Things that made me laugh

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Many of the things here are "jokes", but not all… some are just things that made me smile.

When a scientist (me) turns baker in old age…


On the left, my first batch of cookies. I miss May's Pecan cookies, boo, hoo. Not sure how long to cook, so you see a progression of cook times, with "testing". I don't have mice.

On the right, my third batch of scones. Not clear from photo, but two are much thicker. This tested whether I need to throw out my 1973 flour. It was lso the first time I got creative: The recipe didn't say anything about the fruit, cherries, and it was given to me a bit like raisins, as a trail snack. I soaked in water, to reconstitute!

By the way… 1973 flour works just fine, if it has been stored in the simple paper bag it came in, in an ordinary kitchen cupboard, without insects or humidity.

The plate comes from the Middleport Pottery, Staffordshire, the wonderful place I visited on Billy pilgrimage. The pattern is "Burleigh Regal Peacock". Middleport remains a commercial pottery, with much of their process conducted on equipment from the late 19th century. It is the last place still applying patterns by the traditional method. It is where "Great Pottery Throwdown" is filmed. Brings back many happy memories of the Sculpture (and ceramics) room where I was at school.

All photo processing to prepare the artwork done with the "slim-ware", free, Windows tool from Irfan View. I was done in not much more time than it would have taken to load a Photoshop equivalent, and had done sophisticated things.

So much for the weight I've lost during the Covid lock-down.

Probable Cause/ (Il)legal search….

Just read in a great Michael Connelly/ Harry Bosch crime thriller (Angels Flight). (Great in many ways.)

In it, tale told of a (supposed) case where detectives entered a house when they heard "come in" after knocking. On opening the door, they saw it was a drug dealer's factory. But they hadn't been invited in by a human, and had no search warrant, so prosecution failed. So the story went.

The drug dealer had pet parrot. It was the parrot that said "come in"!

The US elections, November 2016…

Before November 5th, Hillary is going to decline the Democratic nomination…. to run as on Trump's ticket, as VP, on the "Make Amurica Grate/ Reunify Govunmunt" ticket. ("Trump's people" are looking for an alternative to "reunify"…. too many syllables.)

Two days after the election, he will resign (this is what he has given Hillary), she will become President, (we will have a Madam in the White House) and she will sign an Executive Order mandating the construction, by Trump's construction corporations, of the Mexican Wall (this is what she has given him)

About 3 months after construction of the southern wall, it will be determined that those wiley terrorists are now coming in via Vancouver, and the money for a northern wall will also be taken from you and me and the other 15 people not yet impoverished by our current "government".

You heard it here first, remember!

While on the subject… forgive me if I repeat two quips that are making the rounds?…

Presidential Candidates:

If Hilary Clinton wins the U.S. Presidential election, would it be
the first time in history that two U.S. Presidents would have slept

If Donald Trump wins the U.S. Presidential election, we will watch a billionaire push a black family out of public housing.

First too big to fail… now, 5 years on, still too big, and now also too big to obey the law…

An HSBC (bank) executive was alledged to have said near the British elections in May 2015 that his bank would almost certainly be found to be guilty of new illegal activities before too long. His reasoning? Something along the lines of "We're so big, we can't help breaking the law here and there."

"Everyone" wrung their hands, said the problems 5 years ago were made worse by the few remaining banks being too large. So… have governments used their anti-monopoly, pro-competition clout, their part ownership of the banks to sub-divide the monsters? No. But they've allowed "strategic alliances" between many airlines, effectively reducing our choice there. I was on a flight not so long ago, on a once-major airline. The "flight" was four "flights" all taking place in the same aircraft. This is good for the consumer how?

Truth in labeling…

(Actually) seen on a packet of sleeping pills…

"Warning: May cause drowsiness…"

Well… I would hope so, wouldn't you?

Due to a general decline…

I had a new book of cheques from HSBC recently. This via a centralized automated process, of course. I suspect that hundreds went out each hour with the same message printed on the front…

"Due to a general decline in cheque usage, the number of cheques in your book have been reduced…"

Decline in quality control and use of English seems to have occurred too. And why does the fact that I may use the cheques more slowly negate the logic of keeping the per cheque cost low? Will they go stale?

Kill water?

Why would a chemical company want to trade under the name "Kilwaughter"? (They're out of Co. Antrim, Ireland. I'm not making an "Irish" joke, just giving you the means to Google them.)

And what am I to make of the (small font) "For handling purposes only assume"
over the (at least 3x larger font) "20kg".


Always Write Good

If you think the following amusing…

Avoid alliteration. Always.
Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
One should never generalize.
Profanity sucks.
One-word sentences? Eliminate.
Who needs rhetorical questions?

… then go along to for a nicely set out copy of these and many others. (If you like it, and want to tell friends… either tell them to come here(!), or refer them to Someone else beat me to… but the page that has it is pretty good, too.

From the Google search hits I got, I gather this list has internet stardom… I first saw it as ink on paper in May 2014, in an English classroom at the high school I attended many years ago. But maybe you're the other person who had not come across it.

Was the Bard a camper?

Thank you BBC Radio 3… I generally perfer that you stick to playing music, with intelligent information in the "chat" between pieces, but I will forgive you for….

Seen in a camping goods store's window, announcing a sale….

"Now is the window of our discount tents."

Weather or not to fly… or discuss flying.

