Iraq war civilian casualties

While people are still debating the real reason for the Iraq war the casualty numbers for soldiers and civilians keep climbing. According to Just Foreign Policy, more than 1.3 million Iraqis have died since the military invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003. According to AntiWar, the Iraq war has caused an estimated 100 000 US soldiers wounded and more than 4 000 killed in action.  Read more…

The middle finger and the fricative F

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers to prevent them from drawing the renowned English longbow in the future. The famous weapon was made of the English Yew tree, and the act drawing the longbow was known as “plucking the yew,” or “pluck yew.” To the embarrassment of the French, the English won the battle and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers, saying, “Pluck yew!” The letter “F” later crept into the symbolic gesture known as showing the finger or the highway salute – the universal sign of disrespect – because of the difficulty in pronouncing consonant clusters.

To get the feathers for the longbow arrows, one would have gone to the village plucker with the introduction “pleasant person pheasant plucker.” The result was the change of the letter P to a labiodental fricative F. Read more…

Who invented the light bulb?

Who invented the light bulb? No, it wasn’t Thomas Edison. Light bulbs were in use long before Edison applied for the patent in 1879. British inventor Humphry Davy invented an incandescent light bulb in 1801 and created the “arc lamp” in 1809.

In 1835, Scottish inventor James Bowman Lindsay demonstrated a constant electric light in Dundee. In 1840, British scientist Warren de la Rue also demonstrated a light bulb. In 1841, British inventor Frederick DeMoleyns patented a light bulb and in 1844 American John Wellington Starr filed a U. S. patent caveat for an incandescent lamp. Many others would follow suit but none of the bulbs were effective for everyday use.  Read more…

Crossing the Rubicon

The expression “crossing the Rubicon” is used to describe an irreversible decision. It originates from the Roman times where the Rubicon river marked the boundary between the Roman state and the  provinces. In 49 BC Caesar declared that crossing the river with an army meant declaring war on Rome. Which meant facing a powerful and very motivated force.

Let’s talk about the weather

As long ago as the 5th century BC the Greeks sent out weather forecasts to their sailors before they cast off. They also posted weather forecasts, called peg calendars, on important buildings. It proved to be very popular. Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) wrote the first book on weather, Meteorologica, in 350 BC – it remained the standard textbook on weather for 2,000 years.

Today, meteorological services use some of the most powerful computers available to send out millions of weather forecasts a year (almost a million forecasts are sent to airlines). How accurate are they? More than you may have imagined! One-day forecasts are accurate more than 75% of the time.

The first weather satellite, Vanguard 2, was launched on February 17, 1959. There was a problem with it’s rotation, however, so the Tiros 1, launched on April 1, 1960, is considered the world’s first successful weather satellite. Weather services rely on about 100 satellites for meteorological data.

The weather is one of the most talked about topic. It therefor is no surprise that, collectively, the weather is the most watched program on TV.

Odd-price tickets of items started by newspaper publisher

When Melville Stone started the Chicago Daily News in 1875, the price was a penny. At first, circulation was high but then dropped off sharply. Stone discovered that the problem was a shortage of pennies in the area. He brought in barrels of pennies and then persuaded merchants to start an “odd-price sale,” selling goods for a penny under the regular price. Thus goods were sold for an amount such as $2,99 (instead of $3). Pennies came back into circulation, Stone sold many newspapers, and we still have odd-price sales tickets.

A few years later Walter Deubner also had a creative idea to increase sales at the small grocery store he ran in St. Paul, Minnesota. He noticed that his customers’ purchases were limited by what they could carry. So he set about devising a way to help them buy more. His idea took him 4 years to develop. In 1912 he patented his design, and by 1915 he was selling more than a million of these shopping “devices” per year, at five cents apiece. What did Deubner design to make his customers buy more? The shopping bag!

Shopping habits:

86% of consumers do their Christmas shopping during December, 70% do not save for the Christmas period, and up to 87% decide at the point of purchase what they will buy. About 30% use their credit card as their main means of buying Christmas goodies. People with high, medium and low income groups spend about the same amount on gifts.

Whatever you put into your shopping bag, turn over your pennies twice and be careful with that credit card. Excessive use of credit is cited as a major cause of non-business bankruptcy, second only to unemployment.

Songs that were once banned

Dean Martin’s “Wham bam, thank you Ma’am” was banned in 1951. Bob Dylan’s 1976 album Hard Rain was banned in many countries because of the track “Lay Lady Lay.” In the 80s, Frank Zappa’s “I don’t wanna get drafted” was held back. Some TV stations banned Cher’s video “If I could turn back time.” Garth Brooks’s “The Thunder Rolls” was banned temporarily in 1991 and in 1995, after protests, Michael Jackson changed the lyrics of  “They don’t care about us” because it was considered anti-Semitic.

First projection of an image on a screen

Joseph Necephore Niepce developed the world’s first photographic image in 1827. In 1839 Frenchman Louis Jacques Daguerre introduce a better photographic process and in the same year Englishman William Fox Talbot discovered the process of using negatives and positives to develop photographs. American George Eastman invented the paper film roll for photography in 1885. In 1894 Americans Thomas Edison and W K L Dickson introduced the first film camera. In the next year French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere demonstrated a projector system in Paris, screening Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon, the first public movie. It was 46 seconds in duration.

But the very first projection of an image on a screen was made by a German priest. In 1646,  Athanasius Kircher used a candle or oil lamp to project hand-painted images onto a white screen.

Guitarists electrocuted by their guitars

The band of the Titanic weren’t the only ones to die playing. Many guitarists have been electrocuted by faulty wires. In 1972, Leslie Harvey of Stone the Crows died after being electrocuted on stage in England. In 1976, Keith Relf, who used to play for The Yardbirds, was electrocuted by his guitar while playing in his basement.

During a mid-performance in 1994 Ramon Barrero, a Mexican musician famous for playing the world’s smallest harmonica, inhaled the harmonica and choked to death.

REO Speedwagon is named after a flatbed truck

Ransom Eli Olds built a three-wheeled carriage in 1887 and a petrol (gasoline) car in 1896. In 1899, he founded the Olds Motor Works, producing the first Oldsmobile in 1901. Although he didn’t invent the motorcar, he still is known as the “Father of the Automobile.” His heavy-duty flatbed truck was considered a milestone in transportation history. It was from this truck that the American rock band REO Speedwagon chose their name. REO is for the name of Ransom Eli Olds.

REO Speedwagon formed in 1967, debuted their self-titled album in 1971. They reached the charts in 1971 with Ridin’ the Storm Out. Their 1977 live album You Get What You Play For went platinum. Hi-Infidelity, released 1980, sold 7 million copies, reaching No 1 on the Billboard charts. Keep the Fire Burning, the single off their 1982 album Good Trouble, reached the Top 10. Their 2007 album release is also the title for their online video game Find Your Own Way Home, released in 2009. Their latest CD is called Not So Silent Night. And they are still touring.

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