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Archives for September 30, 2012 - October 6, 2012

10 things we didn't know last week

15:40 UK time, Friday, 5 October 2012

Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Facebook's population is as large as that of the entire world in 1804.
More details (The Atlantic)

2. Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna was part of the choir that sang the theme tune to Mr Bean.
More details (Daily Telegraph)

3. In the German translation of A Bear Called Paddington, the small talk is omitted.
More details (Financial Times)

4. The word "disco" originally meant "a type of short, sleeveless dress".
More details (The Times)

5. Friendly baboons do better in life than baboons who are loners.
More details (Mother Nature Network)

6. Dame Judi Dench has the Bond theme as her ringtone.
More details

7. Set off 32 metronomes on a flexible table, and even if they're all out of step with each other, they will synchronise within a couple of minutes.
More details (Discover Magazine)

8. The exhausts of Ford Mustang muscle cars are tuned to be just under the US legal noise limit.
More details (The Economist)

9. A queue in which all customers are ordered into one big snaking line, demarcated by ropes or barriers, is called a serpentine queue.
More details

10. Honey can turn blue and green.
More details

Seen a thing? Tell @BBC_magazine on Twitter using the hashtag #thingIdidntknowlastweek

Your Letters

15:03 UK time, Friday, 5 October 2012

Diane (Thursday's letters), generally speaking, it seems, either too many commas, or not enough, is the general rule, but far be it from rewrite any grammatical rules but I was once told that extremely long sentences without any commas weren't particularly advisable but for the life of me I can't remember why.
Graham, Purmerend, NL

"'Gravity limits the speed of the drops falling from the ceiling,' explained Koch." Sounds like it's probably best if you stick to the art, and let us handle the physics.
John Bratby, Southampton

Chuffed to bits today. Got 7/7 on the quiz! Can I have some kudos in book tokens please?
Graham, Hayle, Cornwall

After misreading the link as "Conga" in today's Congo fever case found in Glasgow story was a bit of a let-down.
Howard Gees, Nottingham

You'd think that a campaign costing millions of dollars would put out better ads than a badly-photoshopped photo of a guy covered in red lines that are supposed to be tape but obviously aren't.
David Richerby, Liverpool, UK

Ross McLaughlin (Thursday's letters): When everyone chooses 'speedy boarding', then you will be invited to upgrade to 'premier boarding' for an additional modest fee...
Ray, Turku, Finland

Caption Competition

13:38 UK time, Friday, 5 October 2012


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].


This week a vintage plane performs during an air show commemorating the completion of the rebuild of the De Havilland Mosquito KA 114.

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. abbotofmelrose:

5. Tremorman:
Wing Amanda.

4. SkarloeyLine:
Ryanair introduce "stricter" penalties for fare-dodgers.

3. TubaMiriam:
The intructor's methods were unorthodox, but she was unlikely to forget mirror, signal, manoeuvre again.

2. ShizBob:
I swear that's the last time I thumb a lift so near to Gatwick.

1. Martin Walter:
Exits are to your right...

Paper Monitor

10:42 UK time, Friday, 5 October 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor isn't surprised to see that Roy Hodgson's Tube trip - and his supposedly frank discussion about defender Rio Ferdinand's England future with fellow passengers - has been picked up plenty of the papers.

"Oops... Mind the gaffe, Roy!" is the Daily Mail's headline, which goes on to call the manner in which the England manager allegedly revealed the Manchester United player's omission from the World Cup team a "Boob Tube" moment.

Meanwhile the Sun has transformed London's Underground into the the "Blunderground" - creating an "alternative underground map" that includes "Royslip, Russhell Square and Bloomersbury Park" for Hodgson's journey.

Speculating about why Hodgson chose to take a trip on the Tube, some papers say the England manager "likes to see himself as a man of the people".

And of course Hodgson is not the first person in the public domain to take the Tube to this end.

Singer Rihanna caused a stir when she travelled to pal Drake's gig at the O2 earlier this year and David Cameron was keen to be seen blending with commuters en route to the Olympic Park during London 2012.

But does travelling by Tube really do famous people any favours, or boost their credentials as "men or women of the people"?

The Independent thinks not. "Hodgson may be a personable and open man, but this little mishap will have reminded him not to cross the boundaries".