I thought it was a joke, but no…

The FAA run seminars for pilots, looking at things to reduce the small numbers of accidents which occur.

There was to be one in Connecticut in December, 2013, all about "Winter Flying Operations"…. but just before the event, an email went out:


November 22, 1963

A new "answer" to "What happened in Dallas"…. new to me, anyway. You may have heard this one before… all of this "allegedly", of course. For instance, despite allegations from time to time of the odd lapse, I suspect standards of the people working for the president's protection squad, the "Secret Service", are higher than the following might suggest. "Work hard; play hard"?

Kennedy was in car "A".

A Secret Service team was in car "B", behind him.

Someone who was supposed just to be a driver was put in charge of the AR-15 assault rifle, because most of the other "boys" had been out drinking for most of the night.

First shot fired, by Oswald. Agent in charge of the rifle grabs it off the floor of the car, flips the safety off as he is bringing it up… and accidentally discharges the weapon… at the precise moment it is pointed at the back of Kennedy's head???!

I'm not making this up! There really was a "serious" TV programme just now on British TV, presenting this "explanation" with a straight face. Checked the calendar. Not April.

Brings a whole new level of absurdity to the old "cock-up or consipiracy" dialectic! But wouldn't it be ironic if it really was the actual answer to that which has perplexed so many people for so long! "Of course", our government would never hide something like that from us, however tragic the whole thing….

PT Barnam would be so proud of them

It emerged recently (9/13) in the UK… so how many times did it happen and get covered up?… that some Barclay's Bank staff were woefully gullible recently.

Some Bad People visited a Barclay's branch, pretending to be IT techs. They were allowed to attach a "box" to one of the branch's computers. Now, excuse me, but who let's a stranger attach a box to any computer, let along one over which sensitive data is transmitted? We've had key-loggers for years and years.

But these Bad People have been moving with the times. They attached a newer, better box. Something dreamed up by "Q" (James Bond's tech guy)? Connected to the computer at the heart of Barclay's' ATM server? No… just an off the shelf IP KVM, and just one of the PCs at an ordinary branch office. (You can buy an IP KVM "off the shelf" for about $300.)

What is an "IP KVM"? Here's the beauty of the scheme: You unplug the PCs keyboard, video connection and mouse (hence "KVM"). Plug them into the box. Plug cables from the box into the sockets the K,V and M were plugged into. Plug the box into the internet, via a smartphone you've added to the package, I suppose. If you want to get really clever, you use a "smartphone equivalent" which would run off of "plug in" electricity, instead of limiting yourself to one battery's worth of data.

What's that take, once you've sweet-talked yourself to access to the computer? Four minutes?

Then you go home, log onto the internet, and "go to" the computer you attached the device to… and watch everything the users of that computer type and see! Watch employees enter wire transfer instructions, for instance. You can even type on the computer yourself, remotely. (Best not to do it when someone at the bank might be watching. Anyway, the "beauty" of the internet is that "everything's connected". Enter your "send $xxxx from him to me" instructions on a different computer. (Yes, you can set up the transaction processors to recognize only certain machines out there in internet land… but it seems that there were a few open doors at the stable.))

Now… there are some aspects of the scheme that are a little more complex… but not sufficiently complex to prevent the Bad People in the recent news item from taking over a million they weren't entitled to. Of course, this time, they were caught, so it isn't just the bank's system that needs a bit of work still. But it amused me that the Bad People were able to get so far with such a simple wheeze. (Annoys me that I didn't think of it.) Who knew there were KVMs which can "do their thing" across the internet? (By the way, if you were thinking that when you enter a password on a computer, the characters are usually obscured by asterisks: Yes, they are.. on the screen. But from the keyboard to the computer, they pass as themselves. And "the box" is "watching" that data stream, isn't it?)

Now then… they were caught. This time. But as if it is that easy, I won't believe that it hasn't happened before. Nor that the Bad People have been caught every time. I think it was Barclay's (not that it couldn't happen to any of the other banks) who, a few years ago, protested amazement, and told the press "Oh dear, first time it's happened, and we've fixed it. It can't happen again" when it came to light that someone had logged on to "their" online banking, and been dropped into all the details of someone else's account! That's the trouble with a free press. No sooner had the bank issued the reassurance than someone else got in touch with the press, said "That happened to me three weeks ago, and I told the bank about it then."

(Barnum? I thought he was the one who is remembered for saying "There's a sucker born every minute" (Thought I would have hoped they didn't get hired as bank staff). Wikipedia, boring as ever, tells us "Though this phrase is often credited to Barnum, it was more likely spoken by a man by the name of David Hannum, who was criticizing both Barnum and his customers." So I was right… Barnum is remembered for the phrase…)

Umm… okay… did I really see that?….

I recently had one of those "Was that really what I think it was??" moments"

I was driving out of a conservative small city on England's south coast. Up ahead was the premises of an undertaker/ funeral director. Long established. Respectable.

And something pulled out into the road. It took me a while to figure out what I was seeing.

It was very well executed, I have to admit.

Someone had turned a motorcycle with a sidecar into a hearse!

The coffin was in the usual glass-walled splendid "display case"… which was mounted on top of the sidecar!

Dogs in cars

When a dog is in a car, he/ she is trapped. And gets nervous about that if anyone comes near. AND, the car is the dog's people's turf, and so faithful fido is in a defensive mood. So. Dogs in cars: Give them some space! Stay away.

