This is a repository for Odds and Ends with no home. It starts with some random thoughts and opinions, and some odd dreams I’ve had.
And an item about internet domain names.
I suffer from depression. I have had it for years, at least since my teens. I have been told by a close relative whom I trust that I have never been seen with a smile on my face. Many people seem to relate depression – chronic depression – to sadness, and imagine that it is a passing phase that I’ll grow out of, or that I should “cheer up”! It’s not only surprising in this enlightened age that people should think that way, but also often has the reverse effect, by making me feel worse. It’s like telling someone with a broken leg to stop complaining of the pain and to stand up and walk. See also my excuses.
This is often misattributed to Mark Twain:
“I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.”
However it is by the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), written in a letter to a friend. The original French version was: “Je vous écris une longue lettre parce que je n’ai pas le temps d’en écrire une courte.”
18-year-old Maxwell Barrett from New Jersey used a quote from Walt Disney’s The Lion King for his High School legacy Yearbook. He wrote: “Of course I dress well, I didn’t spend all that time in the closet for nothing”.
These are true accounts of some dreams I’ve had. They are rather strange and perhaps amusing. I include them only for the interest of anybody (Freud probably excluded!) who looks for meanings in dreams.
I was with Patrick Moore and one other person (I don’t know who it was), and we were planning to search for rings around Exeter! I don’t mean the M5, the A30 by-pass or the A38. I mean the sort of rings for which the planet Saturn is famous. We went into what looked like a ramshackle old warehouse, where our equipment was being assembled. (I really don’t know what it was: a spacecraft, a sensitive telescope, or whatever.) Inside the warehouse was a door with a window, and through it I could see lots of stainless steel tubes, containers, and other sterile paraphernalia, and several people wearing face masks. We didn’t go through the door, but instead went back to Moore’s rather ancient car and drove off. I can’t remember any more.
Explain that, if you can. Sir Patrick Moore died recently, and I have been watching quite a few science programmes on TV, with sterile laboratories and lots of stainless steel apparatus. But where the old car came from, I’ve no idea. I have never visited Exeter, though I have driven through the city and changed trains at the Central railway station. My story “The Green Flash” has an astronomical theme and mentions Exeter.
I was walking along a fairly narrow alleyway, with brick walls on each side, hiding Victorian “Coronation Street”-looking terraced houses. An old woman, rather like a tramp, was coming towards me; she wore dirty clothes and held a shabby shopping bag. A large dog was lying in the alleyway, apparently asleep. I waited for the woman to pass the dog, and I then stepped awkwardly over the animal, moving my right foot across to the left – I don’t know why.
My sleep and dream were abruptly shattered as I fell out of bed, having moved my right leg across to the left side. Fortunately the bed was quite low and I fell onto the bedside rug.
On a similar theme, I often wake to find myself physically “stroking” one of our cats, having dreamed that he was lying on the bed.
A local newspaper briefly caused consternation when it published an advert from UKIP (the UK Independence Party) that called on people to “say no to the UK”.
UKIP’s local office said the message in the Rotherham Advertiser was the result of a printing error, and the paper confirmed that was the case, and not the result of a leftist infiltration.
“Production created the logo and managed to alter the message to exactly the opposite of what UKIP wanted to say. It couldn’t have been any worse, really”, according to Andrew Mosley, editor of the Rotherham Advertiser
This was what UKIP’s Rotherham branch had wanted to get across, and the ad below was reproduced in the paper and the fee refunded to be donated to charity.
One third of British people agree with the assertion of Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, that a racial slur is not offensive if said by people from a working class background.
A YouGov poll for the Sun newspaper of 1,642 adults found 33 per cent of people thought the words ‘chinky’ – the use of which saw Kerry Smith, the UKIP prospective parliamentary candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock in Essex, dismissed – and ‘poofter’ were normal language for some people. Smith was blocked from being a candidate after a recording emerged of him using the words “chinky bird” and “poofters”, and joking about shooting peasants.
During a radio interview, Farage said the party’s candidate “talks in a way a lot of people from that background do”. He said Smith was a “council house boy” and a “rough diamond”. Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari, he said: “If you and your mates are going out for a Chinese what do you say you are going for?”
