Showing posts from April, 2013


King Willem-Alexander has become the first Dutch male monarch in more than a century after his mother Beatrix abdicated today. He is the first Dutch king since Willem III died in 1890.

Interesting Fact - Driving

According to Kevin Delaney, head of road safety at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, human beings are not genetically programmed to go backwards, so reversing in general is really quite difficult when you're learning to drive.

(This statement was prompted by the internet video doing the rounds of a woman trying to parallel park (see below).

Mr Delaney said, "There are some people who will not parallel park - they would sooner drive the extra half mile to use the supermarket car park."

What about you?)

Interesting Animal - Cows

Scientists in the UK are genetically altering dairy cows so they have no horns, in a bid to make
them safer and to cut the risk of injury to farmers and animals.

(According to the UK's Health and Safety Executive, 5 farmers were killed and 91 injured by cattle between 2010-11, and according to the Farmers Union 6 workers died in 2012; three were trampled to death by cattle and three were attacked by bulls.
And it's not just farmers, walkers, especially ones with dogs are at risk too.)

Interesting Place - Bangladesh

PVH, owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and German retailer Tchibo have signed up to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement (BFBSA) which will require signatories to ensure suppliers' premises meet improved safety standards.

(The drive for this follows the collapse of  the Rana Plaza, a building in Bangladesh.  Hundreds of people have been killed or injured and rescuers are still searching for survivors.   Simple Approach, a supplier to cheap fashion outlet Primark, occupied the second floor of the eight-storey building.

It seems building collapses are common in Bangladesh, due to lax building regulations.

25 Nov 2000 A fire at the Sagar Chowdhury Garment Factory in Narsingdi, 35 miles from Dhaka, kills 52 people, including children. A locked gate stops them escaping. 11 Apr 2005 Sixty-four people are killed when the Spectrum factory near Dhaka collapses. The disaster is blamed on illegal construction. 25 Feb 2010 A fire kills 21 workers at Garib & Garib Newaj…

Interesting Facts - Accents

According to a survey by, British women find an Irish accent is the sexiest accent in the UK.

(The success of the Irish accent (which also beat the French accent in a worldwide poll in 2009) is thought to be down to celebrity status of singer Danny O' Donoghue and One Direction's Niall Horan. And it probably doesn't hurt that Colin Farrell and James Nesbitt are Irish too, and Essex probably ended up at the bottom because of TOWIE.  (If you're not sure what TOWIE is, consider yourself lucky).

The results of the British poll were:-

1. Irish - 28 per cent
2. West Country - 19 per cent
3. Geordie - 17 per cent
4. Mancunian - 11 per cent
5. Glaswegian - 8 per cent
6. Scouse - 6 per cent
7. Yorkshire - 5 per cent
8. Welsh - 3 per cent
9. Brummie - 2 per cent
10. Essex - 1 per cent )


Irish = Ireland Geordie = Newcastle Mancunian = Manchester
Glaswegian = Glasgow Scouse = Liverpool Welsh = Wales Brummie = Birmingham

Interesting Food and Drink - Beer

The very first sip of beer releases a chemical that makes you want another one.

(According to a study carried out at Indiana’s Alcohol Research Centre, that first sip releases dopamine into the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter linked to the brain’s pleasure centres.

That must be why my photos are always 2 beers.)


Interesting Fact - Recruitment

At 16, Britain has the lowest recruitment age in Europe for young people wishing to join the army.

(They do need their parent or guardian's permission, and they are not sent to any war zones.  But, human rights groups have worked out that with longer training, and a higher drop out rate, recruiting at such a young age wastes up to £94m a year.  It costs an "estimated" £88,985 to recruit, train and pay new soldiers aged 16 and 17, compared with £42,818 for each adult recruit.

It might be nicer if they just pointed out that 16 year olds can't even vote as they're not considered mature enough. )

Interesting Place - The Netherlands

According to Unicef's leage table of children's well-being in the industrialised world, the Netherlands is the best place to grow up.