Your Letters

17:36 UK time, Thursday, 4 October 2012

I've always wondered what would happened if everyone on a flight chose the speedy boarding option... not so speedy now.
Ross McLaughlin, Belfast

Re this story: "...and other distractions like Catherine Zeta-Jones walking up and down the drive". That is the sort of "distraction" up with which I would be very happy to put.
John Bratby, Southampton

Just catching up on the last month of your letters (it's busy over here), and couldn't help noticing where Carl Evans lives (letters 12 September). Would he have a word with his mayor to see if his town wants to twin with Crawley? Oh, go on.
Phil Warne, Nelson, NZ

Give us commas! Am I the only one to despair the use of a spaced hyphen instead of a comma? As in "the researchers looked at venom from 50 species before they found the black mamba's pain-killing proteins - called mambalgins" and "take it to the grill to be cooked - repeating the process 'as many times as you wish'". Help me out, pedants, (or - ) what's the rule?
Diane, London

Thoughts not to have: if you can patent a rectangle with rounded corners, can you patent anything at all? Fire, for example? And if so, what happened to the Patent Office where the original copy was stored?
Nigel Macarthur, London, England

Paper Monitor

17:34 UK time, Thursday, 4 October 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"When times get rough/And friends just can't be found/Like a bridge over troubled water/I will lay me down".

Paper Monitor's bridge over troubled water in Text Maniacs in the Daily Star.

When Times are rough and friends just can't be found, the nation's wisest owls can always provide solace.

It's a game of two halves.

There's political discourse: "Agree with JIFFER. Cut MOD pen pushers. I'm a MOD Labourer. Work hard to get gear ready for squaddies while office staff play solitaire all day." - LongD

But there's also social comment: "I must be stagnant. I fancy some pineapple jam but can't find any. I think Hartley's used to make it. Any help?" - Dar10

In any other era, a message as cryptic as this would be considered to be a coded communication with a spy.

Then there are the jokes: "saw a job for a chess referee. apparently it was piece work. got an interview and asked how do i get payed. he said 'check mate'."

And there's always a picture. This week "m pook" asked for a picture of "beautiful sexy roxanne pallett".

Instead the editors of the Star have gone for a picture of French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy.

No, wait a second. It is indeed Ms Pallett in a bikini.

Your Letters

16:02 UK time, Wednesday, 3 October 2012

To use Marcus Brigstocke's wonderful term, the Git Wizard is back.
Tom Hartland, Loughborough, UK

Please, MM, could you arrange for all letters to have a link to the previous day's letters? That way I can catch up when I've been away. Usually you are very good, but this time I got stuck on Monday.. I did enjoy everything up until then, though.
Fran, Brill, UK

Monitor: Yesterday, all our troubles seemed so far away.

Re Basil Long's challenge to find Ade Adepitan's Desert Island Discs: It would have been much easier for the rest of us if MM had provided the appropriate link in the letter.
Kevin, Leeds

Don't get out much, do you Basil?
Andrew, Malvern, UK

Basil, you're describing the Wikipedia Challenge (other sources of information with dubious validity are available). Click Random Article on the homepage then use just links in the "featured article" to get to that page in as few steps as possible. Let me know if you fancy a head-to-head one day.
Ross, Nairobi, formerly London and Norwich

Many years ago I found, in a second-hand record shop, one of the 7,319 copies of 'I'm Backing Britain' by Bruce Forsyth and added it to my surprisingly extensive collection of Brucie vinyl. It had a plain paper sleeve - as did most single in those days. A few years later I found the record's (empty) picture sleeve in a junk shop in Oslo and was able to reunite them.
MJ Simpson, Leicester UK

Paper Monitor

13:45 UK time, Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

It's day three of papers misdelivery at Monitor Towers. This is a very trying time.

Today we'll focus on the Guardian, a copy of which was pilferable from a nearby office. It was pristine in fact. Untouched.

They go massive on Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference. Polly Toynbee gets a column on the front page, which is great real estate for a columnist.

Columnists are used to occupying that weird space after all the news but before the letters page. It's a part of the paper that hasn't been reached by the point that people are asleep in their cornflakes.

Anyway, Toynbee uses the phrase "breathtaking bravura" about Miliband. It's quite a phrase. We translate that as meaning "better than good".

As is par for the course in the Guardian, inside the paper there is the usual slew of super-straight headlines:

"Health reforms to be rolled back under Labour government"

Nom nom.

Inside, there are three pages on the Labour conference.

Over to G2 and there's an intensely Guardian-y lead feature. It's about Hugo Chavez. There's no doubt for some readers that's likely to bring on a cornflakes pillow moment but for others it's a rich mixture of colour and analysis.

The shade is offset by the light of a Q&A with Donald Trump.

There's the light of the Shortcuts mini-features section. But there's also the shade of a piece about Eric Hobsbawm.

All about the light and shade.

