Thursday, October 28, 2004

Say what? - Gurning

This British term —much better known in Britain and Commonwealth countries than in the US— has at times been applied to the pulling of faces as a competitive activity. A surviving example is that in the Lake District, where the Egremont Crab-Apple Fair has an annual contest, which they call the World Championship Gurning Competition and which they say dates back to 1266.

At one time, such face-pulling contests were a common entertainment at fairs and gatherings around Britain. The rules at Egremont are simple: competitors put their heads through a horse collar and then have a set time in which to contort their faces into the most gruesome, scary or daft expressions possible. False teeth may be left in or taken out, or even turned upside down if desired. The winner is the person who gets the most audience applause.

The word seems to have been originally Scottish, in the form girn, which—appropriately enough—may have been a contorted form of grin. It has had several meanings, of which the oldest—from medieval times—is still current in Scots and Irish dialect, and which is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “to show the teeth in rage, pain, disappointment, etc; to snarl as a dog; to complain persistently; to be fretful or peevish”.

You can enter the world's first ever online gurning competition and win a Cumbrian facial pack (2 slices of cucumber and some Lake District mud).

AIBO or organic?

Before we get started, we should say that we have high hopes for the future of organic dog ownership. Come on, AIBOs have WiFi, a camera and can be programmed to do a wide variety of tasks, and speak in many voices and languages. There’s no reason (besides nature, of course) that our organic dogs shouldn’t at least stay competitive with their robot counterparts.

Check out the how-to on upgrading your organic dog.

Aibo are one of several types of robotic dogs designed and manufactured by Sony; there have been several different kinds of Aibo since their introduction in 1999. Able to walk, "see", and recognize spoken commands, they are considered to be autonomous robots, since they are able to learn and mature based on external stimuli from their owner or environment, or from other Aibos.

Many Aibo owners enjoy teaching their pets new behaviors by reprogramming them (in Sony's special 'R-Code' language). However, in October of 2001, Sony sent a cease-and-desist notice to the webmaster of, demanding that he stop distributing code that was retrieved by bypassing the copy-protection mechanisms of the robot. Eventually, in the face of many outraged Aibo owners, Sony released a programmer's kit for 'non-commercial' use.

Picturesque Dildo

Dildo is a town on the southeastern Dildo Arm of Trinity Bay on the island of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, about 100 kilometres west-northwest of St. John's. South Dildo is a neighboring unincorporated community. Residents of Dildo are called Dildoians.

The town has a fast-growing tourist industry. It offers picturesque scenery, several bed and breakfasts, the Dildo Museum interpretive centre, the Historic Dildo Days celebration in August, the first cod hatchery in the province on Dildo Island, and a replica of a giant squid caught in Dildo in 1933. Dildo won the Harrowsmith Magazine Award in 2001 as one of the ten prettiest small towns in Canada.

The town's name has attracted certain amounts of attention. The name may derive from a place name in Spain or Portugal; the name of a tree; or the shape of the headland.

Dildo achieved greater notoriety when it was mentioned in the song "A Night in Dildo" by the Canadian musical comedy group The Arrogant Worms.

Monorail madness

This is the backyard of the Pedersen residence and what you are looking at is the station of the Niles Monorail.

A monorail is a metro or railroad with a track consisting of a single rail (actually a beam), as opposed to the traditional track with two parallel rails. Monorail vehicles are wider than the beam they run on.

The suspended monorail ("Schwebebahn") of Wuppertal (Germany) dates from 1901 and is still in operation. The tracks are 8 m above the streets resp. 12 m above the Wupper river.

In 1950, the famous German circus Althoff had the young elephant Tuffi take the Schwebebahn as a marketing gag. Tuffi broke through a window and jumped into the Wupper, suffering only minor injuries.

The Schwebebahn is reported to be the world's safest transport system. The only severe accident happened on April 12, 1999, when 5 people died and 46 were injured after a train derailed and crashed into the Wupper. The accident was caused by a construction worker's leaving a tool on the track.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Happy Angam Day!

Every year on October 26, Angam Day is observed as a National Holiday on Nauru. Angam Day is a day of celebration and a time of reflection for the Nauruan people. Twice in its history did the Nauruan population fall below 1,500. The Nauruan Race was considered in danger of extinction. On both occasions the Nauruan population recovered and on reaching the magical figure of 1,500, a number considered to be the minimum required for the survival of a Race, Angam Day was declared. The first Angam was in 1932 and the second time in 1949. The Nauruan word angam means: "jubilation", "celebration", "to have triumphed over all hardships" or "to have reached a set goal" or "coming home".

Today, the Nauru population is about 12,800. Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia; only 53 km south of Equator.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Henry's current status: In Jail

So there's this guy named Henry Earl. He lives in Lexington, KY. He likes to get drunk a lot. And he gets busted a lot. As in "800+ times in the last 12 years" a lot. He spends roughly twice as much of his life in jail as out. His rap sheet is pages and pages long. Henry would surely take the gold in any Boozer Olympics competition.

