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Archives for August 15, 2010 - August 21, 2010

10 things we didn't know last week

16:55 UK time, Friday, 20 August 2010

10bollards_203.jpgSnippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Roadside trees slow down cars.
More details (Independent)

2. School uniforms cost less than £5.
More details

3. Only 10% of words in a text message are not written in full, on average.
More details

4. You can get six A grades at A-level and still not be offered a university place.
More details

5. One in three adults takes a soft toy to bed, according to new research.
More details (Telegraph)

6. Dogs can walk upright.
More details

7. Man was not responsible for the extinction of the woolly mammoth.
More details

8. The average person spends around 15 hours 45 minutes every day awake.
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9. Children with squints are less likely to be invited to birthday parties.
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10. Urine could be a source of renewable energy.
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Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week. Thanks to Vic Barton-Walderstadt for this week's picture of 10 bollards in Stevenage.

Your Letters

15:27 UK time, Friday, 20 August 2010

To make up for yesterday's truancy, here's a bumper crop of letters.

There will be no letter from me this week and for that I apologise.
Clare, Luton

Blow, the one week I remember to enter the caption contest, and there isn't one! Pete, Oban, UK

How many letters did you get announcing that people read this whilst doing something else? (By the way, I'm getting my coat...)
Jenn, Porthcawl, Bridgend

That's a relief - I was beginning to worry there wouldn't be enough room.
John, Sevenoaks

Re: underwear guidance. Good to know the fashion police are alive and well, and apparently undercover.
Candace, New Jersey, US

Far be it from or to suggest that my fellow citizens are a bit un-creative, but could they not just have turned the 6 upside down? OK, OK, it would have still left the Bellam problem, but still?
Eleri, Cardiff

If the proportion of A* grades awarded is indicative of how easy the course was, does that mean further maths is the easiest of them all?
Jen, Denver, USA

Isn't the new A* grade rather like the Spinal Tap amplifier that goes up to 11?
Kate, Newark

Why is it I cannot now read Venezuela without thinking of plastic soccer horns?
Fred, Rotherham

I'm intrigued to know whether this story might simply have carried the title "car" if the offending vehicle had been a Koenigsegg, rather than a BMW.
Neil Franklin, Chandlers Ford, UK

I beg to differ Gatz (Wednesday letters). I've always held that middle age can be defined as people who are 10 years older than I am. Still seems to work well at age 52.
Scott L, Atlanta, US

I'm 55 and I'm young. Look: 0-55 = young; 56-75 = you're as young as you feel; 76+ = not as young as I used to be.
John W, Westbury, England

I'm with Andrew (Wednesday letters). Several of Mr Yurista's portable goods also appear to need someone with a power source to charge or use them. Cult of less or cult of freeloading?
Paul, Ipswich

Mark Devenport's blog is sadly reminiscent of the dreaded email game played by office workers throughout the land. It's quite simple - a player comes back into the office after a holiday, logs on and announces, with a pretence of horror, that they have 8,357 emails waiting. The subtext, of course, is "Look how important I am!" Other players have to announce larger numbers. The winner is the one who attracts the least amount of hatred from everyone else within earshot.
John Whapshott, Westbury, England

I am interested to know what makes the police think that one of the people mentioned in this article possibly had a French accent. Was he wearing a beret with a string of onions round his neck and a bicycle standing nearby, or something more scientific?
Ellie, Herts

Facebook launches Places location based service. Now someone can find Drunk Girl and take her home!
Nigel Macarthur, London, England

Caption Competition

11:06 UK time, Friday, 20 August 2010

There is no caption competition this week and for this we apologise.

Friday's Quote of the Day

09:21 UK time, Friday, 20 August 2010

"I'd be better off going commando and not wearing any knickers at all" - a female West Midlands Police constable is perplexed by force rules on underwear.

Chiefs had issued guidance to officers stating that they should choose garments of an "appropriate colour" and to ensure they are "inconspicuous" under their uniforms. The officer, who did not want to be named, reportedly complained to Police Review magazine: "If I wear a pink thong I'm in trouble for 'exposing myself', but if I wear a nice sensible pair of knickers I'm going to get hauled up for exposing a VPL [visible panty line]." The force says its staff should adopt a "common sense approach" in choosing underwear.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

Paper Monitor

09:21 UK time, Friday, 20 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's A-level results day! An occasion of unconfined joy for triumphant pupils, proud parents and, of course, newspaper picture editors alike.