(Unicef consider five dimensions of children’s lives – material well-being, health and safety, education,
behaviours and risks, housing and environment and subjective well-being and the results might surprise you:-

1 Netherlands
2 Norway
3 Iceland
4 Finland
5 Sweden
6 Germany
7 Luxembourg
8 Switzerland
9 Belgium
10 Ireland
11 Denmark
12 Slovenia
13 France
14 Czech Republic
15 Portugal
16 United Kingdom
17 Canada
18 Austria
19 Spain
20 Hungary
21 Poland
22 Italy
23 Estonia
23 Slovakia
25 Greece
26 United States
27 Lithuania
28 Latvia
29 Romania

You can download the full report here)

Interesting People - David Archer

David Archer is thought to be Britain's most prolific shoplifter.

(He has a string of 342 criminal offences, and has now been jailed for 18 months, just a month after he was released from prison on remand. It is claimed that he has 338 previous convictions, 261 shoplifting and theft convictions 13 Asbo breaches over a 48-year criminal career, and has spent 28 years in prison and 39 out of the last 40 Christmases behind bars.

It's tragic.)

Interesting Animal - Cats

Cats have 32 muscles in each ear.

(This allows them to rotate their ears for directional hearing, and to move each ear independently of the other, as well as lay them down flat to warn us they are in a bad mood.
Humans only have 3 muscles in each ear, but some people can wiggle their ears. Can you?

PS - I can't, even though my mum could.)
#caturday  ;)

Interesting Fact - Drugs

Today it costs around £1 billion to bring a new drug to market.

(The pharmaceutical industry has to jump through so many hoops to follow regulations, test and ensure the safety of drugs, and when you think about the thalidomide scandal, rightly so.  However, it does mean that drug development is very expensive and extremely slow.
Now in the UK there is a "Right to Try" campaign, pushing to give the terminally ill the right to try untested drugs.

Interesting Place - Ikaria - Podcast

The island of Ikaria is almost as far east as Greece gets,  just 100 square miles in size, the mountainous island is 30 miles off the coast of Turkey, but that's not what makes it interesting. What is interesting is the people there live longer and better than almost anywhere else on the planet.

(According to longevity expert, Dan Buettner, Ikaria has that certain je ne sais quoi, and he has added Ikaria to the list of places in the world that have come closest to cracking the secret of eternal life.  A study showed that people on Ikaria were reaching the age of 90 with two and a half times the frequency of Americans. Ikarian men, in particular, are four times as likely to reach 90, often in better health.

Other places on the list are: the island of Okinawa in Japan, the town of Loma Linda in California, certain parts of Costa Rica and the hills around the province of Nuoro in Sardinia.

So, now you know.

Oh and there's a web site (of course) of all these blue zones.


Interesting Fact - Funerals

Today is the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. It will be the most expensive funeral ever held in the UK.

(It will cost an estimated £10 million. but half of that, £5 million, will be on security.  Why do we need so much security?

Lots of overtime there probably.)


Today is National "blah blah blah" day in the US.

So no more procrastinating. Take care of that long list of projects and boring chores round the house that you've been putting off.

Of course, I'm British, so it doesn't apply to me.

Interesting Food - Chocolate

Researchers at the University of Warwick have created chocolate with half the fat content replaced with fruit juice.

(Using apple, orange and cranberry juice droplets, they have replaced half the fat content in the chocolate but say they have managed to retain the same velvety feel as normal bars.

Does this mean I can count it as one of my five a day?)


Today is "One Day Without Shoes" day.

Interesting Fact - Work

In the 1970s 70% of mothers in the UK stayed at home full time.

(In 2013 that figure is just 10%, but according to a survey by uSwitch, 75% of mums would like to be able to afford to stay at home and look after their children. Six out of ten mothers who return to work after having a baby do so only to pay the mortgage, or to ease financial pressures such as debt. Just one in seven said they wanted to develop their career.)

Interesting Fact - Money

Since the National Lottery was launched in the UK in 1994 90% of jackpot winners blew the lot within five years.