Total number of offenses: 873
Number of days spent in jail: 3217
Average # of days per year spent in jail: 247.46
Average duration of incarceration period: 3.69 days
Average duration of time not spent in jail: 1.66 days

More Henry factshere. Through Attu sees all.

Is it a bird?

This lawnmower is not exactly doing what is was designed for.

A lawnmower is a machine (electric or mechnical) used to cut grass to an even length. It was invented in Britain in 1830 by Edwin Beard Budding, primarily to cut the lawn on sports pitches and expansive gardens. Since many sports had just been invented in Britain that required a flat soft ground (such as croquet, tennis, football and rugby), a more efficient way of making grass a uniform length was needed, and so the lawn mower was born. Previously, grass was cut by hand using a scythe.

Inspired by supaswtboi's

Good old times

The last public execution by guillotine was on June 17, 1939. Eugen Weidman was executed before a large crowd in Versailles, France. The last nonpublic use of the guillotine in France, at Baumetes Prison, in Marsailles, was the execution of convicted murderer Hamida Djandoubi, a Tunisian immigrant, on September 10, 1977. France abolished capital punishment on September 9, 1981.

The last execution in the Tower of London took place on Thursday, August 14, 1941, when Josef Jakobs, a German spy, was shot by an eight-man firing squad. Because he had suffered a broken ankle when he had parachuted into England on the night of January 31, 1941, he could not stand before the firing squad and he was, instead, seated in an old Windsor chair and tied up. Five of the eight shots pierced his heart.

Phoebe Harrius was convicted of coining false money, a crime of high treason at that time, and was executed by being burned at the stake in front of Newgate Prison in England, in 1786.

Farewell Spit monster

A sunfish that washed up near the base of Farewell Spit is a monster with a strange sense of timing, a marine expert says. The 3m sunfish was discovered at Taupata Creek near Puponga by passers-by on Sunday.

Department of Conservation worker and Pakawau resident Heather Gunn said she was driving past when she saw "a big lump" on the beach, which she initially thought to be a whale. "It looked fresh. It did not smell and it had not been pecked over." DOC marine specialist Andrew Baxter said the most recent sunfish discovery was "a real oddity" because of the time of year.

The Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) is a bizarre pelagic fish, the largest bony fish in the world, with specimens observed up to 3.3 m in length and weighing up to 2,300 kg. A member of order Tetraodontiformes, it is the type species of its genus.

Portland Cement anniversary

Joseph Aspdin (1788 – 20 March 1855) was an English mason, bricklayer and inventor who patented Portland cement 180 years ago, on 21 October 1824.

The eldest son of a Leeds bricklayer, he began using artificial cements made by burning ground limestone and clay together. He named it 'Portland' as he thought its colour resembled Portland Stone. This first true artificial cement was the first real improvement on cement since John Smeaton had made the first modern concrete by mixing powdered brick and adding pebbles as aggregate back in 1756.

Aspdin established his first cement works at Kirkgate in Wakefield (1825-1838), then built a new works on the same site in 1843. The following year, he retired and the business was taken over by his first son, James.

James's younger brother William was also involved in cement manufacture, setting up his own business in Rotherhithe, London (1841) producing a cement employed by Sir Marc Brunel in his Thames Tunnel – this was probably the first major civil engineering project to use such cement. William Aspdin then established a major cement works at Northfleet and Swanscombe in north Kent – and his business later merged with several others to become the Blue Circle corporation.

Through Wikipedia

Monday, October 18, 2004

MIT Hacks

MIT has been ranked as the most selective university in the United States. While MIT has far fewer graduate departments than its chief competitors, it is ranked #1 in the world, or near the top, in virtually all of the programs it does offer.

At MIT, the term "hack" has multiple meanings. "To hack" can mean to physically explore areas (often on-campus, but also off) that are generally off-limits such as rooftops and steam tunnels. "Hack" as a noun also means an elaborate practical joke.

Throughout the years, one of the favorite sites of hacks has been the Great Dome, the large classical dome that sits atop Building 10. In May of 1994, inspired hackers created what might just become one of the most famous Dome hacks of all time, by placing what appeared to be a real MIT Campus Police cruiser on top of the dome, complete with flashing lights.

The car turned out to be the outer metal parts of a Chevrolet Cavalier attached to a multi-piece wooden frame, all carefully assembled on the roof over the course of one night. The hackers paid special attention to detail. Not only had the Chevy been painted to look just like a Campus Police car from all sides, but a dummy dressed up as a police officer sat within, with a toy disc gun and a box of donuts. The car, numbered "pi," also sported a pair of fuzzy dice, the license number "IHTFP," an MIT Campus Police parking ticket ("no permit for this location"), and a yellow diamond-shaped sign on the back window proclaiming "I break for donuts."

More amazing MIT hacks here.