Once in a while, however, some of the less intellectual breeds are just too soppy to "do" the "woof, woof, teeth, teeth" thing, and you can brighten their day with a careful "hello".

I recently saw a sticker on a car. It said "Dog loves strangers…" Oh good, I thought. I can get today's "dog fix".

Then I saw the second line on the sticker. It said….

"He says they taste like chicken."

Well put!

I seem to have lost the source of this, whom I would have liked to credit. The writer of some thriller I was reading put these words in the mouth of an elderly person who has tried to move too quickly, and stumbled:

"Sometimes my mind makes appointments my brain can't keep"!


At the back of a high shelf in the kitchen, in March 2013, I came across a can of Campbell's beef consomme (clear soup). With a "best before" of 1994. There were a few signs that perhaps the contents were no longer good. (If ever they were… was 1994 before the BSE discoveries took consomme of the menu? Seems BSE was longer ago than that.) There was a little crust of dark dried "stuff" around the bottom edge of the can. I was worried that the metal had rusted, and that when I lifted the can, the bottom would separate from the top, and I'd have a horrid flood of something nasty.

Imagine my surprise when the can came away from the shelf… empty! The total dried "stuff" was less than you'd get from a teaspoon of gravy. I can only surmise that consomme was 95% water, and that a very slow leak arise years ago, and that the water gradually evaporated? Weird!

The little things in life…

Nothing urgent; nothing needs answer. No I have not finished losing it. Counting blessing, actually. A Good Thing, right?

Have you ever noticed how some "little" things can give disproportionate pleasure? If only we could know WHICH "little things" to chase…

Take my front door…

For many, many years, I have, like 99.9% of the planet just used a key to let me in, keep Bad Guys out. Not a novel concept. The Romans had them.

But for almost as many years (me using key, not years since Romans) I have "played" with alternate access control systems. In 1979, my "front door" (well, the room to my door in the boarding school I worked in) was "locked" by a box (12x20x8 cm… I still have it!) with 8 buttons on it. Press the right sequence, the door opened. (The box held only the buttons!) (It was a game for the boys… they were encouraged to try to figure a way in, and invited to leave a note to prove success… it took several design iterations to keep them out.)

ANYWAY… about three years ago, on my home, I installed a self made system based on an RFID tag. I had one the size of a grain of rice lodged in a convenient recess inside my watch strap. Small reader behind the glass of the window by the front door. Wave wrist past reader, door unlocked for three seconds. Push during open in that time, and you were in. BRILLIANT! AT LAST! THE "perfect" system! (Well, almost. I still have to do something separate to turn the alarm system off. Working on integrating that with lock system.)

And it worked well for about two years.

Then one day, it just stopped working.

And I got ANOTHER lesson in the rule that things should be designed with a view to easy maintenance. Sigh. Poked, prodded, fiddled. Threw a bit of money at the problem (bought a new reader module… $30… turned out NOT to be the problem. Serves me right. Well, I AM going to install another instance of the system somewhere someday…)

Finally had another "go" yesterday, and solved the problem! The little computer ($12) at the heart of the system had "forgotten" its program! (I hope THAT doesn't become a habit. First time it has happened across many systems using "twins" of the forgetful one, for which I am thankful. (systems and that it is first time)

Reprogrammed it… a 15 second operation… once the right computer plugged into the device needing programming, which means finding cables, etc, AND the program to be put into it… (which also means figuring out WHICH program that would be, and where it is stored…)


The pleasure I get from the simple act of putting tag near reader and hearing lock mechanism click is quite extraordinary. And, from the two years the lock was working before the little whoopsie, it is even a pleasure that doesn't particularly pall… although it is a little brighter than ever at the moment!)

As I said, "Ah, for the little things…"

Use of English

I was driving along, and passed a very ordinary van with the following business name on the side:

Munitions Contamination Remediation Services

Wow! Now there's a job the careers advisor at school forgot to tell me about! Make a living playing with things that go bang? And aren't the people who run the company considerate? Half the people seeing that name won't have a clue what the business's business is, will they. Keep the ignorant blissful, I say.

Speaking of IEDs: You really ought to read "Revolt In The Desert": TE "Of Arabia" Lawrence's abridged version of his epic "Seven Pillars of Wisdom". Riveting account of the true story behind the film with Peter O'Toole… and better than the film, though the film did not take liberties with the facts.

Mentioned here, as there are accounts of "our side" busily teach "the Arabs" to use IEDs in the middle east to challenge a colonial oppressor. Hmmmm. Oh… and just in case you haven't come across one of my mentions of the facts:

During the first world war, US/ British/ Western Europeans encouraged people in the Middle East to revolt against colonial oppressors… who just happened to be on Germany's side in the first world war. There wre implict promises of freedom for them after the war if our side won. These people were grand-, or great-grand-parents, or so, of today's movers and shakers on both sides.

Surprise, surprise: After Germany was defeated, the Arabs found themselves free of the old oppressors…. with new foreign masters in place. Leading, among other things, to the dispossession of the Palestinians not so many years later.

When Western "history" books talk about the background of today's tensions, it is "interesting" how little that side of things is brought out. Let me guess: Arab history books may emphasize different elements of the story?

Gee… Why are those damn rag-heads so unreasonable??

(Lest this be too one sided: Not so many years ago, it emerged that textbooks widely used in Saudi Arabia for later primary school aged children had anti-Semitic material of which Goebbels would have been proud.)

