30.3.09

KNOW IT ALL

WHERE'S YOUR
HEAD AT

Check out these
groovy headphones!

The Nokia Music Almighty Headset
competition invited people to enter their
designs for a Nokia Bluetooth headset
inspired by their favourite
piece of music.

With all the entries in, the winners got
to have their designs made a reality.


PARDON THE
BUN

Hot cross buns, enjoyed by millions of people
in the run up to Easter, have become too
commercial and should be scrapped
in favour of the original, more
Medieval recipe, according to a
leading cathedral.

St Alban's Cathedral is campaigning for
the revival of the Alban bun, which since
1361 has been given out to the local
poor on Good Friday.

A denser, more cakey product than the
supermarket hot cross bun, it claims to be
the precursor to the modern version.

It has two major differences: the cross is cut
into the top of the bun, rather than piped
on top, and its ingredients include "grains
of paradise", an ancient term for cardamon.


The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans
Cathedral, said: "Recently we've lost touch
with the significance of the bun, and its
link to Holy Week and the Cross."


He said he'd like bakers to stop selling buns
with a cross on top throughout the year.
"I'm not sure why this is necessary," he said,
adding they should only be sold during the
run up to and during Holy Week.


The Cathedral has persuaded the local Sainsbury's
to produce the Alban bun, using the original Medieval
recipe, with wholemeal flour, milk, cardamon
and yeast, on a commercial scale
in the run up to Easter.

Locals will be able buy the bun from the
St Alban's store on Maundy Thursday and
Good Friday, with all proceeds going to
Open Door, a local homeless charity.



OFFICE
SWIMMING

A group of Russian office workers have become
internet stars after performing a synchronised
swimming routine - at their desks.

The women, who work for an architects' firm,
filmed their routine for an Olympics-themed
competition and beat hundreds of other
entries to scoop the £3,500 first prize.

The clip was filmed secretly during lunch breaks. One
of the "swimmers" Mosha Dugina said: "We were
all really energetic and enthusiastic to do it. It
was such a breath of fresh air to do something
where we got the chance to show off a little
and show people that we have beautiful long
legs. Most of the time we just sit by our
desks and all everyone normally
sees is our top halves."


Ilya Korneev from competition organisers
Affect.ru said: "We had hundreds of
applications, but it was apparent from
early on that there was going to be
one clear winner. The clip has
attracted over a million views
in its first few weeks."


SPRING ICE

Art can be elitist - but this is one exhibition
where you'd be grateful for a frosty reception.

These amazing sculptures are entries at
the World Ice Art Championships.

What's more, the only Briton in
the contest has gone home with gold.

Martin King (above on the left) was part of a
winning duo – alongside American team-mate
Aaron Costic – with an intricate, single-block
sculpture called
Spring (above).

"Eight years ago, I started carving bits of ice
because people wanted them for parties
and table centrepieces," explained the
44-year-old, from Peterborough, who
runs a food business. "Now, myself and
Aaron have become the best in
the world. It's amazing."


More than 100 sculptures, some measuring
6m (20ft) high, were made at the
month-long event in the suitably
chilly Fairbanks, Alaska.


The 172 artists, from 17 countries, used
nearly 2,000 tonnes of ice extracted from
a nearby lake. It was Mr King's fourth
World Championships, making
him a relative newcomer.


29.3.09

SPUDS 2009
ARE GO

This Sunday turned out to be sunny and
springlike so me and KB grabbed the fork
and the shovel and planted the spuds.
We're doing Charlottes and
baby new potatoes.

Mira the cat joined the action as usual. Fats
was coaxed outside as well, twice, but ran
back in soon after spotting a big grey
cat in next doors garden.

More photos in
KB's blog.


27.3.09

FUNNY CAT PIC
OF THE DAY

SUHFFLEBOTTOMS
GOTOBEDS

The number of people in Britain with amusing
surnames like Cockshott, Balls, Death and
Shufflebottom has declined by up to 75 percent
in the last century - as people with silly names
either fail to pass them on to the next
generation, or leave the country entirely.

A study found the number of people with
the name Cock shrank to 785 last year from
3,211 in 1881, those called Balls fell to 1,299
from 2,904 and the number of Deaths
were reduced to 605 from 1,133.

