Showing posts from 2012

Interesting Fact - Statue

The tallest statue in the world (at the time of writing), is the Spring Temple Buddha in China.
(It is a statue depicting Vairocana Buddha, and it measures 420 ft /128 m).  When the 82 ft pedestal it is placed upon is taken into account, the monument has a total height of 502 ft (153 m). )

Interesting Fact - Statue

The tallest statue of Christ is in Poland.

Photo Creative Commons: Source

(Located in Swiebodzin Poland it is made out of concrete and measures 120 ft (36 m). It includes a 3 m tall metal crown and stands on top of a 16 m stone bank, so the total height is 52 m.

Does anyone else think it looks as if it's out of Lord of the Rings?)

Interesting People - Josie Ellis and Mary Lasch

For over 70 years Briton Josie Ellis and American Mary Lasch have been penpals.

(Through WWII and beyond, they shared all the significant milestones of their lives. After decades of letter writing the pair came face to face for the first time in 2006, but as far as I know they are still writing to each other.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Trees

Berlin waste management company BSR, collects around 400,000 Christmas trees each year.

(At this time of year in Germany people throw out their old Christmas trees for collection.  Many are shredded, recycled as wood chips and finally used in the production of wooden pellets for central heating systems. Some cities in Germany burn discarded Christmas trees to generate heat and electricity.
In some areas, up to the 25th of January, the council lets you know when to put your tree out for collection, but in most areas, one person will put a tree on a street corner, and then the next day there will be 20 to 30 of them there.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Trees

In Germany discarded Christmas trees are donated to zoos for the animals to eat.

(Thousands of trees, that weren't sold during the lead up to Christmas, are fed to elephants, camels, polar bears and a variety of other animals. But it's no good trying to donate your tinsel bedecked tree, the trees have to be free of any chemical treatment, and so only certain vendors of Bio trees are eligible.)


Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact

For the first 8 years of Charles Dickens' life, it snowed.

(Every year between 1812 and 1820 in fact.  This probably explains why we are so fixated on a White Christmas in the UK.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact

In the UK, white Christmases were more frequent in the 18th and 19th centuries
(During the 20th Century, there were only 4 White Christmases in the UK, and so far this century, we've had two - 2010 and 2009.

Yes, in spite of all those snow covered cards featuring snowmen and robins, and films where everyone rushes out to find it's snowing, we don't get much snow in England.  The sad truth is the most likely weather event on Christmas Day in the UK is rain.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds the two icons of the Christmas song, the 12 days of Christmas; the grey partridge and the turtle dove, are in alarming decline. 

(The society says the number of partridges has dropped 30 percent. Turtle doves are even worse off — with a 60 percent decline in numbers. The society warns, at this rate, the dove will face extinction by the middle of the next decade.

No partridge in a pear tree.)

The 12 days of Christmas

Interesting People - Al Capone

Gangster Al Capone had business cards that listed him as a used furniture dealer.

(He really did try to develop an air of respectability and lived in a modest house in a middle-class Chicago neighbourhood with his wife and son, his mother and siblings. He even told neighbours that he was a second hand furniture dealer.
I guess you never really know who lives next to you, or what they get up to in their sheds.)

Interesting Fact - Hair

Cutting your hair does not make it grow faster.

(It's one of those old wives tales.  Hair only seems to grow faster if you have it cut short, because any growth is simply more noticeable when your hair is short than when it is long. In addition, when your hair is short it tends to look healthier and fuller and it doesn't break as much as long hair.

That said, I prefer keeping my hair shoulder length, because it means I don't have to go to the hairdressers as often when it is longer.)

Discuss going to the hairdressers here.

Interesting Fact - Teeth

In the past young women from poor families had all their teeth taken out and replaced by dentures as a 21st birthday present.

(These were sometimes presented to the man of their dreams as a sort of dowry. I guess the idea being that the woman wouldn't cost anything in dental bills, or maybe the teeth could be sold so that well to do people could have dentures.  This kind of thinking continued into the twentieth century, when having dentures was still a bit of a status symbol.
Of course nowadays people will do anything to get that perfect white smile, I'm sure there will be equal astonishment in the future when someone reads about how people would bleach their teeth in the twenty-first century.)

Interesting Animal - Elephants

Humans have chins (well most do), but elephants are the only other animals with a chin. 

(So the wolf could have said to the three little pigs, "What chinny chin chin?")

Interesting Fact - Glass

There is no such thing as bullet proof glass.

(In spite of what movies and TV show us, no glass is completely bullet proof, the most it can claim is to be bullet resistant.

Of course some manufacturers still use the term bullet proof, I guess because it sells, some even call this kind of glass, bullet proof resistant glass, which, if you think about it, is a complete contradiction in terms.)

Interesting Number - Love

Before you go off in a huff, love is a number - in tennis.
(In France, where tennis became popular, the round nought on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called 'l'oeuf,' which is French for 'the egg.'  Legend has it that when tennis was introduced in the US, Americans (mis)pronounced it 'love.')
More about numbers here.

Thanks Marianne

Interesting fact - Science

Helium gas is a non-renewable gas.

(It is created by extraction from natural gas.  This means we could run out of party balloons any day now.)

