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Life Begins at 80...on the Internet
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ARCHIVES - NOVEMBER 2001 TO APRIL 2002

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PUPPYDOG CLOCK! Some clever computer geek has invented an intriguing "puppydog clock," which not only shows the date and time, but follows the cursor around the screen when you move the mouse. The only information we can find about it is "It's a remake of Yugop's Year of the Snake, but more simple.  By Sepiroth." We offer it as a special bonus to all our faithful readers. You can view it by clicking on CLOCK - but be aware that it works with some browsers and not with others. [Incidentally, that word geek is not a product of the computer age. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says it dates back to 1914, and gives its first meaning as a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake.] 0204

TWO BITCHES FROM HELL AND A SHORT, FAT GUY. Eleven years ago, two women and one man founded a Denver law firm, Powers Phillips, using the slogan Two Bitches from Hell and a Short, Fat Guy. Today, theirs is a successful and highly respected "boutique" firm, whose website provides a barrel of laughs. In fact, it's one of the wittiest sites on the Net. Many other web surfers must enjoy its content, because it has scored more than 100,000 hits in the last three years. To read this story, told mostly by the short, fat guy, click on BITCHES. 0204

eBOOK HELPS SENIORS NAVIGATE INTERNET. We're delighted to learn that senior citizens around the world are learning how to find their way around the Internet by reading articles in this free electronic book. To read some of the heart-warming messages we've received, click on SENIORS. 0204

ARTIST SEEKS AUTHOR. Talented Canadian artist Terry Saxby has a problem: he has drawn dozens of weird animals  and needs someone to tell their story. Usually, it's the other way about:  writers often seek artists to illustrate their work. Saxby, a  49-year-old real estate salesman in Trenton, Ontario, dreams of seeing his fantasy creatures, which he calls Little Guys, featured in children's books, or as animated characters on movie and TV screens. To read more about these characters, and the Haida people who inspired them, click on CANADIAN SENIOR YEARS. 0204

MAGGIE RAMSAY, WITCH O' THE AULD NORTH BURN. In 18th century Scotland, in the town of Airdrie, lived Maggie Ramsay. She was believed to be a witch, even to be in league with the devil, for she spent much of her time walking by the Auld North Burn (Old North Stream). Here was where she gathered the herbs and flowers for use in her potions. She spoke as she walked, some said to herself, others said to demons. Read about this legend and its author, by clicking on MAGGIE. 0204

FIVE LORDS A-FLIPPING, AND AN MP IN A WHEELCHAIR. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, British MP Anne Begg took part in a hotly-contested annual Pancake Day race in London on February 12.  What's more, she led her team of four fellow members of the House of Commons to out-flip a team from the House of Lords. You can see a photograph of her with her male colleagues, resplendent in collars, ties and chefs' tall white hats and aprons, and read a description of the event, by clicking on BARE INGREDIENTS. 0203

SPAGHETTI BRIDGES. Spaghetti, the world's favourite form of pasta, isn't just a food: it can also be used to build bridges and towers. If you find that hard to believe, just take a look at a photo of an entry in John Hopkins University's 2001 spaghetti building competition. Years before the JHU began using spaghetti as a building material, Okanagan University College in Canada conducted an annual bridge-building competition. "The limits that humble pasta has been pushed to in these events is remarkable," says the OUC. "It is common for a structure made of nothing more than spaghetti and glue to span a gap of a meter AND support the equivalent weight of a man." To read more, click on SPAGHETTI BRIDGES. 0203

MAD  AS  MARCH  HARES. On April Fools Day, April 1, villagers of Hallaton, Leicestershire, England will enjoy "hare pie" (made from beef) which has been blessed at St. Michael's Church, march to Hare-Pie Bank, and then take part in a vigorous game of bottle-kicking. And that's NOT an April Fool joke. Generations of Hallatonians have followed a similar ritual every Easter Monday for some 230 years, apart from last year, when the fun and game had to be called off because of foot-and-mouth disease restrictions. For the full story, click on HALLATON. 0203

