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Saturday, 31 December 2011



In Bible times, new born babies were bound up tightly in strips of cloth as this was meant to keep the baby strong. If the limbs were tightly bound Jewish mothers believed that their babies would grow straight. These strips of cloth were four or five inches wide and 15 to 18 feet long. Hence Mary wrapped Jesus in cloths before placing him in a manger. (Luke 2 v 7)

The word ‘infant’ comes from the Latin ‘infans’ which means ‘unable to speak’

The ancients Spartans bathed their newborn baby boys in wine to test their strength.

Soranus (1st/2nd century) was a Greek Physician from Ephesus who practised medicine in Alexandria and Rome. He was recognised as the foremost expert on childbirth and child care in his day and taught that breast-feeding should not begin until the third day; a baby, he said, should first be fed on diluted and boiled honey.

In medieval China, it was not unusual for a mother to breast-feed a child until the child was seven years old.

Virginia Dare, born on  August 18, 1587 on Roanoke Island, was the first child born of English parents in the New World. She was born to English parents Ananias Dare and Eleanor Whit and named after the Virginia Colony. Her grandfather was Governor John White of the Colony of Roanoke. 

Baptism of Virginia Dare

The first baby born on the Mayflower during its voyage to the New World was named Oceanus Hopkins. The second child born after the ship set anchor was christened Peregrine White.

James Madison Randolph, grandson of President Thomas Jefferson, was the first child born in the White House.

In 1946 the paediatrician Dr Benjamin Spock writes a best-selling book The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care whose message to mothers is that "you know more than you think you do." It has been translated into 39 languages and has sold over 50 million copies, more copies than any other work of non-fiction apart from the Bible. It is the 7th best selling book of all time.

At least one piece of advice from Baby and Child Care was discredited decades after it was first published. Spock recommended putting babies to sleep on their stomachs in order to reduce the risk of infants choking on their own vomit; by the 1990s, that practice was linked to sudden infant death syndrome.

One in 2,000 babies is born with teeth: Julius Caesar, Richard III, Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis XIV all shared that distinction.


All babies are color blind when they are born.

A newborn baby has around 300 bones. Many of these fuse together to leave an adult’s 206

Human babies are 75% water at birth, a slightly higher water content than bananas and slightly less than fresh potatoes.

Newborns urinate approximately every 20 minutes.

Babies' eyes do not produce tears until the baby is approximately six to eight weeks old.

Babies can hear dog whistles.

Babies whose moms speak a tonal language—like Mandarin or Thai—have higher melodic variation in their cries than other babies.

Up to the age of about six months babies can breathe and swallow at same time.

A one-year-old baby is 30 per cent fat.

An average girl reaches half her adult height at 18 months. For a boy it is 24 months.

In a baby’s first year, parents lose around 350 hours of sleep at night.

Every second, somewhere in the world, 4.45 babies are born and 1.8 people die.

Sources Wikipedia, The Bible Made Simple, Daily Express


The Ancient Egyptians trained baboons to wait at tables.

A chacma baboon named Jack attained a measure of fame in the late 19th century for acting as an assistant to a disabled railroad signalman in South Africa. Jack was paid twenty cents a day, and a half-bottle of beer each week. In his nine years of employment with the railroad, Jack never made a mistake.

A Baboon called "Jackie" became a private in the South African army in World War I.

A baboon gang roamed around Cape Town, led by Fred the baboon (died 25 March 2011) and were pursued for three years by police after they became notorious for raiding cars, assaulting and interfering with tourists.

Fred eating in a car. Wikipedia 

During the 2014 Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa, a large baboon ran on to the green as former World Number One Golfer Luke Donald was setting up a shot — sending him scurrying for cover.

Males, with head and body up to 1.1 m/3.5 ft long, are larger than females.

They inhabit Africa and southwestern Arabia.

The most wide-ranging of all baboons, the olive baboon inhabits savannas, steppes, and forests in 25 countries throughout Africa.

Olive baboon with juvenile. By Charlesjsharp - Own work,

Baboons cannot throw overhand.

A troop of pet-keeping Hamadryas baboons living in a garbage dump outside of Ta'if, Saudi Arabia are known to kidnap puppies of wild dogs. They then raise them as guard dogs to protect the Baboon clan.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2011. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Diet of the Aztecs

Maize was the staple food of the poor Aztecs so much so it was inter-linked with their religion in which they worshiped Cinteotl, a maize god and Chicomecoatl, a maize goddess. They made popcorn by roasting dried maize kernels of a particular variety, which they not only ate but also used for ornaments on statues of their gods.

Tortilla pancakes made with maize were eaten with every meal. The kernels were boiled to remove the husks, crushed to form a paste then cooked on a pottery plate over an open fire. Then they were filled with beans or spicy turkey or dog meat and eaten with a hot sauce made from chilli peppers and tomatoes.Chilli was available in many guises.