Interesting Fact - Chidren

At Christmas ever popular on Santa's wish list are electronic gadgets. Even for children. According to a survey conducted by the Gadget Show live, the first gadget a child gets is probably a games console, by the age of seven years and seven months.

(The last they receive is likely to be a mobile – with which they will be texting their friends by the time they are nine years and three months.

In between, they will get their first digital camera at eight years six months, a TV in their bedroom two months later and an MP3 player at eight years and nine months. They’ll flip open their first laptop at eight years and ten months.

At an even younger age we give them toy replicas of these gadgets, even working examples, aimed at children.  The future is going to be very interesting as our digital age generation comes of age.)

Interesting Fact - Law

Currently there are 46 prisoners in the UK serving whole life sentences. 45 are men, and 1 is a woman.

(A whole life sentence / tariff means there is no right to parole.  Life means life.

Here is a list of prisoners who have served, or are currently serving these terms:-

Interesting Fact - Transport

The shortest cycle path in the UK is just 8 feet (2.5 metres) long.

(That's about the length of two pedal cycles. You can see this wonder of the modern world on the Ridgeway in Plymouth. 
Plymouth council insist that it is there to save cyclists’ lives.

A spokesperson said: “The red area marks where the off-road pedestrian and cycle route ends and cyclists join traffic.

“It is designed to alert motorists to cyclists joining the road, as well as give cyclists the space to do so safely.”
And if you think this is a one-off, think again.  There's one in Wales - on a road in Cardiff, that is one inch longer. It makes me proud to be British.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Dinner

The world’s most expensive Christmas dinner will set you back £125,000.

(So what do you get for 1/8 of a million quid?

The meal, which will be prepared by John Salt head chef Ben Spalding at the home of the customer, is for four people has the following:-

Starter - Almas caviar (£5,000)  served with a balsamic vinegar that is 150 years old.

Main course - Wagyu beef fillet and heart (£5,000) sprinkled with Akbari Pistachios (£5,000) and edible 50 carat gold leaf.

Pud - Whipped Kopi Luwak (£3,000) and Densuke watermelon (£2,600).

All washed down with £37,000 pre-World War One champagne, poured into diamond studded champagne flutes.
Luxury website are offering the meal, but the proceeds will go to charity.  Well that's all right then.  You can stuff your face silly, as long as it's for a good cause.  Let them eat Wagyu Beef.)

Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Tree

Boffins have come up with the perfect formula for decorating a Christmas tree.

(The research, commissioned by department store Debenhams, says that if you're buying a 6ft Christmas tree, you will need an angel or star for the top that's one tenth the size of the tree, and the number of lights required is found by multiplying the mathematical constant Pi (3.14) by the height of the tree in centimetres.

For example, a 183cm (6ft) tree needs 574cm of lights (183 x 3.14) or 18ft 9in. But perfection is only obtainable with 37 baubles and 920cm (30ft) of tinsel.

But how many chocolate Santas should I buy?)


Today is Mega Monday, and according to the Times, Brits will spend £10,000 per second online.

Interesting Fact - Law

More than 209,000 young people were detained by police in England and Wales in 2010.

(2,117 of those arrested were under the age of 11.  The police have even arrested some children for throwing sticks at a horse chestnut tree (we do that to get the conkers, and yes, I have done it - even as an adult), but believe it or not, the number of children actually arrested has fallen in recent years.  I have the sneaking suspicion that children are easy targets, whilst hardened criminals may be dangerous. I know who I'd rather go after.)

Interesting Food / Word - Aubergine

Aubergines were originally called "vatinganah" in Sanskrit, which means literally ‘fart, go away.’

(From Sanskrit, the word and the fruit travelled, morphed into Persian as badingan, then into Arabic as al-badhinjan.  The Spanish borrowed the term thinking that the Arabic definite article "al" was part of the word, so it went into the Catalan language as alberginia, where the French later picked it up as aubergine, and the English borrowed the word in the late 1700s.

1794, from Fr. aubergine, "fruit of the eggplant" (Solanum esculentum), dim. of auberge "a kind of peach," variant of alberge, from Sp. alberchigo "apricot" [OED]. Klein derives the French word from Catalan alberginera, from Arabic al-badinjan"the eggplant," from Pers. badin-gan, from Skt. vatin-ganah.

So aubergine really means "fart go away".

Americans know it as an eggplant, which IMHO isn't half as much fun.)

Interesting Fact - Transport

Ruthless traffic wardens in Tewksbury have been ticketing cars.
(Why ruthless?  Well the motorists had been stranded in recent flooding, and when they returned to their stranded vehicles they found penalty notices stuck to their windscreens. Now you know why your average Brit hates traffic wardens.)

Interesting Food - Cheese

Some cheeses are saltier than a bag of crisps

(According to a report by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), Alarming levels of salt in cheese are contributing to an epidemic of high blood pressure responsible for strokes, heart attacks and thousands of early deaths a year. Death by cheese? I can think of worse ways to go.)

Interesting Place - New York

For over 36 hours in New York City, no-one was shot, stabbed, or otherwise killed.

(In fact it seems that crime has been on the decline in New York City since the 1990s. On a sadder note, the crime freeze began after 22:25 on Sunday 25th November, when a man was shot in the head, and continued until another man was shot at 11:20 on Tuesday 27th November.)

