Search This Blog

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine Macdonald in St. Louis on June 3, 1906. She was nicknamed "Trumpy" as a child.

Baker dropped out of school at the age of 12 and lived as a street child in the slums of St. Louis; by the age of fifteen she was playing vaudeville.

It was at the Folies Bergere, in 1925, that Josephine Baker first performed her famous banana dance. She quickly became a favorite of the French, and her fame grew.

Josephine Baker dancing the Charleston, 1926

The first black superstar, Baker was the first African American female to star in a major motion picture, and to integrate an American concert hall.

Josephine Baker once had a rejected (and dejected) suitor kill himself at her feet. 


Pablo Picasso said of her: "Tall, coffee skin, ebony eyes, legs of paradise, a smile to end all smiles."

Georges Simenon, the Belgium author and inventor of Inspector "Maigret" had a short relationship with Josephine in 1925. He couldn't stand it however that she was more in the spotlight then him, and called himself "Mr. Josephine".

Baker had 12 children through adoption. She bore only one child herself, stillborn in 1941, an incident which precipitated an emergency hysterectomy.

Baker’s affection for France was so great that when World War II broke out, she volunteered to spy for her adopted country. She assisted the French Resistance during the war, and became the first American-born woman to receive the French military honor, the Croix de guerre.

Baker was noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (she was offered the unofficial leadership of the movement by Coretta Scott King in 1968 following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, but turned it down).


Baker had a veritable menagerie of animals at her Paris home including a snake (which she wore like a necklace) and a cheetah named Chiquita, which accompanied Josephine on walks down the Champs-Elysees, on a lead with a diamond-studded collar.

Among her nicknames were Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", and the "Créole Goddess."


Josephine Baker in Havana, Cuba, 1950


Josephine Baker died in Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, aged 68, on April 12, 1975 after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. She received a full Roman Catholic funeral which was held at L'Église de la Madeleine and was the only American-born woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral, After a family service at Saint-Charles Church in Monte Carlo, Baker was interred at Monaco's Cimetière de Monaco.

Here are two songs about Josephine Baker:

Josephine Baker by Al Stewart

Josephine Baker by Sailor

Source Wikipedia

Monday, 30 January 2012

Baker

A standard way of achieving the necessary mix of barley and yeast to brew beer in ancient Egypt was to allow mashed barley bread to ferment. So brewing became, in those early times, part of the baker's trade.

The Roman emperor Constantine The Great passed laws making the occupations of butcher and baker hereditary.

In 1266 English bakers were ordered to mark each loaf of bread so that if a faulty one turns up, "it will be knowne in whom the faulte lies." These bakers' marks were among the first trademarks.

In medieval times, a heavy penalty was inflicted for short weight and bakers used to give a surplus number of loaves to avoid incurring the fine. The thirteenth loaf was called the vantage loaf (as in the loaf allowed for profit).From this comes the phrase, 'Baker's Dozen.'

The Great Fire of London broke out on September 2, 1666, beginning at the house of Thomas Farynor, the king's baker in Pudding Lane.

Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI of France was nicknamed The Baker's Wife' after her husband distributed bread to the starving Parisians during a bread shortage. On being told that the people had no bread to eat she proclaimed "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" ("let them eat cake.")

During World War II, bakers in the United States were ordered to stop selling sliced bread for the duration of the war. Only whole loaves were made available to the public. It was never explained how this action helped the war effort.

The modern frisbee was invented by students at Yale University in 1947, who played with aluminium pie plates. These came from a Bridgeport baker, Joseph Frisbie, whose Frisbie Pie Company was a regular supplier to the University.

A bakery in Chester, England, created in 2013, what is reportedly the world's most expensive wedding cake, valued at $52.7 million. The eight-tiered confection is decorated with more than 4,000 diamonds.

Until 2015, a French law prohibited bakers in Paris from taking vacations at the same time in order to prevent bread shortages.

In France, by law a bakery has to make all the bread it sells from scratch in order to have the right to be called a bakery.

Baked Beans

The Native Indians in America used to flavour their beans with maple syrup and bear fat, and bake them in earthenware pots placed in a pit and covered with hot rocks. When the Pilgrims arrived, they learnt the slow cooking technique for making baked beans from the Indians. They subsituted molasses and pork fat for the maple syrup and bear fat. 

The earliest reference to baked beans was in 1832 in a book called American Frugal Housewife.

Henry J Heinz started making baked beans in 1895. He advertised them as “oven-baked beans in a pork and tomato sauce”.


The 1967 album The Who Sell Out by The Who featured on its cover a picture of Roger Daltrey sitting in a tub full of baked beans. One of its tracks is “Heinz Baked Beans.

On September 15, 1986, computer technician Barry Kirk, 32, of Port Talbot, Wales, completed the first mega ‘Beanathon’ — sitting in a bath of cold baked beans for 100 hours.


The record for the most baked beans eaten with a cocktail stick in five minutes is 271. The feat was achieved in 2014 by serial record breaker Ashrita Furman, a New Yorker who has set more than 500 world records since 1979.

The world record for eating six pounds of baked beans is 1min 48sec by new Yorker Don Lerman.


There are approximately 465 beans in a standard 415gm can of Heinz beans.

In 2008, Heinz Baked Beans became "Heinz Beanz" because the company thought the original name "a bit of a mouthful"

Baked beans are actually not baked, but stewed.

The average Briton eats four times as many baked beans as the average American but the Irish eat the most of all.

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

John Logie Baird

The son of a Scottish minister, John Logie Baird, was born in Helensburgh, a small coastal town in the west of Scotland on August 13, 1888.

An inventor from a young age as a boy, Baird installed not only a telephone exchange in his father’s manse but also a system of electric lighting, even entangling passing traffic in the wires.

Some of Baird's early inventions were not fully successful. He was forced to resign from his post of a supervising engineer for an electrical supply company in Glasgow when he apparently blacked out half of the city following a failed attempt to manufacture diamonds from coal dust.

Baird also invented an unsuccessful cure for piles which left him in severe pain for a week but made a good deal of money out of his 'Baird patent Undersock', damp-proof socks for cold Scottish feet.

Baird in 1917


Before Baird demonstrated his television, he had set up an unsuccessful jam factory in Trinidad.

Baird made the world's first television transmission above a shop in Hastings on the south coast of England in 1924. He constructed a receiver from an old electric motor, a tea chest, a biscuit tin, an old hat box, piano wire, string, sealing wax, glue, a cycle lamp lens and some darning needles.

