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Showing posts from 2008

Interesting Fact - Champagne

When you're drinking your bubbly to see in the New Year the following notes might help to choose and then describe the taste and bouquet (smell).

(Brut Zero & Brut Sauvage, are sugar free and extremely dry. These are also the best option for diabetics.
Brut is dry.
`Extra Dry' is actually slightly sweeter than Brut.
Demi sec translates as 'half dry', which is a good choice for those who prefer medium wines.
Doux and Rich are very sweet.

Biscuity - a biscuit smell to the bouquet that denotes maturity and integrated flavours.
Creamy - obvious tastes of vanilla or cream.
Fresh - Champagne has a higher acidity compared to other white wines and usually features traces of lemon and green apple for a refreshing taste.
Nutty - this flavour usually derives from age and points to maturity of the Champagne.
Toasty - a bready smell to the bouquet that denotes maturity and integrated flavours.
Yeasty - Champagne is made using a secondary fermentation process…

Interesting Fact # 956 - Exports

According to the Economist, the world's largest exporter is Germany.

(Yes, Germany, not China and not the US. Although China was predicted to overtake both the US and Germany by 2010, the global recession might put paid to that.)

Interesting Word # 83 - Euthanasia

The word 'euthanasia' means good death.

(It comes from Ancient Greek eu- "good" + thanatos "death." Now it refers to the practice of killing anyone who is suffering from an incurable illness or condition.)

Interesting Animal # 88 - Antelopes

Antelopes click their knees to demonstrate their sexual prowess.

(That's very worrying for me, because my knees are clicking more and more as the years go by.)

Interesting Christmas Fact # 31 - The Grinch Effect

According to research, commissioned by natural fruit juice and smoothie company, Grove Fresh Organic, almost 25 million people will lock horns with loved ones this Christmas and New Year period.

(They say that this seasonal irritability is caused by a heavily reduced intake of essential vitamins, minerals and roughage. Well being a smoothie company, they would.)

Interesting Christmas Fact # 30 - The Sour Hour

According to research, commissioned by Grove Fresh Organic, 8pm is the UK's official Christmas Day 'Sour Hour'.

(More than 3 million Brits admit to being at their worst at this time on Christmas Day. So, have a Happy Christmas everyone, and remember lights out at 8!)

Interesting Christmas Fact # 29 - Robins

Robins only became a symbol for Christmas in the 19th Century, when postmen - who mostly brought mail at Christmas - wore scarlet waistcoats and were known as Robin Redbreasts.

(Hubby and I watch out for cards with robins on them, because we think they are the last ones to be used. It's a good way to figure out who really doesn't like you.)

Interesting Christmas Fact - Christmas Cards

In 2007 Gordon Brown did not send a Christmas card to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel or Russia's outgoing president, Vladimir Putin.

(Did I mention he's Scottish?)

Interesting Christmas Fact # 27 - Reindeer

Both male and female reindeer have antlers.

(Usually only male deer have antlers, but along with caribou reindeer have an equal antler opportunity policy.)

Interesting Place # 90 - Fray Bentos - Podcast

Fray Bentos is actually the name of a town in Uruguay.

(Fray Bentos is better known in the UK as a brand of corned beef. And the original location of the main factory that produced Fray Bentos tinned meat for the German-British Liebig Extract of Meat Company (what a name) was in Fray Bentos, Uruguay. Thirty years after the closure of the plant, the Brazilian-owned Marfrig Group is producing corned beef in Fray Bentos once again and exporting it to Britain. Yet again, I'm not sure if this should be interesting places or interesting food.)

Interesting Fact # 955 - The Colour Red

According to research from the University of Rochester in the US, men prefer women in red.

(Seemingly this doesn't just apply to clothing - even women in photographs with a red frame were rated as more attractive. The conclusion was that men are driven by primal instincts. No surprises there then.)

Interesting Fact - Land

According to the Living Planet Report there are 2.1 hectares of land per person actually available for the global population.

(The problem is that the developed world actually uses up far more than this and this means that we are using the agricultural land, forests, seas and resources of other countries to sustain ourselves.

The countries with the biggest impact on the planet are the USA and China. Together they account for around 40% of the global footprint. And per person the USA and United Arab Emirates have the largest ecological footprint, while Malawi and Afghanistan have the smallest. The old adage comes to mind, consume less, live more.)

Interesting Fact # 953 - Fear

You really can smell fear.

(According to a study at Rice University in Houston there are chemical warning signals produced by fear. Now they just have to discover the sweet smell of success.

There's an a-z list of phobias and fears on the forum.)

Interesting Fact # 952 - Football

In the UK, the offence of indecent or racist chanting at a designated football match under the Football Offences Act 1991 can be punished by a fine of up to £1,000 and can also lead to a football banning order.