Your Letters

17:23 UK time, Tuesday, 2 October 2012

At last! The rear of a male Middleton makes it into the press! PS Do we reckon it was the hat he wore to "the" wedding that he was trying to salvage for sentimental reasons...?
Fi, Gloucestershire, UK

In a slight deviation from the game of Cabbaging, last night I challenged myself to see if I could find the list of Desert Island Discs for Ade Adepitan without using the keyboard - simply by clicking through various links on web pages. It's quite fun actually (although if anyone else tries this it is cheating to highlight a word, then copy and paste it into a search toolbar using the right mouse key).
Basil Long, Nottingham

Things we didn't know: 1. Potatoes cut into matchsticks are known as... matchsticks 2. Some Monitor readers know a little French; 3. Other Monitor readers know about Google Translate (other translation websites are available)... Je vais chercher mon manteau
Rik Alewijnse, Feering, UK

"The chilled gravel stores the coolness until it is needed." At last, a cure for "Dad Dancing" you just need a bottle of Coolness in your pocket for emergencies.
Susan, Newcastle

Richard Martin (Monday's letters) - "Europe" and the "European Union" are two different things. It is perfectly possible to be pro-Europe (as a geographical entity) as far as the Ryder Cup is concerned, while being anti-European Union. Why the Ryder Cup team uses the EU flag as its flag is a different matter...
Tommy Scragend, Wigan

Paper Monitor

16:19 UK time, Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor has just found its papers - for the last two days - after scouring the office.

But there's nothing more relaxing than finding out nothing significant has changed .

There's still a large photo of Nigella Lawson on page two of the Daily Telegraph.

The Daily Mirror is still covering the Labour Party conference as if it's the biggest political event of the century.

There's still a page three girl in the Sun, with an ironic "news in briefs" that suggests Sam, 26, from Manchester is the kind of person who quotes Oscar Wilde.

The Daily Star still wows with Just Jane's photo casebook. Jake is a vile groper today.

The Daily Express is still calling itself the "WORLD'S GREATEST NEWSPAPER".

And the Daily Mail still has lots and lots of photos that no-one else has.

Time to relax again.

Your Letters

15:48 UK time, Monday, 1 October 2012

Five things I need to know about the US election? Why exactly?
David, Romford, UK, that's right, UK. Not US

Today's BBC News Website article discussing the possibility of an EU referendum "Pundits mull future without Britain" contains readers' comments, the vast majority of which are passionately anti-Europe, whilst today's BBC Sports website article on the Ryder Cup "Medinah Miracle"contains readers' comments, the vast majority of which are fervently pro-Europe.
Richard Martin, Doncaster, UK

"Ohio households have been receiving automated telephone calls from campaigners twice a week for six months"?
That would guarantee my vote to None Of The Above.
Fee Lock, Hastings, East Sussex

I don't pretend to know how the modern hit parade works but this singer gets to No1 because of the way he dances, is that right?
MCK, Stevenage

Re this: "It is not yet known how the man got into the predicament", has got to be right up there with "What is the meaning of life?"
Carl, Crepy, France

"Of course Britain's departure would be a disaster for the EU. However, with all due respect, Europe has bigger problems." Europe has problems bigger than a disaster? Time to go folks!
Henri, Amsterdam (ex Sidcup)

Paper Monitor

15:41 UK time, Monday, 1 October 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor was today deprived of its daily delivery of print newspapers. Not to be denied, it was time to explore the web versions for a daily fix.

Paper Monitor is all for gender equality.

So it is with great pleasure that one should welcome the Daily Telegraph's "Wonder Women" section, offering "a female slice of life".

But one cannot help but wonder (ahem) if describing a bunch of journalists as "Wonder Women", though surely merited, does not risk tilting the gender-balance scales the other way.

A trawl through newspaper websites revealed no "Marvellous Men" sections.

But what is it that makes these women "wondrous" compared to the mere "women" on other sites?

Well, it appears the Telegraph is directly taking on the Daily Mail "Femail" (see what they did?) section's claim to be the voice for women in the 21st Century.

"All too often 'women's content' is either lipsticks and handbags or BMW - bitching, moaning and whining about the 'plight of being a woman'," opines Emma Barnett, the Telegraph's women's editor.

Perhaps she is right. Femail's sub-topics include "Food", "Beauty", "Fashion Store", and "Pictures" (of beauty, jewellery and fashion).

Kudos to "Femail" for breaking gender stereotypes.

Instead the new "Wonder Women" sections offers: "A new daily online section filled with sassy, irreverent and intelligent content about politics, business, family, life and sex."

So, essentially similar but with a specifically "sassy" take on politics and business.

Does "sassy" ever have a connotation that is not distinctly feminine?

Paper Monitor also finds it interesting that sex is the exclusive domain of women. It is hard to imagine a newspaper advertising a group of male columnists as experts in "politics, business and sex".

From the Sun's "Dear Deirdre" to the Telegraph's Dr Brooke Magnanti, it appears nobody wants to hear from men about sex.

Is this sexist against men? Or is it sexist that women are exploited for their wisdom about sex?

Oh-oh, Paper Monitor's must-be-impartial-regarding-gender-equality head is confused.

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