AMAZING GRACE AND THE TRAIL OF TEARS. Amazing Grace, "almost certainly the most spiritually moving melody ever created," was written by John Newton, an Englishman who had been in turn a slave and a slave-trader. Seventy years later, across the Atlantic, thousands of displaced Cherokees sang the hymn as they were herded along the tragic Trail of Tears. After a checkered and violent career as a  boy and young man, Newton "saw the light," and ended his days as a respected clergyman in the English village of Olney, whose other claim to fame is its annual Pancake Day race (see story below). To continue, click HERE. 0203

FUN AND GAMES ON PANCAKE DAY. The 53rd annual International Pancake Day Race will be contested on February 12, when a team of pancake-tossers from the English village of Olney  (pop. 6000), in Buckinghamshire, will compete against another from the U.S. town of Liberal (pop. 18,000) in Kansas. Women aged 18 and over will run a 415-yard course, each holding a frying pan with a pancake in it. For full details, click on PANCAKE. 0202

PRESIDENT'S PRETZEL PROBLEM. If a young baker's apprentice had been more alert while baking soft pretzels one day in the 17th century, U.S. President George W Bush might not have choked on a hard pretzel nearly 400 years later. Bakers in Southern France or Northern Italy, it seems, made the world's first pretzels about 610AD, using soft, leftover dough. The first hard pretzel was produced by accident a millennium later. Read this fascinating story by clicking on BARE INGREDIENTS. 0202

WORLD'S FIRST CROSSWORD PUZZLE. Arthur Wynne, the English-born New York journalist who invented the crossword puzzle in 1913, would be astonished to see how computers are being used to generate today's cryptic crosswords, and amazed at the latest development, in which addicts are challenged to solve crosswords on the Internet. His invention has become the world's most popular word game, attracting millions of devotees, and has boosted the sales of newspapers, magazines, dictionaries, notepads, pencils, and erasers for nearly 90 years. For details, please click on CROSSWORDS. 0202

WHEN WIRELESS WENT ON WHEELS. Good evening, Merrygoen! Ladies and gentlemen, this is the A.W.A. wireless station 2XT, broadcasting from The Great White Train at Merrygoen ...Those may not have been his exact words, but no doubt that's what the announcer (male, of course, in those days) would have told his delighted handful of listeners on Saturday, January 9, 1926. The unique travelling station 2XT had its studio and transmitter in a carriage attached to The Great White Train, designed to promote Australian-made goods, which was touring 106 country towns. To read about this little-known facet of early broadcasting, click on 2XT. 0202

TORA! TORA! TORA! AND BORA BORA! Everyone knows about Tora Bora, where Osama bin Laden was thought to be hiding in a cave, although no-one had heard of the place a month ago. The name comes from a Pashtan village, and means black widow or black dust. Strangely, those words TORA and BORA both ring bells on the Internet. Read all about them by clicking on TORA! BORA! 0201

OZ  NEWSPAPERS'  ODD  NAMES. The Gawler Bunyip , the Crow's Call. the Sunshine Advocate and the Golden Mail must surely be Australia's most oddly-named newspapers - and a search of the Internet reveals great stories about how they acquired those names. To read the details, click on BUNYIP. 0201

IN A PIG'S EYE! For 150 years, Cincinnati, Ohio has been called Porkopolis, because of its pork-packing industry.  But did you know that St. Paul, Minnesota, was once officially named Pig's Eye?  Professor and freelance editor Katherine Levin, who lives in  St. Paul, has told us this in an e-mail, after reading our recent stories about U.S. newspapers' odd names. To read her message, plus other odd newspaper names, click on PIG'S EYE. 0201

NUTTY AS A FRUITCAKE. Corsicana, Texas, and Claxton, Georgia, both claim to be the Fruitcake Capital of the World. A third small town, Bear Creek, North Carolina, also has a great family-run bakery famous for its fruitcakes. For this story, click on the foodzine BARE INGREDIENTS. 0201