(A football banning order prevents the subject from attending domestic matches. They must also attend a designated police station and surrender their passport when a control period starts and collect it only when the match of tournament is over. I'm not sure if they are enforceable if you abuse the ref though.)

Interesting Word # 82 - Charlie's Dead - Podcast

"Charlie's dead" means that someone's slip is showing.

(Slip means petticoat and of course this is from a time gone by, when ladies wore petticoats. "Charlie's dead" was said when a ladies' petticoat was showing below her dress or skirt, along with the equally bizarre "It's snowing down south", which probably started because ladies' petticoats were usually white. There are a couple of different explanations for Charlie's dead though.

The first explanation is that the Jacobites wore white ribbons to identify themselves to each other as supporters of "Bonnie Prince Charlie. And after he died you could point to someone who had a piece of white in their clothing and say "Charlie's dead".

The other explanation that I found is that it may stem from Charles I, where apparently at his execution the women in the front row dipped their petticoats in his blood.

Of course, like most idioms, nobody really knows for sure.)

Interesting Fact # 951 - Video Games

According to a study by Pew Research Center, more than half of American adults aged 18 and older play video games.

(About one in five play every day or almost every day. It's actually been this way since the invention of railway models.)

Interesting Place # 89 - London

Around 250,000 pints of beer were served to curious drinkers at the Great British Beer Festival in the Earls Court exhibition centre west London.

(Over 750 different brews, are represented from around the world, from as far afield as the US, Nigeria, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Belgium and Italy. And there were more than 450 British real ales, some of the stranger ones being served were Black Mass, Alligator Ale, Gorge Best, Henry's Heady Daze, A Fist Full of Hops, Beserker Export, Oscar Wilde Mild, Inferno, Land of Hop and Glory, Bravo Zulu, Side Pocket for a Toad, Mother in Law and Pig's Ear. Fancy a pint of Pig's ear anyone?)

Interesting Fact # 950 - Earnings

According to a report by the National Audit Office, the chief executive of CDC Group, Richard Laing, is paid £970,000 a year.

(What's amusing / annoying is that the CDC is the Commonwealth Development Corporation, a government-owned body which helps to tackle poverty in developing countries. I think giving some of his wages to poverty stricken countries might be helpful.)

Interesting Fact # 949 - Sneezes

A single sneeze propels 100,000 germ laden droplets into the air at 90mph.

(According to cold and flu expert Dr Roger Henderson, just one sneeze on a crowded train can give 150 passengers a cold in just five minutes. This means that 10 per cent of commuters will come into contact with an area infected by just one sneeze, and researchers for cold and flu remedy Lemsip found that 99 per cent of commuters suffered at least one cold last winter. As my mother used to say "Coughs and sneezes spread diseases,catch them in your handkerchief!" And with the availability of paper tissues, there is no excuse not to do this.)

Interesting Fact # 948 - Aging

According to a six-year study from the University of Michigan, we may all be getting older, but seniors feel about 13 years younger than their actual age.

(516 men and women aged 70 and over, said that they felt on average 13 years younger than their chronological age. But women thought they were closer to their actual age than men. I'll bet you women lie more about their age though.)

Interesting Fact - Human Rights

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According to the Guinness Book of Records The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the "Most Translated Document" in the world.

(It consists of 30 articles which outline the view of the General Assembly on the human rights guaranteed to all people.)

Interesting Fact # 946 - The Computer Mouse

The computer mouse was first demonstrated by Douglas Engelbart on 9th December 1968. It was made of wood and had one button.

You can watch a video of the demonstration here.

(The world's first trackball was invented by Tom Cranston, Fred Longstaff and Kenyon Taylor. It was as part of a project in 1952, and it used of all things, a standard Canadian five-pin bowling ball, but it was not patented, as it was a secret military project.

Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute invented the mouse in 1964 after extensive usability testing, but he never received any royalties for it, as his patent ran out before it became widely used in personal computers.

The first known publication of the term "mouse" as a pointing device is in Bill English's 1965 publication "Computer-Aided Display Control".

The first marketed integrated mouse, which was shipped as a part of a computer, and intended for personal computer navigation, came with the Xerox 8010 Star Informa…

Today

2008 - Oliver Postgate died.

(He created some of my best-loved characters for children's TV: Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, the Clangers and of course Bagpuss.)



Once upon a time,
Not so long ago,
There was a little girl, and her name was Emily,
And she had a shop...

There it is.
It was rather an unusual shop because it didn't sell anything.
You see, everything in that shop window was a thing that somebody had once lost,
And Emily had found,
And brought home to Bagpuss.
Emily's cat Bagpuss.
The most Important,
The most Beautiful,
The most Magical,
Saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world.

Well now, one day Emily found a thing,
And she brought it back to the shop,
And put it down in front of Bagpuss
Who was in the shop window fast asleep as usual.
But then Emily said some magic words:-
"Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss,
Old fat furry cat-puss
Wake up and look at this thing that I bring.
Wake up, be bright
Be golden and light
Bagpuss, Oh hear what I sing."
And Bagpuss was wide awake,
And …

Interesting Invention - The Slinky

The slinky was invented by Richard James.

(It was a fortunate accident. Mr James, working as a naval engineer at the time, noticed the interesting flip-flops of a torsion spring bouncing across the floor. After the war he and his wife began to manufacture them as children's toys. According to one estimate more than 300 million Slinkys have been sold worldwide. The only change in the original design has been to crimp the ends as a safety measure.)

Interesting Fact # 945 - Writing

The first known examples of writing date back 5500 years.

(Markings were found on fragments of pottery at a site called Harappa in Pakistan. Unfortunately it's a bit like my handwriting, nobody can understand what it says.)

Interesting Fact # 944 - Art

The world's oldest example of abstract art, dates back more than 70,000 years.

(It was found, on two pieces of ochre, in a cave called Blombos Cave in South Africa. Picasso eat your heart out.)

Interesting Fact # 943 - Art

Archeologists working on a dig in the southern German province of Swabia have unearthed what they claim to be the oldest statue in the history of art.

(The artifacts, found in a cave, date back between 30,000 and 33,000 years, to a time when some of modern humans' earliest relatives populated the European continent. They depict a lion-man, a water bird and a horse.)

Interesting Place - Berlin

There are over 8,000 panes of glass in the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) in Berlin.

(I would make a joke about window cleaning now, but seemingly they are cleaned by a robot! Another addition to my Christmas wish list.)

Interesting People # 119 - Eleanor Rigby

A pay slip allegedly bearing the signature of the woman who inspired the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby was sold recently for £115,000.

(I have a pay slip allegedly bearing the signature of the woman who set up an interesting facts blog, if anyone is interested.)

Interesting Fact # 942 - Beer

According to recently released figures, beer sales in the UK have sunk to the lowest level in since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

(Maybe it will also reduce the size of beer bellies to their lowest girth since the Great Expansion of the 1990s.)

Interesting Fact # 941 - Transport

Nissan has developed a car which rotates 360 degrees.

(This means no more reverse parking! I know what I'm writing on my pressie list to Santa this year.)

Today

Is World AIDS Day.

By the end of 2007, in the UK, an estimated 77,400 people were living with HIV. In 2007, there were at least 7,734 new diagnoses of HIV, contributing to a cumulative total of 97,423 reported by the end of June 2008.

It is estimated that a quarter of people in the UK are unaware that they carry the infection, but it is very easy to find help and advice. If you are worried that you may be at risk you can easily organise a test: http://www.fpa.org.uk/finder/ will help you find a centre near you.

Ignorance is not bliss.

Today

VAT in the UK will be cut from 17.5% to 15%!

(But only for 13 months.)

Interesting Place # 87 - Mexico

According to the mayor of Aguascalientes in Mexico, police in the city must keep family photos in their wallet as a preventative measure against corruption.

(He hopes that the city's 1,600 policemen will feel "shame" when they abuse their power. Maybe when they open their wallet to put the money in it?)

Interesting Fact - Punctuation

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The possessive apostrophe is the punctuation mark that causes people in the UK the most problems.

(According to a test conducted by SpinVox, nearly half of UK adults tested were unable to use it properly. The problems people have with apostrophes arise from the hopeless state of English punctuation and spelling," Professor Christopher Mulvey from the Museum of the English Language at Winchester University, told the Telegraph.)

Interesting People # 118 - Robin Gibb

Robin Gibb has never watched Saturday Night Fever all the way through.

(I think he is probably very wise.)

Interesting Fact # 939 - Diet

Fast eaters are more likely to be obese.

(According to a report in the British Medical Journal, scientists at Osaka University in Japan have discovered that eating too quickly may be enough to nearly double a person's risk of being overweight. Eating too quickly is thought to interfere with the body's signalling system which tells your brain to stop eating because your stomach is swelling up. So, as my mum used to say, "Chew your food, before you swallow.")

Interesting Fact # 938 - Sellotape

Peeling sticky tape emits X-rays.

(According to a report in Nature journal, US researchers have shown that peeling sticky tape emits X-rays strong enough to scan a human finger. They used a motorised peeling machine to unwind a roll of Sellotape at a rate of 3cm per second. The apparatus was placed in a vacuum and they measured X-rays strong enough to X-ray a human digit.)

Today

Overseas students coming to the UK will need biometric identity cards. Anyone applying for a visa extension will have to give their fingerprint from today.