All the ingredients for the optimum Fleet Street image are there. Girls, most likely middle-class, preferably blonde, smiling, hugging and, ideally, jumping in the air, while wearing vest tops. Perhaps only photographic evidence of Princess Diana rising from the dead to form a Supremes-style girl band with Cheryl Cole and Elizabeth Hurley could tick more boxes, and even that would be a close-run thing.

It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of this event to newspapers, falling as it does amid the barren wastelands of the August silly season. It's little wonder that media executives anticipate it in much the same way that wide-eyed children look forward to Christmas.

Still, the regularity with which the event is covered has become something of a cliche, and Paper Monitor's own knowing asides on the phenomenon will be familiar to regular readers.

A blog titled It's Sexy A-Levels has been set up to quantify the trend, and Thursday's Newsnight, in a wry attempt to redress the balance, concluded with a montage of excited 18-year-old boys - yes boys sit A-levels too - receiving their results.

As a result, it is perhaps no surprise that the newspapers are comparatively restrained this year. Only one has celebrating girls on its front page - that being, of course, the Daily Telegraph, a title which has always had a soft spot for academically successful young women.

That said, on their inside pages the papers are carrying on as usual, with the unprecedented competition for university places meaning that the level of coverage is, for once, almost balanced by its newsworthiness.

Indeed, the Daily Mail has perhaps the ultimate A-levels story - two successive Miss Newcastles, pictured with tiaras and gowns, who received their results on the same day.

The Sun has two-thirds of a page showing three young ladies looking at their results and smiling. The Express has "Emma, Izzy, Anna, Jess and Katie" arranged in a semi-circle and cheering. And the Guardian's Jessica Sheppard speaks to five case studies about their results - the three girls' quotes are accompanied by headshots, while the two boys' remarks go unillustrated.

Daringly breaking all the rules is the Independent, whose main A-levels image is of 18-year-old Ben Scheffer, who received three As and three A*s but does not have a single university offer... or crop top. The Times, perhaps to demonstrate that its paywall will not drive it downmarket in the race for hits, has a four-column picture of three happy young men.

Such editorial choices clearly state: Come on, then, wiseacre. We defy you to say something knowing about this.

Paper Monitor is too impressed with the chutzpah even to try.

Paper Monitor

12:47 UK time, Thursday, 19 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What happens when science and the tabloids collide? Hardened readers of equations, superscript and peer-review journals are advised to look away now...

Those with a sterner constitution for transgressions of academic protocol should turn to page 22 of today's Sun, which has the story of Dr Arto Inkala who has devised the "toughest ever" Sudoku grid.

(Running the story is, incidentally, a neat way for the papers to give their Sudoku-loving fans an extra puzzle for the day, free.)

To the Sun the Finnish mathematician is a "maths genius", a "brainbox" and a "maths wizard".

The Daily Mail brands the doctor a "mathematical whizz".

The Daily Mirror is more restrained, billing Dr Inkala merely as a "number cruncher"

The Sun takes the opportunity to turn Dr Inkala's grid into a competition in its own right, inviting readers who can solve the puzzle to call the paper before it prints the answer tomorrow.

But pity the switchboard operators at Sun HQ today. The solution is already online - something the Mirror readily points out.

Thursday's Quote of the Day

09:30 UK time, Thursday, 19 August 2010

"Bellam 3" - Cardiff fans sport incomplete Craig Bellamy shirts (number 39) because the club shop ran out of Ys and 9s

Within three hours of signing the Wales striker from Manchester City, the club shop sold 3,000 shirts saying "Bellamy 39", before they ran out of Ys and 9s - so fans bought shirts with "Bellam 3" on their backs.