People named Smellie decreased by 70 percent,
Dafts by 51 percent, Gotobeds by 42 percent,
Shufflebottoms by 40 percent, and Cockshotts
by 34 percent, said Richard Webber,
visiting professor of geography at
King's College, London.


Wangs, however, have experienced dramatic
growth. "If you find the (absolute) number
goes down, it's either because they changed
their names or they emigrated."


He said that in many cases, people probably
changed their surnames as they came
to be regarded as in bad taste.


"It's because the meaning of words can change.
Take the name Daft - that as a term for a
stupid is a relatively recent innovation.
That's why there are names which people
think aren't really very pleasant names
and you wonder why they persisted
as long as they did."


Webber, whose work can be seen on the
website
mapyourname.com, obtained his
data for 2008 from a credit card firm and a
mapping service. He then compared
it with the census of 1881.


Webber also discovered that the most popular
names in Britain have not changed over
the past 127 years.
Last year, Smith, Jones,
Williams, Brown, Taylor and Davies held
the top six spots, in exactly the same
order as they did a century ago.


Webber also found that between 1996 and
2008, the names Zhang, Wang, and Yang
and experienced the fastest growth.
Zhang rose by 4719 percent, while
Wang grew by 2225 percent.


TSUH TSUH

Rail enthusiasts can now enjoy views of
Scandinavian fjords, the Swiss Alps, and
even Mount Rushmore - in Germany.

Twin brothers Frederick and Gerrit Braun
have built the world's longest model
railway in the city of Hamburg.

So far it has six miles (9.6 km) of track and cost
£8m to build but its size currenly at 1,150 square
metres (12,380 square feet) will be doubled

by the time the layout is completed in 2014.

The model comprises 700 trains with 10,000
carriages, 900 signals, 2800 buildings and
160,000 individually designed figures.


It even includes scale models of the Rocky
Mountains, Mount Rushmore, the Swiss
Matterhorn, and a Scandinavian fjord
complete with 4ft cruise ship.


The scenery took 500,000 hours, 700kg of fake
grass and 4,000kg of steel to build.
The
layout is so huge that 160 staff are
employed to
show visitors around.


The Braun brothers, 41, began work on
the Miniatur Wunderland
project in 2000.


GOOGLE GHOST

A ghostly figure dressed in Victorian clothes
was filmed on Google Street View -
before vanishing into thin air.

Experts have been called in to examine
the ghoul at a former docklands which
have a dark and sinister past.

The woman dressed in long skirt, crisp blouse,
bow tie, blue boater hat and scarf appears
to be shimmering above the pavement.

She was captured by the Google Street View
cameras in
Tiger Bay, Cardiff - the scene
of murders and unsolved mysteries going
back 200 years. It was also once the
busiest sea port in the world.


Local medium Jane Cohen, 39, said:
"Apparitions have often been caught on
film but are invisible to the naked eye.
This woman is very smart - but she is
dressed in clothes that you just don't see
these days unless it's in a period drama on
TV. But what is really strange is that
she doesn't appear as a full figure -
you can't see all of her."


The old docklands has been redeveloped
with a theatre, waterside restaurants
and plush apartments.


The image was captured last June as the
Google cameras filmed the streets and
landmarks of the Welsh capital.


The Google cameras have also
caught a spooky ET alien figure
in New Jersey, United States.



NICE COLOURS OF
THE DAY

The ceiling of The Royal Albert Hall
during a performance of Swan Lake.


HUBBLE'S GREATEST
SHOTS

Check out these amazing images from
the The Hubble Space Telescope.

Please click on the image
to view a larger version.

Launched in April 1990 and the problems
with its main mirror soon fixed, it started
sending beautifully detailed images of space
back to earth. See the rest of them in
here.


WATCHING THE
ENGLISH

I'm just about finish one of the best books
I've read in ages, Watching the
English by Kate Fox.

All of us do various little rituals on a daily
basis but beacuse they are such an integral
part of living on this island, we don't
pay attention to them. It's automatic.