Interesting People # 117 - Karolina Kurkova

Underwear model Karolina Kurkova has no belly button.

(The belly button (also called the umbilicus, or the navel) is a scar on the abdomen, caused when the umbilical cord is removed from a newborn baby. In humans, the scar can appear as a depression (often referred to as an innie) or as a protrusion (outie). I've got an innie.)

Interesting Fact # 937 - The Smurfs

Over the last 3 years, the Smurfs have sold more than 10 million albums.

(Who said the music industry was in trouble?)

Interesting Invention - Barbed Wire

Barbed wire was invented by Joseph Glidden.

(He actually received the patent on this day in 1874. He created the barbs by using a coffee grinder. His invention forever changed the face of farming and by the time of his death in 1906, he was one of the richest men in America.)


Interesting Fact - Photography

Associated Press has a zero-tolerance policy of adding or subtracting content from an image.

(They recently suspended the use of US Department of Defense photos after it emerged that a photo of a general was found to have been digitally altered. Ann Dunwoody was shown in front of the US flag but it later emerged that this background had been added. I think AP are right, it's so easy to alter photos, a news agency must draw the line. Now let's just hope model agencies follow suit.)

Interesting Place - The Boomerang Nebula

The Boomerang Nebula, is the coldest place known outside a science laboratory.

(The nebula is 5000 light-years from Earth and is in the constellation Centaurus, with a temperature of –272.15 degrees Celsius; 1 K. I can't see anyone booking there for their holidays.)

Interesting Animal # 87 - Kangaroos

Australian researchers have mapped the kangaroo genome and discovered that Australia's kangaroos are genetically similar to humans.

(Humans and kangaroos last shared an ancestor at least 150 million years ago and the kangaroo first evolved in China. I guess this explains a lot about Skippy.)

Today

Is World Philosophy Day

This week

1938 - Hungarian newspaper journalist Laszlo Biro with the help of his brother, a chemist, devised a pen tipped with a metal ball bearing that used capillary action to draw ink through the rotating ball. (Yes, it's the humble biro.)

Interesting Fact # 935 - Absolute Zero

It is not possible to cool any substance to absolute zero (Davies, Jeremy Dunning - 1996).

(0° K, is a thermodynamic (absolute) temperature scale. It measures –273.15 °C on the Celsius scale. Which is very, very, very cold.)

Interesting Place # 85 - The Netherlands

Drop accounts for a fifth of all confectionery sales in the Netherlands.

(It's a black and chewy, often salty licorice sweet. In 2007, 32,000 tonnes of drop were bought by 16 million citizens, to the tune of some 155 million euros (196 million dollars). But recently experts have warned that the ingredient which gives drop its acquired taste, glycyrrhizine, may be dangerous if taken in large doses. The substance, which is 50 times sweeter than cane sugar, can raise blood pressure. "An adult can consume about 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of drop a day ... without side-effects. For children, the recommended maximum is about 25 grams," the government-funded Netherlands Nutrition Centre said in a recently published warning.
One sweet weighs about five grams.)

Interesting Word # 81 - British

Why one earth would this word be interesting? Well independent Councilor Ron Davies has told on his staff at Caerphilly council to stop using it, because it upsets people from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Asia and China.

(Quote: “the idea of British implies a false sense of unity”. I wonder what he thinks of being called a stupid prat.)

Interesting People # 116 - Laobu Laluo

Chinese police chief Laobu Laluo has arrested no fewer than 48 members of his own family, for crimes ranging from assault and theft to blackmail.
(Dispensing justice without fear or favour. That's what it's all about. And let's face it, we all have at least one embarassing relative - he's just got more than his fair share.)

Interesting Fact # 934 - Work

According to the Office of National Statistics, centre staff take the most sick leave in the UK.

(A couple of years ago a similar Australia-first study of absenteeism in call centres found sick leave rose in 38 per cent of call centres. Staff took on average 75 per cent of their allowed sick leave. Whilst I was at university I worked in a call centre, and I can tell you, it's a sickening job.)

Interesting Fact # 933 - Education

The intellect of even the brainiest 14-year-olds in the UK has deteriorated dramatically since 1976.

(This is despite an increase in the number of pupils achieving top grades in exams. Of course, being a '76er, I'm not at all surprised.)

Interesting Fact # 932 - Hair Growth

Hair grows at a rate of about 1 centimetre a month.

(But it can only grow so long, and that is down to the individual and their age. Typically, waist-length hair is 80-90 cm long, and will have taken about seven years to grow, but as you grow older the growth period of hair drops to about three years, so your hair will only grow to about shoulder length before it falls out or is brushed out. I never realised hair was so fussy!)

Interesting Fact # 931 - Hair

The average human head has roughly 100,000 hair follicles.

(I really don't recommend that you attempt to test this particular fact.)