More details (Daily Mail)

Your Letters

15:55 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A couple of comments on Cult of less: First I note that one of the minimalists requires friends who have possessions - namely couches. I could survive without money if other people bought me things. Secondly, when we first bought a house our furniture cost less than Mr Yurista's portable goods.
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Re: Jenny, Tuesday's Letters. When my Mum once commented that she was going through some sort of midlife crisis, my brother replied that she wouldn't make it to 102. I no longer have any idea when "midlife" actually is...
Katie, Cambridgeshire

Sorry but 35 cannot be considered 'young'. I've always stuck by bands of 30 years to determine stages of life: 0-30 = young; 30-60 = middle aged; 60-90 = old; 90+ = very old.
Gatz (43 years old), Chelmsford, UK

I've just read that before 1865 there was a speed limit of 2mph in towns. I assume this was because contemporary speed cameras had an extremely long exposure time, and also to allow the operator time to change the glass plate between vehicles.
graham, purmerend, nl

Re. this story, "The 39-year-old ended filming by re-enacting the moment when President John F Kennedy was shot dead in 1963"...I'll admit I wasn't alive at the time, but I've seen footage and I'm sure I'd remember if JFK had been naked.
Brian, Widnes

Hmmm, I can't help wondering if being caught 50 times in his lifetime might have contributed towards Two Tone's demise...?
Sue, London

Monitor: An interesting point, Sue. Remember Benson?

Paper Monitor

11:00 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What is it about the number 100, wonders Paper Monitor.

Be it expecting birthday greetings from the Queen or adding a name to the honours board at Lords cricket ground, it seems there is some human instinct to get excited about what is - after all - just one more than 99.

Paper Monitor suspects that the extent of the coverage of the coalition government's first 100 days was dictated rather more by the lack of much other news of great substance - it is the silly season, after all - but it made it no less enjoyable.

As ever, no clear message can be gleaned from the spread of newspaper coverage of Cameregg / Cleggeron (delete according to your personal political emphasis).

The Guardian devotes half of its front page to a poll indicating voter approval for the coalition cuts, alongside a commentary from Marina Hyde describing the coalition as a "malfunctioning buddy movie that's losing the script".

It devotes four pages inside to the subject, visiting the party leaders' constituencies, dissecting the anatomy of the coalition and listing 10 lots of 10 things - quotes, setbacks, surprises etc. (That adds up to 100, see?)

Similarly, the Times lists 100 things we may not have known about the first 100 days. The paper restricts itself to two inside pages, as does the Independent which grades the government's "Radical Rating" in key policy areas.

The red tops are a little more predictable in their coverage.

"100 days, 100 cuts," screams the Daily Mirror's front page. Summing up the "ConDem Nation Catastrophe" inside, its poll suggtested voters were in revolt over government policies.

Meanwhile, the Sun has an exclusive interview with the prime minister in which he says the government is "making the weather, rather than responding to it".

It is a very different climate to that faced by Tony Blair after 100 days in office in 1997, when the economic outlook was considerably more sunny.

"Tory deserters breathe sigh of relief," reported the Independent back then, stating that Mondeo Man - remember him - was happy with his choice in the ballot box.

True to form, the Mirror was reporting on "100 days that changed Britain for good", while Jonathan Friedland was telling Guardian readers that the "Blair juggernaut" had knocked friends and foes off balance.

Still, the Mail was not happy, declaring the "100-days War" and reporting Conservative claims that after 17 tax rises and four interest-rate hikes, the average family was £500 a year worse off.

Like David Cameron, the previous Conservative prime minister John Major faced uncertain times when he took charge.

But after his first 100 days, the commentators were struggling to find anything to get their teeth into.

"The worst you can say about him," suggested Michael White in the Guardian, "is that he is decent and a little grey".

Some talked only of the positives.

"Mr Major emerges from his hundred days the best-loved prime minister in living memory, his opinion poll ratings a consistent glow of approval," wrote Peter Jenkins in The Independent.

Meanwhile, Michael Jones, in The Sunday Times, wrote: "The inside story of Major's first 100 days at 10 Downing Street... points to the emergence of a formidable political operator, one, some say, who has the sharpest antennae of any prime minister since Harold Wilson."

On that 100th day, voters in Ribble Valley handed the Conservatives a thumping by-election defeat - turning a majority of nearly 20,000 into a Lib Dem win by 4,601 - in an apparent verdict on the Poll Tax.

