius Stevenson

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The Seismoscope

In 132 A.D., a Chinese inventor called Zhang Heng displayed his amazing earthquake-detection machine, or seismoscope, at the court of the Han Dynasty. Zhang's seismoscope was a giant bronze vessel, resembling a samovar almost 6 feet in diameter. Eight dragons snaked face-down along the outside of the barrel, marking the primary compass directions. In each dragon's mouth was a small bronze ball. Beneath the dragons sat eight bronze toads, with their broad mouths gaping to receive the balls.

The exact mechanism that caused a ball to drop in the event of an earthquake is not known. One theory is that a thin stick was set loosely down the center of the barrel. An earthquake would cause the stick to topple over in the direction of the seismic shock, triggering one of the dragons to open its mouth and release the bronze ball. The sound of the ball striking the toad's mouth would alert observers to the earthquake. This would give a rough indication of the earthquake's direction of origin, but it did not provide any information about the intensity of the tremors.


Friday, 3 April 2009

Batten down

Battens are laths i. e. long and (relatively) thin strips of wood.

"Battening down" was the technical term for closing a ship's hold, usually a square hole in the deck of a ship, by building a strong temporary lid of wood (solid baulks of 2x4) with a waterproof canvas cover over all.

from alt.usage.english

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Symmetrical Words

Closely related to palindromes, symmetrical words are words that have an axis of symmetry, or point of rotational symmetry. Needless to say, it is relevant whether the word is written in upper or lower case.

Some long words with horizontal symmetry are: BEDECKED, BOOHOOED, CHECKBOOK, CODEBOOK, COOKBOOK, DECIDED, DIOXIDE, DOBCHICK, EXCEEDED, HOODOOED, and KEBOBBED. The longest such word, with ten letters, is OKEECHOBEE.

The longest words with vertical symmetry are OTTO, MAAM, and TOOT. Others include MOM, WOW, AHA, AHA, AIA, AMA, AVA, AWA, HAH, HOH, HUH, MAM, MIM, MUM, OHO, OXO, TAT, TIT, TOT, TUT, UTU, VAV, and WAW!

When written in upper case, the word BID has horizontal symmetry, but when written in lower case it has vertical symmetry – bid!

SWIMS is probably the longest word with 180-degree rotational symmetry. All of the letters in the words SOONISH (7 letters) and ONIONS (6 letters) independently have 180-degree rotational symmetry.


Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Words for two or twoness

  • Two derives from an old Germanic word, which itself comes from an older root which supplied many of the ancient and modern European forms, such as the French deux, the German zwei, the Dutch twee, the Latin duo and the Greek duo.
  • Dual, double and duplex plainly come from the Latin duo, and the prefixes bi- and di- derive from a similar root5.
  • Twin derives from the Germanic root, as do words like between and even twig, due to the sense of it being a forked stick.
  • Pair can be traced back to the Latin paria (equals), as it implies two items which are equally matched.
  • Brace in terms of, say, a brace of pheasants is less clear. It certainly comes from the old French word brace meaning 'arms', but the word then goes on a bit of a journey. It could be that the word 'embrace' gave us the verb 'to brace' implying to tighten something, then this was applied to things that tighten, like straps. It is also known that a pair of hunting dogs on leashes was known as a brace, and this may have then been applied to two animals of other kinds.
  • Couple comes via the Latin copula (a tie or connection), and was first applied to a married couple before it became a general synonym for two of something.
  • A tandem, the bicycle made for two, is itself a Latin word meaning 'at length', suggesting in a sense one behind the other. It was originally applied to a carriage pulled by two horses in that configuration.
  • The English ordinal version of two, second, is unusual in that it's not connected with the word 'two' as it is in other languages, like the French deuxieme and the German zweite. There was no Old English word for 'twoth' at all; instead they used 'other', but as this was ambiguous adopted the word 'second' instead. This word came via French from the Latin secundus, meaning 'following'.