Interesting Fact - Alcohol in the UK

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According to government figures, a child under 10 is admitted to hospital due to alcohol problems every 3 days in England.

(It's not that surprising when you realise that some supermarkets offer beer at 54p a pint, and a 750ml bottle of branded water, sells for the equivalent of 57p a pint.)

Interesting Fact # 929 - Ragweed

Ragweed is the leading cause of late-summer hay fever in North America.

(The problem is it's spreading to Europe and extending the havfever season to October! In Germany, ragweed is called 'ambrosia,' which is from the plant's botanical name, Ambrosia artemisiifolia. A nice name for a nasty menace.)

Fact # 928 - Bloggers Unite for Refugees United

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In the past year, the number of refugees has grown to more than 16 million people worldwide.

(UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "I urgently call on the international community to redouble efforts to address both the causes and consequences of forced human displacement. Greater international solidarity is crucial if we are to share the burden of protection more equitably.

I thank the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and United Nations agencies that have worked together to protect and help repatriate the displaced. We must not lose sight of the individual people who are fleeing persecution, what they face on a daily basis as they try to meet their basic needs.

Our goal must be no less than to ensure that refugees will be free one day to return home, in safety and dignity. But on World Refugee Day, let us first reaffirm that all refugees have the right to asylum, and let us do everything we can to give them the full protection they deserve.")

Interesting Animal # 79 - Snakes

According to research in the Public Library of Science Medicine 400,000 people are poisoned by snake bites worldwide.

(20,000 people die every year. I'm glad I'm British, we only have the relatively harmless, and very shy, adder.)

Interesting People # 115 - George Bush

There are about 95 "Impeach George Bush" groups on Facebook.

(Groups are now springing up along the lines of "Impeach Barack Obama", not because of taking his country to war, but because he wants to introduce social reform. Ah well, I guess they didn't want him to feel left out.)

Interesting Fact # 927 - Animal Rights

In Switzerland it is an offence to keep a single goldfish, guinea pig or budgerigar.

(Switzerland has adopted new animal protection legislation which specifies in great detail how fish and animals are to be treated — including how to dispose of unwanted goldfish, it is no longer legal to flush a goldfish down the loo — they must be knocked out and killed first. Which I'm sure is a great relief to them.

From guinea-pigs to budgerigars, any animal classified as a "social species" will be a victim of abuse if it does not cohabit, or at least have contact, with others of its own kind.

In addition, aquariums for pet fish should not be transparent on all sides and owners must make sure that the natural cycle of day and night is maintained in terms of light.

Anglers also have to take lessons in compassion, catch-and-release fishing and the use of live fish bait is banned.

Additionally, dog owners will require a qualification, they must take classes on how to properly raise their …

Interesting Fact # 926 - Energy Prices

According to recent figures, gas and electricity prices in Britain have climbed twice as fast as the European Union average.

(According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) there's been a 29.7 percent rise in utility prices in the past year in the UK, compared to a 15 percent increase in the EU. We don't call it "rip of Britain" for nothing.)

Today

America elected one of the youngest presidents ever, oh and he's black.

Good luck Mr Obama.

Interesting Word # 80 - Hacktivist

Hacktivist refers to politically motivated computer hackers.

(It's a play on words, mixing activist and hacker. I'm not sure if it's in the dictionaries yet, but I'm sure it will be soon.)

Interesting Fact # 924 - Google payout

Google has paid out 125 million dollars in a copyright dispute with publishers.

(The end of this dispute could see millions of books available for purchase online, but the payout will be split three ways: 30 million to creating a Book Rights Registry, 45 million to paying authors and publishers whose books have already been scanned without permission and the remainder will reimburse legal fees.

So, the winner is - drumroll....

Surprise surprise! The lawyers!)

Interesting Fact # 923 - Chocolate

According to France's Chocolate-Makers Union, the Swiss are the world's top consumers of chocolate, chomping through 12.3 kilogrammes per person per year.

(No surprise that the Swiss are top, but Germans mop up 11.2 kgs per person, Britons 10.3 and Belgians 9.3. Seemingly the Japanese love dark chocolate, but the Chinese hate it! But I always say, if you don't like dark chocolate, you don't really like chocolate.)

Interesting Fact # 922 - Mobile Phones

According to the ministry of information in China, almost one in two Chinese people now has a mobile phone.

(In a nation of 1.3 billion, the number with mobiles stood at 592 million. Interestingly the number of fixed-line subscribers has fallen. I don't plan to get rid of my normal phone just yet. Why? Because I never remember to switch my mobile on.)

Interesting Halloween Fact # 5 - Candles

Interesting Halloween Fact # 4 Trick or Treat

Trick or treating was first noted as arriving in England by the Times in 1986.

(It isn't really an American import though.)