Aztec men sharing a meal as depicted in the Florentine Codex.

Also included in their diet were avocados, onions, peanuts, papaya, pineapple, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. They used avocados, onions and chopped tomatoes to make a sauce called “ahuaca-mulli”, a sort of guacamole.

Source Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce


According to legend, Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire, was founded on March 18, 1325.

The Aztec Indians of Mexico believed that their ancestors returned as butterflies.

The wild tomato originated in the Andes mountains of Peru, but the Aztecs subsequently cultivated them. The word tomato comes from the Aztec “tomatl”.

The Aztecs loved turkey. They domesticated it about 1500 years ago and are said to have staged turkey festivals.

Apart from turkey, the only other animals Aztecs bred were dogs and on a much smaller scale, bees.

The Aztecs had never seen a horse before the Spanish conquistadors arrived and rode on deer.

Wealthy Aztecs liked to drink a beverage of cocoa beans and water. It stained their teeth red, which gave the invading Europeans the idea that the Aztecs’ favourite tipple was human blood.

They called the drink "xocalatl" meaning warm or bitter liquid, the chilli they added to the concoction gave the drink its bitter taste.

The Aztecs used many different flavorings, apart from chilli these included annatto (which turns the mouth a shade of red), pepper and honey. In adding honey they developed a sweetened chocolate.

The custom was to serve chocolate after a feast, in a special cup called “xicalli” made out of a fruit from a calabash tree.

Chocolate was also considered beneficial to warriors and cacao wafers, intended to be dissolved as needed, are issued to soldiers, in order to fortify them during marches and in battle.

The cocoa plant was considered to be so precious that the Aztecs sometimes used it as money.

Water was the usual drink for the commoners but older Aztecs drunk a powerful alcoholic drink called “pulque”, made from the sap of the he cactus like agave plant. However the beverage would only keep for a day or so.

It is estimated that the Aztec civilization each year sacrificed to their gods one percent of the population, or about a quarter of a million people.

The Aztecs regarded vanilla beans as sacred and of divine making. Vanilla beans were so valued that they were one of the ways in which common people paid tribute to the Aztec emperors. According to their legend, their origin goes back to the early days of the world when the gods still walked the earth. One god, Xanat was in love with a human youth and she transformed herself to look like a vanilla vine so she could remain on earth with him and his people.

The Aztecs believed turquoise would protect them from physical harm, and so warriors used these green and blue stones to decorate their battle shields.

Among Aztec warriors a ridge of hair indicated that he had taken many prisoners.

The Aztecs shaved with razors made from the volcanic glass obsidian.

The Aztec Empire was one of the first societies to have mandatory education for all children regardless of gender or rank.

In 1521 after four months of siege Cortés captured The flower-covered Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan which was five times larger than London at the time. Cortés replaced it with Mexico City.

Source Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


The name of Azerbaijan derives from that of Atropates who ruled ruled over the region of Atropane (present-day Iranian Azerbajan) around the time of Alexander the Great. The name "Atropates" itself is the Greek transliteration of an Old-Iranian compounded name with the meaning "Protected by the (Holy) Fire" or "The Land of the (Holy) Fire".

Azerbaijan shares a common language and culture with Turkey.

Before its conquest by tsarist Russia in the early 19th century, it was a province of Persia.

Azerbaijan became an independent republic in 1918: the first democratic, parliamentary republic in the Islamic world. But the country was invaded and this republic overthrown in 1920 by communist Russia's Red Army, which established a Soviet socialist republic.

The Azerbaijan flag was first used from November 9, 1918 to 1920, when Azerbaijan was independent, and it was revived with slight variations on February 5, 1991. The blue symbolizes Azerbaijan's Turkic heritage, the red stands for progress, and the green represents Islam.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) was created as an autonomous oblast by carving out the mountainous districts of Azerbaijan which constituted historic Karabakh within Azerbaijan SSR from July 7, 1923

The first Azerbaijani parliamentary election was held in late 1990 when the Supreme Soviet already held discussions on independence of Azerbaijan from the Soviet Union. On  November 26, 1991, the National Assembly of Azerbaijan abolished the autonomous status of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of Azerbaijan and renamed several cities back to their original names.

As of July 2011, Azerbaijan had a total population of 9,165,000 people. An estimated 3 million Azerbaijanis, many of them guest workers, live in Russia and Azerbaijan has the highest per capita internally displaced population population in the world.

Out of 11 climate zones known in the world, the Azerbaijani climate has nine.

An Azeri pop duo, Eldar & Nigar, won the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Running Scared.