I recognized myself on nearly every page.
"How are you?" "Fine, thank you" (although
you've the mother of all headaches and
somebody pranged your car this morning)
"Bit nippy today isn't it?" "Yeah, they got
the forecast all wrong- again!" "Your
round isn't it?" "Sorry!" (although
somebody stepped on your toes)

If you're at all interested in the behaviour of
this nation, this is a riveting read.
The book
takes a revealing look at the quirks, habits
and foibles of the English people and
the fascinating culture, governed by
complex sets of unspoken rules and
byzantine codes of behaviour.

The rules of weather-speak. The ironic-gnome
rule. The reflex apology rule. The paranoid-
pantomime rule. Class indicators and
class anxiety tests. The money-talk
taboo and many more.

Through a mixture of analysis and her own
unorthodox experiments (using herself
as a reluctant guinea-pig), Kate discovers
what these unwritten behaviour codes
tell us about Englishness.

Staying on the subject Britons spend
almost six months of their life queuing,
according to new research. Over a year,
the average Brit queues for more than
67 hours – or almost three days.

In total, we spend 169 hours during the
average adult lifetime – the equivalent of
five months, two weeks and five days.


25.3.09

REFORMATION

Good to hear the Spandau boys have put their
differences aside and are getting
back together for a tour.

One of the greatest bands to emerge from the
golden era of pop they've produced
such classics as "Gold", "True"
and my personal favourite
"Round And Round".

Singer Tony Hadley has one of the best voices
ever and I'm sure it's even better now it's
had a chance to mature over the years!


Here's a little snippet of Spandau trivia:
back in 1985 unknowns
Sam Fox and
Patsy Kensit both featured on on the cover
of the
"Parade" album. They are in the red
marching band uniforms under
the banner (below).


ONE MILLIONTH

Xmas bulbs, nuts, jello and M&M's are among
some of the things Alan Sailer has shot with
an airgun and taken a high speed photograph
of, greating these amazing pictures.

To achieve the effects, Alan uses a Nikon D40
camera and a homemade one-microsecond
flash unit which cost him about $300.

He explains that an ordinary camera flash is
far too slow at one-thousandth of a second,
as opposed to his one-millionth
of a second unit.

But it's not all plain sailing. Alan says: "The
shooting is stressful. It takes time to set up
the shot and wham!, it's all over. You may or
may not have got a good picture and now
there is a mess on your setup,
your camera, the garage."


RECESSION
SANTA

Hit by the global recession and facing a sharp
economic downturn in 2009 it seems
even Santa Claus isn't safe.

It has been announced that Santa Claus's
home in the Arctic Circle has been sold
by the Finnish government
and other investors.

Santapark in Lapland, home to Father Christmas,
was bought by local investors Santa's Holding Oy
owned by a couple Ilkka Länkinen ja
Katja Ikäheimo-Länkinen.

They will also buy shares in the park from the
city of
Rovaniemi and travel firm Lapin
Matkailu Oy, who went bankrupt December
last year, taking their stake to 56 percent.


Finnish national broadcaster YLE said the
new owners planned to slash sales and
marketing costs at the park, which has
struggled financially since
opening in 1998.


EIGHT
PATTERNS


There are only eight ways to make people laugh,
according to a researcher who claims to have
found the key to why jokes are funny.

Alastair Clarke, a British evolutionary theorist,
identified eight patterns which all jokes
could fit into no matter where you
come from in the world.

Mr Clarke came to his conclusions after studying
more than 20,000 examples of humour through
the ages, from a man breaking wind in the 14th
century Miller's Tale by
Geoffrey Chaucer
to modern television sketch shows
such as
Little Britain.

"While it may seem bizarre to some, these
few patterns are the real stimulus that
makes us laugh, regardless of the content
of the sitcom we're watching or the funny
story we're being told," said Mr Clarke, who
is publishing his findings in a book.


He said the brain subconsciously seeks out
the patterns and when it discovers them
is rewarded for its efforts.
"Theoretically
there is no limit to the number of patterns
that may combine to make a person laugh."


The patterns include "positive repetition"
such as Little Britain's "Only gay in the
village" catchphrase and "scale" like the
oversized features on caricatures
in Spitting Image.