If there is a lesson for politicians in all this, Paper Monitor feels it's best they don't spend too long navel-gazing over their first century.

Rather, take the Geoffrey Boycott approach. Stay steady and alert, keep blocking the attacks, don't do anything stupid and the next 100 will look after itself.

Wednesday's Quote of the Day

09:28 UK time, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

"East Grinstead sounds nice" - Emma Thompson reveals possible destinations for her gap travel year with her 10-year-old daughter

The Oscar-winning actress told CNN she and husband Greg Wise were thinking about taking daughter Gaia around the world in between primary and secondary schools. When asked, she suggested India and - tongue firmly in cheek - the quiet Sussex town.

More details (Telegraph)

Your Letters

14:54 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Is this the world's oldest A-Level student?
Dan, Morpeth, Northumberland

Chris (Monday letters), there was no picture either when my grandmother, working at Gt Ormond St Children's Hospital Emergency Department, had to deal with a boy who had travelled all the way across London on a bus (with his mother) with a chamber pot wedged on his head.
Susan Thomas, Brisbane, Australia

And why, Mr Sutton, do you feel the need for a wastepaper bin?
Jez, London

Middle age men in lycra are 35-45 years old? I thought I had at least until 40 or 45 before I would even begin to categorize myself as middle aged. What a disappointment...
Jenny, Chicago

Middle age men in lycra? Caroline Brown from Rochester (Monday letters) you made me click on that link with some kind of Kentish magic. It wasn't so much disturbing, though, as sexist - I know more girls with road bikes and the shoes we like to buy have to have cleats to clip into our pedals. Bad BBC.
MImo, Brizzle

Paper Monitor

11:13 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor is reluctant to question the competence of the ladies and gentlemen of Her Majesty's press.

However, scanning the pages of many of the UK nationals this morning gave cause for concern.

Alongside always checking spellings of names, asking ages and what people do for a living, one of the first things aspiring reporters are taught is to check the name of a person's pet.

So, as Paper Monitor digests reports of cricketer Graeme Swann's dash to buy screwdrivers to rescue a kitten from beneath the floorboards of his home while, allegedly, over the drink-drive limit, it is horrified to realise that several venerable publications failed to name the said moggy.

Paper Monitor recognises that children in similar circumstances might need protection from publicity but surely the public has a right to know the cat's name?

Wickets, perhaps? Bails, Googly, Beamer... Tufnell?

Thank goodness for the Daily Telegraph which informs us the kitten was called Max.

And the Guardian goes one better:

Swann had named the two kittens Max and Paddy, after one of his favourite sit-coms, but when Max went missing, England cricket's own funny man soon found himself, in the words of the theme tune, on the road to nowhere.

Becalmed at having discovered the feline's name, Paper Monitor can rejoice that young Max did not go the same way as Two Tone - a 70lb carp from Mid Kent Fisheries - who has died at the age of "around 45".

Full marks to the Sun for treating the passing of Britain's biggest freshwater fish with the gravitas it deserves.

It enlisted the help of Angler's Mail carp expert Ben Weir to sum up just how much he meant to the angling community.

Two Tone was a true Godfather of the fishing world who delighted and frustrated in equal measure.

News of his demise spread like wildfire and many an angler will have shed a tear.

I doubt any other carp will hit such a weight for years. He is a tragic loss but I am sure he'll get a good send off at his lake.

His journey to the great lake in the sky will come as a relief to the spouses of fishermen across the UK.

At least four marriages are said to have broken up as a result of wives running out of patience as their other halves tried to catch Two Tone - a feat managed fewer than 50 times.

Paper Monitor is just glad all the reports carried his name.

Tuesday's Quote of the Day

09:15 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

"You felt he would have gone through the same antics for any country really, if the girls had been so pretty and the Martinis so dry" - Author John le Carre's opinion of Britain's favourite fictional spy, James Bond.

Le Carre, who created his own rather less glamorous spook in the form of George Smiley, says he views 007 more kindly than he did when he was younger. In a 1966 interview with Malcolm Muggeridge, discovered in the BBC archive and to be rebroadcast on BBC Four next week, he had described 007 as "some kind of international gangster". However, he still believes there was something "neo-fascistic and totally materialistic" about Bond.