MESSAGES FROM OUR GLOBAL LINKS. To mark our first anniversary, we e-mailed the many webmasters around the world whose sites have been linked to form this unique eBook, plus a few others associated with the project, thanking them for their friendly and helpful co-operation. Please click on REPLIES. 0112

DEVIL'S KNELL WILL CHIME 2001 TIMES. Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.... Mention Christmas bells to Australians, and we think of beautiful red and yellow native flowers which were shown on a five-cent stamp. But if you mention the Christmas bell to the good folk of the small English town of Dewsbury, in Yorkshire, they must think of the bell in their church, Dewsbury Minster, and wonder whether it will ever stop chiming. Every Christmas Eve it sounds the Devil's Knell for more than two hours. To read on, please click HERE. 0112

NATTY BUMPPO READS THE GIMLET. Kentucky attorney, author and songwriter Natty Bumppo, who was once a newspaperman named John Dean, enjoys reading his local weekly, called The Gimlet. He contends that when it comes to quirky newspaper names, it's in the same class as De Queen Bee (Arkansas) and The Unterrified Democrat (Missouri), featured in our last issue. The Edmonson News has been nicknamed The Gimlet ever since 1927 because its editorials  were said to have punch, and bored in. [A gimlet is a small wood-boring tool.] For further details about Natty, and more odd names of U.S. newspapers, please click on BUMPPO. 0112

BATHROOMS, LAVATORIES OR DUNNIES? We do it everyday, yet we do not talk about it. It is "taboo" on one hand and impolite to talk about it. So says the website of the World Toilet Organization, just formed in Singapore. The Inaugural World Toilet Summit 2001, from November 19 to 21, attracted toilet professionals, government officials, non-government bodies, companies and individuals from around the world. For further disgusting details, click on DUNNIES. 0112

NO RABBIT IN WELSH RAREBIT. That famous traditional dish, Welsh Rarebit,  has nothing to do with rabbits. The rare means very lightly cooked (as in rare steak), and the bit is simply a small portion. There are dozens of recipes for it on the Internet. We like the one posted by the Ferry Country Inn, St Dogmaels, Cardigan, West Wales, because it's laced with brown ale or bitter beer. For further details, click on BARE INGREDIENTS. 0112

NEWSPAPERS' ECCENTRIC NAMES De Queen Bee (Arkansas) and The Unterrified Democrat (Missouri) must surely be the oddest newspaper titles in the United States. And why on earth did a Wyoming daily adopt the typically Australian name Boomerang?  Many months ago, I set out to discover the details. In doing so, I also found out how other U.S. newspapers acquired their quirky names. I exchanged hundreds of email messages with friendly and helpful editors, historians and librarians across the nation. To read my report, please click on ECCENTRIC. 0111

TONY BLAIR IN HOSPITAL!  If you have a drop of Scottish blood in your veins, you'll enjoy this Story by an Unknown Author, now doing the rounds of the Internet. 0111

YOUNG SCHOOL THAI'S FAVOURITE MEALS. Thai teenager Nattawud Daoruang sometimes has joke for breakfast and pad mama for dinner. That's not quite what you may think. Joke is the Thai word for rice porridge with pork, while pad mama is fried noodle with beef and vegetables. "Lots of people have written to me and asked me about meals in Thailand," he says on his Thailand Life website. For more details, please visit the UK foodzine BARE INGREDIENTS. 0111

MESSAGES OF GRIEF.... AND OF HOPE. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, A Word A Day webmaster Anu Garg  was swamped with e-mails from hundreds of his nearly half-million subscribers in 208 countries. It showed how the newsletter unites like-minded people around the world, and that we have indeed become a global village. On September 20, Anu posted a special newsletter containing a selection from the messages he had received. Many of them brought tears to my eyes. No one can read them without being deeply moved. Please click on AWAD. Read the article about Anu Garg in the Wall Street Journal. [Disclosure of interest. I lend a hand as AWAD's copy editor.] 0111.

All above articles copyright © 2002.  Eric Shackle

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