On October 2, 1925, Baird successfully transmitted the first television picture with a greyscale image in his laboratory at 22 Frith Street in the Soho district of London. It was the head of two ventriloquist's dummies named "James" and "Stooky Bill" (see below). Baird went downstairs and fetched an office worker, 20-year-old William Edward Taynton, to see what a human face would look like, and Taynton became the first person to be televised in a full tonal range.


Baird gave the first public display of his television  on January 26, 1926 in a lab in Frith Street, Soho, London in front of members from the Royal Institution and a journalist from the Times. Although the pictures were small, measuring just 3.5 by 2 inches, the process was revolutionary.

His first pictures were formed of only 30 lines repeated approximately 10 times a second. The results were crude but it was the start of television as a practical technology.

By 1928 Baird had succeeded in demonstrating color television.

Baird made the first transatlantic television broadcast between Britain and the USA when signals transmitted from the Baird station in Coulson, Kent, were picked up by a receiver in Hartsdale, New York.

In 1936, when BBC started their public television service, Baird's system was threatened by one promoted by Marconi-EMI. The following year it was dropped in favour of the Marconi electronic system, which gave a better definition.


Baird gave the world's first demonstration on August 16, 1944 of a fully electronic color television display. His 600-line color system used triple interlacing, using six scans to build each picture. Baird's Telechrome was not only the first single-tube color television display, it could also display stereoscopic (3D) images.

Baird lived at 1 Station Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex from December 1944. He caught a cold over Christmas 1945, and suffered a stroke in February 1946. Baird was ordered bedridden but refused to stay there, and continued to deteriorate until his death on June 14, 1946. He is buried with his mother, father and wife in Helensburgh Cemetery.

Baird's Station Road house was demolished in 2007 and the site is now apartments named Baird Court.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia  RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.



Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bahrain

Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands, the largest being Bahrain Island in the Persian Gulf, between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Bahrain has a total area of 665 km2 (257 sq mi), which is slightly larger than the Isle of Man, though it is smaller than the nearby King Fahd International Airport near Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

In Arabic, bahrayn is the dual form of bahr ("sea"), so al-Bahrayn means "the Two Seas". However, which two seas were originally intended remains in dispute. It is unclear when the term began to refer exclusively to the Awal islands, but it was probably after the 15th century.

In 1820, Bahrain signed a general maritime treaty with the British Empire. Following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom in the late 1880s.

 In 1971, Bahrain declared independence. The United Kingdom recognized Bahrain's independence on December 16, 1971. This is commemorated annually as Bahrain's National Day.

The earliest known flags of Bahrain were plain red.  After signing general maritime treaty with the British Empire, a white stripe was added to the flag to signify the treaty and to distinguish it from the flags commonly used by pirates. In 1932, a serrated edge was added to the flag in order to differentiate it from those of its neighbors.


The flag originally had twenty-eight white points, but this was reduced to five on February 14, 2002, so that each of the points could stand for one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

The planned Qatar Bahrain Causeway will link Bahrain and Qatar and become the world's longest marine causeway.

92% of Bahrain is desert with periodic droughts and dust storms the main natural hazards for Bahrainis.

Bahrain's is the most prolific book publisher in the Arab world, with 132 books published in 2005 for a population of 700,000. In comparison, the 2005 average for the entire Arab world was seven books published per one million people.

Bahrain has a Formula One race-track, which hosted the inaugural Gulf Air Grand Prix on April 4, 2004, the first in an Arab country.

The first lap of the 2008 Bahrain Grand Prix. Emily Faulk from Saudi Arabia. Wikipedia Commons

On September 1, 2006, Bahrain changed its weekend from being Thursdays and Fridays to Fridays and Saturdays, in order to have a day of the weekend shared with the rest of the world.

The Bahrain World Trade Center, a 240-metre-high (787 ft) 50-floor, twin tower complex located in Manama, Bahrain, was completed on April 8, 2008. It was the world's first building to integrate wind turbines.
The three wind turbines at the centre of the two skyscrapers. By Conor McCabe - Wikipedia Commons

Bahrain won its first ever Olympic medal in London in 2012. Four years later, it followed it up with their first gold medal in Rio when Ruth Jebet won the 3,000-metres steeplechase.

The population in 2010 stood at 1,234,596, including 666,172 non-nationals.

Source Wikipedia

The Bahamas

The Bahamas consists of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean. It lies north of Cuba, northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands; southeast of Florida and east of the Florida Keys.

The name “Bahamas” comes from the Spanish “baja mar” meaning “low tide” or “shallow sea”.

The Bahamas were originally inhabited by the Lucayan, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taino people.

Watling Island, an island of The Bahamas that the natives called Guanahani, was the site of Christopher Columbus' first landfall in the New World on October 12 1492; he named it San Salvador after Christ the Savior.

Landing of Columbus on San Salvador

Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León reached the northern end of The Bahamas on his first voyage to Florida on Easter Sunday, March 27, 1513.


The Spanish shipped the native Lucayans to slavery in Hispaniola  (the Dominican Republic and Haiti).

The Bahamas were mostly deserted from 1513 until 1648, when English colonists from Bermuda settled on the island of Eleuthera.

The Bahamas became a British Crown colony in 1718 (a type of colonial administration of the English and later British Empire.) The first Governor was a former pirate named Woodes Rogers.

The United States Marine Corps was founded as the Continental Marines by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1775 during the American Revolutionary War. The first Marine landing on a hostile shore was New Province Island in the Bahamas under Capt. Samuel Nicholas the following March.

After the American War of Independence, the Crown resettled thousands of American Loyalists in the Bahamas; they brought their slaves with them and established plantations on land grants. Later, the islands became a haven for freed black slaves:

Slavery in the Bahamas was abolished in 1834. Today the descendants of slaves and free Africans make up nearly 90 percent of the population;.

After British Captain D'Arcy Rutherford had watched water skiing on the French Riviera, he started  practiscng it himself at Nassau, in the Bahamas in the early 1920s. Americans there were attracted so much by it that they introduced it, in turn, to the States.

Snow fell on January 19, 1977 in the Bahamas.

towndock.net-
Diana Nyad becomes the first person to swim from the Bahamas to Florida in 1979. She swam from North Bimini, The Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida, a distance of 102 miles.

The prime minister of The Bahamas, Perry Christie, won a bronze medal for triple jump at the 1962 Central American and Caribbean Games.