The problem with….

I do like the TV programme QI. This week's gem, a quote from President Abraham Lincoln:
"The problem with quotes take from the internet is that you can never tell if they are genuine."

Lion: King of beasts? Man: Hunter(?)/GATHERER

Interesting snippet at the end of a BBC "Human Planet" episode about a film crew's agony and ectasy in trying to capture some African tribesmen engaging in a traditional (for them!) form of food gathering…

1) Follow pride of lions. (The one "to hand" had 27 individuals. The fact that many were cubs doesn't much dilute that fact. "Many" cubs still leaves more than one adult female, and one's enough to make me think the Land Cruiser is the place to be.)

2) Wait for them to make a kill.

3) Creep up close with two friends.

4) Stand up. Stand tall. Stand shoulder to shoulder. (Look "big", in aggregate) Keep control of sphinicter.

5) Walk boldly towards lions on their kill.

The poor lions are so dumbfounded that they slink back from the kill, just to be on the safe side.

Quickly hack off a leg of wildebeest and LEAVE THE AREA. The lions may have retreated, but not departed. They are gathering courage. Be GONE, by the time they are considering choosing between three scrawny Africans and fresh dead wildebeest.

(Of course, the title is "Lioness, Queen of Beasts", to Leo leo ethologists… but did you realize that a lioness is in trouble if she meets a group of hyena? And that hyenas are not only scavengers?)

- - - - -

While I am in no hurry to put the fact to the test, I do know that "fierce predators" to get a bad rap.

Yes, they WILL eat you if you are foolish. (And people in England, not as infrequently as you might think, get killed by cows. Not bulls. Cows. If it is big, it is as well to respect it!) No, the following stories didn't HAVE to have happy endings… but…

In Churchill, Canada, a lady was escorting her three young kids to school, on foot, down the town's "main drag", not on the outskirts. She was a little pre-occupied… hmmm.. wonder why… and failed to notice and go around a polar bear. Clouted him on the nose with her handbag. (I guess I might have given it a try, if I'd had a handbag)… and so embarrassed him that he shuffled off to look for company elsewhere. (Did Maggie Thatcher, her of handbag fame, spend time in Churchill, I wonder?

In Botswana Africa, I was talking a person who grew up in the bush there. He and his little brother walked several miles to school, through lion country, every day. At least once a lion took an interest. The boy… nine years old… wasn't an idiot: He carried a stick while walking to school. Drove the lion off. "Well, I couldn't let him eat my little brother, could I?" He told me the story with a perfectly straight face.

Hurrah for the teachers! (See next item for why I called this that…)

WONDERFUL recording of a tele-robot alleged to be answering the phones at a school in Australia…

Be sure to listen to the concluding remarks, too…

Hurrah for the kids!

(Happened 24 July 2012)- An eleven year old boy got on a Jet2 plane for Rome in Manchester. Not so remarkable, you say? Ah… but he was on his own… with no passport. No ticket. No boarding pass!

He was discovered en route by fellow passengers.

In a similar vein: Many years ago, a 14 year old got himself to the US with a charge to his parent's credit card. So he had a ticket… but no passport. He got as far as New York before being detained. A policeman was sent to the US to bring him back. The policeman had a grin of admiration on his face as he took the boy past the press at Heathrow.

(You can verify this at

Sell by dates

Thank you, QI! (TV programme where I heard this pointed out…)

QI suggested we think about this…

What about the cheeses which are marked "aged 6 months"… and then have a note on them telling us to eat them all up within 5 days of buying them?

In the same vein: I have seen sell by dates on canisters of salt… really!

Oldie, but goodie

Seen in the "Personals" column of a locak newspaper….

*SINGLE BLACK FEMALE seeks male companionship.
I'm a very good girl who LOVES to play. I love long walks in the
woods, riding in your pickup truck, hunting, camping and
fishing trips, cozy winter nights lying by the fire.

Candlelight dinners will have me eating out of your hand.
I'll be at the front door when you get home from work,
wearing only what nature gave me…

Call 1-876-555-1212 and ask for Annie,
I'll be waiting…..













People responding found themselves speaking to the nice lady at the local Labrador retriever re-homing charity. says that the joke has been around since at least 1996, and then goes on to get way too serious about the whole thing, bless their OCD little hearts. Those tendencies pay us big benefits, so I'm not moaning. "…sorrow not anger…". Come on, guys, it's just a joke. (Apparently. They don't say that the joke was never used by a real shelter…)

Pray for Mr Obama

In "Fiddler on the Roof", the rabbi is asked if there is a blessing for the tzar. He says, "A blessing for the tzar? Of course!". He switched into chanting, and recites "May God bless and keep the tzar….

… Far away from us."

I think it may have been the rabbi who came up with the following bumper sticker….

"Pray for Obama: Psalms 109, verse 8"

Ah. How nice. (If you don't mind forgetting the wisdom of separating church and state.)

The King James version of the bible… is there any other worth reading… gives 109:8 as…

"May his days be few, and let another take his office".

(Although Romney's support for the Anti-Choice crowd may yet force me to vote for Obama. Sigh.)

Where to do what…

"Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool."

(This from Lots of fun stuff there, text and graphics, both.)

Joke plus message

Fred was terribly overweight, so his doctor put him on a diet.

'I want you to eat regularly for 2 days, then skip a day, then eat regularly again for 2 days then skip a day…..

