Showing posts from May, 2013

Interesting Fact - Time

Between 2010 and 2012, the Metropolitan Police made over 110,000 calls to the Speaking Clock.
(This might sound funny, but it cost more than £35,000!
So, if you want to know the time, please don't ask a policeman.  It costs too much!)

Interesting Place - Portugal

The Portuguese government has cut four of its 14 annual public holidays in an attempt to trim its budget deficit and boost economic output.

(All Saints Day, Corpus Christi, a commemoration of the formation of the Portuguese Republic and a holiday celebrating independence from Spanish rule will all now be regular working days.

As you may know, I live in Germany and today is Corpus Christi.  Now I understand why Joao was asking why I was on a break again and I feel guilty.)


Today - 30th May 2013 is Tax Freedom Day in the UK.

The day when you've actually earned enough to pay tax, NI contributions etc, and are now working for yourself.

(Unless you are Starbucks, Amazon, Apple or Google of course. In which case, every day is tax freedom day.)

Interesting Fact - The Internet

Facebook, PayPal, and Google have reward programs for advising them of bugs in their systems.

(The bug has to be a potential security vulnerability, but the rewards can be substantial. Facebook pays a minimum of $500 for qualifying bugs, while Google pays from $100 up to $20,000! PayPal is coy about what it pays.
Microsoft, encourages people to report bugs, but it doesn't fork out any money at all. Instead they "acknowledge" the person who reports it. I guess that's how Bill got to be so rich.)

Interesting Place - Oldham

A restaurant in Oldham removed toothpicks from the tables over fears that customers would stab their mouths or dislodge fillings

(A diner was told by a waiter that new health and safety rules had been applied, but he went on to complain to the Health and Safety Executive and it ruled in his favour. It said: “There is no health and safety regulation which stops toothpicks being handed out in a restaurant.” Toothpicks are now back on the tables.

Misunderstanding about Health and Safety rules have got so out of hand, that an HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel has been set up. They even have their own web site. "Who ya gonna call?")


Interesting Fact - GPs

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average Brit visits their GP (general practitioner or doctor to you and me) 5 times a year.

(I reckon they're lucky to get an appointment.  According to the Patients Association, 60 per cent of patients have to wait two days before they can get an appointment. 1 in 10 have to wait for 2 weeks!)

Interesting Food - Lamb

According to a report by by Caroline Saunders, Andrew Barber and Greg Taylor, lamb produced in New Zealand and shipped to Britain has a smaller carbon footprint than lamb produced locally in the UK.

(To be exact, farmers in Britain use four times as much carbon per tonne of New Zealand lamb than farmers in New Zealander. How can shipping meat half way round the world create fewer "food miles" than locally rearing it? Well when you want to understand the real cost to the environment it's not enough to calculate "food miles" you have to look at other factors, and when it comes to raising lamb the UK uses more nitrogen fertiliser for pasture land by a factor of more than 13.
I'm not sure who financed the study, for all I know it was the NZ meat marketing board, but maybe they have a point.)
Information source

Interesting Fact - Human body

According to a report in the journal Nature, our feet are home to more than 100 funghi.

(Over the whole body there are around 200, all of which is completely harmless. They particularly love our feet, which provide a warm, dark and humid environment, especially under the toenails, between the toes, and around the heel.

Now don't go freaking out and scrubbing at your feet mercilessly, most of the time funghi does not cause a problem unless it multiplies in particular areas.)
If you're worried the NHS website has some useful advice.

Interesting Word - GIF

Steve Wilhite, the creator of the GIF (Graphics Interchange Format), a popular format for image files, has said that his invention should be pronounced as if it starts with a "j", like giraffe, rather than with a hard "g" like golf.

(At the Webby Awards, he flashed a gif up for his acceptance speech of 5 words (the maximum number you're allowed at the Webbies) and it said, "It's pronounced JIF, not GIF."
The twittersphere exploded, wars have been started over less, and it soon became clear that the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary finds both pronunciations are acceptable, but to be honest, I'm not bothered, I've always pronounced it with a hard "g", and I will continue to do so, because graphics is not pronounced as jraphics.)

Interesting Fact - Salaries

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has decided that MP's salaries in the UK are lagging behind that of Civil Servants.

(So, are they going to bring Civil Service pay in-line with pay for British MPs? No, of course not; it looks like they're going to award themselves a £10,000 pay rise.  A massive 25%.

MPs are currently paid £65,738 a year, and in a recent poll they (the MPs themselves) thought they should be paid £86,000 a year (some thought they should be paid £100,000). On top of that you have the "expenses". But before 1911 MPs weren't paid any salary, and in today's money that first salary would be worth, £39,000 - around Band 7 in the NHS for "specialist workers".