Eric Clapton’s classic rock song "Layla" was inspired by the Azeri epic poem Layla and Majnun about a man in love with a woman who cannot have her because her parents object.

Azerbaijan was among the first countries involved in cinematography. The country's film industry dates back to 1898.

Saffron-rice plov is the flagship food in Azerbaijan and black tea. is the national beverage.

Afghanistan and Azerbaijan are only nations whose names begin with an “A”, but doesn’t end in an “A”

Sources © RM 2011. Helicon Publishing is division of RM., Wikipedia

Gladys Aylward

Gladys Aylward was born of a working-class family in Edmonton, London in 1902. Although forced into domestic service at an early age, she always had an ambition to go overseas as a missionary, and studied with great determination in order to be fitted for the role, only to be turned down by the China Inland Mission because her academic background was inadequate.

She spent her entire savings on a railway ticket to Tientsin in north China in order to fufil her dream. With a Scottish missionary, Mrs Jeannie Lawson, the pair founded The Inn Of The Eight Happinesses, in a remote outpost at Yangcheng.

Gladys Aylward achieved much in China having become a foot inspector in the official campaign against the binding of female feet. She became a revered figure, taking in orphans and adopting several herself, intervening in a volatile prison riot and advocating for prison reform, risking her life many times to help those in need.

In 1942 Gladys Aylward led 94 orphans to safety over the Chinese mountains after the Japanese invasion, despite being wounded herself.

Her story was told in the book The Small Woman by Alan Burgess, published in 1957. In 1958, the story was made into the Hollywood film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

Gladys Aylward strongly disapproved of the movie as she was played by a divorcee, Ingrid Bergman.

Gladys Aylward died on January 3, 1970, just short of her 68th birthday, and is buried in a small cemetery on the campus of Christ's College in Guandu, New Taipei, Taiwan. She was known to the Chinese as "Ài Wěi Dé" - a Chinese approximation to 'Aylward' – meaning 'Virtuous One'.  


The California Perfume Company, the forerunner of Avon. was founded in 1886 by David H McConnell, an American, who spent his school vacations selling Bibles. He realized that the small samples of rose oil perfume, which he gave out with God's Word, were received with greater enthusiasm than the Bibles themselves.

McConnell realized that women would rather buy from women, so he set about building up a team of housewives selling to friends and relatives.

The California Perfume Company, Inc. of New York filed their first trademark application for Avon on June 3, 1932 with the USPTO. The change of the name of the business to Avon came after McConnell was impressed by a visit to Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon in England.

The UK branch was launched in the 1950s and became famous for its 'Ding-dong, Avon calling' advertising campaign.

In 1989, Avon became the first major cosmetics manufacturer to permanently stop using animals in safety testing.

Avon started off selling cosmetics but now also offers fragrance, jewellery, clothes and home accessories.

Avon has 5 million to 6 million sales representatives operating in over 100 countries as of 2014.
An Avon training center in the Bronx

Someone buys an Avon lipstick every three seconds.

Source Daily Mail


The avocado, is believed to have originated in the state of Puebla, Mexico.

The word “avocado” comes from the Spanish word aguacate, which is from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl.

Avocados once depended on megafaunas to disperse its seeds. However, when the megafaunas became extinct, the fruit had no method of seed dispersal. This would have lead to their extinction without early human farmers.

European sailors on their way to the New World used avocados in place of butter.

The first written record in English of the use of the word 'avocado' was by Hans Sloane in a 1696 index of Jamaican plants.

The plant was introduced to Indonesia in 1750, Brazil in 1809, South Africa and Australia in the late 1800s, and the the eastern Mediterranean in 1908.

The Hass Avocado Board says 71.4 million pounds of avocados -- that's 142 million avocados -- were consumed during the 2012 Super Bowl.

Hass avocado

Mexico produces most of the world's avocados. The states that produce the most are México, Morelos, Nayarit, Puebla, and Michoacan, which accounts for 86% of the total.

The avocado industry in Mexico grew so big that the Mexican cartel for years took over farms through extortion. At its peak, it was estimated that the Mexico drug cartels made $152 million per year from growing and selling avocados. But the city of Tancítaro, the world capital of avocado production, took back their farms back by arming their citizens, building their own police, and bulletproofing their trucks.

The main US producer of the avocado is California, with more than 6,000 groves accounting for about 90% of the fruit's crops.

Eighty per cent per cent of all avocados in shops are descended from one tree grown by a postman and amateur horticulturist Rudolph Hass in 1926. The tree eventually died of root rot and was cut down on September 11, 2002 at the ripe old age of 76.

A young Hass avocado sprout By Ingvar-fed - wikipedia Commons

The world's first avocado restaurant, where every dish contains avocado, opened at 254 36th Street, Brooklyn, New York. in April 2017.  It ran out of avocados on its first day.