Sources Wikipedia, Daily Express

The Baha’i faith

The Baha’i religion was founded in the 19th century from a Muslim splinter group, Babism, by the Persian mystic Baha’u’llah. He died in 1893 after 40 years of exile and imprisonment for his beliefs.

Years in the Bahá'í calendar are counted from Thursday, March 21, 1844, the beginning of the Bahá'í Era (abbreviated BE).Year 1 BE thus began at sundown March 20, 1844. It is annually celebrated by members of the Bahá'í Faith as the Bahá'í New Year or Náw-Rúz.

Iranian teenager Mona Mahmudnizhad along with nine other women were hanged because of their membership in the Bahá'í Faith on June 18, 1983. The official charges ranged from “misleading children and youth” because she was teaching children who had been expelled from school for their beliefs and serving in an orphanage, to being a "Zionist" because the Bahá'í World Centre is located in Israel.

Mona Mahmudnizhad

The message of Baha’u’llah, in essence, was that all great religious leaders are manifestations of the unknowable God and all scriptures are sacred.

There is no priesthood: all Baha'is are expected to teach, and to work towards world unification. Administration is carried out by an elected body, the Universal House of Justice.  Any male Bahá'í, 21 years or older, is eligible to be elected to the Universal House of Justice; all other positions are open to male and female Bahá'ís.

Baha'is are expected to pray daily, but there is no set prayer. During 2–20 March, adults under 70 fast from sunrise to sunset.

Baha'i temple

The World Christian Encyclopedia estimated 7.1 million Bahá'ís in the world in 2000, representing 218 countries.

The Bahá'í religion was ranked by the FP magazine as the world's second fastest growing religion by percentage (1.7%) in 2007.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.

Bagpipes

Bagpipes were known to the civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia, and throughout history virtually every country fashioned its own version of the instrument. Bagpipe are mentioned in the book of Daniel in the Bible, and shown on Hittite carvings dated 1000 BC They were known as well in Persia, India, and even China.

Early instruments had bags made of the skins of small animals, such as goats or sheep, or of the stomach of a larger animal.

A favorite instrument in classical Greece and Rome, bagpipes' rhythm paced the Roman foot soldiers' march. They were often used as shepherd's instruments.

According to tradition, it was the Romans who brought the first bagpipes to Britain. By 1500 the bagpipe had displaced the harp as the instrument of choice in the Scottish Highlands.

The use of the bagpipes as a military instrument inspired the Highlanders in their fight so much that after the 1746 Battle of Culloden, bagpipes were banned by the English. During this period carrying a bagpipe was considered to be as much a crime as carrying arms as it was classified an "instrument of war".


When a reckless piper broke this law, a court ruled that “no highland regiment ever marched without a piper” and that therefore in the eyes of the law, his bagpipe was an instrument of war. He was executed on November 6, 1746.

At the Alamo, Davy Crockett on fiddle and John McGregor on bagpipes tried to drown out the Mexican troops' song of death.

The German philosopher Nietzsche wrote: "What trifles constitute happiness! The sound of a bagpipe. Without music life would be a mistake!"

Euro 96 organizers put bagpipes on a list of offensive weapons that had to be left at stadium entrances, along with fireworks and gas cannisters.

The world record for the largest bagpipe ensemble consisted of 333 participants at an event organised by the Art of Living Foundation in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, on May 16, 2012. The attempt used traditional Bulgarian "kaba gaida" bagpipes which are from the Rhodope region of Bulgaria.


A fungal infection known as 'brytococcus neoformans' can fester inside bagpipes and cause disease in the player's lungs.

The U.S. has more bagpipe bands than Scotland does.

When she is in London, Queen Elizabeth II is awoken by a bagpiper playing outside her window.

Jonathan Davis, lead singer for Korn, played in his high school bagpipe band.

Three famous modern day songs with bagpipes:
Mull of Kintyre by Wings
It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll) by AC/DC
Biko by Peter Gabriel


Bagpiper in Edinburgh 001


Sources Oxford Music Online, Microsoft® Encarta® 99 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation

Baghdad

Al-Mansur, the Caliph of Islam, founded the city of Baghdad to be the capital of the Islamic empire under the Abbasids in on July 30, 762 AD. The city was designed as a circle about 2 km in diameter, leading it to be known as the "Round City".

The first tar-paved roads appeared in Baghdad in the eighth century.

Baghdad was likely the largest city in the world from shortly after its foundation until the 930s, when it was tied by Córdoba. Several estimates suggest that the city contained over a million inhabitants at its peak.

Many of the One Thousand and One Nights tales are set in 9th century Baghdad.


The Middle East had a "cold period" in the 900s-1000s and in the winter the Tigris river would Freeze and they would have thick snow on the ground for months in Baghdad. 

Baghdad was overrun in 1258 by the Mongols, who destroyed the irrigation system. The resulting decline lasted for many centuries due to frequent plagues and multiple successive empires.

Siege of Baghdad by the Mongols led by Hulagu Khan in 1258.

In 1534, Baghdad was captured by the Ottoman Turks. Under the Ottomans, Baghdad continued its decline, partially as a result of the enmity between its rulers and Iranian Safavids, which did not accept the Sunni control of the city.

Baghdad fell to Anglo-Indian forces commanded by General Stanley Maude on March 11, 1917 during the World War I Mesopotamian Campaign.

Baghdad in 1930

The 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq caused significant damage to Baghdad's transportation, power, and sanitary infrastructure as the US-led coalition forces launched massive aerial assaults in the city in the two wars.

The toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue (see below) in the city's Firdos Square on April 9, 2003 shortly after the Iraq War invasion marked the symbolic capture of Baghdad by the Coalition forces.


The population of Baghdad as of 2011 was approximately 7,216,040.

It is the second largest city in the Arab World (after Cairo, Egypt), and the second largest city in Western Asia (after Tehran, Iran).

In an annual survey of the world’s most liveable major cities conducted in 2013, Baghdad ranked dead last at number 223 on the list

Source Wikipedia

Bagel

The word 'bagel' comes from the Yiddish word 'beygal,' which itself is derived from the German dialect word 'beugel,' meaning 'ring' or 'bracelet.

The first printed mention of bagels was recorded in the Community Regulations of Krakow, Poland in 1610. It states that bagels will be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth.

The basic roll-with-a-hole design is hundreds of years old and provides for a more even cooking and baking of the dough.

Its hole can be used to thread string or dowels through groups of bagels, allowing for easier handling and transportation and more appealing seller displays.