The Sun poll found just under half of people thought the word ‘chinky’ was offensive, while almost two thirds thought the same for ‘poofter’.
More on UKIP.
Karim Nabbach with his Kim Jong-un poster at M&M Hair Academy in west London. [Photograph: M&M Hair Academy/PA]
Who’d like to Interview him?
In the late 1700s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used for dining. The head of the household always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the chair man. Today in business, we use the expression or title Chairman or Chairman of the Board.
Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the Ace of Spades... To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren’t playing with a full deck.
One more: bet you didn’t know this!
In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem... how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a ‘Monkey’ with 16 round indentations. However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make ‘Brass Monkeys’. Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey; Thus, it was quite literally, Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.
(All this time, you thought that was an improper expression, didn’t you?) See also below
Ladies once wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and dignified woman, as in straight laced wore a tightly tied laced corset.
At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and quart-sized containers. A bar maid’s job was to keep an eye on the customers and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who was drinking in ‘pints’ and who was drinking in ‘quarts’, hence the phrase minding your ‘Ps and Qs’.
Personal hygiene left much room for improvement centuries ago. As a result, many women and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The women would spread bee’s wax over their facial skin to smooth out their complexions. When they were speaking to each other, if a woman began to stare at another woman’s face she was told, mind your own bee’s wax. Should the woman smile, the wax would crack, hence the term crack a smile. In addition, when they sat too close to the fire, the wax would melt... Therefore, the expression losing face.
As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year (May and October). Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn’t wash the wigs, so to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term big wig... Today we often use the term here comes the Big Wig because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.
In George Washington’s days, there were no cameras. One’s image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were to be painted. Arms and legs are ‘limbs’, therefore painting them would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression, Okay, but it’ll cost you an arm and a leg. (Artists know hands and arms are more difficult to paint.)
Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TVs or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars. They were told to “go sip some Ale and listen to people’s conversations and political concerns”. Many assistants were dispatched at different times. ‘You go sip here’ and ‘You go sip there’. The two words ‘go sip’ were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and thus we have the term gossip.
Did you know the saying was a reference to the Creek Indians and not a body of water? It was written by Benjamin Hawkins in the late 18th century. He was an American politician and Indian diplomat. While in the south, Hawkins was requested by the President of the US to return to Washington. In his response, he was said to write, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise”. Because he capitalized the word “Creek” it is deduced that he was referring to the Creek Indian tribe and not a body of water.
I found these 30 most bizarre phrases in the English Language in the Independent and I’d like to share them with you. There are many more interesting words, phrases and sayings in my Fun with English page.
The river above the river:
Magdeburg Water Bridge, Germany
The Magdeburg Water Bridge (German Wasserstraßenkreuz) is a navigable aqueduct in Germany, opened in October 2003. It connects the Elbe-Havel Canal to the Mittellandkanal, crossing over the Elbe River. It is notable for being the longest navigable aqueduct in the world, with a total length of 918 metres.
The Elbe-Havel Canal and Mittelland Canal canals had previously met near Magdeburg but on opposite sides of the Elbe, which was at a significantly lower elevation than the two canals. Ships moving between the two had to make a 12-kilometre (7.5-mile) detour, descending from the Mittelland Canal through the Rothensee boat lift into the Elbe, then sailing downstream on the river, before ascending to the Elbe-Havel Canal through Niegripp lock. Low water levels in the Elbe often prevented fully laden canal barges from making this crossing, requiring time-consuming off-loading of cargo.
The Westfjords district of Iceland, famous for its aurorae, has just repealed a decree dating from 1615 which ordered the death on sight of any Basque person found there.
This all relates back to an incident when misunderstandings and suspicions between locals and a group of shipwrecked whalers from northern Spain led to the slaughter of 32 Basques. The decree was ordered by the district’s bloodthirsty magistrate. Of course, newer laws have since been put in place, and no person from the Basque country has been in actual danger for a very long time.