Interesting Fact - Law

In the UK,  when you get engaged, any engagement ring belongs to the person it was given to, even if the marriage doesn't take place.
(Believe it or not, this is written in law - The Law Reform Act of 1970 says:-

"The gift of an engagement ring shall be presumed to be an absolute gift, this presumption may be rebutted by proving that the ring was given on the condition that it should be returned if the marriage did not take place for any reason."
But let's face it, who's going to put that in writing before proposing?)

Interesting Fact - Buttons

Have you ever wondered why men's clothes have buttons on the right while women's clothes have buttons on the left?

(Me neither, but when I read the reason, I thought, "Now that's interesting".

Seemingly when buttons were first used they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left.  However, wealthy women were dressed by maids, and so dressmakers put the buttons on the maid's right. That is where women's buttons have remained ever since.

Now where's my maid?)
Thanks Marianne

Interesting Word - No

The average toddler hears the word "no" about 400 times a day.

(The problem is that it loses its power. )

I don't know about you, but I can listen to this "no" all day:-

Interesting Fact - Children

Children who are eligible for free school meals are nearly 4 times more likely to receive a permanent exclusion and around 3 times more likely to receive a fixed period exclusion than children who are not eligible for free school meals

(In other words, children from poor families struggle.  I wonder why the current government is so hell bent on creating more poor families?)

Interesting Fact - The Internet

If I say to you someone is "milking", it would usually mean that someone is getting milk from an animal like a cow. At a push "milking it" ca mean trying top get the maximum profit from a situation. But this month "milking" has a new meaning, thanks to the wonderful webby thingy.

(The latest craze to sweep the internet "milking" can go alongside planking as a pointless exercise, albeit in this case less dangerous. The craze, started by 5 students at Newcastle University, involves pouring milk over your head in a public place without showing any emotion and then walking away. The video 'Milking Newcastle' went viral and had over 300,000 views within 5 days.

When I found the video, I was surprised to say the least. It's an odd thing to do, but relatively harmless in the great scheme of things, but of course everyone has an opinion: So far the video has amassed 632,566 views 2,825 likes and  1,189 dislikes.

I will just say that it i…

Interesting Food - Happy Thanksgiving (Carbohydrate) Day

Interesting Fact - Typewriters

The last typewriter to be made in Britain has come off production line - and gone straight into the Science Museum in London.

(The last typewriter, manufactured by Brother's in Wrexham, has been sent to the Science Museum to be displayed as an artefact. The saddest thing is this ends nearly 30 years of production at the company's plant, which has produced 5.9 million typewriters since it first opened in 1985.

I learnt to type on a sit up and beg typewriter. Yes, I am that old.)

Interesting Number - Money

The 2014 to 2020 budget for the EU will be between 143 billion euros and 151 billion euros ($182.5 billion to $192.8 billion) per year. 

(It sounds like a lot, but it's only about 1 percent of the CEO (common economic output).  Over seven years this adds up to over 1 trillion euros, but according to German MEP Jutta Haug Germany alone will spend about 2.2 trillion euros over the same seven years.

Too many noughts!)

Interesting Fact - Education

According to the Department for Education in the UK, during 2010/11 5,080 children were permanently excluded from state-funded primary, state-funded secondary and all special schools in 2010/11.

(The permanent exclusion rate for boys was approximately 3 times higher than that for girls. The fixed period exclusion rate for boys was almost 3 times higher than that for girls.

In addition there were 271,980 fixed period exclusions from state-funded secondary schools, 37,790 fixed period exclusions from state-funded primary schools and 14,340 fixed period exclusions from special schools.

I have nothing funny to say about this.  I've got my serious head on.)


Interesting Fact - Holidays

A new space company called Golden Spike is planning to offer private trips to the moon before 2020.

(The company is run by former Nasa bosses and will use rocket technology that has already been developed. The cost?  A cool £871million!)

Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Interesting Fact - Education

Students are paying hundreds of pounds to have essays written for them.
(Seemingly they pay essay farming firms to write their essays for them and it's hard to spot.  I would just say one thing to anyone who is considering this.  If at some point in the future you make something of yourself, do you really think you will be able to hide what you did?  Just look at this news story, and then get your pen and paper out.

Interesting Fact - Exams

According to a report published by Renaissance Learning, pupils in the UK struggle to understand GCSE exam papers.

(Their reading skills are so poor at the end of secondary education due to a lack of time spent practising how to read.  This is so sad.)


Interesting Number - Money

There are 12 net contributors and 15 net recipients within the EU.

(Net contributors receive less money from EU funds than they pay into the joint coffers. 

Net recipients receive more grants and benefits than they pay. 

The largest net contributors include Germany (at 9 billion euros), France (6.4 billion), Italy (5.9 billion), Great Britain (5.6 billion) and the Netherlands (2.2 billion). 

The leading net recipients are Poland (11 billion), Greece (4.6 billion), Hungary (4.4 billion), Spain (2.9 billion), and Portugal (2.9 billion). 

Calculating that for each individual EU citizen, however, the picture looks different: Danes pay the most into EU coffers at 150 euros each, while Hungary receives the biggest payout - 442 euros per capita in aid money from Brussels.)

