Showing posts from February, 2014

Interesting Fact - Flowers

Spring is springing in the UK, and one of the first signs of spring here is the appearance of snowdrops.

According to the official website of the Colesbourne estate, famous for its snowdrop gardens, there are 19 wild species of the genus Galanthus.

 Amatsu has taken a lovely photo for us:-

(They can be found in the wild from Spain to the Caucasus, but gardeners have selectively bred over 1000 distinct types of snowdrop, and that number increases every year.

At the gardens on the estate, they grow over 250 different types, although sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference.)


Today 28th February, is Global Scouse Day.

Scouse is a type of lamb or beef stew. The word comes from lobscouse, a stew commonly eaten by sailors throughout Northern Europe, which became popular in seaports such as Liverpool.  In fact it was so popular in Liverpool that Liverpudlians (people who live there) became known as Scousers.

To celebrate the Liverpool Echo has an online Scouse test.

Interesting Fact - Money

I'm not going to pretend to understand Bitcoins, or how they work, but I've been told they are hard to forge or duplicate, and easy to trade with.  However it now seems that if you know what you’re doing, they are pretty easy to steal too.

(In 2013, someone stole up to $100 million in the digital currency from “Sheep Marketplace", and now Mt.Gox in Japan (said to be the one of the earliest online exchanges of these ubiquitous bits of code) has disappeared. The website has been shut down, their Twitter account deleted, allegedly because all the BitCoins had been stolen, 744,000 Bitcoins worth about $350,000,000.00. As a result the value of Bitcoins has plummeted.
They didn't even need a swag bag to carry it all in.)

Interesting Fact - Money

Allegedly, the two biggest welfare recipients in America today are Wal-Mart and McDonald's.

(So, how does that work out?  Well, according to a report in Bloomberg, American fast food workers received more than $7 billion dollars in public assistance between 2007 and 2011.

McDonald's even had a “McResource” line that helped employees and their families enroll in various state and local assistance programs. It exploded into the public when a recording advocated that full-time employees sign up for food stamps and welfare, and has since been closed down.

According to the same report, Wal-Mart employees are the largest group of Medicaid recipients. They are also the single biggest group of food stamp recipients. Wal-mart’s "associates" are paid so little, according to Congressman Alan Grayson, that they receive $1,000 on average in public assistance.
Once upon a time, if you were unemployed you needed financial help.  Working hard and still needing government handouts is s…

Interesting People - George W Bush

This little fact cropped up today (don't ask why).  Seemingly during the Bush administration, on a presidential visit to Austria in 2006, the White House flew in a special portable toilet to Vienna for the president's personal use during his visit.

(They were so concerned about Bush's security that a special port-a-loo captured everything and flew the waste material back to the United States in the event some enterprising foreign intelligence agency conducted a sewage pipe operation designed to trap and examine his waste material.

I know this is called Interesting People, but surely he wasn't that interesting.  If it's true, the world has gone mad!)


Interesting Fact - E-Cigarettes

An estimated 1.3 million people now use e-cigarettes in Britain.

(E-cigarettes are banned in Hungary, Brazil, Finland, Lebanon, Malaysia, and Singapore, and they can't be sold to under 16s in Italy.

The Weatherspoons chain of pubs in the UK has banned them too.)

Interesting Invention - E-Cigarettes

The first patent for a "a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette" was made in 1963 by Herbert Gilbert.

(Gilbert described a device that replaced burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavoured air, but his device involved no nicotine, it was more flavoured steam and didn't prove a commercial success. It wasn't until 2003 that the first nicotine based electronic cigarette was patented, by Mr Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacologist. Manufactured to look like a traditional cigarette, the batter powered product contains liquid nicotine that is turned into a vapour which is then inhaled.
Just another way to part a fool from his / her money. I wonder if it could be turned into something useful like a drug delivery system.)

Interesting Fact - Films

80% of Alfonso Cuarón’s film Gravity was composed of digital shots.

(Basically this wasn't so much adding special effects to a film, as the special effects being the film.  Each frame took around 50 hours to render fully and if the entire film had been rendered using a single CPU processor, it would have taken about 7,000 years to complete.

We have come a long way since Fantasia.)

You can read more about the amazing work that went into this film here:

Interesting Fact - Curling - Winter Olympic Fact

The world's first indoor curling match, on artificial ice, took place in Manchester, in 1877.

(Unfortunately the rink closed soon after the match was played.

Curling made its Olympic debut in Chamonix in 1924, but it didn't become a permanent Winter Olympics sport until Nagano in 1998.

The UK has gone a bit nuts over curling, as we have won a medal, and should win another later today.  After these Olympics I doubt we will hear of it again for 4 years.)

Interesting Word - Diet

The word 'diet' first made an appearance in the 13th century.

(It comes from the Greek word, diaita, meaning "way of life".

The funny thing is it's a four-letter-word and the first 3 letters are "die".)