“The decision to do away with the decree was more symbolic than anything else”, Westfjords district commissioner Jonas Gudmundsson told reporters. “We have laws, of course, and killing anyone – including Basques – is forbidden these days”.
[The title means “Basques are safe” in Basque and Icelandic.]
I am British, a Briton, English, an Englishman, a citizen of the United Kingdom...; I am not a Brit – a word that rhymes with Sh∗∗, well you know what I mean.
If I refer to someone as a Frog, a Yidd, a Kraut, a queer, a Wop, a Nigger, a Dago or whatever, I would rightly be criticized. It’s not a matter of political correctness. It’s a question of what is appropriate in a given context; and none of these is appropriate in almost any context that I can think of. Yet the aforementioned term for a Briton is bandied about quite freely, even by serious news presenters on the BBC.
I just wish they’d cut it out!
Have you noticed that whenever a person is killed, accidentally, by being murdered, or in war, they are always a “hero”, a “wonderful son/daughter/friend/colleague/comrade”, or really “lovable/a great person”? I honestly don’t believe they are all angels; some, I believe are horrible people who, in normal circumstances would be described in very derogatory terms. But it isn’t Politically Correct to do anything but heap praise on them.
Have you ever wondered what collections of things or animals are called? Like a parliament of owls, a watch of nightingales, an implausibilityof gnus, a shrewdness of apes, or a building of rooks. No, nor have I. But just in case you like such trivia here are some sources: collections, animals, and more animals.
Two more animal groups that I’ve seen are a nag of wives and a jerk of husbands.
According to an article in The Independent there are more Scots words for “snow”, contradicting the oft-quoted record for Inuit. Scots words include “feefle”, “feuchter”, “flindrikin”, “blin-drift”, “spitters” and “snaw-ghast”, amounting to a grand total of 421 separate terms.
However, according to Sasha Aikhenvald, the situation is much more complicated than that.
There are several dialects used by the “Eskimo” people, or “Inuit” as they are now known. The story about Inuit words for snow is completely wrong. That language group uses multiple suffixes, so you can derive not 50, but 150 words for snow. Not so.
But the Eskimoan (Inuit, or Inuktitut, or Yup’ik, or more generally, Eskimo) language group uses an extraordinary system of multiple, recursively addable derivational suffixes for word formation called postbases. The list of snow-referring roots to stick them on isn’t that long: qani- for a snowflake, api- for snow considered as stuff lying on the ground and covering things up, a root meaning “slush”, a root meaning “blizzard”, a root meaning “drift”, and a few others – very roughly the same number of roots as in English. Nonetheless, the number of distinct words you can derive from them is not 50, or 150, or 1500, or a million, but simply unbounded. Only stamina sets a limit.
That does not mean there are huge numbers of unrelated basic terms for huge numbers of finely differentiated snow types. It means that the notion of fixing a number of snow words, or even a definition of what a word for snow would be, is meaningless for these languages. You could write down not just thousands but millions of words built from roots that refer to snow if you had the time. But they would all be derivatives of a fairly small number of roots. And you could write down just as many derivatives of any other root: fish, or coffee, or excrement.
And the derivatives wouldn’t all be nouns. If you wanted to say “They were wandering around gathering up lots of stuff that looked like snowflakes” (or fish, or coffee), you could do that with one word, very roughly as follows. You would take the “snowflake” root qani- (or the “fish” root or whatever); add a visual similarity postbase to get a stem meaning “looking like ____”; add a quantity postbase to get a stem meaning “stuff looking like ____”; add an augmentative postbase to get a stem meaning “lots of stuff looking like ____”; add another postbase to get a stem meaning “gathering lots of stuff looking like ____”; add yet another postbase to get a stem meaning “peripatetically gathering up lots of stuff looking like ____”; and then inflect the whole thing as a verb in the 3rd-person plural subject 3rd-person singular object past tense form; and you’re done. Astounding. One word to express a whole sentence. But even if you choose qani- as your root, what you get could hardly be called a word for snow. It’s a verb with an understood subject pronoun.