Interesting Place - Germany

According to figures released by the German Statistics Office, Germany has a higher level of poverty than the Czech Republic.

(In spite of being one of the richest countries in Europe, the number of people living in poverty in Germany rose from 19.7 percent in 2010 to 19.9 percent in 2011, about 16 million people in all.  The main thing to blame is Harz IV.)

Hartz IV explained

Interesting Fact - Post

Over half of all post delivered in the UK is junk mail.

(It's terrible!  Every morning people excitedly sort through all the letters that land on their doormat only to find that it's either bills, scam competitions or advertising.)

Interesting Animal - Puffins

A baby puffin is called a puffling.

(That was just too cute not to share.)

Interesting Date - Remembrance Day

Thousands of people on Twitter and Facebook observed the two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday by not tweeting.

(A campaign was run by the Royal British Legion to involve social media in the act of respect for the fallen. Called Thunderclap, people authorised their Twitter and Facebook accounts to send the tweet or message that read: 'I'll be remembering the fallen at 11 o'clock #2MinuteSilence #LestWeForget at 9am on Sunday November 11.)

Interesting Fact - Rubber Bands

Rubber bands last longer if they're kept in the fridge.

(When a rubber band is in the fridge it relaxes the polymers, but you should let it warm up before trying to use it. If you have ever found a rubber band in the drawer that snapped in two when you tried to use it, this could be a useful fact.)

Interesting Place - Wales

Job seekers in Wales are being given free spray tans and beauty treatments to help them get a job.

(The treatments are being offered by charity organisation The Well-Being And Training Academy in Aberdare, Wales.)

Interesting Fact - Water

According to research carried out at the Institute of Psychiatry in London and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge  has found that dehydration can affect the way teenagers' brains function.

(School pupils taking exams  could benefit from drinking a glass of water beforehand, as being dehydrated is enough to effect the neural activity in key parts of their brains which, as a result, have to work harder to achieve the same tasks. I fear I might be constantly dehydrated.)

Interesting Fact - Elections

Seemingly Barack Obama is only the fifth President of the US to be re-elected with over 50% of the vote.

(Of course that's only about 25% of the actual population of the US, because in spite of over $6 billion being spent on campaigning only an estimated 126 million Americans actually bothered to vote. That's an overall turnout rate of about 57.5%. )


Interesting Number - 52

If you want to do something that no human has ever done before, shuffle a pack of cards.

(When you shuffle a normal pack of 52 playing cards, the number of possible permutations is ‘52 factorial’ otherwise known as 52! or 52 shriek.

This works out as 52 times 51 times 50 ... all the way down to one, which gives you the sum of   80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000.)
Source: QI

Interesting Fact - Music

The singles chart in the UK began in 1952, which makes it 60 years old.

(To commemorate this, an A list of records that have sold more than a million copies has been compiled by the Official Charts Company, a total of 123 records. The top seller is Elton John's double A-side Something About The Way You Look Tonight/Candle in the Wind, which was released in the aftermath of the 1997 death of Diana, Princess of Wales and sold 4.9m copies in the UK.

123rd place and just scraping past the million mark, is When We Collide by X-Factor winner of two years ago Matt Cardle.
You can find the full list here.)

Interesting Fact - Tax

Apple paid less than 2% tax on profit made outside the United States last year.
(They paid $713m (£445m) in overseas corporation tax on foreign profits of $36.87bn (£23bn) in the year to the end of September. That translates as a tax rate of 1.9%, compared to a headline corporation tax rate of 35% in the US and 24% in the UK. Executives from Google, Amazon and Starbucks will be hauled before the Commons public accounts committee in the UK on Monday 5th November 2012.  They will be asked to explain why they pay so little tax to the exchequer. Analysis by the Guardian found that Google, Amazon, Starbucks and Facebook have paid just £30m in tax over the past four years despite generating more than £3.1bn in sales.)

Interesting Fact - Maths

Maths really can make your brain ache.

(Researchers from the University of Chicago have discovered that fear of maths can activate regions of the brain linked with the experience of physical pain.

In fact, the higher a person’s anxiety the more it increases activity in regions of their brain associated with visceral threat detection, and often the experience of pain itself.

If I'm honest, German grammar has the same effect on me.)


Interesting Fact - Happiness

According to a British couple, Harry and Floss Lucas, who have been married for over 70 years, the secret to a happy marriage is to argue every day.

(The bickering pensioners claim they have notched up around 25,550 quarrels since they got married in October 1942., but they also say they always kiss and make up before they go to bed.  I don't think this would work for me as I hate confrontation.)


This month

In the UK November is being rebranded as Movember.

Men across Britain are growing moustaches in order to raise awareness, and funds for men’s health issues, specifically prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

Interesting Food - Halloween Fact - The Pumpkin

Pumpkins are related to cucumbers.

(Pumpkins are a member of the Cucurbita family which includes squash and cucumbers. OK, so maybe they're like a second cousin, but they are still related.)

Interesting Food - The Pumpkin

The world's largest jack o'lantern was carved by Scott Cully (USA) from the world's largest pumpkin on October 31, 2005 in Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania, USA.

(It was carved from the world's largest pumpkin which had been grown by Larry Checkon. It's logical really.)