Interesting People # 114 - Sarah Palin

Experts have revealed that Sarah Palin is related to the late Princess Diana.

(10th cousin to be exact.)

Today

Bill Gates spent his last day at Microsoft.

(Maybe he'll stop sending me updates now.)

Interesting Fact # 921 - Money

According to an EU-commissioned study, the annual cost of the lost of forest is more than the amount being lost in the current banking crisis.

(Seemingly if you add the value of the various services that forests perform, such as providing clean water and absorbing carbon dioxide, the annual cost of deforestation comes in at between $2 trillion and $5 trillion.)

Interesting Word # 79 - Dead Cat Bounce

The phrase "dead cat bounce" means a brief rally in the price of falling stock.

(It is derived from the notion that "even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height". Spooky is not impressed.)

Interesting People # 72 - Nicolas Sarkozy

According to ecological magazine, Terra Economica, President Nicolas Sarkozy has a carbon footprint equivalent to that made by 1,000 of his fellow French citizens.

(Over the past 11 months he has produced 7,061 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of the annual total emissions -- transport, housing, food -- of 1,000 ordinary French people. The hot air wasn't produced through all the gassing he does though, it was all that globe trotting in the presidential jet.)

Interesting Fact # 920 - Beer

Beer is the world's oldest and most popular alcoholic beverage.

(It is recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and historians think it may have been brewed as early as the 6th millennium BC. I knew it was good stuff.)

Interesting Fact - British Pubs

British pubs can only serve beer in pints, half pints and a third of a pint.

(You won't often see a third of a pint in pubs but it's popular at beer festivals where drinkers try lots of different ales. This may change if proposed changes to the law on weights and measures are approved.)

Interesting Fact # 918 - Religion

According to a survey on Religion and Public Life in America, conducted by the Pew Forum, more Americans believe in heaven than in hell.

(In addition, around three-quarters of Americans believe in miracles, and nearly six in 10 pray every day. Of those who pray regularly, around a third -- 31 percent -- say God answers their prayers at least once a month, and one in five Americans said they receive direct answers to prayer requests at least once a week.)

Interesting Fact # 917 - Sex Appeal

According to a survey for internet holiday firm lastminute.com, British women holidaying in Europe find German men the sexiest.

(31%of women said the men in Germany were better looking than anywhere else. And 37% of British men considered Croatian women the most attractive. As I'm a British woman married to a British man, I'm saying nothing.)

Interesting Fact # 916 - Spelling

The Spelling Society found that more than half of adults in the UK could not spell embarrassed or millennium.
(A quarter struggled with definitely, accidentally and separate. The survey found that Britons blame the current state of poor spelling on parents and teachers. After the age of 21 you really should stop blaming other people.)

Interesting Fact # 915 - Parking

In 2007 around 3.4 million parking tickets were issued in England.

(When you consider that fines range from £40 to £120, that's a lot of revenue. One of England's growth industries.)

Interesting People # 113 - Jonny Wilkinson

World-cup-winning rugby star Jonny Wilkinson, would practise about 1,000 kicks to prepare for just 20.

(Sadly, he wrote in the Times that his fear of failure was so powerful that he didn't feel any satisfaction or pleasure even after winning the rugby World Cup with a drop goal in the last minute. Luckily since then he seems to have discovered a more balanced approach to life.)

Interesting Fact # 914 - Parking

Westminster Council in London has reported that more than 80% of parking fines on foreign-owned cars and motorbikes go unpaid.

(Currently they are owed more than £4.5m in parking fines. Not surprisingly the worst culprits are the owners of luxury cars. Seemingly a Lamborghini Murcielago owner has 17 unpaid tickets and owes £2,000. Ferrari Scaglietti - 19 tickets, £2,000. Rolls Royce Phantom - 23 tickets, £3,000. And an unspecified motorbike has 400 unpaid tickets and owes £45,000. I think a quick bit of clamping or a tow or two would solve the problem.)

Source: Westminster Council

Interesting Place # 84 - Vienna

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna, famed for its Lipizzaner horses, has admitted two female riders for the first time in its 430-year history.

(In a further break with "tradition" they have accepted a non-Austrian, 17- year-old British girl Sojourner Morell. In exchange for her training she will commit herself to working for the school for at least 10 years! I thought indentured labour was illegal!)

Interesting Fact - Trains

The UK's Department for Transport has rewritten the guidelines on the acceptable number of people standing in a train carriage.

(Before, it was considered acceptable to have ten people standing for every 100 seats but under new guidelines it is all right to have 30 standing passengers per 100 seats. So you might be squashed on like a sardine with no seat and no chance of finding a seat, but you can be happy in the knowledge that you're not actually overcrowded.)