There is also "qualification" where a familiar
word is said in an unfamiliar way. An
example of this is Inspector Clouseau's
accent in the Pink Panther films.


"Qualitative recontextualisation" is described
as when something you know well is changed.
An example of this is when you laugh at
someone's new haircut.
"Application"
is words having a double meaning.


The other three patterns are "completion"
where the audience has to guess at, imagine
or complete a phrase or scenario, "division"
where a joke is broken up and told by
different people and "opposition"
which covers irony and sarcasm.


While the researchers said that the patterns
were not "how to" guides for potential
comedians they could help script
writers improve sitcoms and films.


"The subject a comedian is talking about
still has to be novel or interesting to grab
the listeners attention," said Mr Clarke.


READ AND
RELAX

Volunteers are being sought by a Nottinghamshire
animal shelter - to read to the dogs.

As well as keeping them relaxed and calm
reading also helps to get the animals
used to human company, making it
easier to find them homes.

The RSPCA shelter in Radcliffe-on-Trent believes
it could be one of the first in the UK to use
the technique. Volunteers will be given
training on reading to the dogs, ensuring
they use a soothing tone of voice.


There are no restrictions on what they can
read, "within reason". The overall purpose
of read and relax is to decrease stress levels
of dogs as potential adopters pass by.

The aim is to teach dogs to remain calm in the
presence of people and help them enjoy the
company of humans without having to be
the centre of attention. By encouraging dogs
to become accustomed to ‘down time’ it
prepares them for going into a home
and is a key element for success.


HOLI COLOURS
OF 2009

This years Holi festival in India
is as colourful as ever!

Please click on the image
to view a larger version.


More photos in here.


24.3.09

RETURN TO
FINLAND

I enjoyed my trip to Finland so much
that I've booked another one for August!
Again Easyjet had the best
deal, £90 return.

First I'll go and see my Gran. Then myself,
Sanna and Julia will have a girl's weekend
on Sanna's family's island (below) which is
in the largest lake in Finland, Saimaa.

It's a beautiful place and I always enjoy
going there. Total silence and relaxation
guaranteed, especially as this time
it will a child and man free zone!

After that I will spend a few days with my mum
and aunt at my family's log cabin which is
by a nearby smaller lake. I'll go to Helsinki
for the remainder of the holiday to spend
a few days with
Satu as my time with
her last week was cut short due
to my stomach bug.


ICE ART
PART II

Ice art Part I


BARBIE
PARADISE

This store in Shanghai must be every little
girl's dream! Mind you as an eternal Barbie
fan myself I wouldn't mind a visit!

A six-storey £20 million pink-tinged palace
has become the world's biggest Barbie store.

After a number of delays, Barbie's new
37,000 sq ft home opened just three
days before her
50th birthday.

The doll's makers Mattel say that the new
store will capture the imagination of not just
of young girls, but women of all ages
with over 1,600 products for sale.


Exhibition-style displays showcase dolls
from the past 50 years. You can buy exact
reproductions of the dolls from
the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s.


PURRFECT
ENTRANCE

A Hertfordshire-based firm has launched
the ultimate posh cat flap for
pampered pussycats.

The Swarovski crystal-encrusted cat flap is
billed as the latest 'must have' pet accessory
that will brighten up any back door.

Encrusted with more than 1,000 crystals
it sells for £1,000. Designers
Doors4Paws
claims a 'minor celebrity' has already
placed the first order.


The firm sells a number of special cat flap
designs, including one in the style of a stable
door and another based on a Roman arch.


MRS, MISS, MS

I don't mind with title I go by as I happen to
have certain documents still with Mrs on
them from when I was married.

Plus I never even considered changing my
name back: It's much easier for me use my
married English name than my tongue
twister Finnish maiden name!

I got called Mrs today in fact, in the bank
when I was paying in a cheque: my paying-in
book has got Mrs on it. When I fill in forms
etc I don't usually put anything down
and in that case I end up as a Ms.

The European Parliament has caused "outrage"
in the British press after
publishing a
pamphlet asking staff to refrain
from using the titles Miss or Mrs.