In December 2017, the world’s biggest avocado weighing 2.37kg was found in Hawaii. To put its size into perspective, the average avocado weighs about 170 g (6 oz), meaning that the record-breaking fruit is 14 times heavier.

Americans eat almost 80 million pounds of avocados during the Super Bowl, enough to cover the field 30 feet deep.

The avocado is a climacteric fruit, which matures on the tree, but ripens off the tree. As long as the climate is agreeable, farmers can leave the avocados on the tree for months at a time, using the trees themselves as a sort of storage facility to keep the crop rotating and perpetually in season.

Avocado trees do not self-pollinate; they need another avocado tree close by to bear fruit.

An avocado serving size is 50 calories, which works out to be three thin slices or two tablespoons mashed.

About three-quarters of the edible calories in an avocado are pure fat.

Avocados contain an agent that can help treat acute myeloid leukemia, a rare and deadly form of cancer.

Avocado leaves, bark, and fruit contain Persin, which is toxic to cats, dogs, rabbits, horses and basically all pets. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning,

The avocado stands so far above other fruits in terms of fat-per-fruit that it really should stand in a class all its own.

The avocado is also called an Alligator Pear because of its pear-like shape and it's bumpy green skin.

About 75% of an avocado's energy comes from fat, most of which is mostly heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. The avocado contains more fat-per-unit than any other fruit. The closest competitor to the avocado is the olive.

Chipotle uses about 97,000 pounds of avocado every day.

UK retailer Marks & Spencer began lasering bar-codes into its avocados in 2017 to save ten tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue a year.

The French word "avocat" means both "lawyer" and "avocado."


Ave Maria

The original words of Ave Maria (Hail Mary) were in English, being part of a poem called The Lady of the Lake, written in 1810 by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). The poem drew on the romance of the legend regarding the 5th century British leader King Arthur, but transferred it to Scott's native Scotland. In 1825 during a holiday in Upper Austria, the composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) set to music a prayer from the poem using a German translation by Adam Storck. Scored for piano and voice, it was first published in 1826 as "D839 Op 52 no 6." Schubert called his piece "Ellens dritter Gesang" (Ellen's third song) and it was written as a prayer to the Virgin Mary from a frightened girl, Ellen Douglas, who had been forced into hiding.

The song cycle proved to be one of Schubert's most financially successful works, the Austrian composer being paid by his publisher 20 pounds sterling, a sizable sum for a musical work in the 1820s. Though not written for liturgical services, the music proved to be inspirational to listeners, particularly Roman Catholics, and a Latin text was substituted to make it suitable for use in church. It is today most widely known in its Latin "Ave Maria" form.

In a letter from Schubert to his father and step-mother he writes about "Ave Maria" and the other songs in his "Lady of the Lake" cycle: "My new songs from Scott's Lady of the Lake especially had much success. They also wondered greatly at my piety, which I expressed in a hymn to the Holy Virgin and which, it appears, grips every soul and turns it to devotion."

This piece is not to be confused with the traditional Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox prayer "Hail Mary" or "Ave Maria" even though it is often sung to the melody of this piece.

In the UK two versions of "Ave Maria" have reached the Top 40, Shirley Bassey peaking at #31 in 1962 and Lesley Garrett and Amanda Thompson reached #16 in 1993.
(Originally written by myself for the Songfacts website)


An avalanche is a fall of a mass of snow and ice down a deep slope. Avalanches occur because of the unstable nature of snow masses in mountain areas.

The Saint Bernard dog is often depicted wearing a small brandy keg around its neck for reviving avalanche and frostbite victims. The quaint symbol is merely a myth perpetuated by the 19th century artist Edwin Landseer in his famous portrait of the breed reviving a traveler.

England's worst ever avalanche occurred at Lewes, Sussex on December 27, 1836, when a huge build-up of snow on a chalk cliff overlooking the town collapsed into the settlement 325 feet (100 metres) below. It destroyed a row of cottages killing eight people.

The worst avalanche in United States history happened on March 1, 1910. It buried a Great Northern Railway train in northeastern King County, Washington, killing 96 people.

Train wreckage caused by the avalanche

A sudden blizzard in the Hindukush mountains of Afghanistan on February 8, 2010 triggered a series of at least 36 avalanches, that struck the southern approach to the Salang tunnel, north of Kabul. Over two miles of road was buried, killing at least 172 people and trapping over 2,000 travelers.

An avalanche can pack 36,000 pounds of force as 1 million or more cubic feet of snow slides down a mountain at 90 mph.

70 percent of fatal avalanches take place within four days of another avalanche.

The chance of surviving an avalanche is :
92% if found within 15 minutes
30% if found within 35 minutes (victims die of suffocation)
Nearly zero after two hours (victims die of injuries and hypothermia).

Gene Autry

When Western singer Gene Autry went to Hollywood in 1934, he couldn't act, he couldn't ride, he couldn't rope, and he couldn't shoot. But that didn't prevent him from becoming the screen's most popular cowboy star within just a few years.

Autry's best known song, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, was created in 1939, in Chicago, for the Montgomery Ward department stores for a Christmas promotion. The lyrics were written as a poem by Robert May, but weren't set to music until 1947. Gene Autry recorded the hit song in 1949.

Autry is the only entertainer to have been honored in all five categories by the Hollywood Walk of Fame, having been awarded stars for his performances in Radio, Recording, Motion Pictures, Television, and Live Theatre/performance.
He owned a chain of radio and television stations throughout the Western United States, including KMPC and KTLA in Los Angeles and KSFO in San Francisco. His other business interests included the Gene Autry Hotel in Palm Springs, and several other properties.

He ranked for many years on the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans,

Gene Autry owned the Los Angeles Angels American League baseball club from 1961 to 1997. (They subsequently were renamed the California Angels when the team was relocated to Anaheim in 1966.) When he sold part of his interest to Disney in 1997, they became the Anaheim Angels.

Sadly, Autry never got to see his beloved Angels win the World Series. The team even retired Gene's number "26".

Autry was Vice President of The American League until his death in 1998.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


The German composer Johannes Brahms was a personal friend of Johann Strauss. An anecdote dating around the time is that Strauss's stepdaughter, Alice von Meyszner-Strauss approached Brahms with a customary request that he autograph her fan. Brahms cheekily inscribed a few measures from the "Blue Danube," and then wrote beneath it: "Unfortunately, NOT by Johannes Brahms."

A disgruntled collector of autographs wrote to Rudyard Kipling complaining " I have written to you five times for your autograph without success. I hear you get five dollars a word for every word you write. Here is five dollars, send me one word." The world famous author pocketed the fiver and returned the correspondent’s letter with one word written on the bottom: "Thanks".

Albert Einstein used to charge $1 for signing an autograph. He would later donate the money to a charity.

As a child Muhammad Ali was refused an autograph by his boxing idol, Sugar Ray Robinson. When Ali became a prizefighter, he vowed never to deny an autograph request, which he honored throughout his career.

In the years following the Kennedy assassination, when she found herself in need of money, Lee Harvey Oswald's mother Marguerite would go to Dealey Plaza and sell her autograph for five dollars to tourists.

The Apollo 11 astronauts didn't have life insurance, so they signed hundreds of autographs and sent them to family to sell if they died.

The astronaut Neil Armstrong refused all requests for autographs since 1994, after he found that his signed items were selling for large amounts of money and that many forgeries were in circulation.

In 1984, a U.S. library accused Michael Jackson of owing it over $1 million in overdue book fines. Officials said they would scrap the fines if he returned the books autographed.

While leaving Italy during his 1987 Glass Spider Tour tour, there was a bomb scare on David Bowie's plane, forcing the singer and his party to return to the airport. They later discovered the threat had been a ruse by the Chief of Police, who wanted Bowie's autograph.

In 1948, the teenage Elvis Presley checked out a biography of Andrew Jackson from the Humes High School Library. In 2013 the card bearing his earliest known autograph sold at auction for $7,500.

George W. Bush collects autographed baseballs and owns over 250.

Sourec The Faber Book of Anecdotes


In antiquity books written by people documentating their lives were typically entitled 'apologia' purporting to be self-justification rather than self-documentation.

The first autobiographical work in Islamic society was written in the late 11th century, by Abdallah ibn Buluggin, last Zirid king of Granada.

The Boke of Margery Kempe (c. 1432–36) is the oldest known autobiography in English. It described among other things her pilgrimage to the Holy Land and visit to Rome. The book remained in manuscript and was not published until 1936.

The term autobiography was first used in 1809 by Robert Southey.

Source Wikipedia


Autobahn is the German word for a major high-speed road usually linking one or more cities and towns, similar to motorway or freeway in English-speaking countries.

The German Weimar Republic built the first autobahns in the 1920s on a limited scale.

Shortly after the 1933 Nazi takeover, Hitler enthusiastically embraced an ambitious autobahn construction project and soon over 100,000 laborers were working at construction sites all over Germany. These autobahns formed the first high-speed road network in the world.

Kraftwerk's song "Autobahn" was a 1974 hit single. The album version is 22 minutes long and it was intended to reproduce a journey on the motorway. Band member Ralf Hutter recorded the passing cars in the background by dangling a microphone out of his old grey Volkswagen window as it traveled down an autobahn. However, these recordings were not suitable for the song, so they recreated the car sounds using synthesizers.

Many autobahns in Germany have no speed limit, though there is a speed recommendation of 130 km (80.8 mi) per hour. Drivers going faster than 130km/h can be made responsible for an accident that they are involved in.

A national speed limit was imposed on the Autobahn in Germany because of the 1973 oil crisis on November 24, 1973. The speed limit lasted only four months.

Driving on a German autobahn is free for cars. Trucks do have to pay a toll of about a twelve cents (-,12€) per kilometer.


The world’s first known author and poet, Princess Enheduanna (2285-2250 BC), was the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad in the Sumerian city-state of Ur. The Sumerian writer used both the third- and first-person perspectives—a literary breakthrough not reproduced for almost 2,000 years.

Shakespeare is the only author with his own Dewey decimal number; it’s 822.33.

In 1795, Napoleon wrote a romantic novel, Clisson et Eugenie. It was unpublished until 1920.

Edgar Wallace, the writer of the original screenplay for King Kong, was thought to be responsible for a quarter of all new books read in Britain in the late 1920s.

J.D. Salinger starting writing The Catcher in the Rye after a stint in a mental hospital.

Georges Simenon, French Inspector Jules Maigret’s Belgian pipesmoking creator, wrote almost 500 novels and claimed to have slept with 10,000 women — though his second wife put the figure at a more modest 1,200.

English writer Anne Fine was born on December 7, 1947. She is best known for her 1987 satirical novel Madame Doubtfire, which Twentieth Century Fox filmed as Mrs. Doubtfire, starring Robin Williams.  Fine started writing novels in 1971 when, at home with her first baby, a snowstorm stopped her going to the local library.

Anne Fine

Thriller writer James Patterson was the world's highest-paid author between May 2010- April 2011 after earning $84m (£50.9m) in the past year, according to Forbes magazine. Prolific Patterson - who often works with co-writers - released 10 books in the past year as part of a 17-book deal with publisher Hachette reportedly worth $150m (£90.7m).

Isaac Asimov is the only author to have a book in every Dewey-decimal category.

Romantic novelist Barbara Cartland earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for writing 26 books in one year in 1983. Barbara Cartland is credited with the greatest number of books by any British author (some 642 in all).

Romantic novelist Catherine Cookson (1906-1998) sold an average of 138 books for every hour of her 91 years — that’s more than 110 million — making her, for many years, the ‘most-borrowed’ writer across UK libraries.  She began writing in her 40s to help deal with depression following a series of miscarriages.

Michael Crichton, the screenwriter of Jurassic Park, had a novel (Disclosure) and a television show (ER) reach U.S. number one at the same time the film did in 1994. He is the only person to achieve these hits simultaneously.

Ida Pollock was the world’s oldest working novelist, writing 123 books over her 90 year career before her death at the age of 105 on December 3, 2013.  In the 1940s, she had an affair with Hugh Pollock, the husband of Enid Blyton, whom she went on to marry.

Jim Downing became the world’s oldest author at the age of 102 years and 176 days when his book of first hand remembrances of Pearl Harbor, The Other Side of Infamy, was published.

Former lawyer John Grisham was named the bestselling author of the 1990's by Publisher's Weekly, having sold 60,742.289 copies of his books.

The author of the Nancy Drew mystery stories and The Dana Girls mystery stories, Carolyn Keene,  is not a single person but a collection of ghostwriters paid $125 per book.

Søren Kierkegaard, Lewis Carroll, and Virginia Woolf all wrote standing up.


The German name for Austria, Österreich,  means "Eastern borderlands" and was first recorded in 996AD. The word "Austria" is a Latinisation of the German name and was first recorded in the 12th century.

Saint Leopold III (1073 – November 15, 1136), known as Leopold the Good, was the Margrave of Austria from 1095 to his death in 1136. (Margrave was the title given in the Middle Ages to a military commander responsible for the defense of a province of the Holy Roman Empire.) He is mainly remembered for the development of the country and, in particular, the founding of several monasteries. Leopold III was canonized in 1485 and became a patron saint of Austria.

Saint Leopold III with two deceased sons, Klosterneuburg Monastery, 1489–1492

The Austrian flag of three equal horizontal stripes in red, white and red dates back to 1191.

The Siege of Vienna in 1529 was the first attempt by the Ottoman Empire, led by Suleiman the Magnificent, to capture the Austrian city.

The Turkish Siege of Vienna. In the Vienna Museum

The Siege of Vienna ended on October 15, 1629 as the Austrians repelled the invading Turks, turning the tide against almost a century of unchecked conquest throughout eastern and central Europe by the Ottoman Empire.

150 years of bitter military tension and reciprocal attacks ensued, culminating in the Battle of Vienna of 1683, which marked the start of the 15-year-long Great Turkish War.

In the winter of 1731-32, 21,000 Protestants were expelled from the ecclesiastical Salzburg province in Austria and many others fled due to the severe persecution they were forced to endure. Some died on the journey during the cold snowy winter trekking northwards over the Alps but others reached as far as East Prussia in their search for a place to settle. Certain areas of the province were left almost deserted and only Catholics were allowed to take over the abandoned farms.

Austria became the first country to abolish capital punishment in 1787.

Austria was the first country to use postcards. The first one was issued in 1869.

German troops marched into Austria on March 12, 1938 to annex the German-speaking nation for the Third Reich.


The Austrian for Austria is Österreich which means “Eastern realm”.

Austria's terrain is highly mountainous due to the presence of the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft).

Source Daily Express

Australian Aborigines

The Australian Aborgines originate from any of the 500 groups of indigenous inhabitants who migrated to this region from South Asia about 40,000 years ago.

There were about 300,000 Aborigines living on the continent in small kin-based groups at the time of the first European settlement in 1788. Decimated by diseases new to them and killed by settlers, their number dwindled drastically.

Aboriginal dancers in 1981

When the Europeans arrived in Australia, Australian Aborigines were cooking bat and lizard meat. Kangaroo-tail soup was considered a delicacy.

The phrase “three dog night”is attributed to Australian Aborigines. It came about because on especially cold nights these nomadic people needed three dogs (dingoes) to keep from freezing.

The Victorian Aboriginal Protection Act was enacted in Australia on November 11, 1869. It gave the government control of indigenous people's wages, their terms of employment, where they could live, and of their children, effectively leading to the Stolen Generations.

Indigenous Australians weren't considered Australian citizens until 1967. Until this point they were listed as “fauna.. On May 27, 1967 the Australians voted overwhelmingly to include Indigenous Australians in the national census and for the government to make laws for their benefit.

The Australian Aboriginal flag, one of the official flags of Australia, was flown for the first time in on July 12, 1971.

On October 26, 1985, the Australian government gave their indigenous peoples a large present. They returned ownership of Ayers Rock (now known by its ancestral name, Uluru) to the local Pitjantjatjara Aborigines. Uluru been described as a ‘land iceberg’, as most of its bulk lies underground.

The unemployment rate among Aborigines in 1995 was three times the national average, and their average income reached about half. They had an infant mortality rate three times the national average, a suicide rate six times higher, and an adult life expectancy 20 years below the average for Australians generally.

The ancient myths of Australian Aborigines portray the formation of geographical features in Australia, dating to 10,000 BC, with striking accuracy. The myths corroborate modern geological evidence, indicating they originated as firsthand accounts, preserved for millennia.

Genetic study points to Indigenous Australians as the oldest continuous society on Earth.

Source © RM 2011. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.



The Romans called it ‘Terra Australis Incognita’ – ‘unknown land of the South’ – long before Australia's existence was confirmed.

The Dutch sailing ship Eendracht reached Shark Bay on the western coastline of Australia on October 25, 1616, as documented on the Hartog Plate etched by explorer Dirk Hartog. The first plate is the oldest-known artifact of European exploration in Australia still in existence.

Copy of Dirk Hartog's plate in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Captain James Cook, still holding the rank of lieutenant, first sighted the south-eastern coast of what is now Australia on April 19, 1770. He spent the next few months sailing along and mapping the east coast, which he formally claimed for Great Britain on August 21, 1770, naming it New South Wales.

Isaac Smith was the first European to set foot on eastern Australian soil. Cook told him "Jump out, Isaac" as the ship's boat touched the shore at Botany Bay, which is 8 miles (13 km) south of the modern Sydney central business district.

The first eleven ships carrying 736 convicts from England to Australia under the command of  Governor Arthur Phillip anchored at Botany Bay between January 18 and 20, 1788. The land was quickly ruled unsuitable for settlement as there was insufficient fresh water. Phillip also believed the swampy foreshores would render any colony unhealthy so he decided to sail north.

Botany Bay, 1788 watercolour by Charles Gore

On January 26, 1788 the British First Fleet, led by Governor Arthur Phillip in HM Armed Tender Supply, sailed into Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to establish Sydney, the first permanent European settlement on the Australian continent. The event is commemorated as Australia Day.

Sydney Cove, Port Jackson from a drawing made by Francis Fowkes in 1788.

Captain Matthew Flinders (March 16, 1774 – July 19. 1814) was an English navigator and cartographer, who was the leader of the first circumnavigation of Australia. In 1804 he recommended the new continent be named 'Australia', as an umbrella term for New Holland and New South Wales. (The name is from the Latin ‘australis’, meaning ‘of the south’.) It took 20 years before the UK government agreed that the continent should be known officially as Australia.

