Showing posts from 2011

Interesting Facts - The Internet

According to file-sharing blog Torrent Freak, the action film Fast Five was the most pirated film of 2011, having been downloaded illegally 9.2 million times.

(The Hangover II was second, followed by Thor, Source Code and I am Number Four. I can only say that it just shows people who pirate films don't seem to have very good taste.)

Interesting Fact - Hair

According to a recent study carried out at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, has concluded that our hair can't turn white overnight.

(The study, called "Sudden Whitening Of The Hair: An Historical Fiction?" concluded that people's hair, does not all of a sudden turn white. It just doesn't. Hair whitening – "canities" in medical lingo – takes longer than days or even weeks. So all those stories of Queen Marie Antoinette of France and Sir Thomas More of England turning whitehaired the night before being beheaded are just historical urban myths. Or maybe the study just didn't scare any of its subjects sufficiently.)

Interesting Place - Saudi Arabia

A royal decree issued by King Abdullah in 2011, means that from 2012 only female staff will be able to sell women's lingerie in the 4,332 lingerie stores in the kingdom.

(The ban on male staff is to be extended to cosmetics shops from July 2012. For years Saudi women had complained about being forced to buy their underwear from men, and they started a Facebook campaign called "Enough Embarrassment." When I think about it, I can't remember ever being served by a man when buying knickers or bras in the UK, or in Germany, I think I would feel awkward too, we don't call them unmentionables for nothing.)

Interesting Place - China

Hundreds of Chinese people gathered in Shanghai to stage a massive pillow fight.

(The pillows bore the names of bosses and teachers in order to help students and workers let off steam. I do hope my name wasn't on any of them.)


Interesting Fact - Transport

In the UK you need a professional licence to drive a motorhome.

(A motorhome is about the size of a single-decker bus and powered by a 450-horsepower engine.   The latest models can include ceramic tiled floors, an en-suite bedroom with a king-sized bed, a full sized double-door refrigerator, and six widescreen high-definition TVs, and one or two RVs are built these days with an on-board garage space at the back, big enough to accommodate a small car.  Think of your house, but with wheels underneath it.

Anyone with a normal licence can drive one in the US!)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree at St Pancras railway station in London is ten metres high and made completely out of Lego bricks.

(It took two months to build and contains 600,000 bricks.  There are more than 1,000 Lego baubles attacked to its 172 branches and according to Lego it is the tallest tree ever made using the Lego.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Games

According to developer Rovio, their popular game, Angry Birds, was downloaded 6.5 million times on Christmas Day 2011.

(This is over three times the two million downloads Rovio managed over Christmas 2010. It's my favourite game, but it makes you wonder. Is there any device left that doesn't have Angry Birds on it?)

Interesting Fact - Money

Child benefit costs UK taxpayers £12 billion a year.

(Anyone with children can claim child benefit, regardless of their personal circumstances. About 7.7 million families currently get it, but that could be about to change as Chancellor George Osborne has announced it will be axed for higher-rate taxpayers from 2013. Unlucky 13 for some then.)

Interesting Fact - Age

It's official, old age starts at 54 and youth ends at 32.

(Good news for me - I'm not old, yet. However, I'm not sure who came up with these definitions, but it must be true - it was in the Daily Mail.)

Interesting Place - China

In 2010 China reported 3.9 million road accidents that killed 65,225 people and injured 254,075.

Interesting Place - Canada

Canada has the world's longest coastline.

(243,000 kilometres long to be exact, so if you were to try to walk around Canada, following the coast at a reasonable pace of 20 kilometres each day, it would take you 33 years to complete the journey.  I can think of worse ways to spend your time.)

Interesting Fact - School

China has the longest school day, which often lasts from 7:15 am to 7:15 pm.

(Just remember though, it’s not just about the length of time spent at school, but how it’s used, and all work no play makes Jackie a dull boy / girl.)

Interesting Fact - Money

The word 'dollar' is usually associated with the name of the currency used in the USA.

(There are other countries that use the word 'dollar' in their currency. The most well known are Canada and Australia, but there are 26 other countries that use the word dollar in their currency, these are:-

Antigua and Barbuda
El Salvador
New Zealand
St Kitts and Nevis
St Lucia
St Vincent and the Grenadines
Solomon Islands
Trinidad and Tobago

Interesting Place - Bishop’s Stortford

The Conservative council in Bishop’s Stortford has ended its twinning programme with Friedberg in the German state of Hesse.

(Newspapers have reported that they decided to end the 46-year long twinning programme with both Friedberg, which is just north of Frankfurt, and the French town of Villiers-sur-Marne – because of its “lack of relevance.” But, their decision happened to coincide with David Cameron's veto against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fiscal union plan in Brussels.   Strangely their website still says they are twinned.

Interesting Food - Cheese

According to the U.K.'s Center for Retail Research, cheese is the most stolen food in the world.

(The Center surveyed 1,187 retailers representing more than 250,000 retail outlets across 43 countries, but we all know who's responsible, don't we?

Interesting Food - Carrots

The traditional orange carrot was cultivated in the Netherlands in the 17th century.

(The carrot originated in Iran but it was a purple/violet colour. The Dutch cultivated it to be more orange in colour as an emblem of the House of Orange and the struggle for Dutch independence. The orange colour results from abundant carotenes in these cultivars. While orange carrots are the norm in the UK, you can still buy purple carrots.


Interesting Fact - Class

According to the results of a BBC Lab UK survey, only 24% of people consider themselves working class.

(In 1988 when they asked the same question, it was 67%. Of course in the UK there are only two classes - Them and Us.)

Interesting Fact - Plants

Researchers from Cambridge University have found that the buttercup's unique anatomical structure is why they glow yellow under people's chins.

(The plant has evolved an epidermal layer on its petals that reflects a significant amount of UV light with an intensity that is comparable to glass, the plant has developed this to attract pollinating insects, but of course it is also used to tell if you like butter or not. In the UK a children's game involves placing a buttercup under your chin, and if your chin glows yellow, it proves you like butter.)

Interesting Fact - Crime - Podcast

According to a Royal Society report the age of criminal responsibility (currently 10 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) might be too low.