"Ludicrous", one Tory MEP said. "Political
correctness gone mad", he continued. Another
branded it a "waste of taxpayers' money".


It is more than 30 years since Ms began to
gain ground among a US feminist movement
keen to find a title which did not denote
a woman's marital status.


Decades later - while being a Ms might be
seen in Brussels as simple as being,
well, a Mr - many elsewhere are
less keen to catch on.


Being a Ms is, frankly, unheard-of in some
quarters.
"I don't think it's very helpful," said
Charles Kidd, editor of Debretts Peerage
and Baronetage - the guide to aristocracy.

"I was brought up to address a married
woman as Mrs John Smith, for example."


Being a Ms isn't always plain sailing -
with the most mundane tasks often turned
into an exhausting battle of principle.


For example, attempting to take out insurance,
this conversation is likely to follow:


"Name?", "Jane Smith".

"Marital status?", "married".
"Address Mrs Smith?".


"Actually I'm a Ms, Mrs Smith
is my mother."


Momentary silence.

Then: "I'm sorry, if you're married you
can only be a Mrs. The system won't
allow another title."


NICE COLOURS
OF THE DAY

STREET VIEW

I've already spent many an idle moment looking
at different street scenes but now it seems
Google's
Street View is causing bit of a stir.

A formal complaint about privacy issues
has been sent to the Information
Commissioner ( ICO).

Our road.

Drawn up by lobby group Privacy International
(PI), it cites more than 200 reports from
members of the public identifiable
via the service.

PI wants Street View shut down while
the ICO investigates the service.

"The ICO has repeatedly made clear that
it believes that in Street View the necessary
safeguards are in place to protect
people's privacy," said Google.

Privacy International (PI) director Simon Davies
said his organisation had filed the complaint
given the "clear embarrassment and
damage" Street View had
caused to many Britons.

Speaking to the BBC, Google boss Eric Schmidt,
said: "We agree with the concerns over privacy.
The way we address it is by allowing people
to opt out, literally to take anything we
capture that is inappropriate out,
and we do it as quickly
as we possibly can."

In July 2008, the ICO gave permission for
Street View to launch partly because of
assurances Google gave about the way it
would blur faces and registration plates.

Since Street View launched in the UK on
19 March, PI has been contacted by many
people identifiable via the service.

Among them were a woman who had moved
house to escape a violent partner but who
was recognisable outside her
new home on Street View.

Also complaining were two colleagues
pictured in an apparently compromising
position who suffered embarrassment
when the image was circulated
at their workplace.


CREME THAT
EGG!

This is just ingenious!

A video clip which shows a Cadbury's Creme Egg
being smashed to a pulp by a home-made
destruction device has become
a hit on YouTube.

The contraption is made up of a series of trip
wires and levels that propel the chocolate
treat towards its sticky end with
the blow of a hammer.

At one stage, a kettle is employed to pour water
into a plastic cup which operates a slide.

Later, a marble flicks open a cuckoo-style
music box which reveals a group of
maquettes playing suitably
dramatic fairground music.


The egg then rolls through a series of holes
to reveal the words "Creme That Egg",
before being stripped of its foil
wrapper and demolished.

The contraption is the work of 23-year-old
New Zealander Joseph Herscher, who according
to the credits, had the support of "The
World's Most Tolerant Flatmates" and
employed 30 sticks of hot
glue and 480 pins.


He said: "I think my flatmates thought I
was a bit mad when I did it. But I didn't have
any brothers and sisters so I used to do these
things when I was bored as I grew up."


The clip has proved so popular that it appears
to have launched Herscher's career as an inventor.

A drinks company has reportedly commissioned
him to invent a cocktail maker, and a school
has asked him to carry out an inventor's
workshop with its students.


Cadbury is so delighted by the free publicity
that it has sent him a hamper of Creme
eggs to eat or smash as he chooses.


A Cadbury spokesman said: "It is a very
funny video. We have known for years that
people enjoy their Creme eggs in many
different weird and wonderful ways but
this takes the biscuit. We have never seen
anything like it. It is the oddest use of
a Creme egg we have ever seen.
The man is clearly a genius."


20.3.09

MARCH ART
2009

Please click on the images
to view a larger version.