Interesting Fact - Halloween

According to research from, nearly half (48 per cent) of people in the UK get annoyed by trick or treaters, and 42 per cent refuse to take part in the festivities because they don’t believe in the holiday.

(Not so much halloween as hallowmean.)

Interesting Fact - Halloween Fact

According to research from households in the UK are set to spend over £127 million on Halloween treats this year.
(Averaged out that’s £5.27 each.  I will have a bag of little bags of gummy bears on hand, but to be honest there's not much trick or treating in Germany - so I may be stuck with those gummy sweets.  What a shame!)

Interesting Fact - Parents

According to research carried out by Ultralase, over half of British dads would rather see their children find fame and fortune by winning a reality TV show, than see them pursue academia and traditional sought-after careers.
(I guess that with all the worries about pensions, British dads have their eye on the future.)

Interesting People - Emma-Louise Hodges

A woman in the UK, Emma-Louise Hodges, has changed her name by deed poll to include the names of 14 different Bond girls.

(Her name is now Miss Moneypenny, but her full name is:- Miss Pussy Galore Honey Rider Solitaire Plenty O'Toole May Day Xenia Onatopp Holly Goodhead Tiffany Case Kissy Suzuki Mary Goodnight Jinx Johnson Octopussy Domino Moneypenny.)

You can discuss this on the forum. What's in a name?

Interesting Fact - Sperm Donation

In the UK only anonymous sperm donors, at licensed clinics, are exempt from being treated as the legal father of a child born as a result of their sperm donation.
(Ignorance of the law is no defence.)

Read more

Interesting Food - Sweets

Warheads are the world's sourest sweets.

(Warheads Extreme Sour Hard Candy derive their strong sour flavour primarily from malic acid which is applied as a coating to the outside of the small, hard sweeties. The intense sour flavour fades after about 20 to 40 seconds. The sweet itself contains the somewhat less sour ascorbic acid and citric acid, but at the centre of the boiled sweet is a small pocket of more malic acid.  I wonder what part of "sweet" they don't understand.)

Interesting Fact - Smoking

According to research from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, the effects of smoking can be passed on to future generations.

(The study was carried out on rats, but a rat’s physiology is sufficiently similar to a human’s to suspect the same thing may be true in Homo sapiens. In a nutshell, Dr Rehan showed that if pregnant rats are exposed to nicotine, not only will their offspring develop asthma induced by nicotine, so will the offspring of those offspring, neither of whom had been directly exposed to nicotine.)


Interesting Fact - Money - Olympic Fact

The final quarterly economic report published by the UK government's Department for Culture Media and Sport has revealed that the overall cost of delivering the Games was £8.92 billion.

(That works out at £142 per head for every man, woman and child in the UK. They were very proud of the fact that it was lower than the £9.3bn they eventually set aside, but no one should forget that the original budget, put forward at the Olympic bid was a mere £2.4bn. Only governments get away with this kind of thing, if I did it I would be sacked, or jailed.)

Interesting Fact - Health

4 million Germans suffer from tinnitus.

(Tinnitus is often caused by continuing noise or an acoustic shock, such as an explosion. According to the German Tinnitus League, another major cause is stress.

I suffer from this condition, and I live in Germany, but I'm not German, so I don't know if they included me in these statistics, so maybe 4 million and 1 people in Germany suffer from tinnitus.)

Interesting Word - Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a word direct from Latin which means “ringing”.

(In English it describes a condition where the sufferer hears a constant buzzing, humming or ringing in the ears. This phantom sound goes on for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)

Interesting Fact - British Music

Ageing rockers The Rolling Stones have announced their first live shows in five years - but the tickets will set you back at least £106.

(The best seats cost around £406, and fans who want to stand in the "tongue pit" near the front of the stage will have to purchase a VIP hospitality package costing £1,140. £106 - is more than the band themselves were paid when they performed their first gig 50 years ago.  I guess this isn't so much a "must see before I die" as a "'must see them before they die",)

Interesting Fact - Tax

I pay more tax in the UK than Starbucks!

(According to the Independent newspaper, the coffee chain Starbucks has not paid any tax in Britain since 2009.  UK sales since 2009 amount to around £1.2 bn, but their UK tax bill was £0.  Yes, £0. I don't even live in the UK, but my little NFP organisation pays more tax than they do.  Star*ucks! (Sorry, but it makes me livid.))

Interesting Fact - Exams

GCSE exam papers in the UK are aimed at a reading age of 15 years and seven months.

(So, if you want to assess your reading skills, try looking at some past exam papers online. Good luck!)

Interesting Fact - Health

A newly discovered letter reveals that doctors knew about the risk tobacco posed to people's health as early as the 18th century.

(Medical student William Adams, wrote to his father in 1799 saying how he feared his mother's pipe-smoking habit was harmful. He said tobacco had a narcotic power, and its use destroyed digestion. Adams, who was studying in Edinburgh, also referred to a case where a woman had died after being given the wrong dose of tobacco by a chemist.)

Interesting Animal - Mice

Mice can sing.

(Well, the male mouse can, and naturally they do it to impress the women. The results of several experiments on mice were published in the Journal, Plos One, and it seems that mice share some of the brain mechanisms that humans and songbirds use when learning songs. This ability, which is known as local learning, had been limited to humans, sea lions, seals, birds, dolphins, whales, bats and elephants.
This story has caused a great deal of silliness on the Interwebby thingy, with lots of suggestions for songs they might sing, such as, We're Caught In A Trap.