(In a scientific study scans of the brain showed that at the age of 10 the parts of the brain connected with decision-making and judgement are still developing and are not fully mature "until at least the age of 20". Looking at the way some people behave, I wonder if they should be so sure it's 20.)

Interesting Fact - Worry

According to an annual poll, run by the BBC World Service, unemployment is the world's fastest-rising worry.

(The growth in concern was found across all countries surveyed, although corruption and poverty still ranked the highest worries.  Worry about unemployment was six times the rate citing it in the first survey in 2009.

In the US, France and Japan - all wealthy, developed nations - the state of the world economy emerged as the main talking point.

By contrast, corruption was the most frequently discussed issue in Nigeria, India, Turkey, Indonesia, Nigeria and Peru.

These are all developing nations, most with poor reputations for transparency in government and business.

In another group of developing countries, including China, Russia, Kenya and the Philippines, rising prices for food and energy were the main topic.

In Latin America, however, crime and violence emerged as commonly discussed themes.

Indeed in Brazil, famous for social tensions in its urban slums, along with Ecua…

Interesting People - Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg (the leader of the Liberal Democratic party and currently the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK), has a Master's Degree in European studies.

(In fact he has some European connections: He is multilingual, and speaks English, Dutch, French, German, and Spanish. He also spent a gap year working as a ski instructor in Austria, and my favourite European link is that when he was 16 he served a community service sentence in Germany, when on an exchange trip in Munich, he and a friend got drunk and set fire to two greenhouses full of exotic plants.)

Interesting People - Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber was Bing's (Microsoft's search engine) most searched-for term in 2010.

(In fact, the Bieber also topped the list of the most searched-for musicians, but he was the only male artist in the top 10.   I think this says more about the kind of people who use Bing for search, than it does about popular music.)

Interesting Fact - The Internet

Britney Spears is among the most tweeted-about 'musicians' of 2011.

(But that's not the worst, seemingly at the top of the music list of the Twitterati is Rebecca Black and Friday, after the video for the singer's debut single was viewed more than 160 million times on YouTube.  I wonder what would have topped the list in my day, but IMHO the youth of this decade will look back and hang their heads in shame.)

Interesting Word - Polydactylism

Polydactylism is a congenital physical anomaly that involves the possession of more than the normal number of digits (fingers or toes).

(Seemingly a cat called Daniel, a resident at a Wisconsin animal rescue centre, has two extra toes on each paw as a result of this mutation; he has a total of 26.  The Milwaukee Animal Rescue Center has been asking for small donations of $26 (£17), one dollar for each toe.  Out of a total $86,000 raised so far, $50,000 has come from small donations.  Darn it!  I knew my Pal Talk donations strategy was flawed.)

Interesting Fact - Art

New York artist Ron Piccirillo says that several animals can be seen hidden in the Mona Lisa when it is viewed horizontally.

(According to Mr Piccirillo, a lion, an ape and a buffalo can be seen around Mona Lisa’s head and a snake or crocodile is near her right shoulder.  I wonder what he was smoking when he saw them.)


Interesting Fact - Space

The Kepler space telescope has confirmed its first-ever planet in a habitable zone outside our solar system.

(Spinning around its (sun like) star about 600 light years away, Kepler-22b is 2.4 times the size of the Earth, putting it in a class known as "super-Earths", and has a year of 290 days.  The near-surface temperature is presumed to be about 22 degrees Celsius, but don't pack your bags just yet, as scientists do not know whether the planet is rocky, gaseous or liquid, so you wouldn't know what to pack - diving gear, climbing gear or breathing apparatus.

Kepler is NASA's first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours, and cost the US space agency about $US600 million, but it has already uncovered 1,094 more potential planets.  
They aren't the only ones looking of course, French astronomers this year confirmed the first rocky exoplanet to meet key requirements for sustaining life. 
To infinity and beyond!  Cough cough - sorry,…

Interesting Fact - Transport

In what is probably the most expensive car crash in history, eight Ferraris, three Mercedes-Benzes, a Lamborghini and two other vehicles crashed in the southern prefecture of Yamaguchi, Japan.

(Media reports estimate the damaged cars are worth at least 300m yen ($3.85m; £2.46m) in total. The good news is no-one was seriously hurt. As they say in Germany "Es ist nur Blechschaden" (It's only damaged metal).)

Interesting Animal - Pandas

Edinburgh Zoo's newest residents, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, are the first giant pandas to live in the UK for 17 years.

("Huān yíng Tian Tian he Yang Guang." (Chinese (I hope) for - Welcome Tian Tian and Yang Guang.))

Interesting Place - Scotland

One of the main routes in Argyl, Scotland is called Rest And Be Thankful.

( The A83 Tarbet to Campbeltown road, is actually called Rest and Be Thankful. Unfortunately the road is currently closed as a landslide plopped 100 tonnes of rocks and debris onto it. In fact it is the third time in recent years that the road has been forced to close by a landslide after similar incidents in 2007 and 2009. So I guess the name means - rest if you find yourself blocked by a landslide, and be thankful it didn't land on your head.)

Interesting Animal - Toads

Toads can predict earthquakes.

( Before the earthquake in Italy that struck the city of L'Aquila on 6 April 2009, Dr Rachel Grant of the UK's Open University was monitoring the toad population at San Ruffino Lake, around 74km from the quake's epicentre. Five days before the 6.3-magnitude shake, "the number of male common toads in the breeding colony fell by 96 per cent",  and most breeding pairs and males hopped it three days before the earth moved. Now NASA scientists think they know how the toads predicted the devastating quake, a team led by geophysicist Dr Friedemann Freund, demonstrated that rocks under extreme tectonic stress release charged particles, which travel through the surrounding rock and into the atmosphere. Their electrical charge is sufficient to ionize the air, creating "massive amounts" of positive airborne ions.  So, if you live in an earthquake prone area, it might be worth getting yourself a nice little colony of toads.)

Interesting Fact - Health

World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, the first one was held in 1988.