Of course, you can make lots of noun derivatives too. But although various lists of supposed snow words are passed around (public libraries in Alaska compile them, Canadadian Indian affairs bureaux hand them out, skiing magazines publish them, that sort of thing), they fail to back up the familiar myth. These lists tend to cite multiple derivatives of the qani- root; they usually have a bunch of derivatives of the api- root; they often include a word for a sort of rain-pockmarked snow that looks like herring scales, only that word is visibly based on the root meaning “herring”; they include a word for soft snow that is clearly based on the root meaning “soft”; and so on.
So, Eskimoan languages are really extraordinary in their productive word-building capability, for any root you might pick. But that very fact makes them exactly the wrong sort of language to ask vocabulary-size questions about, because those questions are virtually meaningless – unless you ask them about basic non-derived roots, in which case the answers aren’t particularly newsworthy.
It took 20 minutes for fire crews to free one unlucky Worcestershire teenager after she became stuck in a dogflap trying to get into her own home.
In 1975, a man was killed while riding a moped in Bermuda when he was hit by a taxi; one year later, that man’s brother was riding that same moped and was hit by a taxi and killed; it was the same taxi driver who’d killed his brother, and who was carrying the same passenger at both times.
Joseph Figlock lived in Detroit in the 1930s; one day, while walking down the street, a baby fell out of a window onto him; neither was harmed; one year later, while walking in the same spot, that same baby again fell onto Figlock. Again, neither was harmed.
Lincoln & Kennedy
John F Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln were elected 100 years apart; both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson, born 100 years apart; Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln; Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy; Lincoln was shot in a theatre and his assassin was cornered in a warehouse; Kennedy was shot from a warehouse and his assassin was captured in a theatre; Lincoln was shot in Ford’s theatre; Kennedy was shot in a Ford Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln’s son was waiting for a train, and fell onto the track; before he was harmed, Lincoln was saved by a man he recognised as Edwin Booth; Booth was a famous actor, and brother of John Wilkes Booth who – within a couple of years – would assassinate Abraham Lincoln.
During World War I, Major Summerford, a British Cavalry Officer, was truck by lightning three times. After his death, lightning struck and shattered his tombstone.
In 2002, AS Adema of the Madagascan Premier Football League won by a world-record margin against arch-rivals SOE after their opponents scored 149 own goals in protest against a previous refereeing decision.
It all looks so innocent enough...
...until you hit a bump!
It’s thought the way our eyes repeatedly scan images is behind the illusion.
What about this?
Spotting a trend? This is a static image, not a gif.
The squares marked A and B are the same shade of grey, yet they appear different.
The original image of the illusion.
Here’s how to see it better:
The original image plus two stripes.
By joining the squares marked A and B with two vertical stripes of the same shade of grey, it becomes apparent that both squares are the same.
[I still don’t believe it. There must be something sneaky going on in those images.]
Sometimes our brain fills in the gaps when we expect to see something – even if it actually isn’t there
It’s actually a cabin in the Swiss Alps.
Designed and built (by hand) to resemble a giant concrete rock, the cabin is big enough for one person and boasts a fireplace, bed, table, stool and even a window.
The shelter is the work of Swiss design agency Bureau A, which named it ‘Antoine’ after a character in novelist Charles Ferdinand Ramuz’s ‘Derborence’ and as a tribute to the “alpine experience and to the writer”.
But what’s really happening elsewhere in the picture?
You can find more in The Independent.
How they inspect electricity pylons in Chizhou, China.
For anyone who’s interested, apart from the half-million inhabitants of Chizhou, electricity is supplied by the Dongzhi Zhangxi Power Supply company to Zhangxi, Dongzhi County, Chizhou City, Anhui, Chizhou, China. This company is based in the city of Chizhou in the Anhui region. For questions regarding the Dongzhi Zhangxi Power Supply contact them directly on the following number: +86 (566) 8041206.
In the city of Buford (USA) lives just one person. He works as a janitor and as a mayor. “In Wyoming this counts as a city!”. Buford even has its own web-site!
[What happens if he commits a crime, arrests himself, locks himself in jail, and loses the key? Who can help him?]