Bagels were brought to the United States by immigrant Polish-Jews. By the 20th century a thriving business was developing in  New York City.

The “International Beigel Bakers’ Union” was formed in New York in 1907 by Eastern Europeans.

The largest ever bagel weighed 868 lbs and was made by American Brueggers Bagels and shown at the New York state fair in 2004.

Canadian-born astronaut Gregory Chamitoff became the first person to take a batch of bagels into space when he brought 18 sesame seed bagels with him on his 2008 Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station. They came from his cousin’s bakery in Montreal.

National Bagel Day has long been celebrated in the US on February 9.


Bagels differ from other breads as the dough is first boiled before being baked.

New York City places a special tax on prepared foods. This means that sliced bagels are taxed once as food and again as prepared food, hence creating a sliced bagel tax.

One bagel has the content of 10 per cent of an average person’s daily carb intake.

Singer Barry Manilow had a dog named Bagel. (It's offspring was called Biscuit).

Source Daily Express

Bag

Duffel bags are named after a town of Duffel, Belgium, where they were first made.

Luther Crowell invented the paper bag in 1867.



The first shopping bag with handles was invented in 1918 by Walter Deubener.

Swedish packaging company Celloplast patented the plastic bag in 1965.

To cancel out the negative environmental impact of one plastic bag, a cotton bag would need to be reused each day for a year.

Baffin Island

Baffin Island is in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, situated across the entrance to Hudson Bay.

It is the fifth-largest island in the world and has an estimated population of 11,000 (2007).

It is likely that the island was known to the Norse of Greenland and Iceland prior to Columbus's discovery of America.

The English explorer Martin Frobisher created a gold metal in England in 1578 when he returned from Baffin Island with 200 tons of what he though was glittering gold ore. It turned out the ore was merely iron pyrite (“fool’s gold”). It was eventually crushed and used for road repair.

The island is named after English explorer and navigator William Baffin, who was pilot on several expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage. He was amongst the first Europeans to find Baffin Bay in 1615.

The eastern community of Clyde River has twilight instead of night from April 26 until May 13, continuous sunlight for 2½ months from May 14 to July 28, then twilight instead of night from July 29 until August 16. This gives the community just over 3½ months without true night.

Baffin Island is becoming popular amongst the BASE jumping community as a hotspot due to a wide array of 3,000 to 3,900 ft tall cliffs scattered around the island.

Badminton

Badminton came from a child's game called battledore and shuttlecock, in which two players hit a feathered shuttlecock back and forth with tiny rackets. Some form of the sport was played long ago in ancient Greece and Egypt.

Shuttlecock became a most fashionable pastime in England during the reign of James I (1603-1625) so much so that a writer could say, "to play Shuttlecok methinkes is the game now."

English army officers, serving in India in the 1860s, were very much taken by a game, which was similar, and yet far superior, to shuttlecock, known as Poona. They took it home, together with some of the Indian equipment, chiefly shuttlecocks. In 1873 it was played at a party given by the duke of Beaufort at Badminton House, his estate, and became known as "the Badminton game."

As early as 1878 there was a Badminton Club in New York with the membership consisting of men and 'good-looking' single girls.

The fastest moving object hit by a player in any sport is the badminton shuttlecock. It can easily reach speeds of 112 mph (180 km/h) during a match.

Shuttlecocks used in professional badminton are made of feathers from the left wing of a goose. Feathers from the right wing make them spin the wrong way.

Malaysian badminton player Tan Boon heong holds the record for the fastest ever shot made in badminton with a 306 mph smash.

Source Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc

Monday, 9 January 2012

Badger

An older meaning of the noun 'badger' was as a word for a pedlar or trader. The verb 'to badger' originally meant to haggle (like a pedlar) and only later came to mean to irritate, like a badger.

The earliest recorded use of the word “badger” for the animal was in 1523. Before that, it was called a “brock” or “bauson”.

Their name refers to the white badge-like mark on the forehead

The word “badger” does not appear in any Shakespeare play but Twelfth Night mentions “brock” once.

A male badger is a boar, a female is a sow and the young are called cubs.

The honey badger has the reputation of being the most fearless and vicious of all mammals. When attacking a male of another species, the honey badger is said to go for the genitals. It is not really a badger at all but is more closely related to the polecat.

A honey badger's skin is so thick that it can withstand machete blows, arrows, and spears.

The honey badger can withstand hundreds of African bee stings that would kill any other animal.

There are around 350,000 badgers in Britain. In December 2011 it was announced that in the following year, up to 100,000 of them could be slaughtered in a cull to prevent the spread of Bovine TB.

Mainly a woodland animal, the badger is nocturnal, and spends the day in a system of burrows called a ‘sett.’

Setts can be centuries old and are used by many generations of badgers.

Badgers are very clean-living and will not defecate in their setts but have communal latrines elsewhere.

Earthworms make up 90% of the badger's diet but it also feeds on roots, a variety of fruits and nuts, insects, mice, and young rabbits.

Badgers are omnivorous and will eat several hundred earthworms every night.

Badgers have very strong jaws capable of delivering a bite powerful enough to crush bones.

Their long, sharp claws can also inflict serious injury.

Badgers are fiercely territorial in the wild and attack when they feel threatened.

They can run at up to 19mph over short distances

Keeping one as a pet is illegal in the UK under the 1992 Protection of Badgers Act.

Badgers don’t usually hibernate, but sometimes they will sleep for a few days or weeks in their dens during the coldest part of winter.

The dachshund dog breed has a history with badgers; "dachs" is the German word for badger, and dachshunds were originally bred to be badger hounds.

Sources Hutchinson Encyclopedia, Daily Express, Daily Mail



Douglas Bader

Douglas Bader was born on February 21, 1910 in St John's Wood, London, the second son of Frederick Roberts Bader, a civil engineer, and his wife Jessie.

Douglas attended St Edward's School where he received his secondary education. Fellow RAF night fighter and bomber pilot Guy Gibson also attended the same school.

In mid-1923, Bader, at the age of 13, was introduced to the Avro 504 during a school holiday trip to visit his aunt, Hazel, who was marrying RAF Flight Lieutenant Cyril Burge. Although he enjoyed the visit, and took an interest in aviation, he showed no signs of becoming a keen pilot.

In 1928, Bader joined the RAF as an officer cadet at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in rural Lincolnshire. He came 19th out of 21 in his class examinations.