(According to the UK Medical Research Council a 20-year-old with HIV, who has been diagnosed and is receiving treatment, can expect to live to an average age of 66 and in years to come many HIV patients can expect a normal lifespan in years to come. Dr Steve Taylor, an HIV specialist at Birmingham Heartland Hospital said, "If they can get that medication then their life expectancy after they've been on the drug for five years is that of the general population." However, the key is early diagnosis; it is estimated that one in four HIV-positive people in the UK have not been diagnosed and half of those being diagnosed are diagnosed "late". Those classified as "late" have a severely reduced immune system and as the immune system gets weaker still, the body becomes vulnerable to opportunistic infections. So, if you think there may be a chance that you are infected, go f…


Today is World AIDS day.

Interesting People - Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde's gravestone in Paris, France has had to be restored it was covered in lipstick marks left by tourists.

(The lipstick was gradually destroying it and so the restored gravestone now has a glass barrier to make it "kiss-proof". I have heard of kissing the Blarney Stone, but who in their right mind would kiss a gravestone?)

Interesting Fact - Sex

Staying on the sex theme (see previous post). Psychology professor Terri Fisher carried out a study at Ohio State University that shows that on average men think about sex every 50 minutes.

(The researchers worked out how many times men and women thought about sex by giving them a 'clicker' machine to press when they had any such thoughts. The women recorded an average of ten times a day, and the men's total was 19 racy thoughts a day, but it varied from as little as once a day to a rather imaginative bloke who registered 388 sexual thoughts, or one every two-and-a-half minutes. You may have heard that old chestnut that said men think about sex every six seconds, that would mean the average man having up to 10,000 racy thoughts a day, which would be downright dangerous. This new statistic is more realistic, but I would hope that really it depends on what someone is doing.)


Interesting Word - Sexting

Sexting is a mix of two terms - Sex and Texting.

(Seemingly sexting (a word I only just learnt because of the previous post) is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones. The participants are usually teenagers or 'tweens', who seem to enjoy creating and exchanging provocative messages and nude, sexual images of themselves using their cell phone’s built-in digital camera and text messaging capabilities. The term was first popularized around 2005, but I only just found out about it because of the previous post)! My advice to anyone who thinks this sounds cool is, if you wouldn't want your granny to see it, don't send it.)

Interesting Words - Banned Words

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has banned 1,600 words it deems to be obscene.

(The words and phrases banned include 1,109 English words and another 568 in Pakistan’s national Urdu language, which in itself is interesting - do Pakistani people prefer swearing in English? (I know they do in Wales.) Now, I realise that there is a ban list on the forum, but it's limited to indecent language, and there certainly aren't 1,600 words on the list! In addition my list doesn't include everyday words like “idiot” (try imbecile) or “barf" (try throw up - I'd like to see them ban throw and up).)

Here's a list of the banned words - Parental Advisory.

Interesting Fact - Death

According to Anchor, a not-for-profit housing and care provider, at least 100,000 pensioners who died penniless and alone have been buried in paupers’ graves in the past five years, a charity revealed yesterday.

(In fact 40,000 people a year in Britain receive state-funded funerals as rising funeral prices and the breakdown of family units has led to about 21,000 pensioners dying every year without the money for funeral bills and with no relatives willing or able to pay. In the UK if you cannot afford to pay for a funeral the council is obliged to step in. It seems sad, but I don't suppose it bothers the deceased that much.)

Source - Daily Mail

Interesting Fact - Britain

According to a survey carried out by Nissan CARED4, 70% of people in the UK say they don't know who lives next door.

(Around 50% said they wouldn't ask their neighbour for help with anything, and only 6 per cent said there was a strong sense of community in their area.
Of course, it was Margaret Thatcher who once said, "there's no such thing as society" just as she started to dismantle it, it seems she did a good job.)

Source - Daily Mail

Interesting Fact - Hugs

According to a study carried out by by Nivea skin care, Brits hug each other about 13 times a day.

(The study found that in the UK, we typically devote 9.5 seconds to every embrace and spend an hour a month hugging. Hah! So much for the stiff upper lip and standoffish stereotypes. Now, give me a hug.)

Interesting Fact - Water

According to a study by Unilever an eight-minute shower uses 62 litres of hot water.

(People generally believe that taking a shower is more environmentally friendly than a bath, and this water consumption compares favourably against a bath, which uses an average of 80 litres, but if you use a power shower - an appliance that adds extra pressure to the water flow - then an eight-minute shower requires twice as much water and energy as a bath.  Maybe the answer is to share.)

Interesting Fact - Showers

According to the results of a survey carried out by Unilever, the average Brit spends eight minutes in the shower.

(I shall have to tell my nephew, who seems to spend much longer than that whenever I visit.)

Interesting Fact - Money

According to the High Pay Commission, in the UK the average salary is £25,900, but the average Chief Executive (Managing Director) pay is £3,740,000.

(That's 145 times more than the average worker. According to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) you have to pay this kind of money in order to be competitive. A strange argument, given the times we are living in. Come on shareholders! These people are not worth it! They are paying themselves more than ever, but I bet your dividends haven't increased.)

Today - World Hello Day

Today is world hello day.
Say hello to ten people to promote peace and happiness.

Interesting Food - The Toast Sandwich - Podcast

According to the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) the cheapest lunchtime meal in Britain is the toast sandwich.

(This shouldn't be confused with the toasted sandwich, or toasty. A toast sandwich, popular in mid-Victorian times, consists of two slices of bread around a slice of toast. The meal, which will cost you 7.5p to make, was first promoted by Victorian food writer Mrs Beeton.

Here is the recipe:-
3 slices of bread Butter Salt and pepper

1. Toast a thin slice of bread.
2. Butter two slices of bread and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Place the toast between the two slices of bread-and-butter to form a sandwich.
4. Eat.
Bon appetite!)

Interesting Place - Switzerland

Switzerland does not have a law against public nudity.

(However, it it does have a law against public indecency, and so in Switzerland you can be fined for hiking naked in the mountains. Personally I would have thought the law of nature would discourage this practise, as it gets very cold up there.)


Today - World Toilet Day

Today is World Toilet Day.

It sounds funny, but with 2.6 billion people without access to proper sanitation, it highlights the importance of sanitation and improving toilets around the globe.

Interesting Invention - Photography

Louis Daguerre was the inventor of the first commercially successful form of photography.