Largest chicken dance

Organizers of the Canfield Fair in Ohio, USA, hatched a plan. At 3pm on September 1, 1996, rides were paused and vendors stopped business. Then a record-breaking crowd of 72,000 performed the chicken dance.

The humble chicken has a glorious history. As well as having a dance named after it, the creature is often seen as a symbol of courage and bravery. Roosters (male chickens) can be aggressive animals. The rooster was adopted as a mascot by the ancient Gauls (a French tribe) and is still used as a mascot by modern French sporting teams. In Christian religious art the crowing rooster has been used to symbolize the resurrection of Christ, partly because its crow marks the start of the new day, or the arrival of "light" and the end of "darkness".

Check out Elmo too.

Follow that cheese!

The annual Gloucestershire 'Cheese Rolling and Wake' has been taking place for possibly hundreds of years. It may have been started by the Phoenicians, the Ancient Britons, or the Romans. Remains of an Ancient Britons' fort stand at the top of the hill, and the Romans are known to have inhabited the area.

There are 4 downhill races (one is for ladies). At the top of the hill, competitors sit in a line and wait. The Master of Ceremonies escorts an invited guest to the start line and helps him (or her) to sit on the precipitous slope, holding a 7-8lb. Double Gloucester cheese. At this point the competitors hurl themselves down the slope after the cheese. The first person to arrive at the foot of the hill wins the cheese. Those who come second and third receive a small cash prize.

Research undertaken so far is not complete, but documentary evidence shows that Cheese Rolling was already an old tradition in the early 1800s. It could have evolved from ancient fertility rites, hopes of a successful harvest or to safeguard the 'Commoners' Rights' of the inhabitants of the Hill.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Dukes of Hazzard - The movie

The tv-series Dukes of Hazzard aired from 1979-1985. Some reunion movies were made later on, but none of those were a great succes.

A while ago the production of the movie Dukes of Hazzard started, with an interesting cast. Luke Duke will be played by Johnny Knoxville (Jackass), Bo Duke by Seann William Scott (American Pie, Road Trip) and Daisy Duke by Jessica Simpson ("Chicken of the Sea"). Burt Reynolds will be the new Boss Hogg, Willie Nelson will take the part of Unce Jessie. The movie will be out in 2005.

Some people might have noticed that Bo and Luke have not always been played by the same actors during the series. There was one season that John Schneider and Tom Wopat went on strike. They had the feeling they were not receiving a cut from the merchandise, and complained about the low quality of some of the scripts.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


Nearly 85 percent of the Dutch own at least one bicycle, and they use it regularly, often daily. There are about 16 million bicycles in Holland, which is about one for every inhabitant. About 1.3 million new bicycles are sold every year. It's also a fact that the Dutch drink over 2.3 million hectoliters of beer every year.

So why not combine the best of both worlds? The bicycle-cafe provides seating for up to 17 people. Sound equipment and beer installation are placed in the middle of the bar, from where the bartender can serve beer to his cycling (and probably thirsty) customers.

The car that swims

Brendan O'Leary remembers the Amphicar because one of the original dealerships was located a block from his house. You could say that seeing all of those weird boat-cars floating down the river back then made an impression on him.

The Amphicar was built in Germany from 1961 to 1968. Total production was 3,878 vehicles. The Amphicar is the only civilian amphibious passenger automobile ever to be mass produced. 3,046 Amphicars were imported into the United States between 1961 and 1967. The Amphicar is rear engined and uses a 4 cylinder British-built Triumph Herald motor producing 43hp. All Amphicars are convertibles, and the civilian models were originally offered in only 4 colors, Beach White, Regatta Red, Lagoon Blue and Fjord Green (Aqua).

Misco tricks Microsoft

A Dutch Microsoft reseller has found a clever way to sell the new XP Media Center separately. Misco offers the complete package, including remote control and 160gb harddrive for less than 300 euro's.

Microsoft is "not amused". Misco has an oem-license. Therefore they are allowed to sell the software to pc-builders, but the software can only be sold to the final customer combined with at least one hardware component.

Through Webwereld

I'm on fire!

Nineteen firefighters in Sacramento, California have been disciplined for using city fire engines to meet women, including at a local event in which people dressed as porn stars, an official said Wednesday.

The misconduct investigation began in early July after reports of firefighters using city vehicles to cruise bars in the often sleepy state capital. Later six firefighters were caught taking three city vehicles to a "Porn Star Costume Ball."

The population of Sacramento is about 600,000. In 2003 the SMFD reported 56,700 incidents. The SMFD has 673 paid employees spread over 42 fire stations.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Face the facts

The data shown on this website is somehow correct for 2003-2004 years. Most of the stats are pretty accurate, but there are some inaccurate ones.

Just face the facts. Need I say more? Through

1000 ways to open a beer

If you like to drink a beer every now and then, you should make sure you are always able to open your bottle of beer. That's why these guys started working on a crucial document.