Motorcycling was tolerated at Cranwell, though cadets usually took part in banned activities such as speeding, pillion racing, and buying and racing motorcars. Bader was involved in these activities and was close to expulsion after being caught out too often.

On September 13, 1928, Bader took his first flight with his instructor Flying Officer W. J. "Pissy" Pearson in an Avro 504. After just 11 hours and 15 minutes of flight time, he flew his first solo, on 19 February 1929.

On 26 July 1930, Bader was commissioned as a pilot officer into No. 23 Squadron RAF based at Kenley, Surrey.

Bader was sporty and was selected for the Royal Air Force cricket team to play a first-class match against the Army at The Oval in July 1931. He scored 65 and 1. He did not show much interest in pursuing the sport as he preferred rugby.

On December 14, 1931 he attempted some low-flying aerobatics at Woodley airfield in a Bulldog Mk. IIA, K1676, of 23 Squadron, apparently on a dare. His aircraft crashed when the tip of the left wing touched the ground. As a result of the accident had to have both legs amputated.

Baden's laconic comment in his log book after the crash was: "Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show."

He learnt to fly using artificial legs and on the outbreak of the Second World War was allowed to rejoin the RAF. A member of 222 Squadron, Bader took part in the operation over Dunkirk and showed his ability by bringing down a Messerschmitt Bf109 and a Heinkel He111.




After being promoted by Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, he was given command of 242 Squadron. The squadron's first sortie during the Battle of Britain on 30th August, 1940, resulted in the shooting down of 12 German planes over the Channel in just over an hour. Bader himself was responsible for downing two Messerschmitt 110.

In August 1941, Bader was forced to bail out over  German-occupied France and was captured. During his seizure Bader lost one of his artificial legs, so the Germans radioed England and requested a replacement, which a RAF plane dropped by parachute to a German airfield. Now back on both tin legs, the intrepid English aviator has made several fruitless attempts to escape so now the Germans are depriving him of his artificial limbs at night.

Despite his disability, Bader made a number of escape attempts and was eventually sent to the POW camp at Coilditz Castle. He remained there until the camp was liberated in April 1945.

When the film Reach For The Sky, which chronicled his life was released, people associated Bader with the quiet, and amiable personality of actor Kenneth More who played Bader in the film. Bader recognised the producers had deleted all those habits he displayed when on operations, particularly his prolific use of bad language.

Bader was credited with 20 aerial victories, four shared victories, six probables, one shared probable and 11 enemy aircraft damaged.

Bader sitting on his Hurricane, as commanding officer of No.242 Squadron 


On September 5, 1982, after a dinner honoring Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris at the Guildhall, Bader died of a heart attack while on his way home.

Wikipedia

Robert Baden-Powell

Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941) was awarded a scholarship to Charterhouse, a prestigious public school. His first introduction to Scouting skills was through stalking and cooking game while avoiding teachers in the nearby woods, which were strictly out-of-bounds.

Baden-Powell joined the army in 1876 and served in India , Afghanistan and South Africa. He was accused of illegally executing a prisoner of war, Matabele chief Uwini, in 1896, who had been promised his life would be spared if he surrendered. Uwini was shot by firing squad under Baden-Powell's instructions. Baden-Powell was cleared by an inquiry, and later claimed he was "released without a stain on my character.

Baden-Powell in 1896

He won fame during the Boer War as commander of the garrison during the 217-day siege of Mafeking in the Second South African War (1899–1900). Colonel Robert Baden-Powell and his forces had held firm for 217 days.

After the end of the Boer War, Baden-Powell remained in Africa and organised the South African Constabulary, the national police force.

Baden-Powell set up the first ever scout encampment for 20 boys on Brownsea Island, in Poole Harbor on the south coast of England on July 29, 1907. The camp ran from August 1st to August 8th of that year.

Robert Baden-Powell with future Scouts on Brownsea Island

Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts as an organization on January 24, 1908, a few months after he held the first scout encampment.

Baden-Powell published Scouting for Boys (1908) and about 30 other books. Scouting for Boys has sold approximately 150 million copies  and was the fourth best-selling book of the 20th century.


With his sister Agnes (1858–1945) he founded the Girl Guides in 1910 (known as Girl Scouts in the USA).

In January 1912, Baden-Powell met Plave St Clair Soames on the ocean liner, Arcadian, heading for New York to start one of his Scouting World Tours. She was 23, while he was 55. Their relationship caused a media sensation due to Baden-Powell's fame. To avoid press intrusion, they married in secret on October 31, 1912, at St Peter's Church in Parkstone. The Scouts of England each donated a penny to buy Baden-Powell a wedding gift, a car.

Robert Baden-Powell was convinced he could analyses any person's character by the way they walked. He claimed that 50 per cent of women were adventurous with one leg but more hesitant with the other, which indicated they were likely to act on impulse, He met up with his wife while admiring her distinctive strides on board the Arcadian.

In 1916 he organised the Wolf Cubs in Britain (known as Cub Scouts in the USA) for boys under the age of 11.

Baden-Powell was made world chief scout at the first international Boy Scout Jamboree.



Baden-Powell was an ambidextrous artist and made paintings and drawings almost every day of his life. Most have a humorous or informative character.

Baden-Powell lived his last years in Nyeri, Kenya, where he died aged 83 on January 8, 1941. He is buried there, in St. Peter's Cemetery. His gravestone bears a circle with a dot in the centre "☉", which is the trail sign for "Going home", or "I have gone home."


Sunday, 8 January 2012

Bacteria

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was a 17th-century Dutch draper who had a keen interest in lenses, which he needed to examine the quality of threads. He developed an early microscope, which he used in 1670 to become the first ever person to see bacteria. Van Leeuwenhoek called these previously invisible living things "animalcules"

Van Leeuwenhoek's "animalcules" were just at the limit of what his simple lenses could make out and, in one of the most striking hiatuses in the history of science, no one else would see them again for over a century.

Bacteria can live for centuries, as evidenced by the discovery of bacteria from the ancient Egyptian tombs.

Scientists have revived bacteria that were 250 million years old.

The first film to be censored in UK was Charles Urban's ninety second film of a piece of Stilton cheese viewed from a microscope. Released in 1898 the image of active bacteria on a cheese created a storm of protest from British cheesemakers so it was quietly withdrawn from exhibition.

Close to fifty percent of the bacteria in the mouth lives on the surface of our tongue.

Mustaches are hotbeds for bacteria because of the moist air leaving the body through the nose and mouth.

In 2008 scientists discovered a new species of bacteria that lives in hairspray.