(It reminds me of an old Russian saying that money is like a homing pigeon and will always fly back to its roost in the rafters of the rich.)

Interesting Fact - Travel

According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the  loss if sea ice in the Arctic will allow ships to navigate freely across the North Pole by the middle of this century.

(Currently the Northwest Passage is navigable in summer only about once in every seven years, but this could be open in around 40 years, and polar icebreakers will soon be able to cross directly over the North Pole.  

The downside is geo-political tensions between countries that have territorial claims in the region, will increase. Canada claims that the Northwest passage falls under its sovereignty whilst the US insists it is an international shipping route, and Russia has made territorial claims extending out to the North Pole.  Hah! Wait till they find my little LEN flag flying there.)

Interesting Fact - Health

According to a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, today's 40-year-olds in Europe are experiencing problems of excess weight, high blood pressure and diabetes similar to people now in their mid-fifties.

(We might be living longer, but we are growing less healthy, and younger generations are about 15 years ahead of the older generation on the pathway to increasing frailty, disability and ill health.

The big three killers are:

Diabetes: increases the risk of heart failure and kidney failure.

Blood Pressure: a cause of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Being Overweight: increases the risk of heart disease, cancer and a range of other conditions.
Something to look forward to then.)

Interesting Fact - Flip Flops, Wrist Bands and Space Blankets

What do flip flops, wrist bands and space blankets have in common? They are all on offer to drunks around the UK.

(In Torquay, Devon, drunk women are handed flip-flops to wear, prompted by fears that by wearing stilettos or similar footwear whilst drunk they could tumble over and hurt themselves.

Space blankets are handed out in Gloucester to help prevent hypothermia (alcohol can lower the body temperature).

In Cardiff, Wales, young people who drink too much are given a lift home and given a yellow wristband asking: "How did you get home last night?" Ingeniously the wrist bands will also have a bar code which they will be able to scan to read about their night's revels.
Only in the UK.)

Interesting Fact - Housing

One of Mrs Thatcher's legacies was the "right-to-buy" scheme, which started in the 80s and allows council tenants to buy the property they are renting from the council. (Right-to-buy, an ongoing scheme, allows tenants to buy their council property at a discount, but 33 years later a third of ex-council homes bought under the right-to-buy scheme, are now in the hands of private landlords, and in one London borough almost half of ex-council properties are now sub-let to tenants. A Daily Mirror investigation has found that the multi-millionaire son of a Tory minister who presided over the scheme allegedly owns at least 40 ex-council flats on one South London estate.) Source

Interesting Animals - Ferrets and Poodles

Why would anyone in their right mind put ferrets and poodles in the same post? Well, because seemingly it is very difficult to tell them apart. Dog-lovers at a market in Argentina paid out hundreds of pounds for supposedly fashionable "toy-poodles", only to discover that they were fluffed-up ferrets on steroids.

(I've invented a new tongue twister! Say it 3 times - Fluffed up ferrets souped up on steroids.)


Margaret Thatcher died.

Interesting Fact - Facebook

Facebook is seemingly planning to charge UK users to send instant messages to people outside their circle of friends.

(The social networking giant says it is introducing the charges in an attempt to ‘prevent spam’ with users being charged for contacting celebrities or anyone who isn’t a friend or a friend of a friend.

It's cheaper to send messages to less well-known figures, such as Robert Peston who costs 71p, to around £11.00 for celebrities, such as Tom Daley at £10.68.

I wonder if the fee will be split with the celebrity?  It looks to me like Facebook is really trying to monetise spam.  If they wanted to prevent spam, they would simply block messages.)

Interesting Fact - Pillows

Following International pillow fight day (yesterday), I thought I'd share this little factlet: the largest pillow fight in the world was fought was in Minehead, Somerset, England in 2008. 3,706 people took part for Children in Need.

(Pillow fights have existed for a long time, but because of social networking flash mob events are massive,  promoted primarily via the internet. I would like to say that no pillows were harmed in these events, but it wouldn't be true - it's carnage. 