(After years of experimentation, he perfected Daguerreotype in 1839, the process involved exposing silver-coated copper plates to iodine, obtaining silver iodide. This was then exposed to light for a few minutes and coated with mercury vapour and fixed with salt water. The French government 'acquired' Daguerre’s patent and, in August of that year, announced that the invention was a gift “free to the world”, but don't worry, Daguerre didn’t need to make money from his invention as he was pensioned by the French government in exchange for sharing the details of the process.) PS - He has been honoured today with a Google Doodle to mark his 224th birthday.

Interesting Fact - Language

According to a survey by, 2 in 3 Britons cannot say anything in another language.

(Now we're not talking about being able to speak a foreign language here, we are talking about the ability to say and understand one word in another language. And it's even more embarrassing to read that one fifth of those asked were even sure of what ‘bonjour’ means! (Sorry Xeb, Celine, Eflish and co.).

One third – 34 per cent – said they were willing to make an attempt at speaking a foreign language while on holiday.
One fifth (19 per cent) did not know the meaning of the French word for hello, one of the most recognisable foreign greetings in the world.
And 63 per cent had no idea what the Dutch word ‘goedemorgen’ meant, despite the obvious similarities to our own ‘good morning’.  (Sorry April, Will and co.)

Believe it or not, it is compulsory for all UK pupils to study a foreign language up to the age of 14 and French, German and Spanish are all on the national curriculum, s…

Interesting Food - Cheese

Long Clawson Dairy in Leicestershire is going to make a limited edition run of Stilton this Christmas, which will cost about £60 for a cracker sized slice.

(It will work out at At £60.87 per 100g slice, or £608 a kilo.  Why is it so expensive?  Well it's made with real gold.   Will anyone be dumb enough to buy it?  Of course they will.  The dairy has already been contacted by a variety of interested parties including an oil sheikh and a famous pop star.  Suffice to say, hubby will have to content himself with the usual mouldy variety.)

Interesting Fact - UK Children

According to a report by Unicef, Britain is the worst country in the industrialised world in which to be a child.

(The reason, according to the UN children's agency, is that materialism has come to dominate family life in Britain as parents "pointlessly" amass goods for their children to compensate for their long working hours. British parents work longer hours and are simply “too tired” to play with their children. Sue Palmer, author of the book Toxic Childhood, said: “We are teaching our children, practically from the moment they are born, that the one thing that matters is getting more stuff."  To be honest though, I wouldn't have minded a bit more stuff when I was a kid.)

Interesting Fact - Climate Change

According to a study by Nature's Calendar, Britain's native trees are producing ripe fruit, on average, 18 days earlier than a decade ago, probably as a result of climate change.

(The most marked change was seen in the rowan tree, which according to Finnish mythology was the first tree on earth:-

In the yard there grows a Rowan.  Thou with reverent care should'st tend it.  Holy is the tree there growing.  Holy likewise are its branches.  On its boughs the leaves are holy.  And its berries yet more holy.
Excerpt from The Kalevala,  a compilation of Finnish folk lore
 According to the study, rowan berries are now ready to eat nearly a month earlier than 10 years ago.)

Interesting Place -- Sicily

In the town of Corleone. Sicily, tourists often pose alongside the town's sign, not realising that the famous Godfather films were actually filmed elsewhere in Sicily.

(Seemingly the shops their still sell bottles of Il Padrino wine. I've never understood the fascination with the Mafia though. The good news is that many properties confiscated from the Mafia have been turned into ethical businesses including vineyards and even bed and breakfast. Not so much Cosa Nostra, as Casa Nostra.)

Source - BBC News

Interesting People - Sean Quinn

Sean Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man, was declared bankrupt today at the High Court in Belfast.

(The former billionaire was the boss of a manufacturing and insurance business empire, but he now allegedly owes €2.8bn to Anglo Irish Bank, which makes this bankruptcy one of the biggest of its kind ever made in either the United Kingdom or Ireland. Welcome to the 99% Mr Quinn.)

Interesting Fact - Health

According to research carried out by the Departments of Clinical Biochemistry and Cardiology in Denmark, yellow marks on the eyelids are a sign of increased risk of heart attack.

(These markings, called xanthelasmata, are mostly made up of cholesterol and can be treated cosmetically, but are also a warning sign of raised cholesterol, which can lead to cardiac problems. Guess what I did when I read this? Yup. I went to look in the mirror - so far - all clear.)

Interesting Word - Fakelaki

Fakelaki (Φακελάκι) is a Greek word that means "little envelope".

(It usually describes a little brown envelope stuffed with cash, and used to bribe officials or other people to "expedite" service. According to Transparency International the average family in Greece pays £1,200 a year in fakelaki, which if true, is astounding to someone who has never bribed anyone to do anything (and wouldn't even know how to go about such a thing). Fakelake - it's such a harmless sounding word, kind of cute, or maybe a bit rude, but the real translation is corruption, a bribe, which is not cute at all.)

Interesting People - Ned Kelly

131 years after being executed, infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly has had his final wish granted.

(Officials have agreed to release his remains so he can be buried with his family. He is likely to be laid to rest in a small cemetery near Glenrowan, where he was killed and where his mother Ellen, several of his brothers and sisters and other relatives are buried in unmarked graves. RIP Ned Kelly.)

Ned Kelly by Johnny Cash

In Australia a bandit or an outlaw was called a bushranger
One of Australia's most infamous bushrangers was a man named Ned Kelly

Ned Kelly was a wild young bushranger
Out of Victoria he rode with his brother Dan
He loved his people and he loved his freedom
And he loved to ride the wide open land.

Ned Kelly was a victim of the changes
That came when his land was a sprout and seed
And the wrongs he did were multiplied in legend
With young Australia growing like a weed.

Ned Kelly took the blame
Ned Kelly won the fame
Ned Kelly brought the shame
And th…

Interesting Fact - Britain

Plastic bullets have never been used [against protesters] on mainland Britain.

(There is a huge student demonstration planned for tomorrow. so maybe I should say, "Plastic bullets have not been used [against protesters] on mainland Britain, yet.")


!Note - I had to change the text to this, as I was kindly sent a link that shows "baton rounds" have been used in individual cases.