There are around 10,000,000,000 bacteria in a gram of soil.

There is more bacteria in your mouth then there are people in the world.

Bacteria is the tiniest free-living cells. They are so small that a single drop of liquid contains as many as 50 million of them.

Pound for pound, the strongest organisms on Earth are gonorrhea bacteria—they can pull 100,000 times their body weight.

In the United States bacteria in foods cause 6.5 million to 33 million cases of human illness and 9000 deaths annually.

Every square inch of the human body has an average of 32 million bacteria on it.

Scientists have estimated that about 95% of all the cells in the body are bacteria. The vast majority of these microbes can be found within the digestive tract.

The adult human has two to nine pounds of bacteria in his or her body.

There is ten times more bacteria in your body than actual body cells.

The average office desk has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet.

Bacteria can reproduce sexually.

Bacteria reproduce by binary fission, meaning one cell divides into two.

Belly buttons contain an average 1400 types of bacteria.

Source Greatfacts.com

Roger Bacon

Roger (c1214-1294) came from a wealthy background. His parents sided with Henry III against the rebellious Barons to no avail as their property was despoiled and several members of the family were driven into exile.

The short-sighted Bacon was one of the first westerners to uses lenses to help him see more clearly.

Bacon was known as Doctor Mirabilis, "The Admirable Doctor" because of his many diverse interests.

He suggested that artists could use geometry to create the illusion of three dimensional reality and thereby convince onlookers they were truly witnessing the events depicted. As a result three-dimensional images depicting the life of Saint Francis of Assisi were painted on a new basilica in Assisi. Such was the realistic effect that it became the most visited church in Europe.

Bacon introduced the gunpowder formula to Europe in 1242. It originated in China and was also known previously in Arabia. His recipe for gunpowder was Saltpetre 41%. Charcoal 29.5% Sulphur 29.5%. Mixed together it would imitate lightning and cause explosions.

Bacon was the first scholar to suggest that medicine should rely on remedies provided by chemistry.

He believed in the possibility of transmuting inferior metals into gold. Bacon regarded alchemy as the most valuable of the sciences "because it produced greater utilities."

He joined the Franciscan Order in 1257. He was theologically conservative but outspoken and he frequently got into trouble for saying what he thought. Bacon saw theology as the supreme area of knowledge.

The outspoken Friar sent some of his more controversial writings to the Pope but they upset the church and  he was excommunicated and imprisoned by for "certain novelties". He was confined to a monastery.
The "certain novelties" the authorities were particularly unhappy about were his chemical research.

The prophetic Friar foresaw the extensive use of cars, aeroplanes and ocean liners. He conducted studies that led him to the conclusion that air could support craft in the same way that water supports boats.

In 1278 the general of the Franciscan order, Girolamo Masci, later Pope Nicholas IV, forbade the reading of Bacon's books and had Bacon arrested. After ten years in prison, Bacon returned to Oxford.

Bacon claimed that saffron delayed ageing and he went as far as to send the Pope these instructions. (He was 76 at the time.)

Bacon is the Patron Saint of Encyclopedia Salesmen.

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon was born on January 22, 1561 at York House near the Strand in London. He was the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Bacon, who was Elizabeth I's Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. He was a staunch enemy of Roman Catholics. His mother, Anne Cooke, was a Protestant daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, an eminent humanist, scholar and tutor to Edward VI. She was famous for her learning and published translations from Italian and Latin.

Bacon entered Trinity College, Cambridge at the age of 13. He  lived there for three years there with his older brother Anthony Bacon. His studies of science there brought him to the conclusion that the methods (and thus the results) were erroneous.

The 18-year-old Francis Bacon. 

Bacon waited until his mid 40s before marrying one Alice Barnham (1592-1650) on May 10, 1606. The wedding took place in St Marylebone's Chapel, which was located in a village to the north of London, with the reception at the Strand estate. Alice had yet to reach her 14th birthday when they wed. Their marriage led to no children.

In 1621, Bacon was accused of taking bribes, heavily fined, and removed from Parliament and all offices. They lost their York House mansion and left London in 1622.

Reports of increasing friction in the marriage appeared, with speculation that some of this may have also been due to financial resources not being as abundantly available to the extravagant Alice as she was accustomed to in the past.  In addition there was rumors of an ongoing affair with a Mr. John Underhill.

Engraving of Alice Bunham

In 1625, Bacon became estranged from his wife, apparently believing her of adultery with Underhill. He rewrote his will, revoking his legacy to Alice.

Bacon wrote over 30 philosophical books and many other legal, scientific and many other popular works. He often didn't finish ambitious works which he'd started such as Novum Organium Among his works were his February 7, 1597 publication Essays, which were the first essays to be actually called essay.

Portrait of Bacon by Frans Pourbus (1617),

Bacon's New Atlantis was a fable about a city on an imaginary Pacific island ran by scholars called Ben Salem. Its advanced population had aircraft, hearing aids, refrigerators and submarines. One of the first ever Science Fiction novels, it was was published posthumously in 1526 and was a best seller for more than a decade.

He developed binary using only "a" & "b" in 5 letter combinations for letters of the alphabet.

Bacon was driving in his carriage one wintry day in Highgate, North London, when he decided on impulse to observe the effect of cold on the preservation of meat. Bacon stopped his carriage, purchased a chicken and stuffed it with snow. Soon afterwards he was seized by a chill, which developed into bronchitis. Feeling ill and beginning to shiver violently, Bacon made his way to the nearby house of his friend Earl of Arundel. He was given a damp bed-so damp that his condition worsened and he died of pneumonia on April 9, 1626.

Less than two weeks after Bacon's death, Alice Barnham Bacon married Mr. John Underhill. 

Bacon

The word "bacon" is derived from the Old High German bacho, meaning "buttock", "ham" or "side of bacon".

The Dunmow Flitch started in 1111. This is a long-standing tradition established at Dunmow, Essex whereby married couples who stay together for a year and a day without arguing or regretting their marriage and can prove this are able to claim a gammon of bacon. The saying “Bring home the bacon” originates from this.

The first mention of bacon and eggs in literature in England was made by Andrew Borde in 1542 in his book, In A Compendyous Regyment, or a Dyetary of Health. He wrote: “Bacon is good for carters & plowmen I do sat that collopes (slices of bacon) and egges is holsome for them.”

In 1920, a pound of bacon cost 47 cents.

The earliest reference to a ‘bacon sandwich’ listed in the Oxford English Dictionary was by George Orwell in 1931 and the first mention of a ‘bacon sarnie’ was in the Daily Express on August 21, 1986.