'And repeat this procedure for 2 weeks.

'The next time I see you, you should have lost at least 5 pounds.'

When the Irishman returned, he shocked the doctor by having lost nearly 60 lbs!

'That is so amazing!' the doctor said.

Fred nodded…'I'll tell you though, be I thought I was going to drop dead on those third days.'

'From the hunger?' asked the doctor.

'No…from all the skipping!"

- - - - - -
I used that joke to illustrate one of the advantages of using plain text email…. which is much safer, in terms of viruses, etc, too, AND…. Plain text: 108 words. When sent to me NOT as plain text, the message took 10,000 characters. People with…

A fast internet connection
Lots of disk space
Fast computers…

… don't care if things are sent in a form that is 92 times longer than it needs to be… but not everyone ticks all those boxes!


Here's 1,000 characters….

See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx
See note that follows xxxxxx

Why did a 9 line joke need to use 10 times that to send??

Master Criminal… not?

Oh dear.

A man faked his death, in a life insurance scam.

One little blunder… he handled a copy of his death certificate, and someone found the fingerprint.

That reminds me of another story….

Years ago a firm was paying an annuity to someone in a far flung corner of what was once the British Empire. They weren't stupid… each payment only went out when a thumb printed receipt for the previous payment had been returned.

As the recipient was now 120 years old, they decided to deliver a payment personally. The family tried to protest that grandfather was very frail, didn't cope well with strangers.

Actually, grandfather was completely unaffected by visitors. His thumb, in the jar of alcohol on the mantelpiece wasn't bothered either!

ONE MORE!…. In France, (elsewhere too, I imagine), there's a way for an elderly person to sell their home to a financial institution, but retain the right of life tenancy. Makes sense… a form of "life insurance". Sometimes the financial institution wins, sometimes it loses. That's what they do, after all. They lost in the instance of the old dear who hung on well past 100! I like to think that the chance to inconvenience the bank gave her a reason to go on living!

Another Master criminal- the perils of population mobility


One of the consequences of the EU is that people now move around inside Europe more freely than they did before. And thus someone from Poland may well get stopped by the police in, say, Denmark. The poor cop does his best to record the driver's details, and send driver and details on their way. And the computer begins to fill with records of unpaid fines.

A few years ago it was becoming clear that a Polish citizen named Prawo Jazdy was a very bad boy/ girl. Not only were unpaid tickets piling up, but there were instances of two or more in a day, only a 100 miles apart, and, worse, only 55 minutes apart. Driving over 100mph!!! But then the police noticed incidents 500 miles and 10 minutes apart and looked more closely at the problem.

This is either a hoax that the BBC and others took up, or a true story. Look at the driver's license above. See what was happening? Answer farther down the page below the "Baby Giraffe" story, headed "Prawo Jazdy answer". (Thank you, BBC TV programme "QI" for amusing me with this story. The country which hit the headlines wasn't Denmark… but I imagine it happened in more than one place.)

Chinese (Etc) Whispers

Remember "Chinese whispers"? Participants sit in a circle. A message is whispered from A to B to C… until it has gone around. Now in our Brave New World, we are all alone in front of keyboards, with no one to sit in a circle with, but that's okay! A modern version is available. I asked the marvelous Bablefish ( to translate "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" from English to Dutch. And to translat the Dutch to French…. to German… and back to English. The result: "Drizzles to fast fox jumped regarding the lazy dog"!

Speaking of Bablefish… has some teacher shown the initiative? It would be rather fun to give some children homework to translate some sentences from their mother tongue into the second language being taught…. but using sentences whick Bablefish gets slightly wrong. Interesting to see how many of the children's answers had the Bablefish mistakes…

I'm glad I didn't grow up in this era

Pity the poor teenager of today. Here is a product straight from Orwell. Something parents can have fitted to a car. And note the MarketSpeak…. the teenager will thank the parent??

A personal GPS safety device that leverages much of the technology used in our LogiBoxx hardware, HALO is designed to guide and protect your teenager and secure the vehicle your teen is driving. HALO provides your teen driver with tools and features through GPS technology so that he or she will become a safer driver. With HALO, parents will be able to receive important information transmitted from the vehicle to a cell phone or computer while the driver receives audio in-cabin alerts from the device itself.

Did you catch the bit about "audio in-cabin alerts"? Won't the kid be thrilled when mom's voice comes out with "slow down", as he is driving his friends to the party!

Ah, but it's for "sek-uridy", so it's okay…

(Anxious parents can check out to learn more.)

Email I received "from FBI"

This is someone messing around, isn't it?? NO ONE ?? would fall for this… would they? (I've messed with bits of it, but only to make the email addresses slightly different from what they were, and to shorten it.) If you decide to skim, don't miss the last paragraph!

From: "Robert S. Mueller, III"<moc.evol|10vog-ibf#moc.evol|10vog-ibf>
Subject: Re: Federal Bureau of Investigation
Date sent: Sat, 11 Jun 2011 20:00:59 +0200

Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crimes Division
FBI Headquarters in Washington , D.C.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington , D.C. 20535-0001


We, office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) hereby write to
inform you that we caught a diplomatic lady called Mrs. Vernon Wallace at
( John F Kennedy International Airport ) here in New York with consignment
box filed with united state dollars.

Meanwhile, base on our interview to the diplomat she said that the
consignment box belongs to you, that she was sent to deliver the
consignment box to your doorstep not knowing that the content of the box
is money. The diplomat also said that her first transit in the state was
at Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport Ohio.