Interesting Fact - Health

According to analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics by SSentif, the NHS in the UK spends more than £440m a year on painkillers.

(This works out at £8.80 per person, with some GPs giving patients over-the-counter painkillers and branded cold and flu treatments like Lemsip and Anadin on prescription. My doctor once prescribed coffee and red wine (long story), but he wouldn't give me a prescription.)

Interesting Fact - Games

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 has just gone on sale in the UK. It's going to be a huge hit - a trailer, posted on YouTube on 21 October, has already attracted more than four million hits.

(For those of you who are blissfully ignorant of this series of RPG games which can be played against the computer or online against other human players. The series follows American paratroopers, British paratroopers and the Red army, and the player assumes the role of various characters It's successful, but controversial,

In CoDMW2 the depiction of a massacre carried out in a Russian airport, caused anger in the international community
In CoDMW3 they feature an attack on the London Underground and actually show a family of tourists being blown up, the response to which will create more free publicity for the series (I know - I'm guilty too)

Infinity Ward's executive producer Mark Rubin response to the anger was:

"Yeah, we get a lot of that and it's tough, but for the m…

Interesting Fact - Space

As if satellites weren't enough, we now have a speeding ball of rock hurtling past the Earth tonight.

(The asteroid, romantically called Yu55, is about a quarter of a mile wide! It will pass inside the moon's orbit and come within 198,000 miles (319,000km) of Earth at 23.28GMT. Astronomers say this is the closest a tracked object this size has come to the planet, but it will pose no threat to the earth - this time. Seemingly, it's a regular visitor and there is a a one in 10m chance of its hitting Earth in the next century. Were it to strike, the collision would unleash the equivalent of several thousand megatonnes of TNT. Not to worry folks. We came in with a bang, but we'll probably go out with a whimper.)

Interesting People - Rajo Devi Lohan

Rajo Devi Lohan is the world's oldest IVF (invitro fertilization) mum.

(Yes, she gave birth in India to her daughter Naveen in November 2008,, at the age of 70. Tragically her health has deteriorated, but her doctor said, "Even though Rajo's health is deteriorating, at least she will die in peace. She does not have to face the stigma of being barren." Seemingly the stigma of being barren is greater than that of leaving a child motherless.)

Interesting Fact - England

A piece of upper-jaw discovered in Kents Cavern, Devon, southern England, suggests that humans were living in England as long as 44,000 years ago.

(This is the earliest indication of human habitation in the UK, and proves that homo-sapiens and Neanderthals coexisted for about three to five thousand years in this part of the world. A nice part of the world too, they obviously had good taste.)

Interesting Fact - Money

There's a new £50 note in the UK from today.

(It is the first time the UK has launched a new note in 17 years. The note features the queen on the front and for the first time ever, there are two characters on the reverse side; Bolton and Watt, two Victorian inventors who played a huge role in the industrial revolution. The note also has new features to prevent fraud, a broken green line that runs from top to bottom, and which contains images of the £ symbol and the number 50. When the note is tilted up and down the images move from side to side. Now if they could have made the queen do a shimmy, that would have been something to celebrate.)

Interesting Word - Sorry

According to a study by the New York Bakery Co, Brits say 'sorry' up to 8 times a day

(This adds up over a lifetime, equating to 2,920 times a year and 233,600 times in a lifetime. One in eight people (12 per cent) say 'sorry' more than 20 times a day! And we don't always apologise for something we have done, we often use "sorry" as a response to someone else's mistake - either someone bumping into you (43 per cent) or treading on your toes (17 per cent). It is also used instead of "excuse me" (30 per cent) or as an introduction to interrupt someone else's conversation (67 per cent). The most likely place for the word sorry, is in the workplace with more than a third (39 per cent) admitting misusing the apology - followed by shopping (33 per cent) and at home (31 per cent). In the workplace it seems that it is not just apologies on the tip of our tongues with 37 per cent of Brits admitting tiptoeing around colleagues or an issue in f…


The United Nations projected the world population to pass the seven billion mark today, and several countries have announced a "7 billionth baby" to mark the milestone.

Let's just hope they can grow up in a fair and just world.

Interesting Fact - Halloween

According to research commissioned by Santander Insurance, one in four adults has suffered damage to their home over the Halloween period.

(Yes, many people experience being a victim during the period from Halloween to Bonfire Night (we don't call it “mischief week” for nothing). Most pranks are harmless, but of course some people don't know when enough is enough, as a result households in the UK face an average of over £232 in repair fees, or a collective £2.65billion.
One in eight adults has suffered damage from eggs being thrown at or in their home and six per cent have had garden plants, ornaments or fences damaged. More than 1.6 million have been victims of theft inside or outside the home during this period, and two per cent have had windows broken. Over 1.4 million have had their property damaged by sparklers or stray fireworks and 1.1 million suffered damage from firecrackers or silly string through the letterbox.)

Interesting Fact - Halloween

People traditionally dressed up as ghosts, ghouls etc on Halloween to avoid being recognized by ghosts, and spirits.

(The idea is that any ghosts would will mistake you for a fellow spirit and therefore leave you alone. Of course you don't want to look too good, or they may decide to form an attachment.)

Interesting Fact - Halloween

According to research commissioned by Santander Insurance. 20% of people in the UK want Trick or Treating to be banned at Halloween.

(50% want it to be mandatory for parents to accompany children and 43% would support a ban on people wearing masks obscuring the face over Halloween. 31% would like to see a curb on people wearing hooded tops.
And 38 % would back the introduction of curfews for groups of youths at this time of year. I'd back a curfew for groups of kids at any time of year! They should be at home, doing their homework.)

Interesting Fact - Women

According to a study by Imperial Leather. working women look their best for just two hours and 22 minutes in the morning.

(The study found that the average woman spends 38 minutes getting herself ready and leaves the house at 7.40am looking and feeling like a million dollars, but the beautifully styled hairdo and fully made-up face is history by precisely 10.03am.  I have to admit, I look a mess first thing in the morning, and nothing changes till last thing at night. Why else do you think I don't use video for the English sessions?)

Interesting Place - Ukraine

The city of Kherson in Ukraine, has passed a law banning dogs from barking between 10pm and 8am to make life quieter for residents.