Original photo by Rama {licenced by Cc-by-sa-2.0)

Interesting Fact - Money

The Queen has received a £5m pay rise from the British taxpayer.

(Under a new payment system, called the sovereign grant, which replaces the old funding system of the civil list and grants-in-aid, the Queen now receives 15% of the profits from the Crown Estate. Between 2011 and 2012 the Crown Estate made a profit of £240.2m.

Just remember - We're all in this together.)


Today is International Pillow Fight Day.

Interesting People - Holly Golightly

This one's for Hekner:  The heroine of Truman Capote's book Breakfast at Tiffany's, Holly Golightly, was originally christened “Connie Gustafson”.

(Annotations on Capote’s type-written, hand-edited manuscript of his celebrated novella show that the heroine’s name: Holly Golightly, later famously played by Audrey Hepburn, was originally christened “Connie Gustafson”.

The character was reportedly inspired by Capote’s close friendships with a series of New York society figures, including the heiress and fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt; Oona O’Neill, daughter of the playwright Eugene O’Neill; actress Carol Grace; writer Maeve Brennan; and model Dorian Leigh, whom he nicknamed “Happy Go Lucky”.
Thank goodness he changed it! No offense to any Connies or Gustafsons out there, but... )

Interesting Fact - Money

According to research from the Department of Economics at Sheffield University, the secret to turning your children into savers is to not give them pocket money.

(The researchers looked at the British Household Panel Survey, an annual study carried out by Essex University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and found that those who were given a weekly sum of pocket money by their parents were less likely to put money aside than those with a part-time job.

Sorry to let the cat out of the bag kids.)

Interesting Fact - Class in the UK

According to a new survey, run by the London School of Economics, the University of Manchester, and BBC Lab UK, there are no longer three social classes in the UK.

(But that does not mean Britain is a classless society, oh no. There are now 7 social classes, which are (from the bottom up):-
The precariat, or precarious proletariat - Most deprived group, with low levels of all three capitals.The traditional working class - Low on all three capitals, but not the poorest. Older on average than other classes.Emergent service workers - New class with low economic but high 'emerging' cultural capital. High social capital. Predominantly young and often found in urban areas.New affluent workers - Medium levels of economic, but higher levels of cultural and social capital. Young and active.Technical middle class - New, small class, with high economic capital but less culturally engaged. Relatively few social contacts.Established middle class - High levels of all three capitals but not …

Interesting Fact - Biodegradability

Plastic bags take between 200 and 1000 years to biodegrade.
(How long does it take for different materials to biodegrade?
Paper Tissues - 2-4 weeks
Banana Peel - 3-4 weeks
Paper Bag - 1 month
Newspaper - 1.5 months
Apple Core - 2 months
Cardboard - 2 months
Cotton Glove - 3 months
Orange peels - 6 months
Plywood - 1-3 years
Wool Sock - 1-5 years
Milk Cartons - 5 years
Cigarette Butts - 10-12 years
Leather shoes - 25-40 years
Tin Can - 50 years
Foamed Plastic Cups - 50 years
Rubber-Boot Sole - 50-80 years
Plastic containers - 50-80 years
Aluminum Can - 200-500 years
Plastic Bottles - 450 years
Disposable Diapers - 550 years
Monofilament Fishing Line - 600 years
Plastic Bags - 200-1000 years)

Interesting Fact - Twitter

Twitter has  announced that it will shift to a two-tiered service. (The basic, free service, will be a consonant-only plan called "Twttr.", and for $5 a month, you can keep your vowels by using the premium "Twitter" service. They tweeted about it: "Trd th nw Twttr yt? Mr tm fr mr twts!" (Translation: Tried the new Twttr yet? More time for more tweets) However, Joan Rivers has a solution: "Twyttyr? Why byy vywyls whyn yyy gyt "Y" fyr fryy? Syckyrs! #nvwls" (Translation: Twitter? Why buy vowels when you get "Y" for free? Suckers!) Read more here:-