An IPSA spokesperson told the Sunday Times: "There is no recommendation yet, there are no proposals yet. We are working on that. We are going to do this in a very public and proper way with consultation. We will be consulting before the end of June and at…

Interesting Fact - Retirement

According to a survey from the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs retiring (stopping work) can make you miserable and ill.

(The study found that after giving up work, the average adult was 60 per cent more likely to have at least one diagnosed illness. Retirement was also found to increase the risk of depression by 40 per cent.

I hope the people running the survey are aware that people who retire are "old".  Personally I just want to be able to afford to retire.)


Interesting Fact - Politics

The Conservative Party in the UK has 150,000 members.

(In Margaret Thatcher's day it had 1.2 million members.

Maybe they are a dying breed.)


March 20th is the official birthday of jeans.


Interesting Animal - The Camel

Where would you expect to find the world's largest herd of camels? The Sahara? Nope - it's in Australia.

(Seemingly there are around 750,000 camels roaming wild in the outback, (between 2001 and 2008 it was estimated there were up to a million), but they are not indiginous. Imported to Australia in the 19th century from Arabia, India and Afghanistan, for transport and heavy work in the outback, they now cause a lot of problems and are probably public enemy number 2, after the fecund rabbit.

Camel stew anyone?)
(We know a rhyme about camels, don't we children?)

Interesting Food - Olive Oil

From 1 January 2014, jugs of olive oil and dipping bowls will be banned from restaurants in Europe.

(After that date olive oil "presented at a restaurant table" must be in pre-packaged, factory bottles with a tamper-proof dispensing nozzle and labelling in line with EU industrial standards.

The European Commission, a committee of nameless bureaucrats, has used special Common Agriculture Policy regulations to pass this weird bill. Their reason for the ban is "hygiene" and to protect the "image of olive oil" to attempt to benefit struggling industrial producers in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal.

What a load of tosh!)

Thanks to +Luke Pettit for sharing this.

Interesting Place - The UK

46% of the UK population are optimists.

(Where did I get this factoid from? Well, according to a poll run by the Guardian, 46% believe that Welsh songstress Bonnie Tyler can win Eurovision with her song "Believe in Me".

How do you rate our chances?


Interesting People - David Beckham

David Beckham has hung up his football boots and announced his retirement from football, at the age of 38.

(He won't be able to draw his pension, get his bus pass or his heating allowance any time soon though, but don't worry, he won't suffer. Last year he allegedly earned around £200 million, but only £4.6m of that was from football.

He must have sold an awful lot of aftershave.)

Interesting Place - Harrow

According to the "Happy at Home" survey, run by, Harrow has been ranked as one of the unhappiest places to live in the UK.

(I recently heard that if your called Ian, you are one of the unappiest people in Britain, so what happens if you're called Ian and you live in Harrow?)

Interesting Fact - TV Shows

Star Trek, was originally pitched as "Wagon Train to the Stars".

(In his pitch to NBC in the 1960s, Gene Rodenberry said, "Okay, so this is my pitch: All of the characters are on a ship that travels through space, a "space" ship, if you like. Exotic locations like Adventure Towns or the Planet of Hats are just a "hyperjump" away. It's kind of like a Wagon Train to the Stars."

I must have missed the "Planet of Hats" episode.)

Interesting People - Mark Zuckerberg

It's Mark Zuckerberg's birthday today, he was born on May 14, 1984, but that's not what's interesting.

(He is now 29 years old, and that means that on average, he's managed to earn around £820,000 a day during his lifetime.

Funnily though, there's no Google Doodle to mark this occasion. Well, never mind, happy birthday anyway Mr Zuckerberg.  I hope someone bakes you a cake.)

Interesting Food - Bread

L-Cysteine is an amino acid used to prolong shelf-life in commercially produced bread.

(It can be found in duck and chicken feathers and cow horns, but most of the L-Cysteine used in food production comes from human hair.

Most of the hair used to make L-Cysteine comes from China, where it's gathered from barbershops and hair salons. You can avoid L-Cysteine baking your own bread, as it is not an additive in flour, but if you find the idea of eating other people's hair, steer clear of fast food places such as McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and Burger King, who allegedly use L-Cysteine as an additive too.)


Interesting Fact - Law

25% of all solved crimes in London escape punishment.

(According to figures obtained through a freedom of information request by a Conservative London assembly member, Tony Arbour, they end up in the issue of a caution instead of a prosecution, and nearly 29,000 cautions were handed to criminals by the Metropolitan police in the year to March.

Some of these were for minor offences, but not all: 5,843 were given out for violent attacks, 165 for sexual offences and five for rape, while 180 offenders were cautioned for grievous bodily harm or wounding, 131 for robbery and 318 for drug-trafficking.)

Interesting Place - Hong Kong

According to commercial property agents, C&W, Hong Kong has world's most expensive retail space.

(Causeway Bay in Hong Kong is the most expensive retail location in Hong Kong, charging a whacking 1,859 euros per sqm per month, pushing New York's Fifth Avenue off top spot for the first time in 11 years.)