(The rule also applies to cats miaowing and pigs grunting.  According to reports, anyone who flouts the law faces fines of up to £65.  So, no dog treats for a week.)

Interesting Fact - Crime

According to UK crime statistics, 214 people have been killed by a knife this year (2011).

(And worryingly 4,606 people have been injured by a knife.  Of course in reality the knife is blameless, it's the hand wielding the knife, and the mentality behind the hand that does the harm.)

Interesting Place - London

According to the Daily Mail,  90% of the tents being used in the protests outside St Pauls Cathedral are empty overnight.

(This just shows me that the protesters are very sensible.  Any fool can be cold and wet.)

Interesting Fact - Health

According to research carried out at the University of Cambridge the time children spend outdoors could be linked to a reduced risk of being short-sighted, research suggests.

(Researchers found that for each additional hour spent outside each week, the risk of myopia reduced by 2%. I am long sighted, so maybe I spent too much time outdoors.)

Interesting Fact - Health

According to a study released on Tuesday by Kimberly-Clark Professional, petrol pump handles are the filthiest surface that Americans encounter on the way to work.

(The worst offenders were petrol pump handles, handles on public postboxes, escalator rails and ATM buttons. Closely following on the filthiest list were parking meters and kiosks, pedestrian crossing buttons and buttons on vending machines in shopping centres. Dr. Kelly Arehart said, "It comes down to the fact that nobody cleans the things that you're going to touch on a daily basis." Of course Kimberly-Clark Professional are a unit of personal hygiene giant Kimberly-Clark Corp, and they sell hygienic wipes. Surely there is no coincidence though.)

Interesting Fact - Money

According to researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), education spending in the UK is facing the largest cut since the 1950s.

(According to their research, public spending on UK education will fall by 14.4% between 2010-11 and 2014-15. School and college building projects will suffer the most from cuts to funding. The budgets for these projects will be more than halved. Universities will fare the next worst with a 40% cut, although this will be offset by higher tuition fees of up to £9,000. The education of 16 to 19-year-olds and the under-fives will each suffer a 20% funding fall in real terms, the study found.

The Conservative Party - Tough on education, tough on the causes of education.)

Interesting Place - London

St Paul's Cathedral in London has closed to visitors for the first time since World War II.

(The decision was taken to close because of protestors in the area. It is the only the second time Sunday services have been cancelled - the other time was during World War II, when the cathedral was closed in 1941 for four days during the Blitz. The protestors had attempted to set up camp outside the London Stock Exchange, but they were prevented. After all, the great cathedral of capitalism mustn't be inconvenienced.)

Interesting People - George Washingon

In 1788 George Washington traded his prize Arabian horse, Magnolia, to Light Horse Harry Lee for 5,000 acres of land in the Kentucky territory.

(Ha! If I asked my niece to trade her horse for some poxy land, she'd tell me where to go. Which is why no one in my family will ever be rich.)

Interesting Fact - The Internet

According to research by Sweet & Maxwell, the number of defamation cases related to social media in the UK almost doubled in the year to June 2011.

(When you see the actual numbers of libel cases involving social media it's actually not that scary; rising from seven cases to 16,  One court case involved New Zealand cricket team member Chris Cairns who sued over a comment on Twitter.  So, be careful what you say about each other.)

Source: The Guardian

Interesting Fact - Money

According to official statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the UK, Britons spent an average of £539m online each week in September 2011.

(This is out of a total sales figure of £5.61bn, which means that £1 in every £10 is spent on goods bought online for the first time. We're S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G shopping.)

Interesting Fact - The Internet

According to a study by DLA Piper, one third of employers have disciplined employees for something posted on a social media site.

(In addition, 21% of employers had to give their employees a warning for posting something derogatory about a colleague or about the business itself on their Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus account. Of course if I posted something derogatory about myself, I would have to discipline myself. No gummy bears for a week maybe?)

Source: Britopian

Interesting Fact - Makeup

If a woman spends 15 minutes a day on hair and makeup (a pretty conservative estimate) it will cost her 3,900 minutes a year, or almost two working weeks.

(So, why do women go through this routine, day in / day out? Well according to research by makeup manufacturer Procter & Gamble— professional women who wear makeup are perceived as more likeable, trustworthy and competent. Doh! That's what I've been doing wrong all these years, I just needed a bit of slap and I'd have been CEO of Post Office Services by now!)

Interesting Fact - Restaurants

Over the past 50 years, revolving restaurants have opened in more than 50 countries on six continents, from Colombia to Nepal to Canada.

(London's revolving restaurant in the BT skyscraper, previously known as the Post Office Tower was supposed to reopen by 2012 in time for the Olympics. Unfortunately it doesn't look as if it is going to happen now. In fact, it has not been an eatery since 1980 when the the Top of the Tower venue, which was run by the Butlins companys (I kid you not) closed after 14 years. It was shut amid security fears after an IRA bomb exploded in the gents lavatories in 1971. Still if you can't wait to try eating on the move there is a list of the best revolving restaurants here:

Thanks to Rehan Ahmad for inspiring me to look this up.

Interesting People - John Malone - Podcast

According to the US 2011 Land Report 100, which ranks the top land owners, John Malone is now America’s biggest individual landowner.

(The 70-year-old cable pioneer and chairman of Liberty Media now owns 2.2 million acres, after purchasing more than 1 million acres of timberland in Maine and New Hampshire earlier this year. I wonder if anyone has told him, you can't take it with you Mr Malone.)

Interesting Food - Pringles

When is a crisp, not a crisp?  When it's a Pringle.  
Yes, according to Wiki, Pringles only contain 42% potato.

(That's less than half of the content, the rest is wheat starch and corn and rice flour, all mixed together with vegetable oils and an emulsifier. Of course they call themselves potato crisps, because wheat, rice, corn and potato fried gunk wouldn't sound quite as tempting.)

Interesting Fact - Money

The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home in London is £1,360 a month, which is almost two-and-a-half times more than the rest of England (According to the housing charity Shelter, private rents are now unaffordable in 55% of local authorities in England. Homes in these areas cost more than 35% of median average local take-home pay. Shelter found that rents had risen at one-and-a-half times the rate of incomes in the 10 years up to 2007. There is a reason that we scrimp and save in order to be able to buy our house. You just can't trust landlords.)