Until this moment, 357 ways (643 more will follow) to open your beer bottle without using a bottle opener have been added to the site. Naturally speaking, every solution has been illustrated with instructive pictures.

By the way, Zipfer is an Austrian beer brand. Bottles from different countries vary greatly. For example, Codd patent bottles from the United States are uncommon, but are the norm in Great Britain. The Hutchinson patent is directly the reverse.

Say what? - Tegestology

The habit of hoarding beer coasters (or beer mats, as they're called outside the US) is known as tegestology, which occupies its own tidy corner within the larger public house of Breweriana. Other collectors seek out the choicest bottle caps (Bert of Sesame Street being the most famous of these), and still others just cut to the chase and collect beer itself in all its heady glory.

Being creative with cow-pie

Utah uses its surplus of dung in a very creative way. You can buy a cow-pie clock, mirror or even a cow-ball. A tag assures you that the "Farm Fresh" Cow-Pies were carefully hand-picked from millions of organically grown specimens, sun-dried in the fields of Southern Utah.

As you might or might not know, cow dung can also be used to produce energy from. The Alberta Research Council in Canada developped IMUS, the Integrated Manure Utilization System.

The electricity needs of one million households could be satisfied by the six million beef cattle in Alberta if all their manure could be made into power plant fuel. The initial plant will run on the output of 7,500 animals.

Beef cattle produce more than four times their weight in manure in a year, about three tonnes each. A tonne of manure yields about three cubic metres of methane.

The manure from six cows can be converted into enough gas to generate the typical electricity needs of one Alberta household.

Moose Dropping Festival

Can you imagine dumping moose crap out of a crane or a hot air balloon, then making a contest out of it? This summer in Talkeetna, Alaska the 32nd Annual Moose Dropping Festival took place.

While the origins of the festival are shrouded in mystery -- some say it was a joke, but nobody's taking credit for it -- it traditionally takes place the second weekend in July.

The craftspeople of the small town sell moose excrement jewelry and display artworks, but the main event is the "Moose Dropping Drop" where a crane drops numbered moose dung onto a large "X" target. Whoever holds the number of the dropping that hits the target wins $1000.

Calendar Girls

A group of California women aged from 51 to 84 posed for a racy calendar to raise money for their local firehouse, but the town turned down the cash as too hot to handle. The women raised $30,000 to help fix up Carmel-by-the-Sea's firehouse because the upscale town was short of funds.

In 1913, the first-known calendar nude appeared, called "September Morn", a reproduction of an oil painting,"Matinee Septembre", by a French artist, Paul Chabas (1869-1937). The painting might have gone unnoticed if Comstock, of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, had not demanded the removal of the painting from the window of a New York art gallery. A salesman explained that the painting had recently won a Medal of Honour from the French Academy, but Comstock was not impressed.

In the movie Calendar Girls (2003), a Women's Institute chapter's fundraising effort for a local hospital by posing nude for a calendar becomes a media sensation. It was based on the true story of a group of Yorkshire women who produce a nude calendar to raise money for charity.

A-Team - The movie

Eighties' TV show The A-Team is being remade for the big screen. James Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein is writing the movie version.

The A-Team was a 1980s television show about a group of fictional ex-US Army commandos on the run from the military. To support themselves, they operated as mercenaries, offering their services to the oppressed. The show has achieved cult status among some viewers.

The show ran for five seasons. The first original air date was January 23, 1983. The final original air date was March 8, 1987. In total, 98 episodes were made.

George Peppard, who in the part of “Hannibal” was leader of The A-Team, died in Los Angeles in 1994. Muscleman Mr T (Lawrence Tero), who starred in the original with George Peppard, could be bought back for the new film, although not as BA – whose initials stood for Bad Attitude.

Through Attu sees all

Phenomenon: Springfield

Springfield is a very common name for towns in the United States. It is so common that the television show, The Simpsons is set in a town generically named "Springfield", creating an intentional mystery around what state the show is set in. This is a long-standing tradition. As early as the 1950s the radio/television program, Father Knows Best, was set in a generic "Springfield".

Springfield in The Simpsons was founded in 1796 by settlers who were trying to find a passage to Maryland after mis-interpreting a passage in the bible. In its early days, the city was the target of many Indian raids, and to this day many forts and trading posts remain (including Fort Springfield and Fort Sensible).

In Wisconsin, four towns are named Springfield. Spread over all other states, you will find another 23 Springfields. More Springfields in Scotland, Ontario Canada, England and Australia.

And, of course, there's Dusty Springfield. Probably the most wonderful Springfield of them all.

A eo, A ea, Ae ie. Ooo! I ee a ooaa

On the island of Protocosmo, which floats in the middle of the earth, the inhabitants speak a musical language made up of six vowels: A, E, I, O, U, and OO. Their alphabet has no consonants, as such sounds are deemed offensive. (This island was described by Giacomo de Seingalt in 1788).

An alphabet without consonants seems very limiting, but English has quite a few all-vowel words. In fact, you can say such things as "I see a three-toed sloth" and "Good grief! A violent whirlwind!" with words made only of vowels. Here is an all-vowel poem: A eo, A ea, Ae ie. Ooo! I ee a ooaa.

Luckily, there's the Dictionary of All-Vowel Words.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Traffic Light Collector

My name is John (aka: Signalfan), and I have had an interest in traffic control devices for most of my life. Over the years, I've collected many of the different types to create a virtual museum of signals and signs. At present, I have over 80 traffic signals and 600 road signs in my collection.

John is not alone. Steve loves traffic lights as well. When John and Steve need spare parts or new gear, they will probably visit Twin Green or Scott.

The world’s first traffic light came into being before the automobile was in use, and traffic consisted only of pedestrians, buggies, and wagons. Installed at an intersection in London in 1868, it was a revolving lantern with red and green signals. Red meant "stop" and green meant "caution". The lantern, illuminated by gas, was turned by means of a lever at its base so that the appropriate light faced traffic. On January 2, 1869, this crude traffic light exploded, injuring the policeman who was operating it. More here.

Discover Sopot

Sopot is a town in Poland, located on the South coast of the Baltic Sea in a metropolitan agglomeration called the Tricity (Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot) with some 50,000 inhabitants.

Sopot is quite a big health and tourism resort, well known for the longest wooden pier in Europe (called Molo, total length 515.5 m), from where there is a view on the Gulf of Gdansk. The city is also famous for its Sopot International Song Festival, 2nd biggest such event in Europe after the Eurovision Song Contest.

Since 1999 there was no Grand Prix contest within the festival. TV-station TVP chose to invite well known artists instead including the likes of Whitney Houston or The Corrs. In 2005, TV-station TVN is expected to bring the contest back. Sopot International Song Festival is usually considered bigger than the Benidorm International Song Festival or Karlshamn Baltic Song Festival because of its ability to attract star performers.

Isn't that amazing?

Parkour spin-off?

Impressed as I am by Le Parkour, this post on Drijfzand immediately drew my attention. Take parkour, add a wheelbarrow and freestyle wheelbarrowing is born. Check out this little video.

The wheelbarrow is usually traced to China, where there are a number of competing claims. Invented around the 2nd century CE it is usually credited to Zhuge Liang, advisor to the Shu-Han Dynasty from 197 to 234 CE, who had it developed as a transport for military supplies. The design was with a large single central wheel around which a wooden box was constructed but it was soon adapted to a design with two handles for pulling.

The first indications of wheelbarrows in Europe are from illustrations in the 13th century. It was in Europe that the design was reversed with the wheel moving from the centre to the front of the box and the motive power to the rear.

Record breaking burger stuffer

A Singaporean man broke the world record for stuffing the most hamburgers into his mouth at one time as part of a weekend competition to break 10 obscure Guinness World Records.

Don Ezra Nicholas, 19, packed in three "and a bit" McDonalds hamburgers, or 369 grams of burger, into his mouth without swallowing, the Straits Times said.

On Saturday, Jeffery Koh, 50, the oldest participant in the 10-team contest, broke the world record for eating three cream crackers in the fastest time. He polished off the crackers in 14,45 seconds, beating the previous record of 49,15 seconds held by Briton Ambrose Mendy in 2002.

Some of the failed record attempts on the weekend included downing a 397 gram bottle of ketchup with a straw in the fastest time, eating the most number of Smarties with a pair of chopsticks in three minutes and speaking the most number of words backwards in one minute.

Through Attu sees all

Did you know? - Alcohol

Shochu, a beverage distilled from barley, was the favorite beverage of the world’s longest-living man, Shigechiyo Izumi of Japan, who lived for 120 years and 237 days. He was born on June 29, 1865 and died on February 21, 1986.

One glass of milk can give a person a .02 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) on a Breathalyzer test. That’s enough in some states for persons under age 21 to lose their drivers license and be fined.

"There's no free lunch." Pennsylvania outlawed free lunches in 1917 to prevent taverns from giving free sandwiches to customers who bought beer to drink with them. This led some shop keepers to sell sandwiches and give away the beer.

More facts here - Inspired by Nordinho Pics

Say what? - Honeymoon

A honeymoon is the traditional trip taken by newlyweds to celebrate their marriage, and presumably, consummate it. Today, honeymoons are often celebrated in secluded, exotic, warm, or other places that are thought to be special and romantic. There is some disagreement as to the origin of the notion of the honeymoon and the etymology of the word honeymoon.

One explanation is that, while today it has positive meaning, the word honeymoon was a sardonic reference to the inevitable waning of love like a phase of the moon. This, the first literary reference to the honeymoon was penned in 1552, in Richard Huloet's Abecedarium Anglico Latinum.

Another explanation is that there was supposed to be an old Babylonian practice that involved drinking mead, a honey-based alcoholic drink, for a lunar month after a marriage.