Interesting Word - Oenology

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Oenology (BrE) or enology (AmE), pronounced iːˈnɒlədʒi, is the science and study of all aspects of wine and winemaking from the grape harvest to bottle. An expert in the field of oenology is known as an oenologist.

(I knew I'd chosen the wrong course at Uni!)

Interesting Fact # 912 - Evolution

Professor Steve Jones from the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, believes that the mechanisms of evolution are winding down in the human race.

(So, according to him this is as good as it gets.)

Interesting Food # 45 - Curries

A study by the Food Standards Agency has found that in the UK a quarter of takeaway curries contain illegal levels of potentially harmful chemicals.

(The law currently allows curry sauces to contain up to 500mg/kg of artificial colour but one sample was found to contain five times this level. Basically a cocktail of tartrazine (E102), sunset yellow (E110), ponceau 4R (E124), carmoisine (E122) and allura red (E129). And yet if you served up a brown or light yellow curry, customers would probably complain.)

Today

The Icelandic Stock Exchange fell by 76% in early trading as it re-opened after closing for two days last week.

Interesting Fact # 911 - Aliens

A group of aliens calling themselves the Galactic Federation of Light are coming to earth today.

(How do I know? Well it's on YouTube, so it must be true. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOF7IIQYmlI)

Interesting Fact # 910 - The Bible

Two New Testament books were left out of the modern Bible.

(The Codex, written around the time of the first Christian Emperor Constantine, is probably the oldest Bible in existence and it contains books which are missing from the authorised version of the Bible that most Christians are familiar with today.)

Today

The British government announced a £37bn rescue package for the three major UK banks.

Interesting Fact # 909 - Health

According to an EU study, if you listen to music at high volume for more than one hour a day over five years risk permanent harm to your hearing.

(Seemingly one in 10 people with a personal MP3 or CD player could suffer permanent hearing loss because they play their music too loud.)

Interesting Place # 83 - Nebraska

A unique law in Nebraska, allows any adult, not just parents, to drop off children of any age at any state-licenced hospital.

(It's called the safe-haven law, and it means that if little Johnny is being naughty you can tell him to behave himself, or you'll dump him. Not really an appropriate way to deal with parenting issues.)

Interesting Fact # 908 - Bankruptcy

Countries can go bankrupt.

(Of course it's not quite the same as when companies do. They can't suddenly close their doors and send everyone home. But if they default on their loans and don't repay the interest or principal, they can go insolvent.

Today

The government of Iceland seized Kaupthing Bank, the country's largest lender, effectively completing the nationalization of the whole banking system after the previous takeover of Glitnir and the No.2 lender, Landsbanki.

Today

The US government's debts have grown so high that the National Debt Clock in New York has run out of digits to record the ever spiralling figure.

Interesting Fact # 907 - Corporate Tax

Corporate tax in Ireland is a mere 12.50%.

(Compared with the UK - 28%, Germany - 30% and France - 34.43%. In Ireland the income tax for an individual is between 20% and 41% for the top earners. I wonder if you can set yourself up as a corporation?)

Interesting Fact # 906 - Earnings

In 2000 first generation immigrants to the USA earned 20 percent less than the typical non-immigrant worker.

(In 1970, recent arrivals earned around 1.4 percent more than their non-immigrant counterparts, and 1940, new immigrants were earning almost 6 percent more than non-immigrant workers.)

Source: PEW Economic Mobility Report

Interesting Fact - Money

Nine £1m banknotes were printed after World War II.

(Seemingly there are two still in existence. Although they are no longer legal tender one treasury note recently fetched £78,300 at an auction in London.)

Interesting Fact # 904 - Traffic

According to the German Government, as of 1st January 2008, over 8 million Germans were registered traffic offenders.

(Their response? Well they're going to raise the amount of the fine for traffic offences, in some cases more than double the amount. For example, anyone caught driving through a red light will have to pay €200 instead of the current €50, if the lights were on red for longer than a second. Anyone caught driving under the influence will be slapped with a €3,000 fine. What a great way to raise more money for the German banks!)

Interesting People # 112 - Ammon Shea

Ammon Shea spent a whole year reading the Oxford English Dictionary.

(That's not the little one you keep in your pocket, it's the whole thing - 20 volumes, 21,730 pages and 59 million words. He reckons it was as enriching as reading a novel, I reckon he's bonkers.)

Interesting Fact # 903 - Books

In 2007 more than £1.8bn was spent on books in the UK.

(Of course 2% of this was for that great literary classic "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", which took more than £36.5m.)

Interesting Fact # 902 - The Grenze

The inner German border (Innerdeutsche Grenze, Deutsch-Deutsche Grenze, or Zonengrenze) ran the entire 1,381-kilometer (858 miles) length of the border between East Germany (the German Democratic Republic, or GDR) and West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany, or FRG).