American competitive eater Matt "the Megatoad" Stonie set a world record on February 22, 2015 by eating 182 rashers of bacon in five minutes.



Burger King uses approximately 1/2 million pounds of bacon every month in its restaurants..

Bacon possesses six different tastes in one, which elicits an addictive neurochemical response.

The popularity of bacon in the United States has given rise to a number of commercial products including bacon vodka, bacon peanut brittle, bacon toothpaste and bacon mints.


The difference between bacon and ham is primarily just the composition of the brine that is used to cure it.  Bacon brine has added curing ingredients, most notably sodium nitrite, and occasionally saltpeter. Also Sodium ascorbate or erythorbate are added to accelerate curing and stabilize color.

Pregnant women should eat bacon. Choline, which is found in bacon, helps fetal brain development.

When heated, sugars in bacon react with amino acids. This, along with the thermal breakdown of fats, leads to the aroma of cooking bacon.

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

Backgammon

Among the treasures found at Ur is a board laid out as if for the game of backgammon dating back to about 2500BC.

The movement of the pieces along the backgammon board depends on the numbers thrown. Until the six-sided dice was developed by about 2000 BC, a number was established by throwing sticks and counting those which fall with a given side upwards.

Backgammon was introduced to Britain by the Crusaders in the late 12th century. It was originally known in England as "Tables."

By 1750 it was called the "back-game," - backgammon as  in certain circumstances a player must return a piece to its starting place to begin moving it forward all over again.

Backgammon remains to this day one of the most popular board games in the Middle East.

Bachelor

The word 'bachelor' is from Old French bachelier, "knight bachelor", a young squire in training. The Old French term crossed into English around 1300. The Old French term crossed into English around 1300, referring to one belonging to the lowest stage of knighthood. The sense of "unmarried man" dates to 1385.

The state of Missouri imposed a $1 bachelor tax on unmarried people between 21 and 50 in 1820.
   
Mussolini imposed a tax on bachelors in Italy in 1926.

In South Korea, there is a day called Black Day (April 14), where single people eat noodles to lament their loneliness. This is in opposition to Valentine's Day and White Day, the days for couples.


Famous life-long bachelors include Ludwig Van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Leonardo Da Vinci, George Gershwin, George Frideric Handel, Isaac Newton, Friedrich Nietzsche, Maurice Ravel, Adam Smith, Vincent Van Gogh and Antonio Vivaldi.
                                                                                        

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Saxe-Eisenach, Germany on March 31 (O.S. March 21), 1685, the youngest of eight children.

His father, Johann Ambrosius Bach (d March 2, 1695), was a string player, court trumpeter and town piper in Eisenach. The post of town piper entailed organizing all the secular music in town as well as participating in church music at the direction of the church organist.

Johann Ambrosius Bach, Bach's father

Johann was orphaned aged 10 and was raised by his eldest brother Johann Christoph Bach, the organist at the Michaeliskirche in nearby Ohrdruf.

Young Johann Sebastian attended the Gymnasium in Eisenach the same school that Martin Luther attended 200 years earlier.

Bach liked walking. As a youngster, he walked 50 kilometers from his Lüneburg school to Hamburg to see J A Reincken , the organist perform. On another occasion he walked a mere 25 miles to Halle in the hope of meeting Handel but arrived just after he had left the town by coach.

Bach fathered 20 children altogether, 9 girls and 11 boys, from his two marriages.

In total 64 members of the Bach family between 1600 and 1800 took up music as a profession. More than 100 descendants of Bach have been cathedral organists.

In 1705 when Bach was organist in Arnstradt, he got into a street fight with the bassoon player of the church’s school choir after JSB called him names. Their brawl took place in the market square in Arnstradt.

Bach was acknowledged in Germany as the greatest organist of his time and esteemed as a specialist in the mechanics of organ building. However his contrapuntal (music that consists of two or more melodies played at the same time) style of writing sounded old fashioned to his contemporaries. Indeed his sons Carl Philip and Johann Christian Bach were more famous in their lifetime than their father.



He instigated the novel practice of using the thumb more as the little finger on the keys of the organ.

The Brandenburg Concertos were six pieces written by Bach for the Count Brandenburg, to gain extra support for his work. He dedicated them to the Count on March 24, 1721. The ploy didn't work as the Count's orchestra was too small to perform them and the manuscripts were discovered for sale on the Count's death in a job lot.


The St Matthew Passion was first performed on April 11, 1727 in Leipzig's St. Thomas Church. The manuscript for the passion only came to light a hundred years later when it was bought as wrapping paper from the estate of a deceased cheese-monger. The work was not heard outside of Leipzig until the twenty-year old Felix Mendelssohn conducted the Passion in Berlin in 1829, with the Berlin Singakademie, to great acclaim.

copy in Bach's own hand of the revised version of the St Matthew Passion that is generally dated to the year 1743–46

Bach wrote the The Well Tempered Clavier, a collection of 48 fugues and preludes composed in every minor and major key. He established for the first time in the history of the keyboard music a tuning procedure that made all the keys equally usable.

Bach is known to have been deeply interested in numbers and mathematics, which were often coded into his compositions, For instance, there are 17 notes in the 17th measure of the 17th Prelude in the Well Tempered Clavier.

He believed in the spiritual significance of numbers. The number 14 was especially important to Bach. If A+1, B=2 etc, when you add up the cardinal numbers that correspond to the letters of his surname, you get 14.

The numeral 6 figures prominently in Bach's music: In addition to his six Brandenburg Concertos, he composed six Suites for Solo Cello and his Six Partitas for keyboard. He even wrote a poem about smoking a pipe that consisted of six stanzas.

Bach had a sense of humor, writing a mini comic opera Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (‘Be still, stop chattering’), which told the story of characters addicted to coffee. It premiered in 1735 at a Leipzig coffee house

Bach was criticized in his younger days by the church authorities for his lavish flourishes and unusual augmentations in his organ accompaniments to congregation singing

Bach was always complaining about money with a lot of children to support and choirs and orchestras to run. However, recently discovered papers reveal he was a dab hand at financial speculation, trading shares in a Saxony silver mine.

Bach never traveled outside a 200 mile radius from his home in his lifetime.

The last major work he wrote before his death was a fugue with a counter-theme B-A-C-H.