Here are some of my favourite even sillier suggestions:-

Cheese Release Me
Cat's Entertainment
Mouse of The Rising Sun
Mouse of Love
8 days a squeak

My own contribution was:-

Our Mouse In The Middle Of Our Squeak

If you want to find more, search for #mousesongs on Twitter.)

Interesting Place - London

If you go down to the Tube today, you may have a big surprise.  Seemingly someone on the London Underground is trying to cheer everyone up by sticking a series of spoof stickers across tube carriage signs.

(Some of the stickers change "Shepherd's Bush" to "Shepherd's Pie", others give useful advice like: "Don’t acknowledge fellow passengers or sustain eye contact beyond two seconds," and another urges commuters to, "... offer this seat to those drunks less able to stand than you.")



Interesting Fact - Happiness

According to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 16 to 17-year-olds are, the most optimistic about the future, the least anxious and the “most satisfied” with life than any other age group
in the UK.

(Despite high youth unemployment and the prospect of tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year young people in the UK seem to be very optimistic.  Well good for them, although I do wonder what they're putting in the water.)

Interesting Fact - Happiness

A study by the University of Warwick has found that people who eat seven – rather than the government recommended five – portions of fruit and veg a day are the happiest in the UK.
(They found mental well-being rose with the number of daily portions of fruit and vegetables people ate. Well-being peaked at seven portions a day.  I wonder if it's something to do with being regular?)

Interesting Fact - Computers

According to preliminary figures released by research firm Gartner, PC maker Lenovo has replaced Hewlett-Packard as the world's top PC maker.

(Lenovo shipped 13.8 million units in the third quarter, compared with HP's 13.55 million, and they were the only PC maker, among the world's top five, that increased its shipments to the US during the third quarter. Lenovo are based in Beijing, China, but before you decry the rise of Chinese manufacturing, they make the ThinkPad, which was originally designed, developed and sold by IBM. Maybe we should be asking, "Who decided to sell off the IBM PC business in 2005?")

Interesting Animal - Bees

According to Entomologist Mark Greco, the stingless bee (Trigona carbonaria) in Australia 'mummifies' any parasitic interloper that can damage its hives.

(The bee wraps the live parasite in resin, wax and mud until it can't move and leaves it to starve. It sounds like some kind of weird diet / beauty treatment to me.)

Interesting Fact - Money

According to the UK Payments Council, in the UK, cheques will be phased out by October 2018.

(Personal cheque payments reached a peak of 2.4 billion in 1990.  They have fallen steadily since, and only 663 million were written in 2008. So, now they are looking for easy-to-use efficient alternatives that everyone understands.  Cash?)

Interesting Fact - Money

The first cheque was written 350 years ago.

(It was dated 16 February. It was made out for £400, signed by Nicholas Vanacker, made payable to a Mr Delboe, and drawn on Messrs Morris and Clayton - scriveners and bankers of the City of London. Kind of makes you think of Scrooge, doesn't it?)

Interesting Fact - Transport

People in occupations, most likely to drive a car with personalised plates include nursing home owners, 13% of them own one, local government chief executives, 12%, and haulage contractors, 11%.

(I wonder what the percentage of English teachers with one is.)

Interesting Food - Eggs

According to a survey conducted by Mindlab International for the British Egg Industry Council, the way you eat your eggs can reflect your personality.

(The study found that the average poached egg-eater is likely to be happier than most.  Boiled egg-eaters run the greatest risk of getting divorced. Fried egg fans are usually from the skilled working class and scrambled eggs are favoured by those without children.  They call it the eggs factor, which should indicate how seriously this should be taken.)

Interesting Food - Margarine

According to research carried out at the University of California, margarine can make you aggressive.

(The study found that chemicals called 'trans fatty acids' (TFAs), which can be found in large quantities in margarine, but also in some fast foods - makes people aggressive and irritable.

Maybe they should reshoot that advert:  "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT BUTTER!")

Interesting Fact - Sport

According to experts from the Technical University of Munich, Germany, squeezing a soft ball or making a fist with your left hand could help combat sporting nerves.

(Basically when we practice a particular movement thousands of times, it becomes automatic and requires little conscious thought, by shifting the balance of brain activity away from the left side, which governs conscious movement, and towards the right, which is key to automated behaviour, we can reduce the likelihood of choking under pressure and because each of our arms is connected to the opposite side of the brain, this can be done by clenching the left hand.
Now, two thoughts come to mind.  We should test this theory the next time England needs to take a penalty, and I wonder if clenching the right hand can reduce exam nerves.)

Interesting Fact - Drugs

According to the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, in 2010 The U.S. federal government spent over $15 billion dollars on the War on Drugs.

(That is a cost of about $500 per second, but that's just the federal government, state and local governments spent at least another 25 billion dollars.

America is still the single largest marketplace for illegal drugs. One estimate is that around thirteen million Americans still occasionally buy illegal drugs, whist an estimated 5 and 6 million have more serious drug habits. The government estimates that users spend approximately $60 billion dollars a year.)

You can follow an up-to-date calculator online.