A third explanation is that the term is a vulgarization of the Norse word hjunottsmanathr. After kidnapping one's bride, she was kept hidden away until pregnant or her family stopped looking for her, and then was brought back to formalize the wedding.

The latter two theories are based mostly on internet rumor, and are as of yet unsubstantiated by any scholar of Babylon, or Old Norse. They should both therefore be considered extremely unlikely.

Phenomenon: Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is a two-week beer festival held each year in Munich (München), Bavaria, Germany. It is one of the most famous events in the city and the world's largest fair, with 5.9 million people visiting this year.

Oktoberfest 2004 ended on October 3rd. The first Oktoberfest, held from October started on this day in 1810 in Munich. It was a horse race on the occasion of the wedding of Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Because of its success, it was repeated annually, later also with an agricultural fair, dance, music and amusement rides. Overall, the celebration had to be cancelled in 24 years, because of war, disease or other problems. Horse races ended in 1960.

A special Oktoberfest beer is brewed for the occasion, which is slightly darker and stronger, in both taste and alcohol. It is served in a one-liter-tankard called Mass. Only local Munich breweries are allowed to serve this beer in so-called Bierzelte (beer "tents") which contain some 3,000–10,000 people. This year, 5.5 million liter of beer have been consumed.

Visitors also consume large quantities of food, most of it traditional hearty fare such as sausage, hendl (chicken) and sauerkraut, along with such Bavarian delicacies as roast ox tails.

Statue of Li-butter

A 49-metre-tall (160-ft) statue scultped entirely from unsalted butter was erected alongside the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The sculpture – designed to emulate the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour, New York, USA – was unfinished as of April 1, 2004; a spell of particularly pleasant weather has left the Brobdingnagian butter creation melting into the harbour.

At first, it made me laugh. But then I remembered the movie Seven years in Tibet. Butter sculpting is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist art. The sculptures symbolize impermanence (a main tenet of Buddhism,) along with more ritualistic components, and are usually destroyed in anywhere from a day to a few years. They are traditionally made with yak butter, but in exiled Tibetan communities, as the weather is usually warmer, it is made with ghee, fat, and wax.


After eight days, Laura Hatch's family had almost given the 17-year-old up for dead, and sheriff's deputies had all but written her off as a runaway. Then she was found, badly hurt and severely dehydrated, but alive and conscious, in the back seat of a crumpled car, 200 feet down a ravine.

Without water you will last about 2 1/2 days at 48°C (120°F) if you spend the whole time resting in the shade, though you could last as long as 12 days if the temperature stays below 21°C (70°F). Losing 5% of your bodyweight to dehydration can will cause shakines and nausea. Loosing from 6% to 10% of your bodyweight can cause dizziness, headache, breathing difficulties, pricking in the arms and legs, dry mouth, livid complexion, slurred speech and the inability to walk.

"She's a little bit confused. That's really standard course for what she's been through," Gregg-Hanson said. "I think everybody thinks it's an amazing story that she's doing as well as she is."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Struck by lightning

The only man to be struck by lightning seven times was park ranger Roy C Sullivan, the "human lightning conductor", of Virginia, USA. In his lightning encounters from 1942 to 1977, Roy had his hair set alight, lost his big toe nail and eyebrows, and suffered injuries to his arms, legs, chest, and stomach. In September 1983 he killed himself, reportedly rejected in love.

Lightning is responsible for approximately 100 deaths a year in the United States alone. A bolt of lightning can reach temperatures approaching 28,000 kelvin (or about 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit) in a split second. This is many times hotter than the surface of the sun.

No place is truly 100% safe in a thunderstorm, but some places are more safe than others. When inside, avoid use of the telephone (cellular and cordless telephone use is safe), taking a shower or bath, washing your hands, doing dishes, basically anything to do with water.

The world's only ass-kicking machine

Robert P. Booth, of Wirtz, Virginia, designed and built the only ass-kicking machine in the world sometime around 1988. He has added several improvements to it over time and continues to maintain it.

The actual ass-kicking is done by a seven-foot length of 2"x4" lumber with a hub at the center, driven by a 1" steel driveshaft that is concentric with the drive wheel. At each end of the 2x4, there's a used green suede tennis shoe tacked to a piece of lumber.

The output rate is about 100 asses per minute. The rate of ass-kicking is controlled by the water flow control valve. Because the machine had not been run in a little while, Bob kept its speed down to a leisurely 25 asses/minute during our tour.

Say what? - Fuck

Fuck is one of the strongest and most controversial vulgarisms in the English language, invariably considered offensive and unacceptable in polite situations. It is, however, rather common in daily use, as well as in popular, or vulgar, late 20th and early 21st century culture.

The earliest reference appears to be the name "John Le Fucker", which John Ayto's Dictionary of Word Origins dates to 1278. What John did to earn this name is unknown. Fuck did not appear in any dictionary of the English language from 1795 to 1965. Its first appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary (along with the word cunt) was in 1972.