Bach's sight failed in his later years due to his hard work. The famous London based eye surgeon, John Taylor, operated on Bach's failing sight along with Handel's and Edward Gibbon's. All three were unsuccessful. Bach died of a paralytic stroke after his unsuccessful eye operation aged 65 on July 28, 1750.

Taylor was one of the most flamboyant surgeons of his age, travelling from town to town in a coach decorated with pictures of eyeballs.

The bones in his much visited grave at St Thomas’s church, Leipzig, may be the wrong ones, after remains were jumbled up by wartime bombing.

Bach's grave and altar in the St. Thomas Church, Leipzig

Source The Tennessean



Thursday, 5 January 2012

Bacardi

In 1862 A Spanish American wine merchant Don Facundo Bacardi after years of painstaking experimentation created a new rum. By filtering the beverage through charcoal, then ageing it in rum barrels, he perfected a lighter, mellower and milder rum than the rough and unrefined traditional ones of his era. Don Facundo and his brother José sold it in a shop in a small distillery in the town of Santiago De Cuba in eastern Cuba.

The wine merchant and distiller created a symbol for this new Bacardi rum, a picture of a bat inspired by the fruit bats that live in the rafters of his tin-roofed distillery.

The Bacardi family of Cuba personally donated thousands of dollars to Fidel Castro's revolution.

Lauren Bacall

Lauen Bacall (1924-2014) became an overnight star when cast by Howard Hawks opposite Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not (1944). She and Bogart married a year later.

An early mention of  Lauren “Betty" Bacall came in the May 19, 1943 edition of Variety, with an item suggesting that director Howard Hawks scooped the model off the street in midtown Manhattan. “Could actress Betty Bacall be slated for screen stardom. Howard Hawks nabbed her for fast buildup, right off 44th Street, too.”

Bacall on the March 1943 cover of Harper's Bazaar

Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart married in a three minute ceremony on May 21, 1945. The wedding took place at the Pleasant Valley area of Richland County, Ohio home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Louis Bromfield, Malabar Farm (now within the township of Lucas, Ohio). The home is now an Ohio State Park.

At 5' 8 1/2", Bogart was almost exactly the same height as Lauren Bacall.


Shortly after the death of  Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall announced her engagement to Frank Sinatra to the press. Mr. Sinatra promptly backed out.

Bacall was a cousin of Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Lauren Bacall was staying in the same New York apartment building as John Lennon when he was shot (and later died on 8th December in the Roosevelt Hospital) in 1980. Bacall later recalled she had heard the gunshot but assumed that it was a car tire bursting or a vehicle backfiring.

She had a hobby of collecting beer mugs.

Photo of Lauren Bacall in 1945.

Speaking on National Public radio in 2009, Andy Williams confirmed that in To Have and Have Not, his young teenage voice was used to dub Lauren Bacall. The song was “How Little We Know.”

Lauren Bacall was the last surviving legendary actor or actress mentioned in Madonna's hit song Vogue. Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Joe DiMaggio (the only non actor mentioned), Marlon Brando, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, and Lana Turner all previously passed away.

Lauren Bacall died on August 12, 2014 aged 89, after suffering a stroke at home.

The “Babylonish Captivity”

In 1309 Pope Clement V found himself so much under the thumb of King Philip IV of France that he moved the papacy to Avignon. This marked the beginning of the “Babylonish Captivity” so called as due to the predominance of French popes and cardinals in the following seventy years, it was suggested that the popes had become French captives. To their credit the Avignon popes sent missionaries to countries as far distant as Asia, reorganized the church’s administration and made various attempts to promote peace between Europe’s rival kings and princes.

However the Italians were angered by the popes’ desertion of Rome and the papacy lost much prestige in England and Germany where it was viewed as a vassal of the French king. In addition the papacy’s popularity was hardly helped by their extravagant lifestyle, nepotism and imposition of heavy taxes.

Finally in 1377 Catherine of Siena, a lay member of the Order of St Dominic, after a forthright campaign of correspondence, persuaded the pope, Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. This marked the end of the “Babylonish captivity”.

Babylonia

In Babylonia, a part of Mesopotamia, the homes looked much like those of Egypt. Babylonia's soil was marshy, however, so houses were built on brick platforms to raise them above street level. Ventilation was not as advanced as in Egypt.

When sick the Babylonians preferred to leave the treatment of their sickness to the general public rather than relying on the wisdom of physicians. When somebody fell ill, he was taken to the city square, where nobody was allowed to walk past without asking the sick individual what he was suffering from and whether he could help. If previously the pedestrian had suffered from the same ailment, or seen it treated before, then he could recommend the best cure.

Babylon was the capital of ancient Babylonia. It was sited on the bank of the lower Euphrates River in modern day Iraq, 55 miles south of Baghdad and 5 miles north of Hillah.

A tunnel was built under the Euphrates River to connect the two halves of Babylon  between 2180 and 2160 BC. It was the biggest underwater tunnel until one was built beneath the Thames in 1824.

The Babylonian cult of Ishtar required every woman to sleep with a stranger at least once in her life at the local temple. This was felt to reflect the dual nature of womankind as mother and prostitute.

The punishment for serving bad beer in Babylon was drowning.

Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylonia in the 6th century BC, constructed some magnificent hanging gardens to please and console his favorite wife, Amytis.

The walls of Babylon were among the wonders of Babylon. Built by Nebuchadnezzar, they were faced with glazed tile and pierced by openings fitted with magnificent brass gates.

On October 29, 539 BC, Cyrus the Great of Persia entered Babylon, and detained the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Nabonidus. To accomplish this feat, the Persian army, using a basin dug earlier by the Babylonian queen Nitokris to protect Babylon against Median attacks, diverted the Euphrates river into a canal so that the water level dropped to thigh level, which allowed the invading forces to march directly through the river bed to enter at night.

Cyrus the Great liberated the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, allowing them to resettle and rebuild Jerusalem, earning him an honored place in Judaism.

Cyrus the Great liberated the Jews from the Babylonian captivity

Throughout 1898 and the early part of 1899 architect and archaeologist Robert Koldewey reconnoitered the ancient city of Babylon.  He uncovered the enormous walls of the city, so wide four span of horses could drive abreast. Babylon had been enormous, larger than any other citadel known to history. Koldewey unearthed the base of a tower on which King Nabopolassar claimed "At that time Marduk [the god] commanded me to build the Tower of Babel which had become weakened by time and fallen into disrepair..." Wherever Koldewey turned his spade, he turned up verification of things the Bible had to say about the great kings and empires that once existed in the Mideast.

Sources Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc
RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM