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ARCHIVES - MAY 2004 TO OCTOBER 2004

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BOUNCING BEARS: BRILLIANT BUT BAFFLING
Before reading this story, take a look at one of the cleverest and most amusing pages we've ever seen on the internet, the Pyramid of Bears. If your cursor touches one or more of the animals, it falls down, the pyramid collapses... and magically reforms. Now read about the brilliant Dutch artist who designed the game, by clicking on JOGCHEM. 0410

THROWING EGGS FOR A HOLE-IN-ONE
What was probably the world's first egg hole-in-one contest took place on September 27 at the Stonehedge Golf Course in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin (US) as a charity fund-raiser. Each contestant stood 100 yards from a special hole dug in the fairway, and strove valiantly to hurl a fresh egg into the cup. For a description of this crazy contest, click on EGG HOLE-IN-ONE. 0410

EGGS WILL FLY AT EGG HARBOR
Two rival boatloads of usually sane citizens of Egg Harbor, Wisconsin (US) will pelt each other with thousands of fresh eggs on October 2, re-enacting the great Egg War of 1825, which gave their tiny village (present population 250) its name. To read this story, click on EGG WAR. 0410

HEY ANU, YOU'RE IN LUCK NOW!
"This UP [Uttar Pradesh] lad teaches foreigners a thing or two about English language" was the headline on a story about Seattle (US) wordsmith Anu Garg, in expressindia's Lucknow Newsline on September 10. "It is certainly not the British who know English best, or so it seems, as this 37-year-old US settled UP lad is teaching the Americans and many others round the globe the intricacies of this foreign language, through his unique A-Word-A-Day Programme." [which now reaches 600,000 wordlovers in 200 countries]. To read this story, see ATTLE. 0410

VACATION FOR VETERANS
When old folk have to move into nursing homes, they usually expect to spend the rest of their days there. But in a highly successful experiment, nine residents of Woy Woy Community Aged Care Nursing Home (50 miles north of Sydney) have just enjoyed a three-day holiday at a coastal resort guesthouse set in the bush. For details, click on VETERANS. 0410

CANBERRA'S HOVERCRAFT RALLY CANCELLED
Plans to hold an international hovercraft carnival in Canberra in December have been cancelled. HoverExpo 2004 was to have marked this year's 40th anniversary of the world's first hovercraft race, held on the then only partly-filled Lake Burley Griffin in 1964. An imposing array of environmental and other requirements has beaten the organising committee. For this story, click on HOVERCRAFT. 0410

CROSSING AMERICA BY HOVERCRAFT
English adventurer Robert Hodson, 39, sold his home in Godalming, Surrey to buy a hovercraft that he's now piloting across the United States, from coast to coast. His journey, skimming along 20,000 miles of river systems, is likely to be the longest hovercraft trek in history. For details of this epic trip, click on HOVERCRAFT. 0409

LET'S THROW EGGS AT THE OLYMPICS
Egg throwing is a worldwide sporting activity which was overlooked in Athens. We'd like to see it included in future Olympic Games. Every four years, athletics and swimming records are broken, but the world's egg-throwing record has survived for more than a quarter-century. It was established on November 12, 1978, in Jewett, Texas, when Johnie Dell Foley threw a fresh hen egg the almost incredible distance of 323ft 2in (98.51m) to his cousin, Keith Thomas, who caught it flawlessly. Many of the other catchers finished with egg on their faces. To learn about this great sport, click on EGG-THROWING. 0409

WALES RETAINS CABBAGE RECORD
An unusually hot summer has dashed American hopes of beating Bernard Lavery's 124-pound (56.2 kg) World's Largest Cabbage (grown in Wales in 1989) at the current Alaskan State Fair. Scott Robb, a leading contestant, told us "It has been a terrible year for cool season crops. We are experiencing the worst fire season ever - five million acres lost and still burning. Need rain bad!! I think Bernard's record is safe for now." But thanks to the warm weather, Scott has produced a 64.8-pound (29.4 kg) muskmelon-cantaloupe-rockmelon. Read about it in the ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS. 0409

BESSIE MADE IAN'S DAY
Ian, third of our four sons, has wisely quit the advertising rat race in Melbourne, and bought a small farm at Frog Rock, near Mudgee, 180 miles (290 km.) northwest of Sydney. He sent us an email the other day, describing a minor incident down on the farm. It was such a delightful vignette of rural life that we'd like to share it with our internet friends. To read Ian's story, click on BESSIE. 0409

FLYING PHIL IN SYDNEY AND CAPE TOWN
Philip Rabinowitz, the world's speediest centenarian, who divides his time between Australia and South Africa, enjoyed taking part in Sydney's annual City to Surf fun run last month. Spurred on by 30 members of his family, he ran the 8.7 miles (14 kilometres) road race in a little over three hours (the winner, a much younger athlete from Tanzania, took 41 minutes and four seconds). For more about this sensational centenarian, click on FLYING PHIL. 0409

STOUGH AND NONSENSE
Texan newspaperman Charley Stough tells us he pronounces his name to rhyme with dough, while another branch of his family tree thinks it rhymes with bough. He has worked as a steelcutter, brickmason, reporter, artist, editor, photographer and courtroom interpreter, and now is a blogger who also grows and decorates gourds. Read about him by clicking on STOUGH. 0409

HOW TO AVOID LANDMINES
John Janks, a US expert in remote sensing technology, has just set up a website telling soldiers and civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere how to detect the presence of nearby landmines. If his system works, and is widely adopted, it should save countless lives. "The technique involves a few wires or rods that can be carried in one's shirt or coat pocket," says Janks, founder of JSJ Remote Sensing Inc., of Houston, Texas. Read details and see photos of his field research by clicking on LANDMINES. 0409

OUTBACK ARTIST WINS AWARD
Australian outback artist Chris McClelland, who sketches wildlife in Africa, has won a Waterhouse Natural History art prize. We wrote about him two years ago in an article for California's Clever Magazine. Read the latest news about Chris and his photographer wife Margie by clicking on WILDPRINTS. 0409

CAN ALASKANS GROW A 125-POUND CABBAGE?
We'll know on September 4 (September 3 in U.S.) whether an American has succeeded in growing the world's heaviest cabbage. That's when the Alaskan State Fair at Palmer will hold a public weigh-off to decide the winner of this year's Great Cabbage Contest. Alaskans hope to beat the world record holder, Dr. Bernard Lavery, who in 1989, in Wales, grew a colossal cabbage weighing 124 pounds (56.24 kg.) To read about the challengers, click on ALASKAN CABBAGES. 0408

AS THE ACTRESS SAID TO THE BISHOP
In a serendipitous double whammy one day last month, a Hollywood actress and a Mesquite, New Mexico bishop both posted messages on our GuestMap within a few hours of each other. The one-in-a-million coincidence reminded us of that time-honoured cliché, "as the actress said to the bishop." - For this lighthearted story, click on ACTRESS/BISHOP. 0408

THE QUEEN OR PRESIDENT COULD SEND A MESSAGE TO YOU
President George W. Bush congratulates United States citizens celebrating their 80th birthdays, but British octogenarians have to survive 20 years more before they qualify to receive a message from their Queen (who is an octogenarian herself), unless their 60th (diamond) wedding anniversary occurs earlier. It's easier than you may think to arrange for the President or the Queen to send a message to yourself or one of your friends with the necessary qualifications. To learn how to apply, click on CONGRATULATIONS. 0408

UNCERTAIN GOLD AWAITS FINDER
If you're uncertain where to spend your next vacation, you could try the Uncertain Inn, in Uncertain Texas (population 205). The inn is on the shore of Caddo Lake, where the paddle steamer Mittie Stephens sank in 1869, with the loss of 61 lives and a fortune in gold, which is said to lie in deep mud at the bottom of the lake, "and is yours for the finding." For a virtual visit to the town, click on UNCERTAIN. 0408

SRI LANKAN CRICKETER'S XI NAMES
Sri Lankan cricketer Ranjith Amunugama probably seldom signs autograph books or souvenir bats with his full name. It's Amunugama Rajapakse Rajakaruna Abeykoon Panditha Wasalamudiyanse Ralahamilage Ranjith Krishantha Bandara Amunugama. So he boasts 11 initials - an appropriate number for a member of a cricket XI, but a headache for scorekeepers and newspapers. - Why do many Sri Lankans have numerous names? For the likely answer, click on this EXPLANATION. 0408

COLUMNIST RETIRES AT 91
Veteran Chicago columnist Jack Mabley retired reluctantly last month - appropriately, on Independence Day. At 91, he was one of the world's oldest working journalists. Life Begins at 80 sent him an email wishing him well. He replied: "At this moment I am enjoying beyond measure the freedom from deadlines, for the first time in more than 60 years. I am breezing along, doing what I want to do when I want to do it. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I seem to be a compulsive sounder off suffering from an insatiable curiosity." You can read Jack's farewell column by clicking on CHICAGO HERALD. 0408

GEOGRAPHICAL FEEDBACK
A Tasmanian reader criticises a Glasgow (Scotland) newspaper's geographical errors, and two Western Australian readers wonder whether Lamington cakes might have originated in the Kalgoorlie suburb of Lamington. You can read their emails by clicking on FEEDBACK. 0408

WORLD'S LARGEST CABBAGE WEIGHED 124 POUNDS!
Fifteen years ago, Dr. Bernard Lavery grew the world's largest cabbage, a colossus which covered an area measuring 12 feet x 13 feet. When harvested, it lost a few outer leaves, but even without them, its official weight was 124 pounds (56.24 kg.) That would be 30 times as heavy as an average cabbage. Since then, growers in many countries have tried in vain to break that record. After congratulating him on still being the world's cabbage king, we asked him just how the giant plant was grown, harvested, weighed and displayed - and what became of it. Read his fascinating reply by clicking on COLOSSAL CABBAGE. 0407

GREAT-GRANDMOTHER (64) WINS $15 MILLION
Iris Curley (64), an aboriginal widow living in a small town in the Western Australian outback, led a tough life until the evening of June 17, when she won $15 million in a Powerball lottery. As well as being one of Australia's youngest great-grandmothers, she is now one of the nation's richest women. Robert Taylor wrote a heart-warming good-news story about her windfall, which the West Australian published on June 19, under the heading "Iris, Queen of the Desert." In Scotland, the Glasgow Herald headed their story "Million-Ayer's Rock for £6m Oz Lotto Gran." To read the Perth article, and see Iris's photo, click on POWERBALL. 0407

100-YEAR BANK ACCOUNT... AND KING O'MALLEY
A sprightly 104-year-old widow who lives near us on the New South Wales Central Coast, 50 miles north of Sydney, has held a personal account with one bank for more than 100 years. That must surely be a world record. Researching this story, we learned how a colourful American, who was reputed to have carried two guns to an Australian Federal Cabinet meeting, helped found the Commonwealth Bank. For details, click on KING O'MALLEY. 0407

WHO INVENTED LAMINGTONS? ("Those bloody poofy woolly biscuits.")
Who really invented the Lamington, widely regarded as one of Australia's culinary gifts to the world? For those unfortunates who have yet to taste one, it's a small cube of sponge cake coated all over with soft chocolate and desiccated coconut. It was named after the second Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1895 to 1901. Australia, New Zealand, England and Scotland have all been suggested to have originated the recipe. - To read some amusing anecdotes about these delightful delicacies, click on LAMINGTONS. 0407

U SHOULD GO TO U
World travellers who have already visited Å in Norway and Y in France, two places with the world's shortest names, should explore the historic province of U in Tibet to complete the trifecta. They must take care not to offend the locals. Tibet Travel Tours says: "Tibetan people stretch out their tongue to say hello to you. Also it is a courtesy to put their hands palm in front of breast. If you are asked to sit down, please cross your legs - do not stretch your legs forward and face your sole to others." To learn more about this little-known Tibetan province, click on U. 0407

GOOD REASON OR PRIVACY TREASON?
The U.S. magazine Reason achieved a startling technological advance last month, when it distributed its June issue with a different cover, custom-designed for each of its 40,000 subscribers. Inside, the magazine gave a frightening glimpse of the extent to which the internet's prying eyes can reveal many details of what we used to think were our private lives. - To read this story, click on REASON. 0407

SEATTLE'S NEW LIBRARY v. SYDNEY'S OPERA HOUSE
Rival claims by Sydney (Australia) and Seattle (US) to be called The Emerald City have intensified with the opening of the superb new Seattle Central Library, "a spectacular, if a little odd, soaring glass-and-steel structure" fit to be compared with Sydney's famous Opera House ("eighth wonder of the world.") For details and photos, please click on EMERALD CITIES. 0406

FABERGÉ EGGS: NOT CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN
Back in Russia after many years' exile in the United States, Peter Carl Fabergé's fabulous "Coronation Egg," presented by Tsar Nicholas II to his wife at Easter 1897, has just gone on public display at the Kremlin. The bejewelled egg, possibly the world's most expensive piece of decorative art, found a new owner early this year, when Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg bought it from the wealthy Forbes family. For further details, click on FABERGÉ. 0406

TOWN ADOPTED PUBLISHER'S NAME
The Colorado town of Greeley is named after a famous American newspaperman, Horace Greeley (1811-1872), who founded the New York Tribune newspaper in 1841. Later, he stood unsuccessfully for the United States presidency. To read this story, by TV Hagenah (that's his real name), editor of the twice-weekly Quay County Sun, in Tucumcari (population 7000), New Mexico, click on GREELEY. 0406

PIPERS' PRICKLY PROBLEM
"Picking gorse flowers leaves loads of sharp prickles embedded in the points of your fingers, which is not so good for pipe playing in the days immediately afterwards," Dave Miller, Pipe Major of Kirkwall City Pipe Band, told us in an email from the Orkney Islands. He had just read a story in last month's edition of this e-book, in which we described how members of the pipe band pick masses of gorse flowers for Britain's most northern winery. Read more about the pipe band and the Orkney Islands, by clicking on ORKNEYS. 0406

PRIZE-WINNING ANAGRAMS
Chris Doyle, of Forsyth, Missouri, has won first prize in a U.S. newspaper contest with this hilarious anagram: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Re-arranging all the letters of that quotation, Chris changed the text to read: We, Karl Rove and G.W. Bush, do solemnly swear that we'll faithfully disinfect this here tainted office of President and, to the best of our ability, update the effete Constitution to help us to get elected next time. Yes, sir. To read that and many other clever anagrams, click on Washington Post. 0406

TRULY NIMBLE NONAGENARIAN
This month, Life Begins at 80 salutes 90-year-old Max Springer, a retired professor of plant and soil science from the University of Tennessee, who earlier this year set world records for men aged 90-94 in the 3,000 metres, 800, long jump and triple jump at the USA Masters Indoor Track and Field Championships in Boston. We read about him in the Pakistan Daily Times, then found more details on an ABC-7 webpage ABC-7 News. 0406

NASHVILLE'S LADY BOUNTIFUL
Married to a multi-millionaire, former reporter and TV anchor Ruth Ann Leach Harnisch, of Nashville, Tennessee, doesn't believe in doing good by stealth. And she has discovered that it's better to give than to receive. Six years ago, she established the Harnisch Family Foundation, which so far has made donations totalling more than $1,500,000 to hundreds of recipients. "I'm a thrillionaire", she says. Read more about the Foundation's generosity by clicking on LADY BOUNTIFUL. 0405

SEAHORSES TOO POPULAR FOR THEIR OWN GOOD
Those quaint creatures, seahorses, thrive in temperate and tropical waters around the world, are popular exhibits in aquariums in many countries, dried and used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, and eaten as a seafood delicacy in Asia. No wonder most species are ranked as "vulnerable," meaning that they soon may become endangered. To read more about them, click on SEAHORSES. 0405

EMU EGG CARVERS GO HI-TECH
Like the old grey mare, the ancient Australian aboriginal art of carving pictures on emu eggs ain't what it used to be. Today, emus are farmed (and also eaten) in many other countries, and clever artists use modern technology to decorate the eggs. Read about this development, and see pictures of amazing works of ovoid art, by clicking on EMU EGGS. 0405

GORSE: SLASH, BURN, GRUB, POISON OR DRINK IT.
Two small communities on opposite sides of the globe have hit on a novel way to dispose of one of the world's worst weeds, the prickly shrub called gorse - they turn its fragrant yellow flowers into wine. Gorse, originally found only in the United Kingdom and Mediterranean regions, now covers vast areas in southern Australia and New Zealand, the United States (Northern California and Oregon), Canada (British Columbia), Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Chile. For story and photos, click on GORSE. 0405

JOURNALIST, 96, PULLS NO PUNCHES
Life Begins at 80 today salutes San Francisco's Thomas C. Fleming, "dean of the country's black journalists," who, at 96, still writes editorials and a weekly column for the Sun-Reporter, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary on May 7. Carl Nolte wrote this about him in the San Francisco Chronicle: "He has strong opinions and doesn't hesitate to share them. 'That man in the White House is a complete idiot,' he said. 'That Condoleezza Rice is the personification of evil. ... The governor we have now ... electing him was the dumbest thing I've ever seen.'" Read about this veteran journalist by clicking on THOMAS C FLEMING. 0405

DVORAK CHALLENGES QWERTY
Seventy years ago, Dr. August Dvorak, an educational psychologist and professor of education at the University of Washington in Seattle, and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey, designed a simplified keyboard to replace the familiar QWERTY layout. Although the Dvorak system was widely hailed as a way to type faster and more easily, it never really caught on. Even when typewriters gave way to electronic keyboards, typists and manufacturers remained faithful to QWERTY. For further details, click on DVORAK. 0405

HUMOUR FUELLED BY FEARS
On the eve of Anzac Day (April 25), Australia's annual celebration of its participation in past wars, the Central Coast Herald published a story by Greg Ray about a returned soldier who, at 85, is still a compulsive writer. To read that article see Page 21, Humour Fuelled by Fears, continued on Page 22, Humour the Best Weapon. 0405

All above articles copyright © 2004.  Eric Shackle

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