In 1900, the Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales said, "Fuck it, I've taken a bullet" when he was shot by an anarchist while standing on a Brussels railway station. The liberal usage of the word (and other vulgarisms) by certain artists (such as James Joyce, Henry Miller, and Lenny Bruce) has led to the banning of their works and criminal charges of obscenity.

More on fuck

Friday, October 08, 2004

Say what? - Weekend

The weekend is a part of the week lasting one or two days in which most paid workers do not work. This is a time for leisure and recreation, or for religious activities.

In Christian countries the weekend typically covers Saturday and Sunday, while in Muslim countries it is Friday and Saturday.

In the weekend as a day of leisure is a rather modern invention. Before the industrial revolution the wage labour force was a minuscule fraction of the population. The day of the Sabbath was viewed as one dedicated to God, not one of relaxation and strict prohibitions on permissible activities were inacted.

The French Revolutionary Calendar allowed decadi, one out of ten days as a leisure day.

More weekend on WordIQ - I'm off for a beer.

Let's go shopping

Yes, you're going to need a big shopping cart. The largest shopping centre in the world is West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

It covers an area of 483,000 sq. m. (5.3 million sq. ft.). It cost Cdn$1.2 billion (US$788,954,620) to build, and features over 800 stores and services, as well as 11 major department stores. Over 20,000 parking spaces are available, including stalls for those with special needs located near all of the mall's 58 entrances.

Inspired by Nordinho's Pics

Our heroin is better than our aspirin

Chemical giant Bayer did not just synthesize aspirin. In fact, they advertised "Our Heroin is better than our Aspirin".

Heinrich Dreser of Bayer in Elberfeld, Germany, registered heroin (meaning 'heroic treatment' from the German word heroisch) as a trademark. From 1898 through to 1910 it was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough medicine for children.

Bayer began an advertising campaign in 1900; ads praised the medication across the globe in 12 languages. Bayer sent thousands of free samples to doctors.

In 1924, the United States' Heroin Act made it illegal to manufacture or possess heroin in that country. In Germany, heroin has been illegal since 1971.

Pitcairn Islands

Pitcairn, roughly halfway between New Zealand and Peru, has been reeling from unprecedented attention since the trials opened last week with more than half the island's adult males on trial, including the island's mayor Steve Christian.

Pitcairn Island was discovered in 1767 by the British and settled in 1790 by the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian companions. Pitcairn was the first Pacific island to become a British colony (in 1838) and today remains the last vestige of that empire in the South Pacific. Outmigration, primarily to New Zealand, has thinned the population from a peak of 233 in 1937 to less than 50 today.

The capital of Pitcairn is Adamstown. The Island Council has 10 seats, which is about 20% of the total population. The labor force consists of 12 able-bodied men. There's one phone line on Pitcairn with 17 telephones connected. Electricity comes from a small diesel-powered generator. Stamps are one of the main export products.

More stats in CIA's World Factbook

Research: Why cookies crumble

Probably pressured by society's great demand for scientific info on crumbling cookies, Loughborough University’s Ricky Wildman decided to solve some cookie mysteries last year. Some quotes:

“When you take (a biscuit) out of the oven it likes to absorb moisture from the atmosphere,” Loughborough University’s Ricky Wildman told BBC Radio.

“If the humidity of the atmosphere is set incorrectly, some parts of the biscuit are trying to dry out while some parts of the biscuit are trying to suck moisture in."

“Certain parts are contracting, others are expanding. This sets up internal forces within the biscuit and it effectively self-destructs.”

Through TS

No brassieres for Britney

According to Joker, you'll have a hard time catching Britney wearing a bra.

The concept of covering or restraining the breasts dates back to ca. 4500 BCE, in Greece. It is said that brassieres were invented by men so that women's breasts would be smaller, more like a man's.

In America, Mary Phelps Jacob was granted the first U.S. patent for the brassiere in 1913. She was aided in this work by her French maid, Marie. Her invention is most widely recognized as the predecessor to the modern bra. She sold the patent to the Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for $1,500 (or over $25,600 in today's money). Warner eventually made an estimated $15 million off Caresse's patent.

The oft-repeated story that the brassiere was invented by a man named Otto Titzling is false.

Say what? - Avocado (pear)

"Pear-shaped fruit with dark green, leathery skin, a large stony seed, and greenish-yellow edible pulp. Also the topical American tree on which this fruit grows."

Originally the Aztecs called this fruit ahucatl after their word for testicle. This is may be partly due to the fruit's resemblance to a testicle, but also because it was supposedly believed to be an aphrodisiac.

To the Spaniards ahucatl sounded like avocado (=advocate, Spanish), and so the fruit came to Europe, via Spain, under that name. Avocado pears are also sometimes called Alligator pears. The etymology of this is far more obvious; the skin of these fruits is dark green, thick, leathery, and knobbly, rather like that of an alligator.