Watercolor miniature portrait of Matthew Flinders, c1800. By State Library of NSW

Until they were imported into the country, Australia did not have any members of the cat family, hoofed animals, apes, or monkeys.

In the early days of the colonial Australia most of the cooking was improvised. Pieces of meat, especially kangaroo meat were jammed on sticks and cooked over an open fire.

Between 1788 and 1868, approximately 164,000 convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government. The last shipment of convicts from Britain arrived in Western Australia in 1868. Sixteen years later the United Kingdom ended its policy of penal transportation to Australia.

The State of Queensland, Australia is named after Queen Victoria, who signed the order creating its Statehood in 1859.

Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick's "Advance Australia Fair", a patriotic song that was first performed in 1878, officially replaced "God Save the Queen" as Australia's national anthem in 1984. Until then, the song was sung in Australia as a patriotic song. In order for the song to become the anthem, it had to face a vote between "God Save the Queen," the "unofficial anthem" "Waltzing Matilda" and "Song of Australia."

A dingo fence was built in the 1880s to protect Australian sheep from dingoes. It is 3,488 miles long.

The first civilian ambulance service was set up in 1892 in Brisbane, Australia. After witnessing an accident at the Brisbane Exhibition, Seymour Warrian founded the City Ambulance Transport Brigade.

The country came into being on January 1, 1901 when the British colonies of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia federated forming the Commonwealth of Australia. Edmund Barton (1849-1920) was appointed the first Prime Minister.

The first Parliament of Australia opened in the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne on May 9, 1901. Exactly 26 years later it moved to Canberra's Provisional Parliament House, and exactly 87 years later it moved into the Parliament House in Canberra.

On September 7, 1902, the whole of Australia was called on to pray for rain after a seven-year drought had killed livestock and dried up crops. Rain began to fall three days later.

The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities.

The name 'Aussie' was first used by Australian soldiers in the First World War. Their own colloquial name for themselves was 'Digger.'

Sir Isaac Alfred Isaacs (below) (1855 – 1948) was an Australian judge and politician who was sworn in on January 21, 1931 as the first Australian-born Governor-General of Australia. He was also the first Governor-General to live permanently at Government House, Canberra.

The largest attacks mounted by a foreign power against Australia took place on February 19, 1942. More than 240 bombers and fighters of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the northern Australian city of Darwin, killing 243 people and causing immense damage to the town, the airfields and aircraft.  It was the same fleet that had bombed Pearl Harbor, though a considerably larger number of bombs were dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor.

Remains of the Darwin Post Office after the first Japanese raid in 1942

In 1984 Scottish-born composer Peter Dodds McCormick's "Advance Australia Fair", a patriotic song that was first performed in 1878, officially replaced "God Save the Queen" as Australia's national anthem.

Green and gold were chosen as the national colors of Australia in 1984..

In 1999 a storm dropped an estimated 500,000 tonnes of hailstones in Sydney and along the east coast of New South Wales, causing about A$2.3 billion in damages, the costliest natural disaster in Australian insurance history. 

The Black Saturday bushfires were a series of bushfires that ignited or were burning across the Australian state of Victoria on and around February 7, 2009. They left 173 dead and 414 injured in the worst natural disaster in Australia's history. 

Fire approaching a residence in Steels Creek at 6:11 pm. By Daniel Cleaveley 


Nearly 91 per cent of Australia, totaling 2.7 million square miles, is covered by native vegetation — even its extensive deserts, which are home to plants such as saltbush.

Australia is the richest source of mineral sands in the world.

Arguably the largest state in the world, Western Australia covers one-third of the Australian continent. It spans over 2.5 million square kilometers (1 million square miles).

Western Australia is four times the size of Texas, with one tenth the population.

Australia is moving 7cm north every year. It is the fastest moving continental landmass in the world.

More than 85% of Australians live within 50km of the coast.

Half of the entire population of Australia lives in three cities Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. There are only 46 cities and towns in Australia with over 30,000 people.

The only continent without an active volcano is Australia.


The prime minister, Tony Abbott, is a Rhodes Scholar who entered a seminary aged 26, before quitting and eventually entering politics.

There are twice as many kangaroos in Australia as there are people. The kangaroo population is estimated at about 40 million.

The kangaroo and the emu are shown supporting the shield on Australia's coat of arms. The two animals were chosen to appear on the Australian coat of arms because they cannot walk backwards, thus exemplifying forward-thinking.

There are ten times more sheep in Australia than people.

Australia has more wild camels than any other country. They even export camels to Saudi Arabia.

Australia’s highest mountain (Mount Kosciuszko) and largest city (Sydney) are both named after men who never visited Australia.

Toilets in Australia flush counter clockwise.

Source Daily Express