Interesting Fact - Business Meetings

According to research carried out by Holiday Inn in the UK, over 80% of business people say that the biscuit selection at a meeting could influence the outcome.

(Their survey found the most popular choices were chocolate digestives, shortbread and Hobnobs.

I feel quite proud of myself, because when I was teaching in the "real world" I always offered digestives and HobNobs and the occasional homemade shortbread to my students. No wonder my classes were popular.)

Interesting Fact - Health

Researchers from Cambridge University have developed a saliva test that can indicate the risk of depression in teenage boys.

(Most mental health disorders start before age 24 and about one in six people will suffer from clinical depression, in the UK 10 million people will suffer at some point in their lives.

The research found that teenage boys who felt down and had high levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol were 14 times more likely to go on to suffer clinical depression than boys who didn't .

The test was tried on teenage boys and girls, but found to be most effective with boys.)

Interesting Animal - The Corgi

The Queen's favourite breed of dog, the Pembroke Welsh corgi, is becoming endangered in the UK.

(The corgi, often seen in photos of the British monarch, has seen its popularity wane in recent years with dog lovers instead favouring the smaller, more fashionable easy-to-carry breeds like chihuahuas.
It has been placed on the Kennel Club's 'At Watch' list, and will be considered officially endangered if the number of puppy registrations in a year drops below 300 - there were 301 registered.
Save the corgi!)

Update - The Welsh corgi (as it is known in the US) is actually the 24th most popular dog breed in America, according to the American Kennel Club.

Interesting Fact - Winter Olympics - Olympic Fact

Allegedly, some Winter Olympic contestants are turning over their social media accounts to sponsors.

(They are agreeing to quotas of postings on their Twitter and Facebook accounts, letting other people send commercial messages in their name.

If you are shocked by this, you probably think that your favourite pop star / film star sits tweeting away all day. That said, it's not really the spirit of the Olympics, is it?

I can promise you, this though.  This is me. Sitting at my keyboard with my fingers tapping the keys. Of course you only have my word for that, and I'll admit I feel a little jealous. I can't imagine having assistants.)

Interesting Fact - Money

Some councils in the UK are charging flood victims £7.50 per sandbag.

(Residents in Christchurch, Dorset have been told by their council that they have to buy sandbags at £30 for a pack of four.

If you think that's bad, it gets worse, people are turning up in vehicles to flood defences and nicking the sandbags, which are then sold on for a profit.
You get the council you vote for folks, so come next election - don't let them forget why you are voting them out.)

!Note - Even empty sandbags have gone up in price:-

Interesting Fact - Valentine's Day Fact meet Winter Olympics Fact

In the world of romance one of the difficult things to do is pluck up the courage to ask someone out. No longer! So called "Hook up" apps are seemingly all the rage amongst young singletons.

(One of the breed, Tinder, claims to be responsible for 150 marriages; it is a location-based dating app which highlights fellow singles in your area, sort of virtual speed dating. Now I know that sounds kind of sweet, but (there's always a but) there are 450,000,000 Tinder profiles worldwide, which means their "meaningful relationship rate" is pretty low.

So how does this tie in to Valentine's Day and the Winter Olympics? Well, romance aside, a news story claims that Olympic athletes in Sochi are hooking up using Tinder.

Now this could just be clever marketing by the owners of Tinder, but there's no doubt that the market is booming, Smeeters, Down, OkCupid, and Grindr, to name but a few, are all aimed at pairing us up in different combinations.)


14th February is Valentine's Day.

Don't say no one reminded you.

Interesting Fact - Valentine's Fact

The red rose is one of the symbols of love on Valentine's day, but most red roses on sale in the UK for Valentine's Day (around 70%) were grown in Kenya. (Let's face it they aren't going to grow in England in this weather.)

(If you ignore carbon footprints, there's not much wrong with this, it brings income to the country and provides valuable work, but, in spite of the fact that Brits pay a premium for Valentine's Day roses, many flower pickers in Kenya have to pick 120 roses per minute in order to earn their measly £1.15 a day wages.
There is an answer: Have a happy Valentine's Day, and buy FairTrade.)

Interesting Fact - Money

Barclays, Britain's third-largest bank, has announced it is going to cut between 10 and 12,000 jobs worldwide, 7,000 based in the UK.

(This is on top of the 7,650 jobs it cut in 2013. The reason for the cuts is a downturn in profits, but here's where the money doesn't add up - they are paying out £2.4 billion in bonuses and other "incentives".
I'm glad I don't bank with them, as changing bank accounts is a fiddly business in the UK.)

Interesting Fact - Police

According to figures released under the Freedom of Information act, police officers in the UK took 250,000 days of sick leave due to stress-related illness in 2013.

(12 forces also saw rises in stress-related sick days of more than 50%. The reason given is cuts in police numbers, and Police Federation chairman Steve Williams said: “It is inevitable that the pressure to do more and more with fewer resources will impact on some officers’ health and well-being."
I would think it's enough that it's a very stressful job.)


Today is satisfied staying single day.

The anti Valentine's Day if you like, but it's an interesting use of the word "satisfied", not exactly "over the moon".

Interesting Fact - UK floods

Some of you might have seen the devastation surrounding the recent UK flooding, and heard that one of the problems is lack of investment in flood prevention.  What you might not know is that the Environment Agency can only spend money on flood defences if each pound spent will prevent £8 of damage.

(How much can you calculate the cost of the damage to the Environment Agency's reputation?)

If you don't know how bad it is:-

This week

This week - 10th to 16th February is Random Acts of Kindness Week.

Be kind is one of the rules of the Network, so this fits nicely.



10th February

Shirley Temple died at the age of 85.

I hope she finds her good ship:-

Interesting People - Jenny Jones - Olympic Facts

Jenny Jones has won Britain’s first ever Olympic medal for a snow based event.

(Of course she's not the first Brit to be given one, but Alain Baxter, who won a slalom bronze medal at the Winter Olympics inSalt Lake City in 2002, had to hand it back after testing positive for a banned stimulant.)

Interesting Fact - Money

According to campaign group the Robin Hood Tax campaign a total of £67.7 billion in bonuses has been paid to finance staff in the UK since 2008.

(Bankers' bonuses are traditionally paid or awarded to workers in the finance industry at the end of the bank's financial year.

This year's bonus round is coming up, so this amount will go up.)

Interesting Fact - Men and Women

The head of the BBC has announced that the corporation will not make any more all-male comedy panel shows.

(According to statistics 75% of the people appearing on quiz shows are men, and shows such as QI and Mock the Week often have an all male panel.

When talking to the Observer newspaper about his plans for better representing his audiences on screen, Danny Cohen said: "We're not going to have any more panel shows with no women on them. It's not acceptable."

Cohen, who ran BBC1 until last spring and before that was the controller of digital channel BBC3, also said he had work to do to make sure there are more older women featuring in the corporation's television programmes.

There's hope for me yet.)


7th February

The start of the Winter Olympics.

"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." The Olympic Charter


Today is bubble gum day.

Interesting Fact - Ironing

According to iron manufacturer Tefal, over her lifetime a woman will iron around 215 miles of fabric.

(Guess how much a man covers...

73 miles!


Interesting Place - Stoke on Trent

According to the local council, about 70,000 adults in Stoke-on-Trent, in the UK, are classed as obese

(The NHS in the area spends around £50m a year on weight-related illness.

Now the council is going to send out motivational" text messages, which will include sentences like: "Use the stairs more", "Eat fruit and veg" and "Keep a check on snacks and drinks".

This 10-week project will cost £10,000 and will only be available to 500 people who sign up with the council.
All I can say is:-


Interesting Animal - Rats

According to research from from the University of Leicester, rodents could evolve to fill niches as larger mammals go extinct.

(The largest extinct rodent known to science was Josephoartegasia monesi. It lived three million years ago, was larger than a bull, and weighed over a ton. Like its modern-day relative, the sheep-sized capybara, it lived in South America.

Gigantism is a well known evolutionary response that occurs when a small creature steps into an ecological niche left by a larger species.

Rats the size of sheep!  If that isn't a good enough reason to protect the elephant, rhino and other species from extinction, I don't know what is.)


4th February

Facebook is 10 years old.

(It's now worth an estimated £80 billion.  Happy birthday Facebook.)

Interesting Fact - Health

According to Scottish charity Action on Hearing Loss (AHL) Scotland, thousands of young people are risking irreversible hearing loss by failing to turn down the volume on their iPods and MP3 players.

(Many people, especially youngsters, listen to music for up to one third of their waking day, but any noise over 85 decibels can be harmful. The built-in limit to iPods is around 100dB but many people have found ways to override it.

The problem is, it's a bit like smoking; the damage is a gradual process, which means that it sneaks up on people and is only noticed when it is too late.

So, here's your chance to learn phrasal verbs by doing: Turn it down.)


Today is National Sickie Day.

Interesting Fact - Paper

Wikimedia Commons image by Tristanb

27,000 trees have to be felled to provide the world with just one day of loo roll.

(Demand for toilet paper is increasing and Britain is the biggest consumer of toilet roll in Europe.

I don't know what the answer is.  In my defense I use recycled toilet paper, but I can't imagine a life without it all together. Flannels, washing with water - the idea freaks me out. When I'm travelling I keep some tissues on me at all times.)

Interesting Fact - Attention Span

The majority of healthy adults and teenagers cannot sustain attention on one thing for more than 40 minutes without a break.
(This impacts on our ability to learn, but of course if you are enjoying a task, it is easier to concentrate for longer.  However, if you've been reading the Interesting Facts site for longer than 40 minutes, go and make a cup of tea.)