Now, the diplomat is under detention in our office(FBI) security, and we
cannot release her until we carry out our proper investigation on how this
huge amount of money managed to be yours before we will release her with
the box. So, in this regards you are to reassure and prove to us that the
money you are about to receive is legal by sending us the Award Ownership
Certificate showing that the money is not illegal.

Note, that the Award Ownership Certificate must to be secured from
the office of the senate president in Nigeria, because that is the
only office that will issue you the original Award Ownership
Certificate of this funds since it has been confirmed that the fund
was originated from Nigeria.

You are advised to forward immediately the Award Ownership
Certificate if you have it with you, but if you did not have it we
will urge you to contact our representative in Nigeria bellow this
message to help you secure the Award Ownership Certificate if at all you
did not have it.

Name: Dr. Harry Odi
Email: moc.liamtoh|51ido_yrraH#moc.liamtoh|51ido_yrraH

Furthermore, we are giving you only but 3 working business days to
forward the requested Award Ownership Certificate.

Please note that we shall get back to you after the 3 working
business days, that if you didn´t come up with the certificate we
shall confiscate the funds into World Bank account then charge you
for money laundry, but if you forward the Award Ownership Certificate then
we will release diplomat with your consignment box also gives you every
back up on the money.

You know we have issue of terrorist attacks, so do not waste time,
clear your file by providing these certificate and get in touch with us to
resolve this case as soon as possible. Thanks for your understanding,
co-operation and continued patronage.

FBI Director
Robert S. Mueller, III


This from National Geographic magazine.

You may already use the trick of typing :-) to indicate that something you've typed is mean in a humorous or frivolous vein. (Tip your head to the left, you should see a smiling face.

Alternative emoticons…. listing first the old version, then the new, then a proposed interpretation…

:-) <^_^> happy
:-( (;_;) sad
:o (*o*) surprised
;-) (^_~) winking
:D (^o^) laughing
(#^.^#) blushing
m(__)m apologizing

The article claimed that the "new" emoticons are more widely used by in Eastern countries.

It also got a little "deep", suggesting that the Western emoticons focus on the mouth whereas the Eastern ones focus on the eyes. Oh well… just so long as it is fun to use them!

Some of them go back to 1881, American magazine "Puck", "Typographichal Art". Around 1981, Professor Scott Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University was using them in message boards.

Made me smile

True story…

Felix Mendlesson, as a youth, liked to draw and paint. But he didn't think he did human figures well… so when he'd done a landscape he liked, he asked one of his friends to put a few figures in it for him.

(pp BBC Radio 3 "This Week's Composer"… excellent series.)

Geek? Moi?

While signing up to participate at a forum concerning robotics, to prove I wasn't a spammer, I had to be able to supply the name of the robot star of the movie "Short Circuit". Even spammers know the answer to that… don't they… ?

Toyota Joke

Think of Toyota. The "eco-friendly" car, right? I bought one. And now I get a thick, heavy, glossy paper "magazine", in a plastic mailer, as a "member" of "Club Toyota". In my first issue: Article about how Toyota is helping save dolphins.

Note to Toyota: Want to save the planet, or just con people into thinking buying Toyota helps save the planet? And as a Japanese firm, if you are so concerned about dolphins, perhaps you could make representations to your government about the Japanese killing of dolphins and whales for cat food.

Baby giraffe…

An item on the radio news just now reported the birth of a baby giraffe at a zoo. It was said that the newborn would be "given some time to find his feet" before public display.

Prawo Jazdy answer

(This is the explanation of a story farther up the page) "Prawo Jazdy" is Polish for "Driver's License".

Between you, me and…

I don't think the academic was being funny! While recording a discussion about something with an expert academic, a radio presenter elicted from the academic, "Well, just between you and me…."

I guess the presenter had a good interviewing technique!

Reminds me of Mark Twain's bit of wisdom: Any secret can be kept. If only two people know it. And one of them is dead.

Christmas Special….

I won't often be putting mere links to other online documents here, but I hope you agree, it is worth making an exception the following. It is the Christmas story…. brought up to date!! It is a YouTube video, and the sound effects/ sound track add a lot. You can use…

… which is easy to pass on to friends verbally, or you can use….

… if you are worried about where the TinyURL might take you. Either one
takes you to the same place.

BBC less formal….

Once upon a time, the BBC was very formal when presenting material on the radio. Not so much, these days. I woke on 18 December 2010 to fing a pretty good snow accumulation. The weather forecast: "Warnings of haevy snow and ice are in effect for London, the southeast, the midlands, Scotalnd, Wales, Northern Ireland…." (and a bunch of other areas). He then went on, starting with the usual formula, "… and elsewhere….", where, we were told, "… the snow will be less heavy." So far, so usual. And then he said, referring to the "elsewhere", "…where-ever that may be"! I.e., he, no more than I, wasn't sure which bits the list didn't include! Sorry… haven't told that very well. It was funny at the time!

Term limits….

A quote from Robin Williams's character in the movie "Man of the Year"

"Remember: Politicians are a lot like diapers. Both should be changed frequently.

"For the same reasons."

Wise man….

How much do you know of the Victorian mill owner Robert Owen, him of the utopian ideas and "New Lanark"? A man worthy of some study, I would suggest. However, this is my "Made Me Laugh" page.