Since I first put this item on my web, the news broke in early April 2012 that, as reported in The Huffington Post:
Buford was sold at auction for $900,000 on Thursday to an unidentified man from Vietnam.
Its owner for the last 20 years, Don Sammons, served with the U.S. Army as a radio operator in 1968-69.
After meeting the buyer, an emotional Sammons said it was hard for him to grasp the irony of the situation.
“I think it’s funny how things come full circle,” he said.
The buyer attended the auction in person but declined to meet with the media or to be identified.
Sammons and others involved in the auction would not discuss the buyer’s plans for Buford.
In the resort town of Skagen you can watch an amazing natural phenomenon. This city is the northernmost point of Denmark, where the Baltic and North Seas meet. The two opposing tides in this place can not merge because they have different densities. Skagen is affected by the Kattegat and Skaggerrak seas, whose waves crash against each other and rise with the help of strong winds, making it a breathtaking landscape.
In this area swimming is forbidden, although it is possible to stroll along the beach, depending on the strength of the tide.
Many organizations and individuals in Catalonia or who use Catalan objected to having to register themselves as .es (Spain), .fr (France), .ad (Andorra) or .it (Italy), areas where Catalan is used, so they resorted to international domains like .com or .org. The City administration in Gerona (“Girona” in Catalan) got round this by registering itself as ajuntament.gi; “ajuntament” means “Town Hall” in Catalan and “GI” is the local abbreviation for the province.
.gi is the domain name for Gibraltar. But that’s another story!
The problem has now been resolved by the liberalization of domain naming, and .cat is now available. “ajuntament.gi” now gets redirected to “ajuntament.cat”.
.gb is a reserved Internet country code top-level domain for the United Kingdom. The domain was introduced in October 1984 that set out the creation of country domains generally using country codes derived from the corresponding two-letter code in the ISO country list. However, the .uk domain had been created separately a few months before the compilation of this list. Consequently, .gb was never widely used and it is no longer possible to register under this domain.
.gb was used for a number of years, mainly by British government organisations and commercial e-mail services, which used “GB” as a country code. However, the use of .gb declined; the domain remains in existence, but it is not open to new subdomain registrations. (.uk was originally intended for Ukraine.)
.ws is the Internet country code top-level domain for Samoa. It is administered for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Samoa.
.ws has been marketed as a domain hack, with the .ws purportedly standing for “World Site” or “Web site”, providing a “global” internet presence to registrants. .ws coincidentally supports all internationalized domain names, like co.ws. As such, due to its potential popularity, a sliding scale of prices is operated by the registrar depending on the brevity of the desired domain. Domains with four characters or more are reasonably priced whilst three-, two- and single-character domains have their own pricing tiers quickly scaling into thousands of US dollars.
The domain name .tv is the Internet country code top-level domain for the islands of Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean, at 10 square miles, the 226th largest nation on Earth.
Except for reserved names like com.tv, net.tv, org.tv and others, any person may register second-level domains in .tv. The domain name is popular, and thus economically valuable, because it is an abbreviation of the word “television”. It was bought by an American company, so comes under U.S. law; the first .tv domains were seized by the U.S. government to try to prevent spamming; one of the worst offenders was co.tv which has now been closed down.
The domain name .oz was the original top-level domain for Australia. It was later changed to .au though some sites still use .oz.au. See Wikipedia for some other Australian quirks like .cc, .cx, .nf and .hm.
Lenient registration restrictions on certain country domains have resulted in various domain hacks. Domain names such as I.am, tip.it, start.at and go.to form well-known English phrases, whereas others combine the second- and first-level domains to form one word or one title, creating domains such as blo.gs of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (.gs), del.icio.us of the United States (.us), and cr.yp.to of Tonga (.to). The .co domain of Colombia has generated significant interest as a potential competitor to generic top-level domains for commercial use given its possible use as the abbreviation for the word “company”, commercial or company. Unconventional domains (such as .cm) can also be used for typosquatting. The .cm domain of Cameroon has generated interest due to the possibility that people might miss typing the “o” for sites in the .com domain.
Some country level domains are licensed for worldwide commercial use including: