Thursday, March 31, 2005

Falling Junkies

In Poplar (North London, UK) there are a block of flats that are notorious for dead bodies being found on the ground at the bottom of them.

What happens is a heroin user dies from an overdose in one of the flats, his 'friends' then throw his dead body out of the window so that no-one knows where he comes from. The ambulance/police scrape them up and life goes on...

Shakespeare and Words

from Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue

"A man of Shakespeare's linguistic versatility must have possessed thousands of words he never used because he didn't like or require them. Not once in his plays can you find the words Bible, Trinity, or Holy Ghost, and yet that is not to suggest he was not familiar with them."

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Cashew nuts grow on top of the fruit, which looks something like a yellow bell pepper. Honestly, it looks a little obscene somehow.
It tastes something like a bell pepper too, but a little sweet. Also it leaves this sort of tacky, drying taste/feeling in your mouth.
And the juice, although clear, will stain your clothes. And those suckers are juicy.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Mosses and lichens are used as pollution indicators. Mosses and lichens are non-vascular (no system of veins to transport materials around the plant), so they rely heavily on moisture in the air. Because of this, they are highly sensitive to air pollution, and these plants are rarely found or are completely absent in heavily polluted areas. If you've got a bunch of moss in your backyard, that's actually a good sign.

Secret of cats' nine lives

Cats purr at a frequency which stimulates blood flow, thus accelerating healing. This allows cats to survive injuries which would kill a dog of the same size.

Whether putting a purring cat on your head would cure a headache is currently open to question.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Hey, I died twice

Petra, the dog from BBC's Blue Peter whose death was mourned by million in the 70s and honoured by a bronze bust effectively died twice. The animal was introduced to viewers as a puppy in the mid-sixties. But that baby dog died of complications the day before the next programme was due to go out, and so the then producer of the show had to rush around all the pet shops in north London with a photo looking for a duplicate pup. Luckily he found one and none of children watching knew any the wiser.

angels like whiskey, too.

apparently, 1% of the contents of a whiskey barrel evaporate.
distillers call this the "angel share".

pleasure in death.

i once heard that oysters die happy.

being vegan and hence avoiding the consumption of any animal products, these news surprised me quite a bit.

apparently, scientists found out that if living oysters are drenched in lemon juice (as is apparently common practice when eating them), they produce a hormone that puts them into a state of ecstasy. hearing that made me wonder how one measures ecstasy levels in oysters. anyway.
one might hence argue that the oysters death by gastric acid (one doesn't chew oysters, apparently), really isn't all that bad, really isn't torture or anything, but the perfect combination of pleasure for both the eater and the eaten. pleasurable death for one, pleasurable protein consumption for the other. good grace.

i think i'll still stay away from oysters.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Wordiness Rewarded

Some people cannot tolerate the works of Charles Dickens, calling them tedious, overblown, and desperately in need of a decent pruning by a ruthless editor. When Dickens-defenders jump into the fight, they're quickly neutralized by the fact that Dickens' style wasn't dictated by artistic need... the man was paid by the word.

Friday, March 25, 2005


When writing, Charles Dickens would often stand at a mirror and would act out the characters words so that he could get the inflection just right. Which is probably why they're so vivid.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Good Friday

On Good Friday, many songs are banned from broadcast on RTE Radio, the Irish public broadcasting company. The most tenuously linked to Easter being a Beatles song from Magical Mystery Tour... "The fool on the hill".

Monday, March 21, 2005

Death By Kidney Bean

Okay, I don't really know if you can die from it, but undercooked red kidney beans are toxic. You can get sick from eating fewer than a handful, so if you're going to partake of them, make sure to boil them for at least ten minutes.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Praise you, Charlie Brown

The opening line of Fat Boy Slim's track, 'Praise You' was inspired a collection of Peanuts' strips called 'You've Come a Long Way, Snoopy' (the actual line in the song is 'We've come a long, long way together...')

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Play some Skynyrd!

"Sweet Home, Alabama" was recorded in the morning, and someone brought in donuts for the recording session. During the last take, they could see that someone was helping themselves to their stash. Thus, "My donuts, God damn!" became the final lyrics to a Skynyrd classic.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Toe length

Historically, the length of shoes' toes corresponded to how peaceful the country was. In times of peace, shoes with very long, curly toes were fashionable, but in times of strife and civil war the toes were shorter, presumably because it's hard to run away with long-toed shoes on.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Humans have been able to tame horses without too many problems; while they buck and kick, the horses will eventually calm down enough to be properly ridden. However, zebras will never calm down and aren't suitable for riding. Therefore, they've never been domesticated.

According to the Oregon Zoo, if you see someone riding a zebra in a movie, it's probably a horse painted with black and white stripes.


The maximum length of CDs was based on Beethoven's 9th symphony.
[thanks Franchesca!]


A new study has come out that says milk doesn't help prevent osteoporosis. According to the study, which my milk-hating friend mentioned but did not display to me, bones absorb calcium through weight-bearing. So instead of lifting glasses of milk to keep your bones healthy, you should head to the gym and do some weight lifting instead.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Red tape

When you become a Member of Parliament and take up your place in the House of Commons, you're given your coat peg (just like in school) and underneath is a little loop of red tape designed to hang your sword in. One wonders if 'cutting through the red tape' originally meant using your sword to settle an issue instead of negotiation.

(Proxy blogged by Kevin Marks.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Easy way to lose weight

Franchesca writes: Eating celery results in negative calories.

Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame Trivia

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders sang backup on U2's "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" on 1984 album "The Unforgettable Fire." She's listed as "Mrs. Christine Kerr" in the liner notes; her husband at the time was Jim Kerr of Simple Minds.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Flying dishes

My Mother was telling me the other that a friend had moved into a new flat so had to buy a new saucer to get more TV channels.

Fun with words!

"Facetious" is the only word in the Oxford English Dictionary where all the vowels appear in alphabetical order.

"Almost" and "Effort" are the longest words in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Venus Flytrap

The standard venus flytrap can only shut and reopen 10 times in total. It doesn't really "spring" shut; it takes anywhere from 5-15 seconds for a venus flytrap to close (amended: apparently, the literature says that a flytrap shuts in a second or less. Perhaps this is true in nature, but I've tripped venus flytraps before, and you could definitely watch them shut. My friends and I never got our fingers stuck. I don't know why some researchers had to video tape a fly trap shutting. FYI, this was in a botanical garden and they were small flytraps. Anyway, they shut b/c cells on the outer layer of the plant expand, which pushes the trap shut. This is also related to why it can only shut a set number of times.). Once it closes around a victim, the flytrap exudes digestive enzymes to kill the fly and break down the nutrients so the nutrients can be absorbed into the plant.

Also, venus flytraps don't need flies to live. They normally grow in nitrogen-deficient soil, so they're carnivorous for added nutrients. However, if grown in properly fertilized soil, they'll do just fine without meat.

There are also many other kinds of carnivorous plants, including bladder worts, pitcher plants, etc. Check it out.

More information can be found at "Barry's Carnivorous Plant Page."

Big Hands = ?

Your heart is about the size of your fist.


Here is how Egyptian mummies got their name: "The word "mummy" comes from the Arabic word mumiya which means bitumen. Bitumen is also called pitch and is a black tar like substance that can be found in mountains in the Middle East. It's like molasses, but it's darker and thicker. When Arabs invaded Egypt many years ago and discovered mummies, the mummies had a dark coating on them which reminded the Arabs of mumiya. So the Arabs thought these mummies were covered with mumiya, even though mumiya was not really used. The Arabs began calling these bodies mumiya. As the years went by, mumiya would turn into the english word "mummy." [more facts about mummies can be found here]

Friday, March 11, 2005

Can the craving with cardamom

Cardamom, a spice and mild stimulant, can be helpful in reducing nicotine cravings when giving up smoking.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


Dimples are really flaws in the musculature of the cheek. That area simply has a divot in the muscle.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Removing splinters

If you have a splinter and don't fancy digging it out with a needle and tweezers, use sticky tape instead: smooth the tape over the splinter, pull the tape off and the splinter will come with it. Never tried it, so no idea if it works, but I'll try to remember it for next time I get a chunk of 2 by 4 in my thumb.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Olive Oil

Olive oil is the only vegetable or fruit oil that you can safely drink without harming your insides.

Good call.

Linus Torvalds had originally intended to call his operating system Freax, and it was known as such until a professor recommended that the name be changed to the moniker he had been using internally to refer to the system: Linux.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


You can only use growth rings to count the age of a tree in areas with the distinct four seasons (for example, in most of the US). In tropical areas, trees may lay down multiple growth rings in a year, since a new growth ring occurs whenever the weather changes from dry to wet.

In the United States, you can also tell the difference between wood grown in the spring and the summer when looking at slices of woody plants in a microscope; in the spring, the cells the tree creates are larger, and summer cells tend to be more compact. This is due to the greater amount of water that is usually available during the spring, which fuels faster and more growth.


If you mow dandelions, they will cease to grow taller. Instead, they will grow outwards just underneath the height of the mower blades. Digging them up is a much better removal option.

The London Underground

About a third of the tunnels in the London Underground system are not used. There are around 40 unused stations which have been bricked up, including British Museum on the Central Line which served - surprise surprise - the British Museum, and Aldwych which is now used as a TV/film set. Some stations, such as Charing Cross and Embankment, are so close together that it's quicker to get out and walk.

Pole vaulting

The sport of pole vaulting developed from the Dutch habit of using poles to vault the many dykes and ditches they had to navigate which did not have bridges and which could not easily be circumnavigated. Without the pole vault, the Dutch would have had a very, very long walk to work.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Be warned...

Sharks will not attack you unless you're wet.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Your fingernails grow faster than your toenails. And the nails on your dominant hand grow faster than on the other hand. (I saw this on Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and I choose to believe it.)

Victory at a price

When Admiral Lord Nelson was given his fatal wound on board The Victory during The Battle of Trafalgar his first instinct was to conceal the fact from his men. So he covered up the medals on his lapel which had been a sign of leadership in the weeks leading up to the fight so that from a distance he would seem like just another sailor. As he lay in the hold of the ship word was passed to his second in command. Again, to keep the low awareness in the fleet, instead of the usual signalling methods expected for orders, an able man was ordered to take a tiny boat and row through the thick of the battle. The deputy knew that something was wrong as soon as he saw the young man's face.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


WD40 is called WD40 because it was the 40th water displacement formula that the developers tried, and the first one to work.

All smiles

Real smiles use different muscles when compared with fake smiles, but we're generally rubbish at telling who's putting it on. Real smiles involve a raising of the cheek muscles and a dip in the eyebrow, whereas fake smiles just stretch the corners of the mouth back and don't 'reach the eyes'. It's thought that our general inability to tell real from fake actually helps us to get along, because people can use fake smiles as a sort of social lubricant to make life easier. (Via Brainiac, again.)

Which is interesting enough, but when you put it together with the information that Americans and Brits smile differently, well, you can draw your own conclusions:
While we British smile by pulling our lips back and upwards and exposing our lower teeth, Americans are more likely simply to part their lips and stretch the corners of their mouths. (Via BoingBoing and Neil Gaiman.)
There's also a correlation between how genuine a smiler was at school and how happy they were in later life, with the genuine smilers happier than the fakers. I wonder if there's a correlation between how genuine a celeb is and how they are perceived by the public/how successful they are.

I wish Posh Spice would learn how to smile genuinely. Or just go away completely, actually.