Owen felt that education was important, and set up a number of schools. I'm not sure I entirely agree, but you can't help but smile at his pronouncement that young children should be allowed a great deal of play, and not "be annoyed with books". While the abolition of bear baiting is something I welcome, I suspect that a ban on tormenting children with books is not yet imminent.


In Victorian times, antimony "pills" were used… small pellets of something a bit like lead, but, but worse, more poisonous.

So here's how the pill worked: You swallowed it. A little dissolved in your system. Made you violently ill… "ill" as in vomiting and other unpleasant purging processes. Of course, being so awful meant to Victorians that it was "good". Go figgur.

But the best bit? Most of the pill passed through the system… from whence it was recovered, washed off, and set aside for whenever it might next be needed!!! This gave rise to its name "everlasting pill". I know drugs are expensive, but I don't think that re-cycling is the answer!

Speaking of purging… I recently saw a van with advertising text aimed at farmers with irrigation systems: "Come to ICS for all of your irrigation needs… except colonic." True! Really saw this.

OH… Girl Scout Cookies! (A SERIOUS expletive in my youth)

SO ANNOYING! Someone sent me a joke. I thought it was good, so sent it on, BCC, to a bunch of friends. Before sending, I tidied up the "stuff" emailling anything injects.

I also made a few small changes, like changing bits of punctuation and substituting a synonym here or there. The point of this is to watch, and see if the joke comes back to me. If the alteration is present, it means that it has done a round trip. How fun would spotting that be! (Oh dear… see the item following this one…) (The idea isn't original, by the way.)

BUT! When I sent the joke onward, I managed to include my notes about what changes I made!! I hope people who forward it will not only strip off my email address, but tidy up the first part, too!

Not enough to do…

There are people on the planet who spend their time less sensibly than I! Hard to believe, but here's my case for that claim:

Serious people have spent time as follows, after seeing certain paintings, e.g. van Gogh's Starry Night. It, oddly enough, features a star in a night sky. He was mad and incarcerated at the time he painted it.

These serious people, instead of just taking this painting for a nice image of a starry sky, researched when the scene was painted (June 1889) and then went off to an almanac to work out what stars would have appeared in that part of the sky from Vincent's cell at that time. (Venus… a planet, but who's counting?)

I am so greatly enriched by knowing which heavenly body is depicted in that painting, aren't you? (Sorry, art historians… I'm probably just an old palestine, as… (umm, not sure which miner it was… boxing coach?)… said in…. (Do you recognize the quote?) Comes from a Certain Musical.)

That gem (that the object in the painting is Venus) from Dava Sobel's marvelous book "The Planets".

"Rip Off Artist"

That was the big text on the side of a van I saw. The little text explained that he was a house decorator specializing in wall paper removal. Reminds me of a pest control firm, operated by "famous" old boys a certain school near Haywards Heath. One of their vans had the number-plate "L1CE", as I remember it. (The first item in this paragraph was jotted down in April 2008, and the scrap of paper shuffled in my piles 'til 8 Aug 2010. Sigh.)

Flying car

It is always risky to take things seen on the British TV motoring show "Top Gear" seriously… but I don't think they were spoofing…

Imagine a car. It is a "production car"… you can go out an buy one. Assuming you have £1.6 million in your "car" budget. Better set some money aside insurance premiums, too. It has a CD player, though, so that's okay. If you want to go fast, you have to go to a private track with a very long, very smooth straight… a bit under six miles. And you have to wear special tyres… good for 37 miles. Oh… and they cost £5,000 each. That's ten pence (about 15 cents)/mile… for the tyres.

But… if you keep your foot down, you will reach 267 mph.

I have a pilot's licence to fly a plane. But if I want to go faster… in a plane… than 250 mph, I have to get extra training and qualification. The plane I usually fly usually flies at about 115 mph.

Childish infants

Have you seen the "new" (7/10) page? Text jammed right up to the edge of the browser window, but larger fonts, more pictures, frames, etc… and, as ever, less content. Sigh. No doubt they were "improving" the page. Orwell missed that one in his Newspeak Glossary, didn't he? But I digress. There were two things there this morning: A link promising a story claiming he said TV programmes for British adults had been "infantilised"… and then, elsewhere on the same page, there was another link saying "Fry slams 'childish' British TV" Did he use both words, or did the BBC think "infantilised" was beyond us?

Pathetic Porkers

The rest of this item derives from from the Sourceforge newsletter….

At sister site ThinkGeek, the Canned Unicorn Meat…

… caused quite a stir as the lawyers for the National Pork Board sent a twelve-page cease and desist letter for use of the slogan "the new white meat." The NPB was worried by the resemblance to their slogan, "The other white meat."

Read more on Slashdot…

(end quote.)

I'm glad I know a few decent lawyers, to make up for the ones who work so hard to besmirch the reputation of the profession.

You'd think that having a sense of humor would be a fundamental requirement for anyone working for the "National Pork Board". What do they do, anyway, besides wheel and deal in Washington for tax-payer funded "pork" for their clients? Do they really think that the unicorn meat is going to dent the pork industry's profits?

I think a class action suit for the shareholders of ThinkGeek to recover the costs of defending the cease and desist would be a "good" way for some more lawyers to charge for more discussions of something that should never have come up, don't you?

Family History Hunting

Let's say my last name was "Bartlbee". What are the chances of…

In seaching for Sarah B in the 1841 England and Wales census, there are 15 who are 38-99 years old.