More details (The Telegraph)

Your Letters

17:01 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

Re. Today's Quote of the Day: I think it gets funnier the more you read!
"I actually looked into how to be a detective but you have to join the police first."
Can't really imagine too many budding serial killers will be quaking in their boots...
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

The unnecessary use of apostrophes in BBC News headlines has become almost pandemic. But I think today brought a new extreme: what on Earth is desired from including them in this headline: "End to mixed-sex 'wards' promised"? (links to later version)
Phew. I'll calm down now.
David, London

In this article: "...and the noun 'app', used to describe programmes for smartphones". For an article about use of language, that really needs to be 'programs' - it is a computer program, not a computer programme.
John Bratby, Southampton

What!! No picture???? You've got to be kidding me.
Chris, Putney, London

Middle age men in lycra? Why on earth would anyone want to click on a headline like that, knowing that there might be pictures (shudder)
Caroline Brown, Rochester, UK

When is the One Show changing its name to the Clone Show?
Adrian, West Midlands

Paper Monitor

10:01 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Look out, Drunk Girl - you've got a rival:

A girl sits hunched in the gutter of Newquay's main street - retching into her lap and covered in her own vomit.

She is blind drunk, unable to stand and barely conscious after pumping herself full of cheap shots and alcopops all night.

Sick soaking her skimpy skirt and trickling across her legs, she lets out the occasional sob. A pink cowboy hat lies on the ground and her mates are nowhere to be seen.

This tableau - illustrated with a photo of said young lady - is, according to the Sun, evidence that Newquay, Cornwall, is "wilder than Ibiza".

"By day, it is an attractive resort, noted for its sandy beaches and surfing and alive with mini-golf, bowling greens and ice cream parlours," according to intrepid reporter Nick Francis. "But when darkness falls, it takes a seedy turn."

Is this meant to be a bad thing? Paper Monitor cannot surely be alone in rushing to dig out the sandals and book the train in anticipation of this enticing blend of quaint and seedy. Such complementary qualities have sustained Saltcoats, Skegness and Blackpool for generations.

What the Sun fails to mention is that Cornwall is where David Cameron is currently spending his summer holidays - not that Paper Monitor can picture the prime minister sobbing, prone, in the middle of the road after too many alcopops. Although it would be a novel way of engaging with Broken Britain.

No, what interests the Times is the fact that, as the PM and family side-step the pink cowboy hats throughout the west country, Nick Clegg is in charge temporarily - the first Liberal thus empowered since Lloyd George some 88 years ago.

"It is always tempting, while the boss is away, to take the opportunity to change a few things," the editorial intones. Paper Monitor doesn't want to speak out of turn. But if Mr Clegg is reading this, black is a terribly gloomy colour for a front door.

The Daily Mail's readership may not be entirely ecstatic at the prospect of a Lib Dem running the country, so the paper runs a feature on seven middle-aged men, who, apparently, make up to £500 a day as David Cameron impersonators.

Paper Monitor puts the emphasis on the word "apparently", and would feel somewhat short changed in the event of booking any of them (although one, Bentley Browning, 40, does bear an uncanny likeness to new social mobility tsar Alan Milburn).

The Mail agrees, putting the disclaimer "Just don't look too closely!" at the end of its headline.

"It's a fantastic ice-breaker with women," insists Paul Jarvis, 42, of south London, whose resemblance to the prime minister Paper Monitor struggles to see (and the Mail agrees, giving him a "Dave's Double Rating" of 3/10).

"I get a lot of girls coming up to me in bars, and none of them has thrown a drink over me so far."

It may, however, be a different story in Newquay.

Monday's Quote of the Day

09:36 UK time, Monday, 16 August 2010

"No, cos I know what's in them" - Katie Price, aka Jordan, when asked if she'd ever read any of her bestselling autobiographies.

In an interview with the Guardian's Decca Aitkenhead, Price reveals her passion is to bury her head in something a bit more grisly. "I'm into really sick true-life crime," she says. "My dream is to go to prisons, real dark prisons... I'd like to cut up bodies, I'd like to go to a murder scene and try and work out what's happened. I actually looked into how to be a detective but you have to join the police first."

More details (The Guardian)

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