Interesting Invention - The typewriter

The first recorded idea for a typewriter is dated 1714 when an Englishman called Henry Mill patented his idea for "an artificial machine or method for the impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively one after another."
(But, it wasn't until 1808 that Italian Pellegrino Turri built the first working machine of its kind. Turri made the typewriter for his friend Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano, but the first commercial production wasn't until 1873.)

Interesting Fact - Babies

In England and Wales, every week, two babies are born in prison.

(Quite often the child is taken from them at birth to be placed into care, but there are mother and baby units in 8 of Britain's 13 women's jails, so it is now possible for about 80 of those children to be with their mothers – but still behind bars. Not the best start in life.)

Interesting Place - England

England has the highest rate of female imprisonment in the European Union. 

(According to statistics published by the Ministry of Justice, the number of women jailed in England has more than doubled over the past two decades to 4,144, but many sentences are short, and in 2011 10,181 women were actually put behind bars.)

Interesting Fact - Genetics

Researchers from the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam ave identified genetic factors that contribute to facial appearance.

(The scientists have managed to identify 9 points, including the position of the cheekbones, the distance between the eyes, and the height, width and length of the nose. This could mean that the good old photo-fit might be a thing of the past, as it may be possible in the future to produce portraits of suspects from a scrap of their DNA.)

Interesting Fact - Genetics

The vast majority of the human genome plays a vital function by regulating the genes that build and maintain the body.

(This debunks the myth of "junk" DNA, a term coined 40 years ago to describe the part of the genome that does not contain any genes, but it is in fact an elaborate patchwork of regulatory sequences that act as a huge operating system for controlling the genome. So, be careful of calling stuff you don't fully understand "junk".)
The research was carried out by hundreds of researchers from 32 institutes around the world and the findings published in a series of 30 research papers in Nature, Science and other scientific journals.

Interesting People - Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel is a long distance walker.

(Seemingly the famous singer of Simon and Garfunkel fame has undertaken several long walks in his lifetime: In the early 1980s, he walked across Japan in a matter of weeks. From 1984 to 1996, Garfunkel walked across America, taking 40 excursions to complete the route from New York City to the Pacific coast of Washington.

In May 1998, Garfunkel began an incremented walk across Europe.

In late August 2012, during the 26th leg of his Eurowalk, Art reached Thessaloniki, Greece.

He will be continuing his walk towards Istanbul.)

Interesting Fact - Mobile Phones

According to, mobile phone bills in the UK are, on average, £439 a year.
(The largest monthly bill in 2011 was £1,700! I wonder what kind of phone numbers they were calling.)

Interesting Fact - Mobile Phones

According to website, in the UK there are a total of 8,134,979 different contract permutations on offer to mobile phone customers.
(It is crazy - the jargon, the small print etc. Can there be such a thing as too much choice?)

Interesting People - Joanna Woodward

In 1960, Joanna Woodward was the first star to be honoured on the historic Walk of Fame in Hollywood.

(When it was first constructed there were 1,558 blank stars, but new stars were added and Sophia Loren was honoured with the 2,000th star in 1994. As far as I know there is still room for a few new stars, so there's time for my acting career to take off.)

Interesting Fact - Driving

To pass your driving test in the UK, you must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.

(In addition, you must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.  But as I mentioned earlier, you don't have to have a regular eye test, which accounts for all the old codgers, driving at 10mph craning over the steering wheel.)

Interesting Fact - Driving

There is no law in the UK that says drivers have to have their eyes tested.

Interesting Fact - Birth and Death

According to research led by the University of Zurich's Dr Vladeta Ajdacic-Gross, you are 14% more likely to die on your birthday than on any other day of the year.

(The research analysed data from 2.5 million deaths in Switzerland between 1969 and 2008, and it doesn't seem to matter what age you are, or what sex. The researchers put it nicely, "birthdays… appear to end up in a lethal way more frequently than expected."

Chillingly Professor David Spiegelhalter, a statistician from Cambridge University, says " It's purely a birthday effect."

So, if it's your birthday today... Be careful out there.)

Interesting Fact - Driving

According to research carried out by road safety charity Brake, 1 in 3 visually-impaired drivers make two journeys each week without their glasses or contact lenses.

(The excuses given include:-

'I forgot to put glasses on/contacts in''I was only planning to drive a short distance''It was too sunny so I swapped my glasses for sunglasses''My eyes felt dry/tired so I took my lenses out''I have broken my glasses and can't afford to replace them' UK law states that, if you need to wear glasses or contact lenses to meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’ you must wear them every time you drive.)

Interesting Fact - Health

According to research from road safety charity Brake, one in five Brits have not had an eye test in the past two years.

Interesting Word - Philematology

Philematology is the art or science of kissing.

(Kissing is the act of pressing one's lips against the lips or other body parts of another person or of an object. From a peck on the cheek to a full blown French kiss, it's all kissing.)

Interesting Fact - Books

A study by the National Literacy Trust found that, in the UK, children as young as seven are more likely to own a mobile phone than a book.

(I would like to think that maybe they have an e-reader installed on the phone, but who am I kidding?)

Interesting Fact - Transport

According to online insurance company, residents of towns and villages in Scotland have the highest percentage of personalised number plates.
(14% of motorists in the villages of Killearn, Strathblane and Fintry in Stirlingshire, have a personalised plate, compared with a national average of around 4%. I guess we all strive for recognition.)

Interesting Fact - Energy

There are over 26 energy companies in the UK.

(According to Which, the average saving when switching gas and electricity is £217, but there are over 400 tariffs to choose from.)

The energy companies I could find are:-

AirtricityAtlanticBritish GasCo-operative EnergyEbicoEcotricityEDFEonFirst UtilityGood EnergyGreen Energy UKiSupply EnergyLoCO2M&S EnergyNpowerOvo EnergyPower NISainsbury's EnergyScottish HydroScottish PowerSouthern ElectricSpark EnergySSESwalecUtilitaUtility Warehouse

Interesting Fact - Health

Scientists in Japan have created a microscopically thin film that can coat individual teeth to prevent decay or to make them appear whiter.

(Don't get too excited though.  It will take 5 years or more before the film could be used in practical dental treatment such as covering exposed dentin, but it could be used cosmetically within three years.  If it means I don't need to have my teeth sand-blasted every year, I'm all for it.)


Interesting Animal - Swans

It is an offence to intentionally injure, take or kill a wild swan in the UK.

(As native wild birds, swans enjoy statutory protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 It is an offence to take or possess the egg of a wild mute swan, or to damage or destroy the nest of a mute swan whilst in use or being built. 
I am writing this because one of my visitors asked me if the Queen really ate swan, and yes it seems there is an internet myth that all swans belong to the Queen, this is not true, however it is true that certain swans in certain areas are her majesty's property.  Every July a head-count of all the mute swans on the Thames is taken, this is called the Swan Upping ceremony.  They are then marked for ownership either by the Crown or by the Vintners' and Dyers' Livery Companies, which were granted their rights of ownership by the Crown in the fifteenth century.)

Interesting Fact - Health

Gastric bypass operations in the UK are costing the NHS over £85 million a year.
(In 2011-12 there have been 1,316 gastric band insertions and 124 gastric band removals performed for obesity under the NHS, and there have been 5,407 gastric bypass procedures performed under the NHS for obesity. The figures, provided by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, show an increase of
530% in 6 years.)

A gastric band is an inflatable band that sits around the top of the stomach. Inflation of the band narrows the stomach, limiting it’s capacity to take food and increasing the feeling of fullness. This, combined with lifestyle changes, leads to weight loss.

Interesting Place - Loch Ness

The earliest report of the Loch Ness monster appeared in the 7th century.

(It appears in the Life of St. Columba by Adomnán, written in the 7th century.  According to Adomnán, the Irish monk Saint Columba was staying in the land of the Picts (Scotland) with his companions when he came across the locals burying a man by the River Ness. They explained that the man had been swimming when he was attacked by a "water beast" that had mauled him and dragged him under. They tried to rescue him, but were able only to drag up his corpse. Hearing this, Columba stunned the Picts by sending his follower Luigne moccu Min to swim across the river. The beast came after him, but Columba made the sign of the cross and commanded: "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once."  The beast immediately halted as if it had been "pulled back with ropes" and fled in terror, and both Columba's men and the pagan Picts praised God for the miracle.

Of course I couldn'…

Interesting Fact - Fashion

According to a survey by online retailer, men stop caring about what clothes they wear when they reach the age of 37.

(Most of the men I know never even started caring about what clothes they wear.)

Interesting Fact - Logos

Microsoft has redesigned its logo for the first time since February 1987.

(The new logo will still be the familiar red, blue, yellow and green colours we are used to, but the colours will be square boxes instead of the curvy ones, and the Microsoft name will be a lighter font called Segoe. I just want to know how much it's costing them.)

Interesting Place - Leicester

Archaeologists in the UK are searching for the bones of the last Plantagenet king of England, Richard III.

(So, where are they looking? In a grand cathedral, or the grounds of a palace? No, they're searching beneath a city centre parking lot in Leicester. The car park is said to have been built over a Franciscan friary known as Greyfriars, which housed the monarch's remains after he died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.)

Interesting Fact - Money

According to a survey carried out by website Just-Eat, people in the UK buy at least five kitchen gadgets that they never use.

(From herb scissors to bread making machines, it all adds up to a scary £2 billion of gadgets sitting around doing nothing. I have to hold my hand up to being guilty of this, but only because the bread making machine I bought is useless.)

Source: Daily Express

Interesting People - Bill Clinton

Ex US President, Bill Clinton, has earned around £56 million pounds since leaving office 11 years ago.

(He has given 471 speeches, which words out at about £119,000 per talk. I'm sure he's an interesting guy, but he's not that interesting.)

Interesting Food - The Cucumber

According to experts at the American Chemical Society, cucumber sandwiches can help you keep your cool.

(Unfortunately the most effective way to eat them isn't with the crusts cut off, but rather served on whole wheat bread with mayonnaise and sea salt on top. Other recommendations for keeping cool were beer, tea and even curry - lucky me!)

Interesting Fact - Genetics

Scientists have found the gene that makes people happy – but it only works in women.

(The gene, called MAOA, affects the levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain, and comes in two varieties, a highly active and a less active type. Women with the less active type were happier than others,