Thanks Eric

Fastest three course meal

The fastest three course meal was eaten by Peter Dowdeswell of Earlsbarton, Northampton, UK, in 45 seconds on the UK Guinness World Records TV show on May 13, 1999. The meal consisted of 500 ml (1 pint) of strained oxtail soup, 454 g (1 lb) of mashed potatoes, 227 g ( ½ lb) of tinned baked beans and sausage, and 50 prunes.

I wonder how it feels to have such a specific talent.

Through GWR

Phenomenon: Nobel Prizes

The Nobel Prizes are awarded annually to people who have done outstanding research, invented groundbreaking techniques or equipment, or made outstanding contributions to society. It is generally regarded as the supreme commendation in the world today.

The prizes were instituted by the final will of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist, and the inventor of dynamite. He signed his will at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris on November 27, 1895. He was shocked to see how his invention was used for destructive purposes and wanted the prizes to be awarded to those who served mankind well.

Research: Older women should drink

Older women who have a drink or two a day have better memory skills than non-drinkers, University of Texas researchers say.

"Moderate drinkers reported less depression, had higher self-reported health, performed better on instrumental everyday tasks ... and (had) improved memory performance," Dr. Graham McDougall, associate professor of nursing at the university, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The five-year survey, which began in 2001, is looking at men and women with an average age 75 in central Texas.

Through Yahoo News - Thanks Eric

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Bush and Kerry are related

Bush is a descendent of Edmund Reade and Elizabeth Cooke.... as is John Kerry! If your surname is Reade, Winthrop, Cooke , Lake, Gallup, Stevens, Smith, Whippo, Fay, Sheldon, Bush, Temple, Blanchard, Mason, Brown, Dudley, Borland or Fellows, you might be part of this political family as well.

Edmund Reade arrived in New England as a US immigrant somewhere between 1620 and 1623.

Fastest Coconut Tree Climber

Athletic Fuatai Solo broke the tree-climbing record at the annual Coconut Tree Climbing Competition in Sukuna Park, Fiji. He was so pleased with his win - the third in succession - that he climbed the tree again, clutching the prize money of $100 in his mouth.

Successful coconut bounty-hunters adopt one of two different techniques. The first is usually known as the Frog technique - this involves flexing your legs around the tree, and your feet should be flat around the trunk. The other technique is called the Front foot technique - this is where the arms are wrapped round the tree together, and the body is pushed out away from the trunk. The feet point 'up' the tree. You walk up the tree by alternating moving your hands and feet.

Through GWR

Florizel Street

Coronation Street is Britain's longest-running television soap opera. It was created by Tony Warren and first broadcast on December 9, 1960. The working title of the show was Florizel Street, but Agnes, a tea lady at Granada Television (where Coronation Street was produced) remarked that "Florizel" sounded too much like a disinfectant.

Through Wikipedia

Say what? - Hat-trick

In sports, a hat-trick (more often rendered in North America as hat trick, without the hyphen) is associated with achieving something in a group of three.

It is generally agreed that the term was originally used in cricket, and was connected with the custom of giving a hat or cap to a bowler who achieved the feat of taking three wickets in a row. It may be connected with the concept of giving someone their "cap", i.e. acknowledging them as a regular member of a representative team.

Via WordIQ

Phenomenon: Le Parkour

Le Parkour (also known simply as Parkour, PK, or free running) is an extreme urban sport, consisting of running and jumping through cities over rooftops, walls, and using other unconventional routes. It has been described as "obstacle-coursing" or "the art of movement".

Le Parkour was invented in 1988 in the Parisian suburb of Lisses by a group of teenagers including David Belle and Sebastien Foucan. They formed a "clan" named Yamakasi (by which they meant "the new samurai") and honed their skills on the neighbourhood's rooftops and fire escapes. Belle and Foucan remain the leading figures of the sport. They have built up their skills so that they are capable of cat-like agility and awesome physical feats.

Got inspired? Check out this video: Guerilla's in the midst

Crucial Questions

Why is it that when things get wet they get darker, even though water is clear?

To run or not run in the rain?

In 1997, Thomas C. Peterson and Trevor W.R. Wallis, two meteorologists from the National Climactic Data Centre in North Carolina published a paper called "Running in the Rain". They proposed a theory that in light rain with zero wind, running makes you 16 percent less wet than walking would. And in heavy rain driven by strong wind, running rapidly makes you 44 per cent less wet than walking would.

Say what? - Posh

The word posh, which denotes not only some spicy girl but also luxurious rooms or accomodations, originated when ticket agents in England marked the tickets of travelers going by ship to the Orient. Since there was no air conditioning in those days, it was always better to have a cabin on the shady side of the ship as it passed through the Mediterranean and Suez area. Since the sun is in the south, those with money paid extra to get cabin's on the left, or port, traveling to the Asia, and on the right, or starboard, when returning to Europe. Hence their tickets were marked with the initials for Port Outbound Starboard Homebound, or POSH.