Interesting Fact - Names

According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, Sophia has topped the list of names for American baby girls for the second year in a row and Jacob is the most popular boy's name and has been for the past 14 years.

(That's the good news, Sophia and Jacob are quite nice names, but the bad news is that the fastest-growing name for girls was Cataleya, and the fastest growing name for boys was Major, even worse, King and Messiah are becoming increasingly popular names for boys.

Delusions of grandeur?)

Interesting Word - LOL

Most people now know that LOL means “laugh out loud”, but did you know that it used to mean something completely different?

(It used to mean “little old lady”: The 1960 book, Only In San Francisco, written by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. It contains the passage: ‘A traffic officer bellowed at a LOL who didn’t seem to know which way to turn her car. Use your noodle, lady, use your noodle!’

20 years later that the meaning of LOL changed and it became so widespread that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary two years ago.)

More acronyms here.

Interesting Fact - Spelling

According to best-selling author, Jacqueline Wilson, children from Eastern Europe, Spain and Portugal all have better spelling and grammar than British children.

(She receives hundreds of fan letters each week, and told The Independent, that her young overseas fans write more eloquent English than UK kids, she said, "They’re writing in English, and apologising for their English, yet these letters will be more grammatical and spelt more properly than [those from] our own children! Spelling doesn’t seem to be something that happens [at school]. I don’t think it is being taught. Many children don’t even bother to try to write properly, resorting to 'text language'".

I dunno wot u r tryin 2 say Jacklynn.)

Interesting Place - Finland

Finland has been rated the best place in the world to be a mum in the annual Mothers' Index compiled by Save the Children.

(Sweden and Norway, were also at the top, while Germany was 9th, Australia 10th, France 16th and Ireland 20th, Britain came 23rd, behind most of her European neighbours, and the United States was placed 30th in the ranking of 176 countries.

Mums in the poorest countries are at most risk, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the world’s toughest place to be a mother.)

Save the Children

Interesting Fact - Shopping

No surprises here, as a survey carried out by, found that shoppers are infuriated by constantly being asked "Can I help you?" in shops.

(Two-thirds of shoppers asked found offers of assistance from pushy staff annoying and put them off buying, only a fifth thought it saved them having to seek out help. Of course the poor shop assistants are forced to do this by over zealous managers who can't bear the thought of them standing around doing nothing. The main problem nowadays is that you can't even escape this kind of robotic selling on the internet, as more and more sites insist on telling you that other people bought this along with that, sometimes with avatars whose eyes follow you round the page. No - give me a human any time, at least they can take the hint, "I'm just looking, thank you."

Interesting Food and Drink - Fizzy Drinks

Fizzy drinks are on average, 5,000 times more acidic than water, which has a neutral pH level.

(This is having a disastrous affect on people's teeth. A normal sized can of pop contains approximately nine teaspoons of sugar, and regular consumption of these sugary drinks increases the risk of tooth decay by over 200%. According to dentists, who are at the front line of the battle against tooth decay, if you drink a lot of canned or bottled fizzy pop, you might as well stick your teeth in an acid bath.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1969 Australians used to drink about 47 litres per person in a year, in 2012 it was estimated to be over 100 litres, and rising. That's almost 300 cans a year!

Australian peridontist, Dr Amis Lidums, said "Teeth initially become quite sensitive and they'll start to become shorter as the protective enamel over the surface of the teeth disappears."
Almost 60 per cent of children aged five to sixteen consume at least…

Interesting Fact - Clothes

Wool&Prince, an American company claims to have invented a shirt that can be worn for 100 days without being washed.

(It says its new shirt, made of wool of all things, can go months without being cleaned because the fabric is naturally resistant to odours.

This could only appeal to the kind of person who sniffs their clothes to see if they're clean or not.  If you've worn it - wash it!)

Interesting People - Dave Evans

Dave Evans created a massive 40,000 piece hand-cut wooden jigsaw in his workshop in Weymouth, Dorset, England.

(The jigsaw is made up of made up of a montage of photos of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, it took him 35 days to cut the pieces, and he spent over 100 hours assembling it, but just a day after putting the final piece in place, his 150-square-foot masterpiece suddenly crumpled to the floor, breaking into thousands of pieces. And the moment is now a piece of YouTube history.

Never mind Dave - think of all the fun you'll have putting it all back together again.)

Interesting Place - Mount Everest

According to The Telegraph, the Nepalese government charged 337 climbers £2.2 million in 2012 for permits to climb Mount Everest.

(Climbing the highest mountain in the world is more of a jaunt nowadays. The base camp has wifi internet so that expedition members can telephone their families on Skype.

Not exactly what I would have expected if I were ever daft enough to want to climb a mountain. Before you know it, they'll have built a cafe.)