(The border was a series of 3–4-metre (12–15 ft) high metal fences, walls, armed guards, guard dogs, barbed wire, electric alarms, trenches, watchtowers, automatic guns and minefields. The Berlin Wall, which separated East and West Berlin, was the most famous part of the system but it formed less than a tenth of the whole. Nowadays, most of the system is a green haven for wildlife.)

Interesting Fact # 901 - Smoking

According to University of California researchers, virtually all of the big Hollywood stars of the 1930s, '40s and '50s were involved in paid cigarette promotion.

(This doesn't surprise me in the least. Today's movie studios insist they don't accept product placement money for cigarettes any more, but the American Lung Association asked a group of teenagers to watch 133 films, and they saw tobacco feature in some way in 77 percent of the movies. Maybe they need to check on what shares movie studio owners hold.)

Interesting Place # 82 - Almere

According to European Commission statistics, Almere in the Netherlands is the fastest-growing city in Europe.

(The town was started in 1975 but now has already 180,000 inhabitants. The city's slogan is "Everything is possible in Almere", but to me it seems to be a suburb of Amsterdam really.)

Interesting Fact # 900 - Passports

Henry V created the UK's earliest passports.

(According to the Home Office's website they were first issued in 1414 and they were called ‘Safe Conducts’. But even earlier than that a reference to what appears to be a passport is found in the Hebrew version of the Bible. In Nehemiah 2, which is attributed to the time of the Persian Empire (about 450 BC), Nehemiah, an official serving King Artaxerxes I of Persia, asked leave to travel to Judea, and the king granted it and gave him a letter "To the governors beyond the river" requesting safe passage for him as he traveled through their lands, which could also be the first recorded instance of "To whom it may concern.")

Interesting Fact # 899 - ID Cards

In November 2008, people from abroad will be the first people in modern Britain to be given ID cards.

(The scheme will cost a staggering £4.7bn.)

Interesting Fact # 898 - Earnings

According to US business magazine Forbes, J K Rowling makes £5 every second.

(Now that must be a nice feeling. Click "there's another fiver".)

Interesting Fact #897 - British Housing

The annual rate of house price deflation in the UK is 4.6%.

(Deflation is the opposite of inflation. The problem for a lot of people is most of their money is tied up in their house.)

Interesting Fact # 896 - Pets

According to the Times, rabbits are the third most popular pet in the UK.

(There are around 1.6m bunny owners in the UK. So, maybe Hugh Hefners' will find a good home.)

Interesting Food # 44 - Stones

Stones? Food? Well in Kenya, yes. Stones can be found for sale in Nairobi's sprawling Gikomba market.

(Seemingly pregnant women often crave these soft stones. It's not that strange I suppose. In the UK pregnant women often crave coal, chalk, gherkins or soap etc.)

Interesting Fact - Mountains

Seemingly, a 1,999ft peak is a hill but a 2,000ft one is a mountain.

(A Welsh hill was upgraded to a mountain after three walkers found its official measurement was just too low. Mynydd Graig Goch in Snowdonia was originally measured as being 1,998ft (609m), but the walkers found its true height was six inches over 2,000ft (609.75m). Shades of that 1995 film set in Wales, which starred Hugh Grant as The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. So you see, size does matter and a couple of inches can make all the difference. )

Interesting Food # 43 - Mushrooms

There are more than 10,000 species of mushroom found in Britain.

(However, more than 20 types fungi that grow here are toxic. They have names like, the death cap, fly agaric, deadly webcap and destroying angel. So, if you go mushroom picking this autumn, make sure you know what you're doing.)

Interesting Fact # 894 - Baseball

Local historians in the UK have confirmed evidence that baseball was played in Surrey more than 20 years before American independence.

(The reference is from a diary from 1755 that documents a game being played in Guildford. A later historical reference to the game being played in England appears in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, written between 1797 and 1798. Maybe I should add it to the Sports section then.)

Interesting Fact - Tea

According to the Times the great British cup of tea is making a comeback.

(Tearooms around the UK and especially in London are enjoying a resurgence as people discover that sharing a pot of tea is cheaper than a round of cappuccinos.)

Interesting People # 111 - Hugh Hefner

Playboy boss Hugh Hefner is laying off some of his bunnies because of the credit crunch.

(Share prices have plummeted from £6.20 to £1.55. And he's been told to cut back, I'm not sure if he'll understand the meaning of the term though. Oh and how old do you have to be before people stop calling you a Playboy?)

Interesting Fact # 892 - Nightmares

Research at the University of the West of England has shown that women are more prone to nightmares than men.

(In the study, 19% of men reported a nightmare compared with 30% of women. One factor which has been linked to this is changes in a woman's body temperature during her monthly cycle.)

Interesting Fact # 891 - Adverts