Interesting Fact - Health

The black death, still kills 2,000 people a year.

(It's caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, a plague that is primarily a disease of wild rodents and is spread by their fleas. It is one of the "oldest identifiable diseases known to man", according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and believe it or not, it has never been wiped out. Luckily nowadays, almost all cases are curable if diagnosed in time.)

Interesting People - Jesus Christ

3,096,541 people like Jesus Christ on Facebook.

(Yes, Christ has a Facebook page, and 200,426 people are talking about it. Now, it is against Facebook's ToS to impersonate anyone, so ... That said, if you are the real Jesus Christ, Facebook does allow you to report anyone who may be impersonating you or someone you know:-

What should I do if someone is pretending to be me? 

If someone has created an account to impersonate or imitate you, please go to the impostor profile and click "Report this person" in the left column. Check the "Report this person" box, choose "Fake account" as the reason, and add "Impersonating me or someone else" as the report type. Be sure to add a valid web address (URL) leading to the real profile so that we can review the information."

I love the Internet.)

Interesting Animal - Water Fleas - Podcast

The tiny water flea has more genes than you or I do.

(It was the first crustacean to have its genome sequenced, and if you don't believe that it could be more complex than magnificent you, the average human has about 20,000 to 25,000 genes, whereas this little critter has 31,000 genes.  Which makes it the animal with the most genes to date.  As if that wasn't enough. more than a third of the genes in the water flea are unique, and have never been seen before.  You see size really doesn't count, it's the actual count that matters.)

Interesting Place - South Sudan

The young nation of South Sudan has chosen English as its official language. (Currently about 150 different languages are spoken in the South. Welcome to the club guys.)

Interesting Fact - Genetics

The genetic code of the Black Death has been reconstructed by scientists for the first time.

(They extracted DNA fragments of the ancient bacterium from the teeth of medieval corpses found in London, the pathogen is the ancestor of all modern plagues. In other words all current strains circulating in the world are directly related to the medieval bacterium. The mother and father of all plagues.)

 Source: BBC News

Interesting Fact - Olympic Fact - Shakespeare

What has Shakespeare got to do with the Olympic games? Well, next year, as part of the 2012 Olympics arts programme, the South Sudanese Kwoto Theatre Company will perform Shakespeare's Cymbeline in Juba Arabic at the Globe theatre in London. (In fact, beginning on 21 April 2012, the Globe will present a programme of multi-lingual Shakespeare productions for the London 2012 festival. 37 international companies will present every one of Shakespeare's plays in a different language over six weeks. So there you have the link. And talking of links, you can read more about it here:-

Interesting Fact - Botox

Botox (botulinum toxin) is a lethal naturally occurring substance, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, and is considered the most powerful neurotoxin ever discovered, but nowadays it is used for a number of cosmetic and medical procedures.

(Botulinum toxin causes Botulism poisoning, a serious and life-threatening illness in humans and animals, but in the late 1960s Alan Scott, M.D., a San Francisco ophthalmologist, and Edward Schantz were the first to work on a standardized botulinum toxin preparation for therapeutic purposes and, in 1980, Scott officially used BTX-A for the first time in humans to treat strabismus "crossed eyes". But Botox aka BTX-A is also used as a cosmetic treatment to reduce wrinkles, this was originally documented by a plastic surgeon from Sacramento, California, Dr. Richard Clark, and published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 1989. BTX-A is also used as a treatment for excessive underarm sweating, and many actors …

Interesting Place - Israel

Israel registers its citizens according to both their religion and their ethnicity, although it does not include an "Israeli" ethnicity, labelling its Jewish citizens as of "Jewish" ethnicity.

(But now Israeli law allows citizens to be officially registered as having no religion. This came to light when the interior ministry refused to alter an an Israeli writer's official religious status from Jewish to "without religion." Yoram Kaniuk turned to the courts and a Tel Aviv court sided with his demand, ruling that Israeli law allows citizens to be officially registered as having no religion.

Kaniuk said, "The court granted legitimacy to every person to live by their conscience in this land, in ruling that human dignity and freedom means a person can determine their own identity and definition."  And so say all of us.)

Interesting Fact - iTunes

The Open University's iTunes U service has broken the world record for number of downloads.

(The service allows students to download free video and audio recordings of lectures, and reached 40 million downloads - with the increase driven by mobile devices such as iPads.  Figures from Apple suggest this puts the Open University ahead of rivals such as Stanford, Yale and even Oxford, but let's face it, these institutions are not best known for sharing.)

Interesting Fact - iTunes

The iTunes U online service, which offers digital content created or curated by educators, which can then be easily downloaded and viewed on any Mac, PC, iPod, or iPhone, now services 300 million downloads a year.
(There are 350,000 lectures offered by more than 1,000 universities around the world.  And much of it is for free.)

Interesting Place - Nowhereisland

Devon sculptor Alex Hartley and a team of artists are going to drag a small island around the coast of the UK, from Weymouth to Bristol, as part of the Cultural Olympiad 2012.

(The land mass,which is the size of a football pitch, has been called Nowhereisland and it was discovered in 2004 off the coast of Svalbard.

You can become a citizen of Nowhereisland on their website - Something the millions of stateless people round the world might be interested in.)

Interesting Place - Denmark

Denmark has introduced what is believed to be the world's first fat tax: (Now this isn't a tax on fat people, it's a surcharge placed on foods that are high in saturated fat. Foods that contain saturated fat include, butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed foods, which are all subject to the tax if they contain more than 2.3% saturated fat. So, not so much a stealth tax, as a health tax.)

Interesting Fact - Children

According to child expert Professor Richard Tremblay, three and four-year-olds are more violent than most adults.

(He added that children have to learn to regulate their use of violence in the early years, and whether or not they manage to do so depends on a range of environmental and genetic factors.  Those who do not are more likely to become aggressive adults. No wonder kids terrify me!)

Interesting Animal - Monkeys write Shakespeare

Well, virtual monkeys. Seemingly a computer programmer, Jesse Anderson, programmed a few million virtual monkeys to randomly bash keys on virtual typewriters in an attempt to re-create Shakespeare.

