Showing posts from September, 2008

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

In the UK, radio adverts can be banned for being too quick.

(Recently a radio ad by Vodaphone was banned, because the legal terms were read out too quickly. In fact the actress recited a 30 word legal 'terms and conditions apply' disclaimer in just under 8 seconds. You can listen to it here, then try it yourself. Here's the text:-

"Subject to status, availability and connection to 18-month contract. Unlimited calls to landlines or Vodafone Mobiles only. Fair-use policy, terms and 60-minute call cap applies".)

Interesting Fact # 890 - Telephones

Almost a third of BT payphones have been removed in the past six years.

(In 2002, there were about 95,000 BT payphones across the UK, but 31,000 have been removed since then. The blame lies with the increased use of mobile phones.)

Interesting Fact # 889 - English Books

This year British publisher, Mills and Boon, are 100 years old.

(Gerald Mills and Charles Boon - launched the company in 1908 with just a modest £1,000. Their books are now sold in 109 countries and have been translated into 26 different languages, it is arguably Britain's best-known publishing house worldwide.)

Interesting Animal # 78 - Octopus

Octopuses do not have eight legs. They have six arms and two legs.

(Recent research has shown that they use two limbs for moving over obstacles, and the other six for manipulating objects.)

Interesting Fact - English Names

Research by suggests that some traditional names such as Edna and Norman are in danger of dying out in England and Wales.

(There were 1,048 babies named Gertrude in 1907 but none in 2005. Baby Normans declined from 1,991 to two, one in Shropshire and one in Tyne and Wear.

The girl's names that were out of fashion are: Gertrude, Edna, Ethel, Irene, Ada
Norah and Olive. Unfashionable boy's names are: Norman, Walter, Percy, Harold, Ernest, Herbert and Clifford.)

Interesting Fact # 886 - Britain

According to the Office of National Statistics, over 60s in the UK outnumber children for the first time.

(This problem can be easily addressed, so come on guys - get on with it.)

Interesting Fact # 885 - Trees

The yew tree is the only European conifer which is poisonous.

(The poison is called Taxine. “The alkaloid ephedrine, as well as a volatile oil and traces of a cyanogenic glycoside, taxiphyllin, are also present.” HMSO 1984)

Interesting Fact # 884 - Drugs

Some chemotherapy drugs are made from yew tree clippings.

(According to Debbie Coats, clinical information manager at Cancer Research UK, there are two common chemotherapy drugs developed from Yew trees: One of them, docetaxel (Taxotere), was first made from the needles of the European yew. The other, paclitaxel (Taxol) and was made from the bark of the Pacific yew.)

Interesting Fact # 883 - Weddings

Twenty-three wedding cakes were made for Charles and Diana's wedding.

(A large slice of cake made to celebrate the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles was sold for £1,000 at an auction house in Gloucestershire. I've got an old piece of my wedding cake somewhere, anyone interested=)

Interesting Fact # 882 - Logos

Artist John Pasche, who designed the iconic Rolling Stones lips logo, was paid just £50 for the job... although he received a £200 bonus later.

(The original artwork has been bought by London's Victoria and Albert Museum for $92,500 (£51,375). Luckily it was sold by Mr Pasche, so at least he's benefited from his own work.)

Interesting Fact # 881 - E-mail Spam

According to University of Cambridge computer scientist; Dr Richard Clayton, e-mail addresses beginning with with "A", "M" or "S" get more spam than those starting with "Q" or "Z".

(Spammers seemed to like the letters, "A", "M", "S", "R" and "P". About 40% of all the messages arriving in the e-mail inboxes of accounts with addresses that had one of those characters as their first letter were junk. Much less popular were "Q", "Z" and "Y". For these cases, spam was about 20% or less.)

Interesting Word - Google

The name "Google" originated from a misspelling of "googol," which refers to the number represented by a 1 followed by one-hundred zeros.

(Having found its way increasingly into everyday language, usually through "I Googled it", the verb, "to google," was added to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006, meaning, "to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet."

They formally incorporated their company, Google Inc., on September 7, 1998 at a friend's garage in Menlo Park, California.)

Interesting Food # 42 - Steaks

A roadside eatery in Texas invites diners to wolf down a 72oz steak in under an hour.

(To put this in perspective, a 72oz steak is 4.5lbs or just over two kilos of red meat. About the size of a large telephone directory, and since 1960, 8,000 people have managed to eat one - plus all the trimmings! Greedy buggers, I'm glad I don't have their colons.)

Interesting Fact # 880 - DNA

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) from 3,000-year-old skeletons can be matched to living descendants.

(I'm not sure if I'd want relatives that old turning up on my doorstep.)

Interesting Fact - The Weather

Thunderclouds are so dark because they are four to five miles thick.

(It's amazing that they can still float!)

Interesting Fact # 878 - Money

The minimum order for crude oil is a thousand barrels.

(Luckily this stipulation doesn't apply at the petrol pumps.)

Interesting Fact # 877 - Money

Buying oil only requires a 10% deposit of the market price.

(Yes. You only need to pay 10% and then watch the value of what you bought rise - or fall.)