I looked at various ones, more or less at random.

What are the chances that I'd hit two in a row, both about 50, both living with only their husbands, both of whom were tailors?

And in same session, 9th Sarah was, as 7th was, about 50, living with just husband, and he was "grocer".

In family history hunting, you have to be ready to discount as meaningless coincidences which would be exciting in other contexts!

BBC Strikes Back- Pope's perverts

Every once in a while, the BBC still rattles the government's cage, even after the disgraceful episode when it was "put in it's place" after the reporting of the WMD scientist's death. But he following is just too good to be intentional. I can dream, though…

As I write this, 25 Apr 2010, 9am UK, the top story on the BBC news site is…

The radio summary of that reported that a junior civil servant had made some rather crass sarcastic suggestions involving the Pope in an internal memo. And that it had been dealt with by putting the civil servant "on other duties". A bit like moving clergy to new parishes if they get too friendly with kids?

Silly Instructions

Text on the RFID tag on a DVD I purchased at Sainsbury's: "Security Protected- Please remove prior to putting in microwave". Duh. I don't often put my DVDs in the microwave, but then I'm strange. And on the same visit I saw someone leave the store with a different DVD in one of the expensive "security" boxes that the checkout staff are supposed to remove and reuse… but they didn't, and the fancy detectors by the exit proved ineffective. Perhaps because for years many shops' detectors were triggered by the RFID tags in the town's library's books? Are they even switched on? Managers don't seem to be.

Where did I go?

Strange: In Washington DC, the east/west streets are identified by letters… "A St NE" is south of "B St NE", that is south of "C St NE"…. which makes sense up to a point. Having a SECOND set of A, B, C streets to the south of Capitol Street might seem like an unkindness to poor benighted tourists, but is a managable "little twist". But is it really fair to expect people to know that the street north of "I St NE" is NOT "J", but "K"??!

If you know where I came across this jem, I won't tell what you are watching on TV if you don't tell what I'm watching. Extra points if you can find a reliable explanation on the web, other than what Snopes has to say ( as to why not! All Wikipedia has to say on the matter is "The absence of a J Street in Washington is for historical/orthographic reasons."

Reading newspapers without wrecking blood pressure

I've discovered the secret of reading newspapers… just read the issue for April Fool's day. Then, if something annoys you, you can tell yourself that nothing is really that stupid, the article must be a spoof. In the Daily Telegraph on 1 April 2010, there were articles as follows…

a) The House of Lords had a formal debate concerning What To Do about "a plague" of mice at Westminster

b) A member of the same august(?) body claimed £100,000 in expenses from the taxpayer. When called to account, he said "Sorry", repaid £9,000 (well… was told to, but who can say what Lord Clarke, Labour, will deign to do), and then that was "okay". Wish I could take £91,000 pounds improperly and clear up the matter so simply.

c) Sussex police: Paying a private firm £300,000 per annum for security guards to secure three police buildings.

Of course the best solution to the annoyance reading a paper engenders is the simple one I employ: I don't read them. I only looked at the cited edition of the Telegraph as I'd heard that there was an article saying that a Fried Breakfast is Good For You!! Obviously not an April Fool's spoof! (The arguement went as follows: A high fat first meal each day "launches" your metabolism in a flexible mode, and your body will handle better whatever you eat through the day. A carbohydrate rich first meal seems to affect how well your system copes with some foods eaten later in the day. Report was on work of Molly Bray, Univ. of Alabama.

Maths test

There are 10 sorts of people…. those who understand binary, and those who don't.


Reported by Aled Jones, BBC radio: Names adopted for the halves of a choir in at least one church: "Cant and Dec". (For readers outside the right circles, an explanation: The two halves of most cathedral choirs have been known for a long time as "Decani" and "Cantoris", "of the Dean" and "of the Cantor", respectively, all related to where people sit. Often called "Dec" and "Can". And, recently, some TV presenters have come along, Anthony and Declan…. Ant and Dec….)

Billy Elliot

One of the things included in his biography for the programme of Billy Elliot by one of the "Michaels": "I've worked with the ferret from Golden Compass". I guess you have to concede that not a lot of people can say that.

Further "Billy" notes: There is a boy playing Billy at 4/10 who has played Small Boy (2005), and Michael (2008). Talk about earning your spurs! Another biographical note says that a different boy trained for 23 weeks before starting.

Who's on First

I knew there was a reason I didn't gravitate to history at school. I'm reading a book about Alexander the Great… a fascinating person. He had a sister name Cleopatra and a friend, possibly a half brother, named Ptolemy. I'd heard those names before! Were they all so intertwined? Well, it turns out that THE Cleopatra lived AD90-168. (Alexander was 356-323 BC). And the great thinker Ptolemy was cAD90- c.168. He, it turns out, was a Greek, a Roman citizen, and lived in Alexandria (that name again!) in Egypt! The Ptolemy in the Alexander story was the 8 times great grandfather of "the" Cleopatra… we think, sort of. See |Wikipedia: Ptolemic dynasty for a VERY complicated family tree. There's at least one brother marrying (or at least bedding) a sister, one of whom ALSO married a neice! Eeuw! And then there's Pliney, (the elder), 23-79AD, died when Vesuvius erupted. Nothing to do with any of this, except I had his name mixed up with the Ptolemys. Classical. Began with a P. Hey, I do technology, not history.

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