(He set out to prove or disprove the long-standing saying of how an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time could write Shakespeare.  
The virtual monkeys are small computer programs uploaded to Amazon servers. They regularly pump out random sequences of text nine characters long, each string of text is checked to see if it appears anywhere in the works of Shakespeare. If not, it is discarded. If it does match then progress has been made towards re-creating the works of the Bard.  Using these constraints, mathematicians say it would take “far, far longer than the age of the Universe” for monkeys to write Shakespeare. I haven't got that long, so I'll stick with the original.)

Interesting Fact - Health

A study of babies at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, in west London, found that overweight mothers 'give birth to fat babies'.

(Newborn babies usually have about 700g of adipose tissue (fat tissue), but for each unit increase in maternal BMI (body mass index), this increased by approximately 7g with a huge build-up in fat in the babies’ livers. Maybe we need little pre natal treadmills.)

Interesting Words - AD / BC

In English, years are designated with the letters AD (anno Domini, ‘year of the Lord’ in Latin); or, for years before that, BC (before Christ).

(But the BBC has suggested that presenters should use “religiously neutral” terms to avoid causing non-Christians offence. The secular terms they want to use are BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era).

And it gets funnier, in Australia there are plans for schools to use BCE, CE and BP – “before present” – in preference to the traditional language.  Surely everything in the past would be BP.)
More vocabulary on expressing the day / date here.

Interesting Fact - Redheads

According to a report in the International Business Times, Cryos International, the largest sperm bank in the world, has closed its door to redheads.

(The sperm bank has reached its capacity of 70 liters of sperm, with 600 redheaded donors on its waiting list. Seemingly most of the demand for redheaded babies comes from Ireland, but there is more demand from men who are tall, with brown eyes and dark hair. Gosh, haven't people got fussy over the years?)

Interesting Fact - Satellite

Today, 23rd September 2011, a huge, 6 ton satellite (the size of a bus), may crash into earth at 18,000 mph.

(The satellite was launched in 1991 by the space shuttle Discovery, it was decommissioned 2005.  Nasa has warned there could be a 500-mile trail of debris, and, according to the Guardian, calculations put the British Isles within the impact path.  The odds of being hit by a piece of flying debris are 3,201 against, but this means you are 4,000 times more likely to be hit by space debris, than to win the National Lottery in the UK.  Cheerful thought.)

Update - it crashed into the ocean off the US coast, so anyone who clicked on "scary", you can relax now - until the next time.  :)


Today is hug a vegetarian day.

(Go on - they won't bite you, you're meat.)

Interesting Fact - Marriage

Common law marriage was abolished in the UK in 1753.

(Common law marriage (aka sui juris marriage, informal marriage, the rather long-winded "marriage by habit and repute" and the rather judgmental living in sin), is legally recognized in some countries as a marriage, even though no legally recognized marriage ceremony is performed or civil marriage contract entered into. The term "common-law marriage" has been used in England and Wales since the 1960s to refer to unmarried, cohabiting heterosexual relationships. However, this is merely a social usage and in the UK the term does not confer on cohabiting parties any of the rights or obligations enjoyed by spouses or civil partners, thus when a cohabiting relationship ends ownership of any assets will be decided by property law. The courts have no discretion to reallocate assets, as occurs on divorce.)

Interesting Place - Russia

According to a report from the Foundation for Future Studies Russia is the most miserable country in Europe (geographical not political).

(The foundation released data from surveys it had conducted with over 15,000 Europeans in 13 countries, asking people to agree or disagree with the statement "I am personally happy with my life".  In Russia only 37% agreed with the statement.  In Poland (who came in second) 50% agreed, followed by:-

Germany and Turkey - 61%
Austria - 63%
Spain - 68%
Switzerland - 72%
UK and the Netherlands - 71%
France - 77%
Italy - 79%
Greece - 80%
Denmark - 96%

Interesting Fact - Jobs

For Rachel:-
According to a recent study by the UK Office for National Statistics the day you were born could be an influence on your eventual career.

(GPs (family doctors) and debt collectors had the greatest percentage of January births, while sheet-metal workers had the lowest percentage. ''

February appear to give a greater chance of becoming artists.
March was a good month for pilots.

April and May had a fairly even spread of career paths. 
Babies born in June, July and August had a much lower chance of having high-end, top-paying careers, such as doctor, dentist, or professional athlete.

September babies had a greater chance of becoming sports players or physicists, and a less likely chance of becoming bricklayers or hairdressers. 
Giving birth in December could make your child become a dentist.

They also noticed that certain jobs were spread quite evenly throughout the year; most notably CEOs of large companies and real estate agents.
Now before you say you don't believ…

Interesting People - Albert Szent-Györgyi

Hungarian physiologist Albert Szent-Györgyi, discovered Vitamin C and the components and reactions of the citric acid cycle.

(He won the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for 'his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion processes, with special reference to vitamin-C and the catalysis of fumaric acid.  He would have been 118 today if only he had drunk his orange juice.)


Interesting Fact - The Brain

According to research at the California Institute of Technology, parts of the human brain are hard-wired to respond to other creatures.

(The study indicates that the brain's right hemisphere evolved to deal with unexpected and biologically relevant stimuli and that covers a positive reaction to animals like fluffy kittens, as well as a negative response to creepy crawlies. Brain activity was stronger when the people studied looked at cats or snakes versus buildings or people. Maybe that is why more people view my animal vocabulary page, than my building vocabulary page.)


Interesting Food - Muffins and Cookies

An internal audit into spending at the US Justice Department found that they had spent $4,200 on muffins and cookies at a conference in August 2009.

(That's not the real scandal though. The real scandal is that the $4,200, which let's face it is more than some families spend on food for a year, only bought 250 muffins! According to the audit the muffins in question cost $16 (£10) each, and they bought cookies (biscuits or maybe they really were cookies) for $10 each!   Now, I don't begrudge anyone a biscuit, or a muffin, but someone, somewhere was having a joke.  Thank goodness I don't pay tax in the US, otherwise I'd be very, very, angry.  I'm just going to go and do some baking now, it's obviously a very lucrative business.)

Interesting Fact - Money